Monday, June 29, 2009

Surgery today

Danielle's surgery today went really well! We arrived at 8:30am, she was in surgery under anesthesia by 9:30, and back in her room by 10:30.

She was super panicked from the moment we went into the room that was "ours" for the duration of our visit. She wanted nothing to do with anyone and pretty much just whined/cried. Unfortunately after each person finished what they were doing (taking her blood pressure, listening to her heart, whatever) they would each say "all done!", which she took to mean we were ALL DONE and going home soon. Not even close. :)

They allowed me to go back with her to the OR and I stayed with her until she was under the anesthesia. Then they brought me back to recovery before she woke up, so she never knew I was gone. She was very clingy and refused to let me out of her sight the whole time, so it was wonderful that they allowed me to be with her as much as possible.

Danielle did really well with the anesthesia. She woke up crying and very disoriented, but after she was a little bit awake they gave her some oxycodone and that settled her down and she slept for about another hour. When she woke up again she was much more content but wanted to go home. :) We hung out long enough for her to drink some apple juice then headed home. She threw up once at home (not at all at the hospital), slept a bit more, and has been absolutely fine ever since.

The surgeon said the surgery went well. We'll have a post-op visit in about a week to check and see how Danielle's eye alignment is holding up. Her eyes are very red (but less than I expected) but don't seem to be bothering her much at this point. I'll try to post some before and after pictures as soon as possible. I didn't take any after pictures of her eyes today as they were pretty sensitive to light and I didn't want to use the flash on her. :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A little summer cleaning

Yesterday the big kids wanted to go out on the back deck to play. We hadn't let Danielle play out there yet because there's not a railing and I don't really want her to fall off of the deck. Her balance isn't so hot and I was afraid if one of the boys bumped her she'd go right over. But they all wanted to go out so I finally acquiesced. The little one wanted to go too but I promptly vetoed that and kept her inside with me.

I wanted to stay where I could see them so I cooked up some beef for dinner and then was at a loss. I was trying to stay close to the window to keep an eye on them, but the window was so dirty it was hard to see...say, how about cleaning the window?!? ;)

I went to town cleaning the windows in the kitchen yesterday. I was shocked at how clear the window really was once I got it clean! When we moved into the house, we were doing so many other (major) repairs that the minor task of cleaning got relegated to...well, never. And there it stayed.

Until yesterday.

I am happy to report that once I cleaned the window it was so clean it actually looked like there wasn't a window there.

Gives me hope for the rest of the house. Eventually.

Oh, and only one kid fell off of the deck (while doing something he wasn't supposed to) and they managed to do some yardwork for me while they were at it as they thought it was a great game to pull all of the weed vines off of the lattice and railings on the deck!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Our budding quartet

Last night we went to the University City Summer Concert Band concert. It's a little later than we would usually keep the kids out, but they all took naps in the afternoon since we had already planned on going.

They did a really great job! They were quiet (mostly) during the music and they all clapped after every piece. Dima and Zhenya got up and "helped" conduct for the last piece (a U City Summer Band tradition). Emily conducted (from my lap) throughout almost the entire concert, and she can actually hold a beat pretty well.

Of course we didn't take the camera...but we're planning to go again next week. If you're in the area come out and hang out with us; if not, you'll have to wait for the pictures! :)

I also met a mom this morning who lives at the end of our block. She has three kids...and her oldest has speech apraxia! We exchanged names and phone numbers and are going to try to get together for some playdates this summer.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Surgery postponed

We were supposed to get a call today telling us what time Emily's surgery would be tomorrow. Instead, we received a phone call that she is not having surgery tomorrow because the ENT surgeon is not available. So why did we have surgery scheduled for tomorrow if he's not available??

Her surgery is now scheduled for next Thursday (July 2) first thing in the morning. This will probably work out to be better timing for us anyway.

I thought I'd throw in a list of "words" that I can understand out of Emily if she's in another room and I can't see her. No one outside of the family would be able to understand any of these except "mama," but it's pretty cute to hear her say them and realize how quickly she is picking up on words and intonations. :)

McKinley, stop! (our dog)
Go bathroom
Go away
Help, please

Happy birthday, Dima!

He's 7!!

