Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Big Ocean

We enjoyed a long weekend at Pismo recently. It was Samuel's first beach experience and we were all anxious to see reactions. His siblings had been telling him all about the ocean and the sand for weeks, but we knew he had no reference point. How do you explain something as massive as the ocean! But, Samuel continues to amaze us with his ability to keep up and comprehend things. His English is coming along quickly now and it's so fun to hear him practice his words. He can say ocean very clearly and when he first laid eyes on it he exclaimed excitedly, "BIG ocean, mama". He makes us all smile.

Noah is doing so well. Thank you for all your prayers for him...the adjustment was tough at first, but he is learning to love his new brother. It is evident God has been at work in his little heart.

God created so many beautiful things! Although, I wish my flowers at home would grow without being watered like this one.

This is the famous crinkle nose smile. Samuel continues to be a tender-hearted boy and so affectionate too.

Our oldest, Taylor, just turned 12. His love for Jesus and desire to know Him is evident in his life. I asked him recently what he would think about us adopting another child sometime and he answered with a sincere "sure" and a grin. Ryan and I have witnessed his love for his little Russian rascal brothers and really step up as a role model for them. He is a big help and trustworthy too. We are so grateful for God's grace to make us suitable parents to this growing & maturing boy. It's been a humbling experience (being a parent in general) and has been one of the many vehicles God has used to draw us nearer to Himself.

Lauren had loads of fun with her face painting kit she bought with her own money. Everyone was adorned with cute pictures on our cheeks. She took requests and enjoyed the attention, as she felt so professional!

Makenna loved her yellow flower.  Sisters are so fun!

This is a perfect shot of those little curved feet we have come to adore. We've been to see several doctors at Shriner's Hospital and all agree he would not benefit from surgery at this time. He gets around great and is not afraid of much. Frequent falling and scrapes and bruises on his noggin were a concern in the beginning, he has the scars to prove it, but now he is balancing much better.

Sweet Lauren with a sand mustache. It was so nice and warm and so the kids played all afternoon in the sand right across from the house. They had fun burying each other and building sand fortresses.

I think he's getting too big for the playground.

Samuel is not so sure about how the sand feels in his toes!

This boy is definitely too big for the playground. Daddy and Samuel enjoyed the swings.

This is an old post I never published!  Better late, than never.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Finally A Post

By now you may have completely given up on checking for an update from us, but better late than never. We have been drowning in the business of bonding and had to put the blog on hold for awhile. To make up for lost time, here are a BUNCH of recent pictures! If you live close and haven't had a chance to meet Samuel in person, stop on by...well, on second thought, call first! Jet lag is now behind us and we are anxious to see friends and get out and join the rest of the world again. In fact, several times a day Samuel will go to the garage door and point while making motor sounds. He's ready to put on his shoes and go! He loves his new home but I think he's interested to see more. His wishes will be more than satisfied when we take him to Disneyland with the rest of my family in just a few weeks! Grandma and Grandpa gave the trip to us as a gift last Christmas, not knowing then that another grandson would be joining us! What fun it will be to see his reactions to the Magic Kingdom. Hopefully it won't be too much for him to handle. We took him to church for the first time on Sunday and it was precious to see all the children gather around to check him out. It blessed my heart as I realized it was all the children of my very good friends who had been praying with them for Samuel's safe arrival home. God does work we do not always get to see, but the preparing of these little hearts was obvious to me.

As a whole we are doing very well. Chasing 2 three year-olds can be exhausting. I've been tempted many times to lose my cool, especially this afternoon when I found that the two rascals in the backseat had torn their In-n-Out burgers into bit-sized pieces and decorated the car. The three older, more mature children in the second seat remarked with bursts of laughter, "I guess they were having their own food fight". Very funny. Yesterday during "nap time" I walked in to find Noah feeding Samuel toothpaste. The evidence (blue bubblegum flavor) was all over his face. Yum. Well, the good new is, he has fresh breath. There is now a beautiful drawing done with purple crayon on my wall near the stairs. When I asked the guilty one if he'd done it he answered, "nope, not me mom". He has no idea how smart mom is...I'd know his work anywhere. In a nutshell there is lots of sneakiness and some down right naughtiness happening over here. It's not a surprise though. Two boys, both fighting for their rightful place in the family. It is our prayer that they settle in after some time. Sooner than later please, Lord. Taylor, Lauren, and Makenna have been so helpful and kind to mommy and their younger brothers.
Many of you have been asking how Samuel's English is coming along. His understanding seems to be growing by leaps and bounds everyday. And his verbal is improving too. He can say "all done", "more", "popcorn", "bath", "drink", "please", "poop", that's a helpful one, "up", "down", some animal names, and all his siblings names. He does lots of pointing and will climb up in his high chair when he is hungry. It is very apparent he is used to a rigid routine. Some of it is good, and in other ways we are slowly trying to get him to loosen up. For instance, in the beginning he wanted me to wipe his face after every bite. The cutest is when we say, "good job, Samuel" and he gives us a thumbs up. It's so sweet, I taught him this a few days ago and he caught on real quick. He is very smart! His left hand will not cooperate, he cannot get that thumb to lift up no matter how hard he tries. Sometimes he tries anyway and then frowns at that hand until giving up and switching to his right, and then comes a big grin.
He doesn't give up easily though, and I witnessed this about him again last night. After his bath he put on his pajamas all by himself. This is not an easy task when you take into account his stiff legs and back, but he has figured out his own technique and sure enough he did it! I was SO proud of him and by the smile on his face it was obvious he was too. He loved the meatloaf I made for dinner last night, and boy can he shovel in the mashed potatoes. He also loves bananas and apples and will eat them like there's no tomorrow. He likes to play football in the hallway with his big bro and loves tickle wars! He leans in for kisses and has the sweetest expressions. Yep, he's a Howard. Sometimes I just can't believe he's really here with us.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Home at Last!

