Sunday, November 16, 2014

Space Cadet

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Jakson wrestling with the big trash can at the old house earlier this year.

Jakson's struggles with listening and following directions.  It's always been this way, but seems to be getting worse as he gets older.  Last week he forgot to bring his lunchbox home from school.   The next morning Zak packed his lunch in a plastic grocery bag and handed it to Jakson saying, "this is your lunch."  Jakson promptly trotted out to the trashcan by the front curb and dropped his lunch in.  About a minute later, the garbage truck came by, emptied the trash can into the truck, and drove off.


A few minutes later, as Zak and Jakson walked out to the car, he noticed that his lunch was missing but could not figure out what had happened to it.  Zak searched all over the house.  Finally Jakson realized that he had thrown it away and started screaming that we needed to chase the truck down and get it back.  No way I was digging it out of the back of that truck.

Unfortunately, we only have two plastic sandwich containers for each kid.  One he left at school in his lunchbox and the other he had just thrown away.  The only option left was Storey's pink princess sandwich container.   And we all know how Jakson loves princesses.  A fitting punishment.   

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Camping, not camping.

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A couple of weekends ago we loaded up the car and headed up to the Hill Country to Elijah's Retreat, (a retreat for families with autism). I booked the cabins over a year ago (weekends book up really early. All the weekends for 2015 are already spoken for!), before we moved, before we made the decision to adopt, and before I scheduled a gajillion fall photo sessions. It ended up coming at the exact time that I badly needed a break. I finished all the editing that was due and left my computer at home.  GLORIOUS.

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Our good friends, the Kolbabas went along. There are very few couples that we can see ourselves traveling with and they definitely make the short list. We cooked outside, OUR CHILDREN GOT ALONG THE WHOLE TIME! (I repeat: our children got along the whole time!!!), the weather was fabulous, we relaxed, the kids got dirty, rode horses, I read a bit, and we didn't miss technology at all. Oh, and it was LIKE camping, but with a bed and a toilet and four walls. Kids were happy, husband was happy, I was happy.

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We loved it so much that, while we were there, we booked a long weekend again next May.  I want to go back tomorrow.  The kids claimed it was better than Disneyland (blasphemy!).  Ironic coming from the four children that have the most Disney loving parents I know.

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We realized a couple of days before our trip that there was a misunderstanding about our fingerprints for the adoption paperwork we are currently working on, so we made an appointment in a nearby town on Friday morning to get those done.  While we were gone, the kids rode horses.  Mandy took some pictures so I could see how much fun they were having without us.

Storey and Grayden crack me up.  They are are basically the boy and girl version of each other, which makes for the ultimate love/hate relationship.  Fortunately, they were on a "love" kick during this trip.  We kind of want them to get date just to see what would happen (would they kill each other or get married?)
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Zak's favorite part was driving the tractor around....in his flip flops.  Next stop: real farmer.  The little barrel train was a huge hit and the kids rode it all over the property.

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Lots of playing in the dirt.
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Though it was mid-October, we live in The Land of No Seasons, so got to take advantage of the blow up water slide. The adults didn't bring bathing suits, but donned our pj's and joined the kids on the slide. It was enormously fun.
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The kids got to feed all of the animals, but their favorite animal to drag around (or be dragged by) was Oreo, the baby goat. Storey asked if we can get one for a pet. I guess then we wouldn't need a lawnmower?
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Mandy was the only adult brave (crazy?) enough to get on a horse.  She will most likely throw eggs at my house for posting this picture.
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I'll redeem myself with an adorable picture of Avery.  She only sort of looks like she's been eating dirt.
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Four kids and a goat (Oreo) in the hayride.
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Future blackmail.
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Note to self: children will give you their rapt attention if you have a bow and arrow in your hand. 
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During our stay, we were able to talk with Jeff (owner of Elijah's Retreat) about his decision to move out to the country and build a safe space for families with autism.  I love hearing stories of God directed paths.  He and his wife felt strongly about this particular piece of land and have watched as their prayers to create a respite retreat have been answered.  He said that all of the work on the property (cabin building, path clearing, train building, etc) has been done by volunteers from churches in the area and professionals willing to donate their time.  So inspiring.

