Monday, August 31, 2009

Painful Revelations...w/ update

Before I begin, you need an essential piece of background information. GG, the little guy that you see in the post below, is one of the sweetest, happiest, 3-year-olds that you could ever wish to meet. He looks as he does in the photo below almost all the time...happy more than the average 3-year-old. I can't begin to describe what a treasure he is and how our days are brighter because of him.

For a time, I've wondered if he understands that his life with us is permanent. I can't tell you what clues have made me think otherwise. Maybe it's Momma intuition, maybe it's a look or a word. Whatever the case, I've known that as soon as he has enough language that we need to talk about his life--past, present, future. I've been concerned that he understand that this is his last stop; that just because he left his last home does not mean that he'll be moving on to another.

This afternoon I saw an opportunity. While he snacked in his highchair, I pulled a photo off the fridge that was taken in China before we arrived. I told him how Mommy and Daddy got his picture and had to wait, and wait, and wait, to go to China to get him. I talked about how we loved him so much and were happy to finally get on a plane and bring him home to live with Mommy and Daddy...and how we were so happy that he would stay with us forever. (Yeah, I know the "forever" part puts some people on edge, but, hey, the kid is three and I don't know how else to say it with permanence.)

I finish this little speech, complete with a toy jet to show how we brought him home. Suddenly, his lower lip starts quivering and he refuses to look at me. I frantically think...did I say something wrong, did he misunderstand what I said, does he think he's going back??? So I repeat the story with different words. Now he's ready to cry. When I talk about how he lives with Mommy and Daddy now, he shakes his head and says, "No!" I ask him if he misses NaiNai. He nods, as teary looking as he can be with dry eyes. I ask about Ayi and his niece. He rubs his eyes.

I pick him up and take him back to the bedroom where we can be alone. I tell his story over and over, talking about how he lived with NaiNai when he was a baby but now he lives with Mommy and Daddy. He again shakes his head and says, "No." He is visibly upset but tries to end the conversation with "I happy." (He also says, "Clothes?"...knowing that's a sure distraction!) I talk about how it's okay to be it's okay to miss NaiNai. He doesn't cry, but rubs his eyes as his chin quivers.

After a time, I ask if he wants to look at photos. He nods. We look at photos of the foster family and our family, talking about who lives in China and who lives here. He takes it all in, quietly, sadly.

We end the session by looking at silly/fun pictures from life here at home. He laughs and laughs, tears unbroken just under the surface.

It's been three months since he left China.

Someone might wonder why I took him through the story. The biggest reason is to communicate that he isn't leaving here for another home, which I've sensed could be a worry for him. Unfortunately, in doing so, I also have to explain that he is staying here and won't be going back to live with his foster family in China.

I don't really know what his feelings mean. He strongly indicated that he didn't want to be here permanently and he wanted to go back there. But if he was there, it might be the same thing in reverse. I don't know. And I don't know that it really matters.

What matters is that under all the happy, he's still hurting.

I ache for my sweet boy.

Update, 2-3 hours later:
When Daddy arrives home, he asks GG what he did today. "Sandbox. Eat." Daddy asks if he watched movies (in Chinese) on the computer. GG nods, then says, "Come, come!" GG runs over to the map, then to the globe, to excitedly show Daddy where Mommy is and where China/GG was. Then, "Wheeee, airplane." No sign of being upset. Interesting.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

How Can You Say "No More Clothes Changing" to THIS??

Photo removed.

My Little Clothes Horse, Part w/ update

I seriously don't know whether to laugh or throw my hands up.

This morning, for church, I set out an outfit for GG. Dh took him to get dressed. Moments later, a SOBBING GG runs out to the kitchen and into my arms. Dh follows, shrugging. "He didn't want to wear that outfit." I sent them back to choose something else. They discarded the cutest little suspenders and suddenly all was okay.

Then, after lunch, when it's time to change into play clothes, he wants to wear his new church shirt. Anakin holds up every tshirt he owns, trying to find one that's okay. None can be found. So I lay all his tshirts on the floor. After much consternation, GG finally selects one, holds it up and says, "I happy!"

