Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Snow!!!-- part II w/ a crash

Here's some more pictures I promised tonight.  More posts later as well.  Let me continue w/ the pictures.


After getting aggrevated with her for taking all my sleep away, I was able to snap a few pics of Alyona (aka...the mouse).   She loves anything pink.  Her scarf is one she made.  Either last year or  the year before, I let all the girls and boys make their own scarves.  They loved it.  It was an easy, fun and time consuming project.  The girls put beads on at the end of theirs.  They love the scarves and it is something they created.  May have them do some more soon.  The older girls want not so "girlish" ones now that they're older.  Alyona was very, very chicken in the beginning and didn't want to go down any hill.  Our brave little one later was able to go down "Death Hill."  Sorry, no picture of that one.

This is Max.  Not the best shot but did not get hardly any shots of the teens.  Why?  Because they were all over the neighborhood playing w/ friends.  They came home  to eat and drink hot cocoa.   Then, they later complain I don't have any photos of them on here.  Can't win for losing with teenagers.  Go figure.  The dog in the photo is not ours.  It's a neighbor's.  She's named Emma.  Bear was not too keen on laying out in the snow so he spent most of the day inside.

I know you can barely see this picture but had to snap it quickly.  I thought it was too cute.  This is Nik.  He literally had icicles hanging from his hair and eyelashes.  Completely frozen.  So, he runs inside and strips down to just his underwear.  Yet, leaves his jacket on which I thought was hilarious.  You can see how smart this kid is.  He is standing on top of the heating vent.  

This house seemed to be the gathering place today.  This is some of the kids with 2 of their friends.  This was one of the many hot cocoa breaks of the day.  That hot chocolate maker ran nonstop.  They were all looking out of the window waiting for our neighbor to snowboard down the hill in his backyard.  

This is of course Bear (aka...Teddy Bear).  He didn't stay on the snow for long.  Smart dog.  I think he was more afraid of the kids sledding into him actually.  We love our Teddy Bear!

Alright, the scene of the accident.  We couldn't have an all clear snow day with out least one accident, could we??  This is Alyona and Bojan taking in what they see at the bottom of the creek.  Cold, cold creek.  A HUGE drop off.  Trust me , the pictures don't do it justice.  It is a really steep drop off on the side of the driveway.  Remember me talking earlier of our hill?  If you get enough speed and don't apply your Flintstone breaks(legs for those who forgot the cartoon reference), you will have a short flight in the air before you land hard in the broken trees and creek below.  Can you guess who landed in the creek?  Yep, Alex.

Hard to tell from the picture but that is where Alex fell.  That big thing laying across the creek is a huge tree that was knocked down years ago by Hurricane Fran.  Kids climb on it all the time in the spring and summer.  It was not intended to be landed on.  

This is Alex climbing out of the creek and drop off.  I think his ego was definitely hurt more than his body.  Of course, all the other boys are yelling " you should have seen him fly through the air!"  Yes, I'm sure it was a sight.  

Well, the computer won't let me upload more pics so for now they are done.  I'll do a part 3 tomorrow.  Need to get some kids to bed after this movie.  I'll write a little more later.  I'm trying to get organized at what fundraiser to do next.  Need to find a big place to have one.  Plenty around here.  Right now, really a big push to get the necessary funds in.  Things are wanting to move fast.  A need to be able to move with it.  I will definitely post more later as to what is going on and what is necessary to move forward.  We're navigating the twists and turns of this adoption journey as best we can.  I am going to write a tell all book on how not to lose your mind when adopting.  The reward though is just as grand as looking at these pictures tonight.  The kids  are the end result of this difficult process.  Very worth it.  Even when they make an air dive into a creek.  Or scare their sister with a mask. Or one of the other many antics today that has transpired.  These are the moments you'll remember, the ones that last forever.  I'm ready to share more of these moments with three children waiting for us on the other side of the world.  Sorry for the ramblings.  Have a great evening.  I'll most likely post again.  Tomrorw though, I'm hitting the hills!  Eggs and turkey bacon for breakfast.  Yum.  Trying to give the kids fuel in food for their activity level.  It worked today. 

Saturday Snow!!!-- part I

Okay, you've waited long enough for pictures.  I must admit something first so you all don't always think it is picture perfect in this house & all roses all the time.  NO WAY!!!  I know, you are all rolling on the floor laughing right now, right?  Okay, so last night, we were mean, awful parents.  We didn't want our daughter sleeping on the cold hardwood floor.  So, we made her sleep upstairs.  Told the mouse she could take her dogbed with her.  It was a full blown all out temper tantrum.  It was quite the show and quite frankly, I was really ashamed of her and let her know it.  We still weren't going to cave no matter how many times she walked down the stairs.  She was up, & thus we were up, until way past 2:00am!!!  On top of that, they were up at 6:30am to see the snow.  URGHH.  I am totally exhausted right now.  Yet, still managed to muster up some energy to get out of bed and cook pancakes and sausage before a big snow day.  My kids owe me big time--LOL.  Alyona had to write this morning before she could play.  In addition, she's definitely going to bed early today.  Anyhow, let me get to some pictures and explain our day thus far. 


Anticipation is killing them.  this is one of the 7 snow sleds we have.  I guess Nik is practicing.


One of mom's requirements is for at least one photo shot with all of them together.  If we get at least 5 smiling, we take the shot, like it or not.  They were so ready to go they bolted after this picture.


This is Nik getting ready to launch down our hill.  We have a fantastic one in our yard if you can dodge the trees and not go over the drop off on the other side of the driveway.  Yes, more about that stupid stunt later from one of the kids.  Nik is ready to go.  


Think Alex has the hang of this?  No gloves on notice.  No coat zipped.  However, I did manage to get a hat on him and boots.  That has to be some sort of progress, right?  Alex stayed on course for this run.


This is Mariah(neighbor across the street & the girls' friend) and Irina.  Irina is on the right.  They have a big hill, go down it and fly across the road.  Irina had enough clothes on which is great.  Remember, Irina is one of our FASers and has some serious sensory issues.  One of which is she can't feel pain or extreme temperatures.  So, even if her lips turn blue, she does not know she is cold.  Thankfully, with friends who know the difference, Irina usually comes in when they do and that works out well.  


I'm sure the comments will come about the old lady on the sled here w/ her son.  Max took over the camera for awhile and captured a few shots.  This is of Nik & I going down the hill full force.  It really is a lot of fun.  I must have gone up and down that hill for hours.  I think I got my exercise in for the day.  This was a really slick board we used.  Found it at a yardsale brand new this fall and the kids made fun of me for buying it.  Today, they all were dying to use it.  They call it the "lightening" sled.  


A photo op wouldn't be complete without an almost crash.  Nik and I were finally landing.  Hill doesn't look that steep from here but you really do get some speed up for sure.  


