Building…rebuilding…

May 12th, 2014

 

So much has happened since I last brought you up to date, my friends, and there are big, thrilling plans on our horizon.

As you will observe in the photos, videos, and commentary to come, with the exception of one very sad day, spirits have been running high around here over the past weeks.

We’re identifying areas of life that need remedial work and tackling them with a will.

We’re learning how to be a happy and flourishing family of a growing child with severe physical, cognitive and behavioral disabilities.  Learning which supports we need to enable the flourishing to happen.

We are more nurturing of one another and more of a cohesive team than we have ever been before.

We’ve had little glimpses of incredible maturity developing among our older children, and that is so good to see.

We’re not all the way there yet, friends.  We haven’t yet solved the problem of Sundays, or of Sleep and Exercise for Mom.  It can take a long time to put adequate supports in place for families living with special needs.  But overall, we’re well on our way, and it is a joyous thing.

One of our older children summed it up recently by stating simply, “I like being the family we are now.”

All praise to God, who gives His people…

“…beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

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Without further ado, some favorite photos from the past several months~

 

Going back to the last day of February, which you will recall was the day of Joseph and Lindsay’s wedding rehearsal, behold, the parents of the groom…

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…with their little baby bean.

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A few favorite shots from the auspicious day~

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Leftover wedding bouquets graced our home for a few days.

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Little Miss Verity~

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An inspiration from the time I spent in the hospital with Tommy~

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Caregiver cheat sheets, ever changing~

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The line-up looks a bit different now than it did back then~

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This video is a long one, but it will be fun to watch if you are interested in seeing Tommy and Katie during a quiet Sunday supper at home.

 

John Michael, eight years old, wanted to work straight through lunch.

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We haven’t been able to find a dental surgeon who’s willing to do as much of Tommy’s dental work as possible while he has severe osteoporosis.  Waiting for oral surgery hasn’t been a problem for Katie, since her issues are all cosmetic, but Tommy’s disaster-area mouth is another story.  We’re pushing for this as hard as we can, and our family dentist is helping as best he can.

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For the next month, we’ll be off school while Katie and Tommy finish off their year.  I’ve already begun using this breathing room to get caught up and maybe even to work ahead in some areas.  Then we’re trying to pack in as much medical stuff as we can between family vacation, Katie’s extended school year days/our summer homeschooling days, and the beginning of the next school year.  We’re going to have to be more flexible with our homeschooling schedule than we had been previously–hitting the books hard on the days when both Katie and Tommy are in school and planning lighter days when Tommy’s home.

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Did you know that I can read to my little ones and wipe off board books at the same time?  Oh the multi-tasking I’ve learned to do as the mother of many small people!

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My creative husband came up with yet another space-saving solution when it was time for Ben to move in with his big brothers.

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Talking with Katie about her upcoming birthday party as I get her ready for school~

 

Katie, where’s your bus?

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Priceless reaction upon finding out that she now has her own keyboard!

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Clear plastic shower curtain liner, the glorious invention that allows me to keep an eye on the children while preventing them from chucking water and toys across the room.

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Tommy is awakened early from a sound sleep, washed, dressed, and waiting for his new nurse so he can attend his first day of school.  Hmmm, doesn’t look too thrilled so far!

What’s this all about, Mom?

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Within the first thirty seconds of meeting Tommy’s teacher for the first time, I could see that she was perfect for him.

And I do mean PERFECT.

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His teacher and I like each other.  His nurse and I like each other.  His teacher and his nurse like each other.  We all love Tommy…

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…and Tommy loves school.  It’s working, friends!

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Bye-bye, Tom-Tom!  I love you!

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Everyone loves working with our happy boy!

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Katie is beginning to use gentle hands with Tikky-Tac instead of shoving her away automatically as soon as she comes within range.

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I sent the camera to school with Tommy’s nurse several times.  She also gives me a thorough run-down of his day after they get back off the bus.

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He’s gone from home for six hours each school day, and so far he has not had a full school week due to staffing problems with the nursing agency.

