Wednesday, December 31, 2008

headed downstate tonight

my dad has been admitted to U of M hospital and is in Neuro ICU. Post more later.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Biopsy results...

came in yesterday for my dad. The brain biopsy does not show signs of cancer, TB or various other things. Biopsy does show clear signs of inflammation. They are sending the biopsy sample down to U of M hospital in Ann Arbor for further analysis, and have contacted other specialists throughout and outside of the state. For right now, they are treating as chronic meningitis. They are planning to discharge him today, since my younger sister is with him and he can't be alone. She was planning on staying until Sunday and then heading back to Alabama, so we'll have to figure out what to do next.

Other news that I've been too stressed to post: Miss A turned 5 on Christmas eve (5, how did that happen? She's my baby!) and we've now gotten over 120" of snow, about 40" more than normal for this time of year. For the past 30 days, we have gotten snow every single day - from 1/2" to 8" each day. We've had over 63" so far this month. Roads have been pretty bad, because the road crews can't catch up. Wood is extremely worried about me traveling down to be with my dad - my older son B will be with me on the way down, but I'd have to travel back up alone in some pretty treacherous weather.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Family news...

We've had a troubling holiday this year. My dad (step) had sudden and odd behavioral changes. He lives alone dowstate, and this was noticed via telephone by myself and my 2 younger sisters, as well as his neighbors over a period of several days. He is a very young 62 years old. My uncle, who lives nearby him downstate was contacted and he went to see my dad. I actually live the closest to my dad, at 8.5 hours away. One of my younger sisters is in Mobile, Alabama, and the other is in North Carolina. My older sister is in Tennessee.

He was taken to the emergency room, and has been hospitalized for the past 9 days. At first they suspected meningitis, then encephalitis. Those tests came out negative, however, he has tons of white blood cells in his spinal fluid. His behavior has become increasingly more strange. It is very hard to carry on a conversation with him, as his thoughts ramble and are all over the place and are not always rational. He has hallucinated. The hospital had to assign him a aide to be with him 24 hrs, as he would wander out of his room and get "lost", or have disruptive, hyperactive and bizarre behavior. I can't even begin to describe how hard it is to see him like this - he is completely unrecognizable from how he was only 2 weeks ago - calm, organized, reasonable and the most logical man I probably know.

On Christmas eve, he had a brain biopsy. He called me in the morning prior and told me he was getting out of the hospital. He sounded good, and fairly clear and coherant. I was so hopeful. Later that afternoon, he left a message on my voice mail. It said "spark, this is dad. They are going to do a brain biopsy. Say a prayer and light a candle. Love ya, Dad". He got out of ICU on Christmas day.

The dr's are being quite evasive about what they suspect at this point. What I "think" they suspect is a life altering disease, fatal until just a few years ago, but now treatable to a certain extent - but not to reverse any brain damage that may have already occurred. Pathology apparently doesn't work on Christmas day. We hope to have the results today.

My youngest sister drove up from Mobile with a friend and arrived on Christmas eve, so she is with him now. I'm trying to get back down there again.

A asked me "why does everyone die at the holidays? Grandpa died at Thanksgiving, now Paw Paw at Christmas - I don't want any more holidays." We have not mentioned that he is gravely ill to her, but A is and always has been moderately obsessed with death, illness and dying and she picks up on everything we say.

Praying for some hopeful news today about the biopsy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Frog Princess, 2009

Unfortunately, Disney has never had a black princess. Their latest film to be released in 2009 features Tiara, a 19 year old princess. Check out the trailer:



A is enamoured with everything princess, Disney or not. She will very much enjoy this next Christmas when it releases.

storm continued...




We are still having quite intense weather. Temp is -10, with windchills putting it at -28 this morning. Wood did get stranded at the bridge yesterday and didnt make it home. They are hoping to be allowed to the cross the bridge this morning. There are hundreds of trucks waiting to get across. The Mackinac bridge, which connects the Upper Peninsula to the lower peninsula, is a 5 mile long suspension bridge.




I'm not fond of crossing the bridge even during perfect conditions. It's 2 lanes in each direction, without a barrier separating you from traffic going the other direction. It has a VERY short guardrail on the outside of each side of the bridge, that a car could potentially go over during an incident. There is NO shoulder at all, so if you are riding in the outside lane, it's just the short guardrail separating you from going off the side. In 1989, a car was blown off the bridge during high winds. It was a Yugo, but still. In 1997, a Ford Bronco went off the side, but that may have been intentional. However, it would be a lot safer if it didn't have freakishly low siderails, making it very easy to go off the side. I actually PREFER driving in the outside lane, however. The inner lane is made mostly of metal grating, for water drainage. It pulls the car terribly from side to side when driving over it, and you can look down and see the water down below through the grates. Lovely.

I guess the girls and I will stay home and coccoon today. Did I mention that my front door is solidly frozen shut??? However, I have a million things to do today - this will be my last day off until Christmas day. I'm totally exhausted and I still have another week to go. This last weekend was brutal, and I was at work Friday and Sat for 14 hrs each day. I did get a break on Sunday and only needed to be in for about 4 hrs. Tomorrow I need to take cupcakes into A's school for her birthday treat. Today was supposed to be G's school concert. I just need more hours in each day.

Our son B (age 20) is supposed to be headed home today or tomorrow from downstate, depending on his friend who is driving him home. He couldn't make it home for Thanksgiving, so we are all very excited to see him. I'm praying for safe journey's home for both him and Wood. Travel through the UP is hard this time of year. No cell signals in many areas, no signs of civilization for a great part of the trip.

Monday, December 15, 2008

bad weather...

we had a slight, above freezing warm up yesterday, and freezing rain/sleet last night that is now sheer ice on the roads. Today we have gusting winds of 20-30MPH resulting in -10 to -25 wind chills. Blowing snow is causing very poor visibility. Schools are closed (rare for us - we almost never close due to snow up here, but extreme ice conditions will do it).

Wood left at 4:30am to head downstate for a work related trip. I worry about him going across the Mackinac Bridge to the lower peninsula with the high winds. The bridge is closed to high profile trucks, so that may impact if he might get stuck there (he and one of his employees headed down to pick up a new fuel delivery vehicle.)

School is closed but the girls prior preschool is open in daycare capacity only, so I'll drop the girls off. No choice except for me to go into work today as most of my associates will not make it in to work today as many live well outside the city where conditions are even worse.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Views from the north.....

Our new dog, Cooper, with Ozzie.


Cooper wonders why the bear is laying in the snow!




A always has to "taste" the snow








We have a rather steep incline in our backyard. The girls like to sled down the hill, however, there is a 6' wooden fence at the bottom....






Snow angels!




Lounging at the patio set ....Why wait 'till summer?


The fleece hats are the best ones we have had. The cold air can sometimes trigger G's asthma, and keeping her mouth covered keeps her breathing warm, moist air. They are easy for the girls to use, and keep almost all exposed skin covered, even on the school playground when I'm not around to help. If they get hot, they can push the hat down, and it becomes just a "scarf" around their neck, and not result in a "lost" hat. Both girls can get completely outfitted in snowpants, boots, coats (including zipped), hats, mittens, in about 4 minutes flat - all by themselves.















Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ack-i-lee

That's A's pronunciation of "actually". I love it when she says it - it always makes me smile. I will miss some of her speech when it becomes more "standard"

"dues" for does
"ack-i-lee" for actually
"dues goes" for went
"one hoofen sleigh" for one horse open sleigh (Jingle Bells)

I'll post more as they come to me :)

What's new with us? It's tuesday, so I'm off work and pick up the girls right after school. Since I'm working Sat and Sun through the holidays, Tuesday is the new weekend. It's my day to sometimes do A's hair, cook a big family dinner and clean the house. Today I'll have the girls help me roast a chicken with all the fixings. G hates chicken in all forms EXCEPT a whole, roasted chicken. Don't ask me why.

