Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Look Back at 2016

This was the fastest year of my life. Obviously, I haven't found a way to speed up how long it takes the Earth to revolve around the sun, but it was undeniably the fastest year yet.

Time is a perception, as well as a set, discernible measure. Two minutes in front of the microwave waiting for your food can seem like forever, while a two minute commercial break is not enough time to get done what you wanted to in the break. Hours with a friend pass so quickly, you wish they were longer, and 30 minutes stuck in traffic seems like hours.

I'm not positive what set this year on fast forward for me, but I have a few guesses. One hypothesis is that it has to do with the fact that naps met their end this year. Oh, how I miss naps. See, naps were my thirty minutes to an hour of MY time. Not keep kids happy while I do something time, not do something with the whole family, not even Blake and I time. All of those times can be good too... but they aren't MY time. My time to relax, and sit with a novel, that doesn't get interrupted fifty times for all the little things that kids need me for while they are playing "independently." Or my time to work on a family photo book of pictures from 2015... (which, by the way, didn't get done... now I'm behind a year). Or my time to try to make some money for the family, or write my great picture book... etc.

To be fair, Blake would have no problem with me doing these things at night, after the kids go to bed. He would even leave me alone to do it if I asked. But it typically doesn't happen because 1-I'm too tired and 2-I like watching shows or playing video games with him.

So, I literally lost some time this year, and I think that made me feel way more crunched into the time I did have.

The kids also started activities in earnest this year, between hockey/skating lessons, gymnastics, and baseball. Time driving them to activities, the activities themselves and the crunched nights after all their things definitely made the year feel faster, as every day zipped by.

Anyways, on to my annual photo of my jar of tickets. The bibs no longer live in the jar, but will continued to be featured as long as I still run races.

I actually cut down on my runs this year... but went way over what I had intended. Races, unfortunately, are not free. It takes a lot of people to make them happen, and someone needs to pay their salaries, so Blake and I had talked about my budget for races being cut down... i.e. run less.

Plus, I have a particular fondness in my heart for Ragnar races...which cost more... especially out of state (hotel, more gas, etc.). I had a ton of fun on my third Ragnar, this year in Arizona, and I know I will run another Ragnar again someday, but it was supposed to be my only race for the year.

Then, on the way back from the race I had a moment where I realized that I never run half marathons alone, I always ran them with somebody, except for my very first one. I was never working on improving my time, because I was always with someone else who typically slowed me down. So, I made a goal to improve my time, and try to get under a 2 hour half... and signed up for the O.C. Half. Okay, two races, not so bad...

I really intended to be good, and stick with those, and have my next race be in January of 2017. Except I am now seen as a runner, so during the summer I got asked again, and again, and again, "When is your next race?" I got asked that enough times that I finally broke down, and talked to Blake about it, and we decided to let me run both the Long Beach Half and Surf City in February because then when added with my O.C. Half, I can get a special medal for doing all three.

I would have stuck with that... except my sweet dad offered to sponsor my Disney Avengers Race, since he knows Disney races are my favorite (and way out of budget).
Good news for two of those three half marathons is that I did improve. So my best solo half marathon before this year was 2:14. My O.C. Half I got down to 2:06, and my Avengers race was 2:01:54 (yes those six seconds count). My Long beach half between them was a bad race- hot, slow, and miserable (2:15).

In 2016, so far, my race calendar just has the Surf City Half, but it seems that I will at least do a few more than that over the year, but I'll decide later what those will be. (And because I am a major slacker who let 1- busted toenails [you don't want to know] and 2- colds and 3- enjoying sleeping in, stop me from running, I am really not feeling great about breaking 2 hours on that race either).

Sports continue to feature in our family's life, with a bunch of Ducks games and some Angels games this year, and the kids are getting more fun to see the games with too. We hit up the classic, local theme parks for them, seeing Disneyland a few times, and Legoland and Knotts each once. We went to the Aquarium, and to a few movies this year with the kids too!

I got a few more musicals in than a typical year, which was really fun, and Blake and I even went to our first concert in years- Lindsey Stirling (and loved it). Blake and I also celebrated our 10 year anniversary this summer! The trip was fun, and special, and we look forward to our next trip.