Chaos Manor.  How peaceful it looks in the snow.  The snowfall was not much, just  a few inches. But what made it great was the layer of sleet/ ice believe it or now.  Was perfect for sledding and snowball fights.  Not for making snowmen or snow angels.  We really had a great time today and can't wait for tomorrow to see what snow fun awaits us all.  I'll write and post more pics tonight.  Need a break to give Nik a bath and clean up some.  Promise some more snow pictures in a bit.  It was just really a day full of fun.  

waiting for snow to arrive

Well, have some photos from last night before the storm hit.  We're all frustrated b/c it was not a whole lot of snow but there is a layer of sleet/ ice.  Soo, great sledding!!!  It has been a blast all morning long but will share that in another post.  For now, posting from last night.  Here goes:


Well, before any storm, of course you need supplies.  Kids were helping unload the car from a trip to Sam's Club.  Just those 3 items in this picture-- 10 lbs. of hamburger meat & toilet paper was $50!  Toilet paper is the one thing that there is never enough of in this house.  Drives me bonkers b/c many of my PI kids still have issues w/ using tp.  See, in some orphanages, they are too poor for toilet paper.  So, the kids come home and we have to teach them to use it.  Well, then they go to extremes and use literally a half to 3/4 a roll per use!  It's maddening for sure.  Hoping the 3 from Bulgaria don't share this commonality w/ my Russian kiddos.  LOL.  For those curious, we use a minimum of 72 rolls a month.  Can Charmin sponsor us??  So, once all was put away, it was time to just sit and wait for the snow.  


After unloading, the agreement was the kids all had to have their rooms picked up or they wouldn't be allowed to play in the snow.  Yes, I know that is called bribing but sometimes, you have to do that as a parent.  Nik stuffed this laundry basket and then attempted to carry it down the stairs.  You can see what happened here.  All smiles, of course.  He did clean it up and dragged it to the laundry room.  


Of course my kids are out in the first signs of snow.  It's like a magnet.  This is Yana.  Pajamas of course.  No jacket, no shoes.  No sleeves.  Not a bit cold either.  you can't see me behind the camera but I'm the one all bundled up.  


Alex and Nik trying to catch snowflakes with their mouth.  All of us were actually outside at about 10 o'clock at night trying to catch snowflakes in our mouth.  There is just something really magical about snow.  The softness, the purity, the different directions it goes.  Just too many things to name.  We all had a great time even if it was just the start of the snow.  It was beautiful to see at night.  You could even hear some kids in the neighborhood.  Everyone was out just catching snowflakes on their tongue.  
There will be more pictures to follow.  Right now, I have to go cook tomato soup and grilled cheese for a late lunch for the sledders.  We already had a hot cocoa snack after the long first few hours of sledding.  Yes, I was going down the hill too.  Though, I must admit, I did not go to "death hill" as the kids in the neighborhood call it.  I may attempt this afternoon.  We'll see.  I may have to go just to take a picture of it.  Alex and Nik are playing the Wii right now.  Okay, I'm back to writing on here.  House is unusually quiet.  Every single child and their friends are outside.  All sledding down the hills again.  So happy we live in a neighborhood with hills.  What fun.  More pictures shortly.  For now, going to clean up from lunch and hit the hills with my kids.  Still haven't had a good snowball fight yet.  Ahh, plenty of time for it though. 

Friday, January 29, 2010

Happenings around the home w/ pics

Some wordy posts lately so thought I'd break it up with some pictures and clear the camera for snow pictures tomorrow.  Wahoo!!!  Snow is coming.  Though the only stuff we see here is usually sand on at the beach, we are all thrilled to see white stuff every 10 years or so.  It's great b/c today no matter where you went, everyone is just beaming with smiles at the thought of snow.  Everyone is emptying shelves as if their going to be without supplies or power for weeks.  Still cracks me up.  All is good though because this is falling on a weekend.  Things will be shut down for sure but most were going to be home anyhow.  Neighbors are already talking about what they're going to do tomorrow.  My kids have their sled routes, meetings with friends and everything else already planned out.  Too bad they can't have this mentality when it comes to school projects.  Fun is on everyone's mind young and old alike.  I have 7 sleds at the ready.  Fridges are stocked.  Of course, they normally are for us anyways.  I just bought 10 gallons of milk the other day.  Not b/c of the snow, but b/c it was on sale for a $1 a gallon and we go through 1 to 2 gallons of milk a day.  Need our own cow.

We're starting off tomorrow with some hot pancakes and sausage with some orange juice to drink.  Play in the snow for a few hours.  I've already mandated the kids must give me at least 2 snow pictures w/ everyone together.  That is my one requirement for them to go off during the day w/ friends.  Ironically, most of the friends end up here anyhow.  Already have 3 coming over.  Scratch that, 4 now.  Better get used to that, right?  Need to practice having more kids here.  We can hardly wait for a day of play.  Playing for a few hours after breakfast, come in for a hot cocoa break.  We even have the hot cocoa maker out.  Lunch is some hot soup and grilled cheese.  Soda as this is a special day in our eyes.  Keep in mind, most my kids aren't allowed soda except on special occasions.  More playing and back in for chili that's been simmering all day.  Celebrate with a snowflake cake for dessert.  Watch a movie that evening and to bed as we all should be exhausted.  Can't wait to take some pictures of the snow.  It's funny b/c my Siberian Princesses and Princes think that a foot of snow is nothing.  LOL.  Growing up in Russia will do that to you.  So for some normal happenings around here.


I asked Alex and Nik if they had cleaned up their room. The answer was YES.  Umm, no I think would have been more appropriate.  This is just a small portion of their room.  One day, I'll take a whole picture.  We leave the walls plain as less stimulation is better for FAS kiddos.  Walls are more of a deep blue.  Now, I told them today if they don't pick up, they can't play in teh snow.  Room is now completely clean and I'll take a picture of it tomorrow.  Proof.  LOL.  

For those of you new to FAS, the BEST investment by far for us was this trampoline.  Children with FAS need lots and lots and lots of movement/ exercise.  Need to be physical.  This helps immensely.  They are on this almost everyday.  Irina is still swinging on the swingset at age 17.  Kids are never too old for fun.  I get on the trampoline too sometimes.  Max was making Alyona and Nik go way up.  Again, no socks on my kid.  I swear my children could walk on hot coals and it wouldn't phase them.

OMG!  Three teens at once.  Miracles never cease to exist.  They must be getting more comfortable w/ the camera around.  Max has really grown lately.  Max and Yana are both 14.  Irina is 17.  Right now, I have 2 sets of virtual twins.  Max & Yana at 14 and Bojan and Alyona at 10.  Well, Bojan is now 11 but half the year they are virtual twins.  When the new kids get home, we'll have 4 sets of virtual twins, ages 7, 7, 9, 9, 10, 10, 14, 14 and then Little Bit at 3 and Irina at 17.  Phew.  What a mouthful.  I think we should make them all have the same birthday and celebrate at once, what do you think?  

This was on thoughtful Thursday yesterday but had to share.  This was Bojan doing Alyona's hair before school yesterday morning.  Very sweet brother for sure.  Not all the time of course but he has his moments and this was one of them.  He took his time and really helped her.  Alyona struggles in some of the basics but the others are there to lend a helping hand when necessary.  Ignore all the wires in the background.  We're trying to redo all that righ tnow so they're not all over the place.  

