Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fresh Flowers. Good Food. A Little Conversation.

I think I'm going to like being a swim mom. It's kinda like being a soccer mom without the shin guards. And never you fear, I do have a minivan. We were on our daily "minivanation" into Sevierville for practice. That is when I spend time trying to keep my younger child awake and trying to avoid learning way too much about butune lighter enhanced robots and cars that transform into boats that transform into helicopters from my elder child all while navigating traffic.

The highlight of the trip was a phone call from Theo. He was headed home and asked if I had something planned for dinner. I explained there was a chicken thawing and he should feel free to go ahead and roast it.

We continued our trek. There was swimming, choking, goggle-adjusting and coloring whilst sitting on bleachers. Then we returned home. That trip involved wildly dramatic children's songs sung by myself in a continued effort to maintain consciousness on the part of a very, very tired two-year-old. At that point in the afternoon, John usually eats his snack and remains mum on all his typical plans to recreate his favorite super heroes using parts from gutted remote control toys.

We arrived home to find that Theo had the table set and a delicious hot dinner prepared. He made roasted chicken and baked potatoes coated in olive oil and sea salt. There was even a vase of melon-colored alstroemerias sitting in the middle of the table.

Immediately after shoving her first bite of chicken into her mouth, Hannah discovered the flowers. She deduced they were purchased exclusively for her. "Thank you, Flower...mmmm, yum...Daddy! I like chicken. Pretty."

We lavished our thanks on Theo for the hot dinner ready the moment we stepped in the door and discussed the day's schooling and practice and all those tid bits we share at dinner each day. Hannah was obviously still processing the glorious centerpiece.

"I touch it." She said as she slowly rose from her booster seat with a chubby hand extended toward the flowers.

"They are pretty, Hannah. They aren't for touching, just looking at." Her benefactor explained.

Deterred but not crestfallen, she returned to her seat and ate some potato. As she chewed, she apparently wanted to know more about the events surrounding her father's demonstration of love. She cocked her head and gestured with her fork, "You buy those at Wal-mart?"

Theo stifled a giggle and said, "No, I bought them at Food City."

At last, her questions were answered to her satisfaction. She nodded appreciatively. Many good things come from that grocery store. "Ahhhhhhh, Fooood City." She said breathily, as if to approve of his choice.

Good food. Fresh Flowers. A little conversation. It's what a toddler girl wants.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Weird Pregnancy Dreams

So the weird pregnancy dreams have begun....

I had two in one night. The first involved a visit from John's biological parents which is really odd as I haven't heard from them in a couple of years and haven't seen them in about five years. We had a nice visit catching up and she showed me pictures of two little girls. Then she told me they were her youngest daughters and wondered if I'd adopt them too.

Then I had a dream about my sister, who, in real life, has recently adopted a beautiful little girl from Ethiopia. Stephani had researched and discovered a new way to increase the bonding between herself and her daughter. It was called the "re-womb" experience. The adoptive mother underwent surgery to open a cavity in her chest and the child was sewn up inside for a period of two to three months.

When I asked my sister why didn't they use the uterus instead of the chest, she had a perfectly rational explanation (for a weird dream). She said that there were organs in front of and behind the uterus making it too difficult to access during abdominal surgery. (Tell that to OB's who do C-sections everyday...) It made more sense to utilize the extra space behind the ribcage which is only used when you breathe deeply. Besides, the ribcage would also protect the child during the re-wombing.

So my sister underwent the surgery despite my desperate attempts to suggest she try a sling instead. She walked around for two months with a big pregnant chest containing a 22 lb one-year-old. She also touted the benefits of the experience rebooting her daughter's nutritional profile as she was a little undernourished when they met.

Two-months later, Addie was removed from her re-womb and was a fat, little, roly-poly baby. I never did find out how it impacted their attachment.

Please feel free to share your weird dreams!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Naming Babies

The process of naming children is always interesting to me. My interest is renewed as I contemplate the name of the child I currently carry in my womb. I always thought I'd want to use creative, rare names for my children. And then my first child came pre-named. I really never expected that to happen when I envisioned my future family. But I never expected to become a foster/adoptive parent, either.

