Saturday, July 31, 2010

Interrupting the Hiatus to Bring You This News. . .

Hatfield just scored the Winning Goal for her soccer team, and the win put them in the Finals tomorrow morning!!!

The game was tied up 1-1, and in the fourth quarter Hatfield was able to bring the ball down from midfield (she's a forward) and score. Whooohooo!!!

I am SOOOOO proud of my girl. This year she and her friend Emily moved up to the U-15 league (for 12, 13 & 14-year olds), and Hatfield is the second youngest girl on the team (she turned 12 less than a month before the cut-off.)

All 6 of us were there to cheer her on, and we're definitely the loudest family on the sidelines (Haitian & Chamorro kids know how to holler. Heck, they holler when they're just talking, so when they YELL, they REALLY YELL!)

Sign-In begins tomorrow morning at 7:15 sharp, so we're off to a great dinner and early bedtime here. Wish her luck for tomorrow morning!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Hiatus

I'll have access to email through my phone, but I'm turning the texting off and I'm powering the computer completely down.
I'm taking a computer hiatus for the next 2 weeks to organize my homeschool office, but more importantly, to soak up the hot sunshine, to lounge around my mother's pool while my kids splash about, and after the kids go to bed, to drink margaritas on the patio with my handsome Mister underneath my lit that makes me feel like we're in a movie.

See you on the 16th!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Can't Blog

Instead, I'll be in the kitchen.

For the past several years, I read Big Mama Hollers (aka Cindy Bodie's blog) each and every morning.

A devout gardener (and vegetarian), she has forever been mentioning this magical Fire Hot Pepper Sauce that she and her kids put on nearly everything, going through bucketfuls each year.

And I drool.

About a month ago, her darling girl Sarah blogged this recipe on her Recipes for a Postmodern Planet blog.

Today, my first batch of garden jalapeno peppers are ready, and I'm making me up my very own batch.

My Hot-Pepper-Luvin' Mister said this is like his birthday, Valentine's Day, Father's Day, and Christmas all rolled into one.

You can find the recipe Here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

After some crazy rain spells over the past two weeks, the rain has moved out, for the moment, at least, and and heat and humidity have moved in. I'm not complaining though; I think you are allowed 1 and only 1 season per year to b*tch about the weather, and I reserve that right for the dead of winter.

Today the kids and I had the Delightful privilege to meet Ms. Amy and her crew from over at This, That and Life's Joys blog. This gal and her husband Tim have two beautiful daughters and after probably what is the WORST Haitian adoption process I have ever heard---hands down-- they finally brought home their handsome son Jon Micah last August.

This Tennessee crew was traveling through our area for a family camping trip, and stopped in at a local park to meet us and visit. Meeting other families who intimately understand the transitions that a family goes through is invaluable. If you are an adoptive family and have not done this yet, you simply MUST do so.

Their lovely 17-year old daughter Lexi so articulately shared some of her feelings and frustrations with our Hatfield, who listened in rapt attention with a huge smile on her face. We got back to the car and Hatfield exclaimed, "It's SO cool to talk with someone who gets how it is!" to which I wholeheartedly agree: "I know! Isn't it such a great feeling!"

For both of these girls, who old enough to and do babysit, have been through very frustrating times with these new younger brothers. I was so grateful to have this young lady take the time to share and help Hattie feel not quite so alone anymore.

After our new friends headed out on their way, we came home, chowed down leftover black bean/jalapeno/pepperjack cheese enchiladas for lunch, and headed over to Jimmy's house and pool. I've been swimming the kids hard each afternoon nearly everyday. They come home tired and worn out, just happy to play in the coolness of our basement playroom or to veg in front of some credit-earned television time.

Today I got smart and dinner was brought to us, courtesy of the Crock Pot. Definitely a necessity for these hot summer days. When we lived in Milwaukee, we had a sun room on the front of our little bungalow, and I would put the Crock Pot in there on summer days, helping to alleviate the heat build-up in the kitchen.

Play them out hard, swim them out hard, and at 7 pm I have 3 exhausted little heads hitting their pillows. By 7:04, all four will be zonked out, leaving Mom and Dad to have some "Big Kid Only" time. Invaluable, those two hours, Atticus getting full control of us from 7-8, and then Hatfield running the show from 8-9. These big kids go through a huge adjustment of their own when becoming big adoptive sibs, and it's far too easy to let them fall through the cracks when the little ones can suck up so much of Mom and Dad's time and energy. All they want is our undivided time and energy, and this way of staggering bedtimes allows us to accomplish it for at least a full hour each day, especially on those days when all hell breaks loose during the daytime.

The next two weeks will be busy, as Hatfield and Atticus both have successive Intensity Weeks at their dance studio for their competitive troupes. Hatfield moved up to Teen Line this year, and in addition to tap and jazz routines, the students perform a lyrical (contemporary) piece, as well as participate in the grande finale of the recital. Atticus is remaining in Petite Troupe, a spot that is just fine with him, as he is only 8. This year another little boy joins him on the troupe, which means he know has to split the attention of the 16 little girls on the team. I doubt he hardly notices, as we cannot walk through that dance studio without hearing a chorus of little voices squealing, "Hi Atticus!" or "Hi Atticus' Mom! (giggle giggle)"

The little boys have Teddy Bear Camp at their 'big kid school.' They will be attending full-day kindergarten, a large developmental step UP, especially for adoptive children still learning language, culture, customs. But the school is quite excellent, and I have a lot of respect and admiration for the staff. Teddy Bear Camp brings the children to school, 3 hours a day for 4 days, for just a week, to acclimate the children to Life in Kindy.

