At the end of the day

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So done.  I am almost ready to read a parenting book.  I have nothing left.  My children are behaving like they are on a sitcom.  Walk-ons in a sitcom where naughty children who are too bad to find endearing bring a rain of destructiveness and meanness down on the maligned main character.  Somebody please take over.

Loving them when I can’t like them

I have been trying for the past three days to dig out from the laundry and destruction they have created, and if anyone so much as breathes a sigh that sounds like “make them help you clean it up” I will Chuck Norris roundhouse you through this computer screen.  When the only good part of your day was Facebook, you know it was a complete waste.  And that’s even with my “super-homeschool mom” trip to a country park to walk the trails to find different kinds of leaves for our leaf book.  J and L wouldn’t hear of it and said “I’ll just see them on the ground.”  I don’t even have a picture to show you because it was so obnoxious that even the dog ran away.  (She did come back, covered in rank duckweed and slime.)

The coup de gras (which as a Spanish student, loosely translates to me as “top of fat”) was the complete sham of a bedtime routine we just pulled together that spanned the ranks from JR putting his pull-up on upside down in bed with his feet banging the wall during prayers to Lumpy having a complete fit about using the potty.  It was a battle I wasn’t about to lose, after spending each morning clogging up the washer for the first three loads of the day with tinkle duty since Friday.  Growth spurts hit this family hard.  As I was reduced to yelling at Lumpy to get her pull-up on, I realized that there was no parenting happening.  Just a full-on fight.  Parents versus kids.  Her only need was to say no to me.  My only need was to get her to comply.

You’re expecting me to say something like “and that’s when I took a deep breath and realized…”  But no.  Heck-freakin’ no.  All day long that little girl pushed me and disobeyed me and taunted me.  This garbage has to end.  I gave her space.  I let her twist her actions into compromises.  I was firm.  I put her in time out.  But at the end of the day, there was nothing left to teach.  Unlike JR, she never tantrumed and raged uncontrollably.  She fought tenaciously.  I got the pull-up on her, but I can’t say that I won.  I set her, screaming, in the bed and walked away, disgusted with it all.

Fine, laugh at me, but I really am trying my best, and don’t know why my kids don’t appreciate it.  But, I’m not supposed to say that, because that’s the kind of weakness older people see as an excuse to make a condescending comment about.  And I would tell someone this: Kids aren’t ever going to appreciate anything, because they are inherently selfish, as they were made to be.  Yes, I know that.  But what it feels like is that I must have done something wrong.  I must have ruined the day and spoiled my kids.

But in the middle of this lump of poop day, JR wrote down his own song today called “I love God.”  Cal pushed Hoss on the swing while I took Lumpy to the Port-a-Potty.  And Lumpy stopped pulling Hoss’ arm out of the socket when he screamed and bent down really low and asked “Hey, Hoss, do you want to be the princess now?”  And, I got Lumpy back and sweet again in time for a good night kiss.

At the end of the day, when all of my efforts were for nothing, sometimes all I get is a small reminder that I can try again tomorrow.

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Signed, Sealed…

It’s official!  The first batch of our paperwork is taking the first part of its journey to Eastern Europe, by way of our adoption agency here in the states.  This means that we have a ton of copies of all of our paperwork apostilled, which is a certification of notarization so the documents can travel out of the country as “official” as well.  What’s lovely is they put this very becoming gold sticker right over the edge to make you feel oh so fancy:

This is what thousands of dollars looks like. A small price to pay for the barriers it knocks down.


What that means for Thadius is that we are officially requesting a referral from his country to come visit him and confirm that, yes, he is the one we will commit to.  That could take as little as two weeks to receive, or maybe up to eight weeks.  We have no way to know.  

These little hams really get it. They asked, “Mom, is this the paperwork that brings Thadius home to us?” Yes, my darlings, it is.

