Monday, December 15, 2014

Advent Calendar: Day 15

Read Luke 2:40.


Discussion Questions:
Who grew and became strong?
What was Jesus filled with?


Activity: Play thumb war and see who's the strongest.


Pray for the local churches who are helping to meet the needs of orphans in their cities.


Give $.02 for every pair of shoes you own.

Advent Calendar: Day 14

Read Luke 2:36-39.


Discussion Questions:
Who did not depart from the temple?
How old was Anna?
Who performed everything according to the Law?
Where did Joseph, Mary and Jesus return to?


Activity: Christmas Madlibs
Print on of these fun Christmas madlibs: http://www.classroomjr.com/christmas-mad-libs/


Pray for the orphans who are going to turn 16 this year. In most countries, the average age that an orphan must leave the orphanage is 16.


Give $4 for every car you own.

Advent Calendar: Day 13

Read Luke 2:25-35.


Discussion Questions:
Who was a righteous and devout man?
Who was Simeon supposed to see before he dies?


Activity: Countdown to Christmas
Print this fun countdown to Christmas calendar.
http://www.sermons4kids.com/nativity_advent_calendar.htm


Pray for children with special needs in Eastern Europe. These children rarely leave the hospital with their biological family, but instead are put into institutions.


Give $.05 for every light switch in your house.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Advent Calendar: Day 12

Read Luke 2:21-24.


Discussion Questions:
What was the baby called?
What city did they bring Jesus?
Where did they go while in Jerusalem?
Who did they present Jesus to?
What did they offer to the Lord?


Activity: Origami Dove
Here's an easy origami bird tutorial:
http://www.origami-fun.com/origami-twirling-bird.html

Or here's one if you want an actual origami dove:
http://www.origami-make.com/traditional-origami-dove/page-02.php


Pray for the 17 million orphans who have lost both parents and are living in orphanages or on the streets.


Give $.03 for every board game that you own.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Reminder Notes Around My House

If you've ever been to my house within the last 6 months then you've probably seen white pieces of paper with writing EVERYWHERE (upstairs and downstairs). It looks kind of tacky since it's just taped up on the wall-no frame or anything to make it look nice.

These pieces of paper have helped me to get through the roughest of times with Smalls. They have one or two sentences on them from the books that I've read about adoption, parenting, and healing a traumatized child. Since they have been a big help to me, I figured they might be a big help to you too. I have these notes strategically placed throughout my house. I put them where the most incidents occur or happen.

I can't sight what book I got each quote from, but I've probably already recommended it on my blog at one time or another.


Reminder Notes:

By the TV: Would you rather play quietly in front of the TV or noisily in your room?

Would you like to walk to your room by yourself or with me?

Would you like to walk to your calm down spot by yourself or with me?

I'll be glad to talk to you as soon as you're calm.

I listen to people who do not (insert bad behavior- yell, whine, kick, scream) at me.

Do I need to remind you on what to do or do you remember?

(If Smalls breaks something) How are you going to pay me back from your destruction? And I'll suggest extra chores or money making opportunities.

Wow! That sounds awful. How are you going to handle it? And we can come up with solutions to her problems together.

I love you to much to argue. Whenever Smalls tries to argue, I use this saying on repeat mode and after about 5 minutes she gives up.

I hear you.


Do you have a favorite saying that you like to tell your kids?

Advent Calendar: Day 11

Read Psalm 148.

Discussion Questions:
Who are we praising?
Why are we praising Jesus?
What are ways of praising Jesus?

Activity: Noisemakers
http://www.crafts-for-all-seasons.com/noisemaker-craft.html




Pray for the missionaries who are actively involved in orphan care. Pray for them as they proclaim the Gospel while they try to meet the basic needs of orphans.



Give $.20 for every coat you own.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Advent Calendar: Day 10

Read Luke 2:8-20.

Discussion Questions:
Who did the angel appear to?
What were the shepherds doing?
What did the angel tell the shepherds?
What did the shepherds do after the angels left?

Activity: Make a sheep.
http://www.allkidsnetwork.com/crafts/animals/farm/sheep-craft.asp


Pray for the 67 million children around the world who do not attend primary school.


Give $2.75 if you have received more than a 4th grade education.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Advent Calendar: Day 9

Read Isaiah 9:1-7.

