Monday, December 28, 2009

The Christmas season: Part 1

The Christmas season began with a fun concert given by the local symphony orchestra. During intermission any children in the audience are invited to come on stage and play/sing Jingle Bells. Last year Paul was a bit freaked out and didn't really participate. This year went much better, although I only managed to capture the tail end of his performance.

The following weekend we went caroling with friends. Paul enjoyed playing the drums (what else?) Back at the homestead, we were busy making cookies and decorating the house. The Italian-American side of our family was finally honored with the official launching of The Guido Tree. Sadly the lights do not blink, but they are multi-colored and tacky. Paul enjoyed putting blue candy canes in a clump at the bottom and we had a lovely evening making popcorn chains. I look forward to adding more homemade ornaments each year. Our annual craft project was the creation of John's stocking (last one on the right). Paul & I helped with the design and colors, and CJ did the sewing. Now our mantel is complete!Paul participated children's program at church a week before Christmas. He practiced his singing and I got the cameras ready. Unfortunately he had a bit of a meltdown right before the performance and was refusing to go on. Thankfully his Sunday school teacher convinced him to join the show and he sang a lovely "Away in a Manger"(video to follow once I have downloaded it from the video camera). However he refused to wear the shepherd costume and was heard throughout church saying, "I DO NOT WANT TO!!!" My boy. He did, however, thouroughly enjoy his fame following the performance. We'll make a star out of him yet!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The latest projects

It has been a while since I posted pics of our house projects, and CJ accomplished two biggies this year. His summer project was installing a new deck. He did it all by himself (Paul helped by dropping screws between the boards and providing moral support) and it made all of our neighbors jealous. We became "The people with the big deck". Very cool. We hosted some great get-togethers over the summer (including one that got rained out - but people still hung out on the deck!) and Paul enjoyed playing in his pool and sandbox. We can't wait to get back out there in the spring!!
Over Thanksgiving break CJ decided he had had enough of the ugly carpet in the den, ripped it all out and put down hardwood floors. It was hard work, but the result is certainly worth it. We can't wait to show it off during the holidays!! Next on the agenda... the upstairs bathrooms!! We were going to start this fall, but the referral put things on hold for a few months. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Drowning in a sea of bureaucracy

I suppose now that we are on the "home stretch" to becoming a family of four, I should start blogging more often. Honestly things just get so crazy around here! And yes, all you mothers-of-more-than-one who are currently chuckling to yourselves, I do realize that it will only get crazier. But today P was playing superheroes and I thought, "Gosh, won't it be great when he makes his little brother play Robin instead of me." (Why he won't let me be something cooler and more gender appropriate, like Catwoman, I don't know.) Okay, so in my delusional mind my two boys are always playing peacefully and no one is calling anyone a name or poking anything or touching any toys that are not theirs to touch. (Insert "Maaaaaaahhhhhhhmmm" here)
I digress. Progress update on J: We have sent in all the paperwork, and then resent it a week later when they realized our name was misspelled. As luck would have it, our fingerprints for immigration expired eight days after we got our referral. We had sent in a request for re-prints a few weeks back and they happily cashed our check and sent us a note saying they were "processing our paperwork". Which was great since, well, there was nothing to process!! All we need is a letter saying we can get reprinted, aka the fingerprint permission slip (our social worker called it the FPs - I mean, what else could it stand for?) I finally got in touch with someone over at immigration, got the permission slip, & now need to figure out how we are both going to get downtown before three M-F to get re-fingerprinted. I seriously have lost count as to how many times my prints have been taken; let's just say it's a really high number.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


P is going to be a big brother!!!
A few weeks ago I noticed that our fingerprints were about to expire. I shot off an email to our agency to see what we needed to do to update them. When our social worker called me back, she said that things were looking good for us - that we should receive a referral by the end of the year. I started collecting and organizing the appropriate paperwork, and figured we'd hear the news around Christmas. What a great present!! Three days later, on Friday afternoon, we were getting ready to finally go out and celebrate P's KTA day at the "pencil sharpening restaurant" when my phone rang. I assumed it was my friend calling about plans for Saturday. It was 4:00. CJ brought the phone to me.
"Is it Nicky?"
"Uh, no."
"Hi, Sandi. This is ***. I have some news for you but I'm not sure how you will feel about it."
"I have some paperwork here. For a little boy. He's really cute. Healthy and developing well. You can wait for the next one if you want, but I can't promise it will come this year. And it may be another boy."
It takes me a few minutes to process this. See, we had told our social worker we hoped for a girl to complete our family, but I think I always knew in my heart that we would have two boys. After all that we have been through to create our family, I am not about to question God's plan. About 45 minutes later, pictures arrived via email. Honestly, what's not to love? This past week has been a blur of paperwork as we prepare to officially accept the referral. Hopefully our boy will be home late spring/early summer. Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rock star

I've been reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and he talks about how practicing something for 10,000 hours is the key to success. If that is the case, my son is well on his way to drumming greatness. "You better watch out!"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hallween successes and failures

