Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

CA Recap from Last Weekend

Below is a photo recap of our CA program last weekend. It was a wonderful weekend and we had fun visiting with our friends. The program was very upbuilding with excellent reminders. The speakers all did a fabulous job. Our DO announced that they had been called away from their assignment and would be receiving a new assignment in the Education arena. He will be missed.

Here is Henry and Nana posing before the program on Saturday.

And here is Henry posing with Papa.

I snapped this because they both seemed to be enjoying themselves so much. Turns out Henry had talked Nana into telling him the story "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie"

I take this picture every year as a point of comparison.

Here is the same picture taken during his first CA. It was March 2005.

Me and my baby!

Henry and Papa looking up scriptures. (The DO is in the background.)

Henry had a friend sit with him for the first time. Then he sat with another friend for the afternoon session.

Henry and his friends feeding the fish in the pond on the assembly hall grounds.

Henry enjoyed volunteering to help with our cleaning assignment during this assembly as well. Both days, we were assigned to help clean the dining room after lunch. Henry loved being in charge of the squirt bottle and several of the friends had him spraying the tables. He was also most excellent at putting the right number of chairs back at each of the tables after the vacuuming was complete. At the end of the program on Sunday, we were assigned to clean the water fountains. Henry really enjoyed this assignment, as well, as it also involved being in charge of the squirt bottle.

We also remembered to bring his wallet on Sunday and he extracted a sum of his choosing to place in the contribution box. I was quite proud of his willingness and generosity.

And each night after the program, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner with our friends. It was a perfect weekend, all the way around.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Never underestimate a First Grader

First, here is a picture of the boy dressed for school this morning:

Whoa, you say. Wait, he's still wearing his jammies! Yep, it was pajama day at school today, in celebration of the last day of school before winter break. Much time and deliberation was spent picking the perfect pair of jammies. In the end, sports won (versus the "Total Knockout" pair that I picked) and he chose the baseball themed pajamas.

I met him for lunch and it was cute to see all the kiddos decked out in their pajamas.

And as for the title of this post, I am truly amazed at what Henry can figure out. In celebration for our Family Day this year, I decided to give Henry his own iTouch. He's played on his cousin's and uncle's iPhones, and took to it like a fish to water. At 6, he certainly has no need for a cell phone. But I figured the iTouch would be a nice thing to have for many reasons. I figured I could download some inexpensive games and it could be used for entertainment at home and under certain circumstances away from home (like on long car trips or air travel).

More selfishly, I was tired of dealing with the CDs that he listens to at bedtime. I got him an alarm clock that has a docking station on it so that he can charge and listen to his iTouch through it. I have been able to load an incredible amount of content to his iTouch, including bible stories, Arthur and Junie B. Jones books, and various types of music (including Taylor Swift) that he can listen to at bedtime. The alarm clock provides a sleep option that automatically switches it off after 30 minutes.

Also, it's become kind of a family toy. The adults have been known to pick it up and surf the web using it, since it has wireless capabilities.

And speaking of it being wireless, I am not always good at disabling the wireless after I've finished using it. Yesterday, Henry was excited to show me how he could go to you*tube and watch videos on his iTouch. YIKES! Fortunately, the video that caught his eye was the recap of a soccer game. Needless to say, I'll be much more careful about disabling the wireless when it is not in the hands of an adult. Otherwise, I'm sure he'd figure out how to shop in the iTunes store and start downloading a bunch of Star Wars games.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Buzz...and I don't mean Lightyear

For those that may not be aware, my father is starting his first round of chemo tomorrow to combat the prostate cancer he has been battling for years. He's doing great, but there are signs that the cancer has kicked up a notch, so a round of chemo has been recommended.

I sat with the research nurse as she explained all of the side effects of the drug to my parents. One of the things she told them to expect was that his hair would fall out approximately 14 days after the first dose of chemo.

