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Sunday, June 29, 2008

"Dear Jesus," Alek prayed last night. "Thank you for the great day I had."
"Thank you that I got to play baseball today."
"Thank you that we got to eat at McDonalds."
"Thank you that we get to go to church tomorrow..."
"And please change Mom's mind so I can color my hair blue and get a mohawk like that guy I saw at the game."


q & a part 1

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I finally found some time to sit down and answer some of the questions you all supplied me a few weeks ago. Thanks so much for your help! My blogging drought was starting to get pretty severe! :) Your questions have given me inspiration. I want you to know I'm recommitting myself to blogging on a regular basis...but I need your help! If you don't hear from me, call me out on it. This is the only venue I have for writing right now. And I NEED to write.
To start off...a hodge-podge of questions ranging from the size of our family to the price of a train ticket in Ukraine. Oh, where to begin! :)

Mum to Six Boys queried..."How big a family do you want? *grin* I always thought I was going to have four!!! Look at me now! So, think before you answer! *grin*"

HA! I don't have to think before I answer! :)
It's four.
Always been four.
Shad wanted two, I wanted four...we intially compromised at three...and then I wore him down! :)
Every once in awhile he'll say, 'we have a lot of kids.' And I just smile! :) But I KNOW I would be pressing my luck to try for any more.

We're done.
Shad would tie me to the back side of an angry water buffalo before he'd let us go through this process one more time.
And I have to agree (for now ;)
We need to start our lives together. It seems as if life has been on hold for the last nine years as we've worked to build our family. Now it's time to sit back and enjoy. Okay...we may not be sitting - these kids will see to that. But we will definitely be enjoying! ;)

Tina in CT inquired...'Where do you find all the neat pictures in your blogs?"

I find them here and there, but mostly there. Google is a great source for pictures, the problem is finding ones that aren't copyrighted. That's a challenge.

Susan asked...'How much does a train ticket in Ukraine really cost? I have heard so many different ranges. And ditto to the other 2 questions asked."

Well, I know it depends on what class ticket you want to buy. We bought second class tickets for around 150 grivna one-way ($30 USD) for our first trip. I think it was similar for our overnight ride to Odessa. I could be totally wrong here. Can someone correct me?! :) The train wasn't totally awful. I never did look in the bathrooms...for more on my aversion check out Finding Maddie...but the ride itself was comfortable enough. I just don't sleep well while traveling.

Drew Michelle and Luke Paras said..."I would like to hear about PAD and what exactly you went through." and Sarah Halter said... What is PAD? and Christine said... I'm with Sarah. What is PAD? and Tina in CT said... I also want to know what PAD is.

Sorry ladies! I didn't mean to leave you hanging for so long! PAD is Post Adoption Depression. I'm planning a whole post on it, but let's just suffice to say, IT'S NOT FUN! Thankfully my bought this time was mild compared to when we adopted Anya and Nick. I didn't require medication...and while I don't think I'm completely over it, I do feel MUCH better. I'll be sure to fill you in later.

Nataliya said..."Just write about "quiet" things in your house :)"

WHAT quiet things! ;>)
Honestly, the only time it is quiet in this house is when the kids are sleeping...it is one of my favorite times of the day. Not because I don't want to be around them or anything...it's just that they look so angelic when they're sleeping. Anything they've done to drive me nuts that day quickly melts away when I see their innocent little faces.
It doesn't get much better than that.
The only thing better may be getting up before the kids do and having them come downstairs one at a time and climbing in my lap for a quick morning hug and rock in the rocking chair before starting their day. All of them have come to me for their morning cuddle from the very beginning (even Maddie). And while Alek thinks he's getting too old for this rutual and is only giving me quick hugs now, it is still my favorite time.

SG said..."Why did you choose over seas adoption?"

I'm saving this one for a post all it's own. The answer is so complicated, it will take more time. I'll just start by saying...it wasn't an easy decision to come to. I'll come back to this one! ;>)

MoscowMom said... No real question today... Just a friendly "hello"!

Hi! to you too! :) I've been really bad about checking blogs lately, so I'm glad you stopped by. Everyone needs to go check out her blog. Tamara lives in Moscow, has two darling girls and posts beautiful pictures of her life in Russia's capital city. Beside that, she has a great name! :)

Steve Eimers said...What is your biggest struggle/joy in your day to day "grind"? It is great to hear the 'boring' stuff too! You never know what someone might see and take great interest or encouragement from. I always like pictures. Melissa E.

