Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Look who's FIVE!!!!

My baby boy turned five today. FIVE! I walked around all day with this slight feeling of panic and made the poor child promise me repeatedly that he will always want to cuddle and kiss his mommy and daddy. This may prove a bit awkward when he is 26, but oh well, a promise is a promise.

I remember so vividly, right down to what I was wearing, when this child first came into our lives. It was totally unexpected. We thought we would be travelling to Kazakhstan "blind" (which means you meet and choose your child in-country, you are not referred a child) so we were anxiously awaiting travel dates, not the phone call we got. I was at work, happily plugging away, when Zach called and said "So, Lisa called......." and my heart stopped. I asked if we had travel dates and he said "Nooo... we have a referral. It's a 6 month old boy" Upon which there was much joyous shrieking and happy confusion and questions about when, WHEN, WHEEEEEENNNNNN could I see this boy's face. Zach was finally able to forward me the pictures, we got 6 great ones, and as they opened, my breath caught. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, could have prepared me for a baby of this kind of beauty. When I called our coordinator, she picked up on the first ring and squealed "April! You have a Gerber baby!!!!" The video, that the FED-ex worker brought to us on her day off because that's the kind of place Vermont is, was the BEST 10 minutes of my life to that point. Even the adoption pediatrician, who is not known for being effusive, sent us an e-mail that said "I got the material and will evaluate it tonight, but I have to say I LOVE this baby!" Everybody has always loved this boy.

His darling birth-mother loved him and still does, of course. She stayed with him in the hospital for almost 2 weeks and breast-fed him. Hers was not an easy choice. I can't imagine the pain of her decision. I love her, and my heart breaks at the thought of their separation, even while I rejoice at my luck at being allowed to be his mom.

This boy is wild, and brave and naturally principled. He is loving, and kind, and incredibly destructive and messy. He is somehow able to whine and laugh at the same time. His hugs are likely to cause bodily harm and his love of, well, everything and everybody, literally radiates out of him. He is always ready to like people and his instincts about the true nature of others is dead on.

He is a snuggle bug. Not to old to cuddle up with his mom and dad. He often asks for someone to "snuggle him to sleep" which we almost always oblige because, let's face it, how much longer do you think that request is going to keep coming. He slept in our room (they all did) until October of this year (when Noah's wakings and their schedule started to interfere with each other) and now that he and Grace are in their own room, he sleeps through the night, but I miss his little body coming into our bed in the middle of the night. I confess to a secret thrill when he calls to me in the wee hours because of a bad dream or... whatever really. I race down the hall, leap into bed with him and we burrow down all warm and cozy and he always says "Mmmmaaammmmmaaaaaa!" in this sweet, happy, declarative voice that just fills me with my love for him.

His sensitive edges are wearing off a bit, and he is getting a tinge of sarcasm about him (NO idea where he picked THAT up), but there is no way that anybody could ever take the sweetness out of this boy. From the first day we met him, he has been a happy guy. He was a little unsure of who we were, but ready to like us immediately. He is always ready to like everyone immediately. That's just how this child was made.

Now if only his mother would brush his hair once in a while.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy solstice!

The sun starts wending it's way back to our side of the globe today. sunsets will continue to get later until the first week in January, but sunrises will start getting earlier every day.

Judging by the oh-so-scientific measurement taken from the top of the picnic table, it seems as though we have about 2 feet of the absolute fluffiest, softest and most Christmas-y snow imaginable. It is glorious!

Zach, who was laid out on the couch with weird and flu-like symptoms yesterday, disappeared last night at around 9:30pm for a while and came back covered in snow and looking like a frosted donut. I suppose a more observant and loving wife might have thought "Huh. I wonder where my feverish husband has gotten to? Perhaps I should make sure he isn't face down in a snow-bank," but I was too busy staring at a sock I am knitting trying to figure out what in the hell I was doing wrong. I had picked up stitches, as you do after turning the heel, but the thing didn't look right AT ALL. It took me a good 15 minutes to figure out that I never actually turned the heel, and what I was looking at was not, in fact, a sock, but a very lovely and warm, alpaca tube. ( I blame The Perfect Storm. I was so busy taking deep breaths just because I could, and being grateful I wasn't drowning that I wasn't paying nearly enough attention. Pick your movies carefully if somewhat tricky craft maneuvers are in your future. That's all I'm saying.) Just before I was about to throw the whole sock down the disposal, you know to teach it a lesson, Zach came back in and distracted me. He took me to the window to show me what he had been doing, and the dear man was outside all that time, making a snow maze in the driveway for the kids to find in the morning. Aahhh, nothing like a fever-induced work of art late at night. The kids were enchanted in the morning. So enchanted in fact that they spent a few serious minutes walking around it and looking at it and admiring it and then went and played in a snow-bank for an hour. After which Zach had to snow-blow the whole thing away so we could go to a cookie decorating party.

