Friday, January 28, 2011

Thank you all who left sweet and encouraging comments after my recent post.

I wanted to clarify that the comments I was referring to were not intended for our family or left on this blog. (Although I'm sure it's been said behind our backs). I am talking about the comments that can be found at the bottom of any article about international adoption, special needs or not. A friend of mine had sent me a link to an article that was written about their family and their adoption, and of course at the end were all kinds of hateful and ugly remarks about their sweet family. Those were a few (Yes, there were more) of the ugly comments that were posted there.

I do appreciate knowing so many of you at there feel the same as I do. We are a very blessed nation and we are all fortunate to have been born in such a great place. The least we can do is reach out to those who have nothing at all, not even parents to love them. Of course I do not agree with anybody taking advantage of government resources but leaving children to die, whose own society, own parents even, have rejected them, so that my fellow Americans don't feel burdened, is absurd. Thanks, Ya'll! You're the best!

I am having problems with uploading photos from Picasa. In fact I am having blog/computer/photo/video problems in general (The problem lies in the ignorance of the user more than in the technology itself). Do you have a camcorder/camera combination that you love? One that easily uploads to blogger, facebook, Youtube, etc. One that is easy for computer dummies like me?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

John called when I was out running errands the other day and asked me to go by Walgreens to pick up a photo. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why he'd be printing photos. He NEVER even takes photos, let alone prints them!

I started cracking up when I opened the envelope and saw this 8x10 collage looking up at me. I wonder what the photo lab workers thought about this!

As you saw in my previous post, Joseph is having some behavior problems at school. John thought he'd help Joseph succeed with Dad's omnipresence in the classroom and a proverbial carrot to dangle in front of his nose for good behavior. :)
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P.S. No comment as to whether this did the trick or not.
I am really sick of reading comments from selfish and ignorant people who express that disabled orphans abroad should remain in their own country and not burden our system in America. I am tired of people suggesting that only children who were fortunate enough to be born in this country are deserving of love and a family.

I can only assume the people who leave these kinds of comments have never tried to adopt domestically before. Because if they did they would probably know that most kids in the foster care system will never be put up for adoption. Most of them will end up back with their families. The few that do get put up for adoption will most likely be adopted by their foster family or by extended relatives. The people who leave these kinds of comments surely have never researched mental institutions for orphans overseas and the conditions that exist in them. I'll bet those people have never actually inquired about one of the special needs waiting children from child welfare, because if they did they might have learned that a hundred plus other families had already inquired about that child and were hoping to be chosen to be his lucky parent. I'll bet they haven't looked into the requirements to adopt internationally. If they did they would know that prospective adoptive parents must prove themselves to be financially self-sufficient and must provide proof that their insurance will cover their adopted child/children's medical expenses. And I'm sure they don't realize that most government benefits for disabled children only apply to those adopted domestically anyway.

No, I'm sure they didn't know all of those things or else they wouldn't make such idiots of themselves by leaving comments like this:

"There are special needs children in this country who need to be adopted so I have a problem with someone bringing kids over from other countries like this."

"People think they are doing a noble and good thing, but they are in turn burdening this country which will therefore take much needed resources out of an American children life."

"Immigration should not allow these people to do this. Even if they have their own insurance through their employer or privately purchased, we dont need these kind of burdens being added."

"That's the LAST thing this country needs is more people from another country coming here to live off our underfunded over used Medicaid system!!"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Church and special needs

The reason I asked about your church experiences, is because I have read that a large percentage of families with special needs kiddos end up dropping out of church all together. I have wondered why this is exactly...Is it because the church is unaccommodating, unwelcoming, or unprepared, or is it just that it becomes too much trouble to get out the door with your family every week? Or because you end up spending the whole service in the hall or the cry room or the nursery anyway...You might as well have just stayed home and listened to the sermon online in your PJs in the first place.

Thanks to those who left comments. I loved to read how some churches have gone above and beyond to minister to special kids and their families. I love the idea of personal buddies, and matching mentors to kids, and allowing them to participate in 'normal' Sunday School activities, and even having opportunities to greet or usher! How awesome is that!! I can just picture Joseph and Ava at the doors of church greeting someday!

And to those who have not had such positive experiences, I am sorry. We have had mixed responses from people. Many times we have walked down the halls wondering who is going to be our worker that day, and hoping that it is so-and-so who has an Uncle with Down Syndrome. Can't you immediately tell who loves your kids and who doesn't?

