Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted
according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or
slow to do the humble work.

- Mother Teresa

About Me

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Sunny Florida, United States
I am the proud mom to 6 kids: Natasha, 24, Nikolai, 20, Reese, 20, Maylee, 14, Erik, 10 and Violet, 7. The kids come from Russia, Ukraine and China; I'm so proud of my family sometimes I think I'll burst and I needed an outlet for it - so I've created this weblog. :o)
If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
- Mother Teresa

Motivation for Moms

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One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.
Mother Teresa

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Friday, September 25, 2009

My office put on the nicest "homecoming shower" for us!! It was the very first shower I'd ever had put on for me, and I really only expected 4 or 5 people to show up but about 20 people did!! The table was loaded with gift bags and there was a BUNCH of food!! Mark and Erik came and everyone enjoyed meeting Mark and they all thought Erik was the best!! It was a great party!! ...now, for the Thank You notes!!!

Always checking out the food!!!

One of the nurses brought bubbles!!

Except that I'm now working 6 half-days a week, so really tomorrow is Friday!

We are having a blast with Erik. He is sooooo funny! He gets so excited about everything, and everything is so exciting! He gestures wildly and makes a million faces. The woman who runs Reece's Rainbow, where we found him, told us (long before we got him) that he "has personality coming out of his ears"! How she knew this I don't know, but she was RIGHT! He's so happy and fun!

This week has been busy for him: he went to get screened for services for the school system (in 6-8 weeks he'll receive formal evals, then 6-8 weeks after THAT, he'll get his IEP meeting). He also went to the dentist! He did NOT enjoy this visit but did well considering and his teeth are a brilliant white, now he had no cavities!! Parents, MINIMIZE the sugar you give your kids!! Erik did not have one session of teeth-brushing (nor did my other kids before they came home) but he (and the others) did not have one cavity!! Simply amazing!!! Now, we have to brush his teeth and that is a huge deal every night, but once it's over we simply sing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and he's instantly happy and animated again. An interesting fact was that, because he doesn't chew his food, but simply mouths it and swallows (from always having pureed food), he had tartar on his molars on the "bumpy" surfaces! Kind of weird, huh? I never thought of that before!

He also saw the Ophthalmologist (on the same day, no less!). A much nicer experience, though he did hate having the drops in his eyes for the pupil dilation. He is quite nearsighted (no surprise) and needs glasses! So we will be ordering some, and want to use these guys for his frames. Trying to figure out how to get them ordered right now. I think he's going to be so cute with them on!

Today, he, Mark and I are going to my office as they are giving us a shower! Isn't that sweet? I've never had a shower for any of my kids, and I'm not real sure what to think! I brought Erik in once this week for a quick visit and he woo'ed them all and they are all in love. ;o) So we'll head out here shortly.

I guess that's my update! Sorry, no new pictures! Maybe this weekend. :o) It's Kennedy Space Center's free weekend for Brevard county residents and we may go up there with him (not that he'll get anything out of it, but he likes to "go").

Wednesday, September 23, 2009
This is absolutely beautiful.

Sunday, September 20, 2009
We made it to the beach today! I didn't even bring my big camera, either! Just my little one, which means we were there for fun, not for fashion. ;o)

It was just Reese and Erik and me today.

Erik sat on the sand and instantly attacked it. He thought it was great! He squeezed it in his hand, talked to it, then started STUFFING IT IN HIS MOUTH!!! I was busy taking pictures of Reese who was way out in the water and when I glanced back at Erik, this is what I saw:
Ack!! He grabbed another handful and stuffed IT into his mouth, too!!! I said, "No, no, Erik!" and put his hand down from his mouth and I got THIS reaction:
LOL!!! This is his fake cry that he can bring on and quit at will. Gets no sympathy at all from me, though it works on Daddy!! LOL

So I took him into the surf and he loved it, but I didn't get any pictures because I couldn't take pictures and keep my hands on him, but maybe next time. He is not at all afraid of the water splashing in his face or anything, though once when he got nailed in the face he yelled, I think, because of the taste of the salt water! He had such a good time!!

