Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Room Sharing - 3 boys

I have to say the number one hardest thing we have encountered adopting 4 kids in the last few years was trying to figure out bedrooms, clothing storage and sleeping arrangements.

When we were preparing to bring Cav and Fei home - we made her room up in the darling mermaid sea life - and Cav was in the room with Brahm

For that year Cav rotated between the room with Brahm and our bedroom (Cav roamed the halls at night and would either wake everyone up or steal us blind.)

Because of the continued problems with Cav and no one sleeping we tried Fei in with Brahm (he had a bunkbed and a trundle), and Cav by himself in his own room and Tao in our bedroom.

Then the biggest mistake of our lives we put Cav and Fei in a room together (she snores rather loudly and was keeping Brahm and Tao up ugh .  .  .  .  Cav basically spent the entire time brainwashing her to steal for him, and that no one in the family loved her.  I am sad to say it took us about 6 mos to catch on and another almost 18 mos to get her back.  (I hesitate mentioning this but unfortunately his teacher has witnessed him doing the same to some of the children at school who are more needy in spirit.)

We emptied my hubby's loft study (upstairs) put up curtains and made it into a darling room just for her.  It has made a huge difference and I believe we finally have our girl back.

The little boys room had the pottery barn bunks we had found on craigslist.
When Dawson came home we just put him on the unused top bunk.  Although he is small, he weighs a ton, and every time he would turn it would wake Brahm up and eventually Tao - grrr seriously people.

Since Dawson is older and well, used to kids from orphanages we tried him in Cav's room.

Yeah - today we found that Cav stole all of Dawson's Christmas presents and either ate or broke them.

So as I was talking to my hubby about what to do, it dawned on me the bunks were originally made to be separated!!

I had my big kids help me and with a few rearrangements this is what we came up with.  I LOVE it!  and I think - HOPE, PRAY this will be the final arrangement for a bit LOL!

Luckily, our rooms in the house are large, unfortunately the closets are small and the number of bedrooms are few - BUT I have resigned myself that Cav MUST have a room to himself for the mental safety of our other kids.   Luckily, we finally have an appt with someone to help us with him in just about 2 weeks.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Light during the holidays

I think our bio kids are tired - it has been 3 Christmas interrupted with adoption stuff.

They remember the Christmas's we used to have, hoards of presents - every new item imaginable.  Not because we were wealthy but because we spent all year saving up and shopping sales.  We always also adopted a family we gave to - it was our excuse to feel better about our blessings.

Then we traveled over 2 holidays and last year was just a disaster.

So I sat here trying to make it up to them, buying, buying, volunteering, spending.

And then it hit me the other night as we drove through town, sipping our starbucks treat and looking at the lights.  It's the little things, the wonder, the experience, the proof there is still hope in this world.

So we cherished each gasp from our 4 year old as the lights flashed and twinkled.  We paired that with explanations of how it worked for our newly home 12 year old.  Children all through the car shouting look, look here.

Seven children and 16 years of parenting have softened me to a degree.

This old controlling mom would never have caved and not only made gingerbread play dough from scratch BUT ran all over town so they had play dough rollers and tools so they could finally play with it at home!  Our double 12 year olds playing along side the baby - playing and creating, running to show me their newest project.

It's our 16 year old helping at the preschool party - making his own gingerbread cookie.  The gifts may be different but I have to believe that these are the things that he will carry with him as he enters the world.

Going anywhere during the holidays can be crazy but the world seems to slow just a tiny bit as we walk past, people stop to smile at our deeply dimpled joy, our tiny princess and the rest of the clan.  We pray that as they see our children they remember that God uses the broken to do his work.  That He reaches into the farthest corners of the world and brings hope.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Halloween catch up

Not sure if JBF - just between friends - sale is national but man I love that sale!!  Sell old items, barter for an early shopping pass and buy amazing items!!

Besides getting lots of school uniforms for our kiddos attending the Mandarin immersion school - I found all of these except Fei's (well she got a beautiful snow white costume but that didn't meet the theme.)

