Thursday, 29 November 2012

Spotlight on Nic

I realized that I haven't posted much on Nic lately, poor middle child. I have blog-neglected him. Hopefully one day he will forgive me.

The more I get to know Nic, the more I love his sweet, nurturing, and silly personality. As his ability to express himself grows we have the joy of experiencing new facets of Nic. I could do without the two year old tantrums, and the shrieking in frustration when his limited speech skills fail him, but on the whole it has been exciting to watch him learn to be more aggressive in declaring his opinions and to see his personality unfold.

He continues to have speech therapy once a week, and it is working wonders. He is still very delayed, and we expect him to continue in therapy when he transitions to the school district over the summer (when he turns three), but his progress has been helpful in easing his frustrations. The more he is able to express himself, the more his therapist is able to pinpoint the causes behind his delay. It isn't a language comprehension issue because his receptive vocabulary is great. He simply continues to struggle in making certain sounds. The good news is that he has become very responsive to prompting, he perseveres in attempting to make himself understood, and he really enjoys being praised for getting words right. He is now using two-word phrases in therapy, but I've heard him use three word phrases on occasion. He also attempts repeating much longer sentences from books, songs, and in imitation of me or Jeff. He uses too many words for me to attempt to record them...but in the last few days we've heard "Mack" (from Cars),'Wii," "pickle," "snuggly," "snuggle Mommy" (my favorite), and "snuggle baby" (not Kenny's favorite).

He hasn't had any sickle related problems lately. We are so thankful. I am pretty obsessive about handwashing when we get home from things, and we've only had a few sniffles so far this flu season, but nothing serious. I took the boys for flu shots on the very first day our pediatrician offered them, and Jeff and I got ours as well, so hopefully we can avoid the ER for a while longer. His next scheduled blood draw/hematology visit isn't until next year.

The other big update is that he has only one more molar and we will be done with his teething. Nic is that child who teethes for months and months. Tommy's teeth seemed to appear without warning and overnight, so all of the misery that Nic has experienced took us by surprise, but it is almost over! His final two-year molar should be arriving any time now.

The true sign that Nic is a "big boy" is that he is now pushing his own shopping cart at Trader Joe's. The last time we went he got his first cart and dutifully followed me around the store at a nice, slow pace. The problem was, he kept stuffing things he liked in his cart! We didn't even make it past the first aisle before he was helping himself to some frosted mini-wheats. Then he added Christmas cookies and chips. Even worse, he refused to put things in his cart that he didn't like. Everything I put in that he disapproved of was carefully removed and placed back on the shelf. It was so funny. And no, he didn't get to keep the sugar cereal or the cookies and chips. He will have to learn that we shop off of a list sometime,and it might as well be now.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Cards, Cards, Cards

I am happy to say that I have ordered my Christmas cards and am now only on the hook for labeling and sending them...that's one big chore off my pre-Christmas list!

If you don't have your cards all figured out, and don't feel like sending a picture card this year check out Katie (formerly Cox) Truelove's cute stationary Christmas cards at her etsy shop Hello Truelove.

Or, if you were thinking you wanting to send out greetings decked with cute family photos another great option is my friend Julie's adorable designs. Remember our awesome family pictures? She is responsible for them, and since they turned out great despite that being one of the worst mornings ever prior to arriving at our appointment, I owe her big time.

Also, the website, Treat, which I used to make a funny birthday card for my dad (which was modeled as a campaign poster for the "Mayor of Oldsville"), is currently running a promotion that allows you to send a personalized card for free. It's only good for two days, November 19th and 20th, so if you would like to take advantage of this deal you should hurry!

The code for the free card is TREATBLOGR.

Enter it at checkout and sending the card won't cost you a thing. I'm planning on sending an anniversary card to my Grandparents. It only takes a few minutes to find a great card and send it to someone you love. I've used this site before and been very happy with the results...and since it's free you have nothing to lose. Head to Treat to get started before the deal expires!

(Full Disclosure: Treat gave me free card credits for sharing this deal with you. I was not compensated for sharing the other two links, I did it because I happen to love the women behind both those businesses).

