Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's the great pumpkin!

Want some?

Look what I found!

This is GREAT!

Carving is hard work!

The finished product--what a great job!

That was fun...can we do another?

I picked out the design and helped!

"We" carved our Halloween pumpkin tonight. I use the term "we" loosely as Dave was the carver, with help from Sarah, and the rest of us either got in the way or separated the seeds for roasting!

This was another first for Matthew and more great fun for the rest of the kids. We did not carve a pumpkin last year because we thought we were going to be in China. Because of that, this was kind of a first for Analiese also.
I let each of the kids hold the "guts" of the pumpkin. Boy were there lots of giggles and laughs!

The kids asked if I would make some pumpkin pie. I told them that I would buy canned pumpkin do do that and all I received in return were groans and no's. That was until they held the guts and agreed that canned pumpkin would be MUCH better for pie and bread!

It was nice spending time together laughing and enjoying each other. The kids asked us if we carved pumpkins as kids. Both Dave and I said no. They wanted to know why. Dave said "because it wasn't a southern tradition" and I had no answer. I wonder why we never carved a pumpkin when I was kid????

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What a weekend!

Sarah practicing for "Band Stand Boogie"

The surprise we saw when we checked on the girls---that's a hair band over her eyes!

Dave with the scarecrow

Our silly crew!

Into the corn maize we go!

Yum, marshmallows!

Don't you just love the look of happiness!!

Try not to burn the marshmallows

So many pumpkins!

Cows, pigs, donkeys and horses--Oh My!

It's been a crazy but fun weekend. On Saturday morning we started out with a dance performance for Sarah at a local fall festival. Immediately after the performance we had to go to midtown Atlanta for her Nutcracker practice and photo shoot. By the time we arrived home it was after 5 PM.

But, the day wasn't yet over. We had planned to go to a local farm to ride the "haunted hayride" and walk through the corn-maize--all at night to make it more exciting. So, off we went to the country (about an hours drive).

We had a blast! When we arrived at the farm, at about 6:45, there was hardly a soul there. I had a sinking feeling that I had made a poor choice and the night would be a bust. With a smile I rounded up the kids and headed to the barn. When I purchased our tickets for the hayride I was told it would be an hour before the ride!!! It seems they had already sold out of the earlier rides!

So, we went and purchased a pumpkin (an overpriced one at that!), and roasted some marshmallows while we waited. For most of the kids, except Sarah, it was their first time roasting marshmallows. I had to do most of the roasting but the kids had no trouble eating them! Matthew had a blast setting his on fire and then eating the inside.

It finally started to get dark and we went to go through the maize with our "tiny" flashlights given to us. Funny Dave tried to scare the kids. I had all 3 girls hanging on me out of fear and Matthew asking every minute, "What was that", I had to put a stop to his antics! We made it through the maize even though the kids never thought we'd get there. It was fun, the corn was high and it was dark enough to make it spooky. Maybe next year Dave can shake the stalks and "boo" all he wants!

The kids were anxious to get on with the hay ride. When it was finally our turn we were told the story of 3 armed Sam and the woman with 2 heads. Our task, we were informed, was to bring back the head and the extra arm so we could give it the rightful owners. Off we went. It was so dark in the woods and the "toot fairy" (make a wish every time you fart) was hysterical, as was the pirate who told us to bring him back some treasure. There were some scary parts, when unexpected people would jump out from the trees but tempered by everyone on the ride trying to get the head from the young lady running around and sing-songing, "I know you want my head" and the candy and treasure being thrown onto the cart.

By the time the ride was over the kids (and adults) were laughing and enjoying themselves. Even sweet Analiese, who normally is fearful of the unknown, could not stop talking about how much fun she had. Hopefully the farm will do this again next year because we sure will go again (Yahoo Farm in Jasper).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

It's been a while

Sarah showing off her back-handspring!

Grace and Maddie enjoying waffles and fruit with the all important whipped creme!

Duchess and her hurt paw.

Silly Clarence!

Even sillier Ginger!

Wow, time is just flying by! We've been busy enjoying the fall weather. We've had some first experiences and also closed a chapter in our lives.

