Showing posts from February, 2016

One month (or so) home

I realized today at our one month post-placement visit that the blog has been a little thin on posts about how the new girls are doing and adjusting. One reason is that there is just so much else going on in my head that I'm not thinking entirely straight these days. The other reason is that R.'s and Y.'s transitions have been pretty easy all things considered. Part of this is due to the girls themselves. Though each has her moments, both of them are just naturally sunny. Even after the worst upset, it is difficult for either of them to stay unhappy for very long. The other part is that by adoption #4 and #5, J. and I have very few expectations as to how these transitions go. We have learned everything shakes out in the end and there is no point to rushing or feel as though we have to tackle every little thing. We've been pretty relaxed, therefore the girls have been feeling pretty relaxed.

Of course, that doesn't mean that we aren't gently beginning to work on…

I ain't nothin' but a hound dog... or healing a hole in my heart

I have spent the past couple of weeks looking at dogs on shelter web sites. Not having a dog was evidently just too much of an emptiness given everything that we had all been through in the past two months to bear. I was still comforting weepy children at bedtime that Gretel wasn't around anymore, and I didn't feel much differently. Today everyone was home and we were free, so we decided to head off together to a shelter I had been stalking to see if we met any dogs that would be a good fit. We are an unusual family due to size, family make-up, and also having a cat. It would take a special dog to be able to handle all that love without being stressed and upset.

I truly had no idea if we would meet a dog that would work for us, but thought we should at least try. Well, since you all know what's coming, I'll spare you the suspense and introduce you to...

(This is from our first meeting, photo compliments to TM)

Kenzie is a 60 pound, two year old Lab/hound mix. …

The benefits of odd hobbies... or more on language learning

Time. I just need some more time in my life. A recurring theme in conversations between M. and me is our moaning about not having enough time, either daily or in a lifetime, to try and master all that we wish we could. On my own personal list is the desire to be functionally fluent in multiple languages. In my imagination, multiple means upwards of six. There's good news and bad news about this little fantasy. The good news is that it is totally doable, even as an adult. Anyone can learn a new language, even if they have missed the optimal window of learning it naturally as a child. Our brains are pretty amazing things, and being multi-lingual is not out of the realm of reality for anyone, provided they are willing to put in the time.

And there's the bad news. Learning a new language, even if one has a natural aptitude for languages just takes time and the effort to memorize the new grammar and vocabulary. I can carve out a bit of time throughout my day to work on language lea…

Good mail

Sometimes the mail brings nice surprises instead of large, vaguely anticipated bills. Such was the case yesterday when a large box arrived. Like a parent entering the bathroom or picking up the telephone, the arrival of a large, unexpected box brings children out of the woodwork.

"What is it?"

"Who's it from?"

"What did you order?"

"Is it for me?"

"Do you know what it is?"

"Are you going to open it?"

"Did you know it was coming?"

Were chorused all at the same time. I briefly thought about just letting the box sit there, unopened, and watch the masses of children do their combination Greek chorus/interpretive dance on the theme of unopened packages, but I wanted to see what was inside, too. Once I saw the return address, I had a feeling I knew what it was.

J.'s aunt and I had a conversation a while back about what I could use in terms of pottery, as she is a potter. I needed a new utensil holder since I had n…

And sometimes...

Grief doesn't sneak up on you so much as knock you down like a beach umbrella in a tsunami. This was me for the past two days. I'm a bit better now, but I wasn't much fun to be around. I also didn't do a whole lot. Well, unless you count moping around, bursting into tears, and compulsively looking at pictures of shelter dogs doing something. For instance, the laundry, which did not get done, is now a mountain of epic proportions. I must get to it this afternoon because otherwise I'm not entirely sure what people will wear tomorrow.

It's bad enough to lose someone you loved dearly, but, I wasn't quite prepared for how grief butts its ugly head into every part of life. Some days I just can't seem to do the most basic of tasks. Other days, I can do the basics, but anything more is just beyond me. This plays havoc with trying to keep up with post-adoption paperwork and doctors' appointments (both the making and the keeping). Looking at the state of my d…

Happy 9th Birthday, Y.!

Yesterday was Y.'s 9th birthday. She knew her birthday was coming, how old she was turning, and she was clearly excited about it. I was a little trepidatious about it since she hadn't yet seen any other birthdays celebrated in her new family. I hoped that she didn't have expectations that we wouldn't meet. 
I needed have feared. She had a wonderful celebration. First, we ordered Chinese take-out for her birthday dinner. We asked our friend who does some translating for us to ask her what food she missed the most and it turns out it was shredded sauteed potatoes. (Who knew? I can actually make that.) Anyway, our friend helped us find a restaurant that served what Y. was missing, so we ordered from there and got some other things as well. She was pretty excited about a plate full of home.

Her birthday dessert was a little trickier. She has not shown herself to be a big dessert eater, though she occasionally likes chocolate. What she loves more than life itself are banan…

Pity the cat

This is Midnight.
This is Midnight hiding.
This is Midnight hiding because otherwise this is where you will find him.

