Friday, March 1, 2013

$$ Adoption and Health Issues ... I'm seeing dollar signs $$

We are no newcomers to adoption, nor the post-adoption expenses that seem to add up faster than agency fees. However, I think it is like labor - once you are past the worst, you forget about it.  Forget about the sheer, vast number of appointments and the financial output.

Adopting children internationally (and I suppose even domestically) comes with its fair share of medical issues. Your child has been living in sub-optimal conditions (there is certainly a range of "sub-optimal," but, in any event, it's not ideal).  Further, any time you add a child to your family, you have all those "first" and baseline appointments - pediatrician check up, first dental visit, labs, x-rays, maybe a  few specialists to take care of temporary problems (like intestinal parasites) or more long-term problems (e.g. a chronic condition). 

Plan to take some time off to deal with all of this! The appointments seem never-ending.

Additionally, plan to set aside some money above and beyond what you normally do for your family's health care expenses. Even with a very good insurance plan, co-pays of $20 here and there add up very quickly.  And many of these tests are not "typical" for the average American, so, as a result, may not be fully covered. It is worthwhile too know your insurance coverage backwards-and-front to avoid surprises. (And to fight for your rights when something should be covered in full).

I currently work for a county government. As a government employee, we are fortunate to have pretty great health care coverage. Yet, I know we have spent at least $300+ just in co-pays and such for Jhon in the last 3 months. And, this is the tip of the iceberg. 

Yesterday was our family trip to the dentist. Yes, six back-to-back appointments. What fun. This was Jhon's first visit and the other kids were due for regular cleanings. Jhon has some very extensive damage to those poor baby teeth. He starts with a pulpotomy next week, which is a bit like a baby root canal. He has three other follow up appointments to take care of other cavities, including two that were done in Colombia, but not properly and there is more decay to address. Since our dental insurance only covers these types of repairs at 50%, we expect our share of the expenses to exceed $800. 

Colombia is a land of sweet. Many, many items include sugar (and lots of it), including formula and baby cereals. Juice is very, very common (and amazing!). I suspect (although do not know) that this led to Jhon's dental trouble. At minimum, it likely did not help.  However, Hana had many dental problems too (including a pulpotomy and an extraction), and Ethiopia does not use much sugar. There, the issue seemed to be a complete lack of dental hygiene and care. Yet, Selam came home - at age 12 - with absolutely perfect teeth. Go figure. 

In addition to Jhon's not-so-fun upcoming dental visits, we decided we needed to go ahead with the surgery to fix his perforated ear drums (yes, both).  He has been pretty good lately, but just 2 weeks ago, he was experiencing heavy drainage, including blood, from his ears. Very disturbing to his teacher who didn't realize he had this problem... We decided we could not wait an additional 2 months for a second opinion and just had to get him some relief.

It's becoming quite clear that my sweet boy is simply used to living in chronic pain. :( And as much as I want to whine about the bills, I can say, without a doubt, that I would pay it all ten times over to get him feeling better.  

I admit - I'm a tad nervous. If he's this rambunctious with pain, what will he be like when he's feeling good all the time?!  ;) 

What about you adoptive parents? Any other major health issues you didn't expect? 
Did you budget extra money for medical expense at homecoming? 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

My Confidence Cruisers

I noticed on Facebook that our local running store was having a contest. Upload a photo of your shoes and rename them. No Adrenaline or Mirage or Wave Riders - what would YOU call your shoes. I happened to see this after a pretty epic afternoon run and the first (cheesy) think that popped into my head was "Confidence Cruisers." So, I went with it, uploaded a photo of my wet shoes with this caption.

These are my "Confidence Cruisers."  I started running about 2 years ago. 
Since that time, my weight had dropped and my confidence has soared.  
This confidence has affected every area of my life, including my marriage, 
parenting, career and friendships.  
I am not a new person - just the real me that was hiding in an unfit body.