Yes the sugar consumption continues apace here. Although I must say that I, not being one for self-restraint, appreciate the Jackson Pollack-like glee with which my children decorate any surface that looks like it could use a little cheer.

The kids are headed to Grandma's this afternoon to, and I know this will shock you, decorate more cookies, these to be hung on the tree. Although given the dog's evident love of decorated baked-goods, I think we will limit the cookies to the top 1/3 of the tree.

So I send you all the merriest holiday greetings and hope that the next few days are fun and somewhat peaceful. We intend to spend the cross-country skiing and sledding and wrapping presents. No more shopping, we are done.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

O Tannenbaum, OTannenbaum.....

So, I know that, given my snarky personality and love of mocking, I should be commenting on the Illinois Governor's insanity and the basic a**holiness of the "Ponzi Scheme" folks (that term also bugs the bejeezus out of me, for some reason), who stole from charities, churches and other unsuspecting people, but I don't have it in me. Turns out there will always be jackasses a-plenty in the world, and really, the actions of these morons speak for themselves, no help needed from me. Although the Blagojovich thing in particular made me laugh for the better part of the morning when the story broke. Especially when I read some of the transcripts of calls that were made with his wife shrieking profanity in the background. I, most assuredly, do not have the worlds' cleanest mouth (Have I mentioned the time Kai asked me to "read this fucking book?" No? Another time.) but that woman could make a sailor blush. It was really quite impressive.

Anyway, with that out of the way, I can proceed with the update on the Christmas goings on around the Hotel Dumpling. We went and cut our tree on Sunday. First, you have to have your tree scouts dressed and ready on their vehicle of choice. In this case, sleds.

Grab the nearest adorable grandparent you can find. In this case, my mom.

And if there is a beautiful Swede hanging around, so much the better.

Kai takes a Charlie Brown approach to tree selection.

But cute woodworker guy and I felt called to this beauty.

Noah was a little annoyed here since he was trying to sleep. Nothing puts him to sleep faster than a little fresh air.

Cute woodworker guy quickly felled the tree and the big kids "helped" (aka. got in the way) him drag it back to the truck.

Grace got bored "helping" so she and Hilda took the easier way back.

Once home, this beauty did not disappoint once we had it covered with lights and decorations. The glowing table next to it is our snow village and is a work-in-progress. Or it might be done, we are losing steam in the decorating, but we could get a 14th wind, who knows.

Ahh yes, our ginger bread house.Yeah, what can I say. The roof kept caving in, so I finally chucked it and it is now topped with iced and be-candied cardboard. It was really quite annoying putting it together. And even with those modifications, the roof still had to be propped up with those little pieces of cardboard triangles. Then we let the kids do the decorating. We started to get all anal about it and realized, nobody gives a crap, so it is a festive explosion of candy and icing, some of which is now missing because they woke up at 5am and started picking at it, and some of which is now missing because apparently the dog, who is older than dirt, managed to revive enough to stand on her rickety hind legs and eat most of the chocolate "rocks" that make the pathway. (Hilda witnessed this moment of canine cunning, I did not.) I'm surprised the effort didn't do her in completely. It has caused some fairly horrendous intestinal distress that I won't go into at this point. In short, things are moving along at a normal, crazy, and disgusting pace around here.

This is the Christmas card Hilda sent to her family in Sweden. So adorable!

They look so sweet and harmless in this picture. Don't be fooled. They have been jacked up on sugar for about 2 weeks now and the cumulative effect is getting terrifying. In January, I'm sending them to sugar rehab.

