Tuesday, December 27, 2011

6 Months Home

Today marks 6 months since Veronica was placed in our arms.  Okay,  I guess it was yesterday if you factor in time zone switches. But there is no need to get so technical.

Like everyone who has a child, either through adoption or abdominal-stretching pregnancy, the arbitrary time milestones make you pause in the middle of the frantic day-to-day living, look around, and wonder "when did all these changes happen"?

Certain changes in Veronica are obvious.  Now she has a forever family to love her along with her birth family and foster family who, I am sure, continue to think about her and love her.  She is understanding more and more English and sign language, minimizing her communication frustration.  Her buzz cut hair has grown out to a style that could only be called "mullet-like".  And, she is losing that rounded baby appearance.  Her legs look longer in jeans even though she has gained four pounds since coming home.

Oh.  And I guess the most obvious change has been her cleft lip/palate repair.  Although to be quite honest, after a few days with her I hardly noticed her unrepaired cleft unless someone else commented on it.  And now I don't really think about her repaired lip.  Something that initially seemed like such a big deal turns out to be just a blip on the radar of our everyday lives.  Yes, there are speech therapy appointments and more surgeries to come, but it is really not a big deal.

My mental review of the past 6 months had marked changes in me, too.  I have learned that "Special Needs" is really just a fairly useless label of medical quirks. Most kids have some kind of medical or emotional quirk that requires a bit more energy to parent.  My child is so much more than a label.

I've also learned that love for an adoptive child is no different than love for a bio child.  I had posted on another link about how my Mama love came gradually for my children - Veronica was no different.  But I'll admit now that the moment of worry has passed: I had a nagging thought that I might not love her as much as my other children.  There.  I said it.  I admitted the worry that nobody in adoption is willing to say.

This worry wasn't much different than when a parent is expecting another child and wonders how they could love another baby as much as their first.  Everyone who has gone through the experience is so reassuring.  "Of course you will love your child who was adopted just as much as your biological children."  I am so grateful that I can join in that chorus.

Let me declare to all of you with biological children who might be thinking about adoption or in the midst of one that you will, in fact, love them just as much as your other children.   I know you won't completely trust me on this.  But I will boldly declare it now and reserve my "I told you so" for after your child is home.

One of the biggest and best changes to occur is the continued development of the relationships between Veronica and her siblings, Veronica and her Daddy, and Veronica and myself.  She is no longer the "new child".  The other kids now get annoyed with her sometimes when she tries to assert her wants into the family dynamic.  The necessary separation of her from contact with family (no one could feed her, hold her, comfort her except parents to help with attachment) is done.  She is a full fledged family member, required to do chores, use please and thank you, and share toys.

I have come to the point where I have stopped worrying about how to make this little girl love me.  She already does.  And I love her.  We are to the good part - where we both know that I am her Mommy and she is my little girl.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Food - Cheap and Good - Part 1

I am a bit of a magazine junkie, and in every month's issue there is some article about how to save money on groceries or frugal recipes.  These bug the heck out of me.

Yes, I am frugal, thrifty, penny-pinching, possibly even cheap.  So what's the problem?  Its bad enough when I already do the things they suggest and don't learn any valuable information.  What is worse is when their suggestions aren't that frugal to begin with.  I cringe every time I hear about a "budget" meal that costs over $3 per serving.  Seriously?  That is a splurge meal at our house.

I don't know, Dear Reader, if you are in a watch-the-money-closely mode right now, but our house is.  So, I thought I'd post a few ideas of ways we save money on our grocery budget for breakfast.  I'll tackle lunches and suppers at a different time.

1.  I have one child in particular who requires a lot of fiber in her diet.  A lot of fiber.  Tons.  We go through a lot of oatmeal.  My kids love the flavored oatmeal packets, but could easily eat 2-4 packets for a single meal.  Multiplied by 5 that is 10-20 packets a day.  To save money, sometimes we just add raisins, cinnamon, molasses, etc. to regular oatmeal (from the tubs) and top it with a sprinkle of colored sugar to make our own flavored oatmeal.  Sometimes, we will use a packet of instant and mix it with a bunch of regular tub oatmeal to stretch it and make it healthier.

