Saturday, October 31, 2009

Adoption State of the Union Bullet Report

I haven't blogged anything worth salt lately, and for that I am sorry. I have read some truly wonderful adoption updates on other blogs, which I find are a great source of hope, information and comraderie. It's an incredible thing to see how other families deal with situations similar to your own; you don't feel alone, and you may learn a great thing or two along the way.

Each time I try to sit down and write an update of some sort, my words and thoughts become a huge jumble that is so difficult to separate. Something that may seem like a huge, pressing issue one day suddenly is nothing the following day, and by that time I see no reason to blog about it at all.

So instead of trying to collect my thoughts in a flowing, appropriately transitioned piece of writing, I'm resorting to the ol' Tried-and-True Bullet Points State of the Union Adoption Update:

* ** Keenan joined Paloma and Miles and has just finished his second week of K-4. Miles always had done really, really well in K-4 and I never had a negative report, until Keenan started. Then it was like they both became different children. Both boys were loud, had a hard time listening to the teacher, wrestled with each other and another little boy, pushed in lines, and decided that singing and dancing in the bathroom was preferable to listening to a book during Circle Time.

I spent most of the first week, feeling more and more upset with the boys as the teacher had more "difficult" behavior to report as each day passed. I'm not used to having "those kids" in the class, and I certainly did not enjoy having to meet with a frazzled teacher at the end of each day. By last Thursday I had decided to pull Keenan from the class and put him in the morning class, which would make my day hell, but then at least I wouldn't have to be so frustrated all the time.

But then I spent last weekend reading, and talking to other parents, and reading some more. Slowly, my anger towards the boys completely dissipated and I actually became more frustrated with the teacher and the school and their 'disappointed' attitude after a mere 4 days! All of a sudden I felt myself feeling like a Mama Tiger, and was ready to work on making this a much better experience for the boys.

We had a lot of positive, upbeat talks with the boys over the weekend about what sort of behavior is expected at school. We created a sticker chart, because they LOVE stickers, and it reminds them each day what is expected of them at school.

I also had a talk with the teacher. I explained to her that while the boys are big and active and have happy faces, they are emotionally/socially and in some ways cognitively, at the level of a 2.5 to 3 year old. They did not have any structure like what is expected of them at school, so this is completely unnatural to them. Yes, they would be more 'work' than a child like Paloma, but I think with positive reinforcement and consistency, it should pay off.

Fortunately, this week went much better. It wasn't perfect, but at least the teacher didn't look frazzled by the end of the day. Baby steps.

*** As we grow together as a family and learn more about each other, Cliff and I have come to the realization that the boys are only around the age of 2.5 years at many levels. I know you may be thinking, "duh, wouldn't you expect that?" Yes, we did expect it before they came home.

But then two little boys arrived. Little boys with bright shining eyes and booming voices. Little boys who were so happy to have hugs, swing on swings, get new toothbrushes, and be read to each night at bed. Little boys who can jump rope, ride bikes and scooters, and crab walk across the yard in a blink of an eye. Little boys who on so many levels seem like everyday, average 5 year olds.

It took us weeks of getting to notice the little nuances special to each child. The small bits of body language that it takes a while to attune yourself to. And as the boys grew more comfortable with us, they slowly began letting their guards down, and we could understand more of them. Suddenly, it became very apparent, and we knew that we had to approach things in a different manner to help our little guys grow.

*** Because of the difference between their physical age and their "internal" age (I don't know the right word for it), it can be very difficult to parent. I remember a mom I knew when we lived in Milwaukee. Her little 2.5 year old Owen looked big enough to pass, easily, as a 4.5-5 year old. So when they would be out, and little Owen would throw a tantrum or something 2.5 year old appropriate, she could get the nastiest looks and comments from people who thought Owen should know better.

It's easy to think that our boys should know better too. I find myself having to constantly keep my frame of reference in check when dealing with out two little guys. I'm dealing with little ones, not kindergarteners, I tell myself nearly all the time.

