Friday, February 25, 2011

 Joseph loves the farm. He loves being outside. I think he loves life in general.

He loves the dogs.

And the pony.
He loves exploring.

And most of all, he loves when his daddy gets home from work.

We've been thanking the Lord for more sunny days lately! Perfect weather for hanging out with the horses.That winter storm a few weeks ago was brutal! Of course now we're dealing with a lot of mud in our van, on the porch, on our shoes, and even in the house....Yuck.

Simeon and his friend Mason have been buddies since they were born! I have always found it a little eerie how much they look alike. I wish I could find pictures of them, looking like identical twins sitting together on a little blanket. Eeerie, I tell ya! I noticed the last time we had Mason over that he has had a little bit of a growth spurt and he is now taller than Simeon. I'm not sure Simeon was too happy about that, considering he is three months older.

Jude says, "Hey look, Mom...I'm Uncle Steve!"
Heh heh.

Ava can....

I forgot to mention on Ava's birthday post....This is the first year Ava has blown out her own candles (sort of)! This is quite an accomplishment!

Ava can also:
-Walk down the stairs, holding the handrail
-Put on her own socks
-Undress herself
-Make choices
-Feed herself
-Say several words
-Wave to strangers
-Wear Mama's shoes
-Kick a ball
-Run (Ok she's not very graceful but still...)
-Do a simple puzzle
-Stack blocks
-Go potty
-Blow kisses
-Sign "I love you"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bruno Mars - Just the Way You Are (Cover by MattyBRaps ft. Tyler Ward)

Just wanted to share this video which was shared by Amy. I think you'll love it!

Monday, February 21, 2011

I was pretty upset yesterday when I found a Valentine sucker crammed into the pencil sharpener. The motor was damaged as a result and the $25 pencil sharpener is now history.


...But all is now forgiven.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Ava!

Today we celebrated Ava's 7th birthday and three years since she joined our family. I wish I could adequately put into words how much this little girl has enriched our family. Instead I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Happy Birthday Sweet Ava!!!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Valentine's Dance

Last night was the Father-Daughter Valentine Dance for Zoya and Hope for their school. It was originally scheduled for last Friday while we were all snowed in and rescheduled for last night.

John was a little worn out when he got home last night. He mentioned something about a bunch of little girls high on sugar and overstimulated by very loud music. :) But he had a great time, and so did the girls.

I did send the camera with John in hopes that he would come back with some sweet photos.  I should have known that if I wanted pictures I should have gone uninvited and taken them myself! Oh, well, at least I got a few pre-dance photos. :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Can it really be true?

That I am officially the mother of a teenager?

Happy 13th Birthday, Simeon!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I've been asked more than once how I "do it all". So I thought I'd share a little bit about our family's schedule, and some of the ways we try to get everything squeezed into our days.

John gets up at who-knows-what-time and tries to get some work in before the morning chaos begins. If Hope doesn't decide to play mama and wake the littles up at 5 am, the kids usually sleep in until they are awakened at 7am. I get up about 15 minutes before that and try to get a shower in (or not) and breakfast started. We try (try being the key word) to sit down and have breakfast as a family at around 7:15 and a super quick 5 minute family devotion before I take Ava to the potty, get her dressed for school, and pack a lunch for John and Ava. John takes Ava and her little friend to school. They are out the door by 7:40.

Then Liesel, Jude and Simeon do breakfast kitchen clean up duty while I give Zoya her medicine and start her tube feeding, which is to be given over a 20-30 minute period. My smart husband came up with the idea to rubberband the syringe to a cabinet knob and let her sit on the counter tops during her feeds so she can't wander around the house and so I don't have to stand there holding a syringe for half hour every time I feed her. Thanks honey. While she is being tube fed, I get Joseph and Hope dressed and ready for school. Meanwhile the older kids clean the kitchen and supervise Zoya's feeding. Jude wipes off the table and benches, Simeon wipes the counters and stove, and Liesel sweeps. The dishes are put in the sink for me to do later. Then I get Zoya ready, pack lunches (including Zoya's Pediasure for school administration), and load everybody up. On Mondays we have coop so we pretty much skip breakfast clean up and get to come home after a long day to a very messy kitchen.

While I take Zoya, Joseph and Hope to school (less than 1/2 mile from home) at 8:50, Liesel, Jude and Simeon are (supposed to be) feeding the dogs, the cat, and horses. They each have a 'farm' job, including straightening the porch, yard, barn and pet care. Liesel's guinea pig is totally her responsibility and she takes care of him when she first gets up in the morning before breakfast. The cat only shows up at the house a couple of times a week and usually only when it's really cold. He loves exploring the nearby woods and hangs out in the barn a lot.

