Thursday, July 28, 2011

I know they wonder what's up.

So, we were at the pool yesterday...
(don't all my stories start like that lately? Eh, whatever... it's summer!)
and I was sitting in the shallow part with #5 and baby boy.
They were "swimming" all around, jumping on my back, generally having fun.

My mom calls me a "kid magnet" so I generally don't notice when some random small person begins to invade my space.

Well, this really cute little bug in a pale green and white paisley swimsuit with long blonde hair and GIANT goggles comes over to hang out near us... then she says...

and points to #5 - who is face down in the water, flailing and unwittingly freaking the lifeguards out.
"Yes, she is!" I replied.

Eyebrows raised, looking confused, she accuses...
"But... she's BLACK!!" 

(at this point... I was too surprised to be offended, besides she was like 5 years old and probably unfamiliar with any non-white people.)

"Yep...she is! Isn't it cool??", I replied.

She mumbled something under her giant goggles and hung out nearby while I acknowledged several "dives", "floats" and "hey mom, watch!" shouts.

Then she says "Are you sure? She looks like she belongs with THEM over THERE..." and points at a black family nearby.

Seriously. She did! I know! Me too! I was like, ooooh girl...

Then baby boy jumps on my back and says "Mommy! Watch!"

(insert completely mind-blown small child here.)

"Is THAT your SON??" she accuses. Again.

"Yes... he is my son! Isn't he cute?" I replied. Getting slightly amused with myself at this point.

I cut her off by telling baby boy to stop drinking salt water.
It's a good colon cleanser, in case you are wondering... but that's not awesome at the pool.

Then... my favorite part...
#4 swims over... he's slightly tanned from 2 months of outdoor play... but nowhere near the espresso shade of the littles.
"Hey mom! Watch me do a flip under the water!"

Her poor little brain couldn't take it!
She tilted her head, looked confused...
and swam away.

I, of course, started laughing...

So, what do you think?
Did I handle it well?
I didn't feel like segregating my children into "adopted" vs "non-adopted", or whatever... for the sake of her learning process. I didn't think getting into the reasons why my children look like they do would be good for them to overhear, even if it might make her a less-offensive little girl in the future. We just wanted to swim and play and do flips and puke salt water  have fun... but not launch into an adoption education spiel with a very young, obviously un-diversified little girl.

And the rest of the pool evening was uneventful!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I have good news and bad news.

The good news is... more children are being adopted who wouldn't otherwise have a family, and more communities are becoming diversified when families bring their children home!

The bad news is... strangers are still allowed to speak since we haven't created a "people remote" with a "mute" button yet.

Why is this blog-worthy, you ask?

Well, none of us wants to be the one to ask the lady when she's due... only to find out she's not pregnant.
None of us wants to say to the lady next to us at the playground "Sheesh... doesn't that kid have parents?!" only to find out that lady is the mom.

We don't WANT to offend people unnecessarily, at least MOST of us don't go around trying to tick people off.

Thus, I give to you...

Chrissy's Average Person's Guide to Positive Adoption Lingo! 
Or CAPGPAL, for short... ha ha!

My only question-asking rule:
If you don't know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that your statement will not offend, hurt or otherwise harm the other person... make sure you ask permission to ask the question, 
and make sure the kids are NO WHERE around. 
I can handle just about any crass comments thrown my way...
but I don't want you saying them in front of ANY of my children.

Now... for the real stuff.

Instead of:
"Hey... did you get those kids from Africa?"
Try this:
"Gorgeous kiddos! Are you an adoptive family?"
(Why? "get those kids" implies we took a vacation and brought home souvenirs. It demoralizes my children, the adoption process, and assumes all black children are from Africa. Many are from your own county, you know. They could have been adopted from Foster Care, they may be neighbor kids, they may be Haitian. You just don't know.)

Instead of:
"Do you have any REAL children?"
"Is this your whole family?"
Why? Because you may get some smarty pants like me who would probably say, 
"No, just these 7 imaginary ones."
(Caveat: This is SUPER touchy. I wouldn't just blurt out to a stranger anything about "real kids" or "kids of your own". What if they struggled with infertility for a decade first? What if their first child died? What if they have 4 homemade kids at home and your question is overheard by a struggling adopted child who already feels different and strange and like a mis-fit. It may just be the dagger to their heart they didn't need today.)

