Sunday, May 27, 2012

Must Haves for Mommies (and their babies)

Ok...after having 3 kids in 4 yrs, I have what I consider real experience with little ones.  We travel a ton, and I am crazy about fun and inventive products.  There are a couple of things that I want every mom to have, products that have been essential for our family, and I wanted to list them here.  These are the things that I tell friends about when they want baby or kid gift ideas.

The first of these things is the Miracle Blanket.  It is our favorite swaddling blanket and is good for newborns up until they are old enough to wiggle themselves out...way older than for a normal swaddle.  We call it the baby straight jacket!

Next is Hooter Hiders.  This is my favorite cover up for nursing!!!  I had one last almost 3 years (2 kids nursing for a year and a half) and loved, loved, loved it.  Before the Hooter Hider, I would break out into a sweat if I had to nurse in public, it was so stressful!  I care a lot less now about nursing in public, but it allowed me to be discreet...always important!

We also adore our Tiny Diner.  This is a rubbery placemat that you roll up and back out and it has suction cups that stick it to the table with a little trough at the bottom.  Awesome for restaurants where you little ones can eat off the table w/o either getting some gross disease (haha) or messing up the restaurant's table with mac and cheese and ketchup!  We just wipe ours off with a baby wipe at the restaurant and wash it when we get home.

Every busy mama needs a good sling! I can't find mine on-line, but here is one that is close: The Maya Wrap

My favorite sippy cup is the Learning Curve sippy cup.  It can be hard to drink from, but if you cut the valve slit a little bigger w/ a razor it is THE BEST!  It is the only sippy cup that has lasted in this house.  The kids can't chew up the valve, and I don't have to have a dishwasher or a sterilizer to get the valve clean.  I LOVE IT!!!

I seriously recommend that every mom get some cloth diapers. Two of my favorite cloth diaper stores are Cotton Babies and Green Mountain Diapers.  Cotton Babies gave me a diaper grant because I'm a missioary, and it was the only way I would've ever gotten started with cloth diapers!  They are a very cool store. Green Mountatin Diapers has the best selection of inexpensive cloth diapers and they give free evangelism stuff with an order!  Love them, as well.

My latest love is the GyroBowls.  These are AWESOME! No, they are not completely spill proof...a kid, if trying hard enough, can get the stuff to fall out of the bowl, but my 2 yr old can walk up and down stairs, carry the bowl in the car, walk around the house with it, and not a bit spills.  GET THESE!  They are really super cool.

Our favorite toys are the Little People sets and anything LeapFrog.  Both of those brands have held up to years of hard play and the kids LOVE them.  When I need a gift for a little person, I go first to check out those products.

For older kids are the Leap Frog video series and the TAG reader system.

Ok mamas - and it is always good to know of a good store to shop the coolest mom invented products:  Check out Mom 4 Life.  It is owned by a Christian mommy who has a really cool store.  She also has free shipping on all her stuff, which is AWESOME! It is an awesome store just to browse in.

Now...go do some shopping!

Our first adoption loss: Adalyn

If you have been on Facebook in the last week, and if you are Facebook friends with either Brandon or me, then you've seen this little girl:  Adalyn in Russia.

You've also seen that we had decided to adopt her.  We had been planning on adopting a special needs child and I had been doing hours of research every day to try to figure out which country we should adopt from.  I started with foster children in the U.S.  Then I called adoption agencies in the U.S. to find out if they have hard to place children from birth-moms there.  Then I found myself ruling out country after country either because of cost, or age of children, or length of stay in country, or restrictions of the number of children already in the home, or minimum income levels.  Russia had was not on our short list.  It was just too expensive.  Double that of another country we were looking at.

Then one evening we get an e-mail regarding a sweet girl in Russia who needs a family.  Would we be interested in adopting a cleft palate?  I sadly responded that no, because Russia was just too expensive, but I would begin to pray for the little girl that a family would find her.

Well, the owner of the agency, because I said I would pray, forwarded some pictures of this little girl to me and to another woman in order for us to pray for her.  It wasn't a professional e-mail, but a personal one.

That is when I saw sweet Adalyn.  And my heart was sickened. I stuck her story on FB and asked for money to adopt her or someone else to adopt her.  I thought is worse than tragic that there was a precious baby who was without a mom or dad in an orphanage and because to get her costs what it costs to buy a car, I couldn't rescue her.  I balled and we prayed and I balled and we prayed some more and finally Brandon had to come and escort me to bed.

Then the next morning arrived.  Brandon woke me up before dawn and asked me to come look at Facebook.  We had received so much support and so many offers for help that we were totally overwhelmed.  All of a sudden it seemed that the huge expense (originally the only reason Russia was out for us) was not going to be a big deal!  People were opening their hearts! And they promised to open their wallets!

