Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May 29, 2007

This is the main entertainment at our house these days. The boys have discovered the fun of light switches. There happens to be one light switch that is located above the first step on the staircase. When they stand on that step, they can reach it on tip toes.

At first, I fought this new-found entertainment. That lasted for only a few days and then I came to my senses and realized the futility of that battle. After discussing it with my friends in KC over the weekend, I came home prepared to deal with it differently. So today the boys were pleasantly surprised when they were allowed to turn the lights on and off and on and off, over and over and over and over again.

They also get on and off and on and off the first step, over and over and over again. It is really cute actually (see pics below). The only issue is that they both want to play with the switch at the same time and then someone ends up falling off of the first step and crying a bit. They have not really gotten hurt yet and the falls have not been that bad so far, which is good. But the fighting and falling is not a very good thing so, when this starts, I make the steps off limits for a while.

Today, much to my dismay, they ended up on separate nap schedules. I guess the upside of this, for them, was that they each had some dedicated light switching time:).

On and off, on and off the step. Ben is still working on the most efficient way to do this.

And this is not necessarily it. Nick will typically step up while holding on to the white rails on the right.

On and off, on and off go the lights. This is a double switch. One side controls the light above the staircase and the other controls the light above the fireplace and two small lights between the kitchen and living room.

Look at me mom! Look what I can do!

And then I wipe my hands all over the wall. For some reason, he likes the feel of the wall, so he rubs his hands around on it. Fortunately, the paint has a bit of a gloss on it so we will be able to clean it, hopefully.

Aren't I cute??

Ben, what does a monkey say? Ooo ooo ooo ooo! They know lots of animal sounds now. Our trips to the zoo and the farm are paying off. They also have learned how to put almost every shape into the more complex shape sorter that we have. It has ten different shapes, some are very similar and some only fit in one direction so it has been a bit of a challenge for them. I am amazed at how quickly they have learned it though. They love to do it again and again. Their puzzle skills should start improving soon, which is great because I am tired of the emptying-the-puzzle stage. Today, Ben signed for "more" when he wanted more of something we were eating. Nick has been doing this for a while but Ben just did it today, out of the blue. I was surprised. Maybe he picked up on it because both Nick and my friend's little girl were signing for more a couple of times over the weekend.

And, back to the subject of eating. This evening we were having baked salmon and broccoli and the boys could not get enough of the broccoli. When Nick saw that dad was getting more from the pan, he signed for more, very urgently. I was spooning it out of the pan and he kept asking for more the entire time until we ran out. And this was after he had already asked for seconds of the salmon. Ben asked for seconds also. It was pretty funny. I told my husband I would have liked to get that on video but I didn't want my food to get cold....I mean colder.

My turn! Nick even knows which switch controls which lights and will go look at them after he turns them on/off. It is pretty funny.

And now, I will pose for pictures!

Our little Nick is definitely a people person. He loves hanging out with people and is not as likely as Ben to go play by himself and keep himself entertained. He is also a little flirt, always waving and smiling at people when we are out and about. He would get upset if a stranger wanted to hold him but he is very happy to smile and wave and put on a little cute performance for them from a distance.

And he never sits still for a minute. Busy is his middle name. I predict he will have a great sense of humor and will love to laugh (he already does). He also may be a little less likely to want to dig into his studies:). On the other hand, we think Ben is just the opposite. He enjoys hanging out with us for a while but also likes time to play on his own. If we have been out and around people for a while, such as at my mom or sister's house, when we get home Ben will go play by himself for a while. Ben loves to sit and look at books by himself and wants to be read to A LOT. Nick may let you read a couple of pages but will start turning pages too fast or will take off with the book. It is too funny how different they are.

He is so quick, it is a challenge to get good pics of him. He runs everywhere he goes. Ben has recently started running also, so they are keeping me very busy these days.

I love watching them learn new things and they are such quick learners. They are a lot of fun.

May 29, 2007

We're back!! We had the best time visiting our friends in Kansas City for the weekend. Our friends' house, where we stayed, had lots of room and lots of adults and kids and tons of toys and it was so much fun. I thought it would be tiring to have the kids away from home but it really wasn't. It is amazing how much easier it is when there are so many adults around to keep an eye on them and I really enjoyed visiting with my friend, her parents and her brother visiting from CA. Her brother and his wife home schooled their four children, the youngest of whom is now 18 years old, so it was very interesting and educational to talk with him about their experiences with home schooling.

My friend borrowed two pack n plays for us and the boys had their own room so we all had very good sleep. The boys had a little trouble falling asleep at first but I kept going back in and making them lay down and, the longer we stayed, the easier it got.

My friend has two daughters adopted from Russia, a four year old and 22 month old. Ben is 20 months old now and Nick is 18.5 months old, so we had a lot of fun watching them all play. Nick and Ben were especially interested in what the four year old did and watched her a lot. They loved pushing her baby carriage and would also drag around her doll, if they could get away with it. It was very funny. They were easily entertained, since there were lots of new toys for them to play with.

Another highlight of our trip was that we watched, for the first time, the video we took during our first trip to Russia to adopt our boys. My friend was there at the same time to bring home her second daughter and they were frequently in the background of our video, which was really neat. It was amazing to see how much our boys had changed in 5 months, most especially Ben. We had forgotten how very far behind developmentally he was when we first met him. Anyone meeting him today would never know he had ever been behind developmentally.

On Sunday we all went to church and then out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Yum! My husband did a great job of keeping the boys entertained until the food came (peak-a-boo with napkins on their heads:). On our way back to the house, we stopped at an Einstein's Bagels because I was really looking forward to having some REAL bagels again. That is one of the things I missed most since we moved to Oklahoma. We had an Einstein's Bagels in Houston but where we live in Oklahoma, we only have Panera Bread and they only make sourdough bagels, which I don't really care for. I had a blueberry bagel snack that afternoon and oh was it good! Later that evening, we had grilled hamburgers with all the fixin's and we even had homemade ice cream! I had not had homemade ice cream since I was a kid. It tasted so good and the boys really enjoyed it too.

