Wednesday, July 21, 2010

China Adoption...Current Status

For those who are interested in the current status of adoption from China, I highly recommend reading a blog entry on AdoptionTalk. The host summarizes a presentation given by Amy Eldridge of Love Without Boundaries, a non-profit who works closely with China to improve conditions in orphanages, etc.  Be sure to read the responses in the comments from Amy herself.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

GG says...

I'm reading a book to GG in which chickens are the main characters. After about page one, he turns to me and says in a slightly annoyed tone, "Chickens don't talk!"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Organizing Recipes

This has been a VERY long time coming.

I am a SCRAP RECIPE hoarder. Definition?...  I collect scraps of paper (recipe cards on a good day, newspaper clippings, envelope scribblings) containing my favorite recipes. It's always been an organizational nightmare, but the more I cook (family of 7), the worse it gets. I'm finally turning over a new leaf...of paper, that is.

I put plastic sheet protectors in a binder. Printed out all the favorite recipes I've been posting on my blog. I sorted the recipes into categories that I find most helpful. (For me, that's things like: breakfast, bread, eggs, vegetarian, chicken, beef, etc...  I put soups in the beginning of each section that they fall under. So "chicken rice soup" would go under "chicken" with other main dish chicken recipes.) I'm now cutting/pasting all my frequently used recipes into the binder...ALL the scraps of paper.

I bought a "cast iron" cookbook holder from Target. It's pretty, very sturdy, and holds the binder quite nicely.

What can I say? I'm proud. :)

And relieved that I will never again have to search for a favorite recipe.

Assuming, of course, that I don't lose the binder. ;)

Freezer Celery

Several years ago I started growing celery in a half barrel on the back porch. It's always done long as "well" is defined a bit differently than traditional grocery store celery.

A perennial, it comes up in the spring. Lots of leafy growth. Thin stems. When the weather gets warmer, it starts to bolt. I harvest it prior to bolting and chop leaves, stems and all, putting it into freezer bags. During the winter I just grab handfuls for soups, stews, casseroles, etc. I'm not excited about big celery chunks, but I like the flavor in food, so this method works well. It is quite flavorful. And since it's one of the top 10 "bad" foods, pesticide-wise, this seems like an easy alternative.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Wallpaper Wonderings...

In honor of the holiday, I'm wondering. About wallpaper.

We're in the middle of a kitchen remodel. We just removed a kitchen cabinet to discover the wallpaper at left and the wallpaper shown below. In the original house decor (from the early 1970s), the two wallpapers would have joined where the kitchen and the family room meet.

Do you think this is what our nation's forebearers had in mind?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Incredible Gluten Free Cherry Brownie Delight!!!

Pie cherries are ripe, so it's time to post a recipe we invented this winter. (A "sugar fix" moment!) It's super easy and absolutely delish... And now is the time to put away the pie cherries!!

Gluten Free Cherry Brownie Delight

by US! :)

Make the cherry pie filling:

Combine the following in saucepan and heat to boiling:

2-3 c. pie cherries, undrained
1/3 - 1/2 c. sugar (depends on how sour cherries are)
1/4 t. salt

Mix together til dissolved:

1/2 c. water
3 T. cornstarch

Pour the cornstarch mixture into the pie mixture. Cook just til thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

At this point you can either freeze the cherry pie filling for later -OR- go ahead with making the brownie dessert.

Mix up a double batch** of Bob's Red Mill GF Brownie Mix, following package directions. [You can buy this in bulk if you live near the Bob's RMill store.] We prefer to substitute coconut oil for the margarine/butter; and the coconut oil flavor is superb with cherries!

**We've tried this using one batch and two batches. Either works. Depends on how much chocolate you want in proportion to the cherries.

Spread the cherry pie filling in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Pour/spread the brownie mix over the top. Bake at recommended temperature until the brownies are done to your preferred level of gooeyness. (Start with the recommended baking time for brownies and go from there. We prefer them slightly gooey rather than completely cakey. It's not a fine science!)

ENJOY!!!! ;)

Monday, May 24, 2010

We're Home from Oahu!

In a mere 6 hours we went from 85ish degrees to 45ish degrees.  A few photos from Oahu...

P.S. We took this trip because ds won a $500 travel voucher and we found plane tickets for $309 each. My husband's sister lives in Oahu and graciously hosted all SEVEN of us for 8 days. She's an incredible woman! :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

GG says...

One thing that has been almost constant since GG came home...his love of eggs. Every morning, "Momma, want eggs. Eggs, toast, Momma. And ketchup."

Til this week when he firmly said, "Now I not like eggs. I like CEREAL."

The boy knows what he wants!

He also said, "When I grow bigger can I go church and talk?"

"Like Pastor Todd?"


The boy has things to say.

