Saturday, December 26, 2015


So. After dealing with Scooter's stomach bug....and catching it myself...I thought Eli might have caught the stomach bug.

I was wrong.  The only people who got the stomach virus were Scooter and I. You may remember that I took Eli to doctor and that he was coughing and throwing up in the office. The next day, he was a little better...though not quite right. Sunday, was neither better nor worse, though Patrick had to go alone to light the Advent candles at church, since I am not a fan of spreading illness.

Monday, Eli was much worse. We went back to the doctor, and she was surprised at how lethargic he was and how poorly he was feeling. I'd given him acetaminophen before the appointment for fever, but it continued to rise at the doctor's office, up to 103. She wrote an order for a chest x-Ray, and sent us across the street to the hospital to have it done. On the way across the street, I got a call from the preschool saying that Scooter might not be feeling well, too. Thank heavens for Patrick's parents for going to get him for me!

I was also thankful for the days I worked with my good friends at the animal shelter...and the fact that they taught me to read chest x-Rays for cats. Pneumonia in cats and pneumonia in people shows up identically...and it was easy for me to see that Eli had a clear case of double pneumonia. Later, that night, Eli began to spike a higher fever around midnight, at 104 degrees. We called and paged the doctor on call, and worked to bring his fever down. I gave him a breathing treatment to help him breathe. He relaxed, the fever began to break, and his breathing eased. I put him to bed.

About an hour or two later, I heard him begin to whimper. I called out to see if he was okay...and he only whimpered. Upon checking him, we realized that he had thrown up, and was too tired to get up and ask for help. We cleaned him up, and I put him in our recliner to sleep, where I could keep a closer eye on him. Around 3:30 AM, he began to have some trouble breathing. It was almost time for ibuprofen and a breathing treatment, so I waited up with him and watched him carefully. When the medicine didn't seem to make a difference, I took him to the emergency room.

Because he was having so much trouble breathing due to the pneumonia, we found ourselves being transferred to the children's hospital by ambulance, where he was admitted for treatment. We were very thankful that he rebounded quickly and was released from the hospital in time for Christmas :). And Eli, at least, is still getting well quickly. We still have a couple follow up appointments to make sure the pneumonia is gone....but after being so frightened about how sick he was, it is definitely a relief to have some reassurance.

In the meantime, Scooter started coughing...and Itty Bitty started with a runny nose...and I started coughing. After yet another check at the pediatrician, Itty Bitty seems to have just a cold...while Scooter has now been diagnosed with pneumonia. A later check with my doctor revealed that I, also have a case of pneumonia.

At this point, I am glad that Eli is on the mend, and that Itty Bitty is currently in the clear. We are hoping that we will all be well - or close enough - soon.    Now, if only I can get caught back up on my never-ending housework...

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Well, it would appear that God has a great sense of humor. No sooner did I hit "post" on my last entry...the one where I said "it had been a while since I'd heard from the children's home"....than I got a phone call from them. It was for a 3 year old boy, part of a sibling group, who needed a place to stay immediately.  Oddly, I didn't even ask my usual questions...I don't know what got into me...but I simply said "yes."  Then, I asked if I could take care of his (younger) sister as well. Unfortunately, the sister was ill with a stomach virus and had been placed quickly so as to get her medical care.  And, later, when Scooter was on his way to our house, I was told that he had begun to vomit as well.


I put in for a sub for the next day, asked for registration papers at the preschool, and went home to ready the spare bed for a preschooler.  Patrick took Eli to his piano lesson (at which Eli behaved abominably) while I waited for updates and Scooter's arrival.  Around 9 that evening, the transporter and a representative from the children's home arrived with a shy, confused little boy. Then, we began to review paperwork....and saw that the recorded birthday placed his age at 2, not 3.  None of us knew if he was 3 - as reported - or if the birthdate on the paperwork was correct.  Honestly....we still aren't sure.  We are going by the paperwork birthday for school and medical appointments for now, while our foster care worker is trying to get to the bottom of the situation.  We did have an interesting night, but although Scooter was initially unhappy about going to bed, we were able to soothe him with a few stories and some comforting hugs. I was very, very happy to hear him speak...he is the first foster child out of the 4 that we have had who could put 2-4 words together.

The next morning, I dropped Eli and Itty Bitty off at preschool/daycare and took Scooter to the store for some clothing and a toy to call his own. I set up his initial medical evaluation, and let him have a quiet, easy day to begin settling. He earned his nickname the first afternoon, scooting around on every ride-on toy that we have.

Later that night, we went to enjoy watching Eli at his Christmas program for preschool. It was really cute...and, as always in a group of four year olds on was hilarious.  Scooter stood up and cheered and clapped after every single song and rectitation....and since every kid was supposed to individually recite part of "The Night Before Christmas", that was a LOT of cheering.  It was cute, though.

Unfortunately, the next evening, it became apparent that I managed to catch Scooter's stomach bug : (, and missed the rest of the week at school as a result.  Eli also managed to come down with some weird virus that has left him with a fever, body aches, and cough.  I took him to the doctor Saturday morning for this...and he began vomiting while we were there. And, since he's completely potty-trained...neither of us had a change of clothes. Needless to say, he missed his Advent reading at church this morning, and is still not feeling very well.  He may be about to get his first flu shot, as he was negative on the flu test at the doctor's office.  Hoping that he feels better tomorrow, when we go back to the doctor for a re-check...and for Itty Bitty's 6 month old vaccinations and well check.

And speaking of Itty Bitty, we have an early intervention appointment coming up this week, too.  I've been looking at him more closely since we 'failed' the initial evaluation (he still cannot play with his feet while lying on his back). While there definitely are things he doesn't do that other many 6 month old babies CAN do, I'm still not sure if anything is actually wrong...or if he's just moving to the beat of his own drum. He does seem "tight" or stiff in the shoulders/upper arms...and he doesn't usually grab for toys (he can...he just doesn't usually do it).  But...he's trying to crawl (he mostly slithers backwards and pivots), he adores bouncing, and he is definitely standing very well.  Today marks the first time that I saw him get into an "all fours" position to try to crawl, and I have been seeing him "mouth" toys.  He does have a few other milestones that are hit/miss for now...but he is progressing in all areas.  It will be interesting to see if he qualifies for services.  I'm hoping that lots of time at home during these next few weeks will help him, too, since he'll have a lot more one-on-one time. Hopefully, we'll be able to have both of his intake evaluations done over the holidays...and I'm thankful that I was able to get all but one of Scooter's follow-ups scheduled for the holiday weeks, as well.

Now, I've got to get to wrapping presents, and prepping for the holidays : )!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Advent Update

It's so nice to back and to have a little time to write this week! I'm surprised that we haven't gotten a call from our foster agency, asking us to take another child, but it's still just us + Itty Bitty.  When W left, I was so excited to get another child, to feel less sad about his leaving. After Wonder Boy left, I REALLY needed a break to get my bearings...and then we'd all gotten under the weather, and needed time to get better.  Now, I'm ready.  I think.  It's hard to really FEEL ready...but I am as close as I can get.

We made it to the Christmas party at our foster agency on Saturday, though, and it was wonderful!!  I can't thank them enough for everything...Eli had a BLAST doing art projects and meeting Santa.  If you remember, he was angry at Santa for not giving kids in orphanages presents for Christmas. And, in fact, I expected him to take one look at "Santa" and reject him as a person in costume, as he has done so many times before.  This time, though, he looked at Santa, and said to me, quietly, "Is that the REAL Santa, or a man in costume?"  I asked him, "What do YOU think, Eli?  Look at him again."  He started bouncing and got incredibly excited : ), saying "It's him!  It's really him!  Oh! Oh!  Can I go see him? Can I talk to him?!"  A few moments later, Eli went airborne as he HURLED himself at Santa.  Thankfully, everyone recovered enough that I *think* the pro photographer might have gotten some good pictures. My only pic is a little blurry, and since it shows so much of Itty Bitty's face, I cannot post it. In the meantime, Eli's heart has been a lot lighter and happier since he decided that Santa had come to the foster agency's party to make sure that the foster children got their gifts (after all, they are not in their actual homes for Christmas).

Sunday brought more interesting things to do. The children's choir at our church replaced the adult choir for the entire church service this week; truthfully, they did amazingly well. I kinda wished Eli would quit giving me a thumbs-up every 2 or 3 minutes, and I definitely wished he would quit squirreling around and trying to talk to me (in the pew) from the choir loft, but he did amazingly well remembering the words to the songs.  His friend, R, got up and sang a GORGEOUS solo - a capella - of  all 3 verses of 'Go Tell It On The Mountain'.  Later that evening, we went to the church's family Christmas celebration, but, unfortunately, Eli was WOUND UP and acted very poorly. Still, we were able to enjoy some of the festivities before it was definitely time to take Eli home for bed.  Itty Bitty, by contrast, was very relaxed and happy the entire time. I'd brought the stroller for him, but he wanted to snuggle, so I ended up carrying him most of the evening : ).

