Monday, December 23, 2013


We have our new artificial tree up. I ordered it last Monday and received it on Thursday. It was delivered in three large boxes! It is 10 feet tall! I love it. It took forever to fluff out the branches, but it looks great. I ended up finding it on sale, with free shipping, and I even found a $70 off coupon at! My niece and nephew and one of Ashley's friends came over on Saturday to help decorate it. So happy to have it up for Christmas.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Salicylate Sensitivity

Over the past several of weeks, Emery has not been herself.  Very disregulated.  Inability to focus. Easily upset.  Just not my happy go lucky little girl.  I associated these behavioral changes with the various necessary preparations for the upcoming holidays.  But, I was somewhat concerned.  She seemed to be reacting quite negatively to relatively little changes in our lives.  The only real change was that the house was decorated for Christmas.  Then about 2 and 1/2 weeks ago, it seemed like the hair on top of her head was thinning.  At first, I thought it was my imagination.  But, then Bruce said something about it and so did Ashley.  By last Thursday, she really had quite the bald spot and it was obvious she was losing hair.  Emery has therapy on Thursdays, so I asked her therapist about it.  Her therapist asked if we had a real Christmas tree.  Yes, we do (or did).  Apparently, people can have a sensitivity to the chemical that is released from pine trees.  This chemical is called salicylate.  It is found in numerous everyday products and foods.  Some people have an intolerance to large amounts of the chemical.  So after an afternoon of research, I determined that Emery had several symptoms related to salicylate sensitivity.  In addition, all of these symptoms began surfacing around the same time we put up our tree. 

There are many symptoms.  Some that Emery had included red cheeks and ears, disregulation, inability to concentrate, hair loss, bed wetting and hyperactivity.

By that night, Emery's bald spot was quite prominent and she was having major meltdowns.  Hitting herself hard in the head with balled fists, 45 minute crying and sobbing spells, and such misery that it just broke your heart.

Well, by 7pm, we had the tree undecorated and sitting out in the garage.  I was convinced this was the cause of her behavioral issues over the past several weeks and her hair loss.  The sad part of this story is that Emery experienced all of these same issues last year during the holidays, with the exception of the hair loss.  We assumed it was just a hard time for her because it was her first Christmas home with us. 

By Friday night, we already noticed she was doing better.  She was even able to go to her cousins house for a visit from Santa.  By Saturday, just 2 short days after removing the tree, Emery was 100 percent back to her happy little self.  Giddy, giggly, silly Miss Emery (and mischievious)!  If it wasn't for the hair loss, we would just have assumed she was having difficulties at holiday time.  I guess the hair loss was a blessing!  Now that we know for sure she has a salicylate sensitivity, we are having a consultation with her therapist to discuss changing some things in Emery's diet and removing high salicylate items from our home. Reducing her salicylate intake could be beneficial for sensory and speech purposes. 

Never a dull moment in this household!  Merry Christmas Everyone!

My little baldy.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Life Happenings

We had storms here Sunday night. Lost power for about 16 hours. Not too bad. St. A kids had a day off from school due to the power outage. Nicole had 2 days off. Had to throw out some food, but not much.

Bruce has been in AZ for a business conference since early Sunday Morning. He won't be back until late Thursday evening. It is sunny and warm in AZ. Low 30s and windy here. I am a bit jealous.

School conferences for St. A kids last night. Ashley is doing great. Talking about what Honors courses would be good for her next year as a freshman. Blake is doing good as well. His behavior is under control. They are now beginning to make him do his work independently. Blake is the type of kid who would prefer to have someone else do things for him. So this is a challenge both at school and at home. He will get there. Emery has improved on social interaction with her peers. One little boy in particular loves to play with her and her with him. Her classmates are so very sweet to her. I sure am going to miss her teacher when she leaves St. A's in January. Mrs. N was the girls kindergarten teacher and she is a great teacher and wonderful person. I can't say enough good things about the teachers at St. Anthony.