Discussion Questions:
What shall we call the child's name?

Activity: Coloring page 
Christian Preschool Printables has a nativity coloring sheet for free to print out.


Pray for orphans who are living in institutions around the world. Pray for the living conditions in these institutions and that they are meeting the needs of the children in their care.


Give $.07 for every drawer/cupboard in your kitchen.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Advent Calendar: Day 8

Read Luke 2: 6-7.

Discussion Questions:
Do you remember what town Joseph and Mary traveled to?
What happened to Mary while they were in Bethlehem?
Where did she lay the baby?

Activity: Manger Craft
http://www.meetpenny.com/2011/12/a-slightly-different-baby-jesus-envelope-craft/

Instead of using felt for baby Jesus (since I don't have any on hand), we will draw and cut out a picture of baby Jesus.


Pray for Asia, which has the largest population of orphaned children-about 60 million.


Give $.75 for every night you did not go to bed hungry this week.

Advent Calendar: Day 7

Read Luke 2:1-5.

Discussion Questions:
What is a decree?
Who sent a decree to the people?
What did the decree tell the people to do?
What town did Joseph and Mary travel to?

Activity: Make your own decree.
Get a piece of construction paper. Brain storm with your kids about their decrees. You can use a commandment from the Bible, a Bible verse, rules around the house or at school, or it could be silly like, "no boys allowed in my room". Write the decree on the paper and roll it up like a scroll. Your kids will have fun informing everyone about their decrees!

Here's an idea of how to make your decree into a scroll: http://www.ouroutofsynclife.com/2011/11/bible-craft-scroll.html


About 28% of foster care children reside with a relative. Pray for the 72% that are in unfamiliar homes with unfamiliar caretakers.


Give $.10 for every room you have in your house.


Advent Calendar: Day 6

Read Luke 1:46-56.

Discussion Questions:
Who is talking?
Who is Mary's Savior? (verse 47)
How long did Mary stay with Elizabeth?

Activity:
Draw a picture of a close relative of yours that you spend lots of time with.


Pray for the 27,000 foster children in the U.S. who age out every year. Most of them have little financial or emotional support.




Give $1 for every immediate family member you have.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Advent Calendar: Day 5

Read Luke 1:39-45.
 
Discussion Questions:
Where did Mary go?
Did she go fast or slow to Elizabeth's house?
Why was Elizabeth so happy to see Mary? 
What did the baby do in Elizabeth's tummy? 

Activity: Make a face.
If you don't have any cardboard, use paper plates instead. This is also a great activity for an adopted child who is learning how to appropriately express themselves.

Another option for an activity: 
I suggest making a happy face to go along with our story.


Pray for the orphan care workers and orphanages in the world that are trying to meet the needs of all the orphans. Pray for our churches to see the needs of orphan care around the world and that the Gospel will be proclaimed to the orphans.



Give $.40 for every Bible in your home.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Advent Calendar: Day 4

Read Matthew 1:18-25.

Discussion Questions:
Who appeared to Joseph in a dream?
What did the angel say?
(In verse 23) What should they call His name?
What does that name mean? Immanuel

Optional Reading: Isaiah 7:10-14.


Activity: What does your name mean?
Look up your name on the internet or in a name book to find out the meaning of your name. Ask your parents why they chose that name for you. Or if you're adopted and your parents kept your original name look up that name to see what it means.

Helpful Links:
http://www.behindthename.com/
-this link is also great for non-American names. I've even found my daughter's with the original spelling!
http://www.meaning-of-names.com/
http://www.babynames.com/
-At the bottom of this link you can explore names by origin if your child has a non-American name.
http://www.namedaycalendar.com/poland
-Name days in Poland are very popular. Click here for more information.



On average, foster children spend about 2 years in the foster care system. Please pray for the foster parents who are taking care of these children. Pray that their time in the foster system can be a time of healing.


Give $.50 for every phone you have in your house.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent Calendar: Day 3

Read Matthew 1:1-17.

Discussion Questions:
What is a genealogy
What is a generation?
Who was Jesus's parents?

Optional: Read Micah 5:2
Can you find in Matthew 1:1-17 where Jesus comes from "the clan of Judah"?