Miles has enjoyed several level days now, and I have as well. Yesterday we had a few 'touchy' moments, but I'm so proud of my boy because he was able to be "Boss of his Body" and reset himself, not giving in to the anger he so often feels. Hooray, Miles!

Keenan decided to do a little testing of the system of his own this morning. First kicking a sibling, then refusing to apologize and discuss the issue, and then refusing to take two minutes to be "Boss of His Body" (sitting criss-cross applesauce, hands folded on the lap. This helps remind them that no matter how they feel, they can be in control and keep a calm and non-aggressive body.)

No matter to Mom, I politely told him. You're putting yourself on your own Credit Time-Out, meaning that you won't be able to play at the park with our new friends or do anything else privilege-wise, until you decide you want to play by the rules.

While he was standing obstinately in the kitchen, refusing to put on his shoes, I asked my happy Miles:

"Hey Miles, last week, when you didn't want to talk to Mommy or cooperate, how did that work for you?"

"Oh no, no, no, NOT good," he replied, fully 'getting' what I was doing.

"And Miles, last week, when you decided that for 6 days you didn't want to follow any rules, how did that turn out for you?"

He shakes his head. "NOT good. I had NO FUN, not at all."

"Hmmmmm," I said, looking at Keenan. "So Keenan, do you think this whole not following rules thing is going to work for you?"

"No," he replied.

"So, why aren't you following rules then?"

"Because I angry," he said.

"Good job answering honestly, buddy. You definitely get credit for that good choice"(Always point out the positive!) "But Babe, you're gonna have to decide what you like more: playing at the park, or being angry and not following rules."

While it took Miles 6 days to figure out that he actually liked having fun better, it took Keenan a whole 6 mile car ride and then he was done with the bad business. He fixed those problems in no time flat, was given a hug and kiss, and was out chasing around Jon Micah before you could blink an eye. A perfect example of how the credit system should work, and something I will catalog mentally so I can draw hope from it in those trying moments.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Half Way There

This morning, I ran 7 miles.

Did you catch that?

Seven.

7.

SEVEN.

If I could, I would write Seven in swirly pink glittery sparkle letters in a cute font. But I can't.

So pretend, okay?

This is momentous because:

1) This is the furthest I have ever run in my ENTIRE life. And I'm 35 years old.

and

2) Seven miles is MORE THAN half of a half-marathon. Hot damn!

* * * * * *

On a completely different note, does any this conversation sound familiar in your marriage?

The Mister: "My friend A is going to call this evening between 7:30 and 9 p.m. with his calendar so we can coordinate our camping schedules. I'll give you the phone and you and he can discuss.

Me: "He's your friend. You have a calendar. And you are not going to drag me away from True Blood, no way, no how. Why do I have to figure this out?"

The Mister: "Okay. I'll just call him earlier and you two can figure this out."

Me: "Do I have you call my friends to arrange park play dates? Do you plan cookouts with my mom? Do I turn to you to plan the entire weekend, both in town and out of town, when my blogging idol is coming to town to run a half marathon with us Green Bay gals? No."

The Mister: "That's because you are the better planner than me. You rock at it, baby."

Me: Snorting. "Flattery will get you know where, Mister. Out of the next 5 weekends, we have 2 available to camp. They are on your calendar. And these are your friends. Just write your plans on the Motherboard on the wall, once you make them. "

The Mister: "The Motherboard? Where's that? Is it really that much to ask you to plan this?"

Me: "Unless at this very moment you are a Viking vampire who can levitate outside my bedroom window, yes, it is too much to ask."

Forehead slap. And you know that when the Mister got on the phone with his friend, he asked me a dozen questions, all of which he could have figured out had he looked at the 2 weekends marked OPEN on his calendar.

But truly, who the hell cares, because today I ran over half of a half marathon. And tonight I got to watch a Viking vampire levitate. So it's been a great day regardless of the Mister's complete inability to read a calendar.

(I hope you realize, Mister, that this was done all in the name of good blogging fodder. Love you, babe!)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Claiming

Amazingly enough, our week ended as calmly as it had begun chaotically. Something which I am equally grateful for but wary about, because now that I put this publicly out there on my blog, it pretty much guarantees all hell to break loose.

This week in EMDR therapy we worked on "Claiming Narratives." This is cool stuff. To sum it up:

"Claiming narratives allow children an opportunity to experience being loved and valued. It offers them the possibility of knowing who they are and where they belong as part of your family. Through these stories parents claim their children as their own. They define what it means to be part of their family. During this time many children experience a sense of being valued, that someone else is excited to have them as part of their life.

Another important aspect of the claiming stories are that they provide parents the opportunity to tell the child about normal early childhood experiences. Many children who have experienced trauma, abuse or neglect think that their experiences were normal. Through claiming narratives, parents have the opportunity to tell the child what their life would have been like if they had them from the beginning.

These stories are not intended to deny the actual events of the child's life. They are simply intended to provide the child with a framework of normal childhood experiences."

