Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mondo Nightmares? And Book Ideas Needed

Less than two weeks til we leave on the Mondo Adventure!

We are now in full Mondo Prep Mode.

Most of the way we are staying with family and friends.  Brave family and friends.

I recently received this e-mail from our good friends in California.

Hi Ann!  Looking forward to your visit!  Had to share the dream Dan had last night.  He dreamed you showed up with SIXTEEN kids!  LOL!    See you soon!  D.

It doesn't take Freud to see where Dan's head is, does it?

My reply back:

Dear D.,

Tell your sweet husband we are only coming with SIX kids. 

It will just FEEL like 16! 

Are you sure you're ready for the invasion?

Best, Ann

On another note, I am looking for suggestions of kids recorded chapter books.  I am particularly thinking stories at the 3rd/4th grade level, but would love to hear any and all suggestions.

Personal Interview: Cleft Lip And Palate

Poor Kim is finally turning the corner this afternoon.  It has been rough!  Before surgery Hubby suggested buying a Kindle Fire for Kim's recovery.  I told him he was crazy!  Too expensive! 

By yesterday, Kim's eyes were nearly swollen shut (she hasn't been able to get her contacts in and she can't wear her glasses because of the nose splint!).  Poor baby was a ball of putty on the couch! 

So, last night I was at Target.  I called Hubby.  Told him he's a genius at gift ideas. 

Guess who is now the proud owner of a Kindle Fire? 

Anyhoo, all this time at home has given me a chance to interview Kim about her thoughts on being born with a cleft lip and palate.  I was quite surprised by some of her answers.

Me:  So, tell me about yourself.

Kim:  I like reading, soccer, eating and sleeping.  I dislike argumentive people and drama. 

M:  Some people consider cleft lip and/or palate a special need.  Do you?

K:  In some ways yes, because of all the surgeries and speech therapies the kid has to go through.  In other ways, it's just like another person being born.

M:  How has it affected your life--or has it?

K:  It's hard to go through so many surgeries, but the good thing is you get presents and visitors.

M:  Has it affected your life on a regular basis?

K:  I feel special because I have a cleft.

M:  Special in what way?

K:  Like I stand out. 

M:  In a negative or positive way?

K:  Positive.

M:  Do people ever notice your scar?

K:  Yes!  A lot in elementary school.  And when I first started middle school LOTS of people asked about it.  Other kids would come up and say, "I don't want to be rude, but what happened to your lip?"  I would just tell them I was born with my top lip not connected and I had to go do a lot of surgeries and the scar is just part of that.  They might say, "Oh, gross," (just because they aren't use to people explaining things), or some people will give a personal reaction asking questions about if it hurt or how many surgeries I had.  It's kind of awkward.  But the more I talked about it the more people understood it.  Now that I'm in high school people rarely ask me about it because in high school more people understand what cleft lip is, and there is another kid in high school with repaired cleft lip. 

M:  How often do you think about it?

K:  Since middle school I think about it a lot more because I have an ugly scar.

M: Hmmm.  So, do you think this surgery will be worth it to make that scar less noticeable?

K:  Right now, I'm not so sure.  I'm still the same person.  I like myself.  Most people have things they do and don't like about themselves. 

M:  What would you say to parents who are considering adopting a child born with a cleft?

K:  It's a lot of work, but it's worth it for both the child and the parents.

M:  What advice would you give to a cleft affected child in regards to questions about their scar?

K:  Don't let it mark you.  Don't let it define you as a person. 

M:  What advice would you give to a child who has to go through the surgeries?

K:  Take a lot of painkillers and try not to laugh because it hurts.  Don't have a funny mom. 

M:  Thank you for willing to be interviewed Kim.  I know you've always been open to sharing your story, and I appreciate you sharing it with all of us.  You're a remarkable kid and I love you to the moon and back!  Enjoy that Kindle, don't let your cheap mom borrow it, and keep recovering! 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Happiness Is . . .

The upside of having a child recovering from surgery . . .

And the best part is that it's summer, so most of these will still be here next week!

I am currently revamping the laundry/clothing situation.  It's ugly.  If you don't hear from me soon, please send out the rescue team (I am easily revived with chocolate and coffee). 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Best Medicine

Today's been rough for Kim.  Rough.  Her eyes are nearly swollen shut.  The doctor said this would be the worst day and she is right.  Please keep praying for a speedy recovery.  Thank you to those who have been praying, sending get well wishes, gifts, and to my good friend Lisa who brought dinner tonight.  What a treat!

