Thursday, December 31

My baby girl is almost 2

I can't believe it. While I was on a blog vacation during the holidays, we celebrated one year of being a forever family. A year. Crazy stuff.

Last night we had her two year old pictures taken while I still had daddy home to help me. She was hilarious. In true Norah fashion, she went stone faced while this stranger tried to position her, make her smile and pose her. Just as she did to us in Vietnam and just as she continues to do when faced with people she is unfamiliar with, she goes motionless. (which is even more hilarious if you know her true personality)

The photographer: "Can you smile?"

Norah, not moving: "no"

Photog: "Can you say monkey?"

Norah, not moving: "no"

Photog: "Can you blow the duck off of my head?"

Norah: "no"

Photog: "where are your teeth? You have teeth, right? Show me your teeth."

Norah: "no"

Somehow, at some point, we changed her position, and I held her for a minute. After that, she turned on the "Norah charm" and performed with every picture. :)

Pretty easy photo session, all in all. I forgot what easy photo sessions were like!

Tuesday, December 29

Look what Will can do!

(and ignore the very excited mom in the background, please, because I sound like a total dork)

There are so many things he can do that I never thought possible. Recently, someone wondered what his future would be like. I am certain that I have no idea. Clearly, Will isn't like the other kids his age. I believe these little surprises are God's way of telling us to enjoy the moment and not try to search for the crystal ball.

Friday, December 25

A very cool Santa gift...

I'm taking a short break away from the hubbub of my house, but this gift that Santa brought for Caroline might make the top 10 of all times. She and her dad have played with it literally ALL DAY. (Yes, Dad likes it as much as Caroline.)

Merry Christmas to all of our family and friends!

Saturday, December 19

Blog Vacation

You may have noticed I haven't posted in a while. This month, I've decided to take a blog vacation and enjoy time with my family and friends.

Hopefully, I'll be able to restart things in January, though I must say I've enjoyed my time away from the internet! (Facebook and forums have been put on hold for the most part too.)

Merry Christmas!!!

Friday, December 4

The Performance

Things were really quiet in my house this morning as I cleaned.

When I checked my bedroom, here's what I found:

She entertains herself this way frequently. It makes me smile, remembering where we were one year ago.

Tuesday, December 1

Home ABA: Two months later

I had the priviledge of watching my boy at ABA last Monday. His therapist was amazing with him.

Two months later, he is learning to fold his hands and wait. He is imitating lots of motor movements on demand and beginning to give pictures when asked for them. Even better, he is beginning to transition from one activity to the next and use his words to request things, even when he is upset.

Most recognizable of all.....he's sitting while working at a table for long periods of time. The reinforcer is beginning to be spaced out as well.

One of the things they use there is a favorite movie. They turn the movie off and ask him to do several things. He is then rewarded with a few more minutes of movie. He is beginning to allow the movie to be turned off without a huge tantrum - a sure bet before ABA.

At home, we are continuing to use favored toys as reinforcers along with some of his favorite popcorn. My goal is to continue to lengthen the time between me taking a toy (turn taking) and giving it back to him. We cue him with "3-2-1, my turn" and then take the toy. We're also working on waiting with folded hands, and some unpopular activities like cutting and gluing.

At the dinner table, we have been able to ask him to take a bite of an unfavored food (a green veggie) in return for a bite of a favored food. After a couple of bites of the veggie, he no longer needs the favored food each time.

It looks like he will be able to attend the ABA school full time - 5 half days per week - beginning in January. For the first time in his school life, he was called a "quick learner" by his ABA therapist. One has no idea what those words mean to a parent of a child like mine, but I can tell you....they mean everything. I can't wait to see what January brings.

Saturday, November 28

Around our household....

Someone lost something important, and in turn, got something fun.

Thanks to ABA, someone is playing appropriately with a toy that was once gathering dust.

And someone is....just being a stinker. (But hey, isn't that what almost two year olds are supposed to do?)

Thursday, November 26

Happy Thanksgiving!

One year ago, we had just received word that she was officially ours forever. We received our I-600 approval during a touchy time as the US was denying some of the babies referred from Vietnam.

This Thanksgiving, as I look at her little face, I am thankful that she is here with us and has easily assimiliated into our family as if she had always been here.

Thank you Lord, for IAAP, for the wonderful nannies who took good care of her in DaNang, and for an unnamed mother out there who unselfishly gave her child up, in hopes of a better life.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of your families!

Wednesday, November 25

Just keep skimmin'

Recently, I was at work talking about how life seemed so chaotic lately. One of the physical therapists at work laughed and said that I was "skimming", much like she was last year. I laughed, and we talked about how there are times as mothers that we can barely keep our heads afloat.

I've reflected on her comment a whole lot more lately, and she's right. I'm skimming. Barely.

I was reminded of this again today when I suddenly realized I had double booked myself for two very important events on the same date. In panic mode, I had to call and cancel one of them, and I couldn't help but feel totally frustrated and embarrassed.

Skimming isn't much fun these days. It is downright stressful as I find my head below water more than it is above. I'm reminded once again of the need for simplicity as well as the need to say no sometimes. Unfortunately, this isn't something that comes naturally to me, which I imagine is true for many moms.

This holiday season, I've decided to prayerfully reconsider my priorities in life and also simplify as much as possible.

