Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Reading

We have been working hard this summer on reading skills.

All three of my little boys have loved these beginning readers by Lavaun Linde and Mary Quishenberry: Bible Stores for Early Readers.  They are hard to find, but worth the search (we ordered ours through a homeschool site).  When my kids are ASKING for bible stories I'm happy to comply!

Other favorites are the Little Bear and Frog and Toad series.  And of course, Dr. Seuss. 

Patrick is currently crazy in love with the Poppy Series (Avi), and Paul is crazy-not-in-love with reading anything, but working his way through Brian's Winter and Z Rex

Rose continues to read Mandarin story books.  I especially love those that are bilingual and come with a read-a-long CD.  Her English is developing at lightning fast speed, but we really want her to keep her native languages--which is a huge challenge when nobody in our family speaks Cantonese or Mandarin.  

For bedtime stories we have been working through What Your Third Grader Needs to Know.

What are your kids reading?  Does anyone have suggestions for 7th grade Paul?  How about a new series for 4th grade Patrick?  A nice summer read-aloud?

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I used to come home to this:

Now I come home to this:

That makes me happy.  Very, very happy. 

Thank you Debbie for the special gift!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bad Mommy Moments

Bad Mommy Moments.  I hate 'em.  Know what I mean?  Those times I lose my temper, yell at my kids, lack patience . . . fall short of the grace I am so freely given--and so desire to give.  There is nothing worse than looking into the eyes of my wounded child.  And yet, I fail again and again.

As bad as those moments feel, I have to admit, I learn through them.  I learn through that pain.  I learn to be more patient, understanding, and loving.

Recently, such a learning experience occurred. 

Rose spills things.  A lot.  A lot, a lot.  I can generally count on her spilling her drink at least once a day--sometimes more.  I find myself mystified as to why an older, very capable, very dexterous child does this.  I can only believe that it is a combination of: using glasses and cups that are different than those in China (where it is common to drink directly out of your bowl), using tables and chairs that are at different heights (such as bar stools), excitement, and, well, just a different life!  It all adds up to a brain that has not been trained by the repetition of having a glass of milk placed before her in our cups, at our table, with our household distractions, in our home.

I am reminded of how Vu could not hold onto things in the car when he first came home from Vietnam.  If he had anything in his hands--a water bottle, cookie, or toy--we would drive around a corner and I would hear a "thunk"--then his cries.    It had never occurred to me that kids actually learn how to hold onto things in a moving vehicle.

Anyhoo, back to Rose.  Initially, I was very patient with spilled milk.  You know the saying.  But I did find myself becoming more agitated.  Spilled milk was one thing, an entire glass of orange juice all over the homework basket another.  I tried using different cups, only filling half-way, teaching her to keep it further back etc. 

Finally, one day, she spilled an entire container of cup-of-noodles all over the dining room carpet.  White carpet.  (And in case you've never noticed, chicken flavored cup-of-noodles is colored yellow.)  Yellow + White = Yellow.  To this day, I still have a big yellow spot on my white carpet.

I would love to tell you that I responded as if I were Mother Teresa.  But that would be a lie.  And Mother Teresa definitely wouldn't lie.  I didn't yell.  In fact, I didn't say a thing.  Rose began to profusely apologize, just as always.  But instead of simply telling her it was okay, I didn't say anything.  I just looked at her, took a deep breath and silently began to clean it up.  She continued to apologize, for she knew I was upset, and yet, I just kept cleaning, declining her requests to help me, then going back into steely silence.

Rose sat in a nearby chair watching me.  Finally, I heard a soft, muffled cry.  I looked up into her face. Silent tears reached out and grasped my Grinch-sized heart.  Oh my soul!  Had I really caused my sweet new daughter such sadness?  Me?  Her mother who is supposed to love her unconditionally?  Upset over a spill? 

It was definitely a Bad Mommy Moment.  Filled with the anguish of regret. 

I went to her, took her in my arms, held her and apologized.  Even now, as I write, I feel such remorse for her tears that day. 