This is our beloved Bear.  Bear has been with Warren and I since the beginning.  In fact, we went the first weekend after we were married to the local flea market.  Just to look around really.  NEVER intending to purchase anything let alone something so permanent as a dog.  But, there he was, a fat chubby little puppy.  It was love.  Bear is growing ever so much older by the day it seems now.  He really is showing his age.  Bear has Cushings Disease and is covered in tumors right now inside and out.  He still loves to walk though a much short distance now.  he no longer runs after squirrels, just watches them now.  He's turned gray.  A dog that could literally eat about anything now eats soft food mostly.  He used to swallow things whole.  Not anymore.  We break it up for him.  This is "Bear's couch."  This is where he likes to rest.  Either there or at the bottom of the stairs.  His hair is falling out in clumps right now.  I'm sure it's related to something.  We have not taken him back to the vet for quite a few months.  We know he needs to go but part of me is scared to take him.  We had to put down our other dog Aspen last year and it was by far the hardest thing I ever had to do.  I can't even fathom losing another dog in such a short time.  So, we may visit the vet, but no tests will be run.  We want Bear to enjoy whatever time he may have left on this earth.  He is the most faithful, compassionate and tolerant dog I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  Hope for many more years for Bear but feel strongly his time is getting shorter here.  He's starting to shake like Aspen did and miss stairs the same way.  For now, we are just enjoyijng him being here.  

Need something a little more upbeat now.  This is camera hog once again.  When Nik and Alex go to bed, there are a mountain of stuffed animals on them.  It's nuts.  The whole bed is covered w/ animals and pillows.  We also keep the room dark b/c Nik is a very visual person.  He is up when the sun gets up so we have shades and dark paint on the walls.  Helps.  There is a set of bunk beds here and then a single bed right next to this set.  We finally got the diving from top bunk onto the single bed to stop.  

Most families buy a pack of gum, we buy 360 pieces of gum--LOL.  Warren surprised the kids w/ gum tonight from Sam's Club(where we shop).  Orphanage kids LOVE gum.  It is almost sacred to them.  It is the craziest thing and they never outgrow it.  ALL my Russian kids are like this about gum.  They will cherish a piece of gum.  One kid once gave Irina a piece of gum for $5 in her class.  Teacher gave the money back but she would do anything for gum.  My kids ask for gum for Christmas and their birthdays.  We could advertise for Wrigley's I'm sure.  Irina's friend gave her bubblegum for her 13th birthday and it was Irina's favorite present.  My kids can keep a piece of gum in their mouth for days if you let them.  Trust me, they have before.  Yuck.  Wished I would have caught their faces when they saw this tub of gum.  

Alex and all the rest of the kids showed me their bubblegum blowing skills.  This is Alex on his way to a big bubble. Bojan blew one the entire size of his head!  I realize now that Alex is in need of a haircut lately.  Maybe next week.  For now, all are enjoying a movie downstairs.  Yes, they're all chewing gum.  And you know what, that is okay.  It's almost 10 o'clock here, way past bedtime but way too much excitement w/ the snow falling that no one can rightly sleep.  Enjoying these moments though as I knwo they don't last forever.  Yeah, I won't be saying that tomorrow when they wake up at hte crack of dawn and we want to sleep in.  But for now, we're enjoying our weekend of being stuck at home.  Love it. Ask me in 3 days, however, and I will have a totally different answer, I'm sure.  Have a great evening.  Post more tomorrow.  Fund raising, RAD, and snow for sure.  Stay tuned for more.  Good night.  From , the Southerners awaiting snow.

Flabulous to Fabulous Friday...

And some other bits of info.  Well, it is Friday.  This week I have actually worked out everyday but yesterday.  Killer sinus headache and jumping around wasn't going to be happening.  Did great eating except for today.  All that said, still only lost a pound.  However, I'm down to 190 and excited.  Next week, I should definitely be in the 180's for the first time in years.  It will truly be a milestone if when I make that.  Remember, my goal weight is 160.  I was 155 in college and the peak of fitness.  I was a health and fitness major.  Yeah, I'm laughing too right now.  But, hoping to at least get back to that level of fitness.  Or close to it. 

today, I went off the healthy diet bandwagon and had lunch with a friend.  Really had a great time.  We went to Applebee's.  Jamie was so kind and treated me to lunch.  Thanks girl.  Enjoyed talking to a friend that I hadn't seen in a long time.  I had French Dip sliders and a grilled spinach salad.  All delicious.  Only had water to drink so does that count as being good?-- LOL.  And no dessert.  Anyhow, we had a great time and as a mom to many, you have to get out every once in awhile.  I don't do it very often and realized today, that I really should go out w/ a friend at least once a month.  Keep in touch and keep sane.  Doesn't have to cost money either.  Even a walk in the park w/ a friend would be fantastic.  I'll work on that for sure. 

Now, we have a little more going on of course.  Adoption can never be just a day out with a friend or a walk in the park, right?  No, not that simple.  More hiccups and hope they will be resolved quickly.  I get home, it's roughtly 2:30 and get a call from the agency.  They need a mini dossier & docs in Bulgaria by this coming Wednesday.  Which would mean fedexing to the agency on Monday as they have to send them on over.  Okay, problem # one is that it is late Friday afternoon and the entire state is prepaing for a winter storm that will most likely paralyze this city.  Not kidding.  Snow is rare here.  We get way more hurricanes than snow if that gives you any idea as to how rare an event like snow is here.  There was no way I could humanly gather the docs, go to Warren's work to sign them, go downtown to notarize them and fedex them off in a matter of an hour and a half.  #2 is the fact that our Secretary of STate's office no longer allows you to do "emergency" apostilles.  You can drop off in the morning and they will call you later that afternoon.  Earliest.  #3 problem is I still don't have passports back and docs need that #.  Remember, ours expired so had to renew.  I can get them done this weekend & have sent out whenever offices reopen.  If we get the expected ice and snow mix, it will be closed for a few days for sure.  I am realizing now that once the homestudy is done, this will be moving all too quickly.  That is awesome but scary at the same time.  We do not have the funds necessary to complete this adoption.  I have faith it will all work out.  I really do.  I will do a post on fundraising next.  Right now, money is the only hold up to bringing these children home.  I will tell you more a little later.  Right now, the kids and I are going to enjoy some pizza.  Tomorrow the plan is for a breakfast of pancakes and sausage.  Some hot soup for lunch.  Dinner is a big vat of chili and french bread.  All fuel to keep us building snowmen, having snowball fights and sledding all day long!   Tomorrow, pending no power outages, prepare for a long post of pictures of some splendid snow fun in North Carolina.  Lots of pictures to follow tomorrow night for sure.  Post on fundraising next though.  IF I can get the main dossier in by March, travel on first trip would most likely occur in May.  that's according to what most say who've gone before me.  I can't say for sure as only guessing at this point.  My goal is to have the dossier(big one) done by March.  The only thing that would get held up is the I-800A but I hear that they are not taking so long for NC anymore.  Praying that is the case.  That is a long ways off though.  One step at a time.  Homestudy concentration first.  So , so much to say.  Posts to follow are on RAD, fundraising, and smashing snow fun!  Can hardly wait for the snow. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bojan-- 5 years!

It's been five years this week since we brought Bojan home.  We arrived home on Feb. 2nd.  5 years ago this week, we were in Serbia, in the freezing snow.  I'll share some pics from the past from our adoption journey.  I'll write his adoption story another day.  For now, just thought it would be fun to share some old pictures and remember. 

