Busy busy busy

Friday, August 27, 2010

To say that we have been busy is an understatement. We have been homeschooling with full force. As I have said earlier, I am supplementing Caleb's phonics and math curriculums with a secondary curriculum. Although this adds a little bit more time to our schedule each day, I feel it's necessary in order to meet all his needs. He is soaring with his math. He is so close to adding and subtracting up to 50 with carrying and borrowing all by himself. Occassionally he needs some prompting from me. But he is almost able to do all the problems by himself. For a 5.5 year old, this is simply amazing. He was so excited to learn that some of his 2nd grade math books arrived in the mail this week. He just can't wait to start adding past 100 (his words.) We also introduced the concept of multiplication this week, and he did quite well (not surprising.) I am just so proud of him. His ability to read smoothly has also taken off! The fluidity of his reading is so much better than last year. It's just amazing how well it has improved in just a few short weeks. His cursive writing is also going very well, with great formation and spacing. And it's getting smoother each day. And not only is he doing so well with his work, but his ability to tune out his sister's noise has also greatly improved. So this makes for a better experience for all of us! LOL.

As you can see, I am one proud homeschooling mama. Caleb truly makes homeschooling for the first time easy. (Having one year of homeschooling under my belt also makes it easier for me.) There's just something so special and intimate about teaching him. There is an amazing sense of freedom with homeschooling because I can choose what he learns and when he learns it. If I were to enroll him in a traditional school this year, he would be starting kindergarten because of when his birthday falls. But he is beyond kindergarten curriculum. I am also completely against him being the youngest in his class (for a lot of reason I won't get into now.) So I wouldn't enourage the school to let him skip a grade either. It just seems best that homeschooling is really where he needs to be. And besides his education, his anxiety would still make learning difficult in a traditional classroom. Before we headed to China this summer, I was unsure how Caleb would be able to handle first grade curriculum AND a new sister. But after just a few short weeks, he has shown me he can handle both! I'm so proud of him.

Caleb has also started his therapy back up at our local elementary school. He really enjoys his time with his therapists. Caleb and Jin Bei are so excited to see each other when it's time to pick him up. Their squealing just makes my heart sing.

Last week, we went to Orlando to celebrate my niece Leah's 3rd birthday. It was a wonderful time. We arrived a little early so Jin Bei could get comfortable in my sister's house. Our saving grace was all of Leah's toys. She played quite happily with them, as most of the guests stayed in another part of the house to eat and mingle. She got to meet a few of her extended family members, my auntie Alison and cousin Ashley and my second cousins (like auntie and uncle) Ed and Eileen. We stayed the night in Orlando so we could spend more time with family. And we're so glad we did. Jin Bei did well with being out of her routine, which happily surprised us all. (I will post photos from Leah's birthday party soon. So hang in there.)

We headed back early on Sunday because Patrick and Caleb started up their mandarin classes at our local university. Caleb has been so cute "teaching" Jin Bei "Mama zao, Baba zao." It's really funny. He'll say, "Mommy Jin Bei said it right!" It's so sweet.

Jin Bei continues to amaze us. She's definitely a little joker, just like her ge ge. She makes the funniest faces. She is so curious and fearless. She still enjoys bath time with Caleb and tries to drink the water. Although she inconsistently tells us when she has to pee pee, she puts all her poo poo in the potty, which makes this "new to diapers" mommy quite happy. She is no longer a fan of having her teeth brushed because the dentist recommended we brush her teeth with just water. She would suck on her toothbrush so much while we were brushing when there was bubblegum flavored toothpaste on there. But now...it's not so much fun. Oh well. She loves to wash her "hands" because she hoists herself up on to the bathroom counter to turn the faucet on. Then she'll pump herself some soap and proceed to wash her left arm clear up to her shoulder! Rinsing the soap off calls for help from mommy. Otherwise a clothing change is in order. This week we started calling her Madeline Bei. Although she still quickly responds to Jin Bei, she's slowly getting used to the idea of Madeline Bei.

Well, last week I wanted to get a photo of Caleb at the start of his 1st grade year. Easy enough. Then I wanted to try getting a photo of our two dumplings together. That proved to be quite difficult (thank to Jin Bei, of course.) Anyway, I've included a few of the photos below. Be sure to check back a little later for the photos from Leah's birthday party.

