Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The "Birthday" of our Family

It's been one year since we met Tommy. I can't believe how quickly time has flown by.

That was quite a day- we were tired from thirty hours of traveling and adjusting to a new time zone, a little nervous about connecting with our little man, but mostly, entirely thrilled to finally have him in our arms. Tommy was traumatized. He had just taken a very long and bumpy bus ride, left the quiet region of Ibanda for the crazy crush of Kampala, and been thrust into the arms of two Mzungus with very little warning or time to warm up. He was scared, unsure of his surroundings, but, adorably cute.

Here are a few pictures of that first meeting:

And Tommy today:

Tonight we will go out to celebrate, probably to one of those restaurants that serves overpriced sub-par food but makes Tommy very happy because of the train theme. Unless we can talk him into something else...I'll be working hard on that one.

Earlier as Tommy was snuggling into my neck- he is a kid that needs a lot of snuggles- I was reflecting on how quickly it feels like we became a family. A year ago Tommy cried when he was left alone with us. A year ago he preferred almost any Ugandan to either of us. A year ago he had no desire for our hugs, kisses, and cuddles. Now he cries when we leave him. He runs to us if we have been separated for any period of time. He cries when we cry, and he laughs when we laugh. He plants big kisses on us for no reason, he begs to snuggle in the morning, he loves to burrow into our necks, and, he adores being picked up and held for as long as our arms can take it. It is truly amazing how God can take people who look so different, have no common cultural bond, and share no genetic material, and mold us into a family who loves as deeply and fiercely as any created through biology. We have truly been blessed.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Our Trip to Wisconsin

Flowers for Leah's birthday

Pink cup-cakes

Having lunch

Say hello to your ancestors, Tommy

Much silliness with Great Great Uncle Rial the younger

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Another Year

It's been two years since we held Leah. Two years since we let her go.

It is a sad, hard day, but, thankfully, easier than last year. It helps having a sweet little boy around to get lots of hugs and kisses from.

Because Jeff is still out of town we are not doing anything today- other than surviving-but we will be driving up to Wisconsin to visit her grave (which we haven't done since last year), so I will have some pictures of that to post soon!

Happy Birthday sweet Leah. We miss you.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

My Week as a Single Mum

By the time this posts Jeff will be on his way to the airport in Seoul, South Korea. He left early early last Friday, and will be back home late Thursday night (yes, Leah's birthday, could the timing be any worse?). He went for a science conference. On the one hand, I am really happy that his new boss is so committed in investing in him, on the other, it stunk having him away from home for a week, especially this week.
Tommy and I survived. The first few days were rougher than I thought they would be. Since Tommy and Jeff have been separated numerous times on our gloriously long winter trips to California, I assumed that he would be fine with this trip. Wrong. It is one thing for Dad to not be living at Jjaja's and Poppa's house, but another thing entirely for him not to be here at our house. Even though we have video chatted with Jeff every day (sometimes twice), Tommy has been noticeably upset. The clinging, whining, irritability, and lack of sleep have been frustrating, especially in light of the fact that when I went away for the weekend a certain little boy was (according to Jeff) perfectly fine!
After the second day I decided that I would be investing in some frozen dinners (Trader Joe's, of course, only the best for Tommy) and letting the apartment get a little messier than usual. I scheduled a bunch of activities to wear him out, and, things got better. I think Tommy adjusted a little to not having Jeff around, and, since I was exhausting him with fun he didn't have much time to think about it anyway. I can't lie. Pride comes before fall. Yesterday, I even thought to myself, "this isn't so bad. I can do this."
Today, our second to last day, was a low point. I had planned to either let Tommy run through the sprinkler or take him to a splash pad or the park, but then it was wet and rainy all morning. We went to check out a different library instead, and the toys there were surprisingly lame. He was already cranky, and then not being able to get the wiggles out really pushed him over the edge. He was testy and disobedient all day. Adding to that, he is now in what I refer to as his "destructor" phase, destructor being T's nickname when he is being destructive. It's like his goal in life is to break/rip/tear/stomp on/beat/throw anything he can get his hands on. On the plus side, with all the resulting time outs I had some time to myself.
I have decided that I prefer parenting with a partner. Having Jeff around, even for just an hour in the morning and a few hours in the evening, makes all the difference in the world. I can't wait for him to get home. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder!

