Saturday, January 28, 2012

Staying cozy

It was hard to remember what I've posted about and what I haven't.  I realized, I never posted about one of the presents my kids received for Christmas that they absolutely LOVED!  I was reminded of it this morning as they came downstairs all wrapped up.  Could that have been b/c it was really warm yesterday and I turned off the heat & then forgot to turn it back on before bed?  Yep.  Hey, it's the first weekend everyone slept in.  LOL.  Anyhow, thought I'd share our gift. 

Everyone anxiously awaiting to see what's in the big box from Uncle Chris and Aunt Mindy.  Yes, I know one is not wearing a shirt.  And, one has their shirt on backwards.  Hey, they're all showered & that should be counted as progress.

 Logan, showing off his present.  Nice and snuggly.  And, his very own.  Quite a different concept for him than in the orphanage.

Everyone trying out the warmth of their new blankets.  That's right folks, each of the ten kids got a blanket their very own.  

 Irina, snug as a bug.  Bojan, loves his as a pillow. 

Ahh, my two camera hogs.  

Do you think they all liked their new presents?  My brother and his wife always give such great gifts.  One year we got a telescope that they still use!  

More smiles.  These blankets were huge!  Wonderful to wrap up in.  

Ooh, one more opportunity for the camera hog.  LOL.  Nik made sure he posed w/ everyone.  

Perfect gift for some of my kids w/ temperature regulating issues.  Alyona really pleased with her blanket and the color.  

 And, for one that is always dressed for winter, this is ideal.  And how do we know who's is who's?  Well, look at Alex's blanket.  That's right, they had every single one monogrammed!  So each kid knows which blanket belongs to them.   Like I said, perfect. 

Wonderful gifts that the kids use daily.  Great to lay on the bed or just lounge around w/.  They all brought them down this morning.  It was cold in here.  Didn't mean to forget to turn the heat back on.  Now, it's off again and their in shorts.  Got to love this crazy January weather.  I know it's a belated Christmas post but can't believe I forgot to share about their blankets.  Hope everyone is having a great weekend. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

My girls (well, 3 of them)

If you recall, Alyona simply longed for sisters.  I mean really, really begged for a little sister.  Just one.  She wanted someone to share with, someone to play with, someone to love.  See, Alyona was very lonely.  She was in a special ed class and there aren't too many friends in there.  At home, Irina and Yana were years above her in age and didn't really want to play like she did.  Well, that all changed once the girls got home.  A spark went off in Alyona.  New life.  Now, don't get me wrong, it's not all roses.  They have their tiffs.  That's true.  But, for the most part, they do really well together.  Adding the girls has been a huge benefit for Alyona. 

 Okay, ignore the rest of the mess & concentrate on the girls.  Don't they just belong together?  Now you understand why we fought so hard to bring them home.  They truly are sisters.

Reni's eyes look great as does she.  So much relief in her face.  Love it.

 Alyona, teasing her sister of course.

Alyona looks like such a young lady here.  If anyone has questions on their adjustments, just take a look at the pictures.  Doing just fine.  

 Just showered and ready for the world.  Summer, coming down the stairs by herself!  Wobbly, but does it.  It's the little things that mean so much.

My happy little girl.  So sweet in her new froggy pajamas.  I know they're big but she loved them.  Got them at Target for just $2.48.  Size 4T.

Summer w/ Reni behind her trying to sneak a peak.  

Our 3 youngest girls have adjusted well to each other.  Lots of sisterly love.  Was the right decision for sure to bring multiple children home.  It's tough to do, but in the end, works out for the best.  Just had to share a few pics.  Next post is an update on the 3 newest.  Four posts in short while, need a break to start some dinner.  Have a wonderful weekend. 

ooey gooey

As most of you know, we have a deal with a local farming for a standing order each week for fresh fruits and veggies.  Delicious!  Well, we order an entire case of apples each week.  Big box full.  And, most of the time, they disappear w/in days.  This time, we had some apples leftover but I wanted to eat them before we picked up new apples.  You know kids, they'll go for the new stuff even though the old stuff is perfectly fine.  So, what better way to get apples gone than to make tasty carmel apples.  Nice and piping hot. 

 Nik and Reni getting started on the carmel apples.  Nik is an old pro at this.  He say the package in the pantry and begged me for days.  I finally caved.

