Saturday, July 2, 2011

Vacationing w/ FAS/ RAD kids

I  have gotten this question quite a few times.  "How do you go on vacation with your kids?"  they are meaning with our FAS kids.  As most of you know by now, 6 of our kids are effected w/ this disorder.  It is frontal lobe brain damage from where the birth mother drank while pregnant.  It has life long effects that will never go away.  Lack of impulse control, poor judgment, and no cause and effect thinking among others.  This can make vacations interesting to say the least.  Like when we were at my sister's wedding at a VERY fancy hotel in NY.  You can not, can not let your eyes off your kids for a second, especially, w/ FAS.  Well, Alex was 4yo at the time.   He was on no meds yet mind you.  He ended up climbing over the balcony in the lobby!  The huge, fancy balcony, 2 stories up.  Yep, that was my son, semi-monkey at the time.  Lovely.  We learned a lot from that trip.  Like, not to go on another trip for awhile.  LOL.  BTW, most people don't understand b/c our kids "appear" normal.  I get that all the time.  Well, they look normal.  Yes, they do but they have mental health issues.  They can't think for themselves.  We are there external brains.

Now, I am a firm believer that you must live life.  For a long time it took us awhile to learn how we could vacation w/ our kids w/out losing our minds.  Seriously, we needed to figure out what worked and what didn't.  Well, first thing was not telling the kids for quite some time that we were going on a vacation.  Since FAS kids have a hard time w/ abstract concepts, such as time, they couldn't tell if we had 20 days or 2 to go.  Drove us all nuts.  So, we don't tell them usually until about 5 days  before we are headed out for the trip.  We tell our kids clearly how long it will take to reach our destination.  We do not eat a ton of junk in the car.  In fact, most trips we take the food with us.  Last trip, we ate out one time.  Well, not counting the catered food twice at the reunion.  Keeping things routine is key to a successful vacation w/ FASers.  I know it sounds impossible but it's not.  My kids do chores on vacation just as they would at home.  May sound mean but if you want peace, this is the way to go.  hence, why mine are making the bed every morning in the hotel room. 

Another thing we do is not overload them w/ junk.  We always order water or bring water w/ us.  Soda is given once on the trip or twice.  That's it.  Otherwise, they are up all night crazy in bed.  We try not to overload their day.  If you think something is going to be too much, don't do it.  I can't stress that enough.  Alex had a meltdown, albeit minor, at Hershey during the chocolate lab.  Well, it was before the chocolate lab in line.  Yana accidentally hit him and he twisted it into a big production of Yana punched me & oh, I'm hurt so badly.  First, you pull him away from the scene of the incident.  Well, we were in line.  So, Warren moved Alex to the back of where we were all standing, away from Yana.  You separate them from the scene essentially.  Whisper when you talk b/c at this point their loud so everyone will hear them.  You whisper and they will tone it down.  Warren explained everything to Alex.  We do not distract him or downplay anything.  After a few minutes he was ready to go in. The biggest thing you must do is tend to the child.  Do not, do not worry about what people around you are thinking of this "crazy child just not behaving themselves."  Most of the time, folks in line have no clue what you're going through w/ FAS or RAD kids.  Let alone ever heard of the disorder themselves.  Concentrate on the kids, not those around you.  Do not feel obligated to explain yourself to people.  Your focus is solely on your child and helping them get through things. 

Now, length of trip is important. Many FASers or RADishes can not handle that much stimulation of a long vacation.  We learned 3 nights was maximum what our kids could handle.  Anything beyond that, they went haywire.  They really did.  Now,slowly, they have showed us they can handle longer vacations.  And, we've discussed it on each trip.  If you show us you can behave this trip, maybe next trip can be longer and we can stay an extra day.  They really do try to encourage each other. Older ones even check to make sure others took their meds.  They know it makes a difference.

They are allowed to pack their own bags.  However, we check all bags before they are allowed to go in the car.  Remember, you're their external brain. We do not have a tv in our van nor do we take one w/ us.  They are allowed to bring  their mp-3 players if they want and books.  Cards as well.  However, this past trip, I did NOT check everything.  Yana slipped in a board.  A literal board.  so that she could play cards on it.  URGHH!!!  That would have been serious trouble had we been in an accident.  Again, you have to think for them.  Cards sound innocent enough but they thought they had to have a "table" to go with it.  Always check behind your kids. 

