Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy 5th Birthday, Tommy!



You don't even know this blog exists, so when I write to you on here, it's really in hopes that someday you'll be able to read about yourself in our family books.

You are five years old today. On one hand, I have to believe it because it says so on the calendar, and because 2011 minus 2006 clearly equals five. But on the other hand, I really can't believe it because it truly feels like we just brought you home from the hospital just a little while ago. 


I look at pictures of when you were first born, and when you were a tiny tot, and it feels like those days just happened. You'll probably hear us say that more as you get older, and you might hear other parents say that, and you'll probably roll your eyes. But really, until you have children of your own, you'll never realize how quickly time goes by. Someday I hope you'll know what it's like to look at your big five year old and wonder where that chubby giggling baby went. Or the tiny peanut who lay in his crib sweetly (that is, until a few minutes after this picture was taken):


But onward to topics about yourself that you'll care to read about someday:


Personality: You are a classic first-born. You are a rule follower. You are cautious. Ben's fearless activities make you nervous and you often implore him to be careful. Strangely, though, you're very brave and daring when it comes to climbing and jumping over rocks, even (or maybe especially) rocks that are piled high next to the Pacific Ocean.


You're a caring big brother. You continue to love babies. You'll find toys for them to play with, play peek-a-boo, and will push them around the deck in our Little Tikes car. You're so in love with your new baby cousin, Aaron. After visiting with him the other day, you told me, "Mommy, I love Aaron so much. He's so sweet."


You can be quiet and contemplative at times. When we went to the beach recently, you would just stand and watch it for a few minutes. At other times you're a stereotypical crazy, rough boy. There are times when you think about things a bit too hard and overanalyze them. You'll start your sentences with "I'm afraid that..." or "But what if...happens?" I think this comes from your engineering nature. You have a great ability to think about things from all different angles and a few steps ahead. 


You are a joy to be around. We have a routine now where you and I spend about thirty minutes together between the time you get up from your quiet time and when Ben wakes up from nap. We'll read books, play games, or just draw together. I look forward to that little pocket of one-on-one time when we can have fun conversations and I can get to know you a little better every day.


Likes/Dislikes: Your least favorite food is cooked spinach (or any other greens). You actually love raw spinach, preferably surrounded by cranberries, feta, and salad dressing. Watermelon is your favorite food ever. You could eat half a watermelon if we let you.


You discovered a love geography this year when I hung on our wall a map of the world so we could see where missionaries live that we were praying for. We realized that you had a knack for geography when you started to remember the names of most of the countries that are outlined on our map. Geography is often a topic of conversation at meal times since you can look over at the map and ask questions about what the other countries are named, what people there are like, and how long it takes to get there.


Abilities: You are slowly learning to read. You really want to learn how to read, but you get frustrated easily by the drudgery of sounding out all the letters. So we're slowly going through our Bob Books whenever you're in the mood to do some reading. I'm realizing that the way you like to learn is to be shown how to do something a few times and then be given time to figure it out own your own. You always have a stack of books to look at during your afternoon quiet time and I think that's when you apply your reading lessons. Weeks after a reading lesson, you'll read a sentence that I didn't know you knew how to read, and it always surprises me!


I've been working with you on learning some independence around the house. You can make your own lunch now, so long as it is peanut butter and honey sandwich with sides of cheese and fruit. You can also do your laundry from start to finish (although you're enthusiasm for this is seriously waning).


Tommy, I know that some day you're going to be a strong, good man. You have a good work ethic and you enjoy being helpful to others. My main prayer for you is that you would grow up to love and serve God, and I also pray that you would be a godly husband and father someday. Happy birthday, Tommy!


Sidenote: All day today you kept saying things like, "I can't really believe I'm five!" and "I'm not used to being five yet." I have a feeling you're going to enjoy your new year. :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Birthday Interview with Tommy - Age 5

We're continuing the tradition of interviewing our children for their birthday. I'm finding that as they get older, their answers are getting funnier! I have a feeling that Tommy is going to make himself laugh someday when he reads this interview.

