Two New Girls Update

A few new things about this happy girl:

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  • She is potty-training!!!  I had consciously put this issue on the back burner when Delia first came home, knowing how contentious it can be even with well-adjusted, well-bonded little ones.  The thought of adding bodily functions to an already long list of things Delia and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on seemed unwise, so we waited.  It turns out, she doesn’t like being in poopy diapers (indeed, who would?) any more than we like changing them!  Now that she knows there’s a chocolate chip or two in it for her, she has been coming to me and signing “potty” with reasonable consistency for the past month or so.  There are still accidents, but most of them involve me not being able to help her quickly enough because I’m nursing the baby or similar.  There have been plenty of days when I have not had to change poopy diapers at all, and you cannot even begin to imagine what a lovely change that makes to my days.  We haven’t had as much success with going “number one” yet, but I think once we may be venturing into training panties soon and ditching the diapers.  Watch this space!
  • Delia had her speech therapy evaluation and is now on a waiting list for speech services.  I was pleasantly surprised by her evaluation report.  Having been labeled “non-verbal” in all of her reports from her home country, we have been thrilled with her attempts to communicate, especially using sign, and the evaluation reflected all her hard work.  It placed her at an age equivalent of 1 year 8 months for expressive communication, but at 2 years for auditory comprehension.  We are excited to see how therapy (and even some of the activities we have to do with her while we wait for therapy to start) will help her to blossom even more.

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  • Delia is getting glasses!  As part of her initial International Adoption Clinic evaluation, it was suggested that we should have a proper eye exam performed.  Our pediatrician also agreed this would be worth doing at some point, but there was never any rush, as it seemed her unusual use of her eyes was primarily a behavioral/neurological issue.  Well, we were wrong!  Delia does in fact have astigmatism in both eyes; glasses should significantly improve her vision.  The ophthalmologist believes this will really help her to be able to focus on books and other activities that she has so far shown very little interest in.  Another exciting prospect.  Here’s hoping we can actually get her to wear them!

Our other newbie continues to be sparkly and sweet and bring joy to all of our hearts:

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  • As little Annis approached her 4 month check-up, I had a nagging concern that she might be following in Coraline’s footsteps and veering off the growth chart toward the scrawny side (Don’t laugh!  That was really a thing for a while!).  I was relieved to find that, although she is on the petite side at 12 lbs 1 oz, she has a firm grip on the weight chart at the 17th percentile.  I may or may not have nursed her in the waiting room right before weighing her even though she had just been fed at home.

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  • We still have no idea what color her eyes are going to be! Our initial guess was that they were darkening and heading for brown, and this is still our pediatrician’s guess, but they are definitely lighter than our other brown-eyed girls’ eyes were at this age.  They are a dark gray around the outside with hazelish flecks in the middle.  I don’t think they’ll be blue, for sure.  Whatever they are, they are lovely to gaze into, and this continues to be one of my favorite passtimes for the hour or so after the other kids are in bed each night.

We are so very blessed to have both of these precious girls in our lives!

Happy, Happy Birthday, Delia!

Wondering where I’ve been?  Well, for the past week, at least, my usual blogging time was taken up by this:

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We had a great week at VBS!  Two of our little cousins (you remember Ellie, right? And also little Morgan, who is June’s age) were able to attend this year, plus the overall attendance was up about 25% over last year’s.  So much to praise God for!  We are thankful to each and every person who helped make it possible.  The kids who can talk will tell you it was THE.BEST.WEEK.EVER!!!

It was a rough week for us in some ways, though.  I was thrilled when our children’s ministry leader offered to have a designated person to stay with Delia at VBS so that I would be free to teach in the Memory Verse Room as I have done in previous years, but in hindsight it was probably a little too soon for Delia to spend that much time in one week in the care of others.  Her behavior for me during the days was more difficult than we’ve had in a while, and I wasn’t exactly at the top of my game either.  I’ve had a bad cough for over three weeks now, but I did finally go to the doctor to get something for it, so hopefully I’m on the mend.  Hopefully Delia is, too.