At first I was a little underwhelmed by what I perceived to be the most common boy's name in history. It grew on me, though. Actually, we offered John the opportunity during our adoption finalization, when John was four, to choose his own name but he chose to keep his original given name. I was glad. His birth parents were surprised and honored that we chose his original last name as his new middle name.

By the time of his adoption, we had decided that he was officially named after John the Baptist. If I were naming him as a newborn, that's what I would have done. And our first biological child's name was also a Biblical name: Hannah. I was thinking last night that both children have personalities and hearts similar to their namesakes.

John has certainly proven himself to be a man of the wilderness. He adores being outside and experiencing all the glory of the creation God has made. He has an uncanny ability to recognize spiritual truth. And just as his namesake jumped in the womb at the prescence of his savior, our John would also exhibit his joy in a very physical way. I see my John as one who is bold and audacious and sometimes poorly understood. If he strongly believes in something, he will not back down. He is also one who recognizes only ultimate authority, but when he does he will demonstrate humility and declare himself unworthy to even untie the sandals of the Son of God.

Hannah also shares traits with her Biblical namesake. She is named for the Hannah who prayed desperately for a child. I came to pray Hannah's words for my self after two pregnancy losses. Hannah was conceived not long after I began praying that prayer.

Hannah is a peaceful child, calm, quiet but one who makes known her desires. She will doggedly pursue her dreams and goals with a faithful steadfastness. As Samuel's future mother prayed unselfconsciously for a child from God, our Hannah is not a performer. She behaves in whatever way she behaves regardless of who is watching. Our Hannah also exhibits a love for children and babies. She spends a great deal of time each day caring for any representation she can find for her future children. She also sings to them about how Jesus loves them. I pray she will grow into the kind of mother who will choose to give her children over to the service of her Lord.

We never intended to begin a tradition of naming our children after Biblical characters, but I know our Lord designs all things and that His ways are higher than our ways. I believe we may continue in this tradition and I wonder now who is my third child. Is this an Isaiah who will have a willing heart and say, "Here am I, Lord, send me."? Or is he a Paul who will share his gospel with an unmatched passion and dedication? Or is this a Sarah in whom promises will be fulfilled and who will laugh. Or is this a Lydia or Rebekah or a wise, older Elizabeth who can mentor and support others in difficult times? Or is this Ruth with a fierce dedication and undying faith? Or is this a child who will stay with us for such a short time, we won't discover his earthly personality like some of his siblings before?

It will be a while before we know. We are opting this time to allow our child to be knit together in secret, without invasive tests and gender identification. But we can't wait to meet this gift from God. I pray that this child will have a name worthy of the plans his Father has for him.

(Or her, of course, just using the masculine pronoun convention)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Personal 1198th Reason to Homeschool

With any decisions I make as a parent, there are always doubts. That is even the case with things that I KNOW are right. Homeschooling a child with special needs has definitely been one of those situations riddled with uncertainty.

Last weekend we had a wonderfully exhausting camping trip and I decided to let John sleep in this morning to help him recover. When he sleeps in, I spend more time on the internet.... and then the kids find some things to entertain themselves while they wait for me to reenter reality.

Sometimes they do some pretty amazing things. This morning, they decided to share the rocking chair and Hannah asked John to read to her. They are already on book number two. It's a good thing Hannah tolerates Star Wars and Walle! Aren't they sweet?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I stumbled onto this set of photos from last summer whilst looking for a photo I needed to blog this week.  The kids and I spent the day picnicking and swimming in the river at Metcalf Bottoms.  
We tied up the baby wrap into a hammock for the princess.  And John body surfed the rapids till he developed quite colorful bruises on both of his newly skinny hips.  

I packed homemade spaghetti in a thermos along with a bunch of guacamole.  There were grapes and dark chocolate and lawn chairs.  It was a great day.  I sat on a little earthen landing, listening to my father excitedly share some historical tidbits which are forever lost to me.  John continued to body surf and Hannah explored the rocky beach.  She went around a large boulder to explore even more rocks.  

From my perch, I could see she was perfectly safe.  From my mother's perspective, she went around the boulder and dropped from view, possibly into the swirling current.  Her instinct to rescue Hannah was flawless.  Her foot placement however, I believe, causes her pain to this day.  

