Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014, May you be much less exciting!

 photo dfc02bbb-5a92-42a3-ad69-7f0a0ab5e93c_zps03baf988.jpg

Here is the 2013 jar of mementos.

It shows the tickets as the evidence of our growing interest in hockey, and more specifically the Ducks.

It has the tag from the marathon that I would have run if it wasn't for the biggest surprise of the year...finding out that we were pregnant with little Remington! Along that line, there is also the receipt from birth class, and his hospital tag from his Thanksgiving cut on the head, not from his birth, which was at home.

There are the tickets from our flights home with Grace back in March, and all of the significance that those carry with them as we became parents for the first time!

The only other little mementos are the ticket from the OC Fair in the summer, and a ticket stub from one of the two movies that Blake and I were able to see without the kids- World War Z (the other was Hunger Games:Catching Fire, but that stub didn't get in there).

Looking back over the year's blogs and moments:

January was mostly marked by a huge shift for me as I stopped teaching, waited for news about Grace, and let the news and knowledge of being pregnant sink in. I had a lot of downtime, and I wasn't used to the expectations of being a wife without also having the responsibilities of a job.

February brought a huge ray of light as we got the news Grace's passport was ready and we were able to schedule her visa interview. We also got to share with family and friends about our pregnancy, and we celebrated Grace's upcoming arrival with the shower for her.

March was one of the most exciting months of the year, as we had the up moment of the visa interview, the down moment when we heard we needed to send more information before it would be approved, the up moment of getting the approval, followed by the down moment that there was no escort for the trip, followed by the up moment of actually bringing her home! Talk about a roller coaster ride of emotions.

Looking back at the March pictures and videos, I can't believe how much she has grown since then! Bigger, taller, less skin and bone, gone from crawling to running, gone from a few words to over 50 and putting phrases together, sadness to laughing and smiling most of the time. We are so blessed to have her home!

April, May, June, July, August are all marked by just seeing her smile more, do more, and just thrive in her new home. It isn't about the specific events, but about the sweet memories of being a mom.

There are some cool moments of seeing Remington move inside my belly, and now knowing the little boy who was making those movements way back then.

September brought our son and made us parents of two!

He has been such an easy baby, even the challenges of having two kids haven't been as bad as they could, and he brings so much fun too... even if he is growing too fast.

October brought Grace's first birthday party, and November was marked by our Thanksgiving "fun" with his cut, and all of my new forays into doing Grace's hair. December was filled with all of the Christmas activities that I dreamed about doing with kids for years.

Previous years, my new year's eve look back was about the "stuff" that I did...this year... it's really about my kids. It is a whole paradigm shift, where my most enjoyment comes from seeing them as they grow and change. I have a love hate relationship with the changes, where I am so happy for their progress, but I miss their helplessness too... and I bet that won't get any easier.

As much as 2013 radically changed my life in more positive ways than I could have ever expected at the end of 2012, I am rooting for 2014 to be a much calmer year. I hope for a year filled with great times with the kids and family... and no huge life altering changes. :-D

Gotta end the year with some little ones being their cute selves:
 photo CYMERA_20131230_160122_zps58ab6122.jpg

 photo CYMERA_20131230_144341_zpsd0a5d52d.jpg

 photo CYMERA_20131226_140835_zpsbaffc7f6.jpg

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas with kids

Christmas with kids was filled with glee,
I couldn't wait for Grace to see what was under the tree.
At each family gathering there were presents galore,
Each filled with gifts they hoped the kids would adore.
Rem watched or slept as the wrapping was undone,
But later would find his new toys quite fun.
Grace knew how to get to the good stuff inside,
Though her frustration about waiting to play she did not hide.
I got gifts that will definitely be kept,
But Remmy gave the best when he just slept.
We were blessed for our families to share in the fun,
And we look forward to next year when our kids will be three and one.
And now without further ado,
Here are the pictures promised to you.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Oh, the Difference a Year Makes

I promise the next post will be full of pictures... because this one doesn't have any. I have a rare opportunity to be on the computer, and not on my phone, and while this is great for typing reasons, it is less helpful as far as pictures (which are all on my phone). C'est la vie.

