Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!






Boys? Abandoned? No way!

"How did you get a boy? The Chinese don't give up their boys! Culturally that's just wrong."
"What's wrong with him?"
Or my favorite: "He's not Chinese. He can't be! Where is he REALLY from?"

Those questions and more are asked on a regular basis and quite frankly I'm tired of them! Our boys ARE Chinese, we got boys by asking, and Ryan was a healthy child adoption. Logan has medical needs, yes, but there are many other boys available as healthy children. Sometimes for boys their only special need is a family!

Today marks the 4th anniversary of Ryan's adoption. Later I hope to post more about that, but in the meantime, I wanted to share something else with you. Over the last 4 years I have spent much time thinking and praying for Ryan's birth parents, his "China mommy and China daddy" as we refer to them. We have never presumed to know why Ryan was left on the orphanage steps. He was just over 9 weeks old when he was found. I cannot begin to imagine the pain of walking away from my 9 week old baby, and I suppose that at some level I have simply refused to believe that a mother could do that. Logan was found at 3 days old and the assumption has always been that it was because of his cleft and an inability to care for him, to feed him, to get him the medical help he needed. His province is very poor, with an average per capita income of roughly $1000/year. Reading this very thoughtful piece on abandonment in China, my heart aches. I cannot imagine the heartache and pain of losing a child you love so dearly and yet it appears to happen more often than we like to believe. As Amy (the author) writes, we often give "...simple, one line sentences, to explain a personal life event that is often very complex."

As we celebrate 4 years with Ryan (and spend it watching Emily play volleyball) I would encourage you to read Amy's blog post. It will open your eyes. It accurately reflects what I witnessed first-hand in Honduras almost 6 years ago. You will view the world--and my children!--differently, perhaps with less judgment. Just make sure you have tissues handy!

A Life of Giving: Abandonment

Friday, October 30, 2009

Just checking...

I finally figured out how to add a fancy signature to my blog--I'm a slow learner!--and decided to make sure it really works. Pay no attention to me... :)


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

imponderables

Some of the questions that went through my mind this morning while I was out running. It became very obvious I was preoccupied when I got home and realized I hadn't even noticed how many cars were parked along the side of the street!

*Why are people shopping NOW like it's the week before Christmas? Every time I go to Costco it's packed. And I'm there lots. It's almost my second home.....
*Why is every shopper at Costco about 150 years old?
*Why do they move slower than molasses in January while they shop?
*Why is it that no matter how much money I spend on groceries (plenty!), my children always gripe that "there's nothing to eat?"
*Why do I agree with them??
*Why are my days so busy?
*Why, if I am an at home mom, am I never at home?
*Why am I both glad and sad that Victoria is done with volleyball for the season?
*Why am I not looking forward to the end of Emily's season?
*Why does it feel like every time I make plans, something comes along that means those plans must change?
*Why the possibility of a long business trip now, with the state tournament for volleyball, the start of basketball and cheer, Thanksgiving, and Brent's departure for the Marines coming up? All would be missed.
*Why do we have to be in limbo waiting to know if the trip will happen or not?

And probably the biggest question of them all....

*Why don't moms get sick days???
(No, I"m not that sick. Yet. Fortunately, it's just a cold. Boy would I LOVE a day to stay in my jammies, watch movies and read, and have someone take care of me, serve me hot drinks and anything I want to eat! But moms don't have that option.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

a victory

I was in a bit of a hurry yesterday afternoon. Putting the last of the sandwiches in lunchboxes and bags for volleyball, I set them aside and grabbed the washcloth to wipe down the sticky counter. When I was done I rinsed the rag and dried my hands on the dish towel. Apparently, though, they weren't all the way dry. When I patted Logan on the head as he walked through the room, he stopped, turned, and looked at me. After a moment, he said (with indignation in his voice and a smile on his face)

"Momma! I am NOT a dish towel!"

A full spontaneous sentence. All the sounds in place. All the words as words, not syllables. A thought that was ENTIRELY his own. And with a sense of humor to boot! Wow!

