Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hosana Banana.

The Banana is Carter's love language, for sure.  If you offer him one, he will love you forever.  When I cut up his banana in the morning, he screams "BA-DUH-DUHHH!!!".  Translation: Holy Banana, my day is complete.

Jake found this little gem a few days ago, and Carter & I have been rockin' out to it each morning.  Go ahead, listen to it.  Listen to it, and then tell me it's not fun.  He even includes the 'sassy sniff' - so I'm pretty sure this song was made just for Carter.

One Thing I Know For Sure: No other fruit is quite like you, you be lookin' good in that bright yellow suit.  Word.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Why's Answered...Part 2!

No, you didn't miss 'Part 1' - it was published over a year ago, while we were in the process of adopting Carter.  You can read those questions and answers HERE.

I decided to do an updated 'Whys Answered' because we still get lots of questions.  Maybe one year from today, I'll do another one :)  Or maybe I'll be so busy after adopting our sibling set of 5 that I just won't have time...

....oh my word.  Completely kidding.  Get back in your chairs, pick up your jaws, and read on.


+How is Carter doing?
GREAT.  Really, he's great.  He knows lots of signs, is starting to use words, and throws a pretty impressive tantrum.

+Does he understand English?
Yes, for sure.  He does NOT understand English like a typical 4 year old understands it.  And many times, if we use a command like 'Put that away' he will look at us blankly.  But he DOES understand basic communication.  It helps me to think of his 'age of understanding' to be the same as the number of months he's been home.  He's been home about 8 months, so I think he understands English as a 8 month old would understand it.  Does that make sense?  I think the longer he's been home, the more quickly he'll 'age' - and eventually he will be 'caught up' on what he understands.

+Does he sleep good?
It depends when you ask this.  If you would have asked a month ago, I would have said HECK no!  But currently, he is back to taking 2+ hour naps, and sleeping 10 hours at night.  Pretty sure we can thank a growth spurt for that.

+Is he always happy?  Because most kids with Down syndrome are always happy, right?
Ha.  This is funny to any parent who has a child with Down syndrome.  I will say that Carter has a very sunny disposition, and he's usually a sweet, loving, carefree kid.  Usually.  But Carter screams - tantrums - and cries just like any other kid when he doesn't get his way.  As long as we're talking about it - it's really not fair to 'generalize'.  Kids with Down syndrome are KIDS.  They all have different personalities - different strengths & weaknesses - and different dispositions.  Think about how you feel when you hear people generalize all women as being 'moody' - 'meant for the kitchen' - 'materialistic' - fill in the blank.  They're not all sunny, all the time - and it's unfair to classify them as such.

+Does he talk?
No, but he CERTAINLY communicates.  He continues to use sign language, and we're amazed how quickly he picks up new signs.  He will learn to talk eventually, but for now we're happy he's using signs.

+Won't using sign language limit his need for being verbal?
I'm no expert, and I don't have an article to back this up - but I'd say no.  The purpose (for us) in using sign language was to give him a way to communicate before the words came.  For us - sign language has done exactly what it's 'supposed to'.  He uses signs to communicate his needs.  Without signs, he would be constantly pointing and whining.  If moving from a Russian-speaking orphanage to an English-speaking home wasn't frustrating enough, not giving him ANY way to communicate would have REALLY messed with him.  Signing also helps him feel like he has SOME control.  He can tell me if he wants milk or water.  He can tell us that he wants to go in the car.  Without signing, that feeling of control would be gone.  And really, a four year old needs to feel like he is capable of making simple choices.

+Is he still in a crib?
Yes.  And he will be in a crib until we feel like it's safe enough to move him to a toddler bed.  He's not tall enough to climb out of the crib yet (and it still has one more slot that it can be moved down to), and when we did try the toddler bed - it ended with a little boy laying in front of his fan at 2am.  There's really no need for him to move right now, so a crib it is.

+Is he potty trained?
Oh boy.  Right now, the answer is no!  But I hope that SOON I will be able to say that we're at least on the ROAD to potty training :)

+Does he still eat everything?
Nope.  In fact, it's getting harder and harder to get Carter to eat new foods.  And some of the foods that he used to love, he will no longer eat on a regular basis (peanut butter, strawberries).  I heard once that kids tastebuds change every few weeks, but I'm not sure if I buy that completely.  I think a BIG part of this is that Carter has recently learned that he DOES have a say around here.  In the orphanage, there was no point in expressing an opinion.  Don't like the borscht today?  Tough.  You're eating it anyway.  But here, he has learned that it's okay to like some things, and not like other things.  So I'm okay with it.

