Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Alright, Stop. Collaborate and Listen.

Nothing makes an evening quite so memorable as singing karaoke without a drop of liquid courage.

That was the situation I found myself in last night at my monthly Mom's Night Out.  On the last Tuesday of the month, you can find me with a great group of friends eating, talking and laughing till entirely too long past my bedtime.

This month we followed up our meal with karaoke.

And yes, fellow readers of my generation, the title of this post was a reference to Vanilla Ice's hit Ice Ice Baby, which I sang with great joy, but little talent last night in front of a crowd of friends and strangers.  I will admit to wasting much too much of my life learning the words.  But, the song instantly transports me back to Junior High when I though it was the coolest thing I had ever heard.

I haven't sung karaoke since three children ago, and was nervous.  But, my personal karaoke philosophy is to pick a song that you don't really need any musical ability to perform and you will do okay.  I think it helps to pick out songs that everybody used to love, but now claim are incredibly lame.  You know they still love them.  Even if they are much too cool to admit to liking said song, their lips still move along to the words.

More important than my singing performance was the fact that I was with a bunch of friends.  Over a year ago, I organized a group that meets once a month.  Sometimes there are many people.  Sometimes there are a few.  But, a night out with them is a splurge that I look forward to all month.

Since the date is standard, we don't have the huge issue of scheduling.  You know what I mean.  The "Lets get together sometime."  "Sure, I'll check my schedule."  But nothing ever happens because there is never a date when everyone can get together.  There are about 20 people invited each month, and they each come when they can.

Women in general, and moms in particular, have a tendency to talk themselves out of fun.  When confronted with the option of going out, immediately a woman will think about all the backed up housework she has, work commitments, and the social and extra-curricular activities of their children.  She will think about her husband's schedule and how to squeeze something else in.  She will often think, "I'm just too busy" without taking into account that a night out with girlfriends is exactly what she needs to recharge.

I know that's how women think because that's what I used to do.  Ben is my husband and best friend, but he's a boy.  He doesn't always understand or care about girl things.  Women, when they get together can relate to each other in a totally different (not better or worse, just different) way than a woman can relate to her husband.  I can't survive without girlfriends.  And I realized that I don't want to turn into a middle aged woman who doesn't have good friends.

Admit it.  What is your favorite song to sing - either in karaoke or just in the car?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Media, Media Everywhere

I am sick of not being able to go anywhere without some giant screen facing me.  You'd think with so many people super-glued to their smart phones, there would be less of a need for ginormous, loud, obnoxious televisions infiltrating every formerly quiet area.

Be prepared.  I am ready to step up on my soapbox.  If you are not in the mood for a rant, you might wish to politely stop reading and wait for a less frustrated post.


Still with me?

First, I want to say that I don't hate television.  In moderation, it is a fun diversion.  However, I feel extraordinarily frustrated when my children and myself are being bombarded with it constantly.  They don't need to watch a video in the doctor's waiting room.  They don't need to see an endless commercial loop at Wal-Mart.  They don't need to watch TV during a rare trip to a restaurant.  And they certainly don't need a screen with video games set up at the library.  The LIBRARY!  Jeesh.

My children should be able to behave and amuse themselves for a few moments.  Worst case scenario, they can actually talk with me while we wait.  I really don't mind.

I am absolutely against TVs in the car.  There.  I said it.  I know I am in the minority here, but I don't want one at all.  Even if it was in the budget, I'd say, "negatory, good buddy."

Airplanes are a different story.  Children have the potential to annoy numerous people who paid hundreds or thousands of dollars to sit in a near-fetal crouch and wait eagerly for hours for a 1/2 can of Coke in a plastic cup.  By all means, do whatever is necessary to avoid agitating everyone at 30,000 feet.

But in your own car, they only annoy your own family.  And that is why we go on family road trips, isn't it?

Yes, I have been on road trips with five children.  I have been in a moving vehicle for 12 hours a day with my children.  I have listened to, "He's touching me." and "How much longer?" in the most cringe-inducing whine imaginable.  I still don't want a TV in my vehicle.  Or individual video games.  Or smart phones that can do just about everything except useful stuff like laundry. 

What better way to get family conversations going than when there is nothing else to do and no escape at 55 mph?  How many opportunities do we have to have for distraction free time together?  Except for the driver, of course.  He or she should most surely stay distracted from family time and instead focus on other cars, curves in the road and flashing lights. 