Hot on the heels of VBS was Miss Delia’s 8th birthday, this past Sunday!

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There is something so very precious about celebrating an adopted child’s birthday for the first time when they are home. It is bittersweet to have missed so many, especially knowing that they may or may not have been acknowledged at all, but it is a delight to watch her experience it all anew.

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Our two birthday party girls:

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Delia absolutely adored being sung to.  They sang to her in church on Sunday morning, and she loved it, and then she loved it all over again at her party on Sunday afternoon.  I love seeing the delight on her face when she truly connects with something and enjoys it:

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She didn’t make quite as much of the gift-opening, but she has been enjoying some of her presents today, away from the craziness of the unwrapping.

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I should try to remember for next year how much Delia enjoys unwrapping actual paper-wrapped gifts.  There are just too many gift bags nowadays.  Thanks to Gran and Grandad in England for providing her one properly-wrapped gift.  She loved opening it!

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I’m hoping to get a proper Delia update posted later this week.  Things have still been difficult in some areas, but there are definitely things to be excited about!

For tonight, I’ll leave you with her first official “bear” photo (we bought her a dog instead because she loves dogs, though she has so far shown exactly zero interest in any soft toy ever including this one).  We usually begin this tradition (and so many others) in babyhood, but at least we shall start as we mean to go on.

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Happy birthday to our beautiful Delphinia Mary!  We all love you so very much.

The 4th and the 7th

Another month of birthdays is upon us.

If we count the birthday of the good old US of A, we’ve had two already!

We spent the 4th at my mom’s house, eating hot dogs and watermelon.  My dad came over as well and the early evening found all of us at a fantastic kid’s play area.

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Normally, by bedtime on a Trevorless day, I’ll admit I am pretty much done.  There’s not much that can make me say, “You know what?  It’s already an hour past bedtime, but let’s just hang out a little longer.”  But there was something in the air that night.  Niko had been asking all day why we couldn’t go see fireworks, and I kept reminding him how scary they are for Coraline (to say nothing of Romilly!) and how late in the evening all the shows start.  Here they were, all in their PJs ready for bed.  I knew the noise would keep them awake anyway, and I heard myself say something quite out of character for this weary mama, “Do you want to go outside and see if we can see any?”

And did we ever!  We got a good half hour long show, standing right there in our driveway in the cool of the evening.  There were fireflies all around and bats fluttering overhead.  Even our two noise-sensitive girlies enjoyed it for a while, then quietly snuck inside to read a book when they’d had enough.  It was a magical night, and I was thankful for the tiny prompting to enjoy my children for a little longer than scheduled that day.

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On the 4th of July 7 years ago, I was already in labor with this girl:

 

She didn’t actually arrive until three days later on 7/7/07 at about 7:25 in the evening weighing 7 lbs 15 oz.  Apparently we were even in room 7 by the time we were having visitors, though you couldn’t prove it by me.  This 7th birthday, in any case, is a very special one indeed!

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The day was filled with not-all-birthday-related things: a morning visitor from a realtor to get a ball-park estimate of the value of our house in case we ever decide to move, an afternoon speech therapy evaluation for Delia, which Bea decided to come along to.

But then there were some presents, and there was McDonald’s for dinner.  Just when we thought it couldn’t get much better, there was a surprise visit from Aunt Paigie just in time for cake and ice cream, followed by a movie of the birthday girl’s choosing.

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This girl is easy to celebrate.  She is sweet and thoughtful.  She rarely stops talking and most of what comes out of her mouth is absolutely hilarious.  She is a rule-follower and a rule-enforcer – a good sort of kid to have around, unless you happen to be one of her siblings bent on naughtiness!  She picks up bugs with her bare hands, and, bless her, expects me to be excited about them.  She wants to tell everyone about Jesus, and the way she can talk, I believe one day she just may.