Grace enjoyed having one of her friends spend the night for the first time. Grace has gone on sleep overs but we've never had any of her friends stay here! It was so much fun for her! Of course Analiese (and Matthew) wanted to be in on all of the activities but Grace didn't want to share. Being the older sister, Sarah painted all of the girls nails and did some art projects with them. Grace and her friend, Maddie, loved the attention!

Sarah has been enjoying practicing for the Nutcracker. Her mouse name is Skitter! Sarah went for her costume fitting this past week and just cannot believe how many layers she must wear! This experience is so wonderful for her. She is seeing the difference between her classes at the dance studio and the Nutcracker with a professional ballet company! Sarah, of course, is rising to the occasion and just loving every minute of it! We should have her performance schedule by November 2nd.

Oh, and Sarah has finally mastered her back-handspring! It really isn't polished but it was wonderful to see her accomplish something she has worked so hard at! The down-side? She now wants to get back into tumbling so she can polish the back-handspring and begin work on some more difficult skills! That means, bye-bye to my free Friday nights....

Sweet Duchess, the only cat that we allow outside, was attacked this past Tuesday. Dave brought the kids home and everyone (including Duchess) went outside to play. When Matthew went into the house for some water, Duchess ran in behind him. Immediately Matthew came running outside to tell Dave that the cat was bleeding.

Duchess was in lots of pain and would not let Dave very close to her. He was able to get her into the laundry room and give her some pain meds. By the time I got home, about 40 minutes later, the paw was so swollen and she had bled all over the floor. We immediately went to the vet who shaved the hair from the paw and did a full exam. It was his opinion that she was attacked by another animal. He cleaned the wound, gave an antibiotic shot and sent us home with meds and care instructions. Miraculously, the cat was walking on her paw within 24 hours and off the pain meds by 36 hours. She is healing nicely but rather angry that she can no longer go outside!

We had our last visit with our social worker, June, today. It was the 12 month post placement report visit for Matthew's adoption! Our relationship with June began in 2002 when we started our journey to adopt Grace. She has been with us through Grace's adoption, 2 post-placement visits, our adoption of Analiese and 2 post visits and now Matthew. She asked, before she left..."Is this the last?" I immediately said, "YES!" Dave was slower to respond, but after some prompting from me, (Dave? Dave?) he also said, "yes".

Matthew is doing so well these days. Yesterday the kids were home all day with Dave as it was a teacher work day for me. When I came home, Matthew hugged me tightly, kissed me and said, "I missed you all day today." That is so unusual as he generally loves spending time with his Daddy and doesn't miss Mom!

All of the kids are doing GREAT in school. Sarah had a rough start adjusting to the demands and responsibilities of 5th grade but quickly got on the right track, Grace is just shining and progressing so well, Matthew is doing more and more work independently and actually showing great progress in his reading skills. He read, "Dan the Tan Man" to everyone who would listen! Analiese has made the most progress! She just "gets" it!!! She is decoding, and blending her sounds. It is amazing to watch the light bulb burn so brightly!

We also had a visit with the craniofacial team this past week for Analiese. The speech therapist completed some evaluations of her speech and WOW, WOW, WOW! Some of Analiese's sounds are NORMAL!!!! Of course this is wearing the obturator but her speech is clear on so many sounds. This is great news and allows us to put off having any more surgery for her so we can continue to work on her speech!

If we had to pick a complaint it would be that we haven't seen William, Thomas and James in a while. They are very busy with school and activities. Thomas is just doing great, academically, at Tech. William, on the other hand, seems to be very well socially and not as well academically. Oh, growing up and making decisions.... James continues to do well in school and just competed in a race held at Disneyworld in Orlando. We hope to see them soon as the twins 19th (!!!!) birthday is on Halloween.

Life is good for us and we are grateful for everyday we have together. Talking with June today I realized that somewhere in the past 11, sometimes very stressful, months we've all found our new place. My family is, once again, happy and healthy. God continues to bless us!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Tea Party

Can we leave for the party now??

Look at all this pretty jewelry!

Ta Da!

Analiese the birthday princess

Listening to the story of the Pixie

What is the pixie doing now???

You want me to WAIT to eat the cake?!

Cinderella and her wand grown from magic beans.