What do you do in your life to keep things simple? What makes us so willing to continue to say "yes" when we really should say no?

Wednesday, November 18

Victory over Vegetables!

Will ate a kid-sized serving of these tonight:

For this:

I love you, ABA!!!

Tuesday, November 17

An adoptive family needs help!

The agency we used to adopt Norah continually has children with special needs on their website who need loving homes. Most recently, they have been looking for a family for a 13 year old boy (China) who will no longer be able to be adopted when he turns 14 in December. A miracle....there is a family who wants to adopt him!!

The family is adopting another girl with special needs as well and is now trying to raise funds to bring this boy home in such a short time. I've reposted their letter with permission below. If you can help them, please do so! Or spread the word!

Two weeks ago, on October 30, Dick and Cheryl Graham with Bringing Hope to Children advocated for a boy rapidly approaching his 14th birthday. We have been in process to adopt Christina DuJie since August and had just recently sent in our I800A after an extended wait for our Home Study. I don't usually open these emails, but was moved to see what the situation was. The moving has not stopped.

We are now PreApproved to adopt Zhang LuShi in addition to DuJie and are trying desperately to give this child a home. His 14th birthday is December 12th .... just 4 short weeks away!! China is willing to do whatever it takes to get this child a family. Our agency, CAWLI, is doing everything THEY can to expedite this process. And we see days flying by with little to no time to raise the money needed to bring these children home or give USCIS the time to process our case.

I am asking for TWO things from this fantastic adoptive community:

First - PRAY for God's will to be accomplished - if He is pleased to place LuShi in our home, then He can pave the way through this seemingly IMPOSSIBLE short time period to do so. Pray for USCIS to be moved by compassion or whatever it takes to truly push this file through. China is willing to have everything else in fax only and even to let us travel without TA in hand.

Second - help us is ANY way feasible and within your power to get to China and give this boy a chance. There is a chipin on and a purse fundraiser (done by the lovely Kelly R!) at . We could use frequent fly miles to help get us there and back or help with our stay at the hotel. Spread the word to any groups you belong to!

LuShi is from Linfen, Shanxi and has urinary incontinence and was diagnosed to have a tethered cord 2 years ago (tho he has no history of spina bifada). He has only been allowed to go to school the last few years after LWB stepped in to support the cost of adult incontinence pads. There is no surgeon in China that feels skilled enough to do his surgery. He is nearly 14 and I am sure growing like any other 13 year old boy!! That cord could snap at any time, leaving him in a worse place than he is already in.

John and I are willing to do whatever the Lord desires regarding LuShi - we want to give him the opportunity for family, support, love, expert medical care and the chance to be told there is a God who loves him very much. Could you or your coworkers be looking for a great compassionate giving idea for the Christmas season? What a gift this would be for LuShi who has been overlooked for far too long. And what a story to tell him in future days of the support and love of a huge adoption community who KNOW what a true miracle this would be!!

Friday, November 13

Everybody has one.

A coping mechanism, I mean.

In situations where I find myself stressed, I generally do one of two things: hop on the internet, either to talk with friends or research OR wind down with a glass of wine.

At times, both are helpful, but sometimes, neither one is healthy.

Parents everywhere, and especially parents of children with special needs, need to find a way to relieve the stress.

How do you cope with the daily grind?

On that note, I'm off for a weekend away with my a winery. Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 9

I am thankful for....

Grandparents who offer to watch our children so that my husband and I can spend time together.

Orphans who are now surrounded by love instead of in an orphanage.

Time with neighbors who are like family, for better or for worse.

Health and happiness.

A husband who takes interest in the kids' daily lives and knows just what they need at the right time.

Three wonderful children, uniquely made by God, who give me cause for laughter every day.

What are you thankful for this November?

Friday, November 6

Christmas gifts for teachers and therapists

I'm gathering ideas for Christmas. With Will's teachers, bus drivers, and therapists, there are a LOT of people to give to. In our family, we choose to give some sort of token of appreciation to almost everyone that works with Will as we know what they do requires a lot of time and effort.

That said, there's no way we could afford to buy gifts for them all. My mom and I have started a tradition each year. Instead of going shopping on Black Friday, we use the day to make handmade gifts...lots of give to these people as well as other friends and co workers.

Some of the gifts we've made in the past include handmade soap as well as lavender eye pillows.

This year, some of the ideas we've tossed around include beaded bookmarks, homemade sugar scrubs, and potholders for some special people.

I personally like these ornaments too. Last year, to thank teachers at the end of the school year, we made cookies that I let Caroline draw on. Always a good option as well. (Though I'd advise taking out the black marker....that one got kind of messy!)

I'd love to know....what kinds of gifts do you give to teachers and therapists while still keeping costs down?

Thursday, November 5

Sometimes, my heart aches.

This morning I took my youngest to an appointment at a satelite of our children's hospital. There, in the waiting room with us, was a little girl who clearly was asian.

I struck up a conversation with the girl's mother because I first noticed her little girl looked like mine and then secondly because I recognized a familiar scenario. Mom was telling the little one to "fix her feet" as she W sat, and helped her to wave to Norah and another little one running circles around the waiting area.

I quickly realized that the girl's mother didn't know her little one was developmentally delayed before she brought her home. Yes, she knew medical issues were present, but the extent of this child's needs was clearly not apparent before she came home.