Wasn't sure what to make of the following... We talk about going back to China to visit when he's older; we plan to take both boys on a homeland trip. But I wonder what the thinking was behind this...

"When I get big I go NaiNai's (foster mom's) house. I stay NaiNai's."

I reply, "And then you come home with Mommy?" (thinking that he meant he'd stay at NaiNai's while we were visiting)

Shakes head no.

I say, "I will miss you."

He thinks. And says, "I will come with Mommy."

I often wonder what goes on in his head.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Reason My Hair is Graying...

We're at the library. I turn to type something into the search computer. GG disappears around the side of the bookshelves, out of view.

"GG, stay next to Mommy." I help LilDude find a couple books for homeschool. GG is right next to us. Behind me. I take one book off the shelf, turn, and find GG climbing UP the metal shelves. Slightly flimsy-looking shelves. Believe it or not, this is my 5th child and I've never before experienced the sensation of seeing a child climb library shelves. It's not pleasant.

Make a stop at Goodwill. When he cannot stop moving--and I catch him climbing in and out of the cart--I strap him in the seat. You might say, "Wow, is she a negligent parent...I'd NEVER let my child climb on a cart." Well, neither would I if he didn't do it in the time--literally--that it took to blink. He's a monkey.

After a good long sit, I let him get out for a bit of contained exercise. "You can walk on this row...where the carpet is." Our aisle is surrounded by tile floor on each end and clothing racks on the sides. I look at a pair of shoes with my daughter and observe a little foot disappearing under the clothing rack, army crawling to the next aisle. Although clothes hang almost to the floor, technically, it is carpeted.

We go home. I'm making dinner, GG safely seated at the table. I turn to face the oven. Turn back to discover he's opened the first aid kit and has managed to get both plastic gloves on...up to his forearms...looking ready to dissect the hamburger I'm cooking. Thankfully, he was only using them to play with bubbles, so I let him keep 'em.

Tonight, while Daddy was in charge, he jumped off the rocking chair and tried to land on our exercise jumper and banged his head in the process. Not that anyone would notice in the midst of all the remaining lumps from all the times he's bumped his head in the past few days.

In the last few weeks he is constantly EVERYWHERE and into EVERYTHING.

So I do what every modern parent does. I ask, "Is this NORMAL?" and question what ADHD looks like in a 4yo. And, while I realize that some traumatized children (due to adoption-related issues) can look hyperactive but actually be exhibiting signs of trauma, this just didn't seem related.

So I googled ADHD in a 4yo. And laughed and laughed.
"By age 4, about 40 percent of children act in a way that makes their parents and teachers concerned about ADD. ...There is a normal, average period of extreme energy that lasts about a year and often includes the 3rd birthday. This phase in normal children actually fits the official definition of ADHD."
I guess he's normal. Really, really normal.

So is gray hair, right?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Retaining a First (or Second) Language

GG came to us at 3, fluent in both Cantonese and Mandarin. We fully intended to help him retain at least the Mandarin, but he's pretty much refused to utter a word of it since the day he came home. This was emphasized today when we went for Chinese food at lunch. We learned that the restaurant owners are from the same city in China. (What are the chances?) A waitress is from a nearby city. So, naturally, they wanted to talk to him. They tried and tried and tried. He stared at his plate, refusing to even look at them. When they begged him to talk with them he said, "NO!" in a very firm, somewhat loud, voice. After they left, I reassured him that it was okay to talk with them, that he is staying with Mommy and Daddy. He showed a tiny grin. The next time they came over, he flirted with them from behind Daddy's sleeve. But that was the extent of it. As we were walking out the door, he got out "zài jiàn" (goodbye!)

We really don't know if he remembers any Chinese at all. He watches Muzzy and laughs at all the appropriate places, but when I ask him if he understands he says no.

Friday, April 23, 2010

I Smell Like What ????

So GG, age 4, continues to enjoy smelling me. It's like he has a little vacuum cleaner nose.

I don't usually wear make-up. But on a Sunday morning a couple weeks ago, I put on foundation and blush as I was getting ready for church. GG comes up to me and does his usual vacuum-sniff up the side of my face. He backs away, looks me in the eyes, and says, "You smell like Playdough." (The next time I wore foundation, he said it again.)

I needed to know that.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Grace and Hope--Sponsoring Foster Care in China

Grace and Hope helped to arrange foster care for GG while in China.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

GG Update

GG and I are home from church today. Friday night/Saturday morning he suddenly had temps up to 104.9. It's the sickest he's been since he came home, almost a year ago. So this morning we're sitting here, him watching Muzzy Chinese (he says he doesn't understand it, but is totally entranced, so go figure...) and me typing. Here are some quotes from the last couple weeks...
"When Mommy grow up you be little like GG?"
I have no idea what that means. He's been really into talking about "getting bigger" lately. He seems to think that as I get older, maybe I'll get small like him again? Not sure. I've explained that I used to be little like him, but maybe something is getting lost in the translation?