One of the best road trips ever involved us driving four children (all under age 8 at the time) from Branson, MO to Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN in one day.  My kids had no other option than to play with their nearest sibling.  They had a handful of quiet toys, and they used their imaginations.  Kids still have those.  Really, they do!

Which brings me to last weekend's adventure.  We had a few unscheduled scenic routes on our mini-vacation.  Okay, we got lost.  The kids weren't idyllically playing quietly in the backseat.  They were annoying each other and me.  Obviously, we "are not there yet" if the truck is still moving.

Then I explained to my children about the Oregon Trail.  Yes, the five month odyssey that families went on in the mid 1800's in search of a plot of land and a chance at back-breaking manual labor.

If my children were on the Oregon Trail westward, they would be loaded up in the wagon (if they were lucky enough not to have to walk) for months at a time.  The wagon was bumpy, dusty and hot.  There was little room to move.  They would have nothing to do, except work, for days and days at a time.  They would be thirsty constantly with nary a slushy to parch their throats.  And they would be lucky if they didn't die from smallpox or cholera.

In light of that, I think my kids can survive a few hours without television in the car.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mini-Vacation Weekend

This past weekend Ben and I had our first entire day by ourselves, with no schedule or responsibilities since about three children ago.  We took a weekend trip up North because we found a great online deal for a two night stay at a hotel suite. 

The first night, we dropped the children off at Ben's parents house.  This was the first time we left Veronica overnight.  I had been concerned, but she did beautifully.  I think it was a huge help having her brothers and sister with her.

The next day, Ben and I had hours upon hours to do with as we chose.  We decided to take a car trip and just stop at whatever struck our fancy.  We ended up passing an auction house that had a sale that day.  I had never been to an auction before, but Ben was an old pro.

I'm ready to bid on something.  Anything.

The auction took several hours, so we stayed to watch them auction off boats and ATVs.  Then we left during the gun and bear trap sales.  Seriously, these bear traps were scary!  Huge, rusted metal death traps.  The one we saw auctioned off before we left sold for $350.

After a leisurely lunch in which I cut up only my own food and didn't wipe up a single spill, we returned to the auction.  I was giddy with the thrill of bidding on something.  I had been eying up a box of cookbooks.  I am a sucker for cookbooks, the older, the better.  This box had some old church cookbooks and some newer glossy color books.

By the time the cookbooks were ready to sell, all the big ticket items had gone.  These giant carts with boxed items (like my cookbooks) were being sold.  The auctioneer asked if anyone wanted anything on the cart and he started the bidding at $2.50.  Feeling flush with vacation money, I told Ben I was willing to go up to $5.  Maybe $7.50.  I was so eager to make eye contact with the auctioneer and casually raise my hand, thus dashing the hopes of the other wannabe cookbook buyers.  I handed my box to the auctioneers helper.  In a blur of words I don't quite know if I understood, I realized that I was the only  one there who wanted the cookbooks.  Yay that I didn't have to pay more than $2.50.  Bummer that I couldn't actually raise a bid.  I was content with my purchase, but a little disappointed by the lack of others' enthusiasm for my treasure.

Why yes, there is a Chinese cookbook included in the bunch.

A second auctioneer was outside the warehouse auctioning off piles of junk on a cart.    Amid the unidentifiable rusted tools and parts, I spotted it.  I had to have it.  I didn't know what I would use it for, but it called to me.  "Kristin.  Buy us.  Love us.  Make us useful again."  It was a couple of large plastic containers full of keys.  No, not decorative and pricey skeleton keys, but run-of-the-mill house keys, car keys and misc. who-knows-what keys.  I needed them.  And they needed me.

Ben was skeptical, but as he had found his own box of useless stuff (I mean treasure) he guiltily supported my decision on the keys.  Once again, I was shocked that nobody else wanted them.  I spent my $2.50 and didn't get to outbid anyone else.

Lots and lots of useless keys.


I am still convinced that I will be able to find a craft use for these keys.  If any of you brilliant readers has a suggestion, I would love to hear it. I'm thinking maybe of decorating a picture frame.

Included in the key box was an old combination lock with no combination.  You may be thinking that is a useless item, but you would be wrong.  A creative Momma can figure out lots of brilliant, but cheap ways to entertain her children.

I told my kids that I would put $5 (An absolute fortune for them) in their collection boxes for church if they could show me that they were able to open the lock.  Yes, I require proof.  If they are able to open it and tell me what combination they used, I would give $10 to their church collection box.

They have been busy with that thing for hours.  It was well worth the $2.50 I spent for the keys.