My heart ached for this mother. I know what it is like to be at that exact point....trying to process all of the information that is bombarding you at the same time you are trying so desperately to mend a broken heart.

I found myself on the other side today. This time, I had only my littlest one with me. She's able bodied and bright, talking and exploring the world around her. I watched as the girl's mother took careful note of Norah's age and her actions. I saw the look on her face.

Before I could tell her anything else, her daughter's name was called, and she was gone. I wanted so much to tell her about Will, to tell her that things will get better and that life will be okay.

But how do you really tell someone this? And will they listen? I had people try back when Will was younger and newly diagnosed. At that particular moment, it fell on deaf ears. Like anything else in life, it is a process. A process that involves many ups and many downs.

I'm in a better place now. Just as quickly as the sadness came five years ago, it vanished. Life is really okay. There is peace and happiness and gratitude, where there was once only sadness and worry.

As I left this morning, I did the only thing I could do for her. As I bent down to kiss my youngest daughter, I prayed for the girl's mother and asked that her process be quick and her lows be few.

Thank you, Lord, for the blessings you have shown in my own life. I am forever humbled and grateful.

Wednesday, November 4

Home ABA: Coloring

Today Will and I worked on a new lesson during ABA time: coloring. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but 1) it is an OT goal on his current IEP and 2) it is a simple task demand that accomplishes some OT at the same time.

I happened to have this book that I bought last year when his IEP was written. It never got used...Will could have cared less. Guess what? It was perfect for ABA. It has simple pictures, like a picture of a carrot, with a white circle in the middle. The child is supposed to find the color that matches and then fill in the white circle to match the rest of the picture. I would imagine you could make these with your computer fairly easily. I plan to when these pages run out.

sample page from Kumon

At any rate, it worked beautifully. He was playing with a favorite toy at the table, so we switched out the favorite toy for the coloring. Once he finished the coloring, he got the toy back to play with. He sat today at the table almost the entire 30 minute session! He's made a lot of progress already!

Special Exposure Wednesday

She insisted on wearing this to walk her older sister to the bus stop.

Yeah. I think that just about sums up her personality.

To see more adorable kiddos, visit Special Exposure Wednesday by clicking here.

For those who didn't already know, Norah was brought home via a special needs adoption. Interested in more info? Some kiddos in need of homes listed here, at Bringing Hope to Children. You'll need to sign up to be able to view the SN list.

Saturday, October 31

Happy Halloween!

My girls were matching witches this year. Instructions on how to make a tutu (or witches' skirt) coming soon...

First Halloween for these three kiddos. One from China, Vietnam, and Russia. Can you believe we all live next door to each other?

Friday, October 30

Do they know?

Sometimes I they know?

Things have been good here lately. But for the most part, I am just numb to the daily routine until we have a day like today.

Will has a cold. A bad one. So bad that it has affected his sleep which we JUST got under control. Last night he was awake from 4:30am to 6:30am. I do not know why, but each time this happens, it is two hours. Exactly.

Which means that I have now been awake since 4:30 as well. And that Will stayed home from school. Again.

Meanwhile, I received an email and voice mail from our county MRDD person answering my phone call yesterday inquiring about getting someone certified for respite care. A process which is not so easy. I found out recently that if we do not use our waiver money, then there is the chance we'll lose the waiver altogether, Medicaid card included. Without this, we'd be totally broke and in debt to our eyeballs.

However, using the money is not that simple. Lots of hoops to jump through.

At the same time, I am emailing and reading emails from four people on Will's school team to get his IEP to reflect the correct eligibility for services. More hoops. Waiting on the autism team to continue to hoop jumping process.

Also today I received a card from the school district's transportation office saying Will was going to be removed from the bus route due to inconsistent use. (We've started keeping him home every time he has a cruddy night of sleep.) Which meant I had to make another phone call to clear up the fact that yes, this is due to medical issues and yes, we still need the bus. Hello hoops. I'm jumping.

I'm awaiting a letter home from the school district to let me know that Will's dental form is out of date and he needs an appointment. Which I have not scheduled. Well, scheduled and cancelled due to illness. Not rescheduled.

I spent another 20 minutes on the phone with someone from his medical team figuring out what was going on with his sleep. (The result: Illness + mito dysfunction = stress on body which then = lack of sleep for Will currently)

All the while I mixed meds, fed kids, cleaned house....sort of, and found someone (thanks Grandma!) to come over so I can attend another child's Halloween Party.

'Cause, you know, I have other kids too.

So sometimes I they know? Do they ever wonder why we look so tired? It isn't just meds and therapies (Darn it, I forgot to do his PROMPT exercises today!). It is all of the paperwork, phone calls, and hoop jumping I have to do.

Most of my days are like this...though admittedly less intense. Do they know? Those people....the people that make the they know what our days are like?

I doubt it.

Sunday, October 25

Thinking ahead to Christmas...

I know, I know. Christmas already?

I have to do this, however, to space out the cost of Christmas. We're on a tight budget because Will costs us a house payment alone in out of pocket expenses each month. (More about that in an upcoming post.)

We talk every year of our kids having too much or getting too much. We have simplified greatly over the past years, but we're still looking for a way to reign in Christmas. It doesn't help matters any that Will's birthday is in October, my oldest is in December, and my youngest in January. It is a barrage of gift giving through a few short months and then the whirlwind is over. It's overwhelming.

