About Me

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I'm a 30-something wife and mom. My boys are my pride and joy. Together, we are navigating being a forever family post international adoption.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: Top 10 Memories

So much good stuff happened in 2014. It was my first full year of motherhood, and Buddy's first full year as a part of our family. As hard as it was for me to narrow it down to my top 10 moments, these are some of the memories that I will cherish for the rest of my days. In no particular order:


Skiing/Snowboarding:

I grew up on the slopes. My Dad taught us how to ski at a very young age and every weekend we would go down-hill skiing. I had the pleasure of taking my boys on a downhill skiing/snowboarding vacation in 2014 where they both got to have the same type of experience. We had so much fun together and I can hardly wait to do it again this winter.







Blue Hair:

Buddy had been wanting to dye his hair for ages. As a reward for doing well in school, we let him dye his hair blue. Actually, I did it for him. I remember wanting to dye my hair as a kid, and finally sneaking off and doing it on my own. The results were less than glamorous. I didn't want the same thing to happen to Buddy. He had blue hair all summer long and we got some weird looks, but I actually think it was pretty cool.






Soccer Mom:

2014 was the year I became a soccer Mom. Buddy loves soccer and had never been on a team before, so he was excited to join our local community club team. He grew so much during the season and went from unsure and tentative, to overly pushy, to a great team player. I was so proud to be the Mom whose kid scored the game winning goal in the final match. Not that winning was the point, but I still felt pretty special.






The Fair:

Every year the fair comes to town. My parents used to take me when I was little and we would ride all the rides, eat mini doughnuts and come home dirty and exhausted. It was awesome! Hubby is terrified of rides, so for a long time I had no reason to go. Until 2014. Buddy loves rides. The only ride that Hubby likes is the bumper cars, which I can't stand. But guess who loves them too: Buddy! We road all the rides, ate mini doughnuts and came home dirty and exhausted. It was awesome!





Going Home:

Buddy and I took a road trip to where I grew up in the summer of 2014. He met so many of my friends and family members, got to go canoeing, hiking, climbing, shoot guns, and see animals in the wild. One of my favorite memories is a late night walk down in the country we took together. The trees were all around us, there was no sound except the crunch of gravel under our shoes, and overhead the sky was full of beautiful stars. Buddy marveled that there must have been about a billion million of them. I think he was probably right.





Metcha One Year Anniversary:

We chose not to celebrate "gotcha" day, because leaving his orphanage was a sad day for Buddy. Instead, we decided to mark our "metcha" day as one to celebrate. We went out for dinner and bought Buddy a Hot Wheels car, which was the first gift we ever gave him. He thought it was pretty cool that we remembered it, down to the make and model. As our waitress was taking our picture, Buddy leaned over and gave me an impromptu kiss on the cheek. That is something I will never forget, and I can't believe she actually caught it! I love my Sweet Boy.





Family Photo Shoot:

I have never been a big fan of posed pictures, but I have a friend who is a photographer. She takes such lovely photos that I was convinced to get ours done as a family, dogs included. She managed to take some beautiful shots in under 30 minutes and we had a blast doing it. Buddy was not a fan of the idea, but as we drove away he commented on how much fun it was to have our pictures done. Now I just need to get them framed and hung...






Halloween:

Honestly, last year Buddy had no idea what was going on at Halloween. He had seen it in movies, so he had a basic idea, but Hubby had to take him to each door and say "trick or treat" for him. I remember trick or treating with friends when I was his age and having so much fun. This year, Buddy got to have the same experience when he went with one of his friends from the neighborhood. Hubby kept an eye on them (from an acceptable distance) while I handed out candy. Norman Rockwell, eat your heart out.





Buddy's Birthday Trip:

I blogged not too long ago about Buddy's birthday trip to a hotel/water park. It was especially exciting because it was the first time Buddy was eager to spend a night away from home. Normally he is nervous to be in a new place and often has to sleep in the same bed as us. This time, he was excited for #1: the water park, #2: playing Play Station (which was in his room) and #3: staying in a hotel. My baby is growing up!





Our Second Christmas:

Just like Halloween, Buddy didn't really know what was going on last year at Christmas. He wasn't fluent in English yet, and a lot of our explanations went over his head. This year, he remembered things like decorating the tree and picking out a new family ornament. He happily watched Christmas movies and helped wrap presents. For me, the best part was seeing my family forming Christmas traditions that are unique to us. It makes the season a little bit more special.





Those are my top 10 memories of 2014. There are so many more that I can't really, truly say these are the best ones, but they stick out the most.

I hope you had a great 2014!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Inside the Advent Calendar

Everything in Buddy's Advent calendar came from the dollar store, which means each day cost a dollar or less!
- Day 1: Snowman gum
- Day 2: Ear phones
- Day 3: Glow in the dark spiders
- Day 4: Fake teeth
- Day 5: Stick-on mustaches
- Day 6: Chocolate
- Day 7: Pirate "gold"
- Day 8: Magic towel
- Day 9: Metal puzzle
- Day 10: Post-Its
- Day 11: Sticky frogs
- Day 12: Metallic tape
- Day 13: Book light
- Day 14: Pencil grips
- Day 15: Straw making kit
- Day 16: More chocolates
- Day 17: More spiders
- Day 18: More gold pieces
- Day 19: Crocodile eraser
- Day 20: More Post-Its
- Day 21: Pin-ball puzzles
- Day 22: More gum
- Day 23: MORE chocolates
- Day 24: Laser pointer





Buddy had lots of fun opening each drawer and when Advent was done made sure that we would keep his calendar for next year. I'm happy it was a hit and that we have a new Christmas tradition.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

#Fo5Photo

One of my tweeps, @TheFamilyofFive, started a daily photo challenge and invited others to join in. I thought it was a great idea, so for 30 days I tweeted one photo a day based on the challenge outline. I thought I would give you the overview of my month. Thanks to the Family of 5's Journey for starting this! It was a lot of fun seeing everyone's pictures.

If you want to check out the original tweets, hit me up on Twitter @MamaBearPAL.


