Friday, September 28, 2012

Toy Purge Follow-Up

I wasn't able to show you a picture of when we purged toys a few weeks back, but now I've got some photos on the computer!  Below is the "before" picture of all of Feven's toys that we found located around the house.  It was incredible to see how many she actually had when we put them all in the same room.  Of the toys you see below, we purchased only SEVEN of them for her!  As you can see, we were very blessed with gifts and hand-me-downs.  Through the process of going through her toys, we enjoyed being able to be a blessing to others by giving away some of her toys to friends and also giving some to the local thrift store.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Supplier

I've resumed substitute teaching again at my favorite school.  I've gone on and on before about this school, so I won't go into details now other than to say it's a 10-minute drive from my house, great students and kind staff.  I feel at home when I walk into this building.

And now, I have yet another reason to love this school. 

I have a supplier. 

When I taught there last Monday, one of the students came up to me and presented me with a package of fruit snacks.  After questioning her thoroughly to make sure it wasn't supposed to be part of her snack OR her lunch, I graciously accepted her gift and confessed my love for fruit snacks.  Not gonna lie - when the school day was over, I indulged and those things were seriously delicious.

Yesterday I taught in that same classroom again and while still in the hallway before the school bell rang, she presented me with another bag of fruit snacks!  I questioned her again and told her she didn't need to give me anything.  However, I also know that it's important to be thankful and honor the gift given, so I let her know I appreciated it and I would enjoy them.

She went on to tell me that from now on, anytime she knows I am going to be her teacher, she will bring me a package of fruit snacks.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Trouble with Smelling the Roses

Back in May I taught Feven how to smell flowers.  We first practiced on lilacs and have since moved on to dandelions, irises, daylilies and even roses.

Here's the problem.  Roses have thorns.

This usually isn't an issue because when Feven bends to smell a flower, she sticks her head waaaaay out and doesn't get close enough to the flower to actually smell it.  Except yesterday.  Yesterday, she fell into the rosebush.  Yes, my beautiful little baby girl FELL INTO THE ROSEBUSH!  She has multiple cuts stretching across her right cheek and cuts on her left hand which she used to try to brace herself as she went down.  She looks awful.  I feel awful. 

We went to a nearby lake yesterday evening to sail, and as I walked with my daughter along the shore, I noticed a woman walking on the path toward us.  We smiled the Minnesota Hello, and as she passed, I blurted, "We had an incident with the rosebush today.  Good thing family photos aren't anytime soon! (chuckle chuckle)"  All the while in my head thinking, "PLEASE don't call Social Services on me!  I PROMISE YOU it was the rosebush!"

To make matters worse, in the 24 hours prior to what I am now referring to as "The Rosebush Incident of 2012," Feven took 3 other falls!  She fell down our [cement!] front porch steps, fell in her room and hit her head on her dresser, and yesterday morning she fell off the bed and hit her head on the nightstand!  Ugh!  This mama heart can't take any more owies!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Purging Toys

I have always enjoyed getting rid of things.  I like to go through drawers and closets to find things I no longer use and put them in grocery bags to drop off at the thrift store.

Recently I came across a great blog that follows the journey of one family who is making some radical steps toward simplicity.  I read it and become instantaneously inspired!

On Saturday Zac and I decided to gather Feven's toys to one location and see what she really plays with these days.  We were SO BLESSED to receive toys from friends and family, but we are tired of tripping over them and picking them up each day.

We decided less is more in this area, and by downsizing our stock of toys, we hope to gain:
-more time to be with Feven because we won't be picking up so many toys
-more creativity in our playtime because we can come up with multiple uses for each toy
-more space on our shelves due to fewer toys

We gathered all of the toys into the "Cabin Room" and separated them by category.

Friends, her toys covered the floor.  As I looked around at all the piles of colorful toys and dolls, I thought to myself that these would be enough toys for an entire orphanage.  And we have all of these for one little girl.

As we examined each toy, we put it into one of 4 categories: Keep out because she plays with it often, Save for future children, Give Away to our friends who might enjoy it, Take to thrift store.

