Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Photo Dump Quiz

Name one pitfall of being the dog in a house with small children.

If one brother is in the tree, what does the other one want to be doing?

What happened to the little monkey just after I snapped the picture?

Zeke's family portrait...can you figure out which one is Zeke

Any guesses as to what Bo might be thinking?

Friday, March 20, 2015

First Haitian Tap Tap To Race in Pinewood Derby

Extra!  Extra!  Our church's Awana club hosted a pinewood derby a few weeks ago so we spent that Saturday racing cars and eating chilli.  We definitely won no awards for speed but they had a great time.  The track set up was super high tech so you could actually watch each race play out on the big screen in the sanctuary, complete with sound effects, a timed finish, and instant replay of the finish.

Conleigh wanted to do a Haitian tap tap.  I am sure about 99% of the people at church had no idea what hers was because so few people actually know what a tap tap is.  Tap taps are Haitian taxis.  Usually it's a pick up truck or bus that has been reinvented to cram as many people on it as possible.  They are always brightly painted and sometimes sport portraits of people.  And they always have a unique name, often written out in English, things like S*xy Lady or Mesi Jesus.  

Conleigh thought Happy Jesus seemed like an appropriate name.

No surprise that Zeke wanted a shark.

And the ever consistent, pretty predictable Kenson wanted a police car.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Truth in Parenting

A few highlights (or low lights) from the week...

Kai has a new love of toothbrushes.  Unfortunately, this new love is mostly about everyone else's toothbrushes.  So far this week, I have caught him using Conleigh's, Zeke's, and Kenson's.

4-7 is like crazy time at our house.  Between the kids getting home from school, Kai getting fussy because he is hungry and tired, and me making supper, chaos abounds.  I was trying to quell some of this by setting forth the expectations for the kids and going over what I wanted them to be doing.  I called all the kids into the kitchen for a pow wow.  As I was explaining things to them, I asked the question, "What is Mom going to be doing at 5 o'clock?"  To which Zeke replied "Yelling!"  Perhaps, perhaps, but the correct answer was cooking supper.

Discovering the real reason your sons have no clean pants is because they have been unloading their clean laundry into the dirty clothes basket and creating a lovely rat's nest of clean and dirty clothes that it literally about 4 feet high in their closet.  Also finding out that one son (probably not the one most would guess) has worn the same socks for three days in a row.

And then having your daughter tell you that she can't brush her teeth because her toothbrush is hard.  Upon inspection, you find a crustified toothbrush that hasn't possibly been used anytime in the last week (s).

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mama Lovin'

For Valentine's Day, I left D notes around the house, spelling out Happy Heart Day.  The kids obviously knew about it and so this week, Zeke and Kenson decided that Mama needed to receive the same treatment.  So they made 6 notes and hid them around the house for me to find.  I've only found 5 so far, so one more to go.
D stuck his notes in the mirror and that's way they've stayed so Zeke thought one of his notes needed to there as well.
That's it, on the back of an old word search.

This actually says "Octopus".  And the D means "Dear Zeke".  He almost has it down.

And this?  Well it's just a random picture of the baby, that definitely makes my heart smile too.  He loves this old Easter hat.  I've also resigned myself to having mostly blurry pictures of Kai because he never wants to sit still for a photo.

Monday, March 2, 2015

And Yet: Parenting Potential

I wrote a bit the other day about parenting challenges.  I personally think most parents find it very hard to be vulnerable and authentic about their parenting struggles.  It is hard to say "my kid is struggling right now and so am I."  As some Facebook friends added to my bloggy conversation, it reminded me of so many things I have often thought about regarding parenting challenges.

Let me share one of the things I think my husband and I both struggle with in terms of parenting.

It is so hard to walk the line between holding your kids to high expectations and letting them be individuals who fail, who make mistakes, who ultimately learn from those mistakes.  We both are teachers by trade.  We see a wide variety of kids who are being parented with a wide variety of parenting styles, and it is really hard to watch kids struggle daily because there is no structure and consistency at home.  We don't want that for our kids.  We also have a Biblical background that says learning to live within boundaries and learning to live under authority (ultimately God's authority) matters.  We don't want our kids to become adults who struggle with rebellion and make bad choices, who assume the rules don't apply to them.  We also view life through the lens of loving others, that loving others is the second greatest commandment and that how we treat others matters a lot.  We don't want our children to treat others poorly be it a friend, a family member, or a stranger.

Yet, we know that discipline has to take into account individuality.  We believe that each of our kids was created in a unique, purposeful way, where certain traits are innate within them.  So often those personality traits are also their Achilles' heels, an easily manipulated weakness.   For me, I also maintain a strong belief that discipline is not about punishment, that it is instead about learning, that discipline is always about a child's heart.

So how do you let your kids spread their wings and make their own choices, albeit poor ones, while guiding and training them to be a loving, responsible adult?  It is so hard to correct without crushing, to limit without boxing in, to offer consistency and yet grace.

Throw in a child who is struggling, who repeats and repeats and repeats a behavior and it is easy to doubt yourself as a parent.  We want our kids to "get it" right now.  We see a child's struggle with repeated sin as indicative of our ineffectiveness as a parent.  In a sense, our parenting becomes a source of pride, where we puff out our chest and attribute our child's great behavior to our own genius and our child's failures to our ineptitude.