Monday, 21 June 2010

The Real Reason None of Us Sleep at Night

It was late. Jeff and I were finally getting to bed. We prayed together, turned out the light, and then Jeff says something extremely random. I understood where it came from, because it connected to a conversation we had had in the mid-afternoon, but, nevertheless I mentioned that it was kind of a weird thing to say and asked why on earth he had said it.
He then launched in to a stream of consciousness explanation that took a number of turns before it ended with his original comment. And it was funny. Really funny. So I start laughing, perhaps a bit too hard and too loud. When I finish, we hear a little whine. Then, it grew a bit louder. Finally, a full-on wailing scream.
Perhaps this whole not sleeping that well thing is more my fault than Tommy's. Perhaps.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

A Pair of Big Brown Eyes.

One year ago today Jeff and I sat at computers- he at Argonne, I in our dining room/office- and downloaded and opened a pdf containing Tommy's picture together. Both of our reactions were: "He's a cute little guy."

The pictures we received weren't the best, especially now that we know Tommy and how much character he has, but they were enough for us to fall in love. It was the eyes that got me. They still get me every time.

We were told that the pictures were taken about a month apart. One at twelve months and one at thirteen months. He is older in the picture on the left (we thought the opposite but Sister insisted).

It's been one year since we first laid eyes on Tommy. His presence in our lives has made them fuller, richer, and far more exhausting! He is worth every minute of lost sleep, the huge investment in spray-n-wash, and countless toy related-injuries (how do they end up in such weird places?). We love our darling boy!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Extreme Reading

Tommy loves to read. Or rather, to be read to. I knew that he read probably more than other kids, but I had no idea how much more because I never really kept track of it except for one absurd afternoon when he requested 33 books in a row (I counted the stack). It turns out that my boy is a freak. Just like his mum.

Our library has a summer reading program. It is a nine week program, and the kids are supposed to be read to every day for fifteen minutes, for a total of 945 minutes over the course of the program. You keep track by crossing off a little picture for every fifteen minutes that the child reads. A prize is offered for every three week segment (315 minutes) as well as a completion prize.

The program started two weeks ago.

Tommy is done.

He turned in his sheet yesterday and received his prizes, stickers, and a "continuation sheet" for more prizes. I suspect he will earn a few more before the summer is through.

Ready to turn in his reading log

Tommy with one of his prizes, a book of opposites

You may wonder how Tommy managed to finish so soon- we read at least fifteen minutes before nap and before bedtime, and the rest of the day we read on demand- provided it isn't nice out and then we go outside. The last few weeks have been fairly rainy, and opportunities to play outside have been limited, so we often end up spending 30 minutes reading in the afternoon- or else I have to spend the afternoon being followed by Tommy waving a pirate book and yelling "read, read, read."

We don't watch much TV, and Tommy watches no TV (haven't needed it thus far) so reading is our go to when he is too tired to run around. And yes, he has other toys. The current favorites are trains with tracks, blocks, and Lincoln Logs. Unfortunately T thinks that Lincoln Logs are chunky drumsticks. He also loves to color providing it is on something that we value and not scratch paper.

Now, the big plan is to see if we can win one of the grand prizes. For that Tommy and I are teaming up to see if we can read a high enough number of minutes in the family contest (average per person). I don't know that we can do it considering that reading to Tommy requires extensive amounts of my time, and lots of the families have kids who can read to themselves, and who are not toddlers who need lots of exercise and outside play. I overheard one mom telling the librarian her kids have been staying up really late reading- and Tommy and I are not sacrificing our health for a library contest. Happily, we are only aiming for second place. The first place prize is not something we want, but second prize is awesome. I'll let you know how it turns out. My hope is that while we might not read as much as some families, we might be more diligent in remembering to record our time.

