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there's no place like home

Thursday, April 30, 2009

For some reason I'm having a really hard time writing this post. I've been working on it for the last two days and I haven't gotten much farther than this sentence. I don't know if its nerves, confusion...or just the inability to put into words what my heart is experiencing. (sigh) I'm going to go ahead and give it a try anyway...but don't blame me if it makes your head hurt. Or your heart.

We're permanently altering our youngest daughter's life.
I just hope we don't live to regret it.

When we brought Maddie home from Ukraine 14 months ago, we did so knowing absolutely nothing about raising a child with a hearing disability. In December 2007, we left the U.S. bound for Ukraine with the hope and expectation of bringing home a healthy child.
One with no physical issues...
No limitations...
No surprises.
So when
(after three LONG weeks) we finally found our little girl, fell in love at first sight and made her our daughter a month later, despite her lack of ears and limited hearing, it was with a great deal of naivete. We innocently figured we'd get her some hearing aids, maybe reconstruct her ears...and whaaalaa...six months later she'd be speaking like a native.
We were wrong.
Despite the incredible amount of progress Maddie has made in the last year, the truth is she is very nearly deaf. Even with her hearing aids she has limitations to what she can hear. She is learning more and more English every day, but she still has a long road in front of her...one with incredibly high hurdles to overcome.
She has to learn to listen to individual speech sounds...just like an infant.
She has to learn how to make those speech sounds...but again she's woefully behind.
She has a whole new language to learn...something she's working hard on, but is only now starting to make real progress on. Her sentences still sound an awful lot like a two year old.
And she has a lot of concepts to pick up on. Learning above and below...up and down...in and out. All of these things are new, and when you're trying to learn a language AND concepts at the same time it can get awfully confusing.
Before moving to Grab-Your-Lasso Shad and I were novices in this special needs parenting stuff. The only special services we had dealt with were limited to simple speech issues - ones we knew were completely correctable. So being the naive new parents we were, we waited to have Maddie developmentally tested. At first because of all of the upheaval in her life - we wanted to wait for things to settle a bit.

And then came the move.
When the dust finally settled we found ourselves in Grab-Your-Lasso with what can only be described as the best possible situation for our little girl. Its as if God placed us at this time, in this place, so Maddie could get the help she so desperately needed...and so rightly deserved.

Of course we didn't realize it at first. We drug our feet in putting her into school, wanting to work on our bonding...not wanting to give up that precious time. And it worked. Maddie slowly started losing her PI 'left-overs' and started accepting us as her parents.
And eventually we started to get the picture this school district - even this state - were miles ahead of their neighbors in reaching out to hard-of-hearing children and their families. They understood the struggles we were going through and they were willing to learn all about the post-institutionalized issues Maddie had...and they were happy to work with us.
So in January we made the decision to put her into school full time.
It was the best decision we could have made.
She has blossomed in her preschool - she's made friends, learned all kinds of academic things and her speech has improved dramatically.
It is amazing how life-changing the decision to move to Grab-Your-Lasso turned out to be for our Maddie.
Which is surprising since when we moved to Grab-Your-Lasso eight months ago, Shad and I had big dreams...and it had nothing to do with Maddie's education. We figured all school districts were pretty much the same.
We were moving here to help our parents. Both sets have had serious medical issues in the recent years and we felt (as the oldest children) that we needed to take on that responsibility and joy.
And there were other, more selfish reasons for coming back.
We wanted to take advantage of the scenery. We are minutes away from the mountains. We can be sitting in our family room one minute and up on a mountain top next to a stream fishing a few minutes later. And each morning on the drive to school, the kids and I can see the majestic mountains God created and wonder at their beauty.
We wanted our children to grow up knowing...truly knowing, their grandparents...spending holidays, birthdays and anniversaries with them. Having someone besides mom and dad cheering them on in baseball or listening to their Bible verse for AWANA, knowing they're spending quality time with Papas and Grandmas during this formative time in their lives - watching the witness their Grandparents lives exhibit and learning about God through their stories.
Now, those dreams have died.
The economic situation has made it impossible for us to stay here.
So...we're moving back to Kansas.
To say this has been a hard decision is putting it mildly. We have agonized over this decision like we have never done before.

We've spent weeks upon months hashing this out. Aruging, discussing, crying and begging - with each other and with God...but in the end we had no choice.
It feels like we're being pushed away.
I still haven't found a job.
The house in Kansas isn't selling.

Shad's job is getting more tenuous all the time...
And finacially things are getting more and more scary.
In Kansas, his job is still open.
We'll have health insurance. (PTL!)
He'll have more time off.
And financially we'll be in much better shape.
But emotionally we'll be a wreck.
So much has gone into this decision.
So much thought.
So much analysis.
So much prayer.
So many things that I'm not even sure I can explain.
A part of us feels like we've failed. Failed our parents, failed the kids, failed ourselves...

Failed our God.
We're going back to Kansas without having fulfilled the dreams we dreamed.
What is bringing us to our knees in this decision, though, is Maddie.
What are we doing?
What loving parents, in their right mind, would knowingly take their child away from what could be their best and brightest opportunity at leading a normal life?
Its killing us.
We know from experience the school district we will be moving back into won't be able to meet all of Maddie's needs...regardless of what is in her IEP. I can push and prod, nag and needle, berate and bug until my head explodes, but its not going to change the fact that this district has limited resources.

They can only do so much.
I have already been in touch with them and they're saying all the right things...and knowing these people as I do, I know their hearts are in the right place...but the truth is...
Its not Grab-Your-Lasso.
Its the Emerald City...and despite their best of intentions they're not going to be able to meet the incredibly high standards we're now used to.
Sure...we can keep working with Maddie on our own.
And we will.
And we'll keep nagging the district to get her the help she needs...and we'll make sure we do as much as we possibly can, but the truth is we'll always be haunted by what could have been.