Day #1: You
Day 2: Breakfast. I eat like a child... Except the coffeeDay #3: something you adore. Of course it's my #family so much #love for them!
Day 4: Letterbox
Day 5: something you wore. 3 heart (for my family) and key (1st gift from Buddy) necklace charms #family
Day 6: makes you smile. A boy and his dog. #FurryFriends are the best




Day 7: Favorite: Soup. Spicy vegetarian Thai tom yum. #delicious
Day 8: Your Sky: grey and snowy, gonna be a #WhiteChristmas
Day 9: Daily Routine. Coffee, coffee, coffee. Like manna from heaven
Day 10: Childhood. First bear, word, friend. Been with me through everything
Day 11: Where you Sleep. Mine is the left side. Always has been, always will be
Day 12: closeup. This close enough for ya!




Day 13: in your bag. Everything but the kitchen sink.
Day 14: something you are reading. Social Skills 101 #adoption
Day 15: Happiness. One of the best, happiest days of my life. #wedding #inlove
Day 16: Morning. Buddy and Grem catching a few last minute #zzz. #FurryFriend
Day 17: Water. Childhood summer spot. #family #memories
Day 18: Something you bought. Sushi for 1. Post-Christmas shopping tradition. Yum!





Day 19: Sweet. Butterscotch and sea salt chocolate bar. Even sweeter because it's #fairtrade
Day 20: Someone you love. My Dad. I'm lucky to have had him raise me. http://bit.ly/1yMqq7V
Day 21: Reflection. From our babymoon before we #adopted Buddy.
Day 22: Your Shoes. I can't walk in either pair and yet I have no buyers remorse.
Day 23: Something Old. Great-aunt's chest, now Buddy's toybox. Like to think it makes the "spinster" happy.
Day 24: Guilt Pleasure. I don't wear much #makeup , yet I do love to look at it.


Day 25: Something you Made. #DIY #AdventCalendar http://bit.ly/1D4GHvm
Day 26: Colour. This past weekend's birthday celebration. #waterslide
Day 27: Lunch. #working lunch: Salad, water, yogurt, mandarin & many chocolates gifted from an associate
Day 28: Light. This ornament from 4th grade has always been a fav. It's one of Buddy's favs now, too.
Day 29: Inside your Fridge. We are lucky to have so much.
Day 30: Nature. Hubby and I canoeing back in our courting days.
Day 31: You. Again. #MerryChristmas everyone, this was fun!


Monday, December 22, 2014

What I Learned from #flipthescript

Every year, November is Adoption Awareness Month. It's purpose is to raise awareness of adoption. This year's National Adoption Month initiative emphasized the importance of sibling connections for the children and youth in foster care waiting for adoptive families.

Also this year, on social media a very powerful and important voice chimed in. It was a group of adult adoptees who banded together using the hashtag #flipthescript.

Today it is December 22, one month after National Adoption Day. November is over but these adoptees continue to promote their very unique perspective of adoption.

Too often, adoption stories are told only by the adopters and adoption agencies. #flipthescript allowed adult adoptees to have their side of story heard as well.

What did #flipthescript reinforce for me?

  • My guidance is important, but sometimes it is more important to just listen to my son and give him a space where he feels his voice is heard. The only way I can begin to understand how Buddy feels is to stop assuming and start listening.
  • My son's adoption isn't something to be celebrated. It was possible because he lost something very important, his first family. We love Buddy and he loves us, but he had a life before he met us. His adoption didn't wipe his memory of that, and we shouldn't expect it to.
  • Just because Buddy wishes he wasn't adopted doesn't mean he doesn't love Hubby and I. He can be both sad about losing his first family while still loving being a part of this family. It's complicated, but so is adoption. As his adoptive Mom it is my job to accept that complicated is ok.
  • My son's story is HIS story, I can help him find his voice but it is not my story to tell. Likewise, I can't imagine what my son feels, because I have never been in his place. Letting him think he has to hide his feelings wont make our relationship better.
  • Once people grow up, they are no longer children. Adult adoptee is a much more fitting term than adopted child. In the same token, even though my son is still a child, he is an adoptee. Of all the positive adoption language I was taught "adoptee" was never a part of it, unfortunately.
  • Adoptees have many different feelings about their adoptions. They should be allowed to express those feelings, especially to those who love them unconditionally, without guilt, shame or fear. Everyone has a right to their emotions. Just because it is hard to hear doesn't mean it isn't valid.

I know the purpose of flip the script was not to educate adoptive parents. But for those of us who chose to listen to the chorus of voices, there is no way to avoid learning. So I want to thank those adult adoptees who spoke up, and continue to speak up. I am a better Mom for it, regardless of your intent.

And you are paving a road for Buddy to follow and that means more to me than anything.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Adoption Triad and Open Door Communication

As I have mentioned before, we were lucky to meet Buddy's birth family when we were in-country adopting him. We didn't start out on a great foot, I'm not going to lie, and it made things more stressful for Hubby and I at the time. Still, I am glad that we were given that very rare opportunity. Many families who adopt internationally are not allowed such a privilege.

By the time we were getting ready to leave for home, we were on good terms with Buddy's birth family. They had loaned us baby pictures that we were able to have copied and we gave them some of our recent photos. We were determined to find a way to keep the lines of communication open even though he was moving to the other side of the world.

Buddy did have the opportunity to keep in touch for awhile after we got home. I'm not going to go into detail about what ended up happening, but I will say that suddenly there was radio silence. At first we didn't know what happened, then we did and wished we didn't. We ended up having to sit Buddy down and have a very hard conversation. I had never seen him cry so uncontrollably before or since.

But then one of Buddy's family members emailed me. I am still amazed that she remembered my email address (which is in a different language and alphabet than she is familiar with), got an email address of her own and figured out how to contact me.

I showed Buddy her email. It was met with little response, so I let it be. A month later, I got another email and the same process was repeated. Two months later she sent a longer message and asked Buddy to please write her back.

Buddy seemed to like the fact that he was being written to, but he did not want to reply. I can't say I blame him. He had been hurt, badly, more than once and there is only so much anyone can take. Especially a child.