Not the best place for that tv remote on the table.  right under Reni's sticky fingers.  

Logan enjoying stretching the carmel.  

This was the before the oven shot.  We made ten apples.  And, they are just as tasty as they look.  Delicious.  I'd have taken an after shot but the kids ate them all way too fast.  I know it's not fall but apples are great any time of the year. 

Puzzles, projects, & pooches

Just here and there pictures I thought I'd share. 

This fall, I got a bunch of items at a yard sale.  One of them was a pile of games.  These have different countries that you learn about.  First, you put a puzzle together that tells you what country you are going to as a "secret agent" man to figure out a mystery.  You learn all about that country and solve the crime.  Excellent!  Alex is doing this.  He just finished Great Britain.  Now, he chose Kenya.  He's working on this now.  It really is cool and uses all kinds of comprehension and that's what he needs.  And, only cost  me a quarter a piece.  I have about 25 or more.  He's excited to learn about the new countries.  

 Getting closer, aren't they?  They get so excited to see what it ends up being.

Summer, working on her puzzles.

 Not to be out done, Nik then got a puzzle to try. 

Logan made this at his gizmos and gadgets class today at home school academy.  Alex made one too but got frustrated b/c the strings got tangled. They all have a great time in these classes and learn cool things.  The other class that Logan & Alex are taking is stop motion film making.  

Alaska, just relaxing.  

This baseball beanbag chair has now become Kota's favorite resting spot.  No one else but Kota uses it. 

I think Digby just finished eating stuff up off the floor.  My kids seem to think it's Logan's and shell peanuts and then brush them on the floor.  Nice, huh?  

Try to do some more posts.  It's the middle of winter in January and we have the windows open & my kids are in shorts.  Weird.  They're all playing outside now.  Kids have soccer try outs next weekend.  Looking forward to it.  Kids had a great time today in home school academy.  We are waiting for Warren to get home.  Having some grilled chicken and sweet potatoes for dinner.  Yum.  Lots of planning we're getting done this weekend.  Got to go.  Think I'm going to work outside a bit while it's still gorgeous out.  Love the fresh air.

Summer's OT & PT

As you are aware, Summer has been dx'd w/ c-ACC.  Agenesis of the corpus callosum.  She is missing completely that part of her brain which connects the two hemispheres.  This effects every single child differently.  Kind of like how FASD effects every kid differently. I now have 7 kids w/ various brain disorders.  So, getting pretty familiar w/ how things go.  We will be having to get Summer checked out by a few more specialists to be sure of some things.  One thing that apparently is common is eye issues such as ONH or SOD.  Now, Alyona has ONH(optic nerve hypoplasia) and Nik they thought had SOD(septic optic dysplasia).  So, I'm pretty familiar w/ these and not too worried that Summer has either.  Even if she does, pretty much know how to handle it anyhow.  No biggie.  It is also recommended she see an endocrinologist.  We will get these referrals in mid-Feb. when we go to see the developmental ped.  For now though, we saw an OT & PT.  She definitely qualifies in these areas to get help.  Her balance is off which we knew as she falls frequently.  Her gross motor skills are actually better than they thought they'd be.  That's awesome. Fine motor, not so much.  And these are all just preliminary results.  Write up will come in a few weeks to us and we'll share more then.  All I know is we love her to pieces and we'll help her reach her fullest potential. 

I will be getting a speech eval set up if possible.  I'm not sure what's going on it that area.  Obviously, nothing as serious as Nik.  But, you can tell she needs a little bit of speech therapy to help her a bit more.  I do believe in a few months time, she'd be just fine.  However, my bigger concern is she's not really speaking much in Bulgarian but a few words.  The rest of what she speaks is gibberish.  Older kids are saying that it is definitely not Bulgarian whatsoever.  The other day, she was totally making up words.  Again, not sure what's going on w/ that.  Her newest word for English is thank you.  Says it for everything.  Everything.  It's too cute.  Yet, we are now tired of hearing thank you.  I'll be interested to hear in Feb. what the developmental ped says in regards to Summer.  I know she is behind but also am seeing her improve on certain things.  We're all getting there slowly but surely.  Not rushing anything.  I can see it takes Summer time to process anything.  She also easily shuts down.  She does this w/ new people all the time.  Did it for the therapists.  Did it in home school classes.  Did it to us in Bulgaria.  So, would love to figure that piece out for sure.