Another big highlight of 2016 is that I became an aunt! Little Livvie arrived in March, and it has been so fun to see her grow up (though still snuggly and small, and I can't get enough of her). We also learned that we will become an aunt/uncle again in 2017, which is exciting, and approaching fast!

Remington started preschool, which is great, and heartbreaking all at the same time! I can't believe how fast he has grown, and it just doesn't seem right he is old enough for school now. Flip side is that I have had a few subbing days, which definitely pay better than my couple of random things I do for pay otherwise.

Coming up in 2017:
I will continue subbing when I can, writing when I can, and selling stuff on e-bay when I can. I will be flying out to be there (or as close to be there) as I can for my niece or nephew's birth in St. Louis. I will run my next half in February, and see where the year takes me as far as other races go.

Remington will continue to take skating/hockey lessons for now, but will be starting on a team sometime this year. He also is going to do another season of baseball, and was super excited to open his bat and ball and tee for Christmas. He will finish his first year of preschool, and start his second in September of 2017.

Grace starts a new crazy elite class in January in gymnastics (as in had to have coach referral, followed by two formal evaluations, but she made it). The website class description says

"This program is for those who have extraordinary talent and desire a more intense training"

 and her second evaluator, who also told me she thinks Grace would be good for the program, said that she sees that Grace has "raw potential." The biggest deal about this class is that it is on the "competitive track," in other words, grooming the kids in the class into gymnasts who are good enough to compete. She is not on a team yet. Of all the craziness, she is now trying to show the coaches that she is good enough for the next step- "pre-devo." (This is the step Grace is looking forward to on the short term, because it means she gets a matching leotard with the other girls). Then, if she does well enough in that, she gets bumped up to "devo" and girls good enough in "devo" get invited to join the team... that apparently wins state competitions. All of these steps are completely on Grace and her skills, not about age (except you have to be six to compete on the team, but that is several steps away anyways), so we will see where she is this time next year. 

 Overall, I hope that 2017 is a fun filled, happy year, with happy families! Happy New Year!

Here are some September photos... I was trying to go through more months, but it is late, and my computer isn't cooperating:


Friday, October 14, 2016

Sports Family

When I thought about eventually being a mom and having kids, one of things I looked forward to was putting them in sports, and activities and seeing them learn, and flourish in their new activities. Even before we brought Grace home from Ghana, I was already looking up different things for 18 month olds that we could do in our area. 

When Grace first started sports (soccer), Remington started begging to be on a team as well. He was too young for even the youngest sports at that time, but we told him to wait till he was a little older, and then he could be on a team as well. When she started taking private lessons for roller hockey and skating, we decided to let Remington take them too (since the private nature of the lessons meant that even my little 2 year old could join). 

Fast forward to today. He is now old enough for baseball...ish. He is part of something called Miteball, which is even younger and less pressure than T-ball. The parents stay in the outfield with the kids, there are no outs, and every kid just hits once, runs one base, and when all the kids have hit, the inning ends (with the last kid "scoring" a homerun... though there are no scores). 

He seems to enjoy doing it, though it is a big long for him, with hour games and hour practices. But even so, he is doing better than some of the other three year olds who cry when they don't get the ball, or run the wrong way on the bases, or steal other kids balls. Our next decision will be if we put him in it for spring or not. We have long prided ourselves on letting our kids steer their own lives when it comes to extra curricular activities like that, and if you ask him if he wants to do it again... he says no. However, if you watch him when he plays, he is smiling, and he really seems to be enjoying it.Plus, he does well at it, especially for only three, and both Blake and I think that the skill of listening to a coach and practicing and playing with a team are all really good things for him to learn and practice. 

Plus, in addition to his practice day and game day, he also is still taking private hockey lessons once a week, and doing great there too! As a matter of fact, his coach said that though kids usually start the youth hockey team at four, depending on how Remington continues to improve, he might recommend him starting at three and a half. As much as Remington enjoys baseball, he LOVES hockey. Both he and Grace are likely to pick up sticks and play in the house on any given day. Last night they were cracking Blake and I up as they would pretend to fight... and then put themselves in the penalty box! They also, without prompting, would say, "Face off!" or "Time for intermission!" Can you tell that we watch hockey at home?

