National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month.

I’ve been wanting to write a post all month.  I wanted to encourage people to consider older child adoption.  I wanted to tell you that this is the greatest need, whether you are considering domestic or international adoption.  I wanted to tell you about the fabulous kids I met in Ethiopia who need someone to call mom and dad.  I wanted to tell you that even if you don’t get to be there for the first steps or the first tooth, you’ll still have so many firsts that you can’t count them.  I wanted to tell you that it’s fascinating to watch a child learn a new language and culture, while sharing with you his past.  I wanted to do all of that.  But the month has slipped away, and in the end I’m not sure I want to encourage older child adoption.  It would be irresponsible of me to encourage everyone to consider it, when I know that not everyone can handle it.

So, in case you are considering older child adoption, let me attempt to give you a balanced view.

There are some fabulous things about adopting an older child.  Seeing them learn a new language is fascinating.  You don’t have to deal with diapers and strollers and sippy cups.  You get the joy of discovering someone that already has likes, dislikes and interests.  You get someone that has some degree of independence (or at least who can get himself a glass of water).  You can go places and do things that are designed for slightly older kids.  You can show them Shrek and Star Wars right away.

But there is a price.  I knew going into adoption that there would be a lot of things that I would never know about my kids’ past.  And I thought I would be okay with that.  But the reality is that every time I see Ayub go into a tantrum, I wonder what happened in his past that relates to the current situation.  It is so hard to identify the triggers when you weren’t there for the initial events.  And when I say tantrum, I mean it.  Not a whiny, I’m kinda mad, American kid tantrum, but an all-out, heaving, sobbing, yelling, pinching, kicking, spitting, biting, foaming at the mouth kind of tantrum.  (In all fairness, we haven’t seen this in a long time, but they will never be erased from my memory.)  And there are still tantrums today, although less severe.  And there is unexplained sadness.

Parenting a child like this is both rewarding and exhausting.   There are some days where I see such amazing growth, both physical and emotional.  And then other days I wonder if we will ever be able to let our guard down.  I long to relax and enjoy our time together instead of constantly being in survival mode.  There are glimpses of it.  I see it every now and then and so I think it will happen some day.  But for now, be warned, parenting an older adoptee is not for everyone.  Some days, I’m not even sure it’s right for me.

 

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What I’m Thankful For

I haven’t been doing the facebook thing of listing one thing a day, so I thought I’d share what I’m thankful for in a longer post.

  1. I’m thankful that our whole family is together this Thanksgiving.  Last year, we had received our referral, but hadn’t met Ayub and Lucy yet when Thanksgiving rolled around.  It made it hard to be thankful for much.  I really wasn’t even in the spirit.  Then we travelled at the beginning of December, met the kids, and left them behind, which made Christmas pretty crappy.  I was not in the holiday mood.  I didn’t want to buy presents for anyone, since I couldn’t give presents to the two little people who I most wanted to lavish with presents.  I was a grinch.  This year, I can tell that things are already going to be better.  I’m happily making a list and checking it twice, listening to Christmas carols, taking photos for our Christmas cards, and getting ready to deck the halls.  I feel so much more festive.
  2. I’m thankful that I got the kids I got.  When you’re in the adoption process, it’s a strange thing to see waiting kids or  kids that are referred to other families and think “those could have been my kids.”  But now that Ayub and Lucy are here, I feel like they are the only kids who would have been “right” for our family.
  3. I’m thankful this year is coming to an end.  While it has obviously been a year filled with joy (see #1 above), it has been the hardest year ever.  I knew going into this that the first six months would be hard.  But I had no idea how hard.  This journey has been incredible, but it’s one that has taken all I have, both emotionally and physically.  It is hard to parent an older child.  It is hard to provide attachment for a baby.  It is hard meeting the needs of four kids at once.  I’m glad we’ve finally reached a place where things are becoming more manageable.
  4. I’m thankful for the family and friends who have stood by us.  We have sometimes been bad friends in the past year.  We’re never free to go anywhere, do anything, or help anyone else out.  That’s why I’m so glad that some of our friends have helped us unconditionally and remained friends even when times were tough.  I have fewer friends this year than I did at this time last year, but I know they are true friends, willing to take the good with the bad.  Along these lines, I’m also thankful for my online friends.  I used to laugh at people who said they were “friends” with someone they had never met.  But I know now that having a common experience can sometimes outweigh seeing each other in real life.  Thanks to all of you who have given me advice and encouragement – it takes a village.
  5. I’m glad that I’ve been able to stay home from work this year.  I recognize that I complain about the loneliness of it sometimes, but I’m thankful it was a decision that our family COULD make, as I know many don’t have the option.
  6. And, I’m thankful for a million little things: baby food in squeeze pouches, the express lane at Publix, the patience of a certain Kindergarten teacher, the fact that our sewer problem was caused by the city and they have to pay, a van big enough to have homework center during swim practice, and Costco dinner rolls that fooled an Ethiopian into thinking it was dabo.  Life is good.

