"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, November 30, 2013

The Amazing Impact of Music

Long time readers of Katya's blog know how much joy music is bringing into her life, and how it is helping to bring her peace and comfort, as well as giving her a chance to express herself. She continues her music lessons, and is learning to play not only the piano, but also the lap harp AND more recently, a ukelele.

We are convinced that music is a key component in Katya's recovery and on-going progress. Her school is so convinced as well, that they have been extremely gracious in working with us to allow Katya to get out of school a little early each week to go to her music lesson.

So it touched me deeply to read my friend, Kathy's, blog post about her daughter Kathryn's trip to the orchestra. Kathryn is a lovely child that I have been privileged to meet in person, and I just had to share the very moving blog post with my readers. It left me in tears, so you might want to grab a hanky before you begin. Enjoy reading about Kathryn's trip to the Cincinnati Orchestra.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Good Black Friday Shopping Trip

When Katya first came home, she had no clue about shopping. It was such an overwhelming experience for her that she was utterly miserable the whole time, and thus did not go very often, and certainly not for very long.

Little by little, she has gotten gradually more tolerant of it, and now a short shopping trip can sometimes go decently well. However, today's went amazingly well, especially given how busy the store was!

Charity needed a specific type of swing machine needles and a belt buckle for a sewing project she is working on (making a thrifted dress fit for wearing when she plays in the orchestra for a Christmas performance). So we decided to brave the crowds at JoAnn's and since Dad was working, he was not available to help with Katya. That meant we needed to try to make it work to take her along. We did every thing we could to set up a plan for success for her, and it worked!

That was a great feeling for ALL of us. ;-)

Here she is, being as good as gold in the shopping cart, while waiting in the long check out line.

Chad had taken along a $1.00 to spend, and was thrilled to find a light-up nose for $1.00. Here the clerk helped him use a coupon, so it was only 54 cents by the time it all rung up. Chad was delighted.

After watching the rest of us goof around with the fake nose, Katya finally agreed to try it.

She posed nicely for a photo, and got quite tickled with herself and that nose!  We were quite tickled watching her--there's nothing for making our hearts happy like seeing her happy!

After she came home today, Katya took to cutting and pasting. She is doing amazing--cutting many, many tiny squares--most of which are very similar in size. I bet her OT/PT teacher would be so pleased were she to see!


And in other happy news from today, we broke out the box of Winter/Christmas today after packing up the Fall/Thanksgiving one.

Photo: AND  . . . that box arriving in the living room kicks off the start of one of our most dearly loved winter/Christmas traditions! We started the idea a few years ago . . . and have added little by little as we found items cheap on sales or at the thrift store or consignment sales . . . it now contains so much I need a larger box . .  . The kids have eagerly been waiting for it to appear. ;-)

We started this tradition a few years ago after reading about a blogger who kept seasonal boxes of books. It was not a far stretch for me to think to add a few DVDs and magazines for additional pleasure for all the members of our family As we find items on sale or at places like consignment sales or the thrift store that I think will be "classics" for our family for years, they get added to the appropriate seasons' box. We have a box for every season but Summer now. I don't know if we will add one for summer or not. We seem to have so much going on during the summer, and generally have plenty to do that I don't know if we require a summer box. But it's been great having it for the other seasons! And the Christmas box is THE best of them all. ;-)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Making Buns

Today, the snow was falling, the wind was blowing, and this Mom decided it was the perfect day to crank up the Christmas music, and break out the mixing bowls!

Charity headed up the "Air Buns" that her dad has been dropping broad hints about lately. Katya thought it was great fun to help knead the dough!

 We figured it was probably a fun sensory experience for her too. She did a great job!

Love watching her eagerly working.


Charity also made a batch of "Molasses Crinkles" which she blogs about here. I worked on a pan of bars, and then when our projects were out of the way, Charity supervised the younger ones making a small batch of Chocolate Chip cookies since I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up a couple of prescriptions that were called in  for Katya and Kristina after they were seen at the International Adoption Clinic on Monday.

The baking seems to have been a successful activity for today on Katya's first day of Thanksgiving Break. Our cookie jar is full, there were yummy buns for supper, and will be more for Thanksgiving tomorrow. We have a small stash of cookies in the freezer for any crazy days in the next few weeks, and there are still bars in the pan waiting to be eaten!
Now, if Mom can just stay awake till she gets every one into bed tonight . . . YAWN!!!!

This Makes Me Happy

Katya's happy face was captured during a trip to take her to the International Adoption Clinic Monday.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Essential Oils

In our quest to help Katya, we have tried many things. Cautiously, judiciously, and often only after Dr approval, especially if it was something she was going to take internally.

Well, in spite of finding things that helped--a lot--when all combined--we were still battling horrible anxiety levels. It was so bad that we were actually in process of trying to get appointments set up with an end goal of hopefully being able to consider a trial of an anti-anxiety medication. It was NOT a decision that was being made lightly by anyone involved, and not something that anyone felt really good about due to several issues, but Katya's anxiety level was still so high that we felt it would be kinder to medicate than to not medicate.

Enter Essential Oils. I've used Essential Oils for years in one way or another. I had some standard blends and singles that I always kept on hand. But after hearing more from some special needs Moms about how they use Essential Oils with their special needs kids, I decided to kick it up a notch.

We invested in a diffuser and a few more oils from Young Living since that was a company I was already familiar with and using some oils from. The next time we could visibly see Katya's anxiety levels rising, I offered her a sniff of "StressAway". When she seemed to approve, I offered to let her apply some. Katya eagerly cooperated and within a few minutes, it was clear to all of us watching that her anxiety was diminishing and she soon was ready to go off and play again. "Hmm, that was pretty cool!" we all exclaimed.

We began to use the diffuser, diffusing "StressAway" one night, and "Peace and Calming" the next in a rotating pattern. We also started applying "StressAway" to Katya morning and evening. Suddenly, her behavior chart from school started coming home completely "good" day after day. ;-) We saw clear-cut, measurable improvements in various things at home that were a big problem prior to the introduction of these oils on a regular basis into Katya's life.


It has been very revealing, and rather sad, to see how many issues were clearly anxiety driven since we are seeing more of the "real Katya" now, thanks to these calming oils!

I don't know if the regular use of these oils will be enough long term or not, but since we have not  been able to get Katya into a professional yet who can give her further help, I'm extremely grateful for the help we ARE getting from these oils. Katya LOVES having the oils applied to her, and she's clearly eager for them each time. We are very grateful for a little relief from the anxiety that Katya's past history of trauma, neglect and abuse has produced in her. It's awesome to see her being able to be more relaxed and happy.

Three cheers for Essential Oils!

Have you used Essential Oils, and if so, what is your experience with them?


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Weighted Blankets

I have a sweet adoptive Mom friend who has been making fabulous weighted LapPads and Blankets for sale. I asked her if I could share them with my readers, since I know that they could be a blessing to other people!

Blankets Made By Mel could be just what you didn't know you needed until you read this blog post, or it could be that you HAVE been looking for a economical, well-made weighted blanket! Well, search no more! Here you go! For yourself, for a child you love, for an adult you care about . . . so many possibilities!

This example is one of my personal favorites.

Lap Pads measures approximately 12" x 18" and weigh 2 pounds - $40 (this includes shipping to you!) These are great for school, traveling in the car, or even at home when “sitting still” is a problem.
Blanket measures approximately 42" x 54" and weight depends upon the need of the person that it will be made for. Average weight is 4-6 pounds - $70 (this includes shipping to you!). $3 for each additional pound of weight needed. Twin Sized Blankets are also available! Pricing varies. Colors, themes, and textures are your choice! If you have a special order (such as "mink" or other special fabrics) the cost might vary a bit.
Filling is high density polyethylene pellets. All machine washable using the gentle cycle, and low heat in the dryer.
You can see photos of my blankets by going to: https://www.facebook.com/WeightedBlanketsMadeByMel .