We forget that our kids are spiritual creatures who struggle with sin just like we do.  I am quick to anger and yet I want my children to always respond with gentleness.  I am careless with my words, quick to blurt out something that has not been thought through and yet I want my children to tame their own tongues and stifle their initial responses.  I am apt to criticize rather than encourage and yet I fault my children for finding fault with others.  I grumble under my breath and complain about small inconveniences and yet I hate it when my children whine or get huffy over things that frustrate them.

This Sunday, we did a bit of family time where we talked about sin and guilt.  Part of my motivation in choosing that was because I have a couple kids who can easily take sin and internalize it as shame and guilt.  We did a quick race around the house with a backpack.  The first time each child raced with an empty backpack.  The second time, I dropped in two five pound weights to symbolize guilt and talked about how guilt changes the way we operate.  We shared the story of Peter and his denial of Jesus and then read the story of Jesus confirming Peter's love for His savior and friend as well as confirming Peter's new purpose to feed His sheep.  I had never really thought about Peter as someone who should have been a prime candidate for guilt and shame.  How easy it would have been for him to have looked at his denials with intense guilt, to assume that his failures marked him forever?  And yet, Jesus saw it differently.  Jesus didn't look at Peter's behavior and abandon him.  Jesus didn't lecture, ask questions, or assume that Peter was destined for a life of apostasy.  Instead, Jesus loved him.  Jesus knew his failures, which were pretty big, and looked not at that, but instead at Peter's potential.

"Feed my sheep."

Do what I have created you to do.

And so for my kids, may my heart be more like Jesus.  More of seeing the potential of who they were created to be.  More of recognizing that failures, even big ones, even failures in a series of failures, are not fatal.  More of knowing that they are fighting some of the same battles that I am with my attitude, my tongue, my heart.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sometimes It's Not Just Normal Kid Stuff

Sometimes I think we've jinxed ourselves with a double whammy in the world of parenting.  We are parenting adopted kids, and we are parenting those adopted kids without the the benefit of having parented biological kids of the same age.   The question of what is normal, developmentally appropriate behavior seems to loom awfully large around here.  I realize that really every parent struggles with that to some degree, that there are moments where every parent is concerned that their child is struggling with some behavior that is not "normal."  But when you are parenting a child who has had some large losses, huge transitions, and unique challenges, that question is magnified.

Truth be told, we have one who is struggling a lot right now.  We have an 8 year old who is going on 16, who currently is the source of most of the drama at our house.  It is one child who creates a considerable amount of chaos be it through refusing to following directions, complaining about just about everything, arguing with most requests, picking fights with siblings,  or being reckless with items (as in "let me try to lift up the mini trampoline while my brother is jumping" or "let me jump up and down on the couch to show how angry I am.")  None of it is stuff that other 8 year olds do not do.  But it is intense, often filling the day instead of being spaced out over time like the behavior of other 8 year olds.  It's like when a regular kid has a really, really bad day, where nothing goes right and they are an emotionally wreck, quick to overreact, quick to get angry, quick to grumble and grouse.  But it is that for weeks on end.  Even when you as a parent have done a great job of keeping your cool, diffusing situations, and being consistent, it is exhausting.  For us, there isn't always a lot of predicting what will cause an issue.  Today, the child grumbled at graham crackers because they didn't break cleanly.  Yet, the same child was asked to clean the bathroom as part of pitching in to clean the house and there were zero complaints.  Some of it is just completely irrational. 

 It is not an issue of not knowing.  This kiddo can goes from calm to mad to calm in about 2 minutes.  This child can easily and willingly complete a redo of the interaction, correctly.  This child feels guilt and shame about not doing better.

It's a fine line between the reality of parenting an adopted child who does have a unique history and some unique challenges and the reality of seeing that some of it is just normal kid stuff.  Sometimes I need to hear that it's just normal kid stuff, that what is going on isn't that far outside the realm of normal.  And sometimes I need someone to offer a sympathetic smile, a nod of understanding, and not tell me that it's normal kid stuff.  Because I don't want to have to offer up every misdeed of my child in order to prove that it's really not normal kid stuff.    Because sometimes that simple act of hearing my mom struggles is enough.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Low Cost Nursery Redo

We're now onto plan b regarding Kai's room.  With his arrival, it became apparently that our new house was feeling a bit on the small side.  We had two bedrooms for children but they are pretty small (like 10 x 11) and 1, 500 square feet on our upstairs but that also felt pretty crowded at times.   Once Kai moved out of his bassinet, it became clear that he was not going to be able to share a room with Conleigh since he wasn't (and still isn't) sleeping through the night consistently.  He usually wakes up 2-3 nights a week and since Conleigh is a kiddo who easily wakens and struggles with getting enough sleep, sharing a room with her was not really going to happen.  We tried moving her in with the boys but three kids in a small room, with her on a trundle was not working.  It was a bit like stacking cordwood.  So we decided to finish a portion of our unfinished basement and now have a large bedroom for Kenson and Zeke, a bathroom, and a family room that are completely finished.  So the big boys moved downstairs, Conleigh went back to sleeping in her old room, and Kai got the remaining upstairs bedroom.  I used what we already had on hand rather than redoing a bunch of stuff for him.  I bought 3 new prints for his room that cost $30 total and aside from the new room darkening curtains, those were the only items I purchased.  I stole a few items out of my fall decorating stash (the orange willow tree and the acorn garland), grabbed a cute toy fox beanie out of the kids' toys, and found the other items in other places around the house.