Sunday, September 30, 2012

More Gymnastics! Mostly Parallel Bars!

Some of y'all will notice that I have been posting like crazy lately.  I have written several blog posts that I have saved as drafts, but haven't had time to proofread and add pictures and videos...because grades were due, and FTE count and benchmark exams for my students were last week, etc, etc.  Therefore, there are several more posts coming, as I am now in the process updating our blog to make sure I have included the many events of the last few weeks.

For one thing, Eli has continued in his toddler gymnastics class.  He LOVES it. I have had a lot of questions from people about what the class is like, so I will take the time to explain it.

Usually, they do a warm up that includes a variety of objects, including a giant parachute and giant balloons and foam paddles used to hit the balloons.  While the kids run around and play and warm up their muscles, the coach plays some kids songs over the loudspeaker.

Then, the coaches direct everyone to either a rotation or an toddler sized obstacle course. In this lesson, the coach had placed mats to make a nice place for kids to practice somersaults, as well as "mountains" for the kids to climb and "tunnels" for the kids to crawl through.
We did the obstacle course a few times with Eli, and then did some high bar practice. Eli is learning to hold himself on the high bar (with help), though he really prefers the rings (because they swing).
For some reason, Eli really enjoys the parallel bars, and will spend a surprising amount of time working on them. Here's a few pics of him walking through on his own.
He saw another student "walk" through the parallel bars on her now he wants to do it, too!  I was spotting him while Aunt Joy took pictures and Patrick encouraged him.
He was actually able to move his hands forward several times on his own (with my hands ready to catch him, just in case).
Here, I was spotting him through a swing and a dismount! One of his favorite things to do is to get on the parallel bars and jump at the end (like he sees the bigs kids do).

We usually finish up with some time playing in a large inflatable "bouncy house" and slide or on the bungee swing (which bounces gently as it swings). Here, Eli is getting ready to slide while his daddy watches him.
Here, he's enjoying some time on the bungee swing and laughing at his daddy's tired antics on the floor below him.

Feeding the Geese

Patrick has been staying home lately with Eli on paternity leave while I have had to go back to school.  They have been having lots of fun going to the local park to play on the playground. Our park also has walking trails and a beautiful fishing lake with ducks and geese.  Eli has been fascinated by the ducks and geese, so he and Patrick decided to say hello.  We couldn't believe how close they let him get...and Eli was very gently reaching out to them.

Eli was so happy, he actually shed a number of tears when it was time to leave :(.  But it gave Patrick the idea to come back the following week with bread, so that Eli could feed the birds.  He loved this, too! But this time, the geese took over, and really didn't let the smaller ducks get close.

Fingerpainting 101 : )

So, Eli cannot stand to have his hands dirty...or what he perceives as I have been working with him on different tactile experiences.  On the upside, his tendency to hate being dirty is why we are able to start potty training so early, keep his clothing so clean, and one of the reasons he eats so neatly. But, when we go into the yard and touch a tree or a leaf, he gets upset and will repeatedly ask for me to wipe his hands. If he is eating with his hands, he honestly wants his hands wiped at almost every bite of food, bless his heart (exceptions to this were chocolate cake and meatloaf...he was so excited about taste, he ignored the fact that his hands had food on them). I want him to be okay with being a little bit dirty when he goes out to play...after all, that's part of what boyhood is all about...and that's what baths are for : ).

My first thought was that fingerpainting is a great sensory activity.  I mean, after all, he LOVES to color with whiteboard markers in my classroom and Magic markers on butcher paper.  So, out come the fingerpaints and  several large sheets of paper.  Eli's Aunt Joy came over to help me, since, after all, art is her specialty.  We put on old clothes, except for Eli, who was content in just his pull ups (it was about 85 degrees out), and went onto our porch.

I put Eli's hand into the paint and showed him how to get it on the paper.

He wasn't thrilled at first about having the paint on his fingers.  In fact, he used his "canvas" as a napkin most of the times that I put paint on his hands. Joy and I were able to keep him going long enough for him to get the idea of the activity and spread the paint a little on his own.

