1

Mittens & Mittens all Hung in a Row.

IMG_3680

I posted a few years ago about our Mitten tradition. When Lola & Diego were about 3 or 4 I felt so bad, becuase the house was all decorated for Christmas, and every morning they would wake up and ask “Is it Christmas yet?” So I came up with the idea to hang Christmas stockings with a fun surprise inside, and take one down everyday. This way they could see for themselves how many mittens were left, and how many day before Christmas!

Since this will be our 4th or 5th year now doing this, t really is  a tradition! I have learned that since I actually put memory makers in the mittens that it takes a little planning. I thought I would share this years Memory Mitten ideas. You can follow us on Instagram @CincoDeMami

Dec 1: Make Bird Feeders  for the Kindness Elves

Dec 2: Write Letters to Santa

Dec 3rd: Start a new holiday chapter book, and continue to read it all month

Dec 4th: Watch “The Year Without a Santa Claus”  (1974 version) and have popcorn and a cocoa bar

Dec 5th: Make gingerbread houses

Dec 6th: Winterfest

 2012-11-25 23.03.02 - Copy

Dec 7th: Messiah @ Cary Westwood Baptist

Dec 8th: Watch “Elf” and have pancakes for dinner! (special occasion meal :-)

Dec 9th: Make a reindeer craft and watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Dec 10th: Skype Santa with Portable North Pole

2012-12-18 23.29.06

Dec 11th: Make candy cane reindeer for the Kindness Elves

Dec 12th: We will be out of town, but I found this great Virginia Beach light show 

Dec 13th: We will still be in Virginia Beach, so tonight we plan to go to the Parade!

Dec 14th: Oakwood Candle Light Tour. We went on this home tour before we had kids. We have continued the tradition every year since. No, don’t worry, we don’t drag our small tribe into peoples meticulously decorated homes. the great thing is that the homes are decorated just as much on the outside, so we stop and get Krispy Kremes and walk the neighborhood enjoying all the outside decorations and the music playing!

083

084

Dec 15: Decorate Placemats for the Kindness Elves

Dec 16th: Get our tree at the Jordan Tree farm, where we get to pick out and chop down our own tree!

2012-11-26 20.35.51 - Copy

2012-11-26 21.04.14

2012-11-26 21.28.36 - Copy

Dec 17th: Decorate the Christmas tree, and have hot coco and listen to Christmas music

Dec 18th: Make no-sew fleece caps for the Kindness Elves!

Dec 19th: Watch “Home Alone” and make Santa Pizzas

Dec 20th: Visit the Tanglewood Festival of Lights!

Dec 21st Bake and decorate cookies!

Dec 22nd: Benson Meadow Lights!

Dec 23rd: Wendell Wonderland!

Dec 24th Christmas Eve! We have Fondue for dinner and everyone gets to open new PJ’s, we then play a new family board game.

2012-12-19 00.32.28

2012-12-19 00.45.33

If you noticed, most of the this list is free activities, but the great thing is the memories that they will create will last a lifetime and are priceless!

 

 

 

3

Move Over Elf on the Shelf! The Kindness Elves are Here!

 unnamed

I have not gotten on board with the whole Elf on the Shelf thing. I don’t have anything against him, it just seems like a lot of work, for little return. What I mean by that is that there is no real lesson in Elf on the Shelf…as a matter of fact, he’s quite a naughty little elf.  When I came across the idea for Kindness Elves, I thought ‘now this is a tradition I can get behind! Yea, it’s probably even more work, but I will get behind anything that helps instill kindness and compassion in my children.  With this said, tomorrow our little elves will appear. We happened to have these sweet little elves tucked away already. I think they will make perfect Kindness Elves.  You can use any elves…you can even use the real Elf on the Shelf, and just rehabilitate his ornery habits.

Beginning tomorrow morning…these sweet little elves will appear with an act of kindness for my children to complete. Every night they will return to the North Pole to share with Santa these compassionate deeds.

I have compiled a tentative itinerary forall 24 days leading up to Christmas..here it is!

Day 1: The Elves will return the Santa sacks from last year. The kids will fill these sacks with underused and unwanted toys to be donated back to Santa (local shelter). Santa will return these bags Christmas morning full of Christmas goodness.

Day 2: Write letters and drawings to send to the military

Day3: Draw pictures for Color A Smile. Color A Smile is a nonprofit organization that collects cheerful drawings from volunteers of all ages.  Every month they distribute thousands of these colorful drawings to Senior Citizens, Our Troops Overseas, and anyone in need of a smile.

Day 4: The kids will make birdfeeders for our feathered friends.

Day 5: Donate to KIVA , a non-profit microlending organization with a mission to alleviate poverty

Day 6: Tape quarters to parking meters.

Day 7:Make salt-dough Christmas ornaments to deliver to friends, family, and our neighborhood.

