Sunday, May 26, 2013

Graduation & baseball

Mercer graduates from his Montessori school!  (although he'll be going to "summer camp" there~)

We started taking Mercer to the school when he was just over 3 months old.  He started out going 3 days a week 'til he was about 1 1/2 years old.  Then, he moved to 5 days a week.  When he was old enough to eat on his own, he moved up to the toddler room where he started learning rapidly.  It was really amazing to watch him absorb colors, shapes, coloring and the like.  When he was potty-trained, he moved up to the "primary" class of the Montessori program.  The rate of learning was even more impressive!  Counting, alphabet, days of the week, months of the year, more advanced projects beyond coloring.  This past year, he has been in the most senior room where there's a mix of pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and 1st grade.  This has been an interesting experience for him, as he has been able to press on to "higher level" tasks when he is wanting to and when he is able.  He's honed reading skills, has learned a lot of different countries, and has even been working on some addition and subtraction. 

Mercer can sound out words while reading and writing.  He likes to count backwards and he seems to be fascinated with numbers.  Every day -- for the past several weeks -- he asks us to do math problems with him "what's 7 + 7... what's 10 + 1... what's 32 + 32?"  (but it goes on for 10 or 20 equations!)  

Sometimes, he knows the answers to the smaller problems.  When he doesn't know it, we try to get him to count up on his fingers to get the solution. 

One of the things I'm most proud of, though, is that the teacher said he is observant and shows concern for others.  Todd is most proud of something that maybe he hasn't learned in school -- how much he loves his little sister / what a good big brother he's become.

His school held a graduation ceremony.  It was opened by members of a local school's ROTC group, a series of songs that the kids sang, and then a presentation of certificates to each child.   The whole thing was followed by a pot-luck luncheon, however, we did not stay for this.  We were trying to make it to Mercer's end-of-season baseball team party, but it had ended by the time we could make it over there.  Instead, he got to pick what-ever he wanted to eat at lunch (pizza up at the square).

Here are some links to the songs that Todd video taped at the graduation ceremony:
     - The World is a Rainbow:
     - You Are My Sunshine:
     - Days of the week (in English): 
     - Days of the week (in Spanish):
     - Kookaburra Song: 

And... on to baseball...

Mercer was on a team this spring called the Golden Lions.  It doesn't seem that any of the other kids from Mercer's t-ball team last fall moved up to the "farm league" -- the youngest kids baseball team. 

Out of the players, Mercer was definitely one of the youngest (5 - 7 year olds).  It took him a little while, but by the end of the season, he was able to hit from the pitching machine.  He still had to use a tee sometimes, but not always.  He didn't has as much focus out on the field as the older boys, however.  One of the first games, he and another boy were doing cartwheels. 
You can see here, in this picture (look closely) that he was interacting with us parents in the stand instead of paying attention to the batter on the opposing team.  Thankfully, this league still seemed a little laid back in terms of scores kept on the scoreboard and the like. 
The father of one of the oldest players on the team coached for most of the season.  Todd was the other main coach - filling in when this guy wasn't in town (which started out as very often).  Mercer took home a game ball the 2nd to last game of the season because he got off a couple of hits. 

One thing that we did not know that his little league does:  there was a big opening season parade and ceremony.  Mercer rode in the back of a pick-up truck with his teammates (and a couple of dads) throwing candy out to those who stood to watch.  Mercer is at the back of the truck throwing

There was a steel drum band playing while all of the trucks arrived to the presentation area.  Then, speeches were made and all of the teams were introduced. 

The league made a really big deal of the ceremony which had to be a lot of fun for the kids!

Isabella has had a "graduation" of her own.  She's graduated to sleeping on her stomach now -- she's too big for swaddling and can wriggle her way out of them anyways.  Isabella has also graduated to eating solid food.  She's been eating it about a month now (just had other stuff to blog about).  She started with powered cereal, then onto bananas, avocado, peas, apples, and butternut squash.  We're trying out one food at a time for 3-4 days straight like we did for Mercer to try to see if there are any allergies.  So far, so good - although I don't think she's too fond of avocado.... yet.  (Wait 'til she tries it with onion, tomato, lime, cilantro and garlic salt!)

