some totally true but quite humorous secrets about the adoption trip people never tell you…

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Look. I know it is a wonderful emotional, beautiful experience. And I mean that. I lived it!! And I can’t wait to do it again.

BUT….

There are a few things about your adoption travel experience that people won’t tell you. And I feel it is only right that someone breaks the bond of silence. Knowledge is power. And as I chatted with an online friend today about the trip I thought to myself that more people should be equipped with that power. And no, I am not telling you which of these I personally experienced. (ok, all of them…)

1.)  The dreaded, “DON’T DRINK THE WATER!!!!” warnings will be heeded but at some point, accidentally, you will drink it. For some it will mean nothing more than hours spent in fear, over analyzing every tummy gurgle, every gaseous emission. Those folks will be fine. For others?? Not so lucky. You will spend some time, well, crapping like you never have before. (I don’t really know a gentle way to put that.) Here is the thing though. Since you have been so repeatedly warned about the water, you will not actually admit you allowed a trickle past your lips. So instead, like everyone else on the trip, you will catch that “tummy bug” going around that everyone else has had, because they too forgot and brushed their teeth from the tap but can’t admit to that secret shame.

2.) You and your spouse, partner, parent, best friend will be ready to stab/maim/murder each other at some point on the trip. I don’t care how tight your budget is and how poor you are. If you have the means to read this then you have a place to live that is probably larger than a 240 square foot box. Two weeks straight….tight quarters, hard beds, someone snores, someone misplaced something, someone BREATHED WRONG. At some point you will literally hate the person next to you on this beautiful journey with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. It may last a minute. A tiny flash of daydream where you, with a smile on your face, are suffocating your beloved aunt with a foam pillow because daggone it she has snored her last snore!!! Or it may last a few hours as you draft up a divorce decree for your spouse who treated you like a dog with orders and commands in front of your whole travel group. Ahem, uh, hypothetically. Either way, don’t deny that hatred. Acknowledge it, take a deep breathe, stab him I mean forgive him, have a glass (bottle) of wine, and move on, knowing soon you will be back in your home, where you can retreat to distant corners like cage fighters on a break.

3.) Don’t feel guilty when, after those first amazing moments when your new child gets brought to you for the first time have passed, and the feelings of bliss subside slightly, that you are suddenly a little bit queasy because your child SMELLS SO BAD. I know. The basis of this is SO sad. Hours in a wet diaper, crazily sweaty because of how they layer the kids in hot clothing, weeks or months at a time without any kind of bathing….sad truths. But it does not change the fact that your kiddo, so precious, so long awaited, will stink to high heaven. Of course, this will not deter you in any way from hugging, snuggling and kissing the stanky little monkey, but it is normal so don’t feel badly for thinking, “Man I love this kid but MAN he reeks!!!”

4.) You will steal things from the breakfast buffet.

5.) This time change is a MAJOR event for the human body. And with the exception of the aforementioned possible ramifications of drinking the local water, you may spend the majority of time wondering how it is possible to eat 3 meals a day, for 9 days straight, and not poop once because for the love of PETE your whole body must be ready to explode or something, right?? A lot is happening. And different bodies manage stress and change in different ways. Constipation is one of those very common ways. Bring a few fiber bars to be on the safe side.

6.) So…you are sharing the wonder of adoption with your children?? Test the benadryl (or nyquil, whatever) PRIOR to travel. Do you know how many people I know who have dosed their kiddos with crack I mean benadryl on the 15 hour flight home from China only to have it backfire and make their kids wired and crazy instead of sweet and dreamy???? Look. You wanna knock back a few, pop an ambien, whatever. Snooze away. But if you want that slumbering peace, make sure you know your kid responds to melatonin/benadryl/bourbon in the preferred manner.

7.) Adoption is crazy expensive. It sucks that this is true, and I wish it wasn’t so everyone could do it, but it is. But by the time you travel you have already spent a lot. Do yourself a favor and rather than save $387 bucks on a flight with two layovers, just suck it up, beg grandma for the cash, sell a few appliances, or do whatever it takes to fly the easy and most direct way HOME. Why?? Because no matter how wonderful your trip was (and mine was AMAZING) by the time you get to the airport to board that plane home, and you experience the first of the harrowing layovers/plane changes/etc you will literally be willing to do ANYTHING to get onto a direct flight. After all, the person with you from number 2 above doesn’t REALLY need both kidneys, right? So make the sacrifice if humanly possible, and book the easiest way home.

