Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Hand to Hold Lasts a Lifetime

Check out my Donation Page

Orphans at Play has received an official invitation from Russia to take the curriculum we have developed and present it to a panel. We need your help in flying our Medical Board to Russia! This program would give orphans sensory development through attachment, love, play and growth. A hand to hold lasts a life time. Help us make this happen.

When I look at both of my boys, I can only imagine how they felt for all of those months and in some cases years without anyone to hug, make eye contact, laugh with, receive comfort and play. Our Give a Grandma program can help to prevent and support RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), Sensory Processing Disorder among others.

On a personal note, my son Ewan was never taught to feel, love or have appropriate emotional responses. Without this stimulation he now has RAD and possible other issues, which could have been prevented. The Give a Grandma program brings encouragement, love, social skills and help to orphans that will change the course of their lives. An entire life changed. It is worth every penny, every hope and we cannot complete this mission without your help. Take a moment to make a difference and impact a child's life forever.

Orphans at Play is a 501c3 non profit organization. All donations are fully tax deductible.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

Alexei, the Rink Rat

We are very proud parents of Alexei who has become a Rink Rat. His first hockey team starting in 6 weeks!!!

On Saturday after his normal skating lessons, try outs were being held. It was a bit last minute for us so I didn't expect Alexei would want to be on the ice for 4.5 hours but with his endless energy, it was not a problem.

Most of the children a couple of years older than him were learning how to skate and the hockey coach paid a lot of attention to them more one on one. Alexei was hockey geared up with knee pads, elbow pads, helmet and stick where the coach told him how to hold the hockey stick and for the next couple of hours he went out there and hit pucks, skated around and overall absolutely enjoyed his time.

By the end the coach said he couldn't believe he was 4 years old and if he continues on this path at 6 years old he could be part of the real team and skip ahead.

Alexei's goal he said is to be a defense man. Well he stood by the goalie net and hit in angle shots much of the time. I suppose he is a boy who knows what he wants.

As for Mama and Papa I don't think I have smiled so much than to watch my serious hockey player do what he has so longed to be able to do. Even when he made a goal and the coach yelled, "GOOOOAAAAAAL!" and put his stick up, Alexei was like, Moving on... he didn't even smile, he was just like I am going to do it again.

Our baby amazes us so often.

H-Pylori and Giardia

H-Pylori and Giardia

Well, we found out news we have been waiting for with answers to help our Alexei. This may be the answer to his sleep issues, hyperactivity and overall stomach aches and headaches, which would be so great.

He is positive for H-Pylori, often found in Russian children and many parents come home with either H-Pylori or Giardia so I always recommend a test for all family members who have traveled.

Ewan came home with Giardia and Alexei has H-Pylori. Ewan is treated but Alexei's treatment due to the longevity of the issues will be a long process. We are waiting on 3 medications, which he must take at the same time for a few weeks and he will be doing an outpatient entropsis treatment center where they will x-ray his stomach and begin a treatment plan, which could last up to a year or so.

What I found most interesting about this outcome is that they told me I would most likely have an entirely different personality in Alexei and he will feel so much better and much more even tempered without all of the pain. I cannot say how relieved I am at the diagnosis as we feel like we had tried everything in the past couple of years and all of the medications were just treating symptoms and not really helping Alexei. I about cried when I heard we finally had an answer.

As a parent trust your gut no matter what. I had a feeling he had H-Pylori this entire time. I just knew and now here we are with a whole new plan.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Our California Trip

We just returned back from California where we had a wonderful Vladivostok Russian Reunion and all of the children were able to see each other again. Lots of fun. There were three 4 year old boys and two girls. They had a great time playing with each other and I still can't get over the smiles and how incredible each child has grown so much.

We went to Disneyland, Sea World and my youngest got to go to the Zoo too where he spent time with his uncle, aunt and grandmother. We also had a fabulous Mexican dinner at Alfonso's and enjoyed so much of the pool and beaches.

As a California girl, of course Michael and I had to eat at In and Out every day.

Alexei is still have a lot of issues with sleeping but not unusual so Ewan got to stay with his grandmother while we took care of Alexei at the hotel and watched some Olympics.

The Hilton Torrey Pines was very nice with a pretty view.