*** Once we truly realized the discrepancy in phsyical age vs. emotional age, while it wasn't easier to parent, it has been easier to help build and promote attachment. Changing our style with the boys has made things go a lot more smoothly day in and day out. While having to be so "purposeful" in my interactions with them is exhausting because it's such a new way of parenting, the results are worth it and help me stay motivated to stay in the right frame of mind.

*** The boys eat up praise. Gobble it up. Like a big bowl of ice cream with hot fudge and whipped cream. They love to be helpers, get high fives, have big hugs, and give smooches. They love it when I tell them how proud I am of them for giving a nice apology, or for sharing, or for being kind. Their little peacock feathers come out and they feel like a million bucks. I've seen these little boys when they came home, and saw how tired, scared, little and alone they felt. So to see them feel Proud and Valued: it's a great, great thing to see.

*** Each and every day, I amazed by these boys and their bravery. The way they have handled this entire situation is beyond amazing. I stop and think of just how little they are, and how BIG the world is, and it is all I can do not to cry.

No child should ever have to be alone in this world. Every child deserves someone to love them and advocate for them.

*** Each and every day, I remember the MIRACLES it took to bring these boys home. People always ask about our adoption process, and I am convinced that it was the Lord Himself who brought these boys home. I look at the files and paperwork we have; I think about the hang ups and road blocks we were given; and I KNOW with my whole heart that this was the work of the Lord.

Blessings!
Sarah

Monday, October 26, 2009

Five Feet

(this post is making Mama cry)

My beautiful 11-year old Hattie LouLouBelle
had her yearly physical last Friday.
Somehow
Somewhere
my precious firstborn
who was a perfect 20.5" at birth
is now
5 Feet 1/2 Inch.

I asked the doctor if we could give her a pill
to make her 4 years old again.

Alas, none exists.


If I had the choice,
I would relive every moment of my beautiful girl's life.

My beautiful 5 foot girl.


(Hattie and her little peeps. They all adore her.)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Two Short Years Ago

(This post is gonna make Daddy cry)

2 years ago, 2 things defined Princess Po:

1. A binky in her mouth.


2. Her ever-present yellow Binkie Basket,

complete with a billion Back Up Binkies.


(That's Jimmy holding the Yellow Binkie Basket
while we were on vacation in Florida, October 2007)

Our Princess Po today:

No binkies.

No little yellow binkie basket.
They're all hidden away in my dresser,

awaiting bronzing.

Where did the time go?




Saturday, October 24, 2009

Boys and Their Toys

Raking is fun.



Power tools are fun-ner.



The Mister's motto: Start 'em young with the power tools.



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ole!

Last night our family (both our own and extended)
gathered together at our favorite restuarant
for a belated celebration of Miles' 5th birthday.

And according to tradition, we snapped some pics of Miles
in the famous Birthday Sombrero.

He really didn't know what to make of the all the singing hubbub.



He was much happier opening presents in his sombrero.


Or being super silly with Hattie and Jimmy.



And truthfully, he was happiest shucking that darn hat and
hitting the gambling machines.

I have to keep a close eye on that boy, I tell ya.

Keenan really loves his Boppa.

Everyone wanted to sit on Auntie Stephie's little lap
(Miles, at age 5, weighs more than half of what his teenie aunt weighs.
Not the same can be said for his mother, ha ha!)


This is my super adorable niece Aristana,

who is absolute dolly and smart as a whip.


My Three Sons.


Auntie Stephie, Uncle Kevin with their crew of kids.

All of my children love

love

LOVE

their Auntie Stephie and Uncle Kevin


Jimmy made Trick or Treat Goody Bags for all the grands,

because she and Boppa hightail it to Florida tomorrow for a long month.

Give a kid a Pez dispenser and 3 packs o' Pez,

and suddenly no one is interested in the four Fried Ice Creams on the table.

The adults are thus forced into digesting all.that.ice.cream.