If all of the above has been done to my satisfaction, we start homeschooling between 9:00 and 9:15. Our school is divided into Group work and Independent Work. We usually start with group work which is Science, History, Memory Work, Latin. Then while the kids do their independent work (Math, Language Arts, Writing, Typing, Math Drills), usually from around 11:00 to 12:30, I am trying to catch up on laundry, breakfast dishes, and whatever cleaning I can squeeze in---which typically isn't much as I'm often called on for help. It works out best if the kids can come to me for help while I fold clothes, make my bed, or do the dishes.

After lunch the kids are supposed to read for 30 minutes. If that doesn't happen we try to get our reading in at bedtime. After reading is "free time" although I require my musicians to practice piano and guitar at this time. Liesel and Jude are now both taking piano AND guitar and are doing so well. Simeon thinks he might eventually like to play the drums, but in the meantime will start spring soccer soon as his extracurricular activity.

At 1:45 I meet the carpool to pick up Ava and we either go straight to therapy or back home, depending on the day. Monday we have coop, piano/guitar lessons and therapy which is a lot for one day but it frees up other days so we can be home more. Wednesday is also therapy day. On therapy days I either take a book to read while I wait, or run errands close by. (Goodwill is just a couple of miles away! Yay.) I try to schedule appointments for afternoons so it doesn't run into school time but it doesn't always happen that way.

At 3:30 I pick up Joseph, Zoya and Hope from school. 4:00 is snack and play time for everyone.

At about 5:30 the kids work on their paid jobs while I make dinner. Each kid has a zone they are responsible for picking up, Windex-ing, vacuuming, sweeping, dusting or whatever needs to be done. John decided we could either hire a maid or pay our kids. Kids work for far less! I've had to lower my standards, but for the price I can't complain. Hope's job is to 'babysit' the little ones in her room. They put a CD on and dance in front of the mirror. And the girls are teaching Joseph ballet, which is really cute!

John gets home around 6:00 which is right at dinner time. We always eat as a family. Someone has to sit by Ava at meals to make sure she doesn't throw her bowl and utensils, and someone has to sit by Joseph to make sure he doesn't cram too much food in his mouth all at once. At 6:30ish while John and the kids clean up the kitchen, I give Zoya her meds and tube feed her, put Joseph and Ava on the potty, bathe them, brush their teeth, and get them ready for bed...PJs backwards of course! Ava and Joseph are usually in bed by 7:00, and Zoya by 7:30-8:00, and Hope by 8:00-8:30.

Boy, do I enjoy 7:00 bedtime!

(P.S. I do the grocery shopping at Aldi on Sundays immediately after church. It is cheap, the lines are shorter, and I can run in without kids while John stays with them in the van. Also, doing grocery shopping on Sunday with everyone in the van means lots of hands to help carry the bags into the house and put groceries away while I make lunch.)

After the little ones are in bed we try to spend quality time with the older kids, whether it's by doing family devotions/Bible reading, watching a movie, or just hanging out. The older kids are in bed by 9 or 9:30, later on weekends. Once the kids are in bed I make it a policy not to work any more. I've been working all day and I think I deserve some time on the blog, facebook, reading, studying, or watching a movie. Right? Often John does work during this time, or watches a show on Netflix with me. Lately we have been enjoying Lie to Me. At the moment he is working on taxes while I play on the computer. I suppose I should be in the office with him offering him moral support!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Love is....

We aren't really big on Valentine's celebrations around here. I would say something profound like it is because we celebrate love year round, but truth be told:
A. I am cheap 
B. I like to keep everybody's expectations nice and realistic. 
C. Holiday celebrations can be a lot of work.

John is definitely more romantic and sentimental about these things than I am, as evidenced by the way he used to do a fabulous job of gift buying until he found some of his great efforts in the Goodwill basket one day a few years ago.
There is one particular moment in my life that I will always think of as the definition of love; a perfect representation of the Heavenly Father's love for us. And that was the moment, years ago,  that I was sick with fever and flu. We were newly-wed at the time, maybe we had Simeon, I don't remember. And John was making me soup and bringing me cold rags for my forehead. And when I reached up to touch his face, it occurred to me that he was flushed. Then I realized his skin was hotter than mine. Three degrees hotter, to be exact. He had the flu too, and was just as miserable if not more. But he never told me. Because he loved me and wanted to take care of me. No matter how bad he felt. It was a sacrifice of love.

I remember that a lot, because there are many moments like that, when I don't feel like getting up in the night to clean up barf, when I don't feel like cooking or changing a diaper, when I would rather send the kids off to play in another room than sit down and read with them, or when it's easier to bake the cookies myself than to let little clumsy toddler hands help me out. John has been a very good example to me and to our family of what love looks like.

Did I ever tell you how we met? We met on a blind date that neither of us wanted to go on. His roommate asked my roommate out back in April of 1994. They thought their first date would be less awkward if they made it a double. Problem is they couldn't find anyone to go with them, including us! I can't tell you how much I did NOT want to go on that date! But because they couldn't find anyone else, we both finally agreed to go. But just this once. ha! Two days later he called me and asked me on a real date. Just the two of us. Six months later we were engaged and a year later married! Sweet memories! 

