Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in Review

This was so much fun. It is amazing how much life has changed this year!

Just a few weeks after returning home, we welcomed little Juliana into the Church on the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. For us, it was the final welcome into our family!

Juju celebrated her first birthday and started to grow some hair!

March was a difficult month for us as we found out Aunt Missy was in heart failure. We have come to appreciate more fully every moment we have with each other.

We celebrated the Resurrection of Our Lord.

We decided to "get in line" for another adoption from China. We expected it would take 12 months to 18 months before we were matched with our newest child. We were quite surprised when it took little more than 18 hours before we saw Joseph's beautiful smile.

We were again surprised this month with the news that not only would the adoption come faster than expected, we were also going to be welcoming another little baby into our family. The girls spent their first days of summer beating the heat in the basement.

We enjoyed some family time at the State Fair.

Our first ever soccer season began. Soccer practice four nights a week, games on Saturday.


Unbeknown to us, Joseph has surgery to repair his cleft lip.

We enjoyed hayrides, pumpkin patches, apple cider, and college football.

We celebrated All Saints Day.

Merry Christmas!

Blessings to all our dear friends and family as we usher in a new year and a new decade!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Almost Wordless Wednesday

If only it were this peaceful around here today...

Unfortunately, today has been anything but peaceful. Dh is frantically trying to book tickets to China. Not an easy task considering we have 6 days notice. I am trying to figure out how to get them packed in less than a week. Normally this wouldn't be that bad, but being nine months pregnant, I move slow and I can't concentrate.

My sister is back in the hospital after a very rough morning. They are running some tests now, but I know she was really hoping to avoid going back. I think the way she has been putting it lately is "It is easy to get in, but impossible to get out." The ten-year old son of my step sister is also in the hospital on a ventilator and feeding tube.

I have this terrible pit in my stomach from worry, anxiety, and being overwhelmed-- either that or the bazillion Christmas cookies I keep eating with all this stress. With all I have to do, I still just want to go to bed.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Four Calling Birds

We have some dear friends who refer to their youngest daughter as "the hen." For some reason dh has always liked this nickname. While yesterday was the day for "three French hens," I have four girls and we aren't French. So perhaps "four calling birds" is more apropos. Either way, the title was just an excuse to post a few pics from Christmas morning. After all it is still Christmas. We are playing Christmas music, enjoying the new fallen snow, and yes I am still eating Christmas cookies- there seems to be an endless supply of them around here.

Juju really enjoyed opening presents, any presents, whether they were hers or not. She just enjoyed finding out what was inside.

Bophie, our princess, needed a new stroller (mostly for Bella) as the old one had seen better days. She and Juju spent the morning racing their strollers around our first floor racetrack.

Bear's smile can light any room. She was the best guesser and knew package contents much too quickly.

Banana was delighted to finally get some new books to read. She found it hard to open new presents and preferred to lose herself in the first book she opened. I think she liked the doll too :)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Christmas Carol
by G.K. Chesterton

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood at Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown.
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Travel Approval!!!

DH here as guest blogger.

We received our travel approval yesterday evening! This means we'll leave for Beijing on January 5th and return on January 22nd. God willing, Gotcha Day (the day we meet Joseph) will be January 10th.

In honor of this event, I'm breaking Nikki's long-standing rule of this blog being a 'no fly zone' and posting some NetJets pictures. :) The picture below is of Nikki's dad and Bear leaving New York for Columbus a few years ago.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Counting Down the Days...

This evening we received a call from our adoption agency. They expect our TA (travel approval) to arrive any day now and believe dh and Banana will leave around Epiphany and be home around January 22. Nothing is definite, we can't book tickets yet, but things are starting to take shape. The fact that the agency called to make sure our ducks are in a row is a good sign things are moving forward. My c-section is currently scheduled for January 29, so barring going into labor early dh should be home in time for the birth.

I have been so anxious to bring Joseph home. I came across the following video this morning. It reminded me how fortunate we are. In a few days my children (and dh and I) will be showered with gifts. We will eat thousands of cookies because my sisters and I were silly enough to bake thousands. We will adore our Lord in one of my favorite Masses, we will sing, laugh, eat, play, and feel the love of a family. It will be just another day for Joseph, he will still be in a place he doesn't know well, with no family to shower him with the love every child deserves. While he won't be here for Christmas, I am so happy he will be home shortly there after.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pregnancy Brain

The girls have joked time and time again about my "pregnancy brain." They have, of course, heard this from me. I seem to feel more and more out of it as this pregnancy progresses. During this pregnancy I have received two tickets from red light cameras for running red lights. The thing is, I ran the same light twice-- TWICE!