Blankets can benefit children AND adults!!

If you would like ordering information or would like to place an order, you can email me at dellanos1@gmail.com or send me a message via my Facebook page.

Weighted Blankets, Wraps, or LapPads can be used to calm down and relax in many different ways by covering the whole body for sleep, wrapping around your shoulders or by laying it across your lap or legs only.

They provide relief; comfort and can help supplement sensory disorder therapy treatment for the following:
• Sensory Disorders of any kind (weighted therapy can help increase Serotonin and Melatonin levels overnight)
• Sleep disorders of any kind: weighted therapy can help increase the levels of Serotonin and Melatonin overnight
• Insomnia, Falling asleep and staying asleep
• ADD/ADHD Spectrum Disorder (many ADHD kids use our blankets to calm down after school or during Therapy sessions, or to relax and fall asleep)
• Asperger’s and Autism Spectrum Disorder (many of these kids use our blankets to calm down after school or during Therapy sessions)
• Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and fidgeting legs due to chemotherapy treatments or Menopause
• Anxious Feelings and Panic symptoms, Stress and Tension, Cancer Treatments, or Dental Anxiety, Peri-menopause and Menopause symptoms
• Sensory Integration Disorders/Sensory Processing Disorders
• People who are 65 or older: weighted blankets help calm a myriad of symptoms, including those who have Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease The deep pressure touch simulation, or swaddling that happens when you cuddle up with a weighted blanket can help you or your loved one feel better and ease the mind allowing for complete relaxation.

Again, for more information, contact Mel directly either via email: dellanos1@gmail.com or at her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WeightedBlanketsMadeByMel


Monday, November 18, 2013

Learning About Reciprocal Nuturing

Tonight, while Paul was helping to fix supper in the kitchen,  Chad got out the neck pillow, and the vibrator for his Dad's back. Katya made clear **SHE** wanted to run the vibrator on Dad's back. She took great pleasure in doing so, very carefully, just like she has watched us do.

Photo: Here is how we roll!

When Katya was done with her Dad, she gently but firmly pushed Chad down on to the kitchen floor, showing him she wanted to do his back too!

Photo: And this!

And when she was done with that, she set the vibrator down, flopped on the floor, and showed Chad he should do her back!


It's so much fun watching Katya's understanding of how a family works beginning to take shape. ;-)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Blog Worth Reading

If you thinking about adoption, if you know someone who has adopted, if you are in the process of adopting, or if you have adopted, this blog is for you. Read it, heed it, and watch your relationships with your kids grow.

I always am learning new things when reading Christie's posts! I expect you will too!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Simplicity and Thankfulness

When we were in Ukraine adopting Katya, we attended a local Ukrainian church. We were so blessed to be there each time, even though we could not understand near all that was said. Still, we sensed the Spirit of God there, and our souls were blessed each week by being there.

One Sunday after the service, they drove out into forest to have a picnic after church. Paul and I were invited to come along, and we thought that it would be a great privilege to tag along.

So, everyone loaded up into vehicles and soon we were off the main roads in the village, and bumping along an increasingly bumpy track through the forest. As we went along through the birch trees, you could see small groups off here and there to the sides playing, or eating in sunny clearings.

Eventually, our small convey arrived at our own glen, and the vehicles were parked, a table unloaded, and food laid out.

Paul and I looked at the food that was laid out, and then at the crowd. "That's going to be a skimpy meal compared to potlucks we are used to!" one of us whispered quietly to the other. "No joke!" the other agreed.

Everything looked delicious, but there just was not that much of it for the amount of people we had present.

Suddenly, the relatively quiet glen was full of laughing, talking children that had not been there before! The children were greeted warmly and it was obvious that they were known to the church people.

A message was whispered to us: "The AWANA children showed up unexpectedly, and we want to let them eat first because many of them live on the streets and are hungry. Please let them eat first and we will eat what is left."

