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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.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Never Ending Dog Treat

Grem and Swar got a box of dog-jerky this month in their BarkBox.

Swar is getting on in years and now has had more teeth removed than are left.

Buddy gave Swar one of the chewy treats, and this happened.

I have spared you about 1 hour and 49 minutes of chewing!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

February Birchbox

Birchbox is a monthly subscription box service that sends you 5 beauty and lifestyle samplesr each month. By completing your online Beauty Profile you receive personalized products.

You can also purchase full sized items from the site, and earn Birchbox points by doing so. These points can be used towards future purchases. You can also earn points by reviewing products and referring friends.

It costs $10 per month. They ship to: US, France, Spain and the UK and Canada

For February, I received the following products in my Birchbox:

- Cynthia Rowley Lip Stain in Heartthrob: A cream lipstick that looks red in the tube but more pink on my lips. It has no scent and leaves a very slight stain to the lips. This product is vegan and cruelty free. Full Size: 0.17 oz Sample Size: 0.079 oz (1/2 size)

- derma e Anti-Wrinkle Vitamin A Glycolic Scrub: A natural chemical and physical exfoliant. The exfoliating pieces are too coarse for my liking but it has no scent.  Full Size: 4 oz Sample Size: 1 oz (1/4 size)

- Harvey Prince Hello Shampoo and Conditioner: Sulfate-free and color safe products infused with natural oils. These are supposed to be citrus scented, but to me it smells more like a moisturizer. They are very moisturizing without weighing down my hair, but I don't think I would pay $52 for a bottle of each. Full Size: 12 oz Sample Size: 0.5 oz (1/25 size)

- theBalm Cindy-Lou Manizer: This is a shimmery soft pink highlighter & shadow that can be used on the cheeks, eyes or as an all-over face product (which might make you look like a disco ball). The packaging is very cute and will be great for travel. Full Size: 0.3 oz Sample Size: 0.03 oz (1/10 size)

The total value of my February Birchbox was $19.37. To purchase each of these items in full size would come to a total of $113.75. The best value was for the Cynthia Rowley lipstain, which is worth $11.50. The shampoo and conditioner are the worst value at just $1.04 for a 15mL bottle.

I have tried all the products and will get use out of all of them. I especially like theBalm's Cindy-Lou Manizer since there is no where local for me to buy this brand.

I am least excited by the facial scrub, but I am sure I will still use it up. At least it is a generous sample size!

Overall Rating: B

*This is not a sponsored post

Monday, February 23, 2015

Positively Tired

Some scientific studies have shown that negative thoughts close your mind off and prevent you from seeing options and choices. Positive thoughts do the opposite. They broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind up to more options. Our brains then build on the positive emotions, giving us resources to draw on in the future and increase our coping mechanisms. 

The first year post-adoption was a difficult for our whole family and some days were pretty dark. Looking at the glass half-empty became the norm for me, but I decided to make a change. I have been working really hard over the last month or so to be more positive.

You know what? I am positively tired of trying to be positive.

I am tired of being patient when Buddy's attempts to argue, reason and debate his way out of things he doesn't want to do. I am tired of remaining calm when he turns to whining and complaining incessantly when that doesn't work.  I am tired of trying to understand what comes after that: shutting down, self-hurt, destruction. I am tired of praising him for the little things and trying to find good in the things that are just plain bad.

That doesn't mean that I'm done trying, though.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lent, Generosity and 40 Acts

I grew up in a church that followed the traditional Christian liturgical calendar, so I don't remember at time where I didn't know about the season of Lent. For those of you not familiar, Lent is the period of 40 days that precedes Easter.

It wasn't until I started university that I encountered the concept of giving something up for Lent. I had classmates who gave up alcohol, meat or chocolate for those 40 days. I can see how this could be great for some people, but I never felt a personal connection with the practice.

This year, I came across the 40 Acts Challenge. Started by the UK group Stewardship, it is in it's 5th year of encouraging people to take a daily"generosity" challenge during the season of Lent. If you sign up, you also get an email every morning with the challenge, a Bible quote and an inspirational message.

Each challenge has a theme you can take and run with, or you can do one or more suggested actions. There are also different levels that are based on factors like time, finances and current generosity habits. You pick the level that works for you for that day.

Lent is a season of conversion. While giving up junk food for 40 days would be a form of fasting, I know on day 41 I would be diving into a bag of chips and washing them down with a cold beer. Not much conversion there.

I signed up for the 40 Acts Challenge because I truly feel I will learn and grow from it. After the first 2 challenges I am already feeling, well, challenged! I am looking forward to what the next 38 days has in store for me.

It's not too late to sign up. You can also follow along on social media with the hashtag #40acts.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Big Dance

Buddy went to his first dance this past weekend.