It doesn't need to be H., it could be anyone of the 9 children currently inhabiting the house. I probably see him being lugged around by each child at some point in the day. If they can find him. He has been hiding a lot.

It's hard to be the only pet in a house full of pet loving children.
Midnight would like to have a new dog friend to take some of the pressure off.
The children would like to have a new dog friend.
The parents would like to have a new dog friend.
We have to wait until after our Arizona trip.

It is difficult to wait so we fill our days talking about different types of dogs. Everyone has an opinion... or two or three. Some of the types of dogs which have been suggested include: Husky, German Shepherd, Great Dane, St. Bernard, Irish Wolfhound, Pitbull, Sharpei, Corgi, Dalmation, Newfoundland... I'm pretty sure there were many others mentione…

Adoption 101: Files can lie

If you spend any time at all lurking in adoption groups, you will know that a very common theme under constant discussion is the accuracy of a child's file. For those of you who do not lurk, a child's file is the collection of documents that is compiled to give prospective adoptive parents information about the history and physical health of a particular child. I am sad to say, that these files are not always accurate. In fact, sometimes they are so inaccurate that one wonders if the person compiling them was looking at a different child. Of course, sometimes they are correct, but before actually meeting the child in person, there is no way to know which kind of file you have in front of you. And of course, a child's file will never mention past trauma.

Our experiences with children's files has run the gamut... pretty accurate, missing information, wrong information, and in the case of K., a diagnosis that he never had. There is not much you can about it, except accept…

Movement and cognition

"Your activity not only affects brain functionings; it can also provide a window into how your mind is operating. Take walking. Doctors used to think that signs of Slow walking were just a normal part of the aging process. They were wrong. It turns out that slow or unstable walking is often an indicator of subtle cognitive impairments. Many of the same brain circuits that control complex cognitive activities also help us coordinate the complex movements needed to walk down the hall. Using walking to assess cognition represents a real departure from how mental fitness is normally assessed in older adults: while they are sitting down. Many neuroscientists studying the aging mind firmly believe that, when older go to the doctor and get their eyes and their blood pressure checked, they should get their walking checked too. Even subtle signs that walking is slowed or impaired may tell doctors that something important is going on in the brain." (p. 186, How the Body Knows its Mind…

Hijacked by crafting

On Friday, I made a run to the craft store. I had become a little bit obsessed with stump work. (It's essentially 3D embroidery. Do an image search to see the possibilities.) While my stash of crafting supplies was vast, I was still missing a few key bits and pieces to do it. Can you imagine, P., TM, and D. didn't want to accompany me to the craft/fabric store? But, in the throws of a new obsession, I was desperate. This is why I voluntarily took six children, ages 6 - 13 (the oldest being H.) with me to get my supplies.

While I'm sure we were a pretty hilarious sight navigating the store, they were all very good. This was due in no small part to the stern pre-store lecture which was delivered in the car before we entered. You want to know what it consisted of? 1. Stay with Mommy 2. Do NOT touch anything 3. Do NOT ask me to buy you anything.  Repeat, have children repeat, repeat, then get out of the van. H. has definitely graduated from "one of the children who needs …

Since you asked... an annotated reading list

A reader asked in a comment on my post about reading fiction, what books I would recommend. You know, I sit around just waiting for questions like that. Really, I love nothing more than sharing my favorite books with people. Many of these I have written about before in previous posts, but this blog has been going for a while and since I write a lot of posts, and those posts tend to have a lot of words, it can be difficult to find things without the handy search engine available to the blog owner. Besides, I don't think people can really write about good books too much.

So, my rather eclectic and stream of consciousness reading list (for brevity's sake, I'll constrain myself by listing only books aimed at adult readers)...

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth - This is a long book... well over 1000 pages. This, to my mind, is a real plus. Good books that end too soon are a disappointment. This book is set in India in the 1950's and follows the lives of several characters. As w…

The things I find on the memory card

I took a picture of the necklace H. made today, and as I was looking at the camera, discovered a whole series of photos that TM took out on the trampoline. They seemed pretty amusing and I thought I would share them.

Now as you look at these, remember where we live. You know, the cold, cold Chicago area where it hasn't been above freezing for the past couple of days. I guess it was really worth the effort to bring that trampoline home. (G. is in green and L. is in blue.)

This is far more interesting than me recounting my various conversations with children's hospital neurology departments. I just love having to spell out 'Linear Nevus Sebaceous Syndrome' when talking with the place I have called for help.

Don't be a sea squirt

Well, we're back in the land of seizures and questions about medicines and not a lot of sleep. R. this time, not H., thankfully. (I'll have a really interesting seizure post relating to H. once I can finally finish my phone tag game with Lurie Children's Hospital and find a new neurologist I can work with.) Anyway, this is the first time we've really witnessed first hand R.'s particular seizures and since they seem to involve sleeplessness, we're tired. (The analytical side of my brain is finding it highly interesting. The emotional side of my brain just wants to go and find a hotel room.) I have to give real credit to my children here at home who seem to take the current medical crisis du jour in stride. They are interested in what is going on, are patient with the patient, and are also completely nonplussed by odd behavior.

