Monday, December 30, 2013

Do You Love Your Adopted Kids as Much as Your Biological One?

Awhile ago, someone asked me a question, one I suppose rolls around in people's heads but they are simply too polite (or afraid) to ask.  The question was this "Do you love your adopted kids as much as your biological child?"  The person who asked this was not asking out of meanness or out of a place where she felt like adoption was a second rate way to have a family.  She had a biological child already and was thinking about adoption, wondering how her feelings might compare.  She also wanted to know what it was like to attach (as a parent) to an adopted child.

The reality is there should be a variety of answers to this question.  It's just like any birth story; everyone's story is different.  Some people instantly fall in love with their adopted children and feel very connected from the beginning.  Other people find that it is a bit like falling in love with a spouse, where you did not fall in love overnight but that it took time, where over the course of special moments and time together, you can't help but love that person.  Others find themselves really struggling.  Perhaps it is because the adopted child has a very painful past which causes the hurts to ooze out in extreme behaviors that are bluntly put, hard to love.  Perhaps it because the adoptive parent had specific expectations for the adoption and how it would feel and those expectations are going unmet.  Or perhaps it is a kind of disconnect because the adopted child has a very different personality than the parent, a dynamic that is also sometimes present in biological families, where a parent who gave birth to a child just finds it hard to understand her own child.

Because our family was formed in a fairly non traditional way (adopting three and then having a biological child) and because my own experience with Kai is still pretty fresh on my mind, I found the questions a bit compelling.  Probably because in my experience with Kai, I found myself wondering the question in reverse.  "Could I love this baby who was flesh or my flesh as much as I loved my adopted kids?"

In our case, Kai's birth was fairly eventful, providing me with just about every facet of labor and delivery in one experience.  I had a quickly progressing, fairly normal labor.  I dialated to 8 before I received an epidural.  I received an epidural.  My labor stalled.  My epidural ran out and I experienced labor with no or limited pain medicine.  I had an emergency C-section.

But in truth, my delivery story is not the normal one.  When Kai was born, I had asked for him to be cleaned up a bit before I held him.  So as the doctor delivered him, we heard him cry and heard the doctor confirm that he was a boy.  He was handed to a nurse to be cleaned up and then the drama started.  His breathing sputtered; when they checked his vitals, he was running a fever.  He was whisked off, away from us.  There was no opportunity to hold him or to see him.  D headed back to the nursery with our doctor while I lay on the operating table.  My own body was very shocked and stressed and I actually fell asleep before the doctor came back in, prompting him to ask upon his return if the anesthesiologist had put me all the way out.  Upon hearing that I was not under general anesthesia, our doctor explained briefly that our baby was sick and that they would be transporting him to another hospital.  I do not remember any of the doctors repairing my incision.  I was wheeled off to a recovery room where I literally shook and froze because of the stress, where I was in and out of sleep.  Finally someone came and got me to wheel me down by nursery so I could see Kai before they took him by ambulance to the NICU.  I did not have my glasses on, was really not allowed very close, and honestly was probably too exhausted and stressed to even remember anything anyway.  I really just remember looking through the nursery windows at D and our doctor standing beside the incubator in the nursery and then the incubator being wheeled by on its way out to the ambulance.

That is our birth story.  No tender moments of looking at this fresh little baby and watching my husband see him for the first time.  No photographs of a tired mom holding a tightly wrapped bundle moments after giving birth.  No cuddling, looking at his face to see who he looks like, commenting on his hair color.  In fact, I didn't even know what color his hair was.  The only thing I knew was that he had a dimple in his chin.

Our doctor was quick to get me transferred to the same hospital as Kai but nothing moves quickly in terms of that sort of thing so Kai was born at 5:30 pm on Wednesday and it was 2:30 pm the next day before I got to see him in person and hold him.  It was almost 24 hours past the point of his birth.  Of course the first part of that time, I was not very lucid.  But by about 3 in the morning, I was doing much better and able to think more clearly.  It was in those moments that I found myself feeling this strange disconnect.  In my case, pregnancy seemed a bit surreal anyway, because Kai's pregnancy was such a surprise.  Then his birth was such a crazy event, one I was not prepared for at all.  I had entertained lots of labor and delivery scenarios including a C-section.  But it never crossed my mind that I would end the labor and delivery experience without holding my baby or by being separated from him for almost a whole day.  I found it hard to believe that here I was lying in a hospital bed,a new mom to a new baby.  I felt like I needed someone to pinch me because I just didn't feel like a new mom.  And I found myself wondering where those feelings were coming from, if perhaps I would have problems loving my biological baby as much as I loved my adopted ones.

Of course, the answer to that question came rather quickly.  But it was one I wondered nonetheless, a stroke of irony in my life as a mom, that instead of worrying about loving my adopted kids, I was worrying about loving the one many might refer to as my "real" kid.  If nothing else, perhaps that's the take away.  That they are all my real kids, connected to me in powerful ways because of a Sovereign God regardless of how they came into my heart.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Did Someone Say Peanut Butter Oreo Dip?

