Saturday, July 30, 2011

Camp Cheerio-- what we learned (old post)

It is amazing that we have been to this camp for four years in a row and we have taken away something new each and every time.  Astounding for sure.  You do not only learn from the workshops but from the numerous knowledgeable people you are surrounded by.  There are not only professionals but parents who have walked the path that you are getting ready to walk.  You get to ask them questions.  No one is afraid to answer.  No one.  YOu don't feel stupid asking any questions.  You are comfortable and the other parents are so, so willing to share what they have learned.  It helps incredibly.  It really does.  I have asked older deaf campers there how they feel about certain things in their life.  Was it isolating going to a regular school?  How do you feel about being deaf?   Helps me to know how I should treat Nik, what concerns I should have, etc.  For me, I know that we made the right choice by learning sign language.  Well, trying to learn sign language.  It is a process for sure.  A slow process.  The camp we went to is called Cue Camp.  Cued speech is a great communication mode for those who are deaf as well.  Warren and I took a cued speech class at this camp about two years ago to see if it might work for our family.  Though it did not work for us, it has indeed worked for many and highly suggest other families w/ kids w/ hearing impairments to check into it.  This camp is a great way to be introduced to cueing.  The camp is put on by the National Cued Speech Association.  It is well organized and beneficial to all who attend.  They welcome not only cuers but signers as well.

My kids have always felt welcomed there.  Really welcomed and I can not express how much that means to them and to us as parents of special needs kids.  Makes a real difference.  They literally count down till Camp Cheerio.  They see the Christmas tree farm and go nuts.  They tell everyone back home of all their adventures and people they met.  Alyona took her bag to class first thing Monday morning.  Nik told his class what he had done as well.

For us, it is the workshops where we get information.  And from other parents of HOH/ Deaf children.  They teach us so, so much.  Even help us correct our signs.  LOL.  A speaker had her parents there and they spoke very openly about their feelings and their daughter's deafness. It was heartwarming, heart breaking and eye opening all at the same time.  Something in me just clicked.  I knew we were doing the right thing for Nik and I knew at that moment in time, there would be absolutely NO limits whatsoever for my son.  None.  The world is his to conquer however he sees fit.  It is our job as parents to nurture him but his responsibility to grow  and mature into the person he wants to be.  Deaf or not, he can do anything he sets his mind to.  I will admit it, I was one of those adoptive parents who checked off the box deaf of lists of things that we couldn't handle.  Ironically, the only 2 items on those 2 pages that I checked that we couldn't handle was deaf and blind.  When we first arrived home, Nik was dx'd as deaf due to AN(auditory neuropathy) and blind( due to Retinitis Pigmentosa--RP).  Quite the shocker.  No one told me how to act.  You at first think it's devastating until you meet someone w/ the same disability and really think, "how in the world did I ever think this was a disability?"  I know it is but all the deaf adults I meet are very intelligent and do have a life and hold down jobs just fine.  I was ashamed I didn't know more about this so called "disability" before we adopted the rest of our kids.  Many are afraid of FAS.  To us, we don't see it as a big deal.  I think if you live w/ a certain disability on a daily basis, it is just normal.  I look at my son and see great things for his future.  Great things.  Since all our children have disabilities of some sort, it has always been said in our house "you are no different than anyone else."  Sounds simple but true.  This camp teaches you that.  No limitations.  No excuses.  Love it.

The main workshop we went to and liked was titled "Love and Logic."  It is a whole program.  Now, I've heard of it before for sure.  Just didn't realize how simple the message was and how it could work in our home.  Well, to a point.

I really am sorry I never finished this post.  It has been too long for me to recall all the love and logic info.  Wish I could.  It was informative for sure.  Just want to reiterate that we learn so much from this camp every single year.  Do you know I went to a gold party tonight and the lady there came to the camp b/c of what she read on this blog?!  She said since all my kids looked forward to it and I managed to get 9 of us packed to go every year, she could surely go and check it out.  They too learned stuff there.  It just really is a great place, reasonably priced and you can not, can not beat the views.  Relaxing is an understatement.  There are only a few RAD posts left.  I do think I will post them. I think they need to be posted.  I may not hear the end of it but I do think they should be posted.  Well, got to go for now.  Hope you've enjoyed another catch up post.  I promise, very few left.  Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

This and that (new post)

I have done 12 posts in the last two days.  Go back and read a few if you dare.  I was making sure I had cleaned out most waiting drafts.  I have one titled Living through a RAD rage.  I may post it.  It is honest.  I wrote it a few months ago when we were living through it that evening. It tells it like it is and know it may catch people off guard.  Yet, I think it is important for others to read what it is like. I do.  Some may be scared the first time it happens to them b/c no one prepares them for it.  May post it later.  It is a raw post and know one that may get some that don't think I should post it.  That's why I'm still thinking it over. 

For now, playing catch up on the blog and making good progress if I do say so myself.  Today is Saturday.  Still selling items on Craigslist so people are coming to pick stuff up.  Need the money by the end of next week for the kids.  I truly don't know what will happen if we don't come up with it by then.  I don't.  I don't know if they'll wait till they get the money to continue processing our documents for a court date or what.  I truly don't know yet.  It's hard.  Hard knowing money may be standing in the way of when your kids come home.  Don't you think they've waited long enough?!  Logan will be 11yo when he comes home.  That is just too long to be with out a mom and a dad.  He needs to come home.  They all do.  More on all this in another post tomorrow.  Fundraising is going to have to take center stage.  I have no choice. 

Aside from working on fundraising ideas, we have been selling stuff around the house.  Hey, every litle bit helps.  And, helping us w/ the de-cluttering process in order to put the house on the market next weekend  We will sell it ourselves and it will be listed as an "as is" sale.  With the kids and their destruction and the puppies and theirs, there is no way we can keep up for th ehouse to be show ready the way realtors want it to be.  So, going to try to sell as is. 

We are organizing a lot lately.  Shoot, it's been 104, what else are you going to do?  Pool feels like a crock pot.  It's crazy.  Clean, movies, bead making, stuff like that.  Now, we'll get it all done slowly but surely.  I'm going to a gold party this evening.  First one.  you never know.  Maybe selling some jewelry I never use can help my kids get home.  Don't know yet.  Warren offered his wedding band.  Don't really want to but drastic times call for drastic measures some times.  You know, we're still married no matter what.  Plus, who's to say we can't get another one once the kids are home.  We'll see.  May do it, may not.  Can you all please, please pass the tax deductible link around?  Every little bit helps for sure.  Bring the kids home!  Mean time, life goes on and things are happening here and there.

I'm taking Yana in tonight for her physical for cross country that starts on Monday at 7am.  Yikes!  Bojan is going in for his leg. URGHH.  His could have been prevented. It was starting to get better but then he was NOT following what we told him to do.  Seriously, will he ever learn his lesson?!  I hope so.  Taking them tonight after my friend's party.  Digby goes into the groomers at 4pm.  We bathe all the dogs ourselves.  However, Digby suffered a lot of neglect & appears abuse possibly as well so we prefer for him to go to a professional.  Since he's been with us, he went to Petsmart once, we bathed him once, and now he's going to Petsmart again.  Kota and Alaska will get a bath here as usual.  We also need to go to TJMaxx and Target to pick up a few supplies.  Pretty much an errand running day and then later tonight, a relaxing day.

Irina goes to Missions Week at church right after service tomorrow.  She'll be gone till Friday serving the community.  Still working on getting all the homeschool stuff and IEP meeting stuff set up for my high schoolers.  Been interesting to say the least.  Working on getting Bojan his trumpet.  Doing it off ebay.  So, Irina, Yana and Bojan will be in youth group this fall.  Yana will be doing cross country.  Bojan will be doing band.  Max will be working a bit here and there and doing some art stuff as well.  He is not into doing stuff w/ a lot of people.  Not into crowds so much.  Now, I want the younger ones to do something as well.  So, looking into Upwards Soccer around here.  It starts Sept. 10th and not a very long season so that may fit in perfectly.  We'll see.  I want them all to be able to do something extra this year as last year we kept things real simple as everyone needed a break.  We're ready to get back into things.  Now, time to head out the door so chat later.  I'll have much more to come tomorrow. I really do think I need to post the RAD posts I had written.  I know many come here w/ questions on RAD or FAS.  I'll mull it over some more and then maybe post the RAD post tomorrow.  Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for letting me start to catch up w/ the blog posts.  Phew, 13 in 2 days.  Though, some of those were half way written anyhow.  Kids are restless & need to take Digby to Petsmart.  More pictures and things to come for sure. 

