Monday, April 27, 2009

Plastic Wrap -- Year 6!

It's been a crazy few weeks and I've been horrible about not posting -- sorry! My mom was here for two weeks visiting from Iowa. We were busily pulling out boxes and getting ready for our small town's city-wide garage sale. We had a great sale and got rid of so much clutter -- it's an awesome feeling!

I even sold a few things right out from under my mom! She was staying in the guest room downstairs which usually is storage and I kept going in and bringing stuff out to sell. I think she was worried she'd come down one night and the bed would be gone! Or her suitcase. Or maybe her toothpaste. If it wasn't nailed down it was fair game for the sale.

Speaking of my mom, one day we were chatting on the phone and somehow I commented that I always seemed to be out of plastic wrap. I cook a lot and seem to constantly be buying plastic wrap, parchment paper and foil. Mom said,"Go to Sam's Club and pick up the big green box of plastic wrap. It doesn't cost much more than the small boxes and it will last much longer."

Well, she was right .... really right. That was at least 6 years ago (yes, 6 YEARS ago!) and I'm still using that first industrial sized box of plastic wrap! We toted the darn thing from the little house when we moved to this house 4 years ago and even today it still has football fields worth of wrap left. The box will probably bio-degrade before the wrap is gone.

Over the years the huge box of plastic wrap has become a source of repeated jokes from Kevin's family who come to visit at Thanksgiving. Even our niece who was only 8 when the box first came to live with us will walk into our house at the holidays and ask if we still have the big box of wrap left. Teenagers!

So, as we're getting ready for our yard sale I pulled out some sheet sets I wanted to sell. (No, not the ones on Mom's bed -- I let her keep those!) I'm looking for some masking tape to wrap around the sets to keep them together and here comes my mom with the huge box of plastic wrap. "There are SO many uses for this stuff she tells me!" Yeah, right.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter

Happy Easter! We colored eggs last night which was a first for Sarah. Even though Sarah was here last year we had just returned from a long trip the day before Easter so coloring eggs was something that was lost in the shuffle. After we colored eggs last night Sarah said "Why didn't you tell me about this? It's FUN!"

And, yes, Romeo the Cat was involved with "family egg coloring night." He sat patiently on the "junk table" right next to the counter and guarded the paper towels!

Also, here's Sarah's art project which I think ties in very nicely with Easter. A month or so ago her art class started a "city project." Each student drew a slip of paper from a hat and whatever city building was listed on the paper was his/her art project. Some choices were school, shopping mall, dentist, police, etc. Sarah's paper read "church." Each student was to design his/her building, name the building, write about what the building does and also to draw who would be in charge of this building. Then, they created the building and the person. When they were done, all the building were put together into a city-scape which was put on display in the school library.

Sarah's church is named "St. James" and the person in charge is named "Pastor Linda." These names are very important to Sarah as "James" is her grandpa (she calls him "Papa") and "Linda" is her grandma (she calls her "Mimi"). When Sarah was thinking about her church she decided she would like a church which is very modern, full of love and where a woman is in charge. She wants lots of music and nature in her church.

So she designed her church accordingly. The top comes off so you can look inside. One window is actually cut out so you can look through it (the one with the curtain on the back wall). Inside there is a live tree which has a banner that reads "Love". In the third photo you'll see the tree and on the opposite wall there is a fake window. In photo four you'll see that from the the outside if you "look through the window" you see the "love tree" inside. Below the window she has a large cross with Jesus. Also, a large white bird. And the pews are actually "formed" so they are shaped liked pews and not flat drawings.

Outside she has Pastor Linda and lots of beautiful vines and flowers (which I didn't capture in the photos). Pastor Linda has a shorter modern dress on and heels.

And, note the ample parking!

Hope you all have a happy and blessed Easter.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Talk to the Colander!

I love to enter cooking and recipe contests. But I didn't "find" cooking until I was in my late 20's. When Kevin and I married WAY BACK in 1990 I pretty much only knew how to make French toast, canned soup and anything that could be made in our college hot pot. Over time I read backs of boxes and cans and was able to at least cook things that didn't kill us.

