Thursday, April 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom!

Don't worry, I won't tell how old you are... I'll just post this lovely picture! Hope you have a great day.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Signs

We call this the "No Tubas Allowed Sign." Or the "Only Woodwinds and Strings Allowed" sign. It seemed especially apropos for us this week as the girls and I are listening to The Trumpet of the Swan audio book in the car this week. We have a busy week of testing, softball, conferences, and hopefully a visit or two to Aunt Missy. Poor Louis the trumpeter swan would not have fared well on the streets of Beijing...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

All Tuckered Out

As Banana and I were discussing her vocabulary lesson, I hear snoring. That's odd I think to myself, it isn't nap time.

Turns out Bophie was tuckered out from all the horse wrangling she had been doing and decided to catch 'er some shut eye right there on the kitchen floor.

The only problem? She was wearing undies when she fell asleep. The dark pink on her pants lets me know bath time is coming earlier today...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Life Comes At You Fast

Last Friday we faxed our adoption agency a few preliminary forms. We were hoping this would secure our place in line for a new child. We were told we would wait 10 months for Juliana and it turned out it was an almost three year wait. After talking to our agency and hearing we would wait about 12 months, we thought we should get a jump start. Who knew how long the wait would actually be?

Turns out God has a sense of humor. We were in such a hurry for little Juliana and we had to wait, and wait, and wait. This time we wanted to wait, we wanted a little time, and it turns out that wasn't God's plan.

Monday afternoon, before we ever even received the full application, I got a call from our agency asking if we would consider a little boy they were trying to place. To say we were shocked, amazed, excited, apprehensive would only be the tip of the iceberg of emotions that have been filtering through our house these last few days. I had to respond to the woman and I couldn't do so intelligibly. I finally had to say, "Please forgive me. My mind is going faster than my mouth can talk."

We need your prayers. A boy with special needs so soon... We know if God wills this, it will all come together. We still need prayers. For now, we are going ahead with the paperwork at lightening speed. We are trying to get medical opinions, a home study done, and assembling more documents than one would think existed.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Round Two

I was asked a few months ago to blog about our decision to adopt Juliana. I am asked that question rather frequently. We have three beautiful daughters and I think it is hard for some to understand why we would want to adopt more. Having been asked so often, you would think it would be easy to answer it. It isn't. There is no quick answer I can give that would encompass the many reasons we chose to grow our family through adoption.

The simplest answer is that we were called to adoption-- we just were called to it. We knew we would adopt before we had any issues with infertility, but our struggles with infertility and miscarriage opened our hearts wider and more quickly. We still hope for more biological children, but we know more deeply how much children are truly a gift from God.

Throughout our adoption process there were so many times we saw the hand of God guiding us. There are so many little stories I could tell of situations where we knew God was opening doors for us. These were little indications that we were indeed called to adopt. Now that we have Juliana it is amazing to think of all the little details that came together to bring this particular child into our family.

Yes, I love my girls. I never felt like they were not enough. It is precisely because of the unmatched joy they bring our lives that I would desire to add more children to our family. There is more work, I am more frazzled, but the happiness grows exponentially. There is even happiness in the chaos. Each child has brought a new dynamic to our family. I am so privileged to be a part of each of their lives.

We are incredibly blessed. We have every need met and most wants are met as well. We don't worry about when our next meal will come, and while our clothes may not be the most fashionable, they are adequate. Our children are blessed with doting friends and family and there are many times I feel overrun with toys. We certainly have enough to share.

I don't want it to sound as though we have no concerns. We have a mortgage, and we worry about sending the girls to college. We would like to have more in our retirement, and there are many household projects we would love to tackle. Adoption has meant that we have to postpone household projects, some indefinitely. We have had to make do with some things that we would really like to trade in.

When it was all said and done, though, there was no project, no upgrade, no feelings of financial security that were going to match the joy a new child would bring our family. There was no toy that I could give my children that would be better than the love of a new sibling. When we realized this, there was no turning back.

