Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Day After

It’s the day after Christmas
And all through the house
The toys are piled up--
Nerf guns, toys balls and Marcie’s zhu zhu mouse

Dad’s working hard
To clean up the mess
And Mom’s on the computer
Working- or trying her best.


“Dear Santa, I like to be nice to my family. I like to cook cookies for you and and apple for your reindeer. Sincerely, Casey.” [And we didn’t help Casey with the spelling at all.]

”Dear Casey (and Marcie and Tate), Thank you for the delicious cookies. Dasher loved the apple. Next year please leave milk. Love, Santa.”


Casey’s reaction to his gifts from Santa.

And Tate and Marcie’s gifts from Santa (below):

IMG_3771 IMG_3773 Playing with new gifts Christmas morning:


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Some of the ornaments Marcie made for the tree:


After the gift-opening and breakfast, while Tate was napping, Casey was playing Donkey Kong Country and Marcie and I were making Christmas ornaments, Jason climbed up on the roof to see what caused our leaking during the storm last week. The culprit was a couple broken roof tiles. He laid some plastic down, and even though it’s kind of a bummer of a way to spend Christmas, it couldn’t have happened at a better time. The rain that was supposed to arrive today came early, and it rained throughout the night. But no leaks. After we spent most of the day lounging in our pajamas and playing with new toys (and baking and making ornaments and fixing the roof), we headed over to Grandma and Grandpa S’s house for a Christmas meal. This was the view we were greeted with:


It took a long time to get through all those presents, too. But good food, good company—what more could a person really want?


Jason’s parents were incredibly generous this year—as they are every year. This year, we asked people who were having trouble thinking of gifts for us to donate money to one of our favorite charities. We didn’t think anyone would do it—but Jason’s parents did. I got a lot of really great stuff this year. Some boots, a nice bag for work, a beautiful locket engraved with the words Forever Family, but I think the donation to Eagle’s Wings China (a group foster home located in Jiaozuo City in Henan, where Tate is from—the organization we actually visited while in China) was the best Christmas gift I received. I get emotional still, even now, just thinking about it. I really, really wanted to donate more money to them this year. Every little bit makes such a huge difference to them. (And to other organizations like them in China, including Philip Hayden Foundation, which is the organization that took care of Tate.) But dropping down to a single income and paying for an adoption have really spent us. So to know that money went there anyway . . . well, I just don’t really know how to put into words how that makes me feel. My eyes pool with tears, I get a lump in my throat. I feel so . . . so very, very grateful.

I hope everyone reading this, likewise, had a magical Christmas with their families—and that the magic and joy carry you through the new year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Hope your day is filled with lots of giggles and hugs, laughter and play. And, most of all, love.

Merry, Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Twas the Night Before Christmas


Christmas always sneaks up on me when I'm working full time leading up to it, and this year was no different.  Even though we’ve been doing Chrismassy things all month.  For example, this year, for the first time, we went to Christmas in the Park, which our town holds when it lights the town Christmas tree.  It was actually a super warm afternoon (just before the big storms hit).



Then, last week, we had our annual Christmas party with our our good friends, and we took all the kids to the area nearby known for its spectacular light display.


And, of course the kids made a gingerbread house.  It even stayed standing up this year!


And Jason was good about keeping me posted in the last few days of the week.  For example, yesterday, the kids made and decorated sugar cookies with some dough I prepared.

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Today we went for a morning walk as a family to grab some last minute groceries (and Starbucks).  At Starbucks, one of Casey’s art projects from school was on display, so of course we had him pose with it for a photo.


Then we visited with my brother and his family.  Tate and his cousin are just three months apart in age.  Isn’t she a cutie?  (You already know I think he is.)


(Sorry that last picture is a little, uh, revealing.  Darned scoop-neck shirt.)

We also went to mass.  Despite arriving 40 minutes early, there were no seats.  So we sat outside.  In the cold.  Brrr.

