Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hello and Goodbye!

Just a quick note to let you all know that I am so missing my blogging friend. Hello, everyone! I've taken a few minutes to skim and scam your recent posts, but no time to comment. We moved the vast portion of our possessions on Saturday past, but left the computers set up in our old house. We've been living at the new house since then so I haven't had much chance to veg and blog this week. Incidentally, I've been MUCH more productive. Surely this is merely coincidence?
I've got to type fast, because when the master comes in from clearing out the garage, and finds me blogging, I am in B-I-G trouble. He's going to pull the plug for sure.
This is also a goodbye-for-now post, in that we do not have viable internet options at Sunnyside Mission, and I don't really know what we are going to do. There is a tower going up in two weeks down the road, but the provider is iffy as whether or not we will be able to pick up the signal. Good thing Obama has promised us all broadband, right? Whew! That's a big relief.
Here comes the master...gotta go.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Third Time's A Charm?

I sure hope so! Ian came through his third tube surgery and is doing great. He won't even have to miss school tomorrow. Based on his bounciness this afternoon, he could have made it today, but we let him have his day home. As he came out of surgery, I whispered his name softly, and he turned his head toward me. Probably the first whisper he's heard in months.
My mom came to watch the little ones while we were at the hospital. I wish I could keep her here all week. I really could use a second (and third and fourth) set of hands. Life is CRAZY trying to pack up and move in the church building before the end of the month. Monday my mother-in-law and I mopped the entire fellowship hall floor. WHEW! That's a workout, and took almost an hour. I'm hoping that the time it takes to clean that large of an area will be offset by the increased amount of time between cleanings. It seems that I am constantly having to clean this little house, because we have so many people and possessions crammed into too small a space. Surely, a larger space will mean less frequent need? Otherwise I don't know when I'll sleep.
And ya'll have got to help me think of what to call our new abode. No way can I fulfill my wifely duties in a "church building." But somehow, just calling it "the house," doesn't fit either. It has a steeple and an organ for heaven's sake!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

I awoke to a very nice Valentine's surprise this morning. Abby and K got up early and cleaned the living room and kitchen for us! WooHoo, that's better than chocolate! One of their teachers gave them the idea. One point for public school.

Pretty Sweethearts.

Our church Valentine's banquet had a hillbilly theme, can you tell? The master said the theme hymn would be "Come Just As You Are." Hardy, har, har. Here's me an' all the kinfolk.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Secret Admirer

I'm a little concerned. While pilfering my children's Valentine goody bags for chocolate, I came across this unsigned Valentine. I can't post a picture, because it is very clearly addressed to my oldest (but old as in only 10 years), but it is a commercially made valentine in the shape of a dollar bill. In the right hand corner is the silhouette of a man and woman holding hands and gazing at one another. It reads:

Redeemable for unlimited....
On a long evening walk

Not sure if I should get upset about this, or just be glad it was as tame as hand holding?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Here's Our House...Here's the Steeple...

Open it up and see all the Su_____s. I am SO RELIEVED to post that we have found shelter! And it is the perfect set-up for our large, but financially strapped family. An old church building. Can we get any weirder?
Yes, it needs A LOT of work, but we are getting it on awesome terms, and we've never been afraid of hard work. Now, you generally do not find baths in a church building, but for a short time, it was used as a women's shelter, so we already have two showers and a tub in a large communal bath. We will have to have boy hour and girl hour for the bathroom. Cari, honey, don't fail me now....this is the challenge of a lifetime. How to make a 1965 fellowship hall into a homey den and dining combo?
Each of the kids will have their own bedroom--it's almost more than their minds can comprehend. I will be able to have a sewing/craft room and an office. HALLELUJAH!
Carla Mae Jenkins, these pictures are for you, girl, 'cause I love you so much. These are photos of the side we will be living in (fellowship hall and adult education rooms). I hope to open my own daycare center next fall in the other half (sanctuary, nursery suite and children's Sunday school rooms). I didn't take photos of that half, but you can see the sanctuary wing in the background of the play area. Look at the size of my LAUNDRY ROOM!!! Brings a tear to my eye.

