Monday, October 6, 2014

Ahhh, To Be Two

It was only last October that we were obsessing over these cute updated pictures that we received of our 2 littlest. They were no longer tiny babies, and they were growing up halfway around the world without us. We were impatiently waiting for the final steps of the adoption to be completed, and we were waiting for these magical words:  Travel Approval. 

During our wait, we were anticipating how the addition of 2 children would impact our entire family. We were most concerned about our former youngest, our 2 year old.  Her position in the family would be forever changed. She would have to share her room, her toys, her clothes, her entire world with her new siblings.  She became a virtual triplet overnight if you will, and how does one really prepare for that?
As I reflect back to when I had only my first 2 children (I say only because sometimes 2 can feel like 10!), I was really into hosting and attending playdates.  I recall my first trip out of the house alone with 2 children.  I was still wearing my pregnancy clothes.  My son was 3 weeks old and I technically shouldn’t have been driving (per the doctor) but I HAD to make it out of the house.  I was young and still had the energy of a 20-something mom I suppose, even when completely sleep deprived. I went to a playdate with a bunch of moms that ended up becoming lifelong friends.  I got out of the car and wondered how the heck I was going to cross the street with a 3 year old, a newborn baby in a carseat, and a large ceramic dish full of watermelon slices?  Oh, and probably a diaper bag. Another mom swooped in to help, and I learned to juggle. I learned to reevaluate how to get things done, if I got things done.  I learned to accept help gracefully when it was offered.

I shouldn’t have worried so much about how my daughter’s role in the family changed.  She adjusted.  She dances and giggles with her little brother by day and chats and sings with her little sister by night.  She still has a very special role in the family, and she has a way of getting what she wants from her older siblings, her Nana, the neighbors, and even *ahem* her parents.

Perhaps this is what happens with larger families, but the playdates stopped.  My friends stopped having kids as our older kids got…older.   I never found a new group of friends that had children Ellie’s age, and I was busy with life as I juggled sports and activities for the 3 biggest.  Ellie’s interactions with kids her own age was minimal to none until the adoption.  She had Nana to herself all day and a bunch of big kids that catered to her on nights and weekends. 

She’s pretty sure the world revolves entirely around her.

She has declared, with certainty, that she is a princess.

I decided that it’s time to get her involved with some peers that she doesn’t happen to be related to.  As a working mom, my options are completely limited.  I ended up signing her up for a ballet/tap class and a weekly evening playgroup at the library~the only 2 options in town.

She was thrilled to finally be big enough to go to school (playgroup).  She wants to take the school bus.  My little girl is so ready to be big. However, she is one of the youngest kids in the playgroup, and struggles with some of the rules.  

She can only go under the parachute when it’s her turn?!

She has to raise her hand to talk?!
Isn't it puzzle time instead?!

She can’t hold the newborn baby that attends with his big sister?!

 Actually, she is having a fantastic time at playgroup.  The group ends past her bedtime, so I’m pretty impressed that she’s able to hold it together that late at night.  She is usually the last child there, fully entertained by her art project and anything that catches her eye as she walks through the children’s room.  She is raising her hand.  She is telling the class about Moosy-Goosy, her dog.  She is singing, dancing, and jumps up and down weekly when it’s time to head to the library.  She makes the other moms smile with her cute little voice and her hand-picked fancy outfits. She is still pretty obsessed with the baby, and every few minutes stops everything to just go and beam at the baby until he smiles. Thankfully, his mom doesn’t seem to mind. She has decided that this cute little baby needs to come home with us, or we need a baby of our own…a big family is completely normal for her I suppose.  Meanwhile, she can stare at this cutie pie as much as she wants during playgroup. I guess we all need a baby fix sometimes. 
Dance class started the same week as her playgroup.  She was thrilled about the idea of dance class until she got there and a gaggle of 2 year olds were screaming, completely terrified to be a room away from their mamas. She came out of the room at the end with her lollipop and said, “Mommy I do not want to go back to dance!” I paid for the first month, so we tried again the following week.  The initial screams were not as intense, but again, at least half of the girls screamed in terror as their mamas left the room.  I honestly give the teacher so much credit!  We just had show week, and my little one got to show off her skills. 

Should I worry so much about socialization?  Probably not. 

She's a pretty awesome little lady. 

Dance away, my sweet one. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Serial Casting is Serious Business {Ponseti Method}

The past 6 weeks have been quite busy.  Tao started serial casting utilizing the Ponseti Method in August.  Clubfoot treatment for a child over the age of 2 is different when compared to a newborn, and it is nearly impossible to keep this particular child still.  

The first casting day rough.  Tao screamed when the cast was applied, even though her foot was not initially manipulated much--so I don't suspect she was in much pain. 

The second week, she screamed as we entered the office. Every.single.30ish.seats in the waiting room were filled.  I sat on the floor and we waited.
We waited a few hours past our appointment time to see the doctor. I had enough treats to keep her from screaming, although she quietly observed every move the doctors made. 

Since the soft casts only come in white (WHAT?!?!), we invested in some permanent markers. Our new weekly ritual:  coloring the cast.

This was also the week that we discovered that she was done with sitting still. It's too fun being TWO to sit still.  

The third week also included a very long wait to see the doctor.  It turns out that this office is unbelievably busy. 

Either way, the whole family got involved with the cast decorating.  

This is the week that she really became a wild little thing.

She didn't want to stay inside while the other kids got to play outside.  

NO SWINGS!  Yeah right.

This cool little lady went right into week 4 with a foot that clearly looked manipulated. 

I think even Tao was impressed with her foot at that point. 

