The real deal

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I have two draft posts saved and one I’ve been penning in my head for nearly 3 weeks. Somehow I cannot manage to tidy them up and hit publish.

So this morning I am celebrating the first warm morning of the year and the fact that we made it outside by 9:00, with a backyard blog.

Some randomness about this week…

Monday was fabulous because Rob had the day off. We crossed off two dentist appts and two grocery stores, plus I worked out in the evening. We also ended up with all 8 kids home for dinner. I like having all 10 of us under the same roof.

I played in a trivia contest with three of my siblings & my dad on Tuesday night. We got second place and I didn’t crawl into bed until almost 2 am. I. Am. Wild.

I’ve been doing decent on my weekend long runs, but have been in the bad habit of skipping shorter runs during the week. Due to Tuesday’s late night, I skipped my early morning workout on Wednesday and opted for an evening run instead. I just went two miles since I didn’t want to be gone long. I made them “quick” miles so I could push myself a little. If the weather cooperates, I’ll go 4 miles tonight.

We are heading to my parents’ house for the weekend. I always love going home. We’ll be gone part of Saturday to a visit with the kids’ biological parents, but otherwise we’ll get to just be there without much of a schedule. Of course there will be countless stories read by Grandma & Grandpa, lots of playtime in the basement and outside if we’re lucky. Other than that, I hope to visit my grandpa, run at least 6 miles and have a chance for the kids to play with their cousins.

We might be back to cooler weather next week, so we’re embracing the outdoors while we can. A new playground that is almost as exciting as the dirt pile and plenty of requests to ride bikes….endless fun!!

Happy Spring everyone!

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my rainbow

A rainbow is a promise of sunshine after rain, of calm after storms, of joy after sadness, of peace after pain, of love after loss.

Ok, normally I might say that’s a cheesy sort of cliche sounding quote about rainbows, which I generally do not care much about. At least not enough to save quotes about them.

Except…sometimes people use the term rainbow baby to refer to the child that is conceived (or adopted, I guess) after the loss of a child. And I never really thought about having a rainbow baby or that my kids are rainbows or anything like that. I just remembered the term from my days of stalking message boards about infertility and miscarriage.

And then we got these kids. As we were expanding our profile for adoption to include sibling groups up to 5, I wasted a lot of time reading blogs and message boards spent time researching tips for raising large families. One idea was to choose a color for each child and color code their belongings. That seemed like a fun and useful idea to me! We methodically chose the colors for Daniel (blue), Desirae (yellow), Christian (green), Christy (pink) and Michael (orange). And by methodically I mean that those are the colors Ikea uses for their kid-sized plates, bowls and utensils. That started the color coding system we use for their towels, toothbrushes, stocking hats, school boxes, birthday cakes, etc. I sometimes give the kids their color of crayon or marker when we are doing school work or I give them their color of construction paper…no worries if we don’t get a name on a paper!

As I began planning the kids’ birthday party, I knew I wanted to incorporate their colors. Pinterest is full of ideas for a rainbow party or an artist party…so it was easy to find some inspiration. As I was looking for ideas, I came across the quote I posted above. It was the first time I realized my color coded kids were my rainbow. Literally.

A rainbow is a promise of sunshine after rain, of calm after storms, of joy after sadness, of peace after pain, of love after loss.

…after years of hoping and praying for pregnancy, recovering from the loss of a child, the roller coaster of adoption…we are filled with joy.  And sometimes I still can’t believe I get to be a mommy to these fabulous five kids.  People tell me all the time how great I am at being a mom and how lucky my kids are.  They’ve got it all wrong.  These kids are my dream come true…

(Click HERE for the sappiest video yet.  I love it!)

And in case you missed any of my other stories this week…I wrote a blog a day for each kid.  Links are here:
Daniel
Desirae
Christian
Christy
Michael

Friday…Michael

My baby boy. My non-twin. What a kid!

He is small and cute and funny. Just this past week he has started calling me Supermom. It’s not like he has any idea what the world deems an actual “supermom”…it’s more like that is what he thinks my name should be. Like, “I need some breakfast, Supermom.” or “No, Supermom, I don’t want to wear that shirt.” Seriously, this kid.