And much, much more!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Adoptive Mama Tag



1. How many months (days, weeks, YEARS...)We went to orientation in April of 2002. Marina came home in May 2005. Homestudy completed in March 08. Cara was born in June.
2. WAS YOUR HUSBAND EXCITED? Not so excited about the process (but then, who is?), totally excited about the person. Ditto.
3. WHAT WERE YOUR REACTIONS WHEN YOU GOT "THE" PHONE CALL? I couldn't get excited about the call. It was more of a feeling of, "Well, finally." Also, it was delivered in such a backhanded way--our agency representative going into medical concerns and warning us not to make a decision until we had come in for a match meeting and done some research. I was ecstatic after the match meeting. I was in a state of shock. Our file was supposed to have been on hold. I was happy, scared, excited, surprised...
4. WHERE WERE YOU WHEN YOU FOUND OUT? I remember being in the computer room of our old house. I was in the kitchen (in our newer, old house) with the daycare kids and my mom. 5. HOW OLD WERE YOU? 26 when she came home and 29
6. WHAT IS YOUR CHILD'S BIRTH-COUNTRY (and province or city)? St. Peterburgh, Russia Corpus Christi, Texas
7. WHO DID YOU TELL FIRST? I have no idea. I can't remember! Suzi had to be among the first. She was my mentor during the whole process. By chance, my mom happened to be in the room when I got the call. I called the master next, pretty sure my sisters heard from mom. Tried to keep the number down to the bare minimum until we heard if she had chosen us or was going to go with another agency.
9. HOW OLD WAS YOUR CHILD AT REFERRAL? six months. one day.
10. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU SEE YOUR CHILD'S FACE/PICTURE FOR THE FIRST TIME? Match meeting November 2004. Birthmother showed us her one blurry polaroid in the wee morning hours of June 25 2008.
11. WHAT WAS THE FIRST THING YOU BOUGHT FOR YOUR CHILD? Can't remember. I know we took a baby photo album on our first trip and left it with her. I also made her a quilt. Some preemie clothes, and she had to have a nameplate for her NICU bassinet, so scrapbooking supplies!!
12. WHO/WHAT IRRITATED YOU THE MOST? The attitude of the agency staff which was, "You have children, so who cares how long you put your life on hold for this adoption?" and, of course, the paperwork. At first, the hospital staff did not accept me as the mother. There were a lot of insensitive/rude/ignorant comments made by the nurses and doctors, which surprised me. You would think--in their profession--they would use appropriate adoption vocabulary/language. It's not like I was the first adoptive parent they've had to work with.
13. WHEN WERE YOU ABLE TO TRAVEL? From match meeting to first trip 2 1/2 months. First trip to second, 4 months. The next afternoon.
14. DID YOU HAVE A BABY SHOWER? Nope. 4th and 6th babies don't tend to have showers, but they got lots of goodies anyway.
16. DID YOU PACK ANYTHING SPECIAL JUST FOR YOUR BABY? Marina had her own suitcase packed with stuff for the coming home trip! Just as we were leaving, some ladies from church dropped by with a gift of clothes, burp cloths, bibs, socks, etc. I'm so glad I took that with me. At one point, C.C. asked to look at it. She was very excited to see that we had brought gifts for her baby. She thought and voiced (throughout the process) that we were only adopting Cara out of pity. Little things like a pretty present for the baby, helped her to understand that we were thirlled about the baby and wanted her more than anything.
18. DID YOU HAVE ANY COMPLICATIONS WITH YOUR PAPERWORK/PROCESS? Yes, our dossier sat for over nine months on a bureaucrat's desk. He was waiting for a bribe. Then afterwards, there was a delay between trip one and trip two. (At the time, it was the longest wait on record with our agency. In today's process, it would probably be considered relatively short). Our domestic adoption was MIRACULOUSLY SMOOTH. The only incident--and we didn't know until after the fact--was C.C. delayed signing the relinquishment documents. Our agency representative was so afraid she was going to run without signing them. Without her signature, Cara would have gone into foster care. Our worker risked life and limb--seriously--to track her down before she disappeared.
19. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY OR PLACE YOU VISITED IN YOUR CHILD'S BIRTH COUNTRY?THE BEST? We loved visiting the winter palace and the National Russian Museum. We are also so glad we made a point to worship with a local body of believers while in St. Petersburgh. That was an experience we will never forget! I will always remember the middle of the night trips to the NICU. Holding Cara and singing hymns and lullabies in a room filled with the smallest and most fragile of God's children.
20. HOW MANY DAYS/WEEKS WERE YOU IN YOUR CHILD'S BIRTH COUNTRY? Five days first trip. 11 days second. A little less than three weeks.
21. FAVORITE PLACE/THING TO EAT WHILE THERE? Pelmini. Chicken Kiev. Stroganoff. The Mexican food in Corpus is WONDERFUL!
22. FAVORITE PLACE TO SHOP WHILE THERE? The market in Moscow. N/A.
24. WHO MET YOU AT THE AIRPORT? Parents, sisters, friends, church members, the kids. The kids, my mom and dad.
25. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU DID AFTER LEAVING THE AIRPORT? WENT HOME!!! Went by Starbucks and picked up lattes for the agency staff. Then we went to the agency office and signed our placement papers.
26. WHAT DO YOU CALL YOUR ADOPTION DAY? We call it, "The Day the Judge Said, 'Da'" for Marina. I don't know for Cara. We were with her from the first.
27. WHAT DID YOU NAME HIM/HER? We gave them their birthmother's names. And a virtue for a middle name: Joy and Grace.
28. HOW OLD IS YOUR FIRST BORN (adopted) TODAY? Two months shy of five years old. I can't believe it. Seven months.
29. ARE YOU PLANNING TO GO BACK TO THEIR BIRTH COUNTRY SOMEDAY? Yes. If we aren't at war. Yes. I'd love to take a vacation there this summer and show her off in the NICU.
30. HAVE YOU STARTED OR ALREADY MADE YOUR CHILD A LIFEBOOK? Yes. She has a baby book in process and a smaller album from birth to coming home completed.

