Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 24, 2010

Our church has several Christmas Eve services with the first one at 4:00 pm for the children. Robin, Emily and Kaylin did puppets for the service and they did a great job. Peter and Gaelle were so excited to see the puppets and Gaelle made sure to tell the kids sitting next to her that "Those are my sisters!"

Our family all together once again. So nice.

We came home after the service and had a party. Now it was just the 7 of us, but it was a party full of party food. We opted to stay put and it really was a nice time. This is my only picture, but take my word... it was fun.

Emily and Kaylin invited Peter and Gaelle to their room for a sleep-over and they all treated it as a real sleep-over...very exciting. So it was a perfect end to our day.

Flashback - Advent

We have a few advent traditions that we just can't miss. We have an advent countdown tree that I made several years ago. It has 25 heart pockets that are filled with candy. This year I filled the pockets with numbers and put the candy in a dish every night at supper. All of the kids enjoy this and Gaelle especially took great joy in remembering the candy every night.

We also have an advent wreath and we light the candles every Sunday leading up to Christmas. We read a scripture that goes along with the candle and this year we sang a verse from a carol that went along with the candle.

Several years ago I purchased the book "Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent" by Arnold Ytreeide. Unfortunately my 3 kids were too old for the story and we didn't even finish it. So I pulled it out this year for the youngest 2. It was a big hit and something we looked forward to each night. The story was a little intense for Gaelle so there were nights I heavily edited the story as I read.

At the end of every reading there is a brief reflection section. We usually read this and took a few minutes to discuss it. I was just hit so many times with the very issues Peter and Gaelle deal with as children who have experienced loss.

The first week we hit on the topic of fear. Jotham is in a scary situation and he calls out to God. God answers with "I will help you." A wonderful promise of the hope we find in Jesus and the message is not just for kids from hard places, but for all of us.

Family heritage is important to the Jews of Jesus' day and it's something that Peter and Gaelle will have to deal with their entire lives; their lack of knowledge of their biological heritage. The book repeatedly mentioned heritage and the pride and honour that comes from our family. Christmas is a time when we reflect on the past and all of our memories from the past and it's a time to celebrate family. It was a sharp reminder once again of all that Peter and Gaelle have lost. They are a part of our family, but they can't contribute to our Christmas memories.... not this year.

But "Jotham's Jouney" reminded us that as Christians, we have a rich heritage. We belong to the King of Kings. As Peter and Gaelle struggle to find their place in our family and in their world, I pray they remember the truth in our advent story. I pray that all of my children freely share in the riches of God's kingdom, even though there is an evil one who would like to sell us into slavery, full of doubt and lonliness and isolation.

I could go on and on with the powerful truths in this children's advent book, but I'll end with a verse from Isaiah 55:8-9 that I've been dwelling on during this past month.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

It's all about trust. Do my children trust me? Do I trust God?

This past year has been full of ups and downs.

Full of joy and tears.

I know that God has a perfect plan for our family and my goal this year is to completely trust God with my family even if it's not my way.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Traditions

For the past 4 Christmases, I've wondered and thought about this moment; 1 or 2 more stockings. In October 2007, we found out it would be 2 stockings. Every year I've held off making them wondering if this would be the year.

And 2010 was the year!!! 2 more stockings to add to our stairway. Yeah!!!!

For the past 8 years (I think) we've made gingerbread houses with a mold. Some years, we just decorate our own. Some years, we make kits for friends with kids. And some years, we host gingerbread house decorating parites.

This year I just made 2 houses and Emily and Kaylin helped Peter and Gaelle decorate them.

Of course, they didn't need much help. A little icing, a little candy, and a lot of creativity.

December Recaps

This past Christmas is the first time I've worked outside the home full time and it's also the first time we've had 5 kids for Christmas. So... some things just didn't get done this year. But here is a quick recap of some of our moments.

Peter was the first one to have his school Christmas concert. We don't always clue in to the stress these things have on the kids. So we were a little surprised at his reaction. He looks terrified up on stage. It didn't look as if he was having fun at all. But to be quite honest, his whole class seemed a little out of it. Nobody looked like they were having fun.

Next up was Gaelle. Needless to say, I was the nervous one this time because I didn't know what she would do up on stage. But she opened her mouth and made an atempt to sing, even though she didn't know half the words. Notice the 3 boys standing next to her. They're holding hands. Gaelle explained, "That's because Cole runs away." Problem solved.

The 3rd and final Christmas concert was our church musical. We kept Gaelle out of it this year, but expect her to be front and center next year. Peter had a speaking part and played Tommy the shopkeeper. We prepped him a little more for his nervous feelings and what that looks like. Good thing, because he was pretty rigid.

But as they always do, the play went off without a hitch and it was really kind of cute.

