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Friday, December 23, 2011

We're almost ready for Christmas!

It's been busy around here but we're getting it done. There are sparkly lights on our porches and wreaths on our doors. Pans of cinnamon rolls, trays of cookies, and homemade hot chocolate spoons have been made and shared with teachers and friends. We've searched for and procured the perfect Christmas tree...Max found it this year and it's a beauty!

Isn't it lovely?

Trust me, Max is smiling with pride on the inside...really.

Two of my sassy elves, just part of the decorating team.

My faithful reindeer/elf is proud of our finished product.
As you can see, we've decorated said perfect tree and wrapped gifts started appearing under it...until our evil psycho greyhound started turning them into chew toys...grrr.

On the naughty list...

Gifts are now being placed on tables instead...and we've gated off the living room. We'll see if she can earn her dog treats from Santa or if it's coal in her stocking this year.

Kate's been busy wrapping gifts, both at home and for a fundraiser at a local mall. Doesn't she look professional?

My shopping is almost done, just a few little things left. The prime rib has been purchased for our Christmas feast and the rest of the dinner is planned and in the house. Unfortunately, I still haven't wrapped a single gift. Hmmm...Ohhh, Kate!!! Want to earn some cash?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A few days ago, my friend Anne at Bringing Borya Home honored me with a "Most Versatile Blogger" award. I'm pretty excited about this because it comes from an awesome writer who I really respect...so thanks for the early Christmas surprise, my friend!

There are some strings attached to this gift (or would that be ribbons?).  If you accept the award, you're honor bound to write a post listing 7 things about yourself, and then pass the award along to fifteen other bloggers. I know what you're thinking...sounds like a chain letter...trust me, this is much more fun.

So, here are 7 things that you might not have known about me...

I was born at home, right in my parents' bedroom...and the doctor made a house call for the occasion.

I am 1/16 native American; my great-great-grandfather was from the Mohawk tribe.

I love espresso but can't stand the taste of regular coffee.

I hate broccoli with a passion.

When I was in my teens and 20's, I swore I'd never have kids. (Ha!)*

After my first marriage ended in divorce, I was sure I'd never get married again. (Again, ha!)*

I used to drive a sexy little sports car and lived in a very tidy townhouse on a beach in Florida...alone.*

*Let me just add this..I wouldn't trade my kids, my husband, my Mom van or my messy life for the world these days.

Now for the 15 bloggers I'm tagging with this award. All of these talented folks are awesome writers who I read regularly:

Christine at Smiles and Trials
Kelly at Twist and Shout
Lisa at K is for Kindergarten
Lori at Five of My Own
Ree at Pioneer Woman
Stephanie at Nienie Dialogues
Courtney at C. Jane Enjoy It
Sari at Mommy Used to Be So Pretty
Kenny at Red Neck Peril
Susan at Divine Secrets of a Domestic Diva
Reagan at Reagan's Blob
Tamara at American Girls in Moscow
Tina at Tina in Connecticut
Anne at Bringing Borya Home (I know you tagged me but I just had to tag you back!)

Congratulations and happy whatever holiday you celebrate to all of you!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Peace on Earth

Have to be grateful...the past few days have been remarkable. Maybe it's the Christmas tree smell in our living room from the 7 ft tall evergreen that has taken up residence there. Maybe it's just kids who are being extra good just in case Santa is watching. Maybe it's just my own improved mood as the holidays approach. Who knows or cares? I do know the following:

For two days straight, we have sung Christmas carols in the car on the way to school...and it's been fun.
Today I baked and bought treats...pans of cinnamon rolls as teacher gifts, a snowman cake, Russian candy to share with classmates...
I'm laughing a lot...and so are my kids
My kids are reminiscing about Christmases past and demanding that we stick to our traditions  (What?? No Gingerbread house??)
I have an eerie Zen kind of peace about the things that normally drive me crazy.

Thanks, Santa...for the early gifts.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Another FASD victory

I believe they can fly...

I have 2 kids with FASD, one with moderate to severe and one with mild impact. Both kids basically deal with the effects of irreversible brain damage due to actions taken by their birth mothers...and yes, they both know what they're dealing with, the hows and whys, and we talk openly about the hand they've been dealt through no fault of their own. Their issues notwithstanding, both are kids who own my heart and who amaze me each and every day with their sheer grit. to overcome their challenges. Take my girl, for example...