For us, we practice our claiming narratives by having the child climb up on my lap with a comfy blanket or lovey (in the therapist office, the child also has headphones on with quietly playing EMDR music.) And I tell the child the story of "If You Had Been in My Belly"

* if you had been in my belly, Daddy and I would have been SO excited.

* we would have bought you a crib, clothes, blankies, bottles, binkies, etc. The family would celebrate and Jimmy would make you a special blankie and Mommy would knit you booties.

* you'd be born in a hospital, and SOOOO many people would come to see you (we list them. It goes on forever, but they love it.) Dr. Kathuria would come to see you and take good care of you b/c she is an excellent doctor that we found for you.

* we'd bring you home. we'd feed you, love you, give you bottles, rock you, never leave you alone, hold you if you needed it (Here we use a little black baby doll, swaddled, with a baby bottle, etc.)

* we'd play games w/you (Here I do "peek a boo" and "where' baby?" and "Patty-Cake." Also I show him the "Here comes the airplane" game when I feed you.

* when you'd get sick, we take care of you. We give medicine and stay up all night to make sure you are okay.

* when you walk, we go to the store and buy you cute little baby shoes (Again, we use the prop here of teeny tiny little baby shoes.)

* and so on and so forth.

While during the claiming narrative the first time took about 45 minutes, we review it each evening. Sometimes I'll condense it, or I'll ask, "what part do you want Mommy to tell you about?" Miles loves talking about his high chair and how Mommy plays the airplane game.

When I spend this time with my sons, their physical changes are amazing. Both boys relax, snuggle a bit more deeply and glow. MY physical changes are amazing. I feel less on "guard," snuggle a bit more deeply. Visualizing them as MY babies who I held and cared for and showed off to the world helps me as well.

The Credit System is continuing to work well. Miles is still in his obstinate state because he's not quite ready (okay, nowhere near ready) to give up his quest for control. While I can't give him all the praise and compliments that I can give the other kids (b/c it still upsets him), the praise and compliments are actually the third step in the "Kodak moment" plan. The other kids are all about the praise and willing to accept it.

For Miles, his negative self-image is so deeply embedded in his soul. He immediately bristles when I merely notice that he's doing something "well." So for now, I just verbally affirm what I'm seeing: "You're brushing your teeth with your purple toothbrush," or "You're eating those juicy grapes. Your face tells me that you think they taste yummy."

Slowly, he is bristling less over just the noticing. At least he is no longer stopping what he is doing when I notice it.

Slowly, but surely, we're moving forward to Step 2. It takes time, but hey, at least time is something we've got.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Three Funny Things


Today, I really needed some good laughs, and I informed my children this over breakfast.

"Mommy's tired and cranky today. I need some good laughs," I explained.

And God Bless them, they delivered.
* * * * * * * * * *
My Haitian sons are now trash talking each other, in English. I long since expected this went on in Kreyol, but have not confirmed this phenomenon in my native language. Tonight at my mom's house, in a sort of tug-of-war, Keenan managed to push Miles into the pool, over and over (and over) again. Which is surprising because Keenan is way smaller and Miles is way tougher.

At bedtime, Keenan sat up and notified me, "I POOSH (push) Miles into da pool. Over and over. Oh yeah, take dat, baby!" Complete with cocky head nods and appropriate hand gesturing.

To which Miles replied, "Nu-uh! You only did that, 'cuz I LET you did that. Boo yah!"

* * * * * * * * * *

While all 3 of my sons wrestled each other, all attempting to toss the other ones in the pool, my mother winced and cringed. Because of the whole wet concrete and cracked skull possibility. I drank my wine and shrugged it off, because I figured boys will be boys, and we have good health insurance, and my stepdad's a (retired) paramedic, so my concerned Mommy bases were covered.

And boys will be boys anyways, right?

Well, watching my crazy boys got us all to talking about all the crazy things that boys do. While growing up in my childhood home, one of our neighbors had 3 crazy sons of their own.

One day, the hamster of their oldest son died. Sad, right? What's a boy to do?

Well, he did what any morbidly curious 10-year old boy would do. Got out an empty Campbells soup can, placed the deceased inside, and lit up their Weber Grill. Prest-O Change-O. Instant cremation.

Or so the kid thought.

Until his dad lifted up the grill 3 days later to bbq dinner. And all the neighborhood kids within a 2-square block radius learned the expression: "What the f. . .?!?"

* * * * * * * * * * *


Swimming over to the other end of the chromosomal pond. . .

Miss Paloma is fascinated by boobs, bras, tank tops and swimsuits. Anything that lets her get a good look at my girls.

She calls them "Tilla's."

Tonight at bed time, I asked, "Po, why do you call them tilla's?"

She looked at me like I was a few fries short of a Happy Meal. "Oh! You know! I learned that on Dora, Mom!"

Say what?

Seeing the confusion on my face, she further explained, "Tilla's. . .it's a Spanish word. . you know, like Boots!"

But the thing is, I didn't know. So apparently, I am a few fries short of that Happy Meal after all.
But that's okay, because full fries or not, I got a few laughs out of the day.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Escalation

Last week we began a new behavioral therapy program, with Miles and Keenan and all of the kids. I spent the middle part of last week trying to blog about it, but found myself nearly re-writing the entire darn 200+ page book, Transforming the Difficult Child.

