Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas craft (part I)

Kids and I will be studying a few Christmas' around the world this week.  So, we decided to kick it off by making Christmas trees and chocolate chip cookies of course. 

Reni, trying to figure out just how she's going to decorate the tree.  She is a mini perfectionist.  Or maybe just likes to have things her way.

Nik and Logan really took off w/ this project and wanted great detail in their trees. I just brought out a pile of craft stuff and laid it on the table.

Logan making his decorations.  Nik even added eyes to the gingerbread men.

Summer had no issues whatsoever using the glue.  I think she would have been just as happy painting w/ glue.

Logan, showing off one of his decorations.  Those little buggers were hard to cut.

 I had to prove that Alex actually had a green tree under there.  I'll show you the finished product in the next post and you'll get why.  Look at Nik's face in the back ground.  And yes, those stupid bunk beds are still there.

They are still working.  Can't wait for you to see their finished craft projects.  Next post.  For now, must go to sleep.  Hope your weekend is going well.  Many more posts coming tomorrow.  Warren and Max worked really hard fixing the dining room table this weekend and making it one long table that we can all eat at.  Stay tuned for more happenings at Chaos Manor.  BTW, honeymoon is O-V-E-R.  I knew it would happen.  Just was waiting for the when.  Going to get interesting the next few days.  Breathe in, breathe out.  LOL. 

Hugs and hanging out

You know, I said that Summer would be spoiled rotten, right.  Well, she definitely is.  She seems to have one certain gentleman wrapped around her finger.

Summer would not go to sleep.  She really is scared when she lays down.  So, I brought her downstairs and this is who she went to.  Max.  He sat there and rubbed her back and then carried her back upstairs to bed when she fell asleep.

Some girls just hanging out.  One day they'll be a shot of my house w/out clutter.

Okay, our $2 papasan chairs finally broke.  And, 2 couches are not quite enough for us all.  So, found this thing at TJMaxx.  Kids LOVE it.  It is soft and rather neat to try to sit on.  They manage balancing better than I do on that thing.  

She almost never stops smiling.  It's so great to see every single day.  

No, it's not messy enough in the loft area kids, why not play some more games and get stuff all over the floor.  Kids had friends spend the night last night and played bingo and go fish.  

 Summer, styling w/ her trench coat.  She loves to change clothes a few times a day.  The clothes laying on the floor there are clothes the boys were trying on to see what fits and what doesn't. 

We do have a big table or bar for them to play at but they prefer the cardboard box on the floor.  Oh well.  Hey, works for them so I'm not complaining.

Nik and Logan playing Bingo.  Sort of.  LOL.  Love that neither one of them can yell out the numbers.  

We've had a laid back kind of weekend thus far.  Thank goodness.  More posts to come.

Our adoption tidbits

You know, after 10 adoptions, you finally sit back and think of a few things that are odd (best word I could come up with) about your family make up.  So, came up with a few things that happened to us during these processes and some things that are the way they are now.  Silly things really. 

There are a dozen of us.  We have 10 children. 5 girls and 5 boys.  We have 4 sets of virtual twins and an oldest and youngest.  Each set of virtual twins is boy/girl except for the 11yo's.  Both boys.  My kids are ages 4, 9, 9, 11, 11, 12, 12, 16, 16, and 18.  Crazy, huh?  It was never ever planned that way.  Never.  First adoption was in 1999.  5 years later we had 3 consecutive years of adoptions...2004, 2005, and 2006.  Then it was another 5 years and we had this adoption in 2011.  2 of our girls are left- handed. 

We have 3 dogs and our children are from three different countries.  We've had crazy stuff happen on each and every single adoption trip.  I kid you not.  We have had not one single "dull" adoption.  Ever.  First adoption of Irina and Max, we experienced the worst heat wave Moscow had ever seen they said.  It was well over a hundred and you know there are not many air conditioners around.  LOL.  Since I kept looking like I would pass out, they allowed me to ride in the diplomat car w/ A/C.  Next adoption was of Yana and Alex.  They forgot to put our daughter on the Russian database, one corrupt system, and having to "sneak" Alex out (he was legally ours) b/c the director wanted a new iron was crazy to say the least.  Next adoption was Bojan.  Biggest snow storm they had in years in Serbia we were told.  Had to hike in the snow to the orphanage everyday.  Airports shut down.  Snowed the day we arrived to the day we left.  No lie.  All Bojan wanted to do was throw snow balls.  We couldn't ever obtain an original birth cert so they all joked around about sending a US Marine copter in to pick it up.  We never did get that original but embassy accepted a faxed copy.  Especially when they heard he was born in Bor as it was plastered all over the news that the city was inaccessible.  No one could get in or out due to the snow.  Next adoption was Alyona and Nik's.  They thought we'd have to life flight Alyona home.  Bad shape nutrition wise & had heart issues.  No life flight.  However, on trip one I was taken off the Delta flight in Moscow and had my first Russian ambulance ride.  I highly do not recommend it!  This past time, we had the three in Bulgaria. One who screamed bloody murder the first few days, one who would try to run away, and one who would duck and cover all the time.  It was one thing after another on that trip.  The odd stuff really happened before we left.  Medicals off kilter, investigation(URGHH!!!-- yes, still a tad bitter), & too many other things to name.  So, each adoption had its own issues for sure.  Yet, we kept doing them again and again.  I think that says we are either crazy or the kids are worth it.  I'm going w/ the kids are worth it. 

Just little things you notice.  One is that I never did get to adopt my infant/ toddler.  I always wanted one about two years old.  Always.  Still do.  Guess we'll have to wait for grandkids now....long time away I do hope. 