I am busier than ever with four girls, but I can still offer arms to hold, a lap to cuddle on, and a heart to love. We know that our girls will have some sacrifices to make with a new sibling, but ask them if they want to make those sacrifices. Everyone of them will give you an emphatic yes. The joy of a new sibling, a new playmate, a lifelong friend is worth these sacrifices. If we let our children decide, we might adopt ten more!

I could go on and on about the many reasons adoption fit our family. I could talk about the joy Juliana has brought our family, how these three short months with her have melted away any of the anxieties about adoption I had while we waited for her. I could talk about how amazing God's plans are. I could go on and on and on (maybe I already have)...

It would all just be a long way of saying that last week we made some decisions and began the paper chase to bring home another little one.

Monday Signs

This week's sign from China does not need interpretation. It says it all loud and clear. We came across it on one of our ventures to the mall without the rest of our group.

After a week of Easter candy, cakes, and all around feasting, I could use a store like this...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Confessions of a Cheapskate

Those who know me well know I am always on the lookout for a good deal. I have been known to buy things not because they were needed, but rather because I could get them cheaply. I am the person who immediately heads to the back of the store to the sale racks. I know where all my local stores keep their clearance items. I even know the days the grocery stores are most likely to have discounted items. I have been known to call friends in my excitement at a good deal.

I like to say I'm frugal. That sounds so much better than "cheap," but the truth is I am at times... cheap. When I am complimented on an outfit, I can't just take the compliment and say thanks. I have to divulge every little detail about how I came about such a good deal and comment on how "frugal" I am. A good deal is often more important to me than style. This really hit home when a few weeks ago a very, very dear friend was shocked that I bought a pair of dress pants for, believe it or not, full price. They were the right color, they fit well, and I have worn said pair of pants probably 12 times this month. Sometimes it is worth it not to be... cheap.

That said, yesterday my daughters were decked out in new stripy shirts. I got them for a song on the clearance rack at Target (love that store's clearance racks). Every compliment I received about these cute shirts was met with, "You wouldn't believe the deal I got for them." So you can tell me how cute my little girls are, or compliment my frugality. Both will make my day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Three Months

Today marks three months since little Juliana was placed in our arms. Three months seems like such a short time, and yet it seems Juliana has always been part of our family. This month has brought her giving her first kisses, her first two teeth, standing up on her own without holding onto anything, and her first celebration of Holy Week and Easter (including throwing up all over herself, me, and the floor at Holy Thursday Mass).

It was heartwarming to see her beaming with such happiness on Easter Sunday. She could sense the excitement of her sisters and her own enthusiasm was just as contagious. It really hit home to me that morning that she was indeed quickly learning her place in our family. She relished her sisters showing her the toys she received in her Easter basket, she laughed and clapped in delight when she saw her sisters smiling at her accomplishments. She knew us well enough to sense our joy.

One thing that has really brought about so much more bonding for us has been the change in our feeding patterns. Although Juliana is almost 14 months and she is doing much better at eating table food, she still takes a bottle 3-4 times a day. I knew heading into this adoption how important it is to hold the baby and the bottle during feeding times. I had attempted this, but when Juliana got too fussy (which usually was accompanied with throwing up), I would give up. I thought it was more important that I not upset her. I was wrong. About a month ago, I made a decision to be firm with this no matter how upset she got. The first few attempts were met with horrible fits, and it took more than a week for her not to cry when I sat in the rocking chair. Now she looks forward to these times and doesn't fight me.

This firmness has led to real bonding. I regret not having done this much, much earlier. She cuddles with both dh and I much more, she looks us in the eye for longer periods of time, and it has helped us settle into a better routine. She isn't wandering around with a bottle all day long helping herself, but rather getting one on a fairly steady schedule. Next time around, I will be more forceful about this from the beginning.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Her Mother's Child

The older girls each received a pottery set to paint as an Easter gift. Banana's is a gardening set and Bear's a tea set. Since they are a little older now, I thought it was time to suggest they think through their ideas before actually applying twelve colors of paint that end up melding into one horrible color on their ceramic plates. They seemed to like this idea. They talked about color schemes and patterns, designs they could try, and opened their sets to examine the size and shape of the objects. Within three minutes of me making these suggestions, they had paint open and were starting in full force.

