Adopting again


We are adopting again.

No. I’m not crazy. Actually I might be crazy. Screw it, I’m crazy.

Here’s what happened.

Last month a family member of Jude’s speech therapist gave birth. Jude and Gabriel were able to meet the newborn when she (It’s a girl) was a few days old. The baby is being relinquished for private adoption. The girls have bonded so when everything is in order in the next month or so she will be moving in with us.

Yeah. It’s a puppy. (Had you going there for a minute)

I am NOT a dog person. As a small child I was terrorized by a neighbor’s dog and that kinda stuff lingers with you whether you want it to or not. I had dogs growing up. They were OK. But the girls have both fallen in love with this puppy. It’s been going on long enough that it isn’t a passing fad. I don’t have the fortitude to be breaking preschoolers hearts like this especially when we have just finally turned the corner with Gabriel and are seeing a lot of the orphanage behaviors disappear and a new personality form in its place. The rough and violent child from November is now extremely gentle and careful with animals.

So a puppy. (I really am not the pushover that it looks like).

And their enthusiasm is infectious. I am excited about the dog too.

Now I just have to explain our new family member to the cats. If I never write again they plotted and carried out a very clever assassination. Think: death by impalement on Legos. The brown tabby is the mastermind.

Wish us luck in agreeing on a name. The girls are naming her however I have veto power. So far Purple, Pizza, Car seat, Black, and Jude Katherine Alawei have been rejected and sent back to committee (although I admittedly almost acquiesced to Car seat).


No matchy-matchy Part 2


Today as I was driving South on I-95 I got the call that officially wraps up Gabriel’s American Re-diagnosing. I did a similar post for Jude, here is how Gabriel’s medical chart played out:

When Referred from Bulgaria:

Premature Birth

Retinopathy of Prematurity stage 3-4

Anemia, resolved

Asthma, resolved

Allergic atopic dermatitis, allergen not identified, resolved

Unspecified abnormality of the 9th chromosome

Mild-Moderate global developmental delays

“Moodiness.” and Extreme Tantrums/behavior


Disturbed sleep/changes in EEG

In the USA:

Premature Birth

Retinopathy of Prematurity stage 0 (in USA once someone calls it, you don’t loose the diagnosis, but essentially the ophthalmologist can’t find what they were talking about)



Moderate Intermittent Asthma

Atopic Dermatitis

“absence of heterozygosity” (I’m not getting into this explanation too deep. I have been warned and others should be too that this isn’t really that uncommon when adopting from Bulgaria. Google if you want more information)

Specified delays in speech, gross motor, and fine motor skills

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder/syndrome (Genetics will decide which end of the spectrum next year once she is settled)

Adjustment disorder/Conduct disorder



Failure to Thrive (note: this is improving now)

As with Jude, I am very happy the child just described above what not presented to me in a written report. Gabriel’s diagnoses look frightening and at least one is on the original list of special needs that I said “no” too. Only with her would this myriad of intimidating medical diagnoses be remotely possible. Why? Because Gabriel is also incredibly intelligent. I really do feel that she has the potential to thrive as a fully independent adult in the future.

I have thought long and hard about making Gabriel’s list of medical diagnoses available in a public setting. I really do feel that anyone adopting from Bulgaria ought to know what they may be up against. Regarding Gabriel’s genetics results the wording “unknown father” was used in her referral. I am now being told that might be a polite euphemism.

The FASD/Microcephaly/Adjustment-Conduct disorder is one that is literally written on her face. I entertained the possibility of FASD after committing to Gabriel and seeing her photo on the internet around Christmas of 2014. We were quite certain of Gabriel’s declining mental health following out first visit to Bulgaria. Microcephaly is already visually very obvious when her hair is wet. This one diagnosis caught me by surprise when we came home with her.

When I met Gabriel in June she was 29.5 inches tall and weighed 17 pounds. She was 2.5. Gabriel is 33 inches now and 25 pounds. She is still well below the growth chart for her age. The important thing is that she is growing (just slowly).

Let me spell out my direct warning to potential adoptive parents:

  1. Be prepared for any and all prenatal care and birthparentsocial histories. Chances are good that you have a child who is involved with that.
  2. Bulgaria doesn’t recognize Fetal Alcohol Syndrome as a diagnosis.
  3. Bulgarian medical specialist may have a vastly inaccurate, different, or be just plain wrong and have the wrong diagnosis assigned to children.
  4. You won’t get all the medical records.

