Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Our turkey just came off the grill - for the first time ever!  Randy has been wanting to try this for several years.  It looks soooo yummy.  I would post a picture, but I can't seem to find my camera.  Anyway, we are basically having a mini Thanksgiving dinner, since my husband can't eat turkey without stuffing and green bean casserole.  We also had some appetizers this afternoon; chips with guacamole, mini wieners in a special sauce, cheese curds, and baby pigs in a blanket which Kaleigh helped to make - her first successful cooking attempt :).

Our dinner will be enjoyed with a family movie, and the kids will ring in the new year with sparkling grape juice at 10 p.m. before hitting the pillows.  Randy and I will then enjoy the grown up movie with a few grown up snacks (crab cakes and stuffed mushrooms) and will ring in the new year at midnight with grown up sparkling juice (aka Asti) ;-). 

Tomorrow we'll head to my mom's for brunch and then homemade Chinese food later on in the day with my cousin and her family.

I hope you all have a safe and happy New Year's Eve and New Year's Day!

Good bye, 2010!

Hello, 2011!  May you bring happiness and good changes for all!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Parent Frustration

My ten year old has made some poor decisions in the last few days.  He turned his TV on in his bedroom after he was put to bed.  He cheated on his science homework.  He lied to my face twice in less than twenty-four hours.

And because of his past hurts, he cuts himself off from the emotional repercussions of consequences, so that nothing I take away from him does anything to affect his behavior.

So yesterday, after the cheating and the second lie, I took a page from a friend's book (thanks, Laura), and had him write a verse about lying 50 times.  

Okay, we are all sinners, we all make wrong decisions from time to time, and kids are (definitely) no exception.  So yes, my kids are going to do things they shouldn't, even things they know they shouldn't.  I sometimes do things I know I shouldn't.  So I can forgive him and we can move on.  

But that doesn't mean I can just say, "Oh well, everyone sins.  No big deal," and let him think that it doesn't matter that he tells a lie once in awhile, or disobeys his parents, or cheats on his homework because he's too lazy to look for the answers.  Or anything else that he knows he shouldn't do.  My job as a parent is to teach them how to overcome, with God's help, the temptation to sin, and to right their wrongs when they do sin.  That is why it is important to me to choose consequences that are effective in changing behavior rather than simply punishments for the wrongdoing.  

I also believe that the lying is a habit for avoiding getting into trouble for other wrongdoings.  Not that that is an excuse or makes it okay, but I believe it needs to be treated as a habit to be broken rather than an issue of a hard heart or pre-planned decision to lie.  Of course, there is still a heart issue to deal with, since in order to break the habit he needs to believe that it is wrong to tell a lie.  So I've decided that the verse-writing will be the consequence of choice for awhile, in addition to losing privileges.

The frustrating part is when it seems like nothing works.  Some days I feel like a horrible parent because I must be doing something wrong if he is not learning or does not care about doing what is right.  But I realized last night that all I can do is pray for him and be consistent.  God has to do the rest. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Family Christmas 2010

The Shan Clan had a wonderful Christmas.  We hope your family did as well!

The kids - and grown-ups - all enjoyed their gifts.  (Okay, fine, there was one gift that sort of had to be... um... shall we say, graciously accepted.)  The grandmas and grandpas all followed the rules about gift-giving, which I have to say really took the majority of my stress out of the day.  I really enjoy shopping for others, so I was quite pleased that everyone - kids and adults alike - was happy with their gifts.  Randy and I decided not to shop for each other (except for gifts from the kids) this year.  We're going to go shopping in a month or two, after we recover, and buy our gifts to each other together.

Of course, the day was not just about gifts!  We also had great food, yummy treats, and fun games.  The best part of the day was being able to just relax with family and enjoy being together while celebrating Christ's birth.

I hope you all had a blessed day and were able to spend it celebrating with friends and family, and that the remainder of your 2010 is fun and memorable. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The (Second) Best Christmas Gift

Randy and I were reflecting the other day on where we were one year ago.  We were sitting down with our kids' great-grandparents and both of our lawyers to discuss a schedule of when they were going to see the kids.  We were so afraid that we wouldn't be able to come to an agreement and would end up going back to court to see what the judge would decide on.  But God showered us with grace and mercy and rewarded our faith by leading us in His will; we came to an agreement that we all could live with, and to top it off, were able to cap it at six months with a follow-up discussion between ourselves at that point.  (That has since come and gone, and things continue to go well.)