Yesterday we went to a farm that is just the most awesome place for kids. We all had a great time. They have all of the typical farm animals and baby animals, up close and personal, with petting areas and food/bottles to feed them, along with pony rides, fishing and little tractor rides (the kind kids pedal). It was really a wonderful place for kids and it is FREE, if you can believe that!! Absolutely amazing! We ate in their picnic area afterwards and then we started our journey home.

The boys were so tired from the farm that they fell asleep almost immediately. Nick had actually fallen asleep in the stroller while we were ordering our food but he woke up to eat with us. That was the first time either of our boys had ever fallen asleep in a stroller....but then, this was the first time we have ever taken them away from home for an overnight stay and to a busy, fun place like the farm for half a day, missing their nap.

They both took nice, long naps and we were in a perfect place to stop for a bite and change of diapers when they woke up. At that point, we were about half way home. We got out the double DVD player and set it up and they watched that at times, while also playing with toys. I had packed a bunch of smaller toys in a large bag and put it between their car seats so they could reach them. It really worked out well.

We made great time until we came to an area where there is a bunch of construction and the road goes down to one lane. Miles before this, the traffic came to a halt and we inched forward for about 45 minutes. I was a bit concerned about how the boys would handle this, since being stopped or going very very slow for long periods of time makes them think we should be getting out of the car. But we were very impressed with how they handled it. We heard a couple of whines to begin with from Ben but really, for the most part, that was about it. We would just ignore them (the whines) because it seems that paying attention to them only makes them worse. So we ignored them and very soon he stopped whining and accepted the situation.

Our car trip was about 4 to 5 hours there and 5 to 6 back and we never heard any crying from the boys at all, other than a little whining when they were fighting sleep or not happy with sitting still in traffic, but that didn't last long. My husband and I were both very impressed with how well they handled the long car rides. We only made one stop on the way there and one on the way back and, in both directions, they took pretty good naps and then played with toys and watched their DVD's the rest of the time.

They were happy to get home though. We came in the house and immediately took them for a bath because they had sunscreen on from being outside at the farm. They love their bath so they were running to get to the stairs and very excited for their bath. After bath, we ended up bringing them back downstairs for a bite to eat, as they had not eaten a whole lot when we had stopped. They each ate half of a chicken pot pie and then played for a few minutes before finally going down to bed around 9:00 pm ish. My husband unloaded the car and clean up our car messes while I was feeding the boys, which was great. We really make a good team. We are both hard workers and we try to do things to help each other and make things easier for the other, which is nice.

Today, my husband is back at work and the boys and I are back on our old schedule of two naps, since they are a bit fussy from having longer days and less sleep while we were gone. Today will be a quiet, relaxing day for us...as much as it can be with two little toddler boys:).

Friday, May 25, 2007

May 25, 2007

When the boys first came home, they were like clockwork with their sleeping schedule. They woke up almost every morning between 8:00 and 8:30 am, napped from 10:00 to noon and again from 4:00 to 6:00 pm and went to bed at 8:30 pm. Of course, they were about 5 months younger then than now.

Now, Ben is almost 20 months old and Nick is right around 18.5 months old. Although they are both still great sleepers, their sleep schedules are changing and I am struggling to keep up. Ben requires less sleep than Nick, which presents a challenge for a mom who needs a bit of down time in her day.

These days, I am just going with the flow. We no longer have a set schedule. I try to read them, understand their sleep needs and meet them as well as I can. Nick tends to wake up earlier in the morning than Ben, usually around 7:30 or 8:00. Yesterday, Ben slept until after 9:00 am and Nick woke up around 8:00 or 8:30.

Generally, their morning nap is slowly moving out each day and, sometimes, becoming longer. They are now going down for nap around 11:00 am ish and, sometimes, waking up around 2:00 pm ish. When this happens, they normally don't need an afternoon nap. If their morning nap is only a 2 hour nap, Nick will need at least a short nap in the late afternoon. Ben does not, although I will sometimes try to get him to take a short one so I can have a break and start dinner.

I tend to be a creature of habit and I like having a routine, so this has been a challenge for me. Also, I eat breakfast around 6:00 am normally, so I am usually ready for lunch around 11:00 am, which means that I really want them to go down for nap around that time so I can eat peacefully. I know I have to learn to eat with them up, but I am struggling because this is not peaceful for me at all. I like to sit down on the couch, turn on the news or my laptop or read a good book while I eat my lunch and take a break. When they are awake and I am eating, I usually have to rush, frequently have to share whatever I am eating with them and usually have to play referee because they will do everything they can to get my attention during this time. There is nothing fun or peaceful about this. I need to figure out another way to handle this so I can eat, at least somewhat peacefully, when they are awake. Any suggestions?

As for food for the boys, so far I have found very few things that they don't like. I have not found any veggie that they don't like. Some favorites are green beans, peas, sugar snap peas, broccoli (they can't get enough of this!), sweet potatoes, potatoes and corn. They love their veggies soooo much that I frequently have to hold back the veggies until they are almost done with their protein dish, otherwise they only want to eat their veggie. They would rather eat veggies than PB&J sandwiches. Based on something I read on the American Academy of Pediatrics web site, I usually serve yellow or orange colored veggies for lunch and green veggies for dinner. Unfortunately, I am somewhat of a picky eater so that limits us, although I do serve the boys several things that I don't care for and that they love, such as tuna fish sandwiches.

