Sunday, April 29, 2012


As a fun activity for snack time this past Friday, I showed the kids how to open a coconut.
They all tasted the water which none of them liked very much.
After I finished draining it, the kids took it outside and threw it down.
It cracked open.
Then I showed them how to peel it.

Over the weekend, we had Grandma and Grandpa over. 
Saturday night they treated with pizza!
We added a delicious green and fruit salad and dinner was done!
John and a few of the kids helped move my Mom in with my Aunt.
Let's just say, we have a garage full right now.
The kids have made the garage their new hang out place.
After our community group ended, the kids wanted to eat the last coconut.
After they got all the meat out, they grated, then pureed it with milk so they could have coconut milk.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Matching Grant...

has been met!

Praise God!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Final Push!

Matching grant time! It's the Final Push! 

 I am amazed how the Lord orchestrates things. He is a Father who surprises, who blesses, and who encourages His children to love one another. I am praising Him name today and always. 

On top of the $800 matching grant, I have to share more amazing news! If you do the math, an $800 matching grant would only get us to $1600 if we received $800 in love offerings over the next 24 hours. But that still left us $400 short of our $2000 goal to be fully funded. 

 Where would we get that? 
 All I could do was pray. 
 And then it was morning. I checked my email. And there to my surprise was an email from a     family pledging the last $400! I could hardly stay in my chair! 
 Hallelujah! The Lord answers prayers! 
 Thank you, a million thank yous for rallying around our family and our boys. 

 I am excited to see what the Lord has in store over the next 24 hours. If you want to be a part of this final push-- please go visit our adoption blog. 

Our Adoption Blog

 $5 will immediately become $10-- with this matching grant you will see your love offerings multiplied!  The goal is $2000 in total!

 All donations through the Chip In on our adoption blog are tax deductible and will be used to rescue Doyle and Fischer from growing up as orphans!  

This matching grant will only be going on for the next 24 hours. It will end tomorrow, Friday, April 27 at 5 pm. Pacific Standard Time. Blessings to you all! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Light Bulb

After two days-- a total of seven hours-- state testing is over for my home schoolers!   Yay!

The sad thing for them is that they have regular school days for the rest of the week.  We all sort of thought this whole week was going to be consumed with testing making our work load lighter.  Oh well, just a few more weeks till school is out for them anyway.

I am definitely enrolling Paul into homeschool for next year.  He is very excited.  "Can I have this cubby?"  Paul pointed out.  I am excited to see firsthand the progress he is going to make!

Dennis is going through a tantrum stage where he screams!  It is so uncalled for, but aren't all tantrums.  The smallest thing will set him off.

The wrong cup.
The wrong breakfast.
Me saying no to him wearing shorts.
Me saying no to him wearing pants.
Me picking out the wrong shirt.
Me choosing to pick out his clothes before Alex's.
Alex beating him downstairs first.  Figure that one out.
Alex sitting in his spot.  And we don't even have spots.

Though this stage is wearing me down right now, I trust that it is a stage.  I see the independence in him pushing to get out.  He wants to open his oatmeal packet.  He wants to use the stool to get his cup.  He wants to pass out the dinosaur vitamins.

And this morning he insisted on buttoning his jeans.  Yes, that turkey buttoned his own jeans this morning.  Now don't think that by me calling him a turkey, I think his behavior is cute because I most certainly do not.  But what I am saying is that I think this is problem that I can't expect him to fix on his own.  For so long Dennis needed me in a big way.  He was weak, and fragile, and couldn't do any of the things I mentioned.  I/We grew into the routine of doing everything for him.

Fast forward one year.  Dennis has blossomed.  And I mean really blossomed.
Now we have Mr. Tank.  Mr. Independent.  Mr. I Can Do It By Myself.

And I am stuck in "He is still me baby" mode.
And he doesn't like it very much.  And yet he still needs us.  What five year old doesn't need help.
And so finding the balance has been challenging.  And Dennis is expressing himself the best way he knows how.

**Light bulb** It just seriously went on.

I am going to try talking him through a tantrum to see if he can tell me using his words how he feels.  His ability to speak in complete sentences is absolutely amazing but I usually don't even give him the chance when he is screaming and crying and carrying on like he does.

Oh how I hope this might help!  I'll keep you posted.
In other news, you can read our most recent exciting news here.

So Not Funny!

Last night I asked Adam and Caleb to mow the front and back lawns.  They did.  But guess what?  Caleb left the gas can out on one of the chairs.  And good ol' observant Dennis noticed it.  And the can with its long nozzle resembled something he had seen us use before.  Can you guess?

He proceeded to water our flowers with gas!

So not funny!