We celebrated Dima's birthday over the course of about 3 days, which he loved. He got to pick where we went one afternoon and he choose the Science Center (day 1). It was the girls' first time there with the boys and I think I was a little crazy to take 4 children to the Science Center in the middle of the afternoon. We did all survive, and the boys actually did a great job listening and obeying. I let them go down to the lower level by themselves while the girls and I watched from the balcony since the girls were afraid of the dinosaurs. The boys stayed in sight the whole time and came upstairs when I motioned to them. I was very proud of them!

Dima choose to go to CiCi's Pizza for his birthday (another first for the girls--day 2). All of the kids did really well and the girls loved being able to choose what they ate. We also had cupcakes (day 3) at Dima's request instead of a cake.

Dima is very proud of being 7 years old. I had a lot of fun with his handwriting on his birthday as I gave him a bunch of sentences like "Yesterday I was six years old." "Today I am 7 years old." "Tomorrow I will eat cupcakes." I try to give him sentences for handwriting that he can also read to me. He enjoys that and it's good practice for him.

I am now the proud mama of a 7, 5, 5, and 3 year old, but only for another month!

Pictures of the birthday boy!

Monday, June 22, 2009


We finally got the drain fixed in the second floor bathroom of the house we live in. It has been a pain because it wasn't something Mark could fix and we've had a hard time finding a plumber who would actually show up to do the work. We finally got a recommendation for a plumber from our previous landlord and the guy is fantastic. They were here today, done in a few hours and for exactly what they quoted. And it doesn't leak anymore. ;) If his bid is reasonable we will also be using him for the plumbing on the other house.

Dima is making leaps and bounds with his speech. He is actually spontaneously using full sentences--with all of the necessary verbs and articles!--on occasion. It's pretty rare right now, but rare is better than never which is what it had been. I'm interested to see what his teachers think when he goes back to school. I'm hoping they will be able to notice an even bigger difference than we do since they won't have seen him for 3 months. He's been working hard on his schoolwork and has been finishing his work in a much more timely manner. It's been great to be home since I've really been able to target some areas that were giving him trouble, and I'm seeing a lot of improvement in areas that he was really deficient before.

Zhenya's handwriting is so much better than it was at the start of the summer. Each day, the boys do some English (letters, word recognition, phonics, etc.), math (numbers, counting, time, money, ordinals), and handwriting. I'm not introducing any new topics to Zhenya that he will encounter in kindergarten, just reviewing the concepts he should already know and really focusing on his writing of his letters and numbers.

Danielle's legs and gait are improving! We thought we were seeing improvement but Mark measured her yesterday (nice having a PT for a husband!) and there is definite improvement in her range of motion in her legs. Today I put a wide masking tape line down on the floor and we are practicing walking heel-toe and working on her balance. She has no confidence in her ability to walk unless she is on her toes. Hopefully she will start to build that confidence. We've also been working on jumping. She can jump and clear both feet but she only comes off of the ground about an inch. Danielle has an appointment at the cerebral palsy clinic at the beginning of August, so we should know then if we need to do additional splinting or casting on her legs.

Emily's communication is really improving. She is now signing in full sentences (okay, one sentence...I-ALL DONE-PLEASE) and does a great job at mimicking new signs. We've also been working on getting her to answer questions and that has really improved. I would say she now answers a question (as opposed to repeating what was just asked) about 50% of the time. We're working on potty training and I've implemented some rewards to give her some incentive to go in the toilet. She knows what she's supposed to do on the toilet, she just doesn't tell me when she needs to go. So now she gets a chocolate chip every time she goes to the bathroom and her pullup is still dry. Of course, she's caught on and now she's asking to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes. But hey, if that's what it takes I'm all for it! She can now get herself on and off of the toilet so she can go to the bathroom completely independently, however I still go in to give her toilet paper and help her wash her hands.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The "other" house

Mark has been hard at work on the framing for the rehab house we're working on. The second floor is completely framed and he's now working on the first floor. Here's some recent pics: (And yes, he's doing all of this by himself!!)

First Floor from living room through dining room to kitchen
(use your imagination)

1st floor stairwell off kitchen (the window will be drywalled over)

1st floor kitchen to back entry/office and 1st floor half bath

2nd floor top of stairwell (soon to be closet for 2nd bedroom)

2nd floor from 2nd bedroom--directly in front is the 2nd bath (accessed from the hallway)

2nd floor hallway from master bedroom to stairwell--off to the right is the laundry closet

2nd floor from master bedroom through master closet to master bath (the large door frames are for pocket doors)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Vitamin D deficiencies

I've been meaning to post this for a while (like a lot of other things!) because I thought this might be important for other adoptive parents to know.