Activity: Genealogy Tree

Obviously, a genealogy tree can bring up mixed feeling with an adopted child, so here's an alternative: Have your child draw a picture of themselves. Their body will be the trunk of the tree. Have 2 branches coming from the trunk. One branch will be the bio family and the other branch will be the adopted family. You can fill in as much as you would like or as much as your child wants. If you don't have any information on the bio family, that's ok. You don't have to worry about making sure everything is filled in or perfect. You don't even have to do this activity at all if this is a difficult subject for your family.

We will draw 3 branches coming from the trunk because my daughter had a birth family, then a foster family for 6 years, and now her adoptive family.


Pray for the 17.9 million children who have been orphaned because of HIV/AIDS, most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.



Give $1 for every family member you have.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What is it like to adopt or foster a traumatized child?

This is the best video to watch if you want to know the answer to the above question.

Here's the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOeQUwdAjE0

It's about 13 minutes long and worth every minute of it! It also is a great reminder to me of what environment my child might have come from. I must remember Smalls's past before I respond to her acting out.

And get ready for part 2 coming soon!

Advent Calendar: Day 2

Read: Luke 1:26-38

Discussion Questions:
Who was the virgin's name?
Who was she getting married to?
Who came and visited Mary?
What's the angel's name?
What did the angel say to Mary?
What will the baby be called?
Who else is going to have a baby? What's her name?
Was Elizabeth young or old?

Optional: Read Luke 1:5-24.
Who appeared to Zechariah in the temple?
What did the angel say to Zachariah?

Activity: Making an Angel
http://www.crayola.com/crafts/hands--foot-angel-craft/
You don't have to use all crayola products to create this angel. Some generic brand construction paper, a pencil, glue, and markers. On the name banner, you could put your child's name like the craft suggests or you could put Gabriel's name to reinforce this passage.


Pray for the 1 billion+ children in the world who suffer from at least one form of severe deprivation of basic needs such as water, food and sanitation.


Give $.25 for every toilet you have in your house.
 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent Calendar: Day 1

Read John 1:1-18.

Discussion Questions:
What was in the beginning?
Who was in the beginning with God?
What was in Him?
Who sent sent from God as a witness and that all might believe through him?
Who became flesh and lived among us?
Who was the law given through? (Might want to review the Exodus of Israel and read Exodus 19-20)
Who gave grace and truth? (Romans 5:20-21 and John 14:6)

Review: Who was the witness or messenger from God?

Activity: Homemade bullhorn
Take an empty paper towel roll. Decorate it with markers, glitter sequins, stickers, or anything crafty. (I hope to add pictures, once we've completed Day 1.) Your kids will enjoy proclaiming their words loudly through the bullhorn!

We can use the bullhorn to proclaim loudly the message of the one who is to come.


Pray for the 400,000+ foster children in America to have foster homes to take them. Pray for laborers in our churches to meet this growing demand of foster homes. Pray for the Christian foster parents who are sharing the Gospel to their foster children.

Give $2 if your family has a roof over your head. 

We are giving the money we collect to Edgewater's adoption fund. If you would like to collect along side of us, but don't want to give to what we are giving to that's understandable. 

Here are some other suggestions to donate to:
Someone's adoption fund (a friend, coworker or church member)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent Calendar

Tomorrow is December 1st. That means Christmas is 25 days away. Some of you already have Christmas traditions for your family. We currently don't have anything special except travel around to see all of the family. This will be our "real" first Christmas with Smalls. She did experience Christmas last year with us but doesn't remember a thing and it had only been a little over a month since we returned from Poland-those days are bit of a blur for all of us. I hope to create some Christmas memories for her that she will grow up remembering through adulthood.

What could we do for our Christmas traditions? I've heard a lot of families talk about advent calendars, but to be honest-I've never heard of that before. When I was growing up, we never did anything like an advent calendar, so I was completely clueless. I had to google to find out what exactly an advent calendar is and what it's purpose. I like the general idea of the advent calendar after my research about it. How do I get one-preferably a free one? After searching the internet world, I couldn't find one that I liked. So I attempted to make my own. I used ideas from a couple of different advent calendars.

Let's go ahead and site my sources:
https://www.lifesongfororphans.org/get-involved/advent/

http://howsweeteritis.blogspot.com/2011/11/advent-calendar-teach-true-story-of.html

http://www.orphanhopeintl.org/facts-statistics/

http://www.ccainstitute.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=25&Itemid=43

http://thirdworldorphans.org/gpage39.html

I'm sure there are other sites that I got inspiration from, but these two are the main ones.