The only fruit I have found that they didn't care for that much was pears. They especially love apples, bananas, grapes (peeled and cut in half) and strawberries. They are normally very good eaters, although they both have times when they don't eat much and I just shrug and know that they will eat when they are hungry. They normally make up for it at the next meal. There have been several times when I thought they didn't care for something I served and then they ate it up at a later meal. Sometimes, they are just not that hungry, but most times they are and they eat very well. They have so many meals and snacks (and they continue to gain weight) so I know they are getting enough to eat. I fixed pork chops the other night and they couldn't get enough of them. They also love a couple of my chicken casseroles, chicken pot pies, cheese pizza, turkey and cheese sandwiches (heated) and egg salad sandwiches (heated with melted cheese on top). My husband and I really like salmon and normally eat it at least once a week and the boys love it too. They also love mac & cheese and pasta with chicken.

So far, I have really not found anything that they just really would not eat.  These are some of their favorites. I am always looking for other ideas to introduce so, if you have any great recipes, please send them to me.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

May 23, 2007

Something that is sometimes amusing (and sometimes annoying) is that our boys call most women in pictures "momma". They will point to a picture of my mom or my sister and say "momma" (annoying). When I touch myself and say "momma", they will touch themselves the same way and say "momma" (amusing). This is actually very cute.

When my husband says "take this to momma" or "wave to momma", they will take the correct action, although we have only tried this when we are the only ones present so who knows what they would do if my mom or sister, or some other woman, was present. Actually, I really think they would still take the correct action but you never know.

When we are looking at the zoo book and I point to the llama and say "llama", they both say "momma". They usually say it several times in a very cute voice and it always brings a smile to my face.

They are not yet at a point where they will call me "momma", expecting me to come to them and help them with something or pick them up or something. Sometimes they will get into "momma mode", where they are walking around saying "momma" a lot. I will always say "yes Nick/Ben" or "Yes sweetie" or Yes honey" or something like that, to acknowledge they have spoken to me. At first, they looked surprised that I responded to their "momma". Now they usually look at me and smile when I respond.

They have so many words now that I have lost track of them. They do a ton of repeating, all day long, but are less likely to actually use a word to get what they want. One day, when we were having our morning snack, I was asking if they wanted anything else. Nick said "nana", which I took to mean he wanted a banana. I asked if he wanted a banana and they both started repeating "nana" a couple of times and reaching towards the bananas. So I got a banana and we all ate it together. I thought that might be an eye opening moment for them, that they can ask for something and get it, but so far they have not quite comprehended this yet. They do ask for what they want by pointing and/or grunting or reaching towards what they want and Nick will sign for "more" also. Ben was "pointing" to certain foods in his dish, with his nose of all things, when he wanted to eat that particular food.  He would, over and over again, almost put his nose into his food, blocking his entire plate with his head to point to the food he wanted to eat next. Very funny little boy.

They both know the majority of the parts of their body now. It is really amazing how quickly they learn things. A couple of days ago, I showed Nick how to pull the ball-shaped shape sorter apart and shake it to make the shapes fall out. This morning I saw him doing it by himself and I was really surprised that he remembered how and that he was strong enough and coordinated enough to do it.

I am sure that if Sooner Start were to test them now, they would not qualify for services anymore. From everything I have read, it seems clear to me they are very on track for their ages in all areas of development now, which is wonderful and amazing, especially for Ben who was so far behind only 5 months ago.

My brother-in-law was here visiting last week. It was the first time he had met the boys. He was amazed at how well they are doing and commented that, if he had not known their history, he would never have suspected that they had not been with us since birth. They just act like totally normal, American toddlers. It is a beautiful and amazing thing.

We went to my sister's house yesterday and spent the day visiting with her, my mom and my niece and nephew. The boys had a great time and they really loved rolling around on the floor with my nephew. He is just finishing seventh grade and he is really good with them and they both just love him to death. It is really cute to watch. The neat thing was what my nephew told my sister after the last time we visited. When he was little, like our little guys, he always loved playing with his older, male cousin. He couldn't wait for his cousin to arrive at our family events and would hang on him and rough-house with him the whole time. My nephew told my sister that he now gets to be to our boys what his cousin was to him when he was little. It was really sweet.

Some cute pics:

Nick with his "buddy". We bought this little giraffe at a grocery store in Volgograd. He sleeps with it every night and at nap time. It is the perfect size for him. Sometimes Ben will walk around with his thumb in his mouth while holding Nick's little buddy. It is funny because Ben is not a thumb sucker at all and does not really care about a buddy or lovey or anything else. I bought him a little buddy, a small stuffed kitty that looks a lot like this giraffe actually (same color and just a little smaller). We hand it to him every night when he goes "night night" and he promptly smiles and throws it out of his crib, no matter how many times we pick it up and give it back to him.

Ben and Nick playing in the library room of our house. We had work men taking out two large windows in our living room so I had to move all of the toys into another room and we camped out there for the day.

I taught Nick how to climb onto the rocking horse by himself. He loves to rock it as high as he can, surprise surprise. Ben is a bit more cautious on it. Nick has also learned how to climb up on the couch by himself now. Fun times have begun!

I thought it was funny how Nick put his legs up around the horses neck. I think he is just a little too short for them to reach downwards.

Do you think he enjoys himself??

Preparing for the window replacement. The two windows on the right were rotted on the bottom. The guy had already removed the one on the right and put in the new one temporarily, which is why it is a natural wood color. When he did this, he did a lot of sawing through the old window to get it out. When he was finished, there was a huge layer of dust in our whole house and in my sinuses. My allergies were out of control. We had to sweep and mop the entire floor downstairs, vacuum the furniture, dust all surfaces, etc. It was terrible. So, this time, I covered the furniture and moved the toys to another room so we would not be quite as close to the dust.
Turns out that he didn't have to cut out the second window so, this time, there was very little dust. All that preparation work for nothing. It was a tiring day but the guy did a great job and the windows look really good. We still have to caulk and paint them though.

After wearing my ball cap at the zoo the other day, Nick now has this thing for caps.

