Hammin’ it up before his Spring Program
Gettin’ a bit big for pink pony rides!
You always win with Orange!
New gymkhana event.
Ah, modern childhood (waiting for the Ojai 4th of July parade)
Guarding the all American blanket fort.
Yes, at our second home again!
My Padawan facing Darth Wolf.
County Fair fun!
Minecraft party for the big 6!
My cousins Ben and Sandra visited from the Netherlands toward the end of Summer so we took them on a tour around LA and environs. A view from the Griffith Observatory (which of course was closed – sigh!)
We also went to Universal Studios where Alexei showed off his stylish side.
He really loved Sandra and Ben (especially Sandra, heh.) He still bugs me to go see them!
Only in Vegas!
Hanging out at the hotel pool complex in Vegas. Love that lazy river…
Mandalay Bay aquarium.
Hangin’ with Daddy after a final Vegas meal.
A common sight in our house – Alexei and his girl.
Just hangin’ upside down, as you do…
A little equal time for our other cat, Bordeaux.
“Hey, there’s a cat here!”
First day of school!
My future Cast Member
Probably our last ride on the train in its current configuration. Sigh!
A final hug goodbye for the Dutch cousins.
He’s a little ham!
All dressed up for picture day.
Even though we were going to WDW in a couple weeks, we decided to meet some friends during their big trip to Disneyland. We’d just upgraded to our Premier passes so we got photo passes for free! Too bad Alexei generally hates waiting in line for photo ops. Did talk him into this one.
I love Dumbo but he’s starting to outgrow it. Sigh!
Playing with one of his little friends from school at the VMS picnic!
His current best friend at the VMS, during the pumpkin patch trip.
And here’s his depiction of the hay ride! (And can I tell you how much I love how he colors all his family and friends brown?)
Catching the ferry over to Magic Kingdom!
Nah, he’s not excited.
He indulged me in a few photos ops.
Riding the big boat in Magic Kingdom (don’t remember the name. Too lazy to Google.)
We like the carousel at Disneyland better.
Captain Jake is ready for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
He really loved this place. Next time, we’ll do a longer day here.
Photo Op at Animal Kingdom
I’ve waited for ages to see this tree in person!
Lunch at Rain Forest Cafe in AK.
The frog cup was a hit. The fake rain storms, not so much.
Plane tickets: $500. Premier passe upgrades $900. Watching your kid play on the playground in AK: Priceless
After a little too much drama finding the car, he was pretty done in!
Hammin’ it up at Epcot
I am a statue!
Alexei is a statue!
Yup, even in Orlando.
Chinese lunch in China!
My terracotta warrior.
Caught up with these miscreants at last!
These shenanigans brought to you by Bob!
Night show at Epcot (Mama’s night out!)
Got to have lunch at Be Our Guest! It was an early lunch but I didn’t care. The place is awesome!
Defending the fort! (Tom Sawyer’s Island)
This is such a Southern thing (rocking chairs on the dock of Tom Sawyer’s Island)
Alexei got to be Chip in the Beauty and the Beast show
He loved Belle!
Sooooo excited for Hollywood Studios!
Yeah, the queues here are pretty cool!
I wish we had this Toy Story queue!
Obligatory playground visit.
Say g’night Hollywood Studios! And bid farewell to Walt Disney World!
Got his toes done for Halloween.
Trick or Treating with the A Team (and bonus big brother C) at the local outdoor mall.
Getting ready for the real Halloween night
He was such a gentleman with Princess Tiana
Saying goodbye to the goats. (sniff!)
Misc. cute stuff
His school pics came out pretty nice.
We switched to the Y for swimming lessons and this seems to have been a very good choice.
We had a really hot fall…
We were happy to get the cooler weather at last!
Goofing off with some buds from school. (I love my Montessori family!)
Decent if impromptu pic of Darren by our boy
He still loves the sliding hill at the SB Zoo. He’s actually quite skilled. Hee.
