Wednesday, August 27, 2008

All Day Event: Irene's Birthday

Today was my birthday. I won't tell you how old I am but my mom outed me with the chocolate cheesecake she brought over for dessert. It was actually a two day event. Alana called me from Two Sister's Bakery to tell me Sharon had put this sign on the door:

Yesterday, Alana came over for coffee and brought her assortment of new nail polish. Maya got her fingernails and her toenails painted. Look at that princess!

Then Alana painted my toenails. I had a hard time keeping Maya off my feet until they were dry so Alana had to paint my toenails twice!

Vince came over to pick Alana up and he was instantly surrounded by Maya and the needy pets.
Look at my shameless belly rubbing beggar dog.

Last night Matt and I met Vince and Alana for dinner at the Homestead Restaurant. It was a lot of fun. I had oysters on the half shell, wild local mushrooms and this mango salad:

We all shared this slice of Black Forest Cake.

This morning Maya and I went to Birth 2 Three for her occupational therapy.

Look at this great swing! I want occupational therapy!

Then we took Trevor to the beach for some beach therapy.

My mom met us there for a walk. Then we had lunch with Nanna but I forgot to take pictures.

Matt took our friend Kathy out on the boat today and the boys joined them afterschool.
Kathy is Matt's mom's best friend. She used to live in North Pole (Alaska) but now she lives in Minnesota.

After the fishing trip we dined on linguine in red clam sauce.

Chris slurping fresh oysters from across the bay.

The cheesecake that gave away my age. It was a nice mellow birthday. Besides all my other blessings, God gave me sunshine today and for that I am mighty grateful!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Back to School!

The boys went back to school on Wednesday, August 20th. I was unorganized and running behind as usual, so I did not get their "First Day of School" picture at home. Here's Chris in his new classroom, sitting next to the very sweet Alden Ross and next to them is the lovely Mina Cavasos. I think they are going to have a wonderful year with Ms. Reinhart for a first grade teacher.

Riley refused to pose for me in front of his school. His principal, Mr. Walsworth, made him stop in the crosswalk and look at me. I guess Mr. Walsworth was more of a "pal" to me than to Riley at that moment. Riley is also going to have a great school year with Mrs. Demers for 4th grade.

While they were in school, I packed for our trip to Anchorage. Then Matt, Sarah, Maya and I met my friend Alana and my mom for lunch.

After school I drove the kids up to Anchorage to put Sarah on a plane back to Arizona. I could have flown her up but the boys needed back to school clothes and I am tired of buying them clothes through the mail that do not fit. But after taking them shopping I may reconsider that decision.

Although my boys love clothes, they hate shopping for clothes. My plan was simple enough: find out what size they wear and buy one set in each color. That turned out to be easier said than done. They are both between sizes. One size fits them in the waist but the length is too short, the next size up was humungaloid all around, or as Sarah likes to say, Ginormous. So we skipped the sweat pants they are so fond of and tried the jeans. They wore a bigger size if the jeans were fitted, a smaller size if the jeans were "relaxed". Keep in mind that my boys have a one store limit. When Riley could not get his beloved sweat pants at the Gap, we ventured to Old Navy. Chris by now was having a melt down. Oh, I forgot to mention that I had already forced them to go to Costco with me for the big stock up on staples trip. Again, some of you may be thinking that I am a glutton for punishment. Perhaps I am. But there are reasons for my madness. I live in a small town at the end of the road. Therefore I have to pay a lot more money for food, clothing and fuel than my neighbors up the road. So it behooves me to shop in Anchorage whenever I can.

My brother and sister in law were kind enough to keep my three little ones while I met with our new accountant, I did not want to take advantage of them by leaving my children behind while I shopped. The kids missed school on Thursday while we were in Anchorage but made it back in time for Friday. This week they will begin there first full week of school, only to be set back again by Labor Day weekend. I wish school would just start after Labor Day and end before Memorial Day weekend. I know what you homeschoolers are thinking. I'm not cut out for home schooling. In fact, I live for the day my kids go to school. I worship public educators. Flawed as the public education system may be, it is an integral part of my mental health.