But then about 1998 or so I was clipping coupons from the Sunday paper and saw an ad for a cooking contest where the grand prize was a new car. The sponsor's product was one I was familiar with plus I was driving a very old and very, very ugly paint-oxidized and dented Ford Tempo at the time (you know, the one I had backed into the side of the garage!). So I sent off a recipe. I couldn't believe how excited I was at the thought of someone handing me the keys to a new car -- and all for a chicken recipe!

So, are you on pins and needles waiting to see the photo of the car I won?!?!? Well, you'd be waiting a long time because I didn't win squat! I kept entering recipe contests and I kept losing. I gave up. Then I came home one day and found a big box on the front porch -- including a bread machine, oodles of cookbooks and baking mixes. I had actually won something! That was all it took for me to get hooked again and while I've taken some breaks over the years I've always found my way back to contesting.

I've just started back once again. And I think my brain has hardened and dried out! Where once I used to sit down with paper and pencil and the ideas would just flow out, now I find my mind wandering off and when I do come up with an idea it seems so "done" or "crazy" that I almost laugh out loud. It's just a few days until the Pillsbury Million Dollar Bake-Off closes entries for this two year span and I've sent in a measly handful of recipes -- I really would like to kick my own butt if it was humanly possible.

So, I thought to myself that I needed a change. I did the UNTHINKABLE!!! I bought a new colander. (What?!?!? Gasp! How could you do it Deb?!?!) The cheap plastic blue colander I've had since Kevin and I married almost 20 years ago is no longer. The handsome blue colander I used to create so many recipes over time is kaput. Yes, it's true. I've moved onward and upward. I've gone green -- literally. I now have a brand spankin' new bio-degradable renewable resource bamboo colander in modern lime green color. And I'm pinning all my hopes on this little green beauty. No, seriously. If I don't win, "talk to the colander!"

I write this somewhat in jest. But I have to say it was an odd time indeed when I brought the new colander home. Sarah helped me pick it out. And when we got home I pulled the blue one out of the cupboard and easily dumped it in the trash. And then I stood there like an idiot staring down into the trash. And I pulled the blue colander back out and placed it on the counter. I walked away. And then I went and got the camera and took a picture of it. And then I dumped it back in the trash and walked away again. And I thought about it some more. And I looked back down into the trash. And I walked away again.

Armchair psychologists would love me, wouldn't they!!?!? Just hope the recipe contest people follow suit!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Who needs a cell phone?!

So I'm in the kitchen last night and I hear Sarah "talking on the phone" only I can tell she's in the living room and we don't have a land line there. And I'm thinking, "I didn't hear her cell phone ring." But she's having this rather long, involved conversation. So I walk in and find she's talking on the newly invented "cat tail phone!"

Monday, April 6, 2009

Who doesn't love a HUG?!

We've been chatting with a few families who recently arrived home with older adopted kiddos. It's strange in a way to kind of be taken back in a time machine! Many of the concerns and fears these families are facing are the same ones we had. We worried if we were doing things that would scar Sarah for life! Was she scared of us? Was she scared of the house? Was she hungry? Was she worried she'd never find food she liked? Was she lonely not being able to communicate well? Was she having bad dreams? And these are just a few of the thousand thoughts racing through our minds?

So a bit about some things we've experienced and/or heard from other families. These are things related to the first few weeks together when everyone is trying to get his/her footing. As you settle in, many of these things will just become a memory or will transition into more long-range ideas. At first, our suggestion is to just focus on some basics ... the rest will follow in time.

1. Light & Sound. At the orphanage lights are on 24/7. Even at night the rooms are not completely dark because the aunties need to be able to move around. So a dark bedroom, hallway and bathroom may be very scary. Night lights seem to work great but if that's not enough perhaps leaving a closet light on or adding a small table lamp would do the trick. Also, orphanages are not quiet places, even at night. Usually there are many kids in one room plus any noise from other rooms or people walking in the hallways. Several kids have enjoyed having a small cd player in their rooms to "cut the quiet" down so they can fall asleep.

