Friday, October 31, 2008

A Healthy Lunch

Today I fixed such a healthy lunch for my kids I decided to blog about it in commemoration and also for solace on those days when my poor children eat nothing but Oreos for their noon meal. No, I am kidding. Sort of.

Lately I've been trying to make healthy foods more "fun" so that said foods get eaten rather than stuffed into the hollow posts of their chairs. I use fun Red Trays, Curly's favorite color, and of course Lightning McQueen spoons and forks. In the effort to make lunch prep as easy and fast as possible, I microwaved frozen chicken nuggets and veggies, but then I sneakily improved the presentation with cheese sprinkled on the veggies and ketchup in which to dip nuggets. For fruit my kids love unsweetened applesauce so that got included as well.

Although Curly only has water to drink, she has it in a Lightning McQueen cup with a pumpkin straw. It was so fun she drank three cupfuls!

Now that I have one healthy meal in our repertoire, I'd love to hear any other lunch ideas you might have. What does your family eat for lunch? Celery and tofu? Doritos? Help me out here or we might be back to Oreos tomorrow. No, I'm kidding. Sort of.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Well, That One Made Me Think

Along with the rest of my family I have been struggling in my mind with proper "adoption lingo." I simply don't know for sure how to express what I am thinking about our future daughter in a way that doesn't sound negative. As time goes along I realize how our society has long used negative terms for adoption, words like "abandoned" or "unwanted" or "your REAL family" which simply rub me wrong.

I realize, however, that people who use such words and phrases are no different than myself in that they want to describe the unusual circumstances of adoption and ask about details (isn't everyone curious?) but don't know quite how to phrase it, partly because they fear treading into areas which may be viewed as none of their business. That's how I feel sometimes, so when someone asks me if my other two kids are my "real" kids as opposed to the expected baby who will be adopted, I don't tend to get mad. I know what they mean and I can use every opportunity to tactfully give them new language to use that won't imply that my third child won't be my "real" child.

Today in browsing through some material that TT sent from a recent adoption conference, I found a link to an article dealing with this exact issue. Apparently I am not the only one who has struggled with this. A particular paragraph or two jumped out at me:

Though in adoption parent and child are linked by love and by law, the fact that they are not connected by blood has often meant that some people are unwilling to acknowledge their relationship as genuine and permanent. Thus they use qualifiers (”This is Bill’s adopted son”) in situations where they would not dream of doing so in a non-adoptive family (”This is Bill’s birth-control-failure son” or “This is Mary’s cesarean-section daughter.”) They tend not to assign a full and permanent relationship to persons related through adoption (”Do you have any children of your own?” or “Have you ever met your real mother?” or “Are they natural brothers and sisters?”) They assume that adoptive relationships are tentative (”Will the agency take him back now that you know he’s handicapped?” or “What if his real parents want him back?”)


Four Adoption Terms Defined

Natural child: any child who is not artificial.
Real parent: any parent who is not imaginary.
Your own child: any child who is not someone else’s child.
Adopted child: a natural child, with a real parent, who is all my own.


They really made me chuckle, those examples of introduction and that chuckle made me feel a whole lot better. I think I can safely use the term "offspring" to describe my newest family member, a term about which I had previously wondered. If I don't give birth, is she still my offspring? Yes, I think so, just as a cesarean-birthed child who doesn't travel down the birth canal is still an offspring. Why do we, as a society place so much emphasis on the genetic relationship in determining words like "offspring"? I don't have a good answer to that question, but I have to admit I have wrestled with it.

I think the answer lies in the word "adopt" where a child becomes some thing she wasn't before. She becomes ours. She becomes a part of our family and therefore becomes my "offspring". She is grafted in to a different root but becomes part of the tree nonetheless.

I am entering a new world here but others have gone before me and have paved the way, giving me mountains of good ideas for all of the small ways I can make my child feel wanted, welcome and loved. That, after all, is the goal.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Costume Day at Preschool

The piercing shriek cutting through the quiet sleeping house did not bode well for my morning. It was Curly who had seen a bug and was absolutely coming unglued. Propping my eyelids open I started into her sleeping porch then reversed my steps. I would have no success in bug-hunting if I did not first put my glasses on.

Even with the glasses the bug turned out to be too small and fast for my early-morning stupor. Instead of pursuing it, I invited Curly into my bed where she turned on her PBS cartoons and I fell immediately back into slumber.

I woke late; her shows were over and she was struggling into her Super Why costume. I zipped her up then we both headed downstairs where she discovered that the mask was missing. This discovery was akin to the end of the world, I am sure, for her little brown eyes filled with tears and her bottom lip trembled ominously.

Already late, I decided breakfast would once again be cereal bars in the car, not healthy or tidy but definitely fast. To my dismay, the box of cereal bars in the cupboard held only one bar. It would never do to give one kid a bar and deprive the other.

By now, Curly had hunted high and low for her mask, neglecting shoes, potty and coat. She went from poking her head into the toy box to thumping downstairs into the basement to check there. No luck. Of all days, this was the one where the costume needed to be whole and entire. This was PRESCHOOL and her beloved Teacher M MUST see the costume as it was meant to be.

She accosted me again as I came out of the kitchen with the one remaining cereal bar, a banana and a slice of bread in my hands. Now she was really in tears; she had looked absolutely everywhere and nowhere was that mask to be found.

I called Hubby at work. Since he had been the one to remove the costume last night, maybe he knew where that darn mask was. I must have really sounded frustrated because in a wary voice he suggested looking in the car. Adding a sippy cup of water to my load, I took the lot out to the car and there, on the floor of the back seat was the mask!

Back inside I rushed to change Little Mister's soaking overnight diaper, gather coats and shoes and socks, supervise potties and substitute jeans for my own red plaid pajama pants. Neither Curly nor I saw so much as a hairbrush but to my surprise and relief when we finally got out to the car we were only five minutes late. I doled out my offerings of bread, banana and cereal bar, split equally between my two ravenous children and they munched happily while I drove across town.

