What a Week Can Do!

It truly is astounding how much growth can occur in just one week. So many firsts were observed these last 7 days that I can’t even begin to capture them all! We’ve been spending much of our days as a Roman and mommy pair. The days have been filled with constant learning and fun while interspersed with several healthy snacktimes and main dishes to keep my little Roman belly happy. We’re still trying to slowly introduce him to the outside world as he gets used to our routine at home and begins to feel more and more secure with us.

One of the most important firsts was Roman sat through a book this week, several, in fact! Literacy is so important to me as a therapist and mother. I see so many children who struggle to keep up in school due to weaknesses in this area (myself included), yet they get minimal assistance once they’ve fallen behind it seems. My father has dyslexia and over his lifetime has learned to compensate in brilliant and creative ways. He’s incredibly gifted (so were Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and JFK), and I believe in many ways his giftedness is attributed to his different neurological wiring. We waste so much time cramming ourselves and others into our society’s cookie cutter molds that we forget to celebrate each of our different minds. We all have something valuable to contribute. While I’ve never been formally diagnosed, growing up I struggled to process print myself. I, too, learned to compensate by putting extra time into my studies and by learning to tackle difficulties head on as I found avoidance to be much more painful. After investing my entire childhood into sports activities (which has its own benefits) and adhering to the less than thrilling requirements of academic reading, I finally have time to sit down with a book for pure entertainment (although many of my picks still tend to be educational). I often wonder if my life would have looked different if I had been stricken by the right book at the right time.  It’s just so exciting to open a new/used book for the first time, taking in the smell of it’s pages and being pulled into an alternate world for a short time. So, I WANT so badly to share this treasure with my children. I want their lives to be full yet slow enough to see the value in a good book. I want to read to my new son just as I did and still do with Crawford. However, Roman was not having it at first. When we intially introduced him to a book, it was destroyed within 2 days. Overtime, we learned to use ‘soft hands’ and gradually began learning to turn individual pages without severing mom’s thumb in the process – haha! Up until yesterday, he had no interest in jointly attending to a book. I’ve been incorporating book readings every moment his little body is still, whether it be snack time or during another activity. We practice turning the pages on cue and filling in rhyme words when able. Yesterday we reached a milestone. Ten books were jointly attended to in momma’s lap, my friends! It was glorious to watch him go retrieve yet another book and excitedly return to my lap for me to read to him. I thought I would have to wait a long, long time before enjoying this day!

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He is my helper in the kitchen! Those of you who know me know another joy of mine is cooking. Roman has become my right-hand man in the heart of the home. We made pizza the other night. He also helped me make kale chips which he gladly followed up by eating the entire pan. Seriously?  The kid is eating kale chips? I’m still in disbelief because the first few days out of the orphanage it appeared we might have a seriously picky eater on our hands.

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He went to the park for the first time and loved it! He has a mild form of cerebral palsy, so he’s struggling to walk up the steps and climb without assistance, but with repeated exposure, I know he’ll have it down independently. Just as I anticipated, he loved the slide and swing. He also has a mean left foot too. Watchout all you soccer dudes!

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He went to the ice cream shop! He had no idea what we were saying when we told him we were going to get ice cream, but I bet he’ll know after last night’s excursion to Maggie Moo’s. We followed the park up with some ice cream. Imagine the four of us…. windows down, music blaring, with windblown hair and ice cream covered faces. We kept getting a thumbs up the whole time. Roman was so happy, he kept singing in perfect rhythm “la, la, la, la, nah-mmm, nah-mmm”. It was just so sweet to look in the backseat and see Crawford and Roman back there together, finally!

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So, with the first week now complete, I’d say it was a great success. After all, happiness is our goal!

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Home Alas

Ahhhhhh……..such a good feeling to be home at last! Freshly brewed coffee, hot showers, cozy beds, and kisses and hugs are abound here at La Casa de Murphy.

