Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dear Tooth Fairy

Dear Tooth Fairy,

I know you are getting rather old, but seriously, can't you tie a string around your finger or your wing or something so you don't forget--AGAIN! I mean, REALLY! Passing by our house not just one night, but TWO nights--that's LAME girl--LAME! You SERIOUSLY need to come up with a new system.

I do have to give you credit for making up for your tardiness. Vu was very happy to reach under his pillow and find TWO dollars (instead of the usual one).

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And while I have your attention, I know this is a little late, but I think you forgot to come one time when I was around twelve--remember that last cavity filled doozy? You probably owe me quite a sum of money. I'll make it easy on you, simply make out a blank check to our agency for any and all future adoptions.

Sincerely Counting,

All Smiles

Spring Break Is No Break

We've had a wild and crazy, fun-filled Spring Break. This means I am officially pooped out!

Ice skating--I thought the kids would last two minutes and they were still skating two hours later!
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Swimming:
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Patrick learning to ride without training wheels:
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Hot board game of the vacation--Dogopoly--Fun! Now that we no longer have toddlers in the house (knocking over all the game pieces) I find I can actually enjoy games!
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Spring Break is a great time to go bar hopping--monkey bar hopping--hitting several different parks in the same day:
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Tennis:
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A day at the mall with Grandma:
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Clothes shopping for the three boys usually consists of some dear person bringing hand-me-downs, but since all three needed new swim trunks we made a special trip to Old N*vy and my three little guys had a ball buying complete beach outfits. The girls also bought new swimsuits and EVERYONE got haircuts. Now, that's what I call a productive day!:
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Trip to the beach with Lizzy's friends to celebrate her birthday. It was FREEZING!
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Which meant that we spent little time on the beach and lots of time at the arcade:
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I'm tired! I also finished taxes. Please bring me Starbucks. Spring Break wasn't all work though. We also watched a bunch of movies and I read lots of books including The Middle Place, The Knitting Circle, The Duggars: 20 and Counting (thumbs up to all) and American Lion (too much detail but interesting--smart people would probably like it more than I did).

Hope everyone out in blog land is having fun! Now it's time for Spring Break to be over so we can all have a REAL break!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Great Slumber Party

"Delight yourself in the Lord; and He shall give you the desires of your heart."
Psalms 37:4

Happy 12th Birthday Kim! You are a delight from the Lord, a precious blessing. Your laughter adds joy to our lives and your cuddles bring warmth to our hearts. Watching you blossom has been a wonder to behold! God has a very special plan for you and we are blessed, beyond measure, to be your parents. Seeing your smile everyday is a gift! We love you so much!

We had a very successful slumber party. I consider "successful" to mean the girls were all asleep before midnight. It took me 25 years but I've finally discovered the key:

Key #1) Have it on a Friday night, at the end of the week when the kids are already tired. THEN (key #2) take them swimming for two hours:
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Open presents:
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Tye-dye shirts:
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Eat cake and pizza:
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watch a movie, then watch TIRED girls quickly fall asleep!

I'm not getting older! I'm getting smarter! (Although it doesn't say much that it took me 25 years, and hundreds of slumber parties, to figure this out). It's birthday season around here! I've got some catching up to do!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Best Advice

In a continuation of my blog post on learning to love our REAL child, the cool thing is, we learn more and more with each adoption. By the time I adopt my tenth child maybe I'll be ready to write a book and make a million bucks! (If you hear distant laughter, just ignore it, it's probably just my husband.)

The reality tho, is the more we learn the more we discover there IS to learn, and each child is different. Still, one advantage with Vu's adoption was I had already discovered much through our previous adoptions (and births). I knew he would be different than the child in his picture, the one I imagined--but there were still surprises. We still had to overcome many, unexpected, difficulties--some of which I blogged about in my Gotcha post.

With Vu, attachment was easier than I expected because he was so open to physical contact, he was so ready for a new family, and, of course, because he's so cute and funny and playful!