So how do you think it'll feel to be five?
I'm feeling very excited because I'm bigger, and finally I'm five.
What kinds of things can you do now that you’re almost five that you couldn’t do when you were littler?
I can pick Ben up.
What is your favorite color?
Red
What is your favorite food?  
Um, maybe strawberries. (What about watermelon?) Oh yeah! I love watermelon!
What is your least favorite food?  
Chicken. That's boring to eat.
What is your favorite book?
Wacky Wednesday. And Anna's New Coat.
What is your favorite toy?
Matchbox cars
Do you have any friends? Who are they?
My natural friends are Eliana and Kirsten. All the people that I know are my friends.
What is your favorite thing to do?
Wrestle with Daddy.
What is your favorite thing about yourself?
(After much explanation about what exactly this means...) How I can draw really well.
What is your favorite thing to do outside?
Usually it's to play in the sandbox.
Where is your favorite place to go?
Gilroy Gardens!
What do you want to do for a job when you grow up?  
I want to be a worker. (What kind of worker?) Like, to make houses. And I want to be a daddy.
Where do you want to live when you grow up?  
I want to live with Hannah. She will be my wife. We'll live in Spain. (Why Spain?) Because it's fun.
(Ben: "I wanna live in Candyland!")
Do you think you’ll get married when you grow up? Who do you think you’ll marry?
Yep. Hannah.

How old will you be when you get married?
Sixty or seventy. I prefer seventy because that's older.
Where do babies come from?
(Ben: "Tummies!") God designed that babies come from girls.
Is there anything you’re afraid of?
Tigers, if they're out of their cage. Oh, and our rooster because he attacked me. I'm going to call him 'Stinker' because he's so mean to me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Preschool Week 7: Beach Edition

We had a busy week Monday through Friday and didn't do much of anything in the way of structured learning. But we did go camping at the beach this weekend. So that has to count for a lot, right?
Some highlights of camping this weekend:
Boys running freely up and down the beach and playing in the ocean.
Finding interesting treasures in the sand, like crab legs, holey rocks, and pieces of glass with rounded edges.
Climbing a huge gnarly tree near our campsite.
Rolling down sand dunes. Again. And again.
Watching the sun set on the ocean together. 
Building a campfire...roasting marshmallows...making s'mores.
Creeping down to the deserted beach in pitch darkness. Stargazing. Seeing the Milky Way for the first time.
Sleeping with the sound of the roaring ocean just outside our RV.
Playing on the beach before sunrise. Watching the sun rise.
Having pancakes for breakfast, at the beach.
Playing in the [freezing cold] ocean until your teeth chatter and you can't feel your toes.







Saturday, October 15, 2011

Preschool Week 6

HIghlights of preschool this week:

Watercolor painting. This was the first time the boys kept the watercolors separate. They usually see how quickly they can mix the colors to make brown. I made sure to get 'real' watercolor paper because the results are so much nicer than using regular printer paper or butcher paper.


Tommy spent a lot of time making lists of words. He would look around the room to see what objects he could spell. I love his creative spelling. See if you can find: Gloo (glue), Pexl (pencil), Buc (book), Papr (paper), Pichr (pitcher), and of course, dog, robot, and pot.


One day Tommy had the idea for an "adventure walk". He wanted to take a walk in the opposite direction of our house from where we normally take walks. Normally, we'd turn left out of our street and walk down to the high school down the street. But this time he wanted to turn right and go over a nearby overpass to look at the cars on the freeway below. 


He made a map of our neighborhood and plotted our course as we walked. I have to admit that I wasn't crazy about this walk, since it involved walking towards heavier traffic and paths that aren't exactly pedestrian-friendly. But he was SO excited about doing this that I couldn't say no. 


Tommy learned how to play mancala.

We had very warm temperatures this week, so the boys were often found playing outside with water making mud puddles in the dirt or rivers in their sandbox. 

I backed off of our Bob reading lessons a bit this week because Tommy was getting frustrated with them (and I was getting frustrated with him!) But then one night he took it upon himself to read a book to Ben:


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Foster Care Update

Next Tuesday marks our last class of our foster parent training (PRIDE training). The next step is to hand in our application, and then complete our home study. A home study is where a social worker comes to our home and inspects it to make sure it's suitable for children according to the county's regulations. We will also be interviewed. It's looking like it will be one or two more months until we get our first placement, that is, a child who comes to live with us. 

When we first started this process, we were wanting to take in children 3 years old. It is general wisdom that it’s best to take in kids younger than one's youngest. But since Ben is still pretty young, we were advised by an experienced foster mom (she's had 55 kids in 16 years!) to only take in non-ambulatory kids. You’re probably thinking, “Non-what?”. This is one of the many new words we've learned over the past 10 weeks; it just means non-walking. So, now we'll be asking for kids around 12 months and under. We plan to adjust the age upwards as our youngest gets older.

