Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I know, it's been a while. We've been a bit busy, so here's a madcap roundup of all of our adventures!
Starsky and Hutch? That's my undercover cop on the left...
Tajee: That's what Mera calls him. It gets me every time... He's been doing really well. We're switching schools next year. In the meantime, his school had a disco dance and his costume rocked. We had a rough patch at school, and I'm counting down the days until this year ends and I can internally flip off everyone there and get out of dodge. His teacher and I no longer speak (because I had to ask the principal for help with the rapidly deteriorating situation between us), they tried to expel him two months before the end of school for his vaccines being a bit out of date (over one shot... at the end of the school year... makes NO sense to me), and the teacher's aide from his room has been making snide comments to him about the food we pack him for lunch (never mind that she ran into us in the grocery and made snide comments to me about what was in the cart... 4 packets of Ramen is not only not a big deal, and not the only darned thing in the cart, but also none of your business). His principal was supposed to observe him in class to figure out whether he was having a real problem, but since I haven't heard any findings from him two months later, it's safe to say that he's blown it off. In spite of it all, my little prince got an awesome report card. He's doing great in everything, reading above grade level, and apparently a "delight" in his gym and art classes. Karate is going well and last night he read all of "Go, Dog, Go!" to us at the dinner table. And he was baptized this Sunday!!! Hallelujiah!!

A true artiste really explores her medium
Mera: Welcome to the terrible twos. Holy crow, this is the most stubborn child alive. When she hits someone she refuses to apologize, and her refusal can last through a 45 minute "time-in" with daddy. When prompted for the apology she actually yells "NO SORRY!!" at the top of her lungs. sigh. But she has such a sweet side, she adores her big brother, and she is so danged smart. She is finally sleeping through the night more often than not. Her hair is crazy long, she's cute as a button, and I am thoroughly wrapped around her finger. She's starting with the potty, and tomorrow is her first day of part-time daycare. We needed care for her during Geri's therapy appointments, and she needs the socialization with kids her own age. Oh, and next Wednesday is her second birthday. Where did those two years go??

"Hello, gorgeous!"
Geri: Wowie wowie wow! Since she started at the Anchor Center, Geri has made leaps developmentally. She is starting to walk independently. She can easily cross a room, pause, change direction, all of that. She can sit on a "big kid" swing and kick. She crawls now. In gross motor, she's really more scared than incapable, but her confidence grows daily. The Anchor Center has been such a powerful force for her, and this week she starts one-on-one PT so I'm stoked.
She babbles a lot, and her speech is expanding. Here's a list of her words
mama, daddy, doggie, up, down, please, amen, kick, bye bye, hiya, eat, hungry, yummy yummy, pee-pee, potty, walk, no, moo, hee-haw, cup, play, outside, try, thank you, toss, ball
That's 26 words... in a new language... from a previously non-verbal child... in four months!!! It's amazing. Granted, her enunciation stinks, but we can understand her words now. And she clearly understands everything we say.
She's like a sponge, and she imitates us all the time. Her newest thing is wanting to look into our mouths while we eat. Sometimes she does it when we're not eating, just checking our teeth I guess. Me and Nick joke about her becoming a blind dentist!
Emotionally, the bond with us is growing beautifully. We have to cuddle in the morning or she throws a fit. When she gets upset I hold her close and tell her to "hug your mommy" and it's working. She calms down quickly that way. She is curious about other people, and she tends to be a bit "touchy", but I think that's her visual impairment rather than an attachment problem. She touches other people and then comes looking for me or calls for me. Sometimes I still have to remind her, and it appears that women of a certain build or appearance throw her for a loop. She remembers the orphanage workers, and she seems to "recognize" anyone who fits their mold. But I just remind her that she needs to stay with mama and she is happy to come back for a cuddle.
She's still scared to death of her sister, although she does accept the occasional hug or kiss without complaint. She tenses up, but no fit.

My LEAST embarrassing pic...
The Commish?
Mom and Dad: We're missing each other, but generally doing fine. I was sick for, like, forever with this horrible viral thing that turns bacterial around day 8 and lasts about 3 weeks. Fun. Poor Nick was stressed by worrying for me and trying to keep the kids going while I was incapacitated. But I'm well on the mend now, and it seems to have made him and Geri closer. Our anniversary is coming in June, and we're already making plans for how to phase in the idea of a sitter for Geri so that we can have a date for the big event. I'll have to share those plans so that I can tell you later how miserably they failed! ;) jk We're still very much in love, we really lean on each other to get through the rough stuff and we celebrate together when it all comes up aces in the end. As it always does, because God is so very good.

