Monday, December 21, 2009

Catching up

I'm much better; thank you for all of the well-wishes. I haven't felt that bad in quite a while.

On Wednesday I took Emily to the pediatrician. I couldn't figure out where else I would have gotten strep so I assumed it was her. After all, she has had an ear infection and a cough recently. :) Her strep screen came back negative, so I was once again in the dark as to where the strep had come from.

On Thursday, I returned to work to try to cram everything into one day that needed to get done before I was out for the rest of the year. I didn't really have that much energy and didn't feel very good (my throat still hurt a lot) but I did get things wrapped up.

Friday was great. The kids and I made butter from the cream from our raw milk and meringue cookies for a tea I was going to that night. But Friday morning I got a call from the pediatrician--Emily's strep culture came back positive! We started her on amoxicillin that evening. She never seemed to be feeling bad and hadn't had any troubles eating or drinking, so I don't know if it wasn't a bad case or if she was just starting to come down with my strep.

The weekend was pretty calm and we spent time at home. Mark put in a new window and Saturday night I made his birthday dinner. It was a few days late but still delicious (I made a cake on his birthday) and we had it after the kids were in bed, just the two of us.

Today I sent Emily to preschool so I could take the three big kids to my work holiday party at a bowling alley. They had a blast (as did I!) thanks to one of my wonderful co-workers who helped me help the kids bowl. While I would have loved to bring Emily, she would not have enjoyed it nearly as much as the other kids and she had a great time at preschool today. She made a super-cute angel ornament for the tree that she is very proud of. :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sick mama

Sorry for the dearth of posts. I actually have one that's about ready to post but I just haven't been able to finish it up.

Saturday I started feeling achy and had a slight sore throat. The aches got worse over the weekend and I assumed I was coming down with the flu. I had miserable nights Saturday and Sunday even with Nyquil, so when I got up on Monday I took my temperature. I had a low-grade fever but still felt awful. I went into work for a few hours and then went home and slept until I picked the kids up from school.

Today I stayed home from work and went to the doctor. I have to feel really bad to go to the doctor, but I just couldn't take it anymore. The aches were doing better but my throat was killing me. I had looked at it in the mirror and it wasn't a pretty sight.

The doctor's office was able to get me in this morning. My best guess was either flu or strep but I didn't think it was flu since I hadn't had a high fever. The CNP said it's unusual for adults to get strep--they have to have pretty significant exposure.

The test came back positive for strep. I start antibiotics today. Hopefully I'll be feeling better within the next 24 hours. I'm certainly not sure I can feel much worse. Right now I'm just hoping none of the kids come down with it, although if they do at least it will be Christmas break and we'll all be at home together!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A 10-minute fever?

Yesterday I got a call from the preschool that Emily was running a 100.4 degree fever. She also had some drainage from her ear. Her ear has been draining for several days (a result of the tubes in her ears which apparently work very well!) from a mild ear infection but is finally almost done. The infection hasn't seemed to bother her at all and she hasn't been feverish so we've been letting it run its course.

Preschool policy is that with a fever of 100 degrees or above the child must go home so I went and picked Emily up. She was not happy to be leaving school as she wanted to stay and play. :) As soon as we got home I took her temp again with an oral digital thermometer so I'd know if I needed to give her any medicine--98.0. I put her down for a nap since it was preschool nap time too and then took her temp again after the nap--98.2.

She played and laughed and ate and had a great day (we had lots of fun together at home! :)) and I took her temp again at bedtime--98.6.

We haven't given her any medication but I can't understand why the thermometer (a forehead scanner) at school would register over 100 if she's not running a fever.

After talking to the preschool, they agreed to let us send her back today. Normal policy is that they must be fever-free for 24 hours but none of us are convinced that she was actually running a fever. We'll see how she does today!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Little white lies

Yesterday Alex told me he only had one paper to bring home. It was a phonics paper that he had done pretty well on, so we corrected a couple of things (he's still struggling with rhyming so we go over those when he misses them) and then he was off to play. When we had finished his paper he went to get his backpack. I assumed he was going to put the finished paper in his backpack since that's what we do on papers that need to be redone and sent back to school. But this one didn't need to go back which he knew.

"Where are you going?"
"To get my folder..."
"I don't know."
"Do you have any other papers in your folder?"

So he went off to play and I put the finished paper on the kids' stack of school work (I take pictures of it and then it goes in the recycle bin).

Later that night, after all of the kids were in bed, I was putting their bake sale money** in their backpacks. Tim wasn't getting to participate since he has had a couple of miserable days at school behavior-wise and we consider bake sale to be a special treat. As I pulled Alex's folder out, I realized that there were TWO more papers in his backpack--both papers that needed to be completed or redone. He knew the papers were there as he got the other paper (the one that didn't need to be redone) out of the same folder. So he deliberately hid the other papers from me and then lied about it.

I was not happy. And he is not getting bake sale today. We will also be having a discussion after school about his choices yesterday and why he will now be bringing his backpack to me after school each day until he shows me I can trust him again.

**Each class at the school can host bake sale days to raise money for their class or for something else, like a child they are sponsoring through missions. The kids can bring a quarter and buy something at the bake sale--usually a cookie or a Little Debbie or Hostess treat.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Living large

Sunday afternoon was our fall band concert. Mark and I both play for the Meramec Symphonic Band through Meramec Community College. The wonderful friends of ours who came to sit with the kids asked us how we have time to do this.

We don't.

The original plan was for one of us to play this semester, but then they were desperate for another euphonium so Mark ended up playing too. It's too hard to get babysitters every Thursday night, so we alternate rehearsal nights and then beg people to come sit with the kids at the concert. :) The kids love the music and usually do really they get bribed with cookies after the concert if they behave. ;)

After the concert all of the kids got their cookies (they all picked M&M cookies--M&Ms are a current favorite among the kids...I think they just like saying "MmMs" which is how it is pronounced by all of them) and they also got some "juice". I didn't realize until I tried mine that it was juice plus some kind of clear soda. I warned the kids that they might not like it because it was "spicy" (their word for carbonated) and that if they didn't like it they could have water. Alex and Emily both tried it and although Alex said he liked it they both asked for water instead. Tim and Danielle both drank it and seemed to like it.

The expression on Tim's face was priceless when I had told him what was in it. He took a sip, got a big grin on his face and said, "There's SODA in here??" I love that it's a super special treat when they get soda. They know it doesn't happen often so it makes it that much more of a treat!

Monday, December 07, 2009

"Boys"-e State

At dinner tonight we were talking about football. Tim said he would like to see some people play football. Mark asked him if he'd like to fly down to Florida and see TCU (go Frogs!) play Boise State.

Tim replied with "What kind of boys are they?"

To which I got the giggles so bad I almost had to leave the table. It was even funnier because Tim knew we were laughing at him and that he'd said something funny (which he likes because he's a ham) but he couldn't figure out why the question was so funny.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


Mark recently replaced the thermostat upstairs with a digital one. After making sure it would work with the radiators and that we still had heat, we decided to swap out the downstairs one too. After getting it all hooked up, we needed two AA batteries to run the thermostat. Since our extra batteries were upstairs and the kids were all sleeping, I asked Mark what I could take batteries out of to use until we could put new ones in.

"Why don't you take them out of the TV remote?"

Yeah, that was the first place he thought to take them out of. Can you tell we don't use the TV much?

Unfortunately, the new thermostat is not working and we have no heat downstairs. Good thing we have therapy, dinner, and bed tonight and not much time to play downstairs!

Edited to add: We came home to heat! Mark was able to fix the thermostat before the kids and I got home from therapy. :)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


In first grade, they are working on addition and subtraction. Only they don't call it subtraction. They call it "taking away." Unfortunately for my English-challenged son, what he learns in one area always carries over to another.

"Mama, I got an A take-away on my math paper. That's not good, is it?"

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

MRI results

We received the MRI results a while back but I hadn't posted because, well, there's not much to report. Here's the official info I was given:

"Sequelae of global ischemic injury in the ventricular area; not classic for prematurity but that is a possibility"

That's it.

But what does it mean???

Well, it means at some point, probably during childbirth, Danielle's brain experienced decreased blood flow and thus oxygen. This is possibly the cause of her balance and coordination issues. Or not. We still don't know. So we'll keep doing what we're doing and watch her improve every day! :)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A weekend with family

Mark had to work on Friday so we drove down to my mom's house Friday night. The kids slept a bit in the car and then we put them straight to bed when we got there. They settled back in nicely and were soon asleep. They've been excited all week about going to Babushka's house. It's been part of Tim's prayers every day--"Thank you I'm so excited we're going to Babushka's house!"