Expressing his opinion of the wait for the Dino show
Welcome additions to the play area at the zoo
All dressed up for the Winter Program
Jo-jo and his latest roommate. Hopefully this one’s not going anywhere any time soon!
Goofin’ off before Solstice ritual with his buddies.
More reasons to love Montessori.
More random cuteness.
Helping wrap presents on Xmas Eve. He was such a good wrapper! And soooo excited about Christmas.
The first present of the evening was a big hit! Thanks Auntie Boo!
This was the Big (and Favorite) Present. Lego train set FTW!
Building his train on Christmas morning. I helped with the engine and some other fiddly bits but he did the majority of the 6 books of instructions and 8 bags of blocks (plus various larger separate pieces) by himself.
Best buddies forever!
Our 2015 Holiday card. I apologize to anyone on my normal card list who didn’t get one this year. It wasn’t deliberate, I just seriously underestimate my order this year!
Wishing you and yours the happiest of New Years and many bright blessings and much love in 2016!
Janice, Darren and Alexei
Wishing you all a most wonderful New Year!
Janice, Darren and Alexei
As an aside: wtf is up with Aetna not allowing x-rays at urgent care? They want us to go the the ER?! Who did that cost/benefit analysis? Ended up paying cash to get them done to avoid the extra expense and time. Which is probably the actual point of the policy. Sigh!
Anyway a week in a splint to allow the swelling to go down then to the ortho for more x-rays to make sure there was no need for surgery, then casting. Had more x-rays at 12 days post injury to be sure everything was staying in place. Now it’s just waiting it out, managing swelling and pain and learning how to deal one-handed. All of which is manageable but still sucky. I get the cast off November 7th!
Then of course I got sick again and kicked up the asthma, again, and am still fighting it even after a full round of steroids. Arrrghhh! Thankfully there does now seem to be a new course open to me on that front. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much as it’s apparently an expensive and relatively new-ish treatment regimen that requires pre-approval and necessitates monthly visits. But my rather conservative allergy specialist spoke of this treatment as being life-changing for her other patients with moderate uncontrolled asthma who have tried it. So after our insurance changes at the end of this month, we’ll start pulling the paperwork and see what happens. I would so like to have this work. I’m so tired of rounds of steroids and being surgically attached to my inhaler. Sigh!
Thankfully through all this tribulation Darren’s work has been relatively quiet (well till this week!) so he’s been able to take up a lot of slack. Still I know it’s hard for him to come home after a full day’s work to take care of house and kid and wife. He’s an amazing man and I am so blessed by his love and commitment to us and I know I don’t tell him any of that often enough. So I love you my wonderful husband!
Alexei is doing so well. He is really settling in at school. Seems to love it. Now that that anxiety is over I’m left worrying about what happens after Montessori. Heh. Yes, I’m one of those moms. Sigh.
He’s also been pretty incredible during all this, too. It’s so much easier with him at 5 than even just a few months ago. He is really wanting to be self-sufficient and helpful. Sunday night he even made his own lunch (with a bit of help from Dad on the sandwich)!
I’m also officially a soccer mom. He’d been doing soccer through VCFusion for a while when he was still in daycare, but now of course he’s moved into the after school class. So I sit every Wednesday under a tree and watch with the other moms and dads. LOL. BTW they are an excellent organization and I highly recommend anyone with kids interested in soccer in the VC area to check them out!
He’s also been doing formal swimming lessons since he’s gone as far as I can go with him in our pool. He has been so awesome and loved it so much we are even doing 4 weeks of lessons this November. Then I think we’ll regroup on extra curricular activities. He loves the yoga class at school and really wants to do martial arts – we’re still thinking of holding off on that as his focus needs more focus. He wants to do gymnastics again, too, and with Mandarin I think we are right into the “enough” zone.
