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.

Friday, May 29, 2015

National Foster Care Month...

May has been National Foster Care month.

I've learned so much from all of you amazing Foster Parents who blog and tweet about your experiences, both good and hard.

You've done so much to raise awareness that I think it's important to find out more for myself.

We aren't committing to anything yet, Buddy is our number one priority. But if I didn't consider it, I would always wonder.

If you've got any advice for us, please let me know!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Responsibility and Money

Buddy gets an allowance of anywhere between $3 and $10 a week, depending on how many of his chores he completes. We deposit $1 of that into an education savings fund. The rest he is free to use as he likes.

When we first started giving Buddy an allowance, it burned a hole in his pocket. I once watched him spend a few weeks worth of money on things he didn't even want until he was down to mere pennies.

Buddy would usually be tired of what he bought within days if not hours. He was often disappointed that things didn't live up to his expectations, yet he continued to buy cheap things impulsively.

Hubby and I weren't crazy about Buddy's spending habits. We are both pretty smart when it comes to money and it was hard to watch Buddy squander his allowance week after week.

After a year and a half home, we had quite a bit of money in a savings account we set up for Buddy. This was money Buddy had been gifted and we deposited directly into the bank for him. Buddy decided he wanted to use this money to make a big purchase.

At first, Hubby and I wanted to tell him that he couldn't. The idea of him spending hundreds of dollars on something he might not even use made us pretty agitated. But after we sat down and discussed it, just the two of us, we decided to let him do it. After all, it was his money. It had been given to him by people who love him and wanted him to use it for something he would enjoy.

We can't force Buddy to be frugal. One day he will grow up and make decisions without our involvement. We decided to let him make his own decision about what to do with his money.

But we gave him some perimeters first:
#1: Buddy could only use money from his savings account for half of the cost of a big ticket item, the other half had to come from him saving up his allowance.
#2: After he had enough money, Buddy had to do a presentation on why he should be allowed to spend money on the item he wanted.
#3: After his presentation was done, Buddy had to wait 2 full weeks to make sure he wouldn't change his mind.
#4: Buddy had to go with Hubby to the bank to withdraw the second half of the money then go to the store and part with the money himself. We wouldn't do this for him.

Buddy considered a bunch of different things, mostly electronics, before he finally decided and managed to jump through all our hoops. He is now a proud tablet owner.

There are somethings about his new tablet Buddy loves and some things he wishes were different. Overall, we are all happy with his decision. The best thing that came out of it is Buddy now knows he can save money for something he really wants instead of spending it as soon as he gets it. He has a better grasp of the benefit of delayed gratification.

He's already saving up money for his next big purchase, although he has yet to decide what that will be.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Time I Used the "R" Word

Lately I've written a lot of posts that tie up nicely in the end and I come out looking like I know what I'm doing. We'd been going through a smooth patch so that really was what was going on in our life.

But over the last few weeks we've been going through a period that isn't so smooth. It reminds me quite a bit of how things were after our honeymoon period ended. I definitely made some wrong calls in those days. 

I generally don't live my life with regrets. The choices I made in my past have brought me to where I am today. But I do regret the time I told Buddy his birth Mom wasn't his real Mom.

Yep. I actually did that.

I told Buddy his Mom wasn't his real Mom, that she had the title taken away from her by a judge. That I had been given the title of "real Mom" by the same judge when we adopted him.

What on Earth did I think saying that would accomplish? That Buddy would agree? Forget his first Mom? Place me on a pedestal above her? 

I was not in a great place, mentally, in those days. It was not too long after I got home. I wasn't sleeping well, was constantly stressed and felt generally terrible. I was in survival mode. I was experiencing secondary trauma. And as hard as I was trying, I made bad choices. 

This particular one really is inexcusable. 

For the record, this isn't how I feel any more. Buddy's first Mom is his real Mom. I'm also his real Mom. I pretty much avoid the "R" word all together, because Buddy is able to decide what is real to him on his own without me butting in and trying to dictate his feelings.

I am trying my best to think before I speak and remember that there can be long term repercussions to things that only take a moment to say. It may mean I need to walk away when I am feeling overwhelmed, which doesn't make me a contender for world's best Mom. But it does keep me from saying something I'll regret.

