Family Lessons in Phenotypes

Sitting in McDonalds and my boys start talking to a friendly Asian boy. Alex tells a story of a bird flying into our window, then the boy says “One time when I was in Vietnam we were on a bike and ran over a chicken.”

A few more stories and the boy asks if Nathan is his brother. Alex says “Yes that’s my brother and that’s my sister” pointing to Rose. The boy gets this confused look and I know what’s coming. The boy, who looked about 9 years old, said “how come you are different colors?”

Transracial Siblings

I paused and quickly decided to let Alex answer the question, which he didn’t hear at first. So I prompted Alex, “he asked why you are different colors”. So Alex immediately smiles and says “Because she’s adopted!”

I smiled as the boy said “Oh! My mom had me first and then my little sister, but my older sister is my dad’s daughter.”

Interesting!

So then Alex explains that if you get Park Place in McDonalds monopoly you win $1,000,000. The boy immediately retorts “I’m already rich!”

I may have laughed out loud.

Alex talks about if he won he would buy a house and the boy mentions “we just moved here”. Alex then says “from China?” and I am immediately embarressed and say “honey no, he said Vietnam”. The boy is like “What does China have to do with anything? I’m not Chinese. And when I went to Vietnam I was just visiting my grandma.”

I told Alex “China and Vietnam are two different countries, when we get home I will show you on the big map in the playroom.” The boy said “Vietnam is a really long plane ride.”

Then they moved on to talking about grandmas and great-grandmas.

 

Adjusting to Life as a Stay At Home Mom

A month ago, just before we left to fly to Haiti and bring home our new daughter, I left my job as the Director of Engineering for a wastewater treatment equipment company. It’s actually a temporary leave of absence since I plan to go back part time once Rose is in school, but that’s probably two years away.

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Even though I have worked from home for the past ten years, this is very different. I really had no maternity leave with either of my first two children. When you start-up a company and work from home you don’t get maternity leave. You never stop answering the phone or email. The most I did was miss our big annual conference twice. I hated missing that conference each of those years because it’s always so great to see my colleagues, my industry friends and present the great work my company does in front of a large audience.

This year things are so different because I’ve been waiting for this little girl to come home for two and a half years and now she’s here and I wouldn’t dream of having any other focus. I will miss some fun nights in New Orleans but I’ve had enough of those over the years to sustain me for quite some time. I do not yet miss work at all.

My job right now is therapeutic parenting of a little girl who doesn’t even know what a family means. Watching her thrive and blossom has been so joyful and fulfilling, and I can only say it’s a miracle from God that she is doing so well.

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I usually only have one or two big things to get done a day right now and I like it that way. Maybe a trip to the grocery store, maybe some laundry, maybe going to get my allergy shots. I am always happy to get out of the house and talk to some grown-ups, but I try to keep like simple and unhurried.

My little sidekick is very accommodating and I see her using her orphanage coping skills less and less often. Sometimes she thinks she’s the boss of me but I pick my battles and I’m bigger so I can win but I also know how to circumvent or repair any disconnections that happen. Life with Rose is a dance of connecting and disconnecting and reconnecting.  She chooses to shut down instead of throw a tantrum and I don’t like when it happens but I can fix it quickly. A quick game of Patty-cake is my go-to solution, she’s usually up for it and it brings back the smiles and eye contact immediately.

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The toughest time of day for me by far is after the boys get home from school and the couple hours up until dinner. She gets pretty wound up around them and they need to get homework done right away. The boys seem conflicted because they really want to play and engage with her after a long day away but they also know they need to work and sometimes need my help. One thing that has really helped us was creating a new rule to keep the screens off until after dinner. The boys can get sucked into playing Minecraft or watching Stampy videos quickly and that leaves Rose trying to get their attention and them getting annoyed. Since I started that rule they mostly choose to play with their sister, which leaves me peace to go fix dinner.

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So right now I’m pretty much taking one day at a time with her, passing up lots of fun opportunities like blogger conferences or races. I know it’s a season and before I know it she’ll be speaking English and staying with babysitters and life will probably be much like it used to be except with more singing and giggling and talking.

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The New LeapFrog LeapBand is Fit Made Fun!

*This post is sponsored by LeapFrog and CLIF Kid. I received free products but all opinions are my own. 

Over the years our family has enjoyed a great many children’s products from LeapFrog. I am a big fan nearly anything they make so I was excited to try out the brand new LeapBand from LeapFrog with my kiddos and their friends. The LeapBand is a little like a Fitbit for kids, and though I don’t use a fitness band like that I am a big believer in personal and family fitness! I have plenty of friends who love their FitBits so I was anxious to see how the kids would enjoy the LeapBands.

