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We are FULLY FUNDED! Thank you all so much!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Barton IS Home!

Yes, Barton IS home! Sorry to take so long to post that! I have posted updates and photos on Facebook and in groups, but time to sit at the computer has been scarce. Par for the course, there was one last delay on the trip home. Thankfully this one was only a few hours instead of weeks or months. As my husband and Barton were trying to cross the airport to get to the gate for their last flight, the plane took off - EARLY! I didn't even think they could do that if everyone wasn't on board! Thankfully they were able to find space for them on a later flight and everyone was finally home.

Barton is so amazing. He was very nervous and unsure of everything at first. Theo and Orion practically busted down the front door and went running around the house to check everything out when they came home for the first time. Barton stood in the doorway until my husband took his hand and led him to the couch. We had to make sure everyone gave him some space to get comfortable. Orion's excitement can be overwhelming in the best of circumstances, as those of you who have met him know! My youngest daughter gave him a stuffed frog which he didn't let go of for the next few days. Eventually he made his way to the dinner table and enjoyed a few slices of pizza.


I really credit my youngest daughter, Theo, and Orion for helping Barton feel comfortable. Even though he didn't respond at first, my daughter always made a point of finding a way to include him in what she was playing by bringing him a few toys or telling him what she was doing, without pushing him to do or say anything in return. She is so sweet. It was also really great to hear Orion telling Barton all about our family and what to expect, with Theo chiming in. Some of what they had to say made me a little sad too, like when they were telling Barton about how nice everyone was and that there was always lots of food and how we never ever hit them. I am however thankful that they are able to talk to each other and have that bond of shared language and some shared similar history.


This photo is from a few days later as Barton started to get more comfortable with everyone. He was playing in the block bin while my biological children did their homeschool work. We are still trying to decide what we will be doing for school for him this year. He is just SO smart but starting from scratch is very hard when you are almost 17. Right now a regular classroom would be overwhelming both in terms of material and general environment. The type of classroom the other boys spend a lot of time in at the elementary school is almost entirely life skills in the junior and senior high, and that certainly isn't the right fit for him. He is working on the English alphabet right now at home and picking it up so quickly. We may keep him home for the rest of this year and then have him start next fall, or he might start in the spring. The school is trying hard to fit the needs of all the boys, but this entire experience is well beyond anything they have done before. They have never even had a student who spoke a language other than English before! Plus the boys are growing and learning so many new things so quickly that it can be hard to remember that they don't have much experience with a lot of the expectations for kids who have been in school but they are also capable of learning those things if we teach them. It is a tricky thing to balance!



You can really tell how much more comfortable Barton is in this picture from one of our movie nights. These boys all love Thomas the Train! Barton is in green, Orion is in gray, and Theo is in the stripes. I've read a lot of comments that most adoption blogs aren't real enough. You can see the clothes I was sorting in this background of this picture if you're looking for real. Showing our laundry baskets might be more real than folks can handle. Haha, truthfully, we have had far fewer things to deal with than we anticipated. We expected a lot of things that we just haven't seen yet. Every single thing hasn't been rainbows and unicorns, but we knew that. I can talk about more real in another post, but I want everyone to know that what I share here IS real for our family. We are happy, the kids are doing great, and everything is super wonderful busy chaos and I love it. These kids have come from a background of unimaginable trauma, but they are just kids. Wonderful, normal, great kids.


 One last bit of real - our grocery bill has definitely gone up! As a family of ten we go through a lot of food. This is the first batch of popcorn from one of our movie nights. These kids are great eaters!


These are a couple pictures of Barton and Theo playing soccer yesterday. I love seeing them all play together. I was worried that Barton might not be as comfortable with Theo and Orion because they had known each other for so long, but the three of them have really bonded. The first thing they do when Theo and Orion get home from school is hug each other and talk about their days. I really love when Barton gives Orion a quizzical look because Orion has no idea that he has started talking in English instead of his mix of Russian and Ukrainian that Barton can understand. Barton is picking up a lot of English very quickly though! It is amazing that we had expected him to be nonverbal based on descriptions from so many different people who had interacted with him, but his speech is much more clear than both Orion and Theo's! He likes to ask about what we are doing and how to say things in English, which is helping him learn so quickly.