So, instead, we're talking about implementing a simple strategy I've heard a lot about....Want. Need. Wear. Read. It is just as it sounds...the kids get four things, though some families implement a Santa gift as well. For more info, click on the link here.

We're also talking about doing something during the holidays to work on teaching the kids to think of others. Maybe Operation Christmas Child. Have you heard of this?

Do you have anything special to remind kids what the season is really about? I'm looking for ideas....

Friday, October 23

Home ABA: Week 2

**We have a corner in our basement sensory room all set up for our ABA time. This picture actually shows the corner before we cleared it out and put a small child sized table from IKEA there. All of the toys, reinforcers, and work are now inside a cabinet that has child locks on it.**

This week, we have continued to work on getting Will to sit when he is asked to. He has been doing wonderfully. Today, I gave him the prompt to "come sit" 10 times. Each time he came, got reinforced, and then was asked to do a small, easy task before being told to "go play".

Some of the things we do when he sits at the table are: a favorite puzzle, matching a picture, putting pegs into a pegboard, touching body parts, and following short directives like "clap your hands" or "knock on the table". The point of these activities is to extend his time sitting at the table. In the beginning, we only asked him to sit. Now we ask him to sit and complete one very short activity. Right now, the table is still viewed as a fun place to be!

The BEST birthday party ever

This past weekend, we had a birthday party for Will at one of those places that has the bouncy inflatables. I've never booked a birthday party anywhere for my kids since they tend to be more costly than what I spend here at home, but it was something that I knew Will would enjoy and decided it would be money well spent.

Because we have such wonderful neighbors and family, Will had lots of friends there who made his day special. He loved it! Every bit of it...the bouncing, the sliding, the singing, the cake. He even enjoyed opening his presents.

The girls, of course, loved it too!

We've come SO far. Will threw the cake off of the table at his second birthday and had to be bribed to open even one gift at his third birthday. This year was just amazing and a tribute to just how far one little boy has come. Needless to say, I spent the ride home in tears, thanking God for the blessings we've received.

**Speaking of blessings, he really deserves his own post, but October is a very busy month in our house. Ten years ago today, I married my husband, who is the best husband and father a girl could hope for. I love you so much!!!!

Sunday, October 18

Typhoon hits Vietnam

:( Please keep them in your thoughts.

Click here for link to story on NPR.

I read this on a friend's blog tonight. It apparently hit Norah's hometown. Something in me stopped suddenly when I looked at the pictures and read her town's name in print. I swear, it seems like yesterday that we were there and yet it seems like forever ago. (Makes lots of sense, right?)

It is hard to believe that it hasn't even been a year since we got her. At this time last year, we were praying that the wait wouldn't be much longer. In fact, on this date last year, we were informed that our fingerprints had expired, which was so frustrating! I've kept the emails and just going back and rereading them brings back a rush of emotions as we found out we were traveling.

She's such a pip. She understands so much and is so very smart. Talks a blue streak and has this personality that draws people to her....we are so lucky.

Friday, October 16

Five years ago today...

Five years ago today, my baby boy was born.

He came into this world without a hitch and went home a perfect baby. A week later, my whole world was shattered when we learned he was aspirating badly. A couple of weeks later, my heart shattered once again when we found out he had a chromosome abnormality.

I didn't think I could ever put it back together again.

Events in our life are marked by moments. This morning, the morning of his birthday, my five year old marked the moment by crawling into bed and waking me with a kiss as he said "Hi mommy!" cheerfully.

We've come a long way, baby.

An old friend once said that having a child with special needs was like watching the Wizard of Oz in color. She said that, before her son was born, she saw the world in black and white, just like watching the old version of the movie in black and white. It's a good movie, and you don't know that you are missing anything. It seems just fine.

Then later, you get to see the remade version in color, and oh, the glory. It is spectacular!

That friend of mine....she's a smart lady. There were times when I didn't want to watch the world in color OR in black and white. I wanted to turn it off and crawl back into bed. However, kids have a funny way of keeping you from turning the world off. They force you to watch.

Will forced me to see the world in color, to meet people I would have never met, and to learn to appreciate things I never thought I'd appreciate before.

These days things are pretty good in our house. Will has long surpassed the doubts that people had about his ability, and in general, we enjoy good health and lots of fun here. I'm a lucky girl. I rejoice in the moments like this morning, when I am reminded of all that I've been given.

Happy birthday Will! Your dad and I love you so very much!!!

Wednesday, October 14

Home ABA lessons: Beginning

Today we begin our home ABA programming. I met with Will's coordinator on Monday, and she gave me some great ideas on where to begin.

Right now, we are focusing on three main things:

  • Sitting at the Work Table
  • Learning to Wait
  • Taking Turns

Sitting at the work table: Right now, Will's biggest challenge is completing task demands. He actually has some good requesting skills as well as early joint attention and imitation. However, we have the most issues when we ask Will to do something that he doesn't want to do. As you can imagine, this doesn't go really well at school because there are lots of demands placed during a school day. His current avoidance behaviors include what his teacher has now coined as the "Stop, Drop, and Flop" as well as pinching, kicking, and hollering.

So, for now, we are putting favored activities, easy activities such as cause and effect toys, and reinforcers like food at the table. When Will responds to the demand of "come sit down" he will be reinforced. After he is able to do this successfully for 10-20 trials, we will begin increasing his time at the table, starting with favored activities.