What's the purpose of my advent calendar?
To teach Smalls about why we celebrate Christmas. We can also lift up others who may not have a family for Christmas (orphans) and for those who do not know that they can be adopted into the greatest family ever. So there are several purposes to this advent calendar.

What is so special about our advent calendar?
We hope to go over the story in an accurate way for Smalls. We also would like to have an activity (because we are active learners) to go along with the passages that we read. In addition we would like to incorporate a Christmas light scavenger hunt, Christmas movie nights, and some other ideas that I'm currently researching. I am taking Lifesong's idea of collecting money for orphan care. We will be giving the money to Edgewater's adoption fund.

Starting tomorrow I will post our homemade/hodgepodge version of an advent calendar that we are doing this year. Hopefully this will be a good tradition for our family. I don't have any cutesy or artsy way of presenting our advent calendar-maybe next year? Instead I will just write it on a slip of green or red paper and hang it up by some clothespins and string.

Does your family have any special traditions? How about an advent calendar? I'm interested to see what everybody does around Christmas time.

Advent Posts:
Day 1 
Day 2 
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9 
Day 10 
Day 11
Day 12 
Day 13
Day 14
Day 15

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Character Lessons

Here is a great resource for teaching your kids Godly character traits. I like to use the lessons in our homeschool curriculum.

Website: http://www.kidsofintegrity.com/

This is a free website where you can print off individual lessons on a variety of character traits.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What is blanket training?

I love this technique!

But first let me give a disclaimer. There are some critics (and rightfully so) about this technique. I couldn't find the specific articles that they were referring to, but just in case you all have read them I want to clear up any misunderstandings and that I do not use this technique in a way that would hurt my child.

Some critics say that in blanket training is when you put a blanket down and expect a baby or a child to sit on the blanket for a certain period of time. If the child gets off the blanket before the time, you hit them with a ruler. Obviously, I've gone through extensive parent training and have read more books about the subject than anyone that I know. I am not saying this is the definition of blanket training. This is completely opposite of all my training and knowledge about parenting an adopted child.


What is my definition of blanket training?

My definition is simple. Blanket training is an approach or tool used to help teach self-discipline and control. My daughter's world was out of control when she first arrived in our family. Smalls protested this blanket training at first. Oh, she hated it! I think it was because it's something new and she was new to America and let's be honest-she protested everything we did. But guess what? She loves her blanket now! When we go somewhere new, we bring the blanket and put it in her quiet, safety spot with a couple of her toys. She knows that the blanket is a safety barrier and no one else is allowed on it except her and her toys.

How did I blanket train her?

This was no easy task. I would set her on her blanket with her toys and she would play for 5 minutes. We did this for one week. Then the next week we moved the time up to 10 minutes. We kept moving up the time by 5 minutes each week till we reached 30 minutes. We did the exercise everyday of the week for 6 weeks. Between 15-30 minutes was the hardest. Smalls would get real fidgety and cry because she couldn't see me for a brief moment. And of course she would try to get off the blanket. If she did that I would pick her up and put her back over and over again. Yes, it was exhausting.

Why do it? 

It gives her control over her world (her blanket and toys) in a world that she may feel like she doesn't have any control. It teaches her how to occupy herself quietly. When we are at someone's house with no kids, that's not a problem. She is well-behaved (most of the time). It gives her security at a big house party with lots of noises. Smalls also has never been made to sit in one spot and do an activity, so this training has helped her to stay focused in school a little longer than before the training. And most importantly we have connected through this training. At first she wanted to have control over me and what I did on a daily basis. This was hard because I wanted her to be right next to me all the time to help build that connection, and we did that for some time. But we grew in our relationship together, so I decided to stretch our bond a little by keeping her on the blanket while I was in the next room washing dishes or doing laundry. She had to trust me that I wasn't going to leave her even though she was confined to the blanket.

So no, I didn't hit my child with a ruler if she got off of the blanket. We connected through this training and building connections with your adopted child is what matters the most!

What are your thoughts on blanket training? Have you heard about hitting your child with a ruler if they get off the blanket? Do you know where that idea came from?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Art Projects for Kids

I have been homeschooling Smalls for over a year now. We are learning how to do the "school thing" and even though I majored in educational psychology and took a lot of education classes I am still learning what works for us. If my degree has taught me one thing, it's that each kid is different. And Smalls is just that a different kid.