I asked if Buddy would mind if I emailed back, responded to questions and sent pictures. He said it would be fine, so that is what I have been doing. Every month or so I send her a few pictures and tell her what Buddy has been up to. She typically replies that she loves him, misses him and is thankful for the updates.

Recently, there has been mention about other types of communication. There has been no follow up, which makes me question the earnestness of the statements. I feel like we have been on this road before and it didn't end well.

I want Buddy to have contact with his birth family, but I want to do what is in his best interest. I want him to be in control and not be pressured to do anything he isn't comfortable with. And especially, I want to keep him from getting his heart broken. Again.

I know I can't protect him from everything. I know there is no right answer. I know that no matter what I do, or what she does, or what he does, there will always be scars long after wounds have healed.

Is there a way to keep the door of communication open without allowing it to hit him?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Twilight Zone Dream

Buddy had a very strange dream.

He was at school and was faced with the choice to either continue on with his life as it was or to enter an egg-like device that would place him in suspended animation for 1000 years. As his classmates entered their own "eggs," he had to decide what to do. At this point he woke up, probably because "you always wake up at the worst part of your dream".

This sounds like an episode from The Twilight Zone to me. A bit out there, but not particularly scary. But to Buddy, it was an impossible situation. He told me he was so overwhelmed and stressed by the choice that in the dream he was crying.

I asked Buddy what he would pick and he said, if he had the choice, he would rather live his life straight through for almost 100 years than sleep for 1000 years and wake up and maybe not remember anything.

He moved on to another topic, but afterwards the dream stayed on my mind.

I am not a believer in the significance of dreams, but it felt like there was something to this one. I looked into it a bit and found one scientific publication from 2003 that concluded that it is possible that dreams function in part to help people cope with trauma or stressful events.

After we had been home for about 10 months, Buddy told me that when he met us he didn't really want to be adopted. If he could have chosen, he would have gone back to his birth mother. Buddy knew this wasn't an option for him, though, and he had seen many friends be adopted during his time at the orphanage. When we asked him to join our family he decided to say yes.

He had to make a choice of leaving everything behind and moving across the world to be a part of our family. If he could have, he would have chosen to keep his old life instead. He acted so strong, confident and brave. He has told me since that he was nervous when he decided to be adopted, and that means he was terrified.

What a terrible decision for a little boy to have to make.

To me, his dream seems connected to this experience.

Or maybe it was just a random, weird dream brought on by cold medicine. I guess there is no way to know for sure.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Ugly Side of International Adoption


The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Mother, Her Son and a Fifty Year Search: When she fell pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, Philomena Lee was sent to the convent to be looked after as a fallen woman. She cared for her baby for three years until the Church took him from her and sold him, like countless others, to America for adoption. Coerced into signing a document promising never to attempt to see her child again, she nonetheless spent the next fifty years secretly searching for him, unaware that he was searching for her from across the Atlantic.


There are things about international adoption I wasn't prepared for going in. I don't think it is a bad thing or that people shouldn't adopt, but it isn't without it's faults. If you are considering international adoption, I urge you to take off the rose colored glasses and think long and hard about it's ugly side.

- Things will not go as planned: Stuff is going to go wrong, possibly very wrong. International adoption is not something you decide to do it and poof it happens. Some days you will feel like the world is crashing down around you and you have no power to stop it. If you accept that before hand, maybe it will make it easier to handle when it happens.

- Sometimes kids shouldn't be adopted: We sometimes imagine poor orphans longing for us to sweep them away from hell on earth, but that necessarily true. Sometimes there are questionable ethics involved to convince you otherwise. Are you prepared to look into how your potential child/ren ended up available to be adopted? You should be. You will need to be ready to think about what is best for everyone, not just you, and that is very hard.

- You're adoption agency may not know everything: They probably aren't trying to hurt you, but no one is perfect. They aren't immersed in the political and cultural environment of the country you will be adopting from. Trust them, they are helping you with a huge important undertaking, but do your research. If they tell you something that seems too good to be true it probably is.

- Your perfect child does not exist: If you want to adopt a happy, healthy baby with no emotional baggage you had better submit your dossier to dream-land. Those kids are not available for international adoption. The more open you are to older children, sibling groups, and children with moderate to severe special needs the more likely you will be to adopt successfully.

- You will need more money: There may be surprise costs, things may be more expensive than you think, time frames may be blown and a million other issues may arise. Make sure you have more money saved up than you are told you will need. If you don't need it, great, but if you do and you don't have it you will be stressing over one more thing.

- They are all hurt kids: Adoption is the best solution for a bad situation. Whether through death, abuse or abandonment, adoption means that a child comes from a broken past. They have lost the basic right to their family and with that their identity. Their scars may look different, but all adopted children have them. And they are all painful. No child escapes the trauma of adoption unscathed.

- Waiting is hard: Paperwork, home studies, document preparation, meetings, court hearings, and between everything waiting, waiting and more waiting. And that's the easy part. After adoption comes waiting to be trusted, accepted and loved. And what also may come and be a surprise is waiting to feel love for your adopted child. Sometimes loving is the hardest part. Just in case, become well acquainted with the term "fake it 'till you make it."

- Don't go into it looking to save someone: If everything works out and you come home one or more kids richer, you are in for a lot of hard work. Adoption is not the beginning of happy ever after, it is the beginning of the hard job of teaching a child they are special when they are convinced they are not. Don't expect a thank you. Ever.

You may think that because adopting a younger child, or siblings, or a girl, etc that things will be different for you. But some things about international adoption are universal. I am so happy that Hubby and I adopted Buddy. I wouldn't change it for the world. But we were very naive when we went into our adoption and we are so lucky that everything worked out the way it did.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Birthday Fun

We do our best to keep things consistent for Buddy. We have learned the hard way that it is best for him, and therefore us, if we keep our days pretty structured. He isn't a big fan of the monotony, but he stays regulated much more easily because of it. Part of being consistent is not spoiling Buddy, we generally make him earn the "treats" he is given.

