Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Happy Surprise (Faux Haitian Black Beans and Rice)

I made this soup recipe tonight for supper. I love slow cooker recipes and something that uses beans is up my alley since beans are cheap. I was initially a bit disappointed. It looked a less than appetizing purpley color. And the texture was a bit off. But as I was ladeling it, I thought, "Hey, this looks just like the bean sauce they serve over rice in Haiti. And it tastes similar too." So I thawed out some rice from the freezer for Kenson and poured the bean soup over it. For D and myself, I made a salsa out of fresh vegetables as the recipe suggests and then added lime juice and, at D's request, tortilla chips. (I didn't try the sour cream per the recipe but D did.) Yummy for us! And Kenson ate a huge plate of it mixed with rice. So my gut reaction of ew was pleasantly surprised by the creation of Faux Haitian Black Beans and Rice. If you're looking for an super easy recipe for that, here you go!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Menu Planning Monday

Runza Style Ground Beef Sandwiches
(Brown 2 pounds of ground beef with 1 chopped onion. Add 2 small cans of chopped ripe olives and 1 1/2 cups of cubed Velveeta cheese. Serve on hamburger or hoagie buns. Sanwiches can be wrapped in foil and frozen.)
Oven Fries
(Slice potatoes into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Place on greased cookie sheet. Spray potatoes with non stick cooking spray or drizzle with olive oil. Season with seasoned salt, garlic salt, or other herbs. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender and starting to brown. You may want to flip the potatoes about halfway through so both sides of the potato get browned.)
Jello salad with fruit

No Soak Black Bean Soup (New recipe to me; it sounds easy, cheap, and yummy)
Home Made Cinnamon Tortilla Chips with fresh fruit salsa

Spaghetti with crockpot sauce
Lettuce salad
Garlic bread

Cheesy Potato Soup
Fresh fruit

Oatmeal Pecan Pancakes (I add oatmeal, pecans, and a bit of brown sugar to the usual Bisquick pancake recipe.)

Crockpot Baked Beans with Jalapenos and Apples
(I tried this 2 weeks ago as a new recipe and it is awesome! You will never want Bush's baked beans again. And it's super easy.)
Corn Dog Muffins
(Combine 2 8.5 oz. packages of cornbread mix, 2 T. of brown sugar, 2 eggs, and 1 c. milk. Stir in 11 oz. of whole kernel corn and 5 hot dogs, chopped. Fill greased muffin tin 3/4 full. Bake at 400 14-18 minutes or until golden brown.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thoughts in my brain...after one month home...

Trying to apply topical medicine to a two year old is like trying to complete a paint by numbers picture that is attached to a bungee cord as it is suspended out of the door of an airplane. Similar things can be said about dressing a two year old.

I knew that little boys + even slightly cold air or water + no diapers = pee but man alive, I really underestimated the hand eye coordination and lighting quick speed you really have to have when rediapering, especially after a bath.

One itty bitty person adds a lot of extra laundry to the world.

As the mother of a toddler, I should buy shares in antibacterial hand soap. I have seriously used more soap over the last month than I have over all of 2008. Maybe I wasn't washing my hands enough before...

Wow! My shirt resembles a Jackson Pollack style painting rendered soley in peanut butter, boogers, saliva, and other unnamed substances.

It is totally possible to think "Get up and to do something productive" at the same time you are thinking "Sit down and soak in those clingy little hands that are telling you to hold me."

Apparently, toys are for occasional playing. "Real" playing occurs with the dog bowls, chairs, keys, remote controls, cell phones, baby strollers, assorted clothing items and more than anything, shoes.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Can you pinch pennies and make them scream?

If so, this post is for you. Now that I'm not working at all, our budget is considerably smaller. We intentionally tried to reduce our debt so I would have the option to stay at home. But even then we knew that living off of one teacher's salary would be a bit tight. And due to a few unexpected changes in our budget (and one mistake on my part), it's going to be really tight. I know that God will make a way for all of our bills to be paid because He always has but I need to get my grocery budget down to help with that.

Right now, I budget $450 a month for groceries for three people. I know some of you with larger families are thinking I'm nuts because you do it for much less and feed lots more people than I do. Well, $450 is my starting point. It was what I estimated our need might be with diapers. It's economizing to some degree but still purchasing more expensive items like certain spices that I could do without or produce that isn't in season. So I know I can do better. I clip coupons already both online and from the local paper. I do price matching with grocery store ads if possible. I plan my menus each week and generally just buy what I need for that week sometime the weekend before the week starts. (And often my monthly grocery budget includes other small household purchases like printer paper, tolietries, etc. so that amount isn't just for groceries.)
But I'm not sure what else I can do to save money. I live in a small town and usually shop for groceries in a town with a Walmart, a Dollar General, and two other small grocery stores. None of these stores offer saver cards or double coupon days or anything like that. (Walmart will match ad prices but that' it.) I live 45 minutes from a larger town with many grocery stores, a Sam's Club, CVS, etc.. I'm wondering if it's worth my effort to try to take advantage of the sales/saver cards that might be offered in the larger town. (ie would my gas money and time be worth the trip) So many of the blogs I've seen on frugality don't seem to have viable options for me. (I don't have the time/energy to drive my 2 year old 45 minutes one way each week and go to multiple stores to try to get their best deals. I have some doubts about the blogs that encourage you to purchase items you don't need so that you can get back money on a saver card. With our small family, it takes us a long time to get through certain products and buying a product when I don't really need it usually means that I forget I have it by the time I'm out of it. Plus, if I'm just buying something because it's cheap that is still spending money I wasn't intending to spend.)
So my question is, those of you who are really good at being thrifty with groceries, what is my best bet for crimping my budget? Options I have considered are:

