Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks Giving

We have a book, called Thanks for Thanksgiving, that we take out every year at this time and read to the kids. They then write in the back of it what they're thankful for. A few examples from years past:
Thank you for lollipops. Thanks you for books.
Thank you for God and Santa and Jesus (does that make Santa like the Holy Spirit or something?)
From Bella one year: I am thankful for my life.

This year we have two new handwritings in the book, from James and Julie.
From James: Thanks for candy. Thanks for Mom. Thanks for turkey. Thanks for holideys. Thanks for new Family.
From Julie:
Thanks fore Holl (whole) family and love. Thanks for all hellp. I am soo hape (happy) I am in Amerikeh.

Yeah. I think that about says it all....

Sunday, November 8, 2009

So much goin' on .....

When I look at the date of my last entry, I find it hard to believe that it's been nearly a month since I've posted. There have been so many things that have kept me busy, including:
*new round of dentist appointments for all the kids, two at a time
*Bella's birthday
*James beginning therapy
*Rosie's confirmation
*chaperoning field trips
*a minor surgical procedure (don't worry -- nothing serious)
*school meetings regarding my youngest (can you say Problem Child?)
*redecorating Rosie's room including assembling not one but two nightmare pieces of Ikea furniture
*soccer games
*2 1/2 new horses (a mare, her 6 month old colt, and her foal in-utero)

Normally I would have been all over the one year anniversary of Fred and I leaving for Kazakhstan and meeting James and Julie. That's something in slower days I could write volumes on (aren't you glad you've been spared?). That has come and gone without so much as a nod to the event.

If you read and wondered about the above "James beginning therapy", allow me to elaborate. James has RAD.

(brief pause for the collective gasp of the adoption community)

Yes. James has Reactive Attachment Disorder, as well as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We're doing this textbook style. We enjoyed a wonderful honeymoon period, followed by some hard-to-understand emotional moments, then moving on to out-and-out rebellion/disrespect, even some limited violent behaviors. Every adoptive parents' worst nightmare, right?

Well I'm glad to inform you that we are all alive and well and pulling through this. We have seen tremendous progress by James and so he continues to impress me in yet one more way. I am trying to resist the pull into a false sense of security since our ride has been bump-free for a couple weeks now, but I know in my heart as well as my head that this will be a long, slow process of two baby steps forward, interspersed with baby to giant steps backwards. That's OK. We're in this for the long haul.

I think they should have parents of all kinds, biological, adoptive, foster, take parenting vows, akin to the wedding vows of marriage. You know, for better or worse, in sickness and in health.

Since many adoptive parents prefer not to talk about RAD, but all of us are afraid of it, I'm going to put a side-bar in this blog to timeline what we're experiencing. I know everyone who deals with RAD will go through something very unique, but maybe this will help someone gain some perspective.

For anyone going through tough times with their kids, RAD or not, one small bit of corny advice before closing:
Don't let the bumps in the road knock you out of your car. Just buckle your seatbelt, watch the road signs, and don't be afraid to pull into the gas station to ask for directions.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Poetic Justice

Yesterday morning I was driving the kids to school. About a mile down the road, Rosie realized she had left an important homework assignment at home. Since I knew we still had plenty of time, I turned the car around and headed home so she could retrieve it. James was complaining all the while that now we were going to be late and how ridiculous it was of her to leave that at home. We asked him, hadn't he ever forgotten anything before? He adamantly relpied that no he had certainly not ever forgotton anything and remained huffy about the whole turning around business. About 15 minutes later we arrived at school and the kids all began gathering their things and unloading from the car, when what does James realize? He had forgotten his backpack! Boy, did he have egg on his face. But he was good-natured about it and took the much-justified ribbing in stride.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Goodbye Flurry......

Last week I made a tough decision. The decision to put my old mare Flurry down.
Flurry was 30+ years old (best guess), blind in one eye, had a heart murmur, and had an old leg injury which bowed out her left front leg and hobbled her up pretty good. Still, she seemed comfortable enough and got around OK, and my Thoroughbred Jasper was just absolutely smitten with her, so I let her be.
However, last week she came up lame in one of her hind legs. When I picked around, I couldn't find anything obvious, so it seemed most likely just the strain of walking nearly three-legged finally got to be too much for the other legs. Poor old thing could barely hobble around. So I arranged with the vet to come out Monday. Today.

And he did. He came out this morning and we led Flurry into the back yard, at first keeping Jasper in the barn. However, this proved to be too distressing to both of them, so we let Jasper out into the field so they could see each other. She immediately settled down, though Jasper was pacing the fence-line, clearly worried about his wife.
The vet gave her a sedative to calm her a bit, and after a few minutes, put an IV into her neck, and injected the drugs. Within seconds she dropped sideways onto the ground, and breathed her last. Pretty peaceful end for her, and the right thing to do, but that didn't keep me from crying. As I told the vet, just because it's the right thing to do doesn't mean it's easy.

Who I feel most sorry for, though, is not Flurry, not myself, not even the kids. It's Jasper. Though we had only had Flurry for about two years, he just adored her. Once she dropped, he began whinnying and running up and down the fence-line. He couldn't understand why she wasn't getting up. As the vet knelt next to Flurry, checking reflexes and listening for a heartbeat, Jasper was beside himself.

The vet left and I began the wait for the "knacker", the person you call when you need a large dead animal hauled away. A number I don't want, but unfortunately need to have in my rolodex.
I went inside for the wait because, as always, I have things that I need to do. Today is Bella's birthday, and I have gifts to wrap and banners to hang. As I busy myself inside, I can see and hear Jasper out in the pasture. He is screaming his agony as he runs to the fence and peers over at her lying there. His ears are forward, his nostrils flared. He stares at her, then screams, then in a panic gallops off to the opposite fence to look for her elsewhere, not wanting to believe, I guess, that that is really her lying there. But when he doesn't see her anywhere, he gallops back and repeats the whole process. As I consider what he is enduring, my teardrops fall onto the tissue paper of the gift I am wrapping.
As time passes, though, he is beginning to settle down a bit. His panicked gallops have become agitated trots. His head is carried lower than it was. Instead of running to the highest part of the pasture to survey all the fields, he is heading to the corner where the neighboring geldings are gathered, to receive their condolences.
I have just come back in from wrapping up with the lady responsible for hauling Flurry off. You want to think that the knacker is a hunch-backed toothless scruffy looking sort. But her name was Janet and she wore a monogrammed fleece and had a short blond bob. Nice woman. She commiserated with me and shared stories of animals she's lost. Some of the pain is already diminishing. For Jasper, as well. Though he is not quite back to absent-mindedly grazing, he is no longer galloping. No longer trotting. Simply walking back and forth, head held low, looking over the fence and then away again. No one can ever truly understand what an animal feels, thinks, knows. But to those who say animals don't have souls, or can't love, shame on them .....

Friday, October 9, 2009


The first week the kids were back at school was smooth as silk. No homework or projects. After school activities hadn't started yet. Life was calm. But now that they've been back for several weeks the ratrace is back in full swing, hence the infrequency of my posts of late.

Take yesterday for instance.

