Nov 7, 2009

Finally! A sunny day for soccer

The Smiths enjoyed the 1st sunny day of soccer in over a month. Dad got a new cell phone (a distant cousin of R2-D2) and figured he'd look into how the camera and internet worked. If he can take and post pictures all at once, perhaps this site can get an update or two before the next overseas adoption.

Feb 26, 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Sorry for not posting in over a month. Unlike Sara and Renee, blogging really isn't my long term thing. You'll notice that Jeremy got nothing after our return flight in 2005!

But since Sara harassed me personally, I figured I'd go ahead and confess. We were jealous when we saw that Mya had to go to the emergency room to have a Lego extracted from her nose, so we staged a fall from the booster seat at the kitchen table on to the tiled floor in order to take Leah to the pediatric orthopedic to get a cast for chipped elbow bone. She'll be in a cast for another two weeks although she doesn't seem the least affected by it's presence. Apparently that was not the case as it was being "installed."

For the record, you are more likely to see more updates if you join the Facebook revolution and make friends with Angela and I. Old people are joining up in droves. What are you waiting for??

(Editor's note: to avoid a call from DSS, the 2nd paragraph is completely fictitious. Although Leah did suffer a fall from her chair while coloring with the boys, neither Angela or I encouraged the inhumane treatment of our daughter.)

Jan 24, 2009

Family Life

You may be wondering what the Smith family does now that life is back to "normal." Here is a glimpse into our lives:

When Angela is not making breakfast, doing laundry, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, changing diapers, preparing lunch, holding Leah, reading to Jeremy, teaching the boys, taking a shower, or sleeping you'll find her on the computer. If she's not preparing the taxes, answering email, planning home school lessons, or balancing the checkbook she is most likely playing Puzzle Pirates. You might think with all the aforementioned tasks she would have no time for pirating, but actually she still finds time to distill, weave, forage, sail, bilge, rumble and sword fight! You'd be amazed at how often Cassiddee (her alter ego) is on Sage Ocean gathering hordes of poe (gold) while fighting zombies and other pirates on the high seas...

Of course, this means that at times Leah is forced to take care of herself. She has tried to dress herself, but hasn't yet figured out which limb goes in which hole. We have also found that not all the pants that fit her for length, adequately fit for girth!

Jeremy is full swing into school where he is busy learning phonics and writing his letters. Grandma did an awesome job at teaching him how to write his name, and he now proudly "signs" all his drawings. I'm hoping Leah likes to draw flowers and ponies when she gets older to balance out all the light saber duels and Pokemon characters currently on the refrigerator door.

Eli is in school as well where he's already answering questions in a third grade math book (by county age standards, he should be in the first grade -- gotta love the home school advantage of moving through different subjects at different speeds). He is writing well and is currently reading "chapter books" which he enjoys as long as he gets to pick out the subject matter. Apparently mystery stories written in the 1950s don't interest kids these days...

Of course, when the boys aren't schooling, they enjoy playing in the back yard where soccer and baseball are favorite past times. If it's an indoor day, they stay busy making a complete mess of their bedroom while playing with Legos, Matchbox cars, or Pokemon cards. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays they are allowed to play video games (sparingly). Jeremy hasn't completely gotten the hang of the PlayStation 2 controller so Eli has resorted to trying to teach Leah in an effort to find a competitor when Daddy isn't home.

Dinner is always a blast for me, especially since I am so anal about cleanliness. I used to sit beside Leah, but had to move opposite her at the table so Angela could have the pleasure of dealing with the "show." Unlike while we were in China, Leah will eat practically anything we put in front of her which is good since Angela has always stuck to the policy of one dinner for everyone -- if you don't want what's served, breakfast is only 12 hours away! We often jest about how much food Leah can put in her belly (she does have the second largest gut in the house after daddy -- did you see those pants in the picture above??). This 17-month old girl eats like a hobbit. Breakfast is served as soon as she wakes up (to avoid the crying so early in the day), morning snack is about two hours later, and lunch comes about 90 minutes after that. There are the two afternoon snacks a couple hours apart, and then of course dinner. If dinner is earlier than usual, there's sure to be a nighttime snack and each of those "meals" is separated by a continual refilling of the juice cup. I suppose I should be happy that all of dinner doesn't end up in her stomach, but at the same time it's getting old having to clean up the kitchen floor after every meal!

Dinner is often followed by bath time which is easier than using half a roll of paper towels to clean up our little monsters. In an effort to save time and money (not really, but it sounds good doesn't it?) we have started sticking everyone in the tub together. I wonder how long it will be before Leah realizes she's a little "different" than her brothers? Copious amounts of bubble bath should avoid that question for a couple of years -- at least from Leah. The boys have already inquired!

