Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Little Bit of Snow

We woke up to just a little bit of snow. Jess and Joaquin talk about wanting to play in the snow all the time, but we haven't had any yet. Even though it was very little they couldn't wait to get out and play this morning. So I thought I would post a few pics of our morning fun.

This looks to me like sisters up to no good!

Here is the reason Nate isn't in any of the snow pics, he is out hunting with my dad and Eric this morning. Dad and Nate went out yesterday and they got a buck. When Nate called me he said, "Mom we got a buck!" Dad actually shot it, but Nate took some claim to it since they were in the stand together. They have had such a great hunting season together. Some great time just bonding and my dad teaching Nate so much about how to hunt and use a gun. Nate and my dad have an awesome kind of relationship/bond anyway and tears me up to think of how much time my dad spends with Nate. Nate thinks the world of my dad and would be totally lost in life without him. He is one reason Nate is turning out to be such a great kid.

My Girls

Here is a conversation had with Jessica this evening. Most of the time the conversations consist of me listening while Jess talks, so keep that in mind. Smile. She doesn’t give you too much time to get your thoughts in.

We were getting out of the van to go into the grocery store and Jess says (in her very best English), “Mom you teach me how to look for cars and I be careful. I know how to be careful. You don’t make me hold hands now because you teach me how be careful. But, pause, Dad makes me hold hands. I know why he does. Because he love me too much.”

“That’s exactly right Jess, Daddy loves you very much and doesn’t want anything bad to happen to you,” I reply.

“I already know that he loves me too much. And you too mom. I already know this.”
I smile at her and before I can reply she looks at me and says, “it’s because we’re a family.” Then off she went to pick the perfect cart for us to use.

I love these kind of moments and don’t ever want to take them for granted. We are so very blessed with great kids, willing to love and to learn. Jess is going to be my kid that we are going to have to use some creative parenting with. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. She is just so adaptable and smart that we have to be sure we are teaching her to use her skills in a positive way. She has a great artsy creative side that I want to continue to tap into. I learn more about her everyday as her English is progressing and she can put more thoughts into words. There is so much to adore.

Then there is Emi. I have seen such a transformation in her this year. It’s really hard to believe what a young woman she is fairly gracefully becoming. She is growing and learning in so many areas of her life and I feel very blessed she is willing to share with me. See I was the kid who never spoke of my own feelings or thoughts, not even to my friends. I was the listener, the, I will get close to you but you will never get too close to me, kind of girl. Emi on the other hand is very willing to share her thoughts, feelings and life experiences with me. This is a very different kind of personality than I had. I was the learn it the hard way cuz I won’t ask for help kid. Emi, although not always willingly, will accept advise and apply it as she sees fit in her relationships and life. I see strong traits in her that are going to allow her to go far in life. She is going to take some hits for some of these traits, but in the long run will be highly respected.

Just tonight after everyone was in bed she just wanted to lay by me and chat. She talked about the dance she went to, about kids who are making bad choices and why, about silly things and girly things and life in general. You know parenting a teen is tough. Be a mom not a friend, and just where is that line. Don’t ask too many questions, but ask enough to be informed and not over step your boundaries of making them uncomfortable and not willing to talk. It’s tough I tell ya. You listen and subtly guide them while at the same time building them up and helping them to define who they are and who they want to become. It’s really mentally exhausting but serves me great pleasure when I see Emilee heed to my words and use them to help herself grow.

I have tried to teach her to consciously analyze behavior in herself and in others. If you have a day you feel like crying, cry, but why do you cry. Too tired? Feeling the pain of a friend? Stressed? If you have a day you just have no patience, what do you do. You rise above it but give yourself space and time to change your mind set. When you feel like laughing, bring someone along with you, spread the cheer. But what is it that makes you happy today? Christmas lights? The laughter of little kids? A good experience between friends? When we analyze, we seek God, He speaks, and we grow. It’s just that simple, but yet so complex. But Emi really seems to understand this idea and at a young 12 years olds. I watch her seek for more love, more laughter, more fun, more maturity, and a greater purpose in life. She will be a person who makes a difference in many peoples’ lives, a vessel that God will use.