Compliment the kids when they do something well.  At the end of the evening during vacations, we discuss what went right for the day and also, what could be improved on.  This past trip, we were complimented quite a bit from strangers on how well behaved our children were.  Whether it was waiting in line or waiting in a restaurant.  They did do really well this time, I must say.  I was proud.  I know there are FAS parents who are afraid to take their kids places.  Don't be.  Go for it.  There is no reason you shouldn't enjoy yourselves.  Our kids have gotten much, much better over the years when we go out.  BUT, early on, when I said we'd leave a place for misbehavior, we did.  Or, if they had to sit out, they did.  One time the night before a vacation Max and Alex were throwing shoes at each other and broke a window.  They were not allowed to go swimming at the hotel pool the entire trip as punishment.  And, we stuck to this punishment.  There was a time when I wanted to go nowhere w/ my kids for fear of something stupid happening.  yet, society is not going to shelter them as adults so neither should I.  Instead, I teach them about the real world and how to act in it.  We've worked on Irina's faces she makes when she sees something odd. Yes, it includes people as well.  We've worked on them just blurting out a thought w/ no impulse control.  We have them give us ideas of what they want to learn about or see.  Make it fun.  Embrace the chaos, don't let it rule your life.  If  you do, you won't get to experience so many wonderful things in this world.  I want my kids w/ FAS to go to amusement parks w/ their friends.  I want them to see tacky tourist sites.  I want them to see history.  And, they do.  Yes, sometimes we do things a little differently...like dress them in the same shirts for very crowded places.  And sometimes we do get frustrated just as any other parent would on a vacation w/ 7 kids.  yet, we do it, we look forward to our getaways and we make plans for more.  If you have FAS kids, it is important they do normal things too just like a vacation w/ family.  Same w/ RADishes.  It may not happen right away, but you'll find you look forward to these times together even when you used to dread them.  Just being honest.  Happy Vacationing.  Now, I may be singing a different tune next year when we take all 10 on vacation.  LOL. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Risperdal Recall!!!

Saw this on one of our FAS support groups.  We have two kids on these meds.  Fortunately, our kids dosages are not in the recall category.  However, I thought I'd post in case someone's kids out there are.  Copying & pasting:

FDA SAFETY ALERT: RISPERDAL (RISPERIDONE) AND RISPERIDONE: RECALL - UNCHARACTERISTIC ODOR
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety alert regarding Risperdal and Risperidone. Janssen Pharmaceuticals issued a recall of Risperdal (risperidone) lot 0GG904 3mg tablets and risperidone lot OIGI752mg tablets. The recall stems from an uncharacteristic odor thought to be caused by trace amounts of TBA (2,4,6 tribromoanisole), a non-toxic byproduct of a chemical preservative sometimes applied to wood often used in the construction of pallets used for transporting and storing materials. A small number of consumers have reported temporary gastrointestinal symptoms. Safety Alert: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm259901.htm

 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Blast from the past!

Well, it's a new month and you know that means a blast from the past.  So much fun seeing how the kids have transformed over the years. 


 This is Alex from 2005.  Just a year after being home.  He's sitting in what used to be our kitchen.  We had five kids back then.


Don't you just love our green carpet?  Alex's favorite thing back then was Spiderman.  Love Max's expression. They all look like babies back in 2005!


 July 2006.  Max, Bojan and Alex.  They seem so little back then. 


A picture of us all at the end of he Orenburg Reunion in July 2006.  Always have fun going to these places.  Love it!  Believe it or not, we were in process of adopting Alyona and Nik back then.  Crazy, huh?


I know I went out of order.  But just found this.  Alex's 4th birthday party.  Yana is waving.  We were sitting in what was our dining room but is now our kitchen.  our table back then sat 6 people if that tells you anything.  LOL.


 Irina last summer, July 2010, catching up on some medical references.  She's always so much happier away from school.  I do not question our decision to homeschool her this coming year one bit.


This was last year when my boys decided to paint sticks to be warriors. I came outside and found them painting themselves as well!  


Alyona and Yana sharing some music on the MP-3 player.  From July 2010.

Hope you enjoyed that brief blast from the past.  So hard to imagine a time when all 7 weren't here.  It really is.  They always feel like they belong and fit right in.  That's a good thing.  Much more to come tomorrow. I have some wonderful kids that need a home.  If you have not read the previous posts, please do so.  Much info.  I have more kids to talk about tomrrow.  However, 4 posts are enough for a day.  Warren's coming home & kids & us have to go to TJMaxx and Wally World.  Got to go.  Enjoy your evening folks.

2 young sibs need your help finding a home!

I just got word yesterday of 2 young siblings trying to find a home.  The little girl is almost 2 years old and the little boy recently turned 3 years old.  Why is it important they find a home?  Because they have CF(cystic fibrosis).  Currently, they are healthy.  We all know however, that the orphanage is not the best place for children with this type of illness.  Other than the CF, these children are fine.  And too cute for words!  This is a disorder that will indeed require lots of care.  It is something that would have to be thoroughly researched if the prospective parent is not familiar with CF.  There are families out there with these great kids.  Do any of you remember those two sibling girls last year on America's Got Talent with  CF?!  They were amazing singers despite the lung issues of CF.  I was stunned b/c I had always heard of the limits these children have.  Those girls disproved many myths on that show as did a friend of mine who has a daughter with CF.  She does all kinds of things.  Just a normal kid in school with friends and activities.  There would be doctor appointments with these children of course.  But don't we all have doc appointments?

I need help spreading the word on this wonderful sib set.  They are located in the country I'm currently adopting from.  Yeh, there's a BIG hint for ya.  LOL.  It is a two trip process.  First trip is about a week as same region for these two unlike our current adoptions.  Second trip is even less in time.  Court is done after first trip and you are not present for court.  We had an awesome time as you can read about on previous posts.  Wonderful country to adopt from and you will be well taken care of.  I am awaiting later today to hear the fees on these two children but do know they will most likely be reduced fees.  Okay, I'm assuming that but given the circumstance, a safe assumption.  These two really do need a home that is safe and can give them the medical care they will need.  Please help spread the word for me.  I will update as soon as I can about these two.  I should know some fees later today or tomorrow. I can't post this but you can write me privately.  Please spread the word about two very young CF kids that need a loving home.   They are certain to thrive with the right care in the States.  There are plenty of CF families here in the States that I'm sure would be willing to share their stories.  Thanks for helping to spread the word.  I would love to see these two have a committed family within two weeks.  I know it would be a miracle indeed.  The more folks that know about these two precious little ones the better.  Help spread the word.  Thanks so much!