Speaking of eating, I overheard this at breakfast. 

Kim, laying on the couch eating yogurt: Ugh!  I hate this!  I can't taste anything! 

Patrick sitting nearby munching a bowl of cereal:  Why not?

Kim:  Because my nose is plugged and when your nose is plugged you can't taste anything!

Patrick?  Really?  You can't taste anything?


Patrick:  So you can't taste that yogurt?

Kim:  No!  I already told you!  I can't taste ANYTHING!!  NOTHING!!!

Long pause.  Silence.  Patrick chewing his Peanut Butter Crunch.  Pondering.  Silence.  Then finally--

Patrick:  I bet you'd be able to taste dog poop. 

Even Kim couldn't help laughing at that!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Upcoming Interview With The Star Of The Show

After I wrote my post yesterday I thought about my words.  I realized that my writing reflects our journey with palate repair at the end of the road, including the fact that I've experienced some amnesia myself. 

I don't want to downplay how hard it was to see my child go through surgery and pain.  It rips my heart out.  I don't want to minimize how challenging the years were of driving to speech therapy and working (fighting) with insurance (which we are blessed to have). 

I do want others to know that was all miniscule compared to the rest of our life-as-usual-days, filling life with the joy that a child brings.  I do want others to know that a child born with a cleft in many countries will live a life filled with more discrimination than we can imagine.  I do want others to know that parenting a child who has a cleft isn't that big of a deal--it should never keep a child from having a forever family (like it so often does).  I would do it again a million times over--and in fact, we are starting the road again with Mei Mei.

But what really struck me about yesterday's post is that it was written from my view point.  For me, having a cleft isn't a big deal.  But I'm not the one living with the scar on my lip. 

So, I asked Kim if she was willing to be part of an interview and of course she said yes, because she wants me to buy her lots more Sobe' today. 

So, coming up, an exclusive personal interview with the famous, amazing Kim!

Despite surgery she still has her great sense of humor.

It helps that she's had lots of phone calls, visits,

and lots and lots of texts.

For now, the doctor just came in and said we can go home.  Yeah!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Cleft Lip And Palate

Kim is doing really well--all things considered.  She did wake up asking why her nose hurt--guess those amnesia drugs really did the trick!

We are now up in her hospital room, she's had a wee bit of blue Gatorade and is now blissfully sleeping away.  Thank you morphine.

I sit watching her sleep, nose under a taped splint, lip red with fresh stitches.  My heart breaks.  Again.  I can't help but think about the number of times I've sat in this very hospital--nine to be exact--worrying and praying and thanking God for this sweet girl.

And I can't help but thank God that we were so naive when we accepted Kim's adoption referral.  We would have been too afraid.  We didn't know she would need so many surgeries-most kids with clefts don't.  We didn't know she would need such extensive orthodontics--most kids with clefts do.  We didn't know she would need so many years of speech therapy--some do, some don't, just like all kids.

But really?

Cleft lip and palate just isn't that big of a deal. 

A child born with a cleft lip and palate is just like any other kid 364 days a year, laughing and eating chocolate ice cream cones, and learning to do cartwheels and having sleep overs with friends.  And one day of the year they have doctor appointments or maybe a surgery. 

Being born with a cleft should never keep a child from having a family.  Having a cleft should never keep a family from adopting a child.

Really.  Cleft lip and palate just isn't that big of a deal. 

All kids have special needs--some just aren't known until later--and honestly?  I consider Patrick's asthma and allergies to be a much more concerning special need than Kim's.   Patrick's is a challenge on a daily basis.  

I wouldn't say that cleft lip and palate is a minor special need, simply because it requires ongoing treatment.  There can be challenges with feeding and eating before the palate is fully repaired.  There will be surgeries, orthodontics, possibly ear tubes and speech therapy.

But really, cleft lip and palate just isn't that big of a deal. 

I am so thankful we have this sweet girl in our family.  She is beautiful, confident, loving, happy and humorous.

And really, I repeat, having a cleft just isn't that big of a deal.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pray For Kim

Please keep Kim in your prayers Monday morning. 

She is having her final cleft repair on her nose and lip.

She will be in surgery for four hours and she HATES hospitals.

I did take her to the store tonight and bought her new p.j.s, a movie, and lots of Strawberry Banana Sobe'.

I also made her a very special get-well-soon gift. 

Taking into account the fact she will have lots of swelling and bruising post-op.

And taking into account the fact that she is freaked out about showing her face in public with all that swelling and bruising.

