Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Power of the Pause

There is power in a pause.  As in

Hold your horses!  and
Give me one cotton pickin' minute!

Sure, I make my kids wait while I am speaking to another grown up, going to the bathroom, backing the truck out of the driveway, and trying to count how many cups of flour I have already dumped into the bread dough.  (No, I am not doing all of this at the same time - that would be multitasking overkill)

I expect that my children will wait.  I expect them to realize that the world does not always revolve around them, their wants, and their whims.  But that is not the powerful pause I am referring to today.

I meant, I get to pause.

Sometimes I am just too worn down to be fun.  My first instinct when my kids ask to do something is often, "No".  I can go through streaks where "No" becomes as automatic as saying "ouch" after I stub my toe.  It is instinctual.  Afterwards I don't even realize why I said no. 

It is also lazy parenting.  Now, those of you who have followed this blog long enough or know me in person know that I am a fan of some benign neglect for my kids.  I am not their cruise director.  I am more than willing to let them be bored for a while till they come up with something to amuse themselves.  Fortunately lazy parenting like this can be sold as enhancing the creativity of my children. 

But I can take it too far, especially if they ask me at an inconvenient time.  And once I say, "no" I mean it.  That's it.  So I need to remember to reserve my "nos" for when they are necessary, not habitual.

For the last couple of years, one of my favorite parenting phrases is "I'll think about it."  when my kids ask me something.  This gives them an immediate response so they stop repeating the questions as if I had suddenly lost my sense of hearing.  It also gives me a chance to finish what I am focusing on.   I have time to think about whether it would be too inconvenient to set out the slip and slide or have a play date with a friend.  I can consider whether they can watch a TV show or dig out some very messy craft before supper.

I am not a girl who loves change.  If I had a plan for the day or morning, I can struggle to shift gears and reevaluate their request.  This gives me a breather to think through my answer.

My children know that "I'll think about it" does not mean yes or no.  It is a maybe.  However, if they continue to ask, the answer is an automatic "NO!"

Some requests take only a couple minutes to consider.  Some may take a day or more.   I feel so much more confident about my decisions when I know they are thought through, and my children feel better knowing their request was given full consideration.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hurry Up, Adoption Documents!

We are currently waiting for yet another very official and very important document for our adoption journey.  For those of you in the know about China adoption lingo, we are waiting for LOA.

For those of you not as much in the know, LOA stands for Letter of Acceptance.  This means that after rigorous screenings about our suitability to parent on the US side, China is officially giving us permission to adopt.  This is after they have already reviewed our documents at the Chinese Consulate, and reviewed our documents when we submitted our dossier, and reviewed our documents when we submitted our Letter of Intent, which says, YES!  We really, really, want to adopt this sweet boy.

Please don't be misled into thinking that the arrival of our LOA means we get to travel to China anytime soon. We are still a few more documents away from that.  Our government and China need to continue to send seemingly duplicate pieces of paper back and forth to each other for a while.  We are assuming we will travel sometime around January.

So, for the various reasons, we are praying that the paperwork speeds up.  First, obviously, we want to meet our new son!  I'm in the 3rd trimester of this paperwork pregnancy and am getting impatient.  And the nesting has kicked in, but I don't have the funds to indulge those impulses.

Second, is more pragmatic.  The Adoption Tax Credit is set to expire this year.  This is a significant chunk of change ($13,000) that we would love to get back to immediately turn over to the hospital for Levi's needed palate surgery (and probably another surgery for Veronica) next year.

Finally, I am just anxious to get my son home from the area he is from.  His hometown (which will remain nameless until we have permission to share after LOA) is located about 75 miles from Linfen, China in Shanxi province.  This is acknowledged to have the most polluted air on the planet.

According to one World Bank report, 16 out of 20 of the world's worst cities for air pollution are found in China and Linfen has the highest levels of pollution. This city is at the center of the nation's coal industry. Here, emissions from vehicles and industry have created an atmosphere where people literally choke on coal dust. The rate of birth defects in Shanxi province is 6 times higher than China's national average, which is already high by global standards.

There is a video on Youtube called Lost Children of the Coal about this area and focuses on one particular woman who has taken in many, many orphans who have been abandoned, most likely because their family couldn't meet their medical needs.  You can see the general conditions of the area where my boy is from.  It is absolutely heartbreaking.