My biggest struggle right now is with patience. I've never been an overly patient person...and kids don't have the tendency to bring out the best in me. I'm getting better though...and so are the kids.
It's a daily struggle.
Honestly, Maddie and her quirks have added to my battle. I don't handle direct disobedience well, and I can never tell if she's disobeying or not hearing me.
UGH! It drives me nuts.
God is always stretching us, isn't He? Getting us out of our comfort zone and molding us into what He wants us to be. Evidentally He REALLY wants me to be patient!
Strangely enough (or more accurately, amazingly enough) Maddie is also one of my biggest sources of joy. Seeing her experience new things for the first time is amazing...and experiencing her giggles, smiles and hugs is the best tonic for a grumpy day.
As I've said a million times, I wouldn't trade Maddie for ANYTHING.
I NEVER in a million years thought I would have what it takes to parent a special needs child.
I guess those patience lessons are starting to pay off. ;>)


the interrogation

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Why is going to the pediatrician getting to be more like going to an inquisition?
We had two doctor's appointments this week...
One for the girls.
One for the boys.
I try to get all of our annual appointments done during the summer while the kids are out of school.
And getting them all done at the same time means I'm less likely to leave someone out! :)
We changed pediatricians this year.
Not because I wanted to.
Our absolutely wonderful pediatrician, whom the kids adored and I absolutely loved...moved.
He was perfect.
The kids would patiently wait for Dr. S. in his 'Things to Spot' muraled exam rooms. It didn't matter how long we had to wait, they could spend hours in there searching for the 10 spotted dogs.
As soon as he burst into the room, the teasing and games got started. Decked out in his mismatched slippers, funny-shaped stethescopes, and cartoon character scrubs, he immediately put them at ease...
No matter how sick they were.
He cared about them.
And the kids trusted him.
Now he's gone...
Leaving behind a list of recommended doctors to help us search for a new pediatrician.
So I picked one.
I'm not sure I chose wisely.
I picked the only woman on the list because I thought (stereotypically I know) she would most likely be compassionate with a good bedside manner for the kids.
What I didn't consider was her bedside manner with ME!
The questions started within the first few minutes of the girls' appointment.
'How old are they?'
'When is their birthday?'
'How long has it been since their last doctor's appointment?'

'Are they on any current medications?'
'Have there been any recent trips to the E.R.?'
Some of it, I get.
'Is there smoking in the home?"
'Is there a family history of any of the following...' (I love telling them, 'I don't know' and getting the quizzical look! HA! :)
'Are there any bedtime issues...'

'Does the child sleep through the night...'
But honestly, does it really matter that the child's favorite food is PB&J or ice cream?
For heaven's sake.

That's what kids are supposed to like!
It's not like I feed it to them for the supper...every night! ;>)
It all started out innocent enough, but as we went along they got more...judgemental.
And yes, I understand they are health questions, but they're also poking and prodding at my skills as a parent.
Thankfully I had all the right answers.
Except for one.
'Does the child wear a helmet when riding a bike?'
My kids don't wear helmets!
It's not because they shouldn't. I know they should. We started out with every intention of having them wear helmets...but somewhere along they way LIFE interefered and we became slackers.
So even though I do slather on SPF 30+ sunscreen before they go swimming and reapply liberally regularly...
...and no, we don't smoke...
...and yes, we are married and living together...
...and yes, there are six people living in our house...
...and yes, all four children do eat three well-rounded meals and three snacks a day, including at least four to six servings of fruits and vegetables daily...
...and no they aren't being bullied at school...
...and yes, they've seen the eye doctor AND the dentist in the last six months...
...and yes, they're doing just fine in school, but yes, they ARE getting speech help...
...and no, they aren't allowed a lot of sugary snacks...
...and yes, they are involved in sporting activities so they get plenty of exercise...
...and yes, I limit their amount of video games to 30 minutes a day...
...and yes, they all wear their seat belts and three of them are STILL in booster seats because not only is it state law - it's also safer...
...and no, they don't swim unsupervised...
...and yes, they are taking swim lessons...
...and yes, we have smoke detectors...
...and yes, we tested the batteries at the last time change...
...and yes, I've taught the kids to look both ways BEFORE they cross the street...
...SOMEHOW I STILL ended up getting lectured on bike helmets!
And it wasn't just a quick mention, of 'you really should have them wear helmets.'
It was a diatribe.
A speech.
A lecture.
Do I look like the world's worst mom to you, lady?!
To top it all off...she's a shot Nazi.
I thought all the kids were up to date on their boosters...but she likes to give the Hep A shot as well.
So the kids got shots we were ALL unprepared for.
And they get ANOTHER one in six months.
Great for morale, let me tell you. ;>)
I know there are a lot of parents out there who need to hear these questions.
They need to be educated about all of this stuff.
And I can't be left out...
Still, I couldn't help getting a little prickly over the interrogation.
I guess I'm still a little sensitive.
You know...having everyone and their brother take a close look at your parenting skills, home condition and then judging whether you would make fit parents or not...
It's still a little soon after the adoption to go through another inquisition.
Maybe it's my own little version of 'post-traumatic'.
My apologies to my doctor friends out there. I know there are several of you who read this blog and I'm sure you aren't ANYTHING like this nut. Keep up the good work! :)
P.P.S. - Please ignore any spelling errors. I spell-checked before I posted this, then re-read (as is my OCD nature) and found at least two spelling errors...who knows what else is in there!