Week 5 came and went, and we scheduled a surgery date for her Achilles tenotomy. Even though her foot was facing forward, a tenotomy would allow her to have some range of motion in the future. By week 6 this pro was part of the team.  She was handing the doctors the soft cast materials one at a time.
She had her tenotomy last week. She came out of surgery in a lot of pain, and pain management was a struggle for a couple of days.  

Tao is back to herself now, and has figured out her own little way to scoot around. She is finally wearing a pretty pink hard cast for 3 weeks, followed by another hard cast for 3 weeks. 

Next up:  bnb and afo time. 

To be continued...

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Dreaded Family Photo

 We tried again.  I think someday the children will thank me for attempting to document that all 8 of us were actually together in a picture.  Right? Hopefully?  Maybe?  

I took the kids to a preschool fair last spring and entered to win a free photo session with I am I Designs and Photography. We won! If I remember correctly I was there with 7 kids.  Alone.  This must have been the only thing that I entered since I had 1 or 2 kids on my hips at any given moment.

 After our Red Thread Session I was a little weary about the idea of gathering up the troops and trying to pretend that this isn't extremely stressful.  I 

 I finally gathered up the courage to contact the photographer Raquel to set up the session. 
She picked the most amazing location--Topsmead State Forest.  
~It's near a winery.  Good to know.~
About the outfits.  It started with the girls.
 I really wanted to order some amazing Matilda Jane outfits for the girls and actually for me.  
 I am obsessed, especially with the big ruffle pants...
but as it turns out way too broke to invest in the amazing world of MJ right now.  
I will have to start saving my pennies and a whole lot of bills. 
 I was stalking online for something Matilda Jane-ish...
and I found the most darling little handmade ruffled rompers for the girls, made by Chloe Belle's Boutique.
If they made these in adult sizes, I think I would wear them every day. 
 I found some chevron bows for the girls and even some chevron shorts for Jakie.
We were good to go.
The photographer brought a phenomenal assistant.
 She paid attention to the little details when I described my children prior to our session...
and she brought some bubbles, 
and of course, a soccer ball.
There were no tears.  Actually, the littles just thought it was playtime. Besides the heat, it was as relaxing as a photo shoot can get.  Thanks Raquel!  You rock!

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Staycations are not for us. {LARGE family, MUST travel}

Every year, we have the same problem.  We put off all of our house projects, hoping that we will be full of zest and energy during the summer. In May and June we are SO ready. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  The days are about to be leisurely, and we will have time to sit and chat over coffee by 9ish. This is to be followed by a little work around the house, and then we are off to a fantastically fun afternoon trip.  You see, we are both special education teachers. We are just as bad as the students as we count down the days, the hours, and the minutes until we can yell it:  SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER!

We make a fun bucket list that usually looks something like this:  Watch Hill, Ocean Beach, strawberry picking at Deeply Rooted, blueberry picking at Evergreen, outdoor movies in Canton, the Bronx Zoo, the splash pad in Plainville, a Rock Cats game, the Science Center, and of course Lake Compounce.  Repeat.  Add any free kid activity that I can find. Repeat.

This staycation sounds great, right?  I mean, who needs a vacation when we are just doing a little work around the house and fun local activities all the time? 

Add in the following and stir well: summer camp,  swimming lessons,  baseball clinics,  Vacation Bible School,  ear surgery,  trips up to Shriners in Boston, Shriners in Springfield, the Yale Adoption Clinic, St. Mary’s Hospital, Birth-3 a few times a week, music therapy sessions,  well visits with pediatrician, and the Smile Spot. When mixed well, sprinkle with construction:  Our little fence that was supposed to take 1 day (per my husband), dragged on for 3 long weeks.  The deck by the pool that was painstakingly replaced piece by piece meant that we couldn’t swim until around the 4th of July. 

Did I mention that I have 6 kids?  I was going to bed exhausted.  While my husband worked on projects around the house, I felt like a single mom.  This was not the fun summer that I had planned on, and time was ticking away. 

I needed a vacation from my staycation. 

We weren’t really planning on going away.  Could we really swing travel with 6 kids; with THREE two-year-olds?  Were we totally crazy to even consider such a thing? 


36 hours before we left, I booked a week in OBX. Since it was a last minute timeshare rental, it was dirt cheap and worth every penny. We pulled the kids out of camp, canceled B-3, music therapy and medical appointments, and set up pet care. My husband finished the brakes on the car minutes before leaving. I instructed each child to pack 5 outfits, toothbrushes, and any electronics/loveys needed.  We threw the 3 pack-and-plays and a double stroller up on top of the car, a couple of suitcases, and we were off. 

The place was amazing.  It offered: three bedrooms and three bathrooms, room to run, indoor pool, outdoor pool, kiddie splash pad, trails, game room, activities, the beach.  A washer/dryer in the unit?  Oh my goodness perfect. This was just what we needed to regroup without distractions. 

After our week was completed, we packed up and drove down to the Florida beaches for week 2.  Yes—we got another dirt cheap timeshare rental.  This is the only way for our large family to travel since there is no way we can sneak into a hotel room unnoticed.  We are *slightly* noisy. There are tons of free and cheap activities in Florida, and we took advantage of everything local.  Mini golf? Check.  Feed the gators?  Check.  Walk up a lighthouse?  An exhausting check.  We saved money by cooking for the kids in the kitchens, and getting the occasional yummy takeout for adults. 

After a quick stop in Savannah, GA (Candy Kitchen anyone?!?), we drove home all day and night.  We are back to medical appointments, weekly Boston trips for the clubfoot casting, speech, and I have to hustle to get ready for my next half marathon.  We have exactly 7 days until school starts and I have a list of day trips planned.  We are actually heading out to the light show at Lake Compounce in a minute.  I have yet to unpack my own backpack, but we are making memories—and that’s what counts. 

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