Saturday, July 23, 2011

A few tactics that can work when things don't go your way

It is 2am and I went to bed and began thinking of all of the different crazy things I have done as a parent that have actually worked when confronting behavior issues. We all face them and we either become stressed or upset or just don't know what to do or maybe you have found tactics that work for you.

Alexei was screaming in the car one time having a tantrum about leaving a toy store. This had been going for awhile and I could not stop the escalation in time to full blown crying.
- I screamed loudly with him for 2 seconds. Sounds weird? He stopped, looked at me and started laughing with puffy wet cheeks.

Alexei doesn't want me to change his diaper. This is on and off again as we go through potty training.
- Oh really, I say and he says, no. Okay, well then I guess I will be going. Let me know when you need your diaper changed. Hmm, maybe I will watch a tv show of my choice. Yay for Mama. He suddenly is on the diaper changer lol.

I've learned that walking away and agreeing with him often gets the opposite reaction, the one I wanted in the first place. Sigh.

Alexei doesn't want to leave the house to go out, he would rather test me at the door, smile, laugh and crawl up the stairs to have me chase him. Common for a lot of parents I hear.
- Tried walking out the door but he waved at me goodbye lol.
- Chocolate covered graham crackers worked once.
- I guess you are not going to play later worked another time.
Again, very long negotiations with Alexei so you have to nip it before it becomes a lawyers argument.
- Usually picking him up and taking him to the car is a good response.

Tantrums or any type of crying that is just a short form of I am unable to completely communicate with you Mama but this is what I want or I am not getting my way, therefore I will cry my way out.

-ACT SILLY!!!! Sounds weird huh? Well, Alexei was crying (making noise on this occasion as he turns it off quickly with no tears) he will smile too afterwards.
I decided to dance all crazy. He stopped, looked at me and had no idea what to do but he did listen and we were all happy again.

-One time I burst out in song, totally worked. That usually gets him. Either he says, "No Mama, you need to stop now." Or he looks at me smiling and on occasion and joins in.

We are quick to get stressed and over tired by having to combat the 2-4 yr old negotiation tactics and tantrums and what I have come to learn is that if you can be silly, do it as it may save you a lot of heartache and slowly turn things around with your child.

The other tactic that works for me is removing him from the situation, holding him in my arms and saying, "I need you to listen to me." And we have a conversation, he calms down and we go about our business.

Another one I like to use if he says no, I say ok, tickle time! And then he comes around pretty fast unless he wants to be tickled but eventually he will give in.

Alexei actually puts himself in time out so usually the use of time outs would be good and often I will ask him if he is frustrated or acting out, do you need a time out? And he will say yes or no and if it is yes, he will walk to his room and get a book or roll around in his bed. Then he will come out when he is done, usually a few minutes later.

If he pulls the dog's tail (his best friend) I was told to over exaggerate my response with the dog by saying, "Ohhh Bernie, poor Bernie, are you okay? That must have hurt." Alexei looks at me, will see my actions, say sorry to Bernie and give him a hug. This took a couple of times to get Alexei to see what he was doing.

Parenting is hard. Yeh, I have over 20 books or so my mother thought to send me on parenting lol but from what I've learned on the job and being a parent, you just have to try things out and know when you need a time out.

One last tactic, call your girlfriends! Your mother! Whoever! Sometimes it is just good to laugh with a girlfriend as they always seem to make you feel brand new. :)

Mama's or Papa's, yes you are Super Hero's all of You!

I have seen some good postings lately about challenges with their children and often we do not express that there are times when, let's face it, being a parent is the toughest job.

I sometimes sit down to watch Louis C.K. at night after the boy has gone to bed and for most of you who know us, most likely that time is around midnight as my son has a sleeping disorder (hoping temporary but has had it since Russia 2yrs ago). He gets to see a specialist soon.

Back to my thought, Louis says it right as he has children and has no hesitation saying it the way it is, but sometimes the best break is when you buckle them in their car seat on your way some where, shut the door and then I take one minute to sit, breathe and look at the sky. Why? Well, if you knew just what it takes to get out of the door! Lol. Usually a long negotiation using all of the tactics I had when I was working with children with behavior challenges and what happens? I throw him over my shoulder and carry him out of the doorway. What is he doing? Laughing or kicking, one of the two.