So where does that leave me? Well, unfortunately someone has to work to keep a roof over our heads and food on the floor -- err -- table. If I'm not at work or out jogging (I've found jogging to be a nice "retreat" from the insanity at home), you'll typically find me in the living room trying to block out the noise of family life with a good nap! Speaking of naps, I think I'm overdue for one...

Jan 15, 2009

Home Sweet Home...Almost

Alas, we have no pictures to share with you but I'm overdue for an update so I guilted myself into providing some sort of an entry. I think everyone in the Smith family has finally settled into a routine although Dad had a hiccup about a week ago that left everyone reeling for a couple of days.

Eli has been a fantastic eldest brother from the day we arrived back in Charlotte. We rarely have to ask him to help. If mom needs someone to "babysit" while she gets dinner together or needs to use the bathroom, Eli is typically ready to lend a hand and knows how to stack blocks for the sole purpose of having her knock them down. It helps that Leah loves to be around her oldest brother as well. If he has her attention, you will usually find her smiling and laughing at his every action.

Jeremy is still adapting to his new role of middle child. He seems to be convinced that Leah always has "stinky pants." Thanks to her aggressive personality, Jeremy is quite timid around her and fears that she may gouge out an eye or tear out a chunk of skin at any moment. At first I thought he was overreacting, but the other night she drew blood from my left cheek while we were playing together! We're going to have to keep an eye on her "claws."

I think that Jeremy is too young to understand that sometimes when the parents are playing with Leah, it's only to keep her entertained so that she doesn't become fussy. If he sees us laugh when she knocks down a stack of blocks, he feels the urge to knock the next stack over missing the point of our interaction. When we try to explain it to him, he gets upset and marches up to his room as if he's just been disciplined. Hopefully he'll find his place in the new sibling order soon enough. We like Jeremy just the way he is!

If Leah had a mood ring, it would likely break from changing back and forth too often. When she's happy, she's the cutest thing ever. For some reason, I think she looks like Charlie Brown's younger sister Sally sans the blond hair. When she's happy, she has a sweet smirk that lets her teeth peek through just barely, and when she laughs you can't help but laugh along with her.

But when she gets upset, look out! She will either raise her voice, moan or cry. She will not allow anyone to touch her except for mama, and if you even look at her she will become even more upset. Although she is going to sleep around 8 PM, she tends to awaken several times throughout the night and cry until mommy comes by her bed to console her. During the day, she takes a nap around noon, but lately her nap time has been intermittent as well. Angela and I think she is overdue for a good solid night's rest, but we haven't been able to convince her of that yet!

Lately she's picked up the habit of having her shoes with her at all times. The pink ABC shoes we bought for her in China are her preference but she'll accept any pair rather than walk around in her socks. Angela just bought her some pink slippers to wear around the house to avoid having her wear her dirty shoes in the house. Who knew Mya's behavior in China was contagious?
"She will NOT take off her shoes and if Bill or I take our shoes off, she brings them to us and chatters in Chinese with a desperate look on her face. Like Karleigh Mei with her coat, she wants to be 'ready'."
(Knowing our friend's daughter has overcome her need to be shoed all the time brings us hope that Leah will learn to enjoy being barefoot like the rest of the Smith clan!)

Angela is the model of patience. She seems to take everything in stride and somehow manages to find time to get all the house work done, cook meals for the family, balance the checkbook, and keep the orders filled in her liquor store. If Leah is having a meltdown, Angela either finds a way to calm her down, or ignores the issue without being affected by the "background noise." She gets up throughout the night to encourage Leah to go back to sleep and recently has set up the air mattress in Leah's room to sleep there in the early morning hours when Leah becomes restless long before sunrise.

And so this leaves me. Everyone else is adapting to the new addition to the family, but what about old dad? I'm learning my role too, but I'm not adapting as easily as everyone else.

First off, we had spent the first couple of weeks with Leah sleeping in our bed to avoid the transition of getting her to sleep in her own room in favor of getting a full night's rest. Unfortunately, our sleep was not as restful as we had hoped thanks to Leah's habit of rolling an kicking in her sleep. Angela and I wound up sleeping on the very edge of our bed and waking up thoughout the night when we were accidentally kicked in the face or groin. If she made contact with us, it would often wake her up at which point she'd become cranky and cry for a few minutes until we could coax her back to sleep. Once I started back to work, I began to sleep on the couch in order to have a better night's rest to get through the workday.