Now enjoy your pumpkin pie!

I did a DYI…no kidding!

I’m not the handiest person around.  Andrew is less handy than me.  So when either of us accomplishes anything DIY, it’s a major event.

This weekend, I decided I wanted a photography backdrop.  They cost $150-200.  But every time I look at one, I think, “I could make that.”  So, this weekend I found some online instructions here and built one myself.

I spent $30 on supplies at Home Depot, including a hack saw, which I bought even though I think we already had one, but I was too lazy to clean out the garage looking for it.

I cut the pieces to size in our living room, since it was cold outside.

I had a little help with assembly, which can be done while watching TV.

And after hanging a sheet with the clamps, here is what you get.  (Yea, maybe should have ironed…will do that in future.)

Although it was difficult to explain to Lucy that the sheet was not for laying on.

I can’t wait to use it for a newborn shoot I have coming up this week.  Stay tuned to see the results.

 

Another Free Toy

I’m at it again…recycling things to give Lucy something to play with.  I started saving the lids from the baby food squeeze pouches so that I could use them to work with Ayub on his colors.

We’ve done some sorting and some patterns with him, but he wasn’t really all that impressed.  Of course, we also always have on hand an empty baby wipes container.  I don’t particularly like Huggies brand wipes, but I do like the opening in their container.

I poured out the lids, opened the wipes container and let Lucy stick them in the hole.  If I had to describe Lucy’s favorite activity, I’d have to say “putting things into other things,” so she loved this.

She filled the container twice before she wanted to move on to something else.    I named the colors for her and I counted as she put them in.

Then she enjoyed sticking the lids on the end of her fingers and thumbs.  They are a pretty good fit.

I do need to warn you, though, that these lids could be considered a choking hazard, so please watch your child carefully if you do this activity.

Overall, this was a pretty short-lived activity.  I tried again the next day, but she’d pretty much lost interest.  Maybe her days of putting things into other things are almost over, but no loss since there was no financial investment. Although it didn’t have the staying the power of the pom-pom container, it was a win in my book.

Park Math – App Review

I had a request for a good math app, so this week I’m reviewing Park Math.  We have the HD version for iPad.

 

I really like this one, although it’s very simple.  There is a blue bear who walks you through the park, doing different math activities at each stop.

  • On the swings, the bear counts the number of times a rabbit swings.  (This one is kind of boring, but good for learners who need to hear counting out loud.)
  • On the slide, the bear asks for simple addition.  Since the ducks are all lined up, it’s easy for the player to count them all and get the correct answer.  Or, if they want to actually have the ducks climb up, the can touch the ducks and the numbers at the top actually change so they can see the right answer.  This made it easier for Ayub, since he could count, but not recognize the numbers to get the correct answer.

  • On the seesaw, the learner has to put the same number of mice on each end to balance.  I thought this would be too easy for Ayub, but he actually struggles with it occasionally, mainly because he just starts moving the mice around before he thinks about it.
  • The apple tree asks for basic subtraction by asking how many apples will remain if a certain number fall.  Again, the child can knock off the fallen apples and count the remaining ones.  It even changes the apples so they can tell which ones they’ve already counted.
  • There is sorting on a park bench where kids have to put the dogs in order from small to large.
  • In the sand box, there is a pattern which the learner has to complete.
  • And finally, there is a picnic blanket where the kid has to feed the hippo the correct number of healthy foods.

