names: back to the drawing board

Friday, December 6, 2013

Our baby is now nameless. We decided a couple of weeks ago that we weren't really feeling like "Finn" was his name. We loved the name, and thought for sure that would be it, but it just started feeling like it wasn't right for this little guy. We knew we had totally jumped the gun on announcing a name. And we were all, "but we already told everyone it's Finn... and we wrote it on our Eicher Baby gender reveal box and everything..." But what a dumb reason to name our baby a name we didn't actually want to give him. So we are back to the drawing board. And we are all over the place.

I don't remember ever having a hard time naming Ace. We loved the name Audrey and decided pretty quickly that was it. And I always knew I would name my first child after my brother, so no matter what her middle name would be Corbin. So her initials are ACE. She was Audrey for the first year or so, until she went to Mother's Day Out, and her backpack had her initials on them. I explained to her teacher that her name was Audrey, but all of her things say "ACE" because those are her initials, and we sometimes call her that at home. By the second week, her teacher asked me, "would you mind if we just call her 'Ace'. She responds better to that." I told them that was perfectly fine and she has been Ace ever since. And I cannot imagine her being anyone other than Ace.

One year old Ace

Two year old Ace

Choosing a name for Archie was incredibly easy, I didn't even have to think about it because Ace decided on that for us. We seriously never even considered any other names after she told us what his name would be. And he is SUCH an Archie. 

First trip to Bulgaria to meet our Archie

 Home: Requesting that I take his picture while he works on his modeling poses

I have been obsessing over this baby's name and that's not helping. So I have stopped obsessing and I know the right name will fall into our laps at some point. He is starting to really grow and moves around like a mad man. The kids love to lay their heads on my belly while he's kicking and moving. If he kicks them in the face "it means he really loves you."

So for now, our baby is just "baby brother". And I am confident that we will end up with the perfect name for him.

Lots of Love!

orphan sunday

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Today, on Orphan Sunday, we celebrate the fact that Archie is our son and brother. That he is home with us where he belongs. I tell him every single day, multiple times, "I am so happy you are mine." And I am. So happy that he's mine. I am so thankful that, against a lot of odds, and criticism, and struggle, we followed the bumpy path that God had laid out for us to go and get our son. 

But on this day, more than anything, my heart aches. For all of Archie's friends who we left behind. I don't talk much about them. I don't talk much about the things we saw while we were at his orphanage. I don't talk about it because it hurts.  

While we were on our first trip to meet Archie, our visits took place in the "Day Center". It was a part of the orphanage that just a handful of the kids got to go to. Kind of a little school. It was clean, well kept, and was staffed with some incredibly loving women. It was by far the nicest part of the orphanage. 

We were asked at one point if we would like to see the rest of the orphanage. Joey was an immediate "yes". I was a most definite "no". Knowing that in just a few short days we would be leaving Archie behind for God only knew how long, I could not bring myself to go and see what was behind those concrete walls. 

Joey went. And came back a mess. I asked him not to tell me anything. But I knew that what he had seen had shook him to his core. I knew that it was painful. 

During our visit, we spent a lot of time with many of Archie's best friends. Kids that he had grown up with. And we fell in love with them. We became particularly attached to a couple of them, which only made things harder. I push their faces out of my mind as often as possible, in a selfish attempt to preserve my sanity. But there are many nights I lie in bed and cry thinking about them. Wondering if they got enough food that day. If their medical needs were being met. If anyone hugged them, or even touched them at all. And knowing that most of them, inevitably, will never know the love of a family. 

The orphan crisis is huge, people. So big that it feels overwhelming. It feels like there is nothing any one person can do to even make a dent. And it exists all over the world. In Archie's tiny hometown of Buzovgrad, Bulgaria, and right here in the United States. But you CAN make a difference. Adoption is not the only answer. There are so many ways to get involved. And EVERYONE can do SOMETHING. 

Lots of Love!


Monday, October 28, 2013

This morning was my big ultrasound to find out whether Ace and Archie were going to have a baby brother or sister. They have been anxiously awaiting this news. And of course Joey and I have been too. Joey ended up not being able to make it to the appointment this morning and was super bummed. But against his wishes, and begging, I made him wait to find out with the kids this afternoon.

