We have been blessed with two special daughters and two sons from Eastern Europe. We welcome you to follow our journey as a family of five, waiting to travel and pick up #6, with the ins and outs of family, education, farm life, and love!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Garden summer, fun days

This summer our garden has supplied us with countless vegetables!  I have zucchini and cucumbers coming out my ears!!

I have made multiple casseroles, frozen zucchini for a chilly winter day, and made a vast array of different dill pickle recipes above and beyond my tried and true sweet pickle recipe. 

We've seen how many ways we can use and consume zucchini in one day!  From casseroles, to breads, to cupcakes!

Last week we made applesauce, and today we made creamed corn to put in the freezer!

I have truly enjoyed the time spent with my Mom as we made applesauce last week and corn today.  The kiddos go with me and love to hang out at Grandma's house.  Grandpa loves Mila.  He makes a special trip over in his tractor with a loader and puts her wheelchair in the bucket and takes it across the road to his house so Mila can ride her power chair.  Mila LOVES pretending she has all sorts of animals and spends her time powering to and from the barn on the driveway, talking about how this animal got loose and what she is feeding these animals.  I love to listen to her stories!  Hannah rides  out Grandma's long lane, and enjoys pedaling her bike freely.

Today, Hannah and Eli had a great time watching and playing with Grandma's kitten Izzy. 

Izzy would hide in the flowers and Hannah and Eli would talk to her, trying to convince her to come out and play.

Izzy would come to the edge of the flowers and lay low in a spot under the flower stems so she could see the kids and the kids could see her.

And then, she would playfully pounce.  And Hannah and Eli would squeal with delight.  And the process started all over again!!

Eli followed Izzy all over the yard today and tried his best to say her name, continually calling "Izz, Izz".

 Today was a great day spent with family, enjoying the simple treasures of little ones laughter and delight in a whiskered kitten and imaginary animals!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Blogging delay

There has been a massive delay in blogging in the last month(s).  Being the mom of three little ones with special need and one teenager is no easy task.  I could blog about so many things, but today, I think I will do a catch up post.

Max completed eighth grade and will be headed to the high school next year.  He had to select classes to take in the fall.  Sadly, the state mandates so much for students, there is little room for electives.  He was interested in Vocational Agriculture classes and Art, but it seems he doesn't have enough room for both in his schedule.  After receiving a syllabus from the Ag department, he began to question the class.  I spoke to the guidance counselor and after some discussion, we switched him from VoAg to art class for the fall.  Being home just at a year, school curriculum is still a challenge, so Art will be a nice escape for him.  Sadly, its only a semester class.
Max has an interest in soccer.  He loved playing with his peers at the orphanage in Ukraine.  He enjoys seeing how high and far he can kick the ball.  This spring he helped coach Hannah's Upwards soccer team.  He only took out one kiddo with a shagged ball this spring.  Knocked her flat.  (Thankfully it was his sister, not someone else.)  He has extreme strength behind a kick.  He is trying out for the high school soccer team.  This in itself has been a learning experience for all of us.  He has had to learn names of peers, gather information about future practices, and relay those to us.  It has had its challenges to say the least.  Each week, less people are "that dude" and I hear more names in the place of it.

Hannah completed first grade.  At the end of the year she received an award for Excellent Effort.  I will say that Hannah's determination is what keeps her going.  She wants to keep up with her peers and do what they are doing.  She doesn't mind the extra help in the classroom from an IEP teacher or aide, but I hear a lot about the times she has to leave class.  Hannah debated long and hard on playing soccer this spring.  Her cousin has played in the school rec league for several years, and the two of them would talk about soccer in the back seat on the way to and from school.  One day I remember her cousin talking about all the things she would do in soccer and she got very teary very quickly.  It wasn't anything that he had said, but she came to the realization that she couldn't do many of those things he spoke of.  And so, she decided no soccer.  We talked about Upwards soccer with her, and how the basis of Upwards was a little different than rec league.   Let me tell you, though she typically played midfield by choice, and her coach often picked her up and ran her to where the ball was, she gave it her full effort all season.  She took two balls to the head and a line drive from her brother that bent the heck out of her glasses, but she never gave up.  Our Hannah is one tough cookie!  On at least two occasions during two separate games, the teams allowed her to take the ball and score.  The best part is when the other team was cheering for her as she slowly kicked the ball toward the goal and celebrated with her when she reached the goal!