Locals-- looking for some markers, coloring books, etc.

whatever you can think of or spare!  Let me get to the point.  We gave each of our kids' orphanages in Bulgaria $600 worth of items.  Summer's orphanage used it for desks, shoes, and food for the kids.  While there, they dumped out broken pieces of toys for us to play w/ Summer with.  Puzzles missing pieces, broken toys every which way, and markers so out of ink it was like coloring w/ invisible ink.  This was the ONLY pack of markers they had that I could tell.  That garbage bag full of broken toys seemed to be one that was passed from room to room.  So, I thought this next trip I could take one suitcase full of fun donations.  Add a little fun into the kids' lives there.  What I'm looking for from locals are these specific items:  coloring books, markers, crayons, puzzles, flat shovels, etc.  Maybe some blow up balls. I need lightweight items.  I also need items that you think younger kids would like.  No liquids of any sort please.  I will collect for the next two months.  I know w/ back to school sales starting soon, many markers & crayons would be .10 to .25 a pack.  Easy to spare a quarter, I'm sure.  Not trying to sound sarcastic but if you could just imagine the look on these kids' faces. It is priceless and means so, so much to them. 

Now, the older kids' home is in just as much dire need of donations for play items.  Blow up summer items, frisbees, hacky sacks, airplanes, etc.  Any outdoor items that are lightweight or easy to pack.  Our coordinator said even coloring books would be awesome.  Oh, a request from the girls on behalf of Reni.  They would love some hair items.  Little headband, bows, and the like.  Her face was just smiling ear to ear when I gave her lipsmackers lipgloss.  HUGE hit w/ the girls.  So was the eyeshadow.  They have kids there from ages 7 to 18.  So, you know makeup for girls is a big deal and something I'm sure is a rarity obtained over there.  Anything you can do to help out would be greatly appreciated.  It really would.

I'm collecting items for about 2 months.  If you'd like to donate any amount, that would be wonderful too as I'll take it and purchase items with it.  our plan is to take two suitcases full of "fun" donations this go around.  I truly think they'd enjoy it.  I know they all did w/ just the few things I brought for them last time.  BTW, my kids immediately shared w/ all the others.  the kids there are excellent at sharing. 

Thanks so much for making this happen.  I'll be able to take pictures this trip and show pictures this trip as well.  It will be after court so a-okay.  Thanks and help spread the word when you get a chance. 

Myth Busters-- Why don't you adopt from the States?

Ahh, the question that I'm sure all international adoptive parents get at one time or another during their process.  This one urks me just about as much as the one about getting paid to take our kids.  What?!  Okay, I'm here to clarify a few things about our adoptions and about how this whole thing works.  I seriously don't even know where to begin b/c there are so many questions we are asked time and time again.  I'll start w/ a few off hand and go from there.  Time to pull out myth busters.  Here goes.

1.  You can have as many kids as you'd like since they pay you for them. 

This my friends is myth # 1.  Let me make this abundantly clear...we do NOT and have NEVER been paid ONE SINGLE DIME for our children.  Ever.  We do NOT get paid a stipend to care for them.  These are internationally adopted children, they do not and will never come with a stipend per month.  Not a single penny.  They are ours to raise.  Ours to be responsible for. 

2.  They're medical care is paid for.  

I'm laughing right now.  I really am.  All of our kids are covered by my husband's insurance which we pay for every month.  We have copays like any other person on this planet.  Yes, they add up like crazy for us but we chose this life, not the fancy car or house life.  We live w/out the extravagance so that we can pay for their medical needs.  We do not receive free medical care.  We have $20 copays which if you have 7 to 10 kids sick in a week, you do the math!  It is hard sometimes w/ our medical costs for our kids.  We have gone to certain therapy sessions, learned what we needed and then done it ourselves at home w/ them.  We did this w/ Bojan.  We desperately want Nik to receive speech therapy.  They stopped.  Our insurance stopped.  We are fighting it currently.  Many are helping us fight it.  He needs this.  However, if insurance won't pay, we can't afford it.  I btw, am in the wrong profession.  I looked a the cost of these sessions & was shocked.  It does help him though & we are fighting it.  Again, we do NOT get free therapies or free medical care for any of our children.  They are our responsibility. 

3.  You don't need to fund raise, you get all the money back at tax time.  

Okay, if this were the case, I wouldn't still be paying off Yana and Alex's adoptions from years ago!  The tax credit, which is now a refund this year, does give you some of the money back towards your adoption expenses.  Does it pay for all of it?  Absolutely not.  You should not and can not rely on the tax refund to pay for your adoptions.  The way we funded our current set of adoptions for all pre-trip expense, fees, flights, first trip stays, etc. was through our tax refund from last year and some retirement funds.  We should be able to pay for the second trip flights.  Now, we still have to raise $4800 for the remainder of our adoption fees.  We currently do NOT have that money.  Praying we can raise that.  We have no cards we can put it on or anything.  We will be applying for some grants but there are no guarantees.  We've sold everything we can possibly sell.  I work to help defry adoption costs as well.  Anyhow, we desperately need to fundraise these next two months to make this adoption happen.  We can do it.  Whatever we receive back next year at tax time will go to pay back the retirement account and all the projects that were put on hold to do this adoption.  You know, like a new roof.  So please don't think tax refunds pay for all this.  They don't.