This upcoming week should be very interesting; Eli has a piano lesson (the last one before New Year's), a book club meeting (I'm thankful this is only a month-long club!), and a performance with his class at school.  Yeesh!  This is a LOT for us...we actively try NOT to be away from home during the week : ).  Did I mention that I promised Eli that I'd take him ice skating soon, too?!  This is not to mention that our social worker is probably going to want to do a home visit sometime this week...!

Still, it's nice to be winding down the semester at school and getting ready for some quality family time!  I bought fabric for Itty Bitty's stocking, and am HOPING to have time to quilt it this week...though it's looking busy...but I am determined to get it done : ).  I'll post pics when it is finished!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up:Piano Lessons and BCW

Wow...just wow. I've been inundated with so much to do lately...and we've all been fighting illness in the last few weeks. For now, though, everyone seems to be on the mend.  The sniffles are minimal; the excitement for the coming holidays is through the roof.

This week marked the second piano lesson that Eli's had.  Official piano lessons, anyway. I'd worked with him occasionally on the piano or violin at his request...but now, I've caved and allowed Eli to start formal lessons with a family friend. Bonus: she happens to be Korean, which Eli likes.  Extra bonus: her teaching style is very Korean, which means high expectations, lots of homework, specific goals, and strict attention to detail.  While, for some kids, this teaching style would backfire, Eli needs it. Everyone's been so relaxed about Eli's learning (including me), that he doesn't take it very seriously, so he needs a little more structure. So far, almost 3 weeks in, Eli is still 'on fire' to learn and is thoroughly enjoying his lessons. And, in usual Eli style, he is learning VERY rapidly.  As my family said, he's "taking to it like a duck to water."  And, Patrick and I agree, having our four year old run up and say "Look!  Look!  I drew my own treble clef by myself!" made us so proud.  I did have to get onto him once for not taking his piano homework seriously, but he wants to learn so badly, he settled quickly.  And when I say piano homework, I definitely mean that enough was given that he has homework NIGHTLY for the week, in addition to practicing the two songs that he's learning.  And, in a contrast to American music teachers, instead of practicing for 15 minutes, he wasn't given an amount of time to practice...he was told to play one of the pieces 5 times correctly (starting completely over for errors), and the second (much easier) piece 1 time correctly.  For the most part, this actually doesn't take nearly that long...for now.  But for his age, I like this approach: playing a piece 5 times correctly is a very concrete goal...practicing for 15 minutes seems to abstract.

Eli's not done very much academically this week. We did manage to FINALLY begin Life of Fred: Dogs, which we are thoroughly enjoying.  Eli's losing interest in his 1st and 2nd grade math books, because he's mastered almost all of the material in them. The only skills in these grade levels that he still needs to work on are borrowing with subtraction (which he's almost ready for) and a deeper understanding of place value.  I will say, though, we've gone back to using the IXL website, and I let him play on the 3rd grade math activities. He taught himself to divide - by 5s, anyway; since he competently multiplies by 2s, 5s, and 10s, he could probably also figure out how to divide by 2 or 10.  Eli's not showing a ton of reading growth lately,  but he's not been practicing much, either.  Our library started a winter reading club for kids, and he joined, so at least I know he'll read a total of 4 books this month.  He's only done 1 so far, but is ready for another. The first book he read, Pepper and Poe, was absolutely adorable and is a new family favorite. While it's very simple (and has very few words to read), the story is really sweet and quite funny. It reminded me somewhat of Purina's "Dear Kitten" videos.

In other news, Itty Bitty failed a routine Early Intervention milestones check earlier this week.  For those who don't know, in my area, Early Intervention is called BCW (Babies Can't Wait). The fact that he failed is not a big deal at this point, though he will have to have a more in-depth evaluation. The area he failed was gross motor/physical. He failed for three milestones. One, though we've seen him roll over (both directions), it's been at about a month since I've seen him do it.  I honestly think that's mostly because of weight gain for the back-to-front roll....and because he strongly prefers to play on his tummy, he won't generally roll front-to-back.  Two, he doesn't get up "into a crawling position."  He is trying to move on the floor, but honestly hasn't figured it out yet. Third, he doesn't play with his feet while lying on his back.  Again, I think that's partly because of his weight...and partly because he doesn't like to lie on his back at all.  He DOES play with his feet sometimes when he's sitting up, though...but the evaluator said that this didn't count. I told her that he's pulling to stand, trying to lift a foot to step when he's standing, and that he's sitting independently, but that didn't count either.  So, we have to wait on a physical therapist to call and set up an appointment to see him. Who knows?  I could be wrong and he's simply not as flexible or as strong in some of the areas he should be.  But, as strong as he is and as mobile as he tries to be, I'm not worried at this point. He's doing very well, and making progress all across the board.  I wish he got more "floor time" at daycare, as I think this would help him, but he always seems to be in a bouncy seat, highchair, walker, swing, crib,..etc.  In the meantime, I am going to try to give him some extra 'floor time' lying down at home, so that he can work on moving about. 

Itty Bitty has had some really cute moments this week, though.  Saturday afternoon, when he woke up to see a Christmas tree in the living room, the bewilderment on his face was absolutely hysterical.  He looked from the tree to us several times with wide eyes; we could tell he had so many questions, but can't yet ask them all.  Nearly a week later, he still looks at the tree quizzically.

Last night, he surprised us a couple of times by standing on his own. He's generally loved sitting on my leg and rock back-and-forth. Suddenly, yesterday, he gave an extra lunge, and ended up standing. I held his hand for support, then realized he didn't need it. I let go (but with hands nearby, so that he wouldn't fall), and he held it for a second or two.  He's been using my shirt to pull himself to stand, but that is definitely the first time he got into the position on his own.

Finally, Wednesday night, at Eli's church choir practice, Itty Bitty surprised me again. The kids were all chatting, and a couple of the other moms and I (several with babies Itty Bitty's age) were sitting and playing with the babies. But, when the kids started singing, Itty Bitty had an immediate reaction. He froze, whipped his head around to find the sound, and struggled to turn to see the kids sing.  Each time the kids took a break, Itty Bitty would turn back and show interest in the other babies and people (including me). Each time the kids began singing, Itty Bitty was so entirely focused on the music that I was unable to get his attention or distract him.  When I tried to turn his back to them, he struggled to reorient himself so that he could see. It's the first time he's ever done anything like this before and it was really cute (albeit very surprising!). He does not do this at home, and ignores the background music at school...but we were very tickled by his behavior.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Tough Questions

Tonight was FULL of tough questions, y'all.

Eli as Darth Vader, Wonder Boy as Yoda

And not just because Eli just found out that Darth Vader really was Luke Skywalker's birthfather, though he initially refused to believe it when Darth Vader said it in the movie. The cool part about that is that when he finally accepted that fact, it elevated Luke Skywalker to awesomely cool adoptee status.  But that part...not tough at all.

In the wake of Wonder Boy's departure (our 3rd foster child, but only the second one to leave for those who are counting), I think Eli's been feeling unsettled and a little confused.

We're seeing it in his behavior even though he says he does NOT miss Wonder Boy AT ALL.  Even though he says he can't wait to have another foster child because...why not?  And - possibly - because he occasionally worries aloud that Itty Bitty will leave one day.

The really tough questions began tonight after we heard an ad for Operation Christmas Child - a program that we participate in at our church by filling shoeboxes and collecting/donating items.  We were in the car, and it was fairly quiet and dark, so I think he felt vulnerable and more open to serious talking than he usually is.

He started by asking what an orphanage is.  And then demanding to know why the kids in the orphanages are not all in foster homes.  And then fuming that there are simply not always enough foster families...going so far as to say that he would "never go to a place who didn't care enough to find enough families to take care of kids who need it."  And saying that he would always want to care for kids and he would grow up and take care of all of the kids who need it.

My heart was breaking for him.  He's so innocent and sensitive.  I have to be so careful what I say, as he is so smart that he understands things he probably shouldn't - and he gets furious if he thinks his questions aren't taken seriously or answered to his satisfaction - yet he is so tender hearted that he genuinely gets distraught if the answers are too much for him.

But then he asked the clincher: why WE were the ones to send presents at Christmas....after all, isn't it Santa Claus's job?  Especially for kids who don't have anything?

