Archive for January, 2013

January 31, 2013

Playtime, Not Screen Time – XP

Don’t worry, I’m not here to give you a lecture on kids’ screen time or how much is reasonable vs. unreasonable and I appreciate as much as any mom the times in which that 4-sided box can be a sanity-saver (hello 5am Saturday wake-up).  We’ve all read the warnings.  But, what I started to notice towards the end of last year, as we stumbled our way through the holiday insanity, is that turning to the TV became a little *too* easy.  So, one of my resolutions for the New Year was to cut back on that screen time in favor of more playtime.  Perhaps that was on your list as well?

The time of day that I targeted was the after school and work, pre-dinner witching hour.  It’s a tough time of day as the kids are restless and I want nothing more than a moment of peace to change my clothes and start dinner.  So, it was critical that the activities I introduced would involve quick set-up and minimal supervision.  The good news is, I found a bunch of great options:

1. Stikits

Colorful little cornstarch “noodles” that easily stick together once moistened.  Super quick set up as all I had to do was dump half a box of Stikits in a bowl, then put out a couple bowls with damp sponges.  2 minutes tops and the kids were excited to dive in.  Non-toxic so I didn’t have to hover over my 2-year-old, and all 3 kids (ages 6, 3, and 2) played beautifully for the 30 minutes it took me to put dinner together.

This one gets an A.

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2. Fizzy Drops

Baking soda + vinegar = fizzy fun!!  I set out a few trays heavily sprinkled with baking soda then let the kids go to town with a cup of vinegar and some droppers.  They thought they were scientists watching the reaction of the two materials mixing and I was able to throw some chicken into the oven.  With little ones, this activity requires some supervision but was generally mess-free and very easy set up.

B+

3.  Gumdrop Architecture

Gum drops and toothpicks join to create towers, trains, bridges, necklaces, and anything else the children can think up!  This was one of the big hitters in my house.  The kids loved it and have asked for it time and time again.  (and no, not because they sneak the gum drops – I convinced them they were “spicy”! ha!)  Accessible for my range of ages, very easy set-up, and held their attention beautifully.  This is another that wins points for re-usability.  Just soak the toothpicks to rid the stickiness and, once dry, they are good to go for another playtime.

A+ (the parents even like to get in on this one!)

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4.  Collages

So many ways you can do this, but the basics involve paper, glue sticks, and some material to be cut up and pasted together (we use magazines).  I usually give the kids a theme such as, favorite color, what you want for Christmas, or outdoor activities.  This particular night I used paper plates as the base for the collage and asked the kids to cut out favorite foods or what they want to eat for dinner.  Easy set-up and minimal supervision required, but sadly it did not hold attention for long.  I think this one was a little too much like a school project for their liking.

C

5. Homemade Gak

Squishy, gooey, oozy – all the things a child’s dreams are made of!  The set-up here was slightly more involved, but really only by a bit as it all came together in less than 5 minutes and the kids enjoyed the process of making the gak.  Huge hit with the kiddos! I offered them plastic knives to use in play and they went to town for a solid 45 minutes squishing, cutting, and stretching.  Great sensory play! However, if you’ve got toddlers, this is by no means an activity that can be left unsupervised and it can get messy (watch the clothing!).  This one is not for the weak of heart.

B

 

6. Bendaroos (also known as Wikki Stix)

Bendable and moldable wax-covered yarn sticks that stick together to build, well, pretty much anything! Guitars and suns are popular in my house and the set I bought came with templates to help spur ideas.  This project is completely mess-free and the set-up requires nothing more than pulling the sticks apart as they come stuck together in sheets.  Also, it wins big points for being reusable and you can easily take apart the creations and use them again another day.  It didn’t quite hold the children’s attention as long as some of the other activities, but I’ll take a peaceful 15 minutes any day.

