Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Highlights

It probably goes without saying, but Christmas was extra special for our family in 2008. In our quest to have children over the past few years, holidays have always been tough. This year, we felt blessed beyond measure. Isabel added a little extra joy to all of the festivities for us as well as both of our families.

On Christmas eve, we went to church at 5:00 p.m. Richard and I have always loved going to the 11:00 p.m. service, but we were quite sure that would not work too well this year. Isabel was truly an angel during the hour and a half service. We couldn't have asked for a better behaved child. My favorite part every year is when they turn out the lights and we sing "Silent Night" while holding lit candles. It's beautiful and makes me cry every time. This year, I sobbed a little harder as I saw the wonder on Ibby's face as she looked around at all the glowing candles. It was truly a magical moment. After church, it was home for some pictures in front of the tree. Next year, we will have to remember that picture taking would work much better BEFORE church. As it was, she was hungry and tired and had discovered the bow that mom had placed in her hair hours before (which luckily had gone undetected through the service). Here is a picture of Ibby's triumph once she extracted the bow.

On Christmas morning, we had breakfast as usual. After eating a hearty meal, we asked Isabel to go to the Christmas tree, which she dutifully did. She was pleased to discover lots of presents there including a Bitty Baby, stroller, booster chair, crib, and other accessories plus a set of dishes and pots and pans. But what good are the kitchen utensils without a kitchen? That was the last surprise, set up in the family room and hidden under blankets. She started playing with it immediately, whipping all sorts of goodies, and she would have played with it all day if we would have let her, but we had to get to Grandma Sandy's house.

There were even more gifts to open at Grandma's house. Isabel loved her new Dora futon from Uncle Jeff and Aunt Kris. And it's clear that she was really excited about Elmo Live from Grandma Sandy and Aunt Sue. Once he was unwrapped, she gave him a big fat kiss right on his orange nose.

And what did Santa bring for Richard and me? You know, there were no presents under the tree for us this year. We couldn't think of a thing we wanted since we had already received the greatest gift of all, our beautiful (and smart and funny) daughter.

Oh, and one more picture. Before bed, Isabel discovered that she fits in her baby's crib. The baby doll looks none too comfortable though. Silly girl!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fun in the Hotel Tub

This past weekend, we traveled to Wisconsin to celebrate Christmas with my side of the family. We stayed at a Residence Inn in Madison, and Isabel enjoyed herself immensely in the hotel tub. Our tub at home is wide and deep, so we use a smaller plastic toddler tub for Ibby to sit in when she bathes. Free of the confines of the plastic tub, Isabel felt free in the vast expanse of water in the full sized tub. These pictures show her reclining in the water and splashing like crazy while reclining in the water.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Long Enough for Pigtails...Almost

Monday, December 8, 2008

With a Heavy Heart

I spent much of the weekend in tears. Even now, when I think about it, my eyes well up, my heart aches, and I can barely contain myself.

It was a typical Saturday morning. I took a brief respite from mommyhood to peek into the adoption forums while Richard played with Isabel. On what I thought was a routine check of Guatadopt, an online forum for those who have adopted or are adopting from Guatemala, I was shocked to read a thread entitled, "Sad News...Condolences." What I read there made me sob. Josi, a young, beautiful Guatemalan girl just weeks away from joining her forever family, had been murdered. Her foster parents, a prominent physician and his wife, and their two children were also killed. An article from a Guatemalan newspaper speculates that a former employee of the couple who was disgruntled over his firing may have been the one to execute the entire family. There was no sign of forced entry. The breakfast bowls were on the table. All of the family members had their throats slashed.

Do I know anyone involved? No. Still, this senseless tragedy has shaken me so that when I think about it now, even days later, I am numb. How could anyone do this? How could anyone devalue humanity so much as to be able to take the life of another and in such a brutal way? Why? Why? Why? Oh, Lord. Why?