Heehee Dawson's English teacher pulled me aside a few days before Halloween as he told her we made him a potato LOL!

And Morgan went with all of her friends - who were all princess's.  I just couldn't see spending tons of money and time making a ball gown she would wear once so this was our compromise - Belle before!

Halloween was a crazy day - as our family has gotten bigger, I have had to change how I do things.  

I have backed down to being room mom for only one class. 

 I was super excited to help out my friend whose daughter is in the am class because they were IN CHINA getting their son!!  So two parties for preschool meant missing the harvest fest at the mandarin school but we sent "pumpkin" cups made from butterscotch pudding and green airheads for stems (apparently I didn't get an pics LOL!)

 Tao and Cav's class got mummies made from squeezey apple sauce and were super cute 

We also changed up how we did Halloween - I know horrors.  Our oldest had a football game at 7 pm (2 hours away)  In addition, because we have so many food and begging issues with Cav and Fei we thought having them go to doors beg for food and get candy was … well. . . insane.

So I got them pizza, made them each up a treat basket with candy, bracelets, pencils etc and they got a NEW movie.  Plus kettle corn because our Chinese kids especially LOVE popcorn LOL!

It was a crazy hard decision but ultimately they loved it, we got to go to the game and watch our oldest, and Brahm got to be ball boy for the varsity game!

Tak is #53!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

From Calamity to calm

I know I have been lacking on the blogging front  - severely -
and you know why . . . . because it is actually GOOD!

We found some homeopathic medication for Cav that reduces anxiety, by the end of the summer I was at my wits end with the constant rages.  Imagine your worst 2 year old temper tantrum EVER and then times that by 20 a day.

So I was ready to quit (but since somehow that is not on the mother's list of options) I was trying everything that possibly worked for anyone on my FB groups for really hard kids.  I bought books, I researched treatments, I talked to EMDR specialists.  THen we tried the L-theanine supplements (whole foods)

A week later we experienced our FIRST sunday as a family where we didn't have a fit - NOT one.  My husband looked at me with wide eyes and said "I don't want to mention it BUT I think those meds are working!!"

That was August and 2 months later I think we are finally in a place of being able to enjoy our whole family.

I feel really bad knowing almost all of his issues - to the point others advised he may have high functioning autism - were almost exclusively based upon anxiety.  Hmmm, it makes sense though.

I am NOT saying its unicorns and rainbows but can I tell you the first time he actually cried - a heartfelt normal cry - I bawled.

It's really hard to think he has been here almost 3 years.  In many ways it has flown by - in others it has grown and stretched me in ways I could NEVER have thought possible.  Adoption IS about growth - MINE.

So we moved several of our kids to the mandarin immersion school - we left Cav at the K-12 down the street.  I am not sure I ever mentioned but he developed a lateral lisp learning english so he receives speech therapy.  In addition, because Cav was alingual until we got him at 3.5 years there is an expectation that he will have comprehension issues as school work get harder.  And frankly - his life in China sucked (I am so sorry but there is no other word).  

So he basically is in the elementary school by himself, and I believe not having siblings around all the time has also decreased his stress.

However, as with any child, first grade is hard.  He is actually pretty darn smart in math which we are so excited for him!  However, the independence of 1st grade is causing some issues.  I love his teacher as she is willing to be educated and so she has implemented boundaries for him, encourages adults not to be his only social interaction.

There are many parts that break my heart for him.  We often talk through how to act around the other kids at school.  Thankfully the kids treat him no different (except when appropriate) due to his legs.  We went back to school and they all came running, excited to see him after the summer, and he just blew most of them off.  

Tao is 2 years younger but still higher developmentally than Cav.  It's both good and I am sure hard to have this tiny terror who has all the social skills Cav does not.

On the leg front - we were fortunate to meet the man who designed the tail for Dolphin Tale.  He actually felt Cav could handle a hydraulic knee.  In classic Cav fashion he learned to walk on the thing in about 3 passes of the room.  He also was so responsible and took his legs off before going into the sandbox.  So in September when he couldn't even walk anymore we were at a loss.  A trip to Denver to see our leg man resulted in a blown hydraulic cylinder ugh - really Cav 3 months LOL!  THe unfortunate part is the only tool in the US is broken so they had to send it to Germany.  Luckily they sent us a loaner!!

