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.