Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fun at Home

Just some pics of some of our recent activities. In between t-ball and all the doctor's appointments we've seemed to have and VBS 2 weeks for Hannah (including this week) and sumatanga and the zoo and...well..anyway, we've been ATTEMPTING somewhat to spend the time we have free at home. Sadie has a need for things to be calm or at least not too overstimulating at the moment. Hannah, while calm is definately good for her too, also has a need to be BUSY. Or maybe, *I* have a need for Hannah to be busy. :-) So, we've tried to be home, but doing fun things as much as possible. Here's just a sample.

We pretended to be architects and created buildings from marshmallows and toothpicks. Hannah was very into this and did a great job.

Sadie was into this too - but as a two year old, it was in a completely different way. She was more into using the toothpick to stab the marshmallow and deposit it into her mouth!

Sadie enjoyed some afternoon painting sessions

A few days earlier, Hannah had made a clay bowl and spoon and enjoyed painting them.

Hannah's been learning to "sew" with plastic canvas. It's a slow project..maybe an all-summer project. We'll see. But, she's had a good time with it. It takes a lot of focused attention, so she's just doing one circle (or sometimes half a circle) around each time. At this rate, she'll finish in October! ha! But, she's enjoying it, it's developing good skills, and it's keeping her busy for 30 minutes in the afternoons. Definately a worthwhile project.

Sadie wanted to "sew" too. She's using a piece of cardboard wtih large holes cut out that she can push the string in and out of (a homemade lacing card). I know my school OT's will be proud that we're working on fine motor skills this summer!! :-)

These next few pictures I want my school librarian to see. She read my class and Hannah's class this really fun book last spring called Aint Gonna Paint No More. Hannah LOVED it. (So did my class) and sang it for days (it's a book but with a bit of song in it too). It's about a little boy who gets into the paints and paints his whole body...mama is not too happy! It's cute and I bought it for Hannah (through Scholastic if you're interested). Well, it totally made her day when I told her she could do that - paint her body. So, we read the book and then went outside with fingerpaints, plastic garbage bags, and paints. They started with the paintbrushes and soon ditched those to use their hands. They both LOVED it. Sadie was a bit more her painting as you can see, but she laughed and smiled the whole time. Hannah went all out as you can also see. If you want to try this at home, it's so easy. The crayola washable fingerpaint comes right off with the water hose and a washcloth. Definately a fun hour...try it!

Getting ready to read the book

"I just can't STAND not to paint my HAND"

Sadie getting going...

Hannah - in full swing

Sadie - the final result

Hannah - the final result

And finally, for a less messy activity, we've been reading...a lot. I love to read. Hannah loves to look at books and be read to. Sadie likes to look at books..probably not as much, but she's 2. She's starting to really enjoy picture books. Our new rule in the car is no toys, only books (does not apply to long trips..just short around town trips). I figure they get to engage in literacy, and I get a car that's not cluttered with a million little toys. I got a plastic tub and had the girls decorate their "book box" with stickers. We then chose 10 books to put in it (wtih the idea we'll rotate them with books in the house from time to time). The box fits right between the girls' carseats. I actually stole this idea from another friend when I saw she had one in her car. The girls love looking at their books in the car and there's almost no fussing over them. It's also sweet when Hannah decides to read to Sadie. We're also doing the summer reading program at the library so we visit once a week to check out books and get logs signed and receive prizes. In addition, I'm trying something new with Hannah. I mostly still read picture books with both Hannah and Sadie, but I started wondering if Hannah could handle some simple chapter books (me reading to her..she doesn't read on her own yet). That's a big switch because the simple chapter books have very few pictures and the ones they do have are simple black and white drawings. I figure it's good for Hannah to use her imagination...and for her to practice paying attention by listening. She's GREAT at talking..we're practicing the listening. :-) Anyway, we read Stuart Little first this summer (a chapter at nap and a chapter at bedtime) and she enjoyed it. We checked out a Stuart Little movie from the library afterwards. Now, we're about a third of the way into Charlotte's Web. I'm sure we'll watch the movie of it too when we finish. I figure we may have time for one more simple chapter book before school starts. Knowing what I know now (I hadn't read either of those books since *I* was a child)- I'd probably read Charlotte's Web first if I had it to do over again. Hannah enjoyed Stuart Little because of the idea of a little mouse and all the trouble he managed to get into trying to live in a world of big people, but there were parts of it that were just over her head. (There was some humor I enjoyed however!) So far, while Charlotte's Web has some vocabularly that's new to Hannah, the actual story is not over her head ( does get into death a little..when the sheep tells Wilbur the pig that the farmer wants to kill him at Christmas for supper..but knowing the end of the story that it doesn't happen, I'm okay reading it with her). Well, there's your free book reviews about simple chapter books for 4-5 year olds if you're interested!