Oooh, it was glorious to see what we had when all was said and done.  A big bin went to the thrift store, a box now holds toys for our next child (no, no announcements or anything of the kind right now.  Have you been reading my blog?!? We're completely overwhelmed with ONE!), and my favorite thing was that when we put all of the toys she currently plays with out on the shelves, we had one empty shelving unit!  That's right!  It sat completely bare!  We happily moved it downstairs and started mentally calculating all the extra hours in our week from not having to put toys back on that shelf daily.

My camera is being silly right now, so I can't show you a "before" picture.  I'll try to upload it later, but for now, I'll leave the scenario to your imagination!

What can you get rid of today?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Sunday Stroll

Sunday afternoon found us walking home from a new park in the warm, late-summer sunshine.  We had a great time running, climbing, sliding and giggling, and were now heading back home for supper.  We were adorable.  Someone probably should have taken a picture of our happy family for a parenting magazine.

Feven kept asking to get out and walk, so I told Zac to go on ahead with the stroller and I'd stay with Feven so she could walk the rest of the way. 

At first she was so excited to walk that she nearly pulled me behind her as she ran in her new-found freedom.  Soon her little legs grew tired, and she wanted to discover neighbors' lawns instead of walk on the sidewalk.  I kept redirecting her to the sidewalk.

Soon after, she would bend her knees as we were walking and just sort of plop down.  She'd kneel there, right in the middle of the sidewalk, and smile.

Ugh.  We wouldn't make it home by midnight at this pace!

I picked her up for awhile, but then she said, "Dah-dee" which is her way of saying, "I want to walk."  I'd let her walk awhile and she'd do the knee thing again so I'd pick her up again.

Pretty soon the heat and my own hunger got to me and I thought to myself, "We just need to get home."  I picked her up and intended to carry her the whole way home.  She started squirming and saying "dah-dee."  Then saying it louder.  And louder.  Pretty soon she was in the back-arching, screaming mode yelling "Dah-DEE!"

I'll let you figure out what it looked like to the average passerby as a white woman carried a black child screaming "Daddy" down the street.  I'm surprised I didn't get arrested!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ethiopian New Year!

Today marks the beginning of 2005 in the Ethiopian calendar

We didn't plan a whole lot to celebrate this year, but maybe in future years as Feven grows we will add to the celebration.  However, today we did enjoy Shiro Wat and injera for lunch.

Hold on - don't send out that nomination for "Adoptive Mother of the Year" just yet.  I have to show you what happened...

Even though we've eaten this meal before, when I placed the injera on Feven's tray she looked at it like, "Mom, are you serious?"

I finally got her to touch the bread, but she did so hesitantly. 

I convinced her to let me put a bite in her mouth.  I may have said, "If you take a bit of this I'll give you a bite of yogurt."  Apparently, even though I didn't think it was spicy, it was.  Here she is reacting to her mouth on fire.

No wonder the poor girl freaked out when she saw another bite coming her way!  Oh well.  Happy New Year, and we'll keep working on the Ethiopian cuisine.  As it turned out, I got a very nice, large meal of Shiro Wat for lunch! :)


Friday, September 7, 2012

True Confessions: Unproductive

One of the things I've struggled with the most and still am struggling with is my lack of productivity.  Oh, people warned me that once you're a parent, there's no time for anything else.  I listened to them and somewhere deep inside thought, "Yes, but you don't know me.  I can make it happen."

True confession: I can't make it happen.  I really can't get anything done.

I came across a quote from Rachel Campos-Duffy that sums it up well for me:
"But the act of nurturing and caring for children was never intended to be measured by the standards of productivity used in professions outside of the home because much of what you do is unquantifiable.  It is impossible to quantitatively measure the value of a hug, a well-deserved time-out, or the security your children are gaining from spending their day in the company of their mommy..."
So my to-do list sits full of chores that are yet to be crossed off.  Dust is piling up in the corners.  Projects sit on a shelf, waiting for a better time.

BUT, I'm spending my day...

Marveling at shoes.

Playing dress-up.

Laughing as my daughter learns to climb into the tub all by herself.

Cuddling this sweet face.

Chuckling as I find toys in new places.  Seriously, when did she do this?!?