Halloween '09 seemed to last forever. Is it me or did the decorations appear extra early this year? Around the same time as school supplies? Hubby says it is because the economy is hurting and retailers need to push for every penny. The over abundance of consumerism makes me nostalgic for a time when you could just piece together a creative costume out of stuff in the closet rather than watch your child pour over the party city catalogue and carry it around like a comfort object. With that said, when he decided he wanted to be a ghost I thought, "Cool. I can cut some holes in a sheet." Apparently he spent the evening trying to readjust his eye holes while running from house to house. At one point he ran into a tree. (There goes Mother of the Year award!) He kept making the holes bigger until eventually there was one hole... for his entire head. I would have taken an after picture (of what the costume looked like when he returned from trick-or-treating) but he tore it off and headed straight for the kitchen to investigate his loot.
In the meantime, I had tons of fun coming up with creative dishes for our little get together. And CJ had a ball decorating the front yard. He made a coffin for our "zombie" and had motion sensor lights. (Ok, so we did make a few purchases - we had to do our part as good Americans after all.) Now that it is November, I am ready to rest. But I've noticed that retailers wasted no time with Christmas decorations. Welcome to the two month countdown... ho, ho, ho.

Our little helper

The boy likes to "help" with household chores and has been enthusiastically chipping in with outdoor fall cleanup. However it seems that when he is with his father, the helping is actually productive, versus when he is with me and it appears to be more, well, counterproductive. He regularly helps daddy mow the lawn (don't my boys look cute in their matching ear protection?) and has also helped to rake the leaves and set up for Halloween. I took him out to rake the other day and after making a nice pile for removal, he proceeded to "un-rake" it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The weather outside is frightful

I love fall, and I have to admit that this one has been a little disappointing so far. It seems like every time we try to have a little fun in the great outdoors, the weather is miserable. Rain, rain, rain, rain. What - did I move back to the Pacific Northwest? Yesterday we headed out to our favorite pick your own pumpkin place, and the mud was so thick I was worried it would suck the boy down into the great beyond. Meanwhile, wind is wiping my hair in such a fashion as to make it nearly impossible to choose an acceptable gourd. The positive in all of this? Our pumpkins this year are monster-sized. They will probably be tasteless from all the water retention, but they are HUGE. Yes, we eat the pumpkin guts after carving jack-o-lanterns. I make a fantastic pumpkin soup. And yes, I am aware of my pessimistic attitude. The depressing autumn situation has made me a bit jaded. Needless to say, I shucked out all our available cash to pay for our mutant pumpkins while husband and the boy trampled knee-deep in the muddy corn maze. I have zero photographic evidence this year because my camera can only keep a charge for about 15 minutes and apparently I had used it all up the day before on cheese-ball shots of boy in commercialized pumpkin patch. Cute, eh?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

New school, old questions

Started back to school last week. It was a little freaky going back before Labor Day, but I guess the district decided it was best to have some extra emergency days to work with in the event of a major storm or flu outbreak. Opening day for teachers was September 1, and I survived the district-wide introduction. All of the new teachers were required to stand up in front of a large live audience (in addition to several other locations receiving a live broadcast) and introduce ourselves in a clever manner. I wrote a poem and managed to say it without messing up. A very proud moment indeed. Thursday the students started and all is going well thus far. I like my colleagues and it seems I will have a good group of students this year. Of course we are in the "honeymoon phase" right now; ask me how I feel come October. The biggest adjustment is teaching without walls; it is a little challenging to focus on what is going on in the immediate vicinity when you can clearly hear what is going in other people's "rooms". My former co-teacher referred to my new job as a "teacher without borders". It's wild, but I know I will get used to it soon and will barely notice the difference.
In the meantime I have been trying to meet some new people. During the days of new teacher orientation I got to know the other full-time substitute for Special Ed. in our building. We're the same age but she is newly married and does not have children yet. I showed her a picture of Paul and was (of course) bragging about his awesomeness. She didn't come right out and say anything about the fact that he is Asian, and I am beginning to wonder if she realizes he is adopted. The other day we were talking about Paul's outgoing personality and she asked, "Does he get that from you?"
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Do you think his personality is more like yours or your husband's?"
"Uh, neither." Admittedly I was caught off guard and didn't have the right answer. Is there a right answer? Sometimes I struggle with how best to communicate my status as an adoptive mom to someone I am getting to know. Part of me wants to avoid tricky questions/comments that force the issue - like "Did you nurse?" or "Pregnancy changes the way your bra fits" (I actually was told this at V.S. one day... with Paul right there.) Another new teacher asked me, "Are you planning on having more?" What do I say - "Well, I didn't exactly have my first one."??? My mom would say that all of this thinking and worrying is silly and no one really cares. The problem is, I care. And I get stuck in my head about this stuff all the time. When Paul starts understanding his adoption story (right now he simply likes to repeat it), I want to be able to equip him with the best answers for inevitable questions he'll face his whole life. If I can't figure out how to answer them, how can I teach him?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A room fit for a wild beast