One thing we already knew was that our baby would be named Finn. Boy or girl, we had already decided this was baby Finn. For several reasons: I have just always loved the name Finn. My BFF had Finn on her short list of names for this baby. We love Huck Finn at our house. And of course because Ace said so. 

One day she and I were going over my list of names and when I got to Finn, she immediately and excitedly screamed, "yes, Finn!!" She usually changes her mind on things pretty quickly, so I wasn't sure that was going to stick. But even with me making other suggestions, she stood firm. 

The problem we had next was middle names. Ace's first choice was Huckleberries. And then there was Sunshine, Strawberry Shortcake, Blue, Pink, and several others that just weren't working for me. So I told her we were just going to use Mommy's middle name if it was a girl, and Daddy's middle name if it was a boy. So it was either Marie or Joseph. Or as she says it, "Joffus". She was happy with those. 

Archie wakes up every morning and has to get right at my belly, and says, "good morning, Finn, your brudder here, I love you, Finn." We all became quickly attached to the name. 

So the big question still remained....was Finn a boy or a girl??

Finn Joseph it is. 
Everyone is happy. 
Can't wait for this baby boy to join in the craziness that is our life. 

Lots of Love!

two little bigs

Monday, October 7, 2013

Oh HEY! It has been a while. Just when I wondered if I would ever blog again, I got a few messages and comments from some blog-world friends wondering where the heck I had been. And so I'm back. (Thanks for the nudge, guys).

I blame my absence on the tiny human growing inside of me. Yep. We are expecting baby number three. He or she will be arriving in March. I have been pretty sick since the day we found out in July. Sudden nausea combined with the inability to be in a room with Ace's strawberry iced donut because of its smell (which I typically love), led me to the store for an EPT. One pee and a plus sign later and my whole world changed.

I was a porcelain hugging, insanely exhausted, and overall miserable human being for quite some time, and I am so happy to finally be coming out of that fog and getting back to myself again.

Ace and Archie have been total champs. They have had to become much more independent. They let me rest, they bring me snacks and water. They have been taking good care of me. They are so much less needy. (Thank you, God). They are over the top excited about the baby. It is pretty much all we talk about. Unfortunately they don't really have the concept of time thing down, so from here to March is going to be a long five months.

Ace just doesn't even know what to do with herself. She totally thinks she is going to be this baby's primary caretaker. She has requested that the baby sleep with her so that she can take care of him/her in the middle of the night, so I can sleep. And I am fully considering that arrangement. I mean she will be pushing six by the that time. And she's pretty responsible. 

Archie understands a lot more than I thought he would. He also wants to tell everyone. I mean everyone, everywhere we go that, "Mommy baby in tummy." And he often proceeds to ask other women if they too have a baby in their tummy, which can get awkward. 

Both Ace and Archie have to kiss my belly and talk to the baby all the time. And Ace is convinced (and has convinced Archie too) that if she sticks her finger in my bellybutton, the baby holds onto it. I just can't wait to see both of them with the baby. They are going to be amazing. 

Other than that excitement, Archie and Ace are now at the same school (their dream come true) and are doing awesome. I can't even begin to put into words how wonderful it is to be at a school where the teachers and administration are HAPPY to have Archie there, and do not consider him a burden in any way, shape, or form. We have been on the other side of that coin and it is just a horrible feeling. They see his potential and expect him to reach the goals we have set for him. They also understand Ace and Archie's unique relationship and are a comfort to them both. It all makes life so much nicer. 

First Day of School Pics

That's it for now. 
All is well in our world. 
Lots of Love!


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Today marks two years since the day Joey walked our son out from behind his orphanage walls-- the only home he had known for his first seven years of life-- and into our family. 

I wanted to do something fun with the kids today to celebrate, so I let Archie play hookie from school and we made an impromptu trip to the beach. 

Archie has changed so much over the last two years. He was such a baby when he came home. It's so crazy to look back and remember where he was just two short years ago, and see how far he has come.