And while he did decide that he had enough of the fingerpainting after about 15 or 20 minutes, he did seem to enjoy himself (ok, mostly he was laughing because he was trying to use our clothes as a napkin...). But his "art" came out cool enough to make nice framed gifts for family : ).

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Potty Training and Sleeping

So, Eli's sleeping is improving....and I mean REALLY improving. We still haven't moved out of his room, but we are getting close to being able to.  When it is bed time, he transitions really well into his crib and to sleep. He hasn't needed to sleep in the bed with us all month! He really loves watching his VeggieTales video before sleep, though, which is super cute.  We were in a Christian bookstore yesterday, and he went nuts when he saw a stuffed Larry the Cucumber.  He gave the toy a great big smile, and a great big hug!  I was pining for my camera!  He actually ended up taking home a smaller version of that will fit in his hand and that he can carry around.  Once he picked it up, he didn't want to put it down...he carried it through the store, to the cashier, "helped" ring it up, and wouldn't let us bag it.  He dropped it once, by accident, and started crying BIG tears until it was returned to him.  He held Larry all of the way home...and made room for Larry in his bed with Ribbert. About 10 minutes after we put him down, he was STILL holding Larry the Cucumber : ). Ribbert is the big froggie, while Larry is the toy in Eli's right hand. And just for the record...Eli is a WILD sleeper...rolling, tossing, turning...a bowling ball in a tornado has nothing on him!

Nap time is improving too, although he sometimes has bad dreams during his nap.  It helps when his favorite "babysitter" lies down next to him to nap. I think Sadie is pretty well convinced that he is a special kitten...she is very sweet, PATIENT and loving toward him.
So that brings us to one more interesting development...someone is potty training.  Sort of.  He really likes to come in the bathroom and sit on the potty, even though he's not using it consistently yet. He LOVES to flush the "big potty." And his father is teaching some interesting potty habits...but the picture speaks for itself...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Someone's Learning to Swim!

Yep.  That's right.  We have a baby who thinks he's part fish! How/why did we start teaching our 18 month old baby how to swim, you ask?

Okay, so Eli loves his baths.  In fact, he loves ANYTHING to do with water.  So, we decided to see if he would enjoy playing in the local (indoor) community pool.

When Patrick was really small (younger even that Eli), he was part of a swim program to help babies learn to float on their backs in water.  Patrick quickly progressed from there and even joined a swim team when he turned old enough to compete (around age 5).  He is an awesome swimmer! SO....we decided that if Eli liked the pool, that there was a strong possibility that we could start teaching him to swim.

He. LOVED. It.

First, we brought out some swim toys - Eli loved the "noodles".

Getting some water splashing tips from Patrick : ).

Apparently, swim noodles can double as squirters...the lifeguards weren't thrilled to nearly get squirted...

Monkey see, Monkey do, Monkey gets in trouble, too...

Nothing like finding another noodle to double the fun!

Next,  Patrick had Eli hang on to the noodles while he dragged Eli up and down the pool.  Eli loved the feeling of moving in the water, so Patrick started teaching him to kick his feet.

Here's a quick clip:

Later, Eli decided to go without the noodle for a while.  He was mimicking Patrick's swimming motions (mostly kicking), while Patrick supported him and helped him move through the water. That's actually what he was doing in the picture at the top of the page : ).'s a slight change of focus. I really wanted a cute caption for the next one.  But I can't come up with anything great without being mean to the unusual looking people who had just come in to swim...and their appearances definitely caught Eli by surprise. His expression still makes me laugh!

When Eli seemed to lose interest in gliding and kicking with the noodles, we decided to call it a day...

But Eli had other ideas! And this set off about 15 minutes of getting out and jumping back in!

Still working on his jumping...but wants BACK IN!



We finally got Eli out of the pool, so that we could get some lunch (it was nearly 2 pm!). However, he loved it so much, we are thinking of taking Eli swimming a few times a month. Luckily, the pool is both indoor and heated, so it is open year-round : ).