We started our very long trek home early Wednesday morning and 24 hours later, with maybe a few hours of sleep under our belts, we finally made it to NWA. Roman did pretty well given the intense and stressful circumstances that come with the long lines, large crowds, and lengthy flights of traveling abroad. When we got to the airport, we were welcomed by a wonderful group of friends and family. So many of you have poured your time, love, and energy into us throughout this process. We feel so loved and are thankful to be surrounded by such selfless and thoughtful people. We also came home to an immaculate house, fully stocked refrigerator and cabinets, and welcome home and happy birthday signs drawn by Crawford and other sweet little family members. My mother-in-law created a beautiful Album full of all our blogposts to commemorate Roman’s adoption. This, of course, brought me to tears.

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Once we got home that Wednesday night and tucked both boys in bed for the first time, Roman had a smile on his face as he laid his head on his pillow. It was a smile of “I have finally arrived.” That next morning we shared our first meal together as a family, and the boys played until it was time for Crawford to go to school. Roman seems to have already made a huge transformation since we’ve been home. He’s enjoying all the new words to everything and is talking more than ever before. Some of his new words and phrases are banana (full word), on/off, up/down, open, all gone, help me, hold me, love you, up please, and all done. He’s starting to use a few three-word phrases too! He is becoming less interested in cords and light switches and more interested in interacting with us and playing with toys. He’s loving being outside and playing in the grass and picking the flowers. Bath time is definitely a new favorite – there is no holding that boy back when the bath water comes on.

So, for some reason I’m struggling to keep a clean house. Not sure why that is….hmmmmm? I think I can live with this, it means life exists within these walls, BUT life does not stop here! Can’t wait to post about our first, outdoors camping excursion – hehe!

Here’s a little glimpse into life at our house since our return.

The world of boy! haha!

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Mama, I’m Comin’ Home!

Just can’t help but think of Ozzy’s hit, Mama, I’m Comin’ Home!

Well, we were all able to finally reunite in Kiev Sunday afternoon. I picked up Roman for his final departure from Antoshka on Saturday morning. He was precious and looked like a completely different little boy once I got him in the clothes that we brought him. The feeling was surreal. With this process, you learn to just wait and wait……then everything just starts happening! Here he is in his final minutes at the orphanage. Please excuse the shakiness and sidewaysness of the videos!

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We spent our long, 13-hour day in our very small hotel room. Yes, it was long; and yes, we had some hard moments, especially at nap time, but it was a situation that would push anyone to the limit. Typically, we would venture outside, have more access to toys, and our environment at home will be more conducive to safe exploration, but this was not our reality, and we just had to make the best of it. I felt Roman did very well given the situation (i.e., the cord and light switch haven and very little to do, but play with the same old lady and few select toys for 13 hours). We took walking breaks down the hall and in the lobby where we boogied to the Jewish music playing in the dance hall.

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Then we left for the midnight train. Roman was so exhausted that he slept the whole way! Once we got to Kiev, he and I waited at the apartment for Dustin to arrive later in the afternoon. Again, eye level light switches and a plethora of exposed electrical wires saying, “go ahead, tug us,” made for another long day – haha! Finally, Dustin arrived and Roman was a bit speechless at first, but was very happy to see his papa! It was a welcomed reunion!

We had our first appointment at the Embassy yesterday and it went very well. We came back for our interview at 2:00 today. The longest part of the process was the wait. We waited about 45 minutes, and then the interview lasted about 30 seconds. We got Roman’s visa 15 minutes after that, and that’s a wrap folks!!!! We are done! We head home bright and early at 5:55 AM and should arrive to NWA at 6:49 PM tomorrow evening!! Please feel free to welcome Roman home at the airport if you so choose! We are overjoyed to know we will be back in beautiful Fayetteville in just a little over 24 hours!