We haven't been to a church with a specific special needs ministry so we have put Joseph and Ava in with the 2 year olds as that is about where they are developmentally. But I'll be honest. We always worry about how big and strong they are in comparison to the other kids in there, and we are always praying they aren't in there pulling hair or shoving, and hoping we aren't despised by the other parents. I wonder, do the workers feel burdened by our kids and should we be in there volunteering instead of enjoying the luxury of sitting through a service? And Zoya. How would other parents feel to know the truth about her, and should we keep her with us in big church, just to be on the safe side? And really if you think about it, it sure is a lot of trouble getting to church without anybody wetting their pants or disrobing or pouring milk all over themselves right before you leave or on the way, let alone on time. :) When you are able to pull all of this off you almost feel as if you have earned the privilege of sitting in church without your kids and without feeling guilty. But then you feel guilty when they announce from the pulpit their desperate need for volunteers in the kids church, and you just can't stop wondering what is really going on in the 2 year old room while you are trying to listen to the message anyway.

We visited a new church the last couple of weekends. Last week, the staff had a meeting to see how the church could better reach out to families like ours. By the next Sunday there was an note in the bulletin requesting volunteers to work one on one with special needs children. I got an email yesterday saying that 10 people volunteered and were excited to be a part of it! I was blown away. The children's church director said I would be getting a call this week to see what our needs are and how they can reach out to other families like ours. Wow! Now that is God's heart and a very necessary ministry! I have talked to so many families who would love to be more involved and want to feel more comfortable at church. Parents whose kids are overstimulated too easily, parents whose kids make a lot of noise and a lot of messes, parents whose kids are wheelchair bound or incontinent or have severe food allergies or who do not know how to display socially appropriate behavior. It would be a wonderful feeling to believe that your kids' caretakers are genuinely happy to see them each week (as opposed to wondering if they're saying to themselves, "Boy I sure do hope the Urban family decides to skip church again this week!")

(NOT that we have had any really negative experiences at all in previous churches.  I just want to add that for the record. Just mentioning the thoughts that go through the minds of moms like me every Sunday. And by the way we are only church shopping because we really need to find something closer to home).

We have been totally TOTALLY blessed with wonderful babysitters. We all were super sad when Christina, our favorite babysitter, grew up and moved away to college. We had her for about 5 years.

But then Emma came along and she has been just as awesome. We LOVE Emma!!

I stole this from her facebook page. As you can see Emma is very popular with kids.

Sunday night Emma took the littlest ones to her church where she volunteers in the preschool so that we could have a quiet night out with the big kids. Hope had the choice to come with us but without hesitation she wanted to go with Emma!

We had the most amazing, peaceful.....QUIET and stress free dining out experience with "just" three big kids at the Cheesecake Factory. Nobody threw their bowl, spit their food out on the table, hollered loudly, or tipped any chairs over. And nobody grabbed the waiter's crotch! It was truly a heavenly experience!!! 

Then we jeans shopped and people watched at the mall. Wow,it felt like being in a 'normal' family for once. :)

It was a great night for everyone, I think even for Emma!
I hope this post will help someone see how much these kinds of little things mean to families like ours. Maybe you can do the same for a family in need in your community or your neighborhood or your church. Families like ours really see the heart of God when people reach out to kids like ours!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Curious to know....

Are you a parent of a child or children with special needs and have quit attending church? If so, why? If not, what has your church done to accommodate your unique family situation and make it easier for you to attend? In what ways have you welcome or not welcome in your church?

If you'd rather answer this question anonymously, feel free. I have been thinking about this for a long time. I want to hear from you first, and then I'll share my thoughts.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Zoya's dream came true this morning...She started kindergarten! For months she has been going with me to drop off the other kids off in the mornings and many times she had packed her own backpack and lunch wondering if  today was the day mom would let her go. :)

We have been waiting on the IEP Meeting, which was finally scheduled for yesterday. (For those who don't know, an IEP is an Individualized Education Plan, for students who require special ed or extra services). She tested very low developmentally and academically so it was determined she will start out in special ed classes primarily, but will spend 1/3 of her day with typical kindergartners (lunch, recess, computer, PE, calendar/circle time, and music). In the typical class, she has Hope's teacher, and in special ed, she has Joseph's. She was soooooooo excited!

It was about 10 degrees out here, thus the red noses and panicked expression on Joseph's face. I am quite sure his nannies would never have allowed him to go outside in that kind of weather.

I'm sure you are wondering how her first day of school was......