My dad still has a decent head of hair in a beautiful shade of gray. While it has thinned a bit over the years, its still fairly full. I imagine it might be difficult for both of them to watch this fall out in clumps. So, after a bit of discussion, it was decided to go ahead and get a buzz cut to make the whole process a bit easier to cope with in the next few weeks.

Henry decided that in support of Papa, he too, would get a buzz cut. So, they decided to set off today to accomplish this (only to find out that most barbers are closed on Mondays). Alas, they found a place where they could get their hairs cut.

Here they are:

The before shot....

Henry is done, and is reassuring Papa that it will be painless

A little bit of brown, a little bit of gray

And the final result...look Ma, no hair!

They both seem to like their new haircuts. I'm proud of Henry for being willing to step up and do this to support his Papa. In turn, what might have been emotionally difficult ended up being a fun, family event.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What I've learned so far in First Grade

First Grade in public school has been an interesting learning experience. After the newness of a different school and schedule settled in, I started meeting Henry for lunch every Friday. I think we both look forward to this lunch date every week. And it's given me a peek into Henry's day that I would typically be clueless about. His school doesn't seem to be big on parents helping out in the classrooms so I don't have an excuse to go and hang out there during the day (beside which, I don't think my employer would be happy about that).

It's interesting to watch the dynamics between Henry and the rest of the kids. He definitely has some kids that he considers friends. And then other kids, he doesn't even know their name yet. Since he packs his lunch most days, he ends up sitting next to the same group of kids. They have pretty strict rules in the lunch room. You're not allowed to save seats and you have to sit next to whoever you are in line with. The kids that pack their lunch come in, grab their lunch box, and then sit down. Each class sits down one side of a long stretch of tables. If you are buying your lunch, you have to go and get in line and those kids end up at the other end of the table. If parents or grand-parents are visiting, they sit across on the other side of the table.

Henry attends school with a very diverse group. As a matter of fact, he is the minority and may be the only Caucasian student in his classroom. This was the case in his last school, as well. So Henry does quite will with the diverse types of names his classmates have, such as Mohammed, Aban, Monsie, Abdul, and other assorted names. He doesn't think they are strange or different. So far, Henry doesn't see skin color or ethnicity as a way of identifying people. While conversations at home include references to people being Asian or Middle Eastern or African American, Henry just hasn't seemed to make that connection yet. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but for now, it is what it is.

The other interesting thing is the terms and phrases that they use. Here are a few that I've picked up on:
  • Our voices are off; our lips are closed; our volume is zero: these are all ways of saying that the kids are expected to be totally quiet.
  • Our seatbelts are on: this means that the students are walking with their hands grasped behind their backs while they are walking down the hall
  • High five: this is a way to get the kids attention...when they hear this, they are to stop what they are doing and raise one of their hands to show that they are paying attention
  • Check Yourself, Check Yourself, Foul: This is a communication between students. If one student is doing something that another finds irritating or offensive, they do a hand sign and say "check yourself" as a way to ask the other student to stop. They give two warnings and then call foul, which means they tell the teacher.
We've had our struggles with First Grade. But it seems we're moving in the right direction. Henry's teacher has been absolutely fabulous in working with me on some very specific strategies and goals that have proven to be very successful. I daresay that we've had the best week of school this week. Henry and I agreed on some very specific long-term and short-term goals for him for the last two weeks. He earned two of the three rewards that were put out there and it has left him feeling quite proud of himself. We'll be heading to Target tomorrow for some new Star Wars gear!

About the time I get first grade down pat, he'll be in second grade!

PS: I also learned that Junie B. Jones is not just for girls. Henry absolutely loves the book series. I tend to agree that Barbara Park has done a great job at capturing the spirit of first graders!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy Ending...

It tickles me to see the way that Henry's brain works.