We struggled with homeschooling at first because Smalls has not had ANY schooling whatsoever and she was almost 8 when she came into our family. The traditional method of schooling was out the window. At first I bought a "big box" curriculum set because I didn't know where to start. I soon learned that is not going to work for us. So I am creating my own curriculum that works for Smalls (where is the time for this going to come from?). I will post the resources that we are using in our homeschool for others who have also embarked on this endeavor because homeschooling an adopted child has it's own special challenges.

We are half way finished with 1st grade and here are some great art projects or ideas for teaching art that we have found helpful:

http://artroom104.blogspot.com/p/1st-grade-art-lessons.html

http://artprojectsforkids.org/category/view-by-grade/1st-grade/

http://whattheteacherwants.blogspot.com/

http://www.freehomeschooldeals.com/
-Love this website. You can use the search tool to bring up thousands of ideas!

http://artwithmschiddo.weebly.com/

If you aren't planning on homeschooling your child, these are also great websites to help keep little ones busy during the holidays or while you are in country adopting. Click here for my Travel Craft Box that we would have brought to Poland with us if I had thought of it sooner!

Do you have any great homeschooling art project websites?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Tips for Adopted/Foster Care Kids and the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, which can be fun times or not-so fun times.

I remember last year when we experienced our 1st Christmas with my daughter (I really do need to give her a blog name-how about "smalls"?), it was a joyful and fun time and then it was an awful rip my hair out time. Holidays can be difficult on an adopted child because they DO NOT KNOW what to expect which leaves them feeling out of control. How do we help them feel in control for the holidays? And why can't I find a list like this on the internet? Surely, someone has this written down somewhere!

Tips for Adopted Kids and the Holidays

#1   Tell them everything that will happen.
Well, as much as you can, of course. Sometimes there will be surprises that pop up. Write it down on a piece of paper. Let them hold that piece of paper. When we first arrived back from Poland, I had to do this with Smalls (kind of catchy name, I like it). Smalls would get out of control-even though I went over the days events a week before, a day before and the day of. She got to hold that piece of paper and cross out everything that we did. She felt in control of her world because she knew what was going to happen to her. You can even add one or two blank spaces for the surprises that may come up-"wild spaces".

#2   Inform the host
If you are visiting a friend or relative's house, talk to them in advanced. Ask for a tour of their house. If you don't live too far from them, see if you can go a week before the big crowd gets there. Or ask for pictures if you live far away.

#3   Bring items of comfort
Having some familiar toys to a child in a new place can be comforting. They can play with their toys and not have to share. They know they have complete control over their toys. I've "blanket trained" Smalls when we got back from Poland, so when we are in a new place we can bring her blanket with a few toys and books and we are ready just in case of a meltdown. She knows that she can stay on that blanket and feel in control with her comfort items. She knows that she is safe on that blanket.

#4   Prepare them BEFOREHAND to meet a lot of new people
This is hard for kids, especially adopted kids or kids who have experienced trauma. They do not know that those other people are NOT going to hurt them. They are in the fight or flight mode. Practice meeting people. Get all the stuffed animals together and pretend that they are strangers that you are meeting for the first time. Reassure your child that they are not going home with anybody else except you-the mom or dad. I tell Smalls that she must be polite and at least say hello then she can hide behind my back. If I have pictures of family members, I will show them to Smalls before she meets them to give her some more added control. If pictures aren't available, we will draw a picture of them.

#5   Find a safety, quiet spot
This is so important to Smalls. She needs a spot to feel safe-to be hidden from the chaos. And of course, it has to be "top secret". Only a few select people know about her safety, quiet spot and she feels in control because of it. She knows that no one is going to bother her if she is "hidden". It's all about giving your child a little piece of control so they can feel in control of themselves in their surrounding area. And who doesn't like a top secret hiding spot?