Coming soon, hockey pictures, ballet pictures and I was tagged last week by a friend, but haven't been able to give the question any serious thought. Or even any non-serious thought, really.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Busier than Santa's Elves over here!

So we had ourselves a little snowstorm and then some mighty cold weather, so with the exception of the occasional quick trip outside for sledding, we have been nesting and making and creating over the last 24 hours for the Christmas Holidays. Behold!

Fleur de Sel Caramels to give as gifts, wrapped in wax paper "candy wrappers." This was the end of batch one. It never made it into a single gift box. Hopefully batches 2-4 will at least make it out the door. So damn yummy!

And then there was this lovely and incredibly simple sewing project. How cute are these bags?!?! I made 3 of them yesterday afternoon and whipped one up this morning before I was done with my first cup of coffee. THAT'S how easy it is. I have enough fabric to make one for all the ladies on my list. I have it down to about 45 minutes per bag now. Simple and fun!

Then there are some of the socks I am making. Now I obviously didn't make these all in the last 2 days. I have been working on them since Thanksgiving along with other things. I think I'll have time for one more pair, or maybe a hat and some mittens. Obviously, these all have mates, but with the exception of the pair for Zach, I have not decided who is getting which pair. I still have some beautiful and incredibly soft angora sock wool, so I think I'll just see who in my family is nicest to me over the next 10 days and then that person will get a decadent treat for their feet.

This cardigan I have been slowly working on for Zach since the summer. Must finish sewing together, knit the neck and figure out how in the hell to put in a zipper. Anyone have any tips?

Even the kids got in on the action. Here they are practicing their sewing.

And the lovely Hilda made these cute little saffron buns for St. Lucia's day, adorable little Swede that she is.

Here she is in the kitchen. We are so lucky to have her with us for the next year.

And what has Noah been doing, you ask? Well, he is busy being exceedingly adorable.

Yup, his job seems to be making us laugh.

Even the mountains and the trees got in on the beauty and festive mood.

Now Zach and I are about to get ready to go out to the first of many Christmas parties. Grown-ups only! Hope your weekend is as lovely!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Quick sad note.

Remember my friends who wanted to figure out if there was a way to adopt a baby they met while doing humanitarian work in Cambodia? Well a few weeks ago, the baby's birthdad came back to the hospital to claim him, and we all thought "Yay, he'll have his family and this is a good thing." Even if it did mean that the door was closed for my friends, they only wanted the baby's happiness and well being to be provided for. So they sent around an e-mail thanking everyone for their support and relaying that baby "R" was now with his papa and would we all send some good thoughts to them and hope for their health and happiness.

Then, 2 days ago, my friends received some devastating news from a colleague in Cambodia. Baby "R" was dropped off at the hospital (again) and despite their best efforts, he died. It was exactly what we had all feared would happen. The baby died among strangers. My only hope is that he was with someone at the time of his passing, but my friends says she was told he was alone.

I don't know what the family's circumstances are, and I can only imagine how hard life in Cambodia can be for many people, so I am loathe to pass judgement on the father or anyone else in baby "R's" family. But I will say that I think that no matter what we are going through, we have to protect the most vulnerable among us at all costs. My hope is that's what the father was doing by bringing him back to the hospital instead of, say, leaving him in a ditch. The very act of returning him to the hospital means that baby was NOT abandoned, and the fact that 2 families wanted to parent him means he was very much wanted, so there are a lot of broken hearts across the world right now. I am holding the father and family in my thoughts, I am sending that baby's spirit all my love and I am crying right along with my heartbroken friends.

Please keep all the families who are suffering the loss of a child in your thoughts today. Thanks.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

99 Meme

Stolen from http://alaydhien.blogspot.com/ The rules are simple: bold the things you've done. Explanations are optional. Fun is guaranteed.

1. Started your own blog (puhleeze)

2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band (does singing count?)

4. Visited Hawaii

5. Watched a meteor shower

6. Given more than you can afford to charity

7. Been to Disneyland/world

8. Climbed a mountain

9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sang a solo.

