Monday, October 27, 2008

Princess Gloria and Her Ladies in Waiting

We could have had a "12 Dancing Princesses" party since that turned out to be the exact number of girls in attendance at Gloria's 7th Birthday. It was a pretty good turn out considering we didn't get around to inviting anyone until three days before. The girls decorated little foam princess crowns, had their faces painted by me with flowers, hearts, rainbows and such, watched Beauty and the Beast, and each went home with a tiara, necklace, princess pencil, and a homemade candy lollipop rose.

Gloria received an odd assortment of gifts from a toy telephone to a monkey shaped bath towel (she loves monkeys). She really wanted a Sleeping Beauty Barbie, but I got her the less expensive bathtub version that has a swimsuit under her short skirt. Fortunately, my mom ("Granny Jo") called tonight to tell us that she was sending Gloria a belated birthday card with enough money in it to get the actual doll she wants.

We made sure that Glory got to be extra special on her day. Besides having her hair curled I also applied pink roll on glitter eye makeup and hot pink nail polish for her. She looked beautiful and wanted to show her nails in every posed photo. Tomorrow is her actual birthday. We plan to go to the mall and pick up the new Tinkerbell movie that Danya pre-ordered with her allowance money weeks ago. We'll watch it tomorrow night after all the kids are home from school. It's still just so hard to believe that my baby girl is seven!

Our Princesses

Saturday was Gloria's 7th birthday and her second Princess Party. Last year she had princesses and knights, but this year there were no boys allowed according to her highness... not even Daddy. So Daniel took the boys over to the park to play. We spent the morning decorating the kitchen with long swaths of gauzy material in two shades of purple (the color of royalty, of course) and various Disney princess decorations.

A large chunk of time was taken up in washing, blow drying, and curling hair for five little princesses. I'm so glad that I don't have to do that for them on a regular basis. We also worked on the cake, which I actually googled that very morning and then ran to the store to buy the necessary ingredients and things. Have I mentioned that I love the internet? The "R" made out of marshmallows on the cake is supposed to stand for "Rose" as in Briar Rose, Gloria's favorite Disney princess and also Gloria's middle name.

Tennis: Fun but Dangerous

Daniel took the kids out to play tennis the other day after Thumbelina's birthday party was over. First he worked with Miss Lady while I kept the other kids inside. It turns out that she has a natural talent for tennis. She picked it up fast and within 30 minutes was able to actually play. Then I passed out rackets and brought the kids out. I spent most of my time taking pictures and sending gentle practice shots over the net for the younger girls.

Kevin had to be reminded that tennis rackets are not clubs to beat your brother over the head with when he grabs the ball you wanted, nor are they intended to be used to pound the ground while yelling, "Pam! Pam!" They did enjoy our crazy game of "Clean Up Your Own Backyard" where we dump out the entire basket of tennis balls on both sides of the net and then race to knock the balls across to the other side. Miss Lady's team lost and we explained to them that you don't send the two oldest players on the team out to fetch the balls that fly over the fence and leave the four and five year old to defend your side of the court. I'm sure they'll strategize better next time.

Caramelized and Exhausted

In this month's discounted food items we received through the foster parent food bank co-op were several bags of caramel that can be melted. However, other than caramel apples we haven't got a clue what to do with all of it. The kids had fun dipping the apples and twisting the sticks to fully coat them with caramel. The difficulty came later when we tried to eat them. We ended up slicing them. I think next time we might just melt some caramel and dip some slices in to eat while it's still warm. I'm also debating whether we should give a bunch of bags away to the kids in our AWANA groups this Wednesday night so that they can make some caramel apples with their families before Halloween.

Actually, starting this week I will no longer be a leader in AWANA. Another homeschooling mom friend of mine, Kathy, has agreed to take over my group. I'm attempting as best I can to obey my OB doctor who has ordered me to take it easy and cut back as much as possible. That's easier said than done. This past week we had four dentist appointments, one WIC appointment, one baby doc (OB) checkup, and Gloria's birthday party, too, among many other things we typically do.

I've been at the school so many times recently that the staff, teachers, and classmates of my kids are starting to recognize me by sight and tell me where my kids are before I can ask. Then Saturday the battery in our huge van died and I had to help Daniel push it down the drive way and then up hill into the street so that we could connect it via jumper cables to the car. By Sunday morning my lower back was screaming at me and I could barely hobble around the house. Maybe I can start taking it easy after the baby comes?

Thumbelina Growing Up

We celebrated Thumbelina's 8th birthday two Saturdays ago on the 18th. She had never been to Chuck E. Cheese before. We invited some of her school friends at the last minute but they weren't able to come. She helped bake cupcakes and her big sister, Miss Lady, helped wrap all the gifts. The kids had an absolute blast running from game to game. They all got lots of prizes at the end and two of them even hit jackpots on some of the games.