Instead of:
"Woah... you guys must be RICH! You adopted THREE kids??"
Shutting up.
Seriously. Use duct tape if you must.
Adoption IS expensive, but we feel that the Lord provided the funds when we needed it through yard sales, t-shirt sales, family and friends donations, and grants I spent hours and hours preparing.
AND... unless you want me to ask you what your net worth is... 
just don't ask.

Instead of:
"Those kids are SO lucky you SAVED them!"
"What a lucky mom you are to have so many children!"
"I bet they are such a huge blessing to YOU!"
(because it's true. They aren't the lucky ones. Their part in the adoption process was built through loss and grief. OUR role in the process was the lucky part. The kids lost their first family, their home, their language, their culture, their favorite foods, their familiar sounds and smells... 
WE gained three wonderful children. WE are the lucky ones.)

Instead of:
"When did you get them?"
"How long have you been a family?"
Why? They aren't a disease, or a purchase. We didn't GET them. This is also why I don't like the term "gotcha day" that the majority of adoptive families use for the day they took custody. It's parent-focused instead of child-focused. A child may call it "the-day-I-finally-lost-everything-I-knew" which, to ME, doesn't seem like something I would want to celebrate. 
We will celebrate our Family Day on August 3rd. 
We took custody July 26th. It will likely pass without notice. 

Instead of:
"What happened to their real parents?"
Yeah, there's no reason anyone outside of a child's inner circle should need to know this.
If you are curious as to what makes children orphans, go go0gle some humanitarian aid non-profits in Africa. Try Compassion International, or World Relief...
Just research it on your own.
FYI... in order for a child to be internationally adopted into the USA, they must have either lost both parents or one parent and the other can not possibly provide for them. That's the legality of it.

Instead of:
"Why would her parents give her away?"
(see above)
Children aren't GIVEN AWAY. Their parents sacrificed first, no matter the country the child is from, to give their child hope and a future. Parents in the worst possible conditions who fear for their child's life, or when both parents die, they have no other options. It's not like they just wanted to go party every night and the kid was cramping their style. 

Instead of:
"Yeah, I heard of this one lady who adopted this boy and he wound up killing their dog and then..."
For real??
Why don't you go tell bother someone else.
Go tell a pregnant woman some labor horror stories, 
or tell the nearest 4 year old there's no Santa.
Sheesh. NO ONE wants to hear your horror stories. 
Besides, we know more horror stories than you do.
We could scare the crap out of you with our friends' stories, if you like.

Instead of:
"What if they want to go back to their real parents when they are older?"
(not that it's any of your business...)
"Have you made plans for a birth parent search when they are older?"
Why? Ultimately, it's up to them when they get old enough if they want to contact any relatives.
We will have that information available for them when they are mature enough to handle it.
Don't worry.

Instead of:
"These are Chrissy's adopted children..."
These are Chrissy's children.
Why? Anyone with functioning eyeballs can see that my kids are different colors. 
However, I don't go around introducing which ones were unplanned, which ones are below-average readers, or any other type of qualifier. How would you like to be introduced as 
"This is my constantly-complaining-about-her-husband friend, so and so."
Qualifiers. They stink. Don't talk about people with qualifiers.

Instead of:
" adopted..."
"...was adopted..."
Why? My kids WERE adopted, but now they are just my kids. 
They don't have a disease called "adopted".
It's not who they are, it's merely how they entered our family.

See? That wasn't so hard, was it?
It just requires a mental turn-around from the prior way people thought about
adoption and children in general, to a more compassionate, child-focused way 
to discuss them and their status in our family.
Try harder.
Or just keep your thoughts and questions to yourself.
And start a blog so you can talk out loud to yourself. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Update, mid-summer, on the bucket list!

A while back I posted a list of things I'd like to do with the kids before school starts back in August.
How are we doing, you ask?
(Okay... you didn't ask...)