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Storey and Grayden were collecting all kinds of bugs, frogs, and creepy things.  Grayden called them "forest creatures."  Storey found an enormous millipede Friday and was carrying it around for awhile.  Grayden caught one Saturday and they made a house for it (aka tortured it).  Both of the kids had weird bright red stuff all over their hands most of the weekend.  We thought it had come off of the water slide or something because it looked like dye.  Mandy sent me a picture of Grayden's hands (looking worse than ever) on Saturday evening asking, "What in the world happened?".    I turned to my trusty (but overreacting) friend Google and found out it was from the millipede.  Of course, the internets only provide the worse case scenario-THEY ARE GOING TO DIE!  It recommended taking the kids to the emergency room and went on and on about blindness.

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I shut myself in our bedroom and called Mandy to ask what she thought we should do.  Storey is the queen of eavesdropping and was apparently standing outside my door because as soon as I mentioned the part about going blind, I hear her start screaming about going blind and completely freaking out.  I sent Zak out to calm her down and called poison control.  They said as long as they weren't having labored breathing and it started to fade, rather than get worse, we shouldn't need to take them in.  Basically it's a non-issue (though the kids have been told not to play with that particular bug next trip).

I asked Jakson if he held the millipede (his hands weren't red).  He looked at me matter of factly and said, "No I read in a book that they are poisonous.  I tried to tell Storey".   Nice.  Glad he shared that information with the rest of us.   Oh, kids.

Being overly dramatic, like her Aunt Katy (p.s. I love to blame things on Zak's sisters), Storey took it upon herself to tell every adult in Primary and at school Monday that they needed to watch her for rashes and difficulty breathing.  Because, you know, THE POISON.

Monday, October 20, 2014

First Grade

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firstday

Favorite movie: Parent Trap
Favorite TV show: Studio C (on the BYU channel)
Favorite song: Let It Go and Do You Want to Build a Snowman?
Favorite book: Just Grace, Ivy and Bean, Junie B Jones, and Berenstain Bears
Favorite book character:  Junie B. Jones
Favorite friend: Emme and Millie
Favorite school subject: Lunch and recess (and library)
Favorite thing to do: Catch frogs, watch TV, and read
Favorite food:  Hot dogs and cheesy tortillas
Favorite place to go:  Cabin and Disneyland (or World)
Favorite animal: Ponies and puppies
What do you want to be when you grow up: A pet vet
What do you hope happens when you are in first grade? I make a ton of new friends.
First grade goal: To get 100 on every single test.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Waves of Impact

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Zak and I sat on the beach yesterday and talked about the amazing opportunities our family has experienced because of autism.  Not only have we been stretched (in good ways, mostly) as parents, but autism has given our family the chance to see so much goodness in others.    Between Disneyland (which still brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it), Jakson's therapists, Elijah's Retreat, autism friendly movie showings and festivals, we have encountered some of the best, most compassionate people. 

As I stood in the waves, watching Jakson surf, and talking to one of the co-founders of Waves of Impact, a feeling of gratitude overcame me.  People are amazing. 

Waves of Impact travels to several beaches in the U.S. providing "surf lessons" to children with autism (and their siblings) at no cost.  All of the instructors are volunteers and, judging by the ones we met yesterday, are incredibly patient and kind towards the children they are working with.   They might also be magic since Storey cries at the drop of a hat and at one point during her lesson flipped off the surfboard, landed face first in the water, was placed back on the board by her instructor (Corbin), and just kept going.   MAGIC, I tell you.

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Jakson didn't want to go at first (he was afraid surfing was dangerous, sharks would eat him, etc) but after a few YouTube videos and seeing pictures of other kids from his school that have attended in the past, he agreed that it might be fun.   On the way home from Galveston, he asked if he can have surfing lessons, so I'd say it was a success (even if he looks grumpy in the picture below, he was just REALLY cold).
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It was a great day.   Fun to watch the kids, surfing lessons fit in perfectly between the two sessions of conference, so we listened all the way to Galveston and all the way back, and the weather was gorgeous (though maybe a tiny bit cold for swimming in the ocean).   Can't wait to do it again next year!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Blood and paperwork.

