Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Toddlers and Homeschooling

I am pretty much convinced that stay at home moms who are parenting toddlers are homeschooling moms! In a toddler’s (and many would argue older too) world, LIFE is school. Throughout the day M is learning things every where he goes. He is a curious little guy and likes to figure things out all by himself. Of course he also says “Mommy, do iss” quite a bit too. He wants to learn, but knows he needs my help.

While Brandon was in grad school we met many homeschooling families. We treasured all we learned from them and appreciated the ways their children interacted with us, with their peers, and with the world around them. We asked lots of questions and gained lots of great information. I could feel my heart shifting as I learned about the benefits of teaching to your child’s learning style, of weaving the Gospel into all things, and watching firsthand as your children learn to read etc. The theory all sounded lovely.

Then we became parents and weariness set in. I often began to wonder how I could teach my children at home when I felt like all I could do was survive toddlerhood. It was then that I realized that every thing that I did with M was home school.

The local Christian school is hosting a homeschool mom’s morning out once a month for the next few months. M and I went to the January event and had a blast. I learned so much from the other moms and was encouraged to hear them answer my questions as they shared about various aspects of schooling at home. M loved seeing the other children and was able to attend a little story time with them. He seemed like such a big boy to me in that moment. During the meeting I learned that our community does indeed have a homeschool co-op.

Last week M and I along with L and his mommy and some of M’s dear friends M and H and their mommy all headed to the local homeschool co-op. That is right, I took my 2 year old and C took her 1 year old! It did seem a bit strange since our little men are not yet school age, but it was so lovely. All the 4 year olds and under are in one area and they enjoy learning about a letter, doing songs, reading books and doing crafts. M is still quite young for some of it, but that might be changing to some degree soon as I volunteered to help with the 1 and 2 year olds. Yes, there are lots of them. Whole families come to the co-op, so of course that means the little siblings come too. It is quite a blessing for M to meet new little friends. It is a great joy for me to be connecting with women who I know will be great resources to me in the future.

Am I boldly proclaiming that the only option for our children will ever be home schooling? No. I am simply saying that right now I am home schooling my toddler and would love to learn from pros. I am also saying that as we prayerfully consider what the Lord would have us do when it comes to educating our children we want to have explored all the options well. We feel home schooling could be a great foundation for our children and we will continue to pray and follow God’s leading in this area.

Monday, January 30, 2012

First Christmas Home Photo Post!!!!

Singing with my friends for Christmas. I just wasn't in the mood to sing I guess.

Our family on Christmas Eve. Daddy was a pirate for Christmas. Read mommy's post about this and other Christmas adventures HERE

Grandma's brother has a beard. How cool is that?

Mommy holding Baby A. I was fine with mommy holding her for a little while, but just so you all know I am still her baby!

I learned how to drive a tractor!

It sure is fun to turn the train on while Grandpa is holding it!

Baby A was so cute I just had to give her a little kiss!

I dare you to look at this one and not laugh!

Baby A sure is cute and tiny! I don't think I was ever that tiny.

Maggie dog likes to lick the window. I decided to try it too. I highly recommend it!

Doesn't Baby A look cute in the hat my friend B made for her?!

My feet have grown a lot recently!

Just like Grandpa!

Just making sure all the electronics are working properly!

Getting the dance party started in our matching PJ's

A and I have lots of great moves!

Can you tell which one I am? Tricky huh? I am on the right!

We were way too excited to stop the fun for photos!

The best cousin photo mommy has to share.

I am thinking about starting s shoveling business, but I would need to get Grandpa to come and hold the end of the shovel. He has another job besides holding the shovel so my business might not happen.

Here is how to make a snowman:

First we had to make some big balls with the snow.

The we stuck some rocks and sticks in the balls of snow.

Then it turned into my first snowman!!

My beautiful Grandma! Now you know where I get my good looks :)

Loving Marvel, the coolest great, great, great aunt a little guy could ask for!!!

I am a big helper! Hold on Great Grandpa this remote is not toddler proof!

Grandma, I am not sure if I was cut out to be a vest model.

Ernie, seriously you were way too close to me...

...and now that you are a little ways away you are the coolest dog once again!