Being three (going on 13), the boy wants to do everything "ALL BY MYSELF". In order to accommodate this, I have been working on upgrading his room to a more preschool appropriate space and shifting all of his baby/toddler things into the guest room as it will eventually be the baby's room. The first thing I did was remove the too-tall dresser that I worried would one day crush the boy while he struggled to remove underwear and socks from its top drawer. I replaced it with a small piece I bought at our church's rummage sale for $2 and jazzed up with some blue paint and new hardware. It's basically a cheap piece of junk (as the hubby says, "Ya got what ya paid for") but it serves its purpose. Now underwear, socks and pajamas can be easily, safely and independently removed. The next step was a new bed. CJ took apart the crib and stored it in the basement (so that guests can still enjoy a full sized bed until the baby arrives) and I found a wooded bed frame on Craigslist for $32. Paul was thrilled to have a big boy bed and tried to cram every single stuffed animal in his collection under the covers. Sadly, there was no room for him at that point and we needed to compromise on who would stay and who remained in the basket. The first few nights in the new bed were a little rough, but he has adjusted quite well to the openness of it all. In the meantime I also brought in the larger bookshelf to accommodate his large collection of reading material. The boy loves his books. Funny side story: the other night I went to check if he was sleeping and found him on his belly, head propped up in his hands, reading by the light of his nightlight. It was too cute.
The last step was completed last night. CJ installed a closet organizer that allows Paul to reach his own clothes and return the hangers without assistance. He was so excited at the prospect of picking his outfit that he picked and re-picked at least a dozen times. And look at all the room we cleared out for MORE CLOTHES! Yippee!! As you can see, the boy is very happy with his new room.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The new journey

August. The dog days of summer. The only month that has no official holiday. And the time in a teacher's life when you realize that summer is halfway over. (Those of us who don't teach summer school anyway!) I start a new teaching job in a few weeks and have to admit that I am a little nervous. New situations are generally pretty intimidating to me, but this particular job is a bit more so because I am returning to teach in the district where I received my education. I will be co-teaching English for three periods with two periods of resource room. The school runs their English program a little differently. Students in 9th grade all take freshman English. Then in 10th, 11th and 12th grade they choose their class based on the literature. My classes will be 10-12 graders. Tomorrow I am going in to meet the other new special education teachers (& hopefully my co-teachers) and find out what literature we will be reading. The best part is that during the second semester the English department focuses on Shakespeare and puts together a performance for the end of the year. There is a lot to be excited about, but also a lot of anxiety about making a good impression. I am thankful to have had this past year of high school experience with some fantastic co-teachers; here's hoping this coming school year will be great too!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"What a long, strange trip it's been"

In retrospect, we may have tried to do too much in too short a time.
Last Tuesday the van clan woke up at the crack of dawn and headed west to Los Angeles. Paul did exceptionally well on the plane (as compared to last year - yikes!) and was easily bribed to sleep by the lure of Uncle's swimming pool. We spent a fun-filled three days with my brother & his family. They recently welcomed a forth boy to their brood and he is just as cute (if not cuter) than the other three.Paul loved playing with his cousins and meeting the new baby. We swam in the pool, spent a day letting the boys run and jump at an indoor playground, and hung out in Santa Monica. Paul braved several of the rides on the pier and had a blast running in and out of the waves. The visit was over much too quickly. The day we left, one of my nephews sadly asked, "Aunt Sandi, can Paul stay for nine days?"
Friday morning we started on the longest road trip ever (since crossing the country of course) up the coast of California. When I was ten my family traveled along Route 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles and I remember it being breathtakingly beautiful and white knuckle scary. I remember sitting in the back seat between my sister and grandmother while my father took the windy roads at way too fast a speed, spending most of the time plotting how I was going to escape when the car went careening off the hill. I had recounted this story to my lovely husband (probably more times than once) and knowing that I have a flair for the dramatic, he wanted to see just how scary it really was. So we drove. And drove. We stopped along the way for a picnic lunch and enjoyed the cool ocean breeze (it had been 100+ in LA) before heading up the mountain. As we began the scary, windy, cliff-hanging part of the journey, CJ remarked at how beautiful it was and how the decision to come this way was well worth the extra driving time. About an hour later and not even halfway through the mountain he added, "Ok, I've seen it. Is is over yet?" Unfortunately at that point we were completely committed.
Paul did remarkably well. I kept him happy with snacks and random trinkets I had picked up before the trip. That and countless renditions of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. He struggled to fall asleep at first due to the constant back and forth motion of the car, but when he cried we simply took him out into the ocean air and looked for seals, which he was happy to search for with his new binoculars.
As we approached the dinner hour we set out for Santa Cruz, where one of CJ's cousins has a cottage. We were making great time until getting stuck in random traffic on Route 1, when Paul announced, "I have to go pee." Happily there was a fruit stand on the side of the road with a bathroom. I bought some local fruit as a thank you and drooled over the enormous artichokes priced 10 for $1. TEN FOR ONE DOLLAR! They were growing on the side of the road next to the stand. Can't get more local than that. However I passed on the great deal and chose strawberries instead as they were much easier to munch on in the car. Sigh.
In Santa Cruz we visited the famous pier and strolled on the beach. Then it was off to Santa Rosa to visit with our good friends from the Carl Vinson (CJ's ship in Washington). We had a great time catching up and wished that we lived closer and could visit more often. Perhaps someday we will return to the west coast to set up shop once again (preferably in the Northwest of course - I miss all that green!)
On Saturday night we attended the wedding celebration of our friend Shawn. Shawn and CJ went to college together, but they did not become friends until SWOS (Surface Warfare Officer's School) in Rhode Island. It was the first summer of Navy life and the summer we got engaged. We had tons of fun sailing and exploring the area. Shawn was a huge influence on CJ at the time, opening him up to some crazy experiences. When he invited us to celebrate his wedding (he was married right before being deployed and hadn't yet celebrated with family and friends) we knew we couldn't miss it. The wedding was a costume party, and although dressed much too lightly for the cold wine country night, we had a blast. On our last day in California, we traveled down to San Francisco and did the tourist thing -pictures at the Golden Gate Bridge, chocolate at Ghirardelli Square and shopping at Fisherman's Wharf. All in all, it was an exhausting but fun trip. Now it is on to planning next year's journey: to Greece in celebration of our 10 year anniversary.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It is better to not know and hope, than to know and mope

