Thursday, December 29
It also marks one year since the impossible happened. The adoption journey that began in early September 2007 for a brown haired little 5 year old girl finally came to a close with her sleeping in her own bed.
Three years, three months, and about 27 days.
God is never a minute late, and what a wonderful joy it is to be part of His plans!!
This is also a wonderful reminder to me that whenever we wonder because God's plans and ours don't match up, His are always best, and often times our best ideas are nothing in comparison to God's best for us!!
Wednesday, December 28
However for now, let's talk UNdecorating...
When do you un-decorate your house from Christmas? Is it Christmas Day? The week after? New Year's time period? Or do you wait until mid or late January or even February even? How about your house lights outside? Are they still shining and will they continue on until February as well?
Growing up we usually decorated for Christmas the weekend after Thanksgiving and un-decorated over New Year's holiday. We've somewhat kept to that tradition here, however our tree tends to go up a little later simply because we've had things going on over Thanksgiving the last couple years. Over the last 4 years we've left the outside lights up and decorations displayed TWICE until February! Those were years where we had a lot going on and it just wasn't a priority to get it all down.
Last year during the un-decorating process we quickly took everything off the tree and ended up tossing it (quite literally) all in a rubbermaid bin. It then was transferred to another bin (that had a lid) and was put in the attic. NOTHING was wrapped up. The glass ornaments, thankfully, didn't break, but that's not a wager I'd like to take every year.
What simple and quick ways do you save those holiday breakables so that they survive until the next year without hunting down each individual box for the ornament and putting it neatly back in the styrofoam packaging? Are those "ornament boxes" with 54 spaces for glass ornaments really worth the $20 they sell for?
It's almost time to un-decorate...
Saturday, December 24
Friday, December 23
Each year we have done a very small gift exchange between the kids. Most of the time… Kristopher buys a gift for the other kids and Brianna buys one for Kris. For us, that works. K enjoys shopping and picking out things and it’s a great way to get him in the GIVING mood!
This year we did it just a little different… we did let K shop for the other kids, but instead of $5 (or less) gifts for each child, he wanted to get a few things for all the kids to share. I gave him a budget and he picked three things for the kids. 1) a movie pack with 7 or 8 classic Christmas movies. 2) Hungry Hungry Hippos game. 3) a small playdough set with number stencils.
We let him wrap up the gifts and he gave them to everyone today rather than in the busyness of Christmas morning. Then… the kids all got in on the Hungry Hippo game! Everyone except Wesley can play easily (and we’ll get a game going on his wheelchair tray another time and help him play too).
Aleksa was too distracted to actually play, and some of the time Lynae and Kristopher were helping the other kids to press their buttons, but they all sat, played, ate the marbles, put them back in the middle, and LOVED it! :)
Gifts de-zip tied and unscrewed from packaging? Check!
Batteries loaded? Check!
Gifts wrapped? Check!
Tonight my sister, brother in law, and friend joined us for a sorry excuse for a party and helped us do everything but shop. Assemble, disassemble, wrap and label. Our only incentiveds were food, which I guess worked ok sincethey showed up and worked :). It only took about 2 hours with the five of us working and we all had a blast just hanging out, talking, and of course playing with the kids' Christmas toys before they can :)!
Then... We hung out for another two and a half hours talking and eating and just enjoying the time to spend together.
The kids had a fun and special night tonight as well, because my parents invited "anyone that would want to watch a movie" to come over for a movie, popcorn, hot chocolate, and time with their grandparents. We did keep two of the kids home because quite simply they wouldn't have enjoyed sitting and watching a movie and would likely have made it a more stressful event. They had a little extra time with mom and dad (and won't care that they saw the gifts before Christmas... Lol). Everyone had a fun time watching Polar Express and came home in PJs and ready for bed (while the adults covered the toys and wrapped presents with a sheet and acted like nothing special was going on...) when they got home.