I give complete credit to God for His grace in helping Vu transition at a rate that seems impossible. I've said with humor but complete seriousness that I think God looked down from heaven and said, "You know, these people have had a rough couple of years. I'm going to make this a little easier for them!"

And maybe, just maybe, the third reason Vu transitioned well was because we took attachment advice very seriously. Then again, maybe these things didn't have an impact at all, but on the chance they did and on the chance you would like to know--here is my BEST ADVICE--mostly taken from the "experts" (the ones who have already made a million dollars):

Before Travel:
*Read everything I could regarding adopting an older chld/attachment. Favorites: Deborah Grey, Hopkins-Best, Keck and Kopecky.
*Made a list of all the potential difficulties
*Made a list of how we would handle each possible difficulty (for the record, we ran into many difficulties we had never even considered--see post referenced above)
*learned several words/phrases in VNese--wish I had learned more
*Talked to parents who had adopted an older child internationally--wish I had known more
*sent pictures to Vu of neighbors and friends, the rooms in our house, what an average day is like in our home, things we would do together, holdays etc.

After we had him in our arms!
BEST ADVICE WE RECEIVED--treat him like a baby.
*held him and carried him A LOT
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*didn't let people outside our immediate family pick him up or carry him
*slept with him--he now sleeps in his own bed but comes into our bed in the early morning hours (4-5am)
*rocked him before bed every night AND
*sang lullabies AND
*gave him a baby bottle--he loved this!
*told him over and over we loved him and would never leave him
*stayed home as much as possible
*kept visitors to a minimum
*kept his environment as calm as possible (ie turned the radio off in the car)
*spent time playing with him one-on-one every day. Kids from orphanages don't know HOW to play--they must learn. I ended up loving this as much as he did.
*didn't leave him with anyone outside our family for months (we do have an advantage in that we have older teens who can babysit)
*let him eat whenever he wanted--we would have meals but we also let him snack on healthy foods as much as he desired in between meals. This seemed to give him a sense of trust and he never hoarded food. We also gave him food (that couldn't spoil)to keep in his backpack.
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*gave him a back pack to keep his treasures in. It was surprising the things he wanted to put in there but he also put in all his own belongings. This gave him a sense of ownership and control. He still keeps his backpack with various things.
*simplified life--used convenience foods, paper plates, didn't volunteer, kept life as simple as possible. When someone would ask if I could help with something I would think to myself, "If I had a new baby would I say yes or no?" Usually, it was no. I also allowed myself a much more open schedule--lots of down time.
*had a VNEse girl come over to our house a couple times per week the first couple months to help us translate but before long, Vu didn't want to speak VNese to her anymore. He went through a period where seeing VNese people and hearing their language scared him--I think he was afraid they might take him back to VN.
*back rubs and lotion rubdowns
*reading books--his favs early on were Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear
*made a photo album of his nannies and friends in VN--he would want to look at them at the most random times
*at his request, sent pictures and letters to his nannies through our agency (this made him very happy!)
*framed pictures of him and put them around our house
*let him cry, be sad, hit beds and pillows (but not people) acknowledged his feelings and loss
*didn't let him hurt himself--when he would get upset--some people thought we should just let him scratch/bite himself but I am so glad we had mercy and let him know we loved him so much that even if he was angry we would never let him hurt himself
*told him over and over and over again, in our best VNese that we loved him and we knew he was scared, we knew he was sad and angry, and we would always be his family, we would never leave him, even if he was naughty, we would always, always LOVE HIM!!! He would never go back to VN to live (only to visit someday)
*kept him home from school the first few months--which has turned into the first two years in an effort to further attach and help him catch up developmentally
*As much as possible, didn't let our minds run into the fears of the future and what might happen, if he might have attachment disorders, post traumatic stress syndrome etc. We just tried to live in that day and enjoy that day and deal with what we were dealt that day--including all his great smiles!
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Just remember this: Advice is like going to the grocery store--take what you like and leave the rest!

Warning

So far, I've made Spring Break very fun and memorable for my kids--including trips to the dentist. Just before heading out I was helping Patrick with his shoes and saw him picking his nose. I started to correct him, then thought better of it because I feel like I'm always correcting him over this yucky habit. We were, after all, still in the privacy of our own home.