Thumbelina and Miss Lady told us that their family doesn't make a big deal of birthdays. Usually extended family members give Miss Lady some money to go buy gifts for her little sister and that's it. Although, sadly, sometimes they don't even get that. I hope that this year will be a birthday that Thumbelina remembers for years to come!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

For Keeps

We found out some great news this week. Snow White and Brother's mom and dad have both told their caseworker that they want to sign over their parental rights so that we can adopt the kids! Of course, nothing is ever fast when the government is involved, but the court hearing is at the end of this month to start the ball rolling to make the kids legally free. It's exciting and nerve racking all at the same time, worrying that something will happen to change things.

I explained everything to Snow White yesterday. She's very happy that she gets to be part of our family forever, but also sad about the idea of losing her first family. We're not explaining things to Brother because we don't think he'd understand what it means really. He comes up to me constantly and lays his head on my shoulder saying, "Mom" and I get a real sense that even though he may not understand all the concepts involved, he has adopted us as his parents already. We're hoping and praying that everything can be finalized right around the same time that baby Katie arrives in February. Even though I've misplaced my camera card so can't post any photos, I wanted to let everyone know the big news!

Monday, October 13, 2008


I can't post a picture of our car right now because it is currently broken down at the top of the on ramp at 104th and I-36 with Daniel sitting inside it freezing and waiting for a tow truck to arrive.

After the tow truck hauls it to the repair shop then Daniel will wait for our friend, Ron (yes, the trombone guy again), to come help us once again. He agreed to give Daniel a ride home. Daniel had been on his way to work when the car died. He's coming home because there is simply no way we can accomplish everything we need to tomorrow plus get the car fixed if Daniel doesn't get some sleep tonight.

Tomorrow is Foster Parent Food Bank delivery day. I won't be able to go anymore because of the multiple school bus schedule I'm dealing with, so Daniel was supposed to sleep from 7am to 11am and then again in the afternoon. Adding car trouble into the mix makes it simply impossible. Did I mention that the van is making a funny sound, too, and replacing all the tires didn't fix the problem? We'd appreciate any and all prayers for our transportation needs right now. I'm just so incredibly grateful that Daniel is okay tonight.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bevy of Buses

Tomorrow will be rather crazy. We will officially begin having four kids all attending school. There will be buses to meet at 7am, 7:30, 11:00, 11:30, 2:40pm, 3:26, and 3:35. In the midst of all that I'll be attempting to conduct school with Danya, Gloria, and a little bit with Kevin. Since tomorrow is Miss Lady's first day in her new school I'll be driving her in to meet with the person who outlines the rules and gives a brief overview of what's expected of every student.

Last week we had to deal with some craziness involving Miss Lady's school situation. I'd already filled out the enrollment paperwork to get her set to start school here locally. We had decided to drive Miss Lady to her old school Wednesday through Friday so she could have a chance to say good-bye and transition somewhat. Then Daniel gets a call from the caseworker saying that Miss Lady's school councilor wants to drive her to school and back everyday so that Miss Lady doesn't have to change schools. But it seemed that nobody wanted to make a decision or consider the complications that would cause. So first I had a talk with the caseworker to explain why it was a terrible idea. Then I spoke to Miss Lady's school councilor and principal to explain it to them.

It was agreed that the councilor would subject the school to potential liability if there was an accident and could not be available to pick up and drop off Miss Lady for all her medical, family, and court appointments. They asked if she could ride a public bus if they gave her bus tokens, but I pointed out that the bus wouldn't always be available at a moment's notice for all her appointments either. There was also the complication of family members who attended the same school basically giving direct access to the parents. The main confusion was that the school personnel (who all adore Miss Lady) thought that she would be going home or to a relative placement in a week or two. That's just not likely to happen. Once I explained that Miss Lady and Thumbelina may be in foster placement for at least a month, maybe longer, they realized that the best idea would be for her to attend a local school until she leaves foster care. I'm just glad I could get it all settled on Friday.

In a final note, we also took Miss Lady and Thumbelina for eye doctor visits on Friday. They are both near sighted and will be getting glasses sometime in the next two weeks.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Staying a While

Just a quick update. The assessment worker called today to say that the parents were much more helpful yesterday at the court hearing. There isn't a suitable relative that lives far enough away from the parents for the kids to live with. So they'll be staying with us at least for now. He told us to go ahead and enroll them in school. So I did that today. The neat thing is that Miss Lady, Thumbelina, and Snow White will all be attending school in the same building. There are three schools that share a huge building. Thumbelina and Snow White will actually be in the same school and will get to ride the bus home together starting tomorrow.