2.  When you have bits and pieces of several kinds of cereal left over, but not enough for a big bowl, I combine them all and call it a "party mix"  Yes, its a bit disgusting to have crushed Raisin Bran flakes mixed with Cheerios mixed with the powdery bits of generic Captain Crunch.  But, my kids will eat it.  Note:  This tactic will require advanced marketing skills on your part.  You may not just pour it into the bowl and give it to them.  Instead put on your maniacally happy face and present the "party mix" with a flourish.  I would strongly encourage a bit of a jig and a homemade jingle to accompany it.

3.  Eggs and toast are cheap, cheap, cheap and don't take much time to make.

4.  Egg bakes are an easy way to feed a crowd if you had company stay over night.  They have the added advantage of being able to be assembled the night before and just baked in the morning.

5.  Pre-cooked bacon is insanely expensive per ounce and doesn't have that nice, crispness to it.  When I cook bacon, I cook 2 or 3 pounds at once, drain it and then freeze it.  It stays crispy, you only need to take out what you need at that meal, and you still have the quick convenience of ready made.

6.  I've stopped buying baking mixes for pancakes.  I make my own Bisquick and store it in the pantry.  It is cheaper per ounce than store bought and only takes a couple of minutes to make.

7.  I always felt wasteful throwing away those frosted shredded wheat crumbs at the bottom of the bag.  We now keep them and use them as a topping for yogurt or I use them in the following cookie recipe - which beyond frugality has the additional benefit of adding extra fiber to my child's diet who desperately needs it. 

High Fiber Shredded Wheat Cookies
  • 2 3/4 cups shredded wheat cereal, crushed (I use frosted, but plain works, too)
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (you can add in anything, really.  Craisins, raisins, white chocolate, butterscotch chips, M&Ms, toffee chips, etc.)
  • 1 cup butter room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease a large baking sheet.
  2. Cream together the butter and the two sugars in a very large bowl.
  3. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Stir in the shredded wheat .
  6. Add the chocolate chips.
  7. Drop by  tablespoons onto the lightly greased baking sheet.
  8. Bake 8-15 minutes till the edges are slightly browned and the middle looks soft and squishy, but isn't doughy.
  9. Cool them completely before packing in an airtight container.
These freeze well.  You can also freeze the dough before baking.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Crushing my Children's Dreams

Have you ever been in the situation where you feel the need to crush your child's dreams preemptively before they get their hopes up too incredibly high? 

I found myself in this situation recently when my children began asking for both Nintendo DSs and Leapsters for Christmas.  One child asked for a kid-sized remote controlled robot that he could play football with, tackle, and that would make his bed for him in the morning.

I was caught off guard as this was the first time they had asked for high-priced electronics or any robot, for that matter.  In the past, I have had children wish for puzzles, toy dinosaurs, a guitar, and even a necktie.  But, they hadn't crossed over to the land of "Not Going To Happen" before.  They weren't trying to be greedy; they don't really have a clue how much things cost.  Even I don't know how much that mythical robot would cost. 

I struggled with how to handle this.  Part of the joy of Christmas (beyond the obvious joy of Jesus, of course) is imagining which gift will have your name on it.  What will be under all that wrapping paper?  And I can tell you one thing - Nintendo will not be unwrapped.  Santa usually brings each child one or two special gifts (under $25), books and things like toothbrushes and socks.

So, rather than have them focused on what they were never going to get, and end up utterly disappointed, I cut those daydreams down to size.

I told the children, who are very excited about Santa (except the oldest who is excited, but wise about "santa"), that I wrote a letter to Santa telling him to please not bring expensive electronics or robots.  The obvious disappointment ensued. 

"Why can't Santa bring us a DS or Leapster?"  One child asked. 

"Those things are very expensive for the elves to make."  I told them. "We don't want other children to go without because buying those for a family this size would get very pricey.  Besides, I want you guys to play with each other and not be staring at your own little screen all day."