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY, Monday, February 9, 2009
Outside My Window...a very dark, darkness due to cloud cover.
I am thinking...why does my second grade daughter have 'jaywalker' as a spelling word? Who really needs to know that word? Surely there are many more important, useful words she should be committing to memory.
I am thankful for...lost items found.
From the kitchen...the master cooked dinner tonight, Mexican casserole. I was teaching online. I've purposely left the light off as I post. That way, I won't be distracted by the mess. *edited* The master says that I made him sound like a messy cook. This was not my intention. Allow me to clarify: I am exceedingly grateful that he cooked dinner. The kitchen is in no way MORE messy than it would be had I prepared the evening meal. This entry is intended as a disconnected stream of conscious. Nothing more. *edit on the edit* "Now you've made me sound like a whiner..." Well, if the shoe fits...
I am wearing...T-shirt and blue jeans
I am creating...quilt tops. I went to an estate sale this weekend and bought one almost finished top and one pre-cut quilt kit. Total money spent $5. That's a steal! And class valentines with the kids.
I am start packing this week...If I pack, we will have a place to move, right?
I am reading...Sounder(kid's bedtime book), Can We Talk?, and Twelve Exceptional Women
I am hear something about our possible new dwelling place this week.
I am hearing...The master occasionally clearing his throat in the back bedroom.
One of my favorite things...mornings at home with my two monkeys
Around the house...two words: Bath Night.
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...Big day for CIA (Wednesday night kids class I teach at church). On Saturday we are making Valentines, eating lunch, and heading out to local nursing homes. That night we have a Valentines banquet.
Here is picture thought I am sharing...She is getting SOOOOO big. Seven months already and as you can see, quite the little ham-bone! She has jumped up to the 15% on weight and height. That's stupendous for a preemie.
To enjoy other Simple Women visit