I'm going to drive Thumbelina to school tomorrow so that we can find out who her new teacher is and she can get a quick tour to see where everything is located. I don't want to just stick her on the bus and hope someone meets her there and knows what to do with her. Miss Lady is sad that she has to say goodbye to friends over the next two days. Her new school sounds fun, though. It's a charter school with a focus on the arts like painting, music, and drama. Another bonus is that she'll be getting out of school an hour earlier every day and her bus stop is right in front of our house. Well, it's ten o'clock at night and I'm just now going to start on all the paperwork that I have to turn in to her school tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Waiting to Exhale

We're all holding our breaths waiting to find out what's going to happen with Miss Lady and Thumbelina. The court hearing with their parents was this morning. The assessment worker called just as it started to give us an update. He said that he's spoken to the girls' parents and they don't seem to be very helpful. They didn't provide a list of possible relative's contact info. He's supposed to let us know by tomorrow if there is a safe relative that they can go to live with. He asked if we were willing to let them stay with us if there isn't any suitable family and of course we said we'd love for them to stay.

He also said it was up to us to decide if we wanted to enroll them in a local school or drive them to their previous school. We talked to the girls about it and decided to go ahead and drive Miss Lady to her middle school for the next couple of days until we know if they're going to be moved or not. Thumbelina's school was too far for us to try and drive, so we'll just hold off until we know if she's staying. If they stay then we'll enroll them both in a local school. Miss Lady was very happy to go back to school today and see all her friends and teachers. Apparently, today was a special day called "connect the dots day" and she was relieved that she didn't miss it. I also learned that she needs special help with reading and her school's "literacy class" teacher is encouraging her to "guess" at words. She has no idea of what phonics is about. So we're going to start working together with Snow White at the beginning. As she helps me teach Snow White, hopefully she'll start picking it up, too.

Speech Therapy?

So today was Brother's big evaluation through our local "Child Find" at a pre-K and K center that is anything but "local" to us. The speech therapist, a lady named Sara, determined that everything I told her was correct. He is normal in all areas except for speech/communication in which he scored a zero rating.

She wants me to register him to attend the school four days a week so that he can receive "speech therapy" that turns out to be nothing like what I thought it would be. I asked if there would be special equipment and techniques, if he'd be given individualized attention, pulled out of the classroom so that he could focus on the new sounds he's being taught, basically anything critical to his speech development that I simply can't provide for him. The answer is: none of the above. He will attend regular pre-K, but during "center time" as he wanders around to whatever area catches his interest a speech assistant will follow him. She will say the names of things that he's playing with and encourage him to say them, too. They'll also emphasize getting him to ask for the specific things he wants at snack time like "juice" and "cookie".

I'm pretty much stunned. They want me to take him to and from the nearest bus stop (a mile away) four times a week in the afternoons so that he can miss his nap, disrupt a class full of kids, and get the exact same help he's already getting at home. If he was in the terrible home situation that he was pulled out of originally, I could see how that would be beneficial to him. I asked about getting him speech therapy in our home and Sara said that legally they have to do the "least restrictive" method. In home therapy is considered "more restrictive" because then Brother wouldn't get all that beneficial social interaction with his "peer group" meaning that he'll learn better speech from a class full of 3 and 4 year olds than he would from a home environment with older (and younger) kids and adults who all speak clearly already. Somehow, I don't see how spending three hours a day hearing only one adult and 15 other pre-K age kids speak is better, but then again, I'm not a speech therapist, so what do I know? He's supposed to start school on Monday.

Pioneer Dioramas

Since we're finishing up the book "The Cabin Faced West" I decided to let the kids do a project with all the shoe boxes we collected last Friday. They started work today on prairie dioramas. They painted the backgrounds and started building "log cabins" out of Popsicle sticks. Tomorrow we'll all brain storm to see what else we'd like to add to the scenes. Most of them did pretty good. Snow White didn't listen to the directions I gave and ended up painting her sky green. Daniel says that her cabin will just be on a very big hill.

Tonight was also Snow White's "special day" and she was kind enough to share it with Thumbelina since poor Thumbelina slept through her time last night. We stayed up late reading the end of a different chapter book and she fell asleep just before the ending. I think it's great that they all get so excited to find out what happens next in the story and beg me all day long to finish the book. Anyway, tonight Snow White and Thumbelina played Candy Land with me and then made foam animal puppets on Popsicle sticks. Thumbelina was just amazed at the concept of a mom wanting to sit down and play a board game with her. She and Miss Lady have started calling Daniel and I "Daddy" and "Mommy" in the last two days. It really surprised me coming from Miss Lady, but she says it's just easier since that's what everyone else calls us. I sure don't mind!

Monday, October 06, 2008

It's a Girl!

