Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Favorites

Back "in the day" I was the gal that lived for Friday nights. Before the kids came along, we had a busy social life, hanging with friends at local restaurants, late nights in each others' apartments, laughing and playing games or watching movies. When the boys were really little, we just bundled them up in their jammies and brought them along. Somewhere along the journey, our Friday night social calendar stopped filling up. As the demands of a career and three, then four, children started pulling at us, The Boss needed Friday nights to unwind, in the peace and quiet of his own living room. I'd bundle the kids up still, but in their cozy little beds, a bit earlier than other nights. And now? We actually rejoice over the occasional "empty" Friday night on our calendar. We crave them like one craves ice cream on a hot and sunny day. They are our refreshment. Our chance to call our own shots and stop our clock, if only for one night.

My Favorite Things: Friday Nights With The Gang
  • Long, late dinners. We can take our time, talk and laugh and tell stories of our day, without one eye on the "bed time on a school night" clock.
  • We're all home. With a 13 and 12 year old, I know these occasions will be fewer and farther between, but for now, I love having all my chicks in one nest for the night!
  • No meetings. It's a rare occasion that we have church or school functions on Fridays, so we enjoy the chance to dis-engage our "agenda-minded" brains for at least one night.
  • Movie Night! We don't always watch a movie together, but I love the sound of the kids laughing together regardless of the differences that may have cropped up between them earlier in the day.
  • Late bedtime for all. The kids are all still young enough to view a later bedtime as a treat, so I feel like the cool Mom at least once a week! The Boss usually falls asleep 1/2 way through "Numbers" but I snuggle in with him and watch re-runs and late night tv till my eyes are bleary.
There is something delicious about a late, relaxed Friday evening at home. It's even more delicious to sleep in on a Saturday morning, to be greeted with the smell of freshly brewed (albeit it, ridiculously strong!) coffee. To have no alarm blaring across the room, jarring me awake. But the most delicious thing about it all is the way the whole world outside our doors just disappears and the mad dash through life stops on a dime. If only for one night.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Random Catching Up

It's been a crazy busy week here. Now that all my healthy school-aged children have returned to the classroom, I've been running laundry (clean sheets and blankets and towels for EVERYONE!), cutting coupons, making grocery lists, and running errands. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at a local play land, just enjoying the opportunity to visit with a friend and be out because I wanted to, not because I had to run out for soft foods or cough medicine!

I spent Monday getting BACK ON TRACK by going to Curves for the first time in 2 weeks. It felt so good, and I've been trying like crazy to get back there since! I think I can squeeze it into today's routine, later. I also trekked around with a gorgeous but slightly beat up antique headboard and footboard in my trunk. We've been planning to strip and refinish it and turn it into LadyBug's bed. That way, when company is here overnight, they still have a comfy place to sleep and LadyBug can bunk in with one of her many siblings :) The first estimate was $450 just to strip it! The second place was far more reasonable, and gave me an estimate of $150 to strip it and sand it. Further, they promised it would be done by the end of the week! SOLD!!!! In fact, they called Monday night to say it's done. Now that's service I can smile about. I am totally kicking myself that I didn't take a before picture to show you how amazing this set it. I was just too focused on getting my life back to normal. . . . One big project off the checklist that never ends.

It's also Pinewood Derby week here for the Gang. So our weekend and our weeknights have been about painting, balancing, weighting, decorating and naming our cars. Last night, friends came over to use some of The Boss's tools and share a pizza dinner. It was a fun treat, as we rarely get together with people on weeknights. I'll share the Derby fun in pictures after Saturday's race.

Finally, I started a part-time job in the midst of all the efforts to return to normalcy. In fact, we are all adjusting to a new normal. I am babysitting on Tuesdays for a local homeschooling family of 5. The mom is also a speech therapist for a local organization and she's been given the opportunity for 8-10 hours a week of work and needs help with her five. I also am "on call" for other days of the week, in case her other childcare falls through or she has additional needs. It's going to be a great way to help out with some of the special projects we have going here, as we get ready for Aidan to (someday!) come home! Including the stripped and soon-to-be re-finished bed . . .

