Sunday, July 26, 2015

What The World Eats

Have you read the book, What the World Eats, by Faith D'Aluisio and Peter Menzel?  It's an amazing photorama showing what families around the world eat in one week.  It's a sobering book, with families from refugee camps in Chad.  It's a book full of facts and figures and ever more photos of how people live, and how people eat. 
 
 
One aspect that hit me most was how much healthier the families in most other countries eat-- how few fruits and vegetables (and how much processed food) families in industrialized countries eat, compared to those in developing countries. 
 
Reading the book sparked a memory.  I was reminded of some children we had in our neighborhood many years ago.  It was when we were living on a military base.  The neighbor kids would often come over and ask my kids for snacks--especially fruits.  Those kids couldn't get enough fruit!  It irritated me at the time, that these kids always came over and asked for food.  Sometimes again and again in the same day.  I assumed they had enough food and just wanted more.  I've learned a lot since then.  I now know those kids were really hungry--or at least hungry for foods they weren't getting in their own home (and they did live in a home with challenges).  If I could repeat those days, I would let them have as much healthy food as they wanted--and I would even give them fruit to take home.  So many kids really do NOT have enough food.  They might have parents who have an income that allows them to buy enough food, but that doesn't mean the parents are. 
 
(Sidenote--there are also many kids with food issues who will constantly ask for food and I am not referencing those kids or their families.)
 
The free and reduced meals program at schools is one I will always support.  I once did an internship at a low-income school, and it was shocking to see how the kids ate Monday morning--they couldn't get enough!  For the same reason, I fully support the summer lunch program we have in our state.  All summer long, kids can get a free, healthy sack lunch at various neighborhood parks.  While I'm sure not all the kids truly need it, the ones who do make the program irreplaceable. 
 
The book inspires me to keep finding ways to support those in need, and to keep finding ways to eat healthier as a family.
 
Luckily, I have some help with cooking.  Vu has recently been using his My Vietnam Stories and Recipes book.  He created Canh Khoai Mo Te'p (purple yam and shrimp soup).
 
 
 
 
And Lan Lan makes Chinese food almost every day.  She uses whatever she can find that sounds good--noodles are always a must!  This was breakfast today.
 
 
 
But wanna know what we've been eating a WHOLE LOT OF this summer? 
 
 
 
 
 
Uh-huh.  YUM!  Maybe we'll start trying to eat healthier after summer is over!
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Happy Birthday To A Couple Awesome Guys!

In finishing up birthday season I have to shout out to two of my favorite guys!  Happy Birthday Hubby and Paul!
 
You will often find them on the golf course-sometimes with their very own cart girl!
 
 
Paul's days of having his very own cart-girl (aka fan-club) go way back!
 
 
Paul lives and breathes golf (Hubby would too except for that thing called a job!).  But Paul has really figured it out because not only does he play golf, he also WORKS at a golf course! 
 
 
Paul is one of those easy-going people who is just plain fun to be with.  He is hysterically funny, mature, honest, insightful, and caring. 
 
I am sorry to inform his grandmother and aunts that he used his birthday money to get his ears pierced!  I tried to convince him he was going to look like a gangster rapper, but in the end I was the one who drove him to the earring store.  He had to have a parent signature since he's only 17.  I love that the lady didn't even question that I am his mother (very appreciated in transracial families!).
 
 
 
Next on the birthday list was Hubby!  Love this man!  In so many ways we are polar opposites, but we also have much in common including the love of books, travel, history, humor, kids, and life!  Hubby has such a heart for children and he is a great dad and granddad. 
 
 
 
Both Paul and Hubby chose a family favorite of delicious lemon cake--recipe to follow.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY AND LOVE YOU BOTH SO MUCH! 
 
 
 
Gram's Lemon Cake
 
Prepare lemon boxed cake according to directions except use milk for the water.  Use two round pans.  Cool. 
 
Prepare COOK & SERVE lemon pudding (Jello brand--do not use instant pudding).  Set aside to partially cool.
 
When cake is cool and pudding is beginning to set, spoon pudding in between the two layers of cake.  About half the pudding will be leftover.  Place cake in fridge to cool.
 
Whip 2 Cups heavy whipping cream with a mixer until thick and stiff (don't whip too much or it will turn to butter), add about 1/4 C. powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Cover cooled cake with whipped cream.  Place frosted cake in fridge to cool. 
 
Delicious.  Light.  Cool.  Summer Happiness! 
 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

On Pointe--Dreams Really Do Come True

Since the day she arrived home Lan Lan has wanted to dance!  In fact, one of the first things she told our Chinese social worker was that she hoped to someday be a real dancer!  Lan Lan came home in April, so dance classes were nearly over, but we were able to enroll her in a Chinese dance class.
 
 
But what she really wanted was to take ballet!  When she started in the fall she was over-the-moon excited!
 
