Sunday, December 11, 2011

Five Mesmerized Children, Four Cups of Vegetables, Omega-Three Fatty Acids, Two Competent Adults and One Word Sentences

A few days ago, I was late with dinner.  I know I was late, because I passed Will as I was coming up from the basement with some frozen chicken.  He was on the way down the stairs (he follows me everywhere), and I was on the way back up.  I noticed that he was carrying the red cup we use to measure dry dog food.  Sure enough, it was half full and when I asked him to open his mouth, he smiled and turned his head.  I gave those little chipmunk cheeks a squeeze and found a stash of about ten Pedigree dog food chunks that he was storing for the winter.  I realized my starving child was snacking on dog food. 

I can’t remember if I took the cup away right then, but I’m darned sure I didn’t scoop the soggy kibbles out of his cheeks.  I went back upstairs and checked the bag instead.  It said things like, “100% Complete and Balanced Nutrition!” and “Advanced Anti-Oxidant Formula with high levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids to help support joint health.”  It also listed whole wheat as the first ingredient, chicken as the second and no sugar, which is more than I can say for Chocolate Teddy Grahams.  I figured he was safe.  I actually did a little cost comparison later on and   …Oh, sorry. I digress.

For the record, I did eventually take away the red cup and put away the dog food.  Then I put the chicken in the microwave to thaw, and went upstairs to talk to Bill. 

“I have an announcement.” 
(tap, tap, tap on the keyboard…)  “Yes?” 
“Every day around dinner time, I want you to come downstairs and just hang with us.”
(tap, tap, tap on keyboard….pinky taps Enter….instant results….) "Oh?"
...“You’ll have to leave the computer to do this.  Then you’ll need to walk down the stairs, into the living room and actually talk with some of the smaller humans who live with us.  There won’t be any computers involved and you will be required to communicate verbally."
(silence.  Tap, tap, tap) "Mmmm."
"…Am I getting through?”
“I don’t want to ask too much, but at some point during the evening, I’d also like you to use complete sentences, the kind with both a subject and a verb.” 
(tap, tap, tap, Enter)  “….Ok.”

I left the room.  Apparently, I’d penetrated the great wall, because a few minutes later, Bill came downstairs.  He did the customary glance toward the living room (five children and a dog piled in front of Timmy Turner), glance toward the kitchen (your basic mess), weighed the lesser of many evils, and started to load the dishwasher. 

Will was sitting next to me on the butcher block island while I cut vegetables.  I've eventually figured out that it’s easier to have him next to me on the counter than tripping over him on the floor.  The microwave beeped.  I lifted Will off the counter, took the chicken out of the microwave, put it on the counter next to the sink and realized I needed to wait until Bill was done with the dishes before I could rinse it off.  I cut a few more vegetables, threw the waste in the trash, saw that Bill was closing the door to the dishwasher, and went to get my chicken.

My chicken was gone.
I asked Bill, “where is my chicken?” 
He said, “hmmm?.”
“I put it on the counter next to you.  Where is it?”
And then Bill said, “I don’t know where the chicken is. ...It was on the counter. …What did you do with it?”  As if I knew where the chicken was and I was just asking him to make conversation.

We both glanced along the kitchen counter tops, saw that the chicken was gone and went to look for the dog.  However, the dog was on the couch, comfortably nestled between two mesmerized children.  She did not look guilty.  It also happened to be pouring rain outside. Starving as she is, I didn’t think that the dog would brave all that rain just for some chicken, especially when there were dried chicken kibbles waiting for her in the red cup. 

That left the children.  They are not above hiding things from me if the urge arrives.  They’ve hidden my keys enough times to warrant interest, but not dead fowl.  I asked each of them in turn if they had taken my chicken and they all replied, “no” with appropriately bored expressions.  Then I asked, "Does ANYONE around here communicate with more than one word?"  Someone said, "no."

I went back to the kitchen.
There was Will.  I said, “Will, did you take mommy’s chicken?
Will smiled and yelled, “YES!”
“Ok, what did you do with it?”
Will smiled again, threw his hands up in the air and said, “I  ATE  IT!”

What does one do with this?  Bill and I started tearing the house apart, looking for the chicken.  It couldn’t have vaporized.  It had to be somewhere.  At first, I was just concerned about dinner.  I hadn’t been shopping in a while and that was the last of the meat, so if we didn’t have chicken, we were looking at dried beans, which take a while to prepare.  Then, as time progressed, I started to really wonder where the chicken might be and realized that in a few days, a dead chicken might REALLY SMELL.  I had a mouse die once under my kitchen cabinets and it was AWFUL.

We started in the kitchen and made bigger and bigger circles looking up and down, trying to think where WE might go if WE were a dead chicken.  After about ten minutes, I started to doubt myself.  Did I really take the chicken up from the basement?  I went back down to check the freezer.  No chicken.  Then I thought, “perhaps I absentmindedly took it upstairs? I went upstairs and went through all the bedrooms and the bathrooms.  I even dug through the laundry. 

Meanwhile, Will was following me around the house and screaming, “I TOOK IT!! I TOOK THE CHICKEN!”  But every time I asked him where it was, he threw his hands up in the air and said, “IN MY TUMMY!”  then he flashed me his huge smile.  Bill was looking all over the place and when the chicken didn’t turn up, he actually asked me, “Are you losing your mind?” as if this was my fault.   So I said, “LOOK, you saw me put the chicken down next to the sink.  I walked away.  YOU are the last person seen with the chicken, therefore, YOU are the person-of-interest here.  What did you do with my chicken?"