4.  You can adopt b/c you are rich.  

Please, someone pick me up off the floor.  I seriously can not believe that folks still think you have to be rich to adopt.  We go to yardsales, second handshops, outlet stores, food on discount racks, etc.  We do not waste.  We buy used cars.  We repair things ourselves.  Yes, we do have food on the table.  Yes, we do have a home.  Yes, we are considered "rich" by many others in the world.  However, we are not monetarialy rich by any stretch of the imagination.  I don't even have a cell phone folks.  You do not have to be rich to adopt.  Not a bit.  You must be available.  You must trust.  Most of the families adopting are no where near considered to be rich.  Yet, the countries you are adopting from do absolutely consider you rich Americans.  I had this conversation w/ an orphanage director two weeks ago and a translator.  We dispelled the myth quickly and told them how they got those orphanage donations.  That it was MANY that helped to raise those funds, not just us.  They honest to goodness were stunned.  No one had ever told them before that all us Americans were not rich and could buy anything we wanted.  I think they were shocked, I truly do. 

5.  You adopt other people's problems.

Okay, this one still bothers me.  Yes, we adopt special needs children at this house.  It is no secret.  I can tell you this though, they are by far NOT problems.  Shoot, the puppies are causing me more problems then my kids right now.  Seriously.  this comes more from the older generations.  I have heard it more than once.  They think that we are adopting the "rejects" of other countries.  I can not imagine how one could think that way.  These are not other people's problems that they didn't want.  Most of the time it is an issue of poverty or a woman being single, or many other factors.  Many times, there is not medical care for kids w/ special needs in other Eastern European countries.  Just the way it is.  We adopt kids, NOT problems.  We don't say and this is Alex w/ RAD, FAS, PTSD, Devel. Delays, one kidney, probable other mental health issues, etc.  No.  We say this is Alex, he's 10yo and our son.  We pretty much only discuss their dx's w/ their professionals or other parents of kids w/ needs like theirs.  Their schools for years did not know the long lists of dx's my kids had.  I wanted to know the child first.  So, do not ever say we are adopting someone's problems.  On the contrary.  We are adopting someone's special child that we were fortunate enough to parent.

6.  You're just buying them a sister/ brother.

Ooh, this one strikes to the core as well.  It hurts to think that folks still think we are "buying" our children.  We are NOT & have never bought our children.  We have paid fees for legal facilitation of our children.  For airfare, for lodging.  For those who birthed children, do we say you bought your children just b/c you paid the hospital fees?  Do we?  The difference is, insurance will pay for you to have a child.  Insurance will not pay for us to adopt a child.  Our insurance could have paid for our infertility treatments.  We decided not to go that route.  there were already too many kids in the world so we decided to adopt.  Hospital fees add up for a birth process.  All those ultrasounds and doc checkups beforehand.  Just as adoption fees add up.  many of you parents w/ bio children decided you wanted a sibling for your child for whatever reason.  It was your reason.  No one questioned you on that. Yet, if we decide to add a child, we get questioned every single time and at times are told we are buying our children a sibling.  Not fair a bit. 

7.  Adoption is easier than giving birth so that's why you did it. 

Oh, my oh my.  Do you know what we'd give up to just be able to have a child through birth?!  Many have no idea what it's like. Unless you've been down the road, you just don't know.  Now, I can only speak from the adoption side of things and what other parents who've both adopted and birthed have told me.  My perspective may be different.  I think both ways are a blessing to add a child.  I don't think it matters either way how the child came to your family.  The adoption process is not easy. It's not.  there are so many ups and downs.  Unexpected things as well.  It's hard.  not going to lie to you all.  It's hard.  But, so is child birth from what I hear.  Are they equal?  I can't say.  I can say the end result is the same.  I child of your heart that you longed for for so long.  Once here, it does not matter how they came to you, just that they are here and you love them w/ all your heart and soul. 

8.  You adopted special needs kids, you'll never be free.  

Geez, I didn't know adopting them was a prison sentence.  Granted, some of my kids my never leave home and I know that.  Did I know that in the beginning?  No.  Do I care?  No.  What we've always wanted for our kids was for them to reach their fullest potential.  Some will do that by leaving home and being on their own.  Some will do that by living at home.  Either way, it is our goal, our dream for them to reach their fullest potential in life no matter what that may be.  I do not in any way feel tied down by my kids.  Do I wish someone could watch them for maybe just one night every once in awhile?  Yes.  Doesn't every parent.  Affording a sitter is too much for us.  Even though some of our kids are older, their FAS makes it near impossible for them to be left alone.  Yes, sometimes we have but it is for very short stents of time or a place where we can come back right away if something crazy happens.  Despite all this, we wouldn't trade it.  We have fun with the kids.  Mind you, not all the time.  Last night was a nightmare at Chaos Manor.  In an hour's time, the boys were fighting, found a birds' nest in the grill, Alex broke Alyona's glasses, house was totally a mess, someone put soap in the dishwasher and frankly, I didn't want to deal w/ any of it.  Oh, and Warren was stuck in traffic due to an accident on I-40.  Hey, but we all have those kinds of days, I'm sure.  We do not feel tied down by our kids.  We go places with them.  Needs and all.  They did fantastic at our recent vacation in PA.  We only had one meltdown by Alex.  That's it.  We got compliments the entire weekend from people.  Nice when you're in a restaurant and strangers come up to you and say how well behaved your children are.  Nice.  So no, we do not think we lost freedom, just gained a different sense of freedom. 