progress report

Monday, June 23, 2008

She's doing great...
She fits right in...
Couldn't imagine life without her...
They're all phrases I've been using in the last few weeks to describe how Maddie has made the adjustment to family life in the last four months.
And it's all true...
But it's only half the story.
The full truth is, there are a lot of little things we deal with on a daily basis that may or may not be what we lovingly refer to as 'leftovers.'
All of our kids have leftovers in their little lives.
Alek deals with some auditory processing issues.
Anya at times has sensory troubles.
Nick has fine motor deficits.
But all of these issues are so incredibly minor they are hard to see. Impossible, in fact, unless you work closely with our kids.
But with Maddie things are different.
Many of her issues, while still minor, are much more visible.
Obviously there are the physical issues. Maddie was born with bilaterial microtia...the malformation of her ears. She essentially doesn't have any. But she doesn't let it slow her down.
She was also born with what the Ukranian doctors call a 'big mouth.' This one still baffles her American doctors. Maddie has seen at least four doctors since we returned in February...and none of them could figure it out. Maddie had surgery on her mouth about a year before we brought her home that closed this 'big mouth.' Someday she'll have some corrective plastic surgery done to clean it up a bit.
But these physical problems are so minor we rarely notice them.
Even the hearing problems.
Life in our household has adjusted to living with a child with a hearing impairment...although I have to tell you it has certainly gotten MUCH louder around here. Some days the noise is deafening. (no pun intended ;>) And it's not just because we have four kids in the house! :)
The truth is...Maddie is loud.
REALLY loud.
We are forever telling her to be quiet.
We thought once she got the hearing aid and could hear how loud she was, it would help. It hasn't.
My sister-in-law who also adopted a bi-lateral microtia child (from China) says it takes awhile for them to figure it out. Her daughter (home since last August) is just now starting to quiet down.
I guess we'll be waiting awhile longer.


Maddie is a rocker.
A violent rocker.
It is so hard to watch.
When we brought Alek home nine years ago, we were not prepared for the rocking. Our first night home (he didn't rock in Russia) can only be described as scary, heart-breaking and unnerving.
When we laid him in his crib, he promptly got up on all fours and started rocking forward and back...trying to comfort himself. We picked him up, tried to rock him (which he hated) and then laid him back down.
He rocked on.
He rocked so hard he moved his crib across his bedroom floor and banged it against the wall for a good 30 minutes.
We finally realized he needed to rock in order to get to sleep that night and vowed we would find a way to help stop.
It took five years.
Five years of rocking him in the rocking chair, moving him into our bed to comfort him at night, and teaching him to trust us.
By the time he started first grade the rocking had disappeared.
Now it only shows up when he's bored or disengaged.
Maddie's rocking is worse.
Much, much worse.
She had four years of living in the orphanage to master it.
She rocks violently.
It doesn't matter what position she is laying in, she rocks side to side...banging her head against the side of her bed, wall or whatever else happens to be in the way.
We try putting pillows around her, but by the time the night is over she's rocked herself away from all of them (or knocked them off her bed) and she's back to banging her head. And she doesn't wake up.
As hard as she's hitting her head it's amazing to me that she doesn't have bruises all over her noggin.
But she doesn't.
We've started working with Maddie, just like we did all those years ago with Alek.
We're rocking her, bringing her in with us and helping her learn to trust us.
Thankfully, unlike Alek, she loves to be held and rocked.
I'm hoping it will make it a little easier.


We are finally out of pull-ups!
Can I get an Amen?!
We ran out of our night-time supply last week ull-ups and we've been dry ever since.
We are still having issues though with the bathroom trip frequency. Maddie seems to need to go all the time. We have tried limiting her liquids and just saying no. Both help but she still goes to the bathroom an awful lot.
Tonight she went in there three times in the first 30 minutes I was home.
I finally told her to make sure she went it all, because I wasn't allowing her to go back in until she got ready for bed.
So far it's worked.
Because of her bi-laterial microtia (birth defect - no ears) we had her kidneys tested when she first came home. They're the normal size and are functioning properly. We had her tested for urinary tract infection - nothing. So we decided to let it go for awhile and see if it was just control issues.
It hasn't gotten any better, so we're headed back to the doctor this next week to get some help. I'm hoping they'll do an ultra sound on her bladder to see if it's the normal size. If we can just find out what the problem is we can deal with it!


She can understand almost everything we say.
If only we could say the same thing.
It's so frustrating...and honestly was something I wasn't quite prepared for.
I was living in a poly-anna world.
I thought once she got her hearing aid, her language skills would explode.
We still can't understand much of what she says...and the stuff we have picked up on are not pronounced anywhere near where they should be.
All of this has limited our ability to help her with her preschool skills.
We've worked on her counting (she still gets stuck on four, five, seven and sometimes nine).
We've worked on body parts...she's got the basics down.
But we only started working on colors and the alphabet this week.
I am usually a bit more realistic when it comes to what to expect when we bring home our child. As an experienced international adoption parent, I knew what to expect with bonding, delay and control issues. What I didn't prepare myself for was the special needs stuff.
Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't trade Maddie for anything...and the problems we are running into are soooooo minor.
I just wasn't ready for them.
A reminder that in international adoption...preparation is everything!