On Saturday, September 6th, we joined loads of other families in having a #FitMadeFun party. Our party was small because we did not want to overwhelm our newly adopted daughter with people, but it was super fun.

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The LeapBand is designed for kids ages 4 to 7, but my two year old loves it and the 10 year old had great fun with it as well. It is worn on the wrist and tracks movement so the kids earn “joules” with lots of activity. There are customizable pets that the kids get rewarded for taking care of and there are fun fitness challenges that inspire kids to get moving. We had the most fun with the challenges!

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The kids participated in the Fit Made Fun Record Breaking Challenge with ten minutes each of three different activities.  Here they are playing follow the leader and dancing like chickens! There were giggles galore.

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After several more planned activities such as a game called Frogs on the Lily Pads, the kids did some stretching to make sure no one was too sore or got injured.  We made sure they had plenty of water to stay hydrated on our super hot Texas afternoon.

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After all that exercise the kids had worked up quite an appetite, so they had snacks provided by Clif Kid. Clif Kid sent us three flavors of Zbar Protein bars to choose from, Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Chocolate and Chocolate Mint.

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Rose and Nathan both loved their Zbars and I love the fact that they are full of nutritious ingredients and healthy.

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The kids seemed to love the new LeapFrog LeapBands. It has kept them busy with fun physical games for days. The digital pets are cute but it’s the challenges that really interest them, which is of course the same appeal that any adult fitness tracker has. I’m definitely in favor of anything that keeps kids up and moving.

I received free products in order to host the LeapFrog and CLIF Kid sponsored MommyParty. The opinions expressed here are my own.

 

Cocooning Without Isolating

We’re home! As scheduled, we flew home with our new daughter Rosenaicha on Wednesday, August 20th. Without a hitch. So incredibly smooth, I could not believe it. Zipped through immigration in Miami and had time to sit down for a nice dinner. Learned that baby girl was completely freaked out by being buckled into her own airplane seat. Had a blast with her looking out the window while we taxied on the second flight, chattering away, only to have her zonk our and sleep soundly the whole way home.

At the airportWe were greeted in our driveway at 10pm by our dear sweet super awesome 1:17 adoption support group friends! My parents and kids had made cool signs alerting the neighborhood and my girls in the Katy Social Media Masterminds group left flowers (roses of course!), balloons and a gift. We felt so loved. Baby girl just stared at everyone. And then freaked out at the dog. She has got some lungs!

SiblingsSince then life has been pretty much awesome. We have worked hard on establishing a solid connection between Mike and I and Rose. That means lots of intentional eye contact, lots of identity games, meeting all her needs promptly and just having playful fun. She loves Nathan and Alex and they love her. As predicted, Alex has a bit of adjusting to do with not getting all the attention all the time. But overall he’s fine.

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I’ve been watching Rose closely to see if I can figure out how secure she is feeling and all signs are good. She is super easy to read as far as knowing when she’s stressed. She stops smiling, purses her lips and sucks her tongue, stares off into the distance and grabs her belly button. She’ll still do that ANY time a new person looks at and talks to her. She does it when she wants to eat (which is like…ALL the time) and the food isn’t quite ready. She does it if I correct her.

Rose sleeps like a champ. I know that falling asleep without complaint and sleeping all night was initially a coping mechanism, how she was trained at the orphanage. After a few days of her feeling more secure at home she started to protest bedtime and nap time. We decided based on her behavior in Haiti to have her sleep in a pack and play crib right next to our bed instead of IN our bed and that is working great. I lay down next to her too at naptime and bedtime. Sometimes it takes as long as an hour for her to fall asleep, but there’s not fussing, only stalling. “Mama….dlo” (water) “Mama…diaper” “Mama…blanket”

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All smiles this morning.

Basically the child has learned how to ask for what she needs and that’s super important. I cannot emphasize enough how much my Creole learning has helped in our bonding and her security. She still gets frustrated when she says something new that I don’t understand and I can’t pacify her, but that is not often. She does not throw tantrums. She does hit, spit and throw things occasionally because she’s mad or to get attention but we are working on that and it’s so infrequent I cannot complain.