Can't wait to share more about Ms. Summer.  Just wanted to give a brief update on the evals thus far.  It is a process with her that will extend over the next few months.  Needing to see where she is, are there any physical issues, etc.  Then, we go from there.  She will need OT, PT, and speech.  So, we'll be working with her on some basic skills.  My original intentions were to teach her on a preschool level w/ the other kids when she got home.  However, plans change as we all are aware.  We will be working on more basic things such as balancing so we don't fall, dressing ourself correctly, potty training, holding a pencil, etc.  Going at her pace is key.  Can't wait to share more of her journey. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New pet

We need pets like we need a hole in the head but we find it hard to say no.  Our neighbors were getting rid of their guinea pig.  And, it is one of the pets my kids have wanted.  They take care of the 3 dogs and fish so figured guinea pig would be okay.  And thus far, it has been.  Dogs have calmed down...sort of.  Digby doesn't care about it.  Alaska wants to play w/ it and lick it.  Kota, well, Kota thinks it is lunch.  So, he stays out of Yana's room where it is currently being kept.  Yana decided to name it Andrew.  For whatever reason, I don't know.  They wanted something w/ an 'A' b/c Alaska starts w/ an 'A.'  So, let me introduce you to Andrew.

 Andrew is pretty tame.  Doesn't bit too much.  Kids handle it well. 

Bigger view of the new pet in the house.

As you can see by our growing animal collection here, we need a bit more space.  I know w/ more land, we will have chicken coops.  Eggs are a necessity around here.  I have a feeling more animals would find their way to the house depending upon land restrictions.  time will tell.  For now, animals here have reached their limits.  Can't take in any more till after we move.  So, for now, trying to get house show ready.  Need to go take care of Alyona.  Currently, she's writing lines at the table.  Yep, 10:37pm at night but here she is.  URGHH!!!  Bed time for her has always been a nightmare.  I swear she's nocturnal.  Working on it.  She's driving me nuts!  How could someone so sweet, turn into "Evilona" so quickly.  That is the nickname we give her when she gets this way.  Just one of those things.  On the upside, at least she isn't like this all the time.  I have not tried melatonin w/ her.  Use to use it w/ Max.  So, thinking maybe, just maybe, I should try it w/ her.  Asking our neuro next time we're there.  I know part of this is normal preteen stuff.  Still, makes for a late night for parents. 

Nik's makings

Nik has always been very creative.  Very  We have tons of beads here.  Pick them up whenever we hit yardsales.  Girls try to make simple necklaces and bracelets.  I don't know how Nik does it, but he finds way to take plain yarn and beads and create wonderful designs. 

Isn't it cool??  I loved it!   Color choices were so cool too.   Out of yarn.

Nik was trying to design a new house for us.  He's taking lessons from his big brother Max in the artistic department. 

Hard to tell b/c it got all wrinkled.  Max was drawing our house and then going to add to it.  

I personally think both my boys are talented.  Don't you??  I need to start a porfolio for Nik.  We did that for Max years ago.  Great looking back and seeing the progress over the years.  This will be one of my summer projects... to collect all their drawings and put them in portfolios w/ labels.  Ambitious but I plan to get it done.  I told you all, I need a whole week A-L-O-N-E to get all the stuff done I want to get done.  And organized.  Yeh, that's not happening any time soon.  LOL.  Oh well.  We'll get there.  More to come.  Need to fix the blog background.  I don't like it.  But, want something different and fresh.  Play around w/ it.  More to come.  Need to fill out papers for new semester for Max and Bojan.  Hate paper signing.  PE teacher told Bojan he wasn't allowed to wear his shoes to pe b/c it will mark up the floor.  Ummm, he's ONLY allowed to wear boots per doc's orders.  Wrote a note.  See what I get back this go around.  Sometimes they're nice, sometimes they're not.  Remember, this is the middle school I pulled Irina and Max from years ago.  We have less than a stellar relationship.  