Though, to be fair, Remington also set up his own tee and ball in the house, gave himself bases, and was playing his own baseball game in the house yesterday as well. Plus, when we drop off Grace at school, he and I play pretend baseball (and soccer, football, hockey, swordfighting, and others). He will designate both of our positions, usually I am the pitcher and he is the batter, and he almost always hits a homerun. But sometimes I get to be the batter... just so he can tag me out at first. But playing "real" baseball with his team has broadened his imaginary play to include him being in the outfield, catching pop flies to get me out as well. 

Grace continues to flourish as a gymnast, taking a class at two different gyms (long story). At one gym she is in the advanced preschool class, and at the other she is in the level 2 class for the kids aged 4-6. She shines the most at floor work, and has an amazing cartwheel... to the point that last week her coach said that she will be starting to work on a one-handed cartwheel soon. What? Craziness (especially for this momma, who can't even do a straight leg cartwheel to save her life). Her bridge is her most recent accomplishment... gonna have to get a picture of that soon. She still loves it, and looks forward to both of her classes, and we will see how that road goes, but it looks like she is headed towards getting on competitive gymnastic teams at some point...once she is old enough. 

As for me, I continue to run, and am working hard to try to improve my times on my half marathons. I had a really disappointing run last Sunday, running way slower than my fastest. It was hot, but I am really kicking myself for not staying with the pacer or with my running club friends... at one point I ran ahead of them, because I was feeling good... only to watch them pass me and I had nothing left to catch them. I have another half next month, and I am really hoping that I can get a personal record on that once, and have upped my training to try to get it. 

When all is said and done, Remington has a sport Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday, Grace has her practices Monday and Thursday, and I run Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and sometimes Fridays (before dawn). What about Blake, you might be wondering? While he isn't currently in a physical sport, he sure does a lot of fantasy sports-baseball, football, hockey, and basketball.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Grace's Ghana Art Auction

So, for Grace's birthday, I asked who she wanted to help (like Remington was helping Orange County Children's Hospital with his birthday). Without any additional prompting, she immediately said she wanted to help people in Ghana.

I love her heart so much! She knows parts of how hard life was for her, and she wants to make it easier for people who are still there. Trouble is, this is a situation where sending anything but money is actually more difficult and a waste of resources because it costs so much to ship it.

The way that we are going to tie this in is Grace is going to be having an art auction to raise money for Ghana. :-D She has been hard at work making unique, one of a kind, Hello Kitty art. I will be putting these up for bid on ebay, click the link here, the auction will last ten days from this post, with all of the proceeds going to the charities in Ghana. Keep checking back, I will keep adding more till her birthday at the end of October.

Honestly, I am having a hard time deciding which one to give to, so I have linked below the four that I will be deciding between and their donation website in case someone misses out on the artwork, or want to support a charity that directly helps kids currently in Ghana.

Here are some of her pieces she (and Remington) will be selling to raise money to help these kids!

Grains of Sand

Next time you go to the beach, scoop up a handful of dry sand, and just try to hold it in your hands for as long as you can. Whether you hold it tight or loose, those grains slip through your fingers, and you have no way to stop them.

The seconds, minutes, hours, and days of my children's lives are these grains of sand, impossible to hold on to, impossible to slow down, impossible to just keep and treasure.

Thankfully, new moments are always trickling down too, just as hard to keep, but just as precious so as to fill the void, but not replace the void left by all the ones that are past.

The song lyric comes to mind, "You never know what you got until it's gone," and that's where I am at with so many memories of my kids. I miss Remington nursing, his naps on me, his little baby laugh, his baby babble and the amazing journey of seeing him learn how to crawl and walk. I miss Grace's funny games, the way she used to ask questions, and even her "sock game." But at the time, while I enjoyed those moments, I was so blindsided by the sleepless nights, his knack for getting into trouble, Grace's tantrums and trouble at naptime that I don't think I appreciated the good moments as much then as I do now, in hindsight.

If you asked me back then, I wanted them to hurry up and get into sports, hurry up out of diapers, hurry up into sleeping through the night, and I didn't know, couldn't know, how fast the little child time goes. When you are in the thick of it, you can't possibly comprehend how those moments will ever be the moments you look back on, because you are too focused on the dream of a full night's sleep, a potty trained child, and a child who doesn't need a nap.

