Friday, November 30, 2012

Advent Celebrations

I'm so excited to start our advent celebrations. Last year we used the free resource from Ann Voskamp which was great and fun and easy. I had to paraphrase the words a bit to keep things moving for my kids. I tucked it away last year and was just getting ready to pull it out for December when I came across another resource that we already have and also love.

The Jesus Storybook Bible has 24 days all ready laid out. A blogger shared it and another blogger came up with a printable and I stumbled across it from another blogger. All that to say, it will be our daily advent Bible reading for this year. I absolutely love The Jesus Storybook Bible.

I also want to share another fun resource we've been using lately. My sister gave this book to Gaelle and we are using it to learn the books of the Bible. Peter has done really well but Gaelle is also able to spout off the books and is quite proud when she can beat Peter. The true test will be sword drills with the older siblings. We've done small ones with just Peter so he's anxious to test himself against the others.

There's also a website with short videos and coloring pages to download.  It's all very clever and it's been painless to memorize the books of the Bible. We work on it every morning during breakfast. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Saturday morning crafts

Just a quick snapshot of what the kids are up to most Saturday mornings. The craft changes, usually Peter is drawing, but they are often at the table with scissors and paper. Lots of paper. With lots of scraps on the floor.

But it's great to see their creativity. And it's also great to see them amuse themselves with something productive.

I was searching for some safety pins this morning and came across a nail buffer that I have never used. Gaelle just asked for "one of these scratchy things for your nails" this past week. The buffer isn't scratchy but it is for the nails. So I gave it to her. Then being the non nail person I am, I didn't know how to use it. So we looked up on Youtube. This is Gaelle buffing her nails while watching the "How to Buff" video. More Saturday morning fun.

Monday, November 19, 2012

It's puppet time

Well we're getting back into puppets. It's starting out small but there are 2 little kids pretty excited about it. Originally it was going to be Robin and Emily leading and Peter participating. I think because of Emily's busy schedule, I will also help out so I'm not sure where that leaves Gaelle. She'll be right in the thick of it if she has her way. We'll see.

The group of puppeteers is quite different from any we've worked with. There are a couple of youth with special needs which might be a challenge. So far, they seem to have great enthusiasm and decent coordination. We're all looking forward to it. 

The first performance is in December; Christmas on the Hill. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Favorite Family Recipe

I bought some canned pumpkin for a dessert and only used a little bit of it. So Gaelle and I finally got around to using up the last of the pumpkin. We made Grammy's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies. 

The recipe only says to use a can of pumpkin. I foolishly questioned the size of the can. With Robin's wisdom, he said it would be the largest can possible because with 7 kids, his mom would not be making a small batch of cookies. And sure enough I looked at the rest of the recipe and it called for 6 cups of flour. That's a HUGE batch of cookies.

They turned out just like I remembered Glenice making them. Delicious. They didn't last long even though Peter didn't care for them. But the rest of us ate our share and his also. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

School Project meets Adoption Reality

At the adoption panel we attended a couple of weeks ago, one of the themes that several parents brought up was educators that are not sensitive to the needs of our kids. We have children who have not been part of our families since birth. There will always be unknowns in their lives and too many times educators seem oblivious to this truth. There were multiple examples shared where kids were put on the spot and singled out unnecessarily because of their adopted status. Projects are assigned that our kids just cannot complete because their lives do not fit the typical family narrative. We found ourselves shaking our heads because many kids do not fit the typical family narrative and what is the value in these types of projects?

We came up against one of these projects in Gaelle's grade 2 class. Now our situation is a bit unique because it's obvious our kids are adopted. And it's obvious they have not been in our family since birth. The educators should think about the impact of some of these questions on the kids. Parents should be given advance notice and offered the opportunity to alter the projects. We were given neither so it was up to us to make it work. After the fact, the teacher did say that Gaelle did not have to complete the project if it made her uncomfortable. Well, that's not really an option, is it? Let's just single out one child. If you know Gaelle at all, that really isn't an option. She does not want to be excluded from anything and that's how that would seem to her. 

She has courage and she will do what she is asked. If she doesn't know the answer, she will make it up.

Gaelle had to complete a timeline based on her life which was broken into 4 parts; baby, toddler, pre-school, current. She had to write a few sentences about herself during each stage and include a photo about herself during each stage. The earliest photo we have of Gaelle is at 18 months. Not exactly a baby. However we do have a photo of her in a crib where she is baby like. We adopted from an orphanage where volunteers have been very generous putting their videos on Youtube so we have seen lots of videos of the Baby House to correspond with the photos. It's possible that some of those videos even have Gaelle in them, but we haven't been able to identify her. But she gets the idea of her life at that time.