Getting used to our family of 12.  It's different yet in many ways the same.  Noise level is still about the same.  Well, I'd type more but apparently there is a "crisis" in the kitchen as I heard Irina yell "Summer!"  More posts and pics to come.  Told you I'd catch up at some point.  5 posts last night, I'm on a roll.  LOL.  

Friday, December 2, 2011


Homeschooling.  Geez, I wish I were better at it.  I do.  I know though from the past w/ Irina and Max that the first few months really are finding out what the kids can and can't do and redoing your expectations.  Finding the groove.  Well, we threw in an adoption in the mix of it all this year.  This is my first year homeschooling the younger kids.  We really were doing great in the beginning w/ momentum.  I think it was the newness of it all.  Now, I'm going to be redoing their lesson plans a bit.  We do read every day and do math and English every day.  And of course PE. And art most days.  And, we were doing a lap book on explorers before we left for Bulgaria.  Love the lap book concepts and so do the kids. 

We will be getting back into history next week.  Finishing up those explorers.  Thought we'd be done by now honestly.  Next we'll be going into the colonies and then right into the revolution and things. 

Science started out strong and feel guilty even admitting that we haven't done much of it lately.  So, next week that will be a priority for sure.  I mean the kids and I both enjoyed making the solar oven and studying the sun and things.  I don't know why we got so sidetracked.  Going to be finishing up what little we need to and move straight into the human body.  The kids are excited about that and I have some great projects and kits for them to do. 

I know they're learning.  Alex really is working hard on multiplication.  Alyona is still struggling very much in all areas.  However, she really is enjoying working w/ Reni on English and phonics.  Happy about that as it gives her a self-esteem boost.  With FAS, you have short- term memory issues.  I can tell Alyona something and five minutes later, it's lost.  That was today for time.  I tried so hard.  Just not sinking in.  We'll get there.  Summer is just coloring for now. Logan is working on word searches to just get acquainted w/ English letters at this point.  Reni is on about the same level as Nik for math.  So, rather behind.  Logan is about on the same level as Alex but w/ a bit more understanding I believe.  We'll see.  Still a bit early and only given them stuff here and there to gauge where they're at. 

I've started Alex on these things I got at a yard sale for a quarter each.  They are from Highlights.  A secret agent packet.  Put together a puzzle for the clue.  You have a guidebook that tells all about the country you're in.  You find clues in the workbook and find out "who dun it."  He LOVES it and it really is cool learning about a different country.  I have about 30 of these things so this will help him a lot. He's on Great Britain this week.  Fun. 

Just thought I'd give a bit of an update.  Still learning...all of us.  Well, need to go.  4th post of the night.  Hey, if I do this all weekend, I will be caught up.  Yeh, I wouldn't bank on it either. 

Putting up the tree

Last weekend we went to our church and picked out the Christmas Tree.  Well, only Warren and Max went b/c the seats had to be out of the van to pick it up.  Yes, another reminder from Warren of why we need a pick up truck.  LOL.  Took a few pics from it the other weekend.

Max, putting on the Christmas tree stand before we take it inside.  This was our first live tree ever in this home and first live tree for us in about ten years or so.  See, we had a artificial tree for years.  Well, two years ago the hot water heater exploded under the house and ruined everything, including that tree.  However, we really couldn't afford to replace it so literally kept frebreezing it  while we had it up.  I was done w/ that this year.  Money or no money, I could not stand frebreezing that moldy tree for one more year.  It's gone.  Fresh one it is.

 Okay, I should explain this one since normally my kids are not allowed out of the house w/ out pants on.  Summer had just finished using the potty (working on it) and ran outside.  She saw me taking pictures and ran over to the girls b/c she is a natural camera hog like her brother Nik. 

 Yana and Reni.  Just think it's a sweet picture. 

Everyone is giving advice on how to put this tree up.  It's 11 foot.  

All the boys helping out, including Logan.  That tree is not light at all.

 It really is much taller in person.  Very nice looking tree.

Nik "helping" w/ the tree decorating.  Warren was working on the lights. Though the teens rarely want to be in a picture any more, my younger camera hogs are always willing.  And yes, that is why you see more pics of them than the teens.  

Hey, three posts so far this evening.  Not doing too bad.  Many more to go to catch up.  2 of the kids' friends are spending the night here.  Hey, w/ 10, what's 2 more.  Just chilling out tonight.  We're all trying to decide on a movie.  Nothing going on this weekend.  Want to go to Barnes and Nobles to get some school workbooks for Logan and Nik.  Want to decorate the tree w/ ornaments.  Need to clean the house up.  Other than that, we really want an easy weekend w/ a lot of dullness.  Seriously, we need it.  Kids and I are planning next semester.  They will be taking classes two days a week, doing soccer starting in March, taking the church clubs (they've done jump rope, ASL, cooking and science thus far), and we'll be doing crafts/ experiments here every Friday.  Library will be one day too.  Trying to make Christmas lists.  Hard to do.  Just life stuff.  Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. 

Interruption for cuteness!

Such serious posts, I needed to break them up.  Way too wordy of posts.  So, a quick cute kid to break it up. 

 This is Summer in her Santa hat.  We all have a Santa hat.  She's the only one who's really taken a liking to it though.

Isn't she just a cutie pie?!  Sticking her tongue in the bottom of her mouth for whatever reason.  Just love her to pieces.  She is honestly lights up the room just by walking in it.  Can't wait to post how far Ms. Summer has come.  

Okay, interruption over.  Need to go make spaghetti and garlic bread.  2 of the kids friends are spending the night.  Yes, 12 kids here.  Hey, once you pass 2, you're outnumbered anyhow.  They came up to me outside & said "mom, don't you think the kids are settled in now?"  They know the rules when new kids come home.  LOL.  I said yes, they sure are. 