Silly faces Bedhead selfiesAdoption experts recommend cocooning with a newly adopted kid for weeks or months when they come home. That means staying home, no visitors, no outings, no stores, no church, no nothing. We decided that things were going well and certain outings were necessary anyway, like walking too and from school every morning and going to get my allergy shot once a week. I also brought her to meet my grandmother a few times and she even went with me to school orientation night. She seemed to do great in these situations…she did her stressed coping thing sometimes but there were not repercussions as far as my connection with her or sleep disruptions. This past Sunday we even took her to church…sat in the back row. How do I know she wasn’t totally stressed? She tried to get down off my lap and started making noise so I had to leave the service for a few minutes. She won’t get off my lap or out of my arms when she’s freaked out.

Loves the car Off to the doctor Walking Home from SchoolOne of the coolest things has been watching her bond with Mike. She LOVES her Papa. He is awesome with her. He got the first “I wuv you” out of her, whether she knows what it means or not, it’s freaking adorable. She was doing so well with him that I decided to go for a run Saturday morning, knowing she’d look for me first when she woke up and I wouldn’t be there.  Mike handled it with ease and she was perfectly happy to see me return an hour later. In fact the next night, at about 1am, I heard her call for Papa first. He didn’t respond so she tried Mama next and it turned out she had soaked through her diaper. A quick change and back to sleep with everyone happy.

More silly faces LullabyesWhile she naps I’ve been reading “Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child” again. It’s enlightening, but mostly it’s super affirming of how well adjusted she seems. A lot of the damaging affects of orphanage care the books speaks of, such as inability to chew properly or indiscriminate affection, just aren’t there. We spent one morning at Texas Children’s Hospital’s International Adoption Clinic and the doctor had nothing but great things to say about her. She’s smallish, around the fifth percentile for weight and height, but her development is above average. I have a feeling that once she starts truly speaking English, she’s never going to stop talking.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. Homecoming-100

 

P.S.  My husband insists that we not portray this experience as all sunshine and lollipops. It’s not, I assure you. It’s hard work. And we’re probably still in a honeymoon period with her. But I’m over the moon with delight and gratitude that we are finally at this point of the journey and I have felt God’s presence with us constantly. He has prepared the way for us.

Gotcha Day!

Today we finally picked up our sweet daughter, Rose Naicha Hubbell, to join our family forever. I don’t actually love the term “gotcha day” but that’s what it feels like right now. It was a very special day.

We flew to Haiti last night and were met by a family coordinator from our agency, America World. It was so great to finally meet someone from the awesome organization that walked us through the whole 2.5 year process. We rode to the guesthouse in the back of a tap-tap, an open air pick up truck common in Haiti! It was dusty and crazy hot and humid. We were so happy to relax there and dine with English speakers.

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So then after the America World staff all prayed over us we headed up the mountain to Kenscoff, where Chances for Children is located. We stopped at the grocery store to buy cakes for a goodbye party tomorrow. Once again I got suuuuper car sick on their roads. Had to shut my eyes, which stinks because I want to memorize everything for Rose’s sake, and still almost puked.

We were earlier than they expected so we waited a few minutes while a nanny got Rose dressed up for us, and then she walked out and I scooped her up. No smiles, no familiarity, just silent scared shock…which stands out when every other kid is smiling, acting goofy and begging to be held.

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We walked around talking and getting comfortable. At least she wasn’t terrified of Mike this time. Wary, yes, but she didn’t cry when he held her or I left the room. Eventually she fell asleep on my lap in the rocking chair.

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We were fortuate enough to meet Corrigan Clay, of the Apparent Project, and Zach Lee, of Alliance For Children, during this trip. Kathi Juntunen is in town too, which is great. C4C just opened an awesome medical clinic.

After awhile we left for the guesthouse, with Rose clinging to me for dear life. Driving through the public market in Fermathe is a sight to behold. Its a sea of bodies that barely move out of the way, only inches from the car.

Some snacks, a new dolly and especially a new outfit really perked Rose up. Her first real smiles and giggles came as I changed her diaper…she loves that! I practiced my Creole with her and understood a few words when she finally started talking. She ate a ton of chicken, rice and beans, and fried plantains for dinner. She is thrilled with her new sippy cup and sucks down as much water as she can.

Then it began to get dark and she seemed punchy, like silly tired. I put her in her pajamas and decided to try putting her in a kids bed with a rail next to the queen bed. She was laughing and playing and began to test the boundaries a bit. I tried laying down with her but that made it worse, she thought it was a game. So I walked out and left her with Papa in the room. She immediately crashed without another peep. Hooray!

Tomorrow is a big day of saying goodbye to all her friends and family at the orphanage. We have a party planned. We also hope our visa is ready so we can leave as scheduled on Wednesday! We are so grateful for all of your prayers and support thus far, and we can feel the Lord’s presence with us.