Todd Family Blog

Welcome! Read below for our latest news and pictures.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Wrapping up 6 months.

Six Months as EuroTodds!.... 
....And we were getting very exciting for our trip back Stateside as we enjoyed these last couple weeks....We have been very blessed with wonderful experiences and people here in Germany so far.  And also blessed by the outpouring of love, time, and effort to stay in touch by our friends and family in the States.  Thank you all!!!

Levi Says:
  • A convertible car is a "Combobolo"
  • Says constantly, "I love this (h)operation!" [I have no idea what he is talking about.]
  • "God is gracious!!!"
  • Listening to our Steve Green kid's albums, "I love this God music!"  And then later about the song "God is Love": "I love 'God is Love.'  GOd is my best friend, like Cobi.....Awwwww, that's so sweet buddy."  [Apparently he preemptively says my reactions now too.]
  • After a day of hitting and kicking poor Luke, ironically while wearing his "I Love My Dog" t-shirt, he says, "I love my dogs.  I respect them."  Huh.
  • "I'm So glad Daddy's home!!!!!"
  • "I love that freight train so much.  Freight trains keep you safe all night long.  Freight trains are my best friend, next to Cobi."
  • After knocking over his toy gas station, ran to it and softly said, "Shhhhh...You're just fine.  Everything's okay little gas station....I'm making him feel better.  I'm respecting my toys."
  • After staying dry all the way through his nap I asked him how he did it.  He replied, "I was sleeping.  And hinkle honking." [Nod to Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book, which I highly recommend.}
  • Loves talking about how he can pray to God any time.  
  • Me: "Are you a Little Pickle?" [One of my nicknames for him.]  LT: "Yes, I am!  Little Pickle needs some lunch!"
  • Loves counting to 30, often counting the first 10 in Amharic.
  • Has some really solid sight words like A, The and Go.  Also is starting to sound out simple words, like Baby.
  • Threw one of Daddy's scotch tasting bottles, was corrected, and then ran to it and said, "I'm sorry Daddy's coffee.  It's okay Daddy's coffee."
  • It was a month of love.  Everything you mention he would say, "I LOVE that SO much."
  • Grabbing Daddy's leg: "Daddys fluffy.  Like doggie hair."
  • "Hey Papa!  What's goin' on?"
  • Me: "You can't still be hungry.  It's not possible!"  Levi: "I DO want to be hungery and it IS possible!"

Epic fun at Miss Maria's
Alec and Maria were kind enough to throw a stay-in date night for all of us.  We made pizzas, played like crazy outside, then put the kids down and watched a movie, wine in hand.  What a fantastic night.  Love that family!!!!

Sorry, Alec and Maria.....

Going for a spin

Snuggled up to read some of Maddie's favorite books from the UK.  We love sharing our favorite things from our respective countries.

Back home again, snuggling with doggies Chez Todd

(Outtake moment: This cracks me up - look closely at Gracie in the front.)

What more does a boy need?

We were on our way to met our friends Edyta, Max and Alex for a play date and Levi saw this famous Munich landmark.  He informed me, "Look, Mommy!  A statue!  Just like when Ming Ming and Tuck helped the baby pigeon on the statue."  Yup.  Again, may I present Europe with a 3 year-old.

Randomly enough, in the parking lot of our grocery store they had a monster truck show.  We missed the show, but enjoyed the parked trucks there all week.

Berry picking with our buddies!

Abel was sporting an amazing shirt.  I almost died when I saw it.  Though they have never been there, he has a Dan and Whit's shirt from Vermont, which is near where my parents live.  Here we are in Germany and our fellow Ethiopian adoptee is sporting a shirt from a small store in Vermont?  Too funny!!!  We were obviously meant to be friends.

Group hugs are popular.  Poor Abel got the brunt of this one.

Just chillin'

Our crazy crew having lunch.  Love Aiden's naked bum.  And how Levi is hugging Abel and Maddie again.

Strolling.  So sweet.

Papa in Deutschland
My Dad was able to come for a week after his trip around the world. (Seriously - Straight from choir festivals he organized in Hawaii, England and then Paris.  And he wondered why he felt so tired!  I was tired just thinking about it!)  Levi was beside himself with joy to show Papa his Pink Germany House and all his new favorite places.....

When Levi woke at his normal 6:30 a.m. the morning of Papa's arrival he was ready to go.  I had to tell him that we would not be leaving until 11 a.m.  Then, at 8:30 he ran to his foam clock and said, "Big hand on the 12, little hand on the 11, that means we can go pick up Papa!!!"  He could hardly stand the wait.