The kids are watching A Christmas Story now—and in about 10 minutes, we’ll attempt to ready them for bed.  They know Santa won’t be here until they are asleep.  And they know not to wake up before 6:00am.  (A time they picked out!)  So we’ll see how the night goes.  Tate had been waking up nightly for about 10 days there—and today I discovered he’s broken through two molars.  No wonder the poor kid can’t sleep!  (He’s also learned to blow kisses, play peek-a-boo by covering his own face, and he uses the signs now for “more” and “all done” with regularity—he’s a regular boy genius!  I’m so excited he can communicate with us—it only took us three kids to get to this point!)

Hope your Christmas Eve has been full of sweet smells and time with family.  And may all your Christmas wishes be fulfilled!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Role Reversal

I’m back at work.  And I’m busy.  I think both of these things are good.  It’d be hard to be back at work and not be busy.  I’d spend all day wondering what the kids are doing.  But I don’t.  It helps that (1) Jason has become our own version of Mr. Mom; (2) I like my job; and (3) I get little photo text messages every day or two that look like this:

December 2010 iphone 007

With Casey, he was such a tiny infant—he didn’t even really understand that he was going to his grandmother’s house instead of staying with me.  He just knew that he was being well-fed, well-loved and well-snuggled.  With Marcie, I was in law school, and I had to start back in school pretty much a day after we got back.  I didn’t have a choice by to take her, kicking and screaming, to her grandmother’s house.  I knew she was well-fed, well-loved and well-snuggled.  And I knew she was fine a few minutes after I left, but boy- those transitions were heart-breaking.  (And, let’s be honest, if she didn’t cry when she separated from me, I would have been bothered by that, too.  It’s a lose-lose.)

But with Tate, he doesn’t go anywhere.  He sticks around our house with his dad.  He sees his brother and sister at the same time every day (and his little feet kick out when they get home, he’s so happy to see them!).  Of course he is well-fed, well-loved and well-snuggled—but all without that awful transition.  And when he hears my voice or sees me come home, he screeches and crawls right on over to me, demanding that I hold him. 

Yeah, I’m missing out on stuff.  He learned how to wave last week.  And finally started doing the sign for “all done.”  And he starting to stand without holding on to anything.  I will probably miss his first step.  But thank goodness for smart phones (what did we do without them?).  And I know the whole family is better off with Jason home.  Homework gets done the right way.  Meals are eaten at a reasonable hour.  The house isn’t an embarrassing disaster if someone drops by (at least not usually).

Of course, it’s only been two weeks—and I’ve already come down with two eye infections, a cold, and some weird esophogal cramping thing.  Tate decided this past week that he’d spend at least an hour each night- in the middle of the night- wide awake.  And Casey likewise has been waking in the middle of the night and slipping into our bed.  I blame the latter two lack-of-sleep issues on causing the former (health) issues.  But I’m chalking all of it up to this being a time of transition.  I sure hope I’m right. 

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas

Certainly it is, commercially speaking:

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Don’t they look old?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

The kids have the week of Thanksgiving off each year. This year we decided it'd be the perfect time to take a trip to Ohio to visit Casey's birth family. We always have fun when we visit them. And this year was no different.

They just finished off their basement, and it was beautiful:


It doesn’t really matter to us how we spend our time—it’s about being with family. And we always have such fun. One day, we took a walk to a nearby lake (and when I say nearby, I mean next door—literally):

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One afternoon, we went bowling:


We saw a movie and met some new people. And generally hung out. Marcie became Casey’s older sister’s shadow. Casey loved being with his big brother and his cousin. And even Tate had someone to look up to: Casey’s other cousin. I’ve never seen Tate take to someone so immediately. I could have left the building, and he probably wouldn’t have noticed.

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And I think it’s worth mentioning—though I describe these relatives in terms of their connection to Casey, we consider all of them our extended family, too. And they us. If you ask Marcie, she’ll probably tell you that she has a big sister, too. If there’s one thing adoption has taught us, it’s that family is not about blood relations. It can be. But it doesn’t have to be. And we feel so lucky that Casey’s birth family sees it that way, too.


Thursday, November 18, 2010


I'm back-dating this post. It's mid-December, so it'll be obvious. But it's a post about November, so I don't feel too badly. It's just that I got stuck around mid-November. I wanted to write some heart-warming, tear-jerking letter to Marcie in celebration of her 5th birthday. But somewhere in between loads of laundry, dirty diapers, and the general mayhem of my life, I couldn't make myself focus. And it didn't help that Marcie had hit a . . . uh . . . especially sassy period.