Looking forward to the 2013 Russian Adoption Reunion in Florida!!!!!!!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Transition Period.... Doesn't End... Changes

The Transition Period has lasted a bit longer than our first adoption. The bumpiness of the road traveled can feel overwhelming at times. We are still on a waiting list to be seen for OT and PT hoping it will be sooner than later. Our little Ewan has his moments for sure like at the Zoo this past weekend when he saw a rock, more like a boulder and began to shake and scream crying in fear. Yep, a boulder.

This has become quite the adventure with Ewan. Although he is physically growing and has learned new words, he has quite the rebellious take on life and also shows a huge amount of fear when faced with a boulder that his brother is climbing on, his mother is touching and encouraging him to touch or in the face of a statue, he trembles and screams wildly. I can only guess what those families around us were thinking. Do I care? Not really as I know what we are going through but they have not a clue.

The car wash today, something Ewan has experienced roughly 8 times brought him to shaking and screaming again. I had to give him my iced coffee cup to distract him. In the mornings he pushes his legs against the bed. This happens almost every morning and sometimes in the middle of the night. I have even caught him in his sleep. He does not sleep very long, much like his brother about 8 hours if we are lucky. Sometimes he takes naps and other times he tries to hit the walls or create a disturbance to get us to come in and give him attention.

Recently, I think he might be headbutting the crib and now have to devise a plan to put padding along the crib sides. The banging early in the morning with his feet have continuously woken my older son up and he desperately needs his sleep. Acting out what he is not supposed to do, communicating with him in the simplest terms seems to make him want to do it more, hence the rebellious take on life. He knows as well when you walk in there and you are not happy with him, he bursts out laughing. Sigh.

8.5 months home now and we have a long ways to go. He is turning 3 in 5 months and I can only guess that he will be about 2 years old developmentally.

I can see why Russia wants to know what is going on through the transition period and how much support we have in the process. This is where my passion lies very deeply in helping support others as I know and have been through two adoptions and both varied greatly. There are no expectations you can possibly have as it seems like anything is possible. From Ewan holding his food in his mouth for 40 minutes because he does not want to swallow and we have had to teach him how and even then he chooses not to swallow to running into furniture so often we thought we may need a helmet for him.

His ability to understand that he could get hurt is not there yet. I use Oy, Oy as a method to show you will get hurt if you let yourself fall, run into furniture or headbutt a crib.

The pain thresh hold for these children are often so high that you cannot possible gauge just how much damage he has done to himself. When he broke his arm a couple of months ago. My husband and I heard the crack and we were just about brought to tears while Ewan just stood there, limp arm looking at us like why are you guys so upset? Um, hello Ewan, you just broke your arm, do you feel the pain? He didn't cry until the fear of the X-ray camera was in his face and it scared him. Pain though? Forgettaboutit. It's nothing.

Have him run along grass, beware, it is not the grass that scares him, he loves to pull it out but he doesn't like to run on the grass. If he runs on the grass, he will scream, crying and trembling. He will run in the house though like a little boy playing chase with his brother.

Heaven forbid he doesn't like his food because he will just go hungry. He will continue to throw it on the ground and smile and not eat a thing. Amazing when thinking this little boy used to have porridge every day and black tea and now he has juice and every food open to him and he will refuse it now since he has become very picky.

Take him out in public to the mall or grocery store and beware, he will caw like a crow through out. Distractions? Uh, no. So far, nothing has really worked, from food to toys to drinks. He just likes to caw like a crow, started it the first day we had him as we excused ourselves embarrassingly from the cupcake store. Did he care about the cupcake? Not really, he just wanted to caw like a crow very loudly.

Everything goes into the mouth, even at almost 3. Play dough, pennies, dirt, whatever can be tasted, he tries and when you redirect or say niet, no, non, he just stares at you blankly and repeats the behavior.

One of the most interesting examples for us has been when he lies face down at the play area in the mall with 20 kids or so running around him. He looks like a starfish minding his own business attached to the floor. Or when he tries to ransack a strangers purse or drink from their Starbucks cup. Yep, or hug a man's knee so much so after being dragging him away from the man over and over he finally looks at me like "what is with your son lady?" and all I can say is "we just brought him home, so sorry".

Another one is when he feels he should lick the entire grocery cart, at least every part he can find tasty while I look at him in disgust saying, "oh no, kacka, bad, bad, please don't, eww" and he laughs and sticks his tongue back on the handle.

