Saturday, July 12, 2008

Our own pool....

The Baxter/Weitz work crew. Daniel and Alexander digging and digging...
Max demonstrates the two foot-ed dig
This is the middle of a heat wave too. You can't tell obviously, but it was so terribly hot and humid, my dad's shirt would be soaked completely and dripping with sweat within about 20 minutes of going outside.
Shasta does her part as inspectress.


I wrote in earlier posts about the above ground swimming pool we bought. I thought the whole pool thing was going to be a Saturday project. Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong. It has taken my dad, my husband and all three of my boys a few weeks to get things in shape to put in this little pool. Yes, it is an Above Ground Pool!! A smallish one. It's a big deal though for several reasons. First, we just have no entertainment budget for the summer so this is going to be something fun for the children to do whenever they like - it is free and it is great exercise for them. The main reason we got it though was for me. The physical therapists recommended that I get as much exercise as possible in a swimming pool; where I wouldn't be bearing my weight. It is amazing too, I can move around really well in the water and it isn't painful, but rather pleasant. It is such a nice feeling to be able to move again - almost like the old days. The best part is that I can pick Rosie up and play with her and even play with the boys again. I just can't say how nice it is to be able to be normal for a little bit. The only problem is that it is very difficult for me to get in and out of the pool, so I can only do it when Robert is home, otherwise, I'm afraid I might get stuck! Here are a few pictures of everyone doing some "groundwork" for the pool. Our backyard is really pretty steep so quite a bit of grading needed to be done.



Random Pix

Rosie and Mommy getting ready for bed. Rosie managed to get Daniel's gameboy away from him. Daniel is such a softy - Rosie knows she can get to him with a few tears and boy does she love to "play gameboy". Basically, anything the boys do, she wants to do.
Thought I'd include this photo just to show how much Alexander has grown. He is huge. Unfortunately, he has put on some weight this year and he is really sensitive about it. I am really sorry that I passed on my Fat Genes to him - he is just like me; loves to eat carbohydrates, especially if they are baked with sugar, and doesn't love exercising that much. He also, like me, eats to relieve stress. The unfair thing for him is that he has two brothers with voracious appetites. Max and Daniel can and do eat all day long and they don't gain an ounce. In fact, poor Daniel, if he doesn't eat all day long, he will lose weight quickly. So Alexander gets to watch everyone else chow down - I know how hard it is. But, that wasn't what I started out to say. His hugeness is not related to his weight but to his height. He has just really shot up this year. One day he was my mom's height (um, ...short) and the next day I noticed him towering over her. I guess he is about 5'9" now. He will be 14 in August. It literally seems like yesterday that I was giving him baths in the kitchen sink. He has turned out to be such a fine adult; funny, interesting, passionate, righteous, sensitive, introspective - I don't know where all that came from, but it is a wonderful combination and I really enjoy talking to him and listening to his stories and his viewpoint on the world. However, with all that said, he was the sweetest little boy; always eager to please me, holding my hand, cuddling with me, thinking I was the smartest person in the world. Sigh. I miss that too.
Here is Rosie, back in the bucket. She loves sitting in little things - bowls, buckets, etc. In fact, the boys have to be careful when they mop or are cleaning that she doesn't climb into the mop bucket!


Rosie's Birthday

This is our 2nd year in a row with a Dora The Explorer theme. We added a a little Diego (Dora's cousin) this year for variety. Thanks to my Dad and Sandy for getting the decorations etc together. I was actually in the hospital and was only released the night before.
Here I am with a little hair - this is mid-May.
The blurry figure on the right is my Dad.
Oh look! More Dora stuff, but also, that whole bucket is full of outdoor chalk and outdoor coloring stuff - very cool.
Rosie, Grandpa (Baba), Max and Grandma Sandy (Gigi). There is an unwritten law of at least 40 years that says that no picture will ever be taken of Sandy, ever. That law was laid down before the internet or digital pictures existed but there are lots of stipulations and by laws etc that go with it. For example, if somehow a picture is taken of Sandy, it will immediately be given to her for destruction etc etc. The penalties for disobedience are pretty severe. But, well, my beloved Sandy doesn't know anything about computers or the internet, she has no idea how to use them. There is no way she would ever know that this picture is posted here on my blog. So, with shaking fingers and 40 years of threats ringing in my ears, I boldly place this picture on the internet for all the world to see. I do so at no risk to myself or offspring because there is no way Sandy could ever access this site. The only way she would ever know about this is if.....well, if someone were to tell her about it. Well, I do have an edit button if I ever need it.