There are three levels of difficulty, so it can grow with a child.  The description says the three levels correspond to preschool, Kindergarten, and first grade, but we’re still on level one, and it is the same level of addition he’s doing in school.  The graphics are bright and cute.  The game is pretty easy to navigate – even Lucy has played this before.  The instrumental music is tolerable, although anything repeated for more than a few minutes tends to grate on my nerves.  I will admit, this game doesn’t hold Ayub’s attention for as long as some others, but I think that may be because he really has to think on this one.  He has only just recently started playing this, so I’m not sure if he will outgrow it quickly.  It seems like some of the games could get a little repetitive.  For $1.99, I’d say go ahead and give it a try.

 

 

 

No School

What do you do when you have a day off school?

Dig up the front yard.

Only to find that the city drilled an electrical line right through your plumbing.  Bright side…they get to reimburse us for the digging!

You’ve got to scratch your head about how someone let that happen.

And then, because it’s been such a dude kind of day, we should blow something up.  Hey, wait…Ayub hasn’t tried Mentos in Diet Coke.

I’m posting this now…before things get more out of hand around here.

 

 

 

 

Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus

When Ayub came home from Ethiopia, he was missing three teeth on the bottom.  He can only tell us what happened to one of them.  He says that he fell down, got hurt, and his birth father pulled out his tooth and threw it on the roof (an Ethiopian custom).  Well, yesterday, he lost his first tooth in America, leaving a HUGE gap.

Of course, our customs here are a little different, so instead of throwing it on the roof, the tooth fairy came to visit.  She left two dollars.  He was very excited and proud of his money and wanted to look at it and hold it.  I pointed to the picture of George Washington and asked if he knew who that was.  His response?  “Yea, that my first dad in Afar.”   That kid cracks me up.

This leads me to my next question, though.  We have been struggling for some time about what to say about Santa.  First, let me preface this by saying that Santa is one of my favorite things about being a parent.  I LOVE Santa.  That being said, I don’t want to permanently scar my kids, so we’ve been debating what we’ll tell Ayub about Santa and why he never visited Afar.  He’s seen the jolly, red-suited man in stores and books, and we’ve mentioned that Santa brings presents.  No matter what, we will obviously not dwell on the “Santa brings presents to GOOD little girls and boys” since I don’t want him to think that he was bad, or that all his friends were bad, or that Ethiopia was bad.  I’m thinking there is some way to work in the fact that Christmas is celebrated on a different day in Ethiopia, but haven’t quite nailed that one down yet.   I would love some advice from those of you who have adopted older kids about what you told them.

One Last Photo

So here’s the final photo from my Lifestyle Photography with Kids class:

I have loved being forced to get my camera out several times a week, with the intent of capturing our everyday lives.  I had gotten in a rut where I would dress everyone up and go somewhere pretty for formal photo shoots, but not take any pictures at home.  Or if I did, they were taken with my iPhone.  Since our really life is messy, not color coordinated, and with no flowers in the background, it has been good to focus on these kinds of pictures for a while.

For those who missed it, I took the course through Clickin Moms.  It is an awesome resource and I highly recommend it, even if you don’t take a class.  There is a mountain of information on the forums and blogs that will help you take better pictures of your kids.  If you have a fancy camera, but you’ve never taken it off the “Auto” setting, then you don’t know what you’re missing.  Click below for more info and if you join, look me up.

ClickinMoms.com

At Home

The question I get asked most often by my friends?  “How’s that Stay-At-Home-Mom thing going?”  I think there must be a pool about how long I’ll last before I go back to work! I wonder what the Vegas odds are saying.

My answer?  Some days are better than others.

I would like to say that I’ve fallen into a comfortable routine, but that hasn’t really happened.  It seems like there is always something that interrupts my version of a perfect day, whether it’s errands that can’t be put off, orthodontist appointments, field trips with the elementary kids, Halloween parties at school…well, you get the point.  I do love being home with Lucy, but I feel like I’m never really home with Lucy.

