Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

We just keep rolling along as the first hints of fall faintly appear. The week never seems eventful until we start writing it all down. On Monday, Hallie, Ann, and their kids went to the Toledo Zoo. They got tons of walking in, and they really enjoyed many of the great features the zoo had to offer. The kids’ favorite part was when they saw Lucas the baby elephant.

Diamond started the fall semester on Tuesday. She’s taking chemistry, sociology, and astronomy. Sounds like a lot of work, but a lot of fun too. She earned two A’s last semester, so we know she will be successful. Sara and Chase dropped by, and we had lunch and talked about all things Disney. Sara is convinced that Oprah and Walt Disney each stand on either side of the Good Lord Almighty Himself, and she had a wealth of information drawn from her frequent travels to the Florida Disney resorts. Her excitement is so contagious that we have decided to take the kiddos to Disneyland when we go down to California for Eliza’s sealing in November and to make a goal to get to Disney World in 2012.

On Tuesday night, Landon surprised us by reading his first words. As we were getting ready for bed, he looked at a word printed on a toy he got from Grandpa Merle and said, “Hey, Dad! S-T-O-P. That says ‘stop’!” Seeing his little mind make those connections puts us into orbit. Go, Big Man!

On Thursday morning, Hallie and the kids went over to Janel’s while Mike went to what he thought would be a simple doctor’s appointment. Turns out he needed a minor surgical procedure which resulted in a delay on his return trip. Janel and Derek’s items have finally made the move from out west, so they’re getting settled in. Landon really enjoys hanging out with their Rylee, so Mike’s delay meant more play time for Landon and more visiting time for Hallie and Janel.

Eliza continues to make strides in her crawling and communication skills. She can now crawl wherever she feels like, and she stands herself up and scoots along on her feet supported by whatever chair or table she manages to find. Wait! You are supposed to stay a wee baby for a while longer! She tells us when she wants to eat with a series of ma-ma-mas and when she is happy with a set of laughs and da-da-das. Pretty soon we’ll start in with the baby sign language again, like we did with Landon.

Oh, please. Please! Get me out of this chair!
On Friday, Mike and Landon went with their friends from church on a family campout up at Camp Dearborn. This was Landon’s first overnight camping trip. Meanwhile, Hallie, Diamond, and Eliza had their own excursions, including stops at car dealerships to see minivans up close. Hallie has been on a crusade to find the minivan that’s just right, and she’s narrowed her search down to either the Chrysler Town and Country or the Toyota Sienna. While the girls scouted out minivans, the boys set up their tents, took a swim, and played at the camp playground. By the time we got back to camp, more families had arrived and had started a campfire. The kids all ran around free and happy like little wild animals. Landon did his best to try to hang with the big kids, and he succeeded, for the most part. We roasted marshmallows and heard stories around the campfire after eating too much (Sean’s spicy Italian sausage sandwiches, Zane’s peach cobbler, s’mores, sugary sodas, and even fruit were all on the menu), and Landon stayed up way past his bed time. He and Dad were so tired that they didn’t miss not having ground pads, although an air mattress would be nice their next time out.  


Saturday morning the families all got together to have a breakfast of Amberly’s amazing oatmeal buttermilk pancakes, bacon, eggs, and fruit. Landon showed off his mad razor scooter riding skills as the kids took turns riding down a hill that was too steep for Mike’s comfort. Not that he really needed to worry. They boy took to the scooter like a duck to water, even after he took a gnarly dive that Bailey caught on her camera phone to share with Mike (after the fact). That boy! Judging by the footage, he knows how to fall, and he only end up with a few scrapes.

After they broke down camp, Landon, Brian, Sean, and Mike went on the paddle boats. Landon was even able to help pedal and steer as we rode out on the lake. Alas, we eventually had to return to civilization with its warm baths and cozy beds.

After Landon’s bath, Mike noticed that Landon had a red mark on his hand. Upon closer inspection, it turned out he had a splinter. Mike asked Landon if it hurt, to which the boy replied no. However, the place where the splinter had lodged didn’t look good, so Mike decided that they needed to get the splinter out. Remember that this was after a late night camping and relatively less sleep than normal on both the boys’ parts. Drama ensued as Man and Boy embarked on a battle of wills. Landon wanted absolutely nothing to do with the Dreaded Tweezers. Mom became involved, and the two of us first tried to persuade, then tried to bribe, then tried to cajole, then tried to console the boy as he moved from reluctant to scared to hysterical over the course of the next half hour. After negotiating with him to soak his hand in water, Mike tried again and again was met with hysterical tears. The boy said he needed to go potty, so Mike let him go, but it was more a ruse than not. Responding to his repeated calls, Hallie once again got involved. Then a miracle occurred! Hallie, approaching the brink herself (at this point Mike had given himself a timeout and was watching “This Old House” in the den), told Landon that her hands were shaky, so she needed Diamond to use the tweezers while Hallie held his hand. Diamond gently told Landon about how she had helped her nephews when they had splinters, and with her steady hand, she removed the splinter from Landon’s hand to great shouts of rejoicing! Diamond is planning to go into the medical field, and she definitely has a great bedside manner. Thanks, Diamond! Landon ended the day by falling asleep in Mike’s arms, tuckered out from the whole experience.  

