Wednesday, December 15, 2010

SPAM email

I apologize to those of you who received a spam email from my account. I can assure you that I am NOT in London and that even if I was I would not want to get on a plane in the next 24 hours as I currently have a head cold. :)

I have locked the account in question and have changed the passwords on my other accounts so hopefully I'll be able to stem the tide of spam, but I do apologize.

I'm beyond irritated that someone finds it necessary to waste their time creating things that waste other peoples' time.

The account that was compromised was one of the main accounts I use for my Reece's Rainbow volunteer work, so not only has this shut down my email but has caused complications with other things I do.

*sigh* Grrrr....

Monday, December 13, 2010

Perspective

"Mama, why can't we see anything on the ground?"

Because the snow is covering it.

"Oh, and the snow comes from above and covers it?"

Yes.

"'Cause nothing could come from below and cover things, right, Mama?"

Indeed.

Our sin. Jesus coming. Covering our sins from above. Who knew snow could inspire such theology?

That which is below cannot cover up--cannot blot out--the stains we possess. No matter how we dig to find something to cover us, unless it comes from above...

...it does not cover.

Friday, December 10, 2010

WE HAVE A DATE!!!

Completely unexpected--I thought we wouldn't hear until next week!

February 7! :) :)

Monday, December 06, 2010

Fun weekend

We went and cut down our Christmas tree again this year. This has become an annual tradition for us and it's a good thing it's already a tradition because otherwise we might not have gone this year. It was FREEZING!

The kids of course always like to find the biggest tree possible, and we have a hard time convincing them that the ones they like will not fit in our living room.

We warmed up with a visit to Cici's Pizza which is a favorite around here. It still cracks me up that our kids ask for seconds on the salad bar before they ask for seconds on the pizza. They love their veggies!

On Sunday we went to the Meramec Community Band winter concert. It had been a while since we'd gone to a concert and the kids always enjoy them. Mark and I both love music and we think that even if they don't love all of it, they should at least be exposed to different music and learn how to sit and listen appropriately. :) :)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Burdened

Sometimes it's too much.

Sometimes I want to curl up on the couch and just stop.

This morning I was calling to transfer balances to our hospital payment plan. And in a moment, it became too much. Too much to remember to do...to remember to take care of...to make sure...

And I know we are taking on more. More children, more needs, more work...

During our homestudy, our social worker asked if we planned to add any more kids to our family after this adoption. I said I didn't know, and that we would have to see what God had planned.

She said "That's okay. You're young...you have plenty of time."

Yes, we do.

But do they?

All of these children, and so many more, are available for adoption.

And I know it is our choice to add to our family. But I refuse to look in the eyes of a child and tell him...

No, you can't have a family. I am too busy. I don't want more work. It would be too much time...too hard...what if you are more than I can handle? what if I'm not a good mom for you?
how could we afford you?

I pray that my insecurities--my fears--would never keep a child from a family and a home.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving

We had a nice Thanksgiving visiting family. Mark had to work Thursday and Friday, so the kids and I hung out at home. I grilled out a turkey in the snow(!) and we did lots of playing. We left to visit family late Friday and got in even later (well past the kids' bedtime). Of course they were still up early Saturday so we put all of them (and Mark :)) down for a rest at 10:30 Saturday morning so they could have some down time before family arrived.

And when they arrived, the kids had a blast. They had lots of second cousins to play with and of course lots of food to eat. Once lunch was done, Mark and I took all of the kids (still loving the 12-passenger van) to a playground. We had to laugh when we got out at the playground and watched the other moms' faces when 8 kids got out of our van, ages 13, 13, 8, 7, 7, 6, 5, and 5.

The other adults at my mom's house were quite happy we had rescued them from the swarm of small children. :)

We spent about an hour at the playground before heading back to my mom's house. The cousins had to head home (two of them were in the car three hours each way--just for lunch!) so the kids all said goodbye but are excited about the possibility to see everyone again at Christmas.

I loved getting to meet my 3-month-old niece for the first time. She's a sweetie and the kids adored her--although Alex decided she needed to go home and take a nap when she was crying.

We've paid for the quick trip and the overstimulation of lots of people with some increased negative behaviors with Danielle and Emily. It's unfortunate, but it's going to be quite a while before they're really able to handle a lot of family. Of all the things we have to be thankful for, I am so thankful for our supportive family and their understanding of our need to do things differently for our kids. It sometimes takes a little extra planning, but it helps so much to be able to have them rest, or take breaks, or whatever they need to help them better process and enjoy the holidays. :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Breathless

We were submitted yesterday.

Wow.

:) :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy thanksgiving!

And indeed, we have so much to be thankful for. Four beautiful, healthy children with one or two more on the way...Mark's job that he loves and is stable (particularly since we live in the most dangerous city in the US, apparently)...a warm house and plenty of food...friends and family that love and support us...and a God and savior who gave his life that we might be His again.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy some turkey...
And some ham...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Picture and video

Halloween, at a trunk or treat. Alex isn't in costume yet as he had had some behavior issues earlier in the day. We took his costume with us and told him if he could pull himself together that he would be able to wear it later. In the midst of lots of excitement, people, and candy, he was able to improve his behavior and DID get to wear his Larry the cucumber costume later! And no, Danielle is not taller than the boys. She's standing on the tree roots. :) And yes, she has a huge scrape on her nose from a face plant in the school parking lot.

And from our two kiddos with the speech issues...

video

video

Monday, November 22, 2010

Few and far between

Indeed. But hopefully you will be seeing more of me now, because we shipped our dossier today.

Did you hear that?

We SHIPPED our DOSSIER today. After I shipped it, I felt like throwing up. :) It's been a bit like being on a roller coaster for a few weeks around here--non-stop action in regards to paperwork gathering. I was ready to get off.

For those following the timeline...we committed to Candace on Oct 14 and shipped our dossier today, November 22. We gathered everything for the dossier from scratch, but it did help that the same social worker that did our previous homestudy did this one. We didn't have to write autobiographies again, but we did have to do absolutely everything else. I usually like the paperwork gathering stage (you get to make lists! and cross things off!) but this one went so fast I hardly had time to breathe, much less cross anything off. In fact there is still a list in the front of our dossier binder that I found yesterday, and we did everything on it a few weeks ago and nothing was checked off.

I was returning from FedEx this morning and realized that I was holding my breath. Not sure how long that had been going on but it could certainly explain my headache. :) :)

Now...we wait. If the dossier arrives in Ukraine by Wednesday, it might be submitted this Thursday. If it doesn't get there until Thursday, it will most likely be sitting with our facilitator until February. But at least it's done!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Huh

So I really thought I had posted that we were planning on adopting two, but perhaps I just commented on it, or sent an email, or thought it... ;)

Yes, we are hoping to be able to adopt two kids again. The problem we're up against right now is that Candace has been transferred into a place where Reece's Rainbow does not have any other kids. We've been waiting to hear who else is available there but don't have any information on that yet. So we sent our paperwork requesting Candace (by the way, not her real name :)) as well as an additional child at her orphanage.

There is a chance that we will only come home with one. We recognize that and if that is what God has planned for our family we are fine with that. Otherwise we fully intend to keep the "ark" theme going around here. :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Where things are

So many updates to give...and apparently I need to post more pictures as you guys were so excited about the family one. ;)

BIG NEWS: We no longer have a bedwetter!! I had mentioned (a LONG time ago) that we had gone back to pull-ups for the summer. As the end of summer neared, I reminded our bedwetter that he would be back to using the alarm and changing his sheets. All of a sudden, he decided he wanted to wear underwear to bed and was dry! I think we definitely made the right decision to go to pull-ups for the summer, as I needed a break from the alarm and we wanted to give his body a few more months to grow. But I am super excited that now it isn't even an issue!

I should note that we do occasionally have problems with a little "leakage". I don't think either of the boys are particularly good about getting up as soon as they wake up and they sometimes wait a little long to go to the bathroom. But all the leakage involves is a little bit in the underwear--definitely manageable! And boy, is that ever perfect timing before we introduce a couple more kids.

Our dossier...is done. With the exception of our 171H. That is all we need. We have filed our I600A and sent our homestudy, but we still need to do fingerprints and get approved.

By the end of next week. Yikes.

