Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Conversations with my Favorite Five Year Old

"3 times 12 is...wait, don't tell me.  36.  Because 3 times 10 is 30 and then you just count by 2's."

"Mom, did you know only male crickets make noise?"

"Bees do a butt dance to tell the other bees where the flowers are."

"Sharks are both nocturnal and not.  Because they have to swim at night or they would die."

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Nine is the Indian Summer

Nine, almost ten.  My big kids have never been this age before.  That sounds like such an obvious statement, but isn't that the truth of every stage our kids go through?  And shouldn't we be ready to recognize that, to enjoy and savor things a bit just because it's never been this way before?

I can't help but feel that this age is the age of standing on the cusp of jumping off and flapping their wings.  It seems like the tween and teen years are just around the corner, like we are living in the shadow of those years already, not because those years are dark and scary but just because they are on the horizon and quickly approaching.  In fact, in some ways, the looming of those years is a joyous thing, because in the moments of yesterday and today, I can see just who my kids are becoming.  I can't help but be filled with anticipation over watching their personalities and souls unfurl in front of me in ways that didn't happen when they were younger.

Like the last lazy days of an Indian summer, where we sit cross legged on the porch, enjoying the warm night air, gazing at the white moonlight and the pale off-again-on again glow of fireflies, I want to drink in these days, knowing that the end of this stage is near.  I can't help but smile as they answer the neighbor girl's question, wholeheartedly affirming that "Yes, let's make our bikes be horses.  Mine's going to be Buck!"  I purse my lips a bit in amusement when they pick Peppa Pig or Paw Patrol on the tv, so thankful that they enjoy those "baby" shows.  My eyes twinkle as I see them playing make believe with action figures and Barbies, climbing into blanket forts and crafting signs from post-it notes for an imaginary store.

Relish.  Contemplate.  Breathe deep those moments.  Soon these days will be gone.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Peanuts and the Haitian Economy

Pssstt...got a minute?  Care to hear a smidge about how our U.S. economic policies sometimes have unintended consequences for other nations?  I know it sounds like a riveting topic but it's not quite as boring or complicated as it sounds.

The reality is that anytime a nation creates policies, be they foreign or domestic policies, there are often unintended consequences.  Implementing a policy often means that it touches the far corners of the room, impacting areas in ways no one intended or in ways no one could have predicted.  Sometimes, those unintended consequences are like extra spoils, taken from a treasure chest.  Other times, they reek havoc.  There is always a thread connecting the policy to all of the potential affected parties.

The USDA has recently announced plans to implement a policy connected to peanut production in the US that is going to pull a lot of threads for the farmers of another country.  Specifically, because of the way we do agriculture in the US, we will be subsidizing bumper crops of peanuts by buying those peanuts from our domestic farmers and then exporting them to other countries.  At face value, it seems like a win-win.  The US will buy peanuts from peanut farmers to help them from going bust while shipping them to a food poor country like Haiti where those peanuts will feed hungry people.  But here's the catch:  one of the major agricultural industries in Haiti is peanut growing.  This means that by flooding the Haitian market with US grown peanuts, Haitian peanut farmers will be selling their peanuts in a weakened market.  For countries like Haiti, that have fragile economies, where small businesses struggle such unintended consequences can be devastating.  (See this Washington Post article for more information.)

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time this has happened.  Haiti's native hog population was decimated by a USDA policy that was meant to prevent the spread of swine flu the late 70's and early 80's.  Specifically, native pigs were killed off and US grown swine were brought in.  Unfortunately, the US swine were not as hardy as the native variety and were much harder to feed.  This resulted in hog farmers in Haiti being driven out of business.  The US has also flooded the Haitian market with another product:  rice.  This happened in the late 80's; cheaper American rice drove Haitian rice farmers out of business.  And as a side note, most Haitians still struggle to afford rice.