I think we just scored.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

one out...and one back in

Brent moved back home today. It's been exactly one month since we moved Hailey out. He moved more stuff IN than she moved OUT--somehow that doesn't seem like a great plan in a house that is already a bit cozy. We're back to 7 living here, but now the girls are outnumbered by the boys. He'll be here until the end of November...and this mom will love every minute of it!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

freshly bathed...

and shaved. Today was haircut day, so the boys are looking quite slick with their new short hair. For fun, they goofed off after their bath and had silly pics taken with Hailey, home for the weekend from UW.






Friday, October 23, 2009

schizophrenia

Today I decided that I must be schizophrenic. I was vacuuming the house, muttering under my breath about the number of toys all over the floor. And it occurred to me--I will miss this! I'll miss the toys, because they mean small children live and love and grow here. So I started thinking about the future, and this is what I came up with:

Things I am looking forward to:

*No more toys lying around the house
*Freedom to come and go during the day without hauling 2 little boys in carseats
*Bathrooms (and a house!)that stay clean for more than 20 minutes
*Not having so much "help" with the everyday chores of life
*A smaller grocery bill and less dinner to fix every night
*Quiet
*Less laundry
*Less demands on my time
*A full night's sleep

Things I'm not looking forward to:

*No more toys lying around the house. The time I spend playing with them is priceless and creates such great memories!
*Lots of time on my hands
*Bathrooms with nothing but a clean towel on the counter
*No one to help with chores
*Fixing dinner for 2 (it's HARD after 20-some years of cooking for 6+)
*No 'discussions' between siblings, no long conversations with teens, and too much quiet!
*Missing middle-of-the-night snuggles with my little guy. Nothing quite like drowsy kisses, snuggly hugs, and whispered "I love you"


Last night at our small group, I was in the kitchen holding darling Caeden, the 5 week old baby of one of the couples in the group. One of the men came in and teased me, saying that we needed to find me a 12 step recovery group for baby holding! I laughed, but it's true. I will ALWAYS volunteer to take the baby. I miss those days so much! My guys grew up too fast.

Someone recently asked me if we'd ever adopt again. You know what? If someone wanted to cover the costs, I'd be all over it! Yes, I'm tired. Yes, I have been tested physically, mentally, and emotionally with the latest addition. But my heart still aches to know that there are children with no one to love them, no one to hold them, no one to kiss their owies or tuck them in at night. I know I can't "save" them all. But we are so blessed here and we live with such abundance. It's hard not to want to share with those children. Unfortunately, I don't expect that it will happen again for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I know Jim isn't interested. I understand that and respect his decision.

So now, this schizophrenic is off to fix dinner for the masses before driving people several different directions. But when I'm done, I may just find myself a cup of cocoa and a good book. Maybe even read it at the bookstore!! That's pretty close to heaven if you ask me....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

not so funny any more

After having a 10 pound bag of flour come open in the trunk of Emily's car today, I'm pretty much ready to chuck it all and run for the hills.

I think it's okay for me to drive, but I'm not sure. After the last 36 hours, I have my reservations about getting behind the wheel of a car!! :) Anybody want some company for a while? I promise I'll just sit quietly and not touch anything...

UGH.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

birthday pics














Sorry some of these are so dark! Given the way the day has gone, I'm not even surprised...

a comedy of errors

Today was one of those days where everything that could go wrong did. About 4 this afternoon I just gave up and figured that I'd better plan that the rest of the day would be that way. Good choice! Rather than be frustrated, I started seeing the humor in it.

So what went wrong? Well....how about this:

*An egg shell SHATTERED into the cake batter this morning by some over-exuberant help. (Sorry if the cake has some crunchies in it guys...just consider it extra calcium!)
*Orange cake batter spilled on the counter by the same enthusiastic help. Did you know that it takes bleach--lots of it!-- to get orange food dye off a white counter?
*A container of laundry detergent spilled on the floor...and the dryer...and the washer...and behind and between them...when my "help" tried to close the door while I was refilling the detergent. At this point, I was ready to throw in the towel. No pun intended.
*Cake finally finished and ready to frost, only to find that while I could make the frosting, the decorator icing I've had in the cupboard is gone! Scramble to salvage some white frosting, food coloring, and a ziploc bag to decorate the cake.
*Birthdays need birthday candles, right? Yeah....well. Not so much. Unless you're happy with mismatched nubs that are too short to light. Wondering why those were saved at all, I called Jim and asked him to stop and get some on his way home from work. It takes him less time than it takes me to put shoes on both boys, get them buckled in their car seats, drive to the store, get them both out of the car, go in to buy candles, then reverse the process to get home. Jim could be in and out before I leave the driveway!
*Gather scissors and tape and head up to wrap the carefully chosen presents, only to discover that two preschool boys following 3 teenaged girls means that I don't have any wrapping paper that isn't pink and flowery! AAARRRGGH!! About now I'm REALLY ready to chuck it all...but it gets better. And yes, I found something to wrap the presents in. Just don't look too close!
*Head back down to the kitchen to discover that someone, somehow, has unplugged the bread machine. The french bread for tonight? Well, I hope it's salvageable, but given the rest of my day I'd bet not.
*Somewhere in the midst of all this, I realized that we gave Victoria permission to spend the night at a friend's house tonight! That's just not allowed on siblings birthdays, and I blew it. So we'll be celebrating minus not one, not two, but THREE siblings! Ugh.

HOPEFULLY there will be pictures later of the birthday. I'm almost afraid to try! :) Today has been one of those days...it actually reminds me of my 5th anniversary. But that's a story for another day. Hmmm....both "5th" events! Coincidence? I hope not since Ryan's not 5 yet.

If I had my way, I'd run away now to some quiet place, a large hot chocolate with whipped cream (that is mostly whipped cream) and be done. Tomorrow has to be better!

5!

Remember the anticipation of your birthday? How exciting it was to get up in the morning and KNOW that it was your special day? Well, Logan's got that part all figured out. Not bad for only being here 17 months.

This morning, the first thing I heard when Logan came downstairs was "Why Daddy work? Today MY BIRTHDAY!" And what an exciting birthday it is...every child longs to be 5. After all, when you're 5, you're finally "bigger" enough to do all those things you've always wanted to do...go to school, help with the laundry, set the table, do the dishes. How quickly they forget what it's like to be too small to help!

It's a bit bittersweet around here today. Logan IS 5, and that's such fun. It is a blast to see him so totally excited about his day. But even as we celebrate, I think of the couple somewhere in China who must be mourning their baby. I cannot begin to imagine how hard it would be to know that you don't have the resources to take care of your child, to feel that the only option is to leave them on a street corner somewhere and walk away. Logan was 3 days old when he was found. For me, Logan's joy and excitement are tempered by the sorrow of his "China mommy and China daddy" and their loss.

It's bittersweet in yet another way as well. While every parent looks forward to the day that their child is ready for school, sometimes it's hard. Finally, after months of effort and several rejections, yesterday Logan was finally accepted into the developmental preschool in our local public school. He'll probably start November 2. His needs are greater than what we can do with the limited-but-awesome private therapy we get. I can do many of the exercises with him at home, but for his speech in particular, he needs WAY more help. His overall gross motor and fine motor skills also need significant help. Without the developmental preschool, there's NO WAY Logan will be classroom ready next fall. Even with it, neither of us expects that Logan will be classroom ready next fall. At this point, the plan is to homeschool him for the next few years. After attending the workshop last weekend on "Optimizing Literacy for Children with Hearing Loss," I'm even more convinced that he will learn much better at home than in a classroom setting. (Trying to get our school speech therapy team on the same page with the private speech therapist and the recommendations of the craniofacial team speech therapist has been a frustrating exercise. I'm seeing that meeting Logan's needs doesn't seem to be their highest priority!) Could he surprise us? Absolutely! Will it change what we do next year? Highly unlikely. After all, NO ONE has the vested interest in Logan's success that we do. So I've resigned myself to preschool this year; a sacrifice now for a better outcome overall. I hope.