Home two weeks

Saturday, August 14, 2010

It's hard to believe we've been home two weeks already. Things are going pretty well. After taking naps and going to bed without crying the first week, week 2 decided to bring on the tears. Thankfully, the crying was short-lived, and we are now back to sleeping without much fanfare.

Last week, we put Jin Bei in the pool, and she absolutely loved it! We've gone swimming several times, which has been wonderful in this heat. She has a preference for Patrick to hold her in the water. So I'm not so sure we'll be swimming much while he's at work.

We've gone to the park a few times. And let me just tell you, Jin Bei is fearless! She went down the big kid slides with a huge smile on her face and signed for more. She's just precious.

We've also signed Caleb up for Fall baseball. He's so excited to play yet he's still so anxious about it all. He keeps asking if we'll sit in the front row of the stands so he can see us. We've assured him we'll be there. But yesterday when we were at the park, I asked him if it would be okay for mommy and Jin Bei to watch the game from the playground (which is behind the t-ball field's outfield.) He told me no, that he wanted to see me in the front row. Hopefully at some point in the season, he'll be fine with us watching from the other side of the field. But even such a short difference makes a huge difference in his comfort level. It just breaks my heart. I do hope he'll be able to stick it out for the season, as he's a great little baseball player.

This week, Caleb officially started First Grade with me at home. He was soooo ready for first grade math, that we actually began it before we left for Ch*in@. Last year for K, we used A Beka for everything. For a first time homeschooling mom, it was the right thing to do. Now, with a year of homeschooling under my belt, I am mixing things up a bit. For math this year, we are using Singapore Math. In fact, we completed Singapore 1A in June, just one month! We are working our way through
1B and will, no doubt, begin 2A before Christmas. The way the lessons are laid out just click with Caleb. He can already add and subtrast within 20. And next week, we'll begin adding/subtracting within 40! I love this curriculum for him! Because it's mastery based, we are using A Beka for review (it spirals). So I think this is a nice mix. He doesn't need all the review of a spiraling program...just a little.

For phonics, our main curriculum is A Beka, which worked very well with Caleb last year. He's already learned so many special sounds, and the repetition is great. I am supplementing his phonics curriculum with Explode The Code. Right now we are working on Book 3. Although it's all review for him, he needs the help with language and comprehension. And the program goes slowly. So this is great extra help.

We are using A Beka for Spelling and Handwriting too. Although he's only done one year of manuscript, I decided to do cursive this year. Already (because of the way the lessons are laid out), Caleb can write his name in cursive all by himself! It helps to have a short name. But nonetheless, his formation and spacing is awesome! I am beyond proud of what he's been able to accomplish in just one week of first grade. Now, not getting distracted by his sister is a whole other issue. LOL. Oh my goodness. Homeschooling was way easier (for Caleb!) without a newly adopted 2yo sister in the room. School wouldn't take nearly as long each day if I didn't have to constantly repeat myself and ask him to pay attention. So....with that said, we are working to make our computer room/classroom toddler friendly. I stumbled upon a homeschooling blog that coined the phrase "tot school". Now I realize this is a tall order with a newly adopted 2yo, but I am willing to do whatever I can to make Caleb's school life easier by keeping his sister "out of his hair." So that's what I've been up to.

I thought I would share some tidbits about Jin Bei (we're still calling her that):

She squeals at the sight of food.
She can say up, more, chips, eat, please, thank you, help, mommy, daddy, ge ge, no. She also tries to repeat a lot of what we say.
She tries so hard to say art smock; it comes out as "Ah ma."
She loves to write on her lips with markers and crayons. Lovely.
She LOVES to brush her teeth.
And thanks to Caleb, she now enjoys her bath!

Anyway, here are some photos from our first two weeks home. I tried several times (with tried being the operative word) to do some photo shoots with my little munchkin. But as you can see in the last shot, the furrowed brow was mostly what I got! Enjoy!

Watching Caleb play baseball in the front yard

Enjoying bath time.....finally

Having fun in the pool!