Speaking of my mental health. This is how it looked this morning as we were driving to church. This is summer time folks. Oh, I found a few yellow birch leaves on the ground today, it's actually beginning to turn into Fall. And my peonies haven't even opened up yet. Last summer my rosebuds rotted without opening. I've been dreading the end of summer. But today I realized, hey, maybe it won't be that bad. I mean, at least in the winter time, I don't EXPECT it to be warm or sunny. So maybe if the sun comes out in winter, for however short a day it is, it will still be a pleasant surprise!

Okay, back to the picture above with me, Sarah, my mom and Maya. So which one of my daughters is adopted? Tonight, I was telling Matt enviously about how Autumn blows kisses when she goes to bed and then plays in her crib until her parents come in to pick her up in the morning. We still have to be in the room with Maya for at least an hour every night before she falls asleep. Matt says she's just like all my other children. He swears that she and I are probably related, I mean, genetically. You see, we are both from Bien Hoa, only I was born 40 years earlier and was adopted in 1974.
So what else is new with Maya? We met with Martha the speech therapist on Friday. Martha thinks Maya is doing very well. We are scheduled to meet with Martha every other week. Susan, her occupational therapist wants to see her weekly because we only have a few more months before she turns 3, and then she will transition from Birth 2 Three to the Intensive Needs Preschool program at our elementary school in January. She is saying at least one new word per week, but her eating is still a challenge. She tries all kinds of new foods, chews them up and spits them out. The past few days she has not been drinking her formula. We are down to 3 bottles a day and she only drinks about 2-3 out of 6 ounces. I know I am not supposed to react to this, and maybe I wouldn't, if she didn't weigh 18 pounds and wear size 12 months clothes. I wish I could relax about this issue. I'm not sure what lesson I am supposed to be learning from this. I have always thought parenting is the hardest job I've ever had. I don't feel at all prepared for this particular challenge.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Kenai Peninsula Fair

My best friend is over and I'm being rude, blogging and Scrabble on the computer. Sarah says I don't have enough pictures of her on my blog. So this is going to be mostly pictures and I'll add the text later.

Maya quietly looking at books

A self imposed picture of Sarah and me in the fireweed.

The county fair is all about eating.

Look who we ran into at the fair: Lyn and Darwin.

Maya is not afraid of horses, only small animals.

Chris enjoying a horseback ride. Look how happy he is!

Riley looking very handsome on the back of a horse.

Chris climbing a wall.

Maya loved the inflatable obstacle course.

Sarah hates this picture of herself but I love it. She is so much fun!
Here's a video of sandhill cranes in our neighbor's yard.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

No Camping This Week

I keep hearing about global warning and we are still waiting for it to hit Alaska. Maybe global warning doesn't apply to Alaska, just like most offers for free shipping. With school starting a week from today, I resorted to desperate measures. I packed the kids up and headed 75 miles north in search of sunnier skies. The boys have been wanting to return to Johnson Lake all summer to paddle their inflatable kayaks and camp. I hated to disappoint them. So I piled all the kids in the car and prayed for a miracle.

When we got to Soldotna it was cloudy but not raining so we went shopping for camping food and other supplies. As we left the store the rain started to fall. We drove around the lake twice, not knowing what to do. In my haste I had not packed the tarps. We debated whether to go back to the store and buy tarps and a canopy. Fortunately, I had a contingent plan. We went back to Soldotna for Plan B: Go Cart Racing.

Last time we went Riley was not tall enough to drive. This time he barely reached the pedals with a bolster behind his back. Sarah and Chris shared a car. Maya wanted to sit in a car, but not with the motor on. Riley looks very serious in these pictures because it was his first time and he is a cautious child. Sarah and Chris are the wreckless speed demons. The boys felt a little better about not being able to camp.

We finished by going shoe shopping for the boys. They needed new shoes for school, one pair for outdoors and one pair for indoors. Plus they got new crocs (or some kind of knock-off brand). Maya walked out with the smallest pair of purple crocs I have ever seen. Fitting two boys with two pairs of shoes while trying to keep Maya in the shoe department was no easy task. Sarah found some shoes, too. So we paid for 10 pairs of shoes and headed home, eating cold chicken, potato wedges and popcorn.

