Friday, December 31, 2010

Basketball

It is with a little sadness and even more excitement that I am able to announce Jacob will be playing basketball for the first time starting Monday. Why sadness? Because I kept hoping that I would have a new job that would prevent me from being off work at 4 PM. The reality is that I haven't gotten a new job offer yet and while I still might, it won't be before the season begins on Monday. So I faced reality today and signed Jacob up for the winter session.

The basketball program is on Monday afternoons at the YMCA. I wish it was at 5:00 or later so those of us who have to work could participate but it's not. They lower the hoop to 8 feet for the 5 and 6 year olds so hopefully Jacob will be able to score some points. Either way I just want him to have fun.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Whew! What A Week!

Life has been absolutely crazy and fun the past week or so. We arrived back from vacation last Tuesday around 2:30 in the afternoon. Our first stop was the dog kennel to pick up our two dogs. The dogs were happy but obviously very tired and ready to just go home and sleep. I never dreamed a kennel could be so exhausting but it must have been. I guess having all kinds of new people, dogs to "talk" to and new play areas tired them out.

We took the dogs home and then I took M to my parents house while Jacob and I went to do a very fast run through the grocery store. We needed just enough food to get us through Christmas which really wasn't much. The grocery store was busy as I expected that close to Christmas.

We left the grocery store and headed to a day care in the neighboring community to pick up a five-year-old friend. Grace's mom needed someone to watch Grace overnight while she took care of some family things. Grace was a delight. She is a little girl who is full of energy and can out last either of my two boys (which really takes a lot). She kept asking if she was being an angel which in her own way she was.

Grace, Jacob and I picked M up and we all went to McDonald's for dinner. Grace hadn't had a chance to see Santa Clause so we headed to the mall after eating and paid Santa a visit. I reminded Jacob and M that Santa had already started their gifts so make sure you don't ask for something different this time. They didn't disappoint and Jacob asked for a garbage truck with yellow garbage can and M asked for a parking garage.

Wednesday Jacob, Grace and I all got up early and played in the house. Jacob and M needed to go to day care for about an hour to finish up their holiday activities and give me a chance to finish up mine. Grace and I worked together to wrap Jacob and M's presents and move all of the gifts from my parents' house to my car. We returned home, made lunch and laid down for an hour. After naps, we finished the day by making Christmas cookies before Grace went home.

M and I spent Wednesday evening shopping for a gift for M to give Jacob. We quickly found a doctor kit that Jacob had been asking for as well as a present for our friend P. I was very tired by this point so we picked Jacob up and all went home for a fairly early bedtime.

Thursday was another busy day but not as bad as Tuesday and Wednesday. Jacob, P, M and I all went to the holiday train and garden show at the local gardens. P really enjoyed looking at the different flowers, Jacob and M really enjoyed the trains and everyone enjoyed some cookies afterwards. We had a holiday lunch of macaroni and cheese at Noodles and Company and gave P her doll. Jacob, M and I were still tired from our vacation and the past two days so we spent time in the afternoon just picking up the house, doing laundry and taking some much needed naps.

Christmas Eve and Day were fun and I will write about them later. For the most part, they were uneventful and just enjoyable.

Sunday the boys and I spent time putting their new toys together and playing. Well, they did most of the playing. I spent most of my time trying to unpack the suitcases and get at least a little closer to finishing the laundry. It is amazing how fast time flies when there are three suitcases to launder, Christmas toys to put together and play with and of course, we all wanted to take a nap. I spent some time relaxing and watching the Packer game while the kids slept so the day wasn't completely lost to work.

Monday Jacob's friend Lana came over while her mom worked. Her mom was kind enough to give up some money to spend so we decided to go to Chuck E Cheese for lunch. Lana is 4 years old and just a delight to be around. She played with the boys while I made breakfast and cleaned up the kitchen. I did a couple chores around the house and then took the kids downtown to get my uniform for work that night. We went to Chuck E Cheese after leaving my office and spent about two hours eating pizza and playing games. All of the kids had a great time and were exhausted by the time we left.

I got home with Lana and the boys and had just started putting laundry away when Lana's mom arrived to take her home. I had to hurry and get ready for a special work assignment that night. I picked up the babysitter and hurried off to work until about 10.

Yesterday was almost as busy as Monday. I took M to day care so he will have enough hours in to meet his funding requirements. I took the opportunity to take Jacob and P bowling. Neither had ever been bowling before and both had a great time. We bowled two games which took us about an hour and a half to finish. Bowling is a much slower game with young children especially when the ball seems to barely be moving as it inches down the lane. Everyone had fun though and we all survived the trip.

Jacob had been waiting since Christmas to go to Toys R Us and get a remote control crane so we stopped there before bowling. As soon as we took P to her house, Jacob and I got to work putting the crane together. It was actually a lot easier to assemble than I anticipated and Jacob had fun playing with it until it was time to get M from day care.

I decided it was time for some adult time and went to dinner and a movie with a friend last night. We saw Little Fockers which was funny and a great way to just relax. I got home around 9:30 and picked up the house for the house cleaner today (still the best money I spend each week). I got to bed around 10:30 and was awakened at 4:40 this morning by an eager M. He wanted to watch cartoons before going back to day care.

Now I am back to work and ready for our normal routine to start. Tonight will be much quieter with me doing laundry and the kids enjoying their new toys. Christmas vacation is over and we are all ready for some normalcy to return.

Friday, December 24, 2010

5 Years Ago Today

It was 5 years ago tonight that I began thinking about adopting my first child. I was sitting in church watching the kids fidget in their seats and the parents trying to keep them quiet. I was quietly wishing that I had children and hoping that I would someday be a mother. Then that little voice in the back of my head started chanting adoption. One thing I have learned over the years is to never ignore that little voice.

I got home from church still thinking about adoption. I really wanted a baby or young child but believed the stereotype that the only child I could adopt as a single woman would be an older child from the US foster care system. Now, I'm not against adopting older kids or from foster care. Quite the opposite. I encourage anyone to consider these children if it is right for you but it wasn't my dream. My dream was my own young child.
I got home and sat down at the computer. I remembered looking at waiting foster children in the past but it had been a couple of years and I didn't remember where I had found them. I began a web search and immediately came across an adoption agency stating they accepted single women. What???? I was shocked and felt a surge of adrenaline. Maybe this really would be possible. Maybe I could be a mother.

I picked up my phone and immediately called a friend. I was expecting her to tell me I was crazy and that I was not ready to be a mom. After all, I was only 28 and still young. That's not what she said though. She said that she had secretly been thinking about the same thing but didn't know where to start or if it was possible.

The rest is history. We agreed to go to an orientation meeting a few weeks later. As is typical for me, I started researching agencies and programs on line and praying for guidance. In January, 2006, I started the process to bring an infant home from Ethiopia. In March, 2007, I finished that journey with a baby boy (17 months at home coming).

Five years ago today I listened to that little voice in the back of my head. I believe it was God calling me to my son. God works in mysterious ways. I urge everyone to be open to hearing His call. We sometimes lack faith and God has to keep nagging us but if you are willing to listen He will show you great things. He showed me my son.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Cookies



Jacob and M had a friend spend the night last night. Actually, we arrived home from vacation and picked her up about two hours later. We went to McDonald's for supper then visited Santa one last time at the mall. We spent this morning playing and wrapping Christmas gifts and then made cookies this afternoon. Grace left tonight right before dinner and the house already seems earily quiet. She was a lot of fun to have over. I forsee more sleepovers in the future.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Vacation Pictures





Children Are A Reminder Of How Fast Time Flies

The boys and I are on day 4 of a 5 day vacation. It has been a nice vacation so far. We have been visiting with cousins we haven't seen in a few years and playing with cousins who we have only met once or twice before. It's great to be so near our family. If I could make the ideal life, I would live closer to my extended family but also live near my parents and brother. That isn't going to happen so I have to settle for just visiting them when I can. Which isn't nearly often enough.

We arrived in Searcy, Arkansas on Friday night and saw my grandmother. She is 91 years old and suffering from the beginning stages of alzhiemers but seemed to really enjoy seeing everyone. She didn't remember my children or recognize me or my brother on site but she did know our names and seemed to remember us when we returned to her apartment on Saturday. It was comforting to walk in and see her in the middle of doing her laundry and seeing how independent she still is. It is never easy watching relatives grow old but I am grateful for this chance to see her. M seemed to enjoy looking at her puzzle and was even close to putting a couple of pieces in. That kid is really gifted at puzzles and spacial things.

We attended my cousin's wedding Saturday night and saw cousins that we only see every few years. We really didn't have much time with them since the reception was very crowded and short but we did have fun seeing them for a little while. I sat looking at their children and was amazed at how old and grown up some of them looked.

Our next stop was in Bentonville, Arkansas to see cousin's from the other side of the family. We were blessed to be able to spend more time with them and really enjoyed just hanging out. We went to a pizza place called Fun City that was very similar to a Chuck E Cheese. We spent almost 2 hours there while the kids ran and played. It was great to give them that opportunity after almost 3 days of being forced to be quiet and not allowed to just run. The kids needed that break. We finished the day by swimming with our cousins at the hotel and then having a nice dinner together at Applebees. The kids were so tired that they fell asleep within 5 minutes of returning to the hotel.