So continue to pray for this boy of ours.  He is proof that there is definite redemption in adoption but the cost can be so high with some of our kids.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Getting my groove back

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever... it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.
Aaron Siskind

I saw this quote recently and wondered what happened to me - I never went anywhere without my big camera - I guess as the iPhone camera got better and we had more and more little ones, my big camera slowly made the way of so many other things - showed in a corner.

Then last night I dropped my first born off to fly internationally (without us) for a mission trip - although I am completely at peace with this trip (thank you God!)  ~ but then realized the last photo I would ever have of him is a grainy picture taken with my iPhone.  Although a terrible thought, the utter failure of this thought broke my heart.

So, as my kids were outside playing and I stopped with the thousand mom things we always have to do.  Grabbed my big camera and did something I haven't done in forever - photographed  my kids just to remember a fun day in the sun!!

Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected.
    ~ Robert Frank

Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.
   ~ Dorthea Lange

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A change of thought

Growing up I had very little self esteem.

I am an introvert at heart but because of family dynamics was taught how to be an extrovert.

THose tests you take in school - yeah the teachers and professors always look at them with a befuddled look - At over 40 I am a classic case of nature versus nurture.

Sometimes that low self esteem still gripes me hard, and I have to force my self to move forward, to look at the underlying reasons to my reactions, to analyze.

Truthfully, I loved having little kids, because I always felt that holding them created a sort of a shield for me.  The attention drawn to one angelic far and off of my own.

It gave others an instant conversation topic.

(Don't get me wrong, I love babies anyhow, even as a young teen I loved how they curl up, the dimples in their hands and the softness of their spirit.)

Then God started working, in our lives, in our home and in ME!

When Brahm was a toddler, the attention shift began to turn back to me - people looking for answers why this seemingly newborn was walking, sitting etc.

I learned my pat answers and moved on.

Then we added more and more kids - all with visible SN.

AS the looks and comments came more and more, I felt myself drawing in further and further.

Taking less trips outside of our boundaries.

Staying where others knew our family, and didn't comment.

Almost growling at comments when we were out - like a preschooler on a very bad day.

A dear person was out on one of these very bad days, and I watched in amazement as she talked to one of these people who I thought was making fun of our kids - piled onto our double/triple stroller like some traveling circus.

THen the words came - she is amazing, what an inspiration, an absolute joy.

My breath almost caught - had I been so focused on myself that I forgot God's calling?

Had I reverted back to my low self esteem days and saw the smiles not as kindness but of jeers?

Over the past year - I have tried hard to change my thinking.

Our children are a blessing.
People smile because like babies and puppies they speak of JOY!
Of God's work on earth,
of HOPE.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Ha - I keep getting nudged to blog more - I have so many things both good and bad running around in my head but sometimes I feel like who wants to read the same stuff over and over again.  This one is struggling, no wait I meant that one.  We are good, blah, blah blah adoption blah, blah, blah.

And then today I remembered.

I remembered why I started blogging, keeping this journal of sorts.

Both to document our journey, since scrapbooking has been set aside until being a mom slows down some, 

As well as to verbalize the thoughts that run around in my head - so that I don't actually verbalize them in person to people . . . which turns them away and makes me feel bad.

So, although our life is busy, we have no real plans to adopt again now, this blog still has a purpose for me - I am realizing.

Lets start with a quick recap on the summer before we get into some of those things racing in my head.

SUMMER - like Olaf, I love summer, but we learned last year one child in particular does not like the laziness, nonscheduled part of summer.

We were extremely blessed to find a camp for kids with SN (it's partially ESY for some of the kids even though we don't qualify).  I have to admit this was a huge dilemma for me.  I don't see my kids as disabled . . . but the rest of the world does.