2. Soft beds and Sheets. Along with scary dark and quiet rooms, American beds and sheets are probably going to be strange to your kiddo. As many of you know from your hotel experiences in China, beds in China are HARD and those are beds with thicker mattresses. At many orphanage the beds have very thin mattresses or no mattresses at all. Sarah had a hard time with how soft her bed was which is really funny now because she complains when we go to a hotel about "how hard" the hotel beds are and how much she misses her nice soft bed! Also, in China, there are blankets but not sheet sets so you'll probably have to explain that the kiddo is to sleep between the sheets and not simply on top of them.

3. Food. Ramen noodles, ramen noodles, ramen noodles. We were buying these by the case when we first returned home. Now, Sarah will ask for some maybe once every few weeks. Also, try hard boiled eggs, plain white Chinese rice (NOT minute rice), flour tortillas with scrambled eggs and meat inside, original red can Pringles (don't know why, but many families have reported kids loving these!), hard bread sticks (again Pringles makes one Sarah loves), popcorn and crackers. We were so worried that we weren't providing her with nutritional meals but really at the start it's just about getting the kiddos to eat SOMETHING. And many kids won't do well with dairy foods and haven't had much in the way of milk or cheese.

4. Bonding. Overall, I give my husband all the credit in the world when it comes to bonding during those first few weeks. His idea was to just be silly! And it worked. It made Sarah more at ease and a happy kid. It's the best suggestion I have to offer! Other suggestions include badminton (and you don't even need a net -- just hit back and forth), drawing on the sidewalk with chalk, blowing bubbles, taking walks or pretty much any outside game.

5. Hugs. Lots of people are wanting meet your new kiddo! They want to welcome him/her with big hugs! Except that in China hugging is an odd behaviour that most people don't do! To most Chinese, hugging is just down-right weird! I'll never forget when we went to meet with a few of Sarah's friends and the minute the kids saw each other they raced to one another, stood about 1/2 an inch from each other's face and jumped up and down -- all without hugging or touching each other in any way! So don't be surprised is there is squirming when hugs are given and if your kiddo doesn't want to give hugs in return.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bonding & Older Child Adoption

We were on pins and needles at the beginning of the week after being contacted about the possibility of Sarah sharing some stories and information about her life as an adopted older child. The organization which contacted us will be traveling to China very soon to meet with older children who shortly will be available for adoption. They know these kiddos have questions and wanted to know if there was anything Sarah would like to share about her experience as an older adopted child that she thought might help these kids. The organization was asking for photos, comments or maybe a video from Sarah.

In classic Sarah fashion, she ponders for a bit and then says, "Yes. I would love to share! There are so many things I was scared about or wondered about!" And then the kicker -- "I don't know how much photos will help. Just tell them it will be better if you and I just go to China with them because then I can just sit and talk with these kids!"

So, I related the story to the organization rather "tongue in cheek" about how Sarah and I could be ready to travel in the very short time frame and how excited Sarah is to share her story -- and they actually considered bringing us along to China. (Right there it tells me how committed these folks are to these children!) Unfortunately time and space have constraints so we will not be hoping the next jet to China. But Sarah is very optimistic and told me she "knows in her heart" that talking with the kids is a good thing and she'll be ready with her suitcase should the phone ring that she's needed in China!

When there was the chance that we'd be traveling we talked with Sarah about what she would want to say, how she would say it and why she would say it. As we're listening to her talk it became ever so apparent how much she has gone through and how much she has taken in and processed since the day we met her. And it also became apparent how much we are a family and how comfortable she feels sharing information not only with us but with others who she thinks may benefit.

I mean, seriously, the things she wants to share are personal feelings and fears. How many teens want to do that? And not only would she be sharing these things with other kids but with US and Chinese representatives in the adoption field. Knowing that she's comfortable enough now to share some of these things, I thought there might be some benefit to sharing some on the blog as well. So let's start with bonding.


One area of major concern to every parent who I've talked with is bonding. It doesn't matter if the parent will be adopting an infant or an older child. There is always the concern about how to bond and the fear of "what if?"