My younger daughter, though to a lesser degree than her brother, struggles with short term memory problems as well as executive functioning and impulse control issues...and for an adolescent girl, the impulse control issue in particular can be a problem. Sometimes my girl can be really blunt, even hurtful in her comments to peers. She has also been known in the past to adopt an in-your-face attitude when she feels she has been wronged. This has resulted in misunderstandings at school...and since teenage girls do love gossip, there's always a fair amount of drama anyway. In spite of this past history, our girl has been having a good year...no discipline events at school all year so far, no missed homework, an exemplary record that she's been very proud of. Sadly, that was all called into question recently...

Last weekend, our girl came to us and asked for help. She went to Craig first, and asked him to print out Facebook chat transcripts of a conversation with a classmate who accused her of threatening a girl at school via text messages and calling her a liar when she denied the claim. Next she brought the printed transcripts to me and asked me to take both her phone and the transcripts for her protection from the rumors that were flying. As if that weren't enough, she also asked me to take down her Facebook page. (OK, let me just mention that for a kid with FASD, this is huge; seeing the big picture, being able to predict where something is going and asking for help is pretty complex stuff.) I did just as she asked and praised her for her choices to stay out of the unfolding drama. Of course, that wasn't the end of the story...

A few days later, I got a message that the Dean of Students wanted to see me about our girl's supposed text threats. I went with my daughter, armed with phone records and Facebook chat printouts. I provided my girl's phone number and challenged the Dean to match the phone number that the texts in question came from with her number....and guess what? The numbers didn't match...someone was posing as my girl, signing her name and setting her up...and the texts continued long after my girl's phone was in my safekeeping anyway. That stinks...but my daughter handled herself with such maturity through the whole mess that it doesn't even matter.

My girl came to us for help and told us exactly what she needed. (Did I mention this is HUGE?).

My girl stood up for herself when her friends accused her falsely. (Did I mention this is HUGE for a kid with low self-esteem?)

My girl met with the Dean, made good eye contact, and told her story in a polite but assertive way. (Um...HUGE!!)

When she was vindicated, my girl didn't gloat...she just glowed quietly with pride and accepted the apologies from her peers with grace. (Also huge...but I could see how much she liked basking in the feeling of being RIGHT, being BELIEVED, being STRONG!)

So proud of my daughter and all the progress she has made...from a shy and frightened orphanage kid to a feisty young woman who can stand on her own two feet!! Here's the score in our house these days:

Home team--2                     FASD--0

Friday, December 9, 2011

FASD gets pwnd

This is my youngest boy...he's sweet, caring, and cute as can be. He loves climbing trees and will go to any height to pick a perfect apple for his mom. He loves being helpful, gives great hugs, and is unfailingly kind to animals and little children. He still likes being tucked in bed each night and never fails to tell me he loves me as he settles down to sleep. He has so many wonderful qualities that far outweigh his challenges...but his challenges are very real.

My boy lives every day with the effects of FASD (and that means the rest of us do, too.) He has short-term memory loss and poor impulse control. He struggles to learn even the most basic of concepts in school...and all too often, a skill he seems to have mastered one day often evaporates into thin air by the next. It breaks my heart to see this child try so hard...and yet at almost 14 years old, my boy still hasn't been able to learn to read. What kind of future lies ahead for my child without basic literacy skills? It's a question that has kept me up on more than one night...but it's the season of miracles, isn't it?

This week, my boy brought home a book from school. It was a very simple emergent reader book on the K-1st grade level. I sat with my son as I do most days and listened to him try to read...most of the time, this means I end up reading the book to him when his frustration level starts to go through the roof. This time was different.

This time, my boy read to me WITHOUT HELP.

This time my boy read the whole book BY HIMSELF.

This time, my boy used picture clues and sounded out words!

The next day, my boy was able to read another book aloud to me ALL BY HIMSELF.

And the next day, he did it again.

Did I mention that each time, I cried?

Then we laughed and high-fived each other...he's sooo proud of himself!

Sometimes, you just never know what will or won't work to help a kid with FASD learn. After months (or years) of little to no progress with concepts like time or money, something will finally flip a switch and a new skill will be acquired. We've seen that kind of growth in math but literacy has been very elusive.

So far, my boy seems to be retaining this new skill...and I still get teary eyed each time I hear him read to me. I have my fingers crossed that this is one gift my boy gets to keep. As my other kids would say to their brother:

Epic fail, FASD just got pwnd*!

*Pwn is a leetspeak slang term derived from the verb own,[1][2][3] as meaning to appropriate or to conquer to gain ownership. The term implies domination or humiliation of a rival,[4] used primarily in the Internet-based video game culture to taunt an opponent who has just been soundly defeated (e.g., "You just got pwned!").[5]
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pwn )