Verse of the Day

Sunday, November 28, 2010

11 Month Update--- sort of

Eleven months ago, we brought 3 charming, unruly Ethiopian children into our home. Life hasn't been quiet since, although there are certainly times when my mind does go blank... guess that's the only "quiet" I can absolutely count on!

Not too much new to report this month, other than feeling the need to reiterate that adoption, bonding, and discipline is a long, often intense process. Leaving your new kids in that first year, whether it's for work, for a much needed personal break, or for an emergency is going to be more difficult than you might imagine. Even after almost a year, many kids simply don't have the necessary emotional skills to "continue on" when the main caregiver leaves. It's rather like taking a vacation with toddlers: it takes them weeks to get back into a routine, and makes you wonder why in the world you attempted to go on vacation in the first place!

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to California to spend time with my family; my father had emergency cardiac surgery. He is now recovering remarkably well--- Praise the Lord! However, the point I did want to make here is how my absence for 9 days impacted the adopted kids.

My sweet husband attempted to take care of the kids, shuttle them to their various activities, maintain the peace, entertain the children who were not in school, and work from his home office--- all at the same time. He did quite well, bless his heart! (And my darling teenage daughter managed to cook a fair number of family meals.... Oh, and lest I forget, my oldest even managed to do his own laundry! Pretty amazing feat!) But I sure did find some disasters waiting for me upon my return.

First, I found multiple "hidden" messes all around the house. Without the constant chirp of mommy saying "pick up your _________" (fill in the blank), "clean up your own messes", "stop hitting ________ (fill in the blank), etc., I found that the kids really struggled with disorganization, anger management, and hyperactivity again. It took me about 14 days to find and clean up all the disarray... and I'm not a clean freak! Let's just say I need to buy some additional locking cabinets for DVDs, CDs, art supplies, paper, games, etc. Sigh. Lesson learned.

Second, because the new kids were not in school for all the time I was gone, their minds simply checked out. They forgot they aren't supposed to eat on the sofa--- or do front and back flips on the sofa, for that matter. And learning? Two of them forgot a large portion of the alphabet; math suffered considerably, too. They were all back to not being able to focus longer than a few minutes on an assignment. I hope this next coming week will be "normal," after a couple of rough weeks.

Third, while two of the new kids were more affectionate, one withdrew. It took him a few hours of following me around, from room to room, to get comfortable with me again. It took him a few days to really hug me again. During my absence, he repeatedly "forgot" to use the bathroom, brush his teeth, and flush the toilet. Poor guy!

Fourth, sleeping deteriorated. Missing a regular bedtime routine = more meltdowns and less desire to comply with authority. Of course, my sleeping deteriorated, too. Not being with my babies is so hard!

And finally, all the adopted kids took several steps backwards in terms of taking too many liberties. They reverted back to taking care of themselves, and then continued to reject established rules even when "the law" was back in place. My bio kids were rather exasperated with the lack of respect they received, too. I now understand why the big kids and Dear Husband threw me a party upon my return!

Yes, any child can regress when a caregiver is absent. Kids are kids, and they will take full advantage of any number of situations. (What's that saying? "When the cat is away, the mouse will play?" Yeah, something like that.) But I think the issue here is that these kids are 7, 8, and 9--- not toddlers. I may not have to chase after these kids like you would a toddler, but I do have to be constantly and unwaveringly vigilant in areas of discipline. A little slack yields a lot of trouble!

The sweet, good news is that my daughter who has been home just about 3 years now, didn't have too much issues with my being gone. Yes, she missed me, but her behavior didn't get very out of sync. I was very impressed with her level of maturity in this situation.

I suppose the saving grace to this story is that I knew life would be messy upon my return. I'm so happy that I didn't have any expectations of picking up where I left off!

Thank you, Lord, for these exuberant, healthy, crazy kids! And thanks also for the energy you give me to be up to the job!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Festivities

Making Dabo Kolo
Bike riding is still tops for Asher
Who is that young-looking man?
My Photogenic Children
Wild Bunch, Part I
Wild Bunch, Part II

Are You Ready to Lose Now?

Annual Lawn Games, in Honor of Uncle (Crazy) Chris
Mom Takes the Game Very Seriously
T-Man's Fine Throwing Motion
The Calm in the Storm
Go, B., Go!
Oh, Yeah!
D-Man Prefers Rootbeer to Baggo
A. Caught Yet Again Without a Helmet

"What Do you MEAN, we didn't win?" 
Losing Stinks!
Life is Good
Drama Queen is Happy Again

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trick or Treat Photos

D-Man the cat burglar
My Actors
Mr. A., the Good Ninja
My Personality-Plus Movie Stars
A Moment of Calm
Way Too Cute
My Very Own Super Girl
My Handsome Dude
Is That a Snarl?
Miss B. rather enjoyed, "The Prince of Persia" movie...
My Very Own Princess
All Smiles and Poses for the Camera
Super heroes or villains?
Nothin' But Trouble
... more trouble
Sweet Ham

Now, who wants the most attention?
My Sweet Angels 

10 Month Update

Another month has come and gone again. This last month proved to be a relatively challenging and highly rewarding experience.

