Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A lot of catching up....

I have thought about quitting blogging. Because who has time to blog, really. But then my little friend Macey Marrs told me that she used to be my 'biggest blog fan', back when I used to blog that is. So Macey, this post is just for you.

Jude got me set back to iphoto, so I went back all the way through September and picked out a few of the highlights. Which made me realize that when I'm not blogging, I'm not taking many photos. In fact, when I went to get out my fancy camera yesterday, I realized that I had forgotten how to use it on the manual setting! Now that is sad!

So here are some of the (few) pictures I've taken over the past few months. I promise I will do better, Mom and Dad, now that I have iphoto back. At least I 'think' I will.

Here are the two September birthdays...Hope and Joseph. Both age 7. Next month I will have FOUR 7 year olds!
We had all three of these little munchkins on a little special needs soccer team, briefly. They were the only ones on the team! And after about the 4th week of practice, we realized Zoya would rather dress up in butterfly wings, Joseph would rather write on his face with magic marker, and Ava would rather keep her little bald head in the shade. Needless to say we didn't finish the season, but at least I got this really cute picture.

Hope learned to ride a bike! Thanks Aunt Lisa!

The guys tore out the particle board stairs and replaced them with beautiful oak...I can't believe I haven't taken an 'after' photo yet. And I can't believe we survived over a week with our staircase looking like this!

The cousins from Minnesota came to visit for Thanksgiving (yes, in the midst of the staircase chaos). I took a look at the above scene and said, "Man that's a lot of kids!"....And grabbed my camera.

Only four kids went trick or treating. The other rode in the van and made fun of the kids trick or treating...(Ugh, teenagers!)
We literally threw costumes together in five minutes,  because I really  had no intentions of trick or treating, which is why Joseph is technically wearing PJs as Spongebob. Hope was my favorite, as cafeteria lady, "Marge", complete with apron, pot, ladle, and hairnet. 

This was really special. About fifteen years ago, before we ever had kids of our own, we were foster parents. This beautiful young bride and her sister lived with us for about nine months as their parents were going through some tough times. Fifteen years later, this September, Kim got married, and she asked John to walk her down the aisle and give her away. It was really an honor for him (and for me too). We have learned first hand that there are some really neat kids in the foster care system. And neat foster kids turn into neat adults. It's been a blessing to keep in touch with these girls for all these years. We love you, Kim and Teri!

And now, for the most unexpected and exciting news of all!!..............................................................................

We found ourselves a few weeks ago, with a VERY pregnant dog. The neighbor dog got to Nellie before we got around to getting her spayed (which was on my long list of things to do eventually). 

Regardless, here are the newest little mouths to feed.  They will ALL need new homes, so if you or someone is in need of a Christmas puppy, just let me know!

The kids gave them temporary names to differentiate who was who.

Just imagine nuzzling up into their soft warm fuzz, hearing their little whimpers in your ear, smelling their sweet puppy breath. Just picture how cute one would look with a big red bow around its neck, sitting under your Christmas tree. :) Your kids will love you forever!

Monday, October 17, 2011

I'm still here

I appreciate those of you who have called and emailed checking in to make sure we are OK. Yes, we are all fine and dandy. It has become increasingly difficult to find computer time lately, as I'm sure you can imagine. :)

Just a little update on everyone:

John and I have been hosting a small group/book study with several fellow church member families at our home on Wednesday nights.. We are studying the book Weird by Craig Groeschel. We have been attending Life Church for about eight months now and we are all loving it. Even the kids look forward to it every Sunday, and John and the older kids serve by setting up and tearing down as we are temporarily meeting at our local elementary school. An added bonus is it is just across the street, and there are 1:1 helpers for Ava and Joseph.