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I miss him when he’s gone, and keep thinking I hear him at home, like an amputee experiencing phantom feelings in the missing limb.

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I’ve taught him, like I taught all my babies, to place an object into my hand when I hold it out, palm upright, and ask, “May I have it, please?”  It took about nine months, but he got it!

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Katie wasn’t so sure she wanted to share her bus with Tommy at first, but now I can explain the routine to her as I get her ready to go, and she understands when I tell her it’s a day…

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…that Tommy will get on his coat, and go outside, and get on the bus, and go to school…

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…and that she will wait on the rocking chair for Mama while Mama carries Tommy to the bus, until it’s KATIE’S TURN!!

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Meanwhile, a bleary-eyed, pajama-clad Verity eats her breakfast and drinks her ginkgo juice.

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More practice using gentle hands~

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To give you a visual of how much Katie has grown during this past year…the photo below was taken almost exactly a year before those above.

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Stephen’s turn to accompany me on the monthly run to duPont for Tommy’s meds.

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I try to feed my traveling companions well.  <smile>

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Verity is so fun to teach.

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Stephen, age five, is progressing nicely with reading.

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Doodle likes to sing along with the alphabet song.

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She has a deep and abiding love for Tikky-Tac, and Tikky-Tac has come to trust her in return.

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We want her to continue to gain strength and endurance as well as gross motor skills.

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Living on the side of a hill is good for Verity; it makes her work all the harder to get where she needs to go.

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Oops!  You took a tumble!  Say, “I’m okay!”  Stand up and keep walking, Verity!

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Only another parent with a child who spent the first three years in physical therapy will truly appreciate how I feel when I see all Verity has learned to do by herself!  She has worked so hard and come so far just within the past year!

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Back up the hill she trudges.

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Work so hard, Verity!  You can do it!

“I can do it!” says Verity.

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Back down the hill again, this time to the swingset.

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Because Mama is going to give you a lesson in pumping your legs when you swing!

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Sand table time!  Yay hurray!

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Tommy loves his Mama-squeezes, and in return he giggles, croons, and pats my back.

What a sweet boy, Tom-Tom.  Mama loooooves you.

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I finally got my act together to try a nifty idea I read a long time ago on the blog of another T21 mom.

And commenced to give Verity her first real reading lesson.  She loved it, although a good part of the time you might have thought she wasn’t paying very close attention.

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After half an hour or forty-five minutes or so, it occurred to me to grab the camera and videotape, and am I ever glad I did!  I would have doubted my eyes and ears and memory if it hadn’t been captured for posterity.

 

Over the past couple of months, Tommy has made incredible progress with speech.

During all his years of neglect, no sound he made had any impact on his environment; his brain stopped connecting his own vocalizations with the outside world.  He came home with a variety of vocal expressions that gave us a clue as to how he was feeling, but were not purposeful communications, and in fact, he showed no sign that he was aware that he was making any sounds at all.  When we copied him, for instance, we received a blank, uncomprehending stare in return.

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He has attempted to purposefully communicate with us in several ways recently.

When he receives lots of prompting and is focused, he can now sign “all done” when he’s finished eating.  He’s demonstrated this a couple of dozen times now, not consistently.

He has begun to purposefully mimic sounds, from me saying, “Uh huh,” to his own fussing sounds (with a big smile on his face), to noises the other children in his classroom make.  This is a big step toward vocal awareness, so exciting to see!

He now fusses when he wants me to get him down from standing.  He waits patiently until he hears or sees me coming, then fusses to let me know he is d.o.n.e.

He has begun to say, “Mama,” and most of the time, it seems that he is saying it in connection with me.  For instance, when I check in on him before I go to bed, if he wakes up, he’ll give his infectious giggle and say, “Mama.”

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He passed the ten pound weight gain mark in March, and seems to be growing again right now, despite a doctor-recommended two week break from anti-nausea meds, which means some vomiting again.

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He got home from school before we were finished with our BiblioPlan map activity, so he joined us at the table.