We believe she lodged her foot under a tree root and pivoted in her attempt to run.  Instead she broke her ankle and her thumb.  She yelped and tried to get up again in concern for her granddaughter.  She wouldn't lie still until I had yelled repeatedly that Hannah was okay.  Only then, did she stop to consider herself and the cracking sound she heard when she fell.  

It was a good day.  We had a great time playing together and I saw sacrificial love.  I'm just sorry my Mom got hurt in the process.  Thank you, Mom.  I love you.    ... Even if you did tell me I had garlic breath as Dad and I helped you to the van.  I hadn't planned on being quite that close to you after we ate that guacamole.  

****This was a year ago.  Mom has completely recovered. ****

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

So little time to blog

Wow, time can really get away from a person. I've been busy!

OnWednesday night, Hannah developed a fever. It didn't go away all day Thursday. She was a pitiful, melty lump on my lap the entire day. She threw up one time early in the morning. I was sure she had the flu but it was a weird time for her to come down with something as the only logical source of exposure could have been church on Sunday. 

She missed the fun on Friday. (Read below). And she was fever free for 24 hours by Saturday so she could be unquarantined to attend that day's fun. (Read Below) 

By Sunday night, I was tickling her while we worked on a puzzle on the floor. She threw her head back and laughed.... and I spotted four little white peaks poking out of her gums in the upper, left side of the back of her mouth. I hadn't even considered teething! Poor baby!

On Friday, John had a field trip to the airplane museum in Sevierville with my father.

During the field trip we had a girl's day playing with new makeup colors with our favorite Mary Kay Lady, Terri Houser! My Mother's Day gift to Mom was a fresh face. She got to pick out eyeshadows, lipstick, gloss, lipliner, eyeliner, blush, bronzer and other fun stuff. I think she enjoyed it. It was especially cool how Terri adapted to Mom as a visual learner. She kept getting her attention and making eye contact and performing very visually for her. It was fantastic!

The party, at my sister's house, included my sister and her baby, my sister-in-law and her toddler, and my mother. After the party, John and Dad returned and we all had homemade pizza. 

Then my sister-in-law shared that she was pregnant. I was very excited because Krista and I were pregnant at the same time before. I was pretty sure that this meant I'd be pregnant within the next four months. I certainly hoped that history would repeat itself.

On Saturday we celebrated Addie's birthday! We partied. Addie made a huge mess of herself with a purple-iced chocolate cupcake. Her mother made sure she was whisked away quickly by a grandmother who returned Addie after a quick scrub down and costume change. Addie played with her friends and cousins and was summarily passed about the room as relatives are wont to do with a baby who can't quite run fast enough to get away. John ate copious amounts of food and played video games.

On Sunday, we celebrated Mother's Day and Addie's church dedication. It's like Ben and Stefi are new proud parents or something. This was a totally Addie-centric weekend.   >Giggle< 
At the dedication,  she wore a beautiful pink eyelet lace dress and did quite a number waving her father's tie in his face and also the preacher's. 

We all went out to lunch afterward and were very surprised to find many restaurants in Pigeon Forge practically deserted, even on Mother's Day. We ate at the Flying Horse Grill and they handled the allergies wonderfully. None of their food is pre-marinated or pre-seasoned and they even bread their own chicken tenders so they grilled some gluten free ones for John. 

Sunday Evening we celebrated my brother-in-law's 30th birthday. (Do I add the apostrophe to the brother or the law?) We had a great time with some friends and family. John had a great time playing with a little boy about his age, which is a great treat for him since he's always surrounded by toddler girls! 

There were fireworks, which Hannah calls "fu#*erworks". Don't worry, I only had her repeat it a million times as all of the adults tried to snicker inconspicuously with their hands over their mouths. 

On Monday we tried to get back into the swing of school but started late since we had all partied late the night before. At some point during the morning, I discovered that swim team sign ups started that day and we rushed around to get ready for that. 

This will be John's first time ever participating in an organized sport. It doesn't hurt my feelings at all that it is the particular sport of my youth. He looks so cute in his new snazzy goggles and longie speedos. I'm so proud and excited for him! 

On a whim, we went out to watch Star Trek in the theater!  The show started at 7pm after we had a nice dinner on our front porch.  By 8:05, Hannah had peed her pants, demanded water, refused to share with John and then loudly proclaimed she was indeed sharing, and then fell asleep.  I was able to watch the second half of the movie with only the small distraction of a sweaty face plastered to my chest and neck and the tingling feeling of my sleeping limbs.  