When you spend all day with your kids, and feel that your patience is completed depleted at the end, you dream of the day that they will be in school. When you see kids playing sports, you dream of the day you can cheer for your child.

People try to tell you, "It goes so fast," but you can't grasp it. It is only when you have moved past a stage that you can look back with the wiser eyes and see and finally understand what people were trying to say, because it truly does go so very fast. You can't get your grains of sand back, so you run to a friend, who has just had their baby, or is expecting their first, and try to warn them, try to tell them to hold on tighter... all the while you know that they can't know, and they can't understand until it is their turn to try to warn another.

I almost wrote that I wish I could go back, but I don't. I don't want them as babies again, because as much as I wish I could hold onto those shining moments more, I also love Remington's stories and Grace's gymnastics feats, his first day of baseball practice, and her style as she carefully picks her outfit every day, among many other things that make them my precious almost 3 and 5 year old instead of my toddlers.

They still love to cuddle up to read a book at the library, and I know the day will come when they don't want or need mom to read to them. They still look forward to our family movie night, and I know the day will come that it will be a rare night that I can convince my teens to be at home with us.

I'm doing better at savoring the moments, soaking them in, and trying to treasure the times that they still show that they are little, because I know it won't last forever, and know that even these stages, like where Remington runs to the pitchers mound instead of home base, or Grace tries to jump rope by literally jumping over the rope and never bringing it over her head... will one day be gone too, and replaced with stories they write, his first home run, her first gymnastics competition, his first goal in a hockey game, or whatever else our future brings. Whatever precious moments will come, I will enjoy, but I will also remember fondly the times that have already passed.

p.s. This is not to say that there are not sour moments in every stage as well. As a matter of fact, even in the middle of this blog post, Grace had one of her rare, but still fierce, tantrums... reminding me again of why I definitely have moments where I look forward to growing out of stages as well.

Recent pictures for you to enjoy these moments as well:

 This is hard to see, but it is Grace straight up climbing a rope! She got that high all by herself!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Levels of Parenting

Parenting is not easy. Even if your child is as easy as they come, there are still countless decisions to be made for them, and things you have to do to care for them that make it more challenging than single or married life without kids.

If you become a parent the traditional way- i.e. you get pregnant and start your family, I would say that is difficulty level one. Plenty of challenges here, even with a calm, obedient child. In this level, there is, of course, a spectrum. On the one side you have those kids, some of whom I have had in my classroom over the years, who are fairly easy to raise. These are the kids who want to please their parents, want to please their teachers, who don't need much discipline, and are practically on autopilot. Let me tell you, you are blessed to have or teach these children.

In the medium of this parenting level one, you have the kids who are not a walk in the park. They have been gifted (and yes, as hard as it is, I believe it is a gift) with a strong independent mind. These kids don't just passively obey, but parents and teachers have to get them on board. They aren't bad kids... they just really have their own ideas on how things should happen, and if their plans and yours don't align, there are problems. I would put Remington in this category.

On the difficult spectrum of level one, and my hearts go out to them, are the kids with behavior problems and the ones with special needs. The ones with behavior problems are worse than just the independent streak because they are the ones who look for trouble, who want to be disobedient, who don't seem to care at all about authority figures. Sadly, I think, many of these kids end up in jail, even with all the best effort of their parents. I pray for parents with these kinds of kids especially, because it must be heartbreaking in addition to challenging.

The parents with special needs (or medical needs) kids born into their family have an uphill battle to get their kids the care they need, and have to face many special problems that most of us will never have to encounter. Depending on the needs their family faces, they might also have to deal with letting go of the things about children that they had anticipated, or hoped for, and come up with a new vision for what they hope they enjoy in their child's future.These parents are in my prayers too, and I am so thankful for all of the aides and special needs teachers who are out there for these kids.

Then there is difficulty level two. Note that I am not saying that everything in this level is more difficult than level one, it is just an added layer of difficulty.  I put adoptive families on level two.

