Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tate is 2 today !!!

Happy Birthday to my little man. What a joy to be your mama. You make me smile each and every day. We love you so very VERY much.

I will have to post more later about the party we had to celebrate but just a few shots of our birthday boy. We had to call the kids out of the pool to blow out the candles. Should have dried you off a bit...but what a precious moment...our first birthday together.

I can't help but think all day about your birth mom today. May God bless her for her loving gift of life to you and our family.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Travel TOY ideas (especially for toddler and preschool age kiddos)

I wanted to share from personal experience some ideas of what worked for us for travel toys. It took a little asking around to get some good ideas and our agency lists some basics of things to bring to keep your kids entertained in the hotel room, traveling on the airplane and waiting for the embassy appointment. The typical ideas were:

Crayons and color book
Toy cars

I searched around for some unique and stimulating toys and games that would keep the kiddos entertain. We knew that Tate liked balls, so we brought a blow up beach ball and punch balloons. Got those at the dollar store and they were a hit !!!
Here we have some books with lots of pictures. I thought these would give us something to talk about. Point to the picture and say the English word...have them say the Amharic word. Another activity book (not pictured) was a sticker book. Tyce and I worked on that together (good bonding activity). I wished I had brought a small story book. These were just pictures with no story. We also had 2 of these magnetic games/toys. You can look for them at toy stores or even at Cracker Barrel (they have FANTASTIC travel games and toys).
Here were coloring/writing toys. Aqua wonder, magna doodle, etch a sketch, and the painting toy. We also brought coloring book and colored pencils. I wish I had brought just a notepad and pencil. Tyce likes to write his ABC's (something he learned at the orphanage).
Electronic toys !!! These were a hit. The lights...the buttons...the sounds...they LOVED these. Even though they were a little young for our 4 year old, he was equally entertained. These kids are into buttons. So, if you don't want your kids taking over your cell phone and camera, bring something with buttons. The only thing that wasn't a big hit...the Leapster. They couldn't figure it out. Simple was better. Developmentally, most orphans are behind, so younger toys are just fine. On a different note, the music toy with the yellow circle was a coping toy for Tate. I had that when we met the boys and pulled it out right away. He spent most of our week together holding that toy up to his ear.

This little green cell phone was a great toy for the 4 yo. Buttons and sounds and lights. That way our little guy could use the music toy in the previous picture. The travel view master was cool too. We clipped it onto our back pack and all the kids loved it. I also packed the puzzle in a ziplock baggie and photo copied the cover of the box. That was a good toy to play with together. Interactive with parent and child.

Here are some small goodies. Finger puppets, cars, key chain size stacking rings. We also had matchbox cars, matchbox airplane (to explain where we were going and what we would travel on), and wind up toy bugs (not sure where those have ended up). The wind up toy was a good toy. Again, something to interact with your new child but not too close and intimidating. The BEST hit of our trip was a whirly toy I found at the dollar store. Junky little thing but it was clearly a GOD thing to have brought it. You can see it in all of our gotcha pics (here and here). I have also seen some cool whirly toys and have thought they would be a fantastic toy to bring when you meet your children.

We also brought a portable DVD player to use in the hotel room. We had learned that the kids watch quite a bit of TV at HH (the transition home). Even if our DVD's were new to them, it gave us something to do those long days. And some of the hard days, the boys just needed to zone out. It is a LOT for these little minds to comprehend. Some down time is needed.

I strongly suggest bringing toys when you meet your kids. Interaction that isn't too close and intimidating. Coloring side by side would be too close. But throwing a ball back and forth or racing cars back and forth would be a good idea. It could be terrifying for some children to meet their new family and setting realistic expectation for that meet and greet is a good idea.

When it was time to travel home, we brought out the backpack that was hidden. I worked hard at pulling out different toys each day. Rather than have it a free for all as soon as we got to the hotel room. I had saved new and different toys for the plane ride. But to be honest, we just prayed for God's mercy as we traveled home. It wasn't the easiest of trips, but we did make it home in one piece.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

expressing his dreams

We ask Tyce each morning what he dreamed about. We all know that in our dreams is a common place to work out our thoughts and emotions. I think it is a way for us to see what is going on in his sweet little head. It is interesting to see how his dreams have changed over the past few months.

At first when we started asking what he dreamed about, he shared about scary dreams he was having. It was a break through for us to understand what scared him. Spider man climbing up the house. It took me a bit to figure it out with his limited English. But I know that "ladybug" (which is how he shared it) is his generic name for all bugs and creepy crawly things. And I was able to understand it was a bug that climbs. Once we figured out it was spider man, we went to his room and threw out anything with that image on it (2 jammie shirts). I took him in my arms and comforted him and reminded him that he is safe here and mommy and daddy are her for you. I also asked him if he had scary dreams while he was in Ethiopia, and he cried and said yes. Then he said "Fikadu alone". Meaning...no one was there to comfort him after a bad dream. That's enough to break your heart. Poor sweet thing. He seems to have gotten over the spider man dreams and doesn't share much about scary dreams anymore.