"Oh this is going to get VERY interesting!" I thought to myself, comparing the calm, matter of fact approach to the anxiousness that I could just imagine might accompany a similar situation in America as everyone saw the limited amounts of food begin to disappear.

As you can see, the influx was significant. The food rapidly began to disappear.

By the time the kids had gotten food, there was not much left. Each of the grown ups took a single tiny slice of bread, with a slice of meat and cheese, and then a vegetable piece or two, and a single cookie.

There was no way it was enough food to do more than take the merest edge off of the hunger. But no one was upset. No one panicked and rushed back to town to try to purchase more food. Everyone ate thankfully amid happy conversation about how the kids had shown up and how wonderful that was.

When each person's meager amount of food was finished, the guitars were broken out, and people took their places on logs and we began to sing together.

There in the woods, as we sang our songs of Praise and Worship to God, my heart was full of joy. Yes, I was still hungry. But it was OK. I had seen the body of Christ in action and my heart was full.

The simplicity of the meal to begin with was beautiful to behold. Each person had brought what they could bring . . . whether it was green onions or radishes from their gardens, or a little meat and bread. No, it was not enough for us all to be comfortably full, but we shared, we had enough to survive and we were able to sit in the beautiful spring sunshine and worship God together in peace.

There was peace. There was joy. There was fellowship.

What more did we need, really?

I think about this day often. It has impacted Paul's and my life deeply in ways that put us at odds with the typical culture of the day in our lives. The simplicity. The thankfulness even for what little there was, because the focus was on the fact that the kids had arrived and needed to be fed . . . To me, I think the Lord Jesus might have felt very at home and at peace breaking bread with us that day. I think He would have approved of the humble sharing of what each person had, and what they could do, and I know He would have approved of us sharing with the kids with joy and thankfulness.

Our hearts are hungry for more of that simple humbleness. Our hearts are hungry to be able to live in such a real manner, and to just accept what is available with out stress or panic if it seems "not enough".I'm still struggling to figure out how this can be lived out for me practically in my present culture. I sure don't fee like I have the answers, but I do have the longing.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

7 Practical Ways to Help A Special Needs Parent

Read a great article tonight, and wanted to share it.

I think she is right spot dead on. The things she lists are all important.

Read the article, and see what you think.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Katya Likes Oatmeal

For anyone wondering from my previous post--Katya LOVES oatmeal. ;-) She asked for it that morning.

Also, she LOVES my homemade granola with dairy free chocolate chips! ;-) In fact, as nearly as we can tell, homemade granola is her favorite breakfast food! ;-) She also thinks it makes a good snack and will ask for it for that too!

The first time or so that I made a batch after she was home she did not care for it at all, but by the third time she was hooked and has loved it every since. I actually make it a good bit just because she loves it so much. ;-)  And oh happiness! She can now say, "ip! ip!" for "chip" to let us know she wants chocolate chips! So much easier for Katya than signing chocolate chip! See for yourself!

Here is the sign for chocolate: http://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/CHOCOLATE/530/1

And here is the sign for chip: http://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/CHIP/6667/1

Try doing that when you are holding your bowl of granola and a spoon, prior to heading to the table! Saying, "ip! ip!" is so much easier! ;-)

And you want my homemade granola recipe you say?? Well, unfortunately, I do not have an exact recipe to share with you . . . I just dump and mix. But I can give you the approximate directions.

Hope Anne's HomeMade Granola

One large bag old fashioned rolled oats (I use several lbs from our bulk food store)

Salt, cinnamon to taste

Coconut oil and olive oil (for the amount I make, usually one cup of each

Brown sugar to taste (we use about two loose cups for our large batch)

Nuts--we like a mix of walnuts and pecans if we have them, but have used other nuts too depending on what we were given or found at the "Bent and Dent" store.

Mix all dry ingredients thoroughly together in large mixing bowl, then slowly drizzle melted coconut oil and olive oil over, stirring well.

