Tuesday, January 26, 2010

a way with words

I walked into the bathroom the other night in search of Dawson (who loves to play in the bathroom for unknown reasons) only to discover not only had he figured out how to open the toilet seat, but he'd also taken the liberty to grab the plunger and get to work, all while chanting "Plunge, plunge, plunge..." Funny, I didn't think that was a high-frequency word in our house but geesh, I guess it's used enough. ^_^ And since I was not lucky enough to happen to be carrying my camera, after grabbing him and washing his hands I went and got it, came back and restaged the scene (bad mommy!) LOL!

Dawson seems to be picking up on language as we go now - he learned "snow" and "sand" when we took the kids to the park to ice skate the other weekend. Yesterday he said "light" when I turned the oven light on and today he surprised me with a perfectly pronounced "hammer" while he was working on his Elmo tool bench.

He is still pushing his little carts around the house and amazingly within just a matter of a few days he figured out how to turn it himself. I could've danced when he first did it - no more dashing to his screams for help when he hits the end of the hallway heh! Sunday night I was sitting in the living room (pumping, if you must know!) and I turned my head and my heart stopped for a second when I saw Dawson standing there. Nobody and no object around him, just standing there like he was on his way to the kitchen for a snack. He has been trying to push himself to standing through a bear stance but he never quite gets his body straightened up - except that time! I am so excited for him to start walking on his own. So, so soon! :)

Emerson also said her first word (other than her little "hi" sound she makes in greeting) and how cute that it was Dawson's first word, too. "Ball!" I think she is trying to say "baby" too as she babbles "bay-bah" whenever I sit with her with Holden in my arms. She has signed "eat" a few times, too. Just like Dawson, her trouble is consistency and the fact that she knows we can figure out what she wants most of the time. It's nice to think though that maybe things are starting to click together in that little head of hers! :)

Holden is doing great - he is around 16 lbs now (yes, at 3 months old!) and smiles and laughs and coos and he also says "Hi" in greeting or in response to our "hi" - probably just imitation right now but boy he sure says it well! He loves Dawson and giggles whenever he's in his line of vision. He is starting to roll over both from back to tummy and tummy to back - oh it goes so fast!

We got Cade's ADHD testing results and it's about a 95% chance of an ADHD diagnosis. Next step is to have a medical doctor make the official diagnosis. It doesn't change much, it's just a man-made term after all, but it's good to know so we can start looking into specific discipline techniques and do what we can to help him handle life better.

Parker amazes us and is pretty far ahead the other kids in his PreK class. He can write his name for the most part (he forgets the "a" - stinkin' letter!), knows the days of the week and his drawing skills are great. We shouldn't be surprised with his awesome fine motor skills - he was unscrewing the outlet covers with a screwdriver and opening child-proof prescription bottles at 2 LOL!

Macy's doing well too - we are still working on potty-training (why oh why are all my kids so stubborn?) and she seems very comfortable with the idea of going to school this fall.

And that concludes this episode of Child Round-Up, stay tuned for some pictures! :)

For some reason Em likes to climb up on boxes - ANY box. If it's low enough she backs herself up onto it LOL.

Her hair is getting so long - she is starting to look like a big girl now!

My little cutie pie.

Monday, January 11, 2010

tickled pink

My Mini is here! And it's just as pink as the above picture shows (I was just too lazy to take a real pic; please accept this stock photo instead LOL) - I love it! ^_^

My suddenly gargantuan hands are still getting used to this tiny little keyboard and this is the first HP I've ever owned so some of the key placements are throwing me off and the screen is so much smaller than I'm used to I keep thinking there's something wrong with my glasses but hey, it's PINK!! :)

Emerson just finished her antibiotic course and the ENT did agree to call in a prescription for ear drops last week so she seems to be feeling better. Her ears had been gushing disgusting snotty fluid but that has since stopped. Her appointment is on Thursday so hopefully we will find out what's going on in there. She is still grinding her teeth a lot, but with a little less severity. I'm trying my best to maintain sanity around the sound, which perhaps results in me walking around gritting my teeth and twitching one eye like some ridiculous cartoon character, but oh well - did I mention my Mini is pink?