We did manage to get Irina's mess fixed up today.  She won't be able to start work for another few weeks.  However, called the school today and they handled it right away.  She has a great guidance teacher that gets stuff done and I appreciate that.  Cleveland HS has been good about the kids, their needs & making sure if there is a problem, there is a solution.  Other schools could take some lessons around this area.  We have dealt personally w/ 6 different elementary schools, 1 middle school and 2 high schools.  Amazing how different they all are.  Got to go.  Making new home school plans for the kids for February.  Tweaking a schedule for the new kids.  Reni and Logan are WAY behind.  Reni, Alyona, Nik, & Logan can not do any regrouping addition whatsoever.  So, starting there.  I've been having Nik do basic math as well as Alyona these last few months.  I'll have a separate post on what we're doing w/ homeschooling.  Few days.  More to come.

Changing look of blog

No, this is not staying but I only have small increments of time to work on it during the day.  So, hope to change the look this evening some time.  Just thought it was high time we lose the fall leaves.  Can't really do winter theme since we're all in shorts.  New something fresh so working on it.  Want to do a new blog but the time is limited so until that is done, we'll do this one for a few more weeks.  Sorry for the painful colors that will come till I get it done.  LOL.  Have more pictures to post as well.  Like I said yesterday though, been a busy week here.  I even canceled Reni's appointment today and rescheduled for next week.  Irina takes priority right now and sorting out her scheduled mess.  Got to get lunch done. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Adoption Agencies We Use

I thought it was high time I sing the praises of the folks who helped us get our kids home.  For an agency to under take us, is not for the faint of heart.  Especially, after this past set of adoptions.  Phew.  Now, I guess I should go back quite a few years.  Our first 4 adoptions, we used Frank Adoption Center out of NC.  They are under Frank Foundation who's been in business for years.  Now, being that we were literally just home w/ Yana and Alex, FAC advised against us doing another immediate adoption.  I understood.  However, I also had this gut feeling that Bojan belonged here.  Yep, went w/ the gut and found another agency to do the homestudy.  See, Bojan was listed w/ Life Adoptions out of CA.  We were next to the LAST family to do Serbian adoptions through a US agency before it went to independent facilitator.  Anyhow, used Mandala in NC.  They are now out of business.  Great agency but just on a very small scale and economy went and more people went to a bigger agency anyways.  We absolutely loved working with them and had them do our PPR's for many years to come on some of our kids.  That brings us to our now current agencies.

Years ago, I helped do advocacy work for a group called Until All Have Homes.  I found info on Alyona and well, long story short, the rest is history.  I contacted the agency about her info and then received more info.  After signing proper disclosure forms.  BTW, newbies, you should almost always have to sign these papers before receiving info from an agency on a child.  It is to protect the child.  Back to the story. This agency who had Alyona's info was Kids to Adopt.  I am going to write quite a bit about this agency & our current homestudy/ PPR agency since KTA is from another state than we're in.  First, I guess I should write about Carolina Adoption Services.

Carolina Adoption Services(CAS) also had Bojan's records from when Mandala shut its doors so that was nice.  Anyhow, we were able to get a fantastic social worker named Marybeth.  To say she is understanding of Chaos Manor is an understatement.  I still will never, ever forget  me explaining to the kids (5 at the time) NOT to do anything stupid while she was here.  Please boys not one blasted thing.  Please.  Pretty please.  Do you know what happened?  On the way of walking her out the doors, I saw the boys at the top of the hill.  I wanted to scream.  It's too late to stop them.  There they went.  Down the hill, in a giant metal gardening cart, navigating around trees and barreling straight for the cars (social woker's included!). They somehow manage to miss the cars.  When they got out, I was mortified and Marybeth just laughed & remarked that that is something her and her siblings would have done when they were younger.  I knew then, she could handle this crazy family.  Still did not stop me from wanting to scream politely tell the boys I told them not to do that earlier.  Oh well.  She knew boys would be boys.  And, they are still to this day doing stunts like that.  Today, Nik taught Summer how to ride down in the mini version of the garden cart.  Smaller gardening cart.  Same effect...down the hill.  Summer was giggling all the way.  After 10 kids, you no longer worry.  You just let kids be kids.