So tonight we'll eat Logan's requested meal: spaghetti, salad, and french bread, followed by orange and white striped cake with candles. Presents? You bet! A Leapster 2 for him, a game to develop auditory processing skills (another significant issue for him), some Wikki Stix, a new shirt, and maybe even some new sweats (if I can find some that will work). And I'll post pics of the birthday boy with the cake and presents later. But if we're going to have cake, I'd better get moving!

Monday, October 19, 2009

out of the mouths of babes, again

Today the boys and I made a stop at a local dealership to pick up some information on a used Suburban. Mine is 14 years old and has almost 200,000 miles on it; it's going to need some SERIOUS (ie expensive) work or replacement soon. We've been checking out what's available so that we can make an informed decision. Hopefully even sometime soon! :)

Anyway, today we looked at a 2005 Suburban. The salesman asked me if I was interested in seeing a Tahoe (shorter version of the Suburban.) I told him that it wasn't big enough for a family with as many people to haul as we do on a regular basis. I figured that was the end of it, but apparently not. Once we got the information we needed and left to run the rest of our errands, Ryan threw out this gem:

Ryan: "Mom, are we going to get a new car?"
me: "Not sure, big guy. Dad and I are talking about it."
Ryan: "I like that one. It would be good. But there's a lot of us Mom. Maybe we should get a bus. THAT would have enough room."

I nearly died laughing.

Logan's apraxia

video
Note Logan's whole body movement (perpetual!) and the "groping" he does with his mouth to get from syllable to syllable. Also note the difficulty saying the syllables in the right order. This speech exercise--homework from our SLP--is to promote oral motor planning and fluency across the syllables. We practice about 20 or 30 minutes a day, broken into 3 or 4 short sessions. The longer the sessions last, the worse things get... Logan struggles like this with his everyday speech. The only things that he can say clearly, without much oral groping, are rote phrases and individual words he uses frequently, like "Mom" or "Dad." Everything else is much like this video--words said syllable by syllable, word syllables all mixed up, and lots of initial sounds without words.

The whole body movement is due in part to Logan's body awareness issues. He struggles to know where he is in space, and the perpetual motion keeps his brain and his body tracking together. The only time this child is truly still is when he's sleeping!

Sorry this isn't the best video--it's hard to cue, hold the other child, and run the camera at the same time.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

perhaps

Logan is distractable. It's really easy for him to lose his focus on a trip from the car to the door of the store. Today as we were walking through the parking lot at church he made no less than 5 stops to investigate things around him--flowers, puddles, fall leaves, car doors, and a bug sitting on a bumper.

It dawned on me that perhaps I need to live my life more like Logan: enthralled with the journey, not preoccupied with the destination.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday

Optimizing literacy in children with hearing loss.

That's what I spent my day learning about. Although the literacy statistics for children with hearing loss are sobering, I realized today that many--or most--of the things that we've done at home with our others are, in fact, the right things for Logan. A few minor shifts, like allowing him more time to develop language before teaching him to read, and using some visual cues with the phonics instruction, and we're good to go. As a matter of fact, homeschooling Logan and Ryan is probably the BEST way to insure that our hard of hearing child is successful. After spending many months contemplating homeschooling for next year, it seems that the decision is now mostly made. I'll have to adapt my approach to kindergarten and adjust our expectations to better match Logan's needs, but all in all, we're excited about doing what's best for him.

While I was gone all day at the Optimizing Literacy workshop, Jim held down the fort at home. I'm counting my blessings--HE got to deal with the tolo dates this year. Again! Last year the boys and I were in Chicago and missed the big night. Tori asked a friend to go with her and since she doesn't drive, Jim and the boys got to play chauffer. The theme for tolo (similar to Sadie Hawkins) this year was "Beauty and the Geek" hence the outfits.



Hailey was home today, and she and Emily decided to model their cheer uniforms. I'm impressed--Hailey was on cheer in the 7th grade! She's now a college freshman. Taller but apparently not any bigger around....