Sitting with Great Grandpa and Kitty is a great place to be!

Just chillin with Grandpa's mommy and daddy!

I really like this book about a hat... was this the book about the hat?

"Gin" Grandpa!

I sure am glad Grandma got all these books from the library!

I love hanging out with Grandma's mommy and daddy. We all like to laugh together!

Back home after the roadtrip...

Kitty makes my Advent tree extra beautiful!

A little sledding, story time, Miss Patty Cake, and early intervention

M and I have been enjoying many new things in 2012! We have had snow a few times this month and M has embraced it. After a few falls over Christmas he learned he needs to be brave if sledding is on the line. M loves to sled. He loves to go fast! We live on a hill which provides him with great places to sled. M loves sledding down our driveway. Brandon actually was sledding with M right after a snow (but before people shoveled) and they were able to sled down our driveway, turn the sled 180 degrees and sled all the way down our street (on the sidewalk or course). I am sure that was quite a sight to see. M really really enjoyed it! I went out with them the first day and treasured the memories that were made. Since then I have taken that time to cook or clean after a meal, but I can still see a lot of activity from the windows. I can’t describe the joy in my heart to see my men playing and laughing together!

This January we started attending story time at the local library. They do a super job not only reading books but also doing music, finger games, dancing, and playing. M loves it. I really enjoy getting to know other women I would otherwise never meet. We have even been invited on a play date! These moms and little ones are our mission field right now. We are so thankful to be starting relationships with many special people.

Miss Patty Cake is M’s new hero! Seriously, we have one CD (Colors, Numbers, ABC’s) that we gave him for a one year home gift. He sits on a little blanket next to the CD player and listens to every word. He does actions and focuses in on her Bible Stories. He is learning so much from her and her songs are fun and catchy too! I would highly recommend her stuff to everyone. I would joyfully accept any old CD’s any of you might have around haha.

One other new development in our lives has been starting the initial screening for Birth to 3 services with our county. M is doing very well in most areas, but we want to make sure he is on track. Right now he is getting evaluated and there is a possibility he will need some help with sensory areas. We are blessed by these services and want to do all we can to help M in any areas that he may be lacking without our knowledge. Almost every state has these free services available. I so highly recommend getting every child evaluated. I know you might think I am silly for saying this, but as parents we often miss things that are right under our noses. We assume (esp with the first child) that behaviors are normal and progress is where is should be. Quite often we are right, but sometimes we are wrong. In those moments where we realize that our children can’t (see well, are behind verbally, have a deeper food issue, have hearing loss) do something or experience something we almost always wish we would have known sooner. This is why we are being proactive. Will M have OT in our home long term? Will our schedule be forever altered? Most likely, No! However, we hope to learn some tips and tricks that will help us to better parent our son!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Home One Year!

* Actually he came home on 1.16.11 so it has been a bit more than a year, but it is still January :)

I almost can’t believe there was a time when I wasn’t M’s mom. That time seems so distant and blurry and surreal. Were Brandon and I really married for 6 years before we became parents? I just can’t believe it. The truth is we have been parents for just one year... but what a year it has been!

First, a little celebration! We made it! Through the days when we were so tried and weary and sad and it felt like we might not... God sustained us! Through all the bumps and bruises of learning to walk... God sustained us. Through 9.5 teeth popping through... God sustained us. Through several months of congestion and nasty diapers before learning of an intense dairy issue... God sustained us. Through the loss of independence... God sustained us. Through the transition my wardrobe, body, and hair went through as they were speared with all things nasty, yanked, pulled, pinched, bitten... God sustained us. Through the agony of the SLOW road to deep attachment... God sustained us. Through the loss of a country, culture, language, food, and home... God sustained my son. His mercies are new EVERY morning and never in my life have I clung to that hope like I have in the last year. Thanks be to our Powerful and Faithful Sustainer and Life Giver!!!

M is doing so well! When I think back to those early days and all he and we have overcome I am just blown away. M is growing in every way. We have seen significant height and weight change in recent months. His body shape is also changing and his baby/toddler look is changing to more of a preschooler look. Now that he is potty trained we have packed away the onesies which means that his clothes look much more grown up as well.

