The official tree decoraters this year! Every year, I decide to be involved in decorating the tree. Every year I poop out and go rest. And every year, I love what the rest of the family creates with it.
All seven stockings hung up and ready!
I baked the cookies (without help, because that’s the way I roll) and handed the cookies and frosting over to the kids to finish!
Maggie with her cookies on the plate she designed.
Hard at work.
Loading the dishwasher before frosting.
Watching the Nutcracker with friends. No pictures.
Carolyn’s date – Watching the Grinch and going out for ice cream. There were incredible tales of the amount of sweets consumed.
We opened all the gifts that the kids bought or made for each other…. and gifts from friends and the pajamas I bought this year on Christmas eve. 75% of the gifts were made by Anna. She worked hard for months!
Gathered in the living room.
Ready to start!
What’s funny to me, is that Anna has never seen a phone booth being used… maybe never one at all?
Anna made a transformer/time-traveler!
Sunrise or sunset?
Chocolate milk with unbelieveable amounts of marshmallow seemed like the right thing to do.
Anna made Daniel a drum set!
To remember the adorable spelling.
So proud of my gift-giving girls!
Daniel was excited about presents!
We dug candy out of stockings and opened Christmas gifts from us this morning.
The night before:
We set up everything after the kids (and cat) went to bed.
So many goodies!
Sorted and ready to open. 🙂
Neither of the boys made it through the gift-giving, but they both stayed a long time!
The cousins visit with all the kids and then the girls sleep over at the Mellinger’s house afterward!
I can’t find pictures. Ah well. It was good!
Grandma and Grandpa come over and bring the girls back.
Here’s a favorite and familiar view. <3
Grandma C’s house for New Year’s party with the girls!
Grandma D’s house for a holiday visit with the girls! Surprise birthday for Grandma and Kevin.
Dauna pulled off a really nice birthday party at the end of Kevin hosting lunch!
Kevin’s in-home theater
Grandma’s short-term memory is very bad now – she kept being surprised when she saw us there and didn’t remember her birthday party the next day. But it was good and special and she remembers who we all are.
Daniel gets his new power wheels!
Jordan can even do it!!!!
Daniel is tiny in it – taking up less than half its width. And he’s very hesitant to get in. But he is nervously interested! Going to be awesome to get him in it outside as it warms up.
I’m often out walking or jogging!
Sunrise from Pilot Butte.
I even managed to sneak a walk in with Lysa while in Bend!
Sunset on the willows.
Frost at sunrise.
Maggie’s date was a tarp, some McDonald’s and some fire at a campground for the afternoon! They roasted apples and lunchmeat over the fire. 😀
Anna’s date was a trip to the ice skating rink, then a coffee shop and a stop at the mall and library.
Well, we wrapped up the holidays with lots of drawing of floor plans and sweet notes and have started up the new year with medical cares, starting with Jordan’s teeth under anesthesia. It’s been a great December! One for the books!
Been drawing floor plans
This little note is so special, I put it as my cell phone background.
Brian builds a popsicle stick cobra:
Daniel practices standing today (January 14, 2019):
If you don’t know – I’m a homebody. I like my home. I like being home. I generally prefer being here to anywhere else. I can keep it predictable here. I can establish a rhythm here. My kids are most likely to be calm here. I know where everything is and it’s all mine. It’s just lovely to be home.
This new year is likely to be a highly medical year – professionals out my ears. I need professionals. I appreciate professionals. I admire and am glad to be able to hire professionals. But I would much rather, without a doubt, do things on my own. I like being the boss, for one. I don’t like multitasking or incorporating new information (you know – like learning new things or adjusting my natural rhythm.). I know this is a bit whiny, but I’m just being real, y’all. It’s also really tiring to explain myself to professionals who aren’t aware or informed about the whole of our family dynamics. Cardiologists are rarely also trained in autism. Occupational therapists are rarely trained in trauma. Counselors are rarely trained in developmental delay.
I don’t mind being a teacher much at all, but I find that advocating for myself and my kids does get to me. (Teaching is where a professional is interested in understanding a larger view of my child’s life. Advocating is more like me arguing with a professional about what he/she doesn’t know about my child.) I get fatigued quickly (on a mental and emotional level) and I am on high alert during interactions, because my kids do not fit into boxes and are not even safe if out-of-the-box measures aren’t taken. Small example: Jordan had a sedated dental procedure. If he’s touched physically, he may go into panicked fight mode. If his gums are dinged up much, they may get infected, because they take a really long time to heal. If he doesn’t have somebody very close to him in the bed, he will climb and fall out of the hospital bed and fall. Just taking the IV out can cause trauma if we’re not fast, because of the intensity of his reaction to touch. It all went well, but I was exhausted by the time I got home.