9.  You should adopt from the States, there are plenty of children here.

Yes, there are plenty of kids here but the US Government will NOT allow us to adopt these kids. Nope.  Not our state anyways.  In NC, you can not adopt kids from foster care if you have 5 or more kids.  yet, there are plenty of willing parents.  In addition, if you have ONE special needs child, you are not allowed to adopt another special needs child.  Drives me barking mad as you have tons of willing parents to adopt the US Foster kids but the system not allowing us to.  There was a neighbor of mine w/ 4 bio kids, one w/ special needs.  She wanted to adopt from the foster care system another child w/ special needs to complete her family.  They would not allow her so last year she went to Ukraine and got her daughter to complete her family.  We would have loved to have taken on a large sibling group from the foster system which are typically harder to place. No, can't do it.  So, those criticizing us for adopting overseas instead of our own country, please talk to the Department of Social Services and see about changing the system.  If they did, there would barely be any foster care kids available.  That would be wonderful as they would have found homes.  Even the social worker we spoke to at the JCSS department said they have lost many good parents b/c of this rule.  Sad, but true.  So, there are also children all over the world who need a home.  We have found our children from Russia, Serbia, and Bulgaria.  Doesn't matter where they came from, they are all our kids.  All of them.  We love them all.

Well, hope I put to rest some of the questions we are asked & that probably many of you are asked.  Much more to come.  There are some great kids we're advocating for.  Stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer trip 2011-- Knoebels (part X)

Well, on our day 3 of this trip.  This was the Knoebels Amusement park that we went to.  Tons of pictures but only sharing so many.  This was Saturday and we stayed from 9:30am to around 9:00 pm.  What a long day but kids and us handled it well I thought.  No meltdowns whatsoever.  Hey, only one meltdown at Hershey by Alex.  More on that later though.  For now, this is about our time away from it all, enjoying life and fun together as a family.  Though we do feel incomplete.  It's so odd as you walk around and picture your kids across the ocean and what they'd most likely go on.  Logan would go on anything the boys would go on.  He's a daredevil.  Summer would go on obviously the kiddie rides since she's 4yo.  Reni, she's a bit of a chicken like me so I can see her going on the rides closer to the ground.  Her and Nik would be buddies in that arena.  In due time they'll be home and we will be able to enjoy the summer fun w/ them.  I hate having to be patient.  I do.


Max and Bojan getting ready to go on the Downdraft ride.  Max HATED this ride.  He was scared of this one which is strange b/c he had no fear on the other crazy rides.  Rollercoasters and all.  Alyona, Alex  were laughing on this one.  Nik said no way and made me take him to a tamer ride next to this one. 


I was in the car in front of them w/ Warren.  Nik Irina and Alyona smiling for the camera.  This was always one of my favorite rides as a kid.  


Some of the kids are worried, some are not.  This is a scaled down version of the big one in the park.  


 Blurry but really happy which is a good thing.


Nik decided since they were having so much fun, Nik then decided he wanted to go on.  He had just as much fun.  

The park was a huge success and very reasonably priced.  highly recommend it to everyone in the PA area.  Shoot, come from anywhere.  Something for everyone to do.  And, lines are not long to wait.  They have a waterpark w/ waterslides but we didn't do that part.  It was very relaxing and very tiring all at once.  My kids definitely want to do an amusement park again.  In fact, the Orenburg Reunion next year is at Rocking Horse Ranch in NY.  We are definitely going to try to go.  Would be so much fun.  Those w/ kids from Orenburg, let me know and I can pass along the info.  We all got group rates.  

I got sidetracked.  We got to take food home that evening which was awesome as we can use any extra food we can get at this house.  LOL.  You'd be shocked at just what 3 teens can consume in a day.  Ate some at the hotel and then went to sleep.  Did not leave on time...of course not.  Hit the road.  