Special needs & accomadations in the home (old post)

Some people have asked me questions about any adjustments that need to be made to our home in order to have the children we have.  Answer simply is yes, there have been adjustments made.  It is different for every family depending upon the special need that they are dealing with.  First, I want you all to know that all my kids know the saying in this house:  " you are NO different than anyone else."  I mean it too.  Rules in this house are the same for everyone.  Period.  No exceptions.  That being said, there are still other accommodations that need to be made.  All our bathrooms have handrails for our son who is missing a leg.  Though I must say those handrails have come in handy for more than one person in this home.  They really do help a lot.  Especially, after surgery.  When making the addition upstairs for the kids, we made sure we had a shower that Bojan could use.   One with a seat in it.  Other than that, he has received no accommodations in the house.  Now,simple things too.  Making sure floor is picked up so when Bojan has his leg off at night, he can get around.

Never finished this posts either.  Bojan doesn't have a lot of special things we do for him.  Now, the FASers, that's a different story.  Some may say what do you have to do for them?  Mainly, repeat everything at least 3 times.  Seriously.  Also, a whole house monitoring system would be a dream of ours.  We intend to put one in our new house.  See, FAS children do lie.  Some are really good at it.  A whole house monitoring system would allow them to "see" the lie as FAS kids tend to be very visual.  That would be one accomodation I would suggest to every single family with an FAS child.   Another one is to have lots of things for them to do as far as exercise.  A trampoline and swingset have worked wonders in this home.  A place where our RADishes can be at ease is the hammock.  Another thing that has work wonders here is the hammock.  Probably the best $22 we ever spent.  For Nik, we always make sure we look at him when we speak so he can see our face.  We also labeled everything in the house awhile back while he was learning sign and we were.  It's the little changes that you do. Not big ones have to be made here.  This is my last "old post" for a bit.  We do need to get stuff done around here at some point.  Have a great weekend everyone.

For Alyona, it is making sure we have stools readily available.  Technically, she could still use a booster seat but at 10.5 yo, you just don't want to do it to her.  Remember, she is the one they suspect has a form of dwarfism.  Need to go back to the endocrinologist to confirm.  She is barely 40 lbs.  Still wearing size 5 but so happy she's out of the toddler sizes.  We make sure things are low enough for her that she uses.  Older kids are good about helping her when she needs it.  Like getting cups or plates.

Now for Nik, more accomadations are made.  He is deaf.  We have not gotten into the alarm clock age yet where they vibrate the bed or light up.  That comes later.  We do have to make sure his room is totally dark.  He wakes up at light.  Since he can't hear, almost everything becomes visual.  On our tv, there will be closed captioning on if you come over.  We are VERY used to this by now & it is odd when it does not get turned on.  This will help him to learn to read as well.  We are going to be purchasing a smoke detector that has a light on it.  Now, w/ his CI on, he can hear a phone ring.  He gets so excited b/c he can actually hear it now.  Too funny.  We sing our blessing at the table so he can hear it better.

Getting ready for school (old post)

So much to say.  We went to orientations tonight and they were as expected.  Very pleased w/ Nik's setup and think for sure he will be reading this year.  His interpreter is a little worried I think that we won't need her.  Not true.  Definitely need her.  And, she's great w/ him!  Alyona's set up is good too.  I like what the class is doing.  I don't like that she is w/ peers in her grade level. She is shuffled out for inclusion stuff w/ other 4th graders.  Now, keep in mind, she is 11yo, BUT, her social ability is that of about a 4yo.  So, do you see why I'm concerned here?   Girls at lunch are not going to want to hang out w/ a 4yo little girl who has a high pitched voice.  Again, I'm giving it all a chance and seeing where it goes over the next month.

Then, we have Alex.  He is the one I'm gravely concerned about.  His class set up is horrible for him.  Really is.  The teachers don't see it.  They seemed to be praising the whole new team approach.  Every single time they do something new, they tote it as the greatest thing since sliced bread in the meetings and tell them to pass it onto the parents.  Reminds me some multilevel marketing type thing.  You know, hype it up, build it up and watch it fall.  Everyone is surely excited in the beginning.  Last year I was told Alex made progress in math.  yes, he did and I will not deny that.  However, he also got very behind in math.  He passed the EOG testing but that I can assure you was surely luck.  Why do I say this about my own son?  B/c it is true and doing him a disservice by being twisted around.  I gave him a short quiz today.  Was told he could do division last year at the end of the year.  Gave him some simple 3 digit addition problems and single digit multiplication problems.  Nope, couldn't do them.  Not the kid that passed the EOG's.  You know, the one who made such awesome progress.  This was under inclusion math last year btw.  I am really upset that they think this is no big deal and that Alex will excel.  Really, like last year?  Yes, I agreed at the meeting he made progress but also held him back b/c he was still so far behind.  He has FAS  and I don't think the school understands that one bit.  It is a common problem amongst FAS parents and the schools.  FAS children are not only developmentally behind, but around 3rd and 4th grade, they seem to reach plateaus in many areas.  I have 4 others that are FAS or FAE that are in older grades than Alex in school and some are even in high school now.  So, I think I can justify what I'm saying.  I know to outsiders it will look like progress for awhile.  yes, it does "look" like progress.  I can assure you, it's not.  Plus, FAS childrens' IQ's do not match up w/ their abilities due to other complexities of the disorders.  Yes, they are capable of learning but can they?  In some areas, no.  Math is a huge, huge problem for FAS kids as it has many abstractions.  Time and money are horrible concepts for FAS kids to learn.  Irina is still learning them at 17.5 yo.  That being said, now I think you all understand why I'm so terribly upset by this arrangement and how when the inclusion math class moves on as they did last year, Alex can not.

Well, wrote that last night.  Can see I've been a little busy,huh?  Today is no different.  14 kids here today.  Last day of that for awhile.  All will be in school except for 4 of them.  However, I will not have 4 all the time.

Again, wrote this one before school was starting last year.  Yes, my concerns were justified and proven throughout the year.  Hence, why they are now being homeschooled this coming year.  It was a crazy year for schooling this past year.  Hoping this coming year will have positive outcomes and lots of learning.  Time will tell.  It is still interesting to see what I thought about last year.  This was written before school started obviously. 

School, how's it going....(old post)

Some good, some bad in this area of our household.  I will probably have to make this a two post topic.  I'll start w/ the little kids and work my way up.  So, here goes.

Nik-- Nik is in 1st grade this year and doing very, very well.  How well??

Yes, you are seeing that correctly.  100% AND a bonus on his last spelling tests.  He is comfortable w/ his peers and that is awesome.  He is doing total communication.  That is trying to speak and sign.  He is more comfortable w/ signing right now and that is okay.  Nik is also trying to communicate w/ me more.  Last year, he wouldn't answer me w/ what he did in school.  This year he is trying really hard.  Teachers say he's smart which is always great to hear.   We are working on reading and I am still learning how to teach Deaf children to read.  Many ways I'm finding out.  For now, school has him doing sight words and he is recognizing them when we read.  Don't know how all this will come about once he's bilateral and hearing sounds a bit differently.  For now, happy with the progress and hope it continues.

Alyona-- Alyona is in fourth grade but in a self-contained setting.  Alyona is quite mentally challenged due to the alcohol exposure which in turn gave her frontal lobe brain damage.  This is part of FAS.  Many aspects of Alyona's learning are effected.  Many.  Alyona is 11 years old but more on a kindergarten/1st grade level.  Math, maybe lower in that area.  Math is an extremely hard concept for FASers to get.  All mine struggle with math.  Another issue w/ learning and FAS is one day you'll learn something and the next day you'll forget.  This is what Alyona struggles with the most.  It's hard.  Alyona can not read.  Well, very little.  Alyona is going to have lots of troubles as she gets older in regards to school.  I don't say this lightly and w/out validation.  Teacher also agrees she is one of those "caught in the middle."  See, in the state of NC, once they get to middle school & high school, there are NO self-contained classes.  It is just inclusion.  Which has proven to be VERY detrimental to all my older teens.(more on that in their posts).  See, once Alyona gets to middle school, she will have to go either to the inclusion classes and try to keep up w/ regular ed students.  Umm, impossible if you won't be able to read even near grade level.  Or, she'll be classified as life skills which she doesn't fit into either as she is self-sufficient.  Hence, the "caught in the middle."  Right now, it is not a concern as she is in elementary and in a self-contained setting.  However, once in 6th grade, it is obvious she will have to be pulled from school or she'll regress in the life skills setting.  It's all very sad to me.  One of the harder parts of parenting special needs children. They indeed have potential and in the public school setting, I feel they can't reach it as they're not in a certain "mold."  Unless things change, Alyona will be pulled to be homeschooled once she reaches middle school.  For now, Alyona will stay in school.  She has a great teacher who is doing all she can for Alyona.  I do like how she teaches.  Kind of what we did in homeschool.  Incorporate all subjects in one unit of study.  They just finished up a thing on seeds and plants and just was great.  We are both working on getting rid of Alyona's residual laziness.  We don't baby her.  2 years ago she had a teacher that did and it created a mini monster.  Still have effects of that.  But, this teacher knows the abilities alyona does have and makes her do the work.  It's wonderful to have a teacher that believes she can do it and make her try.  I do the same at home.  Alyona is moving at her own pace.  This is the year though it's become evident just how far behind she is and that is always hard to swallow.  But, we do everything in our power to get our kids to reach their fullest potential.  She is no different.

