Friday, August 18, 2017

That was Then - This is Now

Happy 2 Years Home, Stella


On the day we met (Aug. 17, 2015)

Happy smiles

It seems so long ago that we traveled to China, but the memories are crystal clear.  Riding the hotel elevator downstairs to meet our group was an anxious time.  So much so that we were on time!  And then spying Stella as she walked in the civil affairs office was like seeing a celebrity.  We had only seen pictures and read a few words about her.  We had talked about her to others, yet we didn't even know her.  And then there she was physically standing in front of us.  From that first moment, the adventure was on...


Ready to tackle the world

Stella is kind.
Stella is smart.
Stella is funny.
Stella is eager to learn.
Stella is confident.
Stella is loved.

Parenting, in general, is both challenging and rewarding.  That stands very true in adoption, especially when I feel like we've had to undo things that were done in the orphanage and address some things that might have been ignored.  Stella has come so far!  This girl's adventurous side has exploded.  She climbs and explores.  She gets dirty without a care.  She tackles new challenges.  She wants to learn.  She tells jokes.  We are thankful that God put our family together the way He did...only He could make something this wonderful and entertaining!!!  We love you, Stella!

This is now!  
She's super excited to 
wear her new Liberty shirt!

In Other News...the Beach
We had a fun trip to the beach with SuSu and Big Joe!  We were spoiled with a beautiful house just feet from the beach.  We would all be ok if SuSu and Big Joe bought a beach house.  In fact, after last summer's trip, Stella assumed they already had their very own beach house.  


The beach is good for the soul.

The kids always enjoy time with SuSu and Big Joe!


She is in her happy place.  Stella could play in the sand 
for day.  In fact, that's what she did!

Samuel + Stick = Happiness

Look what washed ashore!

School Days are Back
Joey started 3rd grade this week!  He has a great group of friends in class, both new and old.  Joey seems to roll with it no matter the teacher.  He is also happy to report when other students have irritated the teacher too.  He will make a great hall monitor one day!  Daddy came to school and walked Joey to his first day.  No tears, no visible emotions...just 2 dudes walking to class!

Stella has been talking for weeks about starting school.  We couldn't count down the days fast enough for her.  And wow did she hop out of bed Tuesday morning when I reminded her that it was the first day of school.  Daddy was able to be home Tuesday morning so that we could all walk to kinder together.  She walked in like she had been there a thousand times before.  She had actually been in the same classroom this summer for some tutoring, so the familiarity was good for her.  Even on the first day, she started learning the rules and the reward for following those rules.  She did express some frustration (maybe even disgust) that she didn't learn to spell any words on the first day of school.  Slow down, Sister, you can't learn it all on the first day!

Samuel is our sensitive, uncertain one.  After meeting his teacher last week, he was somewhat comfortable on the first day.  He walked in and took his lunch out of his backpack.  Unfortunately, within 5-10 minutes, he was in tears.  Loud crying, crocodile tears.  I heard him from the hall.  His teacher reported that he was tearful during the day, but calmed quickly.  Samuel is not one to hide his tears either.  He shared about his sadness when he got home.  Day 2 was much better.  Once we made it to his class, he tapped his teacher on the leg and waved to her without any prompting.  And then he flashed a big smile as he turned to go into class.  

This year is off to a good start.  Now, we'll get the new puppy trained and wait for the home remodel to be completed.  There's always a new adventure!!!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

What I've Learned from Parenting Stella

What I've Learned from Parenting Stella

Today (May 18) marks 21 months since we made Stella an official Webb.  Is it ok to still speak in months?  At least I don't give my children's ages in months anymore! Sometimes it seems like the changes with bringing a preschooler home are smaller, less noticeable, but really Stella has changed a lot in this short time.  A few things I've learned as Stella's Mom...

1.  Imagination takes quiet moments, encouragement, and guidance.  For a child who saw the same walls day after day, the same nannies day after day, ate the same food day after day...an imagination was not necessary.  Maybe it was even discouraged.  It definitely wasn't fostered.  During the first year home, the idea of quietly looking at a book was daunting.  And to look at it all alone in a quiet room, almost impossible.  I remember a time in the car when we were singing a color song..."if you are wearing yellow, touch your nose".  The boys were going crazy with the song, so I asked if Stella could have a turn to make up a verse.  We drove and drove and drove and still she sat quietly.  Crickets.  She was thinking.  She couldn't think of even a simple actions to plug into the song.  I'm happy to say that Stella has come a long way!!!  She still mimics a lot of what she sees the boys doing, saying, or drawing, but that has encouraged the development of her imagination over the months.  Her imagination is growing!  And sometimes Stella even builds a Lego creation all by herself.  She sings funny songs in the car...Stella originals.  She's quite the funny gal!