Blowing kisses

The furrowed brow look I got in most shots I took

Jin Bei and her markers

Sunday, August 8, 2010

So today marks one week home, and I decided to give Jin Bei her Crayola wonder color markers. These are wonderful, as they only write on special paper. She figured out quite quickly how to get the caps on and off, which is no surprise because she's a little smartie pants. But true to form (like her crayons and the ziplock bag), she was more interested in taking the caps on and off instead of actually using her markers. Just precious. By the way, I took this video with my new iphone, which I am totally digging. Thanks, honey!

He didn't cry!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

We are so unbelievably proud of our precious ge ge, Caleb. Yesterday, he had to have his wellness check for school, which required one shot (thankfully only one). Well, our big, brave boy got that one shot in his leg and didn't even cry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh did my heart leap! All the while, Jin Bei was whimpering in my arms on her ge ge's behalf. (Poor girl was so scared to be in that doctor's office.) Anyway, we are just so proud of Caleb for taking his shot like such a big boy, way bigger than his 5.5 years. Way to go, Caleb. You're awesome! We love you. I just had to share!!!!

Travel recap and extra photos

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

As promised, I said I would recap our travel. It was quite an adventure getting from one place to the next. We left our hotel in Guang*zhou at 5pm on Friday. It took about an hour to get to the airport. We traveled with another family from our agency, Julie and Derek. So we had great company. When we arrived at the airport, it was mayhem. We couldn't believe the winding line to check in. Thankfully, our guide Helen was with us and convinced the folks at Ch*in@ Southern to open up a special check-in line. That resulted in every other adoptive family following us. LOL. The line to get through security was also unbelievable. By a miraculous act of God, a security officer just picked us out of the line and put us at the front of another. The line through customs wasn't as bad. But by the time we finally made it through and on our way to our gate, Jin Bei had an extremely full load in her diaper that Patrick was itching to dispose of.

By the time we got to the gate, we were extremely hot and sweaty. Patrick found some dinner for us that we wolfed down. Our flight ended up being delayed by an hour. That made us nervous because we only had 2.5 hours to get through customs and make our connection in LA.

We boarded the plane and found out our seats were 4 across instead of 2 in front/behind each other. Fortunately, the man sitting next to Patrick graciously gave up his seat so that Patrick and I could have aisle seats next to each other and not have to rely on exaggerated hand signals to communicate during the 13.5 hour flight. Jin Bei did awesome on the flight. We ate our dinner, she rubbed her eyes and proceeded to sleep for 8 hours. Thank goodness! And the squeaky shoes she was wearing helped me to know if she was about to fall out of her seat, which she "tried" to do several times. Caleb did well sleeping too. We had NO crying, which was a huge surprise and relief. It really was a great flight.

Once we got to LAX, we knew we would have to hussle to make our connection. Thankfully, since we flew premium economy, we were able to get off the plane first. We had to run to catch the bus that would take us to the terminal. Again, we got a great spot right near the doors. All the while, we were cheering my cyber friend Shelley, whose had less than an hour to make her connection. (Thankfully, she made it!) Anyway, we were one of the first through immigration and, thankfully, one of the first ones to get our luggage. With Caleb's adoption, we waited over an hour for our luggage. It was a nightmare. There was no way we could have a repeat. And, thankfully, we didn't. After leaving the Thomas Bradley international terminal, we had to get to Terminal 7 for our United flight home. This man who greeted us outside said to just keep walking....well, he didn't tell us that terminal 7 was on the complete OPPOSITE side of the airport. Well, we hussled all the way there. All the while, Caleb rode on the luggage cart (toting our carryons), and I carried Jin Bei in the carrier. Boy, she was loving the breeze in her hair. This girl is a thrill seeker, for sure!

When we finally managed to get to the United check-in, we were disappointed that the flight was full. We would've loved to upgrade to First class but that was not an option. We had less than an hour, at that point, to get through security and to our gate. So again, we had to hussle. We got to our gate in time to grab some water and candy and do one last diaper change for Jin Bei....and then I realized I packed all the extra diapers in my checked luggage. Yep, we had no more diapers for the flight home at that point. Lovely.

