Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Social - Bella

Next one down on my siggy line...

Wife of Fred for 23 years
Mom of:
Patrick (16)
James (16)
Rosie (1)
Julie (13)
Daniel (12)
My children around the world:
Milly in Taiwan
Felice in Hong Kong
Eun Hae in South Korea
Nadya in Germany
Obrin in New York
And our critters Annabelle, Fiona, Sunny, Sophie, Cindy-Lou and Blue; Mamfy, Mali and Punkin; Nick; Frog 1 and Horny Toad; Charlie and Dizzy; Minnie and Alice; Elfie, Frex, Crope, Tibbit and Ozzy; Genevieve, Pippin and Finnegan; and a dozen or so chooks.

I'd like to ask God why He allows
hunger, poverty, and injustice
in the world,but I'd be afraid
He'd ask me the same thing ...

Is Bella.

Bella is my 4th child in order of when they came into our family, my 3rd in birth order, and my last in order of tallest to smallest.

Once upon a time I had three children. Boy, girl, boy, all brought into the world and into our family the old-fashioned way. Then one day it occurred to me that my little girl did not have a sister.

I could not have that.

I am very, very close with my sisters.

I had talked in my younger, idealistic days of adopting children. Why not now? I wanted another daughter, Rosie wanted a sister, and I was quite sure there were oodles of children in the world that would want a family. All I had to do was go out and find one. Easy peasy.

And so I did, but ain't nothin' easy peasy about adoption, let me assure you.

Long story short, we found our Bella. And it was meant to be. We knew she had some special needs, but we also knew this was one little mighty love muffin of a child and that she was our daughter. Make no mistake. Grab a tissue if you have a spare minute and read our meeting story. Or read a little about the beginnings of her life, and why she still sometimes has bad dreams.

And so she came home to us back in 2003, started Kindergarten a few days later, and turned six a month after that. That was just about exactly eight years ago. That's right. Next month, my little peanut turns 14. I shall faint.

To look at the next eight years, on paper, one might ask, what the hell did you get yourselves into?

There were surgeries. Medications. IEP meetings. There were appointments with many specialists to assess needs/make treatment plans for her strabysmus, hearing loss, cleft palate, stunted growth, speech delays, diminished IQ, learning disability, precocious puberty, ADHD, malocclusion, and more.

Today, there are still meetings. Team meetings now cover, in addition to all of the above, planning for her adult life. How much assistance will she likely need? What type of vocational path will she be suited to and how can we help steer her towards that?

I took her to AI duPont a couple days ago to meet with her pediatric endocrinologist. She lovingly calls him Stretchy Guy because whenever he sees her he stands on her feet and stretches her up by her jaw to measure her maximum height. We were delighted to see that after a year and a half, she had grown a little.

She is now 4 feet, 7 3/4 inches tall and weighs around 80 pounds.

She is just about done growing.

Her "working memory," which allows your brain to store away just-learned-things to draw upon later, is at the 2nd percentile. 98% of people have better working memory than she does. Because of this, anything she is trying to learn takes her about 10x longer to learn than her peers. What another child might have to go over five times before it sticks, she might have to go over 50 times. Or more. She is currently struggling for competence at a 3rd grade reading level. She is in 7th grade.

OK, so that's all the nitty-gritty on "issues." And if you're still scratching your head and wondering,


Let me tell you why.

This is The. Most. Loving. Person. You. Will. Ever. Meet.


When we were at AI the other day? She spotted her eye doctor in the cafeteria. The man responsible for putting her through four of her six surgeries to date. What did she do?

"Mom, there's Funny Man!" And off she ran to give him a hug and chatter at him, and ask him did he have a fun time on his vacation?

When we have IEP meetings to discuss her progress and her goals, we unfailingly get to talking about how special this child is, and I am never the only one with tears in my eyes.

When I was helping in her Kindergarten class many years ago, a little boy fell off his chair and got hurt. While all the other children stood around the teacher and the boy, Bella immediately ran off to the sink, wet and wrung out some paper towels, and ran back, pushing her way through the crowd to do what she could to help the crying child.

She is always there to rub my back or give a hug if she thinks I'm having a bad day.