The below picture of the progress reports from Mrs. Riggs will say it all! Let's just say Zoya got a ride on the dirt bike while Joseph watched!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Last week my parents surprised us with an unexpected visit (I mean really unexpected!) Their main purpose was to spend some time with my 95 year old grandmother but we got to have them around here as well. They will be traveling to various places over the next few months so it was great to spend time with them knowing it will probably be another year before we can see them again.
We had fun sitting by the fire drinking hot tea and visiting after the kids went to bed. My parents still sit together and cuddle after 45 (or is it 46?) years of marriage. I like that about them. 

And they brought us a present....their Great Dane. 

Thank you Mom and Dad!! :)

She has a big bark, therefore she makes a great watchdog. But she's as sweet as can be. Welcome to the Urban Funny Farm, Layla.

Oma has always been very popular with the grandkids. :)

 Evening times at around 6:00 are the highlight of everybody's day....Daddy comes home from work!! You should hear these two squeal when they see Daddy's white truck coming down the driveway. Zoya grabbed Joseph's neck and pulled him to the window, and said in her own Zoya-way.."Joseph! Look! Daddy's home."

Tonight Hope asked if she and Zoya could sleep in a cardboard box. 
Oh what the heck. 
Why not!

Breaking news

Zoya weighs 25 pounds!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Our Christmas in less than two minutes

Our family enjoyed this video featuring some of the highlights of our Christmas with the Koen and Camacho families. I hope you enjoy it too! Notice the credits at the end...Written by God. haha. Clever. Thanks Frikkie for putting it together and for letting me steal it from your facebook!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Thank you!

I'd like to thank whichever one of you clever blog readers suggested turning footy pajamas zipper-backwards to prevent all kinds of Down-Syndrome-mischief between bedtime and morning. It is working like a charm! No more morning surprises! Thankfully these two haven't figured out that they could easily help each other out of their PJs, even if they can't unzip their own. Shhh....Let's keep it that way, shall we?
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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lots to celebrate

Zoya was a New Year's baby and so we had something extra special to celebrate today. She is six years old. First, a trip to Walmart to get her ears pierced. She has been playing in my jewelry since she got home in August, trying to stick my earrings in her ears. She did not understand why they worked on my ears, Liesel's, Hope's, and even Ava's, but not on hers. Her face lit up yesterday and she said, "Yay!!" when I asked her if she wanted to get her ears pierced for her birthday so she could wear earrings like mommy.

The girls got on their fancy matching dresses for the occasion. When it was all said and done she had flinched just for a second but then she gave me a big smile and a thumbs up. Some random onlooker, a guy with multiple facial piercings, commented that she did better than he has ever done! Sadly she is very used to getting poked with needles.

Hope was so excited to be a part of Zoya's big moment. I about cried when I took this picture of Hope holding the mirror so Zoya could admire her beautiful new look. Zoya picked pink butterflies, of course.

Liesel and Joseph came along as well. Tell me if Joseph's expression doesn't remind you of how your husband looks while he is waiting for for you to finish up your shopping at Walmart. :) But it's Ok. He had a piece of paper (a return receipt) which always makes him happy.

We decided (it was Liesel's idea) to combine John's and Zoya's birthday celebrations. Poor John has a birthday immediately after Christmas and complains that he never got birthday cake and parties, and half the time his gifts got lumped together, wrapped in Christmas paper. "This is for Christmas AND your birthday." I am to blame as well, but who really wants to eat birthday cake or go shopping on December 27?

A little girl fishing on the hill, for Zoya, and a Fish in the Pond cake for John. The fishing pole is a little paint brush with a string tied to the end. I thought it turned out pretty cute if I do say so myself!

Just had to throw this photo in. Ava LOVES her Aunt Marlita. She is feeding her the worst part of her pizza, the crust.

I have no idea whether or not orphans in Ukraine get to celebrate their birthdays, but it was a first for US anyway, to get to be with Zoya on her birthday. If I think about it too much I start to cry.  I wish I could have been there on the day she was born, to welcome her into the world! 

She blew her candles out, then signed 'more' so we lit them again and let her blow them out two more times. Liesel said we should have let her blow them out six times, for every birthday party we have missed. Wish I would have thought of it before all the cake was gone.

Today I am a mother to FOUR six-year-olds. :) 
Every morning Zoya wakes up singing a song. Every night she goes to sleep singing as well. Tonight she sang Happy Birthday to herself. I wish you could have heard it but we couldn't find the video camera. It was just about the sweetest thing I've ever heard. Zoya has enriched our lives. We are thankful that her mother gave her the gift of life six years ago, and we are thankful that she is ours now. Happy Birthday my sweet girl, and many more to come.

P.S. I forgot to mention on my Christmas update post, Liesel is the proud owner of a guinea pig. He is as sweet as can be, which is why his name fits him so well....Prince Charming.