Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Keller's Poem

At about 2:30 this afternoon, I got a call from Keller's kindergarten teacher. She asked if I had a second to talk. Those aren't usually the words parents want to hear from their child's teacher, but nonetheless, I did indeed have a second free to chat. So she put Keller on the phone and had him read me a poem he had written all by himself in school today. The kids made kites and the teacher asked them each to write 'a sentence' about their kite. Here is what Keller wrote (with the spelling corrected, but otherwise all his own creation):

Kite, kite, I want to fly
Oh so high, in the sky
Blow me away in the cool morning breeze
Don't get stuck in the tree
Sad, sad, sad I would be

Not bad for a six year old, eh? The teacher even took him to see the assistant principal so she could read his poem and let him pick something out of her treasure box. He is so proud of himself, which is the coolest thing to me.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

3 months ago today . . .

. . .Dave and I woke up in Nanjing, China. After a quick walk in the city, we came back to our hotel room to get ready to go to the Civil Affairs office to meet Marley. My head was spinning with so many emotions, some which were in direct conflict with others. The questions that ran through my head jumped from "Will she let me hold her right away?" to "Do we have enough wipes in the bag?" to "What if the boys never forgive us for bringing home a sister who they will have to share our attention with?" Nervous energy brought one question back to my mind over and over . . . "What have we gotten ourselves into?" Dave was his usual cool cucumber self, thank goodness or we may have never made it down to the lobby to meet our translator and driver that day!

And then there we were, in the Nanjing Civil Affairs office, and there she was. Covered in sweat, wearing a soaking wet diaper under four layers of clothes and that silly Goldilocks hat. And she was beautiful.

As cliche as it sounds, it is hard to believe that she has only been with us three months now. She has changed and grown in so many ways in this short span of time, and our little family has done the same. I feel awe and pride when I watch Keller and Casey interact with her. They play with her, entertain her, feed her, protect her. She is truly their little sister, no matter how she came to join our family. My love for Dave has found a new depth as I've watched him be not only a father, but a "Daddy" to this tiny girl who was a stranger to him just three months ago.

I imagine that if the nannies from Marley's orphanage were to see her today, they would not believe the changes in her. She walks, runs, climbs the stairs (sticks her hands in the toilet, dumps the food out of the pantry, scatters DVDs around the house). She uses five signs regularly, says "Hi", says "Mama" (yells with/at the boys, screams in carpool line, says "Uh oh" when she throws her cup on the floor for the hundredth time). She brushes her teeth, brushes her hair, tries to put her socks on (uses other people's toothbrushes, sneezes and plays with the mess, poops far too often for a child her size). She has gone from dependent infant to naughty toddler so quickly! She had an evaluation last week for early intervention services. In the two months since her last evaluation, she has made amazing gains of: 5 months in Expressive Language, 7 months in Receptive Language, 3 months in Fine Motor Skills and 5 months in Gross Motor Skills. She is on-track for her Social/Emotional development. Those gains don't even account for all the skills she perfected during the first month she was with us.

Marley's 3 month 'gotcha' anniversary pics:

This is Marley's swimsuit from her little friend Charlie who was adopted from China in October. They had their first playdate last week. He's a cutie with the most adorable chubby cheeks. I can't believe I managed to forget to get my camera out while he was here :( Next time!

You know she's thinking "What kind of crazy place is this?"

I love her smile!

Is it all sunshine and rainbows? No, of course not. I've logged far too many miles shuttling Marley around to a bazillion doctor's appointments. Dave has had to take full advantage of the flexibility of working from a home office, which means he helps tremendously on days when I need to be somewhere with one or two kiddos and the remaining little Huffman(s) need him. It also means he needs to spend a lot of late nights staring at his laptop when the rest of the house is asleep. Keller has been dealing with some social anxiety issues (go figure--the bubbly, funny, confident kid who is absolutely unafraid to pass gas in front of strangers has social anxiety!) All three kids have had their share of winter illnesses and I've gotten flat-out dog tired more days than I care to remember. But our crazy, busy, loud house was not always perfect before, either, and what we have all gained by bringing Marley onboard our Ship of Fools is immeasurable. The best part is that we're only three months into this. We've barely scratched the surface on all that is yet to come for our motley little crew.