We started researching what all it would take to get her home and to take care of her.  We spoke with a plastic surgeon, we researched online, we got in contact with other adoptive families who had cleft palate issues.  We prayed a lot.  It seemed that God had put this little girl right in our path!  And we were committed.  We were prepared to handle multiple surgeries, severe speech problems, possible hearing loss, attachment issues, undernourishment, using feeding tubes, raising a child whose face isn't like everyone else's.  We, with the Lords help, knew we could do this.  That we should do this.  That our discomfort and our difficulty was very worth this child's life.  We could handle it all...


We got the e-mail from Reece's Rainbow that told us that they hadn't had a chance to add this to Adalyn's profile, but she looks as if she has FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome).  A couple of facial features, along with the hole in her heart, along with her cleft...all of those are super consistent with FAS and being that she is from Russia, the likelihood is great.  We had done some research on FAS.  We did some more.  Brandon yelled at the Lord (really yelled, with tears), I cried.  I felt sick to my stomach.  The more I researched it, the more I felt that this was something I just can't handle.  Brandon felt the same.

I want to write an entire blog telling all the reasons why we don't feel like we can adopt an FAS baby, but I need to just get this over with.  It is so painful.

An FAS child can have a spectrum of problems, ranging from learning disabilities to severe mental retardation.  FAS children are usually very likable and sweet, generous to a fault, and usually have poor impulse control.  FAS children can have short term memory problems and be very untrustworthy because of it.  FAS women (in the moderate to severe range) tend to have FAS babies.  They don't have the ability to reason through the consequences of their actions.  They tend to be very sexually active when they are old enough because they don't reason well cause and effect.  They are extremely trusting yet resist anyone who tries to control them.  As younger children, they are apt to wander off, can't always remember simple instructions.  But always appear very capable and normal.  They are brain damaged.  The result of a birth-mother who drank while pregnant.  The severity of the FAS is normally related to how much the mother drank, but there is no way to tell until the child is older as to what disabilities she will have.

What we read said that parents of FAS children need to provide as much stability and routine as possible.  They they have to keep their eyes on them and give them a lot of wiggle room if they forget to do something after you told them the 100th time.  That their impulsiveness is a result of brain damage, not because they don't want to obey.  An older FAS child needs an advocate at all times.  They don't have the ability to make good decisions about where they go after school or with whom.  They are likely to get themselves into compromising situations.

I had to take a look at myself as a mother, and our family.  We don't fit that.  Our life is anything but routine!  We travel and change plans at a moment's notice.  We plan one thing and then we have someone show up at a door and our entire day changes.  We have to be entirely flexible!

I don't think I'm the kind of mother that can take care of a child that needs that level of micromanaging.  I am a big picture mama and my kids are very independent for their age.  I need BoyD to help me with BabyK so that I can buckle GirlM into the car.  That kind of special need...I just don't think I can handle it.  And saying that out loud and writing it here makes me sick.

I was raised to believe that I can do anything.  Literally.  It has never occurred to me when faced with something difficult that I couldn't do it.  Want me to climb that mountain? I can do that!  Want me to get an Engineering degree?  I can do that!  Want me to move to Guatemala with my family?  I can do that!  Want me to adopt a special needs child?   I can do that!

And then I am faced, maybe for the first time in my life, with something I don't think I can do.  It is very humbling.  It is sad to think that this girl won't be in my family in part because of my weakness.

I know that God has a plan for our family.  I know that God has a plan for that little girl.  My struggles with all this do not call that into question.  I will continue to walk forward trusting in Him for what is best for sweet Adalyn.

We ask for your continued prayers.  Please, lets pray Adalyn into a family!  A dear friend told me I could be Adalyn's prayer momma.  So that is what I am.  Please pray for us on this adoption journey that God would council us and continue to guide us.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My favorite outfit!

Well...I think I posted a while back a picture of the first article of clothing that I ever made GirlM.  I made it over a year ago, but since GirlM doesn't grow out (only up) and hasn't gained any weight in a LOOONG time, she can still wear it!  And, I have finally completed the "look" and it my favorite outfit that she has!

There are really 3 flowers on the shirt, a red one, a yellow one, and one that is red w/ white polka dot (like the skirt).

The skirt I made from one of my favorite websites of all time,  If you like to sew, but aren't an expert, then you must go there right now and bookmark that page and get started!  I have done several of her projects (tutorials) and they have all turned out fabulous!

Then, the shirt...After about 50 stores we finally found a feminine white t-shirt w/ a tiny ruffle on the collar and the sleeves.  I bought it, used some other tutorial that I found on-line to create those flowers from some scrap fabric, and attached them to the shirt.

