Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Before & After

Our adoption agency, Chinese Children Adoption International, recentely asked for us to send a newer photo of Henry to be part of their Before & After collection. It's all part of CCAI's attempt to show the difference that a loving home can make in the face of a child. I often go back to the photos from Henry's Gotcha-Day to remind myself how far he's come. It makes me sad to look at his face and know that he was experiencing real fear and uncertainty.
I feel as though it has just been in the past week that he's been behaving like the little Gates brother with regard to his relationship with the other kids and with us in the home and not like the adopted kid still trying to figure out his role. There have been a couple of times when I've arrived home from work and he hasn't rushed to me with a whining grunt. There have been a number of times where he's initiated play on his own with Lincoln and Lydia. He's quite comfortable in the big bath tub now as well as walking in the grass in his bare feet. He's not taking "no" very well at all, just like another boy and girl in our home. As far as his communication, he's nodding his head "yes" much more reliably, and he's repeating consonant sounds after me and adding a couple of new sounds every couple of days (today he said "fa fa fa" and "ssssss sssssss," which I was very happy about because in the past few days when I made those sounds, he'd try but just get frustrated and start crying).

Lydia is stringing lots of words together very well now. Tonight she told Jenn, "Read pirate story again. No read other stories. Just pirate story." Then after Jenn read to her a second time and then laid her in the crib, Lydia said, "Read pirate story three times." Understanding what Lydia wants will make things much easier with her.

Lincoln starts preschool in less than a week. Holy. Cow.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Date Night!

Last evening Jenn and I went on an early-Anniversary date, and it was our first night out since mid-May in Hong Kong. The report out of Grandma & Grandpa was that the kids did great, even for Henry's bedtime routine.
We went to the Blue Point Grille for dinner, had a fantastic dinner of calamari, tuna (for Jenn) & grouper (for me), and a killer 'smores-style dessert. Then it was off to see Chris Tucker at the State Theater. To say that we were in the minority in the audience would be a tremendous understatement. Who says we're not doing our part for diversity? Most of the show was really, really funny, and overall it was a very pleasant evening out for us to be adults for awhile instead of glorified baby-sitters.
It's hard to believe what all has happened over the past 9+ years. Over dinner we were recalling some of the shows and concerts we've been to, and we were half blown away to think that we saw Huey Lewis & the News 10 years ago. Holy cow! And to think three kids, one of them adopted, have popped up since our mid-vet school days is a bit crazy. I'm not sure our 2003 selves would believe seeing our 2012 selves.
Earlier in the day on Saturday we went to a music class that good friends of ours have attended with their daughter for over a year. The teacher has a bachelors in music and a masters in child psychology, so he knows his stuff and how to reach these little kids. They bang on drums and all sorts of percussion instruments, they sing songs in 4/4 time and 3/3 time (I think that's how to say it... lousy musician here), and the room is set up so they can pretty much do whatever they want the whole time and not really ruin anything. Lincoln really got into it, Henry was pretty interactive, and it was Lydia that was the shy and reserved one. Kind of surprised me.

Also, at the end of the class, a mother approached me and commented about Henry's hand and drew my attention to her own hands. She'd had surgery to correct her amniotic banding and her fingers were of variable length & function. (One of the boys in our adoption group was born with the consequences of amniotic banding, so it was especially neat that this mother was so up front about it.) I hadn't noticed her situation at all during the class, and it's just evidence that folks with disabilities like that just figure out ways to do life and do it in such a way that doesn't draw an ounce of attention. Pretty cool.

I want to take a moment and say something specifically to the adoptive parents reading this blog, the ones with whom we traveled around China. When we read your blogs and read between the lines and see that there are struggles with bringing your sons and daughters along, it... and I mean this with all sincerity, respect and in the purest form... it makes us feel better about our situation. To know that we're not the only ones with tough times makes the tough times so much easier to deal with, and in turn, makes things much easier for the kids, adopted & biological. If you're not an adoptive parent, this last paragraph didn't make much sense, and in fact you're probably wondering why I sound so crazy. But for you adoptive parents, you know what I'm talking about. Know that we're all going to make it!

Left on tap today is power washing the house. Jenn is going to set up the water table in the front yard, and because tonight is a bath night, we're going to get all sunscreened and sweaty this afternoon in a big family memory-building time. I can sense your envy as you read this.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Toddler Camera Fun

This morning I was holding Henry as I was preparing breakfast, but I had to set him down to cut the omlet. He started crying, and I said, "Hold on, Henry, I just have to cut the omlet." Then Lydia walked over to Henry, stuck out her finger and said, "Dad. Cut. Egg. Hen. No. Cry." Hilarious.
Things have definitely improved within the last week as far as Henry's attitude and our response to his attitude are concerned. After weeks of frustration with crying and screaming, not eating well, throwing food, etc., Henry has settled down, and I have to believe it's because he's been getting hugged at every turn. It's not as though we weren't showing him love from the outset (far from it!), but we've stepped up our game even more, and it's paying off.
The twins have been wanting to play in the cribs during the day, and they're getting no argument from us on that front. It deinitely limits the messes.
And today while Jenn was getting her hair cut and a pedicure, Lydia, Henry and I had some fun with the camera and the remote control.
Lincoln is spending the day with Grandpa Doug at Leesville Lake, so it's a Mommy/Daddy/Toddler-Twin Day. Always an adventure!