We made an exception this year for his birthday. Not only have we missed so many birthdays, but I see the teenage years looming in the not too distant future. We may not have much time before he could become "too cool" to hang out with his Mom and Dad.

Last year Buddy invited his whole class to his birthday party but only 4 kids came. So this year, we let him invite as many friends as he wanted. And everyone showed up. Every last kid. All 24 of them. I am happy to see Buddy is making friends and be able to meet so many of them, but if I ever suggest having 25 tweens in my home at one time again please slap me!

We also surprised Buddy with a trip to a hotel that has a water park. He isn't a big fan of being away from home so it was a bit of a gamble. Thankfully, once he got used to the idea of a weekend away he was really excited.

We rented a kids theme room and Buddy was very pleased to have a "space room" all to himself, as well as his own TV and PS4. We relaxed his screen time rules and even let him go down to the front desk by himself to pick the video games he wanted to sign out.

The day we got there, we took a trip to Super Target. Target is Buddy's favorite store, and he spent over an hour perusing the toys and video games and selected a couple of items to buy with his birthday money. On our way out of the store Buddy remarked that he liked our regular Target more than Super Target because there were too many things that no one really needs at Super Target. Out of the mouths of babes...

He loved the water park. We spent a couple of hours as a family going down the slides, floating on the lazy river and spraying each other in the splash pad. Buddy also made friends with another boy his age. Hubby and I were able to enjoyed some one-on-one time together while Buddy played independently. He has completed 4 swimming levels in under a year of swimming lessons, so I wasn't worried about him at all... Well, any more than I usually am, that is! At the end of the day, he had spent 7 hours in the pool and was a very cute and tired prune.

We all ate too much junk food, watched too much TV and stayed up too late. And I don't regret a single minute of it.

Now, it is time to get back to reality. But I am happy to have been able to give Buddy "the best birthday ever."
Our Room
                                                                
Buddy's Space Room

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hitting Reset

This time of year is stressful for everyone in my family, myself included. Buddy loves certain aspects of Christmas and his birthday, but there is a lot of pain and grief that comes along with these special times.

Sometimes Buddy doesn't seem to realize he is acting out. Other times he is purposely mean, especially towards me. In both cases, he isn't able to understand why he is going through so many hard feelings.

I know his suffering is what brings on his cruelty, neediness, and impatience. While I don't have to like it, I do have to be compassionate. But sometimes it can cause me to suffer, too. It is a case of two wrongs not making a right.

Our minister is a big fan of something she calls a "reset prayer." There isn't a particular set of words to this prayer, what makes it different is the breathing technique you use.

Sit with your feet on the ground and your shoulders back and turn your awareness to your breath.

Close your eyes and let your body relax.

Concentrate on your breathing and let go of everything else. 

Take normal breaths in an out but wait until your body tells you to breath.

Open your mind and focus on God.

Sit in peace for a minute or two, or less if you don't have a full minute. 

This prayer is very calming and soothing. I like to use it when I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed. It helps to center and relax me. It is a way to hit the reset button on life and bring everything into perspective. This helps me be a better Mom to Buddy and a better wife to Hubby.

Do you feel stressed? Need a break? Take a minute to breath and remember you are not alone.

I love the idea of hitting reset.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Schmoo Cake

Left: Hubby's cake                Right: Buddy's cake

Every year for Hubby's birthday he requests a Shmoo cake. This year, Buddy requested the same cake for his birthday with a minor modification*. Both of my boys love caramel, and this cake delivers that in spades. 

Ingredients:
Cake:
- 6 eggs, whites and yolks separated
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar**
- 1 C granulated sugar, divided in to 2 1/2 C
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 C flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 C pecans, finely chopped*
*Buddy requested that I substitute M&Ms for pecans. I used mini M&Ms so I didn't have to chop them.
**Cream of tartar is used to stabilize egg whites,It can be substitute with 1 tsp of lemon juice or vinegar.

Filling:
- 2 C whipping cream
- 2-3 tbsp icing sugar

Sauce***:
- 1 C whipping cream
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 1/2 C brown sugar
*** I always make a double recipe since my boys LOVE this sauce. 

Cake:
- Oil a 10-inch tube pan or equivalent pan. (I use a 10-inch bunt pan) and pre-heat the oven to 325 F
- Beat egg whites in a large non-plastic bowl, until they are almost stiff. Slowly add cream of tartar and 1/2 C of sugar. It is done when everything looks combined and you can tip the bowl without the contents running out.
-In a different bowl, beat the egg yolks until they are light and add the other 1/2 cup of sugar and the vanilla.
- Gently fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Then add and gently fold in the flour and baking powder. Finally, fold in the chopped nuts. (I like to save some for decorating the cake).
- Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 1 hour. (Since I use a bunt pan, I only bake for about 35 minutes). You will be able to tell it is done when it is lightly browned and you can insert a toothpick into the middle of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done. If the toothpick comes out with crumbs, or clearly shows wet cake batter, the cake is not finished.
- Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, then invert gently until fully cool. 
- Slice the cake into 2 equal layer.

Filling:  
- While the cake is cooling, start on the filling.
- Whip 2 C of whipping cream and sweeten with icing sugar to taste (2-3 tbsp). I like to whip the cream until it is quite firm and I can tip the bowl sideways without it running out.
- Put a layer of filling on the bottom cake layer and then gently replace the top. If you want, you can also add some sauce to the bottom layer before the filling.
- Use the remander of the filling to decorate the cake. I like to cover the entire cake, but you could also make rosettes or other decorations if you are fancy!

Sauce:
- Bring 1 C of whipping cream, butter and brown sugar to a gentle boil in a saucepan. Don't let it get to hot and stir the mixture so it doesn't burn or splatter.
- Remove it from heat and let it cool to room temperature. Stir occasionally to keep it from separating. 
- Before serving, drizzle the cake in the sauce. You can also decorate the cake with some reserved chopped pecans.

Monday, December 15, 2014

I Don't Have a Free-Range Kid

I know that Buddy has a lot of rules.

