Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Begotten...

Apparently it's National Adoption Month. I'm not sure what that means but I've been meaning to write this post for a while anyways. So why not for the last day of National Adoption Month. :)

This summer Amanda attended Vacation Bible School at the church near our home. She's been begging about going to school since watching Tyler get on the bus when she was three. She was very excited to go to "church school" until a day or two before it started. Then she asked, "Mom, will you come too?" She decided she didn't want to go if I wasn't going too. Love her! Mike went with and stayed with her the first day. On the second day, Tyler took her and stayed most of the time. On the third day, Tyler took her for a little bit and then I went to pick her up. She loved it and was really particpating and singing and dancing by the third day.



One of the days she brought home a little cross that she had made. It had the verse, John 3:16 on it. Some time after VBS, I sat down to read the verse and explain to her what it meant. "For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten Son..."

Begotten...

How do you explain "begotten" to a four year old? The only thing I could think of was comparing it to it's opposite which is "adoption." All of a sudden, John 3:16 took on a whole new meaning for me. Jesus was God's only begotten son but God has many sons and daughters. All the rest of his children were, are, have been, and will be adopted.

I love that idea and image and that our family reflects God's family; one filled with adopted and begotten children.

The infertility that brought us down the adoption road seemed like such a huge loss at the time but we have gained so much through the process of adoption. Our hearts, minds and understanding have been stretched so much more than if we hadn't felt that loss.

I also love that I have a new way of describing our family. So, the next time I have a conversation like this, I'll know what to say, "Amanda and Christiana were adopted and Talitha was begotten." :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Have You Seen This Bunny?

I don't know how it happened. I have always prided myself on not having children who were attached to a certain lovey. I silently mocked parents who desperately searched for a lost animal or blanket before bed fearing the drama that would be unleashed if it were not found.

And then Tali came along. And for reason, at some point in time, she decided that she had to sleep with this little bunny. It was a gift to Amanda from Mike's brother. But Tali claimed it. She loves to finger and now chew on the little ribbon around the bunny's neck. It often stinks because of this and is very dirty around the bunny's neck. However, getting the bunny out of her grasp and washing it quickly before the next bedtime is very tricky.

Finally, I decided to hunt for a back-up. What I found were people selling these little bunnies for $25-$60. And they were used! Seriously? It was a bunny! Like a hundred other stuffed animals that have overtaken my house. I would have gotten rid of it in a heartbeat and almost did since it was white and not labeled as washable. (So far, it's held up to many washings.)

So, my hunt continues. If you've seen a little bunny like this, please let me know. It doesn't rattle or play music. It's just a soft bunny with little hearts and a silky ribbon around it's neck. While I would never put a price tag on my daughter's happiness, $10-15 seems much more reasonable to me. :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Crossing the Ocean

It's easy to get into a rut and celebrate holidays a certain way just because everyone else does and that what our family has always done. Recently on Thanksgiving, we have chosen to stay home instead of travel for the traditional turkey dinner (an football game) with relatives. It always feels a little odd if we don't do something special but I just wasn't sure how or why we should celebrate Thanksgiving. The conclusion I came to was that we celebrate Thanksgiving to remember how the Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving. They had a feast dedicated to God thanking him for providing for them and protecting them during their first treacherous year in America. The foods we choose to eat, in theory, replicate the foods they would have eaten. That made sense to me. I could explain that to the little girls. And I could make the simple wholesome foods the Pilgrims would have made.

As I was thinking about explaining to Amanda why we celebrate Thanksgiving and how the Indians helped the Pilgrims during those first hard years, it made me think of the many parents who have made the treacherous journey across the ocean to America in order to provide safety and opportunities for their kids. That made me think of Amanda's birth family.