+When does Carter start school?
Carter will start school this fall, likely only 3 mornings a week.  We're hoping he'll be in the Winneconne school district, because we plan to live there (someday...sigh...).  For him, we feel it's important to start him somewhere and KEEP him there, instead of starting him here and then moving him to Winneconne in a few years.  If he 'gets in' to Winneconne, he'll be in the same class for 2 years (with an amazing teacher!), and then will move to kindergarten.  Sounds like a pretty great start, to me.

+Will you be emotional when he starts?
Umm, yes.  I don't even want to think about it.  I know he's ready - I know he needs it - but that doesn't make it any easier on this mama!  Juli - don't make fun of me!  :)

+Do you think he's ready, 'attachment-wise', to be in school?
Yes.  Many experts say that adopted kids should be at home full-time for a full year before they start school.  Well, when Carter starts school he will have been home 10 months.  Not quite a year, but we think he's ready :)  We will also write into his IEP (a plan that all his teachers & aides will follow) that they should not give him hugs, etc - but only high fives.  This will help to solidify the fact that WE are mommy & daddy, and WE will be his source of love & affection.  I know that the teachers in Winneconne are already following things similar to this in other IEP's, so I fully trust that they will follow our wishes.

+Do you think you'll adopt again?
Yes, yes, and yes.  Jake & I agree that adoption is definitely in our future.  When?  No idea.  Where?  No idea.  Special needs?  No idea.  We're just taking things day by day, and we're sure that when it's time, we'll know.

+What about babies?  Can you have kids?
Ummm...I think so?  To be honest, we're just really enjoying Carter right now.  We are loving the fact that we can give him 100% of our attention.  At the same time, I'm not getting any younger.  I'll be 28 in September, people.  Wow - saying that out loud really jolted me.  Twenty-eight.  Holy moly.  Excuse me while I have a mini tantrum....

...okay, I'm back.  As I was saying, my clock is ticking.  We'll see what happens.  But in the meantime, I'm enjoying being Carter's mama, and nobody else's :)

+Do you still miss Ukraine?
So very much.  We hope to go back for a missions trip in the next year or two.  But until we can be there again, we pray for that country & those people.  Truly, a piece of our heart was left there.

+Do you keep in touch with Rachel?
Of course!  She's family!  Rachel still comes to help with Carter once a week so I can get some extra stuff done.  Her dad brings her in the morning on his way to work, and we take her to church in the evening where she watches Carter (so Jake & I can both enjoy the study) - and then she leaves with her parents.  I can't say ENOUGH about how awesome this experience has been.  She has been SO helpful (and she loves folding Carter's laundry...how great is THAT?!?!) - and I really look forward to her days here.  Unfortunately, once little boy starts school she won't be coming each week.  BUT...there is a chance she will be able to help in Carter's classroom at school.  And that will be a great opportunity for her.  But it also makes me laugh a little.  I can only imagine how hard it will be the first few times she's there - because Carter will undoubtedly think that she's there just for him :)

+Do Carter & Moses get along?
Ohhhh yes.  I would say that they love each other.  When Moses rests his head on the side of the bathtub during bath time, Carter always has a kiss for him.  When Moses sits really nice next to the high chair, Carter always tosses him a crumb or two.  They are absolutely buddies, and any disagreements that they've had in the past have been worked out :)

+Is Carter attached to you guys?
Jake and I would both answer yes to this question.  Carter knows we are his mama & daddy.  He still chooses other people over us sometimes, but that just comes with toddlerhood.  He definitely loves us.  He definitely loves his home.  He knows we are his family, without a doubt.  We chose to 'cocoon' for the first 6 months or so after coming home with Carter.  This means that Jake & I were the only ones to meet his needs, give him love & affection, etc.  I know there are different ways to 'do' attachment, but this way definitely worked for us, and we would likely use it again in the future.  It certainly wasn't the easiest on US - but we believe it was the best for Carter.

+What will Carter be like when he's older?
I'd be lying if I said I never wondered about this.  I wonder about it often.  And honestly - I just don't know.  But I guess none of us know who our kids will be when they become adults.  Will they be kind?  Will they look out for others?  Will they be contributing members of society?  We just don't know.  And that's okay.  Much of the gift of raising Carter is found in the unwrapping, not the end product.  So we don't know what the end product will be, but we'll enjoy him where he's at.

So - there ya' have it!  Your questions, answered!  Now you know.....  :)

And just because I wouldn't want you to leave sad:


One Thing I Know For Sure: So enjoying unwrapping this little gift...we are so very blessed!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Family Day

Life around here has been a little bit crazy.  Last night we celebrated the life of Jake's Grandpa Joe, and this morning we all gathered around as his ashes were placed in their final resting place, next to the love of his life - Rosemary. We rejoice in knowing that they are together again - not in that little wooden box, but walking side by side on streets of gold.

