Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fun Day

Robin and I took off for a one day visit with friends. We left Peter & Gaelle in the capable hands of our 3 older children... but mainly Emily. Apparently the day started off with a string of "No's" from one strong willed girl. So Emily pulled out the big guns and made a fun list. Emily and Gaelle brainstormed what activities would make a FUN DAY. Then Emily made the list. Every time they completed an activity, they would check it off. If Gaelle was the least bit hesitant to obey her big sister, all Emily had to do was say, "If you won't listen to me, we won't be able to do the fun list." Magic. Gaelle was totally compliant. A successful day.

This past Saturday Robin came across 3 doll heads with long hair for Gaelle at a yard sale. Score! Gaelle is the queen of braiding and so now she has 3 more dolls to conquer. We put 2 of the doll heads away until she totally destroys the first one. Way to go Robin!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Too cute

This morning Gaelle runs into our room and excitedly says, "It's going to snow again! We can go sliding and shubbling again!" Apparently Peter was teasing her by telling her it was going to snow today. We had to dash her hopes.

Last night Peter was sitting on the sidelines at soccer. As he was sitting there with his black socks and black shorts, he made an observation, "Look, I have brown knees." A kid next to him said, "Brownies... I love brownies!" Peter and another boy started laughing and said, "No. BROWN KNEES." That was the extent of the observations. They then moved onto their favorite foods.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

All focused on...

Family dynamics are a funny thing. This photo pretty much sums up the reality for our family at this moment. All eyes are on Gaelle. Except Peter... and really he's very much aware of her. She just demands attention and is pretty successful at getting it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Seeing isn't believing.

This week Robin and Peter saw some of the Canadian military ships in the Halifax Harbour. We have been diligent to keep the news about the earthquake away from the kids. We didn't realize how effective we had been until Robin pointed out the ships and that they went to Haiti after the earthquake to help the people. Peter wanted to know why. So Robin explained that they had food to give out. Peter said, "Why did the people need food?"

We know there are lots of knowledge "hooks" that Peter is lacking. But we didn't expect poverty in Haiti to be one of them.

There are also cultural differences that sometimes become apparent. Peter has been adamant that women can't be police officers and I'm sure in Haiti they can't. But this is somewhat funny because that is Robin's profession and Peter has been introduced to several female coworkers. However, they were never in uniform. So today we saw a female police officer patrolling the Halifax Commons on horseback. Even though Peter saw it with his own eyes, he refused to acknowledge that she was a woman. We took a picture for proof, but he won't admit it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Soccer & Field Trip Fever

We signed Peter up for summer soccer and it finally started this week. One thing that constantly amazes me about Peter is his enthusiasm for almost everything. He wasn't sure he would like soccer but he was eager to give it a try. He and Robin actually spend more time playing catch but we thought soccer would be easier. He has been over the top excited for his first practice and he wasn't disappointed.

Wouldn't you know it, one little boy totally latched onto Peter. This kid has a bit of a problem focusing on instructions and following along. Peter is so easy going and so was easily distracted by him.

Not that Peter wasn't easily distracted on his own. He spent a fair amount of time spinning around, doing handstands, and just rolling around on the ground. Totally makes me laugh. I'm sure as he becomes more aware of what's expected of him, he will settle down and focus a little more. Altho he is doing fine.

Gaelle and I had an interesting time at the playground while Peter was playing. An 8 or 9 year old girl came up to us and said, "You're peach and she's brown. That must mean she was born in another country, like China or something." Somehow I managed not to laugh. Gaelle told her where she was born. Then the little girl told us she watched the "We Are The World" video and a girl looked just like Gaelle. We went back and forth in conversation and the girl ended with, "It sure was nice of you to adopt one of them."

If she had been an adult I would have been colder and steered the conversation more. But she was just a girl full of observations and personality. Gaelle loves to be the center of attention and here she was, surrounded by several kids, but she was clearly out of her element. She was not performing. She was not cutesy. She was the center of attention but she was uncomfortable. So today, when we're having a calm quiet moment, I'll bring up the playground conversation and try to see how it made her feel. I'll try to talk briefly about other kids and their curiosity.