THANK YOU to my parents, to Elizabeth and Jim, and to Heidi for all your help making tonight both special and productive! Who knew getting work done could also be so much fun?
Thursday, December 22
This morning the kids were up at an awful hour... you know, one similar to the hours we have to keep when they go to school? At 6ish I got Lynae some medicine and went back to bed, then by 6:30 or so Michael went in to separate out the girls because they were getting wild.
By 7 I think everyone was up and by 7:30 so were we!
Breakfast, medicines, hair, teeth, toileting, clothing, and play time followed.
Lunch seemed much too close to breakfast, but even so we didn't eat until 12:30. At the end of lunch Mike was going to go lay down but instead was told of a problem at work and headed to the office with Kristopher. Today was his first day off too. He hasn't felt great the last few days and was really looking forward to that nap, so at 2 or so when he did get home he went and laid down. I didn't see him again until 5!
The kids had rest time then we attempted to entertain ourselves without opening up the play room since it runs along the back of the house including where the master bedroom is located. The kids were hyper and not exactly thrilled without having their room to run, but we all survived.
At 5 Michael emerged, I got dinner going, and by 6 or so we were all sitting down and eating. A late dinner after a lateish lunch led to a later time of putting on pajamas and getting to bed. By 7:45 or so all the little ones had been diapered, changed, medicated, teeth brushed, and tucked in to bed. Kristopher and Michael played a computer game until 8:30, an extra special (late!) treat for Kristopher.
I laid down before Kris ever went to bed, however that wasn't meant to be the end of my day...
Before I could fall asleep...
One of the kids was rocking. Mike went to investigate, didn't discover a culprit, came back to bed.
I got up to get a drink.
While I was up Kristopher cried. I went to ask him what's wrong to which he answered "nothing" and went back to sleep.
Before I got back to bed Lynae started coughing. I went to her, gave her a little drink and a small dose of med and thought I'd go to bed.
Kristopher started crying again. This time I insisted he get up and go to the bathroom... just in case it would help. He did. I guess it did. Haven't heard from him again.
Then I checked on the little boys and found James sprawled out on his belly on the carpet... next to his bed. I picked him up and put him back on his bed then closed the door...
I went back to bed. Yay! Time to sleep. Curled up on my body pillow, stole the sheet and blanket back from Michael and...
Lynae started coughing again. So, I got up again, found the Vicks Baby Rub and went to slather her feet and chest (no idea why the feet, but hey, it can't hurt, right?).
While in with Lynae, a pungent odor permeated my nose. It either wasn't there last trip through the bedroom or I was too focused on the coughing to notice. Either way, Gross.
Emma had pooped. Got her up, cleaned her up, slathered her in better-smelling diaper cream and shipped her back off to bed and I left the room once again.
Then as I thought I was done for the night, Lynae coughed some more. I went back in AGAIN, got her propped up on a second pillow, retrieved the now-empty sippy cup that she'd had Pedialyte in, and once again left the room.
Quiet... quiet... THUD. THUD. THUD.
Emma is trying to get comfy and she uses her FEET to push herself around on her back. She was kicking the wall. So... back in to the girls' room to move Emma's feet from against the wall.
Maybe, just maybe, now I can go to bed and stay there? After all, it IS midnight... and chances are pretty good that though the kids went to bed almost an hour later than they normally do, they won't sleep in that extra hour in the morning!
Wednesday, December 21
Here are all the kids with their Santa hats on in front of the tree, before it was decorated :)
A day or two later we trimmed the tree!
Then we sat down at the table an put out our Little People Nativity and told the story of Jesus’ birth.
And finished the evening up with some homemade Christmas cookies (can I call it that if they came from a bag and I mixed and baked it? LOL)
(Wes feeding himself his cookie!)
This past weekend we had Michael’s aunts and uncle and cousins over and his grandmother for a Christmas celebration. Pictures are mostly of… food :)
Mike’s cousin’s daughter
Micah eating with a FORK off of a PLATE! An unusual sight :)
All 8 kids with Great- Gram!