Alex--  Oh my.  Issues galore is an understatement.  I absolutely HATE his arrangement in school and it has indeed caused him to regress.  Trouble is, teachers don't see it that way.  The kid has 4 or 5 teachers.  can't remember how many & frankly, neither can he.  This is the utmost worst arrangement you can have for a kid with FAS.  Too much transition.  He has become almost unbearable at home.  Meltdowns every single night.  Yet, teachers are insistent he is making so much progress in this setting.  I've requested an IEP meeting for November.  I really don't know what to do.  He is not getting math.  I've been highlighting his homework so the teacher can see what he's not absorbing. I don't know why there is such contradicting information between the teachers and I.  It is blatantly obvious he is NOT getting the information he needs to.  Yet, they are saying he is doing so well this year.  Keep in mind, he failed last year and is repeating third grade.  Part of this is due to his brain damage due to FAS.  But, part of it is indeed from laziness and I have to be the one to sort which one is which.  Honestly, I laid into him the other night w/ homework as I thought he was kidding that he didn't know what a question was.  Felt bad afterwards.  What is killing me is teachers are saying yes, he understands it and then when I'm working w/ him, it's clear he does not.  I've been testing him here and there on stuff and keeping it.  I don't see how he's getting such great grades in school w/out being able to do the work at home.  Something is not adding up and this situation is not benefiting Alex at all.  We are at the point of almost pulling him but Alex and I are not the best of buddies lately.  With RADishes, you go through ups & downs in relationships.  Alex & I are in the "down" part right now and working through it.  This is not uncommon for kids with RAD.  We've been through it before and we'll make it through again.  However, I can not pull him now and teach him at home or it would damage our current relationship.  I know that probably makes no sense.  Trust me, if you have a child with RAD, you know exactly what I mean by this.  Teachers are also not getting the magnitude of Alex's issues and I think at the next IEP meeting, I'm going to finally have them document it all.  I try not to disclose all my kids' information unless I have to.  Well, we are at the point where I think we have to.  So, though Alex's grades are saying he's doing awesome in school, Warren and I have grave concerns in regards to his education.  Oh, btw, if they are labeled special ed & receive services in elementary school as Alex does, they don't have to take science or social studies. URGHH!!!!  Who's stupid idea was that?!  It's a state idea....figures NC is way down on the bottom of the charts for education.  I can't remember our ranking now but know awhile back it was 48th out of 50.  They want to boost their reading & math scores.  They told me they will incorporate it into their reading and math groups.  Umm, no.  Unless you're doing experiments in those reading groups how is it the same thing?  It seems the schools try something new each and every year to try to boost their scores.  Nothing has worked.  Why?  Because they focus on that test.  Warren and I grew up w/ the concept of the teacher(one teacher) teaching throughout the year and kids learning.  Not preparing for a stupid test.  Scores are not going up like they should in students.  Our generation did well w/out all the teachers in group team teachings, without all the technology, and w/out every new "thing" that comes out to try.  We learned, were excited to learn, and applied what we learned.  They don't do that nowadays.  I see homeschool #'s around here increasing like wild fire.  The special needs homeschool group is huge.  Many things for them to do.  I was shocked when I pulled Max & Irina at just how much they did not know.  I was being told they knew these things by their middle school teachers.  It was totally false.  Found out later by one of our therapists who used to be a special ed teacher for the school just how the scoring worked.  He was so ashamed that after 9 years he decided to leave teaching as it was doing a horrible disservice to the children here.  His words, not mine.  In addition, he had a special ed son.  He homeschooled after that and they did great.  He was told they told him to give "group" scores.  What?!  I recently spoke w/ a teacher in a county over.  She was told by admin that it doesn't matter what scores you give your special ed kids.  They have to pass anyhow.  She too was shocked.  So, you can see why I'm way skeptical of Alex doing so well at school when I test him on the same stuff and he doesn't know it.  I do honestly believe the kids have awesome teachers.  However, I think they are limited in what they can do due to state laws & regulations. 

Bojan-- Bojan is in 5th grade.  It's his last year of elementary school.  Bojan is doing awesome.   Excellent grades and really learning.  Now, I do have a big issue w/ a recent IEP meeting.  I was unable to attend that morning as Bojan was up sick all night throwing up and I was feeling under the weather as well.  Since the meeting was due that day or they'd be out of compliance, they had to hold the meeting w/ out me.  Told them okay as we had spoken and thought we were on the same page.  Umm, nope!  For the most part, IEP was okay.  However, we are going to request an addendum meeting and change things.  There is no reason whatsoever Bojan needs to be in inclusion math.  Nor does he need resource.  Shoot, he didn't need it last year according to the teachers and I agree.  So, don't really understand the rationale for holding him in these classes.  Going to get him out completely.  Testing is great, grades are great, he's learning so no need to hang onto that label especially in middle school.  Other than that, no complaints.  He has good teachers and a great class. 

Forgot I wrote this last October.  I think you know how all the school stuff turned out.  BTW, this coming week I will write what we'll be doing this fall and who exactly we'll be homeschooling.  

Who we are??? (old post)

Well, I have received a few emails inquiring who we are.  Sometimes people find blogs once they've been up for awhile.   Being the computer illiterate person I am, I don't know how to make all the fancy tabs yet and Warren hasn't had the chance to teach me.  So, I figure now might be as good a time as any to re-introduce who we are of sorts.  We are the Boyd Bunch.  Seriously, that's even how the extended family refers to us.  LOL.  My name is Stephanie and my husband goes by Warren.  (that's really his middle name though).  We have been married almost 13 years now.  This was not the path we intended to take when forming our family.  Not a bit.  Shoot, does anyone ever really grow up thinking I want to have 10 kids all with special needs?  Long story short, we decided on adoption once we realized infertility issues.  Didn't even further pursue that option as we knew there were many children already that needed homes.

Umm, nope, didn't finish this one either apparently.  I"m guessing by now you know who we are.  I really am beginning to wonder do other bloggers leave posts like this and never get back to them?  Or is it just me being lazy or forgetful?  Curious now. Again, more to come soon.  

For those who think we have it together.... (old post)

in the mornings, you obviously haven't woken up in this house for a school day.  LOL.  The teens are actually great.  Irina & Max wake up and get ready on their own.  Though lately we've realized Max has forgotten to take his medicine or make his lunch.  Max also hates to eat breakfast though we're trying desperately to break him of that habit.  Yana gets up on her own and out the door too.  We actually say bye to her every morning.

The real work begins trying to get the boys out of bed...several times.  Once out of bed, Nik will come down in his shark slippers dressed in whatever he wore the night before thinking that's okay to go to school in. 

Geez, I really wished I had finished this post.  It could have been a funny one for sure.  These old posts are becoming blasts from the pasts a bit too.  Can't wait to go through more.  For now, going to bed.  

Updates on our kiddos (old post)

Thought it was high time I let you all know how everyone is doing.  So, hang on tight as I'll be honest here.

Nik-- Nik is doing well.  He loves to hear.  Attends speech therapy few times a week at school & 2X a week at home.

Yes, this is Nik in one of his speech therapy sessions.  Max was trying not to let any air out that might blow it down.  All our kids help Nik with speech therapy including some of the "littles" if they're still here.  He's doing okay w/ it but it is very apparent to me that Nik will never talk.  I'm being honest.  I know all the professionals are holding out hope but there comes a point when you have to be honest w/what is in front of you.  Nik is 8yo.  Can't talk.  period.  Now, he does understand an immense amount but can not speak back.  Does very well w/ total communication so that is what we use.  Sign and speech. 

Wow, wrote this one back in January.  Hmm, guess I never finished the updates on the other 6 kiddos.  LOL.  I'll do that soon.  It really is interesting going back through all these old posts.  Many more to go through over the weekend.  Could get crazy on here.  

Friday, July 29, 2011

Not the best day in the world (old post)

Wow is all I can say about today.  And that is not a good wow.  Warren took the pups to the vet early this morning.  I got kids off to school & waited for the 4 "littles" to arrive.  It was rainy & cold.  Knew we'd be doing some projects today.  I had a killer headache all day long.  Didn't help any.  Kids did pretty well today.  We did a painting project today w/ dinosaur bones we made yesterday.  In the afternoon, I was going to make fossils w/them from a recipe.  Umm, nope.  Total failure on that idea.  So, we made cake instead.  Cake is much tastier than fossils anyhow.  LOL.  Teens came home & left Irina here.  I went to pick up the pups.

