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

Dr. Ben Carson on Katya Dueck

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Recent Events

Paul's parents came to visit, arriving last Saturday evening. This was the first that they had met Katya. We had explained to Katya ahead of time that they were coming, tried to explain the whole family connection to her, and showed her a photo. She thankfully was fine when these new grandparents arrived, and not anxious--at least, not noticeably.
They left on Tuesday morning while we were rushing around trying to get Katya out the door. I managed to snap a quick photo of the two kiddos who were up and around before they left. Wish I had gotten a photo with them and all the kids earlier in the visit--it seemed there just wasn't much time though.

We also are enjoying spending chunks of time with a friend from out of state. She isn't staying with us, but has been staying at another friend's house in the area, and then doing things with us. The first time she showed up at the house, she came bearing gifts--books for the kiddos and this for yours truly!

This definitely was a HIT with this chocolate lover--and my stash was pretty depleted at the moment. I honestly feel quite pampered and elegant each time I peek into the box and even happier when I snitch one!

This week has been so busy with running to appointments and what not, that it feels almost like a blur! The one thing that really stands out to me though was that Thursday I actually took a two hour nap!!! That's a rare thing for me--while it MIGHT happen on Sunday, not usually during the week! It felt like a much-needed necessity, and yet also luxurious. ;-)

We also have been enjoying getting lots of good reports from school for Katya! The Aide is being able to accurately assess what Katya knows in many areas through ASL. This is helping the school start to see how well Katya is doing not only with her ASL, but also in terms of what she has learned. For instance, this week the aide and Special Ed teacher assessed how many animals Katya could identify after the aide would sign the sign for an animal. The aide did NOT speak the animal name--she only showed Katya the sign. Katya correctly identified FOURTEEN different animals BY SIGN ONLY. I don't think that is bad for any kid who has been learning a completely new language just a little over 2 years! Let alone having to learn a new language where she has VERY LITTLE exposure to it! Because remember, even though we are learning new ASL words all the time, NO ONE in our family is fluent, and no one in school last year was fluent. Katya was not around anyone who was fluent until this year with her aide!
The aide is also working hard to teach Katya new signs. Additionally, the Special Ed teacher (someone new this year) has a background with some basic ASL. She hadn't used it for a long time, but it was enough that she understands why ASL is so important for Katya, and is dusting off what she knows and working with Katya, as well as having the aide incorporate signing into what she is teaching Katya in the Special Ed room. I'm so extremely grateful for the place where we are at with Katya finally with school. No, still not quite perfect, but probably about as perfect as we are going to get, and certainly much, much, much better than the previous two years! It has greatly reduced Katya's frustration level to have more communication and support with ASL at school. She comes home much more cheerful each day than she did last year. I can tell she has more personal involvement on activities too because her papers are being corrected if she circles the wrong word when she is supposed to be learning color words for example, and her papers are more often done correctly. It's unfortunate that it took two years of fighting to get Katya the one on one aide she needed, but she has the support now, so I'm going to focus on being thankful, along with praying that she can keep this aide for a few years!

Katya has been enjoying these lovely late summer afternoons after she gets home from school. 

Lately Katya has also found more and more delight in going to find a baby doll and taking care of it!


This scene fills me heart with joy.

She looked so happy when we praised her quietly for being a very good Mama to her baby doll!

I love seeing how as Katya is loved and nurtured, and as she watches other kids be properly cared for, she is figuring out how to be a caring and  loving person. No more staring and poking at a doll, then slamming it to the floor and walking nonchalantly off. No more shoving the doll on to a play potty chair, jamming a bottle into it's mouth and walking off. Now she wants to sit down, feed the baby, wrap it in her favorite afghan and rock it! She's come such a long, long way!
Katya is such a testimony of what love, prayers and good food and medical care can do for a child . . . I love watching her blooming into the kid God created her to be!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Parenting Our Adopted Kiddos

I'm sure many if not all of us are aware of the on-going trial of the adoptive care-givers (I can not bring myself to apply any of the terms that one generally uses when adults adopt children) of Hana Grace Williams who was starved, beaten, and finally allowed to die of hypothermia. I want to point you to the blog of a friend of mine, Tulip Girl, and a post she made about this when Hana's death was first made public.

I have a lot of things I would like to share, but not a lot of time to share. I just want to put this out there though--if you are parenting ANY child and they are challenging you, and you find yourself becoming locked into a unhealthy cycle that is starting to look at all like anything remotely connected to "child disobeys, I punish, child disobeys, I punish harder and stronger, child still disobeys, I punish even more!"  please, please, please reach out! There are people who care and are willing to support you in healthy parenting interactions. No, don't get me wrong--that does absolutely NOT mean that I think that a child should be allowed to get away with any thing and every thing they ever want to do. We do have consequences for wrong behaviors in our house, and our kids are not allowed to get away with "bloody murder". But as parents, we need to be so very wise in how we parent, especially kids who are dealing with a background of trauma and loss. We need to have support and we need to have people who can hold our hands and help us. We need to focus on love, mercy, and grace a lot, and we need parents who are experienced and have wisdom to share from their years of parenting kids.