Her birthmom's parents made the trip by boat from Vietnam in the late '70's. I hope someday we will hear more of their story. I thought Thanksgiving would be a good day to give them a call. Amanda has been talking about her birthmom and asking to go visit her lately. She will say things like, "I want to go see my mom." She seems to be exploring the concept of moms and what defines a mom. We were having a baby sitter come one night and she was a little upset about me leaving until she asked, "Is she the mom?" I told her she was a mom and she would take care of her like the mom while we were gone. She immediately perked up and when the babysitter arrived she asked, "Are you the mom?"

When I suggested that we would call her birthmom, Amanda was very excited and asked if we could go to her house. I told her we couldn't go today because it took three days to drive to Texas. We waited until after the little girls were in bed for naps to call. They weren't home so we had to leave a message. Amanda was pretty upset and didn't seem to understand the concept of voicemail.

They family called back right about 5:30 pm. You know, the craziest time of the day. Amanda was so excited and got right on the phone. She invited her birthmom to come to our house since "It's not too far away." Amanda also mentioned being in her tummy and chattered about a few other things. Then all of a sudden she just says, "Bye!" and hands me the phone. I tried to talk to her birthmom a little bit but Amanda began running around and inviting Christiana into the excitement. Tali started crying because she was hungry. So, I had to cut the phone call short.

We did connect through email afterwards and I thanked them for calling and they thanked us for contacting them too. They are still very respectful and formal but always so appreciative. I'm not sure how much of relationship they would like to have but I hope we are able to get to know them better and have a chance to visit when Amanda is older. I know it will help her process through her adoption story. I'm sad that we don't have that contact with Christiana's birthmom. We'll keep praying. Maybe someday that will be a possibility.

I ended the day feeling very thankful for the many families who crossed the dangerous ocean to arrive in America. Some came by choice, others by force, but each contributed to the beauty this now is our family. Our family now represents immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Poland, Vietnam and Africa. Each of those countries represent a perilous journey by boat and a struggle to begin in a new country. I'm thankful for God's protection and guidance over all of our ancestors and His guidance that brought us all together today.

A Very Happy Thanksgiving

We had a very happy Thanksgiving. It began on Wednesday morning with Mike's first day of true vacation in what seems like years. No work and no school and no church stuff. Just focusing on the family. The best part is that he is off for a whole week. When he told me this vacation was been coming up, I couldn't even begin to fathom what that meant because it's been so long since we've had him all to ourselves.

The main reason he has this vacation time is because he has decided to take the management job in our hometown full time. He has been par time managing there since April which meant working there two days a week and three to four days managing the store here. He really wanted to take the job and felt like it would provide better opportunities for our families. However, there was just no way Tyler was willing to move either before or during his senior year which meant in order to take the job, Mike would have to commute. It's 1 1/2 hour trip one way. So he told them he couldn't take the job.


Well, as it turned out, the main candidate for the job was Mike's top salesman and he would be commuting until his kids graduated too. What it came down to was that Mike was not able to take a job he wanted and loved because I wasn't willing to deal with the commute. Sigh. So we talked about it and he explained that staying here would not mean less stress and more family time. His company wanted him to combine and manage two lumber yards (the other one is only 1/2 hour away) plus he would have to take over all of the sales of his top salesman plus they eventually wanted to work him into district managing which means even more travel and less family time.

So, he is taking the job and he begins officially November 25th(although he's on vacation until December 1). We won't be moving until June or so. He'll be helping with the transition and training of the new manager so he will still be working in town a couple of days a week for now. We have just had a very intense stretch with hunting and inventory so having Mike at home on Wednesday was such a rare treat especially since the big boys were still in school.

We got several reorganizing and fix-it projects done and ended the day with a "burn-fire." Complete with hot dogs and "marshy-ellows." ;) It was the two little girls' first bonfire and all three girls were so excited and cute and messy. We should have skipped the roasted marshmallows for the little girls and just given them cold ones from the bag. After putting the girls to bed, I went back out and sat with Mike by the fire. Nice. Ahhhh...