We are now sitting in the hotel room watching TV and waiting for my other cousin to call. We are hoping to spend some time with her this morning before we leave for St. Louis late this afternoon. We will spend one more night swimming and then head home tomorrow. It has been a great vacation but one that was way to short. We will have to come back for another visit soon.

I gaze at my cousin's children and am amazed at how beautiful they are. I am saddened at how fast they grow up and how much of their lives we miss. I really wish we could live closer together and see each other more often but it is not possible. For now, I am just enjoying the time we can spend together.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Play Cancelled

Jacob was disappointed. The Christmas play at church was cancelled today due to a large snowfall. I'm not sure how much we got but it was enough to make driving difficult and cancelled most of the church services for today. We actually skipped church last night for the same reason. I didn't want to get stuck 20 minutes from home if the storm hit during the service. It ended up being the right decision because it started snowing pretty heavily about the time church would have been ending.

I did get to watch Jacob practice for the performance yesterday morning. I was so proud of my little man. He is one of the bigger kids in his Sunday school class and will actually be moving up to the kindergarten class after the holidays (another story but I want to separate him from M). He stood tall on the stage, rocked to the music and sang along with the other kids. Last year he hated performing and I didn't usually force the issue. This year he has more self-confidence and really seems to enjoy it. He works hard and pays close attention to the teachers and directors. I just wish my work schedule didn't get in the way of so many of the children's concerts and performances. Maybe he can perform in the next concert.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Books For Christmas

First it was any book with Thomas The Train or Lightning McQueen. Those were quickly followed by any book that had anything to do with trucks. Now they are fire fighter books, Stinky the Garbage Truck or fun rhyming books. These are the books my kids love to read. They read them to themselves and I read them to them. Their teachers read to them daily and their grandparents read to them when we vist.

My boys have discovered the joy of reading and I am grateful. They often ask me to buy new books in the bookstore and we occassionally go to the library where we sit and read together before taking some books home. That is where we were two nights ago. We read three books at the library, put on a puppet show and picked out two DVDs to take home and watch later. I buy books monthly from the Scholastic order at their day care. Santa and the Easter Bunny bring books when they visit. My kids can already tell you that hard cover books are expensive so if you hope to get me to buy a book make sure it is paperback.

Yet I saw an editorial in the paper about the number of children who are read to on a regular basis in this country. It was shocking and incredibly sad. Over half of all American children are not read to on a regular basis and many children do not even own a book. Reading is the key to a child's educational success. Without reading, all other subjects become even more difficult. Books open up worlds for children and adults to explore together. Full of new words that expand vocabulary and new sounds to hear are stories that inspire the imagination. Not to mention a great way to bond with your children.

The writer was asking everyone with children to wrap a book and leave it on the end of their child's bed Christmas morning. I won't be doing that but my children will be receiving two new books. Santa brings them every year. I hope Santa or another adult brings the children in your lives books this Christmas as well.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Results Are In

Jacob and M picked out their holiday ornaments last night. M got a blue Nascar and Jacob picked out an American flag. Jacob stated he wanted the flag, "so I can honor America this Chirstmas." M got the car because, well, he loves cars and blue is his favorite color.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Family Traditions

Family traditions are a great way to help everyone feel connected and an important member of the family. It gives a chance to spend time together doing something fun and enjoyable that will hopefully last for years to come. While our family doesn't have a lot of traditions we follow during the year due to our ever changing schedules (I work a rotating shift with different days off every week and am attending graduate school). We do have several that are associated with Christmas. Here is a list of our family's traditions. Please feel free to leave a comment with things your family enjoys doing. I am still looking for more holiday activities with my kids.

1) Chocolate advent calendar. Every day (usually in the morning) the kids get to open one door on their advent calendar and find a piece of chocolate. We are counting down the days until Christmas. In case you are curious, we are at 20 days now.

2) Sending holiday cards. Okay. I try really hard to get them out early but it rarely happens. I even sometimes send them after Christmas but I do always send them.

3) A new Christmas ornament. Every year the kids each get to pick out one special Christmas ornament. We haven't bought ours for this year but will this week. I really like this tradition because it gives me a rememberance of what the kids were like and interested in at this time every year. For instance, 2 years ago Jacob discovered the wonder of Santa Claus and picked out a Santa ornament. Last year he was all about Disney Pixar's Cars movie and got a Cars ornament. I will try to remember to tell everyone what the kids pick out this year.

4) Christmas cookies. We are going to alter this one a little this year (I think). We will bake a few extra cookies and take them to neighbors who have been extra kind to us in the past year. This year they will probably go to our neighbors Kris and Sylvia.

5) Christmas lights. We drive through the city Christmas light display every year. I usually take our friend, P, with us. She lives near the light display and it's a fun way to end our evening together.

This year I am also hoping to make popcorn balls with the kids. I'm not sure how well it will turn out. If it turns out well, this may also become a holiday tradition.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Activity Ideas

Anyone got some great ideas to do with young children during the holidays? I have a few ideas but want to think of some others. The kids are both old enough to really enjoy the activities and I would love to do some with P also. Here is the list of possiblities so far:

-Christmas cookies
-Making Grandpa's christmas present (since Grandma reads this blog I'm keeping it a secret for now).
-Train show at the local gardens.
-Setting up the Christmas tree (already done but was fun so I'm including it in the list anyway).


Anyone else got some great ideas? They can be things I can do with just one of the boys or together. Just a reminder in case you aren't a regular follower. The boys are 3 and 5 years old.

Christmas Programs and Santa

It seems really early to me but maybe that is just because life has been beyond crazy the past couple of weeks. The Christmas season is here and the programs have started already. Jacob and M both sang in their preschool program yesterday and were very cute. M sang about the Christmas star and walked around with a flashlight. Jacob was an angel and say An Angel We Have Heard On High. I couldn't fine my camera and didn't want to be late so I snapped a couple of photos with my cellphone. They didn't turn out well so I won't post them here but I figure fuzzy pictures are better than no pictures. It was fun to watch them and compare them to the younger kids. They have grown a lot in the past year.

After the Christmas program, I took the kids and our friend P to the mall to visit Santa. Of course, both boys asked for expensive and large toys and Santa agreed to give them to him (thanks a lot Santa). We went to a Toys R Us outlet store in the mall and the boys decided they would rather have different toys (and less expensive) so we trudged back down to see Santa again. There wasn't a line so I let the boys tell Santa they had changed their minds and now wanted the cheaper toys. I guess we will have to wait and see what Santa is able to bring them. I heard his helper will be working on their gifts next week.

I also went to Kohl's before the school program while the kids were still at day care. The school program didn't start until an hour and a half after I got off work so it was the perfect time to sneak out and do a little shopping. Kohls department store had a great sale yesterday. I had received a $10 off any $10 purchase and a card for an extra 15% off plus they had a great sale in general so I decided to do a little shopping. I have been told that on Genna (Ethiopian Christmas) children whose parents can afford it will get one new outfit that day. I like to try to keep a little Ethioipian culture in our home and this is one easy way to do it. Kohl's sale was a great way to get that outfit out of the way as well as a finding a great deal on a present for Uncle Chuck (which I will keep secret in case he reads this).

So Christmas is finally coming. We put up the Christmas tree on Wednesday, have begun shopping, had the school performance, visited Santa and started our chocolate Advent calendars. It snowed for the first time this year last night and the ground is now a beautiful white. The boys are ready for Christmas and want it to come today. I am not even near ready and believe another three weeks is just fine with me.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Unexpected Day Off

Today has started off a little rough but I am at home watching college football and hoping to see a Wisconsin trip to the rose bowl. I have temporarily become a Penn State fan hoping that they can knock off Michigan State but since this isn't a journal about football I'll just leave it there.

I was woken this morning by the sound of a text message coming in. I knew immediately that text messages at 4:40 could not be good. It wasn't. The babysitter's son is sick and she can't watch my kids. Now for some people that wouldn't be a big deal but in my job it is huge. My parents are out of the country, my brother has already gone home for the weekend and my job does not see a babysitter cancelling as a valid excuse for not going to work. While I understand their point, I also know that someone needs to watch my kids and if my normal sitter and back-ups are not available, I really am not left with much choice. I called work and thankfully was able to sweet talk them into giving me the day off so now I will see what kind of fall out there is when I return.

I took the boys to see a shadow puppetry show at the Overture Center. It was a lot of fun and I actually learned quite a bit. I have never seen shadow puppetry before and it was very interesting. The kids enjoyed it and did really well paying attention. Jacob was disappointed that he wasnt chosen to help with the puppets but that was really the only issue we had.