Be prepared for every type of sensory issue from temperature sensitivity, check, food textures, check, sounds, check, physical delays, check. If one can have no expectations and work each day as if it is a new day, one can get through.

This is not a list of complaints, this is a true account of what really happens in transition and how parents must cope with frustrating days, days where they feel like wow, real progress has been made and then the next day back to before, figuring out what works one day and what doesn't the next and trying your hardest to be the parent that can handle it all, be as patient as possible and learn how to tag team with another person for support.

Transition periods do not have a time limit as some parents will be dealing with different items 3 years, 10 years down the line.

Adoption is not for the faint of heart but it is for those who have the strength and love to give a child a forever family and for those who are willing to do whatever it takes, even as far as admitting they need a little support. Recognize triggers, learn habits, record everything, document, document as this will be asked once you do finally see the OT/PT.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Update on Orphans at Play's Helping Hands Humanitarian Aid Project

Orphans at Play is looking forward to announcing exciting new developments and fundraisers coming this Summer! For now, looking back on this past year and our current needs:

  • We have sent over a total of twenty suitcases and over 600 tubes of diaper cream.
  • $600 dollars was raised in New Zeland for two playpens given to the Artyem Baby Home in Vladivostok.
  • $5000 dollars was raised to place our four grandmothers in our baby hospitals for a total of one year.
  • We raised enough to fund Kirovsky Orphanage for a new television, computer and schools supplies.
  • Currently, we are hoping to Partner with a Shoe Relief Program to bring shoes to a desperate area in the world where children lay in cribs barefoot, walk in socks, walk on floors where there is dirt and often moldy areas or wear the wrong size shoes, which can often lead to difficulties in walking. Most recently shoes have been our highest needed request in the Primorsky Krai region in Eastern Russia where a decent quality shoe can cost as much as $200 dollars. One of our mother’s reported her son’s toes so curled from being placed in shoes too small. The staff would tell her to put the shoes back on his feet when she was visiting with him as he was continuously pulling them off and even she had a difficult time trying to force his feet into these little strappy tight shoes.

    We are also working towards partnering with Korean Air to take cargo to Vladivostok, Russia.

    We would like to Thank all of our supporters, adoptive families and incredibly generous donors who have given so much of their time volunteering and helping to fundraise.

    Our boys are adjusting well to being siblings. 7 months in and they are working things out a little easier. Alexei had a lot of transition time needed and so many changes to have to deal with as a 3 year old, however we could not be more proud of how well he has done.

    Alexei is busy in hockey, soccer and gymnastics this summer and Ewan has been busy watching his brother play hockey, however has tried to get on the ice a numerous amount of times. His feet are too small and his balance is very off at the moment until we get a few more things checked at the doctors.

    Ewan will be going into another round of PT/OT at a local Pediatrics Center that specializes in children's sensory and development issues. We cannot wait to see how he succeeds through these next couple of months.

    Thursday, June 7, 2012

    The Avengers have taken over my house! Both boys are so into the comics, the toys and the cartoons. Alexei went to his first movie ever in the theater and what was it? The AVENGERS!

    I have posted his photo here of his first movie experience. I cannot believe how happy he was and he was incredibly good through out the two and a half hour movie until we got to the credits when he decided to imitate the Hulk, rounded both shoulders and arms in a bent fashion yelling, "Hulk Smash!". The theater got a good laugh.

    Overall, it is a good thing both Michael and I are heavy into movies and comic books or most parents could feel overwhelmed hahahaha. Right now now I have Spider Man, Iron Man, Thor Hulk and Captain America propped up watching SpongeBob and then there are the lego versions of the Hulk and Captain America also watching television.

    Along our entire mantle are The Avengers small figures along with Michael's Xmen figures. Alexei has his Spider Man figures, however we are more reluctant to share with him since we saw Spider Man in half.

    Those are the Super Hero's, however the Super Villians have also taken a presence in the house. Venom runs the house rampant while Spider Man is watching his every move.

    Ewan is still running at 12- 15 months old right now developmentally. We are still working on his communication. Crazily, he is imitating the names of the super hero's over other words he should be working on. Thor being one of his favorites.