Now, I'm off to the dentist. My absolute LEAST favorite of all appointments, all year. Both of them. My stomach is in knots for hours before each visit; and my head and face aches for hours afterward. As if I don't carry enough Mommy guilt for all the gazillion things I don't do right, or could have at least done better! Then, twice a year I subject myself to the painful torture of someone tugging and yanking at my lips and gums, telling me how shameful it is that a beautiful set of teeth like mine don't get flossed often enough. As if.

I'm gonna need a reallllllly large mug of Dunkin' Donuts hazelnut coffee and a big soft bagel full of cream cheese to reward myself for voluntarily showing up for the appointment and smiling and nodding at my cheery hygienist. (Who, by the way, has elevated me to some kind of sainthood for giving birth to 4 kids and choosing to adopt a 5th! Couldn't she cut this saint a break and just clam up about the flossing? For maybe just one visit of the year cut me some slack?!) Thank goodness that Dunkin' Donuts is in the next plaza over from the dentist. Thank goodness for Dunkin' Donuts.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The First REAL Snow

This weekend, we got the first real snowstorm of the year. That is, it was enough snow to really play in. Enough that it needed to be shoveled. Enough that creative juices flowed freely, after being cooped up in the "sick house" for days. I give you: Fun in the Snow, Gang style!

This is Dr. Doolittle's imitation of a Calvin and Hobbes's snowart, complete with a grimace of pain at the "sword" pierced through his torso.
That boy really needs to get out and burn off some energy!

This is Shaggy's attempt to make the world's biggest snowball. Shaggy is about 5'4" and by the time he was done, the snowball was about 5' tall. And there were ugly brown, mud tracks all over the front yard tracing the path of the snowball's growth!

LadyBug and Baby Blue Eyes spent the morning at the neighbors' playing and drinking hot cocoa. By the time they wanted to bundle up and play in the snow, it was pouring rain and ice crystals. That's it. That was our storm: 6-8 hours of snow, followed by several hours of rain.

But at least the neighbors got to see the warped humor of my sons. Whooo Hoooo!

P.S. If you need a giggle or a light-hearted view of the dreary winter weather, you really must stop by the above link for Calvin and Hobbes' snow art. It's hilarious. The boys got it from my Dad, and we stop by there frequently to laugh again and again.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Favorites Friday

Today is a snow day! Not a delay, or an early dismissal. An honest-to-goodness, real school-canceling, snow-shoveling snow day. My kids were thrilled beyond words, as these are in short supply since we moved from Central to SE PA. We always seem to be on the warmer edge of all the storms, resulting in that nasty wintry mix of slush and mess. Not so, today! Yippee!

My favorite things about snow days!
  • Sleeping in a little more than normal - The Boss gets up really early, no matter the weather. So when there is a delay or a cancellation, he sneaks back into our room and turns off my alarm. Such a wonderful man! Such a wonderful treat!
  • Long, leisurely breakfasts - The kids and I make a hot breakfast and all curl up on the couch (I with my hot coffee in hand!) to watch Matt, Al, Ann and Meredith. This morning we chowed down on chocolate chip and blueberry waffles.
  • Homemade cookies - Almost every time it snows (or rains, or storms in any way!) I get the urge to bake. Usually it's cookies, sometimes it's muffins or cupcakes or bread. Today: hot, gooey chocolate chip cookies!
  • Free shoveling - One of the perks of having two, strapping HOOVERS is that I promise the fresh, hot cookies if they promise to get the shoveling done for The Boss. Right now, they are finishing the driveway and are starting the sidewalks.
  • Freedom from the normal routine - I have adopted a rather "relaxed view" of the standards on snow days, since we joined the public school system. As long as the beds get made, teeth get brushed and everyone has clean undies, I don't really care if anything else gets done. We watch movies, listen to loud music, drink hot cocoa, eat cookies, and have fun just hanging out.
So, what do you like to do on Snow Days? Do you have any special traditions or projects? Do you make special memories with your family now? Better yet, do you have any special memories of your own snow days?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Viruses, Valentines, and Various Stuff

LadyBug has been home from school now for two days. We had a wonderful weekend away to visit my SIL, over at Life and Lessons, but there was definitely something brewing in The Gang's systems before we got there. Late nights up giggling with her cousin and early mornings playing dolls probably contributed to her little body being too tired to fight off Shaggy's and Baby Blue Eye's colds. Of course, being the principal caretaker and huggy mommy, I have it now too! I confess, I did have my share of late nights hanging out and catching up with my SIL. She's such a great friend and I always enjoy our late night conversations. Speaking of conversations, here's a snippet of one I had with dear Dr. Doolittle about how easily I seem to catch these viruses while caring for my gang:

Me: "I guess maybe I should consider NOT hugging and kissing and cuddling you guys so frequently. Then maybe I could actually get over one virus before I start another."