This month has seen us at the pumpkin patch with his school, the traditional train ride to the pumpkin patch with Auntie Boo and of course a trip to our second home with Auntie Lynn and a new friend Chelsea. Alexei also got to have a week at his former caregiver’s due to Fall Break at school. (This is really a thing, apparently, in a lot of CA schools. Weird.) And most recently a trip up to Orcutt for a family gathering to celebrate the marriage of our niece Karlee to Michael, who is also the father of our great-niece Emalee. So it’s been an eventful month so far and it’s not over yet. This week is already shaping up to be busy even without Halloween in there.
Alexei has quite suddenly started asking questions about how he came into the family. Notably of course during the 8 minute drive to school on Monday! We spend a long part of the evening looking at pictures from our adoption trip and talking about how we became a family. We’ve always told him little snippets – we celebrate Family Day, talk about his Ayi in China and how we met etc – so it’s not a “surprise” situation. But it’s the first time he’s really asked a lot of questions and wanted to know more about China. But it’s time to get serious about the lifebook and start bringing it up more.
Yeah, it gets harder from here…
Oh, my one political point for this post: VOTE!
OK, picture later, posting now.
Happy Halloween, Samhain etc!
edit to add da cute!
Anyway, July was quite eventful. We took a trip with Darren’s extended family to Yellowstone. Yellowstone is definitely one of my bucket list destinations so I was pretty happy about going. July might not have been my first choice for time of year but actually the weather turned out to be quite fine and the bugs mostly manageable. Darren’s sister reserved us all hotel rooms in various places around the park so we got to experience the many different faces of Yellowstone. It was quite lovely although I think with as much driving around as was involved I might have been inclined to wait until Alexei was a little older. He did pretty well but that’s a lot of car time for a four year old!
Alexei really liked seeing his cousin Kyle again and hung out with him a lot. Fortunately Kyle is a very kind teenager and was really patient with him. We even got pics them (accidentally) dressed alike. It was pretty funny.
One of the highlights of the trip was a covered wagon ride to a lovely meadow in the park and dinner. We all really enjoyed the ride out and back, the dinner food was pretty decent and we saw quite a few animals. Alexei got absolutely soaked playing in the little stream by the dining area but I think it was the best part of the trip for him.
We also got caught in a bison traffic jam driving through Hayden Valley.
Apparently we missed by just a few hours the road be melted by an emerging glacier along a major route in the park. Timing!
Alexei was pretty well done being dragged out of the car to see yet anther stinky geyser by the end of the trip so an afternoon walking around in Jackson Hole was a nice change of pace.
He loves the plane rides both out and back and all the things that come with air travel. Glad he still finds that fun and hope he holds onto that for a long time to come.
Sadly shortly after we got home, got the news of the unexpected passing of an old friend. John was the leader of my old Renaissance faire guild, the Border League. He had just retired to Mexico with his lovely wife and had been looking forward to a quiet life with her. He was a very fine and gentle man and he will be much missed.
Toward the end of July, Alexei was showing every sign that it was time to take off the training wheels. So one day we got home from daycare and did just that. Luckily Darren came home a bit early that day so he was able to be a part of Alexei’s first solo ride! He’s been pretty much unstoppable since and had barely been riding on two wheels for a day when he was asking for a faster bike! LOL!
The end of July brought the Ventura County Fair, which Alexei loves and is still young enough to get in for free. We spent a couple of days there, taking advantage of the unlimited ride wrist bands in the late afternoon. Hopefully next year we can get over even earlier on at least one of those days. Alexei actually got brave and rode some of the stuff he wouldn’t last year.
August was also a whirlwind of activity as we hit a couple of big milestones including losing two front teeth and getting ready to start Kindergarten! He lost both of his bottom front teeth with 24 hours of each other so we got visits from the Tooth Fairy two night in a row. Alexei was pleased by getting gold coins as well as a small special surprise for the first tooth. He got to keep the first tooth as well since it was the very first one. Sadly he doesn’t quite have enough room for the two new adult teeth so the dentist wants to take our the two baby teeth next to them. He also has a couple more cavities. Sigh! Guess I’ll be glad when these baby teeth are all out.