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Update on Mary: Cruise Control

I apologize for the lack of posts on my mom, I know that many of you who are across the country and around the world praying for my mom get updates here (and we love you and want to keep you in the loop). Lately there just hasn't been anything to report, which is both good and bad. I would really prefer to have lots of exciting news about shrinking tumors and such, but we don't have any of that, and it gets a little depressing writing about how the best case scenario is nothing getting worse. But as of now that is mom's prognosis.

Mom's next CT scan isn't until January, and until then she will be sticking to her current chemo protocol. Sometime in the new year she will be adding a second (and new studies have shown, effective and life prolonging) drug called Abraxane. You may have heard of it because it is commonly used to fight breast and lung cancer. It has just been shown to help pancreatic cancer patients in a clinical trial, and although it is not approved by the FDA for pancreatic cancer, Doctors may prescribe it while the FDA goes about approving it because it is currently in use for other cancers. We are thankful to have a new option and hopeful that mom will react well to it. More time with her is such a blessing to us!

Following in the theme of "more time"- Mom turned 56 this week. Such a spring chicken! She looks amazing, and has been known to comment, "I'm the healthiest dying person I know!" Also, my Dad has officially become useless retired, so they are enjoying more time together. He's been retired less than a week and they've already been to Palm Springs. Not bad!

Please pray that the chemo Mom is taking will continue to be effective. It isn't a picnic for her, but the side effects are manageable, and so she is still able to be very active and do the things she loves.

Pray that Mom would feel great for Thanksgiving and get to sit around and enjoy the day and her family.

Pray that Mom would feel encouraged as she fights this long battle and that those of us around her would know the best ways to support her.

Thank you all for you continued prayers. This fight has gone on longer than we thought it might when Mom was first diagnosed (Praise God), and we are so grateful to have you walking alongside us. Mom wanted to make sure that you know that she believes the only reason she is still alive is because of all the prayers she has received, so keep at it!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Triumphant Ever More

And you can hear, from far and near, the MIGHTY BRUIN ROAR!!!

Here are the boys celebrating the first touchdown of the big game:

Tommy was so inspired by the Bruin's play that he decided to hone his football skills during halftime. Nic wants to play for the baseball team instead, as you can see.

The boys had so much fun watching the game, it almost makes me wish we had cable (but not quite). They were very excited when the Bruins triumphed over the Trojans. Tommy told me he wanted to be at the Rosebowl. My parents and Emily and Kevin got to go, and I even heard a rumor that Mom and Kevin got on the Jumbotron doing "Gangnam Style." Now that would have been worth getting soaked in the rain to see!

Game Day!

UCLA Beat $C!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

15 Things You Can Do to Support an Adopting Family

It's adoption month, and we aren't adopting, or starting an adoption, or paying off an adoption, so I feel like I can post this without anyone thinking it's about me. Actually, all of the below are wonderful things that people stepped up and did for us when we were adopting, which is how I came up with the ideas in the first place. All Christians are called to care for the vulnerable, and as James reminds us, this means orphans. You may not be called to adopt (or perhaps you are, consider praying about it this month), but you can provide for an orphan by supporting a family in the process of adopting. Here are a few ideas:

1. Pray! Pray for the child being adopted, pray for the family adopting them, pray for the family and friends the child is leaving behind, pray for the process, pray for the child's birth country. Just pray.

2. Offer to bring a meal or watch kids when the family is preparing to travel. Those last few days are exhausting and crazy.

3. Make a "new baby" meal when they come home. Adoptive parents are physically spent from travel and jet-lag, all the kids have adjustments to make, there is unpacking to do, relationships to form, and all the regular demands of running a house/family. A meal helps more than you know.

4. Offer to babysit so adopting Mom and Dad can have one last date before they travel - most families are hesitant to leave newly adopted kiddos with babysitters for the first few months (it's standard adoption/bonding advice), so getting that last night out before the new little one comes home is crucial.

5. Offer hand-me-downs during the adopting process. Adoptions cost loads of money, much of which has to be scraped together and paid out in large chunks, and many adopting families save that money by cutting back on normal expenditures. Your hand-me-downs could save another family that extra few hundred they need to pay for their homestudy, their visa, or their plane tickets. Seriously, they help so much.