Ukraine will stop accepting dossiers for their annual winter break at the end of November, which means the last day we have to submit is November 25. Which means we need to mail our dossier to Ukraine by the end of next week.

And of course today is a federal holiday. ;)

I really have no idea if God intends for us to submit now or in February. We are still pushing forward, trusting Him to close doors wherever He needs to. I'm alternating between being really excited and wondering how on earth this is all going to work. But I know once our kids are home that even the difficulties will pale in comparison to the joy of having two more little ones!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Therapy and a wedding

Our days here are filled with normal, for the most part. Danielle's ankle study is almost done, and I am so happy for that. I do believe it has strengthened her ankles, but I will not miss the extra three days of therapy we've had. The other kids have been relegated to a kitchen off of the therapy room to do homework while Danielle is in therapy. It's not ideal and sometimes we have a hard time getting everything done that needs to happen at night. But the kids haven't complained at all and I'm so grateful to have kids who are accepting of our sometimes bizarre schedule.

One of the things I neglected to blog about was our trip to Colorado. We went to Colorado for a quick weekend trip for Mark's sister's wedding. We flew out there on Southwest and the kids loved it. It's the first time they've all flown together and they did so well. Apparently they're spoiled by the international traveling though, as they wanted to know where the music in the armrests was and why there weren't any TVs. ;)

My future sister-in-law (as of next July) managed to get this picture of us. I was impressed she managed to get all of us standing still. :) :)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Backing up

Surprised? So were we. :)

We weren't intending to adopt again yet. We had things we wanted to get done, certain things we wanted to finish, situations we wanted resolved before we adopted again.

Notice the key word in that paragraph? We.

I had actually stopped looking at the RR kiddos because I knew we weren't adopting anytime soon, and I would just fall in love with someone. :) :) But Mark was still checking periodically, and I still volunteer for RR through document preparation, dossier assistance, and chat moderation. So I was well aware of who was being advocated for, and there was one little girl who was due to be transferred imminently, possibly to a place she could no longer be adopted from. Everyone was advocating for a paper-ready family for her, which we were not, so I kept ignoring.

One evening, we were talking about various RR kids and in particular this little girl that was due to be transferred. I confessed that I felt like we were waiting for the wrong reasons.

We have a large house, plenty of income, and plenty of love, but because we didn't feel this was the ideal time to adopt a little girl might lose her only chance of ever having a mama and papa.

Selfish? Yes. And not how God calls us to act. So we agreed that if this was what God had planned, he would have to make it happen, and quickly. We knew Ukraine would not be accepting dossiers after November 25 (this is an annual occurrence) so we only had a few weeks to see if this was even possible.

And God opened all of the doors. Every time someone said "there's no way you can get such-and-such done in time," God made a way. And so, 3 weeks after committing to Candace, we have a nearly complete dossier. We still are not sure if we will be able to be submitted before the closure but we are trusting God to get our paperwork (and us!) to Ukraine at exactly the right time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Introducing...

Our soon-to-be newest daughter, Candace

More details to follow. :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Whoa is me

Yes, I know the normal phrase would be "woe is me", but I think "whoa" here is much more appropriate.

This has been the biggest whirlwind of a few months that I can remember in a long time. Maybe it's having four kids, maybe it's trying to finish the house...I don't really know, I just know that it is flying. And I feel like I'm having fun but desperately wanting to catch my breath! :)

And maybe, just maybe...it's because God is calling us again.

And we've said yes.

And I'm scared and overwhelmed and excited and wondering how this is all going to work.

But I know without a doubt that this is from God (believe it or not, I actually asked for a sign and He provided it!) and that this is what He desires for our family.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Alex

Alex has had the most struggles with the beginning of the school year. A lot of the reason I wasn't posting was because of that--we were trying different things and I was hesitant to post until we had figured out what was going on.

We still haven't figured things out. :) :)

At the beginning of the school year, Alex started having "emergency" bathroom runs during school. And then he started having accidents at school. It has taken a lot of guessing and trying and...well, everything, to determine that this is not physical or a medical condition. Once we figured that out and implemented some controls at home (i.e., giving him the choice to pee in his pants or the toilet, but him also having to deal with the natural consequences of that--thanks, Diana!) all of a sudden all of the accidents at home went away. His teacher has not been willing to let him deal with the natural consequences so he is still doing emergency bathroom runs at school. But interestingly enough, only at about 3 pm, so just in case she doesn't let him go and he decides to push her on it, he only has to sit in wet pants for 15 minutes.

Smart boy.

So we've had a lot to get a handle on with Alex. I'm not sure why this popped up all of a sudden (and I do mean all of a sudden) but such is life. Other than that, Alex is doing well at school. His biggest struggles are in math but he is one of the top readers in his class and he LOVES to read. We're working a lot on his reading comprehension but a lot of that is starting to click as well. He is still excellent at spelling. It's been fun for me trying to figure out how to help the boys learn things because they learn so differently. Alex is a visual learner so when he is learning the states (all 50 of them) we write the names on the states--it doesn't work for him to write a number that corresponds to a list, or to do a puzzle of the states, etc. But for Tim (who as I mentioned CANNOT spell) he needs things hands-on, so I have been cutting up his spelling words and he has to put them in the correct order. His grade on his spelling test last week doubled after doing that (and it was still a really bad grade--that's how bad of a speller he is! LOL).

In other news, Alex has started counseling with a fantastic therapist. She actually has a couple of years experience counseling orphans in South Africa, so she understands more about Alex's background and some of the grief issues he deals with. Alex is doing great, and he's adjusting well, but we still feel like he has some trust and bonding issues related to the many changes that happened over the course of a couple of years in his life. We want to give him whatever help we can to become a whole, happy little boy and he LOVES going to see his counselor E. She's seeing a lot of the same anxiety as we do (stress over schedule changes, etc.) and I'm really hopeful she'll be able to help Alex learn some good coping skills for that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tim

Tim is still our little engineer. He LOVES to build anything and everything. He can spend hours out on the back deck building with wood and crates...making garages, houses, zoos, or whatever else he decides on that day. He struggles with the "sitting" part of school but is doing well. The start of school was really hard--I think going from kindergarten to first grade was a bit of a jolt ("You mean I actually have to do work??") but he's figuring out that if he does his work quickly and correctly the first time that he has more time to play and he's all about that.

Tim loves to be silly and play around, but he also loves to help, especially in the kitchen. One of his favorite activities in the afternoon is to build forts/houses out of blankets in the living room. They have multiple rooms and he directs what goes on in each room. Tim does get really frustrated when others don't follow his directions. We're working with him on using words to explain what he wants people to do instead of just saying "NO! Not like that!" over and over again. :) :)

Tim has lots of friends at school and is just all-around an easy-going, likable kid. He's definitely all-boy, and ALL FOUR of the kids' teachers remarked about his love of playing in the dirt in the school playground. Apparently he comes in every morning with dirt streaks on his face. I promise we send him to school clean. :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Danielle

Danielle had a pretty good start to the school year...for awhile. :) She loves kindergarten and is doing a great job with her letters and numbers, which is good because she started off the year way behind. However, she's struggled with her particular teacher.

The first field trip of the year was to an apple orchard, where Danielle (intentionally) wandered off and they couldn't find her. She had been having some problems at school the week before with not staying with her class. She had been warned that if she didn't stay with her class that she would not get to go on her field trip so she stepped it up the week of the field trip and stayed with her class. Then on the field trip, she wandered off during play time and she's now not allowed to go on any more field trips. She scared her teacher half to death and now her teacher does NOT want to have to worry about keeping track of her, especially since the next field trip involves a pumpkin patch and a corn maze!

Danielle's ankle therapy is going well. She's definitely getting stronger and her gait is much improved, although it's hard to know if that's directly related to the ankle therapy. She loves going and we've found a small kitchen off of the therapy room where everyone else can get homework going while she's working. She gets a sticker each day she works hard, and after three stickers she gets to pick a prize. So far, she's picked nail polish, lip gloss, a princess pencil set...can you see who the girly-girl is in our family? :)

Danielle has been the hardest child to bond to for me but I have glimpses into our relationship that tell me we are going to be really, really close as she grows up. She loves to help me with anything house-related and can't wait until she is big enough to cook dinner by herself (me, too!!). She has a very sweet disposition but can get herself into trouble pretty easily with lying or laughing when she's being disciplined. ;)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

We interrupt these non-updates...

