Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Musical opportunities

Sometimes I know that I need to write a blogpost, but I'm not even sure where I should start...I have been so caught up in getting things done for my children, that I can be last on my to-do list. If you're nodding your head, then I know I'm not alone on this.

How am I doing? So glad you asked. Okay. Not splendid. Not horrible. The last week or so, I find myself close to tears by the time the evening sets in. Iryna and Silas' behaviors may be playing a big part in this. Iryna has been doing this thing where she picks and picks at her pointer finger, in the fingernail area and it bleeds like crazy. You would think this would hurt her, and she is pretty freaked out when it does start bleeding, but this doesn't stop her from picking. Ugh! Anyhow, this post is *supposed* to be about how I'm doing. See how easy it is to get off track?!

Anyhow, I have been feeling like I suffer from either OCD or anxiety...or maybe even both. I don't have a diagnosis, but I do know that my mind is going all the time and it can be hard to slow it down. It didn't bother me as much before I went gluten-free. My mind was pretty foggy then. But now that my mind is crystal clear, I find myself overwhelmed with worrying and things that need to be done, followed by guilt and more worrying.

Some of the worrying is normal, but I don't think all of it is. I have an appointment with my doctor soon to discuss this very topic. I also think I have some carpal tunnel going on. My right hand tends to go numb. I wear a wrist brace at night, which helps me when sleeping, but now my hand will go numb doing other things. I am thinking I will need to have some sort of surgery to fix it, like my good friend, Amie. One more thing, right?

I recently was called to play the piano in primary. I play during the second hour and then I teach my wonderful 7-8 years olds in the third hour. I absolutely LOVE playing the piano and teaching my class has also become a joy for me. My good friend, Karen, plays the organ in sacrament meeting and she recently asked me if I could fill in for her one Sunday a month. Terrified to make a mistake, or seven, I accepted and have been practicing the piano in the past month more than any other time in the past 10 years. It feels good to be playing again and I am reminded of how much I enjoy playing on the piano. I also had the thought to ask Karen to supply me with a violin/piano duet that I can work on, so I can accompany her in sacrament meeting. This is truly stretching me, but I am excited to improve myself.

Last September, a friend of mine asked me if I want to audition for the Mormon Choir of Washington DC. When she mentioned it to me, I felt the Holy Ghost confirm to me that I should try out with my friend. During the audition, the woman accompanying me asked me to make some changes to the way I was singing. She said I wasn't singing forward enough and that I was wearing out my voice very quickly by singing in the back of my throat. I tried to comply but I wasn't really sure what she was asking me to do. I felt frustrated in the way she spoke and it made me want to leave. I stuck around for the practice and enjoyed the music we sang. Later that week I learned that Tyler was leaving for military training and would be gone for several weeks. I emailed the choir secretary and asked if I could begin attending the choir practices in January, and they approved.

As December rolled around, I kept thinking of better ways I could spend the weekly choir practices. One evening a week was precious to me as it is my time with Tyler after the children go to bed. I started praying, asking if Heavenly Father really wanted me to sing in the choir. I knew that He had wanted me to audition, but did I have to really follow through with it? I prayed, hoping I could just opt out now. I was also embarrassed to see the accompanist again. Plus, my voice truly does wear out easily and a long choir practice is hard on my voice. Well, the answer was clear: God wanted me to not only audition for the choir but be IN the choir.

So three weeks ago, I joined my friend and went to the choir practice. Once again, I enjoyed the music we sang - both religious and classical music. I felt better about being in the choir. My friend, Lynne, said that the accompanist, Linda, offered free voice lessons to anyone who wanted to show up early to choir practice. I told Lynne I was interested in learning how to not have my voice tire out so quickly. Before I knew it, Lynne set things up with Linda and the second week of choir practice began with me taking a lesson from Linda. It was a wonderful lesson and I learned so much from her in those 20 minutes. I now plan to show up early every week and learn from this wonderful teacher. I know that if I had just ignored those promptings, that I would continue having the voice abilities that I currently have. But God wants for me to become better, and He has provided a teacher to show me how. I am so grateful.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Happy Birthday Calvin!

Calvin is now 8 years old. This means he gets to begin taking piano lessons, he starts cub scouts, and he is going to be baptized! This post is dedicated to his birthday party! Woo-hoo!

A quick picture of Calvin in his cub scout uniform. Isn't he adorable?! I need to figure out how to put on the patches he needs. I think I am supposed to iron them on? Not sure.

I found this recipe here. The cream filling and the caramel ganache were fabulous. The cake, however, was just...kind of...eh. I have thought to add the cream filling layer to THIS recipe. I think that would be a match made in heaven. ::drool::

Calvin requested the baked french toast casserole for breakfast. 