  • Go strawberry picking We picked $60 worth. Yeah. I didn't realize how many lbs an Easter basket could hold. 
  • Go blueberry picking (not yet. I'm trying to find a local place that doesn't charge a billion bucks since there are 7 of them and one wallet!)
  • Go peach picking (See above)
  • Make jams and assorted frozen fruits after picking them (kinda done-ish. I made strawberry jam!)
  • Picnic at the pool
  • Visit a waterfall (We have one nearby that would be okay, but the mosquitoes have been horrible...)
  • Catch lightening bugs (aka fireflies) 
  • Sprinkler on the trampoline (aka "jump-o-lene" to the littles)
  • Go spend a day with Granny (Not yet..soon!)
  • Make BLT's with my heirloom tomatoes once they grow and ripen (If they EVER grow big and ripen!!!)
  • Can stuff...other than jam  (so far my potted garden isn't producing anything... sad.)
  • Go camping 
  • Visit a lake "beach" here in TN for a day trip (Feeling unmotivated to do this...)
  • Grill artichokes
  • Make exercising a habit (almost 3 weeks into a jogging/running training program now!)
  • Take more photos with my good camera
  • Plan for the August/September birthday boom in advance! (kinda done... we have thoughts and some plans!)
  • Bug Jamey to death to make me nap mats for the girls to take to Kindergarten!(I'm calling it done... I may make them myself to save her the stress/sanity!!)
  • Host a fire pit Smore making evening with our new neighbors We had them over July4th!
  • Plan Christmas gifts that I can (and will actually) make (Um... babycakes, new body wash and lip stuff sounds good...)
  • Grill dinner LOTS of times  We've made great use of the smoker we saved from going to the neighbors' trash! 
  • Ice cream for dinner, outside, on the deck Okay, so it wasn't on the deck, but the flies are AWFUL and make outside eating NO fun! 
So... as you can see... I still have some stuff to do!
Other fun things we have done that weren't on my list:
  • Went to see Cars 2
  • We've been to the pool a billion times
  • Shaving cream on the patio table
  • Tons of  soap bubbles in the kiddie pool
What kind of fun are you having this summer with the kids?
Anything you have done that you think is an absolute must-do?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

10 things I do (or don't do) to make my life a little easier.

I (still for whatever reason) have people tell me how I must be SOOOooooOOOOooo patient...
or that I must be SOOOoooOOOooo organized...
or that I must be on some form of medication...
just because I can keep track of 7 kids while my hubby travels a great portion of the week, and not wind up on the news, in jail, or being hauled away by men in white jackets.

Uh huh... the 4 of you who actually KNOW me are laughing because:
A. You never know if you WILL see me on the news.
B. You have the men in white jackets on speed dial.
C. Jail sounds an awful lot like a spa vacation some days.

Well, truth is...
I have a few "tricks" ("cheats" actually) that help (in my opinion) A LOT when you have more kids than hands.

1. (this is where the FlyLady will have a coronary) Stop obsessing about the floors/walls/whatever being spotless while the kids are little still living at home. Know why? It is a NEVER ENDING CYCLE. You will wipe those handprints today, and probably again within the next 48-72 hours. Or... if you don't wipe them today... you'll probably wipe them in the next 48-72 hours. See where I'm going with this? Don't beat yourself up because you close the door to a kids' bedroom when company is coming over instead of making yourself nuts either forcing him/her/them to clean or WORSE - doing it yourself. If company shows up unexpectedly... a trick I learned from my grandmother... pull the vacuum out, plug it in and have it in hand when you answer the door. "Whew! If you stopped by an hour from now, you'd get the "after" shot!" AND... might I add... ANY friend who would stop by unexpectedly when you have multiple littles at home deserves whatever goo they happen to step into.

