Monday, December 29, 2014

December - the most wonderful time of the year

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus!

Whew - December was a crazy month, to say the least.  But, it was also an amazing month for us, celebrating Christmas with Olivia for the first time, and enjoying Ansley as she enjoyed the holidays.

The month started out kind of rough.  Olivia got sick for the first time on December 1st.  She ran a really high fever, but thank goodness it was just a virus.  That passed quickly.  We are so blessed that she has been healthy up until now, despite moving across the world with new germs and such.

We did, however, have a more serious health scare in the family.  My 88 year-old uncle, Joe, had a stroke and has been in the hospital/now rehab center since December 12th.  He is to be discharged on January 2nd, and we are really excited.  He is doing well, but that has been heavy on my heart, and the hearts of my family members throughout the holidays.  (After all, he has been like a grandfather to me growing up.  Both of my grandfathers passed away before I was born.)  I'm just so glad that he is doing better and back to his mischievous self!  (We ended up postponing our big family Christmas celebration until he is home.)

Again, Olivia is talking more and more.  I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but she calls me, "Ma" and Philip, "Da eeee."  She calls Ansley either "Sissy" or "Ansee."  And, her favorite phrase throughout the holidays has been, "I did it!"  Definitely moving in the right direction, and her new speech therapist starts with her in early January.

She is doing pretty well with her potty training and is beginning to tell us when she needs to go.  I'll be glad when this is done.  Potty training is my least favorite part of parenthood.

Olivia did really well during the craziness of the holidays.  I had read and been told by several adoptive parents that the holidays were the hardest time of the year for their adopted children.  Any time you get "out of routine," it can be hard for any child, but especially adopted children.  Olivia didn't really "get it," but she enjoyed opening the presents and meeting Santa.  She remained pleasant and happy the entire time, so for us, that was success.  She did enjoy seeing us put up the Christmas tree with the lights and ornaments, and at first, she was taking the ornaments on and off the tree.  That was interesting, to say the least.

She also participated in her first program at school.  Just think:  8 months ago, she was in a small orphanage in rural China, and now she is performing on a stage in front of many people…singing in a language she doesn't know about a holiday she has no idea about.  She did as I expected, and just stood there, but she didn't cry and was still really cute.  :)  Again, success!

Susan, Hilary, and I took Ansley to see the Rockettes.  This has become a family tradition for us, and I'm really disappointed that this is their last year in Nashville.  We will have to come up with something new to do next year.

As I mentioned earlier, Ansley and Olivia had their Christmas program at school.  They both did outstanding.  Unfortunately, Ansley wasn't feeling well the day of her program, but she pulled it off!  Ansley's class recited part of the "Charlie Brown Christmas."  (That's why they are dressed like Linus.)  Each child had a speaking part and did outstanding memorizing their lines!!  They also sang 2 songs.

I ordered these ornaments from a sweet friend of a friend, who has also adopted from China and is actually adopting again.  She is an amazing artist, and I love our new ornaments.

Girlfriend has some serious bed head.  We had to take a picture!

 This is Olivia holding up the ornament she made for us at school.  She was so proud of it, and we are, too.  It is proudly displayed on our tree, just where she wanted to hang it.

I am blessed with a large family, and we enjoy getting together when we can.  We still have more family to get together with once Joe's home, but here are some photos of the holidays.  As I mentioned, with the new babies moving around everywhere, it is hard to get many pictures.  Here are a few:

 Making cookies for Santa.  Olivia ate more dough than she decorated!

 Christmas Eve dinner

 Trying to take this picture was a fiasco.  It was the best of 4.  I look terrible, but that's ok.

 Ansley and Olivia loved the movie, "Big Hero 6."  This white fluffy doll, Baymax, is from the movie.
 I think Olivia's favorite gift this Christmas was a tin of 4 chapsticks that she got from Santa.  She calls them "ipstick."

 Olivia spent much of Christmas jumping off the couch.  She counts, "1, 2" and then "1, 2" again.  Finally, she will say, "Go!" and then jumps.  You better be ready!

 Ansley and Olivia enjoyed meeting Santa.  Olivia wasn't scared a bit.  She did pull his beard and check out all of his hair, but other than that, she did great!

Philip put together a wonderful video of some of the highlights from the holidays.  Enjoy!

Miss Olivia's birthday is just around the corner!  She will be 3 on New Year's Day, January 1st.  We had planned to celebrate with my family when we did our big family gathering, but since that's been postponed, our plans have changed.  We are going to celebrate by taking Olivia to a Chinese restaurant here in Nashville on New Year's Day.  

As always, thanks for reading and for supporting us.  We hope you all had a wonderful holiday with your family and friends.  I've been pretty emotional for the past few months with all of our "firsts."  Just to see the sheer joy on her face has made me so happy.  I am so blessed to be the Mommy to this special little girl, and blessed to have the support to all of our family and friends.  I'm also blessed to be the Mommy to Ansley and watch her grow throughout this entire experience.  We gave some special Christmas gifts this year.  Some gifts that we purchased when we were in China meeting Olivia and bringing her home.  Seeing these gifts and giving them brought back many of the emotions I felt while we were in China.  I still can't believe that after 8 years of waiting, she is in our house, and I get to hug this little girl each and every day.  God is good, and even when we don't understand His timing, He has a plan.  

I pray for special blessings to all of you this holiday season,

Sunday, December 28, 2014

November - a month of "magical" memories!

Wow - what a month of memories we made in November!

