Thursday, June 30, 2011

Instead of posting what I was going to write...

I decided that this would be much better.  A reminder to me that I need to live it daily.  Maybe a good reminder for someone else that needs it today.


Don't be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. – Philippians 2:3-4 NLT

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. Proverbs 15:1

In case anyone's interested...

Some info I received directly from the casting director, thought someone out there may be interested, so just passing it along :)  I did check it out and it IS real :)


I'm Anita Lane, a casting director at Eyeworks USA.  I know you received an email from us a while back, but I wanted to let you know we've scheduled an Open Casting Call for our new ABC Daytime Talk Show for women in Long Beach, CA on July 16, 2011.

As you may know, Eyeworks (the producers of “The Biggest Loser”) is producing a NEW daytime ABC Weight-Loss Talk Show and we’re looking for inspiring, resilient women (dedicated moms who are busy taking care of everyone but themselves...) who have 50-100 lbs to lose.  The women receive assistance in their own environment--assistance with weight-loss, finances, home organization, etc.  Little travel is required and a stipend is included!


If you or someone in your network
 could benefit from the opportunity to make a life transformation we'd LOVE to hear your story! (Click on the link below for audition details).
I've attached a flier that I'm hoping you will be willing to share and spread the word via email blast, twitter and/or any other way you see fit.  The flier has more information on how to apply.   There's also a flier announcing our July 16th Open Casting Call in Long Beach.

If you have any questions or need further detail, I can be reached at the office number below or directly at 313.447.9083. I’ll gladly answer any questions!

Thank you!

Anita

Anita Lane
Casting Director
Eyeworks USA
424.236.7500, ext 7602
http://3ballproductions.com/revcasting.html

It's Thursday at 1am

Does that tell you anything about how crazy my Wednesday was?  TIME FOR BED!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Time for the motility study

Just what we were looking forward to today... right?  Two hours in this...


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Breakfast mush

So, the age old question remains no more.  What DO you do with the dust at the bottom of the cereal box?

At our house... it goes in here and gets eaten with milk for breakfast by Micah.  After all, he doesn't chew, so we intentionally crush cereal for him!


Happy 30th Birthday Michael!!!



                  





WE LOVE YOU!!! :)

James' cooling vest

When we were reviewing James' medical info before he ever even moved in with us, we saw that he has an unusual condition called Harlequin Syndrome.  Not having heard of it before quite honestly intrigued by the effects it showed in him, we googled it and learned a little more about it.  It is considered a rare disease affecting less than 200,000 people in the USA and is characterized by asymmetric flushing and sweating.

James will, on occasion and without cause that we can pinpoint, have half of his face turn red and blotchy, his same eye water, and there is a straight line directly down the center of his face where the other half of his face doesn't appear to have ANY effect.  It is strange! :)  It happened several times during James' first days with us and appears to be somewhat triggered by stress (when he was mad about a bath, for instance, he would have this happen) but... sometimes it would be completely random as well.  

When we realized this was the real deal, we took note of the fact that the syndrome was associated with sweating and we kept on keeping on.  We did pay more attention to his body regulation of heat and sweat, though... just in case.  After all, we do live in Florida!

We took note of articles like this:
and this

It appeared that sweating was overcompensated on the "non affected" side, but we had yet to see that with James.

After almost a year with us and gearing up for our summer routines of playing outside, visiting the zoo and parks, and  doing other "fun in the sun" activities that we looked forward to with our new brood of eight...  We realized that this year might look a little different with James in our family.  Two day trips to the zoo both ended with a lethargic little boy who threw up as soon as entering the air conditioning of the van.  He then perked back up by the time we returned home (a 30 minute drive) and appeared fine the rest of the day.

We realized that James' sweating is definitely not taking care of his body's needs for regulating his body in the heat, and that we were going to need to make some adjustments to be able to do these fun activities and have him be comfortable and safe through them.