Dr. D, deadpans: "Excuse me, while I try to contain my excitement at the idea of that actually happening."

Yes, Dr. D has entered adolescence, complete with the utter distaste for all displays of physical affection from his parents. I try very hard to be respectful of this normal distancing that occurs, as long as they remain respectful of the fact that I neeeeeeeed hugs and kisses occasionally. I tell my nephew that it's like gas in a car: I need lots of hugs from the sweeties in my life to keep me going. The Boss has spoken to the boys about this side of my personality, and we've adopted an easy truce: I get the occasional hug and sometimes even a kiss while we are in the house from them. But when we are out, I will respect their distance and their "space." It's definitely harder for me now that TWO of them are in this stage, but I like the balance we've struck.

Apparently, they understand my side of this issue better than I gave them credit for. This year for Valentine's Day, both Shaggy and Dr. D made me "coupon books" for a gift. Lo and behold, each book contains at least one coupon for free hugs and kisses whenever I choose to redeem them. Shaggy's (on the top at left) are hilarious: he put little disclaimers on them and reminded me to "read the fine print!" Dr. D took a page from his uncle's book of Irish humor when titling his coupons (see bottom left). They are such nuts! But you can bet your bippy I'll be redeeming those coupons when they least expect it. I have some devious plans whirling in my brain even now for the redemption of those goodies. Given that both of them occasionally read my blog, I'll not share those details here! (mwaaaaah haaaaa haaaa ha!)

So, we're huddling in for another day, expecting snow and ice in a "wintry mix" this afternoon. I guess grocery shopping and getting out for contact with other humans will have to wait another day. (insert dripping sarcasm here) And I was sooo looking forward to hitting the grocery store this morning, to compete with the other shoppers in their pre-storm stock up rush. Who knows, I might actually get to wear real clothes at some point this week!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

Overheard at dinner last night . . .

LadyBug: "Ooooooh, goodie! Tomorrow is Valetine's Day! I love Valentine's Day!"

Shaggy, in a bored voice, already knowing the answer: "Why do you love Valentine's Day, LadyBug?"

LadyBug, blissfully unaware of her big brother's scorn: "Cuz we get CHOCOLATE AND PRESENTS!"

My sentiments exactly, LadyBug.

Happy Valentine’s Day

To You All!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I Think I Love You!

Yesterday, DAVID CASSIDY was a guest on Oprah. And I have to say, except for the long flowing brunette hair and crazy bell-bottom pants, he really has aged beautifully. It was so exciting to hear his old hits, to listen to him tell the story of his career, and how he found "normal" again. I found it particularly interesting that he's so insistent that his son finish college before he pursues his own music career. I loved how proud he was of his daughter and the kudos he gave to his gorgeous wife for their great marriage. But in the attempt to be completely honest here, my friends, I must confess to you that I danced and sang right along with all the DAVID CASSIDY clips and the two songs that he performed at the open and close of the show. Every. One. Of. Them.

My two older boys were completely bewildered, shaking their heads, trying to tease me out of my delirium. They even tried to leave the room. But now, I made them stay to share in the reminiscing. I had a blast! I kept trying to tell them what everyone loved about him and why girls my age and older were crazy about him, but they (being boys) didn't get it at all. At dinner, they proceeded to tell The Boss about my insane behavior and tease me about being stuck in the 70's (which I'm totally not, I'm definitely more of an 80's girl!). It's a good thing I'm secure and confident: their teasing and jesting could have really gotten to me. That is, if I could have heard them over the refrains of "I Think I Love You!" running through my head all night!

