Haddon at three years old / home two months

Note: I am backdating this post since it’s been written and waiting for photos to be added for months(!)

The other weekend (end of July), almost exactly two months after we got home from China, Haddon turned three. We celebrated with a party at our home with family and neighbors—a celebration of Haddon and the wonderful addition he is to our family. (More about the party in a separate post.)

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At three years old, Haddon is a happy, cuddly, smart little guy. He laughs a lot and is very engaged with our family and the world around him. He’s easy to love—an adorable, sweet, obedient, fun kid. I am so thankful he is receptive to all the affection I shower on him—I can’t help but kiss my kids hundreds of times a day and if that were uncomfortable for him it would be really hard for me to resist!

As well as Haddon seemed to be doing a month ago, we have seen a lot of growth and positive changes since then as he’s settled in with our family. Here’s an update on Haddon Michael at three years old, two months home, 11 weeks since he officially became a Sherwood.

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Play

Almost imperceptibly there’s been a shift in Haddon’s play from mostly independent play to more interaction and engagement with Corban and Mara. He and Mara tend to be two peas in a pod. My two three-year-olds (for the next month) can often be found pushing each other around in a stroller or ride-on toy or playing side by side with the same toy.

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Haddon still loves cars, trucks (especially) and play food. He loves balloons and riding (with a lot of help) his balance bike. Slides, swings and merry-go-rounds are his favorite park activities. When I close my eyes and think of Haddon I see him pushing a Tonka truck around the driveway and filling it with mulch and grass—it’s his modus operandi.

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Language

Haddon’s English has exploded over the past month! He not only understands a LOT but speaks mostly in English when he is talking to us, especially when he wants something.

For a while we were doing a lot of reading “100 first word” books and the like, and he picked up and practiced a lot of animal and object names that way. Now he not only can identify many things in English, but he strings words together and speaks in short sentences. Some that we hear a lot: “Where did Corban/Mara/Daddy go?” “I want ____.” (All day long!) “Daddy get in car?”

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He parrots us a lot, which is funny when you know he has no idea what he’s saying. His pronunciation of most words is a little off, but we understand most of what he says. He’s an eager learner and asks, “What is this?” ALL the time, wanting to know the English word.

He continually surprises me with words he knows—he loves this one book about shapes and correctly points to and says “triangle” and “circle.” He requested “window up” in the car the other day (he meant “down,” but still!), which was something he just picked up from hearing us say it. It seems like every day there’s something new.

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Haddon finally started calling Mara by her name (he says “Naya”) instead of calling her Corban. He also has successfully figured out how to tattle on his siblings: “Mama, Corban be naughty!”

He still says a few things in Mandarin (“up” when he wants to be picked up and “ow/it hurts” when I buckle his car seat too tight or his food is too hot) and will shout out Mandarin words when he’s being silly and playing rough or talking to himself. I will be sad to see him lose his first language completely but I know it’s bound to happen no matter how many Mandarin songs we play in the car or words we use interchangeably in both languages.

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From a sweet shower Peter’s co-workers threw for us.

Physical development

Haddon started physical therapy in June and goes once a week to work on building strength in his left leg. We do stretches on his ankle every day and he was fitted for a leg brace that he’ll get at the end of August to keep his left ankle at a 90-degree angle so he can get his heel down when he walks. (Meanwhile, he’s worn through the left toe of three pairs of shoes.)

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He’s definitely making improvements! His ankle is noticeably more flexible. The biggest advancement I’ve noticed is he can now go up and down a single step without any assistance. I watched him practice over and over on our deck one day—this is one determined kid.

We finally had Haddon’s ophthalmology appointment and found out he is extremely farsighted (like +6.5!). He just got his glasses in and is pretty good about keeping them on (I think he likes being able to see). I happen to think they’re pretty adorable.

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Despite being healthy overall, we’ve had too many doctor appointments to count at this point (including PT sessions). We had five in four days one week. Thankfully we only live about five minutes from a Children’s Hospital clinic with almost all specialties there. Haddon has kept a smiling face through all the appointments (for the most part). I’ve learned childcare for the other two is essential if I want to stay sane through the appointments.

