Saturday, December 7, 2013

Time to Play

Friday, Warren had off work.  Even though he felt horrible still, he came to the park with us.  It was near 80 degrees in December.  How could we not trek to the park?!  Just gorgeous weather and kids were up to it.  So, put Cole, Sofie and Alyona in the van and off we went. 

My beautiful baby girl.  She picks her own clothes out and likes the bold colors.  Love says it all.

Alyona climbing through the tunnel w/ Cole.  He was lightening fast through that thing.

Hard to believe in a few short weeks she'll be laid up for awhile.  She's growing up fast.

I love Alyona's smile in this one.  The way the sun hits her face was just perfect.

Never too old to go down a slide.  There was no one else at the park at this time of day.  It was awesome to have all equipment to ourselves for a change.  Yes, they love playing w/ the other kids but every once in awhile, nice to be alone and enjoy it all.

Can't really tell but Sofie was having so much fun jumping up and down on her butt.  She's actually really laughing in this picture.

None of them wanted to go on the little equipment made for their age.  No, they all wanted to tackle the big stuff of course.  Here she is trying to decide how to get down and Little Man was deciding whether or not to go down that slide.  We all truly had a fun and relaxing time at the park and glad we decided to go while the weather was nice.  Made our day.  

More tomorrow.  Today we had family visit for an early Christmas.  Got to get going.  Swore I'd get my Christmas Letter done this evening.  Yeh, not happening.  Maybe tomorrow.  we'll get there. 

Various Adoption Questions Answered

 These were questions that were asked over National Adoption Month on my FB page or the blog.  

I will preface this with saying I am NOT an adoption expert, professional or paid employee of any kind.  These are simply my answers to various adoption questions.  Though not an adoption expert, I have been in the adoption community for over 14 years and have been an adoption advocate for various agencies here and there.  In addition, I've successfully adopted 11 children and had one failed adoption attempt.  That all being said, I think I have the knowledge and background to be able to answer a few questions regarding adoption.  Disclaimer done.  LOL.  Here goes.

1.  What is the difference between an International adoption vs an adoption in the United States?  There are differences for sure.  Obviously, I am more versed in international adoptions and the laws that pertain to them.  And this year we completed one domestic private adoption via a rehoming situation and had one failed adoption via rehoming situation as well. When we looked into private adoptions years ago, they were around $50K. It varies greatly now and most of it is dependent upon race of child and also if child is special needs.  Rehoming is a whole different ball game and totally do NOT rrecommend it if you have never adopted before.   Children that are being rehomed typically come with mental health issues and other emotional baggage that does take experience to understand the root of it all and help them heal.  It is not something to be taken lightly.  International adoption timeline varies on country.  Some are quick and just take a few months to complete the process.  However, some wait times for a healthy referral can be three to five years.  Most international adoptions now require either one very long trip or two trips.  And I would say minimum average cost would be around the $30K mark.  Average.  Again, many variables to international adoption.  International adoption is also very paperwork intensive.  Now, adoptions through the foster care system are a whole different ball game.  We've never personally done one but looked into it and told no.  In our state, most you can have is 5 kids.  Our county also said only one special needs child.  So, we could not adopt via foster care.  I have friends who have done it successfully and I have friends who have not.  Many states require you to foster first before you adopt.  Typically, it is older children available through adoption versus younger.  Now, with private domestic adoptions,  you usually have to present yourself w/ letters to birthmothers and such.  We wrote one letter years ago when we heard of a situation of an infant with CP.  That letter triggered us to realize we were not done forming our family yet.  this was many kids ago.  Though a lot of differences, a lot of similarities as well.  Just depends on personal preferance really.  One type of adoption is not any better than another.  End result is a family formed and that's what counts.  Not so much the process of how you got there.