If we would put that much energy into helping her, here in Grab-Your-Lasso, how much MORE progress could she have made? How much easier would it have been on her?
If I would have sent out another resume would it have made a difference??
If we would have stayed in the Emerald City a little longer would it have mattered?
If we could have cut our budget even tighter, lived in a two-bedroom apartment and sold all our belongings, could we have held out?
We may never know.
I've experienced mommy-guilt before. I've agonized over our decision to go ahead and send Alek to kindergarten instead of holding him back a year. We've regretted not pushing to get tubes put in Anya's ears two years before it was done. And we've second-guessed how we've handled Nick's strong-willed attitude.
At times its been some pretty weighty guilt.
But nothing like this.
This is life-altering stuff.
Sending Alek to school instead of holding him back hasn't negatively affected him.
Anya has bounced back from her speech issues brought on by her ear infections.
And Nick will be strong-willed no matter what I do. ;>)
But Maddie is different.
She has so many strikes against her already - and this is the kind of stuff that can alter the course of her life.

It will determine whether she enjoys school or not.
Whether she has a successful school career or not.
What she ends up doing with the REST. OF. HER. LIFE.
For those of you who are saying, 'Oh, you're over-exaggerating. She'll be fine. You'll work hard, and she'll make the most of it...'
You just don't get it - and I doubt you ever will.
Its tough stuff raising kids...and its even tougher raising a child with special needs when you have no idea what you're doing.
So, yes...

Shad is returning to the job and the people he loves.
The kids are going back to their friends and school they adore...

We are returning to our house and a town we can call home...
And we are all returning to our church family - the brothers and sisters who helped us in our search for Maddie, guided us in our quest to become stronger in our faith and love us unconditionally.
We're going home...we're moving back to the great state of Kansas.
But we're also permanently altering our youngest daughter's life.
I just hope we don't live to regret it.



Sunday, April 26, 2009

We stumbled upon Ukraine. It was cheaper, relatively quick and, at the time, seemed like our best chance of getting a healthy young child.

T his was so much fun!!!
I need to have you all take the floor more often. I am surprised though...I expected a lot more questions. I haven't ever blogged on here about our life before kids...or much about the adoption of the first three, I kind of expected more on those topics. ;>)
Oh well, it was fun anyway...here's the first installment of Q&A.

Barb in WI wrote...

Sorry to hear your state of mind these days...we can all relate to your issues perhaps in some way. I have a question about your old house. Has it sold yet? I can imagine that has to be a difficult situation. Are you able to rent it out in the meantime? I am very interested in the real estate market these days. I have had my house up for sale (still occupied) for about 19 months and am equally as frustrated! Good luck with whatever it may be.

Thanks so much Barb for your comment and good wishes. No, our house hasn't sold and yes, that is contributing to my funk. Its a big stressor for me to have our house sit empty for so long and have absolutely NO end in sight. The town we lived in was small and there are several houses for sale at just about the same size. We were hoping to avoid renting it out because since we're so far away its hard to manage, but we may have no choice. There are some other issues that are playing into all of this that I can't write about right now, but hope to this next week.
I'm sorry you're having such a hard time selling your place. This housing market stinks, doesn't it? I keep hoping people will start to realize now is the time to buy since there are so many houses on the market, prices are coming down and interest rates are so low...but I guess a lot of people are in the same place Shad and I are. Hope you find a buyer soon! :)

Jessy said...

Questions? Questions? Hmm...well, what are your plans for the summer? Feel like a vacation to Texas? I know this gal with a BIIIIIG house where you can stay.

Ooooohhh! I'd love to, but our summer plans aren't going to allow it. We're hoping to do some mini-trips this summer. Two and three day excursions. We'll see if it happens. Shad is doing one of those little trips today. He's taking the big three kids to a Rockies' baseball game in Denver for Aleks' birthday (May 7). I've got my eyes on Yellowstone this year, since neither Shad or I have been there...not to mention the kids. I'm putting it tentatively on the mid-May calendar.
Other trip ideas include Mt. Rushmore - which isn't too far away, Cave of the Winds, Colorado Springs and possible Salt Lake City. I'm excited!!! :)
Maybe I could get a raincheck on that offer?! :) Possibly during the fall, spring or winter when it isn't so HOT!!! :)

Pam asked...

As far as questions what happened with the alpaca, does she live with you all now so to speak or is she still a Kansas resident?

Areana, the alpaca, is still a Kansas resident...living happily on a farm with her little alpaca buddies. Shad went back to Kansas a few weeks ago to check on her and to help out with a shearing on the farm. (Using his veterinary skills helps us save on boarding fees). Turns out she may be preggers, which means our alpaca 'ranch herd' may be double this summer. I can't wait to see a baby alpaca! How cute would that be?! :)

Courtney asked...

Are you guys still using sign with Maddie (and at school)? I know you're focused on her oral learning, but I wondered if you were keeping the sign so she has communication even when her BAHA is off. :) I have a feeling we're going to be doing a LOT of sign for quite a while with our youngest.