8.) Unless that pool looks super clean, smells perfectly normal AND is excessively chlorine-y, do NOT go in it. Guess what?? Find 20 adoption blogs of people who blogged while traveling. Chances are many of them used the hotel pool. And the chances are that the majority of those who used the pool (typically in province as GZ is westernized and safer for this stuff) end up sick. Ear or eye infections, fevers, etc. Why?? Well different bugs and bacterias live in a different part of the world than what we are accustomed to, and don’t forget there are also very different standards for pool cleanliness. So unless you are in a high end hotel in a more westernized province, I would play it safe.

9.) I am an organic mommy. All fruits and veggies, meats and dairy…yup. All organic. Heck, sometimes I even buy the ridiculous 3 dollar box of organic mac n cheese even though it makes no difference but frankly makes me feel a little bit superior. But traveling with 5 kids and a VERY needy husband, at some point I will walk into McDonald’s and surely kiss the counter while we order fries and nuggets.

10,) Last trip, prior to travel Ken expressed a few concerns about, ahem, “adult time” over the course of those two weeks with a new toddler in the room. I got a LOT of flack for being honest about that. This time?? 8 of us will be traveling. If you are traveling with your spouse, don’t forget…the two of you have needs too!!! Whether the hubs is getting grouchy, whether mama needs to feel a connection, whether you have jet lag and are wide awake at 2:14 a.m. Go for it. Cement this time together with, ahem, time together. Just keep it quiet. And maybe quick. But don’t forget that this is a family. Not just an adoption. Meet each other’s needs too, in all the ways you can. This is a beautiful, special, and yes, tough time. Don’t forget that, and don’t forget your partner because you are creating something together.

the problems of living in a neighborhood full of old people…

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A few of you may recall a post from a ways back (over a year ago) when my kiddos built a treehouse on a vacant lot in our neighborhood. A few boards, a few nails, and a big old oak tree was transformed, well, into a big old oak tree with a few boards nailed into it that suddenly made it a fort.

One afternoon we had family and friends over and all the kids went over there to check it out. One of the nasty neighbors called the lot owner, who drove over and instead of being humane and having an appropriate response, called the cops on a bunch of little boys 9 years old down to 4 years old. Yeah, seriously. Read my, ahem, slightly perturbed post here….

http://thesweetfamilylife.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/seriously-you-did-not-just-call-the-cops-on-my-kids-for-that/

Anyway, we have avoided the lot completely since then, and now, two houses down, my kids have found a very cool little place. It is in neighborhood property, a common area, but is behind the trees, covered in canopy, and by the edge of a bit of swampy marsh. They discovered it about 4-5 months ago. They showed it to me, and it is a tiny hidden natural area with a cleared hill, lots of dead branches, and natural wonders galore. There were also cigarette butts and a few empty beer cans, nails, and other debris so I made sure the kids understood they could only be there all together, and that no one was ever alone there. The first month went by in happy oblivion. A little more clearing of the area, designated “rooms”, etc. They know not to touch the mangroves, they cleared the debris, and broke a few branches of brazilian pepper trees only.

Another month passed and I got a call from the man who lives next door to the area. He left a message, stating that the kids were destroying the mangroves. Needless to say I ran over there and discovered…..nothing. No destruction. I checked everything. Sure they had hammered a few nails and broken some branches but ONLY on the brazilian pepper tree. The canopy, and all mangoves, were completely intact. I called him back, and it went into voicemail (obviously, as cowards always rely on voicemail) and I explained that I investigated and that clearly there was no mangrove or canopy damage.

Nothing. Not a peep since then. Now, I figured I would hear something else. This couple has no kids, never have had any, and although the wife is sweet, they are tree huggers to the extreme and the husband seems like a big nasty foul tempered turd. (sorry, but if the shoe fits…)

Then? Today. Ken runs into the bedroom and hands me a letter. “Leah, the kids can’t play in the fort anymore.” “What??” I read the letter and it is absurd. It states how they are destroying protected plants and are not allowed to play there any more.

My thoughts? They can bite me. My words? All legally responsible, appropriate, and business like. ;) If the community management folks thought I was a lady who could be bullied by a few big words they are mistaken. Granted, on the lot, the owner had every right to kick us off. He had every right to call the cops. I never said he didn’t. Did he need to? No he sure didn’t. It was unnecessary, and excessive. But it was still his right. This time? No destruction. Oh, and guess what? We have a legal right to the common areas of this neighborhood, tract A included. Boom.