Decided to stop for lunch here:


 Micky D's.  See, my aunt gave us gift cards for here.  Worked out very well.  This was by far the worst McDonald's we had ever been to.  EVER!  I was turning people away at the door.  Telling them not to come in. Seriously, patrons were asking those of us in line what was happening and we were all telling them, plan on being here at least 30 minutes if you want your food.  No lie.  Took us around 20 to 25 minutes to actually get the food if you can believe it.  Now, I used to manage a restaurant and some things just bug the crap out of me.  Like employees holding up a wall during a rush.  Asked said employee if she could fill up the ketchup & straws that were out.  She said "I'm not on the clock yet."  I looked at her and said " do you think you can get someone that CAN do it?"  They had a newbie on the register instead of asst. manager.  They told one guy he couldn't have his dog in here.  Now, the dog is clearly labeled service dog & guy even had tag around his neck about the service dog.  Clearly visually disabled.  Clearly.  Shoot, the rest of us customers standing there had NO issues w/ the dog.  All of us were standing around looking at each other like what in the world is happening here.  Guy comes back up to the register w/ drinks.  I said "what's wrong?"  He said wrong drinks. I said "are they regular cokes?"  He said yes.  I said those are ours.  We'll take them and trade otherwise we'll be here forever.  LOL.  Seriously.  We waited forever for our food.  No one seemed to know what they were doing.  Kids were patient and I was proud of them for that but this Micky D's needed a whole new crew.  Had one of my employees stood at the wall, I would have fired them.  Period.  Not during a lunch rush.  Never stand around during a lunch rush.  Are you kidding me?!  I guess it drives me crazy more b/c I've run a restaurant before and know what it takes to make the customers happy.  Rant over.  This was in VA btw.  Name of the town started w/ a Chamber something.  I'll have to look at the receipt. 


Bellies full and some kids went off to dream land.  Car ride home seemed to take longer than going there.  Kids were just driving us insane. Felt like we were driving w/ a bunch of caged up cats.  Crazy.  But, we all survived & that's what counts.  Dogs were very happy to see us.  They ate Max's desk, our master bed(hand carved logs btw), matroshka dolls, and quite a few other things.  URGHH!!!  

We had a wonderful, wonderful time on our vacation.  I can't even tell you how great it was to be away w/ just us.  We thoroughly enjoyed it.  No computers, no cell phones, etc.  No one coming over, just us.  We needed this for sure.  Felt great & can't wait to get away again.  Though, I know it will be quite some time.  Still have to raise funds for this next part of the adoptions.  

The trip to Hershey for me was life changing a bit.  Reading all about Mr. Hershey and what all he accomplished made me think.  Why not us?  Why not live our dreams out?  Why not dream big?  See, on the way up I read the short little book 'Live Like You Were Dying.'  Goes w/ the Tim McGraw CD I got at a yardsale earlier this year.  One part that stuck w/ me is "if you want to hunt tigers, you have to go to where the tigers are."  Now, it sounds so simplistic but it's true.  Just do something.  just do it.  Go for it.  Don't just dream it, make it happen.  Same thing was true of Mr. Hershey.  He made it happen.  Didn't care what others thought.  More on all this later b/c I really did change my thinking quite a bit.  You want something, you need to go for it.  YOu want to adopt, go for it.  Find a way to make it happen.  You want to travel, make it happen.  Again, I'll do a post on make it happen later this week.  I think it's important.  I really do.  Got to go.  Late dinner this evening.  Warren got stuck in traffic.  More to come. 

A special opportunity

Yesterday, Tuesday, we were contacted to help a young man out for a short time.  I am pretty excited they thought of our family for what I'm calling an adventure of sorts.  See, there is a young man that needs a place to stay for about a month before heading off to college in NY.  Doesn't sound too interesting?  Well, he is Deaf.  Yes, no spoken language to my knowledge.  He does write in English and Latin though.  Told he helps teach hearing people sign language.  Now, tell me this is not just perfect for our family who is dying to learn ASL.  I think it will be fantastic for not only Nik to experience full time sign language but the entire family as well.  It is for roughly a month before he heads off to school.  I think it will be very exciting for us all though.  I mean we have the room as we were planning for the 3 new kiddos here anyhow.  I know we have a lot going on but we always have a lot going on.  Very seldom do we get an opportunity like this.  When one comes along to learn something new and beneficial, I think we should go for it.  We are.  Never pass up a chance to learn something new or experience something different.  Never.  Plus, with this crazy bunch at Chaos Manor, he may say get me out of here before he moves in.  LOL.  Seriously though, we're looking forward to this experience.  Keep you all posted.  Just had to share.  Much more to come today.  After two days of trying to wash the van, we are really going to get it done today.  I'll finish the trip pictures later today. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer trip 2011-- Knoebels (part IX)

Still on day 3 of this trip to PA.  We went to an amusement park called Knoebels.  Our grandparents used to take us there every single summer.  It's a wonderful place for families and not too expensive.  BTW, that $3 funnel cake was worth every single penny!  I have not had a funnel cake for years upon years.  Too bad I shared this one.  LOL.  Well, probably a good thing I shared it.


 Great time dancing outside the gift shop.  I stepped in to get a magnet and a postcard.  See, we get a magnet from wherever we go to.  It's a cheap souvenier.  We also bought a postcard as I'm going to do something at the end of the year. I'm going to fill a glass jar w/ momentos from the year & happenings.  We'll do this over Christmas break.  A time capsule and then display on the mantel.  Wished I'd done this for all my previous years.  Hey, better late than never. 


 Okay, I know you can't see what's going on.  Look for a moment.  Why do you think their jets are on the ground and the others in the air?  Any guesses?  Well, Nik was screaming & terrified the entire time.  Didn't get it as he went on other rides worse than this one.  So, Alex big brother kept them on the ground.  

Alyona on the other hand had a fabulous time in this thing.  


 Nik, right after he went on the terror jets.  I figured we'd do something easy.  He was worried at first.  He went on this twice.  Once by himself & once w/ Alyona. 


