Monday, December 31, 2007

Planning

I was given the gift of having the day all to myself today. So, I ran a few errands and ended up at Borders with a notebook and a pen. I have owned Managers of Their Homes (MOTH) for a couple of years now, but have never implemented the schedule. I kinda do it on a looser level than the author suggests. Go to www.titus2.com for more info. I love just about everything else the Maxwell family writes, especially Keeping Our Children's Hearts. Anyway, I also have Managers of Their Chores and have yet to implement that, as well. However, I do feel that I have come up with a manageable system of starting household responsibilities with the kids. We had a family meeting tonight when I got home, and I broke the news that they'd now be helping out around the house a lot more....with good attitudes. It was more of a Come To Jesus Meeting.

I try to write letters to my children on their birthdays to save for when they are older. It's just stuff that describes them at their particular age and what I love about watching them grow up. I had fallen behind on a couple of those, so I accomplished that during my Borders time.

I also browsed through my book called Emotional House. It's good in a zen kinda way. I have gotten a lot of helpful info from it. Just throwing that out there.

Matt and I talked briefly about our past year and all the struggles (moving, adoption, renovating, too much traveling). We agreed that this year we need to focus on our family and home (not House). I'd love to hear routines or ideas that draw your family close or keep the members engaged with each other. Sometimes as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom it's easy to get isolated and not have a clue what's going on with anyone else.

Hudson, our 5yo son, has started answering his own questions when he talks to us. For example, "Mom, do I have my own bike? No." "Do I look like I want to fall asleep? No." "Did I get to play that game? No.?" "Did I get to run errands with dad? No."

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ramblings

A friend of our's gave Nia a bicycle tonight as a late Christmas present. He fixed it up and it's practically brand new. She can't ride one, but she has always looked envious of her brothers when they ride at the park. Should be interesting to teach her.

With the New Year fast approaching, I always get this desire to purge all the unwanted things: toys, clothes, clutter, weight, dust. I just want everything stripped down. I can't wait to get the Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving and I can't wait to take it down the day after Christmas. So, tomorrow I'm taking some Personal Time to reflect on the past year and ways to improve the next one. Specifically, I've GOT to come up with some kind of chore system for the kids. As my friend says, "Angel, if you don't have enough time for yourself, then your kids aren't doing enough around the house." I've been intending to implement a chore system for 3 years, but then we move, adopt a child, move again, adopt another child, etc. And I feel like a hamster on a wheel who just can't ever seem to get anywhere. I'm still working on the unplugged plan, too. I bought a great game for Christmas that we all love called Blokus. Look on Amazon.com for it. It has helped us unplug and spend family time together. Some day, when they're all too old to eat the pieces, I want us to get in the habit of having a jigsaw puzzle set up round the clock somewhere in the house. I have lots of lofty goals. :- ) Do not fear, however. I have no intentions of grinding my own wheat and making homemade bread. I tried to make bread once without a bread machine. I could hammer nails with the end result.

The sibling issues are still ever present in our home. Most fingers like to point at Nia, and admittedly, they are usually accurate pointers. Getting her to express feelings is one of our biggest hurdles right now. She just doesn't know how to understand her feelings or express them either. Totally foreign. When we're reading together I'll say how do you think this person feels based on the picture. Then, why do you think they feel this way? How would you feel?

I'll close with a funny about her....when she wants to fry an egg, she'll say, "Ma, please light the fire. " When I turn on the stove eye, she'll look in the cabinet underneath for the fire. When she's done with her egg, "Ma, please off the fire."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Nail Clippers

Angel here. I lost my nail clippers this week. I was amazed at how out-of-control 60 fingernails and 60 toenails can get in such a short amount of time.

Nia has taken a real love to our dog, Ox. About 7:30pm every night she'll open the back door and say, "Ox is cold. He needs to come in." And in he comes, straight to the boys bed.

Nia is a very hard worker. Today I decided that I couldn't take another minute of the clutter in my house, so I started at the front and worked my way back. Nia joined right in with a great attitude and professional thoroughness. "Ma, I should get the broom?" "Ma, I should dust this?" If my dad was still alive he would've said she worked like a Georgia mule. At supper every night we go around the table and everyone says their favorite thing about the day. Her's was "cleaning with ma." Joy! Joy!

We are potty training Eva this week and Nia is one of her biggest supporters. It might have something to do with the fact that everyone gets a chocolate chip if Eva goes in the potty.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Good Bye Call Center

Matt here. Yes, Angel has taken over my blog.