There are definitely some benefits to my current gig.  The first has to be the wardrobe.  I’ve been wearing the same two pairs of shorts in a rotation for many months now.  I have a collection of solid color T-shirts to match.  It’s a toss-up between flip flops and tennis shoes, but definitely no high heels.

I am also loving the fact that I can go shopping while everyone else is at work.  Tuesday mornings at 9:30…my new favorite time for grocery shopping.

The biggest problem lurking out there is that I don’t have any friends.  Wait…before you get offended and tell me that YOU are my friend, let me rephrase.  I don’t have anyone to talk to during the day who is in a similar phase of their life.  I have tried some mommy groups and story time at the library.  There are some nice people there, but let’s face it…most of them are in their 20s, with their first baby.  I’m in my 40s, with my 4th baby, have a kid in middle school, have been a working mom longer than a stay-at-home-mom, and have bi-racially adopted kids.  It’s kind of hard to find someone who has much in common with me.  I’ve had the conversations about formula, diaper coupons, and whether you should let your baby watch educational DVDs.  Been there, done that.   Now I need someone to talk to who understands what it’s like to have a middle school kid who desperately needs help with his science fair project while his younger brother needs a snack because he’s still terrified that he’s not going to get another meal, but you can’t put down the baby to help either of them because you’re still working on attachment.  Or how about someone who can explain to me how to help a Kindergartener with his homework when he barely speaks the language, which would be hard enough, but on top of that, you’re doing this homework in the back of a minivan parked at your daughter’s swim team practice and the baby is still attached to your chest.  So, yea…talking about the benefits of organic diaper rash cream isn’t really doing it for me.

So back to life as a SAHM.  It’s good, but not great.  I’m still learning how to do it.  I’m not sure I could go back to work right now – there are just too many things that would never get accomplished.  I don’t think I could make enough money to pay for Lucy’s day care plus pay for a cook, laundress, AND chauffeur.  So if you picked November, 2012 in the pool, sorry to disappoint, but you’re not going to win.

There’s An App For That

One of the things that Ayub loves is time with my iPad.  We have used it in a variety of ways since early on.

This was bedtime the first night Ayub was in our custody in Ethiopia. We read his bedtime story on the iPad. He learned to say “Hello, Everybody!” just like Grover.

Watching a movie during Sam’s baseball game…which allowed us to actually see the game.

Playing games while waiting for the doctor to take his mind off of the impending “ouch.”

Although it looks like we use it a lot, it is still a “special” thing that he doesn’t get to use all the time.  And since it is a good way to reach him, I’ve invested in quite a few educational apps.  I thought I’d share some of his favorites so that those of you coming home with older adopted kids might have an idea of what works and what’s a waste.  So, I’m going to try to review at least one educational app a week.  Not saying that I’ll be able to stick to that, but I’ll give it a shot.

First up…one of our favorites:

Dora ABCs Vol 1: Letters and Letter Sounds

Ayub knew Dora when he first arrived in the US…I’m guessing at one point they had seen the videos at Horizon House.  So, this was an instant hit and a good way to introduce him to the iPad touchscreen.  The app gives you a letter to draw and you trace it following the path of acorns.

This was great for Ayub, since his fine motor skills weren’t that great.  Holding a pencil was tough, but he could use his fingers to make letters here.  The program is fairly forgiving, so if he went outside the line a little, he could still be successful.  You can also choose uppercase, lowercase, or both.  Once you complete the letter, it gives you a “cloud” which is actually the shadow of something that begins with that letter.  You have to bounce acorns around the screen to complete the picture and guess what it is.  This is a nice change of pace from other programs where you only write or trace letters.  I think that is why he likes it better…in addition to tracing letters, you also get to play a little and guess what picture you are making.  We have tried other “writing” programs, but he always comes back to this one.  I’m not sure how much he relates the letters to the letter sounds, but I even without that piece I give it high marks for motor skills and letter recognition.

Dora ABCs Vol 1: Letters & Letter Sounds is currently $3.99.  Totally worth it.