When it comes to school related gifts (ie Valentine's Day, Christmas presents for teachers, etc.), I try to find something my kids can be involved with so they have some type of investment in the gift.  This year, I opted for jars of sweets, presented with pretzels for some yummy sweet and salty dipping.  I bought some glass jars on Hobby Lobby half off and packed them full of Peanut Butter Oreo Dip (um, peanut butter, Nutella, Oreos-yes please!) and Dulce De Leche Carmel Dip (which is seriously the easiest one ingredient recipe ever thanks to your slow cooker.)  Then the kids made gift tags, counted out and packaged up thick pretzel rods, and placed the dips and the pretzels into gift bags.  Yum!

Zeke and Kenson hard at work

The finished product

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Yahweh

"Guess I overdid the sweets last night."  A pretty normal post holiday thought.  But last year, that thought was just the beginning of our new normal.  A year ago, following our family Christmas, I was not feeling so well and starting to get the first few hints that something was not quite right.  The day after returning home, a positive pregnancy test confirmed those thoughts and prompted a whole lot more.

Really, God?  After 3 kids in 3 years, I'm kind of ready to slow down.  Didn't You just hear me say that to my husband?

 I mean Zeke just came home.  I'm enjoying the time I have when it is just the two of us.  And are You sure Zeke is ready to handle a change like this?

Haven't You considered the logistics?  4 kids under the age of 7?  That sounds, um, scary.

I kind of had this planned out, that we would wait a bit and then maybe do one more adoption, perhaps a bit older child.  But now?  With this new baby, the beds will be full and there's no room in the van.

And what about going back to work?  It seemed like I was in a good place to start something new, maybe supervising student teachers or finding another job that uses this master's degree that is currently just collecting dust?

Really, God?  

At the time, my brain was swirling with doubt and fear and disbelief.  Why bless someone with a pregnancy when that person was perfectly content not being pregnant?

And even today, I'm not really sure why God thought I needed this baby.  Maybe it was about the months of morning sickness where I couldn't be the mom and wife I wanted to be.  Those months provided me with an opportunity to see my husband in a new way and to remember that I am not super woman.  Maybe it was about seeing my husband as the dad of a newborn or my kids as the siblings of an infant.  Watching those moments is such a joy.  Maybe it was was about the birth experience itself.  Labor and delivery is a lot about surrender and reliance on the God who made you and created you as a woman.  Maybe it was about tapping into another side of motherhood that comes with having a baby who changes daily and depends instantly upon you.  I missed those early days with my other three.

Or maybe it was about God saying "You defined this experience as impossible.  But I told you it was not."  It seemed impossible to grow our family so quickly, to meet the needs of everyone.  It seemed impossible to control the chaos that the numbers 4 under 7 suggests, especially when so many others are quick to tell you how busy and crazy your life must be.  It seemed impossible to deal with the basic facts of labor and delivery and the demands of a new baby.   But God is proving that impossible is not as impossible as it seems.

Or maybe just maybe, it's not about me.  Maybe it's a bit like a burning bush moment.  When God called Moses at the burning bush, it was a moment when God wanted to redefine Moses, to turn Moses from a shepherd into a liberating leader who would guide the Israelites out of slavery. But before God could redefine Moses, God defined Himself.  

When Moses asked God, "'Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?'".  God's replied  "I am who I am.'"    He is Yahweh; He is who He is.  

Maybe it's a bit about God being God, that He has no need to have a reason for what He does.  That even with this in mind, He still acts towards us in loving, good and personal ways because that is the essence of His character.  That He is the standard for good, truth, and perfection, meaning His plan for my life is good, full of truth, and perfect.  That He has no beginning and no end but yet the One who has no creator revels in being a Creator.  

So tonight I'm thankful for those double blue lines-what a strong reminder of how compelling it is to have a God whose ways are not my ways.  And while my humanness seeks for a rational reason, I can't help but think of how the Yahweh God of Israel is still the Yahweh God of today, a God who purposes our lives so that we might grow and learn, a God who orchestrates events in amazing non coincidental ways, a God who does what He does because He is.  

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

An Imperfect Christmas Card

Not the Christmas Eve I had imagined.  A stomach bug full of aches, chills, and every sort of stomach ickiness decided to visit me the Saturday night before Christmas.  And it has stayed for several days.  No celebrating Christmas Eve at Grandma's.  No church service because the thought of even getting ready to go tuckered me out.  Just not what I had planned for.

I'm guessing there are quite a few people who have found themselves in my shoes especially as they've considered the year in review.  Life just hasn't been quite what they expected.

It's a Christmas family photo sent, that seems to be just a giant gaping hole because it doesn't have the the face of someone you love and miss.

It's a Christmas letter half done because it seems way to hard to write about the baby that will not be anywhere other than heaven.

It's a Christmas card not even started because writing about your imperfect kids means telling the truth no one wants to hear, where the truth means suspensions or poor grades or bad attitudes or painfully slow progress.

Gosh it is easy to wallow a bit in self pity, to curl up in a ball and keep your focus inward because the hurt is still raw and cuts awfully deep.  It's also pretty easy to be jealous and bitter, to look at the lives of others and their perfect Christmas card stories and wish your life looked just a smidge more like that.  The truth is those emotions are the easy ones, ones that come to me as part of my first nature.  They seem to pop out of us as we react or seep out of us as we go about our daily business, crowding out the harder ones like patience and joy and hope and contentment.   But oh they are easy.