And although I truly believe I'm not a new or different person because of running, I can also honestly say that running changed my life. Without it, I might have continued to burrow deeper inside myself, hiding the real me behind more fat, unhappiness, and frankly nastiness. It's hard to be pleasant when you feel so badly about yourself. I am so thankful that I found a release, a way to come out. Like a weight was lifted from me - figuratively and literally.

[pre-run, feeling good!]
In other excellent news, I ran today at lunch. It was a bit grey, but no snow or rain. The sidewalks were a mess of slushiness but very little ice (yay for not falling!). My shoes and socks were quickly soaked, but it wasn't too bad. Actually? It was awesome. One of the best runs I have had in AGES. I felt strong. Just ran along and whatever felt comfortable, ignored my Garmin.

I decided to try my Altras again, fully expecting the usual calf pain/tightness after mile 2 and numb feet around 2.5 (it's been an ongoing battle).  I happened to glance down at my watch around mile 3 and realized how strong I felt. Nothing hurt. I wasn't pushing the pace on purpose, but it felt like I was moving along at a decent clip (at least when I wasn't trying to dodge the more major "lakes" that I came across).

After a good run yesterday, this second confidence-booster was just what I needed.
[post-run, feeling even better]

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Getting Back on Track

Alternate Title:  This Snow is Killing Me
Alternate Title:  I Mourn My Lack of Snow Plow Service this Season
Alternate Title:  I Wish I Could Write Good Titles


So.  No marathon for me. I'm still good with that.  It's been quite a busy few weeks, and the lack of a training calendar has taken a lot of stress off. Whew.

But I've also been really lax. : / I only ran once last week, a 5 miler. :( And - even worse- I didn't really do any other exercise. And... such terrible eating habits. Cookies and brownies and cake - it seems to be everywhere!  (And, eventually, in my tummy).  Bah.  

I'm just so DONE with winter. I'm sick of dodging ice patches and trudging through slush and feeling wet and cold and gross all the time. And I've had a lot of extra stuff going on. Other obligations that have been much more time consuming than I first realized.

But I've allowed those things to morph from complications or challenges to excuses and to begin to undo what I've worked so hard on these last few years. 

NO.   Today I said no. No more garbage! No more excuses!

I actually GOT UP this morning when planned. I knew I wouldn't run in the dark and snow, but I was planning on squeezing in a little Jillian Michaels. She packs a punch in 20 minutes. So, anyway, I snoozed my alarm twice and got up and dressed ... 

  [Look at me! Ready to go!]

 And looked outside and saw THIS:

[In case it's not clear, it's a lot of fing snow]
So then I got mad:

And blew off Jillian to shovel. Not a bad workout, although I could have used some more cardio. 

The kids had yet ANOTHER snow day (surprise surprise) but we still had to get to our dentist appointment (when anyone will make 6 back to back or simultaneous appointments for you, you DON'T cancel). After spending oodles of  money at the dentist and setting up a boatload of appointments (that's another post...) I was needing the calming affect of a run. 

I decided to sneak in 3 miles with Perry quick before heading off to work. It was snowy and a bit slippery but someone had plowed at least part of the neighborhood. So off we went. It just felt GOOD to move. Finished with a 10:42 average pace, which is practically a tempo run in these conditions!  Feeling pretty good about it. No adorable wet post-run photos though - had to scoot to work.

I might not be training for anything, but it was sure nice to be reminded why - and how much - I love to run. 

Have you ever found that when needed a great run most, that it came through for you? What do you do if you go too long without a good run to remind you of all the benefits?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Search terms that brought people to my blog this week...

"I'm so exhausted from being awesome."  
Me too my friend, me too.

And, "can I eat ground turkey on Ash Wednesday?"
And this is why the Pope quit. 

[Pope Benedict is not impressed.] [image source]

So, welcome all your awesomely-tired-sinners. I hope you decided to stick around for awhile!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Knowing When to Walk Away...

Alternate Title:  Touch Decisions

Alternate Title #2:  #firstworldproblems


Things don't always go as you plan... 

