Sunday, February 24, 2013

and, we're done...

photo courtesy of Jared Slater,

Not too many people ask us, when are children are with us, if we are planning on having/adopting more children. It's pretty obvious we have our hands full. Both our kids are active, curious, talkative and  independent. And sometimes naughty.  But I'm sure as they get older we'll get that question... so I thought I'd clarify my thoughts on our family size, to be prepared...

It feels good, first of all, to Be Done. Andrew and I spent the better part of our 6 year marriage trying to have kids. One year "trying".  One year medically enhanced "trying". Two years of adoption process.  Building our family was exhausting, physically and emotionally.  It was totally worth it, and we never want to do it again. We were ready to be done with the family-building phase and are happy to be in the living as a family phase.

And, we have our hands' full.  Literally.  I often need to hold the hands of both my children.  (See: tantrums and grab and run.)  It feels good to be able to have them both next to me, both safe and near.  I don't have hands for any more children.

We feel enormously blessed to have the two children we do. Given the sorry state of adoption, and specifically of Ethiopian adoption (read Scooping it Up, or any article re: Russian adoption), we are extraordinarily lucky to have adopted Daniel and Lily together.  During our process we were kind of 50:50 about adopting two at once. Our referral request was for whichever came first, one child under 4 or two children under 8.  When we got a referral for a 4 year old boy and his infant sister we pinched ourselves (over and over again).  Looking back on it, I cannot believe our luck.  We had always wanted two children, and in our heart of hearts we wanted a boy and a girl. Well, our hearts' desire was granted. So it seems risky, almost sinful, to desire more.

Every family, I believe, has it's number: the best number of children to have. It could be 15; it could be none. So many families don't get to have the number of children they want: they have too few, or sometimes too many.  (I'll never forget my terror of what might happen to me and to my marriage if one of our fertility treatments led us to have a multiple pregnancy.  I compulsively watched "Jon and Kate Plus 8" in horror.)  Family planning is, in many ways, the most unfair of lotteries sometimes.

Our home is small. Our plan for our life as a family includes multiple trips to visit Ethiopia, and hopefully some other traveling too. As much as I would love to have a bigger kitchen and a backyard, we live in New York, and the real estate prices are heading in only one direction: over our heads. So we have a small 2 (and a 1/2) bedroom, and we save to pay for international airfare. If we had another child, we'd have to move. And "we will not move to the suburbs" was in Andrew and my wedding vows. :)

When we announced that Daniel and Lily would be joining our family, I wrote: "Two + Two = Family".

Two, what a perfect number.  For us.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Baking Bread

Lately I've been baking a lot of bread.  I don't know if it's the damp, cold weather, or the satisfaction of making something from scratch, but I'm finding baking bread addictive.  Kneading the dough is therapeutic. The smell of fresh bread baking, the heady scent of yeast bubbling is intoxicating.  Having to closely measure and check and triple check the recipe pushes other nagging thoughts away.  And the taste of homemade bread... really there is nothing like it.

So despite the amount of un-risen, failed dough I've had to throw away, despite the time (and the amount of flour!) it takes, I keep on baking bread.  I suppose it's a good analogy to parenting, in some ways.  Time, energy, careful measurement, a fair amount of luck and good weather... and the willingness to try again another day when your efforts have failed.

Time to go make some loaves... 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Parenting Technique: The Grab and Run

Today I had the opportunity to practice a tried and true parenting technique; one so useful it has probably been around since the time of caves... The Grab and Run.

The Grab and Run is when your child is having a fit and will no longer follow verbal directions, you simply pick them up and get out of the area. Very useful in bookstores, playgrounds, birthday parties...

Today when I picked up Lily from daycare they were just wrapping up a birthday party. The room was filled with 2 year olds, cake and pink and purple balloons. Lily had decided that the mommy of the birthday girl was magical, probably let her kids eat cake all day and had a home filled with pink and purple balloons. She wanted nothing to do with me. She was going home with her friend! (she declared loudly).

I have found that I usually need to use the Grab and Run when I already have my hands full. It's important to be able, therefore, to pick up your child with one hand. As I've said before, if you are planning to adopt older children, start working out.  It is also important to prioritize. Do you really need that bag of oranges that just broke and rolled all over the sidewalk? No, not really, right?

Lily is 33 pounds. Today I carried her, two balloons (one pink, one purple), a bag of groceries and her bag out of her school and down the block to the car.  In the rain. Through snow drifts.

I hope one day that my daughter will have a small child as wilful as she is, and that I'll be able to email (or telepath, or whatever it is they will do to communicate in 25 years) this story to her. I hope.  Future payback is a small, but useful, comfort. :)

you might sometimes need the grab and run in restaurants. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

snow days!

We had a bit of snow fall this weekend... 

and we had lots of fun playing in it!

You couldn't ask for a better snow day... sunny, relatively warm, and lots of perfect snow!

a good time was had by all...

and we all went to be reeeeeeaaaallly early!

Hope you had fun in whatever weather you had this weekend!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Birds and Bees

Our six year old has recently acquired some new vocabulary. I will not share the specific words here, because I'm trying to avoid internet trolls visiting this site. So please forgive my intentional coyness.