Now I had a serious is relatively cold here.  Even in the "summer", which is really just April and May until the rainy season starts, it is cool in the mornings and the she was NEVER gonna get to wear that skirt!  Unless I found some cute tights/leggins/something.

Then I got the fantastic idea (I know, I'm brilliant) of looking for some BabyLegs.  Do you know what those are?  They are leg warmers for babies!!!  Oh, my gosh, there are always so many fun styles and colors, and when I found the ones for this outfit, I was overjoyed! (In the photo it looks like a different red than the skirt, but it is actually a good match)  My only problem is that GirlM wants to wear them with all of her skirts...and needless to say, they don't all match.  So I got her a couple of other pair, and as long as she wears them with the right sort of color family, we're both happy.

Oh, I even have some BabyLegs that I got for BabyK when he was younger, and it was the best b/c he could crawl around on our cold tile floors w/ just his little cloth diaper on, and it was so much easier to change his diaper!  I didn't have to worry about taking pants on and off a squirmy baby.

Anyway, I haven't made GirlM anything since Christmas, so I need to go sew, I guess!  Have a happy week!
(By the can click on "BabyLegs" above and it will take you a cute store where you can buy them w/ free shipping)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Being a Missionary Mom

Wanna know about what it is like being a missionary mom?  I get some people, after visiting us here say "Wow!  You life isn't that different from mine!" or they say "I could never do this..."  So, I thought I would let you know what it is really like being a missionary mom.

I am not going to write a complaining blog because my life is amazing.  I just want to outline some of the struggles that I have.  I have no idea what parenting is like in the United States.  I have only really been a parent in a foreign country.  You will have to let me know how our struggles compare.  Many of them will be the same, I imagine.  Some not.  In some ways my life is a lot easier that it would be if I lived in the US.  Some ways, not.  Let me explain.

As a missionary mom, I don't have to clean my house.  Ever.  I do have to pick up messes, wash some dishes, sweep/mop/vacuum on occasion, and I am in a constant battle to keep things put away, but you will never see me dusting, cleaning toilets, cleaning out the fridge or behind the stove.  I have a full time maid who does all of that for me.  She cleans my kitchen after breakfast and lunch, and keeps my house from window smudges and dust bunnies.  So that means I have freedom to do all kinds of things that I wouldn't have time to do if I lived in the states.  Write this blog, for example.  Have time to plan meals, homeschool, Sunday school, research things online.  All things that would be a struggle if I had to spend my time cleaning my 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom, 2 LR house.  Especially since houses in Guatemala get much dirtier than houses in the US.  We have no central heat and air.  That means that our house isn't climate controlled.  Think of a storage unit that isn't climate controlled.  What does it look like after a month...that is what my house would look like!  haha!  We basically live in a large, nicely decorated storage unit!  :)

As a missionary mom, I get a ton of fresh, inexpensive vegetables to feed my family, and I have my wonderful maid, Gladys, wash/bleach/rinse/chop them for me most days...all the hard things.  I just get to cook them and eat them.  We get like 2 dozen carrots, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, 3 bell peppers, 3 cucumbers, 3lbs of potatoes, 5-7 lbs of tomatoes, zucchini, celery, 3lbs of onion, broccoli,  mango, watermelon, melon, pineapple, and more each week for about $10.  Crazy, right?  The reason we don't buy more vegetables is because we don't have room in our fridge!!

As a missionary mom, I don't get much of a break.  Babysitters are hard to come by, and grandparents even harder.  We do have Gladys who watches the children on occasion if I need to run quick errands, and once a month or so she stays late so Brandon and I can go to a matinee movie.  There is no mother's day out, babysitting trading, or MOPS groups. There are very few dinners out with Brandon because it's not safe to be out too much at night.  If I go to the women's meeting at our church (which I never do) I have to find someone to watch the childcare there.  If Brandon and I want a night away at a hotel or something...well...we have to go back to the states so Grammy or Mimi can watch them.

As a missionary mom, I have very few girlfriends in my town.  3 to be exact.  I've 2 other dear friends, but one lives a town away and the other about 2.5 hrs away.  This just makes coffee dates and play dates somewhat rare.  I am working on getting a better relationship with a couple of Guatemalan women, but they both work full time so that makes spending time with them when I have time difficult.  And there are still cultural barriers that make heart communication more challenging.  

As a missionary mom, errands take hours instead of minutes.  Trying to go get cash, pay the cable/internet bill (have to go to the cable company to pay), pay rent and the electric bill (must pay at the bank), and grocery shop takes 2 -3 hours depending on wait times at the bank and if I can find a parking space.  None of that can be done online or by mail.  Taking the children makes that take longer as I'm sure you can imagine.