Just over a month ago, I was over the moon excited to be training for another marathon. It was just the thing I needed to get my running mojo back in business.  Or so I thought. I quickly realized that I wasn't as mentally ready for this training round as when I started training for the Detroit marathon last summer. Week 1 I hit all my planned runs, but it was a challenge.  Week 2 saw me in bed for most of the week sooooo sick.

To be honest, I never really recovered from that. I mean I did physically, although even that took awhile.  But mentally, I was shot. I just could not get my mental game under control. And marathon training is hugely mental. Then I went through a couple of weeks of an on-and-off serious F.U.N.K. I threatened to quit more than once. But I knew I didn't want to make that kind of a choice while in a funk. I knew I'd regret it.

I was finally able to break out of that funk last week. That's probably a story for another post, but I was doing much better. I got some really good runs in - the kind that just make you happy to be outside!  I was happy.

And just like that, I knew I had to pull out of training. The decision was finally clear and so, I made it.

And I felt instant relief.

Do I want to run Bayshore?  YES
Do I hate that little voice that says "you're a quitter"?  YES
Do I HATE that I already signed up and will lose the entrance fee?  YES

Do I have other things on my plate right now that take precedence over all those vain feelings?  YES

I'm busy. 

I will say that aloud. I will scream it from the rooftops if I must. I need to hear it. I'm busy! I have too many other priorities right now. Getting our new family in order has taken a bit more out of me physically, mentally and emotionally than I bargained for. Digging into some freelance work has me excited, but is a huge time and effort commitment. These extra commitments simply heighten the need for me to keep a close watch on my marriage. Because anyone that knows me well knows that its Mark that keeps me going. :) My marriage is simply not expendable and can never be last in line.All of these pieces in my life are competing with lil' ole me.

And so, for this season, training doesn't make the short list.  

Am I going to stop running? NO. Not. at. all. Am I going to do it for fun and tension release, rather than because I need to up my mileage for training? Yes. That's where I need to be right now.

And I know I'm not a quitter. I had the courage to walk away before I went crazy. ;)  And that's a huge step in the right direction...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Snow Day Run!

This post is a bit old and out of date, but ah well. Last Thursday we got yet another snow dump which meant SNOW DAY on Friday for the kids. It was my turn to hang out and since we knew it was coming, I had even planned ahead and brought some work with me. Friday ended up being a beautiful day and I was able to get out for a run in the late afternoon. Although it was a tough run - since the streets were pretty slick - the sun was shining and it just felt good to be OUT.

Even the pups agreed!  (the bull dog is our neighbor's, she was over for a play date)

 The pictures really don't due it justice - it was a winter wonderland. 


Post run. A sweaty, but happy, mess.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Poor, Poor Poncho

[So happy to be heading home!]

[Snoozing in the living room, rather than tackling all those stairs... ]

This is Poncho. Some of you know Poncho. Most people who meet Poncho love him.  Unless they are really bothered by nervous peeing. He's got a bit of a problem with that. And he's a bit passive aggressive. And a rotten food-stealer. All in all, he's sort of an adorable mess of a dog and has been since he was very young. He has also been an old man since about 1 year old, but now that he is approaching 10, he is starting to be a bit more legitimately old.

Anyhoo, poor Ponch blew out his ACL last year and we had it repaired over the summer. He's been doing much better ever since, until this past weekend when he started limping like crazy and was in obviously terrible pain. I was so upset, assuming that his ACL blew again somehow. :( We knew we wouldn't do the surgery again.But we took  him to the vet and found out that a strap used in the surgery (that holds down the muscle over the implant while it heals, I think) slipped and was hanging lose in his leg. What? So, the vet kept him overnight and surgically removed the offending strap and sent Ponch home. 

He practically RAN out of the office on Tuesday - so glad to be busted free I guess! He's still favoring it quite a bit, even though he should be using it more by now. He's kind of a baby... But he's on the mend. There was a bigger incision than I had expected but just glad that he's okay. 

These fur babies sure steal your heart don't they?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

This Valentines Day ... Love Wins

Happy Valentines Day!  Mark surprised me by calling me at work yesterday afternoon to ask me out. :) It was our first time away together since Jhon's been home and even a short time away was nice. The kids were thrilled - mac n' cheese and chicken nuggets? Screen time on a school night! Score.  We left around 6 and they were all showered, homework done. A new record. 