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Our lives have been consumed by paperwork, school, and photo shoots to pay for said paperwork.

The paperwork started with getting approved by our home study agency and the placement agency (two different agencies---home study agency is local).  To make sure we aren't serial killers and that sort of thing.  Part of the approval process was begging people that we think like us okay to write nice things to the agency.   A portion of the reference letter asked for "talents/skills" for the husband and wife individually (should I be scared to know what people filled in about me??  Possibly "finds trash and sells it" would be frowned on).   I will not name names, but after we had been approved, one of these very kind friends called me to say that she and her husband had a difficult time coming up with "talents/skills" for Zak, bless his heart.   Her husband mentioned that he "makes a mean cherry pie" (true) and then "is obedient to what his wife tells him to do" (not a talent AND makes me sound a bit abusive).  I love our friends.  Also, for the record, while Zak isn't usually the one to dream up projects or crazy ideas, he is talented enough to execute them.  So there.

Besides paperwork, we also had to have a couple of doctor's appointments-physicals-and blood work (let's not talk about it. It's making me sweat just thinking about the pain) to ensure we aren't carrying around crazy diseases.

Side note: I read somewhere many years ago that if you redirect the pain to another area of your body, the pain that you really feel will dull.   It doesn't make a ton of sense, but let's go with it.  And in case you haven't figured it out, needles = death.  IMHO.  Because I'm brilliant, I went with the whole redirect the pain idea (and still do, frankly), and chose to dig my fingernails into my forehead (the consequences of this did not occur to me--I was young and my frontal lobe wasn't fully developed.  Or something like that.)   Over Christmas break from college, I had to get blood drawn for some reason I can't remember (it must have been serious, because, NEEDLES!) and when I walked out with fingernail marks across my forehead, my mother informed me that she was embarrassed to be seen with me.  Now that's love.   But it was a good lesson (mother knows best, right STOREY??!?!) and since then I've been pinching myself in more discreet places. 

In other news, we've started our annual "apply for grants to pay for Jak's therapy" party a little early this year because once we get our home study back (should be mid-October), we'll have about 20 adoption grants to apply for.  Many people say they apply for 20 grants and only receive one for $1000.  But hey, that's $1000 I didn't have before.  Good thing I was obsessed with applying for scholarships my senior year in high school and have lots of practice with this sort of thing.  And that most of these grant applications look about the same.  Too bad there's no "copy/paste" function in my pen.  Technology has spoiled me.    I will say that its a million times easier to find grant information now that Google has been invented (though part of the scholarship fun was the thrill of digging through the school counselor's file cabinets, which I'm sure the internet has eliminated).    Googling is one of my talents (did anyone mention this in the "talents/skills" section of their reference letter to the agency???!??!). 

Completely unrelated:

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Because it annoyed my mother as a child and she probably muttered something about having a kid just like me, I now have a child who reads at the kitchen table during meals.    Still not quite sure how I also ended up dealing with all of the things that used to be annoying about Zak's sisters, (i.e. turning life into a musical, singing at the table, being a ridiculously dramatic hypochondriac) but that's another post for another time.

This summer, I convinced a friend of mine to teach the kids piano.   Though she wasn't sure she would like teaching or be good at it (she's great!!) she has since picked up several more piano students.   Like, all of her afternoons are now full of piano lessons.    Another friend (a talented seamstress and former home ec teacher) was trying to come up with a way to earn some extra money and I laid out a plan for her to teach a class on sewing while we were at a birthday party at Chuck-E-Cheese.   Zak says I need to start selling my business ideas instead of giving them away for free.  Ha.

The kids like piano and are doing well.  All of the banging in the afternoon can sometimes give me a bit of a headache while I'm cooking dinner, but we all have to make sacrifices.  I can think of much worse instruments.   Storey doesn't exactly stick to the prescribed practice songs.  She enjoys making up her own songs and the words to go with them.  We are used to this as she makes up songs all day long.  Especially when she is going to the bathroom. 