Saturday was a blast. We had lots of people at my mom's house for lunch: 1 from the top generation (my granddad), 4 from my mom's generation, 10 from my generation, and 9 from our kids' generation. Total: 16 adults, 8 kids, and 7 dogs. I was so thankful it was nice outside. ;)

The kids did wonderful and played with their extended family all day. I did put Emily down for a nap in the early afternoon and she was asleep within minutes. I'm sure the other three could have slept as well but they were really doing well. I was watching for some of their typical signs of overload or exhaustion but everyone was doing great so I let them continue playing. The biggest highlight of the weekend for me was with Emily. She did not fling herself on anyone (in part because we didn't let her get to that state of exhaustion) but she did have appropriate contact with people. She was looking at pictures on my cousin's camera and Wendy was sitting down and Emily just leaned against her gently with her hand on Wendy's knee. She didn't wrap her arms around her leg or ask to sit in her lap or any of the other behaviors we have seen in the past with people she doesn't know. At the end of the day when my sister and her husband were leaving, I was holding Emily. I intentionally passed Emily to Jon for a hug, took her back, then passed her to my sister for a hug. In the past, whenever she has had physical contact with people outside of our immediate family she would wake up screaming at night.

She didn't wake up. :) She slept all night long without a problem.

I'm so excited to see Emily's emotional growth as she learns what a family and specifically what a mama and a papa are and do. I was very intentional about the way I passed her to people for hugs. I wanted her to understand that I decide who is acceptable for her to hug and that she is not allowed to just go hug whomever she wants. That was the reason behind passing her to my brother-in-law then taking her back before passing her to my sister. I don't know if it really makes a difference. But it seems to me that even if it's not a conscious difference to her that it may stick subconsciously that "mama is in control and mama lets me hug people who are safe." I'm hoping we can continue to build on her understanding of our role in her world so that she will look to us for guidance as she expands her social network.

All of the kids slept so well Saturday night. :) Sunday they played a little bit but we headed home pretty early to make sure we were home in time to get ready for the week. I really dislike getting home late after a long weekend. We end up having a miserable time at bedtime and it just feels like a bad start to the week. It was great to get home and have the afternoon to unpack and relax at home. Baths and bedtime went really smoothly and they were all asleep within 15 minutes. :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

It wasn't much of a Thanksgiving to speak of. :) We are going to visit family over the weekend so we didn't plan an elaborate dinner for Thursday (or really any dinner at all).

We did a LOT of yardwork in the morning. Danielle apparently loves to haul bricks, so she spent a couple of hours picking up brick pieces and putting them in a bucket. She'd let Mark know when it was full so he could empty it then she'd go right back to filling it up again! The other kids helped with pulling weeds and taking them to the dumpster behind the house. We had a great time as a family and Tim asked later that afternoon if we could do more yardwork. We had filled the dumpster so it wasn't an option, but I assured him we could do more in a few days. :)

For dinner I pulled out a lasagna I had made at a freezer cooking session with some friends from work. I had just gotten dinner set on the table when Mark announced that he wanted all of us to go outside to watch the space shuttle and international space station go by. I was less than enthused about this idea since dinner was on the table, it was cold outside, and I really didn't think we'd see anything. But we left dinner and trooped outside to stand on the porch. In just a few minutes, we saw them! It was SO cool, and well worth waiting on dinner!

When we went back inside to sit down, I noticed that Emily's lasagna was all gone. I thought wow, I didn't think she'd eaten that much before we went outside when I realized that she hadn't. A certain canine in our house had taken advantage of our few moments' absence and helped herself to Emily's lasagna. Good thing I didn't make a turkey! :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A funny conversation

Alex: How do you get to go up in space?
Mark: You have to go to college for a long time.
Alex: Oh...I've been to college.
Mark: You have? Do you even know how to spell "college"?
Alex: Nooo...but I can spell "cat"...C-A-T. ...And I can spell "dog"... D-O-G.
Mark: Well, you should be all set.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Recent pictures

The infamous cutting (yes, she's probably going to be a lefty but we leave the choice up to her)

All four of them playing together! This is actually a pretty common sight at our house. Since they're all relatively close in age, they enjoy a lot of the same activities. (They're decorating the chairs on the deck with chalk.)

My little Native American. She was so proud of her "costume" and that I was there to watch her!

I love this picture of Danielle and her friend Isaiah. They were sharing some giggles before the Thanksgiving program started.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Continual therapy

We try to incorporate a lot of therapy into the kids play in non-obtrusive ways. In fact, with pretty much everything they do I look for opportunities to tack on some therapy--my definition of therapy being structured activities to help bridge gaps or repair deficits in their knowledge or skills.

Here are some of our current "therapies":

Emily struggles with going up and down stairs and jumping. Her legs are not strong enough yet although they are amazingly stronger than when she came home. To work on her leg muscles and her jumping, we have been playing a game where she climbs onto a phone book and "jumps" off. It's not usually a jump (she usually steps off one foot at a time) but she has jumped a couple of times and I make a big deal out of it. I sit in front of her to encourage her and to catch her if she loses her balance. We also work on stepping up and down on the phone book alternating legs. I've also worked some on this with Danielle, but I usually try to keep it to one child at a time. The benefit to doing two or three at a time is we also work on taking turns. :)

All of the kids LOVE to cut. If you want to keep them busy for an hour, give them paper and scissors. :) Danielle does a great job using the scissors but struggles with being able to cut productively, so we've made a game out of me drawing lines on the paper for her to cut. First we started with straight lines which she can cut really well. Then we did zigzags which I stapled into crowns for the kids. Now we are working on circles (these are really hard for her--even big circles). Part of the problem is that she thought she was trying to save the paper on the outside of the circles so she would cut her circles apart in the process of trying to "cut out" the outside edges. Now I've given her incentive to cut out the circles. When she finishes her circles, I put a happy face on one side and a sad face on the other. Then we talk about "happy" and "sad" and the corresponding faces. This is great for language and emotional development, too. :)

We drink raw milk that we get from a local farmer. Recently, I've started skimming the cream off of the top and we've started making butter. On Saturday the kids helped me with this. We all looked at the cream as it started, then passed the container (a clear plastic container) around and took turns shaking it (which was really good for some of my coordination-challenged kids!). We practiced listening for the sound of the liquid and looking inside the container to see what was happening. They loved that we had butter at the end so we had fun and a good "lesson" at the same time.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Kind of left you hanging there, didn't I? I didn't realize it's been a week since I posted. :)

We been having lots of family time which has been great. This weekend was the boys' end-of-year soccer party. We held it in the skating rink of the church associated with their school and everyone had a great time! Obviously, this was the first time the girls had ever been on roller skates and the second time for the boys. Alex can skate independently! He doesn't even need to hold on to the wall. I was SO impressed. Skating requires quite a bit of focus for balance and motor planning (not his strong suits with the apraxia although he doesn't have global apraxia) so it was amazing to see him so comfortable on skates. Tim would have done well on the skates except he's a ham so he prefers to wave his arms in the air, shout "WHOOOAAAA!" all the time and fall down a lot. Silly boy.

The girls liked the skates but weren't particularly coordinated on them. :) Danielle spent most of the time going around hanging on to someone (most of the adults kept our shoes on to make it easier to help the kids) but had a good time. She really liked it when she figured out she could skate/walk on some mats in the middle of the rink. Then it wasn't as slippery and she had padding when she fell down! :) Emily had a hard time keeping her feet on the floor, but she liked it so I think she'll do much better the next time she skates.

Most of the other kids there (first grade boys) also hadn't been on skates but maybe once before so everyone was on even footing. That was nice, and it was nice to see Alex succeeding at something some of his classmates were struggling with. He doesn't get to experience that very often and I hope we can find more areas where he can "see" success.

This was a really nice way to do this since we wouldn't normally take the girls to a skating rink this soon since they're usually pretty loud and crowded. This one is small (in the basement of the church) and there were only about 20 of us there total so there was lots of room and not too much noise (other than Tim!).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Six months home (plus a bit)

The girls have now been home for 6 months so I thought some of you might like an update.

Danielle: She walks nearly normally now and her legs have gotten so much stronger. A month or two ago when she was walking I could tell that her ankles were turning in due to weakness--even that has now corrected itself! We are constantly getting comments from parents and teachers at school about how much her walking and balance has improved. Danielle is VERY social and all of her classmates love her (the feeling is mutual). She loves school and loves to tell me all of the things she does each day. Her English is coming along really well. We can actually have conversations now and swap questions and answers. There are still times when she says things and I say "what??" and she shrugs and smiles and says "I no know" because she's trying to tell me something but she doesn't actually know the English word for it. She is such a funny girl--her new favorite word is "yeehaw" (they just studied cowboys in school). Danielle has gained 8 lbs in 6 months and weighs nearly as much as her brothers!

Emily: Our little talker is having a language explosion! Her speech is getting much clearer with her obdurator although most people would be hard-pressed to understand much of it. She absolutely loves to sing and walks around in the afternoons asking me to sing with her. Emily wants to do everything the big kids do and they do a really good job of looking after her (and tattling when she's doing things she's not supposed to!). She showers just like the big kids and has gained at least 5 lbs since coming home. She can dress and undress herself with the occasional exception of shirts (she has a hard time getting them off by herself). Emily is our snuggler and we usually spend 15-20 minutes in the afternoon with me "slinging" her without a sling. I hold her on my hip but tuck her right arm behind me and drop her down a bit and she snuggles into my chest. I think this has been great for her bonding. I've debated actually getting a sling (baby wrap, etc.) but since she's already at 30 lbs I'm not sure how much longer we'd be able to use it. We've seen a great decrease in her attempts to hug anything in sight but we still watch her like a hawk and usually head things off before she even gets a chance to try. Oh, and Emily can now run. And I do mean run. When we first got home she could barely walk so it's great to watch her take off after her siblings (although she gets mad when she can't catch them!).