And speaking of parents who have some godly wisdom to share that I have found very helpful, Christie Minich's blog is a treasure trove of wealth of information. She has also been extremely helpful to me in person.

So just throwing that out there--there ARE people who care and are willing to help. There doesn't ever have to be another Lydia Shatz  or Hana Grace Williams story. There just doesn't. There is no need for it to happen ever again. NO excuse. Please reach out. Contact me through my blog, reach out to a Social Worker, friends, a counselor--SOMEONE who can help you and give you the support you need as you parent a challenging child.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Hands On Fun

Chad has been needing some more sensory activities lately. So Charity helped him and Katya mix up a batch of "Flubber" last night.

Two bottles of Elmer's Glue, water, and a few scoops of Borax later, this is what we saw.

Katya choose blue coloring for hers, and Chad choose green.

When they were done mixing it, they had fun kneading and squeezing for awhile. ;-)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

An Urgent Need for Prayers and Help

Sometimes in the adoption world you meet really ugly people. People who are willing to do almost anything it seems to have power, control, or money. Sometimes you have the privilege of meeting the "salt of the earth". People who have a heart for kids, and really care about what is best for them. The ones who cry because they know a child is hurting. The ones who pray and are willing to sell all that they have to help a child.

I'm posting a link to some "Salt of the Earth" friends of mine. Diane and I have talked and laughed and cried and prayed together many a time over the last year or so. They have faced more challenges and obstacles in their adoption journey than any family should have to face--ever. But through it all they have kept their eyes on the goal, and are not going to be swayed. I am standing with them in faith that God is moving mountains as I type this, and preparing a wonderful homecoming for the child/children.

Will you stand with us? Go read their blog, and be sure to notice the donation button that allows you to make a tax-deductible donation to their adoption fund through "Project Hopeful".

By praying, sharing, donating . . . you can take part in a wonderful story of love. An amazing story that some day will hopefully all be shared and when it is, it will blow your socks off. And maybe, just maybe, pop your eye balls out too. So . . . hurry--go read, pray, share, donate!!! You can be a part of this story!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

You've Come a Long Way, Sweetie!

This was the paper Katya brought home from school today.

She's come a long, long way from the days when she had no ability to control a crayon--or pen or pencil. Not because she was not capable--but because she had NEVER BEEN GIVEN A CHANCE.

She has a chance now.

First Day of First Grade

Miss Katya went happily off to school. It's hard to capture her smiles so sadly, no sign of the smiles we were getting this morning, but she was happy, and walked confidently and cheerfully into school, lugging her new backpack and lunch box.

Praying for an amazing year for Katya that opens doors of communication and learning for her in 100's of ways!

And if you are new to this blog, and want to see previous school year photos, check out this link:


She's come such a long, long way!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Zucchini Skillet Supper

I have had several people asking for this recipe so I will just share it on here, so everyone may enjoy it. ;-)

From the "More With Less" cookbook (which I highly recommend, by the way, and if you wish to purchase one, you can do so through our affiliate link on the right hand side of the blog--my copy is an old one with a 1976 copyright, and well loved!)

Saute in skillet, in small amount of hot fat::

4 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 onion, sliced

 2 cup canned tomatoes with juice
 3/4 cup canned mushrooms, drained (optional)
 salt, pepper and oregano to taste
 cubes of cooked chicken, beef, ham, or browned ground beef

Simmer just until heated through. Serve in soup bowls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Now, how our family makes it:

We fry the burger and onion together, and then dump in the zucchini. We then add chunk tomatoes and juice. And we use a lot more spices--Italian Seasoning being our main change, but fresh basil and.parsley is great too!

Served over brown rice which has been cooking in the rice cooker while we fixed this, we find it a great meal. And thanks to dairy allergies, pure Romano sheep's' cheese works instead of Parmesan.

We are very happy to be getting gorgeous zukes from our garden and so we have been digging out zucchini recipes. This is Chad's favorite.

Do you have a favorite zucchini recipe on your blog you would like to link to? If so, please feel free, or share it in the comments! ;-)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Answer to Prayers!

This summer many of our prayers revolved around Katya's up-coming school year, and especially that the right one-on-one aide would be found for Katya. Tonight we had the pleasure of meeting "Miss Melissa" at Katya's open house!

Not only was she warm and personable, but she is FLUENT IN ASL !!!! Not a novice, not someone limping along and doing so-so . . . but someone who has worked with hearing impaired kids and adults for years!! ;-)

She is excited about working this year with Katya, and we are excited too! I think that Katya will blossom with this increased ability to communicate and learn additional signs in school!