My girls…wow…parenting is not easy and I have many shortcomings when it comes to being a good mom. Lord never let me forget how blessed I am, never let me cease to seek your face in becoming a better parent to my kids, and don’t let me fall too short as a paretn for the sake of the jewels you gave me.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Just a few pics

My mom, sister and I took the kids to Disney on Ice. I've never seen Joaquin sit so still for so long, he was memorized. They are having so much fun and we are having fun watching them grow.

Halloween for Jess and Joaquin was a treat. They had a ball.

Eric and Nate on the bus before Nate took off to his Superbowl game. His team won again, what an exciting day. Nate played the entire game, offense and defense. His team has won 4 years in a row against the same team. And once again he was one of the 4 captains for the final game.

My family are big hunters. We love deer meat, but Eric doesn't have a chance to hunt. So I always have to hope my dad, brother and sister get enough deer to share each year. Nate has gone hunting for several years with my dad, but was never old enough to hunt on his own, shoot with his own gun. So this year we took him and my nephew to the hunter safety classes and they got their hunting permits. Nate was so excited to go in the woods with his gun. It's youth week in Ohio this week, so my Dad took Nate out and my brother took my nephew to the woods.

Remember that gun Nate got in a pic a few posts ago? Well he put it to good use today. Nate's first deer. He told me before the went hunting "Mom, I want to fill your freezer!" Well, he's off to a good start!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Time flies when you're having fun!

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I have posted. I have had several complaints and emails from folks wanting to know what’s going on in the Hollis home. Yes, we are still here and all is well, busy, very busy, but all is well. But because it’s been so long I don’t even know where to begin. Since my last post I am back to work 25 hours a week and in full swing with football and fall activities. The fall is my busiest time, I love it, but I can really feel a difference when football season is over.

So let’s start with Jess. A day or two after my last post we decided to put her back in 1st grade. She was doing well but very behind the other children in 2nd grade. They had only been in school a week or two, so the change was not a big deal. She is doing wonderfully in 1st grade and instead of struggling and feeling behind, she is on top of the game and doing well with reading and making friends. She is also coming along wonderfully with her English.

Jessica has recently been coming out with a lot of interesting stories about her life in Colombia. We have struggled with knowing if some of them are made up or true, some of them are definitely true, but some just don’t make sense compared to the info we have been given. I can’t imagine she remembers as much as she claims. She was a young 3 ½ when taken to the orphanage. She claims she remembers the day the police came and how she was taken to La Maria. She also talks about wanting to change her name. One day she wants it to be Molly and the next it’s Tatiana. Her middle name at one time was Tatiana. Her name was changed a few times before she came to us. We keep telling her we love her name as Jessica and so she says, “Ok, but call me Jess or Jessie” Normally we call her Jess, but she is so funny about this name thing. We will have our re adoption hearing in November and we can make changes to her name at that time. Right now she does not have a middle name, and we planned to make it Jessica Ann. Ann is my middle name. I love the name Tatiana for her middle name, but the family really wants to keep Ann. So we’ll see.

Jessica’s new thing is to call Emilee “my sister” and the boys, “my brother. It’s really very cute. She will say things like, “Can I stay at home with my sister when you go to the store?” She is very proud of her family. I remember a time when they called everyone Mom, so it’s great to see they have bonded so well and are proud of being part of a family! Every night Eric says bed time prayers with the kids. He is trying to teach them how to not recite prayers but to make their prayers from their own hearts. So the other night Jessica was saying her prayers and just before Eric turned out the light she said, “oh wait Daddy, I have one more prayer!” then goes on with “and thank you Jesus for the best Mommy and Daddy you could give me” Doesn’t that just melt your heart?!