2.  The need for attention is big with this one.  Thankfully it's becoming less and less as she feels secure and adored, as she learns to share the spotlight and still receive praise.  Stella's transition from neglect to receiving any attention has been a big transition for both of us.  At times this process has felt like nails on a chalkboard.  While her methods have lead to disobedience at times, I can remember our first days together. Stella's request for attention looked like flailing arms, a funny face, and uncontrollable laughing.  Learning to allow others to share in the attention is a hard lesson.  Learning to receive attention in a positive light is just as hard.  But most of all, teaching Stella that her worth is not dependent on the attention she receives from others is one of my biggest goals.   She has so much more value than any amount of attention and we get to teach her that!!!

3.  Thank you notes are a must.  If she has heard anything I've said, at least it's this..."we need to write a thank you note".  If she finds a party invitation in her backpack, we must write a thank you note.  When someone is sick, it would be nice to write a thank you note.  If she receives a gift, she knows to write a thank you note.


This...This is what comes to mind.  
I can even hear the music.

She occasionally forgets a word or gets confused.  So, if Stella tells you that she has a note and gift card for you...don't be too quick to jump up and down.  She probably means she put your card in an envelope, not a gift card!  Hey, at least she's learning to write thank you notes!  Check your mail!

4.  Charades is not just for parties.  It has become part of our every day life.  Or maybe it's that our life has become a great big party!  People asked months ago how we communicated with Stella from the beginning.  When visiting with other adoptive families, I've told them "practice up on your charade skills".  True, communication is much easier now that Stella has mastered most of the English language.  It's actually pretty impressive!  Even now, there are still many many opportunities for charades.  

"Can we buy one of those __________ (fill in the blank with motions to 
vaguely describe anything using your hands as a measurement)?"  Could it be a ruler, a zucchini, a small shovel?  Who knows...until charades is in full swing!

"Can I take a __________ (fill in the blank with some strange circular 
motion)? Again, could it be a circle, a tornado, mix a cake batter?  
The challenge is presented.  Challenge accepted!

If it's a word we use often at home, I'll encourage Stella to use her "smart mind" (that's my secret method for getting her to think hard) to find the correct word.  Like with wanting to purchase popsicles or asking for a bath vs. shower (see questions and mysterious motions above).  I've got to teach her "rhymes with".  That would help some days.  One day I just might miss charades, but for now maybe it's a good way to keep our party skills sharp!  Wanna play charades?

5.  Having a grateful heart is not just for kids.  Picture this.  Stella walks in the kitchen and spies an English muffin in the toaster, to her dismay.  After hearing confirmation that I am, in fact, serving English muffins at breakfast, the ugly face appears.  The face that seems to say that an English muffin is below her standards.  Like it's a foreign object unfit for consumption.  Mind you, I don't require my kids to clean their plates.  To try new things?  Yes.  To be kind about things you don't prefer?  Yes.  It happens far beyond English muffins too.  Many times, it seems like a heart issue. 

So, after a battle for her to eat the English muffin with jelly, we talked.  
I quietly told her that God says in the Bible (Proverbs 15:13) that a grateful heart makes a face happy.  I even went as far as having her say it out loud, "I am thankful for my breakfast".  And that's when it happened.  God tapped me on the shoulder.  Am I always thankful for this little one placed in my family?  You can imagine that amidst the battles, I can not always answer with a grateful heart.  Ugh!  And Ouch too!  I'm thankful for God's gentle reminders.  I'm glad everything isn't always perfect and that sometimes I'm required to try new situations, new opportunities.  So, now's my turn to practice being thankful along side my daughter.  And I'm hopeful that my gratitude for my daughter will reflect on my happy face!  Maybe, just maybe, she is thankful for English muffins...kinda...sorta.

 Twenty-one months and going strong!



Stella singing her heart out at graduation




Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Finishing Strong

As we near the end of the school year, we're finishing strong with lots of activities and accomplishments!

Reading Olympics
This kid loves to read.  Loves.  He takes after his SuSu.  And with all that reading comes a great accomplishment.  The gold metal!  



Festival
I noticed an Asian festival advertised on Facebook, so we took a little trip to Richardson to check it out.  The kids had fun exploring paper crafts, new foods, and photo ops.  I'm a sucker for Asian food.  I sometimes present it as a way of exploring the culture.  Really, we all like dumplings!