Back to the story, we were approved for Bojan and went to Serbia.  CAS was doing our PPR's too.  So, we adopted in 1999, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2011.  See a pattern here?  5 years between 1st & 2nd set of adoptions, 3 consecutive years, and another 5 between those and this recent set of adoptions.  CAS has done our homestudies for 2005, 2006, and 2011.  And, PPR's in between.  They have always been understanding, prompt, kind and informative.  I can not speak more highly of them.  They worked very well w/ KTA.  CAS looked up all the legal things we had to do when we had the CPS situation last year.  They were reassuring, not accusatory, and took time to listen to everything.  Simply amazing to say the least.  They wrote to immigration.  They asked the questions, they helped to calm my nerves when I thought our adoption would be destroyed.  They were there like you would expect an agency to be.  BUT, they went above and beyond the call of duty.  They followed through and helped us to the very end.  Checked up on us.  You could not ask an agency to do more.  Those local, Carolina Adoption Services for your homestudy.  Those not in this state, wonderful agency to use for your adoptions as well. 

Now, Kids to Adopt holds a very special place in our heart.  5 of our kids are through them.  2 from Russia & 3 from Bulgaria.  When I say these people are committed to the very end of your adoption, I am NOT lying!  Just like CAS, these folks go above and beyond the call of duty.  For Alyona and Nik, they were helping seek out grants.  With the newest three, they were there for me to call them in the middle of the night from Bulgaria.  They were there w/ very, very scary dx's of our kids the few days before we were ready to leave.  (yes, I will write about this at some point).  They were there for us no matter what.  I called them when CPS was here asking what to do next. I was terrified, shaken, and angered all at once.  They were there to help talk me down, help reassure me, and most of all, to put things in perspective.  They were there to offer hope.  Now, KTA is no nonsense and I like that.  They will tell you honestly what is happening in your situation.  This is important in countries like Russia where rules change like the direction of the wind.  KTA is on top of everything.  In country teams are phenominal.  They know their stuff.  The list could go on but it would take me pages to tell you the half of what they have done for us.  Besides creating a family, they have created lasting friendships w/ many of their clients.  They are there for us during the AFTER part of adoption just as much as the before.  Those new, this is vital in an adoption.  They checked on us while in Bulgaria.  Checked on us when we got home.  Making sure just this past week we knew when our post placements would be.  They knew what kids might be a good match for our family.  They were patient w/ us.  And when I say patient people, I mean super duper patient.  We had more roadblocks than a freeway during construction.  Crazy. 

I really have the utmost admiration  and respect for the staff at Kids to Adopt and at Carolina Adoption Services.  I do hope they don't mind me talking about them.  I just feel that if someone does such a remarkable awesome job, they should be recognized.  The staff at KTA and CAS have it right.  That got what it takes in adoption.  They ask the right questions.  They don't hesitate giving you their opinions.  They are honest, helpful, and kind.  The caring nature of these organizations is simply amazing.  I wish I could give them the proper recognition they deserve.  They deserve way more than a simple blog post.  But, that's all I have.  If you need an agency to facilitate your international adoption, Kids to Adopt and Carolina Adoption Services are your answer.  Just wanted to say job well done.  It was nothing shy of a miracle that these three children were able to come home to their forever family.  It is a tale yet to fully be told.  Just know, these two agencies go above and beyond.  They know the laws, they know the rules and abide by them fully both internationally and locally.  In other words, very trustworthy.  You need that in an agency folks.  People you can trust and rely on.  Now that's an adoption agency!  These are our adoption agencies.  If we were to do this again, these would be the agencies we'd work with.  Right now, Warren is biting his tongue on that last comment.  LOL.  Just kidding dear.  Remember, when you choose an agency, know you are connected for longer than the term of the adoption.  You have committed to post placement reports as well.  Just wanted to share b/c I have been asked before.  BTW, we found them via recommendations.  That says a lot right there. 

Night at the farm (part 2)

Well, as you can tell, we've been a bit busy around here.  But, need to finish a few posts up.  So, this is the second part of our trip to the  farm.  Click the link if you locals would like to see it.  As you know, it poured down rain when we went this time to the farm.  So, we did everything inside. 

 Irina and Alyona w/ one of the baby rabbits.

This baby rabbit blends right into baby girls' jacket.  Summer was very gentle with them. Though, she really didn't want to give up the rabbits.