And so, after six+ long months of court hearings and stress and exhaustive scheduling, the judge granted the TPR and we got the best Christmas present we ever could have hoped for: our children.

But I have to argue that THIS year we have our best Christmas present.  Our children are truly ours now, having finalized adoption in February.  They have a full family - a mom, dad, brother, and a consistent, permanent home, three sets of involved grandparents/great-grandparents who love them, aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, even great-great aunts and uncles, cousins and second cousins.  I'm looking forward to watching them enjoy their first "normal" (for lack of a better word) Christmas.  

And of course, I'm looking forward to enjoying it as well.

I hope you all have a wonderful, safe,and happy Christmas and holiday season and enjoy spending time with friends and family, wherever you may be.  And may you always remember the true meaning of Christmas and the very best Christmas gift any of us have ever received! =)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Funday

I woke up this morning feeling like we needed a fun day.  Especially since I was starting to feel crabby, I think because I haven't slept much at all in the last four(+) nights.  In any case, we needed to do some fun things.

Our day started with a standoff on the interstate, not far from here.  Long story, but around 4 a.m. two people in a stolen car ran out of gas by the side of the road and when cops approached, refused to get out of the car, eventually waving a gun magazine out the window and telling them he would shoot them if they came near the car.  There were city police, county sheriffs, SWAT, and a canine unit at the scene; the entire freeway was shut down in both directions, and people who had been sitting in traffic for 2-1/2 hours were finally turned around and rerouted to the other interstate.  The whole thing didn't end until after ten, and we were pretty much glued to Channel 4 news until then.

After that excitement, I got Hunter started on his school work, and I got out the Christmas tree.  Kaleigh and I put up and decorated the tree, and Hunter finished up a health assignment and took his math and spelling tests.  (Okay, school work isn't necessarily fun, but he needed to take those tests and the fun part was that I didn't make him do every subject!)  Then we made a yummy lunch - something relatively new (similar to another dish that I make, but put together a little differently, which the kids loved).  We had a little quiet time, then headed over to the mall.  We did some shopping, saw some kids playing in an orchestra concert in the rotunda, and headed over to pick Ryan up from swimming.  When we got home, Kaleigh opted to work on some of her craft gifts (Christmas presents for relatives), but Hunter chose to play with toys instead.  (Fine by me - as long as he was having fun!) 

Now we have stuffed crust pizzas in the oven, and the kids are picking out their movie for tonight.

In all honesty, it wasn't the day I had in mind.  I originally envisioned more craft time, a game, a little more time out of the house.  But the kids didn't seem to mind.  Hunter's eyes when I told him he was done with school for the day, and Kaleigh's facial expression when I turned on the Christmas lights....  they made today a fun day for me.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Don't get me wrong here.  I'm grateful that the process of keeping my kids in touch with their Great Grandparents has been relatively smooth and not fraught with bitterness and resentment.  And I'm very thankful for the grace God has given me in having to deal with them on a regular basis.

But I am still frustrated with their behavior.

They have been told repeatedly they are not to give the children things unless it is a birthday or a holiday, and even on those times, they are given a spending limit and we have to approve their gifts before they are given.

Lest you think we are cold-hearted and controlling, take a moment to imagine a nine year old knowing he is going to get a Play*station 3 for Christmas simply because "My Grandpa asked me what I wanted and that is what I told him, so that's how I know what I'm getting."  Imagine a two year old who wants her brother's DS and refuses to leave him alone when he is playing it, and so because she wants one "so badly," her Great Grandparents buy her one of her own.  Imagine two children returning home after six hours with said Great Grandparents, hauling enough stuff to fit into EIGHT garbage bags, and then not missing the two-thirds of it that is subsequently given away to charity.

These are just a few of the reasons we have rules about gift-giving.  I also believe that is the right and privilege of the parents to buy the children their most "extravagant" gifts, and I do not think it is right for parents to be upstaged by other family members (if they don't want to be).  Don't take that the wrong way; it's just that these particular Grandparents are like dealing with ex-spouses: they use gift giving as an attempt to buy the children's love, and since I have the power to stop it (unlike with exes), I'm going to exercise that power.