I asked him to get dressed...
"Can you help me, Mommy? I lazy."
That pretty much speaks for itself. :)

A couple weeks ago we moved GG into LilDude's bed. They were both excited about it and there's been no turning back. I often hear questions from adoptive parents about how to transition kids out of co-sleeping. All I can say is that in my experience, when they're ready, they're ready. I'm quite sure I miss it more than he does.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Egg Foo Yung Yum

We're nearing the end of winter eatin'. I'm pretty tired of it and supplies are running low. As a family that tries to eat in season, I'm rarin' for garden goodies and something different.

On that note, I tried to find a new recipe to try tonight, using what we had on the shelves. Eggs are especially plentiful at the moment. This recipe for Egg Foo Yung was a hit with everyone except my child who was born in China. Apparently it wasn't part of his China. The comments with the recipe indicate that testers think it tastes like what you'd buy at a Chinese restaurant. I've never had Egg Foo Yung before so have no comparison, but I thought it was tasty. Quite.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Puppet Shows & Public Speaking

Reposting from my other blog...

In conjunction with our farm unit we decided to do a puppet show of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. My student drew one goat which we photocopied and reduced by 75% and 50% to make the two smaller goats. He also drew a troll. Little helper, just turned 4-years-old and only 10 months into learning English, assisted in the performance, repeatedly begging, "Do it again! Do it again!"

"Speaking" of which... 

When I first started homeschooling, I had a few concerns. "Socialization" was near the top of the list. (I soon came to realize this was a joke. We socialized so much the first year that we hardly had time left for school. We cut waaaayyyy back and eventually came to a happy medium.) Related to socialization was the idea of public speaking/presentations. Since my children were not in large classes, I felt that speaking opportunities must be deliberate, frequent, and purposeful. At young ages we acted out stories or made puppet shows, performing for anyone who would listen...usually Daddy, siblings, and grandparents. We joined book clubs and co-ops where students regularly presented. Later came Lego Robotics and Shakespeare productions. It's paid off. My daughter, now a freshman in a large public high school, has excelled in speech competitions. Last year, two of my kids competed in Lego Robotics on a national level, where their performance depended heavily on their speaking/presenting skills.

All that to say that this is where they began...

The older kids did their own version of The Three Billy Goats Gruff when they were young. We all start somewhere. :) 

When kids are young, I start by repeatedly reading a story. When they have the story line down, I like to do the puppet show with them, modeling how to use the puppets in the context of the story. As soon as they're ready to take over, I happily bow out and let them continue without me. Today I heard many, many different versions of the story as they considered what they wanted to say. (A lot of whispering went on "backstage.") It's fascinating to watch them internalize the story, getting louder and more clear as they become more comfortable with the performance aspect. The request to "do it again, do it again!!" didn't stop today.

Love of learning. What more can we ask?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spinach in the Spring

Photo: mostly spinach with a few mustard greens...
We've now had our raised beds for a couple of winters. My experience? If I plant in the fall, little seedlings will appear and grow REEEAAAALLLYYY SLOOOOOWLY all winter long and then BAM! they take off at the merest hint of even slightly warmer weather. For the last 3-4 weeks I've been able to harvest about one large salad a week from the spinach I planted late last fall. But at this point, I'm thrilled! We really do eat "in season" so I don't buy salad greens in winter. A few spinach leaves add a lot of excitement to dinnertime. ;)

In the right hand photo you'll see kale, planted last fall, then new little mustard greens in the center, with peas sprouting up on the right.

And below...spinach salad...oh what a treat!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Now Dr. Seuss????? (Racism & Children's Literature)

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love children's literature. Love, love, love it! But I am increasingly disturbed by some of the images I'm finding lately...

Today my mom was--innocently--reading to my two youngest from And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street (Classic Seuss) by Dr. Seuss. Granted, it's been a very long time since I read it. But I do own the book. And here is what's inside...
It's even worse because the images that follow the "Chinaman" are supposed to be kinda goofy..."A big Magician doing tricks..." and a man with "A ten-foot beard that needs a comb." I briefly looked around the internet and it's looks like more recent versions *might* say "a Chinese man" instead of "A Chinaman"...not that it's that big of an improvement when combined with the illustration and the text.

If anyone has a newer version of this book (copyright 1937, mine is eleventh printing), I'd like to know what the current illustration/text are like.

Laura Ingalls Wilder...Dr. Seuss...who's next????

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Come Visit My Class!

I've started a blog just for the purpose of posting photos and information from my classes. You are welcome to come visit us at love2learn2day.