We are having a lot of behavior issues with Cade lately and as we've been poking at the idea since he was 18 months old we finally asked the school psychologist to please start testing for ADHD. He's almost 6 so the whole "he's too young, let's wait a bit" response we've gotten from his pediatricians for the last 4 years just isn't flying anymore.

My days can be pretty overwhelming. Half of our kids are high-needs and sometimes I find myself glancing at the other moms in the preK parking lot who just have two or three seemingly typical kiddos with a little wistfulness. Can we switch for a day?

Ah, but then I'd miss out on a lot of fun stuff too. And of course, those other moms probably don't have pink Minis. ^_~

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Emerson had such a great day today, even with the constant grinding on both sides. I think being certain there is a physical problem that can hopefully be fixed behind its intensity gave me much more patience for the awful sound.

We won't knoww for sure what the issue is with her ears until her ENT visit on the 14th, but her pedi appointment tonight revealed both ears completely packed with thick fluid. I'm not sure if one or both tubes has come out, is not working properly, if she has a ruptured eardrum or if the tubes are still in place and functioning but it's still not enough to handle the fluid, but our pedi couldn't see anything in there because they are so filled. I have to think this is incredibly uncomfortable for her. It's very strange because after she had the wax removed from her ears a couple months ago, she stopped grinding completely. She was grind-free for about 3 weeks, until she had the PE tubes placed. Then about 2 days after the surgery she started grinding again and it has just gotten worse and worse until it got to its current intensity. There is some connection and I really hope the ENT can make it and find the solution. I hate that she has to wait until the 14th with all that gunk in her ears. :( We may have to search out a new non-pediatric ENT (this is the only one in our area) who is more responsive. I plan to call them tomorrow to at least see if we can get a prescription for some drops to help loosen the fluid before the appointment - I hate to wait 9 days just to be told she needs a course of drops before they can assess anything.

I appreciate so much all of the amazingly supportive comments and emails I've received. I didn't really expect anyone to come to my defense but I am humbled that so many have. I have locked the comments on the prior apparently controversial posts and will be moderating comments before publishing going forward. That's not to say that I won't allow critical comments, but I like having the opportunity to rebutt a comment immediately in the comment section, instead of filling up the main blog page with back-and-forth stuff. I will continue to be honest about my ups and downs, though with one of my resolutions being to blog more, hopefully you will see more ups than I show right now.

Following are two videos. The bottom one I took this morning.
I didn't mean for it to get so long but just like with Dawson I'm always afraid to stop taping and miss something cute. :) I realized while watching it back that she's now pivoting while sitting - that's new! And she's learned peek-a-boo from her little brother; this is exactly how Dawson plays it. (Onetrumedia isn't working for me right now, so I have to settle for the first 2 minutes with Dropshots - hopefully I can get the rest uploaded soon to share the cuteness!) Oh and apparently my scale was off last week - she was 20 lbs, 1 oz at the doctor's tonight!

The first video though is from our second day with her in Serbia. I never posted it because of the snail-like internet connection in the apartment, and tonight was the first time I've watched it back. I got a little teary, remembering how I wasn't sure what to say, what name to call her, or if she'd even hear me. Remembering how afraid I was that she would never truly smile. Sometimes I still see the little girl in this video and I know she will always be there. But she isn't so good at playing peek-a-boo, and so she's seen less and less these days. ^_^

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing


Seriously, this is what I'm talking about in judgement.

Well all this shows to those who are already concerned for your families situation is that she "was" happy before the baby was born?? And after she has become like a zombie.

The post comments are tame compared to emails from two people I have received.

Seriously, I have to PROVE to some readers that Emerson is still happy today merely because I posted a video of TWO MINUTES of her checking out during her grinding? Two minutes out of her entire day? Who wouldn't be defensive given comments like that? I guess if someone makes a hurtful and unfounded comment you're not allowed to feel angry and upset by it - that just makes you "defensive" which certainly means the hurtful comment was accurate, right? Truly flawed logic. I'm happy to post a video from today of her playing and actually engaging with us but honestly, why should I have to?

Ridiculous. If you can't fathom the possibility that someone can feel frustrated, upset and conflicted about their child's behavior while still providing proper attention and care for that child then you haven't known very many real life parents. And if that's the case, stop filling up my blog and my inbox with these sort of negative comments.