A bit about Logan

Well, I talked about Reni so figured it was time to talk about Logan.  I'm going to be honest here.  So it may sound harsh but you need to know the truth as this can happen.  We met the sibs in June.  They were FANTASTIC!  We couldn't believe what was on a medical update we had received just shortly before we were ready to depart.  We had contemplated not even going to meet them.  Yes, I said it.  I will share some of the medical and the actual medical stuff once all our dx's are in here or not in here as the case may be.  Let's just put it this way, w/ my Russian kids, not one medical was true to form.  Only Bojan's Serbian medical was accurate.  These three kids we are waiting to see about the medicals as we are in process for testing.

Anyhow, the medicals on Logan were downright frightening.  And I am not saying that lightly.  It was totally a leap of faith to go and visit.  We were very, very nervous on the drive over there and wondering what awaited us.  I mean the last photo we had of him looked horrible.  Looked like a shaved head and just not him.  Not the extremely handsome kid he truly is.  Well, got there and I didn't even bring up his medical b/c clearly this was a different child than described.  No, not bait & switch but meaning it was different than what was described in the medical report.  we had the BEST time at that orphanage, with the staff there (they truly, truly take care of these kids!), and the whole time spent w/ our kids.  We got to know Logan for who he was those few days.

So, when we came back a few weeks ago, we were expecting the same type of kid.  However, we knew it could be different b/c he was an older child and from an older kids' home.  And boy, was it different while we were in Bulgaria.  Were the medical reports true by chance?  He was in our custody.  He was ours.  Now, do keep in mind, we have some pretty extensive experience w/ disorders of all sorts.  FAS, RAD, OCD, PTSD, ODD, ADHD, etc. just to name a few.  And not just one kid either.  So we can handle pretty much anything you throw our way.  Well, it was all thrown our way.  I will explain all this as to why I believe it all happened and what we did once home to help him.  Now, here is my disclaimer:  I am not a doctor, expert, or professional of any kind.  These are just my opinions based on my experience w/ my kids over the years and things I've seen.  Disclaimer over.

When older kids leave an orphanage, they will have many pent up feelings.  These feelings must get out.  Feelings of fear, anger, uncertainty, worry, sadness, etc.  It's all there. A cocktail for disaster at best.  Yes, orphanages prepare them to leave.  Especially, this one.  Trust me on that.  Yet, you can't suppress these feelings.  In addition, these older kids may test you to see if you will "keep" them no matter what.  Are you in it for the long haul.  We were.  We knew it was a test.  Did not make it any easier whatsoever.  I have not listed all the things he did on here and won't list them all.  Just know he was meaner than mean in all areas.  Making fun of people w/ disabilities.  Trying to kick a cane out from an elderly gentleman.  Hurting his sister.  Laughing at things he shouldn't.  Running away.  It was a state of hypervigilence for us just to be in the same room w/ him.  It was obvious what he was doing.  At that point, it was just surviving till we could get him home.  See, we have a feeling he was the "bully" or head of his group at the orphanage.  Now, this is just a guess.  Assuming a good guess considering he wanted to arm wrestle Max and told me Alex couldn't play soccer, etc.  Yeh, he talked a good talk.  I may not speak Bulgarian but there is enough German and Russian thrown in that I can understand a good chunk of it. 

See, at this point, Logan thought he had the upper hand.  In a way, he did.  We couldn't speak his language fluently.  We were out of our element, our comfort zone.  However, I knew once I removed him from what was familiar to what was unfamiliar, he'd HAVE to rely on us.  To trust us.  To form a bond.  I kept telling him all week once we land in Germany, the Bulgarian is gone.  No one will speak it.  You'll have to learn English.  He kept refusing while his sister was soaking that up and sign.  He'd laugh at me every time I'd sign while Summer and Reni were repeating every motion.  I knew once we hit American soil, he would either go hog wild even more than he already was or he'd go the opposite and fall apart.  Why?  Because his insults to people would have no more meaning.  Even in the immigration line, I separated him and Reni so that he could not talk to Reni.  He was trying to get her to do bad things.  At one point, I do believe she told him off.  Warren and I knew that his was such an extreme case behavior wise that we'd have to get serious as soon as we landed.  Hence, trying to separate Reni and Logan.  Hard to do when traveling altogether.  But, we did it.  Remember, he was in the police department in Bulgaria telling Summer to smack passersby on the butt w/ her doll!

real Logan.  Logan had to witness for himself that it was okay not to be a bully.  It was okay not to be mean.  It was okay to want a hug.  It was okay to feel loved.  It was okay to be a sibling to everyone.  Basically, he needed to know that life was changing and it would be okay as everyone would help him through it.  He had to know that mean things were not going to get him sent away, just get him in trouble.  It would be a learning process.  Still is in some areas.  He wants praise for sure.  He started asking after he'd go somewhere or do something if he was dobre(good).  We'd say yes and he'd smile really big.  Ahh, the angle.  He wants to be good.  He wants to do good.  Shoot, tonight he told us Alex and him were cleaning the room and Nik was not helping.  He knows what he's supposed to do. He knows right from wrong. This is huge as it meant it was nothing like FAS or RAD that we were dealing with.  It was simply a young boy trying to act big as a "survival" skill he learned at the orphanage. It happens.  Often. 