Above everything else, just be a parent to your child. The adoption books are good, but they have huge gaping holes of information missing from them (ahem…Purvis). Whatever your particular favorite is in the beginning, I promise it will be flawed by the end. Behind the file, the referral, the photo, across the sea is a very little amazing person; who, after upsetting all your cats, peeing on all your stuff and demanding the last oreo at 2AM, you’ll come to adore as your family.


Help for another


Hundreds of times a year I have the privilege to peek into the lives of other adopting families as they come home with new children in tow.
Tomorrow this was supposed to have happened for the Quesenberry family. Today, the unthinkable happened. Only one parent will be coming home and two boys have lost a father.
As adopting parents we are prepared for the possibility of illness during pickup trip. There has been the rare tragic occasion when a child has simply been too ill. You don’t prepare for this.
Everyone is helping in any way possible. If you can help Natalie and her sons please donate. Please share.

The massive evaluation


On Thursday, Gabriel and I set off for the large outpatient center and short distance up I-95 and had the day-long developmental evaluation.
We saw: Audiology, a social worker, a pediatrician, another social worker, psychology, speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy.
We had a late lunch, a mini nap in the lobby and then came back for conference.
It was actually a very typical behavior day for Gabriel which was good for everyone to see. Physical therapist has actually met and worked with Jude and is of the opinion that I, by some awkward twist of fate, adopted exactly the same child twice. Some days I completely agree. Gabriel certainly tried everything on the therapist that Jude already unsuccessfully attempted in April.
But, to no ones surprise, Gabriel has the upper hand on Jude in some areas. She certainly is acquiring a good amount of skills in less than half the time I saw with Jude.
At the end of the day, Gabriel is functioning at about the level of a 22-month old child. Gabriel has an overriding mental health diagnosis now. This was actually particularly helpful to get feedback that our at-home tactics are spot on. It was also nice to hear that she, despite everything else going on, appears to have a firm attachment to me. I have actually felt that the attachment process has gone smoother with Gabriel, but it was difficult to know for certain with everything else going on.
I was extremely impressed by the team we saw. So much so, that they will see Jude to fill in gaps from her piecemeal State Early Intervention Services evaluations.
Gabriel will get referrals to both speech and OT, like Jude. PT may come eventually, but right now they would like to see her after we have had the summer to work with her at home. Mental illness and toddlers is more difficult. We will have access to the team that we saw on an ongoing basis to bounce ideas and problems off of as we go along.
And they are all right about the microcephaly. Bought her a bike helmet because it was on clearance at WalMart and she is in infant size with the back strap one click above as tight as it will go. I also bought a scale for home as she is a drastically different weight on everyone’s scale. It’s driving me nuts.

Changes for Momma


I have a new job.

I start in 2 weeks.

I am very excited about my new job which will have me doing Nursing Care Management in an Occupational Health setting.

The position is 29 minutes commute from my house, so no big moves or anything. It will allow me to reorganize time so I get to see the girls more each day. No weekends. No holidays. Which is about the most premium benefit a nursing position can boast. It comes with a lot of other great benefits and seems like it will be a perfect match with our lives. The best part is that I don’t have to leave my current company. It the great scheme of things it ended up being an elaborate department transfer. No breaks in medical, dental, or other coverage.

Leaving the current job will not be easy. I have so many friends there. I enjoy what I do. It wasn’t an easy decision and it ultimately came down to what is better for the girls and I. The new job is a better fit.

I found out earlier this week that after 75 years our beloved homestudy agency is shutting it’s doors in April. Although I have no confirmation yet, they should be able to wrap up Jude’s final postplacement report and tackle Gabriel’s first. They have promised us a comprehensive plan to address Gabriel’s remaining postplacement reports, which will not be completed until Fall of next year.

The universe has finally made it clear to me why Gabriel came along when she did. It seemed so terribly soon after Jude’s adoption, but there was no question that she was THE ONE. But, if this had happened before we had committed to a second child…Jude 100% would have been the only adoption. If this had happened mid-process for Gabriel I probably would have had a stroke (for those who have lost count this makes agency #3 to tank since I started).

I got my glasses earlier this week. And VISION. I forgot. I used to be able to see all this stuff when I was a kid. It has taken some getting used to.

Last weekend I tried out my Christmas present in the living room: An instant cabin tent for camping. Set it up and tore it down (and was able to get it back in the bag). Not to brag, but several years of summer camp and family camping has made me a bit of a tent set-up expert. This is going to take about 3 minutes. By myself. It is a gift to hassle-free camping. I can’t wait until it isn’t snowing because I want to try it out for real.