2.  I don't hear you mention counseling or therapy much-do you recommend counseling for your FASD kids? I am thinking it may help for self esteem but others have told me that their kids spent years in therapy with no results or little results. Of course WE try to boost him up and make him know his worth-the bouts of talking bad about himself are usually when a melt down happens or when his impulse control is lacking and something happened. Thanks."  Keep in mind I am not a therapist, doctor or professional of any kind.  These are simply MY parental opinions based on my experiences.  We did play therapy with our first two home.  We personally did not see a difference having therapy.  I think the money we spent on that was better spent w/ doing things and getting closer to them.  Learning how the FAS mind thinks.  I'm not saying therapy isn't for everyone.  Just saying it did nothing for us and we have not done it w/ subsequent children.  You also really must watch as many kids adopted w/ mental health disorders can lie and manipulate.  I know a few in private groups that therapy did more harm than good to the children.  Again, much of this is situational as well.  We have read quite a bit over the years, studied, participated in various studies, and in the end we just do what works here.  We don't harp on the fact that 7 of the have FAS.  They're treated the same.  We've learned how to talk to them to get a response versus anger.  We've learned processing time is longer in their thinking.  We've learned they can do things others said they can't.  We've learned where to push and where not to push.  For self-esteem, you must not do a ton of activities.  Find one they like and let them guide you to focus on it.  For one, it is art. For another soccer.  For another writing.  Each will find something and allow them that.  I'm not saying let them win all the time.  They also must learn real life and in real life,  you will lose sometimes.  that's just fact. 

3.  Which child/children did you feel attached the quickest?  This is a tough one.  I will be honest though.  I think Nik was my quickest to attach but truly think that was situational as well.  He needed us much more than the others.  And, you must remember, many of ours came with much emotional baggage so to speak.  You must deal with that part first to heal them and then the closeness seems to happen faster.  Hope that made sense.  But definitely Nik was the fastest out of all them.  Now, that doesn't mean we didn't attach to the rest.  Just means it was faster with Nik for a variety of reasons.  I think his dependency on meeting his needs due to lack of language was a huge factor.  

4.   Do any of the kids express any interest in meeting their biological parents? Would that even be possible?  Yes, some.  None of the boys express an interest but most of the girls do.  Well, ones that understand what it means.  It would be near impossible.  We would LOVE to hire a searcher but the costs are staggering.  Just can't do it for each child.  Still really would love to. Each one has a story of how they got to the orphanage.  I know some more than others.  Would love to be able to fill in the gaps. Some it would be possible to find out more info.  One I know was abandoned at the hospital and mother left falsifying info so could never find out anything.  I know one daughter's bio parents have passed away.  But her sister is out there.  Her brother in a mental institution.  Would have been her fate too had we not adopted her.  I have found part of Nik's sibs and rest are in Russia still.  I truly want to do this for them and would start w/ the older kids first.  I don't think kids can handle things till a certain age.  Just my opinion.  If we could find bio parents, we would try. 

5.   Why did you adopt me?  Simple Irina.  It was love at first sight!  Even in that horrible boy haircut you had.  LOL.  Just something in the video that said this is MY daughter.  Love you! 

6.  Who was first?  Irina and Max were adopted first back in 1999.  Seems like forever ago.  We went to a small remote village named Abdulina.  It was in the Orenburg region.  First two kids.  We had NO idea what the heck we were doing.  LOL.  First adoptions too so you can imagine.  News crew in Abdulina following us around b/c first Americans there we were told.  Heat wave to boot.  Had custody of Max and Irina before court b/c it was 4 hours to the city center for court so they had no choice.  Definitely an adoption to remember.  Tiny, tiny kids.  Max at 4yo wore a size 18 months and Irina at 6.5 yo was in 2T.  Not now. 

7.  Do you have any FASD center/professionals in your area? Contact info would be great if you do. From there I may be able to find someone in FL.  We have an awesome support group in our area and are very well connected with them.  There are many sites on the web dedicated to FAS.  I'll have those in a separate post very soon.  I would highly recommend getting in touch w/ your local support group.  I'll also write you privately on FB and give more local support info. 