The transformation.  I don't know how b/c honestly, my prediction was 6 to 8 months before we could even live normally.  He disproved me, thank goodness!  Logan is night and day  a different child.  In many, many areas.  He used to laugh at people w/ disabilities, used to laugh when his own sister fell down the stairs b/c she couldn't see.  Now, he's always sharing everything w/ Nik, his deaf brother.  Yep, disabilities don't seem to get a second thought now.  Though he won't run to help someone yet, he's not laughing at them much when they fall now.  It was like a switch went off in this kid.  I don't know how.  We took all technology away from him.  The sites he was on in Bulgaria in the apartment were too adult in our opinion.  Our eyes, an 11yo should not have access to billiards and things of that nature.  Much cussing in all songs he'd listen to.  That went away quickly.  Most of it went away in the apartment.  When we got home, we knew we had to put in his mind that that life was in the past.  As soon as we got home,  I opened up the suitcases and hid all their things from Bulgaria in my room.  Now, please let me explain this one b/c we learned this from when Yana came home.  They need to start a new life.  Not hang onto the old one.  By putting away their keepsakes, they have nothing to fall back on.  See, w/ Yana, if she'd get upset when first home, she'd go to her room and look through all her pictures.  We took all that away.  Even her religious icons.  She was Russian Orthodox.  I grew up in a family that was Methodist and Russian Orthodox so know a little about the faith.  This was a crushing blow to Yana but exactly what helped her too.  We gave her back the items months later when we knew they would be precious memories versus her wanting to live in the past.  See, when they first come home, the past is all they ever knew.  The orphanage life was IT.  There was no such thing as family.  They had to learn how to live in a family.  to do this, connections to the past must be severed.  I'm not saying forgotten at all b/c we give everything back months later once we know the kids are secure in the family and we can look at things together.

So, back to the story.  With Logan, we knew any connection would have to go away.  He'd have to form new friendships, new life, etc.  Don't worry, we plan on keeping in touch very much w/ their orphanage.  Later, a few months from now, we will also allow him to write friends, etc.  However, for now, we need to have him focus on this life and his new family.  I do hope that all made sense w/out sounding like we're taking it all away from him.  We have found in the past doing it this way allows them to emotionally heal faster.  It works for us.  May not work for others but works for us.  We have kept in touch over the years w/ many people from various orphanages.  We intend to do the same for these three children.

In addition to starting fresh, we also try to go nowhere the first few weeks home.  I said try for those who've seen us out and about. LOL.  Plus, I judge it on the kids themselves.  If they're ready.  And, with older kids, they are some times "survivors" in their orphanage.  They go into survival mode to make it.  That does include stealing and lying at times.  In Bulgaria, our son tried it.  Rest of the trip he knew he was to hold one of our hands no matter where we went.  So, as you can imagine, a trip to Walmart may be scary for all of us involved.  No worries.  He even told us he'd be good.  Okay, so still had some one monitor him the whole time but no attempts whatsoever and he was just looking around.  I think part of it w/ him is he mimics.  So, if our kids that have been home are behaving, etc., then he will do the same.  He's learning.  Now, we can take him in stores, not hold his hand and allow him to have the same privileges as our other kids.

We have taken him to church for clubs, Walmart, out to eat, to the doctors, etc. with no issues whatsoever.  Like I said, totally different child.  I can't say what all contributed to the turn around.  I just know we really, really have enjoyed the new Logan here.  He listens (okay, about as much as my other kids), he does what you ask him.  He doesn't melt down any more.  The other day there was a misunderstanding between him and Alyona.  He fell off the bike.  Alyona tried to lift the bike up and it fell back down.  He thought she slammed it down so continued to throw rocks at Alyona.  I took the bike away and made him apologize to Alyona.  He did.  He stood there mad but did not kick or throw or back talk.  2 weeks ago, there would have been an all out rage at that incident.  Progress.  There is much progress with him.

There is also a compassionate side to him.  He wants to lift up and love Summer.  He shares everything w/ Nik.  He is helping Reni more instead of hurting her.  He wants to teach Alex things in soccer and vice versa. There IS a sweet side.  No doubt about it.  We have no worries about Logan.  His future is very bright.  He just had to get over his "testing us" phase I think.  I think he knows we are in it for the long haul.  We are not going anywhere.  We are extremely proud of how far he's come.  Truly, I wished I had videotaped some of the things he'd done.  Not to be mean but to show you this child has come so, so far.  He has such a full life in front of him.  He really does.  Logan is well loved in this family.  He's an awesome soccer player and now is soaking up English and trying to learn new words every day.  He wants to do school work.  Reni's been doing it but b/c of all his doc appointments, haven't really done anything w/ him yet.  Now, that that is behind us, we're going tomorrow to get him some workbooks.

Logan medically is in awesome shape.  Healthy.  All blood work normal.  TB test was positive but chest x-ray was negative so he has been cleared.  He is allergic to some antibiotics and that is noted now on his medical records here.  The results of his MRI and EEG will be given Jan. 10th.  This is to tell us whether or not he has epilepsy for sure.  If he does, it was VERY well managed in Bulgaria and we'd keep him on the same meds.  If not, he will be weaned off the meds as our neuro sees fit.  Right now, just wait and see.  For someone who had one of the worst medicals out there, this young man is extremely healthy.  Both physically and mentally.  Emotionally too.  He has grieved.  Separate post coming on adoption grief in orphanage kids.

