Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More photos

If you're ever in Sacramento, The California State Railroad Museum is a must-see! We thoroughly enjoyed it!

Strolling through Old Sacramento with the grandparents was memorable. It was a beautiful day.

Opa treated us all to Old Fashioned Taffy.

Liesel got special permission to spend the night with her great-grandma in the retirement center and ate breakfast with her the next morning. I have fond memories of spending the night with Grandma when I was about her age, so I was ecstatic that she would have at least one opportunity to do this. I called a couple of times the next day to check on her and she said she was looking at pictures with Great Grandma and would I please stop calling and interrupting her. Apparently they had fun together!

Zoya was absolutely mesmerized with Great Grandma's wrinkles.

I have always loved the view from my Uncle and Aunt's front yard. Can you see the vineyard across the street and the mountains in the distance? I spent a year with them while I was in High School so it almost felt like going back 'home' in a way.

We spent the day at their mountain cabin playing in the snow and then warming up by the fire afterward. How fun!!

Uncle Steve took John and the kids to pick the biggest and sweetest granny smith apples EVER. We brought home a bunch and have been enjoying cinnamon apples, apple crisp, and have plans to make apple salad. YUM.

Uncle Steve teaches mechanics and woodworking to High School students. Thank goodness he has developed a lot of patience. He even let Joseph help.

Jude and Zoya enjoyed the backyard tire swing together....

Grandma and the girls baked homemade rolls for Thanksgiving dinner. Even Grandma was cracking herself up as she couldn't remember whether she had added the salt, sugar, etc. She IS ninety-two after all! (Or is she 93, I can't remember?) We were all relieved when the rolls turned out not only edible but delicious!

After a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner Uncle Steve slipped out and soon after we received a surprise visit from SANTA CLAUS!

I absolutely loved how tenderly Santa interacted with Uncle Steve's grandaughter Jillian. How sweet.

The Grand Canyon!!! Don't worry, we only stayed long enough to snap a few photos. And if a monkey harness/backpack ever came in handy, it would be on a little boy with Down Syndrome at the Grand Canyon!

"Aunt" Sharon is my mom's best friend and roommate from college (and a faithful reader and commenter on this blog---Hi Aunt Sharon!!) They lost touch eventually, and through the wonders of the internet have reconnected in recent years.  It has been so fun to watch them become best friends all over again. The girls were so excited to get to spend the night with her the first night we arrived in Sacramento. They had fun playing with her cat, Sugar.

We got all the kids out of the van and bundled up, then walked a few blocks on a muddy sidewalk (Notice Ava took a spill-check out the pants), and took this photo of the kids, only to realize we were at the wrong museum. Ooops! Oh well it was still a fun memory made, and a photo worth posting, I think.

Pictures from our trip

Since we switched all our photos to Picasa I have  no idea how to upload more than 5 pictures per post. So bear with me as I make multiple posts about our trip to California and back.
Gee, I don't know why we got so many stares as we boarded the plane to Sacramento. I wish I could have video taped all the people who counted the children one by one as we walked by!

I am not lying when I tell you the kids were all great travelers! Ava held her daddy's hand almost the whole way, and kept looking behind her seat at me and giving me a thumbs up (a gesture she has learned from Joseph). Joseph sat in the aisle seat and groped people as they walked by. John kept reminding him that he was a passenger, not a TSA agent in training. :)

Zoya has the world's smallest bladder. I lost count of how many trips we had to make to the bathroom!

Hope is our little social butterfly. She saved a seat for her new friend that we met just before boarding. It sure is nice to get to sit by nice kid-tolerant people on long flights with children. As you can see, Hope and Sarah are now BFF.

Monday, November 29, 2010

New Header and Thanksgiving fun

A big thank you to Nikki who designed a new blog header for me!  How nice!! I had been debating whether to change it but I don't know how to do all that fancy photoshop stuff. Thanks Nikki for helping me out. Please check it out!

We are alive and well. Had a great Thanksgiving week with the whole family. Here are a few of the things that we did:

-Flew to Sacramento, CA (Yes, the WHOLE family) where we met my parents (AKA Opa and Oma) and spent the evening and night with our dear family friend, "Aunt Sharon"
-Visited the CA State Railroad Museum and strolled.......with 7 children and two grandparents...... through Old Sacramento, enjoying peanut butter taffee and early Christmas decor....a FUN experience
-Experienced the famous In-N-Out Burger...YUM.....wish they had 'em in Oklahoma
-Drove with my parents to Reedley, CA where we spent a few days in my aunt and uncle's guest house and enjoyed my aunt's and mom's wonderful Thanksgiving cooking and chased kids around
-Spent some quality time with one of the best Grandmas I know
-Picked some of the best granny smith apples I've ever had in my life
-Listened to my kids perform and my dad preach at my grandma's Sunday night church service at her retirement center
-Spent a day at my uncle's mountain cabin where the kids rode snowmobiles and had snowball fights
-Watched my boys learn to work with wood and metal, thanks to my Uncle Steve. We brought home a homemade knife, a handcarved "Jude", and a set of farm benches for my long dining room table (YAY).
-Received a surprise visit from Santa Claus (AKA Uncle Steve)
-Said a tearful goodbye to my 92 year old Grandma....Man I wish she was closer!
-Three-day road trip from Fresno to Tulsa, via 15 passenger van with Opa and Oma
-Took 7 kids to the Grand Canyon (Can we say STRESSFUL)
-Visited Grandma Urban in New Mexico, plus John's brother and family
-Arrived home late last night with a million and one things to get done today.....

