Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009 Update

Below is a summary of our 2009 (all the way down to the house remodel & family stuff) .... All things I should have been putting onto the blog all year. Sorry! You can skip to posts that might interest you by clicking on the link in the blog archive in the top right - all listed under December.

I turned FIFTY!!! HOW IN THE WORLD can I be as OLD as I thought my mom was when she was this age??? Funny how that happens!

In honor of my advanced age, I got two new things: a new "do" which I love, but which is WAY too much effort to fix, so hardly gets done and I go back to my standard "wash, mousse, scrunch up and go" :(, and "granny glasses". Yes - I take a considerable amount of flak from everyone in this house because of them. This picture was taken at our family Christmas party so mom could see four of her kids looking like old bokkies.

Nadia made a sad comment on the state of my aging mind: "Mom - you're losing your mind and you're NOT EVEN A GRANDMA yet! Rich better hurry up and get married soon before you don't know who he is!!"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rich graduated and moved on....

Rich graduated from BYU with his Masters in Public Health (MPH). He worked for MonaVie as the Health & Wellness Coordinator for about 8 months, but decided to change his focus in the fall.

He moved to Seattle and took a job with North American Health Care as an AIT (Administrator in Training) in a Skilled Nursing and Rehab Facility. He has another few months of that, after which he says, “I will become the administrator of my own Rehab Facility. This company specializes in sub-acute care, meaning they like to take patients from the hospital who have undergone some type of surgery such as a hip or knee replacement but still require 24-hour care and are not yet ready to be discharged home and so consequently come to a facility like mine anywhere from 2 weeks-2 months where they receive proper 24-hour care and rehab.

What makes North American Health Care so unique is the amount of autonomy they give their administrators to run their facility. They essentially give you full rein to do as you please as if you were running your own business (which is both a great opportunity and very stressful)!”

At a graduation celebratory dinner, Nadia was given a balloon bunny hat, and was NOT impressed when Rich appropriated it.

Apart from that, he continues to lead a fun, active life, for instance, taking a weekend trip up to Whistler, British Columbia, to ski with a bunch of friends. You can catch up with him and Tanya on facebook.

James Discovers Responsibility is not all it's cracked up to be!

James will be headed to the MTC in Rio de Janeiro in March.... WE'RE SO EXCITED!!! He's excited he's going to some place warm (he was NOT a fan of the cold water in Bear Lake, but is ALWAYS a fan of the hot tub!). We all had him terrified with thoughts of a mission call to Iceland - or almost as bad - Salt Lake City ;). He has worked super hard to save a bunch of money for his mission - And we're impressed.
In the process, he has progressed at being a great computer guru who finds hacking entirely too much fun. He just hacked his Wii - just because he loves to be able to figure it all out!! This past year he got 2 monitors on his desk at work, which he loves. He's still working as the head Q&A tester at his company. He also helps out with all their IT, does all their web design and documentation. They're going to miss him big time!

He's been volunteering at the ISC (Stake Center next to the Oakland Temple) for the last 4-plus years. He runs their sound board for all church and non-church productions. This past month or so he spent 4-6 nights every week (5-6 hours each night) and all day Saturday. During the rest of the year he is there at least one night a week and once a weekend. He's also there many Sundays to do firesides, stake conferences and other special events. He's trying to get someone else to learn the sound board so that when he goes on his mission, they won't be left in the lurch. So far, no one's wanting the responsibility. They're going to miss him too!

He also enjoys arguing politics, and loves this particular website:

He continues to take piano theory and performance and enjoys that. He plays some mean Mannheim Steamroller and John Tesh arrangements. He's good!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tanya's Tango through the Year....

Tanya is always a big hit with the kids - and Nadia generally won't let Tanya out of her sight. We are grateful Tanya is very good natured about it. Sadly, we don't get to see James and Tanya NEARLY enough. We wish they lived closer.

This past year Tanya has continued to blossom into an exceptional young lady. She has spent the last year tackling the maths and sciences in hopes of becoming a radiation therapist. In fall of 2010, she will be beginning the program for her radiological sciences diploma.

Although school has become an important part of Tanya's life, she refuses to give up her love and passion for dancing. This past fall, she became an apprentice for CoDa, a dance company in Oakland. Tanya has also started auditioning down in LA for various dance positions.

Along with dance and school, Tanya has stayed a very active member of her YSA ward, becoming the first ever YYSA president in the history of the church. (YYSA stands for young young single adults and is a group designed for people ages 18-22. Don't laugh. It was very exciting for me :P ) All in all, 2009 was a fun, thrilling and exciting year for Tanya.

Daniel in living color...

