Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Testing ...

Ok, just a real short brag on my husband.

We found out this morning Thomas passed the first section of his prelims unanimously!!!

For those of you who have spoken with me over the last week you know that we had quite a surprise about 10 days ago when Thomas got a call from school telling him to come pick up his prelim test. He was expecting it in January.

Last weekend he was tested on American Government. He was asked to respond to 4 questions over a weekend and basically provide as much information as he could on the theories and research associated with those questions. I spent the entire weekend watching the children solo, while he typed away. By Monday morning, he had about 45 pages to turn in.

This weekend was a repeat, except the topic was Public Policy and he was given 3 questions rather than 4. And he was also limited to no more than 10 pages on each question.

If he passes both sections of his prelims he will be able to move on to his dissertation stage. If he fails, he must take the test again. If someone fails twice they are booted from the program.
To pass the test, he must receive 4 passes from a total of 6 reviewers.

So the news we received this morning was that all 6 reviewers passed him unanimously on the American Government test, and we are just thrilled …and hoping for similar results on the second test next week.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Jasper's Growing Up

Soon to be a toddler, Jasper is surprising us all the time.

Yesterday, I casually noticed Petra trotting around me in the kitchen with her toothbrush. I don't like for her to carry her toothbrush around because it always ends up on the floor. But I was preparing dinner and since she was happily entertaining herself I decided not to worry about it.

Jasper must have thought this was a grand idea as well because a few minutes later I saw him coming down the steps carrying his toothbrush. I went over and asked him, what have you got, and he took it excitingly out of his mouth and held it up for me to see. Now, you may be thinking that was quite smart of him to respond to me in that way. But what was even more amazing is that he knew where to find his toothbrush, that he went upstairs to the bathroom to get it, that he stood up on the stool and that he picked up his toothbrush off the sink, and managed to get back down to the living room with it. Now that was what surprised me ... and you could just tell he was happy with himself.

Another quite funny quirk about Jasper is the way he holds a bottle. This is his official bottle pose. The right hand holds the end of the bottle, the left hand goes to the head. I laughed so hard yesterday morning watching our wonderful nanny strike the pose ... right before he did. It was so cute. I tried to get her in the picture as well, but she wouldn't allow it.

Jasper has finally started talking some more. For the past three days he has called me ma-ma-ma. At dinner, he was leaning over saying mamamama, and I asked him what he wanted and he said bababa. So, I would say this is a definite improvement from where he was even last week.

And he's off! No longer toddling around like Frankenstein or a zombie. Our little boy is on the move and he's quick. We went to the lake this afternoon and he is so difficult to keep up with. It reminded me of my friend Jenn's little boy. Jasper was all over the place, he wanted to crawl over the rocks and barriers - even if there was a 3 ft drop on the other side - and he was determined that he was going to wade out in the water. And he completely ignores the words "stop, come back or turn around." It was exhausting to keep up with him. Petra on the other hand wouldn't go within 10 feet of the water, she stayed close by the entire time - I tried to get her to get closer to the water for a photo -- she SCREAMED like a mad woman.

And I added this picture below to show you a photo of Petra impersonating an airplane.

And here are some pics of Petra from today.

Panic and adoption

Last year I asked for a book about adopting older children so that: 1) I could read and decide if this was really something I wanted to do later in my life, and 2) so that I could speak with more understanding when I am out promoting the Heart Gallery. (see Heart Gallery North Florida)

Recently, when talking with a new foster mom I heard the excitement and panic in her voice as she explained that she just got a phone call to take two siblings! Yes, I completely understood. That was the same rush of worry, excitement, anxiety I got when I received the phone call for Petra. The unknown in these situations is many times overwhelming; luckily they don't last long. With both our children the moment we got them home it was wonderful. But we fostered babies. Would it be just as wonderful with an older child?

So, when I came across this paragraph in this book I just had to laugh.