This morning, on our way to school, I was griping about the car that cut in front of me right before the light. Since I was hoping to turn right on red, I wasn't too happy this car cut over since he was going straight and kept me from turning until the light actually turned green. Then, immediately after we turned right, we have to make a left turn across three lanes of oncoming traffic onto the street his school is on with no light. My griping was "tame" in nature, but Henry decided I needed encouragement to have a better attitude about it. Here is the conversation that ensued:

H: Mom, you could have turned right on red.
M: Yes, I know. But this guy pulled in front of me and he is going straight.
H: But that's okay if he wants to go straight.
M: Yes, but now I can't turn until the light turns green. And now I have to wait for all of this traffic.
H: But Mom, see right up there? There is a clear spot and you will be able to cross there.
M: You're right. I will wait for that clear spot and then turn, just to make sure we're safe.
H: See Mom, Happy Ending. Just like in the stories, Happy Ending.
M: Do the stories all have happy endings?
H: Yes, the princess gets married, or they have a baby, and then, that's it: Happy Ending.
M: So getting married or having a baby is a happy ending? Just like when you came into my life, happy ending?
H: Yes, and just like in Robin Hood. Robin Hood and his wife (because I don't remember her name, so I'll just call her "his wife" {and this is exactly quoting Henry}) got married at the end of the movie. And then they had a baby. And they named the baby Henry. And that's me. Happy Ending!

Okay, I have no idea where the Robin Hood connection came from. He hasn't watched Robin Hood in months. But it was interesting to see his concept of happy endings.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Flashback

Today is November 20, a day that is etched in my memory. It was a day of comfort of finally being at home and being a mommy. I felt like my new life could finally begin.

We had along journey from Vladivostok back to Russia and I don't have a lot of pictures to document it. Here are a few, though.

Here we are with the wonderful Irina at the airport in Vlad, before checking in for the first of 3 flights that would take us home.

Here is Henry and Nana peeking out the window before we took off on our first flight.

And here is Henry sleeping on the seat between me and Nana on the longest leg of our journey, the segment between Seoul and San Francisco.

Overall, Henry was a trooper on the flights. For the first segment (about 2 hours long), he fell asleep and they had a little bassinet that hooked to the wall in the bulkhead seat. However, being untrained as I was, I accidentally bumped his head while putting him in there (already asleep). This woke him up and that was the end of him being in the bassinet or sleeping for the rest of that segment.

For some reason, we had very little time between our connection in Seoul. We had to go through Security again, and we were concerned that we would miss our next flight. So we were pretty much running from the time we got off the first airplane until we finally sat down on the next. Henry was starving and I remember him gnawing on his Robeez shoes while he rode along in his stroller.

As soon as we got settled on the flight between Seoul and San Francisco, I asked the flight attendant to fill his bottle with warm water so he could eat. He gobbled that bottle down as if he hadn't eaten for days. I think he ate it so quickly, that a few minutes later, he vomited it all up...all over him and all over me! Fortunately, I was prepared with a few changes of outfits for him...not so much for me. However, I was wearing layers, so I removed my top layer and was in pretty good shape.

He slept off an on during that long flight. I don't remember exactly how long that flight lasted, but it was an overnight flight. However, we passed over the international date line coming home, so we arrived on the same evening that we left...even though the trip exceeded 24 hours.

As we landed in San Francisco and went through customs, Henry officially became a US Citizen. Unfortunately, the US Government doesn't allow cameras/picture-taking in that part of the airport, so I have nothing to share with you. San Francisco is where we parted paths with Nana. After customs, she went one direction for her flight to Chicago, and we went another for our flight to Houston. Henry and I freshened up a bit, ate a bagel and waited for that final leg that would take us HOME.

I don't remember much about that last flight. I don't think Henry slept, but he was quiet and content on my lap playing with the few toys and books that I had packed for him. When we arrived at the airport in Houston, Leslie was there waiting for us. Again, the details are a bit fuzzy, but it seems like it was late on a Saturday night. By this time, Henry was DONE. I buckled him into the car seat, which was a whole new experience for him and he was cranky the whole way home. The only thing that seemed to sooth him was for me to hum the theme to Batman. If I stopped, he started crying. So all of the way home, I hummed "na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na BATMAN" over and over and over. Whatever it took.