The behavioral program is 3 parts, basically:

1) Providing "Video Moments" for the child throughout the day, which is basically verbally acknowledging what the child is doing or how they are feeling, nearly as if we had an (imaginary) blind companion for whom we are describing our children's actions out loud. This is a way of underlining and documenting to your child that you value them for who they are, a sort of nutritional recognition of sorts.

2) Creating a "Credit" System where children earn credits for Following Rules (no hitting, no whining, no peeing on the carpet, etc.), earn credits for Positive Behaviors (being helpful, talking about feelings instead of acting on them, good attitudes, etc.) and for Chores. This is a purposeful system so that children have some 'slam dunks' where they earn credits easily, and some with goals to strive for. In turn, the credits are used to purchase rewards/treats (basically, everything other than food, clothing and shelter. TV time, playroom time, computer time, cookies, trip to video store, etc., are all possible things to be earned.)

Children cannot "lose" credit with bad behavior. However, as they may have to "pay" Mom or Dad with credit if they chose to use up Mom or Dad's energy in a negative way (a 75 minute screaming tantrum, for example.) This is up to us. But the goal is to make children want the success, so the system should not be made to be punitive.

If the child refuses to do a chore, or there is some sort of problem that needs to be corrected, the parent can "freeze" the spending of credits until that task is completed. Meaning, no tv, no ice cream, no treats of any sort until they comply with the rules.

However, even if a spending freeze is issued, they can (and should!) still earn credits. You want to continue the momentum of success, no matter how small. And sometimes having that success is enough to pull them out of the downward cycle (sometimes).

3) When a child breaks a rule, no warning is issued ("if you do that again, you're gonna get a time out". . . not done in this program.) Just like in a video game or in a basketball game, a time out is issued in a swift, neutral state without discussion or explanation: That's a time-out.

The parent then removes themselves energetically from the child. The parent gives no emotional energy for tantrums, escalations, etc. The parent is neutral. The time-out is only for as long as it takes for some sufficient increment of positive change. So it can be really short (like 5-10 seconds) or longer.

A Re-Cap/Overview
Basically, the program is set up so that Parent Energy is the reward. Children learn that they are given energy and time and recognition for GOOD things. So often we fall into the pattern where we kind of ignore all the good that our children do, and only pay attention/energy to the bad choices. This attempts to reverse that process.

Like a basketball game. The rewards for staying in-bounds and following the rules (points, recognition, cheering, fun) is SO great that no basketball player feels an incentive to break the rules (no energy is given; just a consequence: time out, turn over, etc.)

Is it working for us?

Hatfield, Atticus, Keenan and Paloma are thriving. They all seem to be responding incredibly to having Mom 'notice' them and the things they are doing.

So much so that I could cry. Miles has the ability to really suck all the life out of the house, and I can see just how neglected these other kids feel sometimes. It makes me feel so sad and horrible that things have been this way.

To see these kids blossom and thrive with just these itty bits of 'noticing' given freely throughout the day, well, it's both wonderful, yet very humbling.

The quick, energy-free time outs work wonders. The time-outs for these 4 are usually very short. I think the longest has been 30 seconds. Just calling them on the broken rule, asking them to pause for a moment, is enough to reset them and make them go back to playing without problem. I never knew that could be done so easily.

Plus, for goal-oriented kids like Hatfield, the credit system is awesome. She can keep track of her stuff (which helps me) and she feels excited about earning things that normally we really wouldn't think of or do. So that's a Win-Win.

But as for Miles.

Miles, Miles, Miles.

My dear sweet Miles.

One word: Escalation.

Our therapist and the book warns that for the difficult and intense child, they are gonna E-S-C-A-L-A-T-E.

Ain't that the truth!

Historically, Miles excels at using his anger to control the house. He is very good at controlling situations. He is very obstinate very stubborn, and if he does not want to do something (like a simple chore) he can hold out for days until he feels like he has sufficiently been "forced" to do it. I think, in his mind, if he is "forced" to do something, then he actually hasn't done it, thus in his world, he is still in control.

It's a slippery slope.

Miles has spent the past 8 days trying to get me mad. Trying to engage me in a power struggle. Trying to lure me into yelling, punishing, or consequencing.

This program is simple in that: the child makes the choice. Depending on their choice, they can spend credits or not have credits yet available to them. Credit Freeze= Reward Freeze.

Miles has been on a credit freeze most days. The first four days, I would catch any little positive thing and award more points. Which, for some reason, further pissed him off.

What I really like about this program is that even when a child refuses and can't spend credits, they are still part of the family. The child is with us, and I can notice and recognize all the positive things about him that I love. I am acting towards him in a calm, positive, loving manner. I have nothing about my own behavior that I feel guilty or badly about (because believe me, I have spent a huge amount of time feeling like I was doing so many things wrong!)

Nothing is withheld from him-- he is with us at meals, he is not banished to a room--and I know that I'm giving him what he needs. All that he is missing is the "extras" in life, but the last time I checked, tv, computers, ice cream and all the "fancy" toys weren't necessities.

The escalation, though, hit another turning point around day 4. Miles was becoming SO agitated that he could not get me to engage in a negative power struggle, that he began acting out against me aggressively. Which is why he did not go to Haiti camp.

