Thursday, February 27, 2014

Writing


Eli has been writing a recognizable form of his name for a while now, and he really seems to enjoy attempting to write letters or words. I loved the moment  he discovered how to write the letter p. he wanted to write "pizza" and asked how to spell it. He thought a moment and said "p is a circle and a line going down, right?".  There are several letters that he can put together that are recognizable, but in the past, he's always needed a fairly large space (like his easel or my dry erase board at school). Quite honestly, before this week, he really need an entire piece of paper for writing just one or two letters. On Monday, Eli decided to practice writing his name on our small dry erase board (it is actually a small breakfast tray that happened to have a white, dry-erase type surface that we were given as a gift). He was really very funny; saying in a loud, gruff voice "I will write my name BIG," then in a squeaky little whisper say "I will write my name so teeny tiny small." He played this way for about half an hour before tiring and choosing to do something else.

Tonight, Eli was restless and a little clingy. He had energy, but wasn't really interested in playing toys. So, I showed him his first "Connect the Dots" activity. It was a book that I picked up at the dollar store that has only 10 dots to connect on each page. I had Eli trace where the dots needed to be connected, then gave him a marker and let him go to town (I did help him somewhat with the first two, so that he got the idea). After completing a dozen or so of these on his own, he said that he wanted to get some "work" for him out of the closet. It has been months since Eli selected the book that he chose tonight. He flipped through and quickly did several activities...then stumbled onto the writing pages. The letters were drawn...with DOTS!  Mr. Dot-to-Dot thought this was pretty cool (especially since the "dots" were so close together), and he got excited about writing. He randomly meandered through a few letters before I thought to grab the camera and hit record!  He was a little perturbed that marker doesn't wipe off of paper the way they erase from his dry-erase board, but he soon got the hang of it.  He was very pleased with himself : ). And - although you can't quite see in the video - he gave himself a very temporary "dinosaur tattoo" with his green marker - just for fun.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Piano Lessons

Eli's been very intererested in playing his Appa's trumpet and his Grandpa's trombone since he came home from Korea. We actually got him a toy trumpet shortly after he got home so that he could feel like he was playing, too. This has really progressed to Eli actually being able to play a few different pitches on the trumpet, with solid buzzing skills (to make sounds on a trumpet, you must "buzz" your lips). He has also developed an interest in other instruments, including his drum and keyboard. When I saw him start to really try to touch keys with one finger at a time and calling out (correct!) note names, I decided it was time for me to start teaching him to play piano. I used to play in high school, and was able to take lessons well into my first year in college - thanks to a scholarship from a church I was attending and a practice keyboard from Patrick's parents.

So far, Eli's definitely shown that he knows the names of all of the "white" keys. He is enjoying playing one note at a time, naming the note. He can find "middle C" and is learning to position his hands while playing a scale. He likes to play random keys and try to play chords, which is interesting to hear. We have two pre-beginner music books, and I have been helping Eli position his hand and push the keys to play some of the simpler songs. Since he knows the note names of each of the piano keys, and since the note names are written below the music in the books I have for him, he actually understands which notes to play. With help, he has been able to work through a few little songs like "Hot Cross Buns".   This will be fun to see how much he learns before he moves on to a new interest (which he does frequently) - unless he stays as interested in piano as he has with trumpet.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Big(ger) Boy Bed

