HARD LESSONS

I’ve said before that one of the most challenging parts of being a parent is staying consistent with discipline and following through with what you say you are going to do. Sometimes Grant and Maria have had to learn some hard lessons with regards to behavior and consequences.

Maria’s lesson: Thou shall not throw M&Ms or any other food.

It’s not uncommon to allow them to have one peanut M&M if they behave and eat well at dinner. Earlier this week, I was handing out their M&M when Maria began to protest the color of her M&M and fact that she only got one. I had a different color in my hand and offered a trade when she grabbed it without warning. Problem was she was not letting go of the first one. I pried the 2nd out of her little hand when she began to scream and subsequently hurled the one M&M she had across the room. What did this mean for her? ZERO M&Ms. What did this mean for me? A tantrum full of pitiful tears and screaming. I let her rage for a few minutes then picked her up and sat with her in the rocking chair to calm her down and explained the reason that she did not get an M&M and that she needed to tell me she was sorry for throwing it and the subsequent tantrum. She said she was sorry and was soon distracted. The next night there was zero protest over M&Ms.

Grant’s lesson: Thou shall not throw tantrum over getting one’s hair dried.

Jeremy has been blow drying Maria’s hair after bath for some time. The other night Grant decided he wanted his hair dried. He sat on the floor while Jeremy blow dried it and when Jeremy declared him finished, I picked him up so we could start his bedtime story. Grant, however, did not think he was finished. He melted out of my lap crying “hair dwy” and soon became a puddle on the floor. He wallowed around crying as I told him that if he didn’t stop his crying about his hair that he was not going to get his bedtime story. He continued to wallow and wail. I allowed this performance for a couple of minutes and eventually I picked up off the floor and explained that he had lost his bedtime book privileges. The cry then changed from “hair dwy” to “read book”. It was pitiful. I cradled him and began to explain that I warned him of the consequences of his tantrum and because he continued he lost his book reading for that night, however we would still rock. He didn’t like the answer, but accepted it and after a few minutes the tears dried.

While these instances can be trying I see the benefits when we can remind them of these consequences and they alter their behavior to what we want. Sometimes the hard lessons are the best lessons.

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Brae-isms

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1. Scene: an early Monday morning, in Mommy and Daddy’s closet.

Brae (to Daddy): “Daddy, I’m going to pick out a shirt for you to wear today at work.”

Daddy: “Ok.”

(Several minutes elapse. Mommy at bathroom counter getting ready. She doesn’t see the following conversation, but just hears it).

Brae: “Ok! I’ve got a shirt for you, Daddy! Here.”

Daddy: “No, Brae, I’m not wearing that shirt to work.”

Brae, crying: “What? Why not, Daddy? I picked it out special just for you. I want you to wear it today. You need to wear it today!”

Daddy: “No, pick out another shirt.”

Brae: “No!” (full on crying now, temper-tantrum mode, on the floor, kicking and screaming). “Wear this shirt! I picked it out just for you! Why won’t you wear the shirt I picked out special for you? That hurts my feelings. Wear this shirt, Daddy!”

Daddy, very calmly: “Brae, I’m not wearing Mommy’s shirt to work. Pick out another one.”

***

2. Scene: a park, on a sunny Fall day. Brae walks to the middle of the grass, pulls down his pants, and his underwear, and then bends down to touch his toes, bare bum high up in the air.

Mommy, walking quickly over to him, trying to act calm: “Brae, what are you doing?”

Brae: “Mommy, my bum needs some sunshine.”

***

3. Scene: Brae, at the coffee table, going through his preschool workbook.

Brae, talking to himself, pointing in the book: “Smallest, largest, ummm… mediust. Biggest, littlest, mediust.”

***

4. Brae is into storying. This means that he does not want me to read him stories anymore; he wants me to make them up in my head and tell him a story. And, in what ever story of what ever version of what ever I can possibly come up with in my head, Brae has to be a kung fu warrior.

***

5. Scene: Brae, at his friend’s birthday party. His friend is also adopted.

Mommy: “Brae, did you know your friend [Gabriel] is adopted, just like you? That makes you both so special.”

Brae: “You mean Gabriel came out of [birthmom]’s tummy, too?

***

6. Scene: In car, driving home.

Mommy: “Brae, your birthday is coming up. Are you excited?”

Brae: “Yeah, but Mommy, I don’t want to get pushed out of [birthmom]’s tummy ever again.”

Mommy: “Okay, I think that can be arranged. Can I ask why not?”

Brae (wide-eyed): “Because I didn’t like it. It was scary.”