Kristopher made a great Ginger Bread house at school!
Micah didn’t love the short days at school where there wasn’t a nap time! Brianna sat and rubbed his back while he crashed out on the couch!
And now, the house is decorated (these are all the kids’ crafts from the last week of school… in duplicate (the two boys) and triplicate (the two older girls and Wesley!)
Reading a book to Frosty and the Advent calendar
Lace with a winter scene of one of the churches from Bulgaria and a snowman that Kristopher made a few years ago
Our nativity set that the kids constantly play with and rearrange :)
Our Christmas tree- finally decorated!
Some decorations are more fun to play with…
Christmas hats, waiting for another moment to get them all out and play (it’s too HOT here! 78 today!)
Tuesday, December 13
Today Kristopher helped me write a "family letter" to Santa. The experience went something like this:
Me: Kristopher, how should we start a letter?
K: "Dear Santa..."
M: Ok, then what do you want to say?
K: "I want a...."
M: Um, isn't that a bit early? Shouldn't you talk to Santa before you jump to the "I want?"
K: Right, ok. "Did you have a nice year? Are you ready for Chrismtas? I want..."
M: Wait, this isn't about "I want.." What else do you write in a letter? Something about yourself maybe?
K: Right. "We had a great year this year! Last year mommy was in Ukraine adopting my brother and sister, Wesley (COMMA) and Aleksa. This year we are all at home." Is that enough talking?
M: Yes, I suppose so. Now you can ask for a gift...
K: "Kristopher would like a remote control robotic dinosaur skeleton with a frog that it can eat and you can see the inside from outside of it and..."
M: Wow, that's intricate. Have you seen this somewhere?
K: No, I just made it up. Sounds neat, right?
M: Yes, it does. What is your favorite toy that you already have that you play with?
K: My gooey animals (*note from me, these are gooey type of plastic sand-filled creatures that are wiggly and about 6-9" long, a lizard, snake, turtle, and I think he has a dinosaur... sold at WalMart and Target for $2-5 and a big hit around here)
M: Ok, so what things do you play with the most?
K: Stuff I can make things with
M: So, why don't you ask Santa for something that you'd like the most, that fits with some of the favorite things you have, but is different?
K: YES! Ok, change it then... "For Christmas, Kristopher wants something gooey and slimy and fun, and maybe a dinosaur that can eat them. Aleksa, Emma, Wesley, Brianna, James, Micah, and Lynae would like a fun toy that talks or makes noise." Then, Mom, we have to tell him thanks. "Thank you for celebrating Jesus' birthday by giving gifts to all the children!"
M: "Love, The Cornish Family?"
K: Yep, now, hit "send"
** If only the little boy knew that Photoshop (which I used to make the letter) doesn't just "send" :) I guess we're emailing Santa this year!
*** The slight prompting has likely helped Santa, who has already had the elves hard at work finding perfect toys for all the little boys and girls in the Cornish household. The "maybe" might just become a 'no' for the dreamed up dinosaur though!!
Saturday, December 10
When you're sick and have one or two kids, you call hubby to come help.
When you're sick and you have three or four kids, you call in grandma to take over.
When you're sick and you have eight kids, you clean the living room and get out the Christmas decorations while hubby changes the overdue oil in the vans... :)
Tuesday, December 6
We are so blessed to have them both, and in just a few weeks we will celebrate a year since we all came home! (December 29th!).
Since I just was gone for 9 days, we're revisiting some of the attachment issues that we've battled with Aleksa since day one. Here's a little info and history...
Attachment is something that most babies naturally form. They learn their mother's and father's voices in the womb and they learn very quickly that those significant people will provide for their needs, answer their cries, and hold and love on them. Babies look in to their parents' eyes and will maintain eye contact, which is a 'language' of love...
