Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Happy Dance!

I am pleased to announce that we are done with everything!

-With Paperwork
-With Documents
-Getting Approvals
-Messing up paperwork
-Losing our paperwork
-Resubmitting our paperwork
-Waiting some more
-Spending long wait times in government offices
-Dealing with not nice people 
-Wasting all day on the phone correcting issues

That's right folks. We have received our daughter's passport and birth certificate in the past couple of days. Woohoo!

So, what's next?

Well, we have a social worker visit this Thursday to give the 1 year update to Poland on our daughter. Wow, it's almost been one whole year since we have been a family of three. It felt like it went by so fast and so slow at the same time. I will keep posting on my blog about our progress and resources that have helped us.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Free Stuff!

Yes, that's right here is a list of free stuff that I have been taking advantage of lately.

Pediasure Powder Mix

Bar S Hotdogs (5 FREE packages)

Lanacane Anti-itch or First Aid Spray

Oxy Skin Facial Cleanser

Precious Cat Litter

Tidy Cats Pure Nature Cat Litter

Arm and Hammer Clump and Seal Cat Litter

Feline Pine Clumping Litter

*That's a lot of cat litter! If you don't have a cat, maybe now's the time to get one or two, ha ha. Or you could just donate the free litter to the animal shelter.

Cremo Cream Shaving Cream

Cascade Platinum

Tide or Gain- get $10 back for $30 spent on certain products
Deal Idea: Go to CVS this week and purchase 6 Tide or Gain products ($5.94 each) listed in the $10 rebate. Pay $35.64. Receive $10 CVS gift card. Submit your total for this rebate and get a $10 prepaid card. Total out of pocket cost: $15.64 for 6 bottles of detergent. If you use some coupons from coupons.com this deal could get even better!

Kedeem Sparkling Juice (4 FREE bottles)


 Some of these rebates expire in the next couple of months, so take advantage while you can!

Are we finished with this adoption yet?

Wow, it has been over a year since we traveled to Poland. And we are still working on paperwork-to no fault of our own. We've had countless delays, paperwork issues, various government offices refusing to process our paperwork, and other anomalies. I knew it would take some time to completely finish the adoption process once we returned home from Poland, but I never imagined it would have taken this long.

Last week I spent some time educating DCFS and vital records what the Hague adoption law means and what recognition of foreign adoption means, apparently not a lot of people in the New Orleans area have internationally adopted. Our case was "rare", which I thought that was so silly because I can name at least 20 or so people who've adopted internationally off the top of my head. If you are living in a small town where international adoption is not common, be prepared to educate those around you, including government offices. If you are adopting from a Hague country, know your adoption rights, both here and in the country your child currently lives. Know what the government offices need to process your information before you get to their office.

Ok so here is our current update:

Our daughter's passport is in the final stages of the process and we should receive it in the next 2 weeks, according to the online tracker. Yay-what could go wrong at this point, right?

Birth Certificate:
Last week (9/15/14), we signed our names to another birth certificate application, because the one from 2 months ago had white out on it :(. Yesterday (9/22/14), we paid some MORE money (does this ever stop?) for them to process our birth cert. application and to get additional copies.

Now we wait for both. Hopefully next week, we will receive both and I can officially say that we are finished. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Adopt Debt Free: Milk Is Expensive

I am always looking for ways to stretch my grocery dollars. And milk is one of those grocery items that I am forced to pay full price on. It's not like the milk industry offers coupons for milk. To make matters worse, we go through at least 1 gallon of milk every week. And if I make yogurt that week, we use about 2 gallons of milk. How can we save money on this staple grocery item?

Well, I happened to be reading The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn-which is a great book- and she has a great idea about milk that I have never considered. Instead of buying refrigerated milk, buy powdered. My first thought-do they make that in America? I know powdered milk is prevalent in other countries, but ours? Does it even taste good? Healthy? I was a bit of a skeptic at first when I read this idea in Amy's book, so I had to investigate first.

So off to the store I go to check it out, read the label, and see how much it costs.

How many ingredients does it have: 3 ingredients: nonfat dry milk, vitamin A palmitate, and vitamin D3. As far as healthy goes, powdered milk is just as healthy as refrigerated milk. And Walmart gives it the "good for you" logo on the package.

How much does it cost: The Great Value (Walmart brand) 64 oz. package costs about $16 and makes 5 gallons of milk. That's about $3.20/gallon-cheaper than the refrigerated milk, which I spend about $4/gallon. I would be saving $.80/gallon

Does it taste good: To be honest, I am not a milk fan. Drinking a glass of milk just creeps me out. To start off, I mixed half a gallon of refrigerated milk and half a gallon of powdered milk. It tastes just like milk. My daughter hasn't complained about it. I don't think she can tell a difference. Now can she tell a difference with the 100% powdered milk? Nope, not one single complaint. I don't think we are going back to refrigerated milk.
Update: Apparently, Wes does not like the 100% powdered milk. To make my gallon of milk last longer, we will drink the gallon of milk till it is at the halfway point (2 quarts left), then I will add 2 quarts of powdered milk. At least we are saving some money and I don't have to buy 2 gallons each week or make an extra trip to the store because we are out of milk!