Okay – I started this blog just to impress myself (myself!) with how much I’m doing this year. I haven’t looked closely at the calendar yet, but I want to see what I’m doing so that I can be gracious with myself.
I’ll just put approximate dates, since it’s weird to put more on a public platform:
Jordan sedated dental
Daniel for major orthopedic review and potential decision to start treatment
Counseling for me
Counseling for a child
Daniel cardiology to discuss echocardiogram – hopefully will get a thumbs up, but may be told scarier stuff… like needing a heart catheterization to check pulmonary hypertension.
Counseling for me
Probable counseling for child (hope the scheduling works out!)
Daniel feeding clinic…. probably going to reschedule this for 6 months out – we’re not ready.
Daniel nephrologist (including labs and urine catch… kid isn’t potty trained – hope that goes okay!)
Daniel physical therapy annual evaluation
Third post-placement report for Daniel
Anna, Maggie and me dentist
Carolyn probably needs some teeth pulled for crowding
Daniel and Carrie dental cleaning
Ooooh – our 14th wedding anniversary! definitely need to bake a cake for that!
Possible major casting and moderate foot surgery for Daniel this spring. Have to decide if we’re traveling for that or staying local. I’m nervous about it! Time to make morning phone calls and hopefully get a shower!
My favorite daily tradition with Jordan this winter is to turn up the heater in the morning right after breakfast. So I get him up, get him changed, feed him breakfast and then he runs straight to the heater vent… and I hurry to the thermostat to turn the heater up from 64 to 66. Brian also lights the pellet stove every morning and we get up to about 70 in here by the time that has been burning for awhile. Jordan lays on his stomach with his face over the heater vent for awhile and then sits with his legs on either side of the heater vent and leans his face down to it again. He looks forward to this every morning…. I’m going to miss winter.
I picked up a used drum synthesizer thing at a resale place this summer to give Daniel for Christmas. He likes the drumming okay, but he also quickly discovered the music that it plays… so that he can practice drumming to it supposedly. But he just turns on the music, lays down and rocks and rocks. He loves it. After a few days of not seeing him except for mealtimes, we decided he needed to ration his zoning out. Now he gets his music immediately after dinnertime. Now he asks if it’s dinnertime all day long. (laughs) He’s getting the idea and we’re even trying to teach him the clock a little bit, since dinner is at 5pm for him. So the last two nights, he’s had dinner, then gone into his room with his drums/music…. shut the door… and promptly fallen asleep. Oh, sweet boy. We’ll have to do something different tonight – maybe have his drums in the hallway instead? But they’re loud and I don’t want to listen to them. We shall see. 🙂
Lately at dinner for the rest of the family, Carolyn has been asking to pray. She’s 6. I love listening to little kids pray. Last night she thanked God for food, family, “and that the clocks… that there was a blackout. Because I like blackouts. Amen” (It’s been windy here and the power went out and reset the clocks the night before last.)
I’ve been fostering a talk time with Anna in the evenings when the other girls go to bed. Most nights I just give her a hug and she heads to bed, but now and then we sit and chat for awhile. It’s the most relaxed time she and I have… no pressure and genuine hanging out. Sometimes we’re just quietly silly (quietly, because it’s after bedtime for Daniel, who sleeps in our walk-in closet across the room) and sometimes we talk about serious things. It’s just nice to hang out with my big girl.
Let’s see, what’s a current memory of Maggie. Brian almost always agrees to carry the (two yougner) girls upstairs to hug me goodnight. It means two trips, but they love it and he obliges. Last night, he walked in with Maggie upside down, criss-cross applesauce (or something that looked like spiderman hanging from his web). She doesn’t snuggle in for hugs any more, she perches on my lap and tells me about the fantastical things she’s imagining. Then she hugs me if I remind her and drifts or bounces to her bed. (Carrie wanted to be carried by her feet after watching Maggie last night. She announced, “I came upstairs upside down two nights in a row.” and seemed very pleased with herself.)
Brian turned 36 years old! Does that make us old? I can’t remember exactly when old starts. I think I like it that way. However, Brian’s back spasmed the other day because he lifted his arms above his head, so I think it means we’re within the margin of old.
Just so you know – Brian won’t be drinking, partying, gambling or carousing at all this year. Because he’s a square. You all won’t notice, since he’s hardly a party animal now, but he wants to play the part of a perfect square as well as possible.
Cuz he’s a nerd. Right?
36 is a square.
6 squared, to be precise.
I got the joke right away. Because we nerds stick together.
I just needed to journal a little and check in here with a few things. I don’t know how far I’ll get, but I’m going to start.