He had his first play date with the A Team at Andrew’s house, an PJ party the evening before his birthday party. He had a great time and Mom and Dad got to have an adult dinner. So it was a win-win. Apparently Ariana, Andrew’s mom survived the experience so that was good too. Hopefully we’ll be able to arrange more play dates once Alexei settles into the school year.
Alexei’s birthday party was at a really cool kid’s place called Clubhouse Fun Zone. Had quite a few kids although as always at these things it seems like there were more adults than kids. We really do have know a lot of singletons. This year’s theme was Lego. I was really surprised how few Lego party favors there are out there. Fortunately I found some really neat little things for the goodie bags, Lego Movie stickers to make posters and Darren got a great cake with most of the Lego Movie characters.
We did indulge him with a new bike for his birthday. An awesome little Trek which we hope will last a couple of years till he’s ready for one with gears.
The next day was a trip to Disneyland with Mommy. He got to get a birthday pin, although he pretty quickly got tired of the happy birthdays and made me put it away. Ah, well. We finally got to ride Radiators Springs Racers – Alexei liked most of it though he wasn’t really into the up and down parts so we only rode it once. He did say at the end of the day he liked it and wanted to ride again next time. We actually ended up leaving early as my little man was quite tired from a busy weekend.
Well and now it is September and Alexei has started school and turned 5 and we celebrated 4 years together as a family. So amazing how the time has flown by! Alexei is very happy with school so far. I hope he continues to love it.
September’s going to be a crazy busy month as we try to get into a new groove. Wish us luck!
Bright blessings to you all,
Janice, Darren and Alexei
I know we have picked the right place for him – it’s a Montessori school and we think will be a good fit for his learning style – yet I am still a bit anxious for him. It’s the biggest change since he came home and of course it worries me a bit. However, he’s been excited about going to “big boy school” for weeks now and since – as Linda C predicted – he practically kicked us out the door, I know he’s ready.
I’m also worried about the inevitable storm of illnesses he’s going to be bringing home. Dr thought it best to wait and see how he does before putting him back on maintenance steroids for the asthma. Hopefully we won’t have to. But I dread a repeat of the first fall and winter he was home. Ugh!
He’s also starting his Mandarin class this afternoon. He’s been showing a lot of interest in all things Chinese (although I still have to remind him of the difference between China the country and Chinese New Year the holiday. LOL!) So we’re taking that as a sign he’s really ready to start. The teacher is very passionate about kids learning the language and she has a good reputation (she’s a former teacher at the school) so we hope this will be a good start for him.
Saying goodbye to his caregiver of nearly 4 years was also really tough. We both cried. Alexei seemed pretty unfazed but I don’t think he quite gets that he won’t be going to the place that has been his second home for all this time. We plan to keep in touch – he’ll be there for a few days during his fall break – as she is very special and really is attached to our boy. And of course we have play dates planned with his best buddy Andrew and his other good friend Alyssa (who shares a birthday with him) – we call them the A Team – so we hope to keep these friendships in tact in the future.
Anyway, more updates and pictures later!
So Alexei will be starting at the Ventura Montessori in the Fall. Montessori doesn’t have grades per se so the classes are divided into Pre-primary and Primary. He’ll start with the Pre-primary so they can evaluate his skills and he’ll move into the Primary as he masters things. Kids go back and forth sometimes as well depending on what things they are excelling at and those they need to keep working on. I like that fluidity. Makes much more sense then “You are X years old so you will go into X grade and should learn X skills before the end of the year.”
