Monday, December 31, 2012

A Look Back At 2012

Every year is full of ups and downs. There have been studies that show that people who concentrate on the positive or are more optimistic are happier and more grateful. Everyone has things in their lives they wish they could change and we all have days that are better than others. Yet every day is a blessing from God and a reason to celebrate. Even when it doesn't necessarily feel like the day was great or those (hopefully rare) days that you wish you could forget.

In honor of 2012 here is a list of our highlights (in no particular order).

1) Matthew graduated from 4K. Finally our days of paying full-time child care for an infant, toddler or preschooler are over. Matthew did great in 4K.

2) Jacob made swim team. This was a huge accomplishment. He could barely swim the length of the pool in August and worked extremely hard to improve his swimming ability so that he could make the team in September. I have never seen him work so hard or try to hard as he did during tryouts. He made the team and can now swim many laps without stopping.

3) Matthew was promoted to 6 year old swimming lessons. He showed great improvement in December and was moved up to the "big kid" lessons. This was not only due to his improved swimming abilities but also improved behavior and maturity during lessons.

4) Jacob and Matthew learned how to ice skate and got the chance to participate in hockey lessons. This will be a one year only experience since hockey is expensive and the kids have other sports they like just as much.

5) Matthew got to play t-ball after watching his brother play t-ball for the past 3 years. He loved it and was doing really well by the end of the season. He is already looking forward to playing again next year.

6) I got the chance to coach Jacob and Matthew in soccer. I have very limited experience in soccer but I don't need much at this age level.

7) Matthew was accepted into a dual language charter school and loves it. He speaks Spanish most of the day and has been learning a lot.

8) I received a Master's Degree in Social Work. This was a major accomplishment. I thought about quitting several times over the past 3 years but was able to finish it. I now have a social work degree that I can use in my current job or in any other state if I ever want to move or change jobs.

9) Jacob and Matthew have had a great start to kindergarten and 1st grade. Matthew has had a few difficulties over the past few weeks but overall has done very well. Both kids are ahead of grade level in Math and are doing very well academically which is most important to me.

10) We made it through the year healthy. We had a few ups and downs health wise. I made my first trip to the ER as a parent when Jacob was poked in the eye and it was scratched enough to bleed. It was an accident but still pretty traumatic. Matthew was sent home from school early after putting a hood over his head and then walking into a wall trying to be silly. He ended up biting through his lip. No stitches but lots of blood and a very fat lip that is still healing. No broken bones, serious injuries, serious illness and no stitches yet so I call this year a huge success. With my boys, every day without a broken bone is a day to celebrate.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Break and Reflections on Recent Events

It is Christmas break at our house. I am working hard to try to spend less money and find cheap and fun activities around town. We have a membership for the Y so we go there often. We have also been taking frequent trips to the library and book store. The kids love looking through the books and I love watching them learn to read. Jacob is now reading easy chapter books and can read alone or to someone. Matthew is trying to learn to read in English and Spanish. He is also doing a great job but doesn't have the same passion for it that Jacob is developing. I am hoping he will enjoy reading more as he gets better.

Today we are off to get free hair cuts at JCPenny Salon. They give free hair cuts to children 5-12 years old every Sunday. The salon hopes that it creates more foot traffic through their salon and store. I can say that it works for us. I am horrible at remembering to schedule hair appointments for myself and will often go three or four months between appointments (sometimes longer). It is easier to remember to take the kids in since it is easier to tell when they are due for another cut. I have been better about getting my own hair cut since I started taking the kids for their free cuts. I can make appointments for all of us although I try to get my appointment on a day when the kids are at school.

This time of year is also a time to remember how important family is and spend a little extra time with them. I have known two families suffering loss and scary emergencies in the past two weeks with their sons in their early 20s. There was the school shooting in CT where the victims were all the same age as Jacob. It was hard watching that coverage and not thinking about Jacob and his friends at school. Matthew is only a year behind those kids and will be 6 in just a few months. It is scary to think that anyone could look at children their ages and see anything other than innocence. It is also scary to think that there could be anyone out there who may want to hurt my children or any children. I have seen a lot of very disturbing things in my careers in law enforcement and social work yet the amount of evil someone can possess continues to amaze me.

I have been like a lot of other parents and spent a little extra time hugging my children and appreciating them. I believe that as an adoptive parent who had to work hard to become a parent means that I can never completely take my relationship with my children for granted. I often wonder why I was the lucky person to get to parent them and be called mom. I am forever grateful for them and for the people who helped bring them to my home. With all of the recent news of children being hurt, firefighters attacked and mentally ill adults harming people for no apparent reason, I appreciate my children and the time I get to spend with them a little more. After all, no one knows what tomorrow will hold. All I can do is enjoy today and hope that I get to spend many more wonderful days with my family.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A New Computer

My new computer is both exciting and frustrating. I will never figure out why companies believe customers will ever figure it all out on our own. I am looking forward to being able to post pictures on here again and maybe even posting slightly more frequently.

My kids are getting older so I am being more careful about what I post. I am not going to be one of those moms who posts embarrassing stories about my children. It is just too easy for people to use these stories against them later.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Week of Ups and Downs

It has been a week full of life's ups and downs yet overall it was mostly good. Here is a quick recap of our adventures this week.

Monday: We got to spend a nice quiet evening at home. We really don't have too many of these so it is nice when they come along. I am having a lot of trouble keeping up at work right now so I was able to spend some time working at home while my kids watched TV and played quietly.

Tuesday: I went on a field trip with Matthew's kindergarten class. I always enjoy watching my kids play with other kids and listening to their conversations. Matthew's class amazed me with how well behaved they were. There was actually only one child in all 3 kindergarten classes that got in trouble during the field trip and even he didn't get in any major trouble. Pretty amazing for a public school in larger city. Matthew picked out a green pumpkin and we are trying to decide what to do with it.

Wednesday: Another busy day. Jacob had an early swim team practice and we got home shortly before Matthew's day care bus arrived. We then went to dinner with a good friend who is expecting her first child in December. I always enjoy spending time with her and just wish we were able to spend more time together.