I have this rare moment because my two beautiful children are both asleep for naptime, both in their beds. I almost never have a moment when I am not attached to one of the two of them.

As I walked away from their rooms, I was struck by how wonderfully, crazily different this year is from last year. I even spent some time reading my blogs from this time last year. You know, when I had no kids? When I was HOPING for one child?

Yet, here I am, just one short year later, putting two precious little ones down for their nap.

It isn't always easy. At 11:30 today, I was in quite the bad mood because Grace had been having a screaming tantrum since 11, which meant that she also had an accident even though she had gone multiple days since her last one. Her tantrum was just because she wanted socks on... but wasn't going to get them herself. (I was nursing Remington, and besides she could easily get those socks off the ground where she had taken them off earlier against my specific instructions not to.) To make matters worse, as I dealt with Grace's accident, Remington started to cry.

But at the end of the day (when they are asleep again) I know I am blessed. I love seeing Grace laugh, run, and talk, and I marvel at how far she has come from when we first met her. I love seeing Remington's sweet smile, and his efforts to roll over (he is sooo close!) and hearing his baby babble. I love seeing Grace as a sister, Blake as a dad, my parents as grandparents. I love so much about being a mom, and most of it I can't even put into words. Something that is the very essence of being a parent, and is wrapped up in the love that you have for them that has nothing to do with their actions. Something that is what makes you know, without a doubt, that you would do anything for your kids, take any pain to keep them from pain, and you wish so much for their happiness that your own happiness doesn't seem quite as important.

After so many years of waiting to be a mom, it is surreal that that time is here, and in the first year of being a mom I have two kids, and one is a toddler!

In a very short time, just a few weeks from now, I will have not taught for a year, and that is so strange to me too. Parenting is so different than teaching. A good friend and previous coworker once told me that being a parent makes you a better teacher, and being a teacher makes you a better parent.

My ratio is way better as a parent...but my kids need me so much more that I don't feel like it is better. My days lack the structure they used to, and I kind of miss that. In theory, that is up to me to change...but at least at this point, I don't think I could add the structure. Plans change due to dr. appointments, sicknesses that come up, and the various errands that arise. Days totally at home do have some structure...but not much.

Blake still has scars from last year's explosion, but otherwise, as far as Blake goes, life is back to normal.

I know that in some ways you can always be surprised by the difference a year makes, but I have a feeling that the end of 2012 to 2013 will be one of the biggest in my life.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Special Needs Parent

Most of the time I don't feel like a special needs parent. I feel that title is reserved for those parents whose child requires special attention, help and care all the time, even into adulthood. I am thankful that there are people out there who are willing and able to be those parents. I am thankful too, that Grace, most of the time doesn't act like a special needs child.

We can go days, weeks, even sometimes months where we all allow ourselves to forget that Grace has special needs. She plays, laughs, runs, and can be really independent.

But every time she has a fever, that illusion disappears. An otherwise healthy child, with a fever, takes Tylenol, and then rests at home, until it passes. Grace doesn't get that luxury.

Every time she has a fever she has to go to the doctor, where she gets her blood drawn, gets an IV put in, and gets antibiotics. Sometimes this is in an emergency room, sometimes urgent care, and sometimes at her pediatric hematologist's office, but no matter where we go, we know it will be hours before we get to go back home.

Depending on the results of her blood test, she either stays overnight or gets to go home for the night... only to be back the next day, for more antibiotics and ANOTHER blood draw.

Sometimes that can be the end of it... but if her symptoms continue, we go back another day... for more antibiotics, and sometimes more blood drawn.

Also, our main doctor for all of this is 30 minutes away from us when there is no traffic, and there frequently is traffic coming or going from the appointment.

These days... I do feel like a special needs parent. There is nothing I wish more than to be able to rescue Grace from all of this, and allow her the privilege to just stay home, rest and get better.

But at the same time, there is never a time that I regret Blake and I choosing to adopt her, knowing that she had these health challenges. If she didn't get adopted out of that orphanage, there is a very real, scary possiblity that she would not be living at this moment.

Consider for a moment that our precious little girl weighed only 13 pounds when we brought her home at 17 months old... my not quite 3 month old boy weighs that already! In that little, tiny, undernourished body, she was battling at least 3 major health concerns that we know of, and was likely not getting any medical care for any of them.