2. Figure out what your kids WILL eat without MUCH complaining and feed it to them. Yeah, yeah, yeah.. I hear you with your food pyramid/plate thingy... I know you are pureeing beets to put into your muffins...WHATEVER. Do what works when you need something that works! My kids eat cheeri0s (generic brand bought in bulk), 6-week muffins ala Family Feasts for $75 a week by Mary Ostyn, pancakes, or oatmeal PRETTY MUCH for breakfast. I throw some eggs in there every once in awhile... but they fuss and moan and part of each serving winds up in the dog bowl... so I figure, I will catch them up at another meal. I know what you are saying... "But Chrissy, my kids would eat mac and cheese every day, for lunch AND dinner and I just can't do that!!" Breathe.... first of all, I'm not saying become a short-order chef. I'm all for kids trying things that are new, but don't "die on that hill". There are a few battles with children that you will NEVER be able to win by force: eating, when they fall asleep, and potty training. So just RELAX a little. Kids taste buds are less mature than adults anyway, then add to that the whole new-texture thing and it's a disaster waiting to happen if you decide to do snails for dinner.

3. If you are a stay-at-home mom, by all means... try staying mostly at home. Sheesh. I know some SAHM's who rack up more miles than the UPS guy. Why do you do that to yourself? Find a day when you can run errands with either no kids or less kids in tow, and get them ALL done that day. Hire a teenager to just ride around with you and sit in the car with the kids while you run in to the post office, dry cleaners, and all the other places you need to run in for 5 seconds. It's WELL worth $10 and a Value Meal in my opinion not to have to un-buckle and re-buckle 800 times just to run a few errands.

4. I don't make beds. There. I said it. I just don't. Maybe someday this will become important to me... but for the past (almost) 35 years, it hasn't hit my important-o-meter.

5. I don't bathe my littles every night. I count playing in the sprinkler as a decent rinse-off after a hot summer day. I have an extensive hair-care routine with the littlest three and the bigger four can wash themselves... so I do group baths with the littles probably once a week, but I can assembly line wash them in the shower in less than 10 minutes. Hmm... which do I choose more often... hmmm...

6. I pay every.single.bill online. I hate stamps, I hate needing to mail bills and not knowing what checks are "out there". So I pay everything online. I have one Dr. bill I keep forgetting to pay... and ya know why? I have to mail the payment. They don't even do checks or debit cards over the PHONE! Ugh. The nerve.

7. I don't have guilt about not being Martha Stewart. I don't. I'm not going to grow and/or harvest/grind/sift my wheat in order to make bread that's as fresh as it can possibly be. I buy bread when it's 10/$10 (I do buy wheat...even if it's just colored brown with food dye... humor me) and I freeze loaves. I don't try to make all my kids clothes, I don't darn socks or patch knee holes. Sure... I'd like to do some crafty stuff here and there, but I am not going to EVER compare my house to a magazine spread and start feeling guilty because we have fur and toys and socks and whatever-the-heck-else-someone-left-on-the-floor instead of handmade throw pillows made from leftover men's neckties and stuffed with recycled dryer lint. Nope.

8. I don't cloth diaper. Granted, baby boy is (please, Lord) nearing the end of his diaper/potty training escapades... but seriously?? I tried it. I was miserable. It created more laundry and more stress and I HATED it. Sorry, green-police... but there's a disposable diaper landfill somewhere with my name on it.

9. Laundry. Okay... My big 3 can do their own laundry. The older two can do the whole thing, but I start the washer for #3's clothes. She can do the dryer and they can all fold and put away. #4 shares a room/laundry bin with baby boy, so I wash all their stuff together and fold it then send it back to his room to sit in those baskets until I lose my mind and go lecture about how much easier it would be to find socks if they were in a drawer instead of at the bottom of a stack of shirts. The little 3 of course, I wash their stuff. I recently started taking hubby's stuff - almost all of his shirts and all work pants- to the dry cleaners. It's just a good thing. I HATE to iron. HATE it. I hate laundry in general, but I especially detest ironing. He hates it when I hang up shirts without ironing them, so the alternative was a giant pile of shirts folded in half in a basket near the ironing board, which I also hated. So, the dry cleaner is a marriage AND time saver. Win/Win.

10. I try, try, try to go to bed with an empty kitchen sink and the coffee pre-set to start at 5:45am. For the MOST part, that's the time the first of the littles wakes up 7 days a week. Coffee brewing in the kitchen seems to make it less painful to drag my sleepy butt out of bed and down the stairs at 6am on a Saturday. The  empty sink just makes me happy. It means this day is over and we start fresh tomorrow. I hate soaking dishes or if I forget to run the dishwasher after lunch and all the dinner stuff won't fit... I wind up doing dishes at 6am because it makes me crazy, and THAT is not fun.