Can you believe this was Bojan?  He had just turned 6 yo when we got there.  I know the poor kid was confused as to who we are.  His birthmother came to visit him the week before to tell him goodbye.  She is a wonderful woman and will tell you more about her one day.  Take a gander at that food on his plate...yuck!  No wonder the kid will eat just about anything you give him.  Forgive the way I look. This was the day off the plane.  The other girl in the picture is now named Belinda and she lives in NY.  Her and Bojan were best friends at the orphanage.

this was Bojan's home before we brought him home to America.  He lived on the 3rd floor.  Lots of children in here for sure.  Hopefully, some will find their forever families soon.  I know of a few of them already!

This is all Bojan ever wanted to do...throw snowballs.  Poor kid never went outside that much while he lived at the orphanage.  he took full advantage of it while we were there.  BTW, we still have that jacket and Alex wears it now.

The orphanage staff gave him this travel case to take with him.  He filled it FULL of toys.  We wouldn't let him take any toy guns or handcuffs just due to security and our previous experiences with searches--LOL.  Warren is giving his best half smile there.  These adoption trips do wear you out.  This was the day before we were ready to leave.  You think Bojan is happy?

Again, Bojan and mom with more snowballs ready to launch.

A street we walked down to get to the orphanage.  I don't know if you can see it or not, but the cars are practically buried in the snow.  It was the worst snowstorm they had in decades.  Airports closed.  People were trapped in city buses for 24 hours.  One guy was trapped in his delivery beer truck.  He drank all the beer and urinated his way out of the now. True story, it was in the paper that our host family read to us.  Still wished I'd have saved those stories.  We got plenty of exercise while in Serbia and the food was fantastic!

This was one of Bojan's caretakers that used to take him home during the holidays.  She and her family cared for him deeply.  She gave him a silver gravy boat when we left.  Let me tell you why.  Every time Bojan came to her house, he would rub the gravy boat like it was a genie's lamp (in the movie Aladdin), and say he wishes he had a family.  She handed it to him that night and said  your wish has come true, now go make some more wishes.  Sweet.  Oh, this was a restaurant on the river we went to.  Bojan used to go there and sing karioke for the customers.  He always has been our little entertainer.

"I'm leaving on a jet plane...don't know when I'll be back again."  Remember that song?  So true.  He may make it back there this year and those details for another post.  It is a long shot but we'll see.  Here he is in France waiting to board our plane home to America.  The French searched us aside due to his leg.  Atlanta was worse.  again, I'll tell his adoption story one of these days.  Just wanted to share a few pics from years ago on our journey to Bojan.  We had a wonderful time in Serbia.  Hope Bulgaria is just as friendly.  I have heard they are.  5 years.  What a difference a family makes!  

Thoughtful Thursday & ramblings

It's already Thursday and I can hardly believe it!  Crazy,huh?  We managed to get a bunch accomplished this week.  We now wait for our FBI fingerprints to be approved & returned.  Learning that that may take 10 weeks.  Would it help if I contacted people I know that work there?-- Just kidding.  I do have friends there but would never do that.  Now, immigration I would definitely take on and have in the past before.  Nice that we can drive a few hours to the office.  I think sometimes these government offices are so used to not having to deal face to face that they don't know what to do when approached that way.  Hence, approvals come right away--LOL.  Can't do that anymore I'm sure.  So, like the rest of adoptive parents, I wait.  Not my forte by any means.  Adoption makes you learn patience whether you want to or not.  Almost a grueling process. 

We also sent in the contract this week.  Hopefully, we will be receiving a dossier packet soon and can get started on that.  We should have our passports back soon too as I sent them awhile ago.  Again, waiting.  I will let you know as soon as I start on the dossier.  Maybe take pictures of that wonderful stack of papers.  Like Warren has always said in the past, when the paperwork weighs as much as the child, then you can go and get them.  So true.  We also managed to file our taxes this week.  Wahoo!!!  Good and bad of it.  Good...we don't owe any taxes.  Bad news, Irina has grown up in the governments' eyes (LOL,yeh, right) so she no longer qualifies for the child tax credit.  Still, can't complain.  And yes, hopefully some of that will be used towards the adoption expenses.  Currently checking on that whole house foundation issue first and foremost.  I know many people simply spend their tax refund.  Some save it.  We're kind of in the middle.  Depends upon what is happening in that year.  When we had fairly old cars, we'd set some aside for car repairs.  Some years we set some aside for mini vacations for the kids.  Always save some for a "rainy" day fund.  You know, for when the kids break the upstairs window by throwing shoes at each other.  Or the kids rip the pool liner by tearing it with a mini skateboard.  Or when they mess up the toilet and the dining room light fixture looks like a waterfall.  You know, that type of rainy day fund.  Last year, a tree that was going to fall on the house was in that mix.  In any family there is always something going on. With a family  full of FAS children, there are always at least 10 things going on at once.  You have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  2 years ago, 2 of our kids were going through a fascination with fire.  We were almost positive one would burn down the house.  Sounds horrible but remember, our kids have no cause and effect thinking.  Ironically, one of my little "pyros" was NOT an FASer.  It was Bojan and Max if you're wondering who went through this phase.  One day, Bojan decided to light a piece of paper on fire and just toss it into the garage.  Tell me we did not have angels watching over us that day!  --it landed between a pile of old bags AND a can of gasoline.  We're lucky the whole house didn't explode.  Warren smelled something and we found it in time.  Here's one of their other incidents:

This kind of stuff goes on all the time.  This was a bug catcher.  They love catching bugs in summer and we go through a few of these things.  I honestly thought it was innocent enough.  See, when a parent buys something, they just have to think of intended use of said toy.  For special needs parents, you have to think, will they eat it, swallow it, destroy it, throw it, etc.  I honestly thought that there was nothing really bad they can do with this thing.  Ahhh, the magnifying glass that comes with it.  Duh, how could I forget?  I totally forgot about the magnifying glass and it's potential use.  Yes, they used it to start a fire.  Remember, we're surrounded by trees.  Again, I promise to write a post about FAS and our constant state of hypervigilence we live in.  It's not as bad as it seems.  We just live a little differently than most families I find.  Yet, we do a lot of normal things too.  Normal would be boring to show you though, right?  LOL.  Gee whiz this post got really sidetracked today.  Sorry about that.  Back to original intended post...Thoughtful Thursday.  Here are a few that I can remember. 

Nik- sharing his candy wiht his siblings.  Usually, he just eats it and laughs at them.  So, nice to see it this time.

Alex-- playing with Alyona when she didn't have anyone to play with.

Alyona-- Let's just say she has been unusually whiny this week and thoughtfulness was just not on her list of things to.  Next week will be better for her.

Bojan-- I was busy helping the kids get ready for school.  So, he jumped in and did Alyona's hair for her.  Brushed it and put it up for her. 

Yana-- Sat for a l-o-n-g time helping explain a math concept to Alex.  Very thoughtful as math is extremely hard for Alex.

Max--Helped carry Alyona down for bed when she was being uncooperative for me this week.  (told you, this was not Alyona's week)

Irina-- helped Alyona with homework and me with the kitchen.  Also, wrote to a penpal she hadn't written in awhile. 