After spending most of the day at the school helping out at the bookfair, I quick ran a few errands before the kids got home. When the kids walked in the door, one of them told me the busdriver wanted to see me, so I ran out to the bus in my sockfeet. She informed me Daniel got in a fight on the bus. Again. I first apologize and then thank her profusely when she tells me she'll try to keep from having to write this up (maybe he can get out of another suspension????)
Then the homework help commenced. Helping two kids through homework because they don't understand the directions due to English fluency issues. Helping another with homework b/c she doesn't understand the directions period b/c of her learning disability. Making sure the others are all working on theirs as well b/c tomorrow is, after all, Friday, when everything is due and they've been procrastinating.
At the same time, I'm making tacos for dinner, so I'm chopping tomatoes and cooking beef while helping children sound out words and do subtraction.
I drive a dtr to her friend's house who, in turn, will drive her to soccer practice.
I make sure all the kids have stowed their homework in their backpacks. Eat dinner. Cleaning up after dinner I breathe a sigh of relief that the worst is behind us for the evening and everything got accomplished.
Then a child reports she needs a piece of posterboard for a project due tomorrow. I'm so on top of things. I happily tell her where she can find a piece from the recently replenished armada of poster board. My oldest then comes to me to say he needs me to bake cookies to bring into the fiesta they're having in Spanish class tomorrow. Next one of my dtrs comes to me to tell me she needs to bring in to school tomorrow: crackers and cheese, a tennis ball and a leash. Huh? Then another dtr tells me she needs clay to make something for her history class.
I vaguely recall seeing a tub of clay sitting on a pantry shelf (your guess is as good as mine as to why it's in the pantry).
The only cheese in our fridge is about as petrified as the clay we're trying to soften up. Instead of cheese and crackers, will pretzels do?
Luckily my son has gotten pretty handy in the kitchen so he's well under way with the cookies, though he seems to be eating the dough as fast as he's making it. How many do you need to bring in????
As the icing on the cake, James decides to be disrespectful again. When I explain to him what the consequence will be, he sulkily tells me "I don't care" like he always does and stomps up to his room. I know he will not speak to me now for a good two to three days.

But that was yesterday. Today is Friday, wahooooo!!!! No more homework. Though I will still have a teenager who is not talking to me, and a family to pack for as we head out tonight to a soccer tournament for the weekend. First game reporting time, by the way, 7:45 on Saturday morning. Oh well. At least I won't have to cook.
Or find anyone clay or cheese.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Starfish on the Beach

I saw this video link on a friend's blog, and I wanted to share it here.

I find myself at a loss of words when it comes to describing how I feel about the importance of adoption in our world. This video points out that there are 132 million orphans in this world. 132 million. I can think of nothing of greater importance than finding homes for these orphans.
It's important for our world.
It's important for each country to take care of its own children.
It's important for each child to grow up in a family. To feel wanted. To feel provided for. To feel loved.

I used to be very passionate about a lot of causes, and I still support several. But most of them have lost their lustre in my eyes. Whether I'm being asked to provide money so our school can provide an exciting speaker for an upcoming assembly, or to help buy supplies at a local animal shelter, or to save an historic building, it all seems to pale in comparison to the fact that there are children all over the world without homes. Not that the causes I mentioned (and so many more) are not worthwhile. They certainly are. But I just feel like if everyone did something to reduce the number of orphans in this world ...
I don't know, it just, to me, seems like the most important thing.

Everyone is familiar with the story of the thousands of starfish washed up on the beach and the little boy picking them up, one at a time, and throwing them back into the ocean. Someone pointed out to him that he can't possibly save them all, so why should he bother doing anything? And the little boy explained he could make a difference for the one he was returning to the sea at that moment.
There are millions of orphans without homes. Rather than tell yourself you can't help them all, see what you can do to help one .....

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Snatch the pebble, Cricket .....

James (and Daniel) started Kung Fu lessons last week. They both love it and I think it's going to be a big help for James with the behavior/attitude problems we've had of late. Good physical outlet, discipline, respect, all rolled up in one tidy little package.
Of course, now he'll learn how to sneak up Ninja-style on his siblings more effectively. And he'll learn how to wield swords and spears.
Oh my. What have I done ....?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Loophole Master

I wrote earlier that we had figured out a primitive, yet tried-n-true sticker chart to help James modify his behavior to more closely resemble a boy who lives in a family than with a pack of wolves. Long-term he's working to earn his visit with his friend Madiyar. Short-term, he has to get a star six days out of seven to earn a trip to the drug store or dollar store so he can buy a little something for himself, such as a pack of gum or small toy.
Well the little so-n-so loopholed me the very first week out of the gate.
He had been doing great and had earned a star every day, Saturday through Thursday. Six stars out of seven. So Friday afternoon what does he do? He starts irritating all his siblings by teasing, mimicking, making faces, basically pushing every button he can find. All the kids are in an uproar and I told him to cut it out. His response? When are we going to the drugstore? I told him I couldn't take him out when he's acting like that. He got very indignant and pointed out he had earned his six stars, as agreed on, so I needed to take him to the store, as agreed on.
Damned if his logic wasn't sound.
I sat there stunned for a moment trying to figure out a rational response. All I could think to tell him was that I couldn't in good conscience take him out for his reward in the middle of him acting so poorly towards everyone. If he could pull it together and treat everyone respectfully, I would take him out for his reward the next morning.
Well, he shaped up and I did take him the next day and he looked over all the toys and ended up buying himself a pack of Starbursts. I tried to explain to him why the reward trip needed to be delayed and he seemed to get it. But I'm still shaking my head over how he managed to find that loophole. The kid's too smart for his own good.
And mine.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Never Say No to Organization Tips

Just found a great blog that's all about organizing in a large family:
(or see link on sidebar)
I'm a firm believer that finding ways that suit your family to stay organized can make the difference between chaotic days and smoooooth ones. I'm constantly tweaking how I do things, and when I stumble across a brilliant means of organizing something it's always such an aha moment for me.
I'd rather read a How-To manual for organizing the home than a good, steamy, trashy novel.

I blame my German roots.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Figuring it out ....

After my last post I received many positive and supportive comments from concerned family and friends. Thank you.

I'd like to answer each of you personally, but time has been short lately, so maybe just a quick update right here in blogworld.

First, I was able to get the name of a good therapist who specializes in adoption issues and RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder). Not that I'm saying James has RAD, but neither am I saying I'm ready to rule that out at this time, either. So I'll touch base with her next week.

I have worked out (with the help of a friend) a positive motivator for James so we can work on a behavior chart to try to shape some of the behaviors we need him to work toward. Many of you will remember that he had a good friend, Madiyar, that he knew from his orphanage that was adopted and brought home to Mass around the same time James came home to us. His Mom and I have decided to arrange a visit between the two boys and James is just thrilled at the prospect. Dee and I are both prepared that if the boys don't earn this trip, it will need to be cancelled so we can stay consistent with what what we're trying to accomplish. So we will work long-term towards that, with probably smaller, weekly rewards for proper behavior, like running him to the dollar store on the w/e to let him buy a candy bar with his allowance money.

I have also tried to put in writing for him a list of his rights (like a bed, meals, being a member of our family) vs his privileges (like a lock on his door, snacks/desserts, favors from Mom) and our expectations (treating people respectfully, obeying parents, doing assigned chores, etc). What has always seemed common-sensical and just a given may not seem so to James, who has not been a member of a family in a very long time. Shoot, even when he was part of a family it was pretty dysfunctional, so it's no wonder he's fumbling the ball a bit here.

Anyway, I feel that with love, consistency, and support we will be able to get the good family behavior/attitudes that we need. It's just a matter of time. And patience. And a good bottle of wine now and then.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dark Times with James

I guess the honeymoon phase is officially over with James. Where in the beginning we had a sweet, helpful, affectionate boy, we now have a brooding, sulking, dirsespectful teenager. We've had squabbles with his brother over X-Box end in a punch thrown. We've had my requests/directives to him answered with ignoring silences or a flat out no. We've witnessed him meld with the couch for days when he feels like sulking.
This morning he ripped himself off the sofa like a Band-Aid off a scraped knee and started getting busy packing up a backpack. In it he had a water bottle, a fishing rod, and a few toys he had made over the past few months. Was he running away? I kept an eye on him as I went about my business, and sure enough, down the road he went after a spell. I gave him some time and then went after him in my car. I found him not far from home, up where the RR tracks cross over the road and a creek. I parked my car on the side of the road and walked up the embankment. There he was, squatted over a little fire ring he had made, feeding the small flames with twigs and pine needles. Over his fire he had a hobo sack of an an aluminum foil ball suspended by a coathanger and taped to the tracks with masking tape. I had to bite my cheeks to keep the grin down. He just looked like such a little pathetic vagabond, though he was only about a mile from home and had been gone all of 15 minutes. I told him he was not allowed to have a fire and he quickly put it out with his water bottle. I told him to come home and he took his backpack and got back on his bike without another word. I noticed he was wearing his helmet, so he wasn't such a rebel.