If even one little thing happens that makes her really happy, she is filled with emotion and smiles an enormous smile and says, "This is the best day EVER!"

This little child was abandoned by her birth parents, hospitalized for a long time with no Mama to hold her hand through all the pain and fear, and put in an orphanage to be an outcast even among orphans. She struggles and struggles and struggles with learning even the basics, and will need support all her life. And yet about four days a week she has her "best day ever". She loves just about every person she meets. She tries hard, and always does so with a smile on her face.

Unlike so many others that I have met, she does not focus on the disadvantages in her life, but instead rolls around in all the good like a pig in mud. She slathers herself till she is drenched and dripping and stands up proud and beaming.

I love this child more than I ever thought possible. I sometimes get all teary-eyed just thinking about her. Not because I'm sad for the less-than-normal life she has had or will have, but because of the love that just shines out of her pores.

She hurts my heart.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Social - Rosie

Next one down on my siggy line...

Wife of Fred for 23 years
Mom of:
Patrick (16)
James (16)
Rosie (13)
Julie (13)
Daniel (12)
My children around the world:
Milly in Taiwan
Felice in Hong Kong
Eun Hae in South Korea
Nadya in Germany
Obrin in New York
And our critters Annabelle, Fiona, Sunny, Sophie, Cindy-Lou and Blue; Mamfy, Mali and Punkin; Nick; Frog 1 and Horny Toad; Charlie and Dizzy; Minnie and Alice; Elfie, Frex, Crope, Tibbit and Ozzy; Genevieve, Pippin and Finnegan; and a dozen or so chooks.

I'd like to ask God why He allows
hunger, poverty, and injustice
in the world,but I'd be afraid
He'd ask me the same thing ...

Is Rosie.

My second child by birth.
My first girl.
Now fourth in birth order among the kids.

What an amazing person....

Full of life.

She's on the honors track in school and gets pretty much straight As all the time.
I remember finding out that she was reading at a 3rd grade level when she started Kindergarten and that she had gotten through at least half of the Harry Potter books by 2nd grade.

A talented goalkeeper in soccer, she's aggressive, sharp, completely fearless.
She's also dabbled in a number of other activities throughout the years, including dance, gymnastics, and drums.

I will never have to worry about her being bullied, or taken advantage of, or stuck in a bad relationship with someone who is treating her badly. She won't stand for it. She was sandwiched between her rough and tumble brothers up till she was nearly six before her sister came along, and she's tough as nails.

She's always had a thing for frogs, and her first pet was "Hoppy", a little toad she found when she was three. He used to ride around in her pocket.

She has a cat named Mamfy that adopted her about 10 years ago, and a little kitten named Milky that sleeps curled up with Rosie every night. And of course, two toads.

I sometimes call her DubCeeDub (WCW), which stands for "When Can We....?" because she's full of drive and always wants to be going somewhere, doing something.

Of course, like any 13 year old girl, she's able to content herself for long stretches at a time by chatting with friends on FB and texting. I don't know how many texts she sends/receives in a month, but suffice it to say it's a good thing we have an unlimited plan.

She loves to fish, swim, read, go for walks to the creek, go on picnics with friends, watch scary movies, and paint her nails.

She was in her school play Godspell last year and she just got herself into the fall play.

Her Aunt Mary is one of her biggest role models and she wants to be an actress someday, just like her. Or maybe a vet.

She loves the beach and can't decide whether she wants to live on Long Beach Island in New Jersey when she grows up, or Salem, Massachussets.

And it won't be too much longer (sigh). She's growing up so fast. She's taller than I am now, and so mature. She's my most reliable child and I know I can count on her for whatever I need (unless it's cleaning her room).

Ack. My heart is hurting.

I love my baby girl.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I Hate Frugality

I come from frugal stock.

My mother raised four kids on her own and we pretty much had squat, so she learned, and learned quick, how to stretch a meal or find the best bargains or come into a lawn-bag-full of outdated ill-fitting hideous clothes with plenty of good life left in 'em. She could feed seven people on one can of tuna and a loaf of generic white bread, as long as there were large quantities of mayonnaise on hand. And some celery.

