Friday, April 30, 2010

Monsters

Here's what we did at home for AJ's preschool class theme:

Monsters

+ Read Go Away Big Green Monster and worked on this:

"AJ, where does his nose go?"
I found a template for the head and facial features and cut them out of felt.  I printed a coloring sheet of the face, colored it, laminated it, and we used it as a reference.

+ Monster Pancakes
Make pancake batter
Use food coloring to make it blue
Pour batter for 1 pancake into pan, place mini chocolate chips in 2 small bunches to make "eyes", then flip your pancake
Using sm/lg gingerbread men cookie cutters, cut out your "monsters"
Trim the top of the monsters head, arms, and feet...VOILA-FRANKENSTEIN!

+"Monster Mash"
Smashed apples with green food coloring while we listened to the song "Monster Mash"

+Monster Dinner {its hard to see, but its a casserole with a monster face made out of bacon}

+Walked around in our monster shoes

+Colored pictures of monsters (Monsters Inc and Cookie Monster):
You can find printable coloring pages of Disney characters and more HERE.
You can find Sesame Street coloring pages HERE.

I had the great idea to make a cookie monster out of a styrofoam takeout container.  The idea just did NOT work.  Here's a photo I took before we embarked on this disaster.
I wanted some of that furry fabric-like they have those crazy neon furry hats at party stores?  No blue furry fabric or hats to be found.  I settled on blue felt, but it just.did.not.work.  The only thing that looked cute was the googly eyes we glued on...and the fact that there were mini chocolate chip cookies inside the container (we made his mouth where the container opens so it looked like he was eating cookies).  See, some of my best ideas just don't pan out.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why There?

Why There?

Well, after a horrid and short experience with domestic adoption, Jeremy and I chose International Adoption.

We chose there, being Guatemala, for several reasons:

1) The children were coming home under 1 year of age (ate the time we applied)

2) They only required one trip

3) The trip was only a few days, compared to a few weeks

4) Guatemala was just a few hours by plane

5) The children were with foster mothers who were privately paid by the adoption attorneys, or they were in orphanges privately owned and operated by adoption attorneys or church groups.  The government had their hands essentially "out of it", which meant better care for the children (I use this last phrase loosely).

Guatemala is an absolutely gorgeous country.  The traffic in Guatemala city was insane.  I wouldn't want to be that guy standing at what looked like an 8-way intersection blowing a whistle.  I can still hear the sound of fresh rain and the loud buses that would pass our hotel on their daily route.  I remember sitting on the upper front porch of our hotel and feeling like the world was just passing us by.  It was a slower, more relaxed pace. 

We were leary of Russia and most other European countries for multiple reasons.  I had once heard a story (from a reliable source) that a teenage girl adopted from Russia had cut herself multiple times and held her adoptive mother at knife point.  Um, no thank you.  China's wait was too long and adoptions at the time were halted.  Romania had just closed.  Vietnam had just opened up again only to close several weeks later due to kidnappings.  It was insane.  Roll the dice, pick a place.  Pick a child.  Pick your future.

We though Guatemala was the safest as far as the health & mental health of a child.  The children were coming home generally healthy and adjusting well.  With the children coming home earlier in life, adjust was a bit easier.  Being in foster homes and private orphanges meant they were loved and cared for better than a typical government institution. 

This story about this adoptive Mom returning her child is disturbing to me.  It makes me sad to say that adoption is sometimes, not all flowers and roses.  Especially when you are told to be realistic in your process, yet reassured a hundred bajillion times that things will be just fine. While our situations are grossly different, there is a common thread.  I think what this adoptive mom did was inhumane, and sets a horrible example for the adoptive parent.  But on the other hand, to some tiny little extent, I get what she is trying to say.  While I don't think she went about it the right away AT ALL, she clearly feels misled. 

I could write an entire book on how the adoption world needs to be revamped and reworked.  Most of all, the red tape needs to be removed.  Why do you think these children have mental issues?  Part of the reason is the process takes so freakin' long!!  Adoption is, in most cases, a last chance to become a parent.  Often, the decision comes fresh from failed fertility treatments or other issues. The decision is not made lightly, and your dreams are set high, period.  You expect, what you expect, and thats that.  I could go on, and on, and on....

**Off my soapbox now**

Monday, April 12, 2010

Out for a Stroll

The other day I was driving through our old neighborhood.  It is essentially where Jeremy and I began our life together.  We lived there, got married there, you get the picture.  Our time there flashed through my head as I drove down the familiar streets and stopped in front of our old house. For some reason or another, we haven't been in the area in months.  Which is odd, since it is literally 7 minutes down the road. 

As I drove past the baseball field at the highschool I saw 1, then 2, then 3, then 4 boys out for a stroll with their Mom...who was, as all Mom's do, bringing up the rear and letting the boys do there thing.  At first I didn't realize she was with them.  As my eyes immediately jumped from boy to boy, walking, wheelchair, walking, wheelchair.  I suddenly felt my heart race and found myself quite distracted from my task at hand (driving).  While I wasn't gwaking, I certainly was looking. 

