Progress

Sometimes I get bogged down in what isn’t going well.  Ayub is still a handful.  He’s still struggling in school.  He still has breakdowns and outbursts (although they are much less frequent and much shorter).  He still has trouble communicating at times.  He still has the energy of a Jack Russell Terrier on Mountain Dew.  He still gets dysregulated if things don’t go according to schedule.

But this weekend, we had a great day.  Sunday afternoon, we took all the kids to a college baseball game.  We are huge baseball fans and have had season tickets for several years.  We took the kids once, last spring, and it was a complete and utter disaster.  Therefore, we haven’t taken the whole family back since then.  But yesterday, we decided to give it another try.  We put Lucy down for an early nap, and then went to the game.  We took two cars, fully expecting that one of us would have to leave with the little kids.  But instead, they were great.  They had some snacks, watched the game (sort of), and crawled around the seats.  I was amazed.

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It lasted for more than two hours, then we had to leave to go to a friends’ going away party.  That’s right, after this first success, we decided we would take all the kids (minus Sam, who we dropped off at baseball practice) with us to the party.  There was a bouncy house, swing set, and lots of other kids.  Quite the overstimulating environment.  Yet, still, everyone did great.  So, being ones to push our luck, we decided to eat dinner out at a real restaurant, until Sam finished baseball practice.  And it was great.  With only minor electronic distraction, we were able to calmly wait until our food was delivered and eat without causing a huge scene.

To most of you, this would sound like a typical day.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  But to us, it was a huge milestone.  Doing THREE different things that we couldn’t have done a year ago was amazing.  It proved to me that we are getting there.  We are making progress.  And we will have a “normal” life once again.  It also showed me that I need to focus more on how far we’ve come than how far we have left to go.

Catching Up

I’ve fallen a little behind in updating the blog, so I’m making an effort this week to at least dump some photos.  With our Family Day, Ayub’s birthday, Easter, and Lucy’s birthday all in the space of five weeks, it has been a little crazy.  As soon as one party is over, I’m planning the next one.  So, without much description, here is a photo summary.

EASTER:

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DSC_4278 DSC_4284 DSC_4259AYUB’S BIRTHDAY PARTY:

Note: When you've just had skin cancer removed from your scalp, the pirate theme party provides and excellent cover.

Note: When you’ve just had skin cancer removed from your scalp, the pirate theme party provides and excellent cover.

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LUCY’S BIRTHDAY:

(Due to the gift of the water table, we had several wardrobe changes that day, but these were all taken on her birthday.)Add MediaDSC_5156DSC_5173 DSC_5183DSC_5223 DSC_5235DSC_5291 DSC_5314 copyDSC_5343 2DSC_5366 DSC_5372

 

And then, as if this weren’t enough, last weekend Eleanor and I drove four hours to see the Taylor Swift concert and spend some time with Uncle Josh and Uncle Dave.

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There.  Now I’m caught up.  And hopefully you understand why I may not have called you back or responded to your clever facebook post.  I’ve been a little busy.

She Flipped

Last week, we turned around Lucy’s car seat.  That’s a milestone, right?  In doing so, we did a little family reshuffle in the van, and took Ayub out of his five-point harness.  Anyway, this got me thinking that I’ve never done a post on car seats…the one thing I know the most about!  Jeez…where is my head sometimes.

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In my previous job, I got the opportunity to be trained as a Child Passenger Safety Technician. It’s a real thing and I have a certificate and everything.  These are the people who are trained to check your car seat at those safety check events.  Lots of them are law enforcement, fireman or EMS.  And me.  It was actually one of the things I love most about my job because I felt like it really made a difference.  Having now given you my credentials, I will share with you my thoughts on car seats, especially as it applies to newly adopted children.

1.  Yes, car seats are easier these days now that the LATCH system is required in all cars.  But that still doesn’t give you an excuse.  Read the installation manual that came with your seat AND read the relevant parts of your car’s owner manual.  I know…dry reading.  But both of these things have to work together to make sure you get the right fit for your seat.

2.  Don’t buy used car seats.  EVER.  You don’t know if they may have been in a crash that affected their safety.  Buy second hand clothes, shoes, books, room decor and strollers, but don’t skimp on the car seat.

3.  Keep your kid rear-facing until age two.  Yes, the recommendation used to be age one.  Now it’s age two.  Why do you think that is?  Because one-year-olds DIED forward facing too much.  I know you want to see their cute little faces, but don’t use that an excuse to turn them around when it’s not safe.  While we’re on this topic, you should also avoid those little mirror that let you see them while rear facing.  In a crash, they can become projectile objects and actually injure children.

