Saturday, August 27, 2011

Catching up on Blueberry

The world of Blueberry has greatly changed the last few weeks. For those who care, here are some updates on my darling little girl.

She is now one years old and most definitely a toddler. She began to attempt walking the week we started packing up to move here, and while she still sits down hard on occasion when walking she is walking probably 90% of the time now and enjoying it immensely. You can see her getting braver and trying to move up to running. Not quite yet, but it cometh soon!

She has also managed to push in 3 more teeth since we've been here and is working on at least 2 more, possibly four (all her eye teeth). Heaven help us, teething and transitioning has been fun. We have once again had the realization of exactly how much this little one depends on a regular nap schedule. The days we have been unable to maintain that regular schedule have been rough at best. And it takes several days to get her settled back in again. But taking the time to get her re-scheduled is totally worth it as she is a much happier child.

We're pretty sure Blueberry has grown again--definitely has put on weight--but can't say how much on either scale. However, she is still a tiny little miss all around. Thriving though, so not worried about her.

The girls love her. We've actually had to create a "Blueberry Monitor" for our on days otherwise it was a constant stream of "Can I sit with her for lunch?" "Well I want to sit with her in the van." "I get to sit with her at dinner!" The Blueberry Monitor gets to sit by her (if they want) for all meals, van trips, etc. So much simpler.

Talking--not yet but she's trying. Perhaps a few attempts at "Da-de" and "Mama" but not enough that we'll claim it as first words. Her sign language continues to improve. She now signals "nap" and has created her own sign for being thirsty (wide open mouth!). She still confuses "milk" and "food" at times, but has "please" down pat. We're beginning to think her first real word might be "out" which is said frequently to Calista and which she has begun to imitate with great gusto.

In the world of food--we've tried wheat. Not for sure yet on that one. We've taken her back off of it again, and will try in a few days. One time she got hold of some cereal (unrealized by us) and did break into eczema all over, but when that cleared up and we tried her on some other wheat based stuff, she didn't break out. She did however have a foul temper for about a day. Not sure if that was sleep schedule or being off of the wheat, so we decided to not give her any more, wait a bit, and try again.

She is now trying to feed herself with a spoon. Rather messy affair, and she'll still occasionally tolerate us feeding her baby food, but most of the time she wants to do it herself. Loves bananas and blueberries (how apropos). Would seriously eat her body weight in both if we let her. Squeals in delight when she sees them (also squeals in delight/terror when she sees Calista. At least it sounds like terror, but then she'll go and poke Calista in the eye attempting to pet her, and give her hugs, so I don't think that's really a problem).

Other fun things: she loves blowing kisses and really is a very affectionate little girl. Gives great hugs (when so inclined) and is getting very expert at giving actual kisses. There's nothing better than the feeling of two little baby arms wrapped around your neck and little baby smooches just take it over the top.

And she has definitely taken to her two pink, fuzzy blankets as some of her favorite items in the world. Will unpack an entire bag just to pull out her pink blanket if she knows it is in there.

That's been another fun game. Unpacking things. She began pulling things out of boxes as we were trying to pack up and move here. Not helpful then, but she's had a grand old time pulling things out of boxes as we've been unpacking since we got here. Rather helpful actually as she'll toss it on the floor, and all I have to do is pick it up and put it where it goes. Just have to be careful she doesn't get her hands on breakables.

We can see her beginning to mimic us so regularly. The other day she appeared to be "cooking" as she kept trying to stir a spoon around and around a bowl. She is very lovey with all baby dolls, stuffed animals, and anything that she perceives as a baby in any way.Even her babbles are sometime distinct tonal mimics of our words. Such fun.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Almost a month?

I cannot believe it has been nearly four weeks since I posted last. The time has just flown by. Sadly, I cannot report that my house is completely unpacked and we are settled. I can, however, report that it improves daily--albeit slowly.

So what have we been doing the last 3.5 weeks?

Week 1 -- Training week. This whole first week we bounced back and forth between training sessions, shadowing other Houseparents, unpacking enough to get at least a functioning household, hanging out with our girls at the cottage they were staying at, and attempting to cook some meals so I could eat. Our chef on campus is fantastic; however, as he is somewhat limited to the ingredients he can use as a lot of what he has to utilize is donated, taking on the challenge of cooking for food-complex people is double difficult. He enjoys a challenge, however, and has been doing his best. But we're helping out as much as possible by communicating a lot with him and bringing meals for me to eat as necessary.

We have met most of the staff who work here. I think we see some good friend potential in several of them. I'll be glad when we actually have time to develop relationships!