I got on my bike and pedaled over to the property. I took pictures. I documented the “mass destruction” which consisted of a few scratched limbs and broken branches, NONE of which were on protected species or affected the canopy. And actually, Florida environmental management says that no one should be protecting the brazilian pepper trees or allowing for their proliferation which, in this situation, could be considered the case.

At the end of the day these nasty, whiny, selfish old people are annoyed because kids are 14 feet away from their home, playing, and living happy young little lives. Their misery and whining is getting really old. Will I go postal on them? Nope. But I will forever immortalize Mr and Mrs Carmelita in my blog. And maybe in the morning I will send my kids over there at 6:30 a.m. instead of making them wait until 8 on the dot. Good morning!!!!!!

an indiscretion with the delivery man and an important adoption announcement…

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For the record, I think this is freakin hilarious. Everyone may not agree, and that’s ok. I won’t judge you for not liking it. But make sure you watch the video below… ;)

If you are in the process of international adoption, you KNOW you have joked about your relationship with the UPS, FED EX, or DHL guy. So yeah. I went there. Why? Because WE GOT OUR LOA baby!!!!!!!! Take a peek, and have a laugh at my expense as usual. For those NOT in the realm of international adoption, I am pretty sure my video will still have you either a.) ashamed to know me b.) in hysterics c.) wondering if my kids will be scarred forever because of what they witnessed or d.) ordering your own parcel service uniforms to play a rousing rendition of “Ma’am I have a special delivery for you….” Either way, no judgment. But by all means, take a peak, and have a great laugh.

 

things that scare me….

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1.) tiny cruise cabins. i want to take a cruise but it does not become cost effective when you need the biggest suite possible to assuage your fear of confined spaces.

2.) the little singing potato cartoon guys on the disney jr channel. seriously. they are potatoes and they speak and sing and do little cameos and use british accents. it is highly disturbing. has kids’ programming been so depleted of fresh new ideas that we need british potatoes?? what about american made? doesn’t idaho suffice????

3.) that God’s timing is not mine. i wish i knew more. but i don’t. and i need to learn to trust Him in that but it is a constant struggle.

4.) roaches. most harmless of all the bugs but they petrify me to my deepest darkest depths.

5.) the idea that one day jimmy fallon WON’T have me on his show. i mean, really. i should be there.

6.) that my legacy will be some pictures and a few silly blog posts

7.) the sad theory that i have not used the gifts given to me for the purposes i was given them. tongue twister. i am now, almost officially, middle aged. what does that mean? what have i done?? by the world’s standards, not too much. and that is a battle in my mind on a regular basis.

8.) terms including “bestie,” “chillax,” or “hizzy my nizzy,” ever coming out of my mouth.

9.) kenny leaving for a business trip and one day not coming home.

10.) that my boys will get married and their wives will hate me and keep me from my grand babies. that’s probably my biggest fear ever. thus, i plan on giving my daughters-in-law anything they want from day one. so ladies?? a head sup on that.

A few OBVIOUS tips for adoptive parents that are maybe not so OBVIOUS

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So. You have adopted a new little one, or are about to. Well, parenting is gonna change. No matter your experience with 6 other biological kids, guess what….some things are different. Not all. Not none. And heck, to make it even trickier, those things that need to be different vary from child to child due to different histories for EACH child. But let’s make one thing clear….there are a few UNIVERSAL truths about your newly adopted child that you can apply, no matter the situation. And if this post seems a little harsh that is because it is. These kids deserve nothing less than our 110% and when we don’t follow a few basic efforts from the start then we rob them of what they deserve.

1.) You need to start with a blank slate.  The truth is that you know NOTHING about this precious child, the traumas she has endured, the miseries she has faced, the hardship she has overcome. What looks like a normal response could be pure anxiety. A meltdown? Sensory overload. A tantrum? Heartbreaking, soul shattering grief. Refusal to do something? A lack of understanding about who is in authority and how to respond to it. You think you understand 4 year old girls and can put them all into the same box? You can’t. This is a NEWBORN child, regardless of her age. And she needs to be treated as such.

2.) You need to get rid of the negative connotations. What you see and envision as manipulation, rebellion, or bullying is most likely a pure fight or flight survival mechanism. Don’t assume this is a horrible child who has a nasty nature. Instead, see this child as the broken piece of precious and beautiful glass she is and only the gentlest and most patient of touches will heal her little heart. She is acting out because her world is rocked and she is filled with fear, confusion, anger, loss, and betrayal, yet again, from her perspective from the people who were caring for her.

