Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Katie's December Tot Trays


I've had fun doing these monthly posts showing what Katie is up to, but I feel like we've outgrown the name Tot Trays.  So much of what she's doing is outside the box.


Early this month, I cut out 2 tree shapes from felt.  A little one for tabletop use, that got decorated with pom poms, "jewels" (rhinestones), and tiny mini ornaments at various times.


And a larger one, for floor use, that got decorated with pouch lids


and strands of links.


The counting bears made an appearance this month.  Here, they're all sorted by color into the cups, which then made a sort of leaning tower of bear-sa.


Katie and Jack wearing crowns of pop beads, which have been a long running favorite, ever since we got them in the summer.


Hey look!  Academics!  Some holiday tracing skills.  I've also been working on her tracing K for Katie.  She can trace it okay, but when she tries to write it free hand, it's X or +.


Miss Katie likes to tape her work up over her bed.  Hannah does the same thing, so I think that's where she got the idea.  I have to convince her to let the paint dry first sometimes.


I've started getting the old, half finished Kumon workbooks I used to use with Jack out and letting Katie use them up.  Learning and decluttering at the same time!

I need to come up with a new name for the monthly Katie posts, any suggestions?

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

More Testing For Luke


Remember when Luke went to UCSF Genetics last February?  One of the things they recommended was a spinal tap.  After wrangling through insurance bureaucracy, finally getting approval, and waiting for scheduling, that procedure, along with a muscle biopsy to check for mitochondrial issues, was performed yesterday.


Paul and Luke got up early and went to the hospital.  Arrival time was 6, and the procedure started around 7:30 and lasted until about 9.

This was at least his 3rd time under anesthesia, and he did fine with it.

Paul was not told when to expect results, but they'll come to us through Luke's neurologist's office.  We had an appointment for January 2, but they called last week to cancel it.  We'll need to get a new appointment scheduled, but it's a challenge, since he's only in the office two days a month.  We're still waiting to hear the results of Luke's last MRI, which was done in October.

Blood was drawn for genetic testing last month, but they said 3-4 months for that, so I'm not expecting anything until around March.

We were given the green light to increase his seizure medication from the nurse at the neurologist's office, but we're still seeing multiple seizures per day.  We haven't hit the max for his weight yet, but I'm wondering if we are headed for trying one of the other two seizure medications for children.  This one doesn't seem to be doing the trick for him.


Little boy, you are a puzzle.  I wish I could see the picture on the box to make some sense of it all.

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Week


Our Christmas Eve was Monday, since we celebrated early this year, due to Paul's work schedule.


Christmas Eve means new pajamas for everyone.


You'll notice Katie's AFO in the PJ pictures.  It's been a while since you've seen it, since she is down to only wearing it at night.  We go back to Shriners early next year, and we'll see if she needs to continue or if we can take a break.  I think she needs adjustments to her prosthetic leg while we're there, too.  It seems to be fitting funny to me lately.


The older kids aren't as crazy about me taking pictures of them in their jammies any more, but the little ones are still game.


Our Christmas morning (which was Tuesday), Grammy & Carl brought Annaliese up, and Zach, Heather and Brayden came over.  We started with stockings, then took a break for cinnamon rolls and orange juice, a family Christmas breakfast tradition.


Then we started in on presents!


It was a nice time, with everyone enjoying one another's company.


This was our first Christmas with Heather and Brayden!  My first Christmas as a Nai Nai.  I went with a "theme" and got him a fire station, a fire engine book, fire truck jammies, and some bath stuff.


Paul got the sign from his mom.


Our family does 3 gifts per person for the kids (and grandkid!), so when you multiply that out by a dozen, and add in gifts from Grandma in San Francisco, Grammy & Carl, and grandparents in Nevada, we did presents for a couple hours.


If it looks like the front room floor is completely covered in chaos, that's because it was.  We use cloth gift bags for all the gifts from us, but there was still a lot of packaging, and paper on gifts from others.


I was a blessed mama this year.  Zach and Heather got me a space heater to keep my feet warm in the school room, and a nice multi photo frame.  I ordered some prints to go in it, and I'm going to put it on that wall in the background with our old family picture (the frame is also black, so they'll go nicely).


Our day after Christmas (which was Christmas Eve for everyone else) was a low key, fun day where we made our annual faux gingerbread creations.  Hannah really got into it this year.


This is her finished creation.  I think it will be a couple more years before Katie and Brayden really get it.


The square candies inspired my "game boy" playing Tetris.


Bri's structure collapsed like a house of cards.  Katie is in the background licking her frosting knife.  I'm glad I wasn't sharing a can with her.


3 boxes of graham crackers, 2 boxes of cookies, several pounds of candy, and 7 tubs of frosting.


As I said on facebook, 40 minutes of chaos, followed by an hour of clean up!


But it's fun, and the kids would never let me skip it, now that it's a tradition.


My nativity scene.  I usually have animal cookies as sheep, but couldn't find any this year.


Josiah has a collapse proof method.  His structure is solid.  He starts off by frosting and sticking together all his graham crackers to make a brick.  Then, he doesn't have to worry about it falling apart while he's decorating it.