I'm guessing Isreal as a nation may have felt some of those very same feelings on the first Christmas.  400 years of silence from a God who promised them "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments."  (Deut. 7:9)  400 years of waiting for a Savior, a Messiah, an Immanuel who would be God with them, His precious people.  400 years of painful, awkwardly loud silence.

And yet, a faithful remnant clung to the promises of that faithful God.  

Through the silence, Habbakuk spoke and encouraged.  "Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.…"  (Hab. 3:17-18)

Through the silence, Mary trusts and sings, "“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."  (Luke 1:46-47)

Through the silence, the shepherds hear and go.   "I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people."  (Luke 2:10)

Through the silence, Simeon and Anna praise and recall.  "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, my eyes have seen your salvation."  (Luke 2:29-30)

And through the silence, God appears.  And He doesn't just appear.  He draws near.  

He came to the common and the steadfast, to the old, to the barren, to the young and experienced.  He came to His people in a crazy mix of the miraculous and mundane.  With a choir of angels and a technicolor star that shone not to royalty or the richest of the richest but instead to shepherds and wandering wisemen.   He came through the unexplainable as God the Father orchestrated an event that combined His deity with His creation, through a normal human childbirth which is almost always about vulnerability and pain, an event marked not for its easiness or its cleanliness but instead for its grittiness and messiness.

And because He came, I know He's here in my house, even if it smells of Lysol, even if my kids didn't get to go to church and hear the Christmas story on Christmas Eve of all nights, even if I only got to hear the carols I love on the radio and not with real warm bodied people.  

He's here in your mess too.  In the sorrow and disappointment and the tinges of envy.  And best of all, He's here in the good moments too.  The ones worth putting in the Christmas card, no matter how trivial they seem to us.  He is the good moments, the good news, the good and perfect gift that came from the Father above.

Merry Christmas!


Twas the Night Before Christmas and...

Zeke has conveniently confused Santa with the Grinch, asking not once but twice about someone coming to take our stockings and our tree.  (Oddly enough, the thought of someone doing that didn't seem to bother him.)

After about 30 minutes in bed, he wandered out into the living room to ask D, "Can we play fooseball?"  (D couldn't figure out what he was talking about so Zeke then demonstrated flipping the handles with his hands and kept asking "Fooseball?  You?  Me?  Can we play fooseball now?")

Conleigh has fallen out of bed once...while awake because she is so excited she can't keep her body in the bed.

She has also looked at the alarm clock we placed in the hall (to keep the kids contained until at least 6:30) and told us the time every time we happen to walk by her room.

And Kenson, well, he's actually asleep.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Is "The Talk" Really Necessary?

One wouldn't think that old school Marvin Gaye and a few framed photos of our president and his wife would make a person feel like she's been deposited into new, unfamiliar territory.  But when you are the white Mama of a black boy, the trappings of the local black barbershop have that effect.  Perhaps that first visit was the "you're not in Kansas feeling" that showed me how different my black children's lives will be than those of other black kids.  

Or maybe it was the recent kerfuffle that existed because Fox News' Meghan Kelly said that Santa and Jesus were white.  As I watched several black panelists remark on how their homes all contained black Santas and Black Jesuses, I was again reminded of how our family is a white family raising black children.

I am aware that being a transracial family has its unique dynamics.  I've read lots of memoirs of those who were adopted into white families and tried to hear their words on how to honor the skin color of your children.  I've been in several online forums where other moms are parenting across race.  But still, there are these moments that sting and shock and remind.

I guess I was blessed to be born into a time and place where I learned to treat others with kindness no matter how different they were from me.  I had experiences that taught me people are more alike than they are different.  And perhaps I had the privilege of being white.

I'm a face value person, someone who believes it's important to not create drama or read too much into the actions of others.  So the idea of "white privilege" (the concept that there are certain unsaid perks that come about by being white) doesn't necessarily sit well with me.  I think my own experiences and my own attitudes regarding others makes it hard for me to believe that minorities are treated differently.  For many white people, I think the following is probably true.  "Many people in the United States hailed the election and re-election of Barack Obama as the first black President as proof that the United States had become a post-racial society. But race does matter. And the fact that most white parents had never heard of "The Talk" before Trayvon Martin's death, New York's "stop and frisk" policy or Barney's and Macy's controversies are a few examples of how it matters."  Is the fact that our white culture is often unaware or quickly dismissive of these events the best illustrator of what white privilege looks like?"  (From The Huffington Post article, "When White Parents Have 'The Talk' With Black Sons.)

That said, I'm also a big believer in using common sense.  Like when you are a teenage boy who wears his pants around his ankles, his hat on sideways, and an oversized hoodie, that others are going to make assumptions about you regardless of if you are black, white or purple.  Add in a few more similarly dressed teens who might behave loudly or boisterously, the current teenage vocabulary which often involves crude language and swearing, and I think you would be hard pressed to not see why others might think the worst.  (In others words, I believe that we tell people how to treat us and when we dress or act or talk in a certain way, it is telling people what to believe about us.  There is simply an element of human nature that I don't think can be erased; we make judgments all the time based on how things appear on the surface.) 