Mila completed kindergarten.  If I had a crystal ball or a rewind button,  I'd do many things different.  We kept Mila back in preschool an extra year for two reasons.  The main reason, developmentally and educationally, she just wasn't ready.  The other reason, Hannah would be in kindergarten too.  Looking back, I wish I had put them both in kindergarten together and had Mila do a second year of kindergarten when Hannah moved on to first grade.  Oh well.....
God blessed us with a wonderful educational aide for Mila.  Mrs. H; her "helper" as Mila calls her,  absolutely adores her, and Mila LOVES her Mrs. H!!!  Mila was fully included in kindergarten this year, with the help of her aide.  Mila has good verbal skills, but many academic tasks had to be significantly modified for her due to her motor capabilities, grasp, and learning delay.  Mila also has a stubborn streak a mile wide. (That's being nice!)  If Mila doesn't want to do something, there's no making her--it doesn't matter what you bribe, threaten, dangle, or entice.  It's not going to happen.  We also saw a great variance in what she would show us she knew academically.  Some days, she was right on.  Other days, she preferred to go into her own world.  All this being said, it was a team decision that Mila be advanced to first grade and spend additional time in the resource room as a first grader.  Believe me, I've been on the side of the table where I'm the educator.  It's three times as hard being the parent, listening to everyone step on pins and needles trying to talk nicely about your child's delay.  Her kindergarten teacher was wonderful and totally gets Mila.  Sadly, the state doesn't consider (and won't ever consider) that my child had three years of zero interaction and stimulation, so we're still trying to gain the ground we missed.  Mila love, love LOVES her power chair and the freedom it gives her.  We are totally blessed that Mrs H will be her full time aide again this fall.  (This lady really merits her own blog post!)

And then there is Eli--Mr Elijah K.  He's going to preschool in the fall!!!  Can you believe it!  He has been "our little man" for so long!  Sine he is the "baby" in the family, it was easy to love him, carry him, and cuddle him.  Then we took him to an early intervention group and it hit me how far behind he was compared to other children with delays.  YIKES!  Bad Mama, I should have been pushing him more.  Though Early Intervention, he didn't qualify for any therapy services. (Grumble, groan).  Now that he is going to be in a special needs preschool class, he will receive PT, OT, and Speech.  Eli loves anything with wheels.  He loves to roll things across the hardwood floors. He has a good number of signs and uses them readily.  He is imitating many more words, and even produces many words independently.  The cat is his favorite friend.  (Our poor cat)  I have caught myself or heard others saying the following things to Eli- "don't strangle the cat, the cat is not a mop, Eli!" "Don't body slam the cat!"  "Be gentle."  "Cat, if you were smart you would leave!"  "Eli, don't sit on the cat!"  Eli is finally walking!  About three weeks ago he would take 1-4 steps, and then all of a sudden it just clicked.  He is walking everywhere!  He has a very wide gait, and looks much like a duck when he walks, but he's walking.  (There blows the walking with the walker IEP objective!)


I finished year 13 of teaching special education.  Boy, did year 13 present some great challenges!  Before school started I saw an ear specialist.  Last thing he said to me was "Don't wait until next summer to have surgery!"  Well, I started my school year with 9 kiddos and 1 classroom aide.  And then, the new students came out of the woodwork.  By November, we had 14 students and 3 classroom aides.  It got to the point that I couldn't spend enough time with each student daily to make a difference.  I felt horribly defeated.  Thankfully, my school district took a look at the numbers and split the class into two.  My favorite partner in special education became "my better half".  I had seven students and she had 8.  Together, we waded our way through a new Alternate Assessment this winter.  Then, spring arrived, and before you know it, it was the end of school. Next fall, with Mila spending more time in the resource room, I'm going to teach the older kiddos and she will have the younger kiddos.  So, the school year had ended and guess who hadn't had ear surgery.  I had done exactly what the doctor had told me not to do--wait.  With the knowledge of two weeks post surgery with no lifting over 20 pounds, I had to wait until summer.  Two kiddos at home that needed carried/transferred.  One forty pound wheelchair to get in/out of the van daily for school.  I am so thankful that Max stepped up and helped immensely during my two weeks after surgery!