Upcoming events for us include a dr. appt. on Friday to check out the mole on Ben's cheek again and a trip to Kansas City to visit with our friend who adopted two little girls from Volgograd. She was there to bring home her second daughter when we were there on our first trip, meeting our sons. I am so excited to see them again.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

May 19, 2007

The boys got into a cat fight with Zoe, our unfriendly-to-children cat. I have warned them so many times to leave her alone and have punished them for tormenting her so many times but it just does not seem to stop them. Every chance they get, if she is around, they will run towards her yelling and waving a toy or trying to hit her with their toy or their hands.

So yesterday evening, we were looking out of the living room window at a baby rabbit that was sitting on the patio in the side yard. The cats had seen it first so they were sitting nearby also. Zoe got scared when the boys approached so she jumped in a box that was sitting nearby...a box that we had left out because the boys had been playing with it. They were not paying any attention to her at first because they were looking at the baby rabbit. But then, they shifted attention and noticed her in the box and Nick started trying to hit her. I can't remember if he had his lovey or was just trying to hit her with his hands but he was yelling and trying to hit her. And before I could stop it, she was fighting back and scratched him on the face. And then, just as Nick started crying, Ben started trying to hit her too and she scratched him on the arm. I couldn't believe it. I was sitting right nearby but it just happened so fast. The cat was meowing/crying too, very upset. I'm sure she felt trapped and scared. And both boys were now crying and I was not sure where they had been scratched or how bad it was. Thankfully my husband was home so he picked up Ben and I had picked up Nick and we checked them out.

Nick has a scratch from the side/tip of his nose down across the area above his upper lip, across his lip and onto his cheek. He also has a second scratch a little higher on the same cheek. We are so fortunate that she did not get his eye.

Ben has two or three scratches on the top of his forearm, near the elbow.

The cat is fine:). She defended herself quite nicely.

The boys quit crying pretty quickly and acted as if nothing had happened....even going so far as to try going after her again a little later. Their scratches actually look not-so-bad today. You can barely see the ones on N's face now, which is good. They were pretty light, although his lip did bleed a little. One scratch on B's arm is a bit more noticeable but the rest are very light.

So, any tips on teaching the boys they are not allowed to torment this cat? I am just amazed that they didn't learn from getting scratched. Ben has been scratched once before by this cat, as she was laying on the back of a chair and he was behind the chair, trying to hit her with a toy. They just don't seem to learn.

When I was a kid, we always had a cat, from the time I was just a little bitty thing. I have a ton of pictures of me, as a child, holding a kitten or a cat. Anyway, I can remember getting scratched by the cats at my grandmother's house because they were wild and I couldn't resist catching them and trying to tame them, especially the kittens. But I was obviously older than our little guys.

I know not everyone will agree with this but I don't blame the cat. I think it is natural for her to defend herself if she is being attacked. To me, this is much like learning not to touch a hot stove. You don't blame the stove. If you get burnt, you learn some respect for the hot stove and you are much more careful the next time. But the problem, of course, is that they are not learning any respect for the scratching cat. Maybe part of the issue is that I am not being consistent enough with disciplining for this. I may just have to really crack down on it.

In other news, Nick has now learned how to climb up on the large leather ottoman that is our "coffee table" of sorts. He was so pleased with himself and Ben immediately started trying to get up there, when he saw that his brother could get up there. I knew he would learn this soon because I had seen him almost make it and he was pretty determined. I know that he will very soon be able to get on the couch too and they can now reach pretty much everything on the end tables, although they do know what is off limits. They still test on this at times so I have to keep an eye on them.

Yesterday I had to have two moles removed; one from my shoulder and one from my leg. What a pain, literally. The boys went with me and they really did pretty well. Nick got a little upset when I laid down on the table and they made the table go up high. He started crying and they tried handing him a book and his snack cup but he just handed it back and kept crying. He stopped pretty soon though and both boys were quite interested in watching what was going on. I have a few stitches where the one on my leg was but they cauterized the other one. I'm glad it is over. I have lost count of how many moles I have had removed over the years. Stay out of the sun when you can and use your sunscreen when you can't!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

May 17, 2007 Part 4

Well, yesterday afternoon I took the boys to the zoo and we had a ball. What a fun afternoon. Since they slept so long for their first nap, they didn't need a second nap. So I slapped some sun screen on them and put one of my baseball caps on each of them and on me and off we went. I really need to get a picture of them in their ball caps. Ben was sporting a Boston Red Sox cap and Nick was sporting "The Cuse - SU" cap, very old caps I have from living in Boston and going to school at Syracuse University. They looked so cute and received lots of smiles from people walking by. As one little girl, probably around four years old, walked by us with her mom, she said "momma, look at the caps those babies are wearing".
We saw a lot of animals but here are the highlights of the day:

First stop was the elephant exhibit and I was at first disappointed because I didn't see any at all. Then a lady told me you had to go inside the "elephant museum" building to see them. I had not realized this so we went inside and, WOW, they were right there in front of us, nose to nose, on the other side of a huge plate glass window. The boys loved it. Two huge elephants were eating hay right in front of us.

The next really neat thing was the lion exhibit. When we first walked up, the female lion was standing just inside of the door to their cave. You can't see them when they are in their cave but she was in the doorway and looking very regal. She stood there looking out for a couple of seconds and we waited (I was meowing like a cat to try to get her to come out. I'm pretty good at imitating our cats. I think it worked:). She came out and sauntered over to the watering hole to get a drink and then she came straight towards us, to the edge of their area next to where the pit starts, and laid down. At some point the large, male lion came to the cave door and stood there for a couple of minutes. I meowed again but he didn't come out. He went back inside the cave but then, a few seconds later, we heard him roar really loudly. I roared back at him pretty loudly and he roared again. We did this quite a few times and N joined in with roaring with me a few times too. Finally I stopped and the lion kept going a few more times and then stopped. His roars echoed within the cave so we could hear it really well. It was great! I think this is the first time I had actually heard a lion roar in real life. It was magnificent. And it's really neat because I had been pointing out a lion to the boys in one of their books and asking them what a lion says and then I would roar. Now they really get it.