Monday, February 2, 2009


Christine did a great post last week on her daughter, Sveta, who has FAS. She included the following piece, one I had not read before. I love the title, because so often, when I speak of Marina's special needs, people look at me as though I'm crazy. Even if they don't say it--and they often do--I can read it in their faces, "But she looks perfectly normal." Though we have not had a professional diagnosis of FAS on Marina, since her adoption, we have done our own personal research and feel confident that FAS is the basis for most of her lingering issues. This was confirmed for us last summer as we visited with the specialists in the International Adoption Clinic of Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. We were there for Cara's medical needs, and were discussing what we could reasonably hope for Cara's development in light of her massive exposure throughout gestation to cocaine, and meth. The news for Cara is very hopeful. Because alcohol detracts from the effect of these drugs, users seldom drink. Alcohol takes away their high. Not true for heroin addicts. Alcohol increases the effect of the drug and users regularly take them in tandem. Also, they rely on alcohol to "get by" when heroin is not available. Marina's birthmother was a heroin addict. Please notice that the drug of most concern here for both of our daughters is alcohol--not crack, not meth, not heroin--this legal drug is BY FAR the most devastating to the unborn child. I've included my notes in pink. Recently, experts have changed the name of the disorder from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, to Fetal Alchohol Spectrum, because they are learning that children can fall in a wide spectrum of symptoms and issues as a result of their exposure. This is certainly true for Marina.

The Visible Kidwith theInvisible Disability© 2003 Teresa Kellerman

Hey, look at me! Do you think I'm cute? On the outside, I look just like any other kid - friendly, playful, and full of energy. But there's something about me on the inside that you can't see - how my brain was messed up before birth by alcohol. You can't see the tangled connections and all the little empty spaces in my brain. Unless you can see inside my head, you can't see that I have - what's it called? Static En-ceph-al-o-pathy.But what you can see is how silly I act when I am out in public. Marina only has trouble with this when she has had too little sleep (which for her means less that 12 hours in a 24 hour period) or entirely too much stimulation. If she is out of her routine we also see this behaviour. You can see how immature I am, especially when you compare me with other kids my age. And you always notice when I get out of control and "lose it" when things get to be too much for me to handle. These would be Marina's melt downs. Praise the Lord, we have very few of these now. A stranger looking in would see a "brat" throwing a tantrum and would think, "those parents need to discipline that child more." But nothing could be farther from the truth! Marina--when she is who she is--has a tender and sweet spirit and has the strictest of parents. Her meltdowns resemble epileptic fits more than they do your typical toddler tantrum. Can you see how embarrassed I get when I can't control my behavior? And how frustrated I get when I forget the rules - again? And my anger when I get blamed for trouble over and over? You probably can, because you can see my feelings plastered all over my face.You say I'm a problem. But I'm not a problem. I have a problem. I have Static Encephalopathy. The doctor told me what that means - my brain damage won't get any worse, but it won't get any better either. It's forever.You can always hear me, because I talk a lot, to anyone who will listen. Only just recently have I noticed this. It took Marina a long time to talk, and we were so happy when she finally did, we never would have thought to complain about it. But last week it hit me, "She is talking non-stop and she isn't even SAYING anything. When I looked up at the clock it was 30 minutes past her nap time. When you ask me a question, an answer just pops out, whether it's true or not. I'm good at telling you what you want to hear. Marina does not usually exhibit this. When I catch her at something, or even just SUSPECT she is to blame for something, she tells the truth. This is a great relief. I can fool people into thinking I really understand what they are telling me. I don't want anyone to think I'm stupid.I also act like I can take care of myself. But it's hard for me to figure out time and money. I can't even make change for a dollar. I can't remember what I got in trouble for yesterday. You probably think I should learn from my mistakes. But I can't. It's not that I don't know the rules - I do. It's not that I don't understand consequences - I do. I just can't make myself do what I know I should do. I don't know why - I just can't.Maybe you notice that I don't have a lot of common sense. This part makes me cry for my child. It is so true. She can't remember. Sometimes, if she has not slept, she cannot remember her own name. I'm the one who goes along with the wrong crowd, who gets sucked into doing some really stupid things. And I'm the one who usually gets caught.My teacher always tells me, "You should know better than that!" And I do know better. I just can't be better. The doctor says it has to do with "lack of impulse control and poor judgment" are from damage to my brain before I was born.My Dad says, "Just grow up." He says I act half my age. The researchers say "arrested social development" is common in kids like me who are alcohol affected. That means the only thing that will grow up will be my body. Marina is actually very mature for her age in many ways. I don't see that she exhibits this, but I've tried to prepare myself for the possibility that she may get "stuck" in a later stage of development. Everybody can see that I'm friendly and affectionate. Marina is not--and has never been--overly affectionate with strangers. Unless they have something she wants, and then it's like a kiddie version of "Fatal Attraction." But nobody can see how lonely I am. I have lots of "friends" but they never come over or call me. I don't have a best friend. But I pretend like I do. I wish I had a dog. Marina is too young to have a best friend, so I'm unsure about this. I think growing up in a large family will help her. There is a lot of give and take, conflict resolution, and sharing in a large family. She was able to do well with friendships in the daycare. There are times when her responses to friends and siblings is startling and disturbing, but such interactions are rare. An example of this was the day she reached out and slapped a new classmate (TOTALLY out of character for her) at school. She was crushed and truly surprised when she had to pull a card for this. After trying unsuccessfully to get to the bottom of the incident, she was finally able to verbalize (YEAH!!!) her motive. She wanted to know his name and he wouldn't talk to her. It floored me that she thought that knocking the boy on the head was a good way to win friends and influence people! I'm not afraid of anything or anybody. I'm not afraid of strangers, or of heights, or of unsafe sex. I'm not afraid of the dangers of the real world.
Should I be? Maybe I forget. Even when people tell me things over and over, I still forget. The psychologist says I have a problem processing information, that I have memory deficits and attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity. Yep, that's me all right!You probably think my mom is over-protective. But she knows how easy it is for others to take advantage of me. Sometimes I think my mom is too strict, because she doesn't let me go to the park by myself or spend the night at my cousin's. I guess she knows that I can't behave properly unless she's right by my side, and she doesn't want me to get into big trouble. When I am not there, Marina typically bounces off the walls. The last time she went "bonkers" in church when I got up to take Randy on a potty break. This is the kid that I NEVER have to correct or remind to get quiet in church. She is always as docile and still as the proverbial church mouse. Afterwards, I asked her what on earth could have possessed her to behave that way. "Why did you act like that, when I got up?" She said, "I had to." "WHAT?! You HAD to? Why did you HAVE to?" Her response was very telling, "You weren't there." Like last year when I got too "friendly" with the little girl next door. I didn't know that was "inappropriate." (I hate that word.) Mom said I could get arrested for doing something like that, which really scared me. But my conscience doesn't seem to work right. I don't want to make people mad. I don't want to be "inappropriate." I don't want to be bad.I just want to be accepted, and understood. Not blamed and shamed. I want to be appreciated for the good things. Do you notice those?I want you to care, even when I act like I don't. I want to be respected. And I need you to be a good role model for me so I can learn to be respectful too.And most of all I don't want you to say bad things about my birth mom because she drank when she was pregnant. Maybe she couldn't stop drinking. Maybe her doctor told her it was okay to drink when she was pregnant. Maybe she just did what everybody else was doing. I'm not making excuses for her behavior, or for mine. Maybe she didn't think about what she was doing. Maybe she had Static Encephalopathy too, just like me. But nobody could see.