 
Over the years her love of ballet has grown.  This year, she was in pre-pointe--hoping for her big dream of wearing toe shoes.  She had so much anxiety over whether or not she would make it!  She would pray every night that God would help her feet grow strong!
 
Lan Lan watched one of her favorite movies again and again--First Position.  And we read Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina, the story of Michaela DePrince.  Lan Lan really connected to Michaela's struggles and life history--such an inspirational story, but born from great tragedy. 
 
And then came the day Lan Lan's ballet teacher told her "You are getting your toe shoes!"
 
Soooo exciting!  A trip to the dance store was filled with so much happiness!  I truly doubt they have ever seen such an excited ballerina!
 
 
 
 
 
Lan Lan describes dancing on toe shoes as "a feeling of happiness, relaxation, and freedom."  She says, "I can feel the connection to God and I can truly be myself when I am dancing." 
 
 
 
She was "Morning" in "Peer Gynt" for her ballet recital.
 
 
 
 
Dreams really do come true!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Importance of Mental Health

Speaking of life lessons, another for me would be to access mental health as a regular part of life--to have yearly check-ups, just like we do for physicals and well-child checks.  In our society, mental health is often the resource we use after exhausting all others.  There seems to be shame and guilt built into accessing and using mental health.  I'm really hoping that's beginning to change.
 
I do see mental health becoming a regular part of physical health--when I take my kids to the pediatrician there are checklists for both parent and child that include mental health questions.  And our pediatrician's office recently added a child psychologist to their staff, so it's easier to hook into a therapist. 
 
It wasn't until after Joe died that we started to access counseling.  And after adopting traumatized children, we have found times where therapy has been incredibly helpful.  I wish we had started sooner every . single . time.  Now mental health therapy is a normal part of our lives.  All my kids are familiar with our therapist's office--even those who do not see her.  But if something came up where they needed counseling it wouldn't be awkward for them--they would probably actually be excited to have their turn! 
 
A beautiful story about adoption, unconditional love, and learning to trust 
 
The biggest challenge can be finding a therapist that's a good fit.  It is SUPER important to try to do this BEFORE you are in crisis.  It can take time to get an intake appointment, especially with a therapist in a thriving practice.  It takes time and energy, just taking that first step!  One of the best ways to find a good therapist is to ask other adoptive families and adoption workers in your area.  If you aren't an adoptive family, ask your pediatrician, friends, relatives, school counselors, and church staff.  Consider what questions you will ask in your initial interview--you can Google the topic ahead of time and you will find suggestions such as these. 
 
Karyn Purvis has a great video on how to find a therapist, particularly for children who have trauma backgrounds.  (Karyn also has several other videos that are helpful to adoptive parents--especially those struggling with adoption related challenges.)  There is also a great article, titled  How We Found Help in the Midst of Crisis, by a sweet friend, Lisa Qualls.  It comes from the Empowered to Connect website and also has a short video by Karyn Purvis. 
 
Of course the cost is a whole other issue.  I do see insurance companies covering the costs much more than in the past.  There are also therapists who use a sliding scale--but let's face it, this is an area that is often expensive.  I think it helps to remember that even if you can only afford a few sessions with a therapist, it will be worth it, and many times all you need is a few sessions to get you back on track (especially if you go sooner, rather than later).  And there have been MANY studies showing that therapy is MUCH more effective at boosting a person's happiness than money.  Up to 32x.  Seriously. 
 
Therapy isn't what we stereotypically think of--laying on a couch, talking to the ceiling about how long we sucked our thumb.  Most professionals, especially those working with children and teens, use a wide variety of therapies including play therapy, art therapy, storytelling (narrative), and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).  The new wave is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), to address PTSD and trauma.  Even very young children can benefit from a therapist--infant and toddler mental health is an exploding field. 
 
But remember--mental health isn't just for our kids.  I once heard a professional say that if only the parent or child could attend therapy, they would choose the parent.   
 
Do you have a Go-To professional for mental health?  Having a good counselor/therapist is as important as having a family doctor and dentist.  I encourage you to at least explore who you would use.  Don't wait!  It will change your life in a very positive way!
 
 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Impromptu Gifts

One of my Life Lessons is to go ahead and buy the gift! 

Every now and then I will see something a friend or relative would love--but there's no reason to buy them a gift.  It isn't their birthday, and maybe we don't even exchange birthday gifts.  It's usually just some small thing.  I used to just let the item pass by.  But now I buy it and send it--an impromptu gift of love!  It makes the recipient happy!  But even more importantly, it makes me happy! 

I have a dear friend named Dahlia.  When I saw this tea towel, I didn't hesitate!  I knew it was meant for her! 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Abusive, Destructive, Controlling Relationships Part 3

This is Part 3 of my series on destructive relationships.  Please see Part 1 and Part 2 to learn the warning signs of an abusive relationship. 
 