But I am also the wife of a man who coaches a group of very diverse teenage boys.  I have unfortunately been a spectator to the words of others regarding these boys and their backgrounds, their abilities to speak English, and general temperaments.  I am also the mom of kids of color and while we have never been treated poorly because of our family make up, I'm sure there will be a day when that is not true.  More than anything, I am sure there will be a day when my kids are smacked into reality by overt racism.  

But what about the not so in your face?  What about the idea that white privilege exists because Santa and Jesus are almost always portrayed as white?  What about the idea that if you are white you will probably not be followed by store security?  What about going to the store for band aids and realizing flesh colored really means peach flesh and being annoyed?  Will my kids experience those things?  And what's my role as parent in  preparing them for that?  

Do you do as one parent suggests and make sure you have "The Talk" with your young black son because you are guessing he will be pulled over by police and not given the benefit of the doubt? Or is that based in the faulty assumption that all black parents have such discussion with their kids, when the reality is they don't?  (Or could it be that all kids should know what do when pulled over by the police, that it is simply common sense to be calm and respectful.  That perhaps teaching your children the following skills, as suggested by the authors of "The Talk" post, really is kind of a no brainer.  "Show your hands, smile, do not appear threatening and never talk back.") 

I don't have any easy answers for that.  I don't want to created jaded kids who perceive the world as racist or even just stacked against them.  Yet, I do need my kids to have a realistic perception of life and most importantly, wise and measured actions to how to respond to any situation where they are being treated unfairly or where they are feeling a bit slighted.  Sigh.  May I have wisdom for the moments and steady hope for our world, that all people will learn to treat others with respect and kindness, even in the ugly moments.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Today is Today

Today the daytime temp was around 20 degrees.  And yet a little girl wore a swimming suit around the house and carried a purse because she was on her way to Washington to do gymnastics.

Today the same child wore her lavender and lime galoshes outdoors to play in the snow because she was certain her three layers of socks would work just as well as snowboots.

Today I heard the quick response of a son who wanted nothing else but to help his dad put together a piece of exercise equipment, because there is something amazingly special about building something with your dad.

Today I felt the flushed cheeks of a three year old who ran a low grade temp all afternoon, who slowed down today and wanted the closeness of skin that a mom provides.

Today I cleaned up one broken dinner plate and two spilt glasses of water within a 30 minute time span.

Today I accidentally crushed a boy who I expect to act more grown up than his seven years when I got angry because he opened the bread machine while it was baking and poked his fingers into the rising loaf.

Today I was reminded of the words I spoke in November at our church's Thanksgiving service.  Words about what I am thankful for, about what God has been doing in my life.

Today is today.  This moment is THE moment.  It is where God has me, where God wants me, where He has called me, where He has set me.  It is a bit broken but full of pockets of blessing.  Today is today.

“Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.”   Ann Voskamp

Thursday, December 12, 2013

"Wow! You're a Big Family" Controlling the Chaos Tidbit #3-Picking up Toys

My kids are terrible at picking up.  I don't know why but my kids will drag their heels and lollygag around like nobody's business.  Drives me crazy!   Taking a hard nose approach like taking away whatever they leave out has not worked.  I've put it up on the fridge, I've made them buy it back, I've taken it to the thrift store, and I've thrown things away.  But they just don't care all that much.  Perhaps it means we have too much stuff.  Or perhaps it stems from early years spent in orphanages without personal possessions.  I don't know but picking up often becomes a battle around here.  I have one who loves to turn it into a huge power struggle.  This child can make cleaning up a room take hours.   This child will miss supper, miss fun activities, lose privileges and possessions all in an attempt to outlast you.  The child can tell you it's not a good idea and that it doesn't end well but simply digs their heels in deeper.  It's a battle I really try to avoid because I usually end up wanting to lock myself in my room lest I harm the child.  So sometimes, if I think it's headed down that path, I just ignore it and let the child sit in the bedroom while they do everything but pick up their room.  Then, at bedtime, I just ask them to get into bed and let them deal with it in the morning.  

Big battles aside, there are a few things that have seemed to work around here better than the taking away items or the old "can you beat the timer" game.  (I don't know why but beating the timer to pick up just doesn't work for my kids."  Nor does the logical consequence of "we can't watch tv/read books/whatever activity is next until you pick up.")

Here are some things I have done that have seemed to work:

*Use money as an intermittent reward.  I set the timer and ask the kids to keep track of how many things they pick up.  After the timer beeps, the kids receive a penny for every item they picked up.  Yes, it requires the honor system and no, Zeke can't count.  (I just give him money for whatever he says.)  I don't do it regularly, just enough to make my kids wonder if this time around will be a time where I will be giving out pennies.

*Have the kids check each others work.  I use this strategy most often to keep the kids away from each other when the basement needs picked up.  If I send all 3 down to pick up the basement, it often ends with someone crying, someone yelling, or someone giggling hysterically.  So I send down one kid at a time with a specific task.  "Go pick up all the cars."  When that child returns, I send down the next child and give them something else to pick up and tell them to check the first child's work.  "Go pick up the balls and check Conleigh's work.  She was supposed to pick up the cars."  If the first child did not do the job well, the second child then shows them what they missed.  Not only does it keep them separated but I think they are more thorough because they don't want their sibling finding something that they missed.  It does not get things 100% clean because I am not downstairs to see exactly what needs picked up but it does help to do a quick straighten.