 A –

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 Overall our quest to substitute the screen time for playtime has been a huge success.  The kids don’t even know an attack on the tube has been implemented and we’ve gotten to experiment with a bunch of new activities! I think I can officially go ahead and check this one off of my resolution list…now onto those 20lbs…

Do you have any great activities to share? What tricks do you have up your sleeve for when the kids get restless?

Original

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January 24, 2013

Saying “Yes” – XP

 

 

 

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Last Monday, the 14th, I’m just about to pack up my work and head home for the day when I get an email from a producer inquiring about my appearance on a national TV show.  ‘Wow, how crazy,’ I chuckle to myself and aside from texting my wife and a couple of friends about the email, I basically dismiss the idea from my head,  filed under flattered-to-have-been-offered-but-yeah-right.  TV show guest??  That is so not me.

But somehow, one thing led to another, and I found myself on the phone with the producer that night for a “pre-interview” and travel plans in my inbox by the time I woke up the next day.  Wednesday morning (of.that.same.week) my family of 5 is in the airport about to take our first cross-country trip for an appearance on The New Ricki Lake Show in California.

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Talk about a whirlwind! Over the course of the next few days, I did about 100 things I never thought I’d ever do, including flying with 3 young children, being chauffeured around by a driver in LA, and sitting for a chat with a famous talk show host on national television.  Fears, obligations, insecurities, and all other hindrances be damned – we said ‘YES’!

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It was an adventure of a lifetime and the kids loved every minute of it – we all did!

Okay, so there was that hour of screaming 2-year-old on a packed plane, in which I was cursing my wife for talking me into the whole thing, but one way or another (3 chocolate chip cookies, 1 lollipop, and a Chuggington DVD) we survived and much more exciting moments awaited us.

As if all that weren’t enough, I finished out the week with 2 newspaper interviews and my second TV appearance, this time with Cara and Scot on Better Connecticut!

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Have I mentioned this is so not me??  Except it was, and it is, because I took a chance and said ‘yes’.

After the show wrapped, an audience member complimented me on my composure then said, “Well, I guess if you can go from 0 to 3 kids and take babies with 2 hours notice, this is nothing for you!”

Yeah, I guess we do have a bit of flair for spontaneity and jumping in feet first.  But you know what?  I can’t think of a time when I’ve regretted pushing past my comfort zone and saying ‘yes’.

That one word has brought me some very wonderful things.

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Original here.

January 17, 2013

We’ve Arrived!

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Eeeek!

January 16, 2013

On our way!

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Hot damn, we are really doing this!

January 15, 2013

Crazy!

So I’m taking a break from packing and opened up Huffington Post for a little breather to find…

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OMG, THAT’S MY NAME. And right next to Honest Toddler (my idol)!

Pinch me. 

Here’s a link to my Huffington Post debut.

Did I seriously just say that?

January 15, 2013

Recognize this gal?

Well, at some point tomorrow we’ll be hopping a plane to cross the country and sit down with her for the taping of a segment on gay parenting.

I KNOW. Shut up!!

Its been a total whirlwind and when the email first popped into my inbox, my initial reaction was, “Wow, that’s kind of cool.  Too bad I’d never do it.”

But somehow one thing led to another and, shit, we are doing it.

I’m crazy nervous and the travel with the kids will be…interesting…but for better or worse, I will have some damn good stories upon my return!

Stay tuned over the next few days for some behind the scenes snippets! And please pray that we are on a plane full of understanding people.  Really, really, understanding…

January 11, 2013

Covering

It has been a long time since we’ve heard from bio mom and close to a year since we’ve seen her.  Sprout misses her deeply and I’m running out of feasible explanations.  Each day is another day he does not see her, and each day he grows more mature and gains more understanding.

For a while it was “she’s working on getting better.  maybe soon.”, then “she’s moving and will let us know when she’s all set up”, and now, “I don’t know”.

He’s smart enough to know that if she wanted to see him, she could.  But he’s not yet old enough to understand all that may be holding her back.