So Fred and I talked to him tonight and told him that he doesn't have to love us, and he doesn't even have to respect us, but he at least has to ACT like he he respects us. Told him we will always love him no matter what, and he will always be our son no matter what. He sat with head hung and barely said a word and all but ran back inside as soon as he was released. I told Fred all I need from the boy right now is for at least the facade of respect, following house rules, and for me to have a feeling of safety for all concerned. In an ideal world he would also love me, like me, and fall over backwards trying to be helpful.

I'm tempted to sweep all this under the rug and put on a happy face and say we're all living happily ever after. But I try hard to keep it real. To write about our downs as well as our ups. To shout out when I'm happy and proud but also air out when I'm feeling frustrated or at my wits' end.

I know that many boys his age will go through periods like this even if they are genetically linked to their parents and have lived with them since infancy. And that many adopted kids, especially older ones, will go through a phase whereby they test their parents, push all their buttons. They figure they will be abandoned once again sooner or later, so they do all they can to expose their parents' true colors.
If I push hard enough, I'll get them to tell me they hate me/send me back/hit me.
Well, James, I hate to disappoint, but that ain't gonna happen. No matter what you do, you will be loved. You will have food. You will have a bed to sleep in. I will never strike you.
So keep pushin, hon. And then realize that we are a family for keeps.

Guess who just came in and said sorry? Guess who just gave me the biggest hug ......

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Without a Hitch

So the kids have officially finished their first week of school, and it all went off without a hitch. For the most part the kids seemed to like their teachers and have some friends in their classes. They never once missed the bus or forgot a lunch, and both the morning routines and the bedtime routines went pretty smoothly. They now have a four day weekend stretched before them, promising beautiful weather to boot. In fact this afternoon we've all been outside for hours riding bikes, playing Frisbee, and drawing hopscotch boards in the driveway.

Next week, on the other hand, the back-to-school honeymoon will be over. Looking at my calendar, I see we have an orthodontist appt, 2 drs appts, 2 back-to-school nights, 2 soccer practices, CCD starting, and more.

Ah well. It was nice while it lasted.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Comin' Atya Live ....

Thank you for joining us live at the farmhouse on this beautiful morning. I'm Earl E. Rizer ....

And I'm Dewey Riley Kaire ....

And we'll be covering the Annual First Day of School event for you all morning.

That's right Earl. This much anticipated event pits two formidable enemies against each other: Mommankidz vs The Bus. We've got a bird's eye view of the Mommankidz team, who should be appearing on the scene any moment now, as well as audio feed that will give us live updates on The Bus as things unfold.

Although Mommankidz has a pretty strong track record, there are those that wonder how they'll fare in this event. My sources tell me that instead of using the summer to train, they've been undisciplined in their sleep habits and have only worked together as a cohesive team on a handful of occassions all summer long.

That's right Earl. In contrast, The Bus is fully prepared. It's been washed, fueled, tuned-up, and had a strong performance in the Bus Rodeo over the summer.

This will be an interesting competition to say the least ....

And here they come now, onto the field. It's just Mom at the moment but she's giving a strong first impression as she appears to be showered and dressed.

She's heading straight to the coffee pot, no surprise there, and then over to the stove. She seems to be doing something .... Dewey, it looks like she's making breakfast.

Well, Earl, that's an impressive start as they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I don't think anyone was expecting that.

Maybe they have a stronger shot at this than we thought. Do you think ....

Hold that thought, Earl, I believe another player is arriving on the scene. Yes, it's #1, in the position of high school freshman. Will he be a help or a hindrance to this team, do you think, Earl?

Hard to say, Dewey, hard to say. He's walking over to Mom .... he gives her a hug!

Wow, great move. But let's see how he handles breakfast. He looks into the pot ....and he smiles! He helps himself to a bowl of the steaming oatmeal as the crowd goes wild. This is a very strong start for Team Mommankidz.

And here come #2 and #3, both in the position of middle schoolers. On their heels is player #5. Anything could happen now, and the crowd seems to be holding its collective breath.

Earl, they've ALL taken bowls of oatmeal and have sat down to eat! Is there no stopping this team?

Yes, things are looking incredibly good for this team, but let's not forget it is early in the game, and not all the players have joined us yet.

Well, but here comes #6, the youngest player on the team. These rookies can be a handful and it takes a strong coach to keep their energies in check. Let's watch what happens ....

Dewey, it looks like he's walking over to the pot .....he looks in..... and he makes a face. Now he's whining! Oh, this is bad news for Mom. They argue for a bit .... and now he is heading to the freezer for frozen waffles. Disaster averted for the moment.

Earl, I have to wonder where player #4 is. She seems to be the only one missing at this point.

Perhaps the alarm clock fairy didn't call on her this morning, Dewey. Let's see if Mom is aware of this. She's watching the other players eat breakfast.... she sips her coffee .....she sneaks a look at the clock and by golly there she goes, up the stairs like a jackrabbit. She's a pretty, er, seasoned member of this team, but she's got speed when she needs it.

And here she comes back down the stairs with a confused and sleepy looking player #4. Mom has a bowl of oatmeal in front of her before you can say "what's for breakfast".

Dewey, I've just gotten word that the Busdriver is in the Bus. I repeat, the Busdriver is IN the Bus. The engines are revved and the wheels are rolling.

This makes things interesting, Earl. Mommankidz has had a pretty smooth start to this competition, but there's a long way to go and anything could happen.

Back at the Farmhouse, the dishes are cleared and they're moving on to teeth and hair. Mom is directing her players left and right and there's lots of movement. Oooh, player #4 seems to have a knot in her hair. Mom rushes to the scene and applies tangle spray and goes to work getting the tangle out. The player winces. That's gotta hurt.

Earl, it looks like there's trouble in the bathroom. The players are fighting over who was at the sink first and whose toothpaste is whose for crying out loud.

Dewey, Mom's no newcomer to multitasking, but let's see how she handles this. It looks like she's got #4 by the hair and is sidestepping her over to where she has line of sight to the bathroom. She's still working on that tangle, and now she is calling out to the players in the bathroom.

Earl, it's times like these that I'm glad we can't actually hear what they're saying out on the field, because it doesn't look pretty, my friend.

Well, whatever it is, it seems to have had some effect. The players in the bathroom are brushing their teeth like nobody's business.

And the last of the tangle seems to have been conquered as well, Earl. Looks like this team is back on track.

Dewey, this just in from the feed on the opponent. The bus is IN town at this point and scooping up kids like a giant hungry python.

It's as if Mom has psychic powers because she seems to sense this too. She's kicking things into high gear and there's lots of action on that field right now, things are moving in a blur:
Sandwiches seem to have magically appeared and I see players shoving them into lunchboxes. I see others running to the pantry for snacks and some heading to the refrigerator for drinks. It's a miracle they don't trip over each other in this madness.
Players are now running every which way and it seems they are donning shoes. The rookie stands in the middle of the frey, one shoe in hand, the solitary still figure among a blur of arms and legs dashing about. He seems to be in trouble. I can only guess at this point that he can't find his other shoe, Earl.

This could spell defeat for Mommankidz, Dewey, because if he sets foot on that Bus in his barefeet, it's game over for Mommankidz.

And speaking of The Bus, I'm receiving word right now that it has left town and is headed for the Farmhouse. Looks like it's now or never for Mommankidz, Earl.