It is a sad day for me professionally. After almost 10 years in the call center business I'm moving on. I just accepted a new position at the company I currently work at. I'm being vague due to random search engines picking up on my company's name and I just rather not draw attention to myself on the wild web.

I have accepted an Account Executive position in our Client Services Division. I will be working with our 2nd largest client. If you know my career it is the company I previously worked for in the wireless industry. Jacob doesn't understand how I can work with my former employer but not for them. He keeps thinking I left my company to go back to the other one. It is great to be working with that company again. I left there on very good terms and look forward to new challenge. The best part of my new job is that I get to play with the latest and greatest cell phones!!!!

Over my 10 years in the call center business I've worked with many great people from a variety of backgrounds; racially, economically, religiously, and sexually. I will miss working with all those who put up with customers yelling at them and yes sometimes me yelling too (ya right I couldn't hurt a flea). In the crazy world of call centers I've been able arrange for a kindergarten class to have a cookie party, get Stephen Baldwin into a certain vehicle I used to work with, get Robert Redford's handler a new cell phone while shooting The Last Castle, and surprise many customers by going the extra mile. On the flip side I've "accidentally" hung-up on customer's who used more foul language and obscene statements than Borat.

I will miss all the lame excuses for reps calling out, some of the classics are (and are all true):
  • my cat has a fever
  • I ran out of gas and I have a flat tire
  • my grandmother Jones died (for the second time that year)
  • I was up late working my second job (even though his girlfriend called out the same day saying that she was hung over while parting with her boyfriend -hmm wonder who was the lier)
  • I ate Chinese food and have food poisoning
  • My electricity went out and I overslept (even though they told me last week they use their cell phone as an alarm clock)
  • I ate Mexican food and have food poisoning
  • I have a migraine headache (but they could text their co-workers all day long)
  • I ate something and have food poisoning
  • My car won't start (even though it is a Saturday and someone could take them to work)
  • I'm sick and I'm in the process of getting FMLA (aka For My Lazy Ars) for the 4th time this month
  • I'm a Seventh Day Adventist and can't work Saturdays (even though she worked the same schedule for the previous 9 months, oh ya and eats meat all the time)
  • I'm in jail for the next 90 days for drunk driving. Can you keep my job?
  • Last but not least, I ate something that I must be allergic to

How I will miss those lovely calls and the call center in general. One of my bosses used to say that managing a call center is like being a mayor of a small town. He was sooo right.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Holidays

Christmas was spent in Wisconsin with Matt's family. It was the first snow for Nia. She said, "Can I touch it? It looks like salt." While she enjoyed the snow, she preferred to enjoy it from a distance...inside the house.

The only drawback for Christmas is that now Nia thinks both grandmothers are rich, as well as her parents. "Why you not buy me dat toy?" Compared to the rest of the world, we ARE rich.

Every day is still unpredictable with her, but it's getting better every day, too. This afternoon she played in such a sweet, sisterly way with her 5yo brother, Hudson. She is sharing more, also. We have found that boredom is usually the culprit for Teasing Attacks.

Here's my favorite quote this week: "I was doing the family grocery shopping accompanied by two children, an event I hope to see included in the Olympics in the near future." ~Anna Quindlen

Friday, December 21, 2007

Artistic Expression

Nia indeed has a talent for artistic expression. She discovered my childhood barbies one day last week and proceeded to sew clothes for them. I'm not talking about the mu-mu dress like I would've done when I was 8. I'm talking about form-fitting shirts, shorts, and skirts. I've mentioned before about her attention to detail. Truly, she is deliberate about every stitch. When she draws she spends more time erasing. When she does Eva's hair, she'll spend more time making the part straight than actually braiding. I love discovering who she is.

Sickness and Traditions

Nia has finally gotten sick. Every other child in the family has gone through bad colds and bronchitis, and Nia finally got her turn. I'm really grateful in a weird way. It puts her in a position of needing us more and having to rely on us more. When Isabel came home from China she had RSV and a dislocated hip. She had fought letting us cuddle her, even at 11mths old, until she got so sick she couldn't fight us anymore. When she had her spica cast she also had to let us hold her whenever we wanted. It shot us 6 months ahead in the bonding process.