Since last week Thursday, Miles has scratched up my chest, twisted my finger, kicked, bit, spit, hissed, and hucked laundry baskets at my back. He's attacked me from behind. He's tried peeing in my bedroom, and when I caught him and tried to pull up his pants, it took both Hatfield and Atticus to rip him off of my back, and then the 3 of us to get him to a safe area.

That was fun.

Through it all, I have managed to remain calm and not engage. I show that I am VERY angry that he is doing this, and that it is NOT OKAY EVER to hurt your mom. But he is unable to engage me into having my very own adult temper tantrum, which is what I'm pretty sure he wants me to do.

Of course, the book does not explain what to do when your child goes full-out ape shit on you. So we're meeting with the counselor again tomorrow, and I'm anxious to hear what he has to say about this.

Which will be good, because right now, I'm just about done with this child. I can handle the escalating non-compliance, the 2 hour long screaming festivals, and even the peeing to some extent. With those things, I need a short break, but typically, I'm a pretty tough chick and can bounce back with my usual "I've lived through way worse than you, little boy, so don't think you can be the death of me" attitude.

But this constant barrage of physical attacks? I'm not dealing with it very well at all. I've never had this before. This is SO outside of my own normal that I Don't. Know. What. To. Do.

I hate what this is doing to my house and family. The other kids are nervous and always worried about me and are so wary of Miles. Hatfield's contempt for him is palpable, and after he scratched her up and bit her, I can't blame her. And truthfully, I find it really hard to just "bounce back" after losing half the skin on my large toe from my kid throwing a laundry basket at me.

The Mister has been gone since yesterday morning, and he returns tonight. And I'm so glad. Because I just need to have a good cry in private. And then I need a huge hug.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Haiti Camp 2010

Over the weekend, Keenan, Atticus, Paloma and I traveled to Alexandria, Minnesota to attend Haiti in Our Hearts Haiti Camp 2010 (which was also their 20th Anniversary Camp!) For only a multitude of reasons, only one of my Haitian Sensations attended camp with us (more on that later.)

To say it met my expectations is an understatement. Simply put, the camp rocked.

We met the divine Mz. Geralyn and her North Dakota crew there. I love that woman to pieces! She is every bit as funny and wonderful in person as she is on her blog. I first learned of the camp through Geralyn, and while the camp itself piqued my interest, it was her self-professed life philosophy of "Have Blender, Will Travel," that hooked me.

So, I got a bit crafty prior to camp and created some mugs for our "beverages of an adult nature" (like coffee!) Only I didn't realize just how BIG the mugs were until I brought them to camp. . . .


Unfortunately, we didn't get to use the mugs really, other than to nearly die laughing over and taking a photo opportunity. But we hold them with the promise of good times to come in Orlando next March, because I don't think I could go another year without seeing Geralyn at least once!

The group as a whole was interesting. Nearly half of the families there were the "old-timers," folks who had been coming to camp for many years now (a few even had gone to all 20!). Most of the children in these families were teenagers, and some adult children even attended.

To meet so many women who have walked in our shoes and survived, who have raised their children and seen them off into the world as adults, was invaluable. Several kind souls gave me wonderful encouragement. "It is SOOOOO tough," they would say, "and you can't understand it unless you're in it (ain't that the truth!). But you WILL get through it. Life DOES go on, and this difficult time is a season. Children do become adults, and the world keeps on turning." With those words of encouragement often came huge warm hugs, and I felt myself grow stronger. Just knowing other people went through this and actually survived helps me feel a bit more grounded during those moments when chaos rules.

The other half of the families were newbies, those who had been coming 2 years or less. Many families had post-earthquake placements with them. Most of us had children between the ages of 18 months to 8.

On Friday evening we had a welcome meeting, followed by a dance. One thoughtful mom brought tons of glow-in-the-dark bracelets for all the kids to party with, and they were in heaven!


Saturday morning they held a Haitian market for the children. For $1, the children received 20 (photocopied) gourdes. Each child first had to purchase a banana and an orange for the Manmi's (this lucky Manmi got 3 of each!). Afterwards they were allowed to purchase trinkets and candy.

The camp had a wonderful lake complete with tons of water toys (which were pretty darn cool.)

The moms sat up on the dock, watching, and we were all highly entertained by Marc "Gilligan" Laurie. My cheeks still hurt every time I smile from all the laughing we did.


Sunday came all too quickly, and before we knew it, we were taking photos and saying good-bye to our new friends until next year.


If you have adopted children, especially adopted children of a different race, I encourage you with all of my heart to seek out a heritage camp experience for your kids.



To see my son surrounded by other Haitian children was incredible. Many of the families at camp had children of several races, from a multitude of countries (although I must say that we were the only Chamorros represented at camp--imagine that!). To hang out with families as diverse as ours--without the "fishbowl" effect--was priceless. To see 3 of my children play and connect with kids from all different races, heritages and families was amazing.

I can't wait to go next year!

Which, seriously, is a good thing, because I have no choice. Geralyn nominated me for the Board of Directors, and further put me in charge of Event/Activities planning for Haiti Camp 2011. Which is kind of like crack for my Type A, control freak, love-to-plan self, but in a good way. I'm thinking of an activity which rounds up all girls with babysitting certificates and locking them in the gym with all children under the age of 10, so that all the moms can let loose and have fun. . .whaddya think, G?