How in the WORLD do I explain this to a FOUR YEAR OLD?? I've already had to explain, as gently as possible, what orphanages are.

And granted, I'm not the one who told him about Santa, and I always dodge Santa-related questions by telling him to ask his father.  But he was already confused and worried enough to ask this question, and I was NOT about to hurt his feelings further (especially so close to Christmas) by throwing Santa under the bus (though I am not a fan - sorry, Santa)...and he wanted an answer from ME.

I thought for a moment, and was able to say that 'even Santa needs help sometimes, and that he would want us to show our love to other kids this way.'

The answer must have satisfied least enough to change topic a bit. But then, Eli began asking some tougher questions about HIS story.  He knows that every kid has a different story, and we've told him repeatedly that his is VERY different from W's, Itty Bitty's, and Wonder Boy's...and their stories are very different from one another, too.  For his personal privacy, I am leaving out the parts of our conversation that are only his to tell - I feel the need to share what I can.

He said that sometimes he gets really sad, and wonders if his birthparents ever miss him or think about him. He wants to tell them about Star Wars and swimming and how he loves to read comic books.  He says he wishes that his birthparents and foster parents lived nearby so that we could visit.  I did tell him that I would help him search for them, if he wanted to, when he was old enough, and that I firmly believe that his birthparents DO wonder about him and love him.  I am so grateful that his foster family has kept in touch with us, as that helps fill in some answers to some of his questions.

I'm very glad that Eli has enough confidence and trust in me that he is able to ask these questions.  I just never expected it at his age, and it is so hard to realize that he does genuinely feel the losses he's experienced - even though he doesn't consciously remember them. I know part of this is because we do have foster kids coming in and out of our home, so he does see and learn more about how other people live at a much younger age than other kids. In addition, it has definitely put his view of his time in foster care in Korea in a different light.

When we got home, Eli asked to see his pictures. The ones that his foster mother in Korea so carefully organized into an album. The ones that are so, so precious to me, too, since I wasn't in his story yet.  As I retrieved the album, a burgundy gift bag slipped off the shelf, and Eli asked what it was.  I explained to him that I kept EVERYTHING that came home from Korea, and that the bag was the one that most of his belongings were packed into when we brought him home. I didn't expect to see the initial sadness as he quietly asked, "But it's so small. Is that all I had?"  I had to gently explain that he truly didn't have many belongings, that he did have a second, (smaller) bag, and that his foster family really loved (and loves) him. I also reminded him that he's seen for himself that children in foster care don't always have a lot of belongings to take with them.  I reminded him that the amount of belongings someone has does not equal the amount of love that they have (which is a really difficult concept for a preschooler), and that he has (and had!) a lot of people who love him very much.  I think, for the first time, Eli realized part of what being in foster care really meant as part of his story; I think a part of him began to identify, at least a little bit, with W and Wonder Boy in a very new way.

I don't know how other adoptive parents feel, but geez....these conversations do leave me feeling as though I wish I could make everything better...and that I wish I had so many more answers for him (especially happy/comforting answers).  I walk a very fine line sometimes, with him especially, to make sure he has the honest answers he deserves in a way that is developmentally appropriate.

On the upside, it was awesome to see him, when he'd had his fill of the conversation, go immediately into a 'Ghostbusters' break dance.  It makes me realize that, even though he is serious when he has questions, they aren't always in the forefront of his mind.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Wonder Boy Is Leaving

So, while on the way home from the pediatrician (since all 3 kids are now sick), I received a call from Wonder Boy's caseworker.  She explained that a foster home has been found who is able to take Wonder Boy and his siblings, so that they can be together.

While we are glad for the chance for Wonder Boy to be with his siblings, it did take me by surprise.  We didn't even know that they were looking for one! It doesn't surprise me, though, as he has a fantastic caseworker who really cares about the children and is working hard to help them. Honestly, we'd only begun to bond with Wonder Boy, so his transition out of our home will not be as hard for us as it might be for him. His behaviors have made it very difficult to even begin to bond. Even Eli was pretty nonchalant when I told him the news. I sincerely hope that someone continues to pursue speech services for Wonder Boy, as he desperately needs them.  He is a smart boy who needs a little help catching up.  Being with his brothers, too, will be best for him long term.

And I might as well admit, in the interest of brutal honesty, a small part of me is very relieved that he is leaving, and my guess is that Patrick and Eli have similar feelings.  As badly as Patrick and I would love to adopt again, we had no intention of adopting Wonder Boy. Partly because we felt that our parenting style isn't what Wonder Boy needs, and partly because we feel strongly that he should be with his brothers (and we're not up for adopting a group of 3). Some people would be offended to hear that, but they aren't in my shoes.  And trust me when I say: I am surprised as anyone that I would pass on adopting a child (any child). So, we're back to prayerfully waiting on another child to be placed in our home; hopefully a child whom we might be able (and willing) to adopt. This time around, though, instead of being open for calls immediately, I requested that our agency wait until Itty Bitty gets well before calling us with another foster placement. In the meantime, I have packing to do for Wonder Boy, so that he will be ready for the transporter tomorrow.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Exhaustion and Optimism

I am exhausted, y'all.  There's no other way to describe it. I am so tired.  I am about to scale back from trying to 'do all the things' have some quieter evenings and weekends.  I am definitely not a person who likes to be scheduled every minute of the day...but for the last few weeks, that's exactly what has happened.

In all honesty, tonight was very much an exercise in putting one foot in front of the other and going through the motions.  I've really been trying to do to much with a very limited amount of energy...and I definitely need a break.  Even though Patrick is the awesome-est husband ever and made me some sweet tea and watched the boys (who, quite literally, sat and watched cartoons the entire time, thank heavens) while I had a much needed break at the grocery store.

Let me back up a little. Today, especially, was an anomaly, but it was overwhelming. Patrick and I took today off to take care of an appointment that we had for one of our foster kids...only to arrive and find out that the appointment had been rescheduled...without anyone bothering to tell us.  We'd both taken the day off to go, and we knew to expect a few days like this when we began foster care. But it was definitely frustrating to realize that, with the new appointment upcoming, we have to miss another day of work.  Still, we decided to have a nice day, just the two of us, especially since this really doesn't happen often. This plan unraveled within seconds.

Literally, before we could start the car, Wonder Boy's preschool called me and said that he was running a fever.  While picking him up, Itty Bitty's teacher called me over and said that he had a low temp as well (he didn't, that I could tell - the highest reading I got on our thermometer was 98.9). And then Eli's teacher came out and asked me to come get him, as he was misbehaving and telling his teacher that "he didn't have to respect her or do what she said because she wasn't family."

After disciplining Eli, taking all of the kids home, and then calling and begging the doctor's office - twice - to please please please squeeze him in, we found out that Wonder Boy had dual ear infections and a high temperature.  Poor kiddo.  Then, although the doctor said that they called in his prescription when we were sitting in the office, the pharmacy currently has no record of it. And since I waited (stood) in line for more than 45 minutes at the pharmacy, by the time I knew they didn't have the prescription, the doctor's office was closed, and it took another hour to find out that the on-call doctor could not access his records. 

Oh, and to the snarky teenage cashier at the pharmacy...thanks so much for giving me a hard time when I was trying to get medicine that was supposed to have been ordered for a little kid who is clearly sick.  Advising me to drive back to the doctor's office (or to 'holler' out the pharmacy drive-thru window toward the pediatrician's office next door to see if they 'was' open) - which I assured her was CLOSED - is certainly not helpful. And saying "I don't never heard that name afore" when I tell you Wonder Boy's birth name sounds much less educated than a more pleasant alternative, such as "I'm sorry, I don't see his prescription in the computer." 

But, then, I do live in a town where it took nearly a year to open a brand-new Jimmy John's sandwich shop...because the owners had so much difficulty finding employable people. 

I did manage to go home, sneak a bite to eat (thanks to Patrick, who had the foresight to grab some take out), and start a roast for dinner (that later came out looking like a charcoal briquette, since I forgot to set a timer) before I made a run to the grocery store to correct an emergency diaper shortage.  While trying to buy said diapers and some ingredients for the week, my mother calls and asks me to come over tomorrow night to help set up her new home office.

Really?  I wonder what she will do when I show up with all three kids...

But in the wake of having a rough afternoon, it really wasn't all bad.  When I started writing, it certainly felt that way.  I definitely cried and started whining about how overwhelmed I felt.  As I started writing, though, my inner optimist fought her way to the surface.  Patrick helped by reading over my shoulder and giving a well-timed hug.