Having said that as my mother who had a 10 day visit, who I brought up to observe Alexei as she is a child development specialist, crisis and trauma counselor and university professor (work a holic, can you tell?) said "You are very lucky, he is extremely smart, attentive and you are raising an adult". Huh? Yes, he is an adult for the most part with child like tantrums hehe. He eats salami and marinated veggies and would rather drink my iced tea or sneak a sip of coffee when I am not looking over drinking his juice or soy milk. Yes, he asks for goat cheese, very specific. Loves anything with garlic. So, he has an advances palette, however try having a long conversation with him on why he should go to bed, or why he believes it is important that he be the barista every day pretending to make me coffee or why he would rather shop in the clothes stores over playing in the children's areas. Yup, that's right. He will go in there, 5 minutes later, "mama or papa, will you take me to the store?"

At other times he is pretend playing super hero's, pleading to watch Dr. Who, uh, yeh don't think so unless it has been pre-watched by me or he is dressing up in costume or doing a monologue on our bed with his hands in the air as if he was doing a Shakespearean play.

All in all my child has more energy than 3 adults, does not need naps as he says, doesn't take them and stays up until midnight, even to just talk in his bed to the silence in the room for an hour. He is in love with the moon and looks for it every other night yelling, "the moon!" "the moon!"

I suggest if there are heightened behavior issues up or down, have the child checked for anemia. This was in fact our issue and he is now balancing out behavior wise a bit more.

Every where I take him, we stop and he will have a full conversation either with the doctor who he promptly could not handle him telling him he had to sleep because for the rest of the day he was in a slump, emotionally upset and worried that we would enforce what the doctor said about his sleeping habits. On the bright side, he puts himself in time outs lol.

3 years old and yes, there are challenges up the wazoo! Mama lives off of espresso and is looking forward to adding on more to this fun family of 3 plus four leggeds so she can really test out her energetic ability!

It is OKAY to feel spent.
It is OKAY to feel impatient.
It is OKAY to need a break.
It is OKAY to want to scream in a pillow.
It is OKAY to laugh hysterically while your child asks if you are okay.
It is OKAY to sit down and tell your son, I need a time out for a minute or two.
It is OKAY to be you, to be the most incredible, energetic fun loving parent who must be on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is okay to be paranoid at times about your children and to just stare at them for an hour at night while they finally sleep. (A miracle in our house).

It is OKAY, hell, they do all of the above, why can't we?

I love my son more than anything in this world, he is my everything and he is also my biggest challenge and one day he will be my biggest success.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A message for Alexei in Russia

Before we left Russia September 11th, 2009 he said to my son, "Come back to Russia."

2 years later, we are taking our son back to Russia with us to pick up his sister. I suppose I never thought Alexei would be going back to Russia so soon as we hoped to make it a family trip a decade down the line, not a couple of years.

The words, "Come back to Russia" gave me a deeper sense of where we come from and how important it is, whether we are thousands of miles away or next door. My husband being from Canada, myself from America and my son being from Russia has given me a greater understanding of the deep roots we cling onto in our home countries. Of course, our home here, where ever we make our home is our home sweet home, but where we are from will always be a part of who we are.

I love when my son says, "I am from Russia." My grandmother also had roots in Russia and culturally we knew it, even though she wasn't born in Russia. She was Russian from personality, to upbringing and how we looked at life. Now, I am not stereotyping, rather giving a cultural identity to her and how she raised us. She was strong, independent and quite the leader in success. Nothing held her back and therefore nothing should hold us back, just as she would say to me, "Do what you do and do it for you."

The importance for my children and their lives to hold onto their roots play such a priority in our lives. When I created my son's life journal, separate from his life book, I created it with pages dedicated to the cultures of Canada, America and Russia. I wrote him a book in a journal, "Dear Alexei" on every page from before we picked him up until now to show who he is, who he has become and I hope it will guide him when I am gone so that he never forgets where he came from.

Although we are taking him back to Russia at age 3, I hope he can return many more times to where he is from and how far he has come as this is what makes us who we are in the present.