Isabella is a much messier baby than Mercer was.  She spits up more often, but she also likes to blow raspberries while eating.  We take this as a sign that she's done because - quite frankly - we don't want to "wear" her food! 

All-in-all she's doing really well at it.  She's been watching us and observing for months while we eat.  Glad she can finally join the party~

Isabella is also starting to sit up on her own (with help). We put her in the boppy chair and hold her a little bit so she doesn't flop over. Seem to remember we used to stuff towels in behind Mercer when he was first sitting in that same foamy chair.

She does like to use a food mesh net thing that Mercer never cared for. You put frozen food inside of it & they can gnaw on it 'til it's soft enough to press through the "net."    (This photo captures both the gnawing and the sitting up with a little help.)  So far, we've put frozen bananas to aid in the teething that she's doing.

We feel that she's really close now.  The gums are getting a little bit whiter where the teeth are trying to push through.  We'll see how much longer it takes.  Who knows, maybe our next post will be about teeth?! 

~til then, enjoy!   


Monday, May 13, 2013

Isabella is 6 months old today + a Mother's Day Post

There are so many things to catch up on (such as Mercer's baseball and Isabella eating solid foods).  Those are coming.  Promise!!  Promise!!

I had to post quickly, though, and talk about the day that Isabella turned 6 months old.  She and I went to the church to go to a Bible dedication and luncheon for moms and babies.  There's a group of older women that hold a monthly "women's circle."  Every year - the day after Mother's Day - they announce the babies to the circle.  We didn't get to do this with Mercer because we weren't at the church yet 'til he was older. 

I got to sit with / meet a couple of other moms and babies -- including a baby girl that was born in the same hospital as Isabella just 2 days after she was born.  (Isabella was 2 days old when we picked her up.  Perhaps we were all there at the same time?!)  One funny mental note:  do not hold a drooling, sleeping baby in your arms on the same side as a hand-written name tag.  When she woke up from her little nap, I noticed a blob of green ink where my name used to be + a blob of green ink on Isabella's cheek!  Luckily, it came off.  : - )

Isabella will not have her 6 month old appointment until early June, so I don't have any up-to-date stats, but Todd took her for immunizations a couple of weeks ago and she weighed in at 15 1/2 lbs. 

Mother's Day was yesterday.  We've been talking about going to Chattanooga, TN for a while.  We've taken Mercer to Chattanooga before, but not to the aquarium.  The aquarium there is stellar -- Todd and I like it much better than the one in our city!   Plus, they have interesting architecture along the river, really nice public spaces, and art scattered about the city. 


We went in both buildings - exploring both the Ocean and the River journeys.  Isabella dozed off and on, but when she was awake, she seemed interested in the reflections of light, color, and movement.  It was fun to watch her be amazed.  Mercer stuck with us through both journeys.  He was fascinated by the fish as well as running down the ramps of the aquarium.  We ended up getting a membership because we like it so much and will definitely go back this year!  Not only is the aquarium great -- so is the urban landscaping / hardscape around the building.  There is a representation of the river that winds through the plaza outside the building.  Mercer spent some time playing in that plaza, of course!

One thing that neither Todd nor I have done (or the kids, of course) is explore the "north shore" of the city.  There is a pedestrian bridge over the TN river that connects the two sides of the city.  We parked on the opposite side and explored that area a bit before and after going to the aquarium.  The weather was perfect.  We hung out in Coolidge Park under the bridge while Mercer played a musical turtle, we played a sort of Frisbee game, and Mercer played in more water.

It was such a nice day spent together.

There are a lot of photos that Todd & I took... those will stream (below) as I post a letter found on the Internet - written to adoptive mothers.  SO MUCH of this seemed to hit home.  I want to keep this / document in the blog so that Mercer and Isabella know what all we went through and how our love for them endured this intense process.