buying my non perishables in the larger town either at Sam's Club or when specific stores have these items on sale and then only using Walmart for refrigerated and last minute type purchases?

doing all my grocery shopping at Sam's Club?

doing all my grocery shopping in the larger city and trying to hit multiple stores and their promotions, maybe once a month?

Chime in if you've got some ideas.

Monday, February 23, 2009

What's Worked for Us-Food

I believed that we would have some food issues due to differences in textures and tastes as well as the availability of food. Kenson has never not had food but it has always been on a schedule and, I'm guessing, always a specific amount given to all children, regardless of if they were still hungry, if they liked it, etc.. So adjusting to having the meal schedule changed up a bit as well as being able to communicate if he was done or if he would like more were challenges.

When we first came home, Kenson had a hard time at the end of the meal. He would have finished the food that was there, an ample amount of food, but then cry and be mad when we tried to tell him he was done or if we tried to wash his hands or take him out of the booster seat. He wanted the meal to continue. He wasn't really hungry as when you gave him more he would just play with it. Or if he did eat it, he would eat a huge amount of food. I think in some ways he wasn't sure of our food schedule and this was creating anxiety in him as to when/if he would get another meal.

Adoption literature tells you to let the food be readily available to newly adopted children. (ie leave snacks out on the counter, let children carry a backpack for food) I agree with this in theory. But for a toddler, this is a bit harder to do. Plus, I wasn't really sure that Kenson's issues had to do with a deep seeded fear of starvation. My first desire was for him to learn that screaming and crying was not an acceptable way to get what you want. So we taught him baby signs for more, drink, and eat. This has helped him tell us his needs. It also gives us something to replace the crying with. We weren't just stuck telling him "no crying"; instead we could tell him what to do that was positive. He does great with the signs.

I also think the signs helped with the attachment aspect of things because he has learned that he can do the signs and then Mama or Papa meet the need. When he first figured out that we would get whatever he was signing, he loved to just do it over and over again. He would hand us the sippy cup, and do the sign. Then he would get a drink and give us back the sippy cup so that he could sign "drink" again.

The other thing we did was to give him a small snack at the end of the meal if he wanted more. If I continued to feed him the main entre, we would be sitting at the table for hours. So I put a few Cheerios in a baggie and let him carry those around. He didn't want to eat them; I think he just wanted the security of the having the food. I only did a few pieces of cereal (like 5 or 6) because I didn't want to reinforce overeating. It was enough to help him. He's now eating at meals like a normal kiddo without crying when his plate is empty. He is able to tell us he's finished or sign for more. And depending on what he ate, we give him more or we tell him no that he is finished. And he seems to be okay with that. I also think he now recognizes that we eat on a schedule and that he now knows when to expect food.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

God and Me-I'm not as Smart as I Think I Am

God has been at work on my heart on one topic over the last 2 months or so. He's been consistenly telling me that I'm not nearly as smart as I think I am. (I'm sure some of you reading this are thinking, "Um yeah!") Generally speaking, when things go well for me, I have always chalked it up to my own ability to be successful. Got a good grade on a test? That's because I studied. Answered the Final Jeopardy answer correctly, even when all the tv contestants did not? That's because I've got a sponge for a brain. Maintained a fairly orderly classroom? That's my great classroom management skills that I honed through lots of practice. It always comes back to me. Me working hard. Me mentally preparing. Me being my amazing self.

But God knows better than that. He knows that all of my successes are because of His presence in my life. Be it divine intervention in the events of my life or divine gifts poured into me, little joys or big tasks, it's God at work in me. But, more often than not, I just ignore that until I meet up with a job that seems overwhelming to me. Then, I want God's help. (Actually, I just want Him to rescue me but that's another story.)

Why is it that I count God out on so much of my life? Why is it that I only ask for His advice when the chips are down? (And sometimes not even then.) I'm human, like everyone else and Satan loves to convince us humans of how independent we are. Rarely do I ask God for the patience to not yell at my husband over something I . Rarely, do I consider God's impact on my ability to prepare supper and do laundry simultaneously. And I definitely don't walk around saying things like "Gee God, thanks for helping me drive my car and avoid and accident today." or "Wow, God! You sure helped me figure out how to make one heck of an awesome chocolate chip cookie!"