Waiting for Papa at the airport had an extra perck: Only my 3rd Starbucks hot chocolate since moving here.  I love their hot chocolates.  I can't seem to replicate them or find a similar one anywhere else.  (I KNOW it is the vanilla they add, but why can't I replicate it!?)

Papa's here!  A drink at Andech's Monastery to start.

It's just tap water, but still strange to see your 3 year-old with a stein.

And ice cream by the lake.  Levi thought about a nap in Papa's lap.

Someone to actually take our picture by the lake!  A picture of all 3 of us is very rare!

Showing Papa the Deutsches Museum.  Levi had much to point out.

Levi and Papa both love trains.  I can't believe Levi watched the entire train show a 2nd time.  

Beaming at Alexis after dinner at a favorite farm near Roche (the best Schnitzel!).
After this dinner I asked him if he would like to marry Alexis and he remarked, "She's very tall."  Ha!  I also said to him, "Where you surprised to see Alexis?  You got shy at first." to which he replied, "I WASN'T shy!  I was HAPPY!!"

Showing Papa Bad Tölz

Papa helped us a lot, of course - babysitting, building extra fencing to shore up our fence in the backyard for the dogs, and of course entertaining Levi.  So, we practiced our writing and spelling to say thank you.

Levi and Mommy School

I love the reading program (free!!) that I found for Levi on one of my favorite homeschooling blogs.  It was just right for Levi: Kids that know their big and little letters, as well as their sounds, but are too young for a kindergarten reading program.  Levi loves the weekly printable books and I can pick from the suggested activities to find something that he will enjoy.  (Perfect seeing as trying to impress him with crafts or worksheets is nearly impossible.  Oy.)

Loading up the words and book and taking them for a ride.  Not exactly the intended use, but still lots of learning going on.  An example of the benefits I keep finding with learning one on one at home.  (I asked him during this if his combine was harvesting letters.  He replied, "Grass Mommy.  Not harvesting letters."  Whoops.  Sorry.)

Gross motor writing practice....

A big box for a parking garage!  Spots inside are numbered just like our garage here in Germany and complete with tickets to take at a gate.  (We used the tickets to practice writing and our sight words: "A ticket" and "The ticket.")

As you can tell below, Levi has become obsessed with learning how to write.  I have no idea where this came from and am quite surprised.  He doesn't care a thing about coloring or painting, or most fine motor activities.  (That is, unless it involves assembling something like a train track or, say, pipe cleaners into straws.)  But, I follow the lead of the child and trust that their brain knows what is the perfect challenge for them in that moment. (Hello, Montessori!)

I couldn't stop him writing just ONE of the numbers for each day on our calendar a day....They all had to be practiced right away....

Whoever came up with putting sheets in plastic pouches for writing practice is a genius.  Numbers on cars and trucks were a favorite thing to practice for a while.  Then we'd wipe 'em off and start again!

His "notebook" all ready while watching a Blue's Clues....

"I See Levi"

And then there is the boy I know and love: Making the "Tallest Tower in the World" and kicking it over.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Deutschland, Chapter 6 (5 1/2 months as EuroTodds)

For this month I decided to do "moments."  That's what living with a 3 year-old (especially in a foreign country - Lord knows what may happen every time you leave the hosue!) is all about anyway, right?  Living from one moment to the next, riding the roller coaster of funny/profound/frustrating/embarrassing snippets of time.  On that note.....

Biggest Moment of the Month: Our first adoption conversation!  (Naturally, it happened as I drove, avoiding the crazy fast drivers on the Autobahn at 8:15 one morning.)
Levi was looking at his album of our Ethiopia trip on the iPhone and he saw a picture of him and Daddy right before we left Ethiopia on our first trip.  "What's that, Mommy!?"  I explained that was a favorite picture, right before we flew back to Indiana.  We had just promised important people in Ethiopia that we would take care of him.  Then, we had to wait until we could come back and take him to his American home.  It's very special because he has two homes - Ethiopia and America.
He immediately got teary and said, "Flying to Indiana made me sad!!!"
Shocked, I said, "When YOU flew to Indiana it made you sad!?", thinking that he remembed some sort of grieving process when he left Ethiopia.  Instead he responded, "Mommy and Daddy had to fly to Indiana and I had to wait!"[Break my heart.] Ahhhh....The first moment he realized that we hadn't always been together.  