*Do a 5 minute clean or a commercial clean.  When there is a big mess, this is a great way to keep your kids from being overwhelmed by the mess and give up before they have even started.  Just have them pick up for 5 minutes or if you are watching tv, have them work on the mess during the commercials.

*Assign kids a specific color to pick up.  I use this on the basement too.  Again, I am not downstairs to make sure 100% of the toys are picked up but it gets things neater than they were.

*Give kids a number of items to pick up.  We do this as part of our after school routine.  After they eat their snacks, the kids go to their bedrooms and pick up ten items.  I also use it to tidy up the whole house.  Often instead of telling the kids to pick up, I phrase it differently.  I will say "Find ten things that are not where they belong and put them in their right places."  Maybe I'm silly to say that but I kind of think it makes it feel less like cleaning up.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas

The Thanksgiving holiday meant a trip to K's family with the day after Thanksgiving spent decorating Grandma's Christmas tree.
Sorting the pieces by color

Conleigh the reindeer

Kenson and Grandma


Zeke and Grandma

Does this face surprise any of you who know Conleigh in person?

Zeke beside his handiwork..yes they are all in a row


When we returned home, we put up our tree as well.  I used to be someone who loved the themed trees with their color coordinated, matchy matchy decor.  But then D and I started giving each of the kids an ornament for Christmas, one that represented something significant from that year.  From trikes from the year Kenson learned to ride to plaques with their names written in their not quite perfect 3 year old handwriting to remind us of the year they learned that skill to a scuba diving Santa indicative of a year spent in Haiti, those ornaments have become reminders of lots of memories.   We also started photo ornaments for loved ones who have died.   Our kids have lost several grandparents in a short amount of time and we did not want them to forget those grandparents or be unfamiliar with their faces.  There are also the ornaments the kids have made in school or church and ornaments given to us as gifts plus some unique garlands created by my aunt.  (One is a combination of paper clips and fabric yo yos and was given as a joke following my dad's encounter with meningitis.  The other is folded gum wrappers and I love the old fashioned feel and wish I had more.  Hint, hint, Sheree!)

Our tree
We also started a new advent book series this year after reading several recommendations from others.  This year, we are reading Tabitha's Travels by Arnold Ytreeide.  There are two other books by the same author so we'll try those next year.  We are a bit behind as we didn't actually get started on the book until this week but that's alright.  We can finish up after Christmas if we need to.  

Last, I read this quote today and thought it to be such an apt description of the Incarnate One, a God who doesn't demand that we elevate ourselves towards Him by our good deeds, our perfection or our abilities.  Instead He is a God who brings Himself low, into the smallest details, in the most undignified manner through the labor of a woman.  It's a moment in time full of pain and fear and vulnerability but yet that is how He came.  And it is where He still is.  In the moments of pain and fear.  In the moments of vulnerability and ugliness.  That is where He lives.

If the incarnation teaches us anything, it’s that God can be found everywhere: in a cattle trough, on a throne, among the poor, with the sick, on a donkey, in a fishing boat, with the junkie, with the prostitute, with the hypocrite, with the forgotten, in places of power, in places of oppression, in poverty, in wealth, where God’s name is known, where it is unknown, with our friends, with our enemies, in our convictions, in our doubts, in life, in death, at the table, on the cross, and in every kindergarten classroom from Sandy Hook to Shanghai. -Rachel Held Evans 




Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wishes

From the 3 year old...

"Wish wish wish Bo a people?"  "Why?"  "So he could eat with us."  (Because who wouldn't want a dog to turn into a human just so we all could enjoy a meal together.)

"Wish wish wish Linda and Bruce live far away and Grandma live there."  (In other words, I wish Grandma were our next door neighbor.)

From the mama...
"I wish wish wish it was socially acceptable to be an adult and say 'otay' because once he learns to say 'okay' I'm going to be kind of sad."

Friday, November 29, 2013

Why Picking ABC Gum Out of the Garbage Can is a Bad Idea


Because apparently Extra brand gum does not get hard when it sits in the garbage can after someone has already chewed it...apparently it only gets stickier.  (And please note, it is also on his neck, under his chin.)  In case you are wondering, an ice cube does will harden the sticky stuff up.  Using a Kleenex-not such a good idea.

Monday, November 25, 2013

How to Ensure You Win the Community Coloring Contest

Send subtle (or not so subtle messages).

For those who don't read 6 year old spelling...upper left corner-Please pick me

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Holiday Shopping with a Purpose

Consider making your money do double duty this holiday season by purchasing items from organizations that provides jobs to families around the world in need of employment or by supporting families who are fundraising to provide a home for a child in need.

Noonday Collection-fun, funky, and colorful jewelry, scarves, bags and more
The Noonday Collection supports over 1, 000 women in business from all over the world.

The Apparent Project-jewelry featuring Haitian metal art and recycled cardboard beads, also sell bags, Haitian metal art wallhangings, ornaments, and journals
The Apparent Project provides employment for Haitian men and women.

