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!