Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mother Knows Best...

Well, I have finally caved.  Mom, you win, I'm waving the white flag of surrender.  Today I purchased real grown up anti-aging facial products.  Yes, mom, of course I bought the Target knock off brand!  Do you think I'm made of money?!
My mother has been preaching to me about proper skin care since I was in high school.  I've always been pretty arrogant about my skin.  I never had to go through any breakouts in high school and if I did get the stray pimple, my beloved freckles were standing guard ready to camouflage it.  I have never been one to wear a lot (if any) make up, so I've never seen the point of washing my face before bed...I KNOW I KNOW!  It's like a cardinal sin of womanhood, I get it.

Over the years I've considered diving in and paying more attention to my skin.  I even made it a New Year's Resolution in 2014, but we all know how those turn out.  It didn't last more than 2 weeks.  I bought the fancy expensive organic stuff at the home party thinking THAT would get me to do it.  Nope.  I just used it in the mornings in the shower, even though I was told at aforementioned party that if I slept with a dirty face that I'd turn into a monster (or something to that effect).

My overconfidence is not helped by the fact that my mother and grandmother have AMAZING skin and do not look anywhere close to their ages.  They've always been like that, so I've got good skin genes.  Plus, I'm still basically 16 in my mind so I've got plenty of time to worry about that. (no?) Then you add on a chronic health condition and raising three young kiddos from hard places and suddenly good skin care isn't even in the realm of priorities.

After this last major surgery, and horrific endless recovery, I could see the stress of it on my face.  What?  It can't be!  My 16 year old skin has finally started to crack under the pressure.  I finally admitted to myself that the only reason that my Me-me and my mom have such great skin is because they've been regimented about taking care of it for decades.
If you know me at all you may have picked up on the fact that I could give a crap about what other people think of me (to a fault according to my mother ;) ) and I'm not one to care much what I look like.  I've left the house before looking like a mess on many occasions because I just don't even think to check the mirror before walking out.  My motivation you see is not vanity, it lies with my dear mother.  You think she hounds me about this skin care thing now?  Wait until I'm 40 or 60!  Since my Me-me has lived so long I know my mother will too and her filter and self control about nagging me on such issues will only get worse.  I can hear her now, "You know, if you had listened to me in your 30s and started using that Olay stuff I told you about your skin wouldn't looks so....rough."  Or, "Honey, you really ought to have something done about those wrinkles, they're really aging you."  She will forever haunt me about it ya'll!!

So, mark this down as a win for both of us I guess.  I'm sure I'll thank her when I'm 60, and people don't think I'm too old to have 12 Ethiopian kids...LOL!  Love you Mom!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Unexpected Parenting WIN!

If you follow me on Facebook you may remember this status I posted sometime just before Christmas:
Tonight this scenario played out while Celia was napping:
Caroline- (counting her money from her wallet) "Charlotte, let's go downstairs. Mom, you can't come since we are talking about something that's a secret. It's for Christmas, but it's not a present, it's something in an envelope."
She then proceeds to come upstairs to ask me how to spell "orphanage", 5 minutes later she comes back to ask how to spell "charity" and finally a few minutes later she needed me to spell "Africa". They asked if they could use the sharpies to decorate the envelope.
I know it's a surprise and I have "no idea" what they're doing ;) but I have a feeling I'm going to be an incredibly proud mama!!!
Well on Christmas morning we found this envelope under the tree:
(It says "Clean Water fo(r) all people")

And inside was this note along with $30 in cash:

(Dear Mom and Dad, Caroline and Charlotte are sending money to charity to build a well in Africa.)

Wow.  I was blown away.  What 9 year old thinks of this?  How did we get here?

It is true that they are from a rural area of Ethiopia where, when they first came to our family, they recounted to us how they remembered bathing, going to the bathroom and DRINKING water from the same river.  When they first came to America, like nearly all Ethiopian kiddos who come here, they both had intestinal parasites that were remedied with a couple of rounds of antibiotics.  Some families I know didn't have it quite that easy.  Their life involved dealing with these parasites, and sometimes worms, for months after the child(ren) were home.

