Thursday, June 25, 2009

Spring






I am SO far behind on blogging! I'm determined to do better. I might as well go in chronological order, so here at the end of June I'm posting some pretty pictures of our Bradford pear trees that were in bloom this spring.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gotcha Day!


Today is Ephraim's Gotcha Day. One year ago was Ephraim's G & R ceremony, and he became officially ours. Actually, I think we became official his. Here's a link to my blog from last year.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New Bathroom!







We finally redecorated the bathroom that adjoins my office!  My oldest daughter, Brooke, was my interior decorator because she's much better at that sort of thing than I am.  Ben was my laborer. Didn't it turn out well?  It's very girly!  I wish I had taken "before" pictures, but I always forget. Anyway, the bathroom was last decorated twelve years ago for my now-twenty-three-year-old son, so you can imagine.  It had beige walls, American flag floor mats, a denim shower curtain, and the matching towels long ago went off to college with my son.  In case you are wondering, I took a close-up picture of the switch plate to show the wonders of the new metallic spray paints. We've painted quite a few of our switch plates at home and at the lake with various metallic colors, and they've turned out great!  It's a huge savings to spray a plain, plastic switch plate too, rather than buying new ones for several dollars a piece.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

First Anniversary


One year ago today we met Ephraim for the first time.  What amazing year this has been and what an amazing little boy we have.  We are so blessed! I can't imagine our life without him. Here is a link to our first meeting.  

Monday, April 20, 2009

Balance

Wow! I got lots of private emails about my last post. I'm afraid that my poor attempt at self-effacing humor in the exaggerated style of Erma Bombeck when I referred to myself as a burnt-out-shell-geriatric mom fell a little flat for some readers.

It's not that the pendulum has swung, and I've gone from supermom to slacker mom! I'm not burnt out when it comes to my children. I love being a mom, and I think that after nearly twenty-six years of motherhood, I've finally managed to find the right balance. I'm enjoying this stage of my life more than any other time, and I'm enjoying my kids more than ever. I'm just a slacker mom when it comes to attempting to please everyone, volunteer for everything, participate in every activity, worry about what everyone thinks and set my goals so high they are unattainable.

There are definitely things I no longer do. I no longer participate in activities just because others try to convince me that I should. I'm no longer the most active music mom or soccer mom or church mom. We no longer attend every homeschool group field trip and function. I've learned to say no when I feel like the time spent at home together as a family is more beneficial than the activity.

I no longer feel like I have to do everything. My children need me to be a good mom, not a perfect mom. Perfect mom is too hard on the children. I have used disposable diapers for quite awhile now. I still enjoy baking bread, canning and smocking dresses, but I do those things when I have time as an enjoyable hobby. Those things are no longer an obligation. I no longer feel like the kids have to have homemade bread every morning and a closetful of handmade clothes.

Some days I feel badly that the younger children aren't involved in music or sports, but then I remember the hours upon hours of commuting and hanging out in the car with bored and cranky babies and toddlers waiting for lessons or orchestra rehearsals for the older children to end, and I don't miss that. I have decided our time together as a family is more important than the skills they are missing. Life is more laid back and fun. We're not spending each day meeting schedules, rushing around hunting for lost shoes, sitting in traffic and stressed out.

I simply placed too many demands on myself when I was a young mother. Many of those demands were in my pursuit to be the best mother I could be, but I have to admit that some of those self-imposed demands were because of my worry about what other people thought about my parenting ability. Now I'm not so concerned about what other people think. I'm more comfortable in my own skin.

I've also learned that it's not always best for my children for me to be in their faces twenty-four hours a day. Sometimes I'm a better mom after giving myself a little break by popping in a video for my kids while I read a book, take a long bath or play on the computer.

I think with age and experience, I have better learned what is important and what is just a time killer and frustration creator. I don't try to potty train or teach the children to read or drill them on their multiplication tables before they are physically or mentally ready. Otherwise it's just a lesson in futility.

When I first started homeschooling, I used some poor curriculum that required way too much teacher preparation time, was too time intensive for the benefit gained, or the kids and I simply hated. There was not so much curriculum available back in the 1980's, but also if I spent the money on a book I didn't like, I felt I couldn't waste it by throwing the book away. Since that time I have found that my time and the kids' time is too precious to waste on anything but the best materials, and it can be more effective to cut our losses and start over. I have now found homeschool curriculum that I love, the kids love, has minimal preparation time and is simply more efficient. That way I can teach more effectively, and our school days are no longer so long.