After doing more research online about anhidrosis, a condition which is characterized by the lack of sweat (and associated with Harlequin syndrome, but generally only on one side of the body), we saw there are two types of cooling vests available in the general market.  One is an evaporation vest.  You wet it, wear it, and the natural evaporation of water from the skin works similar to the body's sweat system.  Unfortunately, this doesn't work in high humidity environments such as Florida because the rate of evaporation isn't so good...

The second type is one packed with ice packs.  Although more bulky and generally much more expensive, we chose this option... with a little twist.  Thanks to others within the Down syndrome online community, their creativity showed us options with creating a vest using a life vest rather than starting from scratch.

That brought us to Wal-Mart and we picked up a $20 life jacket with a zippered front and UV protection.  After all, he'd always be wearing it outside... made sense!


We cut the inside lining and removed 2 of the 3 layers of floatation foam from each of the 4 sections of the vest.

We purchased soft sided ice packs to cool James.

Each of the ice packs slides in to the vest and sits just off the skin (he also wears a t-shirt under this vest!) and keeps him cool for several hours!

James has enjoyed summer activities right along with the rest of the kids and doesn't seem even a little bothered by the vest.  He has stayed more active and alert during play (which is a good thing, though his activity level is SO much more than most of our kids :) ), and he hasn't had any other episodes of throwing up after a warm activity.

**This is not a FLOATATION device.  it is a cooling vest.  It just so happens that he's wearing it while in the kiddie pool because it was 95 degrees out and he was mostly sitting NEXT TO the kiddie pool.**
$25 sure beats the $200+ that we were finding the cooling vests for, and we are very glad to be able to continue enjoying fun in the sun this summer!

Friday, June 24, 2011

YAY for Pampers!

My mom just mentioned this commercial to me, and after seeing the entire thing for myself, I have to agree with this blogger: http://www.jillstanek.com/2011/05/pampers-pro-life-t-v-commercial/

It's awesome, and PRO LIFE!  Showing adoption, and special needs (a baby girl with Ds), what a great commercial!  Makes me want to buy Pampers!   (Except that they support UNICEF, which is very anti-adoption if the adoption removes the child from their culture and their funding makes a lot of places not want to allow kids to be adopted because they don't get money from UNICEF if they don't have orphans... so I don't love Pampers in that way...)
Watch, enjoy, pass along! :)


Love the commercial!  But still... I'll stick with Huggies

Monday's "kid date" night!

On Monday the kids split up between Michael, grandparents, and myself to spend some time doing fun stuff!

Lynae and Micah went with me.  We shopped around Target for a few essentials and ate at their little food court area.  At that time Lynae had had two messy (nasty) diapers and was super fussy.  So... our 'date night' moved back to our house and we played outside and in the car as we cleaned out the big van.  Hey, they had a good time AND I got the car cleaned out.  And... Lynae had another messy diaper :(  Poor thing!

James and Brianna went with my parents, and they had dinner, played in the sand box, and played with toys at Grandmommy and Grandaddy's house!  They also went to the library and checked out some books then back to the house to read them.  They had fun!

Kristopher and Wesley went to the Dinosaur Store and Museum with Mike's parents and they had fun seeing the stuff there (no idea what, because I've never been! LOL) and picking out a few treasures to bring home as well.  Grandma and Grandpa brought them to McDonald's for dinner and to a park on the beach to eat.  That was Wesley's first time "close" to the beach (tho I don't think he went down to it, just stayed at the park nearby...).  I know they had a great time!

Aleksa and Emma went with Michael and had a quick dinner at Arby's before going to the beach as well!  I think they went out to a boardwalk, but they may have gone to the Jetty instead...  They walked on the beach and Michael took a bunch of pictures of the girls as well.  You can tell they had fun!




Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wesley has a new kitchen chair!

Well... kind of.  More like an almost expired car seat turned in to a kitchen chair by means of strapping it on to a regular chair.  Just because it won't be optimal impact resistant doesn't mean it can't be useful, right?


Just don't tell Kristopher

That I keep squeezing the stupid egg since after 3 days in the water it was doing nothing in its own to break open...  this kid is EXCITED about his dino hatching "on its own" though!


A GI update on James

James went to the GI on Tuesday and we were able to talk through some of the struggles he is still facing with eating.