Our training was, unfortunately, not as helpful as we would have like; however, it gave us enough to be going on with. We were supposed to have had 2 days off at the end of that first week, but we wound up using that weekend to prepare for the girls coming back on Monday. We knew if we didn't, we were going to wind up hurting ourselves in the long run. However, not having those two days to just work on our house was frustrating because it meant that we really didn't get any time to focus solely on setting up our own house until we had been here nearly 2 weeks.

Our cottage is requiring a lot of TLC. Cupboards have been scrubbed, dozens of bags of trash have gone out, oodles of maintenance requests have been written up, and I still feel like we have a long way to go. However bit by bit it comes together.

Week 2 - Monday the girls came home. This whole week was interesting as we were working on relationship building, boundary setting, limit pushing (on their end), and trust establishment. All in all, I think it's coming together well. More about our girls later. In general observations though, we have a fun cottage to be working with.

The thing that made this first week particularly difficult to work was the continued training sessions we had to attend. It meant shipping the girls off to another cottage (or three) for about half the days. And poor Blueberry had more babysitting between this week and the few previous ones than she has had her entire first year of life.

Tuesday of this week was her birthday. Mommy had a hard time this day as it was one of our few all day training days, and she couldn't be in that session. Between the realization that my baby is now 1 (and most definitely a Toddler), not being able to celebrate properly (although we did have cake and the girls were infinitely amused by watching Blueberry get chocolate smashed all over face), and having to be separated from her most of the day--I had a bit of a rough day. But I survived. And am even more thankful that we had a birthday party for her before moving. Once again Chris' birthday disappeared in the rush of insanity. Poor boy. Need to have a proper celebration for him next year.


This week also involved a lot of hurried changes in the cottage. We had put in a few requests for improvements to our part of the cottage, and it all came together this week. A team was in and what these volunteer teams do is work around the campus in the mornings/early afternoons and then in the later afternoon/evenings they hang out with the kids. Well, by the end of the week we had a chain-link fence up around "our part" of the cottage yard so we can let Calista run free again in the backyard. All of the rooms in our part of the cottage are painted (yay!) and look so much nicer than the stark white on white that they were. I had one evening to pick out paint colors, so I will confess to sticking basically with what our home was in Missouri. I knew I liked the colors and it was simpler and faster to decide that way. Deeper blue in our bedroom and our living room/ kitchen are actually a brown (already painted, and we decided to not change it), but if anyone ever comes to visit who has seen our old house, they will recognize much of the general color scheme in the rest of the rooms.

Week 3 - The first three days of our third week we had off! We work on a 6/3 schedule, so our off days rotate regularly. It's an interesting schedule, actually, as it allows for us to work with our girls all days of the week (just not every week), and also gives us days off in the middle of the week for getting our own work done as well as occasional weekends. 6 days is definitely long to work, but having 3 days off is fantastic. Unfortunately, we did great the first day off and then all three of us were sick to some degree or another the last two days off which really limited how much work we got done on our apartments.

While we were off, the girls started school. We came back to work on a Wednesday morning, so they had already had two days to get settled into their school routine (it's an interesting system. We establish how the cottage works, but then on our off days, we have "Relief Houseparents" (RHPs) who come in and are supposed to continue running the cottage as we have established. The success of that is really dependent on the RHPs themselves as well as how well we have worked to set up systems for them to work within).

This week was definitely a little rougher than the first week. The girls had gotten comfortable enough to really start pushing limits. Plus the change of school starting was another factor in everything. But I think we came out positively in the end. And several of the girls have really bonded with us which is fun.

We did get to explore the town a little bit. As employees here we have an automatic annual free pass to the local botanical gardens--beautiful. Took the girls there one day. Beautiful gardens. Quite large and includes waterfalls, caves, rocks, as well as regular gardens. Will enjoy exploring more as the weather cools off (it has been so hot here).

Sunday was our first Sunday at "our" church (the one the girls have already been going to). Will fully admit that it's not the kind of church we would have chosen to attend if it was just us, but rather than providing another change and point of instability in their lives, we will continue to attend this one at least for now. It's a nice enough church, just not our style.

As I type this we are now on the tail end of our second three days off. We have successfully managed to get a lot more done this time around as well as getting a lot of sleep and down time--both of which were desperately needed.

More to come...

Monday, August 1, 2011

We're Moved and Related News

I'm sitting in bed resting my poor, exhausted feet and legs, looking at a very box-y, just moved in looking bedroom. Pandora is playing soothing tunes, and Blueberry is (thankfully) snoozing blissfully in her room.