We've never been really big on celebrating Valentines Day with the kids before. They get so much stuff at school and whatnot, that I usually just make pink pancakes and call it good. But we decided to do a little more this year. Mark said that he wanted them to think of it as a day to be with people you love, your family, rather than a chocolaty -romantic holiday to get all worked up about. What a great lesson from your dad. :) 

So we made some little cards with their names and hearts and (of course) glitter, let them have Pop Tarts and candy for breakfast, decorated the table with some flowers. Even this really small gesture had a big affect. They were all smiley.  Loved it.  Then I took 3 of them for their well child exams. Nothing says love like shots right? But it went okay. They were happy to head off to school to celebrate their "100th Day" and have a Valentines party in the afternoon. Fun fun. 

[My over-zealous trip to the library!]
Also, last night I finished up a book that I also wanted to mention titled, appropriately, Love Wins. I picked up this book on a total whim at the library last week. I've heard of the author, Rob Bell, since he is (was) a pretty famous pastor from our area. But we've never attended his church and (I'll admit) I was never particularly interested (in the church or the book). But I decided to give it a shot. I didn't know much about the book other than it was considered rather controversial and I heard he took a beating from a lot of Christians. 

Upon digging into the first chapter, the first thing that jumped out at me was the style. It is composed of a lot of little paragraphs, more free-flowing and conversational than books typically are. It almost read more like a sermon than a book. This turned me off at first, but once I got used to it, the style actually made for a very quick read. 

The book touches on a few hot button issues with Christianity such as heaven and hell and the traditionally accepted ways that you end up in one or the other. I hesitate to get into the content of the book too much. For one, I don't feel like being yelled at.  Two, I think it's helpful to go into it with an open mind (at least I'm glad that I did).  Here's a bit of a summary of the book that I found online though, which provides some insight into its controversial nature:

"The main issue discussed in Bell's recent interview regards Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, in which the former pastor questioned the existence of hell and the evangelical teaching that only those who believe in Jesus Christ go to heaven."

I will say this. Regardless of what you believe - and whether you find Bell's arguments persuasive or inflammatory - its a book that just might make you think. Might make you ask questions about doctrines that have been accepted as true for hundreds of years. Bell offers Biblical support, including discussions of some very well-known parables. I have asked Mark to read it, as I think it would be a good discussion point for us, especially as we work to shape the faith-focus of our family.   

I will also say that I really liked the book. I think Bell has a knack for capturing the power, the omnipresence of God, but never minimizing His complete and utter love for us. And, as Bell himself says, "[N]one of us have cornered the market on Jesus, and none of us ever will."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent... and letting go.

Today is Ash Wednesday.  I grew up in a Catholic family and observed the Lenten season for many years. It has been awhile since I've considered myself a Catholic, but only a few years since I have stopped acknowledging the "rules" of Lent (i.e. many years of Friday tuna fish lunches, etc!).  However, today I  completely forgot it was Ash Wednesday until about an hour ago - after eating a leftover enchilada (with ground turkey).  Sigh. Ah well, pretty sure God will forgive the turkey.

But I digress.

I have been thinking about Lent more this year than I have in awhile.  Maybe it's just where I am at right now, but I know I *need* something and it must come from God. Despite knowing that, I have been struggling to get close to Him, finding excuses to make everything else the priority. As anyone could guess, that has simply caused a vicious cycle and left me feeling... just off.


What better time than Lent than to take steps toward God? To stop being so off and find a way back on again.

Usually during Lent, people give up luxuries, things like sweets or social media. Some form of penitence (I've given up pop and chocolate too many times to count!). This year, I'm working on giving up control. I spoke a little about control here, and although I do want to avoid micromanaging my family, what I am speaking about now is more about more generally giving up control to God. Trying less to get my ducks in a row (or a tight military formation!) and more about trusting. Not hoarding my fears and worries, but giving them up to the only One who can really do anything about them. 