Secondly, the boys continued their habit of playing with toys downstairs. We have a fairly small house and their bedroom has always been the messiest room in the house. So when Eli wants to put together his latest Lego creation, or Jeremy wants to set up his Hot Wheels racetrack, they do it in the living room where there isn't a mess. Of course this creates a mess, and now Leah is there to get in the mix and mess up whatever it is they are trying to do.

On top of the mess, we now have everyone raising their voices to be heard. Jeremy doesn't want Leah playing with his cars. Leah wants mama's attention because Jeremy won't let her bite his ear. Eli wants someone to fill his juice cup. The TV volume has to be raised to be heard over the din. Daddy comes home from a long day of work ready to relax?

One day last week, I did what any rational head of the household would do in a similar situation. I snapped. Actually, I shut down first. I began by intentionally walking in the door, heading upstairs without saying "hello" and changing into my running gear. I would then leave as soon as possible to go jogging for an hour or as long as necessary to miss family dinner, then return home and take my shower while the kids were getting ready for bed. Once they were safely in their rooms, I would sneak downstairs for a late supper and then sit in front of the computer until Angela went up to bed at which point I could lay down on the couch to fall asleep.

This pattern lasted about two days before I imploded. While standing amidst the messy living room, and raising my voice loud enough to be heard over the other family members, I let it be known that I was sick and tired of being a guest in my own house. It was time that Leah learned to sleep in her own room so that I could sleep in my own bed. It was imperative that the boys keep their room clean so that the living room could once again be lived in, and the noise levels had to tone down when I got home so that I could have some peace and quiet for just a little bit.

I had to settle for my own bed and a clean living room. I guess noise is just part of the deal when you have five people in a 1600 sq. ft. house.

I'm doing better now. Well enough that I can actually write about my behavior without wincing (too much) or getting angry about it again. I have always joked with Angela that I'm not cut out for the 0-5 age group. Our unwritten rule has always been that she gets them until they are 5, then I take over until they move out. I like to argue that I'm "stuck" with them far longer, but admittedly she gets the toughest time line! I still don't like it when Leah gets cranky for no apparent reason. Yes, I realize she's only 17 months old and doesn't need a reason, but my OCD personality can't grasp that. Angela, in her infinite grace, has found a way to keep me sane in addition to all her other miracles of the day. At least one of us is guaranteed a front row seat in Heaven. :)

Finally, Leah is currently suffering some kind of a rash. Angela panicked at first that it might be a reaction to the chicken pox vaccination she recently had, but it looks more like acne on her face. Today she also has small bumps all over her chest. My opinion is that her face and chest are unrelated, but both a result of some allergy -- perhaps to the laundry detergent or as a result of rubbing her hands on her skin. She rubs her eyes agressively when she is tired and scratches her neck and chest when she's nervous or shy. I suppose if it persists through the weekend, we'll look into a doctor's visit next week. Aside from that and the intermittent sleeping she is doing fine. We still compare her acclimation to Jeremy's and she continues to be a piece of cake compared to him. If he has turned out to be a sweetie, we have no reason to doubt that she won't as well. Hopefully daddy can make it until that day!

Jan 1, 2009

2009 Starts on Sad Note

Our dog, Zeke, made it about 3 hours into the new year. :(

This board's name comes from our first family dog, Kira, who we put to sleep in 2007 when she developed health problems that were affecting family life. We still had Zeke, a shepherd/collie mix at the time. His health has been declining lately and we were worried that he might die while we were in China. Fortunately he did not present a problem for Grandma while we were overseas and he even got to meet Leah, who was immediately attracted to Zeke when we first arrived home. She was very gentle around him and like to pet him whenever he was in the room. Unfortunately, we never thought to get a picture of Zeke with the five of us since returning from China.

It occurred to me that aside from fish and hamsters, I have never been present for a pet's passing. Zeke has been weak and waning for several weeks and died peacefully while laying beside our bed. We have decided to bury Zeke in our back yard. My sensitive nose had me up around 4:30 AM, and I decided to dig a hole in an out of the way location by the light of a flashlight. I'm waiting for the family to wake up so we can place his body in the plot and fill in the dirt. Then we can focus on getting rid of the stink in the house.

The boys knew what was happening and are taking it quite well. Although I'm sad, it's something we knew was just a matter of time, and the whole family had plenty of time to say goodbye. I think there will be minimal grieving time although it may be odd not to have to worry about feeding and potty times. The thought of not having to wander around the backyard late at night with a flashlight while clapping and whistling in search of an old, deaf dog actually puts a grin on my face.

Good-bye Zeke. You will be lovingly remembered. :)

Pictures courtesy of Eli -- he's quite the amateur photographer!