I finally picked up another battery charger for my camera batteries, so I'll post some new pics soon. A's birthday is Christmas eve. We got her ears pierced on Sunday - that is what she wanted for her birthday. That girl is so attracted to bling and makeup. She's never met a lip gloss she didn't love. I wear simple earrings and a plain gold wedding band - nothing else. I put on minimal makeup a few times a month. Big sister M and G are very much the same. A, is entirely different. She is a tomboy in her actions, physicality and strength. But she'll climb that wall wearing bracelets, necklaces and lip gloss. If she doesn't have a bracelet, she'll make one. I think she actually NEEDS it. She'll take a cheap plastic bracelet over a toy, hands down. Her eyes light up when she sees makeup, or a model wearing a fancy dress in an advertisement. She has lip gloss emergencies (chapstick type lip gloss is what she is allowed to wear). It's so foreign to me.

I didn't have children to have "mini-me's". But if I am honest with myself, I'll admit there is a certain comfort level with having children that share similar interests, habits and mannerisms. A pushes us to ensure that we leave our comfort zone (and our cozy couch and a good book!) to also follow her interests, which can be intense (playing outside in sub zero weather, rock climbing, dancing and swimming, to name a few). Not that I ever will embrace a 5 year old wearing makeup, but I struggle to understand the attraction and pull she has towards the glamourous. Her idea of a perfect situation would be to climbing on the monkey bars while wearing a bright and shiny dressy dress, complete with makeup and accessories :)

PS, when I finally did A's hair, it took me over three hours to get the tiny braids out. Note to self - no more small braids!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

kids, adoption and faith

The girls attend Mass weekly at their school. Wood or I usually try to adjust our schedules to attend with them. This past week, I sat with A's class. The priest doing mass was one that is very young and who connects very well with the kids, involves them and makes things understandable for them.

For his Homily, he talked to the kids trusting God. He used the analogy along the lines of "you know how you know that your mom and dad will be there for you every single day when you get home from school? You know that they will take care of you, no matter what? How they took care of you when you were a baby? Fed you, clothed you, were there for you every single day? That is the kind of trust you can put in God." He made this point several times, in several different ways, relating the care of a parent to the constant care and love of your mom and dad.

A has the faith of someone 4x's her age. Her connection with, and absolute trust in God is awe inspiring. It has been this way since we knew her. She has intense focus on the suffering of Christ, and relates to this in a way I've not seen any child do. Of course, she has gone through more in her short life than most adults. Her faith was established and very real to her when she came home.

Her approach God in prayer has taught me much-she is a child who speaks to a loving parent. She offers to God her joys, hurts, wonderment, confusion, disappointment and all that she has experienced. She has always had absolute certainty that God isand has been with her always.

The correlation made in church between parents and God upset her greatly. She said that there are times when a mom and dad can't take care of you forever - that they just can't be there for you even if they want to. So this brought into question for her that God could possibly be the same way, and she wants to know when God might not be there for you too. This has been her one constant, the one thing that she has always known that she could rely on with absolute certainty. She had tears rolling down her face and she wanted me to take her home, instead of returning to school.

She continues to be very upset about this- it has shaken her in a way I've not seen before. And I'm at a loss to "fix" this in a way that is clear and understandable to her.

As a child, my parent was definitely NOT of the type Fr. Tim was speaking of, so I can see/feel the inherent flaws in his analogy. One of the great fears many of us have that of orphanhood, that those we love will abandon or neglect us. My daughter has taken this situation in her life and believed with all her heart and soul that God has never and would/could never do the same. Jesus, in the Gospels, assures us that we are forever beloved children in God’s eyes - a message that has been received in a very heartfelt way by A.

How to restore the message for her that God is the good parent who yearns to lavish perfect parental love on us?

Luke 13:34“How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.”

Matthew 6:8“Your Father knows what you need before you ask.”

Matthew 23:9“Call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father -- the one in heaven.”

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

I survived.......left house at 2:30am, back home at 4:05pm.

Not as good as I would have liked, not as bad as I feared.

http://miningjournal.net/page/content.detail/id/519098.html?nav=5006

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Grandpa

My grandpa died early this morning. His incredible strength and fighting spirit was with him until the very end. His life was a wonderful 99 years long here on earth.....he's now with his 6 brothers and sisters who pre-deceased him long ago, my grandmother who died when I was 6, and his son, my dear father, who died in 1997 at the way too young age of 55 .

Ties are non-existant with my mother and her side of the family, so it feels like I've lost what I had left of my family.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Obama family

We were standing in line at the store yesterday and A was looking at the magazines in the checkout line. She goes "look, mommy, the WHOLE family is chocolate like me, even the mommy and daddy!". We know a lot of families who look like ours, that don't match. She sounded incredulous that the Obama family actually matches.

I've been relieved to see occasionally pics of Sasha Obama with fuzzy looking hair - if the President's daughter can have fuzzy looking hair, we are in good company!

Tip of the day for tiny braids past their prime (yes, I didn't actually get to hair this past weekend) - braid the braids. I moisturized and put the tiny braids into two larger braids and tied ribbons on the end. They look very, very cute and really freshen up the entire look and disguise the fuzz. We rarely do large braids or ponys because they don't work for us. But made out of tiny braids are perfect. She reminds me of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

hair and other ramblings...

I REALLY need to do A's hair today. I last did it the weekend before Halloween, so it's lasted a good long time. A asked for small, individual braids last time, which I rarely do. Why? Because I hate taking them out. They take absolutely forever to take out - about as long as they did to put in. And then, I still need to do hair after I spend a few hours taking them out.

I feel I should have a better attitude about doing hair and not dread it sometimes. This time of year is tough - I have to work at least 8 hrs today (Saturday), and about 6 or 7 hrs on Sunday. And still find about 4 hrs somewhere to do hair. I'm finding work increasingly unrewarding - retail is really a brutal contact sport. But I do look forward to working incredibly hard, motivating my team, and that elated feeling when we really nail a major event. The hard work and stress has a purpose. But these days, all the hard work and incredible energy, and doing more work with less employees, is rewarded by....total failure. It's hard to play the game when you know there is almost no chance at all to post a win, to meet a goal. Must be how it feels to be the Detroit Lions :) If the goals are not met (which are set at the beginning of the year), I'm rated a below expectations, or a far below expectations on my performance review. There are no exceptions - the plan is the plan - period. 3 below expectations (rated every 6 months) and you are replaced.

My house is a mess, I'm hopelessly behind on laundry. The laundry that did manage to get done (by Wood, not me!) is piled on the furniture in the family room. We have overdue library books and videos from the video store. The kids have a birthday party to go to today, and I remembered to get a present, but not anything to wrap it in. I feel like everyone else can manage their household, just not us.

Friday, November 21, 2008

storm over

We got about 12" - 15" total - not as bad as expected. Looks like daily snowfall, but smaller amounts, every day for the next week. I had to stay at work to replace those who couldn't make it in, and we should have closed at 9pm. But the gals in the Salon ran late with a client. So I was at work yesterday from 9am - 10:30pm. It's so going to be a loooong weekend.

Oh, and the dentist - he asked ME if A could be older than turning 5 in December. I told him she was. He said "do you know that for sure?". I said yes. He said, while not conclusive, he thought by looking at her teeth development that she was about 6 months older, at least.
She's getting one of her permanent teeth BEHIND her baby tooth. Looks like another candidate for braces someday. Big brother B and A both had braces. At age 6.5, G hasn't lost any teeth yet.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Snow, snow, snow


Big storm last night - we got about 6" -8" in the city - much more in surrounding cities, where all the schools are closed. Winds last night were in excess of 26 mph. Today they are still quite strong. Our local schools aren't closed today, despite severe snow warnings and 10-12" of more snow to come. Will definitely not help my business, and I'll have to cut staffing today and tomorrow considerably.

Miss A goes to the dentist today - she is excited beyond belief, for some unknown reason! I'm already tired of bundling the kids up, boots and snowpants to go everywhere. We'll be doing it until May, so I'd better get used to it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The unknown

Someone asked me at work yesterday how we could add a dog to our family without ever meeting them. Wasn't it hard to base a decision so permanent based on a picture and a friend's 4 hr visit? Weren't we scared of the unknown?

We welcomed a child, our daughter with open hearts and arms and all the info we had on her was a single photo and three partial sentences describing her - "laughs out loud", "best attached to caregivers", "walks holding onto table".

Sometimes, you just have to trust and have faith.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New family member....

