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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.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Packing List for Disney World

If you are reading this the week I post it, then I am currently away for spring break with my family.

We are going to Walt Disney World, also known as "The Most Magical Place on Earth."

I am a chronic over-packer, but for our first big holiday as a family of three I really wanted to pare down and just bring the essentials. In an attempt to do so, I created a packing list. I thought I would share with you.

We still have 3 suitcases and 2 carry on's, plus my purse. But compared to past vacations, this is a big improvement for me!

Hope I didn't forget anything!

Interested in a specific list for Disney World? Check out WDW Prep School's Ultimate Disney Packing List.

Friday, March 27, 2015

#TakingCare100 Days 51-75

I'm nearing the end of my time in the Twitter #TakingCare100 photo challenge. Click here, here and here if you'd like to see my first three posts on this adoptive parent take on 100 Happy Days that was started by Three Pink Diamonds and a Blue Sapphire.

I'm a bit sad to be coming to the end, but it is a lot of fun to look back on the last 25 days and see the little things that have highlighted my days.

All captions are clockwise from the top left.

Day 51: Felt inspired by #alexvause today when putting on eyeliner. #OrangeIsTheNewBlack

Day 52: Buddy made me breakfast this morning. A very nice way to start the day.

Day 53: First ever business trip on the company plane. Travelled ~1300 km and home in time for dinner.

Day 54: Studying was contentious but it paid off. We now have a certified babysitter in the house!

Day 55: A Night out at the ballet to see Swan Lake with my Mom.

Day 56: Hanging out with Hubby at the professional skating arena for Buddy's speed skate finals.

Day 57: Classic American food and #BigHero6 for tonight's family #TGIF tradition #MovieNight

Day 58: Saturday home #Mani with @essie Good Morning Hope and @FormulaXNail Aurora.

Day 59: wine of the month from my monthly wine subscription.

Day 60: ending the day with an ice cream sandwich from bed. #MondayTreat

Day 61: Unplugged & had a home spa night. Sheet masks feel good but they look terrifying!

Day 62: ~3 years after I accepted my position, I've finally cleared out the previous person's desk.

Day 63: My half of the bag is packed for our weekend ski trip. Just waiting for Hubby to do his half.

Day 64: My tech's away, but I have a free assistant because of a school in-service day.

Day 65: This is the oddest hotel room ever. 2 king beds, a sofa facing them & a jacuzzi in the corner.

Day 66: Clear skies for the drive home from the hill. Good view to end a relatively good weekend.

Day 67: Never too old to play in the puddles. #springtime #youngatheart

Day 68: Early bedtime for Buddy means I can finally organize having some pictures from 2014 developed.

Day 69: Started planning what to pack for spring break. Love my lists! 10 days until #DisneyWorld

Day 70: First time out #skateboarding this year. Beautiful evening to be outside.

Day 71: Buddy is sleeping at Gramma's so Hubby and I can see The Book of Mormon.

Day 72: Fun day out with other adoptive families at the roller rink. I only fell once!

Day 73: a moment of quiet at the end of a busy day. Tea, chocolate and a book. And now off to sleep.

Day 74: they drive me crazy some days, but I love to watch Buddy and Grem play. They love each other.

Day 75: as much as I hate to admit it, this wretched snow dump is unbelievably beautiful. #spring

If you tweet and you want to join in, go for it! Just because I'm almost done doesn't mean you can't get started! Join us by using the hashtag #TakingCare100. And, shameless Twitter plug, you can follow me at @MamaBearPAL.

What are the little things that are making you happy?

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Book of Mormon

On Saturday night, Hubby and I dropped Buddy off at my Mom's house for a sleep-over and went on a date night to see The Book of Mormon.

It's a musical about two 18 year old Mormon men who are sent to Uganda, Africa for their two year mission. The villagers they meet are facing real problems like famine, poverty and AIDS, and this is not what the missionaries are prepared to handle.

The Book of Mormon has big Broadway tunes and dance numbers. It is also hilarious, if not slightly offensive, thank to it's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone who are also known for South Park.

I laughed so much from start to finish, and some parts really shocked me. But there were also parts that tugged at my heart strings. I am so glad that we had the chance to see The Book of Moron, and if you get the chance I suggest you check it out as well.

I Believe is just one of many catchy tunes.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Please, No More Homework

Last Friday Buddy, Hubby and I attended Buddy's spring parent-teacher conference.

We heard from Mr. Black that Buddy has areas where he struggles, mostly in multi-step problem solving and organizing written ideas.

In general, though, Buddy is progressing well and is "right where he should be" academically. He has also made huge strides behaviorally as is making smart choices when deciding who to hang out with during school time.

This is wonderful and Hubby and I were so happy to hear it.