Thank you to my friend in PA for modeling how to start a "classy" blog! ;)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

GG's Memories of China

I've been hearing some interesting stuff lately from GG, now 4, and home for about 9 months. It goes something like this...

"In China [his name...I'll use GG] cry, cry, want Mommy. Mommy cry, cry for GG. GG here!" and he grins.

I think this started because I used to tell him that when he was still in China I missed him and wanted him to come home to Mommy. But over time it's like he's revising history. My interpretation of what he's saying now? "In China I was crying because I wanted Mommy and Mommy was crying because she wanted me and now we're happy because I'm home." I think he knows/remembers that he cried a lot in China but his mind is not allowing him to remember why...or perhaps the real "why" doesn't make sense to him anymore.

He cried because he loved his foster family and we--strangers--were taking him away from them. But now he loves us and the memory of them is fading and the only thing that makes sense (to him) is that he must have cried because he wanted us. Up until recently he's had very definite feelings of missing NaiNai (foster mom.) But today after he said the scenario above I said, "And NaiNai took good care of you in China." (He may have even mentioned her, but can't remember.) He didn't respond. So I tried again, this time in the form of a question, "Did NaiNai take good care of you?" He wouldn't answer. I think that he's forgetting just what role she played in his life. While it's sad, I wonder if that's how a child this age "moves on." He is basically having to put the framework for his new life on top of the framework for his life in China...and when they don't match up, he revises history to make things fit. It makes me wonder what, if any, lasting memories he will have.

It sure makes it easy to see how someone could plant a false memory in a young child's head. All I would have to do is suggest that NaiNai was somehow a negative in his life* and I think he would adopt that as factual history.

(*And to be perfectly clear...she was a huge positive and I would never do that! But even now I'm seeing how his own brain might be rewriting history only to force his world to make sense.)

Clear as mush?

On a slightly related topic...GG has recently started having more regular night awakenings. They look like a very mild form of night terror and I do think they relate to the trauma of his transition this past year. He wakes up crying 1-2 times a night in the first couple hours of sleep. He looks awake but pushes me away and refuses comfort. He's had night awakenings of one kind or another since he got home, but the regular, couple times a night, "night terror"ish things are new, I think. Interestingly enough (or perhaps sadly enough) LilDude started having night terrors after being home about 9 months as well. His, however, were a whole 'nother category of terror. True terror.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Go Fish!

To follow up on the last entry's p.s....

Now they are playing "Go Fish."

GG: You ha' any fours?

LilDude: Nope. Go Fish.

GG: Eights?

LilDude: GO FISH!

GG: Eights?


Are just-turned-four-year-olds supposed to be able to do this???

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

GG's Language Explosion ...or "I Cannot Hear Myself Think!"

Once upon a time, there was a mom who felt badly for her son. He spent his first three years in China, learned two languages, and was suddenly thrust into an environment where people spoke yet a third language.

But as time passes, the child's vocabulary explodes. The mom begins to realize that she no longer hears silence. In fact, on the odd occasion that she hears silence, she wonders if there is something dreadfully wrong. This is how every moment of the day is now spent...

In the car on the way to town...

GG: What name 'dis road?

Mom: Oak Street.

GG: What road?

Mom: Oak Street.

GG: What name 'dis road?

What road?

What name 'dis road?

What road?

What name 'dis road?

Mom: What is the name of the road?

GG: I no know.

LilDude: Oak Street.

GG: Oak Street.

What name 'dis road?

What name 'dis road?

What name 'dis road?

What name 'dis road?

Mom: What IS the name of the road?

GG: [grins] Oak Street.

At dinner:

GG: I want cherries.

I want cherries.

I want cherries.

I want cherries.

I want cherries.

I want cherries.

I want cherries. (...said at least 5 more times. It makes no difference if you say, "I'm getting your cherries." He just wants to hear himself talk!)

[I start dishing out his cherries.]

GG: I want juice in it.


I want juice in it.


Juice in it!!


I want juice in it.

Juice in it!!

[Juice is poured.]


P.S. This kid is unbelievably smart. He LOVES to play games with the "big kids." He's learned to play Uno and can play it just as fast and easy as the rest of the family. His hands are barely big enough to hold the cards, but he sure knows how to lay them!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Book: Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, a memoir by Susan Jane Gilman, tells the story of her trip to China in 1986, upon graduating from college. At that point, China had only recently opened to Western tourists and there were many places within the country that foreigners were not allowed to travel. This didn't stop the author and her friend who plan the trip upon seeing a placemat--world map of pancakes--over breakfast at IHOP. "Naive" doesn't even begin to describe them. While I don't want to give too much away, there is also another huge piece to the story, involving the well-being of one of the women. Let's just say I stayed up til 11:30pm last night because I couldn't wait to find out the conclusion. I would even consider reading it again.