Then he moved onto dreaming about his friends from the orphanage. He would share about how they were dancing together with Abushy (little brother) and him in his dreams each night. At this time, he had seen some pictures of his friends on other blogs and seemed to be missing them and grieving the loss of his close HH friends. We have stopped looking at pictures of his playmates in hopes that he is able to understand more that our family is forever. It seems to be wise to let some time pass before these kids can fully process all their feelings of their previous life. We have been told to wait 9-12 months before we initiate pictures of the life in Ethiopia.

Tyce's most recent dreams include going for scooter rides with Daddy. You see...this boy LOVES his daddy. I'm sure it helps that they are STILL co-sleeping in the boy's room and get to wake up and talk first thing in the morning. Chuck is one busy man, and time with the family is limited. So, I love that he has positive feelings about the time he gets to spend with Daddy.

Chuck did take Tyce on one small and very slow scooter ride down our street. It must have made a lasting impression. Enough for a small boy to dream about.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

stepping back to see how far we've come (this post is only about a month overdue)

When you are in the thick of adjusting, it is hard to see how far you have come. When your kids don't leave your side, it is hard to tell in what ways they have changed. I intended to post these pictures like a month ago, but never got around to it. Somehow these pictures were overlooked. But looking back through these photos has helped me see how much has changed since we came home.

We had the opportunity to welcome home a playmate from HH at our local airport. Even though we were still in the cocooning stage, I wanted to bend the rules a bit and be at the airport to witness this family meeting all together for the first time.

There is something so special about those airport moments. I can see why the adoption community jokingly says they are addictive. We all love to show our support in this way and it means so much to the family. This event was really good for me to see that we are not that BRAND NEW family who has JUST come home. We have begun to settle in. It doesn't feel as new. We have actually had the boys with us longer than they were at the orphanage. When we climbed off that plane, we were beyond exhausted. Almost couldn't see straight. It was all a blur. It was good for me to see how much has changed in just a few short months.

How sweet to see these 2 buddies reunite at the airport. It meant so much for Tyce to have a familiar face to greet him, I hope this little AJ also has fond memories of seeing Fikadu when he arrived in America.

So...stepping back to take a good look. Our boys have come so far. They have grown and changed and become different kids. When I look back at those referral photos, I have a hard time almost seeing the children I now know. Good for me to see a different perspective.

I snapped this pic as I was loading up the kids to head home from the airport that day. When we had arrived home, our little man screamed the whole way home. And now look, just a few months later, he can ride in a car seat and even enjoy the ride.

Rare photo...Tate smiling.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Jealousy in Adoption

I have had this post rolling around in my thoughts for awhile and I wanted to share some of my thoughts on jealousy in adoption. Kind of a Debbie Downer of a topic, but I feel that it is something that is quite real and can be a struggle for many adoptive families.

First off I will share from my own struggles of jealousy in adoption and hopefully that might open the doors of communication as we spur each other on to live a life that is fully pleasing to God. I believe that jealousy can creep into our lives in many different ways and if we are unaware, our thoughts can easily become captive of not being content in our certain circumstances. For isn't that what jealousy is...not being content where we are in the situation that God has us in?

There was a time in my life that I wished and longed for our family to look like this photo. In one way that is a good thing, but when it got to a point of me not being content with the children God had given me...and I was jealous of other adoptive families...not such a great place to be.

Last year when we began our journey of filling out paperwork and working on our fundraising for our adoption I found myself becoming jealous of others. When I would hear of another family getting a loving donation from a stranger, I would wonder why wasn't that us? Or if I heard of a yard sale that raised a lot of money, I wondered how come our yard sale didn't raise that much. Or even families that had a lot of support from others, I wondered if we would be left out or would others rally around us and support us too?

I am almost embarrassed to write those words, but I had that ugly sin in my life of coveting what someone else had and wishing I had it too. I knew it was wrong and God worked in my heart to surrender to His plan and I was able to come to the point where I was truly happy for those families that got the needed money or support or had a successful fundraising event. I was able to see that God's timing was perfect, that His plan was the best and I had to submit to His will and not seek my own.

There is something unique about the adoption journey. You see it is one of the most emotional journeys you could ever be on. You are often cut to the core of your raw emotions that must be brought before the Lord and checked with Him. And through the process of the adoption journey, I believe that God is constantly getting rid of all that you are that isn't of HIM.

Jealously can surface in so many areas. Jealous of someone else for...having their agency work faster...for having a better SW...for getting their paperwork in before you...getting on the waiting list first...for having a husband who is willing to adopt...for passing court the first time when you didn't...for getting earlier travel dates...choosing a different agency...for having a better adoption support group...for getting a referral before you...for being placed with an easier child...for having family that is supportive instead of judgmental...for having someone throw them a shower...of having a slow moving country program or worse yet, having a program shut down all together...for loosing your money on an adoption...for having a birth mom pick another family or decide to parent the child instead...for watching another family's adjustment be easier than yours...for..........

