Friday, December 11, 2009

Managing a family of 12 & just everyday stuff

We get this question asked all the time.  How do you do it  w/ 7 children?  Referring to running a household.  Same way I did it with 2 kids or 5 kids and same way we'll do it with 10 kids.  You just do things.  No other way to answer it.  Some things we do a little differently just to keep organized.  Socks are a lost cause.  Period.  No way of saying how super organized I am w/ that--LOL.  We literally have a laudry basket full and just grab when we need it.  Terrible of me, I know.  For a bigger family, the things you do don't change, just the quantity.  For example, laundry.  We do at least 5 to 6 loads a day.  There is always laundry in our master bath to do.  It is never done no matter how hard we try.  Today, I'm currently on load 4, getting ready to put in load 5.  Yet, tub is still half full.  We don't have a laundry room so the tub is the only place to put it.  Dishes, we do 3 to 4 loads a day and can say thanks to an OCD daughter, the kitchen is usually immaculate.  Hard part is she tries to clean up as I'm cooking.  I just made chocolate chip cookies for an after school snack (Oh wait, I'm a good mom & give them carrots & celery sticks for snack.)  She was grabbing my measuring cups as I'm cooking.  Crazy.

I know another thing that folks always ask us is about the food.  A brief tidbit... we go through 40 loaves of bread a month, around 30 gallons of milk a month, 72 rolls of toilet paper('s an orphanage behavior that I'll explain later), & tons of fruit.  All my kids LOVE fruit.  We buy it discounted all the time as it saves quite a bit of money and is always eaten right away.  Guy at Lowes foods said "are you really going to eat all these?"  I said yep, they'll be gone by week's end.  72 apples were gone in 3 days!  Yes, 3 days.  Alex had 9 in a day.  I think my kids have the fiber part covered. 

As for our day to day stuff, it's normal for the most part.  Sometimes Chaos Manor will go a bit haywire but for the most part, it should look like some of your houses and your days.  I'll explain by pictures.  Just taking 2 days from this week as an example.  Here goes:

This is from when Bojan went to his chorus performance this week.  The deal in this house is when one has an event, EVERYONE has to go.  We feel it is good that they support each other.  Just performances, practices don't count.  This is Nik, Alyona and Alex waiting for the show to start.

This is Bojan in the middle.  He had a bit of stage fright which is totally out of character for this performer.  He loves being center-stage all the time.  He is our thespian/ singer for sure.  He did great.  Ironically, he was rather quiet despite singing at the top of his lungs at home for the past few weeks.

This was on our way out of the show.  See, even fire & gasoline can co-exist without exploding.  Yana and Alyona are different.  They do love each other.  But, like every set of siblings out there in America, they will have their arguements.  For being so small, Alyona had a huge voice when arguing w/ her sister.  Yana will now even help Alyona w/ her homework.  Does both of them good.  I will pull this picture out from now on if there is ever a disagreement again.  LOL.

Every night my kids make their own lunches for school the next day.  Even my kindergardner.  Gives them a sense of independence and shows they can do stuff for themselves.  What you don't see on the side is that there are stacks and stacks of apples.  This is a staple in our house.  We are fortunate enough to have a huge kitchen where all the kids can prepare their lunches.  This day's lunch was a turkey sandwich,pickle, apple, crackers, and applesauce.    