Just a few of the things that were thoughtful that stuck out to me.  I think it is good to recognize these things in the kids.  There will be another post later about Bojan briefly.  And another about fundraising.  It is getting to a critical point.  Need to do something and fast.  For now, lots to do here today.  Bye for now.  Hope everyone has a great week.  We are SO excited!  This state is finally getting snow.  Quite a bit for here.  My kids laughed at me when I bought a big sled this fall at a yardsale.  Ha!  Who's laughting now?  I'm taking the good sled I told them.  Now all of a sudden they want to share.  I'm a kid at heart when it comes to snow.  We live in a subdivision called Southills.  Hills are indeed here.  We love it!  Can't wait to share pics.  We'll most likely be sledding, snowball fighting and snow angel making.  May even do "art" in the snow.  I have 6 sleds in this household.  A rarity in this state as most people use trash can lids or cardboard.  Yes, when you hardly ever get snow, you improvise.  But, Saturday, I have some real sleds and maybe we should spray them like the Griswold's did in Christmas Vacation.  In this coastal state, we know how to swim and live at the beach.  Snow, is a novelty here.  Yet, when it snows, poeple here get incredibly happy.  Poeple up north will complain about the snow.  Here, it is seen more as a gift.  We treasure that gift.  I'll show you pictures Saturday if all systems here stay up and running.  Can't wait. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What do you do....

when your child finally realizes she is "different?"  Really, what do you do?  Our oldest is now 17 years old.  Irina has FAS and she knows this.  However, for the most part, all these years we've kept her with regular peers except for her self-contained setting in the classroom.  Otherwise, all other events are w/ regular peers.  In retrospect, I'm thinking this was a bad, bad idea.  Maybe it was the hopes as parents that we were banking on.  Not the reality of our daughter's capabilities.  We've always pushed our kids to reach their fullest potential.  We were told years ago by educators that Irina would never pass a second grade level.  We fought for her.  She is roughly on a 6th grade level I would say.  Way further than their grim predictions for her.  Irina is highly compassionate and has incredible face recognition skills.  Phenominal with people, and athletic.  However, her mind does not work like yours or mine. 

I'm sitting here not really knowing what to say.  Irina is unhappy right now.  She has known for awhile she has FAS and some other issues.  However, it isn't until recently that she has started to realize she is different than her peers.  Very different.  Remember, socially, FASers are about half their age.  Irina is having a very tough go in high school right now.  Warren and I are discussing pulling her out permanently.  She is not on a regular diploma track anyhow.  She hates school and they are teaching her nothing.  Really a tragedy how they treat special needs students here.  The schools think once they reach high school, just train them for a job.  URGHH.  Irina does have a brain.  Yes, she has brain damage but that does not mean she can't learn!  Irina is inquisitive.  Right now, besides the adoption, house rennovation, basketball, & a few other things, we have decided we will most likely pull her within the next month forever from high school.  She has begged us to homeschool her again.  And though I want her to experience high school with nomral peers, it is quite evident she does not fit in and is not being treated fairly.  I will homeschool her again and look for a type of apprenticeship she can do.  She is great with children and animals.  Who knows. 

As an adoptive parent, you never know your child's potential.  Some have given our children very grim prognosis.  We push and push though until we see they've reached their fullest potential.  It is very realistic to say Irina will never go to college.  I know this is a horrible comparison but if any of you've seen the movie Forest Gump, you'll know what I mean.  Forest had a much higher IQ than our daughter.  It's reality, we have to accept it.  Irina is slowly learning to accept this and it breaks my heart at times.  She asked me the other day if she has children, will they end up stupid like her.  Just the fact that she thinks she is stupid is heartwreching.  She also asked if her kids would have FAS.  Irina said if they do, she doesn't want that for them.  For someone with limited mental capacity, she has SO much intelligence for some things.  Amazes me. 

What kills me is Irina is the most motivated out of all our children to learn.  She tries SO hard and never really sees results for her efforts.  I asked her yesterday on our walk if she wanted to be around others like her.  She said yes.  I said do you want to be around people who think like you?  She said yes.  It is hard for me to say it but it was a big parenting mistake I made with my first child here.  I should have exposed her to more kids with similar minds.  I guess we learn as we go.  Trouble is, you see autistic groups, Downs' Syndrome groups, etc, but no FAS groups here.  None.  What is not helping is Irina 's best friend moved to TX.  We live in NC.  The two girls were close & helped each other out.  I'm hoping she can find someone as nice.  I know there are other kids out there.  This has been hard for Warren and I this week.  We have never hidden anything from our kids.  They all know they're adopted.  They all know they have issues.  We tell them when they are older just what issues they have and how it makes them special and different.  But, we never focus on that in the house.  As they get older though, I realize it should be more of a focus as it is part of their daily life and who they are.  Irina and I have been talking more and more about FAS.  She has accepted it reluctantly.  And that is okay.  Just as a parent of chidlren with disaiblities, I'm learning from my first child steps that maybe I could have taken early on to help them more.  Exposure.  I guess I always just saw my kids as "normal" and not thought of the brain damage from the alcohol at birth.  FAS is essentially brain damage to the frontal lobe.  It's more than that but my FAS post is for another day.  Right now, I want other parents of special needs children to embrace the diagnosis of the child and expose them to it more.  Yes, my kids have been to some special needs events but apparently not enough if my daughter feels like she is the only one out there.  She now has a pen pal with FAS as well.  It has been awesome for her!  She now knows she is not alone.  Irina is turning into a young adult but this process will take years for her.  We will be with her every step of the way.  I've never thought of Irina as mentally challenged.  To us, she's just Irina.  No label.  Though the label does NOT define her I have to accept it is a part of who she is.  We can't change that or how society thinks of mentally challenged people.  As parents though, we can give her the tools she needs to live a productive life in this society.  We have to start by letting her see there are other people like her and it is perfectly okay.  Hope that all made sense. 

My point for writing this was not to be down.  To let others know it is okay to fail.  Do I feel like I failed her?  A bit.  I feel I should have exposed her to more people like her.  Warren and I tried that one year.  A special needs cheerleading squad for Irina.  This was years ago.  Warren and I felt she didn't fit it.  Felt the older kids were much more mentally challenged.  I look at it now and see she fits in perfectly with that squad.  As an adoptive parent of special needs children, you face situations you've never faced before.  This is one of those.  We are still learning as parents and probably always will be.  I know today, we are looking at different things for Irina to do.  New people to meet.   Though we've never seen her mental challenges as a disability, we need to start working with the disability instead of assuming it's not there.  I think by doing this, she will succeed more in life.  Irina has always had so much drive.  A kind soul.  She makes us proud left and right.  She has helped us realize over the years, different is okay.  Our focus for her has shifted a bit.  I too know she is ready to make some changes in her life and meet some new people.  Irina has always, always been our social butterfly.  She can't do that in the environment she's in as peers don't look to her as a regular person.  She has not been able to make any friends in high school.  Having the social ability of about half your age is tough to make new firends.  She wants to have fun in high school and I want her too as well.  So, we have now been looking into other activities for her and like-minded peers.  There are groups in Raleigh we're going to let her hang out with and see if she likes it.  Many times, FAS children are caught in the middle as they don't belong with regular peers but don't quite belong with the more special needs category.  It's a fine line.  We will let Irina direct us where she wants to go.  She has expressed over the last two weeks to be with other people like her.  We can do that. 