 Bojan w/ one of the guinea pigs.  Guess they can't get enough of our guinea pig at home.  

Alex with Great Dane Wanda.  Dogs are very good for Alex. 

This young man and Alyona are just a few months apart in age.  

Ahh, a drum set.  Alex and Logan both declared they are playing the drums when they get to 6th grade.  Umm, no.  I don't think so.  Maybe in the new house.  LOL.

Irina with one very big guinea pig. 

Pig in the barn w/ the piglets.  

A rock climbing wall in the house.  My kids love this thing.  Bojan, Nik, Max and Yana just hanging out up there.

 Logan with one of the rabbits.  I think they had something like 26 rabbits.  not sure how many but they kept coming. 

A very tired Summer not wanting to let go of her bunny.  Crazy, huh?  We all had a wonderful time as usual.  Can't wait to go back on the 4th w/ the bonfire.  That's the rain date.  We always meet such great folks there.  

Much going on here at Chaos Manor.  New semester started for the teens today and 2 schedules that had to be changed.  Irina ended up sitting in the office for hours.  So, tomorrow, I'm picking her up instead of her sitting there all afternoon long.  Voc. Rehab didn't pick her up.  I'm guessing it's not quite all sorted out yet but no reason she should sit there for hours w/ her own thoughts.  Trust me, not a good idea.  Irina will come home w/ me tomorrow and go w/ me to the plastic surgeon appt. for Reni.  Today was Summer's OT and PT evals.  Did great.  Definitely qualifies.  We knew that.  Not a surprise.  Tons of other things happening but really have been busy.  Helping work on planning a family reunion tomorrow morning.  Yeh, we're behind.  So many things that must be done lately.  Really need like two days off to play catch up.  I am getting caught up on emails though.  Quite proud I actually accomplished something.  LOL.  More to come on happenings around here. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Night at the farm (part 1)

We have a dear friend of ours that owns a small farm.  We met b/c we both hosted children years ago that we ended up adopting.  So yes, my kids know her kids from even when they were little!  Anyhow, my kids absolutely LOVE going to the farm.  Tons of animals and they have free range to interact w/ all of them.  What a wonderful experience for them.  So, thought I'd do some pictures.  It was supposed to be a big bonfire and party.  That has been rescheduled. You'll see why. 

 The bonfire parties, we all bring something to share.  I feel w/ our family we best bring more just given the amount our kids will eat.  So, we made cupcakes, a cake, hot dogs, 2 bottles of soda and a veggie tray.  Irina helped me make the cakes and cupcakes.

What would a trip somewhere w/out a little drama be like for our family?  We may never know.  Right before we were supposed to leave, Alyona slammed Summer's finger in the door.  Hard to get your older daughter to understand her new sister is more like a 2yo when she herself is more like a 4yo mentally.  We're getting there though.   Of course Summer had to injure her middle finger.  So, the rest of the night she was showing everyone her finger.  Lovely.

 Nik, trying to decide if he was going to have a taste.

Almost ashamed to take a picture of it.  I can actually decorate cakes.  When I have more than 5 minutes to ice one.  LOL.  So, went the easy route this time...icing and sprinkles.

 Already asleep and we haven't even gotten there yet.

At this point, my kids realized this farm trip would be indoors.  They were starting to feel bummed about it yet excited to see their friends.

 Got there and plenty of animals inside to see!  Here, Alyona is checking out a squirrel that was dropped off for them to nurse back to health.

Bojan, petting Wanda.  The sweetest Great Dane. 

Much more to see and to come.  However, I need to rest my leg some more b/c I am taking the kids to a museum tomorrow morning.   Animal show and all going on.  All free.  Bonus.  Taking one of Max's friends w/ us as well.  Full van for sure.  Get to go w/ a friend of mine so happy about that.  After that, we'll come home and get some more housework done.  School starts tomorrow again for the older kids.  Max and Irina will have new schedules versus the current ones.  Took care of a few things.  More happening around here.  Just trying to find the time to catch up w/ it all.  Would love to share how far the new ones have come.  And, how the old ones have adjusted to life w/ new sibs.  I think that is important for folks to know.  Have a great day and be back tomorrow.  Hope to have some good museum pics.  Though I'll most likely let the teens explore on their own.  Many, many more pics to come.