Sunday, July 27, 2014

Less Than Three Weeks Left

I can't believe that summer is winding down.  School starts back up in less than three weeks.  I have been squeezing in physicals plus blood work for all the kids so that they won't miss school.
Nolan and Dennis spent four hours with the cranial facial team.  Dennis will meet privately with the plastic surgeon to see if he needs any upcoming surgeries, but other than that, there are no concerns from the team. The speech therapist suspects that Nolan may need a surgery to correct a flap in his nose  (can't remember the name of it) but has to first do a scope to confirm.   She will also talk to the plastic surgeon who is repairing his fistula next month to see if she can coordinate both surgeries at the same time if he does need this flap fixed.  I wish I knew more details but due to time constraints on the day of the clinic we did not get the full reports from the boys' visits.  They will be mailed to us this week, but until then....
Nolan continues to be a little ham.
He is so excited to be heading off to kindergarten.
Oliver sleeps outside his crib now.  What a big boy!
The kids have enjoyed relaxing this summer.
Now that Paul has braces, he appreciates food all the more, especially when we have something that he can easily chew.  Tender, marinated, grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, and edamame.   Yum!  The chicken is sort of a special thing since we don't eat meat with every meal nowadays with many of us eating vegetarian.  I make up my own marinade with oil, vinegar, minced onion, garlic salt, and pepper and let the chicken breasts bathe in the flavors overnight.  John then pounds the chicken breasts to a uniform thickness so that they will cook up evenly on the grill.  Just six minutes on both sides and we end up with the juiciest, most flavorful chicken breasts.
Galina and Annalyn enjoy cooking up fried eggs for breakfast.
Adam enjoyed his breakfast.
Our family devotionals center on family and how loving others begins in our home.   Despite how much certain siblings might bug them, I have encouraged the kids to work on those relationships.   I feel incredibly blessed to witness mornings like this. 
This weekend we did a lot of yard work. 
We are putting in a small retaining wall to give the kids a little more play space and to help keep the greenery from overgrowing.  Black widows, bees, and all sorts of other bugs love to hang out in the ground cover so we want it gone. 
The boys are back into Minecraft.  They could spend hours on the computers if I let them.  They enjoy just watching each other.  Speaking of computers, we were given four computers from our Uncle.  What a huge blessing!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Good and the Bad