I know, I really am trying to get updates done. But life keeps getting in the way. :)

Our visit with the A family was great! They ended up getting here a little later than anticipated but it worked out well as our kids were already in bed and we could just focus on getting them settled. We had baked spaghetti, salad, and chocolate chip cheesecake and everyone (as far as I could tell) loved all of it. That always makes me happy. :)

The next morning, our kids headed to school and I stayed to help the A's get packed up. Our kids and theirs didn't really get much time to play together, but Emily and Annabel certainly hit it off! They were fast friends from the moment they met--perhaps because they both love to talk. ;) We got a great picture of most of the kids, and it was a like a mini-Reece's Rainbow reunion since a total of 5 of the kids came home through RR. It was also great for our kids to see another family with kids who have come home from Ukraine. They have another friend here in the St Louis area who is from Ukraine, but it hasn't seemed to click with them that they have that in common. Alex in particular was intrigued by this and is now asking random people if their kids are from Ukraine. :) :)

All in all, it was a great night and I loved hosting them. It was a great confidence booster as well to know that we really could host that many people. I don't think everything would have worked out as well if they'd needed to stay for more than a few days--they would have needed more room for their stuff--but we would have been willing to try if they'd needed that.

So the moral of the story is...open your mouth, open your home, open your heart. :)

We're missing three A kids here, but we got most of them in!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

We interrupt these updates...

I've done something crazy, and now I'm super excited and terrified all at the same time.

A few weeks ago, a Reece's Rainbow family posted a message that they were going to be moving across the country and were looking for places to stay in the midwest along the way. Without thinking much about it, I offered our house. We have plenty of room and since we're in a major city I thought there was a good chance they would passing our way.

And then I thought nothing else of it.

T emailed me this week to ask if it was still okay if they stayed with us...all 11 of them. :) :)

And the panic set in...we don't have enough beds, we don't have enough chairs at the table...

But I am so excited to be able to provide hospitality for this family. I am quite sure their lives have been very chaotic the past few weeks, and even more now with driving cross-country with lots of little ones. I've been planning out a menu for dinner and breakfast the night they are staying, and mapping out sleeping arrangements. Friends have offered extra tables and chairs to supplement what we have.

And I warned T that our house is ugly. :) :)

Honestly, that's been the biggest panic. They'll see our ugly paint that we haven't fixed yet, and the floors that still need to be redone, and the horrible carpet runner on the stairs that we haven't taken up, and the half-finished bathroom, and...

But we have a roof, and God has graciously given us enough space to share with others. This is one of the reasons we wanted a bigger house! So when the ugly thoughts start to overwhelm me, I remind myself of a mother traveling with 9 little ones, and how nice it must be just to know they have a place to stop that won't cost anything, and a night to relax and play and enjoy with new friends.

Thank you, God, for the opportunity to love others!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Emily

I'm updating in reverse chronological order. :)

The start of the school year was REALLY hard on Emily. As you may remember, the class we had intended to put her in (a sort of developmental kindergarten class, for kids not quite ready for kindergarten) didn't have enough enrollment. The school canceled that class and opened two kindergarten classes instead, and Emily is now in kindergarten.

She was SO not ready for kindergarten.

Given that a little over a year before starting kindergarten, she was functioning at about the level of an 18-24 month old, it was a really big jump.

And she pretty much landed face first.

The first 3-4 weeks of school were horrible. We really thought we were going to have to pull her out and put her back in the preschool. She tested every boundary she could find with her new teacher. It didn't help that they didn't have any rest time during the day, and she was used to a 2-HOUR rest time at the preschool. She was defiant, refused to do her work, and was disruptive. Her teacher was very frustrated and I hated that Emily was causing problems for other students who are trying to learn.

Then all of a sudden...it clicked. Well, that's not entirely true. I made a mention to her teacher that Emily hates being left out. And all of a sudden, she had a discipline solution that worked. Any time Emily was being disruptive, she had to go back and sit at her desk, or on her rug, or wherever everyone else wasn't and she didn't get to participate.

She HATES not being in the middle of everything. She is a youngest, after all. :)

And all of a sudden she was cooperative in class, attempting her work, and following directions. She was a gem on her field trip. Last week, she didn't lose a clothespin all week which meant she got to pick a prize from the treasure box at the end of the week.

She's the first one of our kids to do that!!

She is still "not ready" for kindergarten. At our kids' school, they are reading by the end of kindergarten, and Emily's just not there yet. We fully anticipate her doing another year of kindergarten next year. But she is getting a lot of it, and she is loving being at big-girl school.

In other news, she's 34 lbs and has shot up several inches in the past year. She was literally in 18mo-2T clothing when we got home, and now some of the 4T pants are almost too short. Her English is better than the rest of the kids most of the time. :) She's a total ham who loves to sing and LOVES to talk. She has full conversations with herself when no one else will talk to her. Being the youngest, we hear a lot of "No, Emily!" "Don't touch that, Emily!" "You can't play with me, Emily!" and she's a pretty good pest. But she takes it all in stride and tends to be a very happy-go-lucky kid.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Nothing's wrong

Just thought I should share that right off the bat. :) :)

I must confess that this school year has hit me hard. There have been many things I've wanted to blog about, but I kept waiting for some resolution, or to see if the changes we made had an impact.

And consequently, never posted.

As you can see.

So...I'm starting over, and you're getting a full update--or as much as I can remember (the downside to not posting in so long!).

So as not to write a bloggy novel, I'm going to break my posts up and post in sections, one each day. (Yes, I hear the laughter of disbelief.) Stay tuned for a 2 month update on everything.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Caught in the act

Tim still hasn't quite figured out how to lie and get away with it...

"Tim, did you close the door?"
"No, Emily did it first!"
"So Emily closed the door and then you closed the door?"
"Ummm...well...Emily did it first!"

--------------------

"Tim!"
...
"TIM!"
...
"TIM!!!"
"Yes?"
"Did you not hear me call you?"
"I didn't hear you till the third time."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Reece's Rainbow--While We Wait

I don't share a lot of what's on or in my heart on here, but Reece's Rainbow is definitely a big part of my heart, and I know that because of the amount of time I spend on it. :)

Shortly after the girls came home, I asked how I could help with RR. I quickly became involved in some administrative work and then took over our Monday night chats for families in the process of adopting from Ukraine. I now create dossier documents for families adopting from Ukraine. I love it (although the new Office is giving me fits with the changes to my mail merge!) and I love that I get to help families bring their children home...and especially knowing that so many children who would have been left to die will now have a mama and a papa to take care of them.

So you can understand a little as to why I feel it's important to share the following blog post, taken from the RR blog.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

While we wait

While we wait for the perfect timing...

they hope they can wait another day.


While we wait for more money...

they wait with nothing.

While we wait for a bigger home with enough room...

they wait for room in our hearts.


While we wait for others approval...

they wait with any dignity they can find.

While we wait for the ideal child....

they wait knowing they are not.

While we wait trying to decide if we can manage another...

they wait trying to manage on their own.

While we wait to see how much we have to give to them...

They are waiting to give us even more.
While we wait for God to provide...

He waits for us to take the first step so He can.

We must NEVER use 'waiting to hear from Him' as an excuse for not doing what He has ALREADY commanded in the bible for us to do... proclaim the truth, care for orphans, serve others, be His hands of justice for the poor, and show compassion.
(James 1v27)

So, what are you waiting for??

Written by and please visit Building the Blocks blog

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Labor Day weekend

We traveled to Ohio for the Ohio Cup vintage base ball festival this weekend. The kids were looking forward to it as they love staying in hotels (there's a pool!) and the hotel has a happy hour and they get popcorn.

I should say something about the joy of being young, but truth be told I was looking forward to the pool and popcorn too. ;)

And no laundry and no cooking and no cleaning and...sorry, I digress. :)

We drove up Friday night and first thing Saturday morning--we hadn't been at the base ball field even 5 minutes--Tim fell down concrete steps and split his chin open. After some discussion, we decided not to take him for stitches and so far it's healing nicely.

The kids and I spent Saturday afternoon at the pool (yes, I spent the afternoon with 4 kids who can't swim) and then met up with Mark and his brother Paul for the Saturday evening base ball potluck. It was great to see so many friends that we usually only see once a year, and others we haven't seen as much as usual because we added another St Louis base ball team this year.

