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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