"We are going to focus on LIFE for Katya. I believe, one day, she will amaze the world."

Dr. Ben Carson on Katya Dueck

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Home and Garden Show

Thanks to being gifted with free tickets, we were able to attend a Home and Garden Show this month, much to our delight! We had not been for years, so it was a real treat!

 Chad found the rockers at this display to be quite comfortable.

We were treated to colors, sounds, tastes and smells!

(Photo credit for candles to Kristina)

Our sense of humor was tickled when we happened upon this be-draggled looking chicken in one of the displays!

 What could be more perfect for those of us who are needing hope of spring than a scene like this?!

Wouldn't you just have loved to be allowed to curl up in that amazing looking chair for a few hours? I'd have opted for a good book and a light blanket, not the binoculars in the chair, but they could have stayed tucked in there too just in case I wanted to use them! This display had not won the "People's Choice" award but in my opinion, it sure should have!

 The photo does not really show it, but water trickled down the chain to the garden.

The display also contained visual treats in the form of these wood displays.

I kept going back to this display to study it some more.

The next photo was from a display that showed whimsy by incorporating children's toys, colanders and other items as planters.

 When Katya's school was done, we picked her up and brought her to the Home and Garden Show to enjoy it with us for awhile too. She was a trifle overwhelmed but over all liked it! Having her own goody bag to stash "loot" in was something she enjoyed! She loved the flowers too.

Just lovely, lovely! Spring is coming!

Are you anticipating spring? Is there anything you like to do to help keep hope of spring alive?? Leave me a comment to talk about it!

(Special thanks to Charity and Kristina for the use of their photos.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Birthday

Kristina turned 15. Things were very busy so we went for very simple.

It was easy to choose her color theme as the Valentine themed things were on sale.

Her Dad brought home a rose and some baby's breath to go along with the color scheme.

Katya was interested in the preparations.

She enjoys beautiful things!

Kristina had a happy birthday. She was quite pleased with her presents. She wanted to wear one of them--a new skirt--when she went to interview a retired public health nurse for a biographical sketch she was to write for school.

Interestingly enough, when Katya saw I had the camera, she jumped in beside Kristina and posed for me! You would never know she used to SCREAM and try to hide her face any time a camera would appear, would you?!

Love and care make such a difference!

Happy, Happy Birthday to our Kristina, and many more to come!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ukraine, We Weep and Pray With You Today

Ukraine is in mourning today.

We weep and pray with them. Our hearts are broken. For those mourning in Ukraine. And yes, for those mourning in Russia who are losing loved ones in this completely and utterly senseless war that the leaders of Russia have instigated against Ukraine.

We have children from both countries who love and respect each other in this family. Would that the world as a whole would understand how to do that too!

We wait for Jesus who has promised true and lasting peace on the earth. Until then, we will continue to pray and weep and do all that we can to help the refugees from the war in Ukraine.

You too can assist them through organizations such as Jeremiah's Hope, Life To Orphans and MCC. The needs are huge, and urgent. It is estimated that there are over  600,000 displaced persons at this point in the tough, winter weather. Some estimate that there are as many as 900,000. These are all families who have fled their homes and businesses--often with nothing but a suitcase, hastily grabbed which may or may not contain enough necessities to get them through just a few days.

We weep with Ukraine. We pray for them. We donate whatever we can. Every single dollar helps, and because the economy in Ukraine is so tough right now, every single USD goes farther than you would see it go here in the USA. I do not know about currency from other countries, but I would assume the situation could be similar.

Will you stand with Ukraine? Will you put yourself in the shoes of these people who want nothing more than peace, and help pray for them, donate relief supplies, and spread the word about the needs? If so, thank you from the bottom of our family's heart.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My Brother's Afghan

Katya finds great joy in rocking and relaxing, wrapped in the afghan crocheted so long ago for my brother by my Grandma. My brother died at 13 from complications from a brain tumor at the base of his brain. The afghan is treasured by me because I remember him being wrapped in it in his wheelchair.  I found it interesting that Katya quickly zeroed in on it and enjoys using it on a regular basis.

This special afghan makes a great way to hide from the photographer too!

