Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Beautiful Friendship

It didn't start out the way I would normally meet a person.  We didn't meet at an event, we didn't meet at the store, we didn't even meet face to face.  It began like many modern friendships these days, with the help of a computer.

Almost a year ago now, I posted a message on our agency's yahoo group board, she responded, and that was that.  Even from the first few e-mail exchanges it was apparent we had much in common.  Not only had we both been through the same grueling court process with our kids, she was the first person I've ever met that actually had heard of the small burg in Germany where I had grown up.  She knew what it was like to be from a military family and she was a rock and absolute wealth of information when it came to raising a family and adoption.  To this day, if I have any questions, I ask her first.  Instant friends. 

Up until the very last minute, we had no idea whether we would be able to meet each other in Ethiopia. I think it was literally 48 hours before Daddy O and I boarded the plane that she e-mailed me with the good news. We were all staying at the same guesthouse and made a pact that (since we arrived at different times) we would make sure that someone wouldn't forget us at the airport, no matter how late it was. 

If I remember correctly, Daddy O and I arrived in Ethiopia very late at night (or very early morning) and she along with staff and another fabulous lady were there to greet us and show us the ropes.  With very little sleep, the next morning arrived too quickly and we traveled together and took pictures of her meeting her son and daughter and she in turn was there to take pictures of us meeting our two boys.  She was there to see us elated to meet Boy O and she was there to see us confused and discombobulated when meeting a very sick Baby O.  It's hard to believe that we only spent a little over 72 hours in each other's company-honestly the only way I can explain it is a suspension of time-the highs and lows we went through during that time felt like a lifetime.

We have kept in touch this past year via blogs and e-mails and finally got our families together this past weekend.  I felt like I already knew everyone and can't express how amazing it was to see her two kiddos that we had met in Ethiopia and four more that I had only read about.  We played, we talked,  her daughter watched and chased Baby O (thank you D! You are amazing by the way!) as he investigated every corner of their house and  Daddy O was graciously welcomed by her husband (and spent the ride home talking about snowmobiles).  Thank you to the girls for putting up with Baby O dumping out their legos for the hundredth time and for B standing by while Boy O demolished his lego plane.  The afternoon felt like 15 minutes and we were back in the car, headed for home.

 How beautiful is this?

I think they are talking about politics or baseball, probably superheros.


Say Bunny Rabbit!

Bunny Rabbit!

No less than 10 minutes after we got in the car to go home:

Andrea, the spirit of family you and your husband displayed during our visit was inspiring. We will always think of you with love and hope to see you sooner rather than later!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

O Baby!

I know I shouldn't even refer to Baby O as a baby anymore, but I simply cannot imagine him as anything but my baby.  So Baby O he will stay until he can give me some ideas for a proper pseudonym. Hopefully that will take a few more years.

At 18 months old, I am loving this stage.  He is just too cute for words.  He is still into absolutely everything,  but I am no longer spending what seems like 98.9 percent of my time redirecting him.  I would estimate it at about 65 percent now.   He stops and pauses when he hears the words NO, and though the verbal cue doesn't always work, it has been a huge relief for my state of mind and I'm not completely on edge when we are in an unfamiliar place.  A firm 'no' seems to do the trick for now but as I look into the future, I am wondering what type of discipline is going to work for this active toddler.  A time-out carpet has really done the trick for Boy O, but every time Baby O passes it in the stairwell, he is extremely eager to stand on it or sit on it for an impressive amount of time-all the while smiling and laughing.  We might need to consult another form of behavioral instruction besides Supernanny

He has understood pretty much everything for a few months now and his vocabulary skills are growing exponentially from day to day. It's really amazing. Much time is spent at the end of each day going over what new words he has said and what words were put together.  The first time he put words together was when Daddy and Boy O were outside and he pulled on my leg and said, Me, sun. Me sun. Me sun.  I quickly realized he wanted to go outside.  I love being able to communicate!  Even if it is short-I can ask a question and he can tell me yes or no.  I guess I could have been more progressive and studied up on sign language like many other Moms I know, but I was just never good at being very consistent.  Or remembering the actual signs for that matter. Oh well.

Speaking of consistency, I've found that to be of utmost importance in potty training.  Baby O is doing very well Friday through Monday making it to the potty most of the time, but between Tuesday and Thursday when our schedule is busy and we are I am tired after swim lessons, I admit that I take a break from asking and taking the time to sit him on the potty.  Despite a mid week break he has begun to understand the concept and is asking several times a day to visit the bathroom.  The challenge we are running into now is that by the time we get to the bathroom and strip down, the moment has passed (luckily into the diaper) and the reward of flushing the toilet and waving bye-bye isn't as satisfying.

