In the wake of Sunny's recent departure (she actually left right before Thanksgiving), I thought it might be nice to have an all-around update on the family. We are not currently planning on accepting any more children in for foster care, though we may change our minds after a LONG break.
In the meantime, and one of the brightest spots for us, is that P is loving the new position in elementary school. He's teaching in a great school, with wonderful colleagues and administrators, and the new job is an amazing fit for him :). He's looking forward to the holidays, and, like me, has been trying to do a LOT of decompression from the strain of having Sunny in our home.
Other than trying to relax and process all that's happened, I am considering changing job positions next year, to better align my schedule to that of the rest of my family...getting Eli and Itty Bitty to their various appointments would be much easier if I was able to leave work an hour earlier. The school schedule in this area is staggered, which means that elementary school actually starts and ends an hour earlier than high school and nearly two hours earlier than middle school! This puts me two hours off of the rest of the family's schedule :(. I love the school where I teach now, though - and couldn't have a better set of administrators...so I haven't fully decided if I'm leaving yet. And, of course, I have found that with the boys OUT of the house in the morning, I do tend to get a lot more cleaning and organizing accomplished ; ).
Eli seems to be making a great adjustment to having Sunny out of the house. He has truly struggled in this last year, but I'm starting to see sunshine on the horizon. Kindergarten hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be, but this is because he is in a really great school with a great teacher. It also really, really helps to have P working in the same school. Eli's teacher definitely works hard to challenge him, even though she doesn't really understand him. His behavior in a group is still not the greatest (as evidenced by his first encounter with our new children's minister at church), but I'm starting to see him maturing a little bit and he's learning better social behavior. We recently started OT to help address his sensory issues, and this is definitely having a super-positive effect on him. I'll probably use a separate post to explain what his sensory issues have been like, and how we are helping him learn to manage them.
Academically, Eli is doing well. Though he's not really challenged by his work at school, he's still learning - and (other than one notable occasion, when he came home crying and begging me to homeschool him). We recently tried a subscription to RedBird math that didn't work out (the program is way too buggy and slow...not to mention it's definitely remedial - NOT advanced). We're switching back to a combination of Montessori activities, Beast Academy, and IXL to keep him challenged. He's really gotten into art - mostly painting - and is still really, really enjoying music. He's got his very first piano and violin recital coming up this weekend...and we're very excited for him. Piano lessons are now going incredibly well, with Eli making really good, steady progress. Violin lessons are something of a struggle right now...Eli wants to play the violin so much, but he's been frustrated with it lately, so he tends to cry a lot when he practices or has a lesson. He doesn't resist practicing/playing...but he gets upset when he makes mistakes, and doing something well isn't usually enough to make him happy (like it is with piano). We'll see what happens in the next few months - he'll have a break from lessons over Christmas holidays.
As far as Christmas goes, Eli, though he asked if Santa were real (and got an honest answer) this summer, has decided that he wants to believe in Santa after all. A kid in his class told him that Santa wasn't real, and he had a fit. I asked him if he remembered the talk we had this summer or being angry at Santa last year...and he said no. I let it go...if he wants to believe, I'm not going to ruin it for him in the middle of the Christmas season. On the hilarious side, he does realize that every "Santa" he sees in department stores isn't really Santa. We had a Santa following us through the a toy store, trying to get kids to take pictures for $30. Eli hid from him...and later talked about the creepy man dressed like Santa. I'm still laughing over that one : ). Eli has now gotten really into the idea of giving presents to other people and is constantly plotting and trying to come up with good present ideas to surprise people. He's also really into the idea of wrapping presents and making decorations. Our Advent traditions are running a little quieter this year...but that may be due to Itty Bitty constantly breaking the candles and decorations off of our wreath!
Speaking of Itty Bitty, he is blossoming into a real roly-poly toddler! The name "Itty Bitty" really isn't suitable anymore...he's grown so much!! He's made remarkable gains, very consistently, since his first birthday. He's able to stand from sitting, whether he has something to pull up on or not (this is a brand-new skill!), he is starting to see the benefits of walking, and tries to walk most of the time now (instead of crawling, hopping on his knees, or knee walking). He can climb anything that he can get his knee on, and is very mischievous. His favorite game right now is to laugh and walk fast in the opposite direction when we're trying to catch him. He adores playgrounds, especially those with toddler slides; and is so fond of climbing that he'll climb our single front step over and over again for a half hour or more. He also adores bouncing, and his favorite thing to do in PT is bouncing on their mini-trampoline. He is definitely trying to communicate through gestures and sounds, though he doesn't really talk yet (other than "No" and the occasional "Oma" or "Appa"). He sometimes tries to repeat words (hearing him try to say "elephant" is hilarious - but he LOVES elephants), and he has made up words that we've come to understand to mean "hungry", "some", and "yes". He will sign "more" and "bye bye". He still loves his drum, though he more often plays with his baby guitar and his cars now. He is enthralled with Daniel Tiger and Mickey Mouse, and is beginning to really enjoy Sesame Street. He loves pushing buttons on his toys and rolling/throwing balls. He is also beginning to gravitate toward writing/coloring utensils and has a natural, perfect grip on them that is nothing short of astounding (given his age and CP).
At this point, he's caught up with many, many of the milestones for his age group, and though he will always have CP, most people don't realize that he has any problem at all. Motor planning is his biggest issue, and is the focus of many of his therapies. His walking is somewhat awkward and stiff, and his movements are slower/more awkward than other toddlers, but the intense therapy is absolutely working. We still have 3-4 hours a week (minimum) of therapy (occupational, physical, speech, feeding, and Lekotek), and this will stay constant for the near future. Speech is another big concern, since the muscles of his mouth aren't coordinating properly, but he's beginning to really babble and make some progress. He can/will eat just about anything, but he still has to have all liquids thickened. Hopefully, we will have another swallow study this spring/summer to see if he's able to safely swallow thin liquids yet.
As a final note, Itty Bitty's case has finally progressed to the point that we *should* be getting an adoption caseworker in the very near future - and finalizing his adoption is our hope for the coming year.