Sometimes I'll grab a book in the afternoon and sit on the couch to read for a few minutes. I used to always reserve my personal reading for when the girls were napping or in bed, but decided I wanted them to SEE me read sometimes. So, I'll sit and read for 15-20 minutes some afternoons. Hannah and Sadie are free to do what they want during this time (within reason!) Sometimes they play with their toys in the living room. But often, they'll grab books and sit with me on the couch and "read" for a while too. I love it!!

Well, I hope everyone enjoys this week. I can't believe how fast summer is flying by. Sadie had her orthopedic dr. appointment last week and this week, she goes back to the adoption clinic on Wednesday and to see an occupational therapist on Thursday. I'll post more about all that at the end of the week. I also had an appointment this morning for some minor oral surgery. I'm feeling fine and appreciate the sweet friends who helped take care of my girls and me today.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


We had a wonderful time at Camp Sumatanga yesterday. We parked by the lake for a picnic and to throw things. Yep - that's what my two wanted to do. They threw pincecones by the trees, rocks on the gravel road and in the lake, and the ball in the grass. Then, they dug in the dirt with sticks and swirled the water around with their sticks. Hannah found a feather and amused herself for quite a while with the feather in the water. Sadie found a leaf and tried that in the water. Hannah tried to climb a tree (that wasn't meant to be climbed and I was laughing so hard!) and they ran in and out through the trees. We had planned to visit several areas of camp, but they completely amused themselves for well over an hour in this one spot. Oh, and we saw a tiny, tiny baby frog jumping in the grass. Then, we went to the playground for a few minutes and headed off to meet the group we were visiting. The junior high kids were swimming when we got there, so the kids changed into their swimsuits and lifevests and had a blast. After drying off and changing back into regular clothes, it was time for worship with the junior highs. The kids did great. It was long and loud (but completely energetic and fun for the big kids), but Hannah and Sadie hung in there despite that it was well past their bedtime. They sang a little, colored, and really behaved wonderfully. Hannah had a couple comments while I was talking, like when I said my girls were sweet, she piped up with a "yes we are!" but was mostly quiet. And how incredibly sweet was it that afterwards when they took up their offering, they said a portion of it was for Shaohannah's Hope? Thanks Holly and team for being so nice to the girls and so supportive! And for finding non-permanent markers and crayons for them to color with! ha! And thanks Jennifer for all your help - especially swimming and while I was speaking. After we were finished, I had promised the girls we would stop for a snack. I know they were getting hungry by then from all the activity. The girls were exhausted but Hannah held me to my promise. We stopped for donuts. Sadie was already asleep and never woke up, but Hannah ate hers barely before crashing! It was midnight when I dumped their dirty, tired, but happy selves in the bed. Ah - what fun! Before Hannah fell asleep, she said "Mommy! We can come back one day? I LOVE camp!"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Keeping Busy and Other Ramblings

I've previously posted some of our summer fun activities..from the park and riding bikes to playing in our little wading pool and enjoying watermelon. Here's some more summer fun activities from the last few weeks.

This new area of the zoo is part of their Kangaroo exhibit - the kids enjoyed writing on the stone wall with chalk

WHEE! Train ride...Hannah's lovin it, Sadie's trying to love it! She actually did enjoy it a lot - not sure why her hand is up in this picture.

Driving the tractor at the zoo - just for the record, we do actually visit some animals when we go to the zoo. But all the other fun activities are what my girls really love, especially the water fountains and the new "foam fountain". Check it out if you live close enough!

Sadie likes to feed her babies.

Uh, well, let's see. We're only in here because..uh..well..we're NOT eating the snacks and we're not doing anything we're not suppossed to! Really!! And How did you know we were in here? We only giggled a little!

Chore time! (sort of). They washed all their plastic dishes outside and had a blast! They did this for almost an hour and switched back and forth between buckets with no fighting or whining and shared dishes, and splashed water on the pavement to watch the patterns it fun! We'll have to pull this out again soon I think.

