Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of 365

I did it! I took a picture every day for a whole year. 365 days. Well, to be honest, there are 3 days that are missing pictures, and some days I took more than one to fill in the gaps… but really, I documented our life every day for a year. And it was good.

Strangely, the year seems to have flown by. It feels like I just started Project 365 a couple months ago, and as Doug said “it feels like I was just laid off a month ago!” Funny how at times I can’t remember what last Spring was like, but yet it feels like a few days ago. That’s the trick of time, I suppose.

I don’t have a great retrospective in pictures or anything. It would take too much time and the kids are getting along for now, but who knows when that will blow up. I’ve scrapped my P-365 pictures for the first 26 weeks but was getting bored with the elements & layout, so I spent the last couple nights making new templates with my own papers & stuff I downloaded from Shabby Princess. I also found a local picture developer who has begun developing scrapbook pages & said he’d match what I’m paying now when I send them to Florida. I’m pretty happy about that – motivated to maybe start another P-365?

I don’t know. I know I don’t want the discipline of keeping track of a picture a day, but I will probably do pictures of the week, or two weeks, or whatever. I want to buy this new kit for 2010 and have some fun with it. As for 2010? I want to have some fun with it, too. Happy New Year!

(this bottom picture is my P-O-D for Dec. 29th. Got a new laundry basket and Charlie apparently thinks he's a cat. He loves knocking it over & crawling inside!)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas = success

The holidays were slightly different this year. With my grandma in heaven, it adjusted where families decided to be and who they spent it with. My brother's family and mine went to my parents' for Christmas Eve, first time I think since we both got married. It was great fun to have the cousins together. Santa was good to us, bringing a shopping cart for Charlie, clone blaster for Roman, and Doug & I knew what to get the family.

We stopped at my aunt's on the way through Kalamazoo and had a short visit with extended family. Then home for the night to unpack, take baths, and repack to head to Doug's family! We arrived there Saturday for more visiting and another round of presents. A good time seeing those cousins as well, though the visit was too short.

We got home Sunday evening ready to crash. I spent the day today getting the house back in order, all the piles put in their proper places, and taking Christmas decorations down. Have friends coming Thursday for New Year's Eve, and we may take a break from our annual Catan games to play the Wii instead. Who knows? The new year is full of possibilities!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Seeing Santa

Sunday afternoon after Charlie's nap we ventured to the next-door town to see Santa. He has a little house in the park downtown. We had to wait almost an hour outside, and toes were getting mighty cold! The cool part was that each family got their own private time in Santa's house with him. Charlie was afraid at first, so he and Doug sat in a chair next to Santa while Roman made his requests. Then Santa pulled out a teddy bear to play with Charlie and C. just lit up! By the end of our visit he was willing to sit on Santa's lap. Roman did a lot of Santa-hand-holding.

Roman asked for a clone commander blaster or dual-action lightsaber, and requested SpongeBob's 100 episode DVD for Charlie. We encouraged Santa that Charlie would like a toy instead!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas bubbles

Some days are frustrating and crazy with two kids. Then there are days where this happens and I just have to grin and count my blessings.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cabin fever begins to strike

What an interesting week of role-changing. Doug stayed home to be with Roman while I brought home the bacon, so to speak. Ro and Doug had a few battles of the will, but it seems to have calmed down some. Roman had a followup at the orthopedic surgeon's office and got a thumbs-up. New x-ray showed good alignment and even some new bone growing. Still can't bear weight until around Christmas, and he can start to walk but keep the immobilizer on. 2 weeks after that, he can start to walk without the immobilizer. Which means a week at least at school with the immobilizer on. Things continue to get interesting!

Early in the week Roman was satisfied watching tv, playing video games, and coloring. After the successful car trip to the doctor, however, he began requesting more. Downstairs, out to the store, even Greenfield Village. We agreed to downstairs (Saturday) and out to Meijer (Sunday). He also is now requesting all kinds of crazy things to do, like cross-stitching & those beads where you make the shape & iron it so they all stick together. I wouldn't have a problem with a lot of his requests, except Christmas is in 2 weeks!

I think this coming week will be more of a challenge for Doug. He was able to get between 2-4 hours of work done while Roman played or watched tv, but Ro won't be happy with that this week. Although they do plan on going to Ro's class for the Christmas party & maybe even appear as a mystery reader.

Charlie and me? Hanging in there.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

My son on codeine

Roman had a very calm past few days. He's been quite enjoyable, really. He has hung out in the living room or dining room coloring, painting, playing video games, turning his brain to mush with SpongeBob, that sort of thing. He has been satisfied with this routine until today. We are noticing more whining, more restlessness, and he got emotional because he wanted to watch a video from downstairs but couldn't decide what... and obviously couldn't go downstairs to be reminded of what we had. The boy handles his feelings really well, or hides them really well, because this was the first evidence of his unhappiness in many days. Mostly, though, our evenings (and weekend) are like this:

I'm hoping to arrange a visit from Roman's teacher this week. She wants to bring cards that his classmates have made, and then hopefully encourage some Math work and reading. Roman's got thank-you notes to write as well for very thoughtful people, so that will count as some handwriting, I hope!

