Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Great Post

I just found a new website with a link to some adoption blogs that are new to me. One mom has eloquently expressed the special need all adopted children have, their broken family tree, which is also, for them, a broken heart. No matter how well-adjusted, how well-attached, how young a child was at the time of adoption, at some point in their lives this matters to them. A lot. Here's the link...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Grass? Yuck!

I'm not in the mood for pictures
and I don't like what I'm sitting on!

I really don't like it!
I will not smile. I will cry.

And cry....

I won't stand on it either.

Apple actually did a total timber and face-plant! She wasn't hurt, but it certainly startled me. She does have quite a temper sometimes and she doesn't know that she can hurt herself by letting herself just fall. Truly, she just let herself fall forward like a stiff board right onto her face.

How Dirty Can a House Be?

Often people talk about how dirty their new house was when they moved in and how they scrubbed the drawers in the kitchen until their knuckles were worn to the bone, etc... Well, the dirt in my kitchen drawers and cupboards was so bad that I used a paint scraper and a sander to get them passably clean. Then, I rebuilt 75% of the drawers because they fell apart in my hands, runners and all.

Tonight I tackled the school room. Even the door jam was full of dust. Before I got it all, I remembered to take a picture. I also cleaned all the slats on the closet door. The rag was this dirty after just a few slats. I used three rags total just to do two doors, but now they are CLEAN!

Homemade Fastfood

It was late, we were hungry and I needed to come with something besides sandwiches, eggs or pancakes for dinner. Then, I remembered my old standby tortellini recipe in my pressure cooker cookbook and remembered how yummy it was with pesto added. In 15 minutes, we had this beautiful and delicious dinner...

Back In July...

...we had our first, and only, so far, pool party, where we invited friends to come and swim in our pool. Let me tell you, it takes an hour just to get everyone ready! Then, we, the parents, are on hyper-alert to make sure all the children are safe in the water. It was very fun, though, especially for the children.

Friday, August 16, 2013

New School Plan

I was very excited shortly after arriving in our new neighborhood to learn about a public charter school that is homeschool-based. Once per week, students and parents meet with teachers and receive the curriculum to be taught at home by the parents. Also during the week, children attend elective classes at school with their peers. My excitement was short-lived when I found out that the children must be working at age-grade level to enroll in this school. Thus started a GRAND SEARCH to find something similar. It's time for my girls to be with others their own age in a positive, goal-oriented, fun setting -- separately -- but still do academics at home.

Ever since exploring our new neighborhood, I was aware of a private school affiliated with a church I don't belong to, but admire for their quality schools and medical centers. A lot of their religion is similar to my own beliefs, such as the heavy value and focus on Christ and family. Every time I saw this school, I had a great compulsion to turn into the parking lot and find out more about it. After going in circles for 45 minutes trying to find another charter school on my list, I finally couldn't resist and entered the school grounds.

The first person I encountered was a well-groomed, warm, open olderish woman who is the second grade teacher there. She looked like a teacher should, friendly and inviting and loving. I was immediately drawn to her. She walked with me to the office and introduced me to other staff members.

Long story, short, I spoke with the principal about our unique situation and he offered me a customized education for my children at drastically reduced tuition rates. I will be given the curriculum of the level my girls are currently working at and I will teach them at home. They will go to the school at age-appropriate levels for elective classes and extra-curricular activities! They also have other world-class programs that will benefit my girls and they are only about 2 miles from my home! This particular private school is very college-prep with an extremely high success rate, small class sizes, a large campus and more. It's a better education than I could have hoped for my children to be exposed to, meeting their individual needs and the needs of the entire family as we will need to travel for medical appointments, surgeries, etc. often. However, the tuition was still a little steep for me.

The next day, I found the charter school I'd been looking for and the women there were also helpful and accepting of us. It's a public school, so it's free, and they were willing to put my girls in an ESL program, but it was strictly a guided home-school, no interaction with other students, and I just felt that they didn't quite grasp the main learning issues my girls have. Language is not our main problem. Lack of life experience is our main problem, so the examples and pictures in textbooks are mostly incomprehensible to my girls at their age-grade levels. They were willing to test them and tweak things, but I had a feeling deep in my soul that this wasn't the right situation for us for many reasons. The biggest issue is that my girls should not be taught an ESL program at their level of English proficiency. All the educators on adoption that I encountered stressed that ESL programs are for children whose families speak their native language in the home and not English. Our primary language at home is English, despite the fact that it's a new language to my girls.