Then, we went to see the bears. There was this huge grizzly bear and he was playing with this large red ball. He put it above his head and let it roll down his back. Then he swatted it into his big pool of water and jumped in after it. It was so cute and funny. Eventually he swatted it out of the water and tried to get it but it went over the edge, into the pit and he lost it. He took off running towards his cave and went inside. He came back out and walked around a little, looking for something else to play with. Watching him play and run was really quite something. He was so huge. Both boys were entranced.

The petting zoo was closed for some reason but we still saw the sheep and goats and one of the sheep came over to the fence to visit us. We saw a beautiful peacock, which was making these wonderful calls that we mimicked and we saw kangaroos and many other interesting animals, including an amazing, up close view of the rhinos that was pretty awesome. The sea lions were sleeping, basking in the sun on a rock. N kept waving at them and saying "night night". Adorable.

Our last stop was to see the chimps, which was really neat too. There were three of them sitting together and one mama had a three month old baby that she was holding. It was really cute. At one point, these three came right up to the glass. There was a lot of paper and stuff in the exhibit because they had celebrated a birthday and left the stuff in there for them to play with. One of them had picked up a streamer and carried it with him to the window. He rolled up a piece of it and was chewing on it. He rolled up another piece and stuffed it in his nose and then he blew it out. It was quite funny. They had these fake rocks on our side of the glass, allowing the kids to climb higher and closer to the glass and all three of these chimps and the baby were right on the other side, within a few inches of the glass. It was really great.

I have been to a lot of nice zoos but this had to be the most up close and personal zoo visit I have ever had. We really had a lot of fun and I was like a little kid, running while pushing the stroller from exhibit to exhibit and holding the kids up so they could see really well. I'm not sure who enjoyed it more, me or them!

May 17, 2007 Part 3

Hello? Hello? The "ball" phone.

Everything is a phone these days, which is interesting because I very seldom talk on the phone when they are awake and, when I do, they are normally short conversations.

Hello?? Hello?? The "block" phone.

Hello?? Hello?? The "ball" phone again. They are very amusing at times:).

Seeing the pretend play is great though. This is one of those milestones that we were looking for. They like to push their trucks around, making truck noises too.

The different faces of Nick:

Enjoying his thumb and lovey.

Pitching a fit. He has this down to a science and I am learning that ignoring him can end them very quickly, sometimes. Yesterday he was throwing a fit about something in the kitchen. I was doing something and happened to move where I could not see him. Then I noticed that he got up and moved over to where I could see him again, sat down and started throwing his fit again. Then I moved into the living room and, again, could not see him. He moved into the living room where I could see him again and kept going. It was really funny. But then I asked him if he wanted to sit in the "chair". He shook his head no and stopped the fit. This seems to be pretty effective, unless he is just too tired. The funny thing is when he starts to throw a fit and he sits down on the hardwood floor and then lays down very carefully before really starting to throw his fit. He learned very quickly that it hurts to hit your head on the floor.

Thankfully, his fits normally don't last long and he is usually more like this. He is a funny kid with a great sense of humor. He cracks both me and Ben up at times.

Here is a funny face from Ben, while playing with the pig and the barn.

I have a hard time getting really good pictures of Ben, which is frustrating because he has such a beautiful, contagious smile. This one is pretty good but I am still hoping to catch the really good one at some point. He is such a sweet boy and usually pretty laid back but, man, he does have a temper at times. He loves loves loves to read and will get upset if he brings a book to you and you don't pick him up and read it to him immediately. There are times when I am working in the kitchen and I see him sitting and looking at the books, turning pages and talking to himself. He will do this for quite a while and it is really cute.

It is so interesting to see their little personalities develop and emerge. I love it. You just never know what surprise you are in for each day. Life is definitely an adventure with these two little guys.

May 17, 2007 Part 2

So, I have been thinking that I really need to find some things for us to do, to get out of the house and see some sites. Today I was looking up fun things to do in our city and found that kids under 2 get into the zoo for free and kids under 3 get into the aquarium for free. There were also a couple of other interesting places, such as the aeronautical museum, where I would like to take the boys and that's free too. I really want to take them to see the planes taking off and landing at the airport but I'm not sure where to go to see this, since you can't see it from inside of the airport unless you have a ticket now days. I will have to check into this further.

I also need to check into the Parents as Teachers program that our school district offers. I have heard it is excellent. They do home visits, which we really don't need, but they also have the kids come to one of the classrooms and play, with parents present also. It sounds like it would be really fun for the boys, from what I have heard. I am guessing they don't do it in the summer months but hopefully we can sign up for the next school year.

They are still just a little young to really enjoy the park but I know, within a few months, they will love it and we will be there often. We have several great parks near us, which will be fun.

With the really hot summer months coming, it will be more of a challenge. Ben is very hot natured and it does not take much to get him sweating so much that his entire head of hair is wet. I feel so badly for him when this happens. So I have to keep this in mind when planning outdoor activities this summer. We will probably need to spend a lot of time having fun in water. Our little pool had a leak so we just bought a new little pool and I plan to set it up under the patio, in the shade. I think we will all enjoy that more than directly in the sun, especially when it gets really hot this summer.

I will be looking for other fun things also, to keep the boys challenged, interested and learning about their environment this summer.

May 17, 2007

I may have figured out a solution to our sleeping dilemma. Our issue is that Ben requires less sleep than Nick and is probably ready to do one nap a day. Nick still very much needs more sleep and two naps a day. I tried to move them to one nap and Nick would just be in melt down mode by nap time. I tried moving their morning nap out a little, which is fine for Nick, but Ben would still be lying awake for the longest time. Also, he would keep Nick awake too long so he would also end up not getting enough sleep.