11. Bungee jumped (not sure why I haven't but it just hasn't happened)

12. Visited Paris (lived there for a while)

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child (three, in fact)

16. Had food poisoning

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown your own vegetables

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train (many times in many countries)

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitch hiked (but just to run shuttle for white water boating)

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill

24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping

27. Run a Marathon (Zero interest in doing this)

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

29. Seen a total eclipse

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset (sometimes both in one night)

31. Hit a home run (never have and never will, oh well)

32. Been on a cruise (My idea of HELL. A nautical version of Sartre's No Exit, in my opinion.)

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors

35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught yourself a new language

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David

41. Sung karaoke

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant

44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance (only once)

47. Had your portrait painted

48. Gone deep sea fishing

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia

60. Served at a soup kitchen

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (we don't sell cookies in Finland, we sell Xmas calendars)

62. Gone whale watching

63. Gotten flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

67. Bounced a check

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book (Everyone's dream, right?)

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had your picture in the newspaper

85. Read the entire Bible

86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (unless fish count)

88. Had chickenpox

89. Saved someone’s life (OK, this one is debatable, but I was on a Search and Rescue Team for years and we found many, very lost hikers, climbers and hunters. Would some of them have died if not for me? Doubtful, because there were so many other S&R folks, but I have been party to rescues of people who would have died without our Search Team finding them. So there.)

90. Sat on a jury

91. Met someone famous

92. Joined a book club

93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a lawsuit

98. Owned a cell phone

99. Been stung by a bee

How about you guys?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sending out the love

It's funny how sometimes just putting something on paper (or in this case the screen) can make it happen, or change it or at least change the way you feel about it. After writing about my psychotic children, they have, of course, been perfect angels. I must admit to having used a quote from the ever-adorable Lori's comment about "If you are not bleeding, dying, throwing-up or on fire..." just this morning on them. Whoo Boy, that one made me laugh out loud when I read it. But in general, it has been quite the happy fest here at the Hotel Dumpling. I am decorating the house with a fury Martha Stewart would admire, and we are generally getting into the swing of the festive season.

And while I am thinking about it, Lori is another mom-to-be waiting patiently, or actually not so patiently but she puts a good face on it, for a referral from Kyrgyzstan. She has been waiting to be a mom basically forever, and she will, so clearly, be great at it. I hate that she is still waiting. I have other friends and acquaintances who are also waiting for referrals and have been for a long time. Like the amazing Jeanne, whose contract got to our agency 2 days after ours and she still hasn't received her referral for a baby boy. Meanwhile we have been home with Noah for 4 months. TWO DAYS separated our contracts and she is still waiting, and I might add, hopeful, helpful and supportive of all the other waiting parents out there. And then there are people like Suzanne, who has been over to Kyrgyzstan, met her beautiful daughter-to-be and then had the program slow down to the point where she actually went back to visit the baby because she couldn't stand the idea of not seeing her for so many months. But the ones who I hold in my thoughts the most are the families and children who met each other LAST WINTER, and are still waiting for their court dates to go through. They are adopting from Bishkek (we adopted from Tokmok which didn't experience a slow-down until this summer) and there are literally dozens of families stuck at various points in this crazy process.
Then there are the babies and children. The babyhouses and orphanages do their best for them, but Kyrgyzstan is poor and there isn't going to be enough electricity this year for everybody to keep the lights and heat on all day. They are going to have scheduled rolling blackouts IN THE WINTER!
Now, obviously adoption is not the solution to a country's problems with poverty or orphans, but this is a small adoption program and it will help a few kids who don't have families gain that stability and love that only a parent's love can provide.
My point is, I think about this program and the people stuck in it every single day. Adoption is so much about luck and timing and, well, yeah, luck. We got ridiculously lucky with our speedy adoption of Noah. And we know that. We are amazed by it every day. But there are families all over the world waiting and worrying about the children they hope to parent. They are committed to these children no matter what. I hold them all in my hearts and thoughts every day. Them and the children and the birthparents. Because I truly believe that good thoughts and love can move mountains. Maybe you could take a minute and send some love and good vibes out to all the families waiting to be united too? Thanks.

