Todd Family Blog

Welcome! Read below for our latest news and pictures.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Month 16 with Levi (Sports Fans, you'll like this....)

Whew, Month 16 was a busy one!  We began our first foray into home renovation (a few pics below), I had lots of rehearsals for a big concert with Hendricks Symphony, my students were preparing for our studio recital, and Brad has had some travel here and there for work.  We were all wondering if we would make it through May!  Obviously, we lived to tell about it and Levi is still growing and changing by the day.

With our home renovation came a new friendship - Scott, our tile guy!  Scott (and, Scott, if you are reading this, forgive me for spreading the word) was one of THE Hickory players in Hoosiers!!!  He played "Strap" and you can see one of his scenes here:
He looks just the same!  Of course, Levi can't appreciate Scott's historic movie importance just yet, but that didn't keep him from being completely enamored with Scott day in and day out.  Levi still pats the tile floor and says "Sca!!!"  Everyday when Scott would arrive it was a big deal.  Levi loved Scott's truck, his tools, the big noises, Scott's boots, how tall he was when Scott picked him up, and on and on.  Levi could not even stand to nap decently the whole month incase he missed something.  Most of all, he wanted to be part of all our conversations.  If Scott and I were talking Levi would try to "talk" louder.  Needless to say, Scott is much missed around here now that the work (in Month 17) was completed.  (As I typed this Levi came over, saw the screen and said, "Sca!!!"  Awwwww.)

Sleep continued to progress wonderfully.  Quite often, when he woke up in the night/early morning I could just call down the stairs with our little line ("Get back in bed, we're here, we love you, time to go to sleep"), and he'd do it!  Once he left his room in the middle of the night (thankfully, I was on the couch that night) so we found that he needs the baby gates up all night to keep him safe.  It's still a great feeling that we don't have to close the door on him and we can see/hear each other so well.  This all lead to him actually sleeping through the night for a multiple nights in a row!  I've officially moved back to my own bed and am loving it.  After 16 months this sleep adventure has taken on a whole new feeling.

It's exciting to see his language continue to progress.  I still can't keep up with all his new words.  "Back" is particularly helpful as I can say I am coming back whenever I leave the room.  Now he asks if people will come back and is very comforted when I say they will.  (I try to tell the truth, but admit to stretching it just now and then....) 

More firsts and trends: Cried about leaving a play date; pushed a little boy down for the first time (and thankfully, still only time) in music class; wants to actually call people when he can't be with them; helped make the bed; asks for "meh" (a.k.a. "medicine") for his teeth; knows loud vs. soft; still getting better and better at using a real cup; pretended to drink like a dog; went to a fair with his buddy Lincoln Hoskins; loves pointing to what is his vs. what is someone else's (Levi's drink vs. my drink); knows the route to EVERYWHERE (Sometimes I have to plan my routes so that he won't see places he obsesses over.); put himself in time-in; starting to enjoy coloring!; officially a child of the 21st Century: I finally let him learn how to work some kid apps.

This is how I will think of Levi at this age - "Snuggling in Tight."  That's a phrase from a favorite book, Time for Bed, and it's the name we've given how he loves for me to carry him around.  I made Brad take a picture because you know someday all of the sudden he will just stop "snuggling in." 

And the cheesy smile lives on....

Date night!  We had a wonderful night out with our dear friends, Tim and Steve, at El Sol and then wine tasting at Taste.  

Fun at the Zionsville Library.  That's Levi in the middle and his friend, Jaden, to the right being mesmerized by the kitten puppet.

A big day: the arrival of Levi's passport.  There is no more paperwork he will need to get through life now.  He has a US birth certificate, his certificate of citizenship, and now a passport, all with his name changed and correct.  I don't think I could even list the amount of paperwork and red tape that went into that over more than three years.  When you think of how many people would die for that coveted blue passport and the fact that the doors to the world are now open to him, it is somewhat overwhelming.

Our first house renovation!  Gone is the ugly, dirty, cracked 90's tile in the kitchen/laundry/mudroom/entrance, the carpet in the lower bath, and the stained linoleum in the master bath.  Welcome beautiful, natural slate tile installed by our saint of a tile guy, Scott, and the best contractor ever, Joe.  It was a bit crazy moving our living space around the work, but Scott and Joe tried so hard to make life easy on us.  More finished pics to come next month!