Our daughter has realized she is different.  We have finally realized it too.  Though it is hard for all to accept, once you do, you feel more free and feel like there is a whole other world out there.  We are going to explore that world more as a family with Irina.  Alyona is in that same world.  So are some of the other chidlren.  Irina is taking the lead, we are following.  I can't wait to see what the new world has to offer her.  Irina is such a special person and deserves good people in her life.  Thanks for listening.  I just had to talk about it as it has been a wake up of sorts this week.  It has been good too though. 

This is Irina helping Alyona make sugar cookies.  Fudge is in the background.  Irina loves to bake and is awesome at it!  Trust me, I was shocked.  But in a good way.  She learned her fractions last year at homeschool by cooking.   So many things that she CAN do and I guess that is why maybe I lost sight a bit of her "invisible disability."  I know now that special needs children need exposure to both regular peers(to know that they are alike in some ways) and disabled peers (to know they are not alone).  I think with the right balance, special needs children can really excel in adulthood.  Again, just my opinion based on my experiences with my kids.  This may not be the case in your household.  I always said I would be honest on this blog no matter what.  And if you're wondering, no my kids do not see it, do not know it exists so therefore, can not hear or see what is on here and neither can their freiends.  Most followers on here are other adoptive families or families learning about adoption.  AFter a decade of experience, I'm sharing what've I've learned and what I should have leanred.  Maybe someone can apply what I did to help their children .  Don't know.  Just thought I'd share.  Have a wonderful week. 

Quick post

For those following this blog, it is FIXED!  Apparently, my blog became infected due to some stupid person posting.  In other words...spam.  It is now safe to read.  It does benefit to have a husband that works in the computer industry.  Warren and I are headed out in a minute to resign all our contract docs, send those off and be on our way.  Major step here.  We have a huge hurdle and will write about in another post later.  Have a great day & keep you posted on progress. 

Monday, January 25, 2010

Adoption Update......

 This is how I feel... a tangled up mess.  LOL.  Read on.
Can we say.... HICCUP???  Okay, I've always talked about hiccups that occur w/ every single adoption.  Besides the money issue, ours has happened.  Didn't think it'd happen so early in the process but hey it's adoption.  It is minor by all accounts in the grand scheme of things.  Alright here goes.  Agency wrote me today and needs contract ASAP.  Remember, this is the $2100.  Bulgaria needs our docs asap is the problem or risk "losing the kids."  I totally get that and do understand everything behind all that.  We've worked something out so sending in contract tomorrow.  And here's the hiccup.  I was reviewing the docs at basketball practice tonight.  This is not just a one signature page type of thing either.  Anyhow, every single piece of paper our notary signed, she signed w/ the WRONG name!!!  Yes, you all know what that means... redo it ALL.  Every bit of paper.  So, in a minute, that's what I'm doing.  Tomorrow morning, we'll go get it all renotarized.  BTW, husband's first name is Edward.  She signed it William.  Think it will pass???  Me either. 

On another note, today was a wacky day afterschool.  We have basketball practice these evenings.  Alright, they come home and are acting like animals.  All the boys are wrestling and Bojan & Alex have battlescars from it.  Lovely.  "How'd you get those?"  My brother beat me.  Yes, I can hear this conversation playing out at school.  Nice.  I have to explain to Alex that no, money does not come from God.  See, he's giving money to Dribbling for Drew at Upwards.  He & Bojan wanted to use their own money & decided on $10.  That btw, is all Alex had.  Yes, our RADish decided to give ALL his money for a compassionate cause.  I about fell over too. Anyhow, I told him this money was from Nana Pat from Christmas time.  Alex said oh "she gets it from God?"  I was totally clueless at this point.  I said "What?!"  Alex said yeh, it has In God We Trust on it.  I did not have all that much time to explain b/c we were trying to get ready for basketball, sign all new semester papers for the high school & middle schoolers.  A huge stack btw.  In addition, trying to figure out why the world the turkey wouldn't cook.  Duh... the boys were reading.  Sound funny?  Let me explain.  My boys have to read for 20 minutes per teacher rules.  Fine. Set the dog gone timer b/c I can't keep up w/ all 7 of you starting at different times.  They set the timer on the stove.  However, they forgot how to do it while leaving the stove ON.  I go to pull out the turkey to eat before basketball practice and wonder why it isn't cooked.  URGHH.  Fine.  Improvise.  Eat yogurt to tide you over.  And oranges.  We definitely have enough oranges.  Onto basketball practice.  Wait, not even  going to start w/ what all happened while there.  I think caged animals would have appeared better trained at this point.  Maybe it was the lack of tryptophane from the turkey.  Don't know.  Nik wanted to play houdini.  Okay, he puts on my jacket, makes me tie the arms up behind him just like a straight jacket.  Takes a few minutes but the little bugger can get out.  He thinks it's a riot and everyone there eggs him on.  We somehow forgot to put on Bojan's running leg.  So, what's he do?  completely busts open his boots.  His ONLY pair of boots.  Nice.  Warren just went to buy super glue at Walmart.  We didn't want to buy him new boots yet till he gets the new AFO and his new foot b/c they're ordering him a bigger foot.  So buying shoes now would be stupid until the new measurements come in.  I could go on but I'm sure you are done being bored.  Or at least are thankful that your life is not as...chaotic.  Again, this is why we live in Chaos Manor.  Good night.  Time for a pile of paperwork.  I used to be a secretary & can actually type wickedly fast.  However, pen & paper takes me forever. 

A saying here is always "with every new day, there's fresh hope."  I say it all the time.  So true.  I  so want a boring day one of these days. 

Next to nothing weekend continued

I know this week I'm going to have a few topics that will simply be writing.  RAD, FAS, having a deaf son, children with limb differences in particular.  So, even though they're boring, pictures seem to brighten a page between such serious topics that will be forthcoming.  So, let me share a few.

How did I get so many teen shots this past weekend?  In NC, you really don't have much of a winter season.  Put it this way, our pool stays open from May until October here.  No snow.  Well, rarely ever.  If it does snow, just a dusting and the entire city shuts down.  Anyhow, this is Yana.  The kids and I always wanted a hammock.  Went to end of season sales at Target last year & found this one.  Warren hooked it up between the two trees and here you go.  The kids love hanging out here & listening to music.  Some of them read. I lay there sometimes and just look up.  Wonderful views as when you look up into the trees, it feels like you are in the sky.  Kind of neat.  I'll show pics w/ leaves on the trees one of these days.  No shoes on & it's the middle of January.  Again, this is just one of the things we did on our do next to nothing weekend.  Does Yana look relaxed?

Okay, so this birdhouse is in bad shape but wanted you to see it anyhow.  Irina made this a few years ago at Deaf Camp. The squirrels have since chewed around the hole but still functional.  And, we have birds that make nests in there.  My kids make projects all the time. Thank goodness we have a yard big enough to put them in.  So, if one day you see a paver that looks like a snowman holding up the fence, you'll know Alex made it and it is proudly displayed.  We do not live in our house like a museum.  We have kids' stuff hanging up all over the place.  There is no fancy artwork or expensive vases on the wall or in the yard for that matter.  Instead, we choose to display what our kids have done.  Irina made this and it has been great to have in the yard these past 2 years to house some birds.