Back to the issue at hand.  Even though they have been told - not just once or twice or even six times - numerous times not to buy things for the children, they continue to do it.  "Oh, I had 30% off at Kohl's and I just couldn't resist."  "Oh I just saw this and I knew s/he wanted one."  "This was so cute I just couldn't pass it up."  


For Hunter's birthday, they were told to spend no more than $35, and I strongly suggested a Lego set, since there are some decent ones for around that range.   What did they show up with?  A $100+ Lego set.  "Livid" does not begin to describe it.  We confronted them then and there, but didn't feel that we could tell Hunter he wasn't getting the gift, since he had already seen it.  We did, however, tell them that if that ever happened again, they would not be allowed to give the gifts.  We also prepped Hunter for the possibility of that happening at Christmas.  (I explained to him that his Grandparents are allowed to get him one gift, just like all his other relatives, and that if they don't follow the rules, they will be returning the gifts.)  This was important for two reasons: 1) the possibility of disappointment if they showed up with a bunch of gifts and he thought he would be keeping them, and 2) he is notorious for asking them for tons of things because he knows they will buy whatever he asks for.

Earlier this week, it happened again, this time with Kaleigh.  I show up to pick up the kids; I am met with a PILE of clothes on the couch - oh and by the way, these clothes were shown to me THREE WEEKS AGO and I told her to give a few of them (told her specifically which ones) to Kaleigh for Christmas and return the others to the store.  Now she is showing them to me again, asking me YET AGAIN "Can Kaleigh take these home?"  It was all I could do not to explode.  And to top it off, half the clothes she picks out are either just plain U.G.L.Y. or so grown up I wouldn't let a fourteen year old wear them, let alone a four year old.

The Great Grandparents wanted to know if they were going to get the kids for their own "Christmas" like they did last year.

"Last year was a different situation!" I wanted to scream.  We are a FAMILY now.  They don't go separately to separate extended family's houses and have a whole bunch of Christmases.  They have Christmas on Christmas Day with US and all of their family who chooses to spend Christmas with us. 

I am beside myself as we get ready for Christmas.  These people still don't get it that these are OUR children. They live at OUR house.  They do not have multiple parents; they do not have multiple houses.  They have the mindset of a divorcee who still has rights to her children and a separate home where the children live part of the time and have different rules and belongings and behaviors.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.  That is not the situation we have here!!!!!!!!  Why do they not get that WE. ARE. IN. CHARGE.???????

Sorry.  Almost had a meltdown there for a second.

Seriously, though.  I don't know how to deal with it anymore.  I'm tired of saying "I don't want you buying things for the children anymore," and being met with the oh-I-was-just-trying-to-do-something-nice eyes.  Because it's not because they want to do something nice.  It's because they still want to believe THEY are parenting and controlling these children (not that I believe for a second the two go hand in hand, but in their case, it did).

Because I swear before God and all of you as witnesses, if they cross the boundaries of what I told them to buy for Christmas, they will lose their gift-giving privileges across the entire board.  I am truly at that point.

Monday, December 6, 2010


At the risk of seeming silly, I am going to share something here that probably no one is going to care about.  But I feel I need to put it down in a place where I can feel I am being held accountable. Anyone else have trouble holding themselves accountable for their goals?  Anyone?  No?  I'm the only one?  Okay then.

I am, by nature, a creature of habit.  Okay, I know a lot of people are.  But prior to having children, I was very habit- and routine-driven.  Having a routine and knowing what is going to happen each day makes me feel... more secure.  (Humanly speaking, of course.  This security of which I speak is in no way related to a spiritual security or the daily security I have in knowing that God takes care of me all the time, no matter what routine I do or do not create).  I like having order and being organized and teaching my children to be organized.  Let's face it: being scattered and disorganized leads to chaos and usually a lack of getting things accomplished.  At least for most people.  And I am most definitely one of them.  And my children spent their early years in this type of environment - especially my son, who was back and forth between chaotic and disorganized homes for years before being settled into one of them.  And then he lived with a constant inconsistency until we came along.  So I think it is important for them to learn that life doesn't have to be that way.