Last weekend my dad was on a businees outreach to Thailand, and my mom was here to visit. It was really nice to just hang out with my mom for a few days. A few of us (Hope, Jude, Joseph, my mom and I) made a spontaneous trip to Minnesota to bring back a dog (long story). We had a wonderful stay with my brother and his family. They had my nephew's little motorcycle set up with training wheels, and Joseph learned how to ride a motorcycle...with a little supervision of course. I have the cutest pictures, and if I could ever figure out how to EASILY get pictures from my phone to my blog, I would most definitely post them here! He was in heaven!

Simeon is growing up before our very eyes. Over the summer he started talking in a low voice. There is nothing weirder than calling your son on the phone and hearing a man's voice say "Hi Mom". He is in a Challenge class through Classical Conversations and is learning they don't call it "Challenge" for nothing. He is growing and stretching in every aspect, and making some deep friendships in the process. He spends his time playing soccer, fishing, air soft guns with his buddies, and is involved in youth group. His strong personality makes it challenging to parent him sometimes :) but that makes him a great leader. He is a great kid.

Liesel is a homeschool mom's dream. She loves to be challenged academically and is always looking for new things to try and learn. She is my most rule abiding child and that makes her a great babysitter. She is so helpful around here! She really seems to love having special needs siblings to love and teach. She has picked up the piano so quickly and effortlessly (has been taking lessons for eight months). She and John have a little hobby. It is called raising calves. She has her boots on at 6 every morning walking to the barn to bottle feed the babies. She is also raising two guinea pigs, Prince and Princess. Sometimes I hear her talking baby talk to them up in their room, just like I have always talked to my babies. ha. She will be a great mom someday.

Jude is my little computer genius. He is always watching computer tutorials and apps, etc. and trying to teach me how to use the Mac or my iPhone. Whenever anyone has a computer problem, it is always, "Ask Jude." Which reminds me, I really need to ask him how to get photos on this blog from Picasa. ugh. I am not pleased with Picasa!..Anyway, he also enjoys making movies on his own Mac laptop, which he bought with his own Christmas, birthday, and allowance money by the way. Also, he loves something called "garage band" and is teaching himself how to write his own music. He is really cute and I like him a lot.

It is Ok that I'm bragging on my own kids isn't it?

Hope turned 7 last month. She is really growing up. Her adult teeth are coming in, which I find a little depressing. If you have seen her in the last couple of weeks, I am sure she has told you that she learned to ride a bike at Aunt Lisa's house last weekend. She is like her sister in that she devours books, big ones. She is, like her older siblings, taking piano lessons and just about has 'Cheerful Chimes' down. I'll be so glad when she moves on to the next piece. lol. She loves loves loves having Joseph, Ava, and Zoya to play with. She is really a big helper, especially when I'm trying to make dinner when she takes them outside to the playground. It sure is nice to be able to cook without a bunch of little ones pulling on me and standing in front of me and fiddling with the stove nobs.

Ava is loved by everyone. Seriously, she is so squishy and soft and fun to cuddle with. I think everyone in the family agrees. She has become so much more social in the last year. Still not talking other than an occasional, "Hi Dad", or "Stop!" But her sign language has really blossomed and she is learning to ask, through signs, the things she wants and needs. This is so huge for her, and honestly something I was never sure she would be able to do. The other day when my sister walked in my house holding my new baby (brown) niece, Ava started signing "brown baby". Of course, I had to ask my kids what she was saying, and they all knew 'brown' from watching Signing Times. It was pretty much the sweetest thing ever. In fact, it made me cry a little. My little girl not only knowing the sign for baby, but knowing that the baby was brown on top of that. How awesome is she! I want you to know, that not only is she now walking everywhere, but we have even seen her RUNNING a few times. :) And a few days ago while the kids were dancing in the living room, she was JUMPING up and down. Who knew the 4 year old girl who didn't even know how to roll over would someday be able to run and jump! She is in public school this year and is doing so well. Her teacher even said some of the typical kids adore her and call her their friend. Sweet!