Sigh.
Sometimes, as the responsible adults, there are sacrifices we just have to make.

Like eating an obscene amount of fried ice cream.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Checking In

Each and every day I mentally write out several blogs in my head. Blogs about homeschool, about adoption and attachment issues, about large family management, about the adorable and/or heinous things my children do. Days are busy, and I find that finishing the post in my head gives me a sense of completion. The next thing I know I'm in bed, nearly dozing off and I realize that I never got that chance to sit down at the computer to put down on the screen the words that travel through my mind.

I'm not sure if it is the homey coziness that autumn elicits, or if simply the demands of a five children keep my on my toes to the point where I can't really focus on anything else, but I am feeling an overall sense of fullness and completion and satisfaction that I haven't felt since we started the whole adoption journey 3 years ago. I say "overall" because some days and moments are so insane and just plain ol' not fun that I question my own sanity. But those are just moments, and fortunately, they are outnumbered by the good ones.

Moving into this holiday season, with my family complete and at home, is a realization of a long-time hope/dream/prayer. The childrens' excitement is contagious, and I can't help but feel those butterflies in my own stomach.

Everything is so new to the boys, and their personalities tend to look at new things with wonder and excitement (as opposed to fear and uncertainty.) They are certainly an example to me, a gal who sometimes looks at the new or unknown with intrepidation. Last night I watched as the boys' reaction as Cliff offered them a bite each of Mom's spicy beans-and-chilies enchiladas. The moment Daddy offered them, they beamed with excitement. They let the hope that something good could be coming direct them. No fear. No crying about not wanting to try something new. Just happy to be included and offered the opportunity. I see their eagerness spread to the other children, and before I knew it, everyone was partaking in a food that prior to the boys' homecoming, no one would have been willing to try.

Their spirit gives me so much to think about.

I'm not even sure what the purpose of this particular post is other than to just write down a thought that has been on my mind this morning. And to let you all know that we are good, and that I hope the same for you and your own families.

Many blessings,
Sarah

Saturday, October 10, 2009

3 Months Home

3 months ago today, we brought our Miles home.


3 months of a father's devotion, a mother's love, siblings' affection, healthy food, medical care and learning, and the difference is amazing.

Gone is the quiet, unsteady little boy who couldn't run 5 feet without falling 5 times. Replaced by a much taller, much heavier little boy who, while he unable outrun his much smaller brother, can run, jump and skip with the best of 'em.

Miles was a child who wanted a family. He came home and drank up all the love, affection, and teaching we could offer. He seemed pleased to be a valued and important part of something, and he didn't try to fight that at all.


Yet the 3 months have not been without stress and worry. Communication is difficult, still. Establishing family boundaries, expectations and rules without easy communication is tough. Many days we take steps backwards instead of steps forward, but when we look at a block of time, instead of a day of time, we see just how far this amazing little guy has come.

Miles has a belly laugh that could rival Santa's. He loves to play and imagine and create games. For him, having the opportunity to try and do something "by myself" isn't about a control issue tactic. It's about growing and showing us and himself, with a sense of love and pride, what a big boy he can be.

What an amazing, long and short, frustrating yet joyous, 3 months it has been. We love you, Miles!

Friday, October 09, 2009

In Search of a Family

Corey's family and their heartbreaking situation has been the central focus of my prayers for the past few days. I cannot begin to imagine their grief.

Please read her post here. Maybe, in some way, you are part of a link in their son's and their family's chain of healing.

It is an honor to lift this amazing woman and her family up in prayer. We are praying for you here, Corey.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Futile

fu*tile
pronunciation: \'fyut-tel
function: noun

1: serving no useful purpose: completely ineffective

2: occupied with trifles: frivolous

3: a mother of five children's attempts to keep H1N1 from spreading from child to child in her home; and/or a mother of five's inability to keep H1N1 from re-infecting previously stricken family members

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Incognito


The U.S. government sent us Keenan's Permanent Resident Card (which, despite being permanent, has an expiration date. Go figure) with another child's photo on it. Yep, the kiddo on the card is NOT Keenan.