I am now at home watching football while the kids rest and take naps. We will probably go to church this evening. I have to decide if I am able to take tomorrow off work if I want to write a report at home or go in for a couple hours Monday and get it done. I will probably go in Monday morning so I don't have to try to get all of the information at home. Either way I am concentrating on how blessed I am to have a job to worry about and children to care for. Even if the balancing act seems impossible today.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What We Are Thankful For

It is Thanksgiving. A day to reflect on all of the blessings in our lives. The kids and I talked about what we are most thankful for last night. Here are their answers.

M: Fire trucks, ambulances and police cars.

Jacob: Doctors.

I could list all of the things I am thankful for but the list would be endless. After travelling to countries where people don't have clean drinking water, access to schools and medical care and where 25 percent of children die before their 4th birhday, I don't take anything for granted anymore. I also am much better at prioritizing what is important so here are my top things I am thankful for this year.

1) My 2 beautiful sons. Jacob has been here for 3.5 years now and M has been here for just over 2 years. They brighten my every day and make life worth living. I can't begin to express the joy these two precious children bring to me. They make me laugh and cry and I wouldn't have it any other way.

2) The love of my family and friends. It really is the relationships we build that are most important.

3) Our health. There is not a day that goes by that I don't look at my family and thank God we are all healthy. I know that could change in the blink of an eye and will never take it for granted.

4) Schools and education. We experienced some day care problems and had some not-so-good teachers and day care directors and some absolutely awesome teachers. I am so grateful that we have great teachers right now who love the kids and their jobs and do their best every day. I am also very grateful to live in a country where my children are guaranteed an education and most people can attend college if they choose to (even if they have to take loans or go part-time).

5) Our pets. We lost one cat earlier this year and another one isn't going to live much longer. We will miss both of them but know that they have blessed us while they were here.

6)A healthy and safe home. That includes safe water, house and neighborhood.

7) Enough food to fill us every day and never having to worry about where our next meal will come from.

8) A working van to get us to all the places we want to go.

9) Time with my family. I often don't think I have enough of it but I am grateful for the time we do spend together.

10) Great doctors and medical care. I am so grateful that I life in a country where people come from all over the world to see our doctors and use our hospitals. We may grumble over the cost but we are privileged to be able to do that. So many people in the world don't ever see a doctor and die of preventable illnesses. We are truly blessed to have such great care.

Thanksgiving Cooking Rules By M

I am working today and Uncle Chuck is watching the boys. I reminded M to be good this morning and help Uncle Chuck cook. M replied he would but then followed that with some rules. Here they are:

1) Jacob and I can't put hot things in the oven. We would burn our hands.

2) Only Grandpa, Mom and Uncle Chuck can put things in the oven.

3) Grandma can't use the oven because she might hurt her hands. She's a grown-up but she still can't use the oven.

Grandma and Grandpa are in Egypt and Jordan this week so they aren't going to be cooking. I will make sure Grandma knows the rule about using the oven when she returns. She will be happy to know that she doesn't have to cook.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

DREAM Act Update

According to a radio talk show I heard yesterday, it appears the DREAM Act may be coming up for a vote soon. Let's make sure this passes. Here are the key things to remember about the DREAM Act.

1) The Dream Act will only affect those adults who immigrated here illegally as young children and graduated from US high schools. It is not an automatic pass. They must have attended and graduated high school to get a conditional pass.

2) The applicants for the Dream Act must complete two years of college or military service.

3) They must not be involved in criminal behavior.

4) Immigration currently checks documents very carefully to make sure they are authentic and people receving visas meet the criteria. I have no reason to believe the same won't be true for young adults filing for conditional or permanent residency under the Dream Act. They will need to show high school and college transcripts, be subject to criminal background checks and show evidence that they resided here before they were 16 years old. I don't know the specifics on how residency will need to be proved but my guess is that it will be by school records, medical records or other similar reliable records. Not just someone showing up at immigration and claiming to have lived here for years.

5) These young adults were raised here and speak English. They know the culture and were raised in American communities with American values.

I urge everyone to contact their US Senator or Representative. For those of you in Wisconsin, Sen. Kohl told me he is on the committee that currently has the Senate version of the bill. Let's flood his office with calls urging him to move it to the Senate floor for a vote.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weekend Update

It has been a busy and fun weekend. I was off both Saturday and Sunday which is always a special treat. It means I actually get to spend two full days with my kids and don't have to take anyone to school or day care. I am always grateful for these days and hopeful that I will get more of them soon. Here is a quick review of the major things we did.

Saturday:

-We started the day by just laying around the house and relaxing. The boys woke up around 5:30 which is normal but then watched cartoons until about 8. At 8:30, I made pancakes and started to get everyone ready for the day. Much more relaxing than our normal 45 minute dash for the front door at 6 AM.

- We went to Target with a list of things I was waiting to buy. I cashed out some unused vacation time and had a little extra money on my check. I bought new sleds for the kids (although the temp is suppose to be back up in the 50s next week. This has been a very warm start to the winter). I also bought a DVD player. I bought one last Christmas but it broke shortly after we got it so we have been living without one. I finally decided I better get some gloves and a hat for me since they are predicting light snow at the end of the week. It will be cold for a couple days before it warms up enough to melt so I will have to shovel if we get much. Otherwise I risk icy driveways and stairs. I also got some new markers, paints and coloring pages to try to keep the kids entertained now that it is getting to cold to go outside all the time.

- Jacob and I set up the DVD player while M took his nap. Jacob loved watching the two new DVDs we bought and learning how to use the new player. M slept for about 3 hours. I slept for about an hour and then played solitaire on the computer and just rested.

-Jacob, M, Uncle Chuck and my parents took me out for my birthday dinner. M kept telling me I was getting a police car. He was so convincing my mom mentioned that she hoped he wouldn't be upset when he saw what he really got me. He wasn't and he remembered. I opened the box and pulled out some earrings. He immediately started laughing and told me that was my police car. Funny kid.

Sunday:

-We went to church. Sunday school has been a struggle lately. I am hoping this is a short phase. The boys' teachers are great but they just feed off each other. I bought a cookbook from the mission group. Jacob tried to give it back to the woman. He stated I didn't need it because I already cook well. What a sweetie. I told him I wanted it to get some new ideas. There are a lot of wonderful and easy recipes in it.

- The boys lost their DVD privileges so I rented a movie I wanted to see. It was nice to just sit down and watch TV. I watched the movie while the kids slept.

- Our friends Jasmine, Brooke and Quanda came over. They are teenagers now. I have known them since they were 5 and 7 years old. It was nice to have them over for dinner and catch up on their lives.

- We took a small turkey over to my parents' house to start to thaw in the fridge. My parents are on a trip to Egypt and Jordan so it will be just the kids, me and my brother. It will be fun but we will all miss my parents while they are gone. This is the second time they have been gone for Thanksgiving and we always miss having them there. Right now I am scheduled to work and my brother will be watching the kids. I am hoping that changes and I can get off work but it probably isn't likely.

-M and I are having our monthly meeting with the social worker tomorrow. Jacob has 4K and I have to take the dog to the vet in the afternoon. Then we are off to Appleton so I can go to class. We are officially back to our crazy and busy schedule tomorrow. It was nice to have the past two days off to just relax, clean and do laundry and just spend time together.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

College Student President

Click the below link to read about Pedro Ramirez. Pedro is the student body president at Fresno State University but also an undocumented immigrant. He was brought to the United States when he was three years old. Think of all of the 3 year olds in our lives. Pedro was not told he was undocumented until he was a teenager. He grew up speaking English, attending US schools and following the American dream. He now must deal with the reality that he is here illegaly and his chances of following his dreams are greatly reduced. Read the article. Then contact your representative in Congress.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/11/18/california.student.immigration/index.html

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gosselin Kids

The breaking news in the entertainment world seems to be Prince William's upcoming wedding and two of the Gosselin kids being expelled from school. While I have absolutely no interest in the royal wedding, I do see some common themes in the Gosselin kids and the average family. Here are some of the important things I think we need to take out of this latest episode.

1) These are kids. They will sometimes act out and may now be acting out as a result of the recent stress and turmoil in their young lives.

2) We don't really know what kind of parenting is going on so we can't judge. We really shouldn't judge even if we did have all the facts but without actually witnessing what goes on when the press isn't around is just unfair.

3) The kids attended a private school. Now, some people will see this as not an important fact. I will say that it is. Private schools can and often are much more selective about who accept and who they dismiss. That needs to be considered when looking at the school's reaction to the kids' behaviors. They may be a very tolerant school but they may also have very strict behavior policies and may kick out many kids every year.

4) Kids are still learning, growing and developing. They may not have the skills necessary to navigate difficult social encounters or to handle strong emotions like adults would like.

5) Schools have confidentiality rules and laws for a reason. Kids privacy needs to be protected. The entire world doesn't need to know the details of what happened. The school, parents and service providers need to help the kids learn but the rest of us don't need to know the details.