Let me know if you have any questions about where they're at developmentally and their progress since coming home. I tried to hit some of the highlights but I might have left off some things that people would like to know. :)

I should mention that I LOVE the six-month mark. It just seems to feel like things are settling down at about 6 months home. Language is no longer such a barrier and I really start feeling a connection to the kids after 6 months. I felt this same way with the boys. I'm not sure if I need 6 months to adjust to them or they need that 6 months to adjust to family life, but either way it's great to see how far we've all come!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Comment moderation

Since I like to know who is talking with me :) I have enabled comment moderation. All unsigned posts will be deleted without posting. I could have removed the "Anonymous" option from the Comments but I know there are people who would like to be able to comment but do not have a Google or OpenID login. This way, you can still comment as anonymous but if you don't leave your name on your comment it will be deleted before it ever reaches the blog.

I am always happy to hear from differing viewpoints and it is so valuable to me to know what techniques have worked (or not!) for other parents. I get lots of great ideas and valuable thinking material from those of you who have been there, done that and are willing to share your experiences, so please keep those comments coming! :)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Too old

On Friday I was finishing up tucking the boys in. Tim asked me how old I was, to which I replied 33. He looked at me for a second, then said "You're getting old, Mama." I laughed and said yes, I am. He looked at me a little longer and then said "No, you're getting really old."

With an introspective look on his face..."You're going to die soon."

By this point I was really laughing and said no, I think I'm okay for awhile.

What was really funny about it is that he wasn't saying it as though he was worried, just very matter-of-fact. Apparently 33 is the new 90! :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Narrow escape

On Tuesday I got a call from school (which always sets my heart pounding, by the way). They were concerned about Danielle. She was saying that her teeth hurt and they thought she felt warm, but they couldn't get a good temperature reading off of her. She didn't really want to play and didn't eat any of her lunch. Using my so-finely-honed mother's instinct ;), I told them to let her stay at school as long as she didn't have a fever.

They called me back an hour before school was over asking if someone could come get her as they just didn't think she felt well. By the time I could have gotten there I couldn't have gotten her home before I had to pick up the other kids as well, so I said no and that I would pick her up after school (still no fever).

When we got home, she seemed to be fine. A little slower than usual, but I attributed that to the fact that she hadn't eaten. She ate a good dinner and at bedtime she was again complaining that her teeth hurt. I began to suspect that she might be getting her 6-year molars in so I gave her some pain medicine and sent her to bed. She slept like a log and has been fine ever since--other than occasionally complaining that her teeth hurt and pointing to the back of her mouth. I have clarified with her that it's her teeth and not her throat and her throat is not red at all so I'm pretty sure it's really her teeth.

Danielle was just at the dentist in September. They did x-rays then and her teeth look great, so I'm not concerned about decay. I think either her molars are coming in or they're moving around in preparation for coming in. She'll be 6 in February so she's not too terribly early for them.

I was a little worried that we weren't going to be able to dodge the flu, but so far so good! Let's hope we can keep it at bay!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Reece's Rainbow and the Angel Tree

Many of you who have followed our blog for awhile are aware that we first learned about our girls through Reece's Rainbow. Reece's Rainbow is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to advocating for orphans with Down Syndrome and other special needs. Reece's Rainbow does not act as an agency in any way but simply works to find families for children who are cast aside by their societies because of the stigma of their needs.

A large portion of the work that Reece's Rainbow does is collecting donations to be used as grants for children. There are many families interested in adoption, but oftentimes the cost seems overwhelming. A typical international adoption costs on average about $25,000. While that sounds like a lot, most reports list the average price for a car in 2009 to be $20,000. And if you're going to spend $20,000, is it better to spend it on the life of a child or a new car?

That said, it's easy to get a loan for a car. It's not usually as easy to get a loan for an adoption. There's that small problem of collateral, you see. :) And for most people, coming up with $25,000 in a relatively short time frame--usually one year or less--can be completely out of reach.

That's why Reece's Rainbow works to secure donations, both for children who do not have committed families and for families who are already committed to a child and are working to bring that child home.

Every Christmas, Reece's Rainbow hosts their Christmas Angel Tree. Running from November 1-December 31, 2009, the Christmas Angel Tree is the most important fundraiser of every year, and historically also corresponds to the highest number of children finding their "forever families" as well. Their goal is to raise $1000 or more for each of the nearly 200 waiting children with Down syndrome. When you donate $35 or more for a child on the Christmas Angel Tree you will receive a beautiful porcelain photo ornament of your sponsered child. Last year, my in-laws sponsored a child in my name (Annalise, scroll down to find her) and the beautiful ornament with her sweet face will be hanging on our tree again this year.

The Christmas Angel Tree only highlights orphans with Down Syndrome, but there are many other children waiting for families as well.

Two of the other children who are currently waiting for a family are Cathryn and Connor. Because we like to adopt siblings, I am advocating for Cathryn and Connor this Christmas in the hopes that by increasing their grant fund a family will be able to step up to adopt them. I have added a Chip-in to the side of our blog. By clicking on it, you will be able to donate money directly to Cathryn and Connor's grant fund through Reece's Rainbow. All donations are tax-deductible. Since Cathryn and Connor are not part of the Christmas Angel Tree, you will not receive an ornament for donating to their fund. Perhaps I will try to come up with something I can send to people who donate. :)

And the inevitable question...why don't we adopt them? :) :)

At this point we are not ready to start another adoption. The girls have not yet been home for 6 months. While we do not know if God is finished growing our family, we are not being called to adopt again just yet. But these two children have touched my heart with their sweet faces and the knowledge that they have so much potential in a family with resources to help them. Adopting siblings is a big challenge, but we are proof that it can be done. For us, the benefits to our children of having a sibling who has experienced the same history as they have far outweigh the relatively minor difficulties associated with bring home more than one child at a time.

Please consider donating any amount to Cathryn and Connor. If every person who had ever visited our blog (over 106,000 hits) had donated $1 every time they visited, we could have fully funded 5 adoptions by now! It may not seem like much, but even a gift of $1 can be that extra little push a family needs to bring their child or children home.

If you are not interested in sponsoring Cathryn and Connor, please consider visiting the Christmas Angel Tree and sponsoring one of the other children. They all desperately need the love, care, and hope that families bring. What better Christmas gift could you give to a child than a family?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

What we learned this week

  • Emily is not allergic to bee stings
  • Danielle does very well with sedation when there are no pain meds involved
  • Alex can do his work consistently at school
  • Tim does not have ringworm (it's seborrheic dermatitis--the equivalent of cradle cap...thought I got to miss out on that one!)
  • Impetigo responds well to prescription antibiotic ointment (all 4 of them have it!)
Can I venture to say that it's been a long week??

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Danielle's MRI

Today was Danielle's MRI on her brain and spine. This was requested by the CP clinic at the Children's Hospital as a standard procedure for all of their patients. We aren't sure what, if anything, it will show, but we should know within the next week or so.

This was a much nicer experience with sedation than her eye surgery. After her eye surgery, she was in pain and couldn't see clearly, plus she'd had strong painkillers and she didn't feel good. This time, she only had an IV sedative (no painkillers) and she woke up really groggy but happy. I actually wished I'd brought the camera because she was so funny. The first words out of her mouth were "goooo....hummm"--she was ready to go! But she had to eat and drink before they'd let us leave. It didn't take her long to get some animal crackers and water down and then we headed out to have lunch with Mark. It's very rare for any of the kids to get to spend time alone with both of us so that was a special treat for Danielle. She really wanted to go back to school but her balance was still a little off so I kept her at home the rest of the day.

Danielle did a great job with all of the doctors and she was more comfortable this time than the last (which was only a couple of months after coming home). As soon as we walked into the prep area (which looked somewhat similar to where we'd been for her eye surgery) she started whimpering but was able to be calmed down and comforted easily. We made a game out of counting how many "doctors" she saw (we counted nurses and techs as doctors too). They did a novocaine patch before her IV placement (in her hand) and as she watched the needle coming in for the stick she kept saying "ow, ow" and then as soon as it touched her and she realized she couldn't feel it she stopped and just watched. She did such a great job and didn't cry at all, although she most definitely would not let me out of her sight. I was fine with that and we did lots of snuggling before the MRI during all of the prep work.

It was once again a great experience at SLCH. I'll post as soon as we hear results.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


I must confess to not being a big fan of Halloween. I don't particularly like scary things--there are enough things to scare me in real life that I don't get any pleasure out of artificially scaring myself.

I do remember with great joy, however, my own childhood trick-or-treating--and maybe a bit beyond childhood if I'm truly honest ;). It was so much fun to go with my parents and later my friends and go door-to-door (hoping for as much chocolate as possible).

Since Mark had to work both Saturday and Sunday (yeah, 12 straight days of work for him!) we went to church on Saturday night. We picked up pizza on the way home and then I put the girls to bed while Mark took the boys trick-or-treating around our neighborhood. We'd had a long day with soccer and lots of playing outside and the girls were just wiped out. We did promise Danielle that she could go trick-or-treating next year. She really wanted to go and we simply told her she was still too little.