When our girls' bloodwork came back, all of their vaccinations looked good so they will not be redoing any of the vaccinations that were already done. However, one of the additional things that was tested was their vitamin D levels. Apparently in the past year vitamin D levels have become a big concern in the medical community, and they have recently started recommending that internationally adopted children be tested for vitamin D levels.

The normal levels are 30-100 ng/mL. Our girls tested at 7 and 10 ng/mL, so they are considered extremely vitamin D deficient. Our pediatrician prescribed vitamin D for the girls--4000 IU per day for 30 days to bring their levels up to normal. However, when we went to fill the prescription it was going to be $150 per prescription. After calling our (fantastic! wonderful! love her!) pediatrician, she did a bunch of research including calling the endocrinologist who works with their practice and several pharmacies. She waited to call us until she had found a pharmacy that carries over-the-counter vitamin D drops (in olive oil) with a concentration of 2000 IU per drop. We bought one bottle which contains 900 drops for $16. Much better than the original $300 for the prescription! :)

Vitamin D is not something the boys were tested for when they came home, so I am a little concerned that they too may be deficient. Apparently with levels as low as the girls you cannot make up that large of a deficiency with a normal diet, even with daily multivitamins. Lack of vitamin D prevents proper calcium storage and use thus leading to bone growth problems (rickets and others). We are hoping to have the boys' vitamin D levels tested the next time they go to the doctor, but I especially wanted other adoptive parents to be aware of this as I would imagine with the lack of sun exposure and poor diets in most of the orphanages that this may be a problem for most of our kids.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Yes, plural.

I really need to figure out how to start updating this every day. Otherwise I end up with so much to post that I either leave things out or have to write a novel. :)

Danielle had her ophthalmology appointment on Tuesday morning for her strabismus. We were surprised and pleased to learn that her vision in each eye is actually very good and she does not need glasses. This is because her strabismus switches eyes depending on which eye she is using to focus. So if she is focusing on something with her left eye, her right eye will be turned in, and if she is focusing with her right eye her left eye will turn in. Because her strabismus is not an issue of muscle weakness she does not need patching. Instead she will have surgery. The surgeon will release muscles on the inside corner of both of her eyes in a relatively short surgery...five days after Emily's surgery (to put tubes in and for the cleft palate surgeon to decide what can be done with her palate).

Thankfully both surgeries are pretty minor and they will both be able to go home the same day. Emily's surgery is next Wednesday and Danielle's is the following Monday, but we won't know times for either of them until the day before the surgery.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More Pictures

Emily playing with bubbles

Danielle playing with bubbles

Bubbles in the front yard

Relaxing at the base ball game

Playing at the base ball game

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Recent pictures

A quiet moment

All of the kids are asleep. :)

Normally only Emily takes a nap in the afternoon. I've found the bigger kids don't sleep as well if they sleep during the day, so they do have a quiet time in the afternoon while she naps but I don't let them fall asleep.

However, today Mark has a base ball festival and I'm hoping we can go see Shakespeare in the Park tonight so I'm letting all of the kids sleep as long as possible. They'll all fall asleep at the play anyway, but it will still be later than their normal bedtime.

We've been having a small problem with Emily waking up in the middle of the night. Starting a week and a half ago, for about a week she woke up every 3-4 hours at night and would start crying. It wasn't night terrors as she was most definitely awake before she started crying. We tried several different things with her. The last one I tried was getting her up to go to the bathroom every time she woke up. Apparently she didn't like that tactic as she stopped waking up at night. ;) I have several theories (bathroom, congestion, uncomfortable in a new place, temperature) as to why she was waking up but I'm not sure I'll ever know which (if any) were correct. I'm just glad to be back to a full night's sleep again. :)

Danielle's English is taking off. I've been introducing numbers to her in school this week and we've gotten up to 4. Last night as I was doing her stretches she started counting..."1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9." The boys like to play school with the girls and do flashcards and number puzzles with them so I know where she's getting it.

