Monday 30 July 2012

Someone Got New Glasses!

Two years ago, David got glasses.  (Which was also the start of our diagnosis of his Tourette's . . . he had an eye tick that I thought was because he needed glasses.  He did, but it had nothing to do with the tick!)  This is what he looked like when he got those glasses.

We went today for a checkup to see if his prescription had changed.

It's changed only slightly, but the frequency with which he has to wear the glasses has changed.  To all the time, with the exception of playing outside.  (Or lunch at school, but I really feel like he should just keep them on!)

They eye doctor asked if I ever notice his eye crossing in.  She said that it takes a lot of work for him to focus without the glasses, and that she's surprised that it doesn't cross when he's tired.  I was shocked!  His prescription isn't that strong, but apparently he needs them more than we realized.  He wasn't very excited about the "wear them all the time" business.....

However, once we picked them up and he put them on, the first thing he said as he looked around the store was, "OH MY GOSH!  Everything looks so BIG!"  Well.  I guess we should have rechecked sooner. . . He kept saying, "Look through these!  Is this how you see things?!"  He was so shocked at how "big and clear" everything looked, and he kept looking over them to compare.  Sweet thing has been walking around in a fog!

He picked his new glasses himself, and he looks quite handsome in them I think!

Sunday 29 July 2012

Are They Twins?

Every.single.time. we go somewhere people ask if Jack and Katie are twins.

I am starting to understand why.

Muffins With My Early Riser

We went to the farmer's market yesterday, and this is what our refrigerator looks like now.  I know if I don't get a plan for those veggies and act on it today, we'll have a bunch of wilted, sad looking produce by the end of the week.  Trust me - we've been down that wasteful road before.  I made a list yesterday of what I want to make with the veggies this week.  When Jack got up at {4:30} this morning saying his ear hurt, after some snuggles, Tylenol, ear drops, and just pleading that he go back to bed, I realized we were up for the day.  While I'm normally a very early riser, 4:30 is not my idea of a good time on Sunday morning....We decided to make the best of our time and make some muffins for breakfast.

We opted for zucchini muffins (half with chocolate chips for Jack and Katie and half without for David and Henry).  We used this recipe from  I've made zucchini muffins and bread before, but this was the first time I used this recipe, and it was great!  I used cinnamon applesauce instead of plain, because that was what I had.  

They're very dense muffins, and I would suggest spraying the muffin liner with some cooking spray or you'll end up with some of your muffin stuck in the liner.  The recipe made exactly a dozen muffins, and I filled the pan using a 1/4 cup measuring cup.

I had mine with a cup of coffee.  (Using my favorite coffee mug EVER, which I got at the Starbucks in Amsterdam.  It's the perfect size, and I get mad if it's dirty!)

Friday 27 July 2012

Vanderbilt Down Syndrome Clinic Visit

Last week, Lady K and I made a visit to the Vanderbilt Down Syndrome Clinic.
It's sort of a one stop shop for all things Down syndrome.
You can have an exam by either a pediatrician or a nurse practitioner, have a speech evaluation, PT evaluation, OT evaluation, meet with a behavior therapist, meet with someone from genetics, and see a nutritionist.

We saw the doctor.

That was it.

And the doctor we saw?  Phenomenal.  
I want to be her friend.  Is that weird?

As a side note, Chris thinks it's weird that I make friends every place I go.  Like, I think it bothers him.  He sometimes thinks I'm too friendly and overshare.  Which is probably what I just did....

Katie was thoroughly examined, and the doctor said she's perfect.

Her words, not mine.

She was shocked that Katie has only been home for such a short time.  She said she's healthier than lots of Ds kids she sees who have been "home" since birth.

Her height and weight are fantastic, her BMI is perfect, her skin looks great (and do you remember what it looked like when she came home?!), her muscle tone is good (low tone, but nothing crazy), her speech is developing fantastically, and cognitively she is not that different than a typical four or five year old.  And she's pretty stinking cute.  

We had six comments from various people about her outfit and her hair.  Nobody says those things to you when you have boys.

She did buy herself a sleep study, a hearing test, and some orthotics.  We go for the hearing test in September, the orthotics on Friday, and the sleep study sometime still yet to be determined.  Chris and I will have to flip a coin for that one!  

The staff at the Ds clinic is phenomenal, and if you are in the area and have a child with Down syndrome, I highly, highly recommend it.

After our appointment, we went downstairs to the butterfly garden.  She loved it, and it made me think of the stay Jack had at Vanderbilt two years ago and how much he loved to turn them too.  We are so lucky to have Vanderbilt for these babies!

Thursday 26 July 2012

Four Generations

I am originally from Massachusetts.

My parents moved here six years ago, and my sister soon followed.  

Now I have all of my people here.  


There are still some - very few - left in Massachusetts.