I also got a notice from the bank this week correcting a deposit I made. It seems the amount I thought I was depositing was about $70 short of what the actual total was. If the bank hadn't caught it, we'd be short that money. Everyone makes those mistakes, but again, this is the SECOND time in a month I have done this. Last time I was almost $100 short. Those who know me well, know these are not the types of mistakes I typically make.

Not only am I making silly absent-minded mistakes, I can't seem to think through or accomplish anything well.

Here I am six weeks from delivering this little one and I am starting to panic. I spent the first part of this pregnancy so overwhelmed at the thought of two little boys. I then went into denial. I threw myself into getting ahead with schoolwork and other projects. Now I am asking myself how I will accomplish all I need to finish in the next few weeks. There are clothes to sort, but I haven't decided how I will organize them. Do I need another dresser or can I make do with what is there? Where will they sleep. Is it better to put the crib together for Joseph and the cradle for the new baby? Or should I just plan on using a pack-n-play? Or do I move Bophie to a big girl bed and let Joseph use the toddler bed? Whatever we decide, all that furniture needs set up and organized.

I thought I was finished Christmas shopping. After a conversation with dh last night, I realized I still had quite a few gifts to pick out. There were some glaring holes in my shopping list. Not only do I have to purchase them, but then I have more wrapping to do. I had thought I was a little ahead in that department. I was also going to order and address Christmas cards this week. I am now wondering if that wasn't some sort of pipe dream. I hope to put in our first batches of Christmas cookies today, but even that is a paltry start.

I also realized I am completely unprepared to start packing dh, Banana, and the necessary items for Joseph and their trip to China. I had totally forgotten about all of the gifts I would need to buy for orphanage workers, registrars, and such. I also had aspirations of sending an extra box of supplies to donate to the foster home Joseph that cared for Joseph. Thankfully I am so blessed to have friends and family who have already given me a good start on clothes for both boys. The last time I really had to worry about clothes was almost 10 years ago when I was preparing for Banana. There is also the question of what supplies Joseph will need. Bottles, sippy cups, snacks, entertainment for a 30 hour flight home?

With Christmas and this trip so close together, and then a birth so soon after that, the crazy ride is really just beginning, I'm wondering if I'll ever think straight again...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Christmas cookie baking has begun.
Think she sampled some of the snicker doodles?

Bear's Polar Bear Party

My first warning, if you are pregnant, really pregnant (I love the gospel description of Mary being "great with child" and that is truly how I feel), all birthday parties should be postponed or simple. Being six weeks from delivery, anemic (meaning ridiculously tired), stressed from an impending adoption, and worried for a sister at the top of the heart transplant list, do not leave much room for birthday party planning.

This party, however, needed to be this year. We try to limit big parties to years when the child turns 5 and 10. Poor Bear is turning 7 and for the past two years we have put her party off. Last year we left the day after her birthday for China with promises of a grand party next year. Here it is next year and even though we had so much on our plate, we needed to follow through.

Our Bear is especially fond of polar bears, and in another post I will have to tell the story of how this fascination with them came about, but for now I will stick to the party. I found some really cute polar bear and penguin crafts online and at Target. We played pin the hat on the polar bear, we made polar bear and penguin ornaments, we went on a bear hunt. My favorite was supposed to be putting together your own polar bear cub-cake.
All the other activities went very well, except the cub cakes. I found the idea here. I think it would have worked well if there was more than one mom (or at least not a "great with child" mom) trying to help 11 girls. I also know that in the future, the cupcakes need to be frozen or left out overnight so they are not so soft. As the girls tried to frost the cupcakes, they fell apart because they were too fresh. They tasted great, but next time I will know better.
Despite the momentary cub-cake disaster, Bear had a fabulous party. She enjoyed just getting a chance to have friends over to play and it was a great way to celebrate turning seven. Banana's birthday is in the summer, and she turns ten. She wants a panda bear party now, so I am saving all my polar bear ideas to turn into panda bears.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Can You Believe It Has Been a Year?