They let their fantasy presents go with a sigh and then started thinking about other things Santa might bring.  "Maybe I'll get a magic kit or Legos"  One child said.  Another added, "Yeah, maybe he will bring the robot that I can play football with, but it just can't make my bed."

It looks like I will have to crush those dreams down a little bit more.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fashionable Housework

I've got a collection that may surprise you.  I honestly don't know any other 35 year old with the same obsession, but I'm going to step out of the shadows of secrecy and into the light.

I collect and wear aprons.  It feels almost subversive to type that in today's culture.

Yes.  Aprons.  Homemade vintage aprons.  They are usually gingham with embroidery, but I can be swayed by other homemade aprons.  I've got a flour-sack apron from the Great Depression up to a patchwork monstrosity from the 70s.  Okay, not a monstrosity, but with a look that really requires an open mind to appreciate it.

Here are a few from my collection:








And yes, I do wear them.  Actually I wear one nearly every day and with enough to choose from, I usually can find something to match what I am wearing.

I am not June Cleaver.  This is not some nostalgic throw-back to the 50's suburban housewife mentality.  The aprons are somewhat practical.  Especially when cooking, I like to have something to wipe my hands on; I tend to be a messy cook.

But the main purpose these aprons serve is to delineate "working" from "not working".  When I am home all day with my children, my home is my office.  With five kids, there is ALWAYS something that needs to be done.  I think it is impossible to catch up on everything, because once you get the house looking sharp, someone has peed in their bed and laundry needs to be done.  Or, somebody inevitably will have to eat - children are needy that way.

Aprons solve the dilemma of being unable to relax with work needing to be done.  When my apron is on, I work. I cook, clean and do laundry.  I take care of what needs to be done.  But, once that apron comes off during an afternoon break or in the evening, I don't feel compelled to do housework.  I could, but I don't feel guilty if it remains undone till morning.  It helps to establish clear boundaries and makes me a much happier person.

So why homemade aprons?  Why vintage aprons?  New aprons would serve the same practical purpose, but the big advantage to aprons carefully stitched by other women, even people I will never meet, is that I feel connected to the women who have lived before me.  When wearing another woman's apron (itself a pretty personal thing) I feel like a link in the tradition of all the other women who cared for their family and took pride in it. 

The apron functions as a uniform of sorts, reminding me that I am in fact a "working mother" even if I don't currently have a salary for the job.  But like any job (even great ones) it is good when the workday is done and I can just relax with my family.

My post is part of the "On My Mind" blog sharing series on the Down To Earth Blog.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Avoiding the Parenting Current

There is an underlying current in parenting today.  Like all swiftly moving, but often barely visible currents in a river, it is easy to get caught up in them if you are unaware or unsure of your own strength to avoid it.  It is easier to flow in the current to be sucked along to wherever the current takes you instead of fighting back and going to the destination of your choosing.

The current that I see sweeping so many parents along (especially mothers) is the idea that every spare resource of time, money and energy needs to be put into our children.

Now, I will freely admit that after God, my family is at the center of my universe.  I think that is good and appropriate.  However, my children are not my entire universe.  Other than God, of course, my husband even outranks my kids as my primary relationship.  Shocking!

The universe is incomprehensibly vast and I want to explore it all.  I want to focus on my husband, my friends and  yes, I'll admit it. Sometimes I am going to focus on myself.

I am more than a mother, although that and laundry (as you can see from my previous post ) take up most of my time.  My life did not freeze in a perpetual state of mothering once I had children.  I still want to explore,  have my own hobbies, listen to music of my choosing, read novels, debate politics, write and do all kinds of things to truly use my God-given gifts and talents.  Yes, even the ones not related to children.

Today I have the chance to do that.  I am taking my first writing class at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.  I have been looking forward to this for months!  It is a class about self-editing a novel.

I've finished a rough draft of a novel, and boy is it ever rough!  Hemingway once said, "All first drafts are s**t".  If that is true, I am on my way to following in Hemingway's footsteps!  I am hoping this class will help me move beyond the first draft doldrums and really help me polish my writing.

And I know, my kids will survive without me.  In fact, they will thrive with a happier Mommy who is trying to live up to her potential.