Then we talked about what a blessing everyone was in Ethiopia who took great care of him.  It was very hard to wait, but we promised him we would come back and it was only about 21 bedtimes.  That seemed to make him feel better.  He also liked talking about how then he flew with us on the big plane and Nana, Pa, and Neenie were waiting for us at the airport.

I know those moments will only get more frequent and the questions harder!  Better get my answers ready....

Biggest Change - Levi's Scared Phase Grows...
We thought we had escaped it, but with the development of his imagination came the development of his random little-kid fears.  Most of all: He is scared of pants.  (Seriously.)  We have to remove that day's pants from the room to have any hope of him sleeping.  (I also have to promise that I have taken ALL pants out of his room, but that is obviously false.  Don't tell.)  Naturally, we've had the talks about how "he's in charge of the pants" and "they can't move without your legs."  But none of that matters when he is trying to go to sleep.  A light also needs to be on at all times too in his room AND the hallway.  For the boy who never even needed a nightlight before.  Sigh.

One day after nap time he looked at his emotion faces and told me he's sleepy, happy, sick and mad.  When I asked him what he was mad about he said, "Pants."

My favorite funny quotes of the month:
Me: "What do you think Daddy does at work?"  LT: "Plays with people.  Then dances.  Then works."

According to him, all his ideas "came from a peacock": 
For example, "I love you so much.  Like my cars love you so much.....I got that from a peacock!"  Or, when I asked him if something is true, "That's not true.  That's from a peacock."  I have absolutely no idea where that comes from or what it means.

Oh, and apparently Brad and I can get out more.  One night he informed me, "I do not want to go to the big church on the hill [Andechs Monastery where we often eat].  I will stay here by myself."

My favorite sweet/profound quote:
LT: "We can't see God?"
Me: "No, he's too big.  But he's all around us!"
LT: "When you're little you can see God."
Me: "When YOU'RE little YOU can see God?"
LT: "Yes." [And continues playing.
Out of the mouth of babes, right?  Well, Levi, tell him "hi" from  me.]

Levi's Big Ol' Noggin:
  • Feels like he remembers every. single. thing. that we say.  No pressure, right!?
  • Love seeing the growth of his creativity, especially as he doesn't seem to like traditionally creative activities.  But he will take a bubble wand and tell me it's a pulley.  Or tell me a hippo is a lot like a dinosaur and that Handel's Water Music "sounds just like Ethiopian music."  (Totally good point, by the way.)  He is constantly seeing things in a way I hadn't before.
  • With some help he counted every space in our parking garage - 56!  LOVES numbers.  Even told me that "26 is bigger than 2."  Cool!
  • Becoming more and more interested in learning Amharic.  Me: "Do you want to learn how to speak Amharic?" LT: "Levi's friends would be so proud.  Levi's friends at Ethiopia church."  So, I found a children's show with clips on Youtube, to which he exclaimed, "I want more of this!!!  I love this!!"  [Yes, we now own 2 seasons of that show, haha.]
  • Sounded out the word "Spot" by using actual phonics.
  • Now that he is finally talking extremely fluently we have to remind him a lot about Please and Thank You.  But one day I offered him a muffin and he said, "No thank you, Mommy.....  Mommy, please, I would like my car shoes."  Ahhhhh, it is possible.
  • Loves getting his own ideas and saying "Oh!  I know.  I know what to do.  I have an idea!"
  • Obsessed with "practicing" songs so that he can get all the words in.
  • "For goodness gracious.  For goodness sakes!"
LT Says: ["Um, um, um, um....."]
  • "I want to snuggle with you for a minute in bed."  [An offer I can't turn down.]
  • Me: Big boys don't suck their fingers.  If you suck your fingers when you're 3, how will you ever get to be 4?"  LT: "I don't want to be 4.  I want to be 5.  And 6, and 7, and 8,....."
  • Watching Blue's Clues about being a doctor, Me: "What does Blue want to be?"  LT: "Dr. Osuntakun" [His pediatrician]
  • "Levi's the cheeky one.  Like Thomas is the cheeky one."  [Accurate.]
  • "I do NOT have to go poo, okay?  Let's NOT try."
  • When he was sick we had our first conversation about what germs are, spreading them, and why we need rest: "Levi snuggle on the couch with a blanket and read a book.  Then I'll feel better!"
  • Later I asked him if anything hurt and he said his tummy.  When I asked how it hurt he responded, "From mosquitos!"  [Probably accurate thanks to the lack of screens on all the windows/no AC/being allergic to mosquito bites!!!]
  • But he is happy to use sickness to get his way: "I don't want to go to the Children's Library!  No thank you!  I am too sick to go."
  • Me: "How 'bout you do games on Mommy's phone to help you stay awake?"  LT: "How 'bout I NOT do games on Mommy's phone!  Want to go to sleep in the car!"
  • "You're silly, Mommy.  Silly Billy.  We are silly billies sometimes."
  • As I teased Brad about making the room, um, stinky, Levi chimed in with, "That's a big truth!"
  • Called a bread dumpling at a restaurant a "Kdumpling" - in German, dumpling is Knödel.  Ha!
  • Overheard when on my way to get him in the morning: "Cal, give me more kisses.  Call, give me more kisses, please!"
  • Freqently (and yes, I LOVE this) "Awwwwwww....Mommy looks sooooo cute/pretty."
  • "I love those grandparents so much!"
  • Frequently: "No THANK you, Mommy.  I am just fine."
Fun with Friends
Biking and dinner by Starnberg lake with Abel and Caro
Boys in motion - play date in Munich with my friend, Edyta, and her boys, Max and Alex.