Beforehand, he had expressed concern that he didn't know how to dance "for real." Hubby gave him a crash course in how to dance with a girl, including where to and not to put your hands. My contribution was showing him how to do the Running Man, the Sprinkler and the Hammer. Oh '90s, your dance moves were truly awful! 

The night of, Buddy carefully picked out his outfit and styled his hair. He was really excited up until right before it was time to go when his nerves started to kick in. I was so impressed that he admitted to being nervous when I asked him how he was doing. I told him I always felt a bit scared before school dances when I was his age, which seemed to make him feel a bit better. 

Buddy didn't want to be the first one there so Hubby dropped him off shortly after the dance started. He met one of his best friends in line to get into the community club and that took care of his jitters.

Hubby and I passed the time at home watching Dexter (which we are hoping to finish by 2016) and wondering if Buddy would dance with a girl. We both had our money on yes.

Hubby picked Buddy up a couple of hours later and it turned out we were wrong. Buddy said the kids danced in groups, not as couples. I can't say that I was disappointing. 

Buddy had a really fun time. Lots of kids from his school were there and he ran into a few other boys he knows from various extra curricular activities. He said the next time the community club hosts a dance he wants to go again.

I'm glad Buddy had the opportunity to try something different and impressed that he was able to stay regulated when he was in a new situation.

My baby boy is growing up!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Discipline, Rubber Bands and Positive Reinforcements

Not too long ago, I read a post on LJSkool called How to Discipline a Child - The Rubber Band Method. In it, Jackie Ryan Masek told the story of how her son's psychiatrist gave her the following homework:

"I had to place three rubber bands on my right wrist in the morning. The goal was to have them all moved over to my left wrist before I got into bed. The only way I could move one from the right to the left was to catch Logan doing something good. ANYTHING. No matter how small. For any amount of time, even for a second. Three. Times. A. Day."

When I was at a work conference a few weekends ago, a colleague asked the significance of a ribbon I was wearing on my wrist. It was just a hair-band, which I always kept on me. I preferred to used pretty ribbons over traditional elastics.

Well, lo and behold I come across this post. I thought to myself, why not add two more hair-bands and give them some significance. I made a decision to find three things every day to praise Buddy for. Big, small, whatever. Just three things.

Do you know what I have noticed? Buddy really appreciates it! He has commented to me more than once on the fact that I am thanking him for things he has been doing "forever" and never heard a peep from me about. And then does the little dance he does when he is pleased.

I grumble occasionally about the lack of appreciation I get from Buddy for the work I do for him. This exercise has made me realize that he probably feels the way I do sometimes. He has chores that he doesn't enjoy, just like me. He works hard at school all day, just like I do at work. Plus, he is new to rules and expectations and, well, how to be a member of a functional family.

Buddy still has his chore board, because that works for us. He is expected to do his "jobs" and he is compensated for it. It gives him a chance to learn about the value of a money, that a dollar saved is a dollar earned, yada yada yada. But on top of that, I am making a real effort giving him positive reinforcements. I have noticed that he is more willing to complete tasks he doesn't care in for when I thanked him for doing so in the past.

I love this part of the original post:

"We need to appreciate our children. We need to show them that we are glad just for them being in the room with us. We need to remember they are learning. Do we teach them how to love or do we teach them how to stop trying because no matter what it will be wrong? Ah, there’s the rub. We are always teaching them something, whether we mean to, whether we are aware of it."

I love Buddy, and on top of that I appreciate him. I appreciate how hard he has worked and grown in the last 15 months. I appreciate his hugs, how he volunteers to help out, how he tells me I look young and beautiful when I am feeling tired and worn out. He makes my life better just by being in it.

And he needs to know that.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

We have been trying to simplify our evening routine by adding more slow cooker meals to our repertoire. Unfortunately, we don't have many good recipes that are tasty, easy and relatively healthy.

When I found this recipe, courtesy of Skinny Taste, I thought it might hit all three categories, and I was right! It is flavorful without being spicy (which Buddy can't handle) and super easy to make. Hubby preps it the night before, I get it started and leave it to cook when I go to work. When Hubby gets home he puts on the finishing touches and voila, easy peasy.

This recipe makes 5 adult serving sizes and can be easily doubled and frozen. If it matters to you, this chili is also gluten-free. If you don't have a slow cooker/crock pot, you can also simmer it on the stove.

If you like, top with cheese, avocado, sour cream, and/or tortilla chips. It also goes great with one of Buddy's favorites, corn bread!