#6   Come early, Leave Early
Come before the big crowd gets there. Get a tour of the house and find that safety quiet spot. Smalls' ears are very sensitive and when she walks into a crowded room with lots of laughing and talking she goes nuts-to say the least. If we get to our destination a little earlier than the start time, her ears can gradually adjust to the noise. Now sometimes her ears are on alert so it doesn't matter how early we get there, we will eventually have to retreat to our "safety, quiet spot". Leave early. You've met everybody. You've caught up with Uncle Joe's latest fishing accident and Aunt Bertha's mole removal. Give your kid a break if they start acting out. You've been in a new place for over 3 hours now, which to a kid seems like a week. It can be hard on our kids to be around all these new people who smell funny and talk extremely loud.

#7   Avoid Over stimulation
I know, this is a joke right. It's Thanksgiving or Christmas. We need to see EVERYBODY! If your family has a lot of holiday traditions, like say, drive to Aunt Bertha's house for cookies, drop off presents to Uncle Al, visit Aunt Ruth and sing some carols, and then have a bunch of people over at your house for dinner. Wow, that's a lot of activities for one day let alone an afternoon. Ya'll know I'm a big fan of The Office, so here's a quote of Dwight quoting Michael, "Keep it simple stupid was the best advice you ever gave me". Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). Do you really have to do everything? No, of course not. Let your child pick 1 or 2 things to do so they can feel control over their situation and they will not be overstimulated by the hugs and kisses and the new smells and all of the other new things they aren't used to.

#8   Compliment Your Child
So you've been somewhere new for a couple of hours. Tell your kid that they are doing a good job regulating themselves. Tell them how proud you are that they didn't cry when your cousin who just turned 1 years old screamed so loudly it practically deafened the whole family. Find a reason to tell them how proud you are of them.

#9   Fill Up on "Parent Juice"
When Smalls starts to get fidgety and start to look like a sourpuss, I sit her on my or my husband's lap for a little bit. She just needs that security of being with us amidst the chaos. She is able to fill up on "mommy or daddy juice".  This helps to minimize the amount of meltdowns that we will have in a new place and we are able to stay in a new place longer by filling her up on parent juice.

#10   Limit Physical Contact with Others
This is a great tip for anyone who's adopted, in general-doesn't have to be a holiday specific tip. Don't expect your kid to hug everyone at your family's gathering. Your child does not really know who's a stranger and who's not, of course you do because you grew up with all of those people that are visiting you. Your child is going to be confused when they are expected to hug others when they were lectured to not hug strangers. A simple handshake, high five or a wave would be much better to do rather than a hug. The last thing you want after the holidays is to correct their attachment behavior to strangers you don't even know after you let them hug relatives that they have met a few times or just met.


Ok, that's all I could come up with. Can anybody else add to the list? I want this holiday season to be fun with minimal meltdowns!


Update: Here are some more tips!

#11  Holiday seasons can bring up feelings/emotions that are not pleasant
This tip came from Smalls. I was taking out all of our Christmas decorations and putting up the tree and my daughter started to get really emotional. I asked her what was wrong and of course she didn't know (she never knows). We talked about the Christmas tree and some of her memories from the past. I held Smalls while we were talking which gave her added security. Within 15 minutes of this emotional breakdown she was completely back to normal again wanting to play her computer game. Changing of the seasons and the holidays can be hard for our adopted kids. They are not very good with change because so much change has happened to them in the past. I am now extra sensitive to the changes of the seasons.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Travel Craft Box

When you adopt from a foreign country, you have to expect long days (in country) while waiting for a court day, appeal periods (especially in Poland), visas/passports, etc... While we were in Poland some of our days seemed like they would never end because there wasn't much to do outside our apartment-especially with a child who is not familiar with the outside world. We definitely saw the sights in our little town and went to the playground, but after 50 times you can get a little stir crazy.

One idea to not get cabin fever is to pack a craft box in your suitcase filled with small crafting supplies before you get on the plane. Key word here is: before. Why did I not think of packing a craft box in my suitcase? That could have saved my sanity at times. Below is my travel craft box that I would have taken to Poland if I someone would have told me about this cool idea.