Waiting for a court date? Here are some thoughts for you.

I often sit and remember who was in our life at the time we brought Alexei home and who was instrumental in finalizing our son's future. The difference these people make in each child's life is too great for words.

Tonight, as I write this, I think about what they are doing now for other families who wait to bring home their child or children and sit on the edge hoping the process will all work out. The not knowing is difficult and I give support to all of those out there in the waiting process. Yes, it can feel like one of the hardest things you will go through in your life time. Often times as some would say going through labor, just elongated over days or months. The contractions only get stronger once that call comes in saying, "You have a referral!" OR "You have a court date". With many I know who have received their court dates, I imagine they are feeling similar to what I first felt, first time around, a rush of energy, excitement and then a reality check, what do I do and how do I get it done as fast as possible.

Either way patience is key. See, we are all in need of rushing to our child, getting them home now but what I have learned through the process and through so many who have gone through this is that, having it done right, having it done by the highest quality of people is the most important factor in bringing your child home and having your journey as smooth as possible on a dirty country road.

I am asked to write many e-mails to possible adoptive parents almost weekly and what I find myself saying first is, find the people who are right for you, the people who will be there looking out for you and be your seat belt when things get bumpy.

I also find myself saying thank you over and over to those people and what I realize often is that those thank you's will never add up to what I truly feel about them. They have become a part of our family, whether they are 1000 miles away or 12000, they are the connection between you and your child. The glue that will bring you and your child together.

Appreciate, respect and handle with care.

Photo Updates

Thursday, July 14, 2011

More Paperwork corrections....

This week has been one of those challenging times in an adoption where you have to hold tight and just work on getting the things done asked of you while also keeping your emotions in check.

This time around in this adoption, I am also running around after a three year old, which makes me wonder why I ever complained last time haha, kidding, every experience is different.

My mother is visiting from out of town and this is the first week she has been here since Christmas and what happens? I end up having to drive to the capital while she and my son tag along all day Monday, then over night a package to the agency, feeling half way relieved that our papers were off to court, I receive a call Wednesday morning with another correction needed and another drive down to the capital on Friday day with my son and mother. I think with the stress of having to change plans and stay on top of the adoption, it can take a toll on the emotions, no doubt.

And then there is the moment where I should just let things go and breathe and get through as this is a means to an end.

All in the same moment, I am dealing with our neighbors dogs who have broken through our fence 3x in the last week. This will be fixed with us buying lattice for the entire fenced area as a secondary layer.

I have also decided that this was the week to pull my entire closet apart and get organized before our little girl comes home. With lots of clothes to give away, I have now made even larger messes.

We may not be back to Russia for another 6 weeks or so, having said this, I am tug boat carrying around the rest of the baggage before unloading at the dock and getting ready to take another journey.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Thoughts on a Plane

I am writing this as a bit of an exercise as I evaluate why I feel the passion I do in helping the children out there who do not have homes or wait minutes, days, months, years passing by not knowing what it is like to have a bed to wake up in that is all theirs or run out in the morning with one intent, to receive a huge hug from a parent, Mama or Papa. The small things we take for granted every day, those moments, whether simply being able to sit with your son or daughter and realize you are giving them a life, a starting point to something greater.

I will never forget the moment my son was in my arms and I held him up to a tree to touch a leaf. The leaf between his fingers widened his eyes and yet almost gave him a reality check, like, this is good, this is different, but this is what I needed these past 15 months was to feel the leaves between my fingers, touch the grass beneath my feet and feel the warmth wrapped up in a mother's arms.

When I leave Russia, I sit in the plane my head pressed against the plane glass looking down with a heavy heart. There will never be a day that passes that I do not think of Russia, of the children I leave there each time wanting to give them more. I have said this before, a piece of my heart will forever be in Russia.

Michael and I may not have been able to conceive and in some crazy thought, I am so grateful as I would not have the beautiful son I cherish each day or the daughter who is coming into our lives soon. The road may be seriously difficult, incredibly challenging, life altering and often bumpy but in the end I have realized my life direction was and is to continue to be a part of supporting these children who need a home by doing whatever it takes to give them a little piece of what we all have each day in our lives.