The boys' costumes were not elaborate to say the least. Tim wore the police coat that Alex wore last year and Alex wore his costume from school on Friday. Friday all of the kids dressed up with a theme for their class. Tim and Danielle's classes both did "community workers" so Danielle wore the police coat and Tim was a "truck workman" (his concoction, which apparently requires a hard hat and a blue shirt). Alex's class was supposed to dress up as someone from the food service industry.

I struggled with what to send him as for awhile. I wanted to make sure it was something where he would understand what his job was. I debated a waiter (using a bow tie) but he's never been to that kind of restaurant. ;) I thought about a chef because he has an apron that will fit him, but I thought it would cause restricted movement at school and be hard to play around. Finally it hit me. He could go as a nutritionist! They've been studying "good" and "bad" food at school so he could understand the basic concept that a nutritionist is someone who tells people which foods are "good" and "bad." I pinned up an old lab coat of Mark's and sewed on a name tag that read "Alexander ..., Nutritionist." I had told Alex I would put his name on it..."Alex ..., Nutritionist" and he corrected me and said no, ALEXANDER ... apparently that's his professional name. ;)

One of our biggest goals for our children is to help them be successful with where they're at. There are a lot of concepts that Alex still just doesn't get. He's been hearing and speaking English for less than 2 years and he still hasn't experienced a lot of things that kids growing up here would have experienced by age 7. By seeking things he can be successful in now, we hope to give him the confidence to continue to grow beyond his past and succeed in all areas of life.

As he was taking off his lab coat Saturday night, he turned to me and said "Mama, I really like this costume." :)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nolan Stark

One of my favorite parts of having our kids attend a Christian school is all of the historical Bible and Christian characters they learn about. Just last week at therapy, Tim and Danielle were playing Nolan Stark in the waiting room. I must confess to not being terribly familiar with this important personage of Biblical history.

Time was able to enlighten me through his play as I heard the following lines:

"Quick, Danielle, get in the Nolan Stark before God shuts the door! It's going to rain!"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Coping with bedwetting

We have a bedwetter. I've mentioned that before so that's not particularly interesting news. It's one of the boys which is not uncommon given his age and the fact that he is an amazingly sound sleeper. Up until recently, he wore pullups to bed at night. We had tried a few different options and those were definitely the easiest. There were no punishments for wetting his pullups even though we thought that at least some of the time he was waking up but not getting up to go to the bathroom.

A couple of months ago I had a conversation with this particular boy that changed how we handle the bedwetting. It was bedtime and I was reminding/encouraging him to get up and go to the bathroom if he needed to go in the night.

"Why? I can just pee in my pullup."

That didn't sit so well with his mama.

Within a couple of days the pullups were completely gone (although I have a few saved for trips so don't worry if we're coming to visit you ;)) and we now have a new system in place. If he wets the bed, he strips his sheets, wipes down the plastic mattress pad cover with a wipe, and puts the wet sheets and pajamas in the bathroom. Then as soon as we get home from school, he has to go upstairs and make his bed with clean sheets before he can play.

We've had some tears over this new system but only over the making of the bed. I showed him how to do it but I do not help him make the bed in the afternoons. He is old enough and perfectly capable of making his bed. We are not treating this as punishment for wetting the bed; rather, it is taking responsibility for your actions (intentional or not). He is still wetting the bed--I would say 3-4 times a week. But I have also heard him get up and go to the bathroom at night which was pretty rare before. I'm really hoping that he is waking up at least a little when he wets the bed so that his body can start training him to wake up when he needs to go.

While it may sound like this new system puts a lot of burden on the boy, let me mention that it has increased my laundry load tremendously. It would be much easier to use the pullups. But I don't think that would be helpful to him in helping his body learn when it needs to wake up. And his future wife will be amazed at how well he makes the bed someday--he's getting lots of practice!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The theology of boys

Tim: Mama, how old is God?
M: Oh, he's pretty old. He's been around forever.
Tim: Is he 21?
M: No, much older than that.
Tim: Is he 121?
M: No, even older than that.
Tim: When I go to heaven, I'm going to ask God how old He is.
M: That sounds like a great idea.
Tim: But you go first and ask Him, okay?
M: Okay.
Tim: 'Cause you're going to heaven first, right?
M: I'm pretty sure.
Tim: So you go to heaven, then Alex and me, but not the girls because they're sisters.
M: Oh really?
Tim: Yeah. Sisters don't go to heaven. You just used to be a sister. So you can go to heaven now.

Oh how they make me laugh...dinnertime is never dull at our house!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What do I say??

I'm hoping you guys can help me out here.

Quite frequently when I am out with the kids I get comments. I've gotten the "Are they all yours?" question a lot. So far, my favorite response to my response of yes was the man yesterday who said "Congratulations!" I like that a lot better than "Wow, you've got your hands full." :)

But there's one comment I've gotten several different times that I just can't figure out a good response. It inevitably comes up from women who ask if any of them are twins (or occasionally, triplets). When I say no, they are 7, 6, 5, and 4 years old, I quite frequently get the comment of "oh my goodness, you were pregnant for four years!" LOL

In not all cases is it necessary or beneficial to share that all of the kids were adopted. I'm still torn as to how much of their history I should share and how much I should let them share if they so desire. They know they were all adopted and we frequently talk about Ukraine, things that happened while the boys were still in Ukraine (that Mark and I did before they joined the family), and things that happened while the girls were still in Ukraine. It's really part of our dinnertime conversation (as in Tim saying "no, you didn't go there Danielle--you were still in 'kraine") and I'm not sure the kids realize there's any other way to join a family.

At the same time, when the pregnancy comment is made it is usually by people I don't know and won't ever see again and quite often that I am only seeing for a few minutes while waiting in line somewhere.

I figure I've got a couple of options. I could smile and say something like "It would appear so" and leave it at that. Or I could say "Actually, they were all adopted" and let them ask any questions they want. Part of my dilemma is that I don't want the kids to think I'm ashamed in any way that they joined our family through adoption, not birth. I don't want them to think I'm not sharing that or correcting people's misconceptions because I don't want people to know. I also don't want to get into an in-depth discussion of our family's history with random people I don't know.

Any thoughts??

Monday, October 26, 2009

The true benefits of having four children

On Saturday night we went to a Trunk-or-Treat at the church of one of my friends from work. We thought it would be a fun, low-key thing to do with the kids and no costumes were required.

They had a BLAST!

There were canival games set up inside (ring toss, bean bag toss, ladder golf, etc.) and free food. The kids played games for awhile and then we ate. Emily got pretty overstimulated pretty quickly--it was loud and there was a lot to see. Usually when she gets overstimulated and/or tired (here she was both, even though she'd had a nap in the afternoon) she gets overly affectionate with anyone and everyone. However, Saturday night she didn't try to hug a single person there!! Woohoo!!!

I did keep her on a short leash. :) She was either holding my hand or in my or Mark's arms the entire night. I'm not stupid and I'm not going to give her the opportunity to try to hug other people. :) But there were a few times that she could have reached out for people and she didn't--not once. It was great.

The other kids had a great time. I think it helps Danielle to have the boys lead the way. She always watched intently as they played the games first and then she took a turn. Alex really got into the games and he had so much fun.

After the games and food we went into the parking lot for the Trunk-or-Treat. For those of you not familiar with this, people park their cars in a parking lot and then open their trunks and you go from car to car trick-or-treating. It's usually safer than trick-or-treating on the streets and it's a little more controlled...perfect for our bunch.

The kids loved the trick-or-treating and wow did we come home with a lot of candy. I never really thought about how much we would multiply our candy haul with four kids! I decided we don't need to buy any candy for Halloween now...we can just pass out what we collected Saturday night. ;) Tim didn't get to trick-or-treat part of the time as he decided he didn't want to be polite and say thank you after people gave him candy. Not allowed in our household so he missed out on several cars due to a lack of manners.

The kids haven't even eaten any of the candy yet. They went straight to bed when we got home Saturday night and they never asked about it on Sunday (although they did play with all of their toys and pencils that they acquired there--the plastic frogs that you push on to make jump were a HUGE hit!).

Don't worry, I'm taking one for the team and making sure the kids don't get too much of the candy. And yes, I will be the one still on a sugar high at Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I never thought I'd be buying denture adhesive at this stage of life

Indeed I am.

But that's really great news because it means Emily has her obdurator!

We went last Monday to pick it up but it didn't fit quite right. The orthodontist wanted to make some adjustments so we arranged to come and pick it up on Thursday. None of us noticed what the real problem was until then.

Emily's impressions were made by her pediatric dentist when she was sedated for all of her (four!) root canals. None of us thought anything about it, but he did the impressions before the root canals and crowns which makes sense since he wouldn't want the impression goop to pull off her new crowns.

Only...he wasn't able to save one of her teeth. A tooth that was still present in the impressions when the orthodontist made her obdurator. A tooth that was supposed to support one of the wires for her obdurator.