To be sure, I'm not offering an opinion on if farmers should be subsidized or if certain tariffs are correct.  But I do think that are officials should consider how our policies affect our neighbors, specifically how our policies will impact the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

There is currently an online petition being circulated, asking the White House to stop the plan to export our peanuts to Haiti.  It takes less than five minutes to sign and is one way in which you can ask our government to try to avoid policies with unintended consequences that will negatively impact Haiti's economy.  Here's the link:   Haitian Peanut Petition.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Potty Training Woes

Early last fall, Kai was showing a lot of signs that he was ready to potty train.  However, after a month or so of trying, it became clear that he was too busy to be serious about potty training.   I was not about to spend my days wrestling a barely two year into the bathroom, struggling with him as he yelled and cried about not wanting to go to the bathroom.  So we stopped.

We're trying again now.  I actually stumbled on some good advice from one of the major diaper brands' websites.  Usually commercial sites are pretty uninformative and generic but this one from the company that makes Pull-Ups was actually helpful.  It provided you with a quiz to take based on your child's personality and then offered up strategies based on what might best help your child.  So much better than the one-size-fits-all advice you often get.   The quiz suggested that Kai was a squirrel (I already knew that...) and that he moved from one thing to the next quickly and needed things to be interesting and creative in order to keep his attention.  (All true, whether potty training or not.)  So combining some of the advice from the website plus some other ideas from other places, we're back at it and things seem to be better than before.  (I'm probably jinxing myself by just writing that.)  Specifically, we are working to make potty training as much of a game as possible.  When at home, I've let Kai be without pull ups or pants as much as possible.  We've been playing a game with this, a version of the Student-Teacher game if you are familiar with that.  If he potties on the floor, then Mama gets a star.  But if he uses his potty, then he gets a star and an m and m.  I used my chalkboard wall to keep track so he can easily see the stars and I've been pointing out who has more every time so it keeps that feeling of a game.  A flat out mess on the floor seems to be more concrete than the idea of keeping a pull up or pair of underwear dry.  Now that he seems to be doing pretty well with that, I'm anticipating switching to getting a start for keeping his underwear dry in the next few days and forgoing the bare bum.  The other thing I've done is playing a game called "Find the Potty."  Instead of keeping the potty in one set locale, every two or three uses, I hide it and then ask him to find it the next time that I prompt him to use the potty.  He's really liked searching for it in the different rooms around the house.  It's definitely helped with being too busy playing to want to stop to potty since stopping playing means playing a game instead of being interrupted by a task.  I've seen lots of stuff on incentivizing using the potty but nothing on the idea of it needing to be a game; so far, making a game and not about rewards has seemed to help.

Of course, we've cleaned up pee, and I have had to be okay with a bare baby bottom touching lots of things in my house.  But the biggest oops came today courtesy of Bo.  Kai went poo on the potty all by himself, with no prompting.  In the middle of all of us cheering and encouraging him, Bo marched right over to the little potty and promptly ate Kai's deposit.  And so while we won't be shaming the baby regarding potty training, we will be shaming the Basset Hound.  Soooooo gross!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Egg dying with Grandma

D was started out gung ho on making a minion but somehow ended up only drawing the eyes on it.

Kenson will be taking his second year of cake decorating in 4-H.
This year, he's going to work on his piping skills.
So he's practicing on some brownies we made for Easter lunch.

Gotta have an egg hunt.

We may have had more animals present than people.
Okay, maybe not, but if not for my kids, that might have been true.

Getting Easter goodies from Grandma 2

Kai is all about the treats.
He has been so sweetly telling us that he misses us when he doesn't see us.
In fact, he even told the dog that after we got him back from the kennel upon our return home.
But then he kind of ruined it when he pulled out his Easter candy today, cradled the M and M's to his chest and lovingly told the chocolates, "Miss you."

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Visit Haiti

In the year, I have had multiple friends head to the Dominican Republic for vacations.  I get why they go there.  It's beautiful.  When doing a price comparison, DR vacations probably rate as an inexpensive island vacation.

And yet, I am jealous.   Jealous a bit for the normal reasons we as humans are jealous.  Jealous that they get time away with their spouse.  Jealous that they are off on an adventure.  Jealous that they are fortunate enough to be able to afford such a trip.