Daniel's Birthday

Isn't this too cute? Donna, my dear friend and professional cake mistress offered to make this for Daniel. I really appreciated it. Normally, it is a big thing for me, making the children's birthday cakes, but this year, I didn't make a single one. At least Daniel got a homemade, really cool one - thank you Donna!
The smiling 12 year old after eating some Black Frosting-yuk.
Max, Daniel, Alexander and a nearly naked Rosie -eager to open bday presents. And, yes, that is Christmas wrapping in April. Sigh. Luckily, my boys don't care a bit about stuff like that (and yes, I include my husband in that too!)
Rosie: getting dressed up for the rain.
Dying Easter Eggs - and, yes, that is me. So, at Easter, I was totally bald. I actually have about and inch and a half of hair now - it is a much better look for me, I can assure you.

More Random Pictures

Here is a picture of me trying to soak my feet. Oh, you don't see me? Well, anything that is little and has water in it, is a "bath" for Rosie. She loves "baths".
Yep, here I am trying to soak my feet again. This time, I refuse to move. Hah.
Grandma and Rosie working in the kitchen - getting everything ready to dye Easter eggs - I told you these pictures are random! Rosie calls Grandma "Na". That is it - Na. She calls my Dad "Baba" and she calls my stepmom, Sandy "Gigi". I have no idea where she gets these names, but they are pure Rosie. She has always refused to call Alexander by his correct name too. She called him Ge ge right from the start - it means older brother in Chinese and it stuck. When we try to get her to say Al-ex-an-der, she says Al- ex- ge- ge. Ha ha. Now, however, she has made a change and she has started calling Alexander Ge- gy which sounds a lot like Daddy and also quite a lot like doggy which she has started calling Shasta. Keep Up!
This picture is from May or beg of June. The kids were begging to go swimming. Rosie dragged her little pool into the backyard and Max filled it up with some nice, Arctic hose water. Shasta is the only one who looks comfortable. The buckets they are sitting in are filled up with hot water from the kitchen tap. Other than that, they are having lots of fun!
Max; in the first stages of hypothermia.

More Good News!

Get This!! We just got the test results back. We had to get Alexander and Daniel tested to meet VA's requirements for homeschooling. We have to show the government that they are actually learning and that they are keeping us with their counterparts in public school. I have no problem with this and was actually quite eager to learn how they would score against those in traditional education.

I looked through a bunch of the acceptable tests - the IOWA, CTBS, the CAT etc. Some of them were awfully lengthy and I didn't want to totally stress the boys out. Also, I had to get a proctor to administer the tests and the less time they spent taking the tests, the less it would cost us!

On top of that, I just wanted to get an idea of how they were doing - did the stuff sink in or was it in one ear, out the other? I decided to go with the CAT - the California Acheivement Test? Hmm, can't remember what it stands for at the moment, but it is the nationally accepted test, equivalent to the Iowas, but it only takes about 3 hours to take, whereas the Iowa is split into two days of testing, about 3 or 4 hours on each day. yikes.

Anyhoooo....Daniel scored in the 95th percentile and Alexander scored in the 99th percentile. I am so pleased. I have to say I was a little worried since I was so sick this year - the boys ended up working quite independently. But, that makes me all the more proud. They knew how sick I was and they could have gotten away with lots of shortcuts or worse. Instead, they chose to take the high road, even when there was little to no accountability. How grateful I am for my righteous (and smart) sons! Great thanks to my Heavenly Father for trusting me with these sweet souls, where would I be without them?

Daniel is Home!! Hurray!

Okay. You are probably wondering if I will ever post anything uplifting! Sorry to be so gloomy of late, but today I do have great news. Daniel left last Monday for Scout Camp and he just returned home - nearly a whole week without him.

It was really weird because Max has also been gone for several weeks and before Daniel left we had already been talking about how quiet the house is without Max - the difference is huge. With Max at home, there is always a constant mid-level to upper-level hum, often punctuated by screams, crying, yelling, the sounds of walls being hit etc. All of that is gone without him here. I had no idea that ALL of it was caused by him - either directly or as a result of something he said or did to antagonize his brothers.

