Monday, November 30, 2015

When Orphan Care Goes Bad: Russell Moore on Why Adoption Isn't For Everyone

Wild Life in Poland

I know school projects can be a pain if your child is adopted internationally. We homeschool so we don't have a ton of problems with the school projects, but I would like Smalls to know about her birth country. I will do my best to make one big post later with all of this information that you might need for school projects. But in the mean time, here's a great link to Polish wildlife!

Do you have leftover turkey from Thanksgiving?

Of course you have leftover turkey from Thanksgiving!

Then you should make turkey meatballs or  kotlety mielone.

10 Best Hotels in Gdansk

Polish Christmas or Wigilia

photo credit: Christmas Bokeh via photopin (license)
Alright! Get ready for some Christmas!! I have been listening to Christmas music for the past month already. Smalls rolls her eyes every time I start to play it. I've also put up my tree the week of Halloween. I know it was kind of early but change is hard for us and I wanted to go ahead and get those "nasty" feelings of change out of the way so we could enjoy some of Christmas!

For the past couple of months, I've started gathering articles and resources on Christmas in Poland. I hope you find these helpful for your family.

One question that I get asked (frequently), is "how do we celebrate Christmas in our family?". In our family, we don't do the traditional American Santa with our daughter. Smalls comes from a very traumatic background. I don't want to get into the whole debate of "lying to your children about a man in the red suit vs. it's technically not lying because we are only playing a game" because each family has the choice to make their own decisions about their own family. We are upfront with Smalls about everything (dentist/doctor visits, places we go, etc...) and we don't sugar coat anything. Smalls was lied to about her past and trusting us is a very sensitive issue. We do not want to jeopardize the trust that we have gained with her over something that happens once a year.

When Smalls joined our family two years ago, she knew nothing about Santa Claus, which is kind of odd because Poland has Santa traditions like the U.S. It wasn't a problem for us to tell her that Santa wasn't real. We told her that we will play a game that a man in a red suit will come and bring presents on Christmas Eve night. We over emphasized that it is just a game and for pretend. Smalls knows that the presents come from family. I will wrap most of her presents and then leave out the "big" present on Christmas Eve night. In addition to "Santa" bringing presents to her, we give Smalls the chance to play Santa for others. We pick a child (who may not get gifts for Christmas) from our church's angel tree. Smalls gets to pick out their toys, clothes, etc... that they need and requested. We also donate canned goods and coats for the various charities in our city. We want Smalls to learn that it is better to give than to receive and that playing Santa is fun!

Starting on December 1st, we go through this advent calendar every day until Christmas. We want Smalls to know the real meaning of Christmas and for us that is the birth of Jesus. In addition to the advent calendar we like to teach Smalls about Saint Nicholas and where the idea of Santa originated from. We check out books and movies from the library about Saint Nicholas. We are able to use some of our homeschooling time to teach Smalls about the origins of the Christmas Holiday.

Because Smalls is from Poland, we try to incorporate some Polish traditions as much as we can without violating our beliefs. I try to cook traditional Christmas foods and play Christmas carols in Polish

Overall we try to keep the holidays simple. We will visit our families, take off from homeschool, and look at Christmas lights. We want Smalls to experience the fullness of Christmas without triggering those traumatic memories. If we are visiting a friend or family member's house, I will bring a bag with calming sensory items in case Smalls gets over stimulated or is having a hard time.

photo credit: Merry Christmas #flickr12days via photopin (license)

Here are some links to Christmas in Poland:

Christmas in Poland:
This is too cool! You must check this one out: Interactive guide to a Polish Christmas

Christmas Eve Traditions


Saint Nicholas:


How do you celebrate Christmas?

