December 28, 2010

rabid wolf lodge.jpg

harpers goggles.jpg

We have been in Michigan for Christmas. The weather has been great for traveling: mild and clear as far as the roads go, but white and snowy enough to really feel like Christmas.

We packed up the kids gifts, and made the trek, first to Detroit to spend Christmas eve with my aunt Diane and my cousins, then to my hometown of Grand Haven. It was great to see my extended fam, but it was a short visit because we left that night to drive the last 3 hours to get to my mom's house so the kids could wake up there on Christmas morning.

We don't go wild with presents, but the kids really seemed to enjoy their new (or used) gifts they opened. They especially enjoyed a big box of glorious lady dresses that we called "pride and prejudice dress-ups." They are pretty hideous, with their huge lace collars and shoulder pads... But the girls think they are divine.

We spent the evening with my dad's side, and that ended up being an interesting evening, with Harper being sick and suddenly needing a breathing treatment from his nebulizer (which i left in his bedroom closet in New York.) I must say that it is very convenient to have an ER doc in the family when your son can't breathe after business hours on Christmas day. After one treatment, he was back to his crazy self and we ended up having a good Christmas with them.

After visiting my good friend Heather (who I haven't seen in nearly 3 years) we had our annual Cousmas party where all the cousins (and some of us grown-ups) had a dancing competition. Strangely, I got whooped by my brother-in-law Joe. This was unexpected for a number of reasons, which I shall list.

1) I am an excellent dancer, Janet Jackson would seriously ask me to tour with her if she only could see my moves. 2) Joe is a college football coach, and he looks the part, so not exactly a dancer's build. 3) While I am a natural, he looks like a gingerbread man when he dances.

Still, he beat me and the Wii game "Just Dance for kids" proved to provide great family fun for all ages. Just beware bc your competition make come down to the song "everybody dance now"and it is rigged, and the game appears to prefer movements that are jerky and gingerbready over expertly executed music video-style moves. I'm just saying...

We are wrapping our trip up with quite the grand finale, because while WE may not go overboard with gifts on Christmas, my mother, on the other hand, does... And her present for all the kids is a 3 day stay at Great Wolf Lodge. So, we are on our way now (another 3 hour drive north) to Traverse City, Michigan to GWL. As you can see from the picture, the kids are very excited. Harper has been wearing goggles since 8 o'clock this morning, despite the fact that we won't even arrive until 2:30pm.

December 17, 2010

birdie beard

who cares about being bald when you've got a such a sweet beard?

December 16, 2010

just came across a "responsibilty chart" that annalee made for one of her dolls. there are precints to rap and bishes to wash!

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December 13, 2010

harper just sang "jingle bells,

harper just sang "jingle bells, Batman smells, he smells Robin's leg." then he said "eww, that's a-sgusting!"

December 7, 2010

yes... in upstate new york, this outfit is actually necessary. winter is here. forever. blecgh.

November 19, 2010

breakfast with the principal! :)

November 12, 2010

when you have big sisters, being a live doll is part of the job description. hence, pirate baby. she is not feelin' the baby torture.

November 10, 2010

annalee's self -portrait. she is 6. obviously brilliant and talented, like her mother. :)

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October 29, 2010

So help me God...

When I was putting Harper in the car at the drug store this morning, I was kind of in a zone... I had just learned that my favorite diaper cream (the ONLY kind worth using in my opinion) has been discontinued. Why don't companies discontinue their dumb useless products? Instead... It's always something genius they do away with, like the P.B. Maxx or Sour Lemon Sharks or Triple Paste diaper cream.

So, anyways... I was zoning and I hoisted Harper into his car seat and he bonked his knee. He grabbed it and yelled, "God, help me!"

I was a little astonished because that is not a phrase we really unless we are praying, so I asked him where that came from and he answered as if I should already know.

"I ask God to help me and He will give me joy. And some food."

So, even for Harper, today is a God-help-me kind of day... And maybe even that kind of week. Actually, this is just a God-help-me kind of life. So, today I am going to cry out for God to give me help, joy and perhaps a little snack.

While my deepest joy comes from knowing a God who genuinely hears my cries, a more shallow, fleeting joy comes from candy. So, let us all pray that God will help us through these we-need-Him kind of lives and throw a prayer in that a P.B. Maxx (or another senselessly discontinued candy product) rains down like manna from heaven.

October 28, 2010

munchkins and their pumpkins.jpg

Pumpkins are carved, costumes are almost done, parties are tomorrow then we ship the kids to grandma and grandpa's house for a night, celebrate aunt b's birthday, then dinner with Uncle Joe and Aunt Sam and the twins, then trick-or-treating... I'm exhausted from all the festivities and halloween isn't even until sunday! Yikes...

October 27, 2010

pumpkin petunia.jpg

.little french birdie.