Tonight we celebrated Diamond’s upcoming 21st birthday with Derek and Janel, their girls, and members of Diamond’s family. She and Hallie made a chocolate cake with chocolate icing from scratch. Yumm-o! Happy Birthday, Diamond! 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Time to Celebrate!

Our hearts are full of gratitude this week to Zoraida, Eliza’s birth mom and her family. Without their love and her sacrifice, we would not have been able to celebrate a small but significant event in our family. We received word Monday that our adoption has been made final and legally permanent. It was a relatively understated celebration but spent with great friends. Two weeks before Eliza was born Hallie met Sara and Chase. Chase was adopted and was born in Utah too. He is about 16 months old. Our families have become fast friends, and we have enjoyed getting to know their family. Sara, Jason, and Chase had Landon, Eliza, and Hallie over for yummy Olive Garden and dessert. They were so kind to give Eliza and Landon presents, and they had so much fun playing with them. Unfortunately, Mike had to work, and we missed him. But Hallie brought him home some yummy leftovers, and that made up for it a bit.  

On Tuesday afternoon we took advantage of the beautiful late summer weather to take a bike ride. Eliza has graduated to taking Landon's old spot in the kangaroo seat on Mike's bike.

Mike presented at a conference at the university on Thursday. Go, Mike! His summer term also ended Thursday, so after he grades papers, he gets a bit of a breather before classes begin on the 31st.

This past Friday a local church in the community had a GreekFest, and we invited a new family that has moved into the branch to come with us. Derek and Janel have two girls, and Landon has a lot of fun with their 5 year old, Rylee. The GreekFest had yummy treats, dinner, clothing, art, and games that the kids loved to play on. It was a blast to watch Landon ride on a small pirate ship swing with a HUGE smile on his face as he raised his hands in the air. Our friends had fun and so did we. What a great Friday night!

Hallie has found some girls to help out with the kids while she tries to get the house in order. For some reason keeping everything squared up is a bit of a challenge with a 3 year old who wants her attention and a 6 month old who crawls as fast as Lightning McQueen drives. This week Katelyn came over and hung out with the kids. Katelyn is amazing! She has great energy and is a perfect match for Landon. When Katelyn’s dad dropped her off, they surprised us with bagels, and Landon was very excited. He ate two by lunch and wanted more later that day. Eliza thought it was a good idea to stay up most of the morning, so needless to say Hallie did not get a ton of cleaning done. Instead, she spent a lot of time going up and down the stairs to try to get Eliza to take a nap.
A little sample of Katelyn's artwork
Saturday mornings have become Hallie’s time to make sure she is taking care of her health. Most Saturdays start off with her leaving the house at 7:00 am. Today Mike had an appointment early too, and so our neighbor Katharine came down to watch the kids. She did a great job, and we will definitely have her again. When we arrived home Landon was watching a cartoon with her sister Jane, and they had taken a walk to the library and colored on the sidewalk and had lots of fun.

Thursday we notice there was no parking signs in front of part of our street. We had no idea what they were for, but leave it to our next-door neighbor Miles to find out that they were shooting a commercial for the 2012 Chrysler 300. At about 1:00 pm Saturday, a mass of cars, trucks, and people had congregated down the block. There were a wardrobe truck and a lunch truck and lots of equipment trucks. Katherine and Miles and their families and we were all hanging out at Katherine’s house at the lemonade stand Jane had set up when the director came by to see if the kids wanted to be extras. All they had to do was what they were doing already: hanging out around the stand and riding their bikes and trikes! So, if the scene they filmed for the commercial makes it on air, you may see a little green blur that is our son through the window of the new 300 as it cruises down the road.

Taking a break from shooting

Filming in progress
Sunday was a special day to cap off this special week. We bookended our adoption finalization with Eliza’s baby blessing, and we finally get to have her on the official record at church too. It’s more a symbolic act than anything, but just seeing her name officially with ours means a lot to us. Mike blessed her to be strong like her birth mom, to be proud of her heritage, and to have the gift of compassion, among other blessings. We’re counting the days until the four of us are sealed in November!

On the flip side of the church-themed cap-off, Mike also got to have some quality father-son time with Landon at Comerica Park watching the Tigers game thanks to tickets Sara got for us on the seventh row along the first base line. Actually, we didn’t spend a whole lot of time watching the game, although what we did watch was pretty fun to see from so close. We spent more time at the Ferris wheel and the carousel. All in all, Landon and Dad had a terrific time together.   