Well, we took our places at the back of the plane. Unfortunately, Patrick and Caleb were in the last row with seats that didn't recline. Jin Bei spilled water all over her dress. So she sat in her diaper for a while until Patrick could hurdle over the guy sleeping in the aisle seat in his row to get the change of clothes I packed for Jin Bei. Even then, I was afraid to put her bottoms on for fear of a leaky diaper. And that that point, she refused to use the potty on the plane because I mistakenly flushed the toliet with her in there after we left Guang*zhou. Thankfully, she was quite tired from all her travels, and she ended up napping for 3 hours on the 5 hour flight.

When we landed in Orlando, my sister, Deb, BIL Andy and niece, Leah, greeted us all. Leah was holding Caleb's precious stuffed lamb that Auntie Deb babysat for him while he was away. As soon as he caught sight of lamb, he made a made dash for her. It was so precious. We had some hugs and kisses, got our luggage and then had to head off because Patrick had to work.....yes, welcome home and get ready to work. Nice, eh?

Well, we knew when we put Jin Bei in her carseat that she would cry, and she did not disappoint. Fortunately, when she saw ge ge sitting in his booster seat, she stopped crying and realized it was okay. Once we got home, Caleb was anxious to show his sister her room. As soon as she saw her little toddler bed, she shook her head and backed away. I immediately scooped her up and showed her the rest of the house. She loved all the toys in the computer room/classroom, which is a good thing because she'll be spending lots of time in there. LOL.

I made everybody lay down for a little nap in the afternoon. Both kidlets were NOT interested in napping (Jin Bei cried especially hard), but there was no way I was going to let them go without because I knew by 4-5pm, they would be down for the count with no chance of waking up. We all slept for about 3 hours, and we all managed to wake up with no problem. We decided to try going to sleep around 10pm, which proved successful. Again, Jin Bei cried for a little while. But we were able to transition her from the big girl bed to her toddler bed with no problem. By 4am, though, both kidlets had had enough sleep. So we began our day. Jin Bei woke up with no tears. So it was great to start where we left off in Ch*in@ on that one!

Sunday went the same as Saturday with respect to sleeping and overall adjustment. Jin Bei is doing really well. She is getting used to the house rules (like only eating in the kitchen, and bubble blowing is only for outside, unlike Ch*in@). She still likes to show her attitude when we've had to correct her about something or she doesn't get her way. But even that is getting better! And she is even using manners by signing and/or saying them! It's pretty cute to watch her sign. I taught her how to blow a kiss when we were in Ch*in@. So when she signs "thank you," it's almost like a kiss; it's pretty cute. The other night, we attempted a bath. And at first, she cried pretty hard. But then she saw ge ge in the tub with all the toys, and the laughter began. It was a huge step for her! And we are so thankful for it.

Caleb has been wonderful playing with Jin Bei and overall just being a great ge ge. But he is having a really hard time adjusting to her being here. He cried pretty hard yesterday. But that being said, he is soooo good with her. He's so helpful and makes her laugh all the time. So despite the fact that he doesn't want a sister right now, his behavior doesn't reflect it at all.

Well, here are the photos I said I would share that were taken with our iphones. I know you will enjoy them. Thanks again, for following our journey. I will be sure to keep up the blogging now that we are home. But I can't make any promises as to how often that will be now that I have two little munchkins under my feet. LOL.

Waiting at the Wuhan train station, as we dropped off the Drewes

Eating noodle soup at the airport in Wuhan

Pringles, what kept Jin Bei quiet on the tarmac, as we waited 2.5 hours to take off from Wuhan

Big scorpions

Little scorpions and beetles

I tried the itty bitty scorpion

Yes, Patrick really did eat this gigantic scorpion

Getting ready to eat a yummy beetle


Dining on pigeon in Guang*zhou

Finalizing Jin Bei's citizenship papers in LA

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About This Blog

This blog is the place where shared our lives while waiting to bring our daughters Madeline and Havi home from China. (Our son Caleb was already home before this blog began.) It is now the place where we continue to share our life experiences, both big and little, as we try to glorify God and raise our 3 dumplings from China.

Feel free to join us as we journey through life, while I try to capture our days...

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