Please check out our adoption blog very soon.  We have some amazing news that will bring us very close...   Because He First Adopted Us

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Big Day!

Today's a big day.  Us homeschoolers begin state testing which means that no one will be home to get Dennis after school.  So, he is going on a playdate to  his friend Sienna's house.  He is so EXCITED!

My legs are in pain.  I walked 3 miles yesterday, the lat one at the club house gym with John.  I walked/jogged my fastest and I still couldn't beat 16 minutes.  I am so out of shape.  Ugh.  How embarassing to admit that.   But I'll keep trying cause I know I will get in shape eventually right?

In case you haven't been following along on our adoption blog-- we hae a tentative travel date for mid-May!  Does nesting count as exercise?  AS soon as I get off the computer, I am going to move about 15 boxes to the street for Salvation Army to come pick up.

Have a great day!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

It's Hot

It's been a hot weekend.  Not only did John and I take the kids swimming yesterday, but today during our community group time the kids played with squirt guns and water balloons.  It's way too hot for mid-April!

Julia picked our first strawberry this evening.  I thought it was pretty pathetic.  Probably doesn't like the heat either. :)

Hope you all had a great weekend! 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sveta's Triennial

Today was Sveta's triennial IEP meeting-- the big one!  She has reevaluated a few weeks ago to see if she still qualifies for services and where she is today.  She used to qualify under Speech and Other Health Impaired but now she qualifies under Speech and Intellectual Disability.   With her verbal IQ at 50 and her non-verbal IQ just a bit higher, we (the IEP team) all agreed that changing our focus to life skills would be best for her. 

One of her ongoing struggles is with money.  She will take a five dollar bill and a one dollar bill to the dollar store.  Her total will be five and change and she will pause and hesitate finishing the transaction because she thinks she only has two dollars because she only has two bills.  Or she might have a ten, a five, and four ones.  Her total is three dollars and change and Sveta will give the cashier all her money.  Thankfully one of us is always with her, but as you can see this will be an issue when she is older.

Same with multiplication.  I thought she was getting double digit multiplication but as the problems went from 23 X 2 to more challenging ones like 37 X 8 or 325 X 3 she was lost.  Not to mention that her frustration level went up as did mine as she became obstinate and sassy.   What we discussed today was how we need to change our focus to helping her to understand how to use a calculator.  She struggles to remember that the back slash is another sign for division and the star is another sign for multiplication.  When she tries to type in a division problem she tends to type in 9 divided by 81 instead of 81 divided by 9. 

As we discussed Sveta's education, it was very apparent that we all truly want what is best for Sveta.   She started out taking the CST (California Star Test), then went to taking the CMA (California Modified Assessment), and will now be taking the CAPA (California Alternate Performance Assessment) after scoring far below basic.  These are state tests that she has always struggled with.  Hopefully she feel more comfortable with the CAPA and more confident as she completes it.  Since she tested so low it was natural for us to discuss her ability to pass the high school exit exam and the required high school courses such as algebra, history, and science at grade level.  Sveta on average is at a second grade level overall so it is realistic to say that she won't catch up to grade level by the time she enters high school.  Since we originally put her two grades behind to give her a chance to catch up and she hasn't and her 15th birthday is right around the corner we have decided to move her up one grade so that she won't be a 20 year old still in high school.

By the end of the meeting, I was very pleased with her goals.  She will continue to learn new math concepts as well as focusing on money, budgeting, and measurements for cooking.  She will also go from working on writing one paragraph to writing two.  She will work on all this two hours a week with her resource specialist.  Sveta will continue to get 1 full hour of speech therapy too.  As Sveta's Mom I am relieved and excited to finally have a plan in place that seems to fit Sveta.  As I explained things to her after the meeting, she was very excited for next year too!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

It's Almost the Weekend

Everything is going pretty well over here right now.

We have been doing lots of spring cleaning. 

We planted flowers a few weekends ago.  I noticed that the marigolds were not doing well.  I figured it was the heat untl I got a closer look.  Sure enough it was snails eating my flowers!  So much for letting them be.  Tonight I went out and saw about 10 of them having a field day on the remaining flowers.   Now there are no more marigolds. . . or snails.

After all these years, Rachel finally likes marshmallows. 

Adam is going to Magic Mountain (through school) tomorrow.

Before we travel to Ukraine and as the school year wraps up, I wanted to do one special thing with the kids.  We are going to go see a matinee of Chimpanzee this weekend.  Can't wait! :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Digest 26

Russian Adoption Chronicles said...

Hi Christine, I am a long time reader, never posted though.