[Laughing, laughing, laughing.]

Edited a few hours later to say...

Following naptime, GG points to the clothes he's wearing, shaking his head, and says, "No dis." I assured him that he could change after bath, before bed. He cocks his head to the side and says, hopefully, "Bathtime????" (As in, "Can I take my bath now?")

I hope you're finding this humorous, cause I sure am. ;)

My mom wonders if changing clothes is like playing with toys to him...that perhaps the sudden abundance of clothes is just FUN after not having many in his foster home. I don't know how much he had there. Photos show a few different outfits. He only came to us with what he was wearing, a brand new shorts outfit with new sandals. Even today he points to them and says, "NaiNai got this."

Does anyone know? In China, do orphanages supply clothes to foster families, or do the families buy clothes for the kids?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Skinny on Skin

Never too late for an ah-ha momma moment.

You'll recall that the learning curve on feeding a newly arrived 3-year-old from China has been fairly steep. Here's what I've learned about eating chicken:

1. white meat = blech, yuck, not in a million years!

2. dark meat = maybe, unless peanut sauce smothers which case it becomes a definitely yes.

3. chicken skin = absolutely, positively, a hundred times, YES!

How did I figure this out?

I took GG to an Asian grocery and stopped at the deli counter for lunch. I asked him what he wanted. He enthusiastically pointed to a chicken dish, so I bought some. When I started cutting it into GG-sized pieces, I noticed that quite a bit of it was still lavishly covered in skin. So I included a few chunks. He proceeded to pick through the meal, carefully finding and eating all the skin before even considering the meat. Well, duh, Mom. That's probably what he ate in China!

So when I cooked chicken this week, I cut up several pieces of skin for him. (BTW, although I have NO interest in eating it myself, I don't feel too badly about feeding it to him because it's locally grown, free range, "good stuff.") He ate it all up and immediately asked for seconds. After dinner I saved all the remaining skin, freezing it into bite-sized bits for the next time he says "We're hungry." (He often speaks of himself using plural pronouns.)

Ya learn something new everyday.

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Little Clothes Horse

Can I whine? Just a little?

I really shouldn't. Some kids come home from international adoption with serious issues. Obsessions even. Food is one that comes to mind. Some children hoard food, can't stop eating when they're full, or pouch food in their cheeks for hours at a time. Obsessive behaviors like that can be quite serious.

This is not. But it is still making me slightly crazy.

My dear 3-year-old is obsessed with CLOTHES!

Upon arriving home from China, we noted the same phrase being repeated every morning. It sounded something like "Wo yao Chinese food." We're slow, but we eventually figured out that it meant, "I must get dressed right this minute. Not in five minutes. RIGHT NOW!" We quickly learned that it was NOT okay to eat breakfast and THEN get dressed. Getting dressed was #1 on the priority list...and it was only marginally okay to stop and go potty first.

But what we didn't realize was that it was unacceptable to only wear one set of clothing each day. It didn't take long to understand that 3-year-olds (at least this one!) need to change every few hours. It's not unusual to hear him ask for different clothes after breakfast, mid-morning, around lunchtime, before nap, after nap, and perhaps once more before bed...and if not then, at least one change in the choice of pajamas.

Very early on, he learned vocabulary to help us out. After only about two months home, he tugged on my tanktop and said, "Wo yao shirt like this." Again yesterday he was asking to change into a tanktop...right after breakfast...the second set of clothes for the day. I carried him to his clothing drawer and held up one tank top. He shook his head, "No dis." Tank top #2. No. Tank top #3. No. Tank top #4. No. And on through tank tops #5, #6, #7. No, no, no. I shrugged. All out of tank tops. So I went back to the first one. He grins. Oh yes, that's the one. So I helped him out of his first set of clothes and into his chosen tank top. He looks at himself in the mirror. Frowns. Shakes his head. Doesn't like this one now. So I take tank tops #2-#7 out of the drawer, lay them on the floor, and let him dig through them. He finally carries one out to me in the kitchen, grinning.