Deciding they were still young, and it was their gift, I walked away. I knew I needed to let them paint. I also knew I had about 15 uninterrupted minutes to finish a project on the computer. As I am typing away, I hear this conversation:

Bear: "How much dark blue have you used?"
Banana: "Dark blue? I won't use dark blue, that's a Michigan color!"

That's my girl... That's.MY.girl.

He is Risen!!

Happy Easter Week!

We had an absolutely beautiful Easter Sunday! The girls woke extra early to hunt for baskets. Their excitement was contagious. Even Juliana was excited, she woke up all smiles. I couldn't help but to think how different her life is here. I am sure there was no merry-making occurring in her orphanage, but in our home merriment abounded.

I was convinced that this was finally the year I would stump dh. Every year I think I have the perfect hiding spot for his basket, and every year he finds it too quickly. I hid it in the underside of the recliner, up in the mechanism. There was no way he was going to find it. I had him too. Then my overly precocious six year old managed to move the chair and knock down some of the candy. When she went to clean it up (it was a baby choking hazard), she found my clever hiding spot and gave it away to dh... Note to self- next year tape down the basket and leave no loose candies!

Mass was the highlight of our day. It was beautifully full of spring flowers in contrast to the bareness of Good Friday, and the music was truly amazing. I lingered after Mass wanting to stay there all day to be with Our Lord. I wanted to surround myself with the joy of His resurrection. On our return, I was especially thankful for the lilies at home. It made our mantel a small replica of the altar at church. Banana said they were trumpets heralding the resurrection. She is right!

We also had a wonderful family dinner. Lots of good food, good company, and a fun Easter egg hunt.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Adoramus Te

An excerpt from Bishop Connoly's Good Friday sermon:

In our contemplation of the Cross we discover the “sign of contradiction.” This is at the heart of the Paschal Mystery, the coming together of apparent opposites: suffering and healing, death and resurrection, defeat and victory, agony and glory.

And yet they are not really opposites. Self-giving is a necessary prerequisite for perfect freedom, and perfect freedom constitutes new life and glory.

I think one of the most powerful and mysterious lines in Mel Gibson’s popular movie, The Passion of the Christ, is when our Lord meets His dear Mother along the Way of the Cross, as she comes to His side when He falls, yet again, under the weight of the Cross. Looking into her compassionate and sorrowful eyes He tells her, “Don’t you see, Mother? I make all things new.” Now these words are not found in the Gospel, but are actually in the Book of the Apocalypse (21:5), and the filmmaker superimposes these words on the lips of Jesus for dramatic effect.

Nonetheless, the scene conveys a powerful and mysterious truth. Through humility and obedience to the will of God, we make all things new. The glory of Jesus, particularly in St. John’s Gospel, is the glory of obedience and self-giving. The glory of the Resurrection merely crowns the glory which Jesus had already obtained by His obedience to His Father’s will.

In the words of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI: “[Christ’s] crucifixion is His coronation; His coronation or kingship is His surrender of Himself to men.”

Full Text Here

Adoramus Te, Christe, et benedicimus Tibi, Quia per sanctam crucem Tuam redemisti mundum, Domine, miserere nobis!

We adore Thee, O Christ, And we bless Thee, Who by the holy cross have redeemed the world, Who have suffered for us! Lord, have mercy upon us!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Easter Cakes

I traditionally bring cakes to our family Easter dinner. The girls and I have been making them for a few years and I thought I would share a few of our favorites. I know we are only half way through Holy Week, but I am starting to get the ingredients together so that we are ready to bake.