Disclaimer: This book may be so appealing to me because I recently visited almost all of the locations mentioned. (I was not, however, undressed in the Temple of Heaven...but neither was the author!)

If you are traveling (or have traveled) to China, you'll be interested to know that the women visit Beijing (and the tourist sites there, including the Great Wall at Badaling), Guangzhou, Guangxi Province (Guilin & more), and Hong Kong. The places they visit are described in great, fascinating, detail.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reading for FUN!

Only recently a friend asked me if LilDude likes to read for fun. I told her that he happily does his 15 minutes of required reading a day, sometimes forgetting the time and going over, but that he doesn't often pick up a book without it first being a "requirement."

That changed this week.

For the last several days, he's been reading all day, everyday. Yesterday I MADE HIM put up his book to go play outside. He groaned. Presently, he is captivated by the Boxcar Children mysteries.

Amazing how much difference a week can make!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Well, DUH, Mom!

GG (age 3): "My hands hurt."

Mom: "Why do they hurt?"

GG: "Because I say so."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Very Last First Time

Very Last First Time (Five in a Row homeschool lesson)
We are reading a book about a girl that's going to walk on the bottom of the sea for the first time alone. We put water and rocks in a box and put a bag over the box and pretended that was the ice. We had people and a basket and a knife in the basket. We put something under the box and then the water went to the other end and that was the tide.

-reported by LilDude*, age 7

We will report on the rest of our lessons from this week. Please check back here for more exciting adventures from the book by Jan Andrews called Very Last First Time.

We got the idea for this lesson from the archives on the Five in a Row website. It appears that you need to join the forum (free) to search the archives. It's found in the ideas (great ones!) for Volume 1.

*P.S. LilDude typed this out by himself. We've spent the last couple weeks using free, on-line lessons from BBC Schools Dance Mat Typing. He knows all the letters. Now he's practicing. :)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Plastic cups, BPA, and kids

A couple years ago I decided to eliminate most of the plastic storage containers in my kitchen. I bought class bins for flour, sugar, dry beans, pasta, etc. With all the new information on BPA, this week I finally took all the plastic cups--especially for kids--out of the kitchen. I started using something else for the kids months ago. Thought you might be amused to hear what...

My kids drink out of glass jelly jars. Half-pints for the half-pints. :) They are just the right size for little hands, they don't break easily, and they are heavy enough to not tip over. Love them for everything but outdoors and car trips. I have a few plastic cups saved in the pantry for outdoor use (minimal) and today I bought a couple of BPA-free tippy cups. While my youngest two are getting older, I still like to have something for use in the car and in carpeted rooms.

My youngest also still needs cuddle/bottle time for attachment purposes, so I bought some glass bottles today. I think it's hilarious. Decades ago people got rid of glass bottles because they weren't safe, replacing them with plastic. Now we get rid of the plastic and replace them with glass. Too funny. I did have an option for BPA-free plastic bottles, but I like the durability of the glass, along with the fact that it washes so well in the dishwasher. Plus, who knows what they've next discover is wrong with the plastic???

Still can't figure out what to do about freezer containers. I read one article that said that the older the plastic, the less BPA leaching. The freezer boxes I use once belonged to my grandma and are old, old, old. Wonder if I have a better chance using those than trying something new? I do use some glass jars--quart and pint--for freezer storage, but I don't like to use them exclusively. They're heavy, hard to thaw from if I'm in a hurry, and can break in the freezer.

So what are you doing about food/beverage containers and BPA?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Strawberry Girl & An Orphan?!?


I'm reading Strawberry Girl aloud to LilDude. It's a Newbery Award book by Lois Lenski. The text reads:

"Azuloy, a fifteen-year-old orphan, was Miss Liddy's helper. She did everything from threading needles to sweeping floors." p. 56

We haven't finished the book yet, but so far I haven't figured out the point of the "orphan" comment. It's the first the character is introduced in the book and nothing about "orphan" applies to anything...except she is working at 15.

So the point is.....??????

"Adults" & Children's Sporting Events

Sometimes the behavior of "adults" just astounds me. Particularly when it comes to children's sporting events.

No one came forward to coach my son's 7th grade traveling basketball team, so my husband agreed to take it. He has coached basketball several times before, including a traveling girls' 6th grade team, but this is the oldest boys' team he's led.

This team has taken immense amounts of his free time. This last week, four of seven nights were spent at games, taking time away from his responsibilities at home and his interactions with our other children. But my husband does it with an upbeat attitude.

It's me who has the problem.

I sit at games and listen to parents all around me whine and complain about dh's coaching. [This is a team that struggles; it includes several players who've never before played b-ball.] Parents who know nothing about basketball...parents whose kids are barely making the team...parents who were asked to coach and refused...sit there and complain aloud about my husband's skills.

