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!