8.  How is it going with Sophie? If you adopt from a disruption and the child seems to thrive, what could that say about the previous family?  Wow, have a lot to say about this question. First off, it is going fantastic with Sofie.  However, you do have to remember, I base this on her FAS age and NOT her chronological age.  Big difference.  Sofie is potty trained during the day.  Something I thought would not happen for another year.  She is talking up a storm but no one can understand her very well due to her severe speech apraxia.  But, the therapist seems to think she will eventually talk.  She has so much to say, trust me.  Sofie is very bonded to the family.  Yet, she has attached well enough I can ask her do you want to go w/ mommy & daddy or stay home.  She'll tell me which one and have no fears of me leaving and not coming back.  She's outgoing to be sure and friendly.  She lets everyone know who her mommy & daddy are.  LOL.  She's a drama queen to a tee.  She showed me a cut the other day and I said "Sofie, you're not dying."  She stops plops on the floor like she's dead and gives me a smirk.  I said "fine, go get a bandaid.  Sofie is delayed but catching up with many things.   She seems to have tremors but her MRI was clean.  She's gained weight, g-tube is out forever, & takes no meds.  She has terrible motor control but is working on it.  She's been in speech but I"m working on adding OT.  Meanwhile, working on fine motor at home and she's progressing well.  Sofie fits in perfect with this bunch.  I think it says she's in the right place.  Sometimes in a disruption situation, it is not the previous family that is the problem.  Sometimes it is.  But sometimes it's the child themselves.  What I have noticed not just in our disruption circumstances but many in general these past 14 years, is that the previous families give it more than 150% to try everything.  They go above and beyond.  Many times in older kids, the child blames the first family from taking them away from "everything."  Though adoption may be int eh child's best interest, the older child does not see it as such.  They rebel.  Sometimes, the first family is just not the right fit for the child.  Sometimes there are surprise dx's such as FAS and RAD.  These are NOT easy things to deal with let alone for someone new to adoption.  We get questions literally almost everyday from other families dealing with FAS. In the end, you really must do what is right by the child even if it means the child would reach their fullest potential elsewhere.  Emotional health & stability in an adopted child is just as important as physical health. 

9.  A question about questions.... what's the strangest question (other than this one) that anyone has asked you.  You know, I'll ask Warren but I honestly can't remember.  We always get "did you have to go get them?"  I want to say no, they rode the boat over but I never do. 

10.  Did you ever get this Stephanie? Does your child speak Russian?  We did get this even after years in the country.  Fill in whatever language too.  I loved when they asked me even if I had older kids that could answer for themselves.  You know, that were talking English.  LOL. 

11.  Is it helpful to have a professional diagnosis for a child that is "different"?  Yes, I do think an official diagnosis is imperative most of the time.  We have official FAS dx's for all our kids that have it except for one of them.  The dx's  of various mental health issues especially, help school educators sometimes to understand why things are the way they are with the kids.  Not all the time, but some.  Now, my two with RAD, are not officially dx'd with it.  However, a psychologist did say one had it but I never got it written on paper to make it official. Does it make a difference?  not for this situation.  I think having a diagnosis also helps the parents to know which direction to tailor behavior modifications, adjust some expectations, and parent a little differently.  If you know what is the root cause of things, it does indeed make a difference b/c then you are not always second guessing yourself.

Yana's sports banquet

Yesterday, Yana attended a sports banquet.  Took some pictures before she left.  You know, because moms can do that and not get in trouble.  Just given the 'look.'

First picture attempt.  Tried it w/ lights on and off and flash on and off.  

Thought this was a very good picture of the two of them.  For me doing a quick snap the picture shot before you go.

I would most definitely say Sofie approves of the new boyfriend, don't you think?  He treats her very sweet too.  Puts up with Summer bugging him and Reni and Alyona asking ten thousand questions.  Oh, and puts up with Logan trying to one up him all the time.  Yes, that's a lot to put up with just to come see Yana.  LOL.

Now Sofie giving Yana a hug goodbye.  

 Stand alone shot.  Got to love the diapers and wipes in the picture. 

A closer shot of Yana.  Looking way too grown up for me.  

They had a good time they said and earned pins in track for school.  He earned his varsity letter as well.  Congrats to them both! 

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Night to See Santa

Last night, we decided to go to a local event and see Santa.  Kids were ecstatic jumping up and down in their seats in the car.  Crazy.  Only younger kids went with us.  Plus, Reni didn't feel like going.  So, off we went.

Sofie's first look at the big guy and she went running back to daddy.

Summer walks right up and tells him all about wanting Dora shoes.

Nik and his Angry Bird list.  Angry bird chocolate, shoes, soap, and anything Angry Bird.  LOL.