Introducing.....Cooper









We have owned a dog, Jack, for the past 12 or 13 years. He joined our family when he was 1year old, from an animal rescue league. Jack was a Jack Russell/Beagle mix - a reall y bad combination for a dog - all of the energy and nutso-ness of the Jack Russell and all the stubborness of a beagle. Jack was the only dog I've been unable to train. After a period of time, we were able to influence his behavior enough to make it work for everyone. When we first got him, he was spastic and wild. As he aged, he mellowed somewhat - for him, at least. Our biggest regret was that he never liked the little girls. When G was born, the noise, crawling and unexpected behavior of a baby really threw him for a loop. Then when A entered the picture - he thought we had lost our mind to bring ANOTHER one home. The girls loved him dearly, however. We always watched them carefully together and taught the girls to treat him gently and to respect his space. The two older kids, he was fine with them and really adored our son, B.

Jack's health deteriorated and we had him put to sleep in the summer. By this point, we didn't allow the girls to pet him or be in his space at all. The girls have missed him very much. Even though he wasn't much of a dog for them at all. G in particular, has always been a dog person - she never played with baby dolls, but stuffed puppies. Recently, she asked if we ever got another dog, if we could have one that was fun this time, and that you could even play with sometimes. We all loved Jack, but he was not much of a dog for the girls.

We decided to get another family dog - one that could really fit into and interact with our entire family and be fun for the kids. I've been looking online at our local humane societies/shelters and haven't found anything appropriate for kids and our family. I won't consider any type of pit bull, chow, doberman or rottie mix. That eliminates about 2/3's of what is in the shelters. We started expanding our search farther and farther, figuring we would be heading downstate soon, on account of my grandfather.

We saw Cooper's listing - he was in a foster home about 350 miles away. He was bigger than we were looking for, so continued searching. But we'd always come back to him. A good friend of ours has family in that city, and was just happening to leave for a visit. She offered to visit the dog and see what he was like. She spent quite a few hours with him. He is perfect for our family, mellow, great with kids, loves to snuggle up with you when you read, watch tv, etc. He is gentle and well behaved. So she will be bringing Cooper home when she returns. G is so excited she can hardly stand it. She marked the calendar with the days until he gets here. Today, she made a paperchain to mark the days (13) until Cooper gets here. She drew a pic on each chain link of things we will do with Cooper as family. On the last link she wrote "welcome home, Cooper!".

Cooper is a lurcher - which is not a breed, but a type of dog. They are very common in England and Ireland - not so much seen in the US. Lurchers are greyhounds mixed with working dogs. They are universally described as "40mph couch potatoes" and make great family pets.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Update on Grandpa

I heard from my cousin again tonight. My grandfather now also has pneumonia and he was transferred to a hospice home yesterday. They pulled his feeding tube, and he's had no nutrition since Monday. I guess I didn't realize that withholding nutrition is part of hospice pallative care. Wood and I immediately said to each other that if it ever comes to that, neither of us would want that done. My cousin said that hospice indicated that because of the discountinuation of the feeding tube, he was not expected to live much longer.

I had dozens of people in and out of my office today who needed me to make a decision on something, deadlines and schedules to be done and budgets to be planned and finalized. I just couldn't focus.

I knew when we traveled to Ohio over Labor day weekend that it would likely be the last time we saw my Grandfather, but, honestly, at his age, we've been saying that for a few years now. He's so strong and such a fighter. It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that it is finally his time.

He's lead a long and facinating life. His father, my great grandfather immigrated to Canada from England as a young adult. He was an Episcopalian priest, who lead a church and raised a large family in Canada in harsh, primitive conditions, before moving into the US, where my grandfather, the youngest child in the family, was born on an Indian reservation in Minnesota (Bemidji). My great grandfather was a missionary for a long time there, before coming to Detroit. My grandfather spent a good deal of his childhood in Detroit, where his father lead the congregation of Old Mariner's Church, right down on the Detroit river, next to the tunnel to Canada. During the great depression, my great grandfather was instrumental in opening homes for the homeless, health care, and jobs creation in Detroit - work that my grandfather was a part of. My great -grandfather wrote a facinating book "Humor and otherwise in a ministry of 50 years", where I've gotten such a detailed glimpse of my family history. My entire family is staunchly Episcopalian, and my converting to Catholicism is a subject that isn't brought up - ever :)

We'll be making the long trip to Toledo, most likely in a few days.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

sad news

I just got a call from my cousin in Ohio. My Grandfather, who turned 99 last month, is ill and not expected to live. When she explained what happened, it was my grandfather all the way - it started with "grandpa and his wife were out shopping".......I had to smile. At 99, he is out shopping. That's just the kind of person he is - he would never think of staying at home, away from life and what's going on.



I grew up in a very fractured family, and didn't really know my grandfather growing up - through no fault of his. He has continually reached out to me throughout all my adult life and made sure I was included in the family. My dad - his son- died over 10 years. Wood and I drove Grandpa and his wife to the funeral services, held at Arlington National Cemetary where my dad is buried.



On the way there, we stopped for fast food along the turnpike. As we were standing in line at McDonalds, my grandfather came up to Wood and I and said "you know, I had one of their Big Mac sandwiches once - it was very good!". Now I know why he lived until 99 - he was in his late 80's at the time and had had a Big Mac once in his life? When we went down to visit him for his 99th birthday in September, his mind was as sharp as ever.



I know that God will be with him as he goes home to be with my grandmother, my dad, and all his brothers and sisters.


wow

"An Obama administration is considering overturning the Bush administration policy of banning funding to organizations such as the U.N. Population Fund that operate in countries that practice forced sterilization, including China, which adheres to the "one child" policy. "

Regardless of which side of the fence people are on about this issue, does anyone really think it's a good idea to fund forced sterilization or forced abortions?

Even I'm speechless, unless I'm reading this completely wrong.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Winter has arrived

Today the girls go to school in full winter gear - boots, snowpants, mittens, hats and scarves. And now begins the increasiningly difficult process of wrangling them into their car seats. The girls fit great into their carseats - with lighter jackets on. But because of their age, with full winter attire on, they are starting to be too broad in the shoulders to easily fit in - mostly because of the side impact head "wings". Plus we need to readjust the height of the straps to accomodate the bulky winter wear.

G fits nicely with no problems into her Britax Regent. That's in Wood's car,though, so I still struggle with my car. Our other three carseats (2 in my car, 1 in Woods car) are Britax Marathons. I wish I had the $$ to change them all to the Regent. Wonder if the 2 year old Britax Regents have any resale value?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

retail and the economy...

Our "kickoff" of the holiday season was yesterday. We were open from 6am to midnight. It didn't go well and spells significant trouble for us this quarter - even worse than it's already been going.

Prices are incredibly deep discounted already. It's hightly unusual to see prices this low prior prior to the after Thanksgiving madness. I've already cut staffing by at least 25%. Unemployment here is double digit. I've never seen things look so bleak. Retail posted losses for October that have been the worst in 35 years.

We have a house we were unable to sell when we moved up here. We've been renting it with option to buy. Our tenant, who we were hopeing to have complete the sale early next year, is now unemployed. We've gotten no rent payment from them in 2 months - and still had a mortgage payment. That situation is giving us many sleepless nights and our options are grim.

Michigan has been in a one state recession for the past 8 years, and it's just getting worse. One reason I was incredibly surprised to see Governor Jennifer Granholm on Obama's financial team. She has helped run our state into the ground, caused many businesses to leave Michigan and our economy to collapse. I'm not sure I'd be listening intently to her economic advice.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Update on G's asthma

G's peak flow meter readings are showing, as of yesterday, a 50% increase in her lung function since her recent asthma attack almost 2 weeks ago that landed us in the ER. In fact, with this latest change in meds, we have never seen peak flow readings this high. Never.

No cough. None.

I cannot imagine having a drop of 50% in my lung capacity. G describes it as breathing out through a very narrow straw - she feels she cannot exhale. And if you can't exhale the air in your lungs, you can't inhale enough new air. When she coughs, she forces air out of her airways, and that enables her to take a new breath.

This has been her quickest recovery from a significant asthma attack. We continue to make progress and get a better handle on this. And we've even dropped one medication completely, although we upped the dosage on another.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mommy brag...