In addition to soccer, Peter had a fied trip that he was so excited and anxious for. We know he was excited because he told us and he constantly brought it up. How do we know he was anxious? He was full of nonsense questions. And non stop chatter. But he had a great time on the field trip and now he has 2 birthday parties coming up to continue the excitement and the anxiety. Ahhhhh....

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


We've had interviews with social workers the past 2 days trying to complete a domestic adoption. In addition to all of the other questions, they've both asked what we're doing to teach Gaelle. Her English is amazing but are we being intentional with more 'school type' learning. As a matter of fact I am. We're doing an hour of school each day but she is learning all day long.

This morning after breakfast, we pulled out some books and just the 2 of us read. One of the books was "The Salamander Room". As I tell Peter, we are never too old to learn and I love to learn new things. This morning I learned how to say lizard in Creole... zandolit. Altho Gaelle says it with more of a "u" sound and no "n".

So Robin heard us reading and told us he could find us a zandolit. So we headed outside... Gaelle was still in her pj's. And we looked.

We didn't find one this morning, but Gaelle did find lots of bugs. Maybe we'll try again when it's a wetter day. But how can we help but learn? That's all the kids do. Everything is new and strange.

Now we'll head downstairs and work on learning her name.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Weekend Snapshots

The local elementary school had a fair on Saturday with overpriced games and cheap prizes. It's all about the kids, right? Anyway, we took the kids and it was fun seeing their reaction to the different games. Gaelle did a little fishing and got to choose her prize. Peter looked through the bucket he was allowed to choose from and picked... hand sanitizer. I'm still chuckling over that.

The kids spent a lot of time looking at the dunk tank. I'm still not sure they get the concept, but it was fun to watch.

There was a big inflatable maze for the kids to race through. They were determined to try it and were supposed to go by themselves, but we convinced the attendants to let Emily help Gaelle. Big smiles all around.

Peter went by himself but he could have used a guide also. He wasn't quite sure where to go once he was in the maze. He still had fun.

On Saturday afternoon we went to a local beach. Of course the water was freezing but Peter was a trooper and he managed to get all the way under. He didn't stay in the water long, but he was determined to get wet and he did it.

Isn't it great to have wide open space to just run and run? Oh the joy of running through the sand.

On Sunday afternoon we came across a playground that was a little funky. With a couple of little kids, we will soon know all the great free spots to play.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

It's a surprise...

We celebrated Robin's 45th birthday on Friday. Gaelle helped me make the cake and when I asked her if she wanted to lick the beater, she asked, "Is it good?" She quickly found out just how good the cake batter can be.

I took the 2 youngest kids out to buy something for their dad. Robin loves to guess his presents ahead of time and so I prepped them that this was a surprise and they were not to tell. Sure enough, when we got home, Robin scooped up Gaelle and tried to get her to tell him what she had bought. Gaelle did really well and kept saying it was a surprise. Good girl!!! However, she did give a couple of clues.

"Dad, don't look in mom's bag."

Here's the birthday boy with the birthday cup.



A 45 year old dad with his 5 wonderful children.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A promise

We had a beautiful day with a bit of wind, so we took the kids out to a local park to fly their kite.

Gaelle was a patient kite holder, waiting for the signal to let it go.

Peter's turn at holding the kite before throwing it up in the air.

2 weeks ago Gaelle and I were out running errands and we saw a rainbow. It went from just a faint glimpse to a full arc which was completely vibrant and bright. Beautiful! We talked about God's promise to us and love for us through the rainbow. Then this week we read the story once again of Noah's Ark in her children's Bible. We were having a quiet moment, just the 2 of us, and she spit out the words.

" move...Haiti."

I think she was tying the concept of destroy and flood to Haiti when the earth moved. I kept my words simple. God loves Haiti. God loves us. But I didn't address the destruction. Powerful thoughts from a 4 year old.

Friday, June 4, 2010

She's Home!!!

A week ago we all headed to the airport to pick up Emily. She had an amazing adventure in Thailand but her 9 months were up and now it's time to start the next phase in her journey... working and school. Peter and Gaelle had only talked with Emily on Skype so this was very exciting. For the month leading up to this, Gaelle told everybody that she had 2 big sisters. Now she was finally going to meet her other big sister.

