Sunday, June 30, 2013

When you're a mom, you won't be able to...

**I apologize in advance that this blog is short on pictures, something is going on with my app that uploads to photobucket for me, so I will have to do it manually, and I don't want to deal with that right now.

Back when we were trying/going through the adoption, both Blake and I were told numerous times by numerous people that there were many things that we wouldn't be able to continue once we were parents. Perhaps because of these comments, or it is just that we value these things so much, we, at least for now, are proving those people wrong.

One big thing was cooking real meals. I have talked on the blog numerous times before about dishes we have made or the fact that we like cooking. Grace definitely makes it harder, but we still eat real, homecooked, from scratch meals most nights of the week.

These are made possible in one of three ways-

Some days, I start early, hours before Blake gets home, and I do all the prepping and cooking, while also keeping Grace entertained and out of trouble. One way to keep her occupied is to allow her to help. The biggest way she has helped with dinner multiple times now is by tearing the kale, swiss chard or lettuce for dinner. She is pretty good at it, and it keeps her happy and busy for a while. Only downside is that sometimes, when she gets tired of her tearing task, she switches to taking the greens out of the bowl... and then I have to persuade her to put them back in. Other times, I give her a snack during dinner prep time, and then sometimes she is content wandering and playing with her toys in the next room, and just checking in on me.

When Blake gets home on these days, we eat dinner together, all three of us.

The second way that real meals happen is while he is putting her down to sleep, I start the prep work for dinner, and start cooking, and he just helps me finish once she is down, or I finish while he is upstairs with her. This typically happens on days that we (Grace and I) are really busy, or the dinner has a part that Blake needs to help with (i.e. grilling).

The third way that we get real meals is just Blake and I working together, like the old days, after she gets down. The biggest downside to this is that these dinners tend to be really late, like 8:30-9 at night. But again, our commitment to cooking healthy and eating real meals means that occasional nights like this are worth it.

I do miss Blake and I working together on dinners every night, and it has been a big adjustment to knowing that most days, it is me prepping everything, one way or the other, just to be sure that we eat relatively early. On the other hand, I find so much joy in searching through cookbooks, getting ingredients at the farmer's market, and enjoying the homemade meals that it makes that sacrifice worth it.

The other big thing that we were told wouldn't happen is Blake's gym schedule. He was, and still is, going to the gym every day after work. The downside is that he gets home an hour later than he would if he didn't go, but his health is better, and he is so much happier on the days that he gets that exercise in, that it doesn't affect life that much. I think the hardest thing about it is that Grace's bedtime routine now starts around 6:30, which means that most of his time with her at night is getting her dinner, and then doing the bedtime routine (I have him do it for this very reason, that it is the main time they get to spend together when it isn't a weekend).

I get my exercise in the form of walks with Grace, but I think if I wasn't pregnant, I would be able to have those walks be jogs/runs and still be able to work on endurance (which is depressingly disappearing, but that is another topic).

These are the two biggest areas that I feel like we are able to break the stereotypes and make it happen, even though it isn't the same as it used to be.

Now, this is not to say that there aren't areas where those people were totally right. One is dinners out. It is really tough for us to go out any time at night. Consider- Blake gets home between 5:30-6, and her bedtime routine starts at 6:30. By the time we could even meet anywhere, it is going to be really tight to get food, eat it, and get home in time to not mess up her schedule. This sleep schedule is precious... and a messed up night usually means a messed up next day, and it is two or three days before it is back to golden sleep again. Adopted child concerns means that we don't want anyone else doing her bedtime routine or being the one who she sees if she wakes up at night... so for now... no nights out. At some point, we will try to have someone else put her down, but for the time being, it is more important to us that her sleep schedule is protected and that she doesn't worry about being abandoned that it is that we go out to dinner, so we don't.

Hobbies are another area where for the most part, people were right. Blake's computer goes long stretches of time without even being on, and I can't remember the last time he played a computer game (phone games yes, not computer). For me, as you can see, blogs are less often, and my crafty hobbies, like sewing have been largely set aside except for the needs that come up (like my altering a too big dress so she can wear it for the Fourth of July). I do still get reading in, during lunch times (once she is contentedly eating), even if my reading time is frequently interrupted by a little girl asking for more, or water, etc. I also sneak some in at other points during the day. But the time for having hobbies that she isn't involved with is mostly over for now (and sure to get worse once her brother arrives).