Last shot is of Warren helping Alyona with homework.  Some of our kids need more help than others.  What is great about the different ages is the older kids now love helping the younger ones.  Does both of them some good.  My high schooler gets home at 3:00.  The middle schoolers at 3:30 and the elementary at 4:45.  So, I have about an hour and a half to help just the older kids if they need it.  Right now they're all just veggie out watching tv since it's a Friday.  My kids come home, have a snack, do homework, play, eat dinner and then bed during the week.  And typically, we'll have other children here playing as well.  We let our kids do the homework on their own if they can.  We push when we need to.  Many of ours weren't thought of as being very smart.  Yana just came home w/ an award for making A/B honor roll.  For those adopting special needs, do push them to their fullest potential and don't listen to what others say.  Most will suprise you.  We were told that most likely, Alyona would never read.  She is sounding out words now and reading!  They put Nik in resource & were contemplating self-contained.  Umm, he's in a regular classroom w/ an ASL interpreter.  Yana and Max are slowly getting pulled from their self-contained room into resource & regular classes.  So, there is plenty of progress and hope out there.  Our family is normal in many ways and lives a pretty simple life like other families.  Enjoy what you have and always look forward to the future for what your kids can do.  Special needs children are a blessing.  Does that mean nothing ever goes wrong here and they're always angels?  Far from it!  They can irritate their parents just as any other kid can.  Just means the good far out ways the bad here.  Go back and see some of my transformation pieces I have written and you'll see what I mean.  Tomorrow, I"ll be doing Max's transformation.  So, have a great weekend.  We'll be going either to the Christmas Parade or horseback riding.  Still undecided. 

Flabulous to Fabulous Friday!

As I said before, I am NOT showing pictures until after all weight loss goal is accomplished.  LOL.  I tried to start a Losing it for Love fundraiser that is apparently not takign off so well.  But, that is okay.  This is all part of the process to in adoption fundraising...trial and error.  I'm still going to keep doing this though as I need to for my self and my kids.  I started out last year at 204.  Yikes!  That was my highest ever & totally think the scale was wrong that day.  Stickign to that story.  Well, on this event I have started out at 195.8 lbs.  Yes, almost 196 lbs.  Now, I have planned to weigh in every Friday.  I do have photos of the scale #'s so you can believe me.  Today, I am at 193.6 lbs.  Wahoo, lost 2.2 lbs.  That is not a Biggest Loser type loss as I can't exercise here 8 hours a day.  I do what I can.  I am hoping the next week I can.  Shoot, 2.2 lbs. a week weight loss is what is actually recommended by nutritionists.  Plus, this is the holiday season folks!  Do you realize how hard that is just not to gain weight--LOL!?  Seriously.  But, my kids and I am worth it and I will prevail.  So, next week I will come up w/ another fundraiser.  I will still report every Friday b/c I want ot be in shape when I go to Bulgaria and want tolook good to meet my kids.  Very excited.  Writing somethign on various dx's later on.  This weekend I will do Max's transformation.  Have a great weekend.  We are either going to the Christmas Parade or Horseback Riding.  Rest of the weekend a house cleanup & organization event...ours.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Homestudy; social worker

Homestudies are something that many adoptive parents fear.  I know we did w/ the first one.  Will she think we'll be okay as parents, will the dog behave himself, is the house clean enough, did we baby proof enough, etc.  All those questions run through your head for the first few homestudies you do.  This go around it is a bit different. This will be our last homestudy.  Our finish line so to speak.  We like sharing about our family and how far our kids have come.  We tell the good w/ the bad.  Will our house be spotless when she comes over this time?  I am laughing on the floor right now.  Don't get me wrong, we don't live in filth.  Take last weekend for example.  We had just finished mopping the floors.  Literally around 5 minutes later, they were covered again in muddy footprints and dirt.  Not exaggerating.  We pick up and w/in the next 15 minutes, the house is covered in stuff.  The house is cleaned during the day while Im here.  Nothing on the floor.  Nothing.  The little kids get home, older ones for that matter too, and there are folders, jackets, notebooks, bookbags  and lunchboxes sprewn across the floor.  You can't even see the floor!  Yes, they pick it all backup before bed but it remains that way for hours.   I think with 7 kids and a dog you live in a natural state of chaos all the time.  Okay, so that's my story & I'm sticking to it.  Ha. 

Back to the homestudy.  Are we worried.  No.  We can show that these kids are loved ( oh please don't let one be ground while she's here or I can see the trouble they'll cause--LOL... a get even w/ mom/ dad mentality), well cared for, healthy, and for the most part, happy.  I say for the most part as i have 2 that are currently grounded and are NOT happy. 