I phoned the private school back with the thought that my two oldest girls could enroll, thus bringing the tuition closer within a doable rate. He then said, "You can pay for your two older girls to come and your youngest is also welcome." There is no way I could turn that down, so I will come up with the money each month and I'm super excited for my girls to begin on Monday. I'm scrambling to get our school room ready. We can't wait for the new carpet and I really need lighting, because it's a cave in there, but it's so much more than our old home had so I'm eager to get going with our new school year!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

House Project 1: Trees

One way to get more house for less money is to buy a house that is less desirable to the general population. In my new area, this means to buy a very big house. Most people don't need a big house and don't want one. Next, find one that isn't quite as beautiful as a brand new track home, no bells and whistles and some really ugly parts. If the house has been used as a group home of some kind, all the less expensive and all the more huge. If it's got a really big yard, but it's in town (not in horse, goat, chicken or cow country), it might be even less desirable, especially if the previous tenants let the trees grow wild and dangerous. So, the first major project was the remove and/or prune the hazardous tress, those that pose a threat to people and/or structures. These are pictures of the first wave of work. Believe it, it pays to shop around. After the initial breath-stealing quote of thousands and thousands of dollars, I found a group that did the job for half the price and cleaned up completely after the work was finished.

Before: Ivy should NEVER be allowed to grow on trees.
Ivy kills trees!

After: Ring the trees so the ivy will die and fall off the trees.

Before: This tree was dead and had grown into power and phone wires and over the roof of the house.

Nothing but a stump and a pile of firewood.

Almost after: The stump is being ground away.

Before on the carport roof: This is a mulberry tree.
It grew laying down on the carport roof.
It drops messy, messy berries all over the place.
It probably grew from a seed in bird or squirrel poop.

It was very large.

Yes, all this and more had been ON the carport roof.

After: All clear, and plenty of trees left,
though some still need pruning and/or removing.

Phase two of trees will commence shortly to remove the rest of the trees planted by animals that are hazards, remove dead wood and prune the keepers.

Sherri, I have to admit that after your visit to my old house where I sent your husband and son out to look at my fruit trees, I was appalled and embarrassed two weeks later then I ventured out myself and saw how over-grown the yard and trees had gotten over the winter. I'm glad your husband returned safely from the backyard because the apricot tree might have reached down and snatched him up for a snack. The poor tree even lost a huge branch while I was in China. Lesson learned, don't hire regular tree pruners to prune fruit trees and don't neglect the yard for a season even if you've just adopted two teens! After driving through the orchards in the central valley, I could see exactly how a fruit tree should have been trained and mine had not been trained that way by the previous owners.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Super Floater

Jie Jie can do this by herself and can even swim a little now.

Shhh, She's Asleep

Apple is cutting two teeth and has been fussy lately.
Sweet Merlin gets concerned when she's fussy and stays close to her.
If she was any smaller, I'd not let a cat in bed with a baby.

Time to wake up!

Hi, Mommy!

Okay, I'm ready to go!
What do you mean I have pinapple head?

Hehe, yep, I have pineapple head!

Breastfeeding Walk

There was a fun family event in the park a couple weekends ago that supported breastfeeding. By now, it's well-known that breastmilk is best for babies, with a few very rare exceptions. However, it's not always easy to nurse so there is a community of support in lactation consultants, doulas, midwives and other mothers. I was able to meet like-minded mothers at this event and make some friends, one of who gave me all those luscious diapers!

I wonder how many mothers of adopted babies would have loved to breastfeed them. I even know some that are. Yes, it's possible to lactate without pregnancy! It's also possible to nurse a baby with an SNS, or supplemental nursing system and formula. I am doing this with Apple for her milk bottles. Besides the closeness and bonding, the muscles used to nurse are much different than those used to draw on a bottle nipple. With all the craniofacial issues facing Apple, it's important for her to develop these muscles. The side benefit in our home is that my older girls get to learn how a mother nurtures a baby. They've seen nursing mothers and babies before from afar and we've talked about how it's best for babies to get their mother's milk, but now they can ask questions about it and see their baby sister doing it. They think it's really neat. When they are grown with babies of their own, they will have had this example of nurturing to guide them since they didn't get this as babies. Studies of large zoo animals have shown that when baby animals have been separated from their mothers at a young age, they themselves don't know how to be mothers and often kill their young with their mistakes. This is particularly true with great apes and elephants. In humans, it can lead to child abuse/neglect and bonding issues. Having a baby in the house is a great benefit to my girls and I'm loving every minute of having a baby myself!

At Work and at Play

Apple can pull herself up to a stand and even cruise a little bit, but she's not anywhere near walking and the goal is to keep her grounded until after the hardware comes off after her first cranial surgery. After that, she's got a green light to learn to walk. Unless, of course, she's suddenly really ready on her own, then it would be detrimental to hold her back.

The Long and Short of It

Jie Jie's hair was way too long, more than half her body height in length. Between all the braiding and the swimming we were doing, it was too much, so I took a bit off it. I'm sure it'll be quite long again by Christmas or springtime.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My Diaper Stash

I've known I'd use cloth diapers since I was a little girl. It feels so much more nurturing to me to use soft cloth than crinkly paper and plastic. There are many other benefits to using cloth, too, environmental and budgetary. Cloth diapers are also a lot of fun, especially since I can sew them myself. I have a front-loading super-duper LG something-or-another washing machine that has a sanitizing cycle, which is a bonus, but not necessary for washing cloth diapers, but it's a fantastic machine and only pennies to run.