Jack's finished creation.


You can't really see it in this picture, but Zach had bears going up a ramp outside his structure.

12/26, we took down the tree.  Not only because Christmas was over, but also because Daddy got Mommy a new couch for Christmas, and I was anxious to set it up!  I'll share pictures of it in next week's post, hopefully Friday.  Our schedule is pretty off since everybody is off school right now.

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Masterpiece Marriage book review and Kindle Fire #giveaway


Mary is in a pickle.  She needs an illustrator to draw pictures of tomato plants to go along with her research from the past 2 years in order to land the job that will keep her from having to go back to Europe.

Zenus owns a textile mill.  He's got problems of his own.  The mill flooded recently, ruining machinery and fabrics.  He comes up with an idea to salvage part of some of the bolts of fabric:  quilter's packs.

Mary's neighbor, Priscilla Dane Osborne, can do the drawings for her, but she requires Mary to help her quilting group work on a time sensitive project in her place while she does them.

Zenus goes to visit his aunt Priscilla, an award winning quilter, to beg her to design a quilt pattern to go with his plan.

Zenus and Mary are not supposed to fall in love.  Priscilla doesn't approve, and Zenus is supposed to be courting Arel, who looks at Mary as a mentor of feminism.  Can their feelings overcome their ambitions and circumstances?


Don’t miss the newest Quilts of Love book, Masterpiece Marriage by Gina Welborn. December’s QOL release celebrates the ebb and flow of marriage. Enter to win a Kindle HDX!  


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Enter today by clicking the button below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on January 18th. Winner will be announced on the Quilts of Love blog January 19th.

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

How Accurate Are Referral Files?

Recently, another blogger contacted me on Facebook, asking if I had any input on a blog post she was working on about the accuracy (or inaccuracy) of referral files from China, because of our experience with Luke.

This sort of opened a can of worms for me, which eventually became this blog post.  Much of this is a C&P of my response to her.


I think PAPs go into adoption with rose colored glasses.  In a sense, you have to, to make the leap of faith that it takes to bring a totally unknown stranger into your home.  If you didn't assume that things were going to be okay, no one would do it.

As for us personally, yes.  We missed things.  Looking back, we can see that Luke wasn't sitting independently in any of his photos.  He was either contained in a chair/stroller or there was a hand holding him up, although one picture showed him standing, leaning against a wall, which was hugely misleading.  Luke has never pulled himself to stand, but can bear weight (sometimes) when placed in a standing position.

Prior to adoption, families are cautioned, "Your new child may react strongly, display strange behaviors, or even shut down at Gotcha Day."  While it's good to have that preparation, it also normalizes *any* behavior from the new child.  When the RQ board was more active, you'd get any number of stories saying, "Our little Wilhelmina was rocking and staring and we were so terrified, but we got home and she just blossomed!  She's funny and smart, and we're so lucky we didn't give in to our fears and leave her in China.  We would have missed out."  I heard over and over, "Her file said she was delayed, but she totally caught up in no time/just needed glasses/gets a little help in school and you'd never know it now!"  Those stories contribute to the idea that it's all going to work out in the end.

It's a rotten catch 22.  If you get to China, and you disrupt because you're afraid there's bigger issues going on, you get roasted alive online because, "How can you know after only one day what progress that traumatized child would make, given the chance?" and then you're accused of ruining their chances of getting adopted by some other family.  If you bring them home and then you're overwhelmed, you get tons of people telling you, "You should have known better!  You knew he was delayed, but you brought him home anyway!"

As for how accurate or not accurate files from China are... well, there's usually not a whole lot to go on.  People have asked if I'm "mad at China" over Luke.  Honestly, no.  I love China.  The country, the people, the culture.  The children of China are beautiful to me, and I love seeing them in blogs and on my Facebook wall.  I left a piece of my heart in China, and I can't wait to take my girls back to visit someday.

Having said that, however, I do feel that communication is an issue.  Was there someone, somewhere along the way that felt like Luke would have a better chance of being adopted if they downplayed his reality?  After we got home, I requested and received quarterly reports from the NGO working with his orphanage.  Had those reports been part of his referral file, we would not have submitted LOI for him.

Let me say that again.  Had we seen those reports prior to the adoption, we would NOT have adopted him.  That's where I get resentful.  The first report shows a very, very sick baby, who looks nothing like the little butterball we saw in the referral pictures.  And *every* single report lists him having CP, which was NOWHERE in his referral file.  We were not approved for CP in our homestudy, and we would not have pursued him, had we had that info.

Luke doesn't have CP, but that's beside the point.  The point is that THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO KNEW that he was not typically developing.  And we didn't get that information.

Some people attribute sinister motives to that, saying, "They wanted him to get adopted so they wouldn't have to pay to take care of him forever."  Some people attribute altruistic motives to that, saying, "They wanted him to get adopted so he'd have a better chance with therapies he couldn't get in China."  It doesn't really matter.  The reality is that NGOs often don't share their info with PAPs prior to finalization of adoption, because of privacy concerns.  There really should be a system in place for families who are in process to get that information.  Luke should have been adopted by a family fully aware of his limitations and prepared to make him their lifetime project.