It is a social workers job to see through all those things though and know that the kids are doing well and are in a much better place than the orphanage for sure.  I was wondering for a bit why I hadn't heard back from our social worker.  She is on bedrest during this stage of her pregnancy so someone else will have to do the report.  Which is fine but will definitely miss her.  She wasawesome w/ the kids, didn't say much when I yelled at the boys the one time.  Okay, get this folks for those who've done post placement reports on your kids.  For the newbies, a PPR is when a social worker comes out after an adoption to make sure the kids are doing okay and are S-A-F-E.  I'm spilling the beans here.  I had warned the boys do NOT use the garden cart while she's here.   Play w/ anything else in the yard.  Parenting advice gone horribly wrong.  they were playing outside, we were walkign the social worker out the door and then I see it.  Max, Alex & Nik(I think those were the ones that time) in the large green wired garden cart at the top of the hill.  Those who know our yard, know it has a very steep hill in the front.  Can you see what's coming here folks.  Yelling stop at this point of it was mute.  Why, b/c you can't stop the stupid cart once you start down that hill.  I was mortified.  The kids get the cart to a stop, have the biggest grins on their faces and said that was fun!  URGHH.  Yeh, way to keep them safe mom.  LOL.  But, seeing our social worker see them has just having had fun & made some comment to the effect of that is something I would do when I was little, I knew it would be okay.  This was years ago so nkow the details are sketchy.  Last two times out, Max decided to tell her what was wrong w/ her car.  Yes, our mini in-house mechanic he is.  In other words folks, JUST BE YOURSELF.  The social workers will appreciate it more if they know you are normal parents who make mistakes and will mostlikely have dishes on the counter b/c you're too busy playing w/ your kids or tkaing care of them.  That is okay.  Now, that being said,I'm going to go clean up the house today--LOL. 

Our new social worker called yesterday & is getting back to me.  So excited.  Means I'm really in the adoption process for sure!  I can hardly wait.  Once that is done, things should really start to pick up as I'll be able to work on my dossier.  My record is getting one put together in 3 days.  Doubt I can do that now as there is much more red tape.  But hoping really to knock it out quickly.  Just had to share that we do have a social worker now, miss our old one(out pregnant on bedrest), and look forward to the visits.  Hope she doesn't think we are scary.  Oh, and please, please pass our blog site along to anyone you know & anyone who would love a magazine.  It truly does make a difference. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What are your special needs??

I have been asked over the years what disabilities or special needs do my children have.  Some disabilities are obvious, others are not.  My personal experience is it is SO much harder to deal with the mental/ emotional disabilities than the physical ones.  That is just our personal experience.  Others have more physical disabilities than our children do though & they would say otherwise.  I can only speak from what I've dealt with personally so hope you don't mind my opinions.  They say God only gives you what you can handle.  I can honestly say some days I feel He gave me too much.  Other days, not enough--LOL.  Seriously though, I think as parents of special needs children it is okay to sometimes say you are overwhelmed.  If you have 2 having a meltdown at once or someone broke someone else's prosthetic, etc.  Yet, ALL parents of any children have these thoughts of being overwhelmed at some point or another.  I know, I've talked to one of those parents last night!  And she has one child.  Sometimes I feel some people (not mentioning any names here--LOL) think we have it altogether & should be able to handle anything that comes our way.  If we did, we could write the guide to perfect parenting.  However, since no one's perfect, I don't think you will have to worry abou this publishing guide.  I have relatives w/ "normal" children who have experience way more than I can ever imagine.  It is just not the special needs population that requires help.  It is everyone in the world at one point or another.  That's just a fact of life.  At some point, someone will need a helping hand.  Just be there for them.  Whether it's encouragement, monetary support, emotional support, just be there.  It does help.  We try to help our kids when they need it as well. 