Once in the vet office w/ Max, I was feeling uneasy but not sure why.  Bill time.  Keep in mind, I called ahead of time to get an idea of costs.  How much for spay & neutering I asked.  They pulled my file to get the dogs' weights.  That will be $175 for Kota & less for Alaska since she is smaller.  Went ahead w/ it since I knew we got $100 back per dog from the adoption of them.  We also we're adding on the removal of the dew claw since our pups had an extra one on their hind legs.  We normally do not remove the dew claw of our dogs but since these stuck out & we're extras too, went ahead w/ it.  We were expecting a bill for both to be around $400 to $500 all things considered.  Then, get $200 of that back.  Fine.  What we got instead was enough to make your head spin.  So much so that the office there thought I was going to pass out.  So did I!  I was pacing badly.  What was the bill?  Nearly $1000!!!!  No, I did not exaggerate that amount.  Exact amount was $945.82.  I was going back & forth w/ the receptionist.  Telling her you know I could have got this done at the clinic for $40 a piece!  I chose here b/c I trusted you and only wanted to put them under once. I knew it would be more but they are charging like a hospital, not a vet.  Ridiculous.  Everyone locally I've spoken with is outraged by that amount.  I guess the vet office felt a little bad about it as they called me shortly after I got home.  Said they thought I was going to pass out.  They kept apologizing.  Receptionist said the vet said they can take off $50 for the bandages.  Oh,you mean the ones I can get at Walmart for $5 and the ones you used about $1 to $2 worth?  So, I'm credited $50.  Still not sure what I'm saying to them tomorrow but you better believe it will be something.  Anyone else think that was excessive?

Later Friday, we just kept everyone calm and puppies were hurting.  I told you I had a rough week.  Never helped a single one of them w/ homework if I recall, spoke to several teachers regarding IEP's, found out Yana is being manipulative..more on that on that RAD post coming up, kids aren't doing chores, things are disorganized, feel like I'm losing control, etc, etc.  Yes,that was my week.  Totally forgot to cook that day so kids had cake for dinner Friday.  I know, definitely not mother of the year here for that one.  LOL.  Kids liked dinner that night though.  The list could go on.  Let's just say it has not been a banner week & leave it at that.  Next week will be better, I can already tell.

Saturday seem to come & go.  Went to Sam's for some shopping.  Want to do the free range chicken but w/ stupid vet bill, can't afford to this month.  Trying next month for sure as there is a local farmer who does it.  Warren & I went ourselves as pups were okay pretty much the next day after surgery.  Got supplies & then went to pick up our sheets that were ordered.  So now we have 2 pair of sheets instead of just one.  Yeah.  Quickly got Alyona to go to her party & also trash ready to take to the dump.  Got to love that job.  Max & Warren do that.  Saves money to take it yourself rather than have a trash service.

Boy, this was back in February I wrote this. I will never forget the vet experience.  BTW, we have NEVER gone back after that ordeal.  We have a wonderful vet now that comes to the house and is very reasonable.  Wouldn't trade Dr. Marty for anything in the world.  And, she doesn't try to charge you for every crazy thing under the sun.  I've recommended her to a bunch of people.  Will continue to do so.  You can imagine back then we were not expecting that bill.  I'd have to say that this post it was definitely not the best day in the world.  More old half finished posts to come. Kind of neat taking a look back and what I started but never finished.

Amazing agencies & how to pick them!

I know I have not disclosed on here who my adoption agencies are.  I thought it was high time I do that and explain why.  Why it is so very important to pick the right agency.   Okay, I've been in the adoption world in one way or another for over 12 years now.  I have seen the good, the bad & the ugly of agencies.  Yes, all of it.  I have warned a friend about a certain agency as she was pursuing an adoption.  She ended up losing $10K to that agency.  Point is, you can kind of tell after awhile who is on the up and up and who is not.  Who is willing to go to bat for you when things are not going so well.  Trust me, this is vital.  Gosh, I'm not even sure how to begin all this.  I'll give it a shot.  I may be all over the map with this post but bare with me.

I'll start with generalizations and go from there.  There is good AND bad with every single agency.  I don't care what they tell you, it's the truth.  You are dealing with a variety of people and opinions.  One person may think things are moving quickly and the other person will think it's a snail's pace.  Obviously, a personal perception is in play somewhat with agencies.  You are not going to please everyone all the time.  That's just a fact in business.  And yes, adoption agencies are indeed a business and you are their client.  You need to treat them as hired help. I know that sounds bad but it's true.  You don't always have to say yes and agree w/ what they say.  You learn this after so many adoptions.  For example, they may tell you you must get a visa from a certain agency or book a certain hotel. Umm, no, you don't.  You can get your own visa directly through the consulate in the US.  We saved hundreds by doing this w/ our Russian adoptions.  You can also book apartments.  They will tell you you have to stay at certain places.  No, you don't.  YOu are paying them to transport you.  They will try to steer you in certain places to make it easy on them.  Do what is most cost efficient for you.  Do stay in the area you need to but you are not restrained to staying in a certain hotel.  A good agency will give you flexibility in you making the choices.

A good agency will NOT be afraid to tell you when things are not going right.  That is the one thing I love about our agency.  They tell us the DAY they find out when something is wrong.  They don't try to sugar coat anything.  Tell it like it is.  Adoption is not all roses.  I think we can all agree on that one.

Okay, I will write more on this later b/c I have the best agencies ever!  Remember, right now I'm just going through some old posts and posting what I've got.  Remind me to do this one again though.  I think it's important for sure.

Thank you is not enough

Thank you is just not enough to say to the people that came and gave their time and their entire Saturday to help us last weekend.  I can't even put into words what that type of generosity meant to us.  A little background I suppose.  A few years back a lady named Jan had met me in a mommy's group I attended.  She herself had adopted two children at once.  No small feat I can assure you.  I've been there, I know all too well.  We had stayed in touch here and there but both our lives had gotten rather hectic.  She wrote me one day and asked if her church could help us out a bit.  Asked us if we had any work we needed help with on the house.  Those that know us know our house is about 20 years old.  Yes, it needs a little work here and there.  Long story short, a few gentleman came over to see what needed to be done.  Make sure work that would be done would be up to code and all that stuff.  They set a date for April 9th.  I had no idea how many folks would come or exactly what all might get done.

So, April 9th came and all I can say is WOW!!!  The group was from Turner Memorial Baptist Church.  Both children and adults came that morning.  A rather cold, wet morning.  We started by gathering in a circle and opening with a prayer.  Very nice way to start the day.  You just could feel the closeness of this group.  Their hearts were so open.  All I can say is it was rather pleasant to be around so many who had the love of God in their hearts and lived it everyday.  The kids that came were honest, polite, helpful, and so sweet.  For them to give up an entire Saturday to help people they don't even know, says quite a lot about their character.  Their parents should be extremely proud.

I took this shot from inside the house.  Quite a few helpers painting the fence.  In this shot, it was one brave lady w/ all boys helping her.  Paintbrushes and out.  All these different people coming together for one.  Strangers becoming friends, folks sharing the love of Christ.  Just nice to be around this type of atmosphere.  

Oh my goodness!  I can not believe I never ever posted about what these wonderful people did for us.  Boy, am I totally ashamed.  They need to be recognized.  I will indeed do a post on this at some point this coming week.  Amazing what they did for our family out of the goodness of their hearts and serving the community.  More to come on this post.  This one was from April!  Told you I'm going through old posts.

T- 3 days & counting! (old post)

Words fail me for what I'm thinking right now.  It all is becoming a blur.  Seriously, it is.  There is so much to do and schools are NOT making it any easier on me for sure.  I will have a post on schools at some point when I get back.  Trust me, just makes our decision to homeschool them that much easier.  This morning I get a call regarding Max.  School wants him to be there Friday. I told them no way, I'm leaving the country Saturday.  BTW, school finishes tomorrow, Thursday.  They already know he's going to fail algebra.  Why torture him to make him take the stupid state test again.  See, if they fail the EOC's here, they have to remediate for 5 hours & take again.  Stupid school system.  IF you can't teach the material all year long to the child, what makes you think they'll learn it in 5 hours?!  What are these people thinking?!  See, here is the problem.   Max has a severe, severe learning disability in math.  He can not do math.  Most FAS kids do have issues w/ math & abstract concepts anyhow.  Max is no exception.  He's fine in other subjects but not math.  Schools know this.  HOwever, it is mandatory he take algebra & other math for graduation.  Now, I was told if he fails it twice, they will give him a math waiver.  Teacher told me something totally different this morning.  URGHH!!!  Hate it when right hand doesn't speak to the left one, don't you?  In order for waiver to happen, he must pass teacher standards.  Umm, hey he can't, it's been proven for years now.  Stop torturing my son!  She even told me she sees what I was talking about from the beginning of the year where I told them he'll withdraw. She said he has been very withdrawn.  Duh.  How would you feel in a class that you don't get even though you try & try again and fail every single time?  He's done.  He's angry now.  So, we are stuck.  I told her I want an IEP meeting for July sometime.  If people would teach the material instead of the tests in this county, we'd be a bit more successful I feel.  Teachers are great, system is broken.  Period. It is NOT the teachers.  It IS the system.  So, anyhow, I have been discussing this for months now.  I had told Yana's school we needed a transition meeting way back in March I think it was.  Teacher called & told me we need to have one this week.  I told her sorry that will not work for us.  She said we have to.  I said, no,we don't. I asked for this a long time ago.  I knew I'd be gone.