Craft box items:
Coloring pencils
Crayons
Markers (both skinny and fat)
Glue stick
Glue (wrap in a ziplock bag for the plane ride)
Safety Scissors
Tape
Colored pens
Mechanical Pencils (if opt for non-mechanical pencil bring a pencil sharpener)
Watercolors with brushes












Craft items that wouldn't fit, but would be a good idea to bring:
A folder with preplanned craft activities
Ideas: practice cutting sheets, coloring sheets, word searches, craft cut outs, and various worksheets. Click on the links below for thousands of ideas. I know that some of you may not be homeschooling your child, but these links have thousands of craft ideas to do while in country. Use their search bar to find holiday worksheets, craft ideas, fine motor skills worksheets, etc...
http://www.frugalhomeschoolfamily.com/
http://www.freehomeschooldeals.com/
http://www.crayola.com/crafts/
http://www.123homeschool4me.com/p/home-school-free-printables.html
Construction paper
Kid's washable paint


Did I miss something? What would you put in your travel craft box? Do you have any great printables that you are willing to share?

Click here for the list of things we wished we would've brought to Poland. 

UPDATE: Here are more website for art projects while in country!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Was it love at first sight?

I was at a holiday party the other night and a friend and I were talking. This friend recently had a baby. I asked her how she liked motherhood and her response was "it was love at first sight as you have probably felt with your adopted daughter". My heart sank all the way to my stomach. Actually, no. We did not like each other a year ago. Although I showed love to her, I didn't feel it. I didn't get those butterflies when holding her while she slept in my arms. She has never fallen asleep in my arms-she's too hypervigilent!

Did I love her at first? Yea, maybe. I don't know. I definitely showed it to her by teaching her appropriate ways of acting, teaching her in school, teaching her to groom herself, teaching her social norms of society, adopting her into our family, etc...We went through the actions of love but did not  feel love.

What I didn't feel is those butterflies that you can get in your stomach. I feel like a terrible parent because I didn't "feel the love" towards my child like others have felt. Connecting with her was anything but easy this past year. I read blog after blog about how adoptive parents loved their child and made connections and they were so happy. I saw a lot of happy pictures of adoptive families. Why wasn't my family like that? Then Wes, voice of reason, said that those people get to choose which picture to put up on their blog and no one is going to take a picture of a child having a major meltdown kicking, screaming, and fighting. Duh (Does anyone still use that word?)! He is so right! They choose that one picture where everybody is smiling and happy. So don't compare yourself to other adoptive families. It will make you feel like a terrible parent! We don't know exactly what's behind that happy picture. That 10 year old in that perfect picture could be wearing a pullup because he has bladder issues from trauma, or that 8 year old girl who looks so cute and small, but is severely malnourished from neglect.

If someone were to ask last year do you love her? I would've said yes. If someone were to ask a year ago if I've felt love towards my daughter, I would've said no. I didn't have that "feeling".

I am beginning to have that feeling of love towards her. It's a nice feeling to have amidst the chaos that we've experienced this past year. We had my daughter's birthday party this past weekend. Watching her reactions to opening her gifts and thanking everyone for the presents that they brought gave me butterflies in my stomach. She was truly a happy child at that moment and that's what gave me my first butterfly. Seeing my child truly happy gave me butterflies. It has been a long journey of healing and we are continuing that healing process, so it's only going to get better. My daughter is able to express emotions! She couldn't do that a year ago.

And I want to thank some of my blog followers who've contacted me personally. You all are awesome and have helped me get through the rough patches during the bonding phase with my daughter. I would've have gone completely nuts if it weren't for my awesome blog followers. Thanks  for telling me that I am "normal" and that what I was feeling is "normal".


Resources on this topic:
http://www.adoptionstar.com/what-to-expect-5-post-adoption-love-at-first-sight/

http://www.fosterpodcast.com/2009/02/13/episode-57-love-at-first-sight/


Monday, November 17, 2014

I Have an Announcement to Make:

I coupon.

Yes, that's right. That's the BIG announcement. I learned this skill back in August. And let me show you why.






I went into Target today looking for their 50% off toy of the day promotion that they are running till the end of November. Today's toy is a Barbie with a horse. My daughter has been eying this toy for weeks. I would've have bought it for her birthday but regular retail value is $42.99-not in our budget! And of course when I get to the Barbie section of Target, two other ladies are looking for the same toy that's 50% today ONLY. I cut my losses and went to the toy clearance section to find some stocking stuffers. And lo and behold there it was-the Barbie with a horse that's 50% off today only! I grabbed it and hid it in my buggy because I don't want anybody stealing it from my cart. The packaging looks like somebody played football with it in the store, but other than that it was in perfect condition.