Now as for disabilities, I may just have to list those one day.  We have some of the scarier  adoption dx's that many fear in the adoption realm.  For some of our children, we were blatantly told by "professionals" they would become sociopaths and to disrupt the adoption immediately.  Not a chance.  Some things take time.  When you have emotional disabilities, it can take years to get the children on track.  Just the way it isand we go with the flow.  Some of our childrens' disabilities are life long.  Bojan will never grow his leg back.  Nik will never truely hear again.  Alyona will not gain sight in her one eye nor clear vision in the other.  It just doesn't happen that way.  And that's okay.  Some have told us time & time again "your hands are full."  My response:  "better full than empty."  That's all I say.  I do have to dosome things that some parents out there don't have to.  IEP meeting this morning I had for Irina.  I stood my ground.  Told them what I thought of their school & the truth of what is happening.  I think my forwardness comes from the fact that I will not sit back & do nothing.  Some see special ed or special needs children as not being able to do anything.  They don't look past the disability.  URGHH.  Drives me insane as many, many of these children have so much potential.  I will do what I can as a special needs' parent to educate those who do not understand.  When we're in public, I hope we appear as normal as can be w/ a family of 9--LOL.  Some have this image that we sit at home w/our special needs children and don't go places or can't do anythign.  Ahh, no.  Here's some pics from a recent visit to a light show:

I know this one is not a clear picture but reason I posted it.  Sometimes, having special needs kids means taking an extra step to explain something.  Here is Irina(btw, considered very delayed & very low IQ..ha, a smart cookie to us!) explaining to Nik before we leave what we are about to go and see.  She is using ASL with him.  Again, to us it is our normal.  I swear, one day I will take a picture & there will NOT be anything laying on the floor.

Here are all the kids & dad waiting to get on the train for the local light show.  (Meadow Lights is awesome for you local folks.  $2 to ride the train around the lights, see Santa, & you can go to the old fashioned candy store)  If you notice, the sun is just beginning to set.  With special needs children , we make adjustments automatically and don't even think about it anymore.  But for explanation purposes here, I'll explain.  Some of my kids have a hard time in crowds and can't handle the stimulation at all.  Trust me, it goes wrong.  by going to places early or to restaurants at odd times of the day, it eases the situation and everyone still enjoys the outing but it goes much smoother.

This is actually a photo that should have gone in the last posts w/ firsts but can fit in here b/c even special needs kids have "normal" things happen.  Here, Nik lost another tooth(his 2nd one).  he was so thrilled.  The mouse comes in this house to bring the tooth.  I have no idea but apparently our kids were told this in Russia.  So, even in winter, our kids leave the window open for the mouse to come in--LOL.  Okay, so that is totally not normal.  Oh well. 

So, I showed a few ways our family is normal despite having special needs children.  Some think we can't handle 3 more special needs children  and that it won't be fair.  I can assure you when all 10 of them go to the light show next year, they will think it is fair for sure!  When all of them go out to dinner, or go to school, or fight w/ each other(okay, if your our social worker, Mary, I didn't ever say that!), or do chores, or go camping w/ us,it will all be totally normal.  You can be a regular family even if you have special needs chlidren.  I am trying to demonstrate that to everyone we meet.  We just have to adjust.  Make sureeveryone has their "gear" when we go on trips.  Whether it is braces, or prosthetics, or meds or cochlear implants.  Whatever it is, bring it along and just enjoy the trip.  What most consider would be a burden in everyday life, it has just integrated into our everyday life and doesn't pose a problem.  Not, getting all to pose nice for a family Christmas picture...a big problem.  But, if that is all I have wrong, I do not mind one bit being the mother of 7, later on 10, special needs children.  I am very proud and honored at how far they've come & where they are going.  So if you new adoptive parents are being told your life will change with and special needs child and it won't be normal anymore.  Take that as a compliment and a good thing.  I assure you, it is.  I will talk more about specific dx's in another post.  Right now though, need toget stuff done as Bojan's chorus performance is tonight.  Gasp, will he be okay?!  He's missing a leg!  He'll be fine IF he behaves himself and doesn't make mom crazy.  Yep, normal boy.  The questions I get sometimes from the general population amazes me & one day I will address it.  Some I can understand is simple curiosity.  I don'tmind educating at all.  Some though, is just plain ignorance. 