Tommy has already won huge preschool bragging rights- did I mention he was the FIRST pre-reader to complete his reading? Check out the pre-reader wall and whose fish has the MOST stickers.

How come none of these other fish have any stickers? Oh, yeah...that's right.

You might wonder if Tommy understand the whole reading contest thing. I can't say for sure, but I can say that the other day he grabbed his reading log and ran up to me clutching it while repeating "prize, prize, prize." I think he gets it.

I've got to stop blogging- I've got some reading to do!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Bad Mum/Good Mum

On Friday we went to the Museum of Science and Industry. Tommy had a great time- he is especially taken with the train room (of course) and all of the tractors. Since we were going to be out all day I decided to put him in disposables. If we are cruising close to home he always wears cloth, but, in the interest of not having to carry the excess diaper weight we went disposable. Over the course of the day Tommy developed an infection in the diaper area. I'm sure it had already started (he is decidedly a gentile, if you catch my drift, and it probably started in a covered area that I wouldn't normally see), but, I wonder if it is a coincidence that the day he wore a different type of diaper it got really awful. Now, I noticed the issue while in the bathroom at the museum. He was lying on one of those fold-down tables located very inconveniently right next to the sinks- with no privacy at all. So, I couldn't exactly sit there and inspect the problem when I saw it. I had to wait until we got home, at which point it was late in the afternoon and he needed to go down for his nap. Thus, I didn't really get a chance to look things over until after the Doctor's office had closed for the day (and I thought it was a regular diaper rash anyway so I had no intention of calling the doctor).

That evening I had Jeff take a look, and he confirmed that things were awfully odd looking, so I messaged some friends with boys and realized it was probably yeast and that we would have to go to the Doctor.

Saturday morning I called first thing when the doctor opened and we got their next available appointment. We went in, the doctor comes in, takes a look, and then repeatedly emphasizes how bad the infection is, and rather accusingly asks when we noticed it. I told her just the day before, and we called right away, but it was clear that she didn't believe me. We were getting some pretty dirty looks from her. I could just hear the "bad parents, bad parents" running through her head.

Then, our darling child decided to speak up. He had been fairly enthralled with a poster on the door of some big kids eating healthy foods. He starts talking about the kids and the foods they were eating. The doctor was so surprised, and obviously impressed! She looks at us and says, "Wow, he's so verbal for a boy. I love how he says strawberries." I thanked her and acknowledged that we had been working on his vocabulary. For good measure I may have mentioned that less than a year ago he was diagnosed with a severe language delay. I felt pretty triumphant.

The moral of this story is: My children may run around slightly dirty, have raging untreated infections, and, if I am very lucky have broken bones that I don't know about (love you mom), BUT, they will do it with big vocabularies.

Friday, 11 June 2010

CareNet Walk

For a few months now Tommy's mom has been heavy on my heart. I don't know if it was Mother's Day, the upcoming birthday of the baby we didn't come home from the hospital with, the sputtering start of our second adoption journey, or some other cause, but I have been thinking about her and praying for her a lot lately.

One of the things that bothers me most is knowing that if she had a support system available to her maybe she wouldn't have chosen not to parent Tommy. I don't know. We have no insight into why she made her decision. In fact, for all we know she passed away during childbirth and couldn't have parented Tommy.

I am (obviously) an ardent supporter of adoption. We hope that our family will continue to grow through adoption. The decision of a parent to place a child for adoption is often complicated, but it should not be forced by a lack of financial resources. There is no pain in the world like leaving the hospital without a child you want to take home. No one should suffer that pain unless they have made a thoughtful, informed choice.

