Friday, May 22, 2009

Graduation...the recap

What a fabulous day. Everything turned out perfect.

I feel like Henry and I are so fortunate to have such a wonderful group of friends and family. Let me start by saying that EVERYONE I invited to the graduation and after party came. And everyone was so generous with their love and kindness towards to my son. I'm overwhelmed!

The program was wonderful. Henry's class sang "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" and "YMCA". Henry had been practicing his songs for weeks, complete with hand motions. I have tons of pictures, but feel uncomfortable posting when there are other children. So I've cropped some down to exclude the faces of other children. But you can see that he was really into it.


After all of the classes performed, then the graduation ceremony commenced. There were a total of 14 from the school that graduated. Again, I'm going to crop to only show Henry out of consideration to the rest of the kids. The group also sang another song after the graduation.

As he waits in line for his turn (conveniently standing right next to my seat):
As he receives his diploma (that's his teacher off to the right):
Humming during the special graduation song:
And a few shots after the ceremony:

After it was over, we booked it home for the after party. All three of Henry's teachers stopped by for a few minutes. We felt very honored that they could join our little celebration.

Since it was late evening by the time we got started, I kept the foodstuffs pretty simple. We had cake, of course. And I also served queso and a yummy artichoke cheese dip. I also put out both fruit and vegetable trays. Below are some pictures of the food setup (although missing most of the food) and the decorations, including the cake and another small surprise.

The balloons, a part of any celebration:
The place where the food was ultimately laid out and devoured from:
The cake with the little graduate on it:
And a surprise gift we had for all of our guests...yes they are real and you can eat them:

Everyone seemed to have a great time and the only thing that was missing was our loved ones who don't live local enough to have participated.

Thanks to everyone who did come and for the exceptional generosity of each and every one of you.

And for all of those who worried about me, I made it through okay. I did shed a few tears, but more so, enjoyed the evening and the company of my dear friends.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kindergarten Graduation...prelude to the day

To quote from a dear friend of mine:

We don't celebrate birthdays ... or any other holidays for that matter. And we don't miss it. But we do tend to make "celebrations" out of what some may consider more mundane things.
Okay, not that graduating kindergarten is a mundane thing, but we do tend to make every little event as special as it possibly can be...first day of school, last day of school, a month of good behavior at school, etc., etc.

Tonight will be no exception. I cannot believe that my little baby will be graduating from kindergarten tonight. I remember when I dropped him off for his first day at this school. It seems like it was last week, or at the most, last month. Not over 4 years ago.

He started in the toddler room, a few days shy of turning 18 months old. He had a huge scrape on his nose from a face plant that happened after going down the slide on the swing set that Papa and Granddaddy had built for him.


As I dropped him off today, I distributed little goody bags that we had made for the rest of the graduates. They all seemed excited to be getting goody bags, and I did feel a bit guilty about having nothing for the rest of the kids. Oh well, what can I do?

Both his teachers and the school "principal" commented on how emotional tonight was going to be. Oh, they were talking about themselves. They have no idea the river of tears I think will be pouring out of me. I hope they have plenty of tissue boxes on hand.

I took the day off work to prepare the house for the small gathering of those near and dear to us. I am glad for the distraction of taking care of the small task of preparing the house and food for tonight...otherwise, the river might start running now.

Henry awoke this morning and climbed into bed with me. He had a huge grin on his face and announced: "I'm going to get presents today!" Yep, he sure is. We've gone over all of the gift opening etiquette I can think of, so it will be interesting to see how he does.

Well, that's all I can think to ramble on and on about on this momentous day. More to follow in the coming days with the wrap up of the day.

In closing, I'll leave you with the staged graduation photo that will grace his cake tonight:


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I need a barn!

We went to a really cool place with an indoor water park this weekend (I'll try to get some pictures up soon). On the way home, we stopped for dinner at a place that had a cute little gift shop.

As if he hadn't been spoiled enough all weekend long, Henry talked Leslie into getting him a stick pony. After much discussion, he settled on naming him Buster Brown.

After we got back into the van, he needed to have Buster Brown close to him. After a few minutes on the road, I hear "Mom, I need a barn for my horse."

After suggesting several closets that could be used as a barn, he still wasn't happy with the answer. Finally, he decided that a shed would make a fine barn for Buster Brown. I reminded him that we did not have a shed. To which he responded "but you could buy him one!". Uh, no, but thanks for playing along.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Flashback

The Box! Yep, one of the all time favorite toys. Forget what came in the box, just give me the box. That was Henry's attitude. This box happened to contain diapers. It served as entertainment for him for many months until he outgrew it.