A little background... James has had feeding difficulties since he was very small and has failure to thrive.  He had a g-tube placed around 2 years old and was dependent on night feedings when we met him, taking only a few ounces at a time orally over the course of the day.  He wasn't actively taking much during a spoon feeding of purees.  James also has fairly severe reflux.  He will 'urp' little bits throughout the day even while on Prevacid, which is an increase from the med he was on before we met him (his foster mom had it changed just as we were getting him!).  James has gone from tube/bottle fed with the majority of his calories coming in over night while he slept to being completely self-fed with a cup!  We are very proud of the progress he is making developmentally, but, unfortunately, he still is very small and... there's no good reason that an almost-5-year-old little boy shouldn't be able to eat a cookie... unless there's really an underlying health issue.

Herein lies our query, and that of the GI doctor as well.  Do we push and give him solids despite his constantly bringing them back up even hours later?  Could it be that his anatomy is unusual and the 'chunks' of french fry that we gave him actually CANNOT go down?  We don't want to keep "trying to see" if it will work if there really is something wrong on the inside that's preventing him from keeping down anything more than a puree... and often times even the purees come back up if given in much quantity at once.

So... Monday James is scheduled for a gastric motility study.  We'll see how quickly things are moving through the system and whether there are any 'hangups' along the way.  Friday, James will be having an upper GI done, which will tell us about the physical anatomy of the upper GI system using Barium, to be sure there aren't any twists in the intestines or other abnormalities.  And we are waiting for an EDG (um... I think it's EndoDuodenalGastrointestinal) scope to be scheduled (this he will be sedated for and is scheduled as a surgery) which will show what the lining of all those structures look like and possibly work on anything unusual that is found.

For now, we continue to get him to take the 4 1/2-5 cans of thickened Pediasure each day and wait for these tests to be completed.

(PS: James was in an excellent foster home from birth until placement with us, and his difficulty with eating is not a result of neglect, etc before we received him.  It's just James.  :)  )

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Where's God's FB page??

It's the second day of summer.  It's HOT.  All the kids are out of school and home, and we are LOVING life right now!

We've been to the zoo.  We've spent many mornings in the pool.  We spent a day at the science center.  We've been to the park.  We've played on the swingset.  We've gone out front to ride bikes and scooters in the driveway.  And through it all we've had a great time!!

So why, then, am I looking for God on FB?  Well, it seems that in the thrill of summer, the busyness of having 8 kids at the house all the time, the desire to spend good quality time together and expose the kids to new things, the joy of the carefree days... well... God sometimes gets put to the bottom of the list.

In those few free minutes, it's so much easier to grab the computer, lay back and check forums of other adoptive parents, or of other parents with children with special needs, or, to just scroll down that home page on FaceBook to see what everyone else is doing this summer.

Then I hit the pillow at night, exhausted from another long and full day with the kids.  Michael and I lay and play a word game on the ipad as we're falling asleep (quite literally, as I usually do fall asleep playing LOL).  And about 4am, I wake up, with a deep need to talk to God.  A desire to pray.  To read His Word.  To see what it is that God is up to... and to know where He wants ME to be.

So I pray.  And sometimes God shares a specific burden to pray for, or to begin praying on so that I can act.

My natural tendency with something that I regularly forget to do or put off because it's hard... is to try to find an 'easier' way to do it.  Some way that will remind me and make it a more simplified task.

But God isn't simple.  He doesn't fit in our box.  He doesn't even respect our timeline when we sit and say "I have 15 minutes for you now, God!"  Because he has eternity in His hands, and sometimes His message for us is going to take more than 15 minutes to share.

If we sat down at a friend's table when they'd invited us over and they sat down and started rattling off information they wanted us to know, things they wanted us to do, and telling us about their most recent activities (which we'd already read about on FB), then as a timer went off they said "ok, gotta go now, meatloaf is ready and I need to take the kids to the pool in 20 minutes. Bye!" We would probably be pretty perturbed.

