Saturday, November 27, 2010

Real Life

They say toddlers and teens are the most challenging to photograph. I would have to agree! I had big dreams of having a great family photo taken while Nicole was here this fall. But that was not to be. Timing, weather, and attitudes all made it impossible.
However, after a big dramatic conversation about how a posed family picture does not reflect our real family life, I got the boys to sit down with the girls to give it another try. I told them if some one wanted to see our real family life, they would come visit, but what everyone wanted for Christmas was a picture of all of their smiling faces. Our real family life is much too busy to fit in a 4x6 frame.
One kid is looking.

We're getting closer.


At least every one's looking in this shot.

Hey! There's a good one! Almost. At least they are all smiling. Is it obvious that I had to crop Christiana into the photo? She was so busy and just did not want to sit still. I'm amazed at families with many more children than us who end with a great photo every year. I wonder how many takes it took them to get everyone looking and not blurry.
How was your family photo attempt this year?

Hoar Frost

Hoar Frost is one of those magic wintertime mysteries. It usually occurs at the end of a cold snap right before a warm up and snowfall. It happens as warm, wet air moves into an area and the frost forms on the solid objects that are colder than the air. It's beautiful sight to see when you wake up in the morning. But like fog, it does not last. As the sun comes up, it melts away.
This morning as the sun came up, the frost began to fall off the trees like glittering confetti. As I watched the frost flakes flutter, spin and sparkle in the bright sun, I considered how the human eye is so marvelously made. I knew that my camera couldn't not capture the beauty I was seeing. I tried to capture it anyways. Sure, it looks a lot like snow falling, but how often is the sun shining while it's snowing? For those of you who have rarely seen snow: Never! :)





Winter is so amazing! I hate the cold and especially the bundling up, but every snow fall is so different just like every snowflake. You'd be surprised by how much of my hard drive is devoted to pictures of snow. I've spared you from posting most of them. :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Have We Met?

If you were to meet Christiana...
She is likely to eye you suspiciously...
Or give you the stink-eye...
Or just burst into tears...
Which is really too bad...
Because she has the cutest smiles!



I guess she just likes to reserve them for her mama.



Snuggled close to me, that's just where she likes to be!


Photos by Nicole Marie

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Proud Mama

Sometimes our kids do things of which they are not proud. Those things will not be posted on this blog.

There are some things that our kids do that makes them very proud of themselves. Those things will be posted on this blog.

Tyler is very proud of his artistic ability.

He drew these while sitting in the living room talking with us. They are things he could see. Well, the bugs were from a book Amanda brought him. (Thankfully, there are not bugs that size crawling around with Tali.) I think he pretty accurately captured Tali's big ol' cloth diapered bottom. :)

Tyler is also extremely talented on the piano. I tried to teach him piano using the traditional note-reading method. Mike taught him how to play by learning cords and he learned a lot about the structure of cords in his music theory class last year. Now he can listen to a song and figure out how to play the cords. He is also constantly making up his own music and melodies. It's lovely to hear the music drifting upstairs when he is playing downstairs.

He also proud because he is carrying an "A" in three of his classes and got 100% on his thermodynamics test in Principles of Engineering which is one of his college courses. He's also been working really hard to bring his grades up in his Advanced Algebra and World History classes.

I'm proud of him for those things too.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Birth Parents

"Everybody has got them."


That was Mike's response to the question, "What do you think about birth parents?" It was part of our home study questionnaire.


Mike understands the confusing, awkward and painful feelings of children who grow up separated from their birth parents. Mike's birth father separated from his mother when he still a baby and Mike never had any contact with him during his growing years.


Several times, he met his paternal grandparents and they came to his high school graduation. It wasn't until we got married and Tyler was born that Mike really began to get to know his birth father's family. We used to travel to visit them a few times a year and went to a couple Christmas celebrations. But Mike's birth father lived out of the state and was never there.


When Mike's paternal grandmother passed away shortly after Tony was born, Mike and his mom attended the funeral. Mike's birth father was there, but Mike was not interested in a meeting at that point. Afterwards, he wrote Mike a letter. It was the first one Mike had ever received from him. Mike kept the letter for a long time and even wrote a letter in response but I don't think he ever sent it. He was just beginning to get along better with his Dad and I think he felt it would be dishonoring to the man who raised him to try to foster a relationship with his birth father.


After Mike began managing and we moved to North Dakota, it became much more difficult to keep in touch with Mike's extended birth family and we had only seen his paternal grandpa once in the past five years even though he only live an 1 1/2 hr away from us. I think Mike always questioned how he fit into the family. There came a point when I quit sending them Christmas cards because it had been so long since we had seen them or visited. It wasn't until last year that we talked about it and he had assumed I had just kept sending them. Ooops! Needless to say his grandpa got one last year. We also sent them to his aunts and uncles on that side.