But it doesn't end there. (Didn't think ya'd get off that easy, did ya?) Cause today was what rocketed me into the "I have a right to complain" category.

GG doesn't have a lot of clothes. We'd given away most of 'LilDude's small clothes. And GG didn't have a "baby shower." So his closet is pretty thin...made up of a few borrowed items, a few of 'LilDude's things that we'd inadvertently missed giving away, and a couple things we'd bought. His "winter clothing" was almost nonexistent, so I was thrilled to strike it big at a garage sale today, picking up almost an entire name-brand wardrobe for less than $15.

I should have known better.

[Start the "Jaws" do-do-do-do music.]

So I buy the clothes. Put them in the car. With GG. Who immediately starts saying, "Mommy, clothes!" For those who don't understand, the translation is, "Mommy, I want to put on all the new clothes RIGHT NOW."

Now, understand that the tone isn't demanding. It's sad. Pitiful really. Like, "If I don't put on the clothes right now, my little heart will bust into a few million pieces."

This continued through a four-hour shopping excursion. And became particularly intense in the last 30 minute drive home where the unceasing cry from the backseat was, "Momma? Momma? Momma?"

"I can't look at you right now honey. Mommy has to watch the other cars. So she doesn't crash."

"Momma? Momma? Momma?"

"What honey?"

"Momma? Clothes."

"We'll take the clothes home and wash them."

"Momma? Momma? Momma?"

"What honey?"

"Momma? Clothes."

"We have to wash them at home."

Now repeat this about 4,000 times: "Momma? Momma? Momma? Momma? Clothes." Until he finally nods off to sleep about 5 minutes from home.

And just in case you're wondering, I asked the foster family about his desire to change clothes all the time. His auntie wrote, "His niece/friend like fashion shows at home, [she] came back from kindergarten every day, it is necessary to put several sets of beautiful skirt, GG see changed naturally follow."

So there you have it.

I'm very thankful that we do not have serious obsessions. But this non-serious obsession is making me a little crazy.

Maybe he'll be a fashion designer when he grows up? A clothes buyer?

My "Little Clothes Horse."

P.S. Lizzi and dh just read this and want to verify that everything I said is TOTALLY TRUE. Dh's exact words were, "Oh, I know! He's totally obsessed!"

P.P.S. We did have a one day reprieve from constant clothes changing. That was the day I brought home a new swim trunk/shirt set from Costco. He wore them all day. And was very unhappy to change into jammies that night. The fact that we have no pool was totally irrelevant.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Congratulations, Anakin!

Anakin entered a writing contest and just learned that he won a $500 travel voucher. I am proud of him for persevering. He wrote one essay that was not of winning quality. So he wrote and wrote and rewrote. (Definitely not his idea of a summer vacation!) But his efforts paid off.

Lizzi and I entered the same contest and also rewrote and rewrote. We didn't win. Better luck to us next time. :)

Wonder where Anakin will go with his travel voucher???

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Homeschooling to Create "Magic Circle" Time

It lasted a month, maybe two. Not including summer. That's how long all my kiddos (schoolaged) were enrolled in public school.

Lizzi is beside herself with excitement over public school. This fall, she will enter a freshman class of somewhere between 300 & 400 students. Considering the fact that she just graduated from an 8th grade class of 60something, that's a pretty big change!

Anakin entered public school at the end of March as a 6th grader. First time in public school after being homeschooled K-6th. Due to trips (Lego Robotics Championship, 2 weeks, and China, 2 weeks), he missed a lot of that time, but he enjoyed the little that he was there and looks forward to returning.

'LilDude is another story. He liked public school kindergarten. He excelled academically, seemed to thoroughly enjoy his friends (and recess!), and spoke positively about his school life. But around the time we went on the Lego trip in April, he started talking about wanting to homeschool.

I don't know why and doubt that he does either. The driving force seems to be wanting to be at home with Mommy.

Over the past eight years, I've homeschooled for many different reasons. But the predominant reason has never been because a child wanted to be with me. I wouldn't ordinarily think that was necessarily a good reason. But in this case it's different.