Sunday was more base ball (and more swimming! and more popcorn!) and we drove back yesterday after dropping Paul off at the airport. The drive home was spent on homework since I was a very bad mom and forgot to have the boys do their assignments over the weekend.

There was all that swimming, you know. Hard to fit schoolwork in around that. :) :)

Other than Tim's little adventure, the weekend was pretty calm and much easier this year than last (when the girls had only been home 4 months!).

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Bible verse of the week

Emily's Bible verse this week was "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." Acts 16:31.

Her version went like this:

"Believe...in Lord Jesus Christ...and you shall...BEHAVE."

Who knew legalism started so young? ;)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Loving school

My kids are keeping me rolling with their school antics. I have a really hard time trying to be a stern disciplinarian when I really want to laugh.

Emily did a much better job yesterday listening and obeying at school. The only thing she got in trouble for was putting her ziploc bag (gallon size) over her head, and then laughing about it when she was told to stop because it could hurt her. She is a total ham. If I had to guess, she was trying to wear it as a hat but her head is so small it fell down over her face. ;)

Danielle had a small episode of lying yesterday. That's been a prevalent problem for her over very little things and we definitely want to nip that in the bud. Other than that she seems to be an angel at school and enjoyed learning about "cabibull I" yesterday.

Tim's favorite subject is still P.E., and I think it will be for his whole academic life. He was excited that they got to use their little chalkboards yesterday and work on vowels. What are vowels, Tim? "E...A...O..." And from the background pipes up Alex, "A E I O U." Really?? Where did that come from? He didn't know that at the end of last year!

I mentioned that Alex had been trying to control his teacher but didn't give any specifics. Apparently every day since school started he has asked to go to the bathroom numerous times. On Monday which his teacher mentioned this to me, I said there wasn't any reason for him to go outside of scheduled times, and when it happened again on Tuesday I told Alex (in front of his teacher) that he was only going to be allowed to go to the bathroom with his class--no other times. Yesterday afternoon he asked to go and when she wouldn't let him he pestered her for a while and then, miraculously, he made it to the end of school just fine without going to the bathroom (there is a change of clothes in his backpack just in case). So I'm guessing this new behavior should settle down pretty quickly once he's really not allowed to go.

Before anyone has concerns about underlying medical problems that might cause Alex to actually need to go, let me just say this is not the first time we have experienced this. He goes to the bathroom with the class but tries to be the first one done and doesn't actually pee (or not very much) and then needs to go again 10 minutes later. This has happened with us at home and out and about as well, so we know what's going on here and don't suspect any physical cause for his behavior. :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First days

School has started, albeit sporadically. :)

The boys started in 2nd and 1st grade and had full days of school last Thursday and Friday. The girls (both in kindergarten) had orientation on Thursday and a half day on Friday, so I really consider Monday their first day of school.

So far, we're not seeing anything unexpected. And yeah, that last sentence just made me laugh out loud. :)

Alex is working on control (of his teacher, not himself) and we've given her some thoughts on dealing with that. Nothing major, but stuff he knows better about and just has to test at the beginning of school. Monday he came home with his memory Bible verse for the week and he's already recited it to me (from memory) two days in a row. Tim is a little freaked out about 1st grade as he's realizing he was pretty much allowed to coast through kindergarten and now he's actually going to have to work. I really like his teacher and she'll be great for him. Danielle's behavior has actually been way better than I expected (or her teacher is holding out on us). She's loving being in kindergarten. Emily is pushing every button she can trying to figure out this kindergarten thing. She's being pretty defiant and if it keeps up we'll have no choice but to put her back into preschool. Thankfully she's not acting out at all, just not doing what she's asked to do. As in her teacher says tells her table to stand up and she sits there and looks at her while everyone else gets up. :) Her teacher has 16 kids and I'm not going to prevent them from having a good kindergarten year just because our daughter is causing problems. We'll see if she can manage to settle down. She really wants to be in the big school, not the preschool, so we're using that as leverage.

Danielle's first few days of ankle therapy have gone well. She goes on Monday mornings before school and then Tuesday and Friday after school. Coupled with Emily's speech on Thursdays after school and we've managed to pack a lot into the week. Thankfully, Danielle's therapy is in a place that is quiet with no one else around so the boys can get their homework done there (and Emily if she has any). The ankle therapy is only about 45 minutes so we can still be home by 5 and have dinner by 5:30 (if I've planned ahead ;)).

So far so good. By the end of this week I think we'll be pretty well settled into the new routine. One day at a time!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tenacious

That's the polite word. ;)

Last week was so far my least favorite week of the year. Let's hope it stays that way and that there aren't any more like it.

Friday afternoon I got a call from the kids' school. Due to lack of enrollment, they will not be having the AE (pre-K) class this year that Emily was supposed to attend.

I was devastated.

For reasons I have not gone into (and won't) on the blog, we really wanted Emily at the school this year. I spent the weekend stressed in the background over this (in the midst of Showboat at the Muny, base ball Saturday, and peach picking--64lbs!!--Sunday) and just didn't feel good about the whole thing. Yesterday I called the preschool to see about getting Emily set up with her new teacher (she has to move up). They did have an opening with the teacher we feel would be best suited to her, but I still didn't feel good about all of it.

So I Googled "missouri kindergarten law" and look what I found:

"Section 160.053, RSMo, states that:
A child is eligible for admission to kindergarten if the child reaches the age of five (5) before the first day of August of the school year beginning in that calendar year...
Exceptions
Pursuant to statutes 160.054 and 160.055, RSMo, the St. Louis and Kansas City School Districts may establish a kindergarten/first grade entry date if a child reaches the age of five (5) or six (6) no later than the first day of October."

Emily is old enough to go to kindergarten as she turns 5 at the beginning of September and we live in St Louis!

So I called the school principal, who was concerned about Emily's speech. She went down to the preschool and talked with Emily and was stunned at how much her speech has progressed since the spring. :) I talked to the school administrator and preschool director, who was concerned that Emily can't read. But none of our kids have been able to read going into kindergarten. They all agreed to talk about it, and the consensus last night is that Emily is going to kindergarten.

Added bonus: they had exceptionally large enrollment for kindergarten this year, so there will be two classes and Danielle and Emily will each be in one, with the same teachers they already thought they would have.

We do expect Emily to probably repeat kindergarten next year. She's nearly a year and a half younger than Danielle and will be younger than all of her classmates as well, but this will get her into the school and we feel will be the best environment for her at this time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

CP study

Today I took Danielle for an evaluation for an ankle-strengthening study for kids with cerebral palsy. Knowing that we only have a tentative diagnosis of CP, I had explained all of her background to the physical therapist heading up the study in case they needed to exclude her.

The took lots of video of her walking (with the cool reflective "sticky balls" stuck to various joints) and measured her muscle response with electrodes. They tested her ability to stand up without using her hands, to jump, to run, to sit and balance while bending for various objects, and to step over obstacles. A few highlights of the day:

The therapist wanted to see Danielle walk up stairs, so she took her to some stairs and had her walk up them holding on to the rail. Then she showed Danielle how she wanted to see her walk up the stairs without holding on to the rail...step, together, step, together, etc. So Danielle went over to do it and promptly walked up the steps...step, step, step, step. I started laughing and asked if the therapist had wanted her to stop on each step. She had a look of astonishment on her face as she said "no, that will work just fine!"

The therapist did lots of measurements and feels (as we do) that Danielle does not fit the norms for a child with CP. She has a couple of markers (toe-walking and strabismus) but none of the typical muscle tightness markers that most kids with CP have (and no typical brain injury markers for CP). She spent a lot of time saying "this is so interesting" and "this doesn't make any sense" as she measured various things. :)

Everyone at the study got a big kick out of Danielle's English (she's understandable, but sometimes she says the weirdest things!). So the therapist taught her to say "gluteous maximus" for some of the muscles she was attaching electrodes to.

Danielle was really a trooper. It was about 5 hours of testing and she was so good-natured about it. She will be in the study which means we have added 3 hours of therapy to our week (I know!). But the therapy is free and is targeted to strengthening her ankles, which we know she needs. I did tell the therapist that I already knew the outcome of their study, as I have watched Danielle's walking improve tremendously as her legs and ankles have strengthened. :) I think we totally piqued the therapist's academic interest in a case like Danielle's, where her circumstances made her underlying medical condition much worse than it needed to be.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Looking for the good

It was a good thing I left the windows down in the car yesterday when the torrential rains hit St Louis.