This past weekend we took P to a picnic held by a local adoption support group. We had gone to two other events but still hadn't really made any connections with other families and wanted to keep trying. The day sounded like it would be a blast, it was being held at a local beach and included a cookout and sandcastle building contest. Unfortunately the weather was terrible. The sky opened up as we were driving out there, and it continued to pour most of the afternoon. When the rain finally stopped, the wind picked up and we all sat shivering under the shelter. Eventually we braved the elements long enough to take P down to the beach. He enjoyed digging in the wet sand and building sandcastles. (Hey, at least the rain was good for creating excellent packing sand!) We did manage to meet a few other families and share some nice conversation, but sadly no numbers were exchanged and the next event may be months away. I spoke to a woman whose daughter is a year younger than P and we talked about our experiences and how ridiculous the wait times have become. I did not have any recent information from our agency and told her we were hoping for a referral this summer.
Back at home I emailed our agency and asked for an update. Today I received sad news. Because no children were released for adoption in the early part of '09, there will be no referrals in July or August. (The children are required to wait five months for domestic placement before becoming eligible for international placement). My heart is breaking right now. I had really hoped we would hear in the next few months and could start planning for our son/daughter. I have been upgrading P's room with new furniture (new to him at least - it's all refurbished) in order to shift his toddler things into the baby's room. CJ said it was too early to be getting ready, but I needed to feel like we were moving forward. It feels like we have been waiting forever already and now we are faced with three+ more months, not even counting the wait for him/her to come home. (the social worker said the wait time from referral to homecoming is also increasing, putting us in Spring '10 at the earliest) I know that in the end we will add another child to our family and he/she will be the one who was meant to be with us, but that doesn't make this news any easier to swallow.

Monday, June 29, 2009

O Canada

Last Thursday our order of adoption arrived in the mail. Wait, let me back up a minute. On Tuesday I got a phone call from CJ saying that the courthouse couldn't read the faxed copy of his license and could I please re-fax it. Odd that it took them about a week and a half to figure out they couldn't read the fax, but whatever. So I faxed another copy of the license and received the order on Thursday. Friday morning I called the passport center to double check their address. I spoke to the same woman who has been dealing with our case these past few weeks and she assured me that this was the last piece of paperwork they needed. We could expedite the process if we needed to travel in the next few days (translation: send us money and we'll try to work slightly faster than a snail's pace); otherwise expect the passport in 2-3 weeks. Okay. Off I went to the mailbox to send in the order of adoption, the piece of paper that was of complete and utmost importance in order to process Paul's passport. Later that day I went out to get the mail and almost fell over when I saw what was inside. Paul's passport. No lie. Guess that super-critical piece of paper really wasn't that critical.
All sarcasm aside, we decided to celebrate with a trip to Canada this morning. CJ is off all week for the holiday and the weather was perfect. Upon arrival at Canadian customs I was confident that we would have no problems, and I proudly passed over our fresh passports. The woman looked us up and down and inquired if we were mother, father and child. Yes. And the boy is adopted? Yes. Do you have his adoption paperwork? Well, no, it is currently down in Charleston at the passport agency. It was required to acquire his PASSPORT. Ya know, the thing that proves he is an American citizen and will allow him to travel to different countries. Well, she says, this proves his citizenship but it doesn't prove that you are his parents. Perhaps the fact that we all have the same last name (which isn't exactly common) or the fact that we had to go through hoops to prove we were his parents in order to receive the passport??? You really should carry his adoption paperwork, she says. If he was older I could ask him questions, but he is too young for that. (Funny, the boy can recite his adoption story pretty well.)
Eventually she decided to let us into the country with a warning to carry his paperwork in the future. CJ & I were pretty ticked about the whole experience. We were discriminated against and antagonized because we are a multiracial family. If our son was white, his legality in our family would not have been questioned. Usually it is just me who gets my feathers ruffled about these type of things, but my darling husband had to agree this time. Needless to say, we had no trouble at all getting back into the United States. The customs agent was very sweet and friendly to Paul (who was a bit grouchy by then and needing a nap) and didn't seem to have any problem with our non-traditional family unit.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Don't pop the bubble