Several of our children (those born in Ukraine) were institutionalized and put in to orphanages at birth. They didn't have that connection with any caretaker. They had a constant influx of workers, daytime, night time, weekend, and other shift workers that came through. They spent their time in their beds, not in their parents' arms. They had no one to make eye contact with. One of the reasons their eyesight didn't likely develop correctly for some of them is because they didn't even have anything to even focus on as a baby.
As a toddler, Emma was still confined to her bed, isolated from other people, and without human contact for the most part. She had no one that talked to her, no one that interacted with her aside from meeting some of her basic needs. I admit I wonder every so often what Emma would be like if she'd been able to join our family earlier, or get her heart fixed (she then had strokes as a toddler because of her unrepaired heart)... We love Emma exactly how she is, and are BLESSED to have her as our daughter. In almost 4 years in our home, Emma has so dramatically changed!! She went from not wanting to be touched or held, unable to be comforted, to greeting familiar adults with a hug and a smile...
Aleksa had a totally different upbringing which physically was much better than Emma's. She stayed in a crib for quite some time, I'm sure, however once she was up and mobile, she was in a group with other children, both those with special needs and typically developing children. She lived in that environment until she was 5 years old. There she played, went outside, had caretakers that, though they may not 'like' her, they took care of her. We were told she wasn't one of the favorites at the orphanage... which meant that she was dealt with sternly, wasn't loved on or hugged on, and was often 'set aside'.
After Aleksa left the orphanage at 5 years old, she went to a mental institution. This facility housed girls and women from 5 years old to 35 years old. At the time that we adopted Aleksa, there were 83 girls there. Though the sleeping quarters were separated into three levels, the 19-35 year olds on the top floor and the younger girls on the other two, the rest of the time we saw the girls all together in a large group. They have a playground, however it was obvious when we took Aleksa out to play on it that she rarely played there. She couldn't sit independently on a swing, couldn't climb a ladder to go down the slide, couldn't get on the see saws, and tended to stand by the small fence surrounding it and watch... even though we were the only ones out there. Then, she would turn and run away as often as possible.
When the girls were all out there, they lined the benches under an overhang and had tables pushed up against them. They sat and moaned and rocked, screaming, throwing their arms around, and in general just living in their own little worlds...
That is what Aleksa's reality was, 365 days a year, for three long years.
Aleksa didn't learn to love. She didn't learn to accept affection. She didn't ever make eye contact with people. She never received or gave hugs.
Instead she screamed. She ran. She pulled hair. She spit. She used urination as a control factor. She stole.
She did all sorts of things that are 100% survival, and that are 100% normal for an orphan.
But now she has a family. One that loves her. One that has expectations of her. One that shows affection to her. One that wants to teach her. Wants to help her. Wants to be a part of her life. A family that wants to be there forever for her, and wants her to let us in.
During my trip to Bulgaria, Aleksa was with familiar people. People that may give her a hug, tell her hello, smile at her, and both guide her and discipline her.
When I came home, Mommy came back. Not just a familiar person or a family member, but... Mom. Someone that wants to hug her, love on her, sit with her, cuddle her, and someone that she wants to keep as far away as possible.
Well, because then she's safe. She's safe to be with people that love her, but aren't promising to love her forever. She's safe when she keeps people at a distance and does things on her own terms. YES, her Daddy was here. However kids with attachment issues generally distance themselves from the primary caretaker, which is usually Mom.
When I came home, she was great the first morning. It was Sunday she sat snuggled against me through church, dancing during the worship songs, holding my hands, and following along when I signed some of the songs with her during worship. She was SO GOOD, so much of a 'nnatural' interaction with me, ad so very well behaved.
Then... she pulled her hair down while we were driving home and when she was told no as she got out of the car (sternly) and had her hair put back up, she then peed in the driveway. Yikes. Back to the control issues...
Sunday the rest of the day we spent with a battle of the wills. She messed with her hair, she went to time out, she took the other kids' toys, she went to time out. She picked on others, she got a time out. She eventually was given a "safe spot" to play (on the couch with some toys, but not allowed off of it) so that she could go for more than 10 minutes before being returned to time out.