Here are a few other updates on the boys. We had a long day at the children's hospital a couple weeks ago. You can see how happy the boys look to be in the waiting room so early in the morning. You might see Orion making that sideways look. He isn't really that suspicious! He has trouble seeing and that is the easiest way for him to squint for a better view. Sadly his eye appointment was cancelled by the clinic because of a scheduling error on their end, so that was moved to the end of this month.


Here is Theo understandably looking a little nervous before his turn for his MRI. He did absolutely great though! He loved that there was a therapy dog at the hospital that he had a chance to pet while we were waiting between appointments.


And here is Orion enjoying himself. He chatted my ear off while he was waiting for his MRI. He also did great with his turn. He had a lot to say about it the next day at school. Luckily I had written them a note explaining what he would be talking about, or it might have been tough to figure out why he was talking about listening to music during the audiology appointment, or smiling for his pictures and sleeping because it smelled funny for his MRI!


Theo was playing the other morning and made himself a bed in the middle of the living room, then put on a pair of goggles. He cracks me up!



Last but not least, Evan has a very important message for all of you. As you probably know, Maya's Hope has done some amazing things to improve life for the kids where Theo, Orion and Evan used to live. They have provided private caregivers, therapies, surgeries and medical care, all kinds of things. They have a chance to earn $10,000 to continue and expand the great work they have been doing! Here is what you need to do. Go to mayashope.org/vote. You will need to create an account. It's free. You can vote 4 different ways. It might take five minutes out of your day. These kids are worth that much and so much more! It would make a tremendous difference for the kids we spent so much time with during the boys' adoption. Please go vote!



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Barton Is Almost Home!

I know a lot of people have been wondering what is going on with Barton. He and my husband have a flight scheduled to come home on Wednesday! Finally! They have had their final embassy appointment so they have his exit visa!

Here are a couple photos from when Barton first left the orphanage. He was able to come earlier in the day instead of later when they planned, so he came to the apartment in orphanage clothes that they returned the next day.


He loves juice so one of the first things he wanted to do when he got to the apartment was have some juice with a snack.


Here he is changing into his very own clothes. He was completely in love with the shoes. He kept saying how they were so much softer and more comfortable than the ones he had been wearing. He was very happy with them.


He is eating dinner with his car (machina!) on the table. He likes to savor his food and is a very slow and thorough eater! It is getting better as he is beginning to realize that there is plenty of food at every meal and he can eat as much as he needs.


These are some gifts from his cousins! He will be so excited when he finally gets to meet them. 

We were keeping quiet on the details while things were getting worked out, but we did have another delay in country. Yeah, seriously. Enough already with those delays, right? Hopefully we are finally at the point where no more delays are possible. The tax office made a mistake changing his documents, so his passport was printed incorrectly the first time. Those little details like having an accurate passport are kind of important to the embassy and immigration, you know? Even worse, getting the fixed passport took even longer than getting the first passport. That doubled the amount of time my husband had to stay in country, and the amount of time that I was here by myself with all of our other kids.

And how are the other kids doing? Awesome. They are doing so well. We had a fever and cough come through while my husband was gone. I was worried it might be the enterovirus that has been on the news, but apparently it was just a virus going around. They had to stay home from school for a couple days, but they were complete champs. Theo and Orion were much more upset about missing a trip on the bus than they were about being sick. Look at their smiling faces! I promise you I never look that good when I am sick.