It was with profound relief that I dropped a joyously dancing Super Curly off into a roomful of bunny rabbits, pixies and bumble bees. Her costume was summarily admired by a blue-and-red caped Super Teacher and I got back in the car with Mister, immediately heading out to get myself a double shot mocha. I felt it was deserved.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Stay-at-home Day

Today is one of those delightful Tuesdays where we have nowhere to go and no plans whatsoever. The kids have been watching Cars and playing with the new toys showered on them for Little Mister's birthday last weekend.

I have been treating myself to a book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, the book that inspired the play and movie, The Sound of Music. It's an interesting read, different in detail and spirit than the story in the musical but just as dramatic.

Our seemingly idyllic morning at home, however, in reality doesn't measure up to the contented introverts whose blogs I read. These families seem to treasure a morning at home and delight in one another's company, especially the homeschoolers. In my mind was a happy imitation of this sentiment in our own house: the kids playing quietly together, me doing little housewifely chores and improving my mind with the perusal of a book.

Instead, I read myself into a lovely headache, my son has disrobed and is running around nude and my daughter has asked me about 47 times if we can PLEASE go somewhere. I realize that she actually does love us; she and her brother are quite attached and have been taught to be polite to one another. It's just that she requires a little more action than we seem to provide.

I think for my next idyllic morning I need to buy a book on tape and plan to take her to the playground. To each their own, I guess.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Workin' on Websites

My favorite work to do during the kids' nap is designing websites. I love the creative, artistic work but I also love the detailed code-writing and getting everything lined up just right.

Our Women's hike site has been receiving exciting new additions since the public reading on Saturday. Our stories are being published on the site and I also added new photos.

The English Department's newsletter has a new edition coming out in the Spring and a new look was desired for their site. I made the torn-paper graphic myself and altered a freeware template to create a subtle but trendy new look for their site.

I designed a website for a new class to be offered in the English Department at WSU this Spring. Debbie, the prof, picked the template, one of my favorites in the OSWD roster. Since she liked the template, dropping her content and checking formatting was easy.

Apparently she decided that the nude model wasn't quite the look she was going for and she made a new graphic herself. I have to say I was really impressed. I don't usually work with clients who use PhotoShop or do web design themselves. It makes quite a nice collaboration.

Not everything turns out just as I'd like. Nick emailed me the other day complaining that his purchase page was not working. I checked and there was a typo in the code sending the purchases to some rogue email that doesn't even exist! I felt terrible. His page hasn't worked for months. I made a mental note to test things better next time!

All this has been keeping me quite busy the last few weeks, along with some other work Deb needed me to do. I have been delighted to stay so busy and have so much to keep my brain occupied. I think I have the coolest job in the world, getting to be with my little people full-time but also having a little professional puddle in which to stick my toe from time to time.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Conversation With Curly

Curly (in bed): WAAAAAA! I need Mommy to come cut my fingernail!

Hubby (at the foot of the stairs): I don't think so.

Curly: Yes I do. Mommy needs to cut my nail so I don't bite it.

Hubby: I'll cut it.

Curly: WWAAAAAA I want Mommy to cut it.

Mommy (from the kitchen where cookies are being baked): I did tell her to ask me. I'll do it.

Curly (when Mommy has arrived): It's this thumb.

Mommy: That thumb nail doesn't need to be cut. Are you just trying to stay up to keep from going to sleep?

Curly (with a disarming smile): Well, a little bit, yeah.

Mommy (trimming nails anyway): At least you're honest.

Bittersweet Autumn

Today I walked through crackling leaves
where sidewalks softly meet the street,
the tears let fall by birch and oak
were swishing 'round my striding feet.

The sunlight, filtered less each day
as every tree becomes more bare;
but even with the lack of shade
it hardly seems to warm the air.

I feel it more each passing day
the sullen winter soon to come
when cold outside shall keep me in
and I shall surely tire of home.

Autumn tastes both sad and sweet;
the lovely brilliant days so mild
yet now I cannot welcome it
when winter is its homely child.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Public Reading

In the car, riding back from GG's 80th birthday party, I leaned my head against the cool glass of the window. All I wanted to do was sleep. But it struck me that tonight was the public reading of work inspired by our backpacking trip, an event I had been anticipating for weeks. And I had nothing written. Oh, of course I had tried. Four times I had tried to write something and each time the attempt had fizzled and died. The muse had not descended. I considered leaning my head against the window again and going to sleep, apologizing tonight, and then going on with my life. I wanted to do that.

I guess the thing that made me pull out my laptop was the thought of my friends, nine strangers-no-longer with whom I had hiked, shared a tent and memories and vistas. I did not want to come empty-handed to them. I wanted something good.

Something good. That's why I didn't have anything. Nothing was good enough. I respect these women so much that I wanted something worthy of reading to them. But I also needed it to be something from within myself, something I could read to an empty room and still be proud of it. I didn't know if I could write such a piece.

But somehow as I turned on my laptop in the car and began to type, everything came together, all of the ideas that had been percolating in my brain since the hike. I wrote like a maniac, pausing once in a while to correct a typo, sometimes stopping to find exactly the correct synonym.

Then I was done and gave the laptop to my daughter who was demanding to watch Thomas the Train on it. This is what I read tonight, however good or not it was:

Night Vigil

“Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.” Psalms 30:5

Last night was a long night. Stuck in a hotel in Hermiston, Oregon, the last place on earth I desired to be [with sick kids], I fought to open my eyes when once again one of my children woke and cried. They both have colds so one or the other was awake every hour all night long. Head aching, I lay thinking about the different nights in my life that seemed even longer than this one.