The first picture is Archie touching the ocean for his first time ever two years ago, just a couple of weeks after he was home. And the second is our big handsome boy today. 

We had a blast at the beach and it definitely made for a memorable Gotcha Day. Complete with singing "Happy Gotcha Day to you" over and over (per Archie's request), and Ace's attempt to explain how she was not adopted to Archie when he would change it up and sing, "Happy Gotcha Day to Ace". "Archie, what are you thinking... I wasn't 'dopted....I was in mommy's think she 'dopted me from her own tummy?!?"

I got far too much sun today. My kids did a very poor job of applying my sunscreen so my body and brain are both a bit fried. But before you go, check out my awesome friends' Whitney and Nick's post about Archie and how he inspired their non-profit, The Archibald Project. 

Lots of Love!

update: baby noah

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Last February I wrote about a new friend of mine, GiGi and her new baby boy, Noah. 

GiGi has become one of my favorite people ever. She's just awesome.

Noah recently underwent surgery. He was born with a complete AV canal defect (not uncommon for our babies with Down syndrome). But he had his little heart all fixed up. I heard from GiGi just yesterday and she let me know that Noah has been progressing very well since surgery. He had been on oxygen since March 25th, but just got off this past Tuesday. (yay!) She is completely over the moon for him and says he is the sweetest little boy. He is still on a feeding tube but is growing and doing great.

Okay, prepare for your hearts to explode from cuteness overload:

So thankful I get to see this little guy grow. 

Lots of Love!

P is for Progress

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Yesterday my baby girl turned five. That is seriously nuts.

She had a great birthday and is pretty thrilled about being five. With all of the craziness that has been our lives lately, I never got around to planning a party for either of the kids. Ace wanted to "have the zact same party as Archie." Which was swimming at our pool, eating dinner, and having some cake. She brought two little girl friends from her class at school, and they had a blast. On the way home Ace told me it was, "the best birthday party ever." So that was nice. I wish I knew she was always going to be that easy to please.

Even though it was her birthday, we did not take the day off from Behavior Boot Camp. I came up with my plan after my last post last Wednesday, and put it into action Thursday morning. I realized right off the bat that I was going to have to be very intentional in this process of reversing these bad habits Ace had developed. I sat down with her, explained that it was seriously time, now that she was turning five, to start having better manners and speaking to people when spoken to. She agreed. Of course, we had had that exact same conversation many times before, and it never changed a darn thing, so I introduced her to her brand new Behavior Book. (The book which she informed me last night as we were driving down the freeway that she was going to throw out the window). So yeah, it's been working.

For those of you who emailed me or commented after my last post that you were struggling with the same issues with your little one, here's how it's going down at our house. I got an index card book, some stickers that she got to pick out herself for good behavior, and some red dot stickers for the not so good behavior.

I wrote down exactly how the "game" would work. I consider it a game, because it pretty much is.
So she EARNS:
1 point (marked by a sticker) for saying "hello" to someone when they say "hello" to her
1 point for eye contact during said "hello"
2 points for saying the individual's name after said "hello"
1 point for answering a question ("how are you?" "how is school?" "did you have a fun day at camp?")
3 points for asking a question ("how are you?" "how was your day?")

Points can only be earned if she speaks loudly and clearly enough for the other person to hear her. (We also have problems with low-talk mumbling. And we all know how annoying a low talker can be.

(You're welcome for the captions)

And then she LOSES:
3 points for ignoring someone 
5 points for making a rude comment to someone

I have found the best way of keeping track of her points is by using the voice recorder on my phone. I try to do it when no one is around but if you hear me mumbling, "said 'hello' to Suzie, made eye contact, said name", into my phone...that's whats happening. Then at the end of the day, we write them all down in her book, she puts her stickers in, and we add them up, and subtract the bad ones. I even have her do the math. I know, I know- slow down, mother of the year. 