On account of which I had standing water inside the car when it was time to leave.

On account of which I drove home with the windows down to help dry the car out.

On account of which I was not listening to the radio or on the phone at the time of the accident and was able to avoid hitting a fire hydrant (scraped it, but didn't run directly into it) and did not hit my head on the car window.

On account of which I only have a mild headache and some neck pain today, instead of lots of bruising and a concussion.

Thank you, God, for the rain that soaked my car yesterday!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bam

I'm beginning to not like August so much.

There was the random vomiting on Monday (me) and then today...a car accident.

Not only was someone kind enough to run into me, hard enough that it knocked my glasses off of my face and out the window, but they were considerate enough to not have insurance.

Sigh.

Really not looking forward to the $1000 deductible thanks to someone else's negligence. :(

Thankfully, the kids were not in the car yet (I was on the way to pick them up), I wasn't driving the van so we still have a vehicle that holds all of us, and Mark was able to go pick up the kids for me. I don't think I'm injured but I'm sure I'll be sore tomorrow. The car is still drivable so that's a plus, too!

The painting

I'm going to try to contain myself, but I really need to vent a little bit about this. We paid our drywaller to have his team come in to paint the dirty house. Come to find out, his team is his uncle and a few other guys. Here's the list of current complaints:

Painted master bathroom the wrong color
Didn't paint a few areas of the house (that were supposed to be painted)
Did not clean the windows where they oversprayed (and were supposed to clean per the contract)
Got wall paint on the ceilings
Got random dark paint in the hallway (drips, but from a bathroom color that somehow ended up in the hallway)
Left us a bucket that said "DN'T OPEN" (typed exactly as written)

Okay, the bucket is what put us over the edge. All of the excess paint buckets, including the one marked as above, were left at the house which was great because we definitely have to do some touch-up. However, we weren't sure what to do with this bucket. Clearly, we should dispose of it but we didn't know what was in it so didn't want to just throw it in the trash. Our thought was that it must contain some paint thinner or cleaner, and that we would probably need to dispose of it separately. But in order to know how to dispose of it we needed to know what it was.

So we opened it.

Can you guess where this is going??

Someone had used the bucket as a portable toilet, and the resulting deposits had been sitting in a closed bucket in a 90+ degree house for about a week.

And they left it there.

Never, never again will I hire someone to paint for us.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The dentist

Yesterday all four kids went to the dentist which they love. They did a great job obeying me and then also did well for the dentist. Lots of clean teeth, no plaque on any teeth(!), and healthy gums, so that was definitely good news!

Alex got to share that he had lost another tooth (last week) which is his fifth tooth to lose. Tim is still patiently waiting for any of his teeth to fall out. :) Tim's teeth still show some of the black iron staining when they grow out. You can see it right at the base of his teeth (close to the gum) although it's much less noticeable than it used to be. Supposedly his permanent teeth won't have it at all which would be really nice for his sake as he gets older.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Umm, it's August??

Yes, August is getting away from me. School registration, school supply shopping, frantically trying to figure out what we were doing with the boys for the week and a half before school started (but after summer camp ended)...August is rather taking my breath away. And it's not half over yet. ;)

So what have we been up to?

The boys are in extended summer camp. A few other parents and myself were able to convince them that they needed to offer something during the week and a half before school started, since most of us don't have enough vacation to cover that time plus all of the school holidays. They're basically doing the same things they were before, except no cooking in hot oil and no bus field trips. ;) The boys have picked up the words "dude" and "duh" at summer camp. So I get sentences like this:

"Dude, I have piece of paper?" and "Wow, that's a cool red truck duh."

Can I just say that it's hilarious to hear slang coming out of Alex's mouth mixed in with the speech apraxia, and I find it hysterical that Tim uses the word "duh" (if you can call that a word) but has no idea it's supposed to be sarcastic so he just tacks it on at the end of sentences.

Emily and Danielle are both super-excited for school to start. It's a daily conversation regarding going "upstairs", since the school and their classrooms are on the floor above their preschool classes. Danielle knows most of her letters and numbers to 10 now, although we're still working on it nearly every day after school. Emily's birthday is coming up soon--she'll be 5!--and we're getting her...

...wait for it...

...a vacuum!

Yes, a real working vacuum. She is going to be over-the-moon with her own working vacuum, and I'm thinking my house may be cleaner than I'll know what to do with. ;) It's a small stick vacuum with a telescoping handle, but if it doesn't telescope enough we can remove the handle and she can use it as a hand vacuum. I know it sounds like a bit of a sexist present, but all of my kids love to clean and I anticipate some fighting over Emily's present. A few days ago Alex asked me if, after he came home from summer camp the next afternoon, he could "sweep up the dog hair, and then get the bucket and cloth, and clean the bathroom floor?" And Tim was so excited about it that he wanted to help too. To which I replied that maybe they could each do a bathroom so they could each have one to themselves, and they thought that was a great idea.

No, I am NOT joking. My kids love to clean and I'm going to let them think it's a fun way to play for as long as I can get away with it!

For me, clearly I haven't been cleaning. ;) I did can 12 jars of peaches (I could have canned a few more but it was 11:30 at night and I wanted to go to bed, so I made a peach cobbler from the leftovers the next day). Mark has been busy keeping track of the contractors for the other house (that's a whole other post!) and we're getting close to being done with the systems (HVAC, electrical, and plumbing) and should have functioning air conditioning by the end of the week. I'm sure it will be in just in time to break the heat advisory we're under here. ;)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer camp and Alex

Monday when I picked the boys up, their schedule had changed and instead of going swimming they had stayed at the school and had stations (which turned out to be good because apparently I forgot to send shorts with them for after swimming!). For stations they rotate through different "stations" (clever, I know) like cooking, videos, Bible, sports, and arts and crafts.

When I picked them up, Tim and Alex were trying to explain to me what they had made in cooking. It smelled like funnel cakes, but Tim kept telling me it wasn't funnel cakes but he couldn't remember the name of what they had made.

Fast forward a few hours...right before dinner, Alex started complaining that his head hurt. I told him if he didn't feel good he could sit down on the couch or if he wanted he could go to bed. He decided to go to bed so he went upstairs to put his pajamas on. When I went up to turn his AC on and tuck him in he decided he was feeling better and came downstairs to dinner.

And then promptly went in the bathroom and threw up.

That's not unusual for him if he's dehydrated (although it usually happens in the mornings) so I didn't think much of it and he came back and sat down and ate dinner. As soon as he was finished with dinner, he said his head still hurt and asked to be excused to go to bed.

After he had left the table, Tim and I were still trying to piece together what they had made for snack at summer camp.

"You know, it's long, like this...and has cream inside?"

A Twinkie?

"Yeah! A Twinkie! And we put it in the oil, and we turned it like this and it turned brown, and then we put lots of sugar on it and ate it!"

Oh yes they did. They had fried Twinkies for snack. I started laughing so hard, because all at once it was crystal clear as to why Alex didn't feel good. They had fried Twinkies for afternoon snack and then spent the next hour and a half running around playing soccer in the gym. I'm impressed he didn't throw up earlier.

He's been fine the rest of the week, although he did tell me today that fried Twinkies aren't good for you. I'm guessing he won't be eating any more of those for awhile. ;)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fun weekend

This weekend Mark's parents were in town and it was great to have them here. We packed as much as we could into one weekend. :)

Friday Mark had the day off so he kept the kids home so they could spend more time with their Grandma and Grandpa. They did lots of yardwork and spent lots of time snuggled on the couch reading stories. :) Friday night all of the adults went to the Muny for Cats. I had never seen it before, and while it was good it's not one of my favorites. I'm glad to have finally seen it, though.

Saturday was...wait for it ;)...base ball! Mark's dad played and then...in the last inning of the last game...I played.

Yes, you read that right.

They were short players and I told them as long as I didn't have to catch, hit, or throw I would be happy to play. I played second base. And...

I actually made an out.

We celebrated by going to Cici's Pizza. I ate an extra cinnamon roll. I figured I deserve it. It will be at least another decade before I play base ball again so I better celebrate while I can!