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Happy birthday, Bea!  We love you so very much!

Summer is Here!

See that sign down there?  The one hiding behind Coraline’s gigantic noggin with the practically invisible writing?  It says: “Last Day of School!” in Niko’s coolest, fanciest puffy letters.  That was almost a week ago, and we are loving summer so far!IMG_4963

Tomorrow I will drop off Pippa’s portfolio along with my affidavit declaring my intent to homeschool *four* legally school-aged children next year to our local school district (three kids all turning 8 in one year sure makes for a sudden jump in the volume of homeschooling paperwork!), and we will be D-O-N-E!

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In the meantime, summer has already commenced.  Week one included two birthday parties (one of them a very first sleepover for our two big girls!) and a trip to the zoo.  We are all enjoying the relaxed pace of life and only a teensy bit chomping at the bit to get started on next year’s school.  (Someone in our family wants to start learning Latin over the summer instead of waiting for the Fall, but I won’t name names.)

Delia has made a new best friend!  (Mommy looks forward to seeing this friend every year, too.  Never a moment too soon!)

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Sweet Annis has surprised us all by graduating to semi-mobility at the tender age of three months! To say that she has learned to roll is an understatement.  In fact, we cannot even lay her on her back to change her diaper without her immediately flipping to her tummy.  Girly knows how important tummy time is to her brain development, apparently!

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Rolling is serious business!

The End of School Year Crafties

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This lovely young lady has recently taught herself to knit from a book from the library.  She will humbly tell you that I taught her, but, in fact, she figured out casting on completely by herself and I only showed her the main stitch once.  I hardly know how to do it myself.  When asked by her home school evaluator what her goal is for fifth grade, she replied without a moment’s hesitation: to learn to purl!

Her first proper project was this adorable headband for little Annis.  Isn’t it sweet?!

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Won’t be long before those little fingers are stitching away, too.  It’s been a very crafty place around here now that the school year is winding down:

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Annis Octavia’s Pink Octopus, crocheted by Bea.

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Football for Pop-pop, sewn by Niko.

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Phillies cell phone case, crocheted for Pop-pop’s birthday by Bea.

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Two Hawks, crocheted by Ro, just because.

We’re going to go through a lot of yarn this summer!

Q & A: Randomness and Delia

First of all, thank you to everyone who takes the time to visit here and check in on our family.  It makes us feel incredibly special to think that people we have never met (and those we know well, too!) care about our family and want to know what’s going on with us.  But I want to extra thank those who take the time to leave a comment.  I can’t tell you how many times your caring thoughts and words have brought a smile to my face and even tears to my eyes.

With that in mind, I want to answer a few of your questions from the past few months.  I always intend to write back to each person who leaves a comment, but that has been happening less and less frequently as life has gotten fuller, so here we go:

Q:  I am in awe of whatever super powers you have to get eight children to not only look at the camera but smile so perfectly! Please share your secret… I have a hard enough time with just one!

A: Do you really want to know?  Okay.

No super-powers, unfortunately.  At least three of my children at any given time suffer from a condition called Camera Smile.  As soon as the camera appears, they contort their faces into the strangest, most unflattering expressions you have ever seen.  This ailment is only aggravated by any use of the words, “Smile” or “Say Cheese!”  The only cure for this unfortunate sickness is to actually make them smile real smiles.

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To this end, my usual method for photo shoots is to stand on the coffee table and act ridiculous.  Tell jokes, use funny voices, sing a song about how they’re not smiling or who’s not looking at the camera, opera-style usually.  It’s a delicate balance, because the silliness has to be turned up high enough to rattle out the fake smiles, but if it gets too high then you start to get the head thrown back, falling on each other giggling pictures.  I have many, many outtakes in both directions, but usually somewhere in there we get a gem.  And you only need the one.