We're heading to Wisconsin to visit Matt's family for Christmas. Nia will most likely freeze her little tail off; it will be in the 20s just about every day. Maybe she'll decide that tights and pants are a good invention. Anyway, we've been letting the kids open one present each day this week to avoid hauling it all up north and risk getting things mixed up with cousins. I have to say, I actually like this idea of one thing a day. You'll never see them so excited about opening socks any other time. I also like that it keeps them from getting overwhelmed with so many things at once. I think this might be the start of a new tradition, maybe saving a big gift for Christmas morning next year and opening the little stuff each day before.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hep C

Nia tested positive for Hepatitis C. For more info, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hepatitis_C

We need to do more testing to see if she is just a carrier (no symptoms or problems) or if she actually has the virus. The most major concern with Hep C infected people is liver trouble later on. She tested negative for HIV, Hep A, and Hep B.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Saving the Day

Our 5yr-old son, Hudson, likes to dress up like Spiderman, and then put his real clothes on top so that he can also be Peter Parker, as well. The other day I was looking for him in the house...."Hudson, where are you?"

"Mom, I'm in here saving the day."

It just reminded me of how God redeems so many of my days when I lose it or don't call on Him first, etc. He saves the days for me over and over. The ultimate Day Saver. One friend of mine was talking about interacting with her children throughout each day, and she said, "Angel, just always try to end the day well, no matter what happened throughout the day."

Have you ever eaten so much red pepper on your food that your BMs burn on their way out? Nia has. Are your BMs red? Nia's are.

Nia's pouting and sulking times are getting shorter (thank God!). I keep reminding her when she decides not to talk to me that she is part of a family now, and families talk to each other. To think that a child has to learn to be a daughter and a sister.....

On a different subject, last night two friends and I had a Christmas Gathering here in the inner city where I live. A friend shared her life story with a group of 40 or so women, and 20 women accepted Christ. Most of them expressed interest in doing a bible study with us in January. Hallelujah!! God loves to Save.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Treating Anemia

Someone had asked how we are hoping to treat Nia's anemia....Well, Black Strap Molasses is a natural and easily absorbed way to get Iron. However, it's not so yummy on it's own. Nia does not enjoy taking her vitamins, and if she continues to make a big deal about it then we may have to resort to putting PolyVisol (liquid) in milk/water. We've tried to convince her that the vitamins really are her best tasting choice.

It's been another hard day with Nia. Whenever I try to have a conversation with her about her behavior, she goes silent, looks in the distance, and pouts. It really tries my patience. I'm just trying to have a conversation with her, communicate lovingly to her, and then she has to go and respond in a &*(%*^@#* way. I took computer and TV away today until she could show me a better attitude. Needless to say, she didn't get much screen time today, which is actually a good thing. I'm still working on the Unplugged thing.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Belching

Clive (1st grade) was given a warning/ultimatum over the weekend from one of his choir directors. If he belched on stage one more time, he'd be removed from stage instantly. Little did they know, to him that was an opportunity to get out of choir for good. Fortunately, he showed great self-control and made it through 4 church services and the actual performance with no belching on stage. He can now officially quit kids' choir.

Nia had her first doctor visit today. They drew blood for tests, which required me laying on top of her full-body in order to keep her still enough for the draw. I was sweating by the time they finished. Her doc called this evening to say that some of the bloodwork is already back, and the biggest concern so far is that she is very anemic. More results to come later this week.

The doctor wrote an order for bone testing if we want to get an accurate medical opinion on her age. Her birth certificate says she 11yo, but we will probably "make" her about 8. He seemed to think that age might be closer to the truth.

We're still having some defiance issues. Sigh. I do, however, think we are gaining ground slowly into her heart.

A word about her personality...You can take the girl out of Africa, but....Sunday morning we agreed on a beautiful cranberry-colored dress with sparkling buttons for church. I left her to get ready and she emerged moments before we walked out the front door wearing that beautiful cranberry dress with flip-flops on her feet and a green do-rag on her head.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Nia's handiwork is so detailed. She takes great pains with every strand to make sure it's straight and even.

Settling Down

It's been a relatively calm week with Nia. She's had her moments of pouting and defiance, but they are shorter lived. I am feeling more confident about telling her No without fear of her reaction. With God's help I am able to remain pretty steady emotionally with her "episodes" of pouting/defiance. I have, however, let it fly when she can't hear me. I am able to use humor more to make a point with her, and get her to smile at herself. She is starting to talk more, which is such a blessing after getting only Yes and No for weeks. We have learned that indeed there were times when she had no food at the mission. At first she told us she always got 3 meals/day. She only admitted the truth after we told her we knew from another source that she didn't always have 3 meals/day. What kind of fear is instilled into a child that still holds onto them on another continent?