Place in greased baking pan, and slowly bake in a 350 oven, stirring periodically until toasted as much as you want it to be. Add coconut flakes to taste, and stir well.

Cool, then store in a tight container. (Love my old trusty Tupperware cereal box for this one!)

Serve in bowls with milk (Rice Milk at this house) and chocolate chips (diary free at our house). Mmmmm!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Oatmeal For a Nippy Fall Morning

School Photo

The beginning of this school year was so hectic for me as we were still gardening and canning and a lot of other things were going on in my life as well.

Unfortunately, I dropped the ball and thought that school photos were one day later in the week than they really were.

When I showed up at school the appointed day and realized my mistake, I quickly remedied it as best as I could, quickly filling out a form, paying my fee, and making sure the teacher got the paper work to get Katya's photo done.

When they came home . . . . my heart sank to my toes, and I nearly cried.

Katya's anxiety at this sudden unexpected change of her routine clearly showed. I was surprised as she had done fairly well the previous two years and it was the same photographer! I would not have expected that my forgetting to warn her of the photos being taken would have created such a difference.

Break my heart! Katya looked so anxious and stressed out!

I felt terrible. Like a Mom-failure . . . and my heart was just so sad for Katya.

With the encouragement of some of my more experienced Mom-friends, I sent the photos back and asked for a re-take. I was willing to pay for the retake if need be! But thankfully, they just re-did the photo shoot without a fresh charge.

Check out the difference created by knowing ahead of time that her photo would be taken.

Yes, yes! That is much more like it!!! So thankful for the re-take! Now I have nice photos to hand out to relatives!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Tough Times of Parenting a Child With A History of Trauma

I love to blog all the good and happy stuff . . . . that's the most fun and probably what most of my readers want to read!

However, I want to talk today a little honestly about what it is like parenting a child who has a history loaded with trauma AND is non-verbal.

I will give you one example: visits to school.

For reasons Katya can not tell us (yet) she goes into a panic attack when we stop in at school. No one can figure it out. Not her teachers, not us.

She's in her third year at school there, and the same thing still happens, with the same level of intensity pretty well as the first year she was in school.

We don't know if it's just because it's out of the "normal" routine and that upsets her. We don't know if it's something more. All we know is what we see. That Katya cries. That Katya becomes aggressive. That the last time I tried it, she even was motivated enough to get rid of me that she signed "Sad! Sad!" and pointed to the door, trying to get me to go while big fat tears rolled down her cheeks.

This means that we generally avoid school like the plague because if we are present, Katya literally can not function.

There is nothing like showing up where other parents and grandparents are enjoying a good time with their kids and having them all stare in fixed horror as **your** child sobs and wants nothing to do with you!

At times like that, I want to wave a sign that says, "She loves me! She really does!" because Katya DOES love me and she will come racing, lickety-split with great enthusiasm when school is done and she knows it's time to go home!!

Well, the other week Charity and I went to school for Grandparents/Special Friend day. None of Katya's grandparents are in the state so they could not attend. We explained to Katya that we would be coming and asked her if she would be happy when we came. She signed yes, and usually if we have that little convo, about other things, she IS happy about whatever we are discussing when it happens. However, when we showed up in the door way, with the room already full of other parents and grandparents, Katya burst into tears. It was all down hill from there.

I finally shrugged and told the teacher I would go to the gym and wait for them to come perform. Unfortunately, when Katya showed up 30 minutes or so later, she was still anxious and on high alert. Even though we had hidden in the bleachers clear across the gym, Katya's anxiously roving eyes quicklyspotted us and she burst into tears again.

Her anxiety level was so bad that I finally got up and left the gym, and hid, to watch through a door. However, she kept a sharp eye on ALL the doors the entire performance and spotted me yet again, again resulting in her having a short-melt down till I moved out of sight again.

She was so anxious that even when she did not see me, she was hardly able to perform this year which was really sad.