Santa did eventually get a high 5 from her but nothing more.  She would not sit on his lap.  Not even close.  Maybe next time.  Talks about Ho-Ho-Ho non-stop at home.  Excited as all get out when we told her we were going to see Santa and then a no go on sitting on his lap.

Santa gave them a dollar to go buy from the table.  All my kids picked the chocolate.  Yep, definitely mine.

Helping Sofie tie on her bracelet.

Nik made the bracelet.  Loves the bell on it.

They had a nativity scene and kids could dress up.  Sofie was a lamb.

Summer, the angel.  I questioned this costume choice for her.  LOL.

Nik a Shepperd.  I think he pulls it off.

And this is Sofie's way of telling us she is done.  Wants to go home.  Over stimulation sometimes happens.  She takes it all in stride though.  Got to talk to some folks from the church and they want to ask me about a special needs ministry they are starting.  Never know who'll you'll meet.  Met someone who adopted from India.  Met so many interesting folks in a short time.  Was nice.  

Very pleasant, warm December evening.  Wasn't crowded and was perfect for my kids.  Logan went too but did not want pics taken.  You know, he's a teen now.  My parents are coming into town tomorrow so I'm sure we'll have more pictures to share from their visit.  Some are asleep now, some watching Star Trek Movie, cookies baking in the oven and much more.  A good evening.  Warren has a bronchial infection and is on some antibiotics.  No big deal.  He can NOT get sick.  Neither can Alyona.  Nor any of us for that matter due to multiple surgeries.  Have a feeling Reni may get tonsils out too around t he same time as the other surgeries.  Ahh, the joy of a busy hospital month.  we're thankful that typically, we have very healthy children.  Praying that continues.  Once these surgeries are behind us, the real work begins.  2014 is going to be a very changing year for us in more ways than one.  More soon.  Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Slowly Decorating

Slowly but surely, we are decorating for Christmas.  We love to decorate. The more lights the better.   Trouble is, we are very, very, very short on decorations.  About 3 years ago, we lost everything under the house due to a hot water heater pretty much exploding under there.  So, everything got mildew and mold and had to be tossed.  Everything.  Slowly, I've been trying to build back at yardsales and things.  Not the same.  Trust me on that.  I used to have gorgeous decorations and an artificial 10' tree that looked real.  It was a $700 tree!  Now, before you all freak out (you know I'm frugal, right?), I must say I used to work for a florist/ interior design shop.  At market time here in NC, we were able to get 75% off the wholesale price and many would throw in extra sales as well.  Vendors.  So, that tree was I believe $72.  Gone w/ some hot water.  LOL.  Anyhow, I've been trying to replace things over the years on clearance or yardsales.  Getting there.  This year, my mom is bringing a bunch of ornaments down which will help our sparse tree.  Before this event that happened, think Griswald Christmas and you can imagine our lights.  We all miss the lights.  This year, boys laid all the ones out we have left.  We were able to do the porch, some bushes and the fence. 

Our front porch.  Looks better at night w/out the flash but if you do that, it turns out blurry.

Front w/ the bushes w/ colored lights.  We used to have candles in the window.  We have 4 left.  Used to have 10.  Definitely need to go to after Christmas sales this year.  Maybe that can be Alyona's day out before after sales.    Keep her mind off things, that's for sure.

Yeh, not sure what's up with that smile.  Summer and Sofie helped me collect the berries from the shrubs in the yard to put on here.

Used to have the big planters w/ artificial plants.  Now, we have the Target Charlie Brown looking trees.  Hey, it works.  Till we can find some good clearance deals.  You all please keep your eyes peeled after Christmas and let me know.  By next year, we want it to really look like Christmas when you drive up.

Our mantel always has room for more stockings.  Always. 

Summer in front of the tree.  My mom got her and Sofie dresses. Very pretty.  I think it will fit her next year too!  

Sofie, definitely ready for bed here, and Summer.  They got to see Santa tonight.  Summer was still beaming from that outing.  Sofie, well, she was terrified of the big guy.  More pics on tonight's event probably tomorrow.  Just so much to share!  More to come.  We love decorating for Christmas and everyone helps.  Now, we move onto the baking cookies part tomorrow.  Yum.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A visit with Grandparents

This past weekend we went to Warren's parents' house.  As usual, we had a late start.  But, we finally did get started and on our way.  They live in the same state so a day's visit.