I won't get into my personal feelings about how the children are being raised or the choices that their parents make. I will say that I am pleased Kate is choosing not to speak to the media about her children's problems at school and only wish the media would stay out of it. Many of our children will get in trouble at some point in time as they grow. The entire world doesn't need to know about it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Quiet Moments Are Not Always Good

I was busy in the kitchen cooking supper. Jacob and M were only slighlty more hyper than normal which meant I was sure they were slightly more inclined to get in trouble than normal. I was cutting potatoes and onions while listening to their giggles and occassional argument. I was trying to remember that they will never learn to solve their disputes if I intervene every time I hear an injustice or the start of an argument. I was begininning to wonder how much damage they would cause before bed and how long I would have to clean. I was thinking about how grateful I was to be at home with them.

Then it got quiet. I heard Jacob quietly state, "M come over here quick. Before Mom comes in." Then all I heard was whispering and stifeled giggles. My mom radar was up and I knew nothing good could come of this. Yet I was in the middle of mixing a sauce for our casserole and didn't want to leave. So I just yelled into the other room.

Me: Are you guys doing something that is going to make me mad if I come in there?
Jacob: Yes.
Me: Then you need to stop.
Jacob: Quick pull Wusha (our dog). See if our leash will work.
Me: Let the dog go and leave him alone.
Jacob: (Giggles) We aren't doing anything.

Ah, young boys. I love their creativity and sense of adventure. I even love when they get quiet leaving me to wonder what they could be up to now.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

HOPE

Hope. It is such a powerful word. I received a phone call last week that gave me hope for our future. As many people know, I applied for a new job last July. I made the initial cuts and was told I was at the top of the list. They filled one position and told me more positions would be coming once the budget was passed. Well, that is where I slowly began to lose hope. There was talk of layoffs and position freezes. It looked like I would have to wait until at least the spring. Then the budget passed, positions were put back in and it appeared there would be permission to begin hiring again soon.

Hope. I had it once again. The phone rang last Thursday and I spoke to some sources within the organization. I have an interview scheduled and there are rumors that more positions will be opening. I now have hope that my days of working almost every weekend and holiday will be coming to an end. Maybe, just maybe, this Thanksgiving will be the last one I spend at work. I have hope.

My hope for a job that meets my family's needs better has led me to think about how important hope is. Imagine all of the times we hope for things. Sometimes those dreams come true and sometimes they don't but we continue to hope. I think about all the hopes I have for my children. I hope they stay healthy and grow up to be happy. I hope they do well in school and can attend a college or university. I hope they realize whatever dreams they have. Whether it be Jacob's dream of becoming "a doctor who takes babies out of mommies tummies" or M's dream of becoming "a police officer and fire fighter."

My children and I are lucky. We are able to hope. With hope comes motivation to work hard and permission to dream. My hope of a career change inspires me to attend graduate school even when I would rather watch TV. My children's hope inspires me to pay for good child care and preschool and be involved in their education. My hope inspires me to pray and ask God to help us realize our dreams.

Not all children are able to hope and dream like my children. Teenagers who were brought to the US as young children illegally are now undocumented immigrants. They are old enough to realize that their hope of attending college and having the career of their dreams is not possible if they cannot get financial aid or are deported. The DREAM Act would make their hopes and dreams possible. It would give them a reason to be motivated even when school and life get tough. A reason to dream and a reason to hope. Contact your US Senator or Representative today and ask them to support the DREAM Act.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I'm Not Tired!

I'm not tired! That's what Jacob told me 15 minutes before I found him in the toy box.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Big Boy Toys

Jacob has suddenly started to grow up at an amazing speed. I don't know what happened. It seems like just last month I was carefully deciding which Little People toy to buy him. Now he has begun putting Legos together and is currently leaving preschool toys and getting into toys for older children. It warms my heart but I also miss the little boy he once was.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Laser Treatment

People often ask me how many laser treatments Jacob has had and how many he has to go. The answer I have is not really what they are looking for. The truth is that I lost track of treatments awhile ago but I think we just finished treatment number 18 or close to it. Jacob received his first treatment shortly after he arrived home in 2007. He has been going about once every two months since then. He will continue to go as long as the doctor believes she is able to make progress and the treatments are working. I have no idea how many that will be but I am guessing it could be a couple more years.

Jacob did great as usual. For those of you who don't know, Jacob was born with a port wine stain on his face. It is a reddish birth mark that is near his right eye. Without treatment, the birth mark would likely get darker as he gets older. It also seems to affect his eye making it appear red. The pink and red in his eye has really decreased since he began receiving treatments. It has been a long time since someone pulled their child away from him and asked if he had pink eye. Now I only have people ask when he is sick or he is upset and his blood pressure rises.

The birth mark itself has also faded with treatments. The birth mark under his eye has pretty much disappeared and the lower part of the birth mark has faded greatly. The upper part is still more visible although it is fading slowly. The doctor was very happy with the progress she saw and she was able to use a much more powerful laser today which should have some good results.

Jacob is a trooper. He claims he isn't even nervous before a treatment but I'm not sure I completely believe him. He loves the nurses and doctors and will walk to the surgery center with them. He holds the mask to his face and lies down quietly until he falls asleep. He is only asleep for about 20 minutes total and they really don't sedate him very deeply. Just enough for him to sleep through the treatment.

I was reminded again today how grateful I am that we have such wonderful doctors and medical care in this country. I am also very grateful that he is healthy and only have to go to the surgery center for minor procedures and nothing life threatening. When I adopted Jacob, I knew there was a small chance he could have a very serious illness called Sturge Weber Syndrome. Thankfully, he does not have it and we are only treating a birth mark. Yet I always remember that I could have been taking him for something much more serious and so I say a prayer of gratitude.

Monday, November 8, 2010

National Adoption Month

It is national adoption month. A year ago I was silently hoping that I would be able to announce a new addition to our family but it isn't going to happen. Or at least not this month. So instead of intrudicing my son to the world (which I am hoping will happen by this time next year), I will try to answer some question and misperceptions that I hear on a regular basis.

1) Yes. My children are real brothers. If you ever doubt that, just watch them interact. The older loves to get the younger in trouble and the younger wants to do everything the older one does. I am becoming an expert at sibling rivalry. I just wish I was better at dealing with it.

2) A child can have more than two real parents at a time. Everyone thinks of parents as one mom and one dad. The truth is both of my children have two real moms. The moms who gave birth to them and me. We all love these little boys, are about them and pray for them. I am the mother spending every day with them and caring for them but that doesn't mean their first moms don't love them any less. I have told foster and birth parents that children can have more than one mom at at time and it doesn't change the relationship with either of them.

3) You do not have to be biologically related to be family. This kind of goes back to the first two. We are a real family and just as valuable and unique as any other family.

4) Not all adults who choose to adopt dealt with infertility. While it is true that some adults adopt after dealing with fertility problems, not all of them do. I chose to adopt without ever trying to have a child biologically. Adoption was right for me and it is right for a lot of famiiles.

5) God didn't plan for my children's birth families to be unable to care for them. He just matched us up when their families couldn't care for them. I don't know why some parents are better able to care for their children than others. It's not my job to question it. I just know that God sent my children to me to be my children and that it was a match made in heaven.

6) As my 3 year old said yesterday, you can't choose who your family is. Only God gets to decide that. I didn't "choose" my children. God led me to my children. I just followed his calling.

7) Not all foster children, internationally adopted or children adopted at older ages have serious behavioral challenges. Yes, abuse and neglect and institutional care can cause children to develop behavior problems but the extent and duration of those problems vary from one child to another. Many do not qualify as having behavorial distrubances or mental illnesss. They are just children who have learned certain behaviors as survival skills. As time goes on, they learn new behaviors and can let the old ones that cause problems in their safe homes go away. Most of these kids are just kids and most will never have a "diagnosis."

8) Adoption is not for everyone. While I would love for all children seeking new families to be able to find them, I realize that adoption is not for everyone. While I do truly believe that our children quickly become just our kids no matter how they come to us, some people can never be comfortable knowing a child has another family out there. Other people are unable to get past their own issues regarding race and diversity to parent a child who does not look like them. That is okay. I know that as much as I wish I could eradicate the world of racism and discrimination, I can't. I just ask those people to keep their opinions to themselves and not adopt or foster children who do not look like them.

9) Many children need loving homes. Being a foster parent means parenting for and with another parent while waiting for the courts to decide if the child will be returned. Most children are reunited with their families which is wonderful. For those children who can't go home, they often find new families with their foster families. To be a foster parent you just need to be willing to love a child unconditionally for however long they are with you and be willing to work with and accept the birth family. It's not an easy job but it is very rewarding.

10) Our family is just like every other family 99% of the time. We have our good days and our bad days. We have people who love us and support us. We turn to our friends and family when we need help and we love each other unconditionally. We wake up in the morning, have the same mad dash out the door every other family has and miss each other while we attend work and school. We gather together for an evening meal, are busy with sports, swimming, church and other activities and end the day with a bedtime story and lots of hugs and kisses. Just like any other family. We came together through many miracles and are a family just like any other.

I once saw a quote that went something like this. Child birth is an act of nature. Adoption is an act of God.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Miniature Golf

I took Jacob and our friend, P, miniature golfing last night. I was bummed when I realized I forgot my camera and my cell phone so there are no picutres. Neither of the kids had ever been miniature golfing or had a clue what to do. I think that actually made it more fun. No one was a lot more skilled even though the Jacob is 5 and P is 9.