Based on the recommendation of my pediatrician, and with the help of my wonderful best friend, Leslie, we had an open house the following day. Now, you may ask why it was recommended by my pediatrician. In fact, I had decided that we would "nest" when we arrived home to allow us both to bond to each other and to allow ourselves to begin settling into a routine of becoming a family. I wanted to limit external stimulation and allow Henry and I to merely focus on each other. However, I had a bunch of close friends that were just so excited to meet my new son that I couldn't put them off. So we decided to go with the "big bang approach" and let them all meet immediately. Then, we could settle down and focus on bonding and attaching.

Again, I don't have a lot of pictures from that evening as we were all just enjoying each others' company. And I can't say enough how nice and comforting it was just to be home. Here are a few:


And Henry seemed to instantly bond with Hailey!

That rest of November continued to be a steady stream of firsts, documented below with some of the pictures I have:

Wearing a "hand-me-down" outfit from his cousin, playing with some of his new toys.

Taking his first bath at home...he wasn't a fan of baths when he first arrived home, now I can't get him out of the shower!

His first piano recital!

Hanging out in his high chair while I prepared the next meal.

Attending his first book-study, back when we met in people's homes.

Being sized for his first pair of "good shoes".

Attending his first meeting at the Kingdom Hall.

Playing in his first box...favorite toy. Having a kid around 24/7 was new for Dolly, too. She's not quite sure what to think.

Having his first doctor's appointment with the wonderful Dr. Singhal (adoptive mother herself and featured on Discovery's Adoption Stories)

And all tuckered out after that doctor's visit, that involved drawing several vials of blood for all kinds of testing.

Reviewing these pictures to put together this blog post brought back all kinds of memories and reminded me of things I had totally forgotten about.

What I haven't forgotten is how grateful I feel to get to be Henry's parent! Prospective Adoptive Parents go into the journey called adoption, not knowing what they are going to come out with on the other side. For me, I can honestly say I have no regrets. My journey to Henry is THE best thing I've done in my life. He has become my heart and soul. And as we celebrate 5 years of being HOME, I wouldn't change a thing. That boy is my life!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Perfect Weekend

Fall has finally arrived here in Southeast Texas. That means the weather has finally cooled off to the point that long sleeves can be worn. And we enjoyed that to the full for our fun, autumn weekend.

On Saturday, we had matinee tickets to see Mary Poppins. We had been looking forward to this for quite some time and decided to make a day of it. So, after a bit of a lazy morning, we headed off for a late breakfast/lunch that we enjoyed at Mama's Cafe. Before heading out, we had a mini photo shoot in the yard:


After breakfast, we decided to spend a few minutes at what Houstonians call the Water Wall. It may have a more formal name, I'm not sure. But I'd never taken Henry before I thought he would get a kick out of it. And he did:


As it's name indicates, it is a wall with water cascading down the side. We got a bit wet standing there watching it. But it is a bit mesmerizing. It also gave Henry a chance to run around a bit and burn off some energy before being required to sit still at the play.

Here is Henry looking adorable before the show:


He loved the play and reported his favorite part was when everything fell apart in the kitchen. His second favorite part was where Mary Poppins flew across the stage (which she did a total of 3 times). My favorite scene was the tap dancing, especially when Bert tap danced across the ceiling.

After the play ended, we ran a few errands and ended up in the part of town where the sole Macaroni Grill in the Houston area is still open. We decided to dine there and experienced another great meal.

On Sunday, we found ourselves a bit discombobulated from the time change. This seemed to give us a nice stretch of time in the middle of the afternoon without anything else to do. Henry decided he wanted to ride his bike since he has the goal of removing the training wheels. After riding for a bit, I realized that there was very little time where one of the trainings wheels was actually touching the ground. So I decided there was no time like the present and off they went.

We had a few falls and many, many tears. But in the end, he mastered balancing the bike quite well. Now, steering it is another matter all together and the topic of our next bike-riding lesson.

Here we are having a bit of pep talk...

And here is proof of him riding on his own!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009