We're making progress.
But unfortunately the steps we're taking are itsy-bitsy ones.
Maddie is still willing to go to any stranger at any time, which is sooooo incredibly frustrating. I had thought we had made at least a little progress on this in the last few weeks, but she walked right up to a complete stranger the other day and held out her arms to be picked up.
We're trying all of the tricks we know.
No one but Mommy and Daddy get to hold her.
We take care of all of her needs.
We play 'who's the mama and daddy' game all the time. Thankfully she's not calling every woman she comes across 'mama' anymore...but I still don't think she thinks we're anything special yet.
We still hold her hand ALL the time. We don't let her walk ANYWHERE on her own, which is helping. She will automatically reach for our hand now as we get out of the car to go in the store, church, restaurant...and it helps keep her away from other people, but she's still 'mommy shopping.'
Looking for a newer, better model.
I came across this online checklist a few weeks ago and have been wanting to post it - and our results for awhile...waiting to see if the results changed.
They have.
Even if they're minor changes.
Since we've only been home 4 1/2 months, I take a lot of consolation in how far we've come in such a short period of time. Yes, she still has issues (marked in red), but there are so many areas where she has made remarkable improvement (blue) or have no issues at all (green). (Sorry...the list is kind of long).
1. My child teases, hurts, or is cruel to other children. No - thank goodness. She's pretty good with other kids. I was expecting to have some trouble with this after life in the orphanage, but honestly we've only had one incident and that was VERY early on. Since then she has learned how to take care of 'babies' and in general plays pretty well with everyone.
2. My child can't keep friends for an age-appropriate length of time. It depends on 'age appropriate'. Emotionally, she's not a four year old yet. She's more like an early three year old. And at that level she's doing pretty well. She'll play beside other children and with other children for short amounts of time, but she doesn't really seek out playing with other kids unless it's her siblings.
3. My child doesn't do as well in school as my child could do even with a little more effort. Don't know yet. She appears to be a pretty smart little stinker, but we're having trouble with her focusing on things. I believe it's an emotional age thing (which factors into so much of this).
4. My child pushes me away or becomes stiff when I try to hug, unless my child wants something from me, in which case my child can be affectionate and engaging.
No - again, thank goodness. She's been my hugger from the very beginning. She LOVES to climb up in our lap for some quality time. She is constantly bringing us books, pillows and blankets so we can curl up on the couch together. We love it! :)
5. My child argues for long periods of time, often about meaningless or silly things. Not really. This one is hard to judge because the language just isn't there yet, but she doesn't seem to get worked up about silly things...or worked up about much of anything. She's pretty laid back (so unlike the other three! ;>)
6. My child has a large need to control everything. No...again, see number five.
7. My child is hyper-vigilant. At first this was a definite YES, but over the last twelve to sixteen weeks she has slowly let go of a lot of her paranoias and is starting to trust us to take care of her. Do you remember the blanket incident? About eight weeks ago she started letting us put blankets on her at night again, but would quickly kick them off. Now she goes and finds her blanket before she climbs into bed (toddler bed). She's also doing better with animals. She'll walk up to our cat now and pet him and is tolerant of the dog. But any sudden movement by either animal still freaks her out. As far as Shad and I are concerned, she is not worried at all about us leaving her, but is happy to see us when we return.
8. My child acts amazingly innocent, or pretends that things aren't really bad or a problem when caught doing something wrong. Oh no! My child cries with the best of them. But usually the crying doesn't come until after the discipline.
9. My child does dangerous things such as runs away, jumps out of windows, or other potentially harmful actions. My child seems oblivious to the fact that my child may be hurt. No. She definitely feels pain.
10. My child deliberately breaks or ruins his things or other's things. Nope.
11. My child doesn't seem to feel age-appropriate guilt when my child does something wrong. I'm not sure on this one. I can tell when she's been found out to have done something wrong, but there is no general guilt. (althought that is true for all four of my kids...none of them would confess to something without having been found out. I'm still working on this one.)
12. My child is impulsive, either unable or unwilling to stop doing something she wants to do. No. She'll stop if told to.
13. My child teases, hurts, or is cruel to animals. Are you kidding me? She won't go near them! :)
14. My child steals, or shows up with things that belong to others with unbelievable, unusual, or suspicious reasons for how my child got these things. No.
15. My child likes to sneak things without permission, even though my child could have had these things if my child had asked. Oh yea! Food especially. She is constantly sneaking bananas, cookies or anything that looks half-way yummy. This is where the language barrier becomes huge. She can't understand the food will always be there and that we'll give her food (as long as it's not too close to dinner.) And she can't understand that she just needs to ask. I hope as we get further along that she'll start to pick up on these kinds of things. She's not hording food...just sneaking it.
16. My child doesn't seem to learn from mistakes, consequences, or punishments (my child continues the behavior despite the consequences). Some days I wonder...although she does much better at this than the boys. For instance, the other day I caught her ripping wallpaper in the upstairs hallway - yea, I about blew a gasket. However...after a stern talking to, she hasn't done it again. It's been two weeks. The boys got in trouble twice within 15 minutes yesterday for playing ball in the house! :)
17. My child makes false reports of abuse or neglect. My child tries to get sympathy from others, or tries to get us in trouble, by telling others that I abuse, don't feed, or don't provide the basic necessities. No.
18. My child seems not to experience pain when hurt, refusing to let anyone provide comfort. She defintely feels pain and seeks comfort. Thank goodness. The first week we had Alek home from Russia he ran into the corner of our kitchen table, split his head open, fell down, popped back up and kept playing. (He now feels pain too.) I am SO thankful she can feel pain.
19. My child does not usually ask for things. My child demands things. She asks, without asking. She hasn't mastered the art of asking a question, but she still gets the point across. We're working on using please (peeeee) and forming a complete question.
20. My child lies, often about obvious or ridiculous things, or when it would have been easier to tell the truth. We can't understand anything she says, so how can we tell if she's lying?
21. My child is quite bossy with other children and adults. No. She does pretty good.
22. My child hoards, sneaks food, or has other unusual eating habits (eats paper, raw sugar, non-food items, package mixes, baker's chocolate, etc.) Oh yea! See number 15!
23. My child often does not make eye contact when adults want to make eye contract with my child. She does a pretty good job of initial eye contact but looks away after a few seconds. We're working on this one.
24. My child has extended temper tantrums. I may be jinxing myself with this one, but Maddie is the only one of our children NOT to have a meltdown in the first few months at home. All three of the other ones did it. Especially Anya. Oy, her's were doozies!!!!! Maddie is incredibly laid back. She takes EVERYTHING in stride. Don't get me wrong. She crosses her arms and pouts when she doesn't get her way...and remember the fainting spells?! :) But she's never had a tantrum. (Sigh. I've just doomed myself haven't I?!)
25. My child chatters non-stop, asks repeated questions about things that make no sense, mutters, or is hard to understand when talking. HAHAHAHAH! Uh, yea. The question is...is it because of the hearing impairment (which I believe it is) or because there are some deeper issues? I'm leaning toward the former.
26. My child is accident-prone (gets hurt a lot), or complains a lot about every little ache and pain (needs constant attention). She is definitely accident prone and does complain a lot about every little injury. For now, I'm giving her some attention (with the little owies), but generally telling her, 'Oh, I'm so sorry you got an owie, let me kiss it,' and then sending her on her way. I'm not making a huge deal out of it, but she needs to know she can come to me with her owies...no matter how big.
27. My child acts cute or charming to get others to do what my child wants. Yea. A little bit. She doesn't go out of her way to attrack their attention, but if she has it, she uses it. It is unnerving to watch - especially as an introvert. But I do think she's improving a bit. The other night, for the first time, she looked ot me for what I can only assume was permission, before she did something. That's a start.
28. My child is overly friendly with strangers. Where do I begin? Oh. My. Word. YES! She still will walk away with absolutely anyone...without looking back. I worry about what it's going to take to help this. She is improving in that she doesn't fight me anymore to get to strangers. She will stay with me, but you can tell she'd rather go with the lady in the next checkout aisle, or the guy working in his flower garden next door. The one area where this is not true is with children. Maddie doesn't care to go anywhere with a new child. If it's a child she's never met before, she is incredibly stand-offish, which explains her first reaction to Anya.
29. My child has set fires, or is preoccupied with fire. No.
30. My child prefers to watch violent cartoons and/or TV shows or horror movie (regardless of whether or not you allow your child to do this). She doesn't watch TV at all. 31. My child was abused/neglected during the first year of life, or had several changes of primary caretaker during the first several years of life. Several caretakers...an orphanage will do that to you.
32. My child was in an orphanage for more than the first year of life. 35 months to be exact.
33. My child was adopted after the age of twelve month.
35 months to be exact.