P.S. Yes, I know the Cosby Show was mixed in there somewhere, but I was too caught up in remembering all the DAVID CASSIDY songs that I could think of. The Huxtables were great, funny and all that. But they were no DAVID CASSIDY!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Favorites Friday

I'm a fairly new coffee addict. I resisted for years, even though I did enjoy an occasional cup, well-doctored and usually only in social settings under subtle peer pressure. It's only been three or so years that I've become a full-blown coffee junkie. And now, in the throes of a virus that has left my mouth full of painful sores and a head aching from the agony of it all, I am realizing just how much I love my coffee. Today's Favorites are an ode to my morning java. May we meet again soon!

My Favorite Things About Coffee!
  • The heat of my full Tigger mug cupped in my hands seeps right through to my bones, warding of the chill of the morning air. That first long draw of heat eases the pain of leaving my warm, dark cocoon of blankets.
  • The aroma is nutty and rich, tickling my nose with the anticipation of its taste. When The Boss is brewing, the smell is a touch more acrid, giving just the right nudge out of that dark cocoon on a Saturday morning.
  • Its taste is strong and deep, calling my brain to alertness and giving my taste buds the gentle wake-up call they need to start the day. One big sip and my tongue is loosened and real words begin to form.
  • The hazelnut creamer only enhances the nutty smell of my morning blend and adds just the right trickle of sweetness. The creamy flow into my giant-sized Tigger mugs is one of the prettiest sights I see all day.
  • And the kick? Oh, I love the kick! The little surge of clarity and the jolt of excitement as I sip and look over the day's chores cannot be beat. I mean, come on! How else am I supposed to face the mountains of laundry and dishes that appear on EVERY DAY'S list without fail?
These sores cannot handle the perfection of coffee right now. They fare far better with room temperature water and yogurt. Lots of yogurt. But believe you me, when the last of these vile tormentors have left my mouth, I'm making a whole pot of delectable brew. And drinking the whole thing. Just think how much I'm going to enjoy that! Can you imagine how much I'm going to get done? Mmmmmmmmm, be patient dear mouth, be patient.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year!

Today marks the beginning of a new tradition for our family: the Chinese New Year! I was planning a big Chinese feast, and was going to make a few Asian inspired creations for dinner with some new recipes I've been saving. But a virus way-laid my plans and I have to roast the turkey that's been thawing in my fridge. So, we'll celebrate the Chinese holiday with a very American feast! Maybe I'll glaze the turkey with an orange teriyaki sauce for some Asian flair.

I'm very happy to share with you all today an exciting update in our adoption process. The following includes some excerpts of a letter we sent to our family informing them of our news.
We have decided to pursue a special needs adoption through our agency, Living Hope. While the term "special needs" may sound pretty scary, we have actually felt an increase of compassion towards these little ones and feel the Lord tugging our hearts in that direction. We've been considering this direction since late last summer and actually received the application/informational packet in October. (I know, you are all shocked that I kept it quiet so long, aren't you?!) Since then, we've been praying, talking, and researching information about the conditions that these children are facing. What we're finding is that some of the "special" needs these children have really aren't that scary at all. Especially when we compare those needs to the alternative of a precious child spending the rest of her life in an orphanage or foster home without the love of a family who will be hers forever.

After consulting with our agency, the International Adoption Program Docs at CHOP, and friends who have been through the adoption process, we've decided as a family to go ahead and put our names on the "waiting child" list (China's way of designating orphans who have special needs). This doesn't take us off the track (regular, non-special needs) that we've been on for 2 years, it simply offers a secondary "track" through which the Lord may bring us our Aidan. There are many changes happening in China's Waiting Child program, some of which were announced just this week.

There are several reasons why we feel strongly about moving in this direction. First, and quite frankly, it will most likely bring Aidan home sooner. We've been praying for 2 years that the process would move swiftly and we feel like this decision aligns well with that prayer. Secondly, and maybe more importantly, we see this step as an unfolding of God's will for us that we were unable to see when we started the process. We didn't set out to adopt a special needs child but as we've tried to listen for and obey His voice, it's been pretty thrilling to see the ways He's confirmed our steps and encouraged us along the way - in all areas of this adoption, not just in this decision. Thirdly, we are part of a hospital community that offers the best pediatric care in the country and that is internationally known for its expertise on many of the conditions we are considering. This, too, may be part of that unfolding of His plan.