Our church

G was chosen to read the scripture reading at todays' school mass. She did an awesome job! She was very nervous to walk up in front of the entire school.




Inside of our church.

It's a Cathedral, so it's very large and more than a little intimidating. And because she is shorter than any of the other students, her teacher brought her a special chair from the classroom to stand on, so she could see over the lecturn and reach the microphone. As Wood and I watched her walk up there, she looked so very tiny. She did wonderfully and spoke with great fluency and clarity.
She is a phenomenal reader. Her teacher told me yesterday that G was recently given a reading test at school. She was given a timed test of an unfamiliar passage at about the 4th grade level. During the 1 minute test, she read aloud 174 words with 100% accuracy.
Good things can come in very small packages.







Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Words from a great President

"The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me."

"In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book."

"...I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side."

"There is more involved in this contest than is realized by every one. There is involved in this struggle the question whether your children and my children shall enjoy the privileges we have enjoyed."

Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election

We have come to the end of a long journey. This was a historic election. The fact that we are seeing an African American President in the White House is wonderful and amazing. In this, I rejoice. All Americans should be celebrating tonight. It is hopeful and optimistic progress for our country and something we should be proud of as Americans.

However, I'm still deeply, deeply dissapointed. I believe that life, all life, is sacred. To me, that is a foundational issue. It is a deep part of who I am, my faith, my family and my life. President Elect Obama's stance of no restrictions whatsoever at any time on abortion is more than deeply troubling. There are many other issues that I dissagree with Obama's platform, but this one holds special significance. It is difficult not to feel despair for the most vulnerable in our society tonight.

Looking forward, I pray that Obama leads with strength and great wisdom and is able, with his youth and enthusiam, to unite our country. These are difficult times for our country. We face many challenges and we need to work together, beginning tomorrow, to solve some difficult problems facing all of it's citizens. That is the strength of our country. We may not always win, but we are all Americans.

God bless America.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Snow storm!

Just because I'm supposed to leave town today for Milwaukee. Wood and I are hoping the storm will pass in a few hours, delaying my departure but I'd still arrive in Milwaukee tonight. If not, I may not be able to leave until early, early am. The problem with traveling through the UP, is that there is no cell service between towns. And through the majority of the trip through the UP, cities/towns are few and far between. So, if you have car trouble, slide off the road, or hit one of the numerous deer, you are out of luck in calling for help, until someone passes by. Not exactly the kind of conditions G and I want to be traveling solo in.

I'm going to have to go dig out my pumpkins on the porch pretty soon. The girls are chomping at the bit to get snowpants on and get outside, especially A, who is a true northern girl.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

better today...

but G still has a significant cough. No improvements on the peak flow meter yet. It's rainy and cold, so we'll stick close to home today.

Since we were stuck around the house yesterday, I worked on G's halloween costume. She's going to be Jessie from Toy Story. We got a red foam hat from Dollar Tree, and I punched holes in the brim, and threaded white rope through it. She has a pink long sleeved shirt with buttons down the front - I tacked on Yellow felt at the top yoke and we glued on some sequins. I made yellow felt cuffs, with white felt fringe to take to the cuffs of the shirt.

I sewed some basic tubes out of some cheap white and black cow print fabric, sewing into the seams some white felt "fringe" at the bottom. Then I tacked the tubes on a pair of her plain blue jeans. Voila, perfect cowgirl chaps. I'm going to print out a picture of the bulls horn belt buckle and glue it to some cardboard, and it will be her belt buckle. The pants are absolutely perfect, and look so much better than the store bought costume.

I haven't brought out the sewing machine since we moved. I've forgotten how much I like to sew. I used to be the proud owner of Chumbas Diapers when G was a baby and spent my days (and nights) making AIO's and pocket diapers. My basement was FULL of hemp, fleece, velour and PUL. The business was my "baby" and it grew well beyond my capabilities to handle solo. The new owner (I sold the business) doesn't seem to be selling anything anymore, which is sad. The website is still just how I left it, just devoid of merchandise. The pics of what diapers are still posted were made by me. I designed the little Chumbas baby logo. The customer comments are from customers who bought from me. I have a good sewing machine and serger (which is still packed away) from when I owned the business. Wood bought me a BEAUTIFUL sewing table cabinet to hold both, back when we lived in the tiny little house downstate. It's my own little sewing center.


Here's a pic of G and mommy making diapers for a customer order. G was a little peanut then too - over 8 lbs at birth, only 15 lbs by age 1, just broke 20 lbs by her second birthday.

G in one of mommy's dipes. I made elmo a matching diaper too :)


G was the original Chumbas baby - see any resemblance? G was so healthy when she was a baby - she was rarely sick, and never ever had even an ear infection. I know correlation isn't causation, however, within months of beginning her immunizations just prior to A coming home, at age 3+ she began her chronic illnesses and respiratory issues.


I still have some cute PRR (Painting Red Rhino's) children's boutique fabric tucked away that I got through fabric co-ops when I ran the business. I should drag it out and make cute jumpers for the girls.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

ER trip....

Last night we had to take G to the ER with a bad asthma attack. She couldn't expell air from her lungs well unless she coughed it out, and we couldn't break the attack with it's non-stop coughing with our rescue inhaler.

She got a turbo charged breathing treatment, chest x-ray, high dose steriod (yuck, yuck, yuck) and antibiotic.

We have new scripts at home for prenisolone in tapering doses (cuz she got a mega dose in the ER), antibiotic, and robittusin with codeine.

She became practically manic within 10 minutes of the steriod. However, she was able to breath. Even then, she could only blow about 150 on the peak flow meter - not great at all.

We all got to bed around 4am.

The fear of her not being able to breath absolutely terrifies me.

Tuesday we have our appt in Milwaukee.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Birthdays and mothers.....



Today is my birthday. I have waay more candles than shown on the cake here, but I didn't want to start a virtual fire! I'm - well, old enough to have a daughter who will be 22 in a few months.

It's now been 2 years since I've had any contact with my mother. Last year it didn't bother me so much - this year it really does. I've always had a difficult relationship with my mother - the ugly incident over A's adoption 2 years ago (yes, a FULL year after she had been home) is one of the worst, but by no means the only one.

As a mother, how do you simply "forget" about one of your children? Her last words to me were "well then I guess I only have three daughters now". I have 3 sisters. Does she acknowledge that today she gave birth to me? Wonder about her grandchildren? Or is it just another day in her life? There are some mothers who would do anything to be with or talk to their children, especially birth mothers of children who have been adopted. And then there are mothers who can simply throw their relationship with their children away, as if it were trivial and insignificant.

How will I explain it to A someday, who already has deep fears about loosing another mother? That I have a mother, who is living and well, who simply refuses to acknowledge or speak to her daughter? Will my assurances and actions that I will always love her, always be her mother, even when she is grown and on her own sound like empty promises?

I can empathize, at least at some level, about birthday reactions of adoptive children. Today seems like a day of huge loss, not of joy and celebration. I have so much, my beautiful family, loving husband, a mother-in-law who treats me like a daughter, a wonderful life. But what does it say about you when your own mother rejects you? No matter how much you have in life, how many people love and care for you, so much comes back to your relationship with your birth mother. It's not about how much I have, how grateful I am, how wonderful my currrent family is. It's a pain deep in the heart and soul. The gift here is that it gives me so much insight and greater clarity about how my daughter feels or may feel about this situation in her own life.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

brrrr

We are now past peak fall colors - the trees are well on their way to bare. Today was downright cold - but beautiful. Sales at the store picked up today and yesterday - folks can only put off buying the cold weather gear for so long.

This begins the time of year that life becomes more than hectic. All of November and December I work every Sat and Sunday. If I'm lucky, I'll get a half to a whole day off during the week, but not always. Last year, I think I had one 19 day consecutive stretch at work. Workdays stretch to 10-12 hrs, with 15+ hrs on weekend days. This year might be particularly brutal - with the economy slowing, I don't have as much staff on hand, nor can I do much seasonal hiring this year.