We have seen an increase in behavior issues from Charlie that we attribute to the crazy mixed-up schedule earlier in the week. He actually had 2 incident reports from daycare on Friday, one where he bit a kid because the kid was in front of him on the playscape, and another where he was pushed first and he bit that one too. I know it's frustration over lack of language, change of routine, Roman getting a ton of attention, and all that. But Ro was never a biter so we don't quite know what to do about this!

Meanwhile, our house has been decorated for the holidays and we're entering Broken Leg, Phase Two: Daddy Stays Home on Monday. I'm sure I'll have another update soon!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Well, I kind of succeeded.

If it wasn't for a lodge in the woods with no wi-fi & my kid breaking his leg, I would have officially blogged every day in November. But I think for my first time, I didn't do too bad! I still have lots of stuff I could blog about... it was good to get in the swing of things again.

Roman has returned home and he is quite relieved. Once here & relaxed, he cocooned himself into the couch and slept for 3.5 hours. We expect he will awaken a couple times this evening as the med. he is on is only a 4 hour one. This lack of sleep is almost worse than with a new baby - perhaps because of the worry and anxiety that comes with a hurt child, rather than not minding the 3am wakeups because the baby is so cute!

I am anxious to get back to work and get things under control again. It appears my sub today didn't quite do what I wanted done, nor follow the plans my coworker gave her. And I highly doubt there were "no problems" after I saw Monday's sub note. So I need to get my work life back into shape. I have confidence that Ro will have a good day tomorrow.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Update on Roman

I did update on Sunday; but to do it by mobile phone something special had to be done, and apparently it's lost somewhere in space. But the bonus today is I finally have had time to upload pictures! First is Roman with a popsicle. He can have as many as he wants... I think on Sunday he had about 5 or 6.

On Sunday Roman was pretty groggy and grumpy. He ran the risk of becoming a little dictator and we had to remind him several times to be a little nicer. He was on a morphine pump which he loved to press the button. He had a rough night, waking up a couple times because it hurt. The medicine they were trying to get him on - liquid Tylenol with codeine - tasted horrible to him. He got himself so worked up and anxious over it that we convinced him to try a pill today. That went down much easier with pudding, and he reports he took it with water tonight.

Another thing Roman got very wound up about was transferring. Going from bed to wheelchair, to toilet, etc. After a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth, he discovered that the anticipation was worse than the actual movement. It hurt, for sure, but he reported that once he stopped moving his pain went down to the lowest again.

The worst part is him being torn. He wants to come home, but he wants to stay in the hospital where it's safe. He has decided that Charlie is the focus of his desire to go home. He wants to talk to him on the phone, he wants to have pictures and video of him, and he wants to hear stories about him. Anyway, our high hope is that Roman will be discharged Tuesday morning and we can spend the day getting him situated at home. We have grandparents covering Wed. and Thurs, a heroic family from church watching him Friday, and hopefully after that Doug and I will have something worked out at our respective jobs. Of course I'll keep updating!
Bonus: Video of Roman captaining his wheelchair after his first adventure in the hallway. Try to ignore the screaming - that was the kid next door, training on a walker. :)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Roman broke his leg.

We went to Costco Friday evening. We got through in record time, and celebrated with berry smoothies & a churro. Charlie thought it was fun to run his hands along the carpet samples across the way, & even lick them! Roman, in all his impulsive loveableness, decided to dash across and join Charlie at the carpet samples. Halfway across his right foot slipped on the dry concrete & went one way, but his left leg stayed planted. In slow-motion horribleness, He did the splits in a very awkward his-leg-shouldn't-twist-that-way move.

Many hours of screaming & morphine later, he has a spiral fracture in his left femur. He had surgery today and 2 rods were put in it. He's at Children's Hospital in Detroit. Hoping he will be released on Sunday but it depends on his pain & what Physical Therapy thinks - we are guessing he will be wheelchair-bound.

Dr. said not to put weight on it for 4 weeks and definitely no school for 2 weeks, maybe even through Christmas Break. Argh.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

George Washington & the first official Thanksgiving

It was George Washington who declared the first federally recognized Thanksgiving Day, in 1789. I found this interesting tidbit on PBS's website:

"Thus begins the great American festival, known as Thanksgiving. It is alike a holy day, and a patriotic day. The genius of the American Founding is here demonstrated: Only in America could all citizens, of all religious persuasions, celebrate equally a day that is holy and patriotic. Only in a regime of religious liberty could members of different religions unite together as equal citizens. Such a thing would have been unimaginable, for example, in 17th or 18th century Europe. George Washington understood well the significance of this achievement. By enshrining it in a national holiday, Washington continues to remind us today of the source of all that we enjoy as American citizens."

Well said. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Black Fridays of yore

Once upon a time I was living in another city which had the perfect-size mall & a unique downtown. I was single & only had my close relatives to buy for at holiday-time. And I absolutely loved the weeks heading into Christmas and all the sales. Not for gifts for others - for things for myself!

Those days of selfishness are long gone, and I kind of miss them. I got an email from an online scrapbooking business this morning with their Black Friday deals, and that combined with the Coldwater Creek catalogs they keep sending me with "save $25 or $30" coupons is making me itch to get out there and turn this recession around all by myself. I used to pick up all the fun things that I generally denied myself throughout the year... things like that cute but wholly unnecessary shirt or skirt, books, movies, CDs, even knick-knacks. How could I help but spend when I saved so much money?!