He has crazy thick hair and the same blue eyes as his two older brothers and two older sisters. He wants to wear shorts every single day. Or maybe his sisters polka dot tights. He loves to fiddle with little things and for a while had a fascination with any type of little clip. He even had a little clippy that he took to be with him! He is delayed in his fine motor skills and has occupational therapy for an hour a week. However, he managed to take the bolts & screws out of our kitchen chair while he was in time out one day. He generally loves bracelets and necklaces and sunglasses. The fact that he loved his sisters pink cowboy boots sparked all five of them to ask Santa to bring them boots last Christmas. He is the youngest of 8 children, he is small for his age and he makes up for all of that with his wanna be big kid personality.

Michael is five years old and has been in our home and our hearts since he was two and a half. I think his personality and his development has been impacted differently by adoption than the others because he has been with us longer than he was without us. He didn’t have much time at home with his biological parents and he had less time in foster care than his siblings. I’m thankful we got him as a two year old. As a momma who always wanted babies…it’s been fun to see him transition into toddlerhood and now he’s a little boy. Sniff.

I read an article the other day about all the sentimental (and sometimes joyous) moments you have with your last child. We didn’t experience all of them, due to the way our family has been built, but some certainly hit home. I wonder sometimes if I spoil Michael or baby him too much…or simply allow him to get away with things I wouldn’t let his siblings get away with. And then I realize he’s my baby…and I need to raise him up to be a great man someday. But balanced within that is holding on to my little boy.

Michael has some non life threatening food allergies. Unfortunately not all that information got passed along to foster parents as he changed placement. We were able to see a pediatrician and get an allergist referral soon after placement. He has eczema and it tends to flare up if he eats something he is allergic to. Poor kid is allergic to milk and he drank a LOT before we knew it. We switched him to almond milk, but still allow him to have other milk products like cheese & yogurt. He’s also allergic to peanuts, cashews, oats, carrots & eggs. He is my most picky eater and would live off sausage biscuits, crackers, cheese and peanut butter (actually almond or soy butter, but it’s just easier to call it Michael’s peanut butter) on a flour tortilla. He also loves fruit and most vegetables. He’s been known to bust into the refrigerator and take a bite out of a bell pepper. He’s also been known to throw a FIT when I won’t let him have a third piece of fruit at breakfast.

Because of his eczema he wore a white onesie under his clothes for a couple of years. It really helped keep him from scratching too much. Plus, I got to have a kid in onesies. : ) And back to that whole “last child” thing…I’m sure I kept at least one or two onesies in his drawer for months after he was finished wearing them.

So he’s my baby and I worry about spoiling him. Michael is the hardest for me to get to go to sleep at night. The one that doesn’t want to sit at the table for meals..or school. He is the only one with a strong opinion about what he wants to wear.

But he’s the only one that ever said “I hold you” with outstretched arms waiting to be picked up. He’s the only one that cried (cries) for mama when he goes to his Sunday School class. He’s the only one who crawls into bed with us almost every night, carrying his pillow and his Elmo blankie with him. He’s the only one with a blankie.

So yes, he’s my baby.

(Click HERE for Michael’s snapshot slideshow!)

Thursday…Christy

My beautiful girl! The youngest daughter (by a mere 49 weeks!)…she might be a princess and she might be a warrior. She is beautiful and smart. And she works very hard all day long.

Christy has childhood apraxia of speech. Basically, she has a very hard time getting her mouth to do what it needs to in order to form speech sounds. Physically, there is nothing wrong with her mouth or any of the muscles involved in speaking. Howerver, when her brain tries to tell her mouth what to do…the message gets mixed up.

You can see it clearly in this video. She was practicing saying “mama” and you can almost see the concentration on her face. Unfortunately, the more she concentrates the harder it is to get the results she wants.

(technical difficulties…will add video later…sorry!)))

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So she is six years old and can comprehend everything that is said to her, yet her speech is almost entirely unintelligible to most people. I can understand a lot of what she says partially because I talk with her all day every day, but also because I can figure out what she is saying based on the context clues. Also, I can get pretty good at asking her yes/no questions to see if I’m right about what she is saying. Of course sometimes I get it totally wrong and don’t realize it until later. When I go back and confirm this with Christy, she nods enthusiastically…like, “Yes! Why didn’t you figure that out the first time?! Obviously!”…but usually with smile.

And although she doesn’t have a lot of verbal skills, she is an excellent communicator. She has fabulous facial expressions and great inflection in her voice. She can say all of the vowel sounds with ease and is getting more consistent with a few consonants. Christy also uses sign language. She has created a few of her own signs which are pretty fun.

