Monday, December 29, 2008

Maya's Third Birthday Party

Yesterday we had an early birthday party for Maya. We didn't have enough to do between Christmas and New Year. Just kidding. We have to drive up to Anchorage on her birthday for hockey games next weekend. I was going to have her party a week later but my mom wanted us to do it early because she's leaving for Hawaii on the 31st. So while I taught Sunday school and hosted coffee hour at church, Matt was home madly cleaning our very neglected house. By the time I got home, he had the hot dogs and sausages on the grill, the chicken wings in the oven, the countertops and floors sparkling clean, and the fruits and vegetables I'd fixed that morning out on the counter. My mom made a cake, and our friend Lisa brought mini quiches.

The whole Greear clan came over. Willie and Deejay were so sweet with Maya. Deejay let her listen to his ipod and followed her around the living room with the ipod while she walked around with the earpiece in her ear! I couldn't tell who was walking whom. Alana gave Maya her first ballet dress.

We had 3 grandmas present, Matt's mom, my mom and Alana's mom. Ly, the token Vietnamese auntie came, too. Our friends Lisa and Art came over. Plus our friends Mike and Amy from Seattle were up visiting with their almost 3 year old twins. The twins were Maya's first playdate when we stopped in Seattle for Maya's post-placement exam at U.W. They were also in Homer this summer and met us for a playdate at the park on Maya's half birthday in July. So it was perfect that they were also here for her 3rd birthday party. Well, it's her third birthday, but probably her first party.

She held up better than on Christmas. She even opened all her prestents! She shared her new kitchen with the twins and even had a tea party with them. She blew out her candles without prompting. It was a wonderful party and went better that I could have hoped.

Tea party with Danica and Ariel who turn 3 in January.

Maya loves her new frog puppet (kissing the dolphin puppet).

A Barbie hopper ball from Grandma. I forgot what we used to call these!
Does anyone know?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Little Miss Manners

Maya has learned to say thank you. She says it all the time. It is so sweet. When we say thank you, she says "welcome". If I slip or hurt myself, she asks "otay, Mommy?". When she wants a turn she says "Maya turn". Yesterday I had her outside on the deck with me while I shoveled snow. After a while she came to me and said "I'n cold!". Last week I gave her Cheerios with milk and bananas. After a few bites she said "all done". When I asked if she ate anything she replied "buh-nana". Sure enough, she had picked out all the bananas. She is starting to work on 3 word sentences now, like "Maya brush teeth". It's still hard to understand her at times. For example, Gramma, Sarah and Trevor, all sound like "Da-wa". But she is making great progress.

Matt gave Alana these awesome "coffee glasses" for Christmas!

Maya cooks up some oranges in her new kitchen. She calls them apples.

Look who I caught playing with Maya's kitchen! After I snapped the photo he flips over and pretends like he wasn't! He's also the one who steals her tricycle the most. After keeping up with the big brother for 6 years, it's nice to see him acting like a little kid once in a while.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

All I Want for Christmas...

Last night we went to the Christmas Eve Service. It was beautiful. Jordan played Pachelbels's Canon in D Major and made me cry. Maya climbed from lap to lap, feeling very comfortable with her church family. The boys love the end of the service when the lights are dimmed and we sing Silent Night by candle light.

It was a lovely day. Grandma and Nanna came over early to open presents with us. Maya took a bag of chocolates out of her stocking. If that was all she got for Christmas, she would have been happy. She carried it around for the longest time. Then Riley opened up a whoopy cushion from Sarah. Maya thought the whoopy cushion was almost better that the bag of chocolates. Then she played with Christopher's lap harp. She got overwhelmed and stopped opening her presents. She has 3 more presents under the tree. We are saving them for her birthday party on Sunday.

Chris' favorite present was an ax. He's been using Matt's ax for a year. Matt thought it would be safer if Chris had an smaller ax. So he bought him one with a 24 inch handle and wrapped it up in a box with a piece of firewood. Riley got two new pocket knives, one for fishing and one for everything else. It's an Alaskan kind of Christmas. Matt was hoping for some coal so he wouldn't have to chop wood. Instead he got a cold.

I got everything we wanted, all four of our children under one roof, time with our family, and healthy parents. There is one more thing Chris wanted for Christmas: for his mom to get him to school on time. I guess I know what my next New Year's resolution is going to be.

Even our dog is a poser!

Our first gingerbread house from scratch. Frosting hides a multitude of architectural flaws.

The sun came out on Christmas Eve!

Maya shares her chocolates with Grandma.

Sarah's new pea coat. What a surprise!

Riley's stuffed pet snake. I'm glad I don't have to clean another tank!
You can't tell from this picture, but he's actually a very sweet boy.

Maya's favorite presents.
Maya shares her chocolates with Nanna.

In the afternoon we went over to Bill and Ly's house to visit.
We just watched Kung Fu Panda while I was blogging. You have to check out the special features. They show how a Chinese chef turns a ball of dough into hundreds of noodles simply by bouncing and twisting the dough over and over. It's so cool!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sarah's Home!