Evan has been doing well in therapy. He still gets very easily overstimulated, but he was comfortable enough to practice biting marshmallow peeps in speech last week. He is doing better at home at accepting a couple spoonfuls of food before spitting the rest on me and demanding his bottle instead. It is amazing that he will eat the same thing out of a bottle that he spits out from a spoon, but that is what happens when you are never given the chance. Things are looking like he will eventually be able to move way from the bottles which will be an amazing milestone. Here are a couple photos that show how big he is getting! He has gained 12 pounds since he came home 3 months ago. He is so amazing! The photos in the red shirt are new.



These other two photos are from after we brought him out of the orphanage and our trip home. I can't believe how much he has changed already! The really shocking thing to me is that I remember when I took these pictures I thought they didn't accurately capture how small he was, how obvious his bones were, how hollowed his skin looked when you were up close in person. Now I look at the difference between those pictures that don't even show the real depth of his condition and his pictures now. Wow.




He has been such a blessing to us. Everyone should be lucky enough to have a child just like him and his brothers! So many of their friends are still waiting for families of their own if you think there might be a child out there waiting for you.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

New School Year, New Beginnings

I can't say enough how much older child adoption rocks. These kids are incredible and we feel so honored to be able to share all these new milestones with them. I know what we have done isn't right for every family, but it has been great for us and for our children - all of them. And I also know that most families don't have as easy a transition as we have! My husband and I keep asking each other if this is still a honeymoon period or if this is really the way things are going to be forever. Either way, we are very thankful for the last three months and how well everyone has bonded. 

An anonymous individual commented during our adoption process that we should have only adopted one child. Which of our boys would they have had us leave behind? We can't imagine being without any of them, and we also can't imagine what would have happened to them if we hadn't said "YES" to each of them. We are counting the days until Barton can join us here at home too. (Very soon!) I know most people don't adopt 4 older boys at once. That is okay! Yes, it has been all kinds of chaos. You should see what happens if I skip a single day's worth of laundry! But the kids are great, incredible, and loved so much. It has been an amazing journey and we all have so much ahead of us, together.

So, on to school!

This is the day Theo and Orion went to check out their new school. Their new teacher could hear us as soon as we came in the door, even though her room is a few halls away, because the boys were so excited and kept exclaiming about how big and beautiful the school is. I really like their teacher and she has been wonderful about understanding my concern over helping the boys transition into a school environment. The boys had a great time checking everything out and meeting the staff. 


Here are Theo and Orion after their haircuts for school! Aren't they the handsomest boys ever? I had been putting off cutting their hair because one of them has a lot of scars on his head that are hidden when his hair is longer. We were able to cut it short enough that they were happy with it but long enough to make the scars less obvious. Phew! They were also both quite surprised that their haircuts didn't hurt. Little things like that pop up all the time, so unexpectedly. It stings my heart that something like a haircut not hurting would bring them so much joy. They really enjoyed having everyone fuss over how handsome they were afterward though, which we were all more than happy to do.


Here they are waiting for the bus! So much anticipation had been building for this. They started asking when school would begin as soon as they got to America. They were very disappointed to learn it was the middle of summer vacation. It is finally time to figure out what school is like and they can't wait.


Theo was a little nervous about the lift on the bus for the first few days, but now he has gotten used to it. The bus driver has been really good about showing him everything she is going to do before she does it so he knows what to expect. She takes great care of them!


Orion just about leapt into his seat once the bus stopped. I am glad they are excited for their bus ride, since it is pretty long. There are only about twenty other kids on their bus, but we are in a rural area so it takes some time to pick everyone up. The other kids have been very curious and excited about the boys going to their school, and also helpful about showing the boys how things work. 


There is a lot of catching up to do in so many areas. We are still learning about the concept of buying things, and that Mama and Papa are the ones paying for your milk at school - not the teacher! They are missing a lot of the assumed background knowledge, even in very basic materials. We often don't discover those gaps in their knowledge until we all stumble into them together.