Player #5 has just spotted The Bus out of the window. She leans her head back and yells "Buuuuuussssssss" at the top of her lungs. Oh my God, now everyone on the team is running. The team mascot begins barking his fool head off. Everyone is grabbing backpacks and lunchboxes. Mom's on her hands and knees peering under the sofa and .... what's this? She HAS FOUND THE SHOE! She stands up, reaches her arm back and throws a Hail Mary across two rooms. THE ROOKIE CATCHES THE SHOE!

Oh my GOD, I think they're gonna make it. Mom races to the door and all the players file past her. Kisses and fond words are exchanged as they walk out the door and down the walk.

The bus pulls up to the house ... the doors open .... and all the players begin to step in! But what about the rookie?

Earl, he's hopping down the walk, still putting his shoe on even as he approaches The Bus. The last of his teammates has vanished from sight. Will he make it and secure victory for this team?

HE DOES! His shoe is on and he is ON The Bus, I repeat, he is ON The Bus! The crowd is on its feet and going wild! This is a HUGE upset for The Bus and an incredible victory for Team Mommankidz.

That's right Earl, they'll be talking about this one for some time. I guess Mom still has a few moves left in her after all ......

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

No Strayngers to Strays

Over the years we have crossed paths with many stray critters. Some we have kept as our own, others we have found loving homes for.

As of Sunday, a new little stray has entered our lives. A sweet tabby kitten we have named Malishka, which is Russian for baby girl.

That afternoon I was sitting on the deck in the late afternoon watching the kids in the pool when I heard a plaintive, repeated meowing coming from our driveway. When I looked down, I saw this pathetic little half-bald kitty looking up at me and crying pitifully. As soon as I opened the gate to walk down the steps toward her, she ran away. Luckily, she didn't run far and she stopped and let me pick her up. It was all I could do to keep from crying out when I saw the hundreds of fleas running all over her bare back and belly. I took her inside and gave her a bath with some itch-relief pet shampoo, then applied a vial of Frontline to her.
Despite being half-starved and half-mad from all the fleas, she was incredibly sweet and quite the purr-train. We gave her some food and water which she gobbled right up, and made a bed for her in a pet-carrier with a litter pan and a water dish.
Next morning, she still had some fleas, but there were hundreds of dead black dots in her bedding. A step in the right direction. I called the SPCA and reported that we had a found kitten staying with us, but it's now two days later and I haven't heard back from them.
I guess we have a new pet.
Well. Julie does. We've decided this can be her kitty, and she's beyond excited.
Julie went with me today to take her kitten to the vet. We've learned that Mali's about two months old, she has worms, but does not have feline leukemia or HIV. We also learned that she's very cute.

We already knew that.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Homeroom Postings and a Facelift

Yesterday I drove the younger kids over to our school b/c it was the much anticipated Homeroom Posting Day. Where we all get to crowd around two pillars of posted papers listing all the classes, complete with techers and students.

For the three I have in elementary school, we were pleased with two of the teachers, but one of them we've never heard of, so we can only cross our fingers and hope for the best. Unfortunately, none of the kids got their best friends in their classes, thought they all saw several names that they were pleased about. And no one will heave any arch enemies to contend with in their classrooms.

My middle-schoolers will have to wait till first day of school to see who will be sharing classes with them, and my high-schooler will get a mailing next week to learn his schedule.

We also got a sneak-peek at the facelift our tired old school has undertaken. I believe the school building is somewhere between 75 and 100 years old. It looks it. But over the summer it finally got a much needed facelift to some of the interior. A new entrance, new tile floors, a complete make-over for the gym (which previously had carpet on its floors, of all things). We weren't allowed in the building, but we snuck past the yellow tape and peeked in the windows (shhh, don't tell). We're all very excited.

We finished up the visit for a trip out for milkshakes. Don't tell the kids I told you, but I think they're actually starting to get a bit excited .....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

End in Sight

Well here I sit, with the first day of school a mere 10 days away.
There were times this summer I didn't know if I'd make it out alive.

I'm not usually this way. I've always felt bad for the women who talk to each other about how they can't wait for the kids to be back in school. But now I've turned into one of them, ack!

Don't get me wrong, I will miss my kids. But there were just too many factors at play this year to make it a fun-to-the-last-drop summer. A few:

*Teens and pre-teens brought together by circumstance (vs by choice) don't always play well together.

*According to my doctor, my hormones are having quite a party, and I wasn't invited.

*Our number of kids has increased by 50%. The chaos level has risen by 75%.

*I'm sure police work can be a very rewarding career. But being the chore police, laundry police, food police, TV/computer/X-Box police, whose-turn-is-it-dispute police is no picnic. And for all my efforts I haven't once been given a hero badge or the key to the city.

But it hasn't all been gloom and despair. In fact, the second half of the summer was actually rather enjoyable. Here are a few of the upsides:

*Julie is an awesome kitchen helper and when it's her turn for that chore, she can really lighten my load.

*James can mow grass like nobody's business. It's been great for Fred to have three big kids who can help with lawn maintenance this summer.

*Julie has learned how to swim.

*Seeing them all splash and play in the pool never fails to bring a smile to my face.

*James has such a sweet smile when he comes back from a bike ride all sweaty and out of breath.

*Screen-free hours on a rainy afternoon when the house is hushed and the kids are scattered about in twos and threes playing Monopoly or cards, cutting out pictures of Robert or David or Zac from teeny-bopper magazines, or curled up with a good book.

So yes, in a week and a half they will be back in school. And then there will be the morning rush to contend with, and homework and after-school activities and stricter bedtimes to adhere to.
But I will have about seven hours each day in which no one will yell my name. I will not have to tell anyone to Stop Doing That This Instant.
And it will be Good.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Woe is Me ....

Last night I felt miserably sorry for myself. I had gotten some negative feedback about my kids and that's a sensitive spot for me. Whenever I hear anything negative about my life's work I make a supreme effort to square my shoulders, raise my chin a notch and open my ears to listen without being defensive. Listen in order to take in what they have to say, weigh it for merit, and implement any action that might be needed to improve the situation.

Because I know (Lord, do I know) that they are not perfect and they are a continual work in progress for me. Shaping and molding is hard work. I am forever turning over in my mind how I can tweak the system in order to get the best "output". Output in this case being strong, healthy, straight A students who help little old ladies cross the street and rescue kittens from trees as soon as they finish all their household chores with a "happy to be of service" smile on their angelic faces.

Overall, I feel pretty proud of my crew, though they are by no means a "finished product" and there is much work to be done to nip certain problems in the bud. But on most days I feel good about myself and my kids. Last night was different. Coming from two places (both near and dear) I felt shadow was being noticed instead of light. Only my kids' faults were in evidence, none of the good qualities. And even more in question than my childrens' character was my way of doing things. Everything about how these kids are raised is my domain: what they eat, how much time they spend playing video games or watching TV, how clean their teeth are, how many household responsibilities they have and how well they do them, how active they are, the list goes on. If they're falling short, that means I am falling short because their life training is my job.
So yeah, I try to remain neutral so that I can take in feedback and make it work for me, but I'm not always so good at the neutral thing. I get emotional where my kids, and my sense of self-esteem, self-worth, whatever, is concerned. What I have to keep foremost in my mind is, how do I feel I'm doing? How do I feel about how my kids are turning out? If I know I'm doing a good job (I do), then I have to contnue to take in the feedback and use it for what it's worth, but not let other people's opinions oversahdow my own.

Is there a Zen-yoga-meditation master in the house?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Whatever Happened to a Notebook and a Pencil ....?

I just got the supply lists for back to school stuff. Oy. I don't know if all schools do this b/c of lack of funding or if it's a charter school thing, but I could sooner afford to feed a small country than buy all the stuff that's required. And my poor kids usually look like they could use a sturdy llama or burro when they set off to school the first day with plastic bags in each hand and their backpacks stuffed to bursting.