I have also had the privilege of being able to help out at the kid’s school once a week. The first day I came in I was helping in Jessica’s gym class. She was sure to tell the whole class “That’s my Mom!” Just innocently proud to have a Mama!

Little Miss Jessica has kept the tooth fairy busy. She lost two teeth in one week. After she lost the second one she said, "please no more picutres Mommy!"

As for Joaquin, what can I say, he is just Joaquin, a heart melter, a comedian, a love bug, and a very smart boy! He is doing great in school, and learning everything he can. He already knows almost all of his letters and their sounds and can come up with two to three words that start with each letter. He loves school and his teachers. I think he will be reading by the end of the school year. He is always trying to come up with words that rhyme, so that’s our big game. He is no longer afraid to go to bed in his room by himself, which shows me he is feeling very comfortable in his home. He does well with his chores and is finally gaining a little bit of weight since we got rid of the parasites. His English is awesome and he loves to play karate with Emilee. He has a great imagination that I love to watch in action. He can play with cars, action figures, or just about anything and can play for a good long time.

One of Joaquin's favorite places...on the couch with Jazz

The other day I was asking the kids what they would like for Christmas, and Joaquin thought for a minute then tells me he wants a picture of Nate when Nate was a baby. So Jess chimes in with “Joaquin, we are in the United States now and we will get lots of stuff, so think harder!” they are so excited about the holidays. It’s definitely going to be a Christmas to remember.

Emi and Nate are just staying busy with friends, sports, homework and tween life. Emi has just grown up so much in this last year it’s really hard to believe. And she got all As on her report card for the first quarter of Junior High. I am jus so proud of her. She is a beautiful young woman making wise decisions in her daily life and with her friends. Nate’s football team took 1st place in their league again, so we will start playoffs next weekend. The last 3 years his team has won the superbowl, so it’s a big deal, they are trying to keep their title.

We have our second post adoption meeting with our social worker on Monday. In just two weeks it will be 7 months since the kids have been with us. I remember this time last year we were playing the waiting game, just waiting for any ounce of news Colombia would have for us.

What a ride!

A normal day in the living room when Nate's willing to give up Sports Center on TV and get on the floor to play.

Emi and Jess at their Pajama party in the living room

Boys...what can I say!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Life doesn’t get any sweeter!

One year ago this week our paperwork landed in Colombia, time has flown by so here are a few things I want to remember and things to remember to not take for granted:

Jess and Joaquin can light up an entire room with a smile. Their energy for life is contagious. They are fighters, they are survivors, they are strong on the outside but fragile on the inside.

The process of adoption is a pure miracle that happens right in front of you.

One thing I never want to forget, Jessica and Joaquin had a certain smell about them when we first met them, but the smell was gone within the fist week.

You know you are one’s mother when you can lick your child’s suckers or share an ice cream and think nothing of it.

I never want to forget how excited and sweet Emi and Nate were to meet their brother and sister. Nate was shy and soaked it all in while Emi jumped right into wanting to be a big sister. Now the girls pick out each others clothes, help each other with their hair, and dance around the room to music while getting ready in the mornings. Nate and Joaquin love to chase each other thru the house hiding around corners to bomb each other with their clean rolled up socks then laugh from the bottom of their bellies when they nail each other.

The laughter that comes thru the doors and walls from the kids bedrooms is like medicine to ones soul.

The great big hug I get every morning when Joaquin wakes up melts my heart.

Jessica tries to be sneaky but has a look in her eye that gives her away every time.

Jessica and Joaquin do NOT like sleeping in a room alone, as a matter of fact it’s just down right scary to them.

Jessica is so smart, she is a true survivor and I admire that in her. She has amazing coping skills in every area. Our goal is to teach her how to use those skills for the good of others and to herself. She really is an amazing, child. Beautiful inside and out!

To watch Joaquin play and imagine always makes me smile, and sometimes tear up. I think of the time before we had him and how he had to take care of himself. He is so sensitive and fragile at times, who was there to rock him, comfort him…no one but himself and his big sister. Survivors I tell you! I wish I could put into words how incredible I think they are considering their background and what they have come through.