Thursday: What a day! Matthew was really excited about a family party at day care and really wanted me to attend. I was really looking forward to it until nothing would go my way at work. I was sure I was going to be lucky to be home by bedtime much less in time for a party. I called my mom and was very glad when she said she would take Jacob to practice and go to the party with Matthew. Things finally started to go my way at the end of the day and I made it to Matthew's party about half an hour before it ended. I was just in time to enjoy a taco and watch the kids break a pinata. I was then able to greet Jacob after practice and watch Matthew in his karate class before we went home for a quick dinner and bedtime.

Friday: I was very glad to see the week come to an end. I was still feeling a lot of stress about issues a work but knew that it was time to relax and leave it behind. We went to a Halloween party at the Y where the kids dressed as firefighters and played games. They had a great time until about half an hour before the party ended. Matthew was just a little too tired after a full week of school, day care and activities. We ended up leaving a little early but overall it was a great night.

Saturday: Saturday was just crazy but also a lot of fun. We started the day by running out of cinnamon rolls before the last child ate. I had to quickly throw another batch in the oven but it made us a couple minutes late to football. I then found out pictures were rescheduled for that morning. Of course, the kids still had face paint that wouldn't wash off completely from the night before so they weren't really looking their best. The pictures turned out alright but I decided I didn't need to order any since we just ordered school pictures and the kids don't change that much in 2 weeks.

We left football and decided to buy Matthew some ice skates for hockey lessons. Lessons start next week but the kids both had ice skating lessons yesterday. Of course, my bad luck was continuing and the store was busy making us late for ice skating. We would have been about 5 minutes late until we hit a train that stopped on the tracks for about 15 minutes. Ugh! The kids only made it to about 15 minutes of their lessons. Oh, well. They still have one more lesson and then will start hockey lessons on Sundays.

After hockey the day went much better. We went to Schuster's Playtime Farm where the kids got to pet some farm animals, feed the goats and play on a giant inflatable pillow. Aidan was with us and really enjoyed riding on the tracter train. All of the kids picked out pumpkins and this time Matthew chose a white pumpkin. Jacob and Aidan both chose orange pumpkins. I bought everyone a carmel apple and we left the farm and corn maze tired but happy. We got home last night and just collapsed.

Today starts another week and I am hoping it goes well. We only have 3 days of work and school this week then we get a long weekend. I am taking Jacob and Matthew to a water park and hotel for 2 days and Aidan is spending the night next weekend while his mom works. We don't have a lot of big plans for the weekend and I am hoping we will have some extra time to just relax and have fun. And maybe mulch and rake some leaves...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

We appear to be a swimming family

We appear to be a swimming family now. Jacob has competed in 2 meets and he loves it. He swam 25 yd backstroke and 25 freestyle the past 2 weeks. This week he seemed to have really taken off. He cut almost 6 seconds off of his backstroke time from last week and 3 seconds off of his freestyle time. More importantly, he really loves swimming and is very motivated to continue to do well.

Jacob has had to miss 3 practices in the past 6 weeks because I couldn't get off work in time to get him there. I would think that with 3 practices a week he wouldn't mind taking a break once in awhile. I am very wrong. He cried the last 2 times telling me he isn't getting any stronger and that it is my fault. Talk about a guilt trip. He was also upset that I only signed him up to swim on Saturday this weekend and not Sunday's meet too. I really think one weekend day at the pool is enough.

Matthew is really surprising me. He has always enjoyed swimming but never really put a lot of effort into swimming lessons. He usually plays around on the side of the pool and doesn't always follow the instructor's directions. Matthew asked to join swim team and I told him he needs to learn to swim better and show me that he can listen to the teacher so I know he will listen to the coach. All of a sudden he is motivated and surprising everyone. He went from refusing to swim more than a few feet to swimming half way across the pool. He also went from refusing to float on his back to swimming backstroke in 1 week. He now wants to practice his strokes during open swim times and asks every weekend if I will take him swimming. He was really excited when Jacob's coach told him he can join mid-season or as soon as he can swim well enough. I told him I probably won't sign him up this winter because I want him to be a little older but I would sign him up for summer swim next summer if he keeps trying hard in lessons and can swim the length of the pool.

Jacob will probably swim in 14 more swim meets before the season ends in March. He will have short breaks over the holidays and in January but otherwise can swim almost every weekend. There are a couple of weeks that we are busy and he will miss the meets but that will probably just give him some nice breaks. My goal is to let him swim in 2 to 3 meets a month and see how he does.

I am really enjoying watching Jacob swim and hope he continues to love the sport. I also hope Matthew enjoys it next summer. I think it would be great to be able to watch both boys compete and improve their skills. Swimming is a lifelong skill and something they can enjoy for years to come.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Am I Becoming One Of Those Moms?

Jacob had his frist swim meet yesterday. I tried really hard to share some of my advice (I swam in high school) with him but not be too pushy. I'm not sure I was very successful but I tried. Mostly I am trying to let him take the lead in how often we swim outside of practice and then just encouraging him. Yesterday Jacob swam 25 yard freestyle, 25 yard backstroke and 2 relays. He had a lot of fun and enjoyed keeping track of his times. I have a lot to learn about how to be a swim team parent. I need to figure out what kind of snacks are the best to bring, how soon to make sure he is at clerk of course to get ready for his meets and when to have him put on sweats and when to encourage him to just wait with a suit and towel on. I knew I would have trouble with those areas and am slowly starting to figure it out. The place I surprised myself was when I was at the wall where the results were being posted anxiously waiting for Jacob's time. I listened to parents talking about cutoff times and complaining that state time qualifiers haven't been posted yet. I'm not concerned at all about Jacob qualifying for state. Probably because he has almost no chance of qualifying but I also hope I don't ever get as anxious as those parents about having a child qualify. I just want him to have fun and do his best. I need to make sure that is where my focus stays and not watching every time to see if he "qualifies" for anything. That is the coaches job to worry about.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Jacob is 7!

