Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Birth Mother's Grief

Only those who avoid love can avoid grief. The point is to learn from grief and remain vulnerable to love. --John Brantner

I was born in the year of the tiger. I've decided to change it by hopping forward into the year of the rabbit. Surely, Jan 1st would be a fun birthday, just as the clock strikes the new year, drowning in friends and noise and alcoholic drinks.

I never really felt like a tiger anyway. I don't like to eat meat. I'm peaceful and run like a rabbit from trouble.

Today's my real birthday. It used to be a most amazing day, fun in every way. I'd wake up in the morning and we would get right into my celebration, going out to breakfast, opening presents, maybe hitting a matinee. We compressed everything into the early hours because the afternoon would be filled with a whole lot more fun.

In the afternoon, we celebrated someone else's birthday. Someone more precious than words, born on my 23rd birthday, eight pounds of pure joy; I am certain he began smiling that very first day.
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We would spend the rest of the day celebrating Joe with presents and BBQ ribs and rootbeer floats and a slumber party. (And there were some wild ones--on more than one occasion we promised it was the last!)
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I miss my son every moment of every day but on my birthday, on our birthday, his absence claws at me even more, trapping me in a cage of grief. I want to run away as fast as jackrabbit feet can carry me and I most certainly do not want to celebrate my own birthday. It's just too sad.

True to being born in the year of the ox, Joe was both easy-going yet stubborn. When I found out he had cancer I remember thinking if there was a kid who could beat it, he could. And he was expected to.

Hodgkin's Lymphoma is considered a "good" cancer, one "highly curable"--and it seemed to be cured. But when it returned a few months later, it returned with a vengeance and even though he fought like a tiger, he lost. We lost.

I know he's in a better place. I know that as much as I know anything. But my brain doesn't communicate it to my heart and I wish he was still here with me, our birthday cakes side by side; lemon for me, rainbow chip for him.

But with each passing year I learn something and a new thought occurred to me today. My longing for him, in many ways, parallels that of my childrens' birth mothers.

Like me, they know their child is in a better place. Like me, they know their child is living a life they could never give.
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Like me, they still grieve.

We share a bond held only by a handful and when we meet someday, and I hope we do, I will understand their grief endured. I will understand walking down the street, being startled by a child who looks like my son. I will understand the "what-ifs" and the "if-only's". I will understand the longing that seeps into the night; dreams of our lost one running back into open arms for a brief interlude of pure joy--then waking to reality. I will understand having a birthday come, and pass, without a smiling child to blow out the candles.

I will understand. And I will pull my child's birthmother into my arms and hug her and hold her and our silent tears will cross all language barriers.

I will understand.

And she will know.

Where there is love there is pain Spanish Proverb

'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Alfred Lord Tennyson

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Did Paul Get Rock Band For Christmas?

Remember how Paul wanted "Rock Band" for Christmas? He had been talking about it all year and was hopeful Santa would bring him what he really, really wanted. Remember his homemade version?
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Well, a few weeks before Christmas he started to ask for something much less expensive. Seemed like the smart thing was to let Santa go the less expensive route, eh? Problem was, two days before Christmas he changed his mind. I told him Santa had already packed his sleigh and Santa thought he wanted that Nerf game--but I could see the disappointment in his face. And as we headed to church on Christmas Eve he looked at me so earnestly and said he was praying Santa knew he really wanted Rock Band. Oh my! Those eyes! That expression of hope! Would Santa come through? But it was already Christmas Eve!