Yes, we're still using sign with Maddie, although its mostly for clarification at this point. Maddie is HIGHLY verbal, (I can't imagine just how much more she would be talking if she had normal hearing! :) Since she talks so much and most of the time we can get the gist of what she's saying, we mostly talk to her...and just use signs to clarify. I know we don't use sign as much as we should...Shad and I haven't learned NEARLY enough sign and as her speech has improved we have admittedly gotten lazy about it.
The school does work with her on signing quite a bit. Its mostly nouns at this point, but they're starting to add verbs and adjectives which is awesome...but again, her primary form of communication is verbal.
Just a side note...you wondered if we were continued the sign so she would have a way to communicate when her hearing aid wasn't on. We have made a conscious decision to make sure her hearing aid is on ALL the time since learning 70 percent of her language is acquired through casual learning, overhearing conversations and the like, its imperative to keep her hearing aid on ALL the time.
Consider this...the experts say if a child keeps her hearing aid on just while at preschool, it will take her NINE YEARS to learn everything a normal hearing child learns in that one year. Crazy huh?! Makes sense though. The same goes with day-to-day life. If a child isn't aided all the time it takes years upon years for them to learn everything a normal hearing child gets in a calendar year. Which explains why Maddie's language was SO delayed while living in the orphanage. Now since my Madster is one smart cookie, she's catching up quickly...and I'm telling you, the day WILL come when I finally hear from her teachers that she is at the same level as her peers and I. WILL. CRY. LIKE. A. BABY!
I CAN'T wait! :)

Rachel asked...

How is your ladies group going - are you still doing that? And I really must know how you manage four kids and all their activities!!!

I am still going to the ladies Bible study and loving it! Its an awesome group of women and I learn so much. I missed the last two weeks and its getting ready to close for the summer (if you can call the weather we're having summer) but I've heard a summer Bible study group is forming...I'm hoping I can join them.
Hmmm...keeping up with four kids and all their activities... You know what's weird? It doesn't feel like I'm doing anything more to keep up with four than I did with one. Granted, Maddie still really isn't involved in a whole lot except for AWANA...and other than at one point this winter when both boys were doing basketball I haven't had to do that much running, so maybe I'm a bit delusional.
The worst point came last summer when the three older kids were all involved in baseball. There was one night when we had three kids playing in three different places. Thankfully, the younger two's games were timed just enough apart that I was able to see a bit of both...but still! Whew!
The key, I think, is we limit the kids to one extra activity at a time (not including church). We try really hard not to over schedule. We haven't added Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts or 4-H in the mix...thankfully, the kids just haven't been that interested. Its mostly sports that they're into...and AWANA.
I know the older the kids get the worse it will get.
I've also got a pretty supportive husband. Shad is a VERY active dad...he does his best to be at EVERY activity, which is awesome. So on those nights when we have more than one activity we divide and conquer. Shad goes one way and I go another. Thankfully that doesn't happen very often. I'd rather have him sitting in the folding chair next to met the baseball diamond on a sultry, summer evening while I'm watching Alek pitch, swatting mosquitoes and trying to get red popsicle juice out of Maddie's shirt! :)

Kim asked...

Anyway, a blogging topic for you I am sure you have mentioned it before but I have never seen the answer, so here is my question: why did you choose Ukraine rather than adopting from Russia again?

When Shad and I first started talking about adopting for the fourth time in the fall of 2006 (jeez, has it been THAT long?!) Russia was still in the middle of an adoption moratorium. Nothing was moving, no one was getting referrals, agencies were hesitant to take new clients...and no one knew when it would get any better.
Both of our former agencies were out of business and we weren't able to file our third and final post-placement report for Anya and Nick. We just felt like our chances of completing an adoption in Russia any time soon almost null.
Add to THAT the fact that Shad insisted that IF we were going to do this adoption it would HAVE to be done BEFORE he turned 40...and well, the clock was ticking.
So we decided to look at other options.
We considered China for all of two seconds. At the time we didn't think we were up to special needs, and since the waiting time for China is measured in YEARS we immediately crossed that off the list.
We considered Tibet (yes, Tibet) but you could only have two children at home...we looked at Kazakhstan but couldn't find an agency that we could afford.
And then we stumbled upon Ukraine. It was cheaper, relatively quick and, at the time, seemed like our best chance of getting a healthy young child.
God had other plans, and we're thrilled that He did. I can't imagine our life without Maddie...and wouldn't change her for anything.

Soooo...Any other questions?


get along little doggy

Friday, April 24, 2009


I really need to do a better job of journaIing about the funny stuff the kids say or do.

Grab your Wranglers out of the laundry, pull your new Tony Lama's out of the box, dig through the kids toy box for your spurs and grab your lasso off the coat rack...its time for the Lazy T Round-up.

1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! - You all are the best! Thanks for the support! It means the world to me. Turns out Shad talked with some of the parties involved the same day I posted, so I may be able to write something soon. Its crazy how it makes all the difference.
So many of you offered to be a sounding board. I'm going to take you up on that this weekend. I just have to find the time to sit down at the computer.

2. Where's my brain? - Speaking of which...I'm sorry I've been so quiet lately. I realized after I posted on Monday, I had completely forgotten about a freelance story that was due last Friday.
Thankfully its for my former employer and my editor is awesome. She's more than a little patient with me. I'm almost done, but it has sapped most of my computer time during the last few days.
Excuses, excuses...I know.

3. Meeting of the minds - Tomorrow should be interesting. The woman I don't care for have a hard time dealing with, is coming in to train Maddie's preschool teachers and give them ideas on how they can better help her and make the environment an easier one for a hard-of-hearing child to learn in.
Crazy thing is the school year is almost complete, so it won't do her a lot of good...but hopefully it will help me be a better advocate for Maddie. If I know what SHOULD be happening, I can do a better job of making sure it DOES happen.