There are challenges that I, and other adoptive parents have to face simply because that is the way I became a parent. There were challenges on the front end, with our house, our parenting, our finances all being scrutinized before we were even allowed to adopt. There was the paperwork and the waiting (so much waiting) and the training we had to go through. The excitement from family members was different, there were questions about our ability to conceive we had to deal with, and so many things about how and when she would come home that we didn't know.

Personally, with our international adoption, there was an element that is completely absent from parents in level one. The time from accepting referral to getting her home, where we knew she was ours, and yet we were not in control of her. We couldn't know if she was getting fed (she wasn't, not enough), if she was learning new skills, if people were loving her, caring for her, picking her up when she cried. Nothing. We had extremely little information about what was happening to her in far away Ghana, and just had to hope and pray that she would be okay until we could bring her home.

When our son was little, we barely let him out of our sight. I never pumped or formula fed him, I was physically there, feeding him, every few hours until he was at the age where he could start eating other food. With our daughter, from ten months old to seventeen months old, we experienced a stress so different than any other stress I've gone through before, and something so hard to describe unless you have been through it. We loved her, passionately and completely. We wanted the best for her, as most parents do, and yet, we could not care for her, or make sure she was cared for.

There is nothing to be done about it now... but when we saw her at just over one year old, she looked fairly healthy. She was crawling, and had some muscles. But when she came home at seventeen months old, she looked malnourished. She was. Her weight at that time, her legs, everything pointed to a little girl who wasn't getting enough to eat. When I think about it, it makes me so sad that I couldn't keep her from those hungry months. There is nothing I could do to make sure she still had food, or I would have done it.

With the time away from parents comes lingering problems, like I posted about recently. Problems worrying about food, and separation from parents that are more and different than the anxiety of a child who has never known otherwise. Your child might get hangry at lunchtime if food is on the slow side... my child starts to cry.

Like the parents in level one, this level is a spectrum of difficulty too. Kids who have been adopted later typically have more problems, and remember, this is on top of the spectrum of level one as well.
Grace has an independent personality as well as the challenges of adoption. Another kid might be adopted, but be a calm obedient child. Another child might be adopted and also be a really challenging kid anyways.

Parents who have adopted kids with special needs are extra special to me, because they usually have knowingly signed on for the challenges that come with special needs. They knew they were going to have a more challenging time with their child, they knew they wouldn't get to do all the typical things, and they picked him or her anyways.

Recently, I have become more aware of level three. Parenting a child of a different race. (This sometimes applies to parents in level one in mixed marriages, and I can't speak for those challenges personally, but I realize they exist).

Parents in level three, like myself, have challenges like level one parents, and level two parents (usually), and then have some special challenges on top of them.

First off, our family story is extremely public. Everywhere we go, everything we do, people know how we built our family. If we had adopted from Russia, it might not be.

With this comes people's questions. As Grace has gotten older, I tend to deflect more of them. I know she is listening, and having strangers ask about her birth mom or why she was abandoned is really not something to discuss in front of her, or with strangers who really don't need to know.

I'll answer the country question, as it is a fact we know and celebrate in our house, but not much past that anymore.

She knows she looks different. I know she wishes she wasn't. She had made a lot of negative comments regarding her skin in the past, which is what sparked us joining an AME church, and even though those comments have subsided, she still will tell us that she wishes she looked like us.

I understand her more than she knows. It is hard to walk around as a poster family for adopting. It is hard that she doesn't have the kind of hair I grew up with learning how to do. It is hard that I walk around in fear of being judged as a bad mother of a dark skinned child. Honestly, it would be easier if she looked like us. Would I trade her for the world? No. But does it take the whole parenting thing to another level? Yes.

This is on my heart because since the day we saw her picture I wanted to be able to do right by her as it came to her hair. One friend figured out we were going to be adopting a girl based off the pins of hair stuff I was finding. I have worked hard to read and learn and do her hair in a way that I hope other people in her community approve of.

Most of the time I thought I was doing okay. Till our church picnic. We ended up sitting with a hairdresser, and after talking about me needing some help with her hair, we have an appointment booked with her. It stung, but I hope her heart was in the right place, and honestly, I had been wanting someone to braid her hair for ease of the school year anyways, and parting has never been easy for me. Fine.