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Stephen and Tommy are friends.

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Feeding her dolly breakfast and ginkgo juice.

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Little boys, sunshine, bare feet, a sandbox~

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Tommy had to get used to the seesaw before he relaxed and felt sure he would not fall.

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Now it’s one of his favorite outdoor activities!

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Mama went a little crazy with the Sharpie again, this time to label, label, label for Verity.  It was a delight to see how thrilled she was to find the names of everything appearing before her eyes!

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Watch Tommy copy Ben.

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My boy has a million-dollar smile.

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Goofy guys~

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Benjamin turns one year old.

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We can’t imagine our family without this funny, determined, precocious, confident, affectionate, loud miniature being in it.

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These bird’s nests fell out of their respective trees during a hard rainstorm.

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Laura rigged up this cute piggyback swing.

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We have a temporary moat in front of our castle when the water table is high.  Oh, those children?  Just some local urchins…

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Joshua’s asparagus planting has provided us with tender, juicy, sweet stalks this year.  He is working full time for a local landscaping business when the weather permits, and has a temporary fulltime position on the table from another local employer, so he fits in his outdoor work here in the evenings now.

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This is what our lunch table looked like a couple of Fridays ago.  The place was deserted, but Verity and I loved having each other all to ourselves for a little while.  Well, other than the 1 1/2 hours’ worth of phone calls making medical and other appointments…

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Katie and Tommy were in school, Jane and Laura were off reading somewhere, Ben was sleeping, the older guys were all at work, and the four little boys were with some friends at the park for Fun Friday!

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Our beloved pastor was married for the first time in a simple Sunday evening ceremony.

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What a privilege to witness that special occasion…

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…along with other friends and family who love him and his beautiful bride.

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We learned the hard way that it would have been a better idea to plan for Tommy to stay home with a sitter.

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Small and crowded venue…very overstimulated and shrieking child…chilly and windy outdoors…

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Joe ended up running Tommy and my younger sister back home to stay for the remainder of the evening.

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If the weather and schedule permit, we like to go for a walk when Tommy gets off the bus.  He arrives home an hour earlier than Katie does.

This photo and the next one were taken by Mindy Walls, a starving college student and temporarily adopted daughter who’s living with us this summer.  We’re loving having her with us–she tolerates our crazy family with amazing aplomb–and hope to fatten her up a bit before she leaves us in the fall.  And we’re already benefitting from having a student from a photography school living here!  I’m going to identify her photos with her name from here on out.

Note:  Mindy is not the young woman who offered to come and help us; she’s a local girl who is part of our church.  After Tommy started school, we would have had a bad conscience asking someone to invest that much in us when we were no longer desperate for help.  A couple of weeks before Mindy arrived, we heard that she had no place to stay for the summer and we knew she’d be a good fit.  Our sis-in-law helped turn the downstairs of our playroom into a temporary bedroom. 

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I wasn’t able to get him to focus on the horse.  Hmmmm, there’s a goal to work toward…

 

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It’s become obvious to us that it’s time to move forward with plans to add on to the house, primarily to provide a first floor bedroom for Tommy.  We plan to go ahead and make it a full addition, with basement and second floor.  We’ll have to cut back into the hill behind the house.

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This photo shows you the view where I carry first Tommy, then Katie, down the front stairs, across the yard and down the little hill to the spot where the bus stops, right there in front of Daniel’s car.  And then back up again when they come home.  And then sometimes there are other trips up and down the hill, either in front of or behind the house.  Rain or shine, slippery or dry.

Our whole current plan hinges on my physical ability to continue to do this lifting and carrying.  A recent wrist injury alerted us to the urgency of moving ahead with our big plans rather than hoping I’m able to continue throughout the next school year as Tommy continues to grow heavier and more active.

As you can imagine, we’re thrilled about this project, and ideas are flying every which way!

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As the end of the homeschooling year came in sight, we all gravitated outdoors more and more.

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Now we can tell which is which, if we want to.  <grin>

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These two guys were the same size last summer.  Tommy’s growing faster than Stephen is.