I also thought that perhaps I like him better when he limits himself to those one word sentences.

We finally decided to send Bill to the store and brace ourselves for the dead chicken smell that was bound to greet us in a few days.  As Bill was walking toward the garage, he passed the dog cage.  We have a wooden dog cage that is designed to look like an end table.  It’s really cute and the kids love to play in there.  Will spends a lot of his time gathering things for his personal museum.  Sure enough, Bill glanced inside and there was the chicken. 

I asked Will if he had put the chicken in the dog cage?  He gave me his biggest smile, threw his hands up in the air and said, “YES!! I TOOK IT!  I TOOK THE CHICKEN!”  When I asked him “Why did you take mommy’s chicken?”  He smiled and said, “Because.”   

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Have I Mentioned That Two of My Boys Have CP?

I began writing this post to justify a coveted CP “button” on my blog.  But, then I realized that, unbelievably,  I've never written the story of our “decision” to adopt Ruslan and Will.   (and, of course, the cool CP button is not appearing on my post. ...sigh...anyway...)

I first heard about Ruslan from my friend Amy.  She has a web site full of special needs children in Ukraine who are waiting for families.  ( She posted about a boy, Sergey, who was in an institution.  By the time I heard about him, he was six years old and had been tied to his bed for a year; no school, no therapy, no movement, no bathroom (they just wipe up after him)… nothing.   He was kept half dressed and left on a vinyl mattress all day and all night.   He had developed Scoliosis from lying on his side all the time.  He also had rickets and had lost a lot of his mental ability.  He couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk and no longer even responded to his name.  At the time, we already had five kids at home and our oldest was starting to become a  handful.  We finally decided that Sergey was so involved, we really couldn’t handle him.  So, we said, “no.”  

In the end, God took care of it.  Sergey was adopted by another family in NC.  However, the damn had already burst.  Before I heard about Sergey, I knew that there were orphanages in the world, I already had two adopted kids, but I had NO IDEA that there were children who were tied to their bed 24/7.   ….Now I knew. 

About a year later, Amy contacted me about Ruslan, who had CP and was headed for the same institution.  I wrote down all I could about him and took the information to my husband.  He said, (and I'm quoting him directly here) he said, “No. No Way.  Not a chance.”  I took this as a “Let’s think about it,” and told Amy we were interested.  A few days later, I got a call from Sandy, who had met Ruslan in Ukraine and could give me first hand information about him.  After talking with her for a few minutes, I took the phone to Bill who would NOT even TALK with her on the phone!!  It was a little embarrassing, to have to tell Sandy that my husband REFUSED to even TALK with her.  I started to think that maybe I had mis-read him and I needed a new strategy.  So, I started to pray.  To make a long story short, the next time I asked my husband about Ruslan, God had done such a number on his heart that my husband actually, TOOK HIS HANDS OFF HIS KEYBOARD, looked me in the eye, and said to me, “I guess as long as we’re going over there, we might as well get two, right?” 

I LOVE that!!  Two years and several thousand dollars later, we are now the proud parents of Will (six years old) and Ruslan (eight years old) both from Ukraine, both with CP, both the size of five year olds, and both physically challenged, mentally delayed and emotionally disturbed. 

First Will, who is so much easier to write about.  He turned six a few weeks ago.  He has Ataxic CP  (the floppy kind).  He can walk and really can do just about anything physically, but he falls a lot and he has low muscle tone.  My guess is that he also has FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) and he’s microcephalic.  Besides the therapies, the only way his CP really affects our family life at the moment is that he needs to hold someone’s hand when he walks.  He’s charming enough that this is not a problem.  He has four eager siblings who line up to help him wherever we go. 

My other CP son is Ruslan.  He is eight and has Spastic CP (the tight kind).  His official diagnosis is Spastic Diplegia (below the hips) but his arms are SO TIGHT that I think he could easily fall into the Spastic Quadriplegia category.  His CP is more of an issue.  When he came here, he could not hold himself up on his legs.  Even with a walker, he was pretty much using his arm strength to stay up and dragging his legs.  He can now walk with a walker, using his legs for support, but he has no balance.  My personal hunch is that this is about as good as things are going to get, but we’ll keep trying.   Also, when he came, he could barely hold a pencil and was totally dependent on his caregivers for EVERYTHING.  He can now take care of all his personal needs (wash and dress himself, play by himself, feed himself etc.) and last night before bed, he was writing his letters on a wide ruled sheet of paper and keeping them within the lines.  

 It’s been amazing to watch his progress.  Because of this, we bend over backward to get him to do as much as he can independently.  It takes a lot of time and half the people in my county think I am a tyrant.  However, I am OK with this.  I’m in the habit of telling the “helpful” people in my local Wal Mart, “Thank you, but unless you want to follow him around for the rest of his life, you’re not really helping.” 

Both boys get PT and OT at school and they both get extra PT and horse therapy after school twice a week.   I stretch Ruslan every morning for about 30 minutes and he sometimes needs help with transitions.  We haul his walker and wheelchair on the bike rack on the back of our Ford and we don't do anything quickly.  It's not pretty, but really, the most surprising thing about the CP is that, as far as their PHYSICAL disability is concerned, once you embrace it and fit it into your routine, it’s usually not a big deal.

The mental and emotional baggage they came with….that’s a different story.  

<a href="" style="border: none;"><img alt="Stumbo Family Story" src="" style="width: 129px; height: 129px;"/></a>