We got our balls and clubs and I spent a moment teaching the kids the rules of the game. I then showed them each how to stand and hold the golf club so that they could putt the ball. Of course Jacob immediately lifted his club up like he was hitting a long drive and sent the ball sailing through the air (not bad for never hitting a ball before but bad for miniature golf). Jacob went off chasing his ball that was now bouncing all over the course and I got P started. The kids forgot the whole taking turns thing and just started hitting the ball until they finally got it in the hole.

I moved us to hole 2 and reminded the kids that we were taking turns and to putt the ball not hit it as hard as they could. I showed Jacob (again) how to hit the ball as a putt and the importance of not hitting it too hard. He nodded his head and the kids were off again. Not taking turns but having fun putting and not hitting drives.

We moved on to the third whole and I again tried to teach the kids about waiting for your turn and scoring. Again they just got too excited. I realized that I was the only one counting putts or even caring what the score was so I put the score card away and decided it was time to just have fun. I still tried to get the kids to take turns somewhat so that they wouldn't run into each other but I wasn't really strict. As long as they weren't right on top of each other, I let them just have fun.

We played about half the course and then got to the remote controlled boats. This was the end of golfing for us. It was a lot of fun to try to steer the big boats around the water. P and I kept getting our boats stuck but Jacob was a pro. He was able to get his boat to go where ever he wanted and even backed it into the "piers."

We finished the night with muffins, cookies and slushies. I am so grateful Jacob's friend, Lela, gave him the gift certificate for his birthday. We probably wouldn't have gone otherwise and the kids had a great time.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Give Thanks. Give Hope.

I am having trouble getting the link for the St. Jude's walk to work on here. Please read my previous post and then sponsor us if you are able. My children and I will be walking together November 20. You may need to copy and paste the address into your browser.

https://waystohelp.stjude.org/sjVPortal/public/displayUserPage.do?userId=573118&programId=601&eventId=110419




Thankful For Healthy Kids and St. Jude's

I am reminded every two to three months how lucky I am to have healthy children. Every two to three months is when Jacob goes to the Madison Surgery Center to have a laser treatment to his port wine stain (birth mark). Jacob and I arrive about 45 minutes to prepare. We spend most of that time playing and teasing the nurses that walk by the room. After the nurses, doctor and anesthesiologist finish their visits with us, it is time for me to say good bye. I usually have to remind Jacob that he has to give me a hug and kiss before he leaves. He takes the nurses hand and with a brave smile begins the walk down the hallway to the operating room. He normally doesn't even look back but I can't stop watching him until he goes through the doors. The nurses tell me he gets to the room, picks out his toy and then climbs on the table. He takes the gas mask from the nurse and holds it to his nose, breathing in the root beer flavored gas until he falls asleep.

Jacob has become a pro at anesthesia and surgery. I always have a mix of emotions. Proud that he is so brave and goes back so nicely but also sad. You see, he may not worry but I worry every time he goes back there. What if this is the time something bad happens?

As I wait for the pager to buzz signaling that the doctor is ready to see me and the procedure is finished, I think. I think about how lucky I am that my son is there for a non-life threatening illness. I think about the parents who have to watch their children go down similar hallways and not know if their child will come back out. I think about those parents praying that their child's procedure will not just help with a birthmark but will save their child's life. And so I pray for those children and those families while I wait for my child.

On Saturday November 20, 2010, I will be walking with many other people to support St. Jude's Research Hospital. It is a hospital dedicated to treating childhood cancer and other life threatening illnesses. Research is expensive and many of the children they treat are praying for miracles. St. Jude's doesn't turn children away because they lack insurance or the ability to pay. They treat the child and work towards finding cures. It's just what they do. Every day miracles and they need our help to continue the fight.

I invite you to visit my page on the St. Jude's website. The link is below. You can provide a secure donation on-line. My children and I will be walking to say thanks for the healthy children in our lives and to say thanks for many miracles God provides through the doctors, nurses and staff at St. Jude's. Won't you say thanks with us by sponsoring us?

Here is the link:
https://waystohelp.stjude.org/sjVPortal/public/displayUserPage.do?userId=573118&programId=601&eventId=110419



Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gross But Lucky

I walked downstairs yesterday to find my sewer drain had backed up again. This tends to happen about every two years. This year seemed to be a little earlier and I admit I was suppose to have preventative maintenance done last summer but forgot. As I walked downstairs, I silently hoped that I wouldn't find my carpets soaked or my boxes ruined. I was pleasently surprised to find that only one box of books (that should have been thrown away a long time ago) was ruined and the carpet was still dry.

I woke up early this morning and called the rooter company. They agreed to come out this morning so I took the boys to day care and began cleaning the mess in the basement. I had laundry on the floor that had gotten a little wet and of course there was dirt and debris that needed to be cleaned. The odor wasn't pleasant so I found a new air freshner and began cleaning up the floor. The worst to clean was the wet cat litter that had been kicked out of the litter box before the flood hit. In all it only took about 45 minutes to clean which is far better than last time. Two years ago I didn't find the mess until I had given two baths to the boys, started the dishwasher and was running the washing machine. I went downstairs to move the wash when I found water everywhere. That year it did hit the carpet as well as most of the boxes on the floor and a variety of other things. That mess took several hours to clean (mostly drying carpets and shampooing them). This year I was lucky. Next time maybe I will remember to call for preventive maintenance and avoid the whole thing.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bouncing

I went on a field trip to a local bouncing facility with inflatibles. It was a blast. All of the kids had a great time and I spent a lot of time jumping and chasing small children. I am definitely not use to bouncing and running like that and can already feel my muscles tightening. I am going to be sore tomorrow and it will be worth it. The kids and I had a great time. I didn't take my camera but we all left happy and very tired. They boys stayed at school for lunch and naps. I stopped and voted and then went home for a 2 hour nap. It really was a great day.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Day Of Surprises

Life at our house has been crazy lately but thankfully the trees in our yard have been cooperating. Or at least until the wind storms last week. The leaves all came off and my hard was covered. I planned to spend a day raking and mulching this week.

Yesterday I came home from church to find the leaves in my yard gone and two large piles by the street. My first thought was that my dad had come over but he normally mulches and I had seen him at 10. He had mentioned going to the Y to workout and nothing about working at my house or his. Then I noticed that the neighbors yard was also freshly raked. I asked her if she had noticed who raked my yard but all she would say was that it was the "leaf fairy." Well, I still wasn't one hundred percent sure it was her so I asked the neighbor across the street. She confirmed that my next door neighbor was the "leaf fairy." I guess I will be repaying her by snow blowing her drivway later this winter. Of course I'll call it the "snow fairy."

Jacob and M were also in for a special treat. They had soccer games early yesterday and I was in a rush to get their gear and get to the game after lunch. As we were racing to the car, our neighbor, Maxine, came outside. She stated she had a treat for the kids and to wait a minute. She returned a minute later with a card for each of the boys. Inside the card were $2 bills. My kids happily told Grandpa that they got "dollars" for Halloween.

Overall Halloween went well. M didn't really like trick-or-treating. He was tired and cold and only wanted to go to a couple of houses. Jacob and I went to about 12 houses total. I was willing to keep going but he was ready to go help handout candy. His friend from school stopped by and the kids had fun seeing each other and learning that we all live pretty close to each other. We still have plenty of candy from trick-or-treating at the zoo and now have a little variety to go with it.

Overall, it was a very good day and Halloween. I am looking forward to all of the activities this month and next. Halloween is just the start of fun things to come.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

3 Days To Go

3 day to go until election day! Make sure you vote! Think about the issues and the past history. Not just the past two years but the past 10 years. As a society we are very quick to blame people in need of help rather than look at our responsibilty as a society to help each other out. We have very short-term memories and fail to see beyond today. We like to blame victims rather than look at the problems within the system. Sometimes it is easier to believe that we are all secure and nothing bad will ever happen but the truth is life can change in an instant.

How would the candidate you support react to people who find themselves in poverty because of unexpected illness or job loss or just because they are going to school and struggling to pay tuition and their bills? Would he/she see it as his/her own responsibility and have little compassion or would they be willing to support policies and programs to help the person get back on his/her feet and move forward. If the candidate you support cannot seem to answer questions honestly or only thinks about big buisness interests and millionaires but not about the middle class or how to help people struggling today, think twice about your vote. I know who I am voting for and I trust my readers will think beyond the rhetoric and make the right choice. For those of you in Wisconsin, I stronly urge you to think twice before voting for a millionaire who doesn't even know what it is like to work on the line in his own factory much less be willing to discuss his plans for once he is elected.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Glasses Update

After only 24 hours with his glasses, Jacob is still doing great. His teacher said he wore them all day yesterday without any complaints. He is allowed to take them off when he goes outside or plays sports so I told him he must give them to his teacher at that time. Jacob's teacher reported that he was careful to put them in his case at recess and wanted to put them in his case at nap but the case wasn't in the room at that time. She convinced him that I would not be mad if he just left them on the counter where they would be safe. His teacher also stated that Jacob cleaned them often throughout the day. She even had to tell him to stop cleaning them at one point so that he could finish his work. Apparently, he likes them very clean.