  • 600 gm Lean Ground Turkey 
  • 1 teaspoon Oil 
  • 1 medium Onion, minced 
  • 1 medium red Bell Pepper, diced fine 
  • 1 Garlic clove, minced 
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen Corn kernels 
  • 10 oz can Mild Diced Tomatoes 
  • 8 oz can plain Tomato Sauce 
  • 1/4 cup low sodium Chicken Broth 
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin 
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chili Powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon Paprika 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher Salt 

  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil and turkey. 
  • Season with salt and cook, breaking up with a spoon until turkey browns and is no longer pink. 
  • Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper to the skillet over medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes. 
  • Add everything to the slow cooker and stir in corn, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, cumin, chili powder, paprika and salt. 
  • Mix until well. 
  • Cover and cook on HIGH 4 hours or LOW 6 hours. 
  • Serve with desired toppings.

Nutrition Information:

Serves: 5 | Serving Size: 1 cup
Per serving: Calories: 222; Total Fat: 3g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 74mg; Sodium: 719mg; Total Carbohydrates: 20g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Sugars: 7g; Protein: 32g

Nutrition Bonus: Potassium: 446mg; Vitamin A: 12%; Vitamin C: 59%; Calcium: 6%; Iron: 17%

Weight Watcher Points+: 6 pt

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Frustrations and De-Escalations

Lately, Buddy had been a ball of frustration. He hasn't been having full-on meltdowns but every little thing gets under his skin. From chores to homework to bedtime, he reacts to daily tasks like we are asking the world of him.

There are a multitude of reasons that may have contributed to Buddy's bad attitude. I have learned that guessing is pointless because even when I think I know, I am often wrong. But when I stop and think about everything that may be going on inside of Buddy, it isn't hard to sympathize with how he is feeling.

Regardless of the cause, he is cranky and unable to effectively deal with it. Since he can't make himself feel better, he tries his darnedest to make Hubby and I miserable as well. He knows the buttons to push and he has gotten really good at trying to appear innocent while doing it.

I try to not take his rudeness personally. It isn't about me. I also do my best not to interpret Buddy's feelings analytically, because that often makes the situation worse instead of better.

We try to meet Buddy's frustration with de-escalation techniques. We've done a lot of trial and error, and found a few different things that work for us when used in combination.

- Keeping body language and facial expression relaxed.
- Not worrying about eye contact.
- Being respectful of his feelings even when we don't understand them.
- Not arguing or getting loud.
- Empathizing with feelings but not behaviors. (I understand you have ever right to feel angry, but it is not ok for you to...).
- Trying to tap into his cognitive mode. (Tell me how you feel, help me to understand why you are doing this.)
- Suggesting alternative behavior.
- Sometimes the best thing is walking away, at least for a bit, to center myself.

It feels weird to try to de-escalate the situation. When Buddy pushes me, my fight or flight instincts want to kick in. But the more I consciously try to de-escalate, the more second nature it becomes.

Hopefully soon it will happen naturally but I'm not quite there yet!

Monday, February 9, 2015

#TakingCare100 Days 11-30

Here are the next 20 days of the Twitter #TakingCare100 photo challenge I'm taking part in, you can see my first 10 days here. This challenge was started by Three Pink Diamonds and a Blue Sappire and is a take on the 100 Happy Days photo challenge.

These are the little things that have made me happy over those 10 days. All captions are clockwise from the top left.
Day 11: Despite being down 2 assistants I got through everything I had to at work. Empty wall = proof.

Day 12: I used a new hair mask today. Now you almost can't tell I haven't cut my hair in months.

Day 13: Buddy reading by choice. I never thought I'd see the day. #ProudMamaMoment

Day 14: I'm on simultaneous Mom & work duty. Buddy's doing homework independently. Miracles do happen.

Day 15: #MovieNight with the family. Be prepared for this to be my pic topic every Friday!

Day 16: We're visiting my Mom. This is her dog. She's ridiculous.

Day 17: Book, coffee and a cuddly Grem. I wish all mornings could be more like this one was.

Day 18: Today I ate a grapple. It's an apple that tastes like a grape. Basically fairytale food. Yum.

Day 19: it's only -1 at 10:30 PM on January 27th. If that doesn't make you happy, you are spoiled.

Day 20: Morning selfie session with Buddy before school. I love this crazy, funny, sweet boy so much!

Day 21: weekend work conference starting tomorrow. So tonight I'm having a break

Day 22: Long day of meetings in uncomfortable shoes. Glad to be home in my slippers for movie night.

Day 23: after an 8+ hour day, Hubby made one of my childhood favourite meals. He's a good man.

Day 24: Youth group activity night means Hubby and I get our own dinner and movie night. #SundayFunday

Day 25: Hockey on TV means I can spend my evening blissfully uninterrupted.

Day 26: Both assistants back so I finally tackled a literal mountain of work I hadn't had time for.

Day 27: An evening at the museum. A cultural event for the history Buddy, Hubby & I share.

Day 28: You can't imagine the foolishness that lead to this. Love my crazy family!