I digress.  Because while I do still strive to maintain routine and structure, I've felt lately that this area has been sorely lacking since having children.  And yes, having children changes everything.  As well it should.  And I have NO desire to be one of those rigid parents who has a routine down to every minute of the day and it's posted on the wall for everyone to see and no one dare stray from the routine or God-forbid do anything to put the schedule behind by even thirty seconds let alone two minutes.  No, that is definitely NOT who I am. But my children do know that we get up and get dressed, we eat breakfast and do devotions, we do morning chores and then start on school work.  We have a snack mid-morning, and usually finish school work by lunch time, although we are flexible enough to continue after lunch if we need to.  After lunch, we have quiet time.  Throughout the day, Mom is doing her own school work, helping the kids with theirs, and doing house work.  After quiet time, we do afternoon chores and then have play time, either inside or out depending on weather.  Mom starts dinner, and kids have free time until dinner.  After dinner, Kaleigh goes to bed while Hunter does his bed time chores and then reads until his bed time.  Mom and Dad have a little time to catch up at the end of the day, sometimes Mom is finishing up house work.  Lights go out and the day is over, only to start it all over again tomorrow.

Weekends do not go nearly so smoothly.

This is becoming a bit of a tangential post.  I never realized I had so much to say about routine.

Anyway, while we have a "household" routine, I have become a bit... slack... in a personal routine.  Especially since we have all been sick for about two weeks now.  But still.  I miss having the personal routine.  Instead of getting up at the same time each morning and getting ready for the day, sometimes I get up and laze around for an hour or so until it's time to get the kids up.  Sometimes I sleep until it's time to get the kids up.  Sometimes I oversleep, and the kids get to sleep in.  Usually I make breakfast, but sometimes I just don't feel like it and the kids eat cold cereal (which, by the way, they do not mind).  Sometimes I shower before the kids get up, sometimes I wait until they are working on their school work.  Sometimes I do something with my hair; but many times, especially if I know I don't have to leave the house that day, I just pull it back into a ponytail or messy bun and leave it.  

All this to say, without a personal routine, I have begun to feel lazy.  And I don't like the feeling of being lazy.  Even if I would look at another person doing the exact same things and say, "Wow, you're not lazy at all!  You get a lot done each day, and who cares if sometimes you shower at 10 a.m.?  You deserve a break, and it doesn't hurt anyone no matter what time you shower."  I still feel lazy.  So I am revamping my personal schedule and routine.

For starters, it's been a few weeks, due to illness and holidays and sleeplessness and a host of other factors, since we have been to the Y.  Randy rarely gets to go except on weekends because of his drive.  So we are changing that.  We are going to start meeting there in the evenings when he gets off work, and having family time at the Y.  The kids have groups they can go with, and I won't feel like my whole morning is taken up with it.  Secondly, my  morning routine is changing.  I'm going to get up with Randy (as I often do anyway), and get ready for the day as I used to when I was going to work.  Yoga pants and ponytails and no makeup are all going to become the occasional rather than the everyday.

I am going to make myself a list of what I need to get done every day.  Wait - already did that.  Okay, I am going to stick to that list.  Seriously.  For real this time.  HA.  Actually I am going to need to revamp that list to include some non-household items, such as writing.  I want writing to become a part of my daily routine.  Not just "well, I feel like writing now, so too bad the floors aren't swept yet," but actually part of my "job."

This is probably going to come across as rigid to some.  But I mean it to be a flexible outline for myself, rather than solid walls that cannot be bended or changed or rescheduled when needed.  It's just something I need for me. 


One thing every parent knows is that we not only teach our children, but we also learn from them.  I think that I sometimes miss these lessons because I am too caught up in whatever I happen to be doing at the time.  And believe me, there is never a dull moment around here, and I always seem to be in the middle of something.  But I have been really trying to be more aware of the little things and what I can learn from them.

The other day, the kids and I went out to the car to run over to JoAnn's for some scrapbooking supplies.  We got out into the 12-degree outside, opened the car doors, and - Lo and Behold - Kaleigh's carseat was not there.  Daddy had forgotten to take it out of his car the night before when he got home from picking the kids up at Grandma's house.  Thankfully, I had an extra, in the garage.  Not-so-thankfully, said extra had moldy straps.  Thankfully, Kaleigh no longer has to wear the straps, as she is old enough for just a booster seat.  Not-so-thankfully, it was still 12 degrees outside.  

