Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

So much going on--

Medical stuff:
Milos has NO heart problems (yay)
He DOES have active Hep B (booo)
Milos has really BIG tonsils that need to come out--soon
Both ears are infected (and that makes him GRUMPY!)

He has gained 6 lbs since coming home but is still a skinny little thing

He still needs constant attention- or he becomes "destroy-boy".. easy to understand since all of his life anything in arms reach is a "toy" or food.

His hitting, pinching and biting has slowed down--a little, but he still can lay some pain on you if he chooses.

We are all very tired but things are going fine--- It sure is NOT what we expected, but is anything??

Here is to a great 2010!

Jim

Saturday, December 26, 2009

More video from marie

Merry Christmas

Wellllll--

sorry it has been so long since we have posted

I have pics coming soon-- hopefully tomorrow

Milos has been doing GREAT!!!!!!!

here is a video of milos and the boys at Hofbrauhaus!




It is so hard to believe that a kid who has done little-- other than stare at the lights on the wall-- has adjusted so well to his new world.

Today he went with mom in search of a crib--

No luck, but we had a nice time at Hofbrauhaus in Newport-- I wish I had the pics of him and his first Chickendance-- will post soon

Things are going REALLY well-- We wish Mios did not arise at 5am but all in all it is hard not to approve of his progress.


he is speaking 2-3 words by voice and signing 3 word complete phrases


It's is SOOO sad this little guy had no attention in the "home". They really meant well and tried to help him, but he has REALLY exploded here at home.


With your prayers, we will continue to see his come out of his shell!

Merry Christmas!

Jim

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

MILOS IS HOME

We made it!

More soon!

Milos the American!

We made it to DC--

Thanks for the prayers. Milos was actually a pretty good--no make that a very good traveller!

Kudos to the Belgrade Airport for a great kids area. They have lots of Little Tyke stuff to play on in a closed off very comfy room! Plus yummy schnitzel  in the self service cafe to bring in.

There were problems with the seat assignments. I had confirmed bulkhead seats for all of us on the Paris/DC flight-- somehow AirFrance lost that assignment and we were to be in pretty awful seats in the rear of the plane.  To their credit, they treated us VERY well on the Belgrade/Paris flight with free Champagne. We arrived late into Paris but decided it was worth a try to get our seats back. Someone was in them-- not good-- Milos was really hungry and grumpy at this point and the people at the transfer desk did their nice deed for the year-- they booted the people who had taken our seats and gave them back to us-- Whew-- Bulkhead it will be.

The long flight went GREAT! Milos stayed away for about the first 2-3 hours and slept the last 4. He was VERY good (except he had a belly ache and only wanted to eat pudding (maybe WHY he had a bellyache)

Smooth getting off the plane-- no problems through customs-- Milos is Now an American-- May I add a very stinky American-- Belly problem solved. Mary goes to change the poopie machine. After a fresh set of clothes we are through customs and out to our shuttle.

The Hampton at IAD is wonderful! We arrived in the room a bit after 9 and headed out for Milos' first sports bar food--- Well he actually had a jar of baby food with sportsbar mashed potatoes. (thanks to the hampton folks for driving us)

\One last pudding with melatonin and Milos fell asleep around 11:30.

Up at 3am for a diaper change and wanting to be up for the day--NO WAY. With some encouragement he went back to sleep until 7! (YAY!!)

Great Hampton Breakfast for all of us (notice we really like this place) and back to the room for a bath. (and a potty break--- Milos actually used the potty--- YAY again!)

Our flight is around 11am. We will head to the airport fro our quick flight home!


 Will try to update with pics tonight

Jim

Monday, December 21, 2009

Last Night in Serbia



Thanks to the folks at the Embassy here in Belgrade! Despite DC being shut down they were able to process Milos' visa-- We arrived at 1:30 for our 2pm interview. By 3:30 we were on our way with visa in hand!

We walked from the Embassy up to Slavia-- They have finally turned on the Christmas Lights overe here--

We grabbed one last Donner Kebap and dodged the cars to get over to the taxi stand. By this time Milos was getting a bit cold and grumpy.
After about a 10 minute cabride we are home! Up the steps to the apartment. Hey guess what? The poopie machine needs to changed!

Only one diaper left so I sart out to the Lilly to get diapers, wipes and baby food for the journey home tomorrow. Last Belgrade tram ride.


Vlado and his daughter came over to get us "unregistered" at the police station. Mary and Vlado went to the police (my shoes are soaked through). I stay behind to try to get Milos to bed. YAY They brought back pizza-- REALLY GOOD Pizza.
We will get our taxi to the airport at 9:30 tomorrow-- and will get to DC about 7:30PM tomorrow-- so 16 hours of travel with Milos-- Please keep us in your prayers-- I am really concerned about how he will do on the plane for that long.

I'll try to do a quick update (at least from the cellphone) when we arrive in DC!


Thanks for following along!

Jim



Sunday, December 20, 2009

Serbian Beer

Not a beer fan-- ignore this post

Beer in Serbia is a bit dissapointing. Ukrainian beer (expecially Chernihivska and Obolon) is great.

The flavor of Serbian Beer is very nice but the beer is way too fizzy-- fake fizzy

My fave local beer is "Deer Beer"

Jelen PIvo



There is also "Lion Beer"



I had a really nice dark beer at dinner one night--

But I find my regular beer is Becks-- Yes German but brewed here in Serbia



Yummm

Lazy Sunday in Serbia

A quiet day today with Milos--



We did not get the big snow event that was predicted for Saturday and Sat night, but we DID get the COLD--- wind chills in the low teens today-- BTW-- How great is it that we have 2 bedrooms, a full dining room, living room and big bath with a tub. We probably could have saved 5 or 6 euros a night in a smaller place but I can't imagine how crazy we would be right now! YAY!-- thanks Vlado!

Milos got Mary up EARLY again-- Thanks for taking early duty--

I got up about 8:15 and we played "round the table" for a while-- I had to run to buy food and change a bit of money- Hamburger went down well last time but not so easy to find it on Sunday-- I finally found a nice German speaking butcher and we chatted auf Deutsch while he chopped up a chicken for us and ground some fresh beef for Milos.

Stopped at the local (read communist looking) bread store but they were out of bread-- so to the Pan European bakery for a half a loaf or Italian bread--- YUMMY!

About 30 minutes later, back to the apartment where Mary was trying to get Milos to take a nap---NOT HAPPENIN!

I let Mary sleep and Milos and I played the "round the table game" and watched Kim Possible and a couple other Disney things. he was very well behaved-- a little gentleman!

About 90 minutes later Milos had his (I think) second poopie diaper of the day so I had to wake Mary for the dirty deed-- Long story as to why I do not do poopie-- remind me to share with you one day!

Lunch time-- and cooking for Milos meals for the next couple of days--

More table chasing, TV, clothes pin dumping, poopie diapers, pudding snacks, and another nap attempt and WOW it's already dinner time--

Milos was not very hungry (I think he has a bit of a belly ache) He ate some of his mashed potatoes with ground beef (did not like the beef chunks this time). Mary and I had yummy baked chicken, bread and noodles.

More tv and mama and papa play and about 45 minutes later some fruit with melatonoin-- ANOTHER poopie diaper and bedtime!

We are in full wind down mode-- figuring out how much food we still need for him and us, starting to pack the big suitcase-- in general planning our escape!

Our appointment at the US Embassy is 2pm tomorrow. The weather is supposed to get pretty nice (sunny and 35) -- we may take the stroller and explore a bit. I need to copy some documents and try to get a few photos around town with Milos.

We still need more diapers, wipes and baby food for the plane ride--

So here is the scoop:

2pm Embassy
4pm (hopefully) get the visa

6pm Milos bedtime

Tues
10am leave for airport
12:40 flight for Paris
4pm Flight for DC
7:15p arrive in DC check into the Hampton

Wed
11:30a leave for Cincy
1:10p arrive home!

whew-- I cannot WAIT to get home

Saturday, December 19, 2009

2 days down, 2 more to go

Another day cooped up in our apartment. It is a GREAT apartment, but it is still hard to be cooped up, inside, all day, with not much to do, when you are a 10 year old boy, (or a 40-something mom!)

Milos/Benjamin started his day at about 5am! I found out what happens when you don't get him out of the pack and play when he is ready...he becomes "streaker boy!". He can undress himself, completely, he just chooses not to when I ask him to!

Bath, breakfast, a load of laundry folded and another started, the dishwasher emptied and reloaded with the few breakfast things, and 3 apples pealed, cored and simmering for applesauce was completed by 6:45. OK, so what do we do for the REST of the day?

Milos/Benjamin prefers to eat! So, by 8, he had eaten twice, and by the time we had lunch at 10:45, it was the fourth time he had eaten today!