This week, several things I read in Martha to the Max have reminded me that life isn't about having all the answers. It's about being weak and recognizing how truly weak you really are. It's about seeing those times when you have no answers for problems as opportunities for the Holy Spirit to help you know what to do. Gregg reaffirmed this today in his sermon. He preached from Colossians 1:9-12. One aspect he preached on was that often we think we understand God's will and we say things like "God won't give you more than you can handle." That American cliche is not Biblical at all. The truth is, God gives us more than we can handle on a daily basis and we should be tapping into His might to deal with those things. In fact, the Greek word for might in the passage was actually a word that helps form our word "dynamite" which makes a pretty cool mental image if you stop to think of God's presence in our lives as akin to TNT.

So may you decide you don't know it all this week. Instead, look for ways that your life is ready to blow. Find God in the middle of that near disaster and look for His presence close to the lit end of your fuse.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Snow Men and other Experiments

We couldn't make a snowman when it snowed a few days ago because the snow was too dry. But now that the weather's been warmer and the snow has melted and gained some moisture, a snowman is very doable. (A little mushy but doable.) So Kenson and I went outside and rolled some snowballs, gathered some artifacts courtesy of the Great Outdoors and made a snowman. Kenson's contributions were somewhat limited. Okay, okay, he basically touched each snowball once very gingerly with his gloved hand and then grunted like he was really rolling it. Then I scurried to find twigs and such to use for a face and arms. I put one arm in and Kenson wanted to do the other one. Then I added the smile, the nose, and eyes. And watched as Kenson suddenly became scared of the thing we had created! He wouldn't even stand next to it to get his picture taken! Don't you love the "this is as close as I'm gettin' lady" look on his face? (And yes, I realize that is one homely snowman. You get what you get some days)

I then found a recipe for making faux snow and thought that might be fun to try since we had just played in the snow. Ivory soap + torn toliet paper + warm water = one slurry messy white mess. (Honest rating? Easy to make. Easy to mold into balls and other shapes. And it's just soapy water so even if it makes a mess, the clean up is easy.) I shredded the soap bar and let Kenson shred the toliet paper. We added the water and I showed Kenson how to make snowballs and a snowman. My neat freak of a child refused to touch it. The slimy whiteness was totally unappealing to him. I even tried the destruction route: building a snowman and then smashing with my hands. He wouldn't try that either. He did poke it a couple of times but he would not smoosh it in between his fingers or pat it into a ball. I did grab a piece of snow from outside and held it up next to what we had just made, hoping he would at least make the connection and not just think we were making some goopy gloppy mess.

And so what to do when said child does not want to participate? Change the project. So we added more water and got a spoon and practiced moving water from one place to another. We practiced stirring and making bubbles. We added refrigerator magnets and practiced hiding them. That was up his alley. (Maybe Mama isn't a crazy lady who wants me to touch yucky stuff after all.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Milestones of a Different Kind

A lot of people keep track of milestones for their kids. First tooth. First word. First haircut. Adoption makes you look at milestones in a very different way. You can spend time agonizing during the wait because you've missed those milestones. Or you can begin to consider what new milestones your family will experience together once your child comes home. Some of those, I've already written about. First snow. First bath in a big bath tub with warm water. First car ride in a car seat.

So what would I count as important things this week, Week 3, at home?

D had parent-teacher conferences this week so while he isn't back to work quite yet, he did need to attend those and miss supper and bedtime on Monday . During supper, Kenson pointed to the chair where D usually sits and said in perfect two year old jabber, "Papa back." Yes, Kenson, Papa will be back. And then he smiled and went on eating. He said it without prompting from me. He used words we had been using when someone had to leave the room or the house. He said it almost confidently, not in a questioning way. He said it like he believed it. (And really it was probably one of the first times where he said anything in English without prompting.) It made me teary. So we didn't go to bed on time, but instead got ready for bed and then sat downstairs and watched 101 Dalmations while we waited to see that Papa really would come back. Good times.

Tuesday, I actually left the house without Kenson. I went and got my hair cut and highlighted while D stayed with Kenson. There were no tears. I said good-bye, he asked about me a few times, and when I returned, he smiled a huge smile and wanted a hug. He's beginning to get that we always come back; oh the sweetness of it all.

What's Worked for Us-Food Choices

Having a 2 year old can be a food challenge in and of itself. Having a toddler who is not used to American food and may think most of it seems like something scraped out of a witches' caldron is even more challenging. Thankfully, Kenson has done fairly well with this. He'e gone from eating anything and everything on the way home ("I don't know if they're gonna feed me so I just better eat it!") to wanting to only eat things he knew he liked ("I love peanut butter sandwiches and pancake syrup.") to wanting to eat whatever we're eating ("Yes, I know I won't like that sour dill pickle but give it to me anyway.")