The feeling of cold hits me first, bone-penetrating cold that chills even the memory of the night at Swamp Lake, six weeks ago. I lay huddled in a borrowed sleeping bag, its unfamiliar contours limp against my shivering body. Fumbling with numb fingers, I pull the drawstring tighter around my face in a vain attempt to construct a better barrier between myself and the freezing night air. The rain begins. I hear it hitting the tarp above my face, the sound like tiny dancing feet, the sound of the rain on the roof of the old trailer I slept in as I snuggled my week-old daughter on the couch all night, holding her body against my chest, my body heat the only thing keeping her tiny frame warm. Those raindrops danced above my head.

They danced on the roof of a tiny rental in Fresno the night I lay waiting for news that my mom had died.

I was eleven, my new baby sister but three weeks old. The long hoped-for and prayed-for baby lay in her laundry-basket crib because the new cradle was not yet done. How my mother hated placing her new tiny treasure in a laundry basket. And now she was dying. Her face had gone gray after dinner and she had gone to lie down. That was hours ago. And I lay still in the dark in bed waiting for the phone to ring.

The dark presses on my open eyes, staring up at the unseen silver underbelly of the red tarp. Not my tarp. Someone gave me the tarp for the night to keep the freezing rain off my sleeping bag and I had stretched it tight hoping its shelter would keep me warm that night. I am not warm. I am shivering with the deep, gut tightening clenching that makes me wish I had not eaten any of the green soup I cooked for dinner. That soup churns in my shivering gut. Take my mind away. With the rain comes tears. My own rain, the tears are the wetness that the tarp cannot stop and they coat the inside of the limp sleeping bag. I cry for my babies whom I miss desperately. I cry for the man I love who is far, far away. I cry for the loathing of the weakness that has once again betrayed me on the trail. I cannot stop the tears. This time.

As I lay in the dark long ago I did not cry. I lay awake listening to the baby in her laundry basket breathing softly, waiting. Waiting without tears. Waiting for her to wake again, waiting for the phone to ring. Waiting and trying not to see in my mind the face of my mother drained of color, of her fainting, slumped against the wall, of my dad's strong hands lifting her and her unsteady steps to the car. Of his hurried and jumbled words telling me nothing, of the words hospital and don't know and call you. Grandma will take care of you. I will call. I lay flat in the dark and waited. I lay on my back.

Usually I sleep on my stomach. In a clinging cold bag I cannot lay on my stomach and let the cocoon of sleep roll over me so I lay on my back, my eyes open, staring at the cold as if it is something I can actually see instead of something I feel on my wet eyeballs. I lay on the ground, hard and cold and flat under my tarp. The red tarp in the dark that is not mine. I lay and wait for morning to come, for my salvation from the gut-churning cold and the missing my family. I lay and count the miles between me and home. Home and warm. Home and soft and arms enfolding me and small hands holding mine. So many miles. Hundreds of miles. One mile for every minute of that interminable night.

The minutes ticked by in the dark and still the phone did not ring. I counted the miles, following in my mind the car as it drove to the hospital, wherever that was. The strong hands against my mother and the brightly lit windows of the emergency room pouring their garish florescence out into the quiet night. The grayness of her face. The scratching of a pen against paper. More minutes crept by as I lay in the dark on my top bunk three weeks after my eleventh birthday listening to my sister breathe.

The red tarp seems to breathe. Air sucks it in and out above me and I watch it in my mind, in and out, concave, convex, concave. Dancing footprints of rain have gone away and in their place stillness. Quiet, the quiet of outdoors where lurks the noises of small animals, the sound of space, the sound of the cold which is everywhere, not just in touch but also in sound. The sounds ought to bring fear but instead they bring comfort. In a world where sight is blurry and unpredictable, sound is my lifeline. And prayer is my lifeline. Counting the miles between myself and the ones I love I know that God is with both and the thought brings comfort. I know that my prayers, whispered between shivering lips, still salty with a coating of tears will reach them via the One who loves them even more than I.

Many a night my prayers have been sent heavenward but never so despairingly as the night I waited for my mother to die. As I waited for a phone call. As I waited to know what was wrong. I prayed. I did not believe that the fervency of my prayers would make any difference to a God who already knew the answer to the questions in my heart but it did not stop me from praying them. I trusted God with the unshakable faith of an eleven-year-old child but even then I did not expect the answer to necessarily be yes. I hoped, oh yes, how I begged God, but I knew it often is no. I knew even then that God gives us no's and I was preparing my heart, protecting my heart from what I knew might be coming.

The phone call never came but at last morning did. Light crept into the room; the baby woke and needed to be fed. My dad, the sort of person who does not call unless he has something to say never called. Grandma and I fed the baby. We still waited to know.

Dawn creeps in slowly after a cold night. It seems stiff and creaky like an old cat who stretches herself upon waking, long and slow, working each muscle in turn. I wait, knowing there were still hours to endure before breakfast and a fire. Light comes into my tarp reluctantly, heat comes even more slowly. At last, voices. Someone is awake. I lay still, listening.

Every sound made me look up, ears unconsciously waiting for news, for my dad, for a neighbor, something, anything. Without warning, the door opened and my dad came in. Tired. He wanted the baby, he said. He needed to take the baby to the hospital to mom. No, mom had not died in the night. No, they did not know what was wrong. The doctors were running tests. He needed the baby. He needed her clothes and diapers and a car seat. He looked tired.

I have to force stiff limbs to move. Tears still hover close and I don't want to take them down to the camp fire where voices drift up to me on the blue haze of woodsmoke. I push back the limp and slimy bag, halfheartedly extricating my aching legs, my numb feet. I am now that cat, moving each stiff muscle as if I am swimming in syrup, thick and sticky and dragging at my body. I trudge a meandering path toward the voices.