This summer was his 80th birthday party. We made plans to go but the little girls caught a stomach bug and we couldn't go. And then last Thursday, Mike's aunt called to let us know that his grandpa had passed away on Monday. Mike let me know that it was important to him that we all should go to the funeral on Saturday. Despite the obvious challenges and potential chaos, we all piled in the van on Saturday and went to say good bye.


It went really well. The girls did fine during the travel and were pretty good during the service. Mike's aunts and uncle were so nice and thankful to see us. One of them (Hi LeAnn!) reads our blog and so it was very easy to connect with her. We were invited to come in with the family during the service but were already seated in the sanctuary and it's quite a production to get our family moved. It was nice to be invited. Mike and I were both curious which man was his birth father as the family came in, but we couldn't pinpoint him and had to ask Mike's aunt afterwards. She told him we were up for meeting him and he approached us while we were waiting to eat.


It was a brief encounter. Pleasantries, introductions and condolences were shared and then we went our separate ways. I felt bad. I wondered if I should have engaged him in more conversation but I was a bit distracted by the hungry vultures circling at my feet.


After we ate we visited briefly with Mike's uncle. They also have an adopted son who is about Tyler's age and a post infertility miracle baby. It woud be nice to stay connected to their family. They seemed to have done a wonderful job navigating the uncertain waters of cross-cultural adoption.

One thing is for certain, when Amanda and Christiana are wondering about their birth parents, Mike will be able to relate with their desire to meet them and know who they are. I pray they have that opportunity to meet at least part of their birth family and bring some closure to the loss they have experienced.

Whatever do you mean?


"You sure have your hands full!"
Really? I hadn't noticed.

Today at sundown marked the end of hunting season and three weeks of going to church by myself. The first two Sundays, Tyler came with, too, so I had marginal help. Although he was not up early last Sunday to start my van and remove all the snow. But this Sunday, he went up north with Mike and Tony too. So, I was completely on my own.

I really doubted my sanity when I finally got all three girls out the door and then saw that the van was covered in ice. Yikes! I couldn't bear the thought of being stuck at home so I loaded up the girls and prayed that I could find an ice scraper easily. I did and got the important windows cleared. My first job involved driving a flower delivery van and I learned how to drive with my mirrors and limited visibility.

Now, I realized that since my van was covered with ice there was a good chance the roads were covered with ice but I figured if I could make it out of the neighborhood, I should be good. I'm sure I had a bit of supernatural protection on my way to church this morning because God knew how much I wanted to be there. The driving wasn't bad. The stopping was a bit challenging. ;)

I'm proud of myself for getting us there and home safely, but I'll will be very thankful when Mike is home next weekend.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A few of our favorite things...



Photos by Nicole Marie
I'll post more photos from our shoot with Nicole another day. We're having teenager issues at the moment and could use your prayers for wisdom.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Coveting

Life is getting pretty intense around here. With three little people who can think, "Wow! That's cool! I want it!" and possess the ability to go get it, I feel like I'm on constant referee duty. And contrary to popular belief, more toys do not equal less fighting. At our house, one toy ends up being the most prized item while everything else is just debris on the battle field. I keep forgetting that sibling battles are almost always a sign that I need to get more structure into our day. They are just to little to be expected to play nicely by themselves.

One of the newest challenges is that Christiana no longer takes a morning nap. That means there isn't that break in the morning where Amanda and I do school, do a project, cook, or catch up on chores. If I'm not directing Amanda in a creative task, she'll come up with one on her own. That usually means a very large mess!

So here's my strategy:


First, I packed up most of the toys into their bins and put them out of reach in my room. Unless I'm sitting on the floor playing with them, they just dump the bins out and ride the bins around like cars or use them as diving platforms. If I need to spend focused time with them I might as well be teaching them how to do a chore.


Second, when I'm nursing Tali, I'll have Amanda sit with me and read me a story or look at books. It's a little tricky because Tali gets distracted, but if Amanda's on my chair, it's easier for me to protect her from Christiana. During that time, Christiana will just wander around and occasionally snuggle with us or stroke Tali's head. It gives her opportunity to play by herself without Amanda's interference.

My third trick is strategic babywearing. After nursing Tali, I can put her down to crawl around and play with a few toys on the floor. I can then wrap Christiana on my back and do some cooking or kitchen clean up. Once Tali goes back to bed I can do a chore, read stories or play with the little girls. Amanda and Christiana fight over who gets to help me unload the dishwasher. Amanda can unload most of the dishwasher by herself. Christiana is just a little to short to reach most of the drawers so she carrys items over to the right locations and I put them up for her.

I have also been known to use my wrap as a leash. Amanda loves to play puppy and be tied to me. She requests to be my puppy almost every day. While it's a bit annoying to have a puppy crawling around after me and between my legs, at least she's not off harassing her sister or making a mess in another part of the house. Christiana also requested to be wrapped up in the leash but did not like the game once I sat down to nurse Tali and she couldn't wander off to see what Amanda was doing. She eventually cheered up and played with the toys that were within her reach.