Adding to my grief is the sorrow I feel for Josi's adoptive family here in the U.S. Having been through adoption myself, I understand the longing for a child who is miles and miles away under the care of another. I know firsthand the fear over what could happen to the child or to the process as you can only wait and wait and wait. But to have made it this far, over a year into the adoption proceedings with a birth certificate that lists the child as your legal offspring in hand, just weeks away from bringing that child into your home forever, and then, that child, that beautiful, innocent child, tragically killed...and not by accident but by the deliberate and evil act of another. Oh, it is almost too much for me to bear. I cannot imagine the depth of pain felt by this family who just days ago was looking forward to a special and joyous Christmas, their first with Josi at home.

Distraught, I wondered what I could do that could in some way help to ease this family's pain. There are no words to comfort, and any act at all could never, ever erase the suffering. But that's when another adoptive mom came up with an idea. Adoption is expensive, and Josi's family had struggled to gather the funds to pay their lawyer. Just weeks ago, they sent in a final payment of over $12,000, and now, they will never bring their daughter home. Since there is no way to alleviate the pain, why not help the family financially so that with the heavy burden they are already carrying, they do not need to worry about money as well. Please. Give what you can. I know that the family has been lifted up by the outpouring of love they have received since the news broke, but let's go one step further. Let's help this family during one of the darkest hours of their lives, and let's help them in a very tangible way by donating in Josi's memory.

If you go to the family's blog, you will find a "chip in" button on the sidebar. Look around you. See all that you have to be thankful for this holiday season, and then think of all the Azhderian family has lost.

Azhderian Family Blog

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Highlights from Texas

We just returned home after six wonderful days in San Antonio, Texas, visiting our dear friends Lynn, Tom, and Will. Will and Isabel are just eight days apart in age, and they have been lifelong friends, having first met when they were just 10 weeks old. It was so fun to see the two of them together. Will was a very gracious host, letting Isabel play with all his toys and never complaining once. The two of them played so well together because they are so similar in temperment. The only time we saw any discontent is when the other set of parents would give some love to a child not their own. There was definitely a little jealousy in the air. Here are just a few pictures of our visit.

Up, Up, and Away

Can't you see that's my chair? It has my name on it!

Elmo Live was a Huge Hit with Isabel

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen?

Isabel and Her New Friend, Paige

The People on the Bus

Have You Even Seen Cuter Butts?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Day at the Science Museum

Though probably more interesting for older kids, the Minnesota Science Museum in St. Paul has a lot of fun exhibits and activities for the younger crew, too. We spent about four hours there on Saturday. Isabel had a blast.

Hanging out with the Dinosaurs...not Mom's favorite

Watching the Tornado

The Free Floating Ball
Isabel's Favorite Display...Piano Notes and Sound Waves

Eating Lunch like a Big Kid

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Half a Year Home Today

Today marks six months since Isabel has been home with us. It's hard to believe that much time has passed so quickly. Just this morning, Richard and I were marveling at how she's changed. When we brought her home from Guatemala, she was just a baby, ten months old. We could sit her down in one spot, and she would stay right there. She was still drinking bottles. She spoke no words. She played, but not purposefully. Now, I am startled when I look at her and realize she is becoming quite the big girl. Her personality, sweet and goofy, curious and intelligent, has emerged. She is running and skipping. She speaks about ten words and can almost tell you her name when you ask. ("What's your name," we'll say. "Isa," she'll respond, sometimes adding after a pause and some prompting "A-bell.") She can sign probably twenty words and phrases. Just yesterday, she did please and bear for the very first time. She is beginning to play pretend. She "talks" on her phone and feeds her baby and stuffed animals. She is bonded with us. Though attachment was never an issue due in large part to our many visits, our relationship has definitely cemented over the past few months. She will give us hugs and kisses of her own volition. She sings and dances. She knows several songs and rhymes and will gesture along. She can follow instructions even if she does forget from time to time what no means. That is just a sampling of her development.

