Maddie Rae Gotcha Day

Monday, January 26, 2009

Snow Day of Ridiculous Proportions

This morning was brutal. I had to rip myself from my warm covers, haul myself down to the kitchen which mercifully had coffee brewing for my weary body. I opened up the fridge to find no drink boxes, no milk, no waffles, no nothing. And I had to pack lunches. I somehow managed to scrounge up something to send my kids for lunch, chastised Jack for guzzling all the drink boxes over the weekend when he knows they are only for lunches, and turned the house upside down looking for water bottles. I even managed to coerce Jon into taking the boys to school so that I didn't have to go out in the cold. I finally got them all tucked into their coats, hats, gloves, and shoved them out the door. Ah. Quiet. Turn on the Today show. Uh oh. Things in our county are closed. CLOSED?! There is a DUSTING of snow on the ground. And that is being generous. Sure enough. The ticker ticks to their school. Closed. Unbelievable. So the school is closed and I didn't even get the benefit of not having to pack lunches. Grrrrr. What exactly is the criteria for closing school around here?!

Kung Hei Fat Choy!



I have to say, our Chinese New Year celebrations were quite different from the past 3 years, but we did try to mark the holiday. We went to a Chinese New Year "production" at our local library. There was a lot of dancing by cute little Chinese girls, a lion dance that Maddie Rae was scared of, and a Kung Fu number with a bunch of white guys and one African-American guy. It sort of made me nostalgic for last year when I could hear the beating drum of the lion dance out my window, could walk around and see all the decorations, and could watch my kid's eyes light up as they collected all their lai see money. After the show, the kids and I went to a local Chinese buffet with a bunch of other families with adopted kids from China. Jonah thoroughly enjoyed the buffet declaring, "Mom, this food is not good. It is SUPER good." Give the kids a buffet with an ice cream machine, and they are happy campers. I am supposed to go to Jack's class on Thursday to tell them all about Chinese New Year, so I'm trying to locate lai see packets in America. If only I had Park n Shop. Didn't think you'd ever hear me say that, did ya Carol?!?!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wild Things and a Great Giveaway!

Our house has been known to be "Where the Wild Things Are", and if I had a nickel for every time I said, "STOP being WILD!" I would be one rich mama. You take one boy and you may get moments of wildness, but you take two boys close in age, and you have some major wild things. Give them one second of free time and they are either a. wrestling b. staging a boxing match c. fighting d. dressing up as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and light saber dueling or e. all of the above. There is a new book out, appropriately called Wild Things, and I am happy to be participating in the book's promotional blog tour. And the really exciting part is that I have a FREE copy of the book to giveaway to one lucky reader. If you would like to participate in the giveaway, just leave me a comment with your email so that I can notify you if you win. And without further ado, please enjoy the interview with the authors.

Looking for answers on how to raise boys?
Ever wonder…
· Why can’t he sit still?
· Is he hearing a word I say?
· Why is he angry all the time?
Boys are born to be wild. Their strong spirit, endless imagination, and hunger for adventure are only matched by their deep desire to be affirmed, esteemed, and loved. In their new book Wild Things, therapists Stephen James and David Thomas help parents and educators understand what exactly makes boys tick.

1. In your last book, How to Hit a Curveball, Grill the Perfect Steak, and Become a Real Man, you addressed a lot of fatherhood issues about rearing boys. How is your new book, Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, different?

How to Hit a Curveball felt like a perfect introduction to this book. That book challenges men to take a good look at themselves, their experience of being boys themselves and how they were (or weren’t) fathered. We strongly believe that men can’t father well outside of paying attention to their own stories. Whether we like it or not, we are all creatures of habit. We gravitate back toward what we know – good or bad. That book was an invitation to look a little closer at both.

Wild Things is an invitation to take a closer look at your son. This book is a comprehensive look at boy development from birth to young adulthood. In addition to laying out the biology of a boy, we also look at the mind of a boy and the heart of a boy. We break down what a boy needs from his mom and from his dad in every stage of his development. We also hit on all the hot topics surrounding boys, everything from the impact of media to substance abuse, the role of sports, and sex and dating.