Here are a couple other random shots from the past week. . .

My brave kids (and their buddy) at the Super Pet Expo:

Casey found this turtle when we were hiking this morning:

If only Keller could wander the woods freely day in and day out. . .

Casey gets his fashion tips from Napoleon Dynamite:

Keller's creativity led to an interesting discussion on the topic of 'counterfeit money.' He's such a funny kid.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The week in photos. . .

I am not a morning person, and I am just not a great mom before 9 a.m., but especially if I've only had 6-7 hours of sleep, which is often the case lately. So in an effort to honor a promise to myself to start getting more sleep (a commitment which should probably last about 3 days, if I'm lucky), I'm skipping the lengthy blog post in favor of a "Week in Review" photo presentation. Enjoy!

We dug out a bag of stuffed animals today to see which one would be the most huggable. Keller decided to hug them all at once!

Marley's new favorite toy--a nice sturdy beer box! I'm thinking about using one of these as my official entry photo for 'Mom of the Year'.

We had some really beautiful weather earlier this week and stayed to play on the playground when we picked Keller up from school. Marley is finally learning to smile for the camera, and I actually got one shot where all 3 smiled at the same time!

I loved this shot of Marley watching Dave through the front door. When I left for work on Thursday evening, I saw her sweet little eyes watching me through the bottom pane of the window in the door, too. So cute!

The old soap beard trick. Never gets old in our house.

The kiddos dragged a blanket into the kitchen and had a good time rolling around, snuggling, and making faces. For a few minutes. Then they started fighting. I'm only including photos from the good part here, of course!

Casey is way into Legos right now. Seems to go in phases in our house. But right now, almost every available surface is usually covered with various Lego creations of his. I love the proud smile, where the top lip disappears and everything!

One of the best parts of having Dave work from home is that he gets to do special stuff with the kids that he would miss out on if he was working somewhere else. Sure, it means he puts in extra time at night, but I know the kids and I really appreciate having a daddy who can be there for these things. Today he chaperoned Casey's field trip to Milwaukee's Custard. Here's Casey enjoying his treat.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The non-squeaky wheel . . .

Casey is the one out of our three kids who never complains about physical ailments, aches or pains. He can be down and out, sick as a dog, burning with fever and will still insist "I Okay Mommy." He is a sensitive guy, who gets his feelings hurt easily and loves to be snuggled, rubbed, and just generally baby-ed. But he rarely ever talks about anything hurting or making him feel sick. Yes, I am laying some groundwork here . . .so as not to come out looking like Worst Mom of the Year at the end of the story. So, last Sunday when we got back from "Mass-a-knuckles" Casey was a little out of it and tired, but we all were, so we didn't think too much of it. Until 2:30am on Monday, which is the time he crawled into our bed and gave us the sensation of sleeping next to a very, very hot water bottle. Poor guy had a big fever, which lasted off and on until Tuesday. He had two terrible nights of sleep (which of course means that Dave and I endured the same), and then after the fever broke he had a runny nose and cough. Mind you, all along he kept telling me that he is just fine. He HATES taking medicine, so even giving him Tylenol for the fever or some children's Nyquil for the cough involved serious bribes and deal-making. Other than his nose running like a faucet and having a night-time cough, he really seemed okay until Sunday morning, when he woke up with no voice at all.

Here's a video of Casey's voice, and this wasn't even at the worst point. Background soundtrack provided by: Dave & Keller watching the UNC basketball game and Marley wearing her squeaky shoes.