I'm from the school of thought that believes kids learn to be picky eaters because of their parents. It has been hard for me to give him the freedom to be picky at times or to watch him consistently eat the same foods over and over. I want him to have balanced diet, to learn to love all sorts of foods. But truth be told, vegetables are a real no go right now. They're too crunchy for the most part and the ones that are cooked are just not things Kenson enjoys the taste of. And strong or unusual flavors are not something he desires either. I've had to reevaluate my thinking and decide that it's not what he eats as much as it is if he is eating and getting full.

I'm also from the school of thought that I will not prepare two meals because someone is too picky to eat the one that I made. I cook once and that cooking is a gift to my family. Turning your nose up at it is like turning your nose up at a gift. It's rude. You may dislike it and choose not to eat it but you may not complain or demand a different meal. If you have a real aversion to it, you may fix something else on your own. (But that's only on rare occasions.)

With Kenson, we always offer what we are having unless it's something we know he won't eat. Generally, we started out by modifying his meal so it was reflective of but not identical to ours. Now he wants exactly what we're having. If we're having apple slices and I dice his instead of letting him have an apple wedge, he won't touch it because Mama and Papa are eating apple wedges not diced apple. So I'm now making him a plate identical to ours. Either way, I've had to lighten up a bit on the "eat it or else you can be hungry" mentality. To ease some of my stress over the thought of having to possibly fix him something else, it has helped to just have a couple of stand bys always ready in the pantry: rice with refried beans or a peanut butter sandwich.

I have also used the photo cards I made to try to show him pictures of what we are eating and to give him the vocabulary for what we are eating. I need more pictures! I definitely did not have enough food items made beforehand. But I think the picture cards are good because it often shows food in its orginal form so he is learning to connect canned pineapple with the whole fruit as well as seeing words next to items, reinforcing that words go with pictures.

One food thing that I was hopeful would work was using baby food to introduce new foods. Kenson doesn't always like to chew his food and will spit things out that require too much chewing. I was hoping that pureed foods would go over well with him and let him taste new things without having too much texture. That idea did not work. He loves pureed fruits but pureed entres or vegetables have been a total bust. He also is getting to the point where he wants to eat what we're eating and the baby food thing just doesn't hold water when Mom and Dad are eating something else.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Menu Planning Monday

Honey Baked French Toast
Frozen fruit

Beef and Noodles over mashed potatoes
Green beans

Vegetable Beef Soup with Noodles (When I make the beef and noodles, I'll boil a large batch of beef, broth, and frozen egg noodles. One half will get thickened with cornstarch for beef and noodles and the other half will become this soup. Just add frozen mixed vegetables and some cubed cooked potatoes.)
Lettuce Salad

Cheddar Cheese and Ham Stromboli (I'm going to use this technique but stuff it with grated cheddar cheese, ham slices, and broccoli. I think I'll also make a basic cheese sauce of some kind to spread over it all. Don't know what that will be but I'll figure it out when I get there.)

Brown Sugar Chicken with rice and California Blend

Ham Steaks
Crock Pot Baked Beans with Apples and Jalepenos
Corn Bread Muffins using creamed corn

Fiesta Chicken Salad (Lettuce salad topped with cooked frozen chicken strips, canned or frozen corn, tomatoes, cheese, crunched up tortilla chips and a BBQ Salsa Ranch dressing. To make the dressing, mix together BBQ sauce, canned salsa, and ranch dressing. Sounds a bit weird but it's good.)
Grandma Bates' Apple Crisp

Two Quarters Quotes-February

On faith...
We don't follow him in order to be loved, we are loved so we follow him. -- Neil Anderson

Is it not a glorious thing to know that, no difference how unjust a thing may be, or how absolutely it may seem to be from Satan, by the time it reaches us it is God's will for us, and will work for good to us? For all things work together for good to us who love God. (Don't know who said it but I read it on someone else's blog this week)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Snow Day

First Snow

Eagerness. Hesitence. Wonder.
Stay a little longer.
Cold hands. They hurt.
Tears then calm.
Warmth then sleep.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

God and Me-Perfectionism, schedules, and motherhood

I am a type A, ducks in a row, plan it months ahead of time, rehearse it 'til it's perfect, execute it flawlessly kind of person. In most things, I'm that way. (There are certain things that I don't spend too much time on in an effort to do it correctly. Cleaning house would be one such thing. I can live without crumbless floors and I don't really freak out over dog hair stuck to my couch. I'm not a slob; I just can compartmentalize enough to allow for imperfection in that area. Of course, there is always a small voice in the back of my head that always reminds me of what I ought to be doing with my housekeeping duties but I manage to ignore it. Same with exercise. And encouraging my friends and family.) But generally, I am a driven person who thrives on accomplishing tasks and organizing chaos.

For me, motherhood meant a gigantic shift in my driveness. Resigning from my teaching job meant reassigning my purpose into things that revolved around my home. I believed and still believe that, in this season of my life, that's where I need to be. But reorganizing my life has not been an easy task. The person in the first paragraph still lives in me and craves busyness and multitasking and problemsolving. I know many of you stay at home with kids and are reading this and thinking, "Um, yeah, that's what I do all day long at home with my kids." Yes, I get that. But it is a different pace and a different life than working at my teaching job.