It’s a nice calm and supportive atmosphere so I hope he’ll have an easy time transitioning. I calculated with weekends, holidays and vacations he has about 60 more days with his current caregiver. This makes me a little sad. Trying to think what I can come up with as a really nice gift to give her for all she’s done for him. And hoping he won’t have too hard a time leaving his second home. I’m sure everyone is right and it will be harder on me than him – he’s a resilient boy – but yes, every big change worries me just a little because he’s had so many in his short life.
But I am very excited about him going to school. And he is too. He talks about it a lot. Has all these things he really wants to do – carry a lunch box to school, get a real back pack etc. So school shopping will be fun at least this year! He is definitely ready. I’d put him in for the summer session except: 1) I really want him to have the summer with Bev 2) the summer session starts while we are in Canada for my birthday 3) we’re out for a full week in July (going to Yellowstone!) and 4) the session only goes through July so I’d have to do something with him for the bulk of August. Sigh! Also, really, I like the idea of him starting in the fall, most likely with other kids also starting for the first time.
OK, I am also looking at ideas for dates for Alexei’s b-day party. His b-day is the Tue after Labor Day so sort a toying with the Saturday before. He’s saying he wants to do the museum again – which is cool by me but wondering if others think that’s too repetitive. Anyone want to weigh in?
I’ll post pics late so check back!
Blessings and love,
As I’ve mentioned, we’re looking for a school for Alexei for the fall. Aside from being a lot of hard work, it’s also really gut wrenching. Facing down the fact he’s going to be 5 (yes, sometimes that missed year just about kills me!) even if it’s still 5 months away. Yeesh! As my friend Linda keeps reminding me: “Don’t blink!” (No, Dr. Who geeks, not like that!)
We think we’ve found the place, BTW. More on that later when we have it secured.
Harder still is facing, once again, the fact that he’s our one and only. My heart is continually in my throat even as I exercise superhuman restrain by NOT stopping him from climbing that tree or jumping off that rock. I’m sure parents of more than one feel the same about the subsequent children, too, of course. My parents certainly weren’t exactly blase by the time I came along but I do know they weren’t as hyper-vigilant about every right and wrong move since they’d had a chance to work out some of that anxiety on the first model. (LOL! Love ya, bro!) I also imagine that as he gets older, being an only may be an enormous amount of pressure for our Alexei, so we have to find ways of reducing that to only “amazing” proportions rather than “alien super powers” level.
And while I’ve tried hard to be OK with the one and done factor, there is still a big hole in my heart where a second child should be. Events keep conspiring to remind me of that “missing person” – new baby at daycare, a fellow adoptive mom starting her next paper-chase, All The Pregnant Ladies. Sigh!
I try not to feel so sorry for myself. I am blessed. There are certainly any number of folks who would gladly exchange my woe for theirs. But it doesn’t make it hurt less to know that, really. And it makes me feel kinda like an asshole to compare my pain to theirs. Ya know what I mean?
Sorry, end of my whinging.
Alexei continues to grow seemingly overnight. He is definitely maturing in so many ways and I am more and more convinced that extra year at his current caregivers was the right thing for him. He’s really become a leader and big helper at daycare. This week while our caregiver has been recovering from surgery he’s been such a big help to her. He picks things up off the floor for her without even being asked! FYI: she has adult help, too, so it’s not like she’s relying on the kids but I am so proud of how he has stepped up.
4 has been a challenging age all the way around though. He’s very opinionated, a mixed bag of independent and babyish and pressing the boundaries at home more and more. We are still having some minor sleep issues – he still wants me to stay until he falls asleep and I still get called in the middle of the night for reassurance. I think over the summer I may have to start pushing both of these issues. I’d like to see him getting to sleep by himself and sleeping most nights all alone before he starts school in the fall. We shall see. He can count to 20, is starting to recognize and form letter, along with a growing number of awesome things. When he chooses to he can be a big helper around the house. For reasons that I cannot fathom he likes to scoop the litter boxes and does a pretty good job of it actually!