A good rule of thumb: if you wouldn't say it to someone's face in real life, don't say it online. So if you have anything further irrational, inflammatory or downright mean to say to me, make a video of yourself saying it and post it. And see the pure unkindness in yourself and be surprised and be ashamed. Doing anything less is mere cowardice.

Monday, January 04, 2010

how not to judge

"Against criticism a man can neither protest nor defend himself; he must act in spite of it, and then it will gradually yield to him."
- Goethe

It's a bit strange to be posting so much after such frequent droughts. :)
But since I made my "resolutions" post I have been assaulted by a few, but buoyed up by far more, and it wouldn't make sense not to talk about such an experience.

It seems a couple people think that the video of Em's grinding somehow proves that she is utterly miserable with our family and is doing worse than she was in the orphanage. I'm still amazed how anyone can so freely (mis)judge someone they've never met, but as I've been picking through my thoughts about all this today I realize I shouldn't be too surprised. I was - and really still am sometimes - guilty of the same.

Children with special needs teach us so many things. But I have come to realize that the most precious lesson is that of judgement.

Before Dawson's diagnosis, I couldn't understand why a mother couldn't just accept the child life had given her. But then I felt her anguish and fear myself, and I learned how not to judge.

Before we brought Emerson home, I couldn't understand why women with fertility struggles didn't just adopt - it was all the same to the woman, after all, and the kids needed help. But then I experienced firsthand the slow bonding with another's child versus the easier bond with a biological baby, and I learned how not to judge.

Before raising a child with more severe special needs, I couldn't understand why any woman would ever even think about terminating after a prenatal diagnosis. But then I felt the heartbreak of seeing a child struggle just to be part of her surroundings and though I still believe it is not the right decision, I now have nothing but compassion for those moms. I learned how not to judge.

Before adopting a previously institutionalized child, I couldn't understand how any family could ever, ever disrupt. I had never even heard of such a thing and I will never forget coming across a family who had disrupted for the first time before we traveled to Serbia and sharing my disbelief - and even disgust - with Matt. But then I experienced firsthand the pain of stressful behaviors and problems with attachment and I understood and my heart broke for any family that ever walked this path before me. I learned how not to judge.

Dawson and Emerson have both shown me every step of the way how to be not a better person, but more of a real person. These children are angels - angels undeserved, for sure - not because of their unique perfection but because of their unique ability to show us that imperfection is perfect, their amazing gift to teach us how not to judge others but especially how not to judge ourselves.

If you haven't yet learned those lessons, I hope someday you will. In the meantime, I will continue to share honestly - albeit somewhat dramatically! - what it is like for many of us on this journey. I am not alone, and for those reading this who have or who will share some of these same doubts, fears and negative emotions - YOU are not alone.

I took another video of Em today while she was playing in the living room but when I was uploading that I came across this older one on my camera and I couldn't help but post this instead. This is from August or so. This is my Em. The one who shares her brother's smile that seems to come from some deep joyful place within that the rest of us can only experience in glimpses. Sometimes she is hiding, but she is there. I get to see her everyday and the criticism I have received has only made me more determined not to let myself get swallowed by emotions, not to forget that decisions made with a cool head instead of a rash judgement are always the best ones, and not to give up.

Today during lunch Em was grinding so hard she was crying after each time. But she kept doing it, like she couldn't stop. And suddenly I felt absolutely certain that she was in pain. The grinding is a habit for her, I think, but the way she has been lost in it lately is not like her. We originally thought the fluid in her ears was responsible for the grinding, but after the PE tubes were placed the grinding got even worse. But something is not right in there. We called her ENT this afternoon asking for an appointment. They won't see her before the 14th unless there is a cancelation so she'll be going to the pedi tomorrow in the meantime in hopes he might see something in there.

We will figure this out.

two minutes in the life of...

Since some people seem to be incapable of moving on, I decided to take this 2 minute video this morning with my less-than-spectacular camcorder.