Mr. Black was visibly surprised when we told him that homework has become a battle ground, especially math. At school, Buddy is apparently very math-minded. We asked about a few areas that are a constant issue at home and were told that Buddy has no trouble with them at school.

This week Hubby was out and I was on homework duty. Buddy was already having a bad day and he had less than no interest in finishing his last 30 minutes of math and writing. I have been very busy at work lately and had less than no interest in listening to him complain non-stop for 30 minutes.

After 5 frustrating and unproductive minutes, I shut Buddy's book and told him homework was done. That I had no interest in spending my evening walking him through work Mr. Black had told us he was able to do independently. That he was free to go to his room for the remainder of the evening.

And he didn't look or talk to me for about 12 hour.

What do I want from Buddy? Not for him to sail through homework. Not for him to be a straight A student (or straight 4, C or whatever-the-heck-system student.) These things would be nice, but they aren't really that important to me.

I want Buddy to know he is loved and safe. I want him to be happy at home and at school. I want him to do his best. But if he isn't feeling loved and happy, he isn't able to do his best. The first 2 points directly affect the third.

So we're going to cut back on homework, at least for a bit. Hubby and I are going to try and figure out what we can change to try to set Buddy up to succeed. Hopefully we can come up with a plan that works better for our family.

Because what we are doing right now isn't working for any of us.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Hitting the Slopes

Last weekend, we went on a quick ski vacation. 

Friday after work, we loaded up the car and hit the highway. It's a pretty substantial drive from home and we were tired once we got to the hotel. 

Which, coincidentally, was the most random hotel room I have ever stayed in. There were 2 king-sized beds, a small couch facing them and a jacuzzi in the corner. I'm not sure what the person who planned the layout had in mind while doing so. Curious? Check out the picture on my Facebook page!

We got up bright and early Saturday morning, picked up our rental equipment and got Buddy off to his snowboarding lesson. Hubby and I enjoyed the morning skiing together. After Buddy's lesson finished we spend the rest of the day skiing/snowboarding as a family. 

We got up early again Sunday, packed up, checked out of the hotel and headed to the hill. Buddy took another lesson and Hubby and I went off to try out some slightly more advanced runs. We picked Buddy up for lunch, did a few more family runs and then it was time to head home. 

I grew up skiing, but Hubby and Buddy haven't had much experience. I am really impressed with how good they have both gotten in a short time. Buddy's instructor even commented that Buddy is a natural.

The weekend wasn't perfect, but we got to spend a lot of time together, outside, doing something we all enjoy. I'm glad we went, and hope we have solidified it as a family tradition. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

How to Repair a Small Hole in a Hardwood Floor

Our house is almost 100 years old and it has some really lovely hardwood floors. The boards are skinny and long, unlike most flooring today, and give the house a lot of charm.

However, it is not charming to have holes in said floor boards. I'm fine with a few scratches and dents, they're pretty inevitable when you have kids and dogs. But small holes get bigger over time.

The other weekend I decided to fix a small hole that developed in the flooring in our living room. It was really hard to find an easy, quick solution that didn't call for sanding down the floor and re-staining or removing a portion of the floorboard.

So I decided to do my own thing, with the guidance of several online handy-person articles and videos.

I decided to fill the hole with Minwax Wood Putty in Golden Oak. It was a close match to the area of floor, but most wood putties can be mixed if needed to get the right color. I also liked that it doesn't require staining or sanding. It also doesn't dry fully hard, so it has a bit of give. This is good because our floors shift slightly depending on the season.

Just FYI, the hole I patched was about 2 x 10 x 5 mm.

- Fine grit sand paper or sanding block
- Denatured alcohol and a cloth
- Painters tape
- Wood putty
- Putty knife
Before, During and After

Here is the step-by-step process I used:

1. Sand down any rough edges around the hole.

2. Clean the floor and wipe it down with a bit of denatured rubbing alcohol. Allow to dry fully.

3. Tape off the area around the hole to make sure you don't get any product on the good flooring. Low tack, high quality painters tape is best to prevent leaving a residue on the floor. Apparently you can also just wipe the area clean with a paper towel.

4. Push a bit of wood putty into the hole using your fingers. It's better to use multiple thin layers rather than one thick layer because it actually decreases dry time. Just make sure the previous layer is dry before applying another. I also read that you can use a hair-dryer to speed up drying time, but I didn't try it. This step took me about a day to complete.

5. I used a putty knife to gently apply the final layer of wood putty to make sure it was smooth.

6. After you apply the last layer, carefully remove the tape so you don't disturb the finish or leave any tape residue behind.

7. Allow to dry for at least a few hours before any dogs lick it or boys poke at it out of curiosity!

The Final Result
* Disclamer: What I did may be total wrong, I am not an expert in flooring by any stretch. But it turned out well and everything still looks good a weeks later.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Keep Adam Home

Adam Crapser's story is not an easy one to hear.