When I had kids, it didn't stop. I have just as much fun buying clothes & toys for them as I did for myself. In fact, I don't mind buying clothes for Doug either - I just love shopping. Hard to believe, because I do it so rarely. I prefer to try things on at stores, and goodness knows you can't browse any store with 2 kids in the cart. So I miss those days of yore. When asked one of my "perfect day scenarios" I think being able to let loose at a mall with no guilt later would be close to the top.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Iron Chef Doug?

I was so excited when we got our cable back at the end of summer. We went with 22 channels for about 8 months, and while we didn't miss some things, there were a couple channels we loved watching and wanted back. For the first month or so when we resubscribed, we watched a lot of HGTV, USA, Bravo, & TNT. Roman, of course, was pleased to have Cartoon Network, Disney, and Nickelodeon.

But I've noticed the Food Channel being on more and more. First it was a favorite, Alton Brown... then Ace of Cakes... then Iron Chef... then America's Test Kitchen. And believe me, gentle readers, when I say it is NOT me watching these. But I think Doug took a turn off the deep end when he started looking up recipes on the Test Kitchen website. Why am I still making dinner? This man daydreams about ways to cook pork & beef!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sometimes, you just gotta be the advocate.

Today is a difficult post to write. We have entered the realm, as parents, where few believe enough to support us and hopefully few will ever follow. Some will say we are overreacting & looking for problems that aren't there. And believe me, I would have been one of those people a few years ago. And then along came Roman.

The first summer we had Roman home with us was beyond stressful. At first we thought it was because we were just new parents and maybe more unprepared than we thought. Then I began saying things to Doug like "he will not play by himself!" and "he can't stand it when I'm not holding him!" but Doug figured it was me being a helicopter parent. But as Roman grew older, there were just more things that struck us as odd. His excessive clinginess to Dad (explained away as "a phase"). His inability to sit anywhere, whether to play a board game or eat a meal at the table (explained away as "he's a boy"). Sleep difficulties; getting him to fall asleep, or sleep through the night. The list went on and on. We just knew in our gut that his issues were more pronounced than they would be in a "normal" kid.

When school started, his kindergarten teacher called us within the first month with her concerns. Very smart, keeping up with grade level and learning - but some serious hyperactivity issues. It's been a long year since that phone call started us on this road from family counselor to adoption therapist, but today we got the initial unofficial results of psychological testing for Roman by a psychiatrist. It has given us some amazing insight into how his mind works... how he perceives himself, families, & caregivers. An IQ test with many subtests shows he's at grade level or above in almost everything (testing into the 4th grade level in a couple cases).

And then, of course, the confirmations. At first blush, clinical diagnosis is ADHD with anxiety disorder, as well as the insecure attachment his therapist believed he had. He also is borderline on a couple other things that the final report will hopefully tease out once she compares & contrasts a lot of the data. It was an overwhelming meeting with lots of information that brought me to tears sometimes... while ADHD is a true wiring-of-the-brain thing, the anxiety and insecure attachment (along with his general perceptions) are all a product of his emotional & environmental deficits when he was in Russia.

Charlie, strangely enough, has made us recognize and accept this more easily. When we think of Roman's probable life in the baby home & hospital where he spent much of his time, and compare it to what Charlie has had, there's no question that Roman was neglected. In fact, even seeing how Charlie interacts with us versus how Roman interacted at the same age is very telling. It breaks our heart to think of what baby-Roman went through. But now that we have professionals assuring us we're not crazy, it's not just a boy thing, he won't grow out of it, and it's not normal, we're ready to be less irritated and much more understanding & supportive of Roman.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Is this cheating?

I could blog about how cool the Lego Castle Adventure is at Henry Ford Museum, or I could just show you the pictures. But just posting pictures isn't really blogging, is it? So I'll put little captions too. Being a member there (for the past 3 years) has been worth every penny. Roman would go there every weekend if he could. Trains, planes, cars, the Weinermobile... and the best special exhibits.

Um, not much to say about the entrance. Except you had to cross a drawbridge over a pretend moat.

This knight greeted us at the entrance. Made entirely of tiny little Legos.

Dragon protecting its treasure - and a baby dragon that is right behind Charlie (you can see a little bit of red from its wings). Again, the dragon & most of the treasure made out of Legos.

The throne room of the castle. The "stained glass" is all transparent colored Legos.

An interactive game where Roman could select what type of Lego wall he'd put around his castle for defense, then wind up the catapult and let it "fly" at the screen. His castle wall withstood the bombardment! That's why he's so happy.

Not to leave out the "apprentice builders" as they called them, there was a slide, along with soft foam Mega Legos, for the 4-and-younger crowd. Charlie loved the slide.

Best of all, as members this was all FREE. Did I mention I love The Henry Ford?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What's on my mind today.

Grief is strong in my mind today. Not wanting to go to Thanksgiving, first holiday in all my 35 1/2 years without my Grandma there. This has hit me harder than when my Grandpa died - with age comes more sadness, perhaps? Maybe because of what my own children have lost.