I have learned to hard way that if at all possible, give the kids the one thing they ask Santa for. I don't remember many of the Santa gifts over the years but I remember the look of disappointment the year Lizzy asked for a "Real Life McDonald's Baby" and didn't get it because her mom thought it looked like a silly gift and surely she would like a different doll much better. (Lizzy still remembers too.)
So, what happened?
Bakugan sets from grandparents:
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Roller skates, games and Webkinz--frogs for both Patrick and Vu. It was so cute, Vu named his "Cory" after one of his orphanage friends:
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Clothes and Sock 'Em Boppers for the biggest kid:
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A new bike (yet to be tested with all this snow) and gadgets for Gadget Girl, like a headlamp:
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i-pod and a bracelet for our girl growing up way too fast:
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And surprises I can't disclose for James and Glamour Girl who spent Christmas out of town at her parent's. They will open their presents when they get home--here's a pic of James that Glamour girl sent from her phone. (I don't like James being away for Christmas but I guess I have to learn to share):
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We also had a nice Christmas dinner with my parents coming over really slick roads--I am so thankful they made it here and back safely:
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So, do you want to know what Santa brought Paul? The Nerf game he asked for. And a basketball and a new pair of gloves. Cool huh?
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But you know what's really cool? Santa also continues to bring a gift for Joe, our son we lost to cancer. Santa brings a family gift that Joe would love for us to have. And Joe loved video games. And Joe would have loved for us to have Rock Band. And Mommy knows someone who was working at Game Stop (a video game store) late on Christmas Eve:
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Funny comment of the night--Patrick was playing and here's what he said. "I like this girl, the one that's singing right now . . . she looks like a scientist . . . (long pause) . . . a really sexy scientist!"
Eaiii-yi-yiii-yi-yaiii!!! Where does he get this from? All I can think of is that I'm in big trouble! Big!
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Mommy's words prove true--you have to believe to receive!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Traditions

I love traditions--more of our favs:

Advent wreath and candles--each candle has a meaning. I would love to say we spend time reading the Bible and singing after lighting the candles, but we don't. I know, takes me down a notch on the Mother of the Year award.
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In German tradition, St. Nicholas comes on Dec 5 and fills the kids' shoes with goodies--or sticks should they be needed. Actually, only one child has ever received sticks and that was Joe, in high school, because he had just received detention (though in the night I felt guilty, crept down the stairs and put in some candy too:-)
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The youngest child puts the star on the tree. Vu isn't technically the youngest but he should be (he was a tiny preemie)--so we let the two youngest trade off.
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Decorating sugar cookies--I cannot take any credit whatsoever for baking. Eric is my baker and he is a perfectionist which is why these cookies look so yummy. The kid's decorated cookies don't look quite so tempting tho they do have a lot more frosting--and TONS more sprinkles!
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Going to a big, gigantic Christmas party at friends--complete with lots of games, food and fun. They are Ducks and we are Beavers so we always hide a little OSU Beaver surprise somewhere in their house. Here Vu does a balloon stomping game:
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The Christmas Elf. This tradition came years ago from my sister, Texas. This was my fav. year when even the adults got pj's. He arrives on Christmas Eve after we get home from church and he mysteriously rings the doorbell and by the time the kids answer, he is gone and there is just a large bag of matching pajamas.
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One year was Sponge Bob:
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Last year was Transformers because Joe loved them so much:
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And remember this year? Super Mario!
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I wonder what the theme will be next year?
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Snow, Snow and More Snow!

Sixteen inches of snow and six days with no internet or phone--partly from the snow, partly from me trying to play "Tech Support Specialist" and messing it up more! Oops! As I wait for the sugarplums to dance in little heads, some catch-up:

Snow, snow and more snow!
Kim and Paul have a snowball fight with the neighbor guy--my kids thought it was all in fun but I have a feeling my neighbor was getting redemption for all the baseballs hit into his yard!
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No internet or phone so--act crazy in the snow!
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Gingerbread house:
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Watching "Home Alone"--the little boys had never seen it and thought it was hysterical!!!
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Candle light service Christmas Eve:
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Opening a gift Christmas Eve:
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The Christmas Elf comes once again! Super Mario theme:
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Cookies for Santa:
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Last Minute Gift Ideas

At the crack of dawn every morning I am awakened with the same question from an excited little sleepyhead who thinks if he whispers, he is not waking me up.