When I counted up the items required (not counting the "suggested classroom donations"), I got more than 180 items for 5 of them (the high school list is not out yet). In addition, I'm to send $25 each for James and Rosie as a donation for "classroom and project supplies".
These lists include the expected items, such as pencils, composition books, notebooks, binders, rulers. But also items such as ziplock bags, tissues, hand sanitizer, Clorox cleaning wipes.

Although I recycle items from previous years and I scout out the sales and do my shopping where the stuff is cheap, I've still spent hundreds of dollars and I'm not even done. And this is not including clothes, of course. I'll tell you what, after seeing these lists, I'm tempted to homeschool my kids in order to save some money.


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Penguin Envy

They say a mother penguin can pick out her chick from among thousands of others that look identical to hers. I've always been somewhat envious of this ability. I don't seem to have it.

If I take my kids to a place where there are bazillions of kids running around, like a park, a McDonald's playland, the beach, I just about need a neckbrace to prevent whiplash. Everytime I hear a kid shout "Mom" I impulsively turn to see who it was that called. Then, because I'm stupid, the very same kid could call again 5 seconds later and I whip my neck around again.

I should tell my doctor he can dispense with the knee-jerk reflex test for me and instead have his nurse get behind me and yell "Mom" a few times. The Mom-neck-spin reflex.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Wedding: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good
6 well-behaved kids sitting front row during a Catholic wedding.

How the girls were calling their newly married Aunt "Mrs. Cinderella".

The beautiful ceremony, bridal party and reception.

Award-winning performance of "Natural Woman" sung by my sister at the reception.

Julie dancing the night away on the dance floor. Again.

Being able to get one more wearing of the wedding clothes even though sashes needed to be pinned on.

James and Julie meeting many new family members for the first time.

The warm welcoming into the family for them.

The positive, supportive comments about adoption from almost everyone.

Scattered family reunited.

The rite of passage of a long road-trip for the kids.

The Bad
My legs and feet after wearing high heels when I've been accustomed to flip-flops and bare feet.

"When're we gonna be there/how much longer/he touched me/I'm hungry" on a loop for 12 hours.

James getting his feelings hurt and feeling sad for most of the reception.

The Ugly
Sigh. One person's ugly comments about adoption/adopted children.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Beach: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good
The ice cream man ringing his bell at the top of the dunes
Popsicle juice dripping down sandy chins
Miniature golf
The views from the top of the lighthouse
James and Julie learning the art of boogie boarding
Sand sculptures, including castles, dolphins, mermaids, seaturtles ....
Warm sand, sound of the surf, cool breeze
James and Julie seeing an ocean for the first time in their lives

The Bad
Sand on the floors
Sand in the sheets
Sand in our ears
Jellyfish legs after climbing the 200+ steps of the lighthouse

The Ugly
Pretty blue crab legs collected by Natasha on the jetty not smellin' so pretty the next day

Friday, July 10, 2009

6 Month Post-Placement Report

Back when we adopted Bella many years ago, the post-placement report requirements were different than they are today. They were done at 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, two years and three years. Today they no longer require reports until the child has been home a year, but they are then needed every year after that till the child is 18.
So although no one is knocking down my door for the 6 month report, I thought I'd give an unofficial one anyway since the kids have been home with us 6 months as of yesterday, July 9th.

In a nutshell, they're doing fanatstic.

They have both celebrated birthdays with us: James turned 14 in March and Julie turned 11 in May.

James enjoys taking long rides on his bike and producing breath-takingly beautiful artwork and projects of one kind or another. He loves swimming and horsing around with Patrick. He takes great delight in "ninja-ing" his family members, and he and Patrick have a running contest to see who is more Ninja. James likes middle school and brought home straight A's. He was also voted most artistic 7th grade boy by his classmates.

Julie loves to play school or kitchen with Bella, paint her nails with Rosie, go swimming, and sew. We're currently working on making some pajamas for her and she always has some little embroidery project in the works. She loves, loves, loves going to family weddings and dancing the night away all dolled up. Probably her favorite pasttime, though, is to cuddle up in my lap and just snuggle and love.

Though they were both a bit fearful of the dogs when they came home, they absolutely love them now. They also enjoy holding the bunnies or our guinea pig. James loves to watch the frogs go cricket-hunting when we feed them, and Julie adores our fat-cat Mamfy. James has a great time fishing in our pond or skating on it in winter time. Julie is not as much of a nature-child as her brother, but likes to go for walks to the creek or play outside in the driveway with chalks or her bike.

Their mastery of the English language has been nothing short of amazing. They can both read, write and speak English with impressive fluency. Here Julie has an edge over James, though whether that has more to do with her younger age, or being a girl, or just having an innate talent for languages I guess we'll never know. Though she still gets her pronouns mixed up and has more vocabulary to learn, she's pretty much understood by all who talk with her. James still struggles with sentence structure, so sometimes his point is lost as we try to rearrange his words and figure things out. But he'll get there. They still speak Russian with each other, which we've strongly encouraged so they don't lose their native tongue.

Six months down, a lifetime to go.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Thank you for America, Mom ....

First 4th of July celebration for James and Julie yesterday. They had a blast, literally. We kept it simple, just staying home for cookout and DIY fireworks in the driveway. All the kids got to light a few things and ooh and ahh over all the sparkles and bangs. Julie was by turns scared silly and totally amazed. She kept telling me, "Thank you, Mom, for America".
Rosie made a BD cake and we all sang and blew out the candles.

Happy Birthday America!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

End of another busy week.

You'll forgive me if I've been out of touch for the last week. We had friends visiting with us; they arrived Sun eve and left for home (NJ) yesterday afternoon, which was Friday. The kids all had a blast and they swam, ate, gamed, and played their hearts out for 6 days solid. But it was a houseful. Most days we had 13 here, but there were nights I was cooking for 15 or more depending on what strays we picked up for an afternoon or evening or overnight. Can you say paper plates?

A couple times we loaded everyone into two cars and headed to the movies to see a matinee of Transformers, or to the creek to have a picnic lunch and splash around in the water and throw sticks for our yellow Lab Sunny. My friend Mary and I were even evil enough to pawn all the kids onto her dh for an afternoon as she and I treated ourselves to a chick-flick and cried our eyes out to My Sister's Keeper.

So it was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work making sure the kids picked up their cups and plates and cans and trash. Extra effort being the laundry police to ensure wet bathing suits and towels got hung out to dry instead of sitting balled up in a corner. Being the Fairness Officer so everyone got their turn at whatever they were waiting to play with. Throw into the mix that one kid developed some kind of infection inside her eyelid and another got something worked inside of his pinky toe to create a nasty infection of his own, and an older dog that seemed to have lost touch with his bowel control and it all made for an interesting and busy week.

Fred laughed at me last night. Tucked into bed for the night after a long day I sighed, "It was a fun week but it's kinda nice just having the 8 of us under this roof tonight".
Guess he thought saying "just the 8 of us" was a bit of an oxymoron.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Recipe for Preserving Children

This is from my favorite "Mom" book, Mitten Strings for God by Katrina Kenison:

1 grass-grown field
several dogs and puppies (if available)
pebbles and sand
1/2 dozen children or more
1 brook

Into field, pour children and dogs, allowing to mix well.
Pour brook over pebbles until slightly frothy.
When children are nicely brown, cool in warm bath.
When dry, serve with milk and freshly baked gingerbread.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Essentials for Summer

With 2 1/2 days of school left, summer break is rapidly approaching. Time to stock up on a few summer essentials:

Mayonnaise Jars
To catch lightning bugs in. With holes poked in the lid and bits of twigs and grass inside.

For all the scraped knees from climbing trees, riding bikes, and playing kick-ball in the driveway.

A New Broom
To sweep up all the dirt tracked in the house dawn to dusk from their dirt-encrusted bare feet.