Voices hovered around me as I walked down the gray-carpeted hallway of the hospital. Hushed voices trickled from rooms beside me, breezy voices from behind me on the left where we had passed a nurse's station. I carried the three-week-old baby in my arms, her fiery red hair tousled against my shoulder, her warm limpness sinking into the crook of my elbow. Walking beside my towering father, I carried her carefully, looking up only when an old man passed us. That your baby? He asked. I shook my head no in wonderment and disgust. I was only eleven. I still needed a mother myself; I was not the mother to the tiny bundle I carried. We arrived at her room. She lay in bed, on her back like I had been while I waited. I did not cry as I handed the baby to her. I had not cried from fear and I did not cry from relief now. She was alive and would live, she wasn't going to die, she explained to me. She'd almost died. There were blood clots in her legs, she said. She'd almost died when the ER doctor wanted to run a scope. But he hadn't done it. She'd almost died when the circulation had been completely cut off to both her legs. But she hadn't. She would still have years of pain ahead, of therapy, of not being able to nurse my sister because of the blood thinners, of chronic fatigue from no circulation in her ruined veins, but she would live. She would live to watch my sister grow and to guide me through the turmoil of high school. A deep gratitude punctuated my prayers that night, knowing that God did not have to let her live.

In the moment gratitude feels as heartfelt for smaller things as it does years later for the larger. As I stand next to the fire at Swamp Lake, a gratitude fills me for the simple life-sustaining warmth of sun, of fire, of people. Frost coats the slippery surface of rocks and the steep side of my red tarp. But it doesn't matter now, every minute the sun reaches more of it, melting it away and warming the patches of grass. I still feel numb, outside and in, dreading the day's work ahead after a sleepless night, yet knowing that once I warm up a kind of euphoria will hit, a triumph. It is over. The long, long night is over and I made it. The long trek out looms ahead of me but I know I will make it through that also. I am a different person than I was when I went to bed the previous evening, stronger and more vulnerable.

This morning came all too quickly, my son with his little nose running and his little whine unending climbed up on the hotel bed next to me. I asked and was informed that it was nearly seven; I knew in spite of my fuzzy brain that I needed to rise and begin my day, giving up hope of having any sleep. There was a family birthday party to attend, a four-hour drive ahead with these same cranky children and an evening event. No matter. It was morning and whatever else the day held, it meant the long night was over.

I received some warm comments, much to my pleasure, and frankly I am glad the reading is over. Still, it was wonderful to see the ladies again and to hear their amazing pieces. Every one of them is such a good writer, each in her own style, her unique voice. I loved them all, the humorous, the heartfelt, the reminiscent.

Our pieces will (hopefully) soon be published on the trip website, so please check there in a week or two to enjoy some of the wonderful writing inspired by our women's backpacking trip.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sewing, sewing, sewing

My friend A is learning to sew. Thankfully I am not called upon to teach her; that job falls to her mother-in-law. I'm sure she is an able student but I have taught sewing before and it is somewhat nerve-wracking. But she is excited to make her daughter, M, a Little House on the Prairie dress for Christmas. We decided it would be fun for me to make a matching one for Curly Miss.

So this morning was spent together at JoAnn's looking at calico fabrics, choosing eyelet and re-checking the list of buttons, lace, interfacing and bias tape. Our plan this fall is to work together at her MIL's house to construct the dresses. It should be interesting as I have never done a collaborative project before. I plan to take my own sewing machine, scissors and iron, of course. I expect we'll have quite a factory set up by the time we get going!

After much deliberation we finally settled on a dusty pink calico with a larger matching print for the bonnet. Some vintage eyelet for the apron and pantaloons rounded out the outfit. The hardest part for me is going to be waiting until we can go over there and start. I always want to begin a project the moment I get the fabric home from the store. The fact that the pattern belongs to her MIL is going to force me to wait and that's a very good thing!

While I was in the fabric store choosing buttons and trying to keep an eye on my son who was busy mooching raisins from another baby, my phone rang. It was the repairman who told me my sewing machine is fixed and I could come pick it up. Immediately after leaving the fabric store I went to retrieve it and it is with joy I brought it home, cleaned, repaired and with a new bulb.

This fall should have some interesting stories of collaborative sewing with three preschoolers underfoot. And hopefully by Christmas I'll have pictures of two little matching prairie girls!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Happy Birthday Hubby!

Birthdays are so much fun! Unfortunately today I am not feeling very well and it's hard to celebrate much in that state. I'm glad I gave Hubby his present a few days early:

Happy Birthday, Hubby! Have a wonderful day!

Adoption Agencies and the Issue of Race

A family picture from the AIM Website

One of the agencies that the Idaho Youth Ranch works with in their Trans-Racial Adoption program is Alternatives in Motion based in Houston, Texas. According to the IYR adoption specialist, the other that they commonly collaborate with is Catholic Charities in Louisiana. One of these two agencies will most likely be the one that we use to get our new family member.

Our next step now that we have most of our homestudy application done is to do some training on Trans-Racial Adoptions. We are being sent DVD's and reading material on the subject, much of it testimonials by people who were raised in Trans-Racial families. It's also to be sure we want to adopt a child of a different race, that we are not just going that route so we don't have to wait so long for a baby.

For me, that's not the case at all. I am excited to have an AA baby and I want our child to be proud of her race. My only fear is that she will feel so out of place that it will make her unhappy. I don't want that to happen and I hope the training addresses it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Moment of Weakness

I did it. I'm ashamed to admit it but I caved. When Pioneer Woman started posting pictures of poor Charlie as yearbook pictures of the past I could not stop laughing in spite of (or perhaps because of) a vicious migraine and I simply had to join in the fun.

I went to Yearbook Yourself and began the slow descent into madness, aided by the fact that I have spent every second of free time I had today reading Jane Austen. It really set the tone for the pitiful display you are about to see.