I know your child is allowed to watch scarier movies and play more violent video games. I know your child doesn't have a list of chores to follow. I know your child is permitted to do what they like and be a free-range kid.

Please, I don't need to be reminded of all the things your child is allowed to do that mine is not.

I love Buddy with all my heart. He is a huge source of pride and joy for me. I do not want to change him or fix him. He is not a work in progress, he is not a project we are working on completing. I think Buddy is wonderful just the way he is.

Like any parent, I want to teach him. That is part of our job as parents, isn't it?


Buddy hasn't always had someone in  his life who was willing or able to think about what was best for him. Because of this, he has spent many years living a pretty chaotic life. The rule he is used to is; do what you like but don't get caught. Despite this, he isn't a bad kid by any means.

We, as his parents, love him so much that we want him to succeed in life beyond our four walls.

We are starting from scratch in some areas and working from a deficit in others. Part of our strategy as his parents is having a lot of rules for Buddy to follow because he doesn't always have the best instincts.This is how he is learning to make smart choices.

He has come a long way in the past year. We see growth every day, but we also see him struggling. The more structure and consistency we can give him, the safer he feels and the more he grows.

So yes, I know that Buddy has a lot of rules. Thank you for noticing.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Podcasts

I love listening to podcasts because I can learn, hear different perspectives and still have my hands free to do other things.

These are some of my favorites:

- Serial: Each week is a new chapter that follows the plot and characters of a 1999 homicide wherever they may lead with many surprising twists and turns.

Ear Biscuits: Internetainers Rhett & Link from YouTube's Good Mythical Morning have weekly conversations with other creators who are making their mark in new media.

Feakonomics: Hosted by economist Steven D. Levitt, this podcast tells stories while teaching us to think a bit more creatively. Weekly episodes that enlighten, engage, perhaps enrage and definitely surprise.

- That God Show: Hosted by Benjamin L Corey and Matthew Paul Turner, this podcast is about God, culture and current events from a modern, progressive perspective.

- WTF with Marc Maron: Comedian Marc Maron with help from friends, celebrity guests and his own inner voices tackles the most complex question of our day - WTF? contains explicit language

- The Adam and Dr. Drew Show: Hosted by Adam Carolla & Dr. Drew Pinksky, each episode takes nothing-off-limits calls. Dr. Drew brings the medicine while Adam brings the comedy and rants. contains explicit language

Let me know if you have any suggestions for other podcasts to add to my subscription list!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Tips for a Picky Eater

When we adopted Buddy, he was very small for his age.

This is typical of all children who come from situations similar to his, but he was an extreme case. According to his pediatrician, he was in the 10th percentile for his age group. He was anemic and underweight despite us giving him a multivitamin and lots of nutritious food for months.

We noticed when we first adopted Buddy that he was very picky about what he would eat. He didn't like most vegetables or dairy products and was particular about food texture. He was also a bit fickle in his taste. He didn't like cooked onions, but would eat raw ones. He loved sausage but hated animal fat. He would eat cucumbers but not celery. Many dishes were often commented on as being too spicy, sour, or even too sweet.

We were very concerned about serving Buddy things he wanted to eat. In an attempt to do so, we asked him what he liked to eat before he was adopted. He came up with hard boiled eggs and white bread. It turns out Buddy had a long history of picky eating and would regularly refuse to eat a meal if it contained anything he didn't like in any amount.

Meal time became exhausting and boarder-line ridiculous. Hubby was preparing lovely meals that were being greeted, more often than not, with what is closely translated to as "gross." So we drew the line on picky eating. We were conscious of the fact that Buddy had just had a huge life change so we used the following strategy to slowly expand his pallet:

- Start small: We didn't expect Buddy to become and adventurous eater overnight. We started with the rule of 3: you need to eat 3 bites of everything you are served.

- Stay calm: Some of Buddy's behavior was more about control and getting attention than the actual food on his plate. It was important that we stayed cool regardless of how he reacted to a meal.

- Stick with it: Kids have to try something about 10 times before they will like it. The more new foods they try, the lower that number gets. It took awhile to get Buddy to eat broccoli, but he loved kale chips on his first try.

- Build on success: There are some foods that Buddy loved, like pasta. We would add new foods to the ones we knew he would eat, such as celery and cheese into pasta salad.

- Be adventurous ourselves: Hubby and I love ethnic food, so we began cooking it about once a week. Buddy wasn't required to eat everything we did, but he was usually interested in trying.

Now, a year later, Buddy has sampled cuisine from all over the world. He will tuck into a burrito, curry, or stir fry just as happily as pizza or spaghetti. And, because he has found new favorites by trying things outside of his comfort zone, he is much more willing to eat foods he isn't familiar with.
Buddy eating a spicy Caribbean roti wrap

Friday, December 12, 2014

Getting my Nails Did

Sometimes Buddy even joins in (see top left)
I like to have freshly manicured nails. I don't like to spend a lot of money or have strangers touch me. This presents as a bit of a quandary.

Since we started our Friday night movie tradition, I have used the time after we finish eating to paint my nails. I don't have that many nail polishes, but the ones I have are good quality and generally last for at least 5 days without chipping. That is very important because I don't really have time in the middle of the week to re-do a bad nail job. I also use a base coat to keep my nails from getting stained and a fast drying top coat because I don't have that much time!

It may not seem like a big deal, but it's one little thing I do just for myself that makes me feel good. So I guess it's actually pretty important.

Do you do something just for yourself?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sometimes I just Need to Shut my Mouth

Buddy had a really hard time sleeping when he first came home. He had nightmares, sleepless nights and there were many bedtime battles. We tried LOTS of different things (music, night lights, different bedtimes, and on and on) and we finally found a routine that worked for Buddy.

Thank God.

Coming up to one year of being home, Buddy started having a hard time again. He was sleeping restlessly and waking up exhausted. His bad dreams, which had long ago subsided, had returned. And he definitely didn't want to talk about it. He didn't want our input at all, actually.

I was over-tired one night when I was tucking Buddy in and I said something I wanted to take back right away. I told him that if he didn't start having better sleeps there would be consequences.