A year ago today our more than three year wait had ended and this little one was brought to the thirtieth floor lobby of our downtown hotel. Four little girls were placed on two chairs, and four families were changed forever. Juliana didn't cry, she barely made a sound. She was bundled in clothes that I think would still be too big on her. She spent most of the next few weeks being pretty quiet. There were brief glimpses of the personality that is still emerging, but she was mostly still in shock and somewhat frightened at her whole world being turned upside down. We had to work hard to get a smile, sometimes we worked harder to get her to eat, and we worked most of all at letting her know how much she was loved by us, by her siblings, her extended family, and friends.

Today quiet is not a word I would use to describe little Juliana. Her smiles come so easily and are often followed by giggles and full-blown baby laughs. She sings, she babbles, and sometimes even yells to get her sisters to hear her. She is happy to give kisses and hugs, she wants to be held, she knows she is loved by so many. We also no longer have any trouble getting her to eat. She has definitely taken to our American cooking, although she can be quite demanding about what she wants to eat. Our family would not be complete without this little one and her smiles, sweetness, and demanding ways. She is truly a treasure.

I didn't give you the gift of life,
But in my heart I know.
The love I feel is deep and real,
As if it had been so.
For us to have each other
Is like a dream come true!
No, I didn't give you
The gift of life,
Life gave me the gift of you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Morning After

Yesterday morning I thought I would be spending today looking at fancy new washing machines. Instead of sugar plums and fairies I had visions of 26 pairs of jeans or 32 towels per load. Alas, dh spent his day yesterday looking on the Internet for how to repair the machine. Darn that Internet. He actually found a You Tube video that demonstrated in detail how to pull the machine apart and fix the problem.

Less than $20 in parts and an hour or so worth of work and this morning I am back in business. My laundry pile is diminishing little load by little load. My handy husband saved us quite a bit of money. He also cleaned out the laundry room/closet while he was working, and since he had made such a mess, he mopped the floor. All while I went to coffee with a good friend. With all that, I'm okay with waiting for a new machine.

On a more serious note, please keep my family in your prayers. My sister had the last of her transplant tests yesterday and all went well. It seems that she will be moved to the top of the list next week and could be called in anytime thereafter for a transplant. Also, we learned this week that Joseph was moved from his wonderful foster home (1 caregiver for every 2 children) back to his orphanage (1 caregiver for every 15 children) sometime in November. The foster home is the only home he has really known. He was sent there because his orphanage was not equipped to handle his cleft palette and lip. While he has had the lip repaired, he still has a bilateral cleft palette and I am worried this will cause additional problems with an already difficult move. I am sure this transition is scary for a 20 month old little boy.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Day has Finally Come

After a few months of whining, moaning, and loud high-pitched squealing, the day is finally here. The anticipation of this day has caused dh quite a bit of anxiety. I, on the other hand, have been anxiously awaiting it for at least five or six years as visions of upgrades and fancy new devices filled my daydreams. I was hoping it would wait till after we had out tax return...

Just last week, after the whining and squealing had reached a new level, dh said that he had been praying our 13-14 year old washing machine would hold out until we recovered from the many adoption expenses that just seem to keep piling up. I told him that was funny because with the thought of the laundry piles that await me with six little ones, I had been praying we would be forced to get a new, much bigger, machine. Today we discovered who was praying harder :)

This morning I had everyone bring down their absolutely overflowing laundry bins. After last night's "I don't have any clean pajamas" debacle, I thought it was time to get to the amassing piles. I put in my first load as I was preparing breakfast. As we sit to eat a strange sound came from the laundry room (or closet- as it should be known). Dh gives me a look of dread and asks, "Is that new?" To which I had to say yes.

The drum isn't spinning and poor dh, who already wasn't feeling well, is stuck in the closet trying to see if he can fix the thing. I still have hopes for high capacity, high efficiency, and easy to load machines, but with Christmas a few weeks away and an adoption and new baby a few weeks after that, this is not the best timing. Here's hoping dh can fix it, but that the fix only lasts till March :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Happy Birthday Bear!

Along with the great feast today, we get to celebrate the birthday of our second daughter. Little Bear made her much anticipated debut on this day seven years ago. She was determined to cause a stir even then. I had to have an emergency c-section and she was so attached to being with Mom, the doctor had to use his foot, the operating table, and whatever else was handy to leverage himself to pull her out.

Now she is our bubbly, affectionate, always full of energy little girl-- always full of energy. She's the first in line for hugs, always willing to help (almost always), and our all around sweetheart. This year will be quite a year for her. She will celebrate her first confession this weekend and is preparing to receive her first communion. I am so proud of how well she is making those preparations. She is learning more about her faith and putting forth a genuine effort to put that faith into practice.