In 1979, at four years old, Adam arrived in the United States from Korea with his biological sister. They were adopted into an abusive family who relinquished their parental rights five years later.

The children were separated and Adam was sent to live in a group home. He was later adopted by another abusive family. His adoptive parents were arrested and convicted of physical and sexual abuse five years later in 1991.

As if all of this wasn't bad enough, neither family completed the boys naturalization papers.

Until 2000, American citizenship was not automatically given to internationally adopted children when they arrived in the US. Adoptees were required to complete the same immigration process as any other person arriving into the country.

If, for whatever reason, the adoptive family failed to do so, the child would become what is called an "undocumented American". This obviously would cause a great deal of trouble once the child becomes an adult.

This brings Adam to where he is today. He survived unspeakable horrors and came out the other side. He has had a hard life and made some bad choices, but he is a man with a wife and three children, plus one on the way, who has spent almost his whole life in the United States. It's the country he calls home.

Because his naturalization papers were never completed, Adam Crapser has a deportation hearing on April 2 to determine if he will be forced to return to Korea.

This man has gone through so much, so young and so very little was done to keep him safe. We, as a collective group of adoptive families, owe him the right to stay with his family. His children deserve to grow up with their father.

What can you do? 

Contact your local elected representatives and ask them to sponsor the amendment to the Child Citizenship Act (CCA) that would allow it to apply to transnational adoptees currently living in America as adults, like Adam.

Sign the petition to Raphael Sanchez at the Office of the Chief Counsel (OCC), the office that prosecutes immigrants before the Immigration Court.

Raise awareness on social media with the hashtag #KeepAdamHome

Read more about Adam's story here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Adoption and Luck

Buddy is lucky.

He has more than enough of what he needs. Food, clothes, shelter. He is loved.

He is lucky, just like I'm lucky. Our family is lucky.

We don't have to worry about where our next meal will come from or where we'll sleep tonight. We have closets full of clothes and money in the bank. We have people in our lives that not only tell us they love us, but show us that they do.

But being adopted has nothing to do with luck.

In order for a child to be available for adoption, their parental ties must be severed. That means they legally have no Mom or Dad, even if one or both are still alive. This can be for a multitude of reasons: abuse, neglect, poverty, etc.

These children are not lucky.

When we adopted Buddy, we took him away from his country, his language, his culture. We took him away from the only life he had ever know. If that happened to me, I wouldn't consider myself lucky.

Every single time someone tells me Buddy is lucky to have been adopted by Hubby and I, I reply "No, we are the lucky ones to have him as our son." And I truly mean it.

Our family is lucky for all we have. That doesn't diminish the trauma that Buddy experienced.

Monday, March 9, 2015

International Woman's Day

Yesterday was International Woman's Day, which has been around since the 1911. 

It is one day a year set aside to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. This year's theme was Make It Happen, encouraging effective action for advancing and recognizing women. 

I am proud to be a woman. 

I'm good at my job. It is more than a job to me, it is what I was called to do. I work hard and take pride in a job well done. I help people.

I am proud to be a woman. 

I'm girly. I love to wear makeup and high heals. I like to shop, bake and I collect dolls. I know the difference between cerulean and cobalt blue. 

I am proud to be a woman.

I 'm a good wife and Mom. I love my boys and I try to think of his needs ahead of mine. I support them in every way I can. And I expect they do the same in return.

I am proud to be a woman. 

I wear a lot of hats. Wife, Mom, health care professional. I am my own person. I have hobbies and interests. I am not defined by any one thing, especially not by what is between my legs.

Make everyday International Women's Day. Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.

Friday, March 6, 2015

#TakingCare100 Days 31-50

I have official passed the half-way mark in the Twitter #TakingCare100 photo challenge I'm taking part in. If you're interested, you can see my first 10 days here and my next 20 days here. This challenge was started by Three Pink Diamonds and a Blue Sapphire and is a take on the 100 Happy Days photo challenge.

I am really enjoying stopping every day and appreciating the little things I do to take care. All captions are clockwise from the top left.

Day 31: Night to myself as the boys are out. I love Hubby, but I loved @johncusack first. 

Day 32: Tasty snack at the end of a long day.

Day 33: Spent the evening at (possibly) Buddy's school next year. Taking care by knowing our options.

Day 34: I took the day off work & spent a few hours shopping alone for fun. Came close to buying this.

Day 35: @boscia luminizing black facial mask, one of my favourite skincare things to do.

Day 36: Buddy is at his first school dance & Hubby and I are enjoying grown up time. Dexter season 8!

Day 37: On the recommendation of several Tweeps, I got myself an adult coloring book!

Day 38: I had breakfast made for me by a very handsome young man this morning.