Do you have any resources for a Polish Christmas?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

December 2015 Meal Plan

photo credit: Christmas Star via photopin (license)


1. Breakfast Casserole
2. Oatmeal or Cereal
3. Eggs, bacon and toast
4. Baked Oatmeal Muffins
5. Breakfast Oatmeal Cupcakes
6. Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins
7. Cranberry Orange Scones
8. Sausage breakfast muffins
9. Baked Oatmeal
10. Eggnog Donut Muffins


1. Leftovers
2. Sandwiches (pb&j, pb&honey, pb&nutella, grilled cheese, lunch meat & cheese)
3. Tabbouleh
4. Tuna Salad Sandwiches/Salad
5. PB and Banana Roll Up
6. Pita Pizza
7. Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
8. Copy Cat Chick-fil-a nuggets with Chick-fil-a sauce  and store bought waffle fries


1. Slow Cooker Pot Roast with veggies and roll
2. Slow Cooker Roasted Chicken with veggies and roll
3. Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lasagna with salad and bread sticks
4. Crockpot Fire Roasted Shrimp Tacos with corn on the cob and yellow rice
5. Southwest Ranch Chicken with mashed potatoes w/ gravy and a veggie
6. Jerk Chicken Rice Bowls
7. Honey Chicken with rice and mixed veggies
9. Copycat Chick Fil A Sandwich with waffle fries and fruit
10. Hamburgers with potato salad
11. Cheeseburger Casserole with salad
12. Sloppy Joe's with veggies
13. Taco Salad Skillet
14. Basic Chili with bread
15. Chicken Alfredo with veggies
16. Tuscan Vegetable Soup and Bacon Turkey Bravo Sandwich
17. Cajun Chicken Pasta (add a couple of dashes of Tabasco sauce to be real Cajun!) with salad
18. General Tso's Chicken
19. Cranberry Glazed Turkey with mashed potatoes and green beans
20. French Fried Onion Chicken with green beans
21-31. Leftovers, church, eating out, and traveling to see family for the holidays

1. Slow Cooker Fudge
2. Christmas Cookies (pick one)
3. Polish Dried Fruit Kompote
4. Polish Chocolate Almond Cake
5. (for mom) Peppermint Mocha
    (I use a couple of drops of Peppermint extract instead of buying the $8 bottle Starbucks brand         peppermint syrup. And I also use 3 tbsp of chocolate syrup instead of making the syrup-it's easier 
   and less dishes to clean.)

Here's a grocery list printable that you could use to write down what you need to buy from the store.

VeggieTales Christmas Party: The 8 Polish Foods of Christmas

St. Andrew's Day November 29

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Child Request Webinar

If you are planning to adopt, your social worker will ask you about the characteristics of the child you will bring into your family. During this interactive webinar, Lauren Jiang, LMSW, Manager of Adoption Services at Spence-Chapin Services to Families & Children, will discuss the often difficult and uncomfortable experience of making your "child request." Using case examples, she will provide guidance on how to decide on the age, racial identity, and medical history of the child you will be best equipped to parent, while keeping your family’s resources and lifestyle in mind.

Christmas Unit Study

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What gifts did you bring for the foster parents/orphanage workers?

In Poland, children are placed with foster care parents or in an orphanage. Smalls was placed in foster care and she had foster parents that took care of her. (I am trying to be positive about Smalls' foster care experience because her caregivers were very neglectful to her.) Depending on your adoption agency, they may ask you to bring gifts to give out to individuals who are involved with your adoption. Some agencies may even ask for a cash donation to the orphanage center where your child has been staying. But most agencies recommend that you bring gifts to hand out while you are in Poland.

What gifts did you bring for the foster care parents/orphanage workers?

I feel like I get asked this question on a monthly basis in the various groups that I am apart of. We were told to bring $500 cash as a donation to the orphanage and gifts for officials that we would meet throughout out trip. Well, our daughter wasn't in an orphanage and we were able to put that money to the extra week that we had to stay in Poland because of paper work issues.