Wow, I wrote this before we were leaving for Bulgaria.  Never finished it.  yep, still feel the same way.  No, haven't had either IEP meeting yet.  Though, I have contacted the high school via phone & writing yesterday and today.  We'll see where it takes us.  I'm going to be going through old draft posts.  So, you'll see some half finished work & all kinds of old posts.  Thought it would be neat to clear out some old posts and also see what they were about.  I'll update you on the new school stuff soon.  Hey, this could be fun.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Picture post from Bulgaria (part III)

Well, back from PA and I will post those pics too.  However, wanted to finish the Bulgarian pictures for sure.  OMG!  Can't believe I never finished the Bulgarian picture post.  Geez, am I ever slack.  Not a good blogger.  Hey, it's not a paying job so motivation is not so much.  LOL.  Yes, I do have pictures w/ the kids in them.  Lots of those pictures.  However, those are the ones I am not allowed to post until court is final.  You'll just have to wait for those pictures.  For now, we'll go through some other photos of Bulgaria.  I'll start w/ the monument that was dedicated to Shumen for being 1300 years old. 

 Tells you what we are about to see.

 There seemed to be a lot of stray dogs around the area.  You can see in the distance the monument we walked to.  Wasn't close.  But, much closer than the mountain we hiked up. 

Getting closer to the monument.  Pictures really don't do it justice at just how massive it was. Incredible.  

 Can you imagine having to carve this out??  I know you can't tell by the pictures but these things were huge!

 Seems like it'd be an engineering nightmare to me.  Look at all the different cuts.  

These were old stones, very, very old markers, pulled out of the site called madara.  We went there for the hike on top of the mountain.  One of the most ancient cities. 

 I know you can not tell the scale here, but trust me, it's enormous.  And these mosaics, all little tiles.  Beautiful work. 

Warren standing allowing Logan to mess w/ the camera again.   That kid is going to be our in house photographer, I'm almost sure of it.  You can get a little bit of an idea of how big this place is.  

 The view of the city of Shumen from up here.  Beautiful, isn't it?  Can't wait to get back there to see my two treasures that come from this great city.

 And the choice we had to make was a no brainer.  There are actually steps that lead all the way down to the city, right near their orphanage. Umm, no thank you.  After hiking the day before, this was a clear choice.  Even the kids were shaking there heads yes...which of course means NO in Bulgarian.  Bulgaria & Turkey are the only two countries in the world that have reverse head nods.  It would take hours to step on down to the city.  Though on a fall day, I do believe a hike up there would be nice. 

Warren and I letting our son take pictures again.  It was such a gorgeous day.  We really had such an awesome time in Bulgaria and in the city of Shumen.  Everything about it was pleasant.  The weather, the kids, the people, the food, the schedule, etc.  Just was almost like being on vacation for a change versus our usual adoption trips of the past.  Do hope it's the same way when we go to pick them up.  Can't wait.  Oh, I'll have one more Bulgarian picture post.  At some point.  I really do have much going on with the schools and will post soon.  More to come. 

Loosing our Marbles

Well, not quite.  We went last Thursday to a place locally called the Marbles Museum.  They had a special needs family night where families could come at night when it is less crowded.  This is very appreciated for sure.  Added bonus is there was no charge.  In addition, got some info for services for Irina as she enters into adulthood.  Very excited & have already started the phone calls. Umm, no return calls yet.  Got to love Johnston County.  And this is one of the many reasons we're moving.  Anyhow, wanted to share our time with you all. I don't have many pictures whatsoever as my batteries were dying. 

This was actually taken at the end of our visit to the museum.  We had our "8th child" with us this go around.  That's what we call her anyways.  She is truly just one of the family here.  Kyle isn't in the picture as he had already met his friends at the museum and left.  He went to hang out w/ friends for a few days.  I know he must miss the social life for sure as well, our kids are younger.  Don't ask why Max is wearing long sleeves & pants when it's 100 

 All the kids feeling the marbles and making noise.  Notice Nik thinks it's a bit too loud for his ears.  Kind of cool thing though.

 This is where Max is most at the driver's seat.  It's a mock bus.

Alex pretending to be in a submarine and exploring sea life.

 Alex ready to drop anchor.  Nik and Alyona just hanging around.  It really is a cool ship to check out. 

 Can we ever go somewhere w/out one of our children getting injured?  No.  Apparently not.  Keep in mind folks, this is NOT a dangerous place for it is a children's museum.  Bojan kept banging his head on the steering wheel on the bus b/c he wanted to see if it hurt.  It was from a movie he & Max had seen.  Again, for as smart as this kid is, we really need to work on common sense.  

This is Alyona & Nik in the cage that is on the second floor.  Hangs over the first floor and is kind of cool to look through.  

 Alex & Nik got to build cars and then race them.  Very imaginative for sure.  I know it seems like I only took pictures of them but that's b/c the older kids all went off on their own. 

 Alex & Nik playing ice hockey.  I would LOVE to have one of these in my new house.  Would love it.  I know it's not practical but really is a cool set up. 

Nik's face on a hundred dollar bill.  Can't picture it.  LOL.  The money exhibit here was so, so cool. 

It was over 100 outside.  Since the kids were so great at the museum (& frankly we were all parched for something to drink), we stopped off at the local gas station.  For our favorite summer treat...slushies!  Everyone was thrilled.  

You know, at first I thought the older kids would be totally bored.  They weren't.  They seem to have just as much fun as the younger ones.  We all enjoyed the evening out and slushies to top it off.  That was last Thursday.  This weekend it is first of the month.  Shopping and errand running.  Nothing planned which is actually a wonderful break.  The following weekend we'll have our FAS Support group pool party here.  We're also working out times that the kids can go to their grandparents house for a few days.  Warren's parents take a few at a time which is wonderful.  Yana starts cross country on Monday.  She is excited.  Hopefully, it will be cooler by then.  I'll take her this evening or tomorrow evening to get her physical.  Calling the schools in a bit to set up Yana and Max's IEP meeting for much unfinished business at the end of the school year.  This week I have had a much needed break from watching the kids.  Don't worry, they all return next week.  But, it has given me a chance to organize, make calls, straighten out insurance messes, etc.  Tomorrow, I plan on applying for a bunch of grants.  We'll see how that goes.  We're washing the van later today.  Other than that, we plan for a lazy summer day.  Clean up a bit and do laundry.  Lots of it.  LOL.  Got to go.  Much to do and ready to be caught up.  I do know I owe a bunch of folks emails.  I'm slowly getting to them.  Slow is the key word there.  Have to finish planning for August.  Oh, got the FBI prints back yesterday!  Have everything necessary for court now.  Just need them apostilled.  Much to do.  More to come.  Think I may be slack on the blog this weekend.  My excuse will be it's 104 out.  No, too many half started post.  I intend to finish some point.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Proud moments for them

Well, thought I'd do just a few moments of what my kids have accomplished.  We already saw Max's makings the other day w/ the bench.  Check it out a few posts back.  thought I'd highlight two more kiddos here.

Alyona standing proud.  That purple piece on her shoulder she made all by herself!  Took cardboard and made a loom kind of.  Weaved the entire thing herself.  She was so proud and so was I.  Honestly, I had no idea she could do that.  Turned out beautiful, don't you think?


The above are many attempts at trying to land a flip in the air.  Nik has been trying and trying to master a flip on the trampoline.  

He was extremely proud once he nailed that flip.  It really is neat seeing them accomplish things.  They love, love their trampoline.  The padding around the springs disintegrated in the sun.  Need to find a new one.  

Just had to share those two little proud moments that they had.  Of course, I really don't know who was more excited that Nik landed the flip.  Nik or Alex?  Both were thrilled. More to come tomorrow.  Just a bunch going on at Chaos Manor lately. 

Questions Answered (part II)

Got a few questions going so thought I'd start answering them.  Also,do the best I can to answer them. Keep in mind, I am NOT an expert of any kind.  NOT a professional.  That is my disclaimer here.  Just a parent who has learned what works over the years.  From many, many trials and errors.  Maybe it will help someone else. Or, maybe someone can give me some extra suggestions.  I have been very open and honest here.  So, take it w/ a grain of salt.  What works for one of us, will not work for another necessarily.  That being said, read on.