I need to also include this picture, though, of Mercer holding some mother's days thing that he made at his school.  I went - along with a bunch of other moms & grandmas to their annual mother's day party.  Oh... I will always remember the day that I went to the school and saw that one of his Merrell shoes was painted gold!  : - )

Dear Mom of an Adopted Child,
I met you in adoption education class. I met you at the agency. I met you at my son’s school. I met you online. I met you on purpose. I met you by accident.
It doesn’t matter. The thing is, I knew you right away. I recognize the fierce determination. The grit. The fight. Because everything about what you have was a decision, and nothing about what you have was easy. You are the kind of woman who Makes.Things.Happen. After all, you made this happen, this family you have.
Maybe you prayed for it. Maybe you had to convince a partner it was the right thing.  Maybe you did it alone. Maybe people told you to just be happy with what you had before. Maybe someone told you it simply wasn’t in God’s plans for you to have a child, this child whose hair you now brush lightly from his face. Maybe someone warned you about what happened to their cousin’s neighbor’s friend. Maybe you ignored them.
Maybe you planned for it for years. Maybe an opportunity dropped into your lap. Maybe you depleted your life-savings for it. Maybe it was not your first choice. But maybe it was.
Regardless, I know you. And I see how you hold on so tight. Sometimes too tight. Because that’s what we do, isn’t it?
I know about all those books you read back then. The ones everyone reads about sleep patterns and cloth versus disposable, yes, but the extra ones, too. About dealing with attachment disorders, breast milk banks, babies born addicted to alcohol, cocaine, meth. About cognitive delays, language deficiencies. About counseling support services, tax and insurance issues, open adoption pros and cons, legal rights.
I know about the fingerprinting, the background checks, the credit reports, the interviews, the references. I know about the classes, so many classes. I know the frustration of the never-ending paperwork. The hours of going over finances, of having garage sales and bake sales and whatever-it-takes sales to raise money to afford it all.
I know how you never lost sight of what you wanted.
I know about the match call, the soaring of everything inside you to cloud-height, even higher. And then the tucking of that away because, well, these things fall through, you know.
Maybe you told your mother, a few close friends. Maybe you shouted it to the world. Maybe you allowed yourself to decorate a baby’s room, buy a car seat. Maybe you bought a soft blanket, just that one blanket, and held it to your cheek every night.

I know about your home visits. I know about your knuckles, cracked and bleeding, from cleaning every square inch of your home the night before. I know about you burning the coffee cake and trying to fix your mascara before the social worker rang the doorbell.
And I know about the followup visits, when you hadn’t slept in three weeks because the baby had colic. I know how you wanted so badly to show that you had it all together, even though you were back to working more-than-full-time, maybe without maternity leave, without the family and casseroles and welcome-home balloons and plants.
And I’ve seen you in foreign countries, strange lands, staying in dirty hotels, taking weeks away from work, struggling to understand what’s being promised and what’s not. Struggling to offer your love to a little one who is unsettled and afraid. Waiting, wishing, greeting, loving, flying, nesting, coming home.
I’ve seen you down the street at the hospital when a baby was born, trying to figure out where you belong in the scene that’s emerging. I’ve seen your face as you hear a nurse whisper to the birthmother that she doesn’t have to go through with this. I’ve seen you trying so hard to give this birthmother all of your respect and patience and compassion in those moments—while you bite your lip and close your eyes, not knowing if she will change her mind, if this has all been a dream coming to an abrupt end in a sterile environment. Not knowing if this is your time. Not knowing so much.
I’ve seen you look down into a newborn infant’s eyes, wondering if he’s really yours, wondering if you can quiet your mind and good sense long enough to give yourself over completely.
And then, to have the child in your arms, at home, that first night. His little fingers curled around yours. His warm heart beating against yours.
I know that bliss. The perfect, guarded, hopeful bliss.
I also know about you on adoption day. The nerves that morning, the judge, the formality, the relief, the joy. The letting out of a breath maybe you didn’t even know you were holding for months. Months.
I’ve seen you meet your child’s birthparents and grandparents weeks or years down the road. I’ve seen you share your child with strangers who have his nose, his smile … people who love him because he’s one of them. I’ve seen you hold him in the evenings after those visits, when he’s shaken and confused and really just wants a stuffed animal and to rest his head on your shoulder.
I’ve seen you worry when your child brings home a family tree project from school. Or a request to bring in photos of him and his dad, so that the class can compare traits that are passed down, like blue eyes or square chins. I know you worry, because you can protect your child from a lot of things — but you can’t protect him from being different in a world so intent on celebrating sameness.
I’ve seen you at the doctor’s office, filling out medical histories, leaving blanks, question marks, hoping the little blanks don’t turn into big problems later on.
I’ve seen you answer all of the tough questions, the questions that have to do with why, and love, and how much, and where, and who, and how come, mama? How come?
I’ve seen you wonder how you’ll react the first time you hear the dreaded, “You’re not my real mom.” And I’ve seen you smile softly in the face of that question, remaining calm and loving, until you lock yourself in the bathroom and muffle your soft cries with the sound of the shower.
I’ve seen you cringe just a little when someone says your child is lucky to have you. Because you know with all your being it is the other way around.
But most of all, I want you to know that I’ve seen you look into your child’s eyes. And while you will never see a reflection of your own eyes there, you see something that’s just as powerful: A reflection of your complete and unstoppable love for this person who grew in the midst of your tears and laughter, and who, if torn from you, would be like losing yourself.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A busy week for baby Isabella, part 2