Daniel continues to be the biggest Jekyll and Hyde - on one hand he can be FABULOUS: Kind, loving, sensitive, generous and a hard worker and on the other, so out of control it's unreal. I know that I would *NEVER* have comprehended it without experiencing it. We love him, but he makes a large portion of our lives pretty hellish. I wish we had some hope of a solution, but I have come to the conclusion that he has serious physiological & psychological issues that will never be resolved in this life. You can get more details if you want them at our adoption blog (see the link in the upper right corner of this blog). Of course, he does behave pretty well for most people he interacts with on a limited basis. Which also contributes to my STILL not understanding WHY and HOW it all works?! And means that as kind and caring as people are, few *really* UNDERSTAND what we're dealing with - which I don't begrudge because unless I had lived it, that would have been me. But it doesn't make it easier. All I *know* for sure is that we tried EVERYTHING *consistently* for seven years with absolutely NO improvement in his behavior. So now we're to the point of backing off, and just SURVIVING with the least amount of flak.

He loves animals and is very good with all kinds. He spends more time with Rascal than anyone else, and Rascal now sleeps on his bed - an arrangement that makes them both happy. At the zoo, Nadia and Daniel had face painting (Ben didn't want it). They were painted *beautifully*, but for some reason, just did HALF their faces?! Daniel chose a dog, and Nadia a cheetah- you can sort of see their faces in this picture. And yes, with Rich graduated and just working, we got to spend a LOT more time with him. The kids loved it and everyone misses him now he's in Seattle.

Daniel decided he didn't want to swim, play tennis or do track this year. (Last year he *said* he wanted to, but refused to participate in any of them - just stood and watched.) He did want to do basketball, soccer, Skiing with W.A.S. (see Nadia's entry), and did quite well with them. He *loves* to draw, and is very good, so we hope we can capitalize on that. He spends a huge amount of his time pottering around the yard - invariably taking apart and destroying things we don't want taken apart, but we've come to the conclusion that it's a small price to pay for relative peace. We just try to watch him that he doesn't get into BIG things. And we try to keep him pretty close to home so he's not getting into others' stuff. His kleptomania is unchanged despite consequencing him up the wazoo on that. "Keeping him close to home" gets harder and harder to do as he gets older - for instance - When he's "on one" he just won't get on the bus at school. And then he'll wander around, sometimes for HOURS, before he comes home. We've given up trying to search for him - as it just means 4 or 5 hours of wasted time. He eventually comes home. We've also gotten to the point where we just don't try to "make" him do anything - because it's a sure fire way to bring on a mega-meltdown. If we could come through the meltdowns and avert them in the future because he doesn't like the consequences, we'd continue to deal with them. But he doesn't learn or change anything the next time around, so it's a fruitless exercise. He does still lose privileges, etc., but it's hard.

He was OVER THE MOON when he got to ride with his cousin on PJ's motorbike. He would love nothing as much as a dirt bike and a 4-wheeler. Of course, if we had them, I'm quite sure they'd just go the way of all the other stuff we've ever given him (the scooter, the bike, the cd player, the night vision goggles, the remote controlled car, etc., etc... all in a million pieces, never able to be put back together). We continue to have to lock up as much as we can. As far as Daniel's concerned, ANYTHING he WANTS is fair game. And if we ever leave our keys out, or a door unlocked by accident, he's on it in a HEARTBEAT. For instance, I just retrieved a whole TON of stuff from his room that he got from our closet - among them a camera that's completely destroyed. We make him pay back enough that it hurts (he doesn't have a lot of money), but it never makes any difference the next time around.

Our neighbors, the Reids, took Daniel for a lot of the summer. He "helped" them at their rentals and such. They are *fantastic* and we owe them more than we could ever repay in an eternity. They have helped us keep our sanity and have an incredible attitude about "we're here to help others". Sadly (for us) they moved 15 minutes south of us. They are still willing to help, but it's just not practical as much anymore.

Daniel was excited to graduate from 6th grade but found Junior High pretty difficult. With some help from the counselors and teachers there, he seems to be settling, but they are also adjusting by not *requiring* him to tow the line - again - for the above reasons. Although he will never excel, we'd just like to "get him through"! He decided he wants to do percussion in the school band, and he does very well at that. Mmmmmm... Can't figure out why... He gets to make a bunch of noise and it's ENCOURAGED. Ben has been lamenting that he didn't choose percussion.

Daniel is also scheduled for some more surgeries next year, but I'm loathe to do too much. I really don't want to do braces. Because of the cleft palate issues, the braces are a LOT more expensive, and we can't make him brush his teeth. He routinely appropriates all sorts for late-night snacks and eats it in his bed. So I don't want to pay for braces for him. I reckon he'll be lucky to have any teeth by the time he's 25. We even had him contribute to the cost of his fillings - having the dentist explain to him how he's having more problems because he doesn't take care of his teeth. But nothing changes. It makes things at home really, really tough many days.