Only 4 of the kids were here to decorate the Christmas tree. Our tree is totally home made with all kinds of ornaments the kids have made throughout the years. So full of memories. So first thing in December we took Peter and Gaelle out to the store to choose their own ornament. They've been hanging in our living room ever since and they were the first ornaments on the tree.

It really is fun to see all of the old Christmas decorations and remember how they came to be. Like the giant scallop shell that Josh painted in St. Andrews.

Or the pom-poms that Kaylin decorated completely on her own... which always go on the tree. Unfortunately, Peter and Gaelle didn't come home with any school made Christmas tree ornaments. But we have another week off of school to remedy that.

Gaelle has had a pretty good attitude for most of the month. But there have been times when her angry face comes out. Today I asked her why she was talking like that. And she said, "Angry? Because it's fun!"

A new activity this year was community caroling. We met in a community park and just sang Christmas carols and songs to the group gathered. Our 2 oldest children were in a mood... a silly mood... and I thought we were going to get kicked out.

Peter was especially concerned and kept saying, "Guys... stop it. Please!!! What are you singing?"

But would they stop it? No... like all good older brothers and sisters, that just egged them on more. We did have fun tho. A lot of laughter, a lot of hot chocolate, and a lot of close calls with candles. Fun all around.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A new smile

Carol, here's another picture with a great big smile and TWO missing teeth.

Sledge hockey

There's a young man in our church who has to be the number 1 hockey fan. And that's saying something in Canada. He knows the local high school players and also has his favorite NHL team. He also has a physical disability but that doesn't stop him from playing his favorite sport. He plays sledge hockey.

Last Sunday we headed out to watch him play. There aren't enough players in our area to have a league with official games, so they just play pick up style games. Emily was interested because it's such great exercise and it really shows how much people with disabilities are capable of doing. It was amazing. A great family outing.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lost tooth

Actually the tooth is not lost at all. We know exactly where it is. This is the first tooth Gaelle has "lost". It's been loose for a little while and tonight she could not go to sleep because she kept wiggling it. I didn't think it was close to coming out because it was not hanging by a minute thread... but apparently Gaelle thought it was ready to come out.

She called down the stairs, "Mom... my tooth." I ignored her, so she called out to Emily who has been prepping her with what to do once the tooth comes out. We all headed upstairs and sure enough, the tooth was in her hand and not her mouth.

Short & Sweet

Sunday night we all bundled up in our winter gear and took the kids to a Christmas parade. It wasn't too cold but it was cold enough. We had our hot chocolate so it was all good. Some things were lost in translation; like greyhound dogs, boy scouts,
little girls twirling batons, and the mini fire engine.

Gaelle was just full of excitement. She kept asking for Santa. She would throw her arms out and say, "Where is Santa?" And Peter wanted to know how we knew that Santa would be at the end. Anyway, the parade was nice and short. Just the way I like a parade.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Santa Talk

When Josh, Emily, and Kaylin were little, Santa wasn't a part of our Christmas celebrations. When Josh was 3 somebody asked him what Santa was going to bring him for Christmas and he just looked at me... totally confused. What? Santa brings presents?

Fast forward to 2 more little kids in the house and I'm afraid Robin's inner child is coming out. Peter and Gaelle were at the mall this weekend and were thrilled with all of the Christmas decorations including the big chair Santa sits in. So tonight they told Robin they were getting their picture taken with Santa.

Then Peter asked Robin, "Are you going to be Santa? Are you going to drink the milk and eat the cookies?"

Gaelle looked a little concerned. So Robin said to Gaelle, "Where does Santa live?"

Gaelle meekly said, "North Pole?"

Robin said, "Where do I live?"

She said, "Here."

So Robin throws out his arms and said, "Welllll....." as if he couldn't possibly be Santa.

Her whole spirit transformed as if the light suddenly came on. She joyously shouted out, "See Peter!"

Of course Peter wouldn't give up, but Gaelle was satisfied and Robin walked away with a little grin.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

No question day!!!!

I woke up this morning and the first thing out of Peter's mouth was,"How come Emily isn't here?"

And I lost it a bit. So I declared today a: NO QUESTION DAY!!!

Robin and Emily are in Yarmouth visiting Robin's mom. For various reasons, the rest of us didn't go. Work...school project...birthday party...etc. And yesterday it was really starting to get to me how much the kids ask and

1) They really don't need to know the answer because it's
a) over their head.
b) just not important.

2) They already know the answer.

3) It's a statement couched in a question.

4) It's a way of engaging the adults around them and distracting the adults around them from another conversation they are currently engaged in.

This mom over at "The Least Complicated" has a great idea using tickets. She gives out so many tickets each day and if the child wants to ask a question, he has to hand over a ticket. When the tickets are gone, no more questions for the day.