3.) You need to show love whether or not you feel it. It’s the dirty secret no one tells you. Sometimes, whether bio or not, a new child does not instantly “mesh” with you. The picture or video that melted your heart is replaced by a living breathing person who is throwing a wrench into your easy life. And the truth is you WILL struggle. You WILL doubt. And it WILL be hard. So you need to fake it til you make it. The love comes. 999 times out of 1000 it comes. Work. Accept. Be present. And it will come.

4.) You need to act out of love because the child deserves nothing less. Saying your newly adopted child is spoiled is the worst thing I have ever heard, and I actually hear it a LOT. Let me tell you something. Sure, some kiddos are shown far more favor than others. But no matter how much they were favored I can assure you….starting life in an orphanage is hardly the start to a spoiled life. Doubt me? I have pictures to use as proof. What do you have? A crying baby and your own uneducated, personal philosophy? Uh huh. Sit back down tonto.

5.) You need to step back from your ideas about discipline. The child who is manipulating you and needs to know how things work in “your family” needs a little grace. I see this one a LOT. Adoptive parents insist that, well, we have certain standards and the children need to understand that from day one. Well, obviously, don’t let them try to murder others or say, drive the car. But bio kids get conditioned slowly but surely into your family’s standards early on. This new little boy or girl? The kid has been thrust into a world of standards they don’t and can’t understand. There is a lifetime to set standards, to establish rules and goals and boundaries. But spending a little time getting to know each other and showing grace is pretty important. Regardless of your religious background, most can agree that Jesus Christ is an amazing example of this. I think of Him in these scenarios….eating food and hanging out with the sinners. It was his EXAMPLE of love, self control, peace, and kindness that spoke of who He truly was. Were there times of confrontation? Anger? Yup. But not at first. Love and healing and acceptance were first. Understanding of discipline and consequence always came later. Give your own child that grace.

It is tough. We have preconceived notions about who kids are and what they can and can’t do and what things mean or don’t mean. But the fact is it IS different for our adopted new ones. Accept that. Be willing to learn, no matter how seasoned a parent you are!! Humble yourself. Isn’t your new little one worth that??

 

brothers and sisters and boys and girls and the drama is just now starting…

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I thought I had a few more years before we encountered this scenario, but apparently not.

My kids, all 4, are in a summer day camp this week. I miss them terribly, and I am super lonely and bored because yeah, I like my kids that much. Anyway, we gave another little camper a ride home yesterday. We know this guy and our families are close…we see each other weekly at least. Let’s call him Billy.

Anyway, for whatever reason, Billy and my older son Hadley got into the conversation of, “Hadley, I know who YOU like!!” and Hadley was like, “Well I know who YOU like.” My younger son Kincaid piped in and said, “Yeah, I know you like J. I know you like her!!” and Billy was like, “Yup. Yup. That’s it. That’s her. That’s who I like.” Hadley piped back in with, “Oh really?? Cause I know there is someone ELSE TOO!!!” and the kiddo said, “What? I don’t know what you’re talking about. Hadley, shut up. Don’t tell. Whatever.”

Those words came out in a flurry as sweet Billy’s face turned purple.

I turned the mirror and faced the little man in the back seat. “Billy, you know I am a mom, right?” “Well, um, yeah Mrs. Sweet.” “Right. Then you know I have the same skills your mom has, right?” “Ok. Yeah, I guess so.” “Does your mom know lots of stuff or only a little bit of stuff.” “Oh man, my mom knows like EVERYTHING.” “Exactly. So do you think I know about as much as your mom.” “Hmm. Yeah, probably. Uh oh.”

Yup. Oh. I made eye contact as we waited at a light. “So honey, I know the secret of who you like.” And then I mouthed her name in my car, the very car where said named young lady was about to be picked up from her camp in five minutes.

Billy looked at me in awe and said, “You ARE like my mom!!!” and continued to turn purple. Like eggplant face explosion purple. “Hadley and Mrs Sweet don’t tell anyone!!!” I agreed immediately of course, and Hadley just looked away.

As my sweet girl Chase boarded the bus (aka my monstrous gas guzzling SUV), she was clueless as to what had just transpired. She yammered on about her day, about the songs and hand motions and how she had expected more acting at acting camp but was sad because it was all just singing these songs…all as mini Romeo watched her, slack jawed, totally enamored. And this is a kid who is not prone to moments of silence. So yeah, kind of obvious but I let him think I was brilliant.