And my grandmother, bless her soul. I curse her! Living through the depression. Has she any idea what that has done to me? I don't believe the woman ever threw a solitary thing out in her life. Oh there were trash cans in her house, to be sure. For others to use. But she would usually fish out whatever you had thrown in to her recycled paper bag/plastic bag can liners. And she would wear a puzzled and hurt look on her face while she tried to think what could have possessed you to throw away a perfectly good toilet paper tube. Why, she could use that to make....

And I inherited their frugality gene. I inherited it, alright. And again, I say, I curse them! I hate frugality.

I hate sitting on the floor the week before school begins, drowning in last year's notebooks, going through each and every one and ripping out the used pages to give the notebooks new life. I CAN GET COMPOSITION BOOKS ON SALE FOR A QUARTER AT STAPLES IF I WATCH THE SALE CIRCULARS! A QUARTER! So what if they only used 15 pages last year and it looks like new. Throw it out, throw it out!

But I can't. I can't do it.

I hold the comp book aloft over the trash can (well, the recycling bin), poised to toss it callously in. But my grandmother's little angel is perched on my shoulder and whispering in my ear
"Don't do it, it's a sin, look at all the life it still has in it. If you don't want to use it for your child's notebook, then maybe you could start a journal. Or you could write down some favorite recipes, you could paste clippings from magazines."

I even talked my girls into getting all crafty with their old notebooks a couple years ago by covering them with scraps of construction paper and scrapbook papers (not whole sheets mind you, I was saving them, just the scraps) and stickers and what-not. See how cute these are, I said to them. You'll be the only ones in the school with notebooks like these.

I tried the same approach this year but they were not having it.

Couple weeks ago I brought my vacuum in to the repair shop.
The man told me there was nothing wrong with it except for a clog deep in its innards and it needed a filter changed.
Great, how much will it be?
93 dollars.
And I stood there, mouth agape is dismay, for a solid two minutes.
Big Mama was whispering in my ear.
I thanked the man kindly, bought the requisite filter and some new belts, took my vacuum and I left.

When I got home I hoisted the behemoth onto my table and I got me a wire coat hanger and I went fishin' deep in the bowels of the vacuum and I retrieved a wad of hair and fur and old Easter grass and carpet threads and buttons all wound around the dismembered arm of a little soldier. Then I reattached hoses, changed air filters, and cut the hair out of the beater bar with the hedge clippers.

When I was done I was coated from top to tail in vacuum dust. I looked like a chimney sweep.



I hate frugailty.....

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday Social - James

Next one down on my siggy line...

Wife of Fred for 23 years
Mom of:
Patrick (16)
James (16)
Rosie (1)
Julie (13)
Daniel (12)
My children around the world:
Milly in Taiwan
Felice in Hong Kong
Eun Hae in South Korea
Nadya in Germany
Obrin in New York
And our critters Annabelle, Fiona, Sunny, Sophie, Cindy-Lou and Blue; Mamfy, Mali and Punkin; Nick; Frog 1 and Horny Toad; Charlie and Dizzy; Minnie and Alice; Elfie, Frex, Crope, Tibbit and Ozzy; Genevieve, Pippin and Finnegan; and a dozen or so chooks.

I'd like to ask God why He allows
hunger, poverty, and injustice
in the world,but I'd be afraid
He'd ask me the same thing ...

Is James

I've written so much about this boy on my blog that I'm not sure what more there is to say.

A few facts:

He was born the third of five children in Bolshenarymskoe Village, Kazakhstan 16 1/2 years ago.

He was placed in the Detsky Dom (Children's Home) in Ust Kamenogorsk when he was six years old. We met him there when we were adopting Bella, when James was eight.

Two years later, he was transferred to the "Internat" (older kids orphanage) in the mountains of Ridder, Kazakhstan, about 80km from the Russian border.

When he was 13 years old, he got on a plane with his little sister and came to America to live with us. Got courage?

This kid took a leap of faith to start a new life with a family he barely knew. Trusting adults had not served him too well in his past, and yet, he went for it.

Since he's been home, he's had his struggles. Reactive Attachment Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder do not make for an easy transition into a traditional family, but he hasn't let that stop him from trying. Though there have been plenty of times he's wanted to throw in the towel, he's kept at it, building trust in the tried and true two steps forward, one step back method.