All in all, Logan is doing wonderfully.  We didn't think this possible a few short weeks ago when we were in Bulgaria and all kinds of stunts were being pulled.  yet, we knew he was our son, we had to stay strong, had to stick to our guns, had to have a plan in place and had to think of the future.  Hard when you know the best place for him is home but you are stuck there in an apartment.  So, if you are reading this and there may be doom and gloom times w/ your new child, know that most likely, it is temporary.  You have to be strong for the both of you.  It IS worth it in the end.  Logan is great to have as a son.  He's a good brother and son.  He knows right from wrong and is consistently choosing right over wrong.  He knows the rules.  He knows how to play nice.  I know in a few years when we tell him how he was when he first came home, he won't believe us.  Just as Irina doesn't.  Irina hated and I mean hated us the first few weeks home.  She was so angry.  Very angry.  Each child handles a new family in a different way.  I think that's the point I'm trying to make here.

All I know is that Logan definitely belongs in this family. He will be going far in life for sure.  I can see it in his drive and motivation.  He is very close to Nik and Alex versus Bojan and Max.  But, I expected that as Bojan and Max have a tight bond.  Alex and him play soccer almost daily.  And, Nik and Logan ride bikes almost daily.  It's great.  It really is.  Biggest issue I have right now w/ Logan is him wanting to ride in the middle of the road.  Compared to a few weeks ago, I'll take that issue and work on it.

Thanks for letting me share openly (to a point) about Logan.  I want people to see even though some of these children can behave erratically when first home, they can settle down and find their place in the family.  Logan definitely has his place in this home and will be here for years to come.

Logan and Reni.  Their relationship is solid.  And as for hurting his sister, has NOT happened but once here at the house.  And that was normal sib stuff that my other kids would have done too.  I can tell Reni notices the change in him as well.  Love it. 

Not sure why bunk bed pieces are still in my dining room but oh well.  Logan and Nik playing tug of war w/ one of the dog toys.  He really is in his element at this house and very comfortable now.  Right now, most of them are downstairs watching Kick Buttowski together and singing the theme song.  Including Logan.  All while eating popcorn and talking to each other.  Right now, it is Bulgarian mixed w/ some English words.  He's doing great.  

I know some have wondered about Logan since we got home as I told a few what was happening over there.  Neighbor a little while ago told me how all three seem like they've been here forever.  She said they just fit right in.  I must agree. 

Finally, an appointment.

Finally, an endocrine appointment for Alex next week.  Mind  you, we've been trying since September 27th to get him an appointment.  Ridiculous, I know.  I've bit my tongue more than you know.  Alex has needed this appointment for awhile now. 

Maybe then my son won't have to be decked out in a hat 24/7.  This picture he was hot b/c he didn't have on his famous fleece jacket to go w/ the hat.  For once, he wont' have to come off the soccer field in 70 degree weather b/c he's going to pass out.  He'll be able to be the active kid we know once we figure out what is going on w/ his body.  This has been happening for years though we thought originally, it was part of his FAS temperature regulating issues he has.  It's clearly not.  Yana is cold too & Alyona but this is different in Alex.  So, assuming next week they'll draw blood and then we'll have a follow up.  I just want answers so my very athletic and active son can live life to the fullest w/ out a cooling vest and w/out having to worry about passing out while kicking in a goal!  His appointment is December 8th next week.  Just want answers.

Many more posts to come.  Next one is on Logan.  For now, making cookies w/ the girls.  We read this morning.  Cookies next.  After that, Christmas craft project.  Then, boys make a batch of cookies.  We're going to study Christmas around the world this week and different traditions.  Project.  So, why not kick it off w/ cookies?  LOL.  Okay, so maybe the cookies are more for me than the kids.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A bit about Reni

Thought it was time I do a little more of an introduction of the new kids and what they are really like.  Not sure why I started with Reni but I did.  She's a sweetheart.  She is.  She is quiet but does have a voice and can use it.   She and Logan have a true sib relationship.  Right down to the fighting.  They would really hit and hurt each other over in Bulgaria.  And, we all know we have to kind of "go w/ the flow" till we're on our own turf so to speak.  Where they can be punished for bad behavior, separated, etc.  Since we have been in our own home, they have only fought ONCE!  I can't believe it myself since over there in the apartment it almost seemed nonstop.  Give it time , they'll do it again.  LOL. 

Anyhow, Reni is 9yo.  She is delayed but not too much.  Most of it orphanage delays.  Though I know some of it is academic.  Reni is very motivated to learn English.  Whereas her brother was not, in Bulgaria, she was soaking it up from us and really wanting to learn new words.  Proud of everyone of them.  She has slipped right into the family.  She and Alyona are great friends and sisters.  Though some times there is posession on whose clothes are whose.  They have to share as both are in identical sizes.  7/8 girls.  Both in the same size shoe too.  Two peas in  a pod.  Reni loves to help out and adores being praised. 

Reni has some medical issues we are working on.  They were not able to obtain enough blood so have to redo some bloodwork and get an x-ray for that positive TB test last week.  Logan already had his x-ray...negative.  Reni needs a plastic surgeon for whatever it is on her nose.  We think rocks may still be embedded in her.  Before her orphanage in Shumen, she was in another orphanage.  There, a boy beat her with a rock in the face.  Don't know the why of it but she was definitely younger than 7  just based on transfer records. We got this info from her brother as it was being translated from the doctor on our first summer visit.  I will be making that appointment in the near future but want to find a good surgeon.  Someone on here already recommended one that we'll be checking out soon.  Knowing how teens are, this will help her I do believe.  Reni recently received glasses that she has been without for quite some time.  We tried to buy some for her in June when we went but that did not work out.  She went to a specialist the Monday after we got home(Friday).  He said she has alternating strambismus which is great b/c she can use both eyes.  She is a +5 in both eyes but he gave her a +4.25 script.  She could SEE!  She wouldn't be falling any more. This would correct for the most part, all her vision issues. 

Ignore the terminator eye.  We think she looks wonderful in her new glasses. 