Happy birthday to my wonderful son Jacob! It seems like just a few months ago I was in Ethiopia picking up a 1 year old boy. Today that boy is 7 years old and no longer little. Here are 7 things I love about my son in honor of his 7th birthday. 1) His kind heart. Jacob is a very loving child who loves to help other people and make others happy. 2) His hard work and determination. One of my goals for Jacob when he started kindergarten was for him to learn not to give up when he gets frustrated. I am amazed and proud of how far he has come in just a year. Whether it was learning to read or practicing for weeks to prepare for swim team tryouts, Jacob has shown that he can not only work hard when he needs to but he can excel when he puts his mind to it. 3) Watching Jacob play sports. Jacob has some amazing speed. I have watched him outrun kids three or four years older than him. It's fun to watch him whether it is chasing down a ball in the outfield, catching up to an oposing player on the soccer field and preventing a goal or scoring a touchdown during flag football. Jacob has the speed that I never had but always wished I did as a child. 4) His smile. Jacob has always had a great smile that makes other people smile too. It's one of his traits that people have always commented on and still do to this day. 5) Responsibility. Jacob is really a pretty responsible kid for his age. It's nice having a kid that I can trust most of the time. He's still a kid and sometimes makes some poor choices but most of the time I can trust that he will be well-behaved even when he is at school or with other adults. 6) His passion. Jacob is very passionate about whatever his current love is. Right now he loves sports and spends most of his time either playing, talking or thinking about sports. He recently told me that he isn't really a video game person. He's just a sports person. 7) His active spirit. As Jacob said, he's not a video game person. He will watch TV or play video games for a short period of time but he usually prefers to be doing something active. Even when we are just spending time at home relaxing, Jacob will often go outside to ride his bike or dig holes in the garden. He is always up for a game of baseball or go to the Y for a swim. I love that I don't have to put restrictions on screen time because he puts them on himself.

Settling In

We have now completed three weeks of school. I am relieved to say we are starting to figure out our new routines and things are going really well. The morning routine is pretty much worked out. Matthew's school has a community breakfast where everyone in the school eats together. I love this idea. It makes sure that all of the kids receive breakfast, doesn't single out those children who receive free breakfast and helps all of the kids settle in and start their day well. The principal uses this time to recognize birthdays, holidays that students are celebrating and make announcements. I also like the community breakfast because it made Matthew's adjustment a little easier. Matthew has always started out his day with breakfast. He had breakfast right after he arrived at day care and last year his 4K class had a community breakfast together. Even his summer program had a morning snack right after the kids all arrived which Matthew thought of as actually having breakfast. He has learned that breakfast signals the start of his school day and is a nice way to help him settle down. Matthew has also seen food as a tool for feeling safe and secure so starting his day with breakfast with his class helps him to perceive his teacher and school as a safe place where his needs will be met. Jacob has decided that he wants to eat breakfast at school this year as well. This is a change for him. His school doesn't have a community breakfast so he has to get to school 15 minutes early and then can choose between eating breakfast and playing on the playground. I always give him his choice since school breakfast is really cheap but I also understand if he wants to play with his friends. So far he has chosen to eat at school which makes our mornings a little smoother and faster. My parents returned from vacation last week and we were very happy to see them again. I am always grateful for everything they do for us. Even just having their emotional support and someone to turn to when I am having a rough day and just need some support is really nice. The only part of our schedule that is still being fine tuned is after school. Jacob and Matthew started their after school activities two weeks ago but the schedule has changed a few times. Jacob had a field trip one afternoon and a party another afternoon last week so he had to change his swim team practices around. Matthew has activiites on Tuesday and Thursdays evenings so those evenings are really busy. They go pretty well except I haven't quite figured out the best way to serve dinner. I am thinking that these are great nights for crock pot dinners but I haven't found very many recipes that I am in love with. I plan to spend some time over the next few weeks experimenting with different dinners (crock pot and ones that are quick to fix) so that those evenings are a little smoother. I am enjoying being with my children in the evenings and not using babysitters at night. That is such a huge change from the past 3 years when I was in class or at my internship at least 2 evenings a week. Now I get off work and I know that I will get to see my kids. The only exceptions are when I have an emergency at work and have to work late but thankfully that doesn't happen often. We are still adjusting to the new school year but we are much more settled than we were even just a couple of months ago. I think it will be another month or so before we really get used to the new schedule and are able to relax a little more but we are getting closer. I still need to figure out some things like when is the best time to buy groceries and run errands but those are details that will get worked out as time goes on. For now I am just happy to finally be getting caught up and able to spend more time with my family.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Horrible Week At Work and Great Week At Home

This week was one of the worst weeks I have had at work in a very long time. I have been staying up late at night almost every night trying to get everything done on time. I always seem to be more emotional whenever I don't eat or sleep enough so let's just say I have been struggling at work. Thankfully, the week is almost over and next week is looking better. Life at home has been wonderful. I can't figure out how to upload pictures right now but the boys looked great for their first day of school. Matthew wanted to be "fancy" and insisted on wearing a dress shirt and tie. Jacob wore his new Packers jersey. They both really like their new teachers and have done well their first week of school. I wrote about Matthew's first week in another post. This week has been very relaxing at home. We are finally getting back into a consistent routine. I can already see Matthew and Jacob beginning to settle down and getting used to having me home with them every night. My parents are on vacation so it really is just the 3 of us most nights. While I love my parents and everything they do for us, it has been nice to be able to pick up my kids myself and just spend time the three of us. Of course, we are looking forward to my parents' return in a couple of weeks and miss them terribly. Here is the summary of this week. I apologize if Blogger makes it harder to read by not accepting my spaces when I post it. Someday I will get a newer computer that Blogger likes better. Monday: Monday was Labor Day. We had the privilege of watching our friend Aidan during the day. I took all of the boys to Devil's Lake where we met up with some other single moms and dads. It was great seeing our friends and everyone had a great time. I loved watching Jacob and Matthew make sand tunnels and build dams in the sand. Jacob practiced his swimming as well. Tuesday: Jacob had his first day of swim team try-outs. I was really worried about whether or not he would be able to make the team. He swims well enough to swim with the 6 year olds but I wasn't sure he would be able to be with the 7 and 8 year olds. Jacob turns 7 in just a couple of weeks. Jacob did great in swimming. I have never seen him work that hard. Whenever he would start to get tired, he would take a deep breath and push himself harder. He was determined and nervous (even chewed through the strap on his goggles). His hard work payed off. Jacob not only made the team but swam well enough to practice with the seven and eight year olds. He is very excited. We learned it was a free trial week at the Y and there were many classes that people could try for free. Matthew took a mini-karate class and loved it. I told him I will sign him up for karate if he continues to do well in kindergarten and his after school program. Wednesday: Matthew rode the bus home for the first time. I wasn't sure what time he would get home so Jacob and I anxiously waited in our driveway for half an hour until the bus pulled up. Matthew got off the bus with a huge smile on his face and waved by to the driver. We spent Wednesday evening doing laundry and just relaxing. Matthew had a headache (probably from the stress of starting a new school and learning so much) so he went to bed early. Both of the kids were very well behaved especially since they were both really tired. Thursday: Jacob had his second day of swim team try-outs. Jacob didn't seem to have the energy or nerves that he had on Tuesday but still swam hard and tried hard. I turned in the paperwork (and fees) so he is now ready for regular practices starting next week. We ran a couple of errands after swim team and bought a very large bag of dog food. Then it was home to relax for a little while and get ready for bed. The kids and I have really enjoyed being able to relax at home more and not be quite so busy or always worried about getting to our next program on time. I really think being home more and just able to relax and follow a general routine will help all of us do better at school and home. So far it seems to really be helping. It's still early but we are off to a good start.

