Thursday, December 22, 2011

Some information and a change of address coming

Since I am supposed to be doing many, many other things right now, I will try to keep this post short--but informative!  Yesterday was a busy day around this household, with an important appointment and a very important phone call.  Let's do this chronologically, I suppose.

I don't know if I've owned up to it in any posts, but last week I slipped up.  I did something I haven't done since I was in junior high.  That's right, I did it when I had braces on and I did it just over a week ago.  I mixed up days on a doctor's appointment!  Not just any appointment; the developmental pediatrician that I was so excited for Julia to go see at the Child Development Clinic that I am sure we will become very familiar with.  So imagine my disappointment when I showed up last Thursday, with the whole family rushing in to make it to our check in desk on be told that the appointment was yesterday.  Nevertheless, we were able to quickly reschedule and that brings us back around to yesterday.

Yesterday was my redemption appointment.  We showed up on time AND on the right day!  The appointment went so incredibly smoothly.  Both girls behaved very well and Julia only got nervous a couple of times and was easily comforted.  We met with the pediatrician, a speech pathologist and a gal I think I remembered being identified as a...student or resident of some sort.  (So many titles to keep up with in the medical field!)  They were all fantastic!  The pediatrician was very positive and both girls loved playing with the student.

There was nothing that was too shocking to us.  The pediatrician pointed out some characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Julia, which was not surprising.  I'll admit that when I learned about how Julia originally was taken to the hospital by the authorities in Ukraine because her mother was drunk, it had immediately aroused a suspicion in me.  Sure enough, there are some signs of it there and with all FAS, some are more prominent than others.  My favorite part of the visit came after the pediatrician talked about labeling it as FAS when she immediately began talking about how it's not just a label and we don't just take it as a 'sentence' for her life.  We take it as a piece of who she is and we do our best to maximize her potential. *sigh* What a long shot from how the doctors in her life a year ago would have approached it.

We discussed her activity and behavior as of right now and the team agreed that she is functioning more like a two year old right now.  (*Just a moment on my soap box, but as someone who was initially scared of getting an 'older' child at first, it is more the reality that these children will largely come to you as toddlers, regardless of their actual birth age.  So don't be scared! :)  Bigger kids are fun too!)  She was very pleased with some of the problem solving tasks she could complete and the parallel play she was engaging in with the student.  I loved seeing these kind of doctors because it's so interesting to me that things like both Julia and the student playing cars together and mimicking actions like drawing on a paper can reveal so much about their progress in life at that point! 

We got our laundry list of specialists to check in with and luckily it was not that different that the one our pediatrician gave us too.  We're also to talk to the school district about getting her in a group analysis with a bunch of their doctors to take a look at the therapies she will likely qualify for and starting an Individualized Education Plan once we feel ready.

After the doctor's appointment, I had to immediately rush off to a long shift at work.  About two hours into my shift, I got a phone call.  "We got it."  I was under a PA speaker and couldn't tell for sure what or who I'd just heard.  "I'm sorry.  I couldn't hear so well.  What was that?" I asked.  "This is Robert.  They accepted the offer.  We got it!"  I dropped everything and made a beeline for the office. 

Yesterday, we'd looked at a very cute house that we liked a lot.  It was in a good area, it was clean and had a cute little yard, including a covered patio and plenty of storage space.  Even more important, it was more than 900 square feet! :)  We liked it so much and the housing market is moving so quickly out here, that we decided to put in an offer.  Call it the curiosity of a realtor's son or the fact that he's probably never lived in a house so small, but Robert has constantly watched the housing market around us for years.  He's seen how fast the good ones go and we'd had house after house go off the market while we were discussing it or wanting to go see it.  So we acted fast on this one.  The owners acted even faster.  Last night, we decided we did want to offer, his dad came over and we signed the paperwork.  The next morning at 9 a.m., he faxed over the papers.  By 5 p.m. or so, we'd gotten the response that they'd accepted--24 hours earlier than the deadline even!

All in all, it was a pretty hectic but great day.  We added a couple pieces to Julia's puzzle and for the first time ever, got to say 'Merry Christmas!  It's a house!'.  Santa nailed it this year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Crazy of Christmas

I'll go ahead and jump on the cliche bandwagon--yes, Christmas time is hectic.  Yes, Christmas came too fast this year.  Yes, I am not prepared!  All of the above are true but we are still trying our best to spend some family time in the midst of everything and just enjoy our first season as a family of four.