Gator and Oakley: Poor dogs. Mera beats them, I ignore them, and daddy is too busy to walk them. They get food and water, soft places to sleep, treats and such... but no real leadership at this moment. As a result, they are becoming rather naughty. Sometime, soon, we'll have the energy to truly meet their needs... I hope.
And when Daddy is available, he makes them play dressup... poor guys

So that's about it. We're still here, still standing, and I'd say we're starting to move from survival to flourishing. Which is a very nice change of pace.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I am so excited I could just bust. Tonight, at bedtime, my son asked me if he can be baptized! I told him that he can definitely be baptized, and we talked about what baptism means to us. Then I led him through the sinner's prayer. My son, just tonight, officially accepted Christ in his life and asked Him to be the Lord of his soul!! My son is saved!

I've been praying for this since the day I was saved, and I'm so excited and happy that it's here. Honestly, it's earlier than I thought it would be. And yet, not a moment too soon!

The cutest part, in my mind, was hearing him say, over and over again, that he has God and Jesus in his heart. That he always has them in his heart. That he wants to live the rest of his life with them in his heart always. That just takes my breath away.

Study THIS!

Another blogging mom posted the following link to a study comparing institutionally raised orphans with community-raised orphans. The main outcome of this study is, according to the writers, a finding that children in institutional care actually had (slightly) higher ratings of emotional, physical and mental health than their community-raised peers.

I have a major problem with this study, and it is this - that 55% of the children in the community-raised "orphans" sample were actually in the care of one biological parent.

This completely throws off the results of the study, in my opinion. To compare children in an institutional (no biological caregiver) setting with children in, essentially, a single parent home is to compare apples and oranges. It is, to put a fine point on it, completely ignoring your main sample criteria.

Reading the methodology section leads me to believe that the reason for this is that they couldn't find a comparable sample size of true orphans in the community, so they expanded that group to include single-parent homes (under the very loose justification that the child was "abandoned" by one of their parents) in order to reach their required sample size. But that's not good science. You don't just change your parameters in order to make your quota. You especially do not change the parameters of one sample group while not making a comparable change to the other.

The study authors attempt to compensate for this massive flaw (which they somehow fail to mention in their study limitations) by conducting comparisons of the institutional care group with the true community-living orphans subgroup. The numbers, at first wag, appear to uphold the general correlations but there's a huge problem here as well. You are comparing groups of radically uneven size. Your institutional sample is more than double the size of the community living sample. That completely skews any statistical results.

Never mind the fact that all of the sample groups are extremely small in size. 1,500 kids is a very small sample when you consider that the current world orphan population is about 150 million. That's 0.001% in your sample. Making larger extrapolations to the full population based on 0.001% is nigh impossible. Hell, even if you total every child involved in this study (including the ones who shouldn't have been) you still have a ridiculously small population... from which the authors draw sweeping conclusions.

This study points to the fact that their samples are pulled from varying geographic areas as a strength. They state that the study cross-cuts cultural differences to provide more broadly applicable data. If you are going to do this, though, then there is no excuse for using pathetically small samples. Considering the fact that the majority of the world's orphans are from less economically developed nations, you should be able to find a very large sample across shared economic conditions. Expanding such a study to include nations that have a foster system, or a higher incidence of non-parental familial caregivers, should be fairly straightforward. That this was not done is mind-boggling.

In my opinion, this is just shoddy science. But it's a great idea to compare the effects of institutional care (in various cultures) to the effects of community-based care across specific age groups. It's an even better idea to compare the end results - adult "graduates" of both care models. This study takes a great idea and hoses it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

For Pete's Sake...

What is it about our little Mera? I mean, I know she's cute. I'm biased as all hell, sure, but it seems like I'm not the only one who thinks she is flat out adorable. Yet I still wonder, why is she like catnip to people with no sense of boundaries?
Crazy ladies can't resist the cute...

Today we took the kiddos to the Cave of the Winds. TJ has been absolutely begging to go all week, and we figured why not. Even though I'm sick as a dog, I was determined to take him. After nap time, we rounded up all the kids and hopped in the SUV and headed out for the Cave Exploration tour.

The caves were awesome, seriously gorgeous and just awe inspiring. There were a lot of stairs involved, and we had to carry the girls for pretty much the whole tour, but it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, about 2/3 of the way through Mera started to get antsy. She wanted to get down and run around, but I wouldn't let her because we had been thoroughly warned about touching any of the formations. Not to mention that having her bolt out of my reach in a cave (lots of sudden dropoffs, loose ground, steep slopes and stairs) was a terrifying thought. The railings along the path weren't going to be stopping her, that's for certain. So she was in my arms, screaming and struggling to be put down because she is allergic to the word "no." Especially when I say it.