Had I known that once I scheduled to have surgery and be out of commission for two weeks would cause Doug to have full time employment, I would have scheduled it a long time ago! Sadly, his job site right now is about 150 minutes away from home.  He stays during the week rather than making the daily drive.  We miss him like crazy.  Every morning the girls ask if its the day Papa comes home and Eli signs "Papa", looking for him.  Meal times are hairy, and manning a teenager alone is no picnic!  Bath nights are the worst.  Having a male teenager, he's great for carrying and lifting, but he's not so much into diapering, drying hair, or putting pajamas on his sister.  Bath time takes a LONG time, and I am pooped by the time I'm finished. I said today, I'm not sure why I have a teaching degree when all I really need is a chauffeur's license.  I made trips to the soccer fields twice today for double practices, Thursday one kiddo has a counselor appointment and three have Physical therapy.

There are moments in each day that I feel overwhelmed--with frustration, envy, and joy.  Having three kiddos with varying special needs is a challenge.  It seems there is always someone needing something--NOW.  There is very little down time, and on rare occasion, I do get a minute to use the bathroom without someone following me in, but someone always seems to been on my heels, knocking on the door.  There are many nights that once the kids go to bed, there are still countless things that have to be completed.  Then throw a teenager into the mix.  I told someone today that raising a teenager is a team sport!  As we sit and pray bedtime prayers together, I am overwhelmed with joy.  I am thankful that thought I am not an all-star parent, God chose me to be their Mom.  God trusted me to be their Mama, and I'm trying my best daily to give them the world.  I'm still learning.  I'm not the best.  I make mistakes.  Thankfully, as I rest my head on the pillow, I thank God for my children and ask him to grant me another day to try again!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mila's birthday

Mil'as birthday is quickly approaching.  She will be seven.  How did that happen?!?  Where does the time go?

I've spent quite a bit of time lately thinking about her--the idea I had in my head of what kind of kiddo she would when I had just a picture of her, the thoughts I had that first day we met her, the tragedies, the triumphs, the heartache, the frustrations, and the joys we've shared.  I've also thought a lot of what she would be like if she was still in her birth country.

When we committed to adopting Mila, we had a single picture of her.  A cute, red haired toddler.

 We knew she had Cerebral Palsy.  The pictures that followed were pictures of her sitting on a mat, holding herself up.  A picture of her standing in a stander.
I had a picture in my mind what she would be like.  We had adopted Hannah two years before.  She also had Cerebral Palsy.  I knew the drill (or so I thought).  Mila just hadn't had the exposure to crawling and walking.  She was just over three.  She needed time.

We traveled to Mila's birth country.  I remember vividly the day we met her.  We were told to sit in a small, storage sort of room, and waited for the orphanage staff to bring her in.  They brought her to us in a stroller.  An orphanage doctor, and orphanage caretaker, Mila's caseworker, and a translator all stood behind Mila's stroller; observing us meeting our new daughter for the first time...making sure the bond was strong and the match of a family was positive.  I remember interacting with Mila, with everyone watching.  Mila looked straight through me.  My heart sank.
Suddenly all these thoughts, ideas, and images I had in my head had vanished.  Just days before we left a friend was swinging with Hannah and commented "Just think, in a few weeks, your sister will be home to ride with you!"  His voice played over and over in my head as my heart broke.  How did I admit to all the people who followed our blog; who loved us and were anxious for us to bring Mila home, that Mila wasn't the kiddo I thought I was bringing home.  The thought of admitting that Mila may never ride that swing with her sister broke my heart.