Learning to wait: Will has a terrible time when someone asks him to wait. So, we are being very careful with our use of the word wait, and actually teaching it by telling him to wait, counting to five, and then reinforcing him with what he wants immediately. We are doing this only in situations where he can have what he wants right away.

Taking turns: When Will is playing with something, we are going to give a verbal prompt of "3-2-1, my turn", take the toy and reinforce him with food. Then, almost immediately, he gets the toy back. We will phase out the food hopefully quickly and eventually extend the time.

I am hopeful that these things are going to help! With Will, it isn't so much the skills he has or doesn't have, rather it is the compliance that gets in the way every time. This is so vital to functioning within society and within a school so as you can imagine, we are very excited to get started!

Wednesday, October 7

Special Exposure Wednesday

Will turns five in just over a week. I can not believe it!

Here are pictures of his birthday present - a Fuf chair. A very sweet friend and her husband gave us a great deal on the Fuf....her husband owns the company. We are so blessed to have so many caring people in our lives!

As you can see, Will LOVES it.

In other news, we visited the medical director of our local autism clinic/program here at our hospital. Will has had plenty of other diagnoses in his life, and although I knew this one was most likely appropriate, it just wasn't necessary. However, it has become necessary for some school based decisions and programming.

It went well, and I really enjoyed talking with her. (In fact, she has a daughter that was adopted from China!) She agrees and gave Will a provisional autism diagnosis. We will go through the process though of filling out the ADOS and meeting with some of the other team members to get an official diagnosis and look at some of his strengths and weaknesses. It was nice to hear that she thought he had some really good skills in place. He does show nice joint attention for some things and he is trying to imitate and speak quite a few words on top of the significant apraxia he has going on.

All in all, this appointment was a good one and I am not sad in the least bit. This is simply another label that explains more about the way that Will thinks, but it certainly doesn't change who he is. I realized once again today how lucky we've really been with him. It may not sound like it with all of his issues and diagnoses, but we are. Some of this doctor's comments confirmed it as well.

And so, we move ahead.

Monday, September 28

The Start of Something New

Will started ABA today. He will go twice a week for the time being, and hopefully soon I will be getting some help in setting up our home program.

We're ready for this. Our whole family is ready for this. He's a smart kid, but we're worn out from trying to address his behaviors and from trying to get him to show what he knows.

I've been reading some interesting research that shows the Lovaas Institute recommends 40 hours per week of ABA for kids with autism. Holy moly. I'm curious if anyone else out there has more information to follow up on that.

Friday, September 25

Patience, the missing virtue

When I mention that I teach special ed or that I have a son with special needs, people frequently comment that I "must be really patient."

Oh, if only they knew.

I was thinking about this today as Will is beginning an ABA program on Monday. Because of some things we've done with him in the past, I know he responds really well to this method. I believe this is going to help us reduce Will's problem behaviors, get him potty trained, and teach him skills that don't come naturally for him.

So, typical of my personality, I want to start. NOW.

To give you another example, my husband and I talked yesterday about Will's sleep and school. I was so frustrated yesterday that I was ready to call the naturopath who has given Will his supplements for sleep and ask her to pull him off of them. NOW. We decided to give it a week. Last night, Will slept remarkably.

I went into special ed because I wanted to work with kids that others found challenging. I continue to work with them because I want to make a difference for their parents, even more so than the kids. To show them someone believes in their child. Someone cares.

As far as my own family is concerned, I have a secret. I lose my patience. A lot.

I'm just a girl. A girl who was given a child with a little something extra. Because of that something extra, I'm passionate.

But I'm not patient.

Wednesday, September 23

What to do, what to do.

Really, sometimes I wonder when things will begin to go a bit more smoothly around here.

Yesterday I received a note from Will's teacher letting me know that he was unwilling to engage in any organized activity in his preschool classroom and that he'd rather throw things all day. When asked to pick up the things he's thrown, he starts flailing and pinching and kicking. *long whistle* She wants to meet with me.

The background:

We've been giving him something to help him sleep. It is helping - some - but he is still tired. I have to wake him at 6:30 to get on the bus and he still doesn't go to sleep early enough. I can't give him melatonin with the meds.

So this morning I had to take him to a doctor for follow up, and I got to see why he's not functioning in his classroom. He's exhausted. We've adjusted meds, so hopefully that will help, but otherwise, he really needs to sleep to allow his schedule to start adjusting and to let his body rest. He's also not eating when he's exhausted, which means he's losing weight. (It takes a lot of energy for him to chew and swallow.)

I'm contemplating taking him out of this preschool for the time being. What good does it do if I have to wake him at the crack of dawn and then he does nothing all morning in preschool? He is literally walking around exhausted, but then can't sleep when I need him to at night. We're in a vicious cycle and it seems never ending.

These are the days when I just want to crawl back in bed. I'm so overwhelmed I don't know where to begin.

Monday, September 21

The Great Phone Experiment

photo by JonJon2k8 from

I've talked before about how we adopted Norah from Vietnam last December, and how we did this on faith that God would provide the resources we needed. Once we move some money around here soon, we will be about halfway through paying our adoption debt off using Dave Ramsey's method.