We started the month with a speech assessment to see if Olivia would qualify for services from Metro Nashville Public Schools.  Since she turns 3 in January, she will no longer be eligible for services through TEIS.  We spent 2 hours in the assessment, and I thought Olivia did pretty well.  Because Olivia is from China, she was assessed by the international team.  They had a translator there that spoke Mandarin.  When they didn't think that Olivia understood what they were saying in English, they would ask the translator to speak in Mandarin.  Whenever the translator spoke in Mandarin, Olivia would say, "No" which sounds more like "Naaaawwwwww" with a mischievous look on her face and a grin.  She's a mess….I'm telling ya!  They ended up determining that she had enough of a delay to enter her into the program.  A speech therapist will go to her day care once a week for one hour for a year (as determined by her progress).  At that point, she will be re-tested to see if she still needs therapy.

November is the month where her speech really took off, and we have seen marked improvement.  She is really trying to talk now, and even putting forth more of an effort at school.  By the way, we are blessed with an incredibly supportive and loving day care.  I really don't know what we would do without them!  Olivia is up to 25 words, which was our goal.  She is doing really well in her bed, and for those of you who are wondering, she still sleeps with her shoes at times.  She is now sleeping under a blanket as well.  Knock on wood, we haven't had any more screaming fits since moving her to the twin bed, thank goodness.

She is eating more meat now, and we are able to feed her more than macaroni and cheese, yogurt, and rice.  :)  She likes most chicken, some BBQ, fruit, and some veggies.  She has gained weight, and as Philip says, "We need to take her off the mac & cheese diet now."

We have entered into a different type of phase, however - jealousy.  In the beginning, it was Ansley who was jealous of Olivia.  Now the tables are turned, and Olivia is jealous of Ansley.  Any time I try to hug or console Ansley, Olivia cries and attacks me, wanting my attention.  She is stuck to me like glue.

We have been really fortunate to not deal with separation anxiety too much.  When we leave her, we give her a hug and say, "We'll be back."  She says, "Bye!" and that is that….for the most part.  I think part of that success goes back to this summer when we did swim lessons.  I left her every day for 3 weeks for 30 minutes at a time, but I always picked her up.  So, she knows that we will always come back for her.

The week before Thanksgiving, we headed out on a long drive… Orlando, FL!  Yes, we took the girls to Disney World.  Olivia still got in free (until she turns 3), and with the help of a friend who is a Disney travel agent, we planned a very affordable trip.  (Thanks, Alice!)  The trick to us affording Disney is going when we can get a discount.  In our case, we were able to get free dining while we were there, plus some other discounts.

We weren't sure how Olivia would do in the car.  After all, the last time she was on such a long road trip, she was left with people she didn't know….never to return.  I'm proud to say that we made it great!  We left after work and drove to Macon, GA.  Olivia got car sick 3 times on the way to Macon, so we thought we were in for a LONG drive!  We got up the next morning and drove the rest of the way.  Thankfully, no car sickness that day.  The girls did GREAT in the car, thanks to a little iPad time, some DVD time (Thanks, Lori), and some other activities that I took for them to do.  The first night, we did the "Hoop-De-Do-Revue."  It was an "Opryland" type of dinner show with singing, dancing, comedy.   It was cute, and the girls liked it!  After that, we did Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and one more day at Magic Kingdom.  I won't bore you with all of the pictures, but a few are below.  Olivia did really, really well with the crowds and waiting.  She is a dare devil and enjoyed the rides.  We were concerned that she would get sick on the tea cups and roller coasts, but she made it fine.  She enjoyed meeting the characters, but was a little shy at first.  By the time she left each character, she was hugging them and saying "Bye!"  Minnie Mouse is her all-time favorite!!  It was a very special trip for Philip and me…..getting to see our girls' faces light up and have so much fun.  The experience is very "magical" at these ages.  We are blessed to be able to experience all of these things with Olivia, and I'm so glad that we are able to give her such experiences.

We drove all the way back in one day, the day before Thanksgiving.  The girls did great again, with only one car sick instance.

The below picture is how all of the character meetings started:  Ansley running up to the character with Olivia lagging behind.  In many instances, I ended up in the picture, too.

 In the below picture, Elsa "froze" the castle.  It was beautiful!
 Miss Mischievous at her best….I wonder what she's scheming...

 Loving the tea cups!

 Enjoying the parade and waving at the characters.

 The below picture was taken in "China" at Epcot.

 Most days, this is what Olivia looked like as we headed back to the hotel for naptime.  She fell asleep on the bus almost every day.
 She's a climber!  She climbed on anything and everything at Disney.
 Another pre-naptime shot.

 It came a torrential downpour the day we were at Hollywood Studios, but that didn't stop us from having fun!

Philip also put together a great video of our our week at Disney.

After we returned from our magical trip, we celebrated Thanksgiving with our family at Susan's.  We enjoyed seeing everyone, especially the babies.  We are blessed to have not only Olivia join our family this year, but Case (born Dec 2013) and Jake (born May 2014) as well.  What a fun (and crazy) time it is with everyone together.  Disclaimer:  it is difficult to get all of these kiddos to be still for a picture!
Below:  Ansley, Olivia, and Case

Below:  Ansley, Jake, Olivia, and Case

Olivia's 1st Thanksgiving, 2014

 The Martindales are THANKFUL - thankful beyond words.  Thankful for good health, friends, family, children, the gift of adoption, and all the blessings God has bestowed upon us.  Thank you for being a part of our journey.

Until next time,