Introducing King David
The kids have been attending kids choir on Wednesday nights.  It seemed that Joey wasn't all that interested in singing.  So, I didn't pursue the opportunity for him to try out for a speaking part in the musical.  And didn't I feel horrible when Joey shared "they didn't even choose me for a part"?  I had to confess that I didn't sign him up to try out because I didn't think he was interested.  He continued attending and we all learned the songs thanks to a CD given to the kids.  I'm certain we all could've performed the entire musical because we listened to the CD daily!  At one of the last rehearsals, God showed up big for Joey.  As it turned out, the boy rehearsing as King David just stopped coming to the rehearsals.  The play was left without a Kind David, so Joey was asked to step in.  The smile.  His smile was huge.  He took it seriously.  To my amazement, he already knew the part from the previous months at choir practice.  He stepped up with confidence and did not disappoint!!!!  We talked about how God just laid this opportunity in his lap and how special it was to get to portray an amazing king!

King David kneeling to pray before conquering Goliath

King David preparing for a speaking part

Raingutter Regata
The Scout's rain gutter regatta was a lot of fun!  Joey had fun decorating his boat (the red one with the American flag) and blowing like crazy to move it down the gutter.  There was an opportunity for "lessons learned" as Joey's face spoke disappointment over not winning.  We talked about making notes for next year's race and how everyone has the opportunity to have fun.  Not sure it soaked in during the emotional experience, but Joey continues to surprise me with how mature he handles disappointment and how well he learns from his experiences.



Budding Artist
This guy had an art piece chosen for the artshow!  See the dinosaur?  He was excited to show off his artwork and see the variety of art displayed.  We took several minutes to look around at other pieces displayed.  All three kids were really interested in the different techniques and methods for creating art.


It's Graduation Day!  Hooray!
These 2 have completed pre-K.  And by "completed", I mean they've learned a ton, met new friends, entertained their teachers, and floored me with how much they've grown and changed!  


It's moment like this when I wish I could send a simple message to their China moms and dads..."LOOK! Look how much they've grown. Can you believe how much Samuel loves to talk now? Isn't it amazing how much Stella loves learning? They are smart and funny. I wish you could hear them laugh! Do you know how much we love them? Do you know that we talk about you in our home? Do you know we welcome the curiosity of who you are and what you're like? I imagine they have little traits that reflect you. Oh, and they're learning about our Creator. They know God loves them. They sing about Him. They sing A LOT. We make silly faces and we have fun together! And even on those hard days (that sometimes turn into weeks), we are grateful for the opportunity to parent these treasures."

Happy Graduation, Samuel and Stella!


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Spring Breeze

Something's Missing
This girl has been waiting patiently - not so patiently - for the day when she would lose a tooth.  To her amazement, the day finally arrived.  And the best part was that a dollar was to come!  She's rich!

"See my lost tooth"

Spring Breakin' in Arkansas
We ventured to Arkansas for Spring Break.  The weather was cool, but beautiful!  And SuSu treated us to a trip to Mid America Museum!  Joey hasn't stopped talking about this museum since we visited a couple years ago.  And AR wasn't on Spring Break yet, so we practically had the place to ourselves.  





A Day for Nature
We managed to pull Daddy away from his job on a beautiful day this Spring Break.  There's nothing like a little family time outside enjoying the sunshine and each other.  We are so thankful to the state parks in our area.  It was great fun!






Spring Time
How refreshing are the Spring flowers?  On a day off from school, we took advantage of the cool breeze and the blossoming flowers.  These 3 and their friends ran and jumped and climbed all over the Botanic Gardens.  I'm still amazed that they truly enjoy exploring in nature, climbing on rocks.  

What a beauty!

This joker staged his most prized photo op.

Brothers

All smiles

Happy Easter



"He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. 
Come and see the place where he lay."
Matthew 28:6

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Backtracking...

That time you got so busy and distracted that you forgot to keep the blog updated.  And then you realize it was started to help aid your own failing memory all along.  Backtracking now...

Derby Drivers, Start Your Engines (January)
One of the highlights of Cub Scouts tends to be the Pinewood Derby Race.  And with this being a first for our scout, we were sure not to miss it.  Joey designed his own car and painted it himself.  I'll admit, as a crafty person, it took all I had to sit back and let him be the creator.  He didn't design it the way I would have, but that's the beauty of it.  He took ownership and made it his very own!  We are proud of Joey!  While the car wasn't the speediest one on the track, he learned much from the experience.  In fact, a wise friend (also in 2nd grade) reminded Joey that it was all about the experience of building something with his dad.  Truth!  


Birthday Bonanza (February)
Our smallest monkey is now 5!  Samuel celebrated his birthday with lots of friends on a chilly February morning.  We were even pleased that Su Su and Big Joe could make it for the festivities!  This guy would've seriously been thrilled to have a $1 cowboy hat and a few weapons.  He's easy to please!  Also, he wanted a ninja cake.  I've never used so much black food coloring in all my life. 