Besides some medical stuff, there is some mental distress going on.  Reni is  a very hurt child.  I don't know if it is solely from the rock incident or not.  Example, the other day I went to reach for something above Reni's head.  She ducked and covered like I was going to beat her.  Same thing in Bulgaria when you go near her, she'd flinch like crazy.  I went to brush her hair one day and she moves like a foot away.  It's hard as these are signs that she has suffered something tragic yet we dont' know what it is.  Maybe she'll be able to tell us in time.  For now, we must make her feel safe and secure.  She's getting there.  There is less flinching if someone from the family approaches her or attempts to brush her hair.  Don't get me wrong, still flinching but much less noticeable.  Once she gains more language, we will be able to ask her questions and maybe help her further in her healing.  A child should never have to worry about feeling unsafe in their own environment.  Reni is very nervous about many things.  Got over the airplane fear though.  She's still working on her fear of dogs.  Took her awhile to even want to navigate the house alone.  And that's okay.  She is to go at her own pace and feel comfortable.  I think she is getting there.  Here is what she drew the other day:

Just a bright cheery picture.  She said it was our house.  Yes, we really do have a fence on one side.  Don't ask, long story w/ the dogs.  Love her heart balloons and flowers.  Just seems like a pleasant drawing to me from a girl getting comfortable in her family. 

This young girl is going to blossom.  I just know it.  She is very well loved here, safe, and secure.  Learning English.  Oh, they just got back from getting her glasses fixed at Walmart.  On the way out, Warren said Reni said goodbye to everyone.  Last person, she said "bye ya'all."  Umm yep, comfortable here in the south.  Over the next few months I will document her progress b/c I feel she will make tremendous strides.  She just has such a sweet side to her.  And this one LOVES to give and receive hugs and kisses.  It's just nice to see.  

I have realized over the years she has missed out on a lot.  The first few nights in the apartment she wanted me to wash her hair.  Not b/c she couldn't, but b/c she had never had anyone do that before.  She longed for that gentle physical touch I think.  She was trying the first night to give us a kiss on the cheek but did not know how.  Can you imagine being 9yo and never being kissed goodnight?  I know many go for infants and young children but the older ones have so much to give as well.  they long for love, closeness, family.  They really do.  I see that in Reni a lot.  Trust me, she gets hugs quite often around here.  

These things above are things that you will not find in a medical.  It is something you learn along the way.  We are very familiar w/ this type of issue as one of our other children had similar issues when arriving home.  It takes time to heal them but it can be done.  It will be done here.  We love them too much not to. 

Reni is quiet but loves to play.  She can jump high on the trampoline and is learning how to ride a bike.  She has a genuine motivation and drive for learning.  It is great to see.  I do believe she will be a real teacher to others.  In many ways.  I can not wait to see how her story unfolds.  The little events mean so much to her.  I want her to experience many new things in life.  I want to be able to give her some lovely things just for her.  Reni is wonderful about sharing.  She shares whatever is given to her.  Even if it is food or candy.  She is always there to give you what she has.  I think it's time someone gave her something.  Be rest assured, Reni is loved here.  By all.  It is nice for her to see what love is and what a family means.  She was passed over for 9 years.  9 years.  Please, please consider an older child for adoption.  They really open you up to what is important in life.  Thanks for listening and I'm sure you'll be hearing much more about Ms. Reni. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Middle Schooler Update

Well, since I only have one middle schooler currently, thought I'd start there b/c I won't have as much to write. we'll see.  Bojan is our middle schooler.  He is in 6th grade this year.  He has NO IEP any more and NO mods whatsoever.  That being said, he made all A's and B's this last report card.  Got the report card when we arrived home from Bulgaria.  Wonderful!  We were very proud of him. 

School is going very well for Bojan.  Social life is just fine too.  LOL.  Some days I wish my kids were hobbits and homebodies.  Bojan is in band.  He plays the trumpet and his first concert is coming up December 8th.  Yes, we're going.  I remember my first band concert.  So, happy for Bojan. 

Medically, Bojan is in excellent health and growing like a weed.  He had received a new leg this summer so he's fine w/ all that.  He's almost taller than me now!  Bojan has made tremendous progress.  He wants a dummy for Christmas and I wouldn't even know where to begin w/ that one.  Told him to start w/ a puppet.  LOL.  No mom, not the same.  He is still the funny man.  Nothing phases him.  And I mean nothing.  All in all, doing fantastic. 

Bojan, trying on part of his suit to see if it fits.  Growing into a handsome young man, huh?  I really have no worries about this kid.  Though, we haven't started the dating scene so I may want to hold off on that comment.  Just wanted to give you a brief update on Bojan.  Next post will be updates on the teens.  Then one on grief.  Hey, I'm getting there...slowly. 

Are they getting along??

This is a question I've been asked quite a bit.  Thought I'd share some thoughts and pictures on it.  First off, when adding new children you do expect some type of jealously or sibling rivalry in the beginning.  Same as you would if you birthed a child and added them to the family.  Takes a little time for kids to find their "groove" in the family.  However, I do think since our kids have been through this process before, they have a little bit of advantage of knowing how all this works.  In addition, we include them in the adoption process.  Yes, the ups and downs of it too.  We also put them in the role of teacher when the new kids arrive home.  We tell our youngest that we'll need their help to teach them English, teach them right from wrong, help them know where things are, etc.  Puts them in more of a control role so to speak.  We reiterate right before we leave that the first few weeks home the new kids will indeed receive most of the attention b/c they need it.  We always tell the kids just as we did for you when you came home.  And it is true.  We've done this for all of them. 