Friday, November 20, 2009

blogging about what I was going to blog about...

I'm not sure I can call this "blogging every day" thing a success. I think about it lots more during the day, nuggets of information or stories that gentle readers may find interesting. Yesterday, I even took pictures of what I was going to blog about. But I didn't get in front of the computer.

Every week is kind of crazy around here, at least the Monday-Friday parts. This week was particularly difficult, as Doug or I had something every evening to be absent from home, and we both had to take time off work so Roman's psych. testing could be completed. So when the boys are finally in bed and Doug and I get some quiet time, we are actually spending it with each other instead of with the computer screen.

So anyway, what I was going to blog about yesterday: the state of our house. Kitchen not bad, dining room has some "stuff" on top of the buffet but it won't take long to clean. But then, there's Charlie's room. When the weather change this Fall I dutifully switched over Charlie's clothes. But because he had 3 different sizes in there, and some that I will pull out again next summer, I put the clothes in 3 different piles on the floor. And they're still there. It's probably been 4-5 weeks. I would have put them away faster, sure, except the boxes where I need to put the clothes are hard to get to, because our laundry room/storage area has exploded.

So my big plan this coming weekend is to reorganize the laundry area, the storage area, and declutter Charlie's room. If I have time, I will go through my closet sweater shelf because I have a pile of probably 8 t-shirts from my school & I wear 2 of them. Saturday night we plan on doing the bulk of Roman's Christmas shopping and perhaps some of Charlie's as Ro is going to a "lock-in" at church (but only staying until 9pm). So we need room in storage to put the gifts!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

forcing the kids to go digital

I went to a cool workshop with Jason Ohler a month or two ago. Got me really excited for the students to do a digital "documentary" using Movie Maker. No story involved, just a quick way to show they have learned something about the founding of our country and the values we hold as Americans.

We started doing the project this week. Many of the kids have gone in the usual direction, Core Democratic Values and all. Some are going off entirely in a different direction, focusing on, say, the war in the Middle East or parts of the Constitution. I had a student, though, who is focusing on Sept. 11 and then the war in the Middle East and why we are fighting there. I don't know if it was a combination of the music she used, or what, but she wasn't even done and I had to wipe away tears. She was so excited about this project that she worked on it for 4 hours at home. It's moments like that, when she's so proud of her work that she can't wait to show me, and I have a genuine moving moment, that I just LOVE teaching.

Well, that and when a student dropped his pants in class yesterday, and the other one who keeps talking about how his mom makes him take Benefiber but it's not working. Yeah. Middle school is awesome.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

evidence of a weekend well spent

I got 30 pages done at the crop this past weekend. I also got 3-4 weeks completed of my Project 365, so I'm caught up through June. If I did a layout a night, I'd be caught up in just a couple weeks - but some evenings find me more exhausted than others.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I don't know, just make it a short one!

Geez, this whole blogging every day bit is getting hard. This week is all about Roman. We have appointments for him scattered all around, for the ADD testing and whatnot. Which means we have a lot of paperwork to fill out about how we view him (some for his teacher, too!). Dr. said she should have results back before Thanksgiving for us, but not the formal report. It's getting crazy to do this - wish we had done it in the summer. We have to pull him out of school a couple times, which means Doug and I have to miss work often. Doug is so busy too (hallelujah for Chrysler & Ford!) and it's not so easy to keep making sub plans for half days. By the time Turkey Day comes around, we will be thankful to have it done with!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

a no-access weekend

I meant to blog Friday before I left for my scrapbooking weekend but forgot... and didn't have access Saturday! Today I didn't get home until late, so my foray into blogging each day has now been cut by two. I wouldn't really count this either, because I'm writing to say I'm not going to write anything. It's 9pm, I haven't even unpacked from the weekend, and I have a big boy who has been emotionally draining us & himself since 8pm.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Charlie, meet Thomas.

Charlie has shown some passing interest in the Thomas trains, pushing them around a little but not real interested in the tracks or accessories. This afternoon as we were playing, he started making train noises (ch-ch-woo-woo) with cars. So I got out a handful of tracks and Charlie immediately put Thomas on the tracks and "ch-ch"ing. So then I produced the clincher - the Sodor bay bridges. Charlie loved pushing the trains across the bridge and saying "whee!" as they slid down the ramp on the other side. Sure hope Charlie & Thomas become better friends!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day

I listened to an interview on NPR today with an author who wrote a new book about Arlington Cemetery. It was interesting to hear more details. I knew that it was Lee's estate, that it was made into a cemetery during the Civil War, but he discussed how it's a reflection of our own history. 42% of the dead from the Civil War were never identified. The government was so horrified by that number that they began a national cemetery "system" for the war dead, and now no other nation on earth matches America in the honoring of them.

As it should be. I'm not sure we can wish people "happy" Veterans' Day, but we can certainly thank them for our freedoms.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Neverending Story

The last few days at work have seemed like lists just keep replacing lists. I come up with 4-5 things to do, write them down, do them, cross them off... and then have to get another piece of paper to start the next list. Seriously, folks, I crossed off the 4th thing on one piece of paper, and as I threw it away I reached into my drawer to write down another 3 things.