Each day, Richard and I count our lucky stars that Isabel is our daughter. There was most definitely divine intervention in our coming together. Each day, we are amazed at what she has learned since the day before. Each day, even though it seems impossible, we love her more and more and more. We look forward with great joy and anticipation to what the months and years ahead have in store.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Did You Do Your Civic Duty?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween: Part Two

If you know anything about Richard and me, you won't be surprised that for her second Halloween costume, we got Isabel...what else...a kitty outfit. It wasn't as cold this year as it has been many years past, but once the sun set, it was still a bit chilly, so the furry costume was the perfect apparel for the evening. All that practice trick or treating last weekend really paid off. Each time Ibby approached a door, she dutifully stuck out her basket to get a treat. She most enjoyed hanging out with Scooby Doo (her sweet friend Hanna). She was absolutely mesmerized by Hanna's transformation into the crime fighting dog. Speaking of dogs, Ibby tried to share some of her treats with a yellow lab named Rose, oh, and she "gave" all of her tootsie rolls to Daddy. (Not sure if this was voluntary on Isabel's part or not). All in all, it was a fun night for the whole family.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween: Part One

For several years now, my hometown, Columbus, Wisconsin, has held its Halloween festivities on the Sunday prior to the actual holiday. We thought it made good sense to schedule a visit, so my family would be able to see Isabel in her costume. In addition, the nursing home where my mom and dad reside had several events scheduled including trick or treating and a costume contest. The benefit to Isabel, of course, is that she gets to celebrate Halloween twice since we do plan to go trick or treating on Friday in Minnesota with some friends.

For the indoor celebration, Isabel was dressed as Little Red Riding Hood. She wasn't exactly sure what was going on, but she was thrilled whenever anyone put something in her basket. My dad tried to get one of her suckers, but she wasn't giving it up. And usually, she's so good at sharing! She got a huge kick out of the other children who were dressed in costumes. One little boy who was exactly her size was dressed as a very cute Count Dracula. It was a hoot to watch the two of them eye each other up.

We haven't heard the results of the costume contest. There is going to be a vote at the next council meeting for cutest, scariest, and silliest. I don't know about you, but I think our girl has a lock on the cutest costume!

After leaving the nursing home, we went to the homes of a couple people we know to trick or treat. It was good practice for Friday. Since we'll be outside on Friday evening, and it is known to be cold in Minnesota in October, Isabel has a different costume, one that will keep her warm and toasty. You'll have to stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

An Encounter with Hannibal Lecter

Okay, the little girl's name is Sophie, but the gist is the same. Sophie bit Isabel in the face yesterday at ECFE. Yes. Bit. In the FACE! Sophie is an overly friendly 19 month old who likes to hug and kiss other little kids. Okay, fine, but she goes too far, kissing too fervently and hugging too tightly. So she has Isabel in a clinch, and hey, Ibby is an affectionate little girl, so she's tolerating it until she decides enough is enough and tries to push Sophie away which just makes Sophie hold on all the tighter. Just as I have my hand on Sophie's hand (which is by this time clutched tightly around Isabel's throat) and am about to pull her off, Sophie bares her little fangs...uh...teeth...and latches onto Isabel's face. Up to this point, despite all the unwanted affection, Ibby had been pretty quiet, but now, she lets out a loud wail. So finally, Sophie's mom intervenes and hauls her kid off of my kid who is now crying HARD. The bite occurred awfully close to her eye, but thankfully, didn't injure it. So now Isabel is sporting a good sized red welt (about the size of a nickel) and has the beginnings of her first black eye. She is going to make an awfully tough looking Little Red Riding Hood come Halloween. We'll just tell everyone she took on the Big Bad Wolf and won. But what a trooper. She cried for five, maybe ten minutes tops, and afterwards, was her happy, little easygoing self. What a girl.