Also, you might notice that he is playing with a Matryoshka doll. I brought this home as one of his souvenirs from his birth country.

A Matryoshka doll or a Russian nested doll is a set of dolls of decreasing sizes placed one inside the other.
This is actually one of the two that I brought back for him. This is a traditional one, almost identical to the one featured in "The Littlest Matryoshka" by Corinne Demas Bliss. Henry received this book for "Family Day" in 2008 from Nana. At first, he wasn't too sure about it. He didn't want to be bothered with it. Undeterred, I started reading it aloud at the dining room table. Before too long, he had joined me and was avidly following along. Now, it is often selected as a favorite bedtime story. However, when it is told, we must have at hand his matching Matryoshka doll so that we can make the comparisons of how much alike they are.

The other set of Matryoshka dolls that I brought home is much more elaborate and has many more dolls (10, I think). It is kept in a safe place of honor on the trophy shelf that surrounds Henry's room. On occasion, we get it down and open them all out and make a big deal about counting them all. Then they are all stacked neatly once more inside of each other and placed back into the safe place of honor.

I feel it is important to keep Henry connected to his Russian heritage. He asked me one day this week what an "alien" was. Boy, how do you answer that as there are just too many contexts to cover. But it did bring us back to the definition of someone that is visiting another country. It was a great lead in to explain that he obtains dual citizenship. He thought it was pretty neat that when I take him back to Russia, he won't be an alien, but I will. Of course, this conversation also prompted him to announce that he knows how to speak Russian...afterall, he is a Russian citizen!

And so the education continues...for both of us!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Breaking News

And now, for the 200th post on this blog, we have a breaking news story. "Someone" came home from school announcing that they had finally mastered tying their shoes. Bet you can't guess who! And it was the "don't help me...just watch me do it" that truly proved he was right.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Flashback

This may be a familiar picture for many of you. It is the one I used when I sent out my Adoption Announcements. It was taken only a few weeks after we were home and after Henry's first trip to the Kingdom Hall. My dear friend John (Jack's dad!!) has quite the photography knack, and he snapped many pictures for me that day. It was really hard to pick just one, but I finally chose this one. I loved how it reflected Henry's personality. And I loved that is showed me looking at him instead of at the camera.

After my veeerrrryyyy long 3-week stay in Russia, I was glad to arrive home on November 20th. It was a very long travel day. We left Russia after lunch on Saturday. We arrived home very late Saturday night. However, in between there we crossed the international date line. So what seems like a couple of hours on the clock was probably closer to 24 hours of real time.

As I said, we left Vladivostok after lunch. It was a flurry of activity at the airport as the courier that had taken our paperwork to Moscow arrived off her flight while we were waiting in line to check in for ours. Our coordinator in Russia did a great job of getting us checked in and getting us bulkead seats, at least for the flight from Vlad to Seoul.

After we got all of bags checked (whew, I never thought it would all fit!), we had to hang out in the gate area for a while. Then we had to board a bus that took us about 20 feet to the steps to board the plane. (I'm still not sure why we couldn't just walk over there, but I wasn't about to question it at the time!)

Henry fell asleep shortly after takeoff. They have these cool things on the Korean Air flights...a bassinet that hooks to the wall in the bulkhead seats. So after he fell asleep, I tried to transfer him to the cute little bassinet and proceeded to bump his head and wake him up. That was the end of the bassinet. He fell back asleep but woke back up every time I tried to put him back in there.

Our connection in Seoul was very tight. I'm not sure how it happened, but by the time we got off our first flight, got through all of the checkpoints we needed to get through, we were at the very tail end of boarding our flight from Seoul to San Francisco. At this point, I was sweating like a pig.

And Henry was starving. He had chewed on his shoes all of the way through the Seoul airport. I had a bottle that had formula already in it, and quickly asked a flight attendant to add some water for me. Shortly after he finished it, he promptly vomited it all over me and him. Now, I had been smart enough to back a backup outfit for him (2 actually), but I hadn't thought of packing anything extra for me. I changed him and cleaned myself up the best that I could. I wasn't sure if he was airsick, or if the formula had soured, or if he'd just eaten it too fast. Either way, I kept a very close eye on him for the rest of the flight.

Fortunately, we were in the middle section of a wide-body airplane and it wasn't full. So Mom was able to scooch over a seat and let Henry have his own. I had saved some of the toys that I had brought and bought so that they were fresh to him on the way back. He did pretty good playing with his toys. And I know my body was really confused about what time it was...the flight crew treated it like it was overnight and turned all of the lights off in the cabin. Henry layed on the seat between my Mom and I, but every time I looked at him, he wasn't sleeping...he was just looking around quite contentedly.