Family Fun Day
So, we don't splurge for family fun days too often.  Right now, our kids are easily amused with "treasure hunting" (geocaching) or trips for ice cream.  We're learning to appreciate those simple pleasures, but sometimes you just need to get out and enjoy the sunshine...and play putt putt before riding go carts!  Normally, I cringe at the thought of running errands and navigating in highway traffic, BUT go carts?  Yes, please!  With a little one sitting nearby cackling as the wind whips our hair around.  Russ said Stella didn't even hang on.  This girl lives for fast and furious!  We were the only 3 bumper boats in the water, and with the sprayers turned off.  Ahhh, darn (Mom smiling on the inside)!  With a pretty empty place, the kids rode each ride they desired and multiple times.  And did I mention that we had pizza?  And Sprite?  Yep, we went all out.  Be jealous.  The kids were exhausted and happy too!







There were days...
So many (did I mention lots of many) days I wondered if we'd ever get to this point.  Do you know how "reading books" started?  It started with little feet kicking the closet door with such force that I thought a terrible thunder storm was lurking over our home.  Stella laid on the floor "reading" the books so intently that she never even opened the books.  She stared at the back cover...stared hard.  I get that she didn't "read" books in China.  It's not likely that she had anyone to read books to her.  She loves when we read books together and has since she first arrived.  Still she had no concept of looking at pictures, using her mind to imagine the story.  We talked about it a lot.  It took lots of repetition and role-play.  And finally...here we are.  We have arrived!  Now she "reads" peacefully by herself, even initiating it herself.  On many occasions, I've found her looking through the library bag or pulling books from her bookshelves.  Then, she looks at the pictures...really looks.  She even talks out loud sometimes, telling her own version of the story with her mind.  



It's the little things sometimes that remind me how the Lord has changed Stella and encouraged her growth over her 19 months home.  Today, we celebrate "reading"!






Friday, January 13, 2017

Snow and Celebration

Let It Snow
It finally snowed!  Stella finally got to see snow!  This girls was all smiles, squealing in excitement at the thought of snow.  And when I calmly asked if she knew what snow was, she confidently answered "no".  Stella was thrilled when she finally went outside to find out more about this thing called snow.  She wanted to have a "snow fight", which I assumed would be a challenge given that the quantity of snow was barely a dusting.  Somehow the kids managed to scrape up enough snow to make snowballs!  Add that to slipping and sliding on the trampoline and you'll find the best fun!  What did I see Stella doing on the trampoline?  Quickly scooping up snow and shoveling it in her mouth!!!  It may have contained just a touch of dirt, but she was more than happy to report that it was delicious!  The kids stayed outside longer than I had expected.  When you don't see snow too often (or ever in Stella's case), you take advantage of the opportunity!



The pink gloves!  
She finally got to wear her pink gloves!





Thinking Back
There are days I can't remember what I walked in my own bedroom for, BUT I can remember in great detail the day we met Samuel.  I can see his tiny face.  I remember "that panic" that came over his face when we approached him.  I can hear his scream (for hours).  I can see his nanny wanting desperately to comfort him.  And I can remember turning my back to her in my attempt to comfort Samuel.  I remember his very first smile in our hotel room.  I remember the way he ran to me if he saw me get the carrier out.  

I also remember seeing his same nanny again 18 months later and hugging her neck as if she was an old friend.  And I remember the tears in her eyes when she saw Samuel again a year and a half after he left to go home.

Samuel is a joy!  That sums him up!  When he first came home, he was serious and quiet.  After all, we ripped him away from all things familiar about the time he should've been learning the verbal language.  We jokingly called him the "fun police" because he was all business and firmly against the slightest sound of laughter.  Now today?  That kid can tell the jokes.  He will pull me close for a smooch, immediately followed by "Daddy, I just kissed your wife".  Quite often he requests for Daddy to "do airplane".  When he swings up-side-down on the monkey bars, he proudly announces that he will be in the circus one day.  He wants to be like Joey in all aspects...scary and good at times.  Before he even knows what Joey wants to eat, he says "what's Joey having".  Samuel has been caught a time or two wearing a princess gown with his sister...which he will not deny.  When I ask him nicely to stop growing so fast, he throws the comment back to me that his growth is my fault because I ask him to eat a healthy dinner.  

A few memories from the first time we met Samuel...




And then there are pictures of us enjoying our time together...




You can't convince me that this sweet lady doesn't love our little guy (8/2015).


She probably never expected to see him again after we left in January of 2014. We still send pictures to the orphanage so the nannies can see the fruit of their work.


And now...
He can't keep a smile off his face or his feet on the ground.  Circus-bound this kid is!


Thank you, Jesus, for allowing us the joy of teaching and loving this little one!  And what says "we are so very thankful for you" than a plate of steamy dim sum?  And so if you need us to tomorrow, better check the nearest Asian market.  That's where we'll be...celebrating this little ball of energy!