Richard and I discussed the incident at length last night after Isabel went to bed. You try so hard to protect your children and keep them safe, and in a split second, boom, injury. Thankfully, this was minor, but it makes you think about how quickly things can happen. Still, I would rather be the mother of the bitee than the biter. There are some real behavior issues to deal with there. Yeah, come to find out, Isabel wasn't the first child Sophie has taken a bite out of. Every time I look at Isabel's eye, I want to be mad at somebody. Sophie? No, not fair. She's just a kid and obviously doesn't know any better. The mom? Well, a little, but kids do bite at this age, and I'm sure it's not an easy thing to deal with. Myself? If I just would have...or...I should have...or I could have...doesn't change the fact that it happened. So. Isabel has her first injury. And despite what my sister said after I relayed the incident to her, I do not plan to homeschool.

Tuesday, Two Hours After the Incident

Today, Looking a Bit Worse

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Beautiful Fall Day

Sunday was a beautiful day, sunny and bright with temps in the high 50s. We figured we better get out to the Arboretum to see the flowers and spectacular fall colors before it's too late to catch the show. We weren't disappointed. We walked a few of the wooded paths, and with the sun shining down through the leaves, the colors were so vibrant they seemed almost neon. The rose garden was stunning, and the mums were beautiful, too, but the dahlias were incredible. They were five to six feet tall, and the colors were absolutely amazing. It was a great afternoon.

Isabel All Toasty in her Fleece

The Stroller is Okay, But I'd Prefer to Walk

Leaves are Pretty, and They Taste Good Too

Checking Out the Waterfall with Daddy

The Maples

One Fine Dahlia

Monday, October 13, 2008

Four Generations of Schoens

This past weekend, we traveled to northern Minnesota to visit Great Grandma Jean, Richard's grandmother. To tell you the truth, we should have gone before now, but I don't know what has happened to the time. The past few months have gone so fast and been so busy. We were feeling terrible that Great Grandma had not yet met Isabel. Well, we finally put our guilt to rest with a nice visit on Saturday afternoon. Pictured below are Isabel and her great grandma and four generations of Schoens: Isabel, Daddy Richard, Grandma Sandy, and Great Grandma Jean.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

American Sign Language

Ever since bringing Isabel home in May, I've been wanting to teach her some sign language, but that proved difficult because I didn't know any signs myself. Even though she's already fifteen months old and starting to talk (her favorite words are hi, up, and Mama), I thought learning some signs would be good brain work for her. Even if she wouldn't pick up or use any signs, I figured it could help with her talking vocabulary. So a couple of weeks ago, I borrowed a dvd from the public library called "Signing Time." There is an entire series of these videos for babies and toddlers. I didn't know what to expect when we played it for the first time. Amazingly, Isabel sat still through the entire half hour program. The video features an adult, Rachel, who shows the sign. Then, for each word, several images of the thing itself or little kids making the sign are shown. Ibby was mesmerized. After a week of watching the video once a day, she has picked up the signs for three words: more, milk, and eat. I also think watching the video is encouraging her to say more words. I could swear she said "eat" yesterday. And this morning, I do believe she said "bye" to Daddy when he went to work. Anyhow, we'll continue to watch the videos. It's the only TV she gets, and the videos are not only fun but certainly educational. The only problem is I cannot get the songs out of my head. "It's signing time with Alex and's signing time with Alex and Leah..." Sigh.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Isabel's New Chair

I had a $25 coupon, so I broke down and bought the cute stuffed chair from Pottery Barn Kids. I've wanted one for awhile, and the coupon gave me just the impetus I needed to spend the money. I purchased My First Anywhere Chair, the smaller one, and after my friend Lynn reminded me there was a bigger one, the Oversized Anywhere Chair, I thought that maybe mine would be too small, but after seeing Isabel in it, I'm glad I went with it. She just loves it! I think she delights in the fact that it is just her size. She curled up in it immediately.

After awhile, she realized it would be a good place to read a good book.

Before bedtime, she needed one last cuddle in the chair.

Daddy taught her how to chair dive. Today, I'm trying to teach her that chairs are for sitting. I guess we're going to have to get a beanbag for rough housing.

Oh, and guess who else likes the chair?