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Attachment

Haddon’s attachment to us and ours to him remains strong, but this month I really noticed him relax around us and especially around others. He isn’t as shy as we originally thought. Since he feels more secure with us now he engages more with strangers and new friends.

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He’s opened up in little ways, like he started singing to himself sometimes or joining us in songs he knows. When we met his foster mom she told me he liked to dance to kid music, but we hadn’t seen that until this past month. Now he has some ridiculous dance moves and busts them out regularly, even in public like at an anniversary party and at a library song/dance event.

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At the beginning of July we took a 10-day road trip to Missouri where we stayed in four different homes and rental condos throughout the trip, went to a waterpark, amusement park (thrice), lake, Fourth of July party, family reunion with 50+ people… and Haddon handled it all with no issues. I honestly couldn’t believe it — I thought he’d be overwhelmed by all the people or be nervous sleeping in new places, but he just embraced it all and had a blast. I think that says a lot about his attachment!

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Sleep

Sleep is AWESOME right now. Each nap time and bedtime we read two to three books, pray, sing “Jesus Loves Me” (he was mesmerized by that song the first time he heard it and it seems to calm him down really well) and lay him down in his crib with his blanket and panda. We tell him we love him and say goodnight, then walk out and that’s that. The least drama-filled bedtime I could imagine!

Haddon naps two to three hours a day and sleeps from about 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.

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Even napped at a water park!

For the first two months, we kept his book options to just a couple that he seemed to like so he wouldn’t be overwhelmed. We read “It’s Time to Sleep, My Love” every single nap and bedtime and he loved the routine and familiarity. This month we expanded so he now has five to ten favorites and is happy to read new books, too.

Food

Haddon’s still a great eater. He loves meat and eggs. He isn’t a huge fan of cheese (Peter has an ally now) or vegetables but drinks a ton of milk. He’s usually the first one to start eating and the last one to finish. Meals would go on forever with him if we let them.

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Potty Training

In my last update potty training was going really well and progressing naturally, but I put an intentional halt on it when we went on vacation at the beginning of July. Sadly, Haddon’s enthusiasm sort of halted with it and we haven’t had much progress since then. I’d say right now he’s ready but unwilling. It’s on my list to tackle seriously in the next month.

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Family dynamics

We felt some growing pains during this time period. Haddon fits right into our family and has adjusted amazingly well — essentially seamlessly — but I think the rest of us have been knocked ever so slightly off our orbits by the changes. Three kids has just felt overwhelming to me, and I can tell Corban and Mara have been testing some boundaries as they figure out the new normal, especially since I’m now home full-time instead of working.

In regards to Haddon’s relationships, he has grown a lot closer to his siblings in his second month home. He and Mara are often on the same page as far as what kind of silliness they’re into. They laugh and play easily together, but also compete fairly directly for my attention. Mara relished her status as baby and Haddon is now finally getting the babying he never truly got before, so obviously there’s some tension there. For the most part they are really sweet together, though.

Corban tends to be on a different level than Haddon, but will take time out to show an interest in him. He no longer calls him HaoLei, but he often refers to himself in the third person as gege (big brother) in an effort to woo Haddon.

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They always hold hands in the car.

Haddon imitates his big brother and sister (both good and bad) and has become much more engaged with them as his trust and comfort with them has grown. Now that he understands so much more English, he’s much better at sharing (although there are often turf wars over a particular recycling truck and fire truck).

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With Corban’s and Mara’s birthdays, I always find myself thinking back to the day they were born, and Haddon was no different…except I don’t actually know anything about that day. But I do know as a mom that carrying a baby for nine months and giving birth is a huge deal, and no matter what Haddon’s biological parents’ reasons were for leaving him at the orphanage a few days after he was born, I have to imagine they think about him on his birthday. So I was thinking of his biological mom that day and praying for her.

I’m not sure if birthdays were celebrated at Haddon’s orphanage or in his foster home (my guess would be no, but I really don’t know) but I was praying for his foster mom, too, who I know misses this sweet little boy.

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Three Little Pigs 3rd birthday party

Every day, Mara asks me to tell her a story. “Three Little Pigs?” I say, knowing the answer.

“Three Little Pigs.”