This year should be particularly interesting with Wood working in the Propane business. Looks like it will be the busy season for BOTH of us, which isn't going to work well at all. I'm used to Wood picking up all the loose ends when I'm practically living at work. He left town this morning for some training downstate and won't be back until late tomorrow night. I can't believe I used to be a single mother - I depend on my better half so very much!

Due to the job, we can't travel anywhere around the holidays. And, we live near no family. It kills us not to be able to get together with Woods' family for the holidays - either thanksgiving or Christmas. My family, well, that's for another post.

I had to take Miss A to the dr's today - such an incredibly rare occurance. It is actually eerie how she just doesn't get sick. She's waking up once, if not more, in the middle of the night with bad nosebleeds. It's scary to wake up with a child standing next to your bed dripping blood - not crying, just standing there bleeding. None of my other three children EVER had a nosebleed unless they injured their nose. Asrat's had them fairly frequently since she's been about 2.5. But never every single day like this. The dr took blood to check platelets and look for clotting issues. Also to see if she is becoming anemic due to the frequent nosebleeds. Then, he might refer us to an ENT to have a thin, flexible scope put through her nose to see what's going on.

We saw big sister M over the weekend and her new house she rented with a roommate. Very, very cute. The girls loved seeing her cat, whose name is...oh, I forgot, but Miss A renamed her "Sparkle Seraphina". Yup, just your run of the mill name for a cat.....

M's hair is now purple. The girls were in awe and amazement. My coworkers are telling me to relax about it -she has no piercings, tattoos, or anything else permanent. I know, I know. But couldn't it be colored something a little more along the natural scale of things?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

it's time to go to Milwaukee again...

For G's appt at Children's Hospital. We considered trying to push it back, but traveling in the winter (which is late Oct thru - late April) is really hard up and can be dangerous here due to the immense amount of snow. We are set up for Oct 28th and it will be just her and I again this time.

These appts are well worth it, but they end up costing us several hundred $$ in travel expenses and copays. G's prescription and dr's visit copays and deductables are so much better now that we have switched to Wood's insurance, but we still have quite a few medical bills from earlier in the year - both her and I. She's still coughing somewhat from her early September cold - not badly, but it HAS been 6 going on 7 weeks.

I hate traveling so far by myself. This time, though, I will make sure we have someplace to stay prior to leaving home! If we have time, maybe we can spend a few hours at the zoo, which is right near Children's hospital.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In Obama's Senate office, women make .83 to the dollar

I was really surprised about this one. I really thought it would have been the opposite.

"Barack Obama claims he's for equal pay for women, but women working in his Senate office earn an average of $9,000 less than men, while women in John McCain's Senate office earn an average of nearly $2,000 more than men. American women understand that real leadership is about what you do, not just what you say." -- McCain-Palin spokeswoman Crystal Benton

FACT CHECK: Records Show Women Working In Obama's Senate Office Were Paid Average Of $9,000 Less Than Men

According To Senate Records, Women Working In Obama's Senate Office Paid An Average Of $9,000 Less Than Men, As "Obama Pays Women Just 83 Cents For Every Dollar His Men Make." "Obama's commitment to federally mandated pay equity stretches from the Rockies to Wall Street and beyond. And yet it seems to have eluded his Senate office. Compensation figures for his legislative staff reveal that Obama pays women just 83 cents for every dollar his men make." (Deroy Murdock, Op-Ed, "Obama Only Talks Good Game On Gender Pay Equity," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/11/08)
Columnist Deroy Murdock: "In short, these statistics suggest that John McCain is more than fair with his female employees, while Barack Obama -- at the expense of the women who work for him -- quietly perpetuates the very same pay-equity divide that he loudly denounces. Of all people, the Democratic standard bearer should understand that equal pay begins at home." (Deroy Murdock, Op-Ed, "Obama Only Talks Good Game On Gender Pay Equity," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/11/08)
FACT CHECK: From October 2007 Through March 2008, Full Time Male Employees In The Senate Office Of Sen. Barack Obama Earned An Average Annual Salary Of $9,226.49 More Per Employee Than Full Time Female Employees:
The Average Annual Salary For Male Employees Employed In The Senate Office Of Sen. Barack Obama Was $54,379.16 compared to $45,152.57 for female employees. (Legistorm Website, www.legistorm.com, Accessed 9/1/08)


Of The Five Highest Paid Obama Staffers, Only One Is Female. (Legistorm Website, www.legistorm.com, Accessed 9/1/08)


Of The 20 Highest Paid Obama Staffers, Only 7 Are Female. (Legistorm Website, www.legistorm.com, Accessed 9/1/08)
FACT CHECK: From October 2007 Through March 2008, Full Time Male Employees In The Senate Office Of Sen. John McCain Earned An Average Annual Salary Of Nearly $1,942.21 Less Per Employee Than Full Time Female Employees:
The Average Annual Salary For Male Employees Employed In The Senate Office Of Sen. John McCain Was $53,936.15 compared to $55,878.36 for female employees. (Legistorm Website, www.legistorm.com, Accessed 9/1/08)


Of The Five Highest Paid McCain Staffers, Three Are Female. (Legistorm Website, www.legistorm.com, Accessed 9/1/08)


Of The 20 Highest Paid McCain Staffers, 13 Are Female. (Legistorm Website, www.legistorm.com, Accessed 9/1/08)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Car seats

A is almost 5 and G is 6. Both girls are in carseats. Full, 5pt harnessed carseats. Michigan just changed it's law over the summer that children must be in a carseat or booster until age 9 or 4'9" tall. So this is the first year that the school must have seats for all children on field trips.

The teacher thinks this is as easy as parents dropping off boosters and then the parent drivers putting them in their car for a field trip. G does not weigh 40 pounds, and therefore doesn't weigh enough to safely use a booster. Even if she did, She fits well in her 5-pt carseat (Britax Regent in one car - goes to 85 pounds and Britax Marathon in the other - goes to 65 lbs) and this is what I prefer.

It literally takes me 15-20 minutes to correctly install the seat in our cars. And I've done it many, many times and am familiar with the installation. There are cars that it just doesn't fit into. It has to be tethered or it can't be used. We had to install a tether anchor in one of cars because it didn't have one. When we rent a car to travel, I have to read the owner's manual for the vehicle to ensure I'm installing it correctly for that vehicle. I've read the owner's manual for the carseat several times, as the seat belts different for different child weights, car configurations, etc.

While I'm sure boosters are simpler, I'm sure it's just as important to be aware of how to install each variety correctly and to understand how the seatbelts in each car operate (i.e. do they have to be put into a "locked" position? etc.) I personally have never used a booster, and have no idea of how they install, if the seat belt has to be locked, etc.

How in the world does the school expect to get the kids and their boosters/carseats safely installed in a few minutes prior to a field trip? G's carseat either can't be installed or be installed safely in several different types of vehicles.

They just aren't thinking this through. Am I really the only parent that cares about these things?

Friday, October 10, 2008

school rant...

G can read at probably a third or 4th grade level at this point. Yet she comes home with spelling words that are way too easy for her. Last week was "pin, tin, bin, pit, sit, kit, fin, sin, bin, two". When I practice them with her at night, she just rattles them off without even thinking. She gets 100% on her spelling tests. Now she is coming home with little books that then entire class brings home to "practice". Here's a few sentences of that this week's book: "The dog got a hat. it was a tin pot. Did the tin pot fit the dog? No it did not. The pig got a hat. It was a pot top." G is reading "Charlie and the Chocolate factory" and reads the newspaper.....

I talked to the teacher shortly after the beginning of the school year. That week, she sent G home with a really neat book. Now we are back to the early readers.

School = many children, one mold. Each child is funneled though the same place, at the same pace, regardless of their needs. G is getting tremendously bored. We give her more appropriate and harder "homework" to do at home ourselves. But that's just making her lose even more interest in her classwork as she moves further and further ahead.

I don't want to have to keep bringing this up with the teacher. I certainly don't want to sound like one of "those" parents who believes that everything their child does is gifted. But G could easily be doing the work in 1 or 2 grades higher. From all signs thus far, it will not come as easily to A, and she will be the student who needs to start 1st grade at the level the teacher is teaching to. So how do I fix this for G?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

C is for patakiller....