This week, Hannah's in Vacation Bible School during the mornings (one of two she's signed up for this summer) and having a great time. She must be listening well, because I'm hearing all kinds of things from her that she's learned in the afternoons. The first day the topic was "obey". I'm fairly certain they talked about obeying God..maybe they also covered obeying parents. But that afternoon Hannah was playing with Sadie and got a bit frustrated. She yelled out to me "MOMMY!!! Sadie's not OBEYING me and that makes me frustrated!" Ah - Hannah, while being a GREAT big sister, does have moments where it bothers her that she's not "in charge". She so hoped to be "in charge", even though I repeatedly told her that no, *I* was in charge of both of them. Well, Hannah's reached her own solution to give herself peace. She announced that I could be in charge of her and Sadie. She (Hannah) would be in charge of the ants and the ants would have to obey her. Now I know that sounds crazy, but it really does diffuse some disagreements around here..when Hannah gets a bit bossy and I remind her that she is not in charge, she will back off and let Sadie be with the comment "I know - I'm in charge of the ants". One day, she even went outside to find some ants to give directions to (her idea). This girl is a hoot!

While Hannah's learning and having fun at VBS, I am enjoying having some special time with just Sadie this week. WE've been visiting the park early after I drop Hannah off and then heading home for some playtime when it starts getting too hot. She is doing very well. She is talking more, mostly imitating, but sayinig a little spontaneously. She is also remembering and using a few signs as well. She's still sleeping great - which is a huge praise! And by the way, Hannah continues to sleep well too - which is also a huge praise since it took a year for her to sleep through the night in the first place. I'm so thankful all the transitions around here haven't affected her good sleep. They need the sleep, but's a selfish gratefulness. I'm happier and a nicer person when I get a good night's sleep. I feel so unbelievebly more rested than I expected to at this point! Of course, it's not perfect. Hannah's at the age/stage where she's starting to outgrow naptime..I'm a bit sad and in denial over that..but it was bound to happen sooner or later! Back to Sadie..her interactions with me seem very appropriate and affectionate. She is also beginning to discrimate between me and others by choosing to not go to others at times. Or, she'll allow someone else to pick her up, but immediately turn and reach for me. That's good - and what we hope for. You know how babies hit that stage about oh, 9 months maybe where they all of a sudden seem to not go to anyone but mom? It's a healthy part of the baby's emotional development. Well, being in an orphanage, Sadie never went through that. So, while other children learn that mom is different than just anyone else at a very young age and other children learn to really trust that parents will meet their needs, Sadie is just learning that now at 2.5 years old. When I got her, she would go to anyone who seemed "nice" to her. She was delightful and charming and oh, so very precious and would have been happy to walk into the arms of anyone she saw in the grocery store or on the street. Now, she's still delightful and charming and oh, so very precious - but she's beginning to *not* go to just anyone on the street. I think it's an area we still need to work on some, but it's coming and there's progress. And once Sadie truly truly reaches that point of being very securely attached..then, it'll be good for her to branch out again and learn to trust other people too. It's a process I was prepared for thanks to great social workers and the great staff at the adoption clinic. But, it's not a process I had to go through with Hannah. Being in foster care for most of her life, Hannah seemed to just understand at some level all this. She clearly had a concept of family being different than just "all the nice-seeming adults I might come in contact with" from the beginning. And only time will tell how much of it is personality difference too. Sadie just seems very laid back and easy-going. I'm interested to see how that takes shape as time goes on. For example, although Hannah's basic personality never seemed to change, there were aspects of her personality that took more time to emerge and other characteristics that were very present in the beginning seemed to fade as she got more comfortable. I remember telling her preschool teachers after about 5 months home that I felt like we were just seeing her true self emerge. It's so fun and awe-inspiring to really watch these girls literally begin to become who God created them to be...and I imagine it's a process that will continue through childhood (through life? - I think I'm still becoming who I'm meant to be too!) What a blessing it is to have a role in watching that develop..and what a responsibility too!

In other news, Sadie had her hearing test last week (she hears fine) and her vision test this week (she sees fine too - just a bit nearsighted but the dr. wasn't concerned and just wants to see her back in 2 years). Next week she will have her appointment at the pediatric orthopedic clinic about her hands. The following week, I have a dentist appointment and Sadie has her 2nd adoption clinic appointment. And the week after THAT - Hannah has a follow-up with the adoption clinic for speech / language. And the week after THAT - both girls have a visit to our regular pediatrician (shots for both this year I'm sure!! fun, fun!) Then we have a couple weeks free before Hannah has a dentist appointment at the end of July and the next week, we start school! whew! I'm just so thankful I have the summer to get all these appointments would have been really hard in the fall to have managed that. Just another example of God's perfect design in the timing and everything else!