The pay off for her is every 10 points earned equals one dollar. I know many people do not agree with paying children for good behavior. I get it. I googled the hell out of the issue and as with everything there are a million views on both sides of the argument. But this is what is working for us. The reward needs to be tangible for her, and money is the best motivator I have found. And as we moms always say to each other, "whatever works". So let's just go with that. 

I am trying to set her up as often as possible to succeed, which means I am also setting her up as often as possible to fail. One of my favorite parts of the Parenting with Love and Logic system is giving your kids the opportunity to fail. Cause at the end of the day she is going to learn more from those red stickers that are taking her points away, than anything else. And these small failures while she is still this little is much better than bigger failures when she is not so little anymore. 

The earning points part is very obvious and concrete. The loss of points have been a little trickier, and Joey and I have found ourselves in some pretty funny conversations, discussing whether or not certain comments call for loss of points, or whether they were just funny. I never would have imagined that I would so often be trying to discern between my five year old's sarcasm being inappropriate, or perfectly timed and delivered. For example last night we went to my Mother-in-Law's house to celebrate the kids' birthdays with Joey's side of the family. At one point, Ace and Archie were playing hide-and-go seek with Joey's Aunt. She was doing a really good job of pretending she couldn't find them, and then being super shocked whenever she know, the typical "seeking" of small children that adults do. But on the last round, the kids were pretty much standing in plain sight, as Aunt L looked around....wondering where they could possibly be. And Ace says to Archie (loudly), "well she is really not very good at this game."

Joey and I had to call a sidebar on that one. 
It went like this:

Me: What do you think? Does she lose a point for that one?
Joey: I don't was pretty funny..
Me: Yeah, but was it also rude, or just funny? I mean she was kidding....
Joey: But are we okay with that kind of kidding?
Me: I'm not sure, but it really was a good one...
Joey: Yeah it really was.

Later during a conversation with Joey's sister, she and Ace were discussing an upcoming swim meet that she was going to try to come to. Their convo went like this:
Aunt Abby: Ace, I am going to try to come to your swim meet on Thursday!
Ace: Well, do you even know how to get there?
Aunt Abby: No, I don't, could you give me directions?
Ace: Um, yeah, how about this- GET LOST!

On that one, everyone in the room cracked up. Including myself. It was just too good.

But, it left me and Joey having the same conversation. 

The last thing I want to have come out of all of this is to completely squash her hilariousness. But she doesn't have the ability at age five, to determine when her jokes are appropriate and when they are not. Or who she can joke with like that, and who she really shouldn't. Like with both of her Aunts, and both of her Uncles, it is totally fine. She is very close to each of them, and they mess with her, and she has just learned to hold her own with them. But then, of course, with people we just met, like the one I wrote about in my last post, it is not cool. And it can cause some serious awkwardness. 

The thing with Ace is she is such a good kid. She is so loved by all of her teachers who are constantly bragging on her. She is extremely compassionate, sensitive, a major rule follower and is very respectful to teachers, coaches, counselors, etc. (Apparently even more so when I am not around). She just needs to be reigned in a bit, and replace some of these bad habits with good ones. 

So anyway, we are on Day 6, and already she has made HUGE progress. We are going to be keeping this up throughout the entire summer. And then by the time she starts her new school in the Fall, it should all just come naturally. The next step that I am starting to work on now is weaning my cues. There are still times when I have to give her a look, or a little hand-squeeze, or even the most annoying, "Ace, what do you say?" Before long I am going to have to let her soar on her own in this and she won't be able to earn points for times when I had to give her any sort of cue. 

We're gettin' there!

Lots of Love!

back that thang up

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I am starting to feel like I may have possibly screwed a few things up somewhere along the way with my youngest child. 

This girl:

This summer is going to be many things. But above all, this summer is going to be dedicated to manners and respect.

Ace is a ridiculously sweet little girl. Very kind-hearted, loving, and gentle. But the kid can be so dang rude some times. No matter how many times I talk to her about or threaten to punish her if she does not respond to someone when they say hello to her or ask her a question-- she NEVER does. I used to be able to brush it off like "oh, she's just at that age" or "oh, she's just being shy" or "oh, she's just being Miley." (Actually I have never used that one, but I probably should).