Basketball season begins the second week of December for Ashley. I really need to finish up the team plan and begin practice preparations! So very glad volleyball is finished. On to happier times. I know Ashley's basketball coach will play fair, be fair and appreciate every players individual talents. She is also very nice! Ha ha - I am her coach!

Need to get prepared for Thanksgiving, Black Friday shopping and of course, Christmas. Why do I always feel behind?

I feel like I have finally turned a corner on personal changes that I have been going through. Hoping and praying the end is near.

Blake makes his First Penance the first week of December. He will be so excited to dress up in a suit and tie and talk to Father Mark! Blake loves anything to do with Church.

We have been seeing some developmental changes in Emery lately. More spontaneous words, improvement in fine motor skills, and major improvements in visual processing. Progress, at times seems slow, but lately, the changes have been very noticeable. Very thankful.

Looking forward to going up to the cottage for Thanksgiving. I love cozy fires, relaxing with family, seeing friends, and visiting my favorite store! Hoping everyone has a great Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Updates on the Twins

Blake had his eye surgery on Oct. 23rd. Only one eye required the surgery. Basically, some eye muscles were tightened and some were loosened to correct his strabismus. The surgery went well and he had very minimal discomfort. He hates having eye drops put in his eye four times per day, but otherwise, recovery went well.

Blake is doing much better with his prosthetic leg. Several adjustments were made awhile back and he has complained very little about any pain or discomfort. He still walks very awkward and does not put much weight on the prosthesis. His therapist said his walking will improve as his muscles continue to strengthen. The therapist added on another 6 weeks of physical therapy so we will be going until the end of the year. Blake is still very sensitive about his scar. We practice having him touch it and mom touch it daily, as directed by the therapist. I am praying he continues to progress in the muscle strengthening and sensitivity areas.

We are making a school change for Emery beginning in January. St. Anthony's does not have the resources to increase her school time. After much research and contemplation, we have decided to enroll her in school at Horizons. Horizons is the place where she receives her therapy. The cost is scary. But, based on Emery's current needs, we feel it is our best option. School at Horizons will be based on a plan developed by Emery's therapist specifically for Emery. She will be taught one-on-one by a teacher specializing in developmentally delayed children. At this point, Emery's therapeutic needs are greater than her educational needs. Most of her school time will be spent meeting her therapeutic needs. With an additional 4 hours per week of therapy related activities, we are hoping to see improvement in Emery's sensory, speech and occupational needs. The goal is to improve her developmental and therapy needs so that her educational needs can be more easily met. So this is our new short-term plan for Emery. As scary as the cost is to enroll her, it is only a fraction of the cost of additional therapy. Since additional therapy is what she needs, this was the best choice we feel we could make for her at this time.

Emery will finish out the semester at St. Anthony. Her skills support teacher was sad to hear she will not be returning after Christmas break. But, she understands that it is for the best. Maybe if we can better meet some of Emery's developmental and therapy needs, she will be able to one day return to St. Anthony school. We will continue to hope and pray.




Thursday, October 31, 2013

18 Months Home

I can't believe it has been a year and a half since we arrived home with our twins!  Here are some before and after pictures.  They certainly do not look the same.  I barely recognize those scared faces and scrawny little bodies!  You've come a long way babies!

Blake in the apartment in Bulgaria during pick up week.

Blake now

Miss Emery at the apartment in Bulgaria

Emery now

Monday, October 21, 2013

Life Updates

Hoping I don't repeat myself, but here are somethings going on now.

Our family picture session was canceled due to weather conditions.  We knew this was a possibility.  Our next scheduled date is October 22nd!  On the plus side, we were able to enjoy Art Prize in downtown Grand Rapids for several hours.  Thanks to our photographer and friend for the great recommedations!