"Mommy? Mommy? How many more days until Christmas?"

Guess who this little sleepyhead is?
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Opening his advent calendar is the first thing he does every morning. He is more excited about Christmas than all the other kids combined!

Because of this, I know it is only eight more days until Christmas and I am certain you all have your shopping done but just in case . . . .

LAST MINUTE GIFT IDEAS
Esp. good for parents/grandparents
*Digital picture frames
*Digital keychain
*Under the counter CD player for the kitchen
*Professional pictures
*Pottery mugs/dishes from a pottery store (the kids paint)
*Photo coffee mugs--Starbucks makes some where pics can simply be inserted
(Put together with a coffee/biscotti basket for a bigger gift)
*tickets to a play/sporting event
*Framed artwork by grandchild
*Photo calendar
*Movie tickets

For teens and other hard-to-buy for people
*Go with a basket around a theme. Think of what they like--favorite sports team, favorite foods, favorite things to do.
Examples:
*Slumber party basket with junkfood, glow bracelets, flashlight, card game, movie etc.
*For a family who likes skiing/sledding--basket with handwarmers, cute paper cups and plates, hot chocolate, beef jerky, almonds, cheese and crackers etc. If you want to spend more, add a nice thermos, blanket or a sled!
*For college dorm kid--hot pot, hot chocolate, cup of noodles, chips, card game such as "Battle of the Sexes" and for a guy--a big nerf gun--he'll love it! Or, you can just give them beer. College kids tend to like that too!
*Spa basket--great for pre-teen and teen girls--put in fake nails, lotions, facial masks, nail polish, lip gloss, teen magazine, lollipops.
*Movie basket with Blockbuster Card, microwave popcorn, candy, cozy fleece blanket, cool popcorn bowl.
*Cookie baking basket for big or little girls--apron, cookie cutters, rolling pin, cookie mixes, recipes or recipe book.

You get the idea! Think of a theme and just go with it! My parents have given our girls sewing baskets and our boys tackle boxes. They filled both with all kinds of great necessities and these are gifts they will have until they are adults--the best kind of gift!

Want an unusual gift? How about this?
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Of course, those are only available at the airport in Korea. Funny, huh?

For a really meaningful gift, buy a pig! I just did! Or buy blankets, food, toys. Support orphans HERE through Holt's Gift's Of Hope. Out of curiosity, I called Holt and asked if all the money donated really does go to the specified category or just into a general fund. It really does go to the selected category so, I really DID buy a pig this morning! I think it will be the most meaningful gift I have purchased this Christmas!
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Happy last minute shopping!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snow Days Mean No School And . . .

It's snowing here so Crazy Mom's daycare business is up and running!
What's a little more chaos and a few extra kids?
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And since I'm such a great babysitter, I tell the kids,
"Go play in the street!"
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Those country kids on their fancy toboggans have nothing on my kids! No sleds needed, just slick ice and ski pants!
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Even the dog's into the action!
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Who's the cutest little 6yo Vietnamese-American boy in the whole wide world?
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Last year he had to be forced to go out into the snow and he would cry, "Lan! Lan!" which is VNese for "Cold, cold!" This year he LOVES the snow and won't come in!!!

Who's the cutest little 6yo German-Irish-French-Scottish-Spanish-Who-Knows-What-American boy in the whole wide world? He also LOVES the snow tho he doesn't look so cute here. He's mad about a snowball that just hit him.
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Who's very tired after a long day?
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No longer sleeping in boxes, now opting for the fort under the loftbed, which means we still have several empty beds--ready to be filled by more snow-loving kids :-)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Why I am not asking Santa for wrinkle cream

We finished remodeling the second bathroom. It now looks beautiful but it did cost a few more stress wrinkles as it was much more complicated than the first bathroom. Luckily, when cleaning out the drawers I found a tube of Retin A.