Day 8: Decorate oven mitts that will be used by Meals on Wheels delivery drivers.

Day 9: Log onto Rice.org and log some rice points. For every answer the kids get right, The United Nations World Program donates 10 grains of rice to help end hunger.

Day 10: Sweep the leaves off our neighbor’s porches.

Day 11: Build fuzzy-sock care packages for the homeless (make a dollar store run for these)

Day 12: Nominate a family to be their secret Santa, or give them a 12 days of Christmas. You can follow this on Instagram @CincodeMami

Day 13: Make reindeer out of candy canes to pass out.

Day 14: Pass out the reindeer candy canes to kids at a Christmas Parade we will be going to!

Day 15: Pass out ornaments to homes that are part of a Christmas home tour we are going to

Day 16: Make placemats and  lunch bags for Meals on Wheels recipients.

Day 17: Write letters to VA. Recovering American Soldier C/o Walter Reed Army American Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW Washington DC, 20307

Day 18: Make no-sew fleece caps for children going through chemotherapy

Day 19: Volunteer to clean our schools classrooms before the winter break

Day 20: Bake Cookies and deliver to police officers, fire departments and nurses

Day 21: Decorate holiday cards for soldiers overseas. Red Cross-sponsored Holiday Mail for Heroes

Day 22: Collect used towels to donate to the local animal shelter or make pet toys for them.

Day 23: Make no-sewew fleece scarves for the homeless

Day 24: Adopt a “grandfriend” and make regularly scheduled visits just to offer company….

Follow our Kindness Elves on instagram @CincodeMami

While looking for service projects I came across this great site.

http://www.bigheartedfamilies.org/

0

Today I am Thankful

IMG_9592

Today I am thankful for :

Lost socks

Random sharpie artwork on floors, ceilings and furniture

Early morning wake ups (and late night, and any other time I am trying to sleep)

Not being able to make 4 different school lunches without at least one complaint.

Nonstop talking and questions before I can get through my first cup of coffee

A bathtub full of toys

Not being able to pee, shower or dress in private

Hours of homework help

Boy Bands, Taylor Swift and Tween Music

Cooking for what seems to be like a small army, all with different likes and dislikes

Sitting through hours of theater performances and soccer games

Naked kids that refuse to wear clothes

Potty training

Broken windows, furniture and doors

Wet beds

Forgoing any enjoyable music for Disney Pandora and Kids Bop

Having to escort a child to the bathroom, just when my dinner arrives at a restaurant

Piles and Piles of laundry that never ends

Are we there yet?

Tattle-tales

Throwing 5 Birthday parties within 3 months

snot, vomit and pee

Hours of being stuck in the car, taxing kids to soccer, dance and theater

The words MINE! I didn’t do it! and the famous Not Me!

5am weekend wake-ups, yet having to force them out of bed at 7a on school days

10 minute intervals of potty stops while on long trips

Five kids screaming at once!

For all this I am thankful. Because one day my children will be grown, moved out, and I know that I will miss this, and long for these memories!

1

National Adoption Day

10388632_10205450221881164_1936368001966447141_n

Yesterday was National Adoption Awareness Day. This has become the day that counties across the United States invite families that have come together through adoption to join in a celebration at the courthouse. The adoption process has been streamlined to just a lot of paper shuffling, signing and notarizing. As a matter of fact, it was just an ordinary Tuesday when our paperwork arrived in the mail telling us that we are now a forever family! I love that judges and courts now celebrate this moment with families!

We were hoping that the formality of the court celebration would help the kids understand that this is now their forever home. Kai has still been holding onto the hope that reunification with his bio-mom is possible, and Imani just doesn’t understand permanency, and is still concerned that she will have to leave and go live somewhere else.

10377250_10152531246421939_8181467422006561631_n

Among my joy and celebration, I had to set my feelings to the side.  “Why?” you ask. because for our little 7 year old, this was not a celebratory time. His face said it all, mixed feelings of loss and the new feeling of safety and security he has been experiencing for the last two years.

His bio-mom will always be his ‘mom’. I understand and respect the love he has for her. I try to keep the fading memories he has of her alive, with questions and observations thrown into our conversations; “Your voice is beautiful, just like K’s”… It’s difficult to process fostercare for children. It’s more difficult to understand foster-adopt. All they know is that this parent they loved is all of a sudden gone from their lives, and new parents, strangers are inserted. When you try to look at it through their eyes, it really is a strange idea.

The heart of a child is an amazing thing. It’s loyal, unconditional, and tender. So with this I held my children tight, and balanced my outward emotions with my inward joy, knowing that one of my children was mourning his past, while I was celebrating his future!

161b79eee9893ae5b30ffe31018be23e

2

What’s in a Name?

Kaizen1

What’s in a name? Well, actually a lot! A name can hold your past, present and future. It’s how others identify us, and often how we identify ourselves.