Here is Reese, having a ball jumping the waves:
And look! There was another amputee hanging out on the same stretch of beach as us - Reese can find a friend WHEREVER he goes!! This guy was nice, and recommended a prosthetist in Orlando who is known for not asking for the 30% that insurance doesn't pay, which is an issue with us - $500 co-pay plus 30% of $18,000 for two legs adds up to be a LOT!!! I'll give the prosthetist a call tomorrow - apparently this guy even has designed a suspension system of his own that is really good - the guy had it and showed it to us.
So it was a fun day!! We got home, had baths (how can so much sand fit inside of clothes and in body crevices???) and Erik's taking a nap (I think he's actually SLEEPING today!). Here are a couple of extra pictures from today, in no particular order: ;op
Where's Waldo? If you look really close, you can see Reese's hand!! (The "little" one)
Somebody pull the blinds!!
Suppose he finally figured out that sand is nasty to eat? Nope!! He kept eating after this picture was taken!! Good thing sand won't hurt him!!

"Can we come back again next Sunday?"

Thursday, September 17, 2009
Not for the squeamish!!! I'm so proud of my boy for learning to eat with a spoon! The pasty orange stuff he's eating is mashed sweet potatoes. :o)

Remember, you were WARNED!!!

Monday, September 14, 2009
Mealtimes are an adventure!! We have done lots of experimenting with Erik and his eating and it's paying off, though the mess made is monumental compared to how it was at the beginning when he was eating 100% pureed food, handfed to him on a spoon.

Look at him now!!

He now feeds himself!! Not only that, but he even has tried a spoon!! Not terribly successful, but he does know what to do with a spoon but has never been given the opportunity to try, which is the way it is with so many things with him - he has never been allowed to try anything, even putting the cup in the bathtub water to dump it out - he wants to watch ME do it. Which is why the self-feeding thing is so cool to me. He's doing something for himself!!

He also will drink from a sippy cup now, now that he's figured out that it's much like a bottle, only with a hard drinking spout. BUT, he won't drink anything until he's ALL done. They must not have given him a drink until the meal was over, because to him, that means no more food. So oftentimes he gets mad when presented with the cup because he wants to keep eating!

The dogs are happier than anyone though, I think, because whenever he feeds himself, the floor and his chair are COVERED with food that he's spilled!! What do people do who don't have dogs, anyway? Clean the floor and chair themselves...?? Silly people.

P.S. I took the boys bowling this afternoon (one of our favorite family things to do) and Erik really enjoyed himself! He sat in his stroller and watched, and kept focused on the game for quite a long time! He really enjoys participating in things, even if it's just watching. He's so alert and interested in everything, which makes hanging out with him so much fun. :o)
Sunday, September 13, 2009

Okay, so Playalinda beach near our home is a nude beach. Yes, it's illegal to strip, but beyond the last deck they do strip (I once had a PT patient who was VERY active in this community and it was HILARIOUS the stories she told me!). But this is my favorite beach as it is "uninhabited", without commerce, plumbing, or anything. Very rustic and beautiful. (And right next door beach-wise to the Shuttle launch pads!)

So this was the place that I wanted to get some pictures done of the kids. It was a wonderfully overcast day, perfect for photography, until we got there. The sun just happened to hit a break in the clouds and if you know Erik, you know that he HATES bright sunshine! Reese hates it too, and is a terrible squinter in the sun. But we had to try. For this being Erik's first beach trip, and for the bright sun, the pictures turned out really well, I think! Next time I think I will have them wear darker shirts, though, as up against the bright water and sky, they were fairly washed out in some of them, but live and learn. (I would really like to take a formal photography class...)

See? The light is too bright for him. Poor little fella!! We were just getting started...

I love this one because you can see a bit of Reese in it. He was trying to tickle Erik to make him smile. :o)

Look! I got both boys to touch him!! (I think this was Nikolai's first time gathering up the courage to touch his brother.) Isn't this sweet?

This is one of his favorite "poses" - he's always turning his palms up! Does anyone else's kids with DS do that? (I love this one.)

And here's Reese, Mr. Cool. The sun was in his eyes, but he got some good shots. Nikolai was not feeling enthusiastic that day, and did not want his taken. So be it. Next time...