The last few days have been exhausting, stressful, crazy, glorious, and insane all rolled into one.

Saturday: We did the amazing and moved our entire house into the U-Haul in 3 hours. Can I say a HUGE thank you to the 14 wonderful people who came and helped us load the truck. Particularly my brother who saved me from having a nervous break-down when Chris came to me early on to inform me that he didn't think we could fit everything into the U-Haul. I probably could have done the Tetris game myself and made it all fit, but my job was supposed to be inside directing action from the inside (and playing hide from Blueberry who would freak out and want me whenever she saw me, but then was ok as long as she couldn't see me). And my version of the game probably would have involved a few moments of tears in frustration! The end results of the truck was an impressive packing job.

The rest of the day we finished packing up the car boxes/bags, checked into our hotel (we decided a good nights sleep was invaluable), having a few laps in their pool to sooth our aching muscles, and had dinner at my brother's house. The Last Supper as it's commonly called in my family (given the number of "Last Suppers" we've had in our lives, one would think we should really come up with a new name).

Sunday morning started bright and early as we met my sister and brother-in-law at our house, worked hard at fitting the final boxes and bags into the two cars (wound up not quite fitting everything--discovered later that we didn't pack any jasmine rice; I think I might die if we can't buy it in town--and also couldn't fit my indoor plants. Hoping they can come at a later trip), and by 9am we set off.

My sister and I and Blueberry drove on ahead of the U-Haul (Chris driving with Calista in the front seat--apparently she did pretty good the whole trip other than sitting up at the most inopportune moments and blocking his line of sight) and the second car (driven by my new brother-in-law). 5 hours later, we pulled into the driveway of my new home. I knocked on the front door, was greeted by the temporary house parent, handed keys, met our 4 current girls (2 age 9, 1 age 10, and 1 age 11), glanced around our new apartments, and started unloading the car. Moments later the second car and U-Haul pulled in, and the big move started. The teen girls house and then later the teen boys house came to help us unload. We were completely unloaded within 2 hours.

I will fully admit to having one breakdown in the middle of the unloading. To much helpful advice regarding the unloading process coming to late to be of any use and truthfully just being frustrating. But the intentions were good. I was just to stressed (and sweaty and gross) to handle much of anything gracefully by that point!

Later that evening we made a short escape to Heather and Brian's house which they've barely got set up themselves. Food made a world of difference to my mood, and getting a chance to talk about what we're going to be doing, the schedule for the next few weeks, all such important things was helpful.

As their cottage (normally elementary boys) has only one resident, he has temporarily moved to a slightly older boy's home, and our girls have moved to them for the week while we train and settle. Which, while I'm anxious to get to know the girls better and get started, is a huge blessing as having the house to ourselves is nice for now. Plus knowing Heather and Brian as well as we do (Heather's just happens to be one of my best friends!), talking about how to handle the girls, coordinating elementary children schedules (our relief parents alternate between our two houses), rules, and other such concepts will be easier as we're not doing the whole "we're complete strangers having to learn to work closely together in a very quick amount of time" dance.

Last night we got Blueberry's crib set up, our bed, and unpacked cold food. Not much but enough.

Today involved a lot of meeting people. Basically we're learning what goes on around here and all the different house parents and personnel who work on campus and how it all comes together. Had my first adventures in the dining hall. The chef was very nice and quick to accommodate; although, I will probably still wind up doing a lot of my own cook just to simplify matters (and to low risk factors further).

At the same time, we're trying to get settled into our new home. I've barely even looked into the main cottage; although, there is work that will need to be done on that too. For now, just trying to get out of our boxes as quickly as possible. Blueberry's room is unpacked. Not decorated, but the boxes of extra toys/decorations/pictures are in the closet and everything else is functional. I felt it important to give her some normalcy as quickly as possible. The kitchen I can move around in. Stuff is getting into cupboards. Probably not in permanent spots, but at least out of boxes and in somewhere. Our room I shoved a lot of furniture and boxes around this evening (Chris was out training, but one of us had to stay home with Blueberry, so I worked on unpacking), so here too there is at least space to work in.

I'll post pictures when I can find our camera (heh heh) and actually get around to taking some. In the meantime, we're settling slowly. Excited and nervous. I'll feel much better when our stuff is arranged and I feel "home".

The rest of this week is lots of meetings with other people, "shadowing" other house parents, and unpacking. Then starting Monday the girls are ours. One week after we start with them, they all go back to school which is nice as we'll get straight into school routine right off the bat.

OK, much more to share, but I've rambled on long enough for one evening. And as Chris just got back in, I want to catch up with him and then crash. Hard.