Benjamin: Comic or Crazy?

Benjamin is actually the comic in the house as most of these pictures will show. He has a *great* sense of humor - but does still need to learn to use it more wisely. He has discovered girls and that has made a difference in how he takes care of clothes, his appearance, etc., so that's one great part of it. (Not looking forward to the other parts...!)

It's funny because we thought Daniel would be the athlete, but it's turned out the other way round. Benjamin loves all sports, and does very, very well at most of them. He took basketball, track, tennis, swimming and soccer, skiing (twice only with W.A.S - see Nadia's blurb) and would love to do more stuff if we could afford it.

He mowed for a neighbor during the summer in exchange for a small canoe. He's loved the canoe, and even convinced Nadia to do a little of the paddling. Not that they got very far with her efforts! You may ask where Daniel is in so many of these pictures. The answer is that he is off somewhere "doing his own thing". On *so* many family excursions - he's just off wandering around on his own. He's much happier that way. I try to snap pictures of him, but he resists most of the time. Usually I mostly get pics of him if I snatch them unawares.

Benjamin is a HUGE tease and drives me to distraction because he's always on Nadia, and she rises to it so easily. When he's not driving her crazy, he plays wonderfully with her. He also knows how to push his mother's buttons with incredible efficiency and RELISHES doing it, and I am not smart enough to *not* let it get to me sometimes.... Still working on that!

Ben got braces in the fall and is finally getting used to them. He does *really* well at managing himself and not eating contraband foods. He'll have some more surgeries next year. His speech is still abysmal, and I'm afraid he won't improve until he decides it's important to him. He honestly doesn't comprehend that people don't understand him, despite most everyone going, "WHAT did you say??" and our best efforts to show him otherwise (taping him, etc.). He's impossible about practicing and working on it.

My biggest challenge with Benjamin is that he is INCREDIBLY disrespectful - but as far as I can tell, only to me - and he does not CONCEIVE that it's a problem. He's been this way since we got him, but it just gets worse as he gets older. I honestly think it's a response to the orphanage - because he just had female orphanage workers, and no regular male influence, and so I've come to believe it's a rebellion against the female authority.

I've tried everything from A - Z, and honestly - I don't "get" why he doesn't want to stop the behavior in order to not get the negative consequences. Unlike Daniel, he usually shapes up pretty quickly if he wants something. But not with the disrespectful issue. I have learned that I can *NOT* try to deal with it or talk to him about it in the moment, because he just spirals down completely if I do, and he gets CRAZY mouthy. I *can* get him to go to his room or go outside to cool off (something you can't make Daniel do), and then consequence him later. He only *occasionally* does it in front of Mark - and Mark does NOT let him get away with it - but it doesn't change anything. It's really hard to deal with.

He decided he wanted to take trombone at school, which has proved rather challenging for him (considering he can't carry a tune in a bucket). He's actually making progress though, and the great side benefit is that it is helping his singing. We have learned that he is not totally without musical abilities - he *can* learn - but it takes hours and hours and hours of going over and over and OVER it for him to "hear" a note and then hit it. We just had a school band concert, and by the cacophonous sound of things, this is not so rare!!

Madam Nadia

Yes - Nadia has EVERYONE twisted firmly around her little finger. Mark declares that he is moving out when the estrogen hits. But we *do* try to reign her in and hopefully we're not creating a monster teenager!!

She has the most expressive face imaginable and uses it shamelessly. We had her in a basketball league for children with disabilities - so each child was paired with a buddy. She had fun - including the dramatic interludes (she COULDN'T play anymore - she was EXHAUSTED!).

Nadia skied again with Wasatch Adaptive this year. She and the boys get to do it twice each winter and are on scholarship, which is fantastic. They get everything, including a buddy. The boys are doing fabulously and love it. Nadia's not been so keen, but this year she finally managed a "pizza pie" (snow plowing) on her own and so is feeling better about it. She also does physical therapy horseback riding once a month with the same group. They're awesome. When we don't have a gazillion medical bills, we will have to start sending them money to help other kids - after all they do for ours.

She was also in a little community children's theatre play ... princesses and dragons and lots of fun songs. She was one of the maids, and loved it. She also decided she needed to be the cheerleader for her brothers' soccer games.

Of course a big highlight was her baptism this year. I found the most adorable dress at a clearance store. It was sleeveless and long, so a friend helped me to cut it off at the knees and make sleeves with what we cut off. I had to have her show you the back of the dress too. SO CUTE!!

BEAR LAKE summer break

We booked our condo at Bear Lake this summer and had a great week. We were able to get all 6 kids there for a couple of days so that was a major accomplishment! Hauling up the canoe we bought this summer was great fun, and renting a seadoo for a few hours was enough for mom and dad, but not enough for the kids.