I have refused to move them to two separate schedules because that would mean no break for me all day long and I just can't do that....at least, I cannot do that and still be a good mom.

So, today I decided to try something new. I put Nick down for his first nap at 10:30 and let Ben stay awake a little longer. Nick was not especially happy about this, as he has never gone to sleep in their room by himself. His brother has always been in the bed nearby so I was not sure if he would be too upset or not. He cried a little for a few minutes but it was more of a cry of protest than being upset and he was asleep within 10 minutes. Not bad.

Ben stayed up an extra 30 minutes and hung out with me. This was actually a really good thing. We had some one-on-one time together and I was also able to do a few things that I normally would have done when they were both in bed anyway. I could not get over how much quieter it was with just Ben awake and also how much slower things seemed to go. When the two of them are awake together, things are really busy around here.

Just before 11:00, I could that Ben was started to get sleepy so I changed his diaper and took him upstairs. This was another moment I was not sure of, whether or not he would wake up Nick. I suspected he would not, as Nick is used to going to sleep with Ben still awake and making noises. Sure enough, Ben cried/whined for just a couple of minutes and was asleep within 10 or so minutes. Wow! What a change!

When I put both of them down at the same time, they sometimes become real noisy, running around their crib and making funny noises towards each other and hitting their hands on the sides of their cribs. They really get each other going and the noise and activity level sometimes really ramps up. I had tried several things to deal with this and finally decided that was just something they were going to do, unless I separated them. It normally did not last for too long, as Nick especially would get tired and go to sleep so Ben would lay down and start chatting to himself for a while until he would eventually fall asleep.

This new solution may be just what we needed for now, until they are both ready to go to one nap a day. I may just put Nick down for the second nap and let Ben stay up. Having just Ben up is easier than I thought it would be. He is the lower energy level child, of the two of them, and does not require quite as much attention as Nick, which is another reason why it is nice to have him up alone so he can have a bit of one-on-one attention to himself. He is less likely to seek it out or compete for the attention than Nick is so he probably tends to not get quite as much of it as Nick does normally. I try to watch for that but it is hard to do all of the time.

I am relieved that this seems to be a good solution. I felt bad leaving Ben to lay awake so long in his crib, but Nick could not handle the same hours and I knew I needed some sort of break during the day. I wish I had thought of this sooner but I'm glad I finally figured it out.

Monday, May 14, 2007

May 14, 2007

I have wanted to be a mom for a long time, although I had also suspected that it would come through adoption. My husband and I married a bit later in life. We both waited a long time to meet the right person and are happy we did. When we were married, I suddenly felt that I had joined a club for which I had coveted membership for a long time. It felt so good to finally be married and to have married the right man for me. This is only thanks to God because, if it had been left up to me, I would have married the wrong man for me for sure. But God saved me from myself, thankfully.

Becoming a mom has reminded me of how it felt to finally get married. Once again I feel that I just joined a "club" that I longed to be part of for years. Mother's day was a very special day this year, since it was my first as a mom. It felt really good:). My husband got me two very special, sweet cards; one from him and one from the boys. He also bought me a sweet gift and I bought myself two books also:).

For me, becoming a mom has been somewhat of a process. This may sound funny but it is growing on me. Sometimes I feel more like a mom than others. Some days I am a better mom than others. Some days I revert back to the more selfish me and want more time for doing something that I want to do (like read a novel). Those days are becoming fewer and fewer though. More and more I am thinking and acting more like a mom....I think.

In the beginning it was harder. I am an introvert at heart, although many have mistaken me for an extrovert over the years. I need down time to re-energize. So it was harder in the beginning because I was not used to having so little down time. I experienced a period of about two or three weeks when I felt a bit depressed. I had read that this happens a lot to people after adopting and, when I experienced it, I was not too concerned about it but was happy when it did not last very long. In many ways, I felt that our transition as a family was harder for me than for anyone else. But I got through that tough time and things settled down nicely after that.

Over time, I am adjusting to needing less and less down time. Sometimes I will have a little "quiet" time while the boys are playing too. I try hard not to do this too much but there are times when I will read for a little while, while they play. I am finding that, if I do decide to read a novel, I really need to pick short ones. I tend to get wrapped up in them and I don't want to put them down, which is not a good thing when you have two children who require your attention. I may need to stick to the Reader's Digest:). I think it is good for them to see that mom has needs too and she does things to meet her needs. I also think it is good for them to know that they are not always the center of the universe. At the same time, I know they need a lot of love and attention and I do try to engage with them a lot each day and make sure I am meeting their needs.

My husband is great about spending time with them and helping me to meet my needs too. Our normal evening finds us eating dinner together as a family, my husband helps me clean up a little and then I finish up the details while he plays with the boys. After I finish cleaning up the kitchen, I normally go into another room and watch a little news or read a book for 30 minutes to an hour. It is a wonderful break for me and it gives him one-on-one time with the boys. They are still going to bed around 8:30 these days, which still gives us a little time to unwind before our bedtime.

In some ways I feel like I am still trying to figure out what kind of mom I am going to be. I have these ideas in my head of what being a mom is all about and there are many days that I feel that I don't measure up. I started out very concerned about balancing discipline and love and worrying that I was disciplining too much and not loving enough. I quit reading some of the things I was reading and stopped worrying about it so much and it feels better now. I worry about these things less and I think it seems a little more natural and little more "me" now, if that makes sense.

I finally understand what "mommy guilt" is all about. I still struggle with this when I feel that I have not given them enough attention or loved on them enough, or I go to bed thinking I may have been too harsh at some point during the day or maybe did not handle something in the best way.

