Saturday, April 30, 2011

Microbraid Locs, Double French Braids

Usually with Conleigh's hair, it's just wash and go.  We either sweep the bangs off to one side with a barrette or put a headband on.  (Those are her two favorites.)  Every once in a while, I will do a "style" with it.  (It's actually a bit short and thin for a lot of styles.)  This time around, she picked double French braids.  We're still dealing with the thin section of hair above her left ear.  When I first put her microbraids in, I left out that section because it had a lot of breakage and was very thin.  Then 2-3 months ago, I decided it was looking better and started braiding it.  That was a mistake.  Conleigh still twists that section of her hair while sleeping or upset.  And trying to tighten it with a latch hook didn't work very well.  So I ended up cutting those braids off when I put in the French braids.  I wasn't sure how the French braids would work in the section where Conleigh cut her own hair but it ended up being alright.  We've got 4-5 braids that are too short to fit into the French braids but it is what it is.  ((Perhaps the best lesson to be learned about hair...don't stress because it's just hair.  Even if it doesn't look perfect.)  And interestingly enough, I actually had a tough time getting started on a French braid.  My fingers are apparently more used to cornrowing and palm/thumbs up braiding than I thought!  We're actually going on day 3 with the double French braids.  Still looks pretty good!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Matching Monday

Just thought I'd share a few kiddos today who are currently waiting in foster care in the U.S..  Most foster care based adoptions are very low cost (usually free except for travel costs and home study costs) and may include a monthly stipend to offset costs associated with counseling or medical expenses.  I'm not 100% sure what the policies are on reposting pictures of the kids I'm listing today are so I'm just going to do a link to the website with their photos. 

From Minnesota:  Stefon, 10 year old boy with a 3 year old sister, Delores, and a 2 year old brother, Jesse-Native American and Caucasian with no preference for Native American families listed in the description which can sometimes be an issue

From Texas:  12 year old Alyssa, Hispanic, diagnosed with Down's Syndrome, currently non verbal but has a killer smile

Looking for Easter

Yes, I have a few "just for Grandma" photos of Easter. 

Church Easter egg hunt

How to eat a giant chocolate bunny

One ear at a time, with a dog looking on to catch the crumbs

The carnage
And yes, my kids are cute and smiling and the photos contain the prerequisite Easter items like eggs and candy.  But realistically, my Easter this year felt nothing like what I wanted it to. 

At our house, Easter has a tendancy to get swept under the rug.  It comes about 2/3 of the way through soccer season, after about 5-6 weeks of my husband working 60-70 hour weeks.  So honestly, we often are just overjoyed at a four day weekend with no soccer game.  And so we get pretty focused on "me" instead of on anything spiritual. 

Because of the chaos surrounding the time of year, we also often find ourselves with no Easter plans until a few days before when it becomes apparent that we should probably get with the show so our kids will at least know that jelly beans are a traditional Easter candy and that hunting for eggs in the grass on some sunny but cold morning is somehow important.   We often find ourselves scurrying to buy an Easter present (nothing big) for each kid.  We almost never know where we will be celebrating the holiday.  And I have yet to actually dye Easter eggs at home with any child.

This year was no exception.  D's brother decided to fly back to Nebraska from Boise which was great.  That meant we actually decided a few weeks ago (as opposed to on the Friday before Easter) where we would spend the holidays.  However, due to the way things worked out, we continued the "do very little at home" to actually celebrate Easter.  Saturday morning,we attended our church's egg hunt and I pulled out some lame words on how we are so happy that Jesus didn't stay dead that we feel like celebrating.  (apparently with eggs and candy.)  Because of the way our plans worked, there wasn't an opportunity to go to church for either Good Friday or Easter Sunday.  And we spent crazy amounts of time in the car over the weekend with two four year olds which has it's moments of sheer craziness.  We ate lunch with D's grandma and his brother.  His grandma's health is declining so we try to take advantage of the time we have when we can visit with her.  However, this means that for Easter Sunday lunch we found ourselves at the Hyvee deli buying chicken and side dishes.  (Not exactly a traditional plan.)    We spent some time with Marie and then went to D's dad and step mom's for supper.  Non traditional meal (hotdogs and hamburgers) but more traditional activies of games and egg hunts.  Regardless, I'm glad we got to be all together with D's brother.