So, my immediate thought when I woke one morning a few days ago was that I need to find a simple devotional-on-disc.  You know, something that I could keep in the stereo and hit "play track 1" on Monday, and "play track 2" on Tuesday all through the week, and month, and have someone else do the "work" in actually READING God's word, and have them just share with me what THEY got out of His word.

But really... REALLY?  Though I won't say it's not a decent idea (hey, maybe someone makes something like that already... I'm sure they do...).  It just doesn't take the place of time in God's word and in prayer asking Him what He has to tell Me.

After all, even though God doesn't use a FaceBook page to write out his thoughts with us, He did already write down everything that He wanted us to know about him all in one place.  It's called the Bible and it is a pretty interesting way to learn about God.

I'm also pretty sure that although God's not writing to us on FaceBook or hitting the "like" button, or leaving comments on our blogs with His thoughts on what we're doing... He IS reading along and seeing what we're doing... leading us and guiding us along the way.  If only we ask Him to.

How do you find alone time with God?  What "helps" do you use to communicate with Him?  A prayer book?  A specific Bible study?  A study group of others with a similar focus in life?  A specific time of day that's set aside?  Or do you wait for Him to wake you at 4am for that time alone? :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What makes things work...

Several years ago (pre-children, possibly), I discovered a website which many other parents have fallen just as much in love with as I have.  The site has great children's products that offer very little variety because everything is the *best rated* in its division.  In fact, many are created BY this company to improve on a "good idea" to make it a GREAT one.  I must admit... some of their products are just downright weird.  And I certainly think many are useless... but obviously someone else would disagree :)  SOMEONE had to put it there :).

The site?  OneStepAhead.com

No, this isn't a clumsy sales pitch or something that I'm getting rewarded for posting.  Quite honestly, it is my way of passing along something GOOD.

After all, today I got a much awaited package from them with some things that will make life much easier for us here at home.  I'm ALL ABOUT making a hard job easier.  I'm ALL about making a dirty job cleaner.  I'm all for saving time by doing something more efficiently.  And, I'm all for making things better for my kids.

So... here is a post of what I just ordered, simply to pass it along... as well as some of my other favorites from the last 7 years of parenting that can be found at this website (though many of the items I found other places...)

Today, I received a set of reusable swimming diapers.  I have one set, you see, which I ordered last summer. It had a set of 2 swimmy diapers for Lynae, Micah, Brianna, and Emma.  James also had some swimmy diapers last year, but he has outgrown them.  So... this year Lynae still has two that still fit well.  Micah now has ONE, and James has the other.  Brianna now has ONE and Wesley has the other.  Emma now has ONE and Aleksa now has the other.  Funny how that works, isn't it?  Today I received my second 'set' so that when someone *ahem* poops in the kiddie pool and all the swimmy diapers must be sent through the laundry... we can still go back in the pool the next day even if Mom hasn't done the laundry all the way through (of course, after cleaning out the pool too...).

Even better?  The basic swim diapers are on sale right now. $4.95 (regular price $10.95) YAY for sales.  (Free shipping on orders of $85 using the coupon code on the site too!).
http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=537148&cmSource=Search
Sun Smarties Basic Swim Diaper

I also ordered a necessity for Florida... and one that will make the necessity EASIER for me.  Each of our wheelchairs has a sun hood, but they are all different and bulky, and we don't leave them on all the time.  That means that when we go out in the weather if we haven't thought about it... we don't have it with us.  Our Valco baby stroller is the same way with the 3rd seat that sits in front.  We HAVE a hood, but it's not usually attached except for walks.

What makes life easier?  Two of these that fit in the car and can attach to any wheelchair or stroller, or even the toddler seat on the triple!  No need to keep switching hoods, and, best of all, they aren't expensive. The flexible arm and rotating hinge make them easy to redirect... even easier to adjust than a 'regular' canopy for the strollers or wheelchairs.

http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=537550&cmSource=Search
Even better?  They're also on sale.  ($9.95 on sale from $19.95)
Sun Smarties Parasol Clip On Sun Umbrella

We are very blessed to have just received a shower chair and a feeding seat from friends here locally whose son has outgrown the equipment.  It has made bath time SO much easier and more pleasant for Wesley to be able to have him in a seat rather than us killing our backs and him being uncomfortable as we attempted to hold him up and wash him and spray him and...  What a blessing to have the shower chair!