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This little table is just the right size for them this summer, and they’re so delighted with it!

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Many of the children pitched in to help spread the mulch.  Ellie, Joshua’s gorgeous, laughing Golden Retriever puppy, is right in on the action as usual.

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The girlies are waiting for their annual Down syndrome bloodwork.  Both of them did so well, and were both smiling again shortly after their little ouches.

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Meanwhile, Mindy stayed with the rest of the children out in duPont’s playground.  No, she’s not our new household slave–she had a free choice about whether to come along with us that day–but what a tremendous help it was to be able to allow the children to play outside rather than tagging along to the appointments.

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Seeing this platform swing put it to the top of my wish list for Tom-Tom.  Actually, the wish list had only one thing on it–an adaptive swing seat.  But one of these platform swings would stay useful no matter how heavy he grows in the future.  Right now, the way he gets to swing at home is on my lap, which we both enjoy, but of course that situation won’t last, either.

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An online friend blessed us with this fancy feeding chair when we brought Katie home, and it’s been perfect for Tommy’s needs!  It tilts, folds up, swivels on a dime…he can even sit down near the toys while getting his tube feeding.

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We’re going to try to find little Doodle a broom the right size for her by the time her birthday gets here.  She loves that old thing, but it can be a weapon in her hands!

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James is getting over his shyness with Tommy, little by little.

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Mindy Walls herself.  We love you, Mindy!

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Sooooo close…

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…to the finish line!

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Jane’s taking video with a camera inside a ziplock bag.  It worked better than you might guess.

Ellie, get off the road!

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Ellie, get off the road!

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Ellie, get off the road!

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Ellie, get off the road!

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Ellie, AKA swamp monster, wouldn’t stop going on the road, so Joshua had to tie her back up.

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It was another fine day for a walk when Tommy got home from school last Friday.  Beautiful day, last day of the Mussers’ homeschooling year 2013-2014.

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Hey kids, let’s go up to the bridge and back before Katie gets home!

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To the bridge…

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…and back.

We arrived home in time to get Katie off the bus.  I pushed her on the swing for about forty-five minutes and was walking her up the front steps to the porch when a tractor trailer turned into our road.  Peter, Stephen, Joshua and I all watched in helpless horror as Ellie ran into the road just in front of it.  I hope never again to witness traumatic scenes like those that followed as if in slow motion.  My yelling to Joshua, the truck driver pulling over, great sobs forcing their way out of me at the sight of Ellie’s injuries, my son bending by my side over his beloved pet, the neighbors gathering around us to be of help, the drive to the vet, praying all the way that she would be in shock and not feel pain, the words of the vet, euthanasia

Joshua dug a deep hole in a special spot up in the woods and placed a three hundred pound stone over her grave.  It was a hard day, friends, and there’s an empty place here now where there used to be a happy dog surrounded by happy children.

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Ben’s still nursing full speed ahead as he enters his second year.  As I contemplate his first year, I think this surely must go down as one of the most marvelous, inexplicable mysteries of my life.

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This is progress.  She still removes pillowcases, but she no longer throws the pillows out of her bed and she now puts her head on them to sleep!

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Tommy, I’m going to have to put you down and give Katie a push!

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Tommy doesn’t mind.

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Tommy’s turn again!

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Katie, give me ten!

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Thank you for reading, friends, and for continuing to care about our family!  Please stay tuned over the next weeks as I share how the Pleven orphanage is in urgent need of financial help in order to provide babas and therapists for the children, who currently have none.  Dr. Georgieva has come to us for help, and I’m praying that we can rise up together and get the job done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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34 Responses to “Building…rebuilding…”