When the teacher assigned that project he didn't have any idea what kind of photos we had or knowledge we had about her life. If it had been Peter, he wouldn't have any photos of the first 3 stages. He will never have the baby photo for the graduation slide show. He will never have the baby photo for the work place "match the baby photo with the employee" contest. Somebody's idea of team building. 

As it was, the project created quite a bit of anxiety for Gaelle. We had 3 weeks to work on it, so we took our time and completed it in small chunks. She chose the photos. What could she do as a toddler? I came up with suggestions that toddlers can do and she chose the ones she liked. She practiced presenting it to me and then she handed it in. 

She was one of the last kids to present. That upset her but I'm sure the teacher did it to make her feel more comfortable. After the presentations to the class, each child was asked 3 questions from their classmates. Only 3 in total.

Gaelle was asked, "Where were you in your baby picture?" 
Answer, "I was at the Baby House."
Question 1b, "What is the Baby House?" 
Answer, "It's where children go when their moms can't take care of them." 
Question 2, "Where were you in the toddler picture?"
Answer, "I was at the Baby House."
Question 3, "Where were you in the pre-school picture?"
Answer, "I was at my home here."

When Gaelle's project was returned her teacher was very kind with his remarks and Gaelle was thrilled with the result. I got a very good insight into exactly how the presentation must have gone. Gaelle read her presentation to all of us over and over again. She lined up her animals and read it to them. Over and Over. She was all characters during that presentation. She was the teacher giving instruction and calling on kids to ask questions. She was Gaelle giving the presentation and answering the questions. And she was the classmates asking the questions. I felt as thought I was there. 

I've been reading the book, The Whole-Brain Child which has a great section about story telling and the power of story telling to heal. When a child goes through a traumatic event, walking the child through the event and allowing them to retell it in their own words, then adding words  and questions to add layers to the story is healing. Children should retell the event repeatedly until they feel secure and then they will be able to move on.

Without being prompted, that is exactly what Gaelle did. She retold the story of her project over and over again. I think it helped her feel more safe and secure as she relived it. She made it. She got through it and she survived and thrived.

Is there value in that type of project? I see the point the teacher was trying to get across. Development. I see the point of making it personal for each child. Describing themselves during each developmental stage made it more interesting and relevant. 

I just wish the teacher would have given us advance notice. We could have headed off any potential problems before rather than after. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Another birthday gone

This past week I celebrated my birthday. Peter's creativity was in full bloom this week for my birthday. He made a card with a cut out mouth that said, "Happy Chirp Day". He really has an artistic bent.

Unfortunately this is blurry but the only photo of the kids together. Thanks for the great meal.

This was the final product. Parmesan Tilapia with oven roasted potatoes and salad. It was delicious.

The final touch was chocolate cake. You can't go wrong with chocolate. Thanks to my wonderful family who always makes me feel so special. I love you all.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

November is National Adoption Month

Every year November is the month set aside to celebrate and focus on adoption. I've been reading lots of great articles about adoption, many of which are very much pro-adoption, but several which question the practice of adoption and highlight some very real and troubling aspects of the industry.

Saturday our family went to an adoption event sponsored by Nova Scotia Council for the Family called, "Celebrate Adoption: Embracing the joys, realities, and connections." There were activities for the kids while the adults enjoyed a panel discussion. Then at the end there was a free swim for the entire family. It was the FIRST annual event of this type and it was very well done.

Since our family has joined the adoption community I have been humbled and amazed by the families we have met. There is such diversity in our community with so many families in the trenches loving children and helping children be all they can be. This panel was no different. Incredible stories being shared which blessed me and once again humbled me.

A representative from the province in Community Services was the first one to speak. She shared the statistic that there are currently over 900 children in permanent care of the province. Whatever the reason, they are currently living in foster or group homes and need a family. Last year 120 children joined families and left the care of the province. But there are still close to 1,000 children who do not have a family to call their own. The current mandate of the province is to find homes for older children and she certainly highlighted the need for that.

