Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Year in Review 2006

What a difference a year makes...

It was Christmastime one year ago when we were just beginning to feel acclimated to family life and the challenges of parenting. Today our lives have a comfortable and familiar rhythm and the kids are thriving.

Christmas 2005: It took a week for the kids to open their gifts, as love at first sight gave way to fascination with boxes and shredding wrapping paper. In the interim, we had a great visit with the Breslin and Trautwein families; enjoyed the “Cousins’ Lunch” at Whitemarsh; hosted Aunt TT, Uncle Scott, Megan, Craig and Casey for a couple of days; and ROCKED New Year’s Eve until 10 PM!

In January 2006 we said good-bye to Molly’s baby chick hair (quite the sad occasion for me) and hello to a couple mouths full of teeth. The winter’s first significant snowstorm found us trying our hand at a time-honored tradition: wrestling the kids into snowsuits. An hour of bundling and buckling and swathing in layers left Mom and Dad drenched with perspiration and the children appropriately immobile. Fifteen minutes later, Mom and the kids retreated to the warmth of the house to watch Dad snow-blow the driveway. On our first “date” as parents, Alli and I attended the Big 5’s 50th Anniversary Celebration at the Palestra.

Aidan had minor little boy outpatient surgery to kick off a busy month of February. Mom was a bit of a wreck in pre-op, but the boy was so loopy on the sedative he’d been given he fairly leapt into the arms of the nurse with scarcely a look back when the time came for his procedure. Post-op was another story, though, and after we arrived home he spent the afternoon at home sleeping first in Alli’s arms and then mine. After a few days of delicate diaper changes he was good as new. February also brought the first of Aunt Barbara’s regularly scheduled visits as she helped Alli take care of the kids and the two of them hosted a bridal shower for Barbara’s daughter/our niece Kristen. Shank, Monique and their kids came down from Welland, Ontario for a weekend.

Spring arrived not a moment too soon: After too many months confined to the house, Alli could take the kids outside! They love being outdoors: playing in their little cottage on the back patio, running around in the yard, pushing their trucks on the driveway, taking wagon rides through the neighborhood, going to children’s parks in the area, and visiting the Lehigh Valley Zoo. When the weather turned warm enough, Molly and Aidan “swam” in their pool, ran under the sprinkler, and ran away from Daddy’s garden hose. We spent July 4th at a neighbor’s house, where the kids got their first look at fireworks up close and personal.

In August, neighbors gave us bike seats their children had outgrown. Alli took Molly and Aidan for helmets (or as Aidan likes to say, “Bipe hap Daddy!”) and taking the kids for a bike ride in the evening became a favorite family activity. August 8th marked the one-year anniversary of the kid’s discharge from the baby home into our permanent custody and we celebrated with our Kazakhstan travel companions Bob, Beth and Nicholas. Molly and Daddy and Aidan and Mommy enjoyed the sights and sounds of Musikfest and polkaed like pros. An article written for La Salle’s quarterly alumni magazine about us, the kids and our adoption experience was published in the summer issue and delivered later in the month. We closed August with a week in Ocean City, NJ with Mo and Pop-Pop: The kids loved the beach and the boardwalk and sleeping in their “beach cribs” (pack-n-plays).

Potty training began in September. Dora the Explorer and Bob the Builder pull-ups along with M & Ms were the catalyst for early success. The kids turned two in late October – the 21st for Molly, the 28th for Aidan – and received terrific two-year wellness check-up reports. For Halloween, Molly was a princess and Aidan a bumblebee. The damp, raw weather limited our trick-or treating but the candy
haul was impressive nonetheless and Kit Kats were an unmistakable favorite. To our delight, the kids got a big a kick out of answering the door and distributing candy, and on more than one occasion we watched as a Kit Kat was extended to a waiting ghoul or goblin only to be recalled at the last moment in favor of a Milky Way or Snickers, said Kit Kat then promptly redeployed to Molly or Aidan’s substantial pile.

November brought exciting news: Alli will be inducted into La Salle’s Hall of Athletes in a ceremony scheduled for February 24, 2007. The stars aligned for this one: 2007 marks the 20th anniversary of her graduation and the 10th anniversary of her induction into the Big 5 Hall of Fame, and February 24 is her birthday. For Thanksgiving, we took Molly and Aidan to Canada: Monique prepared an award-winning turkey dinner; the kids met Nick and Virg and Tara and Tara’s eighteen-month old son Cooper, who took a shining to our Molly, and learned a little French from Mrs. C and Giselle; we all took a trip to see Niagara Falls; and Aidan drove a front-end loader (no kidding!), a two-year old boy’s dream come true if there ever was one.