And here's my little sweetheart. :o)

Thursday, September 10, 2009
I have LOVED being off Tuesday and Thursday this week and only working 1/2 days the other three days!! I feel so much more relaxed, organized and settled. Unfortunately, I have to go back full time next week, and this worries me because Mark has been so sick. He's pretty much been "out" since he got back from Ukraine. First, his MS was wearing him out from the trip, but then lately, we think he's caught the flu or something. I'm taking him to the doctor today. Because he's been so sick, it has given me LOTS of time with Erik and he and I are getting along beautifully! I haven't taken many photos the last couple of days, nor blogged, but here I am!

Oh, and one more thing: today Erik gets to go to the Pediatrician for his first check up and hopefully a bunch of referrals! I am seriously worried about his hearing. He just can't seem to hear well at all. He doesn't seem to hear Adam bark, and he has to hold musical toys right up to his ear to hear it. HOPEFULLY, it's something as simple as wax buildup, but we'll see today.

This picture cracks me up!! The boys are both nervous about "handling" Erik yet and mostly just look at him. Today I told Reese to sit with him for a picture. Reese nervously sat down on the loveseat next to Erik and I said, "No, put him on your lap!". He looked at me like I'd said, "Lick the floor!" but he nervously did it. Erik must've sensed his nervousness because he was not at ALL happy about sitting on Reese's lap! This picture is so funny - look at Erik yelling, and the expression on Reese's face! LOL --it did get better when I got out the bubbles and both of them relaxed, though. ;op

Here he is without his scary brother, enjoying the bubbles. Bubbles are the BEST toy!!! Cheap, fun, easy to do! And a VERY good therapy tool, I might add...!!

This is his "I'm just sitting here chilling out" look.

This one isn't really a very special one, but I love his profile here. He's so cute!

I'll try to do better about blogging and adding pictures - amazing how busy I've become!! ;op
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Of course, it's not *really* just another Sunday. It's Erik's first Sunday at home!! He's doing so well. He hasn't slept much at all the past 2 days/nights and I was finding myself getting a little frustrated at him and his increasing grumpiness, but last night, praise God, he slept 13 hours straight!!! He woke up, got bathed, fed and generally cleaned up and was soooo happy!! He was so cute! So cuddly and funny and everything wonderful. What a difference SLEEP makes!!

Here he is last night, konking out on the Big Bed at 7pm. He sleeps in the most horrible positions like I've seen pictures of other kids with Down's do! Ick!! Fortunately, he has no problem sleeping in his crib in his room - it's just tough for him to actually *fall asleep* in there. Eventually he will, we hope...!

What can I say? The boy LOVES to take a bath!! Doesn't freak if the water's in his face or anything. The only thing he doesn't like is when I shampoo his hair. It's not the water that's the problem - I think he doesn't like the "head scrubbing"!

Awww... Isn't this the sweetest?? Mark with two of his great loves: his piano, and his new son.

I KNOW you're supposed to keep things low key at first, but he's doing SO well adjusting to new things and I do have other kids to take care of and entertain, so today we went to the mall! He did fine, like he goes to the mall every Sunday. He loves to look out of the window of the van, and has a GREAT view from his seat. (Reese took this one.)

"Are you almost done blogging, Mom?"
Friday, September 4, 2009
Erik and I had a new experience this morning at snack time. I fed him some oatmeal with bigger chunks of banana than he was used to and he did great! I think he was a bit surprised at the chunks, as he's used to everything being pureed, but he did really well and didn't choke at all. That gave me the confidence to try a sippy cup afterward!! We'd tried it before but failed miserably. I was filled with a renewed sense of adventure so I got the cup out and simply started dumping it down his throat. (It wasn't as bad as all that!) The first several times he simply smiled as all of the fluid drained out of his mouth and down his shirt. Finally I got smart and showed him how to close his lips together while he swallowed, and while he didn't REALLY catch on, he started anticipating what I was going to do and happily let me help him with his lower lip! The reason I say all of this is to explain the pictures: After his snack and drink (and a big poop in his pants I didn't know about at the time...!) he was so happy!!! I played a tickle game with him and we had so much fun so I got the camera out. :o) It also explains the slobber all over his shirt!!