Almost three years home, A still has some speech issues. She picked up english at a phenonmenol rate, but sentence structure and pronunciation have been more slowly aquired. Sound reversals, as in patakiller = catapiller are not uncommon.

We've had her speech evaluated twice in the past, and she scored within normal limits for her age both times. Definite issues were noted, but it was still considered relatively "normal" for her age. Now that she is 5, I'm thinking we should probably have her tested again. I don't notice these tendencies as much with her peers. Also, in Pre-k, they have been working on letter sounds. She doesn't seem to be able to recognize the sounds letters make, even very simple ones, which is also compounded by her pronunciation - she doesn't associate, for example, catapiller beginning with a C, or even K sound, because she pronounces it with a "p".

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Do you have a mother?

Over the past few days, the girls have been getting to know and playing with the kids across the street. The mother of the family works with me. We used one of their 7th grade twins to babysit for us once for a few hours in a pinch. They have a younger son, age 8. The 8 year old boy has been coming over and asking to play with the girls. They've been all playing outside together - in their backyard, our backyard or throwing a ball out front. The 7th grade girl and sometimes her twin brother, have been playing with the kids too. Funny, they've not played together all summer, and now that it's getting cold, they have become friends.

My co-worker came in today and told me about the following conversation that A had with her daughter yesterday:

A: "Do you have a mother?"
friend: "yes, of course. Everyone has a mother."
A: "No, not everyone. Sometimes moms get lost."

Friday, September 26, 2008

School pics....

of the dynamic duo.


G has her first cold of the season. Set in about the second week of school. Her new medication regimine appears to be working, even when she's sick. She doesn't sound great, is coughing, and you can tell she has something more than just the average cold. But her breathing is great. She's able to sleep at night. No shortness of breath or labored breathing. It's almost miraculous, the change from last year to this year. Last fall was when we used her inhaler around the clock, every 4 hours, for 28 straight days,along with her other meds. She was miserable, we were extremely frightened. While I'm still quite uncomfortable with the adult dosage of inhaled steriods that she is on and the fact that she takes 6 prescriptions, I can't deny that they have drastically altered her quality of life. We are so blessed.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The frost is on the pumpkin...

The dynamic duo have been begging for footed pj's. It's gotten quite cold, and I broke down and picked them up some at work. It's going to be a looong winter!


Talking to big brother B, away at college.The girls miss him terribly.






G is so tiny she still can wear a 5T!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

another son?

Our family is supposed to be complete. We have 4 children ages 21 down to 4 years old. We have 2 in college, 2 in very early elementary and are still recovering from Wood's recent prolonged period of unemployment. Another child doesn't logically make any sense. People would think we were off our rocker (well, really, they thought that when I announced I was pregnant with G, putting a 13 year gap since her older brother was born. When, exactly, did it become "ok" to ask "was it planned??")

But I feel we are being led in this direction. Strongly. And the son I see is about 6 or 7. Out of birth order. I don't know how we would pull it off, but yet I still feel we are being asked to follow. We didn't have the money for A's adoption either, but we trusted God to help us. Shortly before we traveled, a friend from church mediated an ongoing property dispute we had with a neighbor. He negotiated a sale of a portion of property for market value- which turned out to be the EXACT amount we needed for the adoption.

This time, however, it seems like a larger leap and I'm having trouble trusting with such certainty like I did last time. Problems of "this world" have hit us pretty hard over the past two years. But that's not where I put my faith - in the things of this world.

Friday, September 19, 2008

sleep...

Suddenly, the girls are going to bed quickly and easily. And both sleeping soundly through the night. Frequently, one or the other found their way into our bed at night. No more.

I actually miss it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Conversations with A.....

Tonight at the dinner table:

A: Seilar kicked me today.
Me: Really? what happened?
A: She kicked me in the stomach on purpose. I kicked her in the head on accident.
Me: How did that happen?
A: We were on the monkey bars.
Me: Maybe Seilar kicked you on accident too?
A: No, hers was on purpose.
Me: How do you know?
A: because it really, really hurt bad.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Herding cats....

I went along to the all school mass yesterday as a parent helper. I asked the teacher in the morning if she needed more help. She said she thought they were all set, but if I wanted to come, that was fine. She is new to the school, and this was her first mass with the pre-K. Haah, boy, was she ever wrong!

She only had one parent attend, for 14 pre-k students, along with her room aide. I was the second parent. I would say at least 1/2, if not more, of the students had never been in a church during a service before. I don't believe the teacher (whom I don't believe is Catholic), prepared the kids for 1) what Mass would entail 2) what the behaviour expectations were.

It was horrible. If I had any reservations that A had attention deficit issues, my fears have been resoundingly put to rest. A was the best behaved child there. Quiet and repectful. The teacher DID NOT have control over the class. There were pages ripped out of the hymnals (which the kids should have been told not to touch - they can't read, why do they need them?), kids tried to wander, talk, play, etc. It was exactly like trying to herd a group of cats.

I tried to follow the teacher's lead - I didn't want to step on any toes or cross over any lines with other people's children. But it got so ridiculous, I started to enforce my own rules. The little girls sitting by me finally got that I was serious, and behaved, with more than a few glares in my direction. One little boy took 95% of the teacher's time and attention. If he behaves like that in class, I'm not sure the teacher has any time for any other child. He was horrible, horrible. The teacher couldn't control ANY of his behavior.

There was a little girl who was sitting by the teacher's aide who just wouldn't listen. When the aide left to take another child to the bathroom, I tried to get her to behave. She just looked at my defiantly and told me "no, I won't". Geez, when did kids loose their fear other authority figures? My children wouldn't dream of telling an adult "no, I won't" to a request like "sit down and be quiet".

A is so much more mature and well behaved than her classmates. Perhaps my fears have been unfounded. It is hard not to compare your children to their siblings at the same age. Compared to her classmates and peers, she is more in line with the Kindergateners, than the Pre-K class and way beyond them in impulse control, behavior and ability to listen.

I now plan to attend the weekly school mass, because obviously the teacher needs as much help as she can get. But I shudder to repeat the experience. I do expect kids to wiggle, get bored, and have age -appropriate lapses in behavior. I didn't expect a three-ring circus. Of couse, the Pre-k sits in the very front of the church, so no one could miss any of the antics.

I was so incredbly proud as A, who ignored her classmates and fully participated in the service, singing the hymns she knew, reciting prayers.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Good school day...

The Enkutatash cupcakes at school were a BIG hit, and both girls loved sharing them and the Ethiopian holiday with their classes. I think it really helped A's transition to the new school and classroom. She was very, very proud, and really liked having a special holiday that was just "hers" to share with her class. Tomorrow the girls have their first all school Mass. Hopefully A will continue her new positive attitude towards school, even after realizing that it will mean Mass twice a week going forward - once at school and once with us on the weekend.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Enkutatash

Tomorrow is Enkutatash - Ethiopian New Year - 2001. Our family celebrates every year. Two years ago, we had a big party at our house and invited all our friends and coworkers. Last year it was a special family dinner. This year, the kids wanted to do something at school.

Here's what we did:







The box is what the cupcakes are in, and the girls glued a sheet that explains Enkutatash to the top of the box. A + G had a blast making the cupcakes, and tinting the frosting. I know the end results doesn't exactly look like the Ethiopian flag, but we needed to use cupcakes, not a cake. Each of the girls made a "flag" out of cupcakes for their class. They also picked out daisies to bring in to their teachers. The "vases" we are using for the daisies are 2 for $1.00 plastic tumblers from the dollar store stacked together in red, yellow and green. Melkam Addis Amet!

First frost...

It's been close all week, but we got an actual frost last night. Yesterday morning, it was really too cold for the girls to wear fall coats - but I just couldn't bring myself to haul out the winter ones yet. I did buy mittens and mitten clips yesterday........

A wants to be Jasmine for halloween. She is really not getting that it will be freezing, and most likely have snow. A thin bellydancer costume just isn't going to cut it (not to mention inappropriate for Catholic school.......)

The cold is good for my sales at work, which have been awful, awful, awful as the economy slows. Store managers are held fully accountable for sales - great, so now I'm personally responsible for the nation's economic conditions and Michigans' one state recession with it's 8% unemployment. Powerful, aren't I?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Our trip to Toledo

Scenes from our trip to Toledo for my grandfather's 99th birthday.







Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A letter to the teacher...

Dear teacher;

How did the "All about me?" go for A today? I didn't anticipate having to deal with an issue like a birthfamily member photo this so early in the year, but my daughter knows her own mind and what she wanted to include in the project.

Until she gets a bit older, A will need help from her teachers
to answer adoption related issues. Since adoption is natural to her,
she's never had to independently answer questions about it, or why she has other parents, etc. We've found that other children (and their parents) are very curious about it, which sometimes becomes quite intrusive. We've always been the buffer for her on this.

Additionally, we feel very strongly that her birth story belongs to her only, and it's her choice whether to share it or not as she gets older. A is very familiar with her background and personal history. As her parents, however, we mostly give vague information, like why children are sometimes adopted from Ethiopia and other places, how old she was when she came home, and that she has another family who loves her.

However, at this age, I don't think she realizes that once very personal information is out, it can't be taken back. And there will come a day, as with most adoptees, that she will just want to be "another kid" and not want adoption to set her out as different, as much as that is possible. And it may bother her immensely to have personal, private information out among her classmates. She still needs support and assistance from all the adults in her life to help navigating these waters.

What we're asking is that adoption also be mentioned as one way families are formed, if the classroom discussion talks about families. As to specifics about A personally, she is proud to be Ethiopian, likes to talk sometimes about things that are Ethiopian, and knows basic concepts about adoption. If anything other than that is discussed, she'll need help from you to deflect the conversation to not be specifically about her, but maybe adoption in general. Same with skin color questions - we get asked a LOT from small children why we don't "match". We don't
talk about A or adoption specifically, but say that "families don't have to match - some families do match, but a lot don't". We also don't talk about A being adopted (singling her out) rather we (our entire family) are an adoptive family, like many other adoptive families - Jesus, Superman and Moses were all from adoptive families which can be a fun conversation to have with kids and also takes her out of the focus.

She is beginning to realize that to become a member of our family, that means she had to stop being part of another family, and this can be a difficult thing for her. For things like Mother's day especially, she realizes that she has more than 1 mother, and we place a lot of importance on her Ethiopian mother in our home. She may or may no want to include her Ethiopian family in projects involving family.

If you plan to have intake conferences, I'd be happy to sit down and talk about it with you, or at another time. Just let me know.

Sincerely, "A's" mom

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First day of school.....

It went well for the dynamic duo. So far, so good. Today was all excitement and good stuff. I'm still holding my breath.


Ready for School


A's classroom





G's classroom

The girls came home incredibly tired. G was exceptionally cranky. It's always hard to get everyone back on schedule.

A came home with a large sheet of construction paper on which she was to do an "All about me" page. We were to fill this paper with photographs of people and things that are important to A.

Here's what A chose: photograph of injera and Ethiopian food on a mesob, a photo of big sister B and M, a photo of Daddy, G and A, a photo of G and her, a photo of the entire family, an Ethiopian and American flag, a sticker that says "Everyone loves an Ethiopian girl" and....a photo of her Ethiopian mother.

I'm glad that she chose that photo as one that is important to her. It makes me tear up to see the photo of A pasted next to that of her ET mother - the similarities are so very striking. However, I wonder if it will bring up questions in class that perhaps she is not quite prepared for.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Got a kick out of

talking to my grandfather. He was telling me about how he worked on a freighter on the Great Lakes the summer before he finished High School. And how that was in the 1920's. Can you imagine? His mind is sharp as a tack, even if he's not moving so fast these days. But moving he is - he insisted on personally giving me the grand tour of the new apartment they live in. I thought it was an assisted living facility, but it's actually independent living retirement community. So they have their own little apartment, that looks like a small condo, with an attached garage and a patio in the backyard.
I can't believe how well he and his wife handle everything at their age. What a blessing.

Makes me miss my dad, though. He never saw Wood and I get married, and G and A never got to meet him.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Road trip

We are headed to Ohio to see relatives - my grandfather, his wife, my aunt and uncle and some of my cousins. We are celebrating my grandfather's 99th birthday. Wow! Because everyone lives so far away, this is the first time we've seen them in several years, so they've never met A.

This is my father's side of the family. My father died over 10 years ago, when he was only 55. My grandmother died in her early 50's. Hopefully, I have my grandfather's genes!

We'll try to get to Detroit tonight, then head into Ohio tomorrow. So it's a LONG trip, as it takes us about 8.5 hrs just to get to Detroit. Lots of videos for the car. We'll head back on Monday. School starts Tuesday.

I need to get Miss A's hair done before we go, so it will look good for the trip, and for the start of school. Trying to think of what will be fairly fast and easy, but still last through the first week of school.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

resiliancy

A friend told me today "don't worry so much about A - you know how kids are so resiliant."

re·sil·ience

The ability to recover quickly from illness, change, or misfortune; buoyancy.
The property of a material that enables it to resume its original shape or position after being bent, stretched, or compressed; elasticity.

Kids are resilient. So are adults. We learn how to stretch until we think we will break, how to recover, bounce back, but we are never exactly the same again. Some are forced to learn this earlier than others, but we all have to be able to move on with life, flow with what comes, and even if we don't do it well, we do learn to somehow bounce back.

Resilient, however, does not mean impenetrable ... everything sinks in and stays there ... and bouncing back does not negate the bruising that happens in the process.

Yes, kids do bounce, but they bruise. And the bruises take a long, long time to heal.

Telling the preschool....

that A would be going to G's school starting next week. Wood had to do it yesterday. I would have burst into tears.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The decision is made

We will be putting A at G's school for pre-K. Part of the decision is financial - We are still feeling the impact of Wood being unemployed for 6 months. To have 2 children from the same family at one school is significantly more affordable than having 1 child each at 2 separate schools. Both girls will still go to the preschool afterschool and in the summer, so there won't be a complete break with the staff or the teachers for A.

Our older children's college tuituion has risen almost 8% each this year. However, we aren't making 8% more, and all our expenses have risen significantly. Prices are high up here - for gas alone, we pay about .20 a gallon more than those outside the UP. I'm always envious when I hear the reports of the nationwide average for gas - I really wish those were our prices. Woods driving 22 miles each way for work these days. Fortunately, I only go a few miles. One tank of gas lasts me about 3 weeks.

Wood thinks we have created enough of a stir that the school will work hard to make it work. I hope so.

I am fiercely protective of A, more so than with any of my other children. My instinct is to shield and protect her. Physically, she is a tough kid. Emotionally, she can be very fragile. I've been her mom for 2.5 years and I don't always know where the line is, what is going to trigger her.

Perhaps I should just be thankful we don't live in England. I read this yesterday:

Monday, August 25, 2008

Brrrrr

Woke up freezing - it's currently 41 degrees. Apparently summer is over.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Mass....

"Momma, why are there no other chocolate people like me?"

Ouch. We have diversity in many areas of our lives, but our parish is not one of them. There are only a few black Catholics in our community.

African American Catholics are still very much the minority, not only among African Americans in general, most of whom are Protestant, but also within the Church. While as many as three million African-Americans are Catholic, they make up only about three percent of all U.S. Catholics. And while there are more than 1,000 parishes that are predominantly African-American, most of the other 18,000 U.S. Catholic parishes are predominantly white.

There have been many influential black leaders and Saints in the Catholic Church, including one of my favorites, St. Augustine. St. Moses, was an Ethiopian desert monk born around 330. There have also been 3 Popes from Africa. There are 200 million Catholics of African decent worldwide.

But that is not what my daughter sees when she looks around our church on Sunday.
We are apparently not alone in this struggle - only 5% of all churches in America are truely integrated, according to this CNN article.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I was civil...

Really, I was. The principal cited changes to their program, that were almost exactly word-for-word from my letter to the superintendent last spring. So, are those really the changes, or does she know that's what I want to hear? After my impassioned plea to allow the A's preschool to start a kindergarten program (which the Diocese shut down immediately - can't have competition, you know), and detailing the great program and excellent teaching staff at the preschool, the Catholic elementary school actively recruited the lead teacher at A's school to be the new pre-K teacher at their school. That was so not my intention. But A would have a teacher that I love and that she knows well.

