Tuesday, July 2, 2013

FAQ's: You Asked, We Answered

We are so grateful for the love and support all of you have shown to our family over the past couple of months as we have learned how to operate as a family of five.  We are also grateful for the way you all have honored our requests regarding cocooning!  You guys are awesome!  We have witnessed our family and our community walking beside us through cocooning, time and time again.  By doing this, you are helping Eliana grow and learn.  Many of you have asked us to reiterate the "rules of cocooning," just to make sure you don't overstep any boundaries, and to that we say, "thank you!"

I want to take this opportunity to answer some of the most common questions we have been hearing from all of you.  We know that you are curious about what is going on with us, and we LOVE that you care enough to ask!  So please, keep the questions coming!

#1.....How are you all doing?
We are doing great!  Each day brings new challenges (and some old challenges), but we are figuring out how to best deal with them.  Really we deal with the same things that any family with young children does:  keeping 3 kids fed, keeping 3 kids clean, enforcing nap times and bedtimes, keeping 3 kids from fighting so much that they drive their mom crazy...you know, normal stuff!  As the mom, I feel like I have settled into a nice routine!

#2.....How is Eliana adjusting?
Eliana is adjusting beautifully!  She plays with her brothers as if she has known them her entire life!  She knows her way around our house, and she knows & anticipates our daily routine.  

#3.....How are the boys doing with their new sister?
The boys are loving their little sister!  Of course the three of them squabble a lot (which would be expected of any siblings).  Generally, they all play very well together, no one gets left out, and it is a joy to listen to them play/pretend together.  Both of the boys have shown slight regression in different areas, and we are combating it with lots of extra, individual attention.

#4.....Is everyone eating/sleeping like they should?
Yes!  I would say that 90% of our nights, everyone goes to bed relatively easily and sleeps through the night!  The other 10% of the time we may have a little trouble getting someone to go to sleep, or someone may briefly wake up in the middle of the night (usually a little pat on the back fixes it).  To say we are blessed in the sleep department, would be a gross understatement!
We are getting there.  We have always dealt with eating issues for both of the boys.  They are picky eaters, and I have generally stuck to feeding them things that I know they will eat.  Eliana, on the other hand, will eat anything you give to her!  We have made it a point in the last 2 months to try to feed everyone the same thing at dinner (even if it's something that the boys may not like).  Well, it has resulted in many tears, but again...we are getting there.

#5.....When will you be done with cocooning?
This is a tricky question to answer, because cocooning is not something that just ends on a particular day.  Cocooning is an ongoing process.  A slow process.  And hopefully, it will be a rewarding process.

It's kind of like learning to swim.  You wouldn't throw a toddler into the deep end of the pool and expect that he would just figure out how to handle the new surroundings and start swimming.  You also wouldn't give a child a handful of beginner swimming lessons and expect that they could then handle the deep end on their own.  However, if you ever want that child to be able to handle the deep end, you have to start somewhere.  It takes time, patience, learning, repetition and support.  Eventually, the child will swim safely in the deep end!

Currently, we are in the stage of dipping our toes in the water, and she is beginning to get comfortable with the fact that the pool even exists.

It's a lot of taking two steps forward and one step back.  You may see us trying church, going to a restaurant, going to the store, etc.  What's happening behind the scenes is much more complex.  We are gauging Eliana's reactions while in those situations and her actions once we are back at home in our "safe spot."  Sometimes we are pleasantly surprised and decide that Eliana is ready!  Other times we are surprised to find out that she just isn't there yet, and we have to pull back and wait to try it again.  She is actually doing much better than we could have anticipated at this point, and we are very pleased with the progress that has been made.  However, we must be cautious, and continue to let Eliana lead in this process.

So please, continue being patient with us as we figure out how to best help our daughter through all of these transitions.  Eventually, everything will be normal, we promise!

#6.....How are Eliana's doctor appointments going?
We have been so blessed to work with some great teams of doctors as we try to learn more about Eliana's medical past and future.  So far, everything looks great!  Amazing!  It is very clear just how loved and cared for Eliana was before we got to her.

#7.....Is Eliana speaking English?
No, Eliana is not speaking English.  The language that she heard up until the day we got her was Cantonese (a Chinese dialect).  However, it is amazing just how quickly she is learning our language!  She only just turned two years old, so her language is just beginning to emerge anyway.  At this time she can point to 15 body parts when asked, she can point to various items around the house when asked, and she can follow simple instructions!  She understands much of what we say, and she is working hard on learning how to speak English.  She can say simple things like, Mommy, Daddy, brothers, Clay, Davis, eat, diaper, bed, clean-up, etc.  She is also trying to sing some songs, "Twinkle, Twinkle," "Jesus Loves Me," and the Auburn Fight Song.  Of course, everything she says has that cute two year old flair to it, with a precious Cantonese accent.

#8.....When I am around Eliana, how can I interact with her?
Feel free to speak to Eliana, give her high fives, blow kisses or get on the floor and play with her.  You can smile with her, make silly faces, etc.

We ask that you continue to refrain from holding her, hugging her, handing her gifts, toys, food..., any care taking (diapers, cleaning, etc.).  If there is a gift that you would like for her to have, please give it to me or Randall, and we will present the gift to her (and tell her it is from you, of course).

We understand that this can all be confusing, and we totally appreciate all that you guys have done to respect our wishes at this time.

Thank you, again, for asking questions, for checking-up on us, and for praying for us!  We love you guys!

You can check out our original post on cocooning here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

One Month Later...Cocooning is FUN!

Today is a special day for the Stoves family for two reasons.