Joseph is still as rowdy and rambunctious as ever! He makes me so tired sometimes. He is very sneaky and manipulative but he has a killer smile and most persuasive puppy dog eyes in the world. He LOVES to hug and kiss and snuggle so it is extremely difficult to stay mad at him for very long. I had his IEP meeting recently and while looking at last year's goals realized that he had met every one of them. School has been the best thing for him. John bought him a ream of paper for his birthday, and when he opened it up, rather than tearing the paper like he normally does, he ran to the crayon drawer, sat down at the table, and started coloring. Yay! He has learned to use paper appropriately! He has also learned to draw a (rough) circle, lines, and use scissors. He is learning sight words. The cafeteria lady pulled me aside last week and asked me if I would consider letting him eat in the cafeteria since they were having to replace so many the trays of the other kids that Joseph takes the food from. OOOOPS! I guess we still have some work to do in that department. 

Zoya: If it wasn't for her eating and weight issues, I would say she was doing great. Sadly, I never knew how eating issues could affect an entire family so profoundly. Sometimes I feel as if my world revolves around feeding time and a feeding tube. Sometimes I feel so anxious and guilty and obsessed with trying to fix her.  We have learned through an MRI that at some point in her early life, Zoya had some kind of a stroke or brain trauma. We are not clear how or whether this plays into her problems but I do wonder if it does somehow. Her swallow study came back normal, and so for months I thought it was behavioral until another speech therapist explained that a swallow study only tests one of the three phases of swallowing, and that she can't seem to get the food to the back of her throat to swallow it. But strangely sometimes she CAN. And the most bizarre of all is that even with all the calories we are pumping into her throughout every day, she is still just barrrrreeeeeellllllly gaining weight. She is up to 29 pounds now, which is a record for her. But that is after 15 months of intense feeding therapy, she has gained just 9 pounds. At times I wonder if it is worth it. Sometimes I think she would prefer just being a anorexic looking but 'normal' kid rather than having to have formula that makes her sick pumped into her stomach all the time. I guess the general consensus is that she has a super high metabolism (due to the HIV), a lack of appetite (due to the FAS), and strong gag reflex and difficulty swallowing (due to 13 wk prematurity and brain stroke as an infant). Every now and then she will surprise us by saying she is hungry and then eating a few chips or something, but we haven't seen any rhyme or reason to this behavior.  I really don't think the cleft palate has anything to do with anything, interestingly enough. She is seeing three different speech therapists including the one at school, one for speech, and one for feeding. I am praying something will make a difference soon! Or at least that I can quit worrying so much over her! On a positive note, she is having a fabulous year at school, and aside from the feeding challenges, she is a wonderful and sweet little girl. We love her.

John just walked by and saw me blogging picture-less, and he promised to convert me back to iphoto. Maybe I will have photos again soon after all. I never thought a blog post was worth making without photos. If you are still reading this, I do appreciate that a few of you have expressed concern and love for  our family. 

I hope you aren't sorry you asked!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Proudly introducing.....

Today I became an aunt again!

My sister and her husband have been foster parents for a long time. In the last couple of years, they have had to say many painful goodbyes. I have watched my sister endure tremendous grief and sadness over the loss of children, from her womb, and from the foster care system. My tender hearted niece has been heartbroken as well, and for a very long time, she has prayed that Jesus would give her a little sister..... (And if she couldn't have a sister, then she would take another brother instead!)

In January, Little Carlie Rose entered the Camacho's home as only the most recent in a long string of foster children that had needed temporary shelter.

Little did they know that just eight months later, they would be standing before a judge, promising to FOREVER love and nurture her, and care for her just in the same way as if she had been born to them biologically. Little did any of them know how much they would grow to love that little girl in such a short time,

and that SHE.......would be....

Evi's answered prayer.


Welcome to your wonderful family, Carlie!

John and I (and a few of the kids) were honored to get to be in the courtroom with them to share this special day. Marlita asked the attorney to draw up a "legal" document for the kids to sign, agreeing to the adoption. I don't know how 'legal' it really is, but the judge said they needed to frame it and put it in their rooms......and when their new little sister gets into their stuff, they will look up at the framed document and it will remind them to be patient and understanding with her. So cute. :) This was my absolute favorite part of the day. Those kids were absolutely beaming with pride and joy!

