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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A (hot) day at the zoo

Right around September, those of us who live in the desert start to get a little cranky.
We get sick and tired of 3 digit temperatures, We get tired of our heads sweating and burning ourselves on the seatbelts in our car. We get restless keeping ourselves cooped up in our expensively air-conditioned homes and not being able to tell our children to go outside and get the wiggles out. But we realize full well that we still up to another 8 weeks of ridiculous heat, and it makes us somewhat snarky about everything. Please forgive us. We're just really tired of being hot.
So when the temperature took a drastic dip to the high 90's, we all kinda got a little giddy, wondering, hoping, praying that maybe the summer heat was leaving us prematurely. In hindsight it was only hopeful thinking, but at the time it felt so possible. So of course as a family we did something radical. Something that we may or may not have regretted after the fact. We went to the zoo.
Unlike the dead of summer when it's hot 24 hours a day, (even at 3am!) mornings are where it's at this time of year. When the temps cool off even a little bit you can get out in the morning, walk your dog, water the plants, and feel normal before the heat of the day reminds you that you still live in the desert. So we planned on leaving the house for the zoo at about 7:30am because we're all awake any way so why not. But because it's always a little bit crazy around here we didn't leave the house till 8. And because the zoo isn't the same without a box of Dunkin' Doughnut Munchkins we didn't get to the zoo till 8:30am. By the time we actually renewed our membership and got into the actual zoo it was 9, and the temperature was already starting to climb. And after that it's all really just a big game to see how long you can endure  the heat that just keeps getting hotter with every passing minute.
We saved the splash pad for last which is always a favorite of the littles. (bunny trail... How long can I call them the littles? They're getting big. I'm putting way too much mental energy into figuring this out.) We made it till about 12:30 when the temps were in the mid 90's, and during that time profanities may or may not have been spoken under one's breath somewhere between the orangutans and flamingos. Some people just don't cope well with head sweat, and if you don't know what that is consider yourself blessed. Let's just say that head sweat is the gift that keeps on giving long after your sought refuge in air conditioning. And when the decision was finally made to leave, a certain mama who shall remain nameless but has bad knees was the fastest walker to the car, abandoning all her children and husband, all in the name of leadership.
I think these are the memories that we'll look back on and laugh at. Who goes to the zoo in the desert in the summer and expects paradise?
Desert rats who have been cooped up far too long, that's who!
And my head is still sweating.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Just 'cause

Just 'cause she's still little...
Just 'cause she has a bathing suit tan...
 Just 'cause she still like to wear a princess dress everywhere...
Just 'cause she still likes to spin... a lot... and she's really good at it...
Just 'cause she still asks me if she can wear pig tails...
Just 'cause she wants to wear furry cat ears every day... 
Just 'cause she still sticks her tongue out when she runs...
Just 'cause she's in a season when there's nearly always a missing tooth...
Just 'cause she still looks at the world with innocent wonder...

Just because it all goes by way too quickly, and I absolutely want to remember it all. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Making his birthday dessert

A tradition in our house is that the birthday boy (or girl) gets to pick dessert. Over the last few years I was in a cupcake mood and I asked the kids to pics any type of cupcake they wanted me to make. They got creative and so did I with s'mores cupcakeschocolate chocolate chocolate cupcakesorange cupcakesstrawberry shortcake cupcakes and many many more. Yeah, I went cupcake crazy for a few years. Maybe it was me, and maybe it was the kids, but this year I'm making anything other than cupcakes. 
Boo requested pie for his 15th birthday, specifically apple pie, more specifically warm apple pie with ice cream. He's kinda a traditionalist at heart. So I was more than happy to make my mom's apple pie with crumble crust recipe! 
And because Boo is an engineer in the making, when the apple peeler wasn't working quite right, he swooped in to try and fix it. (Seriously, everyone needs an engineer in the making in their house!) and that gave me an opportunity to snuggle in to my sweet baby boy and razz him a bit. And it wasn't until I looked at these pics that I was shocked and reminded at how tall he has gotten... or how short I am getting... or maybe both. 
Food is my love language, and Boo has always been especially appreciative of this. I think it's likely because food is one of his love languages too. Regardless, it's a pleasure to cook for him because he really enjoys my cooking, and I can only imagine him 20 years from now doting on his wife's cooking or making banana pancakes with his son. 
And I know those things will happen in a blink of an eye. 
PS - In a purposeful effort to be in more of the photos, all of these photos were take by Tess... with camera settings, editing and cropping assistance by me. Composition and subject matter were all hers! I am so glad that my kids will see more of me in the photos!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

10 - Happy birthday, Tessinator!