So here, before we commence, is my apology in the style of Austen herself, who no doubt would roll over in her grave were she ever to be cognizant of my blog.

My dear reader, I must begin with a most heartfelt and sincere apology for the following portraiture for, as you well know, my esteemed countenance bears no great improvement by being subjected to the meagre renderings of those previous fashions which seem to us today to be so amusing. However, if you continue in your perusal of this, my egotistical and foolish narrative, you cannot help but be the happy recipient of such felicity as which only comes from the beneficial engagement in mirthful activities and frivolity of manner as that which comes at the expense of one who willingly offers herself up to the scrutiny of all who happen upon these unhappy photographs. I would caution you therefore to lay aside your goblets of refreshment lest in your sudden violent outbursts of hilarity you soil the very screen upon which you fix the intensity of your attention. For, although my own countenance bears little resemblance to our highly regarded basset hound of previous acquaintance, neither does it possess much merit in its own right other than that of unwarranted exclamation and possibly disgust. Time will yet tell. In any case, let my deepest regard to your sensible feelings be made known and forthwith you may be at your own peril in partaking of these profound and disturbing images which more accomplished artists would be loathe to pursue.

Oh my goodness, I feel better.

Ugh, no, I don't. It's a very good thing I missed the sixties.

But wait, this one is almost as bad. And I remember 1992. I was in high school. I actually looked like this. This was MY ACTUAL SENIOR PICTURE!!!

This isn't me. I like the glasses though. Maybe I should get me some of those.

This is my great-aunt Hepzibah. This is going to be really useful to my family tree project.

I'm not quite sure what to think of this one. I'm a little afraid my dad might fall in love with it and that makes me feel icky. Dad? Help me out here. Please don't. Please.

Aaahh, better. Back to the trendy, edgy, denim-covered, asymmetrical nineties.

AIIEEE!! Yikes! Who let HER in here?

Enough, enough! Stop the madness! Get me back to Jane Austen. And quickly.

One more? Okay, you asked for it. Actually you didn't. Heck, it's not even me, it's my poor innocent son. Don't look. Just don't do it.

Little Mister Turns Two

Mommy helps Little Mister open a new toy.

Happy with a Basketball!

Birthday Cake

Daddy's good for helping.

Look! It's a new tricycle!

Curly Miss makes sure he wears his helmet.

Little Mister had a great time last night at Mama and Papa's house. He had such a mountain of presents I don't think he quite knew what to do with them. He wanted me to open them then he'd take care of playing with the toys!

Almost There

Mostly for my own records, we mailed off the rest of our application materials this morning! Yay! We do our fingerprints on the 5th and that's it.

Everyone had to get a doctor's statement this week which means we all needed to see the doctor. Everyone is perfectly healthy. Little Mister had his two-year checkup and shots last night. He weighs 32 pounds and is 35.5 inches tall. Still a big boy! The doctor said if he follows his current growth pattern he'll be 6'1" as an adult.

Curly got a couple of shots too and she was so brave! Both kids were; neither one of them even cried. We had a super nurse and that helped. After their checkup we went out for Chinese food. It's funny what you remember. As we entered the Chinese place in Pullman I remembered vividly sending Hubby down there at least once a week for beef and broccoli when I was pregnant with Curly. Now she is almost four. How time flies!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Happy Second Birthday!

Little Mister is two years old today!

For milestones, he is about average. He doesn't talk much and doesn't try to dress himself or anything like that. He does eat well with a fork or spoon and is becoming quite adept at drinking from a cup. His strongest area still seems to be mechanical. He has good dexterity and can build really amazing block creations. He's also really adept socially, is very outgoing and friendly.

He has surprised us lately by correctly identifying several letters and colors. He may know more than I realize! He loves listening to music and already wants to imitate his sister's violin playing.

After my strong-willed firstborn, his personality is a treat. Even the two-year-old tantrums seem like gentle breezes after Curly's hurricanes. He's almost always happy and smiling, rarely does he get whiny and usually it's a communication problem rather than a stubborn rebelliousness. I don't like to compare one kid to another but I have to say the contrast in their "two-ness" is refreshing! He seldom goes looking for mischief either, although he does seem intelligently curious. He loves to be cuddled still, but it has to be his idea. If he's busy with something else, he'll push away. That's okay, it just means he's growing up.

Happy Birthday, little man! I love you :)

Monday, October 20, 2008

eBooks, Audio Books and More!

Since I was three years old I have been absolutely addicted to the printed word. Lately the trouble I've had with eye strain has forced me to feed my need for literary input in alternate ways. This branching out has turned out to be a good thing since I have discovered some wonderful resources online.

One of my favorite is Project Gutenberg, a library of free eBooks and audio books of out-of-copyright titles.

I can go on there and find almost any title in classic literature and have the computer read it aloud to me. Some of the books have professionally recorded audio tracks. If you have the technology, you can download the ebook to your mobile device and take a book with you. Or you can download the .mp3 file, stick it on a CD or iPod and have a new book for that long car trip. I love it!

There are other sites with free audio books if you do a Google search but so far this has been the best one I have used.

As any bibliophile will tell you, nothing replaces the smell and feel of a "real" book. But I have found that a good audio recording has a certain appeal of its own, especially when read with a crisp, British accent.

My friend/boss Debbie is teaching a Jane Austen class this spring and I have half a mind to read the Jane Austen books again to see if I have changed my mind on not liking them. I've read a couple of them and seen almost all of the movies. I keep thinking if I read them again I will learn to like them as so many others do but so far it has been a lost cause. Since I'm down to just a few unread books currently, perhaps I should add them to my list.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Baby on the Brain

When I was pregnant with my previous two, I found myself thinking about them constantly. Especially after they began to roll around inside me, kicking and tumbling and reminding me of their presence.