Last night was budget crunch time. We are trying to go hard core...mainly because kids with special needs can be so expensive! When we budgeted last night, we realized that between Will's PROMPT therapy, ABA therapy which we are adding next week, and his mito supplements, he is costing us a small house payment. No wonder we never have any money!

We run a pretty tight ship here already, but decided our cell phones were one place that we could save some cash. We read about pay-as-you-go Tracfones, and I think we are going to give it a shot. Currently, we spend about $80/month on our two cell phones using one of the cheapest plans around. We use less than a third of our minutes each month.

When we checked out the tracfones, it seemed as though we could spend a total of $250 for the year, and this includes buying two phones.

So...original cost: $960/year
Change to Tracfone: $250/year

If we can pull it off, that's a savings of $710 for the year! I'll update on how it goes!

Friday, September 18

A word about my oldest....

I was thinking about my six year old all morning as I drove my two youngest from doctor appointment to doctor appointment.

She makes my job as a mother so easy. She learns easily, enjoys school, and is just generally a good kid. She shows a lot of similarities to me when I was a young girl. I was a people pleaser. I loved school, and it came easily as well.

But she has something I didn't. She has an amazing sense of compassion. I mean, I was a nice kid. I was mostly respectful of others' feelings. But Caroline has an innate sense of compassion. She thinks of things I wouldn't, even now as an adult. Could it be because she has lived most of her life with a brother with special needs? Maybe. Could it be that God made her this way simply because? More likely.

This morning, while I was in the shower, Caroline realized her brother was awake. She helped Will carry his bank downstairs (his newest obsession). She knows that he loves money and loves to put money into his bank to watch it go down into the bottom. When I got out of the shower, she says,

"Mom, I hope you don't mind, but I had a quarter left over from my hot lunch money the other day, and I gave it to Will to put in his bank." Meanwhile, she also heard her sister get up. She proceeded to get her out of bed and make Norah breakfast. I was struck by her innocent thoughtfulness this morning.

Sometimes, when I have a moment to stop and think, I realize that the easiest child I have been given to parent presents me with the greatest challenge. It would be easy to continue status quo with her while I address other challenges in our household. However, I need to be there for her, to teach her that it is okay to be a be silly for no reason at all. That it is okay to make mistakes....and that we love her just as she is. That she doesn't always have to be the good one, the well behaved one, and the responsible one.

I hope someday she realizes how lucky her dad and I feel to have her as our daughter.

Thursday, September 17

We've been sick and sleep deprived....

Which is why I've posted nothing. Will has only gone to school one day this week. Yikes!

We've enjoyed some lazy days, though, and I can't say I'm sad about that. Be back next week! :)

Monday, September 14

Day out with Thomas

Will and I had some one on one time last weekend, just the two of us. It was nice considering most of the one on one time he's ever gotten has been therapies and doctor appointments. My husband and I are making a huge effort to make sure that each child gets some special time, and it has really helped.

Will loved Thomas. I think he was totally amazed that he was seeing him in person, live, attached to a train that he got to ride. It was so cute! He also really enjoyed the gift shop (surprise, surprise) and attached himself to a motorized Thomas that I bought. (Of course. I'm such a sucker when this kid decides he REALLY wants something.)

The rest of the weekend was spent at Caroline's soccer games and a pub crawl in honor of my nephew. It was great! I really enjoyed watching C is so much fun seeing these kids go from little lollipop leaguers to kids who can actually play!

Wednesday, September 9

More Jewelry given away...

Similar style, but the "simple line" is cheaper than the other place I told you about! This is the Vintage Pearl.

I might seriously have to show my husband this stuff this time. For real. So pretty.

Details on the giveaway here: i Heart Faces giveaway

Thank you, Lord, for giving me coffee.

This morning I had an appointment to meet with one of the directors of an ABA school nearby. (ABA = Applied Behavior Analysis, often used with kids on the autism spectrum) I thought, for some reason, that our appointment was at 9:15. You know, so I could get my two older kids on the bus and then skip off to the appointment? At 7:40 this morning I double checked my email...just in case...and discovered it was actually 8:30 that I was supposed to be there.

(Seriously? It takes about 25 min in traffic to get there.)

We made it, luckily. The place is awesome, and I think just what Will needs. Now his dad and I need to decide in what capacity we are going to utilize the services. As a kindergarten classroom next year? Just for after school programming, starting now?

To pursue the school day program, he must have an autism diagnosis. He does not. I believe one fits. He's not classic, but certainly can be placed on the spectrum in my opinion. Interesting how things play out in life.

Before I had Caroline, I prayed that my children would be healthy. I saw what parents of kids with special needs went through as a special ed teacher. Then I had Will.

When I had Will and he was diagnosed with the chromosome abnormality, I prayed....please Lord, I can handle a lot of things. But please let him be social. Please let him not fall on the autism spectrum. Well, he struggles with social skills and (after years of fighting it) can probably fit on the spectrum.

Sometimes I think God chuckles at my prayers. (You silly, "type A" kind of girl...don't you know that you can't plan your entire life? That it isn't in your control, but in Mine instead?)

So, this morning, I prayed at the coffee shop nearby as Norah devoured a blueberry muffin and said hi to everyone who passed. I thanked Him for friends who jump in to bail me out as I screw up appointment times; I thanked Him for Will and my other two kids and for their health. I thanked Him for good family who support us as well as for leading me to places like the one I saw this morning.