Lots of tears were shed.....Happy tears.

And then we all got to go out for pizza afterwards to celebrate. What a fun day that I will certainly never forget. We are so blessed to have Carlie in our family!

And this last picture has absolutely nothing to do with the adoption ceremony...But it was so darn cute I had to include it! Don't you agree?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jude turned 10 last week. What a great young man he is turning out to be. Smart, sensitive, talented, and of course funny. :) John is taking the day off work tomorrow to celebrate. He says it is a surprise.....

Happy Birthday my son! Love you soooo much. I'm so happy God blessed me with YOU.

I love that the boys are starting to get along well (Aren't they starting to look more alike?) . They have absolutely nothing in common. One is neat, one is messy. One likes adventure, the other likes to play it safe. One likes sports and outdoors, the other likes computers and the weather. Night and day different, but somehow they have really started enjoying each other's company and sense of humor. 

I started homeschooling the older kids  last week, even while the little ones were still home. It was crazy to say the least! I was trying to deal with all the enrollment stuff so I gave the bigger kids an assignment to pick a subject they would like to learn more about, research it, and then write a short paragraph about what they learned.

Haha. I love this! Liesel wrote:

 Why are there always shoes on the road?

There are lots of reasons.
1. Sometimes kids throw them out.
2. People take them off and put them on top of their car and forget about them.
3. Some shoppers wear new shoes home and dump the others on the road.
4. Some kids get chased by animals and throw their shoes at the animal.

The reason I loved this report so much is because I am constantly pointing out random shoes scattered on highways and roads and asking the kids why, WHY, do so many people feel an urge to throw their shoes out the window. Never in a million years would I have thought to actually research the topic. So Liesel did it for me.  Love her!

Now, if you are like me, you will never have to wonder again, why there are shoes on highways.

I loved this sweet moment so much I had to ask Hope to hold the pose so I could grab my camera. She had let Zoya sleep in her bed. Once she was asleep Hope wrote  'I love you' notes, made a necklace out of one and laid the other by Zoya's pillow so she would see it first thing in the morning. I adore these girls and I am so thankful they love each other so much!

Ava, Zoya and Joseph started school last week and I couldn't be happier with their teachers, their classrooms and schedules. They are all doing so well and SO excited each morning to get to school. Zoya and Joseph are already surprising me by learning sight words. Wow, I am so impressed with the teachers and so glad we chose the route we did. Towards the very end of last year we finally broke down and put Zoya on ADD/ADHD medicine, and boy am I glad I did. It makes a HUGE difference in her ability to concentrate and my girl is learning so many new things! I am so very proud of them all.

How fun that J and Z get to share a classroom and even sit together. :)

Tonight, the boys Skyped Oma and she gave them a live tutorial on how to make homemade cinnamon churros. Seriously. How great was this picture moment!

Of course we realized after we got it all mixed up that we are totally out of oil and Crisco (as well as laundry soap, milk, paper towels, and a whole lot of other important things). I guess we'll have to finish the churros AFTER tomorrow's trip to the grocery store. Ooops!


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Monday, August 8, 2011

One year adoption report...It's long, folks

Exactly one year ago today, a very tired John Urban arrived at the airport with the two newest and littlest Urban children. In some ways the year has flown by, and in others it has dragged on forever. I remember going into this adoption thinking of how Ava had grown and thrived and progressed.  I was sure---SO SURE--- that Joseph and Zoya's transition and progress would be just as wonderful. I tried to have realistic expectations, really I did.

Those darn expectations will get you every time! Prospective adoptive parents, take note!

The truth is that a year ago we thought that 'all' Zoya would require was daily medication (no big deal) and a couple of surgeries on her mouth (also no big deal). We thought she would be the 'easy' one and Joseph would be the 'hard' one. Haha. That is funny to me now. Instead I look back on the past year and in many ways feel like a failure. We have worked so hard but have made little progress, it seems sometimes. I will blog about some of the specific challenges in a later post, but for now.......