Ok, for those of you who still don't like the idea of powdered milk. Here are some tips on how to cut down on your milk costs.

Sign up with Ibotta.
Why? Ibotta will pay you $.25 to scan the receipt of your milk at participating stores.

Sign up with Checkout 51.
Why? Checkout 51 will occasionally pay you $.25 to scan the receipt of your milk.

Sign up with Target Cartwheel. (if you have a Target in your area)
Usually Target offers 5% off on milk. Add the milk offer to your cartwheel and print out your barcode. The cashier will scan it when you check out.

Look for Target coupons on milk. Click here for the link.

Your milk could cost about $3.30/gallon, if you normally pay $4/gallon like me.

What are your thoughts on powdered milk? Taboo to you or are you cool with the idea?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Weekly Schedule

If you have adopted/fostered an older child/siblings, you know what I'm talking about. "Oh, I'm sorry little Jack and Jill can't play with your child today because _____________", said one mom to another mom. Or "It's raining. I'm sorry, we can't go to the playground little Jimmy". Change happens to everybody, but when it happens to a special needs/adopted child, it can get out of control, real fast. A well-regulated child would respond with "ok", "why", or "oh well", and off they go to something else. A adopted/foster child, who is hopefully learning about self-regulation, would probably respond by screaming, kicking, "they lied to me", "you lied to me", and "I can never trust you again". Obviously, the circumstances are out of anybody's control and nobody is at fault. It's life and change happens.

My daughter, like most adopted kids, thinks life is completely random with no set order. It comes from many things like not having an established routine most of her life, not having consequences for actions (both good and bad), and most importantly,the reason she needed to be adopted. How on earth are we suppose to teach our kids that life isn't random and it has order, but there will be changes to that order sometimes? And how do we teach them to deal with the change appropriately-not kicking, screaming, etc... Here is an idea that I came up with to teach my daughter all of those things:

Weekly Schedule

I use sticky notes to write the day's events. I can remove them easily after the day is complete, which also helps us to learn the days of the week. On Sunday, I try to plan our week, Monday- Saturday, as best as I can with play dates, grocery trips, field trips, etc...

Then I have the 6 Froggy Rules of Change underneath:

I colored a frog page from one of my daughter's coloring books to represent Mr. Froggy. His 6 rules are (1) Breathe. Change happens to everybody. (2) Play with 1 or 2 items from the sensory basket. (3) Count to 10. (4) Do you need a hug? (5) Scream in a pillow. (6) Go outside and stomp your feet. Whenever there is a change in the schedule, Mr. Froggy can help us get through the emotions of the change with his 6 rules.

Uh, Oh, there's a change in the schedule:

This is where my original inspiration came from. I saw these cute post it notes at Walmart and wondered how I could use them. Whenever there is a change in the schedule, I will post it on frog sticky notes, which is a cue to Mr. Froggy if we can't regulate our emotions about the change.

This system has helped me to realize when my daughter has gone through a lot of changes in a given week. It has also helped us to not answer "repeat" questions like "what are we doing", "are we doing this ____?" or "where are we going"? I can just simply ask "have you checked the schedule?" This system forces my daughter to use her reading skills and problem solve her own questions.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Culture Facts About Poland

I briefly ran across this website today in my research. It is a pretty extensive webpage of Polish culture. You will learn about traditions, geography, religion, and history of the polish people. Now I must warn you before you click on the link, this is a long webpage and it is very detailed.


Meltdown Baskets

Children from the hard places can bring on lots of parenting challenges. As an adoptive parent, I have to get creative to teach my daughter discipline and self-regulation-something she has never had for 7 years. Those two things do not come very easy around my house, especially since I am a first time mom. Learning curves can knock us in a loop, but I am steadily learning patience. So I've created these meltdown baskets to help with the loss of control and emotions.

Definition of a Meltdown: When a child or adult (let’s face it, we have these too!), starts to lose control or feels loss of control of a situation and starts to act out inappropriately. This loss of control can take the form of kicking, screaming, throwing items, back talking, breaking things, or displaying a ray of emotions (crying hysterically, laughing at inappropriate times, anger or rage) within a short period of time.

I have created two meltdown baskets. The first one is for my daughter or any other child that come over to our house. I have chosen a variety of items for this “kid” basket and most of the items will require an adult to be nearby for supervision.

Kid's Meltdown Basket

Items in the kid meltdown basket: Green store-bought playdoh, Lavender-scented playdoh, sensory jars, a coloring book w/ crayons, small notebook for doodling, favorite Dr. Seuss book, emotion plates, shape blocks, and glitter bottles. This is currently what we have in this basket. I hope to rotate and add some different items so that little bit doesn’t get tired of seeing the same old stuff when she is having a meltdown, although I will keep her favorites in the basket.

When my daughter needs to regulate her emotions, she grabs 1 item from the basket and plays with it for 5 minutes. After her time out we can discuss what went wrong and make mends. Our “fighting” episodes have decreased as she is able to verbalize that she needs to calm down and she knows what is expected of her after she calms down. It has taken us a couple of months to reach this point but I am so glad we stuck with it. She understands that we can’t talk to her when she is not regulated and once she is we are able to talk about the problem and find a solution together. This basket has honestly saved my sanity at times!