So like any good type A planner, I created lists. Remember the one scene on Jerry McGuire where Renee Zellwenger tells Tom Cruise that he completes her? Well, that's how I feel about lists. They give me direction and purpose. They make me happy. I have a list for each day of the week with chores to do and reminders like "take vitamins" or "go for a walk/run". And when Kenson came home, I added more things onto my list. Some were chores like "Spray the toys with bleach water." And some were activities like going to the public library on Thursdays.

Okay, now what does all of that have to do with God? During Kenson's nap time, I've been reading a book called Martha to the Max, Balanced Living for Perfectionists. It has been a good reminder to me about what being a stay at home mom is about. (It's not about lists, by the way.) Some of the things I've read this week which have been great reminders for me of my need to reign in my go go go personality have been the following:

A large part of problems aren't in what you are doing but in what you are choosing. (ie Doing daily devotions are great but if it's just something to cross of the to do list, it's not a choice. Doing enriching art activities with your child are great but if it's just something to cross of the list, it's not a choice.) You must choose to do the "good" things.

Some of the lies that Satan tells-
If we tried harder, we could get everything under control. Then everything would be perfect.
All the inner imperatives (I ought to, I should, I need to) are true. If we achieved them, our stress and pressure would disappear.
We should use every ability we have to the utmost at all times, even if it harms us or someone else.

For me, as I have transitioned into a new role, these were timely reminders. They are things I know, things I've heard before, things my mind totally understands. But they are things that my inner core fights to keep alive.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Love Bug Valentine cards we made using potato stamps
(directions for the whole activity are at the Family Fun site)
Kenson really liked the stamping.

Cookies we made using a mix from Tiffany and cookie cutters from Daniel.
Thanks guys for the goodies!

Friday, February 13, 2009

It all smells like POOP!

Everything in my house smells like poop! Everything! I am not kidding.

Last night/this morning, Kenson had a messy poopy diaper while sleeping. So he woke up this morning crying and D started cleaning that up. We then realized that our dogs who are always kenneled at night were standing on the stairs. So I went downstairs to put them away and was greeted by trash everywhere. Apparently, their kennel did not get latched last night. So at some point in time, they got out. (I thought I heard them around 5 a.m. but I was content in my bed and decided I was delusional.) They knocked over our kitchen garbage which had all sorts of goodies in it. An ice cream container. Styrofoam plates I had used to hold paint for a craft project. Cheese wrappers. And, of course, poopy diapers. And being the wonderfully ever charming canines that they are, they decided to eat all of it. Not the wrapper or the diapers so much. Just the contents of the wrappers and the diapers. Of course, being that they are not primates and are missing opposable thumbs, their garbage can adventures caused things to be strung from one place to another. It meant shredded wrappers and shredded diapers. It meant one gigantic mess.

The floors have been swept and swiffered and mopped and Chloroxed. The sheets have been stripped. The pajamas have been washed. But it still reeks.

As D put it, in the absence of something important to write about, write about poop.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What's Worked for Us-Naps

Kenson still needs a nap. In fact, he usually sleeps for about 2 hours and then still sleeps 11-12 hours each night. It sounded like the orphanage did a nap after lunch so we have tried to continue that.

Our house presented a unique situation with naps. Kenson needed to be with us and have us in the room. But his bedroom is upstairs. And the only other rooms upstairs are a bathroom and bedrooms. So if we tried to have him sleep upstairs, we would have to spend 2 hours or so upstairs with nothing to do. We decided to use the living room as his nap spot.

We tried rocking or reading a book to signal that it was nap time after lunch. Those things that were initiated by a parent really didn't work. Kenson knew that meant nap time and he didn't want to sleep so he would get crabby at those cues and refuse to be held or to get out books. We decided that we would just make the living room as boring as possible (toys put away, no tv on) and then "ignore" Kenson as long as he wasn't causing a problem. We have some floor pillows we throw down and a blanket so there is a nap spot. After lunch, I tell him "allay ti dohmee" which means "let's take a little sleep". (At least I hope that's what it means, hopefully I haven't been telling him something like "let's go bathe an elephant!")