We tried, again unsuccessfullly, to have him nap. But he and I did, sort of, rest, for about an hour. Then it was time to eat again!

We practiced walking up and down the steps. This means he has to put on his coat, as it is pseudo-outside. He does not like these steps, they curve and they are difficult to manuver, plus the handrails are freezing, so he tends to fuss a great deal all the way down and back up again. Too bad, we did them twice today. Good practice and exercise.

He took a couple of baths.

We played "chase mom" and "Chase dad" around the dining room table. We worked on the signs for "mama" and "papa". He uses both hands when he signs. "Papa" looks more like a reindeer, but we understand. He gets it...he really does. He thinks who he wants to chase him, and signs for that person. He got confused a couple of times, as "mama" and "papa" are simply names that we have right now. He does not know what a mama is. The kids don't call all  the female caretakers "mama"  like they did in Ukraine. And papa is "tata" here. But, he is understanding that he gets his needs and some wants met by asking/signing. He is also verbalizing "eat"...sounds like "eeee" but, hey, for a kid who didn't talk, at all, 2 weeks ago, to have a 4 word sign vocabulary and a 2 word spoken vocabulary...all in English....we will take it.

He is a bright little boy in there...he is very low functioning, but I really do think much of that can be remedied. I love to watch him when he is thinking. You can really see when he is trying to figure something out, and he is doing that more and more.

Dinner was early (since breakfast and lunch were early, it just follows that dinner is too)...he started getting really tired about 3:30-4. Too late to nap. So we ate early,,,,about 4:30, he had a bath, and we just tried to play quietly for a while. Then a pudding treat and to bed around 6. It will be an early morning again tomorrow!

On tap tomorrow will be a trip to the "Lilly" store....sort of a "walgreens" type place and the best place to get diapers and babyfood. We want to have some on hand for the airplane. We both think Mass is not going to happen for us tomorrow. It is too cold out there, and church is not heated. It is a very, very very small church, and he is just not ready for this yet. But most of the day will be spent trying to fill the hours with something to do, trying not to be too loud for the other folks living above and below us.

Monday afternoon is our embassy appointment...they said they would issue the visa that day. Hope so. We leave here Tuesday. Can't wait to get home to everyone waiting for us.

Mary

A Serbian Multimedia Extravaganza

Some stills from the past couple of days:




Milos can now speak in 3 word (sign) sentences. Not bad for a kid they said was mute a week ago.





Milos thinks Pizza tastes like cardboard-- wonder why?!>

Friday, December 18, 2009

First Full day stuck in our apartment

Milos/Benjamin and I were pretty much in our apartment all day while Jim braved the cold and ice to pick up his passport, my passport (it got left at the orphanage yesterday) and the medicals. Thanks, hon, for saving us from the bitter weather!

He was mostly smiley beyond anything we have seen thus far. We played with empty toilet paper tubes, rolling them back and forth to each other, he took 2 or 3 baths, and he ate. And ate. And ate. He is on an every hour and a half to two hour feeding schedule! I think I gave him too much one time because he refluxed pretty bad a couple of times and really cried. I felt so bad. So, we are watching the amount of food, but giving it to him frequently. He definately prefers the sweet stuff, but when he discovered that dinner was dinner, and refusing it does not get him a pudding cup, he decided he was indeed hungry and ate.

He can only handle small amounts of texture, so getting protein in him is a challenge. He does like milk, so I make any cereals with milk, and add an egg, then cook in the microwave. He seems to like it. We have made applesauce...really just cooked to mush apples with a little sugar...and I add that to the cereal/milk/egg mixture to make our very own "breakfast slop".

We did venture out twice, briefly. Once, because I ran out of Coke Zero (no Diet Coke here...or Coke Light...only Coke Zero. So, I gave up Diet Coke!), and once to take the trash out. THe first time, I put him in the stroller, all bundled up. He stayed that way, pretty well, but the stores are really small, and very skinny isles....read...no place for a little boy who has never been taught to keep his hands to himself!

He will not walk up or down the steps to our apartment. They curve a little, and he still needs two handed support to walk even up stairs, and he just does not feel comfortable on them. He did well on the steps at the orphanage, but not here.

The 2nd time, I just carried him, and almost wiped out. It is cold and very icy outside. The "sidewalk" in front of our apartment is actually made of tile, which is extra slipery when icy. We dropped off the trash and returned immediately. Those were our two big "outings".

Milos/Benjamin LOVES to rip apart boxes..really he loves to rip apart anything. We had a pizza box, and I figured, why not. It kept him busy for a good half hour! I can see Christmas now....just let him have the boxes and he will be in 7th heaven!

He did not nap, although we tried. He was in his bed for an hour and a half, but not sleeping at all, so bedtime was still fairly early tonight. He was very tired by 6pm. I did notice last night that he more than likely has sleep apnea, too! Just one more evaluation!

I think we should turn in early, too, since he gets up around 6am.

Mary

Crazy Running Day Today

Milos was up early to start his day and thanks to Mary for letting me sleep in til 8:30 as I'm going to have a very hectic day.

So if you want fun Milos Stories--- skip to Mary's entry--If you are thinking of adopting in Serbia (or just want to mock my writing for radio writing style), read on to see the process...


We applied for Milos' passport on Wednesday. Since they have made the move to biometric passports (to allow for Serbian Citizens to travel without visas in the Eurozone) it takes 2 days to get passports back (Hey Uncle Sam--- if they can do it here how come you can't).

Passport lines were crazy since everyone who wants to travel to Western Europe on the visa waiver program must have a new document. A LOT of holiday travelers in line-- thankfully they let us bypass the line!

Okay back to today:

His Serbian state guardian had to pick up the passport after noon. Mary and Milos stayed home in the warmth and I headed out to meet her at Slavia Square (which is really a circle (but that's for another day). Trams are still a mess so I need to get a taxi-- I only have 15 minutes to get there. (oh-- the taxi strike ended last night at 8pm-- they will wait until March to implement the new tax and that got everything up and running!

Milos Passport? CHECK!

A quick stop at McDonalds to warm up then out to catch a tram to the orphanage (in all the hurry of getting out of there yesterday Mary forgot her passport at the guard shack). It seemed odd making the trip without Mary and without seeing Milos at the end of the tram ride. After a brief stop to play with the mutant pack of dogs that live near the orphanage it is done!

Mary's Passport? CHECK!

Now I just need his medical report. I sort of remember how to get to the place for the Visa Physical--sort of.

I take a tram to Slavia and plan to hop a cab (thanks Jasimna for texting me the address) For some reason the cabbie refused to take me there-- I do not speak Serbian but I'm pretty sure he was not saying nice things as he motioned for me to get out of his cab--- Fine, I'll walk.

40 minutes later I FOUND IT! YAY!! (a muted, frozen sort of YAY!)

Med check for visa? CHECK!

We now have everything we need for our visa appointment on Monday. Whew!

I walked about halfway back to the apartment but was really getting cold so I jumped on a tram (I could not get on by the doc as they had trams re-routed for a track problem)

HOME!

Everything done in about 4 hours!!

It's great to see Mary and Milos- Milos is eating and not really happy about it-- He likes sweets-- he is having chicken soup and mashed potatoes. He finally realizes that its that or nothing and dives in--

A bit of TV (He Loves Disney Channel-- yay (not really))

PJs

Pudding with melatonin

Nighty night Milos!

Bacon and eggs for dinner for us (they have the BEST bacon ever in Serbia--same pork belly as in the US, but not slimy like American Bacon-- I now want to smoke my own bacon when we get home!!)

Nighty night us!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Milos is Home Multi Media

Rubber Duckie Time




And Pics

Thursday night update

Whew--

Little Milos is asleep-- he actually went down pretty easily.


A movie and a bunch of pictures from today are uploading and will be along shortly (if our upload bandwidth complies!)

A few musings while we wait--

We have about 26 inches of snow on the ground--- guess what-- the forecast is for 2-3 more tonight and turning MUCH colder (highs in the upper teens) and then Saturday-- I LOVE this forecast (again maybe lost in the translation-- I'll xlate the metric) " 8-12 inches of heavy snow-otherwise overcast and quite cold. High 22. OTHERWISE??? Huh??

So add another foot or so on top of our 2 feet-- yikes!

I DO love snow and its really pretty! but I am getting old and after watching no less than 6 people wipe out on the way home from pizza hut I understand why people hate it!

Fun note!

we have been "quoted" on a local Serbian web site--

please check out:

http://www.ambassador-serbia.com/2009/12/17/belgrade-good-or-bad-for-americans/

Milos is (finally) with us!

It was so late last night that Milos had to stay at the orphanage for the night-- boo!