1.  What are the recommendations on things to do when adopting an older child?  Don't panic and don't read too much online.  Funny, as you're here.  LOL.  I've always spoken straight from the hip so going to do that here as well.  Adopting older kids is no picnic.  It's not.  There are some advantages for sure.  However, these kids come with an entire other life before you got them.  They are used to doing things their way.  And, if they were transferred to the older kids home, they are used to things their way and used to having no one but no one tell them what to do.  See, once in the older kids' homes, there is very little supervision, if any.  Most of these places are from 7 years old and older.  Just 7 years old & they're watching 16yo's and such.  You get the picture.  You have to first get them out of the mindset that they are in charge.  You go w/ routines for sure.  And chores.  Our kids have chores upon arriving home in the US.  Don't start screaming till you hear me out.  See, they are used to chores over in their country.  By them doing them here, it is something that is familiar to them.  That and giving them a hug when done as they are very proud of the job, gives them a sense of accomplishment and a step closer to you.  Kitchen is also a great bonding place.  Shoot, who doesn't like to make cake or cookies?  Be very hands on.  They won't mind, you're making cookies.  Trust me.  Doing simple things to promote bonding is huge.  It really is. Take walks together.  Do not, do not go to big gatherings or where there are lots of people.  No, not even church.  We don't really go anywhere for the first month home.  They first have to learn what a home is and who their family is.  You can not accomplish that with going to places where there are a lot of people.  I know people want to visit and mean well but for the first month home... big no no.  Unless, you know the kids.  All our kids we could not go anywhere with.  However, with the next 3 coming home, I do believe two of them could go anywhere w/ no issues.  Safe side though, not going any where for a month.  Adopting an older child you must let them work out their issues.  They will have issues and they MUST  they MUST grieve their lost. This is highly important.  It is.  It is a break through moment too when it happens. This is different for every single child.  Irina cried for 2 hours straight one night after a few weeks of being home & distant from us.  This was her break through.  Yana had an all out rage.  That was her break through.  Though her rages continued, this one was different.  Others, the 4yo's we've regressed a bit.  We've had quiet grievers, anger grievers, and crying grievers.  It is really different for each child but they must get out emotional the loss of their past.  It is a vital part of their healing to move forward.  Some do this fairly quickly, some it takes months to do.  For our kids though, we've seen the aftermath of it and it is such a relief to them.  They feel they can move on to a new life. 

2.  What have you done to help the older children attach?  Some of that is written above in the previous question.  Doing little things together for sure.  Water is great b/c typically, they are nervous in water due to lack of exposure in the orphanage.  They must depend on you to keep them safe.  Reading to them every night, simply watching a movie together while they sit on your lap.  Stuff like that.  Oh, another important thing we learned quickly w/ Yana was we had to take their past away.  Now, let me explain before everyone gets up in arms about this.  See, Yana came w/ mementos, religious icons, and pictures from her group at the orphanage.  This was her life, her past.  We didn't realize that it was a crutch and needed to be dealt with.  She would go running to these items for comfort but instead should have been running to us for comfort.  So, that day despite her screaming, we took ALL mementos, religious icons and photos away.  No, we didn't throw them away.  We hid them.  She needed to depend on us from that moment forward and she did.  After a few choice words of course.  We noticed she started coming around more after that.  Few months later, we returned all items though very, very sorry I did.  She thought it was "cool" to cut out the people in the pictures and paste them on things. Ruining pictures that we had no copies of or could never get a copy of.  URGHH!!!  My daughter.  Should have kept them hidden.  Older kids tend to take a little more time to attach.  2 of mine also had RAD.  The break through w/ Alex & his RAD was when we regressed him.  Essentially, treated him like a baby for a few months.  It was a break through.  Do NOT, do NOT regress on your own.  We did not follow traditional regression therapy that is so controversial.  We based what we did w/ Alex on our visits w/ our previous psychologist for Irina and Max.  I will say it was the best thing we did for Alex though and did heal him and he became more attached.  This was not easy.  Most older kids though will take a little time to attach.  They have more time to process and take it all in.  Do not push the issue.  Give them time, give them a little space but also let them know you're there and always will be.  It's the little things like walks and making cookies that make a difference.  Not all the fancy therapy.  Not against therapy as we have done it w/ some of our kids.  Just think some times people don't give their older kids enough time and jump into therapy too soon. 

3.  What are the stepping stones w/ accepting a child around the age of 3 due to language barriers, etc.?  Interesting question.  The younger they are, the quicker the language is learned.  Well, except if you find out they're deaf.  LOL.  Alex was 3yo, Nik was 4yo, Max was 4yo, & Summer will be 4yo at the time they came home.  We spoke to them in their native language for a month.  At the month mark, we dropped it all.  The quicker they gain language the better.  Unless you plan on being bilingual at home, there really is no sense in hanging onto the native language.  Reason for this is the kids just want to be like other kids in America.  If they speak another language, they will stand out.  Kids don't like to stand out really, they just want to be one of the group having fun.  Total immersion will help them learn quickly.  Umm that and a few dvd's.  You'd be surprised.  ASL also helps them learn much faster.  I was really shocked at this when we used it w/ Alyona and Nik.  Plan on doing that w/ the next 3 coming home as well since they'll have to learn it anyhow.  Many focus or I should say are really concerned with language acquisition.  Don't be.  Even my kids who are rather mentally challenged and developmentally delayed learned language fairly quickly.  Much quicker than I ever could.  Also, remember kids coming from institutions are going to be delayed in many areas.  They do catch up relatively quickly.  Takes a little time.  In five months time, Nik(4yo) went from being developmentally around 18 months to a 5 yo like his peers.  Max did the same exact thing.  It is nothing I get too concerned with until after they've been home for around 6 months or so.  They I'll decide if they need further testing and such. 

4.  We are told to take large amount of cash with us.  Is that your experience?  (they were referring to Stavropol region)  Unfortunately, that is definitely our experience.  I know with Murmansk, I had $21,000 cash on me.  It's an uneasy feeling for sure.  And I thought it was a lot when we had $10K on us for our first two kids in Orenburg.  Ha!  Was I wrong.  I honestly forget how much we had in Stavropol.  We'd split the money up and wear it around our necks.  and being that you needed crisp bills, and 100's, it was tough.  Such a bad feeling.  But, you are paying fees for people doing a job.  We pay court fees here in America all the time.  Just think of a traffic ticket.  Court costs are prevalent in adoption just due to the immense amount of paperwork.  With Irina & Max in 1999, we saw exactly where our foreign fees went & I LOVED that part!  They lived in a remote village.  very, very remote.  They used it to buy a new van. Our fees back then were $4500 per child.  Orphanage was so proud and told us that now they could finally take their kids to the hospital....4 hours away.  Never saw where the money went for the other two regions.  Hate that part.  So, yes, large amounts are not unusual whatsoever, especially, when dealing w/ Russia.  Now, Bulgaria, the first trip we only took $4K over with us.  However, most our fees are wired from the States so that is why.  Our amount we took was mostly for travel/ hotel/ food costs. 

5.  What techniques have you used to help w/ ADHD.  With so many other mental health disorders, the ADHD here doesn't seem all that bad.  Part of that is though some of mine are on medication.  It helps them immensely.  When Max first got medication, we were totally, totally against.  It didn't change who he was, it changed how he functioned.  Max told me "mommy, can I keep taking these pills?"  I said why?  He said b/c the first time in my life I can think.  My heart broke that I hadn't done it sooner.  He was not a zombie or anything like that.  He was normal and for the first time, able to really live.  Max and Alex are on medication.  Alyona and Nik are not but I do believe I will change that SOON.  It's time.  Some kids outgrow this disorder.  Ours will not just given the age they are now.  Another thing we do, is my kids get lots and lots of exercise every single day.  Period.  They do not sit around playing video games.  In fact, I'm one who believes video games are extremely bad for kids w/ ADHD b/c they tend to over focus on them.  They can't let go.  My kids are limited to 20 minutes of game time and it is not everyday.  And you know what?  Not a single one of their friends complain. In fact, they all check the time on the microwave to to time themselves!  Plus, they don't usually come over here to play w/ video games.  Instead, on the trampoline, or swingset, or making things in 'woodshop' that Max holds for them, or swimming, or playing Foosball or whatever else they can come up with.  Yes, when it rains, we usually do end up watching a movie.  Today, they swam, watched a movie, made posters, etc.  ADHD kids have tons of energy & they must burn it off.  And, since they tend to get in trouble some times more than other kids, praise is also necessary.  They are so proud when you say thanks for doing this or that.  Or what a beautiful poster you colored me.  Do something they want to do.  doesn't matter how small it is.  It matters.  ADHD kids need to feel like they matter as well.  Very important.   I don't use any fancy diets whatsoever.  I'm sorry but personally, it would drive me nuts.  REally would.  We do eat a lot of fresh fruits & veggies though.  In addition, they drink mostly water and milk.  Though I must admit this past week we've had our fair of soda.  It's SO good on a hot day & I'll admit that.  But, for the most part, we don't do a lot of soda and we've eliminated a ton of processed foods. 