We dropped him off, and went home to dinner and early bedtimes with no more mention until I tucked my oldest in. “Mom?” Hadley asked me, eyebrows furrowed and mouth all twisted in his annoyed face. “Billy likes Chase. He told me today. That’s weird. And kind of gross.”

After laughing out loud (I tried not to, I swear), I said, “Hadley, I need to explain something. I thought it would be a while but well, here we are. The truth of the matter is that, well, as gross as YOU think your sister is, the fact of the matter is that 1.) she loves to catch bugs outside and climb trees 2.)  she can play mine craft and clash of clans like a champ and 3.) she is actually very very pretty. Based on these three things, your sister has the trifecta, buddy. Guys, even your best friends, are always gonna like her. And soon, her girlfriends are gonna see her cute older brother, and are going to like you. So you may as well get used to it now. He looked fairly nauseated, but handled the information well. The next ten years are gonna be interesting. And that’s without the added bonus of some other attractive opposite sex siblings with whom to contend. Sigh…….

the ken version, and then what REALLY happened….drama at the beach

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It was life and death…an almost tragedy…a veritable near death experience.

At least….from Ken’s perspective.

I will share Ken’s version of the almost atrocity, and then I will share my version. YOU are allowed to make your own decision as to what is real, and what is not.

Ken: “You know me. I never go in the ocean. But this time?? It was God because if I hadn’t been there you can only IMAGINE what would have happened. The water was flat – no waves, and totally clear as if we were back in St. Thomas. So for once I went in the water. The kids were all swimming and I thought to myself, ‘Ken? It it s a perfect day to swim and have an amazing time with the apples of your eye.’ So of course, being the great dad I am, I jumped in the water, swam and splashed and played with my children. As I was swimming with Chase, I noticed something. And then it was as if the Jaws theme came on and there it was. A SHARK. It was mere feet from my little girl!!!! It got closer and I knew any minute she would be in the jaws of death. Luckily, for once, I was in the water because I have cat like reflexes and incredible water vision because no one else saw this underwater killer, and because of that I was able to save her life. As the huge shark, at least about 6 feet long, swam within a foot of her, I swooped in and lifted her with my huge bulging manly muscles right out of the water. I yelled to the many children, all of whom were at peril, ‘SHARK!!!’ and because of my actions, 100′s of children moved to the safety of land. I bravely plowed through the waves, carrying my daughter above the surface, literally risking my legs as the sharked passed by. I got us to shore, probably only seconds before the shark attacked me. The lifeguards were grateful. I mean, I did their job for them. They should have seen it! I saved everyone. I am, truly, a hero.”

Leah (and everyone else on the beach): “Ken almost never goes in the water. He saw Jaws at like, 6 years old or something, so he is scared of being eaten. I can’t blame him, as being eaten alive is a fair fear (and one of my own) but still, a few feet out into the water at our local beach once is a while can’t kill him. Anyway, this Sunday, the water was totally clear and flat…no waves. Kincaid tried to surf but little was to be accomplished with the lack of movement on the water. Beautiful. I went paddle boarding and saw schools of fish, turtles, and other creatures. Back on land, I rested on the sand with my friend. I watched the kids splash in the water as Ken swam around with them. It was really sweet because he never goes in. I think he thinks he was earning points for later, because let’s face it, whenever he actually plays with the kids it earns major mommy points and the chances of him getting action later go up by about 87%. Anyway, I watched as Ken got all panicky, and I could see a shadow in the water. It was only a few feet in, and moving slowly. A small shark, maybe about 3, 3 1/2 feet, was passing horizontally to shore. Ken screamed like a 4 year old girl who lost her ice cream cone, grabbed Chase who was a foot or two away from the calm and harmless shark, and started tromping like mad through the water, screaming at everyone, ‘SHARK!!! SHARK!!!!!’ I tried to calm him down, and explain there are always sharks around in the water near us, and that they are harmless this time of day and in this location, and also tried to tell him to stop splashing and freaking out as everyone knows the last thing you do is splash around and attract attention, but whatever. He got to shore, and continued to yell at the other 10 people on the beach about the shark, about how they came so close to death, and how he was a hero who saved his daughter’s life. The lifeguards (who were doing a whole lot of eye rolling at this point) had to raise the double red flags for 30 minutes, and we all went to the pool. Ken proclaimed himself a hero, and the rest of us let him. I mean, we laughed lots and lots, but you know. He was very manly and pleased with himself so we let that go on a while.”

So it is up to you……………thoughts????