But we do know one thing.  We’ve got the first part of the song down, “Here I am baby, oh yeah, signed, sealed…(soon to be) delivered…” We can’t wait to add the best part: “I’m yours!”

Heavy Work

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Today was our third day at Vacation Bible School in our church.  With my three big kids and two “nieces of the heart” attending, I figured I better strap Hoss on my back and participate.  I have been stationed with the three-year olds as self-appointed potty master, spontaneous game provider, and conversation starter.  I love it.

The best thing about it is a little boy in the group who just reminds me so much of JR at 3.  He needs to wander sometimes, has to touch things–ok, everything– and interrupts with brilliant ideas.  For fun, let’s call him Matt.  Matt is simply not designed for the contained movement /quiet listening activities that an indoor class requires.  He can do it, sure, but only for short periods of time.

I seriously love him.

The other kids (even bouncy Lumpy) are content to sit and listen to a story while Matt’s feet are tapping out heavy metal drumbeats on the floor in front of him.  What on earth are we supposed to do with a child like Matt?  Like my JR?

Heavy work.

Little story for you.  Sometimes a woman in labor is interrupted by getting in a car, an unsettling nurse or doctor, or having an anxious relative in the room.  If this woman’s body secretes an adrenaline rush, it can take 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity (or a whopping dose of Pitocin, no comment) to overcome its effects.  Vigourous activity refocuses the body.

Antsy kids are very similar.

You can start disciplining them (“Sit still, Matt”), physically redirecting them (“Hold my hand now, Matt”), or punish them (“You’re going to have to leave the room if you can’t participate, Matt”).  But, you’ll fail.  The thing that reverses the antsy-ness in these kids is heavy work.  All of my kids need this some days.

I didn’t always call it “heavy work.”  I learned the term in this incredible adoption book, which should really be re-packaged as a plain old parenting book, The Connected Child.

I watched the practice of it through two amazing adoptive parents who committed fully to helping their son overcome his destructive behaviors.  It works like this: instead of making our expectations more clear to a bouncing, distracted child, my husband and I try to put their muscles to work.  Here’s how we do it.

1)  We set the task.  Note, no correction, I go to kid, and make the offer, no preamble.  A distracted child has a very hard time knowing what will bring him back down to earth.  This can be:
-“I really need someone to move 12 logs from the woodpile next to the shed.”
-“Can you please pull this laundry basket filled with all the books on the floor upstairs to your bedroom?”
-“Can you take all of the cans and put them in this box for me?”  

It has to be weird enough that the kiddo is intrigued.  Also, it can’t just be just a running activity or a large body-movement activity.  Those activities seem to ramp my kids up and encourage more distraction, with the calm alertness following maybe 30 minutes later.  It needs to have some resistance to make it count.  By setting the task for him we are also ferreting out true “energy overload” from disobedience. (The disobeying kid will refuse in a nasty way…well, my kids will anyway.)

2) Let go of any expectation that kiddo will return to a chilled-out state immediately.  Let him do heavy work until the group starts a new task.

3) Don’t make a big deal of it.  Thank him, and move on. Defend him if other kids ask what that was all about: “JR was just helping me with something.”

Today we were two hours in, and fresh from the creative (light) play room, where there was no splashing allowed at the water table and you could use playdough while sitting only. This meant music time was doomed from the start for Matt.  The problem came on suddenly, and I intended to step back, as one of the counselors was his regular babysitter. But I intervened when he was cornered, and about to be begged to sit and listen.  

I approached them and asked Matt to push the chairs across the carpet for me, which he could accomplish soundlessly and out of the line of sight of the other kids.  Without hesitation, he complied.  He moved heavy wooden chairs one side to the other five times while I stood back and “ignored” him.  The teacher, however, noticed, and came up to correct Matt, leaning on the chair he was about to start moving to get him to stop.  I don’t fault her at all.