I met some genuine Alaskan Natives from Barrow today! I asked them how many days of darkness they have in winter. They said it's not totally dark, that they have a few minutes of "dusk". He said the sun will rise for a few minutes in a couple of days. Take the quiz to see how many days of almost total darkness they have in Barrow during the winter.

The week started with Sarah arriving home for the holidays. The boys have been so happy to have her home, it's like a party every night of the week! I'm so glad they are out of school this week so I don't have to worry about tired kids at school. Maya had her last session with Susan at Birth Two Three. It was bittersweet. I took a lot of pictures for her scrap book. We will miss the wonderful therapists and the entire staff at Birth Two Three. They make every child feel like the most special child in the world.

On Wednesday I realized that we had only bought a couple of Christmas presents for the kids. I've been so busy with hockey that I haven't had much time to prepare for the holidays. I feel so bad that while all the other adoptive children are making holiday cookies and visiting Santa, Maya is hanging out at hockey rinks. Although being a rink rat has it's benefits. For example, she now has 15 new brothers and sister, plus their siblings, and about 32 new surrogate parents. How's that for an extended family? Even the guy that runs the snack bar at our ice rink loves her. He waves at her everytime she walks through the door and she says "Hi Jim!" and waves back to him.

Life on the road has a few benefits as well. This past weekend we were up at my brother in law's house for 4 hockey games. They took Chris out to my sister in law's house in Palmer to get a Christmas tree. We got to be part of their tree trimming festivities. Michael commented that this is the second family holiday we've horned in on this year. Only he said it in a much nicer way, as if we were welcome to crash his family gatherings. I feel like one of those men who has two separate families, each in a different city.

Between hockey games Sarah and I did some marathon shopping. Saturday we pawned Riley off on the Bordner family and had a girl outing at Fifth Avenue Mall. First I corrupt Maya with junk food, now I'm corrupting her with capitalism. Just doing my part to keep the economy from crashing. Sarah also got to spend some time with her old friends from high school, which gave her a break from us but did not help her catch up on her sleep at all! Ah, to be young and energetic, burning the candles at both ends. I so do not miss those days! She's young, fabulous and broke. I'm middle aged, tired, and semi-broke.

We have a break from hockey now until January 3rd. So this week I'm going to try and slow down, enjoy the holidays, make cookies with the kids, attempt to clean my house, and have lots of fun playing with Sarah while she's home!

Grandma comes over for coffee.

Sarah makes us laugh on Tuesday morning's Coffee with Alana and Grandma.

All geared up and nowhere to go.

These are Maya's favorite toys right now, the hockey stick and a tub full of protective gear.

Susan, Maya's beloved occupational therapist at Birth Two Three.

Sarah tries on jackets...

While Maya discovers the children's shoe department at Nordstrom's.

Check out the two left shoes.

Slurping noodles with Sissy.

The pruner adds a whole new dimention to the term "trimming the tree".

Maya designates herself as the Candy Cane Monitor.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Miracle of the Bathrobe Pageant

Today we celebrated the Children's Christmas Program at church. It is one of my favorite parts of belonging to a church family. Last year I was explaining to Richard Gilbert, our interim pastor at the time, what I had in mind for a program. He smiled and said "Oh yes, the Bathrobe Pageant." I had never heard it called that before, but when I thought of all the costumes in church storage made from velour bathrobes, I had to laugh. Along with tinsel halos and burlap pullovers, the velour bathrobe is a quintessential low budge church costume item. Add some fake fur or gold trim and voila! You've got wise men, rich inn keepers and kings.

Since it is such a busy time of year and kids are also involved in their school music programs, sports or the Nutcracker ballet, we can only manage to pull off a couple of practices before the big day. The Saturday before the program we do a dress rehearsal in the santuary. It is usually so rough that everyone is sweating bullets and praying for a miracle. Then something happens between Saturday and Sunday morning, the whole thing comes together and the kids pull it off. I've seen the miracle happen year after year.

Some years we have too many shepherds and not enough sheep. Last year Mary was a single parent. I can't force children into doing something they don't want to do. Most of my Sunday school kids are fairly reticent. Thank God Alana and her family started coming to our church. I now have two kids who are willing to sing and speak into the microphone. (Plus I have a stage mom to help me). All the other kids pretty much lip sync or talk so softly that no one past the first two rows can hear them, especially not the old folks with their hearing aids.

This year was even more special because I was able to talk Chris into playing the part of Joseph. The only reason he agreed was because it wasn't a speaking part. At home I can't get him to stop talking. After the rehearsal on Saturday my mom asked him what part he was in the pageant. He said "I'm a father". "But I don't have any lines." Then a few minutes later he added, "I have a wife." The part of Mary was played by Jessica. Six years ago, both Christopher and Jessica played the part of the Baby Jesus. Chris was on Sunday, Jessica on Christmas Eve.