We will have a small party for her this weekend, polar bear themed at her request. It has been fun to keep my eye out for little polar bear items for her party. She is a game lover, so I am still on the hunt for some polar bear party games.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee-- especially our little Bear.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

God's Timing and His Blessings

Friday was dh's birthday, and what a day it was...

The last few weeks a lot of what if's and second guessings have been floating through our house. It seems we are on the final countdown to welcome our little boys and that has caused some anxiousness. On Thursday I had an OB appointment where we scheduled the January 27th delivery of our littlest boy. I am amazed it is already time to get it on the hospital calendar (I have scheduled c-sections because of a previous rupture). I also now have to go in for check-ups every two weeks. These milestones seemed to come so slowly in past pregnancies, I am amazed at how quickly they have arrived this time around.

I also found out on Thursday that my sister's heart transplant process is speeding up. The original plan had been to start the final testing to move her to the top of the list in February. The transplant team at the hospital decided those tests should be moved up because of the recent complications she has had. She has a heart cath this Wednesday and it is expected she will move to the top of the list after the holidays. This means she will be on call for a transplant the month of January.

I was starting to really get overwhelmed with all that lay ahead in our family the month of January. It seriously will be one for the record books. I was a little worried how we would get through. I had been trying to be a trooper, but I felt as if this was asking a little much.

On Friday we were once again shown God's faithfulness. Our adoption paperwork had been at the step that has the most variance in time. We were told this step(called an I-5 authorization) could take anywhere from two to six weeks. The due date of baby 6 is such that if this step took six weeks, dh would be in China during the delivery or we would have to postpone his trip. We were really struggling with this decision. Banana, being the sweet girl she is, suggested we pray a novena for God's timing in their travels. She even downloaded a novena to St. Therese and was in charge of bringing it out at our family prayer times. Just a few days after finishing our novena, and 14 days after beginning this step, we received our authorization Friday afternoon. This hopefully means that dh will be leaving in early January and should be home in time for the delivery.

Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Poor Neglected Blog

It isn't that I don't love you, or that there isn't much to say; it's just that I am busy, and tired, and it seems at the end of the day I just want to sleep, not blog.

We had a beautiful Thanksgiving weekend. We feasted, we rested, and we did something I have never done Thanksgiving weekend-- we decorated.

I am an Advent nazi. You know the type-- always battling the ever earlier Christmas displays, won't put up the tree till the week of Christmas, doesn't sing Christmas carols until it is actually Christmas. I love Advent. I want to wait for Christmas. All the early celebration leaves my heart feeling like I gorged on candy and cookies rather than a beautiful, well- prepared meal.

I was already past my due date with Bear on the first Sunday of Advent seven years ago. We had a wonderful priest (Fr. Trigilio) who gave a homily that Sunday that has stuck with me ever since. He encouraged us to think of Mary, who during Advent was preparing for the birth of her first child. Oh the anticipation she would have been feeling. Our Advent should have some aspect of that. Mary wasn't partying, or shopping, she was nesting. She was preparing her home in joyful expectation. Being pregnant and on the verge of our next adoption this Advent is such a blessing. It allows me to meditate on that expectation of Advent at a whole new level.

That being said, I am typically the sole decorator in this house. The combination of my perfectionist tendencies and dh's just get it done tendencies have led to my putting up the decorations to keep the marital peace. Much the same way dh takes care of mopping the floor, meal planning, and car maintenance. This year, I just couldn't do it alone. I can't carry boxes up and down the stairs, I can't vacuum my mess, and I am too tired and overwhelmed to get it all done. I needed his help. He was happy to help, but December is going to be a busy month for him at work. He has a very big project due Dec. 31. We also hope to be moving forward with adoption paperwork and packing very soon. So the decision was made to take advantage of the holiday weekend and get done with what we could.

I don't think we had any other choice, but it was hard to be decorating so early. I still won't let the girls turn on the lights, other than during our nightly prayers. I only hope that now that most of the decorating is done we can get down to our real Advent devotions. I also figure it is time for some nesting of my own. My mom gave me my first boy clothes this weekend and it somehow brought out the reality that there are two little boys joining us very soon and I am very unprepared. Clothes, cribs, car seats, all need to be organized, put together, and installed. I can't think of a better preparation for Advent-- making a place in my heart for the infant Jesus, while I prepare a place in my home for our new infants.