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Q: I love how sweet your kids are always dressed by the way. Do you let them choose their clothes in the morning, or do you lay out their outfits?

A: Thank you!

For photo shoot days I totally and shamelessly pick out their clothes and coordinate them.  I also like them matchy when we go somewhere busy and public, so I can find them all easily.  For everyday, some of them have opinions and others don’t care that much, so I often still do the majority of the choosing.

June is the fashionista, and has been known to burst into tears at some of the awful suggestions I have put to her.  She sometimes helps me pick out outfits for all the girls.  Niko and I had our first major fight over a sweater vest I wanted him to wear to church when he was first home, so he usually gets a choice of a couple tops but still needs some boundaries.  The two big girls wear the same sizes, so I usually pick out a couple options and they can decide between them who wears what.  Special requests are welcome and usually granted, but all the girls’ clothes are kept upstairs, so it seems easier to just grab clothes for everyone than to have them all going up and digging through drawers at the same time.

Q: Oh my goodness! I barely recognized Delia! … I was wondering how she was doing so far. How has she done in learning English and/or her ability to communicate?

A: Your comment made my heart smile, thank you!  Delia is doing so well in so many ways, and we are thankful for every baby step she takes toward cracking the language thing.

She is such a puzzle.  When she wants to say a word, she says it so clearly and repeatedly that we are convinced she could just start talking if she wanted to.  She has so far mastered: Delia, Pippa, baby, all done, no, okay, hot, oww, knock, uh-oh and probably a few others I can’t think of right now.  She says them in appropriate situations, but somehow she isn’t quite using them in the way we use words.  It is more like she is mimicking than actually speaking.

She also continues to love to sign and learn new signs.  The way she uses sign seems to be a closer to true communication for her.  She will sign “no” after she does something she knows she shouldn’t (!), sign “nice” when we remind her to use gentle hands, and sign “dog” over and over again when she sees one.  She uses “more” and “water” regularly to ask for food and drink.  We even had her first “sentence” right after Annis was born when she clearly signed “more” followed by “baby” after holding Annis for a short time and wanting more.  At a guess I think she is at around the 20 sign mark, but they are not all clear, and sometimes she just gestures randomly, hoping to eventually hit on something that looks like a sign to us and gets her something good.

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We are encouraged, though.  Her frustration level has gone down significantly as she has learned to express her wants and needs.  She will hopefully be starting speech therapy over the summer, and it will be interesting to see how that goes.  She was hit or miss with behaving well enough at occupational therapy for it to be of any value.  Similarly, she was too distracted and sometimes difficult at PT and we have decided to leave it for the summer and try again in the fall.  Speech therapy will be so dependent on her willingness to make an effort, and control is still such a huge, dominating factor for her.  We have every confidence that she has the ability to speak, but it will have to come on her terms.  There is absolutely no persuading her to do something she doesn’t want to.

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Thanks again for your comments and questions.  If there’s anything else you’d like to know, fire away.  I’ve been doing a terrible job of coming up with topics of my own lately, so you may see me start posting more if you keep them coming!

 

 

May Highlights

The middle of May saw us camping in slightly-too-cold-for-camping weather with dear friends in central PA.  Of course, we were camping in someone’s backyard with full access to the house during the day, so it wasn’t really proper camping.  (Niko thought it was hilarious that we ate tacos the first night!)

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We are so thankful to get to do stuff like this, and for friends who aren’t frightened off by the sheer number of us!

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Last weekend, we got to go to a big get-together of large families (and people who enjoy hanging out with them).  Trevor was working, so I roped my sister Paige into coming with us.  I don’t know when this happened, but my baby sister, who I used to carry around on my hip and show off at my high school football games, is now this super-responsible, do-anything-for-anyone, awesomely helpful person who is my first pick (after Trevor) to have with me in almost any situation.  We had such a nice time on the drives to and from the picnic chatting and catching up, and I felt like I hardly lifted a finger while we were there while she made countless trips to the potty and the food table with the kids and chased Coraline around the playground.  Lovely!

