Thursday, July 30, 2009

E F P T O Z.....

As most of you know, we made the decision about this time last year, to take Josh and Jameson our of their ESL school in order to homeschool them. Josh has done really well. He is catching up with math. His reading has improved tremendously.

Jameson has continued to struggle.

In the beginning, we were able to justify some educational problems (and rightly so...) with adjustment, previous malnutrition, English as a second language learning, etc, etc, etc.

We researched a lot of issues with dyslexia and learning disabilities. I was convinced she has some ADD or something. It is so difficult to assess for learning disabilities when she's only known English for what? 18 months? I would be completely dyslexic and every other kind of lexic if I were learning Amharic.

In discussing this with a friend, I was put in contact with Intensive Reading Interventions. Jameson was evaluated earlier this summer by the wonderful and awesome Ms. Angelique. And while we are still working on an official educational plan, she did recommend right away that we get Jameson's eyes checked by a developmental vision specialist. She also found that Jameson has significant auditory processing issues. Once again, the English as a second language issue makes this a little fuzzy. Jameson had significant problems processing what she heard. She could hear it, but not repeat it back, not give a broad idea of what she had heard etc. Her brain is having problems processing what she's hearing.

We were referred to the Vision Enhancement Clinic. Here is where things get a little confusing. I know right? I'm already confused. Initially the wonderful Dr. Pierce found that she was significantly near sided. Like as in 20/100. Even though she had 20/20 vision at a regular vision screen 10 months ago.

She had significant problems with accomodation. Accomodation is the ability of the eye to change its focus from distant to near objects (and vice versa). This process is achieved by the lens changing its shape. Accommodation is the adjustment of the optics of the eye to keep an object in focus on the retina as its distance from the eye varies.

She had significant problems with spasms in her eye muscles. She had significant problems with eye teaming and eye tracking. They did a lot of tests and dilated her eyes. The purpose of dilating her eyes was to check for some diseases that affect the retina endemic to Africa. Once he dilated her eyes, he rechecked her visual acuity. Now he found her to be far sighted. A completely different prescription than previously thought. He said he had only seen this a handful of times. His only explanation of this is that her muscles in her eyes are so weak and spasming so frequently that she is going from being far sighted to near sighted frequently.

We are supposed to go back next week to get her eyes rechecked once again. I really appreciate the fact that Dr. Pierce is intrigued by her case. He's going to do some research as well as figure out what it actually going on with her. He mentioned STREFF syndrome. I don't know if this is an official diagnosis, but it sure sounds like what's going on with her.

Here's the definition of STREFF Syndrome - "This functional vision loss is also known as Non-Malingering Syndrome. Signs include reduced visual acuity in both eyes at distance and near. The visual acuity at near is more reduced than the distance acuity. The syndrome is associated with a visual or emotional stress occurring in the child's life. It is more prominent in girls (ages 7-13) than boys. Treatment includes a low plus lens and/or vision therapy."

We know these things:

  • Jameson is getting glasses.

  • She will be having vision therapy once a week for up to a year.

  • She will be required to do visual exercises at home.

I feel a mixture of emotions over this news.

I knew there was something not quite right. I knew that she should have been progressing much quicker than she has been.

In one breath, I feel relief that we are going to get to the bottom of it. We are going to make it so much easier for her to see, hear, and learn. We are finally getting answers.

In the next breath, I feel so much guilt for so many things. So much guilt for being frustrated with her all these months when she had problems with her schoolwork. So much guilt for not getting all of this testing done before. Although I don't know that she would have had the English skills needed to get the testing done.

Dr. Pierce asked where she was going to school. When I told him we were homeschooling, he replied that his next suggestion was going to be to pull her out and homeschool her. He said that would make a big difference because she will be able to go at her own pace. I was so grateful that we made that decision last year instead of facing that now. I really would be kicking myself if that were the case.

I also feel so blessed that she is here. I can't imagine living with these problems in Ethiopia. There would have been no specialist, no therapy, and probably no glasses.

We are just at the beginning of this journey, but we are full of anticipation and joy of the changes it's going to make for Jameson.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Roller Coaster Boy

This looks and sounds just like Jameson and Ben at Six Flags this summer. I only thought Jameson was afraid of roller coasters... until I met Ben.

It's still July right?

Well, better late than never huh?

It's still July right?

My own husband, who used to complain about my time spent writing blog posts, has called me a bad blogger as of late.