While we were celebrating Isabella's adoption finalization with friends and family - we decided to have her baptism the same weekend so that the family that was in town could participate in that as well. 

Isabella was not the only baby being baptized on April 21st in the Contemporary Service.  There was a little 8 month old baby boy who also shared the day.  Isabella's baptism went first.  Elder Patricia Sprinkle (one of the women pictured at the adoption finalization party) served and introduced us then read statements to the congregation while we held Isabella at the front of the church. 

Afterwards, Pastor John Wells held her, sprinkled water on her head three times (once for the Father, once for the Son, and once for the Holy Spirit), then anointed her head with the oil.  She wasn't sure about what all was going on, but she rolled with it. 

Our new Senior pastor baptized the little boy.  Then he and John walked up and down the aisle each holding a baby.  One of my favorite things that happens when babies are baptized in the Contemporary Service: the congregation sings "Jesus Loves Me."  You have to look closely.... check out Isabella's mouth.  She's sticking out her tongue!  : - )

The tongue thing is new, but she's been doing it a lot lately.

We were glad that Pastor Wells got to baptize Isabella.  He's the one who baptized Mercer.... and this service was his last as he was retiring at the end of April! 

It may be hard to see, but worth noting: the shoes Isabella is wearing are some that my grandmother, Edith, knitted for my Aunt Becky. White (well, "aged" white) with little pink roses on them. The dress and cotton slip she is wearing is vintage from a nearby antique store. The hooded cloak she is wearing is one that was given to my mom at a baby shower in Texas just before I was born. It also has little pink roses stitched on it.

Here are some great pictures of the family:

Dad and Charlie 

My mom

Todd's mom and brother, Jimmy

And a photo of a member of my extended family... Karla (the next door neighbor mom of my childhood best friend, Susan)

Isabella and Todd sharing a moment

Mercer pulled us together for this shot.  LOVE IT!

Afterwards, all of the family came back to the house for brunch and more cake!  Another beautiful cake that our neighbors Pam and Orie had made!  (and - yes - Mercer insisted on eating the faces!!)

Dad and Charlie hit the road - getting in some last cuddles and hugs.

Todd took Rose Marie and Jimmy to the airport doing the same. 

My mom stayed another day before heading home.  Unfortunately, it was too crazy on Monday morning -- getting everyone out the door & to daycare, that we didn't get photos!   

The memories created will last a lifetime.  The weekend was a great one for our little family! 

We are truly blessed to have these two beautiful children in our lives.