I wish I had realized that right from the start.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Adoption Sore Points and Child to Parent Violence

Our UK friends at The Adoption Social have introduced a new initiative called Adoption Sore Points.

I am hugely grateful to the adoption community for giving me a place to vent, question and find other parents in similar situations to my own. However, some topics are still taboo and those going through some very hard things feel they must do it alone.

Enter Adoption Sore Points. A week out of the month where we can talk about these difficult subjects. There is power in numbers, people, and together we can support and empower those who are struggling.

This week the topic being tackled is "Child to Parent Violence" or CPV. There are parents out there who aren't able to find a balance between allowing their children to process their pain and keeping themselves and the other members of their families safe.

Buddy pushed me only once during a particularly explosive release of anger. It barely hurt but I still remember the feeling of shock that my Sweet Boy laid a hand on me in violence. I also remember the feeling of helplessness that filled me ever time Buddy would self hurt.

I can't imagine how much those feelings are compounded when your child is actually hurting you or other members of your family. Leaving bruises and cuts, visible scars on those who are trying to love and accept unconditionally.

I have no words of advice.

All I can offer is my respect and empathy for those of you going through it. You are strong. I'm sending massive hugs your way through the screen right now.

But you deserve more than that. You deserve to know how to safely stop your child from inflicting physical pain on you.

I hope you'll join in the conversation. I know for a fact you are not alone and shouldn't feel like you have to suffer in silence.

For more information, check out The Adoption Social.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

...And Breath...

The last few weeks have felt long and hard...

Mother's Day and my birthday back-to-back...

I know that I am lucky and I love my family...

But I'm glad to be done celebrating...

To return to normal whatever that may be...

And Breath...

Friday, May 15, 2015

Grief is Like the Ocean

Things had been going really well for us lately.

I should have known it couldn't last.

I've been trying to write about it but every time I get something down the situation shifts and what I've said doesn't make sense to me anymore.

The waves of Buddy's emotions are stirring. He's up and down and backwards within the span of hours or even minutes.

We're not really sure what is going on inside of him but he's angry. And it's becoming a bit overwhelming.

So for now, I'm going to tread in his ocean of grief and try my best to keep my head above water.

And I will do all I can to throw Buddy a life preserver, but in the end he is the one who has to learn to swim.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day and Me

I tried to write a blog post last week leading up to Mother's Day on the subject of the holiday, but couldn't figure out how to organize my thoughts.

I'm not a fan of days that focus on me. This used to just mean my birthday. My birthday song growing up wasn't so much the typical "Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you..." but more Lesley Gore's "It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To." I can't remember a birthday where I haven't cried. All the pressure and attention, as well as the inevitable feeling of letdown, gets to me. And as I get older it doesn't get any easier.

Before I became a Mom, Mother's Day didn't really stir up any strong feelings in me. I love my Mom and would always get her flowers and a card. If we were in the same city we would share a meal. If we made it to church, I would happily wish the Moms in the congregation "Happy Mother's Day."

Hubby and I pursued adoption as our first choice to grow our family, so I have never felt the heartache and loneliness of infertility. Since we never tried, I could very well be, but it's not a path I have chosen to explore. I only had one Mother's Day during our adoption process at the end of our pre-adoption journey and I was focused on last minute preparations.

I never felt a painful longing for motherhood that some women do on Mother's Day. My first Mother's Day wasn't met with joy and a sense of fulfillment. It was met with the kind of feeling I get on my birthday.

This year, add a long-standing discord between my mother-in-law and myself. It made for a day where I woke up feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. I didn't feel up to celebrate with our extended family, and I made sure that wasn't the plan long before Mother's Day arrived. We did that last year and it wasn't great. So I ended up spending a large chuck of the day alone. Hubby took Buddy to his parent's house and I stayed home by myself.

I understand that Mother's Day can be really hard for adoptees, birth Mothers, and women hoping and praying for a child. I feel guilty in the fact that I have a beautiful son and a wonderful family and yet I get very little joy out of the day.

I sit here, alone, trying to make sense of how I feel.

I feel sad.

And I'm looking forward to tomorrow when this day is over for another year.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Time to Get Moving

May 11th to 15th is "Walk to Work" week in the UK.