Thanks to Opa and Oma for a super fun trip! Thanks for putting up with all the noise and bickering in the backseat, not to mention 101 potty stops for Zoya, whose bladder must surely be no bigger than a walnut!

Pictures coming soon.......

Friday, November 19, 2010

Down Syndrome sweetness...

I got a text from John the other day on my cell phone that said this:

"I just got a phone call from the doctor's office with shocking news..."

"Joseph has Down Syndrome."

haha. I guess the blood results came back. Oh well! What is one more right?

I haven't been the best at taking and posting videos, but while I was out one Saturday, John emailed me these videos of Joseph and Ava.  Notice Joseph almost always has in his hands a strip of torn paper that he enjoys flapping around. I'm not sure why he's so obsessed with tearing paper but let's just say we've had to hide all the important documents and have switched our homeschool curriculum to mostly computer!

Random stuff

Joseph has had a lot of drainage from his left ear. After seeing three doctors about it we have learned that he has a cholesteatoma, which is basically a benign cyst attached to his left ear drum. The cause is frequent untreated ear infections which he has most likely had his whole life. Children with Down Syndrome are more prone to ear infections because of their TINY eustachian tubes.Now the first thing I think of when I hear this is how many orphans are lying in their beds crying over untreated ear infections because they don't have a mother to get up in the night to comfort them when they're screaming and then schedule a doctor's appointment the next morning. My poor little guy how he must have suffered as an orphan!

Anyway, if untreated this cyst could eventually lead to hearing loss, nerve damage or meningitis, so he will be needing surgery to remove it soon. Most likely he will need ear tubes as well. Hopefully we can do this at the same time.
The best thing about being the littlest one on the family is you get all the greatest hiding places! Do you spy a little Ukrainian girl in blue pajamas? Looks like Joseph did. And it looks like he is scheming how he is going to get there. (No worries, he didn't).

There are so many things I love about my husband. One is that he is so fun to play hide and seek with. It took him FOREVER to find Zoya up on the top shelf, even though she was giggling and giggling right above his head. :)

The letters to the tooth fairy continue. Now Hope has started addressing the letters to the Tooth Princess, and has started enclosing money instead of asking for it. How I love that girl! I suppose it's time for the Tooth Princess to write a letter explaining that she (he?) technically only visits when you lose a tooth, and that we should all start following the rules from now on.
Ava has a really bad habit of throwing her food, plates, bowls, utensils, usually to indicate she is finished eating. Sadly, Joseph has picked up this habit from her as well. We have tried everything we can think of to teach her, including buying a bowl with a suction cup at the bottom (which she just yanked right off). So I have started feeding her at the table so at least most of the oatmeal can be wiped up from the table rather than from the floor. I put her favorite baby doll up there with her since her teachers at school call her a little mama and a little teacher, I thought maybe she would enjoy the role of teaching her baby the proper way to set bowls and utensils on the high chair. It was too cute not to take a picture of! I should get a video next time now that I think of it. Ava would set her bowl on the baby's tray, then wag her little finger in front of her face and say, "NO, NO, NOOOOOOO!" haha. I guess now I know exactly what I look like when I am scolding nagging correcting my children.

If having a child with Down Syndrome in your family is a blessing, then having two is a Double Blessing. How we have loved watching these two get to know each other these last few weeks. I don't normally take the time to stop and take pictures and videos of these sweeties but I do wish you could see them! Joseph has really surprised me. I feared when we spent so many weeks with him in Ukraine, that he may be a little bit aggressive, but he has turned out to be the SWEETEST boy EVER and in fact is very forgiving of Ava who does have a tendency to hit and pinch at times. She pinches him and then he signs 'no' and leans over and gives her a kiss. Oh I love these kids. All 7 of them. What a blessed mama I am!
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

The puppy finally has a name!

I took this picture about a week after our friend Luke had died tragically in a diving accident.  Our kids really loved and looked up to Luke and had taken his loss so hard, so we made the decision to take our older three children with us to the Memorial Service. That night Jude fell asleep holding a picture of Luke, from the service, on his chest. It was a touching sight to say the least.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks. You know the story of Oliver the mangy rescue dog who had to be put to sleep, and then the story of how our vet personally sought out for us a nice puppy replacement......a 6 month old Yellow LabraDoodle.

Well that poor puppy has not had a name for his first two weeks here with us. With so many people in our family we just have not been able to agree on just one name. Einstein, Barkley, Charlie, Benjamin, Prince Charming, Duke, Captain Doodle...None of them sounded quite right at least not to the majority. Then one of the kids suggested Luke and everybody unanimously agreed that it was the perfect name for the puppy. While I loved the idea, I wasn't entirely sure how socially appropriate it was to name a dog after a loved one who passed away but after all it was the kids' idea and the last thing I wanted to do was scold them over it. Besides, I knew Luke would have loved it!  I also felt that this was the kids' way of coping and attempting to keep Luke's memory alive in our hearts and conversations.

 At the risk of offending I decided to run it by Luke's family to hear their thoughts. I'm so glad they agreed!

Welcome to the family, Luke!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fall Family Photos

We missed church this morning, so we decided to go take family photos instead on this beautiful fall day!

It was fun! I think I decided we need to do it more often (Not skip church, but take more family photos).