4.  Keep your kid in a five-point harness as long as you can.  This means that when you buy a seat, make sure that it goes up to a decent height and weight.  As you read above, I just now let Ayub move from a five-point harness to a booster and he is SIX.  This is especially important for older adopted children.  Typically, they are smaller than their peers, so going by age isn’t appropriate.  And, they are not used to riding in cars and being belted in.  Therefore, for us, the five-point was an extra layer of “don’t get out of your seat.”  The five-point harness keeps them snug in a crash, and since many don’t have great muscle tone or weight, it is the safest option.  Yes, it is a little bit of a pain if your child is in school and your school has a drop-off lane with impatient people lining up behind you.  Ayub learned pretty quickly how to buckle his seat unassisted and in the mornings, I would just reach back and pop the buckle for him.  I’d rather inconvenience someone at drop off than risk my kids’ life.

5.  Keep your kid in a booster until approximately 4’9″, usually between ages 8 and 10, however this could be different if your child was malnourished and is small for his/her age.  If you think your child is ready for life without a booster, try this test.

As a CPS Tech, I’m not allowed to give specific recommendations of car seats.  But as a mom, I can tell you that my kids ride in a Diono Radian RXT.  We started using this seat when Eleanor was three and had gotten too tall for the seat we had.  After extensive research, I found this seat, which I love because it’s made of metal, not plastic and it holds kids from 5-120 pounds.  That’s right, you can use this from the time your child is born until they are tall enough to use a seat belt.  Yes, it is pricey.  But no more so than buying and infant seat, a car seat and a booster, which you will have to do as your kid grows.

There are a lot of things in my kids’ life that I can’t control.  They might ride their bike into a mailbox and break their arms, they might choke on a nickel, they might walk into a lifeguard stand and crack their head open (hmmmm…some of those examples sound familiar) and there is nothing I can do to prevent those things.  However, I DO have the ability to make sure they are as safe as possible when in the car with me.

What I Know About Runners

DSC_0096 Some of you may remember my brief running career.  While waiting for our kids to come home, I trained for and ran a half marathon with my husband.  He’s the runner in our family and has done several marathons and triathlons.  While I was losing my mind with waiting for a referral, I decided it would be a good idea for us to do a race together.  So we did.  It was my only race.  It turns out I hate running.  It’s a lot of work for me, and I don’t get a lot of fun out of it.  But, in my brief stint as a runner, here are some things I learned about runners:

  1. They are determined.  They run when it’s raining, when it’s snowing, when it’s uncomfortable, when it’s inconvenient.  Nothing stops them.
  2. Their minds are as strong as their bodies.  They study.  They eat the right things – carbs before runs and proteins while training.  They calculate everything…miles, speed, incline.  They time things.  They set goals.  They push themselves.
  3. They are a team.  Even though running is an individual sport, I’ve never seen more teamwork.  People genuinely want to help others do better.  When you see a marathon, there are always stories of someone helping someone else out.  When runners see others runners struggling, they shout words of encouragement.  I can’t tell you how many people along the half marathon route told me to keep going, not to give up.  (Yes, they could see I was about to die.)  And I can’t tell you what that does to you as a participant.  It’s like a jolt of energy right when you need it.

Knowing these things, I was incredibly saddened to hear what happened in Boston.  First elementary school kids.  Now marathon runners.  Who’s next?  Nursing homes?  Nuns? I better not have to see that Mr. Rogers quote again any time soon.  I don’t want to tell my kids to look for the helpers.  I want to tell them that they are safe. Boston, we’re thinking of you.  We are all your team now, and we’ll shout words of encouragement as you run past.

Those Curls! (And Free Giveaway)

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There is not a day that goes by that someone does not comment on how beautiful Lucy’s curls are.  I agree.  In adopting a daughter from Ethiopia, I was terrified about the hair.  And I feel like I won the lottery with this one!  (In many ways…not JUST the hair.)  I have gotten a few requests to share how we get her corkscrew curls, so here’s my best effort to explain it.

Disclaimer #1: I am not a hair professional.  I do not know anything about hair.  I didn’t know much about my own hair, and knew absolutely nothing about African-American hair until about a year ago.  What you will see here is the result of lots of trial and error.  If you want some helpful advice, tips, or styles, I strongly encourage you to visit Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care.  She knows a lot more than me and is WAAAAAY better at braiding.

Disclaimer #2: I don’t think this hairstyle will work on most African babies.  Lucy’s hair, while curly, is very fine (not course) and absorbs water very well.  Although her hair is drier than mine, it is not brittle and doesn’t break (much).  Sorry, but I can’t guarantee results on any other hair type.

Here is what we use:

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Here’s what we do:

  • Wash with Shea Moisture shampoo on Saturdays.
  • Co-wash (wash only using conditioner) with Shea Moisture conditioner every night.
  • Apply Shea Moisture Smoothie after conditioning every night and comb through the tangles.  (Yes, we comb out every night.  Only takes a few minutes.  See disclaimer #2.)
  • Sleep with a sleep cap.  (Visit Africa Sleeps – you’ll see Lucy modeling her cap on the home page!)