Katya was really cute at the open house. She was a lot more relaxed than last year, and was looking thoughtfully around the room checking out every thing. She also liked being there, and when we asked her if she was ready to go home at one point, she emphatically signed, "School! School!" So we told her OK, we would stay awhile longer. When we next posed the question to her, she was ready to go home then. ;-)

I am hopeful that we are off to a really, really good start for school  . . . and am thankful God sent someone who seems so suited to Katya's needs!

Can't wait to see how Katya flourishes this year!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Wedndesday Activities from J and F Continued . . .

Wednesday afternoon at Joni and Friends brought a menagerie of animals.

Chad was thrilled.

Katya?? Not so much.

She chose to watch from afar at first.

Gradually, she did edge a little closer.

Having Daddy hold her helped too.

Chad had a blast with Ashley, his STM, helping supervise him.

So many adorable animals to feed!

Katya retreated further away when she needed to.

And Kristina was thrilled she could ride horse again! She's gotten to do that quite a few times this summer, and is getting much better at it as a result.

For supper, the adults were whisked away to an amazing outdoor supper in a secluded glen in the woods until we were rained out! That was really sad, as the setting was AMAZING and I had wanted to walk with Paul on the paths around it until the torrential down pour started! Ah well. Maybe another year.

Meanwhile, the children enjoyed playing. Chad made friends with a couple of great boys there and they were always getting together to play tag or ball.

 Katya tried her hand with the floating duckies.

And then later in the evening, we all got together to work out to action songs! Katya got to borrow someone else's head phones and enjoyed her time greatly!

It was an action packed, fun evening, and it did my Mommy heart SOO much good to see even Charity frolicking and having fun with the other teens! Unfortunately, since she was the one taking the photos, the only "photos" I have of her having fun are in my mind . . .

And finally, tired and happy, we again all went to bed so we could be ready for the last full day of camp. (Sniff.)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

An Amazingly Fun Day!

Charity and Chad sharing a drink.

 I think the camel ride was a highlight of the day for Chad.

 All three of the youngers having fun!

My lovely Kristina!

The Crazy School Bus ride--Katya remembered this from last year and literally RAN to jump in line when she saw this ride! It was so sweet to see!

Katya studying the rabbits, and signing, "Rabbit! Rabbit!"

Love the look on her face in the next photo! She looked almost affectionate as she watched the rabbits.

 Katya signing "chicken" as she surveys cage after cage of them!

And then we came home to find two packages for Katya--one being the lovely pink noise-reducing ear muffs sized just for kids that we had ordered for her from Amazon.com!!  They are made by this company: Baby Banz. Wish we had had them today, but oh well! The adult-sized ones worked good enough for today. She took them off when she felt comfortable doing so, and clapped them back on when she wanted them.

Katya had a great time--choosing four rides (two of them quite rather exciting and scary!) The other kids had fun too--it was a great "end of summer" day for us all . . . so thankful we could take this day to enjoy together as a family. We are so proud of Katya--she did fantastic!! More great family memories!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Wednesday at Joni and Friends Part 6

Wednesday was KING SWING day for the teens! Yes, Charity was feeling well and able to go participate, much to her joy!

She was happy to be able to capture images of even the most disabled teens being able to participate as well! Charity said some of the teens who appeared to sleep most of the time, and maybe even appeared to be sleeping while put into the chair and secured, would light up with joy as they felt the G-forces and went swooping through the air.

The joy that lit up this father's face as he saw his daughter begin to become animated was touching.

These moments were deeply touching.

Soon enough, it was Charity's turn. A friend captured a few shots.

The able-bodied teens climbed a ladder and were strapped into a harness.

The ladder was moved away, and the winching upward began.

Unhook the bungee cord, and away through the air! Charity goes rappelling, so the height was nothing to her. But she said the G-forces surprised her. As you can see by the smile on her face, she loved the ride though!

 Kristina got to do this too, but she was in a different group, and Charity was not there with her camera to record it. Hopefully when our CD of photos arrives from Joni and Friends, there will be some on there to capture her moment! Kristina said she was scared, but contrary to all the teasing she got ahead of time, she did NOT scream--at all.

Here's a photo Charity took of her new friend, M, that shows the set-up a little more!

Soon enough, lunch time arrived. Miss Katya totally shocked us when we realized she had neatly cut her hamburger up WITH A KNIFE AND FORK. YAY FOR KAYTA! Seeing as all she knew how to do was CONVEY food to her mouth with a spoon when she arrived just over two years ago, and we have been working ever since to try to teach her how to eat . . . well, this was huge! And definitely worthy of a photo to commemorate!

See, being at Joni and Friends was good for Katya!!

(To be Continued . . . )