I didn't mean that we would punish him for having nightmares. I meant that lack of sleep would negatively affect how he felt the next day. But it came out over-simplified and completely wrong.

So Buddy stopped tell us when he had bad sleeps, even though he was still coming out of his room with bags under his eyes. I apologized to Buddy and I tried to explain what I had actually meant to say.

A few mornings later, I asked Buddy how his night was. He said fine. Then I asked him if he believed me that he wouldn't get it trouble if he had a bad sleep. He replied by shaking his head "No."

Ouch.

Now, a few months later, it seems like Buddy has settled back in. He looks rested in the mornings, isn't fighting bedtime and will talk about his dreams both good and bad. Judging from the commotion Hubby and I made the other night cleaning up after a sick Swar, he might finally be having sound and deep sleeps and not waking up as often or as easily.

This whole experience was a good reminder to me that grief and fear are not something that adopted children get over. It is cyclical and dynamic. And, as the parent and adult, it is my responsibility to sometimes just shut my mouth.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Grem

I noticed that I don't post very much about Grem, our puggle. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here is all you need to know about Grem. She's a handful, but we love her!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

He looks just like...

Ever since we shared the first picture of Buddy with friends and family, people have been telling us how much we look alike. In some ways, I suppose it is true. He does resemble Hubby when he was young. We all share an ethnic background in common, so it makes sense that we would have similar features. Sometimes total strangers even comment that we look alike, to which I simply reply "Thank you!"

On top of basic looks, Buddy has picked up on some of our mannerisms, and we some of his. We were watching TV last night and I looked down and saw we all had our legs crossed and feet propped up on the coffee table the exact same way. We all use a lot of the same turns of phrases and now share similar clothing styles, mostly because I buy all Buddy's clothes and used to do so for Hubby as well.

I look exactly like my Mom. You get an old picture of her out and compare and it is kind of creepy how much we resemble each other. My brother, not so much. People have been surprised to find out that we are siblings because we don't really look alike at all. We have differently colored hair and eyes, plus he is a giant and I am a shrimp. But you know what, my Mom loves us equally. Because a parent doesn't care what (or who) their child looks like.
Shrimpy me and my big-sized little-brother
Buddy has said that if he had been fat or if he looked older we probably wouldn't have adopted him. I have told him time and time again that we adopted him because when we saw his picture we knew it was meant to be. It didn't matter that Buddy was the cutest kid I had ever seen (which he was). His physical appearance, or if he resembled us, really didn't factor in.

So, thank you very much for saying how much Buddy resembles Hubby and I. I know what you are trying to say, that we look like a family, and I appreciate it. But the person who Buddy really looks like is Buddy. And I wouldn't change a hair on his head to have him look any different.

Monday, December 8, 2014

This post is brought to you by...

Grace Helbig from It's Grace. Because sometimes (often?) I am either dealing with cranky people or being a cranky person myself.

*Warning: Contains coarse language

Sunday, December 7, 2014

It's Hard to Say "I'm Sorry"

Last night Buddy called me a pig.

We weren't having a fight or even upset with each other. I was tucking him in to bed after a perfectly good day. He didn't say it in a mean way, he was trying to make a joke (I think). But Buddy does not understand the line between funny and cruel.

When I was young, I danced ballet for several years. I spend hours every week with my hair in a bun wearing the typical black leotard and pink tights. I remember my teacher poking us in our backsides and tummies with her long red nails. "Suck it in," she would say. I remember her commenting on our weight and even asking one girl how many eclairs she ate on a Parisian  vacation and noting that she would need to "cut back" now that she was home.

As I got older, it became clear that I didn't have the dedication or desire to make it in the world of dance. But the years of scrutiny left me with a warped body image. I am so blessed to have always been surrounded by wonderful friends and family. If not, who knows what could have happened.

So, being called a pig wasn't funny to me at all. It honestly really hurt. I knew that Buddy didn't mean it, but I couldn't help how I felt. I tried to stay calm and composed, but Buddy knew I was upset. I told him that it is not OK to ever call any girl a pig for any reason. And I asked him to apologize.

Apologies don't come easy to Buddy because it means admitting to himself and others that he has made a mistake. We have tried to simplify the process by giving him a technique I learned from Cuppacocoa that breaks down into: "I'm sorry for... It was wrong because... Next time, I will... Will you forgive me?" It wasn't easy for him and definitely stressed him out to have to acknowledge he hurt my feelings, but he did it.

I hate it when Buddy is uncomfortable. But I also need to help him learn to operate within normal parameters of society, including learning how far is too far and how to say I'm sorry. He isn't quite there yet, but he is getting there for sure.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Poppy Seed Bread


One of Buddy's favorite treats is poppy seed bread. I had never baked it before we adopted him, but in the last year I have given it a try a few of times and it has turned out well and been very tasty. I like to go off this recipe from Ukrainian Classic Kitchen. This recipe makes 2 loaves.

What you will need:
FOR THE DOUGH:

1/2 cup of warm water
1 teaspoon sugar (for yeast mixture)
1 package yeast (1 tablespoon)
3 2/3 cups all purpose or unbleached flour
1/2 cup of sugar
6 tablespoons soft butter
1 beaten egg
Grated peel of 1 lemon
2/3 cup warm milk
FOR THE POPPY SEED FILLING:

3 cups poppy seeds (ground*)
1 cup boiling hot milk
6 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1 beaten egg
1/3 cup fine bread crumbs
Optional: Honey to taste, 3/4 cup raisins or chopped prunes, 2/3 cup chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts (use 2 1/3 Cups poppy seeds only if you are adding these)
*I like to rinse them in a find colander 3 times with boiling water, then let them sit in hot water for about an hour to take away any bitterness. Then I drain them overnight and then grind them into a chunky paste using a small coffee grinder, which is tedious but works just fine.