We took Mila on that first day to have her passport picture taken.  The orphanage caretaker and the translator went with us by car to a photo shop.  We had her picture taken, then waited in the park across the street while her picture was processed.  I sat in this quiet park, Mila on my lap, Doug next to me, looking at my newest daughter.  I had seen the look she gave me before.  Her look was empty and hollow.  It was like she wasn't even there.  I remember commenting to Doug that we would love her to the best of our ability, no matter what.  At that moment I felt like we were headed down a very different path than what we had with Hannah.

Mila ate from a bottle with a hole in the nipple the size of a pencil.  She had no idea how to chew.  She didn't know how to interact with the toys we brought for her to play with.  We spent a good bit of our time of our visits with her simply loving her, talking to her, cuddling her, tickling her.  She was our daughter, no matter what.
The first day we had her out of the orphanage I wondered if she would ever cry.  We put her down to take a nap and she looked very sad, but never cried.  Finally, there were tears, but very little noise.  My poor little girl had learned that tears did her no good.
It broke my heart to see my little girl, with such a large scar.  I wondered if the doctor had taken his time on the surgery, or quickly rush.  She was an orphan--a disabled orphan.  She was nothing to no one.  But she was now my little girl.

We we arrived home in July of 2009, Mila could not hold herself up.  She sat in a baby bumbo seat.  She sat IN her toy box surrounded and supported by her toys.  We had to learn how to be creative.  Car seats outside on the back deck, homemade straps in the power wheels so she could ride with her sister.
 Papa made her a table that she could sit under.  She also used it as a support when she tried to sit on the potty seat.  (Two years later we now have an adaptive potty seat she uses.)
 To think back to how far she has come in four years, I am truly amazed.  The little girl I thought would never talk, never offer any kind of love, never truly giggle.....

She LOVES her Grandpa.  He is her favorite toy.  They lay together and have the greatest adventures--going to the beach, going camping, mountain climbing, all without leaving the house!   Mila has a great imagination and comes up with the greatest scenarios.
 She wants to be where everyone else is.  She wants to be doing what everyone else it doing.  She gets very frustrated that her body limits her.  I believe in her mind, she really thinks she can do everything and then when reality sinks in that her body isn't like everyone else's, she becomes extremely frustrated.

 We've been through one tendon release surgery.  What a long six weeks of sleepless nights and uncomfortable days.  She an Papa became great friends as they slept downstairs together because she was so awkward to carry up the stairs.

 Mila loves to bowl.  Though she loves to be liek everyone else, she is happy to be part of the action in her own way.  She was the only one that used a ramp when bowling with friends, but every time she pushed the ball down the ramp, she would yell "MOM.....Iiiiiiii...DID it!!!!!
 She practiced from April to October in a loaner power chair.  She spent countless hours outside wheeling around the yard, pretending to run a restaurant.  She would come over, take our orders, go away and prepare our food, then return to give us the food.  I loved giving her a hard time, yelling "Yuck....there are pickles on my ice cream (or something silly like that) and she would giggle with glee and take my order back to fix it.  In October, 2012, she got her very own power chair.  She is so proud of her chair.  She LOVES the independence it gives her
 My little girl is fiesty, ornery, determined, strong willed, stubborn, loud, obnoxious, loving, helpful, and absolutely perfect.  Yes, no doubt there are days she challenges us to our limits, but I absolutely adore her.  I imagine if I lived a day in her body, there is no doubt I would be all of those things too.  I understand her fight and her discouragement.  We always try to combat that with compliments and reassurance.

I am one lucky Mama to have been given such a sweet gift.  I could have never imagined that such a small, empty package would turn into such a great treasure.  I can't wait for the coming years--an assistance dog, sports, potty training.  I'll take each day--the good and the challenging.  God didn't ask for me to have great abilities to parent this little girl, he asked me to be available--to be willing.  And willing we are.

Mila Rose, we love you.....Stinky Pants....to the moon and back.  Happy 7th birthday.  I hope you get your entire wish list!  (A toy computer, a black car, a tiny ball, a birfday card....Oooooohhhhh.....and balloons!)
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