"Whether you adopt domestically or internationally, one feeling that is almost universal--and completely normal---is panic. Even parents who are generally unflappable or who have adopted before report a sudden rush of panic when they meet their child. I remember calling our social worker right before we traveled in a state of blind panic, wondering what on earth was wrong with me. She chuckled and said, 'You're going halfway around the world to see a nine-year-old child you've never met, to bring him home to be your son. Why on earth would you be scared?' To which I replied, 'Oh well, since you put it that way.'" --- Our Own: Adopting and Parenting the Older Child

And to think, I only had to go 5 miles down the street!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My little helpers

It's been a crazy week. Busy beyond belief. Tons to do. Thomas is taking his prelims. I'm typing on a brand new, wonderful computer because our old one decided to stop working (everything is literally a click away now, instead of a click plus 20 minutes). I'm speaking on Thursday at a community meeting on adoption. Our children need constant attention ... but all is good.

As a parent, my job is to train and instruct our children. To teach them. So of course, whenever they do anything new, I'm ecstatic. I've done more than hint on this blog before that I am looking forward to the day my children are older and can do more ... I'm looking forward to having little helpers ... but even the little things they do now are fascinating and wonderful.

This week we seem extra blessed with new things.

Jasper started bringing his hands together to pray before a meal. He also started clapping, and stomping to "if your happy and you know it." And he has started to attempt to use silverware...sometimes.

Petra started gymnastics two weeks ago. It was amazing to watch her change after just one class; and now that she has had two she seems to love it even more. Suddenly everything is viewed a little differently. She pretends the bottom of the hobby horse rocker is a balance beam, anything she can swing on is now a high bar, etc. It is so adorable to watch her squeal with enthusiasm when she swings on the rings or bars in class. And she is super strong and doing great.

We also started teaching her a little french about a month ago. And she has started to say a few of the words now independently.

Humorously, she also keeps trying to put her brother in time out. If he starts crying for no good reason, she will point at him and say "No, sir. Time out!" It's so funny and we joke that she says "yes, mam" and "no sir," but can't seem to interchange the terms.

The past week or two has also been busy with lots of activities.

Petra made some nice bracelets by stringing beads on a pipe cleaner. I was really surprised at how well she was able to do this.

We all enjoyed some watermelon.

And the children also love eating okra from our garden. Jasper loves it raw and screams if I take it away. I finally took a bite myself and decided it tastes the same raw as it does cooked. (once again I got to the garden too late and these are too large and tough)

And we also had a few play dates at the house that were a ton of fun. Its very seldom we see Petra as happy as she is below playing with our friend's son. (Notice Petra's new shirt I made)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Saturday is talk like a pirate day - and it wouldn't be quite be right if I let Talk Like a Pirate Day pass without posting Petra impersonating a pirate.

Monday, September 14, 2009

E-tegrity and Infertility

It's so seldom now that I write a post related to infertility. And though I have two wonderful children and I am happier beyond measure ... it doesn't change the fact that my body has a horrible disease. A disease that continues to grow in my body, and a disease that appears to be preventing me from having children.

For four months I have had a box with a testing kit in it. I was suppose to take this box to the doctor's office specifically to test if I am missing a uterine protein, a glue-like substance that helps an embryo stick around. After four months it has made its way from the bathroom closet to my car. And there it still sits. Am I stalling?

You may wonder how I have had one fresh IVF cycle, one frozen transfer and not been tested for this. To say it is a controversial test in an understatement. From what I can tell most doctor's don't think it is worth the time or effort. Of course, from what I can tell, most doctors think that fertility treatments should be treated as a statistical game - if you try enough, its bound to work at some point. Call me crazy, but I really would rather find out the reason and treat it, than blindly take chances and continue to roll the dice.

Anyway, the point being is that this test is 1) controversial, 2) expensive, and 3) may lead to zero useful information. In general terms, this test is a uterine biopsy - for detailed description of the test visit this website.

I have been stalling, no doubt. If I decide to do this, it will easily cost $700 out of pocket. But I continually go back to the same two pieces of information: 1) the number one fertility clinic uses this test, and 2) if the test detects a problem the treatment is easy and only 3 months long!