I wanted to do something special for Thanksgiving but we weren't sure what. We thought about just popping it at our neighbor's and joining them. Really any neighbor that looked like they had extra cars in the driveway was fair game. ;) We've never really had any set Thanksgiving traditions since the little girls have come home and it's just too much to travel. Mike doesn't really like turkey so I'm not so inclined to cook it. However, when I was picking up chickens on Tuesday, the butcher also had fresh turkeys so I bought a small one. I had polled the boys about their Thanksgiving favorite foods and they liked turkey. They also requested lots of desserts. I wasn't sure how I was going to pull that one off but Mike picked up a couple of desserts on Wednesday. The other foods were pretty easy: green beans, squash from my garden, corn, mashed potatoes.

The turkey went into the oven first thing in the morning and then we went downstairs to do some more organizing and clean up. I looked through many of our books and it made me excited and nostalgic for homeschooling. Then we headed back upstairs to finish preparing the meal. Mike helped with peeling the potatoes and setting the table with the little girls. Amanda was so excited to have everyone working together to prepare the meal. I had planned to have the big boys help with the meal, too, but they were still in bed and it's so crazy with the little girls. It wasn't until we were just about ready to eat that Mike was able to go down and get them out of bed.

Prior to the baby snowball, we used to sit down and eat meals together almost every night and most lunchtimes too. For the last couple of years, that has been very rare. Just the fact that our whole family was sitting down together to share a meal made the day really special. Christiana was just beside herself. She's pretty distractable at the table anyways but she was so excited to have the boys at the table, she could hardly eat.

It was such a good day and ended with a phone call from Amanda's birth family but I'll write more about that in another post. I went to bed very happy and thankful, that's for sure!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I wrote a letter...

Christiana's hair is finally getting long enough to do some styling. After a post about protective styling and fairy knots on Jarmelia's website, I knew some kind of protective styling would help prevent the tangles and breakage in Christiana's hair. I used my homemade Shea Aloe and took random little sections of Ana's hair and twisted them together. I didn't need anything to secure the ends and I didn't need to twist each strand first. I love that! Most of the little twists will stay for over a week. I just add moisture and coconut oil every day or so and occasionally freshen the twists that come out. We also moved Ana out of the pack-n-play and into Tali's crib and that has helped protect her hair and keep the style looking nice longer. I'm pretty sure she was rubbing her head against the mesh siding.


By the way, I love Jarmelia's website. She has great tips and has really blessed me by sharing her trade secrets. :) She is the one who directed me to Essential Wholesale where I can buy unscented products for super cheap. She did a post about how some of the specialty online hair products are all using the same cheap bases. Some friends had given me a box of hair supplies for Amanda when she first came home but they were so heavily scented I rarely used them. It's awesome to find same products unscented.

I also ordered silk lined hats from Curly Zebra for Amanda and Ana. I first learned about the hats last year on Happy Girl Hair but I thought the were too expensive. Instead I ordered cheap Lycra swim caps to wear under their regular hats. This year I decided my sanity was worth the price and having one less thing to fuss with was important. :) Curly Zebra was great and custom made a hat for Christiana when the first one I ordered covered her eyes. Upon request, they also made Ana's hat without the very large, scratchy label on the inside. Amanda complained about it as soon as she put on the hat and I had to take it out with a seam ripper.




However, these adorable little hats led to a discouraging conversation with a sales clerk in a local thrift shop. It began with a pleasant comment about Amanda and Ana's hats. When I showed her that they were satin-lined, she seemed to understand why that was important for my little girls. It turns out she has a friend with little kids that have kinky and curly hair. This is rare in our area. I'm even a little concerned about leaving Ana's hair in twists when we go out because I'm not sure people understand why keeping it in twists is important. However, I became very distressed as the woman began to describe how her friend "hated" her child's "nappy" hair and how the boy got the "really nice" curls and how their hair was just "awful" and she spent "hours brushing" it.



I tried to keep things positive by cutting her off and saying that I loved my little girls curls and thought they were just beautiful and it was so fun that Ana's hair stayed in neat coils and that maybe she just didn't know how to care for it and that we enjoyed our precious hair time. The woman seemed to need to have the last word and it was something along the lines of, "Oh, no, their hair was just awful." It makes my heart hurt just thinking about it now.