Oh, btw, if you click on pictures on our blog, it gives you a bigger version of it & better view sometimes.  Enjoy your week everyone.  Oh, we're doing a big push for magazine sales as some people order magazines for gifts for Christmas.  There are such awesome deals on them.  Thanks for your contribution Lorraine & do hope you enjoy the magazines.  The link is on this blog on the right hand side.  Pass it to anyone youmight think may enjoy reading some new magazines.  Couldn't do this adoption without all of you.  Thanks so much for helping to bring 3 great kids home. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Just for fun...older kids

Many people ask why we adopt older children.  Actually, no real answer there.  We just fall in love w/ whom we fall in love with.  We've always longed for a baby but that was just never meant to be apparently.  Quite evident that we were always meant to help the older children.  Many think that you "miss out" on all the things babies do & don't experience any of the "firsts."  This is SO not true.  We have witnessed many firsts w/ our children.  We saw their smiles for the first time & actually cared.  Saw their first teeth fall out.  We're the first ones ever to bring love & comfort to them.  I'll never forget the first time we ever gave Max pop rocks gum at 4yo. It was hilarious.  Through the years, we get to experience many firsts.  This past weekend was no exception.  Typically, I buy a lot of fruit for the kids but usually the same thing.  We've been dying for pomegrantes b/c we've heard great things about them.  Never bought them before b/c shoot, even at Sam's they're $2 a piece of fruit!  Splurge & we got 4 to try last weekend.  We had the best time getting all those little seeds out.  Here's a few pics from it:

You can't tell from the box but these things are HUGE!

This was Alex after he made a shot of spitting out the pomegrante seeds.  Yes, simple things excite my kids--LOL.  But, we all had fun.  Still have 3 more to eat.  But, w/ all the work involved w/ these things, I dare say we'll have them again.  We'll stick to bananas, oranges, kiwi, strawberries, etc.  Just shows you that you can even have "firsts" years after the kids get home. 

This is Nik after being cleaned from all the pomegrante juice at dinner.  He was SO proud b/c he finally got the towel like big brother Max.  (umm, ignore the white garbage bag full of sweet potatoes in the background).  I think this shows folks that life can be full of suprises and normalcy w/ adopted children.  Just b/c they are older when we bring them home, does not mean we can't experience a bunch of firsts with them.  We personally don't think we've missed out on anything.  How about you?  Enjoy your week!  Write more tomorrow I think.  

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fundraiser time!-- where do adoption costs come from??

Finally.  I have a few fundraisers floating around--LOL.  Obviously, adoption is an expensive endeavor.  Don't think though for one minute we are "buying" our children.  That is SUCH a misconception in the adoption world.  For those new to adoption that are reading this blog, there are fees involved each and every step of the way.  First fee is typically and application fee.  Usually just a few hundred dollars to get you started & it let's an agency know that you are actually serious and not one of the "crazies" scouring websites for kids.  Trust me, after years of advocacy work, these people do exist & waste a lot of an agency's time.  Anyhow, after the application, you'll have a fee for the homestudy.  typically, it is now running between $1500 to $2400 in various states.  Then, you have a BCIS(immigration fee).  These fees add up over time.  YOu are paying fees for services you are receiving to bring your child home.  There are many folks in the country of your future child that do a whole bunch of work behind the scenes that you don't realize.  The international fees go to pay for that.  It may seem like a lot but if they are travelling from the capital such a Sophia in Bulgaria to an outlying region, it adds up.  They have to do this several times to make sure everything is legal and everything is set to go to court before you even arrive!  That is a lot of work and as everyone else in this world, they get paid for doing a job.  Plain and simple.  Travel is another expense for sure and adds up quickly.  We reduce costs by staying at an apartment usually versus a hotel.  Warren and I are a bit savy at this by now and know where we can cut costs andwhere we can't. 