When I give gifts, I like to give gifts with a purpose. I don't just buy anything for anybody. It has to have purpose. The first question I asked myself was "how could my gift have purpose?". I want the officials to remember us and our daughter. After all they are entrusting one of their citizens in our hands for the rest of our lives. What could I give them so they could remember us? I want something that reflects where we are from and where Smalls will be living. Since we live in New Orleans, which is a very touristy town, I was able to find tons of touristy stuff that we could give out as gifts. I chose magnets that had New Orleans, La across it, scarves with fleur de lis, and coffee mugs with New Orleans, LA on it. I got all of these gifts from Walgreens because they had a great, but cheap selection of touristy items.

The sad part is about buying all of these gifts and traveling all the way to Poland and back is that I didn't hand out gifts like I thought. I wouldn't know where we were going or what we were doing most of the time, so I left all of the gifts in our apartment. I didn't want to pack around the gifts everywhere we went. I had a 40 lb. child that wanted to be carried and was scared most of the time. She needed constant attention. So, we brought back a lot of them and now hand them out to friends who visit our city.

Tips on What Gifts To Bring:

The size of the gift
 If you are thinking of bringing gifts to give out to others while in Poland, try to get gifts that are small enough to fit in your purse and that are not heavy to carry around. You could easily put a bunch of magnets in a ziplock bag in your purse and it not take up too much space or weigh your shoulder down. You want to be able to take these where ever you go because you don't know who you might meet when you are out and about. Don't make my mistake and go to all that trouble to bring gifts to not be able to hand them out.

The meaning of the gift
You want your gift to represent you and your family. Where do you live in the US? What is your hometown known for? You want the person getting the gift to remember you and your family.

The place to get your gift
I went to Walgreens, but you could probably go to any drug store. Most drug stores have a small section of touristy items. You could also try your local Walmart. In some of the check out lanes, Walmart has some touristy items. If you live in a small town and there isn't anything touristy about your town, don't fret there are other ideas. You could take a picture of your family in front of your house and turn that into a small magnet or a postcard. Don't forget to put your hometown and state at the bottom so that person will know where you are from. Look on shutterfly or other online picture services for other small gift ideas that you could put your picture on.

The gifts you can bring for others in the foster home
If there are other children in the foster home or in the orphanage that your child has been living with, you should definitely bring them gifts. Some ideas that you could bring are hard candy, playdoh, small toys, wordless picture books, a picture frame (and while you are in Poland take a picture of your child and their friend), or anything age appropriate.

The gifts to not buy
 Don't buy shot glasses. I know that every town has shot glasses with their hometown written on them, please refrain. Try to stay away from breakable items. Nothings worse than traveling across the world with gifts to hand out only to have them broken during your travel. I wouldn't get anything that is liquid. If your town is know for their hot sauce, bbq sauce, ect... and you really want to bring something like that, see if you can get the small bottle possible (I"m talking about the 1" size). I would also stay away from chocolate or anything else that has the potential to melt.

The gifts for foster parents
If your child is in foster care, you could bring an extra special gift for the foster parents. After all they have been taking care of your child. You could make a picture book of your family, home and hometown. You could get a picture frame with your family's picture in it. Anything that is personable to the foster parents to remember your family and the child that they cared for. Check out shutterfly for gift ideas that you could put your family's picture on.

Do you have any other suggestions? What worked or what didn't work for you?


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The One Thing That You Can't Bring Back From Poland

My daughter loved getting the Kinder Surprise Eggs while we were in Poland. We would buy them for her as a treat when we went grocery shopping. Well, apparently they are illegal in the US and if you are caught with them in your suitcase you could be fined several hundred dollars PER EGG!!

The small toy is considered a choking hazard to children. So be careful what candies you choose to bring back!

More 2nd Grade Worksheets

Christmas Bible Reading Plan for Children

More 3rd Grade Worksheets

I'm Working On An Update....

I know it's been a while since I've posted an actual update. I'm working on that. Parenting a child with trauma stresses me out...a lot! In the evenings, I will crash into my bed once Smalls is in her bed. And in the mornings when I wake up early, well that hasn't happened either. I've been so exhausted! I'm lucky if I get a shower and breakfast in one morning.