Day 29: Family takeout and #movienight. What I look forward to all week. #TGIF

Day 30: at the ballet with Buddy. 1 minute until curtain!
There's no official start date, so if you're into tweeting join us in the #TakingCare100 photo challenge. If you aren't following me on Twitter you can find me at @MamaBearPAL.

What are you doing to Take Care?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Community to Cure Loneliness

A few weekends ago, Hubby, Buddy and I had dinner and hung out with four other adoptive families. We all adopted from the same area, have children that are similar in age and wrapped up each of our processes within the last couple of years.

I am fairly certain all of us parents have pretty regular bedtime routines that we tend not to deviate from. I know that everyone had fun because we all stayed out very late. Hubby and I didn't get home until after 11, and we had the shortest drive.

The evening confirmed to me how important community is for adoptive families.

When Hubby and I first adopted and returned home with Buddy, we spend a few weeks just the three of us getting to know each other. Then we started adding family and close friends to our circle. When Buddy started school, we met new people and our circle expanded again.

Fairly recently I have started actively reaching out to other adoptive parents.

I'm so glad that I did.

Our family and friends are amazing, but they haven't walked a mile in our shoes. I find such comfort in having peers that listen to my story and nod their head and say "I know. Me too."

We try to spend time with other adoptive families pretty regularly. I have found it sets me up to succeed as a parent. It gives me a place to vent, not feel judged, and learn from the real-life experience of others.

It also gives Buddy a chance to be in a group where being internationally adopted, having a non-English first language, and having both birth and adoptive families is not out of the ordinary. He has the chance to feel like he is just like everyone else. He isn't afraid of being different.

I love the following quote from Kurt Vonnegut, and I think it applies so well to what I'm saying: "What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured."

So, if you are an adoptive parent reading this and you haven't found your community, I encourage you to reach out. TwitterFacebook and the blogosphere are great places to start.

And if you are one of the supportive people I am talking about, thank you. You honestly mean the world to me!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Swar and Grem get BarkBox

For Christmas this year, Hubby's brother and sister-in-law gave Swar and Grem a three month subscription to BarkBox. Each month they will get a box in the mail with at least four products – from toys and treats to hygiene products to new gadgets.


We received our first box at the end of January. It contained:

Petmate Chef Heggies: Made just for BarkBox, this toy is a big favorite of Grems. Also, since the body crinkles instead of squeaks, it's great for the humans in our family too. $9

Feel Good Treat Company Slow Roasted Rosemary Turducken treats: These are perfect for Swar, who doesn't have all his teeth any more. They are gluten-free, not that it really matters to us. $6

Petsafe Squeak 'n Treat Booya: A heavy duty squeaker kibble dispensing toy. We have tried these in the past without much success, but they are good to have around for when the dogs need to be distracted. $6

Barksworthies Junior Bully Stick: Swar can't have bully sticks any more because he tries to swallow them whole, resulting in choking. I'm not sure if we will give it to Grem, since the dogs tend to fight if one has food an the other doesn't. $3

Diggin' Your Dog Charki-O's: This is a freeze dried beef trachea topped with liver sprinkles. Just the idea and look of it revolts me, so I don't think we will even open this one. $3

Overall, there was $27 worth of dog treats and toys in Swar and Grem's BarkBox. Of that, they were really excited about the toy and the Turducken treats. The Booya they could take or left. I don't think we will get any use out of the bully stick or dried trachea, but we can probably donate them to the local SPCA.

So, all in all, we will get good use out of $15 worth of products. The cost of a BarkBox pupscription is:

Twelve month plan = $219! This breaks down to about $18 a month.
Six month plan = $126. This breaks down to about $21 a month.
Three month plan = $72. This breaks down to $24 a month.
One month plan = $29 per month.

BarkBox donates 10% of proceeds to dog rescues and shelters.

The featured BarkBox coupon codes of the month of February is: BBFF10PCTOFFXY which gets you 10% off any new BarkBox subscription. Visit BarkBox.com for more details.

As for us, we are undecided at this point if we will extend our subscription once the 3 months are up.

This is NOT a sponsored post

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Best Spelling Practice

This weekend felt really long. It was my annual three-day work conference which started Friday morning and ended Sunday afternoon.

I missed all our regular family activities. Friday take out and movie night, Sunday skating lessons and everything in between. Sometimes I complain about my family but being away this weekend made me appreciate the time I normally get to spend with my boys.

Buddy was getting ready for bed on Saturday night and I was sitting in the living room decompressing after a long day of meetings. He came out of his room and said "Mama, can I give you a H-U-G."

As I wrapped my arms around him, he looked up at me and said "Did I spell hug right?" Of all the activities we have done to try and make learning fun and engaging, that hug was by far my favorite.

He nestled into my arms and I heard him whisper, so quietly I almost didn't hear, "I love you so much."

I love you so much, too, Buddy.