With all that has been going on lately, we decided to just have a fun day.  No 'chores'.  No 'errands'.  No phone calls, even!  Just the three of us, enjoying our time as a family.

+The Zoo+
Carter has never been to a zoo, so we weren't too sure how he'd do.  Would he freak out by the monkeys?  Would he be terrified of the penguins?!


Carter spent the whole time relaxing in the comfort of his stroller.  Let me tell you - it was hot out, again, and I don't "do well" in the heat.  Translation: The heat makes me very, very crabby.  But Carter held it together, and so did I :)

The zoo we went to is small and perfect for little kids, because you can linger for hours, or just make a quick trip through.  We opted for the quick trip :)

Carter loved waving to this horse.
Please don't tell him it's not a horse.
Clapping 'yay' for the horse :) 

 Next up was the giraffe.  This was one of the exhibits that could have forced us to pack up and go home :)

Well, Carter surprised us (which he seems to do a lot!) and he loved this long-necked guy :)  He was all laughs and giggles!

Almost grabbed Mr. Giraffe's tongue...!
 Carter really does love kisses.  Proof:

We went on to the petting zoo and Carter enjoyed petting all the dogs.

No, it's not a goat.  We prefer 'dog with horns'.
Of all the animals at the zoo, I'm positive that these were Carter's favorite:

 Every time a dirty little zoo bird would fly by, or tweet in our general vicinity, Carter would go crazy - signing 'bird' and saying 'duh-duhh!! duh-duhh!!' (his word for bird).

We spent $30 to look at birds.

We also went on a little train ride.  Carter screamed 'go, go, goooooo!' pretty much the whole ride :)  I'd say he liked it!

Our morning at the zoo was a success, and we'd like to go back when he knows more animal signs, and when it's not a bajillion degrees outside :)

We laughed at lunch, because Carter's world (and vocabulary) is so very small.  To him, the only animals that exist are birds, horses, cats, dogs, and fish.  That's it.  Every animal must fit into one of those categories :)

+Lambeau Field+
The stadium (where the Green Bay Packers play, for all my out of town readers!) is close to the zoo, so we thought we'd make a full day trip and head there for lunch!  This was part of Jake's birthday gift, since I stink at gift buying.  It's becoming more 'safe' to let him buy his own gifts :)  What could be better than a gift from the Packer Pro Shop?!  :)

Keep in mind - we just spent the whole morning at the zoo, and Carter didn't have a nap.  Just explaining in advance why there are no happy photos of Carter smiling :)

We ordered lunch at Curly's Pub (inside the Atrium), and Carter finally settled on his usual - chicken tenders :)

After lunch, we walked through the Packer Hall of Fame.

Later, we went through the Pro Shop and Jake picked out a shirt.  Anyone that knows Jake, knows that this was no small feat.  He finally, finally, FINALLY settled on the first shirt that I pointed out to him.


Great family fun day :)  Loved spending some time with my boys!

One Thing I Know For Sure: My cup runneth over....

Monday, July 09, 2012


For about a month or so, Moses and I have been battling.  He seems to think that a certain little Elmo toy is his.

It's not his.  

Moses grabs it out of the basket, I chase him down, screaming & yelling, and put it back in the basket.    Sometimes the screaming & yelling is accompanied by some arm flailing and my angry face.  After a few days of this, Elmo gets washed.   This cycle continues over & over & over & over & over.

Well, no more.  I give.

Love the look of terror on Elmo's face.
Moses - 1, Mama - 0.

Some battles are just not worth fighting.

Moses - enjoy your new Elmo toy.  It's all yours.


In other Moses news - as I was cleaning underneath the refrigerator today, I found what I thought was a small animal.  Don't worry - it was only a humongous glob of Moses hair.

In moments like these, I just keep repeating to myself: "I love my dog.  I love my dog.  I love my dog.".    The desire to list him on Craigslist usually only lasts a few minutes.

One Thing I Know For Sure: As Poppy would say "Oh, but he's such a gooood boy....".  Yep.  Uh-huh.  Sure.  :)

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Happy Birthday's.

+Happy Birthday, America+
Yesterday was a special day for Carter.  His first 4th of July as an American.  As a son.  As a FREE boy.  Free from the confines of an institution.  Did he have any idea?  No.  But we did.  And we are so grateful.

We celebrated like most Americans.  Family.  Food.  Fireworks.  Fun.  Loads of fun.

Oh, and heat.  Did I mention it was quite ridiculous?  Heat index WELL over 100 degrees.  Everyone was pretty much miserable.  Except Carter.  I'm not sure he even noticed.

The sparklers started along with the mosquitos.  It wouldn't be the fourth without them.

Carter did great until about 5 minutes into the show.  He got antsy.  It was sweltering hot.  The bugs were horrible.  So we packed it up and watched from the car.  All in all, a pretty great Independence Day.