 
There are many myths about domestic violence, including the belief that it's easy for the victim to leave.  It's not.  There are a variety of reasons, including the fact that leaving evokes incredible fear.  According to the US Department of Justice, women who leave abusers are at a 75% greater risk of being killed by the abuser than those who stay. 
 
And to be a broken-record, not all victims are women, men can be victims too, but the majority of research is done around men as the perpetrator since that is usually the case. 
 
A reminder--it's a myth that abusers are out of control.  They control to gain power over the other person.  They often use a series of tactics besides violence including threats, intimidation, psychological abuse, and isolation, to control their partners.  If the abuser was truly out of control they wouldn't be able to stop their behavior--such as when police came to the door.  Abusers ARE in control--they often "target hit" directing physical violence to parts of the body where bruises are less likely to show.  Perpetrators ARE in control--they don't abuse everyone who makes them angry, instead they tend to act charming and wait until there aren't witnesses to see their abuse of the victim. 
 
Here are some sobering facts you might not know about domestic violence.  The research comes from a variety of sources, but these are primarily from Federal Bureau of Investigation Reports. 
 
Domestic violence is the number one cause of injury to women between the ages of 15-44, this is more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. 
 
50% of men who abuse their wives also frequently abuse their children.  Domestic violence is the #1 predictor of child abuse. 
 
People of ALL races are equally likely to be abused by a partner.
 
80% of girls who have been physically abused by their partner, continue to date their abuser after the onset of violence. 
 
Pregnant women are especially at risk for abuse.  It is common for physical abuse to begin or escalate during pregnancy. 
 
Most people who are abused blame themselves for causing the violence.

If you, or someone you know needs help, there is a 24-Hour hotline:
National DV Hotline  1-800-799-7233
 
 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Just Call Me Poke'mom

If you asked my kids today if I was a cool mom they would say no.  Because I've been on a bedroom cleaning quest today.  So not fun.
 
But if you asked my kids last weekend, they would definitely say I WAS the cool mom.  At least Vu would.
 
Vu has been wanting to go to a video game tournament for a long time.  He kept telling me about these gatherings all over the US where gamers get together and compete.  I kid you not.  There are even internet sites that advertise and track.  But Vu has never been able to find one in our state. 
 
Soooo, when he found one a couple hours from our home he was ecstatic!  Problem # 1: It was the very next day.  Two hours away.  Problem #2: I was convinced this was probably not even a real tournament.  It was probably some pervert trying to trick kids into their lair.  Problem #3: It was two hours away.  The next day.  Problem #4: I looked up the address and the tournament was on the grounds of a university, but I was convinced it was a frat house.  Some crazy group of college guys getting stoned.  Playing video games.  Problem #5: It was the next day.  Two hours away. 
 
But Vu doesn't ask for a lot.  He is a kid that is pretty content with life.  And he REALLY wanted to go to the tournament.  For Super Smash Bros. Melee--his favorite game!
 
So, he asked, very, very sweetly.  And we went.  Yes, the next day.  Two hours away.  Vu and Mei Mei went, along with Vu's friend.
 
When we arrived my son and his friend jumped out of the car with video game controllers in their hands.  I was like, "Um, no, you cannot go in there looking like total nerds carrying around a video game controller!"  Please, let me save you from certain embarrassment!  "Besides, it's not like you are going to play!  Random people don't show up at a tournament and play video games!"  Right?
 
They both tried to convince me that people DO walk around video game tournaments carrying video game controllers.  Yeah.  Right. 
 
Try though I might I could not convince them to save themselves by leaving the controllers in the car. 
 
They insisted. 
 
So, we walked into the legitimate college lecture hall (no frat house or weed in sight!) to see about 150 mostly college-age-males (and a few females) carrying around video game controllers. 
 
 
Live and learn. 
 
My son (and his friend) rightfully gave me the "I told you so!" look! 
 
 
Much deserved. 
 
There were 50 TVs all hooked up to a video system games.  There was a legitimate tournament going on with big screens, but anyone could hook into the other systems to play a round for fun.  And it was free!
 
It was so much fun to see how welcoming the older guys were with my kids.  I think they were impressed that Vu is a decent player (and I'm not exactly proud of that fact!). 
 
 
 
I was the only mom there and I admit I felt VERY out of place. 
 
Probably because I didn't have a game controller to tote around.  But also maybe because I was wearing high heeled sandals, bright orange capris, and a cute purse.
 
 
Note to self: Next tournament wear a Super Smash Bros t-shirt, jeans, Converse shoes, and a backpack. 
 
And yes, carry a controller.
 
Oh, and have a nickname.  Did you know that gamers all have nicknames?  Neither did I.  So while I was standing around, watching gamers for hours, I came up with mine.
 
Poke'MOM.  Pretty cool, huh?