He rarely lays down. Instead, he tries to come up with ways to keep himself awake. Rocking the chair back and forth, wandering around the lower level of the house, etc.. Eventually though he crashes. Generally, he does that for about 30 minutes. I let him do whatever he is doing as long as it does not detract from falling asleep. If he wants to rock the chair fine. But if he starts getting wild and trying to make a game out of it, I stop him and verbally tell him it's time for a nap. That's about the only time I talk to him. I read a book while I wait for him to fall asleep. It sounds kind of callous but I think it is appropriate because I want him to fall asleep on his own and I think me giving him attention reinforces his desire to stay awake. I am still in the room and with him and if he intentionally seeks me out for attention then I hold him or rock him. (But he rarely does that because he knows it will make him fall asleep.) If he starts crying, I may go to him if I think he needs the positive attention. But if it looks like he's just crying because he didn't get his way or because I told him no, I just ignore it. Usually, the tears are because he's tired and he usually falls asleep within minutes of those kind of tears. I think his unwillingness to immediately lay down is just part of being two and a half. My desire is for him to sleep; I don't really care where he does it or what he has to do to get himself ready for sleep.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What's Worked For Us

So many of you who read this are families in the process of adopting. I know that while I was waiting I was eager for families who had their kids home to share about things they did that worked (or didn't work). Not because all situations are the same but because I really believe in having a tool box full of tricks that you can use if needed. So while I won't pretend that we have have it all together (or even that we know what we're doing), I will share with you some of the things that have worked for us as we have transitioned Kenson into our home.

I would say we generally parent from a perspective that believes the following about discipline and children:
-discipline is not the same as punishment
-discipline is an opportunity for learning and it may involve consequences
-discipline really should occur ever day, not in a punitive way but in a teaching way
-often the natural consequences of behavior are enough to reinforce or change behavior; if they are not, parents have a duty to creatively match positive and negative consequences to behavior
-children learn God's character by what they see modeled in their parents
-common sense goes a long way
-parent in ways that you want to be parenting in five years from now

We also are trying to parent with Gal. 5:22-23 as a core verse for our family. We believe that by using the Fruit of the Spirit as we parent it will anchor our family in what God desires for us.

Welcome to our home...

ringworm, giardia, anemia, and a sinus infection! Poor Kenson; that's the doctor's diagnosis. He has like 4 prescriptions he is taking. The giardia is an internal parasite that can cause really bad smelling pooh and diarrhea. Lucky for Kenson the medicine he takes for the anemia can cause blackish, tar like pooh and constipation. How wonderful that the symptoms of one can be treated by the side effects of another. (Just kidding!) All in all, we should have some really interesting diapers in the next few weeks. (I'll spare you all the photographic details!)

Seriously, we hope we get all of it cleared up quickly. Ringworm is supposed to take quite a while to treat, especially when it's on the scalp like Kenson's is. It does make you wonder though when the last time was some of these kids actually felt 100% healthy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Haiti January 2009-Back in the US

Saturday meant leaving Haiti and heading to Miami. We decided when we booked our tickets to not head back in one day. It's doable but you have to make two connecting flights and you get into Omaha really late at night. So we overnighted at the Airport Hotel in Miami. (Convenient but I personally felt way overpriced. We stayed in much nicer places for much less. The bathroom was a bit uhh and we only got two towels in our room. Just kind of blaise.) The hotel did get to be the site of Kenson's first major melt down and we weren't asked to leave despite the 30 minutes or so of blood curdling screaming and crying so perhaps I shouldn't judge it so harshly. Sunday was our heading home day. On all the flights, Kenson did wonderfully. His ears didn't bother him. He played with the Magna Doodle, enjoyed his snacks, and slept.

Several people met us at the airport. My parents, my brother, my grandma, and my cousin, Alissa, were there. Our small group from church also came to see us. Kenson clammed right up as one might expect. Thankfully, he handled the car seat well and survived the fairly lengthly drive to our house with no tears. My family stopped back at our house before they headed out. Again, Kenson was totally shell shocked. We knew that he would be. But we intentionally wanted his homecoming to be a joyful celebration, a time that would be marked with pictures and family and friends. I pray he will remember or be reminded by the pictures of how excited people were to see him and how many people said things like "We've prayed for you for a long time."

And that is that. Our little girl is still in Haiti. Kenson's birth family is still in Haiti. Some wonderful ministries are still in Haiti. And we're here. May we keep connected to that place and be aware of God at work there.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Haiti Trip January 2009-Port Au Prince

We rode back to PAP with a driver from Haiti Children's Home. We had decided to eat lunch at Visa Lodge and then hire a driver to take us to For His Glory to pick up Kenson and then on to Eagle Supermarket where we met a missionary family who was hosting us for the night. That meant we had several connections we had to make on our own without any help from a specific organization. D was quite worried about it. He always feels like he is responsible for our safety when in Haiti and not having a set plan makes him a bit leary.

We initially tried to call the driver that we had planned to use but kept getting hung up on. So I asked the desk clerk if she knew of a driver who could take us. While she was working on that, the driver who we were originally going to hire called us back so we ended up going with him to pick up Kenson. We had the address of the orphanage and the name but those of you who have been to Haiti know that isn't always sufficient information. The driver wasn't sure of where we were going and as we were driving was telling us how the house numbers don't match up on the streets in Haiti. For example, number 34 is across the street from 89. "That is where the confusion is, " he said. Eventually, things started looking familar to us and we got to the right place. (We weren't really lost just not 100% sure of where we were going. Enough to make D a bit crazy but that's okay. He didn't have far to go to get there.)