I've spent the weekend feeling rushed and unprepared for the actual meaning of Easter.  I've seen other people's Facebook posts with words like "He is risen.  He is risen indeed" and wished I felt more Easterish.  I listened to the radio and heard the D.J. say how after Good Friday services she felt heavy and weighed down and was so ready for Sunday when she knew Jesus would rise again.  And I was jealous that I didn't share that experience.   I watched my kids be appreciative of the gifts and treats they received but then saddened that the whole Easter story somehow was a pretty small part of the activities for them.  I guess in some ways it just feels like I am still looking for Easter.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cheaterpants Snickerdoodles

I usually try to make D's soccer boys cookies at least once during the season.  Seeing as their last regular season away game was tonight, today was the day to send cookies.  I made a couple of different bar cookies and then needed one more item to add to the boxes.  I knew D's friend, Jorge, would probably hound me later about Snickerdoodles because they are his favorite.  However, he doesn't realize how time consuming Snickerdoodles are to make.  By the time you roll each ball out and roll it in cinnamon sugar, it takes a while, especially if you are make multiple batches of cookies to feed high school boys.  I actually had found this cinnamon cookie recipe awhile ago and made it for the first time about a month ago.  D really liked them and I decided they were a pretty good stand in for a Snickerdoodle.  And much easier to make.  So there you go:  Cheaterpants Snickerdoodles.  Now hopefully Jorge agrees.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Normal Dinnertime Conversation, starring 2 children, a mom, and some pancakes

The Prelude,
Boy, while sitting at empty table:  "I am 16 gong on 17.  And you're a baby."  (As sung to "I am 16" from The Sound of Music)  Repeat multiple times.

Act 1, two children and a woman sitting at a dining table, eating pancakes, bacon, hashbrowns, and fruit

Mother:  Don't sit on your brother's feet.

Girl:  I wasn't.

Mother:  You were.  And Kenson, why are your feet stretched out towards your sister's chair instead of being flat on the floor?

Act 2, still at the dinner table

Boy:  I have to go potty!  (Yelled as if it were so important even the neighbors must hear it)

Mother:  Then go.

Cue sounds of flushing toilet, running water, and some random music from an electronic toy.

Mother:  Quit pusing the buttons on that toy and come finish your supper.

Boy:  Why?

Act 3, subtitled A Lesson in Table Manners, featuring boy, girl and mother at table

Girl attempts to eat hashbrowns with a fork.  Girl drops hashbrowns on her lap.

Mother:  When you eat with a fork, you need to TURN the fork so it fits in your mouth. 

Girl looks confused.

Mother:  Let me show you.

Mother scoops hashbrowns onto fork, demonstrates how to turn the fork so it is no longer sideways and will fit in girl's mouth.

Girl looks confused.

Mother demonstrates again.

Mother:  See you can't eat off of the fork when it is sideways.  It's too big for your mouth so you need to turn the fork so the points go into your mouth.

Girl continues to look confused but the hashbrowns are now finished so mother says no more.

Mother then notices boy licking his plate.

Mother:  We don't lick our plate.  Even if it has syrup on it and syrup is one of our favorite foods.

Boy stops licking.

Boy places one finger onto plate and into the remaining syrup.  Boy uses his finger to scrape off the last bit of syrup off of his plate.

Mother, shaking head:  We don't put our fingers in our syrup either.

Boy:  Okay.


Children push chairs away from the table and exit to place empty plates in the unseen sink.  Mother runs fingers through her hair.

Mother:  Why is there syrup in MY hair?

Fade to black

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Say what?

*Today, after some drama over not getting to eat breakfast (because she spilled hers after being told not to move her plate), little Miss Conleigh told me she didn't want to stay with Mama and Papa anymore, that she wanted to go back to Haiti.  That's not the first time she has said it nor will it probably be the last.  For me it's more about affirming in her that 1.  she is stuck with us and 2. that we can't just pack up and run away when you don't like the situation.  Anyway,as I gently reminded her of those things, I ended with "You can't just run away to Haiti when you don't like the consequences."  Which Kenson heard and then followed up with "But you can run away to Grandma's!"  Ahhhh, seriously!  Where do they come up with this stuff?