Mommy: “Well, maybe that’s because you were born on Halloween.”

TWIN HAPPENINGS

What’s new for Grant and Maria?

• This past weekend, Maria told me that I was yucky and needed to take a shower so she could watch Elmo. She has also informed me on multiple occasions that she does not approve of my wardrobe and needed to change. I fear that this is only the beginning on many years of being directed by my little “mighty mite” daughter. She cracks us up and Jeremy says it’s a good thing she’s cute.
• Grant is a complete bottomless pit and declared that he was a pig to Jeremy’s mom. He can eat an egg, toast, fruit and large bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and only 30 minutes later declare he’s “hummy.” I fear that we might not be able to afford to feed him when he’s a teenager and if the size of his hands and feet are any indication of his future size, we are in trouble.
• Maria and Grant take turns feeding our dog Charlie each day. Maria’s first order of business each morning is to declare whose turn it is to feed him and if it’s her turn, we hear it all.day.long. “My turn to fee Chawie.” She says it with much conviction and assertiveness.
• Grant is excellent at using toys and blankets as tools. Maria dropped her paci from the crib one day and I watched him take his blanket and use it to move the pacifier closer to the crib. He then reached through the slats and grabbed the escaped binkie and nicely handed it to his sister. I was impressed on several accounts.
• Maria has also started using complete sentences. She looked at me the other day and said “Can I have another cracker, please, Mama?” Jeremy and I looked at each other and said did you just hear that? Yes, it was a very well phrased and polite request. I wish they were all that way.
• We went to the pumpkin patch to pick pumpkins and Grant walked around attempting to pick up pumpkins and declared them all “too heavy”. He was happy when I brought home a couple of “baby punkins” that were not too heavy.

They are definitely entertaining, which is fuel to get us through the challenging days.

How to Protect Your Child from a Predator

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A few weeks ago, we took a class on children and sex abuse. It’s part of the class series we have to take to complete our application for adopting through the state. It was definitely the hardest of the 8 classes we have to take.

After listening (for 3 hours!) about the different types of sex abuse (thanks to the Internet, so many child victims don’t even know they are being victimized), and about the different forms a predator can take (a grandmother!?), I was feeling pretty deflated.

How can we possibly protect our children from predators?

Predators are a sneaky bunch. They find their victims, “groom” them (gain their trust), “groom” the parents (gain our trust), and then the abuse starts slowly.

By far, most predators are people that the child, and the parents, know. Which makes it all the more insidious. And just plain scary.

So, I couldn’t leave the class without an answer. I had to know: How can we possibly protect our children from predators?

Up went my hand.

And the answer they gave was, I found, very profound.

The best way to protect your child from a sex abuse predator is to encourage your child to develop his/her own gut instinct.

Sounds simple, right?

Well, I speak for myself when I say that I have unknowingly discouraged my child’s own gut instinct on several occasions.

I’ve done it nearly every holiday when I push encourage Brae to go give his second cousin, thrice removed, a big ole’ hug and kiss, even though he hasn’t seen her since the last holiday. And when he cowers behind my legs refusing to go over there, I tell him he’s being impolite.

Or, when I force encourage him, every Christmas, to go sit on the lap of some strange man with a long beard wearing a funny red suit, whisper in his ear what gifts he wants, and then smile for a camera.

And what am I doing each time I do this? Well, according to the “experts,” I am telling my son to not trust his own gut instinct. I’m telling him to ignore that little voice in his head, or that pit in his stomach, or those goosebumps that those warning signs are not to be trusted.

Ignore them. Go ahead, take candy from a stranger.

Go ahead, get into the back of some man’s van because he tells you he has ice cream.

Go ahead, get in someone’s car because they tell you they are taking you to Mommy and Daddy.

Sure, maybe I’m going to a bit of an extreme, but I’d rather have the second cousin, thrice removed, feel slighted by a 3-year-old than to quash my son’s own gut instinct.

So, Mr. Santa, we will not be sitting on your lap this Christmas if my kids don’t want to. Thank you, very much. And they will still get presents on Christmas morning. If for no other reason than to teach them that there is no punishment for going with your gut.

ROAD TRIP

This past weekend we took a mini road trip to Boone County, near Cincinnati for family pictures. Our photographer lives in Northern Kentucky and while she makes trips to Louisville for sessions we weren’t able to coordinate schedules, so we took advantage of a beautiful fall day and made the hour and 45 minute journey north.