New Tupperware
I can kiss my old stuff goodbye. It will be pressed into service to catch bugs, make mudpies and hold cherries they've picked.

Lots of Ice Cream

To soothe the itchies from the Poison Ivy they were supposed to stay away from and the mosquito bites they got when they forgot to zip the screen on the tent.

Wire Coathangers
To bend just so to roast marshmallows and hot dogs.

Those Sparklers That You Light And Run Around With Till You're Blind Or Poke Someone's Eye Out
Because they're fun. And it's cool to write your name in the air with them.

Good Books, Lots of Art Stuff, Movies and Popcorn
For snuggly stuff to do on rainy days.

Watermelon and Roadside-Stand Corn on the Cob
Because it's summer.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Got word last week that an article (essay?) of mine has been accepted for publication! It will appear in the September issue of Adoption Today. I figure this is not only good for me, as I've discovered I truly enjoy writing, but good for adoption if I can get some of my views out and be an advocate of sorts.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Week In The Life ....

Drove one kid to an appointment in the morning.
Drove another kid to an appointment in the afternoon.
Picked strawberries with my 6 kids plus 1 friend. Took home way more than we needed.
Dropped kid off at the Ashland Nature Center in the morning for a two day, one night field trip.
Picked two kids up from school at 5pm after their all-day excursion into Philadelphia with the rest of the 4th graders.
Got an enthusiastic demonstration (the whole car ride home) from one of how her duck-quacker worked that she got from the Duck Ride Tour.
Arrived at Ashland to pick child up, but she asked if she could go to her friend's house for a few hours, so I headed back home in time to get the other kids off the bus.
Out again later to pick up from friend's house.
Tried to get some yard work done but the weather wouldn't cooperate.
Kept kids apart as much as humanly possible. With only two weeks remaining till summer break, they're all fidgety and restless and jumping down each other's throats.
Took child to a play at the school we're considering for him next year.
Mother-Dtr Book Club arrived for the end-of-year bash. The girls jumped in the pool while the Moms tried to keep out of the rain under the umbrella. Then we ate, talked about the book Twilight and watched the movie on the couch. Hard to believe this is the same group of girls that first started meeting as 2nd graders. From Junie B Jones to Twilight in three short years. Sigh .....
Oldest got all dressed up and headed out the door to his 8th grade semi-formal dinner dance.
He and his friends had made plans to go to the movies afterwards and he said he had rides there and back with parents. But at 2:15 in the morning he wasn't home yet. Only then did Fred and I realize we didn't know which Mom was driving, which theatre he was at, and that he didn't have a cell phone for us to call him. We wrung our hands and paced the floor and wondered whether we should start calling parents of friends but decided to wait a bit longer. He got dropped off around 2:45 with a smile on his face, his tie askew and carrying a bunch of balloons from the party. We are soooo not ready to be parents of teenagers.
Fred's annual surgical resident's party in the afternoon.
Got the worst of the weeds pulled and the pool spiffed up just in time for the guests to arrive.
One of the kids' friends cut his knee pretty bad. Good thing there was a houseful of surgeons. Didn't end up needing stitches, though.
Another kid puked bucketloads of food all over the pool patio. Got her cleaned up and taken care of, then began hosing down what remained of her lunch. Watermelon and tacos does NOT look pretty revisited.
Four friends slept over.
Flipped a few dozen flapjacks to feed 10 kids for breakfast.
Played lifeguard most of the morning while all the houligans swam off their energy.
Hoped I could retain some of the sun's energy myself, to prepare myself for next week's round of appointments and chores and parties and fieldtrips and field days and .......

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Things kids shouldn't know about ....

I was sorting strawberries with James and Julie a couple days ago, after picking a boatload of them at a local farm. As often happens, when their hands are busily engaged with work, their tongues move more freely. They shared with me some of the atrocities they've seen over the years at their orphanages. We adoptive parents like to think that, although not the same as a family and home, the orphange is not too bad a place for the kids. They keep them warm and safe and dry and fed. But when the love of a family is missing, terrible things can happen.
My kids told me of children slicing their arms with knives. Pushing needles into their bellies while being kept in "solitary confinement". Looking out the window to see a classmate swinging from a tree, rope around his neck and chair kicked out from under him, and having to run out with teachers and students to rescue him. They both knew of many kids who had hurt themselves, attempted suicide, or ended their lives violently. This is not a case of knowing someone who knew someone who tried it, this is being able to count the lost souls of kids you once knew.
With both hands and voice trembling, I assured my sweet kids that here they are safe and loved. I let them know that they could come to us with anything on their minds. Told them if they feel angry or sad we can talk with them and help them through their feelings.
At some point, when they have a little more English under their belts, I will take them to see a professional who can help them deal with the many things they've seen and experienced in their short lives. But for now, I hope lots of hugs and kisses and talking and snuggling will do the job of making them feel safe and secure and loved.

Monday, May 25, 2009

And Then A Hero Comes Along ....

So Julie is just beginning to learn to swim sans "swimmies". I was sitting poolside, reading a book while watching the kids. Only Julie, James and Rosie remained at the pool, the others had gone in already.
All of a sudden I realized Julie had swum into the deep end and she was struggling to keep her head above water. She was less than a foot from the wall but couldn't seem to reach it. I jumped up and ran around the pool to help her. But before I got there, James had dived in and crossed the pool in about a second. He got her head above water and pulled her to the swim-out bench where she could sit and catch her breath. She was scared but we both sat by her and eased her fears for a bit, and then gently encouraged her to get back in at the shallow end for a few minutes before getting out.
Now we're all in for the night. Julie is showered and dry and all cozy in her pajamas. Big brother has gone off to play video games and has likely forgotten all about his moment of heroism.
I don't think Julie or myself will be forgetting anytime soon ....

Friday, May 15, 2009


Got a call the other night from a rep promoting some package deals at a hotel chain. Always looking for a good deal, I decided to listen to her pitch. So she got all my information and told me they were offering special promotions in Orlando. That's great, I told her, b/c we were thinking we might try to get down to Disney next year. The gist of our conversation follows:

Rep: Disney? So do you have kids?
Me: Yes, we do.

Rep: How many?
Me: 6.

Rep: 6. Oh................
Rep: 6?
Me: Yes, 6.

Rep: Would you be taking all of them?
Me: Uhhhh ....well, yes.

Rep: All 6?
Me: Yes, all 6.

Rep: I'm afraid we don't have any rooms that can accomodate that many people.
Me: Yes, I know, we generally get 2 adjoining rooms when we stay at a hotel.

Rep: Well we do have a beautiful 2 room suite with a kitchenette that sleeps 10
Me: That sounds wonderful, can you tell me more about that?

Rep: Well we can only put 5 people in there.
Me: I thought you said it sleeps 10.

Rep: Well yes, but because of fire codes we can only allow 5.
Me: ...............

Rep: You're sure you would be taking ALL the kids?
Me: Which ones would you suggest I leave behind?

Rep: Tense, polite laughter.
Rep: We also have some lovely rooms available in Las Vegas. Maybe just you and your husband would be interested in hearing about that?
Me: Well, it sounds like a nice idea but I don't think we'd be able to take advantage of an offer like that.

Rep: Why not?
Me: 6 kids (think Abbott and Costello, First Base)

Rep: ........Uh......well I'm sorry we won't be able to help you at this time, but if you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to call us at 1-800-large-families-confuse-us.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Julie's Birthday Bash

Julie had her "friend's" birthday party last night. I took Jewels and 4 of her brothers and sisters to one of those Habitrail-for-kids kinda places. 3 of the 4 friends she invited from school were able to come, and she was a pig in mud tearing around with everyone. Daniel dressed like a Ninja (of course he did) and there was much sneaking and chasing and running amok.
They had a break for pizza and birthday cake and sugar-water (OK, it was fruit punch and lemonade, same thing) and then got right back into the frey.
By the time the party was over they were all soaked with sweat, out of breath, and their eyes were zig-zagging about like they were watching a ping-pong match.
Then I got to load six of these crazed little people into my car and take them home where they continued to run around like escaped mental patients.
But it was worth it. Julie had a birthday party. Probably the first one ever. She had a cake with pink roses on it and "Happy Birthday Julie" sprawled across it and a passle of munchkins shouting Happy Birthday to You Cha-Cha-Cha. She got to open presents which included jewelry, Barbies, Hula-Hoops, and kickballs.