I hope to have a post about how we are doing up next week or so. I can't make any promises though because the holidays are very hard for Smalls. It's a lot of changes and people, which throws us for a loop!

11 Memories You Have When You Grew Up In Poland

Building Trust By Saying Yes

Surviving the Holidays While You Wait for a Child

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Alternative Resource for Dissection with Kids

Positive Discipline in the Classroom

10 Things to Consider Before You Adopt

As an adoptive mom, I have dealt with EVERY SINGLE ONE of these items on this blog's list!

Free World History Curriculum

Teaching Children with FASD: It's a Brain Based Disability

Polish National Anthem

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Notice From the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw

Embassy of the United States of America
Warsaw, Poland

          The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens of multiple scheduled demonstrations and marches in Warsaw on Wednesday, November 11, 2015, in celebration of Polish Independence Day.  Similar events may be held in other Polish cities.  Independence Day marches have previously resulted in clashes between opposing groups and/or police. 

          A major demonstration with up to 50,000 participants led by “Marsz Niepodległości” Organizacja Społeczna (Independence March Social Organization) will be held between 13:00-20:00.  Demonstrators will gather at the Roman Dmowski Roundabout , walk along Aleje Jerozolimskie towards the Poniatowski Bridge, cross the bridge, and turn left into the PGE Narodowy Stadium grounds at the Jerzego Waszyngtona Roundabout for a rally.

Other organizations are planning additional rallies:

·        In front of the two Marszałek Piłsudski monuments near Belvedere Palace and Plac Marszałka Piłsudskiego (opposite from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) as well as at the Roman Dmowski monument between 14:00 and 15:00 and 20:00 and 22:00 .
·        At Park Ujazdowski in front of Paderewski’s Monument from 11:00-11:30.
·        A religious march will start at the church in Plac Trzech Krzyży (Three Crosses Square) and end in front of Parliament between 10:00-14:00.

In addition to these demonstrations, the 10-kilometer Independence Run is scheduled along Jana Pawła II Avenue from 11:00 to 13:00.  Expect heavy traffic around the area, including the intersection with Aleje Jerozolimskie near the Warsaw Central Railway Station.

Although the majority of demonstrations are expected to be peaceful, even peaceful demonstrations can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.  You should avoid areas of demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings.  Expect heavy traffic congestion throughout Warsaw, as well as road closures and parking difficulties.

For further information:

·        Regularly monitor the State Department's website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Worldwide Cautions, and read the Country Specific Information for Poland

·        Enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you in an emergency. 

·        The U.S. Embassy in Warsaw is located at Aleje Ujazdowskie 29/31, telephone +48-22-504-2000.  Appointments for U.S. citizen services can be made Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., excluding Polish and American holidays and the last working Wednesday of each month.  Appointments may also be scheduled for Fridays from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.  In the event of emergency after hours, you may contact the Embassy duty officer at +48-22-504-2000.

·        The U.S. Consulate General in Kraków is located at Ulica Stolarska 9, 31-043, telephone +48-12- 424-5100.   Appointments for U.S. citizen services can be made Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., and 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., by appointment only.  The Consulate is closed on Polish and American holidays.  In the event of emergency after hours, you may contact the Consulate duty officer at +48-601-483-348.

·        Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on travel restrictions.  You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Adoption at the Movies Guide

Some movies can be triggers for our adopted children. Here is a wonderful blog dedicated to movie reviews for adopted children. I'm thankful for this guy!

Final Stages of an Intercountry Adoption in Poland

When we were in Poland 2 years ago, we did not know the final steps of our adoption. We were the pilot family and we were the ones trying to figure things out with our in country translators. It was tough not knowing what comes next or what is required for us to bring our daughter home. Wes and I like to know the who, what, when and where weeks before events happen. We (ok, maybe just me) are big planners. It was very difficult for us (me) to be in the dark and not know what comes next, especially with a newly adopted daughter who needs to be prepared of change in advance.