We were going to have our celebration meal with the folks who helped us to get through the process, but I managed to step in every slush puddle in Belgrade and had goo up to my knee (with no change of shoes).. I hope we can do it later (with Milos)

So we were up extra early today to catch a cab to the orphanage to get him.

Sidebar-- there is a taxi/truck strike starting today in Serbia. The government wants to impose a 20% tax on the drivers and require them to carry a cash register and issue receipts so the government can collect the tax-- The drivers are stopping traffic all over the city-- you pretty much cannot "get there from here". The strike started at 8am that is why we left for the orphanage at 6:50am--yawn

We got to the orphanage a bit after 7 and they already had Milos up and fed and ready to go..

I can't help feel that it was a bit sad today as he left the only life he has known for the past 2 years, yet the life ahead has so much more promise. Little Milos now has a chance at a fulfilling life. His nurse was doting on him and they dressed him in his best outfit to leave his old world and enter his new one.

We had several stops to make to day and no way to get there-- the roadblock by the taxis and trucks have made the city impassable by public transportation and difficult (at best) by private car.

The orphanage bus driver was kind enough to take us to our first stop. Mission accomplished. From there Mary hopped a tram with Milos-- it was only 5 stops and we figured it should be okay-- it was and they made it to the apartment.

I went with Jasmina to the lawyer's office to get the translated documents and fill out our visa application.

Tomorrow we have to pick up Milos' Serbian passport and get the medical report. The US Embassy is closed tomorrow but I spoke with a nice fella there and they assured me it was no problem to get the interview and the visa issued on Monday. Our appointment is for 2pm.

Milos is fascinated by the TV-- he wants to reach out to the things on tv---

I spent a large chunk of the day out-- Lawyer, trying to get to the orphanage to get Mary's passport, Grocery store, Pizza Hut for takeout--

Mary and Milos:
Watched TV
Took a nap (tried)
Made a poopie mess (Milos did that not Mary)
Took a Bath
Walked up and down the apartment steps
Did some laps in the stroller in the apartment
ate oatmeal (thanks Sarah n Jon) with homemade apple sauce
Ate pudding
Ate mashed potatoes with chicken soup
Tried a piece of Pizza Hut Pizza (spit it out)
Took another bath (for fun)
jammies on
bedtime--- (Yea RIIIGHT)

When Milos gets to bed I will have more time to post pictures from today


sidebar--

Please pray for the soul of Bengals Wide Receiver Chris Henry who died today. He had 3 young children and despite his "bad boy image" was always a gentleman to me. Rest in Peace.

Jim

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Introducing Milos Stolz!



The Adoption Ceremony (aka the "Closing") happened at 1pm. Reps from the Orphanage, Government and Milos' official state guardian, our Belgrade attorney plus new mama n papa were all present.

2 sets of papers drawn up. A simple form saying we want to adopt Milos and change his last name to Stolz-- and finished. He is ours!!

What happened next is a blur--- The fast pace, coupled with my bad hearing (and just barely understanding the language) made for a CRAZY afternoon--- the best I remember:

2 cabs to 2 places--Lawyer n me to birth certificates--Mary n Jasmina to get Milos..all meet at Police Station for passport--step in slush up to ankle brrrr--wait-- wait wait -DRAT-- elections last week-- everyone says "not my job" no passports here. 2 cabs to 2 places-- Lawyer n me BACK to birth certificate place to fix an error-- more slush over my shoe. Mary, Milos n Jasmina to Police HQ-- Hopefully they can help us. Hurry Hurry-- Wait wait--- now HURRY-- Milos is hungry-- no snack-- Wait, wait, HURRY, new pics-- Papa too fat to hold him -Wait-- must sit on his own--- SMILE MILOS! -- wait...wait...no need for Fingerprints (he is "unfit"-- translation issue I hope). "Word of the Day" Mollim ("please" and "you are welcome" and some times how one answers the phone). Every disappears except Me, Mary, Jasmina, n Milos. Wait.. Hurry, Hurry get cab-- No cab--wait wait wait... Hurry to main street to get cab-- slippery--careful--hurry.Look out for the Slushhhh nevermind-- Get in cab--hurry. Milos VERY hungry --crying. Bad traffic--wait wait wait.. Cab strike tomorrow---UGH---wait. Finally back to orphanage-- Milos eats. we crash.

BUSY day-- Hectic Day--AWESOME day-- we have a new son!


Jim

Yes-- we ARE in Serbia

Our host country asked us not to say where we were until after the signature came through-- so now we can say YES-- We are in Belgrade, Serbia--- BEO-GRAD-- the "White City". That is not more true than today as the snow keeps coming-- up to about 20 inches now.

Some thought on Belgrade--
(our perspective comes from travelling through Western Europe a lot---a couple of times a year-- PLUS our 2 adoption trips and one vacation Ukraine)

The Good-





  • Clean Running water 24/7 (yes its okay to drink the tap water)
  • Lots of reasonably priced apartments (Vlado can help you there vlado@domovina.com)
  • pretty modern infrastructure-- roads, public transport, electricity all work to western standards.
  • lots of good local and international food options for eating out
  • small but modern well stocked grocery stores are everywhere.
  • there are "real toilets" here in Belgrade-- no "squatters"
  • If you like nightlife-- there is a LOT of it-- Belgrade has become to "go to" spot for many western Europeans to come party.
  • A fair amount of neat sights-- no it ain't Paris (and for us that is a good thing)
  • A very compact and easily walkable center-- were it summer we probably would have walked the couple of miles to the orphanage at least once a day
  • Very Safe feel to the city. Other than for the soccer game on Saturday night where we were careful to avoid the hooligans we have never felt unsafe -- day or night. (we would not feel as safe in downtown Cincinnati)
  • Many English speakers. We really did our homework and spoke a fair amount of Russian and Ukrainian prior to those adoptions-- I speak German and we can be polite in French, Italian and Spanish--but we came here with NO Serbian skills. We have picked up "polite Serbian" but can easily get by with hand gestures and the English skills of the locals.
  • How cool is it that they have Paul McCartney on their 10 Dinar Bank Note?!?!?






The Bad


  • Expensive-- okay not as bad as Western Europe, but expect to pay about the same for everything here as in a medium sized US city.
  • Belgrade lacks some of the "wild, wild west" feel of Ukraine (most people would probably consider this a "good")
  • While we have seen NO animosity toward us, you have to think that since NATO bombed the snot out of this city in the 90s there are still people here who are not wild about Americans. Some of the buildings are still in ruins.
  • it sure snows a lot---well okay that's not fair-- it is December and this IS the first snow of the year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We have the signature

Ladies and Gentlemen, WE DO HAVE THE MINISTER"S SIGNATURE!

Yay!

Hopefully we will have our ceremony tomorrow. Waiting to hear from Jasmina via email tonight.

YIPEE!

Mary

Some Snowy Pics

Not much to add to Mary's update-

Just finishing up the chicken soup and dashed out to the bread store to get a fresh load of yummy bread for dinner.

Even with 18+ inches of snow things (other than trams) work remarkably well here in Belgrade. All the main roads are just slushy. Side streets are snow covered but passable. If this was back home the entire city would have shut down because of the "white death".

To everyone at home-- we love you and miss you and hope to be home VERY soon!

Some Milos pics and lots of snow pics are below---

Jim

Snowed in

We awoke to about 4 or 5 inches of snow this morning in Belgrade, and it was continuing to fall.


We decided to get to the orphanage early so we could meet with Jasmina before our visit with Milos/Benjamin.
We left the apartment about 1/2 hour earlier than usual. IT took us 2 hours to get there! It was a MESS out there.
We went right to get our little boy, fed him his snack, and went to the lobby to play. Jasmina joined us there. No word yet on getting the minister's signature.
In light of the weather, we decided to stay a bit longer for our morning visit, then head home and stay put...it was still snowing.


We got a little tour of the orphanage and saw many beautiful children. Then we started home. We got as far as the tram stop and decided to have lunch there before going home...gulash and salad!
The tram ride back was....interesting. It took FOREVER. We were stuck in one spot for at least 15 minutes at one point, nothing was moving! Then we made a wrong turn. Best we can figure is that for whatever reason the street we were supposed to be on was not passable by tram. We waited it out, and soon we back "on track" and made it "home". I don't want to go back out today and am glad we told them we would not. It took us a just about as long to get home as to get there. The big difference was on the way home, we were in the tram the entire time. On the way out this morning, we waited for the tram to come for an hour before beginning the ride!

On tap for tonight...cooking chicken soup, and waiting for that magic call that says we can have our ceremony tomorrow because the minister signed. Oh, and watching it snow..



it has not stopped yet. We have, at this point, over a foot of snow.
Mary

Monday, December 14, 2009

No Word Yet

Very disappointing...no word yet that our paperwork has been signed, so I guess we will not have our adoption ceremony tomorrow.