First Week Of Kindergarten

Quick disclosure: Ever since they changed the format of Blogger, my computer has not liked it. I have paragraphs and appropriae spaces but for some reason Blogger is squeezing everything together. I can't figure out how to correct it but am hoping to get a new computer soon and am hoping Blogger will like it better. Matthew has now completed one week of kindergarten. He loves it and I am so relieved. He is in a dual language program where the teacher only speaks English for one hour a day. I was really worried Matthew would hate it or refuse to participate but that hasn't been the case. Day One: Matthew, Jacob and I got up early. My tire had blown out over the weekend and I had to take the car in at 7:30 to get the tires replaced. Thankfully, the tire shop is only about 2 blocks from our house so we were able to drive the van over and then walk home. We got back to the house with about 10 minutes to spare and then walked to the bus stop about one block away. My kids have never ridden the bus to and from school. We live near our elementary school so Jacob always walks to school or gets a ride from me. Matthew is attending a charter school that is about 2 miles from our house and across a very busy street. The school district provides a bus for almost all of the kids at the charter school so he will be riding the bus to school and home after the day care program ends. The day care is through the school recreation department and provides transportation home for any student who rides the bus to school. It is a wonderful service. Matthew came home laughing at the Spanish and stating the other kids "speak funny." He said he loved kindergarten but thought he should go to an English kindergarten the next day. I told him that I was glad he loved it and that he needed to stay in his class for now. I promised him the Spanish would get easier and he would start to understand more soon. I picked Matthew up from day care and learned that he wasn't on the list to ride the bus. I was really glad I had decided to pick him up the first day and he hadn't gotten stuck there. Matthew is a very active child who likes to challenge teachers to see if he actually has to listen to them. He challenged a little bit but overall did a very good job. Day Two: I checked with the day care program and learned Matthew was on the bus list and that he would be dropped off right in front of our house. All I needed to do was be home to wave at the bus driver and let Matthew in the house. This is the first time I don't have to worry about picking him up after work. I have been going to two different day cares for the past several months and it will be a great change to only have to worry about picking Jacob up from his after school program. Day Three: Yesterday was Matthew's first full day of school. He did well although he was very tired at the end of the day. Matthew came home very excited. He had played with some other kids on the playground and in the classroom which has been a challenge earlier in the week. He was having trouble finding ways to play with children he doesn't speak the same language as. He also was very proud to tell me that he only plays during play time and doesn't play in the classroom when they are suppose to be working. Matthew was also excited to report he was starting to understand Spanish a little bit. He stated his teacher told him something earlier in the day and he understood what she was saying. I am really impressed that he is beginning to pick it up after only 3 days in the classroom. Experts say he is at the perfect age to begin to learn another language and so far they appear to be correct. Today is Friday and the end of the week. It has been a very long (and pretty much horrible) week at work but things have gone extremely well at home. I am very relieved that Matthew appears to be doing well at school and must be learning a lot because he is exhausted at home. I remember Jacob was really tired for about the first month of kindergarten and I think Matthew is no different. I am making sure that we stick to a pretty consistent routine and get to bed on time or early every night. It's definitely easier to get him to go to sleep when he is tired from school.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Fall Routine

Routines and schedules are very important especially for children. I have tried really hard to keep the kids on a fairly consistent schedule but it has always been difficult with school especially during the past 9 months while I finished my internship. Having a consistent routine and schedule is one of the things I am looking forward to the most now that I am done with school and able to be home every night. I think it will really help both of my children to know that I will be picking them up every night from day care and that they will have the same routine and schedule. Like everything, there will need to be some adjustments but here is the basic routine/schedule I developed for the school year.

5:00 pm Pick Up Jacob (unless he has swim team then I will be dropping him off at practice earlier)
5:30 pm Meet Matthew at his bus stop (his school buses him to and from school while Jacob lives within walking distance of his school
5:45 pm Start dinner. Go through school bags and folders from the day. Set aside homework.

After dinner: Children begin homework/reading time while I clean up. I will help them after dinner is cleaned up or read with them if they don't have any homework. Homework/reading time lasts a minimum of 20 minutes and longer if they have more homework.

Play time/TV time until it's time for bed.

This is very similar to the schedule I had for Jacob last fall when I didn't have an internship. It worked really well and really helps to have a special time set aside for homework when the TV is off. I have told the kids that we can decrease homework time and just read if they finish their homework at day care. They have a 30 minute homework/tutoring time at day care and since they don't get much work at their ages they have a good chance of finishing at school. They still have to read at least one book with me and go over their homework but they don't have to do extra work if they get it done before they get home.

Ready For Fall (Sort of)

Summer went way too fast but the calendar says it's over. Thankfully our favorite activities are available indoors as well as outdoors so we can extend the fun into the colder months.

This fall is going to be a nice change. I have spent the past 3 years juggling school and work which took a lot of time away from my children. I hated being away from them so much but I also knew that I had to do it to make sure our lives were better. This will be the first time in 3 years that I will be focusing only on work and parenting and not juggling any other activities.

I am really looking forward to spending more time watching my children and caring for them. We have a lot of plans.