  1. Tami C says:

    Wow!!  What a wonderful post.  Thank you for sharing so much with us.  I was going to comment on a picture I loved, but then there was another, and then another…!  :) 
    What a treat to watch Katie loving the music in the video; so precious.  She listens so intently.   (I am wondering about her cup – why the cutout in the side?  Is that to provide an opportunity for her to strengthen her thinking skills and practice careful dexterity in holding the cup a certain way?
    Praise the Lord about Tommy and school!  I’m so glad to hear he is loving it. 
    And Verity in the bathtub – how very sweet!  What a great job she did, picking out her name and saying the correct words.  Obviously, you are providing a wonderful opportunity for her to be thinking and learning, but I am feeling – ignorant – and would love to learn from you.  That exercise and all the labeling – what are you teaching?  Because I know she can’t be reading…  is this a visual aid to help her understand that objects have names? Or…??  (Sorry to be clueless…)  At any rate, you are doing a FANTASTIC job!!!!  Your children are so blessed to have such a diligent, caring, patient mama.
    Much much love & prayers!
     

  2. Warriorbride says:

    You are the epitome of  Proverbs 31, Susanna. I am so blessed seeing your beautiful family and hearing you on the video – always teaching, always pouring love into your babies. You are such an inspiration to me. May the Lord strengthen you and rest you and provide your every need as you do His work in these precious lives. I love you and miss you!

  3. Lauren says:

    Great post, but one security concern-  take out the picture of Verity with your license plate number in it, that is something one with bad intentions could use to find you.

  4. Susanna says:

    Thank you, Lauren, but we do have our home address listed on the sidebar of the blog, and even were we to take that down, it’s easy enough to find an old page cached, so we’re continuing to trust God concerning those with evil intentions. I don’t say this casually, and I’m not writing off your kind concern for us casually, because we have experienced serious threats and been protected by God in very big ways behind the scenes. He’s bigger than the enemy and we’re trusting in Him. Reading about David’s trust in Him has been so strengthening to me at those times, and so has this verse: I Peter 3:14 “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.'”

  5. Susanna says:

    Miss you, too, Joy! I actually published this accidentally and am making it private now until I can finish it! xoxoxox

  6. Susanna says:

    Tami, she’s at the beginning of the process of learning to read. Children with Down syndrome can learn to read, and as visual learners they learn first by memorizing sight words, and then later on, they may or may not learn phonics.

    The “nosey” cup provides a way for the parent or teacher to see what’s going on while the child is learning to drink correctly. :)
    Love you, friend!

  7. Deanna says:

    We were heartbroken getting Joshua’s text messages.  We are praying.
    I am so happy about Mindy staying with you all this summer!  It is going to be life changing for her!  I love her photos of the children!  God is good.
    Miss seeing you regularly – hope to see you Thursday!
     

  8. Shari says:

    Love this update and how hope-filled you all seem to be these days.  Thanks be to God!

  9. Tami C says:

    Susanna, thanks for answering my questions!  I am so happy to pick up little tidbits like that that might be useful around here someday.  I had to laugh though, because when I said Verity “couldn’t be reading”, I wasn’t thinking about DS at all!  I was thinking that she was so young that of course you wouldn’t be teaching her to read yet!  :D   I guess if I’m remembering correctly she is closing in on 5, though, isn’t she?  She just looks so tiny and sweet!  I have no doubt that you will have her reading the encyclopedia some day.  I was just under the impression that it would be later rather than sooner!  (You put me to shame, dear friend….)
    So very sorry about Ellie.  I’ll be praying for comfort for your kiddos.

  10. Rebekah D. says:

    Susanna, I LOVE your posts! Especially the really long detailed ones!  :-D  Your children are beautiful and obviously thriving. I am encouraged and motivated by the things you’ve shared… even though my family is in a different season of life (with all young children) your post encourage me to “excel still more” in faithfulness. Thank you so much! I’m glad that your family is doing so well and finding yourselves in a season of joy and blossoming instead of painful trials… those times are necessary, but thankfully temporary.   :)   