4. Play Ball - Baseball season kick off this weekend. Alek's team meets for a Get-to-know-you pizza party. I'm starting to wonder if this may be a better deal for Alek than I first thought.
Sure, he's not going to get to play on the more competitive teams...but maybe that will mean he gets more playing time AND get a chance to learn more.
Alek is excited. He's been out in the back yard practicing every afternoon. By practice I mean throwing a ball up into the air and catching it. Its hard to 'practice' anything in a yard not much bigger than a breadbox.
Meanwhile, I'm not sure what to do with Anya. When I signed the boys up for baseball I asked the ladies if they had a softball program for the girls.
Nope. And they didn't know of any.
Okay...in a town the size of Grab-Your-Lasso, there SHOULD be a softball league.
They said they had girls sign up for the baseball program...and since it was a coach-pitch type program, I thought maybe they just combined the two.
So I signed her up.
Two days later I got a flier in Anya's school folder, which announced sign-ups for the girls softball league.
Now I have to figure out who to call so I can pull her out of the baseball program and sign her up for the softball one.

5. What was that? - I really need to do a better job of journaIing about the funny stuff the kids say or do. At the end of the day I just can't remember a single funny thing...even though there have been hundreds!
I think I'm turning into my mom who has a hard time remembering things from day to day (not Alzheimers, just too busy to remember.)
UGH! Its frustrating.

6. Q&A - I do remember my request for your questions, so keep them coming. My goal is to get to them this weekend.
Do you want to know how Shad and I met?
What life was like pre-kids?

Why four?
Why do you call your blog 'Sunflower Seeds?'
I'm open to just about anything so ask away.

So...anyone want to join in this week? Just leave a comment and we'll be by in a bit to say Howdy. Just as soon as we've put the horses out to pasture, dusted off our Stetsons and eaten our weight in chocolate. ;>)


funky like the chicken

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Writing is how I process...how I work my way through things. And I can't write my way through anything right now, because I don't know for sure who is reading it.

I'm in a funk.
A real honest-to-goodness funk.
In the large scheme of things what I'm funky about isn't that big of a deal. Well, its a big deal to me, but I'm sure there are lot worse things to be funky about. But for me, right here, right now, its big enough.
And the problem is, I can't write about it.
Which makes me even funkier.
Writing is how I process...how I work my way through things. And I can't write my way through anything right now, because I don't know for sure who is reading it.
ARGH! This is so frustrating.
I've tried just writing a post and not posting it, but its not the same, I need the feedback only you all can provide.
I wish Blogger offered protected posts. I could really use your insight right now.
And for the record...
No one is dying.
No one has offended me.

Shad, the kids and I are all just fine.
Nothing is wrong that can't be fixed.

While I'm in my funkiness, I need help coming up with blog-worthy material...otherwise you'll be subjected to more posts about my funkiness..and I really don't want to do that to you! :)
So this is where you come in.
I'm giving you the floor.
Letting you ask some questions.
Its been a while since I've done this...and there are several new readers, so lets see what we can come up with.


grab your lasso...its time for a round-up

Friday, April 17, 2009

The reason we're roundin' up the doggies today is because I've been pretty lazy this week in postin'.

In true Grab-Your-Lasso style I thought I'd do a round-up this week.
Ya know, complete with a lasso (that you've grabbed), a cowboy hat (which is mandatory here), a pair of boots , (which need to be Nacona - none of that Wally World stuff), a bandana (no flowers please) and a horse...and not just any old nag will do - it needs to be a bonafide steer-ropin', hard-workin', cattle-chasin' lovin', faster-than-blazes mount who isn't afraid to get muddy.
Or dirty.
Or somethin'.
I'll leave the finding of the paraphanalia to you. I'm too lazy...
Hey! Maybe I should get a brand or something for this Friday Round-up thing. Ya know...Like the Lazy T.
Hey again! That's good! I could name this here ranch the Lazy T and come up with a brand. You know, something like this...


"Oooooohhhh," as Maddie would say...'I liiiiiiike it!'
We're set!
The reason we're roundin' up the doggies today is because I've been pretty lazy this week in postin'. Things haven't been particularly post-able. Just you're typical stuff...but in between the typical stuff there were a few little things that while they didn't qualify as a post all on their own, all together make a nice little round-up of the weeks events.
So here you are - The Lazy T Roundup...

1. My latest WMEC nomination -
I really messed up this week.
Really. Bad.
If you have been following along on Twitter at all, you know Alek was supposed to have baseball tryouts for the 'Majors' team last week. That's the more advanced baseball team. But because of all the snow they postponed it to this week. Well, if they postponed it a week, wouldn't YOU assume it would be on the same days?
Well, I did. And I was wrong.
Instead of Wednesday and Thursday - which I THOUGHT! It was Tuesday and Wednesday.
Alek isn't too happy. Can't say I blame him.
'Well, he'll still get to play on the minors team,' the totally uncaring woman told me last night when I called to complain clarify.
'Well, unfortunately that's not a whole lot of consolation to a 10 year old boy whose mom has royally messed up,' I shot back.

The bad news is there's no makeup date. They've already picked the teams.
The good news is that Alek is gracious enough not to blame me.
The bad news is that makes me feel even worse.
I think I've just got a nomination for the WMEC.

2. Love Letters - Maddie is really starting to blossom lately. Her sentences are getting more and more complete. Her personality is really starting to shine through...
And instead of the 'stealing-everyone's-stuff' little stinker of a child we brought home a year ago, I can honestly say this kid will do ANYTHING for you...and it starting to be willing to SHARE everything too.
That's so cool.
I can't tell you how much I love this kid.
This week she started a new game...it's called, 'Write-little-notes-to-everyone-in-the-family-on-cute-bunny-paper-to-tell-everyone-how-much-you-love-them-and-include-tons-of-circles-on-them.'
Great game.
Cute stuff.
Everyone is being a really good sport and playing along. (Well, everyone but Nick...but Nick isn't being much of a good sport about anything right now...that's another post.) and they have to be good sports because she'll bring them between 10 and 15 notes each day.
She is such a nut!

3. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...
It snowed again last night. Actually, its still snowing. And you know what the sick and twisted part?
I'm actually getting used to it.
Last night when it started to snow I didn't even blink.. Instead I made comfort food.
Ham and scalloped potatoes...with lots of cheese.
Its no wonder Juan is a little perterbed with me...
(And yes, that is a picture from this morning!)

4. 'Who's Juan,' you ask. Why he's my Wii Fit trainer, of course. Shad decided he needed a name...otherwise he was just plain creepy...so Juan it is.

And let me tell you...JUAN IS A LIAR!
In the last two weeks I've done a pretty decent job of working out every day...but the Wii body test says I've gained two pounds in the last two weeks...instead of losing the three I was hoping for!
Juan says its because it takes time for all of your hard work to show up.
And the Wii Fit is evil!
Its making me do all this work...but the work isn't working.
Shad on the other hand has lost weight...and he hasn't even TRIED!
Augh. I hate that thing.

So...what do you think? Anyone else out there wanna join us for this here round-up? I know its a little late notice, bein's its Friday and all...but let's give it a shot.
I'm putting up a Mr. Linky (which I've never done before so wish me luck.) Just grab the logo and off you go. Anyone who wants to join the round-up just sign on the dotted line.
And we'll be by in a bit to say Howdy.
Just as soon as we've got the last of the cattle branded, the vittles ate...the campfire put out. ;>)


our monday afternoon adventure

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I was having flashbacks this afternoon as I sped down I-25 toward the Mile High City.

First things first...
I know you all LOVE to see the cuteness that are my kids, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to disappoint...
I managed to get through all of Easter without taking a single photo!
How horrible is THAT?!
We were late leaving for church because everyone knows you can't start getting ready for church until 30 minutes before you're supposed to leave...even when church starts 30 minutes LATER than normal... so I said we would wait until we got home, but then I remember I still needed to pick up some rolls and butter for dinner, because what Easter dinner would be complete without rolls and butter so we ran by the grocery story after church to pick them up but then spent another 45 minutes in Wally World getting windshield wipers, four gallons of milk, a couple of pairs of shoes for the girls to go with the new dresses they wore that morning to church and some clearance Easter candy, because you know THE BUNNY didn't bring us enough...so by the time we got home I had completely forgot it was a special day and had the kids take the clothes off before they got them all dirty.
Whew. (Like that runon sentence? Yea. Me too. I haven't written one that bad since middle school! :)
Oh well, I'll just do what I did last year - have them wear the same stuff to church next Sunday and take a pic then. Besides, by then I should have had the time to actually go out and get the boys new Sunday shirts.
I don't know if any of you pay attention to that little Twitter thingy in the upper lefthand corner or not...but I if you would have, you would have been let in on a little secret.
The kids and I went on an adventure yesterday.
Since Shad is on his way back to the great state of Kansas to wrap up some alpaca stuff, the kids (who had one day left from Easter break) and I decided we needed to go on a little trip of our own.
So yesterday morning we left for Denver.
Its been a long time since I've been to Denver. About 20 years to be exact.
I actually lived in Denver for a year, during my first year in college. I liked living there...I loved my school...but I forgot just how INCREDIBLY INSANE all the drivers are.
A side note here..
I told you I spent my first year in college living in Denver...
Do you know the first time I drove in Denver?
On my way TO college!!!!
My dad tends to have a sink or swim philosophy...and this time was no different.
He pulled my 1979 Ford Fairmont over on I-25...got out and handed me the keys.
I. about. died.
I guess I had to learn, one way or another, b
ut I was a nervous wreck until I pulled into that parking lot.
I was having flashbacks as I sped down I-25 toward the Mile High City.
I was going five over the speed limit and I kid you not cars where whizzing by me like I was sitting still.
The kids thought it was hilarious.
Ha. Yea.
Thankfully our destination is REALLY easy to get to. I even remembered how to get there from college days. Too bad I didn't remember the three lane road turns into a two lane about halfway down Colfax.
I came thiiiiiiiis close to taking out some buy in a Beemer.
The kids loved my little surprise. A trip to Casa Bonita.
Now, for those of you who have never been to Denver and never had a Casa Bonita exerience, let me just start by saying, there is nothing like it in the world.
When you walk in the doors of the restaurant (which takes up most of a former strip mall) you walk into a whole other world. You are immediately transported into a small Mexican village complete with homes, courtyards, strolling mariachi bands and an awesome waterfall.
It. is. so. cool.
The kids had a blast. They loved watching the comedy acts, the juggling ape, the fire eater and of course the cliff divers.
The food was good. I don't think I've eaten that much in a very long time. And Alek packed some serious food away. He must be getting ready to hit a growth spurt.
We spent a couple of hours eating, exploring and playing before packing back up into the mom-mobile and heading north towards home.
So here's the deal...since I jipped ya on the Easter pics, I'm going to give you a little treat. Here are some pictures from our adventure. Please ignore the quality of the photos...and just enjoy the subjects. I haven't quite figured out how to take pictures in really dark places with my camera and have them turn out very well.
Its a major frustration.
You'll even see a picture of me in there.
I KNOW! I told you it was a treat today. I NEVER include pictures of myself.
And YES there are pictures in the car, but NO I wasn't driving at the time. (Alek took the scenery ones) I only take pictures at stoplights...unless its unavoidable - like taking pictures of crazy people in Grab-Your-Lasso who ride their bikes to school in a foot of snow.