Their excitement for everything makes it easier. You know the videos of kids finding out they are headed on a vacation to Disney? That is how Theo and Orion sounded as the bus pulled into school for the first time. They are so thrilled to go to school each day and learn new things. I have had so many people from the school stop me to tell me how much the boys' excitement has affected them. Again, we are so in awe to be their parents. They are still adjusting to the expectations at school. Orion had been entering each classroom by shouting hello and shaking everyone's hands...all out of excitement and absolutely adorable, but not always appropriate! Now that we are a couple weeks into school, we are working on keeping their excitement a little quieter and a little more suited to the setting, but happily it is still there.


You'll notice Evan didn't get on the bus with Theo and Orion. He will be having homebound services for this year. Medically, he is amazingly uncomplicated considering his background. He has CP. He is malnourished but gaining weight. Even uncomplicated children have a lot of medical visits though, and with his background all of these transitions are very tiring and stressful. The specialists have agreed that we will better be able to find the right educational environment in another year. He will be getting most of his services through the school at home, but also some extra speech therapy and PT during short sessions at the school. We will be adding private therapy too as he gets more comfortable with the interaction with all of the therapists and educators. All of this is a big change for him, and no one has any idea what kind of results we can expect from the therapies. We are hoping for miracles, but we truly love him exactly the way he is.




These photos are from one of his many trips to our Children's hospital. This was us going to do some sedated tests, which he did fine with although I was a nervous wreck the whole time waiting for him! We don't have much new information about his condition at this point. It isn't progressive, which we knew. His hearing is great, which we were pleased to find but expected. He has a little bit of vision, but it is hard to assess, which we also expected. None of these have changed what we are doing, but it is good information to have.

I can't explain how much we love Evan, and the rest of children as well of course. I think the bedridden kids, the crib kids, come across as very scary and hopeless. It is so hard to see a little blurb and a photo or two of a child and make a decision, even when the photos and description make a child sound "easy." (Haha, easy child? I know, I know, doesn't exist!) With the bedridden kids, and also transferred kids, the child is most likely drugged, in all but the most rare cases is neglected at a level the average person can't comprehend, with so many unknown diagnoses and an unknown future. What we have found after getting Evan out of his crib and into the real world, is that all of that scariness melts away. What seems frightening in a crib in a room full of other neglected children and adults seems so much easier in the light of day - in the living room of your home, in a carseat in your car, outside on a walk with your family. Even with Theo and Orion, who were in much better conditions than Evan, you could see something fall away once they left the orphanage and arrived in America with us. Adoption changes lives. It can be hard. It can be heartbreaking. It is worth it. We are so thankful for our children.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

On Aging Out And Keeping Doors Open

As August draws to a close, a boy I have seen is more and more likely to have passed his 16th birthday. He had a family coming but no longer does. I don't know the details, and I don't need to. Knowing those details won't change things for him. There is something that could change things though. Maybe there is a family out there who has already sent in their i600a, who is approved to adopt a 16 year old with Down Syndrome. Maybe there is a family out there waiting for Gene.



So many of you know our story with Barton. We sent in our i600a only a couple weeks before his birthday, but he wasn't even on our radar. I saw people shouting for him as he turned 16, and I was so sad when his birthday came and went without a family lined up. Slowly it became clear that there was no other family coming because we were his family. It was truly amazing the way everything worked out.



The big thing was that we mailed in our i600a early. Our homestudy wasn't done. We weren't planning on adopting a child who had already aged out. We had to send in those fees sooner rather than later. We did it anyway. We kept that door open. We kept other doors open too. We discussed with our social worker the wide range of ages and needs we were open to on a case by case basis. Our special needs list was very, very long. We were only planning on adopting older children, but we kept younger ages on our homestudy also in case there were younger siblings we did not know about, or maybe a child we hadn't been considering was the right one for us. Each of those choices to leave those doors open was done consciously. My husband and I talked it over, knowing how unpredictable the process is for the country we had chosen. That was why our homestudy met the requirements to add Barton, and later also Evan.

