Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hello Kitty!

We live in a neighborhood development, but out in the country. Most of our neighbors are seasonal and aren't around much. So, we were a little surprised to find a tiny stray kitten crying piteously in the plantings up next to our house. Weirdly, I was just thinking the night before that it would be fun for the littles to have a kitten... then, pouf! one is deposited in our front yard!

She's very teeny, maybe four weeks old at a guess. I saw no mama or siblings around, but I suspect she is from a litter of feral/farm kitties. Tomorrow I will take her to the vet. She's not eating well and she has a little infection in her eye although she is healthy looking overall.

The children were overjoyed... both the bigs and the littles. We have named her Sylvia.


Hello, Kitty...meeting the other pets (minus one cat, Lucy).

It's a dream come true for Candace and Sarah!
They have wanted a kitten for a long time.

Reluctantly "snuggling" with Thomas

The littles built Sylvia a "house" with Barbie dollhouse furniture... Bridget checks it out.

Candace has been practicing her nurturing skills.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Camp out

We've been promising the littles for quite some time that we would take them camping. Tom got a new family sized tent for his birthday a couple of weeks ago, so this weekend we made the trip to a nearby state recreation area. It is conveniently located so close to home that we were able to set up camp, go to Mass on Saturday evening and then head back to our camp site. Plus, we avoided the whole cooking over an open fire or camp stove by bringing pizza from town after we went to church.

Although it rained a drizzly mist while we were setting up the tent, the rest of the evening was pretty clear and cool. The kids had a lot of fun "hiking", playing with sticks and avoiding monsters in the dark, in addition to all the usual campfire activities. The night was chilly but the sleeping bags were warm and everyone had a great time. Looking forward to going again!

Our campsite

Hiking in the wilderness

Little kids with big sticks.

The intrepid parents

The traditional camp meal... pizzeria pizza.

Sarah really enjoyed scary story time.

Getting ready to roast marshmallows for s'mores.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mother to mother

This is Saba Ayalew of Dessie, Ethiopia.

This is one of her two teenage sons.

Here is the write up on Saba from Because Every Mother Matters' new sponsorship program for mothers struggling against poverty in Ethiopia:

"She is 35 years old, and has a 16 year old boy, and a 13 year old boy in grade 5. She has a lot of back pain, and we think is suffering from a fistula. Saba was born in Lalibella, and moved to Dessie 12 years ago. She is not eating regularly. Her goals are to make bread and sell vegetables in the market. Saba is the mama who lived in the house that was basically a tin room, it was maybe 5' x 5'. BEMM rented her a new home, with a new bed, new blankets and sheets. She even has electricity!"

Saba's new home

Clean new bedding

Sponsorhip means little things like a clean bed, and bigger things, like help starting an income generating small business for her family.

What a difference hope can make!

We are the happy new sponsors of Saba Ayalew and her family. Sponsorship is a three year commitment of $55 per month. Cam you provide hope to a mother and her family? Please go to Because Every Mother Matters and find out about other mothers who need help and hope to keep their families together.

Many thanks to Amy Smith of BEMM for these beautiful photographs!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Guilty love

If you know me in "real life", you know that I have a fretful nature. I am not one of those people who easily "lets things go". When I get something in my head, I tend to let it stew around in there for a good long time, particularly at night when I'm supposed to be doing something useful, like sleeping.

When we started our first adoption process over three years ago, I was consumed with the idea of fulfilling my desire to add to our family by adopting a child from Ethiopia; a child who had lost her family and would blossom under the love of ours. Three years later, I know a lot more about the reality of adoption and have developed knowledge about attachment difficulties, kids from trauma backgrounds and the ethical issues that swirl around international adoptions.

Whew. Sometimes, it just makes me tired.

Because I do care about ethics in adoption, and I do care about what's right for the kids and birth families. I do. I lay awake worrying about it and our family has become passionate about the plight of kids and mothers in the third world.

I am constantly reading, reading, reading... discussions about adoption ethics, discussions about attachment, discussions about poverty. Some say that adoption is a crime against children; they should never be removed from their birth families or cultures. Some say it's a mandate of Christianity to adopt the orphans and place them in families. Some say that it's an elitist oppression against the third world. Some say it's a chance at a "better life". Some just don't care.

I'm tired. And guilty.

Why guilty? Because... I just love my adopted children so much. So much that my heart is almost bursting. Unconditionally, without reservation; just as I love my three older children. When I touch their precious heads while they're sleeping or hear their sweet giggles... I just feel love. Love.

Sometimes I just want to forget about all of the adoption baggage and just focus on the love.

I hate that my love is at the cost of their loss. Loss of family and culture due to complicated circumstances beyond the understanding of a little kid. But sometimes, I admit, I just want to feel that love. I don't want to think of all of the bigger issues, I just want to love them and hold them and revel in them. I want to feel that bond of love and family without feeling guilty about the family far away.

For what it's worth, I am a centrist when it comes to adoption. Adoption can be good; or it can be horribly wrong. Sometimes it is somewhere in the middle.