So once again I am telling myself, get the darn test to the doctor and get on with it. How bad could it be?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jasper is 11 months

Jasper turned 11 months last weekend and I wanted to post on his developmental progress.

Checklists on developmental skills are important to those who regularly check on foster children. When each of our foster children have been placed in our homes, it never fails that I receive a phone call and visit to evaluate the child and his development. To the extent that we had a visit for a newborn ... as if the child could do anything. As such, we started keeping tabs early on with each child. I like that these lists give me some indication as to what the child should be able to do; and if there is an area where the child is not developing, I try to work on or encourage that development at home with some focused attention.

I found a developmental checklist online. And here are some of the things that babies can usually do at a specified age.

9 months: Says Mama and Dada; Responds to name; Can stand for a short time; Able to hit two objects together on their own; Copies sounds

10 months: Able to pull self up at the side of crib or playpen; Can drink from a cup when it is held

11 months: Can walk holding onto furniture; Can find an object placed under another object

12 months: Waves bye-bye; Can walk with one hand held; Says two words besides Ma-ma and Da-da; Enjoys some solid foods; Finger feeds self; Likes to have an audience

15 months: Walks by self, stops creeping; Shows desires by pointing and gesturing; Scribbles on paper after shown; Begins using a spoon; Cooperates with dressing

18 months: Can build a tower with 3 blocks; Likes to climb and take things apart; Can say 6 words; Tries to put on shoes; Drinks from cup held in both hands; Likes to help a parent

I included these months - because they span all of Jasper's most recent behaviors or lack thereof. So, he can do some of the things listed for a 18 month old child - but can't do some of the things listed for a 9 month old child.

He is very active and physical. His motor skills are well developed. By 11 months old he could walk on his own - well enough that he can walk outside in grass or wood chips at the park without falling too much. He can also squat and pick up a toy, stand back up, and not touch the ground. However, he can't stand up on his own yet - he instead needs something to pull up on.

Other motor skills - he can wave, hit two objects together, can drink by himself from a cup, likes to take the potty apart, can climb up steps and low furniture, can climb safely down steps on his own (for more than a month - very suprisingly), and he has been eating finger foods for months.

So while he excelling at motor skills, he is on par on verbal skills - and behind in the fact that he doesn't really say mama or dada. He can babble, he can say baba, and bye bye, but he doesn't really say mama or dada - very, very seldom. He does sign "all done" on a regular basis and loves that he can communicate in this way.

And he isn't pointing yet or scribbling - but according to this checklist it isn't time yet for these things.

I tried and tried over and over again to get him to scribble - he completely refuses and screams. He gets so mad at me because he wants to eat the crayons - its nice to see he really has 4 more months before he should be expected to do this.

At the moment, I know I need to work more with his verbal skills than anything else. So what does this mean exactly? This means that Thomas and I will be pointing and labeling everything for him, narrating everything we do, and generally explaining the environment around us.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Labor Day 2009

A quick update on our long weekend ... with lots of photos!

Last week, Jasper decided it was time to really start walking. He is doing fantastic and has really improved over the last week. He walks all over the place ... fast. He is one busy boy - weighing a whopping 22lbs.

Our friend's little boy celebrated his 4th birthday this weekend. And we went to the park to help celebrate. Our children love the park and honestly I wish I could take them everyday. I enjoyed this more though since so many of our friends were there as well.

And this photo below brings up another point I would like to mention. I have some serious problems with Petra interfering with other moms and getting too close. She has no idea what personal space is. At the book store she is not the least bit interested in what I'm trying to read to her, but will go sit in any other mother's lap. In the bathroom for months I have had issues with her peaking or crawling under the stalls to see the other ladies. And here is one more example. She has never met this lady in her life, but she wants her to pick her up. Luckily this time it was a friend of a friend.

Jasper on the other hand does not like strangers. Here he is being helped up to a standing position by a friend.

The only other thing we did much of this weekend was reading and shopping. A local store had a consignment sale this weekend - where we picked up these balls!