I have seen many glimpses of spiritual interest and understanding in his life. He is beginning to understand Bible stories and possibly their significance. He is learning to pray when he is sad, naughty, frustrated, and when he is happy as well. He initiates prayer quite frequently which warms my heart. He truly loves to worship the Lord through song. M seems to understand songs quite well. He raises his hands in worship at totally appropriate times and seems quite engaged. We pray that over the years he grows more and more in his love for God and for the Bible and that he authentically chooses to follow Jesus all his life!

M’s attachment blows me away. When I think about his night terrors of a year ago I am amazed by how well he has grafted into our family. The transitions have not been easy and we will no doubt experience many more stages of attachment in the coming months and years, but we are getting there. I am so shocked by my feelings towards him. I feel in my heart like I carried him in my womb, like I gave birth to him, like I have known him since his conception. This might sound like a slam to his birth family, country, culture etc. I do not mean it in that way. We love ET and we love adoption. We talk about both all the time. Confusing?? Sort of. I guess love is confusing. I just feel so very blessed and grateful to God to be M’s mom. God truly led us to our son. If your child is not home yet and you are reading this, hang in there! The wait is so hard and it often seems like others processes are going faster, but God’s timing is perfect. He knows everything and He will blow you away if you let Him!

At one year home (almost 2.5) here are some likes and dislikes:

M Likes:
~Treats: Zand cough drops, Larabars, black bean brownies, rice flour banana bread, rice cakes with peanut butter, sweet potato chips, Trader Joe’s veggie chips, freeze dried fruit, squeeze fruit and veggie pouches, Rice Chex, fruit leather, pecans, almonds, tortilla chips, popcorn, and hummus.

~General Food: oranges, apples, bananas, red grapes, apple sauce, raisins (sometimes), blended veggies, blended chickpeas, split pea soup, potatoes, hot rice cereal like I eat, and sweet potatoes.

~ Toys: Anything with wheels (buses, cars, trucks, emergency vehicles, trains, planes, tractors, construction equipment), his stuffed cat “Kitty Cat,” balls, (esp the see through blue one) puzzles are beginning to hold his attention as well. He loves pushing and running with carts/lawnmowers/walkers/anything that has wheels. He also enjoys playing with cups and bowls and water in the sink. He wishes he could play more with cords, computers, phones, and electronics in general.

~Books: Dr. Suess and Curious George are becoming favorites, animal books, rhyming books, books about things that have wheels. He really continues to love books and is read to at least an hour a day, but sometimes it could be closer to 3 hours a day.

~Music: Miss Patty Cake is his new favorite (I will be blogging more about her soon). He really likes Christmas music and we are still listening to it in the kitchen. He enjoys most songs on K-Love and sings along when he can. He continues to pick up song melodies after hearing them just once and then sings them throughout the week. He enjoying pretending to drum and has recently turned the cold air return vent into a guitar! Jesus has put music deep in this little guy’s soul!

~Activities/General personality: He really likes spending time with friends and doing some fun new activities that I will also be blogging about soon. He enjoys playing tickle games and make up games usually involving the cat or a ball with Daddy. He enjoys being out in the snow and really likes his sled. Our steep driveway has provided lots of fun and funny moments for M. He enjoys watching for big trucks that drive by. Of course the highlight of the week is garbage day on Friday! He likes to dance and sing and do all sorts of actions to songs. M likes us to copy him and is always saying, “Mommy, do iss (this).” He like to have a pulse on all activity in the house and he says, “Daddy ooing (What are you doing)?” all the time. He can say “what are you doing?” pretty well, but chooses to make his own slang version. He is saying longer sentences quite frequently. We have some written down that are about 7 words in length. He has 100’s of words and has a great gift for name memory. He knows almost every name of every person on our Christmas card door (photo in a future blog post). He knows many names of people he has never met and can recount them accurately without any help from us. He enjoying looking at photos on the computer, esp. those of his friends. He loves being held and “helping” with dinner, cooking, baking, emptying the dishwasher, sweeping, and cleaning.

M is not so much a fan of:

~Food: most normal toddler food. He is quite picky when it comes to textures and doesn’t like meat or pasta. He doesn’t like things which are too warm or too cold or too sour.