Have you every heard of Pleva? It's a condition that resembles eczema and often goes undiagnosed. My son (adopted from Russia) was diagnosed with it a couple of years ago.. the pics of Dennis reminded me of it, thought I would mention it.
March 20, 2012 6:40 PM

Hi.  So nice of you to comment.  No I hadn't heard of Pleva until you mentioned it.  I researched it and I don't think Dennis has it.  Thank you though for sharing about it.  How is your son doing?
Right now his eczema is doing really well.

Queen B said...

I tried the truthful route once with my oldest and actually regretted it. The anticipation caused her to have a much worse reaction I believe. I don't think you really lied either. I try to be vague if I know the truth will really scare them.
March 21, 2012 6:13 PM

Me too.  I used to tell Dennis all the time but this last time he cried all the way in the car and actually began to scream when it was time to go into the office.  I have tried roll playing with pretend doctor sets and I have tried bribing.  NOTHING WORKS!  I'm not sure who has it worse-- him or I!

Rita in SPain said...
I sure will!
And just to add my 2 cents....Christine, when I was her age, I had alot of problems with headaches.....with age they just went away but for a time I remember having some really strong pills to take when I got them...I know I went to the Dr. and he prescribed them...
Anyway, They just disappeared as I got older..

I hope the same holds true for Rachel!
March 28, 2012 12:31 AM

This is very encouraging to read.  I hope it turns out to be nothing.  It has not been scheduled yet-- I just called on Friday and our insurance has not okayed it yet.

AnonymousBeth (A Mom's Life) said...
I hope your pie didn't contain Minnie's special ingredient! ;)
March 29, 2012 7:14 AM

Oh no!  None of Minnie's secret ingredient here.  :)

Wendy said...
I'm with Beth!!

Poor Rachel - she even looks miserable in her sleep! Hope she feels better soon, soon soon!
I just love it when you post pictures of your kids doing things together! I wish we had more than one, siblings are a blessing in so many ways.
March 30, 2012 6:33 PM

Rachel is doing great!  She was back to normal within a few days!

Laura said...

omgosh...I love reading your updates but this one put tears in my eyes seeing Dennis...he has just blossomed! God really had his eyes on Dennis the moment he decided you and John would be his parents. You are *all* so blessed!!
April 2, 2012 6:00 PM

Thanks Laura!  We think Dennis is one handsome little boy!  He is Mr. Social Butterfly too!  He can strike up a conversation with just about anyone.  He has just began riding a scooter.  He insists on getting up to get seconds at dinner.  He has blossomed in ways I never thought!

BloggerCarol A said...
I voted for you almost every day for several weeks to help you get named as the outstanding blogger of a large family....I thought you had the most votes....what happened to the award?
March 31, 2012 7:52 AM

Thank you for voting for me.  Smiles and Trials blog did win but it turned out to be nothing really.   They have invited me to blog about special topics but I do not have the time.  I learned that winning the contest really didn't amount to a hill of beans-- it was like chasing the wind.  It was sort of exhilarating at the time, but I am embarrassed I made such a big deal about it.  Live and learn. 

Anonymous said...
If I were you, I'd drop mixing the eczema cream with the baby lotion. The baby lotion has fragrances and oils in it that may be irritants for him. Poor baby! I think of Dennis often- I just wish I could help. I know so many others do, too.
March 31, 2012 11:40 AM

That makes sense-- thanks!  Since, I have bought Eucerin which works great!

:)De said...
Also a fan of liquid bandage, just wish the application tip was easier on the one I have. Glad your little guy is okay.

April 4, 2012 10:05 AM

Me too!  That stuff is tough to apply.  There was so much goop in his hair that it took three different sittings to gently cut it all out!  

 Expat Mom said...
Wow, Adam has grown! He looks like a man in that photo. Love hearing about the fun your family has. :)
April 12, 2012 6:37 PM

Doesn't he?  He is so grown up now.  He towers over me, shaves, drives.  And he is so responsible and mature.  Still, he will always be my boy.  Just the other day he wanted to make a bet with me.  "Mom, if I don't have any cavities at the dentist, will you buy me a bag of candy?"  Needless to say it looks like he has started a new tradition. I did the same thing with Caleb today.

Sue said...
Where did you get the table? I just bought two just like that from craigslist, and I would like to buy more matching chairs, but I don't know where to find them! I have them both with the leaf in , pushed together, to seat 12.
April 10, 2012 8:13 AM

I read your next comment about it being the black table that you were talking about.  We got that one from John's coworker who was getting rid of it.  Sorry I can't help you.

