Thursday, January 5, 2012

Surviving the Holidays

Where have the days gone since I last posted????  We seem to keep so busy, not with any thing in particular, but just taking care of the kids, doing dishes and laundry, dishes and laundry (my hands have never been so chapped!!).  I hope to be able to keep the blog up better in the new year, and have lots to share. 

The kids are adjusting more and more every day.  School is going well - Juan is in 1st grade, and Santiago started kindergarten in the fall.  Juan is still as outgoing as ever, and remains a social butterfly at school.  He is learning to read, and LOVES reading.  We were prepared for him to struggle with reading, as he is still learning English, but he likes reading more than math...go figure.  Lately, he has started to read my "to do" lists for each day and try to decipher exactly what I'll be up to while he is away at school.  Clever kid!  Juan's teacher told us that he is one of the most enthusiastic students she has ever had, but we still have to work on funneling his enthusiasm in constructive ways, or he can easily make mischief. 

Santiago is getting the hang of school, but it took him a while to warm up to it.  He can be such an introvert, and the early days of the school year totally bamboozled him.  He would just stand frozen in the hallway with his eyes and mouth wide open, and I would have to coach him through every move, along the lines of  "Please take off your backpack.  Please take off your jacket.  Please hang your jacket on the hook."  etc. etc. walking him through the routine step-by-step.  He is like a different kid now though, and runs through the hallways just like all of the rest of them.  He still needs his down-time on non-school days though, and I try to make sure that he can have quiet play time at home.

Christian is my little pal during the week while his brothers are away.  He has mastered the potty, although he is often too "busy" to take care of his business, pretty typical for a toddler with 2 older brothers, I think.  He is talking more and more every day.  He has stopped saying "A-Doo-Wah-Doo-Wah-Dee" all of the time (we never really did figure out what that meant!), and now his favorites are "Booper Bun" (Super One), malo, big-boy-bed and all kinds of chatter.  He mostly follows me around the house and plays beside me while I do my daily tasks.  He is still as stubborn as can be, and he is becoming increasingly frustrated when we don't understand his speech.  For example, he uses the phrase "Dee-Deh", which can mean:  circle, cookie, chiclet (gum), or sticky.  He calls himself "Dee-Den" and calls Santiago "Dah-Dah-Doo".  Most of the time I can understand him, but sometimes have to guess through the laundry list of words to figure out exactly what he's trying to tell me.

We had all of the boys baptized in October.  I was worried that Christian would say "under the wah-wee" when Father poured the water over his head, but he just grinned and was quiet.

We hosted some of Jason's family at our house for Thanksgiving.  The children in Juan's first grade class wrote a book describing "How to Cook a Turkey" and we all had a good laugh over Juan's description of how I make the turkey:  "First, my mom goes in the woods and hunts the turkey.  Then she puts it in the freezer.  Then she rubs nuts and green stuff on it and cooks it for 5 minutes at "really hot"..."  I was the only mom who was supposedly tough enough to go and hunt my own turkey.   

Santiago's pilgrim hat from kindergarten

The reading of "How to Cook a Turkey"

A walk with Tia Lea and the doggies

Time to pick out a Christmas tree

This is the one!

Oh my goodness, it's Santa's elves

Christmas itself was good, although the days leading up to it were very challenging.  The younger 2 kids handled the build-up and anticipation without too much difficulty, but Juan just sort of imploded in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It was actually kind of frightening for Jason and I, as it was more extreme than we  anticipated.  Change, even good change, is very hard for Juan to cope with, and December was a month with a lot of irregularity.  The student-teacher in his class left, the days at school were full of programs, parties, and Christmas projects, and even things like an Advent Calendar ended up becoming a battleground.  We started seeing behaviors in Juan that we hadn't seen since our early days together in Colombia - reckless, defiant, almost dangerous behaviors - at home and at school.  Every day I woke up worrying and wondering what would lie ahead and how we would navigate through it.  Eventually, we eliminated every extracurricular and Christmas activity for Juan, and began pretending that Santa Claus/presents and all the hype that go along with the season didn't even exist, focusing more on the nativity story and trying to keep things very routine at home.  I had to hide all of the cookies that I wanted to share with the kids and was darn near ready to take out the Christmas tree.  We really didn't know what to do or how to get a handle on things, so we kept Juan very very busy, which seemed to help us turn things around.  He became my helper inside the house, and Jason's helper outside (you should see the pile of wood that those two stacked together!).  We kept him so busy that he wouldn't have time to worry about things, brood, or get into too much trouble. 