They really are such a blessing to us and I love being their mom and I love being a stay at home mom. Several people told us that there would come a time when we would forget what it was like before we had kids. I think I am getting close to being there....but not quite yet. We were running errands yesterday and happened to drive near the movie theater we used to go to pretty much every weekend before we had kids. I felt a longing to go see a movie and was wishing we could go again. But the funny thing is that I am not ready to leave our boys with anyone yet. We have left them with my sister for one evening out and we leave them in the church nursery but that's about all I am comfortable with for now. The boys love my sister and she is so wonderful with kids that I would not hesitate to leave them with her. But I am just not ready to leave them with anyone else yet. I think it is just too soon, definitely for me and probably for them too.

When I do go out to run errands on my own, while the boys are with my husband, I am always anxious to get back to them. It is a funny and confusing thing, this feeling of wanting/needing some time away, combined with the opposite feeling of not wanting to leave them and rushing to get back to them.

As I have read so many times on other blogs before we had our kids, becoming a mom is much more challenging but also much more rewarding than I ever imagined it would be. As for me, I am still "becoming". Maybe becoming a mom is much like becoming a Christian, where we are always in the process of becoming more Christ-like. Maybe I will always be in the process of becoming more mom-like. I do wonder if I will ever measure up to the image I have of what a mom should be....probably not unless I learn to enjoy cooking more:). As I told a good friend the other day, I would pretty much rather change a diaper than cook a meal:). I need to pray more about this because I really wish that I would enjoy cooking.

One last thing about being a mom. As I go about my days, changing diapers, fixing meals and snacks, doing laundry, etc., I often think of my mom doing the same for me and my four siblings when we were little. It really has given me such an appreciation for her and for all moms. I love this new understanding I have, of finally being able to really understand and appreciate all that a mom does for and means to her family. It really is a very special thing and it was not something I really thought about much before becoming a mom.

So this first mother's day was very special, in that it was my first mother's day as a mom but it was also my first mother's day to really appreciate my mom in a whole new way.

Friday, May 11, 2007

May 11, 2007

For those of you who have followed my blog over the long haul, you'll remember that last year around this time, I was spending all of my time outside, replanting all of the flower beds in our front yard.

First, here is an excerpt of a post from May of 2006:

In other news, today I finished replanting all of the beds in the front yard. This was a huge accomplishment and I am so relieved to be finished. There are two large beds right in front of the house, two medium sized beds running along the small circle drive in front of the house and then one medium sized bed around the mailbox. In all I planted 14 boxwoods, 17 azaleas, approximately 20 or so day lilies, approximately 9 or 10 blushing butterflies, 4 meadow sage plants, 6 Firewitches, 4 other low-flowering plants that I can't remember the name of now, 40 blue lily turf plants, 2 muley grass plants, approximately 20 mondo grass plants, 2 lily of the nile plants, 2 vinca minor vines, 16 petunias, 12 impatiens, 1 red bud tree and 1 Japanese maple tree (My husband planted the trees and I helped:), and a partridge in a pear tree. Whew!! AND, first we had to remove all of the overgrown shrubs that were there to begin with. I did some of that on my own and then my husband helped me the rest of it (he did the majority of it). I had to use a pick to dig up the large roots and rocks and turn over the soil to prepare it for planting. The azaleas had to be planted with some special dirt stuff that was like a powder until it was watered down (so I had it all over me from head to toe for 4 days!...well, I did take showers after finishing each day). I also put down some weed cloth around the boxwoods and azaleas and then I mulched all of the beds. I have been to three different nurserys and have been a regular at one of them, to the point that they know me, know my project and have given me lots of advice on my many different visits.

It's taken me a while but, I promised I would show some pictures of my efforts at some point, so here they are, in all of their glory.

This first set of pics is from this spring, when the azaleas and phlox were in bloom. Our new little red bud tree looked real pretty too but I didn't get a good picture of it.

This picture gives you an idea of the different beds in the front yard. There are two large ones in front of the house, on either side of the porch, two medium sized ones just above the circle drive, on either side of the brick steps and then there is one bed around the mail box, which you can just see half of in this picture, bottom right.

In this picture, you can see some of the purple phlox in one of the medium sized beds and a long distance view of the azaleas up near the house.

Getting closer to the azaleas. We had a pretty bad winter here, with some deep snow and bad ice. Unfortunately, it was bad enough to keep the azaleas from blooming on the tops and it also almost killed many of the boxwood bushes along the house. I have taken a wait-and-see approach with the dead-looking boxwood though and it is paying off. They have surprised me at how they are coming back in.

Another picture of the azaleas and some additional phlox that I planted this year. I did not cut the azaleas back at all this year, in hopes that they will be really full and beautiful when they bloom next year.

And one last azalea picture, really close up, so you can see how beautiful the individual flowers were.

And the next set of pictures are more recent, within the past week or two.

Here are many of the day lilies and blushing butterflies in bloom in the beds along the circle drive. Actually, I should have taken a couple more pictures today because they are blooming even more now. Every day I am amazed at how many blooms there are. It is really incredible and very rewarding, after all of the hard work I put in.

Here are the pretty flowers around the mailbox. There are also three miniature crepe myrtle bushes behind the mailbox that are so small they are hard to see in this picture. I just planted them this year so hopefully they will be blooming later this summer. This area tends to get very very wet at this time of year and it killed some of the things I had just planted last year but, so far, it seems everything here is thriving this year.

Another view, close up, of some of the flowers in the bed around the mailbox.

Here are some of the day lilies in the beds near the house. You can see some of the damage to the boxwood, just in front of the house.

Here is another view of the same two beds in front of the house.

And, this is my window view from inside of the house. It is hard to tell from this small picture how many of the flowers I can see but it really is a beautiful view and I find myself going in there frequently during the day to look at the flowers outside. If you click on the picture, you might be able to see them better.

This small bed is in our side yard, although the windows are the main living room windows so we see this view a lot also. This Japanese maple tree was already here when we moved in and it is really a pretty tree.