Looking back on this list, it's not so bad. Sure there are some red areas, but the majority of it is green and blue. Not too bad for the four month mark.
I'll take it.
And I'll take Maddie.
For all of the headaches and heartaches, there is even more joy.
Joy I could only have imagined before we met Maddie.
Before we met Maddie I never would have considered adopting a special needs child. I didn't think I had it in me.
Now I know if I take it a day at a time and add a huge dose of faith, I'll be just fine.
And so will Maddie.


pam's progress.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Just a quick update on Pam...
She was moved from ICU to a regular room early last week and then on Friday on to a rehab room...and that's where she'll be for the next few weeks.
Physical therapy is starting to work with her on getting out of bed and regaining her strength. They are supposed to also start teaching her how to use her left hand. (She was right-handed.)
Physically she's doing much better. She's fought off most of the stuff she's been battling for the last few weeks...now it's an emotional battle...coming to grips with the loss of her arm.
It sounds like she's starting to deal with that as well. She has requested a prosthetic and will get fitted this week. Obviously, she stilll has a lot to deal with but she's on the road to recovery.
And we couldn't be more thankful.


wicked weather

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I've hinted several times over the last few weeks about our wild ride from Colorado.
Unfortunately, I wasn't exaggerating.
We were literally dodging tornadoes and hailstones.
Well, okay. We didn't see an actual tornado...but the warnings were EVERYWHERE.
Hmmm...where to begin.
I guess it's best to start at the beginning.
We took Shad to the hospital that Wednesday morning so we could spend a little extra time with him and see Pam before we left.
We pulled out of the hospital parking lot around 11 a.m. not realizing what was in front of us.