2. The subject of Wild Things was inspired by Maurice Sendak’s classic tale Where the Wild Things Are. Why did you find this theme so appropriate?

If you read closely Sendak’s story, he brilliantly speaks to a boy’s hunger for risk and adventure, how boys crave power and purpose, and how they make sense of the world around them. Sendak’s portrait of boys felt so accurate to the two of us and a unique way of exploring and dissecting a boy’s inner world.

In Wild Things, we borrow from the passion and ethos of Sendak’s book and use that to provide insight and direction for parents, teachers, and mentors in what it means to love a boy well. We also try and give a lot of real life examples from our own lives and from the families we work with in our counseling practices.

3. You address five key stages that a boy goes through on his journey to becoming a man. What stage is the most difficult for most boys to navigate?

Each of the stages holds unique challenges. We worked hard to break down each stage in a way that is easy to digest. We think that that parents and educators will walk away with a clearer understanding of a boy’s unique design in each stage and some practical ideas in how to care for him within that stage of his development.

In many ways Wild Things is the kind of thing that you don’t just read once. It is more like an entertaining reference guide that parents and teachers can go back to time and time again for encouragement, insight, and direction.

But if we had to identify one stage as the most challenging, though, we’d have to say the Wanderer stage (13-17). This window of a young man’s development is plagued by physical and emotional change. A colleague of mine, who is pediatrician, said boys in this stage are 98% hormone, which translates to their being so emotional. A part of their developmental agenda is moving toward independence and pulling away. He’s often times the most distant and hard to read in this stage, which greatly complicates the process of letting him go and trusting him with more independence. And it is during this stage that is has the ability to make decisions that will effect the rest of his life. The risks are real and boys in this stage lack the ability to choose wisely with their future in sight.

4. Both of you are fathers of girls and boys. How is parenting a boy different from parenting a girl?

Parenting boys in the first three stages is just so physical. Parenting boys in these years requires a great deal of physical energy—and a good back. Whereas parenting our daughters is so much more relational and emotional. Both are exhilarating and exhausting, but in different ways.

When I (David) engage my daughter, it’s in sitting in a neighborhood coffee shop talking about her day at school. My boys can sit at the coffee shop long enough to finish a chocolate chip cookie, spill their milk and then we’re kicking a soccer ball across the street at the park.

We talk a lot in the book about boys in motion and how to engage these active, physical beings. Girls need that too, no doubt, but not in the same way boys need it.

We had our families together the other day over at my (Stephen’s) house. At one point all the kids went out in the front yard to play: five boys and two girls in all. There were a number of balls lying around the yard. The boys started playing soccer with one ball and the girls started playing soccer with another. After a few minutes the boys were trying to kick the ball at each other and the girls were off to the side talking to each other. To me that is a great picture of the differences.

5. What mistakes have parents and educators made in their approach to rearing and training boys?

For me (Stephen) the consistent mistake my wife and I make is that we over explain and over verbalize with our sons. This is a problem that is very common. In parenting boys, adults tend to talk to them and at them a great deal. We talk and talk and talk and end up sounding a lot like Charlie Brown’s teacher. “Whah, whah, whah.” In Wild Things we offer a number of different strategies for engaging and educating boys that better match their unique design. Boys learn through experience and physical repetition. They need consistent firm boundaries and loads of encouragement.

As far as school goes we speak a lot in the book that the compulsory model we use for schooling in the United States is generally well-suited to a girl’s learning style. It’s heavy on verbal and written expression, two particular areas of strength for most girls. It involves a good deal of sitting still for extended periods of time with mostly auditory instruction. These methods don’t match a boy’s way of learning or draw on his learning strengths.

6. How did you come to the conclusions you discuss in Wild Things?

The book is a combination of science and research, clinical experience (our own as therapists and that of others), and our own journey of parenting five boys between the two of us.