Compelled Designs-ceramic jewelry and ornaments
Compelled Designs supports a variety of ministries through the sales of their items.  For the month of November, 75% of the proceeds from sales will be used to support orphans who need heart surgery.

ViBella-Beaded jewelry, purses, and more
ViBella provides employment for women in Haiti, Mexico, and the US.

2nd Story Goods-Jewelry, home goods, and bags
2nd Story Goods provide employment for people in remote Haitian villages.

Trades of Hope-Bath and body products, jewelry, handbags, scarves, hats, ornaments, and more
Trades of Hope provides employment for women worldwide and also allows adopting families to fundraise by selling their products.  (If you'd like to shop this site and help an adoptive family, go to Angela's link which will help support the adoption of their fourth daughter from China.)

Supporting families adopting

Little Did I Know blog-adopting Macy, age 3, from Haiti
Currently doing a coffee fundraiser


Saturday, November 23, 2013

"Wow! You're a Big Family" Controlling the Chaos Tidbit #2-Money as an incentive

Money seems to be a motivator for my kids.  I also want to teach them about managing money and good stewardship.  So while we have some jobs in our house that are chores that our kids do simply because they are a part of our family, other tasks in our house become paying jobs which my children can earn money for.  The more icky tasks like picking up dog poop out of the yard are worth the most while simple tasks like dusting are worth less.  The kids can offer to do those jobs at any time.  Often on Saturdays, when we are taking the time to do more of a deep clean, the kids can pitch in and get paid to help. 

The money also works as a consequence too.  If you ruin something that belongs to someone else, you need to pay for it or replace it which means you have to get a job.  (ie pick something off of the chore list so you can earn some money)  If you have been asked several times to put something away and have not done it, Mom and Dad pick it up and it goes into the basket on the top of the fridge and you have to pay to get it back.  

Regardless of whether they are earning it or spending it, I try to take the time to make them count out the money to practice their math skills.  For example, we just sold our play kitchen.  Each kid earned $3.33 since we sold it for $10.  So the two big kids had to count out their portion of the profits before they could put it in their banks.  Since my kids are just at the point in school where they are learning about money, I make sure to simplify it a bit so they are only counting like coins to start with.  So in this case, I made .33 with 3 dimes and 3 pennies which is easier to count that a quarter, a nickel, and 3 pennies.

We also have banks that have 3 sections to them for spend, save, and share.  I can't say we have any stellar strategy for consistently using this but I think right now, it's just important to get the idea in my kids' heads that you can do those 3 things with money.  The kids often will grab a handful of their money to take to church, will request to go to the store to spend their money, or will use their money to order books from a school book order or popcorn on the days our school does popcorn fundraisers.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My Learning Curve

I've been a mom for over 7 years with at least one child actually in my home for almost 5 of those 7 years.  However, it's easy for me to overlook certain things, to be frustrated by behavior and be a slow learner in terms of figuring out how to deal with that behavior.  This week was no exception.

One of my kids was being a real pain.  Sneaking candy out of the cupboard.  Taking a sibling's toy that was put away after being told to leave the toy alone.  Refusing to do even the simplest of tasks without a battle.  Being told to stop and quickly doing the action a few more times just because.

With this particular child, you cannot out consequence the behavior.  Think a spanking might change the behavior?  I'm willing to bet you could spank until bloody and the child would still not change the behavior.  Think taking away toys or priveleges will affect the behavior?  This child would end up spending every night alone in an empty bedroom and still be having behavior problems.  What about writing sentences or doing extra chores?  Um, all that gets you is a headache from nagging to accomplish the tasks because the child drags their feet and refuses to complete the tasks.

I am not saying this child does not get consequences.  What I am saying is that if you are trying to change the behavior by creating a consequence that is so negative, so awful that this child will think twice about doing it again, if that is your goal, you will fail.  It is instead about the heart.  For this child, when inclined, everything becomes a power struggle.  It's a way to maintain control.  And the response to consequences are no exception as the child wills themselves to outlast you (even if that has never happened and even though the child can verbalize how this type of power struggle never works out well for them.)

Consequences cannot be the reason the child stops; consequences instead are a natural outpouring of what happens because of a certain behavior.  If you take your brother's toy, you must apologize and do a kindness for him.  If you color on your dresser, you clean it off.  (And then the next time you want to get the crayons out at the table, I remind you that you have been having problems being trustworthy with the crayons so I'm not sure you can handle the crayons at this moment but perhaps tomorrow will be a chance to try again.)

So if consequences do not change the heart, what does?  And what does this have to do with Mama learning a lesson yet again?

The traditional parenting approach might find you as a parent becoming even more hard nosed.  The parent might continue to apply consequences until the child's will breaks.  But for me, this was a time to consider why these behaviors were surfacing.  The aha of "oh yes, Mama is leaving for 3 days.  This kiddo is feeling out of control because of that."

So how do you regulate that?  How do you empower your child to feel back in control?  By making them feel safe and secure and loved.  By spending more time with them.  By holding more and talking more and hugging more.

And sure enough, the words started to come with a few tears as well.  "I don't want you to go."  "Why can't I go with you?"  "I'm afraid you will get hurt in a car accident."