Last night as we were leaving a game, my husband stopped one dad to tell him, "Your son did a great job tonight."

The response? "Your team needs to get more competitive out there." And then the parent continued to berate my husband's job as coach.

It just astounds me.

You know what else astounds me?

Last night, we watched a great game of basketball. With minutes left in the fourth quarter, and with their team well ahead, the opposing coach suddenly springs aggressively toward the court and screams at the top of his lungs, "STOP SLAPPING THE BALL AROUND!!!!!" The entire gym of people froze in stunned silence. I've NEVER heard someone scream that loud at a game before. Apparently, he was yelling at his own team. A ref told him to "settle down." Then one of the parents on that team asked him to chill out. The coach responded with an outbreak of profanity.

What in the world are we doing? These are SEVENTH GRADE CHILDREN. People are starving in Haiti. This is a GAME. Or it's supposed to be. What are we teaching our children?!?!

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Hogs Can Wait, Honey...

It's not unusual for LilDude (7) to walk in his sleep. Tonight after reading aloud from our latest chapter book, Strawberry Girl, I tucked him in, and told him good night.

A hour or so later, he comes running into the computer room calling, "What should I do about Mr. Slater's hogs????"

I took my sleeping boy by the hand and led him back to bed, saying, "We'll take care of the hogs in the morning."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Another God Moment...

I've been experiencing mega "God moments" know, when something hits you upside the head because it's just out-of-the-ordinary in coolness?

Today I was reading an adoption forum and saw a mom's post about her child; it described how she was aware that another family had previously been assigned the child but had turned down the child upon meeting the child in-country. (Sorry to be so wordy, but I'm trying to protect privacy.) When I read the story it was like a bolt of lightening. I'd heard this story before. In detail. BUT I'd heard it several years ago when a good friend of mine was present (in-country) when family #1 refused to complete the adoption. So I did a little emailing between the two and now the child's mom is going to be able to find out more about her child's life as my friend fills in some of the missing pieces.

So, so cool.

BTW, sorry to be so absent lately. I've been working more again. When I work, I rarely have time to write.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Teaching Kids About Money is HARD

I took LilDude (7) and GG (3, almost 4) to the store. They each carried $2 they'd earned, excited to spend it on something wonderful. I was equally excited to use some of my new "Love and Logic/allowance with kids" knowledge; basically I wanted to give them a chance to learn something about money.

The second we enter the store, GG spots the balloons. He talked about gum in the car, but we stop to check out the balloon options. I look at a couple but can't find a price tag and finally ask the floral attendant. $7.99. GG and I count his dollars. Not enough. The saleswoman leans over the counter and says, "I have one for $1.99." She brings out a snowman balloon with a lollypop anchor (to keep it from floating away.) He lights up. "Balloon!"

I also light up, thrilled for a teachable moment. "You have enough money for the balloon OR for gum. But you don't have enough money for both."

"Hmmm," he considers, "balloon! No, gum! No, balloon! No, GUM!" We thank the salesperson and head toward the gum.

We consider the gum for a long time, finally deciding to head across the parking lot to another store with more gum options. I buckle GG into his car seat. "Balloon!"

LilDude looks at him. "You want the balloon? You changed your mind?"

GG replies, "Um!" (His standard reply for "yes!")

"Are you sure?" I ask, starting to unbuckle him.

"Gum. Noooo....balloon!" We head back into the store.

The florist is surprised to see us. "Did he come back for the balloon?"

"I want balloon." She hands it to him. "Thank you!" he replies, clutching his treasure.

On the way to the checkout counter we stop so LilDude can pick out his gum. (You can see it coming, can't you?) LilDude picks up several options. GG says, "Gum! No, balloon. No, gum! No, balloon. Gum! Gum! Gum!" Both boys select their gum and we head back to the floral department to return the balloon.

"Did he change his mind?" She grins. "Enjoy your gum!"

Both boys proudly pay for their gum, take their bags and head toward the door. The florist comes running after us, the snowman balloon and another GIANT Santa balloon in hand. She hands one to each boy. "I'm going to mess up your money lesson." [Through the entire thing I'd been explaining to multiple clerks that we were on a "money learning mission."] "But I can't really sell these since it's past Christmas. And he was so polite when he tried to make his choice. And they're so cute." The boys thank her and head to the door, ladened with gum, change and huge balloons.

[Shaking my head, laughing.] So what exactly did we learn today? "Cute" can get you a long way in life???? :)

P.S. In reality, a bazillion more "Gum! Balloon? Gum? Balloon! Gum! Balloon? Gum? Balloon! Gum?" lines came out of GG's mouth. This story is the SHORT version.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Birthday Presents

GG has been excitedly talking about his birthday (in February) ever since he arrived home (last May.) We're finally getting close enough that today I asked, "What do you want for your birthday?"