When Christmas finally arrived, we had down-played it by so much, the kids didn't really know what to expect.  My mom and dad came for a visit, which we kept a surprise until the moment they pulled into the driveway.  We went to church on Christmas Eve, and Father asked the kids to bring presents to baby Jesus on the altar.  The boys did great, and they were adorable!!  We had gotten Juan back to a decent base-line, and the rest of the holiday went pretty smoothly.  The kids loved spending time with their Abuela and Abuelo, and we had a very nice first Christmas together.  At the very least, we all survived it, and learned some valuable lessons for next year!

Surprise!!!! It's Abuelo and Abuela!!! 

Merry Christmas!!

Santiago's remote control dinosaur

Christian's very own cart for shopping at "Booper Bun"

Ice fishing with the kids

The winter break gave us the chance to do some ice fishing and spend time with friends and family.  While we had a lot of fun together as a family, I won't say that I am sad to be done with the holidays for this year and get back to a daily routine...a very predictable, very safe, daily routine.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Summer Fun and Tick-Borne Diseases

Summer is flying by, and we have kept very busy.  We bought a cheap blow-up swimming pool for the kids, and who knew that it would be such a hit.  Hours of entertainment, all for about 25 bucks!  It has sprung a few leaks, so now we have to keep the air pump handy and help it out when it goes flat.  All of the kids love swimming and stick their heads right under the water...even Christian.  I think that he actually stays down the longest of all 3 (enough to scare me sometimes!)


In the blow-up swimming pool

All ready to go to try not to get dirty!!
  We took a little mini-vacation in the beginning of July and rented a cabin for a few nights.  We took the kids fishing, swimming (of course!), and our cabin had bunk-beds and a pull out sofa bed.  The biggest hit of the trip turned out to be searching for and catching crayfish.  Who would have known?  It was our first over-night adventure away from home since we came home in March, so it was kind of a big experiment.  The kids did very well, and we hope that this is the first of many camping trips to come.

Christian's first smore

Fishing on "Secret" Lake

After we got home from camping, I (Nicole) became very sick...fever up to 103 degrees, chills, muscle aches, headache, the pits.  Turns out I was bitten by a tick infected with ehrlichiosis, and came down with the nasty bug myself.  We are so fortunate and grateful that my mom was able to come up at the drop of a hat to help out with the kids.  I got some antibiotics, stayed in bed for a couple of days and made a very slow rebound.  I think that I ate only crackers and tea for about 2 weeks.  Just today, the kids congratulated me on being able to eat a "normal" lunch and dinner.  Good grief!

Helping Abuela look beautiful

I am cute!
 The gardens are growing like crazy, as are the ninos.  The kids are so excited to help out in the garden, and we have all learned the saying "don't step in it".  Of course this comes in handy for vegetables, as well as poop.  For some strange reason, the kids love looking around the yard for, chicken-poop, deer-poop, rabbit-poop, you name it.  They then stand next to the pile and say "Poop!  Poop!  Don't step in it!" 

The potato garden

Me:  "Christian, where are you going?"  Christian:  "Booper Bun!" (Super One, our favorite grocery store)

In the garden...don't step in it!
 My mom got me back on my feet, and headed back for home.  A few short days later, we traveled to my parents' cottage for another mini-vacation.  The kids got to visit with Abuelo and Abuela, Tia Vicki, Tia Chrissy and Tio Roberto (Rob, for those of you who know him...but we had to give him a Latin flair for the kids!).

Santiago found a little stray kitten that had been roaming the neighborhood, and worked his magic.  He is so patient, and spent a very long time coaxing the kitten to come out of hiding and trust him.  After only one day, Santiago was able to carry the kitten around like a little baby.  The kitten (he named her Jesse) let Santiago carry her around for hours and she was just loving it.  Jesse liked Santiago so much that she wouldn't leave, and spent the whole trip following him around.  It was very hard for Santi to say goodbye to his new little friend, but we were so happy to find out that she has found a family to live with.

Santiago, taming the wild kitten at my parents cottage
  Since we were all together, we decided to celebrate Juan's 7th birthday.  His birthday isn't for a few weeks, but we all love an excuse to have a party and eat cake...right?!  The party was a surprise, and Juan was so excited to about his cake and to open presents.  The surprise (and the extra sugar) took their toll though, as we ended up with 3 over-stimulated, over-tired-but-jacked-up-on-frosting little boys.  We have always known that routine is good for our kids, but it still amazes us how much the kids behavior can change when too many new and exciting things are going on around them.  An early bed-time and a nap the following day did wonders to get us back on the right track though.  One very encouraging aspect about these kind of situations though, is that now we know our boys well enough to spot when they need to have some quiet time, and we are experienced enough now to know when to pull the plug on all of the excitement.  Thank God for progress!!