+Happy Birthday, Dada+
Today is someones birthday.  Someone who we love very much.

It's our Dada's birthday.

I just can't say enough about how blessed I am.  What I guy I have.  What a catch :)

I've said it before - I love our life.  And I love that I get to live it with you by my side.  I love the way you love Carter.  I love the way you love me.

I love the nicknames we have for each other.  I love all of our inside jokes.  I love to follow your lead.  I love to watch movies in bed with you (even though I fall asleep during the opening credits).  I love to laugh at all your crazy dances.  I love when you take out the garbage, or do the dishes.  And I love you when you don't, too :)

I really love everything about you.

And I'm so, so fortunate that I get to walk this journey with you.  What a lucky girl I am.

28 years old, babe.  So much more to do.  So much more to see.  So much more to learn.  So much more to give.

Glad to be doing all of it with you.

Remember this, babe?
Remember when Carter was a stranger?
And now - he's not, because he's our son.
Pretty amazing.
I love you more and more every day.  So cliche - I know.  But what else can I say?

Where will we be 28 years from now?  Your 56th birthday.  I know without a doubt that we'll look back and say 'What an awesome life the Lord has blessed us with....'.

Love you, Chachi.  So, so much.

One Thing I Know For Sure: Love to love ya.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Well Hi There.

Long time, no see.  I know.  But I've been busy.  No, you don't need to remind me how much I DESPISE the word 'busy'.  If there has ever been a time that the word 'busy' is appropriate, it's now.  Just trust me.

So I'm doing a quickie today.  A catch up.  My buddy, Rachel, is here helping today - and I'm making the time to sit and share a tidbit of our lives.

+I survived Vacation Bible School, 2012+
Actually, I should say that 'we' survived it.  Me, and my 20+ helpers.  I think that's pretty incredible.  I'm amazed at the number of people that gave up 4 evenings out of a summer week to volunteer.

We survived, and we had fun in the process.  Because that's what we 'WCF-ers' do!

I tried to crop out the annoying 'bunny ears' in the background.
I won't tell you who it is, but anyone who knows my husband can probably guess.....

Carter had fun, too - even though he spent most of the time in his stroller.  He thought this Anita lady was pretty funny.  If you knew her, you would agree :)

VBS - done.  Now I'll go start planning for next year.....

+We met up with old friends+
Survived high school together - started dating our future spouses on April 12, 2003 - stood alongside us in our wedding - watched them have babies - move away to NY - now moving to TN....and they got to meet Carter Benjamin this weekend.

You know how people say that when old friends get together, you just pick up where you left off?  Yep.  That was pretty much it.  We laughed (mostly at our kids), shared stories....and it made my heart hurt a little bit, knowing that they'll still be so far away.

+Carter had his first real injury+
Okay, nothing major.  Just a skinned knee.  With blood.  And lots of tears.  Of course, we didn't have an Elmo bandaid, so I tried to convince him that this monster was Elmo.  Nope.  Not havin' it.

I've never seen his blood before. Does that sound weird?  Well, it looked just like my blood.  Go figure.

+A friend is going through crap+
How do you find a card for someone whose daughter was just diagnosed with Leukemia?  Here I am, bouncy toddler in cart, looking for a card, trying hard not to cry like a baby.  Cards with things like "We all experience things for a reason...."  and  "This will make you stronger...." just seemed inappropriate.  The card I got?  It said "This sucks".  I would say that about sums it up.

+Our church is moving+
We are so excited to be moving in to our new church building...but holy schmoly.  The work that goes in to a project like this astounds me.  I've done very, very little of it - some people have literally devoted the past year of their LIFE to working on this project.  And now we're moving in.  Big, huge sigh of relief.

+Heaven gained a great man+
Jake's Grandpa Joe went to be with Jesus.  He's with the love of his life, Grandma Rosie.  While we grieve his loss, we know that he's better than he's ever been.

So grateful that Carter got to meet his Grandpa Joe, and spend a little time with him.  And now, I'm really wishing we had a nice photo of Carter and his Grandpa Joe.  

Thanksgiving, 2011

+Carter swam with cousins+
I love to see Carter be scooped up by his cousins.  I love to see them just embrace him.  Love him.  There is something special about cousin-love.  

Isn't this the greatest?  I don't think Carter knows that Chloe is 'off limits' because they're related.
We'll tell him when he's older :)
There you have it.  A snippet of our lives over the past few weeks.  I'll be back in the next week or so, with a few answers to commonly asked questions.  Got a question?  Email me at gibsons15@sbcglobal.net - no question is off limits :)

Have a great week.  Enjoy it.  Embrace it.  Even the busy.

One Thing I Know For Sure: Embracing the busy.

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