If we weren't willing to adopt her, this sweet, precious, fun, wonderful girl, who has a huge personality when she isn't sick, might not live to the age of five.

It makes me think about all of the people who feel moved enough to adopt, which is a great thing all by itself, but are only willing to adopt healthy kids. I know there is a need for that, but there is also a huge need for the ones who aren't healthy or who will face challenges their whole life.

Every special needs parent knows that their child is worth every ounce of extra effort they require. These special souls more than compensate for their challenges with all of the good they bring to us. Also, you never doubt that you are making a difference in someone's life, that you, personally, have made someone else's life better.

People outside of the loop call her lucky for having us, but anyone who has adopted a child know that it is the opposite, we are lucky... no BLESSED... to have her!

I love seeing her smile, her laugh, her raised eyebrows. It brings me so much joy to see her grow and progress, going from not being able to stand by herself to running!

I don't like the days that she is sick, or the drives to the doctors, or canceling plans with friends, but I never think that my life would be better without all of that.

If you got this far, I am going to get on my soapbox. Consider making room in your home for one more, because for every child that is adopted, both domestically and abroad, there are hundreds, if not thousands, waiting for home. Sweet kids that desperately wish to have someone to love them.

And if you are open to adoption... consider being open to a special needs child. I won't guarantee it will be easy... actually I am willing to say that it won't... but it will be worth it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pee school and Holiday "Fun" with Kids

Pee school has overall been going really well. Friday and Saturday Grace got some chips every time she was successful, and it worked great as motivation.

So great, in fact, that not only was she able to hold it in between, she figured out the system, and started asking to pee immediately after finishing her chips from the previous trip! She would repeat this multiple times until the inevitable happened, and she could no longer squeeze any little drips out. Then she got upset, and dealt with the disappointment in two different ways: she asked for help (which we obviously couldn't give) or she decided to wait until she could go (we kept asking if she was done, and she said no).

We decided today to eliminate the chips to try to avoid the trips immediately after the last trip, and the ensuing frustration. We continued to give copious praise, but there would be no more material rewards. We also went on some trips out of the house.

Our first trips to church and breakfast went well, and she stayed dry.

While we were at the local mall for breakfast, we decided to take the kids to see Santa. This did not go as well as hoped...the line was long, so my parents had to help keep the kids happy while I held our place in line.

When at Santa, Grace completely refused to get anywhere near him. Not only by herself, but even sitting on my dad's lap near him wasn't okay. Long story short, we got a picture of Remington with Santa. Though, it was pretty cute, to show no hard feelings, Grace did wave and say, "Bye."

As much as the picture would have been cute, it is a good thing that Grace isn't willing to just go to any stranger and sit on their laps.

Pee school was a little rocky this afternoon, where there was one moment where she told us a little too late, but at least she told us.

We did decide to get our tree today too, and it closes at dark, so almost immediately after Blake arrived home with groceries, we took off, so we could get there on time.

We like this place to get our tree because it is one of the places where the tree is growing until you pick it and then it is cut down for you. We like supporting this place for green reasons as well as for the fact that our fresh cut trees last a lot longer than the ones we used to get from a lot.

But leaving so quickly caused some problems. Problem 1- Remmy hadn't been fed for a bit because he had been sleeping, a fact that he realized on the half hour drive there...and complained about for much of the drive. Problem 2- we didn't take off with all of our normal kid supplies.

We picked our tree fairly quickly (this consisted of us carrying the kids, looking for a tree the right size and price we were planning on, that hadn't already been purchased, and then when we found it, verifying with Grace that we should get it).

After paying for the tree, we drove to where you wait in line with your car for them to cut it and put it on for you. This is where things went from bad to worse. It started with our decision to nurse Remington while we waited. He definitely needed to eat, and we knew it was safe since we weren't going much of anywhere.

Then our newly potty trained daughter says she needs to go...but I'm nursing...and Blake has to drive the car the little bit forward every few minutes. So we (admittedly mistakenly) ask her to try to wait until I'm done or it is our turn to have the tree tied on.