We were in for a wild ride.
The kids quickly fell asleep - road trips do that to them...thank goodness.
(How can they possibly get any sleep like that?! :)
I plugged Shad's mp3 into the stereo system and sang my way through western Nebraska, blissfully unaware of the storms building in front of us.
By the time we reached North Platte I knew we were going to be in trouble. I had enough storm spotter training during my TV days to know the clouds I was looking at meant business.
When I flipped on the radio the weather guy confirmed my fears.
We were in a tornado watch.
It was too late to dip south to Kansas. They were in the watch too.

And if I went back to Colorado it would mean another day off of work.
'I can handle this,' I thought. 'I've been in worse. We'll be fine.'
The warnings and hailstones started flying in Lexington.
For the next six hours I drove like a crazy woman...stopping only long enough to go to the bathroom, get gas and go through the drive thru.

So much for my mom's fear of me getting bored and tired.
Storms bubbled up in front of us and followed us the entire way.
As the radio rattled off one warning after another, Alek looked the counties and cities up on our Rand McNally and compared it to where we were. (Amazing geography and map reading lesson in the middle of chaos by the way.) The warnings would literally pop up as soon as we crossed into a new county.
Would we never get away from these things?
At one point I drove under the darkest, lowest, meanest looking shelf cloud I have ever seen. I don't know what possessed me, except there was absolutely nowhere to take shelter and I knew if we stayed put we would be in more trouble than if I could manage to get in front of it.
Okay...here's where I come off sounding like some kind of freak at best and at worst a really bad mother!
I have to admit - the adrenaline rush was kind of cool.
I loved storm chasing when I was in TV. I lived for the spring and the promise of a good chase. There was nothing better.

But when Alek came along I put away my video camera and parked the live truck.
I used to say I quit chasing because you can't chase storms with four kids in a mini-van.
So much for that excuse. ;>)
Here I was doing exactly that...
Except the storms were chasing me.
Kind of ironic, huh?

I don't think the kids saw the humor.
Alek thought it was cool until the clouds started swirling.
Anya and Nick kept nervously asking if this cloud or that one was a tornado...
And Maddie?
Well, Maddie slept through most of it. She was tuckered out and riding in the car has a hypnotic effect on her. The rest of the time she just talked to herself.
Aaaah...ignorance is bliss.
We were able to finally get ahead of the storm around Lincoln and quickly turned south toward home.
We had made it.
We were safe.
Or so we thought.
The very next night on our way home from Alek's baseball game we got caught in one of the worst storms I had ever been through.
And I've been through some storms.
It was as close as I can imagine as to what a tornado is really like.
We pulled into a little town about 10 miles from home just as the rain started.
As we puttered through the middle of town, Alek asked, 'Mom, what is that noise?'
I rolled down my window and hear tornado sirens.
Great. Now what?
It was late and every business in this town of 1200 was closed.
Nothing was open.
Not. A. Thing.
So I made a decision.
I pulled into the nearest car wash.
As I turned on the radio to hear the latest, I suddenly had a thought.
'This is NOT the best place to be hanging out right now.'
As the wind started picking up I had visions of the video from the overpass in southern Kansas. You know...this one where the TV crew pulled under an overpass and a small F0 twister caught up with them.
While the video was taken by one of my colleagues in Wichita and we were all incredibly jealous of the footage, one of the first things they taught us in storm chaser training was to NEVER do anything like that.
Well, here I am, in a car wash bay...which is essentially a TUNNEL!
And aren't overpasses pretty much just little tunnels?!!
And I have my four kids with me.
I'm winning all kinds of 'Mother of the Year Awards' this week!
The next 20 minutes were the most harrowing I have spent as a mom.
The wind hit with force. It had to have been 70 to 80 mile an hour straight line winds. The power went out, throwning everything into darkness...
The van rocked back and forth in the wind...
And my kids cried.
I quickly ordered the kids to grab their jackets (still in the car from the trip to Colorado) and throw them over their heads. Alek found his and one for Maddie, but in the panic, Anya and Nick couldn't find theirs, so I climbed back through the mom mobile, told everyone to put their heads down and then leaned across Anya and Nick to protect them from any flying glass.
For the next 15 minutes the kids cried while I alternated between trying to comfort them and praying like I had never prayed before. (I wish now I would have thought to pray out loud...what a teachable moment that would have been.)
Finally the wind subsided, the sirens stopped and the rain let up.
The worst was over.
We headed home.
All along the way we talked about the storm and how God had taken care of us.
We arrived home to a dark house and since the kids were still scared and I wasn't sure what else the weather would bring, we camped in the middle of the living room floor complete with sleeping bags, our Coleman lantern and a battery powered weather radio.
I slept like a baby.
For the next few nights things were pretty quiet, but then a week ago tonight we got the ultimate wake-up call.
The tornado sirens went off at midnight.
I've never actually heard our town's siren go off before.
Boy is it loud!
It must be right across the street!
Despite living in tornado alley, we have always managed to skirt true catastrophe. And somehow we managed again that night.