I don’t know why it’s so important to me to “cover” for her.  To keep her on the pedestal.  Even now I am browsing amazon for a replacement Sponge Bob pillow – the one he talks about missing all the time and hopes that mom will send to him some day soon.  It would bring him so much joy if I ordered a pillow and pretended it was from her.  But why?

I guess it boils down to not knowing what is easier…being left to wonder, or having all hope lost.

January 10, 2013

True Confessions

Original here.
Elise

1. I don’t like to play with my kids.  Cooking projects? Crafts or coloring? Nature hikes?  Absolutely.  But board games, baby dolls, blocks? Bleh.  I find them to be mind-numbingly boring.  Shit, I change enough diapers – I don’t need to add baby dolls to my list.

2. I have no problem at all with the fact that I didn’t birth my children and birth stories kinda squidge me out.  I’ll take the stork delivery method, thanks!

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3.  You know the 1023497 pieces of “artwork” that come home from daycare/school?  I throw it out.

4. If we are graced with a fourth child (via stork), I have a strong preference for one gender over the other.  If you already had 4 females in your house, you would too.

5.  I am strict on limiting my kids’ screen time and yet I’m constantly on my phone in front of them.  And what’s the first thing I do when they are down for bed?  Hell yes I turn that TV on.

6.  I’m a better mother than I am a wife.

7.  Co-parenting is really freaking hard.  Even if you’ve done all your homework, picked a great partner, and enjoy a rock-solid relationship.  I know because I did all that and still struggle.  There have been days when I envy single moms.

8.  My kids eat mac and cheese from a box. A lot.

9. When people post pictures on Facebook  I mostly look at the background.  Yes, I am noticing the laundry in your living room, toys in your dining room, and dishes in your sink.  They make me feel so.much.better.  Keep posting people!

10. Just this morning, a solid 10 minutes into my commute to work after dropping my daughter at preschool, I realized that I was still listening to the Barney CD, and even worse, SINGING ALONG TO IT.  OUTLOUD.  It really doesn’t get much lower than that.

11.  Took the kids swimming at the YMCA this weekend.  They were so excited!  Got myself and 2 out of 3 kids dressed in swimsuits by the time I realized I forgot my daughter’s suit.  Shortly after, I found myself begging the 16-year-old lifeguard to let her swim in her clothes because, “do you know how hard it would be to reverse directions now?? Please don’t make me leave here with 3 hysterical children!”  His mama can thank me later for the dose of birth control.

12.  My kids play drive through.  As in, do a funny squatting walk pretending to be in a car Fred Flinstone-style, pull up to a chosen destination and be all, “Welcome to Starbucks, may I take your order?”  “Good Morning. Venti skinny vanilla latte please” “Sure thing, please drive up.”  I want to feel guilty about this, but mostly I’m thinking, “well look at that, they are learning manners!”

13.  I use a ridiculous amount of paper plates and plastic silverware.  The 20 year old environmental-action-committee-me would have been horrified.

14. I am a good mom, but I’ve never said anything about perfect.  Good moms and perfect moms are two totally different things.  Kind of like horses and…unicorns.

15.  I think my kids are beautiful.  Stunning, really.  My inner feminist screams every time I tell them how beautiful they are but I just can’t stop.  And it doesn’t help my big head that people compliment them all the time.  I always want to respond, “I KNOW! Aren’t they gorgeous??”.  ‘Thank you’ doesn’t seem appropriate because I had nothing to do with their looks, but “yes! they totally are!!” comes off rude.

16.  I once was late getting home to meet my son’s bus and missed it by a minute.  That sucked.

17.  To make up for #9, I will share with you a picture of my kitchen last night.  And the confession? It looks this way about 90% of the time.

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Ahhh, don’t we all feel a little bit better now?

If you are in the mood for more real-life mom confessions, find ’em here.

January 9, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Guess who that baby is playing with Sprout.  I’ll give you a hint: it’s not Daisy!

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January 3, 2013

Post-Adoption Depression

Original here.