As she gets more insistent, he has a major diaper blowout. At some point I make the call that he has to get a little less to eat for her sake. I put him back in the car, Blake gets her, and they try to make it to the port a potty on the lot. Not only had she already had a major accident (all our fault admittedly), she wasn't willing to use that bathroom.

While we get our tree, we try to get our kids back in shape. We scrounge through our car supplies, and manage a change of clothes for each of them, though it does mean Grace is back in a diaper, because we didn't have spare underwear for her with us.

Overall, I walk away from both of these holiday mini disasters with the knowledge that for now, Blake is totally right, these holiday things are for me, not them. In more ways than one, I made my kids frustrated and upset just to do these special Christmas things that they don't even care about yet! We will learn from our mistakes with supplies, feeding etc., and it will be more worth it when they care.

Alas, so far, Christmas fun with kids hasn't been much fun.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Thanksgiving Like no Other

This year was destined to be a Thanksgiving to remember as it was both of our kids first.

But it became a unique Thanksgiving due to the scary start the day had. Around 4:30am our cats got spooked by something. I think they knocked something over, but I don't know for sure. Next thing we know, the cats run full speed across all 3 of us ( Blake, Remington, and I). Remmy starts crying, and we don't know if it is out of fear, or if one of their claws caught him on their run.

We turn on the light to check, and are met with the very scary sight of his head covered with blood. We act immediately. I cover the bleeding spot with my hand, and apply pressure, and Blake gets some big white bandages. We use the first to clean up the head enough to see what we are dealing with. It isn't as bad as it first appeared, but it is about an inch and a half long, on his head, and he is an infant. If it had been Blake or my head, we might not have gone, but we did decide that we needed to take him to the ER

I held the second bandaid on his head the whole trip there (we had loaded Grace in the car, and Blake drove).

At the ER they cleaned it up, and used glue to keep the wound closed as it heals. They did say it was a good habit to bring him if in doubt.

So my 2 month old has his first scar, and I have to contend with my mommy guilt.

I am thankful it wasn't worse, or in a worse spot, and I know I can't control the world, and my kids will get sick and hurt many times in their lives. But at the same time, I can't help but wonder if I could have done something to protect him.

The rest of Thanksgiving was good. Remington spent the day alternating from being passed between relatives and nursing. Grace mainly stuck by my dad, but eventually started moving around the room and mooching food from many people in the room.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Hardest Thing about Having Two Kids

Life with two kids has been challenging as well as rewarding. Up until recently, I would say that the hardest thing was just keeping track of both of them, or keeping them both happy, but that isn't it.

I've often heard that there is no limit to a parent's love for their children, whether you have one or twenty, you love them all equally, and you love all of them 100%.

I never disbelieved this statement, but now I can speak for myself that it is true. I love both of my kids completely, 100%. I might have moments where I don't like their actions... but I definitely always love them. Part of this mother's love for them is that I want them to always be happy.

With just Grace, I could put all of my effort into her happiness, within parental reason (i.e. no you can't just eat chips all the time, even if that would make you happy). When she had her medical problems, I could be there doing everything I could to make her feel better in the midst of her fear and being poked with needles. If she was crying, I could comfort her, and do what I needed to help her stop.

But now there is a second child in my home, who I also love completely, and also want to put my effort into keeping him happy. I will do everything in my power (again within parental reason) to ensure his happiness, his comfort, and meet his needs as I can.

Herein lies the hardest thing about having two kids. I sometimes have to choose. If I am taking care of one of her needs, like changing her diaper, and he starts to cry, I can't comfort him. I am choosing her over him. I long to pick him up in my arms, and give him comfort or food the second he starts crying... but at that point, I am focused on her happiness, but at his expense.

Last night was another example of this. Grace had another crisis. This one was in her leg. It was so painful to see her so sad, in pain, not her normal, running around, happy, playing self. We knew she had to go to the hospital, and everything in me wanted to go with Grace and Blake so that I could be there to provide whatever comfort I could through what I knew would be miserable for her, even though it would help her feel better.