When we arrived in San Francisco, it was a momentous event. This was when and where Henry officially became a US citizen. So we had to go through a special line in Customs and Immigration. Because he was actually an immigrant. After that process (sorry, no cameras allowed in that part of the airport) we had to retrieve our luggage, have it checked, and then recheck it. From there, my Mom and I parted ways as she was going on to Chicago and we were headed home to Houston. She had volunteered to take the plastic bag with Henry's stinky vomit clothes and blanket. She later shared that she got selected for extra baggage screening and when the guy opened that bag, he decided my mom's bag was just fine and quit checking.

Henry and I headed in the direction of our gate. When we got there, we found it was delayed. No worries. We took some time to go freshen ourselves in the bathroom. Henry got another change of outfit...I did the best I could with what I had.

And then we picked up a bagel. I didn't have much left to feed the boy, and I figured the bagel would help him feel full. He nibbled on it and so did I. Eventually, our flight left and we were on our way. Again, he did pretty well on the flight from San Francisco to Houston. I think both our bodies were very, very confused and neither of us had slept much since we left Vladivostok.

It was quite late when we arrived home. Aunt Leslie met us at the airport. It was so nice to finally see a familiar face. Henry was strapped into his new car seat...probably the first time he had ever ridden in a car seat before. He wasn't too happy about it and fussed most of the way home. The only thing that seemed to calm him was if I hummed the tune to Bat know..."na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na Bat Man!"

When we got home, we both crawled into bed. Whew. However, at about 4 a.m., Henry's body decided it was daytime and time to get up. I spent a couple of hours in his room cajoling him back to sleep. We would repeat this pattern for the next week, except each night, it was 2 hours earlier that he would wake up. Eventually, it merged with his bedtime and he quit waking in the middle of the night.

The day after we arrived home, Leslie had coordinated a "meet and greet". All of my closest friends stopped by to meet Henry. My doctor had recommended this approach, followed by a period of "cocooning" to allow Henry to adjust to his new environment and begin grasping that I was his family. And that's just what we did. We stayed in, we kept things low key, we spent our days together on the floor playing.

After we were home a few weeks, he seemed to be adjusting well, so we headed out to our first meeting. He handled it great, and we even went out to lunch afterwards, and then on to the park for this photo shoot. Here are a few more of my favorites from that day:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Memorial '09 - Better Late Than Never

This year, we were honored to have Henry's teacher join us in attending the Memorial. She seemed to enjoy it. She brought her own bible and took notes.

Here are some pictures for you to enjoy:


Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday Flashback

Here is my little man in the bath tub shortly after we got home. It may not seem so, but this was a "BIG DEAL" at the time.

For whatever reason, Henry hated the bathroom and hated taking baths. It was horrible the first time I tried to give him a bath in the hotel in Russia. He screamed and cried as if he were being tortured. And remember the "turning blue and passing out" incident I documented. I was trying to do everything I could not to let him get upset so as to try and prevent that from occurring again.

So, after trying only the one time, I resorted to sponge baths for the rest of our stay there. Now, a sponge bath, he didn't mind at all. I'd lay him on a towel and have a tub of nice, soapy warm water. He'd lay there quite content and let me wipe him down. And he loved it even more when I got the lotion out and slathered him up with that.

During the day, when we were playing, I would put one of his favorite toys in the middle of the bathroom floor. He would be very curious, and get to the doorway of the bathroom, but couldn't quite get himself to go in there to retrieve his toy. At other times, I would take him in there and we would turn on the faucets or flush the toilet while he was safe in my arms so he could start becoming familiar with bathroom and learn that there really was nothing to fear.

After we returned home, I was feeling a little more confident, rested and overall, just thrilled to be home. So I decided it was time to tackle the bathroom issues.

I had a little bathtub that I would fill in my shower and place him in there. The first few baths were a bit iffy, but it didn't take long for him "get over it" and gain a comfort level. Eventrually, he graduated to Leslie's bathtub (normal sized), and then finally, into my bathtub (garden tub). And then, he learned about the shower, and now that is his preferred form of bathing.

Bath/shower time is now his favorite time of the day. Many times, when I let him know that it is time to get out, he begs for 5 more minutes. He has a basket of toys in the shower and every day, his imagination takes him somewhere else. Many times he refers to the shower as the "rocket" and the bathtub as the "boat", when trying to decide which one to use for the day.

I hardly recognize that scared little boy in the baby bathtub.