And I am still not cut out to be a cheer mom!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How's your world?

A friend asked me that this week. Honestly, my initial response wasn't very positive. Everything I came up with was negative. But that's not really how it is in my world. Instead of answering right away, I took some time to think about the good things that are happening so that my focus stays right.

Some days around here aren't pretty. No denying that. But most days are more like yesterday--a mix of good and bad. Yesterday was awesome in some ways: the boys played together well; we got some projects done around the house; and Emily played a spectacular volleyball match last night that was great fun to watch. Even the stuff that was irritating yesterday is funny today. For example: I moved Hailey's bed to Logan's room since Brent's moving home this weekend (for 6 weeks). He's too tall sleep in Hailey's bed with a footboard, but Logan only had the headboard from my childhood on his bed. So I took Hailey's bed apart and decided that I might as well wash all the bedding at the same time. Threw the laundry in the machine, then took Logan's bed apart. Moved Logan's bed to Hailey's room and Hailey's bed to Logan's room. Reassembled both beds, then put Logan's back together with sheets/blankets/pillows/stuffed animals. Finished the laundry, fed the boys, then took my "bonus girl" (I do daycare on Wednesday afternoons and Thursdays) and the clean bedding up to Hailey's room Made the bed and put the little one down for a nap. She slept, I cleaned the kitchen, and the boys did puzzles for quiet time. About 3:15, I got her up from her nap...and stripped the bed. Then I stripped and bathed the child and started another load of laundry. Made some quick sandwich dinners for volleyball, got the little one off with her mom, and dashed up to school to watch Victoria play...to find out that the other team had canceled but forgotten to let our team know! Many of my days seem to go like that, with one thing planned and something totally different as the reality. By the time I got to volleyball, had a chance to catch my breath, and processed the afternoon, there were two options: laugh or cry. But why cry? My washer works. The bedding is now extra-clean. Everyone is healthy and happy. We have a warm house and enough to eat. Anything else is a bonus.

Knowing that, how's my world? Well, how about:

Fun
Frustrating
Crazy (both good-crazy and bad-crazy)
Challenging (again, both good and bad)
Chaotic
Entertaining
Exhausting
Busy
Bumpy
Interesting
Irritating
Harried
Happy
Humorous


but overall, pretty good!

hard work

I look at this face, and sometimes it's hard to know what to think. He's definitely cute...and the imp in him clearly shows on occasion.



He loves trying all things physical. No matter how hard they are for him.

He also loves hanging out and reading or watching TV, especially with his brother. Welllll...as long as they can AGREE on what to watch or read!

And he intently watches his sisters play volleyball. Not his favorite activity, he now packs a HUGE backpack with stuff to do while they play. Sometimes it keeps him entertained, but most often it means that Mom has something more to carry and keep track of.


So what is it about this child that makes me crazy some days? He's sweet and kind and loving, he is helpful and thoughtful and polite. Pretty much every parent's dream. But oh, boy does he struggle still with the whole "who's in charge" question. He HATES being told what to do. He HATES sitting still and focusing on the task at hand. (And no, letting him free to wiggle or move around does NOT help. He's so incredibly distractible that if he's not sitting still he simply cannot focus at all.) Most of all these days, he HATES speech. And this is where we struggle.

Logan's apraxia makes everything 1000 times the work. For him, learning to say a simple word like "tornado" means breaking it down into syllables, then practicing hundreds--literally--of times. So we start. "Logan, say 'do." And he does. We repeat 20 or 30 times, then change it slightly. "Logan, say NA-do" After 20 or 30 unsuccessful attempts, he finally almost gets his mouth in the right positions to clearly say NA-do. Then we repeat, 20 or 30 times. Add the third syllable...tor-NA-do. Stumble through 30 or 40 attempts that leave him totally tongue-tied and floundering. Take a break. Go back to the beginning and start the process again. On the third or fourth go-through, we generally have success once or twice. After several days of this cycle, he can say 'tornado' most of the time, but there's no flow at all. It's still 3 distinct syllables, with lots of oral groping to get from one syllable to the next. And so it goes. Every word, every sentence. Every day. No wonder the child hates speech therapy!