Did I get this prescription from my plastic surgeon in Hollywood? No, I did not. My mom brought it back from one of her trips to Mexico wherein I promptly put it in the bottom drawer and forgot about it. Who needed that stuff?

But when it was unearthed this time, I decided that I needed that stuff! I began to apply it liberally every night. After several days, I noticed that my face was sore and starting to peel. Peel as in, peel away, as in, looking like I had been to Mexico myself.

No problem! Just a little peeling, right? Must be how the wrinkles disappear! Never mind the fact my daughter informed me I had a bad case of dandruff--on my FACE! Never mind the fact that I now had red, as in VERY red areas all around my eyes which soon got so sore and peely that my wrinkles were not just wrinkles they were cracks!

Let me tell you, eye cracks look much worse than eye wrinkles. I was looking especially beautiful!

I am sure you are all relieved to know the cracks healed quickly but THEN I noticed a red lump raising up. Now, I've watched enough Grey's Anatomy to know I was probably getting a staph infection--no doubt MRSA! I was probably going to need to have part of my face amputated!

Luckily, all I needed was some antibiotic treatment and a weekend with a heating pad on my face. FUN! (And actually, it really was kind of fun to stay in bed and watch movies and read books and make Eric buy me junk food.)

So now, the wrinkles look much better. They really aren't noticeable at all. But then maybe, just maybe, they look good compared to that big, HUGE, purple lump still remaining on my face.

I have decided to put the Retin A back in the bottom drawer.

Give The Best Gift of All--A Family!

This song, by Steven Curtis Chapman, was on the radio today. I couldn't help but cry.

So many kids continue to wait--esp. older kids, those with special needs and boys.

If you feel adoption tugging at your heart, put your fears aside. I promise, the rewards FAR outweigh the difficulties. Or consider contributing to Holt's Special Needs Adoption Fund this Christmas to help another family bring a child home forever . . .

YOU can make a difference for a homeless child!

Watch the video--Chapman does a better job than I can with my words . . .

Monday, December 8, 2008

Please Pray Beautiful Eyes Home

I have a very special prayer request--a request to pray for a boy dear to my heart. He needs to come home to his forever family. He is in Vietnam, he is 5 1/2 years old and has been matched with his forever family here in the US for 18 months. EIGHTEEN MONTHS! He waits. His family waits. And waits. And waits.

Why is this boy so dear? He is the the beautiful-eyed boy we were tentatively matched to. He is the one we spent a bittersweet week "with," in May 2007, pouring over his paperwork and pictures, trying to decide if he was the one God had chosen for our family.

I have told the story before so I won't again except to say there was no human reasoning into how we knew Vu (who we had seen on a WC photolisting weeks prior) was meant to be ours. God just seemed to tell us. It was one of the hardest decisions of our lives and so bittersweet. We would have loved to have brought them both home and would have if we could have!

As it turned out, Beautiful Eyes was meant for another family all along and was soon matched to them. And yet, and yet . . . they continue to wait to bring him home. An agonizing wait for a province in VN slow to complete his paperwork. His family is beginning to wonder if he will ever come home. There are other families experiencing a similar wait.

Will all of you, every single one of you, whatever your religion or beliefs, please pray these sweet ones home? They have waited long enough. They need their forever Mommies and Daddies--who also need them.

Put a little note on your fridge or a reminder on your computer or every time you stop at a stoplight, please pray.

Please pray for Beautiful Eyes and for all the kids who continue to wait.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

WOW Toys

Luckily, Eric likes toys with more "pizazz!" Otherwise, Christmas just wouldn't be the same! I buy the classic toys they play with for years--he buys the "wow" factor--they don't play with them as often but they are often more exciting.