So here we are, a year gone by and the holidays upon us. Molly and Aidan enjoyed their first Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem. As with last year, Molly wants nothing to do with visiting Santa’s lap, though Aidan took the opportunity to charm the fat man and request a school bus and a choo-choo. We took the kids to get our tree again this year, and they trooped up hill and down dale with Mom and Dad in search of evergreen perfection. They’ve been excited participants in our preparations, anxiously exploring box after box of Christmas treasures (how have we managed to accumulate so much stuff over the years?) and helping to decorate the tree. We enjoyed a cookie party at our adoption agency and were delighted to find Aidan’s picture in the local paper the next day.

Molly remains as vivacious as ever. She has a great sense of humor, loves to laugh and dance, and enjoys singing and clapping games. She hugs and kisses her babies and stuffed animals with gusto. Circumspect and hesitant by nature, she has made wonderful strides in handling new situations and meeting new people. She is content with solitary play or quiet reading at times but prefers company in most activities. She loves her brother, often at his peril and only so long as he remembers who’s the boss. We watch with fascination as their interaction changes with their developing personalities. She bedevils Mom and Dad at times but remains the apple of her Pop-Pop’s eye. Molly is a sweet, sweet little girl.

Aidan, so small and so frail when we met him, has flourished in the last year. He is keenly observant and extremely curious about how things work. The more adventurous of the two, he eagerly tries new things; however, his ambitions sometimes exceed his capabilities, at which point things begin to fly! He loves everything to do with cars and trucks and trains (Thomas the Tank Engine has dethroned Elmo), and is content to spend hours playing with them. Much like his Dad, Aidan enjoys cleaning and counts the dust buster and vacuum attachments among his favorite toys. He remains a little boy through and through, however, smashing into this and crashing into that and all the while providing play by play and color commentary whether anyone is listening or not. Like his sister, he strikes us as very bright and we marvel at his ability to string words together and form ideas. He is quick to smile and laughs heartily and often. Aidan is a sweet, sweet little boy.

We are reminded each and every day that we are truly blessed. We wish you the special blessings of Christmas throughout the season and the New Year.

Merry Christmas with love,
Pat, Alli, Molly and Aidan

(We’re still Blogging @

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Holiday Preparations

Unlike last year, Molly and Aidan have been enthusiastic participants in our Christmas preparations. They've anxiously explored box after box of Christmas treasures and helped us decorate the tree. I know it's still early but they've been good about touching things gently or leaving things alone when we ask. The two exceptions have been the ornaments on the tree and the gift wrapped boxes (which are empty and for display only) and who can blame them. We put a gate across the doorway into the room where the tree is and placed the boxes up a little higher. We've designated the sofa table as Molly and Aidan's and they are able to touch and play with whatever is on there. They also have a Little People Nativity (given to them by our friends Nick and Virg from Welland, Ontario) which they like to play with. The baby Jesus was missing for a few days but luckily was found in between the sofa cushions. Any figure from the Nativity can be seen atop the Creche; one of the wisemen, Mary, Joseph, a camel...whatever. With our decorating complete, I'll be moving on to baking cookies. We also need to get our Christmas cards out but we'll be happy as long as they're in the mail by the 24th. You always get a few cards after Christmas.

Aidan has taken a real shining to a plush Rudolph toy and has been carrying him around the house. Rudolph has also be seen tooling around in the back of Aidan's dump truck. He is not really a stuffed animal kids so this attachment is a wonder to us. Molly has had a few issues with some of our decorations. Our closet has a growing collection of things she is afraid of including two plush Santas, a stuffed Opus (for those of you who remember Calvin and Hobbs), and a plush Grinch in a Santa suit. I hope this is it because we're running out of space. Poor little girl!!

On Saturday we took the kids to Jim Thorpe, PA. Jim Thorpe, formerly Mauch Chunk, is a small picturesque Pennsylvania town with a fascinating history. Established in a wilderness on the banks of the Lehigh River in 1818, Mauch Chunk became a bustling coal transportation center, tourist Mecca, and the esteemed seat of Carbon County by the middle of the 19th century. It's only 45 minutes from our house and a really cool place. One of the highlights of the day was the H.O. train display. The display is 47 ft. x 12 ft. and features 13 mainlines measuring 1087 sq. ft. of track, over 200 structures, 100 bridges, and trestles, moving autos, a burning building, old fashioned football stadium, and more. Some engines pull more than 50 railroad cars. Aidan was in heaven. They had a nice supply of candy canes so Molly was happy too!