But I have a two month old... who is already recovering from his first cold... who REALLY should not be exposed to those kinds of germs that he would be if I brought him with us to the emergency room. I suppose I could have gotten a babysitter, but he is still nursing every two hours or so, and I don't pump. So as much as the "Mom of Grace" wanted to be there with her, the "Mom of Remington" knew that this time, she had to choose what was best for her son... at the expense of her daughter.

I know that Blake was able to provide comfort for her, and we were in touch by phone all night, but it really bothered me that I couldn't be there for her as well.  More than any of the day to day challenges of two kids, I think this is, and will always be, the hardest thing about being a parent of more than one kid- when you have to choose one over another, even though you love them both 100%.

We will see what life brings, but I know that there will be other instances where I have to choose. Maybe she will have a recital on the same day that he has a game (or vice versa...not gender stereotyping here), or maybe they will have opposing thoughts on where we should go for a vacation or even a dinner. Hopefully, I can balance which child I choose enough so they at least feel like it is equal... but at the same time, I know that it doesn't help THAT instance.

Let's say I choose to see her recital instead of his hockey game on a given Saturday, and then the next month I switch. Big picture- it would be fair, but it wouldn't change the fact that that first hockey game I wasn't there to see his big score or his great save or just his skating at a game. The next month I would still miss THAT performance. I could never get those moments back.

I can only imagine how this problem multiples with each additional child you have, where you want so much to be the parent who is everything for THAT child, but you simply physically can't be everything you want to be for every child all of the time. It doesn't even matter that another parent (or grandparent or aunt etc.) can fulfill some of those needs, you still aren't there.

The good news is that she didn't have to stay overnight, and today (thanks to the power of painkillers) she is acting more like herself:

He is a happy camper too (video from yesterday):

Friday, November 22, 2013

Mini Post 6- Hair

The time has come where I can do styles on her hair, and so I am trying to.

One big reason is that I've been told it protects her hair. Two, I think it looks better. Three, it means the daily hair battle is shorter because the styles last more than a day, though there is a battle when it gets styled.

Months ago, I did one flat rope twist, but then decided since she hated it so much and her hair was on the short side anyways to not fight it for a while.

I honestly don't remember the day I decided recently that it was time to fight these battles regularly, but her hair has been in a style every day since I started, most of them lasting a few days each. (If I was better and if I remembered to put product in her hair before starting, they could last longer.)

The pictures below should match this description, but due to limitations I have when I post from my phone, I can't do it caption style.

I started with three flat rope twists on the side of her head. Then later, I did flat rope twists all around her head. When I took those out, I wanted to change the part line, so I did one cornrow across her head, like a headband.

I didn't keep that in long. I didn't do that great on it, and time constraints kept me from even going across her whole head.

This morning I attempted a veil style. I wanted to go another row, and maybe I'll add that later, but for now it had to stop there. Her patience had REALLY worn out and besides, Remington was crying for food, so I decided it was good enough for the day.

You may notice that they all leave her hair natural in the back. This is for three reasons- 1- time it takes to do styles even in the front, 2- both she and I have to get better before we attempt something that intense, and 3-her hair is shorter in the back for some reason, so I'm not even positive I could style it if I wanted to.

But I have confidence, my skill will grow and Grace will get used to it, and we will be able to do more and more styles over the years.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mini post 5 version 2.0

Sigh, I wrote another post, but something went wrong. It may still publish at some point, and while posting pictures twice doesn't bother me, writing the same words twice does.

So, summary of last post: my kids are growing up fast.

In other news, besides exercising, I feel like I am getting back to my old self. One of the biggest steps in that direction is making dinners again.

I got a lot of enjoyment out of planning, cooking, and eating a variety of healthy meals. The freezer meals were very helpful, but were all somewhat similar, and we made two of each so it was pretty repetitive.

But now, I have Grace watch a show (her favorite is Barney), and either put Remington in his swing or in a carrier on me, and I can make dinner. It's been great!

Here are some pictures of the kids ( which are likely the same as the other post if it ever publishes).

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mini post 4 Post Halloween Pumpkins and Candy

Some people are avid pumpkin fans and I happen to be part of that group. Pumpkin shakes, lattes, savory dishes, if it has pumpkin as a main ingredient, you can be fairly confident that I will enjoy eating it or drinking it.