  11. Missy says:

    My condolences to all of you on the loss of Ellie. When Joshua heals a bit and wants another, there are wireless electric fences that will train a dog to stay in the yard.
    Oh my Katie! I was so tickled to watch her. Her chewing is really good and I love watching her interact with you and Tommy and the MUSIC. When she heard the piano parts her little body just quivered. She could tell that sound from all the others. I couldn’t do that until I was grown up!
    Tommy is also very interactive and not in a random way. I was impressed with his looking at you and trying to get in on the attention, even if he had to bug Katie to get it. :)
    I am excited that you may be extending your house. I can imagine that planning and thinking about it is great fun. What one thing do you want most, besides a bedroom on the first floor? And don’t forget the hot tub! :) 
     

  12. Susanna says:

    Missy, the addition would be a modest size and be planned to solve some ongoing logistical problems with laundry, trash and storage. We’re thinking a small mudroom off the back of the kitchen to hold the trash receptacles, coats, and shoes, and possibly a small bedroom upstairs, but the main additional upstairs space would be the laundry/family clothing room idea I’ve been talking about and refining for years–moving all the clothing out of the bedrooms and hall closet and into one room with all the laundering facilities. Right now, we have no mudroom, no buffer between country outdoor dirt and our living space, our coats and shoes are in a tiny unfinished storage area you can only get to by going through the downstairs bathroom, our laundry machines are in our unfinished basement with dirty stone walls and part dirt floor that has water trickling through it whenever it rains. :) No stain-treating/laundry-folding counter, no hanging area, no utility sink, no ironing area. All these tools permanently set up in one place on the level where we dress ourselves would enable us to streamline the process *considerably,* which for us means more time for the people who live here and less time spent on logistics. All the rooms but Tommy’s bedroom will probably remain unfinished for a while, though.

    Thanks for asking! It’s fun to dream about, but I don’t have my heart set on it! We’ve been managing! I’m not complaining! It’s better than a stream to wash clothes in and bushes to dry them on!

  13. Susanna says:

    Tami, no worries, my friend! Verity turns four years old next month, and is so ready to learn to sight-read!

  14. Sue says:

    Hi Susanna,
    I am a long time reader, but I don’t think I have commented before.  This post was so heartwarming to see the progress that Tommy and Katie are making.  I just wanted to mention that I bought a real broom, not a child’s broom, that is little at Ace Hardware.  I realize that they all carry different items but it might be a good place to check for a little broom for Verity.  I bought it for my grandchildren’s playhouse and needed something small for them, but one that could really sweep.
    My little niece has DS and is a great reader {age 9}  I think she is at a nice middle first grade level.  Verity looks well on her way!

  15. Holly D. says:

    I love the video of Katie eating.  What a huge huge deal to see that big girl eating all by herself and drinking. I am amazed at how far she has come and she looks so happy and is definitely learning. You can tell she is listening intently to the music and to you, and taking it all in. She is so precious eating those strawberries.  Thank you so much for my privilege of seeing her in that video.  The way she and Tommy “calm” down when you tell them is also evident. They are “learning.”  I hope that you still intend to one day do the full Katie Bday update or what you talked about a while ago. I cannot get enough of that kid :)  Not sure if you’re on facebook, but wondering if you would consider it.  If you sign up for facebook and add your friends, family, blog readers, you could actually have private posts just for certain groups of friends, or family, or you can make everything public.  The reason I want you to sign up is because there is a site called http://www.gofundme.com.  You, or anyone else, can sign up for this for FREE. Then anyone who feels led can contribute toward your “cause” through a secured paypal link.  It would be “easy” for peope to donate.  I would volunteer to do your write up, which I would approve through you first, and then we can get you set up for this.  I think this should be your “home addition funding site.” You have to have facebook to do this, I believe.  Readers can then share the button on their own facebook accounts and you could get even more donations.  I think we blog readers should take a vote on this.  Please comment on this blog readers as to whether you think this is a good idea and whether you would donate for the home addition cause.
     
     

  16. Kendra says:

    Enjoyed catching up with your family. Everyone is growing so beautifully. Baby Ben…so handsome! I am sorry about your beloved dog…so sad. 