Ok, I've already posted these pics on FB, but they are just too funny and truly show the irony that is my boy. Paul is a wild child. He has constant energy and enjoys receiving attention for being a goofball. When out in public, we often have to redirect him from various lust-for-life behaviors such as running full force down the length of Sears while screaming the words to some Wiggles song. Recently, his daycare teachers have discovered something that immediately quiets him down by appealing to his competitive side: who has the best "bubble". For those readers who are not familiar with preschool behavior modification, a "bubble" refers to sticking out your cheeks in an effort to remain quiet. Paul's daycare teachers use it when the children are lined up to go outside or use the bathroom. Lately they have been praising Paul for having the best bubble, and he is incredibly proud of his title. Trouble is, it only works when there are other children around. During the above mentioned episode at Sears, no amount of bubble request was going to work. BUT, when asked to sit nicely for a recent photo op at his cousin's birthday party, he immediately went into bubble mode and remained perfectly still despite the surrounding drama. Trying to get a somewhat large group of unruly children hungry for cake to sit and wait for people to take pictures seemed a bit unrealistic, but we gave it a try. Unfortunately the children spread themselves out and I was not able to capture all of them in my frame. Instead I chose to focus on Paul and his two second cousins. Everyone sat quietly at first, but as soon as mom backed away from the birthday boy (on the right), he started to cry. She tried to console him with a balloon, but that simply created an opportunity for conflict. As the battle raged on, Paul sat perfectly still, hands in his lap, bubble on his lips. I couldn't help but wonder what was going on in his head. In the end, the birthday boy could not be consoled, and the attempt to capture a happy group of smiling children was abandoned. I praised Paul for his ability to keep cool among the chaos. He shrugged me off and headed for the pinata. The next day in a nice restaurant, he shrieked loudly while attempting to jump out of his high chair. Sigh.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Battle against bureaucracy, part 378

Just when you thought the battle was over... we have been trying to get Paul a passport so that we can safely travel to Canada this summer. After collecting every piece of evidence that we had to prove Paul's existence, US citizenship and family legality, we trucked ourselves down to the airport post office (the only one with reasonable passport hours) and waited behind all the other fools who put their passport applications off to the last minute (new border rules went into effect June 1). The helpful man behind the counter took what he needed, leaving us with Paul's green card and Korean passport. Both had expired and he assured us they were not required. 5 weeks later we received a letter in the mail stating that further proof of citizenship was required. I called the passport office in Charleston and waited for a ridiculous amount of time before actually reaching a human. I explained our situation and she said she thought all they needed was his green card. She wasn't 100% sure and said someone from the department would call us directly with the answer within three business days. That was Friday. On Thursday the next week I sent in the green card, figuring no one was ever going to actually call me. The following Monday I received a message from the passport office. Hmm... guess "three days" really meant six. She said we also needed to send his passport and the original adoption decree from the court. I told her we sent in the only thing the court gave us and that we were told the passport was expired. Send it anyway she said and sent me a Fed Ex airmail envelope. Two days later I dropped off the passport at Fed Ex and the following day received another phone call requesting the final adoption decree. When I couldn't be reached, they called CJ who also told them that the only paperwork we received on our court day was already in their hands. Not enough he was told. So he called the courthouse and requested that they send us any and all paperwork associated to our case. They required a notarized request accompanied by a photo copy of his driver's license and told him that they may not be able to release it through the mail. Keep in mind that we lived in a different county at the time and picking up the paperwork would require a 4+ hour round trip drive. That is a lot of gas for one piece of paper. And I can only imagine that they will probably just give us another copy of what we already have and have already sent in to the passport office. Sigh. Meanwhile, every time he sees a commercial for Marineland he asks, "Can we go to that zoo?" Someday, buddy. Someday.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Party at the van's!