FOR THE POPPY SEED FILLING:
  • Stir 1 C hot milk into 3 C ground poppy seeds 
  • Add the rest of the ingredients for the poppy seed filling
  • Stir until cool so the egg doesn't scramble
  • Set aside and prepare the dough
FOR THE DOUGH
  • Pre-heat oven to 350ยบ F
  • Combine 1/2 C of warm water, 1 tsp sugar, 1 package yeast. Let stand about 5 to 10 minutes
  • Sift flour into large bowl, make a well in the middle and add water mixture
  • Add around the yeast, the sugar, butter, egg, lemon peel and milk.
  • Mix everything together until it is combined into a soft dough
  • Knead the dough on floured surface for about 10 minutes until the dough is elastic but not stiff, adding more flour if necessary 
  • Cover and let rise in a greased bowl  until it has doubled in size, about 45 minutes
  • Divide into two parts and roll each out on a floured surface into two rectangles about 16 x 11 inches
  • Spread half with the Poppy Seed Filling leaving a 1/2 inch border each rectangle
  • Roll up each rectangle from the long side and pinch the edges together to secure
  • Place the long edge side down (not like in my picture!) on greased baking sheet and fold the ends under the roll
  • Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes 
  • Optional: Brush with egg wash of your choice and slash the tops about 1/4 inch deep and 2 inches apart all the way down the roll.
BAKE 
  • for about 35 to 50 minutes or until golden brown and done. 
  • Optional: After the bread has been baked and cooled you may glaze it with icing sugar
  • Slice into 3/4 inch pieces and enjoy. It's great with tea or coffee!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Bad Choices and Cheap Lessons

Hubby went to pick Buddy up from school mid-day to take him to a doctor's appointment. On their way out of the classroom, Mr. Black looked Hubby in the eye and said "Buddy needs to wear a warmer jacket."

That night before, Hubby and I had a conversation about Buddy's jacket. The weather had turned cold and he was still wearing his fall coat. It was also not "winter" weather yet and he wasn't at any risk of developing hypothermia. We decided to let Buddy choose what jacket he wanted to wear and as long as he had something on when he walked out the door that was good enough for us.

When Buddy first came home he was not able to make even the simplest decision. He had never been presented with choices before and was used to following instructions blindly. From what to eat, to what to wear, to what to play with, he would ponder for minutes before finally asking either Hubby or I to choose for him.

We worked with him on picking from a very limited number of choices. Did he want to play with his cars or his Lego? Would he rather wear his blue jeans or his black jeans? Did he want Greek salad or Cesar salad? Slowly, with time and practice, Buddy has gotten pretty comfortable choosing and expressing his choices.

We have moved on to allowing Buddy to see his choices through, even if we know they aren't the best ones. As long as he isn't putting himself or someone else in danger, we let him have an active role in how he lives his life. I don't care for some of the lunches he packs, but as long as he follows the basic framework we have established he is free to take what he likes. I'm not crazy about the way he folds (or doesn't fold) his clothes, but it doesn't hurt me or him if he is a rumpled mess most days.
Proof that I will force Buddy to bundle up

And if he chooses to wear a letterman-style jacket in 50o F weather he is not going to experience any significant consequences. Besides being cold, which will teach him the importance of dressing for the weather.

This morning, it was 9F. There is now an inch of snow on the ground. I asked Buddy if he wanted to wear his snow-pants to school or put his slush-pants in his backpack, just in case. Both were met with a big, confident "No."

I let him make that choice for himself. Because it doesn't hurt him or anyone else if he gets a little chilly at recess. 


I wonder what Mr. Black with think... 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Blast from the Past


Short one today.

Growing up, I LOVED reading Goosebumps. I read them compulsively until I was in junior high. I finally stopped when it got to the point where I would start a book at the beginning of the car ride to our summer cabin and finish it before we arrived. Our cabin was about 20 miles from our house.

R.L. Stine will always be one of my favorite authors.

Unprompted, this is the book Buddy came home from school with this week. The Goosebumps HorrorLand series is newer, so I have not read it. I am so enjoying listening to Buddy read to me in the evenings before he goes to bed.

And it is made even better by the fact that at this time last year I was the one reading to him.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What's in a Name?

Before we left for our in-country adoption process, Hubby and I discussed whether on not we wanted to change our future child's name. We decided that as long as it was a name that didn't have negative connotations in English we would keep the first name and give a new middle name, as well as our family name.

After meeting Buddy, we had a short talk and decided to keep his name as it was, with a direct English translation. I had never met anyone with Buddy's name before, but it is a lovely and unique name (for the western world, at least). Plus, as so many things in our journey, his name fits right in with mine and Hubby's.

We were sitting with Buddy and his friends the next day when we were told we needed to supply the name we had chosen in order to get a move on the paperwork. Thank goodness we had already given it some thought and we were able to make a snap decision. We had Buddy confirm the correct pronunciation of his name and picked letters in the English alphabet that most closely coincided.
Petition requesting a name change due to an adoption, 1851
People often mispronounce Buddy's name. One day after being home for a few months Buddy said to me "why didn't you just give me an new American name, no one knows how to say my name. Not even you!"

I had been trying so hard to make my mouth contort into the foreign pronunciation. It turned out I wasn't doing as well as I had thought. Buddy's first language and English are very different, so I totally understand how what I thought I was saying and what he was hearing were not the same. It took some time and practice, and patience on his part, but we finally worked it out.

Buddy goes by his legal name or a family nickname at home. At school, he goes by a nickname that is easier to pronounce. We have told Buddy he can introduce himself however he wants in public. Sometimes he uses his school nickname, sometimes he uses an anglicized version of his name, sometimes he gives an "American" name that kind of resembles his. Very rarely does he use his legal name.

And that's just fine with me.

Still, I am glad Hubby and I decided to keep Buddy's name when we adopted him. In order for Buddy to join our family, he had to give up so much: his country, his language, his home. He had to say goodbye to birth family and friends, some of them probably forever. The list of his loses goes on and on. We wanted him to keep the only thing he could, his name.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Giving Tuesday

In honor of Giving Tuesday, I am posting one of my favorite poems by Shel Silverstein. I didn't really understand the spirit of this poem until I had a child of my own.