After more than twenty years of homeschooling, I have learned to pare things down to what is important and to quit sweating the small stuff that won't matter a year from now, much less twenty years from now. I have also learned tricks to overcome learning bumps in the road, and I have learned when to push and when to back off. That learning curve when I first started homeschooling was stressful. I wasn't confident in my skills. Now I can see the results in my grown children and am more confident ... and less stressed.

I've learned that some days we just need to take a break. Maybe I'm in a bad mood or the kids are tired and school just isn't clicking. Maybe we need an hour to chill; maybe we need to take the rest of the day off. Maybe I'm trying to teach them a skill they just aren't ready for, and we need to put that book back on the shelf for a week ... or a month ... or a year. Maybe the book that worked like a dream for big sister just isn't right for little brother.

I started changing my teaching style (backing off) when Ben went into private practice, and I had to manage the business aspect of the practice. It was no longer possible to do everything I had been doing with the kids, and I found out that the kids kept right on learning even though I was no longer breathing down their necks ... and they were having more fun. On days that I was busy billing and couldn't get to school, I would find the kids reading a novel, writing a story or pulling out the field guides reading about a really cool bug they found on the windowsill. They might be reading the baby a book, playing school with the dog, learning how to program the calculator, or playing an educational computer game. Our house was suddenly filled with art projects, Lego creations, building projects and science experiments. The children were learning to teach themselves, and they were pretty darn good at it!

That's not to say that every day is a party. Math facts have to be memorized, long division has to be learned, and the Krebs cycle has to be understood. But if history can be learned with an interesting novel, why use a boring textbook? Why not study chemistry by blowing up something rather than reading about chemical reactions?

In the long run I think the younger children will be every bit as successful in school if not more so because they enjoy learning just for the sake of learning. Many nights I find the eleven year old hiding under the covers finishing up her history novel because she can't wait to find out how it ends. The six and seven year olds beg for us to let them read us just one more library book. With the older kids, I pushed them many times past the point where it was fun. I've learned with the younger kids you leave them always wanting more.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Perfection?

What's the perfect mom?

When I was a twenty-something mom with my older children, I was the ubermom I've referred to in earlier posts. My kids not only took music lessons starting at three or four years old at Vanderbilt, but they were the top students. They practiced a couple of hours each day, showed up for every group class, every orchestra rehearsal, and every performance. They were the perfect music students, and I agreed to every request, even if it meant blowing a day of homeschooling just so the kids could perform at the luncheon of some minor fundraiser. In the summers I took the kids to music camps from Chicago to Memphis to New York. My older kids grew up to be principal cellists of our city youth orchestras, won regional competitions, and received substantial college scholarships for both music and academics to top private universities and Ivy League colleges.

Besides music, they played soccer, which involved practices and games up to five times a week.
They never missed a game or a practice. In addition the boys were super involved in Boy Scouts. They earned the rank of Eagle by the age of thirteen, and our oldest was one of only a handful of boys in the nation who earned every single merit badge.

Our homeschooling went the same way. I was teaching the kids phonics at the same time I was potty training them, so they were reading and wearing big kid panties by the time they were two years old. I used every available moment as a teachable moment. The kids did hours of hardcore school each day. They worked several years above grade level, and we spent all our vacation time visiting museums and taking advantage of educational opportunities.

I was very vigilant. No junk food or sugar, no TV, and no videos other than G or the occasional PG movie. I pre-read all the books before the kids read them. I censored all their music.

On the downside, the kids were overly scheduled, we spent all our days commuting to Nashville and hanging out in the van while waiting through lesson times and rehearsals, and I was a pretty stressed-out and not-too-fun mother. I used every available moment to teach the kids rather than ever simply enjoying them. There was no downtime.

Our older kids are now adults, and I think they are pretty well adjusted. They still enjoy their music, they were successful college students, and they are successful adults. We have a good relationship, and I talk with them several times a week.

Now I'm a forty-something mom. None of the kids are taking music lessons because I'm totally burnt out driving to Nashville, fighting the traffic and fighting for a parking space, much less practicing with them several hours a day. I no longer jump when someone wants me to volunteer for something. None of the kids are involved in sports. The kids' sports program includes a swing set, a basketball goal and a trampoline, (which the older children weren't allowed to own). The kids participate in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, but Ben is no longer an assistant scoutmaster. We drop everyone off now and grocery shop during our free evening.