"Hmmm," he thought. "I want Christmas tree. And my mom*."

*And just in case you're wondering, he definitely meant me...with a huge grin in my direction. ;)

Kids & Clothes Budgets

I recently posted the following on Facebook:
Question for parents of teen girls... What is a reasonable amount to budget for clothes shopping for one year?
Within a few hours, I'd received over 50 comments, by far the most I've ever received about anything. Apparently, teen girl clothes budgeting ranks highly on many radars.

I've been thinking about clothes budgets but also kids and jobs/allowance/family work responsibilities, etc. We've never been shy about assigning our kids "family jobs." This fall when my teen daughter took child development, she had to list both her parents' jobs and her jobs at home. The list she created (for both) was far longer than the lists of any other kids in the class. I'm not sure if she felt superior...or tortured.

Over the years I've created many different ways to assign household jobs. They've worked. But over time, we outgrow them and move onto something else. Lately, I've found it rather frustrating to assign jobs to my big kids because they are so rarely home. Mid-day (while they're at school) I'll discover the unfinished job and do it myself, knowing that it's more hassle to remind them when they get home (and it's dark!) than it is to just to it myself.

A month or so ago, I took back the "big jobs." Housecleaning became mine. If anyone would like to do a job instead of me, I pay well (more than minimum wage), but if no one offers, I do it myself. Meanwhile, they are still expected to do the basics: feed animals, load/unload dishwasher and wash dinner dishes.

Under the heavy influence of my current Love and Logic read, Millionaire Babies or Bankrupt Brats?, I'm reminded of the importance of establishing an allowance for children, the premise being that children can make little mistakes with little amounts of money to prevent adults making big mistakes with big amounts of money. Practice with money while you're young!

The topic of clothes shopping has come up a lot lately. I started asking myself, "What is a reasonable amount of $ to contribute to a teen's clothes budget? What if the teen has plenty of opportunity to help out around the house and make good wages, yet chooses not to? Should one affect the other?"

Then I asked the budget question on Facebook. While amounts varied, quite a few people mentioned $500-$1000 per year. I clarified that I meant BASIC. Not coats or swimsuits or perhaps even underwear...but rather the "back to school" and summer clothes stock of jeans, shirts, sweaters, shorts, etc. While there were some highs and lows, most numbers still came out around $500 or higher.

I asked my daughter to sit down and make a list of "basics" with a price tag attached to each so we could start a budget discussion. She first listed 10 shirts at $15 each, crossed out the 10, and then wrote 8 shirts at $15 each. I asked her to figure out how much money it would take to give each member of our family (7 people) 8 shirts at $15 each. She figured it out. Her eyes got very big. We went over the list together. We also talked about parental contributions to school lunches; we've always allowed our kids to eat one meal at school per week, otherwise they make their own lunch (we do have food available!) or they can choose to pay the difference.

I don't know that it's beneficial to post the amount that we actually came up with, but I will say that it's likely lower than what most teens around here are used to receiving. This "teen allowance" is designed to cover basic clothing, a few school lunches and minimal "entertainment." She can use the money any way she chooses, but we will not be paying for basic clothes or school lunches. Ample, AMPLE opportunities exist to add to her budget. (I'd love it if she wants to help me out!) But they are not mandatory.

Our middle school son's "allowance" is substantially smaller since he's not yet interested in managing a clothes budget. He does, however, get to decide on how often he eats school lunches and how much to spend on entertainment. The money is his; he chooses how to spend it.

For the first several months on this new system, I'm asking the kids to keep track of their spending so we're all aware of the budget strengths and weaknesses. I hope this gives us all a chance to try out our wings--the kids with money management and mine with letting go of parental control. ;)

So how do you handle kids, clothes budgets, allowance and household jobs?


One of my children struggles with making wise choices. Well, shoot, they all struggle with making wise choices (so do I!) but one struggles more than the rest. This week, he made a particularly sad choice. I consequenced his behavior, sending him outside to pick up remaining fall leaves. (It's not freezing cold here!) He argued and argued and argued. By all appearances, this was the worst punishment on the face of the earth and he was being tortured.

But here's the funny thing. By the time he quit, he was the happiest, most relaxed, joyful child he'd been in a long time. I know that he struggles with control. He tries to be in control because it makes him feel safer...or, I should say, he thinks it makes him feel safer. But ultimately, he doesn't really want the control. So when I remind him that he is not in control, he lets it all go, relaxes, and enjoys being a kid again. I can't begin to describe the change in him...after a situation in which he tries to exert major control and is not allowed to...he transforms into this relaxed, loving kiddo.

I wonder if God ever sees us the same way?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

He Met His Match...

...and her name is MOMMA!