AnonymousAnonymous said...
How on earth are you able to afford so many children and such a nice big house on John's Starbucks Salary? (just curious, not meant to offend)
April 10, 2012 8:24 AM

Have you heard of Howard Schultz? :)  You can do more than make coffee working at Starbucks. :)  Not that John makes anywhere near the founder of Starbucks, but he is in upper management.  If he was just a barista we could not make ends meet.  Thanks for asking-- no offense taken.

AnonymousRita in SPain said...
Christine, I´d love to hear an update on how Anastasia and Paul are getting seems like they just slid into your family with no issues whatsoever..amazing....: ))
Working on my puzzle usual I am being OVER Perfectionist! UGH....
Hugs, Gina/Rita
April 11, 2012 1:55 AM

Anastasia and Paul are doing really well. You are very observant-- they have slid right into our family. 

Anastasia is learning by leaps and bounds.  Her english has come so far.  She can write complete sentences with most words spelled right.  I am absolutely blessed and encouraged to see her progress each day.  Paul is doing great now that he has an IEP in place.  They have him in a lower grade where he is learning the foundations of his education like phonics, sentence structure, math facts, etc.  I talked to his teacher last month and she shared with me how he participates in class discussions and raises his hand with the answer.  He used to never do that and it showed in his lack of confidence.

They both like to draw and play outside.  If they could, they would live outside-- when they are not playing the Wii.  Anastasia loves spending time with our two dogs and Paul loves to shoot baskets.  They both prefer to stay at home.

They are both great eaters! They enjoy everything I cook unlike a lot of my other kids. 

Anonymous said...
Dear Christine,
I am interested in hearing your thoughts on 'dating'.
Can there be varying standards within the same household to correlate with varying degrees of discretion/self control?
Please address this topic.
Thanks in advance,
April 12, 2012 12:53 PM

Hi Jen.  Great question on dating.  For the most part we do not allow dating unless you call allowing Caleb's 
girlfriend to come with us to the beach-- dating.   If you only knew that I made sure Caleb politely told his girlfriend "No bikinis"  (Not that she wears one anyway-- but just in case)As for there being different standards for different children-- yes there is.  Some children are more responsible and mature and it has nothing to do with age.  However we still want to try and hold to the not dating until you are 18 rule no matter the child.  We encourage our children to make sure their priorities are in order.  God should come first.  Next family, and school, and finally a boyfriend or girlfriend-- but nothing serious or they are only going to be disappointed by their inability to go out. Caleb asks all the time to have Taylar over or to go over to her house (Her parents are on the same page as us) and most times we say no.  Not that he is not responsible or trustworthy but simply because we expect him to take things really slow.  If they are meant to be together, there is no reason to rush anything.  They may have both decided to remain pure until marriage but temptation is a powerful thing and part of being mature is realizing that sometimes the best thing is to avoid getting into a tempting situation.    Now imagine if one of our children who lacks responsibility and maturity in getting their school work done or being honest with us wants to have the boy or girl that they like over.  Sorry, but it is not going to happen.

AnonymousAnonymous said...
I love reading your blog :-)
Can you tell me what the name of the font is on your adoption blog? It's kind of like how I print ... so I like it but that doesn't look like a font we have (yet).
Looking forward to receiving the puzzle pieces.
Gave dd the bible book I won in the auction and she LOVES it! I found a great bible story book at COSTCO for ds today, so that worked out perfectly.
MariaG (Canada)
April 13, 2012 12:24 AM

Hi Maria,  I think the font is called Crafty Girls. Not sure though.  Thanks for the reminder on the puzzle pieces.  I will try and get them mailed out this week.  So glad that your daughter enjoys the book. :)  Thanks for everything.

 Michelle said...
I disagree SO wholeheartedly with what the psych said :( Granted, I dont know Sveta, but I DO know the world of special needs, and schooling, and the games they play. NO child "maxes out", or plateaus, thats a myth. And the reason they push life skills is because they get federal dollars for it. Her words offended the heck outta me. MY child, with Down syndrome, will likely drive. and she is in regular classes, and they DO have meaning to her. much to say. Im angry hearing what she told you. How dare she. :( Im sorry this may upset you, but despite you being at peace, this is an AWFUL thing to say to parents. Sveta needs to continue to be challenged, ways of teaching her abstract ideas DO exist. Did I mention UGH!!??
April 15, 2012 11:39 AM

Hi Michelle.  Thanks for you input.  Believe it or not, I do understand where you are coming from.  I am so thankful that your child is doing so well.  That is awesome!  Sveta is doing well too!  However her reality is that she most likely will not drive.  And me saying that does not mean that she will not be challenged.  You have no idea how challenging it will be for her to learn her address and phone number, retain it, and then actually pick up a phone and dial the right number or explain to someone where she lives.  Sveta is challenged everyday but she is maxing out at 3rd grade curriculum.  Next year we will teach different 3rd grade material and she will be challenged.  Trust me.  I can reteach what I taught Sveta yesterday and she will not remember most of it a minute later.  That is Sveta's reality.  And without someone to help show me what it is that she really needs to learn-- realistically-- well we were all being exasperated on a regular basis.  Part of why I began homeschooling her was because the previous school was trying to teach her things that were way over her head.  They expected her to learn concepts that she most likely will never be able to grasp and as a result everything was going over her head and she was actually learning nothing.  Now that we have a realistic look at what she is capable of and how we can step things up a notch to keep her challenged-- she is blossoming. 