I’ve been doing hard work with counseling on a regular basis. I set up a 2-hour session every other week and we fill it every time, cover-to-cover. I haven’t found that I’m out of things to work on and I’m being brave and vulnerable and working to take back ground that belongs to me. There have been relationship issues, church issues, special needs mom issues, straight-up mom issues, fatigue issues, depression issues…. you name it or struggle with it and I’ve probably brought it up. I’m proud of me for this. I have some hard journaling to do after the last session, which slipped off a cliff into talking about some ingrained thought patterns that have returned with the latest round of depression. I feel lighter for having walked these healing paths, but it is hard and often painful. Knowing that I have counseling every other week has given me a sense of progress and relieved some significant pressure. Even if all I do sometimes is dump my stress and voice my experiences and feelings… well…. I needed a safe place to do that. A place where she doesn’t over-react, a place where she listens well, a place where the responses are going to be sound and thoughtful. My mind is growing healthier through counseling and it’s running over into other parts of my life. If you see this, thank you, Deborah!
On a much lighter note – Brian is doing his annual dates with the girls. The first date was with Carolyn. He took her out to eat – I don’t remember where. And then they went out to the movies. And they bought the snacks at the movies too. I don’t remember the details – it was a week ago. But Carolyn was just skipping everywhere and so happy. Today is Maggie’s turn (by the way – she does NOT let us call her Margaret right now. Don’t try. She genuinely doesn’t want to be called that right now.). She and Brian came up with the plan to pack up a tarp, some wood and fire-building materials, some snacks and I don’t know what else and they’re going to a campground to build a tarp shelter and build a fire. I believe they’re hitting McDonald’s on the way for sustenance. Sounds like an awesome time. I’m not sure what the plan is with Anna yet. Time will tell! My only rules are that they aren’t gone for more than half a day and stay in budget. We also didn’t schedule them ahead of time so that we can flex with the stress level in the home… leaving when the boys are stable rather than screaming. 🙂
We made some big changes (big in my head anyway) to how we handle the holidays. Mostly, we reduced the number of commitments severely. In anticipation of the cancelations, I was a bit anxious. But now that the time is here and Brian is off work all week and we have ZERO commitments outside of our nuclear family until Saturday… well, it feels GOOD. It’s exactly what we need. We canceled extended family except a short visit with my sister and parents this weekend (whom we didn’t see for Thanksgiving) and we aren’t going to church and we don’t even need to go to the grocery. We’re capitalizing on the blessings that two parents at home bring. Like taking turns with the caregiving. Like helping each other sleep in a few extra minute when we can. Like stopping to sit and snuggle on the couch on a regular basis and finding each other for long hugs. Like being able to talk about hard counseling work and hold each other and pass tissues. It feels like “not waiting to have time.” I also am going on long walks and jogs by myself, courtesy of my husband, and logging so many miles. I’m cooking! We’re eating food that wasn’t partially prepped by Costco and my tummy is happy. (The kids aren’t so thrilled – they love the junk food.)
I’m going to see if I can wrap Brian’s gifts while everything is still calm here and before I need to get the boys through afternoon snack and toileting. I just needed to check in and write a little. I have some more journaling in me, but it’s even a little too sensitive, even for me – the person who shares everything. Counseling homework this time involves a hard-to-write letter and also identifying some specific thoughts. But first – presents. And then – diapers and yogurt. And then… well, maybe Brian will be here then!
A few recent pictures – all from my phone:
Face to the heater vent as usual!
Serious lentil pouring.
More cool lichen on another walk.
Weeping willow trees with sunset lighting.
This little note is so special, I put it as my cell phone background.
Been drawing floor plans
Brian’s date with Carolyn!
Cool lichen on a walk
Daniel watched Mr. Rogers on a cell phone on the shelf in his new room.
I made jalepeno cheesy bread.
I cooked corn chowder.
Jordan didn’t cry while we were there!
We had a family restaurant trip – Anna brought a quarter just for Daniel to ride the airplane.
We watched The Nutcracker!
I got to go out to coffee a few weeks ago!
We got to go for a walk with friends a few weeks ago!
Of all the pictures I took by the book tree, this is my favorite.
Daniel’s new bedroom is our emptied walk-in-closet. He made the transition seamlessly and the girls are happy to have their room to themselves at night.
I wanted to include a Christmas letter with our photo…. so here I go – gonna write one:
5-year-old Daniel has locked himself in his walk-in-closet bedroom with a toy that is teaching him his letters and letter sounds in the most obnoxious way possible with plenty of repetition and tinny music. Jordan (age 9) is laying on his stomach with his face over the heater vent. The heater isn’t on… I don’t know if he’s feeling cold air come out of there or if he’s just waiting. The pellet stove is running in an attempt to prevent potential $400+ heat bills of our glorious mossy mansion, so his waiting is futile if that’s what he’s doing.
I started some bread dough this morning, because fresh bread on winter days is awesome.