Sunday was church and then we went peach-picking at Eckert's. We brought home about 20 lbs of peaches, which will be canned shortly (whatever we don't eat first). Then Hometown Buffet to show Grandma and Grandpa how much the kids can eat (trust me, looking at them you would be amazed!).

Mom and Dad O are heading out tomorrow for Denver. We will all miss them and look forward to seeing them again soon!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Watching for triggers

I love that I know my kids well enough to be able to see when their behavior is a result of triggers in their lives.

Danielle has been reverting to some not-so-acceptable behaviors in the past couple of weeks, and I know it's due to some changes at the preschool. Her main teacher was out on vacation last week and then her afternoon teacher broke her arm and has been in and out. Since Danielle has only been in the preschool over the summer, she doesn't know any of the substitute teachers. I think her current rotating-teacher situation is reminding her a little bit too much of the orphanage. But it's comforting to know that this is temporary and that as she goes through this and comes out the other side, it's one more way to show her that this is not an orphanage and that she is home for good. :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A picture's worth a thousand words...

...especially when your drywaller covers up outlets in the bathroom and you have pictures of where the boxes actually are underneath the drywall.

And this after he decided painting is going to take too long and he wants to charge us an hourly rate ($35/hour!).

Grrr...contractors....

Monday, July 19, 2010

The best entertainment ever

Tim got a birthday card that plays music, and he's had a great time listening to it over...and over...and over...

The kids have been playing games with it like hide-and-seek and train (the person holding the card is the engine and when the music stops the train stops). But today the card stopped working. I suggested to Tim that maybe it needed to rest. :) :)

So he decided that it needed to rest for 10 minutes, until 5pm. He and Alex promptly went in the living room to wait for the card to finish resting (Tim actually laid down on the couch with it) while they watched the clock.

The clock in the living room is over a big arched doorway. After about 5 minutes of waiting, the boys were ready for it to be five o'clock.

So they decided they could maybe "help" the clock get to 5pm.

By jumping.

So they stood under the archway and jumped, taking turns. Then they'd look excitedly at the clock saying "Look! It moved! It's closer to five o'clock!"

Yes, they really did this for 5 WHOLE MINUTES.

Now what I want to know is if I could convince them to help "move" the clock for an hour?? :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

What HAVE we been up to?

I go back and forth with not posting because we're too busy or it seems too boring. ;)

In the past week...for the fourth of July we didn't do anything really special. We took the kids to watch the downtown fireworks from a parking garage again this year but we're thinking next year they may be ready to handle actually being downtown in the crowds and the noise. We'll see. ;)

Mark had to work on the 5th but the kids and I were off so we hung out around the house. The weeks stay busy with the kids in summer camp and preschool, plus speech once a week for Emily. So far we've been able to work things out so that the boys are not going to watch the movies that we don't feel are appropriate for them. Since Mark worked last Monday he had a day off to use so he used it to keep the boys on their movie day. They had a good time hanging out with him and still got to watch part of a movie at home, then went back to camp at lunchtime.

Mark and I have seen two shows at the Muny--Beauty and the Beast and Titanic. Beauty and the Beast was--I'm sad to say--very disappointing for me. I love the music from the Broadway version but this did not live up to it at all. There seemed to be whole parts missing from the score and it made things very weird. Usually the Muny puts on top-notch shows but this was a definite disappointment. That was somewhat made up for with Titanic. Mark and I first saw this musical in Michigan and I loved it! Here at the Muny I enjoyed it so much again. For those not familiar with the broadway version of Titanic, it is nothing like the movie...which is a good thing. :) It is such a romantic musical and knowing that it is based on history makes it a very powerful story.

This past weekend we did lots of running around. An old friend from TCU was in town for a wedding so we caught up with her and her family for a couple of hours at a local playground. It was great to get to see them again and to meet their adorable daughter.

This weekend was also Tim's birthday! He is now 7 and was very happy about his birthday. He somehow seemed to believe that everyone he met should tell him happy birthday. ;) For his birthday dinner we went to Hometown Buffet and the kids LOVED it. All they could eat and so many choices! We had some close calls, but no one got sick from overeating. LOL

I made Tim his choice of cake--a church cake that looked like our church...are my kids weird or what?--and it was dry but the icing was fantastic. I haven't liked either of the two cake recipes I've used for the boys' birthdays but this icing was a keeper. I've been eating the leftover icing by the spoonful (makes up for not eating dessert at the buffet! ;)).

Tim liked his cake but told me at church that I left off the statue (our church used to be a Catholic church and there is a statue of a saint in the front towards the top of the building). He was still happy though, because he got to eat the steeple. Weird, I tell you...just weird.

And we've been over to the dirty house a couple of times cleaning out drywall. The kids love to help carry the drywall to the dumpster. Danielle was actually begging to get to go again so she could carry more drywall to the dumpster. Silly girl. They like being able to point out how strong they are, and they try to see how many pieces they can carry at a time.

In dirty house news...all of the drywall is done! Taping and mudding starts this week and the electrician will be out next week. We should have AC in the next couple of weeks which will be great!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Confessions

Our bedwetter is back in pullups.

At the end of the school year I was flat-out exhausted, and only sleeping in 3-4 hours chunks was not helping. Since we seemed to be at a standstill with the BW alarm and had a good supply of pullups left, we decided to go back to the pullups for the summer and try again in the fall. This will let our BW's body have a chance to grow a little bit more and give all of us a break from the interrupted sleep. :)

At first when we went back to the pullups, the BW was staying dry quite a bit. But then he started being wet a lot more. After Mark questioned him about it he confessed that he was not bothering to get up and go to the bathroom because he could just pee in his pullup.

After a little notification that when these pullups are gone we will not be buying anymore and he will be back to changing his sheets in the morning, he has miraculously been dry nearly every night...and has been getting up to go to the bathroom during the night!

Amazing what a little motivation will do...

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Progressing fast

In the span of a couple of days, the dirty house went from this...

to this...

and from this...
to this...It's amazing what a difference a little drywall can make!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Switching things up

This past weekend I decided to make some changes. Specifically, I decided to put the girls in the boys' room and the boys in the girls' room.

The girls' room is right in the middle of the hallway and has a pocket door. I don't like closing their door as I'm worried they will have trouble opening it in the middle of the night if they need to go to the bathroom. The hallway outside their door happens to be the squeakiest part of the hall so every time we walk by it is really loud and often wakes one or both girls up.

The boys' room is at the end of the hall, right across from our room, and has a regular door on it. By putting the girls in there I can hear them better at night and I can pull their door to and not have them hear as much noise. Plus, the floor in the boys' room is quieter so when I go in to one of the girls I don't wake the other one up.

We started the switch on Sunday night. Of course it decided to thunderstorm that night. But it worked out great because I stayed in our bedroom folding laundry and listened for the girls. I could peek in on them without waking them up. When Danielle got scared I was able to go in and comfort her without waking Emily up (Danielle was the only one who ever woke up).

Right now we're on trial for a week, so we haven't actually swapped any of their clothes or toys yet. I want to see how this works. But so far I am LOVING it and think it may be a permanent change.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ten minutes ago

"What are we having for dinner?"

"Western casserole."

"Yeehaw!!!"

No joke. :)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Two down, two to go

Sunday after church Tim was stung by a wasp. It was apparently building a nest underneath one of the handrails and it wasn't too happy when Tim put his hand on the handrail. He was stung twice on one hand and once on the other. Other than screaming like a girl (Mark's words ;)) he handled it very well. It didn't swell up much on Sunday, but he woke up Monday morning with both hands pretty swollen.

This afternoon I gave him some benadryl as his little hands were so swollen you couldn't see his knuckles. :( Poor baby. They don't seem to bother him though as he's busy building more houses out of blankets (the latest every-afternoon activity) and the couch.

Two of the kids have now been stung and not had severe reactions. The minimal-reaction part always makes me happy. Here's hoping the other two respond the same way!

Friday, June 25, 2010

No more school

Today when I picked the kids up, Tim informed me that he no longer wanted to go to school. He only wants to go to summer camp. Specifically...

"I don't want to go to school anymore. I only want to go to summer camp. I already know how to read. I don't need to go to school anymore."