We all head into a rather dimly lit room on the tour (dimly lit except for the spotlights on the amazing stalactites and stalagmites) and Mera is pitching a fit. She wants down, but when I put her down she heads straight for the railing and starts trying to get under it, so I am not even going there. Cry all you want, kiddo, I'm not losing you down a sink hole. And then this complete stranger standing next to me, an older woman, turns to me and holds her arms out and says "Want me to take her?"

What I said was "no thanks" but what I was thinking was "ARE YOU INSANE?? Do you actually think I'm going to hand my toddler over to a total stranger in a dark cave?! Or ever, for that matter?"

This is an improvement from our last encounter with a total stranger, in which an elderly lady waited until I went to the bathroom (leaving the kids with a close friend) and then tried to scoop Mera up. Seriously, you can read the whole sordid tale here.

Am I crazy, or is it totally unacceptable to try to hold a total stranger's kid? I especially like the absurd idea that my daughter will calm down when handed over to a complete rando in a dark place. Bonus crazy points for that one.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Progress, Indeed

This week, Miss Geri decided to scare the ever-loving SNOT out of me by mastering the slide at her brother's school. This slide, for the record, is about 7 foot tall.

I wish I could adequately describe the way my heart stopped when she sat down on her butt and pushed herself over the edge of the precipice without me that first time. We had been practicing this new skill on the little kid slide, the one that's maybe 3 feet off the ground. She got it down pat in about three tries and just loved it, so I went down the giant slide with her in my arms for a little fun. When we went around for another go, she went before I could get ready!

It was kinda comical, in retrospect, how she flew off the end of the slide, legs sticking straight out in front, and landed on her butt. I was so startled that I jumped from the top of the climbing wall (this is a pretty elaborate playset for older kids) to get to her, convinced she was going to be a wreck. I picked her up and tried to contain myself somewhat so I wouldn't scare her with my fear and said "Are you okay?"

"Agai peee," was her answer. She wanted to go again.

We repeated this twice, but on the third time I managed to get to the bottom while she was still at the top by using the spiral slide (it's a really nice playset, seriously) so that I could catch her. As soon as she realized I wasn't next to her, she got scared and tried to chicken out. At this point she was sitting at the top, scooted to the edge. I was calling her, she was fidgeting, she scooted back, she scooted to the edge again. She was torn. So her sister edged up behind her and pushed her. Thanks, Mera. Geri's third trip down was decidedly sloppy and now she won't even use the little slide. Sisters- they give you a helping hand. *sigh*

We've hit a huge burst of development. In the past week, Geri has started saying her own versions of "again please", " up please" and "down please." She figured out how to sit in a big girl swing and hold on to the chains for me to push her, and she loves to kick her feet while swinging. She is pushing her shopping cart all over the house, backing up and turning it when she gets stuck. She has figured out all of the switches on her little "switchbox" (you know, the one with the animals in the little boxes and when you turn the key or flip the switch it pops up, and each switch is different? that thing?) and she drinks from a cup independently. She's playing with spoons and self-feeding again. I find that I have a hard time remembering all the new skills she's racking up... what else did she learn in the last couple of weeks?

Oh, right... she also learned to use a slide. :)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Books I Hate

As a mom, I read a LOT. My kids love books, which is a good thing if I don't mind losing my voice almost daily. I've decided that reading is a lot like dating... you get out there enough and you're going to encounter some real "duds." So here they are, my least favorite children's books.

