Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas 2012....

was beautiful and wonderful!

It was our first as a family of four

Ethan loved the excitement and presents

He loved having family and friends here -- and all the attention that came with it!

Aiden was genuinely excited with EVERY gift he recieved

It is such a blessing to be able to experience Christmas with our kids and "see it" through their eyes

We were so very luck to have Jeremy, Emily and Beck stop by for a bit so the Changchun buddies could see each other -- such a treat!

It was truly a blessed Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Hectic Week and a Half

We're in the midst of a pretty "big" week and a half. As noted in the previous post, last Saturday was Ethan's baptism. We were blessed to have almost the entire family at our house for a couple days and we relished them. We had an incredible time! Now, we are finishing up the semester at school (which involves semester test study guides, last minute late work being turned in, semester tests, correcting semester tests....), yesterday was the four month anniversary of Ethan's Gottcha Day, tomorrow is the 1 year anniversary of his referral (assuming the Mayan's got this one wrong -- haha!), and the biggest event of course is the upcoming celebration of Jesus' birthday -- CHRISTMAS!! Whew.

Now, I have to say, I am surprised by how calm things are at our house. If you know me, you may describe me as being, well, a teeny bit high-strung, a scosh tense at times. And that's during "normal" situations. With all that's going on during this time and me just recently returning to work and trying to find the new normal with that, one would imagine that I would be wrapped pretty tightly right now. I'm not. Who'da thought? Maybe I'm mellowing in my old age. Maybe being a mother of two is calming me down. Maybe I'm starting to see what's truly important. OR, and this is far more likely, I'm so tired, overwhelmed and shell-shocked right now, I'm numb. All of this has kind of crept up on me! I am mortified to admit that I didn't realize that yesterday we hit the four month mark with Ethan until I saw somebody else's post of facebook. I had planned to "bargain shop" for Ethan's baptism supper -- you know, keep an eye open for deals? Well, that went out the window on Tuesday when I realized I had only a few days to prep. Huh. Then, semesters were here, and I didn't have my tests done, but I managed to get them thrown together (thank goodness I've been doing this a while; I'd have fallen apart if I had been this woefully unprepared and in my first few years in the profession). Luckily, we're keeping Christmas pretty low-key. Also, totally out of character for me, about a month I bought all the food for Christmas that would keep and stored / froze it. I now need only buy a few perishables. Anyway, let's face it. So what if the house isn't spic and span? Who cares if the food isn't haute cuisine? Does it matter if the boys' gifts don't get wrapped until the day before or wrapped well? We will be together, we will go to church, and we will celebrate the birth of Jesus. We will celebrate the gift of family. THAT is what's important!

Happy Four Month Anniversary Ethan, our incredibly happy, outgoing, sweet, funny, smart, gentle lil guy! We love you!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ethan's Baptism

I have been horribly remiss in updating the blog. Life has intervened. To be more accurate, I'm trying to figure out this whole working-mother-of-two-thing. Yes, I know it's ONLY two, but ach, there IS a learning curve I'm discovering. A lot has happened since I last posted centering largely on Aiden and his new hearing aid, but that deserves a post of its own, so I will have to return to that another time. This post is dedicated to Ethan's baptism as my none-too-creative title indicates.

The baptism weekend started Friday night when I went to the airport to pick up Michelle and Drew from the airport. Turns out, I'm not a fan of NOT being the one being dropped off or picked up from the airport. ;) I was happy to go get them, though, and feel blessed and honored that they came all the way back from WY for Ethan's special day. Mostly we are grateful she agreed to be Ethan's godmother!

We got back to the house late, around 11:00. We stayed up and talked and both boys woke up around midnight (maybe because I took Michelle and Drew into look at them and maybe monkeyed with the boys a bit--hmmmm) and stayed up for a while, so Michelle and Drew got to meet Ethan and see Aiden for a while. We didn't get up til around 7:30 Saturday, and I got to start prepping for the rest of the day. The big concern was weather. We were supposed to get freezing rain and snow, especially farther north of us. This wouldn't have been overly concerning except Grandma, Grandpa, Grandma Jan, AND Dave, Jennie and family (who had come over from West River and spent the night in DeSmet Friday night) were coming from where is was supposed to be the worst. Fortunately very little of the freezing rain developed and everybody made it down. The only exception was Grandma Jan who didn't want to risk bad weather and the dark, and we can't blame her, but we are sad she couldn't be with us.