Jacob and Clive have their kid's choir performance tomorrow night. Clive stands by his statement after the last practice that "Choir Stinks." Jacob is tired of practice, but for him it's always a party if there's one more person around. Nia has given Eva a new cornrow style. Matt and I took turns holding Eva still whilst she received her new coiff. She's SO tenderheaded. Or Stubborn. Isabel has been moping around the house for 4 days with a low-grade fever. So pitiful, but cute. Hudson, well, he's just Tigger.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Letters

This letter came via another family who recently went to Liberia to pick up their child from Nia's orphanage. The letter is from Matterline, the girl who stood beside Nia and wept audibly the day Nia left the orphanage.

Dear Nia,
My reason of me writing you this letter it to tell you that I love you but God love you the best. I pray that God will be with you and your family. I want you to please find me a family for me and my brother. I have one brother. My brother name is Seyfou Toe. My best color are orange and yellow.

(I have no less than 50 letters like this from the orphans. Most of them are addressed to "Any Mom and Dad" and they are all asking for families.)

Another letter:
Nia was in my room in Dorm 5, Room 8, but I can not see Nia now. She was a little good girl. When she was going I cry, but one day I will see Nia and her family. Please send me a picture. I am 10 years old. I have one sister and brother. My sister name is Merrous and my brother name is samuel. We do not have mother, but our father is very poor. He don't have anything to give us, so he bring us to this mission for help. Can you please help us? Nia, your friends say hello. May joy be in your new home. Good by.

On the outside of this letter is a note to me, Angel: Please give this letter to any famiily who want to adopt us who love little children.

Typical Homeschool Morning.

Appetite

Nia can eat so much at one time, you'd think she'd throw up afterwards. This morning for breakfast she had a bowl of rice, a bowl of chili, and 3 fried eggs. One hour later she asked if she could have some Ritz crackers. She'll say, "I'm hungry!" with a whiny pouty voice. Do you have any idea how hard it is to refuse food to a child who has only had bread and rice for the past 5 years?

We have great missionary friends in Liberia who have given us "lessons" in Liberian culture. It's the kind of thing you can't get from a history book, but only from first-hand experience. They said that Liberians only think people are serious if they yell and scream. Otherwise, you probably don't really mean what you say. Well, that explains a lot. Not that I should resort to screaming at Nia, but it helps me understand why she doesn't think I mean what I say. Usually, when I get firm and just a notch or two above normal volume, she begins to obey.

She's starting to read 2-3 letter words, like "me" "see" "eat". She fights doing her reading lesson with me, but I know she feels proud of herself when she reads a word. Since Liberians leave off the last consonants of their words, it's difficult for her to add "d" and "t" to the end of our words. She has a hard time pronouncing them at the end.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Past

Nia noticed a man wearing camoflauge walking on the sidewalk today. She said, "Look Ma. Police." I realized that she was thinking about what soldiers and rebels wore in Liberia. I asked her if she had ever seen police at the orphanage in Liberia. She said at her home before she went to the orphanage. I asked if she had ever seen anyone killed. She said, Yes.

So wrong that someone her age has seen probably more than one person killed. She said she was afraid of police in Liberia. We didn't get around to whether or not she knew the people she saw killed. Someday she may talk about it again.

The Switch-A-Roo

Last night we were getting ready to go to a friend's Christmas Play, and I was surprised that Nia asked me what she should wear right down to the shoes and socks. We had her looking georgeous with a purple headband in her hair. So, I was even more surprised when we got out of the van and she was wearing a green dew rag instead (The first Switch-A-Roo). I guess the purple headband was just a little too American. I wouldn't mind the dew rag so much if she didn't look like a cancer patient with it on. She took out her braid extensions yesterday, so her hair is back to Very Short. I think it has grown a teensy, weensy bit in the last 3 weeks.

Anyway, she was disappointed that she had to go to bed when we came home, which led to a pouting session. Unfortunately, she woke up still feeling pouty and started causing trouble with her siblings right off the bat. The morning was spent with her in tears. I hugged, prayed over her, looked her in the eyes and reassured her of my love. Then I kept doing the daily routine.

Somehow, during the course of the morning she switched back to Adorable Child. Not sure what happened, but I was grateful for it. It remains to be seen how many more times she will do The Switch before the day is over. I write all of this mostly for parents who haven't brought their older Liberian children home yet. There's no use acting like everything is rosy. It's good to know what to expect. The hardest part is not letting her isolate during these pouty times. It would be much easier for me to let her close herself in her room until she could emerge as a pleasant child. However, for her attachment issues, I must force her to continue to engage with the family with only small windows of time alone. Remember, I'm not trying to throw my child under the bus and give her a bad rep. I'm simply trying to paint a realistic picture of life after bringing home an older adopted child. My other children definitely have their moments, too. For example, Isabel (3yrs) completely went ballistic in Borders bookstore today because I wouldn't buy all the Diego toys. We walked out of there with every eye in the store fixated on the 7 of us.