To that end, Tommy and I have decided to participate in the annual CareNet DuPage walk. CareNet provides pregnancy testing and counseling to women experiencing unexpected pregnancies. They help women who choose to continue their pregnancies find the resources they need to move forward. It isn't enough for us to save the lives of the unborn- we need to help young moms who choose life and who choose to raise their child find the resources they need to do a great job. CareNet helps women do that.

On Saturday, June 19 we will be walking in honor of Tommy's first/birthmom. She cared for him for nine months- and I'm told she did a good job because he was quite a big and healthy little boy when he was born (all the yucky stuff came later from the orphanage). I don't know why she did not choose to parent Tommy. I can only hope that the decision was not forced on her.

If you would like to support us in this endeavor, our fundraising page is here:

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Tommy Antics

Just a run down of some cute Tommy stuff:

We have been working on being polite, and asking him to say "excuse me" when he burps or toots. We have also been working on expressing emotions instead of hitting or scratching. Recently, after an noisy toot, I prompted, "Tommy, what do you say?" His response: "I'm mad."

We were up in the middle of the night recently, and we lay down on the couch so he could calm down a little. He put his head against my chest and was quiet for at least five minutes. I thought he was asleep. All of a sudden he sat up, looked at me, and loudly said "Rock 'N Roll," then put his head back down to sleep.

He got a new (to him) place mat featuring a picture of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (not the cartoon, it is one of those souvenir place mats from Disneyworld- yay garage sales). His immediate reaction: "Like it."

Now, that particular place mat is referred to as "Like it."

Nice, because more often I hear "No like it."

He recently got a t-ball set, and he loves to hit the ball. However, he is a little particular about the placement of the t, and after every hit has to readjust it in an attempt to get it straight- which is never going to happen on our grass. It is really fun to watch him try so hard though!

He is obsessed with eating "cereal and milk" and has started asking for it at every meal. He is sorely disappointed by my response two out of three times a day.

And now, some Tommy cuteness, illustrated:

Ready for work, just like Daddy

Sunday afternoon nap

A real American

Daddy, fix it

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Memorial Day

We had a big weekend!

Friday night we took Tommy to the car show in the next town over. It was interesting. I expected something a bit different- more old cars, fewer 1990s Mustangs, but whatever. Tommy had a blast looking at all the cars and motorcycles. He also enjoyed watching the big kids dance to the live music. He attempted a few moves, but then got shy. Maybe another time.

On Saturday we found a big-boy bed for Tommy. We got it at a garage sale, and it required some minor repairs, so we ended up spending all of Saturday fixing it, putting away T's crib, completely rearranging his room, and setting up the bed. He is thrilled with his new bed. We have had a few issues with him getting out to play instead of sleeping, but he has slept in it very well so far. He is still waking up some in the night, but it is so much easier to take care of him when it doesn't involve heaving him in and out of the crib. My back is thankful.

Sunday T had some green snot/a bit of coughing, so he had to stay home from church with Dad. Thanks to all that rest he was raring to go after naptime, so we went to the Arboretum, which was new to Jeff. We played in the children's garden for about half an hour, until close, and then went and had a picnic under the trees, and took a walk around the pond.

Monday we worked around the house in the morning. It may have been a holiday, but it was still laundry day. We had a few hours of crazy crazy thunderstorms, then Tommy and I went for a picnic at Dave and Julie's, and Jeff went into the city to see a concert of a band he likes at Milleneum Park. It turned out to be a good thing that Tommy and I didn't go, because Jeff got a very good seat and said it was quite loud. Tommy spent the entire party searching for an audience- and running back and forth to find "all the people" and the "big kids" and, of course, his doggy friends. He played basketball, had a wheelbarrow ride, went on the porch swing, and got to sit on a motor scooter (which he thinks is a motorcycle) and honk the horn. All of that adds up to a good day in Tommy world.