Friday, August 17, 2012

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I made the comment to Rusty this morning that "The light at the end of the tunnel of transition is growing ever brighter." This was in reference to our container, which is due to arrive on our doorstep bright and early tomorrow morning! It is hard to believe that by this time tomorrow evening, our empty house will be full of our things and we can begin making it feel like home. I don't mean to suggest that the arrival of the container will bring an end to the process of transition, but it will sure go a long way to helping me feel settled and in a more permanent place, which I desperately, desperately need right now.

In some ways, it feels like the last 6 years have been one long transition, from the time we left Japan in 2006 and returned to Oregon to take care of Rusty's mom until now. We were settled in our own home in Memphis for a little less than a year and a half while Rusty finished grad school, but at the end of 2008, we packed up most of our things and then made a series of temporary moves -- to Michigan, to Nashville, then to Portugal, then back to Michigan. When we were in Nashville, we lived in a house provided by the church, but even then, we only unpacked what we needed to live comfortably. We didn't spend a lot of time decorating... we didn't even hang curtains! So some of what we'll be unpacking starting tomorrow we haven't seen in almost 4 years, since before Stephen was born! Crazy...

I'm anxious to begin "making my nest," to sleep on my own bed again, to do my laundry in my own house, to cook with my own pots and pans on my American-size stove. I'm looking forward to doing some scrapbooking again, to hanging pictures on the walls, to surrounding myself with visual reminders of people and places near and dear to us. Rusty is excited about having all his tools at arm's reach again and making coffee in his Starbucks coffee pot. The kids of course are excited about seeing their toys. Alex kept asking me all day about specific toys, like his light saber and his collection of plastic dragons. They have been getting pretty bored with the few toys we brought with us in our luggage. Some of the toys we'll be unpacking Stephen has never even seen or played with. I'm sure it will seem like Christmas to them!

Okay, it's going to seem like Christmas to all of us!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Eleventh Month

Benjamin is now 11 months old. In just a couple of weeks, we'll be celebrating his first birthday. It's pretty surreal to me. His first year has passed in a blur of packing and moving internationally (not just once, but twice), changing direction, saying goodbye, road trips, fundraising, language study, and more. We've packed more into the last year than most people do in five. And Ben has been a part of it all, and mostly blessedly oblivious to the fact that his world is completely unsettled and his mother is a basket case.

Ben now has 6 teeth, 3 on the bottom and 3 on the top. The top 3 teeth all came in within a few days of each other, but he didn't seem that bothered by them this time, in comparison to when he cut his first two teeth. He is active and curious and quite the little explorer. He has finally figured out how to go down stairs backwards, which means he can go up and down from our living room (which is set down two steps from the rest of the house) safely. He has also discovered the bathroom and loves to play in the toilet (gross!) or unroll the toilet paper all over the floor. I am trying to train my family to keep the bathroom doors closed, but every now and then, one will get left open and Benjamin will find his way in there.

He is sleeping through the night (finally!), but I usually have to get up once or twice in the night to help him find his paci. No nighttime feedings anymore, though! He is still taking two naps a day, but I have been wondering lately if he is showing signs of being ready to transition to one. Both Alex and Stephen transitioned to one nap a day when they were around a year old, so maybe it's time for Benjamin.

Ben babbles a lot, says things like "ma-ma" and "da-da" and "ba-ba," but I'm not sure if he is associating the sounds with things yet, or just making noise. We are trying to teach him a few baby signs like "more" and "all done." He waves bye-bye, claps his hands, and has started giving kisses, which basically means that he butts his forehead up against your cheek. It's precious. He is cruising and sometimes standing briefly on his own, but he has yet to take his first steps. I think it will be soon, though!

I'm hoping our container gets here soon so we can celebrate his first birthday in style at the end of the month!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Summer Learning

Back in May, I officially began homeschooling. I packed the first half (six weeks worth) of our phonics and reading program in our luggage, thinking that surely by the time we got through it, our container would be here with the remaining materials. HA! Here we are, nearly four months after arriving in Ecuador, and we are still waiting on the container -- although the good news is that it is now sitting in Guayaquil, so all we have to do is clear it through customs and get it here to Quito. Needless to say, we completed the first half of the phonics and reading program several weeks ago, but learning has continued while we wait for the rest of the curriculum to arrive. Here's a little of what we've been up to:

Rusty and I started Spanish lessons again. We ended up hiring a private tutor to come to our house because it was just easier than traveling back and forth to a school and trying to figure out the childcare. Our tutor has a daughter who is a Spanish teacher for children. She agreed to teach the boys for a few weeks while she was on her summer break. She always came prepared with fun games, crafts, and yummy snacks:

I used the Fourth of July to teach a little about American independence and the design of the U.S. flag. We made this handprint/footprint flag, as well as patriotic wands and patriotic Rice Crispy treats. Then we roasted hotdogs and marshmallows in our fireplace and watched fireworks on the Internet. Here are the boys showing off all their Independence Day creations:

Rusty took a trip to Kumanii in July to spend some time with the evangelists and see the progress being made on the new meeting hall. He took Alex with him, and they had a great time! Flexibility is one of the oft-touted advantages to home schooling, and for us, it will mean that the kids and I will get to join Rusty more often when he goes out to the jungle than we would if we were locked into a traditional school's schedule.

On the river
Alex and his friend Joscar watching the roof going up
Also in July, we enjoyed a three-day weekend in the town of Papallacta with several other homeschooling families we've recently connected with here in Quito. We played games, ate lots of yummy food, and spent time getting to know each other. And we of course we enjoyed the termas (hot springs)! I didn't take very many pictures this weekend, but here are a couple of the boys at the termas:

Alex and his friend Micah
The last few days, we have been following the Olympics pretty closely. Alex is old enough this year to understand what it's all about and to enjoy cheering on the athletes. I found lots of great ideas for crafts and games related to the Olympics on the Internet, so I have been trying to do some of those with the boys over the last few days. On the day of the Opening Ceremonies, we made flags of all the countries we have either lived in or traveled to since 2006 (the year Alex was born). There are 12 in all (if you count Gibraltar) -- how is that even possible? The boys enjoyed coloring the flags and then waving them during the opening ceremonies. Alex is now able to recognize most of the flags and their countries when he sees them on the TV.

And finally, we have done a little book work. While in the States, I bought this Brain Quest Kindergarten workbook from Costco, and we worked on a few pages at a time until he finished it. Now, we are working on sight words and using some beginning readers from A Beka just for a little reading practice each day. Alex loves that he is able to read these books all on his own, and is quite proud of his new talent! Here is is showing off his Brainiac award for completing his Brain Quest book: