Saturday, June 27, 2009

Adios, Amigos!

We're heading out for a long weekend with The Boss's folks this morning. I don't know if I'll be blogging much, or just catching up on some reading. The menfolk are heading out for a couple days of tent camping, so we ladies will indulge in lunches out, shopping and maybe even some girly movies. A nice easy pace in a lovely, lush mountain setting. I've got my books packed, LadyBug stashed her nail polishes in the suitcase and Li'l Empress is wandering around the house totally stressed at the chaotic busy-ness that is how we pack! She likely doesn't remember much of her last trip to Grandma and Grandpa Gang's house, as it was in December. But she'll love the play time with the doggie and the big open living room to run and play with big sis.

Here's some fun pics of our first "real day" of summer vacation. By that I mean, it was the first day that we all got to enjoy a normal morning of chores followed by an afternoon of playing in the pool. Li'l Empress got her first real swim time with the sibs and her cousins. The video is of her blowing bubbles with Dr. D. Enjoy and we'll see ya around . . .

Friday, June 26, 2009

Have You Met ALICE?

I hate grocery shopping. Specifically, I hate shopping for the boring staples that keep our household running smoothly. I mean, where is the fun in picking the best deal on toilet paper? Why can't I keep both the dishwashing detergent AND the laundry detergent stocked at the same time, in the same quantities?! And can anyone make choosing diapers and wipes exciting? 5 Minutes for Mom swears that this new website just might be the key to eradicating the drudgery of stocking up.

I am so intrigued! There's a new website out there that just might make the dreaded grocery trip less burdensome and help my household run more efficiently all in one fell swoop. I'm heading over to check out ALICE. She might just become my new best friend.

Go HERE to check out another awesome contest by 5 Minutes for Mom.
You might find a new friend in ALICE, too!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hurry UP!

You only have a few more days to enter this contest. You don't want to miss this opportunity - I mean, come on. Who doesn't love a big fat juicy hot dog grilled to perfection on a hot summer day?!

Go HERE now.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A New Addition

Well, I survived my first night away from home since Li'l Empress joined the family! This past weekend, I visited my cousin and spent Friday night and all day Saturday helping her clean, purge, and organize her home for her upcoming move. I'm delighted to say that we filled two carloads with donations, weeded her front gardens, and completely cleaned her guest room in preparation for showing her house. It was a lot of work and I came home feeling quite productive. Exhausted, but very productive!

This move that my cousin is preparing to make means some big changes for The Gang, too. She's accepted a position in a local state office that will allow her to move closer to my family and my siblings' families. Until her training is complete and she's able to look for a home of her own, she will be living here with us on the weekdays. It's a temporary addition, and given that her training is being held in a location closer to her current home, it won't really feel like she's living here till late July or early August.

But the adrenaline rush from cleaning, purging and organizing her home has carried over and I'm gearing up for some big changes around here to accommodate our new addition, however temporary she may be. I mean, a girl's gotta use what a girl can use for motivation on these dreary, cloudy, rainy days of summer, right?!

So, in preparations for our new addition, I'm working on settling in to our summer routine this week. Usually, I let things stay "loosey goosey" till the end of June and start a more "agenda'd" week during the first week of July. Especially since this school district seems to be letting out later and later in the month of June every year. The groans and moans from The Gang are a dim din in my ear as I am plotting and planning their days!

Here's what we are working on this week:
  • revamping our chore chart with an eye toward homeschooling in the fall
  • re-stocking the pantries and freezer with summer foods and pool party treats
  • getting back on track for meal planning now that soccer season is (almost) over
  • setting a "library" routine in place, and planning play dates around it (our local Christian library has a cafe and a great indoor playland in the same facility, perfect for a coffee date with a friend while the kiddoes play)
  • setting up some play dates and day trips with my Gang, especially if this weather persists
  • targeting some big house projects that the big boys can help with (and sweetening the deal with a pay check!)
The pool is finished, the water is clean and sparkling. And cold. So very cold. So this feels like a perfect week to settle some things and do my own cleaning, purging and organizing. I'm off now to deliver the boys to a friend's house for hanging out and lunch and get back here to start my lists. But first, my girls want to hit K*hl's for some swimsuit shopping. Now, I'm moaning and groaning!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Card Shark!

The other night, the kids were sitting around the table playing cards together. Not wanting to be left out, Li'l Empress scrambled onto Shaggy's lap and insisted in taking over his hand. She proceeded to perfectly mimic what she saw going on around the table, complete with muttering and mumbling under her breath. She had us in hysterics, as her mutterings even mimicked the kids' tones and inflections that she had observed earlier in the game.

It gets especially funny about a minute in to the video, once she mostly forgets that I'm filming her. Enjoy our little card shark - and watch out. That stoic little face can pull a fast one that will leave you wondering what just happened to your winning hand!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

First band concert for my clarinet player

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Last Day of School!

That's it. We're done. The summer can officially begin.
Even with the clouds, fog, and
barely 70 degree chill in the air.
Let the good times roll!

All morning long, I practiced a "Last Day" hurrah
with Li'l Empress.
Big cheer with hand motions and everything.
However, once the kids actually walked in the door
and the camera was rolling, I got nothin'.
Nothin', I tell ya! Which, ironically the kids found hilarious.
That'll teach me.

And I hope that's the last lesson we all have
for the next few (10) weeks.

Monday, June 15, 2009

9 Months Ago

I was going to write a post reminiscing about the day we first held our Li'l Empress in our arms. That is, until I found this post my archives. I'm re-posting it today (in honor of tomorrow's anniversary) because, really, it says it all. And so much more. Grab a tissue.

Today, you get a special treat. The Boss is guest blogging here at "The Gang's All Here!" in anticipation of our first meeting of Aidan. Now, only about 3 hours away. This is why I love this man. He willingly took on this dream, fully embraced it and led our whole family together toward the realization of it. I am honored that he chose this occasion to share his heart here, for you my readers, but most importantly for his daughter. Before he even meets her.

To my precious new baby girl,

We've been separated for what seems like a lifetime, only a dream in your mommy and daddy's heart... until today. We have spent years imagining what it would be like to hold you and kiss you and shower our affection upon you. You've been solely in our hearts, minds and imaginations... until today.

So much preparation, so much prayer, so much excitement, so much time and now we arrive at this perfect and God-appointed moment to meet you, our sweetheart. Strangers to one another... until today.

As we entered your country 4 days ago, your mommy and I were so excited to finally be here and be closer to you. Foreigners in a country in which you were born but knowing that God had a plan for our lives to intersect. Foreigners to one another... until today.

We now only have 3 small hours to wait for you. As I write this, you are getting ready to leave the only place you know as home. Those who have loved you are getting you up, dressing you, feeding you, making you laugh, helping to comfort you so you're not scared. God provided these precious people to take care of you. The only ones who were able to love you in person... until today.

I am so excited to introduce you to your new mommy. She loves you so much. Watching her loving you from a distance; only knowing you from a few short pages and 5 pictures and yet fully loving you. I love to see her heart of love and compassion for you. You are getting a great mommy; the best, in fact. You don't know her, sweetie... until today.

Today, today, today... what a day! You've been ours even before we knew you. You've been ours the last 2 months. But today we meet you, our love. Today we wrap our arms around you. Today we begin to introduce you to the love of your true Father and are so glad that we have that privilege. You don't know your Father in heaven yet but He's been protecting you and watching over you. We can't wait for you to know Him and experience His saving grace. We haven't had the chance to begin showing His love to you... until today!

We're coming for you, honey. Today is a wonderful day.


For some Gotcha Day pics, head here. Keep that tissue handy.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Aw, Mom, Do I Have To????

I found this highly entertaining and thoughtful discussion
on summer chores that I just had to share with you.
You will chuckle and sagely nod your head in agreement.
Your kids will not thank me.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Big Win for MOMMA!!!

I'm so excited to tell you that I won the give-away over at Wild Olive Tees. Wahooooo!

Momma's gonna be stylin' AND gettin' her verse on. I'll post pics when the sah-weet tees arrive.

Now, THAT'S what I'm talkin' about!

Not The Normal Learning Curve

Yesterday I read a post by a gal in our adoption agency community. I've been reading her adoption journey for about a year now. By all accounts, she's a loving momma and fierce advocate for special needs adoptions and a woman of great faith. I learn so much when I read her posts. I'm looking forward to a day that we can meet in person, to finally tell her face to face what her perseverance and passion meant to me during our own journey to Li'l Empress.

This post really got me thinking.
(Go, read, BUT come back. I've got more to say!)

I've read quite a few perspectives on the issues surrounding our daughter's story and how to share, what to share, and when to share it. I'm learning that I may need to consider more carefully what I share with people as Li'l Empress grows. Right now, the newness of it all is still sinking in and in my excitement I tend to share whatever comes to mind about her adoption journey and her diagnoses. (I know, you're so surprised that I do that! Snarf.) I need to start holding back and giving less of Li'l E out to whoever asks when we are out and about in our community.

I get that it's her story to tell and while I'm passionate about educating others on the joys of special needs adoption and sharing myself with those around me, it IS primarily HER STORY. I'm learning that I have to re-think how and when I share, and plan ahead for giving her a voice in how we handle the inevitable questions and input that come from others. I'm re-learning a new kind of discernment and judgment about the inquiries and the source from which they come. Of course, this doesn't include my interactions in this blogging community. I must stress that I'm primarily speaking of those who engage with us in the community where we live, and so on. You know, real live people! :)

Another thing I'm learning, no matter how differently families handle these issues in the adoption community, it is imperative that we intentionally and consistently see that Li'l E is honored for who she is and how she came to us. (We have no problems honoring the Lord for His hand on the journey - you may remember that particular learning curve from around this time last summer!) So far, one of my ways of honoring that process has been to enthusiastically share when asked. No surprise there. I'm a words girl. (Again with the snarf!)

I'm learning that this will look and feel different throughout the different stages of Li'l E's life. What must remain consistent is our unconditional acceptance of Li'l E and our building her up on the inside to weather the looks or the questions. To nurture her in a way that she is comfortable enough in her own skin to handle them with her own grace and style. In my own journey, I seldom mind the questions or even the looks. Honestly, her ear is not that noticeable to very many. But I'm learning that she may feel differently about those same questions or looks. Even if folks don't question me about her ear or her hearing, she may mind the questions about the adoption journey.

Thanks, Robin, for reminding me to more thoughtfully and intentionally pursue this topic. It's never far from my mind, but your post sent my thoughts in a new direction. I'm always so grateful to learn from the other adoptive moms that have been placed in my path. I've said it before and I'll likely say it again and again: the learning curve of adoption and special needs is a steep one. And yesterday, I was reminded that it's not a straight-out bell curve. This one's more like an adventure ride with twists and turns that keep you gripping the bar and hanging on the edge of your seat.

Unpredictable and exhilarating!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

The promise of summer . . .

(special thanks to my friend, C,
who shared her summer bounty with me last year)

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Going Down?

It's been a little more than five weeks since I mentioned some healthy changes I was making in my life. I've had some great improvements in habits that I'd let slide and even had some progress in a few areas that I never really cared about before. Here's a little wrap up of how I'm doing.

I've greatly increased my water consumption. Thanks to a couple flavored, sugar-free water additives, I've got some variety. It sure makes it go down quicker!
  • A great side-effect of this is that I've also reined in my caffeine intake. Without creating too much drama in the mornings, happily.
  • Therefore, my beloved sugar-free hazelnut creamer is lasting longer around here.
  • Which in turn now helps my grocery budget. Whew - broad sweeping results from one little change! :)
I take Li'l Empress for walks around our neighborhood as often as I can manage. The added benefits here are many:
  • If I'm patient enough to let her walk, she burns off some great energy (especially helpful while she's been teething!).
  • LadyBug and BBE often come with me, using up their apparently BOUNDLESS stores of energy also.
  • Many times, I can even get The Boss to come along and its nice to hold hands with him while the little ones push the stroller.
  • I've already met three neighbors who are regular walkers also.
  • I'm getting some really great landscaping ideas and finding all kinds of pretty plants to add to my "wish list."
I've decreased my portions and increased my veggies and fruits. This is not usually a problem for me, as I love most fruits and vegetables anyway. But I have been inspired to try some different ones and make them more of a centerpiece in our meal planning. I will admit, not all of the Gang members are on board with this particular change. Yet.

Finally, the best part. When I weighed in at my weekly WW meeting this morning, the scale registered a glorious total of 5.8 lbs lost. Finally. I've had some really "blah" weeks of scale numbers: some ups , some downs and some break-evens. My body is weird that way, and I just have to be settled in my heart that the weekly weigh-in is not always going to consistently go down. Over the years, I've had to REHEARSE in my mind that a several week average is far more accurate. So, 5.8 lbs in 5 weeks is GREAT with me.

I'm particularly excited about some potential changes that are coming down the pike for The Gang in the next few weeks (beside the pool FINALLY getting warm enough to swim in for more than 30 seconds!). These changes, I hope, will bring some added accountability and incentive to keep moving and stay focused. But that news will have to wait for another post.

And just because I'm counting, today's little icing on the cake (fat free of course!) is that I'm well on my way to my 10% goal.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Progress Report

It's been a long time since I shared a progress report with you of Li'l Empress's comings and goings. She's melded in so beautifully to the Gang and is doing so well that I often take for granted that this is all still relatively new to her. And to us. In fact, this week she turns 22 months old. And next week marks the 9th month since the orphanage director placed her sweaty, crying little body in my arms. In many ways, it feels like that day was yesterday. Still, in many more ways it feels like it was a century ago. This child has so completely captured the hearts of all who are blessed to know her and is so completely OURS that it's hard to fathom any other path our lives could have taken.

The first update is one that is long overdue. Back in March, Li'l Empress had a very big day of testing done. I shared the results of the tests that were immediately available but promised to follow up with the outcome of the CT scan. The ENT called on the morning of Easter weekend when we were loading the van to head to New England and although I took good notes, I was in such a tizzy packing and making all the gang members hit the potty that I completely forgot to make a note to blog about it. My apologies. AND, my sincerest thanks to the many of you who remembered that the results were pending and have asked about them. You are too sweet to remember the "stuff" of our lives!

Anyway, the results of the CT scan were about what we expected them to be, given the education that the ENT had given us after his physical exams of Li'l Empress's outer ear and bone structures. Unfortunately, this also means that she is not likely to be a strong candidate for a bone anchored hearing aid (BAHA) in the near future, if at all. Out of the current 10 markers needed to qualify a patient for a BAHA, Li'l Empress only scored a "bare 9," because the bone behind her microtic ear is not developed or dense enough to sustain the anchor. We knew she was a 9 going into the CT because of the lack of completed formation of that right ear but had hoped that she'd stay a 9 in order to eventually be considered. Of course, the BAHA would open up a whole new level of hearing for her; but the ENT and the audiologist and the pediatrician all agree that her hearing ear is more than sufficient to function and that her speech and language development so far is bearing that out to be true.

Of course, it was hard to hear from the dr. that she will not (barring some "unusual" or "unexpected" growth and development of that bone) get to experience the benefits of the BAHA. I don't like the idea of knowing that there's tools out there that could potentially expand my girl's world or that she won't really be able to take advantage of them. A momma's heart, I guess. I want the world for my girl, for all my kids, and so it took a little bit of processing and praying to be content with what we have and what we are currently doing. A little bit of discontent still exists, and I've just decided that that remnant is what will keep me praying for a holy and anointed touch on my girl's ears and bones. I believe The Great Physician can do it. But I am content to keep it at His feet and keep my energies focused on the steps needed to take to further develop her speech and language skills without the BAHA in the meantime. It's hard to put into words exactly what I mean. But those of you with kids who struggle with similar issues are certain to get what I mean, or at least to capture the heart of what I'm trying to say.

Next up, I'll treat you all to a more up close and personal update of Li'l Empress's speech and language progress. She's having a "language explosion" and gamely attempting everything we ask of her and mimicking all of us. It's been a blast and has created quite a few really sweet and fun family moments for The Gang. If I'm lucky, Shaggy and Dr. D will capture a couple great examples on video, now that the homework load has subsided. It'll be a great study break from prepping for finals!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Too Much Time On My Hands

(Sing it to the tune. C'mon, ya know ya know it!)

This is what happens when Dr. D (still looking for a new blogging name!) is "sorting coupons!"

Yes, those are coupons. Licked and sticked to his eyelashes.

I have no other words.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Reality TV We NEED

Please, read this post. It's about potential programming for a reality television show that changes lives. Real change. Positive programming at its very best. To get it off the ground, they need to know that we would support this kind of programming. Believe me, once you read the post, you will be convinced that we need this kind of reality television.

Take Action.
Spread the Word.

You'll be so glad you did.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Get Your Verse On

Wild Olive Tees

There's a fabulous new website (okay, not super new, but super fabulous just the same) that I'm really excited about.

You may remember I've mentioned a time or two that I have a blogging/adoptive mommy hero. This morning, she stopped by my pool post and COMMENTED. How cool is that?! But anyway, she and several friends created a on-line clothing company to "get your Verse on" and to help fund their various ventures to provide aid and resources to orphans around the world.

You really need to get over there and check out the amazing t-shirts on this site. So cute. So stylish. So eternally minded. And their value far exceeds the mere dressing of one's body in cute Words of Truth. These t-shirts are changing children's lives. Go there NOW.

But don't enter their new contest. I wanna win. I really wanna win.
Maybe Stefanie will sign one of my winning t-shirts. Wouldn't that be the coolest?!

Wordless Wednesday



'Nuff said.

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Magnets On The Fridge

I've been reading To Be Fruitful & Multiply for about a year now. It's the story of a young woman and her hubby in their journey to adopt two little boys from Haiti. I've had such a wonderful time following that journey and learning about the process of yet another international adoption.

Yesterday, she wrote this delightful post. I was so moved with joy for her. And not just a little convicted that I take my life and my family for granted. Way too often.

Have you thanked the Lord for the magnets on your fridge today?!

Monday, June 1, 2009

And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

So, I've been on a bloggy break for recent days. In fact, blogging is about the only thing that I took a break from. Or that I got to CHOOSE to take a break from! It's always crazy here at the end of the school year and this year was certainly no exception. At least a thousand times over the past ten days, I've looked up at the clock and been shocked by the lateness of the hour. That darned old calendar on the wall just keeps flipping and flipping and I seem to have lost control over the steady, easy pace we all enjoyed here at The Gang's House over the winter. In the midst of the craziness, I kept having these random thoughts. Things that made me wonder just WHY I gave up blogging for the week. I thought I'd share some of them with you.
  • ". . . absolute power corrupts absolutely." Just ask the type A, well-trained, oh-so-cute and perfectly coordinated teen referee at our local "NON-COMPETE" soccer league. Really, Chickie, take it easy. You're gonna give yourself an ulcer at the tender age of 16.
  • There's nothing better than a tradition with your BFF and her family that EVERYONE loves and looks forward to equally. Just ask my happy little heart. It's full up with girlfriend time. And hugs and kisses from 9 kids.
  • Feeding 13 people for a three-day weekend pretty much guarantees a big grocery trip before and after. Just ask my pantry. But don't ask my grocery budget. It's pretty shot and unable to form coherent thought.
  • The human mom ear can handle way more noise and chatter than the human dad ear. Just ask The Boss after a three-day weekend with 9 kids milling about and all talking at the dinner table at once. For three meals a day, for three days. Or after a day alone with Li'l Empress. Either way, the noise does. not. stop.
  • Never be foolish enough to believe that the sum at the bottom of a pool repair contract represents the final amount due. Just ask our checkbook. After several sizeable holes and cracks were found under the old liner.
  • Three contractors working in full sun for several consecutive hours drink a lot of lemonade. And eat a lot of brownies. Just ask my kids - there wasn't much left for them when they got home from school!
  • Awards ceremonies should welcome the comic relief of little sisters more often. Just ask Shaggy. Li'l Empress screaming his name when he got up to accept his award INSTANTLY made him a huge hit with teachers, students and "the chicks!"
  • J*y L@no's final night of The T$night Show should have been broadcast earlier in the evening. Just ask my pounding head. I'm still recovering from the late hour and all the hype. I know. I'm old. I accept that.
  • Mommy on a Monday morning with no coffee makes for a very cranky and sluggish start to the day. Just ask my little ones - they stared at me like I had three heads all morning. Still working on that first sip. I FEEL like I have three heads this morning. All of them are clamoring for coffee.
  • Great blogging stories really only happen when you aren't blogging. Just ask The Boss how many times I told him about the amazing event I JUST experienced and HOW FUNNY it would be to blog it. He's really glad the bloggy break is over.
  • Only 15 days till school is out for the summer. From here, it feels like the longest 15 days on the calendar. You'll have to ask me on the 17th if it really was. I'm fairly sure the answer will be a resounding, "YES!!!!!"