We have been home for almost two weeks now.  Wow, does time fly.  Am I saying it has all been beautiful and nice?  Absolutely not.  However, overall it really has been fantastic.  We have had no rages or meltdowns.  Not from the old ones or the new ones.  Took us two days when first home to get Alex back to normal but that was to be expected.  He has trouble w/ major transitions and we had the whole dog thing going on as well.  Alex is fine now.  Though sometimes he gets frustrated b/c he wants them to be able to understand everything he's saying.  That will take time to learn English. 

The teens have done excellent w/ the new additions.  Max has really taken a liking to Summer.  He dances w/ her every single night.  Very cute but needs to stop b/c she'll grow like a weed & be too big.  LOL.  Max is trying to be more of a big brother/teacher to Logan.  That's helpful as well.  Yana has taking a liking to Reni which I thought was very interesting.  Really didn't see that one coming.  Glad but didn't see it coming.  Very protective of her.  Yana doesn't like Logan that much.  That I did indeed expect.  See, Yana doesn't really like most of her brothers to begin with.  She'll tolerate them all but that's about it.  Though her and Bojan do seem to have the tightest bond of all the boys.  Interesting b/c she hated Bojan w/ a passion when he first came home. Irina has been helpful w/ all three of the new ones and really seems to like them all the same.  Bojan is the same way.  Though I can see him and Logan being the jokesters of the group once Logan gains more English. 

Alyona and Reni have become really tight sisters and that's exactly what I expected to happen w/ them.  Alyona tries to be the boss of Summer.  Yeh, expected that too and nipping it in the bud.  Summer is close to everyone really.  Logan and Nik have become very unexpected buddies.  They do everything together.  Though when it comes to the trampoline and soccer, he's side by side w/ Alex.  All three younger boys hang out together too which is wonderful.  though all three are trying to find the best scapegoat for when things go wrong.  Typical boys for sure.  We have had water leaking into our kitchen for days.  Don't ask about that one.  Just know their bathroom is above the kitchen. 

For the most part, they are getting along great.  I mean the new three fit right in  like they'd always been here.  Chores, playing, eating, etc.  They have been here almost two weeks now.  I can honestly say these ten belong together.  So, a few pics to see if they've been getting along together....

This is Summer and Irina posing for the camera.  We were waiting in line to see a local light show.  I'll have a post on that too soon.  Love Irina's rosy cheeks.  Happy girls.  Since Irina started her new school this year, her demeanor has changed.  Immensely.  

I swear my boys do indeed own pajama shirts.  They do.  These five are smirking.  Do you know why?  Here's a hint:

They were all making fun & mocking Alyona b/c she had the punishment chore of vacuuming the stairs.  You can see she's really upset about it.  LOL.  

I really don't even know what they're doing here.  Hey, they're all bathed so I count it a success.  Alex's hand is not dirty.  Summer has a big birth mark right at her belly button.  She thinks it's really cool if you kiss it.  

They were originally playing w/ the dog.  Now, tug of war w/ each other.

Max and his sister Summer.  Dancing of course.  

Nik and Logan watching a movie together.  Same chair.  BTW, 3 weeks ago in Bulgaria Logan was making fun of Nik and anyone else w/ a disability.  Umm, we cured that one I think.  If you're wondering why we have no garland around, it's b/c the stupid dogs keep eating our tree.  Not risking it w/ the garland too.  

Alyona, Reni & Alex.  They all went w/ her to get her new glasses.  All were encouraging to her.  And as usual in Chaos Manor, now broken today....a day later.  Getting fixed tomorrow. Lucky it's minor this time.  I think she looks wonderful w/ the new specs.  

My kids love popcorn and a movie.  Alyona and Summer enjoying a bowl.  

So yes, they are getting along.  Yes, they have squabbles but nothing abnormal.  Really, it is just normal sibling stuff.  Like today when Reni got mad b/c Alyona was wearing her shirt.  That I know is a girl thing b/c IRina and Yana used to do the same thing.  I am pleased w/ how far they've all come together.  Just thought I'd answer one question.  I know I'm behind but truly, we have been super busy.  Tomorrow, it continues.  Logan has an EEG...2 to 6 hours we are expected to be there.  Warren is taking him.  I'm homeschooling the bunch and trying to get stuff done w/ them.  Alex, Nik and Alyona have been doing 20 workbook pages a day trying to catch up.  No, it's not too much.  I let them work at their pace but they have wanted to do this.  I'll have a homeschooling update soon too.  For now, need some sleep.  He has to be there at 7:45am.  This is the last of the medical stuff for Logan.  Wahoo!!!  Dying to hear results from their MRI's.  More to come.  Just wanted to share how they're getting along.  No blood!  LOL. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More on the first day home

I know some of these posts must be confusing b/c I'm going back and forth between recapping the trip and life now.  I do promise to sort it out but since I"m almost done, we're going this route.  Recapping in pictures first.  I want you all to really see the pictures and their eyes and facial expressions.  That, we will then compare to say pictures from yesterday or what have you.  It is honestly that noticeable.  Pastor and his family came over the other day.  One comment to me is you really don't even notice that they've only been here a short while.  Again, separate post I promise is indeed coming.  But homeschooling and medical appointments have been priority.  Not blogging.  I'll explain all about the grief and all that does have to happen as well for every child.  So much to say and just jam packed days.  Oh well, that's life.  These are the last of our day after pictures. 

Yana trying to teach Reni how to ride and Logan learning by himself.  Neither could ride bikes.  Logan watched, got a little help, and took off.  He, Max and Nik were my only kids to ever do that.  All the rest took some time to learn.  Now, Logan and Nik and Alex like to ride. 