We are also saw an unanticipated effect of his early life: he had several pretty nasty cavities in his molars. The dentist thinks it partially due to lack of fluoride while he was little in China. He was an incredibly brave boy and dealt with the major procedure very very well. He only got upset when I had to step out of the room for the x-rays but I was able to reassure him from the hallway. I was very pleased with the pediatric specialist and the whole office staff aswell. They were very reassuring, they have movies for the kids to watch in the chair, allow parents to stay (obviously) and gave him lots of positive reinforcement including prizes and a Perfect Patient award (a free round of mini golf!) Doc says we need to be on the lookout for more cavities but so far everything looks good enough to wait until the next 6 month appointment to try more x-rays. He also thinks his adult teeth will be better for exposure to fluoride.
Well, guess I better post this before it turns into another few days and then another few days etc.
Alexei had a hard time readjusting to “normal life” after our vacation and break. He really loved the hotel, mostly I think because of the elevator and his “Transformer bed” (sofa bed.) He also kept talking about what Santa would bring him next and was disappointed at the lights being taken down all over our neighborhood. And his wish list has only gotten longer. Damn you, Amazon!
We finally had the bay window out front replaced. The new one is much nicer. But doing that has started the cascade of Things Which Must Be Done to the house. Gonna be a constructive 2014 I guess.
We’ve been to Disneyland a couple of times already, of course. Even got to ride the holiday it’s a small world before they closed it to change it back. Alexei loved all the lights on the outside, too. Disney must keep Sylvania in business single-handedly. Unfortunately we didn’t get to make one last ride on Finding Nemo! They closed it one day early! We were very disappointed. Going to be really pissed if the rumors are true and they are shutting down this attraction for good. Grrrrr!
Alexei is learning to play soccer now. They had a little six week class in his park near his daycare and thankfully they had enough interest that there will be another class after this one is done! I’m sad that it happens during the day though as it’s tough for me to go see him play. I did take a morning off to do so though. And I’m really glad. He’s really seems to be enjoying it. So we’ve found something to replace gymnastics, which he’ll be giving up after this month is done. Sigh! He’s just really not that into it anymore, I guess. Oh, well. You cannot force them to like something! He is still having fun at the ranch so we will try to make it up there on Saturday mornings regardless of no longer having gymnastics.
He was REALLY excited about Chinese New Year this year and loved wearing his Chinese clothes to daycare for their little celebration. He has become very interested in many things Chinese. Although he’s still doesn’t appear to have any interest in Mandarin (we play the music and story cds we brought home from China for him regularly but usually he only wants to listen for a short time.) It’s interesting to watch him try to process his adoption story – he likes to tell people he was a baby in China right now.
Warning: political rant ahead. We’re looking into various options for school for him in the fall. I think I’ve already ranted about him missing the public K cut off by ONE DAY! And Ventura county schools are making NO exceptions. So we are looking into private K programs for him. We’re actually hoping to put him in a particular private school that is K-5 (and may eventually go to 8) as it’s pretty clear Common Core is going to screw things up for a while until the bugs are all out – or the Next Big Reform comes along and screws it up again!
As a liberal mom, I feel sorta guilty abandoning the public schools as I do believe in the idea of them. But the so-called GOP have spent a lot of time, money and propaganda trying to destroy our public schools systems and then a lot of grifters have made a lot of money and well-meaning privileged folks with no educational experience have made a lot of press trying to “reform” what has been intentionally broken. NCLB is an abomination and Common Core, as I already said, is going to mess things up again for a while.
So we feel it’s in Alexei’s best interest to keep him out of the storm if we can.
Unfortunately our options are somewhat limited as almost all the private schools in our area are religious. Sigh! The school we are hoping to start him in is having him do a shadow-day with their K class later this month so we can evaluate if he’ll be ready for their K program. I’m also looking into the two local Montessori schools, one of which goes up to 3rd grade, so that would give us a little more leeway.
OK, rant off.
I know y’all only come for the pictures so enjoy!
Love and bright blessings,