Juan with his birthday cake
Summer is flying by, and the kids are getting very excited to start school in the fall.  We will probably try to pack in a few more fun excursions before then though. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Still Here!

It's been way too long since my last post!  People have been wondering if we are all still alive and well here, and we are!  We have just been very, very busy chasing after 3 little boys!

Things are going well here as we continue to grow as a family;  we are settling in more and more as the weeks go by.  Summer vacation has brought a whole new set of adjustments with all 3 of the boys home with Mama.  While the kids are getting a little bit bored at home, we also think that is a good thing for them - we don't know if they've ever had a chance to be bored before, and probably more likely were always on guard for what changes the future might bring.  Sibling rivalry and bickering is at an all-time high, but at least I happy to say that none of the kids have told me "I'm bored" yet!

Christian has really started to bond with Jason, and it is so cute to see him follow around after Jason like a little duckling.  He loves to sit on Jason's shoulders and adores any sort of "manly" equipment...machines, tractors, trucks.  I don't know how/when he learned this, but he grunts a bunch and then says "tractor" and then grunts some more (think Tim-the-Tool-Man-Taylor grunting).  Are little boys just hard-wired to do that sort of thing?  It is pretty funny to watch.

Christian has really started to flourish in his "terrible 2's" lately with temper tantrums (kicking, flailing, screaming, the works!), hitting his brothers, throwing things, etc.  He wants to be a big boy so badly some times, but his little body just isn't there quite yet.  He has graduated from his crib to a "big-boy-bed", and has been sleeping in his bed for about the past 3 weeks without too much trouble.  Several times though, he has woken up in the middle of the night and silently walked through the house to come into our bedroom.  Not sure what he wants, but he usually settles right back down if we hold him a little bit and then put him back in his bed.

Juan Manuel and Santiago are starting to learn more and more English.  It is actually getting harder and harder for me to understand them as they transition from Spanish to English because of the Spanglish mix, and many times I am totally stumped.  They will often hear a word in English and try to repeat it at a later time, but don't always get it quite right.  For a while they kept calling Obe Wan Kenobe, Ole Guacamole.  At vacation bible school they learned a song called "I am Not Forgotten", but came home singing "I am a Colgat-aye".  We often get a good laugh over the things they come up with, and they are really doing so well with it.  It is fun to listen to them talk to each other too, as more and more they are using funny combinations of Spanish and English. 

Santi is such a good helper, and he loves to pitch in with just about anything that needs doing.  He often cleans up all of the toys "just because", even when we haven't asked him to.  If I vacuum or tidy the house while the kids are out playing with Jason, Santiago always runs up to me, gives me a big hug and tells me thank you.  He loves order and cleanliness, and is very responsible.

Juan finished kindergarten and is loving his time at home, although really misses his little friends.  He did really well with school, and was always so proud to come home each day and show us what he worked on. 

We got baby chickens in April, so the kids have been having lots of fun watching them grow and helping to take care of them.  When the kids figured out that we were going to eat their "pets", Juan cried and cried, and Santiago said he couldn't wait to try and hoped they'd be delicious.  Christian just joined in saying "di-den" (chicken in baby-talk) over and over and over.

Overall we are doing very well.  Life seems like chaos many days, but more and more we are able to enjoy the kids instead of constantly struggling with misbehavior.  We've been fishing twice, to the zoo, to the aquarium, and the older 2 boys had vacation bible school.  I just have to say that the kids have done great with all of their outings, and we have had no repeat experiences of our aquarium outing in Medellin.  They have learned what popsicles and rootbeer floats are, and adore running through the sprinkler.  Jason has been working on building them a swing/slide/tower, and the kids burn tons of energy running around on it (and Mom can just sit back and watch!!).  It has been busy, it has been the ride of our lives.  Some days are still really really tough, but it is amazing to see how far we've come in just over 4 months.

Ok, kids are about to get up, so that's all for now.  Thanks for checking in with us!!

Picture from late-March...embarassing that I am posting pictures of snow when the temperature here yesterday was almost 90!

Planting papas (potatos) with Papa!