Reading books to her; she brings them to me and then plops down in my lap, waiting for me to begin.

Watching my best friend love his little girl with a powerful, adoring love.

I prefer doing these tasks instead of cleaning.  How can you even think of cleaning when looking at the picture above?  I'm pretty sure 99.99% of the population would choose a hammock with these smiling faces over a broom and dustpan any day.

Even though I have trained myself for 30 years to be "productive," I'm seeing that there is something way more fulfilling.  Way more challenging.  Way more special.  And more rewarding than checking a box. 

It's LIFE.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

True Confessions: Cocooning Evaluation

When we brought Feven home in April, we began a process known in the adoption world as "Cocooning."  The basic idea is that you keep your newly-adopted child's world very small, and slowly bring in new people, places, and experiences.  If you haven't read my blog post on the cocooning specifics we chose, please do so; the rest of today's post will make a lot more sense!  Even if you've already read it, you may appreciate a refresher.

Here's my evaluation of the steps we used in our cocooning process:

Strategy: Limit Visitors and Trips Outside the Home

Implementation: for about 4 weeks we didn't let anyone else see Feven, except for the occasional neighbor in passing while we were out for a short walk.  We didn't take her to the grocery store, Target, or anywhere outside of the neighborhood.  She did have one or two car trips for doctor visits, but other than that, she was pretty much just at home.

Benefits: We were able to start a great attachment with her because we were the only ones in her world.  We met her every need and she began trusting us.  It took quite awhile for her to trust us.  We thought she was trusting us, but looking back at photos and videos from those early weeks, we can see now that her face still registered trepidation.  Attachment takes a looong time.  Another benefit from limiting trips and visitors was that Zac and I got rest.  Figuring out how to be parents - and be parents to a toddler - was very overwhelming at times.  Our slower pace helped us adjust too.

Challenges:  I felt so silly sometimes when friends would bring over meals.  When Zac was still on paternity leave, he would take Feven to a room on the opposite side of the house and close the door while I would welcome our visitor and accept their gift of food.  It felt very strange to not share our new baby with the world right away.  Also, running errands was particularly challenging after Zac went back to work.  I couldn't go out and about with Feven, so I had to wait until evening when he was watching her to get our groceries and make our shopping runs.  

Recommendation: I would definitely recommend this strategy to others.  If we are blessed enough to adopt again, I plan on doing a 4-week cocoon or even longer.  It seemed to really benefit Feven and give our family a great start.

Strategy:  Give Feven Chronological Age experiences she may have missed and treat her as her Family Age

Implementation: We spoon-fed Feven her food for the majority of the first months she was with us, even though many kids her age were beginning to use spoons.  We tried to make eye contact with her for each spoonful.  We fed her bottles 3 times a day (and still do!).  We "wore her" in our Ergo carrier for walks and sometimes around the house if she wanted to be held but we couldn't at the time.

Benefits:  Hopefully there were good connections happening in Feven's brain through our efforts to connect with her.  I know Zac and I really enjoy giving her her bottles and spending that special time with her.  I like to sing to her and talk to her about our day when I give her a bottle.  Zac likes to tell her how much he loves her, how much I love her, and how much God loves her.  We've also enjoyed carrying her in our Ergo.  SHE loves it too!  Before she could walk, she would see us getting out the Ergo and she would crawl over to us and then stop right in front of our legs with her arms reaching upward!  Even now, she smiles when she sees us take it out and she walks over to be swept up into our arms.

Challenges:  Sometimes we don't always feel like holding her, or having her hold onto our legs.  It's hard to give her cuddles each time she wants them.  However, when I think about all the times she may have wanted cuddles in her first 11 months and there was nobody there to give them, my heart floods with compassion and I pick her up again.

Recommendation: There is a lot of research out there which lists the benefits of making up "missed" chronological steps.  I think this is valuable.  I recommend this strategy to any adoptive parent - especially wearing your child.  I have heard of a number of other kids who REALLY like being next to their parents in the baby carrier!

Strategy: Zac and I will be the only ones to meet Feven's needs for awhile

Implementation:  We waited 3.5 months until we had our first babysitter.  For that entire 3.5 months, Zac and I were the only ones to feed, change, or bathe Feven.