Growing up, I knew a local family who adopted all five of their children internationally. Several of the children arrived home as toddlers, most as infants. I always thought that they'd made a wise choice. The kids missed time with their parents when they were young and by homeschooling, they gained time to cultivate and nurture relationships.

Homeschooling isn't for everyone. But for those who can, it seems like a viable option to create opportunities for what Patty Cogen (author of Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child) calls the "Magic Circle." In non-adopted children, the Magic Circle is created in-utero and continues during early childhood as the bond/proximity between mother and child remains close. For adopted children, the Magic Circle is broken upon separation between biological mother and child. The adopted child, therefore, needs many opportunities to create the Magic Circle with the adoptive parent. Cogen says that the Magic Circle:

*is a fueling station for Parent Juice, to strengthen connection and sooth pain.
*protects a child from overstimulation, from exploring the world too fast.
*protects a child from the physical dangers of unsupervised exploration.
*provides an organizing center to the child's world.

I see instances where 'LilDude is still in need of more Magic Circle time than other children his age. Leaving the house from 8:30am-4pm everyday--as he would in 1st grade--would stretch the Magic Circle that we've created to the point of possibly breaking. I think that he's sensing the need in himself for more close time with Mommy. I'm proud of him for his ability to voice that need, even if he can't articulate all the whys/wherefores.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring. But it seems that homeschooling is the right answer for 'LilDude this year.

Not to mention that GG would miss him terribly. Two-peas-in-a-pod doesn't begin to describe them. Tonight 'LilDude said, "When I grow up and get a whole bunch of babies from China..." That's a pretty big change. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I Love This! (Eating in Season)

I just think it's cool that I can walk outside and pick this:

That turns into this (Zucchini Garden Chowder) for dinner. How absolutely wonderous. :) Seasonal cooking is amazing.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Book: The Duggars: 20 and Counting!

Although we don't have cable television, one would have to be completely media free to miss the hoopla over the Duggar family who, I believe, currently have 18 biological children. With a paltry five children, I was very interested to read the book to find out how they organize their lives.

Want to know what shocked me?

Their eatin'!

My preconceived notion was something in line with "The Waltons." I figured they'd can, make everything homemade, etc. Instead, I was a bit flabbergasted by the favorite recipes they included with the book. It's all cans of chili, fritos, cans of cream-of-this-n-that soup, tatertots, cans of evaporated milk, sticks of butter, frozen hash browns, boxed mac-n-cheese, etc. With all the talk in the book of their "frugal lifestyle," the ingredient lists of processed food after food astounded me. At first I felt sorry for the older girls who had taken over the family cooking. But after reading it, I realized that no one is cooking! They just dump cans, boxes, and bags into pans and call it good.

Apparently, "The Duggars spend about $3,000 each month on groceries, diapers, and miscellaneous items such as shampoo and detergent." With all those kids, one would think it's time to start a garden??? Or wash dishes??? (They use paper plates for meals!!!!)

Anybody else read this?

Sunday Hike

Isn't it amazing that you can still hike to a place like this for the price of one, $5 parking permit????

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Asian Chicken Salad

August is probably our best month of the year for eating "in season." Our dinner tonight? Corn-on-the-cob, Asian Chicken Salad, sliced tomatoes, broccoli, and peaches. The kids love Asian Chicken Salad. If you want to make it gluten-free, leave out the ramen noodles and flavor packet.

Asian Chicken Salad

1-2 c. cooked, chopped chicken
2 T. sesame seeds
1/2 c. slivered almonds
1/2 head cabbage
sliced green onions, optional
1 pkg. top ramen (chicken), crush noodles

Toss first five ingredients together.

2 T. brown sugar
3 T. vinegar
1/2 c. oil (I use half canola, half olive)
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
flavor pkg from top ramen

Blend dressing. Crush noodles and add with dressing to salad just before serving.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mandarin DVDs for Kids

GG is becoming trilingual. First language, Cantonese. Second language, Mandarin. Third language, English. Access to Cantonese is limited, but we've been trying out a lot of Mandarin CDs/DVDs in an effort to keep that language.