*Conleigh has had some interesting words regarding her current policy of "open mouth, insert thumb."  (It's not really a current thing; it's her signature move, since infancy.)  The first incident involves a para at school named Marisol.  It goes something like this said while shooting daggers with her eyes. "Marisol is not nice. " "She did this to my thumb." Followed by a demonstration of thumb sucking and someone pulling her thumb out of her mouth.  Then the next day when I asked her if she would share her thumb with me since it must be so yummy, she matter of factly told me to "use my own thumb."

*And perhaps the one that gets me the most...the blogger software which I use to write my blog has a stats component where you can see how it is that people find your blog.  Specifically, it tells you what keywords people put into a search engine like Google that result in a person finding your blog.  For some reason someone searched for the phrase "everytime this broad gets up it's a waste of time".  And he/she managed to find my blog with that phrase...  Perhaps I will just stay in bed tomorrow.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spiritual Brain Drain

It has just been one of those weeks where there just hasn't seemed to be much to say.  I went to a church retreat over the weekend and, for some reason, I have felt behind ever since.  I've just had one of those weeks where my brain is refusing to engage and I am feeling mentally sluggish.  Coherent thoughts (and writing) seem a long ways away. 

I've been working on doing the Maximize your Mornings Challenge from Inspired to action which basically asks you to get up for your kids not with them.  The general jist is to get up before everyone else so you can have some me time for Bible study, exercise, and organizing your day.  I have been doing better than I thought I would. Trust me when I say sleep is my dearest friend, and I would rather have a root canal than give up sleep.  Pre kids, I would often roll out of bed maybe 15 minutes before I needed to be up and head to work or class and not feel one iota of guilt.  I treasure and protect my sleep. 

But for some reason, this challenge spoke to me.  I think because on the days I don't work, when the kids are home, it often feels like I waste the whole morning.  We're up by 7:00 or 7:30 but by the time we get breakfast and I get two kids ready, it's 9.  If I exercise or do quiet time, it ends up closer to 10 before I'm ready to think about showering.  And we eat lunch close to 11 so then it feels like the day is half over.  I guess it was the thought that maybe I could gain an extra hour by getting up an hour earlier. 

At any rate, I've been batting about .500 with it.  (The getting up early part, that is.)  And when I have really been able to focus, the time has been sweet moments of solitude where I have been able to really think about spiritual things.  I've found myself having moments of reveling in worship songs, reading and pondering through spiritual words, and actually praying for all of the things on my prayer list. 

Compare that to trying to do quiet time when my kids are up. 

Where I start reading, go get someone more milk, sit down, go get someone else more milk, sit down, read for a moment, yell at someone to stop making gargling sounds with his milk, read for a moment, threaten a child with loss of life and limb if he doensn't stop gargling his milk, read for a moment, go in and give the evil eye to child gargling the milk, sit down, read for a moment, start to pray, then hear a loud "Mommmmm!" as someone has just spilled the milk, head into clean it up and completely forget to return to do the rest of my quiet time.

So it has been a blessing.  But lately this mental fogginess has made my morning time kind of hard, almost unproductive.  I just started a Facebook based Bible study with a random group of women, 2 of whom I know, a lot of whom I do not know.  (Such an interesting format, hence my need to mention it.)  We are studying One in a Million, which covers the Isrealites journey out of slavery and into the Promised Land.  So far it has specifically worked to challenge you to think about ways you live enslaved even though you have been delivered.  The last couple chapters after that, um, my brain turned to mush and I'm not sure I remember all that well.  (And I am a note taker, who takes note while I read but I seriously don't have a darn thing written down.)  So I guess that leaves me praying that my brain gets it figured out soon and that at some point in time my mind will quit zoning out while I'm trying to get something accomplished.  Interestingly enough, I came away from my church's women's retreat with one major thought in my brain:  that God does not love us and pursue us based on our ability to do things for Him or our ability to do Christianity just right.  Rather, He loves us just because and there is nothing He desire more than to spend intimate moments with us.  So I guess I am encouraged that even if my intimate moments are driven by a short circuiting brain, God still loves that I choose to bring my barely functioning mind into His presence.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How on earth?