Blake and Emery had a follow-up appointment with their ophthamologist.  Emery's strabismus has improved and at this time surgery is not recommended.  Blake, however, has shown no improvement.  I was told that he still has some control, but he could eventually lose all control of his eye muscle.  If this happens, he will not be a candidate for corrective surgery.  I prayed that eye surgery would not be necessary, but I do not like the possibility of him never having the option to correct his strabismus.  Unfortunately, surgery is not a permanent fix.  He most likely will need surgery one to three more times in his life. Nonetheless, we decided to go forward with the surgery.  It is scheduled for this Wednesday.  He will have a 4 day recovery period with minimal discomfort.  Please keep Blake in your prayers.

Nicole has completed drivers training and now has her permit.  I can't believe she is driving.  Time sure does fly by quickly.  A whole new world awaits her!  High School is going well for Nicole.  Despite her tough academic load of AP and honors courses, she has found time to join a creative writing club and Students for Life.  I am very proud of my independent, confident daughter.  Nicole was was Confirmed last Tuesday at St. Andrew's Cathedral.  It was a beautiful ceremony.

We have made no progress with our insurance company battles.  All hope is not yet lost, but I fear we are getting closer to losing these battles.

On the volleyball front we are still dealing with the same issues. In addition, the same girl is now being singled out and mistreated at each game.  Fortunately we are almost at the end of the season.  Unfortunately, these girls will never get their middle school volleyball years back.  I have composed a "thank you" letter to the coaches highlighting the 4 years of mistreatment some of the girls have had to endure.  I will probably never send it.  I am not fond of being a complainer and creating controversy.  But, these issues have caused me to question my faith in people and the management of our Catholic school.  I think I feel more strongly simply because it involves defenseless kids.  I am torn between letting it go and taking a stand.  I need to move on.  Basketball season begins soon and I have to prepare for my own team.  One thing is certain, I will be coaching with a heart for kids.

Blake's class sang in school mass this past week.  Blake was thrilled to dress up and sing and do all of the hand motions to the songs.  This kid loves to sing!  I am currently researching voice and/or musical instrument lessons for him.  As soon as he is finished with his physical therapy, we want to sign him up for some lessons!

Ashley dressed up the twins in Fall clothes and took some pictures for me.  She also curled Emery's hair. She did a great job!  Enjoy the pictures.

Blake singing "FAITH" at Mass

Ashley serving for the 1st time in two years.
She scored 3 points during this turn.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Home Happenings

Here are some things going on in our life right now:

Blake's prosthetic leg has been causing him pain the last several days. He has been readjusting it at school constantly or asking to go to the bathroom to fix it.  Needless to say, this is causing a disturbance in the classroom.  Went in to see the prosthetist. Had some adjustments done.  Hoping it will be more comfortable for him. It is so hard to tell whether or not Blake is in real pain.  Blake is our family drama queen, so I never really know how much something is bothering him.  He is also fidgety.  So readjusting his leg could just be a way to deal with not being able to sit still.  He is still much slower in his leg than he is on his crutches.  Blake does not like to be slowed down or held back at all.  So he could be complaining about his leg just so he can use his crutches.  The prosthetist is skeptical that the leg is causing him any type of severe pain.  I believe it is still somewhat uncomfortable for him and it will take some time to get use to it.  I pray he is not in a lot of pain and I am making the right decision to keep him wearing his leg for most of the day.

Emery loves going to school.  She is actually upset if we have to run up there for something and it is not time for her to go to school.  The teachers are great with her.  She is going to be evaluated by a speech therapist at school that has had training in Prompt - a method of treating apraxia.  I cannot even explain how excited I am about this.  I have requested that Emery have two sessions per week with the school speech therapist since she is at our school twice a week.  Praying this request is granted.

I am fighting battles with two different insurance companies right now.  Our old insurance company and our new one.  Frustrating and time consuming to say the least.  While doing this, we have decided to continue Emery's therapy for half of her 60 minute sessions.  We simply cannot afford to pay for full sessions while waiting on insurance appeals.  I am hoping our initial denial for one more year of covered therapy will be overturned.