Today marks our ninth wedding anniversary!  It's hard to believe that we have been married for nine years now.  Time truly does fly when you're having fun!  However, when you add up all that we have done since we were married, you start to see where the time went.

In nine years we have:
*Bought 3 houses
*Sold 2 houses
*Brought 3 beautiful children into our family
*Lived in Kentucky
*Lived in Alabama
*Gone on lots of trips (South America, Asia, Hawaii, Disney, Beach, Mountains, etc)

I sure am glad that God put the two of us together!  I believe we make a great team, and it has been a joy to follow God's plans for our life together.  I can't wait to see what the next nine years holds!


Today marks one month since we have had our entire family of five under one roof!

This is the beautiful video our friend Rusty made of our homecoming at the airport.  Isn't it precious!?!  Thank you, Rusty!

We have had a lot of fun over the past month!  Even though we are cocooning and it is taking time to adjust to our new family dynamic, we have found special moments to make memories and have a good time.

Playing with the sprinkler in the back yard!

Lots of Playtime Outside!

Cuddling on the couch.
(We were watching our new family favorite in this pic...Wipe Out!)

Tons of snacks!
(I need to start keeping track of the number of Cheerios & Goldfish boxes we go through in a month.)

Clay had VBS for the first time!

Doctor Appointments

Eliana's first time at church!

Cocooning has definitely had its fun moments, and it has given me the freedom to stay home and focus on the kiddos guilt-free.  However, it hasn't been all fun and games.  Sure that's what I have pictures of, so that's what you see here on the blog.  The fits and breakdowns (by children &, let's face it, mom too) aren't exactly the "get your camera out and snap a picture" moments.  But I want to be honest and let you know that there are moments when all I want to do is get away from everything for an hour or two.  Even if it's just to go to the grocery store.  But overall, it has been a great experience.

Here is a pic of one of those "less-than-awesome" moments.  One of the two year olds decided the playroom wall needed a little color.

Overall, everyone is adjusting much quicker than anticipated.  God has truly been good to our family!

Clay is very excited about starting kindergarten in the fall, and he has been working on his sight-words and single digit addition.  We are up to almost 90 sight-words that he can identify quickly when doing flash cards.  He has also become very excited about Lego's!  He has been working on a Lego kit that he is very proud to tell you is for 8-12 year olds (he is one month shy of five years old).

Davis has recently found great delight in singing!  He loves to sit with me and sing songs several times each day.  My favorite is when he asks to sing, "Jesus wuvs da wittle chwildwen."  Some of his favorites that I catch him singing throughout the day are:  "Twinkle-Twinkle," "Auburn Fight Song," "Jesus Loves Me," and "Itsy-Bitsy Spider."  I just love his little, two year old language.

Eliana is adjusting beautifully, and much quicker than expected!  She knows who Mommy, Daddy and her brothers are, and she says our names.  She is sleeping well, eating well, and interacting with her brothers exactly like a two year old should.  When I ask her to identify different body parts (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, tongue, teeth, lips, hair, head, feet, toes, hands, knees, belly) she can point to them, and she tries to say the words.  She mimics many of the words we say, and she can understand a lot of simple directions.  It's amazing how quickly she is learning English.   

We have begun to test the waters of the outside world, and it is refreshing!  Hopefully, we will be ready to dive in soon!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Our First Week Home

We made it through our first week home!

We are so glad to have our entire family of five under one roof, now.  What a relief!  It has definitely been an adjustment, but the adjustment has been made relatively easily by all.  Glory to God!  Now, I'm not saying that there haven't been tears (including some from myself), but now that the jet lag is behind us, and we are beginning to close in on a schedule that will suit all of us, we are happily finding our new normal.

Three children under five years old is No Joke!  Our home is full of energy and excitement at all times!  So grateful for the awesome gift that my brother-in-law and sister-in-law sent me this week...50 K Cups of my favorite coffee!  Perfect gift!  I'm definitely going to need all of that caffeine.  Thanks, T & P!!!

This first week home has been a wonderful adventure!

Our arrival at the airport was so wonderful!  We were greeted by our precious boys, our parents, siblings, nephews & nieces, my aunt & uncle, my cousin & her family, and some great friends!  We definitely felt loved!

After our airport party, our families headed to IHOP for brunch before we made the 2 hour drive home.  It was crazy!  There were 22 of us (9 kids under seven years old)!

Finally, we got home, and we could not have been more excited!  The boys loved showing Eliana around the house, and we were so glad to have made it!

The next day we celebrated Eliana's 2nd birthday with a cake and a couple of presents.  We also presented all three of the kids with their souvenirs from China.

In the middle of the week we took the kids out for our annual Good Ol' Boys steak night with my Dad.  It was a lot of fun, and the kids really enjoyed it.

Our first couple of days home, my Mom came to help us, and the next couple of days Randall's Mom came to help.  They were such a blessing to us!  The moms cooked, cleaned, played with the kids, and helped pick up the slack while we got over jet lag.  During that time we had a lot of pajama days (and will continue to do so), and we enjoyed staying around the house.

When you are cocooning (spending ALL of your time at home), it is important to find some fun things to do.  So we played lots of games, played outside, walked around the neighborhood & planted a little "green house" with the kids.

We ended our first week home with Clay's very first violin recital!  He did such a wonderful job!!! As he sat backstage waiting for his turn to go out and play, he looked at me and said, "I'm so excited for my recital!"  He took that stage like a pro!  No nerves.  He just went out there, and he did exactly what he had rehearsed.  I think he likes being on a stage!  Hmmm...I wonder where he gets that from???