I have no idea if all 4 were her kiddos.  Although they did look alike and all looked to be about 7 years of age (just a guessimate).  Here was this Mom, just walking along.  The kids walking and racing their chairs between each other, laughing and giggling.  Such beauty.  Such normalcy. 

I felt the sudden urge to pull over, jump out of my car, and ask her a million questions.  I wanted to know that question most Special Needs Mom's cringe over...How do you do it?  Although, when I ask it, I think it has a totally different meaning than when a strangers asks me.  (My answer is, by the way, I don't know, we just do)  I wanted to know how this beauty that was before my eyes was created.  I wanted to ask here their stories (because there is always a story) and how far they have come from X,Y, and Z.  I wanted to talk to a woman who is in the same club that I am.  A Mom who just KNOWS. 

For me, being a Special Needs Mom is often isolating and incredibly lonely.  Don't get me wrong, its not all bad, but it is what it is. It is amazing to me how there are so many women on my kickball team, and I don't even know it.  Its a secret club, that really, needs absolutely no words.  We are instantly bonded by our differences and similarities.  Another stroke of beauty if you ask me.

I thought about those boys for the rest of that day.  I thought about how that beauty could be possible with a brother or sister for AJ and how sad and frustrated I become when thinking about expanding our family. I thought about how absolutely amazing I was in the right place at the right time to see such beauty. How I should have gotten out and talked to that Mom and her boys.  We could have shared beautiful stories and I would have left with a feeling of peace in my heart.  How do I know?  I always do when I meet or talk to another SN Mom.  Its just the way it is. 

When I'm in the area again, I know I will be looking for that scene of beauty.  Maybe, just maybe, I'll pull over this time...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thurday's Book Corner


I bought this book a few months ago. I cannot, for the life of me, remember how I found out about it.  I started reading the other night and have found myself highlighting and writing notes in the margin.  I do not write in books, unless I have to (like in college) or unless its really good. 

THIS.BOOK.ROCKS.

You can read about it HERE from the book's website.  A brief summary of its contents is located on the books website as well. 

Its candid.  Reality.  Most importantly, its something Jeremy and I can relate to. Often our conversations consist of nothing but AJ.  Me to Jer: How was your day? Jer: Good.  Jer: How was AJ's day?  Me: Well, blah blah blah blah blah....  Every move you make revolves around this littler person.  Go ahead.  Tell me it shouldn't be.  Then I'll tell you to walk our journey and then see how you prioritze your life.

Married with a Special Needs Child Is Different Than Being Married with a Typical Child.  Not that I am downplaying the everyday stressers of being a parent.  I am most certainly not.  But remember what it was like for the first 8 weeks of your baby's life?  Constantly "ON"?  That's what this is like.  The stress doesn't just go away when the kids get older, in most cases, it never goes away. 

This book is so awesome, I don't even have words.  It has mini-stories and tidbits from REAL SN parents and is written by two fabulous people who, God Bless Them, chose to be bold and candid with this book. It talks about the grief, the anger, the self-pity that turns to self-compassion, ways you can improve your relationship, stay connected, and most of all, it spells out the REALITY of having a special needs child. I would highly recommend this book to other SN parents, and to those who know other SN parents, or want to know the truth. 

Just because your child is doing "ok" or even thriving, doesn't mean your relationship with your spouse is ok too.  No people, I'm not sending up red flairs or trying to tell anyone anything, so relax.  What I am saying is that your child becomes your priority in such an intense, raw way, its hard to explain . Part of what makes this journey difficult is that it is the road less traveled.  Less and less things relatable to those around us. 

It often takes years to adjust to having a special needs child.  I didn't know that...until I read this book.  I thought we were the only parents on the planet that still had moments.  While there is an incredible amount of stress, it doesn't make us love AJ any less, by any means.  The "Us" gets lost in the "He".  You doggie paddle your way to the surface and do the best you can.  Its the nature of the beast, I think.

I had a hard time with a therapist who had worked with AJ in the past.  It angered me that this therapist could tell me her experience with children like AJ in her line of work and sit there and pretend like she knew how I was feeling, when I knew darn well she had no idea.  She went home to her kids that night, who were all able to say "Hi Mom" and did all the typical things that families do. 

Eventually I got past this, but it is a prime example of how you are constantly reminded that your journey is different.  Yes, yes.  Everyone is an individual, we should all have goals and achievements to strive for and all of our journeys should be different.  But come on.  Our world is full of conformity.  No one wants to be the last kid when your are picking teams for kickball.  We all want to be included and understood. 

I ordered my book from amazon.com.  The other neat thing on Amazon is you can take a peak inside the book HERE

I think I like this new "weekly-themed" post. 