Apparently being able to read 3 and 4 letter words with one or two vowels means you have maxed out your learning opportunities at school. Can't say I was surprised by this one. Tim would much rather be running and doing than sitting and learning! :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I feel like a crummy mom

The boys have been attending summer camp at their school. Since it's a Christian school and the camp is held at the Baptist church/school, we weren't too concerned about content. They go swimming every Monday, on a field trip ever Tuesday (today was the City Museum--lucky boys!!), to a movie every Wednesday, have stations (cooking, arts and crafts, etc.) on Thursday, and go bowling on Fridays. The boys love it and they are definitely sleeping well. :)

But we've run into a small problem with the movies.

It started the first day of camp (a Tuesday) when they came home and said they had watched The Tooth Fairy. Not only is it rated PG, but the grand total of what they got out of it was "the kid got mad and smashed his guitar!"

Not really life lessons we want our kids to be learning.

So I'm thinking it's a fluke...and then they watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (PG) and Alvin and the Chipmunks (PG). They are slated to watch Where the Wild Things Are (PG) today and I finally put my foot down. I don't want my kids watching that, and for more reasons than just the rating. I talked to the director of the program who said "well those are just the movies they show so that's what we go see." Really? Because I'm thinking the church would not be so happy that you're taking kids to see movies with cuss words in them (d*** and hell for the movie today...ones later on this summer are worse), not to mention the content, especially since about half the kids in the program are 7 years old and under.

So I had the fun job of telling the boys that they would not be going to the movie with all of their friends. Instead, they would be sitting outside the movie with the camp director. So now they think they have done something wrong or are in trouble. :(

As it worked out, Mark is going to take the boys to work with him this morning and drop them back off at summer camp at lunchtime. We're still looking into our options for next week...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

And even more base ball...

We had another busy day of base ball. We drove a couple of hours into Illinois for the game. Early on, Mark was in left field and the kids and I were at the playground behind him. I yelled at him to check out Emily and me.

Emily was swinging, by herself, pumping and giving Danielle a run for her money as to who could swing higher.

I was sitting on a bench, in the shade. :) :)

The helicopters from Alex's birthday were a huge hit and the kids spent a lot of time flying them. Emily is not quite able to make them go (she pulls the string too slow) but the bigger kids were all able to get them into the air.

The kids also took turns playing left field with Mark. That was highly entertaining for me, especially since none of them run after the ball. They all just stand there and watch Mark run and then tell him he did a good job when he gets back to where they are!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

He's 8!

I can't believe I'm now the mother of an 8-year-old. And that he was only 5 when he came home!

I made the slight mistake of asking Alex the night before his birthday what kind of cake he wanted. I was expecting "chocolate" or "vanilla" or "sprinkles" or something along those lines. No, I get

"Noah's Ark."

I started laughing and Mark asked if he should go find a Noah's ark cake, but I was pretty sure I could do it at home. So I baked a sheet cake while moderating an online chat for adoptive families. I then cut the cake in the shape of an ark, and frosted it the next day. It wasn't the best cake I've ever seen but not bad for a couple hours notice. Most importantly, Alex liked it. :)

Alex only asked for one thing for his birthday: "a helicopter that flies up in the air." I didn't think he was quite ready for a RC helicopter, so I went searching for one of those helicopters that sits on a trigger and shoots up in the air. After lots of searching, I finally found one on Amazon. Even better, it's made of foam so it can be flown inside!

Happy, happy birthday to my firstborn!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Carnival

Very rarely do I wish that I had brought the camera somewhere, but that was definitely the case Friday night. The kids' school had a carnival--complete with rides!--as a fundraiser. The kids have been talking about it for weeks and were over-the-moon with excitement when they started putting the rides up in the parking lot on Wednesday.

Since Mark has base ball today and I have an out-of-town baby shower, we knew the only option was to go on Friday night. So after homemade pizza for dinner (thankfully they don't yet realize the yumminess of carnival food) we walked to the carnival. The tickets were $1 each and each ride was 2-3 tickets so we had to set a limit so we didn't go broke. :) We perused the rides and after a little discussion Mark and I decided they could each ride one ride (there weren't very many that they could ride because they are still so little). These are the first carnival rides any of them have been on. Emily and Tim chose a car ride that went around in a circle and Danielle and Alex chose a dragon mini-roller coaster. We bought extra tickets for me to go on the roller coaster with Alex and Danielle (we were a little afraid of someone having a panic attack) but as it turned out I was too tall to ride (first time that's ever happened!) so we sent Tim on instead.

Alex and Danielle were sitting in the very front seat with Tim right behind them. As soon as the ride started, you could see absolute terror on Danielle's face. One time around...I can see her trying to tell someone, anyone, to stop the ride. Second time around...boys are laughing and having a ball, Danielle is slightly less terrifed but still very unsure. Third time around...Danielle is smiling. :)

They had a great time and I now think we could go to an amusement park and all of them would enjoy it!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Laughter is good for the soul

Tim: "Mama, why do you and Papa kiss?"

"Because we're married."

"Already?!?!?"

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Emily, while we're driving down the highway: "Mama, it's broken!"

"What's broken?"

"The car!"

"Oh...no, it's a convertible."

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They make me laugh a lot. :) :)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Dirty house update

Things are moving right along on the dirty house. Mark is in the process of putting insulation in which is a miserable job to have to do by yourself, but he's plugging away at it. After insulation is drywall (we're hiring someone for that) and then it will really start to feel like a house, although I will miss the new lumber smell of all the walls being open. :)

We've picked out lighting and are planning colors for painting so it feels (to me) like it's really getting closer to being done. I know for Mark it feels like it is neverending insulation!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Swimming

The boys went swimming today for summer camp. They LOVE swimming but neither of them can swim independently yet. We're planning on swim lessons starting in July (for all four of them) but in the meantime we've been a little stressed about the idea of them going swimming every Monday without us.

We sent their arm floaties but we also talked to the teachers about only letting them stay in the wading pool. One of the teachers said "well, we can start in the wading pool and then work on helping them get comfortable with the water..." to which we said oh, no, they are already very comfortable with the water but they can't swim, which is a bad combination! They were not the only kids who stayed in the wading pool (from what we understand, this is a wading pool that's pretty big and a couple of feet deep, so plenty big for them to have lots of fun playing in) and they had a great time.

The girls start water play at the preschool this next week, one of them on Tuesdays and one on Thursdays. This means I get wet clothes and towels almost every day of the week. ;) Good thing I don't mind doing laundry!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Base ball, base ball, and more base ball

This weekend was one of Mark's vintage base ball festivals. They played pretty much all day on Saturday and then Sunday afternoon. The kids and I went and we tried out the new canopy that we bought at Walmart a couple of weeks ago. We have a few base ball fields without a lot of shade so now we have guaranteed shade with us wherever we go. The canopy worked great and the kids enjoyed helping set it up and take it down.

Saturday night after showers everyone went to bed and NO ONE MOVED from the spot they first laid down in. They crashed and crashed hard after all of the playing! :) Since they'd played so hard on Saturday and had a busy week coming up we only went to a couple of games on Sunday then went home to relax and calm down.

My mom came up briefly this weekend which worked great! The kids were so excited to see here and she was able to babysit while Mark and I went out to dinner for our anniversary. It's been eleven years, and while it hasn't always been easy, there is no one else I would rather be married to than Mark. :)

Friday, June 04, 2010

Update on Cathryn and Connor

As many of you know, several months ago I was advocating for Cathryn and Connor. They are siblings in Russian who were in need of a family. They also happened to be HIV positive.

Thankfully, the Scoda family came forward and committed to adopt Cathryn and Connor. They were due to travel for their first trip this month (most regions of Russia require two trips separated by a few months). Unfortunately, it was just determined that Cathryn and Connor are no longer available for adoption. It is unclear at this point if they have been moved into foster care or adopted by another family, but regardless the outcome is the same.

The Scodas have now committed to adopt Mindy, an adorable little girl in Ukraine who is also HIV positive. Please be in prayer for the Scodas and their new adoption procedure. We too have lost a referral before and while it seems like it wouldn't be a big deal--after all, they're not your child yet--it is very painful and there is a grieving process. I know I still wonder about the children we were not able to adopt and how they are doing.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Summer camp

This summer the boys are attending the summer camp at their school while both girls are in the preschool (Emily was already there and since Danielle hasn't started kindergarten she still qualifies for preschool).