In summary, referral files vary drastically.  Some are spot on, and others are highly inaccurate.  All of them only tell part of the story.  When considering any special need, you should think of the worst case scenario, and determine whether your family could handle that or not.

When I considered "delays," tacked on to the end of Luke's primary special need (which, ironically, aside from one specialist appointment has been a non issue), I thought "worst case scenario" would be that he'd still be a little behind when he was school age, and would need an IEP to help him get through school with his peers.  Never in my wildest imaginings did I think that "delays" meant he would not walk, speak, or toilet train, and that he would not be in a regular classroom at all.

The long and the short of it is, we took a risk, never really believing, or even suspecting, things would turn out as they have.  Now we serve as a cautionary tale to other prospective adoptive parents.

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Weekly Wrap Up - the week before Christmas


We're just days away from Christmas!  All the gifts in the house have been wrapped.  Stockings are mostly stuffed.  And school is wrapped up for now.  Although I'm sure we'll sneak some learning in here and there over the next 2 weeks of vacation time.  It's nice to slow down a bit, take a little break.


Jack made some snowman ornaments.  I can't remember where I saw the idea, but it was cute, so we copied it.


We put them on our school room Christmas tree.  Which, aside from the snowmen and our Chick Fil A cow in a Santa hat that showed up in the mail recently, is looking pretty bare.  Not many ornament crafts this year.



Hannah got a turn with the little felt tree.


She's now "off track" which means no school for her until February.  I'll enjoy having her around the house, as will Katie!


I'm not sure what these tiny little ornaments are for, but we inherited them with some fabric, and this seemed like a perfect use for them.  


Behind that bottle of glue is Miss Hannah again.  I bought the A Beka Art Projects 1 book last year for her, thinking she'd use it when she was off track, and during the "summer," (hers is only 4 weeks long--have I mentioned I hate the track system?) however, we didn't use it as much as I had hoped, so I'm pulling it out for her to work on now.


The finished Mr Acorn.  And yes, she glued him to the table.  Made me giggle.


We recently got 3 new games to try out.  Simon Swipe, Monopoly Junior, and Play Doh Launch Game.  Even though they're old enough to play regular Monopoly, the big kids had to give the Junior version a try.


Anybody remember when we colored coffee filters??


We finally turned them into snowflakes this week.


Here's another one of those "saw it somewhere online" projects.  We used small bowls with thick rims to paint black circles on thick watercolor paper.


Jack used one of our Take & Toss Toddler Bowls for his.  Then we painted the circles primary colors and the overlaps secondary colors.


Eli used a smaller disposable storage bowl like this one.  This is one of those projects that went better in my head than it did in real life.


I sewed!  I was getting into the Christmas fabrics to make more gift bags, and I made Hannah's skirt.


Believe it or not, this blue tee is a Christmas shirt.


See?  So Sheng Dan Kuai Le to you, too!


Have you played with Tegu Magnetic Wooden Blocks?  I put these in Katie's stocking last year, and we like them so much she's getting a slightly larger set this Christmas.  Eli was playing with them while wearing a dog tag, and came up with a clever mental exercise:  using ball chain (which sticks to the magnetic blocks), try to go through each block without overlapping.


In art this week, we played with mixing color again.


In retrospect, I think Eli could have handled this activity in acrylic paint, instead of the tempera we used.


I also feel like we might have gotten richer colors from acrylic paints.


But it was a valuable exercise, nonetheless.


And the finished results were pretty.  The book suggests writing down the color combos used on the lines below the circles.  I get why they would recommend that, but I think all that writing would have ruined the activity for my boys, so we skipped that part.


In science, we're studying the human body.  This week, we read about germs, and I pulled out The Magic School Bus: The World of Germs science kit.


We did the first activity, which was to start bread mold growing in a test tube.


We'll be keeping an eye on this over Christmas break.


Fun coincidence:  I was pulling out a page for Katie in the dot marker art book, and I saw this raccoon page.  Jack had just read me a passage about raccoons in his Spelling You See book, so I pulled it out for him to color.


In Drawing Unto Him this week, we did an interesting exercise.  In the small boxes off to the right of the page, we came up with 4 different thumbnail sketches of ways to show the idea that Jesus is the Light of the World.


Then, in the larger space, they chose their favorite and did a bigger drawing.  While I really like Drawing Unto Him, and the concept of part Bible study/part art lesson, this is definitely a high school level course, and my students are not there yet.  I think this would be a better program for Brianna, who is older and more artistically inclined.  I hope that as this book takes off, the author will come up with other levels for younger children.

Hopefully at some point this week we'll manage to make a few more ornaments for our sad little school room tree.  But I suspect most of the pictures for next week will be of free play time with new Christmas toys.  And that's okay, too.

Have a lovely Christmas, everyone!

Linking up at:


For the Display of His Splendor
and Homeschool Blog and Tell, and My Week in Review.

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