As therapists, we have sat with thousands of men and boys over the years. Our hope was to bring their voices into the content of Wild Things. We have learned so much from the males we’ve had the great honor of working with and hoped to bring their stories into this text. In addition to those, we are still learning so much from living with five of our wild things.

7. At what age should parents discuss sex, homosexuality, and pornography with their boys?

You may be surprised to hear this answer, but we’d recommend beginning a dialogue around sexuality at the age of two. We aren’t recommending education around homosexuality and pornography at two. That begins typically around age 8-10, possibly earlier or later depending on the boy. But we are strong advocates of a healthy ongoing dialogue with every boy around the design of his body, sexuality, and boundaries in relationships in stage one. We lay out a good portion of this in the book to take some of the guess work out of it for parents, and we recommend some useful resources in further guiding you through this life long discussion. As boys grow older the conversation becomes more specific and more technical. Think of it like painting: it starts with broad brush strokes and then moves to finer detail. But as a rule, it starts way before most parents think it does.

8. What are the three most important factors in keeping a boy from experimenting with drugs?

We continue to see three common factors among young men that we’ve worked with who either abstain from using substances or experiment and then make a decision not to continue. The first would be a strong faith and core values. The second would be a strong family open to dialogue. The third would be strong relationships.

9. Who are the most important role models in a boy’s life?

There is no question that a boy’s parents play a foundational role in the man he becomes. In Wild Things we have a chapter that specifically address a mother’s relationship with her son as well as a chapter that addresses a father’s relationship with his son. But it doesn’t stop there for boys. There is great truth to the old African proverb that says “it takes a village.” We talk early in the book about how a boy begins to hunger for other voices and a part of our role is to put them in his way, so that he ends up with this community of individuals who believe in him and hold him up.

10. What kinds of things can a father do to bond with his son and raise him to be emotionally mature?

One of the first things we’d challenge a dad to do is to pay attention to his own story. That was a central purpose in our book How to Hit a Curve Ball, Grill the Perfect Steak and Become a Real Man: Learning the Lessons our Fathers Never Taught Us. Unless we understand how our stories inform who we are as men, husbands, and fathers, we stand to make a number of significant mistakes with our own sons. So before a man starts making a list of things to “do” with his son, we’d encourage him to start with himself. That step doesn’t involve his son at all, but is one of the most powerful ways to love and care for him.

That step gives way to the second step. In order for a father to raise an emotionally mature young man, he must be an emotionally healthy man himself. A boy desperately needs a dad who has an interior life. Our culture is flooded with emotionally stunted, emotionally damaged males. There’s no shortage there. Men have a responsibility to lead their son’s in living from their hearts. Women can’t really teach boys how to do this. Mom’s can invite it and encourage it, but the action of it must be modeled by a man.

Thirdly, we’d challenge dads to study his son in search of his boy’s definition of enjoyment. That’s different for every boy. We both have a set of twin boys. Two males with identical genetic ingredients and yet the outcome couldn’t be any more different. These guys, born within minutes of one another, have different passions, different strengths, and different longings. And they experience enjoyment in some similar ways as well as some different ways. We are both on a long journey of discovering what that is. Just as soon as we get a handle on it, it can change just as his development does. So it’s a long journey of studying these boys and pursuing their passions and their hearts.

11. People often talk about the father’s role in teaching a boy to be a man, but a mother’s relationship is important too. What are some mistakes a mother can make?

A mother’s role is so very important. That message is woven throughout Wild Things. There is so much to the answer to this question. You’ll need to read the book to get a comprehensive look at your role throughout his development. We talk a lot with mom’s about two unique callings within their role, both of which lend themselves to mistakes and potential harm to the mother-son relationship. To boil it down though to a couple of things we would say 1) The first is being safe and 2) the second is letting go. We break both of those down in great detail within the book. By being safe we mean a mothers ability to let her son be a boy. By letting go we mean a mother’s willingness to let her boy become a man. We speak a whole lot more to this throughout the book. It’s such a big question, and an important question for moms to consider.