I thought once we reached September, things such as medical appointments would slow down a bit. That has not happened yet. Between speech therapy, physical therapy, activities, school, dental, orthodontic, optometrist, ophthamologist, prosthetist, and pediatric appointments, I get very little else accomplished.  I consider it a good day just to get dinner on the table, get everyone where they should be on time and not forget to pick anyone up!  I do manage to keep up on laundry, but keeping the house at a preferred level of clean, just doesn't always happen.

Since June, I have been going through some personal life changes (by choice).  It has been a long, lonely and very challenging time.  Unfortunately, it has not only been hard on me, but on those I love the most.  I am hanging on to the hope that I am near the end of this journey and the long-term benefits will out weigh the short-term costs.  I could start a blog about this topic as well.  I continue to pray that I am on the right path and will soon reach my destination.

Ashley's volleyball season is in full-swing.  There are still issues going on there that go completely against everything I have always believed and thought to be true.  But, Ashley loves the sport and continues to play.  Despite Ashley's sweet, demure nature, she is one strong young lady.  I am so proud of her for holding strong for something she loves. 

Nicole is off to a great start in high school.  The majority of her classes are honors and AP courses, so she has a tough load.  But, this is the path she chose, and I have every bit of confidence that she will be successful.  Nicole is and always has been an independent thinker and she thrives when challenged.  I am still very disappointed that she did not pursue any sports this year.  However, she needed to make that decision for herself.  So hard to let go sometimes!

Our house and many of its contents are in dire need of repairs and updates.  It has bugged me forever.  I have now excepted that there just isn't money available to keep up with everything.  Maybe once we have Emery in school full time I can go back to work.  I have no idea who will do all the running to appointments and activities, however.  I guess I will cross that bridge when I get to it!

Well, that is it for now. We are having our family portrait taken next week. I am excited to have a professional family picture taken with the twins. It's about time I got around to doing it!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

First Day of School - finally some pictures!

School began Tuesday the week before Labor Day for all four of the kids. It was in the 90s and very humid. Definitely not the best weather to end the lazy days of Summer!  But all went well and we now have a few weeks under our belt and our school routine is off to a good start.

Emery began kindergarten. We started with just one hour per day and will slowly increase from there.   It went fairly well and she was very excited everyday to go.  She loves having her own back pack!  The morning kg class was cancelled at our school, so she is in afternoon kg.  I would have preferred morning, but at least I did not have to change her standing Thursday morning therapy appt.

It will be nice when she can stay the entire afternoon.  I will then pick her up with the the other kids. For now, I am making 4 trips back and forth each day to the schools, and I do not even have to do morning drop off (Bruce takes Nicole to school and my sister takes the others).

Here are some 1st day pics!

My 2nd Grader

My Freshman

My 8th Grader

My Kindergartner

Adoption without the rose colored glasses

Most of my posts revolve around our general life as an adoptive family. We have have been blessed many times over.  Our twins have completed our family and we are enjoying life as a family of six.

As many know, life as an adoptive family has some unique challenges. I thought I would write a post about some of the "not so rosy" things in our life.  

The twins have been home with us now for over 16 months.  At times, some of issues that we are still dealing with really frustrate me. I know in my mind some of these issues will resolve over time.  But sometimes progress is slow and it all seems so overwhelming. 

Emery still is not talking.  Sure she says a handful of words and can repeat a few others.  But, the fact of the matter is that she cannot talk.  On a day to day basis, this is not an issue because she has found other ways to communicate with us.  But she cannot communicate with people who do not know her. And what does her future hold if she cannot talk?  We are currently considering other speech therapy options.  Unfortunately, we are awaiting approval from our insurance company on a several issues.  It is an ongoing battle with health insurance companies when you have a child with special needs.  I can barely keep up with all the correspondence. Worrying about making the best choice for your child, on top of insurance issues, really takes a toll on you.