As I sat with her I realized that I had I lost more than my temper.  I had lost an opportunity to show my child how to handle a problem with grace and with love.  Worse, I had lost an opportunity to show my child that I love her unconditionally. 

Now, when she spills her milk (which she still does quite frequently), I remember that it isn't just spilled milk, it's an opportunity to show her patience, grace, and unconditional love. 

The silver lining from a Bad Mommy Moment.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Not-So-Great Stayve-Cation Update

I think my kids are getting Stayve-Cationed out.  And so am I.  Is it too late to send them all to overnight camp? Until school starts? 

Yup!  It was that kind of day!  Luckily, tomorrow's a new day!

The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog

A must-read for all adoptive parents and those who work with children--The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog And Other Stories From a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook, by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalzvitz. 

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook--What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing

I'm not sure how this book has escaped my bookshelf, but I found it to be one of the most important in understanding how trauma affects the brain of a child.  It is both difficult and easy to read--the subject matter difficult, but Perry makes it easy to understand.  I was particularly struck with Perry's ability to empathize with those involved, and his belief in the ability of each child to find healing.

There were so many passages I loved, but here are some of my favorites:

"What maltreated and traumatized children most need is a healthy community to buffer the pain, distress and loss caused by their earlier trauma.  What works to heal them is anything that increases the number and quality of a child's relationships.  What helps is consistent, patient, repetitive loving care."

"Working with children who have experienced . . . early trauma . . . requires two things that are often in short supply in our modern world: time and patience.  Traumatized children tend to have overactive stress responses and, as we've seen, these can make them aggressive, impulsive and needy. . . Before they can make any kind of lasting change at all in their behavior, they need to feel safe and loved.  Unfortunately, however, many of the treatment programs and other interventions aimed at them get it backwards: they take a punitive approach and hope to lure children into good behavior by restoring love and safety only if the children first start acting "better." 

"One of the greatest lessons I've learned in my work is the importance of simply taking the time, before doing anything else, to pay attention and listen."

"I cannot emphasize enough how important routine and repetition are to recovery."

Through case studies, Perry gives an excellent understanding of how trauma and abuse affect a child's neurobiology, development, attachment, and resilience, while simultaneously showing the way to individual, familial, and societal healing.  A must-read-must-own-book.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Great Stayve-Cation Update

The Great Stayve-Cation continues on! 

As a mom who loves nothing more than staying home and spending time with family, this is my idea of the perfect summer!  The kids seem to be enjoying it too--tho I can feel some undertones of needing some new activities for the older kids by the end of summer. 

Our days have been spent camping in the backyard (check out my mad tent skills!)

making forts and having slumber parties, and going through the craft closet and finding all kinds of forgotten materials. 

It is fun to get out something, even simple like paint, then watch how even the olders become involved.

We have been sewing (future post coming),


and picking gallons upon gallons of strawberries,

then making freezer jam.

And the dance parties have rocked the block.

We have also spent time reading, swimming, biking, and watching way too much TV. 

It's been good.  Really, REALLY good. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

First Bike

One of our summer goals is for Rose to learn to ride her new bike, which she received for her birthday.  Here is the look on her face when she was given her bike.

And here are some pics with her daddy teaching her to ride.  He is such a patient teacher.

Riding a bike is another "first" for Rose and it is taking some time to master it, but with her determination, I have no doubt it will come.  I'll post pics when she finds success!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Great Purchase

ColorKu--The Color Sudoku Puzzle.

My kids have enjoyed this toy so much.  Patrick received it for his birthday on the recommendation of my sister.  It is well made, educational, fun, and can be used in a variety of ways, by a variety of ages. 

It's a rare toy that I think worth the money.  This one makes the cut.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Hubby and I have decided to write books!  How exciting is that?

We both came to our book titles in different ways.  Here's how it all played out:

I walked in the door with wet kids, coming home after spending the afternoon at the local swimming pool.  Hubby had just arrived home from work.