But Marcie had a nice birthday. We celebrated with a party at Pump it Up. As is our tradition, I made Marcie's birthday cake this year. She wanted Hannah Montana. And by the time I finished paying for the right cake pans, food coloring, frosting, tips, frosting bags, etc., I probably could have gotten a professional one much cheaper! (Note to self: Costco, costco, costco!) But, hey, it's a labor of love, right? Here's the main cake tray:

She got a lot of very cool gifts-- including blingletts (to make bracelets!) and shrinky dinks (remember those!?!). We're still working on the thank you notes (the part I wrote is finished, but Marcie's taking her sweet time completing them). But we'll get there.

Marcie was five way before she turned five. She is the same height Casey was when he was 6 1/2. And now that she's missing those three front teeth and a bottom one, she looks much older than her age. Which is fitting. Because she acts, most of the time, much older than her age. But she's only five. And I have to remember that sometimes. She is smart. And observant. And she likes to make sure everyone knows what to do. She's like a mini-me. No wonder we clash so often.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Life in the Fast Lane


November has been like a speeding bullet.  I can hardly keep up.  I think some of it is all the birthdays—we may start out slow with just three family birthdays in late September and through October, but in November we hit our first birthday bonanza with friends and family.  More on that later.

Tate’s been doing pretty well.  He’s eating up a storm, which is great for his growth and development, but pretty hard on the pocketbook.  Casey and Marcie were out of baby food by around 12 months for the most part.  Not Tate.  He devours the stinky stuff.  Can’t get enough.  Goes through nine containers (at a dollar each, on sale) each day.  PLUS he eats some of our people food.  I can’t really push the table food issue until the cleft is repaired, so I’m biding my time.  For now.

At his last doctor’s appointment, Tate was up to 19.6 pounds!  Just a little more and we can turn him around so he can see where we’re going in the car.  We’re still working out the staph infection on his head, though.  We were able to get a culture run of the stuff in the last remaining bump, and it turns out it’s MRSA (I probably spelled that wrong).  So now we’re on to another anti-biotic, which will hopefully help (along with the warm compresses) expel the last remaining, stodgy infection.  Tate is so accustomed to it, he doesn’t even flinch when doctors push around on this last little lump.  And I’m anxious to get rid of it because, well, it’s an infection.  And I don’t want anything to hold up our palate surgery.

Speaking of palate surgery, that’s a saga in itself, of course.  We have scheduled appointments with all the specialists, but even once the last one (the ENT) sees him on December 21, we’ll then have to coordinate all their schedules for the surgery so they can take care of everything at once.  We’re told Tate will spend one or two nights in the hospital, then have no-nos on his arms for a couple weeks.  Those are like boards that prevent him from bending his arms so he can’t puncture the palate repair.  He’ll be a little frankenstein.  We’ll know more once we see the plastic surgeon in December.

In the mean time, we’ve been very busy around the house.  I’ve discovered I actually like a clean house!  (At least cleaner than the one I was living in.)  I like not having to do laundry and grocery shop on weekends.  I like having a clean kitchen and a family room floor I can roll around on to play with the kids.  I like not being slightly embarrassed when the kids’ friends (and their parents) drop by for a play date.  The keeping up takes some definite work, but it was one of the (many) things I had to just let go when I was at work outside the home full time.  Things around here still aren’t perfect, but that’s okay.

Here are some pictures from our month so far:

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This is how I spend much of my mornings—putting away the tupperware Tate has pulled out (it’s the cabinet without the baby lock so he has something to do without frustration in the kitchen), and pulling Tate away from the dishwasher.  If it’s even slightly ajar, Tate makes a beeline for it.


My Aunt Joanne made this sweater for Tate.  It zips up the back (how smart is that?), and it arrived on the first coldish weather day we’d had in a while, so it was the perfect cover when we went to the park that afternoon.