Tess celebrated her 10th birthday last week which gave me the perfect excuse to capture some new photos of her.
Which is something I'd like to think of as a tradition in our home, annual birthday pictures. But keeping it real, sometimes a get to it and sometimes I don't, and I've long ago let go about feeling guilty about not getting to it. If I don't get to it, that's just gonna be how it works around here, cause I don't want to stress over it and get cranky. 'Cause nobody likes me when I'm cranky. Not even me.
But anyway, here Tess is in her birthday photo shoot. All her wonderfulness. Our #Tessanator. And I mean she is a wonderful and amazing girl! Seriously, I just can't get over this child. She's just incredible. She's out-of-the box in her Tess ways. No dresses or frills or pink for her. This outfit is just about as dressed up as she gets. I remember the days long ago when she wanted to be the real Firedog when she grew up. Then came her dream to be a ninja which we encourage! I asked her today what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she said something crazy deep for a 10 year old. I don't want to be anyone else. I just want to be me. My eyes got big and round from soaking in the depth of her answer.
Black is still her favorite color, and edamame is her favorite food which she eats at least a couple times a week. She's still a tiny little thing and she's going to be that way for the rest of her life. ***insert my own personal crazy jealousy for all petite people here*** So her 10th birthday finds her in 4th grade, weighing 49 pounds and is 50" tall. And even though she's a year older than her classmates, she's still 1 full head shorter than the 9 year olds in her class. She's tied for shortest in her class. She almost always is... tied with Jude that is. And don't even get me started on how ridiculously gorgeous she is.
A new thing she's discovered in the last year that she likes, is that she likes being by herself. We often find her stolen away to her bedroom, reading or playing solitaire and enjoying the company of her stuffed animals. And I'm again reminded of how short childhood is and how quickly she's growing.

Re binging and hoarding... and attachment and RAD... and the mama fear that comes from it all... I guess I haven't talked about that stuff in a long time. And for good reason. We still have things we deal with and safe foods and just some crudge that we work on, but all in all Tess is really doing well. I believe that she'll always have her scars and her demons, but I believe that she'll be okay. Actually I know she'll be more than just okay. She's gonna ROCK this world! And I'm blessed to be one of the people that gets to help her through it, show her the amazing person she is, and help her learn how to become a better, stronger and healthier person because of it all.
When I was talking with Tess today, about her birthday blog post, she wanted me to write this part down.
I think my life is going to be be a little lonely. In my life I wanna stay with you. When I grow up I wanna stay with you because you're my mom, and I just love you. I don't ever want to get married. Actually I'm trying to avoid getting married. I want a simple life. I want to be teacher, and I want to be the smartest person in the world. I just adore my teachers, and I want to be just like them. Or maybe I could be... a... instead of a teacher... I could be a worker at Target. 
I love you to the moon and back, baby girl! And as cliche as it sounds, it's true. You make me a better me.
Happy birthday, Tess!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Getting in the frame

I was just about to post her birthday photos, but she woke up sick this morning. She crawled in my bed and radiated heat as she cuddled in. She's been sleeping off and on ever since. It didn't seem right to post happy, smiley images of her when she's feeling so cruddy. 
On another note, I know I've said this before, but I want to be in more pictures. I really do. I don't like the way I look but really that's no excuse. So I'm trying to commit to actually make it happen more often, via remote or passing the camera off, like I did here to Jude. I have a couple ladies that keep inspiring me to do this, and they do it so well, thank you very much, Sennie and Stephanie! Mama's we must be in the pictures too! It's way too important to not do! So here I am in all my morning glory, sleeping in the same shirt I wore yesterday. 
No make up. 
Huge forearm. 
Unkempt eyebrows. 
But I'm doing one of the things that I love most in the world, loving on my sweetheart, and I know with absolutely certainty that that's a part of her childhood that she'll want to see when she's loving on babies of her own. 

Will you join me in getting in the frame more often? 

Friday, September 1, 2017

The food is all yours, my boy!

Our kids make their own lunches for school every morning. It's one of the best things I've ever trained them to do. Lunch boxes come home empty, and they are happy with what they're eating. Not to mention the whole taking-responsibility-for-one's-self thing.