And tonight, we said good-bye to our new friends, Jon and Sarah Maples, and their new daughter, Grace. It has been wonderful having another couple her adopting at the same time we are, someone to share experiences, lunches, dinners, kid stories, joys and woes with. They leave tomorrow for home. Good Luck and God Speed.

We did go get Milos/Benjamin's passport/visa/medical exam photos taken this afternoon. He was a very good car rider.

And the snow started when we left the apartment this afternoon for the orphanage. We've gotten about 1-2 inches so far, most of that sticking on the tops of cars. The ground is just a slushy mess. It is cold walking, but overall, it is not bad...yet.

So, I have no official news, and I don't even think we took any photos today.

Oh, one thing we noticed is that Milos/Benjamin's clicking noises had all but disappeared, other than the loud "pop" he does for one caregiver in particular. The first day we met him, his entire noise repetoir was popping, clicking and grinding noises, and a few verbalizations in the form of yelling, screaming type sounds....very short lived as he tends to get a little cyanotic when he cries.  Over the past week and a half, we noticed that those popping and clicking noises had all but disappeared, and in their place every day we are blessed to hear increasing verbalization, new sounds all of the time. Today, for the first time, I heard a hard "g' sound quite a few times.

Then, this afternoon, we went to get photos taken. While he was very good, he clicked, popped and ground his teeth the entire time. This is a stress reaction, his way of saying "I don't know what is going on here, I need some help coping with this. Someone just explain to me what we are doing".  When we got back to the orphanage, we stayed in the lobby area with him, and he participated for a few minutes in the same play that we have been doing for the past couple of days (walking the steps, then flying either in mom or dad's arms). As we did these things with him, the odd noises ceased, and his verbalizations returned.

We also added a "please" to his sign vocabulary, and now he must sign "More, please" to get the flight. He figured it out pretty quickly, and even did it a few times without verbal prompts. When he was done with that game, he decided he wanted to see the paper umbrellas that are hung from the ceiling, move. He bent over, and acted like he was throwing something up in the air at them. We got Jim's hat, and they had a swell time throwing it to bump those paper umbrellas and make them move. So, not only did he recover quickly from the stressors today, participating in a known activity, he came up with a new game, and communicated to us what he wanted to do, then followed through to play the game with us!

He likes his routine, but is not so upset by it that he cannot function. He is just such a great kid, and we are sure enjoying getting to know our Little Milos/(Benjamin!)

Mary

Getting A Tad Worried

A brief status update:

No signature yet---BAD
Getting Pictures done for visa and passport this afternoon-- GOOD
Snow is coming -- Could be BAD

Snow if going to be the big story here for the next few days. If one can believe the forecast we will get a LOT of snow!

By Wednesday the forecast is calling for anywhere between 10 and 19 inches of snow in Belgrade. I am very concerned that it may affect our ability to get everything done in time. Especially since it now looks like the adoption ceremony will NOT be tomorrow.

We will keep you updated

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

In the next day and a half, we are expecting a foot + of snow!

No minister signature yet...at 12:30 PM Belgrade Serbia time.

Still expecting it today. Normal visit this morning, but the psychologist was very impressed that Milos/Benjamin is "talking" to me, giving good eye contact, leaning into me and resting his hands on my legs while he eats, signing "more" absolutely appropriately 100% of the time. She said his increasing babbling is very new...they have never heard this and it is clearly in response to our visits.  And, we started teaching the "please" sign. She said this is a totally new word to him, either in English or  Serbian, so we are just going to use English. By the time we were in the lobby and I was flying him, he got it and when requested, he signed "more, please"!  Not 100% but we just started it this morning!
A stop at the market, and back to our apartment to make lunch, catch up on emails and be ready to be back at the orphanage before 3:30, as this afternoon we are taking Milos/Benjamin for his passport/visa photos.
Then, I think we are having Mexican with the Maples before they leave tomorrow. 
Will let you know how this afternoon goes later.
Mary

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bengals Bummer, Snow, and More Flying

Thanks again to the unnamed station for forgetting to block the Bengals broadcast-- Though that is 3 hours of my life wasted that I will never get back--- Sadly my Bengals are not a Superbowl team-- but thankfully neither are the Steelers or the Ravens.

Thanks also to the great folks at www.skyeyeweather.com for help with the weather forecast. I am a bit of a weather geek and it looked like we were going to get slammed with snow, but I can't find any solid computer models to verify.. Looks like indeed we WILL get snow and quite a bit of it. Hopefully not enough to slow down the adoption process.

Mary, Milos, and I had a fun day today-- We convinced Milos to do some work for his fun.. So he has to practice on the steps for every 3 "flights".

Baby it's cold outside!

We are really feeling the routine setting in, and just like our other adoptions, we are at the point where it feels like "GroundHog's Day".
This week should bring some changes in the routine.
So, for today, we had, hopefully, our last "regular" visit schedule. And they went well. Milos/Benjamin (I really like the name Benjamin, I hope it is growing on Jim...the kids like "Jake/Jacob" but that is the same root name as James, and we have a wonderful James, so I am voting for Benjamin....he could be "Benji" He looks like a Benji, he could learn to write Ben, so that is short and sweet and for an added bonus, every time he gets rough, we can correct his behavior with a "be Gentle, Ben!)     is signing "more" nearly 100% of the time, understanding what it means. He also says "up".
Today's visits, after changing diapers, was spent walking up and down steps and playing 'Catch me". This kid is craving sensory input. I'm thinking of calling Wally back and having him install a swing from a ceiling beam in the basement!
After the morning visit, we went to Mass via a VW Toreg Taxi. Very nice car! We met the Maples, with their new daughter, Grace. Then all went to get some nachos....but alas, the Burrito place was closed for Christmas Decorating Duty!   Just 2 doors down was  Zora's, so we thought we would give Greek a try.
It was OUTSTANDING! We got Chicken and pork on skewers, a greek salad, french fries and tziki sauce. YUMMMY.
Then we all split an apple cake with ice cream dessert. Doubly YUMMY.
We caught a tram back to the apartment in time to switch laundry and head back to the orphanage. More diaper changes, snack, step walking, sensory need filling activities, and it is time to go back to the group.
We stopped at a little 24/7 cafe around the corner from the orphanage and picked up a variety of tasty Serbian treats for dinner. Basically meat wrapped in various types of dough.



Did I mention it is cold outside? This morning/midday, it really felt like snow. By the late afternoon, it didn't have that feel at all anymore, but Jim checked a weather forcast that predicted about 10-12 inches in the next couple of days. I'm hoping they are about as accurate as they have been with the "clearing skys" predicted but never seen last week!
BRRRRR Baby, it's cold outside!
Mary

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hooligans, Snow & Other Fun

Neither Mary nor I were feeling great this afternoon so we took a nap--- always a bad idea. We were going to go for drinks with Vlado and his family tonight but we are just feeling run down-- sleep is needed-- hopefully either Sunday or Monday evening we can reschedule.

The sun was out this morning-- this afternoon it snowed. Just flurries (though we did see some cars with close to an inch on them). Very cold today so we had to stay inside. Milos discovered the joy or flying (actually being thrown up in the air)

like this:




We all had a very good visit today- Milos will sing more whenever he wants something-- now we need to work on "stop"

after the orphanage we were walking to the tram and I noticed large groups of people--- LOTS of people walking up the main street-- I ommented that they looked like hooligans (just joking) and we got to the street to see a HUGH crowd of people heading to the soccer match-- Riot police were everywhere. It was okay. I was wearing black- Mary had on red (so we were in the local team colors) but it was quite a scene.

Of course even feeling kinda ill I wanted to go check out the game-- It was not permitted.

Back in the apartment now cooking a chicken and listening to heavy sookie with Jack stahl on Oldies 1480.-- COOK!

Okay I will.

Enjoy some random photos from today!

Sleepy Saturday in Serbia

Up at 7:30 this morning and off to see little Milos--

We had a nice visit again this morning. Big hugs, pudding, some apple juice in a sippy cup. Then coat on and into the stroller to head outside. The weather has changed here today-- We had a bit of sun but much colder. (high today is about 35). We did a couple of laps around the orphanage, but it's too cold to stay out much longer as Milos refused to wear his mittens.

We played for about an hour in the lobby. It's Pony Time! Up and down the steps! Some apple juice! MUST try to pull down the blinds!!

Back to the cell to rub lotion into Milos' little hands and feet and it's time for him to head back to get changed, eat lunch and nap.

Back this afternoon!

We stopped at the market on the way back for some stuff to make dinner (baked chix, with Potatoes, carrots. Got some apples to make apple sauce for MIlos. Bacon and eggs for Sunday morning breakfast and some baklava (YUM!)