Monday she went to school. She had an on and off day at school. Lots of red faces for different activities on her daily sheet, though lots of green ones too. A "good" day we'll have all greens, or maybe one or two reds. This wasn't a good day. Then on our way home we stopped at the church, which is just a mile from the school, to pick my computer up from Michael. When we stopped, she'd already pulled her hair down. In case you didn't notice, her hair is her "control switch." It is what she uses to determine that she's going to do as she pleases. If her hair is left down all day
I wet to the back of the van to reiterate that she's not to take her hair down in the car (this is now twice, out of four times we've been in the car since I got home, that she's taken it down). She peed in her car seat right then. Oh My Goodness. CONTROL.
We went home, she showered, got PJ type clothes on, after all it was bath night and why repeat the process if we're already doing it all? She put on a pull up (since that's what she wears to bed) and went to time out after cleaning up. Three hours later... (and two more trips to the bathroom...) she peed herself again, without discipline, without reason, without anything. It's not "because" she had on a pull up, because she is almost always dry at night now and it's more for the off occasion that she does wet at night that we continue to put her in the pull ups. And she was upset, when she went to the bathroom the next time, and took all her pants/pull up off... so she wasn't trying to hide it AND she knew she would be in trouble.
It appears that our attachment issues that we've struggled a LOT with over the last 11 months are still going strong. After all, she had 8 years to develop the life, personality, and defense mechanisms that she has now... it's not going to be easy to 'undo' them.
Aleksa sat on my lap last night and we had a little heart to heart. I have no idea how much she really understood, but I guarantee she got the gist of the conversation. The parts about her not peeing herself, not taking her hair down, not messing with her glasses, that she is a big girl, has to make choices, and needs to make GOOD decisions or she was going to continue having consequences. She made eye contact for 1/20th of a second on several occasions, but couldn't easily avoid at least looking toward me since I was sitting in an empty hallway with her on my lap facing me as we talked.
It was a good talk. A helpful talk. We ended with big hugs and kisses and sitting and snuggling for a bit. Then she walked in to her room and was nasty again.
She's scared of loving. Scared of getting close. Scared of being rejected and loss.
And she doesn't even know it or understand it. It just is what it is.
And so, it continues. One year and counting since her court date. Almost a year since she came in to my custody. And the battles are different now, the understanding greater on both of our parts. But the struggle is still very much alive in her little heart. It hurts me to see her struggle so much to obey very simple and basic rules simply because she's trying to protect herself from loving.
But love we will. Carry on we will. One day, that 1/20th of a second of eye contact will grow exponentially... and she may learn, one day, to love.
Saturday, December 3
Friday, December 2
Unfortunately, we weren't able to arrainge flights for me to go all the way home with Shelley and Annikah, so we will be parting ways before our last leg of the flight. Thankfully, that's not a long one :)
So, today we have a full day with packing, dropping off the last of the things that were brought with us for other people, visiting with new (and old) friends, packing up our things, and getting ready to say goodbye.
The home front seems to be doing just fine, which is a huge relief and blessing! I miss the kids and Michael and look forward to being home, but have been enjoying the time here as well. We have spent some time with a family adopting a 2 yr old with down syndrome and I've enjoyed stealing a snuggle from their little man.
Off to get the day going. After all, it's already 10am here!
Wednesday, November 30
First off, the man doing most everything and keeping life going on the home front... Michael. Mike is getting all 8 kids up and dressed with shoes (mostly) on and glasses (mostly) on and everyone's lunches together and folders signed and everyone out the door to their prospective school or other place for the day. A few days he has help, some he doesn't.
Michael is also doing baths and medications and getting out (already set out) clothes, and making sure everyone gets their time and love and attention every day. He's doing great, and the kids are having a good time. What a blessing Michael is. Not every dad can survive a solo weekend with the kids, much less our busy crew for 9 days!