He saw my mouth open, then close, then he looked up at me with irritation, took his finger out of his nose and said, "I bet you think I was picking my nose!?"

Me: "Ummmm" (Thinking--Duh! You were up to the second knuckle!)

Him: (Looking annoyed) "Well, I wasn't. I was just cleaning out my nose so the dentist won't be able to look up there and see all my boogers!"

Explanation for everything folks! And one more reason this kid really might become President of the United States!

And now, for your entertainment, a poem by Shel Silverstein:

WARNING

Inside everybody's nose
There lives a sharp-toothed snail.
So if you stick your finger in,
He may bite off your nail.
Stick it farther up inside,
And he may bite your ring off.
Stick it all the way, and he
May bite the whole darn thing off.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What I've Learned In Adoption Land

I've been living in Adoption Land a long time. Thirteen years ago we sat in the livingroom of an adoptive family to learn more about adoption. I don't remember a thing that was said in that meeting. I was too busy being mesmerized by their beautiful toddler from Korea and all I could think about was that someday we might have a little girl like theirs (and 18 months later, we did!).

Sometimes, it seems I still have so much to learn in Adoption Land that I forget I've actually learned a lot. Some things were imprinted in my brain so long ago I forget it wasn't put there by osmosis.

Recently, I read a great blog post from a mom who just adopted a three year old. It's harder than she thought it would be and he's different than she expected. She fell in love with this still, sweet picture of a boy who was described as shy and quiet--and he's not. And it's hard. And she wonders why more people who have BTDT don't share how hard it is.

That's what this post is about.

It's easy to fall in love with the dream of our child. It's easy to think that even though some people have a hard time with attachment, ours will be easier because we love our child so much. We love that still-shot of their face. We love the descriptions we receive when we are matched. We love imagining all the fun we will have, the cuddles, giggles and laughter.

What we forget (and what I've learned) is that their still picture can also move. They can run and jump and throw temper tantrums and unbuckle their seatbelt while the car is still moving, then try to open the car door--in three lanes of traffic! They will spill grape juice on the new carpet (even tho they know they are supposed to drink at the table), and pee their pants because they're afraid to go on the automatic flush toilets in Target, and they will refuse to ride their bike home from the park because they are hot and their legs are too tired and they don't care that there is no way for us to ride our own bike, carry their bike AND them!

We discover that their still, smiling faces can be contorted in fear, anger, sadness and grief. They will chew with their mouths open, pick their nose, and have lice or scabies or both. They will yell and scream--both in anger and joy. They will run a fever on the day we are supposed to go on vacation and throw-up spaghetti--yes, on the new carpet (go to my sister's blog to get your laugh of the day). They will push us away when we ache to comfort them and wriggle in church and ask us to pick them up, which we do, and then they shout very loudly, so everyone in church can hear, "OUCH! YOU'RE SQUASHING MY PENIS!" (BTDT to all of the above.)

And you know what else? Our child won't resemble the one described in their reports. The shy child will become bold with the love of a family and the child described as a leader, living in an orphanage with mostly babies, will melt into the laidback role of the baby in a large family (Vu).

It comes as a shock. And it usually takes time to learn to love this child. This new child. But you know what the best part is? It's what the mom with the newly adopted three year old is learning. We DO come to love this child, way more than we ever loved that child in the picture.

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We come to love OUR REAL CHILD.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SPRING BREAK!

I am one happy woman! I just pushed "send" on my computer, shooting my last paper of the term into cyberspace (and hopefully into my professor's computer).

IT'S SPRING BREAK!!!! TIME TO GO CRAZY!!! I went into the garage and pulled out every beer we have including the one from Wrigley Field in 2004. Come on over! (Assuming you are all like me, and can get toasted on half a beer, there's plenty for everyone!)
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I am ready for Spring Break! I am going to spend lots of time sleeping and blogging! Oh, and of course, lots of quality time with my children:
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And friends:
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And my bikini:
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I even thought ahead and saved myself some time by uploading this video. Instead of having to give lectures and discipline, I can just sit at my computer blogging and hit "Play" as needed.