Then, I'll take a picture while driving.
Enjoy! :)



Saturday, April 11, 2009

Since she was an orphan living in a special needs orphanage, she didn't have anyone to advocate for her...to help her get the aids she needed.


kay...this is cool.
As we were nearing the one year mark of Maddie having her hearing aids, I started to wonder just how much her speech has improved. I knew there had to have been a change, but it wasn't until I pulled up the video and compared them side by side that it struck me JUST. HOW. MUCH. clearer she talks.
To truly understand how significant getting the hearing aid was for her, you have to remember...
For the first four years of her life, Maddie was living in an orphanage in Odessa, Ukraine. She was born without any external ears (bilateral microtia) and since she was an orphan living in a special needs orphanage, she didn't have anyone to advocate for her...to help her get the aids she needed. (The thought makes me ill.)
So she lived day to day without any hearing...at all. (For more on Maddie's story, check out our adoption blog -->
Finding Maddie)
Day after day, she lived in the orphanage...in the midst of a noisy environment, in an almost completely silent world.
Think about how much more difficult it was for her to get a worker's attention with her mouth is deformed...her ears nonexistent....her speech slurred? How could she get their attention when she was sick, hungry or afraid?
How horrible it must have been to feel the wrath of an angry orphanage worker who is upset because the little girl didn't do what she was told?
Maddie couldn't HEAR the directions.
She had no idea what the other children and people around her were saying. Unless she could see them...FACE. TO. FACE. And what she COULD hear sounded an awful lot like Charlie Brown's teacher. Sort of like
this. (click on moderate hearing loss)
And since you can't pronounce what you can't hear, her caregivers couldn't understand her...and for the first few months after we brought her home, neither could I.
Since she was missing out on all of the consonants and a lot of the vowel sounds, her speech was incredibly distorted.
Missing ending consonants.
Mispronounced consonants...
Totally wrong consonants in the first place.
Add to that the language change and you have a recipe for disaster.
Thankfully, Maddie doesn't believe in disasters! :)
From the minute she was fitting with the hearing aid her speech took off.
I know many of you will be tempted to think a year is what made the difference.
'She's grown up,' you'll say. 'Of course she can pronounce things better.'
Or... 'She had just come home from Ukraine. She still her accent!'
Umm...no. I am here to tell you - the HEARING AIDS are what made all the difference. Well, that and her speech teacher, Stephanie.
And a huge difference it is.
This first video is from two days after she was fitting with her first hearing aid. The second is a just 365 days later (yesterday afternoon! :).




remembering that sweet, sweet sound

Friday, April 10, 2009

What little Maddie could hear sounded an awful lot like Charlie Brown's teacher.

Maddie has marked all kinds of anniversaries over the last few months.
The day she first met us...
The first anniversary of going to court...
The one year mark of Shad and I becoming her parents...
The 365th day since leaving the orphanage...
And of course the one year anniversary of stepping off that plane, onto U.S. soil and becoming a U.S. citizen.
But of all of those firsts, this one may be the most special.
Today marks the one year anniversary of Maddie hearing for the first time.
Maddie was born with bilateral microtia and artresia...which means she was born without external ears. Well, she has some little nubs, but there is no external canal to let the sound into the ear drum. Thankfully all of her internal ear mechanics work perfectly.
So for the first four years of her life, Maddie suffered from a moderate hearing loss. What little she COULD hear sounded an awful lot like Charlie Brown's teacher.
A muffled mish-mash of nothing.

Sort of like this. (click on moderate hearing loss)
That hearing loss cheated her out of hearing most consonants...robbing her of much of her speech sounds. It wasn't so much the volume that was the problem - although it is a concern. Its that with every decibel of hearing loss, you also lose the ability to hear consonants like t, s, sh, f, th...
You get the picture.
So up until that point, Maddie hadn't heard much of anything...in fact she was lip reading in order to get by.
A 3-year-old...lip reading. I told you she was one smart cookie.
One year ago everything changed.
We took Maddie to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., for a fitting for a BAHA hearing aid. A type of bone-conduction hearing aid (since she doesn't have any ears to put a hearing aid into, the sound has to be conducted by the bones in her skull.)
We knew this was going to be a big day for our little girl...so we took our video camera along. I'm so glad we did. Her reaction was priceless.

So, on this the one year anniversary of our daughter being able to truly hear for the first time, I give you 'Maddie hears'.
A few quick note before you travel down memory lane.
The audiologist doesn't turn the hearing aid on until a little later in the video...Maddie's reaction is pure joy to watch! ;)

And grab a box of kleenex. You'll need them. ;)

(And please come by tomorrow morning. I'll have a comparison video of last year and this year. The difference is REMARKABLE!)


the report is in

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Do you all remember few months ago I told you the school district was bringing in the specialist? The one who told me since Maddie didn't have a hearing aid until she was almost four, it was too late for her. It would permanently affect her IQ. There was nothing we could do.

Needless to say I decided right then and there that I couldn't stand her wasn't her biggest fan. Later she did redeem herself a bit by saying a lot of that impact depended on the child. If the child was outgoing - the impact was less severe.
Maddie is the definition of outgoing...but still, this woman doesn't know Maddie. I was furious at her for making such a blanket statement about a kid she hasn't even met.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago...the district brought the specialist in to look over the developmental preschool to see how they could better help Maddie.
They got her report this week.
I got my copy today.
And you know what? She actually had some good insights into what the district is doing and how they can help my little girl. Here are just a few points...


Maddie was very talkative and interactive - ya think?
Maddie responded immediately when the computer time beeped to indicate it was her turn to use the computer (beyond a six foot distance).

When the teacher called her name Maddie had to visually search to see who was calling her. (localization issues) - yep.

Maddie consistently dropped final consonants in cvc (consonant-vowel-consonant) words.
She was easily stimulable for the correct production of final consonants at word level with simple auditory model.
Some vowel distortion was noted.
Maddie was very assertive and self-directed during the observation - that's my girl! :)
The staff provided appropriate 'behavior' support to Maddie - which means Maddie got in trouble and they had to correct her!