And then, to finish up, I thanked Him for coffee. Because surely that kind of goodness comes only from heaven above.

Friday, September 4

Orphan no more!

Our neighbors have officially adopted their little one from Russia. I'm sure she and Norah will be great friends! They are close to the same age. Isn't that awesome?

We're just waiting for them to come home. We are so thrilled!

Tuesday, September 1

IKEA swings

Did you know that IKEA has swings? I checked their website, and unfortunately, the one I'm seriously considering (pictured above - EKORRE line) isn't available online. But of course, it's there on ebay, and pretty similar price for anyone that's interested. Really reasonable considering what places charge for sensory swings. This one is less than $50 with both parts. You can buy it without the inflatable piece at the store and then it is between $30-40.

We have two sensory swings in our basement, but I'd love to have one outside for when Will gets tired or overloaded and starts doing things he shouldn't be.

Monday, August 31

giveaway for moms

On one of the blogs I read (Simple Mom), there is a giveaway for some really beautiful handmade jewelry from Lisa Leonard Designs. For more details on the giveaway, click here. I'm not normally a big jewelry person, but I like some simple pieces to wear from time to time.

At the end of October, my husband and I will have been married for ten years. Don't you think one of these necklaces with my kids' names on it would make a perfect gift?

Feel free to let him know if you see him out and about. ;)

something new

We met some new neighbors at the bus stop this year. One of them has two daughters, one of which was adopted from China and started kindergarten this year. (Did I mention that I love this neighborhood?)

She gave us an Ergo carrier. I'm in love. Norah can ride on our backs very comfortably and I can have my hands free. Today I took Will and N for a walk. Norah rode on my back; Will rode his tricycle. Or sort of, anyway. He prefers me to push, but will pedal as long as we aren't going uphill!

Sunday, August 30

Peeping Tom

Yeah, we're all sort of a little stir crazy after a weekend of illness.

Saturday, August 29

It goes something like this...

*screaming heard from the basement*

Mom enters basement from upstairs just in time to see Will, who attempts to pull Norah from the sensory swing by her hair.

Mom tells Will, "It's Norah's turn."

Repeat 20 times.

Will finally decides its in his best interest to go and play with his Silly Six Pin game - a bowling game, a new favorite in the house.

Norah hears the sound coming from the Silly Six Pin game two feet away, jumps off of the swing, grabs a bowling pin, and runs. All in 30 seconds or less.

Will runs after Norah.

*screaming heard from the basement*

Will runs back to the sensory swing. He gets off momentarily to fix his pants which are now falling off of his behind.

Norah seizes the moment, and jumps onto the sensory swing.

Will attempts to pull Norah from the sensory swing by her hair.

*screaming heard from the basement*

I can sort of relate to the hair pulling.

Friday, August 28

I love my neighborhood!

Everyone should have the chance to live in a neighborhood that they love. What makes a neighborhood so wonderful? The people, the sense of community that you share.

After having Will, we felt our life outside of kids dwindle away to nothing. Not uncommon for parents of young children. Especially common for parents of kids with special needs.

Then, we met our neighbors. Four houses of us all together. Lots of kids, all around the same age. Fun times to be had. A social life, complete with kids, began.

In the meantime, something wonderful happened. The neighbors loved on my children, special needs or not. No explaining why he does this or doesn't do that. Comfortable. A sense of community, like a family.

Just when we thought it couldn't get better, we brought Norah home from Vietnam in December.

Jack came home from China in March.

Tomorrow, my next door neighbors leave for Russia to bring an adorable little blond haired, one year old home.

What started out as some social time outside with the kids turned into some really wonderful friendships which continue to grow with the love of orphans. I love my neighborhood. I love the people.

Good luck you guys! We can't wait to meet the next child to be welcomed into our neighborhood family.

Tuesday, August 25

A Trip to the Vascular Clinic

Norah had her follow up appointment at the Vascular Clinic today. For those of you who don't know, before we adopted her, she was thought to have a lymphatic malformation or possibly even Klippel Trenaunay which would be more significant involvement of her arm. We were fine with our eyes, this was easy compared to some of what we've seen.

A couple of months after adopting her, we took her to the Vascular Clinic here. They actually diagnosed her with a capillary malformation (AKA Port Wine Stain), and the doctors disagreed about whether she had arterial involvement which would make it Parkes Weber Syndrome. This would mean follow up with cardiology as Parkes Weber can result later in an enlarged heart, due to the arteries working over time.

Today, two doctors looked her over and decided it was definitely NOT Parkes Weber and is, in fact, just a Port Wine Stain. We are so lucky and so blessed with this kid. The doctors today could not believe how well she is doing. Her growth is fabulous and her development is well above her age level.

On top of that (as if things could not get better), my two younger kiddos were both with me. They could not have behaved better. Sleep clearly makes such a HUGE difference for Will. I always knew it did...more so than the average kiddo...but it was so clear today. He is a different kid and was just fabulous.

What a great day. I couldn't stop thinking on the way home about how much God has blessed us recently. We are so thankful!

Saturday, August 22

I am stuck... potty training land.

We've progressed to being naked. (Well, him. Not me. Obviously.)

If he has on the underwear or the pull up, he'll go in it. If he's naked, he holds it for as long as he can and finally goes, but usually with me putting him on there. He does hold himself and yell help some of the time.