One thing I do want to add, though, is that it DOES get better. No, we can't undo the brain damage. But we're learning every day new ways of coping and helping her form connections. Connections that most of our brains formed naturally during the first year of life (you know, that year Marina was in an institution). It's hard work for her, but she is learning. Some days it seems so slow. Some days I've despaired of her ever living independently (when I've had to remind her that her name is Marina). I've despaired of her staying out of the state penitentiary(when I've caught her for the 100th time stealing and gone over, yet again, that stealing is wrong. But for her, it was the FIRST time). I've despaired of her living to adulthood (when I've reminded the kids to stick close to me, and in response, she's run out into a busy parking lot). But I'm hopeful. Last night, we were visiting at the master's sister's church. When we got out of the van, Marina's cousin bouced up and said, "C'mon Marina! I'll show you where to go." I was opening my mouth to tell her "no," when Marina answered, "No. I need to stay with my mommy." This was a wonderful way for Marina to reply! It reflects INDEPENDENT THOUGHT (not going along with peer pressure) and SELF-PRESERVATION (staying with the adult is smart and safe) and ATTACHMENT (mommy will take care of me). These are qualities we have labored long and hard to cultivate in Marina, and now we are seeing the fruit. How I praised her for that answer!
One thing is certain--no, two things I know. Marina is a survivor, and God has a plan for her life.