Today is day 2 and I am sure some of the newness is beginning to wear off. I am still proud that he is being very careful with them and making sure he doesn't just set them on the ground and walk away. He seems to like them for the most part. His eyes are still adjusting so he finds them watering or itching from time to time but the doctor states that is normal. His left eye needs to learn to relax as his right eye begins to work harder again. It should feel more normal to him in the next few days.

Half Over

It is official. The school semester is half over. After going to school full-time, working full-time, and completing an internship, this semester is far less stressful. The problem is that since it's not as stressful, I am having trouble staying motivated to do the work. I don't have to work constantly to keep up so I find myself stalling and thinking I'll just do it later. Instead, I am sitting in my room the night before a major assignment is due trying to pound it out and still have it an A.

Even with my lack of motivation, I am really glad I chose to go part-time this year. I get to see my kids more and even have somewhat of a social life. I didn't want to really go out with friends and without my kids last year since I had so little free time. This year I am really enjoying hiring a sitter and going out occassionally. Who knows? Maybe I'll even start dating again. What I do know is that I am a much better mom when I have time with my kids but also have time to hire a sitter and just soicalize with other adults (and no kids) occassionally.

This school year has been going much better than last and hopefully will continue to go well. Going part-time pushed my graduation back a year to August, 2012 but that is fine. After all, it is only one more year.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jacob's New Glasses



Jacob got his first pair of glasses today! There is another pair on order. Doesn't he look handsome?

Good Jacob's In California

Jacob has been an incredibly easy kid to parent. But like all kids, he has his challenging days. After a couple of more challenging days I had the following conversation with him.

M: Do you know where my good Jacob went?

J: He's in California.

M: What's he doing in California?

J: He's visiting his grandma.

M: I thought his grandma lived here?

J: No. She moved to California. He took a plane there.

M: Well, I hope he comes back soon. I miss him.

J: He won't. He's on a jet place but it's a really slow plane. He won't be back until after Christmas maybe next summer.

M: That's too bad. I really miss him.

All I Want For Christmas

Jacob and I were watching TV the other night when an add for a toy came on. I asked Jacob what he wants Santa to bring him this year. He stated, "Something for Ms. Jessie." I asked him if he wanted something for himself. He stated, "No. Just something for Ms. Jessie." That teacher has quite the spell on my kid. I love it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween Has Begun

Halloween 2010 has begun. We attended a party at the YMCA on Friday evening and then went trick-or-treating at the zoo today. It was raining pretty hard this morning and we got to the zoo as soon as the radar screen showed the rain had moved out of the area. It was clear that the crowds would not be quite as big this year though so some of the tents were handing out full handfuls of candy. At the end, Jacob handed me his bag complaining it was too heavy to carry. I carried his and M's and admit my arm was tired by the time we got to the car. Jacob also won Most Realistic Costume award Friday night. You be the judge. He's a pilot.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

So Alike We Must Be Related

I am off moved when I think about how much Jacob fits into our family. Granted he has been home for 3.5 years but the similarities between us are uncanny. So many traits that even a doctor mentioned he knows it can't all be enviornmental. Here are some of the ways we are alike:

- Bad teeth. I realize some of Jacob's cavities are from prenatal malnutrition but the overbite and braces in his future? I had some type of device from age 9 to 19. Jacob goes to the same dentist I did as a kid. About six months ago Dr. W stated he can definitely see my genetics in Jacob's teeth. I politely reminded him that Jacob was adopted.
- Bad eyes. I have had glasses or contacts since 4th grade. Jacob is a little ahead of me but getting his first pair sometime next week.
- Love of baseball. Okay. This one may be enviornmental :)
- Size. My mom noticed that at 2.5 years old, Jacob was the exact same height and weight my brother and I were at that age. 2 years later and he gets the same "petite" comments I remember getting. My brother is now 5'9" and I am 5'6" so Jacob will probably be somewhere in there also.
- Personality. People commented at the guest house in Ethiopia that my son was sarcastic and liked to tease. That was just a day after meeting him. He had only been with me for about 3 hours total so I had little influence on that one. His nannies said they would miss his smile. The one he gave whenever he was doing something he knew he shouldn't. He already had the S sense of humor and he was only 17 months. My mom groaned right there.
- Jacob and I both love pink but will settle for red when pink isn't available. For both of us, the more light pink the better. Only I try to convince people it is salmon :)
- Jacob's birthday is 2 days after my grandmother's.
-Jacob acts so much like my brother did at that age and is so similar that I catch myself and my dad calling him Chuck. Of course, I also call him M but that's just because I don't always look to see who I am yelling at :)

I know these similarities are more than just enviornmental. I also know that the similarities are only part of what makes him my son. I don't share all of these traits with M but he is also my son. It is the bond and love that makes us a family. I just really enjoy finding more ways we are alike all the time. And I do have similarities with M but they are definitely more enviornmental than anything else.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Did You Know...

- 5000 children a year are expelled in the US from state-financed preschools every year.
- Some for-profit schools eject children at twice the rate as public preschools
- There are almost 3 times as many children expelled from day cares and preschools each year as from elementary, middle and high schools

These statistics were all taken from USA Today articles and speak of the very scary reality that our children are suffering in our day cares. We need day care and preschool teachers who are trained in understanding child development, recognizing potential problem behaviors early, dealing with children's behaviors and understanding that positive reinforcement is always better than negative reinforcement. It should not be so easy for day cares to expel children just because they don't fit the norm or are more difficult to deal with than other children (but not violent). My children are lucky in that their current classroom teachers are very good but so many children are not that lucky.

Reference:
Della Cava, M. (2005, Sept. 21). Out-of-line preschoolers face expulsion. USA Today.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fearing The Worst...

Jacob has a port wine stain on his face. One of the side effects from it is that he is at an increased risk of glaucoma. Every 6-12 months we see a pediatric eye specialist to make sure his pressures are normal and there are no signs of nerve damage. As Jacob has gotten older, the risks of major problems from the port wine stain and the risk of glaucoma have gotten smaller. To the point that while he still needs to be checked regularly, the chances are very slim he will develop it.

We got to the clinic early and I was expecting a normal exam. Then I noticed Jacob was having trouble seeing some of the letters on the eye chart and only wanted to use one eye. The tech took his readings and began asking questions about the last time he had his pressures checked and if we had them checked under anesthesia. I began thinking about Jacob's eye watering lately when he entered certain department stores and just assumed it was an allergy. But was it really? I began to get nervous. The tech told us to go to the game room and play for about 40 minutes while the drops dilated his eyes. Then we would see Dr. G.

True to their words, almost exactly 40 minutes later we were taken to an exam room. We were told to wait there and Dr. G and his student would be in soon. A few minutes later, I heard Dr. G. talking in the hallway. I heard him explaining what a port wine stain is and the things they are watching for. He began talking about glaucoma, nerve damage and pressure readings. Now I was really getting nervous. Was he just teaching (like I have heard him do before) or was there really a problem. I love going to the university system for medical care because I learn a lot listening to the doctors talk to students but sometimes it is a little scary.

Dr. G introduced his student and stated he was a little concerned about what the tech had seen when he checked Jacob earlier that morning. Uh, oh. Now the warning bells are beginning to sound. I say a little prayer and then ask the doctor if he would be willing to recheck Jacob's pressures. I had remembered him telling me a couple years ago that if Jacob was crying or upset it could artificially raise the pressures. Jacob had been resisting the pressure reading and was scared so maybe that was the cause.

Dr. G looked at me surprised and stated, "Why? His pressures are perfect?" Now it was my turn to look confused and surprised. Dr. G explained that 15 is average but anything between 10 and 21 is normal. Jacob was 14 in one eye and 15 in another. I let out a little sigh but was still concerned. So what are you worried about?

Dr. G began explaining that Jacob is slightly nearsighted in one eye and slightly farsighted in the other resulting in him learning to only use one eye. Oh, that. Yeah, I noticed he didn't like using his right eye on the eye test. Dr. G stated if both eyes were the same, he wouldn't consider glasses because technically he sees well enough. He is just concerned that only using one eye may lead to further problems down the road.

Dr. G begins explaining how glasses aren't all that bad, he only has to use them for certain activities but he can wear them all the time, etc. He tells me not to worry that it is not related to a very scary medical diagnosis of Struge Weber and that my baby will be fine. I'm only half listening to all of this. I can't get over the relief that it is only glasses, he may not need them forever and mostly- he doesn't have glaucoma! I make him tell me again that he doesn't have glaucoma. Dr. G smiles, tells me not to worry and states only a very small number of children without Sturge Weber (which he assures me again Jacob does not and will not have) develop glaucoma after age 4. Jacob is 5 now. This is one relieved and happy mama. Oh, and I found a good deal on 2 pairs of glasses. He will get them next week.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Time To Exercise

So I have decided it is time that I start trying to find time to exercise. This is a very difficult feat. The kids and I always have somewhere to go and on nights where it is quiet I am trying to catch up on homework. I have been watching my kids swim the past few weeks and there is a lap lane that usually has plenty of room for another swimmer. I think it is time that I become that swimmer.