Now you can see how adoptions add up quickly.  All adoptive parents have the ability to support the children financially once they are home or they would not be approved by the homestudy.  Your financials are scrutinized very much.  The problem comes in w/ having the extra $30,000 sitting in the bank to complete the adoption.  Most don't think twice when spending that on a new car.  But someone wanting to save the lives of orphans raises some eyebrows when they need the $30K to do that.  Most families turn to fundraising or grants to help.  Grants are few and far between nowadays due to the economy.  So, we have to turn to fundraisers this go around.  Previous adoptions we have borrowed money and paid it back.  Banks are not letting you do that like they used to due to the world market.  So, we have to raise the money on our own.  We would feel comfortable if we could raise $10K to $15K to complete this adoption.  Helping us do that is very easy. 

Our first fundraiser was a yardsale/ bake sale and we netted $316. 

Second fundraiser is the donation bar on this website.  Well, that & donations coming in personally to us.  We have netted $250 from that.

Our next fundraiser is a magazine sales and it will be ongoing.  Here is the link:

It is extremely simple to use and wonderful magazines(over 650) for everyone!  Great gifts for Christmas.  We will receive 40% from any magazine sold.  Please pass this link to everyone and anyone you know.  It really will help.

4th fundraiser I'm doing is more for fun to see how far I can go to embarrass myself.  Yes, it involves a scale!  This fundraiser is called "Losing it for LOVE."  In Losing it for Love, I will do a weigh in every Friday.  People can tell me how much they would like to donate for every pound I lose.  It can be just a one time thing or wait until the end of the month.  For example, say you decide to donate $5 for every pound I lose.  I lose 5 lbs that month.  That is $25 to help bring the 3 children home and see their new mom... the healthier, skinnier version of her!  Stress adds weight and an adoption process is beyond stressful.  I need a motivator and what great motivator than children--LOL.  At my highest, I was 204.  I am currently at 195 and by next Friday, am hoping to be down to 192 or 193.  Think of it as my version of the Biggest Loser.   Love that show.  So inspirational.  My goal is to lose 40 lbs and be back to my college weight.  IRonically, I was a health and fitness specialist in college.  I know, I know, some of you are rolling on the floor laughing right now.  Get back up.  Seriously.  But, like most other mothers in America with special needs children, the children come first and somewhere along the lines we slip into the background.  To tend to three more special needs children, I have decided I need to come back up front and be a healthier mother to better help my children.  Now, some weeks, I may lose nothing and that would be to your advantage.  But the real winners will be our 10 children.  This is going to be a very, very hard task for me.  It is Christmas time and I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic.  Yes,I am.  All the Christmas parties and the fact that we will host a cookie exchange here, is enough to make you want to give up before we start.  Not on your life.  I'm ready for this challenge.  I can use all the help, encouragement, and financial support for this Losing it for Love challenge I could possibly get.  To participate, just let me know by writing  PUt in the title "Losing it for Love."  Let me know how much you'd like to donate for every pound lost & howlong you'd like to participate.  Whether just for that week or for the month.  I'll be doing this challenge for 4 months.  I will be taking digital pictures of the scale.  Before and after pics come at the end.  There is only but so much embarrassment I'll put up with--LOL.  I think this will be a fun challenge.  You will not only be helping to save 3 orphans but also be helping to change the life of someone to new health.  Any amount will be appreciated.  $1 a pound, $3 a pound to $10 a pound.  100% of all donations go directly towards the adoption of our 3 children from Bulgaria.  Umm, it will NOT go to buying chocolate--LOL.  Now, I am off to go take a walk.  Hoping in a few weeks, it will be a run. 

The above picture was this summer.  After this challenge, I will be the one going under the limbo stick & not the one holding it!

Thanks to all for your continued support.  They say it takes a village to raise a child.  It is going to take an entire village to bring these children home where they belong.  I'll put a picture in later of what the scale said this past Friday morning.  I can not slack off now as my children our involved.  Want other adoptive parents to see anything is possible.  It is possible for me to lose weight AND to raise money for the children to get home asap.  So, every Friday I will do a Flabulous to Fabulous Friday segment.  Have more to say later.  Of course.  Have a wonderful day.