In a whirlwind rush of activity I arrived with a thud on Tuesday. On Tuesday afternoons, I pick up my share box from Green Man Farm and visit the farmer's market and the co-op. It was already scheduled to be a busy day. 

But then, I noticed something I hadn't really paid attention to during my busy week. The evidence of my monthly fertility renewal had fizzled. I suddenly had reason to run to the neighborhood grocery store first thing this morning with one lanky nine-year-old in unmatched, wrinkly clothing and one shaggy-haired, be-stained two-year-old to pick up a fancy stick that I could bring home to urinate upon. How's that for a classy experience?! 

Well, to add to my very, very busy week I spent a great deal of time jubilantly screaming and staring at the peed-upon stick! Praise God!  I also had a few phone calls to make and some farmers to visit. Wow! What a great few days. Please forgive my not blogging it in real-time! :D

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Writing on the Walls

Some of you are familiar with Hannah's sneaky antics from this entry and also, this one, oh,and this one.
With that background, suffice it to say that I found Hannah drawing on her bedroom walls with sidewalk chalk. I had gone into her room to get her dressed for the day.  As I took off her pajama top, I discovered the writing. "Oh.... Hannah..." I said with that slow, disappointed tone in my voice. "You aren't supposed to write on the walls." I finished dressing her and passed a half-hearted wipe across her drawings with the inside-out pajamas.

The. Chalk. Easily. Wiped. Off.

Enter the internal dialogue: Um, dilemma. Crossroads. Remember to be consistent. She simply should not draw on walls. But it wipes right off. What a fun thing to do. No, be responsible. You are the mom. But it's just so neat!

Finally, I plopped myself right there in the middle of the floor and drew all over my daughter's walls. It was so much fun! What freedom! I think she was so disturbed by my antics that she hasn't drawn on them since, even though she has my expressed permission to do just that as long as it is with chalk.

Really, you ought to give it a try. Void where prohibited. Restrictions may apply. Only tested on semi-gloss.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Big Girl Haircut

First of all, I'd like to thank my hairdresser, "Mr. F", for helping me to break out of my old style and find my new spikey groove. So, when a guy totally takes me out of my comfort zone as far as my hairstyle goes, the agent of my first impressions, what's a girl to do? Why, take her two-year-old daughter to see him, of course! Truly, he gives a great cut. My hair spikes straight out of the shower. I knew his confident, creative hands would cut something cute into the shaggy canvas that was Hannah's hair.

Hannah was very excited all week about getting her hair cut. She even told people about it over the phone. I took her potty before we left for the salon, reminding her where we were going.

"We're going to go get your hair cut."

"Yes, it's Thussshhday!" lisped my eager daughter.

She was ready. She was all giggles and excitement in the car. Then John had to explain about the scissors and how Mr. F was going to cut her hair but it wasn't going to hurt. Yeah, that's the line that first teaches little kids that not everyone in the world is truthful. They know what follows isn't going to be pleasant. I briefly considered decapitating my own child with barber's shears. Hannah was somewhat more reserved as we approached our destination.

We arrived at the salon and met Hannah's makeover entourage: Grandma Kathy, Aunt Krista and Audrey. We entered the salon like over-proud ballet parents gushing and with cameras in hand. Yep, Hannah got the picture this was kind of a big deal. She marched in with all the celebrity she could muster. Then Mr. F spoke to her. Somehow she shinnied up my body and was in my arms with her head buried in my chest. Honestly, I don't remember picking her up.

It's okay, Mr. F has been here before. I sat down in the chair and held her in my lap while Mr. F offered Hannah her own comb to hold. She took it with wary reluctance. But then, in a stroke of brilliance, Mr. F offered her a sucker. With the gravity of a man accepting his last cigarette before execution, she partook of this small comfort. It became her focal point and she released her death grip on my collar with grim resignation.

Mr. F moved quickly and surely. I found ways to get her attention so she would hold her head in specific positions so he could create an undercut. It was over before I knew it and there was the blowing off of the debris and spraying of the hair. That was also a great move. Hannah adores hair spray. Upon her release, with still damp locks, Hannah danced as one celebrating salvation.