My only question is whether I should swim while the boys do or before. I could swim before their lessons and let them play in the child watch area. They enjoy spending time in there. I could also swim while they have lessons which would require less time but also could be a distraction to the kids. I am thinking that the boys would get tired of watching me after a couple minutes since swimming by themselves is far more exciting but it is still a concern.

They have a lesson tonight and I am trying to decide what to do. I still have a few hours to decide and if whatever I try doesn't seem to work, I can always do something different next week. One of the nice thing about having both boys in lessons at the same time is that I have 30 minutes to myself to swim, relax or maybe even lift weights.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Is The Dream Act Amnesty?

Many people are against amnesty for undocumented immigrants. I'm not really sure how I feel about amnesty for those already living in this country who are law abiding. Especially for those who have found a way to make a postive impact on their communities. Adults who choose to travel to America illegally and undocumented place their lives and their family's lives in jeopardy. It is a dangerous journey and one that has no guarantees. There are people who spend many years waiting for the chance to move the America legally and providing amnesty allows people to jump ahead in line. Yet, undocumented adult immigrants made the journey because they saw it as their best hope. Faced with a life of struggle to eat and meet basic needs, they chase the same American dream American children are taught in schools every day. The debate on amnesty will continue long after immigration reform is accomplished yet I would argue that The Dream Act is not amnesty.

Some people may wonder how giving a free residency card and potentially citizenship to undocumented immigrants under The Dream Act is not amnesty. While it is true that it has some of the same characteristics as amnesty, it is not a free pass to citizenship or permanent legal residency. Let me explain why I don't consider it amnesty.

- Amnesty is basically forgiveness for people who knowlingly broke the law. People who would benefit from The Dream Act were children when they entered the United States and were not able to decide for themselves where they wanted to live. They were not old enough to fully understand the consequences of their actions and many did not have the ability to decide but merely followed their parents' instructions.

- It's not a free handout. In order for a person to qualify for The Dream Act they must graduate from a US high school. They must then serve 2 years in our military serving our country or complete 2 years of college. This is a lot of service and definitely not free.

- It's not open to just any undocumented immigrant. Even if the person entered as a minor and graduate high school, it's still not guaranteed that they will be able to become documented. They must be of good character. Basically, they cannot commit crimes and must show that they are a benefit to society and not a drain on society.

The Dream Act isn't about granting amnest to undocumented immigrants. It's about giving hope to a generation of children who did not choose to be undocumented but are forced to live with the effects. It's about giving children an incentive to graduate from high school and succeed in college or the military so they can support themselves and their families without struggling at minimum wage (or below minimum wage) jobs who will pay cash and overlook their immigration status. Allowing all children in this country to pursue their dreams without basing those dreams on their immigration status. Think about if this was a child you knew? A child in your neighborhood, church or child's school? Wouldn't you want the best for them?

Election day is now 17 days away. As you consider the candidates, take a moment to look at the sponsors of The Dream Act. Support those candidates who realize the importance of allowing all children in US schools to dream and dream big. For those of you living in Wisconsin, I urge you to support Senator Russ Feingold. One of the many co-sponsors on The Dream Act.

Church, Values and My Children

This weekend was consecration Sunday at our church. We actually attend two Methodist churches and visited both this weekend. Why? Because Sunday School was cancelled at one for an all church brunch and becuase I really enjoy the services on Saturday night. The sermon at both churches had to do with money and giving but today's sermon was also about much more. It was about what the church offers to us and why we go.

I admit that it would be easy and enjoyable to sit at home on a Sunday morning and just play legos with the kids. It would be nice to not put our Saturday afternoon and evening plans on hold and skip church. Yet I don't do that (very often). Why is that? What does church give to me that I hope to give to my children? Church is very important to my children's birth families but my reasons for taking them goes way beyond the promises I made to their first families. I made those promises knowing that I planned to insist they attend church and church school anyway. So why is it I insist my children attend religious services and activities? Here is my top 5 list for going to church with them (in no particular order).

5) A chance to see other families and children who view God and their relationship with God as important.

4) To see people living their faith out loud. Putting their words into action by volunteering in their communities, donating money to charities and church, being kind to their neighbors even when we don't agree with each other or really even like each other.

3) Learning respect for our differences. Now I realize that some churches are better at this than others and some members are better than others but as a church we really try to celebrate our differences. Open doors. Open Hearts. Open Minds. That is the slogan the United Methodist Church had a few years ago and one that we try to live out eery day.

2) Developing a stronger relationship with God. Yes, I can read the bible to my children and talk about God at home but there is something different about praying at church and hearing scripture with others.

1) To hear other people's opinions and interpretations of God's laws than my own. While I am sure I am right most of the time (or at least every once in awhile), we all grow when we listen and consider ideas that are different than our own.

5) To join other Christians on a journey of faith. This is important. No matter if the times are good or bad we all are on this journey together. Younger members of the church look to older members for mentors, leaders and wisdom. Older members learn from watching younger members experience life and faith in different ways than they did. Together we all become stronger as Christians and as a church.

So if you have never attended church or are looking for a new church to join, please join us. We may not always agree about the details of our religious beliefs but we will agree in the basics. That God loves each of us, wants the best for us and that together we can grow in faith and love.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Good Reminder

I have been under a lot of stress lately. My job has been less than pleasant. While I do not feel free to comment on recent activities there, I will say that I have not been happy there in a very long time. I have spent the past four years considering career changes and the past year working very hard at actually changing one.

My current job is getting very difficult to work now that my children are getting older. Jacob is in 4K this year and I really don't feel comfortable pulling him out of school just to spend time with me. I work about 3 weekends a month so that only leaves evenings and 1 weekend a month that I can devote to him. It's just not enough.

I'm not looking for a job that is strictly Monday through Friday but one that is mostly normal business hours. I don't mind working occasional evening hours even a couple times a week and am fully prepared to find a sitter for the occassional evening. It's the weekends that are hard.

I applied for a job earlier this fall and was told I was at the top of the list. I know that they heard good things and checked my references so I am close to getting a job. Then I didn't hear anything. It's been just over a month and I was beginning to think I was passed over. I was feeling very frustrated and sure that I would never get the job that I want and am working so hard for.

Last night I was reminded that God is watching over us and that He knows more than I do. I need to trust him in the job situation and just be patient.

A friend stopped by the house and told me she had spoken to the supervisor for the job I want so badly. Apparently there are going to be a small number of layoffs in the next two months (mostly through attrition) and so they don't want to hire anyone until they know there is a position available.

Now I am grateful they haven't hired me yet. I really can't afford to transfer and then be laid off right away. I need income and just can't afford to go for very long without one. I also have to have a job when I finally get approval to finish M's adoption. That will probably be happening very soon (fingers crossed and prayers said). So it really is better that I wait to transfer until I know that I won't be laid off right away. Two months really isn't that long to wait. After all, I have been at my current job for over 9 years and a few more months probably won't kill me.

Swimming Lessons



Swimming lessons are coming to an end. Jacob and M both had a great time. This was M's first time in lessons and he loved them. Jacob has topped out on lessons until he either turns 6 or increases his endurance a little more. He has mastered the skills so he really only needs to get a little stronger. He will probably move up later this year. M showed no fear and has been passed to the second level on his first try! It appears I will soon have 2 fish swimming through the pool and scaring life guards!

I have already signed the boys up for their next session. I really liked their teachers this time. They were a little older than the high school seniors at their last pool and were very experienced. They had 2 teachers assigned to the youngest kids so that the kids got to spend more time practicing and less time just waiting. I am considering swimming laps while they swim next session. It would be good if we all got some good exercise in the pool.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pictures From The Pumpkin Farm




Jacob's New Crush

Jacob has a new crush. I admit I am a little jealous. Every morning he wakes up and asks if his teacher, Miss Jessie, will be at school. If I say no he asks if he can come home at lunch stating he will miss me too much while he is at school. If Miss Jessie is going to be there, he tells me he wants to stay all day. He then gets dressed as quickly as he can.

Yesterday I went with the boys' school on a trip to the pumpkin farm. Jacob asked if Miss Jessie was going and I told him she was. He then stated I could stay with M's class and he would go with Miss Jessie. I dropped him off in his class and told him I would see him on the bus.

M and I got on the bus first. Jacob's class was running a little late so everyone was waiting when they arrived. Jacob got on first and walked over to me. I scooted over and he stated, "Mom, can I sit by Miss Jessie?" I said sure and he ran down the aisle.

We arrived at the farm and Jacob's class decided to go by themselves to look at some different animals where it wasn't so crowded. I saw him again about 20 minutes later and went over to say hi. He immediately told me that he was with Miss Jessie and I needed to go back to M's class. I admit my heart dropped at little at the realization that he preferred his teacher to me. Or at least at that moment.