Haiti Camp 2011 is gonna rock. So put it on your calendars!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Girls Only Weekend

Dear Mister,

The girls and I are leaving you at home for the weekend and in charge of our xy-carrying offspring. We will return home early Sunday evening, well past the chance of me having to make dinner for the family upon my return.

To aid you in my absence, I am leaving you with:

* 10 frozen pizzas

* 3 boxes of popsicles

* 2 boxes of junk cereal

* 3 gallons of deck stain

* 1 deck stain application device (see, I really don't know the name for this thing, but "deck stain application device" sounds so much more with it than "doo-hickey", don't you think?)

* 3 large water guns

* 2 boxes of Krispy Cremes

* 1 6-pack of beer

How you choose to utilize these articles is up to you.

Just off the top of my head, I can think of several scenarios, although some would likely be followed up by a call to the police from a concerned neighbor or two.

All that I ask is that I return to a standing house and 3 xy-carrying offspring.

Good luck. Not that I think you'll need it or anything.

Love,
The Mrs.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Gotcha!

Happy First Gotcha Day, Miles!

One year ago today, the Mister and Miles landed on U.S. soil.

Amazing how time flies.

Amazing how this boy has grown,
and
learned,
and
loved,
and
adjusted.

Here is one of my favorite memories of my little guy, taken just after he arrived home. A testimony to the power and influence of McDonald's through their Happy Meal toys, that's for sure.



Miles, you are a beautiful, smart, shiny boy. Your future is bright and your potential and possibilities are endless. We love you.

Live long and prosper, my son.
Live long and prosper.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Stealthily Approaching World Domination

I am a vegetarian.

My Mister is anything but.

So much so, that when we were first married, Mister Carnivore would get very sad and feel deprived when I did not include 3 meats per meal. Poor baby, right? So what's a young married couple to do?

We compromised. I began serving meat, and he did not complain if there was only one dead animal per meal.

However, fast forward through 10 years of marriage and compromise, and watch the Mister's cholesterol, glucose, and blood pressure levels rise. Watch him watch Food, Inc. with the Mrs. And watch him read Michael Pollan's books.

Now, the Mister is readily open and willing to try more and more vegetarian foods. He still eats meat, and loves it, but now it's in smaller portions, less often and of a better quality from a farm that we personally know and trust.

Of course, I can't help myself. Everytime the Mister compliments or requests a vegetarian meal, I pump my fist, laugh evilly and say, "Vegetarian Brainwashing: 80% complete. Mwahhahahaha."

I'm sure he'd find it adorable if he could just get past his own gagging reflex.

Yesterday I had a very enjoyable time hanging out with a (vegetarian) friend, and we got to talking about whether or not we have switched our families over to a vegetarian lifestyle. She fully has. I am about 70% there, although I can't really say that my goal is to have my kids 100% veggie.

Everyone has their own personal reasons for going vegetarian, or not, and everyone has their own feelings on kids and vegetarianism.

I do feel, whether we choose to feed our kids meat or not, eating a large number of healthy, vegetarian meals each week is good for them for a multitude of reasons.

I also notice that when I feed my kids meat-based meals, it's hard to get them to eat a huge portion of veggies. It's like the meat kind of paralyzes their taste buds, and they seem to balk at everything else.

That doesn't seem to be the norm when I feed a vegetarian meal. I think those meals kind of reawaken the senses, and so kids may balk at first, until their little taste buds wake up and realize, wow! flavor is good!

Instead of introducing my kids to a bunch of new meals, I found good veggie substitutes for meals they love.

Brown rice and lentil tacos are a great example. Once they realized that they were eating lentils--and loved them--they kind of got over their squirmishes about beans/lentils.

The beauty of this meal is that it's high in protein, high in fiber, tastes good, costs little, makes a ton and can be cooked in a crockpot.

Brown Rice and Lentil Tacos
(Serves 8 w/leftovers)

1.5 cups brown rice
1.5 cups lentils (red, green, yellow--doesn't matter)
8 cups water
2 taco seasoning packets --or--
if you don't like taco seasoning packets, use your own seasoned blend.

Either cook in crockpot on high for a good 6 hours or on the stovetop, bring to a boil in a soup kettle, and let simmer until soft. Scoop it up and serve it on tortillas, salads or with chips.

Another thing that I make nearly every day is a guaca-salsa blend.

- 1 avocado
- 1 tomato
- hunk of red onion
- green onions (if you have them, want them)
- 2 cloves garlic
- half a hot pepper (spice it up appropriately)
- juice squeezed from half a lime
- sea salt

Chop it up in your food processor. Make it as chunky or as pureed as you wish. Or add/subtract items. You get the picture--whatever floats your boat. We eat this healthy concoction of eggs, quesadillas, tacos, burritos, with chips, without chips, and if I'm really hungry, with a spoon.

Now that this is complete, I can go back and report to the Worldwide Domination Vegetarian Task Force that I have successfully completed my blogging task.

May the (veggie) force be with you.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Full Court Press

The Cruz Family "just" received word that our dearly beloved Swat Team (of the Feet First link on the right) is moving back to Green Bay.

We are besides ourselves with Giddy Giddy Joy Joy.

It's rare in life when you find ENTIRE families who your own ENTIRE family loves and enjoys and connects with. The Swat Team is this to our family.