They speak of Colombia and La Maria almost daily. They talk about their favorite caretakers, Maribel and Patricia. They sing children’s songs in Spanish all the time, while they are playing, riding in the car, or just walking down the halls in the house.

Emi and Nate would not change a thing about our family and have fallen in love with the family as a family of 6. Nate talks about someday adopting on his own and Jess wishes for a little sister to be adopted. Nate says if we adopt again he wants it to be from Ethiopia.

Jess loves to watch TV but when instructed to go play, she can do so with joy and plays well alone or with others. She loves to play with polly pockets, her American girl doll, loves to fix hair and do anything girly, but is shy in front of others. She particularly loves the men of the family, uncles, grandpas and her daddy, but still says Tia Jeanie is her favorite.

Joaquin loves his Mimi and riding the motorcycle with papa. He likes to tease Emi, he adores Nate, he likes to sit on daddy’s lap to watch TV, but is really a mama’s boy. He is funny and witty and can make anyone laugh. He has a bit of trouble at times playing with bigger kids, he tends to bite or kick as a form of playing. Again, survival skills from the orphanage, but boy has that been a tough one to break.

Emi has become such a young lady through this process, but still loves being on the floor playing with her little sister. They tell secrets and have a language all their own, which I love. I have a great relationship with my sister and I desire the same for Emi and Jess.

Nate just rolls with the flow. He is a loving kid with a deep heart and a fun loving attitude, but is very sensitive and wants to please. He is a joy to be around and would be lost without the excitement of his siblings.

I tear up thinking about not having pictures of Jess and Joaquin as babies, and not being with them from the beginning, but am so thankful and more complete having them with us. Even the family, grandparents, aunts and uncles tear up thinking about the time before they were with us and realizing that even before they met Jess and Joaquin they were fully in love and attached.

And there is so much more…

So what’s going on at the Hollis’?

Everyone is doing well in school. Emi is loving the Jr High, the boys keep telling her friends that she is pretty and they like her. She just laughs at the boys...for now.

Nate, well, he is just Nate. Doing well, but everything comes so easy to him that he isn't finding school a challenge and then gets sloppy. He is just glad to have outside recess to play football.

Jessica and Joaquin are doing really well. Joaquin is speaking almost all English, I am amazed. He had to do a project about himself and one of the questions was “Who is your hero and why?” Joaquin said his brother Nate was his hero. Which made me cry. (He thinks Nate is famous when he puts on his sports uniforms) Joaquin said “Nate is big and strong and has lots of friends. And he teaches me how to do flips on the trampoline.”

Jessica is doing better with English and is loving school. She is like a commodity there. All the kids want to play with her, even the older kids. She just got an invitation to a 10 yr olds birthday party. You worry they may be made fun of, but it's been just the opposite. I ran into her tutor/ESL Teacher today who told me how awesome Jess is doing. Then her regular teacher emailed me with this message, “Also, I am speaking with Jessica's tutor almost everyday and we are both amazed at the progress she is making. She is a really hard worker and picks up on things quickly. She has a great strategy for adding and subtracting by using her crayons! She is very helpful and even helped me pass graded papers back to mailboxes today. I know I shouldn't be surprised. After all she is a Hollis!“ It was very nice to hear from Mrs. George, she is so sweet! Jessica has a long way to go, but is doing fine trying to catch up to the others.

Emi cheered at her fist JR High Game and looked so grown up. She has been mistaken as a freshman by the bus driver and some of her peers...not sure I like that.

Nate had his first football game on Saturday. They played the team they always face in the superbowl each year and they beat the team 30 to nothing. The first defensive play, Nate made the tackle and caused a fumble. He is also the punter this year. On one punt, he punted the ball, broke through the line and also made the tackle. He was wound up and had a great game. He constantly talks about playing college ball...I hope his dream comes true.