Tonight, the kids and I went to an event held at a local college.  The Peking Acrobats performed amazing, death defying feats.  (Okay maybe not Evil Kneavil type death defying, but pretty amazing nonetheless.)  There was plate spinning and contortionism.   Lots of balancing in crazy positions and lots of balancing crazy things.  Like bowls.  And tables.  And people.  A sledgehammer was used to break bricks that were resting on a man's head.  Another man stacked seven chairs on top of each other and stood on top.  At one point, my friend, Jerri, who was sitting next to me said something about being quite interested to see what I might post on my blog about all of this, especially since she was sure my children would probably attempt some of what they had seen.  (Seeing as I just told Kenson not to throw bricks at his sister yesterday, the whole sledgehammer meets brick incident has me especially concerned.)

But actually this post isn't about the certain antics of my kids. 

Before my friend's words, I had actually already thought about a blog post.  It came on the heels of  "one of those moments." 

Let me explain. 

I think every parent has those moments when she looks at her child and is overwhelmingly thankful for that child's existence. 

For adoptive parents, I think those moments stretch even farther.

It's because there is this strange juxtaposition of being thankful for their existence and being overwhelmed by just how much had to happen for your child to be sitting right next to you. 

And tonight was one of those moments. 

As Conleigh sidled up next to me listening to live Asian music and watching this most unique display of human abilities, while I watched vivid colors flash by as the performers worked to engage the crowd, I was struck by just how far removed this experience was from the life she lived just a bit over 14 months ago.  How on earth did this little Haitian girl with a mischievious grin and eyes to match end up here, watching acrobats from China, sitting next her American mama?   How on earth indeed?  And oh how grateful I am that it's not so much about how on earth but rather about how in heaven that God orchestrated a plan to redeem her story, to allow us to be a part of that plan.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Link Love

From Inspired to Action, a post on putting aside some of the guilt by knowing what you as a mom enjoy doing with your kids and giving yourself permisison to not do EVERYTHING you think a good mom should do, "It is vital that we as moms know what we are good at and enjoy. Don’t feel pressured to be good at something just because other moms are or because someone says you “should.”

From Sally Clarkson, whose books The Ministry of Motherhood: Following Christ's Example in Reaching the Hearts of Our Children and The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child's Heart for Eternity, spoke volumes to me about what it looks like to be a godly mother,

"The laying down of our lives is not just about moving to the most impoverished country or preaching to thousands. But right in front of us, the child who would long to have our comforting touch and gentle voice of life-giving words, that he may imagine the voice and touch of God when He ponders faith as a young adult and chooses to believe because the reality of God was in his home.

The child who needs one more song to be comforted before sleeping, so that he might be able in adulthood to believe in a God who is patient and willing to answer prayer and hear our voice when we as his children cry out in faith.

The child who is lonely, confused, hormonal, who will feel the touch of God, the sacrifice of God as we give up the rights to our time and comfort to befriend and listen and show compassion and sympathy for what is on his heart.

Love is given through a candle lit and a special breakfast served one more time on Sunday before church as we open the gospel together, that the reality and beauty of God’s creativity is validated in how we live. It is shown with the sacrificial life of giving up what we wanted to do, or the job we hoped to have, in order to build a soul through the attention of ourselves. A looking into the eyes with true interest and compassion instead of looking at a screen while half-heartedly listening. These are the sacrifices of our love, the moment by moment giving up of ourselves, the constant, year end year out practice of worship as we serve those in our home in order to please His heart."

