Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Restaurant Delivery Service in Warsaw

Ok, I know I'm posting a lot today, but this is too good to not tell!

On our last few days in Poland, we stayed in a hotel in Warsaw. The hotel was close to the airport and not in the central part of the city with restaurants, coffee, and entertainment are located. What were we to do for food? The hotel manager gave us a little book for room service if we wanted something to be delivered to the hotel-instead of walking to the pizza place which was a mile away or a gas station.

If you are near Warsaw and don't want to take your newly adopted child (who probably doesn't have restaurant experience) to an actual restaurant but you don't want to cook, I recommend ordering through Room Service. They even speak English and take most major credit cards.

Here's another website that can deliver:
We didn't use this service because we had the room service book, so I can't vouch for them.

Speech Therapy

When we were in Poland our translator and Polish social worker had a hard time understanding my daughter (in Polish). She used incorrect words for items.

Example: The word cartoon. Polish has a specific word for cartoon (kreskówki). My daughter used the word for fairy tale (bajki). She was never corrected on that particular word when she constructed her sentence, "I want to watch fairy tale".

According to the social worker and our translator, my daughter spoke on a 2 or 3 year old level of Polish. She was 7 at this time. From the paperwork that we received with the referral it did state that she was in speech therapy and that she has a speech delay. We knew we would be working with her on her speech issues from the start but I didn't imagine her being on a 2 or 3 year old level. We had our work cut out for us.

We didn't want to put my daughter in speech therapy when she first arrived because of a lot of reasons. That's a lot of appointments, not covered by insurance, she is learning a new language, and she has other delays due to malnutrition. Let's work with her for a year and see where she is at and re-evaluate the need for speech therapy then.

Sounds like a big task, huh? Yes, it was. Physically and emotionally draining. It felt like we corrected her speech 1,000 times a day for the first 6 months of her being home with us. We would correct or help her practice saying a word every time she had trouble. But then it started to taper off a bit. Our persistence and hard work paid off. Her English vocabulary is that of a 5-6 year old. We are learning rhyming and opposite words. Her favorite subject is language-shocker!

I think it was the right decision to work with her this past year and I feel confident that she will continue to improve as she gains more life and schooling experiences.

If you are hesitant about doing speech therapy with your child for the first year home, don't fret. You are not going to "mess up" your child. You are connecting with them by teaching them your language. And yes it is exhausting, but it gets better. I consider this part of the adoption journey part of the bonding process.

One of my favorite websites is She has tons of worksheets that you can use with your child. We have used some of these worksheets to help my daughter say certain letters she had trouble with.

If you need a speech therapist or on the fence about one, ask your pediatrician. They can give you a referral. Some school systems even offer free speech therapy sessions. The least you could do is go for a speech evaluation and see exactly what your child needs to work on.

Click here for Occupational Therapy.

Recognizing Your Hidden Emotions

It seems like an impossible task to teach a child who has endured trauma to recognize their emotions and other people's emotions. One of my most important jobs as an adoptive parent is to teach my daughter to recognize her own feelings and the feelings of others. This is a hard job for adoptive parents, which is probably why we are constantly exhausted and look like a mess.

My daughter knows the "big four emotions"-sad, glad, mad, and scared. We have learned that through the Emotion plates. But underneath the big emotions are the little ones like guilt, joy, hurt, irritated, lonely, shame, embarrassment, or peace. If you ask my daughter after a meltdown "how are you feeling?", she will probably respond with mad, which is the "go to emotion" for her and the easiest emotion she can hide behind. But is she really "mad" all of the time? Of course not. She is hiding her feelings-the ones she can't voice or recognize just yet- under the mad emotion. To help her recognize the "hidden feelings", I've posted this on her door:

Whenever we have a meltdown and she acknowledges one of the big 4 emotions, we try to investigate why she was mad, sad, glad or scared. Was she embarrassed because a friend made fun of her shoes? Was she irritated because the faucet kept dripping with water? Was she helpless when she couldn't find mommy or daddy within 1 minute? There are a lot of hidden emotions that we humans feel and I won't dare try to write them all down on a list-it would take weeks.

Sometimes it hurts my daughter emotionally to uncover her hidden emotions. So we have to use other things in place of her feelings to distance herself from the emotional pain. I use my cat Merlin (ok, I know you are laughing now) to teach my daughter about those hidden feelings. I will ask my daughter questions like "why did Merlin bite you?" or "why did he run away from you?". And she will say that he is mad. Ok, that's a big feeling, so "why is he mad?", what is the little feeling hiding behind the big feeling. And then she usually confesses because I pulled his tail or I picked him up the wrong way. And we finally get around to the little emotion that Merlin was irritated and wanted to be left alone.