Then, I couldn't help thinking of a few good things that happened. For one, I was able to get Wonder Boy into our town's REALLY GOOD pediatrician.  That's hard to do. I had to wait about 2 months to get Eli in as a new patient when he was little, and was never able to get W into their practice. To have all 3 kids at the same (great) doctor's office is freaking fantastic.

Later, at the grocery store, I was so relieved when I turned from paying for my groceries and realized that someone had bagged them for me, put them in a cart, and offered to help me to the car.  This little bit of extra effort on someone else's part took a surprising amount of weight off of my shoulders. I normally would think someone was being ridiculous if they said this made them as happy as it made me...but I'm not kidding when I say that it made it possible for me to drive home, finish cooking dinner for my family, and (sort of) clean the kitchen afterward.  Though, it definitely did not make it possible for me to do laundry tonight...and I'm feeling very guilty for letting clothes 'marinate' in the hamper overnight while I write.

Now, this is not to mention that, while Wonder Boy's behavior is still very challenging, he is making major improvements.  He surprises me frequently with what he WILL do....and with what he thinks he WON'T do.  Getting dressed in the morning is on his "Nope" list. Sometimes getting in or out of the car is on his "Nope" list. Trust me when I say...his "No's" are almost always non-negotiable (for example, we're not going to preschool naked). But, his decisions to randomly decide to use the toilet instead of his diaper...and giving hugs in the doctor's office today...and quietly playing all afternoon with Eli have been pleasant surprises. Though, the fact that he is sick may have played a role in the 'quiet playing'. But, the unsolicited, freely given hugs were pretty awesome.

The potty thing was also pretty cool, and deserves an explanation. Though his teachers do have the kids "try" to potty 3 or 4 times per day, Wonder Boy is definitely not potty trained. Other than letting him 'try' at school, I wasn't planning on addressing this with him yet, as he's been through so many life changes lately. But then, we accidentally got him to go #2 on the toilet last night. I'd been changing him for bed, and realized that he was in the middle of 'the go', so put him on the potty to finish. And gave him a treat for doing so.  Tonight, he started grabbing his behind and fussing. Patrick figured out what he was trying to tell us, and took him...and he successfully went!  We're celebrating a bit, because this is how Eli started, too.  But we're not prepared to force the issue.  He will continue to wear diapers until he decides he wants to completely train, or until I think he's really ready.  I'm already having to put my foot down on too many other issues!

So, really it's not all bad. It's just a lot.  I know tomorrow will be better, and I'm glad that Patrick is staying with Wonder Boy tomorrow. For now, I'm going to indulge in some old sitcoms, spicy chips, and that yummy sweet tea : ).

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Introducing Wonder Boy...and The Shoe Store Incident of 2015

This one is Eli...Wonder Boy himself isn't still long enough to take a picture...

For nearly a month after W's return home, our family was 'on call' with our fostering agency. This was a huge surprise to my husband and I - we expected to get a placement very quickly after W left - though we've needed the break more than we realized.  Especially since ALL of us got knocked down with a simultaneous cold and stomach bug this week.

In the meantime, a LOT of things went - remarkably - back to "normal". Eli and I have gotten caught up on his home school work, and the house is cleaner than it has been in quite some time.  We'd begun to arrange some outings/field trips for him to take again, which he LOVES, and I can't believe how much easier certain logistical tasks are (like getting everyone in/out of the grocery store).  I enjoyed tackling some projects that I've really wanted to handle, and part of me relished the time to read and relax a little. I also had plenty of time to pray about (and for) Itty Bitty.  We desperately would love to adopt him, but I have been so frustrated with the waiting to find out if we will be able to.

Now, though, I am pleased to say that, after FOUR different referral calls, we do have a new child placed with us. We had about one referral call every 7 days or so, but until Friday, none of the placements happened. For the first child that we heard about, I immediately agreed to take her, but found out very shortly afterward that - due to the simultaneous nature of our call list - someone else agreed to take her first.  For the second child, Patrick and I decided against taking his placement, as we really felt that he might not be a good fit for our family (for privacy reasons, I cannot disclose the issues).  I NEVER anticipated turning down a placement of a child, and definitely felt a little sad about it....but Eli - as MY child - will always be my first priority in these decisions.  He has been an absolute champ with W and Itty Bitty, and even though it hasn't always been sunshine and roses - he definitely struggles sometimes - both have had a really amazing impact on his character.  The third call we received was for a child that we agreed to take if another home couldn't be located closer to his birth family (we were nearly 100 miles away), but DHS was eventually able to place him closer to home, and we weren't needed to care for him after all.

That brings me to introduce....Wonder Boy.  We got his referral call Friday afternoon, and as with all foster kids, he has experienced more than his share of hard times.  Wonder Boy is newly two years old...and is only an inch shorter than Eli.  He is, quite seriously, one of the tallest two year olds (especially for a young two) that I've ever seen.  Wonder Boy, though calm the first night (other than tears at bedtime), has earned his name by demonstrating the ability to leap a couch in a single bound and run so fast I thought he'd taken flight.

The morning after his placement was...challenging. See, he had no shoes.  I had some of Eli's clothes, recently outgrown, that he was able to wear.  But his feet were bigger than Eli's, and all he had were some soft-soled bedroom slippers.  So, I wrestled all 3 kids into clothes (okay, okay, Eli politely dressed himself and the baby giggled the entire time I dressed him), technically, I wrestled Wonder Boy into some clothes, grabbed the diaper bag and we headed to get some breakfast and some shoes.

So, I'm heading into town with three kids...a four year old, a four month old, and a large, sock-footed, mostly nonverbal, two-year-old who has been in my custody for fewer than twelve hours.  What could go wrong?

I started considering the possibilities. Every Saturday morning, we try to go by a local coffee shop and let Eli (and previously, W) have a cookie or danish for breakfast as a special treat.  Except that now, I have a toddler that does not know me and may run away as soon as his feet hit the pavement.  NO WAY could I juggle a baby, Wonder Boy, and Eli across the busy town square on foot to the coffee shop.  I didn't have Patrick with me to help, as he had an appointment that morning.  I decided that the coffee shop, this time, was probably NOT my smartest-ever idea.

So, I rerouted through a drive through and got the kids a quick breakfast to eat on the way to the shoe store, PRAYING that Wonder Boy wouldn't make a mess. He didn't. Evidently, he was really very hungry and didn't play around at all with his food.  As a side note, any food I've given him has disappeared remarkably quickly...that part is a nice change from W, who was a picky eater when he arrived here. I was able to get the kids cleaned up, holding hands, and walking across the parking lot in short order. I thought all was well....and then Wonder Boy had an Idea.  As we walked to the back of the shoe store, where all of the kid's shoes are kept, Wonder Boy spied a bin of balls, snatched his hand away from me, dashed over and began bouncing a ball as high as he could, knocking several boxes of shoes to the ground.  Still holding Itty Bitty, and letting go of Eli, I reached out took the ball away and regained Wonder Boy's hand. Just in case you were wondering, this was NOT easy to do while holding a 4 month old baby. We walked to the shoes. I showed him a bench toy that he COULD play with while I found his size in the very first pair of shoes my eyes lit upon. After a brief moment, I noticed him looking to see if I was watching...which I was...but I still barely had time to register his eyes light up and his maniacal laughter before he dashed over and made an immediate repeat of his ball bouncing performance. At this point an employee felt sorry for me (or she really wanted us out of the store ASAP) and came to my rescue.  She quickly asked...across the store, since I was chasing Wonder Boy with Eli running behind me trying to catch up and Itty Bitty hanging on to my shirt, clearly delighted with this new game..."SIZE?"
 "I don't know....9 wide?" I guessed haphazardly, basing my guess only on his height and speed.
"Which ones?" She hollered.
"The ones you are holding are fine," I panted as I dragged the kids back to where she was standing.

God bless this lady. She plopped Wonder Boy down, put the shoes on him and tied them before he knew what was going on, and checked the size.  Apparently, I'm a great show size guesser....THANK HEAVENS. She immediately asked if we were wearing them out, and upon my affirmative...and Wonder Boy's immediate take-off went to ring them up and wrap up his little bedroom slippers.  At this point, I thought we had everything under control. Wonder Boy was wearing shoes. We were leaving the store. While trying to pay...still holding a 4 month old baby, reassuring Eli that Wonder Boy WOULD quit this, and holding Wonder Boy's hand for dear life, it happened. Wonder Boy dropped to the floor in a classic two-year-old style as if he was about to have a tantrum. FORGETTING that Wonder Boy wasn't Eli and might not tantrum in place, I LET GO OF HIS HAND FOR ALMOST A SPLIT SECOND.