Rather than haul the kids back inside and try to wrestle with the seat in the narrow hallway (can't wait to move out of our tiny house!), I decided to just take the straps out right there, outside, and be done with it.  I'm nothing if not efficient.

So there I am, in the bitter freezing cold, trying to get the stupid straps and all their buckles through the many holes in the plastic seat and its fabric covering, cursing the cold weather and wondering why winter can't just be from December 23 to January 3 and why my husband can't just remember to take the stupid carseat out of his car as soon as he gets home instead of waiting til morning and then forgetting it EVERY SINGLE TIME.  In my head, all I am doing is basically complaining and grumbling and working myself into a bad mood.

And my daughter, standing off to the side and seemingly oblivious to the frigid air, is singing.

In my crabby mood, I almost told her to be quiet.  The Holy Spirit (there's no way I can take credit by calling it self-control) stopped me.  How dare I tell her to stop singing just because I am unhappy with my current circumstances?!

My heart was softened, and I took the moment to remind myself that even though I cannot control what happens to me and around me, I CAN control how I respond to it.  I took a deep breath, wrenched the last buckle out of the seat, tossed the whole moldy contraption into the trash (I'll never need it again anyway), and apologized to my kids for my grouchiness.  I silently apologized to my husband (who never knew how upset I was with him at that moment, since he didn't answer his phone when I called to ream him out for leaving the carseat in his car - anyone see how hard the Holy Spirit was working that morning???), and asked God to help me have a better attitude.

And to remember that no matter what my circumstances are, I can still have a song in my heart.  Even in 12 degree weather.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

This and That

There is a nasty bug going around these parts, and it has infested our home.  Randy and Kaleigh got the respiratory part of it; Ryan got the stomach part of it; Hunter and I have not gotten any of it yet.  I, however, appear to have a bit of a sinus infection.  I'm doing my best to fight it with vitamins, juice, tea, and my Neti pot.  

My final project - a group project - is due in tonight's class.  My final project for the other class is due next week.  My last class period for tonight's class is next week, and the take home final exam is due the week after that.  It is so nice to be within sight of the end of the semester.  It is really hard to believe how quickly the semester has gone, especially when I think back to the first day of class, when I drove to campus literally in tears over the amount of work and seriously considering dropping my classes.  That level of freak-out-ness was one I hadn't experienced in about seven years.  Now that it's almost done, it doesn't seem like nearly as much work as it looked like on paper three months ago.

I completed my NaNo on Tuesday night with an extra 400+ words and two hours to spare.  It was the first time since beginning the annual challenge that I have not still been pounding frantically on my keyboard at 11:58 p.m. on November 30.  It was also the first year I worked on two novels simultaneously, which I think helped a lot with my writer's block issues (they are common and frequent).  It also leaves me with a lot more to work on in the next few months, but I am actually looking forward to it.  I am very pleased with the way both storylines are going right now, and I feel good about the ideas I chose this year.

Hunter also participated this year, in the NaNo Young Writer's Program.  He also reached his goal of 3000 words, with a few extra words as well.  He also completed his story.  Next week, we will spend some time together editing it, during which time I will get to read it for the very first time.  I am very excited about that.  He gets a free printed copy of his little novel, which he and I both think is pretty awesome.

Speaking of school - oh, wait, I really wasn't speaking of school.  Well, Hunter's novel was part of his school for the month of November.  There, I mentioned it.  Now speaking of school, Hunter is doing very well.  His math still leaves room for improvement, but it is improving, which is good.  Everything else is also improving, and it is obvious to everyone that he is quite intelligent.  In fact, this writing project makes it even more obvious.

My brother and sister-in-law are here, and because of our illnesses, I haven't been able to see them yet.  Tomorrow night, we are having Christmas with them at my mom's house.  I am very excited about giving them their gifts from us.  And nervous.  I hope they like them.  Speaking of which, I still have one of them to finish up today - and maybe tomorrow; we'll see how today goes.

My mom is so wonderful that she is going to take my kiddos today a couple of hours early.  She usually comes to our house on Thursdays to watch them while I go to class.  Today she asked if I could meet her with them and she could take them to her house, since my brother and sister-in-law are here.  Of course I didn't mind a bit, and since I'm not feeling well - and just generally need a little time to myself - she offered to take them early so I could have that.  She is such a great mom - all the time and in lots of ways, but this is just one of the ways she proves it.

Love you, Mom :).