 However, I will say that the bottom line of what people have said is true for us as well. Life changes when you have kids. Maybe you can still make things work if you are committed to them enough (like cooking or going to the gym), but even so they have to work around your child's needs. Plans with friends, family, holidays, all of it suddenly has to be considered in the light of how will this affect my child. Many families, with different needs and priorities than us, might be able to make time for the hobby or the dinners out, or date nights out, but for us, right now, they aren't in the picture, and that's okay.

Because at the same time that we lose out on some things we used to do, we have a whole new set of entertainment and enjoyment. We get to see her walking improve, hear the words she adds, see her laugh as she waves and says "bye bye" and takes off running in another direction just to be chased. We get her love, her hugs and kisses as a very valuable repayment for anything that might feel lacking.

I probably wouldn't say to anyone what was said to us about specific things you can't do, but I would tell future parents to expect to have to change something, whatever it may be for that particular family. We could make hobbies work... at the expense of cooking and the gym, so we make the choice and live in the way that seems best within our time constraints. Others may flip it, and stop cooking so they have time to ___, and that's okay too. Fact is, life is good now, and that's what is important in the long run.

Just because:
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Here is a picture of another attempt at a hair style- I did a flat rope twist from the middle to her ears on both sides, like a headband.

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This one is of her having a lovely time making a mess of just baking soda and vinegar (with food coloring in it).

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

First Beach Trip

We took our first vacation with Grace down to my aunt's beach house for a day at the beach, and then her first night spent away from home since we got to become her full time parents at the end of March.

This post will be mostly pictures. Basically, she was not a fan of the water and the waves, and didn't leave Blake for a second to try to stand in them or anything, but she had a GREAT time playing with buckets of water that we brought up from the waves and the sand... far away from those scary waves.

If you are curious, yes, she is wearing a swim cap. From what I have read, getting sand out of her tight little curls is really quite difficult, and many sites recommended doing this for trips to the beach to avoid such problems.

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Some favorite sand activities were putting sand in the water bucket, pouring water out of the water bucket and putting rocks into the water bucket. All of these activities kept her busy for quite a while.

Only downside is that she didn't sleep great that night... which meant no one slept well that night.

Otherwise, it was a really fun first experience at the beach.

Friday, June 14, 2013

What you are versus what you do

There are some job titles that are really so much more than a job title, because they stay with you, even if you are unemployed at the time.

Artists are a good example of this. Someone who is an artist sees the world in a different way, and their identity is found in their art. They might make no money from the art portion of their day, and they might be employed as someone at a grocery store, just to make money, but that doesn't change the fact that they are an artist.

This month marks six months since I last taught in a classroom. Thanks to my daughter, and soon enough, my son, it will be a while before I bring in any income under that title again. But I have been thinking a lot lately about how I still identify myself as a teacher.

I was a teacher long before I went to school for it or got a job. I taught Sunday school, but I also taught at Sunday school. As in, I didn't just teach the lesson and the craft, and then have the kids play, even when we were playing with the kids, I was teaching. They were eating their snack, and I talked about how many goldfish crackers they had as they ate each one.  Or they were playing with magnets, and I was teaching how to spell words. It was those experiences that made me decide I wanted to make teaching my job as well.

My friend Erin noticed this about me a long time ago too- I would come over for a play date, and while we were doing something fun with the kids, I was teaching too- making letters out of the cookie dough or writing words with our pictures in chalk. Like an artist looks at life through the lens of art,  I see opportunities to teach kids no matter what we are doing.

Kids like me, I'm not boring or strict as I have these impromptu lessons and since I know we aren't in school, as soon as they are over it, so am I, so there is no frustration. But unlike Blake, I have a really hard time just playing, with no purpose or ulterior motive.

With Grace, besides her occupational/speech therapy stuff, for a long time I tried to be like Blake during the day, and just let her play, with no purpose, no teaching, just fun. But it wasn't good. I was bored, and I think she was too, but more than that, my boredom made me less than an epic mom by the end of the day, because I was just ready to hand her off.

A few weeks ago, for a variety of reasons, my thinking changed. I decided to embrace who I am, and let that just be a part of how I parent. She can still have Blake for the fun, but I now approach our weeks like a teacher. I started with a few simple goals- each week we would make something together in the kitchen and do an art project.

It has made my days more fun, and I think she enjoys the variety too. Plus, she is learning kitchen skills early that can benefit her later in life. With the art, I get to have toddler abstract art masterpieces, and something to hang on the fridge. The weeks also go by faster.

This week, I decided to expand on this idea, and I will be working off themes. My teacher side likes themes, as it adds direction and structure to my thoughts about what we do that week. I decided to base the themes off of the Bible story for the week that I read to her.