My point is: it's just not cool. There is a fine line between little kids being shy and just plain rude. I have seen legitimately shy children still be respectful and say "hello" and respond to people when being spoken to.

Just the other day we were at a friend's house where I met a new mom. She had already been around Ace for a few minutes and was bragging on Ace being so responsible. Apparently there was a bag of marshmallows that the kids had and Ace had given the bag to this mom. She said to me, "your little girl is so responsible, she gave me this bag of marshmallows so that the kids wouldn't get into them..." Ace, who also has insanely good hearing, was within ear shot of our conversation, and shouts to my new acquaintance, "no, actually I told you to open them." Holy awkwardness.

Just a little while later, AS I WAS HAVING A CONVERSATION WITH MY MOM ABOUT THIS ISSUE, another friend walked in and saw Ace and a couple of her friends dancing around the den and said, "oh fun, a dance party..." To which Ace quickly replied, "this is not a dance party..." In a voice I can't even believe a not quite five year old can speak in. A valley girl-ish brat voice.

The other thing she does that is just as embarrassing as incidents like the ones above, is just completely ignore people. Someone could walk up to her and say, "hey Ace how are you?! It's so good to see you!" And her typical response in that situation would be to quickly look away from that individual, look at me and make a random statement like, "I'm thirsty, Mom." And these are not strangers I am referring to. I was still forcing her to say "hello" to her teachers in the morning all the way up until the last day of school. These are people she knows. Well.

That then leads to the whole uncomfortable, "Ace, Suzie Q. said hello to you, what do you say?" She typically continues to ignore, or starts doing her most obnoxious baby voice. And I end up apologizing for her and we walk away, me angry, her promising, "I know, I know, I won't do that anymore." And that is the cycle. And it continues to this day.

I am a sarcastic human being. Lovingly sarcastic, but sarcastic nonetheless. So is basically every other adult in my family. So Ace has been around a lot of sarcasm in her life and she definitely speaks the language fluently now. And between her zingy one-liners and her blatant ignoring of others, things have got to change- drastically.

I don't know what this "Respect Bootcamp" is going to look like- but it's gonna be nuts.
Stay tuned.

Lots of Love!

eicher life lately

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hey party people!

So my last post (over a month ago, what the heck?!) was slightly depressing. My grandma even informed me that it made her cry. {Love you, Gigi!}

Since that post we have been busy working on living. L-I-V-I-N-G. I have been putting less pressure on myself to live on the "all" side of "all or nothing". And have been happily finding middle ground. We have been busy moving into a house of our own. {yay}. As much as I love my mother-in-law and as thankful as we are that she put a roof over our heads for the last several months, we were so ready for our own space. 

In retrospect, and now that I really can look back and reflect on it all, I am thankful for the experience and everything I learned about myself. I know now just how little "stuff" my family really needs. I have been googling "minimalist living with kids" for a long time, and I have always wanted to live a more minimalist lifestyle. Practical minimalism is my goal. And I am pretty excited to start living that way in our new home. 

Other than the move, which has been quite consuming, I have been spending time just having fun with my kids. That's the other goal in our new home. FUN. More laughing, less yelling. 

I have also been trying to do some things for myself, so I started taking a photography class. And I have been loving it. My kids are great models too, so that makes it fun. 

Really not sure where Ace gets these poses from. And Archie typically just does whatever she does. 

Had to incorporate a unicorn, obviously. 

Ace is basically the photo shoot director. For this next picture she told Archie to, "try a closed mouth smile like me." This was his best attempt....

Just rockin' out

Ace and Joey being too cool

Archie turned 9. Yes NINE, on May 19th. I cannot believe he is nine years old. We celebrated with his absolute favorite activity on earth: swimming. 

This girl graduated Pre-K! CRAZY!

Sneak peek into my favorite room of our house- the game room. 

Ace asked if I could video her giving a tour of our new backyard. Then after she finished and watched it she asked me, "Mom, do you think that should prolly go on your blog?" Of course I said YES. So I will leave you with our little reporter. 

Lots of Love!