When Ru started school this year a few weeks ago, I was skeptical that he'd be able to make his own lunch. Not that he lacked the skills, but he pretty much lacked the skills. But more concerning was the fact that he didn't know much about what types of food go in a lunch, or my/his ability to get/prepare Chinese foods for his lunch, and all of that in a big enough variety of choices to keep him happy for the long haul. I knew he like peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches so that was a good start. But what else could he make that he liked and would eat?! He has been expanding his palette to accommodate American foods, but I wondered if we'd be successful in the lunch department.
What happened is that not only did it all work out, it's WONDERFUL! I'm slowly introducing new foods which he's willing to try because he sees Jude, Tess and Mimi making/eating it, and he ultimately gets to decide if he likes them enough to include them in his lunch. And here's the kicker. I have never seen a child so crazy excited to make his own lunch! Each morning he has options and he gets to choose how much food to put in the lunch box! Because not only does he get to pick what he gets to pack for lunch but he also gets to pack how much he packs in his lunch, and this unlimited supply of food, that he can eat as much as he wants, even with a variety of foods to choose from, it's like Ru's nirvana! Choices are his treasures, and food is one of his many love languages. And unlike his previous home where food was likely often (always?) a limited commodity, I'm thrilled to give him this freedom and this security, that food is here, and we will always have it for you, my son!

You want a turkey sandwich to go along with your thermos of pasta and red sauce, then yes, you certainly can have that! 
You want apples and grapes and strawberries and blueberries and a cutie all in the same lunch? Absolutely! 
You want to pack 2 whole peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches, pretzels, a cookie and an apple, and you say you're going to finish it all? Of course you can! 

And his lunchbox almost always comes home completely empty with a happy boy who's eager to do it all over again the next day.

Things like this go on daily.
Ru: What ya doin' Ma?
Me: Making dinner.
Ru: OH THANK YOU, MA!!!!!!! and he throws his arms around me and gives me a big hug. Then he skips off to play. And my heart swells even more from my love for him.

It's my pleasure sweet, wonderful, brave boy! All my pleasure!

Wherever you are, have a happy Labor Day, my friends, and enjoy your families.
And all the food of course!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

53 questions when you know know

There are a lot of things about older-child adoption that you learn about when you are preparing to adopt. You read about, and other adoptive parents tell you all about XYZ, and you think to yourself Okay, so I know that. I can do that. I totally understand and I'm prepared for XYZ to happen to me and my family. But then in reality you find out that even though you knew about XYZ, you didn't actually know know about the reality of XYZ and how it would play out in your family and in your reality until you're in the heat of the battle. And then you think, Oh so that's what they meant by XYZ! Now I so get it! Of course the reality of it all makes sense now that I'm experiencing it! 
One of those things that we knew, but we didn't know know the reality of was it is common for children who have been adopted (via international adoption) to display a developmental age different from their chronological age. And more specifically children lose approximately 1 month of linear growth for every 3 months in institutionalized careIn other words for every month/year a child grows up in an orphanage, at best he/she loses 1 month/year of development. For example a 1-year-old baby who is growing up in an orphanage is developmentally closer to a 9 months old, a 4-year-old child is closer to a 3 year old, and an 8-year-old boy is more like a 6 year old. 

So practically speaking what is a child like that spent 7 years growing up in an orphanage without a family? 
In theory that means that Ru, at best, would be developmentally be more like a 5 year old when we got him. Of course we educated ourselves ahead of time about what this would look like in our family, and we though we were pretty prepared. We knew it. We prepared not only ourselves but also our children for the reality what that we though that would look like. But did we really know know what it would be like? 

Did you know that the average 4 year old ask 437 questions a day? That's a lot of questions! Truth be told I'm not actually sure this is a proven scientific fact or just an urban myth. I researched and tried to find out if it was, but couldn't figure it out. But I am pretty sure that the mamas of the world would whole-heartedly agree that 4 year olds in general ask an excessive amount of questions. And I will tell you that I knew that 4 year olds ask a lot of questions because after all I've raised 7 4-year-old children so far. But in reality, wowzers I. Was. Not. Prepared. for the reality of our new 7-year-old son, developmentally 4-5 years old in many areas, including in the, you guessed it, question asking department! Ru asks a lot of questions. And I mean a lot of questions! Sometimes rapid fire one after another questions. Often he doesn't even wait to hear the answer to the a question before asking another one... or the one after that. Sometimes he wants to know the answers to the questions. And sometimes he really doesn't. Sometimes he's just practicing his English skills. And I'm convinced that sometimes he just likes the sound of his voice and the power he has to fill the room with it. But it's questions questions questions questions questions questions questions questions questions questions...
All. Day. Long. 
And just when you think it couldn't get any worse, when we're out and about often the questions come faster with less breathing room in between. 