It's because it's end of the marking period, and I'm also going away on a personal holiday this weekend. So I want to get everything done, have all my copies made, samples available, new class lists for my electives printed out, papers graded, grades caught up.... oh yeah, and attend a meeting on Wednesday evening at school, Roman's conference on Thursday, pack for my scrapbooking weekend....

My goal: to do all of the above, and drive west on Friday with a clear mind - and clear desktop, both computer AND wood.

Monday, November 09, 2009

but where's Doug?

Need to do a better job of getting pictures of my husband.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Christmas lists

I know, not even Thanksgiving! But I took Roman to Toys-R-Us the other day so we could "get ideas" and the boy had no problem showing me more than enough stuff. Just have to decide what's going on Santa's list, what we're going to get him, so we can give others some suggested ideas.

Charlie - he's a different story. He's quite pleased to play with Roman's things. In fact, he loves to put helmets on and off the Lego guys. We figure we're just going to wrap a bunch of Roman's old toys that are in storage and give them to him - he won't know any better! There are some cool things I think he'd like, but it's hard when he hasn't shown an obsession like Roman did at this age (for Thomas trains). Plus I don't take him to the store like I did Roman.

The other problem - I do all my "shopping" online now, and many things I know about (Playmobil) have the best selections there. Or, it's a rare cool idea that only this one catalog or two has. So we'll be making our lists out over the next couple weeks!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

from water bugs to dragonflies

My grandma has been laid to rest, and as a bonus got to say an unexpected goodbye again to my grandpa. I guess my family does things a little different. Neither of my grandparents were fans of funeral homes and both wanted to be cremated. So today we did a private interment at the cemetery, one of those cool high-rise box-holder things. Grandpa's ashes were already inside there, so it was kind of nice to be able to see them both side by side again, as it were.

My cousin had the good idea to have all the kids send balloons up in the air to let Grandma know we were thinking of her. The kids liked that. Then, my aunt pulled out a box of Fannie May (Grandma's favorite) and we all had a piece in memory of her. Mmm, milk chocolate buttercreams.

At 2pm the memorial began in Kalamazoo. A lot of residents from the Village came, and our family took up 6 rows, it was crazy. Nice to see my Grandma's brother and his side of the family, it had been a little over a year. It wasn't as much of a memorial as a "Celebration of Life" with a family picture slideshow, big band songs, the works. A nice children's story was said comparing going to heaven with becoming a dragonfly. Both Jessica & I spoke. I did finally get my good cry in at the end & apparently really upset Charlie as well. After visiting with people there, we went to my cousin's where we had Olive Garden (Grandma's favorite) and just spent time as a family. Exhausted the kids, they actually slept on the ride home.

So the hard day is over, and now it's just the return to living life without Grandma to get used to. See you in heaven, Gus.

Friday, November 06, 2009

not the most stable, emotionally, right now

I'm having trouble writing my eulogy for Grandma's memorial. Usually the words pour out - they did when I spoke at my Grandpa's. And the general idea is written down, but I feel like it's disjointed, no flow. (Like this post is going to be, I think.) That bugs me. So on the drive I'm going to do a little pencil-&-paper revising.

This morning was the first of many appointments with Roman to start testing him emotionally, cognitively, behaviorally... whatever you can think of. We want to find out how his brain works and how he perceives & interprets things, so we can best work with him. It's emotionally frustrating to have a child who doesn't respond "normally" to discipline or situations, who needs so much more from us than we originally thought. Some things we realize we did wrong from the beginning - well, not wrong, because we had the best of intentions - but we didn't respond to Roman's needs as well as we should have. But we're doing our best now.

With trying to figure out appointment times for Roman, and taking off work, and not dealing with grief much yet, I think Saturday I'm going to be a basket case. We've talked with Roman about all the grief he's going to see and how it's totally okay. I hope to demonstrate for Roman how someone can celebrate & grieve at the same time; how death is an acceptable part of life and nothing to be afraid of. Whew, got a lot to do this weekend!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

on the other side of the table

Parent-teacher conferences have been different for me since I earned my spot on the "parent" side of the table last year. I used to focus on academics when I was the teacher, and it was the occasional parent who asked about the social or emotional side of their child. But when I went to Roman's conference last year for kindergarten, I realized that academics was not even half my concern.

Making friends? Being respectful? Able to work with others? Follows directions? Those were the questions I found most important. So tonight, as I worked my second night of conferences as teacher, I found myself much more comfortable talking about the kids' academically and personally. How they work in groups, their relationship with me, how they relate to the other students in class. Just one more way my own kids have improved every part of my life.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


I am pretty amazed at what I am fairly literate in, technologically speaking. Even in my short life span, I remember our first microwave, our first vcr player, the first time we had cable, our first remote for the tv... we went from albums to tapes to CDs to MP3s. It scares me a little bit that at the ripe old age of 35, I find myself choosing to not learn certain technologies. I don't want to be that old fogie who won't get with the program, but there are some things I just don't want to get involved in.