But love is good. And I love them so much. I just want to hold them and thank God for the gift of them and just bask in love. I don't have all of the answers; and I will keep asking questions and most likely fretting... but sometimes I just want to have all the love without the weight of the past. Even if that's unrealistic.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Today was an early dismissal day from school due to parent-teacher conferences. We were lucky enough to have the twins' friend Dayna stay with us after school until her dad could get home from work. After Tom and I attended both conferences (glowing reports by both teachers!), we scooted over to Thomas' preschool for a surprise early pick-up and then all six of us went to local favorite Cheri-O's for ice cream.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent by the littles in a loud and raucous game that involved lots of screaming and multiple changes of clothing from the dress-up basket. Overall, I think the day was a big hit.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Back in the saddle again

Candace in summer of 2010

I realized last week after about the umpteenth screaming, crying fit over something trivial that we were missing a very important person in our lives... Cathy, also known as The Wonder Therapist. We started seeing her about two years ago, and she has been crucial to our family's growth and well-being as we worked through attachment and trauma difficulties. Our last visit was several months ago... we waited too long. The lesson learned here, by me, is that maybe our need for professional help is permanent. And that's okay. We don't have nearly the drama that we used to have on a daily basis, but there are still insecurities that pop up and old issues that come back to the forefront. It's just another example about how parenting my adopted children can be so different than parenting my birth children.

If you live in Nebraska, I highly recommend the therapists at the Attachment and Trauma Center of Nebraska in Omaha. If you live elsewhere, I recommend finding an experienced attachment/trauma therapist or counselor for adopted children who have experienced trauma, grief or loss (which really, is most of them, right?) Tom and I have learned so much from Cathy and we have been so much better enabled to help our children heal. We're planning on having ongoing monthly visits for the foreseeable future... saddle up.

p.s. This is also a good time to remind readers about my favorite book on adoption and attachment, The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis. You can find it on my bookshelf in the left hand column, just click on the picture of the book to learn more!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Autumn extravaganza

We have had a beautiful fall this year with lots of warm and sunny days. Today the kids had a vacation day from school, so Anna and her friend Daryl decided on this not-quite-as-sunny-but-still-nice day to take the littles to Vala's, the local "pumpkin patch". It was Thomas' second trip to this autumn extravaganza, as he and Tom went a couple of weeks ago with the preschool class. I was happy to miss the pumpkin patch this year (I have been at least a dozen times), but glad that Anna took so many nice pictures to share!

Pile of kids on a pile of pumpkins.

Daryl and Sarah

Thomas burying Anna with corn. It is the Cornhusker state.

Three little ghosts

Candace, future farmer of America.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Long ago, at a university far, far away...

...this young lady competed for the
Purdue University Gymnastics Club.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nature that slithers... OR don't look, Mom

One of the things we have really enjoyed since moving out to the country is the variety of animals we see around our house... many types of waterfowl, bald eagles, deer, coyotes, raccoons, foxes and I even saw a badger recently. I have also grown to appreciate snakes. Yes, the slithery reptiles. We have them in rather abundant amounts around here. Usually the ones we see are fairly small garter snakes or bull snakes, but this afternoon Kenneth alerted me to this handsome guy sunning in our drive way. He's a large bull snake and harmless to humans, although I imagine he would bite if provoked. Definitely should help keep the invasive rodent population down as the fall progresses.

(The title is a warning to my mom. She doesn't appreciate nature of the herpetological variety.)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Run for the Roses

In this case, the run is for people, not horses. We went on a road trip to Ames this weekend to participate in Emily's sorority philanthropy event for the year, the AOII 25th Annual Run for the Roses. Proceeds from the race benefit arthritis research. The littles were very excited to hit the road and get to "Emily's school". I was pretty excited myself to visit with my eldest daughter.

Our first stop was the AOII house to check out Emily's room, shared with roommate Jeanette... (appearing incognito later in this post).

Emily, Anna, Sarah, Thomas and Candace

Checking out Emily's bed... the top bunk is so awesome.

After a delicious dinner at a downtown Ames eatery, we went back to the hotel for some swimming and hot tub fun.


Warming up in the hot tub

While Emily and Anna went out for some sisterly bonding, Tom and I put the littles to bed with some soothing Disney channel programming (we girls) and college football (the boys). The next day, we were up and at 'em for racing. While Tom waited for his 5K to start, we posed for pictures with Stella the Panda, an AOII mascot.

Hmm... Stella looks an awful lot like Emily's roommate, Jeanette.

We couldn't find Daddy at the start, so we hurried over to the finish line to catch him there.

Tom at the finish

Finally, it was time for the kids' Fun Run. Thomas chose to run with the 5-7 year old age group with Candace and Sarah. They got off to a good start, first third of the pack. Thomas was a little speedster and passed many kids and finished third. Candace and Sarah were sixth and eighth. All of the kids were awarded a participation ribbon and a great time was had by all!

Thomas making his move.



Well done, runners!

Friday, October 7, 2011

School day

Today I had a special experience... substitute teaching at Thomas' preschool! Luckily, I was really a substitute teacher's aide. Thomas' teacher had to attend an out of state wedding, but her very capable aide was still in class to run the show and I moved into the position of assistant. Thomas attended with me this morning as well his regular class in the afternoon. We had fun coloring the Ten Commandments train (car number 8, "don't tell lies"), sharing show and tell items, having a snack and enjoying lots of free play time.

In between classes, Thomas and I paid a surprise visit to Candace and Sarah's elementary school for lunch! The girls enjoyed introducing Thomas to their teachers and friends, and we got to enjoy some pizza and chocolate milk for lunch. We stayed for recess, then headed back to St. Mary preschool.

Sarah and Candace enjoyed showing Thomas
around the cafeteria.

Enjoying my lunch with the littles!

It was a fun but pretty tiring day for both Thomas and me!