Here is a close up of the bed. I replanted this one too but I did it last fall. We had to lower it because the prior owners had made the beds cover the lower part of the house, which is a big no no. This is an older picture and these little plants have really grown a lot this spring.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

May 10, 2007 Part 2

My husband finished the new sandbox for the boys and they really love it. He did a great job on it and it is a wonderful size for several kids to play together.
It has nice little seats in the corners and he also made a great cover to protect it from the weather, trees and cats.
It is shaded in the morning but, at some point in the middle of the day, the sun starts hitting it. So we moved the large umbrella down there and it worked out perfectly.

The only issue is the location. It is smack dab in the middle of the new flower bed I had started creating last year but had not started planting yet. I moved the large rocks there last year to outline the area and I moved in a lot of the dirt and transplanted a couple of shrubs and flowers but still have a lot to plant.
This is the flattest area in our side yard and we also did not have to destroy a large section of our grass. Of course, we have the risk of the large, hard rocks right next to the sandbox but mom will be there to help and protect and, as they get older, the boys will enjoy climbing on the rocks. I still plan to plant more flowers and shrubs in the rest of this bed but it is slow going so far (I've been a little busy lately). I will be posting some pictures soon of the gardens in the front of our house, that I spent oodles of hours ripping out and replanting last spring.

Here is daddy playing with play dough with the boys. It was really cute. It didn't last long...they are not quite into the play dough thing yet.

Here are some toys I bought at Tuesday Morning recently. That is definitely one of my very favorite stores. The boys really love the little dog and are pretty good at threading the pieces together, although it is a challenge for mom to keep track of all of the pieces. I probably put it back together and count the pieces (and search for missing ones) at least twice a day.
Ben likes trying to work the puzzles. Nick likes throwing them in the floor:).

May 10, 2007

We have had a lot of rain lately and have been house-bound quite a bit. After reading the book "What's going on in there?" (discussed in the last post), I have been especially occupied with ensuring the boys are engaged and challenged. So one day they seemed a little bored with their toys (or maybe that was me:) and I had read that all kids love tents so I created a "tent" for them to play in.

They loved it. They pushed and pulled toys through the tent/tunnel and went around and around. It was high enough that they could walk through it. I crawled through it a few times too and they thought that was fun.

We had a fun time and a nice thing for me was that I was able to put it away when they were napping and they didn't think twice about when they woke up. They never missed it but they sure enjoyed it while it was up. We'll do it again on another rainy day.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

May 9, 2007

We have had a busy month and the boys continue to change soooo much. We are continually amazed. They both continue to do very well with their sleeping, eating and attaching. So far, we have no issues at all.

We took them for their 18 month check up this week, although Nick is closer to 17 months old and Ben recently turned 19 months old.

Here is a picture of Nick from today.

And here is a picture of Ben from today.

They have grown so much that they are barely fitting into their 18 month sized one-piece outfits now. The funny thing is they are still wearing a couple of pairs of shorts that are 9 month size, although not for much longer. They are wearing shirts that are 18 months and some of those are getting to be a bit small also. They are still in size 3 diapers but I think they will outgrow those soon.

They are very into giving kisses lately. It's very cute and sweet and it warms our hearts. When we put them to bed the other night, we were saying "night night" to them and Nick said "nii nii" back to us several times. It was so sweet.

One afternoon, Ben wanted me to pick him up. I was doing something in the kitchen and could not pick him up right away so he sat down and started crying. Nick came in, looked at me, then at Ben, wondering why Ben was crying. He walked over and sat down on the floor right next to Ben. He had brought a toy pig and a toy sheep with him and he started bouncing the toy pig across the floor in front of Ben. Then he sat it down in front of Ben. By this time, Ben had stopped crying and he picked up the toy pig and started bouncing it around like Nick had done. Then, Nick leaned over and gave Ben a kiss. It was just so cute. I really wish we had been able to record that. They really are close now and it is obvious they care about each other so much.

They have each grown over 2 inches in 3 months, although I think Nick has grown a little more than Ben. Ben has put on more weight than Nick but they are both now weighing around 25 pounds, Ben a little more than 25 and Nick a little less. Ben is really right on track and looking really good for his height, weight and head on the growth charts.

These are my favorite PJ's. I think they look so cute in them.

Nick was the smaller of the two, when we adopted them, and is now in the 25th percentile for weight and 50th for height, which is incredible, since he was around the 3rd or 5th percentile for both when we adopted him.
The other thing we have had checked is the mole on B's right cheek, which has been growing quite a bit since he has been home. We noticed it when we first met him but, it was so small and the coloring was such that it really looked like a little bruise at that time; that's what we thought it was originally. It is still growing so we took him to a dermatologist last week and they said it is just a normal congenital mole and they grow more rapidly in the early stages. So we will be taking him to a plastic surgeon to discuss options for having it removed, hopefully before it gets too much larger.
This set of pictures was from the Sunday that we had our "baby" dedication at church.

The child development expert from Sooner Start has been coming out and we also had a speech therapist come out one week. The boys are catching up so quickly that I was questioning whether we really needed their services, since I don't want to waste their time. We decided that they will keep coming out twice a month until after the boys have their hearing retested and I meet with the nutritionist. The child development expert comes out and visits with me, listens to any concerns I might have and provides information and suggestions for how to get the boys up to speed on speech or development challenges. I think they are pretty close to being on track now but I enjoy visiting with her and learn a lot. They understand most of what we say to them these days and they repeat so many words I have lost count of them all. One of yesterday's new words was "brother". Most of them are words that only a parent would understand right now though.I read a book recently that I highly recommend. It's called "What's going on in there?" and is about how the brain and mind develop in the first five years of life. It was written by Lise Eliot and is really an interesting read. I also finished rereading Dr. James Dobson's book "Bringing up boys", which I really liked both times I read it and now I am rereading "Boundaries with kids" by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. It is an excellent book also; a very good book about setting age appropriate boundaries and allowing children to face consequences.

That's enough for today. My mom and sister are coming for a visit tomorrow so not sure if I will have time to post, although I have some additional pictures I want to share soon.