I'm going to have to go with Plan B, I think. Or Plan C?

Friday, August 21

I'm THAT mom.

Here are our first week of school pics! Will started his second year of preschool today. Caroline began first grade on Tuesday. (She is in the middle with her buddies on either side.)

Back to why I'm THAT mom.

Sheesh. I sent Will to school on the bus today - his very first day of preschool this year - with shorts that had no button. Miscommunication between his dad and I and anyway, the bus was early.

It wasn't until he climbed on the bus and his pants fell around his lie...that I asked my husband when we got back inside. (I was thinking it was because the adjustable waist wasn't tight enough or I would have run in and gotten him new shorts!) He came home with a string through his belt loops and soaked on the outside. Kind of looked like he might have tried to go potty at school and pulled his pants up himself. (You know, where they don't get all of the little boy parts inside the pull up?)

Oh least it is Friday!!

Thursday, August 20

And just when you are ready to give up....

The sun shines brighter.

No, I'm not talking about potty training.

The past month has been a difficult, chaotic one in our house. The two youngest have not been sleeping well, particularly Norah. She has been cranky beyond words and is approaching the infamous terrible twos. (Rightly named, I might add.) She and Will bicker and fight all day long on some days. Norah had a particularly willful month where she refused to do anything we asked her to. Her way or the highway.

Pair that with a boy who wants things his way, and it causes lots of commotion.

Over the past week I have been noticing little things. How Will is listening and following directions more often, offering "sorry" on his own when he's hurt her or gotten in trouble for not acting appropriately. How Norah is beginning to respond to the first "no" that we give her and actually show some restraint. How they are sharing some of their snacks without being asked. How Will has come up and given me a hug numerous times today and smiled at me...just happy. How Norah all of a sudden doesn't seem quite as needy...needing to be held 24-7.

I looked at something that came in the mail today....Day out with Thomas. For the first time, I'm considering taking Will to something all on his own. Today, in the store for the first time, he showed interest in a toy he really, really wanted and carried it around the entire store. (I showed great restraint in not buying it, actually.)

Tomorrow, he will go to preschool again, and Norah and I will have time to ourselves. I'm considering starting back up with my Moms in Touch prayer group and maybe doing something special, just with Norah. just takes a little while for the sun to shine again.

Tuesday, August 18

Houston, we have a plan.

So potty training a child with special needs continues here in our house.

I scoured the net to find a good plan. Because a masters degree in special ed just doesn't cut it when you're the mom. Seriously.

I've spoken with a few people, read a few things, and finally put all of the well meaning advice together into finding the plan that fits my boy.

It goes something like this:

1. Now that he's comfortable (sort of) with sitting on the potty, he will be going once every hour, starting tomorrow.

2. He gets a five minute warning. If this doesn't suffice, we'll add a picture cue.

3. He goes in, pulls his underwear down and sits on the potty. He'll stay there until the timer goes off, after five minutes.

4. Even if he hasn't gone, he pulls his pants up, flushes, and washes his hands, every time. He gets a reinforcer (goldfish crackers, in our case) for staying put and going through the steps.

5. If he does go, he gets tons of praise and a bigger reinforcer...all hail the cookie.

We're hoping things will start to happen. I believe it will, cause after all, the internet says it will. (The internet never lies, right?)

Monday, August 17

Phase Two of the Potty Training Experience

Today I began allowing Will to wear underwear. And nothing else. He bugs us to no end when he has gone number two, but because diapers are so fabulous, he doesn't care much about being wet.

So, the next step in my "plan" (I use the term loosely here) was to introduce him to the fact that being wet is not so fun. It worked. He didn't like being wet. Unfortunately, neither did my floor.

He did manage to pee in the potty once tonight, and several other times I saw some clear signs that it was coming and he was trying to keep from peeing in his underwear. The typical dance, the typical "boy-holding-his-private-parts" type of thing. However, he also kept from going in the potty as well because as soon as we would let him off of the potty, he'd go.

Brilliant. Onto phase three....and my glass of wine.

Sunday, August 16

Sibling Rivalry

The total lack of posts lately represents the chaos in my household.

Norah, my one year old who came home from Vietnam in December, fights constantly with my son, Will. Will's sensory issues don't make it any easier.

Picture this...a four year old boy with special needs who likes certain toys a certain way and to have his space. Enter in a boisterous one year old who will take anything from anyone and will. let. you. know. in no uncertain terms what she does and does not like. "NO" is by far her favorite word in the English language thus far. Usually yelled rather loudly or whined in the way that only girls can.

Will is totally threatened by having her here. Norah is totally threatened by the attention that Will gets.

I'm barely surviving some days. Most of the time you can find me chanting a mantra, "This too shall pass. This too shall pass."

I only hope it passes before the wine is all gone.

Oh no. She's getting older.

And I'm in trouble.

Caroline (my soon-to-be first grader), and I went school clothes shopping with my mom the other day. Each season, I've been able to buy her clothes and pick what I think is appropriate for a kid her age.

Like I said...until NOW.

She immediately found something she liked and had to pull me over to see.

What did she like, you ask?

Only the kind she picked had words written all over them. Call me old fashioned, but I was thinking...why don't we just invite someone to look at your butt?

Thankfully they were fresh out of her size. I'm totally dreading the fall.