Case in point. 
We went out Sunday to the local Viet market to pick up some groceries and get the boys hair cuts. There was some waiting around until it was hair cut time, and Livy and I decided to figure out just how many questions Ru was asking. We decided record all the questions Ru asked for 1 hour, including in that hour was a 20 minute hair cut where he didn't say a word. We ended up leaving after only 45 minutes, so we actually never got to a full hour, but here are the majority of questions Ru asked during that time period. And I say majority because there were times that we couldn't get them all because they were coming at us so quickly. 

PS - "cut cut" is Ru's word for cutting anything including hair, and we were letting the kids play Pokemon while we were waiting. 

1. What're you guys doing? 
2. What're you guys doing? 
3. Why? 
4. When do we get Pok√©mon? 
5. Can we get a cookie? 
6. Why no? 
7. Why? 
8. We don't get ice-cream too? 
9. Why can't we get something? 
10. Ma, I'm getting cut cut? 
11. May I come with you? 
12. Why? 
13. Why I get hair cut? 
14. Where is the cut cut? 
15. Jude get cut cut? 
16. What do you do in cut cut? 
17. Jude, all done with cut cut? 
18. What are you guys doing? 
19. Why you say that? 
20. What is Ma doing? 
21. How is Mom working? 
22. Why? 
23. Why.  You.  Working.  Ma?! 
24. Why is Dad working? 
25. Why is Sissy working? 
26. Why we need to wait? 
27. What do they do when cut cut? 
28. Can they just cut here? 
29. Why only person with Mimi is Jude? 
30. Why does only 1 person spin? 
31. Why can I spin now? 
32. Why you have to pay him? 
33. You have lots of money, Daddy? 
34. Daddy, are we same, me and Jude's hair? 
35. Are we same? 
36. Can we get noodles? 
37. Why not? 
38. Why can't we go in? 
39. Why they in here? 
40. Are we go home now? 
41. Why are you... He didn't finish that one 'cause he got distracted.
42. Can I go in sissy car? 
43. Can I go in sissy car, mommy and daddy? 
44. Why?
45. No one go in sissy car? 
46. Why not though?
47. Why not kids?
48. Where are you going? 
49. Why? 
50. Why get in car now? 
51. Why Mimi not get in car? 
52. Why not? 
53. Why? 

So let's analyze this and do some math. Because surely that's why you came to this blog, right? To do math? Remember that that's not even a full hour's worth of questions. That's only 45 minutes of questions, and minus the 20 minute hair cut it's actually only 25 minutes worth of questions. 53 questions in 25 minutes! Let that sink in for a moment! Just answering that many questions is challenging! 

I also want to be clear that we don't ignore any of Ru's questions, even the ones that he clearly doesn't care about the answers to. He's still very much learning about his new world and (obviously) eagerly devouring the English language. Incessant question asking is one very good way to do all this, and we are so grateful it is happening! But we do have 7 other children who also like to ask an occasional question or 2, or participate in a discussion with their parents, or enjoy some moments are are not continually filled with noise... and it is a challenge for all of us to say the least to field all these questions! Heck it would be a challenge even if Ru was an only child! 

Back to the math... 
Even if we leave in the 20 minute golden-silent haircut, we can compute that that would be 
1.78 questions per minute, 
or 71 questions per hour, 
or 852 questions per day assuming that Ru is sleeping a whopping 12 hours per day... which has never actually happened.
And that gives us the grand total of 852 questions PER DAY! 
852 questions Every. Single. Day. 
And don't let the pics of this quiet serene boy showing off the mask he made fool you! 

THIS is the reality of what I was not prepared for. 
This is my XYZ. 
This is my reality. 
This is one of many things that I knew, but I didn't really know. I didn't fully appreciate it until I was in the midst of experiencing it, and that's often how adoption goes. One prepares, and one knows, but then one day you're in the trenches and suddenly you know know!

This is the little boy I'm growing to love, day in and day out, incessant questions answering and all. 
Because he is very very much worth it. 

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