This is our house.  Well, the front view in winter.  In summer, much more beautiful.  In this shot, Max had just finished cleaning out the gutters.  Hence, all the leaves on the front walkway.  In a few short weeks, the ground is filled with bright green grass and gorgeous flowers around the front.  The house is very deceptive as it really doesn't look that big from the front.  For us though, just the right size.

This is of course our camera hog.  Nik is always wanting to be in a picture. Always.  I try to capture him naturally but is so hard b/c he always wants to smile for the camera.  Oh well.  He's so dog gone cute I have to take the picture.  This is Nik on top of a tree that was going to fall onto our house this past spring.  It was so bad that when the tree guy got here, he was on the phone to the clients he was supposed to do the work for the next day asking if they could wait.  Why?  Because ours was so far gone, he was truly afraid it would fall on the house.  It didn't but we lost a wonderful big oak tree that day. shoes on Nik either.  I don't even know why I bother to buy shoes for my children.  Frankly, we don't buy many b/c they never wear them.  In summer, they want to live in $1 flip flops.  No kidding.  We buy decent, nice sandals but no... flip flops are top choice.  Hey, they're saving me money so I shouldn't complain, right?  Life with kids is never dull.

Just so you didn't think we did nothing at all this past weekend, here is Max.  For some reason, he loves to use the leaf blower.  As you can tell, we have a pile of leaves just due to the sheer number of trees in our yard.  In NC though, you want trees for shade due to the extreme heat in the summer.  Again, middle of January and Max is in shorts!  Hey, at least he has shoes on. 

Well, there are still some signs of winter.  Our berries that become bright red in winter time.  I love these and use them in all my garland and wreaths during Christmas time.  Nice not having to buy stuff and having it come from your own yard.  All our fresh flowers come from our own yard.  And this spring, we want a good chunk of our food coming from our own yard.  We'll see how the gardening goes this spring/ summer.  We did a small test last year and this year are ready to get a big garden going.  Have to wait though as it is way too early.  with all the dead grass & leaves in our yard, it was nice to see bright berries.  I love color so it is hard in winter not to see any.

Warren checking out the pool.  It was frozen last week by a couple of inches when we had a cold snap here.  Sooo, the kids thought it was "neat" to throw rocks on the ice.  URGHH!!!  I was NOT happy.  We couldn't get to the rocks & they sank into the ice when it melted.  Couldn't get them out w/ a net.  Currently, Warren counted 7 rocks in the bottom of the pool.  Very frustrating.  We'll get them out soon.  We're shocked the water has stayed so clear this winter considering we haven't even treated it yet.  Going to this weekend but still suprised.  Warren and I would love to have an inground pool for the kids in the future.  We both grew up with one and it was always such fun.  Also, good therapy for some of our kids.  My grandfather used to put in swimming pools for a living.  He owned a swimming pool business.  So, summers, I would go help.  Not as easy or as fun as it originally sounds.  LOL.  Lots of hard work.  In the meantime though, we have this pool and kids and I are in it everyday during the summer.   People may think my way of teaching the kids to swim is cruel.  But remember, PI(post institutionalized) kids are quite different.  Many, were lucky to get showers at the orphanage and definitely not exposed to baths all that often.  Fear of water in some cases is to be expected.  They cling to me like leaches when first in the pool.  It is like torture for them.  I swear the neighbors must think we are skinning our children alive w/ the screams.  It is all I can do to pull them off of me.   here is what I do though.  I walk them out to the middle of the pool where they can't grab onto anything.  Yes, they are in life jackets at first.  I manage to get the child peeled off of me w/ another child's help.  I walk away and they are screaming in the middle of the pool.  Not drowning, not in trouble.  All of us are standing around them.  When the screaming cries of terror stop(and they always do), the entire family is there clapping & screaming with joy.  The child then discovers they are indeed NOT drowning and that they actually like the water.  From there, I can not get them out of the pool.  I have done this with Alex, Bojan, Alyona and Nik thus far.  We did something similar with Max as Max wouldn't leave the steps of the other pool.  It was inground & a shared community.  So, couldn't very well let him scream there.  Ever since I discovered this worked with Alex, I did it with all the other kids.  They were never in any danger.  They just had to realize that they were going to be okay in the water.  With FAS kids, you can tell them a million times they are okay but they still won't "get it."  They have to learn by doing.  Hence, the swimming lesson.  Max, used to touch hot things despite us saying it's hot, you'll get burned.  Nope.  He learned soon enough at a family reunion.  He put both hands right on the grill after we had told him it was hot and not to touch.  The water thing has to be learned basically the same way.  Now, all my kids are avid swimmers.  We have races together in the pool.  None have to wear a life jacket.  Any fell in, they could get out.  Now, you would not have believed that if you had witnessed the screaming swimming lessons when first home.  They all laugh about it now.  My kids love the pool and can swim very well.  My methods are not normal but I tried normal and it was not working.  Then the whole FAS connection finally hit me. They have to actual experience that they will be okay.  Mom & dad will be there for them.  They will not drown.  They have people there to help them if need be.  With bio kids, you can teach them love and safety of a family over the years.  So they believe you when you tell them nothing bad will happen to them in the water.  With FAS kids, this is not the case.  They have to experience that it is okay.  Do I plan to do the same with the new kids coming home?  We'll have to wait and see.  I always first see if they'll go on their own or with a little encouragement.  Take it from there.  Here is a picture from the pool in the past.  Do they look traumatized? 

This was from 2 years ago so that is why 2 of them are still in life vests.  None of them were wanting to get out of the pool.  Here's another of Bojan from '08:

Bojan was one of our original "leaches" as well.  Would not let go of me until I peeled him off of me.  Now, you can see he is extremely confident in the water.  No fear whatsoever.  He can not wear his prosthetic in the pool. They make swimming legs but insurance does not pay for it.  We were able to get a grant for his running leg but swimming leg will have to wait.  Meantime, he just takes it off in the pool and is perfectly fine.  Can swim like a fish.  And amazingly, he can ride the boogie boards and "stand" on them.  Just because he's missing a leg, does not mean he's missing out on life.  That's for sure.

Well, that post was totally sidetracked.  Oh well.  With so many serious topics coming up and our big fundraising push of a post coming up, I wanted some pictures up too to let you all know what we're up to.  This week is a light week for me.  Wahoo!!!  Not a one appointment...yet.  That can change with the day around here.  Trust me.  We have Upwards Basketball practice tonight.  Cleaning up and organizing mostly.  We have discovered a rotting space on the house this past weekend.  Not a good sign.  It has to be repaired immediately as it will affect the foundation and rear of the house could go.  So, Warren will be seeing just what is necessary to fix that.  Have to do that first before even beginning on the room for the girls or the sheds that need to be built.  Again, we are used to rolling with the punches around here.  Enjoy the day.  It is the middle of winter in NC and i have the windows open today.  Got to love it.  More posts to come. Fundraising is becoming top priority now.  We HAVE to get the money raised in order to bring the children home.  More on that later.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A decision made....