Another time, I want to talk about how we can all live in such a way that doesn't contribute to the poverty and inequality that separates children from birthparents in developing nations, because I do believe that adoption should always be a last resort. But not now. Now I just want these waiting families to be together.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Exasperation and Gratitude

My children seem to be on cycle wherein they can only manage not to be a total pain in the ass every other day. Take this week for example. Monday was from hell, complete with ear-splitting tantrums and whining that could raise the dead. In fairness to the kids, cute woodworker guy and I could have handled some of the tantrums a little better but, good GAWD, that was a long day. Then yesterday, Tuesday, all rainbows and sunshine and loveliness. And this morning, well, the jury is still out, it could go either way at this point.

I think Kai is going through a growth spurt because he is spectacularly clumsy at this moment, and sensitive to the point of lunacy. The things he is flipping out over don't even make sense. And then, on a day like Tuesday, he is all smiles and giddiness at the joy of being alive. He said, and I quote "This is the BEST day EVER because there is ice on the driveway!" How can you not love that? His mood swings are intense, and some days I can't keep up. I know this is a phase. He goes through this every time he has a developmental leap, but it can be hard to remember that fact when you are trying to tell someone that he can have a new apple and doesn't need to freak out over the one that fell in the mud.

We are working on him articulating what is bothering him instead of howling and crying at the top of his lungs. So far, what it boils down to, is that sometimes he thinks being the oldest stinks. He wishes he didn't have to be the oldest, it can be really hard and he doesn't know what to do about it. I am gonna put him in touch with my eldest sister and Zach's eldest sister, both of whom will be able to commiserate with a hearty "True dat!"

Birth order is a tricky business and can so deeply affect who we become. I don't think he realizes what a spectacular older brother he is, although I try to point it out to him all the time. His younger siblings worship him, but of course, even adoration can get old. And he has a legitimate gripe. Those little dudes can be maddening.

Grace is actually going through a delightful lovey stage with me. Lots of kisses (she used to be stingy) and lots of "I love you" s are making for a very sweet moment in her life. At the same time she has also resumed hitting and biting her older brother when she isn't worshipping him and has discovered the wonderful world of taunting. Yeah, it's not so cool for him.

And can I just mention how much tattling drives me bananas! "Mom, Grace said that she wanted to ......." fill in the blank. "Mama!!!!! Kai tried to......." fill in the blank. Jesus Christ, that is annoying. Basically, I don't want to hear about anything that could get someone into trouble, only if someone needs help getting out of trouble. Like, if someones head is stuck in the banister, that is information I want. And blood, I do like having blood reported to me. Otherwise, work it the hell out between yourselves! Honestly, there are days I want to put them in a padded room and let them go to town on each other.

Oh, but they are so achingly sweet together too. And they make each other laugh like no one else. And they are always thinking of the other. If one is leaving to go do something without the other they hug and kiss goodbye and say "I love you" and practically rend their clothes at the prospect of a separation of a mere few hours. And the reunions! Hallmark doesn't have commercials this sappy.

And even after the craziest days, where feelings are so raw and a cup of juice poured in the wrong glass is a tragedy of the worst sort, I am filled with the deepest sense of gratitude that I get to be here with them. Gratitude and somewhere in me, mirth. Because no matter how insane they are being, there is a part of me that sees the hilarity in some of our more trying moments.

Last night, Noah was up most of the night with a high fever and we were snuggling in bed. He wasn't too fussy, he was kind of dozing on my shoulder and Zach would periodically leap out of bed for Motrin or another bottle of formula and I felt the deepest sense of happiness and peace. My big kids were sound asleep in their beds after a day of decorating the house, my baby, though sick was safe and snoozing in my arms and my husband was holding me and telling me he loved me. It was that kind of quiet that only comes in the wee hours and our house felt like a haven. I know how lucky I am. Zach and I both do. We talk about it all the time, really, almost every day and even in the moments when I am sure they are trying to drive me crazy, I hang onto that. I am so very grateful for the life I lead.

Thanksgiving Pictures

He's all cheeks and sweetness this one. Easiest baby in history.

Making apple pies with Oma.

Noah is concerned about the camera, not his brother.

Snacks with cousins Matteo and Luca.

Painting while daddy and cousin Mark play music in the background.

At this point in the weekend, Kai and I just gave up and stayed in our pajamas all day. It was the elastic waistbands you see.

Two exceedingly sweet men.