6.  What do you find works when you are dealing w/ total defiance and anger?  (referring to things such as PTSD and RAD)  Oh, this is a good one.  Now, remember, all kids are different.  But, those who've walked these shoes will tell you this is not easy at all to do.  You have to remove yourself emotionally from the situation.  I mean totally remove yourself.  You have to think of them as a patient during that moment and NOT AS YOUR CHILD.  I'm serious about this.  If you are too involved emotionally, you will not be able to properly handle the situation.  You want to fix it as a normal parent would.  You can't.  The kids can't handle a normal fix like that.  They are not wired that way.  And the defiance and anger is so, so hard to let go. It is.  But, do.  Let it play out.  You can not discipline them or even talk to them in a rational manner when they are totally defiant and angry. It will not work whatsoever.  Trust me on that one.  You wait.  Let them blow off steam.  If they are raging and break something, they will fix or pay for it later.  Bottom line.  Don't worry about what gets broken.  Just keep the kids safe and the other kids safe.  That is your ONLY goal during one of these rages or anger episodes.  They will calm down.  We've taught ours over the years to go to their spot.  Most, go to the hammock.  Some, walk around the house.  No one is to go near them when they are like this.  My kids know this rule.  It is a safety issue.  You as the parent are like a security guard at this point.  You do not, do not approach them until after they are finished w/ the anger or defiance.  It may take 2 or 3 hours.  You then review everything that transpired that time.  If they broke something, they fix it.  Or earn money by working hours to buy a new one.  There is no gray area, do not give them gray area to work with or they will take advantage of it.  Then, you ask them what is making them so angry.  Don't take offense if they say it's you.  You are the therapist at this point, not the parent.  Hard to separate and took us years to see it this way.  You must look from the outside in to be able to assess the situation.  We ask them what would make them feel better.  Suggest other things if it is an unreasonable request.  Then, we make a plan to figure out how to behave better next time.  Ours do get punished for acting this way.  They know it.  You may say that's wrong or whatever but if they are to learn from their actions, then they must be grounded.  One big incident w/ Yana this past year, we stripped her of her room.  She lost it all.  Everything.  Since then, not too many issues.  It is hard for me not to want to scream at them w/ the defiance part.  It is SO aggravating.  But, you walk away if you need to compose yourself.  For me, Max is extremely defiant lately.  When it gets too loud w/ him or any of the kids for that matter, we start to whisper.  They'll look at you odd but it works.  You'll notice they'll start to lower their voices.  With this, you can talk to them more rationally.  Helps.  You find tricks that work.  Each kid is different and it is up to individual parents to do what is best by their child.  I can tell you that normal parenting will not work with most these kids.  They need a visual.  Hence, my rope yesterday tying off the upstairs due to Max's remarks.  Kids w/ PTSD and RAD and FAS or whatever are able to tell you what makes them go off.  You just have to dig to get to it.  This was tricky w/ Alex b/c it was so hard for him to express what he meant.  We had to untangle his words piece by piece.  Oh, and when you talk to them once they've calmed down, physical touch is essential.  They need that connection.  They do.  they may not think they do, but they do.  You must feel their presence and vice versa.  We usually touch the tops of their hands.  when they first come off of being mad, they won't want to get near you at first.  Approach little by little.  By the end, they should be hugging you.  Sometimes, Alex will have a cry session afterwards saying he hates his brain this way.  We assure him he is in total control of his body and next time to tell us if he thinks his body is not listening.  Put it in terms they can understand.  Hope some of that made sense.

7.  You have many children w/ issues interacting daily together.  How does this work?   It seems to work alright most days.  They help each other.  Plus, we've taught the ones w/ rages to separate themselves if they feel it coming on.  And they do.  Each of the kids reminds the other when to take medicine.  They all know they all have special quirks about them.  They know this.  Yet, we also don't ever focus on that though.  Most of the stuff I take issue w/ is normal kid stuff.  We also have children of different ages.  Socially, they are fine.  They have friends over.  I do have one day a week though where no one is allowed to come over.  Otherwise though, they're friends are here everyday.  I don't mind as I know where they are and what they're doing.  Though I do think yesterday they thought I was losing it.  They even warned Max to shut up.  He just kept going & going.  That is one thing too.  My kids look after one another.  they do.  But, like other siblings, they get along sometimes and sometimes they don't.  For the most part, they do.  Right now, they're all swimming together with friends.  Yes, I'm well aware it's 8:30 at night.  That's the beauty of summer.  Enjoy it while you can.  And, the teen girls are well aware Alyona's mental age is about 4yo.  They know this.  Though they don't like her around all the time, they do involve her for certain things.  And that I appreciate.  They take time with her.  If they are frustrated w/ something she's done, one will remind them remember what mom said, she's only 4.  Then Alyona will usually start yelling that she's not 4, she's 12.  Point is they do try to understand each others differences.  some times though, they'll use that against them.  Got to love it.  We do things as a family though to help promote the interaction.  They all go to church with us like it or not.  They all eat dinner w/ us every night like it or not.  They all help clean like it or not.  They all go on family outings together like it or not. 

8.  Have you thought of more kids after these 3 come home?  I'm about 75% positive we are done.  Reason I say that is b/c we have said we are DONE after every single adoption.  Though I am pretty positive we're done, if the opportunity presents itself I would do it again in a heartbeat.  Especially, Bulgaria.   Love the country!  And, the fact that we've never ever had a little one ever, is another reason.  Don't think I'll ever get my "little one" but one can always hope.  Plus, when you go to the older kids home and know they have little to no chance, it is hard to walk away and say you'd do nothing if you actually can.  Shoot, there are two CF sibs I'm advocating for.  They weigh heavy on my heart.  Same for these 2 girls I met and Logan & R's orphanage.  Oh my, oh my.  They are just wonderful.  Yes, they are older but for some reason all these years, though never planned, we always get steered toward the older kids.  And that is perfectly fine w/ us.  Whether we have ten or twelve, I'm good.  Plus, once you past two kids, you're outnumbered anyways.  Think though, I may just have to wait for those grandkids this time.  Got quite a few more years on that though.  Many years on that one.

9.  Are you going to move?  Yes.  Whenever we sell the house.  We are prepping the house now to sell.  We will sell as is as it is impossible to keep "show ready" with this many kids and dogs. 

10. How do you manage so well w/ all the issues the kids have?  thanks for the compliment.  Some days we manage well, some days we don't.  When we've had a particularly hard FAS day, I try to write about it on here some times.  I want others to know it is not always smooth sailing.  I think though we manage b/c we have gotten used to a lot of the chaos that comes w/ FAS and other issues our children have.  That and lots and lots of humor.  Lots of humor.  Some days though, I admit.  I lose it.  I do.  Yesterday comes to mind.  I roped off the upstairs w/ a dog leash.  I did.  Max's solution to their room being a mess was not to clean it like I suggested.  Oh no.  His suggestion was that simply NO ONE go upstairs.  Now, another kid that was here could see what was coming.  He said "Ms. Stephanie, can I please go upstairs and get my shoes?"  He could sense I would do something for Max's sarcastic comment.  Yes, he got his shoes.  Anyhow, I said "fine Max.  Fine.  We'll do it your way."  So, I roped off the upstairs.  Alex said "great Max, look what you've done now!"  I'm telling you, Alex is catching on more and more these days.  The rope didn't stay up long. It was more of a statement.  Got through to some but definitely not all.  Also, chocolate.  Well, that's just for me.  Chocolate is like coffee for me.  Though the whole time I was in Bulgaria I only had chocolate once.  Sometimes though, when you're in the midst of a crazy RAD/ FAS type of crisis, nothing makes you think better than a 3 Musketeers bar.  I think Warren can sense when I've had a crazy, crazy day at home.  He'll bring me one of those prized bars home.  Seriously though, we do seem to manage.  It's more of a controlled chaos some days.  And that's okay.  Not everyday is going to be roses.  It can't be.  That's just not normal for any family on this planet.  But, for the most part, we get along alright.  It is mostly Warren and I being on the same page when it comes to the kids.  Knowing when the other may need a break. Not letting the kids get the better of us. --easier said than done some days.  Thinking to myself this is only one day out of many.  With every new day there's fresh hope.  And there is.  Some times we'll put the kids to bed and say to them tomorrow is going to be a better day, right?  yes, mom.  A few minutes ago I kicked Nik out of the pool for trying to hold his sister under water.  Teens were all in the pool and had enough witnesses to know it was indeed Nik.  Alyona confirmed.  She was in bad shape emotionally.  Nik was kicked out of the pool for the rest of the night and tomorrow.  He's getting a shower & I'm sending him to bed.  He's knows he did wrong. He's not thinking clearly at all any more.  I can't put off the evident any longer.  He is ADHD and I know it.  Have known for years.  I have a few w /that dx here.  But today was clearly the last straw.  Nik will be getting an appointment and we'll start the trial and error of medication. I was hoping I could handle his ADHD w/out it but no way.  Safety is becoming an issue for sure.  Don't worry, Alyona is fine.  She went back swimming.  That's how we manage though.  Something comes up, you handle the most critical item that is happening.  Our kids all have mental health, behavioral and emotional issues.  They all act without thinking most of the time.  You have to balance these types of problems with normal family life.  We do go places with our kids.  To us, it's important.  We think it's important to be semi-normal in a not so normal household. Though we really haven't gone much of anywhere these past few weeks, my kids have had tons of fun w/ friends.  It's 8:20 at night & we're letting them swim.  Friends are over at the house now swimming w/ them.  Point is, we manage but not focusing on the disorder but on the child themselves.  What is important to them.  What are they doing.  Not, what does FAS or RAD or PTSD or whatever do to them.  I think that is how we manage the way we do.  Okay, before the police are called for noise levels here, I must go lower them.  