I miss that. I miss holding my baby safely inside me next to my heart. But I find that I still think about her. I still wonder daily, usually hourly what she will be like, what her personality will be. I imagine myself holding her, smelling her hair.

Of course I don't miss being so sick I cannot stand up. But I do miss my baby. I think she is out there somewhere, the baby who will be our daughter. She is growing and I miss her. I miss the opportunity to talk to her. I wish I could touch my stomach and tell her I love her. I wish strangers looked at me with a belly full of baby and smiled knowingly at me.

I think about the woman who will give birth to our daughter then hand her over to an agency worker. She strokes her stomach when the baby kicks. I hope she is telling the baby that she is loved. I know that she will think about her baby. Maybe every day. Maybe more. She will wonder where her baby is and hope she is happy. Maybe we can send her pictures.

Yes, adoption is a very different experience. I miss my baby. But some things are the same. I still have to wait to see her, to hold her and stroke her downy cheek. The prayers offered up on her behalf are just as fervent. She is wanted and loved just as much even though she is thousands of miles away. There is not a doubt in my mind that God has already chosen the exact baby He will place in our family and already in my heart she is my daughter.

Small Group

Out of the 31 years of my existence on this planet I have officially been involved in churches and Christian doings for... *drumroll please*... 31 years. So I have had a lot of opportunity to experience the phenomenon of Home Groups. Errr... Cell Groups... uhmmm... Small Groups.... uuhhhh... Bible Studies... I mean Life Groups. Yeah, those. The things that actually look like the Early Church looked 2,000 years ago. Only the early church didn't bother with the formal church service at all unless ol' Paul was in town.

Anyway, we Christians tend to still gather in each other's houses once a week and hang out. Yep, 2,000 years later we're still doing it. Conveniently here in America we don't have to darken our windows and draw secret fish symbols on our gateposts to announce our locations. In China they aren't so lucky.

When we joined our new-to-us church we decided to find a nice, calm, family-oriented small group. (Did I just use calm and family in the same sentence? What was I thinking?) We looked through the list and picked one based not upon the group dynamic, the depth of discussion, the quality of childcare... nope, we picked based on... the fact that it was on Sunday night.

This story is getting long. To make it shorter suffice it to say we have hit pay dirt here. We ended up in the most wonderful small group I could imagine. I was initially skeptical of the name. It's called "Let-us Fellowship." Hehe, get it? Punny, right? Let-us? Like Lettuce? Like... oh forget it. I don't do puns. I do irony. And I find it ironic that I attend a small group with the name "Let-Us Fellowship".

Our small group (making a long story short again here) meets at our house. We used to meet at the associate pastor's house but the group was just so dang cool it kept growing and pretty soon we were going to have to get together and call ourselves a semi-big-spilling-out-of-our-associate-pastor's-house group. We were no longer small. And our poor babysitter had to deal with 18 kids or so. The group divided and our half is now meeting at our house.

We love this. We just sit back and let them come. Put out a few paper plates and call it good. No, I jest. We tidy up a little. So tonight we just finished a small group meeting and I am so full of extrovert-love I could sing. We have a pot-luck dinner every week and tonight was a feast. We had everything from gourmet Thai chicken to Dominoes Pizza. For the discussion we've been watching The Truth Project.

To me, the thing that makes this group special is the dynamic within the group. We mostly have young children and are in similar stages of life. Still, I've been in group of peers my whole life and have not found such good friends and such an atmosphere of mutual growth and respect as I have found in this group. There is something special in this bunch'a folks.

It's interesting to observe my husband and children in the aftermath of three hours of having four additional families in our house. Downstairs a total of ten children and two teenaged babysitters play with our toy trains, mini-tent, stuffed animals and play kitchen as hard as they can. Upstairs the adults eat and talk and eat and help with kids and eat some more. By the quiet end of it, Hubby and Little Mister, our resident introverts, seem ready to find a knothole and go crawl into it. Mister is usually exhausted and falling apart. Curly Miss is more like me. Her people-meter is happily full and she runs around chattering and laughing at us and finding mischief to make.

Over the course of this past year, our small group has become a second family. We started out meeting once a week but have progressed to watching one another's kids, calling each other, meeting for lunches and going for playdates at the park. The men talk about their jobs and about life while the women, all stay-at-home-moms, talk about kids and about life. We all share our hopes and dreams. We pray for one another all week long. We email theological questions to one another. There is no official leader of the group. We decide the discussion topic or video series by consensus. No one pushes an agenda. I find that refreshing.

The concept of a small group is not a new one in my life. Yet I feel somehow as if I have discovered something unique. I love our small group.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Living Life To The Fullest

What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesn't come every day.

~George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion, Act 2

I guess something has put me in a pensive mood. Don't know what. But here are the thoughts swirling in my head.

I want to live life to the most that I can live, to do what I can with the time I have here on earth. The biggest tragedy would be to come to the end, whenever that is, and have a bunch of regrets. I want to love as fully as I can, to give as much of myself away as I can, to help as many people as I can, to create as much beauty as I can.

It seems that there are so many limitations on my life. Every day it seems I am reminded of how I can't do something I'd like to be able to do. Take today for instance. I deep cleaned my bathroom, scrubbing out the toilet with pumice. Just that hour's worth of activity made my back hurt so badly that I was almost in tears for most of the rest of the day even after taking 800 mg of Ibuprofen. It frustrates me. I want to work hard. I wish I could work all day long or run a marathon or see faces across the room. I wish I could wash my dishes without pain. But I can't do those things. Instead I want to focus on what I can do and drink deeply of everything life has to offer me. The things I can do I usually do well. The things I cannot do often frustrate me because I would like to do them equally well.