So while the orthodontist adjusted it as best he could, he recommended that we use denture adhesive to hold it in place until she gets used to having it in and can keep it in herself. They recommended that we try to have her wear it about an hour a day until she gets used to it and gradually build up.

Thursday and Friday she wore it for a few minutes at a time. I was still trying to figure out how much denture adhesive to use (it says use sparingly at first and I took them at their word!) and wasn't using enough to keep it in place. Saturday she wore it for about 45 minutes and today she wore it for a few hours! Once it's in she forgets about it so I think she'll be used to it in no time. She hasn't tried eating a whole meal with it in yet so that will be an adventure.

It's pretty amusing to hear her talk. Her S's are completely gone. Without the obdurator she makes S's by sending air through her nasal cavity (the equivalent of making the S sound with your mouth open for those of us with a cleft palate) and she doesn't know how to do it when the hole is closed odd. It's funny because she can tell she can't say the S's but she can't figure out how to do it yet.

Once she gets used to the obdurator she will wear it pretty much 24 hours a day. We'll take it out once a day for cleaning (with denture tablets!) but she will eat and sleep with it in.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The scariest time of the year

No, not Halloween. Parent-teacher conferences. ;)

In all honesty, they went about as expected.

Alex does well when he applies himself and pays attention, but he has a really hard time focusing. He's really struggling with the concept of money (he knows pennies, dimes, nickels, and quarters but struggles with adding up coins of different denominations) but his addition and subtraction are making good progress. His handwriting has greatly improved although he has his days of being sloppy on occasion (shhh...don't tell, but he has better handwriting than some of the other kids in his class!!). Rhyming is killing him...I've got to find a way to teach it to him visually at least as a starting point. He doesn't get that the ends need to sound the same for two words to rhyme. He continues to do amazingly well in spelling, including spelling dinosaur, October, and September right on his verbal spelling tests!

Tim is doing great with phonics and numbers but gets bored in class and acts up. I'm not a bit surprised. We did most of the stuff they've been working on in kindergarten over the summer. His handwriting could stand a lot of improvement but until they get into second semester he's going to continue to be bored with the work.

Danielle loves school and it shows. She's had some behavior issues but usually not the same one twice. :) Most of that is just trying to figure out how this life-outside-the-orphanage works. Her teacher was a little concerned that she didn't know her colors or her numbers yet, but I assured her that Danielle is right on track with where she should be at 5 months home.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A few notables

Emily faceplanted off of the island in the kitchen. Yes, I know I shouldn't sit her up there, but it lets her watch and keeps her out from underfoot while I'm cooking. She leaned a little too far and went right off the edge. Good thing her nose is already a little flat. ;) She actually wasn't hurt at all, just scared.

I had an argument with Tim about Alex. He was stating that Alex didn't like the cars from the Cars movie. I told him he couldn't decide what Alex liked (Tim wanted the Cars pajamas that Alex was wearing). Alex ended the debate when he turned to me and said "No, I don't like the cars in the movie. I just like princesses."

Tim set up the chairs in the therapy waiting room and proceeded to "conduct" a concert while Emily and Alex were in speech.

Danielle has earned a caramel apple and a popcorn ball for excellent behavior at school on two separate days! She kept getting them confused so she kept telling people she got a "caramel popball".

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Meeting a princess

We had a busy weekend although we tried to make it feel pretty relaxed for the kids. Saturday morning was a dress rehearsal for our band concert today. Mark played in the dress rehearsal and I sat with the kids. We listened to a couple of pieces and then I took them out into the hall and we had a picnic lunch (it was way too cold to eat outside). As they finished eating, I sent them to the bathroom and then changed their clothes for the afternoon wedding we were attending.

Alex got all dressed up and then went back in to finish listening to the rehearsal--by himself! He did a great job sitting and listening. He's really growing up in so many ways. :) Tim and the girls stayed out in the hallway with me and I had just finished getting everyone dressed when rehearsal ended. I flew into the bathroom and changed and then we hit the road for a two-hour drive to the wedding. We arrived right as the wedding was starting and were there in time to see the bride walk down the aisle. As soon as Danielle saw Katy, she turned to Mark and said "Princess??" LOL She was infatuated with Princess Katy and her dress. It was adorable and so sweet to see.

The kids did great at the wedding. It helped that it was a Catholic wedding so we did lots of standing up and then sitting back down. Much better for them than sitting down the whole time. :) We had lots of time to play at the reception and the kids got their first taste of buckeyes (peanut butter balls covered in chocolate). We have lots of real buckeyes on our street so when Mark said there were buckeyes on the table to eat both of the boys wanted nothing to do with them until he explained what they were. :)

Sunday afternoon another couple came to the band concert to sit with the kids. They also brought their two boys who are in Alex and Danielle's classes so it was fun for the kids to have some other people there that they knew. All of the kids did really well at the concert. Emily in particular loves to mimic the conductor, although her favorite instrument by far is the cymbals. Tim commented that we also have a xylophone at home (a toy xylophone) like the one at the concert...and that he thinks we need to get some drums for home. Mark wasn't so keen on that idea and I told Tim he'd need to talk to his Aunt Diane (who's a percussionist). :) :)

Friday, October 16, 2009

End to a great week

Alex ended the week really well. He only brought home one unfinished paper each day on Wednesday and Thursday and both of those were completed within 15-20 minutes at home with minimal fuss. I don't know how long it will last--I'm not so naive as to think we won't have a regression or two ;)--but I'm enjoying it and I think he is too!

I won tickets to the circus through another local blog so we all went to the circus Thursday night. The boys have been to Circus Flora but the girls have never been to a circus before. Danielle was a little overwhelmed and scared at the beginning. It was loud and dark with random lights and she had no clue what was going on. But as it went on she enjoyed it more. Emily thought it was the coolest thing ever. The boys liked it except that Alex had some issues with some of the tricks. At one point, they "sawed" one clown in half. Alex was on the other side of Mark, but apparently he was shouting "No, no, don't do it, it will hurt!" to the clowns.

What's really awesome about that is that it shows he is developing theory of mind. One of the components of theory of mind is empathy. When Alex first did testing for his speech apraxia the testers were concerned that he did not show good development of theory of mind--in other words, understanding that other people do not perceive situations the same way you do and may not feel the same way you do. So even though Alex was comfortable in his chair, he was able to understand that a clown was about to be "sawed" in two and that that would hurt that man (that the man was not comfortable just because Alex was comfortable). That is an amazing jump in emotional maturity for him! He was also worried when one of the acrobats was going to jump through a ring of fire.

Friday the kids were off of school (we would NOT have taken them to the circus late at night if they'd had school the next day! ;)) so everyone got to sleep in. Since Alex had done such a good job with his work last week I just let everyone play all day. It was a great day and we had a lot of fun home together!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Please pray

Some friends of ours are having a struggle in their marriage right now. Would you please pray for them? Marriage is something that Mark and I hold in very high regard and we are working to help this couple get some resources, but I know that more than anything what they need right now are prayers.

If you like to pray for specific things, please pray for commitments to behavior change, unity for the family, and healing for the trust that has been broken. Please also pray that all involved in this situation would be able to find resources to help them work through this.

Monday, October 12, 2009

We bled it out of him

No nosebleeds or puking today and...

Alex did ALL of his work at school today!!!

I was so proud of him and gave him lots and lots of praise! I hope he can see the benefits of doing his work at school. He still had work to do at home (from work he didn't get done last week), but not much and it was done quickly and without complaining. I don't know how long this will last, but if he can keep this up we'll be doing some serious celebrating.

In other news, this weekend we moved our bedroom. When we first got set up in this house, we put our bedroom next to the girls' room. I wanted it that way so we'd be able to hear them and get up with them at night right after they came home. Unfortunately, our room is only separated from the girls' room by a set of pocket doors. When we go to bed at night, the light from our room shines into the girls' room and wakes them up and we can't talk at all without waking them.

Yesterday we swapped our bedroom and the kids' playroom. They now have a slightly smaller room but still a good space for play and we now have a bedroom that doesn't border anyone else's bedroom. I am loving it! We've only had one night there and I'm already so glad that we switched. We can still hear all of the kids, but this way we're also not walking by the girls' room as much at night and in the morning on our squeaky hardwood floors. I think this is going to be a much better arrangement for all of us!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

And so...

It was the shortest stomach flu in history. I think it lasted a grand total of about 6 hours. No fever, but Alex did throw up several times and felt very puny. He was done throwing up by Friday afternoon and slept a LOT all day Friday but was still a little under the weather on Saturday. We did let him go to a friend's birthday party on Saturday (after talking to the mom to make sure she was okay with it) and while he didn't have as much energy as usual he had a good time. And he slept really well Saturday night.

Thankfully, although I felt queasy all day Friday, I never threw up. :) Everyone else seems to be fine. I'd say it was something he ate except we all eat the same stuff. Who knows?

Today we got to see my sister and brother-in-law who happened to be in town. We had breakfast with them before they headed home and then we went to church. The kids are doing really well with sitting in church with us. Emily loves to sing which is really cute to watch. She's absolutely amazed when we sing--I'm not sure she had ever heard anyone sing before and didn't realize people could make noises like that. Now that she's figured it out she will walk around the house singing (which I do as well so it's not too surprising).