As we've been driving around town the past couple weeks, Lily has loved looking at the Christmas lights.  It's the first year she's really taken notice of them but she has certainly latched onto pointing out who's car window you can see them out of and of course, the giant inflatable lawn ornaments are a big hit too.  We decided to take the girls to a drive through lights display at Thanksgiving Point.  It was a bit chilly, but we rolled the windows down and cranked up the heat to be able to see the lights better.  As soon as we got into the first set of lights, the girls LOVED it!  Julia thought it was pretty neat to be able to stick her hand out the window just a bit. Lily loved pointing out the different things in the lights, like the polar bears or penguins.  They both enjoyed it, but Julia just may have had the time of her life.  She was having so much fun that the laughter turned into full on screams at some points!   By the time we reached the end of the path, Robert and I were just laughing hard at the girls' reactions and how unexpectedly overjoyed we all were during the ride.

Though we've posted a lot of pictures lately, I am not letting it slow me down.  We hadn't planned on doing a second set of Christmas pictures, but Robert got out his camera a few days after we set up the tree and snagged a few gems.

Even though it did sneak up on us and I wouldn't quite say we're all the way ready, we are getting there.  There girls both love 'helping' wrap presents and join me on the floor quite willingly with tape and stickers in hand. 

What a new experience this all is for her.  It's been fun imagining what Julia will think of this first Christmas in a home with a family.  It's odd to imagine that had the timing of our adoption not been what it was, she would have been spending this Christmas in an institution.  She would have been lucky to have a full belly, let alone much attention and an abundance of toys, treats, and love would be absolutely out of the question. 

But that is not the case.  God had different plans for her.  And now our plans are showing her all those great things she deserved for so many years and never got.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

More photo fun!

It shouldn't be any surprise from some of the other photos that my husband likes to dabble in photography.  He has some great equipment and loves to play around behind the lens.  The other day, we decided to combine my need to fulfill a cake truffle order and his desire to do a photo shoot.  It turned out really fun and the girls even got their chance to do some funny face shots!

Our intended Christmas card shoot

The Norman Rockwell side of me said that our Christmas card this year should be decked out in matchy-matchy pictures of our now four-person family side by side all gazing joyfully into camera.  The reality side of me laughed at the Norman Rockwell idea and had to start getting creative.  See, Lily's new thing is that she doesn't want to smile for pictures and Julia still won't make a ton of eye contact, especially with a camera lens.

My big idea for our photo attempt was to have us all decorating cookies side by side.  The girls would be distracted enough to stay in one place for a while.  We'd all be able to be in close proximity of each other.  It should work, right?  Well, kind of.  We got some cute pictures (none of which wound up being on the Christmas card) and a lot of funny laughs.

So, while this doesn't reveal much of the final Christmas card product, here are some funny pictures of our baking photo shoot adventure!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A first for all of us...

Our days have mostly been filled with ...stuff lately.  Stuff like running errands to try and accomplish Christmas shopping.  Work stuff.  Housekeeping stuff.  Not very fun 'stuff' to blog about.

Well, I was pretty excited today when we had a first for everyone in the family and not just because it happened, but also because I had a good reason to blog again! 

Today, Julia lost her tooth!  Okay, so that wasn't a first for her.  She has one tooth that is shorter than the others in front and we're assuming that it was the actual first lost tooth, but it was the first one at home!

Robert and I had both caught glimpses of it being slightly askew in the last day or two, but neither of us realized just how loose it was.  Apparently, all it took was one slight bump this afternoon and it made it's break out.

Julia apparently responded like this--
Happy and just kept running and playing like it was something that happens every day.

Little sister, however, did not fare as well.  Apparently, it was quite traumatic for a 3-year old that has no idea that people lose teeth to see dad holding a tooth that was just barely inside her sister's mouth.  I can only imagine what poor Lily thought.  We had no idea it was that loose, so we had no time to really prepare her or talk about it with the girls or anything.  Just, one second it was in and the next, it was out! 

After wiping some tears, we all moved on, though Lily still doesn't want to talk about it.  Maybe when she sees what Julia's first visit from the tooth fairy brings it will change her mind...  Here's to hoping at least because there are a lot more teeth that will be coming out between the two of them!

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Great Kind of Exhausted

It was another busy week around here.  Being in retail, I'd expect nothing less.  We worked hard getting everything set up for our Black Friday sale and my boss and I still wound up staying until 1:30am.  By Thursday morning (or later that morning, I suppose) I was up and baking a homemade pecan pie.  Knowing how long it can take the four of us to get ourselves put together and out the door, we started gathering our fun holiday clothes and packing the diaper bag for a long day out.

Of course, before we left, we had to get a couple shots of the girls before we let them at the food.

Julia thought it was pretty fun to get all dressed up and wore her red bow from the time we put it in her hair up until we had to take it out for bed.