Me--"Hi Hon!  We had so much fun at the pool!  I love that we can get seven people in the pool for three hours and, because of the family rate, it only costs eleven bucks!  Isn't that amazing?"

Me, still blabbering away--"You know what?  I'm going to write a book!  Yes siree, I am!  It's going to be called, Cheaper By the Dozen!"

Hubby--distractedly looking through the mail, then opening the bill for swimming lessons.  Swimming lessons for five children.  Swimming lessons in which no family rate is offered. Swimming lessons which cost . . . well, let's just say, A LOT.

Hubby--a look of shock on his face, finally turns to me and says, "You know what?  I'm going to write a book too!  I am!  It's going to be called, Cheaper By the Dozen--My Ass!"

Stay tuned for release dates.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Cousin Spa

The cousin's have been here which is always a blast!  Lots of late nights, movies, games, cabin fun, and ice cream!

And let's not forget The Cousin Spa--a tradition that has been going on for years!

The older girls set up a waiting area complete with video games and a movie.  This is one top-notch spa!

Oatmeal was the popular choice for facial treatment.  (I am pretty sure my boys will hate me someday for posting these pictures, but they are such a hoot I can't resist!)

A massage is always in order.

And then it's time for the youngers to treat the olders to facials.

Rose thought this was a hoot--she must think we are the weirdest family ever.  But she loves us anyway and as you can see, she was lovin' the special Cousin Spa treatment. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Welcome to The Chinese Cooking Channel!

Good afternoon TV viewers!  Welcome to the Chinese Cooking Channel!

As you all know, we recently adopted from China. 

As a world renowned chef, I believe in spending long hours in the kitchen to perfect my Cantonese cuisine.

Which is a lie.

But, I do believe in offering my daughter foods she is familiar with, and food is an easy comfort. 

I have heard some parents say they refuse to give their child familiar ethnic foods--that the child needs to learn to eat American food--that they aren't going to let their kid eat rice all day.   But, I personally put myself in my child's shoes and imagine moving to China and being forced to eat foods I am not familiar with (and did I ever mention I do not eat fish or shellfish or seafood or seaweed?) 

I am also not a big fan of scorpion, seahorse, or turtles.  Tho, to be honest, I've never tried them.

I did try a balut (half formed chick), but I think it must be an acquired taste.  Vu, on the other hand, ate five. 

Anyhoo, Rose does eat many "American foods," but she also craves comfort foods from her past.  And, surprisingly, I find it quite easy to comply.

A trip to an Asian market helps--tho many of these items will be in large grocery chains.

Click on the picture to enlarge.  The dried squid and seaweed are big hits with several of our kids.  Rose also loves spaghetti, as it is similar to a dish in China (she will use ketchup on noodles too!). 

We also use our rice cooker frequently.  It is important to rinse the rice several times before soaking and cooking.

And noodles.  Lots and lots of noodles. 

Put in some green leafies such as baby bok choy, add a hard boiled egg, and you have a filling meal.  (And an educational placemat will help fill the brain!) 

I hope you've enjoyed your visit to the Chinese Cooking Channel!  Please join us for dinner!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Party With The Big Dogs

I am honored to be hanging out with the big dogs today at We Are Grafted In.

Come on over and join the party!

The site is a great resource for adoptive families.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Duffel Bags, Worn Jeans, Mis-matched Socks

As I mentioned in my last post, I am washing the vacation laundry, then repacking the bags. 

These more-than-gently-used-clothes will be for future camping and cabin trips.  No more digging through the new clothes for the old ones. 

I am now making my teens implement this brainy idea, so I will no longer smell campfire smoke on their new sweatshirts.  The ones I just bought.  (Can someone please tell me why my kids would bring their new sweatshirts camping anyway???)

Anyhoo, the camping bag is also an excellent venue for socks with no mates. 

And the fish don't seem to care that my children have mis-matched socks. 

Another genius idea.

I'm so smart.

Can someone please remind me of this smart idea the next time we go camping?  When I can't seem to find any of my kids old clothes? 

They are in the duffel bags in the attic.  Along with my brain.  Thanks.