We went ahead and woke up the kids and brought them down to the living room, ready to head to the basement at any second. Thankfully the storm weakened before reaching our town, but the same storm did produce tornadoes that ripped through Chapman, Manhattan and Soldier, Kan., killing two people, tearing through neighborhoods and severely damaging our alma matter, Kansas State.
The last few days were quiet.
But now tonight we're in a severe thunderstorm watch again.
No tornadoes yet, but plenty of severe thunderstorm warnings.
Ya know, severe weather season for this part of the U.S. was supposed to wrap up a few days ago.
I think someone forgot to tell Mother Nature.


stream of conscious

Monday, June 16, 2008

Shad's home!
I don't think I've ever been more happy to see him than when he walked through the door tonight.
Okay. Maybe when Maddie and I came home from Ukraine - but tonight was a close second.
The last few weeks have been an absolute emotional roller coaster.
And I don't like roller coasters.
Neither does he.
I think that's what makes our marriage work. We try really hard to stay away from roller coasters. Physical ones and emotional ones.
Okay...enough of the metaphors! ;>)
Maybe now I can get back to regular posts.
Ha! Who am I kidding? It will probably be awhile before I get back into the swing of writing regularly.
My writing has been extremely sporadic in the last few months. There are times when I can come up with a whole post in my head and then type it right out. Other times I can't get past the opening sentence.
I'd call it writer's block, but I told my students once that there was no such thing as writers' block. Oh, if they could only see me now! Hunched over the keyboard trying desperately to come up with something interesting to write about.
I have five or six posts in my que just sitting there waiting for me to find enough inspiration to finish them.
I'm afraid they may be waiting awhile.
What may not be waiting awhile is that life-changing thing I told you about a few days (weeks?) ago. A decision will be made in the next week which should determine the outcome (Sorry to be so vague about all of this.) Please continue to pray for us. We'll need wisdom on how to handle it.
Hmmm....anything else?
Oh yea. Some issues have come up with Maddie in the last few weeks that I REALLY need to write about. Delayed reactions I think to all the changes she's been through in the last four months.
So many things going on and yet no words in my head to describe it all.


one step forward...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Shad's back in Colorado.
His mother has had some setbacks in the last few days and he felt like he needed to be there to support both of his parents.
I certainly don't blame him in the least...we just miss him.
It's only been 12 hours since he left! :>)
We thought Pam was doing better. She woke up on Monday and while she certainly wasn't emotionally in good shape, physically she seemed to be doing better.
They even moved her out of ICU.
But then yesterday she started having trouble with her oxygen levels. They keep dropping, quickly, with no warning.
So it was back to ICU today.
She has such a long road ahead of her.
And my heart just breaks for her.
The good news is she was awake and alert when Shad came in the room this afternoon and she was thrilled to see him! She also wanted to hear how Maddie was doing (she hasn't been able to meet her yet).
Please keep praying.


what is it anyway?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I will never learn.
No, really.
Why do I keep doing this to myself?
Why do I keep buying Happy Meals?
It's not so much the food that bother me.
It's the toys.
They drive me NUTS!!!!
With our recent vacation and emergency trip to Colorado the mom-mobile is littered with TONS of the little buggars.
My only excuse is it's so easy to order 'four cheeseburger happy meals with a milk.'
See how that rolls off the tongue?
So much smoother than saying....'yes, I would like four cheeseburgers with four small fries and four milks."
Much more concise.
And cheaper to boot.
But there-in lies the trap.
Those darn little toys that come with the meal will get ya every time.
Can I get an AMEN, sista?!
Are they not the most annoying, worthless pieces of plastic you've ever paid $3 for?!
What are they anyway?
Half the time you can't tell what the toy is supposed to do...even with the instructions.
And they're almost always loud enough to start a stampede!
And if the toys aren't loud and obnoxious, the kids are.
Let me set the scene for you...
Imagine five very grumpy people jammed into a white mom-mobile. The mom is driving the kids 500 miles by herself, dodging tornadoes and hailstones the size of small watermelon the entire way. They've just pulled out of the Mikky D's drive-through on their marathon journey through the middle of nowhere Nebraska.
They are tired.
They are hungry.
They have been riding for hours on end with no form of entertainment (because the DVD player went kaputz and there's nothing but 1930s country channeling through the radio).
Suddenly...the children discover a toy in the bottom of their happy meal bag.
('Ode to Joy' plays here...)
Everything starts out innocently enough.
'Oh cool, Mom! Look, an Indiana Jones action figure that talks!'
'Oh goodie,' says mom. 'Please keep it down back there.'
'Mom,' yells another. 'Mine has a ball that rolls down a ramp.'
'Great,' she replies.
Slowly but surely the racket insensifies. Action figures fight off bad guys, basketball stars are born and ramps become race cars.

Finally the 10 year old throws the ball at the six year old missing him entirely but bonking Mom on the head.
'Alright,' she says through gritted teeth. 'I said settle down. If I have to talk to you about this one more time I'm taking the toys away!'
Quiet ensues. Everyone nodding their heads in agreement.

'We'll be good mom.'
Ha! Within seconds Indiana Jones launches an aerial assault on Strawberry Shortcake while aliens bang heads on mini-van windows.
'ALRIIIIIIGHT,' Mom screams. 'That's it! Pass 'em forward NOW! And Nick, don't you dare stuff them behind your back. I see you. Give it here! NOW! I'm throwing them out as soon as we get home!'