It might get a little crazy around here!

Monday, March 16, 2009

AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'

I am so proud of my children!

They are finally listening to all my lectures about time management.

Four children, all sick on the same day! Hurrah!
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I prefer this to what they had been doing--dragging out March getting sick one at a time.

The real surprise here is that Vu is sick. His six years in the orphanage he was CONSTANTLY ill with bronchitis, colds, ear infections etc. We expected him to be a very sickly kid--yet here he is, home nearly 18 months, before having his first little cold--the other three are all on antibiotics for strep.

We never really know what a child will be like until we get them home. I have a post coming soon about this very topic.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Update On Bryson

Bryson just came home from the hospital! He is still in a great deal of pain but at least he is home sweet home! His surgery was supposed to be in and out Monday so I know Sally would still covet your prayers as they continue on through this trying time. Thanks!

Dear Girl Scouts

Dear Girl Scouts,

As a long-time supporter of your cause and a long-time eater of your cookies, I would like to make a suggestion to help you fulfill your Girl Scout Promise, "To help people at all times."

You know those new laws about privacy? The new Hippy law? (Or, is it the new HIPAA Privacy Rule Act?) It's that new law that has cost us more trees than all the adoption paperwork I have ever completed. As irritating as it is to constantly have to fill out this form, I can now see it to be beneficial at the Girl Scout level.

You see, according to the new rules, doctors can no longer leave messages on home answering machines about personal (PRIVATE) information.

I believe the Girl Scouts need to implement a similar PRIVACY law.

Why? Because when a Girl Scout leaves a message on my home answering machine telling me my TEN boxes of cookies are in and I owe FORTY DOLLARS, you never know who could be listening.

It could be my kids, who hear the TEN BOXES part and begin salivating like Pavlov's dogs and who will trample you like a herd of Tagalongs when you come ringing my doorbell.

Even more concerning, it could be my husband, who hears the FORTY DOLLARS part and begins frothing at the mouth like Pavlov's dogs with rabies and then has a HEART ATTACK bigger than the size of a Trefoil. (This would be good practice for your CPR badge but only if you are calling from a cell phone on my front porch!)

Dear Girl Scouts, there are some things husbands do not need to know. Let me give you a much needed lesson about your future relationships.

Now, of course, I am not telling you to LIE to your husband nor am I telling you to HIDE things from your husband. It is simply best to tell him these things late at night, when he is breathing deeply, when he is in an especially happy mood. Yes, when he is sound asleep. Then, when (if?) he finds out a check was written to Girl Scouts for forty dollars you can completely and truly profess that you did indeed inform him of this purchase and you can even feign concern that perhaps his age (or hearing) is causing deterioration of his memory--then do a little Do-si-do for him and kiss him with Thin Mint encrusted lips. It works every time!

Sincerely Full Of Cookies,
Mrs. Samoas


Word travels fast--even Will came home within the hour for his personal box of cookies. Can a mother have no secrets!
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Please Pray For Bryson

Please pray for sweet little Bryson. His mom, Sally, is one of my cyber-friends and one I nominated for her fabulous blog.

Bryson had surgery this morning and things did not go well. He is in a lot of pain with other complications too.

Stop what you are doing right now . . . and please pray.

Friendship

"Friendship is a plant of slow growth and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation."
George Washington

For those (like me) who don't want to think so hard:

"Friends are needed both for joy and for sorrow."
Yiddish Proverb

I love my friends. One of the reasons I don't want to move outside my fingernail perimeter is because of friends. I am blessed to be surrounded by so many wonderful women who love me whether I am happy or sad, crazy or boring, quiet or loud.

About fifteen years ago three friends and I went out to lunch together. We enjoyed it so much we've kept it up all these years. We even started out with a name--The Four-Leaf Clover Club--there were four of us and we each had four children. I, obviously, violated the kid number rule but they haven't kicked me out yet! In fact, they have put up with me often bringing my own children or even other peoples' children!