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Special Needs and Large Families":

I think the school psychologist's honesty is refreshing and sadly, very rare. Our almost 12 year old son (who does not have FAS but has learning disabilities along with ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and bipolar disorder) has struggled academically and socially since pre-school. At every IEP meeting I express my concerns and am repeatedly blown off. He is going into middle school and cannot spell first grade words, he still reverses his letters, he cannot retain information, does not know our address or phone's worrisome. However they continue to tell me these things are "common for 5th graders" and "nothing to worry about." I have older kids and know these things are by no means common. I worry about his future and they make me feel like I'm being ridiculous. We know there are issues, we are not in denial. I'd really like some direction from them but I guess I will have to figure it out on my own.
We also cannot let him do things other kids his age are usually allowed to do because of his impulsiveness, immaturity, and poor judgement. I actually had his school counselor call me and suggest I let him take a bus to a museum in the city ALONE because she thought he would enjoy it and we really need to give him more freedom. Your post gives me hope that as he gets older and goes to middle and then high school I will be able to find someone that will be as honest with me.

It is rare.  After being in four different school districts, and told that she would "catch up" in a matter of time, but not seeing it, I was so thankful to finally have someone care enough to be honest.   I have been concerned about her upcoming high school years knowing that she would not be able to complete the classes needed to get a diploma short of me doing all the work for her.  The Cahsee was another stress.  After working so hard to have her be able to take a special state test that leaves her feeling like she did a good job instead of the one that everyone else takes that left her feeling like an overwhelmed failure, I could not imagine her being handed the Cahsee.

Here is what the school psychologist followed up with most recently.

I think she could earn a certificate of completion but I really don't see her being able to pass Algebra and it looks as though the state will be requiring kids to once again pass the CAHSEE within the next year or two. The functional curriculum with always the thought in mind of helping her with future tasks would probably be the best way to go. You will need to be her advocate and judge as to whether or not the curriculum she is given will be useful for her and something she will need as an adult. If she is in the functional curriculum, you have a lot more freedom in picking and choosing what you think is important for her to know. We don't want to sell her short in terms of her capabilities so it will be important for you to watch her for signs of extreme frustration and task avoidance because of the difficulty of the assignment. She should be challenged but not to the point of being completely overwhelmed.

I hope Karalyn that you find someone who will come beside you and help make a plan that is perfect for your son.  Honestly, I think that most schools want to paint a rosier picture of a child's true academic ability in order to save money on the costs of giving that child the services that they need.  If a child appears to not need services than the school can get by giving the child minimal if any services thus cutting costs.  Sad but true.

It's Monday!

I cut Julia., Anna, and Anastasia's hair the other night.  But first Julia let Anna practice by cutting off a few inches of her hair.
Anastasia is tickled pink with the way her hair came out.
"Who is going to give Mama a haircut?" I asked.  Wanting a change, I drove to the first haircut place we found and voila-- here is what $16 got me!
Honestly I feel like a million bucks with the new do so the money was well worth it!
One of my kids said, "Mom now you look young!"

Today two of the girls baked banana muffins.
Of all things they forgot the flour!

This picture is such a big deal.  Dennis now drinks through a straw like it is no big deal.
But little does he know-- It is a huge deal... a big milestone in his life.

I came home from taking Caleb to the dentist to see Annalyn dressed like this.
Looks like Jack Sparrow!

Here is the back of Alex's head.  It is about healed.  I gave him a trim all over last night so that the back would not look so obvious.
In another month he'll be good as new!

Galina can now make wonderful bread all by herself!
Andrew and Jonny picking out two pieces of candy after school.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Special Needs and Large Families

I am asked all the all time-- what does a big family look like?
Hmmmmm. I am not sure what all big families look like, but I can sure tell you a little about ours.

Earlier today as I was reaching for toilet paper in the downstairs bathroom, there was none.  I called out for someone to bring me a roll... no wait... four rolls!

As I taught Jonny how to vacuum our entry way tile, Caleb was applying black Sharpie to a pair of hand-me-down shoes for Dennis.