Here’s Roman on his iPhone 6 using his new word “hello.” We heard lots of “papa, hello,” “hello, mama” “hello, bwa-bwa”

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Cocoon

In addition to all the excitement of the impending leave from his orphanage, I was also able to snatch Roman’s baby picture!

Here’s baby boy, Roman!

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When I got back to the hotel, I stared and stared at his picture as if maybe I could jump into the photograph myself and scoop him up to allay his worries and tell him “Momma is here sweet boy.” I wanted to kiss his worried eyes and draw out coos and giggles to calm whatever fears seem to reside behind them. But I also look at this picture and see a little warrior that’s saying, “Bring it!” He has those little fists up ready to defend himself – haha! I don’t see these eyes today. Today, I see eyes filled with hope, love, strength, affection, curiosity, and sometimes mischief (especially when we play hiney ball) – haha!

When pondering moments of the last 42 days and the moments that have not yet come to pass, I recall a poem that my mother wrote. She has written many poems, and I’ve always admired her ability to paint such beautiful imagery and tell such moving stories in the form of rhyme. My mother is a token of strength herself as she overcame polio as a young child ,which continues to have lasting effects on her physical health, yet she perseveres! She’s a woman of beautiful insight and has loved me through many hardships. I’m thankful that I will have her poetry to look to for strength and comfort in the years to come. Here is Cocoon.

Cocoon

Wrapped in silky threads,
Secure against the wind,
Cocoon holds fast to tender leaf
As branches sway and bend.

Each day makes it stronger
As it feeds and grows and feeds,
And the gentle leaf it’s anchored to
Fulfills its every need.

The silken thread begins to loose
T0 free the life it holds.
The butterfly sees worlds anew
As shaky wings unfold.

Now it soars at edge of sky
With sun-drenched wings at flight,
And cocoons itself in memories
Of a tender leaf—FIRST SIGHT!

© Carlene Welch, 2012

When I look at Roman, I see a little butterfly whose cocoon has begun to give way to beautiful wings, wings eager to feel the air beneath them as they take flight over creations abound. They will no longer feel entrapped, but will finally fly freely. My hope, though, is that he can find refuge in a new cocoon with anchorage to a much stronger and more nurturing leaf in the love of our family. We are family, baby boy! We will be your leaf, just as you will be ours.  We love you sweet Roman and can’t wait to see you spread your butterfly wings!!

This will probably be my last post until I see Dustin tomorrow!! (Ahhhh…..I get to see my husband – wahooo!) I’ll have a little youngster to chase around our 10 x 5 ft. hotel room for about 12 hours today, so imagine that will leave me few hands to type up an inspirational piece – hehe. Wish me luck guys!  I better load up on the ol’ instant coffee!  Love you all!! See you all very soon!!

Forever Home

Roman and I had our very last scheduled visit this afternoon. It was weird knowing I was shutting the lights off to the gym for the final time. We shared so many moments of glee, excitement, goofiness, patience, fatigue, energy, affection, hunger, thirst, music, learning, compassion, discovery, attitude, kisses, hugs, tickles, giggles, and most important of all, love. I will go pick him up tomorrow morning; and thus, the journey to his forever home begins.  Tonight will be the last night he will sleep in the only place he’s ever known as home. So, in hopes to make the transition easier, we’ve been looking at picture stories and videos of Papa and bwa-bwa showing him his home. Roman especially loves the videos of his bwa-bwa playing instruments he will get to play when he gets there. He says, “more bwa-bwa.” Here’s a cute little sample of what Dustin and Crawford have been putting together for him.

Here are some last pictures of him with his caregivers.

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Here is one of his doctors who has corresponded with Dustin and me the whole time we’ve been visiting with Roman.

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A few last moments in the gym!

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We will start a tiresome trip to Kiev at 12:00 AM tomorrow night/Sunday morning. Dustin will head this direction early tomorrow morning. We hope to have safe travels in all directions! We’re so close to being home as a family! We’re thrilled!