Monday, October 31, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

That New Mom Smell

Three things happened last week that made me realize I've crossed the threshold from being a "starter Mom", to being a "real Mom".  What's a starter Mom you might ask?  A starter Mom is a new Mom, who still has most of her dignity.  Whose life hasn't quite been taken over yet.  This starter Mom phase can last anywhere from a few months to a few years.  But at some point, we all cross over and lose that new Mom smell.  We become quality pre-owned Mom's. 
 
I dont' know exactly when it happened to me.  But I suspect it was long before the events of this week.  Here's what opened my eyes: 
 
#1. I was driving into town alone and 20 minutes into the trip realized I was listening to the Letter Factory CD that was playing from when the kids were in the van last AND I was actually singing along.  "The A says ah, The A says ah, Every Letter Makes a Sound, the A says ah".  Now you're singing it in your head aren't you?  You're welcome.
 
 
#2. I realized I have absolutely no idea what the hot summer movies are this year or whose in them, but I know that Cars comes out this Friday, it's written on my calendar, and we've actually turned down adult gathering invites to keep our schedule clear for it.
 
 
#3. When Lucky was little, I made sure he looked seriously cute whenever we left the house.  Matching shirt and pants?  Check.  Clean face? Check.  Hair combed?  Check.  Complete adorableness?  Check.  When you're a new Mom, you love when you see people checking out your kid and smiling, like when you go through the checkout at Target and the cashier keeps smiling at him and telling you how adorable he is.  Total Mommy high...like baby-compliment meth.    Fast forward almost 4 years.  Checkout lane at Target.  Cashier keeps smiling at Lucky as we check out....I'm smiling thinking she must be lovin' on his cuteness, then I look at him...I mean really look at him.  Red kool-aid mustache, weird Alfalfa thing going on with his hair, stained t-shirt with the too-big bright orange shorts he insisted on putting on that morning and... wait for it.............black rubber rain boots.   

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Peck, Peck, Peck

A few years ago I found a sign at a craft store that said "Raising Kids is like Being Pecked to Death by Chickens".  At the time Lucky was just a baby (and hadn't started talking) so I failed to see the awesome truthfulness of the sign.  I didn't buy the sign and honestly never really thought about it again, until today.  See, over the last weeks Livvie's (Little Bits) language skills have exploded and suddenly I go to bed every night feeling as if MY head were going to explode from the sheer non-stop badgering of questions....ALL...DAY...LONG.  From sun up to sun down there is not a statement that comes out of my mouth that doesn't result in a "Why?" from Little Bits.
 
Lucky was always a very talkative, very inquisitive kid, but he also did a lot of quiet thinking too.  He could watch a TV show and stay relatively quiet, car rides were peppered with questions, but also had nice stretches of quiet time too, overall he was the perfect companion....chatty, but not a chatty Cathy (if you know what I mean).  And then there's Little Bits...who takes questions to a whole new level (a level I didn't even know existed).  Even watching cartoons is exhausting, 30 straight minutes of "what dat?", "who dat?", "why he doin?", "Mama, look dat!", "where he go?", "why he sad, happy, silly...?"   And the simplest tasks get turned into a interrogation:
 
Me: "Let's get your teeth brushed"
LB: "Why?"
Me: "Because we need to brush our teeth every day to keep them clean and healthy"
LB: "Why?" (peck, peck, peck)
Me: Because if we don't, the little pieces of food caught in our mouth will hurt our teeth"
LB: "Why?" (peck, peck, peck)
Me: "Because out teeth need to stay clean to stay strong and white and pretty."
LB: "Why?" (peck, peck, peck)
Me: "Because the dentist said so"
LB: "Why?" (peck, peck, peck)
Me: "Because they just do"
LB: "Why" (peck, peck, peck)
Me:  (Silent groan of frustration)...just because!!
 
And it's not just the "why's?"...it seems now her and Lucky are double-teaming me.
 
Lucky: "Look Mom cows!"
Me: "Yep, cows"
LB: "Cows eat mama?
Me: "Yep, cows eat out in the field"
Lucky: "What do they eat mama?"
Me: "Oh lots of stuff, hay, grass.."
Lucky: "What else?"
Me: "What do you mean?"
Lucky: "you said they eat lots of stuff, what else?"
LB: "What es mama??
Me: "I don't know, hay, grass, maybe special cow food (yes I am fully aware there is probably no such thing as special cow food, but I just want the questions to stop so I can listen to the radio).
Lucky: "What's special cow food?"
LB: "cow fod?"
Me: "I don't know...we'll ask your Dad when he gets home (this usually sidetracks Lucky and the subject gets dropped).
Lucky: silence for about 30 seconds...."what's special cow food again"?
peck, peck, peck...... 
 
Are there other Mom's out there who find them selves screaming silently in their head "for the love of all that's good and holy please stop talking for 5 minutes!!!!"  By the time Cale gets home at the end of the day I'm so desperate for peace and quiet that I have to fake "tummy trouble" at least 3 times a week and go and sit in the bathroom for 20 minutes.  Poor Cale must think I have IBS or some sort of weird tapeworm from China.  But it's not a tapeworm...it's the chickens....
 
 

Friday, May 20, 2011

What Mom's Really Think...

What Mom's say out loud versus what they think in their heads:
 
#1
Mother's Day and Birthdays
 
What we say:
"A macaroni necklace...it's beautiful!!!!
 
What we think:
When I told your Dad I wanted jewelry, this is not exactly what I meant.  And seriously, could you at least have used Fruit Loops so it would be edible?
 
 
 
#2
MOM...I pooped...come wipe my butt!!!
 
What we say:
"Be right there sweetie!"
 
What we think:
Seriously, you figured out how to use my iPhone when you were 2 years old and can work the TV and DVD player, but you can't figure out how to wipe your own butt?!
 
 
 
#3
Mama...why doesn't Livvie have a wiener and I do?
 
What we say:
"Because boys and girls are built differently.  Boys have a penis and girls have a vagina."
 
What we think:
Oh crap...please, please, please don't bring up this new fascination in public.  Especially at church or Sunday school.
 
 
 
#4
What we say:
"You are such a good dancer!"
 
What we think:
You are the worst dancer in the history of the world....let's hope you can impress girls with your witty sense of humor.
 
 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Polka

My husband is a dork. I know it and he knows it. He likes classic country music, still wants to wear stone-washed jeans, and likes to listen to Polka Jamboree on Sunday Mornings. If left on his own, he'd probably leave the house wearing Wrangler stone washed jeans(tapered at the ankles of course), a mock-turtle neck (no, not even a real turtle-neck, a "mock" one), and a 1985 Dale Earnhardt sweatshirt. I buy all his clothes in an attempt to make him presentable, but I gave up trying to "coolify" him a long, long time ago. A girl has to realize when she's fighting a losing battle.

My kids however are another story. They are a clean-slate to work with...and I am determined to lead them away from dorkdom. Come hell-or-highwater, they will be cool...cool I tell you!!!! And believe me, this is no easy feat considering Lucky is a fair-skinned red head with freckles and Livvie will be the only Asian in school. Put them together and they are quite a pair. But I knew I would prevail, with hard work, dedication, and many, many dollars spent on cool music and clothes, my kids would not end up like their Dad...and then it happened....Polka Jamboree.

Turns out both kids love polka. I give up...might as well just run their underwear up the flag pole now. Enjoy the attached video.
video

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Livvie's Reality

Last week was Livvie's 3rd birthday…her first birthday with us and her first birthday outside the orphanage walls.  It's only been two months, but sometimes I forget that she spent the first three years of her life in an orphanage.  But then something will happen that brings that reality to light.  Like when we gave her the first wrapped birthday gift to open, she didn't know how to do it.  Reality check:  This sweet little girl is 3 years old and has never been given a present to unwrap.  Really think about that….she's three and never had anyone give her a gift.  She shared clothes, shoes, underwear, food, and toys with hundreds of other children and never had anything to call her own.
 
That small reality check started my brain down the path to the reality of her first three years.  It's something I believe most adoptive parents don't really want to think about too much.  We want to close the door on that part of their life and move forward.  Mostly because when you really think about it…I mean really think about it, the sadness is overwhelming and crushing.  Because when you admit to yourself that this sweet, funny, innocent little girl never got a present, you also have to acknowledge all the other things she never got.  She never got tucked in with a hug and a kiss, she never had anyone tell her how beautiful she is, she never had anyone tell her how proud of her they are, she never had anyone to tell her it's okay when she woke up scared in the dark, she never had anyone clap when she took her first steps or say her first words, she never had anyone baby her when she was sick, she never had anyone take her shopping for a new dress or a new pair of shoes, she never got a bubble bath, she never had anyone whose face lit up when she walked in the room, she never had anyone tell her they would love her forever.  I think you get the point… 
 
So now that I've probably succeeded in making you cry (or at the very least, depressing the heck out of you), what's my point in this Debbie-Downer blog entry?  My point is that the universe gave these kids a really raw deal, and we shouldn't sit on our butts and shrug our shoulders.  Do something...anything.  Could you open your heart and family and adopt a child?  Could you foster a child?  No?  You can still help by donating to adoption charities like the Dave Thomas Foundation or Half the Sky (http://www.halfthesky.org/).  I read this quote on a fellow adoptive Mom's website and it's stuck with me everyday since:
 
"Sometimes I want to ask God why he allows poverty, suffering, and injustice in the world when he could do something about it, but I'm afraid he might ask me the same thing."
 
So anyway, we got off our butts and did something and I think these 2 pictures say it all....
 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Princess Lucky

This is what happens when the neighbors give you a trunk of dress up clothes and you turn your back for 5 minutes....
 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Turtle-ism's

Turtle whispering to Livvie while they were both on a time-out for hitting each other:
 
"You better be good or Mom is going to send us both back to China...you don't want that do you?"
 
How can you not laugh???
 
The picture is the mandatory hug I make them give each other when they fight. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Class

I love my family and my life, but every once and awhile I look around and say to myself, "what the hell happened?". I mean I used to have some sophistication and class in my life, where did it go? How did Pottery Barn and Martha Stewart get replaced with plastic sporks, Lightning McQueen dinnerware, and Winnie-the Pooh window cling-on's?

For those of you who don't have kids yet and have convinced yourself that it won't happen to you, BEWARE! It's happens slowly and stealthily. First it's that Dora cup that accidentally came home from Grandma's, then it's the Elmo plate that came with the DVD, then the "home-made" decorations from daycare, then it's the ugly screen-print Cookie Monster t-shirt (you don't know where it came from, but he insists on wearing it every day), and then BAM...one day you look around and your house (and kids) look like a white-trash rummage sale.

I know I'm fighting a losing battle, but here are 5 things that I consider small victories in getting some class back in my life:

#1. Enforcing the "Underwear is not optional at the dinner table rule". He can run around naked the other 99% of the time, but dang-it, our meals are going to be "wiener-free".

#2. The fact that both kids say "excuse me" after they fart. Yeah, they fart at the dinner table and at church, but at least they say excuse me. That's classy right?

#3. Buying .99 cent clear plastic, "faux-glass" cups at Wal-Mart for the kids and using them at meal-time to give me the illusion of matching dinnerware. Seriously, the cups actually make me happy...sad huh?

#4. Making them clean up ALL the toys in their bedrooms before bed and then making their beds every morning. At least for 5 minutes each morning, their rooms look cute and it makes it almost worth the hours and hours and hours I spent choosing furniture, coordinating bedding, decorating, and painting with faux-finishes. Because for every other waking hour of the day you would think their rooms had been decorated by monkeys on crack.

#5. .... Crap, I don't even have 5!! I need to go cry now.

We Be Jeepin'

Our wonderful neighbors Crystal and Jerry gave us Syd's old Barbie Jeep so Livvie would have a ride-on toy too.  The first day we had it out the kids spent over an hour riding around the back yard together laughing their heads off.  Lucky doesn't want anything to do with his tractor anymore since the Jeep is SO much cooler because it has 2 seats.
 
So from a Mom who got a ENTIRE hour to relax on the deck and read a book...thank you Crystal and Jerry...you're the BEST!!!

Random Cuteness

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Cheese Factor

I believe that boys are born with a microchip embedded in their brains that activates at age three and commands them to clench their teeth, squint their eyes, and yell "CHEESE" at the top of their lungs whenever a camera is present.  There is no other rational explanation for why every picture I have taken of Lucky over the last year looks like this....

Random Cuteness

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Turtle-ism's

At bedtime prayers:

Me: "Thank you Jesus for this fun day..."

Lucky: "Thank you Jesus for fun today..."

Me: "and thank you for Mama and Daddy..."

Lucky: "thank you Jesus for Mama and Daddy..."

Me: "and for Livvie.."

Lucky: "ummm mama....is it time to trade her in yet?"

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Great Turkey Fryer Incident of 2011


"Want To Make Your Own Maple Syrup? We Have The Supplies You Need!"

It all started with that innocent sign outside Hiller's Hardware Store. We drove past after Sunday School and suddenly Cale was turning around and we ended up in Hiller's parking lot.

Stef: "What do you need at Hiller's?"
Cale: "They have supplies to make our own maple syrup"
Stef: "Huh?"
Cale: "We can tap the Maple Trees in the yard and make our own syrup"
Stef: "Uh, we only have one Maple Tree"
Cale: "We can tap the neighbors trees too."

And before I knew it Cale was in and out carrying a bag of maple syrup making supplies.

Stef: "How much?"
Cale: "I bought 4 taps and some bags, it was only $30"

Let me say right now, I know nothing about making maple syrup, but I had a hunch you needed more than a small bag of taps and some plastic bags. We know a few people who make maple syrup and they have pretty extensive equipment for it. But I just nodded my head and smiled and waited to see how this would all play out.

So back to the story...
Day #1. Between our yard and the neighbors we had a total of 4 trees to tap.
Day #2. After work Cale and Lucky collected the sap and then encountered the first problem. The sap needs to be cooked down and we didn't have anything big enough to do it. So Cale ended up cooking it down using 2 different pots in multiple batches, one out on the grill and one on the stove in the house. Let's just say he was up late that night.
Fast forward to Day #4. Sick of using multiple pots and being up late Cale informs me he needs to buy a turkey fryer because then he can cook all the sap down in one batch.
Day #5. Cale comes home with a brand new turkey fryer from Wal-Mart. Only $40...a small price to pay for homemade maple syrup, right?

Now before I continue I need to explain something about Cale. Anyone who knows him knows he is very mechanical. He can fix pretty much anything....cars, motors, toys, lawn mowers, you name it, he can fix it. But he has no use for any safety equipment. If a piece of equipment, machinery, or tool has a safety feature, he will probably figure out a way to take it off or turn it off. Safety-Schmafte.

So back to Day #5. The new turkey fryer is out of box, assembled, and cooking down sap. Cale comes in the house and asks:

Cale: "Where's the duct tape?
Stef: "Why???"
Cale: "The stupid thing has a safety switch on the timer that automatically turns it off after 20 minutes if you don't manually reset the timer."
Stef: "So why do you need duct tape?"
Cale: "Because I'm going to tape the thing wide open so it can't shut off." Stef: "That doesn't sound like a good idea. What if you forget to check on it?" Cale: "I won't forget"
Stef: "But what if you do?"
Cale: "I won't, you worry too much"
Stef: "I'm stating for the record this is a bad idea"
Cale: laughs and heads outside with the duct-tape

Fast forward to 10:00pm that night. I'm in bed sleeping when Cale comes to bed:

Stef: "What's that smell?"
Cale: "I burned a hole in the stupid turkey fryer"
Stef: "WHAT!?"
Cale: "I fell asleep in Lucky's room after I read him a story and never checked on the sap. When I woke up and went outside there were flames shooting out of it and there was a hole burned through the bottom of the pot and all the sap is ruined."

Stef: (not successfully trying to hide laughter). Now what?
Cale: "We need a new turkey fryer."

So for those of you who are keeping track, check out my pic at the bottom of the page to see what $70 of maple syrup looks like.....

Sunday, March 27, 2011

World's Greatest Mom

I'm not the World's Greatest Mom...the closest I'll ever come to getting that title will probably be on a cheap, ceramic coffee cup once the kids are old enough to pick out their own Mother's Day gifts for me. But I do think I'm pretty good Mom...I try my best and I do okay. So far my kids are healthy, happy, and we're always able to find willing babysitters (which I think is a great indicator of how likable your kids really are). And since everyone has been asking me for more of my Top 5 lists, here is my Top 5 list of things that are okayed by the "World's Okayest Mom"

#1. It's okay to miss brushing your kids teeth every once and awhile. Because seriously, it's 7:55pm and a new episode of Modern Family starts in 5 minutes (and they're only baby teeth right?)

#2. It's okay to put your kids in the bathtub but forget to actually wash them up because you were checking emails on your laptop while they played in the water. Bubble bath counts as soap right?

#3. It's okay to justify to yourself that Kid Cuisine microwave meals have some nutritious value since they come with corn.

#4. It's okay to take your kids to McDonald's and only spend $1 on one hamburger for them to split because you're really only there to use the playland because you're going to go crazy if you have to spend one more day cooped up alone in the house with them. (It's also okay to go back up and ask for 2 free baby cones before you leave as long as you ask a different person than the one who gave you the funny look when you only ordered one hamburger for three people).

#5. It's okay to secretly judge other people's kids at the playland and wonder why on earth they would let them leave the house looking like that. You know the girl I'm talking about - the one wearing the ripped pink and purple sweatpants, red striped Thomas the Train shirt and two different color socks. (But then you see the Mom is wearing Spongebob pajama pants and a Bum sweatshirt and it all makes sense).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Snow Day Brawl

I have HATED being at home for the last 3 weeks. I thought this was going to be the best 12 weeks ever and it turned into me counting the days until I could go back to work.  I like to think of myself as a pretty competent, take-charge, can do-anything type of girl...but then why have I been letting two toddlers run my life?  Seriously, they have been kicking my ass.  The house is a disaster, I'm constantly refereeing fights, my patience is shot, we're always running late, not eating supper until after 6:00 each night, and I've turned into the type of Mom I've always hated...the yeller. 
 
I know a lot of people yell at their kids and if it works for you, great.  But for me, I hate it.  In my opinion, if you have to yell at your kids to get them to do something, it means you've totally lost control of them.  And since you can't yell in public, it means that you've got no way to control your kids where it counts...in front of other people.  I've spent the last three years trying to break Cale of the "yelling habit" with Lucky and now I've found myself going down the same path out of sheer frustration.  Well, in the timeless words of Twisted Sister "We're not gonna take it anymore".... More specifically, I'm not gonna take it anymore.  I decided on Sunday that it was time to take back control of this house and that started with two important things: 
 
#1: No more "Mom in the middle"
#2: Getting organized again
 
By no more "Mom in the middle" I mean that I'm done being a ref for their never-ending fights about toys, shovels, buckets, and whatever other random injustices they think they see.  From now on, they are on their own to duke it out.  I think it's a fair fight...they're both similar height, weight, and build...and what Livvie lacks in all three she makes up for in sheer determination.  (The pictures today may make it look like Lucky is winning, but at the end of the brawl, I think Livvie actually came out on top).  I also took another Blogger Mom's idea and started "toy time-outs".  This means if they are fighting over a toy and can't work it out, the toy gets a time out for the day.  The toy goes on top of the fridge and no-one gets to play with it.  At the rate we're going, the fridge is going to collapse from the weight of the toys. 
 
I also got back to the core of what makes me kick-ass - I got organized.  I started weekly meal-planning again, started getting breakfast ready the night before in tupperware containers, lining a week's worth of outfits (pants, shirts, socks, and undies) on the bottom shelf of each kids closet (so they can grab their own complete outfit in the morning), and putting the kids in charge of cleaning up all their own toys.
 
It's only been a few days but I feel like me again.  And more importantly, the inmates are no longer running the asylum.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Turtle-isms

At bedtime:
Me: Do you know why I love you?
Turtle: Why?
Me: Because you're sweet, funny, kind, smart, a awesome big brother, and
Turtle: And Crazy!
Me: Yep, you are kinda crazy too
Turtle: And I'm gonna give Livvie crazies like me!

 

To random stranger at McDonald's:
"This is my sister we bought in China".

Monday, March 21, 2011

1 Month




It's hard to believe that Livvie's been part of our family for a month today. In some ways it seems like yesterday and in other ways it seems like forever. It's amazing how quickly she's settling in and becoming comfortable with us. We're learning our first impressions of her were way off. The naughtiness and stubbornness in China must have been a type of coping mechanism, because that's just the opposite of her personality at home. She is actually very easy-going, playful, sweet, and funny. She is very, very attached to me, but is also slowly warming up to Cale. She LOVES to play outside ("out-tide") and LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to take baths. When the water turns on, she takes off running like a banshee, stripping off her clothes en-route yelling "tubby!-tubby!-tubby!". She also loves Penny and always needs to know where she is.

Lucky went back to Kelly's today and it's been nice being able to spend some one-on-one with Livvie and try to fit in some "learning time" with flashcards and workbooks. She understands at least 50%+ of what we say already, but the speech is not happening yet. I made a appointment for her with Early Intervention through the school district and they will evaluate her to see if she qualifies for speech, occupational, and physical therapy through the district. Based on what we're seeing now, she's definitely not going to be ready for 3K this Fall. Our plan is to keep her and Lucky at Kelly's and start them both in school the following year. Lucky already knows everything they teach in 4K, and he flourishes at Kelly's, so we're going to skip 4K with him and just start him in Kindergarten when he's 5.

Livvie is quite the little peanut and even 24 month pants are too long on her. Size wise I would compare her to a just 2 year old. But she does need 2T or even 3T shirts because of her Buddha belly. The girl loves to eat!

She had her first MD appointment last week and Dr. P gave her a clean bill of health. All her lab work came back with no issues, so at this point we have nothing to be concerned with. Next big appt will be at the dentist and I know she is not going to like that.

Blades Hockey 2023?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Play-Doh


I hate Play-Doh. It makes a mess on the floor, sticks in the carpet, smells really bad, and when you play with more than one color they get mushed up together and then you can't separate them and get them back into their respective containers (I'm obsessive compulsive people - I NEED things back in original containers or I can't sleep at night!). I didn't like it as a kid and I don't like it now.

That being said, I still let the kids play with Play-Doh every day. Why? Because it's the one thing they play with really well together and it keeps them occupied for an hour at a time. An hour of heaven for Mom.

Here are my observations on Play-Doh:

#1. It's okay to read a magazine while the kids play with Play-Doh. It's about creativity and imagination (and I'm trying to find a creative way to afford the pair of shoes on page 38).

#2. It's okay if your dear daughter likes to lick all the Play-Doh. Yeah it's gross and weird, but we all have our issues.

#3. It's okay to let the dog eat Play-Doh off the floor. Less for you to clean up and let's be honest, multi-colored turds in the snow ARE a little funny.

#4. It's okay to "accidentally" throw away the Play-Doh accessories that create way too much work for you. You know, the ones that never stay clamped together and your frustrated 3 year old brings it to you 50 times begging you to "make it work again" or the ones that have teeny-tiny little holes and the Play-Doh gets stuck inside and all crusty and you have to use a toothpick to try to clean it out.

#5. When your 3 year old asks about said accessory, it's okay to say "Hmmmmm, I don't know where that could be - check the tote again honey."

#6. It's okay that the only thing your dear son makes with Play-Doh is "turds". Big turds, little turds, spaghetti turds, and turds on a plate. He's a boy. And from what I've been told,boys think turds are cool. Who am I too judge?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is Love Enough?


About 5 minutes after you start looking into adoption, you start hearing about the worries of attachment. Attachment disorders, attachment issues, and the scariest of all...Reactive Attachment Disorder(RAD). Before you've even been matched with a child, your agency educates you about attachment, the adoption forums discuss it on a daily basis, your social worker advises reading books about it (and there are hundreds), you take online courses and tests to prove you "get it". But in reality, you think, "I don't need to worry about this stuff, everything will be fine".

Then you're matched with a beautiful little girl and that seed of uneasiness starts growing in your head, "what if she doesn't attach to us?", "what if she isn't capable of forming healthy relationships?", "what if she has issues?". But you push it away and focus on that one picture, that one with the smile, and you think "she's perfect, she's smiling, it's going to be fine".

Then you actually get to hold that little girl in your arms and be her Mom and that's when it becomes a reality. All that attachment stuff that you didn't want to put stock in becomes a reality. You start to analyze every single thing you do and every single move she makes. You become obsessed with all things "attachment". You scourer every attachment forum you can find, you talk with other adoptive Mom's, you worry every second about what might happen if she doesn't attach. But in reality, you're not sure what real attachment even looks like. You're not even enjoying your little girl because you're too busy worrying about "attachment".

All the experts say "love is not enough" when raising a adopted child who spent time in an orphanage. They say that because of the abandonment and lack of a maternal bond during the infant years, adopted children are actually hardwired differently than your biological children. Something about the brain and the cycle of needs and it causes a actual shift in brain chemistry. They give you lists of things to do, lists of things not to do, they warn of the long-term consequences of not doing it right, basically, they scare the poop out of you.

So that brings me to today, our family, our decisions, our Livvie.

The experts say your child should sleep with you for at least the first year to promote a bond. The experts have obviously never slept with a 2-year old who snores like a trucker and flops around like a fish all night. I would argue that a rested, happy Mom is much better for Livvie than a crabby, sleep deprived one who glares at her all night willing her to stop snoring so I can fall asleep. So as of last night, Livvie is sleeping in her own bed, in her own room. Does this mean she'll need therapy when she's 14? Maybe, or perhaps it means we're both getting a good nights sleep and waking up happier.

The experts say you need to give your new child everything they need and want, unconditionally. They also seems to frown upon any form of discipline (supposedly discipline is taken care of later, but no one really says when). Penny the Dog disagrees with this wholeheartedly after being clunked across the nose with a frying pan for the second time in one week. Granted, it was a toy frying pan, but I'm quite sure it still hurt because she is now hiding under the bed. The first time it happened, I was still in what I will call "attachment fog". I said "no-no Livvie", she laughed and that was the end of that. This time, I took the frying pan away and set her in the chair for a time out. Now, the experts are uniformly dead-set against time outs for adopted children. So have I traumatized her for life? Maybe, but my Mom instinct told me the kid needed a time out.

So...will Livvie have attachment issues as she grows up? She might. But I'm done revolving our life around what might be. Instead I'm going to live in the moment, enjoy the amazing little girl we were blessed with, and go back to what we believed when we started this process - "It's going to be fine".

Because I really do believe that love is enough.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dirty, Rotten Liars....

You know who you are. All you Mom’s that kept asking me: “When are you going to have another one?” To which I would always reply: “Oh-no, one is enough work for me!” And you know what the response always was? I know you do….”Oh - two is actually EASIER than one! They keep each other occupied”.

Now I’m a fairly educated person and I knew that statistically the math didn’t make sense on that one. If one kid kept me crazy busy every waking hour of the day, how could two kids possibly not create double craziness? But oh no, you all stuck to your story….”Two is easier than one”. Well I’m here to tell all you innocents out there that still have only one that they are all dirty rotten liars. Two is not only NOT easier than one, it’s MORE than double the work.

Do Lucky and Livvie play together and keep each other occupied? Yes, that is true. But it’s what they do to keep each other occupied that is the problem. In the time period of two short weeks I’ve learned that when two kids play together there is some unknown law of nature that compells them to use hurricane force strenght to demolish what ever room they are in or start an all out brawl over a toy that neither of them actually care about (but now have to have because the other one was playing with it). Seriously, I leave the room for 10 minutes to do laundry and I come back to a disaster zone that takes 30 minutes to clean up. You do the math.

And don’t even get me started on getting two kids ready in the morning. Lucky was a breeze to get ready. Breakfast while watching Curious George, washcloth to the face, potty, teeth, dressed and out the door. Simple, easy, quick. Two kids…sigh. By the time I get the second one dressed, the first one has their clothes dirty already. I’m going to be lucky if I roll into work by 11:00 each day.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

We're Home

After over 24 hours of straight travel, three flights, and one poopy-pants blowout...we're finally home! We got home at around 10:30pm on Friday night and we've been trying to get over jet-lag and get back onto a semi regular schedule. The kids have been waking up at 3:30am the last two days since their bodies are still on China time (and then we're all dead tired by around noon and ready to sleep all day). Hopefully our bodies will start to catch-up in a few days.

Both kids did incredibly well on the flights home. They both slept on and off on the 14 hour flight and for the most part were pretty laid back. Livvie is looking a bit shell-shocked and I don't think is loving the cold weather and snow.

Our first two days at home have been 500% better than it was in China. I think Livvie is starting to realize she's stuck with us and may be actually starting to like us. When we got in Friday night she was pretty crabby and unsure when we showed her around the house. But when we got to her room and she noticed the 3 baby-dolls I bought her, she lit up! She started babbling in this excited voice and went and grabbed all three of them and found the pretend bottles and food and started to feed them. She's been playing with them all weekend and loves to carry them around and kiss them. She's also started to give me kisses on the hand which is a great sign that she's attaching to me.

It's amazing how quickly she's grasping the language too. She can't say any words, but man she can understand a ton of what we say already. If we tell her to go get her shoes, or go potty, or put away the toys, she knows exactly what we mean and does it. Her attitude is getting much, much better and we're starting to get to know a very sweet, funny little girl.

She still wants Mama all the time and Daddy is pretty much chopped liver. So for right now Dad's in charge of Lucky and I'm in charge of Liv. The house is a disaster and I'm not sure how I'm ever going to get caught up with all the laundry we brought home. But we're home and that's all that matters right now.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The End is Near

Well it's Wednesday here in China which means we only have one more full day before we head to the airport (Thank God!).  This afternoon we have group photos at the White Swan hotel and all the kids in our group wear traditional Chinese dresses for the pics.  We have a strong willed group of little girls, so I have a feeling the pics are going to be a bit of a disaster!  :)  Oh well, it will be a cute keepsake.
 
Tomorrow we have a free day so we're going to finish up our shopping for keepsakes for Livvie and also try to get some more pictures of the island.  I also need to start packing and hope I can fit everything into the suitcases.
 
Friday morning we head to the airport at around 5:00am, so it's going to be a very early morning for us.  We fly to Shanghai and then have a 7 hour layover until our flight leaves for Chicago.  14.5 hours later we should get to Chicago and then another hour to CWA.  I'm hoping we'll be home around 10:00pm Friday night.  People have been saying that the jet lag on the way back is even worse than on the way here, so I think our first weekend home will be spent resting and getting Livvie settled in.  Cale is heading back to work on Monday, so hopefully he can get caught up on sleep over the weekend.  Truth be told, I'm kinda jealous he gets to go back to work on Monday...I think I'm going to have my hands full at home and the thought of going to work sounds like a vacation to me.
 
Livvie continues to be a "spirited child" which as you all know if parenting code for brat.  We love her to death, but man she is stubborn.  I think getting some structure at home is going to do her a world of good, but for now, it's still tough.  And since she's attached to me it also means she goes ballistic if I hold Lucky or give him any attention.  It's the all mama show, all the time.
 
One new development is her and Lucky are finally playing together (remember the saying, be careful what you wish for?).  Wow - the two of them together are a TORNADO!!!  The hotel room is a disaster of epic proportions and the sound level is super sonic.  I feel so bad for the other guests on our floor...they must thing we are skinning cats in our room.
 
I'm hiding out in the hotel bar writing this since our room doesn't have wireless Internet.  Too bad I don't know the Chinese word for Whiskey and Sour........

Monday, February 28, 2011

Pictures

1 Week!

Today marked our one week anniversary as a forever family and it's amazing to me how resilient kids are.  Livvie is getting more and more comfortable with us every day and the awful grief she had the first few days is almost non-existent.  She still has her sad times, but the pain seems less intense and much shorter lived.  I've heard many families say that kids usually attach or favor one parent over the other at first and boy-oh-boy has that happened in the last two days Livvie has decided that she only wants "ma-ma-ma" and gives Cale the stink-eye when ever he comes near her.  If I won't hold her she sobs until I pick her up (not fun in 85 degree heat and 100% humidity!).  She doesn't want anything to do with Cale (unless I tell her No for something, then she tries to tun on the charm for Daddy...which we've made it clear is NOT going to work).  So for the time-being, it's all mama, all the time.  Let me tell you, I'm looking forward to below zero temps, just so I don't have to haul her around in the heat anymore.  I'm a stinky, sweaty, frizzy-haired mess!!  
 
Today we went to the Safari Park which is a HUGE zoo in Guangzhou.  Very different than zoos in the US....all the animals are very close up and they really don't have much fencing or security.  We got to see a lot of cool animals, but overall it's pretty depressing because the animals are cooped up in tiny enclosures and hotter than heck.  Lucky had a blast and I think it was his favorite part of the trip so far.  Livvie was scared of pretty much every animal, so she really didn't enjoy it.  We're thinking she is not going to be too fond of Penny when we get home.  She definitely has a fear of animals.
 
Lucky is living on PB&J sandwiches and Cale and I are living on Subway.  We've had turkey and ham subs every single day and Lucky eats PB&J for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Livvie will eat anything, so she's been the most adventurous eater out of all of us.  We go to McDonald's every few days, but ordering is really tough with the language barrier and you only get 1 packet of ketchup with your meal....yep, just 1 sad little packet.  We tried to get more and they won't give you any.  Everything is very, very rationed her, food, electricity, water, napkins.  Even toilet paper - in the public restrooms, you have to bring your own or you're out of luck.
 
Talk to you all soon!!
 
 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Little Stinker

The kids are napping so I figured I better do a quick post so you all don't think we're in a Chinese prison somewhere.  Sorry it's been two days, but we were moved to a new room and it doesn't have wireless Internet.  So to blog, I need to go down to the bar on the 3rd floor. 
 
I don't really know where to begin to explain how things are going.  Things are better in some ways and worse in others.  Livvie's grieving has definitely gotten better and she is much happier overall.  She is a silly, funny little girl.  She's not crying when she wakes up with us and mostly just crying at bedtime.  And the girl LOVES to eat!  She can pack away more food than I can.  And she will eat pretty much anything (big change from our picky little Turtle).
 
But on the bad side, we are starting to see more of her true personality and are learning quickly that she was spoiled rotten by her nannies.  She is used to getting what she wants, when she wants and if she doesn't .... meltdown city!  When we first got her referral and the paperwork said "she is sometimes obstinate", we laughed and thought it sounded cute.   Oh boy - not so cute in person.  Stubborn, Stubborn, Stubborn.  And she is already trying to play Cale and I against each other when one won't give her what she wants.  We constantly have to leave restaurants, parks, stores because she doesn't get what she wants and then throws a fit.  We know things will get better with some consistency and routine, it's just going to take time. 
 
Here's what we know so far:
- She's a girly-girl.  When I give her the option of pants or dresses, she will always choose the dress and bright socks (sound familiar Annie?)  She also loves makeup and has to play with all brushes when we get ready in the morning.
- She loves to sing and babble.  Developmentally, I would say she acts like a 1 1/2 year old (which has been tough since 1 1/2 year olds get into EVERYTHING!!)
- She LOVES to take baths and play with the stacking cups in the water.  She laughs and laughs when we let her splash us.
- She's picked up on sign language like crazy.  She knows the signs I taught her for "more", "eat", "drink", "potty".
 
Overall, things have really improved since the first day, she's started to trust us and I think is slowly starting to realize we're not leaving.  We're so looking forward to getting home and getting back into a routine.  I think she'll really blossom with some structure...it's tough to set any sort of routine living out of a hotel.
 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day Three- The Black Sheep












Livvie had a good day, but has a really tough time when she wakes up in the morning and from naps. Those times seems to start the grief over fresh for her. But we had a HUGE break through tonight with her right before bed. I gave her a bath and found out she loves to have the faucet running a trickle to fill up cups. She filled her stacking cups over and over and was actually having honest-to-goodness fun doing it. She was smiling and giving the cups to me to pretend drink out of. Turtle came in to say hi and the little fart took a cup and splashed him with water. He started laughing and then she did too...it was the first time they've had any interaction together. They ended up splashing back and forth about 10 times and then I got her out of the tub.

I took her in the bedroom to get ready for bed and I could see it in her eyes she was starting to go to that "grief" place. I had grabbed some baby lotion and started putting it on her and all of a sudden, she wanted to help to. I would rub one leg and she would do the other, then I would put lotion on her foot and she would do the other foot. And then the best part, she wanted to put lotion on me too (which was huge in the interaction dept!!!). Once lotion was on, we got Minnie Mouse PJ's on (thanks Annie!) and she pointed to the bed (I was shocked). We laid down and I sang about 100 versus of "hush little baby" to her and she fell asleep without one tear. I wanted to jump up and do a happy dance!!! And by the way, you can make up some pretty interesting lyrics to hush little baby when you have to sing 100 versus and the person you're singing to doesn't know any English. I was singing gibberish by about verse 30 and just making up words. And Annie - just for you a couple of versus about Llama Drama :)

And boy oh boy are we going to have Llama Drama....we we're waiting at a govt office today for our passport interview and to help keep the kids occupied we brought a small set of wooden blocks. There was a very old (probably very expensive antique) coffee table and we were letting the kids build block towers on it. Livvie's tower fell over when she put a block on it and she got so mad she actually tipped the ENTIRE table over on the floor. It happened in the blink of an eye and then she was inconsolable upset because we reprimanded her. Let's just say we magically were next in line for our photo and interview and when we were done, our guide said "let's wait outside for the bus, very old, important furniture in here". So I think we were the Black Sheep of the American adoption community today. :)