A plastic tote full of pristine, hard-cover children's book rounded out our purchases.  That, was $3.00. We got to outbid the $2.50 bid of the guy next to us who just wanted the plastic tub, not the books.  Score!  I felt the thrill of victory that only raising somebody 50 cents a bid can bring to a person.

That evening, we picked up the kids again and spent the rest of the evening and next morning before check-out time playing in the pool.

Bridget

Riley

Connor

Sawyer

Ben and Veronica

In the "warm" tub

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Miss Veronica Turns Two

Miss Veronica turned two!  I believe she even looks older now.

Since we had a big get-together for her baptism about a month ago, we had a fairly small birthday party for her this year.  We just had immediate family and grandparents over.  Both sets of grandparents were already planning on driving over (about 3 hours)  for Grandparent's Day at the oldest three kids school.


Of course, I made my sweet girl a fancy cake.  As my oldest daughter abhors anything remotely "girly" I haven't made a typically girl cake for many years.  This butterfly cake was fun to make, and since I didn't bother with fondant this time, it was really easy, too.  

Be warned, you may develop a cavity just from looking at the coating of candy on it.  Yes.  Those are jelly beans coating the top.  Yes, the licorice goes all the way around the sides. 







For the kids' supper meals for their birthday, I usually let them choose what they want, within reason.  I draw the line at all candy or junk food.  But, we have had some interesting choices like macaroni and cheese with blueberries on top, hot dogs and pickles, and Ramen noodles with a side of steak.

Since Veronica couldn't yet tell me what she wanted, I chose things I knew she liked.  We had chicken, sweet potatoes, biscuits, and her favorite - cooked spinach.  She had about 1 1/2 cups of cooked spinach.  I finally had to stop her because I knew what that next diaper was going to look like.




Happy Birthday to my Sweet Veronica!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2 Weeks Post-Op

After re-reading my prior post about the Veronica's surgery, I am shocked we survived to this point.  I'm glad I wrote the post when I did, because my memory is already cloudy with just how difficult it was.  Looking back, I think, "Gee, that wasn't so tough!"

At two weeks post-op, Veronica is back to her usual wonderful self.  She is much, much happier now that she is officially restriction-free and doesn't have any pain or discomfort.  Her arm splints are off so she is free to move around freely and climb onto every available chair, slide, rock, etc.

She is also off the liquid and soft-food diet.  She can feed herself again.  We haven't given her anything too hard or crunchy yet; we've decided to ease into that.  She is happy holding a spoon and shoveling anything and everything in.  A new advancement - she is able to drink out of a soft spouted sippy cup by herself now.

We are also grateful to be able to brush her teeth again.  Two weeks without a good teeth led to some pretty stinky breath.  She was positively giddy when she saw her toothbrush again.

Her surgery went well.  Her lip is healed up well and I can tell she is hearing more now that she has ear tubes.  Her palate also healed up well.  Here's what it looks like now, compared to pre-op (which you can see here)



Her uvula is sutured together also, but you'll have to take my word for that.  She wasn't able/willing to open her mouth wide enough for me to get a picture of that.

And, I will officially and publicly declare that I now love her new little smile just as much as her old one.  It took a few days to get used to her new look, but I know she is still absolutely breathtaking.  Don't you agree?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Did You Hear That?

Listen carefully.  Can you hear what I am hearing?  I'll give you a hint.  Its the most wonderful sound in the world.

MAMA!!

With Veronica's lip healed up and her palate closed, she has been babbling and practicing different sounds.  She had been making random mamamama sounds.  But, at the supper table, she pointed right at me and said, "Mama!"  Then, just to be sure everyone knew how clever she was, she repeated it several times.

There's not a whole lot in this world that can fill a heart with more joy than that.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Joys of Potty Training

Potty training isn't the greatest joy of parenting.  The title of this post was a trick.  Did you fall for it?  Did you really think it was joyful?  If so, I'm guessing you are a first time parent who hasn't gone down this road yet.

It is a necessity, for sure, because I doubt my children will want me diapering them up before prom or a job interview.  But, it isn't my favorite.

I remember freaking out with my first child because I knew I would have to "demonstrate" how to go potty.  For someone who still turns on the fan, runs the water and locks the door just to tinkle (even when I am alone in the house), this was a traumatic thought.  Leave the door open for someone to see?  My face is flushed just typing that sentence.  And, I am very protective of my private bathroom time (as described in my Are You Bleeding, Choking or on Fire?  post).