I'm still concerned about Alex even though he had a great day today. Full of energy, good appetite...really good day all around. But then tonight as he was writing his spelling words he asked for a Kleenex. Since his nose wasn't visibly running, I told him to finish the word he was on and then get one. All of a sudden I hear "MAMA!" and look up to see blood pouring out of his nose. It was a doozy of a bloody nose although we were able to get it stopped within 15-20 minutes. He was a good sport about it after he figured out that it didn't actually hurt and that Mark and I didn't think it was a big deal (or at least that's what it seemed like to him!). I'm hoping he doesn't get one at school although we went over what he needed to do if he got another one and I had him practice squeezing the correct spot on his nose to help stop the bleeding. I don't really mind if he gets one at just makes such a mess and I don't want him to panic over it. Never a dull moment... ;)

Friday, October 09, 2009

I'm glad I'm not a sympathetic puker

Yeah, you might want to stop reading after the title if you have a sensitive stomach. :)

Alex has the stomach flu. Maybe Emily, too, but if so hers is a little further down the line already. I got a call this morning that Alex had thrown up at school. Then I got a call from the preschool that Emily had had a massive diarrhea incident, and since there's been so much stomach flu going around they wanted me to come and get her. Then I got a second call from the school that Alex had thrown up again and needed to go home. And I wasn't feeling so hot myself.

We came home and Alex seemed to feel great--I thought this was another of his "morning sickness" problems which happens on occasion if he gets dehydrated. He was starving at lunch and I let him eat his school lunch, plus a banana.

It all came back up about 45 minutes later. He's been throwing up about every 30 minutes and he just feels yucky. A little while ago he asked to come downstairs. I think he had the idea that if he could get out of bed he would stop throwing up. He was downstairs for about 10 minutes before he requested to go back to bed. :)

Emily's had one more episode of diarrhea but seems to feel great. So if she's got the flu I think it's already working its way out of her system.

I am so grateful for the school our boys attend and that our house is so close. One of the teachers is walking Tim and Danielle home for me since I can't leave Alex and I don't think he'd be able to make the walk right now.

Here's hoping no one else comes down with it!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sometimes my children baffle me

On Monday Emily came home from preschool after a really good day there. But once she got home, as soon as I was out of sight (in another room) she would start wailing and crying uncontrollably. I couldn't figure out what was wrong or what to do with her. I finally ended up laying her down for a few minutes. Unfortunately she fell asleep...since it was 4:30 I didn't really want her taking a nap so I had to wake her up.

You can imagine how well that went over. :) :)

So she went to bed--pajamas and all--at 5pm, was asleep by 5:30, and slept until 6:45am the next morning. I was worried that she might be coming down with something, but she seems to have been fine every day since then. Apparently our weekend just wore her out!

We've been struggling with Tim to get him to memorize his Bible verse for school. Every week they learn a new Bible verse, and since it's the only "homework" they really have in kindergarten we've been strongly encouraging him to work on his Bible verse. This week he knew his Bible verse--reference and all--by Tuesday afternoon! I picked him up from school and he said "Mama! Mama! I know my Bible verse! 'God is love.' 1 John 4:8. You didn't help me!" with lots of dancing around. So funny, and he is so proud of himself. I'm hoping we can encourage at least one of our children that it's easier to do your work than to fight over it.

Alex has had an interesting week. His teacher has been out for a funeral. That has not helped the "getting work done" problem, but I realized yesterday that he has not flipped out over having a substitute teacher. This is huge for him! He does know his sub, but last year that didn't even matter. Last year if he had a sub we saw the consequences at home as well as him having problems at school. This year? No big deal. Yay!

I find joy in every single bit of progress he makes (in part because it keeps me from going crazy over the schoolwork issue ;))! And he continues making lots of progress! :)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


We had a really good weekend.

We had a lot of fun with the kids and Alex worked hard and got ALL of his work done with minimal whining. That in itself was amazing. I had hoped it would carry over into school yesterday.

But no.

He did nothing at school yesterday. And it's not that the work is confusing for him or too difficult--the two papers he brought home completely blank were handwriting. He had to copy the words or letters--already written on the paper--a certain number of times.

I gave him a little over an hour to work on it yesterday (thanks, BT!) and he got almost nothing done. So I sent a note to his teacher today telling her what had happened and asked that she give whatever consequences she thought would work best for him to get his work done. I also suggested one other thing she might try, so we'll see if she takes me up on it.

He has been told he will not go on his upcoming field trip if he is not doing his work. And if his Monday and Tuesday work is not done before this evening, he will not go to soccer practice which means he will not play on Saturday. It's a hard stance to take but we aren't sending him to school to play. He gets plenty of time to play at home.

In other news, I think Mark got a big kick out of watching me work with Alex on his flashcards last night. I told him I was about ready to assist in some further remodeling of our house by taking out some of our plaster walls. By banging my head on them. ;) A couple of the walls only need one or two good blows to bring them down, so I figured I could have taken several walls out last night. If I'm going to be frustrated, I might as well put it to good use!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Crazy week

Alex is driving us crazy. He has basically stopped doing his work at school which means he has to do it at home. It is making my afternoons nuts to be trying to get dinner on the table, help Tim and Danielle with any homework they may have, and keep Emily entertained all while listening to the whines of "I can't do it...I can't find it...I can't...I can't" (which, by the way, he can, and when he stops talking he gets his work done very quickly).

Tuesday night I hit a wall and said no more. Yelled it is probably more like it. :)

I told Alex that because he wasn't doing his work at school that he would not be going to school.

What he didn't know is that I already had to stay home Wednesday morning to wait for the gas man (long story--huge bill in the summer--meter not working--fixed now). I took the opportunity to try to convince Alex that it would be a much better idea to do his work at school rather than at home. Part of the issue is that I think he likes the attention he gets from me (even if some or most of it is negative) when he does his work at home. No matter what, he has to have me check his work and sign off on it, and if it's wrong it gets erased and redone.

All of that changed Tuesday.

He brought home 4 papers he had not done (completely blank--all of his seatwork for the day) and another math paper that had to be corrected that he had failed. I was livid, because every piece of paper he brought home was on things that he can do without any assistance whatsoever. And because of the school district we're in, we send the kids to a small private school, so we are paying for him to go and not do any work and then make the afternoons and evenings miserable doing it all then.

So we have a new rule at home for him. Any work that does not get done at school will be done (or corrected) at home. And then it will all be erased and done again. And again.

Yesterday morning he spent at home doing his work again and again and again. He missed chapel, bake sale, recess, and lunch with his friends (and you can bet I reminded him of that several times). After the gas man had come and gone I took him to school...just in time for seatwork! What a fun day, huh?

I honestly don't know if it will help, but I'm at my wit's end trying to figure out how to get him to do his work.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Harboring a fugitive

As we suspected, the mice have not yet gone away, and after catching 3 of them we finally set some glue traps.

Poor was a rough afternoon.

I nearly stepped on one mouse that had gotten his back feet stuck in the glue trap. He had dragged himself out from under the bookshelf taking the glue trap with him and ended up in the middle of the dining room floor. When I went through the dining room to let the dogs out I nearly had a heart attack as I narrowly missed stepping on him and then had to decide what to do with him while keeping four kids occupied in the after-school chaos.

I voted on removing him before the kids saw him and were either traumatized or wanted to keep him.

I grabbed a paper towel and very carefully (I didn't want to get bitten) picked up the glue trap and took the mouse outside and set him on the deck railing. I needed him up high enough that the dogs couldn't get to him. And I wanted him somewhere where I could keep an eye on him.

I kept checking on him periodically and felt so bad because he was trying so hard to crawl somewhere...anywhere...but he had that glue trap stuck to his back legs. So I finally decided I would douse him in some vegetable oil and peel him off the trap into a box (all this while helping with homework and getting dinner ready--thankfully Danielle and Emily were occupied with cutting paper!).

Right as I had gotten the box and the oil ready, Mark called to say he was on his way home. He told me to put the mouse (and the glue tray) in the box and pour the oil over the part of him that was stuck and then leave it there for him to deal with when he got home.

Okay. So I pour vegetable oil all around the poor little mousie's legs and tail after setting the glue trap in the box. The box was sitting on the back porch and I put a board on top of it so the dogs wouldn't knock the lid off.

I looked outside a few minutes later to see the lid off of the box. I stepped out onto the porch to see our dog lying in the yard, with the upside-down glue tray between her front paws, licking her lips.

I nearly passed out knowing that I had to go out and get that glue tray and not knowing what else I might find with the glue tray.

Hoping that I was wrong in my assumptions as to the fate of the mouse, I checked the box first. He was still there! He was huddled in the corner and I'm pretty sure he was muttering something about "big tongue" and "am I dead yet?" Apparently the dog didn't want the mouse--just the vegetable oil on the glue tray.

I put the lid and the wood back on, went and retrieved the glue tray, and went to finish dinner (I did a LOT of handwashing throughout this, by the way...just thought I should mention that). I left the mouse for Mark to deal with, which he did as soon as he got home.