Needless to say, this is a time when I was reminded again that parenting a child is NOT about you. It's about the child. And it's time to pull your big girl boots up and deal with it. It's not fun to be the parent that is slinking around, unable to hug or applaud your child in person while every one else gets to do so, but if that is what had to happen this time in order for Katya to function,  it's what had to happen.

Parenting a child with a background of trauma means that we "die daily" to ourselves and what we want and how we feel. It means doing what is best for your child, and accepting that what looks and feels like rejection is NOT anything you need to take personally. In fact,  you can not parent your child well if you do take it personally.

Parenting a child with a trauma back ground means that you need to be able to speak truth to yourself--"I am a good parent. This is not my fault. Someday it will hopefully be different and better and some day maybe she will be happy to see me at school too. In the meantime, I will choose NOT to take this personally and I will choose NOT to get hurt and angry and allow this to impact my relationship with my child, no matter how it looks to others. I know the truth, and I will stand on that truth."

What about you?? Do you too find yourself parenting a child with a background of trauma?

Feel free to link up any post you have that relates to parenting a child with a history of trauma that you think might be helpful to other blog readers!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Getting Better

Miss Katya was a lot better today, but still not better enough to send to school. She was (mainly) cheerful, AND ate large quantities, so I think she feels better, but I wasn't comfortable sending her yet.

Photo: Katya--still sick, but getting better

I wanted her home so I could keep ointment on her regularly. We sure hope that her spots are cleared up enough that tomorrow she can go to school. If not, I'm taking her back to the Dr I guess.

We are busy getting ready for guests from Katya's birth country to come next week! We are so excited, as we spent a lot of time in-country with them when we were adopting Katya, and to have them coming now to spend time with us is very special and exciting. It gives us extra impetus to get fall house cleaning projects done. I'm sure we won't be all done by the time they arrive--Katya's issues have meant Mom has spent way too much time dealing with that and not getting other things done--but I'll be happy for whatever is done before they arrive.

I changed our Amazon affiliate link on the right hand side of the blog--time to start thinking about Christmas! As always, you can purchase whatever you want to purchase from Amazon through the link--it does not have to be just what I'm displaying on the widget. A small percentage of most items purchased goes to help with Katya's expenses. Thank you to all who shop through her link!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Pharmacy At My House

I have a pharmacy at my house.

Well, not really . . . but . . . way too many medications and supplements right now!

Poor Miss Katya has had a rough week. Tuesday she was vomiting when at music class and her respite care provider had to bring her home before her respite time was even up.

By Thursday evening I was pretty sure she had an attack of impetigo in several spots, and that it was spread to her eye.

By Friday morning, it was clear that Katya did.

Photo: Looks like Katya is headed to Dr, not school.  Argh.

So off to the Dr instead of school we went. Her Dr was out of the office, and we had to deal with his new-ish Certified Nurse Practitioner.  Turned out that it was an amazing and wonderful thing that we got to do so! She is the Mom of a child with a big handful of special needs--who was adopted! And the CNP "got" so many things--both from the perspective of a Mom of a child who was adopted with special needs AND as a medical care provider. I liked her a whole boat load, and hope that she has a long and happy life at our Drs's office! She gave Katya plenty of time and space before she approached her and tried to touch her, so Katya was perfectly fine by that point and very cooperative with this new person even though she was not feeling well.

Between all the supplements her Dr has her on, and now all the new meds, I find myself struggling to keep pu with getting every thing into Katya as needed at the various times of the day.

Thankfully, although she is still a sick little cookie, she seems to be going the right direction. Her eye is still pretty bad, but even that seems to be clearing up slowly but surely.

Unless there is a miracle, she won't be heading off to church tomorrow, but hopefully by Monday she can go back to school. If not, I guess we will be heading back to the Dr again.

Because Katya was clearly still contagious, we kept her in today. Charity kindly stayed with her so both Paul and I could attend Chad's soccer award ceremony. He had a great season and would love to participate again next year if we can work that out!


Chad with his coach.

Photo: Bethel Wiley  thought you might want to see these photos . . .  I'm so sorry you had to miss it!