Today I was reminiscing about how we used to take naps on Sunday afternoons and how much I missed those days. Immediately John said he had to go get the oil changed and that he was taking everybody with him. He left me home ALONE so I could enjoy a box of chocolates all to myself. And a nice long nap.  Now don't you see why I love him so?

Happy Valentine's Day to all. What does love look like to you, and how will you be celebrating?

Friday, February 11, 2011

You are invited....

...To attend a dinner and auction in honor of Masha. John and have been asked to speak, and we would love to see you there! Praying that this event will raise the remainder of the funds she needs for her family to travel to Eastern Europe and make her a part of their family! Details, including instructions on how to purchase tickets, below...
And if you haven't already, please enter to win! The iPad fundraiser is still being held on Meredith's blog. Over $3,600 has been raised. Please help her meet her goal of $5,000 by donating HERE.
(Stolen from Amy's blog)

We are on Day 10 of snow days....Definitely ready to go back to our normal routine!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Zoya's Prayers

Here is a video of Zoya saying her bedtime prayers. She knew I was video taping; I told her it was to show Opa and Oma.  I wanted to show you how well she has picked up English, and to show exactly what I mean when I talk about her speech difficulties associated with the cleft. Please leave me a comment and tell me how well you understand her. I'm curious to know how much of it is just Mom-undertanding, if you know what I mean.

There are a couple of things I want you to notice about her in this video:

1. Notice her speech *could* be better if she just worked a little harder to use her lips. The cleft palate really has nothing to do with why she doesn't close her lips to talk. One thing we learned from the speech therapist is that there are many sounds she could be and should be making but nobody has ever made her, thus she has gotten lazy about talking. We need to do a better job of insisting she work a little harder to make the sounds that she can.

2. Notice both of her hands are bright pink. This is because her sister Hope painted her fingernails, and went a little overboard. :)

3. Her pajamas are on backwards. She insists on wearing them this way because  Joseph and Ava wear theirs that way.

4. She is sleeping in Hope's bed, not her own. Hope bribes her tells her that when she eats good during the day she can sleep with her in her bed.

Today I took a kid to the dentist, another kid to the doctor, and made a trip to the emergency room which ended up resulting in minor surgery. (On top of that I changed four diapers, fed 7 children three meals, gave nine medications and did two dressing changes.) It's been a busy day!

Zoya has been developing this 'thing' on her belly button. Red, swollen, portruding. Remember she had an incision on her belly button from the laparoscopic surgery for the G-tube placement in December, so we knew it was either an infection or a hernia. We have been snowed in and unable to get her to the doctor until today. The pediatrician sent us to the ER thinking it was a strangulated hernia but the surgeon took one look at it and said it was an abscess that just needed to be opened and drained.

So, after a minor operation with sedation, she is now home and sleeping soundly in her little bed. Praise the Lord it was just a little minor thing and she is doing well.

Here is a sweet little picture from the hospital that I wanted to share. Joseph climbed up in her hospital bed and started kissing her little hand...spontaneously. How sweet are they!!

Whoever thought adopting older, institutionalized orphaned children would 'ruin our family'....Well, they were sure wrong!! Love these kids!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tube feedings, sleepovers, snow days, and more

As requested, here is a little explanation of how we do Zoya's tube feedings.

We tube feed her four times a day, after breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner. We allow her about 30 minutes to eat what is on her plate (which usually ends up being somewhere between 2 and 5 bites of food), then we give her 6 oz. of Pediasure through her g-tube (or "mickey button"). There is a tube that locks straight into her mickey button, and there is a syringe that attaches to the end of the tube. The Pediasure flows to gravity and the speed is regulated by how low or how high you hold it. It has to flow in over a period of about 20 minutes.

Problem with this plan is we have been so busy running around going to therapy and appointments and school, we have often inadvertantly skipped the after-snack feeding. I cheated a little by increasing the total amount of formula to 8 oz, and giving it only after meals, which brought the calorie intake to exactly the same as prescribed. However, after she threw up a few times after feeds we have gone back down to the 6 oz. 4 times a day.

One of the blessings of the tube is that she no longer has to take her yucky medications by mouth. Granted, I still make her take them by mouth occasionally, so she doesn't lose the skill, but it has been wonderful not to have that battle every day. One medication in particular, Kaletra, is 30% alcohol, and bitter, and HORRIBLE, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone, especially a little 6 year old girl.

Here are her morning medications......Gee, can you see why she might have NO appetite?

Incidentally, she had gotten her weight up to 25 pounds, but lost a pound after being sick one week. Ugh!! But at least we're on an uphill trend I guess.