I think it's because I know my addictive personality. I actually have great self-control because if I let go for a minute, I'd eat powdered donuts all the time, go to the casino every weekend, smoke, drink more, & essentially be a glutton. I do the same thing with technology. I can't just get on Facebook. I have to update myself at least once a day, more if I could access it. I don't have a cell phone that can get on the Internet because I would be on it ALL DAY. Twitter? I stay away because the need to subscribe to all my interests, and sit & read the updates, would pretty much take up all my time.

So I worry for myself & the technological future. Will ours be the only house without a special food-making machine because I won't want to learn how to run it? Will I completely miss the next generation of music-listening devices because I still haven't graduated from iPod Shuffle? And yet, I still basically use a chalkboard in the classroom. But that's another post...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

a conversation with Roman

Setting: Walking home from the local elementary school after having voted for city council & some millages.
me: "You know, Roman, some countries can't vote at all. They don't get to choose who is in charge of their country."
Roman: So?
me: "So if someone bad was in charge, the people would never get rid of them. The bad guy would be in control of everything."
Roman: You know what? America should go to all those places.
me: "What places?"
Roman: Where they can't vote.
"What would we do?"
If there's a good guy in charge, we leave them alone. If there's a bad guy in charge, we'll shoot them.
"Why can't we just capture him and put him in jail?"
Because they might try to escape.

Now, that's some Republican foreign policy for you!

Monday, November 02, 2009


So I'm a couple days behind with my pictures, but you'll forgive me when you see how adorable the kids were. We went trick-or-treating in my old stomping grounds with my niece & nephew. The 3 bigger kids ran ahead and I stayed with Charlie, doing less houses but having no less fun! He was a hit at one house, cooing at their dog until the owners came out on the steps with the dog to let Charlie pet him. Very nice. He got compliments at many houses, and one elderly gentleman just kept chuckling as Charlie waved & said "bye!" in his cutest voice. Reports from Doug state that the big kids just ran from house to house, intent on getting all the candy they dreamed of!

Roman was Anakin Skywalker (from the Clone Wars) and Charlie was a dragon/dinosaur, whatever people wanted to call him. I hated being "that mom" but oh yes, he did wear his coat over his costume. Thank goodness he'll never remember. Roman ended up putting his coat on under his costume. A little bulky, but I suppose Anakin could have worn some body armor!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

November 1st

It's the beginning of National Blog Posting Month, otherwise known as NaBloPoMo. I just like saying the word. This year, I'm going to participate.

It means I will post every day for the month of November. If I have nothing to say, I'll post my picture of the day. Which I'm failing miserably at the last couple weeks.

Today is All Saints' Day. Means nothing to me because I'm Protestant, but interestingly, my Oma died today. I certainly wouldn't equate her with the saints, but she certainly had influence on our lives. Her memorial will be next weekend, and I'm sure my mind will have something beautiful to say about her in an upcoming post. Today, though, my mind just isn't there. Went over to K-zoo Friday night as she was in bad shape; spent about 3 hours there Saturday; and today, fortunately or not, was with her to witness her last few hours. I left about 1.5 hours before she passed, but her daughters were all there. That is a wonderful gift.

So anyway, that's all I've got to say today. Not a great way to start the month, but no doubt will lead to some interesting reflections this week.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

and then, life happens. Again.

I had made a decision to be more cheery in my blog, as I felt I was getting weighed down with all the therapy & speech delay and whatnot. This lasted what, one post? And now here I am, blogging about a downer again.

Usually I call my parents, and they rarely call me. This began in college, where I didn't want them calling and interrupting my very independent life, for goodness sakes, and they needed to be available on MY schedule and not the other way around. But I wasn't selfish, or anything. :) Anyway, it just has continued that way. So when my parents call ME, it can't be anything good. Unless we're trying to coordinate a Christmas gift, or something.

So my mom calls me Monday night. My grandma (we'll call her Oma) has been admitted to the hospital for a probable perforated intestine (and emergency surgery). A quick glance at WebMD tells me that this is a hole in the intestine which allows the waste to spill out into the abdomen. And commonly caused by cancer. And in one quick flash, I know exactly what's going on and how this is going to end.

My Oma had cancer around 15 years ago, did chemo, and beat it. But I guess I'm not surprised that it may have recurred. And sure enough, although we haven't got the biopsy results yet, the doctor was pretty firm with my mom and aunts that not only did they find a mass, it has spread quite a bit. And my mind rewinds to this exact time of year, 1996, where this similar diagnosis is given to my Opa. And the next 2 months of experiencing him preparing to meet God, and the dignity in which he did it.

I like the idea of Grandpa & God laying the groundwork to have Oma come meet them. It will take some preparation, to be sure - Grandma is going to take on heaven with all the energy with which she lived on Earth. With Grandpa, it was such a blessing to have the time to say goodbye. I had a couple amazing conversations with him about his death, advice he gave me which I cherish to this day. And I guess if you accept death as part of life, how fortunate it is that I will be able to say goodbye to my Oma as well.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

it's the most wonderful time of the year...

I never think that Christmas is the most wonderful time of year, although I've been known to occasionally break out into song while holiday shopping. No, the most wonderful time to me is FALL. Autumn. Today is a perfect Fall day. Crisp weather but the sun is out; the trees are in their blazing glory; we have pumpkins on our deck, ready to be carved; and we're in the downhill slide toward Halloween. LOVE it.