Along with the shower chair, another item we've used in our kids' bath tub for some time now is a 'second grip' for the flexible shower hose.  I'd actually recommend this for parents traveling to Ukraine that want a STAND UP shower too! :)  This quick suction (but trust me it holds WELL!) holder keeps the shower wand at a specific place rather than just at the top of the shower.  For me, it means that I don't have to step IN to the shower to put it away when bathing Wesley, and when we're washing the other kids in the tub, we can have it low and not have to keep standing (or letting it SWING!) when we're not using it.
This one's not on sale at the moment, but it is a reasonable price when it keeps our backs from breaking while bathing 7 kids! (one showers himself ;) ).  ($12.95 regular price)

http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=535390&cmSource=Search
Mommy's Helper Adjustable Shower Arm for Kids

After our most recent move from 3 cribs into TODDLER beds, we have a new issue which we haven't had in a while.  CHILDPROOFING!  Several things have had to be done to childproof our kids' bedrooms including installing a high shelf (a 2-cube unit) which now houses a CD player/radio, a baby monitor for the room, and a night light up above it.  The cube unit has a set of conduit to protect an extension cord that runs down to an outlet below, which is covered by a very handy outlet protector.  The outlet cover allows a plug to be plugged in and unable to be removed.  With our little ones, an exposed cord is VERY likely to be pulled on, and a power outlet is a very dangerous thing.

We did this a little while ago, so it wasn't part of our current order, but I wanted to share anyway.
http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=399762&cmSource=Search
Outlet Cover & Cord Shortener

The other child proofing thing that we DID just do, was to close up the closets.  We found that more so than the 'pinched finger' issues with bifold doors, that we also didn't want the kids IN TO everything that we've stored away in the closets!  These bifold door locks took 2 seconds to put on the door, are very discreet looking, and the simplest to use... but inaccessible by children!
They weren't overly inexpensive, but considering the lack of product available to do this sort of thing without having to reach the top of the door and turn knobs and do all kinds of 'weird' things... I was willing to pay it to have the peace of mind that my kids aren't unpacking all of the comforters and piling them on top of one another or getting in to bins of toys while they should be sleeping :) Each door lock is $7.95 and if there are two bifold doors (like most closets), then you will need two...

http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=534483&cmSource=Search
Bi-Fold Door Lock with Handle

Despite the ache that an order like this may put on the pocket book, I am so very glad to be able to find them all in one place!  OneStepAhead is always my first place to look when I'm looking for birthday or Christmas gifts, and my first place to look when searching for a hard to find item.  Plus, it's fun to browse the site and see what other people consider their "essentials"!  I always double check prices elsewhere and often get emails with % off and/or free shipping (tho the site usually has a code for free shipping over $85, the emails often have it for less!)
Some of the odd things... that are probably one someone else's "important" list??  *But not mine.. LOL*
Like this:
Baggy Rack Plastic Bag Holder (yes, it's a baggie holder-opener?)
and this...
Beach Flag ("just" a flag... for the beach...)

and this...
Glow In the Dark Kidswitch Light Switch Extension Handle (we are currently trying to teach our boys how to NOT touch the light switches... and they're the height of an average 2 1/2 year old, roughly (34" and 37")...)



And yet, some useful things like these that, over the last 7 years, we've been able to use with our kids.  Today we tucked our boys in to bed using one of these on each of two beds:
Stay-Put Inflatable Bed Rail Set
Which we'd purchased for travel but found they're very useful for Wesley to not "fall" between the mattress and rail, and for Micah to not roll out of bed!  http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=537078&parentCategoryId=85183&categoryId=85216

And this afternoon while playing outside we put this up, which is the only way I can really let my kids play in the driveway and give them a good visual boundary (and PHYSICAL boundary!) of where they are allowed to be.
Kidsafe Driveway Guard  http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=6794&parentCategoryId=85183&categoryId=85215