Jacob also rode the bus back to school with Miss Jessie and then decided he wanted to stay to the end of the day. Now I know that Jacob still wants me around and that deep down he liked having me on the field trip. I caught him running towards me a few times and then looking at Miss Jessie. I also know that he is growing up and Miss Jessie won't be the last person to steal him from me.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Not Enough Time

I probably shouldn't be blogging. I have a million things to do and only one more day to get things done. My last post was a list of things that I really hoped to get done this weekend. Unfortunately, life is busy and my list is progressing slower than I had hoped. Here is what I have done the past two days.

Here is what I can check off my previous list:

1) Took the cat to the vet.

2) Completed some of my laundry.

3) Got some of the carpet shampooed.

4) Took M to the dentist.

5) Picked up the house (although you can't tell again)

6) Finished the reading for school.

Things I accomplished that weren't on the list:

1) Attended an autism training class.

2) Found Halloween costumes for the kids.

3) Picked up a new cell phone after mine began acting funny. I think it may have had a virus.

Things I hope to do tomorrow:

1) Finish my internet work that is due Thursday. I WILL be completing this no matter what it takes.

2) Going to the doctor. Not a planned appointment but nothing major. It should be quick.

3) More laundry

4) Grocery store

Of course there are more things I need to do but they may have to wait until later this week. M's social worker is stopping by tomorrow afternoon and a friend is visiting for dinner. I don't have class on Thursday so I can run a couple errands that afternoon. Whether the work gets done as soon as I would like or not, I am determined not to let it cause me too much stress or become too overwhelmed. I just have to prioritize my to-do list and get done what I can.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Overwhelmed

Do you ever get the feeling that you are overwhelmed and will never be able to catch up with all of the things that really need to get done? That is how I am feeling right now. I feel like every time I turn around there is another chore that just has to get done. I don't know if all mothers feel this way or if it is more a result of being a single mom. Either way I hope to spend my next three days off work really focusing on my to do list and see how much I can challenge myself to finish. I still have to rank and prioritize my list but here is what I hope to at least start the next three days. I will post at the end of the week how successful I am. Maybe this blog entry and public challenge is what I need to really motivate myself.

1) Take cat to the vet.
2) Shampoo carpets.
3) Clean out toys.
4) Organize and inventory winter clothes. Figure out what still fits and what can go into boxes for next summer's garage sale (it should be a big one).
5) Mow the lawn.
6) Catch up on laundry
7) Work on Dream Act
8) Finish this week's homework. I have some reading due tomorrow and internet work and assignments due on Thursday.
9) Take M to the dentist.
10) Go to the grocery store.
11) Pick up contacts.

While the list seems rather large, I have 3 days plus this evening to work on it. I think I can get most of it done if I just make the list my priority. Maybe I can even convince the kids to help with some of it. Yeah, right.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sometimes You Strike Gold

That is how I feel about Jacob's teacher. I have never seen anyone who can motivate Jacob like his beloved Ms. Jessie. Ms. Jessie has been on vacation the past few days and Jacob keeps asking when he can see her again. She returns on Monday but Jacob is convinced that day will never come. Just this morning he woke up very happy to go to school. With a smile from ear to ear he loudly proclaimed, "I get to see Ms. Jessie today!" Unfortunately that smile left when he learned she won't be there.

Jacob has been trying every thing he can think of so that she won't leave again. He told me none of the other teachers are smart enough to teach him. He stated she needs to come to school because she knows where the worksheets are.

I have never seen Jacob this excited about school. In the past, he has always preferred to stay home if given the chance. Now he asks if he can stay for at least half the day (which I require now that the school year has started) or sometimes even for nap and snack. He gets sad on Saturday mornings when he learns he won't be able to go to school for two days. He wants to do his worksheets including writing. In the past he has always complained but now he waits eagerly and wants the work challenging so he can show Ms. Jessie how smart he is.

So this mom is sending out a thank you. Ms. Jessie, thanks for being such a fantastic teacher and motivating my son. You are giving him a gift that will last a lifetime.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is Your Child Documented?

Many of my readers have adopted their children through international adoption. Some have considered adoption and almost all probably know someone who has completed an international adoption or heard about one. For those of you who have adopted internationally, I want you to stop for a moment and think about your child. For everyone else, think about a child you know or heard about who was born in another country and later adopted. Here are some questions I want you to answer about that child.

1) Was that child younger than 16 years old when he or she joined her forever (adoptive) family?

2) Did that child have the opportunity to decide if he or she wanted to move to the United States?

3) Does that child consider his or her birth country as their home or the United States?

4) Is there anything that separates that child from other children in his or her age group culturally? Does she or he act in ways or have values that are more like his or her birth culture than American culture?

5) If your child was forced to return to his or her birth country at age 18, would he or she fit in? Would they know the culture and social cues to fit in or would they stand out as different?

According to the Immigration Policy Center, approximately 65,000 undocumented immigrants graduate from United States high schools every year. Many of these children came here before they were 16 years old and have grown up much like the children you thought about. They live with their birth families instead of adoptive families but their parents would most likely answer the above five questions just as you did for your child. They were younger that sixteen when they entered the United States, they did not have the opportunity to decide if they wanted to come, they consider the United States as their homes and may not even realize they are undocumented immigrants, they are culturally Americans and they would stand out as foreigners in their birth country despite having similar physical characteristics.

Take amount to think about the future of these children and their well-being. Then contact your Senator or Representative and urge them to support the Dream Act. You can find the bill at http://www.thomas.gov and search for the Dream Act or Senate bill S.729.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

5 things about Jacob

In honor of Jacob's 5th birthday today, I am posting five things about him. I will admit that I got this idea from other blogs I have read, mostly Erin Henderson and her blog at fullhousehandshearts.com/my_weblog.html.

1)In Jacob's words, "I really like to make people happy." Jacob will do almost anything to cheer someone on, give encouragement and make them happy. It is a trait his nannies commented on when he was still living in Ethiopia and one that he still has today.

2) He can read and do math! Well, he is beginning to read and can do simple addition and subtraction if he uses his fingers.

3) Jacob is sure God is "holding" two jobs for him. One as a fire fighter and one as a police officer.

4) Jacob's favorite sport is baseball but he is beginning to learn to love soccer also.

5) Jacob's favorite food is macaroni and cheese.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Birthday and Soccer

I only have a few moments before I have to run off to the daycare. It was a hectic morning. The boys and I actually slept until 7 which is 2 hours later than normal. We needed it but since they had to be at school by 8:15 and I had to be on the opposite side of town it meant a hurried and mad dash to get out the door. In that mad dash, Jacob forgot his blanket for naptime so I am now hurrying to get some work done before trying to get the blanket to daycare before naptime.

Due to family circumstances, the kids are allowed 2 parties. One party is with their friends and the other is family only and much more subdued. The friends party was Saturday at our local YMCA. If you have never explored a Y and have one in your area, I strongly recommend it. For only $55 we were allowed to invite 12 children for an hour of swimming and then an hour in a party room. I chose the child watch area so that the kids would have toys to play with during any down time (there really wasn't much).

We ended up having 13 children and 7 adults attend the party. The children ranged in age from 3 years old to 9 years old and everyone had a great time. Jacob, M and I found a dalmation pinata dressed like a fire dog. It had pull strings so the kids each took turns pulling ribbons. The pinata didn't work quite like it should have and the trap door didn't open when the ribbons were pulled. It was actually more fun that way since everyone got to pull at least one ribbon before I manually opened the trap door and the candy fell out. I had half a bag of candy hidden that I allowed the parents of the younger children to pick from and exchange any candy they did not want their children to have. I then placed the candy on the table and had the parents determine if their child received enough candy from the pinanta and to take what they felt their child should have. It worked really well and the kids had a great time.

M and Jacob played soccer on Sunday. It was the first game of a 6 game season. I chose a shortened season for a couple of reasons. This is the first time M has ever played on a team and he is really young (he turned 3 last May). Jacob played soccer just over a year ago and didn't like it so I wasn't convinced when he told me he likes it now.

M had the first game and it started off a little rocky. With only a half an hour nap and two very big days, M was very tired and cranky. He wasn't really sure what he was doing and didn't know the other kids on his team. He became shy and then began to cry when his coach and I told him to go out on the field. Once we convinced him to go out, he did great. He quickly began running and trying to kick the ball. He really enjoyed it when I taped him and showed him the video. He also liked looking at the pictures I took.

Jacob had a great time too. He got to start in the second game and kicked off (or whatever it's called in soccer). He managed to steal the ball away from the other team and stopped them from scoring a goal later. I was really proud of the way he was able to keep up with the other children since some of them are almost 2 years older than him (his team is 5 and 6 years old and he turns 5 tomorrow). Jacob had a great time and proved to me that he really does enjoy soccer.

The boys are back at daycare/preschool/4K today. I am hoping after going to bed a little early and sleeping in 2 hours late, they will be rested and have good days. Next weekend will be calmer and we will hopefully begin to get use to our school year routine soon.