~Toys: He is still not a fan of most stuffed animals. The really large ones still give him quite a scare. He isn’t too into building towers or forts though we try. He is not at all into anything crafty or art like. I hope he likes to draw or sit at the table and do projects one day, but it isn’t today. He has far too much to do!

~Books: He has a pretty good attention span, but still doesn’t like books with few photos and many words (typical). He doesn’t seem to like books with real things (ex. a real dog or pig) in them. He prefers to see drawings of people and animals.

~Music: He actually likes most music that we have shared with him. He isn’t a super fan of music without words :)

~Activities/General stuff: He is still not a fan of sleeping in, sometimes he still isn’t a fan of sleep in general. He isn’t a fan of being set down and would rather be held while mommy is cooking and cleaning than do an independent activity. He doesn’t like the hairdryer, bathroom fans, sharing food (though he does), bright sun in his eyes, brushing his teeth (though he does), and so many other things on a daily basis that escape me now.

We love you so much M!!!!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Collecting Adoption Receipts

We have been searching through folders and files like crazy. We are attempting to find every receipt possible to send to the IRS. We received the lovely envelope from them last week requesting documentation for all of our adoption expenses. Many of our adoptive friends have received this note so we were not surprised by it. We were surprised by the timing. We already received the check, in fact we received it MANY months ago. We actually thought we were not going to be audited... until last week. We have been so blessed by every person/agency we have requested receipts from. I am learning lessons now for future adoptions. I am going to beg for receipts as we send in checks. It just seems easier that way. Actually, I am hoping I will need them. There is a sad reality that by the time M becomes a brother, the tax credit will no longer be available. Dear friends, please pray for us as we find all the documentations. Please pray that this credit can continue for many years to come. I do believe its removal could lead to many fewer adoptive families. God love adoption. The enemy does not! Please pray!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Our First Christmas...

as a family of three! Well, technically it was M’s third Christmas alive and his second as “our son” since we passed court in November 2010, BUT he didn’t come home until January 2011. This means it was his first Christmas here in America with his family.

Warning: This blog post is long. This blog post has no pictures. This post could really have been four posts. I guess you could pretend it is. I am going to do a photo blog or two next week, and if you read the long entry below the photos will make a lot more sense!

The Advent Season

M loved the whole advent season. He enjoyed decorating for Christmas and really got excited about putting his ornament on his little advent tree each night. He has a fun and durable nativity play set which he enjoyed playing with all month. His favorite parts of the play set were saying “No” when Joseph (Joe-pit) asked several places if they had room for him to stay. He would then offer “Barn” when Joseph, Mary and the donkey reached the stable. After Jesus was born M enjoyed having the animals go up to the baby and say “Hey, that’s my food.” We pretended that the animals were quite confused about their feed box being converted to a crib. I would image they were actually quite confused! Speaking of Mary and Joseph. Brandon had a meeting at a church member’s home during December. He told M he was going to Mary’s house. M then said, “Joe-pit?” too cute!

M also loved listening to and singing Christmas Carols. I am sure this surprises no one as anyone who has met him knows that this little guy never stops singing. He sang Silent Night, Away in a Manger, and Happy Birthday Jesus in church with all his little Sunday School buddies. I was quite surprised that stage fright and “sitters” on both sides of him caused him to sit perfectly still and motionless during the whole performance. He did belt out the tunes the rest of the day if anyone asked him. He usually loves a stage so I am not really sure why he did what he did, but oh well, there is always next year... or sooner if the littles sing in church this spring. M was very into singing the chorus to Angels we have heard on high this Christmas season as well.

M got to go caroling with the church this year. We go to area nursing homes and ride a big school bus. He loved the bus, loved the people, loved the music. It was great!

M had no idea that Christmas had any secondary gift giving/receiving theme. I am so thankful for this. Moreover, I am thankful that even after Christmas is over he continues to have the same understanding of the celebration. M thinks that it is all about Jesus Birthday. As we thought about what to get M this year we decided to give him a gift through World Vision. Actually, most of our family received World Vision gifts this year. Not only were they super easy to wrap and pack, but they were life giving and will truly be appreciated for years to come. M received a goat and two chickens from us. He also received a Lara Bar. He got to eat the Lara Bar on the spot which was a HUGE treat for him.