Some pictures of our homecoming. Thank you Tamera W. for taking them! We have been so blessed by this new member of our family. We seem to love him more every day.

Monday, September 29, 2008

One of Us Now

The first 24 hours back have been wonderful. With tears welling up, I say WONDERFUL! I've spent most of this time watching Samuel's expressions, wondering what he is thinking, and amazed at how he seems right at home with his new brothers and sisters.

Our time in Moscow was mostly pleasant, but the last two days were more difficult than the first three. As we mentioned before Samuel began testing us. Obviously missing familiarity, he started biting, kicking and screaming. From what we know, all very normal responses. He also decided one of those days he was not going to drink anything, and he hardly ate that day either. To most mothers this is a true test of patience. Again, God was near and gave us and Samuel the endurance to get through the last leg of our journey. And no he didn't starve in the process. Ryan and I learned so much and really remained a tight team the entire trip. But now we had come to the hardest part, getting a resistant, frustrated, sad toddler home who had no understanding of the great things that lay at the finish line. To be honest it did cross my mind (for a split second) that maybe the sacrifice had been too great, and for a child who doesn't even seem to like us! Ryan mentioned, in the midst of one tantrum, how it seemed Samuel was so softened and sweet after each of his crying fits and ready to be loved. So true, I thought. There was a reward for our tired arms in the end. This reminded me of how often I kick and scream and throw a fit (well it looks more like a pout in the corner in my case) when God is leading me in a different way than I want to be led! Oh, how gracious God is to be patient with me and love me through my ugliest moments because he knows that where He is leading will be best for me. Because He loves me, He is faithful to mature me, through difficult circumstances. And He has rewards and blessings waiting for me when I am softened and sweet!

We spent roughly 16 hours in the air to get from Moscow to Frankfurt and then to San Francisco on Friday. Samuel did really well and even slept for 7 of those hours! We stayed the night in San Fransisco to recover before our short flight home on Saturday. When we arrived we were greeted by our family and a few close friends with big grins, holding balloons and snapping pictures. As we got close, Noah could no longer contain himself and ran out past security to see us. It was so fun to see his excitement over his new brother. I pray they will share a special bond! Taylor, Lauren, and Makenna were equally excited and we were so glad to be able to hug and kiss them again. Cousins made a welcome home sign and special cards. The grandma's and sister in law had prepared good dinner and stocked our frig. They know just how to take care of us! All went above and beyond the call of duty! Thank you to those of you who paid close attention to our story, prayed for us each step of the way, and cheered us homeward! I have a renewed appreciation for my home. Not my house (although it's nice too) but the family and friends the Lord has blessed me with.

When we were still in Russia and it was just the three of us, Ryan and I tried hard to imagine how it would be to have Samuel a regular part of our family. And now after just the first day, we can't imagine our family without him. He is sleeping in his new room with his big brother Noah who has been SO proud to show him the ropes. He keeps repeating to me, "I'm a good boy". Confidence is not his weakness. Taylor has successfully taught him how to shoot his Nerf gun and how to pretend to be injured. He keeps saying how cute his little smile and quiet laugh is. Lauren's mothering instincts have kicked in and she loves to help him up the stairs and wants to learn Russian words to communicate better. She is very gentle with him and he really has latched on to her and seems to know she is the compassionate one! Makenna enjoyed playing kitchen with Samuel yesterday and is so tickled when he wants to give her a hug. She says, "mom he keeps putting his forehead and nose right close to mine". With those cheeks, who wouldn't want kisses. I'm sure it's the honeymoon phase, but all the kids are being so generous with their time with him and want to wait on him constantly. The discussion about who will sit next to Samuel this morning at breakfast was cute.

We are surprised at how much more Samuel is eating now that we are home. This makes my heart happy 'cause I wasn't sure how much longer he could survive on strawberry yogurt and baby fruit in a jar. Yesterday he even enjoyed some tri-tip. He is pleased with all the toys in his closet and is smiling more and more. The house looks like a tornado hit, but we will get to that later. Eventually life will return to "normal" but for now we are enjoying the newness and a little fun chaos. Yes, for now those do go together. I know the pictures are more interesting than my words. I will post some soon when I have a chance to look through them.