So, in an effort to convince the Swat Team to move to our Green Bay Neck o' the Woods, I hereby am instigating a Full Court Press entitled,

Allouez, All the Way
(for those who don't live here,
Allouez is pronounced Al-0-Way,
so my Full Court Press is a somewhat witty play on words,
if I do say so myself--
and I do!)
((Big Eye Roll. But it's early, so humor me))

Seriously, Swat Team! Think about it!
Does Allouez have?:

Friends who love cooking from scratch and are obsessed with recipe sharing? Check!

Friends who blog? Check!

Friends who run? Check!

Friends who love UFC/MMA? Check!

Grown men who like to Ninjitsu and Karate Chop and Hi-Yah kick their way around the yard, neighbors be damned ? Check!

Friends who love Star Wars? Check!

Awesome homeschooling families? Check!

At least two Bootcamp facilities? Check!

Friends whose kids dance and can carpool your kids who dance there? Check!

Friends who house half of the infamous Wyloma Duo? Check!

Allouez, All the Way, Baby! How can you deny such facts? You can't!

* * * * *

Seriously though, June was a good month for connecting with friends (just as the mantra suggested), and July just keeps on getting better! This afternoon I'm hanging with Essie from Accidental Mommy. Next weekend I get to meet Geralyn from Why North Dakota?! I totally made Geralyn and myself matching mugs with our names on them in sparkly letters to hold possible "beverages of an adult nature" at camp because I am an overly-excited dork like that.

At the end of the month, Amy and her crew are roadtrippin' their way through our city.

In August, I'm running a half-marathon with the divine Mz. Waters and Angie and I'm hoping other awesome moms and bloggers join us.

(I'm a shameless name-dropper, yes, I know. Humor me--it's early!)

And shortly after all of that, the Swat Team will be descending upon Allouez.

And you know what I gotta say about all of this?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Y'all Can Keep Ole Sparkly Boy

So last night, a friend and I went to see Eclipse, the latest installment in the Twilight film series.

I wish I could say that it was really good or that you should rush out and see it.

But I can't.

Not because I can't get over the fact that I am old.

Never mind the fact that Angie and I were perhaps among the 5 oldest people in the theatre.

It was just, while watching the film, my internal dialogue was this:

Bella, could you be any whinier?

Edward, you're like 117 years old. Please tell me exactly what you see in this whiny, mopey girl.

Jacob, you are 16 years old. You know nothing about love. Now Edward, he's 117, so I get that he can be a judge of love. But you are 16. And furry. Get over it.

Bella, could you be any whinier?

If that were my 17 year old daughter jumping on a back of a motorcycle, I'd ground her and shoot the guy.

Bella, could you be any whinier?

Dear Lord, I really hope that I like my children's dates.

Bella, could you be any more mopey?

Could this movie be any choppier?

Gag me with a spoon, Jacob.

Bella, could you be any whinier or any more moepy?? Oh, next scene, yep, it looks like you can!!!

No, ole Sparkly One & His Mopey Whiney Bunch just isn't it for me.

Instead, I prefer to watch (True Blood)/
read (Sookie Stackhouse series)
me some
real
Manly
Men

Vampires.

What team are you on?

Team Bill?


Team Eric?

Or are hairy guys your thing, and you're team Alcide?

Decisions, decisions.

The Sookie Stackhouse series has to be the best, most entertaining, forward-moving, character and plot driven series of books I have ever read. Funny, suspenseful, s*xy, scary. I've read all 10 and not one has disappointed. Not one little bit. Charlaine Harris is a genius.

Sookie Stackhouse has to be the sweetest, toughest, and most genuine female protagonist in one of these series around. She rarely whines, and when she does, you get why.

As for me, I am, like, totally all about Team Eric.

Why?

Apart from all the delicious obviousness,if he were to meet Bella in a dark alley, he would put up with her whining for all of 15 seconds before he would drain her dry and put her out of her own whining misery.

And then, and only then, with the whole I'm-too-old-for-this-teen thing aside, I would probably be willing to sit and watch the next Twilight installment.

Monday, July 05, 2010

In other news. . .

So, I'm still training for the half-marathon that I'm running next month in Madtown. I'm attempting this through the help and wisdom of Hal Higdon's Half Marathon Plan for Novices.

The Good News: So far, I've completed all weeks except the week when the Mister was in Vegas and I was at home parenting children whom I could not leave to a babysitter. And I don't have a jogger stroller that would hold 110 pounds of children. Not that I really want to run while pushing 110 pounds of children anyways.

The Bad News: I'm not a big fan of those pesky "strengthen and stretch" and "strengthen and cross train" days. I run 3 days/week because if I run more than that, I will injure myself. Don't push yourself to injury! Because if you are injured, the plan is shot. Best to work up to things. But I do ride my bike quite a bit, and that counts as "cross training," and surely doing like a billion loads of laundry a week has to count as cross training as well, right?

The Good News: I've learned how to tie my shoes in a totally wickedly awesome way called The Runner's Tie. The super cute guy at the Running Feet store showed me how when he was helping me find the perfect shoes. I feel SO Cool now that I know this special way of lacing my shoes. Even though I will never be fast enough to run in the Green Bay Running Club (b/c they are elitist, but that's a whole 'nother post), I find great joy in the fact that I am now part of the Cool Kids I-Know-The-Secret-Shoe-Tie Club.