GG is a breeze to parent. But he obviously received a tad bit of spoiling in China. (With that face and personality, it's no wonder!) When he wants something, he asks for it over, and over, and over again, expecting immediate compliance. "Toast, Momma? Toast? Momma? Toast? Toast!" Or, "Gum? Gum? Gum? Gum, Momma?!!???!!!" If I say no, he will find a spot to sit alone and quietly look pathetic...or, at last resort, cry big crocodile tears. When I say no to something I have to check to see if he's still in the room a couple minutes later; often as not, I'll find him tucked quietly away somewhere, pouting/weeping.

Today, I looked at the clock and saw it was 2:15. I walked around the house, picking up stuff and putting it away, picking up stuff and putting it away... I looked at the clock again. It was 3:15. My oldest, BigSis (19), is home on break. I laughed, "Do you see now why I work all day and never get anything done?" She turned her head toward the school area where GG sat in the middle of buttons strewn all across the room, an empty button tin next to him. Dotted across the mess were dozens of little plastic bottles and eyedroppers, the result of dumping a container of "doctor stuff."

I sat down next to my almost-four-year-old and explained to him that 'LilDude was picking up leaves outside, Mommy was cleaning the kitchen, and he was going to put the buttons back in the container.

He vehemently shook his head. "I sick." [**Sidenote: this morning he woke up and said, "I sick." Then, "I watch Thomas the Train." When he arrived home we learned that being sick in China was scary because it meant a trip to the doctor and an IV. Here he quickly learned that it meant movies on the couch. He's no longer afraid of being sick!]

"You can sit on the couch and rest until you feel better, then you can come pick up the buttons."

He sat on that couch. And sat on that couch. The "pathetic look" showed up first, followed quickly by the "I'm not going to do it" crocodile tears. Periodically I checked in with him, reminding him that each of us have jobs in our family and that his job is to pick up the buttons.

Louder tears. With a really cute but definite, "I ain't doing this, Momma!" stance.

After awhile I picked him up and moved him to the middle of the button pile. He sat. And sat. And sat. I tempted him with a penny for his bank (he's into money, but not THAT into money) and a stick of gum (he lighted up at that, but still no dice), but he still SAT.

He'd periodically tease me by putting a couple buttons in, but then he'd quit with a "Momma DO IT."

This lasted a very, very long time. (I emptied the dishwasher, cleaned the kitchen, made dinner and looked up a couple things on the internet--all while this was going on.)

Then, very slowly, a seismic shift. One button in. Two buttons in. A pill bottle (the doctor's stuff still out!) filled with buttons, in.

Suddenly, it was done. He sprinted to the gum and had it in his mouth before I could even scan the entire floor.

Momma won, despite the cuteness factor.

Pray for a Miracle!

Strange prayer request. I've been scanning waiting child lists. (A girl can dream, can't she?) Two children caught my eye. I looked closer. And closer. And closer. Ultimately, I recognized that these two children, abandoned in two different locations on two different days, have got to be TWINS. They are listed by two different agencies. The overseeing adoption agency from that country is obviously unaware of the situation. I cannot figure out why the orphanage has not figured it out (unless they are purposely choosing to ignore it), but the coincidences are just too large. If they are not twins it would be almost stranger than if they are.

Please pray for these children. I cannot say anything about them for fear that it could possibly jeopardize their being placed together. But pray that things come together for these two beautiful babies. I'd love it if you'd leave a comment to say that you're committed to praying with me!

Thank you!!!!!!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

China Foster Family Skype #6

GG has been home seven months now. Last night we celebrated the New Year by going out for Chinese food. When the waitress stood right next to him and spoke to him in Chinese, he almost jumped out of his highchair (startled), looked at her, and immediately broke out into a HUGE grin. She tried to talk to him several times and his response was always to be consumed in a fit of laughter. Loud, hilarious giggling. He looked like he understood (or at least recognized that this was supposed to be familiar), but he never responded.

He has not responded to spoken Chinese with spoken Chinese since we came home. He will not speak it. Ever. Period.

Tonight we Skyped, delighted to see Ayi, Nai-Nai, sister, brother and the foster baby. He laughed with all of them but again, he would not speak. They tried hard to get him to answer them, but he would have none of it. In contrast to last week, tonight he soon asked to leave. He actually asked to go eat a banana so he could quit.

Despite the best intentions of keeping his first language, it's impossible if he will never, ever speak it. The best we do is to have him sing songs while he watches the Mei-Mei videos or listens to a CD. That's as good as it gets.

Tonight Ayi told me that one of her closest friends lives in a city near us. Again, what a small world!

Happy New Year!

Read this on another site... It pretty much sums up my thoughts for the New Year!

May we all love more, worry less, and truly appreciate the blessings that each and every day God bestows upon us.
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