Monday, August 20, 2012

For all the snot-ball sufferers... you have been lifted to the LORD in prayer.

Tonight Lincoln prayed for all of the people in the world who may have trouble breathing because they have snot-balls in their nose or because they have asthma.
On Friday we drove past Lincoln's preschool and I pointed it out to him. He said, "I won't have to go to preschool for very long because I know most things." He must take after his mom on that one because I'm sure I never said anything like that when I was young.
Henry has found his screaming voice, and over the past couple of weeks he was using it liberally when he wouldn't get his way, and the screaming would phase into an all-out tantrum. It's been hard because if/when Lincoln and Lydia behave(d) in a similar manner, we'd discipline them accordingly, but with Henry, a different standard applies. Yesterday I made it a point to pick him up and hug him at the first sign of a cry, no matter the cause, before it turned into a screaming, raging fit/tantrum. It made me cringe at first because my first thought was that it would re-enforce the behavior. It sure would with L or L. But it didn't do that at all with Henry. At each turn, he'd stop crying within 30 seconds, and then I'd set him back down and he'd go about his business. Jenn took a similar approach throught today (Monday), and things went well.
Last evening we went to an event at CCC-Hudson that was an all-campus party. It was really, really cool: live jazz, ice cream, games for the kids, plenty of space to bring a picnic dinner for the family and sit with friends. Lydia is in her element in big crowds, Lincoln was a very good boy, and Henry enjoyed the small slides, walking around with Daddy, and a little bit of the ice cream... until his mouth got too cold.
I've also learned this summer that container gardening is half-fun. The problem is that there is so little yield. I'm going to work on getting a garden in the ground next year.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Swings & Angry Birds

Our own version of Angry Birds!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Playset Installed!!!

Today was a full day. Henry and I did most of the grocery shopping for the Men's Retreat this weekend, then he, Lincoln and I went with Grandpa Doug down to Leesville Lake to turn on the A/C and take the load of groceries. And while we were gone, the playset got built! Yea!!!

One of the workers found a nest of bunnies in the yard. Idiot bunny. Gretel found them in the early evening, so I moved them outside the fence line. The mom saw me, so hopefully she'll care for them... and protect them from the cats.
We're continuing to have water heater problems. Because it's still under warrantee, I've been advised to try to work with GE to get it fixed because it'll either get fixed or they'll give me a new water heater. Hmmm. Maybe. I'm a little irritated that Blind & Sons didn't work to either find a solution or work with GE to find a solution. They came out to the house three times and neither a fix nor a suggestion, other than, "You really need a Rinnai with a family of five. Nevermind that three of my five can't take a shower on their own. I get that they want to sell me a new water heater, but even if they passed on the sale, at least they'd be reaping the labor costs. I'm pretty much done with them on this issue.

Jenn's out with her friends for Bible study, and I've got to review my notes for Friday evening. Adios.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ledges, Summer, 2012

It's been a while since we've been on a hike. Who wants to walk outside when it's 90+ in temperature and near 90 in humidity? Yesterday wasn't as bad as it's been, weather-wise, so we packed up and went to the Ledges. Henry's not much for walking on unsure footing, and he was wearing new-to-him shoes, so he rode in the pack for most of the way. When he got out near the end, he overcame his anxiety and did pretty well. Lydia is turning into a good little hiker, mostly because she has no fear. Lincoln is a good hiker in another sense. He's not near-wreckless like Lydia, but rather he's becoming a confident boy on the trails, being careful on steps and over walks while also enjoying the things around us to see and hear.

At home, the biggest issues have been obedience and crying. And it's funny how the lack of the former contributes to the latter. Lydia, especially, has been horrible at following simple commands, and when she's led to do the right thing, there is a show of what we call "fake crying." It's just as loud and annoying as the real thing, but it's for no good reason. The joys of toddler-hood. Heaven help us when she turns 3.

Jenn went to the Women of Faith conference over the weekend with some friends from church. While there were good parts of it that she appreciated, she said more of it was like a pep-rally, and Jenn's not into pep rallies, but instead into solid teaching from the Word. So the next time there's a solid, red meat teaching conference that comes around, look for Jenn there.

I've got the third annual Men's Retreat coming up this weekend, and because I've had help from some of my buddies in the planning process, I have this strange feeling that I'm missing something. Perhaps it's because we had it all planned out several weeks earlier than in the past. That's a nice feeling. Sadly, our ABF teacher can't be a part of it because of a death in the family. The show will go on, though, and we've got a good group of guys signed up. Once again, it's at the Leesville Lake cabin, and once again, we've got good food and teaching in the works, so it ought to be a good weekend.

But before the weekend comes, a new play set (purchased with the generous help of Grandma Laura & Grandpa Dave) will be installed in our backyard this Wednesday! Rest assured, photos will come...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dad Time

With Jenn out of town for the Women of Faith conference on Friday and Saturday, I had an extended Daddy Day with the kids. We weren't sure what to expect following a week of concentrated attention from the Parkinsons. Jenn got outta Dodge for the initial decompression, and instead of 5 on 3, it was 1 on 3. Overall, though, they were pretty good and we had lots of fun.