After talking with a family adopting from Poland who wanted to know more about the last incountry steps, I thought I would share what I told them. Hopefully this post can bring you some comfort and what to expect on the final stages while you are in Poland.

Disclaimer: Laws in Poland and with the HAGUE treaty may change since this post was written. Please keep that in mind when you are going through the process. And if my information is outdated please comment so I can correct it for others!

1. During the appeal period, get visa and passport photos. You will need 4 big pictures and 4 small pictures. This costs around 100 PLN (about $35 USD).

2. Get the final court decree from the judge. You can typically get this document the day after the appeal period is over. You will take this document to the birth certificate office (office locations depend on where your child was born).

3. Get the LONG/complete birth certificate. Poland has two: a short one and a long one. The US embassy wants the long, completed one. Make sure everything is spelled correctly. If your name is misspelled, you have to have it corrected (mine was and I had to get it corrected). If your child’s name is misspelled on the birth certificate you can get it corrected, but if it is misspelled on the court decree, you can’t change it unless you go back to court in Poland. You can fix the spelling when you get home with the court system in the US, so it's not really a super big deal just an inconvenience. This may take a day or two depending on the office. This cost about 35 PLN (about $13 USD).

4. Make sure the birth certificate and court decree have certified translations. You don't want the trouble of having to find someone in the US who is certified to translate these very important documents. The person who translated your home study and other documents before court should be able to translate it for you. Sometimes the Polish court feels obligated to give you, the native English speaker, a certified translation of the court decree. It might be the same person who translated for you during court. This could cost about 30-40 PLN per page (about $150 USD)

5. PESEL number. This is the Polish equivalent of our social security number. You have to get this number before you can get the passport. The office in Warsaw is around the corner from the Polish passport office. This takes a day to get and costs nothing if you are applying for a passport.…/2…/05/how-get-pesel-poland

6. Polish passport. You will need to get a Polish temporary passport. The temporary passport is valid for 1 year after it is issued. During the two week waiting period, go ahead and get passport pictures. You will need them for the passport. This takes about a week to receive. This costs about 30 PLN (about $10 USD).

7. Medical clearance. There is a specific doctor that the US embassy likes to use. You will need to get a form from the embassy for the doctor to fill out. Make sure you have your physical address of your apartment in Poland or the social worker's office address. The doctor will also take the 4 big pictures from you to put on the paperwork. If your child is older than 2 years, they have to get a TB test done. Make sure to ask for results to come back in 2 days and not the typical week. The medical visit takes about a day. This costs about 270 PLN (about $90 USD).
If the child has had the BCG vaccine (TB vaccine), then the gold test would have to be done (blood drawn). When we were in Poland the lab only performed this test 2 days a week and the results take a couple of days to come back. This might cause a bit of delay because the lab only performs this certain test 2 days out of the week.

8. You will take the court decree, the small visa photos, long birth certificate, polish passport and your (parent’s) passport to the embassy to get the visa. You may have to make an appointment. The lady’s name was Ewa (Eva) when we went in 2013. She was so nice and helpful!! She will ask about your agency, how everything went, and if things could be better. They also have a small play area with toys for children. You cannot bring a big purse (my mistake), weapons, cameras or cell phones. You will go through security like you would entering a federal building in the US. The visa takes about a day or two to complete. You will go for your appointment and then come back to get the visa for your child. It costs $230 USD for a immigrant visa. This is paid to the US Embassy in USD not PLN. You may have paid this fee before you left for Poland. If you did then your total cost will be lower!

9. Book airline tickets! You're finally coming home! Pick up that last souvenir and say goodbye to friends.

The total cost for the final Poland adoption steps is about $523 per child.

I hope all of this information is helpful and please let me know if this changes!

10 Unique Places in Poland

These are some great places! I can't wait to go back to Poland and maybe see some of this.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015