She loves to sing and carries a tune better than her mother. : ) I’ve noticed her singing a song that she has only heard a time or two before. The other day she wanted to play with some stars, and I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about. So…she sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star…she’s brilliant, right?! My favorite time to hear her sing is during mass when we sing Alleluia. (There are lots of long notes made up of vowel sounds and she nails it!) And then my favorite time to watch her sign is when she is signing (and singing) praise & worship songs. I’m a sappy mama, but it might bring tears to your eyes, too!

Christy loves to read books. She impressed me the first time she visited our house because she held up an open book in one hand, and “read” it to me while she showed the pictures….just like a teacher would do. Perhaps that is in her future?! She also loves to draw and color and has recently perfected the stick figure as well as the rainbow. Watch out, world! Her favorite activity might be play dough (she made up her own sign for it and it looks a lot like the sign for cheese…so I gotta remember context clues or she’s going to be sculpting her sliced cheese someday!) Of course she also loves the ipad and I will unashamedly admit it was the ipad, in fact, that got us over the last stretch of potty training for her!

As much as Christy loves her big brother Daniel (and will fight to get a seat by him) and her twin brother Christian and of course her only sister Desirae…she has the most “fun” with her little brother Michael (to be discussed on Friday!) Those two can get into more trouble…together or apart! I gotta know where they both are at all times. Heaven forbid if the house is quiet for more than a second and those two are out of sight. Ahem…flooded bathroom…ahem…playing with matches….ahem…tossing items to make them land on ceiling fan blades. Yep. These two!

We continue to work with Christy on her speech development, praying and believing her skills will be unlocked and she can share every though she has! I also pray she has peace during the times that it is frustrating to try to communicate. I love hearing new sounds from her and I can’t wait to hear her little voice rattling off about a million things!

She is beautiful and brilliant and I love her!

(Click HERE for Christy’s snapshot slideshow!)

Wednesday…Christian

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I’m pretty sure he is my middle child. Technically he’s fourth in birth order of the Fab Five (by a few minutes) but he tends to fall right in the middle most of the time.

Christian wakes up at 6:40 almost every single morning. Seriously, that specific time most days. I used to think it was because his big brother’s alarm went off around that time…but that alarm is no longer in our house so I’m pretty sure that’s not the reason. I think he probably knows he can get a few minutes of snuggle time with me on the couch before the rest of the kids wake up, so he gets up early for those precious minutes. He usually finds me on the couch drinking coffee and he asks if I exercised that morning. (Chances are yes, if I’m up before 7 it’s because I exercised.) Sometimes he eats a little snack, sometimes he watches a tv show, and sometimes he just lays on my lap and we start our day together.

He’s at this really great stage where I can see him learning new things every day. He is great at asking questions, but even more exciting is the fact that he remembers what we talk about during “school time” and then relates it to other things throughout the day. The bulk of our curriculum at this point revolves around a letter of the week. He is constantly finding our letter and is also hearing the sounds in words throughout the day. It’s fun to imagine a day when he reads chapter books and tells me all about what he has learned.

I remember one night when the kids hadn’t been with us very long. While they were open to physical affection, it wasn’t often initiated. I won’t ever forget when Christian cupped my chin in his little hands to give me a kiss goodnight. Sweet boy!

He can be silly and dance and sing. He can shake his sillies out like nobody’s business. Or he can be super shy and reserved. For some reason he is not a fan of pictures…mostly if he’s in a big group and the photographer is someone he doesn’t know. So yeah, extended family pictures were fun. : ) We ended up getting a few decent (non-smiling, but also non-sobbing…so you take what you can get!) with the promise of gum!

Christian does have a congenital heart defect and is monitored regularly by a pediatric cardiologist. Surgery might be in his future, but we are hoping and praying that can be avoided. It doesn’t affect his daily life, and honestly I often forget about it. Please join with us in praying that he will remain healthy and strong!

I don’t ever really want to fast forward through my children’s young years, but I really look forward to talking with Christian as a grown up. I can’t wait to see what he will do and who he will become. I know he has lots of thoughts in his head and maturity will give words to those thoughts. And so it is with little tear and a little smile that I picture my boy all grown up some day.

(Click HERE to see my middle little boy!)

Tuesday…Desirae

Oh, this girl! The first thing I ever did with her was to string Froot Loops onto a necklace at an adoption party. We were meeting her (along with 3 of the other Fab Five) for the first time and all I could do was grin and string cereal on a piece of yarn.