A day in the mountains in Garmisch with our friends.  Cable cars, walks, and sharing treats.  

Yes, we ride this cable car up to the mountains.  No, it's not my favorite thing.

Fantastic time at the pool in Dachau.  What a great spot!  And by this point in the summer we needed it.  Hot!  It was a steamy summer here in southern Germany!  (Yes, contrary to popular belief, it gets VERY hot here.)  Lots of time for lakes and pools to distract from the lack of AC (anywhere - even dr.'s offices, museums, Brad's work, etc., etc.)!  We got in a routine of when the windows should be open to let in air, but hopefully not the bugs (no screens on the windows).  Then when to close the windows as it gets hotter outside than the inside, but then you should close the curtains to keep sun out. Oy.

And then fun at the Starnberg pool, too!

Family Fun at Home and Out and About
Every time we go to Bad Tölz, this car must be sat in.

Love scenes like this now and then.  Looks a lot like Indiana!

Mommy and Levi day at the pool.
During this visit I often had to tell him that he wasn't allowed to play with areas/toys for big kids/adults. So, as we left he informed me, "There are so many things we can't do!"  
It's rough being 3.

His favorite ice cream - Haribo ice cream push pop that has gummy bears in the stem.  

Sometimes I just pick a town on the map and we go exploring.  This day it was the lovely town of Weilheim.

Lunch - another monster portion for my boy.  Not that he minds, having that hollow leg and all.

Hugging Merrill the Bear, during which Levi exclaimed, "I love Merrill the Bear.  Hi, Merrill!"

The "Secret Biergarten."  Seriously, it really is.  Great find.

Mmmmm...And great Kaiserschwarn.  They often eat this as an entree (it's even on the entree menu at Roche - I can't get over that), but we have it for dessert.  Fried dough and applesauce.  

Package from home!  Thank you Mott Family!  So many fun treasures to find inside.  Made my boy's (and his Mom's) day.

Our life jackets to go with our inflatable kayak finally arrived!  When Levi saw the pump for the new boat he remarked, "This is fun; I'm glad we have this."  Glad he approves.

S'mores time in the backyard with the doggers.  Was actually short lived thanks to the danger of a wily 3 year-old and open flames.  But still, tasty and fun while it lasted.

Luke and Levi.

Levi LOVES his chopsticks (Thanks Jaden!) and is much better than I am with them.

Levi's sudden fear of, well, pants, and also the dark has lead us to try things like a dog inside his room.  Cal helped us out quite a few times, much to Cal's confusion.  Poor Cal.  But the next morning Levi told us, "Cal kept you safe."  (I love how he mixes up his pronouns sometimes.)

But the results were obvious:

EuroSmiths!...Our first "friend visitors!"  

And then we had a real party going when Kyle and Rita joined us from Indonesia, along with Rita's sister, family, and friend.  Levi adored the big group of friends we had and couldn't stop talking about all of us eating dinner together.

During the visit we did finally take Levi on a tour of a historic building, The Residenz in Munich.  Levi told me that he would like to sleep in the big, red, royal bed, that I should make dinner in the priceless royal porcelain, and that he would like to leave and go get lunch.  Yup.  Another reason most people don't bring their 3 year-olds on European vacations.  Ha!

A day at the lake with all of us.  I love how Levi is perched on Uncle Tyler's chair here.  Later he plopped on Daddy and informed us all that he "had found a parking spot."  