Here are some photos from the past couple of days


Enjoy


Jim

Friday, December 11, 2009

Shopping therapy for attitude adjustment

Ok, so we don't get to have Milos/Benjamin with us this weekend. I am bummed. What do we do when we are bummed? Well, first start counting blessings.....and blessed we are.  We are here, in Eastern Europe, blessed to be adding one very cute little boy to our family. Never in a million years would I have ever thought that kind of thing would happen to me...10 years ago!

We are so amazingly comfortable here. We have a 2 bedroom apartment...not a hotel room that I needed to find a "rent a cat" to keep the mice out. We have running water (and the water at least looks clean..not brown) 24/7, and hot water with as little as 30 minutes notice. In our kitchen (we have a kitchen here....) we have a 3/4 size refrig/freezer, 4 burner electric stove with a convection oven, a dishwasher, a microwave, and dishes, pots, pans, glasses and silverware. We have a clothes washer, I mean besides our hands! THis is a washer/dryer combination, and we really could be here with one change of clothes....one in the wash, one on our bodies. The apartment has heat that is consistent, and comfortable. And our bed is comfortable, king sized, with extra pillows in the wardrobe.  We have a living room with two sofas and a chair.  We each get one sofa to stretch out on while on our computers...we each brought one. (THAT was a GREAT idea!). And we have unlimited wireless internet here at our apartment.

We have a bathroom with a shower AND a tub, and the shower has great water pressure.  We have a TV with cable or satelite...not sure which. We don't watch much. It also has a DVD player, and there is a DVD store 1/2 block away. But we would rather research on the internet instead of watch TV.

We have made some great friends on this trip...the Maples' who are here adopting an adorable little girl, and of course, our facilitator, Jasmina, and our Landlord, Vlado and his wife.

We are blessed to have the knowledge that our other children are safe and happy, although missing us, as we do them. They are being cared for by our oldest daughter and her husband. I'm sure THEY wish we could hurry faster!

And, right now, Jim is on the phone (We brought a Magic Jack with us.....HIGHLY recommended for those who will travel. This is a very economical way of staying in touch and being able to do whatever business you need to, as long as you have an internet connection) right now finding a seat on our airplane for Milos/Benjamin. When we first inquired, before we traveled, the one way flight for him was going to be over 3,000 USD! It was suggested that we wait and book it here. Well, yeah!  So, Jim called to see what better prices he could find. Now that seat is 4,600  USD~!  UGH....one more call...Air France this time, and we are down to about 1600USD for his ticket. Now, it is all the exact same ticket on the exact same plane...on the flight we have been booked on...no chnages. We fly Delta. Air France is a Delta partner. Air France operates the flight out of here and I think from Paris to the US , but we are ticketed through Delta. Delta's price was 3-4,600. Air France...1200.  And I am thankful to be blessed by this, and by my wonderful husband who has the patience of a saint to wander through the maze that is airline travel for us!

Now that I've counted just a few of my blessings....onto SHOPPING THERAPY!

Who can be depressed when shopping, especially when you aren't spending any money....yet? Just figuring out what you will need/want and comparing prices. I LOVE THE INTERNET!

On my list of needs: (remember, we are adopting a 10 year old,(developementally about 1-2 years old)  and these are pretty much surprise needs for us. Our oldest is (Don't worry, Julie, I won't tell)...let's just say the baby stuff is LONG gone. We were not expecting to need baby things again...But, it gives me the opportunity to shop. However, I really like finding bargains, and I'm not opposed to 2nd hand stores for most things. So, I shop online, finding the cool,new stuff, only order things I NEED as soon as I get into the house (like diapers) and everything else we will try to get once home!

A high chair (got one picked out that l like)

Feeding "equipment"...a suction cup bottomed bowl....he likes to throw his dishes... A couple of sippy cups, maybe a plastic, curvy handled spoon or two, quite a few large bibs...we have a dog for floor clean up.   She will be gaining weight!

Sleeping: probably will need a crib, and a sturdy one at that. (not a pack and play) I don't think I want him to be able to be up and wandering the house without me knowing it. That means we need a crib mattress, crib sheets, probably a small blanket or two.

Toileting: He is wearing diapers right now, and weighs 30 lbs. I would like to get him potty trained asap, but at this point, it will probably take a while, and I anticipate needing  a back up supply of a few months worth, anyway. And of course, wipes. I think it is not a great idea to start this immediately, as he will have so many other new things to get used to, but we will be moving to training pants or pull ups eventually.

Mobility: I think it will take a while before he is ready to be out and about without a stroller. We have been using the umbrella stroller that I brought...another GREAT accompanyment.  Milos/Benjamin seems to be more comfortable right now riding in the stroller with us not "in his face" all of the time. He is small enough, really, to be in a wrap style carrier, or even a backpack type carrier, but for everyone concerned, strolling is better.  I am still unsure exactly what kind to get. Any suggestions? Keep in mind that we have Joey at home, too. He is 9, has DS, about 65lbs, and we have never had a stroller for him. But, if Milos/Benjamin is in a stroller, I can guarantee that Joey will want at least the option to ride occasionally. I was thinking of one of those with the sit/stand option on the back.

Toys: We don't have many things that Milos will be able to play with. I have about 1/2 set of those super strong cardboard boxes that look like bricks. I think they will be good....won't hurt much when thrown. I'm thinking a couple of simple cause and effect type toys at first. I guess I need to do more shopping!

Will post my finds later......

Mary 

It was the best of times...it was the worst of times..

Okay wrong Dickens for the season but it was an ODD day of UPS and DOWNS.

We were very excited this morning to be going to get Milos and bring him back to the apartment for the weekend-- actually we found out they want us to keep him until we leave since they are concerned about him bringing H1N1 back to the orphanage "is that okay with you Mr and Mrs Stolz?" UMMMMMMMMMM YEEEESSSSS!

We signed papers that we were responsible for him and they were sent off to the officials for a signature--- Alas-- no officials could sign. They had other obligations today so Milos is stuck for one last weekend.

We had a nice but short morning vist and went to grab some lunch-- back to "Sport" for soup and salad- yummy!

We took a tram back to the apartment to get Milos' coat and the camera (still hoping that we might bring him home in the afternoon.

---Tram note--

When the trams are working as advertised they are wonderful-- when there is a glitch it becomes a nightmare. They are not really on any schedule-- Just every 9 minutes or so. Well for some reason today they got bunched up-- 5 number 10 trams would ome by within 2 minutes then 50 minutes for the next one-- we waited over 40 minutes each time for a tram today--in the rain and cold--- argh frustrating (but 1/5th the price of a cab!)

Because of the tram problem we only spent an hour or so with Milos (who is Ben:-)?) but it was a nice visit-- including Milos favorite new game "pony under the bridge:



I have spent the last 2 hours working on our return flight (it sure is great to have a US phone number over here--YAY Magic Jack).

We probably could get out of here on Saturday, but to change our tickets and get Milos ticketed would be over $15,000 (yes you read that right)-- So Tuesday 12/22 departure it is-- I was able to get Milos' ticket down to about $1600 (from the 5k quoted by Delta) Thanks to the VERY nice and patient Air France reservation agent who figured out how to "git 'er done"! for less.

Friday evening without Milos

Well, it didn't work out for Milos to be with us this weekend. We are trying to keep spirits up...it is not about us, it is about HIM. And, that is why we wanted him here, and why we want him in the first place, but we still want him here in the apartment for us, too. "One of life's small disappointments; many more big ones to come!".

So, we had an afternoon visit where we gave Milos/Benjamin a snack, tried on his new coat (it fits PERFECTLY), walked around the orphanage ground (in said new coat) 4 times, kicking a soccer ball all the way around, taking turns with our little guy doing this.

Then played in the lobby..."bumper pony" with an added twist: It is FUN to go between mama and papa's legs, both frontwards and backwards.

The trams were not running well today...we usually wait 1-9 minutes for a tram to appear and wisk us to our destination. Today, we didn't wait any less than 45 minutes EACH time we rode....4 times total. And, because they were running so off, they were PACKED. At least, we stayed warm on them!

So, home after the visit, and leftovers for dinner. And an early bedtime.

And up and about to spend a warm, loving, bonding time weekend with our little Milos/Benjamin!

Mary

FRIDAY...where is Milos?

Well, Friday is here and we are SUPPOSED to be bringing Milos back to our apartment for a weekend visit.

We arrived and went to Jasmina's office. There has been a problem with getting all of the necessary paperwork. First of all, they are concerned that if we bring him here, then return him to the orphanage, he could be exposed while with us to H1N1 and infect the entire orphanage. Legitimate concern. We could just keep him, then, and not return him! Jasmina asked if we were willing to do that. WILLING? How great would that be???