Why is there a picture of an overpass?  Well, this is where we had to pull over and stop the van b/c Logan decided he shouldn't listen.  So, time to switch seats.  Put him between the two car seats.  Summer and Sofie were NOT amused.  They are in the first row.  Anyone else have issues in the car ever?  We haven't for a VERY long time but it was either move him or I think some of the kids were going to be tempted to revolt and open the door if you know what I mean.  LOL.

Now, you must remember, the previous few nights we had been up very late w/ events and things and we were all just exhausted.  Max more so than the rest of us.  

Kids decided to play some cards to pass time before dinner.

URGHH!!!  Another Angry Bird drawing.

Summer delighted she drew a picture even though you can't see it w/ the flash.

I know I've shown this before.  Should have taken some shots of new pieces.  My mother inlaw is an artist and talented at that.  This is painted on the glass.  Lighted up it is just gorgeous!

Kids playing some games and Sofie getting ready to show me her drawing.

Have I ever mentioned before just how nervous I am w/ my kids in this house?  There is glass and crystal everywhere.  Nik was eyeing it.  Scares me every time.

We got an early Christmas present and can't wait to use it!  I've seen these before but never had one.  It dehydrates too.  We're going to try it out this weekend.

Some of the kids playing a game of Chinese checkers with their aunt.  Kids went running through the mini forest in their backyard and visited.  We ate a delicious lunch and then headed home.  Once home, Warren & I headed to Sam's sans kids as to get done faster.  Was a fun and pleasant visit and sure we'll see them again soon. 

More soon.  Been a very hectic few days and trying to sort stuff out for upcoming surgeries & events.  My family is coming to visit this weekend.  A realtor came today.  Listing the home in January.  Onto our next adventure...moving.  More on it all in a later post.  Again, busy few days to be sure.  Kids are well and healthy.  I'm over my respiratory infection and such.  Got to get to bed.  Trouble is, I have a little girl who for some reason is NOT tired.  Enjoy your evening everyone. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Manic Monday-- a day late

Well, this should tell you how the week is going.  It's Tuesday.  Just been busy is all.  So, need to get started on what's happening around here.  So, here goes nothing.

  • Art class this week.  Last one till next year.
  • Speech therapy 
  • Bojan has stage band
  • I have a nuclear stress test (routine for me)
  • Alyona had neurosurgery follow up...went fine
  • Told by blood bank will need to bank blood for Alyona's next surgery due to it being 8 hours
  • Spoke w/ blood bank.  Umm, none of us know our blood types
  • Can only donate on Thursdays...who knew
  • Family portrait done this past weekend
  • Trying to figure out Christmas this year and gifts
  • Finished Christmas decorating
  • Working on Christmas cards
  • Realtor comes tomorrow (yep, we're going to do it!)
  • Kids really want to be homeschooled
  • I feel like some kids are losing ground in school already
  • Sofie sounds awful.  Has what Warren, myself and Max have had.
  • Friends have offered to help w/ next round of surgeries
  • Informed Warren's surgery will be when Alyona's a different hospital of course
  • Yana's sports banquet is this week
  • Family is coming to town this weekend
  • Have to return an extra dress my mom had bought for one who is no longer with us
  • Selling stuff around the house some more (purging)
  • Kids don't want to move
  • Going to Meadow Lights this week (local light show)
  • Not ready for the holidays
  • Were blessed w/ early Christmas gifts!  (more on that later)
  • Went to visit grandparents this past weekend (more on that later too)
  • Want snow
  • Need a nap 
  • Summer and Irina's birthdays are this month
And of course other things happening around here.  Just super busy but time doesn't slow down and neither do kids.  We're having to do some major organizing and such to prep for BOTH parents being gone, one of which will be in the hospital himself.  Friends have already stepped up to say they'd help w/ food and some w/ the kids.  I will be at Duke for a week w/ Alyona.  Warren will be in the hospital 1 or 2 overnights and then home.  However, once home, recovering so can't do much.  Kids are all off of school.  Will not be the most fun year we've ushered in.  LOL.  But, we'll survive and be no worse for wear.   More tomorrow.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Family Portrait Attempt