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October 19, 2010

danthing with the starth.

this is an actual conversation i participated in today while i was on playground duty at the girls' school:

harper: is he an awesome guy?
me: i don't know, you'll have to ask him.
harper: are you an awesome guy?
boy: ummm... yeah... i am... because i'm gonna be on dancing with the stars with my girlfriend.
me: well, that's ridiculous because you're too young to have a girlfriend.
boy: yeah, but i'm seven, so i'm old enough to be the same age as my girlfriend.
me: can't argue with that. but... i still think that's a little young to have a girlfriend. and definitely too young to be on dancing with the stars.
boy: yeah... but that's how come i'm awesome.

harper (laughing under his breath): ha! he not awesome guy.

maybe mufasa knew a thing or two.

i have had a really hard time posting a blog lately because i felt like i couldn't write about anything unless i wrote about the fact that my grandma passed away. the truth is that i didn't know how to write about that, but i also felt like it was wrong to write about "regular life" because my grandma june died and i feel like i must acknowledge it properly.

i didn't know how to write about her passing, because it was so different than my understanding of death and dying. my most profound experience with death was so tragic and untimely that i have not known how to process the death of my grandmother, who lived a full life and whose death was a relief of her suffering, opposed to a tragic injustice. since, in my mind, i cannot reconcile these two experiences to mean the same things, or have the same implications in my life... i will just write it. i will just tell the story.

my grandma passed while i was in michigan. thanks to my brilliant mentor, heidi, who told me to go home, i was able to say goodbye and be a support to my other family members. like a good mentee, i obeyed heidi's advice, and am so thankful for that because i feel like i was home when i really needed to be home. i spent some great time with my aunt, and in my selfish brain i think i was at least somewhat helpful to her during a time where she experienced the pain only a daughter can feel when she loses her mama. i watched my aunt diane lay next to my tiny, dying grandmother. and it was awful. but it was also beautiful.

as i sat there, and watched my aunt snuggle up next to my grandma and all i could think about was the circle of life. (trust me, i know how cliche, and lion king-esque that sounds...) but it is totally the truth. i watched them curled up together, and thought how so long ago, my grandma brought my aunt into this world in a hospital bed. how she gave life to her, nurtured her, and soothed her. and here we were now. junie and diane, holding each other, once again, in a hospital bed. but this time, diane would whisper to my grandma, smoothing her hair, telling her that it's okay to let go. just as she brought my aunt into this world, my aunt was gently guiding her out of it.

it was awful. and it was beautiful. i couldn't believe how similar birth and death really are. when someone is in labor, it is a painful and miraculous thing to behold. it was much the same watching my grandmother struggle through the last days of her life. it was painful to watch, but there was a beauty to it at the same time. and while the end of labor pains are really a beginning of new life here on earth, the end of my grandmothers pain was also the beginning of new life. just not on this earth. so to me, it still seemed something of a miracle... to see my grandmother labor and die, only to be birthed into her new life in heaven.

my idea of death has never been quiet this sweet. and i can honestly say that i am thankful that i was able to see the end of my grandmother's life. it has been healing in some way, and maybe just for the time being, i feel like telling death, "i ain't mad atchya." and as the anniversary of my brother's tragic and untimely death creeps closer, there is something to be said for that.

so, there it is. i have written the story. i'm sure it makes no sense at all, but i somehow feel free to write about all the other things jumbled in my mind. i have never considered myself a writer, but the fact that i could not move forward until that was all written down... must mean a little something.

October 15, 2010

do not open shady link

my email was hacked into, so please do not open the link that was recently sent out from this account.  thanks

please ignore.

i'm not sure what kind of scandalous link was put up here, but it was not done by me. as many of you already know... i am totally incapable of putting a hyperlink in a blog post. so, ignore it and please accept my apologies.

to the culprit... i will pray for you.

October 10, 2010

buttermilk falls.jpg

Camping... Or "cabining" near buttermilk falls outside of ithaca, ny.

October 5, 2010

the girls are rain-ready... and harper looks pregnant.

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September 19, 2010

harper's view from the plane.jpg

Harper P. turns three

So, our little harper is three years old. For his birthday, we had an 80's themed roller skating party. He chose the roller skate part, the 80's part was really just for my sake. He had a great time and skated like a champ... Which is more than I can say for some people (namely my father-in-law who fell and injured himself.)

I have never seen a kid Harper's age anticipate their birthday with this degree of commitment. On our cross-country road trip this summer, Harper woke up many mornings in the tent (way too early and completely dilirious) saying "m-m-m-my bertday deptember deventeenth." He would studder through that phrase most mornings, probably around 5am, I would confirm that that was, in fact, his birthdate and he would fall right back to sleep.

I was afraid his birthday would be pretty anti-climactic since we don't really go bananas with the kids' birthday. (Ok, one year we went a little bananas because Marlie wanted the theme of her party to be aliens and strawberry shortcake. That party got a little bananas because so many people came - just out of curiosity really.)

But, I didn't have any bananas planned for Harper, and I was nervous because he has literally been dreaming about his birthday for months, and the sheer excitement of it all was waking him at 5 in the morning on most days.

I stopped worrying about his disappointment when my friend Lexi said that for his birthday we could take him flying in a little airplane. Apparently she knows a guy...

So, we are on our way right now to take Harper (and the girls) up in a plane. Maybe this is what he was dreaming about all those mornings in the tent... Or maybe it was something else. Either way, I'm pretty sure there is no disappointment involved.

Sometimes, when we are tucking Harper in at night, we read a book to him called "We Wanted You" and he has every line memorized. The book talks about being adopted, and how we waited for him, how we anticipated his arrival, much in the same way he waited in excitement for his birthday to finally arrive. One of my favorite lines in that book comes to mind as we drive out to take him for his very first flight in an airplane. It says...

"And so we came, we flew! Because that's how much we wanted you."

it's hard to grow teeth.