I don't have a favorite diaper, not even my own, but I like several. The fit depends on the size and shape of the baby, but I've generally found that the skinnier the baby, the more diaper coverage needed to prevent leaks around the skinny legs and waist. This is certainly true for my baby. So, here's the rundown...

Most of my stash!

In the diaper stacker are my own design, PooPockets. I sell the pattern world-wide and it's a very good diaper that's fast and easy to sew with excellent leakage protection due to the gussets. However, it needs a wide-bottom cover, like those made from my pattern Diaper Covers Deluxe, or something like Motherease, Stacinators or some of the new ones like the Flip.

I like to use these during the day around the house because they are a thin, light diaper, the way I made this batch, to keep my baby cool. If I need to go out, I can add absorbancy, but I'd rather use a different diaper instead.

On the right are AIO, or All-In-One pocket diapers. I love the BumGenius diapers. I didn't at first, but then I used them for four years on three siblings in my daycare. The same 18 diapers lasted three kids. They are a little hot, but not too bad, fit all sized babies, and are nice and trim, with absorbancy varying depending on how many inners are stuffed in. I love the colors. I use these overnight and in the car, especially on road trips. I made four of these (one of my skills is to be able to knock-off anything that's sewn). The others were given to me. I've had these diapers in my hand at the store, but I just can't bring myself to pay $17 for a diaper that I can make myself.

On the left are two Kissiluvs, a Fuzzibunz and some extra stuffers.

On the bottom left, are Mothercare terry towel nappies, brought to me directly from England by a friend. I LOVE these because I love folding them. I thought I've been using the origami fold, but now it's called the Neat Fold. I'm also going to try the Gaynor's Fold for Girls tomorrow. On the right are a variety of prefolds and flat folds. Some are China cotton and some are India cotton. I prefer India cotton to China since it's much softer. I also have some old kinds that are super soft bird's eye cotton, not like the kind available these days, but super, super soft. I use these mostly to add absorbancy and extra softeness to my PooPockets or to stuff the Bum Genius. My baby scoots on her bottom instead of crawls, so having a soft diaper is crucial or she rubs herself raw on the diaper.

In the pink box are nappy liners. Some kinds are even flushable. I haven't hooked the sprayer up to the back of my toilet yet, so liners help keep most of the poo off the diaper. At least they would if I didn't have a bottom-scootin' baby! I admit I've been dunking and swishing and I'd kill to find a diaper duck if they still have them, and if anyone is in England, I'm dying for some Nappisans!

Flats also make great handkerchiefs, burp towels and napkins. When they are finished being useful to a baby, they make excellent cleaning rags, especially for mirrors. Men love these for cleaning their cars.

This is a terry nappy square folded with the Neat Fold.

This is my baby wearing a terry nappy secured with a Snappi, which is called the Nappi Nipper in the UK.

My Daughters

14.5 yrs.old

12.5 yrs. old

9.5 yrs. old

20 months old

I'm Too Funny

Who needs 5 fingers when I have amazing feet?

What do you mean, no feet on the table, mom?

The Moving Process: Part 4

There aren't any pictures. We were home only a few days from China, now I had four kids to care for, and I had to close on the sale of my old house, had to pack what was left in the house and my dad had to load it into one more truck. It took ALL DAY and into the night. We pulled into the driveway of the new house at 2:30am, I think. It might have been 3am.

All this time, I had phenonmenal strength and energy and endurance. On July 4th, we all drove three hours north again to take my dad to the airport. His adventure was over. Mine was continuing with a new chapter - unpacking.

We Interupt the Moving Process.... go to China and get my beautiful golden Apple! Here she is getting ready for her first meal with me on her Family Day.

The Moving Process: Part 3

Even now, I have Post Traumatic Moving Truck Day Syndrome. It was the most rigorous day of my life. I packed all night, only about 45 minutes of sleep at dawn, then I helped pack the 53 foot long truck. I had to help or the movers wouldn't have been able to fill the truck in one day and the time was ticking to leave for China. We packed from 9am to 9:30pm! My belongings filled the entire truck because I was moving my household and my two businesses, including part of the wooden play structure and the hot tub. Moving the hot tub was the hardest part of all for the men. I think it nearly killed them.

I left enough in the house to be able to live in it for another week or two since I had to bring the baby into the old house due to immigration requirements. I also had to leave everything we needed for the trip to China. Turned out, my box of China clothes got moved to the new house and left there when we came back up, so the girls and I made a 6 hour round trip to go get it two days before leaving for China.

I am so proud of my girls! They are troupers in the car. They have their dolls and coloring and portable DVD player, but what they look forward to the most is the lunch and snacks I pack in their special food boxes. It's like Christmas to them.