In no way does the state of the child's heart excuse the bad behavior.  The child still has to deal with how their actions affect others.  But if I as the mom can get to the root of the behavior, then perhaps I can reduce the feelings that are causing the behavior and reduce the bad behavior.

It's whispering in their ear at church as you sing a song about the very presence of God, reminding them that even if Mama is gone, God is always there.  It's encouraging that child to ask for a hug rather than feeling badly all alone. It's reminding them of a Bible verse like "When I am afraid, I will trust in You."   It's hearing the child say "Oh yeah!  There's our picture up there!  I can just look at that and see you!"  It's hearing the child say to their dad on the morning after I leave, "We're going to be just fine."  It's a papa who lets the child sleep in his bed while Mama is away.

It's shoring up the child's heart rather than breaking the child's will.

 (Now too bad I realized what was really going on the day before I left rather than the week before when all the power struggles were happening...)

Minnesota Trip

Zeke, Kai and I got back late last night from our whirlwind trip to the Minneapolis Shriner's Hospital.  We went up on Monday and came back on Wednesday.  Yes, it was 8 hours (or so) one way.  Yes, my children did amazingly well, even the baby.

We stayed with our friends who also have a little girl from China with limb differences.  (And her 4 brothers and sisters.)  Zeke had a ball.  He played so hard.  I also loved that I got to catch up with my friend, Hilary, and that she was able to help with the baby during the doctors' appointments.  She actually just returned from a trip to China so she was a bit jet lagged but I love that we are the type of friends who can not feel the need to make things "perfect" in order to be comfortable with each other.

Wrestling before bed

So cute to hear her yell at Zeke "Buddy!  Buddy!"
As to the appointments:

We met with a limb difference specialist and a prosthetic specialist first.  Essentially, we just talked about if there is anything Zeke can't do that he wants to do.  (Um, not really other than the monkey bars but he's only three and that's probably going to be a challenge always.)  The prosthetic specialist showed us the variety of devices that are available which gave us a better idea of what might help Zeke.  As of right now, I don't know that there is anything that Shriner's offers that Zeke needs to use.  For Zeke, he has a wrist on his side that is missing the hand.  This means that he has the ability to bend that and grasp things with that wrist.  Adding a prosthetic to that side might give him a pincher type grasp but it would also take away any sensation that he has on that side.  So he might gain a bit more fine motor ability for grasping on that side but he would lose the sensation of gripping which is one of his strengths.  They do have an electronic hand that would definitely help with fine motor tasks on that side.  However, because of the electronics involved, it's very heavy so it is more for an older child.  The other piece of equipment they showed us was a prosthetic with assorted "attachments" for the hand.  (Think Dremel tool attachments.)  Basically the "hand" unscrews and can be interchanged with a variety of tools to be used for specific tasks like throwing a baseball or catching a basketball.  At some point, we will probably have one of those made but right now, he doesn't have enough need for something like that.

The major part of our appointment was spent consulting with doctors on the possibility of a toe to finger transplant.  I haven't had a chance to fully talk it over with D but I do feel like I got a much better understanding of what the procedure would entail.  With this specific surgery, Zeke's second toe would be removed and placed beside his pointer finger to create a third finger on his left hand.  This toe would bend and create a tripod grasp for him on that hand although the bend would not be quite as good as what a finger would normally have.  The new finger has the growth plates from the toe in it so it will grow just like any toe would normally grow.  This means the toe would never be as long as a normal finger but the doctor thought that given Zeke has a shorter pointer finger, the difference in size would not be as noticeable.  They would also somehow shift his big toe and third toe so the toes would be closer together, thus reducing the gap created by removing the second toe.   The risk factor really consists of the toe dying and not successfully attaching to the finger.  For this reason, Zeke would be sedated for about a day after the surgery to give the blood vessels a chance to do what they need to do to connect the toe to the hand.  This risk is small though as the success rate for the surgery is approximately 95 to 97 %.  The surgery would be done at Mayo in Rochester and would require a 4-5 day stay.  When Zeke was ready to come home, he would have a cast on his hand and his foot for about a month.  We would then do another trip to Minnesota to remove the casts.  In terms of follow up care (physical therapy, the ability to walk and balance on the foot, etc.) there is essentially none.  The doctor just performed this surgery on another little boy and was hoping that his family would be willing to share their experience with us so I'm really hoping we will hear from this family soon.

So that's the summary...now the hard part-deciding what to do.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tidbits for Family Living #1

"Wow!  You have a big family!"

Those aren't words I ever imagined having people say about us.  When we were dating, we did talk about family size and I thought that 4 kids seemed like a good number but I guess I never considered that having 4 kids made you a large family.  (Still don't but apparently a lot of other people think differently.)

Perception aside, I do think any family has their own way of doing things that makes their lives run more smoothly.  I am always curious how other families manage their lives and love hearing good ideas from other moms and dads.  So I though I'd start sharing some of the strategies we use around here to keep the chaos and noise to a dull roar.