We need the card for something important (like the readoption). I don't recall what, but our local agency handling the re-adoption kind of wigged out a wee little bit, all under a professional demeanor.

So, I have the task of sending this V.I.Card back to where it came from. Which I think was someplace in Mesquite, Texas. Supposedly they will take his card and hunt down the appropriate photo.

I dunno. After everything we've been through with the United States Citizens and Immigration Services, I'm not feeling overly confident about their ability to straighten it all out.

I think my better option is disguising Keenan and trying to pass him off as the other child. Whaddya think?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Happy Birthday Miles

Miles is FIVE


and as all the kids will tell you,
five is fabulous.


Suddenly,
none of the missed birthdays matter.

Nor does it matter that
the big family birthday party at
our favorite local Mexican restaurant
had to be cancelled due to our 5FC H1N1 breakout.

Nor does it matter that my big glorious
plans for an amazing from-scratch cake
had to be scratched because
Mommy didn't want to give you all
her germs for your birthday.


What matters is,
You're here.
We're together.
And nothing can change that.



We love you from head to toe.
Happy, Happy, Happy Birthday Miles.
We wish you many, many more.


Love,
Mommy, Daddy

Hattie, Atticus,

Keenan, and Paloma




Sunday, October 04, 2009

There's a Raccoon in our Basement

For the past 5.5 months, Paloma has been telling nearly every man, woman and child we meet (including her pre-K teacher and class) that we have a raccoon living in our basement.

An announcement that was usually followed by silence and puzzled looks. Paloma's speech is quite clear now, and generally people don't know what to say.

The raccoon is actually Kumba (koom-bah) my brother Adam's humungo (and that's being nice) orange fluffball of a cat, who has lived in our basement, along with my brother for the past 5.5 months.

The elusive Raccoomba


I'm guessing after a quiet and solitary existence in my brother's former apartment for the previous 4 years, 5 children, 3 dogs and 2 other cats were a tad bit overwhelming to this pampered puss. As such, Kumba rarely ventured from his secure spot in the basement for the first 3 months of his residence.

So elusive were Kumba sightings, and so skittish was he that usually we only caught a brief glimpse of a poofy tail vanishing into the basement. Paloma actually thought Kumba was a raccoon. And thus she bestowed the name "Raccoomba" on him.

Truth be told, I have not mentioned of my brother's living with us to many people. Mainly because the reaction I would get is, "5 kids, 3 dogs, 2 cats and now your brother and his cat? Are you crazy?"

Which I would take great offense to. I'm a big sister, and he is my baby brother, and I'm overprotective. So I would get really cranky when people acted like there was something insane about helping the guy out. Sue me.

We took Adam in because he was down and out-- no place to live, no bank account and no decent people on a day to day basis. No way would I ever turn my back on him. A good person with a heart of gold, he needed a place to heal, recoup and pull himself up by the bootstraps. And he needed an adult strong enough to tell him "how it is" without being worried about whether or not he would be upset or pull away (and he never became upset or pulled away when I freely gave my opinion on many of his situations.) I called it "Real World Bootcamp" in all good fun, but the truth is, that what it was in many regards.

So in just under 6 months, Adam successfully graduated Bootcamp, and he moved his things into a small studio apartment, less than two blocks from our home. The rent is less than 25% of his takehome pay, and it faces east so it gets a lot of bright morning sun. His little patio has a view of a grassy field and a tree. I'm a big believer that fresh air and sunshine help lead to (or at the very least, promote) positive mental and emotional health.

This is such a bittersweet time for me. I should be so happy that he is doing well and moving on (and I am!), but I am mourning his absence.

The kids LOVED having Uncle Elmo live with us. I was a bit worried about how he would be able to handle all the noise and chaos in the house, but it turns out, he thrived in it. He played soccer, baseball, pushed swings, and helped rollerskaters. He mowed the lawn and cooked awesome food.