This is the "Baby Room", as the boys call it. Originally, we were planning on going with a private Christian foster agency, where the application process would have been streamlined and we could have gotten a placement as early as November. So we got the room set up with that timeline in mind. Since then, we decided not to go with the agency, but to go with the county instead. I did my best to make the room gender-neutral, which is hard given that green and blue have been my go-to colors for the last five years! The crib has been converted to a toddler bed so Ben can still nap in this room. Once our baby comes, the boys will nap together in their room and baby will move in to this room.
God has changed our hearts so dramatically over these past ten weeks that we are now completely focused on and joyful about the likelihood of fostering children for a long time. It could be years until we are placed with a child who would eventually become ours forever. In retrospect, I feel pretty silly thinking about how na├»ve I was when I wrote this post about adopting a child right away. Now we are looking forward to welcoming babies into our home for as long as they need to be with us. One of our prayers is that God would prepare our hearts to be able to let go of these children when it's their time to be reunited with the parents.  
We've been thinking a lot about how our lives are going to change when we start getting children in our home. While we don't really know what it will be like until it happens, we do have a concept that it's probably going to be difficult. In our classes, we've been prepared for many different scenarios of why a child might be removed from the home and what they might be like when they come into our home. Each scenario will require us to give our foster child lots hands-on love and attention. There have been a few times during this process when we've taken a step back and asked ourselves  "Do we really want to commit to this? Isn't life hard enough just trying to raise our two boys to be good men? Why are we trying to make life more difficult for ourselves? .... Are we doing the right thing?"
When I start thinking this way, the Lord reminds me that as a follower of Christ, my goal shouldn't be to make my life easier. My desire should be to do what I can to show love to others, in the way that I'm able to in this season of life...even if it messes up my comfy life. Yes, doing foster care will be hard, and I'll probably feel inadequate much of the time. But what a great opportunity to lean on my Savior for the help I'll need. An easy life would make me feel like I've got things under control, I don't have to ask God for help. 
Please keep us in prayer over the coming months:
- That God would prepare our hearts for the particular children he has planned for us
- That he would equip us for whatever situation he gives us
- That he would enable us to be joyful through everything!




Sunday, October 9, 2011

Preschool Week 5

This week in preschool we: 

Read aloud*

Played outside

Played board games

Had (lots of) friends over

Played with clay for the first time

Had a Bob Book reading lesson every day

Had a blanket & lunch picnic in the living room on a rainy day


Free play


Both kids were very interested in drawing and writing. I often found them like this.


*Last Monday I went to a Mom's Night Out arranged by my church's homeschool support group. It's not your normal Mom's Night Out at a bowling alley or nail salon, but rather it was an evening where all the members give advice about a certain topic. What I heard there was advice that I've heard a lot before, but hearing it repeated over and over made it since deeper into my brain: 1) READ ALOUD! 2) Read some more! 3) Don't stress out about things, especially with kids below first grade. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sequoias

This past weekend our family took a small road trip to the Sequoias. The trip was prompted because we drove Mark's grandma to see her son (Mark's uncle) who lives in the area. We thought we'd drop her off and drive a little bit further and have some fun in the mountains, and maybe see the world's hugest tree on earth. What we didn't realize was how far away everything was! It was about an hour and a half from his uncle's house to Sequoia National Park, and then another two hours driving up five thousand feet in elevation on the windiest roads I've ever driven. Although it was a ton of driving, we had a lot of fun.

We stopped by the Kaweah River and played in the mud and the water. It was only two feet deep at its deepest parts (at the point where we were), so it was perfect for the boys to play and splash in. 


As we were hiking to see the General Sherman tree, we came upon a bear, which we affectionately named Number One by us because of his fancy yellow ear tag. He was  munching on a pinecone on the side of the trail and seemed to be unbothered by the human around him. He reminded me of pigeons in New York City that will walk right underneath your chair while you drop your lunch crumbs. Mark walked towards him and the bear lumbered off to find another pinecone to munch.


HUGE sequoia.


Tired boys after a day of hiking at 5000 ft. elevation.


Click here to see more photos from our trip.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Preschool Week 4

We had another busy week. I'm starting to think I shouldn't even bother writing that anymore, since almost every week has been busy since we started preschool. It was a week full of unexpected errands and appointments that popped up here and there. We had a weekend trip to the Sequoias. In between everything, we managed to have a playdate with cousins, some reading aloud, and lots of drawing and crafts.

Stencils. And brother. 


Beads 



Drawing and coloring. Lately Tommy has really been into drawing lots of fun things. There's a caption on the picture that reads "A house that was built in China."


Read aloud with Daddy



Field trip of the month: going to Sequoia National Park. Here the boys are playing in a river in Three Rivers, CA near the park.


Watching Letter Factory in the hotel room. This totally counts as a learning activity; this DVD is what taught Tommy his letter sounds.