Desirae LOVES her little brothers and sisters. She’s the oldest of the five…only by a few minutes, but it certainly plays well into her “mothering” of the other four. We’ll never know how much of that part of her personality was shaped by moving to different foster homes and at times being separated from some of her siblings. Of course I have had a tendency to ahem, mother my younger siblings and we spent all of our days together! She might just be displaying her God-given talent to nurture others, and I can’t wait to see what she does with it in her life! She and Daniel spent most of their first 4 years apart. However, they were the first two that I saw a special bond between. She almost always calls him “my Daniel” and I can’t wait to see how their friendship deepens as they grow older. (Because daily she fusses at him for “getting” her. Ya know…touching or chasing or just plain looking at her!)

Desirae loves puzzles, and she’s really good at them. She will work on puzzle after puzzle and of course is happy to help out a younger sibling who got tired or distracted in the middle of one. She also loves to color and draw. I remember the first time she drew a picture of something, rather than just a scribble. It might have still resembled a scribble, but it was a picture of a rainstorm. Now she draws people and letters. She also has a great imagination and loves to pretend. Of course she loves her dolly and puts her to sleep right next to her every night.

Oh, I wish you could see her juggle! Picture three balls being thrown up into the air, then dropped. Followed by a grand gesture and a smiling, “Ta-Da!” Priceless.

She loves making things for people…noodle necklaces, oatmeal can man, coloring book pages, etc. She’s a wealth of treasures, I tell ya! The past two years she has gone on a Daddy-Daughter date near Valentine’s Day. She calls it a coffee date, even though there was no coffee involved! She loves spending time with her Daddy and has recently especially fallen in love with my daddy. When we visited at Christmas she was sure to know where he was at all times. She bragged for days that Grandpa fixed her plate of food at Great-Grandpa’s house.

It’s really fun to teach Desirae new things, so fun to watch her learn! She asks a lot of questions and nods in agreement as I explain the answer. Don’t get me wrong, my darling daughter has moments of frustration and can certainly display them so there is no mistaking her emotions. We talk about showing love and helping others feel loved instead of feeling yucky. We talk about how our actions can help others or hurt others. She listens intently, when she’s ready. ; ) One day she was having such a hard time getting along with others that I tucked her into my bed (in her pj’s, in the middle of the day) and told her the only person she could talk to was Jesus. She and Jesus must have had a nice time together that day…because we haven’t had to tuck in like that for a while! : )

Sometime’s we call her Rae, for short…well, mostly it’s her Daddy’s name for her and also her littlest brother tries to say Desirae and it just comes out Rae. She’s definitely our ray of sunshine!

(I can’t seem to load a picture or a YouTube link. Click HERE to view a quick slideshow of Desirae!)

Monday…Daniel

Monday…Daniel

Daniel is seven.  He asks a million questions a day and he usually knows the answer to them before he ever asks.  He is quite possibly the favorite sibling, as everyone fights to get to sit by him.  Seriously, tears have been shed and timers have been set all because not everyone can sit by Daniel at the same time.  He has blue eyes and two loose teeth.  He wears brown plastic framed glasses and takes very good care of them.  So good, in fact, we might get a wire framed pair next time.  He is seven and size 5 pants fall off of his waist unless I tighten them up for him.  He will eat two sloppy joes and ask for more.  He would love to play the iPad all day long.  Or maybe play outside.  And he definitely wants to sit by you and ask you about your car.

He didn’t walk independently until he was over 4 1/2 years old.

He didn’t eat solid foods until he was almost 5 years old.

His early medical issues are likely the reason I get to raise my Fab Five.

I haven’t shared a lot about my kids’ lives before they were in our family.  We know quite a bit of information, but we will never know it all.  We do know that our children’s biological parents had 5 children in 2 years.  Stop and ponder that for a moment.  Twins born in January 2007, twins born in January 2008 (3 weeks before their older brother and sister turned 1) and one more baby boy born in February 2009.  That’s a lot of babies in short amount of time.  That would be a lot for anyone, even with the best abilities imaginable and the most fabulous support system…and we know their biological parents did not have those things in place.