With trip after trip this summer, I just haven't had time to do the summer blogging justice.

Just like last year at the yearly fireworks extravaganza, I sat back and watched the fireworks remembering the summer before when we had just started our adoption process. It was so new. So raw then. We were anxious. The great unknown ahead of us. We had no idea how much our lives were going to change. We had no idea how much our trip to Africa alone would change us. Not to mention loving these two then strangers. Just like a baby whose days were counted in days, weeks, then months. I no longer even know how long they've been here. It just seems like they've always been here.

You can look back here to see last year's 4th of July post.

Here are some pics from this year's 4th of July.


Monday, July 27, 2009

So what do you do?

I was perusing the University of Chicago parents website this evening and was smacked in the face with the countdown to college.
56 days, 6 hours, 46 minutes, 16 seconds.
I can remember when it was 120 days to go.
This time last year, Jordan and I were traveling all over the East coast visiting colleges and dreaming about what this year would bring.

Now we know.

We know where she'll be.
We know what it's like to watch her agonize over her college essays.
We know what it's like to hear the news, "I got in."
We know what it's like to wait for financial aid packages.
We know what it's like to see her walk across that stage and get her diploma.
We know what it's like to title every activity as "the last time Jordan will get to do this with us."

But what we don't know is what it will be like when she's gone.
We don't know what it will be like to turn around and leave her in Chicago.
We don't know what it will be like to walk past her empty room day after day.

The kids are growing so fast. I feel like it's spinning out of control. I sometimes feel like someone took my little kids and dumped off a bunch of smelly, hormonal imposters.

There are breast buds and deepening voices in our house.
Someone lost their two front teeth this month. My baby has no front teeth!
There are contests between 4 pre-teens to see who has body odor and who's getting armpit hair.
No one has snuck into my room to sleep with me illegally all summer.
There are girls texting my boys.
There are boyfriends and break-ups and drama.

There are little white bras all over the place.

So what do you do when it seems like suddenly your family has grown up?

I guess you just try to enjoy it.

You go floating.
You go swimming.
You sleep in.
You ride roller coasters.
You watch movies you like.
You cry. a little.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Do you think about me?

Jordan sent me this poem yesterday from Leadership Academy camp.
I don't know who the author is.
It was written as a slam poem in a program for inner city kids.
I just love it and wanted to share it with you.
Does anyone ever remember feeling this way?

Yesterday you asked me if I think about you during the day
In class or on the bus
Do I ever wonder who you're with or what you're doing or what you're thinking about
I'm in math class right now, and I'm thinking about you like crazy
Like hands think about holding
and arms think about folding
and minds think about not thinking but knowing
I'm thinking about you like feet think about socks
and socks think about shoes
I'm thinking about you like rock and metal think about screaming
like blues thinks about rhythm
like hip hop thinks about hoes
like gardeners think about hoes
I’m thinking about you like tops think about spinning
And rocks think about sitting
And cops think about arresting people
I’m thinking about you like people think about the clock five minutes before a shift ends
I’m thinking about you like a thinks about being with c like b thinks about seeing d
Like e fing g like h l n j
I’m thinking about you like white and black think about making gray on a paint palette
Like night thinks about making day in the morning
Like rain clouds think about pouring
I’m thinking about you like math analysis thinks about being boring
Cause seriously any class this boring has had to take some serious thought
I’m thinking about you like the last problem on this math quiz
I’m thinking about you like bugs think about grass
Like thugs think about grass
Like students think about class
Like ladies think about class
Like lower middle class people think about flying first class to places they only think about like New Zealand or France
I’m thinking about you like pilots think about the horizon
Like the clouds think about the wind
And the wind thinks about the trees
Like teenage boys think about the birds and the bees
And the bees think about serving the queen
And making honey
And honey I’m thinking about you like crazy
Like mattresses think about springs
And winter thinks about spring, who thinks about summer
And it doesn’t matter what season it is when I’m thinking about you
It’s always sunny like rainbows and bunnies
And I’m thinking about you like rich people think about making money
And broke people think about making money
And when I think about you the world makes sense
Let me go change
I’m thinking about you when I get dressed
Because I step on stage
When I look at myself in the mirror you’re the only one I’m trying to impress
I’m thinking about you like boats think about floating
And paddles think about rowing
And poets think about flowing
I’m thinking about you like bankers think about loaning
And renters think about owning
And stoners think about throwing rocks
I’m thinking about you like keyboards think about keys
And keys think about unlocking locks
Like Goldie locks still thinks about bears
Like bears think about being cool
I’m thinking about you like refrigerators think about being cool
And microwaves think about being hot
Like kids think about breaking rules
Like targets think about getting shot
I’m in math class right now not trying to get you off my mind
Just simply off the sine cosine and tangent lines I’m graphing
I’m thinking about you like numbers think about adding
Like cripples think about standing
And I’m thinking about standing up and walking out
I’ll say I have to go to the bathroom or something
And I can find out exactly who you’re with and what you’re doing and what you’re thinking about
But I think you’re in class right now, too
So I’ll text you
I’m thinking about you