PIE SEASON!!!  One of my favorite things to do during the summer, make summer fruit pies!

Play date with Jacobi, a fellow Ethiopian adoptee.  Aren't they like little twins?  They have the best time together.  We didn't plan the green shirts, I promise!

Levi's 2 year-old pictures!  Oh my gosh, he was SUCH a pill that day.  It kicked off a big testing boundaries week.  But thanks to Kelly Applegate's ( patience and artistry we still got some wonderful shots to show off Levi's fun, silly, loving personality.

The beginning of a new era....strange to watch, somewhat heartbreaking, but also (I must admit) a bit exciting.  Still a Colts fan!

Much of this month was spent in rehearsals for a concert with Hendricks Symphony.  Lots of big singing - Madama Butterfly, La bohème, Rigoletto, Mefistofele!  But I had one of my very best friends, Elizabeth, singing next to me, which always helps.  It was a lot of fun and if you'd like to hear a bit, I put one of the arias ("Un bel di") on my website,

More catching up with old friends!  This time a baby shower for our Alpha Phi friend, Megan Boots (right).  Amanda, Miriam, and myself had a great time seeing her during her visit from San Fran.

Levi loves Cooper the Bear (books from Hallmark) and was beside himself to find a larger than life version.

Praying is very, very big with Levi lately and has continued to be in the months to come.  This has been completely of his own doing.  He's taken meal and bedtime prayers to the next level.  Quite inspiring really.  We thank the Lord for just about everything all day long.  He spontaneously stops whatever he's doing, looks at me seriously, and folds his hands.  Maybe he knows something I don't.

Bumping with Nana!  His favorite bump, the bump leading into their drive.

What a fun visit!  One of Brad's Swiss coworkers, Melanie, and her best friend, Daniella, made the effort to come and see us while on vacation in Chicago.  So thoughtful and sweet, as were the presents they brought for Levi and the massive amount of chocolate they gave us!  We showed them a true American-style day: lunch at our home of pulled pork bbq and pie, an Indianapolis Indians baseball game, shopping downtown (they love Abercrombie), then dinner at a local steakhouse and wine tasting.  

Levi loves the beautiful park where we shot our family photos.  We can't drive by without him pointing and wanting to stop.

This is random, but I was pretty excited.  Target had (via - strangely enough - Gwen Stefani's kids' line) shirts with a lion and Ethiopian colors.  The Lion of Judah is a prominent Ethiopian symbol.  I bought one in every size!

Chair picture, Month 16.  Rockin' the retro Star Wars tee.

Fun with Music Class music, our CONSTANT (all six CDs!) companion

Levi being Levi.  We were trying to catch this funny noise he makes when Brad blows on his glasses.  As soon as he saw my camera come out he wanted to do anything but that, of course, including climbing on wet grouted tile.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bumping Through LIfe in Month 15

This shall be known as "Month of the Bumps."  Though the joy of "bumping" (walking/running/DRIVING/pulling ANYTHING over ANY kind of bump on the group/pavement) would continue for months, it was Month 15 when it became an obsession.  Levi seems to have Brad's sense of direction.  You take him somewhere a time or two, he remembers the route, and specifically if there is a "bump."  His favorite bumps are in front of our local Whole Foods and Petsmart.  He tells me all about them if we even just drive past those stores.  He also adores the bump going into all his grandparents' homes.  Pulling toys over Bob and Bonnie's driveway bump is his first activity (after raiding their pantry), and he immediately memorized all bumps around my parents' Florida home.  (Thank God they also have a bump into the drivel!)  And then there is the one that gets ME exercise: jumping over the bump (a.k.a. the threshold) of our backdoor.  Levi would happily have me jump in and out all day if my arms and legs could hold up.

Month 15 also included a big sleep development which turned out to be the turning point we've waited for these 15 months.  As always, like sleeping on the floor the month before, it was an idea sprung out of desperation.  With Levi's "testing boundaries" attitude that comes with being 2 also came boundary testing at night.  He rarely seemed truly scared or hungry at night as he used to (which were needs that we had to attend to due to his orphanage experience), but he more wanted to see if he could get attention, wiggle into my bed, get up extra early, etc.  SO, one night after a tantrum that began at 11:30 and seemed to have no end, I put a baby gate at his door and went to lie down on the couch just outside his room.  There I could still talk to/be there for him, but he had to stay in his room with only one option: GO TO SLEEP.  After another hour of learning that he is now able to climb over both the short and tall baby gates I stacked the two on top of each other in his door.  Back on the couch I waited until about 3:30 a.m. and then...SUCCESS!!!  He got back in bed and stayed there until 6:30 in the morning.  Yes!