We recently discovered the "Mei Mei Play & Learn Series." In the large series of DVDs, including such titles as "Dance and Learn Chinese", "Mei Mei" (a middle aged woman) uses both English and Mandarin as children sing/dance and speak in both languages. The videos are obviously filmed in China, which is a bonus. We just watched "Let's Go to School with Mei Mei" and were amazed to watch a China school day like the one we experienced in China.

GG loves these DVDs...the singing, dancing, Mandarin...and footage of China.

Zucchini Garden Chowder-favorite summer soup!

First, the flu. I have no answers. Anakin had a fever between 103-104 for seven days and was sick for nine. He was not tested for flu but eventually was diagnosed with pneumonia, which they later changed to bronchitis. A week later I got "it." I was put on an anti-viral after two days of fever. I had a fever for seven days. But the flu test came back a week later...negative. So I have no idea what we had. But it wasn't fun. We're both still coughing.

But, what was fun? Kids cooking when I was sick. They made this soup twice that week. It is my ALL TIME FAVORITE summer soup. The recipe comes from Simply in Season.

Zucchini Garden Chowder

2 T. butter or margarine (I use coconut oil and my dh says it gives extra flavor)
Melt in soup pot over medium heat.

2 medium zucchini (chopped)
1 medium onion (chopped)
2 T. fresh parsley (chopped)
1 T. fresh basil (chopped; or 1 t. dried)
Add and saute until tender.

1/3 c. flour (I use rice flour)
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
3 c. water
Stir flour and seasonings into vegetables. Gradually stir in water to make a smooth stock.

3 chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes
1 t. lemon juice.
Add and mix well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.

2 c. tomatoes (chopped)
1 1/2 c. evaporated milk (I use rice milk; it's less thick, but tasty)
2 c. corn
Add and return to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes until corn is tender.

2 c. cheddar cheese (shredded)
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese (grated)
Just before serving add and stir until melted.

We LOVE this soup. It's best when the zucchini is just barely cooked (don't cook it to mush!) and the corn is slightly crunchy.

I have frozen the vegetable ingredients to make it in the winter. It's okay, but can't compare with the summer version...mostly because the zucchini gets mushy upon freezing.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I've got the FLU

Be back when I can sit at the computer for more than a few minutes without getting dizzy!

P.S. Waiting for Swine Flu test results to come back. I'll let ya know...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Most Popular Toy

What is the most popular toy at your house? The ONE toy that has seen more playing hours than anything else? At our house, it's an ancient, probably inexpensive (though I have no idea when/where we purchased it or how much it cost), basketball hoop that hangs over our coat closet door. Over the years, that hoop has been played with by children of all ages (including ones whose heads touch the rim) for more hours on more days than you can imagine, probably seeing as much playing time as your average NBA hoop. It's saved my sanity on days when it's too cold, hot, or rainy to go outside.

So what is the #1 played-with toy at your house?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

China Foster Family Skype #4...and Feelin Good

They asked for it. ;)

This morning Ayi sent me a note asking if GG could Skype so her boyfriend (aka "Uncle") could see him. By the time I got the email and GG, it was 45 minutes later and 12:45a.m. China time. We rang. They answered, though it took awhile for Uncle to come to the computer, so perhaps he'd been asleep in his jammies? Everyone said about 2 minutes worth of hi and bye. When I first asked if he wanted to Skype, GG said no, but he was very busy playing outside, so I figured that was the reason. When I asked if he wanted to see them for just a minute, he agreed. So hi/bye and back out to play.

Just wanted to say FEELIN GOOD.

Just finished picking one sack of green beans.

Two little boys are out playing peacefully in the dirt.

Two bigger kids are about to snap beans.

Picked a big 'ole heap of plums.

Dh is hanging fences in the still coolish air.

Oh, and while the big green monster lived here full time a few weeks back, he's now only stopping in for occasional visits.

Life is good.
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