So, we signed papers that we were asking permission to bring him to our apartment now, to keep him through the weekend, extending through the adoption ceremony day. Those have to be faxed to various officials for thier stamp of approval. At 2pm, we are still waiting for that.

We return to the orphanage in an hour. Jasmina says the approval could come as late as 4 and everything is ready if (WHEN???Please WHEN) it does come.

But it is Friday, and if it does not come by 4pm, he is stuck for another weekend. Please pray that it comes.

It is looking like the ceremony will be on Tuesday. Have not heard definitively that the approval for this has been signed, but we are strongly, tentatively planning for Tuesday.

Please pray that we can bring him back with us for this weekend...he belongs with us.

Mary

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday is done in Belgrade

Whew--

a BUSY day here today-- I've already scooped you on the morning-

Our afternoon visit was great! Milos (Mary wants to make him a Ben-- I remain unsold) Ran out to meet us. We had a snack in the meeting cell then decided to go outside. Temps are in the mid 40s with a heavy overcast and a gentle breeze.

We made several laps around the building and stopped to bounce on the mini-tramp (one of his new fave things to do). More laps, say "Hello Kitty", Watch the worker men mud the drywall in the lobby and then elevator back upstairs for lotion on hands and feet and a bit of "glove ball".


Waaay too soon it was time for him to go back to the room for dinner and bed.

Hopefully we got our signature today so we can have the adoption ceremony on Monday. If that is indeed the case, then tonight will be his last night in the orphanage as we get to bust him out on a weekend pass starting tomorrow morning.


Mary and I jumped on our #10 tram and got out at the University to run some errands

We stopped to visit St Marks-- one of the largest churches not just in Serbia but all of Eastern Europe..


From 2009-12-11


From there on to a Chinese restaurant we spied yesterday. I got noodles with veggies n Chicken. Mary got what turned out to be Sweet n Sour Chicken-- both were great and we have some nice leftovers!

Walking back to the apartment we stopped at the drug store and picked up some stuff to prepare for Milos (wipes, sippy cup, baby cereal...)

Got some local pastries to enjoy for dessert in the apartment.

We just flipped on the hot water heater (takes about 30 minutes to get hot water) for a bath then bed!

More and Pics too tomorrow!

Jim

Quick Midday Update

Not sure if Thursday is an off day around these parts but traffic was light as were the crowds on the tram.

We arrived at the orphanage planing to play in the lobby----NOT-- The lobby is under construction. New drywall on the posts.. Oh Well; it is kinda warm we'll go outside.

We got Milos bundled up and headed in the service elevator (the workers are using the other one)-- it is a VERY tiny and frightening elevator-- Milos loved it!

We:
Chased Birds
Did laps around the building in the stroller
Played on the tricycle
bounced on the tramp
chased more birds
got cold and came in

back up into the tiny visiting cell-- sock ball? no Hvala, Hand Tracing? No Hvala,

Milos was getting very agitated -- Hungry, wants to go back outside or play in the lobby-- Sorry little Milos.

Time to say goodbye-- as we were waiting for the terrifying elevator he kept looking back at us: "why are you leaving me here"? back this afternoon little one.

In the elevator of death-- it has inside doors that really do not seem to do anything. So I decide to see if there is some safety latch on them.. We come to a sudden and abrupt stop between floors when I open the door--oops I guess there is a safety latch-- humm how do you get it started again?? After a few freaky moments we lurched the half story to the lobby-- MUST flee-- NOW!

We grabbed lunch at McDonalds (2 extra value meals-- a Big Mac and Mc Royal for about 10 USD). Took the tram back to the apartment for a rest-- We got a nice night sleep last night but are both exhausted today.

Nighty night

jim

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

video is fixed from yesterday

here it is again

Wednesday in The Land O Milos

First-- I apologize for typos-- I have quite large hands and I am tying on a tiny little netbook-- I love my Eee Netbook but the keys are ITSY BITSY!

It was a great day today--

Not because we got our signature-- that did NOT happen (but the Maples' got theirs--YAY!!)

But we did get permission to spring Milos for the weekend. He will be coming with us to the apartment on Friday morning and HOPEFULLY back Monday only long enough for us to do the adoption ceremony.

The ministry here wanted an additional report from the staff here on the progress he has made since coming to this orphanage. Fair and understandable. It was sent this morning. So hopefully we got our signature today - one always finds out the following day.

The process after the signature is:
Adoption ceremony (usually the following day)
Translate all the paperwork (same day)
Apply for passport (same day but takes 2 days to process)
Get medical check for US Visa (after passport is issued)
Get Visa appointment
Fly out the Day AFTER Visa appointment (hopefully)

So about 3 working days after the ceremony we will be on our way home.


Not much we can do until the approval is signed other than enjoy our time with Milos and dig on the wonderful weather here in EE (joking-- have not see the sun in over a week)


Sooo Today

We were up and out and to the Orphanage by 9:30- Got Milos and took him downstairs to get pushed around in his stroller and enjoy some pudding-- at 10:30 the workers started on his "life book" They painted his tiny little hand blue and made a handprint in his book---they then vanished-- hummm guess they were finished!

11am is lunch time-- we said our goodbyes and headed to lunch with Jon and Sarah at Pizza Hut (we finally found it on our own-- about 1km from the apartment)

We dropped off our leftovers at the apartment and caught a taxi to the US Embassy to pick up Milos' immigration paperwork (it was nice to be on American soil if only for 40 minutes) Thanks to the nice folks there!

We hiked up the hill about a Kilometer to the tram stop-- we caught a #9 (they are the really nice trams donated by Basel, Switzerland) to the orphanage.

Milos stunned us this afternoon. We did our usual trip to the lobby to play away from the smoke and commotion of the floor. Milos ate some yummy chocolate pudding-- he prefers the vanilla. They had a small riding horse and we decided to let him give it a try--WOW-- He was a demon on that little pony-- He goes forward, backward, perfect steering and loves to play bumper "ponies" with papa-- See the video




WAY too soon it was time for him to go back and get changed-- then time for dinner and bed.

Zutra Little Milos-- Zutra

We decide to splurge for dinner and we went o Sport-- a cute little place by the tram stop-- here is dinner!


YUMMY!









Here's a quick look at today's pics


Wednesday afternoon visit fun

We had a great lunch at pizza hut (again) with Sarah and Jon, then caught a cab to the embassy to pick up paperwork. we had a little wait there, got the papers we needed, and headed back for our afternoon visit.

We went right from Milos' floor to the lobby, fed him a chocolate pudding,which he really enjoyed, then practiced walking up and down steps with him. There is a small ride on toy in the lobby. We had put him on one upstairs, he moved himself about 3 inches, backwards, then tipped it over and "fell" off. We figured he either didn't know how or didn't like it. I'll let Jim explain the results.

We are very excited that we get to bring Milos to our apartment Friday after our morning visit. IT will give us a chance to see what kind of 'equipment' we likely will need when we get home, and a chance to spend some prolonged bonding time, with an oportunity to ask questions after it is  all over.

Enjoy the photos and video coming soon.

Mary

Wednesday mid day

We are back after our Wednesday morning visit. It went well. First we went to see Jasmina who is working so hard to help us complete this adoption and I so much appreciate her work.

The center officials want an additional document before they will send to the minister for his signature...something that details Milos' development from when he first arrived at this orphanage until now.  He has made improvements since he moved here almost 2 years ago, and I guess they just want this documented. Lilly, the psychologist, is writing the additional report today and it is to be faxed to them by noon....which is now our time! We don't know when they will get their ok on it and pass along to the minister, but Jasmina thinks by the end of this week it should happen. No guarantees!

We told her our "goal" was really to have him with us this weekend, and that what was disappointing with this news. So, she suggested that perhaps Milos could get a "weekend pass" to spend the weekend with us in our apartment. That is GREAT!. She made the phone calls and no one has any objections, so it looks like we will have Milos her with us for the weekend, even if he is not legally ours yet. We will visit in the morning Friday, then take him out after that visit.

And, Jasmina agreed to trade the new shoes we brought for Milos that are at least 3-4 sizes too big for the ones he is currently wearing.

We are just slowing down and enjoying this entire experience. Now, off to Pizza Hut for lunch with the Maples who have their own news to share...

Mary

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Photos from today

Jim here--

Sorry I have been somewhat mute-- been dealing with work stuff and the lack of sleep has me a bit off.

A quick list of things for which I am grateful on this trip--

Little Milos
New Friends
Yummy local and international food
Milosha
No food induced illness-- YET!
Warm-ish weather
Tiny Milos
a great apartment with internet AND running water 24/7
Easy public transport connections
REAL European Fanta-- not the "too orange" Russian kind
Meelosh

Enjoy the pics:

Tuesday Evening and no signature yet

Our second visit today went well, as basically a replay of this morning, without the screaming about food. Still not sure  what that is all about...but I suspect something hurts when he eats.