Here are some things that we are glad we didn't know a year ago:

-That the only pediatric infectious disease doctor in town had just passed away, and we would have to drive four hours one way for doctor's appointments for all care related to HIV.
-That there was no cleft palate specialty team in town to speak of, and we'd have to take Zoya out of state multiple times for doctor's appointments and  procedures
-That we would have a total of five surgeries the first year, with several more to come, and that the cleft surgery would fail and would have to be repeated less than a year later
-That her lack of therapy and intervention from her early childhood would result in such a severe speech impediment that almost nobody could understand her (except for Hope, who is an excellent translator!)
-That we would be faced with the most extreme feeding challenges including gagging, nausea and vomiting....and that as a result I would see a side of myself that I wish I never would have seen. (Apparently this is common with mothers of refusal-to-eat children)
-That even with a feeding tube administering approximately 1,900 calories a day, Zoya would still not gain weight or thrive
-That we would end up seeing about 12 specialists, multiple times in the first year, and a year later still not understand how she ticks and why she has so much trouble with eating and gaining weight, among other issues
-And of course, the fact that she would be diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, ADD/ADHD, and that we would see firsthand just how many ways a mother can damage her unborn child through substance abuse

Now the reason I say these are things I'm glad we didn't know is this:

I am almost certain that if I had been presented with this list of 'hard-to place' qualities:

*older child institutionalized since birth
*drug and alcohol exposed
*Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
*HIV positive
*severe speech delays
*feeding tube
*failure to thrive
*cleft palate with multiple future surgeries required.......

.......Well I am pretty sure I would have said no thanks and told God  that He should choose another family. I am glad He didn't let me know, because I am so glad to have my sweet Zoya. As crazy as our life has become managing ADD, communication, feeding and medical issues-she is STILL one of the sweetest and most wonderful little girls that I know! If you have met her I know you will attest to that. She is a blessing in our family and we are GLAD she is part of us.

These are some of the things we love about Zoya:

-She loves to smile and wave to complete strangers and shake their hands, even kiss their hands. I love seeing their facial expressions that mirror their melting hearts.
-The way she fake laughs when she is proud of an accomplishment
-The way that all you have to do is hand her a pair of old socks, and she will put them on her hands and start dusting the furniture (nice!)
-The way she loves to copy me, using the broom to sweep with, the Windex to wash windows with, and wet wipes to wipe little bottoms and toilet seats :)
-She randomly comes up to me and gives me the biggest bear hugs
-She has no reservations saying I love you to every person in our family
-She is clearly very secure here in our family and knows that she is loved. 
-The fact that a year ago she was completely independent in everything, and now asks for my help 
-The fact that every night without fail she asks me to sing Jesus Loves Me to her

-The way she tries and tries to communicate, and doesn't give up until she is finally understood

Last week when I dropped her off at church I could not understand what she was trying to say. I kept trying to leave as we were running late, and she kept saying wait wait! (Hope wasn't there to translate) Finally I understood she was saying "I love Mommy and I love Daddy". How sweet is that. She didn't want me to leave until I knew that. Just tonight when I put some fresh sheets on her bed (we have to change her sheets daily because of the nightly tube feeding), she raised her hands up in the air, TOTALLY thrilled and said, "Yay, God!"  :) I could go on and on about her sweetness, but there are just a couple of recent examples.