So for once I pulled up my big girl britches, analyzed how difficult it would be to get Cav into a "regular" camp program or daycare situation, as well as the cost.  I spoke to the director about him, how capable he is etc and I felt a peace.  It was also cheap enough that if we hated it, we could pull him midway and it would not be a burden.

Plus it's 9-3 FOUR days a week.  It wasn't so horribly early I'd regret signing him up, but it also got most of us up and ready so we could actually enjoy summer (plus I knew hubby drove right by there on his way to work LOL!!)

Also, because of the nature of the camp it has something like a 3 to 1 ratio.
THey go on 2 field trips a week.
My kid is not the token freak, that slows everyone down, special accommodations have to be made etc.

That brings me to Fei - our sweet little girl who lost her mind last year.  We now realize it was a bunch of things but ultimately she was pulled from school in February for lying, and constant stealing.  She was in such a bad spot that she wasn't learning anyhow (I will write a post on this, promise.)

Anyhow, we decided that maybe sending her - where she was highly supervised would be a good reentry into an organized program away from home.  Again we would try a few weeks but for less than $400 for the entire summer we felt ok pulling her if it was not the right fit.

There was some thought that if she was good at something (i.e. being the highest functioning camper etc) she would find her way.

And selfishly, our family needed a rest.  We needed to be able to go to the pool without fearing a temper tantrum, or being on constant guard.  We were worn.  Dawson's adoption was the hardest - primarily because he came home in April, we had mother's day, Cav's birthday, then Tao's birthday, then end of school started - 7 kids and 5 different end dates.  Our disregulated kids remained disregulated from spring break until camp started in June.  WE WERE WORN!

I remember in May sitting, almost crying wondering what I would do for the summer.  A few accidental clicks and we found the camp.

Do not mistake it when I say it has been good for our entire family.  Cav and Fei love camp.
Our other kids love having a carefree summer without the stress.
I love that Fei is finding herself.  And Cav - he has a place he can go and not try so hard to hold it together.  Which ultimately makes home life just that much easier.

Brahm and Dawson did Mandarin camp for a couple weeks through Dawson's school.  It was so fabulous and we learned that Brahm is really good at language.

 He had a blast, learned several songs, count past 100 (that would have been helpful in China) and a smattering of words.

For Dawson it was one of our planned stops so he would maintain his Mandarin during the summer break.

The other thing we learned is I LOVE having a big family.  I LOVE that I don't have to scour my list for friends to call for playdates.

In general, Dawson has been amazing.  He is very go with the flow - albeit he doesn't like exercise LOL.  He is happy 90% of the time, and is learning the underlying nuances that make up a family.


Tao - sweet boy has not a single special thing.  I guess we kind of forgot about him - and truthfully I so enjoy having him around that the thought of camp . . . well, I just couldn't do it.


Our big kids are crazy busy.  We are fortunate that we can send them to different sports or religious camps.  I am loving having teenagers - they are fun, I love to see their minds and opinions form.  My heart breaks through their struggles but I still relish seeing the outcome and how they respond.

Before locks of love

and after

Heehee they aren't much bigger than Tao, but somehow he gets Dawson and Brahm to swing him!

Handsome boy at a wedding this summer

Do I dare say we are getting the smile back?

Not sure they liked the cows when we visited friends in Wisconsin

I love having a house full of boys ~ most days!

A darling new nephew

A twin egg!

Lots of orthodontia and dental visits - 
this is what happens when you don't wear your retainer and grow a foot!

Hiding from the blazing sun during lacrosse games!!

Late nights, enjoying time together!

Monday, May 5, 2014

THe Mailbox

It was a beautiful weekend finally here in Colorado - so we got busy with yard work and replacing our mailbox - ladies it only takes the mail lady reminding your husband that the door is falling off to light that fire LOL.

In all fairness, we live on a curve. . . the mailbox is at the top of the curve. . . NO WAY was I gonna let him change it out when I was in the adoption process for fear I might miss a very important letter LOL!

So there is sat in it's very tattered shape, hanging by one hinge, barely standing and dented.

But yesterday he came home with a supposed indestructible new mailbox and wood to replace the entire thing!!