The next panelist adopted 2 older boys, 11 and 13. She and her husband are a professional couple with no biological kids who are probably in their late 40s or early 50s. She was there to represent the family that indeed has adopted older kids and has survived and the kids are flourishing. She has worked in the field of mental and physical addictions for 15 years and so has quite a background in psychology and the effects of trauma on individuals and their families. Her boys joined their family with case files 2 feet thick. They were both diagnosed with physical, mental, and emotional issues. As she reeled off their activities and accomplishments, she was proud to share how amazing they both were. She didn't make anything sound rosy, just very doable and worth while. This highlighted the impact 2 parents ready and willing to fight can make. These boys are no longer case files. They are family.

Another panelist was there to speak about adoption as it concerned different cultures and ethnicities. She and her partner have adopted an Inuit boy and a Cree girl. They did not set out to adopt aboriginal children, but from what was shared, once their son joined their family, they did everything in their power to acquaint him as well as themselves with his heritage. They are all very active in the local aboriginal community. Their first exposure to their son's community did not go well. They were completely ignored. Yet, they persevered and eventually the community accepted them and I think they all feel very much at home in the aboriginal community.

The next panelist was there as a professional social worker but also as a child who entered the foster system at age 7 and was never adopted. However, she only had the one foster mother; a 70 year old single woman whom she called Gramma. She was there to speak to the black community and relate her goal of initiating dialogue so the black community would take the fostering that has always been done on an informal basis and transition to permanent adoptions done through the province. There are not enough black families willing to adopt the black and biracial children in Nova Scotia. As she shared her own life history, I was touched by her joy and by her large and diverse extended family of biological, foster and adoptive relatives. Some of her biological siblings were adopted and some were not, but those connections have been maintained.

The last panelist was the most inspiring for me. She is a single mom, at least in her 50s and an adoptive and foster mom of only special needs children. And not to diminish any needs, but her kids have extreme physical needs. She didn't touch on the emotional or mental needs, but I'm sure those exist for some of her kids as well. She was asked to foster an infant that was not expected to live past 6 months of age because she only had a brainstem. She told of her fight for that little baby girl and now this child is 5 years old. Even though she is blind and deaf, they noticed activity when she was around music. She is in music therapy and has been part of a research paper by a doctor. There can't be anything easy about this lady's life and yet, she also exuded pride and love when she shared about her children. She really emphasized the importance of a support group. There's no way she could attend all of the appointments and work full time and care for her family without a vast network of support.

We aren't all called to adopt.

But every child deserves a family.

AND we can all support.

I wouldn't be the person I am today without my mom.

Her support through my childhood, teen years, and adult life has helped me through all kinds of tears and trials. And I always want to share my happy news with her.

Support. We all need it. Young and old.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

What a week

We don't live in an area with a lot of Haitian families. Every once in a while we bump into someone with a connection to Haiti. But we are fortunate to know a few families in the area who have adopted from Haiti and 2 adult men who themselves were adopted from Haiti. So on Saturday night we hosted a potluck. Everybody was able to make it and we had a great time with great food. Mais Moulin, rice and beans, soup joumou, and griot were just a few of the goodies.

One mom made beyen and served it with a yummy sauce and coconut ice cream. 

We didn't have a lot of time to connect as adults because there were lots of young kids running around. But I hope it was good for all of us to see our families and the kids could get a sense that they are not alone. There are families just like theres and they too will grow up, and start their own family. 

The kids finally carved their pumpkins. Can I just say, those pumpkins were cleaned out thoroughly. Peter carved a bat on his instead of a face. He even got compliments on Halloween night.

The final product. Tangled hair that reached down to the ground. 

Halloween night was a bit of a mess. It would pour and then it would stop. It certainly didn't stop the trick or treaters. I didn't buy as much candy and chips as I normally would have. We went through almost everything. But that's good. I'm not complaining. Peter chose not to go out trick or treating this year. I don't know why. But both kids did go to a little party up the street. So they all had fun.

For the whole month of November I am taking a photo a day of all that I am thankful for. A blog has posted the graphic and given the suggestion for creating a thankful book. So I am participating and I'm thankful for the creativity of others and their willingness to share. 

Can I just say that I am sooooo thankful that my parents are safe after Hurricane Sandy. When the media and government officials were predicting the strength of the storm and giving the evacuation orders, it was hard to know the impact of the storm. I was concerned for my parents but thankful they are no where near the coastline. The devastation for those people in coastal areas is just so hard to see and believe. My parents are fine but they are still without power. At night as it gets a little cold here, I just hope and pray that the weather doesn't get much colder and that the power is restored to all affected sooner rather than later.