The kids never knew a thing.

And while we still have three more glue traps out, I am so hoping that if more mice get caught that they at least have the decency to stay hidden where the traps are at least until Mark gets home.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fall cleaning

This weekend we were able to get some much needed cleaning done in addition to the usual weekend activities.

The boys had a soccer game on Saturday but it was probably one of the shortest games on record as they called the game shortly after the first quarter (each quarter is 12 minutes). It was a rainy, stormy day and as soon as there was some lightning and thunder the referee called the game. Good thing he did as about 5 minutes later it was downpouring! Alex was disappointed that he didn't score a goal. ;)

Danielle and I went shopping at Walgreens on Saturday. I wanted to pick up some more eye patches for her but the one we went to didn't have any. So instead we picked up $25 worth of stuff for $0.90. I love shopping trips like that. :) Danielle had a great time helping hold things and knocking things over (she's still pretty uncoordinated and bumps into a lot of things). She was super excited to go shopping with me, and I think even more so that she was the only one that went with me. Emily was not happy that she did not get to go.

Today I started switching all of the kids' clothes over to fall/winter clothing. In school they aren't allowed to wear shorts from Oct 1-April 1 and since I realized that Oct 1 is this week(!) I figured I better get a move on making sure everyone has pants. I had Danielle try on some pants (which she said she "really liked" :)) that have a button in front but elastic in the back. Since she can pull them on and off without using the button I stitched the button flap together so it wouldn't pull on the button when she pulls them on and off. Her teacher has a lot more kids than usual this year and several with various degrees of neediness (including mine), so I'm trying to minimize sending Danielle with anything that she needs help with. While she can do buttons, it takes a lot of time and work and I know her teacher would just end up doing it for her. Plus it empowers Danielle as she can do everything "by 'self" (by herself) which she loves.

Mark organized and cleaned our office as well. Unfortunately we moved into our new house right before we went to get the girls (literally a few weeks) and we've never had a good chance to get everything cleaned and organized. We got the necessity painting done before we moved in and that was it. We've still got boxes packed and lots of things we want to get done to the house that are just going to have to wait. Hopefully we'll be able to continue to clean over the next few weeks and really start getting settled. Mark also took out all of the window air conditioners upstairs. It's supposed to get in the 40's a night this week so I think we're about done with air conditioning!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Danielle's eyes

Yesterday was a post-surgery follow-up visit for Danielle. We've been a little concerned with her eyes as they don't seem to be lining up quite right. It's been 3 months since her strabismus surgery and while she already had a follow-up appointment scheduled in October we requested to move it up as we were concerned about her vision. With her being in school now we wanted to make sure she could see as well as possible and address any issues quickly.

As it turns out, we were right. Danielle's right eye is drifting outward. Right now, her vision is still good in both of her eyes, but if that eye continues to drift she will end up using the left eye more and could eventually end up with impaired vision in her right eye. This could compromise her binocular vision (affecting her depth perception).

Danielle's left eye will now be patched for 2 hours a day for the next 3 months--until her next appointment in December. If her right eye has not improved by then, we will start discussing a second surgery. At least for a second surgery she would have more language and be better able to understand what's happening. Hopefully the patching will be enough and we'll be able to keep her out of the operating room. And thankfully she'll only be patched two hours a day so she doesn't have to wear it at school!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Emily's dental work

Emily did well with her dental work yesterday. The dentist was unable to save one of her molars that was supposed to have a root canal and he ended up pulling that one (top left). Total was 3 root canals and corresponding crowns, 3 fillings, and 1 extraction. I am so happy she was sedated. :)

She did great with anesthesia (again) but was kind of loopy the rest of the day. She was also whiny because she'd missed a meal and Emily LOVES to eat. She pestered Mark all morning with "Eat? Eat? Eat?" because the big kids were eating and he couldn't give her anything--not even water. She did survive (although I'm sure she thought she wouldn't make it) and then came home and promptly downed an entire PB&J sandwich, a pile of goldfish crackers, and three cookies. She didn't seem to be in any pain yesterday and her only restriction is no sticky foods (fruit snacks, gummy bears, etc.).

Last night when I started to brush her teeth I went to the back of her mouth and she winced as she understood what I was doing. Then she got a surprised look on her face as I was able to brush all of her teeth without any pain for the first time in months! Yay--no more pain!

The dentist was also able to make her impressions for Emily's obdurator so we're trying to figure out who needs those next. I don't know how much she'll like the obdurator, but I think she will love being able to communicate better. She's starting to talk enough now that there are a lot of times where I am having to tell her that I don't understand. She doesn't like it and I don't either!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Soccer game #2

The boys had their second soccer game this past Saturday. Mark had to work and I forgot the camera, so I don't have any pictures. Which is unfortunate, because Alex scored a goal!

...against his own team. :)

It was a great goal--he dribbled the ball and shot it in, and he threw his hands up in the air in celebration afterwards shouting "Yay!"

After the game, he was still confused as to why it was wrong. He thinks the point of soccer is to kick the ball in the net...any net. He doesn't understand why it matters which net he kicks it into. I got a big kick out of it and so did Mark.

It was even funnier because Mark had made a comment last week that Alex would be a good little soccer player once he figured out which direction to go. :)

Tim spent most of his time watching the ball go by, or kicking at it when it was three feet away. I'm thinking he's just not a soccer player, which is fine. Right now he's going to be doing good to make it out of kindergarten. He has kicked up the obnoxiousness several levels in the past week. He's been missing out on some special events as a result and he's learning that he has some pretty stubborn parents who will actually enforce the rules they set. Go figure. ;)

Please pray for Emily. Today is her dental surgery. They will start anesthesia about 9:30am CST.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I'm giving up because I'm confusing myself trying to post on the blog. :)

The boys have chosen to go by their English names so I will now be referring to them as Alex and Tim on the blog. They are still alphabetical, so hopefully this won't be too confusing. It's taken us awhile to adjust but they really are serious about this (particularly Alex) so it will be easier for me to keep it consistent on the blog too.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Progress on many fronts

I'm excited to report that Danielle and I are starting to develop more of a relationship. This has been a lot of work on my part and I continue to struggle with it but I can see definite results. That encourages me to continue working so that she and I can have a great mother-daughter relationship throughout her life. In truth though, she's in love with her papa. :) In church on Sunday, he crossed his legs (ankle on knee) and while she normally crosses her legs like a girl as soon as she saw him do it she mimicked the exact same position. She will do anything and everything to get his attention (though her methods could stand some improvement). It's also understandable as she's never had a lot of male attention and isn't quite sure how to relate to him.

We finally seem to have found something that is of value to Dima. He loves playing soccer. So much so that when he was doing his homework the other night and started a wailing fit, I told him that if he didn't stop he would miss out on soccer practice.

He immediately stopped. Woohoo! We've been trying for a long time to find something of enough value to him that it would act as an incentive for him to change his behavior. Hopefully he continues liking soccer! Dima's also been doing really well in first grade academically. There are still a few gaps that we are addressing, but he's really doing a lot better than I had anticipated. Behaviorally he's still a bit on the young side I think, but he's making a lot of improvements and I'm really glad he has the teacher he does this year.

Emily's official insurance coverage letter for anesthesia (for her dental work) came through this week. I think they're only covering 80% but believe me I am happy they are covering any of it. She is absolutely loving preschool and they adore her. Her teacher works so hard at not being affectionate with her and I really do think it is paying off. Of course, just when I think we're making progress, she throws herself on some poor man at soccer practice. Sigh. It's a good thing she's cute!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Like many children who have been institutionalized, our girls have come with their own set of behaviors and mannerisms that they have developed over the years to help them survive. Some of those behaviors we have already seen diminish (although they do pop up every now and again) like Danielle trying to talk over everyone else and sticking her hands out for things (as in, in your face) to try to get things before someone else or instead of someone else.

But we've had a few behaviors that have hung on, in particular for Danielle. It's not surprising since she was in the orphanage for a long time and she is older than Emily (even though Emily was in the orphanage from birth). One particularly problematic habit is coughing in the night to try to wake Emily up. If Danielle wakes up in the middle of the night, instead of going back to sleep or calling out for one of us (or anyone), she starts coughing. She will cough and cough harder and louder until she gets Emily to wake up (which usually makes Emily cry) and then stops. Initially we thought perhaps it was allergies, but it's become apparent over several months that this is an intentional behavior. One of the problems with it is that it becomes very hard to know if she has a real cough--not to mention that coughing is not good for your airways and that she's waking other people in the house up. This is obviously something she was already doing before she came to live with us--she doesn't cry or cry out (although she does if she wakes up and is scared, like during a thunderstorm)--but using the coughing as a way to wake someone else up for company. I'm guessing maybe she was able to cough at the orphanage loud enough to wake other kids up but not loud enough to get in trouble for it.

We've now taken a more proactive approach to dealing with this since we can't have Danielle waking everyone else up just because she's awake. So now if she starts coughing in the middle of the night we move her to a separate room. It's not intended to be a punishment, and we have told her (and she understands) that she goes in the other room so that she doesn't wake Emily up. But she doesn't like sleeping by herself and we are seeing less and less of the coughing at night. Last night she woke up, coughed once, then stopped and went back to sleep (I give her one or two tries to get the coughing under control before I move her to the other bedroom--sometimes you just need to cough!). I know it will take some time for her to stop this since it has become such an ingrained behavior, but we really want to encourage her to stop for her sake and the rest of the family.