Here's the link:

Picture from the video Lost Children of the Coal

Please indulge me in one political plug.  There is a bipartisan supported bill in the US House of Representatives that would make the Adoption Tax Credit permanent.  Please, please, please if you are so inclined, contact your representative about supporting this bill.  This helps to make adoption a financial possibility for many families.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Exercise Inspiration

Finding time to exercise with 5 kids in the house is a little like finding time to fill a swimming pool with a Dixie cup.  It just isn't going to happen on its own.  You have to be deliberate and find tricks that work. 

I know many of you dear readers have memberships to the YMCA or other gyms that have free childcare.  What a great opportunity!  I like to think I would be in marathon shape if someone were watching my kids so I can exercise.  In reality, I'd probably still do the same amount of exercise, but stretch it out over a loooong time to take full advantage of that babysitting.  Maybe I'd even shower and blow dry my hair during the hiatus from parental duties. 

But, since I don't have any memberships, I make due with what I have.  And what I have is second hand (most of it free) free exercise equipment found on the internet - a treadmill, Nordictrack, and weight machine.  I find that if I don't early in the morning, it just isn't going to happen.  I'm exhausted by the end of the day.  So, pre-daylight works best. 

Unglamorous post-workout sweaty girl.

Here are some friendly tips for exercise inspiration, beyond the whole "You'll feel better and live longer and fit into skinny jeans" inspiration.

1.  Don't exercise while the kids are right by you.  Our treadmill is in the basement, along with the kids' toys.  I have found that shouting out, "Stop fighting!" and regulating toy sharing negotiations with the kids while trying to jog really messes with your breathing.  If I have to exercise while the kids are awake, I have a rule that if I have to stop the treadmill to deal with their misbehavior, they will be in time out till I am off the treadmill.  Harsh, yes.  Longer than the usual 1 minute per age, yes.  But a healthy Mommy is important. The kids are also not allowed to shout, "Faster, Mommy!  Faster!  I can run faster than that, Mommy!"  while I am on the treadmill.

2.  I reward myself with computer games.  I am not a huge video game kind of girl, but I love a good game of Scrabble or Boggle (Do you hear that, all my elementary teachers who gave me mediocre spelling grades.  I have improved.)  I only allow myself to play them after I have exercised.

3.  I know everyone has heard the advice to lay out your clothes the night before.  But it is so true.  If I even have to open a drawer in my sleep deprived stupor, it seems like too much work and I will just go back to sleep.

4.  The best advice I have is child guilt.  I have told them many times how I exercise to stay healthy so I can take good care of them for a long time.  I then challenge them to ask me EVERY DAY if I exercised.  If I have, they jump up and down and shout "Hooray!"  Alright.  Just the younger ones do that.  The older ones stick with high fives.  If I haven't exercised that day, they put on a grave face and say, "Mommy.  You should exercise to keep healthy.  You need to take care of me."  There is nothing like a guilt inducing scolding from a four year old to get yourself on the treadmill.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Goodbye Grandma

So much has happened since my last post; I hardly no where to begin.  I'll address some of the other things later, but the most important change is that my wonderful Grandma passed away. 

Of course I am sad that she is gone.  Saying good-bye (for now) is never easy.  But, this incredible woman had what we all want.  She lived a full life and finally went to be with Jesus at age 96.  She was married to a wonderful man and had children that loved her.  Many, many children.  Fourteen children.  Thank goodness she didn't think double-digit children were too many as my mom was number eleven.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in the same town that my grandma lived in.  I remember going to garage sales with her, my mom, and my aunts from my Barbie acquisition days.  She (bless her heart) actually wanted to go to my childhood band concerts.  Now anyone with a 5th grader who plays the clarinet knows that is a whole lot of love.  She kept special treats separate for us for Halloween and always acted surprised when we revealed our true identities.  She took care of me when I had the chicken pox and I felt very loved laying on her couch watching The Price is Right.

Honestly, I am so blessed to have had her for a grandma.  Those of you who knew her know exactly what I mean.  Those of you who hadn't been fortunate enough to had that privilege, let me tell you.  She was amazing.

Four generations together

Grandma with Veronica

Grandma with the four biggest kids.