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Music Lesson Report

Katya has been happily taking piano again after a 7 month hiatus due to her teacher's schedule. She surprised no one really when she went back for the first lesson and demonstrated that she had retained what she had been taught so many months before without any serious losses of information.

We love having the weekly reports coming in again. Here is the one for this week.

Hi Hope Anne,  Had another great lesson with Katya today. She is so fun, absolutely enthralled while waiting for her lesson, happy and jumping and waving her hands :  ) 

She really enjoys following the lettered notes on the staff with one hand while playing with the other, very deliberate.  I worked with her this time on requiring the set number of beats written, which she picked up on and followed.  To transfer to using the correct fingers for each key, we wrote the corresponding note on her fingernails for the five tone scale.  I had her do four counts on each one ascending and descending, both to have her focus and also  to strengthen each finger because she is inclined to use her pointer.  

   I will be using the Sing and Play series now that she has a good understanding.  We started on page 27 of Book 1 which she really enjoyed and mastered.  You could have her go over that through the week and anything else before it she might enjoy.  She also wrote all the key names on the piano keyboard in the Write and Listen book that you could see. I think on page 19.  She had no trouble and did the whole thing.
   We have moved on to reading chords on the music, When the Saints, labeling them 
C- Green,  G Blue and F Purple ( she really likes that one ) I put the colors on the keys as a reminder of how to play a mini C, G and F.  She catches right on and at the end voluntarily played with both hands,  He's Got the Whole World while we sang.  :  )  
This makes our hearts smile. We are so happy that Katya is being able to progress musically since she enjoys music soo much. Ironically, she does not tend to practice much in between lessons. Her school days are long, and by the time she gets home she is tired and wants to veg out and be allowed to have some peace and quiet. We are also busy making supper and then it's bedtime before another long day.  So sadly, practice is something that does not happen much at all but in spite of that, Katya continues to make good progress, again proving how amazing her brain is. I'm sure were she practicing every day or even regularly several days a week her progress would be even faster.
We are very proud of her.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Break

We load up the kiddos in their PJ's and drive out at night to look at lights while listening to Christmas music. Katya finds this amusing, but signs, "yes" when we ask her if she likes it!

We drink quantities of cocoa and eat lots of popcorn while watching movies together.

Chad keeps working on his online reading tutoring program, and Katya closely observes.

Cooking baking happens.

And a few presents were opened.

And we rested from our labors.

And after resting from our labors, we rise up the next day to do more fun things.

And then more lights!


Christmas break seems to be working out well for us this year. Well, except for a few pesky little issues like not being able to find a few items of our Christmas decor, especially what we used in the girl's room! But, Charity, ever creative, solved that one. She used a milk glass bowl she owned, some greenery from one of our shrubs, and two absolutely adorable birds on clearance from Lowe's.

We have one more week to enjoy!
How is your life going?

(All photos credit to Charity)

Friday, December 12, 2014

And Back to Baltimore We Go

Monday, we ran Chad and Kristina to friends of ours to be baby sat, and then Paul came home, we loaded up Katya and Charity and took off for Baltimore, to return to Johns Hopkins yet again.

We got to the Children's House in time to enjoy the Christmas Decor and the new improvements they had made, relax and snack a little, and then head to bed.

We didn't have the best night for one reason or another so all of us were pretty sleepy the next morning, but Paul went and purchased the items we needed to fix our breakfast, then we fixed breakfast, ate and cleaned up. By that point, it was almost time to head over to the Hospital so we had to hustle a bit but we got there on time.

The Docs were not running behind schedule so even though we needed to see 3 different Doctors, we still got done in less time than we have often spent there!

She saw plastics, neurosurgery and genetics. Everyone was super happy about all the progress Katya has made developmentally, about her emerging use of the Ipad for communication, and over all how well she is doing. There were happy comments about how much more responsive and interactive she was than back in March, along with happy remarks about the contents of her progress reports and the samples of her school work. There was some concern about a remaining surgical screw in her forehead that is not absorbing as it should be, and the continued size of her "soft spots" that did not fill in with bone, but nothing is going to be done immediately about either of those issues.