The gift is unique.

And handmade.

And used up a great amount of my creative genius powers.


It's a good thing she has a great sense of humor!  She loved it!

Kim, you have had a long road on cleft repairs but you are so brave!  You are my hero!  We will be right next to you every single second tomorrow! 

Prayers and more prayers! 

We love you!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Happy 10 3/4!

We celebrated Mei Mei's birthday!  Her birthday isn't until October.

Am I being ultra organized?  Pro-active?


It's because every day, MULTIPLE TIMES every day, she was so very sad we missed her birthday.


When it was her birthday last October we thought it would be fun to have a little celebration in her honor.  We made a cake, blew out candles, and took lots of pictures--then mailed them to her.

These are the very pictures that make her sad--knowing we celebrated her special day without her. 

Who could have guessed our good wishes would have such a negative effect?  We continue to live and learn on this adoption journey.

And ever since Mei Mei came home she has talked endlessly about her birthday.  A day that was never celebrated in China (which isn't unusual in Chinese culture).  But she also knows SHE was never celebrated on any occasion.  She has a very harsh past, which makes her lack of birthday celebrations that much more painful.  And one of her favorite past times is looking through family photo albums, where she sees the other children celebrating birthday after birthday.  She feels LOSS.

I had planned to wait until October.  But after seeing her distress on a daily basis, and hearing her talk about how long it was until October over and over and OVER every day, I finally threw up my hands in surrender and decided a late birthday party was in order.

Why not celebrate her 3/4 birthday?

What a delightful day it has been!

First, a trip to Build-A-Bear for a new wa-wa (stuffed animal),

And then some fun at the bowling center complete with cousins from Texas.

Ringpops were a big hit!

And the candles?  I have never seen her smile so big!

Happy 10 3/4 birthday Mei Mei!  This is just the beginning of celebrating YOU for the rest of your life!

We love you!!!  Looking forward to your real birthday in October!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Amidst the sorrow there is always laughter.  I recently found this photo on Lizzy's camera.

And last night, I was reading a bedtime story to the boys when Lan Lan comes stomping in.

Lan Lan (yelling):  Hey, who's not flushing the toilet!  Every day, every day, I go in the bathroom and see PEE in the toilet!  Everyday!

Patrick (calm and cool):  Well, didn't you know?  That's good luck!

Lan Lan (looking confused):  What?

Patrick (totally serious):  Yep! I don't know about in China, but in America, if you go into the bathroom and there's pee in the toilet, it's good luck.

Long pause.

Lan Lan: No!  That is NOT true!

Patrick gives Lan Lan a wry smile and a shrug of his shoulders.

I laugh.

I guess we must be the luckiest family in America!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


It's raining today.  How appropriate.  Tears from heaven matching our own.  The day spent making phone calls and food, and laying out clothing for a funeral--again.

My husband lost his beautiful mother. Our children cry for their always encouraging grandmother.  I grieve the loss of my mentor, recipe sharer, Goodwill companion, and friend. 

She was the mother of ten and the gold thread running through the tapestry of  my husband's family--the matriarch-- so full of love, laughter, independence, and a pioneer spirit.  She welcomed each and every child with welcome arms--oh how that woman loved babies! 

I hope they have yardsales in heaven.  And coffee, and the latest craft project, and wild cardgames that include good-natured name calling and swear words. 

I know for certain that the first thing she did upon arriving in heaven was to run and hug her husband, daughter, son, granddaughter, great-grandson, and of course, our sweet Joe. 

I imagine Joe giving her a great big bear hug and saying, "Hi Grandma!  I've been waiting for you!  I can't wait to talk all about the Mariner's and Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro!   And I hope you'll make some homemade noodles, cookies, and cinnamon rolls?"

And of course she will.  Because she always did.  And after all, it's heaven. 

"Those we hold closest to our hearts never truly leave us.  They live on in the kindness they have shared and the love they brought into our lives."  ~  Author Unknown

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer: Day One

Today is the first day of summer vacation!  Give a woot! 

No alarm clock, no school lunches, NO HOMEWORK! 

No classes for me either!  I am so tired of chi squared that I don't think I will ever even be able to drink chai tea again--and that would be a sin in the PNW!

This morning I woke up, looked around and declared war on my house.  I decided to clean every closet, every drawer, every nook and cranny, the garage and even the attic! 

I decided our summer will be one that even the Fly Lady will jealously drool over!

The house will be as clean and uncluttered as the day BEFORE we moved in!