He began lapping the store.  Eli gave chase.  From the back of the store, I can hear my sweet, darling Eli hollering (and panting), "I'm tryin' to catch him for you Oma!  I'm tryin'!  He's so fast!"  On the the boys' third time around the store, shoes blissfully unaware that they are now paid for, I stepped in front of Wonder Boy and made a lucky catch.  Sad that his fun was over, he tried to drop to the floor again, but I was in full fledged no-nonsense, MOM MODE, and cheerfully said (through gritted teeth) "Time to leave now."  I think I heard sighs of relief and thankful applause for our exit as the door closed behind us...

As I wrestled the kids back into their car seats, Eli managed to bring up THE ONE THING I really hoped he'd forgotten.  The church festival.  Every October, our church has a service festival. Eli and I were supposed to participate as volunteers, which I'd already had the good sense to cancel.  Still, Eli insisted that we should 'at least go and see it'.  I mulled this over for a few minutes before remembering...I had the jogging stroller in the back of the car.  I could put Wonder Boy in it - if he would ride - and keep him contained.  Yes, I'd have to steer with one hand (since the other hand would be holding Itty Bitty), but after months of prep, I really didn't want Eli to miss everything.  I convinced myself that we could at least go and get Eli's face painted or see some animals in the petting zoo.  So, I found parking (unfortunately next to a bed of extraordinarily ambitious and aggressive ants that thought I, in particular, was delicious) dragged out the stroller and set Wonder Boy in it.  To my complete surprise, he stayed put.  He actually seemed to like the stroller at first...and later I was able to keep him in it as long as he had a lollipop in his hand.  Thankfully, at festivals like these, lollipops are plentiful, and we were able to stay for about a half an hour before Wonder Boy got THAT LOOK in his eyes and I made a hasty exit before he could leap from the stroller.

Later, I did have the sense to leave him home with Patrick while I did some shopping for basic clothing/necessities.  No way was I taking a chance on chasing him through Wal-Mart...and he'd had more than enough candy for the day.  It was blissful to have a break...but I did come home to find out that Wonder Boy does possess the inexplicable ability to turn himself into a human pinball for indefinite amounts of time (and yes, I did consider "Human PinBall" as a promising blog name...but I am hoping his behavior will calm down...).

Thankfully, today was significantly least, for me.  Except for when he tried to climb inside the clothes dryer. Wonder Boy, for some reason or another, has decided that he really likes Oma, and has been fairly compliant today - even in church nursery. We are praying for a great transition to preschool this week (he will start either tomorrow or Tuesday), and that the routine helps him to settle down.  It definitely helps my feelings that he seems to love my cooking....

No Bohns About It

Monday, September 28, 2015

Touch a Truck Event

Recently, we went to a 'touch-a-truck' event, and Eli had a BLAST!  If you're not familiar with these, a lot of cities do them, so that kids have an opportunity to see inside (or, in this case, even GET inside) different types of public service vehicles.

At this one, we even saw a LifeFlight helicopter, and Eli couldn't wait to get inside!

He quickly figured out how to do the seatbelt/harness and strapped himself in - then very seriously asked if he could go for a ride.  He was disappointed that it wasn't an option.

He got to meet a K-9 officer : )!  This was one of my favorite parts!

He got to check out the inside of a police cruiser.

Then, he got to CLIMB inside a forestry commission truck. He found out what "that string up there" does when he pulled on it. The forestry representative thought it was hilarious when the horn sounded...and after the initial surprise of hearing the (VERY LOUD) horn, so did Eli.  He proceeded to honk a few more times, just for fun.

I actually think that the forestry truck was his favorite, edging out the helicopter, which was a surprise to all of us.  We had a hard time getting him to move on!  He said he might want to be a "forest guy" when he grows up...he loved the idea of fighting forest fires and driving a bulldozer.

The fire truck is always a favorite, too, of course! Notice how all of the doors/drawers are open for kids to see inside. This was the case for ALL of the vehicles, and the drivers/service men were happy to show the kids around and explain what all of their equipment is for.

At the end of the day, we were all worn out, but it was definitely worth it. Eli and Itty Bitty had fun!

Friday, September 25, 2015

One of THOSE Days

I am definitely having one of THOSE days. I know part of it is because I'm still sad about W leaving. I know part of it is because of a change in Itty Bitty's situation that makes it look less likely that we'll get to adopt him.  I know part of it is fatigue from trying to do a lot in a very short amount of time - though I am very grateful that we will have some quieter family time this weekend.   I know part of it is because of some weird scheduling that has led to unavoidable conflicts and a crap-ton of hours of listening to my fellow teachers complain about it.

Part of it is because I received another call, a referral for a little girl. I immediately accepted her referral. 10 minutes later, I received a text that said that another family was getting her placement.

Sometimes, this freaking roller coaster that foster care is can be SO DIFFICULT.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

On Call

When we first became foster parents, the day that we got our license, the agency explained that we were "on call."  This meant that, in theory, we could receive a call - day or night - asking us to take a child with very little information and very little notice.  Once a child or children are placed in a home, that home is taken off of the call list, when children leave, a foster family has to decide whether or not to go back "on call", as well as when to go back "on call."

Since W left on Friday afternoon, everything has seemed so...quiet and calm.  Mornings have become less hectic. I have fewer children to gather and drive to preschool. I have less (surprisingly, LOTS less) laundry in the pile affectionately known as "Mount Washmore." 

But it's not going to stay this way.

We have been talking as a family since W left, and trying to answer so many questions. Are we okay?  Are we planning to take another child?  If we do, when?  Do we need a few weeks to just be a family of four?  Do we need to wait until Itty Bitty is older, or until we have some more definite answers in his case?

Unsurprisingly, we really don't have the answers to these questions yet.  We all are a bit shaken, due to the suddenness of W's departure; he was gone less than 3 hours after I received the phone call that he'd be moving out.  We are all sad that he is gone, though we knew that he would one day leave. Eli has definitely had some feelings of sadness and loss, though he is showing signs of healing. Talking about W feels awkward at this point to all of us, though this is also improving.  And don't even get me started on the anger that I feel toward his caseworker; the woman who is supposed to represent his best interests, but who handled his transition out of our home very poorly.

But, in the midst of everything that's happened, we also feel stronger. We did it. We were able to foster a child, and to help a family who needed it. We dealt with the uncertainty and all of the "ifs" and "whens" that come with foster care. Eli went with me to drop W off with the caseworker and his (W's) siblings, and Eli was able to see them together, and that the eldest two were excited about their return.  He knows that W has another home and another place to be, and a part of all of us is glad for W, that he will be able to be with his family members.

In the meantime, we are finishing the process of cleaning out the clothing that W outgrew - and hoping that Itty Bitty will still be with us one day to wear it. We are removing W's car seats from our cars (and waiting on a certain caseworker to actually RETURN a car seat) and storing them.  We are putting away the items that weren't able to go home with W.   And, we are preparing our hearts and minds for what may come.

While we really don't know the timing or details, we will likely foster another child, since, for now, we've decided to leave our home and hearts open and place our family back "on call".

Sunday, September 20, 2015

W's Last Day

I can't believe I am typing this, but after six months in care with our family, W is gone. I knew that Friday, there was a real possibility that he would be moved, and that his time in foster care would be over.  However, I had NO idea that everything would end the way it did.

See, while my husband and I would have adopted W, given the chance, we were told from the very beginning of his time with us that he would be a very temporary member of our family. We were very careful to explain (and reiterate) this to Eli to help him understand, and we welcomed W for the time that we had him. We loved and cared about W. We took him places and tried to broaden his horizons.  We watched him overcome struggle after struggle. In the meantime, we were told about family members who were stepping up to help with the children in W's family, and that one or more of them might pursue  custody.  This actually looked very likely over the summer, and at one point W was told by his caseworker that he would be leaving us before the end of June.  But, that day came and went without so much as a phone call. In August, he received a new caseworker, who pushed for the children to return home to the birth mother, rather than being placed with a different family member.

Then it happened.

Friday, I was told in the morning to stay near my phone.  I received a cryptic text message that something might be changing in W's situation around 11 AM...and I just knew.  I still wasn't expecting the phone call at 3:45 that afternoon that he was being sent home immediately.  The caseworker actually said that she was on her way to pick him up at school and take him home to his mother.  I completely hit the roof, and demanded that she let ME pick him up from school, and then take him back to my home for his clothes and toys first.  Thankfully, she acquiesced, on the condition that I meet her halfway to his mother's home. I texted the hubs, who was still at work, so that he would know, too.