I ripped my last pair of jeans today. My Mom is going to help me shop for clothes. I have literally bought next to no clothing for myself since starting this adoption process. The situation has now become desperate. It is complicated by the fact that despite listening to fashion advice I have extremely poor dressing skills. I might not even be able to match colors and patterns, not sure. Goodwill does not help the impaired dresser. It just perpetuates the problem.

I also need a haircut. The last one was in the summertime. I am not skilled enough to cut my own hair.

The adventure continues…


Gabriel Genetics Part 1


Over the course of the next 6-8 weeks we will have 4 major appointments at the Genetics clinic. 2 for each of the girls.

Today was the first visit for Gabriel. She had her evaluation and her blood drawn for microarray genetic testing.

We already have some unexpected answers from today’s visit. Gabriel is somewhere on the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome spectrum. She also, technically, has microcephaly. The doctor we saw today was nearly certain based upon her evaluation and previous testing done in Bulgaria that the microarray labwork will come back positive. We will have another appointment to meet with the doctor when (not if, but when) it does.

The doctor was not all doom and gloom. She was optimistic that she can make great strides with the right services (as we all are) and is impressed with the progress she has made over the past 2.5 months.

Today was also another milestone. The longest that the two girls have been apart since the day after I picked up Gabriel and had to take her (by herself) to the US Embassy in Sofia. Gabriel was quite nervous on the long car ride to the doctor’s but was fine once we were there with her backpack of belongings. It was a good stepping stone as next week they will be separated all day for Gabriel’s full day comprehensive developmental evaluation.

We expect Gabriel’s results towards the end of February/early March. Jude’s inital appointment with Genetics is set for March 1. We already know that Jude will probably be referred for microarray testing as well based upon limited birthfamily medical information. We also know that Jude’s would come back positive as she has Neurofibromatosis type 1 (we are also looking to rule out/in other specific genetic conditions). Thus each child will have 2 visits. One for testing, and one visit to discuss positive results (not usually scheduled in advance as positive results are usually not so highly anticipated).

Perhaps one of the saddest part of the adoption journey for the girls has been the inability to know their own genetic histories. While this in no way makes up for the social aspects of knowing one’s birthfamily I am hoping that this can fill in some important holes that, at least for the apparant future, we do not have access to. In Bulgaria, there is some early discussion about allowing the unsealing of adoption records at the adoptee’s or adoptive parents direction and allowing access to now private medical records. This would be a wonderful thing for families, in my opinion. At present, there is no official means for adoptees to track down birthfamilies. Most who have made this choice utilize the services of a private investigator.



I have been working towards my Master’s of Science in Nursing. Partially because I’m not getting any younger, partially because I’m not being punished by adoption stuff anymore so why-the-hell-not, but mostly because it is an all around good idea for me to move up from my current associate’s degree (both for me and the girls).

I just completed my 3rd 8-week term. I got a B+ this time. (A’s previous times). You know what, I’ll take it. We had a lot going on. I have this term (that started Wednesday) and one more after and I will have completed the “bridge” between the associates and being able to work on the graduate level courses.

I do most of the work when the girls are in bed at night or napping in the afternoons. I do as much as I can during my lunch breaks at work. There have been a few times last term where it came down to the wire and I had to finish typing a paper. I would type while they watched a Disney movie. You know what? Everyone lived.

In two years (the time it will take me to completely finish) the achievement will be worth it. Until then, yes we will take a few easygoing summer vacations and I hope that the impact on the girls will not be noticed too much. On the plus side, the few nights immediately upon coming home that Gabriel had trouble falling asleep it only took a page or two about Qualitative Nursing Research before she passed RIGHT OUT until morning. I guess it has to be a topic you’re into to capture your interest.

Maine winter weather. Since it comes down to put up or shut up about it I decided to employ someone to plow my driveway and to invest in a genuine down winter parka. WHY DIDN’T I DO THIS BEFORE? Winter has been at least 200% less miserable.

I went to the eye doctor. I’m kinda blind. Last time I went was before I started the adoption process. I blame the 600 bajillon government forms. Glasses are in my immediate future.

I’m trying to baby our leaking water heater through until our taxes are done. I say positive and encouraging things to it. The internet had no further helpful suggestions. It can’t be repaired. It will need to be replaced. I had the estimate and because this house is vintage it will need to meet these new and trendy things called building codes. Building Codes are the latest trendy thing in making sure your house doesn’t burn down. You pay a lot for it though.

Other than all this, life ticks on.