It was so cute at first, but when he still had no voice on Monday morning, and added a little case of pink eye and a rash on his bum to the list of symptoms, I finally decided it was time for a trip to the doctor. As I went over his symptoms with the pediatrician, I could see the wheels turning in his head and I was certain that when he left to go run the strep test, he would also make a quick call to Child Protective Services to see exactly what they consider to be 'neglect.' Turns out Casey has: a sinus infection, strep infections in his throat and on his bottom, pink eye, and laryngitis. Wow. Way to go, Holly. Great job earning votes for "Mom of the Year." He is on Augmentin now, which tastes like ground up chalk with a tiny hint of gross fruit punch flavoring added in. He cannot stand to take it. When I got to work tonight, I looked down at the front of my clothes and saw little splotches of medicine on my shirt and pants from the Battle Royale showdown that took place during his evening dose of medicine. I just cannot believe that he was not laying on the floor, moaning and groaning about how awful he must have felt through all of these ailments. I have long believed that men in general tend to be a little bit whimpy when it comes to being sick, but Casey may just be the guy who blows my theory out of the water!

Marley got a little 'bling' last week. After saying "HER name is Marley" and "SHE has been home two months" and "SHE is a girl" for the past two months, we decided Marley could use some sparkle. She wears pink, dresses, pink dresses--it doesn't matter--people still automatically assume she is a boy because she has no hair and she's not a super-girly looking girl. Well, actually her hair is growing in pretty nicely (although a bit crazily with a pattern that I haven't quite figured out yet). So, Casey and I took her to the mall last Thursday afternoon and got her ears pierced. Casey helped me pick out some cute pink flowers (which, by the way, I couldn't believe the variety of piercers now--when I got mine pierced many moons ago, you could only get silver, gold, or birthstones). She cried for less than 2 minutes, and hasn't minded them at all. Now if someone calls her a boy again, I will probably go ahead and punch them in the face.

Marley's 'sparkle'

Keller started Track on Sunday and it was so much fun. It's a huge program with over 300 kids from ages 4-15, but very well-organized and he seemed to like it a lot. He did long jump, sprints, and relays Sunday, and will cycle through other track events throughout the course of the season. His first meet will be sometime in April. He is also playing baseball this spring. He and Casey are both doing a baseball camp every Monday afternoon right now in preparation for the season, but Casey won't be playing yet this year. He has swim lessons starting next week. He is very confident in the pool, and Keller swims like a fish in any depth of water, but I am a little unsure about how I'll manage all 3 kiddos at the pool this summer. I figured Casey could benefit from lessons, and my nerves may benefit from knowing that he can swim in 5 feet of water, rather than him just thinking he can ;)

Keller's warm-up lap at track:

The boys at baseball camp last week:

Here are a few other random photos from the beautiful weekend we had here.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

"Mass-a-knuckles" . . .

Last summer while we had the fam at a music festival, I dropped our name in a bucket to win a weekend getaway. I am no fool--I knew that this made our name, address, and probably blood types available to the marketing company who was offering the prize. I decided to do it anyway. . .either feeling lucky or maybe had a few too many beers that day. Regardless, we got a call a couple of weeks ago offering a chance to go stay at Massanutten Resort (or "Mass-a-knuckles" as Casey so adorably--and adamantly--calls it), about 2 hours from here, for a "free 2 night stay." We had already gone to the water park at the resort last May, and we knew the kids would love a visit there as well as a chance to go snow tubing on the mountain, so, we scheduled it for this weekend.

Other than paying resort prices for food (think $10.99 for a frozen pizza) and having to endure a 90-minute tour/sales pitch for a timeshare at the resort, I am happy to report that despite multiple hiccups and glitches in our well-laid plans, the kids had a fantastic weekend and were pretty much oblivious to said hiccups and glitches.