Pardon the clutter, but I wanted to put a picture of our new deck here for anyone too far away to visit. My darling hubby worked his butt off over Memorial Day weekend - he is apparently making a habit of celebrating the fallen by taking on massive home improvement projects. Last year he installed the kitchen floor, this year the deck. I digress. The deck is HUGE and very awesome. It still needs a railing, so we are careful to keep Paul and any small visitors away from the edge. Paul thinks it's great. He loves helping daddy build it and has only lost a small handful of nails down the cracks.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Thank you B.F. Skinner

I apologize in advance for writing yet another entry about potty training. It simply has been occupying a large chunk of my time/brain power. And frankly I had started to believe that Paul would be showing up to his first day of kindergarten in diapers. Slightly dismayed but determined not to resort to pull-ups, I scoured the internet chat boards for advice. I asked every mom I came into contact with how she did it. I tried desperately to let go of control, knowing that ultimately it was up to Paul. Last week I read an article that suggested feeding your child bran muffins & then leaving them in the bathroom until they produced. Too cruel, even for me. I chose instead to stick with BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION. Translation: BRIBERY. In the form of the sacred CANDY. (Please don't tell my son's doctor or dentist.) The plan is actually two-fold. Thanks to my mentor at school (who provides excellent teaching advice AND parenting advice) and the Easter Bunny, we have set up two dispensers in the bathroom. Pee candy (jelly beans) and Poop candy (chocolate eggs). Yes, I see how gross that must seem. However chocolate is his favorite. You should see the boy unwrap a chocolate egg... as if it were gold. For additional, long-term motivation he has a chart where he earns stickers for staying dry and double stickers for pooping in the potty. A full sticker chart = a trip to the toy store. (Not everything is about rotting his teeth, I had to throw in some materialism too.) Even after all of this carrot dangling and bell-ringing, it took a while to get the boy to decide it was time to get serious. I am happy to say that we are finally moving in the right direction. He occasionally tries to outwit the system and earn extra candy, but overall he is doing very well. We are very proud!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Well hello there Mr. President

We have been teaching Paul to recite his address when asked. He is doing a great job, proudly announcing, "123 My Street" (Obviously I am not going to write our real address on the blog... this is the internet after all.) In the meantime, CJ has been asking him who the president is, mostly because he enjoys hearing Paul say, "OOOOOObama!" Well, I think we may have confused him by teaching the two things too close together. The other day we were driving home and I asked Paul, "Who lives at 123 My Street?"
"Who else lives there?"
Huh. Guess that's who has been eating all the ice cream.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A swift kick

Right before Spring Break CJ said to me, "So are you planning on making a to-do list for break? Things like 'send in passport applications' and 'potty train Paul'? And then you can not get them done until, oh this summer?" HA HA HA HA. Yes, my husband is mean. But truly I needed his nasty sarcasm to kick me in the rear and stop my ridiculous procrastinating. Honestly, I've been talking about potty training since the boy turned two. And I picked up the passport applications last summer. Oops. Low and behold - it worked! After being shot-down at the regular post office (we arrived ten minutes after they stop processing passport applications), we took a trip out to the airport post office early Saturday morning and FINALLY TURNED THEM IN!! (I just needed to renew mine, Paul needed a new one). While waiting in line we met a couple with two teenagers who were adopted from Korea. They had used the same agency as we are currently using for #2. Very cool.
As for the potty training, well, we continue to work on it. Paul is wearing underwear and trying to exert his control at every turn. Ugh. I am trying not to get too anxious (a trait I find annoying and utterly unavoidable). I am just happy that I was able to prove my hubby wrong. Oh sure, he probably knew all along that his remark would motivate me and that was his strategy all along, blah blah blah. Sigh.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I hope you weren't planning to eat those

I am happy to report that we are finally enjoying some potty related success. Apparently Paul simply needed a mission. Potty training has been a bit of a bumpy road. He didn't like sitting in his musical potty chair (and I didn't like the fact that it mysteriously serenaded the ghost pee-er in the middle of the night). We tried sitting him on the big toilet, but I worried constantly that his high level of distractibility would land him butt first into the water and create PTTD (post-traumatic toilet disorder). I bought a potty attachment, but he didn't seem too crazy about that either. Then he tried standing, and that resulted in a whole lotta pee in places other than the toilet. Enter the mission. Toss a few Cheerios into the water and voila! Instant challenge. And the boy does enjoy a challenge. Now it isn't, "Do you need to go potty?" followed by a loud chorus of "NOOOOO!!!" It is, "I bet you can't hit the Cheerios!" Works every time.
Now, if anyone has a strategy for the other half of the potty equation, please pass it on. I am resisting the urge to send him into the bathroom with a jar full of raisins, a torture inflicted upon me by my mother.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A week of birthdays