Clearly the list can go on and on. These are all areas that can easily cause us to wish we had different circumstances. I am sure you can list more than what what I came up with. It might even be that you are (or have) struggled with this and yet you are ashamed to admit it (even to yourself). I want to encourage you (and myself too) to check those thoughts with

Philippians 4:8

whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

We know that from 1 Corinthians 13 that LOVE is NOT jealous.

And James 3:16 reminds us that where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

a day in the life of the peapod

6:30 - wake up and use potty
7:00 - breakfast with daddy
7:00 - wash up and get dressed (mommy shower)
8:00 - boys get dressed (daddy heads out the door for work)
Mommy prepare for school

8:30 - school time #1 for all kids (go here for some ideas of what I am doing to stimulate some learning at home)

10:00 - snack time (mommy either reads to kids or works with one of the girls for 1 on 1 school time)

10:15 - play time for all the kids

10:30 - big kids head back for school time #2 (boys get more play time outside or in basement to get the wiggles out)

11:45 - lunch break (clean up and potty time for boys)

12:30 - more physical play time for boys (free time for girls)

1:00 - boys down for naps and rest (school time #3 for girls - best time for mom to teach more focuses subjects like science and history - usually one hour a day of devoted teaching time)

2:00 - 2:30 - up from naps, snack time (prep for dinner and chores for mom - Tate is pretty fussy when he wakes up)

3:00 - 4:30 - play time for all (playset, bikes, walk - boys require constant supervision during play time)

time for mom to finish chores and dinner (this day the boys helped make dinner)

4:30 - clean up for dinner and tidy house
5:00 - dinner (Chuck is still at work)
5:30 - last play time of the day for the boys
6:00 - bath time for boys (computer time for girls)

6:30 - jammies and stories with mom
7:00 - tuck in (snuggle time) first Tyce
Daddy hurries home for a good night kiss
One last brotherly hug...then off to bed.
7:30 - then Tate (I still hold each of the boys until they fall asleep)
8:00 - mommy reads to girls and tucks them in
9:00 - mommy starts night time chores and finally gets to the computer to return emails
10:00 - mommy is DONE for the day because it starts all over again.

I have learned I have to really purpose my day. If not, time slips away and I don't get much done. If I don't plan ahead, dinner time turns into a disaster, school doesn't get done, laundry piles up....As you can tell right now, we spend most days at home in our own little nest. I am also working really hard at having lots of cuddle time with the boys. Notice how often they sit with us either for reading or snack time. We are working so hard at bonding.

Now...to be honest, this particular day (notice I look like I had been crying most of the day - well, I had) that I snapped these pictures was a horrible day. Just a rough day for obeying and listening to mom and full of lots of attitude. It reminded me how much I need to keep praying for these kids. I need to keep seeking God's grace each and every day. We are dealing with some normal behavior that tends to surface once the boys feel more comfortable around us. Just because it is normal, doesn't mean it's easy. Please keep praying for our transition.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Let's talk about HAIR

OK...all you readers who are about to bring home your little ones from Africa and are looking for some helpful tips on hair...listen up. Well, seriously, I am NO expert on hair but I have a little info to share.

Black hair is so very different from non-black hair. It doesn't need to be washed as often (only every 1-3 weeks is all it needs) and it needs some moisture and shine to be added to it daily. Just like most adoptive mommies, I have a cabinet full of different products that I have tried on the boy's hair. Every thing from Panteen for Women of Color to all natural hair butter have been tried out on my little guys. First off, let me share we try not to go out when the boys have frizzy hair. I work hard at having them look good and well cared for so I often apply new lotion to their hair and skin if we are out and about.
Here is Tyce before his hair has been done for the morning. Lots of fuzzy fly aways.

We have not cut their hair since we have been home. If you pull out the curls, it is about 1-2 inches long. Tyce has tighter curls.
Now for some pics after I have "done" his hair. I spritz with water, then add a little leave in conditioner and this picture was after I added some "Second Life Hair Butter" (visit this site here).

Of all the products I have tried so far, this Second Life Hair Butter is my favorite. I love that it is natural. I really hate the idea of applying chemicals on my little guy's hair every day. I do his hair each morning and then again after bath.

I have found with most products, I like it for a few days and then their hair starts to frizzy up again. A lot of products have alcohol in them and that dries out the hair. You need to find something that adds shine and moisture back into their hair.

Just today I tried some twists in Tyce's hair. Oh my word...I love it.
I just grabbed some hair and started to twist. Isn't it just adorable???

Look at that grin. What a happy little guy.

I am a big fan of the natural curls on the boys. I have also learned it is just easier to not comb or pick through their hair. I just use my fingers to style and work in the hair lotion. It can be a hassle to fix their hair every day, but I just don't have the hear to cut it yet.