I Google Mapped my commute and it would take me over an hour to walk to work, so you can forget about that. But it got me thinking about physical activity in general.

A number of years ago, I went through a phase where I was very into my fitness. I had a gym membership, took exercise classes and ran regularly. Then, in my mid-twenties I had some health issues and that fell by the wayside.

Now that I'm in my thirties, I definitely notice that my metabolism isn't what it once was. I do generally tend to make pretty smart choices when it comes to what I eat, though, so weight isn't really an issue for me at this point. Besides, I'm not a big fan of letting numbers on a scale define me.

However, there are lots of other reasons why I should be getting more exercise. I would love to have more energy, less stress and sleep better at night. Also, exercise can reduce a person's risk of health problems like heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis and generally help one live a longer, happier life.

Here's the thing guys, I don't like exercising. Even when I was super active, I didn't ever enjoy it. So I need your help. What works for you? Do you have an app you use? A workout you love? Any tips and tricks on how to get on track and stay there?

Any and all advice is greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

First Soccer Game of the Season

Last night Buddy had his first soccer game of the season.

He is already so much more confident this year than he was last year. Hubby and I were both impressed with how well all the boys are playing even though there have only been a few practices so far.

The game ended up starting a bit late, and luckily it wrapped up before the sun went down. After all was said and done, Buddy's team won 5 to 4. It came down to the wire!

Most importantly, Buddy had fun. We're all looking forward to the rest of the season.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Homework Reboot

You might remember that about a month ago homework wasn't going so well. We took a break and came back with a new plan that is working pretty well for us, so far.

We're actually lucky when it comes to Buddy and school. He came to us used to the school environment and he's a very bright and social kid. We had some initial roadblocks and issues still come up here and there, but generally he is well regulated at school.

What is new for him, though, is a family environment with rules or expectations. Buddy thrives under the structure of the school environment. He knows it is the place where work gets done. At home, there are so many other things Buddy wants to do that he has a very hard time sitting down and focusing on homework.

Buddy is the kid who tries for a bit then throws his hands up in the air and says the work is too hard. We have seen everything from tears to destruction to self-hurt over homework. Mr. Black has told us Buddy has moved past these behaviors at school and is now able to work mostly independently.

Homework became a power struggle of us trying to force Buddy to work and him resisting. The more we pushed, the more he pushed back until we were all angry. And no work was getting done!

I read a couple of articles on Empowering Parents called Homework Hell that helped Hubby and I decide how to re-structure homework time to make it work better for the whole family. The first article focused on the environment at home and the second on techniques to use during homework.

Although these articles aren't specifically about adopted children, there was a lot of information I found really useful. Some of it re-inforced what we were already doing, while other tips helped us shift our focus. We took the advice of the writer to establish better homework structure and have clear rewards and consequences.

After school Buddy has free time to do as he likes, but homework starts promptly at 5 and goes for one hour. Video game time is from 6 to 7 after homework is done. If homework doesn't go well then video game time doesn't happen. We eat at 7 on the nose, so computers must be put away for the night at that time.

Video games are definitely the token economy in our home. Finding Buddy's token economy was key to getting him to buy in.

Rewards and consequences are tied to video game time as well. In addition to losing video game time, it is also possible for Buddy to gain extra screen time to use on the weekend if he works hard and has a good attitude. And if he finishes the work he's given early then he's done for the night as an additional reward for working hard.

No one likes to work on the weekend. Unless there is something specific that comes home from school Buddy gets weekends off.

We used to hold Buddy's hand through homework. Now, we help Buddy get started and then back off. We make sure that he understands how to do the homework, but leave accomplishing it up to him. We let him decide how hard he wants to work. Since the rewards and consequences are clearly established and he has bought into them, he can make that decision on his own.

We worked together with Mr. Black to "chunk" homework for Buddy. Instead of worrying about him finishing a page of homework containing a variety of questions, we have alternate worksheets from school that are one topic per page and several consecutive pages of the same type of work. Instead of Buddy having to shift his brain between different modes, he can concentrate on getting techniques down one at a time.

Finally, I had to accept the fact that I am a trigger for Buddy during homework time. In general, I am the parent who deals with feelings and emotional issues. Hubby is much better at keeping cool when Buddy's mood starts to escalate during homework, though. When Buddy is working, I make sure to stay out of the room.