So please pray with us. We need continued wisdom for the decisions we will be facing as the process continues. We need continued financial provision, especially in light of the fact that this secondary track could move more quickly. Finally, we need prayers for Aidan, for her birth mother, and for the people that will be caring for her until we can claim her as our daughter. Thank you all who have already begun praying for these things. Your support has been priceless and we feel so encouraged by it!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

China Needs YOU!

We've been fasting t.v. for a while, so I'm a little behind on world news. But this week we've been doing some on-line research and updating some documentations regarding our adoption. In this process, I have become aware of a really pressing need in China. You may already know about it, but it's very near and dear to The Gang and we'd like the share it with you here:

These past 10 days or so, China has been experiencing unprecedented snow storms. It's crippling the transportation systems, the business community and the schools. What the media hasn't been reporting as widely is the effect these storms are having on the hundreds of orphanages, big and small, across the country. These orphanages are struggling to keep the kids warm, fed, and healthy. Many of them are without diapers or basic medicines. Still others are without heat, electricity or running water. It seems, from what I've been reading and searching out, that the hardest hit areas are the most un-accustomed to cold weather and snow. They need our prayers!

If you need more information or want to know how you can help, there is a well-known relief agency (not a specifically "Christian" agency, fyi) that exists just to care for the orphaned children of China by providing resources and monies to the orphanages they connect with. It is called Half The Sky, and they are running a special emergency fund-raising relief program right now to deal with the crisis. This page gives you the updates on several of the orphanages that are under their umbrella and what they need to make it through till the weather breaks. The need is great and I can hardly read the pages without crying, knowing that so many daughters and sons are suffering.

As I've ventured into this community of International Adoption, I've made many new friends. Some of them are listed in my sidebars. Some of them have their child home, safe, warm and snug. But some of them are in process like me. Some are farther along in the process and actually already know who their daughter or son is. These moms need our prayers. Their babies are in precarious circumstances and they are reliant upon government and agency information about the welfare of their child. Please, pray with The Gang! Please!

P.S. Love Without Boundaries has unofficially won
the Facebook contest
that I mentioned in Friday's post - that's great news
for hundreds of orphans who will receive
excellent medical care from the donations given!
Wooo Hooo!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Favorites Friday

I've been spending a good bit of my time doing research and gathering information related to our adoption this month. We've got a lot going on here at The Gang's house: renewing documentations, updating information and getting familiar with this whole sub-culture within the International Adoption community. I've been making new "cyber" friends, learning a ton, and discovering some really cool stuff. I'm sharing some of it with you today!

My Favorite Adoption-Related Sites:
  • Head over to Love Without Boundaries, if you are reading this on Friday, February 1st. They are participating in a fund-raiser sponsored by Facebook and have the opportunity to win $50, 000. That's enough to fund 10 heart surgeries for orphans in China! It only requires a minute, and $10 per person. (Click on the "$10 Saves 10 Lives" button at the top to learn more.) And fund-raiser aside, this site is a wealth of information about the lives of orphaned children and what we can do to help them.
  • A brand new find, Adoption Mama sells creative graphic tees for adoptive mommies and mommies-to-be, a.ka. "paper pregnant" like me. I can't really afford any of the products right now, 'cuz well, I'm adopting! But, how cute are these shirts?
  • Children's Hospital Of Philadelphia (CHOP) has an awesome International Adoption Counseling program. We've been so impressed so far with their knowledge, their helpfulness and the things they've counseled us about. We're really enjoying this resource!
  • I found this cool link when I tried to find the Chinese symbols for the word "Hope." I'm brewing a couple "family made" art projects for Aidan's nursery when she comes home (some day!) and I had a blast tooling around this site. You can find your name and see it in Chinese Calligraphy . . .
  • This is my favorite of all the sites listed for today. Julie P is an adoptive mommy herself and designs the most amazing jewelry that honors her daughter and the Chinese art of calligraphy. I've already put in my request for Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Aidan's Gotcha Day, and so on. And the best part: "50 % of profit will be donated to support ongoing efforts to help children in need." Awesome!
There you have it. MMMMMM, all this talk about Chinese culture is making me hungry. Maybe I'll treat BBE to lunch out with some yummy eggrolls . . . . Have a great Friday, all!