Okay... that's me...
Any confessions on stuff YOU just DON'T do?
Any additional tips for me??

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Well, no wonder we were arguing.

While I was cooking dinner this week, the little two girls were sitting at the kitchen counter.
We were talking about animals and what kind of sounds they make.

Me: "What does a doggy say?"

Them: "Ruff! Ruff!!"

Me: "What about... a monkey!"

5: "We has monkeys in E-topia!"

Me: "Really? What do they say?"

Girls: "ooo-ooo-eee-eee-aaa-aaaa!"

Me: "What about goats?"

5: "Nooooo! We don't have goats in E-topia!!!"

Me: "What?? Yes there are... I saw LOTS of goats in Ethiopia!"

5: "No... no we didn't!"

Me: "Um... yes you did. We saw goats EVERYwhere!"

5: "They were in our house??"

Me: "They were in some people's houses... did you have goats at your house in Ethiopia?"

5: "Noooooo!!! They scare me!!"

Me: "Goats don't scare you... remember you saw them at the zoo! You weren't scared."

5: "No! They don't have goats at the zoo!!"

Me: (tired of arguing...with a 5 year old...) "Okay... fine. What do goats say?"

5: "ooooooooOOOOOOOooooooOOOOOOOoooooooo!!"

Me: (huh??)

wait for it...

wait for it...

wait for it...

Me: "OH! Noooo, Not GHOSTS... goats! Like 'maaah maaah maaaaaaaah!'!!"

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chocolate dipped unicorns rolled in sprinkles.

That's how I think my life comes across sometimes.
Sunshine, roses...
galavanting through meadows of wildflowers...
rainbows and glitter.

Let me reassure you if you are out there nodding your head and saying, "yep...she's Little Suzie Sunshine on steroids!"
I'm not.

I don't blog about the bad stuff much...
but I have hard days just like everyone else.
Today was just such an occasion.
Actually, yesterday was too.
I blame July 4th festivities, fireworks for 5 days straight, and that anniversary thing I blogged about yesterday.

What does such a day look like, you ask?
it typically starts pre-dawn with either a small girl whispering something about being awake,
a small boy flinging my bedroom door open so that it whacks into the wall creating a small sonic boom.
Thus, I sit STRAIGHT up from a dead sleep with an adrenaline rush which would allow me superpowers, if I weren't still half asleep.

After mumbling something about "go downstairs... I'm coming" and "no... it's not time for bela (eating) yet."
I roll out of bed and pout about how many other kids (and my first 4) would sleep till at least 7am every day.

If I was pro-active and made coffee the night before, I silently thank my forethought and planning, call myself a mothering genius, and crisis is sometimes avoided at this point.
If not...
I make coffee, with or without forgetting how many scoops I've already added to the filter, or prematurely dumping one half INTO the filter, half out of the coffeemaker and all over the counter. This does not improve my morning.

I try to convince the littles to play in the playroom, but instead they want to play "try to bug the crap out of mom first thing in the morning by opening and slamming the french doors".
I hate that game.
I try to drink the first cup of coffee with the news, but then recoil in grouchiness as I give in to Little Einsteins ("Little SkySize"). They clap along. I refill.

Breakfast on a bad day typically consists of me scanning the fridge and pantry for something fast, something they will eat and stay full for more than half an hour, and something I feel like preparing... while the baby boy is fussing, crying, whining and otherwise expressing his desire to eat. Now.
"Bela!!! BEEEELAAAAA!! Mommy, too unry (hungry), Mommy ees bela teyime?"
Well then, cereal it is.
"Cheerials" as they are known... poured, milked and served.

I snag the tv back to the news and try to enjoy a tiny slice of silence(ish).

On a bad day, funny stuff isn't funny.
On a bad day, cute kids aren't adorable.
On a bad day, kids laughing means trouble and all my parenting skills are all tested by each and every tiny tattle.