Because of this realization, Mike and I looked into finding a reputable organization that was building clean water wells around the world, and particularly in Ethiopia.  That's when we found out about charity:water.  

In December of 2011 charity:water happened to be raising money to build a well in Tigray, Ethiopia.  So, instead of going to a store and buying a gift for the adults in our families we decided to make donations in their name for this well.  We did something similar the previous Christmas after watching a documentary on Netflix called "Making the Crooked Straight" about an American doctor, Dr. Rick Hodes, who practices in the capital city of Ethiopia treating people from all over the country who have tuberculosis of the spine.  This is a curable condition that needs surgery.  We were so moved by this documentary that we made donations instead of buying gifts and on Christmas morning we showed our families the documentary.  We have continued this tradition every Christmas since, with choosing a different cause to support each year. 

For those of you thinking "You don't give your kids presents on Christmas????!!!" you can relax.  Our children receive more than their fair share of gifts (mostly because of their grandmothers) but Mike and I have consciously tried to reduce the amount of gifts they get from us and Santa (who by the way I am super sick of, why does he get all of the credit for the gifts I BUY?!  But that's a separate post).  Partially because they all have sensory issues and get overwhelmed easily and partially because we want to be conscious of making sure that our kids know that this holiday isn't about gifts.  

Another tradition we have started with our girls is that when they have a birthday party where they invite their friends, we allow them to choose a charity or cause to support then we ask for donations instead of gifts on the party invitation.  I remember the first time we did this I got a few calls from panicked parents.  "Can we just bring a small gift?  My daughter doesn't understand that she can't take a gift to her friend at her party."  No.  Explain to your child that we are collecting money to send to people in Ethiopia (we donated to Feed the Children for their first party) so they can have enough food to eat.  I realize these kids were 5, but why not start them early understanding that there are less fortunate people in the world?  Each year the twins have raised around $100 for whatever cause they've chosen to support.  This past fall was Celia's first experience with this and she decided to collect pet food and we took it to our local shelter.

Again, not to worry for my poor little girls, they get plenty of presents from us and our families for their birthdays.  My favorite thing that has come of us starting this tradition with our girls was the day they came home with a birthday party invitation.  It was for one of Charlotte's classmates, and she was asking for food donations for a local food pantry instead of gifts.  You know who it was from...that panicking mom I spoke with on the phone only a couple of months earlier!  The twins were so excited that she was doing the same thing they did, and it was not lost on them that she got the idea from their party.

So I guess to answer my own questions...they learned it from all of the little philanthropic efforts God has inspired us to make as a family.  We've modeled to them that it means so much more to send your money to a good cause in someone's honor than to spend money on something at a store.  We are blessed with a little extra spending money so if there's something little I'd like for myself, I can usually buy it for myself.  For the majority of people around the world "spending money" or "blow money" is an unknown luxury.  I am so glad that my children are soaking in this concept of helping others.  I know this is planting the seeds for what GREAT things God has in store for them in the future!
Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Caroline's 65 Year Old Smoker Soul

If you have spent more than five minutes with Caroline, then you've heard me apologize for her attitude by explaining that she has the soul of a 65 year old smoker.  I have said this since day one with her.  I guess you could say there's something about her that is an "old soul".

When we first moved to PA, our new cable package included the Lifetime Movie Network, which was new to us.   On this channel I stumbled upon a show called Ghost Inside My Child.  The show interviews parents of children who have memories and knowledge from another lifetime, including how they died when they were a grown up before.  Crazy, right?!  It could all be scripted, who knows, but it is pretty fascinating and it got me thinking about Caroline. 
 Here are the top ten reasons I believe Caroline has the soul of a 65 year old smoker:

1.  Ever since day 1 she has had a scratchy smoker's voice.  It has become less evident as she's grown older and polished her English, but it's still there.

2.  Her attitude...about everything.  She has this bitter old woman sense about her, mad at the world and bitter about everything.  She always manages to be disappointed about everything.  I could say we were having ice cream and donuts for dinner and she'd still manage to let out a sigh and walk away in her Eeyore manner.