Can you believe she was there for 9 months and this is all she came back with. Good job Emily!!!

I think I've mentioned before Gaelle's mad hair skills. The rest of us don't have a lot of patience to have our hair done but Emily is fresh and eager to play with her little sister. Gaelle is in heaven and asks to do her hair several times a day.

I mentioned that May was family month and it has created lots of excitement and activity and stress in our little house. However, I'm so glad that we are all together for a time. Even though Peter and Gaelle are both having a bit of a struggle settling down, I'm thankful for the blessing of family who loves us and supports us and encourages us. I'm thankful for parents who come and play with the kids and create new traditions with them.

Again, it's always bittersweet. I know my family; extended and near. I am blessed. Peter and Gaelle have family that they will never know in Haiti. Even though they are older and can share some of their story with us... it's exactly that... SOME of their story. Family roots are powerful and strong. Through no fault of their own, their Haitian family roots have been severed. Our prayer is that we can help them navigate their journey and family life here in Canada and some day help them explore and discover their family roots in Haiti.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Our adoption A's

Anxiety: It doesn't take much imagination to think about all of the new situations our kids face daily. They have been home with us for 4 months and there is not one thing about their new lives that resembles their old life in Haiti. Needless to say, this creates lots of anxiety and stress for them. As we've gotten to know each other better, we are gaining knowledge about their triggers and what we can do to calm their spirits. One important thing we can do is create structure and routine. The past few weeks have been full of upheaval with all of our family arriving home and we can really see the negative results.

Angular: Now this one is not as obvious but it's a huge indicator to us that all is not calm in Gaelle's spirit. She is a little girl who loves to be held and to snuggle but when she is anxious, her little body becomes all elbows and knees and sharp angles. When she first arrived home, she could not cuddle without hurting us. Every physical interaction with us included pain. We know she feels safe and calm when her body softens.

Chatty: This one refers to Peter and I couldn't find the right A word, so C it is. He has a strong sense of curiosity and a strong desire to learn. From the first day with us, he was eager to try all kinds of new things. However, when he becomes anxious, there is constant chatter and all kinds of nonsense questions and it gets out of control. It can become annoying and so difficult to respond to appropriately. But we are learning and developing our own tools to help him stay calm and to not start running off at the mouth.

Attention: This is a huge reality for the kids. They both crave attention. As you can imagine, life in an orphanage with 70 other kids creates all kinds of survival skills. Our kids both developed their own unique ways of getting attention. Peter is the smart curious one. When he is seeking attention, out come the incessant questions and endless chatter. When Gaelle wants attention, out comes the super adorable, very cute performer. This is where the balance comes in. We want to give the kids appropriate attention, but we want them to learn that they don't have to perform in order to get attention. It's tough. But we're all learning and there are some great resources on the internet and in books which have been life savers.

Aroma: Speaking of the internet, this is something I learned just last week. About the time, Peter started going to school we suddenly noticed really bad body odor. I assumed that he was playing much harder and was just sweating a lot and he had BO. But it was really bad for a 9 year old. We found it kind of strange because when we were in Haiti, he sweated a lot and we didn't notice BO. Over the past few weeks, we have noticed that his odor has gone. Didn't think much of it, until last week when I read on an adoptive mother's blog saying that stress triggers elevated levels of cortisol which some believe results in odor and also an increased appetite. That would certainly explain a few things. Peter eats more than I do and he isn't gaining much weight. The start of school was obviously super stressful for him.

Activity: This was probably the first thing we noticed when the kids arrived home; they can be active. They're used to constant physical play and love to be outside playing hard. This is all good. However, when they are feeling anxious, their activity becomes frenzied. People who aren't around them regularly can't even tell the difference. But the level of play becomes almost desperate and we see the chatter from Peter and the angles from Gaelle. If they are given free reign we will see meltdowns; Peter withdraws and Gaelle tantrums. So obviously, it's best to stay in control and to limit outside influences to keep the frenzy down.

I could go on and on with the symptoms of stress in our kids. Sometimes we know it's coming and sometimes we're caught completely off guard. Right now, we're trying to keep things calm and on schedule and we're trying to keep their world as small as we can. Not easy, but so worth the results.