We ended up stuck in the sand one day (clear up to the axle), and of course it was a day before Rich, James & Tanya were with us. Mark, me and the boys had to unhitch the trailer & canoe, haul it over to "harder ground" by hand, then dig, used (and destroyed) our car mats, a quilt and towels before we got out. A few people watched our plight, but not a soul came to help. We didn't have our camera that day, but a couple of days later, the evidence was still mostly there in the sand. That's Daniel trying out the hole for size!

We were able to go to Raymond, Utah, and see the old home where dad Evans grew up and farmed with his parents. And where there's even a street named after the family :).

We enjoyed the Oregon/Calif Trail Center in Montpelier (up the road from Bear Lake). There was a great little Olde Tyme photo place next door (really fun old couple running it). We all had fun getting into character for the picture - and James looked rather too "at home" in his get-up!!

House Remodel

Our major project this year was a house remodel, and this is our "calm before the storm" picture - we'll get you some "finished" pictures a little later! The object was in part to have a place for Benjamin to bring him up from the basement (he HATES with a passion being two floors removed from everyone else, and I don’t blame him. But with the “Daniel” dynamics, it’s not an option to share rooms) and in part to hopefully accommodate Mark’s dad who is almost 90 and needed to not be living alone anymore. We hoped we could have him half time and Diane (Mark's sister) have him half time. In the mean time, he moved in with Diane, and it was pretty traumatic, so now we're thinking it won't work AT ALL to shift him back and forth.

The house project has taken longer than we planned because we were trying to do bits and pieces ourselves to save money. Secondly, we’ve been hiring friends etc., because they’re less expensive, but then we also have to wait for them longer. And finally, we were so buried in other stuff … kids, church, etc., that we were a little slow in decisions that needed to be made, so we’d have to wait for something to come in and such.

Basically we opened up the whole side of the house and added a family room, bake center (large walk in pantry with counter space so I can have my appliances on there), master bedroom with big bathroom and closet (the old master closet & bathroom were TEENY and obnoxious), and then the basement (unfinished for now) will be the “game room” and eventually a bathroom and kitchenette down there. In the process, we also had to remodel the kids bathroom and parts of Daniel’s bedroom (cause we cut through them to get to the new bedroom), and remodel the kitchen (we took away one whole wall so re-did basically everything and got a new island &
cabinets). We got a great clearance porcelain tile, so did a LOT in tile – family room, kitchen, laundry, main floor bathroom, kids’ bathroom, our bathroom! With the collapse of the ceiling in the laundry room and part of the main floor bathroom, we also had to have that fixed, and we painted and replaced the cruddy linoleum. THEN, since everything else on the main floor was going to be fixed and beautiful, we had to throw a couple of coats of paint on the living room walls and replaced the carpet in there at the same time they put the carpet in the master bedroom. (We still had the cruddy cat & dog pee-soaked carpet in there from when we moved in 5 years ago, so we’re THRILLED to have new carpet.)

Apart from taking over the second part of the project and being the contractor, I spent the last ten months running around either in front of or just behind workers – prepping stuff – cleaning up after them, etc., etc. Things happen like this: I went down into my scrap room the other day, and I did not realize they’d had to cut ANOTHER couple of holes in the ceiling there to accommodate for the electricity in the island. So there is MESSY drywall mush all OVER scrap papers, photos, EVERYTHING. I don’t know where the water came from, but it soaked some pictures and stuff. I just couldn’t even face it. So I turned around, shut the door, and will deal with it later. Now WHY couldn’t he have asked me for something to cover things up??? This type of thing happens ALL the time if you’re not watching constantly. And unfortunately, I can NOT be there to watch constantly. Another “for example”: I keep a supply of rags handy for the workers, and I try to take them regularly and clean them out. But the other day, I saw the tile guys had picked up two of my GOOD dish towels and were using them to wipe up grout. That was the end of the towels!

We got the kitchen and family room pretty much together (after no kitchen for a month) and I’ve moved my Africa things down here (used to have it in our bedroom). I *LOVE* having it here – it looks great. But messy things keep happening, like yesterday they were putting down flooring in the side room (using the laminate we took up from the kitchen), and after starting cutting in the garage, they brought the saw INTO the room, and I came through to see sawdust flying everywhere! I nicely asked them to keep the door closed, and put a rag along the bottom, but not before I got a good supply of sawdust out here. I’ve literally just given up on cleaning up in many places, because I have cleaned things SO many times, and they just end up all mucked up again. There’s SO MUCH I can’t put away because there are so many little things that have to be sorted out. It’s a hassle. But it will be awesome when it’s done.