A post by one of my favorite Haitian bloggers, on working with women who live in poverty, specifically how preconceived ideas may not accurately protray reality.  Working to answer some of these questions:

"Why do they keep having babies?  Why don't they just stop having sex?  Why doesn't she protect herself/use birth control?  She made the choice.  It's her fault/problem/consequence."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Matching Mondays


For a while now, I've had a Matching Mondays button on the side of my blog.  I haven't done much with it, other than have it there for decoration.  But lately I've been feeling pressed to use it for what it was designed for:  to encourage people to consider adoption, specifically the adoption of waiting children who need to be matched with families.  I believe the idea originated here.  And I believe the idea wants to capitalize on the sheer number of people visiting blogs every day, believing that if those individuals who write shared about situations they were aware of, that perhaps matches could be made.

So I'm diving in.  I'm committing to share about waiting children, hoping that you will take the time to read their stories.  As much as it pains me to say it, the reality is if you are a child on a waiting list, there are not people lining up to adopt you.   You are probably a lot like Leanna, whom I wrote about yesterday, in that people are probably saying things like "I don't anticipate having a home for her anytime soon."  You may not have ever considered adoption before.  Maybe it's scary.  Maybe it seems impossible.  But maybe you are the "soon" for some waiting child. 

The first group of kiddos I'm sharing about are mostly from Kenson's orphanage and are listed on CCAI's waiting children's page.  It include R.F. (Ronaldo), the special needs infant whom D and I would most likely be considering if we were eligible to adopt from Haiti, and S.L.M (Samy Leo), another special needs toddler who has club feet.  There are also many older children including a set of triplet boys who hve been waiting since before Kenson came home.  And there are many younger children, less than age 2.  (And the photo on the side which changes often features a Haitian woman who happens to be one of our favorite nannies from Kenson's orphanage, Violet.  She is such a sweet lady, who is always smiling, always made an effort to talk to us, and told us every time we visited in very broken English that she loved us for loving Kenson.  Which now is making me teary to remember.) 

Are you the "soon"?

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Fork

Yesterday, I posted a bit about having two choices in front of us in regards to adoption.  I think what's so irritating is that I can go from 100% committed in one direction to being 100% committted the other direction in the span of a few days.  On Monday of last week, we were completely ready to do the foster care route.  I had even inquired about a few waiting children, just wanting to see if I could find out any more and get an idea of if what we were looking for was out there.  I contacted an agency to see about writing our homestudy and while talking with them, had the worker suggest their domestic adoption program.   I knew about their program but didn't think we qualified based on applying with them years ago and being told that without documented infertility our chances of being selected by their birth familie was very slim.  We were essentially discouraged from using them.  However, according to the worker I spoke with on Monday, they have since changed their policies.  So, after sharing that information with D, we talked and decided that perhaps that was the best choice for us, especially if we went thinking we would only pursue that option for a set number of months and if we weren't selected within that time frame, we'd reconsider what we were doing.  And then on Sunday, while driving to church, I remembered Leanna.  I had inquired about her a few weeks ago, thinking she probably had some medical special needs, and hoping that if I told a case worker that we had an old homestudy that they might give us more information on what those needs were.  The case worker confirmed medical needs but could not share anymore than that without a valid homestudy.  And then she emailed something to the effect of "When you get your homestudy done, please inquire again.  I do not anticipate having a home for Leanna any time soon."  It's those words "anytime soon" that are killing me.  No child should be in that category.  I know nothing about this child or whether our family could meet her needs.  But it certainly makes me want to know for certain that we couldn't. 

And that is what make the fork in the road hard.  If we decide to pursue a domestic infant adoption, the agency is very strict about their potential adoptive families being committed only to their agency.  As it stands right now, we could not inquire about Leanna (or other similar situations) and be on the domestic infant waiting list.  You cannot put your hat into multiple rings.  So that leaves us feeling like we have to commit one way or another.  Praying that perhaps there will be a way to be a part of a domestic adoption program and still be able to find out information on waiting children without formally committing to being considered as prospective adoptive parents...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Faith, Risk and Banana Peels

Robert Fulghum write that "Weddings are a lot like any other occasion in life.  Anything can happen.  The great banana peel of existence is always on the floor somewhere."  For some reason, that thought resonates with me, especially in regards to what "what's next?" question that is in our life right now.  I think we're finally feeling some sense of direction in what God might have for our family next terms of growing it.  But the thing is, whenever it comes time to make a definite decision, the imaginary banana peels of life start making appearances.