We had a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle themed party. And since it was all things TMNT, we had pizza for lunch.

Time to light the candles!

Let's talk about Calvin! I was very worried about his attachment, as he was the oldest child we have adopted at the age of 5 years old. I think he is very happy in our family and has learned how to not have everything be about him - something we struggled with in the beginning. Calvin is a go-getter. If he sees something that needs to be done - letting the dog outside, picking up something that fell on the floor, changing the bedsheets on Saturdays - he just does it! Amazing concept, right?!

Calvin is very creative. He loves art projects and he takes his time to make his creations just perfect. Calvin likes affection, but I wouldn't say he seeks it out. For a while I took that to mean he wasn't very attached, but I think now that he simply isn't the most affectionate person - which is fine. However, I still give him kissing attacks and hug him as often as I think about it. And he smiles when I do. Calvin likes to look nice. He often lays out his clothes the night before, so he can be ready to look good for school or church. He now has inherited Keith's black Sunday suit and LOVES to wear a tie with it.

Calvin is enthusiastic about life. He wants to learn and is excited when he can piece things together in his mind. He frequently relays parts of movies to me - just after they have happened - so he can share that moment with me. (He doesn't really get that I have seen the movie several times and I already KNOW what is happening...)

I do worry some for Calvin's mental processing abilities. He doesn't have a diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, but the older he gets...the more I suspect some at play. He also has the most smooth philtrum of all of my adopted kids. Plus he was taken away from his mother at the age of 12 months, due to her incessant drinking of alcohol and not caring for him. Calvin only had one other family visit him prior to our adoption. The couple were told that Calvin would likely not survive his first heart surgery in Moscow, so the family changes their plans and looked elsewhere. I am so glad Calvin was waiting for us in Vyksa. I can clearly remember the first time I saw his happy face. Unlike the other 3 children we adopted, he KNEW why we were there. And he knew that if we liked him, that we would adopt him. Every other child in that orphanage was 4 years old or younger and he had probably seen other children be adopted and wanted to be one of them. I thought that this was a lot of pressure for a young man to have to take upon himself, but thankfully Heavenly Father knew he was meant to be our son and made everything happen to bring him home. In the last 3 years, Calvin has had his third heart surgery, moved twice, and has become such a wonderful boy. He has my heart! Happy Birthday, son! You are loved.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Growing Pains with Iryna

Education for Iryna has been a challenge for half of our posts in the Air Force. When we were in Ohio, we found Ms W to be an incredible teacher who truly understood Iryna and what she needed. Iryna thrived with Ms W. Then we moved to FL and that was NOT a good place for Iryna. Her teacher struggled to teach her and I received at least 2-3 phone calls per week, asking me to talk with Iryna to help her do this or that or calm down. Then we moved back to Ohio and were so blessed to return Iryna to Ms W's classroom. She did so well those two years. Now we are in the DC area and although I enjoy Iryna's current teacher, Ms B, it seems like something isn't working right for Iryna. 

She began school in September and we get home notes everyday (except for 2 days, to date) of the many misbehaviors of Iryna. These behaviors include yelling, throwing things, pinching and hitting other children. It is hard to receive those, day after day. In December, we received a message that Iryna had hurt one of the teachers and she was ordered to be suspended from school for one day. 

Now I find myself in meetings to put together a Functional Behavioral Assessment. We had one meeting in December and it went well, I suppose. We mainly talked about several people who would come in and observe Iryna in her classroom to see if there were any triggers or patterns in her behavior. Last week we had a follow-up appointment where we discussed results. I was pretty stressed about the meeting beforehand. Even though I know that I am not to blame for Iryna's poor choices and behaviors, I still feel as though they reflect upon me and that I will somehow be disciplined for them. I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome of the meeting. They are going to do a full psychological evaluation for Iryna and want to have her spend more time in the regular 4th grade class instead of her special education classroom. It came out that Iryna's frustrations partly included her lack of ability to communicate with the other children in her classroom, many of whom are non-verbal. Up to this time, she has had a short visit with the regular 4th grade classroom in the morning. Now they want for her to visit that classroom in the afternoon, too. The teacher in this classroom states that Iryna behaves very well with the other children. The one thing I was pushing for was to have a one-on-one aid with Iryna, but it came out that that would be more like a bandaid fix to help prevent her from hurting other children, when in fact she may be in the wrong classroom altogether. I am encouraged to help Iryna find where she would thrive here in our new home. And I am very grateful for the women who are working to help us do just that. 

It is interesting to see Iryna growing up and learning. She is now on the onset of puberty. We just bought some training bras and she is now a full size 7 in pants and shirts. She will be 11 this summer. She is still small, but growing up, too. 