We went to Robert's dad's house and spent some time with his family and ate a great meal.  After that, we went to my mom's and spent some time with my immediate family and then my grandparents stopped by after dinner.  Julia absolutely loved a holiday that revolved around eating all day long!  She was particularly fond of pie.  I envision myself making a lot of mini-pies in the future because the girl downed them in one big swallow and would have likely eaten a full size pie by herself if allowed.

We ended the evening with my family as we always do--with a little craft.  I can't say too much about it, because it does involve something to be gifted later, but the end of the night craft is always one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions.

The next morning, mom and I headed out shopping.  Now, it's becoming a tradition for the two of us to go out shopping together, though we are by no means the hardcore, wait in line to get in, pepper spray others in a crowd type.  In fact, neither of us had seen anything real particular that we were after, it's just always fun to go spend some time together, experience a sort of once-a-year unusual outing, and of course, take advantage of some great prices!  We usually can find places to go and this year was no different.  We were at our first store by 7am and shopped until I had to be to work at 2pm.

The next couple days were filled with the best of intentions that my body just wasn't as excited about as my mind.  For as much begging as I did to get our Christmas tree put up before Turkey Day, it took until Sunday for us to actually haul it down and set it up last night!  It also was not quite the Norman Rockwell experience as I'd pictured with several strings of lights halfway out and we were about 3 minutes into sorting through boxes before we had shattered glass on the floor.  Nevertheless, it was fun to do and another great first for Julia to experience with us!  I find myself pausing during moments like these and wondering if she's ever had a Christmas tree...
if she's ever seen one...
if she's ever had her very own present to open on Christmas...
if she ever experienced a family Christmas, even if it was when she was too young to remember...
if they even celebrated Christmas at the orphanage and how...
and how can I make this Christmas great for her....

I think this year's advent calendar will be as much for me and it will be for her.  I am excited to count down to what will be such a unique Christmas for each of us this year.  Speaking of, I'd better go make an advent calendar!  Good thing I got such a good deal on some on Black Friday! :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy One Month Anniversary!

Sometimes it seems like so long ago, other time it feels like it was yesterday.  Either way, the calendar doesn't lie.  One month ago, we were racing through airports and jumping flights to get Julia home to a whole new family and life that she never knew awaited her.

Out of curiosity, I asked Robert to pull up some pictures side by side from the day we met her to compare to some we took this weekend.

I love the differences I see in her from just these two photos and to watch her grow and change in real life is a miracle we are so amazed to be a part of.  I can't imagine not having that little smile around our house or the full body dances over things like getting in the car.

She has lit up our lives in ways we didn't imagine.  I can't wait to continue celebrating her life and our lives together!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The shadow in my kitchen

So, for the last four weeks or so, I have had this phenomenon in my kitchen.  It's about 3 1/2 feet tall and always right next to me, almost like a shadow.  No matter what part of the kitchen I go to, it follows and is never far away.  I call this phenomenon my 'kitchen monster', my 'little helper', my 'little sneaker', but mostly we just call her Julia.

She may look just like her daddy, but when it comes to kitchen time, she is just like her momma!  She loves, loves, loves to be in the kitchen!  (As you may remember from this post.)  Whenever we are cooking in there, she is on our hip every step, sometimes watching, occasionally helping, but always, always looking for a handout!  This little one could snack all day long on just about any little tidbit you'll give her.  It's fun to see her try anything that happens to be on the cutting board or coming out of a shopping bag.

And that's how we got inspired to do some juicing.  I posted last week about a couple of bags of homegrown carrots that I got from my boss.  I had cleaned and shredded some for baking and as I was squeezing the extra moisture out of them, Julia was drinking the juice that was barely trickling into a cup below.  So we set some aside and headed up to my mom's house a couple days later.

True to form, she was drinking as much as I'd let her and about as fast as I'd let her gulp it!

She would be one orange 6-year old without mom's intervention!

Oh, and to prove that it's not just the eating part that has her interested, here is a picture I took just a couple days after we brought her home.
It's the longest she's ever really sat and watched TV.  Not just any TV though, she's watching the Cooking Channel! 

Also, as much as this is a blog post about what we do in our lives, day in and day out, this post also comes with a question for any readers that may want to chime in.  The sprinkles on the Halloween cupcakes and consuming before, during and after meals and snacks is the most involved I've ever gotten her to be in the process.  So, if anyone has any great 'intro to cooking' ideas for a little one with a very short attention span, go ahead and throw some my way!  There has got to be a fun, educational way to use her enthrallment with cooking to develop some skills.  Maybe even some toy ideas that incorporate cooking since Christmas isn't too far off? 

If not, I'm sure my little shadow will still be happy to follow me step-by-step through the kitchen, watching and tasting at every turn!