One weekend we made it to the zoo- Tate’s first visit.  We mostly stuck by the Monkey Trails, and you can see Marcie and Jason monkeying around above.  We also visited the elephants (who were trumpeting while we were there!), the koalas, and the reptile enclosure.  After, we stopped at Ruby Tuesday for dinner:

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Tate’s first taste of lemon. . . not really enjoying it so much.


Tate got to join us for a couple of Casey’s soccer games.  Casey played really well in both and even scored a goal in this last one.  His team is undefeated, and they are playing in their championship game (against another undefeated team) this coming Saturday.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Halloween Review


Well, for the first time since Casey was born we did not make it to a pumpkin patch.  At all.  Between the rain and the parties, it just never worked out.  Consequently, we found ourselves without pumpkins on Halloween afternoon.  With nothing to carve, I set out in search of a couple of pumpkins.  SIX stores later (I am not exaggerating), I came up empty-handed.  So Casey and I made peanut butter chocolate chip cookies from scratch while Marcie and Jason drew pictures (and Tate napped).

Not to fret, though, we had plenty of fun over the Halloween weekend, even without the pumpkin-carving.  On Saturday, we attended a costume party and brought some ghoulish appetizers to share:

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And then on Halloween, we put the finishing touches on the costumes and headed down the hill (where the street is pretty flat) for dinner and trick-or-treating with some friends.  It’s worth mentioning that our friends at the bottom of the hill will typically go through five giant Costco bags of candy on Halloween.  People drive to our neighborhood to go trick-or-treating.  There are so many trick-or-treaters, people don’t bother to open and close their doors—they just set up outside on the driveway.  We lucked out with beautiful weather, and as we raced after the kids, I commented to Jason that it felt like we were in a scene from a movie.  Just then, I looked up to see a small group of kids blowing by on their scooters.  It was pretty idyllic.

For comparison, we hand out full-size candy bars.  To encourage the trek up the hill.  And we never go through a single, 30-bar box from Costco.  Even when we leave the lights on until 9:00 p.m.

After the kids were finished, we checked through the candy (and otter pop) at home, told the kids they could each keep five pieces of their choice (one for each day this week after school), and then offered them $5 each for the remainder of the candy.  Well, offer is putting it nicely.  We told them we were taking their candy, and if they wanted $5 in exchange, well, we’d give them the money.  They took the money.

Alas, I did not do a good job with photos.  When Casey and Marcie were smaller, I’d chase after them with the camera.  Impose myself on neighbors so that I could capture the actual moment of trick-or-treating.  This year, with the almost-20-pounds of Tate strapped to me, chasing after the bigger kids, keeping up was all I could hope to do.  So no pictures.  Except the one I grabbed of Tate experiencing his first piece of Halloween candy (Reese’s peanut butter cup):



And this one I snapped just before we left the house.  Not of the kids, though—oh no.  This one is of Super Mario, Baby Mario and a High School Musical Cheerleader.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Prelude to Halloween


Yesterday was Halloween madness at the elementary school.  Not really.  But we did keep quite busy.

Tate and I started the day by attending the Friday Flag (assembly).  Then we popped into Casey’s class party.  It was the mellowest room of second graders I may have ever seen.  I don’t know if that’s a testament to classroom management, student personality or a combination of the two.  The calmness of the kids didn’t dampen the fun they had, though:


Casey’s class had a series of activities the kids rotated through, including a spider pretzel/cracker and a popcorn hand:

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Marcie’s class also had a series of stations, including a mummy wrap, candy corn bingo, a bat flying game, cookie decorating, and pin the nose on the pumpkin.  Marcie was quite a bit more camera shy than Casey (though adamant that I make an appearance):


After school, we all rested (especially Tate, who was too excited during all the school festivities to even think about napping during his regular nap time).  Then the kids got into their costumes (only kindergarten wears costumes at school- and then only during the party time) and we headed out to the annual Boogie Bash, which parents had been setting up all day.  It’s essentially a Halloween faire, with a couple bouncy activities, a lot of booths, a spooky forest (playground) a House of Horrors and plenty of snacks and treats for everyone. 

We were too busy running after our bigger kids (or helping run their class booth) to capture any photos at the Boogie Bash, but here’s a preview of the costumes, which have a bit more that go into them, but we’re saving those finishing touches for Halloween.