So, my potty training MO has been to show the oldest child how its done and then let each subsequent child train the next.  By the time #2 (yes, that is a potty joke) was ready to potty train, the oldest was eager to show him how big kids use the potty.  This was convenient for me because I was big, uncomfortable pregnant with #3.  (no, that is not a potty joke)

In all honesty, I was not ready to potty train the second child when he was ready.  He was barely two years old and I figured he would just regress anyway when the next child was born about a month later.  I tried convincing him to play with toys instead of going potty.  I pretended I didn't see him banging on the door.  But, it didn't work.  He was ready to go.

Poor boy missed out on all the fanfare given to the oldest.  He got no M&Ms.  He got no stickers.  He got no jubilant potty dance from Mommy.  Instead he got a half-hearted thumbs-up and a "Good job, Buddy." before I laid back on the couch to stretch my sore back.

This pattern repeated for my third and fourth child.  I never really pushed potty training.  I figured they would get it eventually.  If I used cloth diapers I am sure I would feel differently.  And, I have had at least one child in diapers for the past 9 1/2 years.  I have forgotten what it is like to live without wiping another person's butt.

Which brings me to my newest potty adventure.  Veronica is asking to go potty.  Well, not with words because she isn't really talking yet.  But, she grabs herself and points eagerly to the toilet.  As coincidence would have it, pee came out at the same time she was sitting a couple of times.

And so another round of potty training may be starting.

And a tip to my good and faithful readers - DO NOT TEACH YOUR BOYS TO STAND UP TO PEE!  This is one of my biggest pieces of parenting advice.  You may think its cute now, but you will be wiping up those messes around the floor for years if you do.  A friend has also told me a cautionary tale about a fast-falling seat lid and little boy parts.  The visual makes me cringe.

We save standing to pee for those "special" times when we go out to public bathrooms or peeing alongside the road on car trips when they "really, really gotta go."  We have also only purchased books about girls potty training because the boy books show the child standing.  I don't want my boys getting the idea too early that there is a fun way to point and shoot, so to speak.

Save yourself a bunch of aggravation and save a bunch of Lysol.  Sit.  Sit. Sit.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How Can We Afford So Many Kids?

Many people have told me that they would like to have more children, but they just can't afford to (as they are drinking expensive coffee).  Or, they wonder how we can possible afford to raise our family and pay for our adoption.  We are a family of seven people living on one computer programmer income.

So, if you are looking for ways to cut costs, here are some of the big and small things we do:

1.  Frugal grocery shopping - this is such a huge topic (close to my heart) that it will have to be a separate blog post.

2.  Eat at home.  According to Zagat's, nationally people eat out (or have fast food or take-out) an average of 3.1 times per week.  ( http://www.zagat.com/node/3695295 ) If each person's meal with beverage costs an average of $5 (a very conservative guess), That would be over $100 per week and over $5,200 per year for our family.

We do eat out occasionally.  Our family eats out about once per month (usually when we are traveling) and I go out with my friends once per month.  Every couple of weeks I'll take one individual child out to eat on a date.  And Ben and I TRY to go out on a date once a month, usually using a buy-one-get-one free coupon.  Ben also packs a lunch to take to work.  We don't go out for coffee, buy a fun treat at the mall, or go out for ice cream unless it is a specially planned event.

If we spend approximately $75 per month eating out, we save about  $4,300 more than if we went out as much as the typical family.

3.   We buy used vehicles -  and Ben does the maintenance and repair work on them.  This saves oodles of money.   Hooray for a handy husband.

4.  We hang clothes on the line whenever we can.  I read somewhere that it costs about $1 in energy to dry a load of laundry.  Considering I do about 10 loads a week including bedding and towels, I can save quite a bit during the nice days of Spring, Summer and Fall.

5.  Old technology - Our phones aren't smart.  They ring and we answer them.  We have no apps.  We don't text.  We bought our beast of a 65 inch TV for $200 off Craigslist.  Our computer and monitor are, well, ancient and cobbled together.  No flat screen for us; the monitor is about a foot and a half deep.  We bought a used laptop.  We don't own IPads, IPhones or IPods.  We don't have a car navigational system.  We don't own surround sound, nor do we have portable DVD players. We are practically Luddites. 

6.  Just Say "No" to Hot Lunch - Hot lunch at our school costs $3 per meal.  I can pack my children's lunch for an average of $1 per meal. Assuming costs don't change, at about 170 days of school per year from K-8th grade, I will save over $15,000 in lunch money alone for my five children.  If they don't rebel, and still take cold lunch through high school (or buy their own lunch) I'll save nearly $7,000 more. 