For those this week that read about our housing dilemma, we have made a decision.  We will stay put!!!  This will be tricky no doubt, but we feel we can do it.  For those wondering how we'd even be able to afford this during an adoption, we can't.  However, times have changed.  We will be speaking w/ our bank this coming week.   Since our interest rate is high compared to the current market, we will be able to refi AND hopefully, refi in the costs of the addition & changes to some systems.  This will enable us to do what we need to do without changing the monthly payments.  This is # one priority b/c we have to make sure enough is budgeted each month for new kids coming home as well.  What we are currently doing is coming up with a few different scenarios in which we can work this out.  Ideally, fixing the roof(new roof), converting garage to a room for three girls(Alyona, & her two new sisters), and adding a garage with an unfinished space on top is what we really need.  Reason for the unfinished space on top is for future living space.  Remember, due to some of our children and their disorders, some will not be able to live on their own.  This will act as a "transitioning" apartment of sorts.  Many with FAS stay with their parents until their mid to late twenties.  So, chances are some of ours will as well.  We want to be prepared.  IF we can do the garage addition, we can set that up w/ the converted garage and have it on a separate electrical panel.  (2 sets of bills, I know.)  We will know later this week if all this is even possible without raising our current payments.  If it does, we are back to square one and will most likely just convert garage to the room and pray nothing fails--LOL.  We were wanting to refinance back in October but it never went through and now we know why.  We kept going back & forth on whether we should refi or not.  Glad we didn't do it then or this may not have even been possible.  Again, everything happens for a reason, I truly believe that.  Now, this could all fall to pieces and back to square one like I said.  But, going to give it a shot, ask the bank this coming week & have an answer.  Rates are still low and much lower than our current fixed rate that we have.  Refi- ing would be smart whether we were doing this work to the house or not.  This just would allow us to do work w/out having to raise mortgage.  Again, that is just due to the rate difference we would have.  Would I love to have a new master bath?  Absolutely!  This is NOT a renovation for cosmetic purposes though so it can not happen.  This is solely for the purpose of being able to house more children here and live here w/out systems failing.  The pretty stuff will have to wait--LOL. I can dream though, right?

Well, started this post awhile ago.  After much thought, calculating of costs, etc., we will not be able to do the garage & transition apartment yet.  Bummer.  What we HAVE to do is at a minimum the garage conversion.  So, we have to somehow build two sheds and then turn a garage into a room for the three girls... Alyona, 'Cutie Pie'(7yo), and Little Bit(3yo).  This is all going to be challenging b/c we have to do the work ourselves.  Volunteers?  Anyone?  Anyone?  I know we can do this.  We've done stuff ourselves before.  Still, during an adoption, it is just one more thing we really didn't want to have to tackle.  However, I'm sure w/ all our team members, operation rennovation will be a success.  Will keep you posted when we can start it all.  Talking to the bank this week and see what all we can do.  

Along with the garage conversion, we need to do some repair work.  We have some rotting window facings and the back steps as well are rotting.  Those are the two main things that need fixing.  Somehow, houses are never finished, are they?  It was a hard decision to reach to stay here and do what we need to do.  Really was.  Our kids are very emotionally attached to this home.  They love it here and so do we.  We moved into this home with many dreams.  Some have come true, some have not.  Some great accomplishments have been made in this home.  Some hard times, some good times, some funny times, and too many other times to recall.  It is our home.  Yes, it is a house and needs some fixing.  But, we as a family are up for the challenge.  Together we have come so far and together we can go even further as a family.  We will share the struggles of doing a rennovation as well as the successes.  Keep you all posted as to when we will start.  I will show you a little of what our house looks like inside. 

This used to be part of our deck!  We changed this space into our dining room.  We really like it.  Everyone can fit at the table.  We find ways to cut costs everywhere.  The flooring that looks like tile is actually peel & stick...$1 a square!  This btw, is the best flooring when you have kids.  A section gets destroyed, you just peel it up and put down new.  All the flooring, electrical and painting work in here was done by Warren.  Our handyman for sure.  Another way we saved in this room was by reusing all the row of windows and doors.  Also, those blinds were an end of season clearance for $5 a piece!  Yes, we are bargin hunters here for sure.

This is just a shot of our living room.  We have done no rennovations in here.  Just the flooring all over the house.  It used to be a sea of very old deep green carpet.  Ugly was an understatement.  Plus, 2 of mine have asthma and most of us have allergies. So, we changed to hardwood flooring about 2 years ago.  One thing some of you might or might not know is that we live in NC.  Not far at all from Hickory, NC.  It is the furniture capital of the US.  Many will go on buses from other states just to shop when they have their annual furniture market.  Though I was invited once(used to work at a florist/ interior design shop), I have never gone to one of these shows.  However, we live not far(few hours) and know some of their "leftovers" go to local outlets here.  Being in the business, you know where to find some of the deals--LOL. Now, for some before and after rennovations of our kitchen.  Check it out.

This was when the rennovation had already started.  This was only the size of our kitchen.  The front part is what used to be a bar.  There was one small passage way to get into this hole of a kitchen.  You used to have to open the refridgerator by standing sideways.  When the kids started prepping their lunches on the floor, we knew we had to act.  Pots were being stored in the bedrooms even for lack of room.  But, we managed till we could afford the renovation.  And remember, doing a bunch of the work yourself or w/ help, saves tons of money.  Just have to have tons of patience.

This is another partial shot.  Hey, you can see the green carpet here!  This half of the kitchen used to be the dining room.  We combined the old kitchen and old dining room to make one big kitchen.  And here is a final picture:

This is a view of our finished kitchen.  There is a bar to the right in the picture.  We have 4 bar stools there though 5 can fit.  Dog food bin is under there now instead of another chair.  The kids eat there sometimes or do homework there.  I can be cooking while I help them w/ homework which is nice.  Or, keep an eye on Alex.  He's sneaky & tries to say he does homework but nicely shuffles it back in the folder.  Not when he's in here & I can watch.  We have cabinets everywhere as you can see.  Also, towards the back where the stove is, there is a prep sink back there.  We also have 2 refridgerators which is wonderful.  Ebay folks.  Ebay.  Bought a brand new $2400 fridge for $510!  no kidding.  All b/c it had a small scratch on the side that is pushed up against a cabinet anyhow.  The fridge on the front left of this picture is blocking out the entire other side of the kitchen.  But, you get the idea.  We had done a lot of this work ourselves as we went along.  However, we had such wonderful volunteers from a church called Ebenezer United Methodist Church out of Raleigh, NC.  There were AWESOME!!!  they made us dinner when we didn't have a kitchen.  They had volunteers come help us finish up the kitchen.  A plumber came from the church and others to help w/ flooring and painting.  Made all the difference.  Amazing the people God puts in front of you during your times of great need.  This is the same church the kids play Upwards at and that the teens want to start youth group at.  We were supposed to go tonight but honestly, I totally forgot.  I will remember next weekend for sure.  We owe the church a huge thank you and hope to pay it forward one day in the future.

So, you can see we've done some things to the house already.  I'll have to show you some shots of the boys' rooms upstairs and the teen girl rooms downstairs one day.  That way, you can see some things that we've done.   I can say I'm honestly excited about getting started on having a room for the girls.  Alyona already wants to pick out paint.  She wants it a bubblegum color she said.  Should be interesting for sure.  Chaos Manor has a charm about it that we love.  One of the big reasons we decided to stay here.  So, join us over the next few weeks as we add something else of our list of things going on.  And if you have a hammer, a paintbrush or any other tool you want to put to use, come on over.  The door will be open.  Will share a post about RAD probably tomorrow.  Enjoy your week.  Homework starts for me soon.