Well, with Daniel gone too, it was just eerily silent all week. Rosie and Alexander are our singers, so I could hear them singing quite well all over the house - even Rosie's hums while she plays in her bedroom were audible from wherever I was in the house - amazing.

Daniel had a great- wonderful - fantastic time at camp. I am so thrilled that he did well and had fun. He earned 5 merit badges in one week! Wow. He came home with a leather knife pouch, two baskets and a stool - all of which he had made/woven himself. I'm as proud as a peacock. What a good boy he is.

Rosie could not have been more excited when he walked in the door. She was jumping up and down and saying, "Daniel, Daniel, come play with me!". Poor little girl, with me sick in bed all week and Alexander running around trying to do all the chores and take care of me, he hasn't had much time to play with her. I've tried to entertain her from my bed with coloring, reading etc, but that only goes so far for a three year old!

I think with Daniel gone this week, Alexander realized how much work Daniel does. Hopefully, he will appreciate him a little more? In any case, we all really missed him and are so glad to have him home. Our gratitude to all the Scout leaders who take on this huge task each year - thank you for making this a wonderful experience for our son and most especially for returning him to us safe and sound!

Tony Snow

Sigh. Another one's gone.

Tony Snow was the White House Press Secretary for Pres Bush for a while. He just seems like such a nice, intelligent, family loving man (whatever your politics are).

He was having chemo at Georgetown - the same place I go. In fact, Robert and I ran into him just about 2 months ago. We were all leaving at the same time and he was oo-ing and ah-ing over Rosie. He helped us into the elevator (yes, with a wheelchair and a 3 year old we often require help!) and we rode down together. He seemed so healthy - his hair thick and dark (okay, I know that isn't an indicator, but in the cancer world, that is the first thing we patients look at!) - he was strong - he was there on his own. I mean usually, when it is getting towards the end, the patients come with family members or friends when they come for their treatments, but he just seemed like he was doing great.

Actually, when he still worked for Bush and, I think for a while afterwards, we would see the security detail waiting around in the hallway - it made it all the more strange for him to just be there by himself. I don't think anyone should go for chemo alone. I'm so grateful that Robert always goes with me and I always feel so awful when I see people getting their treatments and sitting alone. Of course, it may be their preference, but it still breaks my heart - especially if they are elderly.

If you watch the brief interview on this link, you will see where I go to get my treatments. It is the same room where he is sitting for his treatments.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25649744

I just could not have been more shocked this morning when Alexander told me that Tony Snow had passed away. Really. It is frightening that he could just be so very healthy one day and that the cancer could devour and kill him so quickly. This is the meanest, cruelest disease. He left behind a wife a several young children.

a long, long update...

Holly

It has been a terribly long time since my last post; not just in passage of time but in happenings too. I hardly know where to start. Guess I’ll start with myself, since that is the easiest. I got sick again this month. I don’t know what the problem is. It was another really bad time. I spent 9 days in bed unable to move (except for the night Robert dragged me to the ER to get some fluids pumped into me – we spent all night there rehydrating me). Other than that, I just lie in bed, every muscle concentrated on not vomiting – the first 7 days I didn’t even turn on the t.v. or pick up a book – it was awful. Every drop of liquid my mother and husband tried to force into me came back up and food was out of the question. I should be about as skinny as a rail, but no, I’ve got that good European Farmer Stock, lucky me!

The worse part of being in this condition is that I can’t take my medications. This is bad for several reasons – the first and most obvious is that I am in extreme pain – not such a big deal since I am lying unmoving, perfectly still (concentrating on not vomiting) on my bed the whole time. The only time I move is to go to the bathroom and that isn’t too often. This condition leads to bedsores and stiff necks and bad moods when I am more awake. The other problem with not taking my meds is that I go through terrible withdrawal. This makes me sound like a total junky of course, but it is an awful feeling. They do have me on lots of pain meds to manage the bone pain and I also take anti-depressants which also help to manage the pain (bet you didn’t know that!). Anyhow, after a few days of not being able to keep my meds down, I start to go through terrible withdrawal – additional nausea, dizziness, oh, and more bad mood stuff. You may be wondering around now, “hey, what about her kids? – doesn’t she have kids to take care of?”. All I have to say to that is that I’m incredibly blessed to have my mother living here, to have a husband who is always completely comfortable with ‘going with the flow’ and to have at least one son who is always ready to feed all the other children.