After the fact, my first response should have been something like, "I sure hope she didn't saying anything so negative in front of her children because that could really impact their self-esteem and self-image. I sure hope nobody says those kinds of hurtful things to my girls." Hopefully a comment like that would derail the conversation and prevent further negative comments.



I did find an email for the shop online and sent the owner a note. I may have been talking to the owner but I didn't assume that. I encouraged her to watch Chris Rock's documentary called Good Hair* and directed her to Happy Girl Hair's blog. Hopefully, she does some investigating and welcomes a new perspective.



*Good Hair is very eye-opening and informative, however, it also contains some very racy parts. I do not recommend watching it with your husband or teen boys. Yeah, that was awkward. Trust me!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Flag Fun

When I was a little girl, my grandparents house was directly across the school from the middle school. (My mom and grandmother still live there but the school is gone now.) The high school marching band used to meet there during the summer and then march in the surrounding neighborhoods practicing. My cousins and I used to follow them along as they marched. When they stopped and rested, we stopped and rested. I wonder what those high schoolers thought of their grade school groupies. :)


Back at my grandparents house, there was a bucket behind the door in garage filled with old broom sticks with old sheets attached to them. We spent many hours copying the moves of the colorguard, twirling and tossing our flags into the air. Great summer outdoor fun!


Something insipred me to share the flag fun with my little girls last week. Maybe it was the silkies strewn all over the house.


The girls are still a little small and it was really windy. Oh, but what fun!

Some day we may upgrade to nicer poles but on this day I just used some branches from a fallen maple and tied the silkies to the branches. I made one for me too. :)

Sweet Potato Skins

Last month we got about 10 lbs of sweet potatoes (or yams). I peeled chopped and baked most of them and froze them for quick meals. The little girls like them mixed with chopped chicken which I also bake in batches and have frozen. Since these were organic yams, I hated to waste the peels so we experimented with making potato skins. We piled all the skins on the bar pan, drizzled them with light olive oil, sprinkled them with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, and then stirred them to coat them. Then Amanda help me spead them into a single layer on the baking stones.







The oven had been preheated to 350 F and I baked them for about 15 minutes with the convection fan going. We kept checking them to make sure they weren't getting too burnt.




After they cooled, I just pushed the helping chairs up to the counter and let the girls dig in.





Yummy, fun and surprisingly filling.




I was cooking yogurt in the big pot on the stove too. The little girls have been requesting oats and yogurt (with honey) almost every morning. I prefer to get farm fresh milk to make my yogurt but I just haven't been able to go get any so I just made the last couple of batches from store milk. It so much cheaper than buying yogurt.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

A New Park

These pictures are from several weeks ago and they are all out of order. We've been trying to squeeze in as much outdoor fun as we can before it gets too cold and I've been slow about processing the pictures.



This was a new park we visited with Mike a while age and the girls and I went back to take some pictures. Here's Amanda and Ana being silly. Ana started out by intentionally not looking at the camera and then turning quickly to smile and laugh. Amanda joined her in the goofiness.





The little girls enjoyed running up and down this little ramp. Such little things give them so much pleasure.












This park is right on the lake and so many of the trees were still very green and lush even though the ones at our house had lost all of their leaves. The pine trees looked especially lovely and soft. We don't have many pines near our house and these ones with the pinecone-laden branches were mesmerizing.








The park has fun climbing tree that Amanda bravely ventured up. Doesn't she look like a lizard sunning herself?










Here is the main reason we ventured to this park in the first place. During art class last year, Tyler designed and painted this tourist photo board. (I have know idea what they are called.) It was a big project and he had help with the painting but it was his design. He was proud of his work and we are proud of him too. Although he said he didn't sign it because "it wasn't really his style of art work." That would be Paul Bunyan, his wife and kid and Babe the Blue Ox. Paul Bunyan is a legendary lumberjack.




Ana wasn't quite tall enough.