We have used this, while James was in a crib since he COULD climb out, but not safely...
Child Safety Cozy Crib Tent II Prevents Climbing  http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=309775&parentCategoryId=85183&categoryId=85216

We have these in several kitchen cabinets as well as all the bathrooms where anything that isn't safe for kids may be stored (and... our DVD cabinet!)
Tot-Lok Starter Set  http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=5785&parentCategoryId=85183&categoryId=85216

They carry our absolutely WONDERFUL, stroller (which we are so blessed to have received as a gift)
Tri-Mode Twin Stroller   http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=536454&parentCategoryId=85184&categoryId=117564
(but I don't see the toddler attachment listed which is the 3rd seat...)

The chairs that are adjustable to keep every child right at the table and not leave their feet dangling!  These were the kids' Christmas gifts last year on an excellent sale...!
Euro II Grow With Me Chair   http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=536833&parentCategoryId=85181&categoryId=85205

Something I leave in my car because McDonald's is only worthwhile if you don't have to change everyone's clothes after the juice box!
Juice Pal Insulated Juice Box Holder  http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=456756&parentCategoryId=85181&categoryId=85206
(Recently in the Target summer area (different design, same function) for $2!)

These are connected to both sides of our double/triple... and also are great to use for a child walking next to the stroller to have something to hold on to (when a cup isn't attached)!
SippyPal Straps Sippy Cup Tether (set of 2)   http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=536676&parentCategoryId=85181&categoryId=85206

Micah learned to eat using these, since they can be 'bent' and then unbent as he learned to turn the spoon himself.
Benders Adaptable Utensils  http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=534787&parentCategoryId=85181&categoryId=85206

And this, the ultra-space-saving, MANY use tent which is not only great for watching cartoons from on a rainy day, but has an inflatable mattress for use as a bed for traveling.  ESPECIALLY useful when said child likes to wander and isn't safe in a bed or playpen...  These are a lifesaver :)  Kristopher (typical son, 7 years old and fairly tall for his age) still likes to play in it and can sit in the center without touching as well as lay flat in it lengthwise.  Also good to use as a contained ball pit or clean spot at the park with no bugs able to access a little one.
PeaPod Plus Baby Travel Bed  http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=537379&cmSource=Search

So... there's my 'favorite things' post about OneStepAhead.com  I could probably do a similar one with Amazon, but really they have just about EVERYTHING there, it's just a matter of whether their prices are good on the item or not :)

Feel free to post links to other favorite places to shop or other great "innovative" child items that make your lives easier!

Father’s Day in Pictures…

On Father’s Day we dedicated our three newest adopted children to the Lord during our Father’s Day services at church!  This dedication is more for us than our children, but with a blessing over them as well.  It is our formal ‘announcement’ and accountability that we will raise our children in the church and to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ as we do as well. 

This is also a time for the church to stand next to the families and say that they, too will be a support to the next generation of children as they are raised up within the church.

Aleksa, Wesley, and James were all dedicated and, aside from Wesley’s giggle antics, all did very well standing in front of the church body for the dedication!

 IMG_0768 IMG_0769 IMG_0775IMG_0774

IMG_0773

During the service, the staff directors’ wives (the one female director- our nursery and children’s director- put her husband on the stand!) put together a “pick the pop” game, where someone had to identify which dad each thing described.  Here’s all the director pops on stage

IMG_0779

After that game, they played a video of the staff dads and their kids, then were ‘surprised’ by their families all coming down front to close out the service in prayer over the men of the church
(pictured below are families near where our family was sitting, the stage is a semicircle, so that’s only half…)

IMG_0792  IMG_0791

Within our church’s 10 ministry directors, there are 36 children, 26 of whom are under 4th grade… and 15 of whom are 5 and under… 4 of us were all having babies together when Lynae was born (4 babies in 5 months!) and now the other 3 moms have had another baby each (one born this morning… she’s very pregnant in these pictures :)  ) and we’ve adopted 3 since then.  Three of us dedicated our newest additions that week together, as well as 18 months ago with our first set of kids.

It was a fun way to celebrate Father’s day and to come together as a staff family :)