Additionally, Daniel had medical issues as an infant which required a tracheotomy and a feeding tube.  He had multiple surgeries and medical procedures performed during the first 3 years of his life and spent nearly all of that time in a special residential medical center for children.  Fortunately, he received excellent medical care and no longer needed his trach by age 3. He was then placed in a specialized foster home, licensed to care for children with medical challenges.  Unfortunately, he remained separated from all of his siblings because they didn’t qualify for this type of foster home.  Because of a diligent foster mom, by age 4 he was eating orally, although everything had to be pureed. Daniel moved in with us at the end of July 2011 and by September he was eating solid foods.  He had just begun to take independent steps when we met him in June 2011, but after a few more weeks of practice and building confidence he was walking around everywhere.

I asked a few people (including his physical therapist from the medical center) about the reason for his gross motor delay, but there didn’t seem to be a definitive answer.  Our best guess was that due to his other medical needs and vast amount of surgeries and procedures (more than 30 by age 3) he simply was delayed in developing some skills.

In December 2011, while I was out running errands with his twin sister, Daniel had a seizure.  Rob called me, then called 911.  I rushed home to find my son chatting in the back of an ambulance with the paramedics.  He had recovered from his seizure, but we drove him to the hospital as a precaution.  On the way, I called his former foster mom to make sure I hadn’t missed out on a little detail telling us that he had a seizure disorder.  Nope, no history of seizures…this was the first one.

Initial imaging showed abnormalities in Daniel’s brain, so he was admitted for further testing.  A long term (24 hour?) EEG and MRI were done. We were sent home a couple of days later with daily seizure meds, emergency seizure meds (to be administered if he had 3 within an hour or a seizure lasting more than 5 minutes) and a referral to see a pediatric neurologist.  Oh, and more information about brain abnormalities. I’ll save all of the medical info for another day…or seriously, I’d never get to Tuesday. : )

Quick version and update on the seizures…we like our neurologist a lot and appreciate that he wants our input regarding treatment.  After 6 months of no additional seizure activity, we decided to taper him off of his daily meds.  After 6 more months of no medicine and no seizures, he had another seizure almost a year to the day from when he had his first seizure.  This second one happened while we were at church, seemed to last quite a while and upon advice from a fellow church member and medical professional…we called 911 from the church and Daniel and I chatted it up in the back of the ambulance on the way to the hospital.  Everything checked out pretty easily at the hospital, they consulted with his neurologist who put him back on daily meds.  We followed up a few weeks later and continue to be seen every 6 months or so. We have seen two additional seizures since then, including one that lasted longer than 5 minutes and I had to administer medication to stop it.  Thankfully we were home, and thankfully two big brothers were here to help out…especially because one little brother was vomiting at the same time the seizure was occurring.  Never a dull moment I tell you.  Never.

Ok…so enough about medical junk. Other than to say that I don’t know if anybody would have been keeping a close eye on our 5 little ones, if it weren’t for Daniel’s medical issues.  State workers became involved when there was concern about his parents’ ability to adequately care for his medical needs…which eventually led him to be removed from the home and placed in the medical center.  Subsequently, his siblings were removed from the home, placed in foster care and eventually all 5 were eligible for adoption.  (That’s when we came into the picture!)  I hate it that Daniel basically spent his first three years of life in a hospital, but I am thankful that he spent the next 18 months in a good foster home and wasn’t bounced around a lot.  His transition into our family was a little rough since he had been in the same placement for so long.  However, he was also very glad to be with his siblings again.  Can you even imagine how hard that is for a 4 year old to deal with?  He still talks about his foster mom on occasion.  She and her two daughters came to visit us once and that was good for everyone.  We keep in touch occasionally and I will always be grateful for how she cared for and loved my Daniel.  I know it was not easy for her when he left, but I so admire someone willing to risk heartache for the sake of providing a temporary, loving home for a child.

Enough of the heavy stuff…my boy!

He loves to play and he loves people.  He has a remarkable memory for people and places.  He cares about others and is everyone’s friend.  Sometimes he laughs at the wrong time, and sometimes he laughs so much he can’t stop.  When he tries to smile for a picture, he scrunches up his eyes too much…and his beautiful eyes twinkle when he doesn’t try at all.  I’ve seen him learn to walk confidently up and down stairs.  He never tells me he doesn’t like his food…even when I know he doesn’t.  He loves his big brothers and his little brothers and sister, and especially his Desirae.  He never falls asleep in the car and when he has to stay awake all night for a sleep deprived EEG, it’s no problem…he’s gonna be the best guy to have at slumber parties!  He’s a handsome boy who loves me fully and forgives me easily when I mess up.

He is brave and he is loved.