Eli has been sleeping in a little toddler bed, and Patrick and I had planned to switch him over to a full-sized bed whenever it seemed like the right thing to do. The time has come. His toddler bed has served him very well, but Eli really had started asking about having a "big bed" so that all of his stuffed animals could sleep with him (there was really no room for this in his toddler bed). As silly as Eli's reason for wanting a big bed might seem, there were some good reasons to consider his wish sincerely. He was going to need to switch in the next year or so anyway, for one....and it would be nice to make the switch while he's gung-ho about it.  Patrick and I actually did try to talk him out of the move at first...but once the option existed for Eli, he insisted that the big bed was what he wanted.  BUT...I was genuinely hesitant for a few reasons...for one, taking out his toddler bed and giving him a big bed seems so....grown up. Call me a sentimental fool, but I actually cried a little over this transition. Then, I reminded myself that as long as he requires pull-ups at night, he's not THAT grown up. I was also thinking that the full bed would take up too much of his space. While it certainly does take up more space than his toddler bed, the combination of having room to store his stuffed animals on the bed and the decision to put some of his larger books in his closet (now that he can open his closet by himself) seemed to help us ALMOST break even on floor space.  And with Eli's cousin Emma (and Uncle Lee and Aunt Miyu) visiting soon, it made sense to change his bed out, so that we could use his crib mattress for Emma to sleep on.  And the full-size bed we have is actually lower to the ground than his toddler bed (which is really counter-intuitive); this should help him when we decide to tackle night-training.

We made the change last weekend. I have to say, though, that I do love a few things about the new set-up. For one, the way the bed is now, it is actually shorter (height-wise) than Eli's toddler bed, making it much easier for him to actually get into and out of it. This should make things easier when Eli decides to night-train.  For another, I love being able to lay next to him to read a story, watch a video, or cuddle before bed. It also gives him a really nice place to read and relax, and Eli seems much happier about it.  I started to lay down next to him during nap time earlier...and it is a very, very comfortable place. However, for now, it is taking him a lot longer to fall asleep...did I mention that all of his stuffed toys are now with him at night??  He talks and talks to them, and is just so excited about the change that he is finding it hard to settle.

The funniest part is that even though his bed now faces a different direction...and Eli is so used to sleeping a certain way that we are now finding him curled up at the bottom of his bed every time he goes to sleep : ).

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Snowstorm Part Deux

Patrick and I are still in disbelief that we saw snow twice in one year. The second winter storm of 2014 came through last week; this time we were snowed in for only 2 days, though. Eli played some indoor games, we did some crafts, and Eli did his best impression of a (highly-supervised!) short-order cook. He really enjoys the Montessori-inspired activities we do and seems to learn a lot from them.  He now has his own working mat (an old flannel blanket), a desk area (a piano bench that a friend gave to me), and his own lamp (and he picked out the new lampshade. He has been very interested in coloring lately, so we saw a lot of this:






 After the snow melted enough for me to return to work on Friday, Eli got to spend some time with his grandparents, since his school was still closed. When they dropped him off with me at the end of my day, I had to stay to put in a few grades for my students. I was really tickled that Eli was truly fascinated with a pencil, protractor, compass, ruler, and pair of scissors. I let him sit at a desk and go to town on some pieces of paper that I'd had in my desk. He used the protractor to trace a letter "D" multiple times and tried to cut each one out. Thirty minutes later, my work was done, and he was still going strong : ).

At home, though, he had a chance to work on his mailbox opening-skills (one of his favs)!




 
He often opens it (as you can see, he can just barely reach), then turns around and says "I'm getting so much bigger!  I am growing BIG!".

Thursday, February 6, 2014

35 Month Update: State of the Eli Address

It's funny: it used to confuse me when people referred to their children's ages in months (after the kids' first birthdays, of course). However, Eli's not quite 3, and saying that he's two and a half makes me think 2 years, 6 months. There's a HUGE difference between Eli now and Eli 5 months ago. His charming personality and sweet smile are the same, but developmentally, he is miles away from where he was in October.



Language:

Eli is still speaking in paragraphs. And he talks NON-STOP most of the time. He surprises people when he speaks, because he looks (and is!) so young. From the time we get up in the morning until we go to bed at night, he talks and sings.  He uses correct grammar most of the time, and normally speaks in complete sentences. Yesterday, when we went to pick up Patrick from school, Eli walked straight up to a stranger and said, "Excuse me, where's my daddy?"  This was completely unprompted, and is very typical of Eli. In a restaurant, he will order exactly what he wants (after he has talked about it with us) from the waiter/waitress; he is fairly outgoing/confident and will sometimes stop complete strangers to ask questions or to try to sing them a song. In the grocery store, while I am shopping, Eli has been known to ask people if they want to hear a song - and then sing one for them (whether they walk away or not). Favorites to sing are the "gummy bear" song, the "Turkey Dinner" song (he learned this one at school), "Sadie Hawkins Dance" (by Relient K), "I Want a Mac, Daddy" (Toby Mac), Three Bears (this is a Korean folk song) and San Toki (another Korean folk song). The funny part is that when Eli's paying attention, he can actually carry a tune and has good pitch memory! Eli also loves, loves, loves to talk on the phone to our friends and family. All of this talking/practicing means that Eli has a great vocabulary and is very easy to understand. Luckily, this ability to express himself tends to help us quite a bit when he becomes frustrated or emotional. Eli has a great understanding of polite language as well, and often uses "please", "thank you", etc. On a few occasions when he's expressed being angry/upset, it's been nice to say "Will you repeat that in a nicer way?" and have him respond. This is a FAR cry from a year and a half ago, when our pediatrician thought that Eli might have some language delays.


Interests/Likes:

Eli absolutely LOVES going to the movies with his Grandma/Grandpa; he recently went with them to see "Nut Job" and they treated him to dinner as well. He is still talking about it : ). Eli is also still loving to read, though his interest in books truly waxes and wanes. We follow his lead on what he wants to learn and how much he is ready to learn. Right now, he is enjoying re-reading familiar, favorite books, and practicing words he knows. He thoroughly enjoys spelling, and still frequently asks how to spell words, though he is mostly content with practicing spelling words he already knows (like zoo, cat, Eli, no, bed...). He really likes to get on the computer and type words he knows : ). Eli spent the last couple of months obsessively completing puzzles. For a while, he wanted to play only with his puzzles, and he completed some of them over and over (and then dumping several together, mixing the pieces, and completing them again). This is another interest that waxes and wanes, and I don't think he's touched a puzzle in over two weeks. Right now, Eli has wanted to color, paint, and play with his art supplies. He has a stamp kit that he loves, and he spent a lot of time stamping animals yesterday. He has asked to color or paint on a daily basis lately; we have a set of "twisty" crayons that he really enjoys. They are the same size as a standard pencil, and the crayon "lead" twists out of the pencil. They are much easier than color pencils (which he also enjoys), but not as chunky as regular crayons. He's been really learning to paint with a paintbrush, and use soft modeling clay. He was very proud of his painting yesterday, especially since he painted a circle without help. Eli has spent a lot of time lately on his roller skates; he skates around the living room and kitchen almost nightly. He can get his adjustable skates off/on by himself, and I think he likes how tall they make him. Finally, he really enjoys trips to the store, to go shopping for himself or others. We were  in Old Navy recently, looking for new pants for him, and he say a large display of graphic tees. I showed him how to find his size, and let him search through the shirts to find 2 that he liked enough for me to buy. He eventually settled on a Pluto shirt (Disney) and a Snoopy shirt. The next day, we were looking to replace his worn out shoes, and Eli picked his own shoes out at the store. We'd found a few pair for him to try on, and found two pair that fit. Eli chose one of them; and I asked him if he was sure these were the shoes he wanted. He said "I like these better than the brown, and these light up. I want to wear them and show my friends at school." Eli also adores cooking; he also loves to eat. Eli is a very adventurous eater, and I have often been quoted as saying that he'll eat anything that doesn't outrun him. Some of his favorites are onions, squash (especially spaghetti squash), okra, cucumbers, and avocado. He loves pork, beef, chicken, fish, shrimp, and other shellfish. Not many kids will willingly eat sardines with a side of broccoli or brussel spouts...but Eli definitely would.