And speaking of God's perfect may remember that I received a grant at the very end of my adoption process (like, I got word of the grant while I was actually in China). Well, with that processed and with the last couple checks / bills debt from this adoption comes down to.....drum roll....ZERO!! That may or may not seem like a big deal, but it is a big deal to me and it's an answer to a very specific prayer request. And you know what else is *really* cool about that? I will have a little left over...not a lot..but enough to basically pay the medical bills not covered by insurance this summer. I have great insurance - but there are a few of our appointments that while important due to the factor of being newly adopted interantionally, they are not considered "medically necessary" by insurance. I knew this and was prepared - but how cool is it that God basically paid those fees for me?

So, as I'm feeling all grateful these last few days, I have had a neat opportunity present itself. One of my co-workers is leading a junior high camp at camp sumatanga next week. Their theme is "Listen! God's Calling!". Anyway, she e-mailed me this week and asked if I would come up to camp one evening next week and speak to the youth about following God's call as it relates to my story of adopting my girls. So, all three of us will be heading to camp next week. Well, just for a few hours. I'm excited about sharing, especially on this particular topic, but I'm also excited about visiting camp with Hannah and Sadie. Camp Sumatanga is our conference's United Methodist camp and it's a place with many special memories from my college and slightly-beyond college days. I participated in numerous types of retreats there back then and made some great friends who remain close friends to this day. I was never a camper there during childhood, but I hope Hannah and Sadie are interested when they get old enough to be campers. It'll be fun to give them a brief introduction to Sumatanga. I don't know that we'll do that much - they are still so young and camp is in session afterall, but we may take a walk by the lake, throw rocks in the creek, play in the dirt, or drive up to the cross on the mountain (I know - you're suppossed to HIKE up to the cross not take the easy way out- but well..I do have not only a 4 year old but a 2 year old who can't go up the stairs yet with me - so we'll take the easy way out this time! Even though in China we did climb 382ish stairs at some mausaleum..but I think we were just insane at that moment!) Maybe I'll take a frisbee or ball and let them run around and play in the famous "chigger bowl" at camp, armed with plenty of bug spray and long pants of course! Hmm..any of you old college buddies reading this willing to admit to me yet how my car got in the chigger bowl during college what, 3 times? anyone? Ah - fun times! :-)

Well, I have rambled on much longer than I expected..this was suppossed to be a short update with a few pictures. well, so much for that! I do have a few more pictures of some of our "creative" activities I'll try to post soon..I've been on an artsy kick the last few weeks and we've been having lots of fun. Coming soon...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Play Ball

Hannah's first T-ball game was so much fun! Did I tell y'all I think she has the best coaching team ever? These 3 daddies who coach her team are amazing. They took a group of 9 boys and girls 3-4 years old where only 1 had ever played t-ball before and after 3 weeks of practice, these kids really did work together as a team. They have learned so many skills and rules of the game already and the season is just beginning. But, the really important part is that they have done it in a completely no-pressure environment having fun. It's so fun watching these little ones play. Hannah's team doesn't even know they're "competing". They're just playing for fun. And at their age-level, every team member gets to bat each inning, regardless of how many "outs" there are and no score is kept. And the sentimental mother in me thinks how nice it is that no one has to watch their kid get that last "out" or be responsible for their team losing, and all the kids go home happy. Ahh...too bad it cant' stay that way as they get older. I know, I know - all you sports fans out there are going to get me for that one. I know, there's lessons in life to be learned from winning well and losing well. But, there's also lessons in life to be learned from playing for the pure joy of it too. And I'm thankful that at least for this year, I get to watch a whole league of preschoolers play simply for the joy of playing.

Ready to head off to the ballpark!

Hanging out before the game with one of her teammates

Part of the cheering section

Getting ready for the game to begin

Warming up: look at her catch that ball!

More warm-ups: throwing practice

hitting the ball

On the field "baseball ready" waiting for the ball to come her way

I love this picture for the intensity and energy it shows - running into home base (and you can't really see it on the photo here - but there is a HUGE smile on her face!)