12. If you could give once piece of advice to parents and educators reading this book, what would it be?

The study of a boy is such a worthwhile use of your time and resources. Boys are complex, imaginative, mysterious, brilliant, challenging, creative, strong, tender, courageous beings—and each is unique. Parenting and educating them is a wonderful, difficult, complex, enjoyable, physical, emotional, delightful, maddening journey. Our hope is that Wild Things is a useful guide along that journey.

If we have to give one piece of advice it would be for parents and educators to continue to invest in their own emotional and spiritual maturity. Growing yourself is the best gift you can give a boy you love.

You’ve gained some valuable advice, but there’s more! If you would like to learn more from these parenting experts about raising boys, you can order a copy of Wild Things through
Based on clinical research, Stephen James and David Thomas have filled Wild Things with practical tips and suggestions for parents. They guide readers through the five stages of a boy’s development, providing an overview and explanation of each stage, followed by a plan to put new principles into action. Pick up a copy today!

Stephen James, M.A., and David Thomas, M.S.S.W., are speakers, authors, and therapists who work directly with boys and their families. They also travel around the country, speaking on parenting and marriage communication, and they have been dynamic guests on CBN’s Living the Life, Good Day Atlanta, WGN Midday News, Moody’s Midday Connection, and other radio programs coast to coast. Learn more at

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Resolution #1

I used to work out. I loved that endorphin high I would get from a good workout. I loved pumping some iron (or handweights, as it may be), and I loved dropping the kids off in childcare and taking out my aggression in a good hour of kickboxing. Then I moved to Hong Kong. Stifling heat, air pollution, and no more fun classes were all deterents to my working out, but I did manage to run a 10K with my friend Suzy and stay in shape our first year there. But then Suzy moved back to the US, and my workouts seemed to have moved back with her. So here I am 2+ years later, and still no working out. I walked a good bit in Hong Kong. Hauled my trolley up and down escalators and steps filled with 50 pounds of groceries through the city, and that seemed to keep me trim. However, I now have my nice American car which takes me everywhere and is only about 10 steps from my front door, and my jeans were getting tight. It all started when Autumn Mix hit the shelves mid-September and I screamed in Target when I saw it. From that point on, I was a lost cause.

So my resolution to join the gym and workout has officially been set in motion. I'm sore again. I'm pumping the handweights again. And I've even done a bit of yoga at my sister's encouragement. Tonight Raegan and I did a Dance! Dance! class, and it was so much fun I didn't want it to end. It feels good to be back in the saddle again (and hopefully shrinking my saddle so my clothes are more comfortable!)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Stepping up the speech

Maddie Rae has been in speech therapy since we returned home, but our speech therapist moved before Christmas. We had our first session with our new ST this morning, and wow. It was good. Our old ST was known to have the theory that speech doesn't REALLY start to work until the child is 3. She was nice and would play with Maddie Rae and try to do sounds, but we weren't seeing much progress. Maddie Rae is 2 1/2 and has only about 20 words, and of those 20 maybe 10 are understandable. In other words, she is WAY behind. Our new therapist got right down to business. She wants her in speech every single day if possible. She's going to come twice a week, she wants her to go to our local university's speech clinic, and she thinks maybe the cleft team speech path will want to see her as well. She told me things I would have never even thought of. Things like: she should only sit criss cross applesauce or with her legs in front of her so her diaphragm is strengthened, that she may have poor breath support because of being in the orphanage (she doesn't, because she checked her ribs and diaphragm and determined that she must have spent a lot of time on her tummy as a baby), we should do oral exercises with her with her toothbrush, she needs to drink a thick smoothie from a straw every day, and how to encourage imitation. Wow. I was very educated, a little overwhelmed, and happy to have this new therapist. To be honest, I really worry about Maddie Rae's speech. I have never had a child with a delay, and hers just seems so overwhelming and huge. It's encouraging to have a speech therapist who's been doing it for 34 years come in and tell you it's going to be okay. Part of Maddie Rae's issue is that she is a perfectionist. She likes everything to be just so and just right, and she has learned that she can't do certain things with her mouth. So now she has a hard time even trying. The ST is trying to determine if the not trying is just her personality, or whether it's a motor thing that could require some OT. So that's where we are on the speech front. We're going to ramp it up and hope for some improvement and results.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Help Love Without Boundaries Win $35K

I just received this email and thought I would pass it along. It takes about 10 seconds to vote, so please pop over there and vote for LWB's. $35,000 would go a llllloooooonnnnnnggggg way in China and could help so many children.