All in all we're in pretty good shape for the upcoming holidays. We've taken a low stress approach and are getting done what time allows. This has been a good plan as we've really been enjoying getting ready for Christmas.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Oh Christmas Tree

Last Thursday night we attended a holiday party sponsored by our adoption agency. The turn out was great and it was wonderful to see so many families that were created through adoption. It was also nice to see the agency people we worked so closely with during the process. They genuinely enjoy getting a chance to see the children since much of their involvement is on the paperwork end. Bob, Beth and Nicholas (the family we traveled with to Kaz) were also there. Their paperwork to adopt a child from Guatemala is complete. Now they wait for a referral and are hopeful they will travel this summer. We're very excited for them. We discovered that Aidan LOVES cookies and he had a grand feast with those he was served and those to which he helped himself. We were concerned that the agency people would think we never feed the boy. Luckily, he suffered no ill effects from the copious quantites he consumed. Santa stopped in for a visit. He received mixed reviews from the kids as one might expect. Some greeted him with joy while others burst into tears. Molly hopped into the safety of her daddy's arms but did not cry. Aidan sat on Santa's lap again. "School bus please" was his request. No lap for Molly however she did blow Santa a kiss when we were leaving. She's making progress.

On Saturday I attended a bridal shower for Pat's cousin. The shower was in South Jersey and started at 11:00am so I was out the door early. Daddy had Molly and Aidan all to himself. A great day was had by one and all.

We woke the kids up early on Sunday morning and went to the 8:30 Mass. After church and a quick breakfast we headed out to find our Christmas tree. The first place we went to had a lot of atmosphere but the trees were pre-cut. You could cut your own but the selection wasn't great. This place had a nice train display, horse drawn wagon rides and guess who...yes, Santa. There weren't many people there so Santa was trying to talk to Molly and Aidan from where he was seated. Aidan was too mesmerized by the trains to notice and Molly was hiding between my legs. After a few minutes he came over and gave them each a candy cane. Aidan took his and surprisingly so did Molly. Candy is hard to resist. Pat theorized that Molly was too caught off guard by Santa sneaking up on her to react. Both kids scarfed down the candy canes. We didn't even know they liked peppermint. Aidan took another opportunity to sit on the fat man's lap. His Christmas wish list has grown. He now would like a school bus and a choo choo.

The next place we stopped had tons of trees to choose from and we inspected nearly every one. Molly and Aidan were troopers and didn't complain as we climbed up and down the mountain side. After we found the one, Pat broke out the saw and cut it down. The kids were intrigued. The tractor swung by for the tree and we walked to the checkout. Aidan was fascinated by the baler (hard to imagine). While we waited for our tree to be done, Aidan invented a new game called "throw the stump down the hill". Pat had cut a small round piece from the tree stump for each of the kids. Aidan threw his down the hill and didn't it roll about 25 feet. Pat retrieved it and both kids threw theirs again. This time they all chased them down. I wish I had the video camera. It was hysterical. Everyone there was laughing. We paid for the tree, tied it to the roof and headed home. We had a terrific time. Tonight we'll put the tree in the stand and Pat will put on the lights. That will be enough to accomplish with two 2 year old "helpers".

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Adventures in Bedland

The guys from Sherwood's Furniture arrived on Tuesday morning to convert Molly and Aidan's cribs to toddler beds. They made quick work of Aidan's crib but Molly's was another story. They were not familiar with the brand (Morigeau-Lepine: a French Canadian company) and weren't sure if it converted to a toddler bed. These convertible types go from a crib to a toddler bed (small bed that still uses the crib mattress)to a full-size bed. We didn't seem to have the parts needed to make Molly's crib into a toddler bed. I hopped on our computer (embarrassed by our dial-up connection) to find a number for the manufacturer. After placing a phone call the guys were able to determine that her crib does convert to a toddler bed but we don't have the necessary parts. They were going to straighten it out back at the shop. So we were one for two. Molly and Aidan were involved in all of the activity and seemed to enjoy themselves and entertain the company. As usual, they were very "helpful".

After a quick lunch it was time for the moment of truth. "Aidan, I know you can get out of your bed now and run around your room play but mommy and daddy want you to stay in bed and sleep." That's all you have to say to a two year old, right? Not exactly as anyone whose been through this knows. Molly now feels she has her own personal assistant. She can throw toys from her crib and Aidan can retrieve them. If she can't figure out which buttons to push to get the fish to swim in her oceans of wonder aquarium, no problem. Aidan can help. After about a 1/2 hour of frivolity and visits from mom the room became quite. The boy slept in his bed. All in all, not too bad.

But wait, in addition to nap time there is bed time. Oi vay! "Aidan, I know you can get out of your bed now and run around your room play but mommy and daddy want you to stay in bed and sleep." After nearly 2 hours of fun and games and numerous visits from mom and dad we threw in the towel. Pat retrieved the pack-n-play from the basement and we set the boy up in there. Everyone was out within 10 minutes. Although this is what we expected, it was a stressful experience. We decided that we would put Aidan's crib back together and try again after the holidays when we have more time to devote to the transition.