I hope when my sons look back on this experience, they can see it through my eyes: a mother wanting to give her children the moon and the stars (or at least a camping trip in sunshine, which in Alaska, can amount to trying to make the planets align), a big sister spending her vacation from college willing to go camping in the rain, trying to cheer up her little brothers and be supportive of her mom, and a little sister going along for the ride, being a very good sport about a process she has yet to comprehend. I hope they all remember the love, rather than the disappointment, on this trip, as well as all the other misadventures we may experience as a family.

Maya trying a car on for size.

Chris and Sarah tearing it up on the race track.

Riley taking it easy the first time around.

Back home, we made a blazing fire and roasted hot dogs in the fireplace.

Maya tries on Daddy's headband, practicing her runway model walk.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Summer comes to Homer, AK

Chris and Maya among the fireweed.

I am NOT winking, the sun is in my eyes!

As I sit down to type I look out the window and notice that the moon is just starting to rise, a large orange semicircle just peeking over the mountain range to the south, across the Bay. It seems like a perfect ending to another beautiful day. For the last week we've enjoyed mostly sunny days, almost 70 degrees warm.

It doesn't seem fair that the kids should be starting school in 10 days. Our summer just barely began! We haven't even worked a camping trip in yet! We haven't done our back to school shopping! I am madly scrambling to figure out when to squeeze in all these last minute events of late summer.

We said Good Bye to PopPop (Matt's dad) on Thursday afternoon, less than 12 hours after Sarah arrived home from Arizona for a two week vacation. The boys and Sarah are thrilled to have their big sister home. But we sure miss PopPop! He is back in Pendleton, OR, roasting in the dry heat at temperatures from 90 to 100+.
Yesterday our social worker came over for the 3 month home visit. She could tell that Maya had grown some and seems to be settling in very nicely. She reassured us that everything that is happening is perfectly normal and passing in a timely manner.

On Thursday while PopPop was visiting some old friends, Riley went to his friend's house and Chris, Maya and I went hiking with Grandma and Nanna. We went down Diamond Creek Trail again. This time it was warm enough that Chris and Maya were able to play in the waves on the beach for a few minutes before getting too cold. The lupine is past it's prime and the fireweed is just starting to turn the hillsides a bright pink. Fireweed blooms from the bottom up. When the fireweed is all the way to the top, we know that summer is over. The boys can tell summer is coming to an end because the sun is starting to set when they go to bed and it's not quite so bright out when they wake up in the morning. We are all sad because it feels like summer just began. We haven't soaked up enough Vitamin D yet to sustain us through the long winter!

Matt hung up this hammock for the kids and they are loving it!

While he was here, PopPop made this really fun game for us called Poor Man's Golf, or Ladder Golf. Picture two golf balls connected to opposite ends of a short rope. The balls are tossed back and forth toward a ladder with the intent of wrapping the ropes around a rung of the ladder. The top rung is worth 3 points, the middle is worth 2, the bottom is worth 1. The person who is ahead at the end of each round goes first. If the score is tied, the opponenents play rock, paper, scissors to see who goes first. This is important because the person who goes second has a chance to knock their opponent's balls off the ladder. First one to get 21 points wins. It is a lot of fun. Thank you PopPop!

Maya loved to climb up on PopPop's lap for one book after another.

Tomorrow is Nanna's (Matt's mom) birthday. We celebrated today with a special family dinner and hot tubbing. Check out this rowdy bunch! Happy Birthday, Nanna!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Raven in Fairbanks

Just a quick post to introduce the new link on my favorite blog list. RaveninFairbanks is my sister-in-law, Kathleen. She is Matt's older sister and she is the one that took us across the bay for dinner and fishing last week.

We have been busy this week with Matt's dad here from Pendleton, OR. My daughter, Sarah, comes home from Flagstaff, AZ tonight for a two week visit so I will write more this weekend with new pictures of what we have been up to all week!

I am way behind on my charting from work. This work business is really cutting into my blogging time! For every day that I work, I have at least 2 hours of charting to do that night. I have to get better at putting my kids to bed on time so I'm not up all night charting. I can't chart in the daytime because our electronic medical record system only has so many "licenses" so I have to defer to the doctors, nurses and admin staff that are actually at the office. Besides, I have my nose buried in a novel right now while Maya is napping.

