June 23, 2008 - A trip to Duluth

Well, this is actually from 2 weeks back, but I am a bit behind in my blogging.

Duluth is a beautiful city on the shore of Lake Superior. It is a favorite of Michael. He loves Canal Park and is always enthusiastic about a trip to the North Shore. We usually take his best friend, Christopher with us and they have a wonderful time.

We decided to try the surrey bicycles this time. It is a nice way to see the lake, get a bit of exercise - ok, a lot of exercise if you are carting 110 pounds worth of shrieking, giggling girls - and not end up carrying girls who want to run and play in the water. It was a beautiful day, but I wouldn't recommend swimming in Lake Superior. Even at the hottest point of the summer the water is icy cold.

We rode to the end of the park, out to the lighthouse, under the Lift Bridge - we even got to see one of the very large ships go under the bridge and the back to the rocks on the shore. Randy and I pedalled the traditional surrey bike and the boys each drove a roadster model. It was a beautiful day. Both Caelia and Lera loved going so fast, with the breeze blowing in their faces. They weren't particularly thrilled with the helmets however!

After our bike ride, we went to the park to chase seagulls and play and climb amongst the rocks. The rocks provide protection for the shore from Lake Superior. The wind blows all the time and the water is very rough. Lake Superior is one of two or three (I can't remember at the moment which) lakes which have riptides. The other one that I know of is in Russia. Michael would be willing to spend the whole day climbing amongst these boulders. He always finds treasures - rocks and pieces of debris - that have washed up on the shore or been dropped by other visitors.
Caelia and Lera spotted the horse-drawn carriages and became very excited. This is kind of expensive but really enjoyable and informative. Our driver had lots of wonderful trivia about the area (she was the one that told me about riptides). Lera had 2 firsts this day - first bike ride and first carriage ride, I think she enjoyed both immensely. Our driver allowed Caelia and Lera to take the reins for a little bit. Lera wasn't sure about this, but Caelia was very pleased. Caelia loves carriage rides. She sits up very tall, smiles at everyone she sees and does the best "parade wave" that I have ever seen. My brother, Brandon, was Mr. Columbia Heights and taught her the wave when she was about 3 and she has been doing it ever since.

June 20, 2008 - Would you call this therapy?

I walked past the girl's room and this is what I saw:

Both of the girls really love the dvd, Alvin and the Chipmunks. I like to see them dance but this is the reason for adding plexiglass over the window panes.

June 17, 2008 - One month later...

Well, not quite a month but a very long time since I have posted. It certainly has been busy. We should have a copy of our updated homestudy today and then we are just waiting on the USCIS to give us our approval. I really hope it goes faster this time.

Both Caelia and Lera had their Down Syndrome Clinic appointments. Minneapolis Children's Hospital has a great place to coordinate care for kids with Down syndrome. It was pretty routine for Caelia (she's been here before) but Dr. Moore is a very nice man with lots of suggestions about potty training, nutrition and keeping Caelia from escaping (more about this later).

Valeria's appointment was a bit more complicated. She will need spinal x-rays, a hearing test and an echocardiogram. These are all regular tests for children with Down syndrome that she would have had as she grew - they also reassure mama and daddy that she is alright. Her gait is another issue. I mean the way she walks is a bit odd - especially when she starts to walk fast or run. Dr Moore's diagnosis is that she hasn't developed the neuropathways that are necessary to process the transitions required to walk or run on varying surfaces. I guess what he is saying is that she spent her whole life on concrete floors and very flat orphanage playgrounds in hard leather shoes, so she isn't able to compensate for things like grass and sand and running up hill. The therapy for this is playing in the grass and sand and climbing up hills. We can do this. She may never have the ease of walking that Caelia does but Caelia will never have Lera's talent for climbing.

Valeria climbs like a monkey. She climbs over the wrought iron fence in our front yard and over the deck railing. She climbs up the outside of the stairs. She climbs over the top of anyone in her way to getting to her spot on Daddy's lap. She is teaching these skills to Caelia. We will be putting in a higher fence.

We put in a play area for the girls. We will eventually put in a new climber, for now they have their little tykes play stuff and a sandbox. We put a retaining wall in to pretty up the area and I like being rid of the railroad ties - I always worry about bees. I think it looks nice. The girls played outside the whole time. We looked up at one point from digging to see both girls had stripped naked and were running about in the breeze. They were not happy when we re-dressed them. Caelia was so disgruntled with us that she took herself off to the front yard. After about 5 minutes we went to check on her and could not find her. And although all the gates were locked, we sent Michael out on his bike and I searched the house. Randy got in the van and was just pulling away when I saw him hit his brakes and back up. He got out of the car and pointed. She had never left the yard. She was hiding under the peony bushes. She was mad so she didn't choose to answer when we called her name. I will be really happy when her tracking bracelet arrives.

Caelia has made some wonderful advances since Lera arrived. I can't recall how many hours we worked twisting the tops off of bottles to improve her fine motor skills. She finally did this on her own. I am very proud of her. She decided she wanted to paint (Caelia likes art) so she went to the art cabinet and helped herself to the tempra paint. Brand new bottle (seal intact) of beautiful fire engine red. She opened it and walked through the house dribbling it as she went. She poured a puddle in the kitchen, one in her room and one in Lera's room. I should have known something was up - Lera was whining and saying Caelia and looking very unhappy. So I left the laundry and walked upstairs to see what was happening. I was greeted with little red foot prints trailing across my living room rug. I found Caelia in her room with both arms covered to the elbow in red paint. BATH TIME!!!! Then it was time to steam clean the carpet. Randy asked while we were steam cleaning if I was sure that I wanted another little one? YES. I didn't need to think about the answer much. I may not like cleaning up these messes but I never think of these messes as anything but normal kid messes - they just occur a bit more frequently and a bit longer than other kids. And while, it may be debatable that my little brother Ryan is typical, he managed to set the bathroom on fire trying to perform some sort of Harry Potter magic experiment at the age of 13, so a bit of paint is nothing catastrophic. Neither is food coloring, which she found a week later and poured all over Lera and herself. Too bad it was Father's Day and Randy had taken our camera (and Michael) to the Star Wars exhibit at the Science Museum. Caelia and Lera did look adorable as Easter egg colored girls and oh! did I wish I had the camera.

Kids will be kids. And I know that I will have many opportunities to photograph their messes in the future. Until then I will make sure to pick out furniture and carpet that washes or hides stains well. Won't wear white t-shirts and pants. And will plant the flower gardens with plants that aren't poisonous and have enough flowers for little girls to pick them and give them to everyone they see.