Instead of yoghurt, we brought vanilla pudding this afternoon. It smelled like yellow cake mix right before you put it in the oven....YUMMMMMM. Milos LOVED it. No screaming with that, although I did notice he seemed uncomfortable for about 30 minutes after he ate it. He grinds his teeth, clenches his hands, HARD, and stiffens, then seems to relax.

One thing we have been doing is rubbing lotion into his little hands and arms...kids with DS typically have very dry skin, plus it gives us a chance to do some gentle massage/bonding activities. Today, we decided to lotion up his feet as well! He loved haveing his feet and little chicken legs rubbed, then laughed and teased me while getting his shirt back on. I wanted to see what he could do as far as dressing himself goes. He tries, but needs lots of assistance.

We tried his shoes that we brought for him. They are a toddler size 5 or 6, and are HUGE on him. Way too big for him to wear. I wonder if the orphanage will trade the shoes he has been wearing for these new shoes for another child?

Dinner tonight was with Sarah and Jon at the Mexican Restaurant. Just a nice dinner, both of us not wanting to spend a long evening out, then a walk back in the rain to our apartment, and an early bedtime!

Please pray for the Minister's signing hand to be working tomorrow!

Mary

Back for lunch

We had our first visit of the day, and came back to our apartment for lunch and so Jim could get some work done.  Milos greeted us again with big hugs, then started looking for the backpack that would hold his treat! We decided to stick with bananas, thinking maybe the yoghurt was upsetting his stomache. He was TICKED! He did not want a banana, but at times he really doesn't want the yoghurt either. When he kept trying to knock the banana out of my hand, screaming all the while, I decided I would just eat it--I had it opened and didn't want to waste it. That made him even madder! He decided a banana was good, ate an entire banana, mashed. We are trying to watch and see if the larger pieces seem to cause him problems.  He does not chew at all, just sucks the food down. This feeding was very difficult, as he alternated between screaming and batting the food away, and totally wanting it. I wonder if something hurts him when he eats.

After that, we got the stroller out. That was a hit. The psychologist suggested that after we get him calm, we take him outside. We thought outside might just calm him anyway. We got his hat and coat, put him in the stoller and were off. We walked around the building about 3 times, then it  started raining. He loves the stroller ride, sat there happily chatting, looking at us from time to time to smile, and is just in general, enjoying his time.

We came in when it started raining and spent the rest of our time in the front lobby, walking back and forth pushing him in the stroller or helping him walk up and down the steps.

Back upstairs at the appointed time, and our little guy went off with the caretaker for changing and lunch.

Hope the rain clears us for this afternoon's visit. No word yet on any paper signing being done.


Mary

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tuesday in Eastern Europe

We are up and about, getting ready for Tuesday. Nothing special about Tuesday, except waiting, praying for the required signature to move forward.

We are beginning to gather the necessary equipment (both hardware and software--we are Alton Brown fans---) for bringing Milos to our apartment, and eventually for the plane ride home.

On the shopping list is: diapers, food that can be made into a thin, smooth consistency (baby food?), wipes, and tights. All of the boys in Eastern Europe wear tights every day, and we did not bring any. I'm sure Milos will be much more comfortable if we keep as much as possible similar to his usual routine, which will result in fewer outburts. We have socks, but they are short, almost ankle socks. He'll want tights. Oh, and we still need the backpack.

The weather here has been the same overcast, threatening to rain, about 35-40 degrees every day. I'd love some sunshine. 

We are both hoping for some rest time today...these days are very busy and we are averaging 6-7 hours of sleep. What ever happened to 10+ hours a night during these trips???? 

We are in contact with our pediatric ENT at home, who suggested a priority list for medical appointments based on symptoms, and I emailed Cardiology to see about getting him in there as soon as we get home. Waiting on their reply now.

Again, we miss the kids. I know it has not been THAT long, compared to other trips, but I have more kids at home to miss now! But, we are keeping our spirits up, enjoying the new friends we have met here, and the new experiences we are blessed to have.

We are not getting any comments on the blog, tho. Anyone out there following along?

Will write more later.

Mary

Monday's events

Today went well. When Milos first saw us this morning, he came running with big hugs. He knows us and is beginning to look forward to us coming...if for no other reason than we bring him some yoghurt!

He ran to our room, we accompanied, along with the psychologist. Milos was uncomfortable from the start, not sitting in his chair or wanting to be held, alternating between wanting his yoghurt and slapping it away. Finally Jim got a whiff of why!

We took him in to be changed, and I offered to do the deed. Let's just say he needed a bath, and they conveniently have a large sink right next to the changing area.

He is a skinny little kid, and I did pick up some substernal retractions, but we will address those when we get home. All freshened up and dressed again, and we headed back to our room, again with the psychologist. We explained that he did well on Saturday, and on Sunday morning, but by Sunday evening he was out of sorts. Perhaps a belly ache!

We played 'glove ball", and he participated well. He even did some signing of "more" and I think the psychologist was surprised. He is doing this about 25-50% of the time that we request it. So not all of the time, but more than random movements!

I did get to ask the doctor, his pediatrician, about his stridor. She said he could have laryngiomalacia, it is a possibility. I did tell her that we would get it checked out as soon as possible upon returning home.

We took him back to his group at lunch time, and headed out to get ourselves some lunch. Following a recommendation from the psychologist, we went to a local spot and had a great lunch. I got chicken wrapped in bacon, Jim got a bunch of meat.....hamburger, steak, bacon, pork, chicken, and sausage. Plus salads, and some fries, and we have leftovers in the fridge.

Back to our apartment for laundry and rest, then back to the orphanage. He was a bit better this afternoon, but did not want to eat. Maybe they had just had a snack? I'm glad to see him refusing tho, when he does not want it. We did take the stroller with us this afternoon, just to let him get used to it. He does not like new things, and since we will need him in this quite a bit on our travels home, we figured we should introduce him to it soon. As expected, he did not want anything to do with it at first. I put him in it, and buckled him in, then took him out. We left it in the room with us, and later put him back in it, walked down the hall and back, then allowed him out. He loved it. We played the "get in the stroller and have mom or dad push you up and down the halls in it" game for at least 20 minutes! Glad he does enjoy it!

We dropped him off a bit early to make it to the Maples' by 5 for dinner. Vlado and his wife met us, but Jasmina was unable to come. Sarah and I rode with Vlado, while Jim and Jon, and Svetlana, Vlado's wife, rode in a cab to the restaurant. What a meal! I had steak gorgonzola (SP?) The steak was a filet that rivaled Mortons! It was huge! Again, we have leftovers in the fridge.

We had a wonderful evening, laughing, sharing, talking, and bonding with new friends. Unfortunately, we missed the concert that Jasmina had also planned for us...we could not get back to where she was to meet us by 7:30pm. I do hope we have another chance to do some thing with her!

As for adoption news, the conclusion about our visits was written and turned in, just waiting for the required signatures. Then we can plan the ceremony, and begin the last paper-gathering tasks including birth certificate, passport, medical exam, and visa. No time line yet, but each step is moving well.

We did do some video, but Jim has to post it. It will come "soon".

Mary

Sunday, December 6, 2009

out and about on Monday

I am really looking foward to moving ahead with the procedures for Milos' adoption now that it is bright and early Monday morning! We have our regular visit this morning, then probably to the market to look for a backpack for Milos. Then back for our afternoon visit, which we will cut short :( because we have dinner with the Maples, Jasmina and Vlado and his wife. After dinner, a concert is on the evening's agenda. I'm not sure where, or what kind...other than cultural.

Our conclusion about our suitability to adopt Milos will be written today and hopefully signed tomorrow (if not this afternoon...please??), then we can schedule the ceremony. After that, all of the finishing up stuff....passport, medical exam, visa, and we are ready to bring him HOME!

We spoke to the kids last night. I'm missing them all terribly. It will be good to be home again.

Not much else to say this morning.....more this evening

Mary

Pictures from Sunday

Bengals Win!

Who-Dey!

Here are todays pictures!

enjoy

Sunday-- Who-Dey--in EE

Back to the apartment and happy to have found a station that forgot to block out the Bengals game on their stream (they shall go unnamed as so no one gets popped this holiday season)

Blogging.. listening... and having a nice refreshing Pivo (I feel a bit like a sellout as I am having a Becks-- I have tried the 2 big local beers--Antlers and Lions-- and they are both too fizzy-- almost like there is seltzer mixed in. The taste is not bad just way to fizzy to be natural beer)--Okay enough Beer snob stuff


As Mary mentioned yesterday, weekends feel very different at the orphanage.