Questions answered

Got a few questions going so thought I'd start answering them.  Also,do the best I can to answer them.  Okay, I started to answer from beginning but the first few questions are lengthy.  So, going in reverse order.  These are questions 11 to 20.  First few deal a lot w/ mental/ behavioral issues & do take more time to answer.  Those will be the next post.  BTW, received FBI clearances via FEDEX today!  One step closer to my kids.  For now, something to tide us over.  Questions on things around here.

11.  Are your kids ever jealous when you add new children?  Yes and no.  I say that b/c sometimes they are and sometimes they aren't.  We could not have done this a few years ago as Nik was not ready to let go of mom.  Now, he is just fine.  He is thrilled to be a big brother.  He keeps calling Summer(4yo) the baby.  LOL.  She is far from a baby but will be the baby of the family & spoiled rotten I'm sure.  To take some of the jealousy away, we turn the adoption process more on them. How they will help out.  How they will teach their new sibs English. How they will help them learn new things.  We make it exciting for them.  Share all the pictures & have them pick out pictures to print out and put around the house.  Most my kids have been through this process before so they really are at the no care point.  They just want them home.  Alyona really wants her new sisters.  Frankly, I think she'd sell her teen sisters if given the opportunity.  LOL.  this go around, I really don't think there will be too much jealousy. If it occurs, I truly think it will be Nik.  Might be surprised though.  Last time, all the kids did great w/ the addition of Nik & Alyona.  Only time will tell. 

12. Do you have anyone to help you out with the kids? This is an easy one.  No.  We have no one.  There are no aides, no family to help, no funds provided to hire someone, no respite.  Do I wish we had this?  Occasionally, YES!  But, we've learned to live without it and can handle it.  We also know very well when one of us needs  a break from the kids.  Some times Warren will come home and I'll simply say I need to swim some laps.  I go out in the pool, alone, and swim 50 laps.  Helps immensely.  Come back in refreshed.  Sometimes Warren will go to the store.  Kids begging to go with him.  Not this time, I'm going by myself.  See, most the time Warren will pick one kid to go w/ him.  One on one time.  But, if he needs a break, it's just him.  Now, our friend Mary has offered to take all the kids one weekend to the farm.  We may take her up on it.  They love it there.  You find breaks here and there. 

13.  How often do you shop for fresh/fruits & veggies?  In pics, I always see fruits & veggies around.  We do have plenty of fresh fruits and veggies.  We pick up our order once a week from a local farmer.  We get a discount b/c we are indeed buying in bulk and it's pretty much a standing order.  It's a win-win for us and the farmer.   They are wonderful and have such awesome produce! 

14. Where do you buy fresh foods?  See answer above.

15.  Where do you shop for groceries?  Fresh produce all comes from a local farmer.  Majority of our other items comes from Sam's club and Lowes Foods. 

16. How many kids do you take w/ you?  If we go at night, Warren and I will take no one with us to Lowes Foods.  We shop at Sam's once a month and usually have a couple kids with us.  Varies each time. 

17.  Approximately, how much do you spend each time?  Since we started the fresh fruit from the farmer, we spend between $75 and $100 a week. It really depends upon our order.  Right now it is always $100 b/c I'm actually buying more and freezing the fresh produce such as corn on the cob & blueberries, to use during fall and winter.  Also, mashing up many bananas and freezing that as well.  Stocking up a bit for upcoming months.  Once the big summer season is over, I know our bill will go down for produce as a lot will be out of season.  For Sam's, we spend roughly around $600 a month.  Roughly.  But, we do feed not only the 9 of us but also the kids I watch during the day.  Around $800 to $1000 a month(during summer, definitely $1000) is spent solely on food.  Sometimes we luck out at Lowes w/ sales and coupons.  We were buying discounted fruit there but the deal w/ the farmer (25% off) is better and fresher.  With the grocery bill, that includes all household items as well.  Key is if something is on dramatic discount, you stock up.  When I can get turkeys for .38 or .69 a lb., we stock up.  Whole hams for $6 or $7, we stock up.  Stuff like that. 

18.  Ever thought about contacting one of those home makeover shows?  this is too funny as they were contacted.  My husband's work wrote a very nice piece about us but we never sent in a video.  Years ago friends of ours made a video & sent it in.  We had 4 kids back then I think.  No, 5.  Don't remember.  Our social worker even asked me as well as Extreme Home Makeover had contacted various agencies in the area asking if they knew of anyone.  Would be a dream but there are many more families more deserving.  Some times though I do dream about it.  Think how many more kids could be helped.  We could set up our dream grant fund for families.  Our house would be able to help out some of our kids more and put us at ease w/ an all house monitoring system.  (FAS kids need literally 24/7 supervision).  It would be a relief. Huge relief.  Like I said, it's a dream, not reality.  I just thought it was humbling to have someone think that our family was so deserving of what I consider to be a wonderful gift. 

19.  How about ShowHope for a grant for the adoption?  Currently looking into various grants and this is one we're looking into.  Hard as there are only but so many grants available of course.  But, it never hurts to try as you'll never know until you try.

20.  How about a love offering from a church? Would be awesome but I could never ask. I feel that is something others would have to feel led to do.  I could  never ask as our church does so much for so many.  They do a lot of good in the community and I feel that is just as vital as helping orphans.  Plus, for now, I feel there are much greater needs in our church that need to be addressed so I could never ask that. 

I do hope that answered some questions. Phew!  Takes a lot to answer questions.  Now I know why I didn't do this session earlier.  Today is hopefully a little quiet.  Irina and Yana went w/ a friend and her mom.  Shopping.  Checking out a new store and they'll let me know how it is. Other kids are downstairs w/a friend playing life but NOT doing well together.  Game may have to end early.  It's just so dog gone hot to be outside.  We were all out yesterday picking up sticks & pulling weeds.  But, it was much cooler and overcast.  Today, near 100 again.  And tomorrow.  Friday, 104.  That is NOT heat indexes but real temps.  Bought the kids those velvet type posters to color so they're having fun with that.  And lots of bead making.  Friday we need to do some shopping.  Other than that, we've been just trying to get the house ready to sell.  Not an easy task.  We want to take the kids to the beach but really 100 degree weather last weekend and this weekend is just not cutting it.  So, we'll wait a little longer.  We are going to have an FAS Support group pool party here next weekend, August 6th.  Hoping it will be the first weekend that it is NOT 100 out.  Hoping.  Got to go.  Much more to do.  Placed some calls on getting Irina adult services since she is now 18.  It is going to take awhile I feel.  This is half of the questions.  Rest of the questions are more involved answers and will be answered in the next day or so.  More of those are RAD/ FAS questions and older kid adoption questions.  Be ready.  Tomorrow I will contact the high school for meetings regarding Max and Yana.  Both cases not resolved.  We are not sure which program we want Yana in...academic track or OCS(occupational course of study).  Then Max and the failing Math.  URGHH!!!  He has a severe learning disability in math but school can't seem to work with that.  I'm beyond frustrated and unless you have the money to hire an advocate or lawyer, it just doesn't go far in this county.  It's the truth.  Ask any special needs parent in this county.  Crazy.  So, school is having to become a priority and getting Irina settled w/ vocational rehabilitation services.  Waiting for them to call me.  Sent in the forms.  I'll do a status check soon.  We're still fighting insurance on Nik's speech therapy.  If he can't get it, though he desperately needs it, I'll work with him on my own.  May pay for one last session and have her teach me what ever he'll need the next few months till I can start over with him again.  More to come on all the school stuff for sure.