Everyone is healthy in our house for once, and I'm thankful for that. Charlie is saying more & more words each day, although the random outsider wouldn't probably understand him. Roman plays hard during the week and is willing to be lazy on our weekends, which is nice too. We've been diligent in making sure our weekends are relatively travel-free, since both of us are working we need the downtime (and laundry-time!). We had neighbors over yesterday for dinner, and some friends coming next weekend to trick-or-treat with us. And since I have a teeny bit of free time (at least, my brain has some extra room) I am feeling a bit creative again and thinking about projects for Christmas presents.

The kids got their school pictures back and while I'm not a big fan of Roman's, they're both pretty cute. Did I mention blessed to have two fabulous boys?!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

not exactly a safety blanket...

Charlie did not show an attachment, like Roman did, to stuffed animals or blankets. In fact even when you give him a stuffed animal, while he knows to hug it and sometimes cuddles it in the crib, when it's out of sight it's out of mind. We figured he wasn't the personality type to get attached. We just weren't giving him the right things, apparently.

There is a magic age around 18 months, I think, if you expose a child to something they can get really obsessed. For Roman it was the Thomas train set he got for Christmas at 18 months old. For Charlie, it's going to be Cars. Not just regular cars, although he likes them too. Cars as in Disney Cars, Lightning McQueen, Mater, etc. We have a whole collection of plastic McDonald's Cars given away when the movie came out a few years ago. We also have some metal ones given to Roman, and even some Duplo versions. There are two, especially, that Charlie must have within a few-foot radius of himself. That's metal Lightning McQueen & Sally.

At mealtimes. In the car. At the grocery store. In bed. We cannot lose these precious Cars.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world...

Wednesday was like a mild episode of ER at our house. Earlier in the day we got a call that Charlie had a low-grade fever but no need to come get him; they'll keep an eye on it. I arrive to pick up Roman to discover he was stung by a bee at recess. Yes, in October. Charlie gets home all grumpy and as I change his diaper, I realize he may have hand-foot-&-mouth disease (that would explain the temp.). Then we unload Roman's backpack to find a sheet warning of a case of head lice in his classroom. Holy grossness, Batman!

So at some point Roman was bent over the table with Doug looking for lice, I had Charlie bent backward in my lap trying to see in his mouth, and the whole thing would be comical if it wasn't so icky. But here we are, a couple days later, and Roman is back to normal health and Charlie is... well, getting better. He has taken to not eating much dinner and then waking around 10 or 11pm at night screaming his head off. But he won't eat then, either. So this is fun. :) In fact, he's screaming right now, so I'm off to try to stuff him.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

We go German for the weekend

We made plans to go camping in Frankenmuth this weekend, hoping to hit Indian Summer weather. Either way, we would go out to dinner Friday and host my family at the campground on Saturday. Yeah. Well, I don't think we're going to have warm weather again, although you never know in Michigan. It ended up being rainy and in the 50s all weekend. Needless to say, we spent all of our time at my parents' hotel in the pools & didn't venture outside except to go back to the campground for bedtime!

With a pool & arcade, though, even the smallest of children can be amused. Plus my brother & his family joined us for the day, so the cousins ran around and exhausted each other. We weren't sure what we would do back at the campground once we put the kids to bed, but it turns out we had one of the longest nights of sleep we've had in years. We just went to bed when they did!

Roman amused us to no end, telling us tall tales about finding his first chest hair (at 6?!). Charlie, as cute as ever, did really well considering lack of sleep. He loved the pool, screaming when we pulled him out even though his lips were turning purple and his whole body was shivering. And Doug and I got to play some arcade games as well, me winning 250 tickets with Charlie's help on one game. A great weekend. We're ready to stay home a few weeks and get into the groove of Fall!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I can't hear you, la la la...

I was passing through the office at work and saw a photo album lying open. The picture was of 2 child-size tables, with 3-4 kids around each one. Each child had just underwear on, a couple had kerchiefs on their heads. I stopped, paused for just a few seconds and said, “that looks just like a baby home in Russia.”

The secretaries looked at me, surprised. In fact, it WAS a baby home in Russia. Turns out a student who was adopted from there had gone back recently and was sharing her photos with the ladies. It sure made me think. We want to take Roman back - we WILL take Roman back – but I wonder how the experience will be. I have lots and lots of questions.

I flipped through the album, both wanting to study each picture and yet already familiar with each one. The crumbled building of the baby home. The yellowish paint color. The playroom. Looking at one photo of the staircase, I swear I could smell the cabbage. This student had a lot of pictures I had been afraid to take, as well. The nannies in the baby home. The soldiers at the road checkpoints. All fixed firmly in my mind but nothing I can share with anyone but Doug.

This occurs at a time where Roman is struggling with his adoption story. Our main concern/complaint from early on with him is that he could never be alone. From the first week we had him home, until even tonight, the boy is overly clingy. As I’ve mentioned earlier, we are taking him to an adoption therapist. Our first concern was attachment –the laundry list of symptoms for RAD were like a list of Roman’s behavior issues. After a 3-hour session with Doug and I, the therapist’s recommendation was more likely “insecure attachment.” He is attached to us on a basic level, but he’s very anxious & needy.