He's been home with us now for two and a half years. There are times you can find him playing cards with his brothers and sisters, or fighting over whose turn it is on xbox. Other times he's creating breathtakingly beautiful artwork, or homemade science projects, or riding his bike into town to hang out with friends and ride skateboards. He loves speaking in Russian when skyping with his best friend Madiyar. He likes to watch the chickens when he gathers eggs from the barn, he loves our dogs, our rabbits, and takes good care of his hamster. He is wonderful with little children, especially his little 18 mth old cousin. He will be such a good Daddy someday.

He's a sophomore in high school now, and though he still struggles, he keeps at it. Most of his teachers have wonderful things to say about him, though he's had his share of detentions for acting up in class and being disrespectful (pretty good cover for when you're feeling overwhelmed, don't you think?). But I know he'll make it. He's come so far.

Oh and one more thing about James?

He's my son.....

Saturday, September 3, 2011


My house is a disaster.

It is messy. It is dirty. There are stacks of papers that need tending. The garden is full of weeds. There is dog hair in every nook and cranny.

I am a mess, as well. Although I must say I have been finding the time to shower and put on clean clothes and wear undergarments of a supportive nature.


Why this neglect of house and home and self?

I was working on, but have now finally finished....


That's right. For the last year and a half I have been working on writing a book.

The first draft is now finished.

I sent my first official query letter to an agent on Thursday, September 1st.

I am expecting my first rejection letter in just a few short weeks.

I will frame it and hang it on a wall.

I know there is still much work to be done with making changes to the first draft and sending out query letters, but I must say I am glad I have made it this far. There were times I doubted that I could.

But I have received so many warm, encouraging comments from my readers to do this.

I wanted to honor that.

And James has made so much progress in becoming part of our family.

I wanted to honor that.

James would ask me now and then how the book was coming along. To him, it's been extremely important that this story be told. He wants others to see that it can be done. With love, and patience, and persisitence, it can be done.

And I wanted to honor that.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Farm Friday: Eggstra, Eggstra, Read All About It!

Last Friday I posted about our first egg.

EGGSciting, right?

Now, one week later, well, it's still eggsciting. Only more so.

I wouldn't say we are at the point where we have eggs coming out our ears yet, but our egg compartment in the fridge is full of pretty light brown, dark brown, and green eggs. We've gone from 1 egg a day to 3 to the other day 7.

7 eggs, uh-huh....

Yes, green eggs. From our Americauna hens. In fact, our first green egg was gigantic and a double-yolker! So proud of my girl.

We have officially bought our last egg elsewhere.

Our only problem is our rooster. Our cantankerous roo.

Ever since his gals started laying, he's been a bit, if you'll forgive the pun, cocky.

As in when you walk into the Hen House you take your life in your hands.

The first time it happened, he kind of hopped at me a couple times. Real low and all fluffy and making little noises.

Awww, isn't he just the cutest thing, I thought. He's acting all roostery.

But now we generally enter in pairs, and armed.

Because now he's got his sh** together.

He flies at you fast.
He flies at you high.
He flies at you mean.
He flies at you with his legs outstretched and making a
noise with his beak gaping wide open.

I keep an old dust mop/broom thing next to the Hen House gate.

The kids know when they go out to gather eggs, they are to take the egg basket, a little cup of scratch for the ladies, and the dust mop/broom thing to shoo Big Daddy away with.

So one to do recon and one on watch duty. The wing man, if you will.

And the Hen House is filled with the sounds of the contented little cluckles of the hens, the arrghscraghhhhh of the rooster, the swinging back and forth of the dust mop/broom thing, and the threats and screams of the children...

"Don't you even THINK about it, Big Daddy!"

"Hurry up and get those eggs!"

"I'm hurrying, I'm hurrying!"

"Watch your 3:00, he's coming around!"

"He's on your 6, he's on your 6!"

"I've got 'em, let's go, go, go!"


Just a little country ambience....

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Daniel's First Day.

Daniel started school on Weds.

Everyone else started Tues. They were supposed to start Monday, but the first day was cancelled b/c of "transportation concerns and power outages".

Yay first days! Yay school!


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