I made macaroni salad this morning.  As I was boiling the pasta I remembered that I needed to add hard boiled eggs as well.  Then I had an epiphany-- why not add the eggs to the boiling pasta?  How genius is that?  I would normally get out two pots-- one for the pasta and one for the eggs-- instead one pot worked for both. 
Yes, two of the eggs cracked when I gently placed them in the boiling water because they were cold, but they were fine.
The salad turned out great too.
So, why did I start my blog post with this little story?
Well, in case you haven't noticed, I haven't blogged in a while.  Sure I have thrown up some pictures and called it a post, but I haven't really taken the time to sit down and write.
Honestly, my heart has just not been in it.
Oh don't get me wrong.  I have thought about writing many times, but I have remained hesitant for the most part.
What can I say?
Do you want to hear the good stuff?  The bad stuff too?
A little of both?
I can tell you about the time I found one of my kids covered in poop-- while on vacation.  The floor, toilet, toilet paper dispenser, wall-- you name it-- everything was covered.
It was a nightmare.
My mother-in-law helped me to clean it up, bless her heart.
Just the other day something very similar happened.
I wish I was the kind of Mom who could just laugh at the whole mess.  Or at least bite my tongue.  That would be nice. 
Or I can tell you about the moments where I caught a glimpse of some of the older kids hanging out with each other. 
Or when Caleb took six of his siblings to the community pool just so they could all use the high dive.
Or how about when Jonny got stung while we were on vacation.  Or just a few days  ago... again.  I swear that boy is a bee magnet.  We have an Epi-pen just in case, but we haven't had to use it yet. Praise the Lord-- right?   Instead his foot swelled up like a balloon.
But I'll take that any day over him having trouble breathing.
 And what about when Adam and I went car shopping a few months ago.  The 2nd day and 13th hour into car shopping we found ourselves test driving a little red car... until it broke down.  The owner of the little car lot was not with us-- talk about making memories.   We shared a soda in the parking lot of a liquor store while we waited for someone to come and jump the battery.  Let's just say that we didn't test drive any more cars on that lot. 
Thankfully, a few days later Caleb saw a car for sale while driving down the freeway.  It was a great price and checked out with our mechanic, so Adam bought it-- his very own car-- a 1996 metallic green Ford Thunderbird.
How cool is that?
I also had a crown replaced a few weeks ago.  I probably received fifteen or so shots of Novocain.  And then some more when it began to wear off before the dentist was done.  My left jaw was in pain for three weeks. 
I can also share about the every day battles I have with the kids about chores, electronics, modesty, and not succumbing to the desires of this world.  This alone is hard, and something most people just don't understand.
It's a constant war.
Not so much with my kids, but against the world.
The world has its own morals, standards, and emphasizes-- "If it feels good..."  "What is it going to hurt..."  "It's just part of the American dream." 
Our kids are bombarded with billboards, covers of magazines in the doctor's office, the internet, movies, tv shows, etc. 
Life seems to be a constant comparison.
"What is she wearing?"
"Why does he get to do that?"
"He has that."
"At least I'm not watching that."
John and I want more for our kids.
We want them to grow up yearning for something more fulfilling, wholesome, and fruitful than what most of today's world has to offer.  At the same time, we want to have balance as to not push our children away.
This alone is a full time job.
We were watching one of the Love Comes Softly movies and one of the girls commented on how beautiful the women looked even though they were covered from the neck down in pioneer garb.  That is because their natural beauty was not overshadowed by their cleavage, skin, or provocative dress.  At least that is the conclusion we drew.
Balance that with the girls wanting to "fit in", "dress cute", and "be in style" and you can see the challenge.
Another challenge is helping our children who are transitioning into adulthood.  For most of them this includes getting a driver's license, graduating high school, getting a job, and moving onto college.  For a few, the path is looking very different.
Today I took Sveta to get her identification card at the DMV.   All was good until an elderly man asked Sveta if she was getting her picture taken for her driver's license.
She didn't really know what to say, and though I tried to answer the best I could, I realized that most people just don't understand.
It's not that people are being mean, because this elderly man didn't have a mean bone in his body, but it's just that it looks like she should be driving and doing all the things that kids her age are supposed to be doing-- and she's not.
Because she can't. 
Oh how I wish for her with all my heart that she could, but how can you do something that you can't comprehend?
But we move forward and focus on what she can do.
She recently applied for her first real job.
Caleb helped her to fill out the application.
John had countless practice interviews with her.
She had her interview along with three of her sisters.
If nothing comes of it, at least she was able to experience filling out an application and going on an interview.
If I were to be as real as real can get I would tell you the struggles we continue to have with one particular child.   Just when I think things are turning a corner, I hit a brick wall.  If we have zero expectations then life is good, but as you all know, life does not work like that. 
These struggles go above and beyond the normal parenting stuff.  Back talk-- I can handle.  The occasional lie-- bring it on.  The junk food sneaking-- even I remember doing it as a kid.   
What's hard is constant disobedience-- which I call living in opposite land.
To have a child do one thing when they know you are watching but the complete opposite the second you turn around is exhausting.  Praying, hoping that today will be a turning point only to realize that the only way things will get better is for you to change.  At first worrying what the school will think of your parenting because of how your child behaves only to find comfort that the school sees the same exact behaviors and you indeed are not crazy.
It's hard folks.  And so often no matter what I do, I have this huge feeling of failure. 
I pretend to hide it well, but it's there.
What's worse is that Satan takes that and runs.  He makes me feel like I am the only one. 
It's a tough subject... I surprised myself that I actually shared.
  I would also tell you how hard it is to help a child rise above their emotional immaturity.  This past year has been a real eye opener as to how emotions can keep a child stuck in a certain place unable to move on.   They physically get older but emotionally they stay the same.    We desperately want to help them grow up, but they just aren't ready.  We are delicately addressing this especially with the start of the new school year, so I am encouraged.  Making it through the rest of the summer however, will be interesting to say the least.
On the other hand, there have been just as many smiles as there has been trials.
Oliver is potty training.  He is not afraid of the toilet.  He loves to use the potty.  He will go pee and poo in the potty no problem.  The catch-- he has not quite figured out that he needs to walk to the toilet when he feels the urge.  So, it's a hit or miss.  If we don't catch every time he needs to go, he will wet his diaper.  Still, at just three years old, I think this is a good start.
Since we are on the topic of Oliver, I can also happily share that he no longer sleeps in a crib.  He sleeps in the room that he shares with his brothers.  Yay!
Another smile is with Nolan.  Early on in the summer he was a bear.  He was throwing a tantrum at every nap time and every time out.  The tantrums were loud and ugly.  There were times I was pretty loud and ugly myself.   I thought I tried everything short of pulling my hair out.  You don't know how many times I wanted to just give in to him and let him up or avoid the nap altogether.   Instead, I kept telling him that until he stopped acting that way, I would randomly put him to bed to "practice" how nap time should be.  One day we practiced 7 or 8 times.  Each time I talked to him at the level I know he understands.  Pretty soon he was just being extra noisy/rambunctious really early in the morning. It was then that I would take him into bed with me and snuggle with him till we fell back asleep.  One day, and I can't even really pin point it, things just changed with him.  The tantrums pretty much stopped-- not 100% but close.  And Nolan began showing more affection to both John and me.  I'm not sure if it was the consistency, the added cuddling or a mixture of all three, but whatever the case, it certainly makes me smile.  Just this past Sunday he made sure to kiss the both of us goodbye as he went to his Sunday school class.
I think that is pretty neat.
Thank you to a blog reader named Peggy who took the time to email me today.
It was very thoughtful and encouraging.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Last Pictures of Our Trip Up North