This immediately became our bedtime go-to.  Brad does the normal nightly routine of reading and prayers, which Levi is more than thrilled with ever night.  Then the gates go up, and while we cook dinner in the kitchen or watch TV in the living room we only will say to him, "Momy and Daddy are here, we love you, climb back in your bed and find your teddy bear.  It's time to go to sleep."  After only a couple nights he got the hang of it and barely put up a fight at all.  Sometimes a half-hearted visit to the door and that's about it.  Sometimes there were still early morning or middle of the night wake-ups, but even then I could just ask him to get back in bed and he did.

Now, we couldn't have done this until we did.  When he was first home he needed to know that someone is always here for him and also what having a parent is/who we are.  But they said in our training that we would know when we could remove our presence a bit, and we really did.  The "Terrible 2's" brought a shift in Levi.  More confidence, more boundary testing, hence more boundaries being set.  God bless the Terrible 2's!  And I would highly recommend the baby gate method for anyone who wants something in-between "cry it out" and answering every whimper.  He can see us, hear us, feels loved, his needs are met, but the boundary is clear.  Working like a charm.

Levi's language has really started to come along.  He is growing in confidence while imitating our words.  I realized, when we brought him home may have been at a detrimental time for his language development.  Right at almost 11 months he was probably about ready to try out some first words, and what do we do?  Changed languages on the poor little guy!  He must have felt like his ears had stopped working.  Can you imagine everyone sounding completely different all of the sudden and using different words to describe everything?  Maybe any younger and he wouldn't have been quite as attached to trying Amharic. (For instance, it is interesting that he has always said "Ah" instead of "yes."  "Awo" is yes in Amharic.  Hmmmm.)  And any older he maybe would have understood the process of forming words/imitating a bit more.  He would have at least gone through the process in some language.  Recently though it is becoming difficult to keep up with all his new words!  We've stopped filling in the blanks for him to encourage him to try out his own sounds.  He also is great at picking out and making the sounds for many letters.  We like to joke that he can read better than he can talk.  Ha!

Other firsts and trends:
Understands and says "come back" - very helpful for separation anxiety!, Says Na Na (Nanny or Nana) and Papa, laughs whenever we laugh (even if he doesn't understand why), loves to get "Warm and Cozy" by snuggling in blankets or towels and also to "Snuggle in Tight" against my shoulder - very Mommy attached this month, made it through a whole church service!, asked to pray by folding his hands together, tried to put food literally "in his belly," moved to a twin bed, month of hating the park (sigh), loves his baby laptop, remembered EVERYTHING about Nanny and Papa's in Florida, obsessed with stop signs and bridges when we drive and walk, first time we used a sitter outside of the family at night, scratched me for the first time, can pull his pants up, really wants to hold drinks by himself and is doing well using a cup, likes to know our "plan" for the day.

Even more brave with the ocean on this trip!  I was holding on awfully tight.  

Nanny and Papa showing him how to work the very cool water table they got him.  Still wishing we could have fit that in the truck for the drive home.

More sand digging skills on this trip too.  And we almost always have the beach to ourselves.  Gorgeous.

That's a lot of dog.  Note the little one by Dad on the couch too.  Five dogs for a week and they all got along famously.

Fun at the Jacksonville zoo.  

Checking out the fort and walking along the water in beautiful St. Augustine.

Snuggling with Dada.

Easter!  Had a great dinner with the Todds and a wonderful church service, but this is the only picture we managed to take.  No egg hunts this year, but definitely next time.

Getting good at throwing the ball for the dogs.  Note the bare feet.  I don't think Levi has worn shoes outside since the weather turned warm.  A boy after my own heart.

Still amazed that he snuggles with a teddy bear now and then after having no interest at all for so long.  

Some day he'll fit in Dada's hat!

My brave boy conquering the big slide.

Chair picture, Month 15.  Looking very grown up.

God bless Dada.  He spent 5 hours putting together this fantastic airport train set for Levi, a gift from Nanny and Grandpa.  It was a huge hit (and still is) when he woke up in the morning.

And our favorite warm weather activity, playing with our doggies.  God bless them too for being so patient.