Cooking:
 Eli really, really enjoys cooking. He loves to watch, he enjoys helping to stir ingredients or roll out dough with a fondant roller, and he enjoys measuring and pouring ingredients. Tonight we made homemade mini-pizzas (he actually helped me roll out the pizza dough yesterday). I chopped and put ingredients into small bowls for us to help ourselves, and Eli really liked spooning the sauce and putting toppings on his pizzas. We even made dessert pizzas with chocolate sauce, coconut, almonds, and pineapple pieces. Eli has begun to understand that we follow steps to cook our food, and that we don't just randomly throw ingredients in a pan. He has really learned the words "first," "next," and "last" by cooking with me and asking questions about what I'm (or we're) doing.  When he has an unfamiliar task to do, he likes to ask, "Oma, what do I do first?".



More gains:
Eli's memory has continued to develop, and it still startles us when he brings up events from weeks ago. Earlier this evening, we were eating dinner, when Eli brought up an episode of Batman that he'd seen at least 3 weeks ago. He was able to remember the basic story and the characters in that particular episode. His question about the show was when he'd seen it. While Eli understands that "today" is current, "tomorrow" is future and "yesterday" has happened already, he doesn't understand the difference between time constraints like "yesterday," "a few days ago" or "last week." He absorbs information at an incredible rate, though, and seemingly recalls it with no trouble. He has also become very good at sequencing events (like knowing the order/schedule for the day, or knowing the order of events for getting ready in the morning), and following multi-step directions. Eli also now knows many of his written numbers and has memorized the track numbers to the songs on his favorite CDs. He often will tell us which track # of a CD he would like to hear when we are in the car. So, we hear, "Oma, play number 3 on my Korean CD, please" or "Appa, play number 8 on my Bob n Larry CD, please." Eli has been a great counter for a while now, but really hasn't been interested in counting past twenty objects. However, he has great number sense and can tell us  how a count of objects will change if we add one or two more objects or take away an object (or two). The fun part is that he is now learning that a bill with a 5 on it is worth five bills with a 1 on them. He hasn't quite gotten it figured out, but he does know that they are not equal. Eli has also begun to really love some board games, like Don't Break the Ice, Candy Land, and Hi-Ho Cherry-O. He has gotten great at taking turns and is really learning to follow game rules. We are hoping to try Chutes and Ladders or Perfection next.

Chores:
Eli seems to feel a strong need to feel in control and responsible, and chores are one way we try to let him. Eli is also doing exceptionally well with chores. He's always so interested in what grown-ups are doing, that I like to give him jobs that are either helpful or that mimic what we're doing. For example, Eli has always enjoyed feeding the dogs, and can now do so independently. We are still helping him close the door of one of the dog crates and turning on the pantry light for him, but that's it. Eli gets very hurt/offended if we try to help him, which tends to set off massive tantrums. He also likes to help sort laundry, check the mailbox (with supervision, of course), get himself dressed/ready in the morning (except for smoothing down his cow-licked hair and brushing his teeth; he cannot do either of these independently), and keep his room tidy (with help). Tonight, I decided to extend his chores to include setting the table (since he is now big enough to reach it), pouring water into our cups for dinner (using a plastic pitcher; he loves anything that involves water), and helping to clear the table/wipe it down after dinner with a damp washcloth. I am trying to pick chores that I know he can do, and that I think he will enjoy. I know he liked the fact that he got to wipe the table while I wiped the counter. This simple action was helpful and it was enjoyable to see Eli take pride in what he was doing.

Transitions:
 Not all is sun-and-roses, though. Eli has made some great strides (and some downright amazing ones), but he really is struggling with a few things, too. First, we are seeing more tantrums/crying spells, as I've mentioned in previous posts. Sometimes, this is for no apparent reason, but a few things have helped. The first is making sure he's had enough sleep (which doesn't always happen, see below). The next is to use timers when we are getting close to changing activities (an oven timer to tell when it's time for dinner, a bedtime-timer set 3 minutes before bed to let him know when he has only 3 more minutes to play, etc). Another is to make sure we especially make time for cuddling and spending time in close proximity. BUT - the best way we have to prevent Eli from getting upset is preparation for change. We go through our schedule/sequence of events at different parts of the day, reminding him what comes next. For example, reminding him know that he has play time, then we cook dinner, clean up, etc., seems to help him. Eli really doesn't seem to mind changes in routine, as long as we tell him ahead of time that we are going to do something different. Tonight, for example, I let him know that we are going to go to the market tomorrow (on a different day/time than usual) and asked him to think about what foods he would like to eat next week. This generally goes over pretty well. From what I've read, routine/order isn't just nice for toddlers/preschoolers - for many of them it's an actual need. Letting him know of changes ahead of time (when possible) isn't just a comfort, though - it's also a courtesy. I liken it to letting my boss know if I'm going to be late to work...the "heads-up" shares helpful information and gives the other person time to adapt to the change.  When we have truly unexpected changes, Eli handles them well about 50% of the time. Tonight, I think he expected to have time to spend with his Grandpa; when that didn't happen (because we didn't know that Grandpa needed to go to Great-Grandma's house to help her), Eli fell to pieces and threw one of the louder tantrums we've seen/heard. Eli also, as I said earlier, really seems to want to have a little more control/responsibility. Allowing him to participate more with what we do around the house seems to make him happier than playing near me while I am working on something. Finally, limiting any TV during the week to shows that are very low-key and are not animated seems to help (we tend to rotate through various shows/channels through the week, but Gilligan's Island, DIY network,  and Call of the Wildman are some week-day favorites). We generally do a family movie on Friday (as I mentioned before, Eli adores movies) and save favorite cartoons for Saturday morning or for after church Sunday. But I've found that cartoons in the evening tend to wind Eli up and overstimulate him (an occasional treat of 10 minutes of cartoons in the morning before school, though, is AWESOME when he's ready for school before me!).

Sleep:
That bring me to our other struggle: sleep. It's no secret that Eli struggled with sleep issues when we first got home from Korea. And it was really rough. It took several months to get him down to only one wake up in the middle of the night. However, around mid-April or early May of last year, he finally began to sleep through the night with few nightmares or wakings. While we did have bumps in the road after that (including a couple weeks of rough/no sleep when we lost a dear friend of our family), Eli's sleep has improved dramatically. He does go to bed fairly cheerfully most nights, but lately has been waking up with nightmares again (we'd been nightmare/night terror/sleep walking free for several months). For the last few nights, he's had nightmares at night and comes into our room afterward to go back to sleep. Hopefully, this will improve and get back on track soon; he is so much happier when he's well-rested, but nightmares are hard for us to predict and plan for.

All-in-all, we are moving in the right direction : ). I can't believe we've been home now for a year and a half!  Patrick and I feel extremely lucky and blessed to be Eli's parents.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Korean New Year

We were able to celebrate our Korean New Year with some other adoptive families this year, thanks to an announcement by a fellow blogger!  We met a lot of very nice families, and it was wonderful to be able to fellowship and listen to others' adoption stories. Eli was able to participate in the "seh beh" (sp?) ceremony, eat traditional Korean food (like tteokguk and kimchi), and run/play with quite a few other children (and he did try to play the Korean version of "hackey sack", but it eventually turned into just tossing the toys with his hands). Although many people were learning how to play the game "yut nori" (the "four stick game"), Eli was too wound up to sit still and learn to play. In fact, he was very hyper all evening (especially after dinner); I am not sure if it was the new surroundings or if he was picking up on everyone's excitement, but he was certainly not himself! Patrick and I debated about whether to take him out and have him calm down for a few minutes, but decided that doing so might backfire and cause him to melt down completely. Even so, we all had a wonderful time, and look forward to being able to get together with everyone again soon!

As we did last year, we did take red envelopes (no money!) and Korean cookies to Eli's friends at school for New Year this Monday (we planned for Friday, but snow-ma-geddon had other plans for us). Eli's teachers do a lesson about Lunar New Year every year, and since we celebrate it in our house, we volunteer to 'sponsor' the holiday. Eli really enjoyed being able to take a picture of himself in a han bok to show and tell, and getting to talk to his friends about everything we did.