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Extreme Home Makeover - Ellerbee style

Extreme Home Makeover was in our area this week building a house for the Hampton Family. We love this show and watch it just about every week. When we heard that we had the opportunity to go to the "reveal," we jumped on it.
Because of a huge rain storm that morning, the field across from the house was completely soaked and mud filled. They even pushed back the time for the reveal from 2pm to 5pm. There were cars getting stuck in the parking area.
Luckily, the parking was full and we were forced to park about a mile away. I'm so grateful I didn't attempt to take my new car into that mess. That would not have ended well for us.
As we were walking to the site, our good friend Julie drove by. She was one of the sponsors for the family, and drove us the rest of the way in. By mentioning her business, we were able to go to the VIP section. Holla.
Josh and Jackson waited patiently...

Justine waited... anxiously...
Jack waited impatiently.

He filled his time by successfully fulfilling his life mission of making everyone miserable. He had a great time in this long period of waiting teasing and tormenting the girls. I'm sorry to anyone who heard me threaten to throttle him multiple times. Clearly, I would never do such a thing, but a boy's got to be fairly warned.

"Move that bus. Move that bus. Move that bus."
We had a great time chanting...

Jameson, however, did not enjoy the screaming...
Because she's such a quiet natured child... yeah right...

Justine was entertaining to say the least.
She only fell off the chair she was standing on... once.

My "sensitive" stomach started to act up while we were waiting. I was so relieved when I turned around and saw the Johnny on the spots right behind us. I was so relieved, right up until the point that I realized there was no toilet paper. It was too late. I freaked out. Panic set in. I will spare you the gory details, but let's just say I left an essential piece of clothing in that porta potty.

When I came out of the toilet, I found the kids had given away the chair I was standing on. Thank you very much!

This would be the legs of the woman who stole my chair while I was cooped up in the porta potty.

And this is her, and her friends, the 8 foot tall blond woman, as well as the man who was I'm sure taking great pictures with his cell phone, when they pushed their way in front of us... completely blocking our view.

Yes, Justine. It's almost time. How many times can I repeat that without actually knowing whether it's the truth or not?

The Hampton's new home.

The long road home.
I tortured my children by making them walk back to the car ... uphill... both ways with 6 whining, muddy, tired children. Wait. That sounds more like torturing me.

Doesn't it?


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Babysitting 101

While we were in Texas at the Hope Adoption Reunion, Jordan and Drew offered to babysit for us while we hung out in a different Hopesters room for the evening.

At one point, I received a text message from Jordan stating, "Justine just threw up. I took care of it."

Considering we had seen Jaiden vomit all day off and on during and after our day at 6 Flags, this somehow didn't come as a huge surprise.

When we came back to our room, we asked what happened.

"Well," they responded, "We can show you."

I received a play by play report with pictures of the puking episode. I'm warning you, if you have a sensitive stomach, pass by the pics quickly.

These are the moments we found forever documented on my camera.

When I looked at this one, I said, "Oh, look at my poor baby."
Drew replied, "Yeah, you should have seen Jordan sitting on the side of the tub taking pictures of her. She was just click, click, clicking away."


What I really love is the facial expressions Jordan shares with us here:

And here:

And here:

Doesn't it kinda look like Jameson's about to blow chunks herself?

When I started going through the order of the pictures, I found the reason it was so easy to take pictures of the vomiting episode. Jordan and Drew were busy taking pictures of their own funny faces while they were babysitting.
Nice. Very Nice.

Need a babysitter? She's available.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Daughtry - Poker Face

I think this guy could sing The Itsy Bitsy Spider and give me goosebumps. Enjoy!