It's about giving up the ugliness inside, letting it out; instead of trying to bury it and hide it and keep it for my own. It's about not having it all together - not pretending to have it all together - and not needing to have it all together. And appreciating the many blessings I have, whether I have it all together or not!

I'm still brainstorming what this might mean for the next 40(ish) days. I expect journaling, self reflection (perhaps some here, plenty privately).  I have a few books I want to read.  And prayer.

[Side bar:  Here's a confession - I find praying really hard. I get distracted. It's always been difficult for me to imagine this direct line with God in a way that makes prayer a natural conversation. One way I want to tackle this is to commit to at least one unplugged run a week - no music, no audio book. Just my thoughts or lack thereof. I am fairly confident that I will start talking to myself, which seems a good lead in to prayer. :) End side bar]

Since February is already half over and I never actually sat down and gave myself some goals, I'm not going to. I'm going to work on this. I'm going to work on letting go...

Adoption and Control

Here's another little thing no one ever told me about adoption.  It will change the way you parent.

Wait. Strike that. It may change the way your parent. At least, it did for me.

I wouldn't say I am a Type A person. I wouldn't say I am particularly laid back either. I think that, for the most part, I fall somewhere in between, ebbing and flowing, depending upon the day or the topic at issue. I never used to think of myself as a controlling person. 

I know parents that won't let their children out of the house unless they are spit-shined and perfectly dressed (matching of course).  That's not a hot-button issue for me. Have any of you seen Ally? She never matches. :) 

But just because a combo of stripes and plaid doesn't get me all worked up, doesn't mean I don't want to control other things.

Was it always like this? Our pre-adoption days seem so long ago, but I don't think so. Especially not for my husband, who is in fact, a very laid back guy. 

Sometime, very shortly after returning from Ethiopia the first time, our parenting style began to change. It had to. It was survival.

[Mark and the kids mid-2008]

You see, Abi and Hana went from a life of very limited choice to one, by comparison, that was full of the unknown and new in almost every waking moment. New foods, new clothes, animals, people, weather, language. It was extraordinarily overwhelming and overstimulating. So the control started, in large, part, to minimize the stress for them. 

We would lay out two outfits for them to chose from, rather than give them full reign to dig through their closets. They could have this or that for lunch, a banana or an orange for snack. Sometimes, even limited choices were too much.  Slowly, this changed, but it took time.

But the control went beyond food and clothing; it had to. Both kids had just spent significant time in an orphanage and there were consequences that needed to be addressed. We had to limit the amount of people in their lives who were permitted to give them physical affection. For example, we withdrew Abi from preschool (for several reasons, but) in part because his teachers were constantly hugging and holding him. Then, Mark would come to pick him up at lunch time and Abi would hide from him. It was not good for our attachment.

Then we adopted an older child. The first few months we were just trying to awkwardly get to know each other, with out limited language skills. We knew we had "broken all the rules" on older child adoption by going so far out of birth order, so we were careful. We were observant and tried to keep an eye on everyone - to keep everyone safe and happy.

Do you know what constant vigilance does to you after two years?

It changes you. It changes how you parent. It changes your norm, your status quo.

But life continues to change. Kids continue to develop and grow and thrive. But control has not completely left us.

Control - something that started out as a benefit to my children, a safety mechanism - has turned into something ugly and unhelpful.

I never wanted to be a helicopter mom. I didn't think I even had it in me. I don't double-check every answer on my kid's homework and then fix the ones that are wrong. I don't demand that teacher's change their grades. If they forget their lunches or library books, I don't run them up to the school. They deal with their own consequences.

However, lately it has become clear to me that I am struggling with other control issues. It tends to crop up in different ways, catching me off guard. I'm doing my best to (1) be aware of it, and (2) address it. This appears to involve some soul-searching and introspection on my part. Blech. But it is a much-needed exercise, for the benefit of my kids and myself. It's hard enough to control my own life, I certainly don't need the extra obligation of micro-managing theirs. :)