There are still days that are better and days that are worse, but so far there are many more good than bad ones. As far as Buddy has come, we sometimes forget that he is still learning how to take ownership and responsibility for his work. He is slowly starting to see that working hard is important.

Baby steps!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Easter Bread (aka Paska aka Kulich)

Time: 30 minutes baking, 4 hours resting
Skill level: Medium
Makes: 3 loafs

Based on this recipe from Natasha's Kitchen

The original recipe I used stated it takes slightly over 6 hours to make this bread, but nobody's got time for that!

To speed things up, I proofed the yeast and also let the bread rise in a 100°F oven with the door slightly ajar. This cut the resting time in about half, hence making it a much more do-able recipe for those of us who don't like to spend all day in the kitchen. Gestures to self.

You will need to decide what to bake your bread in. If you would like, you can purchase spring-form pans or panettone paper molds. I decided to go old school and bake mine in a coffee can. I actually used 2 coffee cans and 1 large pork and beans can. This gave my bread the tube-like appearance that is traditional for paska. To keep them from sticking, I lined the tins with parchment paper.

- 1 C warm water, about 105°F
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 3 Tbsp or 2 packets of active dry yeast
- 1 C and 2 Tbsp warm milk (I used skim)
- 2 C granulated sugar
- 1 C unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 C sour cream (I used reduced fat)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 6 eggs, room temperature
- 9 C all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 C golden raisins

Egg Wash:
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp milk

- 2 C icing sugar
- The juice of 2-3 lemons
- Colorful sprinkles

- If using aluminum cans, make sure to wash them appropriately before starting. This was pretty easy with the coffee tins, but took a bit more elbow grease for the pork and beans tin. They will need time to dry before lining with parchment. I also used a can opener to remove the lip of the tin, making it easier to use as a baking pan but dangerously sharp along the edge. Be careful!

- To proof the yeast, add 1 Tbsp of sugar to the warm water. Mix in the yeast and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes until a creamy foam forms on the surface of the water. If this doesn't happen, the yeast is dead and you should start again with fresh yeast.

- Whisk together in a large bowl the warm milk, sugar, melted butter, salt, sour cream, vanilla and yeast mixture. Slowly incorporate the eggs while whisking to prevent them from scrambling. Add 4 cups of flour to form a batter with a sour cream-like consistency. Place in a warm oven and let rise for about an hour.

- Add about 5 more cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, using a hand mixer with a bread paddle attachment. Don't use a regular had mixer, unless you want to burn the motor out of it! The dough should no longer stick to your hands but still be soft and slightly tacky. Stir in the raisins and place the dough back into the oven for another hour to rise.

- Divide the dough unto your three baking tins until they are between 1/2 and 2/3 full. Try not to push the dough down too much. If you would like to decorate the top, make sure to reserve some dough for that. Let the dough rise in the oven for another hour or until the molds are almost full.

- To decorate the tops of the loaves, you can use your creativity and imagination. I decided to decorate only one loaf. I rolled some dough out into ropes and braid them and wrapped the braids around the outside of the loaf. I then made three crosses and a dove to symbolize the Easter story. I brushed the tops of each of the three loaves with an egg wash of whole egg and milk, like I do when I make makivnyk. The egg wash also helps the decorations to stick.

-Bake the loaves at 350°F for about 30-35 minutes until the tops are golden brown and they are cooked through. If the tops brown too quickly, cover them with aluminum foil. You can tell the bread is done by knocking on the base of the pan. If it sounds hollow, it's done. If it sounds muffled, it's probably still underdone in the center. Let the loaves cool to room temperature and remove from the cans.

- While the paska is cooling, make the icing. In a medium bowl, whisk together the icing sugar and the lemon juice. If you roll the lemons before slicing them in half, they will give up more juice. You can adjust the lemon to taste by using water as a substitute. The final product should be smooth and pretty runny so it will glaze the paska when poured over top. Before the icing sets, you can also top the paska with colorful sprinkles.

- to slice, I like to put the paska on it's side and cut it into 1/2" rounds, or as thick as desired. It also makes great toast and french toast!

Happy Easter! Христос воскрес! Воістину воскрес!