Both sets of grandparents are also helping out! Since Brianna and Lynae only go to their church program 2 mornings a week, grandmas stepped in for the other three mornings as well as the time between when their church program ends and the other kids get out of school. It is wonderful to have grandparents that are willing and wanting to spend time with their grand kids! They also each took an afternoon to invite one or two kids to their house to have some extra special play time.
Our friend Chris invited Kristopher to come play one afternoon making this a special week for him :).
We also have two GREAT babysitters that are watching the kids in the afternoons. Both of them have been not only watching whichever kids need it each day, but they also have been left a list of honey-do's for the afternoon! They are unpacking backpacks, cleaning our lunch boxes, defrosting and starting dinners (pre-cooked before I left...), and starting the laundry and/or dishes if there's a need.
Things are going good back at home, and I'm thankful to be able to enjoy this time with Shelley and Annikah and our new friends here in Bulgaria and not have to worry that the kids, or my husband, or any of our caretakers are overwhelmed or stressed out.
God provides for every need, and we are thankful that He doesn't overlook the details when making those big picture plans!! THANK YOU to all that have helped out with the kids, prayed for our family, or otherwise been a part of this trip!
Tuesday, November 29
Will you play a part in publishing these four brochures and providing one thousand of each for circulation in Bulgaria? The cost isn't huge... $450 US dollars including paypal fees. the reward, however, is GREAT!
Tomorrow Shelley and I and Annikah will spend the day with one of the directors of the Down Syndrome group here. Tanja's family are American missionaries living here in Sofia and have four children, one of whom has Down syndrome.
If you would like to be a part of this, we would love to raise the money THIS WEEK and leave it here with the group when we leave! The need is great, but God is the provider, and I truly believe that this is one of the areas where a relatively small amount of money, if raised in small amounts from many, can amount to a GREAT amount of awareness and education here in Bulgaria!
CAN WE RAISE THIS MONEY IN THE NEXT THREE DAYS? Chip in will close on Saturday, and any money raised by late Friday will be given toward this project before we board the plane on Saturday :).
(the small print: money raised after we leave will be wire transferred at a later date. Chip in goes to Shelley's personal paypal account so it can be sent to her via hubby immediately as it arrives)
To chip in, please click the link below:
Monday, November 28
Someone stopped on the street while Shelley was paying for some groceries and I was outside with Annikah. I'm pretty sure he told me what a beautiful little girl and so well behaved she was, since I have absolutely no idea what he was actually saying... But he was smiling and nodding at the little one, so one can only guess that it was nice, right? :)
A little something to leave you with... Shelley swears that the hotel we are staying in is more of a business hotel than a tourist hotel, however some moms from the Ds parent group told us it is where the "prostitutkas" go. That word I could translate pretty well :).
Anyway, we haven't made their acquaintance just yet but weren't so surprised to find this in the minibar in the hotel room. The liquor, not surprising. The box of other goods were a bit more of a shocker though :)
By the way, it isn't a prostitute's hotel, but there are those around and they aren't so far away... And the business men just might be here to find a wife...
The only thing we can read on the "love" box is that they smell good.....
Wednesday, November 23
We had such a nice time visiting with Lisa, Dan, Elaina (sorry if I misspelled it…) and Danny today! They were in FL at Disney and took the time to drive out to our place and spend the afternoon with us. What a blessing to get to know their family! :)
Here’s Lisa and I with the ten kids…
Lisa with Brianna (excuse Brianna’s horribly long bangs... they are cut now though! LOL)
Elaina with James. They were buddies :)
Emma took to Lisa like she doesn’t take to many people! She wanted to hold Lisa’s hand, sit with her, and smiled (and was clapping) sitting with her! They had such a sweet little instant bond!
Danny was thinking it’s pretty fun to hold the younger kids after he held Lynae in the group picture. Micah—wasn’t as sure :)