And I miss them when they're not here.

They were here last week, and I hugged on them as much as I could!

Four generations
(without David who was at a sleepover)
I am so fortunate to have my mom's parents still healthy, well, and so much fun.  (My grampy had heart surgery a few weeks ago, and is doing so, so well, but could not make the trip.)  Seriously, my grammy rocks.  She loves reality television, getting a tan, and going to yard sales.  And she's gorgeous.  Her skin is fabulous, her sense of humor is wonderful, and she is an amazing woman.  I love her so much, and I love how much she loves my little people.  All of them, without hesitation or question.    

And I think it's a bit odd that my mother and I are holding our heads in exactly the same position....And how much my mom, my grammy, and I look alike.  Clearly I use a higher SPF than they do!

The other people in this photo are my mom's sister Aunt Mitzy, Mitzy's son Matthew (my only cousin, who I could not possibly love more, who I want to move to Tennessee.  Tomorrow, please.), and my uncle Robby (my mom's brother).  Mitzy is so fun and I love spending time with her.  She is so sweet to the kids, and Jack asked the entire time she was here, "Is Mitzy coming over?" or "Is Mitzy coming with us?" or "Is Mitzy going to be there?"  No matter the answer, Jack would say, "Good.  Because I love her!"  And my uncle Robby is hilarious, tells great stories, has a huge heart, and is a wonderful, kind, generous man.  

I do not take for granted what an incredible family I am lucky enough to be a part of.  

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Through Someone Else's Lens

We have not had family photos taken since 2008.  You do the math - Jack was not even a year old yet. Henry was three and David was four.  Katie was a year old, living in a baby house in Russia, not even on our radar yet.  Needless to say, the way our family looks is a bit different at this point than when we last had some professional photos taken.  

Enter Melissa Irwin, of Melissa Irwin Photography.

Melissa is a mom of three boys, and she is an incredible photographer.  Her youngest child has Down syndrome.  (And, as a little funny, Chris asked me where Melissa and her husband "got" their son....Uh, Melissa's body.)  I first heard of Melissa through my father-in-law, who works with Melissa's husband.  He knew they had a child with Ds and told me about Melissa's non-profit organization, Beautiful Feet Global Outreach.  Melissa has a huge heart for orphans.  She says on the BFGO website, "Once I was married and began having little babies, the more I could not bear the thought of lonely unloved children across the globe." So she did something about it.  She has dedicated herself to helping orphans in Zimbabwe and has raised support to provide a truck, a computer, some Christian materials, and various other things for four orphanages there.  BFGO also provides adoption grants to families who are adopting.  Chris and I know firsthand how financially daunting the adoption process is, and I love that adoption grants are a part of Melissa's organization.  She is also a big supporter of Reece's Rainbow.  Without Reece's Rainbow, as you know, we would not have our Katie.  She is also incredibly sweet, funny, and kind.  She was a perfect match for us when I was looking for someone to take our photos.

We met Melissa on Sunday evening.  It was about 90 degrees out, and we were doing outside photographs.  Our children were tired, we were all hungry, and it was literally steaming hot outside.  Great combination, no?  I was excited, but a little apprehensive because I could anticipate the behavior we might see from our littles..... We met Melissa at a store (that was closed) at an old train depot in Franklin, Tennessee.  It was right beside some train tracks, so you can imagine how excited the boys were.  As soon as we got out of the car, we were sweating.  Tennessee summers?  Not ideal for outside photographs!  Or so I thought.  

David had spent the weekend with Chris' parents, and he was tired and kept saying, "My legs hurt."  I think he thought he would be able to go sit in the car.  In the air conditioning.  He didn't want to smile and Melissa had to keep telling him she was going to kiss him if he didn't smile.  I thought for sure that in the 300 photos she took there might be one of David that wasn't horrible.  I didn't give her enough credit.  He looks so grown up and mature, and he is so handsome!

Henry was a good sport, although he was hot and didn't hesitate to let us know that.  He's just by definition a very agreeable person, so he was pretty good at just rolling with what she asked us to do.  And when I look at his pictures I see a big boy, which is not what I see when I really look at him.  Henry is my special, sensitive love and he looks so mature and grown up in Melissa's photos.  I think that must be how other people see him, while I still see my snuggly silly little boy.  

I love that she got some great pictures of David and Henry together, because that's so typical of them.  They are a package deal.  They had been apart for three days, and you would have thought it was three weeks.  

Jack was a little naughty during the shoot, making crazy faces and just generally being unruly.  You know, acting like Jack.  He is so mischievous and Melissa captured that perfectly.  My favorite part of the photos she did for us is that she got everyone's personalities so wonderfully.  How could she do that with naughty behavior and sweat dripping off of us?!  Jack is very expressive, and Melissa so got that.  He is such a fun, vibrant little love and I'm so thankful we did pictures now so I will have this moment in his big life frozen.