Iryna isn't really the sort of person who wants all the attention upon herself, but I have noticed that on birthdays she will really struggle. I don't think she knows how to be happy for someone else on their special day. Anna's birthday was a few weeks ago, and Iryna was really having a hard time. I communicated to her that it was Anna's birthday and that if she could not calm down, then she would have to go to her bedroom for a while. After this conversation, it was time to pray and it was her day to do it. I was impressed by the words she prayed. She asked Heavenly Father to please help her calm down so she could be happy and help Anna enjoy her birthday. Her ability to articulate the words alone blew me away. It was another example of her growing up. 

My son, Calvin, is turning 8 soon and will be baptized. This has sparked Iryna to be interested in being baptized. Up until this point, I didn't think Iryna was quite ready, but I think she is approaching it very soon. In fact, we are talking about both Keith and Iryna being baptized this summer. I didn't know if they would be baptized at all, much less now. I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for helping them progress to this point in life. It has not been an easy parenting journey for me to parent my twins, but there have been some wonderful moments and I know that their baptism will be one of those. 

This is from a Primary Spotlight for Iryna. Tyler and I got a good laugh out of Iryna's favorite scripture story: "And it came to pass," which is funny because when we read scriptures together at night, her favorite verses to read are the ones that begin with "And it came to pass." Also, I wonder if she would get to serve a mission in the jungle. Ha ha. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy Birthday Anna!

I cannot believe that Anna is a teenager. Where did the time go? Anna started off her day with strawberry crepes. I took her to get a haircut - just a trim. We played Mario Party wii together. For dinner, she requested tacos and a cookies and cream cake. She loved her presents. I got her the Harry Potter bluray set. We watched the first one last night. She also got some clothes, jewelry, perfume, and some songs. I love this girl so much. She made me a mama! I am so grateful for her laugh, her smile, he determination to follow the rules and do what is right. She is thoughtful, intelligent, and beautiful. I am so glad she is my daughter and that she came FIRST! I think everyone should have a girl as the oldest. She is helpful and loving. I am so proud of her!

Strawberry crepes!

After her haircut. She is so gorgeous!

Anna's friend, Carly, brought her over some balloons, candy, a notebook, and some pens. She knows how much Anna enjoys writing. :)

Tacos for dinner. She requested mexican cheese - the real deal. 

Yummy ice cream cake!

It feels like this was yesterday...

Isn't she adorable?

Where does the time go? I wouldn't trade this girl for anything. Happy Birthday, Anna! I love you!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

My brother, Coulter, flew out to visit us for Christmas. We had a lovely time with him in town. On Christmas Eve day, we played games and had the Elders over for dinner. I made our traditional dinner of peasant soup. Afterwards, we delivered plates of Christmas treats to our neighbors. It was wonderful and I think we might make that a tradition! Later on, Tyler, Coulter, Anna, and I played some Settlers of Catan (my favorite game) and then we set up all the stockings and put out all the presents. Tyler wanted to keep the tradition his family had of not putting out any presents before Christmas Day, so there would be a lot of presents when the kids wake up. My tradition is that the kids can open their stockings up in the morning, but they have to wait until after breakfast before opening presents. We made biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, and orange juice for breakfast. We never buy orange juice - the kids were thrilled! Then we opened presents. Later on we had a nice ham dinner. Other than my becoming dehydrated and Tyler feeling super sick with a cold, we had a great day.

We made sugar cookies for FHE!

A badly needed pedicure.

Anna getting some braids on!

I sang at the Washington DC Visitor's Center. Beforehand, I attended the temple. It is beautiful!

My good friend, Karen, who accompanied me as I sang COME UNTO HIM.

I introduced my brother to my favorite Mexican restaurant. He loved it, of course. 

Setting the Polar Express train up.

The kids look forward to playing with the train every December.

Settlers of Catan! I lost count on how many times we played. I could play this game everyday.

Aren't those minion hats the cutest?! I love etsy.

Even Maggie got a stocking.

Tyler's stocking is huge. I bought it on eBay last year. I had no idea how big it was going to be.

Footsie jammies! Calvin was so thrilled to be getting new socks in his stocking, that he put them OVER his feet.

Simply delicious dinner of ham, mashed potatoes, corn, and fruit salad.

Reading scriptures. 

These guys are so similar...it's scary!

Pizza on my new pizza stone that Tyler bought me. 

Yes...we played this game a LOT.

Coulter showed me how to make fried plantains. I made locrio and he made a drink with some kind of fruit that I cannot remember the name of...

The next night we made La Bandera. Our Christmas present from Coulter was Merengue soda. It is so good.

There was a lot of Mariokart 8 wii played with these guys.

The day before Coulter left, we went to the temple and performed some sealings for family members. It was a great way to end a fun week. Hurry back, Coulter! We miss you!