Day 39: Fun day #KeepingItRiel with our afam group, completed with sun dogs. http://bit.ly/1BhMI32

Day 40: #ShroveTuesday #FatTuesday #PancakeDay

Day 41: I got my #birchbox subscription box today!

Day 42: Spent the evening with Buddy practicing the Japanese art of paper folding & patience. Success!

Day 43: Finally, after 15 months, a chick flick! #MovieNight #FamilyTime #TGIF #thefaultinourstars

Day 44: Sharing a meal from Buddy's culture w/ extended family. Tired & smell like cabbage but happy.

Day 45: Hubby bought me flowers, just because. Lilies, roses and orchids, my favorites.

Day 46: a co-worker surprised me with breakfast. Not what I'd normally eat, but a thoughtful gesture.

Day 47: These boys. Both hard at work, one at a big deal & one at Minecraft. Like father, like son. <3

Day 48: Lent as a Season of Mindfulness talk @ church tonight. I learned about the 7 sacred teachings.

Day 49: caught Buddy snuggling with Swar.

Day 50: #movienight tradition. Thai and Salt (the movie not the seasoning). #TGIF

Did you start the challenge and get discouraged at some point? Why not pick it up again! And if this is new to you and 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 the little things that are making you happy?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wretched TV & Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

Until this weekend I had never heard of Wretched TV. When I saw it's video on Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) come through my social media feed I clicked on it, not expecting to invest 20 minutes. I actually ended up watching the whole way through and found it quite interesting.

It isn't a perfect video. I find the presentation style over the top, very church-centric and kind of annoying. There are also some inaccuracies.  For example, every adopted child doesn't have RAD. RAD is a rare but serious condition.

What are being called RAD symptoms are actually common behaviors seen in children who come from trauma backgrounds. There is a wide range of attachment disorders in adopted children. Most adoptees will fall somewhere on this spectrum.

People who are considering adoption should watch this video because every potential adoptive parent needs to be prepared for what they may encounter. There are no guarantees you will, but also none you wont.

Those who know someone who is adopting or has recently adopted should watch this video because it present a pretty clear picture of what adoptive parent deal with every day. While Wretched singles out the church, I would like to see everyone linked to an adoptive family provide them with support and understanding. 

Here is a list of the behavioral issues listed in the video. Please note, they are not clinical symptoms used to diagnose RAD. 

20. Superficially charming
19. Lack of eye contact on parents' terms
18. Indiscriminately affectionate with strangers
17. Not affectionate on parents' terms
16. Destructive to self, others and material things
15. Cruelty to animals
14. Lying about the obvious
13. Stealing
12. No impulse control
11. Lack of conscience
10. Abnormal eating patterns
9. Poor peer relationships
8. Preoccupation with fire
7. Preoccupation with blood and gore
6. Preoccupation with bodily functions
5. Persistent nonsense questions and chatter
4. Non-stop demanding of attention
3. Triangulation of adults
2. False allegations of abuse
1. Creating chaos

Buddy doesn't have RAD, but we have experienced issues related to loss, control and attachment. I would say, of the 20 "symptoms", we deal regularly with 11 and occasionally with 7. We have never seen any presentation of only 2. We are lucky, though, I know families who have been through much worse.

If your child is suffering from a severe attachment problem, especially reactive attachment disorder, seek professional help. 

Where to find help for reactive attachment disorder or insecure attachment:

In the U.S.:

State Part C Coordinators: Find contact details for your state’s early intervention coordinator. 
ZERO TO THREE: National Center For Infants, Toddlers and Families: (202) 638-1144 
The New York Foundling24-Hour Parent Helpline: 1-888-435-7553

In the UK: Cambian Group Helpline for Parents and Professionals 0800-197-3907
In Australia: Early Childhood Australia: Helpline 1800-356-900

Other Helpful Links

Monday, March 2, 2015

Dress Gate and Other Perspectives

You must have seen it by now. The dress that divided the world. It made us all pick a team: white and gold or blue and black?

The fact that this photo caused such aggressive polarization got me thinking about perception. About the times in life when two people see the same thing two different ways.

This happens a lot between Buddy and I. We have opposite views on a subject and can't seem to come eye-to-eye.

I will admit, I usually think I am firmly right and Buddy is completely wrong.

But this silly dress has me thinking - maybe it's all a matter of perspective.

Buddy and I spent our formative years very differently. I will never claim to have had the ideal childhood, but I had more consistency than inconsistency. More nurturing than neglect. More positives than negatives. The same can't be said for Buddy.

Maybe it is completely reasonable that we just don't see things the same way.

Co-incidentally, I see the dress as white and gold. Buddy sees it as black and blue. And apparently, at least according to wired.com, I am the one who is utterly, completely wrong.

At least this time.