Chemo is always uncomfortable, there is always some element of sickness, pain, nausea etc., it is just some months are so, so much worse than others. The doctors didn’t explain this but I suspect that this month it was because my platelets were so low. They had to give me two blood transfusions before they could administer the chemo. Sigh. Sometimes I have to ask myself if….no, I don’t have the luxury to ask myself any questions of the sort – I just need to do this!

We did get more scans done and everything looks okay as far as the tumors go. I mean, no big growth spurts on any of the existing tumors – they did pick up more bone deterioration and some more cracks, chips and breaks in ribs. But, that is to be expected.
Today was my first day of feeling better and I came downstairs, opened my email and found about 400 unread email – can you imagine??! Most of it is junk, but I do feel bad for those who have written me and I haven’t responded. I’m so sorry and will write back to you asap.

On top of all this, I have to update about my children. I don’t know if it has been obvious or not, but this year, I’ve written little about my boys. It is so easy to write about Rosie – she makes such huge progress each month and she is such a happy, life-loving person, it is a joy to write about her and post photos of her progress etc. We enjoy her so much – she keeps us smiling when we feel like crying and most importantly, when we chase the spirit away, she invites Him back! I often feel the Lord purposefully put her in my life for those very reasons and for others too. It is true that when I am so far gone that I don’t feel the Lord with me anymore, I can look into her funny, happy face and feel the Lord’s love for me through Rosie – that may sound odd, but there have been many times in my life when my children or husband have brought me back to the Lord when I was feeling like I was walking too far from Him. How grateful I am for my family – all of them; all of mine and all of Robert’s. What would we do without each one of them/you??

Daniel

Our boys have struggled a lot this year. Daniel’s struggles have probably been fewer than the other two. Sometimes he is like the amazing rubber boy – things stick for a few minutes and then bounce off of him – allowing him to paste that smile back on his face, give me a hug and tell me he loves me. He has had to do a lot of growing this year, he had to open up to us about his past – about secrets he had been keeping for many years. He made a lot of bad decisions this year, decisions that surprised us, but ultimately, he repented and tried hard each time to get back onto the right track. We are exploring some options for counseling for him this year and hope that he will find a way to finally put all of his past behind him. Daniel loves the gospel though – he loves the Lord and he knows right from wrong and we know that he will be able to find his way, that we’ll be able to help him and that he will grow up to be a good missionary, husband, father, priesthood holder, and a righteous, thoughtful man.

Alexander

Alexander’s struggles have been complex and complete. He is the one struck hardest by my diagnosis last summer. His life was turned upside down again and the move to the U.S. was complete unwelcomed by him. He loved living in Frankfurt – he loved church there, he had lots of friends, liked where we lived, loved our lifestyle etc. He hates it here and that hurts so much. He is just so lonely. He has not made one friend at church and that is so odd for him – he is the most social, friendly young man and he tried so hard at first, but he quickly came to the conclusion that he is to be an outcast at this ward. I guess at this age (almost 14 now), it is hard to move into a new social situation where everyone has basically grown up together. However, we have seen lots of new youth move into our ward since our arrival and they always seem to hook up with new friends. Maybe it is just a question of personalities; in any case, Alexander is sure that he is avoided because of his weight. He has put on some weight this year and he is really self- conscious about it. I feel so bad for him. Luckily, he has been able to find a league where he can indulge his passion; Pokemon. He gets to go play almost every Saturday and often he plays in tournaments in other parts of VA and even out of State. He has some friends from his League and though they all live far away, at least he has someone he can email with or talk on the phone with, or play online with once in a while. I am really grateful for that, before he realized he had friends at his league he was really despondent and moody all the time.