I think any leap of faith is like that, especially if you are someone who struggles with perfectionist, performance based thoughts.  Failure seems fatal.  Changing your mind mid stream seems like admitting defeat.  Investing money or time or energy into an unfruitful venture seems unwise. 

And with adoption, it is very easy to have a perfectionist, peformance based idea of success.  It is easy to think that success means you welcome a new child into your home instead of looking at an empty room, meant for a new child, who is not coming home.  It is easy to think that success means a seamless transition, where the new child fits perfectly into your family, where it is like he has always been there rather than looking at a child, feeling guilty for not loving him the way you think you should be loving, and wondering when it will stop feeling like glorified babysitting.  And it is easy to think that success means a life that looks the same as it did before adoption, before the need for medical doctors or psychologists.

For us, we are currently considering two avenues, all while trying to be open enough to changing those ideas if God would have us do something different.  Choice A  represents a domestic infant adoption through a very low cost agency in our state. (Which the cost factor is one of the reasons we would most likely not pursue a domestic adoption through any other agency.  Many domestic adoptions cost between $10, 000 to $30, 000 and that cost, for a number of reasons, just isn't where we are at right now.  I'm not knocking it for those who have done that option, just saying it's not for us, right now.)   Choice B represents an adoption from the foster care system, trying to be matched with a child aged birth to 3 who is currently waiting to be adopted.  (Birth is a bit of misnomer as a child often has to be in foster care a minimum of a year plus before they can be legally adopted.)  Since we are looking at a younger child, there is a high chance that this would be a medical special needs child.   If we end up going that route, the cost will be essentially free with the possiblity of stipends to cover medical costs.  

Of course, with each option, there are multiple opportunities to fail, multiple banana peels that might cause us to slip up. 

Choice A means putting your family out there and allowing a birth family to select you from a variety of other families.  What if we are not chosen?  How long do we wait before we say that program is not for us?  Can we really deal with an infant?  I'm not really a baby person; while I'm not anti baby, I'm not the person who gravitates towards every baby they see. 
Choice B is actually not a new choice to us.  We were trained and licensed as foster parents by our state department of health and human services for about 2 years.  At that time, we were hoping to adopt a child aged 0-5 who was already legally able to be adopted.  We received 3 calls for placements in that two year stretch:  one was regarding a pregnant teenager, one was regarding two sisters aged 3 and 5, and one was an emergency placement for a 6 year old girl which was straight up foster care with no real intention of it being an adoptive placement.  Obviously none of those were what we were looking for.  We also inquired about several children in different states but never had any of that amount to anything.  What we felt like when we decided to quit pursuing that option was that 1.  what we felt prepared to parent did not fit into the fos adopt mold and 2.  it was up to our local case worker to connect other social workers and advocate for our family as a potential placement and we honestly had no idea of if this was happening.  So with choice B comes the question of will we repeat that experience and spend our time and effort pursuing a child who just doesn't exist?  When you add in the elements of a child in foster care with medical needs, the banana peels just keep on coming.  What if the child has attachment issues?  What if we think we can handle the medical needs but the reality is more than what we anticipated?  Will we be able to successfully parent a child with attachment needs/medical needs?

I know what the Sunday school answer is.  And I know in a very broad sense what it is God wants from me.  But what gets harder is having to choose.  It's coming to the fork in the road, casting aside your doubt about that path ahead and setting out, knowing that you may end up walking back down the road you were on, retracing your steps and starting over because the choice was not right. 

And perhaps that's the heart of the issue:  I want to make the right choice.  But following God isn't about right choices.  It's more about finding a spot beside Him and trying to walk step by step with Him.  It's about believing that no matter the outcome, no matter if that first step takes you down a road that doesn't have the end result, that it is not a failure.  Faith is less about us and our ability to choose wisely.  It's not about the end results, success versus failure, or how smoothly it all runs.  It is instead about a wild and wooly ride, one that has us choosing to hold onto the coattails of our Father, clinging onto the fabric for dear life while wondering what on earth we have done but believing He has a purpose for all of it as we learn more and more about Who He is.