If you hope to understand the true feelings my post was intended to express, here is my challenge to you: turn up the volume on this clip until the grinding is about the equivalent of someone standing right beside you speaking. Play it over and over again for the next 4 hours. Give yourself a 1 1/2 hour break for naptime. Then play it over and over again for another 6 to 7 hours, conservatively, depending on bedtime. Now I'd like you to do that every single day for the next 6 1/2 months.

If you are not frustrated, overwhelmed and yeah, at times, truly depressed and having difficulty connecting with this child, then I'd like to suggest you bottle up that patience and sell some to me. ^_^

Of course this little clip is just a slice of my day - it doesn't show the whining from two toddlers, the yelling from a preschooler and a kindergartner and the occasional crying of a 2 month old. On top of the grinding. Perhaps if you could immerse yourself in the sounds of my world you would more easily forgive a negative blog post made some random evening and appreciate the fact that I truly am coping relatively well. And if you can't, well you're more of a superhuman than I.

moving on

Okay, I figured it was time to post some holiday pictures. I am really surprised by the number of readers who have drawn conclusions about me, my family or how we are coping with Emerson's issues based on something so unreliable as one single blog post. If I were posting 5 days a week with the same expressions of negative emotion constantly, then certainly one might make the assumption that we are swimming in those emotions far too much. But one post a month that expresses the pent-up frustrations over that last month does not paint a complete picture of the majority of our time.

Most of the time we are managing just fine and coping with Em's issues and enjoying the progresses that she has made. Just because I don't jump on here to post everytime I'm happy doesn't mean I never am. I would encourage anyone reading what are essentially online diaries to keep that in mind before jumping to conclusions. You are not looking through the bay window of someone's living room for 24 hours a day - you are being given a 5 second glance through a keyhole. A few people have talked about keeping perspective - well, I would encourage my readers to do the same and to think before you hit submit or send. Okay? Great, now moving on! :)

And some of my faves from Dawson and Macy's joint birthday party, a bit late LOL.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

thanks and no thanks

First of all, a huge thanks to all of the comments and emails of support, of sympathy and empathy. I can't express how refreshing it is to hear from others who have gone, or are still going through, the same things we are right now. Your words and offers of kindness lift me up when I need it most.

But I want to also say, to those who instead of feeling called to offer support and constructive advice to us feel the need to question, doubt, accuse or even threaten, either directly or through others, that this is my blog and my heart and just like any quick read out there, if you don't want to hear what I have to say then just close the book.

Despite Em's continuing issues, she is still quite a different child than we brought home 7 months ago yesterday. She smiles at us and everyone she meets, she greets people with the cutest approximation of "hi" you've ever heard, and she is overall a very happy little girl. Sometimes it's easy to forget about all the progress she has made, to get absorbed in the stuff we are still working on, but we are reminded often when family who haven't seen her in a couple months marvel at how different she is and how present she is now. I don't post about that much because well, I don't post much at all anymore LOL. And often I am driven to post because I desperately need to let my thoughts out of my head, to get them written down so I can let them go and start fresh again.

Adoption is not a Hallmark card. Especially when you're dealing with international special needs adoption from a second-world country. And I say that becacuse it needs to be said, because it begs for someone to say it. And I will keep saying it in every post I make - the hopeful ones and the miserable ones - because it is about time that people start figuring out how best to support reality instead of how best to work out the lumps it leaves after being swept under the rug.

If you come to my blog with a broom and a rolling pin, thanks but no thanks. It might be time to move on.

Friday, January 01, 2010


Happy New Year!!!

Resolution #1: update the blog more often (is anyone still reading? LOL) ^_^

The kids had a great Christmas! They were still a bit sniffly when the big day rolled around, but pretty much back to normal. They all slept through the night (except Holden of course!) and got up around 7 to attack the gifts under the tree. They are very lucky to have grandparents that love to spoil them - it makes managing gifts for six kids much easier (not to mention the fact that we have absolutely no room left for toys - you can't walk a few feet in our house without tripping over one of them!) I'll post some slightly-blurry pics (my camera lens broke - boo!) soon!

It has been a long week for Cade and Parker without school, but they made it through with the help of the aforementioned toys hehe and a few fun excursions - in fact at this very moment Matt has them and Macy at a new place we discovered filled with those ridiculously large blow-up jumping things. I was so happy to find out about this place as it's a great way to burn some calories (and energy!) Now if only they made one for grown-ups ^_^

Resolution #2: lose some weight! :)

I haven't talked much about how things are going with Emerson, partly because I don't have the energy most days and partly because it feels too depressing to even write about. We've really been struggling over the last few weeks and it's starting to weigh down on me.