    Wednesday, June 6, 2012

    Our blog has been neglected the past 4 months or so, however due to being extremely busy with transitioning Ewan into our family and giving him the extra support he has needed to get where he is now. I have included some photos of our boys and how well they are doing together.

    Tuesday, June 5, 2012

    Orphans at Play is celebrating our 1 year anniversary as a non profit 501(c)3 organization!

    This past year has been quite successful with the following achieved:

  • Collected and Delivered 20 suitcases to Vladivostok orphanages and baby homes through our Winter Drive.
  • Donated minimum 600 tubes of diaper cream to various baby homes in need.
  • Our New Zealand friends raised $600 dollars for 2 new playpens delivered to Artyem Baby Home.
  • In our first six months we raised over $5000 dollars and placed 4 new grandmothers for one year.
  • Delivered new school supplies, television and computer to Kirovsky Orphanage.
  • Melissa Bridges and Kelley Knoll created an entire Curriculum plan to be implemented in Russia.
  • Shari Eischens has opened the door to future opportunities with the University of Minnesota.
  • We could not do this without the help of our incredible supporters, friends, family and our Orphans at Play team. When we began June 2011, we had no idea what to expect but we knew we had passion, drive and a desperate need to help those children we had to leave behind in the baby homes and orphanages who need basic supplies and support in physical development, sensory integration and socioemotional development.

    Our team at Orphans at Play: Sabrina Dickenson Turri: Founder/ Executive Director Heather Overstreet: Co-Founder/ Operations Director HunterAnn Booth: Co-Founder/ Marketing Director Jody Garber: Director of the Helping Hands Humanitarian Project Melissa Bridges: Director of Development Kelley Knoll: Research and Development Shari Eischens: Resource Development Specialist

    We also give a special thanks to our partner Vladmission in Russia who has helped us in many of our achievements.

    In the coming year we look forward to bringing together New Partnerships, introducing our Medical Board, Implementing our Curriculum into the Training Phase in Vladivostok, Placing more Grandmothers into new baby homes and orphanages, answering the request for much needed Shoes for the children and building a greater foundation for Orphans at Play.

    Your continued support gives so much to the children of Russia. Russia is in the top three countries Americans choose to adopt from with 1,079 adoptions in 2010. Of those adoptions 5% of the children are under 1 year old and 77% of the children are ages 1-4 years old. This is a small number given that there are an estimated 700,000 orphans in Russia.

    700,000 orphans. It is just the beginning in our Orphans at Play Journey.

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    It Has Been A While But Here It Goes......

    I often write about Super Woman, mostly because I feel all of as women tend to juggle more than we can often handle but we do it with style and we make it through. We are stronger than we think even when life puts us to the test.

    Super Woman fell this week, beaten down by too many of life's tests and challenges. Michael and I this February have been together for 12 years, 10 years married and we have been through so much but the last 3 months has proven to be incredibly difficult and complex. We have lost family friends, will lose another very close family friend and best friend in the coming months to cancer, lost our daughter in Russia, gained a son, went through a very personal loss, spent a long 6 weeks in Russia and many more issues all in the time period of returning from Russia in November, family visits, holidays and this past weekend was our first weekend to just breathe.

    As we reflect and move forward in this year 2012, which we gratefully said goodbye to 2011, we think about where it will lead us and how we will become stronger.

    Our new son from Russia is doing quite well. As most of you know he was a 6-9 month sizing for a 2 year old. He is now 12 month, going on 18 months and has gained 5 lbs in the last 3 months and grown 3.5 inches during this time period. It is amazing how well he has done. He loves his sleep due to all of his growth and is slowly being okay with a brother although he threw the first punch.

    We are rolling towards the end of our transition period and becoming more used to having 2 boys. They are energetic, keep going every second of the day and are currently in competition to see who can get the most attention from us. In fact, my Alexei often likes to pretend he is Ewan. Aye, aye, aye.

    When it comes to Russian Adoption, I highly recommend leaning a bit on other parents for advice and just to feel normal. I do not often ask for help, hold my cards tightly to my chest and feel that I, Super Woman can do it all on my own. Well, it didn't work out this past week and I finally broke down hard. I will get back on my feet and move forward but for those of you who are in the early stages, in the midst or transitioning, we are here for you!!! Reach out and don't try to be the ultra I got it all together type. It just doesn't always work out. You are not alone.