Baby O has graduated from our makeshift highchair to eating at the table with the rest of us.  We didn't gear up too much before Baby O came home last May, so we made due by strapping a portable booster/high chair on top of the high chair below as he was a tad too small for it at seven months old.  His size hasn't been the problem lately (our concern was for the welfare of the table), but it took me a while to find this great place mat which in theory should stay on the table with suction cups and give it some measure of protection from the inevitable banging.  It's only been in use for a couple of meals, but so far, so good.  He would much rather sit on a regular chair, but for right now, this is as close as it is going to get.

If I pull out the camera now and say smile this is his new look-I think it resembles much more of a grimace but cute nevertheless:

We have been taking sleep day by day for the last month or so.  I have come to the conclusion that several factors have contributed to the shortage of sleep.

1 & 2)  Since the first part of December, Baby O has cut eight new teeth.  Once the molars had popped through and teething took a brief hiatus in January, the canines made their grand entrance very soon after we had recovered from a horrendous cold (which also didn't help anyone in the sleep department).

3 & 4 & 5)  Me, myself and I.  I blame it on the hotel.  When we were traveling, I didn't want a repeat of the hotel scene that played itself out the night before the marathon.  So when Baby O started to cry in the middle of the night, I slept with him on the sleeper sofa in 2nd room of our suite.  At the time, this seemed like the perfect solution-most everyone got some measure of sleep.  When we arrived home and it was apparent a bad habit had taken hold, Daddy O was adamant about not giving in and I was just as adamant about not letting Baby O cry.   Daddy O kind of let me do my own thing-I mean who really wants to argue with a sleep deprived wife in the middle of the night? Under those circumstances, I will say that neither of us are very nice to one another at 2 am. 

After a couple of weeks we began to see a pattern.  If Daddy O put Baby O down at bedtime, there were no wake-ups.  If I put him down, there were several.  It was awful for everyone involved because after a week of no sleep, I'm not the nicest person at any time of day.   It continued....if Daddy O went to check on him, there was maybe three minutes of crying.  If I went to check on him, there would be at least an hour, at which I would give in and sleep with him in the guest bed.  Then he started to talk. I would go in to check on him and he would point to the bed and say, Again! Peese! Peese! Bed!

So Daddy O is doing most of the night time duty, not only for Baby O, but for me as well. As soon as he comes back into the room he has taken to holding my hand and telling me that it will all be okay. Whew.

I am happy to report that Baby O's last two canines have come in and Baby O has slept through the night without any Ibuprofen for almost a week. There have been a couple of hiccups here and there, but I am learning to not give Baby O any type of stimulation when I go to check on him. No cooing, singing, talking-just business. Check and change the diaper, give a little milk in his sippy cup and right back down. It is working if I stay consistent (I'm beginning to see a pattern here...), and I'll admit to having some sigh weak moments, but I'm learning...always learning.

Anyway...here are some more cute kid pictures...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thanks for the Rainbow

I have been turning over the idea of training for another marathon for months now.  I've kept my weekly mileage up fairly well since October, but it's that time where I need to make a decision.  To commit or not to commit?  Either increase the mileage or don't.  The problem is, I'm just plain bored. I don't like running alone. I miss running with my husband. I hate running in the snow and/or rain.  I dislike running into the wind.  I get separation anxiety every time I get serious about picking up the phone and calling a babysitter.

This is of course, all of my own making.  While I can't do anything about the weather, I do know people that run.  I could contact them.  I could meet up with them.  I could chat while I run.  I could punch in the numbers and call the young lady I know would be a fabulous babysitter.  I have the ability to solve my problem. 

Here's the kicker:  I like being able to wake up whenever on a Saturday morning, jet out my front door, know exactly where and how far I'm going and be back at my front door at a set time.  I like not having to drive somewhere to run.  I like not having to speed up or slow down for someone. I like being in shape.  I love the freedom I feel, even in the wet weather.  I love not having to worry about the boys and knowing they are with their Dad.  So, it doesn't seem too bad until I am actually out there, running through the puddles and having that conversation with myself at mile 10, convincing myself to just run home and join in the warm, lively pancake breakfast happening at our dining room table.

I do everything I can to find motivation and inspiration from my surroundings.  I love running along the Columbia River and taking part in the regular routines.  The fisherman and hunters know me-they may not know my name, but they know me.  They love to know how long I'm running that day. They love to say I'm crazy. Even though I don't know the residents, I feel like I'm in the Midwest again, waving to every passerby. I enjoy looking for seals, sea lions and otters.  I enjoy checking on the progress of the osprey nests.  I love saying good morning to the llamas, cows, ponies and donkeys that greet me along the way. And for the record, I actually say it out loud, Good morning, Mr. Donkey!  I look for rainbows whenever I can.