Christening the kayak with Uncle Tyler.

Napping outside, or as we explained it to Levi, "camping."

Though I had to stay home with Levi an the dogs, Brad got to take Tyler and Adrianne to my favorite city of Saltzburg.  This is the picture Brad sends me:

We ended their visit with a lake tour by boat.  I saw plenty of places we still need to explore that I would never have seen from the road!  

Mommy School
Mommy school revved up with Levi being sick some this month.  He missed the final two weeks of school with sickness and visitors in town.  Thankfully, he really seems to love "Mommy School."  One day he even proclaimed, "Want to go to Mommy School!"  My favorite was the day we dropped Brad off at a conference and Levi informed me, "Levi wants to go to work there.  Mommy wants to teach Levi to work."  I'll do my best, buddy!

My favorite project was the book Levi wrote about his adventures diving with his buddy, Jacobi.  It took about two weeks to write the story and illustrate it, but it turned into a big hit.  Here are a few of the pages....

Another favorite activity is watching a Youtube clip when something sparks his interest.  One day he was inquisitive about bursts of air making sound, where the air comes from, etc., so we found kid-friendly videos on the respitory system.  He watched them for half an hour!  Love those "teachable moments."

This was a favorite game for a few days.  Toss all the letters in the floor of the shower and let him go for it.  Levi loves nothing more than lining things up "in order."  

Helping me make muffins.

One day he was VERY fussy as we ate dinner.  I asked if he would like a puzzle while he ate, or something (anything!?), and he cried out, "NOOOOO!!!  I JUST need to read the Bible!!!"  Um, okay.    Not sure why I'm surprised.  After watching a Bible video one day he called out, "I LOVE Abraham!  Abraham loves me SO much!"
It worked, as you can see.  (I should take note for my grumpy days too.)

The German snails are impressive.  Seriously huge snails.

I am reading a wonderful book about how to set up your home as a Montessori school.  Everything is now organized by subject and clearly displayed.  Just like the Montessori concept promises, he is drawn to what he needs to learn, focuses for a nice long period of time, and then packs it away on his own.  The first day I set it up for him he played with toys he hadn't played with in ages, and in new ways.  Then packed them away with no fuss.  It was really neat to witness.

He did this entire 78-piece alphabet puzzle himself and then packed it away!

Then I let him have some messy fun - unrolling the last bit of a toilet paper roll!  Every little kids' dream.

Practicing his writing inside and out...

Pool "building site"

He was thrilled when I told him he could splash as big as he wanted in the pool.  (Unfortunately, I later discovered that an inflatable pool in a yard with three large dogs is NOT going to work out.  Oh well.  Only 9 Euros.)

When I gave him the cones this is what he did with them.  No joke.

Salad spinner with dish soap bubbles.  Genius.

Messy fun: Paint + Water balloons + a box

Getting out his music instruments.  Fun to see him use them in the correct ways more and more.

And then not....

This is genius.  "Blowing Steam."  Huge hit.  

This is what I saw when I turned around in Ikea one day.  He'd set the table for dinner.  Though he doesn't love to help me cook (except for pancakes!), he is observing.  When going to play at his kitchen one day he remarked, "Food will be ready in a minute.  Let's play with cars, and then coffee will be ready."  Sounds VERY familiar.

Now that's a long line of "freight cars."  Great for math and numbers practice!

Or sorting shapes!

Tyler and Adrianne brought Levi one of his favorite things ever - geography placemat mats.  So many ways to have fun with these.  The other side has a colorful map and symbols for facts about each state.  Of course, he looked at the wine bottle on northern CA and said, "Mommy juice."  Yup.

They have provided wonderful "Teachable Moments" besides Mommy Juice though!  For instance, he pointed to China and asked what it was.  When I said, "That's China" he responded, "Where pandas live!"  So, we watched a little clip of pandas in bamboo forests.  Fun!

I try anything to get Levi interested in coloring and painting.  He really doesn't like either very much (AT ALL).  This day was fun - painting Thomas WHILE listening to Thomas music.  One of the first pictures he's really worked on.  

He also loves connect the dots!  Me too, actually.

How many ways can we use pipe cleaners and straws?

Great writing practice - his name on all his pool toys.  I dot out the letters and then help him write.  

Writing is becoming a big thing.  Even outside, in jammies, on an old box.  Random since he likes very few other fine motor activities, but I just follow him.

Trying to take any chance to teach "Practical Life" moments - like learning to put jam on his toast.

Chair Pictures (Month 30)