But then as I set up the classroom on Sunday, another church member came to me and talked about how it looked like I could use help with her hair, and she could teach me.

On the one hand, I am glad we are accepted enough at church for them to tell me, and honestly if that is what they see, then it is probably good I am accepting help. But it stung. A lot.

As strange as it sounds, I want to be worthy of our daughter. I want the black community to see our family, and not think that they could be doing better with her.

No parent wants to be judged for their way of raising or caring for their child, nor should they be (in most cases). For adoptive parents, the stakes are higher, and I think for transracial parents it is even more difficult.

We have to deal with all of the problems and challenges of the other two levels, but also try to make sure our child feels accepted both in our culture and theirs. That they look good to both groups, that they can relate to both groups. That somehow, when they are off on their own, they feel comfortable in their own skin, as well as in the family they were given.

Let it be said that I'm not mad or offended at what the two nice church ladies said. They are offering to help, and if the tables were turned, I might as well. It only hurts that I thought I was doing good... and wasn't doing as well as I thought.

My bottom line of this post is that first off, parenting is hard. The difficulty level of your child is also on a spectrum of difficulty. But for some parents, like me (and many others), we face additional challenges that are hard to put into words. Be kind to your fellow parents, we are all trying to raise our kids the best we can.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Summer 2016

I have always loved watching the Olympics, as far as I can remember. There is something really special about rooting for your country instead of a team, and there are so many sports that you typically only see on TV during this time.

Last Olympics, Remington didn't exist yet. It is interesting looking back at this time in our lives as far as Grace is concerned. The day before the Olympics started was the day we got the "waiting child" e-mail that first described little Grace to us. This was the same day that we said we were interested in her, despite her health problems. Then we had to wait (and wait, and wait) to get our official referral.

Officially we weren't referred to Grace until a few weeks after the Olympics were over, but we sure were thinking about her a lot at that time.

Now, four years later, Grace is not only ours, but at home with us, living life, thriving and having fun!
We also had the surprise blessing of Remington who will be turning three next month. Life is so much different, and better, than last time the Olympics time came around.

Next Olympics, my two littles won't be so little. Grace will be turning nine, and Remington 7. Those numbers sounds so big!

I've heard it often said that the days are long, but the years are short, and I can honestly say I totally understand it now. I have days that I can't wait until they end because the kids tantrums and whinings and need for attention have completely drained my patience. Then I think about them turning 3 and 5... and I can't believe it! I read posts by myself back when I was pregnant and it seems so much more recent than 3 years ago!

This summer has been filled with two main things- gymnastics and the beach. The weeks are filled with gymnastics for Grace (and Remington to an extent too). She is doing some gymnastics camps, but she is also taking a class at two different places, and since one of the two locations allows for unlimited classes in summer, I am taking advantage of that. What it works out to is that almost every day my kids are doing some gymnastics.

Remington thinks it is fun, loves the trampoline, and jumping in the pit blocks, but has decided he is done with it in September to start baseball (not even T-ball, a step below that).

Grace thrives on it! The best thing for me is that both locations see her talent and potential. She recently got invited (after waiting forever for it) to the advanced preschool class at one location, and has been doing level 2 for her age group at the other one. Plus, coaches at both locations tell me that she is doing things that they have seven year olds who can't do what she is doing yet.

She has gotten to ring the bell three times so far (they get to ring the bell when they accomplish a new skill)- for a cartwheel, climbing the rope, and for completing the monkey bars without help.

She can do a handstand, and genuinely has to be stopped from just doing gymnastics all day at home too.

When she turns five, we will have to figure out the new plan with her gymnastics, because she will be bumped up to a completely different level- though her being advanced at this age might let her start in advanced at five as well. For now, she loves it, it is good exercise, and seems to come relatively easy for her, so we will allow her to keep following her passion there. 

We have had three beach weekends in a row, and are so thankful for Grace's new medicine that seems to be allowing her to have beach fun without a crisis! Both kids love the beach, and are excited to go.

Remington prefers smashing castles to building them, and Blake freaked Grace out from the water for a bit when he showed her the sand crabs, but they both typically like splashing in the waves, as long as you are close to rescue them if one knocks them down.

Here is a blast of pictures with no captions, since I bet my kids will be up soon.