For example, next week we will be reading about God's promise to Abraham that he would have more descendants than the stars, so the week is themed around stars. I was so excited about this theme, that I decided to start early. Yesterday, we made dog biscuits (cooking for the week) in the shape of stars, and today we finished a take off on Starry Night by Van Gogh. I will probably have us do more variations of that next week, as well as other star projects. We checked out books from the library about stars too.
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(construction paper for the tree on the left, glue and sand for the stars and chalk for the rest)

It brings me a lot of pleasure to have "lessons" to plan for as the weeks go by, and doing the projects with her. I may feel obligated to state my current profession as stay at home mom when people ask, but I am a teacher, and whether I have one student or thirty, that is where I find my identity and my purpose.


According to certain family members, no post is complete without a bunch of Grace pictures, so here are some of my favorites since the last time I posted:

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More mobile Grace getting into cupboards

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 Beautiful picture of her in one of her 18 month old dresses that now fits. On a random note, I have had to retire some 12 month old clothes recently too, and though I know it is a good thing, it still makes me sad.

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I think this one is hilarious, she looks like she is yelling at her shoe. That's not quite the case. She is yelling because she wants us to put the shoe back on. But still... turned out funny. 

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Look at that smile!

Grace playing the piano

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sleep and Other Updates

So, looking back, I see it has been two weeks to the day since I last posted. Time really does fly once you have a child (well... on some days more than others)!

I can't write long, and Grace is napping on my (rapidly diminishing) lap, but I do have a few moments for some updates in our house in the past bit, and some pictures too.
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The biggest, life altering news is about Grace's sleeping habits. We were referred the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child  by our birth class instructor, and it is truly amazing how effective their advice was the first night we tried it.

She had been going to bed around 9-9:30, waking up at night, and then getting up around 5-6.
Now, she goes to bed around 7-7:20, sleeps more soundly, and wakes up after 7 usually. Way better for us, and better for her too. We have noticed that overall, she is a lot happier since we changed her sleep schedule.

The biggest thing the book taught us was to look for her drowsy signs. This seems obvious, but we were totally missing her drowsy signs, and were waiting for what we now know are her overtired signs. Over tired children don't go down easily, and don't sleep as soundly, and we were hurting ourselves because it kept the cycle going, where she kept being overtired because we weren't fixing it.

Now, with just drowsy signs, she goes down easy, sleeps better and longer. We are also able to change her schedule from two naps to one, because she doesn't need a morning nap most days since she sleeps so well at night.

But when I called it life altering, I meant it. Before, we were making dinner together, with her in the kitchen, and then eating together, all three of us. But now, we make dinner after she is asleep. We eat later, but it is nice to have dinner with just us. She eats right when Blake gets home, around 6. Before, we would have friends over, and they could join us for dinner, with her, but now, she would be asleep before they can come. Even though people have offered, I don't think Blake and I can do a dinner out just the two of us, because we would have to be back in time for her bedtime routine (adoption books emphasize to not leave while they are sleeping, very bad connection wise if they wake up and you aren't there, but someone else is).

Her early afternoon nap means that I can't schedule events in the early afternoon, and have to make sure that morning play times end in time for her to get that nap.

All of these mean adjustments to our lifestyle, but as the book emphasizes, her sleep should take precedence over what we might want to do, or would be more convenient for us.

In other news, I have baked with Grace on two different occasions now. She likes to feel the texture of the sugar and flour as we measure them.
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The first time we made boysenberry muffins, but the only picture I got of that was the finished muffins.

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The second time we made oatmeal cookies, and I was more purposeful of taking pictures of her helping while we made them.

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This is Grace playing with a big hit of a toy... with a very small cost. They are just the little pom poms you can buy at a craft store or dollar store, and three little white containers (also from a dollar store for the set of 3). She loves putting them in, taking them out, pouring them from one to the other, putting them in the bag, etc. Just goes to show that it doesn't take a lot of money or an expensive toy to easily keep a toddler amused for a while. She also likes playing with her "blocks" which are just boxes that we decided to let her reuse as blocks instead of recycling.

I have been purposefully giving her more chances for creative play, and I do love seeing the results.
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Grace's first painting, quite the masterpiece.

Her hair is getting longer, and last week I did her first hairstyle (not much, but a start) of a flat rope twist, and then a little clip. Special thing about the clip is that it is the first thing I bought for her when I found out about her last August.
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And lastly, just because I love this picture:
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