Matthew is starting kindergarten and Jacob will be in 1st grade next week. Matthew is attending a charter school and Jacob was also accepted at the charter school but wants to stay at the school he attended last year. As a result, I will have kids in 2 different schools but I am used to it and both kids are getting the best education for them. Matthew will be attending a dual language immersion program and will be learning Spanish. I can't wait to hear him speaking Spanish at church and in the community.

I was going to have Matthew take time off from sports and activiites so he could focus on school but then decided it wasn't fair for him to watch his brother play and not be involved in his own teams. He will be taking ice skating lessons, swimming lessons and playing flag football. Swimming lessons are only 1 evening a week and we should be home by 7 so I am hoping it won't be too much for him. Ice skating and football are on weekends.

Jacob is trying out for swim team as well as playing football and taking ice skating lessons. Jacob will swim three afternoons a week if he makes the team but will be done by 6:00 during the week. Football and ice skating are on weekends at the same time as Matthew so at least it won't take up the entire weekend and we will have time to play also.

The fall is scheduled and we should have fun. School supplies are purchased and dropped off at the kids' schools. We have met everyone's teachers for the fall and toured Matthew's classroom and school. School starts Tuesday and everyone is excited for the first day.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Swim Team Or Hockey?

Jacob has been dreaming about learning to play hockey for the past 7 months. I signed him and Matthew up for beginning lessons in August with the thought that it would give them a jump start on learning to play this fall. Jacob was absolutely sure he wanted to play and has even been begging me to get him his own pads and skates. I have been refusing to buy him anything since he has only been ice skating once in his life and the pads and skates are included in lessons for the first year. I am now glad I said no since he is now debating if he will play or not. So what is the debate and why would he change his mind? It's simple. Swimming. This kid is a little fish. People have been commenting since he was 2 about what a good swimmer he is for his age. Even the life guards are often impressed with how well he does. He has been swimming laps for the past several months as part of his swimming lessons and recently passed the "deep water test" at an open swim. The life guards are pretty sure he swims well enough to pass try outs and participate on swim team if he wants to. He is sure he wants to and I have a call in to the coach to find out more information. So why am I nervous about him joining? Well, I have a few concerns. 1) Time: The team practices three days a week and has meets almost every weekend. He has to participate in at least one meet a month but I am sure he would want to participate in more. The meets are the most fun part of swim team and I remember how much fun I had hanging out at meets with friends and eating junk food between events. 2) Impact on school work: I'm not extermely concerned about this one and it really isn't a big deal but I always worry a little about school work. Jacob will be in 1st grade this year so he is still little. He will have some homework but not a lot. My hope was he would do most of his homework at his after school care and we would just spend a few minutes finishing it and looking it over together. Swim practice is often right after school so he would have to complete his homework after dinner which means he will be tired from a long day. Again, not a huge concern since he does very well in school but I don't want homework to become a major battle. 3) Only one sport for 7 months: Again, not a huge concern but still there. Swim team would start at the same time as flag football but the monthly (or more) meets wouldn't begin until the football season was almost over. Other than hockey, he really isn't interested in other winter sports. His main loves are swimming, baseball and soccer. Baseball starts in late April and soccer is only 6 week sessions that he probably won't play in the fall anyway due to football commitments. 4) Cost: This is probably the big one. The fee breaks down to only $40 a month for his age group but is due all at one time in September. At the same time that I have to finish paying for back to school supplies, fall clothes and the dogs biannual vet vist and immunizations. While I think I can come up with the fees, it won't be easy that month and I wasn't planning ahead since he wasn't as strong of a swimmer in May so I didn't expect this to be an issue. I know Jacob would love swim team. I loved swim team and he has my love for anything in the water. (You would never guess this is the same little boy who use to scream during baths because he was so afraid of water). He is also very good at swimming and I have no doubt he will improve quickly if he was motivated by a good coach, other good swimmers near his age and the idea that he could race. He loves to race in the water and land and is fast. He recently beat all of the other kids at his summer camp including children entering 5th grade at a track meet (his teacher confirmed that he wasn't exagerating) and he is getting pretty fast in the water too. I want to encourage him and allow him to follow his passion and love but I also want to be cautious not to push him too fast too quick. After all, he needs time to be a little boy and try lots of new things. The practices are three times a week for one hour each time. I may have to flex my work schedule to get him to some of the practices but I also know I can find people to help me get him there also. The practices are in the early evening/late afternoon so we would be home for dinner and have plenty of time to relax before bed. There would also be time to take Matthew to his activities after swimming (right now he really wants to take an art class) which is also important. I am leaning towards letting him swim but I haven't decided for sure. There is a try out the first week of September and I plan to sign him up to attend. I plan to use that week to see how he likes it, make sure the coach thinks he swims well enough to join and then make a final decision. I know Jacob really wants to join but I also need to make the decision that will be in his best interest. Anyone out there have children who were on swim team at 7 years old? What was your experience like and what advice do you have? Should I let him take hockey on Sundays as well knowing that it will fill our week up but know that at least I let him try it? Any advice is appreciated.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Matthew is 5!

Matthew is 5. He actually turned 5 about 2 weeks ago. In honor of Matthew's 5th birthday. Here are 5 things I love about him. 1) His smile. Matthew has a smile that lights up the room and anyone else that is near him. 2) His imagination. Matthew has a great imagination. I watched him take a stick and a bottle. He put them to gether and they quickly became a sunshade and then a telescope. Just one example of his creative mind. 3) His excitement. Nothing is ever boring for Matthew. He can find excitement in anything. And if there isn't any excitement, he will make some. 4) His love of language. Matthew's teacher has taught him a little American Sign Language. He is also beginning to learn Spanish and loves it. I plan to enroll him in a dual immersion program next year where he will speak Spanish and English in school. 5) His kind spirit. Matthew has really learned to love helping other people. He loves to work with adults and help them as well as helping younger children. Matthew is a great kid and I am proud of him. He will be starting kindergarten in just a few months and I will no longer have a preschooler in my home. While I will miss being able to pick him up from school for a surprise lunch or ice cream, I will enjoy watching him learn as he begins his school career. Happy birthday Matthew! I hope you enjoy being 5.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