3.  Her sass and sense of humor.  She's straight up HILARIOUS.   Her sense of humor is way more mature than her age.  It makes it very hard to keep a straight face when she says something that's not quite appropriate for a 9 year old to say, but it's super funny.  She is super sassy and acts as if she invented the eye roll.

4.  One time right before Halloween when she was only 5, my mother gave the girls a bag of goodies for them to open up.  Inside was a small rectangular box of Malley's chocolates wrapped up in pretty paper.  She picked up the box, shook it next to her ear and said "Granny, why you get me some smokes?" then proceeded to tap the box on the palm of her hand a few times.  We all just stood there with our jaws on the ground.  Who says "smokes" anymore?  No one in our family even smokes.  This was the first specific incident when I knew there was some serious history wth this girl.

5.  In our hometown there is this super cool 50s type hot dog diner called Dan's Dogs.  We would go there frequently as a family.  All over the walls are pictures of celebrities and memorabilia from the 50s and 60s.  The first time we went there Caroline pointed to a picture of Elvis and asked who it was.  Over the years, every time we've gone she has asked questions about Elvis and found a book they have about him at the restaurant to read while we wait for our food.  

6.  Last year for the Fourth of July we went to visit some family in Toledo.  As we were all sitting around outside eating, my father pipes up and says "Hey, do you guys want to hear a funny story?"  Now this was a rare occurrence because my dad is a pretty quiet guy and is usually one to sit back and listen to other people talk, so all of our ears perked up.  This has got to be a good story for him to want to share, right?  So, he starts telling about a time where he left one of his three cell phones on the top of his car, started to drive off onto the highway and the phone flew off of the roof of the car.  Before he was even finished with what he thought was a hilarious story, Caroline rolls her eyes and loudly says "Good grief Gramps, great story." very sarcastically.   Who even says good grief anymore???  No one in her world, I can tell you that for sure.

7.   This child is OBSESSED with the TV.  It literally does not matter what is on the TV (commercials and all) her eyes are glued to it.  We here in the Bratt household refer to this as her TV comma.  At first I just figured "hey, the kid has lived in a mud hut for the past 4 years so she's never seen anything like this" but it never ever wore off or has lost its intensity.  It just got me thinking that if her "old soul" is from the 50s or 60s, then TV would have been a very new and fascinating thing.

8.  I'd say ever since she was 5 or 6 she would always point out to me when there was a handsome guy on a magazine cover in the grocery store, or on TV.  She was always on point too.  She always noticed, while Charlotte never did, nor did she care.  Caroline has a thing about peoples' eyes.  She's always pointing out if people have pretty eyes, even in person she'll say "Hey mom, did you see that man's eyes?  They were so pretty."  Just not typical for a 5 year old.

9.   She has always been very difficult to parent.  She's just so over being a kid and having to listen to other peoples' rules.  She has this air about her that an adult would have if their parent was telling them what to do.  I'm pretty sure at the age of nine she thinks she could go out, get a job and live on her own.  I'm not 100% certain she's wrong either!  Girl's got tenacity! 

10.   This story: We went to visit my friend Mary's campground one fall day and came away with one of my favorite stories of all time with Caroline. She had to go to the bathroom while we were there so Mary had her go into her parents' house to use the bathroom. Caroline has never met Mary's mom before. She walks through the kitchen to get to the bathroom and sees some junk food laying out like pop-tarts, chips, etc. She turns and looks at Mary's mom and says "Someone in this house is about to get some diabetes." I didn't even know she knew the word diabetes, let alone know how to use it properly! Half of the words in her vocabulary she can't pronounce properly, but diabetes she's got down cold!

 Now, before you get all "Well, aren't you a Christian?  How can you reconcile the concept of reincarnation with your faith?"  I don't know!!  It's just not that serious, ok?!  All I know is that the "child" I live with and love, does not act like a child a lot of the time.  It's mysterious, awesome and frustrating all at the same time.  One day I'll get to ask God what was up with that, but until then I'm just enjoying the ride.
Friday, March 6, 2015

Financial Planning According to a Pair of 6 Year Olds!

I came across this gem the other day and had to share it with all of you.  The girls are now 9 and got a kick out of watching this the other day.  I'm so glad they have life all figured out. (LOL)


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