There is joy in life, even in pain, even in failure. There is joy in doing my best, joy in the unexpected small things. When I come to the end of my life, years down the road and I look back on my life right now I will see that I did my best with what I had and I will rejoice. Rather than regret, I will celebrate the draught of life I am even now drinking. Not with perfection of purpose but with the joie de vivre and remembering that every second is meaningful and beautiful. I will not waste it with the might-have-beens because there are none. There are the nows and the yet-to-bes.

I used to be frightened of the future. Sometimes I suppose I still am. A person cannot go through some of the things I have gone through and not have a little apprehension that tomorrow the rug will be jerked out and everything might go dark. But I am learning to walk in the here and now, to enjoy the mountain I am climbing today and not to fear the one up ahead. I suppose that is one of the things I learned while hiking.

So today I feel perfectly satisfied with my life. And instead of looking at the future with fear I'll choose to enjoy the moment which is beautiful and trust that when the future comes I will be given the grace to handle the hard stuff and the courage to truly enjoy without reservation the blessings of each day.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Special Meal

Tonight for no reason at all I fixed a fancy dinner for the family. The table has a white cloth, the places are set formally with shining cutlery and glassware. Tall white candles stand in the center.

I fixed a kale salad. The salad also had avocados, Gorgonzola cheese and an Asian sesame dressing. The next course consisted of a top sirloin, medium rare, with a garnish of caramelized sweet onions. There was Jasmine rice and fresh steamed broccoli and carrots. The adults had an Australian Shiraz and the kids got their water in fun mugs.

We had a delightful dinner together. The kids who got to use adult silverware and plates spent their time setting the cutlery in interesting shapes next to their plates. Other than that, they were on their best behavior, to my surprise and pleasure.

Hubby, surprised when he got home from work, enjoyed the delicious meal and even offered to do the dishes. After acting as chef and waitress, I was only too glad to let him do it.

Happy October 17th!

Super Why

Every morning Curly Miss crawls into bed with me to watch her favorite cartoon on PBS, Super Why. I have to say I like this particular cartoon a lot because its primary purpose is to teach reading and it happens to be right at Curly's level. She likes it because it's exciting, fun and cool.

The main character, Wyatt, turns into a reading superhero, Super Why, at the beginning of every episode. He and three friends enter a storybook of fairy tales. They spend their time reading the words and changing the story to solve a frustrating problem such as losing their way or running into the Billy Goats' Gruff's troll.

Curly Miss adores this show. So when she found out that I intended to make a costume for her this fall, she requested to be Super Why.

So I have spent my time this week designing and sewing a Super Why costume. Luckily I had all but the sleeves done when my machine broke. I guess I had pushed it too far sewing over twenty pins on the mask. I finished the rest by hand after dropping the machine off at the shop.

Of course a superhero needs all of her props and gear as well. Super Why has a little red question mark atop a blue pencil that he uses to zap words in the storybook. Of course my little detail-oriented offspring needed one exactly like the real thing. Using techniques learned from Grandma Doh, I used Sculpey clay that bakes hard, molded around a wire frame a glued to... can you guess what I used to make the pencil? A wooden peg. Michael's Craft store loves me.

When my daughter picked up the "word-zapper" as she calls it, she commented regretfully, "It doesn't work though."

I responded, "Well, it's just pretend, the whole show."

"Of course it is," she answered knowingly.

Tonight, after an afternoon of hand sewing, I presented the costume to Curly. Delighted, she donned the suit and mask, announcing she is now Super Why. She rushed off to show her brother. I'd say she looks more like Super Curly.

I'm not sure where we'll use it as we probably won't go Trick-or-treating. I guess we'll find a party somewhere to attend. I have a feeling we won't need to as our family will probably be graced with the presence of Super Curly for quite some time.

It's also a good thing I did not know any better, I could have bought a costume.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Forgetting My Brain

We need to go to the store this morning. To get... something. For the life of me I cannot remember what it was. Most likely it's whatever I forgot to get last time I was at the store.

Sometimes I feel like I have no brain whatsoever. I think about things I need throughout the day, sometimes even being so clever as to write them down on a list. Then I bundle up the kids, throw them in the car, buckle 15 car seat buckles and get going. By the time I remember their blankets, my driving glasses, my sun glasses, my purse with (hopefully) wallet, their shoes, coats, toys, drinks, and THEM, I have forgotten the list. Oh well, I'll remember what was on it, right? Right? Oh, quit laughing.

Then I arrive at the store. By then my brain is usually on to a completely different topic, such as the life-consuming dilemma of "should I Photoshop that chipped-paint background on my client's new website in an edgy steel blue or use warmer red tones?" I wrestle with this as I walk around the store. In the baby clothes section I have definitely decided on the steel blue. But as I pass jewelry and clocks I reconsider. Maybe I should even throw in a little green to bring out those tones in a logo I'm using...

In a daze I push the cart full of chattering children, picking random objects off the shelves. My daughter apparently does this too. Last night she laughingly held up a pair of fake vampire teeth swiped from who knows where. When we get to the checkout line the bill comes to $58.67. How can that be??? We came here to get toothpaste, for crying out loud!

By the time we get all loaded and buckled in the car, I have successfully decided to Photoshop a DIFFERENT picture altogether and life is dandy. Until we get home. There on my table is my list, sporting the one item in the entire store I did not purchase. So I crumple the list, throw it in the fireplace, set the kids in front of the TV and open Photoshop. Aaaah, life is good.

I've never had writer's block like this!!

I have a confession to make. I have absolutely no idea what I am going to write about for the reading on the 25th. I think I have my expectations too high. After this amount of time, people are going to be expecting something really good and I don't have anything that meets my standards.

I tried a humor piece but it was dumb and got lousy feedback. Also it wasn't finished and did not looks as though it would ever be finished. Humor is hard and you have to know your audience. Then, I tried a really dark, emotional, personal piece but I don't want to finish it and I really don't want to read it aloud. I could not even bring myself to post it. Yuck. Then I started a fun dramatic narrative and got even less done on it. I just don't want to work on it.