Our son has been asking lots of questions about human reproduction. Yup, birds and bees and "how do the babies come out?" and "what's that?!" (pointing during bathtime).  Thankfully he's asked all these questions in the privacy of our home. Hopefully he's respecting our rules about not sharing this new, special information with his friends at recess.

We believe that there is nothing shameful or sinful about... human reproduction. We think it's perfectly natural for children to be curious about their own bodies and about how they came to be in this world. It would be pretty difficult for us to ask our child to ignore the evidence that... human reproduction... is important to adults when kissing and touching and bodies and .... are on display everywhere. Add in the fact that our son was born on another continent and looks nothing like us... he's got a lot of questions!

So, we answer them. As honestly and carefully as we can. We use the real words for things, and we don't ever say, "you're too young to know that!" or "that's rude?!"  Sometimes he responds with more questions. Sometimes he responds with "eeeeeewwwww!"  He's a six year old boy. He thinks kissing is gross, never mind...

Anyway, he's got a whole bunch of new information and it's all very exciting.  And, we might have gotten ahead of the game. There might not be that awkward 12 year old "Let me talk to you son." conversation.  By 12 he's going to be 6 feet tall and have 5 girlfriends anyway, at the rate he's going...

So, what have you been talking about at your house these days? ;)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Adventures in Co-Sleeping

Before my kids came home I swore they would never sleep in my bed.

Then my kids came home.

And now we are co-sleeping with Lily.

Ah, how the mighty have fallen!  For the record, I also swore that we wouldn't watch TV, never eat junk food and never visit Disney.  So far I'm prevailed on only one of those things (sorry Disney).

If you've been following along the last few months (sleep saga parts one, two, three), you'll know that Lily has gone through a series of sleeping struggles.  The low point was right after Christmas. One night we spent about 4 hours sleeping and about 5 hours screaming (everybody- it was a house of crying/screaming/yelling ugliness).

We don't want to go that low again.  We want everyone to sleep peacefully. So last week we decided to follow our instincts, Lily's obvious needs, and the wisdom of Mary at Finding Magnolia. We started having Lily sleep in our bed all night. She falls asleep in her own room around 7PM. When we are ready to go to sleep a couple of hours later, we transfer her to our bed. (She usually stays asleep despite being moved.)  Since we started co-sleeping this way, she's gone to bed peacefully and stayed asleep all night, waking up at about 6:30AM.  No more night terrors, no more bedtime fights.  She's even stopped kicking and tossing during the night, which means all three of us are sleeping peacefully.  If only our stubborn pride and determination to "make her sleep in her own bed!" kept us from this solution weeks ago.

Parenting is very humbling.

The only down side is I think Daniel might be a little jealous. So on weekends we encourage him to pile in with us in the mornings... a little extra cuddle time before the day begins.

I have a few resolutions about teen parenting that I hold dear... and I can see now that they might also need to be thrown out the window. We'll see how we hold the line at "no make up til 16" and "no cell phone til you have a job."


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Temper, temper

Let's Talk About Temper Tantrums.

throw tantrums? NOT ME!? See my t-shirt?

During one of our older child adoption trainings we were shown a series of Youtube videos of children tantruming, in an attempt to get us to understand the importance of knowing how to deal with that type of behavior (and I think to scare us a little bit about what we were about to undertake). I laughed nervously and a little dismissively throughout.  First of all as an early childhood teacher I'd already seen my fair share of tantrums. Also, who records their kids' tantrums and puts them on youtube!!?

Then we became parents and tantrums became a part of our lives. I still wouldn't videotape them and show the world but... sometimes they are pretty spectacular.

This weekend we had a child tantrum because his sister bit him. We've also had tantrums triggered by: losing a privilege, having a new toy break, not having a turn, being hot, being tired, having the TV turned off, and being given the wrong snack.

But most tantrums are triggered by our nemesis: hunger.

All parents deal with tantrums. Toddlers are very prone to them. Living with a toddler has been described as ... insert your favorite irrational, unpredictable animal/human going through a life crisis. Our toddler, however, is not the tantrum leader in our house though. Her attempts at wailing and screaming and carrying on pale in comparison to the fits that her older brother can throw.  Plus we can still pick her up.  Daniel, on the other hand, is a strapping 65 pounds of pure blazing anger when he is upset.

Here is my advice to families considering adopting an older child: starting lifting weights. You'll need the muscles. And expect some screaming (and wailing, scratching, clawing, crying, kicking, biting, throwing, thrashing and sobbing).  Think of tantrums as a storm at sea: a tiny hurricane of emotion that has (for any number of reasons) overwhelmed your child.  Ride the waves, hold your child or sit next to them (remove sharp objects and keep them safe).  The waves will subside, leaving maybe a couple of broken bits of flotsam in its wake.  Take deep breaths and swim on.

When our son first came home, he tantrumed 2-3 times a day. (Wouldn't you!? Transported across the world with two strangers?!)  Then it became once a day.  Then once every few days, then once in a while.  Now he has them infrequently.  And they are almost always about being hungry + something else... Hungry+ lost a privilege, hungry + his sister bit him.

We're lucky. We haven't lost any valuable family heirlooms. We haven't had the cops called to our home. We haven't had to carry our son out of any public establishments. Not everyone is so blessed. So the next time you see a child being "tossed at sea" in the grocery store, think about throwing his/her parent a lifesaver.... a knowing smile.

we will win!