"Beth, what's the big deal? Just chill out! How else are they going to learn?"

It is just all so draining and just a way to exert control and to show that they don't trust us to take care of them. And did I mention how draining it is?

So, today is NO QUESTION DAY. Maybe tomorrow I'll break out the tickets.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Nothing better than a big sister

There are 2 big sisters in this family, and both of them have been AMAZING since Robin has gone back to work. They are both willing to pitch in with Peter and Gaëlle and I don't think we could manage without them. We really haven't noticed a change in behavior with Robin going back to work and I know Emily and Kaylin have a lot to do with that.

This week there was a hockey game betweeen the RCMP team and Sackville High School so Robin took Peter and Kaylin and her friends came along. Peter and Robin did their best not to embarress the teen girls with their hooting and hollering.

Nothing better than a snuggle and popcorn while watching a movie.

Remembrance Day

I think I come from a fairly patriotic American family but when I moved to Canada I noticed a huge difference between the observation of Veterans Day versus the observation of Remembrance Day. There's just something BIG about the way Atlantic Canadians celebrate Remembrance Day. The veterans distribute poppies and almost everybody makes a donation and wears a poppy. Almost every community we've lived in has also had excellent turnout for their Remembrance Day ceremonies. We make sure we attend and have only missed one that I can remember. Robin often participates in his uniform. This year he chose to go into Halifax and he volunteered to stand at the Nova Scotia Fallen Peace Officers Monument at the Grand Parade.

I warned the kids ahead of time that it would be long and we probably wouldn't be able to see much and we might not hear anything. But this was a sign of respect for all the men and women who serve in the military. It was long for them, but at least we could hear. And when Gaëlle broke out, all by herself, with a rousing song of "Oh Canada", she had our section of crowd in laughter.

Mommy's little helper

Gaëlle loves loves loves to help out with household chores. She doesn't see them as work at all, but FUN FUN FUN. These are just a few of the pictures from this past week alone. I recently discovered that she can actually peel vegetables. As long as I give her enough time, she's perfectly content to stand at the counter and peel away. And she does a great job!!! We don't need toys when we have a vegetable peeler.

I've mentioned before that Gaëlle loves anything to do with water. Cleaning the bathtub involves water. And a brush. What's not to love? I do the bathrooms on Saturdays and Gaëlle is right there always ready to help. I'm sure I don't need to add this, but she does a great job.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A little snuggle

Last night we had heavy wind and some rain. At times, the sound was quite intense. When Gaëlle went to bed she was expressing a little fear. So we made a bed out of blankets by the side of our bed and told her that if she woke up, she could come to our room. Sure enough at midnight she dragged her pillow to our room and laid down. At 12:30 she asked if it was time to wake up. Surprisingly we didn't hear another peep from her until 7:30 this morning.

Now she is reading and snuggling with one of her dolls and some stuffed animals. It's great to see her provide comfort and love to her toys. So cute.

Weekly update

Just a few photos from the last week. Peter learned the joy of candy apples. A little tricky to eat, but oh so worth it.

This was Gaëlle's 2nd candy apple of the season. This time she tried a caramel apple. Yummy!!

We really try not to set the anticipation level too high in the house. So we kept Halloween as low key as possible. We didn't carve the pumkin until Sunday. Gaëlle had already done one in school but she was game to try another one. The faces as they scooped out the goo was priceless.

Robin gently guided their hands through the carving process. They listened well and did a great job.

Gaëlle was a fairy and Peter was a pirate. We just used things we had in the house for costumes. I think Peter was a little disappointed we didn't have a spiderman costume. Maybe next year, we'll try to do a little more in the costume category.

Robin and Emily took the kids around to the local houses while Kaylin and I stayed at home and oohhhed and aahhhed at the little kids who came to our house. There were some real cuties.

Peter and Gaëlle got the hang of running up to houses right away. They came home and Gaëlle was ready to go out again. She wasn't finished. But we thought they both had more than enough. Gaëlle has already been cut off from her candy once. If she obsesses again and disobeys again, I'm afraid we'll have to dispose of her loot locally. That's police lingo for "mommy and daddy and the 2 big sisters will eat it." So, she's controlling herself as far as her candy goes.

Speaking of police, Robin has never worn his uniform around the kids. They've been to his workplace so they've seen other people in uniforms, but not daddy. So this week, Robin wore his uniform one day when he picked up the kids from school. Gaëlle ran out of school and looked all around but couldn't see her dad. You could see the look of confusion on her face. Both kids had lots of questions for him like, "Why do you need a gun?"

When I came home, Peter told me he saw daddy in his "costume". So funny. He also told his teacher the next day that daddy was wearing his "costume".