His successes leave him elated, but his struggles are excruciating. Each "failure" (in his eyes, not ours!) leaves him discouraged and weepy, whiny and clingy. They leave me frustrated and irritated. Not because he can't say the words, but because he just gives up. Quits. Refuses to try again. I know he won't make improvements without working hard. He knows that too. But how hard is too hard to push this child? How much is too much to expect? How far do we adjust our expectations? How do we encourage him when progress is so slow, when the gap between what he can do and what other kids his age can do continues to grow instead of shrink? There are no easy answers.

Some days are amazing and wonderful. Some days leave me wanting to tear my hair out. Most days just are--neither good nor bad. That's fine. It's just when there's a string of bad days that it's hard. REALLY hard. Last week was bad. This week's been better. But Thursday is usually the day that pushes him one direction or another, since today's the day he has OT and speech. 45 minutes of OT (VERY fun!!) followed by 35 minutes of speech. Exhausting hard work that can lead to a meltdown of epic proportions. We are trying some new things this week. Hopefully it will help. I don't think I have it in me for another bad day. As if I have a choice....

Thursday, October 8, 2009

whew!

Life's busy these days...not much time to think about what's next, and no time at all to sit down and write about it. But in a nutshell, here's our life:

volleyball
therapy
more volleyball
more therapy

Throw in an occasional appointment here or there, some grocery shopping and laundry and you've got my average week. But it's still fun, and sometimes we get to try something new. This week we had volleyball Monday and Wednesday. Both Emily (varsity) and Victoria (JV) are still undefeated, and we made reservations for a hotel for the state tournament. Can't wait--hopefully Em will get to play. Only a few more weeks of regular season play, then we move on to post season. If they come out on top at the league tournament, they are guaranteed a spot at state. Since they've beaten every team in the league already--some twice--we're thinking it might really truly happen this year. Fun times!

This morning after therapy we headed to UW to pick up Hailey. Her big day arrived, and she's now sporting some extra metal on her teeth. Yep, at 18 she's finally getting her braces on! She's a trooper and this shouldn't be more than just a minor thing for her. We'll see. It does mean that we'll see her once a month for a while. We like that! :)

Tomorrow's sort of calm and quiet. A trip to the store for tournament food, making dinner for some friends, and packing for Saturday are all on the list. Maybe I should add "take a nap" to combat the CRAZY day on Saturday...

Here's the deal: Victoria has a tournament 65 miles south of home. She has to be IN THE GYM at 7AM. That means we (me, Ryan, Logan, Tori, and the other 3 girls riding with us) need to leave our house at 5:45AM. Complete with all the gear and food needed for an all day tournament. Uh huh. Like that's easy. But wait! There's more! Emily has SATs in the morning. She has to be out the door by 7AM. Jim has a class Saturday morning from 8-noon. When Em's done with her SATs, she'll zip over to my parents house so they can take her to her volleyball tournament, about 25 miles north of home. She has her first match at 2pm. Jim will meet her there and watch her play at 2, 3:30, 5, and 6:30. They should be home around 8:30. Hopefully by then Victoria's tournament will be done and we'll be home, although her last match is scheduled for 5:30. It's going to be a very long day.

About now, a day of rest on Sunday sounds heavenly!

Friday, October 2, 2009

island hopping

Wednesday's excitement? Riding a Washington State ferry to the volleyball match! The weather was crisp and clear, perfect for fall, and the company was marvelous. What more could you ask??



At the terminal, waiting for the ferry.
Logan doesn't want to wait any more!

Almost ready...





A shot from the ferry. That's another ferry headed to the terminal we just left.

Approaching the island. The high school's at the other end, so we get to drive up the island. Fun!

We caught the 8:30 ferry coming home. There's nothing quite like the sight of the city, lights twinkling in the cool crisp air, and the stars and moon shining in a partly cloudy night sky. No pictures of the return trip though--some things you just have to SEE.