 I think he's just fine now.  No issues at all. 


Jordan and Max.  Jordan is Max's cousin.  He adores Maxwell.  And Max is so good with him.  Plays with him and everything.  He will make a great dad one day for sure.  Though now Max said he doesn't want to date. I said why?  His response was b/c girls suck too much money out of you.  Teenage boys.


 Some of the kids in attendance.  The tall kid in the blue shirt I believe is the same age as Alyona...12yo if I'm not mistaken.  Find Alyona.  Gives you an idea of how small she is. 


 Despite being terrified of the red jets, Nik loved going up this thing.


 Waiting in line for the ferris wheel.  Why they are signing Dad, I'm not sure.


Some of my kiddos and Warren up in the air.  They all had a good time.  Umm, I don't do heights.  Remember the mountain in Shumen?  Miracle I made it to the top.  Rocking back & forth on a ferris wheel way up high, not my cup of tea.  Thank goodness the kids have Warren.  Hence, why he used to be a pilot.  Not afraid of heights.  I'm a chicken and can willingly admit it.  

I have one more picture installment from our trip.   Tons going on here at Chaos Manor.  Tons.  More in another post tomorrow.  I'll have a brief post on what new things are happening here and one more picture post of Knoebels.  Then, back to life at Chaos Manor.  Never dull.  Have a great evening everyone. 

Summer trip 2011-- Knoebels (part VIII)

time for some more ride pictures!  We are still on Saturday, Day 3 of our vacation.  We went to Knoebel's Amusement Park. 


 Warren and Alex getting ready to go on the Merry Mix Up.  I know Warren doesn't look to happy in this picture.  I have another picture of him on here where he & Alex are laughing. However, it is really blurry.  Next time.


 This is Kylie and Alyona having a blast as usual.  Alyona's a lightweight so just flies across the seat.  Fun, isn't it?


A closer view of these two.  We're all getting ready to ride the train through the forest.  Scream through the tunnels and all.  So much fun.  


 Some of my kids are on this Skoolsh ride.  A flume ride. 


 Yana and Alyona are in the back.  Irina and Nik are in front of them.  Then Bojan, Alex & Max are even further in front of them.  You can click on the pictures to get a better look.  They were absolutely soaked from head to toe.  They were supposed to wait for dad on this ride but were too excited and went on ahead.  They loved this ride. 


Unfortunately, I caught these two toward the end of this ride.  Nik & I were in the car in front of them.  Sometimes you realize things as a parent w/ a child w/ special needs.  It hits you.  See, Alyona has ONH(optic nerve hypoplasia), strabismus and horrible eyesight as well.  Only one "good" eye and that one is horrible as well.  We once again realized on this ride just how much Alyona can't see.  She hides it well everyday but this was one of those times that it just "hit us."  She will never drive.  That's a fact.  We've already been told this by a few opthalmologists.  Believe it or not, she did have fun most the ride.  Trust me, this issue does not slow here down one bit! 


 Ironically, one of the kids Nik rode w/ on this ride had eye issues as well & kept hitting the wall.  She was fine.  Her mom & I were talking a bit.  Anyhow, Nik was elated to get to go on this ride.  He was the only one that could.  Alyona and Alex were too big believe it or not. 


Nik thought that he was hot stuff on this.  LOL.  He did awesome!  More to come. .Lightening all around me.  Shutting this thing down now.  Much more later and some new news to share! 

Summer trip 2011-- Knoebels (part VII)

Okay, we are back to our summer vacation photos.  Hope you don't mind being bombarded w/ photos of the kids.  We are now on Day 3 of this trip.  This would be from Saturday's events.


 This was the morning we were going to leave for the amusement park.  We must keep routine even when traveling.  My kids know this.  They know their chores despite housekeeping making the beds everyday.  They know that they have to do it just as at home.  I didn't even have to ask this day! 


And this is where we went!  Knoebels in PA.  It is a very shady park which makes it really nice in the summer to visit.  My grandparents took us here as kids every single summer.  Was wonderful.  


 Alyona's birthday was yesterday.  So, on Saturday she got to open an early birthday present from her Nana.  She got some really cool clothes, a hat and sunglasses.  She is styling now for sure!  Alex also got his b-day present early and got clothes as well. 


 Irina very excited to be going to an amusement park. 


Nik, just chilling on a table.  Max, holding up his finger deciding whether or not it is about to rain & spoil the fun.  What do you think happened?


It started coming down in buckets.  I mean just absolutely raining cats and dogs.  It was short lived though and that's what counts.  Plenty of time to enjoy the park.

 Alyona and Alex's first amusement ride ever!  Nik was too scared to go on.  You will not see a whole lot of pictures of the older kids as we let them go off by themselves & meet up every so often.  Worked out really well.


We convinced Nik to go on the next ride.  His first ride ever.  He LOVED it!  They were balloons that went up in the air a pretty good ways.


Once Nik got started, there was no stopping him.  We had Alyona, Nik and Alex w/ us.  We hung out mostly w/ my cousin and her kids as their daughter & Alyona are pretty much inseparable.  Worked out really well for everyone.