We now potty train our kids as late as three years old rather than at eighteen months. Ephraim is twenty months old and is walking around sucking on a bottle. I would never have allowed our older kids to do that. Our older kids had scheduled meal, nap and bedtimes. Ephraim takes his nap on my shoulder, thinks his crib is poison before nine o'clock at night and grazes for meals. He starts out the night in his own bed but ends up between Ben and me before morning.

We now start homeschooling the kids in kindergarten, not at preschool age, and those first years involve shorter hours and are more laid back and child led than in the past. We now have school four mornings a week instead of all day for as much as six days a week. If we get engrossed in a really good novel, we read it non-stop for a couple of days, and that's the extent of our school for those days. We count science projects, storytime at the library, and the time we spend studying a really cool bug for school days. When we reach the mandated 180 days for the year, we stop. The kids are at or above grade level, but they definitely aren't going to be going to college at sixteen like the older kids.

Nowadays we have three-day weekends every week, and we party! The younger kids know who Ronald McDonald is, and they've had banana splits for supper too many times to count. The older kids didn't own a video game, but the little guys are pros on our Wii. Our six and seven year olds can sing all the words to Guitar Hero and Rock Band songs; our older guys were only allowed to listen to the Christian or the classical station. We still don't watch network or cable TV, but we subscribe to Netflix, and we've been known to hit up a Redbox. We spend our weekends swimming in the river and fishing rather than providing non-stop educational moments at cultural events. As a family we now enjoy an Adam Sandler flick instead of a nature or travel film. I am no longer the uptight b*tch I used to be.

What's the perfect parenting technique? I've been a mom for twenty-six years, and I don't have a clue. I've seen the results of the ubermom days, and that produced some well-balanced, talented and successful adults but a stressed-out and unhappy mom. Now I'm the burnt-out-shell-geriatric mom who is simply ready to enjoy her children's fleeting childhoods. I'm having fun, but how will these late-in-life kids turn out? I wish I had the answers.

Spring



You Are Kids Playing



You are a free spirited soul. More than anything else, you are often just happy to be alive.

You are always laid back and cheerful. You enjoy whatever happens to come your way

You are spontaneous and zany. You're the kind of adult who still runs through the sprinklers.

You don't take life too seriously. You try to have fun at all times, even when you're working.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Great Report!

When we received the initial medical reports from Vietnam for Ephraim's referral, he had a diagnosis of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), grade I, zone I. Ben called and spoke with the attending physician at Vandy when we reviewed his referral paperwork, and we were told that his diagnosis was impossible. Grade I was minor; zone I was major. The two couldn't go together. Zone I involved the focal point and generally went with a grade III to IV diagnosis. We really didn't know what we were facing. Either the zone was incorrect, and we had little to worry about, or the grade was incorrect, and we were facing something serious.

Today Ephraim FINALLY was able to see the pediatric opthalmologist at Vanderbilt. We were there for nearly four hours. Ephraim was so well behaved while he was poked and prodded, and he didn't even make a peep when he had to have his eyes dilated. We filled out tons of paperwork and told the doctor what we knew about his extent of prematurity, birth history and complications, and initial weight. At the end of the exam, the doctor told us that when he reviewed Ephraim's paperwork before the examination, he expected there would be a problem, and he conducted the exam expecting to find those problems. The doctor said Ephraim had the most perfect eyes he'd seen that day, and many of the other preemies he'd seen had weighed as much as two of Ephraim at birth! He figures Ephraim's original diagnosis should have been grade II, zone I ROP, but it has resolved completely.

A few weeks ago Ephraim had his hearing screen. Micro-preemies are also at an increased risk for hearing complications. Although his screen wasn't as positive, we do know that he has hearing in his left ear, and he passed the screen well enough so that he could qualify for speech therapy. He wasn't reacting on the right side when they used what looked like iPod ear buds, and he was flatlining on that side on the machines (I won't even begin to pretend to understand all the tests they performed), so another series of tests is going to be repeated in May.  He had some fluid, so hopefully that was the culprit. Eprahim is beginning to imitate the sounds we are making, and he now has a pretty good repertoire of initial letter sounds and funny noises, so hopefully his hearing screen in April will be as positive as today's vision screen.

Ephraim's speech evaluation is scheduled for the last week of April. It's four hours long! Whew! We are BOTH going to be ready for a nap after that morning.