6. Offer to lend or give hand-me-down baby gear when they get home. Most families are still paying off the travel costs that they put on their credit cards last minute. Have a stroller you aren't using? A baby swing to lend? Not having to purchase those items is a lifesaver. Just be forewarned that any family who is still being scrutinized by the state has to check everything against recalled product lists - so they may need to ask you the make/model before they say yes (and it isn't because they are picky or rude).

7. Depending on your comfort level (and that of the family) and the age of the child coming home, if you are a nursing mother with a good breast pump...offer milk. We were so blessed to have a few month's of breast milk donated to us when T first got home. Since you can't buy it this is literally priceless.

8. Do you have the a gift for photography? Offer to take pictures! You could provide the shots for the birth announcement, or do some new family photos. Adopting families often don't have enough pictures of their child's early years and are thus scrambling to make up for lost time.

9. Each adoption starts out with a homestudy that includes a home inspection. Offer to help clean things up the day before the inspection - families never know whether their social worker will be glancing in every room or searching the they have to be overly prepared.

10. Host a fundraiser for them. Most families don't have $30k lying around when they start the adoption process. Shocking, I know. And most of us don't really enjoy constantly talking about how much adoption costs, or how much we need money. Really, it isn't fun at all. Trust me. It is such a blessing when someone offers to help you raise money. Hosting a garage sale on their behalf is great, throwing a craft boutique, or selling whatever cool thing you have the skills to make on their behalf, all of it helps.

11. On the subject of money, you could also consider just donating some to an adopting family. We all spend loads of money on plenty of things that don't have a fraction of the value that adoption does. Consider giving up a "luxury" in your budget and just giving that money to a family struggling to raise funds to bring a child home. I know the costs of adoption seem excessively high, but they are usually almost entirely out of the adoptive family's control, and for a waiting child they are the difference between a life in an institution and a life with a family.

12. Host a prayer meeting right before they travel. It feels so good to leave for a trip knowing that you are covered in prayer.

13. While Mom or Dad (or both) are gone, plan a play date or special time with any siblings left at home. Their world has just turned upside down, and it is about to get much crazier with the arrival of new kids in their family. A little special time for them is a good thing.

14. Host a baby shower for the new little one, especially if it is the family's first child. Chances are that Momma has spent many years attending baby showers while longing for a baby, and would really appreciate the time to celebrate the new addition to her family.

15. Write emails, FB comments, blog comments, etc while the family is in-country, especially if it is a long stay. It's always nice to get a note from home, and encouragement is always needed!

16. Pray! Pray for the adoptive child, pray for the family, pray for the family and friends the adoptive child is leaving behind, pray for the process, pray for the child's birth country. Just pray. (Yep, this is first and last, because it's the most important and warrants repeating).

A great video on how to come alongside an adopting family:

And a post about fundraising and adoption:

Friday, 9 November 2012

Proud Mum

Today I attended Tommy's first parent-teacher conference, and as you can deduce from the title of this post, it was a success.

The child loves school AND school loves him right back. He's doing fantastic academically, is on track to begin reading, and loves learning and sharing his knowledge. His teacher described him as a leader and as well-liked by the other children. He also is impulsive and can get a little too excited, but, we already knew that. Other highlights include descriptions of him as self-confident and independent, able to engage appropriately with his peers and adults, and is eager to contribute to discussion. Most importantly, he will be ready for Kindergarten next September.

Things I have observed since he started school that have warmed my heart:

He brings home "class books" that the parents are supposed to comment on, and he always wants to dictate a very long comment worded as if it is coming from me and aimed and encouraging the kids in his class. For example, "What lovely children in this class. They all work so hard."

He adores his teachers and wants to go to school on Saturdays just to make sure that they aren't there.

He is very proud of the art he does and loves to display it on our fridge or hang it around the house.

He has also been doing some cooking lately, and I got a request for the recipe for a soup he made recently. He doesn't do the prep, but he does do all the cooking...not bad for four. I figure at this rate I should be getting a really nice meal by the time he is ten or so...