Hannah's entourage was headed to K-mart for some retail therapy. Her cute little bob went swinging against her neck. She suddenly looked so much older. She marched straight into Payless ahead of us. (Um, you have to follow if your child goes into a store without you.)

If you are going to know anything about Hannah, you should know that she is obsessed with three things: babies, letters, and shoes. As long as I can remember, I could show Hannah toys in a store and she'd gleefully play with them for a minute and allow me to put them back on the shelf. In contrast, she would cry and cry when we would dare to leave any sole behind in the shoe department.

She recovered nicely from her ordeal with some nice, lime green flip-flops with large rhinestones. She knew they would go brilliantly with her Spring wardrobe though her mother tried to recommend some multi-colored floral sandals. A girl just knows when a pair of shoes are destined to become hers. At least they were less expensive than the sandals. (Despite my having not experienced trauma, I purchased some pretty zingy silver shoes, myself.)

It must have generally resonated as a positive experience for the girl. Yesterday, we were discussing how cute her new cut was and Hannah piped up. "I want a sucker. Mr. F cut my hair, give me sucker." She was crestfallen when my mother-in-law explained we had to let it grow some before she could get it cut again. She dipped her Hannah-safe bread in her homemade potato soup and dreamed of her next trip to the world of toddler glamor and sugared excess.

Monday, May 4, 2009

My Hardy Boys

Not many people can say their child came with a book. We can. Most of the clothing John had when he came to us did not fit, but he had a sweet cardboard book about P.B. Bear. We have no idea in which of his many homes he acquired the book or his love of stories, but both came with him at the ripe old age of twenty months.

John always eagerly curled up beside us as we read to him from any number of books. It was a good thing because it encouraged good, appropriate touch and helped form some of the elusive attachment he so desperately needed with any caregiver. One cardboard book gave way to two or three cardboard books a night. That gave way to multiple picture books.... and then we graduated to chapter books and illustrated/abridged classics.

Nearly every night of his life with us, John has begged for more reading. While homeschooling, there are times, especially rainy days, that we declare it a reading day and take turns reading to each other. The ratio is something like five to one and I end up reading aloud till my throat is raw. John's been listening to chapter books since he was four. We've read through some of his favorites more than once. Though he understood little of the language specifically, he still enjoyed listening to Tom Sawyer just as old Mark Twain wrote it.

With all of John's mood changes, rages, difficulties and anxieties it has been hard for him to learn to read. I think that his well-ingrained love of stories has kept him motivated somewhere deep inside to persevere through the process. He's suddenly reading billboards and signs on buildings to his own surprise and delight. We can no longer spell things in front of him.

Though this is all happening a little behind his same-age peers, it is the same developmental process. We are on the cusp of watching him flip that switch to becoming a completely autonomous reader. The key then will be, as it is for all children once they can read, whether or not they want to read. I'm pretty sure John's got that part in the bag.

I think it's apt that a boy who's had to endure so much would particularly enjoy reading a series about the Hardy boys. I hope that autonomous reading switch flips soon because while Kate DiCamillo is a joy to read aloud, Frank W. Dixon's mysteries severely trip up both of John's parents' tongues.

Friday, May 1, 2009

John's Date with his Grandma

Our family does a good job of trying to, at least occasionally, spend individual quality time with each of the children. Yesterday was John's turn for a date with his paternal grandmother.

During their time, he tried to convince her that they should play video games. The night before, however, we had discussed with John and his grandma that dates should include activities that were mutually enjoyable by both people. My mother-in-law was undaunted by John's attempts to coerce some video game time from her in leiu of watching a movie.

Kathy has been substitute teaching for a few months. It was only natural, at long last, she used her "teacher voice" to end John's obnoxious demands. John's reaction was quick and interesting and just plan hilarious.

"You've never yelled at me before" said John in a dumbfounded voice. "My feelings are kind of hurt. I don't know what to do."

His feelings apparently recovered and the incessent video game begging ended. They had a wonderful evening involving allergy-free yet horribly processed food and watching a movie. I also think my dear son spent some time developing a whole new respect for his grandmother.

It's hard to pull off no-nonsense and unequivocal fun at the same time. Kudos to the woman who raised and nurtured my husband. Good job last night, Grandma!