Fine and gross motor skills ... not. a. problem. That kid has talent! I only hope I can keep him safe while he expresses those climbing, jumping, running and general daredevil skills before he learns self preservation!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Temper, Temper

When Ephraim gets mad, he has very small, ineffective temper tantrums.  He goes behind the sofa in the playroom, squeezes himself between the sofa and the sofa table, and he lays very still and quiet.  Occasionally, if he gets really worked up, he thumps the back of the sofa with his tiny feet.  We have to listen hard to hear his furious thumpings.  I'm sure I'm being a terrible mother by doing this, but I can't help but laugh at his miniature misbehavior.  Our adult children are right.  Ephraim gets away with murder.  When the older kids acted up when they were little, they got in trouble; when Ephraim does it, it is cute.  That's the difference between that ubermom of the 80's versus this old-and-tired mom of today who realizes just how quickly those childhood years zip past.  I'm trying really hard to enjoy all of my little ones' antics -- even those of which the ubermom of my previous life would not have approved.

Today is Ben's and my twenty-eighth wedding anniversary.  I feel so old!  I know there are folks out there reading my blog who aren't even twenty-eight years old!  We started dating our freshman year in college and married during spring break of our senior year.  I was only twenty years old, and Ben had just turned twenty-one years old.  We have been together more than half of our lives! I'm still totally in love with Ben and thank God for giving me such a perfect mate. Tonight we plan to stick the kids in front of a movie, eat a little steak and shrimp (prepared by Ben) and sip a little wine. I know that doesn't sound like an exciting date, but it's perfect for me.  Ben offered to take me wherever I wanted to go, but I'd much rather eat his wonderful cooking and have a couple of hours of quiet time together than have to find a babysitter, drive forty-five minutes into town, wait and wait and wait for a table at a restaurant on a Saturday night, spend money on food that's not any better than Ben's, and finally come home late to overly-tired and overly-excited children who should have been in bed hours earlier. 

The Temper Tantrum
Front View
Making Sure I'm Watching
Kicking the Back of the Sofa


Monday, March 16, 2009

The Little Sleeping Prince




What can I say?  I love it on those rare occasions when Ephraim snuggles with me and falls asleep.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Wii Wizard





The kids got Wii Music for Christmas, and Ephraim loves it!  His favorite instrument is the tambourine. Here he is "shaking his stuff".  You can see how hard he's concentrating and how pleased he is with himself.  He thinks he has to stand on the Wii Fit balance board whenever he plays.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Remodeling Project - Part Three




The ugly lights we replaced.


We're almost through with the bathroom at the lake! We installed a new light, which is a 1000% improvement over the 1960's swag light we replaced. We also cleaned up and re-hung the bathtub/shower doors. I guess they are OK. I voted on hanging a shower curtain instead but was overruled. The shower door is more practical, I guess, since the kids are constantly in and out of the lake. I bought a new curtain for the window, but I can't figure out where in the world I've stored it. That's the problem with planning "honey do" projects months in advance. I'm sure it will turn up though. We also finished painting the kitchen table and chairs. What a chore that was!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Milestone


Ephraim was nineteen months old on Friday.  He joined our family at nine and a half months old, so that means he's now been a part of our family longer than he lived in Vietnam.  I just can't believe Ephraim has been here for that long!  It seems like the seven months we waited to travel after referral lasted forever, but it was just yesterday when we got back from Vietnam.  Then again ... it feels like Ephraim has been a part of our family for a very long time.  We are so lucky! God has blessed us with one very special little boy.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spoiled Rotten

We bought this hat in Vietnam because the hats we brought with us were too big on him.  It's such a silly hat, but Ephraim's big sisters think it's the greatest.
You can see the scratches across his eyes.  He does that to himself when he's tired and just getting ready to fall asleep.  I try to distract him, but I can't stop the behavior.  Any ideas out there from experienced Vietnam mamas?
This little guy is so spoiled, it's not funny.  I thought that the "new" would wear off having a baby brother, but it hasn't in the least.  They treat him like an amazing high-tech baby doll. They were the same way with Reid when she was first born, so I should have expected it.  I think I'm going to be a grandma many times over with the twins.
Ephraim's favorite napping position.

The twins love to have him fall asleep on their shoulders because it's the only time he's still and will snuggle.  They weren't telling me he'd fallen asleep because they didn't want to give him up. Now he's totally spoiled and thinks he can only nap while we're holding him.  

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Handsome Pair


Two of my favorite men in their jammies.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fun At The Lake






Although the weather has been pretty miserable, we've been having fun at the lake.  We've been doing art and science projects since we're not exactly swimming and sunning on the weekends. So far we have made candles, beaded necklaces, painted ceramic jewelry, ribbon headbands, and paper flowers.  We have found kits for making gummy bugs, crystals, a volcano and plastic flowers, so next time we have a free, yucky weekend we'll be junior scientists.