7.  Hand-Me-Down Clothes - We have been the fortunate and grateful recipients of many tubs of hand-me-down clothing for the children.  We supplement this clothing with garage sale purchases.  On any given day, the only new clothing my children will be wearing are socks and underwear.  We share the clothes with others when we are done.  Our own clothes are purchased at the 75% off sales at the end of the season.

8.  Cheap Furnishings and Housewares - Here's one of the best little known websites ever:  http://www.twincitiesfreemarket.org/  We have given away things through this site and have gotten many treasures to furnish our house.

We've gotten bunk beds, a Nordic track, a treadmill, our VCR, a small entertainment center, two bookcases, a basketball hoop with stand, shrubs with the nursery tags still on them, a desk, a sewing machine, a business sized mail sorter that I use for scrap booking supplies, and more that I probably can't remember.  When we need to buy furniture, we nearly always buy used.  I love finding an incredibly made, garage sale bargain that often just needs a coat of paint and a little bit of love to look great.

9.  Stick to the List (also known as No New Toys) - My kids know that when they go shopping they will not get a toy, except the occasional garage sale purchase.  Other than birthdays and Christmas, there is no reason to buy a bunch of toys.  Sure, I will buy sidewalk chalk at the beginning of the summer and replace a popped rubber ball, but other than that, I'm not buying them anything.  They are extremely excited when the occasion comes around that they do get a new toy.

10.  Wait and Save - I have my wish list.  I am desperate to replace my yucky, partially melted in spots, (exploding pan of brownies - long story) circa 1968 Formica counter top with Silestone.  I've been dreaming about this for years.  However, it isn't in the budget now; we have other priorities.  We'll save and some day we'll replace it.  My washing machine is, shall we say it - temperamental.  After a load is done I often have to turn the dial back to the spin cycle and give the poor thing a jump start by manually moving the drum. It will need replacing.  Soon.  But I can get by for now.  Yes, we have enough money saved up to buy these things right now if we wished, but they are not our current financial priorities.

Our home has been in various stages of construction practically since we moved in.  We complete projects as time and money permit.  I'd rather wait and save till I can pay for my purchases.  By not buying immediately, we can be sure we are in a good financial position and not pay interest.  And I refuse to diminish our retirement savings for things we can save up for.

11.  Cut the Kids Hair - My children are not going on job interviews.  They are not getting married, nor are they giving public speeches.  They don't need an expensive haircut.  It costs about $10 (excluding tip) to get kids hair cut and they need a haircut about 4 times a year (at least!)

I am saving $200 per year by cutting 5 kids hair.  If I cut their hair till they are 18, I'll have saved $3,600 for just a few minutes work.  And its just as fast to cut their hair at home as it is to load them all up, wait for them all to get their haircut and drive home.  I will also occasionally cut Ben's hair.  It has been agreed that it is best for me to get my hair cut (albeit rather cheaply) by a non-husband and non-child family member.  Fortunately I'm not going gray yet and don't have to get my hair dyed. That will be a non-negotiable expense when the time comes.

12.  Homemade Gifts - I adore receiving homemade gifts and I love making gifts for other people.  Yes, there is often a large time commitment, but I enjoy making things with my hands and it is a nice bonus that it is less money than purchasing gifts.  I like to give Embroidered pillowcases, homemade truffles, etc.  No, I won't force my kids to give homemade gifts to their friends for birthday parties.

13.  Discount Entertainment -  You can provide a lot of entertainment for your kids without spending a lot of money.  For a special treat, I'll take my older kids to the discount theater a couple of times a year.  For $20, my three oldest kids and I can get our tickets, each have a large drink and split 2 large buckets of popcorn.  At our local regular theater, I would spend $33 for tickets alone and another $20 for refreshments.

If you want to expose your children to cultural events, that too can be cheap or free, depending upon where you live.  There are free days at museums or we sometimes buy annual family passes because with 1 or 2 trips we usually have them paid for!  There are free concerts in the park near our home and probably yours.  Kids get nearly as much enthralled enjoyment out of a high school play as a professional production.  And local high school (or middle school) sports events are just as exciting as professional ones when you are holding a bag of popcorn and cheering for the home team. 

14. Ben Walks To Work - My husband works in downtown Minneapolis and we live in the suburbs.  Its too far for him to walk, obviously, but he parks over a mile from his work and takes a pretty walk over the Stone Arch Bridge to his office.  When it is raining, he wears his rain suit.  When it is cold, he bundles up.  On the 5 or 6 truly awful days of the year, he will pay to park close to work.  With parking around $175 per month, we save over $2,000 per year and Ben gets a bit of exercise and fresh air, which he enjoys.