Please, consider the plans your family is making in your adoption process. Consider keeping your hearts open and keeping those doors open. Consider an older child who has waited for an unimaginable length of time for a family. One of our boys told me yesterday how sad he was in the orphanage. He said he would stay awake at night and ask God for a mama and papa. His brother said that he was so sad too. Wow. These are older boys, who so many people wanted to warn us would be dangerous, would be predators. They have blessed us more in the short time they have been home than I can put into words. My heart breaks every time I think of how long they waited, and how they may never have had a family if we had not seen them for who they are and been willing to step far outside the typical adoption box. We kept our hearts open and we kept those doors open, and it has made a tremendous difference in our lives and theirs.

Theo's First Birthday With Us!

Here are a few pictures and a video from Theo's birthday! He had an amazing time and so did we. It was his 15th birthday, but only his first with a family.  He loved his balloons, his cake, and all of his presents. There was a lot of Thomas the Train for this birthday. He loves to shout "Too-too" whenever he sees a train.

It was a big surprise to see how much he loved his balloons. When he had a balloon in the orphanage, he and the other boys all popped their balloons within a few minutes. These ones last more than a week!

Here we are singing happy birthday and he even blows out all his candles on his Thomas cake! He could barely believe the train decorating the cake was his to keep. He was covered with frosting by the time he was done eating cake.



These are just a few pictures of him with his presents. It was a little overwhelming for him to get so many things at once, but he did well. He loved everything, even the clothes.



Later all the kids got to play with glowsticks in the house and in the yard. We will always miss the memories that we will never have, of all the birthdays celebrated or not before we knew our sons. We are trying make as many new memories as we can. We already have so many, but we can't wait for all the memories still to come!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

We Passed Court For Barton!

Yes! Really! Finally! Barton is our son! We had to sit on the news for a few days until the papers were finalized, but I am so excited to be able to publicly share now! My husband will be going back in the beginning of September, after the waiting period has ended and holidays are over, to finish the last of his paperwork and bring Barton HOME! We are still not fully funded due to all of these extra trips, and we are very appreciative of donations. Our account HERE needs to read $32,000. Right now it is at $28,505. Thank you so much to everyone who has been supporting us. Don't forget to email me at kayleighbloom@gmail.com to be entered into our Little Pim Thank You Giveaway!

Here are some of the photos we couldn't show anyone until after court. I hope you like them! These are from my husband's visit the day after the judge said YES! And yes, Barton really is that skinny...but not for long!



This is from when I was able to meet him before we went to court for the other boys. This was months ago, at the end of spring. He was so sweet and shy with me, but he also gave me a hug when we left.

 

Here he is looking at one of the books my husband brought for a visit. He loves to look through these comic books. He holds them very close to his face because it is hard for him to see, but he is so excited about them.

 

Here are a couple pictures of Barton with my husband. You can really see in these how small he is. It is hard to imagine that he is 16! You can tell how happy he is to see his Papa and spend time with him. 



And all of these are from my husband's first few visits with Barton, back in April. He loves to be pushed on the swing and play with clay. They put him in that sweater and dress pants for all of my husband's visits until the weather was so hot that my husband was afraid he would get heat stroke. 




The staff at the orphanage said that the change they saw in Barton from my husband's first visits to now have been huge. They said that he really came out of his shell after my husband spent so much time with him. I can only imagine how much he will grow once he is home with us. He is so excited about our house and his new family and how he will go to school. We can't wait to have him home. It has been a long, hard road. I am so thankful we are finally nearing the end of it!


Monday, July 28, 2014

Matching Grant and Little Pim Thank You Giveaway

I am so honored to announce that we have been awarded a matching grant by an amazing anonymous group to help us get Barton home. We need our FSP to read $28,450.50 to meet the $550 grant. You can go HERE to donate. Right now it is at $27,900.50. We have two weeks to raise the money for this grant. This is a huge help and we are so thankful for it! The total amount when we meet this grant will cover more than an entire plane ticket! Wow!