I was cooking bacon yesterday and as I directed the girls in other dinner preparations I stirred too fast and splashed bacon grease all over my jacket.  I quickly took it off and asked Galina to go put Spray and Wash on it.

As soon as the first kid was done eating dinner tonight they came up and asked if we could have the ice-cream bars I just bought at Costco today.  I told them we had to finish up the old ones and they got them out and counted them.  Only 15 left, so John and I went without because I didn't want to open the new pack.  Dennis was so slow at eating his burger that we had to put his ice-cream back in the freezer.  I had pity on him as he chewed his burger for the 50th time (he doesn't like meat very much) and finally told him he could be done.  Alex asked to eat the rest.  Yay!  No waste!

As I walked into the bathroom to give three of the girls haircuts last night I noticed that they had set it up with music and glasses of water with bendy straws.  Just like a real hair salon.  After cutting Julia's and Anna's hair, Anastasia finally agreed to let me cut hers shorter than ever before.  She finally understood that I wasn't going to cut her hair super short like the orphanage used to cut all the girls' hair.  She finally trusted me that I wanted her to look cute!  And she does-- just wait and see the picture.

When we barbecue, we either have to put the first batch of burgers in the oven to stay warm or eat in shifts.

Four gallons of milk only last about 3 days now.

Almost every trip to Wal-Mart or Target or Ross I end up buying 2 or 3 pairs of shoes.

Tonight I was emailed the results of Sveta's three year school evaluation.
It pretty much showed what John and I have realized from the very beginning.
But I wanted more answers as to what to make of her cognitive ability.  What does her future look like? What kind of school work should I focus on teaching her?  What realistic goals should we help her to achieve?  
How do I answer the tough questions?
"Will I drive Mom?"  
"Do you think someone will want to marry me?"  
"Why doesn't my brain work the same as everyone else?"  
"Can I have kids?"
When John and I would bring up these questions with previous members of Sveta's IEP team we were looked at as if we were crazy for even thinking that Sveta might not drive.  How dare we limit her.  She really doesn't even need an IEP-- she just has institutional delays and will catch up.  

All we wanted was to understand her better... to love and accept her wherever she was...  to not set her up for failure... and to keep her safe.
That is what we want for her now.

I emailed the current School Psychologist back with some questions half expecting to get the same sort of response.
To my surprise, she was very honest and realistic about our daughter Sveta.
I share with you and especially other parents of children with fetal alcohol effects so that you can too better understand how to best help children like Sveta.

"Yes, she still qualifies for all services.  I don't see her driving--I think all that goes on in terms of driving and knowledge of the rules of the road would be too much for her.  She will be a good candidate for Regional center services, especially once she hits 18.  They generally step in at that time and start helping the student to make the transition to a comfortable and supervised work environment, help them with public transportation, and can decide if she would be a good candidate for a supervised independent living program.  I definitely feel her curriculum should start focusing now, if it isn't already, on life skills; continue with learning reading but focus on high profile items such as signs, menus, instructions on how to operate kitchen tools, etc.  Math should focus on money, time, measurement, cooking skills, etc.  Writing can look at how to write different kinds of letters (asking for a refund, thank you letters, etc.).  I also think, to help her become aware of her environment and help keep her safe, have her take walks and jot down landmarks, people and what they are wearing, the time of day, weather conditions, etc.  If she can write it down, or even speak into a little tape recorder, it will help to make her more aware of what she is doing and where she is doing.  She should also learn how to describe something to a police officer (an accident, someone bothering her, etc.)  I think the scariest thing about having a child like Sveta is how easily they can be persuaded to do almost anything and the fact that they can be so trusting of strangers.  She definitely should start learning about "Stranger/Danger" and what to do if she ever feels unsafe. 

Sveta is capable of learning more so her IQ may go up a few points over the next few years, but she has pretty much maxed out at this point.  I think it is important to decide what type of quality of life you would like her to have and how much time should she spend on academic tasks that she may always struggle with or that may not be useful to her in the future.  Some things we already know she will need to know for her future include cooking, cleaning, maintaining a safe and healthy home environment, caring for children, getting around in the community, communication skills, social skills, etc. 

I hope this has been helpful.  Sveta is close to a point in her life where academics will become increasingly difficult and the concepts will be too abstract for her to grasp.  She will need a lot of family support and you will know when it is time to switch to another path for her."

After reading this, I feel so much more at peace.  We have been doing many of these things with her already.   However FAS is the invisible disability, and Sveta is very good at blending in.  It has been hard at times to have people look at us funny because we won't allow our 14 almost 15 year old daughter do things that we allow our barely 13 year old daughter do.   But I couldn't imagine doing things differently with her because she would not be safe. 