Dave and Jennie brought a TON of food for lunch: taquitos, egg rolls, guacamole, shrimp and more. It was a great snacky kind of meal. (Actually, the amount of food they brought supplied us with snacks after supper and lunch today!) We had a great time talking and finishing getting ready. We left on time and Mass was very nice. Father Mason is wonderful and gave a very nice homily. After Mass, we had Ethan's baptism. Sean and Michelle were godparents, and Ethan loves them both. He was more than happy to have either of them hold him, so it went smoothly. Having the water poured on his head bothered him not even a little bit, but he did seem to think having a bunch of us form the sign of the cross on his head was a little odd. He thought the chrism / oil was strange, too, but he took it all in stride which is amazing especially when you consider he was over-tired and hungry. We even managed to get some really good pictures of him smiling (thanks Megan's friend Morgan for being photographer extraordinaire). He looked amazing in his white Chinese silks!

When the baptism was done and we had taken a few pictures, the whole crew (plus Father Mason) made our way back to our house. And a crew it was! There were close to 25 of us; we filled two entire pews during church. :) When we got home we had pork loin, served two ways, corn, mashed potatoes and jello salad (thank you, Mom, for the taters and salad!). Fortunately it turned out very well, but we had JUST enough. It was ALL eaten -- and that was 8 1/2 lbs of boneless pork loin!

After supper and a very light clean up, we all sat around and talked and laughed and had a wonderful evening. The boys had a heyday and are going to hate to come back to reality. They were spoiled rotten with all the attention and playmates. I am never happier than when I have a house full of people who are well-fed, having a good time, and laughing! My heart was full to bursting!

Michelle and Drew left late morning when Jenny and Andrew came to get them to go to a family Christmas gathering; Mom and Dad headed to DeSmet around noon; Dave and the kids left early afternoon -- half time of the Vikes game more precisely. We are now back to a quiet (relatively speaking with two small boys around) household. It is something of a let-down (but it must have worn me out; I just realized I am still in my jammies at 6:30 -- ooops), but I feel content and beyond blessed after such a beautiful weekend....and we will have Christmas in just eight days!! Thank you, God, for such a fulfilling and heart-warming weekend.

Newly baptized!

Not sure what to make of this whole process

A final blessing

Ethan with big brother Aiden, godmother Michelle, Mom, Dad, Father Mason, and godfather Sean

Godparents and parents with Ethan

Ethan, Dad & Mom

Post-baptism family gathering

Dad and Sean talking with Father Mason

Relaxing and talking while waiting to walk through the food line

Friday, November 2, 2012

One Week Left and What We've Been Up To

That's right. Reality is upon me. A week from today, I will be back in school, both of my "babies" in day care. Just as we've settled into a routine and have kind of found our new normal, it's time to change everything again. Luckily, Ethan seems very adaptable and laid-back, so prayerfully he will transition well. We'll see about me. :-/ So, I have one week remaining in my "maternity" leave (although, I've been told that I cannot accurately refer to my time off work as this since I didn't give birth - it doesn't matter that I am once again newly a mother. Calling Bitter. Bitter? Party of one....) As per usual, I've waited until the end to get all my tasks (that will actually get done because let's face it, many will NOT) accomplished. Some of it is not my fault, though. Getting into see specialts, audiologists, etc is kind of on their schedules.

Now, what we've been up to. A few weeks ago, Aiden got a CT scan. It showed that there isn't a nerve in his right ear. In other words, in the simplest of terms -- in deference to ME -- he has never heard in that ear. There is no explanation, though, why he doesn't have "normal" hearing in his left ear anymore. There's nothing structural to explain that. Last week we took Aiden to the audiologist and ENT. It appears his hearing is diminishing. At the last check a few months back, they felt he heard at 40 decibels. This test on the 30th indicated he may now be hearing at 50 - 60 decibels which is pretty alarming. We are going to go have him tested again at the South Dakota School for the Deaf this coming Monday. On Thursday, we will go back to the ENT / audiologist to get fitted for a hearing aid. I think Aiden will LOVE having one. Once a week we have an outreach person from South Dakota School for the Deaf (SDSD) come into our home and help us with various things, from teaching us signs, to helping us with hearing aid information, to teaching us about deaf culture, etc. This past Wednesday, she was here and had a sample hearing aid which we were able to let Aiden try. I cried. When she turned it on, his eyes opened wide and a slow smile spread across his face. He had such a look of wonder on his face. In a quiet voice, I asked him if he could hear me, and he said yeeeaah. Then I asked if it was awesome, and he replied, "Yeah. AWESOME!" He kept wanting to use it again and again during her entire visit. Suffice it to say, I'm eagerly looking forward to getting him a hearing aid. Unfortunately, insurance covers none of it, and they're upwards of $5000. But, it will be worth every penny to see that face again and know how much his world will open up!