The Bad News: So far, the furthest I've run at one time on this plan (and okay, for the calendar year) is 6.0 miles. Which is keeping in accordance with the Higdon Novice Plan. But, the realization that 6.0 does not even equal half of a half marathon is a bit discouraging. Coupled with the fact that I can hardly walk the morning after my 6 mile run: Oy.

The Good News: This past week, Sunday through Thursday, I ran 14 miles. Which is 0.9 miles further than the distance of a half marathon. So I can run the distance of a half marathon.

Now I just need to squish all those miles from a 5 day timeline down to a 2 hour 30 minute timeline, and I've got it made.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Whooooshhh!

That is the sound of the past two weeks speeding by at the speed of light.

I have no idea where they went, except to know that they didn't go well.

The Mister joined me on my 4-mile run last night, and we tried to assess and get a game plan .

Right now, ideally, we should be in Fire Prevention mode, but the last month or so has left us standing on shaky ground with spinning heads. Instead we find ourselves just trying to put out the current fire before the next one starts.

We call it the "WTF?!?!" mode.

Like:

You spread poo all over your carseat and my van---WTF?!!?
You peed all over the bathroom floor instead of using the toilet---WTF?!??
You split open your brother's lip because you didn't like how he jumped off the last basement stair--WTF?!?
You are mad at Mommy because she made you lunch/gave you a clean towel/pumped up your bike tire/treated you with a chocolate chip cookie--WTF?!?

So much happens on a daily basis that I can barely wrap my mind around one thing before moving onto the next.

Please don't think of me as insensitive. The hurt, trauma, and wounds in our little guys are huge, open and apparent. These are little boys with a whole lot inside of them and None of That Trauma is Their Fault.

Trauma is not something that is logical, easily reparable or easy to live with.

We are seeking help for them and for us. But help takes time, and lots of regression usually accompanies change. We are working hard at implementing the Credit System, as outlined in the book Transforming Your Difficult Child, but the book, which is wonderful, is jammed packed and it takes long, careful reading. We have an appt. with the therapist next week to review/establish our plan, and hopefully, we'll begin to see some positive change soon.

So, in the meanwhile, we are living in an insanity mode.

Never did I realize, even with all the reading I did, that this is what we would be dealing with. That these "difficult" behaviors that authors describe and social workers sometimes allude to would happen day after day, week after week, month after month.

No one can prepare you for the complete exhaustion, brain drain and lack of hope you will feel. Nor the sense of disconnect and jadedness towards the world.

I'm trying to keep a semblance of normalcy and joy for the family. I'm trying to work on projects, but sometimes I wonder why I even try.

We did the huge Bedroom Switch-a-Roo, which once I began, I realized it was a WTF was I thinking project? Not because the switch itself was wrong. But because in doing so, I had to take apart/reassemble two bunk beds (which equates to four beds.) And all I could think was, WTF was I thinking with all these bunk beds?!?

Hatfield and Paloma in the large bedroom because the girls love to play in their rooms b/c it's a safe spot where their Little Pet villages, Build-A-Bear Centers, etc. won't be destroyed. Atticus by himself in the small bedroom where his stuff will not be broken, hidden or peed on.

Miles and Keenan in the middle room, where the carpet is already shot so it doesn't matter if it is peed on, and where the room is orderly and simple. Two twin beds, one nightstand with lamp, and one metal bin--green for Miles, red for Keenan-where their treasured stuffed animals and picture album are kept. Little for them to destroy or ruin. Above each of their beds is their All About Me posters from 4-K. Bright and colorful, each displays their specialness and lots of photos of happy times with the family. The Haitian flag hangs on one wall, and a large canvas painting of the alphabet on another. The walls are a calming beige, and the whole room feels calm, yet happy.

Yet on their first night there, Daddy gave a lovely talk with them about how important they are and how hard Mommy and Daddy work to give all of our family a beautiful home, and how much we want them to have a wonderful, clean room because we love them and we take care of them. Half hour later I walked by, to find Miles nearly asleep, and Keenan sitting half upright and hunched over. Curious, I walked in to find him, his right hand holding a full pool of his own saliva, and his bed sheets smeared/soaked with his spit.

I simply do not understand.

* * * * *

We are staying home from the Lake this weekend. Atticus has a horrible bout of ringworm covering his face, and in the small confines of a 29.5 foot trailer, you can imagine how out of control that would spread.

Today I am taking Hatfield and one of her good friends, along with Paloma, to a large city Pool with water slides, play areas, etc. I feel so badly for Hatfield, as she is the oldest and I see her watch all this craziness and shake her head. Having friends sleep over at our home is a thing of the past. I see her be very selective on who she invites to the house, carefully evaluating which friends could handle such things. She's so blessed to have some plucky, happy friends who are just the sweetest things.

I wonder how many biological children in families who adopted older children, will then go on and adopt older kids themselves. If you were to ask Hatfield now what her plans were, she'd tell you No Way. She plans on having lots of shelter Fur Babies to enrich her life, and that's that.

While we girls are swimming the afternoon away, the Mister is working on refinishing the deck, and while the boys can be so defiant at times, they will happily work with Daddy on the big project. He bought each of the boys their own sanding block and sand paper, and away they'll work like busy bees.

And just like the last two weeks, this weekend will as well, Whoosh on by.