I look at the clock... crap. How can it be only 9am?!?!?
Check the phone. Yep. Crap. 9am. Still.

Someone starts screaming...
now another one too.
Perfect... let's see...
I'll take "someone didn't want to share, so someone took a toy and the other one hit back?" for $1000, Alex?

Idle threats, banishment back to the playroom, ignore slammed french doors, drink more coffee.

Bigger kids wake up, normally one or two at a time...
and ask what was for breakfast.
"Don't we have any OTHER cereal?"
"What ELSE is there?"
"What did the littles eat?"
"I'm not hungry..."

So I warn:
"The kitchen is closed from 9:30-11:30. Do not think of making food during that time. Breakfast now or wait till lunch."
quickly followed by.. "NO! I DON'T know what's for lunch yet!?!"

Send majority of children outside...
revolving door phenomenon... they are back inside.
"We're THIRSTY!"
"It's HOTTT!"
"I NEED a poss-sickle."

Oh. My. Gracious.
It's only 9:25.

Somehow, by the grace of God... I make it to Lunchtime which is the conjoined twin of Naptime.

Littles down for a nap...
Middles and Biggles threatened to find something or someone to play with or face Mt. Unfoldedlaundry, so not kidding.
Try to reset.
Computer, blog, facebook, email, chick flick, bath, more coffee, gardening, SOMETHING please pull me out of my funk!!

and then someone tip toes down stairs, faking a recently-awakened sleepy look.
"Mom... I'm awake."

Round Two.

Perhaps a kid show for a bit during the hottest part of the day...
perhaps I will brave the community pool...
perhaps I will do someone's hair...
who knows.

Things I KNOW I will say:
"In OR out, guys!!"
"Shut the door!"
"No, no more snack! It's almost dinner time!"
"Didn't I just give you water?"
"No, no more poss-sickles."
"Tell him 'we don't hit."
"Go say 'I'm sorry'."
"You guys better clean that up..."

Dinner time...
various taxi duties...
pajamas, teeth, potty, prayers....

but on a bad day...
Bed time might take hours.
Crying, fussing, you name it...

And of course I handle it all with kindness, grace, gentleness, dignity, calm, patience, love, joy, peace...
or I'm human and I slump into a heap onto the couch after a day like that and feel
of my shortcomings,
and I let myself get down.
Like REALLY down.

I think, "Wow. Mom of the year strikes again! You should start a therapy fund for these kids like NOW!"
And I feel bad...
and I put myself down a bit...
and I think of all the different ways I want to be...
the better ways to respond...
the things I can do to cut it off before it gets started down that path...
the missed opportunities to just love my kids...
and I feel worse.

Then I eat ice cream.

Then I remember...
I'm just as sinful as the kids.
and His mercies are new every morning.
Or every 5 minutes, as the case may be.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

An anniversary is coming

We are coming up on our one-year anniversary!
I can't believe this time last year I was obsessing over what to wear to court in Ethiopia!

One year later... it's just life with 7 kids! It's our normal!

One-year later... and my heart is still broken for children around the world with no families to call their own.
I watch our little girls climb all over their daddy, yelling "MY daddy!" "no... MY DADDY!" and I think... somewhere not far away, there are little girls wondering if they will ever have a "MY Daddy".
Our littlest baby boy LOVES to watch Daddy play softball with the guys from church. "I get big, I play game?" He wants to be just like his Daddy. And he can do that, because he has a Daddy to be like.

One year later... I can finally do bedtime for the littles in under 30 minutes! Teeth, potty, pajamas, prayers, kisses, questions, answers, more kisses, lights out, "Love you!", "Love you, too!"

One year later... a mommy and a daddy, big brothers, big sisters, fluffy dog, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends. It was all new, now it's all normal.

One year later... I think I finally know how many pancakes to make on Saturday morning!

One year later... and I'm mentally rearranging bedrooms and spaces and totally believing we have room for more kiddos.
Because I'm a Mommy.
And I know this great guy...who is a really great Daddy.
I can do a longer bedtime routine.
I have more kisses.
And I can always make more pancakes.