Christmas Eve/ the eye patch story

On Christmas Eve our house was quite busy. We hosted a small noon meal with the other pastor and his family. They are so much like family to us that we are blessed to have this special Christmas tradition. It also makes a lot of sense due to the crazy schedule of Christmas Eve for pastors and their families. Anyway, I was cooking and cleaning in the morning and we were on a good pace to have the food ready early so I could begin packing for our big adventure which would begin the next day. I was vacuuming upstairs and came down to hear that M had scratched Brandon in the eye. At first I offered a tiny bit of sympathy and continued to vacuum. I didn’t realize the extent of the injury and I was one a mission to have clean floors. After I stopped I learned that Brandon was in lots of pain. I guess after the accident (while I was upstairs vacuuming) M was actually screaming “Mommy! Daddy hurt.” Brandon was in quite a bit of pain and started saying “oh man” so of course M started marching around Brandon who was balled up on the floor saying “oh man” as well. Super cute to think of now that Brandon is no longer in pain.

I told Brandon I would do a quick google search about home remedies for eye scratches. As it turns out, and most of you know, there are not any. It is very important to see a Dr. right away so you can begin to rub an antibiotic on the eye. Eye infections happen quickly and are not what you want to get. So, I informed my preaching pastor husband during the mid-morning of Christmas Eve that he needed to head to a walk-in clinic right away. Poor guy was in so much pain that he said he barely had to sit in the waiting room at all (thanks God). I think they all had a lot of sympathy for him. He was able to see the Dr. and pick up the cream within a couple of hours.

M and I made the meatball gravy and the food prep was underway. We were behind schedule, (meaning we didn’t have a thing packed) but the food would be ready. Brandon put the cream in, but it seemed to make the pain worse. L and his family were here for lunch and it was lovely though strange as we sat in the dark and all sort of stared at Brandon as he sat in extreme pain. We knew we had to do something to get rid of this pain. It was less than 3 hours until the first church service. We were praying and pleading and wondering how everything would turn out. After lunch our friends headed to church or home to nap and Brandon put M down for his nap. I made an emergency pharmacy trip of my own. I will on the hunt for eye patches. I found them quickly and thanks be to God they were the ticket to ease a great amount of Brandon’s eye pain. Obviously, the patch was VERY visible to all who attended church that night, but I think he only scared a few little girls so all in all not a total nightmare.

After church we opened some gifts here. We were quite spoiled by local friends and we had several packages to open. In hindsight, M was very tired and Brandon was in pain and had to turn around and preach the next morning so we should have just called it a night, but oh well... M did have a late night Lara Bar!

Christmas Day/ The road trip begin/ Brandon’s family
Christmas Day was filled from morning until late night. We had one church service. Brandon was already able to go without the patch. He was in some pain, but apparently eyes heal very quickly. We were very thankful that the pain was lessened. It was awful for M and me to watch Brandon experiencing such pain. After church we wrapped gifts and packed the car and ate an early lunch and tried to get M to release all liquid from his body. We hit the road around 11:30... I think... you know it was over a month ago so my memory is a bit sketchy!

The car ride to Missouri went pretty well. Overall, we were always near a bathroom when we needed to be. Our entire journey around the mid-west M didn’t have a single accident! Amazing! The more tired he would get in the evening, the more he would request to stop. The frequent stopping wasn’t too fun (esp. on Christmas Day when many things are not open), but we made it through.