End Of A Very Difficult Semester

I am very pleased to say that the Spring school semester is over and we all survived. Not only that but I ended the semester with all As. I'm very happy especially since I thought I would not pass at least one of my classes at one point in the semester. This semester was very difficult. My case load was very demanding and I am still trying to figure out how I will ever get caught up again. I had a class that started at 5 pm which meant I had to leave work early to get there which created more pressure on me. The class didn't end until 9 and it is a 2 hour drive home so my kids spent the night at my parents' house every weekend. Then in the middle of all of that I also suffered a miscarriage earlier in the semester. Yet, despite all of that I passed and now am only three months away from having my MSW. I proved once again that I can do anything if I put my mind to it and call on my family and friends to help me. I am still trying to figure out how I will work my internship this summer but I am off to a good start. I will probably only work at my internship 2 evenings a week and one morning a week. I have to get the morning cleared by my boss at work but I think she will be okay with it as long as I make up the hours I am away or use my vacation time. I could never have finished my degree without the help and support of my friends, family and supervisor. It really has been a challenge but I have almost made it. The hardest part is over and I just need to keep working for a few more months.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Today was graduation day. I actually won't graduate until the end of August but the ceremony was today. Jacob and Matthew watched the entire ceremony and met me at the end with roses. I was so proud of them. Part of attending college, especially graduate school, is knowing that there will be sacrifices. My children made the biggest sacrifices. Matthew was just 2 years old when I began the program and Jacob turned 4 shortly after the school year began. They have missed having me around every evening and spending all of my time away from work with them. It's been tough. The first year I only got to spend about 3 days a month where I wasn't either working at my job or my internship. The second year was better although I was often doing homework. This past semester I have been spending 4 nights a week at either my internship or class although I have every weekend home with the kids. So was all of this sacrifice (time away from my kids, school work and student loans) worth it? I can say that answer is definitely yes. I am now in a career that I enjoy musch more than my last one. I get to spend every weekend and holidays at home with my children. I can easily take off work when I need a few hours to attend a school function or take my children to an appointment. I changed carees just over a year ago. Not only did I got to a job I enjoy much better but I also have a lot tension between work and my children. There are often conflicts between my children's activities and needs and my employment. My last employer addressed those conflicts quickly and without thought. Always go to work first. Work is always the number one priority unless the union contract said otherwise. My current employer also answers questions about those conflicts quickly. The supervisors tell us to never let work interfere with our family time and obligations. Children grow up quickly and the work will be there after the children's events. What a change in philosophy and one that I will never take for granted. So what did my degree and college sacrifices get me? A job I love. More time with my children. An employer who understands and believes that children have to come first and the work second. A lot of debt that I just hope will be payed off before I die. Its all worth it. I'm happier now and once school is finished I will have a lot more time with my children. I don't have to work weekends or holidays and I will soon have evenings off again.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Baseball Has Officially Started

MLB may still have a few days to the start of opening season for many teams but around here we are well under way. I have heard from Jacob and Matthew's coaches and Jacob attended his first practice yesterday. I am amazed at how much he has grown in the past year and improved. He is now ready for "machine pitch" which means no more hitting off the tee right away. Yesterday he was fielding grounders, hitting the ball when the coach threw it to him and throwing and catching the ball. He may not be ready to play in the big leagues (or even with the bigger kids) but he is doing much better than a year ago.

Matthew will be playing t-ball this year. He is excited and I am hopeful he will really enjoy it. He loves hitting the ball of the tee at home when we practice. I got his team roster yesterday and learned he is on the same team as Jacob's best friend from school. I am looking forward to watching all of the kids have fun and watching Jacob cheer on his brother and friend.

I will be playing softball in a Friday night league with a friend. It is a co-ed slow pitch league which should be a lot of fun. I would love to have some extra time to practice but just being on the team will be great. Between Jacob's games (3 days a week), Matthew's games (2 days a week) and my games (1 day a week) it is a good thing we are a "baseball family." Now to just find the time and money to go to a few Brewers games...

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring Break

Spring is here and so is Spring Break. My spring break at the university was actuall school and my internship programming was running, I really didn't take much of a break. We really haven't had a lot of down time this spring and it has been very difficult. I work an intership 3 evenings a week and have class another night so really only spend a lot of time with the kids on weekends. Thankfully, I changed jobs last year so that I now have weekends off.

The kids and I have been doing pretty well considering that I have been extremely overwhelmed between work and school. The kids just go with the flow and enjoy spending extra time with my parents and friend. Last week was really the first time I have seen any real signs of stress from the kids and that was just some extra clingy behavior that I don't usually see out of them.

I decided to take most of this week off work. I have to go in 2 days this week when I am on call and there is some paperwork I am hoping to complete but I didn't schedule any home visits or meetings. I also have a paper due Wednesday night and class so I will have to make sure I get those things finished but I am sure that won't be too difficult.

My plan is to take three days to just focus on the kids and enjoy them. I haven't figured out what we are going to do all of those days. I received a request to go to the zoo one of the days if the weather is nice and hope to do that on Monday. We may just take a day to relax at home and ride bikes around the neighborhood. Mostly we just need to spend time together as a family.

Life has been hectic and very stressful lately so this week will be a nice chance to just relax and reconnect. Even if that means just laying in bed and watching cartoons on a Saturday morning. As long as we are together and slowing down, it will be a great week.

Friday, March 16, 2012

5 Years!

I can't believe my sweet little boy came to me 5 years ago this week. It was 5 years ago today that Jacob and I boarded an airplane bound for America. Jacob has some very vague memories of his time in Ethiopia but he still has a curiosity and love for it that only an Ethiopian-American can have.

I will admit I found myself getting emotional a few times this week as I look back at that magical week five years ago think about how far we have come. Jacob was ready to leave Ethiopia and the care center. He never really looked back and made it very clear he didn't want to return. He became very uncomfortable when anyone would speak Amharic to him and would come running to me. He attached to me very quickly and that attachment has only grown since then.

Jacob is now 6 years old. He is in kindergarten. He is no longer the baby that I fell in love with. He is a rapidly growing boy who I love even more now than I did that day. Every day he amazes me with his resilience, intelligence and friendly easy going personality.