15.  Just Do It  - We don't pay someone to do something that we can do for ourselves.  We take care of our own lawn,  (Having a dozen kids from the neighborhood trample the backyard grass into oblivion cuts down on the need to mow) do most of our own home repairs, cook our own food, clean our own house, shovel our own driveway, clean our own gutters, do our own landscaping, decorate our own house, wash our own windows, unplug our own toilets, fix our own broken housewares, watch our own children, and paint our own walls. 

These are just a few of the ways we save money to be able to afford our larger family and adoption expenses.  Before you think we don't have any luxuries, I'll admit to a few things we hold onto tightly that others might consider a waste of money.  It is all about priorities.

1.  Private Elementary School - Our children go to our church's elementary school.  The cost of sending all of our kids through the school, grades K-8 would probably pay for a nice cottage up north.  But, for our family, we are convinced that a Christ-centered education is right for our family, and we are willing to scrimp on many other things to pay for it.

2.  Diet Dr. Pepper - My favorite vice in the world.

3.  Cable TV and TIVO - We rarely go out.  When we have time, we like to watch the few programs that we have recorded.  This way we don't waste our time watching things just because they are on and we don't have to worry about missing a show or watching at a certain time.  Our level of TV watching has gone down since we got TIVO.  We are on a program where we paid a lifetime fee so we don't have a monthly charge.  We don't have any premium channels, but love a few particular shows on cable.

4.  Family vacations - Over a decade ago we bought into a vacation club and stay at time shares very inexpensively.  We can have our whole family in one unit (instead of multiple hotel rooms) and have a kitchen so we don't have to eat out.  We can drive the family to these resorts instead of flying.  Great vacation memories are worth the cost.

5.  Fresh Flowers - Whether Ben buys these for me or I get them myself, I crave fresh flowers.  In the spring and summer, I can cut flowers from my garden.  In the colder months, Ben often stops off to pick up flowers or I may buy an inexpensive bunch of daisies at the supermarket that will last a couple of weeks.  Since I am home so much of the day, I have absolute joy, especially in the middle of winter, seeing something beautiful in my home.  It is an impractical but fabulous luxury.  When flowering plants are on sale, I will buy these.  I consider in the same category as cut flowers because Ben and I both know they will be dead within a few weeks anyway.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Surgery Recovery

I am just coming out of my sleep-deprived stupor.  I think both Veronica and I will survive this surgery.  Maybe.

I'm not going to lie.  The past few days have been really hard.  There had been moments where she seemed like her normal self.  But, mostly she has been very clingy, whiney, crying, sleepy-but-unable-to-sleep, hungry and sore.  Just because she has every reason to be needy, and my empathy for her is near limitless, doesn't mean its easy to be available to her constantly, night and day.

Even with the prescribed pain medication, it is obvious that it often hurts to swallow.  Because swallowing hurts, she doesn't want to eat her soft food diet.  Because she is still hungry, she isn't sleeping well.  Because she isn't getting enough sleep, she has a harder time dealing with the pain and frustrations of the day.  Its a tough circular cycle to get off.

Last night, though, I think the pain started to subside.  She only woke up 3 times needing her pain medicine and then went back to sleep within a half hour.  Today she played as best she could while wearing her arm splints.  She was back to wanting to accessorize herself to the hilt with barrettes, bows and headbands at the same time.  She is up to double digit shoe changes already today.  A girl clearly must rotate among several pairs of hand-me-down shoes throughout the morning.

Veronica has eaten more today than previous days and she is in the midst of an over three hour long nap.  She is finally able to be comfortable enough to sleep.

I think we will see a dramatic improvement in the next couple of days.

To answer the same reoccurring questions we have been getting:

1.  Yes, she is doing well overall and the surgery was a success.
2.  No, she can't say much yet, although we have been hearing her say consonants, which she couldn't do before.  Her first intentional word with a consonant since surgery was "NO!" when we were giving her medicine. 
3.  Yes, we knew it would be a hard recovery.
4.  And absolutely yes, she is so worth it and I'd do this all over again in a heartbeat!

Thank you everyone for your kind words, prayers and support through the surgery.  Thanks especially to my parents who watched our other children for a few days while we were in the hospital and home the first day helping her recover.  Also, thanks for the wonderful community of parents of children affected by clefts for all your wisdom and knowledge.