Well, I can’t give my daughter a meltdown basket without giving myself one. Being a first time mom to an easy to love, hard to raise child, it is hard to keep my cool at times. If you are a parent of a special needs child or adopted child, you have those days where there is no light at the end of the tunnel. And you-the parent- can't regulate yourself enough to deal logically with your child, you need some time out with your own custom made meltdown basket.

Mommy Meltdown Basket
 Items in my mommy meltdown basket: The Office and Saved By The Bell dvds (my favorite tv shows), the movie Elf (my favorite movie) and Kung Fu Panda (my daughter's favorite movie), a bag of coffee, a can of coke, reminder notebook, crossword/soduko puzzles, and my favorite candle.

I give myself time outs when I can't seem to think logical, especially when emotions are running high. I can light my candle, make some coffee, and watch a couple of episodes of The Office (which make me laugh) and I usually feel regulated. If this doesn't work, I put on Kung Fu Panda for my daughter and catch up on chores that need to be done around the house. After some time to cool off, I can think logical with my daughter about the issue and we can work out a solution.

You can put anything inside your mommy meltdown basket that makes you happy or helps you to calm down. Some ideas are chocolate, favorite book, video game, or work out video.

What would you put in your meltdown basket?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Notebook of Reminders

With all this talk about how I help my daughter to regulate herself, what about me? Do I ever get really mad? I will be the first to say that I am beyond a perfect parent. It is really hard to be a new parent to an older child, so I need lots of help. And one of those helps is a small notebook of reminders. This notebook is to help me to think logical when tempers and emotions get out of control, which can be frequent around our house. As the "adult" in the situation and the parent of an invisible special needs child, I have to be in constant check of my emotions, which can be exhausting. I've created this notebook to review in the heat of the moment to help me to stay focused and not lose control.

I've taken a small notebook like this one:

 And inside the notebook I have different strategies that help me to deal with my emotions.

Here's what I have so far:

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5

Page 6

Page 7

Page 8 (which is not pictured), I've listed all the trauma that my daughter has gone through. This is probably the most important page because it reminds me what my daughter has faced at a young age.

This is an easy idea that can be customized for anybody. Some other ideas could be to light a candle, listen to music, go for a run, do some gardening, play with your cat or dog, take a bubble bath, or read a book.

When you are in an emotional rant, how do you calm down? What helps you? 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Glitter Bottles

Here's another great sensory idea for children with sensory processing disorders. I found this idea when I was researching sensory integration techniques for my daughter.

Glitter bottles help children to calm down from a heightened sensory environment. I have used ours hundreds of times to help my daughter calm down from a tantrum or from a noisy room with lots of talking.

How do you make them?

These are really easy and inexpensive to make. The cost of my bottle was about $5.

Step 1:  Take a recycled water bottle, clean the label off so that the bottle will be completely clear        around. This step takes a lot of elbow grease because some water bottle labels are sticky. I used a little of dish soap and stainless steel scrubbing pad. It took about 5 minutes to get off.

Step 2:  Fill the bottle 1/2 way with hot water.

Step 3: Add the entire bottle of glitter glue (My Walmart only had Elmer's glitter glue) and 1 tube of ultra fine glitter.

Step 4: Fill the rest of the bottle with hot water, put the cap on and shake to mix the glue and water.

Step 5: Super glue the top on and maybe even add some duck tape around it depending on how curious your child is. You don't want them drinking this-it will not give you super powers or turn you into a fairy princess.

Shaken Up



Here's some links to others who have created their own glitter bottles:

Great idea: If you want to make a fun night time calm down bottle, mix glow in the dark neon paint with water. I plan to make one of these very soon!

How do I use these glitter bottles?

If we are in a crowded place or at an event where there is loud music/lots of noise, I will stuff a glitter bottle in my purse for my daughter to play with when she gets over stimulated. She enjoys watching the glitter settle to the bottom of the bottle and it gives her a task to do while at the event, which also helps her to stay regulated.

Does this always work? No, of course not, but as the parent of an adoptive child one of my many, MANY battles and jobs is to teach her how to regulate her emotions. It's a hard fight to teach an older child who doesn't have a lot of life experiences about regulating her emotions in all types of situations. Each day is a brand new day on how I have to teach her how to react or re-adapt to a situation and having a small tool like a glitter bottle when things get a little crazy has helped keep my sanity.

I sometimes use these glitter bottles as a form of time out. My daughter can not just sit in time out. Time out is where her destructive side comes out. I give her a glitter bottle to shake up and play with during her time out time. This helps gain her self control and regulate her emotions-especially when they are running high!

I also use them when I am teaching a class full of kids. If you have a kid that is special needs or doesn't know how to regulate themselves, this is a good tool for them to regulate and gain their self control without having to disrupt the class. They can just play with the water bottle for a set time and then re-join the class. Sitting in a classroom for an extended period of time can be a strain on some children's behaviors and as teachers we should recognize their cues and give them help.