Chris was seven months old at the time. I carried him up to the front of the church and placed him in the manger. He sat upright with that perfectly straight back that only infants sit with and played with the hay. There was a little girl at the time named Carly who was kind of a wild child. She was hard to contain and everyone smirked at the sight of her in an angel costume. But she hovered over Christopher the whole time, picking straw out of his hair, stroking his head. She doted on him exactly the way I imagine an angel would have doted on the real Baby Jesus. The two of them stole the show. This Christmas season, may there be many miracles in your life.

Maya tries on a pair of wings before the service.

Tea and Andrea as angels.

Riley and Bradley are shepherds awaiting the good news. N0w I know what the shepherds' staffs are for, to keep them from pulling their arms inside the burlap bags.

Andie is always an angel, even if real life.

Falcom and Marina sing a duet.

6 years ago, Chris and Jessica were both baby Jesus in different church services.
Now they are Joseph and Mary.

Emmett plays the cello.

Mariah (right), our narrator, brings cookies home from the cookie exchange.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Skating on Beluga Lake

Yesterday we saw the sun for the first time in over 3 weeks. It was miraculous. I don't mean that it's been dark for 3 weeks like above the artic circle. I mean it wasn't hiding behind a thick veil of clouds. I can't believe that people live in places where they literally do not see the sun for 3 months. I remember the first time I heard the announcement on the radio the first year I was in Alaska. "And the sun rose in Barrow today for the first time in 112 days" (or something like that). It also literally doesn't set in the summer time for the same amount of time. I don't know exactly how many days. You'll have to google it.

But in Homer, Alaska, it was beautiful, sunny and cold. Chris got the urge to go skating on Beluga Lake. So we rushed home after school to grab our gear and headed to the lake. The boys had a great time skating. Maya had a great time chasing after the hockey puck with Chris' hockey stick. The moon was rising on one side of the lake while the sun was going down on the other side, or over the bay to be exact.

She has such a large vocabulary now that she hardly ever growls anymore. The other day she called me "bad girl" when I wouldn't take her to Grandma's house. It was Grandma's day off. Her vocabulary includes words like "hockey stick" and money. Unfortunately, she has figured out that when you put money in the vending machine, candy, chips or cookies come out. Not that my kids ever get those things (hee-hee), just because they spend a lot of them at the hockey rink. The little ones sometimes need a little bribe to keep them from revolting. Maya doesn't seem to mind it as much as Chris. Sometimes I get lucky and there are other little girls there willing to run around with her.

I told the hockey manager she went from orphanage rat to rink rat. I wasn't sure she was moving up. He assured me that all his kids were raised in hockey rinks and it's a very healthy environment to raise children in. Alana and I go back and forth about which is worse, being a stage mom or a hockey mom. She contends that it's better to be a stage mom. Of course, we end up doing whatever makes our kids happy. And that makes us happy.

I'm loving the sun in my eyes.

The moon rising over the bluff...

While the sun sets over the bay.

Maya and her hockey stick.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

This week we put up our Christmas tree. It's Christopher's favorite part of Christmas. He would leave the tree up all year if I let him. I always make him wait until after Thanksgiving to put it up. He thinks that is so unfair. Wednesday night he helped Matt put the artificial tree together. Thursday afternoon he made me put the lights on. Then he put most of the ornaments on. Riley and Maya put a few on. Riley was more interested in watching ESPN. Maya wanted to climb up and down the ladder. The cat lay under the tree and attacked my hands as I was stringing the lights. The cat loves the tree almost as much as Christopher does. Chris won't let us turn the lights on, though. He is saving electricity so that we don't run out before Santa comes at midnight on Christmas Eve. When he hung up the stockings, he was very worried that Maya did not have a stocking yet. So we had to run out to Ulmer's and buy her a stocking. He also picked one out for the dog and the cat. So now our fireplace mantle is quite crowded!

Posing in their traditional Vietnamese outfits that Ly brought back from Vietnam.

Chris shows Maya how it's done.

We're almost finished decorating the tree.

Friday night Maya went to her first Nutcracker Ballet, and she stayed for the whole show!
It helped to have Nanna and Tirzah sitting next to her.

When it warms up and rains, our driveway turns into a private ice rink for the boys. It's treacherous for everyone else, though.

Give me blue bubble wrap and a swim wring and I'm happy.

Saturday night we went to a surprise party for Stephanie's 40th birthday. What a nice looking family!

Matt and Irene at Stephanie's birthday party.

The team meets for lunch at Buckets, a family sports bar in Soldotna.

The hockey and team and siblings playing a game at the sports bar.
We had two games in Soldotna today. We played the same team twice, Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association Ice Hawks. In the morning we beat them 3-0 at the Soldotna Sports Center. After lunch we tied 3-3 at the Kenai Arena. I want to know what they had for lunch! Maybe we should have cut our kids off after their first beer at Buckets.