We spent three hours at the water park, which was Marley's first experience with swimming pools and hot tubs. She loved it! It's hard to believe that this little girl was once so incredibly terrified of the bathtub that she would stand in the bathroom, still fully-clothed and scream at the top of her lungs as soon as I started to fill the tub. I admit to only giving her 2-3 baths the entire two weeks we were in China, and we had to bathe her in an infant tub for the first couple of weeks home. She has come a long way baby! She loved being in the water, and felt comfortable enough to repeatedly push my hands away when I tried to hold onto her as she walked along the seat in the 4 foot deep hot tub. She did have two moments which made her relative inexperience with water apparent--both involved her seeing something interesting on the bottom of the kiddie pool and deciding to take a closer look by just bending over and sticking her whole head under water. A little scary for me, but she came up laughing, so I guess this summer at the pool should be quite interesting. I have to add that she finished the night of swimming with a diaper full of edamame poop (so incredibly gross, I just had to mention it) and a case of hives. She appears to have pretty sensitive skin, which the orphanage director mentioned on the day after we got her. I'm guessing the chlorine and chemicals were too harsh for her skin, but regardless, it all cleared up within an hour or two of being out of the pool. Dave and the boys did all of the big slides and tubes, and went whole hog the whole time, as usual. They are really lucky to have a dad like Dave who never sits on the sidelines, has lots of staying power, and encourages them to make the most of their time. He is perfectly content to be running up the stairs with them and following them down the slides, with his reward being the crazy, insanely happy grins on their faces. Keller has a decent gouge in his knee and a badly bruised shin--evidence of a good day in the life of Keller. Casey was so worn out that he fell asleep on the way back to the condo and I had to carry him (all 42 pounds) up the stairs, during which time he gave me a big sloppy kiss and mumbled "I wuv you." Too cute.

Here are Keller and Casey, being oh-so-patient as they waited for Dave & I to get ready.

Marley had a lot of fun hopping around in these hanging swing contraptions:

I just think this picture is funny because it looks like she is plotting to catch one of the water droplets that is frozen in the picture!

Marley got to try out the adorable monogrammed ladybug cover-up from the Canady family. I swear she's in there . . .

See, there she is!

Keller cheesing it up after swimming

We had three happy, but worn out kiddos (and two very worn out parents) on the way back to our condo

Marley was too small to do any snow tubing. She needed to be 36" tall, and is coming in at around 30-31" right now. Maybe next year? But maybe not, I suppose. She's a peanut. I took Keller & Casey to hit the tube hill for an hour, then Dave brought Marley over and we switched. Keller was in his normal dare-devil, thrill-seeker form and was almost insistent that he would be riding his tube down the snowboard terrain park rather than the tube area. And when it was his turn, he had the friendly guy at the top whip his tube so it spun in circles the whole way down. Casey and I went down with our tubes tied together the first time and it was so cool to look back at him and watch his face while we flew down the hill. There was definitely a bit of apprehension there, but also evidence of a healthy dose of adrenalin.

Casey was sooo excited to go backwards on the tube! I had gone down ahead of him, but before I went, I asked the guy at the top to try to give him a really gentle spin to get him moving in the wrong direction, so to speak.

Waiting for his turn . . .

Flying backwards down the hill. . .

Love it when a plan comes together. . .

Here's what happens when I say "Smile nicely, please" . . .

And here's what happens when I say "I'm serious, guys. Smile NOW."

And here's what happens when I say "Oh nevermind, I guess I just won't have any nice pictures of you guys to look at when I'm old"

(A little guilt never hurt anyone, right?)

Marley got to ride around in her fancy new Kelty carrier (we got rid of the old one when "we" were so sure we weren't having any more kids!)

Here's a shot of Keller from today's snow day. Casey was asleep with a raging fever, Marley was napping, and so Keller and I set off into the wild white yonder. I think I may have knocked my brain a tad loose trying to show Keller how to use this snowboard-type sled we bought last year, but it was good for laughs anyway.

I'm off to dive back into my book about the Johnstown Flood. I have never had much interest in history, but am truly fascinated by all that went down before, during, and after the flood. I grew up in the J-town area, but hardly knew anything about the flood until something sparked an interest in me recently. This is the third book I've read on the subject in the past two weeks, and I've ordered the DVD of the PBS documentary on it. I guess that makes me a member of a very small and as yet unnamed club of Johnstown Flood junkies.