As I look at Sveta today, I see an amazing young lady.  She is caring, funny, hardworking, diligent, and helpful.  She is awesome to have around.  Despite the limitations she may experience in her life, she has amazing abilities that are going to take her far!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

He Had An Itch

People sometimes ask if Paul, Jonny, and Andrew are twins.   They have the same hair color, and are all about the same size, but no, they are not twins.
The three of them can drive me crazy.  One minute they are the three musketeers, and the next they are fighting.  They often disagree about two square, and baseball.

Speaking of baseball, Jonny was hit on the side of his eye yesterday.  Thankfully it wasn't too bad.
Tonight John and I were supposed to be in three places all at one time.  After talking to the counseling office at the high school we ruled out Adam's gig-- an informational meeting about dual enrollment to earn both college credit and high school credit next year.  He went by himself and brought back the packet.  So, John took half the kids to Andrew's baseball game, and I took the other half to watch Dennis sing about Metamorphosis in his kindergarten program. 
We all thought he was cute as a bug.
He sang so loud!
Everything was great until we noticed that he slipped his hand in his pants during the program-- right there on stage!
The poor guy had an itch he said.
That darn eczema!
Today Alex had a pre-op with the pediatric general surgeon for his Appendicostomy.  
Before the surgeon came in can you believe a nurse came in to ask for Alex's adoption decree.
You better believe I was upset.  I recently filed a complaint with this hospital for the way we were treated back in December during Alex's last surgery.  I was assured that this topic would be addressed.
Since I had offered the decree at the morning of his surgery back in December and the staff didn't want to see it or take a copy of it, I figured it wouldn't be brought up anymore.
But it was. And as I explained things to the nurse she proceeded to ask three more times for the decree.  As if she didn't hear what I was saying.  At that point, I was ready to walk out and all I remember saying was that if she continued to make big deal about this she would see my fury.  
Pshhh, what was I thinking?
But she left quietly so I guess what I said worked.
Shortly thereafter the surgeon came in, explained the procedure, and then a nurse went over all of the pre-op info.  We are scheduling this surgery at the end of June or early July.

 Please check out the auction for this ocean scene tote bag.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

She Needs You Now!

Back in November I blogged about precious Tamara.
Soon after reading my post a family stepped up to adopt her.
Praise the Lord!
Tamara had a family!
Soon she would be holding the hand of her Mama.
Soon she would be snuggled up in our own cozy bed.
Soon she would be cherished and loved the way every child deserves.
Fast forward to today.
Her future looks very dim.
Her hope is fading.

Tamara lost her family.
And there is more.
Now that she is four years old she is facing an imminent transfer to an institution.
No more baby house. 

Oh how my heart breaks.
Oh Lord, we call out to you.  Where are your hands?  Where are you feet?  Where is this sweet child's family?
What hurts even more is that I know this little girl.  And she is a sweetheart through and through.
She is at the same baby house that Alex and Dennis were at.
She is in the same situation our little boy was once in.
Just moments away from a life way worse than now.
Any orphanage is no place for a child to grow up, but an institution is way worse.
Remember the videos of the Bulgarian institution I shared before?
Well, Tamara is headed to a place much like in the video.
She will be neglected, under nourished, and will surely deteriorate.

I am crying out to you--- "Please, she needs a family!"
A Mama and a Papa that will commit to her.
A family that will come beside her and help her to blossom into the girl she was made to be!

From a therapy team that visisted with her in 2012: Tamara is an absolute doll! Our TEAM has gotten to meet and work with Tamara the past several years and have loved every minute with her. Tamara is able to walk independently and talks in complete sentences. She told our group (in Russian) that she was a princess! We couldn’t agree more! Tamara ‘s caregivers asked us to help her with a few of her sounds in Russian, which leads us to believe her language and communication skills are very good since they were concerned with the production of just a few sounds. Tamara was able to hold toys with her hands, and complete a wooden animal puzzle with our therapists. She loved sitting in the floor playing and was a very good imitator of just about anything! Tamara is quickly approaching the age that will mean her time in the orphanage is coming to an end and will be facing a transfer to an institution. We are praying that Tamara never makes that move to an institution and will be set in a family that loves her. Join us in praying for Tamara.

Tamara's grant is currently at $2700.  With every tax deductible donation her chances of being adopted increase.  If you are not in a position to adopt right now, perhaps you can consider a love offering to her grant fund to enable another family to step forward.