At the orphanage, Kenson's birth mom was waiting for us. We asked her to wait while we unloaded some donations and ran and took pictures of the rest of the kids for the families who are still waiting. Then we came back to visit with her. When we came back, she was sitting on the wicker sofa, putting lipstick on. That might sound a little strange in a place like Haiti but it's really a sign of respect. She wanted to look her best for us, to impress us, if she could. We sat with her for an hour or so and then said we needed to go. We got in the van with Kenson and she stood next to the window and waved good bye to him. It all defies words. It is such a weirdly wonderful awkward thing.

Then we headed to Eagle Supermarket to make connections with a missionary family from my hometown who had volunteered to host us in their home for our last night in Haiti. Connections made, no problems. (One more worry to cross off D's list.) Our host family was wonderful. We got to enjoy a hot shower, an American meal, tv, and a comfortable cooled home. They also arranged a driver to take us to the airport the next morning. We got to have our own space but also be hosted and catered to in some ways. Very nice.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Haiti Trip January 2009-Haiti Children's Home

Things have been crazy here so I haven't really had time to process our time in Haiti. I always have a hard time sorting out my thoughts when we come back. It's such a foreign land in so many ways. There are things that amaze me about Haiti and things I despise about it. When we go, I am always reminded that God doesn't want me living there. This place I'm in right now is where I'm supposed to be. But Haiti and the people who live there rattle around in my head with a million thoughts. Writing about it seems to help with the rattling and emotions.

This time in Haiti I was ready to be done before it was time to be done. I think that was mostly due to the fact that while we were at Haiti Children' Home, we were dealing with the anticipation of picking up Kenson.

We spent 3 days with Conleigh before traveling into Port Au Prince to pick up Kenson. Our days at HCH with Conleigh were good. We were only there a short time so it didn't feel like we got much accomplished. It felt a bit like we were lacking a purpose because we knew our time was limited and not really good for accomplishing a big project. We did do a quick handprint heart craft with the big kids. And I sat in on school there for a short time to see if I could give Minnie, the teacher, any ideas.

Menu Planning Monday

Gingerbread Pancakes
Frozen Fruit

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
Jello salad with fruit and marshmallows
Baked potatoes

BBQ Chicken Tortilla Wraps (Using leftover BBQ chicken)
Lettuce salad
Fresh fruit

Chicken Boullion Noodles (Boil egg noodles until soft. Toss with butter and a few boullion cubes that have been crushed. Add warmed vegetables of your choosing and sliced almonds.)

Glazed Chicken Strips (Grill chicken tenderloin pieces. Then toss in a mixture of soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup and water. Place on baking sheet and cook for a few minutes longer, until glaze is set.)
Quick Curried Rice Dish (Cook 1 cup brown rice in boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain. Melt 1/2 stick butter. Add 1/2 cup finely broken thin spaghetti, chopped almonds, raisins, curry powder, salt and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes. Stir in rice and green onions.)
California Blend Veggies

Baked Potatoes with toppings
Fresh fruit

Friday, February 6, 2009


When people find out you're adopting, you can sometimes find yourself in interesting conversations. One of the topics that has come up between us and others is the uncertainty that adoption brings. For some reason, having bio children provides some people with a sense of certainty and control. As in thinking "Adoption is risky. You don't know what bad habits a child may have. You may not know about a child's health. What if they are behavior problems and wreck your family?" Truth be told, having bio children does not guarantee freedom from bad behavior, poor health, or family wrecking antics. So yes, adoption does hold some surprises but so does having bio kids. In reality, our kids don't belong to us anyway. They're God's. It is He who has established their ways and He who rights the wrongs or fixes their lives. It is not all about our wonderful planning or preventative measures.

In a similar vein, we have had some surprises in our first few weeks together. Some are sad and serious; some are funny and silly. Most have been the latter. Here's a sampling.

-Kenson has done very well with books and reading stories. He will sit and listen to us read to him. I am amazed. I assumed he would not as his experience with stories and books is probably limited. But apparently, it is more than I thought.

-Kenson found the riding hippo that we have and promptly climbed on and started scooting and moving it by using his feet and legs. His orphanage is not a wonderland of toys by any means and there have been times where this lack of toys has been a criticism. However, Kenson had to have learned that there so at some point in time, he had access to riding toys.

-Kenson loves to kiss-ANYTHING! Mama and Papa, the tv, pictures of people, the magnetic letters on my fridge. Hopefully he won't turn into a kissing bandit at school. In the words of one such kissing bandit at our elementary-"No kissy girls! Kissy girls bad! Go to office!" (He's Vietnamese and learning English so if you could just hear him say it once it would be forever stuck in your head.)

-Um, does ringworm count as a surprise? I'm about 95% sure that both Kenson and I have it. We haven't been to the doctor yet but it just seems suspiciously like ringworm.