Benefits:  She now seeks us out to meet her needs.

Challenges:  That's a long time to go without a date night!  We waited until we met with an attachment specialist and got the "official" go-ahead before having a babysitter.  Perhaps we could have had one sooner, but we were sure happy to get out when we did!

Recommendation:  This is such a good thing to do, especially if a child has had multiple care-givers.  We are still implementing this in some ways by being the ones to pick her up when she's hurt and when we have family over, we typically are still the ones to feed, change, and bathe her.

Strategy: Funneling

Implementation: Whenever someone wants to hold Feven, we should be the ones to pick Feven up and place her in the arms of that person.

Benefits: Through this, Feven sees that we are giving our consent for that person to hold her.  In a way, we are letting her know that this is a safe person.

Challenges: We haven't been great about doing this.  The attachment therapist suggested we do this more intentionally and it fell off our radar.  We can see the negative impact from our laziness; Feven too-willingly approaches strangers or people she has only seen once or twice before.  We are working on this strategy with more fervor now and hope that it helps her understand the importance of "checking in" with mom or dad before going with someone else.

Recommendation: This is important, but can feel awkward at times.

I hope you have found my evaluation to be helpful.  Feven is doing extremely well overall, and I credit it in part to these strategies.  The other credit goes to God.  He is working on her, and He is doing marvelous things in her life.

Monday, September 3, 2012

True Confessions: Epic Failure

I don't get it.  I look around and all I see are these stay-at-home-moms who look like they have it all together.  Their kids are polite, their clothes are trendy (and clean!), their houses are clutter-free, and their refrigerators are covered with the latest cute craft projects they did with their children.

I feel like a failure.

I feel like a failure as a parent.
I had all these dreams for things Feven and I would do together, but each day it seems all I can do to get us both dressed, fed, and put to sleep at night.  No cute picnics at the park.  No craft projects.  No swimming pool adventures.  Just survival.

I feel like a failure as a homemaker.
Catching up with chores after she goes to bed keeps Zac and I busy until 9:30 or 10pm.  And that's just dishes, laundry, and cooking, friends!  Don't even look at my dirty windows, check for dust, or go downstairs to the basement.  There are MANY neglected areas since becoming parents.

I feel like a failure as a friend.
I've always been good about getting back to people and caring for my friends.  i. just. can't. anymore.  So many things are dropping from this delicate juggling act I'm trying to perform, and communication with friends is one of them.  I worked my tail off to clean up our email last week, and after spending hours and hours returning emails, I still have 31 emails to respond to.  Facebook messages are worse: 52 messages to respond to and countless events that I have missed or not responded to.  And don't get me started on my phone.  I listen to most messages, but then save them so I can call back at an appropriate time.  I don't check my saved messages anymore because I'm scared to know how many are there waiting for me. 

I feel like a failure as a wife.
Zac?  Zac who?  It seems that even though we are under the same roof and spend 7 awake-hours together each day, our relationship has looked more like a relay race than a bicycle built for two.  "Here, you start feeding her the cottage cheese and I'll warm up the spaghetti." (hand-off of food).  "Here, you take her and get her diaper changed and I'll get her bottle ready." (hand-off Feven).  Sometimes I sit down on the couch at 10pm, exhausted and back aching, and I look over at him.  It's then that I realize I haven't even looked him in the eye all day.  This is my best friend, the person who I committed to for the rest of my life.  This isn't life.  This is survival.  I want to thrive. I want to be a best friend to my husband.

It's hard feeling like a failure.  If there was one area where I didn't feel like I was failing, I would at least have a little hope.  But it feels like I'm flunking all areas.  I shared this with a friend recently, and she passed along a great blog post that seemed to speak directly to me.

Check out this post entitled, "Dear Sweet Mom Who Feels Like She's Failing"

I hope it encourages you as much as it did me.  It made me start to believe that maybe I'm not a failure after all.

Also, I cannot compare myself to others.  Then I will fail to be the me that God created me to be. That is the most epic failure of all.  If you are feeling a little down on yourself today, check out this song which Feven and I love.  It reminds me to be who I am.