Max

It is hard to talk about Max. We have had so many problems with him from the very beginning. He is just a challenging child – the last four years we’ve made so much progress with him though, I guess we thought we’d get through all the tough stuff one way or another. He just has so many problems. He really was abused in the orphanage, but more than that, he was an abuser in the orphanage – we knew that, but we’ve also always known that adopting older children wouldn’t be easy – we have always known that we have the Gospel, we have the Lord on our side and we have a strong marriage and an amazing family – who could ask for more to heal wounded souls? Max has always danced right along the edge – often crossing it, but dancing right back with a smile on his face – finding our discomfort, rage, fear, or pain amusing. Last summer, when we got the new diagnosis, Max lost more than a mother. I saw it on his face just like I saw it on all the boys’ faces’ – I watched them lose me and it was the most pain I’ve ever felt. But, when we got the diagnosis, we also lost Max’s sister whom we’d been trying to adopt for nearly 4 years. It was all too much for him and I think it catapulted him over a fence he was bound to climb at some point anyway, but the pain and the losses let him do it immediately; with no regard for us or our teachings or our rules or our love.

It started right away last summer with Max going into overdrive. Both he and Daniel have a condition called RAD – Reactive Attachment Disorder – quite typical of institutionalized children, especially in Eastern Europe/ Russia. These children don’t develop normal attachments in infancy and it affects everything they do for the rest of their lives. Some can grow up to be functional, contributing members of society, but they need lots of help to get there-lots and lots of help. Max also has other realities that fight and drag him down; learning disabilities, low intelligence, short stature…they all combine inside of him to suck away his sense of self and any little bit of confidence he may have. He is a master of over- compensating, but the horror of it is that this little boy who is a victim of careless and caring-less adults, has been left with no conscience, he feels no remorse for the things he does – including raping a 6 year old girl with a stick or sexually abusing his little (adopted) brother. He was constantly in trouble at school all year and ended the year getting suspended for asking a little girl and boy if they had had relations, but used a different word.

Home was no better and we began to get scared – well, I did at least. I actually started locking my bedroom door at night, because I was so unsure of what he might do. We found out a couple of weeks ago. It is a long story, but I’ll shorten it by saying that Max tried to set the house on fire. He set several fires in the basement and garage. It was not obvious at first what was going on and we called in an emergency electrician who showed us (the dumb, blind parents) that the things we were looking at were done purposefully. It all came together along with some other things and we ended up calling the police. What an awful night. Robert and the police officer took Max to the hospital but he ended up being transferred to a mental hospital where he still is now. He has been there just over two weeks now. They have done a lot of testing on him and currently have him taking some medications which may help him, but the fact is that it isn’t safe for him to come home. The mental hospital’s evaluation recommends that Max be transferred to long term residential care. We don’t know yet exactly what this will mean; how often we will be able to see him, if we’ll be able to take him to church with us, etc, etc. So far, all we have are questions, questions, questions.

He calls every evening and I get to talk to him for about 20 minutes. He was having a great time at first, really enjoying the food, getting dessert after every meal, going to the gym every day and living with lots of boys, …it was the same ol’ same ol’ and it fit Max nicely. It has only been the last couple of days that he has been asking to come home. It is so hard. This is our son. We love him. We love him so much, there is actually, despite all I have said, there is actually so much about him that is loveable. I miss him, I’m nervous and scared about his future. I’ve given so much of myself to him, to heal him, to love him, he is my son, our son, it just can’t end like this.

No one is saying this is going to be a permanent situation, but they are saying that he needs at least 6-12 months of intense residential treatment. Who knows where I’ll be in a year? I pray that we will find a way to spend time together this year and that…that someone will step in and help him. We do have a possible angel on the horizon. The Social worker from Max’s previous school has been awesome in helping us and in getting funding for us. She found a counselor for Max who has lots of experience in RAD and in post institutionalized children. He is just wonderful and had just started to come to the house to work with Max when the whole burning down the house thing happened. The county is funding his work with Max and we could not be more grateful. We pray he is the one or that the Lord will send the right person who can reach Max, work with him, and teach him. I know it is possible and have read of success stories, so I just need to keep my faith and to pray for more faith.

Thank you to everyone for your love and prayers. They are helping me so much right now, and Max and my whole family need that reassurance that comes from your prayers. Thank you so much. I will update with more cheerful news soon. But please know, this is just an update to let everyone know what is going on with us. We are actually doing okay though. The Lord truly is on our side and for that we can only be happy. We try to keep an eternal perspective; I know I will have my whole family together again, so when we squeeze through the tight spots and shed the tears, it is okay, we can close our eyes for a second and feel the Lord’s omnipotent arms holding us up.