  17. Merechel says:

    I enjoyed this update tremendously!  I am so grateful that you still carve out time to post every month, even if you have to lose sleep to do so.  I love those foam tub sight word shapes!  I am going to make some!  I am glad Tommy and Katie are enjoying school, and my hat is off to you for finishing the home school year well in spite of all obstacles!  I know how hard that must be.  (We will be schooling all summer due to delays because of surgery I had in November–I cannot imagine how in the world your family persevered with multiple factors that could have caused delays!  But I am all admiration.)  How sweet to see your beautiful Verity growing and learning so well.  She makes me smile!  I am so sorry about Ellie.  How sad!   
    This is completely off topic, and I don’t usually do things like this, since it was not the point of your post, but…where did you get the wonderful swing set?  My children gather around the computer whenever there is a Musser family update, and we all admired the swing set greatly!!

  18. Jay says:

    I hope that Joshua gets a new dog when he feels it is the right time. A dog is a wonderful addition to the house. 

  19. Susanna says:

    Merechel, here is where we purchased it: http://www.aaastateofplay.com/heavy-duty-modern-tripod-swing-12-foot/

    We got the model with four bays, the biggest, tallest, strongest swing we could find. :) We love it. The kids are outside right now swinging in and out of the sprinkler spray and whooping and hollering. Our poor neighbors; we are definitely THAT family. Haha.

  20. Rachel says:

    Oh, wonderful update! I just love your posts. Every single one of your children is so beautiful!
    And I’m so sorry about Ellie. That is so painful, I know. Whoever says, “It’s just a dog” never had the right kind of dog!
    I’ll betcha many years from now, this summer will be a huge highlight in your young friend Mindy’s memories. What a great experience!

  21. Joni says:

    Thanks for the full post! I enjoy following your blog – am absolutely amazed with your talents! Oh, as you talk about your addition – we had privilege to rent a home for a while which had the greatest setup as far as mud/laundry room. As you walk in from the ‘back door’ (which had an overhang outside the door, so really muddy boots could even be removed there, temporarily) there was mudroom with lots of organized hooks and some shelves on the right side; there was a small bathroom on the left (right by the outside door- so handy for kids coming in for a quick potty stop!) Then as you continue in was laundry with lots of cupboards, and a shower off the left side of the laundry room. All kids showers were taken there- so, so handy to be able to handle all laundry needs from the same room. You’ll love your addition! I’m so happy for you!

  22. So grateful for this update. There tends to be two reasons blogs go quiet….one: your living life large and loving it….or two: things are really, really tough and its hard to find the words to share what’s really going on…So glad to hear its the former for your family! Why does Katie take her pillowcase off? Because its a puzzle SHE can solve! Great job, Katie!

  23. Kristin says:

    Love all of the pictures!  So fun to see the joy and fun you’ve been able to have after the long, hard months.  And I’m so excited about your addition…..that will be so nice :)

  24. Sigrun says:

    Nice to see all the pictures.  Just curious – what is in Verity’s “ginko juice”?  I’d be interested in giving my daughter ginko biloba, but haven’t found any that doesn’t taste horrible.  And what do they have checked on their annual bloodwork?  My daughter gets her thyroid checked a few times a year (she takes medication), but is there something else that gets looked at?

  25. T.J. says:

    Does having Katie and Tommy go to school (with their wonderful teachers) interfere with their bonding with you and your husband? I know you have worked so hard on that with them.

  26. Susanna says:

    Hello Sigrun! Verity’s ginkgo juice does taste terrible, but I guess she’s used to the bitter flavor since we’ve been giving it to her since she was an infant. :) We’ve increased it slowly, so she’s getting two capsules daily in that breakfast drink. It’s just water flavored with a little juice smoothie and has her ginkgo in it. She gets her other supplements in child-friendly forms.

    Verity’s RX for her bloodwork says CBCD, CMP, vit. D, thyroid–T4, TSH. Katie’s has a few additional items because of her other health conditions.