A Few Quick Pics and Another First

We are celebrating our FIRST post-placement visit with our social worker.  In order to finalize our adoption in the US, we must complete 3 post-placement visits.  The first visit is at 1 month home, the second visit is at 3 months home, and the final visit is at 5 months home.  Then, we can take the next steps, which will be to get Eli's new birth certificate and his US citizenship. Today, our social worker came to our home to observe Eli and discuss his adjustment with us.  The visit went well, and after some initial "stranger anxiety," (which is actually a great sign of attachment) Eli decided to show her his favorite toys. We discussed Eli's sleep issues, which are improving (yay!), and the fact that I have to go back work tomorrow : (. 

I know that Patrick is THRILLED to be on paternity leave, though.  I am excited about my upcoming fall break in October, when I will have another week off to spend with Eli.  He will start 2 year old pre-k in November (even though his birthday isn't until March).  We have visited his new school/daycare, and he fit right in and had fun playing with the other children while I spoke with the director.

And now for some quick snap shots that I took with my phone last week and forgot to upload!

Eli is relaxing in his car seat on the way to church Sunday : ).  I am going to be soooo sad when he outgrows the vest and boots!

Nap time : ). He sleeps in the weirdest positions. In this shot, his feet were moving like he was running...that's why the couch cover came loose!

Eli had a GREAT time at Lake Oconee Sunday afternoon/evening- our sincere thanks to Jim and Aunt Joy for taking us! We can't wait to go again!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

One Month Update...

And what a month it has been!  We received physical custody of Eli on August 6th, and time FLIES - neither Patrick nor I could quite believe we've been parents for a month.  Much of our time seems very surreal. Sometimes, it feels like no time at all - such as when I think about (and admittedly, truly struggle with) the fact that I have to return to work next week (I am very grateful that Patrick is going on paternity leave as I return to work!). Sometimes, it feels like we have been together much longer, because we are really starting to bond as a family.

What's my honest opinion so far? I thank God every day for Eli.  There has never been a child better suited to our personalities and parenting style. I have definitely fallen for the little guy : ).  I had a chance this week for my inner "mama bear" instincts to emerge when a daycare worker fussed at my child for something that he definitely did not do while we were on a tour of said daycare...ARG! I will post more about the day care center tour/interview fiascos in a separate post, since this post is supposed to be a celebration of what Eli has accomplished in one month. But it felt really nice to have the "mama bear" feeling emerge from out of nowhere to protect my cub, er...child.

Anyway, in the rest of this post, I figured I would err on the side of overreporting how Eli is doing so far - so the rest of this post is long (but thorough)!

(Quite) a few notes from this month:

Eli has come from an intial wary reluctance around us to seemingly enjoying our company. When one of us is out of sight, he does come a lookin!

He went from having few solid foods to enjoying every meal to its (and HIS) fullest.

He went from never riding in a car seat to loving (almost) every minute spent in his. He loves going places!
He went from no pets at all in Korea to loving (and even helping brush and feed) the cats and horses. Then, he went from chasing the cats and pulling their tails to petting them quietly (okay, fairly quietly) and bringing them toys.

He went from being petrified of the dogs to accepting their presence and starting to pet Rocky.

He went from playing on his foster parents' rooftop and running with his foster father to playing with his daddy and LOVING his toddler gymnastics group.

He went from STRUGGLING to fall asleep and stay asleep at night (even when sleeping with us) to falling asleep and staying asleep in his own bed. He still sleep walks, sleep crawls, and sleep talks, but the night terrors/nightmares have seemed to disappear for now.

He went from initial intimidation around the horses to being able to help feed them and is learning to ride Reno quite well at a walk and even a bit of a trot (when he's paying attention...and we both closely supervise his rides for the times when he forgets to pay attention).

He went from understanding no English at all to understanding a surprising amount (he does occasionally  - and selectively - ignore us when we tell him to "come here"...and when he gets told "no," he usually laughs and replies "yes" - and continues to do what he is not supposed to do...I struggle NOT TO LAUGH at this since he repeats any actions we laugh at).

He wants to play with every kid that he meets, but he is shy around unfamiliar adults (this is actually good news for attachment!). Although, when Patrick had to go to the doctor recently, Eli looked up from the doctor's chair when she walked into the room and hollered "Hey!" with a little wave.