And this is the best part. When I shop I like to know exactly what I'm paying before I check out. I even have a tally sheet with me to keep track of it all. So I went to the price scanner to double check the price-you never know the exact price with store sales and plus the packaging looks horrible and Target usually likes to mark down on items that look rough around the edges. I scanned it and the price was $22.48 (50% off the original price)! So I paid $11.24 for a piece of plastic worth $42.99! That's 75% off (50% marked down b/c the packaging looked rough and then 50% off by using cartwheel)!

Ok back to my shopping trip. Regular retail price for all this stuff is $105.57. And I paid $28 for it all. The beef jerky alone could've set me back about $26 without coupons. Couponing and using Target's Cartwheel made it possible. I plan to go back tomorrow and get some more. Target is having a promotion right now if you buy $50 worth of food products you will get a $10 gift card.


Anybody want to go shopping?

There is Hope in Healing

For those of you who have emailed me, know the struggles that we faced over 1 year ago with our daughter. It was a hard time for our family.

We learned a lot in the past year.

I just wanted to post a mini update on how my daughter is doing and how we are doing.

I've been observing my daughter closely the past year. Just like a psychologist, doctor, therapist, or some other specialty discipline would. It's amazing what I've found in doing that. And yes, I did take clinical notes on my daughter-call me crazy but I'm glad I did to chart our progress through the year.

When she first came into our care, she was a cat. No, seriously. Her persona was a cat. That's how she acted-on all fours, meowing, and purring. It was cute at first but then we realized that this was her life. She lived her life through animals. That is what we started with- A CAT. Now, ya'll know I love my cats. I love little furballs and they have their place in my life, but not as my human daughter.
I'll never forget our 6 week social worker visit. My daughter came up to the social worker just like a cat would, meowing and purring, waiting for a pet on the head. It was a little embarrassing.

And by the way my daughter did not show any emotions. We had her birthday party shortly after we returned from Poland and we gave her presents to open. Was she happy and excited? Maybe, I couldn't tell. She just kind of stood there like what am I suppose to do with that?

My daughter had never been in school. So schooling her was a hard task for us. Have you ever schooled a human cat? Yea, me either.

We couldn't discipline her. No playground today or no tv today. She didn't care. She would rather play with her fingers or roll up into a ball and pretend to lick herself like a cat.

That's what we started with in our parenting adoption journey.

Now, observing my daughter these past few weeks have been very enlightening. It's amazing to see where she is now. She is a delight to be around. We have fun. She enjoys playing with her toys. She laughs at movies. She can take a shower without me having to be in the shower with her-this is a recent development. I can teach her in school without having a meltdown after meltdown.

I know that there is no such thing as a normal child, but I just want to shout out loud "SHE IS BECOMING A NORMAL CHILD". We still deal with some awkward tendencies in public, but overall she has been doing amazingly great!

We've done a lot of therapeutic parenting this past year to help our daughter heal from the trauma she's experienced in her short life. We've also let her experience what being a kid is all about. We gave her comfort and security.

She has gained 30 lbs. Her brain is growing by leaps and bounds. I am really excited to see what level she takes this next year to!

There is hope in helping the traumatized child heal from terrible wounds!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Teaching Your Children about Adoption

Here is great article that I read today about teaching your children about their adoption story. The article gives great advice about the importance of teaching or coaching our adopted children how to handle tough questions from their peers.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rachael-quinn-egan/teach-your-children-about-adoption-before-releasing-them-on-the-playground_b_6061714.html

Ok, funny story. Obviously, I'm white and obviously my daughter is white. We do have similar features, so we don't experience the "adoption-race" criticism that other adoptive families may experience like in this article. We, my daughter and I, visit the playground frequently. My daughter will play with other children her age and I will occasionally strike up a conversation with the other moms. The other moms usually think that I'm her older sister or her baby sitter. I inform them that she is in fact my daughter. At that moment, I can see their brains doing the math of how old I look  and how old my daughter looks to figure out if I got pregnant when I was a teenager, or I will get the "wow, you must have been young when she was born" comment. I usually pipe up and say that she was recently adopted. And they usually reply with an "oh, yea, ok". So I may not get the whole "race-adoption comments" but I do get the teenage pregnancy ones! I didn't think about that when we decided to adopt an older child. If you are thinking about adopting older children in your twenties be prepared for teenage pregnancy comments!