As our thank you to everyone helping us meet or match this grant, we are going to give away 3 Little Pim discovery sets. Each set has 3 DVDs and a small stuffed panda. We will be giving away 1 set in English and 2 sets in Mandarin Chinese. The set in English is great for newly adopted kids. We bought one for our kids! The Mandarin sets could be used for young adopted children to maintain some of their first language, for excited new siblings, or just as a fun introduction to the language.


I will tell you guys up front that I *love* Little Pim. I have used the French language discs as part of an early elementary language study program for some of my kids. The background music is soothing and calms kids (and mamas) down. The vocabulary focuses on daily activities and objects young children will encounter. It is gentle. I love gentle! I am happy to answer questions you might have!

There are a few ways to be entered. For every $5 donation, you are entered once into the giveaway! (2 entries for $10, etc.) You can also be entered for sharing our blog post or posting about it on your own blog. Any donations, sharing, or posting within the next three weeks can be entered into the giveaway, to make sure we can thank everyone who is helping us bring Barton home! Don't forget to email me at kayleighbloom@gmail.com with Thank You Giveaway in the subject, your receipt or a link to your shared post or blog in the message, and whether you want English or Chinese so that I can enter you! (And so I can thank you!) Go HERE to donate!

Plus, here is a picture of Theo enjoying his first birthday in America! A full birthday post will come in a few days after I have finished wiping frosting off all the walls and cleaning up wrapping paper!


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Barton Is Worth It

I have been putting off writing this update. Barton is not home yet. We have not passed court. The court requested a second date to call extra witnesses and do a few other optional things that most courts decline to do. These are extra steps the court is requiring from the country, not for our family. We understand that this is the first time this court has done an international adoption, so they are making sure they cross and dot every letter. The second court date is scheduled for the end of July. It will be in a few days.


We are very sad and frustrated for Barton. Our facilitator and his teachers were able to explain what is happening, but he was disappointed. His teachers have said they have seen him open up a lot since my husband first started visiting, and one of them has requested to make a statement about that at court. We have so much waiting for him here. Our children keep asking about him. The staff at our school can't wait to meet him. There is a hole in our lives, waiting for him to come home. It is so hard to know that our other boys have been home for more than a month, and we don't know yet when he will be here. It has been especially hard for my husband to be there and be so happy to spend time with him, and then say goodbye one more time.


In addition to the emotional difficulty with another delay, these extra trips have been a logistical nightmare. We will now have three extra trips for my husband to make since we have brought the other boys home. He is getting closer and closer to eating up the last of his FMLA time, even though he is coming home to work as much as he can between those trips. At close to $1000 each way, each time he has to make another trip, these have been a huge extra expense. After recent events, airlines are canceling flights to the airport he had been traveling in and out of. He now needs to fly in and out of the capital, requiring extra travel time. The flight for the second court date was cancelled very close to his departure, and we are thankful we were able to get an alternative flight on such short notice. We had scheduled medical appointments for the other boys based on when our children's hospital had openings with multiple specialists, and it has taken some juggling to make sure those run smoothly now that my husband may be traveling during those times.

It is worth it though. I can't say that enough. He is worth all of this. It has been hard, and we aren't done fighting for him yet. But we would do it all again in a heartbeat.

___

You know who else is worth it? These three amazing boys that we have been watching grow and change every day. We are still cocooning and still enjoying our honeymoon while we learn more about each other.

I have so much more to say about them, but they are too busy climbing all over me right now for me to say anymore. So I will leave you with some pictures and a couple videos of how things are going.

Theo and Orion were very amused that their crazy American mother gave them root BEER. I tried to explain it was soda but that part was lost in translation.



I have to say again, we have the handsomest sons in the world! Theo really wants his friend (Tania on RR!) to have a family too. Orion would spend the whole day playing outside if we let him.



And here is just a sneak peak of all the amazing things ahead for Evan. He is knocking our socks off every single day!




I have so much more to say about how well they are all doing, but it will need to wait for next time!