Many more pictures from the rides to come.  The kids had such a wonderful time for sure and thankful we had this opportunity.  It was a very generous gift for my parents to pay for all the rides.  Can't thank them enough for that.  The kids used all but 4 tickets!  Much more to come but it is Tuesday and I do have things to get done today and calls to make.  Stay tuned for more.  You may get sick of photos by the end of the vacation posts. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Happy Birthday Alyona!!!

I know I said no more posts but how could I not do this one?!  Our girlie girl is 12 years old today.  Can you believe it?!  I for one can not. 


This is our now 12 year old little girl. Yes, we still consider her little. 
she is nowhere near the size of a normal 12 yo and may never be that size.  No one knows.  We do know that she loves life.  Well, except when she's in trouble.  Alyona has a personality all her own.  She is truly a little girl at heart.  See, Alyona is mentally about 4 years old.  And, since that is where she is, that is how we treat her.  Works out well.  Shoot, no need to rush things, she'll be grown up soon enough.  We had cake today after dinner for her.  12 candles on top.  I know most 12yo's are wanting ipod's or cell phones or some type of video game.  Our daughter's wish?  A baby doll.  So, after the cake, she opened her presents from us.  Her face was sheer delight as she tore open the package.  In it?  A big baby doll just for her.  You'd thought she'd hit the lottery when she opened the second one & found yet another baby doll.  Then, the baby doll swing came in.  Her smiles could not get any bigger.  She went straight upstairs to her room to play.  

I know Alyona is different then her peers.  Doesn't understand a whole lot.  Can't really read.  However, I would not for one moment have her any other way.  She can do so, so much.  She can learn.  She can make friends.  She can play.  She can ride a bike (at one point, this was thought impossible for her).  She can give and receive love.  She can make those around her smile.  I could go on forever at the things she can do.  Alyona has come so far these past few years.  It is amazing. So, her turning 12 today is yet another celebration for her.  Her party will be in two weeks along w/ Alex's.  She couldn't wait to open her presents so we let her.  Happy Birthday Alyona!  We love you! 

Summer trip 2011-- Tasty treat (part VI)

Well, believe it or not, we are still on Day 2 of this trip in pictures.  We finally left Chocolate Town with full bellies. 


 On the way home we saw this cross from the distance on top of the mountain.  Was in the middle of all these trees.  Way up high.  So, I zoomed in and took a shot.  Just thought it was neat to see in the middle of the mountain tops. A reminder of sorts of the beauty out there.


 We stayed in a budget inn.  Prices were not bad compared to the rest in the area.  And, all the campgrounds were booked.  Some big event going on.


It is called the Patriot Inn.  Nothing fancy but served its purpose well.  It was clean, staff was super nice and it was a super convenient location for us.  No, it did not have all the fancy upgrades but we were there to sleep only.  You make compromises on trips when you have a big family sometimes.  We had clean beds, clean bathrooms, a roof over our heads & that was fantastic for us.  Plus, it was really funny to see the kids work the toilets which were the old toilets where you had to hold down the handle.  And, no automatic faucets at this hotel.  Yet, they still had a tv w/ a remote.  Kids found that very easily.  LOL.  We all dreamed big w/ HGTV shows.  


 Just because we didn't eat enough junk at Hershey, we had to go out for ice cream after dinner at the hotel.  We had turkey sandwiches, maccaroni salad, pretzels and water for dinner.  Then, it was off to an old spot my grandparents used to take us when we would visit them every summer. 


 Got all the kids a small.  Trust me, their smalls are huge.  Soft ice cream.  told the kids they could get whatever they wanted.  Yana, Irina and I got hot fudge sundaes.  The rest got dip cones.  Nik was putting his cone in a cup as it was falling apart.  He couldn't eat it fast enough.


 Those booths have been the exact same since I was a little girl.  Same menus too!  In addition, the lighting has not changed one bit.  Name of the restaurant is May's Drive In.  We would walk here after a swim at my grandparents' house every summer. 


I think they enjoyed the ice cream as much as I did.  Place has not changed one bit.  And the ice cream is just as sweet as before.  We met a young lady that also had implants and spoke w/ her for quite some time.  She was implanted at age 7.  Does not speak in a regular voice but is easily understood.  She can read lips too.  Just graduated high school.  Very wonderful to speak with her and get her opinion on things.  From someone who has been where Nik is going.  Was a great conversation.  

We met so many interesting people that day.  At Hershey too.  Met two women from Moldova.  So many neat folks to speak to.  Love hearing the stories of others and how their life has been formed.  Never dull.  Kids decided that day that we will get a shuttle bus.  Funny, we've been trying to sell that stupid idea for about 2 years now to them.  And, we're serious.  We have now realized our van is FULL when the other 3 come home.  There will be room for no extras, no kids I sit, not all the suitcases for trips, etc.  Just not enough room.  We love our van.  Got it off ebay used.  We are checking our options right now.  Thought of an old bus that we could fix up.  Who knows.  Have plenty of time to think about it but checking out options never hurts.  And, now the kids are "for it" so we're good.  LOL.  Well, this is my 7th post for the day.  I'm done.  Write more tomorrow.  Tomorrow will actually be DAY 3 of our trip.  can't wait to tell you all about that.  Have a wonderful week everyone.  Bojan is spending the night elsewhere as is Yana and Irina.  Quiet w/ just 4 kids here.  More to come tomorrow.  Told you I'd take some pictures.