When it's nice out the kids go outside - they are loud, and full of energy LOL!

But as I fiddled around inside the house, I remembered we have a new 11 year old.  He has gone so many years without a father teaching him about these things.  Although it would take longer, the life lessons for our boy would be invaluable.

(as a disclaimer, we never allow the kids outside of the gate because of said curve and we live kind of in the country so there are no sidewalks)

Our biggest problem is - this new 11 year old is really little.  He is a solid and buff little dude but this was our first encounter of thinking things through as an adult little person.  Tools, well tools are made for men - who I swear must all be close to 6 feet.  How does a little do these things.  As I was filing away a note in my brain that he would need to have a good handy man - our biggest littles brain stormed themselves and used a little teamwork!

They dug, flattened, and scooped while the littles carted rocks over!

They did an amazing job ~ what a blessing it is for this boy to finally have a father!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


I think the number one thing people ask us especially adopting an older child has been language.

Some people even use the lack of knowing another language as an excuse NOT to adopt.

I don't know Mandarin - although several of my kids have a knack for language I do not - thus the partially used rosetta stone sitting in my growing pile of good intentions!

AND for some reason people are under the impression that our son - who lived in an orphanage in basically podunk China knows English.  I know it's so bad - but I am sure I give them this look that says - really - really you can't be using up air to ask me this question.

But alas - the same question keeps coming.

SOOOOO, the answer is NO - I speak maybe 10 whole words of Chinese - I know 10 whole words of Chinese because

a.  it was the one word a particular child needed repeated the entree trip for my sanity
b. it's easy
c. my children learned it on said trips and kept correcting me in fits of laughter until I got it.

So here is how our day goes -
Good Morning,     Ma    Ma
Good Morning Dawson did you sleep well?
followed by this grunt that sounds like a baby dinosaur yawning.

Then I gesture shoveling food into my mouth
he smiles, and nods if he has already eaten (daddy makes the breakfast).

Then I point to the broom,
his teeth,
his shoes,
 and eventually his backpack before he leaves the house.

All this time the other kids are incessantly chattering away.

I get him from school (see below)
AND he smiles with a Hi,. . . .  Mama (although yesterday he called me mop lol)
I say my few pat words
Swayshowe - How or La  (school good or bad)
Pengyo - How or La?
Shovel food into my mouth and do a thumbs up or down.

HMMMM, writing this I am thinking no wonder he looks at me like I am a dork LOL.

Luckily, he goes to a Mandarin immersion school, so the teachers all are from China and can speak to him for the most part -
Since I am ADHD today - his stinking teachers can't get he or she right either LOL

If we have issues at home, or questions about school, we go in with him and have them translate to him.

Also his ESL teacher works on him answering in English.

Anyhow, I write all this because I can see how having him home with me all day, with no one to translate would cause many of the frustrations that I hear about with older kids.  We do use the translated on the phone to get important facts across but my guess it's not always exactly what I am trying to say.  In addition, because of where he grew up - they have a very strong dialect (his Mandarin teacher told the principal he needed to work on his Mandarin heehee - she said no he needed to work on his English LOL!)

Dawson can read the translator but doesn't understand what the voice is saying much of the time.

As far as English - we have pulled out the preschool prep videos, the preschool apps on my phone and right now we are just working on letters.  My goal is to have him proficient in letters, sounds and beginning to blend by the time school starts next fall.

A summer home with our extroverts will hopefully help.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter 2014

For the most part we had a fabulous Easter
The weather was nice,
it was Dawson's 1st Easter,
he is a JOY!
we shared our time with cousin's
it was low key and simple!

I don't know whether to call this pure joy or redemption 

I hate dyeing eggs so we now have chickens that do it for us - and they have been busy!

Heehee Tao looks like a Cuban grandpa

We really to Easter egg HUNT!

Finally got smart and the little single loaders our littles with little hands can do themselves!

One particular child had a meltdown but recovered midway through the day - we just kept celebrating this year and it did our family good!

Got himself together to join us for a meal together!

Ended the day watching Frozen!