*interruption to figure out why Maggie isn’t doing her schoolwork. She was just distracted. Got her started on a writing assignment and a cursive assignment.*
Back to bread-making. I need to get that dough into balls, because I want rolls instead of a loaf (because slicing bread is too much work?). But the counter is dirty and I don’t have socks on, so the crumbs on the floor are going to stick to my feet and that drives me nuts. So then I’d need to sweep. And then do the bread thing and then there’s going to be flour on the floor so I have to sweep again. Oh, and the counter is cluttered and dirty. So the jury is still out on the fate of the bread dough.
Anna is 11 years old and doing her 6th grade schoolwork downstairs. Or in her bedroom. I’m not really sure where she took it. But she’s a strange child who likes her grammar homework and finished all her chores without being told. Strange, but wonderful. She’s a huge fan of the art class the three girls are doing weekly and… oh yeah, I need to give them time to do art homework. Maybe after lunch?
*interruption to tell Maggie to stop goofing off so loudly that I can hear her from across the house and to do the assignments she picked out.*
Carolyn (age 6) is almost done with her first grade homework for the day and looking darling and altogether too grown up with her hair cut shoulder length. I asked her what kind of Christmas dessert we should make (sometime between now and New Year’s presumably, but we’ll see what happens) and she had no trouble at all picking out Sugar Cookies with frosting. I asked Maggie (age 9) the same question, but she wanted to tell me the things she calls the kinds of desserts instead of telling me which one she wants me to make. She calls Molasses cookies “sugar cookies” because the dough is rolled in sugar. She calls the Sugar cookies “Christmas cookies” because they’re supposed to be made at Christmas. And then she told me she wanted the Cinnamon Rolls, so we did get there eventually.
We finally finished the last of the doctor appointments for the year yesterday. Maggie and Daniel were last up for pediatrician. Daniel is over 29 pounds…. that’s a 10 pound gain since when we adopted him a year ago. That gives me a great deal of pride, pleasure and a sore back too. Thankfully, he almost always uses his wheelchair when we’re out and about, because his chunky, slippery, distractible self is hard to carry for very long. Maggie is following her own growth curve (the 3rd percentile?) and is closing in on 50 pounds. She absorbed herself with Brian’s old mp3 music player and some books while the doctor and I talked.
Next year, the girls will continue with co-op on Fridays, art on Thursdays, boring school Monday-Wednesday (that’s the way they’d explain it), and recoup/recover/catch up on the weekends with Brian when he’s not working to pay the bills. He’s still working from home twice a week, which is the reason I’m only seeing a counselor bi-weekly. His work is stable and he continues to become more senior in his projects, though he decided a few years ago he didn’t want to get into management and to stick with engineering. I think he gets enough politics and emotions here at home. Seems like a rational decision to stick with managing inanimate objects instead of people.
All the kids are home with me except when they’re out with me. I’m clearly getting good at this letter-writing stuff! Daniel’s learning and developing and Jordan’s pretty stable, so we’re doing what we can to keep that up… limiting excess activity and mostly capitalizing on the pleasures of a simple life. I have a helper for Jordan 1-2 times a week and that’s released a major pressure point in our family and permitted outings every week with the other kids and more time for me to exercise. I am not a huge fan of exercising in general, but I love going for walks outside and extending the amount of time that I can jog.
All the kids are really active too… both physically and creatively. Maggie usually spearheads imagination-based games that involve packing bags and supplies and building forts and making the weirdest messes. I still don’t know why she decided to use rubber gloves to store water (a canteen???) or what the pile of garbage “rescued” from the recycling can is for. Anna’s busy inventing an elaborate treasure hunt (with clues and map and story line) for her siblings and cousins come Christmas. Carolyn plays equally well with both her sisters (and sometimes brothers) and it’s fun to see her developing her personal interests even as she spends most of the time following and engaging in her older sisters’ inventions. Daniel still loves music and being silly and just discovered Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Jordan likes to go walking outside, swing on his swing and play “Where did mom hide the cheerios in the play room.”
My bathtub is full of gifts covered with towels. My desk has a stuffed cat on it that needs its leg sewn on. I’m eating chocolate covered raisins. And my feet are cold.
We’re just a typical, atypical family in the Pacific Northwest. We homeschool, love Jesus and are learning as we go.
We have three beautiful daughters, born in 2007, 2009 and 2012 and two handsome sons from Bulgaria (one born in 2009 who arrived home December, 2011 and one born in 2013 who arrived home in 2017).
After learning about the need for adoptive families of children with special needs, (and here and here) we began the process to adopt our son Jordan (who has Down Syndrome). He arrived home on December 3rd, 2011!. We were in process for Daniel (who has arthrogryposis) January-October 2017. You can see photos from our trips to Bulgaria by looking at June and Nov/Dec 2011 archives and May and October 2017.