Life with 4 kids 6 and under. Our trip to pick up Tonito in China is: mid-March 2008 through April 12. Our trips to pick up Ricky in Ethiopia are in June and August of 2010.

Monday, June 30, 2008

June 23-30: "China" playgroup and caterpillars

June 23: We had a fantastic time at yet another nearby spray park. This time we met a bunch of other families who have also adopted from China. The thing I love about spray parks is that Maya can crawl around and the kids can run around and I don't have to worry about anyone drowning:). After getting wet the kids like to "sunbathe" on the warm pavement to dry off. This park had a nice sandbox (or as Vivi calls it, a "beach") where Tonito confiscated someone's abandoned bulldozer and scooped and dumper to his heart's content. Tonito was oblivious that he was the only boy in the playgroup- most families who have adopted from China have little girls, so I will have to work on getting him some wrestling buddies! At this age it doesn't matter- he just played and played until it was time to go home.

June 28: We had such a fun time taking the kids on a nature hike by a nearby creek and nature center!! When I was growing up in Minnesota we lived across the street from a huge forest preserve and Hyland Lake and also close to the bike trails to Bush Lake Beach. I remember taking walks all the time on the trails and visiting nature centers, etc. We also had a smaller pond directly across the street from our house. We would try to "stock" the pond with fish and frogs from the big lake by making my mom and dad carry them in huge buckets the water through the forest and then releasing them in our pond (I guess we didn't think the frogs could just hop back) . Anyway, one time we caught a ton of frogs from Bush Lake Beach and had them in a big buckets in our car with just a screen laid over the top. We had to stop for ice cream on the way home, and left them in the car. When we came back to the car (of course!) they had escaped from the bucket and were all over the car, and unfortunately some had succumbed to the heat (think frog jerky) and others were really hyper and hard to re-catch. Poor froggies! We did let the survivors go in our pond and I think we hoped the tadpoles we caught the next spring were theirs:).

Anyway, on this hike we found colonies of fuzzy caterpillars on all the oak trees in this one area of the forest. At first the kids were scared, but once Tonio and I picked some up and let them crawl on our arms, they LOVED it!! There were hundreds of them just hanging out- weird.

The last picture here is of Vivi: she is has a hard time going to bed when she knows we are awake. At night, she is very, very quiet, but gets out of bed and watches us (from the upstairs hallway you can look down into the family room). Sometimes we hear her and send her back to bed, sometimes we don't know she's there until we go up to bed, and we find her sleeping on the floor in the hallway. This is a real picture of where I found her the other day- I had been cooking in the kitchen and she was supposed to be sleeping. How did she not fall!?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fun at the Splash Park!

Grandma took all 3 kids to the nearby splash park so mommy could get ready for Tonito's welcome home party. It was so much fun!!!! In China Tonito HATED when we poured water on his head (to wash his hair) and we had to convince him it wouldn't hurt. Now, it's a different story. On the first (FIRST) day of swim lessons the instructor told the class to do different things, while showing them how: "blow bubbles!" (and Tonito would blow bubbles). "Put your ear in the water" (and Tonito would put his ear in). "Now go underwater!" (and Tonito went underwater). "OK Tonito, come up!" (and he stands up). The instructor turned to me and said "He's either really obedient, or really brave." Pobrecito, he probably just thought you had to do exactly what the teacher said, which he did loyally. But now he loves the water!!! He can't actually swim yet, but he kicks at the edge, goes under with his eyes open, lets you hold him to float or swim, etc. He actually "graduated" tot he next level while Vivi needs to repeat it because she won't go underwater!

One other heart-stopping story from the first day of swim lessons. I had Vivi and Tonito in the same class, and we met at the baby pool with 5 other little kids and 2 teachers, ie college kids. I am not knocking their age because for 7 years I was a responsible camp counselor. (responsible is the key difference). A parent asked the instructors if the parents should stay and watch, or leave, and the instructor suggested that we all leave because usually the kids perform better and will do more things in the water without the performance anxiety of having mommy and daddy there. So I introduced them again to the teacher, told them that Tonito might be scared, doesn't speak a lot, blah blah the whole story. I walked away and looked back and he was fine, holding Vivi's hand and doing stretches with the teacher. Perfect, I had time to run to the supermarket for dinner.