Finally, I try to get out of the house at least once a day. Usually that just means going for a walk but sometimes we are more adventurous and go to the farm for milk and eggs or some other short errand. I may even venture out for a visit with friends I haven't seen much in the last eighteen months. :) That might be nice!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Overheard

At parent teacher conferences, "So, both boys have been homeschooled until now? I never would have guessed." Hmm. I guess we'll take that as a compliment that we successfully "socialized" them.

Mike and I went to conferences together while our neighbor stayed with the girls. It was the first time we have gone out together since Tali was born. Literally, the day Tali was born was the first time Mike and I had spent any time alone together since who knows when. At least nine months, I would guess.

We are very pleased with how the kids have adapted to being in public school. They are doing well in their classes according to their personalities and patterns. Their teachers all had nice things to say about them and their grades look pretty good. It was fun to meet the teachers and see their class rooms.

The thing that struck me the most was how uncomfortable everything felt. Hard, cold, chaotic, distracting. Home is just so nice.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Things I want to remember...

Tali making shadow puppets in the sunshine while nursing one morning.

Christiana's giggles when she learned how to do "knuckles*."

Amanda asking a dozen times a day, "Do [insert name of plant, animal or insect] nurse their babies?" Then she offered to nurse potatoes upon hearing that potatoes don't nurse their babies.

*knuckles- like a high five only with your fist closed and you bang your knuckles with the other person.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mobility Update

Tali crawling...

Christiana walking...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cookies!!!

I don't think I've made (or eaten) cookies for close to eight years. The last time I tried was after I quit using white flour and sugar and before I found out that I was allergic to wheat and eggs. Since my oat pancakes had turned out okay without eggs, and my yogurt soaking had made biscuit and tortillas better, I was considering attempting to try cookies again. Then my friend Joy posted about making cookies without eggs and led me to this recipe.


My recipe bears little resemblance to the original but it planted the belief that it was possible to make cookies without eggs. My first attempt followed her recipe closely just substituting with things I had at home: ground oats for the flour, raw sugar for brown and white sugar, raisin and cinnamon for cocoa and chocolate chips. My second attempt involved soaking a portion of the oat flour in yogurt overnight. My final and best recipe involves allowing the prepared batter to sit overnight. Perfect! :) It is a large batch and makes about 4 dozen small cookies.


4 cups oat flour (I put quick oats in the blender. You could use whole wheat flour too.)
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups raw sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup plain yogurt (Low fat or fat free is not recommended)
1 cup chocolate chips or dried fruit


In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking soda. In a large bowl, mix softened butter and sugar together. Add vanilla and yogurt. Mix in flour. Fold in chips or dried fruit. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter for 6-8 hours. The yogurt will break down the whole grain and make it stickier.

When you're ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. I use Pampered Chef baking stones and the small batter scoop. We used our fingers to press the batter into cookie shapes. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Allow them to cool about 15 minutes on the stone before moving them to a cooling rack. We got about 4 dozen out of each batch. Many were eaten. Some are still in the freezer.

I made some with cinnamon and raisin. I added about 1 tsp of cinnamon, maybe less, to the butter and sugar mixture and substituted 1 cup of oat flour for 1 cups of oats. I also made some with chocolate chips and then some with chocolate chips and peanut butter. Add 1/2 cup of peanut butter to the butter and sugar mixture and reduce the yogurt by 1/2 cup. You can always add more yogurt a Tbsp at a time if the batter seems too dry. Then I made some with dried cranberries.

By this time I was beginning to feel the effects of too much dairy, and determined to make them dairy-free. I substituted 1/2 cup light olive oil for the butter and soymilk for the yogurt. I just added enough soymilk to wet the batter to the right consistency. They were more crumbly than the yogurt ones but they were still yummy and met my need for something sweet and crunchy and filling.

These cookies are my new secret weapon to bring my boys back to the dark side.* When I got pregnant with Tali, Mike took over shopping and providing meals for himself and the boys which meant raman noodles, cheesy noodles, microwave popcorn, processed meats and white buns. Persuading them to turn back to our once healthy meals has not been easy. But these little cookies are working their magic and I'm sure they have significantly more nutritional value than raman noodles and substantially less salt than cheesy noodles and no MSG, nitrates, sulfates or preservatives. It was fun to be able to send them out the door this morning with a baggie full of peanut butter and chocolate chips cookies from the freezer knowing they had a little bit of mama love and nutrition to start their day.
*dark side = whole grain foods

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Great Expectations

Just as we were about to take the old beast out for a maiden voyage as a triple stroller, we heard a vehicle on the road.


Can you guess who it was by the look on Tali's face?