After we were done with the Doctors, we went down to the out-patient lab to get some extensive blood work done as a number of things are being checked. This was not a good experience for Katya--for whatever reasons, the Hopkins out-patient lab seems to trigger her Post Traumatic Stress really badly, and now that we are sure that is what is happening, we will avoid getting any more labs done there if at all possible and  get them done at our local child lab where she consistently does much better handling blood draws.

 Right before we got to the lab, we stopped impulsively stopped for a photo beside this display. Do you see the Menorah to my left,  as well as the tree?

By the time the blood draw was done, poor Katya was so white, shaky and worn out that we had to stop at the cafeteria and allow her to recuperate over a frozen fruit bar! Then we walked back over to the Children's House.

There, we vegged out till supper time--which was brought in for the families thankfully. It felt good to just sit down and eat--no having to figure out what to fix and then having to clean up!

Figuring it would do us all good to have something cheerful to focus on before going to sleep, we loaded up and drove around the City Center on various streets. The light displays were stunning, and Katya was so appreciative of them (as we knew she would be!) so it was fun for all of us. Then baths and bed for us all.

The next morning we had to get up early for Katya's early morning appointment with the Wilmer Eye Institute at their Green Spring Station. Unfortunately, the trip turned into something of a misadventure when our GPS led us meandering around back streets of Baltimore that we had never seen! What normally would be about a 20 min. drive took nearly an hour and of course we were a good 15 min. late for our appointment! But I had called in when I realized what was going to happen and the lovely people there said to just be safe and get there when we could--and as it turned out, we had about the fastest in-and-out we have ever had at the eye clinic all the times Katya has gone there, so we were pleased about that!

Katya was pleased about her chance to choose a LOT of stickers after most of the exam and the drops were administered!

She then sat contentedly in the waiting room with her sun glasses on, waiting for her eyes to dilate.

When Doctor Repka examined her eyes, he gave us the extremely good news that Katya's "wandering eyes" had stabilized so much since March that he is taking surgery off the table for now! He was quite surprised that this had happened--he had not expected it to due to the level of brain damage Katya has because her craniostenosis  was completely untreated prior to her arrival in our home when she should have had surgery for sure before she was 2 years old--possibly even before she was a year old! He asked a handful of questions about any changes in her life since March, then happily told us that he is going to assume that the increased appropriate stimulation for her brain in her current school placement is playing a huge role in this wonderful improvement! That was excellent news for us--we knew already that the placement was/is SO good for Katya in so many ways, but to hear that is possible it improved even her brain's ability to control her eyes better is such a blessing and a testament to how important it was that we fought for her to be placed there! YAY for God-given answers for our girlie!

AND--YAY for the brain's ability to continue to assume new pathways in spite of the massive damage so that Katya can make forward strides in so many areas in life! We are very grateful!

After we were done with the eye exam, we skeddadled back to the Children's House so we could pack, clean and roll out towards home. Katya really got into the spirit of helping this time and due to that, we were able to get wound up there so much easier than it used to be!

When she realized we were stripping all the bedding off the beds to stuff into the huge mesh laundry bag, Katya gently showed us that we were not wanted--this was HER job! And away she went! She even pulled and tugged that huge bag out to the hall so Paul could carry it down to the basement! We were SOOO proud of her. ;-)

We traveled pretty steadily back towards home except for a stop to let her stretch her legs at the outlet malls in the Hagerstown area (they have a play ground) and then for a hearty supper. Katya wants soup every single day to eat and had not been much impressed with the hasty PB and J sandwiches we grabbed at the Children's House before heading home.

The Chicken Tortilla Soup was much more to her liking!

Yes, she seriously ate that entire huge big bowl of soup! ;-)

We arrived safely home about 8:30 pm that night, got Katya bathed and into bed. She was so exhausted from two short nights that we knew she would need to sleep in probably in the morning--and sure enough! She did not wake up till nearly 9:00 AM. Of course, her school ride had long gone, so after hastily getting her ready, Paul took her to school, and I went the other way with Charity to pick up our other kiddos.

Thankfully, everyone got home safely.

(All photos compliments of Wares By Cherry, with the exception of the last photo.)