We were up and out early today-- Milos was waiting for us (or was he waiting for his snack??) Either way, he ran up to us and happily walked back into the visiting cell. Yoghurt snack. "glove ball" and a very nice visit.

We caught a cab for English Mass at 11:30 at Christ The King- a tiny little church near the American Embassy-- I assume they were mostly State Department workers at Mass as everyone spoke English with an American accent.

We were going to meet our friends for lunch at Pizza Hut but I guessed wrong on the tram and we ended up at the central train station. We hopped off the tram and started walking up hill to a landmark we knew. (when we can tell you where we are we can share the exact landmark and show photos of some American influence--if you can call it that)

We ended up only being about a mile from Sarah and Jon's apartment and walked there to meet them. We went hunting for Pizza Hut--and again my usually great sense of direction failed me-- we decided to get a cab and have the driver take us for "pizza the American way".

back home I am not a big Pizza Hut fan, but this was WONDERFUL-- we have not been gone long enough to be craving American food so I think it really was VERY good on its own merit!

Since we were not quite sure where we were, we decided to split cab back to the orphanage.

Hummmmmmm how to put it-- as great as our early visit was today was as bad as the afternoon visit.-- not sure what it was but Milos was NOT having a good afternoon. He was back to hitting, spitting, biting. Not all the time, but alot. He did play ball and backpack and "up and down" but he really seemed to be in some pain from something.

We stayed late so Mary could feed him dinner-- I'll let her detail that for you.

We headed back to the apartment and stopped for some more street food (I have heard how good the hamburgers are here -- a national treasure-- there is no way they can be as bad as that "thing" was last night. We got our burger from the "M-eat Bar" and it was WONDERFUL!! Burger with Cheese and ham inside. YUM!!

No pics to upload tonight becasue it will hinder my Bengals stream experience-- We will ge tthem up tomorrow!

PEACE!

jim

Saturday, December 5, 2009

on our way out for the day

We are up and just about ready to get out of here for the day. On tap today....visit Milos this morning with a banana and some yoghurt, leave there in time to make it to 11:30 Mass....we found an English Mass at a church close to our apartment.

Back to visit in the evening and hopefully be there when he eats his dinner. I just want to help/observe some meal times.

Vlado, our "landlord" would like to have dinner with us, the Maples, Jasmina and his wife one evening soon. Could be this evening. If we are late posting tonight, you will know why.

Oh, I think Jim wants to follow the Bengals game today...I forgot about that! I think that is 7pm our time this evening, so I guess dinner will not be on the agenda today!

We are really beginning to consider all of the "stuff" we are going to need for Milos when we get him home. Even though he is 10 years old, he is the size of a 3-4 year old, and the developement of older baby/toddler. Not planned for this adoption, yet needed are: a crib (I think we will need to have him in our room with us for a little while at least...and I certainly don't want him up and wandering if I happen to be really asleep!) and all the stuff that goes with that; a high chair (from what I've seen, we need to contain him, and probably protect everyone else's food from his grabbing. We tend to crowed 7-8 people around a 6 person table as it is, so that will just not work. Plus, he will be at risk for burning himself reaching for food on the table, until he learns manners), and a stroller...I can't carry him EVERYWHERE!  I've been having fun window shopping on line.

Julie: I like the Badger Basket Baby High Chair with table conversion.  Take a look and see what you think..........

Off to the tram......

Mary

Pictures from Saturday

Not much to add to Mary's update--

There is only one Milos picture becuse it really freaks him out to use the flash--- too dark not to use it today-- so more pics on a brighter day--

The highlights of the day for me:

FIRST WORDS-- from a boy they gave up on as mute-- A simple "up" wishing for mama to pick him up... precious.

Walking...walking..walking-- to the trolley, to Mexican food-- the the rynook, to the pedestrian zone, to the fortress, back to the trolley, and on and on..

Mashed banana-face

Hand kisses

Man these people take basketball seriously---REALLY!

yoghurt face

New friends

Don't eat the street burgers

I did not know Home Depot had a basketball team

exhausted

What no Pivo at basketball games :-(

crazy cab driver

FIRST WORD!!!

LITTLE MILOS!!!!!

Saturday's visits

Weekend visits always differ from weekday visits, just because there is usually different staff on, the entire orphanage is more laid back, just a different feel. This place is no different.

We trammed into the orphanage, with a banana and yoghurt in the backpack. Milos was ready for us. He loved the yoghurt, and cried when it was all finished. We worked on signs for "eat" "more" and "finished", then played the "pick me up, no put me down" game, walking the halls. He likes to empty the back pack one thing at a time, for more food. On one of our trips down the hall, the caretaker gave me a banana for Milos. I mashed it up in the yoghurt cup and fed it to him with a spoon, working on "eat", "more" and "finished".  His hitting has almost stopped, except when we take his picture with a flash. He does not care for that, and will let us know by a definate slap! But, instead of hitting out at Jim now when I am carrying him, he puts his hand out to "give Jim 5" (nicely, not hitting him) and Jim kisses his hands. Milos watches Jim do this, and smiles every time.

Jasmina had asked us if we wanted to tour the fortress today, with her and the Maples family. SURE!  So, after visiting time, we met Sarah and Jon in the lobby. But, as the morning drew on, the fog settled in, meaning we would not be able to appreciate the fortress' views. We decided to forgo that for now, and canceled with Jasmina. Instead, the four of us headed to lunch....Mexican food in Eastern Europe!  It actually was not bad at all. Then off to the outdoor market to look for a backpack for Milos and some indestructable toys for him to fish out of said backpack. None found. On to the pedestrian shopping area, where Sarah and Jon found the cutest little dress for their new little girl. We found a backpack in one of the stores, but the price, for a small sized, mostly plastic (read...this thing will not last long at all!) was $38.00! No thank you! We will keep looking. We did end up at the fortress, still foggy and misty so the views were not the best, but it was a very nice day with friends all the same.

Then, headed back to the orphanage for our afternoon visits.

This was a very exciting visit for us! We took yogurt with us again, but knowing it was going to be a shorter visit and close to dinner, we figured on feeding only the yoghurt, not the banana. He went right to the backpack to look for the food.  Again, we worked on "eat", "more" and "finished". (the signs for these words). We played the "pick me up, put me down" game. Each time he wanted to be picked up, I told him to say 'UP". I have been doing this, generally "accepting" any verbalization he gives, rather than tongue clicks and pucker noises that he prefers. We were in our "room" where he generally does much more for us, and he looked right at me, thought really hard, and said "P". (the sound, not the letter name). I was overjoyed! He is really trying to do what we say.

We walked the halls, played more up and down, then returned to our room. (there is only so long you can spend in this little tiny room!). We pulled a pair of gloves out of the backpack and played ball with it, throwing it back and forth between Jim and myself. When we caught Milos' attention, I gave him the "glove ball", and he showed amazing abilities of turn taking...100% accurately!  He got tired of that and went back to looking for food in the backpack. It was about time to take him back for his dinner, but he was intent on emptying the backpack again, so this time Jim  held a bag and we directed him to take each iten out and put it in Papa's bag. He took the first 2 things over, then came back to me and VERY DELIBERATELY signed "MORE", got another thing, took it to Papa, came back, signed "more" again, took another thing, and did it again! 3 times, each time signing "MORE", We have not seen this movement before at all, and even when we tried to hand over hand help him sign it, he resisted so it was a loose approximation, but these three times were 100% corrctly formed, bumping those little fingers together 2 times each time!  A very sly smile accompanied this as he looked shyly at us all the while!

Just about in tears at this, I announced it was time to go back. We put the backpack stuff away, he looked at me, and held his arms up to be picked up.

I said "say UP", he looked at me and very clearly said "up". I could have picked him up as high as the next floor up! Again, that very deliberate smile of a child who knows exactly what he is doing. He is so definately "in there" waiting for someone to love him enough to risk "coming out" to meet us!

Our little boy blessed us with his first word!

Unfortunately, we had to take him back, but as soon as we said "ciao", he blew us a kiss.

Jasmina managed to snag some basketball tickets for us, and Sarah and Jon decided to go with us, so we had a WONDERFUL time at the very loud game.

I couldn't tell you who played, but I know that the home team lost, however it was a great game. Each team had one American playing on it. The crowds are LOUD and VERY ROUDY. When they don't like a ref's call, rolls of toilet paper come from the upper decks to litter the court. We were a little concerned when toward the end of the game, two squads of riot police were guarding the exits!  But at the end, everyone shook hands and no bloodshed was to be had.

Back "home" getting ready to call the kids on Skype. We miss them terribly. Jim made us a yummy ham and cheese omlet for dinner, and it will be a late bedtime for us.

But such an incredible day with such an incredible little boy trusting us enough to say his first word...both verbally and with sign.

We are certainly blessed.

Mary