I am reading book called Stealing Buddha's dinner by Bich (pronounced Bit) Nguyen. It is a memoir of a Vietnamese refugee growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan after the mass exodus from Veitnam just before and during the fall of Saigon. My friend Stephanie Silianoff loaned it to me. Elizabeth Curry had told me about it in Vietnam. Although the author is about 8 years younger than I am, it is very interesting for me to compare her experiences of assimilating to America to mine. Since I was adopted, there are many differences. I definately had it easier growing up Asian American in California instead of Michigan.

Okay, it's almost midnight and I've blown all my charting time so I might as well tell you about Maya's "fun food therapy session". I wasn't sure what to expect, I guess I imagined her sitting on a plastic mat covered in Jello and pudding. It was actually not that messy. Susan the OT offered her a variety of Gerber toddler puffy foods, dry crackers, fruit leather and a popsickle. She was also given a plastic teapot and tea cups to pour water with. She liked pouring water but hardly ate any of the foods (and I brought her at 11am so she should have been getting hungry for lunch). She even rejected the fruit leather even though she scarfed a whole one down last week. She turned her nose up at the juice popsickle (What? This is NOT Tillamook Mudslide Ice cream, Susan!). We had a hard time keeping her in the therapy room because she was more interested in exploring everyone's offices and offering food to the secretary and the home outreach worker. I secretly felt vindicated that Susan could see first hand what I deal with three times per day. But seriously, this feeding issue is wearing me down. I have to remind myselft that it's good that she is at least trying new foods, even if she spits most of it out. She has managed to gain another pound. She is up to 19 pounds now. Okay, so it's at night, with her clothes on and a full diaper...So I guess the olive oil in her formula and nightly ice cream fest is helping.

On a more positive note, her language has really taken off. She says come, cold and "there it is". She also says "good girl" and "bad boy" (our dog has been acting out lately). She also says thank you and she is just starting to say excuse me. My mom taught her to say that when she burps. It's very cute. She even called Matt, "Dad" a couple of times this week. She calls Matt's dad Poppop but it sounds more like Papa. She says nana for banana. She calls both Riley and Chris Yiley. She is starting to say Grandma and she can say Nanna. I've stopped teaching her signs because if she knows a sign, she won't say the word. The other reason is, I don't really know that many signs!

The other good news: Sarah comes home tonight! She gets in very late (like 4am) so the boys will not see her until they wake up in the morning. It will hard to keep them from running into her room at 7am to wake her up. Hopefully she can go back to sleep when I take the kids to Grandma's and go to work at 9am.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Good old Vitamin D

I am feeling a lot better this week. I'm not sure if it was because the sun finally came out. We had 4 glorious days of sunshine. The kids and I were outside all the time, going to the beach, riding bikes, even pulling weeds was fun. Yesterday I took them to the skateboard park. Maya had a great time going up and down the smaller ramps with her tricycle. Here's a few pictures of my wild and crazy kids.

Having a snack. Maya thought the ramps were pretty good for sliding.

Check out the boys' new multi-sport helmets.

We went to the fire department the other day to buy new bike helmets. They had these multisport ones they can wear for biking, scootering, snowboarding, whatever needs protection for their little noggins. Maya got the smallest helmet they had but it's still a little too big. (That didn't keep her from wearing her helmet to church today!) A very handsome volunteer fire fighter named Dan fitted them with helmets while Elaine gave them candy. The whole experience was closed with a tour of all the engines. Maya insisted on climbing into all the trucks as well. Of course, I didn't have my camera again but another fire fighter named Dillon took a picture and promised to email it to me. They sold me 3 helmets for the price I would have paid for one in a department store through the Safe Kids program. Hooray for our volunteer fire fighters!
Maya and I went back to Birth 2 Three this week for her speech assesment. The speech therapist thought she was on about the level of a 15 month old. The occupational therapist scored her anywhere from 24 to 28 months for most motor skills and 30 months for adaptation and self care! That's one thing orphanage kids are good at! Both the therapists were very sympathetic to my feelings of frustration over her feeding. They reassured me that she is doing very well for a newly adopted child and encouraged me to lower my expectations of her in the feeding department. This Wednesday we are going to meet with the OT for "messy food therapy". She said Maya doesn't swallow anything she doesn't feel she can manage because it's scary for her. I guess the point is to show her that food can be fun. Why didn't I think of that? Putting the FUN back in dysFUNctional!