Nia is quite adept at frying her own eggs, something my other children haven't been allowed to do yet. Of course, she IS the tallest child in our family, so being able to see what's in the skillet gives great advantage.

Monday, December 03, 2007

101 Fun Things to Do With Kids

Okay, I've been reading The Connected Child about children who are adopted or have suffered trauma that inhibits their ability to connect with their family. They mention that these children should have very limited computer/TV/video game time because it encourages them to disengage with their family even more. So, I found this list of Non-Screen things to do. Mind you, I'm not crafty. I wouldn't want to deprive the Sunday School teachers of that fun. Some of these ideas really take me out of my noncrafty comfort zone.
~angel

101 Fun Things to Do with Kids
1. Go on a nature walk and collect different things. Make a collage with those things. 2. Make cookies together. 3. Draw a family picture. 4. Play charades. 5. Finger paint with shaving cream on paper. 6. Make homemade playdough and sculpt with it. 7. Go to a park and swing on the swings. 8. Go to the zoo. 9. Visit a fire station and take a tour (call ahead.) 10. Fly a kite together. 11. Go to a pond and feed the ducks. 12. Plant a garden. 13. Go to story time at the library. 14. Make instruments out of items around the house. 15. Decorate picture frames or outlet covers. 16. Paint with watercolors. 17. Make paper dolls that look like each child. 18. Work on a scrapbook together. 19. Make homemade ice cream. 20. Make a piƱata with Paper-Mache. 21. Go on a picnic. 22. Go for a walk. 23. Sing songs together. 24. Make a gingerbread house out of graham crackers. 25. Find a local farm and take a tour. 26. Go play at an indoor playground (at a mall, restaurant, etc.) 27. Play a sport together. 28. Look through magazines, cut out pictures and make a collage. 29. Visit a children’s museum. 30. Make pudding and finger paint with it. 31. Trace the child’s silhouette on paper and let him color it in. 32. Make a card for someone. 33. Let the child help you make dinner. 34. Make a paper cup telephone. 35. Go to a movie 36. Learn more about your state’s history. Draw the state flag, learn about the state animals, etc. 37. Make crafts with Popsicle sticks. 38. Go for a walk after it rains and stomp in the puddles. 39. Ride bikes together. 40. Rent a video, make popcorn and have a movie night. 41. Plan a family vacation together. 42. Go rollerblading together. 43. Write a story. 44. Read a book together. 45. Make a birdhouse or pine cone bird feeder. 46. Make holiday decorations. 47. Have a tea party. 48. Write a poem. 49. Have a backyard BBQ. 50. Play a family board game. 51. Sleep in backyard. 52. Go to a professional sporting event 53. Go bowling. 54. Play hide and seek. 55. Decorate a T-shirt with paints or markers. 56. Make a homemade journal. 57. Decorate a brown paper bag and play dress up in it. 58. Put on a puppet show. 59. Go to a children’s theater. 60. Make a cereal necklace. 61. Play catch. 62. Take silly pictures and print them or get them developed. 63. Blow bubbles. 64. Play group games like mother may I; red light, green light; and duck, duck, goose. 65. Go to a lake and play on the beach or ride in a boat. 66. Go sledding or skiing. 67. Build a snowman. 68. Roast marshmallows over the stove and make S’mores. 69. Play Frisbee or Frisbee golf. 70. Do science experiments together. 71. Go mini-golfing. 72. Make “oobleck”. 73. Go to a museum. 74. Exercise together. 75. Go hiking. 76. Put on music and dance. 77. Have a paper airplane flying contest. 78. Teach child to sew and make a blanket or a pillow. 79. Go swimming. 80. Make a paper plate mask. 81. Build a crystal radio. 82. Play 20 questions. 83. Spend time learning about another culture. 84. Do the child’s handprints. 85. Start a collection together (i.e. Stamps, coins, stickers, etc.)86. Paint clay pots and plant flowers in them. 87. Draw with sidewalk chalk. 88. Go out for lunch or dinner. 89. Go camping. 90. Tell jokes. 91. Make a meal that you can eat with just your fingers. 92. Make smoothies. 93. Draw pictures with your toes. 94. Go to the mall and eat in the food court. 95. Play with a pet. 96. Color pictures in a coloring book or print out coloring pages from the internet. 97. Make a noodle picture-paint uncooked noodles and glue them to paper. 98. Write letters to family or friends. 99. Have a tickle war. 100. Do a crossword puzzle or word search together. 101. Give them a big hug and tell them you love them!