Blake is basically a happy, fun-loving kid.  He is also a mouthy kid.  I am just not use to dealing with such an argumentative child.  I think Blake had very little discipline in his orphanage.  This has led to challenges in family life.  He does not like to accept no for an answer and he does not like to follow
directions.  I understand he never learned about respect and it will take time to get there.  It is a
constant, ongoing issue.  By the end of the day, I am mentally exhausted.  Blake has an 8:00 bedtime
during the school year not just because he needs a solid 10 hours of sleep, but because I am in dire need of a break by then!

Both kids are behind educationally. Blake is probably 3 years behind and Emery even further. Thinking about this is so disheartening and overwhelming for me. I have decided to accept that catching up to their peers is not a realistic goal. Rather, my goal for them is continued progress in all areas. Some areas progress is slower and others it is moving along. They will eventually get where they need to be and focusing on their level of progression rather than catching up, seems to be a more feasible goal. Their education started late. All I can do is help them to reach their full potential, no matter what the pace and no matter what their age. 

Another thing that I still deal with occasionally are inconsiderate comments from others.  These comments are few and far between, but they sting just the same.  First I am shocked by them, then angry, and ultimately they just make me sad.  Now by the time a blog about them, I can at least be somewhat humorous.  Here are a few of the more recent ones and my wishful responses, just to end this post with a little sense of humor:

"you still have to deal with cleaning up poop with an 8 year old!"

Yes, occasionally my sweet, good natured daughter has a poop accident. Never mind the fact that she spent the 1st 7 years of her life in an orphanage, nobody potty trained her during that time period, and oh yes, she can't talk!  She knows when and where to go potty.  But if she is in a place where there is no bathroom around, she has not yet mastered the ability to tell me in time that she has to go.  So sorry to have inconvenienced you.  Oh wait, you weren't inconvenienced, that was me.

"is your husband in a bad mood because dealing with the 'adopted' twins is too much?"

Yes, my husband and I only ever are in a bad mood because we have adopted kids.  It must be so nice  to never be in a bad mood because you don't have adopted children.

"well, you chose to adopt kids"

Yes, we chose to adopt two kids and have two kids by birth.  I'm so sorry for joining in on the parenting conversation.  I didn't realize your kids were just left on your doorstep and you had no choice but to deal with kid issues.

Of course, in reality I would never respond this way.  But, secretly, I wish I had the nerve to!

Despite the issues, adoption is a wonderful thing.  God led us to these children.  My heart has been humbled and opened in a way I never knew it could be.  For this, I am grateful.   I will carry on my day to day life, just as every parent does.  Enjoying the good and muddling through the rest.  In the end, it is the good that counts. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Random Summer Pictures

Blake really thought he was cool!

Blake and his little friend caught a nap on the boat!

Ash and Em

Tubing - Blake, Ashley & Emery

Friends at the Cottage


My Cutie

Very Funny

So, as many know, Emery has some sensory issues.  She loves swinging, jumping, climbing, and basically any kind of movement.  Imagine how delighted she was when she had to exit the festival fun house through a moving circle!  Emery wanted to stop, lay down, go around in circles, and thoroughly enjoy this experience.  However, this created quite the commotion for her siblings, especially Nicole! From my viewpoint, it was absolutely hilarious!  Enjoy the pics!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


I stumbled on a very nice zoo located in a little town about 40 minutes from our cottage.  Never even knew it was there. Turns out it is a super nice zoo!  Very well maintained and just the right size on a day that was in the 90s' with high humidity!  They had a big variety of animals, exotic birds, and various other exotic creatures!  They also had an on-site ice cream parlour and a large gift shop and farm fresh produce and homemade bakery items.  The blackberry pie was delicious!  Also, the zoo was free!  Great place.

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