The Giving Tree


Once there was a tree....
and she loved a little boy.
And everyday the boy would come
and he would gather her leaves
and make them into crowns
and play king of the forest.
He would climb up her trunk
and swing from her branches
and eat apples.
And they would play hide-and-go-seek.
And when he was tired,
he would sleep in her shade.
And the boy loved the tree....
very much.
And the tree was happy.

But time went by.
And the boy grew older.
And the tree was often alone.
Then one day the boy came to the tree
and the tree said, "Come, Boy, come and
climb up my trunk and swing from my
branches and eat apples and play in my
shade and be happy."
"I am too big to climb and play" said
the boy.
"I want to buy things and have fun.
I want some money?"
"I'm sorry," said the tree, "but I
have no money.
I have only leaves and apples.
Take my apples, Boy, and sell them in
the city. Then you will have money and
you will be happy."
And so the boy climbed up the
tree and gathered her apples
and carried them away.
And the tree was happy.

But the boy stayed away for a long time....
and the tree was sad.
And then one day the boy came back
and the tree shook with joy
and she said, "Come, Boy, climb up my trunk
and swing from my branches and be happy."
"I am too busy to climb trees," said the boy.
"I want a house to keep me warm," he said.
"I want a wife and I want children,
and so I need a house.
Can you give me a house ?"
" I have no house," said the tree.
"The forest is my house,
but you may cut off
my branches and build a
house. Then you will be happy."

And so the boy cut off her branches
and carried them away
to build his house.
And the tree was happy.

But the boy stayed away for a long time.
And when he came back, 
the tree was so happy 
she could hardly speak. 
"Come, Boy," she whispered, 
"come and play." 
"I am too old and sad to play," 
said the boy. 
"I want a boat that will 
take me far away from here. 
Can you give me a boat?" 
"Cut down my trunk 
and make a boat," said the tree. 
"Then you can sail away... 
and be happy." 

And so the boy cut down her trunk 
and made a boat and sailed away. 
And the tree was happy

... but not really.

And after a long time
the boy came back again.
"I am sorry, Boy,"
said the tree," but I have nothing
left to give you -
My apples are gone." 
"My teeth are too weak 
for apples," said the boy. 
"My branches are gone," 
said the tree. " You 
cannot swing on them - " 
"I am too old to swing 
on branches," said the boy. 
"My trunk is gone, " said the tree. 
"You cannot climb - " 
"I am too tired to climb" said the boy. 
"I am sorry," sighed the tree. 
"I wish that I could give you something.... 
but I have nothing left. 
I am just an old stump. 
I am sorry...."

"I don't need very much now," said the boy. 
"just a quiet place to sit and rest. 
I am very tired." 

"Well," said the tree, straightening 
herself up as much as she could, 
"well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting 
Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest." 

And the boy did. 

And the tree was happy.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy Blogmas

I booked the first two weeks of December off of work, and am going to have my first chance to be a stay-at-home Mom. I am both looking forward to it and feeling a bit nervous to be responsible for running the house and handling both the before and after school activities.

Hubby and Buddy both have December birthdays, which is a big reason why I took these two weeks off. Last year, I had just returned to work when the holiday season rolled around and I had no holiday time saved up. Between Christmas preparations, birthday celebrations and dealing with the hard emotions these things can stir up, I was spread very thin. This year I am hoping to keep things relaxed and stress-free (as much as possible!).

Since I wont be getting the mental workout I normally do at work, I am challenging myself to blog every day until Christmas. I'm calling it "Blogmas", which I am pretty sure is already a thing. Some posts will be holiday related, some adoption related and some totally random.

I hope you enjoy Blogmas!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Our Adoption Story, a Quick Look

Hubby and I went through a blind adoption process. We had no idea of the age, gender, or number of children we would adopt, or even if we would be successful after everything was said and done. We were approved to adopt 1 to 2 healthy children, anywhere from the ages of 0 to 10. I had an image in my head of our family complete with a 9 year old girl and a 6 year old boy, for whatever reason.

Once we traveled and met with our in-country facilitators and had our first appointment it became clear that our criteria was a bit narrow. Not impossible, but we hadn't gone through the whole process to gamble while in the home stretch. So we underwent the difficult task of having our criteria changed while out of our home country. We figured it was more important to become parents to a real kid than stay stuck to an imaginary picture.

Thank goodness for our wonderful agency, social worker, an in-country facilitators. They basically busted their butts to get everything done for us as quickly as possible. While we waited, we decided to look at our time as an international getaway and did lots of sight seeing, food sampling, and culture immersing. We actually had a blast!

The night before our second appointment we learned that our facilitator had pretty much forced our newly amended, translated and approved dossier into the hands of the woman we would be meeting with the next morning. Our new criteria was for 1 to 3 children with up to moderate health conditions between the ages of 0 to 13. We said a prayer and went to bed hoping for the best.

The second time we met with the government adoption agency was nerve wracking. We were stressed out and nervous to say the least. Would the woman accept the new dossier or would she insist on using the old one? Would our changes be enough or would it all be for naught? How long would we have to wait for another appointment if we weren't successful this time?

And then we were handed a 1.5 page write-up and picture of a beautiful little boy. A single boy. A healthy boy. A boy who was under 11 (remember our initial criteria...). It was Buddy.

Then we were told that day was the first day he was available to be adopted internationally. If we hadn't waited for new documents to have our second appointment we wouldn't have seen Buddy's file.

How amazing is that?

We later found out that Buddy had started down the road to adoption at the exact same time we did, all the way on the other side of the world. It was the missing piece of why we felt such a strong desire to adopt.

I don't believe that God plans for children to be orphaned. The best place for every child is in a loving home with their first family. But I do believe that when this was no longer an option for Buddy, God helped bring us together to make the next best thing. Every road block, delay, snafu, happened so that we would all be at the same place at the same time.

As silly as it may sound to some, everything happened for a reason.
Our first family picture
To read more about our road to adoption check out
- Why Did We Adopt Part 1 - Why did we adopt?
- Why Did We Adopt Part 2 - Why did we adopt an older child?
- Why Did We Adopt Part 3 - Why did we adopt internationally?