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Product reviews

When the kids came home 9 months ago I knew very little about hair care. Oh sure, I had browsed a few sites and I knew how important hair would be for a white mom of a little black girl. But I wouldn't allow myself to buy anything for the kids until we had exited courts and the kids officially had our last name. That magic moment never happened and so I just put hair care on the back burner.

After the earthquake, when it became apparent Haiti would allow kids in the adoption process to go to their adoptive families, we had some major shopping to do. Kaylin and I headed out one night and picked up winter boots, sneakers, 2 outfits and hair products. I knew there were all kinds of blogs and websites I could look at, but I didn't have the time. So we headed to Sally's and asked the lady what we needed. We both felt super silly. We came away with conditioner, shampoo, detangling spray, and a comb.

The first few weeks the kids were here in Canada, their scalps were a mess. We could not control the scabs on either one of them. So I asked the experts. Black women. They had all kinds of advice for products we should try. And they had styling advice for Gaelle to prevent the scabs. So we bought them and we tried. Nothing worked with the scalps and we ended up shaving Peter's hair down to nothing. That worked.

Robin ended up, on his own with no input from anybody, buying Baby Oil and trying that. I don't know if it helped or it was just coincidence, but the scabs stopped on both of them. So in addition to styling products for Gaelle, we faithfully applied Baby Oil to their heads every morning and night.

We had a ton of hair products and when I finally had time to read some of these amazing hair blogs and websites, I realized why so many of the products that had been recommended to us, just didn't seem to do anything except stick to the hair. Most of these products contain petroleum and mineral oil. These ingredients clog the pores in the scalp and coat the hair surface. They give the hair a sheen and are cheap to make. They do nothing to help protect the dry fragile hair that Gaelle has.

So, I have tried to go with natural hair products. These are much more expensive and more difficult to locate, and not everything works the same on everybody's hair. So here are my product reviews for Gaelle's hair.

Silk Elements Silken Child Extra Moisturizing Conditioner was the first product Kayin and I came home with last January. It's a good product with a great price. I've since found a conditioner I like better but this is what we take to the pool. After swimming, we have the kids stand under the water and rinse, rinse, rinse, their hair, then I coat their hair with this conditioner. We rinse again and that's it.

Silk Elements Silken Child Leave-In Detangler is another decent choice that we can buy from Sally. It works well on Gaelle's hair and is very cheap. I use this when I take out a hair style or if I need some more "help" to comb through her hair. I'm not buying this at the moment but am using a little bit of conditioner if the hair seems tangled.

This is my favorite conditioner for Gaelle's hair. I was thrilled when a local store opened and started carrying Jane Carter products. I bought the Nutrient Replenishing Conditioner and since I started using it I can see a huge difference. Her hair is soooo soft when I take out the old hairstyle and it's so easy to work with. I used to leave the Silken Child conditioner on for at least 30 minutes and then rinse it out and reapply it. There's no need to leave this in the hair. It's just that good.

I've been looking for a styling product that will not leave a gunky residue in the hair and yet will still help hold the style without all kinds of fuzzies. I may not find a product to do this. As I become more skilled at styling and as Gaelle's hair becomes more healthy, her hair will not be as fuzzy. Anyway, I purchased the Twist and Lock by Jane Carter to help me style her hair. The jury is still out. It definitely does not leave any residue but I'm not sure it is really doing anything for the style. And it is very pricey. But a little goes a long ways.

This is not a natural product but I like this enough to use it until it is finished. I won't buy another bottle, but I do think it is an easy way to moisurize the scalp and the hair. Ketty Hair Lotion was suggested by the owner of a Black Hair Salon. She has been especially kind and helpful to us when we go in and so I spray Gaelle's hair with a little water and then put a little of this on the scalp and her hair every night.

Virgin Coconut Oil is one of those products that can be used in a multitude of ways. It is messy because it liquifies at warm temperatures and again, a little goes a long way. I want to use this as a deep conditioning thing. A couple of times, I have taken out Gaelle's hairstyle and left the coconut oil in the hair overnight. However, that just isn't convenient for us. Lately I have been coating the braids and the twists to help me take out the old hairstyle. This works really well for us.

Anyway, that's it for now. Just a few things i'm using.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Weekend fun

Open house at CBC TV last weekend. We went to see how a TV station works. There were a couple of photo opportunities. See the kids excape a shark.

And the adults thought it was cool to see the "young" guy from "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" which is filmed right here in Halifax. The young guy isn't really all that young but he plays a goofy teen in a lot of sketches, so we call him the "young" one.

And our young ones were thrilled to see "Bo" from "Bo on the Go". Another photo op.

And no sitting around like a couch potato with Bo. See Gaelle run with Bo. Maximun Bo Power!!!! The kids were a little concerned that Dezzy, the Dragon wasn't around, but still they had fun with Bo.