So once again, I will have to rely on someone else's writing to entertain my audience. I've been working my way through The Body …

The dregs of my writing for the day

Between the seizure/drug dazed child, the child who fell and cut her head, which then bled like Mt. Vesuvius (she's fine now), and an article which was due that ran to over 2000 words, there is not much left for you, my dear blog readers.

Instead, I'm going to send you to another article. This was sent to me by a good friend who shares my taste in books and, more importantly, reads as voraciously as I. We like to talk about books together. And give each other book recommendations. And discuss why finding time to read is a high priority for us. And worry together about running out of book titles.

And since we also share a love of research, articles that tell us why we are better off doing our favorite thing... reading... make us happy. Now you can share our happiness, too.

The Surprising Power of Reading Fiction: 9 ways it makes us happier and more creative

A public service announcement

Things are beginning to settle down a little bit around here. The girls are starting to figure out what our typical schedule is, where things are, how things work, etc. etc. There is just so much new to sort through for them. The other children are getting to know their new sisters and their personalities. Communication is starting to be a teeny, tiny bit easier. I am beginning the process of figuring out exactly where to start each girl in regards to school work. 
[An aside. That school work comment makes it seem as though we're plunging right into the books. We have started back to a regular school schedule, but really as a means of self-defense. If I didn't, the loose-ended children would self-implode. Everyone does better on a schedule. R. and Y. are doing little bits of things here and there, mainly because they see everyone else working and want to join in. I was ready for this and have been getting our preschool boxes out again in rotation. Watching them play with the t…

Phonics Firefly

I have blogged about the Phonics Fireflybefore, but I feel as though I really need to give it its own post. It is a noisy toy, ie it uses batteries and makes noise. Usually noisy toys very rarely make it past the threshold of the house and if they do, the batteries are mysteriously short-lived. Yet, the phonics firefly with it's vaguely annoying voice and music has its batteries regularly replaced and we own not one, but two of the things.

Why? Why would we do this to ourselves? (Because let me tell you, when they are both going in the same room at not quite the same time... much deep breathing must ensue.)

We happily put up with this state of affairs, because the deal little firefly toy is a learning toy that actually does what it promises. It really does teach letter and sound recognition and children like playing with it. Learning toys either fall into one of two categories, they can teach, but it doesn't matter because children hate them, or they are fun and children play …

"Nothing will ever be simple again"

I won't kid you, the dog dying on top of everything has thrown me for a loop and I've been kind of an emotional mess. While we're really sad about losing Gretel, I have a sneaking suspicion that the overflow of emotion is not just about the dog. The dog was just the straw that broke this camel's back. I'll survive, but a period of relative calm would help greatly.

In the meantime, even during the extreme of amount of chaos around here, we have still be having our tea time/read aloud rest in the afternoons. This has truly been the single best idea I've had in a long time. It is good for us all to be together, to share a treat, and just listen to an engaging story. It has been a period of calm in a particularly un-calm time.

Of course, the irony here is that during our calm, restful hour of the day, we have been reading about the siege and fall of Constantinople. I can't decide whether knowing the city falls ahead of time helps or not. Either way, I highly re…

House of grief

I am so, so sorry to report that Gretel didn't make it through the night. It was a very difficult way for some of our children to wake up.

I'm so tired of grief.
I'm so tired of watching my children's hearts being ripped out of their chests.
I'm so tired of losing very young pets.
I'm so tired of not having any emotional energy to take care of the basics of life.
I'm just so tired.

These are pictures that TM took yesterday after he was able to put his heart back inside his chest.

We will miss Gretel greatly. She was a good dog.

A brief update

A.'s surgery went well and she is doing fine. She is currently home to sleep tonight, making use of the Polartech 3000 (or something like that). That would be the ice machine for reducing swelling which we purchased for M's first knee surgery and never dreamed would be using for family knee surgery #3. A. kept telling us that she would be going to class tomorrow and we humored her, but based on how she is doing right now, she may be right.

So that's the good news.

The bad news is that Gretel is not doing well. That would be not doing well as in we really don't expect her to make it through the night. We've been in contact with the vet and since she doesn't seem to be in discomfort and is pretty constantly surrounded by her family who is doting on her, we are just taking care of her right now. It's hard. It's also hard to sit with your children as they grieve what is to come.

We'll just add both these events to the column, "Things that don't…

The best part of international adoption

And by best, what I mean is worst. My worst, least-favorite part of the whole complicated process. Is it the paperwork? No, though that is pretty stinky. Is it writing big, huge checks? No, though that's not terribly fun, either. Jet lag? Missing my children? Grief? No, no, and no. None of this is enjoyable or fun or something to be anticipated.

You want to know what it is?

Yes, it is the testing of bodily substances one does not really like to deal with. It's bad enough for yourself or for a child who trusts you and shares a common language. A child who is not entirely sure about your reliability or sanity and who doesn't share your language? Torture. For everyone. Because really, how does one go about using gestures and limited vocabulary to explain what is needed? From past experience, the expressions on the child's face pretty much say, "You want me to do what where? And why? That clinches it, you are insane... how do I get out of here?" I'm just real…