I come back 20 minutes later and walk into the pool to see Tonito, wrapped up in a towel in the arms of a lifeguard. "Oh my gosh, is he OK? Did he get hurt?" They looked at me confused, and I realized they didn't know I was his mom. We cleared it up and I explained he was supposed to be in swim lessons. "Oh, we found him wandering around in the locker room and didn't know where he was supposed to be." In shock I grab Tonito and bring him back to his class, fuming. "This is my son Tonito, he was supposed to be in your swim class..." As they began to explain how they accidentally lost the whole class (of 3 year olds) while walking from the baby pool to the big pool, I realized Vivi was not in the class. "Where is my daughter!?" I shrieked frantically looking for Vivi. I began to run around the pool (still holding Maya) and found Vivi in water over her head, clinging to the edge, talking to another little girl and her mom.

I won't get into the details of what I said, but the adrenaline that was trapped in my body after 2 scares and then dealing with the instructors, manager, etc. Anything could have happened- poor Tonito who doesn't know his full name, I don't even want to think about it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tonito's Welcome Home Party!

We had a wonderful welcome home party for Tonito with all of our family and friends!! It was an Open House with people coming in and out throughout the whole afternoon and evening. There were so many kids running around, and the weather turned out perfectly. We made a LOT of food, my aunts and cousins brought a lot of food, and then we had a lot of snacks around for the kids, including tons of chocolate dipped pretzel sticks that Vivi and my sister Emily helped me make:). Tonito had so much fun playing (and eating chocolate pretzels all day!) I think he w
as really sad when everyone left and he had to go to bed. We were so proud of our 3 kids, and we love to introduce him to everyone- such a fun day!

Friday, June 20, 2008

June 16-20: Ballerinas and fishermen (and women)

Vivi and Tonito have really been enjoying their summer: we have daily swimming lessons, weekly playgroups, and Vivi just started her first ballet class. What is cuter than precious little 3 year old girls in pink leotards and tutus twirling around to music!!??
For Grandpa's birthday, we took him fishing. I'm not sure if corn-eating bluegills put up as much a fight as muskies or walleyes, but the kids thought it was exciting (and you don't need as much patience or skill:). Both kids caught one fish, learned to stretch the truth about their fish's size, and then we were finished and onto the park.

Tonito has been learning more English and can say useful phrases like "That's mine," "Can I see it?" (which sounds like 1 word: caiseeit?), "Can you help me?", and one he hears Vivi repeat 1000 times a day, "I can do it." It has been perfect to have our little chatterbox Vivi playing with Tonito all day because he gets nonstop stream of English, Spanish, and made-up Vivi-isms from which he can pick and choose as he needs. They make up little games together like their game "choo-choo," which involves one kid pulling the back of the tshirt of the other, while the kid in front tries to run around in circles on the trampoline. You "win" if you can pull the back kid down, and then you get to switch. For some reason this game can go on for an hour, alternating turns and laughing hysterically the entire time. Note to self: the perfect time to make dinner!
I have a habit of making up songs for everything, so sometimes our day seems like a musical (not a Broadway musical, more of a run by volunteers and you don't need any talent kids musical). Each family member has their own verse to one of my simple tunes, and Tonito has learned them all and will sing the different names to whoever needs a "boost" (i.e. the Vivi-squirt verse if she has an owie or the Maya-boo verse if she is crying). He also is starting to dance a little when we turn on music, and LOVES to make a parade with instruments with us marching through the dining room and kitchen. I need to post a video of that, it is too cute. All in all he is showing such remarkable progress that most people who do not have experience with adoption are amazed at what he is now able to do. Although people who have adopted just smile, because they know that showering them with love helps kids develop faster than any special school or therapy- and there is no lack of love here:).

Sunday, June 15, 2008


June 15: Our day in Chicago!

It was a gorgeous day and so we took the kids downtown to the Field Museum for the exhibit on Mermaids (perfect for Vivi) and Dragons (that Tonito liked to roar at). They were really, really good at the museum and then we let them play in the children's section downstairs for almost an hour. They have a cute little area of fake corn stalks and the kids can pick the corn and then bring it into an adobe little house and pretend to grind it, etc. Tonito does really well playing with other kids- he will jump into any activity and have a blast at it.
Here are some pictures of us by Lake Michigan, our trip on the water taxi from the museums to Navy Pier, and then the beautiful Chicago skyline.

Once we got to Navy Pier we had to ride on the big ferris wheel (invented for the Chicago World Fair in 1893:) and then of course the merry-go-round.

After riding many, many rides on the horses (zebras, giraffes, fish) we walked around in Navy Pier and found a singing magician guy who was performing for the little kids. He called up all 3, 4, and 5 year olds to the stage, and Tonito marched right up there with the kids and tried to do what the guy said. Vivi went up too, but she is a little more shy in front of crowds, so she stood in the back VERY embarrassed:). We were so proud of both of them.