I had difficulty finishing work that day.  I was trying NOT to think about what was happening; one of my fellow teachers realized that I was upset, immediately guessed what had happened and offered encouragement.  When I arrived at the daycare, I explained to the teacher and the owner that it was W's last day, and that he would be returning home, so that they could give him hugs. As I picked him up, I explained to W that it was his last day at Eli's school, so that he could say goodbye to friends and teachers.  As we were in the car, buckled up on the way home, I told W that he was going home to his mommy.  At first, W was really excited. I think he thought he was going on a visit.  At first, Eli was nonchalant. I don't think he fully understood what was happening.

Patrick and I got home at about the same time. He let W pick a show to watch on TV while I went about the business of sorting and folding his clothes for packing.

At that point, reality really started to hit all of us. Eli began to argue with W's choice of TV show, and Patrick gently reminded Eli that, since it was W's last time watching TV with us, that W should get to choose.  It was then that it hit home for Eli, and he began to cry.  W was still happily watching TV as Patrick comforted Eli. It hit home for me moments later, as I realized that I would not have time to wash the last few items of W's clothing in the hamper, and that I would have to send a few items home dirty.  It hit W pretty hard when he saw me come out of his room with all of his clothes, books, and toys packed into a plastic tote and bookbags. Patrick tried explaining to him that he was "going home to his mommy,"  but W began crying and repeating "Go home here, Appa."  Nonetheless, we knew what we had to do, and I drove him to meet up with the caseworker, as agreed.

We haven't heard anything about W since Friday night, and we probably won't.  His leaving was both much easier and much more difficult than I'd imagined. It is really weird to walk through the house and for him to not be here; it's a little eerie to walk into our back bedroom at night and see only Itty Bitty in his crib.  It is weird to walk through the house and not have to fuss at one of the boys for being rowdy or wild, since Eli has been - for the most part - very quiet since W left. 

In the meantime, as we are getting used to a 'new normal' without W, Patrick and I are contemplating what to do in the near future. We were definitely attached to W, and will need some time to process his rapid departure. Our current reality is that we do not know when another call for another child will come, but we will be trying to prepare our home and our hearts for when this happens.

And I think we will end up taking on another child. Because, when I think back to the little boy who was brought to our doorstep more than 6 months ago with only the clothes on his back and a few donated items from the Methodist church, it is bittersweet. My heart aches with pity for the lost, confused little toddler that W was when he arrived....and for the happy memories we had with the bouncing, thriving preschooler who was sent back home.  W went from being a child who did not know his own name and could only speak a very few words, to a child who was very vocal and opinionated. From a child who could not put on any article of clothing independently, to a child who completely mastered his own self-care routine - including picking out clothes and independently dressing himself - in the morning. We love W, and are all sad to lose his presence in our lives, but we are also grateful for the chance to have been in his life and to help him.  Even though we will miss him, we are also glad for the family experiences that were made richer because he was here. While Patrick and I, admittedly, have some worries in our hearts for what W's future may hold, we do believe that it is right that he be able to grow up surrounded by his own family members, as long as they are willing to care for him. My family and I will continue to pray that, though our time with him was short, that we made enough of a positive difference in his life to make a life-long impact toward good.  And I think we will, as a family, welcome the opportunity to continue trying to make a difference for children sent our way.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Adoption Talk Link-Up: What's in a Name?

Names are very personal, and at some point become part of our personal identity.  There are people who believe that a child's name, once given, should never be changed, and there are those who think that children under a certain age won't know, really, if their name is/was changed.  When my husband and I took classes to become foster/adoptive parents, this was discussed at length, and name changes were strongly discouraged.  It seemed that most of the people in the class were confidently opposed to name changes in any circumstance, except for a last-name change in the case of adoption.  Of course, for kids in foster care, name changes are forbidden (if/until adoption occurs), as the children in care are already confused enough without having their names changed.  Unfortunately, we accidentally ran into a name issue with W. We've been calling him by the name we were given for him...only to find out - six months later - that was NOT what anyone in his family was calling him. They were using a nickname, and never told us...and he lacked the language skills to tell us himself. However, since we have always called him by his legal first name, he has at least learned it, and can now tell someone what his name is.

Overall, I've always been (and probably will remain) undecided on the 'name-changing' issue. I  understand the need to not confusing our foster children - especially since they may very well return home - but adoption is different. It's important to recognize that changing a child's first name is very, very different than changing a child's last/middle name; and - at the very least - for any children our family adopts, their last names will be changed to match ours, which I think is true for the vast majority of adoptive parents. I do, however, think name changes certainly depend on the situation.  As often as I've been told about the negatives for name changes, there are definitely good reasons to change a name. A new name can mean a new beginning - which adoption certainly is - and there are other questions to consider.  What about a child who happens to be named after birthparent in prison?    What about an older child who wants a name change?  What about a child who has always gone by a nickname and would rather have that as a first name? From personal experience, the ability to change my maiden name and no longer be easily associated with my birthfather was an intense relief - and I wish my mother had done it for me years earlier. Some adoptive children may feel this way about their first names.  As a teacher, I can also attest that there are some truly unique issues that come with children's names.  My husband, last year, taught a little girl named "Female" (pronounced fe-MAH-lee)...though this is an extreme example, I don't think I could leave a child's name alone in this case.  If I had a child used to responding to"Female," I think I would at least change the spelling.

When Eli was adopted, my husband and I were open to the possibility of keeping or changing his name before receiving his referral. We tossed around some name possibilities, but waited until we knew what his Korean name was before deciding - ultimately - to change it.  His Korean name, though beautiful, was hard for English speakers to say correctly and was considered feminine to my Korean-American friends.  We nearly decided to make his Korean first name into his middle name, but eventually decided not to when we finalized his adoption. Eli knows his Korean name, and his full American name. We've explained to him that his name was changed when he became a permanent member of our family.  He has days when he only responds to his Korean name, days where he only responds to his nickname, and days where I have to holler his full name to get his attention.  Overall, at this age, he is very pleased with both of his names (American and Korean) and loves to hear the stories about how his names were given to him. Having a new name in a situation where EVERYTHING was new/different...including the language...didn't seem to faze him.

Though we've been told to expect W to return home, we actually did discuss renaming him in the event of adoption. This point is moot now, as I am actually waiting by the phone today to hear WHEN W will return home, rather than IF.  The hubs and I had already decided that since we took so many pains to teach his first name, and since his siblings all (now) know him by his first name, that we would not change it. With Itty Bitty, though, IF we ever got the chance to adopt him, we don't know if we would change his first name. We have been calling him by the first name he was given at birth - as well as a nickname derived from his birth name - and will continue to do so while he is in care. We have reasons both for and against a possible first name change. However, due to private circumstances that I cannot discuss online, we would absolutely change his middle/last names.

How about you?  Are names too personal to change or are there other circumstances in which names should be changed?

No Bohns About It

Friday, August 28, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up: Family Visit

This week went by in a blur!  We've been trying to catch up with family, since Patrick's brother, Lee, is in town with his wife, Miyu, and their daughter (our niece), Emma.  Emma is just short of 2 years old and is adorable!  Since this part of the family lives in Japan, we don't see them in person that often, so it's been a really special time.  We have a lot planned for the time that they are here, so the boys have been (and will be) very busy while our family is visiting. Surprisingly, we actually did get some school work done, though, and some new milestones are being met by the boys!

Hanging out with cousin Emma!
Eli is definitely in the learning groove, and is rapidly picking up new skills. We really didn't touch his spelling book this week, and his interest has waned slightly on this (probably temporarily). However, he's done a ton of reading this week. He finished his Curious George reader, which was a combination of 12 books. He also read a couple of short picture books, and was able to read a new Paw Patrol book to W.  He's almost ready to transition to some simple chapter books (like Magic TreeHouse, Junie B Jones or Billy & Blaze), but I don't know if he's quite there yet.  We have several picture books that I want him to read at home, especially since one of my generous friends at work gave us a couple of boxes of very gently used books, but I may grab a Junie B Jones book at the library to see how he does with it.

Eli has also made some excellent strides in math this week. I knew that, at some point, I'd have to teach him to carry (when adding) and borrow (when subtracting), but it happened sooner than I thought. I'd once casually shown him what carrying was, but he wasn't quite ready to take on the process, so I left it alone. However, he's really been practicing addition within 100, and it came up naturally when he created some problems that required carrying forward.  After explaining it once or twice, he caught on quickly. He's got the idea - but will need to practice a bit.  I showed him how to borrow the next afternoon, using base 10 blocks, and he took this in stride as well. As he's practicing the addition/subtraction problems, I am definitely noticing that he has memorized some of his simpler addition facts.  He is also very efficient at using his fingers as a tool, which I encourage.  I'm hoping to get several "Life of Fred" lessons in this week, as he's ready again to move forward in the book (Cats).