He has learned to shake hands, nod his head yes, shake his head no, wave hello/bye, clap his hands and high five.

He is learning to mimic the instructor of his gymnastics class during warm-up and the closing song (a very quiet version of head shoulders, knees, and toes). 

He has learned to say "go", "hey/hi", "gwa gwa" (code for sa-gwa, a korean word for apple - he loves apple sauce), "oma" (korean for mommy), "appa" (korean for daddy), "dada" (yep, he says appa and dada for Patrick), "yes/yeah", and "kaka" (originally meant cracker - but is now any type of food). He is trying to say "kitty" comes out as "Key" and "doggie" which comes out differently every time. He uses a lot of sound words when he plays (boom and wheee! are popular).

He recognizes the Veggietales theme song and keeps time with his hands (like a band director - Grandpa will be proud). He knows what "lower your voice" means, too : ). 

One of his current favorite non-Mater toys...a ducky hand puppet...Uncle Lee will be proud.  We will take him to the Center for Puppetry Arts soon : ). 
He has developed a slight stubborn streak. He definitely likes to have his own way.  He loves it when we offer him choices so that it seems like he is getting a "say" in things.  I always offer him a choice in outfit and food - sometimes he points out his opinion, sometimes not - but I think he likes being asked : ).

He understands "time out" (which is described in the adoption community as "time in" since he is never alone during time out) and it lasts just long enough - usually one minute - to help him either regain control or to remove him from a situation in which he did not respond to the word "no."
He definitely knows the colors green and red. And when he wants to do something again, he has begun to hold up one finger.

He also definitely knows where his potty is.  He knows how to take off his diapers when they are dirty (we have to make sure he wears a onesie at night so that he doesn't take his diapers off during the night time), and has been known to go to the bathroom and bring me a clean diaper when he needs to be changed.  He is almost ready for potty training, but we are going to take it really slow.  Right now, he's convinced that the potty is just a really, really cool chair that happens to be in the bathroom.

He thinks Shrek is hilarious (parts of it).  He likes parts of Toy Story, and Star Wars (obviously Patrick's choice), too. He won't watch Cars, even though his Mater toys are his favorites.

He adores the VeggieTales silly songs we listen to in the car - such as Aunt Joy's all-time favorite "The Hoperena", my favorite, "Where Have All the Staplers Gone?", and Patrick's favorite "I Don't Got No Belly Button."

He really wants to ride a tricycle, but can't reach the pedals (he tries, though!). He also really wants to jump up and down, but hasn't quite figured that out, either (he bends his knees and tries, though!).

He loves, loves, loves his Mater ride-on toy...and the zip line and bungee swings at gymnastics...and trampolines...and really fast slides...

He is MESMERIZED by aquariums and fish tanks...I think a visit to the GA Aquarium is mandatory : ).

He is intrigued by cause/effect and loves to do things over and over when he discovers a cause/effect relationship (turning TV on/off, turning touch lamp on/off, pushing buttons to make the car horn honk, shaking his cars to make them go, etc).

He recently found out, much to the cats' disappointment, that he is small enough to climb into the cat tree's hidey spots.

Whew!  That's quite a long post, so I think I'll go ahead and take my leave with just a bit more news. After hearing from those who have gone before me, the next month should be very...interesting.  Apparently, some toddleres become challenging in months 2 and 3 post adoption as part of the adjustment process (my understanding is that this challenging is more common in older children, but can happen with toddlers).  We are hoping to be an exception and that our sweet boy will keep up the wonderful progress he is making. If nothing else, the last decade of experience discipling other people's children in a public school setting should come in handy.

Our social worker will visit for the first time on Tuesday to complete Eli's first post placement report (we will have a total of 3 visits before our finalization will be approved and sent to probate court).

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Happy 1.5 Eli!

Well, as I have mentioned in previous posts, we decided, after reading a couple other blogs, to copycat an idea: to celebrate Eli's 18 month old birthday.  Even though we have a video clip of Eli at his 1 year old dol ceremony in Korea, we thought it would be nice to "catch up" on birthdays as a family. Eli's Aunt Joy did another fantastic job taking pictures for us today!  The day started calmly enough; but I couldn't resist taking a pic of two of Eli's bff's, Sadie and Woody, staking out the kitchen when they found out we were baking.