The Positive (always good to start with that!):
  • Affection: The kids are really quite sweet and loving. I just received a beautiful handmade picture with an "artist's rendering" of me--- I was thrilled to see that the woman was actually happy and smiling! In fact, the drawings of all of the kids show them smiling. Their artwork shows a lot more attention to detail: sunny days, flowers, green grass, smiles, hearts, etc. If daddy is drawn, he has arms extended like a hug; mommy is drawn with hearts for eyes. Very cute and touching. The kids love to give mommy gifts, and it sure lifts my spirits when the day has been difficult. The boys are becoming more genuinely more kind and giving. The older brother is finally starting to treat his brother with some loving kindness; the girls are doing slightly better loving each other... well, at least they don't hit so much.
  • Church: The discipline issues seemed to resolve quickly when the kids "overheard" me talking with the Sunday School teacher. All I had to say was that I considered interrupting the teacher and constantly talking in class to be inappropriate behavior. I then proceeded to write my cell number down so that he could call me to remove the child from class. Horrified at the prospect of getting yanked from class, the kids are now acting appropriately. I make sure to remind my kids every time I leave them off what the consequences of disruptive behavior are; it's worked like a charm! 
  • Soccer and Sports: The kids love soccer and are learning to operate as a team. They are starting to show the coach more respect... thankfully. Our soccer coach also employs the Halvorson push up routine when the team becomes too mouthy. I'm happy that my kids aren't the only ones without self-control! Additionally, the boys are excited just thinking about trying basketball and baseball this year; the girls dream of becoming great runners.
  • Music: The kids are going to have some trial piano lessons soon; they may be ready to start some short lessons! 
  • No More Hitting: This is all pretty much gone, with the exception of what I would consider "normal sibling hitting."
The Difficult:
  • School: While the kids' progress in school is actually wonderful, the challenge of keeping two particular children focused demands constant improvisation on my part. I'm reading lots of new books on children who are "highly distractible." (Please see: for some great information and help). While I'm not through with all the reading, some of the ideas have worked immediately: phonics and sight word flash cards with illustrations integrated into the letter (see:; playing with "silent fidgets" (see:, specifically listening to a story or doing math problems; not insisting anymore on sitting still or even sitting at all (if you can do your math work on your head, more power to you!); acting out stories; incorporating play and movement into everything I can think of. We play more games and use music a lot. If we sit in a circle for a discussion (e.g. morning devotions), we toss a ball around; the only person who can talk is the one holding the ball. This has helped the constant interrupting and talking during lessons. My next project is to make some card board table top dividers--- to make each of the kids a "study carrel." The visual stimulation of working at an open table--- and with everything else in the room-- provides too much opportunity for distraction. What I find surprising is that they actually want to have separate areas to work; they constantly accuse each other of cheating and looking at each other's work. This might also curb the incessant need to be done first or fastest. These children are highly, highly competitive--- to the point of being negative. Their need to be "best" must certainly be due to a lack of self-esteem. 
  • Food: One child remains unbelievably stubborn regarding food. I do insist on "just one bite." I am learning to take the few foods he does like and make other dishes using those primary ingredients. For example, our youngest son loves chicken rice. Then, I introduced a tiny bit of plain chicken mixed in with the rice. Next time, I added some very small and tender green beans and mixed in some berberre. It worked! He still prefers plain chicken rice, but at least now we're adding some more nutrition. The other idea that has helped is that my fussy boy does love to help me in the kitchen. He has successfully made corn bread muffins and had great fun doing it! I am going to have him make some other menu items, hoping this will encourage him to eat his creations. Regardless of some progress, this will be a long term issue... way longer than I once anticipated.
  • Sleep: My oldest boy is doing significantly better with sleep, but his sleep is still not totally consistent. He recently confessed to me that he had a lot of trouble sleeping in Ethiopia, too. We are probably dealing with years of poor "sleep hygiene." Recently, we finished a workbook called,"What to Do When You Dread Your Bed," by Dawn Huebner, Ph.D. ( This wonderful book is meant to be read out loud to your child; it is at your child's level (recommended for ages 6-12). What I liked about this book is that it just draws the child in by having the child color and add himself to the pages of the workbook. Then, it entertains and involves your child by having him do easy "magic" tricks. It's really quite clever. It gives him the tools he needs to fall asleep and stay asleep. Additionally, we still use the baby monitor; he has called out to me on occasion. It gives him extra security knowing mom can hear him and respond immediately. I am going to try some products on for physical, emotional, and cognitive regulation. I'll let you know how it works. 
  • Boundaries? The kids still seem to have some question as who is in charge. I mean they know intellectually that Dad is the head of the household; they know they are supposed to obey me. Yet, they continue to take huge liberties, without even thinking to ask for permission. Say "no" on a bad day, and you better make sure the doors are locked or you at least have your running shoes on! Part of this may be that they see older kids enjoying more freedom, and they naturally assume they can do the same things. But part of it is that they are used to fending for themselves and having no schedule or responsibilities; those attitudes die hard. They also wrestle with lying and pouting, but that is normal in all children.