LWB has a chance to win $35,000 to help even more orphaned children in China, and we need your help! Casting your vote for LWB is an easy way to change the lives of children in need. Simply visit Click on the circle next to the video about LWB. It is the first one, next to Amy Eldridge’s photo. Fill out the rest of the information needed and click submit. You do not need to fill out the “about you” section if you do not wish, and you can opt out of receiving any information in the future from Cookie Magazine by checking “no” on the boxes asking which information you desire. Each person over the age of 18 is allowed one vote. This contest is open to people in the US only, unfortunately. If you live in another country, you are not able to vote. Voting takes place from January 6th to February 10th. Please forward the contest information to all of your family and friends and other yahoogroups. Together, we can win the contest and change many more orphaned children’s lives.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Potty Training Myth

I remember when I was potty training my boys a few years ago, and everyone kept consoling me with the myth of "Oh, you must have had trouble because boys are so much harder to potty train than girls." I usually just shrugged my shoulders and held up my hands because miraculously, my boys were a snap to potty train. It was hard on the first initial days, but once they got it, that was it. Done deal. No accidents. Dry at night. Snap.

But I noticed something. My friends with the supposedly "easier to train" girls, were throwing their hands up in frustration after changing accident after accident after accident. I thought it would be interesting to finally have my try at my myth buster by potty training my own girl and seeing if I was just the potty training wizard, or if it really is harder to potty train girls.

So the initial days were much easier with Maddie Rae. She got it in a snap and was pottying in no time. HOWEVER, now she just seems to go whenever she has to go. If I happen to ask her and make her sit on the potty, she will go. But if I don't ask her, she just lets it rip. Today she has had 3 accidents. One occured at my sister's house while she was busy coloring, one occured at the playground, and the last one appeared as if it was spilled water that she was splashing around in on the kitchen floor, only there was no water in sight. What gives? Why are girls so much harder to potty train? My sister's theory is that it's harder for girls to hold it. I don't know what it is, but I do know now that I am indeed NOT the potty training wizard, and those of you with boys can thank your lucky stars. Because in my very scientific study of potty training, they are MUCH easier to potty train.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Christmas Chronicles

My lack of blogging over the last two weeks directly corresponds to my lack of motivation for anything other than total laziness. I don't think I've been out of my pj's much before noon for the entire break, and the laundry is reaching gigantic proportions. We're all having a bit of the "Sunday night dread" over here at our house tonight in anticipation of the much dreaded back to school, back to work, Christmas break is over, sniff sniff...Monday Morning.

So to relive the grand holidays, I've put together a little chronicle. Unfortunately, most of the pictures stop after Christmas Eve because that was the point at which my laziness kicked in full gear and I could not even be bothered to grab the camera. So here's what I've got.

All dressed up and ready for Christmas Eve church. If only I could have snapped this picture a week earlier, I could have sent out Christmas cards.

The gang after church in their Christmas Eve finest. This was the picture right before tongues started sticking out, silly faces galore, and general pre-present craziness ensued.

Opening Christmas jammies.

Posing in Christmas jammies.

Christmas hugs.

My dad signed the fam up for a little VonTrapp family singer moment in his church the Sunday after Christmas. Mike and Jon on guitar. Raegan and Catie on vocals. Dad on vocals and bass. Mark on drums. Me on video camera. I offered to do an interpretive dance, but they didn't take me up on it. Go figure.

And that's about all the pics I've got. Sad, I know. But it was a terrific, relaxing, and lazy holiday that was filled with family, celebrating the gift of Christ, and lots and lots of cookies. Perfect.