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September 17, 2010

it's been a while since i've written a legitimate post... and after having a tumultuous day, i thought i'd give it a go.

the past two weeks have been exhausting. annalee started first grade, marlie started kindergarten, i put half of my kids on the bus to go to school all day, harper turned three (today) and started talking about "chicken clams" more than i expected anyone could. london got her first tooth, pulled up to standing, started signing "more," started blowing kisses and started crawling. and as if that weren't enough growing up for one week, she then scheduled her first job interview.

i went to two different baby showers and the children's museum, served on "playground duty" at school, did kindergarten orientation, threw an 80's themed roller skating party, had 2 different meetings, started and finished a great book, got my teeth cleaned and got robbed. (we had one car break down, and the other one broken into, ending my long-term love affair with my GPS.) then, after all that, we got vagabonds. (ok, not exactly vagabonds... more like traveling, musical, hippy, writers. but, i loved them so.)

in addition to all that, one of my grandmothers had to be moved into a different nursing home because her worsening Alzheimer's has made it impossible to live without constant care and supervision, while my other grandmother (i find out this morning) is going to start receiving hospice care.

this was heavy couple of weeks. now, this is all in the midst of our usual craziness, which could include some or all of the following on any given day:
  • some room in my house probably smells faintly of poop or pee, sometimes a cocktail of the two. (this actually makes a little sense.)
  • some room in my house may smell faintly of chinese takeout. (this, makes less sense.)
  • i am cleaning like wild for some upcoming something which requires me to have a clean house. (this week it was the 2 hours notice we had before our vagabonds arrived.)
  • someone is sick.
  • someone has serious 'tude that needs adjusting.
  • someone has regressed and insists on talking like a baby... but this never actually sounds cute like a baby, it really just sounds more like a muppet with speech delays.
  • i have errands to run, groceries to get, chores to do, gifts to buy, thank you notes to write, library books to return, baby food to make before all those squashes go bad, laundry to do, and on and on it goes...
i have spent the last couple of hours feeling so blue. really though, i don't know if i am blue at all... just drained. this has been a couple of draining weeks. so, instead my usual go-to emotion (guilt), i am going to allow the exhaustion to overtake me. i am going to slowly back away from the chocolate, i am going to get my kids off the bus and put in a movie for us to all watch together. i am going to stay in my pajamas, and i am going to let it be friday. the craziness will start back up tomorrow... i know that all too well, but i am going to let it be done for today. i am going to think about my sweet, lovely grandmothers, and i am going to lean into the comfort of knowing the same jesus they both spent their lives clinging to.

September 9, 2010

ahoy there me harties! (what are harties?)

September 1, 2010

illegal in irondequoit.jpg

illegal in irondequoit.jpg

We're keeping the dream alive... We miss sitting around the campfire so Tom pulled out the small pond in our backyard and built a fire pit. Last night we had our first fire, but we aren't exactly sure the local regulations regarding fire pits... But we're risking it until someone in a fireman's uniform tells us it's not ok. Picture above.

August 29, 2010

birthday girl.jpg

five years ago, on this day, I gave birth to miss marlie kaye. After 32 hours of labor (sans pain meds, booya) our second baby girl was born. She looked like she lost a boxing match with my uterus. At first I thought she might look like my father-in-law, which was almost as terrifying as the labor had been. But, fortunately... She did end up looking like a girl and not a grandpa. And these five years with her have been a delight.

Marlie's five year old fast facts (in her own words):
What is your favorite thing to do? "go to seabreeze."
How awesome is your mommy? "Awesomest than ever."
How awesome is your daddy? "Awesomest I could ever see."
Who is your best friend forever? "Mommy and daddy."
What do you do for a living? "Sharing."
what's been the high point in the past five years? "Trip across the country."
What are you excited about for kindergarten? "Meeting mrs. Moyles."
What would your advice be to other five year olds? "To be good and sharing and happy. To be good to others. And sharing."
And what are your goals for the coming year? "School. I mean, all this busy work."
What would you say are your strengths? "Climbing."
What could you improve on? "Climbing... Umm, climbing's not a straimth." (Strength)
What is the best thing God gave you? "Love."

birthday breakfast in bed for marlie.jpg

August 27, 2010

london claire

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it's a bird, on a plane.


August 23, 2010

when worlds collide.jpg

Oh, Batman, pinkies up.

baby gourd.jpg

Don't tell me there's no difference between boys and girls. My girls can turn anything into a baby... even a stuffed gourd.

August 17, 2010

harper making some calls on his butter stick cell.

August 12, 2010

princess tiana on crutches (made out of mermaid tails). i think this may be the outcome of her and snow white's scuffle at the wedding.

give me 24 hours and i could write a book, a very strange book.

just in the past 24 hours my kids have said these things:

marlie: "i'm thinking of marrying annalee because she knows me all through my heart."

marlie: immediately following the comment above, her eyes widened with realization and she exclaimed "then we can both wear wedding dresses!"

annalee: "i'm really thinking about a nose ring." (my girls are officially thinking about the future way too much.)

harper: "Jesus keeps me safe and he shows his big muscles to spiderman and then he spiderwebs him!" (this was right before his nap, when he gives himself the "i don't have to be afraid because jesus keeps me safe" pep talk.)

harper: "is london a person or a plant?" (for those that don't know, london is my daughter. which makes her not a plant.)

marlie: "it's me! it's me! snow white! don't you remember me from when i broke your legs at the wedding!?" (overheard from the next room.)

harper: "OH! amazing grace! that saved a rash for me!!" (this was said as a suggestion to fix london's diaper rash.)