A breathing treatment before Grace goes off to a sleep-over

Finally! We had Analiese's birthday party today. I was so late in scheduling it this year that we had to wait until this weekend. We chose to have a tea party at the wonderful "Ritzy Pixie" in downtown Dallas! This is a sweet boutique that has great little girl parties.

As you can see from the photos the girls really enjoyed themselves. First they dressed up, put on make-up and had parade through the store into the party room! Once there, they heard a story about how the pixie came to live in the store. They learned that the pixie was as small as their little pinky finger and liked to play tricks while the girls enjoyed their tea and snacks.

Sure enough, during tea time the girls clothing was shrunk, their shoes were stolen and hung up on the chandeliers and the pixie nibbled at their food! The girls were very vigilant to watch the lights blink on and off whenever the fairy ran around, gasp when the pixie answered their questions and where thrilled when the magic beans they planted grew into fairy wands!

The afternoon was so magical. Even the parents, who initially asked if it was OK if they left their daughters, stayed for the party as they were entranced and could not wait to see what would happen next! All grown-up Sarah loved the magic and commented that she wished she had had a party there when she was younger! Even though Grace wouldn't dress up (just like her big sister!) she giggled, laughed and couldn't wait to see what trick the pixie had up sleeve!

Matthew did a great job and waited until the end of the party to eat the leftover cookies. He did participate a little but mostly sat on the side with the parents.

I still love watching the awe on the kids' faces when they truly believe in magic. It so reminds me why I love being a Mom!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A step back to move forward

We moved Matthew back to the first grade.

It was a difficult decision but one that we felt was necessary for Matthew to make progress; not only academically but also emotionally. As Matthew has started sharing with us we've been able to see more clearly his needs and in what direction we need to head toward.

This process has been hard for all of us. For Matthew because there has been a lot of pressure on him, for Dave and I because we thought we had made the right decisions for him. But as it turns out, some of those decisions may have added to the stress Matthew was carrying around.

Yes, we understand that we made the best decisions with the information we had. Knowing that still doesn't take the sting out of feeling that we should have done something else.

We are so fortunate to have so many caring people in our lives. When I sat down and spoke with the school principal this past Friday, she listened, supported me and immediately put things into motion so Matthew could move to his new first grade classroom on Monday!

Before we left school on Friday I told Matthew what our decision was. He was sad and he cried. I explained to him that by going back a grade meant he could learn all of the things the other kids already knew. I told him that second grade was way too hard for him and the first grade teachers were excited to get a chance to teach him. We met his new teacher---she made a HUGE deal out of having Matthew come into her classroom. Matthew was able to pick a desk and choose a spot for it.

On Monday when we arrived at school we went to his second grade classroom to say goodbye to his teacher, who just loved on him (yes there were tears) and then we went to his new classroom. All of the children were THRILLED that Matthew was in their room. Many of the kids already knew Matthew so that was a big plus.

This week has gone so well. We were all prepared for some behavioral issues. But there has not been one! Matthew is working independently and loving it! Some of the math is pretty easy for him as this is a strength. But...it is allowing him to see success. He spends time doing phonics and readily tries to sound out new words.

I spoke to the teacher for the first time today. She told me that he is one of the BEST behaved kids in her class!! YES, YES, YES!!!! Way to go Matthew!

We did some homework this week and here is a great example of how Matthew's language deficits affect his learning:

Me: Matthew, let me read you a sentence and then I will ask you a question. OK?

Matthew: OK

Me: Dot lost the cat. Dot lost the cat. Here's the question....The cat is......what?

Matthew: Dot?

Me: No, let's try this: Matthew lost the cat. The cat is......?

Matthew: Outside?

Me: No, now listen. Matthew lost the cat.. Repeat that....(Together we say) Matthew lost the cat. What does lost mean Matthew?

Matthew: That it is lost.

Me: Big Sigh....OK....Matthew lost the cat. The cat is.....?

Matthew: A LONG PAUSE.....Playing?

Me: Analiese, come here. listen to me and answer a question. Matthew lost the cat. The cat is....?

Analiese: lost (and runs away)

Me: RELIEF! Ok Matthew, the cat is????

Matthew: I don't know, he ran away?

Geez....the things we never knew would be an issue when we brought Matthew home!