I know.
Not pretty.
Unfortunately it's a true story.
The problem is (and don't tell the kids this) I can't bring myself to throw those darn things away.
I did, after all, pay three bucks for 'em.
I can't just toss 'em!


saturday morning post

Saturday, June 7, 2008

What was that, you say?
THAT was the sound of your weekly Saturday Morning Post hitting your virtual door!

Rise and shine sleepy-head. You need to catch up on a very busy week of our family's news!
- ICU Update -
First and formost Pam is hanging in there. Yesterday was a toughie. It all started with the news that the doctors won't be taking her off the ventilator for a few days. She's starting to get some fluid build-up on her lungs...AND since her kidneys aren't functioning well enough that means she will be going on dialysis. A minor setback for a woman who has already gone through so much. We hope today brings better news.
- Home again - Shad finally comes home tonight. We bought his airline ticket before his mother's latest difficulties, so he's feeling a little guilty about coming home. But the job won't wait any longer. He already took so much time off for Maddie's adoption, then our quickie vacation, now this. While the owner's are being understanding, he doesn't want to overstep their generosity. The kids are beyond excited. They get to go to the airport to pick up daddy. It doesn't get much better than that! :)

- Take me out to the ballgame - Nick and Anya finally got to play in their first ballgames last night. Anya went first. She played first base for the B squad and did really well. She got the first three runners out all by herself. She had a harder time batting, but when the game was over she said she had a lot of fun. Nick says he's been waiting his whole life to play baseball. Finally, last night all of his dreams came true! :) His team is even bigger than Anya's so they have the kindergartners take turns on the B squad. He was able to get only one inning in, but he made the most of it. He hit a single, scored a run, and ran down a ground ball in right field. Not too bad for his first time on the field. ;>)
- Big changes - Something has come up that may mean big changes for our family. I wish I could go more into detail, but for now we need to keep this info to ourselves. I only mention it to ask for prayer. Please pray for wisdom, clarity and the courage to go forward if that is what He wants. Thanks.
- Coming this week - More posts, I promise. Upcoming topics include our wild ride from Colorado, a Maddie attachment update and my personal state of the union (don't worry...it's not political! :) And I haven't forgotten my promised post on PAD. THAT should be a fun one to write! :>) Stay tuned.


home again

Thursday, June 5, 2008

We're home.
Well, at least five of us are.
Shad stayed behind to wait for his mom to wake up.
In the past few days Pam gradually improved to the point on Wednesday afternoon where Shad told me to go ahead and take the kids home.
So Wednesday afternoon I climbed in the mom-mobile, kissed Shad goodbye and drove 11 hours with the kids (that's a whole other post).
I took yesterday off to recover. ;>)
I talked with Shad last night and he said his mom is stirring a lot more, trying to open her eyes and is showing some signs of discomfort.
It's all so sad.
She will learn sometime this weekend about what has happened to her.
Please pray.

Pray for Pam.
Obviously, she's not going to like the decision that had to be made.
Bill had no choice, but I seriously doubt she'll see it that way...at least at first.
Please pray for Bill.
I can see chinks in his spiritual resistance armor.
And please pray for Shad.
He, of course, will be there when his dad has to tell his mom about the arm. It will be tough to watch his parents deal with this. I can't even begin to imagine.
Thank you.
Thank you for your kind comments, thoughts and prayers. Just as when we were in our darkest hours in Ukraine, your support has meant so much to us.
I have to head off to work now.
I have one vacation day left until the next pay period...so instead of just claiming a full week's worth of vacation I'm going to put in my eight hours.
I doubt I'll be too productive.


an update

Monday, June 2, 2008

I'm sorry to have kept you all in the dark for so long, but we've been pretty much living at the ICU unit for the last few days.
Shad's dad (Bill) took Pam to the doctor on Friday morning with a red, swollen right hand and arm. The redness and pain had started the day before and by Friday morning was too much for her to handle.
The doctor took one look at them and sent them to the E.R.
The diagnosis is staph infection. The infection quickly spread and finally yesterday morning they removed her right arm from the bicep.
Unfortunately, so far she hasn't improved.
She's on a ventilator, her liver was showing signs of failure yesterday (the reason for the emergency amputation), her kidneys are barely functioning and her blood work this morning is not any better than it was the day before.
The good thing is so far she is holding her own. She hasn't deteriorated.
So we continue to pray.
Please pray for Pam's recovery. She is a such a wonderful mom, MIL and grandmother. We'd be lost without her.
Please pray for Shad. He's hurting. He's being his usual stalwart self, but it's so hard to see Pam like this.
And please pray for Bill. He had to make the decision to amputate and while he's not second guessing his decision, he is feeling a lot of guilt. And he's having to watch his wife of 40 years struggle just to stay alive.
Please also pray for his spiritual health. Bill does not share our faith or his wife's faith. He doesn't have any faith to hold on to right now...and that's a pretty lonely place to be.
I'll try to give you another update tonight.
Thanks for hanging in there with us!


joy of adoption

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