And here’s how we get those gorgeous curls:

Those Curls! from Kristin W on Vimeo.  Videography by Sam (who apologizes for the momentary thumb over the lens).

This process takes about 5-10 minutes in the morning, depending on how squirmy she is.  I consider that within the acceptable time frame of what I’m willing to spend on her hair.  As her hair gets longer, it may take longer, which may be a deal breaker for me.

Like I said, this routine is currently working for us, but it took a lot of trail and error to get to this point.  That’s where the giveaway comes in.  I have the following items in my “tried it and didn’t work for us” cabinet, which I will give away to one lucky 2 plus 2 reader.

DSC_4422All of these are at least half full, some were only used a few times.  To win, leave a comment about why you’d love to have all these products to try.  Leave your comment by Wednesday, April 10 at midnight.  Winner will be randomly selected on April 11.  This is a great way to get some really expensive products and not have to worry about whether you are wasting your money.

Queen of Fools

It’s been a pretty busy week around here.  Three holidays is a lot.   Three holidays?  Yes.  Ayub’s birthday.  Easter.  And…APRIL FOOL’S DAY.  Andrew and Sam have always been quite good at the pranks.  This year, I decided I’d step up my game a notch.  And I am AWESOME at this!

Trick #1:  I replaced the contents of the chip bags with matchstick carrots and glued them sealed again.  Packed in Sam and Eleanor’s lunches.  They were both quite upset with me, but especially Eleanor, since she was “really craving Cheetos.”

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Trick #2: I safety-pinned all of Sam’s underwear together so that when he took the pair on top, they all came out in one long chain.  This cracked him up.  So much so, that he walked naked into the kitchen to show everyone, which made it even more amusing.

Trick #3: I put a raisin into the toothpaste tube.  I really didn’t know who would end up getting this one, since most of the kids brush their teeth in our bathroom, for reasons passing my understanding.  Turns out it was Sam.  He spotted it before he squeezed it out on his toothbrush, so I was a little disappointed, but he was sufficiently grossed out anyway.

Trick #4:  Sam gets home from school at about 4:40.  We were all going to be out at various activities, so I knew he would be home alone.  I set every clock/device in our house to go off at 4:45.  There were eight all together.  This is a transcript of the voicemail I received at 4:46:

“What is going on?!?!  I’m in the middle of getting dressed.  I’m just…I’m half naked and every alarm clock in the house goes off.  Hope you can get back to me with an answer.  There goes another one…”

Yes.  I am quite pleased with myself.  And maybe I’ll get around to a post about Easter sometime, but frankly, it didn’t amuse me the way this did!

Look Who’s Six!

Our little guy turned six last week.  Last year, his birthday was very low key.  We had only been home from Ethiopia for a few weeks, and he was still shellshocked.  This year, he has been asking for 29 days if “today my birthday?”  I’ve heard that adopted kids sometime get sad or reflective around their birthdays, thinking possibly of their birth mothers.  Not ours.  I don’t know if he’s put together what a “birth” day is, he just knew there would be presents.

DSC_4080We let him open presents in the morning, which we have always done with our other kids.  He, however, was not pleased at having to go to school and leave the presents behind.  Now that I think about it…it seems like we could have totally averted that tantrum if we’d thought it through.  But, after school, all was well.  Ethiopian food for dinner (messir wat and shiro) and chocolate cake.

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(Note: that is neither a booger or  a drawn-on Hitler mustache.  He was swinging between two desks at school and fell on his nose, leaving a little scab above his lip.  Classic Ayub.)

So, here’s a run-down on Ayub at age 6:

Likes:  superheroes, monster trucks, hot dogs, TV, gymnastics, playgrounds, talking loud, singing along with the radio, school.

Dislikes:  getting dressed in the morning, homework, any kind of healthy protein, bedtime, school (yes, it’s on both lists).

Ayub is a funny kid.  He loves nothing more than to get a good laugh, and physical comedy is his specialty.  He loves playing with cars, and has recently started picking up a book and sitting down to “read” on his own.  He gets frustrated quickly, and is quick to blame others (“mommy, it your fault”) for anything.  But when he decides to give out some love, he gives it big, usually in the form of bear hugs which could knock over a grown elephant.  He is super-active, and goes full-speed all day, only to drop into bed and be asleep within seconds.

In some ways, it’s hard to believe he’s been with us for a whole year.  In other ways, it seems like forever.  And on his birthday, I’m reminded that he has only been with us for 17% of his life.  That’s really a very short period of time when you think about it.