1. "Love You Forever" This is the creepy, skeezy, cringe-inducing story of a hover-mom who progresses to the point of insanity. The story begins with mom holding her new baby and singing him a little rhyme about how much she loves him that includes the line "as long as you're living my baby you'll be." Aww, that's sweet. Then he's a toddler and he's driving her up the wall, but at night she picks him up while he's sleeping and rocks him while singing that little song. Still cute. Then he's 9 years old and he's a pain in the butt and rude, but at night she sneaks into his room and rocks him and sings the song. Huh? Well, that's a bit weird but I guess it's still okay. Next he's a teenager and he acts like a total weirdo and she doesn't get him at all, and then at night she sneaks into his room and rocks him and sings to him while he's sleeping.
And now, it's just fricking creepy. Seriously, sneaking into your teen's room at night to rock him and sing him a little ditty while he's sound asleep? That's weird.
Unfortunately, it continues with him growing up and moving across town (escaping, maybe?) and his mom driving across town to climb a ladder into this window and rock him and sing to him while he's asleep. Eventually she gets old and calls him on the phone and says "You'd better come visit me." When he shows up she tries to sing the song but she can't because she's too old and weak so he picks her up and sings a similar song that says "As long as I'm living my mommy you'll be." Then he goes home and picks up his brand new baby daughter and sings the song to her. And the cycle of obsessive coddling begins anew.
Every time I read this I want to bathe in bleach. Mom needs a life, or a hobby, or something. I always picture her climbing into his window as an adult and the woman in his bed with him screaming and then he calls the cops and they arrest mom - again - for violating the restraining order.
There are so many ways this theme of enduring love as represented by the repeated singing of the cute little song could have been done WITHOUT the creepiness or the breaking and entering. Why go for the Norman Bates version of the story? shudder
2."Rainbow Fish" Perhaps it's because I only have the abridged, bath book version of this story that I hate it so. Maybe all the character development and nuances keep it from sucking so bad, and it's the watered down nature of this waterproof edition that ruins a truly sweet story. I hate this book so much.
Rainbow fish is the most beautiful fish in the sea because of his beautiful shining scales. Another fish asks for a scale and rainbow fish says no. The other fish stop hanging out with him. Rainbow fish is lonely so he goes to the octopus who lives in the cave who tells him to give away his scales. He won't be as beautiful, but he will be happy. Rainbow fish goes back and gives all the other fish a shining scale until he has one left. Now everyone is friends with him, and he is happy because he has someone to play with.
Moral of the story: you must give away pieces of yourself in order to be accepted by others.
Nick thinks I'm over-analyzing this one, but that's what I take away from it. If you are special, no one will like you because they'll all be jealous so you have to stop being special in order to make friends.
Here's my analogous bedtime story. Susy had beautiful, long, shiny hair. One day another little girl asked to have a lock of Susy's hair. Susy said no, so the other girls all decided she was a snob and wouldn't play with her. Susy went to the homeless guy who hung out by the playground for advice and he told her to cut off chunks of her hair and hand it out. "You won't be as pretty," he wheezed, "but it's better than being alone." Susy cut off her hair and gave it to all of the other girls and they made clip-on extensions from it and everyone had a long, beautiful chunk of hair. They all played with her again, oddly unaware that they were running around with another girl's hair stuck to their heads and that such a thing is truly creepy. The end.
Oh, and the sequel is about a whale that stares at rainbow fish and his friends because he thinks their shining scales are so pretty. When one of the fish calls him a total creeper he gets mad and attacks them. Rainbow fish smooths the whole thing over and everyone has a laugh about how much trouble all the fish get into because of being beautiful.
Pulling off pieces of yourself to hand out? A creeper who attacks you? What the hell kind of subject matter is this for children??? What's next? Rainbow fish and the squid with a van full of candy who needs help finding his lost dogfish?
3. "The Holes in Your Nose" This was a gift. A gift with odd, overly detailed anatomical descriptions and non-sequitors about picking your nose until it bleeds. Oh, and it ends with a picture of two naked kids because your body has lots of holes and the book advises you to keep them all clean. Bonus points for mentioning poop and flatulence and eating boogers.
4. "The Gas We Pass" Another gift. More overly detailed anatomical information and disturbing graphics. The biggest problem with this one is that we are trying very hard right now to get TJ to stop talking about farts and poop when it's not appropriate. So reading him a farts and poop story practically guarantees that he'll talk about those things. At the dinner table. Or at church. At the top of his lungs.
5. "Two Hearts" This is from a princess story three-pack. It's about Snow White and her prince celebrating their first anniversary, so Snow White rolls over to the dwarfs' house and says "Hey, can you guys clear out tomorrow so I can have dinner with my husband here? Oh, and get into the mine and get me a diamond. The best way I can show him I care is by displacing you for an evening and using slave labor to get him a bit of bling." It's ok, because her husband had the same idea. So the dwarfs are now in the mines with less than 24 hours to find not one, but two perfect diamonds for the entitled couple. Hop to, dwarfs. Hilarity ensues, with a lesson about true love. Even without the diamond demands, what kind of jerk goes to a friends house and says "Hey, can you go hang out somewhere else for a few hours so I can use your house to impress my significant other?"I keep picturing all the dwarfs out in the woods somewhere in the rain saying "you think it's okay if we go home now?" And I bet you Snow White didn't even clean up afterwards, so the dwarfs finally get their house back at 11:30 or something and it's trashed and they're up until midnight cleaning it. After a long day in the mines finding freebie diamonds for a couple who, not for nothing, have the entire kingdom at their disposal so they should have been able to have a romantic evening without bumming their friends' cottage. I'm just saying, is all.