  27. Susanna says:

    Thanks for this very good question, T.J. Tommy seems to be bonding well with me and Joe is continuing to work on it. He has the unenviable and unrewarding job of doing Tommy’s first-morning care and late-night care, when Tommy is super grouchy at being disturbed from his sleep, so he tries to make up for it when he can in the few hours he has with him in the evenings after he gets home from work. We weren’t concerned about school interrupting the bonding process for several reasons. In fact, our primary concern was actually that he would be liked, for many reasons we haven’t listed in one place on the blog,

    Bonding is the number one concern we have for Katie, with her mild but real RAD issues, and her entire school team is very aware of this. We have strict guidelines regarding staff interactions with her written right into her IEP with other program modifications. Her teacher has taken this very seriously and it is an ongoing concern for him as he cares about her well-being. Because of Katie coming into his classroom, he began educating himself about post-adoption mental health issues. He went to a local seminar series to learn more about bonding and attachment issues in adoption, and educated his staff and anyone else who comes in contact with Katie. He’s really an unusual human being. Perfect for Katie. So we haven’t seen regression due to school as we actually have seen after other social situations where I wasn’t being vigilant enough and people unknowing crossed barriers that are major triggers for her.

  28. Susanna says:

    K and Holly D, words fail me as I marvel again at the kindness of people whom we have never even met.  I don’t want you to think I’m ignoring your offers or suggestions, as we’re thinking over how to best respond.  Thank you so much for caring about us and our children!

  29. Colleen says:

    What a mighty God we serve! Many answers to prayer were shared it this post! I believe I will read it again tomorrow, videos and all! 
    I am sorry for the loss of your sweet pup. Thank you so much for sharing and I will continue to pray for you, adding the addition to the list. The Lord uses your blog to challenge, convict, and encourage me. I am so grateful to have you as a sister in Christ. Much love to you all. 

  30. Melissa says:

    I am so very sorry to hear about precious Ellie. May your family be comforted by their memories of her in the days and weeks to come.
     
    On happier notes, I said “Wow!” aloud when I saw how much Katie has grown. Incredible!! She looks so adorable all dressed up. That’s what prospective adoptive parents should see in their minds eye–looking past a person that the world wouldn’t take a second look at to who they can be! Not in an unrealistic way, but that everyone has potential.  Tommy is an incredible example of that as well–he’s beginning to speak! WOW!! Perhaps his bodily needs are being so lovingly looked after that he’s finally able to concentrate on more than just surviving…which is the whole point, isn’t it? :)
    Ben is just a little younger than my son. We celebrated my guy’s first birthday recently too, and it was a great, great day. Happy Birthday Ben! And you too, big girl Katie!
     
    I love love love the daisies in the bathtub! So proud of you Miss Verity! Like I said, my guy is just over a year, but we are encouraging a lot of reading, letters, etc. already.  Not that I’m pushing him to be a genius or anything (LOL) but I just want him to be comfortable with reading. I read at an early age and my folks tell me they didn’t really have a strategy, they just read to me constantly. I don’t remember learning to read so I’m just introducing words as much as I can (I love the Sharpie craziness; I might do that too :) ).
     
    How exciting, a new addition to the house (to the house itself for once! hee hee)! Hope it all goes smoothly.
     
    I’m alarmed by your words about Pl#v#n. A boy that I keep thinking about lives there.  Praying!!

  31. Kristi says:

    I love this post! And can I just say how absolutely BEAUTIFUL and YOUNG you look in that profile picture of you with your husband and Ben?! Wow, you look 20! So great to see how well things are going, would you attribute that mainly to Katie and Tommy being in school, or…? God bless you!

  32. Kristi says:

    *by “profile picture” I mean the picture of YOUR profile, the side of your face! :)

  33. Lauren S. says:

    I think Holly D’s suggestion of a GoFundMe project is a great idea.  I hope there would be a lot of blog readers who would contribute!

  34. Anna T says:

    Lovely pictures as always and loved “catching” up with you!!  Jacob LOVES our broom and swiffer vac, I purchased a broom his size off of Amazon…love seeing Verity walk up and down the hill…everyone is growing so nicely…((Hugs)), prayers and love to you and yours dearest Susanna!!  

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