But my jealousy also comes from another place.  I am jealous for Haiti.  My daughter was born about 40 miles from the Dominican border.    I am jealous that Haiti is not the DR, that people don't post vacation pictures from Haiti.  I know it's not exactly practical, that there is more involved than just hopping across the border, but I can't help but wonder what would happen if those who traveled to the DR chose to spend one day, just one day in Haiti.  The impact for the Haitian tourism industry would probably cause major economic reverberations for a country that is perhaps the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.

Or better yet, what if people actually planned a trip to Haiti simply for the purpose of tourism?  I'm sure there are people who doubt the beauty of Haiti.  Instead of bringing to mind pristine beaches, lush vegetation, and aqua colored oceans, people are stuck on the pictures that most often get tossed around of Haiti.  It's scenes of overpopulation, starving kids, and a devastating earthquake.  It doesn't help that many people remember the Duvalier's reign of terror and the multiple coups that followed their ousting.  People are quick to assume that Haiti is unstable and unsafe.  However, our experience has been that if you are wise about how you travel and what you are doing, you will be just fine.  As to the beauty part of it, that's actually one of the parts of our trips to Haiti that makes me regretful.  Every trip we have ever taken has been a "business" type trip, where we were limited by wanting to be near to our kids' orphanages and spending time there.

That doesn't mean I don't have my list of places I want to go.  First on my list is an ocean front resort.  Wahoo Bay, Kaliko Beach Club and Oceanview Haiti are two that have gotten good reviews from others within the adoption community who have stayed there.  Club Indigo also gets good reviews and is currently featured on Groupon, with an all inclusive stay starting at $149 a night.  Also on my list is Bassin Bleu.  This natural wonder of Haiti features turquoise green waters and waterfalls,an oasis of sorts tucked in between trees and rocks.  (Check out a great panorama of it here.)  I'd love to go hiking and do some ocean exploring too.  Marina Blue Haiti has lots of options for outdoors exploration.  Most people are also unaware of Haiti's impressive history.  Haiti is part of Hispanola which means part of it's coasts were "discovered" by Christopher Columbus.  (A recently discovered shipwreck off of the coast was thought to be Columbus' ship, the Santa Maria.  That theory has since been dispelled but that doesn't change Haiti's rich history)  Conquered by the French who imported African slaves, it become the world's first black democracy via a slave revolt in 1804.  The Citadelle was a fortress created by the newly independent nation to protect against a potential attack by Napoleon.  It's on my list of places to go too.

Perfect for snorkeling, fishing, jet skiing, and more
Bassin Bleu
The Citadelle

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Of Questions and Answered Prayers

A late soccer practice that ended just as the sun went down.  A passel of nine and ten year olds streaming down the grass hill to first get drinks and then head home.  A little girl who took her glasses off and set them by her water bottle for safe keeping, not realizing that water bottles lose their stationary, x-marks-the-spot function once you pick them to get a drink.  A pair of pink and purple glasses nestled somewhere in the green-brown blades.

And so goes the story of the season's first soccer practice.  I left out the part about a grouchy dad turned coach who told the girl she could get up at six to come search the field in the sunlight.  Who knew that those glasses would actually be a part of my girlie's wrestling with the idea of God's sovereignty?  As she headed to bed, I followed to suggest we pray about those lost glasses.  I was met with a series of questions and deep thoughts that I would never have guessed were rattling around in her head.  

"Why should we pray about it?  I don't think God really cares."  "But if God really cares about all the little things in our life, then why does did He let me lose my glasses?  Why didn't He just keep me from losing them in the first place?"  "I'm not sure God loves us because He didn't stop this from happening."  

"So many grown-ups spend their whole lives wondering the same things, sweet girl."  "God doesn't cause bad things to happen.  But He does make good things come out of the bad."   "We just don't see things the way God sees things.  He cares most about us being near to Him and while some things in life seem really bad and painful, God knows those things are just temporary."  "Those are really good questions and I'm not sure I've got all the answers."  "It's always okay to ask questions about God and to God."  

I did pray for the finding of the glasses.  She didn't seem all that satisfied.  We found the glasses this morning, when her precious papa went to the field for her.   I pray she always asks questions.  But more than that, I pray she always keeps seeking the answers, even when the answers just lead to more questions and especially when the answers leave her full of doubt.