Five years ago I had a lot of fear and anxiety as I began my life as a single parent. I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to do it or that I would hate it. I can now say that I don't parent alone. Sure, I'm the only adult living in the home but that doesn't mean I'm alone. I have great family and friends that are more than willing to help me out. Being able to call a friend or family member for help at any time of the day is a great blessing and gift that I will forever be thankful for. I no longer fear being a single parent. I know I can do it. I also know I love it.

Our lives changed forever five years ago. Jacob has touched me in a way no one else ever could have. He has taught me what a mother's love really is. He has taught me what it is like to lay awake at night worrying about if I am making the right decision. I have learned what it is like to lay next to a sleepiong child with a fever and worry about him. I have also learned the joy of hearing your child say I love you and You are my mom for the first time. I have learned the joy of watching your chid grow and learn at amazing speeds. I have learned to appreciate life and see every day as a blessing.

Becoming a mom was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I have Jacob to thank for helping me begin along that path. It's been five years that went by too fast. I am looking forward to many more years of loving him, parenting him and just enjoying spending time with him. Jacob, happy family day and may you continue to grow and find peace and happiness.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Day Of Research

Today has been a day of research. Of course, I only got a fraction of what I need to do completed but at least I got a start on it.

I started the day with my normal Sunday morning quiet time with the newspaper. I found a program guide for the school district's recreation department. They had summer camp information in it. I had been looking into some different child care options for Jacob this summer but they were all about the same price as his day care. The school district's program is only a fraction of the price ($105 a week less). They have frequent field trips, weekly swimming lessons and literacy and math activities. Everything I was looking for in a program. The only draw back is that the program is only 9 weeks and there is no camp available for the first week of break. That shouldn't be a problem though. I can take a week of vacation in June (I didn't take vacation last year so I have a lot of time to use) and there is a very fun 2 week program at the end of summer with trips to a Brewers game and water parks.

I also completed research for my internship. The community center received a grant to develop a program for teen girls. Part of the grant is to implement a curriculum on pregnancy prevention for at-risk girls as well as one for teen moms. I actually found evidence based programs for both target populations. I don't know if they are exactly what the center was looking for but at least it is something I can suggest at the meeting next week.

I still have an application to complete for my research project which I hope to finish early this week if not later tonight. Then I can start on some of my homework for this weekend that I never got to. Ugh! I will be so happy when this semester is over. At least spring break is in just a couple of weeks.

On a more fun note, Matthew is continuing to amaze me. I received an email from his 4K teacher describing how he has become a real leader in his classroom and she has no concerns about his social skills or behaviors. She states he has made huge progress this year and she now has him helping her in the classroom and demonstrating good behavior for the other kids. What a difference from his first few weeks there. Tonight he was sounding out words and writing them the way they sounded. I was truly amazed. He won't be 5 until May but is well on his way to succeeding in school. I do admit I am relieved that school is going so well for both of my kids.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Differing Views on Continuing Education

Anyone who has ever met me or talked to me about my views on raising children knows that I value education. Not only do I value education but I also expect my children to excel at school. I have seen children who school was hard for succeed with a lot of hard work and determination. Children who could not read at grade level in early elementary school later making honor roll in high school and being admitted to colleges and universities. School seems to come very easy to my children so I expect that they will do well and eventually go to college. Not going to college will be seen as a disappointment. Even now my kids know they will someday go to college. That's why the following conversations touched me. The first one made me chuckle since he can't really believe I would ever allow this to happen. The second one made me beam with pride and hope that his dreams really do come true. Both of these conversations were on the same morning and occurred about 30 minutes apart.

1st Conversation:

Me: Matthew, I registered you for kindergarten and kindergarten screening.
Matthew: I'm not going to kindergarten.
Me: What do you mean? Of course you are going to kindergarten.
Matthew (laying on the ground): I'm not going ! I'm staying in 4K!
Me: You are going. It will be fun.
Matthew: I'm only going if I can go to this school (not our neighborhood school for grades K-5).
Me: We can argue about this in August.

I then told his wonderful teacher about our conversation. She agreed to talk to him and help him see how much fun it will be.

2nd conversation about 30 minutes later:

Jacob: Mom? Where will I go to middle school?
Me: I'm not sure. They are making a lot of changes right now. It will depend on where we live and what schools and programs are available (they are starting new charter schools as well as planing on starting a lot of new programs in the school district).
Jacob: Where will I go to high school?
Me: I don't know. Maybe the one by our house. We will have to see how you are doing and what our options are then.
Jacob: Where will I go to college?
Me: Where ever you want! I will take you to visit and tour colleges when you get to high school. You can go where ever you want.
Jacob: I want to go to Wisconsin Badgers school!
Me: Then you can. I'll work with you to help you get ready and get accepted. It's a hard school to get into but you are doing great in school. You just need to keep working hard.
Jacob: I'm going to Wisconsin Badgers school!

Update: Matthew later talked to his teachers and my parents about kindergarten. He is now willing to at least try it in the fall. He now says he's just not willing to learn how to read.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine's Day Five Years Ago

Valentines day has never been one of my favorite holidays. Probably because I have spent most of them single and none of them in a committed relationship that I thought would become a marriage. Valentine's day is a reminder that I have never found that special someone and for a long time was pretty depressing.

Thankfully, that is no longer the case. I now love Valentine's Day. It is still not my favorite holiday but it is a day I look at with fond memories and a smile on my face. It was 5 years ago this Valentine's Day that everything changed. I received a phone call that my son was now mine. Legally. His case had passed court and the Ethiopian government had officially declared him my son. No one knew when I would be travelling for sure but we all knew it would be soon. A matter of a few weeks rather than an unknown number of months.

I will never forget coming home and finding that message on the machine. Then the next day I received another phone message stating that I would be travelling in March and meet Jacob on March 10. Wow! My first emotion was pure excitement and joy. I couldn't wait! I quickly began making phone calls to start to prepare. Then as evening fell and things began to slow down, I experienced the weirdest feeling I have ever known. The reality that I was a mother to a little boy I had never met who lived in an orphanage on the other side of the world. Was he really as sweet as his picture looked? Was he really as happy as he appeared? Would he scream when he met me? Would he want to be my son? Would I like being a mother as much as I thought I would? What if I hated being a parent?