At Mara’s request, the pigs are girls. Their names are Flopsy, Mopsy and Toesy. Sometimes Flopsy is the smart one who builds her house of brick; sometimes it’s Mopsy. But usually it’s Toesy.

When Mara jumps in to tell the tale, it gets very condensed.

She races on with the story, skipping words in her excitement: “Not by hair my chinny chin. I’ll huff and I’ll blow your house away! [blows] Ahhh!”

So, for Mara’s third birthday, I couldn’t think of a better theme than the Three Little Pigs.

We celebrated with two different parties (more than a month ago now)—one at our house with my parents and a handful of friends and one in Missouri with Peter’s family.

Here are the highlights. I’ll start with my pride and joy, this cake.

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I painted wooden pegs to make the three little pigs (inspired by a photo I saw on another blog) and made a tiny bunting from construction paper.

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The cake is my favorite simple buttermilk chocolate cake recipe (also seen here). Except I multiplied it to make four layers, and added stabilized whipped cream filling.

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Despite wooden skewer reinforcement, it didn’t quite last through the party.

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So maybe next time I’d cut it down to two or three layers. But it was delicious, so no complaints! (Seriously, try that recipe next time you want chocolate cake. I love it so.)

The cake toppers made a second appearance at birthday party no. 2 (I did not make this cake).

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My other pride and joy were these pig party hats I made from construction paper and tissue circles (and lots of Mod Podge).

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There were also a few black and gray wolf hats. Don’t ask how much time I put into them, or why, for that matter, but they were a good excuse to spend a few nights binging on “Bachelor in Paradise.”

We also brought out our traditional Mara birthday banner for both parties (here it is at party no. 1).

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And the party favors were these creepy pig snouts from Oriental Trading.

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We had water balloons—something that my kids are obsessed with, yet still don’t quite know what to do with once they get their hands on some. Praise hands for those contraptions that fill 100 balloons in 10 seconds. Worth it.

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The kids also played “Pig, Pig, Wolf” (Duck, Duck, Goose), set off stomp rockets and built some impressive structures from our giant Jenga set.

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Dinner was Portillo’s Italian beef and chopped salad. Drinks were a few growlers of beer.

Oh, and there was cotton candy! We purchased a small cotton candy machine for the occasion, and I think Mara would have bathed in the stuff if we let her.

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Party no. 2 also featured cotton candy and pig party hats.

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Instead of Italian beef, we ate grilled burgers, hot dogs and pork tenderloin.

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And instead of “Pig, Pig, Wolf” we played lots of baseball.

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Despite this fake pout, Mara had a pretty spectacular double celebration for birthday number three.

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Happy 3rd birthday, my favorite little boy

Three years ago today, my favorite little boy came into the world.

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On Corban’s third birthday, the biggest thing on my heart is overwhelming appreciation.

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Appreciation for God’s loving creation. For the incomprehensible detail of our bodies, minds and hearts. For the privilege of witnessing this little boy’s healthy growth. For Corban’s curiosity and sense of humor, his funny phraseology and lack of self-consciousness. For his abiding love for his family and friends. For the luxury of spending time with him (even if every minute isn’t easy — sometimes far from it). For the gift of being a mom — his mom — and the growth that it has brought to me as a person and a Christian.

Corban’s first two birthdays made me reflect a lot on his birth and newborn days, but this year I’ve had to consciously bring back those memories. No, at age three Corban’s birthday is all about Corban at age three. He has been eagerly anticipating it for months (ever since Mara’s birthday in September) and has reveled in the rituals of songs, gifts, family visits and cake. He also knows that December 8th = his birthday, so while there has been some confusion between what was his birthday party (Saturday) and his actual birthday, all I had to tell him was that today is December 8th and he understood that it’s “still” his birthday.

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It worked out for me to take the day off work today, so we’re headed to the children’s museum and out to lunch with Peter. I considered setting up a play date with his friends today, but that would distract me from spending time focused on him, so we’re keeping it low key. We celebrated formally with family on Saturday, and I’ll share the details of the Peter Rabbit-themed party soon.

I just can’t overstate how thankful I am to be entrusted with this little life — and to be able to celebrate a happy, healthy “big boy” today. I don’t want to take for granted what a blessing this moment in time is.

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