Notice the word attempt in the title right?  Okay, so I got this hair brained idea that we'd actually get a family portrait done this year since we are forever family now.  Plus, we never did get one done of the Bulgarian kids once home.  Tons of computer pictures but no formal ones.  So, it was time.  We slept in today, Sunday.  Warren made eggs and bacon for breakfast.  Yum.  Then, we all decorated for Christmas.  Sorting lights and all.  Tree looks gorgeous.  Fresh tree from the farmer.  Love it!  Max put the lights on and I decorated w/ help.  Then, we started to get ready.  URGHH!!!  Irina decided to straighten Reni's hair. Reni has beautiful hair.  Then decided this btw b/c they found the straightener.  Never dull.  Boys start fighting.  Fighting.  Over what?  Not sure really.  Something stupid though, I can guarantee it.  Yana tried to wear something other than what was picked out before.  She does this every time we get pictures.   Sofie was not in the best of moods.  So, none of us off to a banner start.  Everyone also waited till two hours before to take showers.  At the same time.  And we were off to the studio.  For once in our lives we got somewhere early. 

Got there and I thought it would be fine letting them play at the play table.  But nooo.  Nik wouldn't share with Sofie which initiated a meltdown that was to last the entire time of taking pictures.  Most of the studio pics are of her w/ her bottom lip out and tears.  Nice.  Kid that is always smiling ended up being the one crying.  I was not amused. So pics I wanted to get of Sofie alone did not happen.  Hey, it is what it is.  Just really wanted a nice family picture.  Headed home and I made them take another pic to try to get one w/out Sofie crying.  This is what we ended up with.

Take one.  Not that bad.  Not sure what's up with Logan though.

Take two with everyone.  Not too bad.

Again, Logan and Alyona holding Sofie back b/c she wanted to run and cry. 

Do you think she's had enough?  Mad at me yet? 

All in all, not bad I suppose.  We never ever have gotten all to smile so why start now.  And Summer, our VERY smiley kiddo gave a fake smile at the studio the whole time.  I can't win!  But, it is done and now I need to start Christmas cards.  I may actually get it done this year.  I'm trying.  Going to Meadow Lights this week as well.  So, we're getting things done and starting to enjoy the season and the spirit that comes with it.  More to come later tonight.  Having a late dinner.  This is now Monday. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

How's School Going

Oy, is that ever a loaded question right now.  All right, where to start.  We put our kids back in public school b/c I did not think I could properly teach them while dealing with Alyona's surgery & recovery and also House Guest  needing adjusting into routine again.  That being said, made the decision to put them all back in school.  They started August 26th.  Yana is doing fine and class work going okay.  So, no glitches or troubles.  Max is doing fairly well except in art. Ironic, huh?  Let me tell you why.  He seems to want to do his own thing.  Max has certain mediums in art he likes to use and when he has to use others, well frankly, he just isn't as cooperative.  We've discussed w/ him that it is to get him exposed to a broader range of things. Working on that.  He does have the stereotypical persona that some view artists having.  Now, our issue comes w/ math. I don't want to put it all out there b/c this is all public but suffice it to say, I am NOT a fan of the core curriculum bit.  Because of it, they wanted Max to redo three years of math!  We're still working w/ people and admin to figure this all out as he is supposed to graduate this year.  Clearly, this has affected his attitude toward school. Shoot, it would me too if I was told that.  That whole issue has been a thorn in my side.

Next, we have the middle school.  Clearly, it takes more work to get a kid w/ a wheelchair put on a bus than it does to buy a house or adopt.  Really, you have to inspect the chair??  That bit was taken care of.  Bojan is doing fine and joined stage band and I think trying out for jazz band or something of that nature.  He's a band fanatic and that's great.  I'm thinking of next year and being warned by other parents of the outrageous band costs.  One local high school, parents told me $3K.  Gulp.  Thankfully, not our high school.  That made the blow of $1,000  a bit more bearable...NOT!!!  Yes, that # is correct though I'm told you can do $200 a month payments.  Yes, b/c I have an extra $200 a month for band.  Sarcasm voice used there.  I have been told we can work it off.  That will be great but I'm sure they'll give me a hard time for having to take a few kids w/ me to work it off.  I can just imagine how well that will work but I'll give it a shot.  They also do fundraisers.  Let's face it though, those don't do much.  I don't have family that buys from the fundraisers and every other kid in the neighborhood's doing one so makes it tough.  I'm still keeping an open mind and finding ways to make it work.  Glad I think ahead.  And this would be one main reason my sons that are really good in soccer can't play on a certain league. Other parents told me cost was $5K.  I'm still wondering how some folks do it.  Even when we had just Max and Irina, there was no way we could do that.  No way.  It used to be you had a passion or a talent when we grew up, you tried out, participated and local businesses that locals supported, helped out w/ the teams. Not any more.