We looked at putting Danielle in the summer camp but were pretty sure it would just be way too exhausting for her. As it was, she was coming home from school exhausted and that was after a day with lots of playing but also lots of sitting and down time.

Summer camp doesn't have any down time.

They do field trips almost every day, including swimming, the zoo, the botanic gardens, and the science center. However, at the preschool she gets rest time every day.

So far so good as to Danielle and the preschool! She loves it and it is a nice controlled environment. She gets to play a lot which I think is good for her development (they have stations so she does lots of cooking in the pretend kitchen) and she's learning to play games like bingo and dominoes with the other kids. She has been resting quietly and even sleeping in the afternoons and her behavior at home is so much better. She usually sleeps about 11 hours at night but that just isn't enough to keep up with her activity level so it's great for her to have some rest time during the day.

We're not quite as keen on the summer camp for the boys. So far they've had soda and watched PG movies, both things which we do not agree with at their age (and without parental guidance!!). But we are between a rock and a hard place at this point and it's the best option we have. Nothing there will kill them so we're tolerating it for now. They are having a good time so I know they will remember this as a really fun summer!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Insights into Alex

The Friday after school was out I started the math curriculum. I know, I'm a mean mom. ;)

We watched the video first and I had all of the kids sit down to watch it. They don't get to watch much TV so they thought it was a treat. LOL Alex wanted nothing to do with it, but I told him he could either watch it now or later by himself and he opted to watch with the rest of us. It was really funny watching Tim raise his hand to answer questions to the man on the video. At least I know he learned something in kindergarten! Alex, too, began to participate in calling out answers at times.

After the video, the three youngest wanted to play with the manipulatives while Alex chose to go outside to play. I let the three littles play with the blocks and just build and have fun. When they were done they went outside to play. As soon as I had put them away Alex came in and asked to "play with the same thing Tim and Danielle were playing with". And it clicked.

He's embarrassed.

He's embarrassed because he thinks he can't do math and he doesn't want to look stupid in front of his siblings. I got out the manipulatives for him and let him play a little bit while we talked about them, but we didn't do any actual "work".

I didn't have the kids do any work over the weekend (see?? I am a nice mom!) but started in again on Monday (Memorial Day). Mark had to work so it was just a day at home for the rest of us. I sat down one-on-one with Alex and we started doing the Math-U-See worksheets. As we worked through some counting and place value, I noticed a few things.

One, Alex was slowing down and actually counting. He's very bad about skimming over things and counting 6 when there are really 5 or 7 when there are really 9.

Two, he got excited. At one point he told me "Mama, I can do this! I'm smart!"

Which is what we've known all along. Now if we can just really convince him of that so that he believes it!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

School is done

Tuesday night was kindergarten graduation and AE (Danielle's class) did graduation this morning during chapel.

It was fun watching the kids perform, and oh my...do we have a little stage ham! The kids in Danielle's class were on risers, and for various songs and poems a few of them would be called down to perform in front of three microphones. There was a line of tape where the kids were to stand, about 3 feet behind the microphones. Every single time Danielle came to the front to perform, she would first walk up to the microphone, adjust it to her liking, then step back to the tape line.

Not one other child in her class adjusted the microphones. :) :) Danielle didn't play with them, simply adjusted them and then stepped back, ready to sing. It was hilarious. She did really well with the program once we were able to get her settled down a little bit. She knew all of the songs and stories they were doing and she definitely sings with gusto. :)

On Wednesday when I picked her up from school, I asked her teacher if there were specific things we should be working on this summer. I already knew most of what we needed to work on, but I wanted to know if there was anything I wasn't aware of. She asked about Danielle's speech and said "oh, but that's taken care of with her speech therapy, right?" I pointed out that Danielle isn't getting speech therapy, nor would she qualify as her language deficits are strictly related to ESL. Her teacher started to ask me about therapy for her ESL, and I gently pointed out that if she was in a public school she would be getting those services, but she does not get them at their current school. She seemed somewhat abashed, I think because she finally realized that in some ways our kids do not progress as fast as they could because we choose to send them to this school. But we feel that the delay in their language learning is well worth having them in an environment where they feel safe, loved, and accepted.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Loving the weather!

Saturday was a base ball game for Mark and it was a gorgeous day for it! The kids played all day and were so wiped out by the end.

Sunday was church and then Mark's work picnic. I completely forgot to take the camera (the kids actually reminded us after we were already there because they wanted pictures of their balloon animals) but it's probably just as well. There was a bounce house, balloon animals, sno-cones, and way too much barbecue to eat. :) The kids had a great time as did Mark and I. The bigger kids loved the bounce house but Emily was less-than-enthralled. She decided it was way more fun to watch from the outside than to be bumped into by her siblings (who, by the way, thought it was great that they could knock each other down and not get in trouble for it!).

I've been selling some of the kids' old clothes on Craigslist and finally got rid of the second tuxedo on Sunday. It feels so nice to get things out of the house, especially when it can bring some extra money in.

Thinking of money always makes me think of the dirty house. Mark is being way too modest in the pictures.

Every single piece of new wood you see in those pictures he has put in. By himself. In addition, several of the contractors have come through and praised him on his framing. I am so proud of him and how hard he has worked on this. Rough-in of all of the systems is now almost done (waiting on a couple of small things) and we expect to be able to start insulating this week. That tuxedo I just sold should provide enough to pay for all of the insulation supports for the ceilings! :)

Monday, May 24, 2010

End of school

This week is the last week of school, which means the past couple of weeks have been crammed full of field trips, meetings, homework, etc.

I am wiped out. I slept for 9 hours Friday AND Saturday night. It felt great. :)

Things are hopefully going to start winding down and settling into a summer routine after this week, but we still have: a field trip (Emily), a trip to the dentist to replace two fillings (me), kindergarten graduation (Tim), AE graduation (Danielle), speech (Emily), and Shakespeare in the Park (all of us if I can make it work!). Plus normal school and work schedules for everybody.

One of the reasons I've been lax in posting is that I've wanted to post about Alex and haven't quite known what to post. We've really struggled with whether or not to send him to second grade next year. He is failing math but that is the only subject he is failing--everything else he has As and Bs. The bigger problem is that he does not seem to want to do the work a lot of the time, so we are working on helping him through some of that. A lot of his problems right now are stemming from some issues from the orphanage, we believe, so we are working on the best way to help him grow past this. Don't get me wrong--it will always be part of him, but there are some things he needs to work through right now in order to move forward.

I think in a lot of ways he's coming to a breaking point for himself where he realizes he needs to let go of some of the "old" and he's really struggling with that. Some of his habits and survival skills he has had for a long time. He is starting to see that he needs to let go of them but I think he's very scared of doing that--of really opening up. I don't want to say this is not about attachment because I'm sure some of this affects his feelings and interactions with us as well, but this is really about Alex and his view of himself (which is quite often where attachment problems come from too). I think Alex is secure in his place in our family. He shows good attachment signs and we have no qualms about his attachment, although I personally believe it takes longer than a couple of years for a child with a background like his to be firmly and completely attached.

This really boils down to his self-esteem and self-worth.

In addition to helping him work through some of those issues, we are tackling the math too. :) I recently purchased the Alpha set of Math-U-See. Alex is a very visual learner so I'm hopeful that this may help him "get" math better than the curriculum they use at school. We will be starting this after school is out and doing a little bit each day. I'm actually going to do it with the three oldest (not sure about Emily yet) as I think it will be beneficial for all of them, too.

NB: I've turned off comments for this post, not because I don't like you. :) :) I would love some encouragement right now but I'm not up for discourses on what we should be doing for Alex. I have not posted the full situation here nor how we are handling it and that is intentional. So please trust that we are working towards the best solutions to help Alex and please be praying for him and us that we can help him heal from his past. Thanks! :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Updated "Dirty House"

Updated pictures of the "Dirty House" Plumbing is in! HVAC is close. Electric should be done this week. 1st floor ceiling is dropped. New windows go in on Thursday, all 17 of them.

Basement - where the furnace was and will go again



First Floor - from kitchen through dining room to living room
(lowered ceiling here)


First Floor - from living room through dining room to kitchen and back door
(lowered ceiling here)


Second Floor - from second bedroom into bath with master bath beyond, then closet then master bedroom


Second Floor - from master bath, then second bath into second bedroom