"Wow!  You're a Big Family" Tidbit #1
I try hard not to do for my kids things that they can do themselves.  When I hear someone say that their kids don't do any chores, I am always amazed.  I want to say "Get ahold of yourself!  Make your life easier!  Put your kids to work!"  (Rationale about making your children responsible citizens aside.)  So that's strategy number one.  All of my kids (except Kai) have chores.  The big kids have a morning chore and an evening chore.  In the morning, one of them feeds and waters the dog and the other one empties the garbage and recycling.  After supper, one of them cleans off the supper table and sweeps under the table and the other sorts the laundry into darks and lights.  Zeke just earned the responsible of unloading the plates and bowls from the dishwasher.

Some tricks to making chores doable?  Rearrange things so that it works for your kids.  Our plates and bowls are not up high in the cupboards. They are in a bottom cupboard on a shelf so Zeke can reach them.  Our dog food is in a container with a lid that is easy to open.  The kids use a small hand broom to sweep under the table. Our laundry room is set up with two sorting baskets for lights and darks.

We also rotate chores each week for the big kids so they don't have to always do the same chores.

Be flexible.  Will your kids drop plates and break them?  Yep.  Will they mess around in the laundry room and throw your underwear up in the air and get it stuck on the curtain rod?  Yep.  Will they spill the dog food and drop the bowl full of macaroni salad in between the kitchen and the dining room?  Yep.  Just expect some goofy kid behavior and some mistakes.

And I don't always wait for them to do their chores.  If the garbage needs to go out and the kids aren't home, I take it out.  If I need the dishwasher unloaded so I can run another load of dishes, I unload it.

What about whining and being a slow poke?  It all depends.  Sometimes I just let them poke around and reap the natural consequence of being slow.  (ie missing out on another activity)  Sometimes, I consequence it by making them do the chore again the next week.  Sometimes I give grace and offer to help so it goes faster. Sometimes I try to lighten the mood by playing beat the timer or by asking them to pick a song to listen to and then turning to that on Spotify.  And sometimes I yell...but don't tell anyone.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Photo Dump-Kai

Watching the Huskers

Hanging with the big kids while they do Legos

What happens when you have older siblings who play with you-you end up with every toy you own on your lap

Just some shameless baby photos for the grandma-I'm a blue eyed, ginger haired boy

Looking like my grandpa on my mom's side, I think

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fall is here...or maybe it's winter...





Within the span of a week the tree in our backyard went from green to brilliant yellow to completely leafless.  The kids love climbing it; however, maybe not today since there is snow in the forecast for tonight.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Gender Issues

Apparently, we're not over the gender issues associated with the baby.

Conleigh:  Senora Sikorski (the Spanish teacher) is having a baby!

Mama:  Yes, do you know whether it's going to be a girl or a boy?

Kenson & Conleigh:  A girl!

Conleigh (very dryly):  I wish we could trade our baby for her baby.

Kenson:  Why?  I hate girls!

I guess that's slightly better than Conleigh's original reaction to having a boy which were about punching the boy baby in the face...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Build A Hand Workshop

In a few weeks, we (the baby, Zeke and I) will be traveling to Minneapolis to meet with the hand surgeon and a limb differences specialist at Shriner's.  Part of our conversation will entail discussing what the options are for prosthetics or other assistive devices for Zeke's right side which is missing the hand.  I do not yet know exactly what they will recommend but I do know that I will be bringing up the possibility of building our own hand for Zeke using the technology that is available with 3D printers.  It's crazy!  If you have access to a 3D printer, you can "print" your own hand.  The printer will layer layer after layer of plastic together to create the pieces and then you assemble it yourself.  The price tag would probably range from $65 to several thousand dollars but are much less expensive than a regular prosthetic.

Check out this video to see exactly how it works:


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Pooped out before we even started

Batman, the kitty cat, and a shark

"I bite you!"

"Pow!  Bam!  Batman!"

"Meow!"

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2 months

Kai had his two month check up last week.  He weighed 11 pounds 8 ounces; his birth weight was 7 pounds 14 ounces and he was down to 7 pounds 3 ounces at discharge.  His eyes are terrific-ly blue.  Wish my photography skills were better to showcase that.  (Well, that and he would have to actually cooperate and not be a fuss bucket.)  His hair color is still up in the air.  The front is filling in and is darkening up but there's still quite a bit of red in it.  For the first time, this week, I've seen the red show up inside; usually it is most apparently in the sunlight outside.  So I'm cautiously optimistic that the red will stick.   I mean, why not add a redhead to our eclectic mix?



Monday, October 28, 2013

Pineapple er Pinecone er Pioneers Park

No school today and D was home sick so I took all 4 kids and headed to Pioneers Park in hopes of giving D a chance to rest and helping to keep me sane with everyone home.  In general, I was crabby and the kids were wild but we did manage to eat at Red Robin without having the folks eating at the adjoining booths calling the management.  Zeke was sure we were going to Pineapple Park.  Conleigh was sure it was Pinecone Park.  I think by the end, at least 2 out of the 3 kids know where we went.

At the entrance of the nature center

The swaths of mowed prairie grass left behind giant grass stems to play with

Kenson dancing like a fool

Literally dancing like a fool


What a 3 old does when he can't find grass that is as big as his siblings

Puppet show complete with a roaring deer

It also featured Justin Beaver.  (My kids apparently think Justin Bieber's name is Justin Beaver.)