Dima is doing really amazing with his reading. If he just reads and doesn't try to sound things out he does much better. He's not an auditory learner so he does better memorizing the words and just being able to read them. I can understand--I'm the exact same way. I'd like to try to get some video of him reading, both for you all to see and for posterity. ;)

We received the boys' report cards the other day, and I was brought to tears because included were Dima's results from the standardized test they took a month or so before school was out. My son, who has speech problems and has only been hearing and speaking English for a little over a year, actually scored about the 50th percentile in sentence reading! I was quite frankly amazed that he scored over the 10th percentile in anything, given his background, but he actually scored over the 10th percentile in half of the clusters. I am SO PROUD of him! He's had a lot to overcome and I hope with a lot of continued hard work he will be able to continue such great progress.

I know it doesn't sound like much--10th percentile?? But really, considering all that he has been through in the past year and a half, it's incredible! That means 10% of students scored lower than he did. And the fact that over 50% of students scored lower than he did in any area just blows me away. :) :)

Last weekend we went and picked strawberries and I got my first ever answer out of Emily. I think I've downplayed the communication difficulties with her a little bit, because there really isn't any communication at all. She's excellent at mimicking and loves to "talk" but doesn't actually respond to questions--she just parrots back whatever you say. Last Saturday she figured out (with a LOT of coaxing) that she could eat the strawberries. She put one in her mouth and I asked her "Dobre?" (good, in Ukrainian) and she turned to me with a big smile and nodded. This was seriously the first time since we had known her that she had actually responded to a question without some form of prompting. I was excited beyond belief. It's starting to become more common now, that she will respond to a question with a nod or shake of the head, but most of the time it's still mimicking (i.e., you ask " Are you all done?" and she says and signs "all done" with the same inflection as the original question). It will be a slow process but she's starting to figure out that this is the only way to communicate and that you may not get things if you don't ask! :)

Friday, June 05, 2009

Ten years

Happy anniversary to us!

Today marks ten years since Mark and I got married.

A couple of nights ago, Mark was working on the computer and he looked up. I had the instantaneous thought that he has such beautiful eyes. It makes me happy that I still think things like that about my husband. :)

I also realized the other day that while 10 years sounds like a long time, if things go well Mark and I could have another 60 years together ahead of us.

That thought makes me smile. :) :)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Updates on all

The van: I love it. I love love love it. I would also love if it got 45 mpg, but hey, nothing's perfect, right?

Dima: Dima is struggling with being expected to actually do work on his own now that school is out and we are homeschooling over the summer. And yes--it's pretty much full, all-out school with reading, writing, math, etc. And you can't play until you finish your work, which on one day took him until 3:30. See? A full school day (we start right after breakfast). Dima's learning that if he stays focused and does his work that he gets done faster. This is a great lesson for him to learn now. :) There are some areas where we feel we were grossly misled as to his abilities coming out of kindergarten. I'm not sure, honestly, that he is really ready for first grade. We're going to ride out the summer and re-evaluate when school starts again. Dima has speech therapy twice a week and his therapist is really excited about the progress she's seeing with him.

Zhenya: Zhenya is breezing through the work he's had so far this summer. It's a pre-kindergarten "curriculum" to prepare him for kindergarten so it starts out with a lot of very basic concepts that he already knows (shapes, colors, etc.). I'm ramping it up a bit with him to make sure we get to the things I want him to see/know before he starts kindergarten in the fall. Other than that, he's our resident mouth who likes to talk just to hear himself. He and Danielle (our resident "twins") are two peas in a pod and are nearly inseparable.

Danielle: Danielle also participates in "school" in the mornings. We introduced numbers in English this week and she has been able to remember and apply them in every day life. Her English is coming along very quickly and her new favorite word is "silly," which is aptly applied to her two brothers quite often.

Emily: Emily can now mostly dress herself including putting her shoes or slippers on and off. She can nearly go to the bathroom independently but needs help getting up on the toilet. We have stools but they tend to get moved by one of the bigger kids--go figure!--and she doesn't move them if they're not where they need to be. She's not entirely potty-trained yet. She won't let us know she needs to go to the bathroom if she's doing something fun or playing outside, but she's doing great about letting us know other than that. She's doing much better about communicating with us through both signs and words and will hopefully be starting speech in the next few weeks.

Me: I love being at home. I love being with the kids all day. I do not always love working with Dima on his schoolwork. He can be as stubborn as a very thick brick wall. But I'm making progress on figuring out what works best for him.

Mark needs the computer so I'll have to update you on him later. He's staying busy with work and base ball! :)