Danielle also has another habit which is pretty typical for kids her age and probably even more so for kids who have been institutionalized--especially ones with special needs who got little to no stimulation or activities.

Danielle likes to pick at things. She specifically likes to pick at scabs, but if she doesn't have a scab she will pick at her cuticles or anything else handy until she strikes blood. Then she comes running asking for medicine. :) I certainly don't have a problem putting medicine on her cuts and scrapes, but we want to discourage her from self-inflicted wounds so I have finally told her that I will not put medicine on things she has picked at (that's not entirely true but she doesn't know that--I'm certainly not going to let something get infected even if it was self-inflicted). It seems to be decreasing the amount of picking. Part of the picking is attention-seeking, but I think part of it too is boredom. While her English is coming along great (way better than the boys at the same amount of time home), I think it's still hard for her to understand everything and she gets bored of trying to pay attention and understand all of the time. It's much more entertaining to pick at scabs. :) :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

The boys' first soccer game

Saturday was the boys' first soccer game and as a surprise to everyone (especially their coach!) they won!

More importantly, they had a good time and got a lot of exercise. Several of the boys on the team played last year on a kindergarten team, so they've got a few on the team who have a general idea of what they're supposed to be doing. That is really helpful. :) Mark rotated the kids through different positions and they did a really good job. A couple of the goals scored were even the result of teamwork and passes!

A few pictures of the game--Zhenya is number 4 and Dima is number 6.

Early game lecture

Zhenya and coach Mark

Dima on the run

Dima checking out the competition

Dima on the attack

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Could we please have a vaccination for every parasite known to man??

I am so fed up with parasites!!

The girls tested positive for giardia when they got home, so we treated that. Then Dima had the whole chewing-his-hands thing, and in the process he seems to have contracted ringworm--which is the equivalent of athlete's foot (which Zhenya has) and jock itch (which Dima also has). I'm pretty sure we've had some impetigo going around as well (on all of the kids). It seems like every day we're having to put a new cream or spray on someone.

Really, we do practice good hygiene. We all bathe, wash our hands (some of us better than others, granted), wear clean clothes...and yet we can't get rid of the vermin in our midst.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Jury duty

Yeah, so not only did we get in late Monday night, I came down with Emily's cold just in time to report for jury duty on Tuesday. I originally received the summons in July and sent back a request to not attend since I was on FMLA. They sent me a second notice and let me pick my top three dates to serve. Being the genius that I am, I picked Labor Day week thinking it's a holiday week and a short week...shouldn't be too much going on.

Um. No. Not a good choice.

Apparently St Louis usually calls jurors twice a week, one group on Monday and one group on Wednesday. But on short weeks, they only call one group--who has to show up twice.

I showed up at 8am on Tuesday and reported to the juror room. We had to watch a video about the trial process and then we sat...and sat...and sat. Around 9:30am they called the first wave of jurors for jury selection and my number was called so off I went. The case in question was a domestic assault case with several additional charges and several counts on each charge. Consequently, the questioning of the jurors took until 4:45pm (we did get a break for lunch).

Can I just say that I certainly hope that I am never tried by a jury of my "peers"? One of the questions the prosecutor asked was have we ever been arrested. Over half of the people in the room raised their hands! Add that to almost as many raising their hands for having been involved in domestic assault (victim or otherwise) and I was seriously depressed being in there. It saddens me to think that so many people are living these kinds of lives...and that it is normal to them--to have people you love and trust beating up on you or on people you love.

At 5pm I was not selected to be on that jury, and the judge informed us that we would need to show up again on Wednesday at 8:30am due to the short week.

Wednesday I'm there again. I asked the jury duty lady (very nice friendly staff that work there, by the way) how it will work today and if they let all of the extra potential jurors go home when the trials are filled. She kind of laughed and said the trials are never filled--there are currently 250 on the dockets. Wow. Keep in mind, this covers all trials in St Louis City, so lawsuits, custody proceedings, etc., as well as criminal trials.

At 11am(!), they selected the first round of potential jurors and once again my number was called. Some of the jurors from our trial the day before had arranged to go to lunch together (might as well make friends when you're all stuck in the same situation!) and only three of us got called so we weren't sure how lunch was going to work out. We were shuttled upstairs and sat some more before being called into the courtroom. We were all seated and prepping ourselves for another round of hours of questioning when the judge announced that the case had been settled and we were all free to go.

The courtroom broke into applause. :) Obviously nobody else wanted to be there for jury duty, either. We turned in our juror badges and I went home to recuperate and try to get over the cough/cold before work today. I am feeling better but will be thrilled when I am no longer coughing. I think this cough alone would be incentive to never take up smoking. I couldn't stand living with this for years on end.

Now we're back to the normal routine, more or less, and things are going really well. :)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Labor Day weekend

We headed to Ohio this weekend for a vintage base ball festival. The kids did great on our 7 hour car ride and managed to amuse themselves as usual. They're pretty funny to listen to in the car. They sing, play pretend, find things out the window to look at...and annoy each other. ;) We left right after school was out on Friday and got into Ohio way too late (or early) Friday night.

We had a blast once we arrived and the kids particularly enjoyed getting to swim at the hotel every day. We forgot to bring their trucks (or any other toys, for that matter, but the trucks are our usual base ball toys) so they had a great time playing with sticks, rocks, and empty water bottles. Seriously, these kids can amuse themselves with anything. All of the kids did a great job with the large numbers of people they encountered, although as expected Emily was up crying every 4 hours at night after interacting with lots of people. It seems that close interaction with a lot of people (which is something like any number of people beyond our immediate family) sets her brain on overdrive and she doesn't sleep well. It actually doesn't have to do with a stimulating environment, just the number of people she directly interacts with. Interestingly, preschool hasn't seemed to affect her, so maybe it's just large numbers of people over 3 feet high.

We stopped at Chick-Fil-A on Monday on the way back and took advantage of their free chicken sandwich promotion (wear anything with a team logo, get a free chicken sandwich). We saved almost $20 by eating lunch there. :)

It was a great weekend and I'd share pics, except I don't think I took any. :) Mark had the camera most of the weekend (he would go early to the festival and the kids and I slept in and went swimming) and I'm really not sure I took a single picture.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Still here

We're still here. :)

We were out of town for the weekend and I've caught a cold (thanks to my youngest and the germ-incubator known as preschool) and I just haven't had a good chance to post. I have a lot to fill you all in on so I will do my best to post Wednesday night.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Success and failure

I went through the gamut of almost every emotion last night at Dima's first grade open house/homework workshop. As his teacher described some of the expectations for the year my heart sank. There are certain things that are so hard for Dima because of his background and the neglect he experienced the first 5 years of life. And part of me just doesn't see how he's going to "get" some of the things he needs to understand and be able to do in first grade. That said, I was also super excited to realize that there actually are areas where he is right on target and at the same level as his peers.

One of the other moms stayed after briefly to talk to Dima's teacher (as did I) and I was encouraged to hear some of the behavior problems her son is having. I was quick to let her know that her son was not the only one! :) It always encourages me to know that at least some of our struggles with Dima are typical first grade behaviors.

I was able to share a little bit of additional information with Dima's teacher about his background and why he is having some issues right now. He is really struggling with anxiety and it shows up as fidgeting and disruption in class (making noise, playing with his pencil/paper). He just has a hard time sitting still when he's stressed out. I'm guessing that as he gets into the routine of school again that he will settle down, but it's going to take him awhile. His teacher was very encouraging and I think she's going to be really good for him. She's strict and has high expectations but they also have a lot of fun. This is her 29th year of teaching at the kids' school so she's got a lot of experience. :)

The biggest success of the past couple of weeks is that our insurance is going to cover Emily's anesthesia for her dental procedures! In the process of appealing the insurance denial, I got a copy of the work scheduled to be done: FOUR root canals, four crowns, and three fillings. And she's supposed to do that without anesthesia?!? There was a phone number listed on our denial letter so I called and talked to Richard with UHC. He was super nice and was able to get the insurance approval even without me writing a letter of appeal. He told me to go ahead and send in the letter of appeal (fax and mail) just in case anything were to fall through, but I got a call from him a couple of days later and he said everything had been approved and the letters were being sent stating that.

In addition to the dental work, Emily is being fitted for an obdurator which will block her open palate until she is bigger and ready for surgery. In order to make the obdurator they need an impression of her upper jaw and palate...which of course needs to be done by a dentist, preferably under anesthesia. Emily's plastic surgeon recommended a dentist but since we're already going to have her under anesthesia with her pediatric dentist, I asked if it would be okay for him to do the impression. The plastic surgeon said yes and Emily's dentist agreed and isn't going to charge us for it (I think he feels bad about the amount of work she needs done). That makes one less sedated procedure we'll need (which would not have been covered by insurance and which I'm pretty sure I would not have been able to appeal since it's only a 5 minute procedure). Success!