Mark took this one last night, I think.

Here he is in our back yard enjoying the hot and humid FL September weather while Reese plants a tree for a project for science. He doesn't seem to mind the heat...!

(Sorry!! Out of order pictures!)
Here they come!!! I was getting a bit worried at the airport, but sure enough, they arrived!!

It was a quiet reception with only our family there, but I didn't care - I was just glad that they arrived home safely!!!!! Below is our first family picture.
(BTW, before I start, I'll try to get pictures up today sometime!)

We have had 2 full nights and a full day with our new little one so far, and it's going really well!

He LOVED his bath, which is nice, but I will try the toothbrushing thing this morning, and don't expect it to go well at all, but I have got to try - his teeth are pretty gross. I doubt they've EVER been brushed. (I've got to find a good pediatric dentist!)

Feeding is going fair. Either likes something or he HATES it, spitting it out and letting out a SCREAM of anger at the betrayal - how could we violate him with something so hideous?!?! But we don't know unless we try. He can push back quite a volume of food, surprising us! But that's good as he's SO undersize (not sure of his weight, but he fits into 18 mo. clothes!!) He is an extremely messy eater, even with us feeding him! He's also still on a bottle, which I hope to change when I can to a sippy cup. When he drinks from the bottle, he sucks on it so hard that I think the nipple folds on itself and it leaks all over the front of him.

He can sit by himself for some time without entertainment, but I don't think this behavior will last long. Unlike Nikolai, 15, who can STILL sit for hours (literally!!) and just look at the furniture or whatever, Erik has to be wiggling all the time, and looking at something, and "talking" constantly. It won't be long before simply sitting isn't good enough for him!!

I think his vision is really bad. I also think he has poor hearing, but both of these can be worked on, I'm sure. I am waiting for word from my insurance company of how to apply to get him on our medical and dental programs. Not sure what docs they need. I really want to get him going to the professionals!!

He's got a TEMPER!!! If he's not happy about something (sometimes we have NO clue what triggers it) he gets MAD and screams bloody murder for about 2 seconds, then goes all stiff and we can see EVERY vessel in his neck. He makes a war face, then it's over. He's fine. Go figure!! He will also bite us and pinch us and throw things at us, but Mark said that he did that to the caregivers at the orphanage and they didn't react - just let him do it, so he probably just doesn't know that that is not acceptable yet. He will. ;o)

He loves stuffed animals, which is fun. He talks to them and LOOKS at them, and likes to wing them around. Doesn't cuddle with them or anything, but hopefully that'll come in time. He's not really big into toys yet, either, though he does love this one light up musical Baby Mozart toy and plays with it a lot.

He also likes TV, but he gets his face RIGHT UP to the screen, and this is one indication that I have that he can't see well. (He does it with books, too.)

I'll be honest, though, he doesn't really seem to interested in whether we are with him or not. He certainly lets us take care of him, tickle him and kiss him, and he has NO problems with touching us or sleeping next to us, but the "love" thing with him isn't quite here, yet. We know it's coming and are not worried, but I wanted to be honest, too.

I'm going to go take him for a walk around the block. He's antsy and I think, is looking for action. ;o) Bye!!
Thursday, September 3, 2009
We had an uneventful first night. We got home from the airport after a quiet reception (just me and the boys were there to greet) around 9:30. Mark and I were both SO tired (especially him, of course!) and we just wanted to go to sleep. We didn't want to put Erik into his room all alone on the first night so we kept him with us. Unfortunately, we have a queen sized bed and it's barely big enough for the both of us full-sized parents, but we tried. Erik sat there as we nodded off, wiggling (he's soooooooo wiggly!!) and "lalala"'ing to himself, looking around, half-sitting on top of us, not going anywhere but just quietly entertaining himself. He sat there like that for about an hour when he fell forward onto his face, asleep. Mark laid him down in a more normal position and he slept like that for awhile, while I was so squeezed off the bed I had a "one cheek on, one cheek off" thing going on and KNEW I would never make the night. So, we did what good parents who just brought home a new child from an orphanage would do on his first night in his forever home: we put him on a quilt on the floor and let him sleep there!! LOL!! We didn't want to put him in a bedroom all alone, but we didn't have room on the bed, so that's where he went! He stayed asleep all night, but he was a WILD sleeper, and didn't stay on the quilt long - he rolled all over the bedroom in his sleep! The bad part is that neither Mark nor I slept more than 2 hours all night as we were both paranoid he'd wake up and be scared and we wanted to be right there for him, but he was out like a light all night.