With Ephraim sitting in the papasan chair, you can see just how tiny he is.  That's not an oversized chair.  The little guy is still wearing six month clothes and will be nineteen months old this Friday. He may be small, but he is mighty!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Yoga Boy





The girls rolled Ephraim up in my yoga mat just for fun, and he LOVED it!  Now he's learned to unhook the velcro, roll the mat out, and grab someone to get him all rolled up.  Ephraim also loves Riley to spin him around in the computer chair until he's walking like a drunken sailor.  I guess he's figuring out good ways to deal with his sensory issues all on his own.  Pretty brilliant, if I do say so myself!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Too Big For His Britches


Whenever I call the kids to meals, Ephraim rushes in and sits down at the table with the other children.  He gets really mad when I remove him from the table and put him in his highchair.  He's decided he's just as big as the other kids, and he does everything possible to try to keep up with them.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Our Remodeling Project - Part Two






Ephraim must have been bird watching!
Reid in her new playhouse.


We're back to remodeling our bathroom at the lake cabin.  This weekend we stained and installed the vanity cabinet, installed the vanity top and faucet and assembled and installed the medicine cabinet. The medicine cabinet was a bugger!  It came in a pretty small box and must have had about a million pieces.  Since it was made in China, there were no written instructions, just drawings.  That was a first for me!  Things are coming along well.  All we have left to do is to install the light fixture, towel bar and bathroom/shower doors and hang the curtains. One more weekend should do it.

We worked a bit more on painting our kitchen table and chairs too.  It has been a SLOW process!  The way it's going, it could be spring before we're through.

The kids had fun with all the packaging.  Ephraim is actually sitting inside the faucet box in the picture above!  Riley "drove" him all over the playroom in that box.  The kids took the box for the vanity top and made that into a tiny playhouse.  I didn't get a picture, but Ephraim spent hours sliding down the box that the medicine cabinet came in.  It just had a slight slope, so I don't know why it was so much more interesting than the slide outside.

Referral Picture

Referral Picture

Adoption Timeline

  • 2006
  • November 8 - Application Mailed
  • November 22 - Accepted
  • November 24 - I-600A Mailed
  • November 27 - Delivery Confirmed
  • November 28 - Receipt of I-600A
  • November 30 - Fingerprint Notice
  • December 15 - Home Study Update
  • December 21 - Stacey Fingerprinted
  • December 28 - Added to List (#116)
  • 2007
  • January 24 - Home Study Mailed
  • January 25 - Ben Fingerprinted
  • February 8 - Waiting List (#111)
  • February 20 - Waiting List (#109)
  • February 27 - Waiting List (#105)
  • March 8 - Waiting List (#101)
  • March 22 - Waiting List (#99)
  • April 19 - Waiting List (#98)
  • April 25 - Dossier Authentication
  • May 2 - Delivery Confirmed
  • May 2 - Added to SN Wait List
  • May 3 - Waiting List (#97)
  • June 7 - Waiting List (#86)
  • June 25 - Dossier Translated
  • June 28 - On Waiting List Six months
  • July 9 - Waiting List (#81)
  • August 6 - Waiting List (#4 SN)
  • August 8 - Waiting List (#76)
  • September 7 - Waiting List (#70)
  • October 8 - Waiting List (#67)
  • October 22 - Waiting child -- OURS!!
  • October 23 - Official Referral Date
  • October 25 - Letter #1 Submitted
  • October 29 - Referral Receipt - CHI
  • 2008
  • February 5 - Fingerprint Request
  • February 7 - Proof of Delivery
  • March 1 - All Fingerprinted
  • March 3 - I-600 Application Mailed
  • March 5 - I-600 Acknowledgement
  • April 17 - I-600 Approval!
  • May 2 - Original G & R Date
  • May 3 - Fly to Ho Chi Minh City
  • May 5 - MEET EPHRAIM!
  • May 6 - Drive to Kien Giang
  • May 7 - G & R Ceremony
  • May 8 - Medical, Apply for Passport
  • May 12 - Fly to Hanoi
  • May 13 - Visa appointment at USCIS
  • May 14 - Pick Up Visa, Fly Home
  • May 15 - Arrive in Nashville!
  • May 23 - Certificate of Citizenship
  • June 12 - Re-Adoption Filed by Court
  • July 3 - Tennessee Birth Certificate

G & R Day

G & R Day