August 11, 2010

adoption FAQ's

in this post, i am going to address some of the Frequently Asked Questions about our adoption experience. in so doing, i reserve the right to be frank, open, honest or… illusive and sarcastic. i will answer in a few different ways, so be sure to review the key below so that you can decode my cryptic answering methods. i am writing this to answer legitimate questions, and also to educate people on adoption in general. when i am condescending at any point, that is because i am a little rude and sometimes enjoy making ignorant people feel stupid. i will work on that, but probably not before i finish this post, so for now, let’s just accept it as a little harmless comic relief and we’ll address my deep issues another time.

FAQ key:
Q: stands for Question we are frequently asked.
SCA: stands for Sarcastic Condescending Answer (which is usually what i am thinking in my brain, but try not to say out loud. but often fail and say out loud anyway. sometimes behind the person’s back because i am a sometimes-rage-a-holic, but also a sometimes-coward.)
REA: stands for Responsible Educational Answer. (this is what i feel obligated to say in order to enlighten and educate people, because deep down i really do understand that most people mean well and just don’t know any better. despite what my sarcasm might suggest, i really do want to answer questions and i want people to feel comfortable enough to ask them. but, i’m torn, because i also want to make fun of them.)

so, here goes.

Q: is that one adopted? (often asked while physically pointing at our african-american son.)
SCA: no. he just miraculously came out brown. it was the shock of the century.
stop pointing.
REA: the answer is yes, we adopted our son. however, general adoption etiquette is to say that he was adopted, not that he is adopted. he is a lot of wonderful things, and being an adopted child is just one of those things. it is not his whole identity, even though it is a significant event in his life. so, yes… he was adopted.

Q: how old was he when you adopted him?
ERA: 10 days old.

Q: what’s the story with his mom?
SCA: none of your da*n business.
REA: well, that’s an interesting question. she is a strong woman who gave life to a beautiful boy, and chose to make an adoption plan for the child she loved enough to bring into this world and choose a family to love and provide for him. she is selfless and brave, and is one of my heroes. and because i respect her so much, i am not going to share the details of her life (or the story behind his conception) with just anybody. that is her story to tell, not mine.

is it hard to deal with his hair and skin?
REA: it’s not hard, it’s just different. i do have to be aware of the ingredients of products before i put them on his hair or skin. black hair and skin tends to be very dry and can be really sensitive. so, i am careful to avoid chemicals and/or botanicals that cause drying or irritation. he does have mild eczema, which flares up if somebody inadvertently uses cheap, white-people products on his hair or skin. again, it is not difficult to care for his hair and skin, it just takes a little commitment. i have been really diligent about keeping his hair and skin moisturized because i never wanted to be that negligent white woman who didn’t know how to take care of her kid’s unique needs.

Q: what do you use on his hair/skin?
REA: i like the olive oil based products, because we seem to have good luck with those. sometimes i will use straight olive oil, or coconut oil on his scalp if it is particularly dry. i have heard really good things about the brand Carol’s Daughter, so i am going to order the Tui Leave-In Conditioner because i have had a hard time finding a natural leave-in that actually works. i use an organic product for children of color, commonly referred to as “hair grease.” i will also do a conditioning treatment and wrap his hair occasionally to prevent drying and breakage. i wrap his head in a handkerchief while it is on his hair. we tell him he’s an “awesome motorcycle guy” and he leaves it on and feels pretty sweet at the same time… so it works. cetaphil works on his skin, but is not all-natural… so, i am still on the prowl for something else that is moisturizing enough for his skin and is all-natural, but doesn’t smell like playdough.

Q: do you love him the same as your own children?
SCA: if i say yes, will you really believe me?
REA: yes, i love him as MUCH as my biological children. (they are all my “own” so we prefer the term biological, rather than “natural” or “our own”. harper is not unnatural, and he is my own.) that being said, while i love him as much, i don’t love him the SAME as my biological children. before you freak out… just let me explain. i love ALL of my children differently. i love that annalee has my long, golf-tee shaped legs. i love that marlie has my curly hair. i love seeing my personality traits in them. (sometimes that also terrifies me, but you see my point.) there is something really cool about the connection between a mother and a child from her womb. on the other hand, there is something profoundly miraculous about growing a bond just as strong just by choice. when you start from the ground up on conviction alone. without any biological connection whatsoever, harper and i have built a mother-son bond from scratch. it is amazing… and it is just as strong and just as special and totally unique. i love them all the same amount, but i love each of them for different reasons and in different ways. i love the girls differently than i love my boy. i love the older ones different than the little ones. i love their personalities for different reasons and their physical features for different reasons. i love the similarities of my biological kids, and the mystery that comes with adopted children. i chose to love harper out of conviction, and eventually that grew into instinctual, unwavering motherly love. maybe that makes me a monster, but if i am being honest… yes, it is different. but i wouldn’t have it any other way.

Q: is he from Ethiopia?
SCA: you really need to get out more if every black baby you see is presumably Ethiopian.
REA: nope, he’s from new jersey.

Q: how much did it cost to adopt?
SCA: i’ll tell you how much it costs if you chip in to pay for it.
REA: adoption fees vary based on the agency, the type of adoption, and oftentimes on your income. t can be very expensive, but there are a lot of creative ways to defray the costs, like fundraisers and scholarships. it can range from free to $80,000, it all just depends on a million factors.