Got to get used to squinting in that Carolina sun.  Reni looks so big here for some reason.  Really, she's not that big at all.  

Alex, really enjoying some riding.  

URGHH!!! One of my two camera hogs.  LOL.  Now, if I could just get him to get rid of that fake smile.  I admit though, I do love taking his picture.

 Reni, Yana and Alyona.  If you're wondering why Reni looks scared, the dog is laying near her.  Digby, the one w/ hardly any teeth on the bottom.  The one who never jumps up or does anything.  Seriously, he lays there and just lives to be petted.  Thankfully, this petrified look has gone away as of late.

I will also explain more of Alex.  It is very, very difficult for a child w/ his extreme past to have us gone for extended periods of time.  However, it is also vital we leave as well so that he is assured we are coming back.  Took Alex about 2 days to come back to his old self.  He has expressed over and over again how happy he is that his brother is finally home.  Soccer buddy.  

This was our very first day home.  Summer here is still super duper tired.  She needed about another 12 hours of sleep.  Truly, she did.  Wonder what the pink is on her face?  Well, we forgot our first night home that she is a toddler after all.  That is nail polish.  She painted her nails in bed and on her face.  Teeth got it too.  Yes, the nail polish has a new home.  As do some other items.  

I have more posts due, I know.  I have many, many emails to answer as well.  If you have written me, I will get back to you.  I am hoping this week to catch up on ALL computer stuff.  It's been a big week home and now we have started on week two home.  Yeh, I'm waiting for the bottom to fall out but so far, so good.  Our biggest, biggest issue right now is getting all the kids to bed.  No one wants to go.  They all want to hang out and play.  That's both good and bad.  Again, there is so much to tell and much I feel needs to be said.  Got to go to bed.  It's well after 11 and we must get up at 5am to prepare Summer to go for the MRI.  I"m staying home w/ the homeschoolers.  More on them too.  And, a teen update soon.  I know these post are mostly focused on the new kids but that is just b/c they just got home.  However, I can't forget all that is going on w/ the others too.  Shoot, Bojan has his first band concert coming up.  Like I said, I think I will finally be able to catch up this coming weekend.  You know, if nothing crazy happens at Chaos Manor. 

The morning after....

Well, we made it through the night.  Everyone slept and then the real work begins.  It was already in the plans not to go anywhere the first few days home.  those were the plans anyhow.  Well, we managed to get all the kids downstairs for breakfast.  Reluctantly.  I made buttermilk pancakes but they were too freaky about the dogs to eat yet.  The whole day we knew would be just trying to get them okay w/ the dogs in the same room.  Trust me, it was going to be easier said than done.   So, wanted to head outside.  Plus, kids told me they had decorated so wanted to see it.

 They decorated in red, white and blue.  And yes, those are pumpkins we never did have the chance to carve. 

The sign they all made.  Very sweet indeed.

The mailman must have loved them that day.  

BTW, Bojan took all these shots.  I thought they turned out great.  Love the welcome home balloon.  

I wish you could see the laughter on Summer's face.  Her and Nik took the noisemakers we bought in Bulgaria and were having a grand old time.  

Can we say jetlagged??  

 Yana was teaching Reni to ride a bike.  Even though Reni and Logan are older, neither knew how to ride a bike.  Think about it, the orphanage can not afford to buy bikes for all the kids.  No chance to even learn over there.  Yana was being a fantastic big sister that day. 

Logan, trying out the scooter.  

We have many more shots from that day.  I let various kids take the camera for awhile.  I was too tired.  I'll be honest.  I was beat.  Just wanted to sleep but that wasn't happening.  Started laundry and worked on the dog situation and them getting to know the dogs.  Logan's fear went away as soon as we had him in command of the dog.  He walked the dog w/ Yana and after that, no issues whatsoever.  Reni, well, we're still working on her but her past may have something to do w/ all that.  She is afraid of not only dogs but a great many things.  It will take time.  The other day though Digby's head was on her lap so that is tremendous progress for her.  Summer, could careless and gives her opinion on the dogs.  LOL.  Told you, a little firecracker to be sure.  More to come.  More shots from this day and what all we did.  Right now, Logan is getting his MRI w/ Warren.  Thursday, he goes for the EEG.  All checking for epilepsy.  Tomorrow, Summer goes in.  We have to repeat bloodwork for Summer and Reni.  That will not be fun by any means.  Enjoy your day.  They'll be more posts later today but homeschool has to come first as well as some chores.  But, I still like telling how each child reacted when first home and how they overcame their fears.  I will do a post as well saying what each child was like when we first met and what they're like now.  for one in particular, it is not the same child at all.  She has blossomed beyond our wildest dreams.   Before, I couldn't even talk to her.  Now, I just finished yelling(best word I could come up w/ but not really yelling) at her and Nik for not sharing legos.  She did not flinch, did not look down, did not cover her head, no crying, none of that.  She looked at me, as did Nik, understood what I was saying and went about her business like any kid should.  She has found her place, knows she is safe, and knows I'm her mom.  I did not think this transformation possible just a few weeks ago.  Seriously, I thought we were in for months and months of healing and therapy.  I guess all these years of practice helps.  LOL.  I will have a post on each child, where they were, where they are now, and how we did it.  With each child we bring home, we are able to get the adjustment time less and less.  I will explain that as well.  Hey, I've had 12 years to get it right.  Thought I'd share what works and what did not over the years w/ each child home.  Things I wished others had told me when we first brought Irina and Max home.  All I could do was look at them. I was clueless.  More on all that later.  Need to finish up the coming home posts and Manic Monday from yesterday.  However, homeschool calls.  Have a great day.