We decided to keep attending sessions with her. She has seen Roman twice now, and it’s been eye-opening to say the least. Roman flat out does not want to talk about his life in Russia before we came to adopt him. It’s not a “no thanks” kind of thing – it’s an angry, run-away kind of feeling. At the same time, however, he has a deep desire to know things. He’s most interested in his Russian name, his birthmother’s name, and any daily details we have about his life in Russia. For the first time he verbalized he understood we were here in the US while he was in Russia (he asked what we were doing while he was in the baby home waiting for us).

Tonight Roman referred to his adoption as his birthmother “getting rid of me.” So we clearly have a long way to go. Already though, we are noticing a slight calming of his behavior on a day-to-day level. Bedtime has become generally easier. So we will continue therapy for awhile and see if we can’t get this little guy to accept his background.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Trying to catch a cloud & pin it down

Taking a posed picture with a 20-month old? Refer to title above!

Eventually, however, I was slightly successful. The boys in their "fall" jammies since today really felt like the first day of Autumn (rainy, in the upper 50s...). Roman in long sleeves, cozy fleece bathrobe, and Charlie in a bunny-suit. He was really pleased with it, kept showing us his feet and saying "sock."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

True brothers

The boys were fooling around last week - I had put Charlie in his crib to calm down, and Roman decided he'd try to cheer him up. By the end they were wrestling, climbing on top of each other, and laughing like fools. True brothers.

Friday, September 18, 2009

a rough week for the boys

It's a good thing you can't see this picture too close - it would gross you out. Charlie went tumbling on concrete at daycare on Wednesday, landing on his upper lip. Only. Seriously, the boy is getting clumsier and clumsier. He walked into a wall at McDonald's tonight. Really!

(this picture was taken Friday morning, 2 days after the fact)

Anyway, this particular trauma caused Doug to be called because of all the bleeding, and he took C to the dentist to check his teeth. Sure enough, left incisor was "wiggly." Nothing we can do but watch the color and return in 8 weeks for another x-ray. Charlie, meanwhile, cracks & bleeds a little at night and gets pus-y during the day. It's really quite icky. In completely unrelated news, he has begun the fun age of hitting. He's also begun the fun age of spending lots of time in his crib during his temper tantrums.

Roman has not been immune this week either. For him, of course, it's behavior. Got an email from his teacher early in the week because Roman had a very rough day at school, had time on the wall at recess even. He was better the rest of the week, thank goodness. But now we've arrived at the weekend, and hopefully lots of sleep and bumming around are on the schedule. Get these boys slowed down a bit!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Charlie with a word, or two or three...

It's apparent now that Charlie knows more words than he actually lets us hear. He picks and chooses. Often he prefers to grunt (a second-child habit, I'm sure). Many times it takes us awhile to understand his version of a word, too. In the video below you will clearly hear him say "wet" but when I ask him about outside, the high pitched "die" sound you hear is actually him saying "outside" in a very excited tone. And then, he just looks cute at the end.

I post this because today he let fly with 3 words we didn't know he knew - baby, hug, and pink. This follows the last few days, where we have heard guy, purple, and finally the long-awaited word NO as a response. Amazing. Clearly he's going to be the strong, mostly-silent type.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tired of talking. Some pictures.

Boys watching tv and having a snack. Too adorable.

No training wheels! This just happened last weekend.

First day of school for both of us!

What has become the traditional picture-taking spot. First day of the first grade!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Winding down & gearing up

Back to work, at least the first week, is all about catching up with coworkers about their summer, flashing pictures of our kids, and just enjoying the fellowship.

(me & coworkers at a Coney Island for lunch!)

But all too soon Tuesday will come, and with it… the students. Roman also returns to school Tuesday and I am sad that I will miss the walk & dropoff. Thankfully I have an awesome husband who took the day off work so he could be there to take the pictures. We finally got the letter in the mail & learned that his teacher is the one that had been recommended to us by his kindergarten teacher. Loving but firm – what Ro needs. However, his best friend is also in his class so BF’s mom made sure to tell the office to warn the teacher! I agree, I’m not sure what kind of year that’s going to be.

Otherwise our wind-down from summer has been a little hectic. Because I had schedule handout and meetings, Roman was bounced around to grandparents, our neighbor, and a babysitter. Charlie was in daycare all day and has adjusted well, except for bringing home a cold to myself & probably my mom as well.

Labor Day weekend is finding us doing some labor, but not too much. Finishing some projects, taking a deep breath before we all dive headlong back into a busy schedule. Our fall schedule will include homework every night for Roman, more papers to grade for me, karate for Roman and Doug, and we have engaged the services of a post-adoption counselor to work with Roman and will meet with her once a week for a month, and then see after that. I obviously will enlarge on that at a later date – we met with her for about 3 hours and she made a lot of connections between his current behavior and his 9 months in Russia that made a lot of sense to us.

Oh, lastly want to give a shout-out to Coldwater Creek, where I found my perfect pair of jeans after searching 5 stores & trying on more pairs than I could count (at least 7 at Coldwater Creek alone!). I was so happy I practically danced out of the fitting room. Second only to the feeling I felt when I knew Doug was “the one,” I adore these jeans.