Q: yeah, but how much did you guys pay?
SCA: seriously? how much money do you make at your job? how much money do you spend on counseling each year? what gets you in the mood? (some things, dude... you just don’t ask people.)
REA: i will tell anybody who sends me a check.

Q: are you going to adopt again?
SCA: today alone i had to ask harper two times to take off a bridal veil he was wearing. the poor kid is stinkin’ surrounded by a bunch of white sisters… he needs a brother.
REA: yes, we will.

Q: do you get any grief for adopting a black child?
SCA/REA: sometimes. everybody has a different opinion on different issues… some think it’s the best thing anyone could ever do, and others probably think we belong in jail. can’t please everyone.

Q: when are you going to tell him he’s adopted?
SCA: probably when he’s leaving for college.
REA: he already knows. we talk about it all the time. we want him to be proud of who he is, as an african-american, as a boy, as a christian, as an adoptee, as _______…
we also believe that creating an environment where he can talk freely and openly about his feelings about being adopted is the healthiest thing for him. if we aren’t open about it, we fear he may withhold his feelings from us out of fear that we will be upset by the discussion.

Q: do you communicate with his real mom?
SCA: i consider both myself and his birthmother to be real moms. she really gave birth to him, and i really am raising him. no artificial ingredients!
REA: we have a semi-open adoption, which means that i send letters and pictures and occasional gifts to her.

Q: yeah, but does she write back?
SCA: Nunya. Bidness.
REA: that is harper’s private relationship. when he is old enough to discuss his relationship with his first-family/biological family… you can ask him then.

Q: will you let him search for his mom?
SCA: no, i will forbid him to have a relationship with the woman who brought him into this world. ‘cause I have the right to do that.
REA: i will not only “let” him, i will help and support him in any way i can. i feel that my role is to facilitate whatever relationship is healthiest for him. i will not push a relationship, nor would i ever deny him the right to know the people with whom he is biologically connected. i will never make him feel guilty, nor will i make him “choose” to be a part of one family or the other. i wouldn’t cut anyone (that loved him and wanted what is best for him) out of his life, certainly not the one who created him! it simply isn’t my right to “let him” or “deny him” the right to know his biological history.

Q: why did you decide to adopt? could you not have any more kids?
SCA/REA: we simply felt led to adopt. we feel like the word of god is very clear on what it means to be a christian, and part of that means caring for the poor, the needy, the homeless, the fatherless and widows. scripture does not say "care for the orphans, unless of course you are a fertile turtle... then forget the orphans." for us, adopting and birthing had nothing to do with each other. they are just the different ways we have grown our family. we also feel like it is a little obnoxious that christians can be so in-your-face pro-life, but rarely offer a home to a child that may have been a result of an unplanned pregnancy. we felt like it was our part in the pro-life movement, it was our responsibility as human beings who have enough room in our hearts and our home for another child, and more than anything else... it has been our blessing and privilege. we felt that god put a burden on our hearts for young birthmothers in crisis pregnancy situations, and that we could relate since we also experienced the fear and uncertainty that comes with an unplanned pregnancy. and not that it is anybody's business... but we can have more children biologically, which is good news for you, because it would really have sucked for you to drag up all my infertility baggage had that been the case.

Well, those are the FAQ’s. again, despite my remarks… i am truly passionate about adoption and am eager to answer any other questions people have. if you have the guts to ask me something after i just wrote all that… then promise to answer gently, without any sarcastic condescension. i won’t be a bully. scout’s honor.

August 6, 2010

baby butt blowdrying.jpg

just in case you think she makes this stuff up... - love, tom

August 4, 2010

i won't let the cat outta the bag

when i was a little girl, i would put my cat in a pair of infant pajamas and carry her around. i liked how heavy and squirmy she felt in them, it was so much more lifelike than the dolls i was used to playing with. i still remember stuffing her into that mint green fleece sleeper, maybe zipping in a little fur... but, other than that i'm sure she was having fun too.

apart from this early sign that i had some motherly desire in me, i never particularly believed that i would just have a bunch of kids and stay at home with them. i still find it all a bit surprising. i knew that i wanted kids, and i knew that i would enjoy that to some degree. but, just like my cat, i knew that i would inevitably want to squirm my way out of it all.

you see, i am the slightest a bit of a quitter. i am just fickle enough to change my mind about almost everything. once, i told my husband that i think i might look for a job. i think it was about a half hour after i made that declaration that i came home with a job. about 3 months later, i quit that same job by leaving a message on an answering machine, saying that i wouldn't be coming to work for my next shift. or ever again. (in my defense, we just found out that we would be moving to new york AND i took issue with the treatment and compensation of some illegal immigrants that were underpaid and overworked.) so, i quit. just like everything else.

another example? let's see here... approximately 8th grade, after a particularly humiliating softball practice, i quit the team and walked home, never to play the sport again. (i have no defense here, except that i am pretty certain that the coach hated me and was secretly hoping that i would quit... which is why MY pop fly was just a little bit higher than everyone else's. and right over a pothole.)

so, i think if i am being honest, i always felt a little afraid that i might just want to quit being a mom. that, once the going got tough, i would just unzip the bag and let the cat out.

there are plenty of things that i didn't see coming with parenthood. the amount of diapers, the constant chaos, how many times i would hear "mama" in an hour, let alone a day, the time and commitment it would take, the teaching, the re-teaching, and the reminders of all that i've taught and re-taught... just to name a few. but, one thing that i certainly didn't see coming was this feeling that i have.