This past Saturday, I could not manage to find one rainbow, not one silver lining in 15 miles of drizzling, cold rain.  I could not find one good reason to run.  I came home dejected and wondering out loud whether I could do this by myself.  When I walked in the door, Daddy O handed me a card addressed to myself that he had found in the mailbox.  Here is what was inside:

Thanks Cousin S, for this rainbow.  I didn't know that a person could send one via USPS, but you did.  I needed this.  I just managed to run 7 miles in the pouring rain before dinner tonight thinking of this sticker.  I was light on my feet and happy to be outside.  I didn't need to look for inspiration this afternoon, because just thinking of this made me giggle for the entire run.  It's on my nightstand for now, I'm waiting for a dry day to apply it to my car.  Wish we lived closer, I think we'd make a good Saturday morning running pair.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ode to the Superhero

For my son, you are my superhero.

On my knees, combing through books in the children's section of the library, I happened to overhear a woman remark to another that there was no value in superheroes.  She went on to clarify that these types of books were simply "silly and downright uneducational".  Out of curiosity, I peered around the corner of the bookshelf to get a better look and there I spied Boy O, practically at their feet surrounded by piles of superhero books, blissfully unaware of the conversation taking place above him.

As my face began to turn red with anger, Baby O saw his opening and darted off towards the marble staircase.  I had no choice but to switch gears, run after him and direct him back into what I term the safety zone.  By the time I arrived back, the women were gone and I plopped myself down next to my boys and let their comments simmer in my noggin, wishing for the opportunity to tell them why I like superheroes. 

In the beginning, I would have much preferred Boy O's fixation to be on dinosaurs, birds, insects or snakes.  You know, something that I was interested in.  I would roll my eyes at the bright outfits and sometimes odd superpowers.  The stories (even the ones geared towards 5 year olds) can also get surprisingly complicated and LONG.  I mean really long.  And we would read them over and over and over....and over.   

These superheroes though, they have a way of infiltrating every aspect of our day to day life and I've grown to see them for who they really are.

They set a good example. Not only are superheroes smart, they are usually quite humble in their lives when they are not saving people and they use their powers to help others. They have become fantastic corrective tools-i.e. Would Clark Kent behave that way?

They instill a love of books.  Boy O knows all the nooks and crannies of the children's section.  He knows to ask a librarian for help if he needs it.  His limit is ten books per visit.

They inspire creativity.  He has become quite resourceful at fashioning costumes and dwellings from all types of material.  Towels, blankets, cardboard boxes will never be the same and hours can  be spent designing things worthy of a superhero.

They have a past.   All the age-appropriate adoption books I purchased seem one dimensional and empty when I get to the last page.  They don't communicate an experience my son can relate to.  Many superheroes have lost their parents in some way, shape or form and their loss initiates a transition to conversations about a life and history that can be painful to talk about.  I'm glad that he can identify with a superhero.

Superheroes may set great examples, have exciting story lines, and spark imagination but I am most thankful that they have created an avenue in which we get to know our son.  We spend time reading side by side, we get creative together and we talk.  Sometimes they pop up in the most obvious of places and sometimes they creep up on me from behind.  But they always remind me of how valuable they truly are.

Boy O's rendition of the Batmobile:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fish in Water

The staff broke out into applause today as we walked into the pool area, all of us clad in our swim duds.  Baby O and I have been a fixture on the sidelines this last month, me on the bench trying to entertain him in the stroller and him saying, Mama, bath, bath! Me bath!  

This being Boy O's first experience with swim lessons,  I wanted to make sure I was available if he needed me in any way.  I needn't have worried so much, after one month, he advanced to the next level and I felt comfortable enough to sign Baby O and myself up for a baby class at the same time.

Daddy O surprised us by popping in and was able to take some pictures:

Baby O has had his eye on these toys for a long time-I don't think he let them out of his grip for an entire hour.

All smiles, Boy O was very excited to wear his first pair of goggles. My rule was no goggles until you learn how to swim, but last week he started putting his head underwater more and more and his eyes watered for hours afterward due to the chlorine content.  He couldn't be happier. 

Up, up, up the fire pole.....ding, ding goes the alarm and slide down under the water.  Kind of hard to climb if you are holding toy fish in each hand.

Baby O and I were allowed to stay in the pool until Boy O finished his lesson and we had a good time trying to be just like the older kids.

Boy O has really improved and is a natural in the water.  He is pretty adept at the doggy paddle and today was working hard on arm strokes and the back float.  Having been a nightmare in the water at this age myself (lots of tears and screaming as I recall-right Mom, Dad?), I have been pleasantly surprised at the way they have taken to the water.  Here's to hoping we are ready for the Florida beaches soon....