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A couple of weeks ago, Storey taught FHE-a lesson she prepared by herself. She even made a chart assigning everyone prayers and songs. Every time someone gave answer she didn't have written down, she would bluntly say, "no, you're wrong." Needless to say, this child loves to be in charge.  The social worker that came for our home study thought she was hilarious.  When she was interviewed, she tried to answer each question with a cheer, complete with pom poms.  

Last Sunday I was asked to sub for the Primary chorister at the last minute.  I walked in to the Primary room just as the teacher was talking to the kids about being honest and why they should be honest.  Storey raised her hand and informed the Primary that when she tells lies her mom washes her mouth out with soap.  So she doesn't want to lie anymore.  I got a couple of looks, but just said, "Dang straight, I do"  Storey realized I was in there and came over to give me big hugs and kisses.  Feeling repentant for telling on me?

Children do make life interesting.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Telling the kids.

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A couple of weeks ago, we decided to tell the kids about the adoption (obviously from the video posted the other day), mainly because our home study is quickly approaching and we didn't think it would look very good if we had the social worker come over and tell them for us.  For the Hague accredited home study, the social worker must interview everyone living in the house, so we couldn't put off the conversation for long.

Zak and I sat them down after church and had a family home evening type lesson.  We talked about how Jesus was adopted by Joseph and how I was adopted and what the sealing power does.  Then we explained that Zak and I have been praying about our family and that Heavenly Father wants us to add another family member through adoption.   We mentioned China, but our children really have no idea where that is, so it didn't really sink in at first.  Later we got out a globe and showed them how far away China is, but Storey asked today if the Chinese (in China) are Americans too.  We'll keep working on that.
Since the adoption process is going to take quite a while, a friend of mine, who has adopted several times, suggested that we give them a time table that they can understand, like grade level.  So we told that them we wouldn't be going to pick up the child until Storey is in 2nd grade and Jakson is in the fourth grade.  I am in hopes that it might be next summer, but with everything that needs to happen, I think that's a bit of a pipe dream.

Their initial reaction was super excitement, but then Storey just burst into tears.  She said she was nervous about the change and that our family is just the four of us and it's going to be so different.  I totally understand because I have those same worries.   It is going to be a big change and is a huge step into the unknown.  After hearing a bit more of the details and a reminder that we have a long time to get used to the idea, she calmed down.  But still wants a twin, which will be difficult.
After giving them the news, we had them Skype all of our siblings and let them know.  We felt that gave them some ownership to what was happening and allowed them to be a big part of the excitement.

Several comments from the kids:
  • Jakson: Dad, who is adopted in your family?  Is it Aunt Katy?  And then later when we explaining that the child is going to look Chinese, Jakson said, "Just like Aunt Katy!"  A few weeks ago he thought Aunt Katy was a black person.  He's quite confused about Aunt Katy.
  • Jakson's first question after we told them: Can I get a baby name book from the library?
  • Jakson, also right after we told them: I'm crying happy tears.
  • Storey: Can we get a twin for me?  (she obviously doesn't understand the concept of twins).
  • We explained that China has a rule about only having one child.  Jakson was very worried that when we all go to China, we would have to give one of the kids to them because we have too many.  
  • After we are matched and the Chinese government approves the match, we can start sending gifts to the child at the orphanage.  We told the kids about that.  Storey ran to her room and got the most recent Friend magazine so she could show us an article all about care packages.  She is already planning the first care package we should send using the list in the Friend.
  • Jakson:  We have such a good family.    I thought that was very sweet of him to say.
  • Jakson: What do orphans do all day?  Clean?  (obviously his only orphan reference is "Annie")
  • After we asked Storey how she was feeling, she told us she is "nervexcited"  A new word she coined from nervous and excited.  It's a great way to describe how all of us feel :)

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

ONLINE Photo Class!

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I am hosting an ONLINE beginner photo class!  It's a six week, self paced, interactive class.  Basically what I've been teaching in person for the last three years, but you don't have to change out of your pj's.  Nothing better than that!!

If you are interested in signing up, enrollment will be open until this upcoming Sunday night.  Class starts on Monday morning.  It's a great way to learn all about your camera (I know you've been meaning to do that for a few years!).  All of the class fees go towards the cost of our adoption of a child with special needs from China.  Learn something new and feel good at the same time!

Sign up here:  Online Photo Crash Course

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