The last few days of our trip was spend visiting friends who happen to have also adopted.  We all had a wonderful time.
 We got to visit with the Boylans, Fontes, Hughes, and Beckhams. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Underground Gardens

I am so glad that the kids were all excited to go to the underground gardens today.    The weather was cooler too which made it the perfect day for an outing.
It was very interesting learning the history of the underground gardens.  If you would like to learn about the history too, you can read here.
Baldassare Forestiere, the Sicilian immigrant, is estimated to have dug nearly 23 acres underground at the time of his death.  Amazing!

Many of the chambers/rooms had three trees planted to represent the Trinity.
The outdoor bathroom.

The winter bedroom.
The summer bedroom.

Baldassare was into grafting trees.  Though this tree no longer exists we did see one with three different fruits.
The tour was interesting enough that all of the kids enjoyed themselves.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Happy Fourth of July

Yesterday morning 14 of the kids and I set off on a road trip up north.  We are now at John's parent's house.  Driving into Reedley where we lived for nearly 13 years brought back many memories.
It was awesome spending Fourth of July up here.
The kids swam practically all day long.
Doesn't Annalyn look like she is wearing bubble glasses?
William and Galina are two peas in a pod.
So are William and Anna.  It's really cool to see the friendships that have formed between different siblings.
Alex has really enjoyed the water.  
"Grandma" Marge came over for a visit.  She is such an inspirational lady.  We sure do love her!
"Grandma" Kathleen came for a visit as well.   She adopted our family a few years back and has faithfully kept in touch by sending cards to each of the kids for their birthdays.  She too is an inspiration!  In case you are wondering how we met-- it was at church a very long time ago.  We worked together doing a Mom's group with childcare for many years.  It was a wonderful ministry that outreached to Moms in the community.
The neighbors across the street happen to be one of the Moms who came to the Mom's group.  Her kids come over to play with our kids when they are visiting.  As you can see they had a blast!
Grandma and Julia
Dennis is a real swimmer.  He had to pass Grandma's swim test in order to swim without floaties or a life jacket.  He did and has been a fish ever since.  It is really neat to watch the kids when they first become swimmers.  They are so determined to do all the things they have seen their siblings do and that's exactly what Dennis has been doing.  He is so proud of himself!

William showed me his back-flip.
Grandpa, Galina, Anna, and Uncle Jack
I sure love this picture.  I wish it wasn't so blurry.  It's just so sweet.

Cousin Matt and Jenn came for Fourth of July too. 
Grandpa and Anastasia watching the swimmers.
Alex got braces on July 3rd along with Paul, and Anastasia.  He had a little pain the first day, but nothing like Anastasia and Paul.  Only Anastasia had top and bottom braces put on at the same time.  Anna gets hers on in 8 weeks when Alex and Paul get their bottom braces on.  Tonight I showed Paul how to carefully floss his teeth with the tool the orthodontist gave him.  Hopefully he will get the hang of it soon-- it's a bit tricky.
Cousin Jenn with Nolan and Galina

Uncle Jack and Oliver have developed a sweet bond.
Anastasia is such a trooper.  Everything has to be cut up and most foods hurt when she chews.  That means no cone for her ice-cream.  I have been giving her ibuprofen and showing her different things to eat.  She is quickly learning what doesn't hurt!  Same with Paul.
Cousin Matt probably loves fireworks and Fourth of July more than anyone I know.  For that reason alone, he goes all out-- and I mean all out.  The kids had hours and hours of fun.  Thankfully there was only one little incident and all's well.

 Happy Fourth of July!  So thankful for the freedoms that we have.  We are blessed.
John, Adam, Rachel, and Caleb went to a fireworks show back at home.  They did not come since they all have to work this coming week.  The kids and I are going to take this week to visit friends and family.
Speaking of friends, we visited our old neighbors Pastor Sam and Debby.  It made our day being able to visit with them and hear Debby play the harp.  Sam went over to our old house and talked to the owner/friend who was happy to let us walk through and reminisce.  Much of the house was the same and yet many changes had been made.  The owner appreciated hearing our stories, and we sure appreciated seeing how well the house is being taken care of.  It was nice to see that the lemon tree my Dad gave us was still there.
Next stop-- the Cappellettys and Peters.  Our families go way back so it was very nice seeing their beautiful faces.
 Nolan was a big flirt.  He took Emily (on the left), and Kaitlyn (on the right) by the hand to go on a walk and show them around their neighborhood.  It was pretty adorable-- that little stinker!
So far this trip has been a blast.  All of the kids are doing really well considering all the changes.  Tomorrow we are going to the Underground Gardens.
Can't wait!