Despite us continuing tight swaddling, her poor sleep reached a point where we were considering creating a makeshift room for her in the downstairs part of our house, away from the other kids, so she would stop waking everyone else up. She would wake up around midnight or 1am and lie there for hours kicking her legs (as a unit, since they were swaddled) against the crib bars, thrashing her head or slamming it back against the mattress, grinding her teeth and moaning (we call it her zombie noise, as that's what it sounds like - uggggggggghhhhhhhhh...) Some nights she would like there for over 2 hours before finally falling back asleep. We finally took the advice of some of our therapists and picked up some Melatonin at the store - after 2 tries of low doses we found success with 2 tablets (6 mg) and she has been sleeping through the night for nearly 2 weeks now.

We were hoping this improvement in sleep might also improve her daytime issues but unfortunately there is no end in sight to her hit-and-miss eating (she is taking some textures now but often inexplicably screams inconsolably if we start to feed her something she just doesn't want to eat and then won't take anything else - she was up to 19 1/2 lbs but is now down to 17 lbs. Yes, 17 lbs. She went down a diaper size and now sadly fits into Holden's size 2 diapers) self-injurious behavior (right before Christmas she hit the corner of her eye on the coffee table during one of her head-banging episodes, resulting in an enormous black eye) and the grinding... oh, the grinding.

Emerson grinds nonstop now, even using the other side of her mouth sometimes (it was usually just her right side). It is so loud that it can be heard across the house, through closed doors and often over other sounds like 5 other noisy kids and the TV. She has gotten progressively worse over the last few weeks and is now to the point where she grinds every 3 to 5 seconds, hour after hour after hour. If she's hungry or tired or in any other way particularly unhappy she will grind back and forth like a saw, taking a few seconds break here and there. Nothing we do or say stops it.

I cannot really describe how awful the grinding is for me. I guess like her I have my own sensory issues and one of them is grating or high-pitched sounds. After a couple hours of listening to it I feel like I am going to join her in bashing my head into the nearest wall. Trying to poke fun, but it's really not funny at all. The grinding is a wall between us and as long as it has continued I haven't really bonded with her. I care about her, I worry about her, but I don't feel connected to her. I feel disappointed, discouraged, hopeless, frustrated, resentful and more often these days, downright depressed about her. Worse still, the grinding seems to be affecting our entire family - Macy has done it a few times now and a couple weeks ago my little Dawson was sitting next to her, watching as she went back and forth, and then he grinded. I thought my heart would burst and I just started crying. Dawson is so lucky to have great teeth and great communication skills - the thought of him learning this behavior is too upsetting for words. He has done it a few times since then, but he knows he's not supposed to so a firm "no" stops it.

I dread going anywhere as a family because she gets particulary intense in the car and in that small space it is hard to drown out the sound. The other kids complain about it and Cade has gotten very upset a few times (I can't blame him, the poor guy sits right next to her.)

I don't know what to do anymore. We made an appointment with a different pediatric dentist for a few weeks from now, someone who came recommended as working with kids with special needs. I feel like she is our last hope at this point. Emerson needs a teeth guard or if there is some filling that can be put into her teeth to dull the sound - if not to save her already severely poor teeth but to save my sanity.

I do still think about disruption - several times a day - but I don't want to want to do that, if that makes sense.

Em is in her own little world again. Not because she is staring off into the distance - she doesn't do that anymore, she is very aware of us now - but because of the grinding. It is consuming her and consuming us. These last few days I have ended up putting her in her crib and closing the door to the room for an hour or so, coming to check on her every once in a while to see if she has stopped and, finding the grinding going constantly still, give her some new toys. Getting away from the sound of the grinding is the only way I can function to parent my other kids. And yet all I can think is that it is like she is in an orphanage again, sitting alone in her crib, scraping away at her teeth and banging her head into the rails, while life goes on a few feet away desperately waiting for her to join in.

Resolution #3 - save Emerson.