As a missionary mom, I have to live without Target...enough said.  :)

As a missionary mom (this happened to me this week), Brandon had to make a trip into Guatemala city to go by immigration, go by a friend's school to get some papers, and run our friend Brynne back after spending almost a week with us.  He ended up having to spend the night and all of a sudden I was alone for the evening, night, and following morning.  Not really a problem normally, but I was so tired I almost couldn't stand up, had been going, going, going all day, and was hormonal on top of that.  My poor children!  haha!  I whined at Brandon and complained when he told me and got jealous that he got to go with a friend to go see a movie in English!  Then sat on the kitchen floor and cried.  haha!  I'm such a jerk!

As a missionary mom, I can't take my kids on regular walks, there aren't really parks to take the kids to, or sidewalks to speak of for a stroller ride...even regular trips to go get a chocolate covered frozen banana have to be done with no discernible pattern of leaving and coming.  I have to be very diligent and always keep an eye out for security threats, and although we are relatively safe, this is tiring.  Not ever really able to relax when I'm alone out of the house even more so when I'm with my kids.

As a missionary mom, I don't have much of a support system in this whole mom thing.  It is hard, and lonely at times.  Not probably any harder than any mom's job, and in some ways, much easier, but hard nonetheless.

As a missionary mom, I get to demonstrate to my kids daily that we are foreigners in the world...that this is not our home...that we are awaiting the return of our King,  I get to show my kids almost daily how to feed the poor, take care of the fatherless. My kids get to be the minority group and get stared at.  They get to learn Spanish and have friends that don't look like them or have as many toys or even a bedroom separate from their parents.  They get to feel a little dislocated from any culture.   This is amazing, but it brings with a separate set of parenting difficulties.  

I don't have space in this blog to cover all of the benefits for my children living in another culture.  I haven't talked about the enormous blessing it is to live in such a beautiful country, to be a very small part of what the Lord is doing here, or how I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Let me know how your struggles are different!  Let me hear from you! I'd love to compare notes and maybe we can encourage each other.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Review of Time 4 Learning

Ok...this is a little overdue, but I need to get it out there.  We received 30 days of Time 4 Learning free in exchange for a candid review of the curriculum.  

Time 4 Learning is an online educational curriculum that includes language arts, math, social studies, science, and preschool.  The monthly membership is $19.95 for the first child and $14.95 for each additional child, with nothing else to buy.  It is for preschool through 8th grade. 

 Here is our take on it: In the month that we had the program, BoyD (6yrs old in the middle of a 1st grade curriculum) only got on once.  After a full home-school day, (8:30-12pm) we just didn't have time.  In the afternoons I use the computer so he didn't really have much of a chance.  We also have an old LeapPad (like with books and cartridges...not the ipad type thing they have now) plus he has a Leapster, and a Tag reader, so a child can only have so much electronic time.  We only give him limited "screen" time, so he always chose other activities.  After looking over the curriculum, it did seem that it had a lot of great stuff, but I want face to face time with him.  I purposely chose the curriculum that we use because it requires me to teach him.  Not a DVD or internet program. On the website there is a cute photo of a mom and daughter working together on the computer, you assume mom helping daughter with whatever the daughter is learning.  I know that wouldn't be me.  It would be hard for me to just sit and watch the kids work w/o feeling like I needed to get up and do something around the house.  We might do things differently when he's older.  

GirlM (4yrs) used the preschool part while I would do some specific teaching with her older brother.  She like it a lot and had an easy time (for the most part) switching between activities, etc.  I did have to help her occasionally, but as I'm not looking for a babysitter for her, that wasn't a problem. 

Ultimately, I wish BoyD would have had some more time to use the product so I could give a better review for his age level. He is very far ahead of most kids his age, so that would have made a good review.  I really liked it for GIrlM.  It was all very fun games that fit her level well.  It was a lot of community education and basic phonics...right where she is at.  It seemed more fun than educational for her age, but that suits me fine.   I do like that it gives parental reports so you can see how your child is doing and in what areas they need help.

The cost is a bed negative for me.  Although if that were the only curriculum that you used, it would be CHEAP, I have already purchased our curriculum.  For me it is an unnecessary extra expense and we are on a very tight budget.  If I had that money laying around my house with no other predetermined use, I would pay the membership fee and let my kids use it for fun.  If you have they money to spare, I would highly recommend doing their free trial to see if you like it as it may suit your needs fine.  I have nothing negative to say except that we just don't need it at this time, and so I can't justify the expense.  

If you use it, or decide to try it, let me know what you think!  I would love to hear another perspective!