I can say after 5 years that those questions are now all answered. Jacob is as sweet and smiley as those pictures showed him. He was also (and continues to be) much more mischevious and sarcastic. He loves to make people laugh and just his smile and laugh are contagious. He is as smart as I could have dreamed. He didnt' scream when he met me. He cried when I left him for the night. He wanted to be my son and I wanted to be his mom more than anything else in the world.

As far as if I would like being a mother? I don't just like it. I love it. Being a parent is the best thing that ever happened to me. I am now lucky enough to have two wonderful little boys who both challenge me and entertain me. Jacob has been asleep for 11 hours now. Much longer than he normally sleeps. Why is he so tired? Because he ran non-stop with his brother all morning, spent the afternoon with his Big Brother (aka mentor) and then ran all evening with friends from the Ethiopian community in our city.

I have loved watching Jacob grow and mature. He is now 6 years old. He can read, write and is great at math. He loves sports but loves just playing and running with friends even more. Everyone loves Jacob and I love that about him. I still remember the anxiety and worry I had that I had just made a huge mistake five years ago. I can now say it wasn't a mistake. It was the best decision I have ever made.

While Matthew's adoption process was much more difficult than Jacob's and he challenges me in different ways, his adoption was also a wonderful experience. One that I also worried about. After all, I was making a lifelong commitment to a little boy. Now I am dreaming about a third (and final) child to add to this family. The fears and anxiety are the same. Will I love this child as much as the first two? AmI making a huge mistake? Will I like parenting this child also? Of course, the answers are yes. Just like the first two times. My next child will also be loved and actually already is. I will love parenting three children just like I have loved parenting two. I love having three little boys in this house when I babysit our friend Aidan and I will love parenting three children as well. So when will this next child arrive, that has yet to be determined. As with all things in life, sometimes the best things come to those who wait and are patient.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

First Report Cards

Ah, report card time. This is a time of great anticipation and a little bit of nervousness. Waiting for someone to issue a piece of paper where they judge you. Yes, I know they call it evaluation and they are evaluating performance but the truth is they are judging academic progress and to some extent academic potential. I'm not saying the judgement is fair or accurate, it just is difficult to wait to hear that judgement.

Jacob and Matthew first received their first report cards yesterday. The report cards both said basically the same things. The kids aren't perfect but they are smart and ahead of grade level in several areas. I can't really ask for much more. Well, I can ask for perfection but I'll never get it.

More important than the actual scores the children received is that they gave me some insight in areas to continue to work on with them. Matthew will continue to work on basic preschool skills such as listening and following classroom routines. Jacob will continue to work on reading and writing. While he is at or above grade level in these areas, it doesn't hurt to continue to work on these skills and get just a little farther ahead. It will only help him as he continues to go through school.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hard Semester

This is going to be the toughest semester of my college career. The course work isn't too bad but the internship is going to be very difficult. It's not that the actual work will be difficult. It's that it will require me to be away from my kids for 4 evenings a week. I absolutely hate being away from my kids. I miss them and really miss watching all of their activities.

I have often wondered if getting my MSW is really worth it. I received my social work certification which is what I really needed to change careers. I've changed careers and now I'm just finishing my last 2 semesters of school. The MSW will allow me to get licensed as a social worker in the future if I ever move to another state. Without it, I may not be able to get a license since my BA is in Criminal Justice if I ever have to move.

So I am left wondering if 6 months of not seeing my children 4 evenings a week is really worth it. Or if I should just quit now so that I can enjoy this time with my children and be happy with the education that I have received. The only other catch is that if I quit now, I would have to repay a $14000 grant I received my first year of school. So is it worth $14,000 to spend a few extra nights with my children or do I just suffer through it?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Prizes and Surprises

Matthew loves attention and he loves to be silly. This often translates to lots of preschool drama and phone calls. I have been struggling to find ways to counter the phone of getting attention and making his friends laugh with my desire to keep him at day care and teach him that he needs to behave. I have tried many things but nothing was really working. I have now found the magic answer. A prize box.

Jacob, Matthew and I went to the store together last weekend and bought a bunch of little toys for a dollar each. I put them in a basket and told the kids they get them for when I catch them being extra good. The result? Matthew and Jacob are competing to find ways to get prizes. I haven't gotten calls from day care or school and both kids have been volunteering to do extra cleaning and chores at school and at home. Why didn't I think about this sooner? They will do anything for a prize!

So what was the surprise for me?

I got a new couch and a new love seat. I havde wanted to get a new couch for a long time but couldn't justify spending the money. Then I pulled on the edge of the couch to move it and a support bar broke off the bottom. That resulted in a broken couch and an emergency trip to the furniture store. I now have my new couch and I can justify it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

We Are Back Online

I finally decided it was time to get back on line and join the rest of the world. I have had the internet on my cell phone all along but I haven't had home internet since October. It was getting too inconvenient to try to always find time to go somewhere to pay bills, check accounts or complete any other work I needed to get done. I decided to get reconnected at home now that the second semester is starting and I will have a lot of homework to do online.

So here is a quick update on our family.

I am working on my last 2 semesters of grad school. I was suppose to start an internship two weeks ago but just got a placement last week. I have been in contact with them and got one hour in last week. Now I am waiting to hear back from them again so that I can start to get caught up or at least not any farther behind.

Jacob just completed his first semester of kindergarten. I am amazed at how much he is learning. He can now read basic easy reader books to me and continues to find math very easy. Jacob also decided to take karate lessons. He just received his first promotion to gold belt last weekend. He is very proud of it and hopes to be a world champion in tae kwon do someday. I am glad he is enjoying it but wouldn't mind if he found a cheaper sport either.

Matthew is doing well. He just finished his first semester of 4K. He is doing a lot better swimming and is looking forward to getting a little older so he can do a few more sports.

I signed both kids up for t-ball and baseball this summer. Let's just say we will be spending a lot of time at the ballpark. I think they will both have a lot of fun though.

I am still babysitting our friend Aidan on weekends. He is beginning to show his 2 1/2 year old behaviors but he is still very cute. He loves to chase Matthew and wants to do everything he does. Jacob plays with him also but the age difference is quite a bit so Jacob will usually get bored after awhile and go find something else to do. He almost takes over the big brother role of protecting Aidan and teaching him rather than being just a playmate. I think Jacob will be a great babysitter in a few more years.

I will try to post pictures soon. It is amazing how quickly everyone is growing around here.