The traditional model of good teaching means full compliance from every student, to ensure the knowledge is transferred and none of the other children are distracted.  But Matt is three years old.  He has ages to put in place the ability to override his body’s need to move in a way that is deliberate and calorie-burning and with great purpose.  But, he also has a good three years to be corrected, disciplined and pushed before he is ready into this desired outcome.

I came up to our teacher a half-second later, and briefly explained he was doing the work for me.  It really wasn’t fair of me to spring such a radical idea on her, directly in her line of sight, while she was in charge of the whole class.  She did smile indulgently at me, and continued the class, like it was part of the plan. Wonderful woman.  But, I thought it was worth the risk of insulting her, because Matt was so, so good at it.  When he initially refused to sit down, he wasn’t asking for unstructured, special exemption, breaking the rules time.  He was asking for something he could do with his body that would let some of the anxiety he was feeling burn itself out.  

At craft time, 10 minutes later, he sat down, was engaged in the craft, and was just part of the class.

And I felt really good.  Actually, egotistical parent that I am, I came here to brag about it.  But, mostly, to give you, and your kid, another tool. Our children were designed to learn with physical movement and play at this age.  We are transferring so much knowledge into them at such a young age, desk time is considered more and more valuable.  Maybe these ideas will let our classroom-bound little ones have access to heavy blocks instead of light-weight cardboard ones.  Or carry weights in relay races instead of light batons.  Or have full-weight balls to hurl at a target instead of lightweight foam balls to gently toss. Are we truly trying to teach our children that they must always be gentle? I’m not.

Heavy work can be lifeline for children who have not yet mastered homeschool or traditional classroom expectations of impulse control, contained play, fine-motor skills, and good listening.  I hope that someday when they are able to do these things, they will not be defined by the discipline and stigma of who they were as preschoolers.

Enforcing Peace

It’s been a crazy few weeks.  We are so anxious to complete our paperwork to send to the country.  When we have that ready to go, we will receive a travel date, secure visas, and be ready to head over to meet our boy.  What’s great is that after this initial visit, we’ll receive a referral from the country, and then YOU’LL get to meet this boy, too.   Then 2 months until the court date where we appear in person to plead our case as adoptive parents.  Then 30 days later, we return to bring him home forever.

Now, I need to apologize for something.  The past week or so, I have been going nuts.  So many big things happened, and I just wanted everyone to know about them.

I was given the chance to write a guest blog post on Classy Chaos.

We received a matching grant opportunity.

Cal wrote a blog post.

You have donated all the funds to cover our USCIS/immigration paperwork.

I wanted to make one thing very clear.  In our hearts, we know completely how much we have been blessed by our friends, who are supporting us through prayer, donations, and advocacy.  I’m worried that you might think we are asking for you, the people who are already side by side with us, to give more than what you already have.

I want to reassure you all:

If we never receive another penny, another kind word, another blog share, another Amazon click for the rest of our journey, you have given a measure far beyond what we could ever dream.

Thank you so much for all you have given.

And, I wanted to share with you all that I will be fasting from this blog and social media for the next three days, because I am becoming a serial-clicker: liking a million and one stories of redemption, last-minute fundraisers, and prayers for at-risk orphans.  I am not weary at all.  Just the opposite.  I am getting irritated at the life I have going on right here at home, because this work is so important.

I have always said, that if I were to become First Lady, my platform would be Adoption.  And now, I am in the center of the game, waiting enthusiastically for my turn to play.   And that is just no good at all.  Because I am not important in this whole thing.  I am just a person who God is working through.  And I am so focused on what I need to do right now, I am growing impatient with what God is doing right now.

And right now, I need to stop looking at statistics, shares, likes, and dollars.  I need to let the seeds planted grow.  Honestly, I don’t like it.  But, sometimes I need to enforce peace to make it happen.

 

 

The Evolution of Snacktime

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When you put 3,000 miles on the car in 7 days with four small children in tow, there comes a point when a parent must scream: “Enough! We are officially Missourians because I cannot drive for another mile!”