A couple months ago, I woke up, knew we had Clover Club, saw it on my calendar, planned for lunch at an especially delicious place--then completely forgot! I was having a really bad day and my mind was just mush. My friends called when I didn't show and I nearly cried I was so disappointed! By then, it was too late for me to join them. An hour later, here they came, with coffee and cheesecake. Now that's true friendship!
K is Kim's godmother, L is Patrick's godmother, and P (not in the picture) is Paul's godmother. How I love these special women!
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But often, life gets so busy I neglect my friends--I am absolutely the worst at calling to check in with people. I don't even call my own sisters--I am not a phone person AT ALL!

Another friend (Thank you Brenda!) sent me this, which is a great reminder to spend time with those who mean so much because the Yiddish Proverb is really true.

Transcending: Words on Women and Strength by Kelly Corrigan


Thank you for all my wonderful friends who have been there for me, especially these past few years. Thank you to my best friends--my husband, my sisters and my mom--thank you to my real life friends and my cyber friends. Thank you for helping me continue on--to transcend!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Genius And The Vacuum

Life with boys is never boring. Life with girls is never boring either but there are some things boys do that girls just wouldn't. The picture of Vu vacuuming his hair reminded me of THE vacuum story.

Joe was an amazing kid. Joe was an awesome big brother. Joe was not an amazing babysitter. Actually, he WAS amazing to those he babysat.

I knew Joe made all kinds of milkshake and juice concoctions when he babysat--there seemed to be "sticky" all over the house for days.

I knew Joe would pay the lowest bidder (ie Lizzy) to change any and all poopy diapers.

What I didn't know (for several years) was that when Joe babysat his younger siblings he would take the twin mattresses off the beds and line them up down the stairs--then let the kids have an indoor slip-n-slide fest. Stuffed animals and pillows were bumpers where the stairs take a right angle.

Scary, huh? Somehow, they all survived. I guess he took my words to heart because whenever I left him in charge I would look at him, smile confidently and say, "Just make sure everyone is still alive when I get home." They were. No wonder they always had such big smiles on their faces.

Luckily, it was a rare occasion when Joe babysat for other families. All our neighbors probably heard so much commotion from our house they knew better, but our friends M. and D. live several blocks away. Apparently, far enough away. Their son, Michael, was one of Will's best friends so one night Joe was asked to come over, bring Will, and just play video games with the boys while M&D went out for dinner.

Now, Joe was smart. He was more than smart, he was a genius with a photographic memory. He scored higher than the school had ever seen on the Talented and Gifted Test. Seriously, he really was smart. I tell you this only because once you read further you will wonder. Maybe he was just a smartie with no common sense. Maybe he was just your average fourteen year old boy with no common sense, I don't know.

Apparently, the boys became very engaged in the video game and didn't realize that the dog needed to go out. Soon, that became clear. Dog poop stinks.

After lots of "Yuck!" and "Gross!" comments, Joe pondered the best way to clean it up. The vacuum happened to be sitting out and for some strange reason . . . yes, Joe decided that would be the best way to it clean up! Can you believe it??? Michael and Will thought he was a genius!

My dear friend M. had no clue until the next morning when she went to use her (new, expensive) CANISTER vacuum (with a very long hose) and noticed the most horrific smell! Her son informed her of the evenings happenings which M. later told me about.

I was mortified and offered to pay to take it to the vacuum shop. She laughed, said it had occurred to her, but when she thought of walking in and facing the technician, explaining what needed to be done--and why--she couldn't bring herself to do it. Instead, she took it apart, piece by stinky piece, learning the innards of a vacuum better than Mr. Kirby himself!

Luckily, this is a friend who is a sixth grade teacher. She can laugh. She knows all about boys--even smart boys with no common sense. And we are still friends.

Come to think of it tho, she never asked Joe to babysit again!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Peace, Love, Luck, and Holt

Thanks for all the words of wisdom from you wise mothers on guilt. As I was driving to school last night I was still feeling overwhelmed and Philippians 4:13 popped into my head, "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." I said it to myself over and over, all the way to school.