Kale and White Bean Soup

Olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
10 oz Kale, washed and coarsely chopped
2 cans great norther white beans (15ox each), drained
5 to 6 cups chicken broth
salt, pepper, and seasonings (we use Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning)

Sauté the onion, carrot, and celery until soft. Add the kale, stir until it wilts, add the beans and broth, season and heat up. So easy a four year old can do it!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Our Trip To Springfield: Saturday

On Saturday we went to the Abraham Lincoln Museum. This museum is absolutely worth the trip. The story telling in the exhibits was captivating, the use of artifacts, manuscripts, and historical scenes engaging, and the narrative they constructed of Lincoln's life was more nuanced than other presidential libraries I have visited (cough, Nixon, cough). If you go you will be pleased that you did. It is an extraordinarily high-quality museum, and arranged very well to manage the flow of people through exhibits and to allow you to learn new and fascinating things about Lincoln's life.

Our guide-book said to allow 3 1/2 hours to view it, so we didn't rush there first thing in the morning. That was a mistake. There is so much to see and do there. We saw an exhibit on Lincoln's early years, one on his White House years, one on weapons and medicine in the Civil War, two Lincoln shows, a kid's play area, and a collection of Lincoln "treasures." I am fairly certain we did everything there was to do in the museum. It was a lot, but the kids were champs. Nic got a little fussy at the end and fell asleep in the stroller, but Tommy was absolutely fascinated by Lincoln and his family. He is still talking about Lincoln, drawing him, asking about his kids, and discussing his death. If you are going to go to the museum be forewarned that there is a significant amount of death involved in Abe's life. He lost his mom when he was nine, buried two children, and of course, was assassinated. The museum does not mince words, so be prepared to answer some hard questions. This is also true in regards to slavery. Tommy has not quite connected all the dots on this one. We have explained it in a simple way and begun to teach him about it, but he is too young to understand all of the implications of slavery at this point so we didn't have to answer too many questions about it, but I imagine that if he were a few years older the trip would have brought up even more difficult discussions.

Now, I know some of you may be a little doubtful about my assessment of the museum. You might be thinking, "of course you thought it was good because you love history." It is true that I love history more than probably 99% of the population, and that I enjoy myself at some pretty terrible history museums (ask my siblings how many times I have forced them to visit the museum in Kernville), but trust me on this, the Lincoln Presidential Museum is excellent. If you have ever enjoyed yourself at a history museum, you will be happy at this one.

The long day wiped us out and made us hungry. We tried to find someplace to eat near the museum, but Springfield is basically a ghost town on the weekends, so we ended up at Cracker Barrel, which was at least a novelty for my parents. We wrapped up the day with some special pool time for Tommy, and football with Papa time for Nic.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Six Months

Our littlest guy is now six months old. I'm not sure how that happened! He is the sweetest baby in the world. I am not joking. He goes with our crazy flow, he cuddles, he smiles, and he adores his big brothers and puts up with almost everything they dish out.

We tried his first solid food - bananas - today. Well, first if you don't count the tootsie roll that a very loving brother allowed him to suck on, but that was months ago so we have almost forgotten the incident. He did not eat much of the banana, so we'll try again tomorrow along with something else, maybe pears? He has been trying to get solids for the last few weeks, but I was holding off until after his six month check-up today. Of course, while there I learned that Kenny has lost ground in his weight percentile (but maintained height/head), so it is certainly time to start getting the boy a little more food. Of course, if his metabolism takes after Jeff's no amount of food will help him gain weight and I may as well give up now. If he takes after me it will be a different story entirely.

He did awesome on his sitting test and on all the other checks except rolling back to front. He doesn't do that yet, and I will not be encouraging it because as soon as he starts rolling I have to start worrying more. I will also not be encouraging crawling or walking. It may be really fun to do that with your oldest child, but after that you wise up and realize that the faster they walk, the faster you will have to run to keep up with them!

And a little story from dinner tonight:

Tommy was apparently having some serious thoughts, at one point interjecting, "Let me get this straight. Some dinosaurs ate salad, and some dinosaurs ate other dinosaurs, but ALL the dinosaurs got killed." Yep. This led into an intense discussion about how disappointing it is to find out that dinosaurs had feathers and not scales. Feather are just not tough at all!

And from Halloween:

I told Nic he could have one piece of candy after he ate his dinner. He responded, "No! Two!" When I related the story to Jeff, in front of Nic, Nic laughed at the end of the story and shouted, "No! Three!" Nic volunteering information like this without any prompting is huge progress. He is really turning a corner in his speech.