Paul is three. His birthday week began with a celebration at daycare on Tuesday. We made cupcakes the night before, and when Paul woke up Tuesday morning he proudly announced, "Today is my birthday!" The following morning, when it was actually his birthday, he had to be reminded. But he was very excited at the prospect of "two cranes" which is the gift he has been asking for since January. Grandma takes care of Paul on Wednesdays, so I left work at lunchtime and met them at Friendly's. Paul was very excited when the waitresses all came to the table to sing. That night everyone met at Grandma's house for dinner and ice cream cake. The "two cranes" (a Lego construction set) was presented along with a new bike and some other cool gifts. (Pics of Paul on the bike coming soon... my camera was dead on the one nice day we've had so far since!) My favorite part of the day was on our drive home when he said, "Mommy, what a nice day. Grandma turned the lights off and sang happy birthday to me." Seriously, could he be any sweeter? Friday night we began preparing for the big party. Paul enjoyed another opportunity to lick a beater full of cake batter (the boy has a stomach of steel so I am not too worried about salmonella) and proudly displayed his chocolate face for the camera. I am happy to report that my bulldozer cake was a success - despite some icing setbacks.
Saturday... Paul had a great time at his party - he loved having everyone over and being the center of attention. The kids enjoyed themselves and we only had one injury (a bloody lip). They had some trouble busting into my homemade pinata, but luckily Mitch was there to beat it with a 2x4. Seriously. And no, I did not capture that on film - I was trying to make sure no small people got in the way. Once I get all of the pictures organized and labeled, I'll send out a snapfish album.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"That's me with no pants on"

Paul went outside this afternoon to help daddy clean up some sticks. I was upstairs sorting through my winter clothes when I heard, "Mommy? Mommmmy??!?!" I went to the top of the stairs and saw this: Apparently he had gotten into some mud outside, and CJ had stripped him of his boots and pants before sending him inside for new pants. I just had to snap a picture; he looked too darn funny. While showing Paul the pics I took this past week he proudly announced, "That's me with no pants on!" Indeed.

One more step

My handy-dandy husband has completed another home improvement project!! Once again I neglected to take any "before" pictures, so for those readers who haven't been to the house, let's just say that our stairs were UG-A-LY. The spit-up colored carpet was totally worn out, stained and fraying. CJ ripped out the carpet, tore out the stairs and replaced them with oak. He did it all this past week and was able to get the stain on over the weekend. We stayed with my folks while everything dried and are now happily back home enjoying the beautiful new stairs.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What's happenin'??

A quick update on our lives:
  • CJ has completed his Master's program and now has his MBA. Woo-hoo!! He has one final class to go to earn his Project Management Certification & then we plan to celebrate with a night of unlimited sushi. (For him anyway, Paul & I will eat unlimited noodles!)

  • P is almost three. Yikes! He is progressing at an incredible rate in all areas but one... potty-training. We continue to work on it, but I have come to accept that it will be on his terms, not mine.

  • I will be starting my next long-term substitute assignment on Monday. I wasn't supposed to start until after spring break, but the teacher had to begin her leave early in order to rest before the baby arrives. I will be teaching 10th & 11th grade Global and US History.

  • The latest adoption timeline suggests that our referral will arrive sometime in the late summer/early fall. We are hoping that things remain steady in Korea and the wait time does not get extended.

  • Last night we celebrated with Kim & Josh after a ceremony joining their two families. We had a lot of fun eating and dancing. Here's a pic of P appearing to have stylin' breakdancing moves, when in reality he just wiped out.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Language expansion

Paul learned his first knock knock joke, and I have been trying to upload it to the blog with no success. So my faithful readers will simply have to imagine it in their heads until I win the battle against technology (translation: upload it on my dad's computer and post it from there; he has FIOS).
In the meantime, I will share a bit of Paul's ever increasing vocabulary and the widening realm of his creative thought. When passing the new construction site between home and daycare where there will inevitably be yet ANOTHER strip mall (recession? what recession?), Paul was very concerned about the construction vehicles. After they carried away all the trees and flattened the land (pardon my social commentary, but heaven forbid we have any woods around here), the diggers were gone. Paul postulated that perhaps they were all "sleeping in their garage" or "taking care of the baby diggers."
Speaking of construction equipment, we are approaching the big THREE, and Paul has taken it upon himself to request very specific construction related gifts. When we tell him no or my favorite, "We'll see" he tries a new tactic. The gifts are not for him see, they are really for blue blanket. Example: "Mommy, blue blanket wants a bulldozer for his birthday." I was unaware that we were celebrating such an event. Blue blanket has become Paul's alter ego, something to handle the more unpleasant emotions like greed and fear. I am told this is a normal process for preschoolers. Still, it's a bit weird.
Other than that, I am constantly reminded to watch what I say because it often gets thrown back in my face. Example: "Mommy, you're a pain in the butt." At the dinner table: "I need to stop screwing around." Was I this sassy at his age? I mean, I know I was sassy as a teenager, but that is a long way off for us. Sigh.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