Please leave me alone. I'm trying to bird watch.
I have to do a "dance" around to get my daughter to open up and voice those little feelings. If she doesn't learn to recognize those feelings now and voice them, we (all of us) might be in a lot of trouble later on. Kids from the hard places need to be taught this and shown this over and over again. And as parents of these kids we need to voice our hidden feelings and model the correct behaviors to them. Their little eyes and ears are wide open, whether we think so or not.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall Sensory Play Ideas

I posted yesterday about our adoptiversary and how it can be a hard time for my daughter (let's be honest, it's hard for ALL of us). To get us through these hard times I like to use sensory play with her, especially if she has regressed to an earlier emotional age. Below are some fall sensory play ideas that use items around your house. We haven't tried all of them but just a couple. Most of the ideas are nontoxic if accidentally* they were to be ingested.

*Accidents happen all the time-even to me. But when it comes to playdoh, silly putty, or some other kind of sensory play, that stuff just doesn't "fall" into our kid's mouths like they say it does :).

Fall Sensory Ideas:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Our 1st Poland Adoption Timeline

7/1/11- We decided to adopt (debt free!). Let the saving and fundraising begin!

08/08/12 - Application sent to LifeLine.

08/13/12 - Application Accepted.

09/13/12 - 1st Homestudy Visit.
                 -What is a home study?
09/17/12 - FBI Clearances.

10/07/12- Completed Online Hague Adoption Training.

10/12/12- 2nd Homestudy Visit.

10/18/12- 3rd Homestudy Visit.

10/20/12- International Adoption Clinic training completed.

10/26/12- Louisiana State Clearances.

10/29/12- Completed reading The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis. Great Book!

12/21/12-Homestudy Officially Complete. Took almost 4 months!

2/17/13-Immigration Clearance

3/11/13-Dossier Received at Lifeline

4/1/13-Dossier is in the process of being translated.

4/12/13-We are registered with the National Adoption Center in Poland. Now we wait to be matched!

5/12/13- It's been 1 month and we are waiting to be matched.

6/12/13- We have a match! And we said yes!

7/1/13- We received the official referral for a 7 year old girl.

7/3/13- Sent off our 800 packet to USCIS for provisional approval.

7/22/13- Received provisional approval. We are waiting on some more paperwork to be received (may take 2 weeks) so we can set a court date.

8/15/13- We have a court date set! We hope to share details soon.

8/31/13- Arrived in Poland!

9/4/13- Bonding period begins with our daughter.

9/26/13- Court Day! We gave our testimonies but the judge couldn't rule because of paperwork issues. The ruling is set for next week.

10/5/13- Court Day! (Ruled in our favor!) Now the 2 week appeal period begins.

10/18/13- Gotcha Day! She is officially ours!

10/21/13- We have her birth certificate.

10/23/13- Medical Exam complete and blood work drawn for TB. We wait for the results to set up our visa appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw.

10/24/13- Birth certificate had some misspellings. Our in country facilitator drove across the country early this morning to get a new one. Received PESOL number and applied for the Polish passport. May take a week, we pray that it won't!

10/29/13- Received passport and medical exam complete with blood test results.

10/30/13- U.S. Embassy appointment for visa.  We didn't get visa because of paperwork issues (we needed a full birth certificate not the short birth certificate). Hopefully tomorrow we will have it!

10/31/13- Submitted all paperwork to U.S. Embassy. We pray that it is all correct. We have been in Poland for 2 whole months! Update: We have visa in hand!! Now waiting on that airplane ride.

11/1/13- We fly home today!

11/2/13- We're home! Now we begin the court process for re-adoption.

12/24/13- It's been over 50 days and our Certificate of Citizenship has not come in the mail.

2/15/14- Certificate of Citizenship finally came!

2/17/14- Applied for Social Security number (takes 2 weeks to receive)

4/10/14- We finally got our daughter's social security number! Click here to see why it took so long. Time to gather up all of our paperwork and file for recognition of foreign adoption at our local court.

5/21/14- Filed for recognition of foreign adoption with our local juvenile court. We are almost COMPLETE with this adoption!

5/29/14- We received the court decree of our recognition of foreign adoption! It took only a week! Now we wait for vital records to contact us about the birth certificate.

6/24/14- DCFS mailed us a form to sign for the Louisiana birth certificate. We mailed it back and now wait for our original to be mailed to us.

6/25/14-Applied for a U.S. passport. May take b/t 4-6 weeks.

9/3/14- More adoption challenges. Click here to see why we don't have our daughter's birth certificate and passport.