Other than doctor's visits, (Aiden was also at our GP a while back because for a couple of days about 60% of his body was covered with hives. Sheesh.) we've been having fall fun. The boys have loved being outside and "helping" dad. They're slowly getting better about playing together: longer periods of time, fewer fights, some laughter. It's a work in progress. And, of course, the boys went trick-or-treating. They loved it. We hit about a dozen houses with both boys, walking around our court; then Dad went on with Aiden while Ethan and I came back to the house to hand out candy. Dad and Aiden were gone a long time and made a haul! Ethan was content to greet the kids at our house and help me hand out treats. A lot of kids came out as the weather was gorgeous! Then, when Aiden finally came home, he insisted on handing out the goodies. He gave everybody their candy bars and would give them a "wekkum" when they said thanks. He's growing up so fast. :'( He has even slept through the whole night a few nights -- staying in his OWN bed! I'm afraid he's going to be in school before I know it. Ethan, too, is changing too fast. He's understanding so much of what we say and is starting to try to say quite a few words. I say try as he doesn't enunciate well, but we know what he means. Bye bye, help, Mom (just shy of 1 million times a day), no, shoe, light, stars, poop, drink...etc. He can even say, unprompted, "Iiii, laaaah, oooo!" Which is supposed to be, "I. Love. You." To the "untrained" ear, it might not sound like much, but trust me, he's talking. ;) He seems to be starting to form an attachment to us but will probably always be very gregarious and people-oriented, something we'll have to be aware of out in public, especially in large groups.

It's hard to believe that the holidays are almost upon us. I will go to school on a Friday. BV doesn't have school on the 12th, so the next week will be a 4 day week. The week after that? Thanksgiving!! This will be an amazing Christmas season!

Ethan admiring his first U.S. snow

Ethan and Dad raking leaves.

Hard at work

Enjoying the fruits of their labor

Pumpkin Carvin' Time

Oooo! Fun times!

Big helper

MAY have tried a raw seed. Mmmm.

The finished product

The sleeping arrangements :)

Dad, Scooby, Mickey & Mom

Finally, Scooby Doo gets to trick-or-treat!

What do you mean I can't eat it wrapper and all right now?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Busy Week Concluded

As previously stated, Wednesday was Ethan's birthday, and it was the day we met with the outreach lady from the South Dakota School for the Deaf. Thursday was Aiden's 2nd Gottcha Day Anniversary, and we got to go to Sioux City for a day of fun with friends and have two great Chinese meals; Friday was the anniversary of my sister's passing; it was also a day for Aiden and Ethan haircuts; Ethan's first American cut! Thanks Ruth, for coming to our house to do it. Saturday we celebrated Ethan's birthday with the grandparents (and Jenny and Megan as they made a happy surprise visit!). Yesterday, the anniversary of the day we buried my sister, my cousin Jen, friend Ruth, and I got together and made a bunch of freezer meals. To say it was a week of emotional highs and lows would be an understatement. It was, though, a very good -- albeit busy -- week.

Aiden getting his haircut with the clippers. The last time he had it done, it didn't go so well. This time? Not a problem!

Ethan's first American haircut. A stark contrast to Aiden's ;)

Happy 2nd birthday, Ethan!

He figured out the whole present concept pretty quickly and LOVES it

Freezer meals in anticipation of the return to full time work. UGH!

A little much-needed quiet time watching a movie from Grandma & Grandpa

Thursday, October 11, 2012

2nd Anniversary of Aiden's Gottcha!

It's a big week this week. Yesterday was Ethan's 2nd birthday; today is the anniversary of our Forever Family Day with Aiden. Aiden slept late. He wouldn't have if he had known what awaited him! I had a surprise for him. It worked out we got to go meet Emmy and Beck in Sioux City for a fun few hours. So once he got up we rushed around and got on the road (late).

My crazy-brave and athletic lil guy!