He even put on one of our dress up evening gowns to get a laugh from the kids.

In our society of arm's distance families, how lucky are my kids to have had their awesome, tatted, pierced, fun Uncle Elmo to live with us for nearly 6 months?

We were all so spoiled to have him here. Adam is the youngest child in our family, and has no brothers. Cliff is the oldest boy in his family, with only sisters. I think it was such a good thing for these two to bond, connect and live as brothers.

After all, I can't do all the dumbass boy things that boys are so fond of. Like trying to out-macho each other by eating uber-hot organic habanero peppers straight from Sarah's garden.

This picture cracks me up. He looks like some dorky suburban white guy flashing some gang symbols. But actually, it's just Adam trying to die from a hot pepper with a sense of humor.

And here's Cliff trying to flush the capascin pain from his mouth.

This is exactly why I think it is so important for boys to have at least one brother.
And why I think we were anything but crazy to have my brother move in.

Thanks Adam, for all the great times.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Knock Out

Atticus spent most of the week walking around with a wiggly, waggly tooth hanging off of his lower gum. Not one to yank it out, it seemed that every five minutes he would proudly report that the toothjust became wigglier, and to prove it to me he would moon his bleeding gross tooth right up to my squeamish eyes.

The boys have taken to wrestling outside every afternoon. Running back and forth across the yard, they tackle each other, tickle, give noogies and all the sorts of things that brothers do. They are obnoxious and noisy and probably make grumpy Mr. Walrus-Face across the street even grumpier, but I find it glorious.

They are exactly how brothers should be.

So yesterday, during the mid-afternoon Smack Down, the boys burst through the door in a tangled mess of blood and grass stains, accompanied by a cacophony of English and Kreyol.

Apparently, Keenan sat on Atticus' head, and Atticus' tooth popped right out, followed by a small geyser of blood.


Now, how do you explain to a scared little Haitian boy that it was a good thing a tooth popped out and that it is okay his brother became a bleeding mess after he sat on his head? Mama's kreyol isn't that good, for certain.
But lots of high five's, whoops and smiles led him to believe just such.
If you have a moment and are so inclined, say a little prayer for our Atticus and Paloma. Paloma is still fighting this nasty flu, and her chest x-rays show a possibility of pneumonia developing if we are not able to get this under control. Her fever is slowly subsiding, but her cough is becoming worse.
Atticus awoke this morning to be a new $1 bill from the Tooth Fairy, and evidence of coming down with the same H1N1 bug. A fever, aches, sore throat and cough has our little man down and out on the couch, under a mountain of blankets. I'm not feeling well at all myself, but our Mister Hero is now back from his business trip and is taking care of business here at home, so I can rest and hopefully circumvent the worst this flu offers.
Blessings!
Sarah

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A New Low

This morning, our little thermometer reads 32 degrees F.

A quick glance at the frost covering my backyard confirms the thermometer's accuracy.

32 degrees is the coldest temperatures our little guys have ever experienced in their entire lives.

They are looking at me like this is crazy.

Even their fuzzy, fleecy, footy jammies weren't enough for them this moring. They dropped those like a hot (well, cold) potato, and opted for a full fleece hooded sweatsuit, long sleeved shirts and thick socks. They each carefully put up their hoods and tied them tight, saying, "No Freht, No Freht!" For some reason, all I could think about was Elliot on ET and I smiled.

I bundled them up on the little kid couch in the family room, under 4 blankets and went to check the thermostat. Hmmmm. 58 degrees inside the house. Time to crank that heat on for the first time this season.

We've been trying to explain snow for the past few days. We've watched Frosty the Snowman and showed them photos of years past when the kids played in snow, yet I dare say we made them understand. Experienced parents of Haitian Angels out there: anyone know the Kreyol word/phrase for snow that my boys might understand?

Time to put on some hot cocoa for my little Kreyol-sicles :)