Julie just now stumbled over to me for a hug, having just crawled out of bed. Her hair is a mess and her face is all sleepy and her arms and face are covered in pink heart ink-stamps. Looks like she and I will both need some time to recover from last night .....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Personal Space

In this culture of cyber facelessness, we have grown to feel comfortable in sharing life details that past generations had kept private. Seems the most insignificant nonsense is now glorified and freely shared with the world.

Just this morning I offered a man a cup of coffee. He looked up at me with a pleased-as-punch expression and said, "I don't drink coffee", clearly expecting a response from me in which I pulled up a chair and asked him to tell me more. It seemed he found himself to be quite the interesting character being so far out of mainstream and all.

I have had a Complete Stranger tell me that while her husband's sperm count was low, his motility was off the charts. A pregnant woman in a check-out line once divulged to me that she had discharged her mucous plug that morning and that her cervix was beginning to dilate. I don't know why people feel the need to drop these pearls of privacy. I know that My Face or Spacebook (do I have that right?) encourages its members to share 25 things about themselves with the world at large. My question is Why? I like to think of myself as a compassionate person, but my God in Heaven, who cares?

And before you say it, I know I sound like a hypocrite, b/c here I am writing a blog about the mindless goings-on of my family. Although I mostly tend to write about life-stuff that amuses me or what we're up to so I can keep friends and family in the loop, I'll be the first to admit I've bought into this sense of "triviality grandiosity".
But I'll tell you what, why don't we all just try to simplify our conversations a bit and answer yes or no where applicable. If I want to know if you'd like ice in your drink, I don't need to know about the sensitivity of your teeth, a simple no will suffice. If I offer you some trail mix, I can honestly go my whole life without knowing the effect of seeds and nuts on the irritable tissues of your bowels. And for God's sake, if I politely inquire about your pregnancy, please do not feel the need to share with me the details of your vagina.
There's something to be said for good old-fashioned personal boundaries.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Answer: Crackers and Candy and Drink.

Question: How are birthdays celebrated at Julie's orphanage?

Yesterday was Miss Julie's birthday; she turned 11 years old. She was basking in delight from break of dawn through nightfall, just glowing and grinning and full of herself all the livelong day.

Truth be told, it wasn't much of a birthday, but she didn't seem to notice.
She got soaking dripping wet at Rosie's soccer game, but then got to warm up at Mickey D's with a chicken nugget happy meal that had a Kidz Bop CD as the prize.
She had to sit in the car for nearly 2 hours in order to take Rosie's friend to our pre-arranged drop-off spot and then back to our house, but she enjoyed giggling with the girls in the backseat and watching a movie on the DVD player.
She got to eat the dinner of her choice, which was spaghetti. Even though Mom hadn't pulled it together to make it a complete meal with salad and Italian bread, she didn't seem to mind.
She got to open presents from her family, and she loved every last blessed thing her brothers and sisters had bought with their own money:
A jumbo pencil
Happy Birthday sunglasses
A rubber ball
A pretty blue baseball cap
A self-inflating whoopie cushion (will advances in technology never cease?)
A jewelry kit
Some hair barrettes.

Her Dad and I got her a Nintendo DS and a couple games to go with it and she was just tickled pink. She kept running back and forth to both of us to give us one bear hug after another. She played with it most of the night until we finally cracked the whip about lights out.

After presents we had cake and ice cream, and she looked so full of herself sitting in front of her white frosted cake with little pink hearts and her name spelled out in candles. A bit over-excited, she didn't understand to wait till the birthday song was over before blowing out the candles, and I don't know if she made a wish. I'm kinda guessing her wishes have come true. I know mine have.

While everyone was eating their chocolate cake, I asked Julie to tell us what she usually did for her birthdays in Kazakhstan. She said they have crackers and candy and drink. And if I understood her correctly, they have one of those Barbie heads where you fix the hair and do the make-up, and that is brought out for the girls to play with on special events like birthdays.
The sense I got was, even though today was far from perfect, this was the best birthday of this sweet young girl's life.

Happy Birthday Julie. And many more ......

Friday, May 1, 2009

J & J Meet P & C

James and Julie got to meet their Paw-Paw and Granny Caggy from KY, who came up on Weds night and left this morning. They were very excited to meet two more family members and warmed up to them immediately.
I have to say that's one area of "firsts" that delights me most for these kids-- meeting new family memebers. In the last week they've met two grandparents, two aunts, an uncle and a cousin. And there's more to come in the next few months. From going most of their lives with no family, to joining a family with parents and siblings, to meeting all the extended family members, it's all new to them and they seem to be basking in the love!

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Mom. You're so old".

My kids so enjoy reminding me of my antiquity. Sometimes I feel even older than they think I am, but other times I feel like a spring chicken (OK, maybe a summer chicken). But am I indeed OLD?
I've decided to make up a short quiz to help me figure out if my kids are right about me. Feel free to take it yourself to see where you rate on the age-o-meter:
1) Do you believe the waistband of your pants should be worn at your waist?
2) Have you ever thought you needed a bikini wax to wear a pair of jeans purchased at the mall?
3) Have you ever had a conversation with your friends or spouse in which you discussed fiber, gums, or your colon?
4) Have you ever had a banana seat or thought of committing a felony to get one?
5) Are you old enough to be the parent of any of your kids' teachers?
6) Have you ever uttered any of the following phrases:

* "You'll poke your eye out"
* "Because I said so"
* "You'll catch your death"
* "Turn that down"
* "No, you cannot get that pierced"
* "Not till you're 30"

7) Do you still have some old cassette tapes lying around?
8) Are any of them Olivia Newton John?
9) Do you remember watching the following movies as an annual event:

* Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang
* The Wizard of Oz
* Rudolph
* seasonal Charlie Brown specials

10)For these movies, do you remember having popcorn that was made on the stove?
11)Did you ever watch the same movie 35 times in a week when HBO first came on the scene?
12)When playing Atari Pong, did you think things just couldn't get any better?
13)Was there a time in your life when "wings" was a hairstyle term and not a maxi-pad feature?
14)Do you know the words to the elevator music?
15)Have you ever purchased anything for a penny?

To calculate your score, add up the number of 'yes' responses. If
0: What are you doing reading this, it's past your bedtime.
1 - 5: You probably still hold your breath when driving past a cemetery.
6 - 10: You've probably priced plots in a cemetery. Stop dragging your feet and commit to buying one already.
11+: Time to outfit your plot with wireless and get comfy.