This morning, I took Nikolai to school and after I got back home, went back to bed, where I napped for about 2 hours where Mark FINALLY got to sleep. Erik also slept, but this time with us in bed. ;op

Afterward, I had no choice but to bring him to Wal-Mart. I really wanted to limit activity at first, but Mark was sleeping and I didn't want to leave Erik home with Reese (who is homeschooling this semester) who knows NOTHING about little kids (yet). He did great!! Mark said the orphanage caregivers said he only eats soft/pureed foods, which is a drag - do I trust that he can't eat until he can get evaluated, or do I try to give him little things? Mark even said the Cheerios I bought him, he would choke on!! :o( He doesn't chew his food, true, he "tongues" it, but don't you think I could TRY to feed him a Cheerio or little fish cracker? He also said the workers said not to give him citrus - any insights there, anyone??

Thankfully, Mark is still sleeping, poor guy. He'll probably sleep all day and all night tonight. That's good. He needs it!! I am soooooo proud of him for being so strong to do this with Erik. He has had SUCH a good attitude and is just so in love with his new son!! He really is changed with this experience. :o)

It's almost suppertime and I bought some stuff for Erik for tonight - some sweet potatoes to mash and we have a juice machine, so I will juice some fruits that I bought. I'm trying not to alter his foods too much, and introduce new things slowly, but it's hard!! I want to cook for him!!! ;o)

He's been good with the dogs, too. They've sniffed him up and down (he still smells like orphanage milk - can't wait to give him a good bath tonight!!) and he's not scared of them - he just sort of pulls away like, "What the heck IS this thing???"

We have MUCH to do in the upcoming weeks, with therapy, doctors, etc. But so far we are off to a really good start.

Welcome home, Erik, my beautiful son!!!!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
But I am worried about Mark and Erik! I haven't heard ANYTHING since that e-mail below. I don't know if they got up on time to get to the airport at 3:30am, I don't know if they are in Frankfurt (where they should be right now), I don't know if Mark got a wheelchair to help with the long connection (if not, Mark is going to have a VERY hard time, I'm afraid). He apparently couldn't contact me from the airport and didn't have enough money or couldn't find the Internet kiosk that I had used to tell him that I got through okay when I was there.

If he didn't have MS, I would NOT be worrying like this, but he's been pushing himself soooo hard on this trip and I don't want it to come crashing down on him at this very stressful ending... (Stress destroys people with MS.)

Would you please pray for him that he stays strong until he gets home and can fall apart then??

At this point, I will know NOTHING until 6pm tonight when I go to the airport and PRAY that they get off the plane!!!!
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
An e-mail from Mark!!!!

He sent out a blanket e-mail to relatives, but I didn't get that one (my mom read hers to me over the phone cause I was at work and not at my computer). This is what he sent me:




WHAT a relief!!!! It was short and sweet, but good enough for me!!! They are okay and they are coming HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He leaves in an hour for the Kiev airport for a 2 1/2 hr. flight, then has a 7 hour layover in Frankfurt (where hopefully he'll have time to e-mail a little more!!) then a 10 hour flight to Orlando!!! COME HOME, MARKIE!!! COME HOME!!!! (Whoops! I've got to stop saying "he" and start saying "they"!)

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If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.
- Chinese proverb
It is not the will of your Father that any one of these little ones should perish. Matt. 18:14

Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. Matt. 18:5

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

My family

My family
Nikolai, Mark, Missy, Reese, and Erik

Nikolai, 19

Nikolai, 19

Reese, 19

Reese, 19

Erik, 9

Erik, 9





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