Did I mention this book is amazing?!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Jackpot

I found this little beauty last night:

Check this out:

I hit the jackpot for pre-packed high calorie foods for AJ.    Children with cerebral burn twice as many calories as the typical child. AJ is still on an extremely high calorie diet.To the point where his GI has literally told us not to worry about fruits and vegetables.  I worried about sodium content, he was not.  If we fed him McDonalds and Culvers every meal, every day, they would be thrilled. Jeremy and I, not so much.  With Jeremy being a RN, CDE, everything we feed AJ kinda goes against what he teaches.  We could write a how-to book, which would feed (no pun intended) the current problems with childhood obesity.  What you shouldn't feed your kids, we are required to feed our kid. 

I am often the "crazy lady" in the store who exclaims, "Ugh! Thats not enough calories!!"  I've gotten some pretty weird stares with that one.  When I found the meal above, I cheered. Again, some pretty weird stares.  I came home and played show and tell right away.  What's even more sad is that my Mom and Jer celebrated with me when I showed them the package.  He ate the whole thing for lunch today.  720 calories, down the hatch.

He continues to drink Kid Essentials  {250 calories for 8oz} in place of regular milk.  This is Nestle's version of Pediasure, and it tastes a whole lot better (the vanilla and chocolate do, AJ does like the orange, banana, and berry Pediasure flavors).  Anyhow, Kid Essentials comes in 6-pks for about $10.  Yeah.  Be aware when ripping open the cardboard that the manufacturer has a coupon for $5 off of 2 packs printed on the inside of the cardboard.  We've also gotten $5 off each coupons from AJ's GI office, so I tend to stock up when I have the double coupons.  Last time I stocked up I saved $60.

He also drinks chocolate milk and apple juice.  AJ's dentist continues to be concerned about his lack of fluoride (it is not in our water), so we are now making frozen 100% apple juice concentrate with the baby water that has fluoride added. I also water down the juice quite a bit by adding more water than the traditional 3 cans. AJ has never been a water drinker. Sigh. 

His dentist is still contemplating fluoride drops for AJ.  Why is fluoride important?  Why should you not have too much fluoride?  In the meantime, we use the fluoride water for his juice and give him foods rich in fluoride, like broccoli.  We also have to have him brush his teeth multiple times a day and rinse his mouth everytime he drinks his Kid Essentials or juice, as he has weak teeth.

AJ has the typical routine of a toddler, where they eat like crazy and then the next day they may eat like a bird.  This used to drive us absolutely insane.  When you have a child who has failure to thrive, your child not eating is not an option.  It never fails, even if it goes for 2 days or so, he'll bounce back and eat like a horse.  I do my best to mix in fruits and veggies with whatever he's eating.  He loves spinach, and many other things most kids won't eat.  So I'm not complaining.  He rocks the spinach and artichoke dip from California Pizza Kitchen.  I wish they had that in the freezer section at the stores. He does like my recipe, but not as much as CPK. 

We try to limit his sweet intake.  We've found other ways to get the calories in.  Rest assured, we make sure he gets his fair share of ice cream, cookies and cake.  Jeremy and I both grew up loving fruits and vegetables and always joked that we'd feed our child uber healthy. Guess that didn't work out.

Other than the Kid Essentials, I do not buy any calorie supplements, powders, etc.  My weapon of choice is vegetable oil.  I add vegetable oil to his yogurt, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, pudding.  Anything I can successfully mix it in to.  There is no taste (I've tasted it in his foods before).  The variety of foods AJ eats is incredible. He no longer gets stuck in a pattern of only wanting chicken nuggets or craisins.

I've also learned to just let him eat. and not to stress over it so much.  He's gone from 13 lbs to 25 lbs in almost 3 years.  While he is still tiny, (25 lbs 34in tall at almost 4), he's come a long way.  I can usually count on someone in his school stopping me and saying, "He's so cute!  And tiny!  How old is he?"  "Almost 4."  "Oh." (followed by uncomfortable silence)  Another example of my "Oh Factor".  Te-He.  AJ has all of a sudden started gaining weight at a phenomonal pace.  Who knows what suddenly triggered this growth.  His GI continues to be happy with his progress, and that's all I'm really worried about.

Oh, and I'm sure Boston Market will have no problem with me buying out my local store's stock of frozen meals.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Milwaukee Walk4Hearing

**Please be sure your volume is on when you read this post!  If you are a Feedblitz user and receive our posts via email, you'll have to go to the blog directly: ajsawesomeadventure.blogspot.com

Please mark your calendars for the Milwaukee Walk4Hearing on May 16th, 2010
at Veterans Park. 

We will be walking in AJ's honor
under the team name:
The A-Team



AJ's ability to hear has changed his life dramatically. You all know that!

Please click HERE to go to the Walk4Hearing website and find our team.  We'd love for you to join us on the walk or donate to this wonderful organization.  A portion of the funds our team raises will go to the Center for Communcation, Hearing, and Deafness (formerly CDHH). 

Please contact Jeremy and I or visit the website for further information.  We hope to see you there!!!

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