Side tracked.  Bojan is doing fine academically.  Alex is shocked that he knows a lot of stuff as we learned it in homeschool.  The other day, one of his teachers did not know the Gettysburg Address. Last year, Alex really got into the Civil War that we studied.  So, he knows it.  I said Alex, you should have raised your hand and said it.  May have gotten you extra credit.  He didn't though.  Alex is shocked at what the kids who were in public school don't know regarding multiplication.  I told Alex to help them.  This truly has given him confidence.  See, before he left to be homeschooled, he could barely subtract and multiplication was out of the question.  Now, better handle on things.  He gained a lot of self- esteem back and hoping it stays that way.  Teachers said he's holding his own and his grades reflect that.

Now, Logan.  He's a mess.  I don't say that to be mean.  Part of it is his past but part of it is him being lazy last year.  See, when I homeschooled him, he didn't want to do anything.  Told him he'd regret it. He didn't even try.  Whereas Reni was trying SO hard, asking me for help, practicing on her own, etc.  She is almost caught up w/ her peers.  Teachers are impressed and so am I.  Logan, not so much and htey came at the same exact time, taught in the same exact way.  But his stubbornness and mean attitude towards everything really took a toll on his academics.  Now, it is reflecting in his work at school.  They have made accommodations but I'm not sure that's the answer.  I will give him this, he has been doing homework since he started school.  But, he is not really getting what he's given.  So, to rule out other stuff, had him tested and that's what he's in the process of now.  If all comes back okay, I will have to get really tough w/ him.  I had to do the same w/ Bojan years ago b/c he was being pitied at school.  Now, he's all A's and B's, playing in band and doing really, really well.  The reason I'm telling you all this is so that people can see orphanage life can take it's toll on these kids.  However, it can also be turned around and they CAN succeed.

Started this quite a few weeks ago so just going to hit publish and catch up w/ school stuff later.  Bojan made Principal's list this report card.  Reni was a wise owl and got that award.  Proud of them both to be sure.  Summer's IEP is the 26th.  Logan's IEP is awaiting me getting the DEC17 which will be tricky.  Long story.  He needs help, teachers agree, testing proves it but school district wants to slap the ESL label on him ONLY & not give him help till he's 16!  by then, it will be too late.  Teacher and I are going to fight for him but uphill to be sure w/ this district.  Trust me, after 14 years of this garbage, we still do not see eye to eye in the school systems here. but, I"m willing to fight for my kids.  Will be bad enough to go to Summer's meeting and have to explain all about the brain and how that works.  Maybe I can bring our neuro w/ us.  I can tell they totally don't grasp the grand scope of Summer's issues.  She will need specialized help.  Anyhow, that's all for another day.  Irina is working still.  Max needs to complete a math course in order to graduate but has come down w/ a bad case of senioritis...aka...laziness.  Yana is doing great w/ school and ROTC.  Joined raiders and doing winter track as well.  Bojan is in jazz band, stage band and band.  More later.

Yes, started and stopped this so many times.  Let's just say we have a lot to think about school wise.  The core curriculum is something I truly do not like.  So, we're all thinking hard what we will be doing with all our kids but see homeschooling in the future as well.  Time will tell.  Hitting publish before I start and stop this thing again.  

A Practical Christmas List

I did one of these lists last year and thought it would be a good idea to do it again.  If nothing else, than to just laugh.  So, here goes.

  • Toilet paper.  Former orphanage children just can't ever seem to regulate the amount.  Do you really need half a roll kids?

  • Candy.  Well, that's self-explanatory.  You can never have too much candy.

  • Toilet seats.  We have gone through 6 toilet seats this year for the kids' bathroom.  Why?!  Why on earth do they keep breaking?  