So the words to follow are very close to my heart. While I am no expert and have no professional training, I do have a bit of insight to share but want you to know this just one woman's experience (me!) and take it for what it is --

"Hi. My name is Debbi and I'm an adoptive mom to an older child born in China. Sarah was 13-1/2 when we met and I was 39. I'd never been a mom before and was scared to death! Would I know the right things to do? To say? What would she think of me? Would she think I looked weird? Sounded strange? Smelled funny? Would she love me?

Flash forward and we've been mom and daughter for 1-1/2 years now. Sarah and my husband are the lights of my life! My daughter constantly amazes me with everything from her infectious laugh and silly smile to how awesome she is doing in school.

There is not one day that passes where I don't feel how much my daughter loves me. If I'm in the basement and she's upstairs I'll hear "Mom! Where are you!" or I'll hear her say to Kevin, "Where MY mom?" (And it's always "MY mom" which I love!) We are "mom and daughter" and we are "friends" who share our fears and dreams. We love to be together whether it's watching tv, or "girl shopping" or cooking in the kitchen. And I know she trusts me and for the most part (she is a teenager!) values my opinion. We have an understanding in our home that at any time we can "just talk -- about anything" and it's opened so many doors.

But when we first met, my daughter didn't like me. And there's no fault on any side -- not my fault and not her fault. It's just life. Both Sarah and I met in that room in Nanjing and wanted nothing more than to hug each other and to have our hearts so full of love that we could hardly breath. But life doesn't always happen on the schedules we want. BUT, it doesn't mean it won't happen!"

And that's the point I want to make here!!!! As Sarah was telling about what she wants to share with other kids in China, she wants them to know that it's okay to feel a little "weird" when you meet your new parents. And she wants me to be able to tell the kids that sometimes the parents feel a "little weird" too! And that's OK!!! It doesn't mean you don't love your parents and that your parents don't love you. It doesn't mean you're a "bad kid" or that you're "broken" because you feel that way. As she said, "Mom, I need to tell them it's 'little bit, little bit, little bit' and then it's SO good!"

We've met a lot of families since we started on our adoption journey. We've heard a lot of stories. Some stories are happy and some curl your toes. If you look hard enough, you'll find stories about every possible scenario that can happen with adopting an older child. If you take one story and let it stand alone, it doesn't give you the full picture. We are a perfect example of that. Our story at the beginning and our story now are very different. Here are photos to show you what I mean.

If a picture tells a thousand words .....

Me and Sarah THEN ......

Me and Sarah NOW .....

I've rambled enough today! In future posts I'll try to put in some things we think were good bonding activities and other things Sarah thinks are important for kids and parents. As with everything in life, its "little bit, little bit, little bit!"

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cars, Cars, Cars

Sarah has really been enjoying industrial arts class (known as "shop" when I was in school). Right now each student is making a car. This photo was taken a few weeks ago during the "sanding" phase which could be done at home but since then the car has been detailed, primed and painted at school.

As for the color, the teacher had basic colors available (I believe the choices were black, blue, red, white, green and yellow). Sarah wanted pink. The teacher told her there was no pink. So she asked for red and white paint!

Then there is a REAL driving! In Missouri we have a "three tier" system for new drivers. After Driver's Ed this summer Sarah will take her "instruction permit" test (eligible age: 15). She'll have to pass vision, road sign and written tests. The instruction permit allows her to drive only with a parent in the passenger's front seat. She must have this permit for 6 months minimum and have received 40 hours of driving instruction with a parent or certified trainer (including 10 hours of night driving).

The second step is an "intermediate license" available for 16 to 18 year olds who have met the instruction permit requirements. To receive this permit she'll have to pass a driving test (and retake the previous tests if the results are over a year old). With this permit, for the first 6 months she cannot drive with more than one person in the car who is under 19 (unless family). After 6 months, she cannot have more than 3 people in the car who are under 19. Plus, she cannot drive alone between the hours of 1 am and 5 am (unless emergency, etc.).

The last step is the "full drivers license" available at age 18.

To get her started, we took her to a completely empty large parking lot and just let her get a feel for the car. We went over all the controlls, showed her how a 6 foot 4 inch person (Dad!) can "hide" in the car's blind spot and then let her drive a bit. Here she is right before getting behind the wheel!