Joseph has been the 'easy' one after all. ALL of his medical tests have come back normal, even the ear problem turned out not to be a problem at all, other than needing ear tubes. I thank the Lord that Joseph has been so healthy because I'm not sure how much more our family could have handled in the medical department. And just like Zoya, he is a precious member of our family. My favorite thing about Joseph is his simple joy to be alive. He is pretty much content with anything (as long as his tummy is full.) :)

Here are some of the things we also love about Joseph:
1. The way he tries so hard to say 'sausage' because his dad won't give him a piece until he makes some sort of SOUND requesting it
2. The way his eyes light up when you say 'motorcycle'........ or 'school bus'....or 'water hose'
3. The way he tries so hard to be loving to the cat but ends up holding it upside down while he kisses it or squeezing it too tight in the process (Yeah, the cat is not too fond of Joseph lol)
4. Seeing the sheer joy on his face at the library or grocery store when the receipt starts to come out of the little machine, and the sheer disappointment when the receipt ends up being super short because we only bought one or two items. Hilarious. If you want to be entertained, come with me to the store for just two items. Better yet maybe I'll video tape it for you someday. :)
5. The way he squeals with excitement and runs to get his shoes when we tell him it's time to go to church or school
6.The way that he starts strumming an invisible guitar and bobbing his head at the sound of any beat
7.The fact that he would rather be in anybody's bed but his own
8. The fact that I can put all the leftover scraps in his dish, and he won't mind a bit. In fact he gives me the thumbs up as if to say, 'This is an awesome meal, Mom"
9. Watching his chubby little fingers work so hard as he tries so desperately to tie his own shoes
10. The way he puckers his lips and points to his cheek, indicating he wants me to bend down so he can kiss me

So there you have it, the last 12 months with our newest family members, in a nutshell.

Summer recap

I love my brother and sister-in-law's motto: "Work hard-Play hard."

We have been doing a whole lot of both this summer. Here are a few of the highlights.

*By the way, some of you have asked my why I've been so scarce this summer. Let me tell you it is not because there haven't been plenty of things to blog about it. I haven't been blogging for several reasons:
1. Picasa is not my friend right now.
2. My kids hog my computer all the time.
3. Most days when I get a free minute I have opted to read some great books instead of getting on the computer. Last night finished Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Are you proud of me Dad?
4. Homeschool planning.
5. House projects.
6. Potty training.
7. Child disciplining. As my grandma always said, "Parenting ain't for sissies!" Isn't that the truth!

Anyway......back to the photos. Here are a few of my favorite photos from Simeon's trip to the jungles of Mexico. I am thankful my parents took these because I know he will appreciate them someday. I know each of these photos have some big historical significance. You'll have to ask Simeon to tell you all about each one.

I believe this is a soccer field, where the winners of the games were honored by being sacrificed to the gods.

Liesel is spending the lasts two weeks of her summer in Minnesota with my brother and family. I talked to her last night and she said she is only a 'little bit' homesick and is having a really fun time. Who wouldn't...they have taken her tubing, waterskiing, picnicking, out for sushi, and roller coasting riding at the Mall of America. I won't be surprised if she never wants to come back home!

Here is from Jude's fishing trip with his dad. We enjoyed the fruits of their labor, yummy trout (Thanks Alice for the recipe!)

We have been ripping up carpet...

Painting bedrooms......

Remodeling the kitchen....

Hanging around in our swimsuits...

Growing some yummy squash, watermelon, okra, onions, and basil. Nothing else did very well, I suppose from the extreme heat.

Joseph is John's BEST garden helper! Seriously! 
Right after I snapped this photo I got sprayed, and decided never again will I use an $800 camera to take a close up photo of Joseph and a water hose!

The girls have been doing lots of crafts (and usually right afterwards Joseph rips them into shreds.

With 3 six year olds and a seven year old in the house, we have had frequent  visits from the tooth fairy. I always love when they lose their bottom teeth, they still look so cute and little. But something about my kids losing their top teeth always makes me sad. Once they start losing their top teeth, it seems like the attitudes start kicking in, and they no longer climb in bed with me in the mornings to snuggle, no longer crawl on my lap to tell me they love me for no particular reason. Why is that? I called my sister and cried about this. Adult teeth mean adulthood is approaching, and that means they will soon be gone. Am I overanalyzing this? LOL My sister graciously reminded me that at least two kids will always be around, keeping me from truly having to experience Empty Nest Syndrome. ha. Thanks for that!