  •  Trash can for outside.  Yesterday, poor Max lifted it up and well, let's just say the bottom fell out.  Was not a pretty sight from what I'm told.  Apparently, a critter got to the bottom of the can.  Now, down to one trash can and well, that's not going to work but for so long.

  •  Lysol Wipes.  OMG.  I make homemade stuff for some things but let's get real, nothing can clean up kid stuff like Lysol.  LOL.  

  • Gift card to a hair cut place.  I'm very grateful Max is able to cut some of the boys' hair.

  • Gift card to Lowes Home Improvement b/c let's face it, with a house full of FAS kids, things are always and forever going to need repair. That's just fact.  Ask any other FAS parent.   

  • Glue sticks.  I buy them by the caseload it seems.

  • Binders.  My children eat them.  They must.  

  • Backpacks.  Bojan's was brand new and ruined just two months after school started.

  • New phones.  Okay, NC went to having to dial the area code.  That's fine but our area code is 919.  911 call center got tons of calls that first two months this rule was enacted.  And yes, some from our home as well.  But, our phones get a lot of use.  We have one system but 3 phones to it.  Trouble is now some of the phones are sticking...on the number one.  You can see now where this would present a problem, right?  We now all super duper take our time to call just to make sure we don't hit the one twice or that it doesn't stick.  

  • Lighters.  For some reason they disappear around here and it's always when we need to light the charcoal.

  • Food of course!  There's 13 people in this house and plus forever guests here and there.  Food is more than the mortgage.  So food at Christmas would be awesome.  

  • Socks.  For everyone.  I just bought socks for everyone but we apparently have one of those sock eating monsters of a dryer.  

  • A vacuum.  Ours is being held together with a rubber band to keep the container on and duck tape around the cord.  House is vacuumed twice a day typically so tons of use.  

  • Bandaids.  They fix everything.
That's the more practical Christmas list.  You think I can get my kids to put some of these on theirs?  Doubtful.  Though I must say, I am very impressed w/ their Christmas Lists.  Not but one or two things on there and no high ticket items.  I asked do you want anything else and all their responses were I have everything I need.  I'm good.  Now, if I can just get some of them to learn a little more about empathy.  They'll sell their sibs up the river for anything.  LOL.  Of course, I do believe I did the same thing as a kid w/ tattling on my sister.  So, I can only say but so much.  More to come.  I'm on a writing roll!  Watch out. 

Thanksgiving 2013

This Thanksgiving we had an extra family member this year!  Sofie's first Thanksgiving with our family.  And, she fit right in.  Got enough goodies for everyone.   She is definitely one w/ a sweet tooth.  We had friends come over this year and just made the feast very pleasant.  And it was an incredible feast.  So much food. 

Yes, it's cranberry sauce in a can.  Tried many homemade fresh variations but they all like the can.  Less work for me so a win-win in my book.


Nik really loves to help in the kitchen now.  He had a crowd around him too.  LOL.

Summer's expression was priceless when she saw the Dora float on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  

Kids working on the gingerbread houses.

Another view of the housese.  Sofie was getting tired.

Max was even helping.  This was way before the food hit the table obviously.

Ms. Rebecca brought some cool games for us to play.  So, kids were enjoying Connect Four while munching on a vat of popcorn.  What better for Thanksgiving.

Alex getting a little too big for the Little kids' table.  LOL.  This was just him having dessert.  We love our little table.  It's a farmhouse motif and all the chairs are animals.  Big table and it comes with 8 chairs!  Perfect.

Summer and Reni definitely goofing off.

A little less goofing around.

Yana had pinned Logan down.  He still believes he is superior male.  LOL.

Umm, Naked Barbie helped cleaned up.  Enough said.

Thought this was super sweet.  One of the ladies brought me a gift.  Love poinsettias!  

We truly had a fantastic time with friends at Thanksgiving.  Kids enjoyed hanging out as there were kids of all ages there.  Made it very nice.  Lots of outdoor play and well, that's why you didn't see many pics.  We were all having too much fun to take a pile of pictures.  Now, it is onto decorating for Christmas.  Tree is up w/ lights on it and partially decorated.  We're getting there for sure.  Stay tuned for more happenings at Chaos Manor.