it's hard to describe the feeling really. the closest comparison i could probably draw is that this feeling is like being home. whether or not you live in your dream house, almost everyone can relate to that feeling of just being home. like you are where you belong.

this came as a surprise to me, primarily because of some of the things i have to do as a mother. using just today as an example: i woke up to london crying, i fed her in bed, while the other three kids joined us one by one until every square inch of our bed was occupied by some tiny human body part. i then made the kids pancakes for breakfast, did the dishes, cleaned up the kitchen (which somehow still looked a mess), packed up their lunches, put on the bathing suits, put on all the sunscreen, and drove to the sprinkler park. after chasing them around, with baby on hip, i stood bent over while all the kids (mine and others) stood in line to smell my hair. we then had lunch, went into the community center to watch "awesome guys playing dodgeball." it took almost 15 minutes to leave, because i had to wait while harper shook everyone's hand before we could leave to go home. once home, i put harper down for a nap, and after singing several off-key duets with him, i then had to explain that uncle dan actually IS handsome, even if he DOES have "bald hairs." after that, i gave london a bath. that's when i realized that i feel strangely comfortable in this life and in this mommy role. that was the moment. i was sitting in the middle of london's room, blowdrying her butt.

she has a diaper rash, and i don't have time to let her "air-dry" between each diaper change like the 'what to expect' books suggest, so i just blow her off and it works just the same. but there i was, blowdrying my naked baby and i realized that this isn't normal. not a lot of people are home blowdrying out the crack of their baby.

forgive me, but it's a strange and busy life i live. it's really not anything spectacular in most people's eyes. but, it is certainly strange and it is certainly busy. and it is surprising to me how much i don't want to quit. i don't want to give up, i don't want to escape, i don't want some excuse so i can get out of it.

admittedly, i have my freakout moments and i definitely need my breaks from the craziness. but, when it gets right down to it... i wouldn't want anyone else on the planet blowdrying london's butt except for me. and i don't want anyone else explaining to harper that uncle dan shaves his head on purpose and that's why his hairs are bald, and that he is in fact a handsome uncle. and i don't want my kids smelling anyone else's hair at the sprinkler park except mine.

i have spent so much of the past 6 1/2 years wondering if i am "doing enough" to contribute to our family. i am always wondering if i should work part-time, or should i go back to school, or should i.... (fill in the blank with the idea of the moment.) when all i really want is permission to just blowdry a butt and love every minute of it. it is such a short season of time that they are all mine, and i don't want to miss any of it. i don't know what each day will look like, and i certainly can't say what things will look like down the road, but one thing i am actually sure about is that i want this life. i want it and i am not going to give up. that, sadly, is a really big deal for a gal like me.

July 31, 2010

tour de new york state.jpg

Keeping with our new family tradition of providing endless adventure for our kids... We took a day trip to the finger lakes region in new york. We are touring different dairy farms and doing cheese tasting. The kids (and we) have learned a lot about cheese. Tom wants to start making his own. So, we'll be looking forward to that. Below is a picture of us picnicing near cayuga lake. It's no crater lake... But, for a 2 hour drive, it'll suffice.

July 24, 2010

how do you spell the sound of beat boxing?

here is a hyperlink to our friends blog. (rick put a hyperlink here again.) this is a video compilation of harper's skills that he demonstrated while we were visiting our friends in oregon. now i will embed a url. it's a miracle really.

Broke as a joke.

Tom and I have been married for almost 7 years. In that time I have spent 268 weeks either pregnant or nursing (or sometimes both.). 268 WEEKS!

Let me break that down for ya. That is about 5.15 years. To be more specific, it means 1,876 days of total body invasion. That is over 45,000 hours.

So, here's how I figure it... At $7.25 an hour, I would have made $326,424 by now. That averages out to a yearly salary of $63,383. But, do you know how much I actually made for all this work? Zero dollars.

Now, I would be willing to settle for $3.25 an hour. Or a dollar an hour. Heck, I'll even take a dollar a kid. Because at this point motherhood has not been terribly lucrative.

Once, (during a low point personally) I added up all the time I would spend in my lifetime trimming fingernails and toenails. I have to take care of my twenty, plus each kids has twenty.... So that is 100 nails I am in charge of. I figured out that I would spend like four full months in my lifetime just trimming nails, that is 4 months of 24 hour per day trimapalooza.

Between the nails, and the diapers and the laundry, the occasional bite while breast feeding, the literal kicks to the inside of your rib cage, the spit-up that you don't even know is running down the back of your shirt... You would think SOMEONE would be giving me the $7.25/hr.

I love being a mom, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. (Sure, I have my moments where I fantasize about driving my anything-but-a-van to work, I walk in with a starbucks and an expensive pantsuit. Oooh, and highlights. It's my fantasy, and here I have great shoes and highlights. And a mother salary.). But, other than the occasional pantsuit dreams, I love love love what I do.

I just wish I got one measly penny per fingernail.

But for now, I guess I will take the payment I get. Because, it's not all spit-up and nail clippings. It's also a lot of hugs, smiles, sloppy kisses, squealy giggles, memories, and first moments... and more joy than any pantsuit could ever bring. Maybe someday I will get to be a grown-up, with a car that accommodates a reasonable-but-not-excessive number of passengers, and I'll have a job that pays me *something* for the work I do. Maybe I'll be required to wear pantsuits, and I'll have great shoes and highlights after all. But, I'll probably miss this season of my life. And I'll wish I had savored this time more. I might even miss the van. (However, I seriously doubt it.) But, I guess that a van isn't the worst thing... If it's full of everything you love.