And today we went for a quick hike - just 1.5 miles. Jasper was not happy for the second half of the trek. He hollered and hollered.

I attempted to teach Petra today how to use the camera. Here is a photo she took of Jasper and myself.

And in case you are wondering, this is why you shouldn't leave two young children alone... hee hee. The good news is he also thought it was fun.

Love the Pattern

The past few days I've been dying to do some sewing. And I finally pulled out a pattern for an infant dress I've been meaning to sew all summer.

Last Christmas, when we were allowed to take some things from my grandmother's house, I found this pattern in her basement. This was actually a pattern that was purchased the year I was born ... and one that she used for me!

It was such a pleasant experience to think of her while I made this simple shirt for Petra.

The pattern was super simple. I changed just a couple things. It called for eyelet or ric-rac across the bottom and I had neither - so instead I put a pretty ribbon across the bottom. Also, the directions didn't call for topstitching which I thought was strange. And finally, I had to add pearl snaps since I don't have buttons in the house.

I'm overall super happy with how it turned out. It fits her perfectly. And I love that its black. Its so hard to find children's clothing in black.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Meat Sales

This seems to be a pretty good week to stock up on meat ... at least chicken quarters (which Petra and I love).
I was pretty happy with my visit to the store yesterday.

For $49 I bought:
60lbs chicken quarters
4.5 lbs of NY strip steak
4 lbs. of sausage
2 bags of Lays Wavy chips

When I got home, Petra helped me wash, divide up and freeze all the chicken. She was actually a big help.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Open House

We had the wonderful privilege of opening our home for a week to a Muslim. Our pastor called and asked us to host a visiting professor from Algeria. It was an honor to have him here and we enjoyed his company and learning about his customs and country. His smile and appreciation for things was contagious. There is much more we hope to learn over the next year. And I am very much looking forward to meeting his wife and family when they come. We had the chance to share our faith with him and build the beginning of a friendship. And unbeknownst to us at the time he arrived, he is actually in Thomas' department.

Please pray for him that God will provide what he needs as he sets up a temporary home here for the next year.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Little Things

It’s the little things that make us smile. After a lot of whining in the afternoon, I felt simply blessed to see how the little things make me smile.

Last night, Petra surprised us with a few things. She has been combing 2-3 words on a regular basis for a few months now. But it seems that over the last week or two, this is changing and she is saying more and more. It makes me so glad to see her learn and grow. Last night when we asked her to throw away her chewed up and completely eaten corn cob – she started to walk to the trash can, then paused and said “No; wait a minute.” This was easily one of the more clearly spoken sentences she has said so far. And we are always telling her to wait a minute – it was nice to see she understood the concept and could repeat it to us.

Then, another cute little thing happened later. Thomas was asking her to share the toys with Jasper, and she didn’t. And he told her that she was being a bad girl and she needed to share. “Bad girl?” she said. And then immediately went and pulled out the book “Bad Dog, Marley” from about 20 other books and sat on my lap for me to read it to her. (I have read this book to her maybe 4 times – I don’t care for it because the book doesn’t address the need to train a dog – but oh well that is another matter)

And later in the night, she demonstrated that she seems completely ready for potty training. I guess we will start trying again more regularly. Over the last month or so she has used the potty about 3 times a week by her own choice ... but I think it’s time to approach this milestone again with more vigor.

Jasper also is talking more and more. And I am so glad to hear him start babbling more. We spent a few minutes before bedtime last night practicing saying "da-da." He happily repeated me numerous times, then surprisingly when I laid him down he happily rolled over and went to sleep. I thought with all the talking his mind would be too active to lay down so quickly.

He is getting absolutely great at waving bye, signing “all done,” and is happy to demonstrate “arms up” with a big smile and arms in the air. He is also walking more. Just in the last two days he decided he would start walking around the house more than crawling. It’s so funny to watch him walk around with his arms raised high in the air.

Petra is a little jealous that he gets all this praise for walking and will ask us “walk, walk” because she wants to walk to us in the same way. And I have to remind her she already knows how to walk, and I ask her to run instead. And she just loves this!