Oh my God. My kids are right.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Love Your Mother

Lucky for Mother Earth, she is very "in" right now. When I took my girls shopping the other day I noticed how popular she, and her good friend "Peace" were on t-shirts, sweatpants, the backs of short-shorts, and every accessory known to teen-kind. While I know this is not much more than a fashion trend, I can't help getting excited because I know that any press is good press. The more people are bombarded by images of Earth, nature, green, peace, the more we will benefit, both locally and globally.
In fact, all this buzz about going green has gotten me to examine my life to see if I could be doing things a little more eco-friendly. And you know what? I found that by tweaking a few small things here and there, I can make a difference. It's a minuscule difference, given that I'm one of about 6 billion people in the world, but it's a difference nonetheless. And if the 2.3 people who read this blog can also make a small change, well then I've done something here, haven't I?
With that in mind, here is a short list of simple things you can do to make this world a more habitable, sustainable, everyone-hold-hands-and-sing-kumbaya - able kinda place:
Do Something Drastic, Cut the Plastic
Buy yourself a bunch of those canvas bags and keep them in the trunk of your car. Whenever you go shopping use these in place of the plastic grocery bags for bagging your food. Keep one or two folded up in your purse for times when you run into a department store but forgot to bring your bags with you. I estimate that by using canvas instead of plastic, I will keep about 1000 plastic bags out of our landfills and oceans every year. If you want more info on how harmful plastic bags are to our world, check this out:
Just Say No To Disposable Plastic Water Bottles
About a year ago I decided I was throwing my money away buying plastic water bottles when I have water flowing like water from my kitchen tap. My hat is off to the guy that got the world to fall for that one. Not only is it a waste of money, but those bottles are a HUGE problem that won't go away. Remember all the trash that Wall-E had to clean up? That's what's coming if we keep piling water bottles in our landfills. Plus now they're saying the bottles have some kind of chemical that gives you some kind of cancer of some kind of organ, and who needs that? If you're thinking to yourself that you can't live without water bottles, go back in your mind to when you were a kid. What did you do when you got thirsty? Filled a glass at the tap? You can do that again, I promise. When I was a girl, I don't remember the streets being filled with people who dropped dead of dehydration. When we were thirsty, we got a glass of water, no big deal. For times when we're out at a sports activity or we're taking a roadtrip, I have bought water bottles from Wal-Mart that are dishwasher safe. That's right, they can be used more than once! You think your kids need to drink the bottles of vitamin water you buy them? Here's a thought, give them a vitamin and a glass of water. NO MORE PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES!
Buy Fresh, Buy Local
By buying food that is in season and produced locally, not only do we support local farmers, but we cut back on how much food is transported by diesel-fed behemoths across the country. So wait till spring to eat your asparagus, and then buy it from a farmer's market or look for a "locally grown" section in your produce aisle. No need to be eating fresh asparagus in January that's been imported from Chile.
Reduce the amount of stuff you buy and clutter up your home with, because eventually you'll get tired of looking at it and want to throw it away (I'm talking about impulse purchases, not spouses).
Before you throw it away, ask yourself if it can be "repurposed". Ricotta cheese and Cool-Whip containers make great Tupperware. Old school worksheets can be cut into quarters and used as scratch paper for taking phone messages. Pause before you pitch and see if you can get creative.
Recycling. Just do it. Don't doom your cardboard, paper, glass and plastic to a life in the landfill. Give them new life by tossing them in your recycle bins. Who knows what they'll be reincarnated into?
Stop the Stuff
Remember when I said you eventually get tired of looking at the stuff you buy and it ends up in the trash? Wow. You were paying attention.
That's the problem with 'stuff'. We all have way too much of it and it ends up in a landfill because it's too small, too old, too last-year, too boring or broken. So first, stop buying so much crap for yourself, your house, your kids, because you just don't need it. Second, come gift-giving time, instead of buying stuff to give someone, consider some alternatives:
*A donation in their name to a charity like Heifer International, Habitat for Humanity, Nothing But Nets, etc. There are a million good causes out there in desperate need of funds and there are countless gifts we have to give throughout the year. So let's kill two birds with one stone here.
*A gift of something to do out in the wide world such as gift cards to the movies or miniature golf, a family membership to a zoo or museum, a pottery class or pony rides.
Get up. Get out the door. Live life. Discover our world.
It's a good place.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

3 Months Down, A Lifetime To Go ...

Today marks the day that James and Julie have been home with us three months.

Jan 9th: picked up two Russian-speaking children from the airport. One had recently finished getting sick on the airplane but was all smiles and bounce. The other wore a reserved smile.
April 9th: Two English-speaking children with thick Russian accents run around my house alongside their brothers and sisters and a few friends that are over. They are both all smiles and laughter. They pitch in with chores as well as complain about them. They laugh and play, but they also squabble. James will eat anything but Julie's a bit picky. They're as different as night and day, but they're more alike that they would ever admit. They have cracked the shell enough that I have an inkling of the trauma they've experienced in their lives, but the time has not yet come for them to crack it wide open and cry on my shoulder about it. When they're ready, I'll be here for them. I'll be here the rest of their lives ....

Sunday, April 5, 2009

From Detsky Dom in Ust-K to My House in PA

It's kinda giving me goosebumps, but the 4 kids in the picture above all lived together in the Detsky Dom (Children's House) in Ust-Kamenogorsk Kazakhstan years ago. And here they are standing in my kitchen. The blonde girl is Bella's friend from the Detsky Dom and were adopted about 2 mths apart and now live about an hour and a half away from each other.
Isn't it a weird, strange universe?

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Adoption, Defined ...

Not long ago my daughter bought a Webkinz (yet another in a long line). No sooner did she get home than she logged into the Webkinz website so she could "adopt" her glassy-eyed critter. Perhaps I'm hyper-sensitive, but it seems I hear the word 'adoption' thrown around quite a bit these days. I even heard someone I know mention his two "adopted" kids. Turns out he sends money to an organization that helps feed hungry children overseas. Hmmmm. That one made me stop and think.

What's that you say? You want to know what I think the word 'adoption' means? Alright, alright, I'll tell you. But first let me tell you what I think it's NOT:

*sprucing up a section of highway
*providing funding to help save a whale
*buying a pet
*sponsoring a child overseas
*creating a Build-a-Bear

These are all wonderful ways to open our hearts and our wallets (and in the case of pets, our homes). However, I have to say when I hear that someone has "adopted" a highway, or even a child in a sponsorship program, my hackles are raised, and I'm not even sure what a hackle is precisely. I guess this is because adopting a child, really adopting a child, is such an undertaking that anything else by the name of adoption pales in comparison. It is a huge commitment of our hearts, our time, and even our wallets to take a child into our homes and families, love them, nurture them, educate them, play and laugh with them, wring our hands over them, cry with them.
You must know of course, when I use the words commitment, and undertaking, they are not synonymous with "effort" or "difficulty". Just as a parent helping a child learn to ride a bike would find it a commitment rather than a time-sucking chore, so too adoptive parents jump through all the hoops set before us to complete the adoption process. It is work, but it is a labor of love.
Once we adopt a child, we bring them into the fold and make them our own. Any boundaries that would separate an adopted child from a child born into a family biologically are erased.
And I suppose that's the main difference. For most of the things we speak of adopting, we simply keep up an on-going sponsorship. But with a child, adoption refers to the paperwork process of making them all legal-like. After that it simply becomes raising a child.

I guess I'll probably remain overly sensitive. Knowing what my kids have been through to get to the point where they could join our family, it has become an emotionally charged word. But don't worry. If I hear you mention you're adopting a bog turtle, I'll do my best to behave myself. Down, hackles, down.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Eleven Friends

Our dinnertime grace starts out,
"For health and food,
For love and friends ...."

The other night, I heard Julie a little more clearly than usual. Her version was slightly different:
"For health and food,
Eleven friends ...."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It Was A Good Day

James had a wonderful birthday yesterday. His first in America, his first with his family. We took him to dinner at Bugaboo Creek. He loved the food and watching the various animals flop and move around up on the walls. He seemed surprised and embarassed when the wait staff all came over clapping and singing a goofy birthday song and attempted to get him to "kiss the moose" (he wouldn't have any part of it).

At home we opened presents and he loved each and every little thing. He really seemed floored when he opened his gift from Fred and me, which was a Zune. He had borrowed Patricka's a lot to listen to music, so he was thrilled to have his own.

After presents we had cake and ice cream, and it was just as I had dreamed. When it came time to make a wish and blow out his candles, he closed his eyes and folded his hands in prayer for a moment.

Happy Birthday, James. We love you. son.
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