July 19, 2010

We're not in Kansas anymore.

Well... It's here. The end of our trip.

I guess I'll go back and update how the last several days have gone. After the Grand Canyon, we camped at the Navajo National Monument Campground in Shonto, AZ. It has some of the best preserved, original navajo cliff dwellings in the country. It has free primitive camping, an unbelievable view of a huge canyon, and red ants. But, that was not my concern... I was terrified of the HEAT! In the dessert, our car registered a temperature of 130 degrees. I am certain that was not accurate, but still... Even if it was off by 20 degrees, it was still outta control hot.

But the night was actually beautiful in the desert! We set up camp around 7pm, so the temp had already dropped to 88. we cooked fish, lentils, brown rice and corn and got in the tent to play pass the pigs and a round of war. we slept without the fly, under THE clearest and most beautiful sky I've ever seen. It was the perfect temperature all night.
In the morning, we packed up and headed to arches national park. Also ridiculously beautiful. We did a very short hike to see the double arches, and climbed just a little. I got so many great pictures of the girls climbing into a little cave. Harper stayed at the bottom yelling "echo."

That night, we did a last minute campsite change because the one we had planned on had "a LOT of bears.". Since we couldn't exactly hoist two coolers and a bin up into a tree... We opted for a less primitive site for the night. It was still private, and really nice, complete with a mountain view and babbling brook. It's really getting ridiculous how gorgeous some of these places have been.

in the morning, we headed to great sand dunes national park. These dunes were quite a challenge for the kids. Harper was exhausted and had "mall-leg" (which is what tom gets if he has to walk around a shopping mall for more than 15 minutes.) And marlie was pretty much bent over in the shape of a horseshoe most the time. Annalee was a trooper, pushing herself to climb up one dune. It was a lot harder than it sounds... Especially if both your feet were boiled off in the sand. Which mine were.

From the sand dunes we did a crazy through-the-night drive through the rest of colorado and into kansas. We arrived at 6am to visit our wonderful friends merrie and lance, and their son javan. It was so much fun there. Merrie is a great cook, and spoiled us with food and the best water I've ever tasted. (I really don't know if it is because we have been drinking hot water out of boiling nalgene bottles, or if her water really is the best, but it was seriously good.)

The kids all had a great time at the sprinkler park, and their little children's museum. It was sad to say goodbye today, but we had such a nice visit... I'm certain they will skip their upcoming honeymoon to puerta vallarte in order to come to rochester to visit us instead.

We were trucking along through illinois and indiana, when we called to confirm campground reservations. We were warned not to tent camp tonight because of the severe thunderstorms that would be happening all night. So, after a lot of vascillating between toughing it out in the thunder and lighting, or doing another drive through the night... We decided just to head home tonight instead of tomorrow.

So, with great sadness we are actually heading home. We should arrive around 4am, tuck our kids in their own beds and sleep inside our own house. I know I should feel so relieved to get home, but the truth is that I am sad to see this adventure come to an end. I feel like a kid that has to leave summer camp and just isn't ready to. It has been the best summer of my life, and I have to say that I have never been more thankful for the husband and family I have. Not every husband would let their wife convince them to do this crazy trip. And even fewer would be able to singlehandedly set up a tent as fast as tom can. It's kinda hot.

Well all, thanks for reading. I'm sure that more stories and quotes from this trip will surface again. Thanks to those that prayed for our fun and safety, and especially to those that opened their homes to us while we stunk so badly. Love to you all!

crazy looking storm as we stopped for gas in Illinois.jpg

we spent a couple days with friends in Kansas City, Kansas.jpg

July 14, 2010

here'e where we were today - the Grand Canyon.jpg

how's this for a camping background - Navajo National Monument campground, AZ.jpg

Never in a million years, road trip edition

As some of my regulars (all four of you) know, I recently posted a blog called "never in a million years." It was a list of things that I never thought would ever come out of my mouth, but thanks to parenthood, actually did. So, this is a special, limited time only, road-trip edition of things I never thought I'd have to say out loud. Never in a million years.

1) "You may not even SAY juice box." (Said to harper, in response to the 455th request for a juice box.)
2) "do you smell butter?" (Referring to the unique smell of London's full diaper.)
3) "there is no jumping, pushing or pulling by a canyon."
4) "no thank you risking your life."
5) "thank you for apologizing, I forgive you, but if you do that again you will fall and crash and be all gone."
6) "clap real loud so the rattlesnakes know we're coming."
Z7)"k guys, we have to eat very tidy so the bears don't come."
8) "honey, that's not a geyser, that's a sprinkler." (or fog, steam, a smokestack, etc.)
9) "I promise you will not fall in that big toilet."
10) "no, you may not." (Said in response to marlie asking "can I just get one little pinch of that baby's bun?"
11) "nope, no more picking rare flowers."
12) "we do not put our native american clay stones in our mouths."
13) "for a moment." (In response to harper asking if he can "be wake?")
14) "honey, you're not burning."
15) "I know sweetheart, we're all burning."
16) "look at that little granny, isn't she cute?"
17) "you need to apologize to christine for peeing at her party."
18) "london's pacifier is not in the oven."
19) "she just spit up in my mouth! Ew, my own breastmilk..."