When they look at Eli like this, he brings them cans of cat food, but (luckily) he doesn't know how to open the cans yet! Anyway, we started with baking a cake - chocolate with homemade chocolate icing. And, of course, no cake for a one and a half birthday is complete without a decimal point!  I was really shocked that they made decimal point candles!  The cake  says "Happy 1.5, Eli" - though the M&M words were a bit hard to read.

We took everything (cake, presents and all) to the local park.  The next step was to put together some of Eli's favorite toys from gymnastics class: balloons!

Here comes the birthday boy!

While Aunt Joy and I decorated the table and got organized, Eli enjoyed playing with his daddy!

We had a bit of hilarity when I tried to hang the pinata from a tree limb that was fairly high.  I kept trying to throw the string over the tree branch.  After 7 or 8 tries, I got smart enough to use a stick on one end of the string so that it would arc over the tree branch instead of flying aimlessly through the air : ). Aunt Joy was could hardly catch her breath because she was laughing so hard at my sad attempts to hang the poor pinata!

 Finally, everything was ready to go...especially Eli!  Here's one of Eli blowing out his candles like a champ : ).

Since I know how Eli can be when he eats (when it's a food he loves, he DIVES IN), we removed his favorite shirt before we let him eat his cake.  His grandma was not very happy about this, but after Eli's first bite, she understood the method to our madness! To Eli's credit - he STARTED to use a fork, but decided fingers were much quicker!

This created quite a clean up job for Patrick and I. He had cake everywhere : )!

Next, we decided to let him break open his pinata (I stuffed it with a few of his favorite soft peppermints and a few fun size bags of M&Ms).  He saw a pinata at his cousin Rilynn'a birthday party, but never took a swing at it, even though he seemed to want to.  He had a lot of fun trying to whack his, though! Here's a video of him having a good time with it:

And a few pics, for good measure : )!

Hitting with one hand!

Swinging with all his might!

We tried hard to get the pinata to break, but it definitely took a while - and a few solid hits from Patrick - before we could show Eli what was inside : ).

We did give Eli a few presents for his "1.5" birthday that he is already thoroughly enjoying.  His Grandma (my mom) got him a cool miniature bowling set to set up in the kitchen and a toy xylophone (that Eli LOVES).

Opening presents : )

 We got him a recorder (which is like a plastic flute - and yes, he knows how to make sound with it), a few small things (like cool placemats = he already picked one for his place at the table!), and - get this - a tiny (made for toddlers), motorized, Tow Mater.  He pushes a button, and the Tow Mater goes!  We decided to get it because of another toy that he has and loves.  At home, he had been playing with a toy four wheeler that he sits on and pushes with his feet to make it "go," but he has trouble with it because his legs aren't quite long enough to get in good pushes. So, we decided that he might enjoy the motorized version (it only goes 2 mph). And since he LOVES his "Cars" toys (though, oddly, he's never stayed awake through much of the movie), I though Mater was a good way to go.


Getting driving help from us.

Test driving his new wheels!

Oma!  How do I turn??!!

Giving Eli advice on how to sit down and drive instead of standing up!

Learing to steer = watch out for that TREE!

Getting off road driving advice from his daddy

Although we left the park after giving Eli some time to play with his new toys, no Randall birthday is ever complete without a pony ride!  So when we went to feed the horses, we saddled up the best horse EVER - Reno - and bribed him to trot through the back yard a few times.

For those of you who don't know, Reno is a 32 year old American Quarter Horse (born in 1980).  He has been in the family for a loooonnnngggg time (my mother - Eli's grandma - bought him about 20 years ago).  Reno and I used to show a LOT, and he's very special to me.  It is my goal to teach Eli how to ride him one day, when Eli is ready to learn. Because of his age and experience (and gorgeous personality), Reno is super steady and a wonderful teacher. Every time Eli clicked his tongue for Reno to go faster, Reno did!

Riding off into the sunset : ).  What a long (though very nice) day!