War I tell you!  All out war!

No fun!  No computer!  No TV!  No outings!  Just cleaning and clearing and controlling cluttery chaos!


And then?

And then I got out of bed, picked a book from the pile that has accrued on my nightstand, curled up on the couch, watched a movie with my kids, ate breakfast at noon, drank a whole pot of coffee,

and took a nap.

My kitchen counter this morning--cluttered in a good way--
notice I am not showing you the rest of the counter top--covered
with THE DUMP from my children yesterday: papers, backpacks, and school supplies

I am happy to report my affliction has retreated.

Let the summer begin!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Memories Of A Lifetime

The best, best moments in Europe were often the most simple.

I loved watching my sister Trisha fulfill her fantasy of shopping at Liberty of London:

I loved the exquisiteness of high tea at the Orangery outside Kensington Palace.  What an amazing experience!

And my favorite?  My very best memory?  The best memory out of EVERYTHING?

Sitting on church steps, eating tarts from a deli, laughing together and enjoying the love between four sisters and our mother:

Memories of a lifetime.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Today I laughed. Today I cried.

The school year is almost over.  We have lots of papers coming and going--kids cleaning out desks and kids taking in thank you notes for teachers. 

Today I laughed and cried. 

I laughed reading Patrick's note to his teacher:

Dear Ms. M.
Hi!  It's Patrick here to right a letter.  I'm doing this on my free time so I'm anxious to get it over with.  But this is a thank you note so let me get this done.  I had a fun time in science, and it was my favorite content rotation.  I liked the "are you smarter then a 6th grader?" the most.  Bless the gods that I got you as my teacher and I hope you have a great summer. 

Can't you just feel the love?  Especially at the beginning of the note?   

And then I was going through Lan Lan's school papers and found the following:

Joe is heaven,
I like you.  You nice Joe.  You my brother.  I sad you cancer.  I'm you sister.  It is Lan Lan.  Joe you is heaven.  It is fun stay.  Mom miss you.  Mom sad and sad. 

Our sweet Joe--never far from our hearts--even the siblings he never had the chance to meet.  And it breaks my heart that one of the first English words my kids learn is "cancer." 

Today I laughed.  Today I cried. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Saturday Chef

Patrick is following in his father's footsteps.  He loves to cook.

Saturday mornings he often volunteers to make pancakes or waffles.

The waffle recipe comes from our timeless cookbook received as a wedding gift: Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.

Everyday Waffles
1 3/4 C. flour
3 teas. baking powder
1/2 teas. salt
2 eggs
1 3/4 C. milk
1/2 C. oil

Mix dry ingredients, then add wet ingredients.  You are supposed to beat the egg whites but we don't.  Stir together.  Double, triple, or quadruple recipe as needed.  Leftover waffles can be kept in the fridge or freezer and reheated in the toaster. 


And yes, peanut butter is an essential topping for waffles.  My grandmother was the amazing inventor!

You know, having all these kids around comes in handy sometimes!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Mondo Adventure - OR - How To Talk A Teen Into A Family Roadtrip

So, now you know my teenage son's reaction to my great roadtrip idea.

From his viewpoint, the idea of spending 3 weeks in the car with 7 people, including 5 siblings (some more annoying than others-depending on the day), and driving 6,000 miles through 16 states was . . .

let's just say . . .

NOT his idea of summer fun!

Paul is my quiet kid, the one who often hangs back, the one who doesn't laugh at my jokes--the one who often wonders how in God's creation he ended up in THIS crazy family!!!

And on top of it, I am quite sure he thought the drive would include listening to Wee Sing Folk Songs for 6,000 miles.  And he might be right.

But now?

Oh, now, my teenage son is totally on-board with the whole idea!

He is actually excited about it! 


Did I promise him a hundred bucks?


A hundred milkshakes?

No.  Altho that would have been easier.

I promised him a hundred skateparks all across the US.

(Okay, so maybe not a hundred, but hopefully a BUNCH!)

As we drive across the US we are going to try to find as many skateparks as we can so he can do a little bit of this:

And a whole lot of that:

And I'm going to take pictures so we can make a MONDO photo collage when we get home!


Don't you just love that word? Mondo!  It's so, like, 90's! Fur shure!!!

It seems like skateboard/scooter talk to me, so I have named our summer trek:


And I think I'm a pretty Mondo-smart mom for thinking up that coercion tactic  great idea!

Any suggestions for Mondo skate/scooter parks in the US???