Maddie recognized her name written on my notepad - I have one smart cookie! :)


Control/reduce background noise during teacher directed activities.
Provide ongoing support for articulation... "You said 'no' but I know you meant 'nose'." or..."It is a 'no' or a 'nose'?"
Restate/rephrase peer comments during large and small group activities.

The BEST part is...they're going to do a staff training. They're going to get everyone together and go over more specific ways they can help Maddie.
Isn't that awesome?!
And I'm invited.
Okay...so maybe this lady isn't so bad after all.
I'm anxious to go to this meeting and see what I can get out of it...and see what the woman has learned about my Maddie! :)

BTW - Tomorrow is a very important milestone in Maddie's life. Please come by tomorrow morning with kleenex in hand. We'll take a quick trip down memory lane...its one you won't want to miss! :)


wordless wednesday

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Nick SAYS he was trying to keep Maddie from falling off the rock! ;>)


the audacity of hope...and wii

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

For some reason I can't get enough ski jumping, marble rolling and tight-rope walking...all cleverly disguised tormenting EXERCISES!

A tormentor has moved into my basement.
As small as a notebook, the little thing comes with a BIG attitude.
Its my new Wii Fit.
I hate that thing.
Well, I hate it...and I love it - its a complicated relationship.
It has a really nasty, know-it-all, holier-than-thou attitude. I mean...it called me 'obese' yesterday. Now, don't me wrong, I know I'm overweight...but comon' OBESE? I thought that term was reserved for people who have to be cut out of their house.
I'm not THAT big. I'm barely in the plus sizes.
And what it did to my mini-mii is unconscionable...oh, the horrors.
I spent 30 minutes making the perfect little version of myself.

It had dark brown hair...just like me.
Hazelly-brown eyes...just like mine.
And was a size 7..just like I imagine myself to be.
Unfortunately, I made the mistake of letting the monster weigh the real me...and after it had the nerve to declare me obese, it ballooned my little mii to the size of Shamu's mother!
I would declare it evil and take it all back, but the thing is...I'm addicted.
One day into our relationship and I am fascinated by the graphics, mesmerized by the music and taken in by the promise of weight lost.
And I don't get addicted...EVER.

Well, except for chocolate.
And Oreos...

And skim milk...
Okay...let's just say I don't get addicted to video games. Over the years I have successfully fended off addictions to Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Mario and Guitar Hero...
But for some reason I can't get enough ski jumping, marble rolling and tight-rope walking...all cleverly disguised tormenting EXERCISES!
I haven't since high school.
Playing all that volleyball, basketball, baseball and track ruined me for life.
Nothing squelches your desire to exercise like running lines until you puke.
Which brings me back to my point.
Why is it, that I'm perfectly willing to play these games to the point of being so stiff and sore I can barely move?
Its sick, I tell you.
So, sick I'm going to give it up.

Take it back.
Use that money to buy something much more useful for this family.
Right after I lose about 50 pounds and conquer the downhill slolam!


yet another storm...but cute video!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I'm starting to feel like I'm living in Narnia. Its always winter. Always snowing. Only I have no hope of some big lion coming, blowing on anything and making it magically spring.

I know you all are probably getting tired of my Grab-Your-Lasso weather reports...to be honest so am I.
I'm not usually this obsessed with the weather, honest. Well, except during tornado season, but we're in Wyoming now, I doubt it will be the same.
But right now the weather is all I've got going on. And besides...we had another snow storm today. And since the rest of you are more than likely starting to experience spring. I'm thinking its only fair that you share in my misery. ;>)
I'm starting to feel like I'm living in Narnia. Its always winter. Always snowing. Only I have no hope of some big lion coming, blowing on anything and making it magically spring.
Technically I think today's storm was yet another blizzard. The fourth one in two weeks. And surprise, surprise...this one actually turned out to BE something.
It started snowing 24 hours ago and hasn't stopped.
So we have snow.
Lots of snow.
The wind in town isn't so bad, but out of town we hear its a bit nuts. I-80 is closed...AGAIN. So we're sticking pretty close to home. So much for our plans to go to the mountains.
I have knee high drifts in the front yard...bigger ones in the back. And since its still snowing and we don't have a snow blower to make all this easier once it stops, we decided today was the perfect day for the three big kids to learn how to shovel snow. Well, Alek already knew...but the middle littles hadn't technically been given this chore yet.
They cleaned the sidewalks and did a pretty good job of clearing the driveway - course its still snowing so it won't last long.
Anya, as usual, was my hard worker...the boys, not so much. They spent more time building a fort on the other side of the driveway.
And when they were done, they each got a HUGE cup of hot chocolate as a thanks for all their hard work.
Somehow they thought that was fair.

And Anya got some extra marshmallows in her cup! :)


heartbreak for a season

Friday, April 3, 2009

It wasn't until I saw her walking toward the mom-mobile this afternoon after school that I realized how much she was hurting.

M y sweet Anya has experienced her first broken heart.
Her best friend, who is a boy, is moving.
She has known for awhile Gabe would be leaving. She even talked this week a bit about it, but it wasn't until I saw her walking toward the mom-mobile this afternoon after school that I realized just how much she was hurting.
She climbed into the van, dumped her backpack into her seat, crawled into my lap and began to weep.
I feel so bad for her.
The whole friendship thing has been a bit hard on Anya this year. Moving from Kansas to Wyoming, required not only saying goodbye to so many long-time friends, but she also had to get established with new friends.
And when you're an 8-year-old girl, friendship is EVERYTHING.
Thankfully Anya is outgoing, sweet and as true a friend as you'll find. She has several girlfriends she enjoys playing with...but this boy was special (thankfully, not in that kind of way).