To date, we have not gone on any long trips with the kids, so this was their longest car ride ever. Scheduling pictures in conjunction with such was a bit of a risk, but Katie has photographed them since birth and if they went bad, it wouldn’t be the first time we had professional pictures of them screaming. (The screamers are actually some of my favorite pictures.)

While we were getting ready, we talked about having our pictures made and how we weren’t going to be scared of Katie. Maria was extremely shy at their 2 year photo shoot, and while she changed her tune after a wardrobe change, she still didn’t come all the way out of her shell. I wanted to prime her for good things with this session. She agreed that she wouldn’t be scared and that she would smile for the camera.

We packed a non-staining lunch for the car as well as appropriate blankets and stuffed friends, put in some of Grant’s favorite music and hit the road. We heard all about the “big twucks” that Grant watched along the way. They did very well and Jeremy only had to retrieve a lost water bottle a time or two.

For the actual photo session, Maria turned it on like she never has for pictures and Grant was his usual ham self. They were enamored with the rustic surroundings. Bridges, streams, rocks and leaves. What more could a 2 year old ask for!

We soon ended and headed back home. It was a gorgeous drive. The sun was setting against rolling hills full of trees changing color. Grant and Maria were happy riding and even made a game out of tossing their animals back and forth to each other. They were cracking each other up and only once did Grant ask to get out and walk. We let them run a few laps around the house when we got home and managed to get them in bed only an hour later than normal. Maria must have been wiped out from turning it on for pictures because the next morning she slept until 9:20 and only woke because Grant insisted she get up by throwing a plastic baseball in her crib and hitting her on the head.

All in all it was a successful road trip and Katie captured some awesome photos.

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Five Things You May Not Have Known About My EA Journey

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Five things you may not have known about my EA journey:

1) Sienna was one of 9 embryos frozen. Six were adopted by another family. None survived the thaw. We adopted the remaining 3. One didn’t survive the thaw. Two were transferred. Only Sienna made it. She’s one of 9 genetic siblings to have survived the 10-year wait.

2) We almost chose anonymous adoption. However, it was my husband’s comment that because we already have a son who has an open adoption, it didn’t seem right to not also have an open adoption with any other child brought into our home.

3) We almost didn’t go through NEDC. We actually simultaneously pursued 2 other agencies. Living in Oregon, traveling to Tennessee (twice) seemed like a huge effort. However, after talking to 2 friends who had done EA with NEDC, I was convinced NEDC was the place for us.

4) I am Sienna’s biological mom. Her genetic makeup is not my own (thank you, donors!), but it was my heart, my womb, my body that was her home and kept her growing for those 9-10 months. And, I’m so grateful Sienna doesn’t have my genetic makeup. Because, then, she wouldn’t be Sienna.

5) On the day we were to find out our beta number, I had written down a list of positive truths I wanted to read if the results were negative. I still have that list. Here is what some of it reads:

— I did not fail. This was not my fault.

— The road and wait to get to Brae was long and hard, but in the end, we received the best of what God had in store for us.

— My faith will get me through this. God was not surprised by this. He’s sad because I’m sad, but He smiles at what lies ahead for me. GOOD gifts.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

I recently connected with someone via the NEDC’s Facebook page who is preparing for their embryo transfer in November. We’ve exchanged numerous messages regarding their upcoming transfer and our experience with embryo adoption. In one she commented on how beautiful Grant and Maria are and I mentioned that we relinquished their 10 siblings last year and that maybe they could consider them for adoption if they were still available. After all, we know they would be good looking kids, right? I explained that they had a special consideration label, but not to let that sway their decision and if they had questions, to let me know.

For the last year, I’ve wondered if someone had adopted their siblings, but I never really thought about meeting them. Because we went through an anonymous adoption, we can’t find out from the NEDC if additional siblings are born. However, if we just happened to run across the family or families who adopted additional siblings and the parties agreed, we could meet.

Earlier this week I received a message that this couple received 94 (wow!) profiles to review and that Grant and Maria’s profile number was not there. I was both excited and disappointed. Excited that hopefully this means they’ve been adopted and that that a healthy baby or babies have been born are waiting to be born. Disappointed because it means there’s a much less likelihood that we will know exactly what came of the remaining embryos. I know that Grant and Maria are going to ask the question one day. While I wouldn’t change our decision to adopt anonymously (anonymously donated embryos aren’t any less worthy of a chance out of the freezer) I know there will be questions that we can’t answer, including what became of the other embryos.

For now, I will trust the bigger plan and if we’re meant to know what happened to the others we’ll find out. Either way, I pray for wisdom and the right words in talking to Grant and Maria about their extraordinary entry into our family.