Some like it hot.

we concluded our lovely visit in california with a grand finale of a migraine and a nasty case of poison ivy. I am noticing a trend in my life lately: whenever I start feeling like things are going well, things start go, ummm... less well.

I have to attribute this to my deep and unresolved pride issue, because every time I say how "my kids get along sooo great" they suddenly fall apart in front of whomever I just praised them. Just when I proudly say out loud how "harper has been potty-trained for so long" he starts habitually drilling into his handy manny underpants like he's getting commission for it. As soon as I say "this trip is going so smoothly" I wake up with a migraine and tom looks like a burn victim where the poison ivy is slowly "melting his skin." (His words.)

So, given the migraine (and his ever-faithful companion: nausea) I was pretty useless yesterday morning, so tom had to pack everything up by himself, which is a big job, especially for an almost-amputee. Needless to say, we got a late start.

We did our usual unnecessarily long (and out of our way) drive in order to hit nevada, then into prescott, az. (Pronounced like biscuit, as in "prescotts 'n gravy.") What saved us (and our delayed, migrained, poisoned, deformed selves) was a phone call to my in-laws updating them on our location and schedule. They (randomly) have friends in prescott, who also happen to conveniently be THE nicest people on the planet. They also happen to be willing hosts. with a basement. and pie. They are the best.

So, instead of driving through the desert at 10:30pm trying to find a flat, safe and rattlesnake-free campsite in the dark, we ate pie with mark and shelly baker. We were so blessed to be able to stay with them, and without much notice.

I know that God's hand has been over us. I know that he is the one that is keeping us safe, sparing us from all sorts of potential disasters. And I know that he mustn't be loving any pride I have, because god seems eager to humble me at first sight of it.

So, we just got into grand canyon national park. It is really more vast and beautiful than I could even attempt to describe, let alone capture in a photograph. But no sooner than I was thinking "we've done it! We've arrived! Nobody thought we could make it this far with this many kids... But here we are, at the GRAND CANYON!" Harper completely fell apart. He pottied in his undies, cried and fussed. So tom took the girls to view the gorgeous canyon, while harper and I sit in the van. We both lost the privilege. He, for throwing a fit. And I, for good old fashioned pride.

So, we are nearing the end of the trip and while I have loved almost every minute... I won't bother saying how brilliant things are going. Because just as soon as I do that, I will slip while we are hiking and will get propelled off the highest cliff at the grand canyon, being humbled by my imminent death.

grand canyon.jpg

yeah... it's mad hot out here.jpg

split down the middle - on the California and Nevada border.jpg

July 11, 2010

this is how we do it...

the two youngest are sleeping and the two oldest are squealing together with sheer delight in the back yard. oh, how i love having little ones that sleep well and bigger ones that can play independently for hours on end! this is vacation.

in reality though, this xc trip has seldom felt like actually vacating our lives. all the time we spent preparing (the itinerary, the meals, the destinations, the details) have resulted in a fun and smooth trip, but did not eliminate all the hard work.we have taken this opportunity to really focus on some character issues with each of the children, and have done our best to correct some of the attitudes and behaviors we saw creeping into their lives when we weren't as diligently focused. we have had to get up early and often get down late. we have driven thousands upon thousands of miles, many of which on roads so winding they made me want to throw up on my atlas. we have set up camp and tore it down countless times, most of the time within a twelve hour window. we have cooked or prepared meals on picnic tables, in the car, and sometimes even on the ground. we have done lots of dishes without once using a sink. it has not been a convenient vacating of our daily lives. in a way, it has sort of been like taking all our usual chores and forced us to do them (or at least a micro-version of them) on the road. it has been a lot of work.

so, why on earth am i loving it so much? perhaps it's because at home, a lot of those chores are left undone anyways, and heaps of guilt inevitably ensue. or maybe it is because i am energized by the activity level we have maintained, or maybe it is empowering just to see all that we are capable of as a family. i am not sure which... but, i think i would take this "vacation" over a typical one any day. it has been such an adventure.

we are over halfway through the trip at this point. we are in pauma valley, ca at uncle brandon and aunt shannon's house. the kids are loving it here, playing with their cousins and having a few days off of travel-mode. all the kids are playing so well together and it has been such a great time so far. brandon is on his way home from the airport right now, as he has actually been in new york for a mission trip! so, we are all excited to see him.

we will be leaving here on the 13th and heading toward the grand canyon. we have a lot left to see yet, and i am already starting to feel a little sad about the trip winding down. i have loved having our whole family spend uninterrupted time together, without any of the distractions of everyday life at home. i have loved watching the girls (especially) bond during this time, and, admittedly, i have loved having harper strapped down to a seat much of the day.

so, until we are back on the road... i am going to enjoy the little time we have left to just relax at bran and shan's, actually vacating. two kids sleeping and two kids playing. i'm one lucky gal.

our theme verse - Deuteronomy 1:29-33

hello all. it's tom - making a cameo on lara's blog. kim asked what our theme verse is for our trip. we're memorizing it together as a family. You have heard it mentioned in some of the previous posts. here it is:

God, your God, is leading the way; he's fighting for you. You saw with your own eyes what he did for you in Egypt; you saw what he did in the wilderness, how God, your God, carried you as a father carries his child, carried you the whole way until you arrived here. But now that you're here, you won't trust God, your God - this same God who goes ahead of you in your travels to scout out a place to pitch camp, a fire by night and a cloud by day to show you the way to go.
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July 10, 2010


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