A rare moment that Eli stood still...!
 W is learning and is hitting some new milestones. He is beginning to realize that writing/written words have meaning and is definitely starting to recognize that words are made of ABCs.  He was surprised this week when he opened a book and, upon looking at the words on the page, started saying, "Hey! Hey look! ABCs!!"  He is really enjoying being read to more and more.  We read several books with W this week, including "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" and a new Paw Patrol book. W has been doing a lot of practice writing (mostly in the form of tracing shapes, lines, or letters) and coloring, while practicing how to properly hold a pencil/crayon. He is frequently asking to 'work on ABCs', and does not want to stop when he gets started.  His speech is beginning to really develop and he's speaking in more complex 4-5 word sentences. He is beginning to use a few adjectives, like big/small, and hot/cold correctly, too - which is HUGE for him. He's still not accurate with colors, but we DID work on recognizing the color green this week.  He is definitely in a sensitive period for language, and we are trying to give him as much as we can while he's this receptive.

In other news, W is becoming more adventurous in what he's willing to eat and taste, which is also HUGE. He even tried palak paneer (an Indian dish with spinach and paneer cheese) and seemed to enjoy it. He almost drew the line this week, though, when I ordered him a "cup of dirt with worms" at a restaurant....but got excited when he saw this:

W wasn't expecting pudding, cookies and gummy worms!
Itty Bitty is growing, eating, and sleeping well. I think he's in what some have called a "wonder week", though. He's been rather clingy this week and has wanted to be held during all waking hours. I actually wore him in the baby carrier for a couple days, to spare my arms. At the same time, though, I've not minded - because at night he's been SLEEPING.  As in 8-9 hours straight.  Our entire household is very happy about this, and I pray that he continues to sleep well.  Itty Bitty is now smiling at everyone and laughing all of the time. He still does not like tummy time during the day, and, when placed on his tummy, automatically rolls to his back for playtime.  I'm enjoying each day with him!

Weekly Wrap-Up

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up...Back to School!

Patrick and I are adjusting to being back at school with students, as public school in our area started two weeks ago.  This time of year is one of the few where we get little to no home schooling done, simply because we are too busy. W is still enjoying preschool, and we've begun doing a little 'after schooling' with him since he has so much to catch up on.  At this point, he's mostly coloring, completing very simple mazes and tracing to develop his fine motor skills, though we are trying to teach him his letters.  This week, his claim to fame is that...for the very first time...he completed a jigsaw puzzle!

Puzzle in progress!
I know the pic's a bit blurry...I took it with the phone and it doesn't compensate as well for motion as my regular camera does!  Seriously, though...I am ridiculously proud of W. He has tried to do small puzzles before (12 piece), but just couldn't get the hang of them - he would get frustrated and quit. Today, though, I bought Eli a new puzzle (1000 pieces), and W just really wanted one of his own. I found him a set of 24 and 48 piece jigsaw puzzles of one of his favorite TV shows. The one he completed was 24 pieces, and he was begging to do another (though I am making him wait until tomorrow). Hopefully, he'll begin to enjoy these as he gets the hang of doing them.  Next week, I may have him start to try dot-to-dot puzzles (with 5-10 dots). In the meantime, he has begun 'pretend reading' stories/books and saying "THE END" when he's done turning pages. It's really cute...! He has also begun to show signs of a slightly longer attention span and is beginning to really enjoy being read to.

The baby, Itty Bitty, is doing quite well, and is growing and smiling.  He's into more of his 3-6 month size clothes, and is a little over 11 pounds (he'll be 3 months old next week!). He is doing well in daycare and has begun sleeping at least 6-8 hours per night on most nights....which is wonderful for two working adults!

Eli has started back to preschool...again.  We will DEFINITELY use a similar, blended preschool/homeschool model again this year. His new teacher gave him a preschool assessment, and was surprised that he never missed a question...and he never hesitated with an answer. She then gave him some additional, harder questions...and was surprised that he knew the answers to those, too.  She tried to read a 'math story' to the class...but Eli so quickly gave the answer to each problem (things like 2 +2 and 3+ 4) that the other kids didn't have a chance to figure them out....and he sometimes shouted the answers before she finished reading the questions. His teacher has been asking what level he's working on...and understood when I said I would provide reading, language arts, and math materials that come from second grade curriculum in our state.  I may also be providing some science lessons - in the form of experiments for his entire class to do : )

This week, we didn't accomplish much in the area of science and social studies - although he found a katydid to play with on the porch this afternoon! We plan to continue our study of biology and our study of early American history (including some map skills) throughout the fall.

Powers of Observation!

 We often don't do as much when things get hectic around here - like they have been in the last couple of weeks. And since we are expecting some special family visitors next week, we may stay at a slower pace for a while. However, Eli did read three new "Curious George" stories, and has begun to enjoy his new "Reading Rainbow" app. We recently purchased a year's subscription for the app, and are hoping to get some good use from it.  I also downloaded a few new math games for Eli to try...and with one of them he taught himself to multiply this afternoon.  It was fun to listen to him figuring out problems like 3 x 5 and 3 x 2.  I'm not sure if he's yet generalized that a number times 1 is itself, but it was funny to listen to him reason out the correct answer to 3 x 1. He's been on the verge of discovering multiplication for several weeks now...but it was fun to watch him put it all together. He is also currently on the verge of discovering carrying in addition. In the last week, we've only had time for one "Life of Fred" lesson, but we will probably pick the book up a lot more this coming week.  Sadly, we didn't get time to swim this week; I am hoping to get him in the pool twice this week so that he can practice for swim team tryouts in's to hoping I can!

Weekly Wrap-Up

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Summer Reading Project

He did it!

Eli made it through the entire summer reading project through our public library. The library's only requirement was that kids had to read 16 books.  Since Eli likes to 'work the system', I had to put in a few additional requirements.

The additional requirements I gave him were:
1) The books had to come from the library
2) The books had to be 'on his level'...though I did let this slide a few times
3) Each book had to be new to him (in other words, he'd never read it or had it read to him)
4) For the first 8 books, he had to keep his own reading log on the computer

Also, since I had additional requirements, I decided to supplement the library's reward system. They rewarded kids with a small prize for 8 books and a larger prize for finishing 16 books. For finishing 8 books, we gave him a $5 gift card to one of his favorite stores and for 16 books, we gave him a $10 gift card. Having these requirements, though, really helped him benefit from the program, and we all really enjoyed doing it.  Since I made him pick books from the library, he discovered several new characters and authors that he really liked. He learned how to use his library card, practiced interacting with a desk clerk, and became much more familiar with the children's section in our town's library. He also learned a little bit about how to search online for books at the library. As it was, we did pretty well selecting books that were within his abilities - though two of them ended up being WAY too easy, and one was definitely very difficult for him (Make Way For Ducklings). The majority of the books were read in one sitting, though we did have 3 books that took longer (#5, 7, and 14).

Here is the list of books he completed this summer, with an included Lexile rating:

1. Some Dogs Do by Jez Alborough
The Lexile of this book is listed as NP (non-conforming) for some reason; I would estimate it to be in the high 200s or low 300s. Eli LOVED this book. The dog's friends think he's lying, even though he's been truthful. The story had a huge impact and resonated thoroughly with him because of a parallel incident at school, where Eli's teacher accused him of something he really didn't do.  While not particularly challenging to read, it was one of Eli's favorites.

2. Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
Lexile:410. We adored this beautifully illustrated story; it's another new favorite. Although it was a pretty easy read for Eli, it was worth it for the story and gorgeous artwork. It was definitely one of my favorites!

3. If You Give a Dog a Donut by Laura Numeroff
Lexile:430. This is patterned after the kid's classic If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Eli had already read the mouse version, so I let him read this one.  It was a quick, easy read for him, though he enjoyed it more than I did.

4. One by Kathryn Otoshi
Lexile information wasn't available for this book. However, it is a sweet story that has a theme of understanding emotions and standing up for yourself.  I think I liked this book more than Eli, but it is a great book.

5. Mouse Soup by Arnold Lobel
Lexile: 240. I actually think this book is much more challenging than If You Give a Dog a Donut, even though the Lexile measure is much lower. This is almost a chapter book, and Eli loved it. He really seems to love this author's work in general (Lobel also wrote the "Frog and Toad" books), so it was a definite winner.

6. Happy Birthday Spongebob by J-P Chanda
Lexile: 220. I almost regret letting Eli use this book toward summer reading, as it is a very easy read. However, he really seemed to enjoy sitting down and finishing a new book in just 2 or 3 minutes, so I let it slide.

7. Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Lexile: AD 630. This was, by far, the most challenging book that Eli read this summer...and it took us three sessions to finish it. There were a lot of new words that Eli had to sound out, and although he liked this classic story quite a lot, it was almost not worth the effort to have him read it. I almost wish I'd picked it to read TO him, and let him select another book...but still, he did manage to finish it with some support - and since he was able to finish, it did give him a confidence boost.

8. Pup and Hound Stay Up Late by Susan Hood
Lexile: 320. This was an easy, quick read for Eli, but he really liked it and thought the story was fun. I thought it was pretty cute for a simple children's story. He was interested in finding more of this series when we finished this book.

9. Sheep the Sheep: Time to Sleep by Mo Willems
Lexile: Probably BR. This book was way, way too easy for Eli. This is one book, that while it is cute for a very young child, shouldn't have counted this year. BUT Eli loves Mo Willems, and that's the reason he picked it out: it was a book by a favorite author that he hadn't read. So, since he was looking specifically by author...I let it slide. It took him less than a minute to read.

10. The Foot Book by Dr. Suess.
Lexile: NP. This was another book that I let slide, even though it was definitely too easy (he read it in less than 2 minutes). Once again, it's because he selected it by author.

11. Biscuit's Picnic by Alyssa Capacilli
Lexile: 190. This was the first 'Biscuit' book Eli's ever read...which is surprising because they are EVERYWHERE. I actually picked this one out without realizing how easy it was. Still, Eli felt successful because he was able to read it quickly and independently. He even took it to his grandparents' house to read it to them : ). It was cute, but I don't think this series is going to be one he seeks out.

12. Pup and Hound Hatch an Egg by Susan Hood
Lexile: 320. Eli liked this 'Pup and Hound' book even better than the first one we read, and so did I. I think he really wants to read the rest of the books in this series, and he has continued to look for them in the library. They are easy enough for him to read independently, but they have an actual plot to keep him engaged (unlike 10 and 11).

13.  Kali's Story: Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue by Jennifer Keats Curtis
Lexile: AD 870. I have NO idea why the Lexile level for this book is so high. It strikes me as a book that would be in the low 500s; it was certainly MUCH easier than Make Way for Ducklings.  Eli was able to read this with very little support, and we both loved this cute and well-photographed story.

14.  Mr. Putter and Tabby Walk the Dog by Cynthia Rylant
Lexile: 560. A very cute story; this would be considered a very simple chapter book (like Arnold Lobel's books). Eli thought it was a fun read, but it was not one of his favorites.

15. The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
Lexile: AD480.  We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book. It's about an imaginary friend who takes charge of his own destiny. Eli read this easily and needed help with only a few words (like 'unimaginable').  This was one of my favorites.

16. Sparky! by Jenny Offhill and Chris Appelhans
Lexile: AD 520. Another book that we LOVED. This was a favorite for Eli. He loved how the girl figured out how to get a pet and he LOVED Sparky the Sloth. This is a very clever, sweet book that was perfectly on Eli's reading and interest levels.

I did learn a little more about Lexile levels through this endeavor. The level of books that Eli can read completely on his own tend to be anywhere from 350 to 550, which is 2nd grade-ish. He's very much into reading young graphic novels on his own (mostly TMNT), and we've set a 1-2 book goal for each week this fall.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday Snapshot

We *tried* to teach the kiddos how to use a water slide this evening.  Somehow, neither W nor Eli could figure out how to run and slide on their BELLIES...! This particular crash landing, as well as all of the ones that followed were all met with laughter, though. We eventually even tried towing them with a rope, which only worked as long as they could hold onto it...  As long as they had fun, right?

Most of the fun ended up being just splashing around in the water : ).

Monday, July 6, 2015

Summer Update

Happy (belated!) Fourth of July!!

While we didn't go anywhere this year to celebrate, the (bigger) kids still had fun with sparklers, a workshop at the hardware store, and our traditional watermelon. W had an extra day off of preschool, so he had a nice chance to stay home on Friday, too : ).

I have begun bribing/rewarding W for working on his ABCs.  Eli goes through W's flashcards with him once every night, and I'm giving him an M&M every time he gets one right. So far, he gets 1 or 2 M&Ms each time...because he guesses "s" or "w" for each.  I'm starting to wonder if he can hear differences in consonants, and will be taking him to have his hearing thoroughly evaluated soon. Still, preschool has been hugely beneficial for him, and it definitely shows.  We've continued with preschool through the summer because he hears a ton of conversation from adults AND his peers...and he's learning so many new words and ways of communicating.  At home, he's beginning to learn to play with toys that are not cars, and I even heard him start to use his imagination over the weekend. I was also pleased to see him independently - and for the first time, correctly - get all of his shapes into the shape sorter. He's been struggling with it from Day 1, and it was a pleasure to watch him confidently match all of the shapes himself.

And Eli started a second set of swim lessons. I can't believe what a fish he is in the water. He loves it...and I am SO GLAD that we quit karate for him to swim at the Y.  Today, he swam down the short side AND the long side of the pool. He did stop a few times - 25 meters is a long way for a 4 year old - but he was SO FREAKING PROUD of himself for making it.  I'm hoping his current teacher will continue with him over the winter at an indoor pool...because ever since she mentioned swim team as a possibility next year, he's obsessing about it.
Jumping in for his lesson!
Eli's also been setting and meeting some new goals. We've finished "Life of Fred: Butterflies" and he completed the 8 book summer reading challenge from the library. Now, he's set his sights on the 16 book summer reading challenge...but he only has a couple weeks left to finish! Honestly, we've barely touched the rest of our 'summer bucket list' because the baby's kept us so busy, but we're at least trying to do some of it!

Hawaiian Shirt Day

So the new guy, on Jack's shoulder in the Hawaiian Shirt Day picture, now has a nickname... "Itty Bitty."  And as many nicknames are, it's a bit of a misnomer, since he is gaining almost a pound a week, and has already moved up to size 3 mo clothing. Of course, I cannot show his (or W's) face on the web, so this is as close as I can get.  I was just tickled that I got these guys to rock their Hawaiian shirts for the picture!

As you can probably imagine, it's been a little nuts-y over here with three kids. Itty Bitty is now down to 1 late night (2 or 3 AM) bottle, so we're at least getting two 4-hour stretches of sleep most nights.  We even got a 5 hour stretch last night, though now that I've put that it writing, it will probably never happen again : ).  Unfortunately, he's still so young that taking him anywhere - for any amount of time - seems to throw off his entire rhythm and it takes a day or two to get him back on track sleep-wise.  I cringe at the thought of having to take him shopping with me tomorrow, because I know we'll be in for a rough evening when we get back. I can't imagine what starting daycare is going to be like in a couple weeks - not to mention that today, the social worker mentioned that he would start visitation soon with a family relative.  BUT, I'm hoping it will be easier then, since he'll be two weeks older. The Fourth of July was a little rough because - even though we stayed home this year - we could hear fireworks until about 1:30 AM. Did I mentioned that Itty Bitty cried at every firework sound? Even though I turned on the white noise machine to try to distract him?? Poor baby.

Oh - and the social worker's visit today?  A complete surprise. Eli and I were still sitting around in pajamas, hair standing on end, breakfast dishes on the table and Saturday's building project all over my coffee table.  Patrick had just taken W to preschool and wasn't back yet. When she first rang the doorbell, I thought she was a random stranger, and didn't go to the door until Eli said that he thought she looked like Itty Bitty's caseworker. Yeesh!  It's not fun to have company when you're definitely looking sloppy...and I kinda did feel bad about making her wait so long on our porch.  But then - Itty Bitty made me very proud. When I took her back to his room to see him, he was soundly sleeping on his tummy (ACK!) in his crib. Since everybody in the entire USA is on the 'Back to Sleep' wagon to prevent SIDS, this initially looked like a parenting fail. BUT, I reminded his case worker that he's been rolling over since he was a week old. Sure enough, as we stood by his crib watching him sleep and chatting about his case, Itty Bitty opened his eyes and casually rolled over onto his back to see what was going on. Seeing us both just standing there, he stretched, rolled back over on his tummy and went back to sleep, giving us both the giggles...and showing the social worker that his tummy sleeping isn't my fault : ). It is definitely odd to have a rolling five week old. He's also creeping around his crib. I can put him on his back in the middle of the crib for a nap...but he immediately rolls over onto his tummy and starts traveling. For some reason, he really doesn't do the same thing on the floor yet...maybe it's too big, or his wake-time really isn't long enough yet. The pediatrician told us to lower his crib mattress a level, just in case.

Sadly, we only have a couple weeks of summer left. We've begun to see school supplies and sales already...