He played with her on the playground.

They hung out during lunch.

They worked together on class projects.
He was her bud.
And now he's gone...to Oregon, I think.
I sat there for awhile, holding Anya crammed in between me and the steering wheel, trying to console her. Rocking her and telling her it would be alright.
But I'm afraid there's only so much a mom can do.
I did suggest we sign her up for an email account (with my supervision). Then on Monday she can give the address to her teacher and see if she can pass it on to Gabe's mom. That way they can keep in touch.
It helped a bit.
That an a pair of purple pom-poms from the dollar store. ;>)


the gloves come off

Thursday, April 2, 2009

It was so easy to overlook her institutionalize past because of how quickly and seamlessly Maddie adjusted to our family.

Every once in awhile we have a day where Maddie's orphanage past raises its ugly head.
Today was one of those days.
Maddie punched Anya in the stomach.
Hard enough to make Anya cry.
Anya claims she didn't do anything to provoke the attack, which I choose to believe. She's pretty good about telling me the truth...and tends to be a peacemaker, avoiding conflict at any cost.
My problem is, Maddie isn't verbal enough to tell me her side of the story. When I asked her why she hit Anya she just kept nodding her head 'yes' and saying 'I hit her stomach.' I'm assuming she thought I was asking if she had hit Anya. She doesn't seem to be able to grab the concept of 'why' yet.
So Maddie and I had a little talk...and some discipline. Since she told me the truth I went pretty easy on her.
I wish I could say I was so easy on myself.
I'm not quite sure what to make of this episode. Part of me wants to blame it on just normal kid behavior, but to be honest, I think we've gotten complacent with all of that.
We have overlooked her overall bossiness as just trying to figure out the pecking order of the family.
We have ignored her uncanny ability to break almost every toy she plays with, as just plain clumsiness
(although she's been doing it less and less the last few months).
We've brushed off her primal fear of animals as a normal childhood stage.
It was so easy to overlook her institutionalize past because of how quickly and seamlessly Maddie adjusted to our family.

We have never experienced the meltdown fits our other three and other PI (post-institutionalized) kids often exhibit.
She's attaching well...coming to us for comfort, doing a better job of stranger danger and indiscriminate affection.

And her personality fit so perfectly into our family dynamic it honestly feels like she has always been a part of our lives.
We didn't have the two year adjustment so many families
(including ours) go through when you first bring a child home.
There wasn't even a year...I would say barely six months.
She literally fit like a round peg in the round hole of our family from day one.
So it always surprises me a bit when we have a day like this. Its like a reminder that 'Hey, you haven't always been her parent. There are still issues there you have to work through.'
Sure, it could be totally five year old stuff..but honestly, I saw her act like this at the orphanage when other kids got in her way. Whether it was a toy she wanted, or the children got too close to me, she took charge, kicked tail and took names. So I'm sure its not something she's picked up recently.
Its a remnant of the orphanage....which is sad.
Maddie has given up so many of her orphanage behaviors.
She rarely 'faints' anymore.
She isn't constantly clamoring for our attention...getting mad when the other kids butt in.
She doesn't hoard or steal food anymore (remember the bananas?).

But there are some things she still does...
She still rocks...VIOLENTLY. One of these days I'm going to post a video of it so PAPs (prospective adoptive parents) can see what I'm talking about . I hope it will ensure they're not surprised by it, like we were with Alek. (who by the way has since quit rocking - except when he's bored.)
She still has a bit of a problem with feeling pain and over dramatizing when she sees it is getting her extra attention. Anything for attention.
And apparently, she still hits.
I need to dig out that checklist again and take inventory of where we're at. We've come miles since the day I brought her home, but there are still some lingering issues I'm sure we'll be working on for quite awhile.
And priority number one is to get her to quit using her sister as a punching bag!

*There are a number of non-adoptive parents who read this blog and I want to assure you that as the parents of four post-institutionalized children, Shad and I really do have a pretty good handle on what is and is not orphanage behavior. What may appear to an outsider as typical child-like behavior is often rooted much deeper in our children's past. Thankfully, all four of our children have made remarkable progress now that they are home...and each of their issues were incredibly minor. But every once in awhile something new will sneak up on you that you need to take care of. And unfortunately, sometimes you just don't know where to begin.


wordless wednesday

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Can I really call it Wordless Wednesday, if I'm never really wordless?!
I try, really I do, but today's picture is just too precious to not to say SOMETHING.
I came upstairs to find this scene the other day...Alek reading to Maddie.
And the great thing is, I see this all the time.
These two really have a special relationship. Not that all four of my kids don't get along great...they do. But these two ADORE each other.
From the moment Maddie stepped off that plane Alek has done everything he can to take care of Maddie.
And the feeling is definitely mutual.
He ties her shoes every morning...
She drags carries his backpack in the house after a long day at school (if there aren't any books in it!)
He scoots her up to the table at dinner...
She puts his dishes in the sink.
He gives her a ride on his bike...
She plays ball with him.
Shhh...don't tell anyone, but I've even seen him play Barbie's with her - of course, he was Ken. ;>)
The only thing Maddie does that seems to drive Alek nuts is Maddie still calls him 'Wally'. Over a year after bringing her home, and almost a year since she got her hearing aids, he's still Wally...and I have a feeling he always will be.
That's just fine with me. And I think underneath it all its fine with Alek too...he just doesn't want her doing it in front of his friends.
It hurts his 'cool factor'.
So we're teaching her to pronounce his name...which she CAN do...she just prefers Wally. And I imagine she always will.
I hope I'm still around to hear her call him Wally when they're in their 30s! :)


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