You can donate here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Three Pictures

Caleb and his girlfriend Taylar at the beach.
The really nice thing is that Taylar's family is part of our community group so we get to spend every Sunday afternoon together. 
Sveta is such a hard worker.  She has made tremendous growth this year.  She is currently doing three math programs-- Saxon 3rd grade, Teaching Textbooks 3rd grade, and Math-U-See Gamma.  She is working on fractions, measurements, perimeter, area, and algebraic equations.
Anastasia is doing the exact same thing.  She has been home 21 months and her academic progress blows me away.  Both Sveta and Anastasia are hardworking and responsible, often reminding me that we still have to go over something.  
Julia and Galina looking beautiful.  I love their special bond.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Enjoying Sweets!

John took this picture of us girls on Easter morning.
We feel blessed to have so many beautiful daughters. 

Last night we made banana splits.
After I made the first one-- many of the other kids wanted me to make theirs too.
I was surprised that most of the kids ate their whole banana split!
What surprised me even more was when Caleb told me he would not eat a whole one again because it was too much.  Normally he wants seconds, thirds, or fourths on dessert!
Anastasia must have hugged me 4 or 5 times when she saw the dessert.  She could hardly believe her eyes.
Dennis found something to complain about of course-- it's a new stage he is going through.
"Oh, you don't want your dessert?"  I said as I began to take it away. He began to rev up for a jump up and down whine fest but I told him he could be thankful and happy for what he was given or he could go to bed without having dessert.  Like a switch, he immediately got happy and decided he wanted to eat his ice-cream after all.  And you know what-- he lived eating it with a regular size spoon instead of a big serving spoon.
Prior to having ice-cream, the kids went swimming so Sveta was a little cold.
For dinner tonight, Julia wanted to play a little joke on Dennis by serving his dinner on this little frisbee like plate.  He was a good sport about it.
After dinner, we handed out Easter packages filled with Easter candy.  The kids were very appreciative.
They traded each other for their favorites.
John received this new Starbucks t-shirt.  He has been a partner for a few months now.
Alex was enjoying his candy when I finally told him enough was enough and I began to clean him up.  He asked if I could help him with the last one he was eating.  I was happy to let him finish it as I poured the pop rock candy into his mouth.  The popping made him gag and he proceeded to vomit all over my hand.  Oh boy!  I guess he doesn't like that kind!
But Jonny does!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Many Firsts

Happy Easter! He is risen! 

What a full weekend we had.
John was given a surf board by a coworker.
So of course he was eager to go to the beach.  On Saturday we headed on over to Newport Beach.  It was packed and after circling the parking lot near the pier three times, we decided to head up to Huntington Beach.  Except for the stress of driving around with the gas light on wondering if we were going to run out of gas, and realizing that the parking attendants don't take cards-- the trip was awesome!

Adam getting ready to skim board.

Julia helping Anna to stand on the surf board.
Brrrr, too cold for me!
William and I dug this deep hole.
Dennis and Alex enjoyed playing in it.
"Where is Dennis?"
"Roarrrrrr!  Here I am!"
Here is Julia on the surfboard.  She is too funny.  Earlier this morning John asked her to sew a velcro strap for the tether.  She didn't hesitate designing one and using the sewing machine to make it.  It was so cute.  Mom-- you'd have been proud!

Anastasia had lots of fun at the beach.
We took turns burying each others feet to see if we could jump out.
A quick story.  As I was packing towels for the beach Dennis comes into the linen closet to ask me when we were going to the beach.  I told him I wasn't sure.  He asked again.  I told him I didn't know... maybe in an hour.  I guess he didn't like my answer because he said, "How come you don't know?  You should know.  You are in charge.  You get to say when we go.  So how come you don't know?"

After the beach we went out to dinner.  Grandma and Grandpa were with us as well as Caleb's girlfriend.  Since they were leaving in the morning and we would miss spending Easter with them, it was nice having dinner together.  I especially appreciated the no cooking!
When we got home, William got sick all over the floor of the loft.  Thankfully it was not food poisoning or the stomach flu coming on-- he simply over ate.  Never before had I been able to scoop up vomit like I did last night.  Hey-- another parenting first. :)

This Easter was also a weekend of firsts.
It was the first time we didn't dye eggs.
With Spring break no where near Easter and our unexpected trip to the beach-- we just didn't have time.
I also didn't make up goodie bags to for the kids to wake up too.
Long story.  I hope to get around to it this week.
Anyway, the day was still nice with much to celebrate.
And there were so many donuts left over after church that we brought home enough to have for lunch.
Then we planted trees, flowers, and a little garden. :)
And to end the day--- we had banana splits with the works!

Happy Easter!  Hallelujah that we have such an amazing Lord and Savior!  He paid the price.  He is enough.   He is risen!