This park was wonderfully designed for the age of our kids. It was accessible enough for little toddlers and without any slides of heart-stopping height or dangerous places out of view. It was nice to sit and relax while they went up and down the slides all by themselves. Tali even dove headfirst down the slides a couple of times but they were slow enough that she didn't do a face-plant at the end.










They really played well for a long time on this day. They day we had gone with Mike, it had been swarming with kids and the little girls just stayed close by us. I always enjoy watching my little girls be strong and adventurous.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

More fun with Acorns

The sand box on the deck proved to be a bad idea. There was always sand in the house and I had to moniter them very closerly to make sure sand wasn't getting in the hair, mouths and eyes. Plus the pool would fill with water and then there would be a wet muddy mess.



We cleaned that all up and brought the kitchen up from the back yard. Then I put the leftover acorns in little containers in the kitchen for the girls to play with. These acorns were from red oaks and didn't peel as easily as the ones from a white oak tree. After painstakingly cracking about 2 cups worth to cook up, I put the rest outside. They are a fun sensory toy and not very messy.




We also added some leaves and sticks and other things from the woods the we collected on our walks. Amanda found some little white worms that came from inside some of the acorns. She was so fond of them and checked on them often. With the rest of the leaves, Amanda wanted to do craft projects and decided to paint them.


This is the craft project we had planned to do with the first batch of acorns we collected. Amanda painted the little hats. Then using a hot glue gun we glued the acorns back into the caps. Next we used a black paint pen to draw little faces. I drew some and Amanda drew some.

I still have a nice collection of double and triple acorn hats that we can paint and attach a ribbon to make them into Christmas ornaments. That might get done this year...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Mullet

Tali has the typical baby mullet growing and most of the time it looks like this:




I have often considered just cutting it all off and starting fresh but with a little conditioner, water and a whole lot of screaming this is the result:


And those little curls are just irresistible! And she seriously throws the biggest fit about having her hair done. When she sees me with the comb, she runs and starts crying even though it takes only about 10 seconds to comb it out. What a goof!

Week 30

I'm about 30 weeks now. I'm definitely feeling third-trimesterish. I feel lots of big kicks and movements that seem to rock my whole body. Sometimes in the middle of the night, I ponder why I would ever expect to get much sleep when the baby's on the outside because he/she sure is active during the night on the inside.

The second part of the second trimester was really great. I was able to quit drinking the coffee which seemed to contribute to the rapid weight gain. I was a little worried when by five months I had already gained 30 lbs. Thankfully I only gained 4 lbs in the last month as opposed to the 10 lb added at each visit prior. I was feeling really good and able to really get out and be active with the girls.

Things have slowed down since bundle-up weather has hit and my ability to bend over is greatly reduced. We go out about once a day instead of twice. In the mornings, I spend some time laying on the mattress in Amanda's room while the girls climb all over me and play on the floor. They really like that time and when Amanda saw me grabbing my pillows today she said, "Yeah!!! Snuggle up time!"

We traveled up north to visit our families last Sunday and I got a box full of baby clothes that I had loaned to my cousin plus some boy clothes that she had. They got all washed and sorted and I feel prepared for either a boy or a girl. I plan to keep it very simple, just footed sleepers that button down both legs, socks and onsies. With Tali I had a stash of cute outfits for church or if we went out but I'd have to change her back into a sleeper when we got home because most of the cute outfits didn't fit over her cloth diaper. (We used disposables when we go out.)

This baby is just going to live in sleepers. I don't have to worry about the baby's socks or shoes falling off and they are usually just in a wrap or sling when we're out anyways. We'll save the cute stuff for once the baby is walking.

I got a fresh hair cut today. The last time I went out for a hair cut was when I was pregnant two years ago. The lady who comes to help us once a week is a hair dresser and she tried to cut my hair once at home while Mike watched the girls but it didn't go very well. So she watched the girls so I could go out today. I hate leaving the girls because at least one of them is crying and being dramatic but coming home sure is fun!