Go ahead and start typing “post adoption” into Google.  If yours is set up like mine, to give you short-cuts to the most popular search terms, your first option will be Post Adoption Depression.

Here. Here. Here. Here.

No shit.  This is a real thing.  I’ve spent years in the foster and adoption community.  I’ve completed more than 100 hours of training and plenty of reasearch on my own covering various adoption-related topics, yet I’ve never once seen or heard mention of this mysterious syndrome.  But there it is – if you go looking.

The term Post Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS) was introduced by June Bond in a 1995 article for Roots and Wings Magazine.  She rocked the adoption world with the suggestion that the post-adoption period was a time in which parents experienced anything but the fulfilment of dreams come true.

The NY Times touched on the topic in their article Understanding Post-Adoption Depression.

One reason is that during the adoption process, prospective parents go to great lengths to prove they will be fit parents. After the adoption, some struggle with the fact that they aren’t the “superparents” they promised to be, Dr. Foli said.

Even the US Administration for Children and Families knows about it.  They describe the warning signs of Post Adoption Depression as:

  • Loss of interest in being around others
  • Often on the verge of tears
  • Difficulty with concentration or making decisions
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Difficulty sleeping or increased need for sleep
  • Significant weight change
  • Excessive guilt
  • Feelings of powerlessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • A sense of hopelessness
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Irritability
  • Recurring thoughts about death or suicide

It had been creeping up on me.  Started just days after finalization with a looming sense of “now what?”.  Then the weeks fell into each other.  There were no more court dates.  Social workers stopped visiting.  No more deadlines or roller coasters or hoops to jump through.  It was just life.  And with the dust of 2+ years settling all around me, I didn’t quite recognize it any more.

This is what I had spent so long fighting for?

Dishes. Laundry. In and out of car seats. Temper tantrums. Crying (them and me).

Of course there was more.  There were smiles, tickles, cuddles, vacations, all of it – I had adopted 3 really wonderful kids.

But that’s not what I was seeing.  I saw crayon on my walls and scratches on the table.  Yet another meal to cook, serve, and eat standing up. I saw my wife passing me like a ship in the night as we juggled work and childcare schedules.

This? This is what I spent years of my life working for?

Verge of tears. Check.  Difficulty with Concentration. Check.  Irritability. Check. Fatigue. Check. Weight Change. Check. Loss of Enjoyment. Check. Hopelessness.  Worthlessness. GUILT. Check. Check. Check.

Then the panic attacks started.  It was the worst when I was home alone with the children.  That superstar mom our social worker described in her reports was nowhere to be seen and I found myself wondering how to summon the strength to meet their basic needs.  Dress, feed, kiss, play – these felt like monumental tasks.  How would I do it?  Why did they think I could do it?

My mind flirted with the idea of getting in my car and driving away.

It should have hit me the night I told my wife I wasn’t the mom “they” thought I was.  It should have hit me then, but all I could feel was the worthlessness.  I didn’t deserve these children.  Hell, I wasn’t even sure I wanted them. 

It wasn’t until weeks later, as my fingers hovered over the keyboard, that I first spoke the words to myself.  I typed “post adoption”…and it read my mind on the rest.  Relief and tears flooded over me to see that, yes, this is a thing.  I am not the only one.  PADS hasn’t quite gotten the research interest its sister syndrome PPD has gotten, but a 1999 study by the Eastern European Adoption Coalition found that 65% of adoptive mothers surveyed experience some type of post-adoption depression. 

Not the only one by a longshot. 

Thankfully my experience was more akin to the “baby blues” with the most acute symptoms lasting a very short time.  The crayon on the wall still gets to me – but it leaves me wanting a night out with the girls rather than an escape to Mexico.  Still, it was enough for me.  Enough for me to feel the call to action.  We must speak out for advocacy and awareness.  Adoptive parents – all parents – have enough obstacles in front of them, feeling alone in this type of darkness should not be one of them.