These have been worth the money:

Nerf guns--with extra darts

Woodburning set

Two-way radios--much better than walkie-talkies

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Lights and Sounds Star Wars Lightsaber

Build-A-Bear (the animals, not all the accessories)

Webkinz (stuffed animals that interact on-line)

CD player

Pogo stick

Roller blades and roller hockey sticks

Electric guitar

Battery powered games--Catch Phrase for older kids
Hullabaloo for younger kids

Light Bright

Marbleworks--ours are from Discovery Toys--we've had them for 20 years.

BB Gun

Portable DVD player

Digital camera

Okay, one last category--THE BLACK HOLE OF FUN!

These are fun, entertaining, long-lasting, and well-loved but I suggest you do not go down this path unless it is already too late--VIDEO SYSTEMS AND GAMES!

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Wii System--they actually sweat when playing many of the games

Wii Sports

Other Sports Games

Mario Games

Guitar Hero

DS (hand-held video game system)

Poke'mon, Nintendogs or Wario Touch for DS

One last thing--the HOT toy of the season and the hot toy in our house--
BAKUGAN!
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Friday, December 5, 2008

Best Toys For Kids--Classics

It takes a lot for me to think a toy is worth the money. I have spent too much money on too many things that end up too soon in the Goodwill box--or simply sit on the shelf forever because there is NO WAY I am going to part with something I paid that kind of money for even if my kids don't play with it!

When shopping now, I ask myself these questions:
1.) How many hours of enjoyment will it bring?
2.) What is the cost per hour?
3.) Will my child still be playing with this next year?
4.) Does the toy have more than one use?
5.) How much space will it take up?
6.) Does it offer added health or educational benefits?
5.) Is this a toy I will save for my grandkids? (That question is not one most people will ask but when you have 8 kids and the oldest is 25 it's something to think about.)

Here are some classic toys that make this Santa's List:

Wooden blocks, Duplos, basic Legos (the Lego brand is superior to the Mega-blocks)

Pattern blocks--here is Paul's creation:
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Tinkertoys--Christmas 2005 and still played with frequently:
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Matchbox cars (can you believe they are still only a buck?)

Metal Tonka Trucks--esp. the dump truck

Play kitchen with accessories (fill in with real kitchen access.)

Doll house--Fisher-Price makes a great one.

Basic Dolls/Barbie dolls that don't need batteries(Our girls especially loved Chou-Chou brand baby dolls and American Girl Dolls which are expensive but worth it--they will be saved for the grandkids)

Brio-type train set (we have a much cheaper brand that has been great!)

Classic board games--Life, Monopoly, Sorry, Clue and various versions of each like Dog-opoly.
My fav. matching game is "I Never Forget a Face" by eeBoo featuring children from all over the world.

Balls/sports balls/Koosh balls/texture balls/Nerf footballs

Basic art supplies--especially paint sets, finger paint, watercolor pencils, good quality colored pencils,sketching pencils and pads, construction paper, glitter glue
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Dress-up clothes including treasures from Goodwill like old prom dresses

A tea set--I still have mine from when I was a little girl and each of our kids have one including the little boys who have versions from Asia.

Books, books and more books! Every Christmas and birthday our kids get a special (usually hardback) book.

Playdough--can also be made homemade which is even nicer--add a real wooden rolling pin, cookie cutters and the Playdough Fun Factory

A bike, basic scooter (like Razor brand) or Big Wheel:
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The Cozy Coupe Car by Little Tykes (for toddlers/preschoolers) The door makes it!

A cash register

Puzzles and floor puzzles--good quality--I especially love "Melissa and Doug" brand

Play phone/cell phone

For babies: play keys with built-in sounds, wind-up music box, hammer pound toy, fisher-price snap-beads, nesting boxes or cups, simple bath toys/boats, soft cloth books.

Musical instruments--good quality but for play--such as tambourine, bongo drum, electronic keyboard. Bypass the cymbals!

Sandbox

Swingset/wooden playset

Play tent or real two-man tent

Up tomorrow--when you're looking for more WOW--toys with PIZAZZ!