However, after sleeping on it mom and dad re-stategized. We'll keep the pack-n-play up, buy a bed rail to help Aidan feel more comfortable and keep with it. Worse comes to worst, we'll keep putting him in the pack-n-play for a while. We also decided that it's time to move our dear little girl to her own room. We'll convert her bed and move her across the hall at the beginning of next year. I like to say it that way because it sounds like we have more time than we really do.

And don't ya know when we arrive in Molly and Aidan's room for their nap Aidan hops in his bed, stretches out and says "mommy, mommy, mommy, Aidan sleep here now." Go figure.

Monday, December 04, 2006

This and That

Don't know how it happens but another weekend has flown by. On Saturday morning we took the kids to Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem. Christkindlemarkt is a holiday craft fair housed in two huge circus tents featuring shopping, food, live holiday music, kid's rides and activities and of course jolly, old St. Nicholas. We hurried past 5 or 6 busses unloading seniors to purchase our tickets and get inside. The place was mobbed but Molly and Aidan did well. There was so much for them to see. After shopping a bit we made our way to Santa's place. Amazing no one was in line so we pushed our strollers to the front to let the kids see the fat man. Molly immediately began to grind her teeth and say no ho ho, no ho ho. We eventually got her to give a half-hearted wave. Aidan was not all that interested until I mentioned that if he wanted a school bus for Christmas he would have to tell Santa. The boy leapt from his stoller, climbed on Santa's lap and requested said school bus (remembering to say please). No sure if old Santa understood but Aidan was quite pleased with himself and got a box of Mike & Ikes to boot.

We went out to dinner and a movie with the neighbors on Saturday evening. The Rau girls (also neighbors) baby sat. They are the first non-family memebers to put Molly and Aidan to bed. When we got home Jenna reported that the kids went down without a fuss but that when the went to check on them after they were asleep they discovered that Molly had taken her pajamas off. Not to worry we said it's par for the course. All went well and we look forward to having them sit again.

Molly if officially on potty training hiatus. I'll put her on the potty, read a few books and nothing (maybe a drop or two). She then proceeds to wet in her pull up. She just isn't interested. We've decided to give it a rest for a while and pick up again later when she becomes interested. Aidan on the other hand will soon be ready for underwear. "Hooray for underpants" to quote Elmo.

We had a surprise on Sunday night after the kids were in bed (not sleeping mind you but in their cribs). They are doing their normal thing, hopping, talking, laughing. Pat and I are in the kitchen making dinner. Suddenly we hear real wailing. Pat heads up the back stair and I tear up the front (he tells me later that he chose a diffent staircase to avoid being run over by me). I'm sure the holiday candles in the window have ignited the shade. We enter the room to find a little boy wandering in the dark, dazed and crying. Yes, it has finally happened. Aidan climbed (or fell) out of his crib. He wasn't hurt, just startled. Molly was apparently startled as well which accounts for her wailing. So, tomorrow someone from Sherwood's Furniture store will come to convert the cribs to toddler beds. Wish us luck. We'll be entering new and uncharted territory.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Let the Shopping Begin

Once a week my in-laws (aka Mo and Pop Pop) watch Molly and Aidan. This works out well for all parties involved. Mo and Pop Pop get their weekly Molly and Aidan fix, Molly and Aidan get to spend time with their beloved grand parents, and good old Mom gets out and about. A true win/win/win situation. Yesterday was the day and I used my time off to begin Christmas shopping. This is quite a change for us since prior to the arrival of M & A Pat and I would do all of our shopping the Saturday before Christmas in one big blitz. Not gonna work anymore. Silly me, having rarely been to the mall during the week at holiday time I thought that it would be empty. Boy was I wrong ever wrong. The place was rockin' and I enjoy being out in the hustle and bustle.

I'm off to a good start. I purchased a fleece blanket, pin and sweater for our "secret senior" (senior in a local nursing care facility)and a princess tea set from The Disney Store for Molly. I was also looking for a holiday sweater/vest for Aidan. Has anyone recently tried to find a such a thing for a toddler boy? Next to impossible. I looked in two children's stores and three department stores. Nada. Hundreds of pretty dresses for girls (which we don't need since Molly received one from Aunt Leen and Uncle Ron for her birthday) but nothing for toddler boys. Fortunately when I arrived home and shared my plight with my MIL she remembered that she had forgotten to tell me that she found a vest for Aidan. I'm glad the search is over.

Speaking of Christmas shopping....has anyone received the F*A*O Schwarz catalog? Blew my mind. High-end doesn't describe it. Here are a few examples: 1) Life size Santa (6' tall)...$3,000 2)Custom Lionel Train Set...starting at $10,000 (contact a personal shopper to discuss the details) 3)Your House as a Doll House (detailed scale model of your own home)...starting at $10,000 and 4) Life-Sized Lego Batman (6' 6" tall)...$27,000. YIKES!! They do have one page with items priced at $25. These must be stocking stuffers.