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Busy is Mostly a Matter of Perspective

People always say we are so busy, but when it comes time to write the blog every Sunday we can never figure out what we did. Here are a few things that kept mostly Hallie, Diamond, Landon, and Eliza busy this week. 

In a very fast fortunate turn of events the tenant we have had in our condominium for the last 10½ years took us up on our offer to sell. We are excited about this transaction, and the real estate agent Amy Gandel who is working with both of us has been great. We are grateful to Roger and for the good tenant he has been all of these years. We are thankful now that we will be able to breathe a bit easier with some of our education and adoption debt paid off.

Time seems to have flown by, and recently sweet Eliza turned six-months old. Hallie took Eliza for her well visit, and the doctor had nothing but glowing things to say. He mentioned Eliza is advanced in her motor skills (seems to take after her brother in that respect). For example, she has really caught on to crawling, and now she crawls quickly around the house. She is quickly moving on to pulling herself up to stand, and walking can't be far off. One baby gate has been put up, and another one for the top of the stairs will come this week. Mike was excited that his baby girl was advancing, while Hallie was sad that her baby girl was advancing. 

Eliza now weighs 15 lbs 13 oz and is 25 in long. Currently she eats baby cereal, all kinds of different Plum baby fruit, and puréed zucchini, squash, and broccoli. We are glad she is such a good eater. The carrots we ground up for her did not go so well, and Hallie had the opportunity to clean that up in IKEA a few weeks ago. Apparently she likes them but they don’t like her quite yet.

Eliza has started showing off her vocal abilities this week as well. Landon did not say “Mom” for a long time, and it made Hallie sad. Eliza says something like “Mom” all the time: ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma. She likes sticking her tongue out and following Landon and playing with his toys whenever she is awake. Landon absolutely adores her. He hugs and kisses her often each day and is very protective of her. We are so thankful for the easy transition he has made with Eliza.

Hallie and Landon went to see "Winnie the Pooh" with Katelyn and Bryan on Wednesday. Landon seemed to enjoy himself. Hallie said that he hardly ate his popcorn and that he behaved very well. Mike had asked Landon earlier in the week if he wanted to see the movie, and then Landon just brought it up on his own as he  was saying the prayer on breakfast, so Hallie said, "Why not? Let's go!" 

The hot, humid summer has taken a toll on Diamond and Hallie’s feet, so Hallie thought it was time to go get pedicures. This last Thursday evening the two scarfed down their food, and Hallie said, “Diamond put on some capris and grab some flip flops. We are headed for a surprise!” We ended up at a local pedicure place for Diamond’s first pedicure, and we had so much fun chatting with other ladies at the shop.

On Thursday Hallie, Landon, Eliza, Sara, and Chase walked three miles to the Village Shops and back. We stopped to get lunch in the middle of our walk. The kids behaved marvelously, and it was great exercise and fun chatting with a good friend. Sara then called on Friday and asked if we wanted to go out to eat with her and her hubby Jason. Of course we did, and thanks to Diamond we were able to do that. It was so nice to be out with other adults and no kids. We had good food and it was great weather, so we walked to the restaurant from our house.

The summer term is winding down and so we have mostly seen Mike’s eyes this week from behind the computer screen. Grading papers has consumed him this last week, and sometimes Landon doesn’t quite understand why dad can’t come and play quite as much as he usually does. Soon we will have him a bit more, at least for a few days until the Fall semester starts.

Hallie, Diamond, and Landon went school shopping for Diamond. She starts BYU-Idaho in January, and with all of the good deals, we had to make sure she got in on some of the action. On the way home from shopping we stopped by a car dealership to check out some new wheels. It will be a bit before we get a new car, but Hallie is over the moon to start the process, so Mike humors her and says, “Go have fun!” So we did.

If this week was boring, maybe next week will be fun when we have a special family celebration and go to a Greek festival.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Low Key Week While Dad Was Away

Mike attended a conference in Portland, Oregon during the middle of the week. While he was gone, the rest of the clan hung out around the house. Eliza seems determined to start standing (just when we were getting used to the idea of her sitting up and crawling).

Next thing you know, she and Landon will be negotiating over who gets the car keys.  Of course, we've already persuaded Landon that he has to wait until he's 18 before he can drive (yeah, right).

When Dad got back from Portland, he shared some of his adventures. He went to Powell's City of Books (which claims to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world) and to Voodoo Doughnut (look at the website to find out where the magic is). He brought the kids back some T-shirts and some sad stale doughnuts. Actually, while they looked a little sad, they tasted pretty good (Smart Dad froze them overnight in preparation for the trip home).

And as a bonus, more of Landon's photo work:

"Let me drink in peace, will ya?"
And, just a couple of photos of the girl in her dress-up clothes:
Love the "Mary Janes"? Trumpettes from Mike's sister Amber!  
Budding ballerina
OK, that's it. See you next week!