That's Mrs. Teach to you

I survived my first week of per diem subbing. Woo-hoo! It really isn't all that bad so far and I have actually been able to do a pretty significant amount of reading. My first day was for a 6th grade reading teacher and I wanted to be as helpful as possible to the students, so I polished off The Whipping Boy and half of Hoot during lunch and free period. The students were impressed with this fact and took me seriously (for the most part anyway - one girl tried to convince me that she was allowed to rifle through the teacher's drawers and eat her snacks, while another suggested we spend the entire period playing a game). Wednesday was ELA scoring day and I enjoyed the time off with Paul. It was the first time in four years I didn't have to be cooped up in a hotel conference room grading tests for eight hours. (Giant sigh of relief and kudos to all of my teacher friends who had to suffer through it.) Thursday I had a half day teaching kindergarten, and Friday I was back in the high school teaching freshman. The worst part of this experience is waiting for the phone call the night before. The sub system is automated and if you don't get to the phone on time, it automatically jumps to the next person. When you do answer, you have to decide quickly whether or not to take the job, and there is always risk involved. If it is a crappy sounding job, do you reject it in hopes of something better? Or take it for fear of having nothing? I cringe at such rapid fire decision making, and the idea of not knowing whether or not I will work each day is quite stressful. The students haven't been too bad as long as I appear to know what I am doing and refuse to be played the fool. They get a kick out of my last name and only once have I been called "Teach". My immediate thought was: Am I in one of those movies where the idealistic young teacher ends up in the ghetto classroom and manages to turn a classroom full of delinquents into bright shining students? No? Then, "It's Mrs. van, thank you."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Paul's view of the world

Paul got a digital camera for Christmas and has been happily taking pictures of just about everything in the house. I finally downloaded them tonight & thought I would share some of his best shots.

Proof that Daddy actually smiles.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Last Day

My long term substitute position has come to an end. Monday is the "crossover day" where I will pass the torch back to the permanent teacher and then throw myself into the pool of per diem substitutes. Sigh. I have spent most of January dreading this moment. The anxiety of not knowing whether or not I will have a job each day, of going into different buildings, different classrooms, never knowing what breed of student torture awaits me has been turning my hair gray and tying my stomach in knots. I have been offered another LTS position, but it does not start until late April. In the meantime, I have taken on a second job tutoring inner city kids two nights a week. The program is paid for by a NCLB (No Child Left Behind or as I like to refer to it: The worst act to ever enter the world of education) grant and helps kids who are falling behind on their state tests. Mostly I work with K-3 kids on basic reading skills. It's been quite the change after working with 11th and 12th graders. Honestly, I miss my 7th graders. Such a nice, happy, hormone-driven medium.
But I digress. From what, I don't really know. From rambling on in my self-pitying state. I am hoping that the daily exposure to students who may or may not shoot spit-wads at me will make me a stronger person in the end. That coupled with the debilitating winter we are experiencing, with record lows and snow like I haven't seen in years, makes me think of a Princess Bride quote. Will I survive until April? "That would take a miracle."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Can I get a vowel?

Paul is able to identify all of the letters in the alphabet (capital ones at least, we are working on lowercase) and has taken to spelling everything he sees. For a while everything spelled "Paul", but he is slowly starting to figure out that different groups of letters have different meanings. He has learned that a red octagon with the letters S-T-O-P spells "stop", and knows now that only the letters P-A-U-L spell "Paul". For everything else, he uses his own little version of context clues to figure it out. He will say all of the letters and then announce what they spell. It can be pretty darn funny. Some of my favorites:
  • At Paul's favorite hangout: "J-C-P-E-N-N-E-Y. Mall"
  • While drinking from an old glass mug at my folk's house: "A-S-U. Hot cocoa. A-S-U. Cup. Mommy, what A-S-U spell?" ??? Upon inspection of the cup right side up I replied, "USA honey. From back when we actually made things here." (Besides plates and tires of course.)
  • While driving his giant digger all over the kitchen: "T-O-N-K-A. Really big digger." That's for sure.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy 2009. I am contemplating writing a nice little piece about resolutions - all of the things I promise to do better this year, ways I will improve myself, blah blah blah. But we all know that people make lofty resolutions every year and most of us have broken them by the second week of January. If we even get that far! Last year I actually drew up this whole chart and analyzed each section of my life (work, family, health, etc.) and plotted out how I would make small changes that would make me a better person. HA. I am still engaging in the same bad behaviors.
This year, however, I did have a bit of a scare that may trigger the end of an awful habit (one can only hope). I have been a nail biter for as long as I can remember, and about two weeks ago I developed a nasty infection in my finger that is just now clearing up. I was in excruciating pain, had to take a round of antibiotics and down some heavy pain killers just to get through the day, and ended up having my cousin's fiance (she's an EMT) drain the puss out during our Christmas party. My dad was convinced that I was going to lose my finger and possibly even die. Nice, eh? The infection was most likely due to a hangnail that I had created when - you guessed it - I bit my nail. Gross. One night when I was up at two AM, doubled over in pain, tears streaming down my face, I promised to NEVER EVER EVER bite my nails again. Hopefully after making a similar resolution pretty much every year since middle school I will actually STOP biting my nails. FOREVER. Perhaps if I just stick to that one resolution instead of trying to fool myself with an entire chart, I can actually accomplish it.
As for the rest of the family, Paul has resolved to sleep in his bed with no railing (ok, so we decided that one for him), and CJ is working on not reacting to everything with negativity. I will keep everyone posted on where we are come mid-month.