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And speaking of lovely: the kids at this picnic!  Everywhere the eye could see, big kids were helping little kids.  Pushing a sibling on a swing, carrying a bumped toddler back to mom for comfort, endlessly spinning the merry-go-round for a delighted pile of little people.  (Bless the boy who looked completely unphased when Delia threw up all over it and held it still while I ran to get supplies to clean it up!)  I’d love to think that all it takes to have your kids turn out so wonderfully is a whole mess of siblings, but I suspect there is probably more to it than that.  I shall continue to watch and learn, though!

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On Memorial Day we started our day off with our local parade.  It’s only a little one, but I do love our little town, and it’s always nice to see some of the neighbors on days like that.  Delia was delighted with the whole affair (The photo below was taken before the parade (and the delight) started.)

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That evening we got to go to the movies as a family for the first time since we only had three kids.  A nearby small town movie theater was showing old movies at their original ticket prices, so we all got to see The Wizard of Oz at 23 cents a piece (a bargain even though they did charge us for Annis!)  And would you believe all eight of them were quiet for the entire movie?!

Pippa had her end of year home school evaluation the next day, and although we officially have three weeks of school left (thanks to an exceptional number of big events this school year) it is definitely beginning to feel like summer around here.  Bring on June!

Valley Forge and More

We are thankful to some dear friends and fellow homeschoolers for inviting us to a free homeschool program at Valley Forge National Park this week.  The kids had such a great time, despite the fact that our big kids are currently studying World War 2 and the little ones, Ancient Greece.  It certainly helped that our big girls have a perennial love for all things American Girl, and Felicity Merriman (of 1774) has been a particular favorite lately.  We also all enjoyed reminiscing that last time we were at Valley Forge a few years ago, Pippa proudly asserted: ” I know why it’s called Washington’s headquarters: because his HEAD is on the QUARTER!” Well, okay, I’m not sure she enjoyed it that much.

Here are some photos of the day:

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Classic Niko

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Romilly and Niko, our resident revolutionaries.

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Bea, ready for battle. (The girl clothes were in higher demand, and she’s not fussy when it comes to dress-up clothes.)

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Delia watches in delight as Eliana explores.

 

And secondly…well, baby!

Annis is growing and changing faster than I can keep this blog updated with pictures of her, so I just have to throw them in at every opportunity.  She is growing and thriving, weighing in at 10 lbs 7 oz at her 2-month check-up this week.  Oh my goodness, we love her so much!

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Dedication

 Sunday was a special day for our two newest girls: their dedication day.  Over the course of our seven years at our church, we have added six children to our family, four of those in the last three years!  With each step we’ve taken in that journey, our church family has become even more precious to us in their love and support for our family.  While some have no doubt wondered if we’ve lost our minds as our family has grown, our church has unwaveringly supported us and lavished us with love and prayers and friendship (not to mention food and gifts!)  And so these dedication days become more special each time, knowing that as our church prays for our children and for us as parents, they really mean it.  They pray for us and support our family not just on these special days, but all the time in a million different ways.  And we are so thankful.

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We are also thankful to be surrounded by friends and family who cheer us on and celebrate these red letter days with us.  We don’t take a single one of you for granted!

 

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This happy dedicat-ee shows off her Bulgarian national costume dress.

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Annis in the official baby dedication dress that all of her big sisters (save one!) have worn.

A Happy Visit

Look who’s happy as a clam…

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And here’s why:

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We are so happy to have Gran and Grandad visiting from England.  Delia is (mostly) loving all the extra fun as well, although I will apparently have to work a bit harder to catch her on camera.

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There’s been chess and puzzles and hotel sleepovers and ever so much crocheting (Pippa’s determined to teach Gran!), and we’re only half way through our visit!  So very thankful for this precious time with dear family.