Then it was home for some quiet time, some playing with Ethan, and Chinese food. I made pot stickers, egg rolls, spicy pork, and egg drop soup. After supper it was time for Aiden to open his gifts. They are very small and inexpensive gifts, but he appreciates them, he loves them and loves to open them, and it makes him happy! (Therefore, Mom and Dad are happy)

It was a good day!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ethan's 2nd Birthday

Today was Ethan's 2nd birthday. We didn't do anything too exciting. The boys got to have a cookie for breakfast, in the afternoon, the neighborhood girls came over to play. Tonight we went to McDonald's and the play land for supper, and then it was home for cake and a couple of presents. Jeffy G even joined us for a bit. It was pretty low-key but nice. Saturday the grandparents are joining us to celebrate. Bonus for the birhtday boy. TWO parties!

Ooooo! Do we get that?!

Mmmmm! But still tentative

Hey, this IS tasty!

Fun opening presents.... least for the birthday boy. Poor Aiden,

but tomorrow is HIS day. Tomorrow is the two year anniversary of his Gottcha Day, our Forever Family Day. More pictures to follow!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

From Surviving to Thriving

Ok, that might be a bit of an overstatement. ALRIGHT. It is probably a gross exaggeration, but we're getting there. We have been home from China (almost exactly as I type this) for a month. In those 30 days, a lot has changed. Some things are still the same, though.

What has changed? Ethan is starting to bond. Yesterday I got out for the entire day and spent a wonderful afternoon with my niece Jenny. (Thanks Baba!) When I left, Ethan was devastated. Snot bubbles, drooling, sobbing devastated. To be fair, I don't know if it just because he wanted to leave or he wanted me to stay, but we'll chalk it up to the beginnings of bonding. We are still having issues...but that goes under the what's the same category. It's also interesting to see how much Ethan's coordination has improved. When we came home he could already walk down the stairs facing forward, but it was awkward. Now he does so relatively gracefully. Relatively because he is not yet two. He used to have an, shall we say, "interesting" running form. He is now starting to run a bit more naturally. He is also starting to pick up a few words. He says morning, nigh-night, bye bye, Maaaaaah-aaaam (a long, drawn out Mom he got from Aiden), 'mahn 'mahn (which I believe is come on, c'mon), shoe, and will try to mimic a few others, but he relies heavily on signing. He knows poop, potty, please, more, among others. I'm ok with this for the time being, but I have some concerns about his language and speech in general. Aiden and Ethan can now play together somewhat peacefully for extended periods of time. Ethan now knows how to give great hugs, can give a reasonable facsimile of a kiss and knows how to be carried. These are a few of the changes we've seen since we've gotten home.

Now, what hasn't changed. Aiden is still not Ethan's #1 fan. He doesn't like it when we upset Ethan, but he's more than happy to throw him to the ground or take away his toys. Aiden is still really struggling, poor kid. If we hold Ethan, we have to hold Aiden. Ethan gets a kiss? Aiden has to have two. You get the idea. On the whole it doesn't appear to be getting a whole lot better, but as I said, they do play outside pretty well together. We've said it before: he was just getting his world figured out, and we went and turned it upside down again. I also said, we're starting to see some evidence of, at least, attachment. Ethan will happily run into our neighbor's house, but when he sees I'm not going in with him and am turning to leave, he will panic a bit and run out after me. I need to temper this, though. There are still some, females usually, who he would gladly go to the car, get in, and drive away with, probably never to look back. And, although he was sad and cried when I left yesterday, when Dad went in to get him out of bed this a.m., I wasn't around, and he never said Mama or looked for me. He was happy when he saw me at 9:00, but it was almost like he'd forgotten about me already. Sigh. It's a work in progress. Another thing that hasn't changed, and it makes this Mama happier than you can know, is that Ethan sleeps like a champ. We rock for a song or two, put him in his crib, and if he doesn't fall asleep right away, he will happily "sing" to himself until he does doze off. He sleeps on average of about 11 hours a night, and even if he gets up before I am ready for him to, he will lie in bed contentedly or go back to sleep until it IS time to get up. Oh yeah. Did I mention that he takes about 2 1/2 hour naps in the afternoon? It's outstanding!

I can't believe we have been back in the States for a month and have had Ethan for about 6 weeks. Time flies. Clich├ęd but true. Aiden is getting to be such a big boy and Ethan is changing so fast. Happily, though, he is still a laid-back, happy little guy. I pray this never changes! I also pray time slows down. I don't want this all to go by too quickly!

Matching coats -- yep, I'm THAT mom!

Snack time outside. It has been a gorgeous fall!

Hanging out

Aiden LOVES cameras, and his new favorite pasttime? Taking pictures of himself. This pretty much says everything you need to know about him!