And that is, in a nutshell, how we feed Zoya.

I was going through adding photos and updating all the kids's baby books last week, and I found this in Ava's book......All the hair she ever had, right here in this Ziplock bag. I panicked one day when I could't remember if I had kept it or thrown it away. I am sooooo glad I kept it. My poor sweet girl does not do well in the cold; she is particularly grumpy each winter. I can't say that I blame her with no hair to keep her head warm. I wish she could understand that a warm hat would help but she will have nothing to do with one!


I sure love kids...I walked into the bathroom the other day and saw this. Here is our pet Guinea Pig, Prince Charming, "watching a movie"...Veggie Tales of course (ha), on the iPad, eating a delicious carrot snack. I'm so glad the kids thought to put an old towel under him! If anyone ever wonders how well we take care of our animals, wonder no more!!

Cousin sleepovers are the best! Hope and Sebastian get along perfectly because Hope is bossy and Sebastain is easy going they have so much in common. Here they are dancing The Nutcracker. hee hee

Liesel and Evi got all made up and dressed up and put on a little concert for us. Evi sang and Liesel played the piano. The girls made me promise I wouldn't put this picture on facebook. Good thing they didn't mention the blog. :) They are sure growing up.

For the past year and a half or two, ever since Ava started scooting around and eventually walking, she has had an obsession with tipping chairs over. Apparently she loves the loud BANG it makes when it hits the concrete floor. As a result, half of our chairs were broken (and my nerves rattled). When we spent time with my uncle in California over Thanksgiving, John learned some woodworking skills. For Christmas I asked for dining room benches. He delivered! I LOVE LOVE LOVE having benches in my dining room. He must be sick of me thanking him every day for these things. They are sturdy, easy to clean, can fit a million people, can easily slide under the table in between meals so I don't trip over them every time I walk through the room. There are no more greasy fingerprints to clean off the backs of the black chairs. And best of all, NO MORE CHAIR TIPPING!! Can you tell I'm a little excited?

To simplify things, we have kept all the clothes belonging to Hope, Joseph, Ava, and Zoya, in the closet in Hope's and Zoya's room. Previously there were two dressers and a hanging bar in the closet. It was so difficult to get to the clothes though, and the clothes were constantly being pulled onto the floor. My sweet husband spent last Saturday building shelves into the closet. Now everything is neatly organized and labeled and at eye level. This system has made my life so much easier. I so appreciate having a husband who anticipates my needs and strives to meet them. He sure knows my love language. Thanks Honey!

I love living in the country but one thing about it, nobody clears your driveway when you get 21" of snow. Thankfully everybody worked together and the neighbor helped us as well, and we were finally able to get out to church yesterday after being snowed in for six days. Wow. School is cancelled again today. It has been interesting being cooped in the house for a week with 9 people, 3 dogs, and a cat with diarrhea! I am looking forward to life back to normal. Hopefully sooner than later.

By the way, do you see what looks like a white snowball down by the pond? That is our fluffy white pony, Jack. Have I ever talked about Jack on here? He is a cutie. We traded him for Mo a while back. I'll need to post a photo I guess.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Meghan, my dear friend, and her family, are working very hard to adopt this little girl named Masha. Like most other children born with Down Syndrome in her country, Masha is headed to the mental institution soon.  The process has gone more quickly for her prospective adoptive family than the funds have come in. They desperately need help with the last of their expenses as they will have the opportunity to travel very soon. As you know, adoption is expensive. An iPad raffle is being held to help them with their travel expenses and I want to encourage my readers to participate. Let's help them with their plane tickets to go get that little girl home!

Here are the details:  (ALL donations are tax deductible through the Ukraine Outreach/ Eli Project!)
$10= 1 entry
$25= 3 entries
$50= 8 entries
$100= 20 entries
$150= 35 entries
$300= 80 entries!!!!

Click here to read more details of the giveaway and to make a donation through a Chip In link. Thank you to the Cornishes for hosting this giveaway to bless this little girl and her family!!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Days!

Looks like school will be out most of the week due to the blizzard that came through on Monday evening. Am I the only mom that makes her homeschooled kids do schoolwork when the local public schools are out? I guess I'm just mean that way. I told them they will just be smarter than their peers!

Finishing school just after noon means still plenty of time to play in the snow. We are all trapped at home, even John, which means he gets to work from home all week.

Anyway, here are a few photos:

The pond is solid ice.

Here Simeon is STANDING in a snow drift.

And digging himself a snow tunnel.

Hope only lasted a few minutes outside. She takes after me that way I guess.

Somebody please let me in!!

I love how the birds come up to the porch to find shelter from the cold. Cardinals are my favorite!

Ava detests the snow but she LOVES snow ice cream!!

Snow Ice Cream

1 gallon fresh snow
1 cup sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 cups milk

Mix together and serve. Yummy!