I am back to work and am liking getting everyone into routine. I have every afternoon with Joaquin, just the two of us and we are loving it.

The kids all come home little jabber boxes, so I have to give them each 5 minutes to tell me about their days so they don’t talk over each other. I’m just glad they want to share.

So all in all things are really good. We are blessed beyond what we could have imagined.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

School has started!

Today was the second day of school and they are all loving it!

Emi started in Junior High, so big adjustment for her. The first day she was pretty stressed, finding 7 classes and working a locker combination etc. But she got all of her classes organized and feeling in control and is going to love Junior High life.

Nate well, as smart as he is (My Talented and Gifted Child), was only concerned about being able to take his football so the boys could play at recess.

Jess was a bit nervous but so excited to go. She came home the first day kind of quiet and said she was very tired. But today she came home and was so excited. She has made some friends and loves the interpreter/ESL teacher. She is most concerned about what she is going to wear…a true girl.

Joaquin attended Kindergarten camp last week and feels like a pro as far as going to school is concerned. The bus was the biggest thing for him. He couldn’t wait to ride and this evening he was sure to tell me how good he was on the bus sitting still looking at all the houses on the way home. Last week at Kindergarten camp he gave his teacher a kiss and hug, twice. Oh my little Latino! So now I just have Joaquin in the afternoon, just the two of us. I am going to eat it up.

Nate has been a great big brother. He is at the same school as Jess and Joaquin and was able to help out a little with the Spanish with some of the teachers. At the end of the day Jessica’s teacher asked Nate if Jessica really liked octopus’, Nate told the teacher when Jess says AutoBus sounds like octopus, and that Jessica was talking about the school bus. He thought it was pretty funny. He checked on her at lunch and reported to me that she ate everything on her tray and told me who she played with at recess. He was very proud of himself for helping to take care of his little sis. He is used to being taken care of by Emi and now the table has turned.

The funny story from the first two days is about Emi. You know it’s a big deal what to wear on the first day of Jr High. Emi thought that being a cheerleader she would wear school colors, Green, Black and White. She looked cute in her spirit wear, but apparently not to the first teacher she saw as she entered the building. She was wearing two tank tops, not spaghetti straps (see pic below) and this teacher told her to call her mom and get a different shirt to wear. You can imagine my heart pounding when the school called me at 7:30 in the morning about Emi, who has NEVER gotten in trouble, not once ever. We’re talking about the child who is teacher’s pet every year! I took her a new shirt right away, thinking she was probably in tears. When I went in the school and saw Emi she thought it was pretty funny that she was sent to the principals office on the first day of school. Her homeroom teacher thought it was ridiculous that she was made to change, but “live and learn”. So anyway you can imagine what a hard time the family is giving Emi, our goodie two shoes.

So the new routine begins and so far so good.

Here they are watching down the road for the bus. We have a lot of big trucks that go down our road, so in the meantime Nate taught them how to get the trucks to honk. The trucks today were good sports, every single one of them honked at the kids. And of course a few fun pictures too!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Just for fun

I had some pics taken of the kids at a local park, just some candid shots by Mandy Niehause so I thought I would share.

Other than taking pics, we've been doing stool samples and taking medicine to try and get rid of 2 kinds of intestinal parasites the kiddos have and going for a skeletal survey. With the abuse that was noted in the paperwork, the International Adoption Clinic suggested we do this skeletal survey to note any trauma they have had to their skeletal system. That way if they ever get hurt while with us, we will have documentation of any trauma that happened before they were with us. Pretty smart acutally. Apparently a family here in Cincinnati had adopted, then went to the ER for a broken bone and it was found that there were other injuries that were never documented. The kids were taken from them immediately. You can imagine what a mess that was. The trauma had happened before the adoption, but the couple had no proof.

Everyone is ready for school to start and they all have their backpacks ready and by the door. I started back to work, just a few hours a week until Sept. Kind of trying to ease into things a bit.

Okay, well enough of that, here's the pics!