Here's a photo of Daniel and I at my last doctor's appointment. We had the ultrasound that day and found out that we're having a little girl. We're currently thinking that we'll name her Katelyn Grace. We've been calling her Baby Katie. I'm approximately 22 weeks along.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sing Your Way to Church

Today was so much fun! We loaded up the van with all nine of us and then picked up Sarah and Shannon. We almost filled the van! The kids wanted to sing church songs all the way there, so we all had a great time singing, clapping, and laughing. At church everything went well, despite my fear that missing band practice Wednesday night and not playing at all last week would mean I'd sound awful during worship. It was fine, though. I need to get working on the music for the Christmas concert.

Miss Lady and Thumbelina did well in their Sunday school classes. Shannon and Sarah helped Miss Lady to feel included in the youth group, which was great. Brother's teacher asked that we move him down to the 2 year old class with Kevin because Brother just isn't able to participate in class time with the three and four year olds. He did fine in Kevin's class. I'm worried, though, since Brother's "Child Find" evaluation is this Tuesday. They already said they have an afternoon Pre-K class open that he can join. He just would not do well in a situation like that at all. I'm really hoping they see that. We're going to be praying like crazy that they do.

Getting to Know You

On our long walk home Saturday morning we took a scenic walking trail and stopped by a playground. It always amuses me to see my older kids hop right onto the "baby toys" at a playground designed for younger kids. Sometimes they seem to be growing up so quickly. With Brother, on the other hand, I'm treating him more like Kevin. He gets lots of snuggle time, tickles, and silliness. I think he needs some of the interaction that he missed as a toddler.

We're also getting to know our two newest additions a bit, too. I've decided on nicknames for them. Since the younger sister who will be eight in a couple of weeks is so very petite, I'm going to call her Thumbelina. She's actually almost the same size as Snow White, who is two years younger than her. For the older girl, I had a harder time thinking of a nickname.

Friday night when they arrived we took all the kids shoe shopping. We bought 10 pairs of shoes! While we were there a lady walked up to our 12 year old and said, "Excuse me, Miss. Do you work here?" I cracked up, but I have to admit that she does seem older. She wears her hair styled nicely, dresses mature, and wears big silver hoop earings that make her seem like a young lady of about 17 or so. That's why I'm going to call her "Miss Lady".

Miss Lady and I went with a friend of mine from church named Dawn to go see the new movie, Fireproof. It was really good. It started out a little slow, but it got much better by the end. You could hear multiple women in the audience all sniffling. It was a tear jerker, but good. We drove Dawn home afterwards and then I called Daniel that night to say, "I'm in Aurora. If I tell you the address, can you google it and tell me how to get home?" It was a long drive home, but Miss Lady and I got a chance to talk and get to know each other. She says she was very worried that a foster home would be a terrible place. She says she's glad they got a good one.

Let's Walk!

Daniel always gives me a funny look when I suddenly emerge from my room and announce that we're going to take a family walk somewhere. He's always up for the challenge, but I can tell that he's wondering if I'll be able to make it. I tend to start out feeling energetic and sometimes get over ambitious.

Saturday morning we walked out to the shopping center closest to our home so that some of us girls could get hair cuts. I had a coupon for Great Clips. What I failed to check on was how much a kids' hair cut costs there. We got Gloria and Snow White's hair trimmed along with mine. For them to even out their bangs and trim the bottom edge it cost me TWELVE BUCKS per kid! I about went into labor on the spot. Not really, but it was shocking and I won't be taking the girls back again.

Costume Shopping

We took the kids out to Walmart and looked for Halloween costumes for the boys while we were there. Danya fell in love with this white bride outfit. She said, "Look! It's the Lady all in White!" That's the lady from the lull-a-bye I sing to the kids every night. The middle verse goes:

There is a lady all in white, holds me and sings a lull-a-bye. She's nice to see and she's soft to touch. She says, "(Insert kids' names) I love you very much."

The motocross outfit that Brother is wearing in this photo is not his actual costume. We bought this one and a knight costume just so that the boys would have some dress up clothes for when the girls play dress up. We were not happy seeing Kevin walk up the stairs in a leotard and tutu. We promised we'd get him some "boy dress up" things. Brother's actual costume is Spider Man and Kevin will be Indiana Jones.

Four in a Fire Truck

We reassembled Kevin's old fire truck bed outside for the kids to play on. They love it. They really need something extra to do out there. We had originally hoped last Spring that we'd be able to afford a big wooden play set with swings and a slide, but that didn't work out.

I made the mistake of giving them chalk outside a while ago. They colored all over the back steps. The roof covers the step just enough that rain never washes it clean. So every time one of the kids walks back into the house you can see a trail of little blue chalk footprints across the kitchen floor. I need to take the time to wash the step myself, but haven't gotten to it yet. I feel like I'm rushing around just playing catch up right now trying to keep the house clean with this many people in it.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Our First 12 year old!

We're on our way to go pick up two sisters ages 8 and 12! They're Cambodian! More info soon! Wish us luck!