For us, 3 weeks ago, it was Branson.

Yes, the butt of all “giving up on exciting vacations, going to Branson” jokes.  But that afternoon, it was an oasis.

We found a great deal online, and booked 3 nights of staying in one place, because we honestly had no choice.  We were all out of gas.  We bought tickets to 2 days in Silver Dollar City for less than the cost of one day in Disney World for one adult, and found a little banjo-picking amusement park with shade and wholesome family fun galore.

After spending an hour in an air-compressor-fueled, nerf-ball laced, 4 storey shooting gallery, we took our first break of the day.  Fortunately we were permitted to bring a small cooler in, so we did.     And there we witnessed the evolution of snacktime.  Rarely captured on film.

It is a gem I share with you now.  Think of it as a comic strip come to life.

I’m holding the bag, that means it’s mine.

Whatever.

If I can just lean back like this…

You see what she’s doing, right?

Do I look like a child?

You can’t see me.

Oh man…

Mom wouldn’t have let me hold the bag if she wanted you to have any.

Or maybe you’re just not sharing.

Your faulty logic leaves me reeling.

Allow me to clarify. Missouri civil code 163.7 clearly states that pursuant to…

I am living with baboons.

How to Beat a Troll

Our adoption fundraising giveaway continues! Click here to donate to Thadius and be entered to win up to $500 as an Amazon gift card or for the Reece’s Rainbow child of your choice!

When I was a kid, the Three Billy Goats Gruff was the scariest story I had ever heard. It featured a mean old troll, lurking under a perfectly safe bridge, pretending he owned the place, scaring the tar out of three innocent goats.

And now, a little troll is finding her way onto the pages of devoted, passionate parents who hope to free children from orphanages and bring them into forever families.

And I would officially like to offer my dear little Billy Goats the skills I have learned from years of doing things in ways that make people uncomfortable.

Remember first: the troll is not after YOU, she is after the very heart of God, attempting (poorly) to attack religion in its purest form. What she may not realize is that “pure” does not equal passive. We are subservient to God, not to people.

So I would like to show you what we BLD’s do with troll comments: Delete. Do not read. Do not Google. Simply send them where they belong…the garbage.

Replace with a message of encouragement as you complete your journey, prayers for your strength, praise for your efforts.

For example:

Suzy McGrumperpants writes:

Funny you say you like children, because if you loved children you wouldn’t have so many of them!  This woman in Colorado (www.worstmotherintheworldwholooksjustlikeyou.com) had as many children as you and she is in prison for…  (STOP READING HERE.  THIS IS DEFINITELY A TROLL)

Save original comment for legal purposes.  Now, delete comment (or report it if that’s helpful based on your situation).  Replace with:

Suzy McGrumperpants writes:

God bless you and your incredible family!  I am so inspired by how you keep such a wonderful sense of humor.  I can tell you truly love children.  Keep doing what you’re doing!

In no time at all, the little troll runs away, and you actually feel wonderful about your hard work as you read the comments of encouragement “she” left behind. (Yes, blogspot users, you too–delete/spam, then write your own comment in its place under the same name.) In the words of the age-old hymn:

“No storm can shake my inmost calm when I hear their voices ringing. Since God is Lord of heaven and Earth, how can I keep from singing?

…or, as the Biggest Billy Goat gruff put it:

This goat said nothing in return, but instead, brave and forward as he was, lowered his horns and gave the troll such a blow that he fell from the cliff into the chasm below and broke his right leg. And there the poor rascal lay. He wanted the biggest and fattest mouthful, and instead got nothing — but pain. –Paraphrased from http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0122e.html

And the final step: pray for the troll, because she is a child of God He is radically pursuing. But, you and your child do not bear the burden of the chase.

PS-This is in no way the official policy on dealing with trolls by anyone except my Royal Awesomeness.