We had a great time with Brandon’s family. We were able to meet our new niece, Baby A. She is so sweet and seriously the best behaved baby I have ever met. I think she was only awake about an hour or two the whole time we were with her. She slept so sweetly through all the noise around her. She was so tiny (born 12.8.11) and light. I felt like I was holding a doll when I held her. Big A her brother is an excellent big brother and is transitioning very well to his new role in the family. A and M have great fun together. They especially enjoyed feeding Brandon’s parent’s dog Maggie. Maggie weighs more than me and is intimidating to most people. M still shares about how he was scared, but that grandma held him so he could give Maggie treats. One of the cutest memories from our time there was M and A feeding Maggie bird food or “birdie treats” as M says. They opened the deck door by themselves and handed out their treats with no parental help. I was so thankful that everyone let them continue long enough to record it on video! Another special memory was watching the boys in their new matching PJ’s dancing and being silly together. One more special thing was watching grandpa Tom play trains with the boys. I know the boys enjoyed it, and hopefully it wasn’t totally stressful for Tom. I sure got a kick out of watching all the crashes, the sparks flying, the trains derailing, the track being torn apart, and all they other delights of letting a 2 and 3 year old boy play with a real train set. So sweet, so special! While with Brandon’s family we were also able to see a lot of extended family and enjoy many laughs with them as well. We also all passed our tooth exams this time. No cavities... yahoo!

More roadtrip/ Shelly’s family
On the road again... M did very well on the car ride (to my parent’s home) taking a several hour nap at the start of the journey. The only glitch in the day was an extra smelly bathroom. I tried to tell him it was fine but I kept having dry heaves. It was seriously awful... you get the idea. In the end Brandon ended up taking him in to the men’s room and all was well. Speaking of bathrooms, do you know how you can tell if a bathroom is “nice”? Keep in mind that “nice” is the ideal for all things with my son. Well, a “nice” bathroom is one that does NOT have a fan. It is really “nice” if it also doesn’t have a hand dryer. Oh boy, it was like fighting a great battle to get him to go if the light was connected to a fan. Yikes! One other bathroom story, you love them, right? Brandon told me once after a stop that he heard M singing In Christ Alone while using the toilet. I guess the vents must have been connected. I hope he put a few smiles on faces.

We had a great time with my family. After days of sharing toys and adults with Big A and Baby A, M was in his glory surrounded by adults who wanted to play with him. He loves reading with grandma and playing on the floor with grandpa. M would say “up high” (I think, I can’t remember actually) to my dad and then my dad would tickle him. He just couldn’t get enough of it. M was able to go on an adventure to both the ambulance garage and the city garage. He really enjoyed both of them, though has recounted MANY times that the siren on the ambulance (which he heard for one second) was very loud and scary. He really liked sitting in all the big machines at the city garage. His favorites (according to my mom) were the street sweeper and the dump truck. I guess he pretended to drive the street sweeper all by himself and even pretended to wave to people below. He got to see the dump truck bed lift up and down which is another thing that he talks about all the time. While with my parents M experienced his first snow of the year. The amount of snow was minimal, but we got the most out of it that we could. M (with MUCH help from grandma and grandpa) shoveled the sidewalk and made a snowman. He also face planted 3 times in his new boots. The boots have now been returned! One other classic Shelly’s family experience happened on the way home from my grandparents house. After a warm day the weather changed and rain turned to snow. The snow was coming down hard as we drove home in almost complete white out conditions. There was a lot of prayer going on in the car as no one felt like they could see much of anything out the windows. I am so thankful for my dad’s driving ability and his knowledge of the road we were traveling. The reason is this classic as it seems to happen every single year! Seriously, I would say 3 of the last 5 years this or dense fog or freezing rain or something has happened. M was silent and very awake the whole journey. When we got home to my parents he said, “Yay Grandpa Yay Driving!” While with my family we were also able to see much extended family and friends and make lots of new memories. We also introduced some of the family to the game Farkle!

On the road again... The last leg of the journey went quite smoothly. We were able to stop at my mom’s parent’s house of a visit and lunch and that really broke things up. We got to see one of my cousins and one uncle as well. M got more gifts so he was thrilled. After leaving their farm we only stopped twice the rest of the way home (5.5 driving hours) which is pretty amazing.

Brandon continues to be my hero. I did all the driving, but he did all the entertaining of M. I am pretty sure his job was a lot harder than mine. Brandon is so creative. M’s cat “Kitty Cat” was the star of the show through every car ride and I am so thankful for his traveling companion and for Brandon’s ability to have the cat to 100’s of silly things!

We praise God for a wonderful Christmas time with our family both immediate and extended. We are so very blessed and so very thankful that God sent Jesus to earth as a baby on Christmas! He really is the reason for it all!