9/15/14- Signed another birth certificate application because our first one-from 2 months ago-had white out on it. We also checked on our daughter's passport status. Click here for more details.

9/30/14- We have the birth certificate and the passport! Happy dance!

10/3/14- Our 1st Post Adoption visit with our social worker to let Poland know how our daughter is doing.

10/18/14- Our First Adoptiversary!

11/2/14- One year home update.


This past Saturday, Oct. 18, marks 1 year that a Polish judge signed into law that we are our daughter's new parents. As I reflect back to one year ago, I would love to say that it was one of the most joyous times of my life and I can show you pictures to prove that we are a happy family of three. But it was one of the most hardest life experiences that I have ever gone through (and I'm including my husband too). We had a lot of little issues that seemed like a mountain of troubles. And pictures can be deceiving because you are required to say cheese and put on a smile.

On top of all those other little issues, my daughter was not prepared for the adoption into our family. In fact, she didn't even know that she needed to be adopted. When you go through all this adoption training, reading books, and asking your social worker a million questions, this was not something we had prepared ourselves to deal with, why would we? We were very fortunate enough to have a really great Polish social worker (who spoke English) who helped us through this situation. Poland cares about their children and I am very impressed with the children's society that we adopted through. Our 3 weeks of bonding time did not look like most because of this unknown issue. We had to prepare our daughter about the changes that are about to take place in her life and we also had to tell her about her biological history. Our time in Poland, although we tried to keep it upbeat and positive, was emotional and physically draining for all of us. You can probably imagine some of the emotions that my daughter was displaying. And trying to bond/connect with her seemed very much impossible in Poland. She needed time to let her brain think about her past and her future with the new facts about her life that was told to her, all the while facing new life experiences-playgrounds, restaurants, shopping, parks, zoos, etc... which we tried to keep as minimal as possible.

So, a year later. Wow. So much has changed with my daughter. She seems very much happy. Her speech issues are slowly diminishing. She can ride a bike without training wheels. She can read simple books. She can do math, spell her name, and play with other children (most of the time). She can take a bath by herself, wash her own clothes, clean her room, brush her teeth, do simple chores like sweep the porches and do the dishes. She can even listen to music without having a panic attack. It's amazing to see where she was 1 year ago to now. This was by far the hardest year of everybody's life in my family's, but as I reflect at what progress we have made and what progress I can see my daughter making in the future I say let's bring on this second year!

Celebrating an anniversary can bring mixed emotions for everybody. Anniversaries can bring on happy times like marriage, engagements, giving birth to a baby, or a big job promotion. Anniversaries can also bring on hard times like loss of a child, or other relative, loss of a job or moving. This time of the year is hard for our family because it's a reminder of the trauma my daughter experienced. Last week it was very hard to do school. Her brain had forgotten the simplest task like spelling her name, 2 +2, and other school related problems. Her behavior was also far from her normal behaviors. Meltdowns over a pencil or not being able to watch tv at the exact moment when she wanted to or not being able to eat cheeseballs. We had to be extra patient with her and acknowledge that she really can't perform that task like she did last week. It's frustrating to see my daughter go through some of her old behaviors, but her brain is healing from the past trauma. The best medicine for me this past week was to be patient with her with lots of grace, and watching re-runs of Bones with my cat, Merlin.

Look at that cuteness!
Since we could not have our normal school schedule most of last week, I found a great website for sensory play that helped my daughter get through last week without major destruction. This creative lady had some fall recipes that we tried out, since my daughter is learning about the seasons. We made Pumpkin Silly Putty-who knew that you can make that stuff for cheap?? We also made Pumpkin Cloud dough. She has great recipes that use common household products that you probably have on hand and if your kid is prone to tasting their sensory play items they should not be harmed by most of her recipes. Why does my daughter enjoy eating playdoh? I think I will be referring back to this website frequently because of all the great seasonal activities.

Playing with pumpkin silly putty
Did we do anything to celebrate our daughter's entrance into our family. Of course, we did! On Friday we went to Olive Garden (lasagna + chocolate cake= happy 8 year old). She also received a present, a mermaid Barbie. On Saturday we carved pumpkins-something she never had experienced before. And on Sunday we surprised her with bowling at a real bowling alley-not on the wii, which she had never done before. We separated all of these events out for the whole weekend because we don't want to overstimulate her by doing it all in one day. I don't think there's enough melatonin or lavender essential oils in the world to help her go to sleep if we had done that! That concluded our one year adoptiversary.

So, what do you call "the day your child is legally yours" day (gotcha-day, traumaversary, etc..)? I think I'm sticking with adoptiversary because it includes all of the emotions (both joy and sad) of an anniversary day. Do you have any special traditions that your family does to celebrate adoption?