When we had a therapist suggest that we offer letting T change his name, leaving the trauma of his past behind with it, and moving forward with a fresh start and a new name we weren’t sure what he would think of the idea. To our surprise, he embraced it! He Immediately chose a new name! The name he chose was Kai, which I later looked up and the meaning of Kai in Hawaiian is Sea. After a little more research, I also found this:

In Basque, Kai is a common word meaning “pier of a harbour” and a variant of the first name Kaio (from the old Latin name Caius) In Burmese, Kai means “strong” or “unbreakable” In Chinese, Kai is a common name that can have one of several meanings, including “triumphant.

I think this is very fitting! After several weeks, of letting Kai sit with his name, and encouraging us to call him that, we went ahead and publicly announced it. I sent a note to the principal and his teacher, letting them know what has happened and the ‘why’ behind it.

It was about 3 weeks later, that I was standing in the ‘walk-up’ carpool line at school, when one of the TA’s ran towards me yelling, yes yelling! “T does NOT want to be called Kai, so why don’t you just let the kid be called T!”. Completely taken back, and understanding that this was not the place or time to discuss this I just stood there dumbfounded.  It wasn’t until I got home and sat with the heaviness  of the day, that I began to cry. I am the first to admit that I don’t always know what I am doing, and rely heavily on the advice of ‘experts’, and what speaks to my heart. Parenting is challenging, parenting five kids is more challenging, but trying to navigate the healthiest path for my five children that have been through varying degrees of trauma can be down right exhausting, and at times lonely.  This attack felt like a kick while I was down, I was already working through Kai’s latest school transition.  I later wrote a letter to the principal outlining what had happened today and restating how we came to this decision, and that it was Kai who chose the name. The reply I got back was shocking:

Good morning,

Sorry for what happened yesterday.  I looked into the official file we have and we do not have an official name change for T/Kai.  Until we have such document, legally we need to call him Torrey.  Once you have the document, please give us a copy as soon as you can.
Thank you,
So, basically, children can not be called by their nic-names or shortened names? I call Bullsh*t! I pointed that out to her and let it go.
At this point Kai has switched schools again. The Montessori program he was in was not a good fit for a child that has never had structure in their life. He is now at a public school with strong EC resources.
As for me, I will continue to grow that thick skin, and advocate for my children….whatever their names are!
0

It Takes A Village: The Guardian Ad Litem

kidsgraphic4.102211001_std

In the county I live in, right now there are over 600 plus children in the foster-care system. Each one of these children will be appointed a Guardian ad Litem. This is a volunteer position, and currently our county is in desperate need of people willing to step up and become a child’s advocate.  Guardians ad Litem serve as court-appointed advocates for abused and neglected children who come to the attention of the juvenile court system. Judges depend on testimony and reports from the Guardian ad Litem to inform their decisions about how to protect each child from further harm and meet their needs.

We were very lucky! Our Guardian ad Litem was/is an Angel. She took this position seriously, and never missed an appointment, court date or home visit. She did it with a smile on hr face and love in her heart. She has become an extended family member, and knew and fought for the protection of our children before we even met them.

A lot of people I encounter are concerned about the amount of children in the foster-care system, but are unable to adopt or foster a child. This is just one more way that someone can help the children without making a life-long commitment to the child.

What exactly does the Guardian ad Litem do? This is taken from the website:

Volunteer Responsibilities

  • Visits the child and keeps the child informed about the court proceedings.
  • Communicates with the Attorney Advocate to develop legal strategies to further the best interests of the child.
  • Gathers and assesses independent information on a consistent basis about the child to recommend a resolution that is in the child’s best interest. 
  • Interviews the parents, guardians, caretakers, social workers, and other service providers, and reads records related to the case.
  • Seeks cooperative solutions with other participants in the child’s case. 
  • Writes fact-based, child-focused reports for court hearings.
  • Attends and participates in court hearings and other related meetings to advocate for a permanent plan thatserves the child’s best interest. 
  • Testifies, if needed, to inform the court of the child’s situation.
  • Ensures that the court knows the child’s wishes.  
  • Keeps all records and information confidential.
  • Monitors all court-ordered services and keeps the court informed about the needs of the child.
  • Consults with local program staff for support and guidance.

If you have love in your heart,  passion for justice and a little extra time these children need YOU!

2

They’re Ours!! Adoption Finalized!

10329166_10152293346816939_4889795082853303403_n

1 year, 9 months and 8 days after meeting our three youngest children for the first time they are ours! Adoption complete! What does this mean for our family?

  • No more home visits!
  • We get to make all decisions regarding our children (without counsel from The Team)
  • We are free to travel anywhere and anytime with our children, without special permission and notes
  • No one can take them from us. No changed minds, or family members suddenly appearing
  • We all have the same last name! We are now the Le Chevalliers!