Peace came. Peace stayed.

To answer Sandwich's question, YES, I want to work for Holt! My college counselor says I need to be "realistic," "broaden my horizons," and consider other employment opportunities, but in true Joel Osteen fashion I continue to declare, "Someday, I will work for Holt!" (Hey, Grandma Holt worked there until she was nearly 100--so I've got plenty of time!)

My philosophy on international child welfare lines up perfectly. I respect their philosophy of finding "families for children" and not, "children for families." Here is a recent statement from Holt:

"Holt is much more than an adoption agency. We also develop and maintain programs overseas to give orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children safe and nurturing environments in which to develop.

While children are waiting for permanent families, we place them with foster families where they will enjoy an attentive, family-like environment. The quality care helps children develop, and it helps them to better prepare to bond with their adoptive parents. In situations where we must use institutional care, we use a high ratio of childcare workers to children along with attentive childcare methods that ensure children receive physical and verbal affection and stimulation.

We consider each child's situation individually to find the best long-term solution for that child. Because we also investigate the possibilities of preserving the birth family or domestic adoption, you can be assured that international adoption was the best solution for your child."

Speaking of Holt, one of the cool things we did in Texas was to meet up with several other Holt families who have adopted from Vietnam! (Actually, one family is still waiting for their daughter to come home so please keep the prayers up for kids still waiting!) I have known these families through forums and e-mails but it was SO AWESOME to meet them in person! It was like going from 1D to 3D!

It was a joy to meet all the kids including Mr. Delightful:
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I was reminded, once again, how lucky we are to have these precious children in our lives. As I sat watching the kids interact, I couldn't help but think how lucky our kids are too. I know as adoptive parents we cringe when others say that because we know that WE are the truly lucky ones. Our kids weren't "lucky" to have the situations and losses that brought them into Holt's care (though they were blessed by birth mothers who cared enough to give them life and hope). My son wasn't "lucky" to live in an orphanage for six years. But as I watched the kids run and laugh and squeal with delight as their daddies chased them; as I watched a child fall down and come to his mommy who enveloped him in love; as I imagined the future they were dealt, and the future that was given, I had to admit--we're lucky. And so are our kids.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Delight

"God did not need to create you, but He chose to create you for His own enjoyment. You exist for His benefit, His glory, His purpose, and His delight."

From The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

James and Glamour Girl took all the kids to the zoo. We are so blessed to have all these precious blessings in our lives. I always say the best gift a parent can give their child is a sibling--it's a gift that lasts forever.

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My bumper sticker:
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Seems to fit the look on James' face:
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Monday, March 2, 2009

GUILT

School has been tough since I returned from TX, mostly because it's the end of the term but also because we have a big group project (and I do not like group projects!!!).

Usually, I feel like I'm balancing things fairly well, only because I get so much help from my husband and older kids. But with more time away from home I'm feeling mother-guilt.

This is the third night in a week that the little boys have already been asleep when I got home. It really hurts my heart because I love tucking them in--and they love Mommy snuggles. I don't like being away from my kids! I don't want to miss out on anything! I find myself questioning whether this was really the best time to finish my degree.

Then again, I remember the day we pulled out of the orphanage gates in Vietnam and I looked up at the faces of those children remaining behind. Their forlorn looks are forever etched in my mind.
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It's time. But it's hard. (For those who don't know, I'm finishing my BS, then will get my MSW and work in international child welfare and adoption.)

Sigh. This stinks. I even took pictures in hopes of waking my boys up but no luck.
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Note to self--in next life, finish college before having kids.

New Invention

The kids were doing their Saturday chores and Vu was vacuuming the stairs. I could hear the vacuum for a long time and was quite impressed he was doing such a great job, especially since he used to detest the loud vacuum.

I finally went to check on him--new invention--the hair-do machine:

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New hair-do.
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Not sure how clean the stairs ended up--but his head was definitely dandruff free!