-The crazyness of having to travel and then spend two nights at D's grandma's house this week were real surprises in my "attachment plans." But things went as well as could be expected. One slightly major crying fit and a few minor ones but we survived intact. And then we spent last night watching Kenson be totally out of schedule due to no nap and late night traveling. What a hoot! Even when we visited him when he was little, he was the kind of kid who got crazier and louder the more tired he was. Last night was no exception. D and I knew it would be a wacky night so we just let him stay up and crawl into bed with us around 9:00 or so. And then we watched, and laughed, and laughed some more. What a goofball!

-And from Kenson's view point...I am totally surprised that cars have wheels. I can't help but touch them when we walk by. And did you know that when you walk outside in the sun, there is a black shape of you on the sidewalk? I heard it's called your shadow. Cats and dogs both will chase balls. And leaves scurry across the sidewalk when it's windy. Walking on cement feels different than walking on grass and windows and mirrors all show pictures of me. And best of all, when I leave my house, once we come back, it's all the same. My toys are still there, my bed is still there, even my mom and dad are still there. What a wonderful surprise!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Missing Marion

A littly bit of crusty old man mixed with with a hearty laugh and an impish smile
Independent, self determined, hard working
Silently proud of his family
Time worn face, wrinkles and deep creases
Seafoamy, pastel-ish, olive green work uniform,
Reliable clothing, reliable man

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Funny things about the days

Someone recently posted on her blog about find joy in her circumstances which were less than stellar. My circumstances right now are a wonderful mix of the new and the different and are full of emotion. Adjusting to a new family member wears you out in so many ways. I thrive on routine and normalcy and right now, we don't have either of those things down quite yet. (We're getting closer though.) And I don't want to miss the joy in these moments because I'm tired or worried about different things. I know that if I do that, I will look back and be regretful for joy that was lost. So I have tried to be very deliberate in our first days together to find joy. Not because I am unhappy but because I know how easily your joy can slip away as days run together. Also, given the circumstances with D's family, life is even more chaotic and unplanned. So here are some bits of joy from my days:

-I actually started talking to the dogs in Creole. So many of the things I tell them are the same things I tell Kenson, like sit and wait. So today I caught myself telling them "Sheeta" and "Tahn."
-I really wonder what Kenson thinks about the tv. Does he think it's real? He thinks it's fun to clap with people on tv. He's enjoyed being in the audience both on Wheel of Fortune and the NE/Kansas basketball game.
-Kenson was on a huge kissing kick Wednesday. He kissed the tv, the photos I have on my fridge, andMama and Papa!
-My husband is amazing. I went to bed the other day at 8 p.m.. When I came down the next morning, he had found my to do list and done several things on it. (Without me even asking!) He is so wonderful with Kenson and loves to interact with him. From playing hide and seek from behind the couch to kicking the soccer ball to reading stories, he is a true blessing as a dad.
-An Asian beetle found its way into our house and D thought he would point it out to Kenson. He thought Kenson would be really interested in watching the beetle crawl along. Instead, Kenson grabbed the toy he had and promptly smashed it.
-I have a 3 foot tall stuffed snowman that stands in the living room. Kenson isn't quite sure if it's alive or not. He has spent two days being very careful when he goes by it. He will stop and look at it, then touch it and jump back as if he expects it to move.
-Kenson loves to play a tickling game with D where D chases him with pinching fingers. Kenson always runs to Mama for "help." Nothing sweeter than a kiddo throwing themselves into your arms.
-Every day has been full of deep belly laughs over some new encounter Kenson has had or some new thing he has done.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Menu Planning Monday

I've been on a bit of a hiatus with our holiday traveling, traveling to Haiti, bringing Kenson home, etc.. But I think I'm getting back into the swing of things now. D is home during the day for a few more weeks so I need to plan lunches for us all too. (Usually I don't do lunches because it's just leftovers or something quick.)

With Kenson, the foods we eat are generally new to him. I try to fix him a plate of what we are having. If he doesn't like the main parts of what we are eating, he loves peanut butter sandwiches so he can always have that. Or I have rice in the freezer that I thaw out and mix with either refried beans or tuna fish. He's not thrilled about vegetables yet but really likes pureed fruits. We'll just keep offering vegetables. I've tried offering pureed veggies but he refuses those.

Anyway, here's what we are eating this week and maybe next, depending on our travel schedule. I've also got a few freezer meals and quick fix things so we should be good to go.

Crock Pot Roast (I often add a can of beef broth and a package of Italian salad dressing mix.)
Hot Crash Potatoes
Mixed Vegetables

Creamed Beef and Biscuits (I'll add the mixed vegetables to the leftover beef and broth, then thicken it with cornstarch. Then into a baking dish and top it with biscuit dough dollops ala Bisquick. Bake and it's done!)

Peanut Butter Pancakes (I love flavored pancakes. These are awesome with maple syrup.)
Frozen fruit

Taco Burgers (I'm going to use this recipe as a guideline but I'm not going to follow it all the way. I'm also going to add Monteray Jack Cheese.)
Apples or oranges
Carrots and celery

Stromboli (using pepperoni instead of ground beef)
Apples or oranges

Pasta with sauce
California Blend veggies