I had left the school last spring with a packet of information on adoption and schools, and she did appear to have read it. She seemed facinated with positive adoption language that was from an article in Adoptive Families. Apparently they've never given it much (if any thought). I know G had at least 2 children in her classroom last year who were adopted. But after the mother's day presentation last year, where motherhood was tied to birth only, I'm not sure it registers much. I offered to give a presentation to the teachers and buy some books, both for the teaching staff, as well as the school library. The principal took me up on those offers, so it's a start. In our conversations last year, she honestly thought adoption and/or race would never come up in a school setting. I gave her enough examples from our personal experience that I think she has rethought this position.

When we got to the point about the Gesell, Wood asked her if we were in agreement that A wouldn't participate. I could see that wasn't sitting well. I jumped into the issues I had with how the test was "normed" and it's rather dubious purpose and history. I believe this was the first time they had heard this information. Hmmph, you'd think they'd know a bit more about a testing system they use, wouldn't you? She quickly agreed that A wouldn't have to take the test. I'd feel better if they abolished the dang thing. Our public schools use it too.

This is our first foray into non-public school. Wood and I are both products of public school. I went to inner city Detroit schools. Our two older children, M and B, went to public schools. I felt so weary of battling and advocating for my children through their years in the public schools. Schools say they want parental involvement. What they really want is for you to sell magazines, wrapping paper, and be on the PTA. What they don't want is valid questions about the curriculum or any other issue in the school. BTW, least you think this attributable to where we live, we didn't live here when my older children were going through school. We lived in Metro Detroit, and my children attended one of the "top" public school districts in the entire state. One of my older children had a learning disability, and that took a tremendous amount of effort with the schools to ensure his needs were met appropriately. In frustration, I pulled him out of school and homeschooled him for 7th and 8th grades. He very successfully entered High School in 9th grade. When both of my older children graduated, I felt such a sigh of relief. Now, here we go again.

We have two options where we live - public school, with 26-28 children per early elementary classroom, or Catholic school- with about 15 kids per classroom. that's it - no other choices. We thought that as a paying consumers, we'd have more of a voice. Guess we thought wrong. G did very well last year, but she was on the far one side of the spectrum - her strengths were not adequately addressed in school because she was so far ahead. Even though she was an extremely fluent reader, she would come home with the same sight words to memorize as the rest of her class "to" "the" "and". It bordered on ridiculous. I really don't think the school handles EITHER end of the spectrum well - struggling kids and kids who need to be challenged and advanced both suffer. Everything is geared towards the middle.

The principal and I went head to head last year when I thought the kindergarteners (or at least MY kindergartener), being transported in volunteer parent cars for field trips, should actually be in boosters or carseats. Nope, they just buckle them in...because it's legal. Needless to say, we drove on every field trip and wouldn't allow any children in our car without a restraint. I think that's where I got my reputation for being a troublemaker.

I do like that our faith is an integrated part of our children's school day. It is part of just about everything they do. The rest I'm not so sure about.

I have until Aug 31 to make a final decision. School starts on Sept 2nd.

Edited to add: On July 1, the State of Michigan changed their carseat laws: children under 9 years old or under 4'9" must be at least in a booster seat. We won't have THAT issue this year!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

School meeting

We meet with the principle of G's school today to discuss the possibility of A going to Pre-K there. Wood called her last week to set up the appt. Yesterday, there was a message on my answering machine when I got home from work. It was from the school secretary, trying to set up A's Gesell testing appt. Ok, 1) I haven't decided to send her there yet, so it seems more than a little presumptuous, and 2) We made our feelings quite clear about Gesell testing last year. So obviously, the principle didn't listen to us at all. While I strenuously object to the test for Kindergarten placement, I have absolutly no idea why it would even be done for Pre-K.

Facts about Gesell testing:
1) results can be 30-50% inaccurate. You might as well flip a coin.
2) it is not unusual to have as many as 60% of children tested not be "ready" for Kindergarten.
3) Child development has more accepted theories than those of Gesell. Gesell believed the child development was strictly a result of biology. Environment played no part.
3) The test is "normed" on only 640 Connecticut children between 1911-1930. Incidentally, the children were all white.
4) whatever 1/2 of those children did, was considered "normal".
5)In 10-15 minutes maximum, an unknown teacher to your child in a strange environment is supposed to be able to determine your child's abilities and decide educational placement.
6)It is part of the reason that kindergartens across the country have become increasingly academic.
7)any so called "advantage" of delaying kindergarten a year for certain kids has completely vanished by Grade 3. In fact, studies have shown that kids held back are at higher risk of dropping out of high school, and will achieve less academically than if they would have been placed in the "regular" kindergarten.
8)Studies have also shown that parents who object to D-K placement and pull their child out and place them in regular kindergarten over the schools objections, are more successful in school.
9)Kids who "fail" the Gesell test are frequently put on a slower "track" and treated differently from kids who "pass".

Here's the great part. Want to know what Gesell's testing was used for, back when he developed it? It wasn't kindergarten screening.

It was for adoption placement. Gesell (along with his other contemporaries), were "worried" about placing "bright" children with dull parents. Or more often, worried about placing a "dull" child with bright parents. Gesell believed that adoption was risky and even inappropriate for some children, but he also believed that the risks could be scientifically measured and predicted in advance. He believed that some children were unadoptable because they were products of bad heredity. Gesell trusted developmental testing to prevent the adoption of defective children. He believed that child development occurs solely according to a predetermined, naturally unfolding plan of growth

Here is one of his pre-adoption evaluations, on a 2 year old child, that he feels is "subnormal".

"An Attractive Infant, but Subnormal—Child B (age 26 months)

This child was not seen before the age of 2 years. She was born out of wedlock. Concerning the mother there was only the brief annal, “she is untruthful and peculiar.” The child was boarded in a high-grade family home where the foster mother became deeply attached to her and made plans for her adoption and education.

Postponement of adoption has been urged, because the child just now seems much brighter and “more acceptable” than she really is. She is in the “cute” stage of development which conceals her limitations.

In physical appearance she is attractive; in demeanor she is smiling, responsive, playful. She waves “bye-bye” very genially and plays gleefully with a ball. She is just the kind of child who would smite the heart of questioning adoptive parents. If they yielded to the impulse of affection on the first sight, they would then and there resolve to take her into their own home, give her every educational advantage, and rear her as a charming, refined daughter.

These parents would not be entirely disappointed, because the child is not mentally deficient and her personality make-up is relatively favorable. However, the examination proved that she approximates the 18-month level much more consistently than the 2-year level, and the general quality of her attention was far from satisfactory. On the basis of all the clinical evidence it is extremely doubtful that she will ever be able to complete a high school education. She may have some difficulty in completing the grammar grades. In 10 fleeting years the educational limitations of this child will be more palpably revealed; and there may be genuine pangs of regret.

The economic status and educational purpose of the parents are an important factor in this particular adoptive situation. If at the outset the parents are not ready to relinquish their educational expectations, another child should be sought. Some parents are quite content with a favorable, likable personality irrespective of grammar-school success."

Gesell's writings have been criticized by other psychologists because he did not acknowledge that there are individual differences in child development, and his focus on developmental norms implied that what is typical for each age is also what is desirable.

Why are we subjecting our children to these outdated tests again? When I objected to having G testing, I think they assumed that I felt she wouldn't pass. I knew she would do fine, and she did. I always find it odd, however, that schools always have about 1/2 the kids tested recommended for D-K. Convieniently, just enough to fill a class.

I wonder if I hadn't have thrown a fit over the test, if they would have "recommended" G for D-K, based mostly on her age - she is a June birthday, and one of the younger kids in her classrooom. She also was at at the very top of her class last year. Even with the 6 and 7 year olds that are now in Kindergarten. She is currently reading "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". She reads at a third+ grade level, and probably does classwork at a second grade level.

My belief is that parents are the best judge of their child's readiness. We know our children best. If we feel they need an extra year, it should be our choice, our recommendation. And kindergartens should be child centered and play based, not task and skill oriented. Which would help ALL children fit in to kindergarten better.

Off my soapbox now....I'll let you know how it goes. Wood is afraid I'm going in today ready for a fight. Not if they listen to me.