First up is our bunny cake:
I found the instructions a few years ago on the Internet. Unfortunately, I don't remember where. I make the cake in two round cake pans. Layer them then cut them in half (this will make two bunnies). Then stand one half on its side and frost. Cut out a notch in the front to rest the ears. The ears are made from one large marshmallow cut on the bias and the cut end is dipped in sprinkles. The cheeks are another marshmallow cut in half vertically, there is another whole marshmallow used for the tail. The fur is made from toasted coconut, and the grass from colored coconut. This cake is now an Easter staple for us.

Last year I also found this cake in Taste of Home magazine. I think it would be more appropriate for a late summer cake, but one key ingredient is only available now-- yellow chick peeps. I only know one person who will actually eat those things (I have a crazy little sister), but they do make for a nice sunflower cake.

The chocolate chips should be in concentric circles, but I had a 2-year old and 5-year old helping:) Also, I will separate all the peeps next time to make a less square shape.

This year I am thinking of a few changes, although I seem to be short on the creativity gene. I would like to turn the bunny into a lamb. Any ideas how to do this? I am also thinking that we will skip the sunflower cake for Easter and do it later. Anyone know the shelf-life of peeps? I'm hoping to replace that with a cross shaped cake, or maybe a cheesecake. Any other good Easter dessert ideas?

UPDATE: I found that someone had googled Easter Cakes and found my blog, I love sitemeter. Deciding to look for inspiration, I took a quick look. I came across this blog entry and had a good laugh. I just had to share-

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Revisiting the Banana Yogurt Dessert

In my Holy Week spring cleaning this morning I came across a lone container of banana yogurt dessert baby food. Loyal readers will remember this episode with this delicious baby food.

This morning, I decided that since Juliana had been doing so much better with solid food I would try it again. The added bonus being that little container is no longer sitting in the dark recesses of my pantry. The result? Pretty much the same as last time. I put the spoon to her mouth, she gagged, then spit it all out. I repeat the process and soon she was beside herself and screaming in frustration.

I set the banana yogurt dessert aside so that Bophie (you remember how well she liked it) could have it after lunch. As Bophie was eating it, look who started yelling. Juliana has this cute num, num, num sound she makes when she wants something. In between her shouts she made that noise and stuck out her tongue for a bite. Bophie fed her a bite or two and she clearly wanted more.

So maybe it isn't the banana yogurt dessert. That stuff is yummy-- I guess it's just me.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Name the Sign (Installment 2)

Yes, it's a day early...

This sign was on the revolving door to our hotel. We called it the "Don't Jump on Little Kids' Toys Sign." We speculated that this was the hotel's way of saying that only nice people were allowed to stay in their establishment. Seriously, what else could this sign mean?

Banana's take on the sign- Don't leave children playing in the street. Good advice.

Bear says that since we don't know what it means, we just have to wait to ask Juliana. Since she is from China, she'll know.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Foiled Again

Dh and I have a long tradition of playing practical jokes on April Fools. Usually, I get the better of him because he has trouble with dates and inevitably forgets that it is already April. It is hard to fool someone when they are prepared and know something is coming, even if they don't know what it is.

This year, dh was ready and he thought my recent lack of sleep would give him an advantage. He got up early this morning and took the older girls to Mass, then out for breakfast. During their outing he told them he was going to call me sometime this morning and play an April Fool's Day joke on me. He should know better than to divulge that sort of inside information to two chatty schoolgirls. It was barely 8:15 before they had spilled the beans.

I responded to them by telling them he would to try to get me to believe the van, which is currently in the repair shop (nothing like 3 days trapped in this house to get one feeling stir crazy), was going to cost an arm and a leg to fix. I know him too well... At 10:30 the call came and, as I am often reminding my family, I am always right. If I hadn't been so tired from only getting four hours sleep, I might have played along and gotten in my own April Fools Day fun.

It turns out the joke was on both of us. As I was talking to him, I noticed a big water spot in our formal living room. I ask him if he's noticed it and he wouldn't believe me. He thought I was trying to have my own fun. Imagine his disappointment when he came home and found there was no fooling on my part. Now there is a big hole in the front room and it looks like we are in for some master bathroom renovations sooner rather than later. How's that for an April Fool's Day?