Maybe I should just pick out a favorite blog post, like the one about practicing the bagpipes in the park and call it good. I don't know. I am so tied up in knots about this and it doesn't even really matter in the long run. GRRRR. I wish I could quit stressing about it. I feel like I have a music performance and I have not even picked a song yet. Which has been known to happen.

It's so weird because I love to write and I write thousands of words every week. So why can't I put together a measly little essay to read in front of a group of friends in two weeks?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Adoption Timeline

As far as we know it, here is how our adoption will proceed. (Of course there will be snags and bumps; they're to be expected.)

We began applying for the homestudy in September. At that time we also chose and contacted a private agency recommended by the State of Idaho.

Right now we have about 90% of our homestudy materials finished. We had to do several applications, disclose some family information, write the biographical statements, get criminal background checks and fingerprints, give financial statements, have a physical, request five letters of reference, get health statements for the kids, write a guardianship plan in case of our death or incapacitation, submit copies of all pertinent certificates such as marriage certificate, birth certificates for the kids, driver's licenses, Social Security cards, medical insurance card and we had to draw a floor plan of our house, giving the size of the rooms and an emergency escape plan.

Once all that is received and processed by the Idaho Youth Ranch, we will get a visit by a homestudy specialist who will examine our house and interview us for several hours.

If everything checks out we hope to get approved to adopt by Christmas.

At that point we will be put on a waiting list with the agency. The State of Idaho will give our application to them, either the one in Texas or the one in Louisiana and we'll also write a letter of introduction to potential birth mothers.

Then for us it will be a waiting game. The agencies have said that they have enough minority newborns come through that approved families on the wait lists usually wait an average of three to six months.

Sometime next spring, then, we'll get a call. A birth mother has chosen our family to adopt her baby. Right then, we'll need to book plane tickets to points south and go to the agency to meet our baby. She will likely be just two or three days old. We may or may not meet the birth mother. We'll need to stay down there for a few days to get the paperwork in order to cross state lines with the baby.

Then we'll bring our little one home! We'll get a few visits from an Idaho caseworker to make sure things are going smoothly and we'll visit the court in Idaho to finalize the adoption.

The best guess I can make is mid-May for our little one to arrive. We won't know a thing about the baby until we get the call from the agency. I think we're going to request an African-American girl, so I guess we'll know that much, unless something changes.

So that is all we know right now. We're finishing up our application and thinking and praying daily for our new little one and her birth mother.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Moving Up A Size

This fall, Curly Miss has shot up in height. The result of her growth spurt is that she is finally large enough to graduate to the next size of violin, a 1/10 size. I found a good deal on a slightly used model at Shar Music in Seattle. Since they had one in stock, I also got a much better quality violin than the one she was using, a Franz Hoffman Maestro, definitely better than the Suzuki Nagoya she had. Still it was a good starter instrument and we'll keep it for the younger siblings to use.

Today the new violin arrived and we had the ceremonial unveiling. This violin has a new cool Mini-Kun shoulder rest in her favorite color, red, a fancy case with backpack shoulder straps, and a brand-new bow! I had to rosin the bow three times before it would grab the string enough to play a note.

When it did, my little violinist's eyes lit up like stars. This instrument has a big, round sound on all four strings and the bridge is much better, meaning it is so much easier to isolate each string. She played through a couple of her songs with obvious enjoyment. On her little 1/16th violin, it was almost impossible to get a "non-scratchy" sound from the two lower strings. On this one, the sound is much better.

Having a new, good shoulder rest will result in less tension in her neck and shoulder and more comfort as she plays. She has a long neck for a little kid. Of course it is still a very small violin so the "big" sound that the full-sized instruments have won't be there but still it is a huge step up. She had a lot of fun trying it out for the first time today. I expect it will make a big difference in her practicing. Her teacher has been working with her on the forte "Papa Bear" sound, the mezzo-forte "Mama Bear" sound and the piano "Baby Bear" sound. Since the response is so much better on the new violin, it will be so much more motivating and rewarding to pursue a beautiful, rich tone in each of the dynamic ranges.

Morning's Entertainment

Curly Miss and I woke up this morning to loud banging outside. At first I told her it was a garbage truck but when it continued we both decided that my initial assessment was wrong. So we looked outside.

What do you know? A couple of really cool big trucks were right outside our house working on our street! Curly was enchanted, stationing herself by the living room window to watch. Once Little Mister woke up, they sat on the big blue chair in his room, raptly watching those trucks out his window.

There was a big scoop with a Pinchy, just like Diesel 10, and it was busily digging up the road.

Then it dropped pieces of the road into the other truck.

Meanwhile, a flagger stopped traffic, and set out orange cones, just like on Bob the Builder. Amazing! There was drama and action outside this morning, I tell you!

What lucky kids I have.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Doings of Little Mister

It struck my in reading back over recent posts that Curly Miss has gotten quite a bit more screen-time than Little Mister. She certainly has more structured activities but over the course of a week I actually spend more time with him. We are very much enjoying the one-on-one time together. He is still my snuggler and will come up to give me a spontaneous hug or kiss. More introverted than his sister, I have seen signs of getting overwhelmed by a large crowd of kids although generally he does very well in a group. Thankfully he's really easygoing and seldom gets upset about anything except someone stealing his toy.

His vocabulary has taken another leap forward. He tries to imitate our words now. For a long time he has understood everything we said but now he's attempting to say it for himself, not in conversation yet, but in imitation. He always seems so pleased with himself when he says a new word it cracks me up and we laugh together and have a tickle.

He's going to be two next week. When Curly Miss turned two I had just had a baby and was in terrible pain. I remember very little of her development and personality at that time and I realize now that I missed a delightful stage of development. He changes day by day, learning and exploring his little world.