And my sweet, sweet Katie.  Looking at Melissa's photos of Katie is like seeing her through someone else's eyes.  She is beautiful.  Clearly I already knew that, but Melissa's photos are amazing.  When I look at her photos from two months ago when we brought her home, or five months ago when we first met her and then I look at Melissa's photographs of her, I cannot believe she is the same child.  Melissa so perfectly caught Katie's big personality, her absolute joy for life, and her love for us - her family.  It seriously makes me cry to think about it.  

When I look at the pictures Melissa took and I see Katie's face and body language, I think about what her life was like six months ago.  I think about what her life would be like six months or six years from now if we had not found her.  And I cannot imagine her enormous personality, her exuberance for life, her zest for learning, her sweet heart, or her beautiful life being locked away behind the walls of an orphanage.  I think about how incredibly lucky we are to be her family and to be the daily recipients of her face splitting smiles, her excitement for the smallest things we take for granted, and I can't believe what we were missing for so long and didn't even know it.

I feel like in the day to day business of parenting and life it is so easy to take for granted what we have. Being a parent is stressful, whether you have one child or four or ten.  I so try not to get caught up in that stress, but it is sometimes hard.  We have four small children, and I have a full time job.  Someone always need something from me.  My job is to constantly deal with other people's bad decisions or stressful lives.  I make mistakes constantly and I never feel like I am doing enough and can always do things better.  

These four little people?  I'm doing this right.  We're doing this right.  I do not take being lucky enough to be the mama of these four people lightly.  This family is my reason for being here and they make everything I do sweeter.  Our lives have never been more full or more satisfying than they are right now.  Thank you Melissa for catching that and saving it for us.  

To see Melissa's full gallery of our photos, click here.  Also, please like her photography page on Facebook and have her do your next photos - I promise you will not be disappointed with Melissa or her product!

Monday 23 July 2012

Katie's Re-Adoption

Last week, this little muffin got adopted.
Wait, what?
You thought she already was?
She got re-adopted in our home state of Tennessee.
Re-adoption is not required, as her adoption was finalized in Russia, but we wanted to do it so we could get an American birth certificate for her.
And I work for a group of attorneys, so it didn't cost us anything but the court filing fee.

Also, my extended family from Massachusetts was here, so it was a wonderful way for us to have our boys and our extended family be a part of Katie's adoption, since they obviously could not in Russia.

We all walked over to the courthouse together for our hearing.  And the boys had many pep talks about courtroom behavior.....

There were two cases on the docket that afternoon:  our's and the adoption of one of my absolute favorite client's.  I was so excited to share the day with her and her family, particularly her new son!

We did a little waiting for the judge.

Then it was show time!
Why was I more nervous to testify in court here, after our adoption was already finalized, than I was in Russia?!  I think because so many people we care so much about were there, I got a little teary.

There were a lot of people watching - this is not what it was like the first time!

Bert, my dear friend and the attorney I work for, asked us a series of questions about Katie's adoption, and the judge asked me to explain the process to him.

The judge asked Chris to talk about how Katie is fitting into our family and how things have gone since we brought her home.

About ten minutes later we were done!  Chancellor Corlew was so kind and talked about how lucky he is to get to do adoptions and see happy times in his court.  It was a fun process for us, and I'm so glad we did it.

Katie did great, and she looked so adorable!

The boys did so well.  
And said, "Court is boring".
I'm guessing we won't have any lawyers!

We had a fabulous day, and were so glad to share it with people who are special to us!

Something to Talk About

9 weeks ago all she said was "da" and a lot of grunting.
She learned her first sign on gotcha day, and used it spontaneously and appropriately.
It was like a little window to her soul opened up.

Sixty-Seven days later, this is a tiny snapshot of what she's able to say.
Katie knows roughly 25 signs and says several words.  
She still grunts, and she still says da.  
Give her sixty-seven more days and let's see what she can do.

All she needed was something to talk about.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Two Months Home!

This little love has been home for two months now.

She continues to change, almost daily, right before our eyes.

Katie is trusting her brothers and playing with them, instead of hitting them and pushing them away.

She's playing and running, and jumping, and swimming.

She's growing out of clothes, which we are happily passing to our smaller friends.

She is happy most of the time, but also has her share of tantrums.  Are these adoption related?  No, I don't think so.  Have you met many five year olds?  I think they're age related.

She has grown an inch and a half and has gained five pounds.

Katie amazes us each day with how smart she is and with how seamlessly she has fit into our family and adjusted to family life.

She knows we are her family.  She will hug and kiss and sign "I love you".  And I don't think she's just mimicking something she has seen; she knows what it means and she knows what love feels like.

Happy two months home my sweet girl.