Alas, as we are trying to save money, buying tons of pumpkins is not fiscally responsible. They aren't the cheapest produce, and even the couple of dollars for a can adds up.

I had this idea though...what do pumpkin patches do with all those pumpkins they couldn't sell? They have to at least sell them for less right? So I called a local pumpkin patch. Sure enough, they were selling a wheelbarrow full for only 10 dollars the day after Halloween.

I had plans to load that wheelbarrow to the brim. But I was doing this with a 6 week old in a carrier on me and a grumpy toddler who kept throwing tantrums and throwing herself in the dirt ...so I stopped early.

You can see the amount I bought below.
We (aka Blake) chopped them all up, roasted them, and then froze some as chunks and some was pureed and frozen as puree. I believe we made six bags worth of chunks and eight of puree. So 14 recipes worth for my ten dollars, not counting all of the pumpkin seeds we roasted as well. Even stopping where I did (though I could have gotten more), I feel like we got our money's worth.

We have lots of leftover candy (mostly because we were gone for part of the night and didn't have lights on or any decorations for the rest of the night...so no one came to our door).

I had read a post this week that at first made me feel guilty about this candy. It talked about how much of the chocolate is harvested with child labor.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that presenting child labor as all bad is really one sided.

The opponents of child labor list the lack of education and childhood fun as two reasons it should be outlawed and illegal to use child labor. But Blake and I started talking about what we know about schools in Ghana. There is no free public education, they have to pay for it.

If these kids had the money to go to school, they would be there. The fact that they are working means that their family needs them to work, probably for food, maybe to send a younger sibling to school.

I read some articles today that back up our understanding of the problem. These articles said that if these groups get their way and outlaw child labor, it still won't give those kids an education or their childhood playtime. It will more likely force them to work worse jobs with less pay, maybe even increase the likelihood of child trafficking.

What is needed is programs where the working kids are better represented, like in some of Latin America, where there is a union for child laborers. There also could be a push for the places that employ children to give some schooling as part of their unemployment.

Now, I know that the conditions these kids work in is bad, and I don't disagree that there should be some changes there too, but I don't agree with the agenda to boycott all companies that use child labor just because they employ children under 15.

Just my 2cents on the topic.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Mini Post 3- First Halloween

Background- Blake did not Trick or Treat when he was a kid or celebrate Halloween in any way as it does have very strong non- Christian origins as well as some very demonic and evil practices revolving around the holiday even today.

My family allowed us to dress up and trick or treat as long as our costume wasn't anything evil. I remember being an angel one year, a flower another year, my brother went as candy multiple years. My mom always had some kind of Christian sign on the window, and some years we had candy with scriptures on it as what we passed out.

The church we attend does a harvest festival with games to play, and each one gives out candy after you play.

Those were our options as we decided what we would be doing with our kids.

This year we went with the harvest festival. I felt it was a good compromise between the two different ways we were raised.

I was practically a celebrity, as I used to teach there so many people knew me and wanted to see the family that God gave us this year.

Grace tried to play a few games, but they were mostly too old for her. She quickly got tired of doing the games, and just wanted to run around (which we weren't going to let her do).

So we didn't even use all the tickets we got ( gave the rest away) only got her a little candy, and she didn't even have a great time. However, this trip took a 40 minute drive in traffic to get there, with a screaming child in the back (he doesn't like to be in the car if it isn't moving).

Next year we might make a different choice.

Mini post 2- Getting Through the Days

Mondays are still bad- Grace has had Blake all weekend and doesn't adjust well to him not being there.

But the other days are pretty good most of the time now. This is largely because I've learned that Grace needs something to make the day different. This can be visiting someone, like my mom, or going somewhere or just getting to paint or do playdough ( a non-normal toy).

It makes the day go faster for me too, and probably helps me deal with her little frustrations better.

She also likes to help, so I can turn around a temper starting to brew with, "Do you want to help mommy?" and naming a task for her.

In addition, I have become quite skilled at finding a way to have her on me at the same time that he is (like while nursing). She has colored with markers, played the piano and had books read to her all while she sits on my thighs, near my knees while I nurse him. Not easy for me, but keeps my two kids happy, so it's worth it.