Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Going In/Out with a Splash!

The time is drawing near, and we are going out of our summer and into our school year with a SPLASH!!!

We were recently invited by a homeschooling family at our church to spend an afternoon swimming with several other homeschooling families. The kids were so excited to go!

The home we went to is located in Little Suamico. 42 acres of pure heaven with a manmade pond, complete with a floating diving/sliding/swinging station and water trampoline!

Needless to say, this is our dream property.

We met an awesome homeschooling family with 6 kids who live. . . get this. . .just up OUR street! Hattie and Abbie hit if off immediately, and we have a playdate scheduled for this week. The kids had a wonderful time swimming together. Atticus is a child who has been very fearful of learning how to swim; he doesn't care to put his face in and blow bubbles and do water bobs, which makes him the less-than-ideal student in group swim lessons. He's a kid who, when hesitant, needs to do things on his own timetable. The positive encouragement which Hattie thrives on only causes him to further retreat. Just watching the big kids swim out to the diving station from the shoreline for 15 minutes was all Atticus needed; he geared up with his life vest and waterwings, and before I knew it, he was determinedly headed their way. I was so proud of that kid!!! (You have to squint, but the blob in the water is Atticus)

The kids were treated to a rowboat ride courtesy of Mrs. J!

Homeschooling families, as Atticus puts it, Rock! I was so impressed by all the children there. The kids of all ages got along and talked easily with parents; the teenage boys were courteous and helped with the younger children without being asked; no one whined once--not even when it was time to leave. Now don't get me wrong--I know that ALL homeschool kids whine, and some probably a lot! But I've been around a lot of kids from all different types of schooling, and I was blown away by this particular lot. It makes me terribly excited for all the great families and kids that we will meet in the years ahead.

Our summer vacation is winding to an end this week; we begin homeschooling the 6th! Why so early? A number of reasons. . . we'll be in Florida for two weeks in November; I want the flexibility to take a day or two off here and there for things like apple picking, sledding, or a trip to the zoo days; but my main reason, the one which I am praying fervently for: that we'll be going to Haiti in Spring to pick up Joel and Merisier.

By starting early, we can get all those things in and still be able to finish up school by Memorial Day. This entire summer I have spent watching my children having fun, all the time imagining Joel and Merisier having fun alongside them. I want to make certain that we have plenty of time next summer to turn my imaginings into their realities.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Party Animals

Well, Hattie's big day finally arrived (in June!) and today we celebrated it with her friends. This year, Hatfield chose to use her special day to help her "favorite people" in the "whole world." And who are they? "Dogs and cats and bunnies! At the Humane Society." Why did we wait so long? Hattie wanted us to wait to hold her party until after her week-long attendance at the Humane Society's Caring Kids Kritter Kamp.

So instead of gifts for herself, she asked everyone to please bring something to donate to the Humane Society. Wow! What an incredible group of kind, generous little girls she has to call friends! Cliff and I couldn't believe all the great things the girls brought (we know because we were the ones to haul it all in). After some fun crafts were the girls made the dogs and cats cuddly fleece throws and fun neck bandanas, we loaded them all up in our two vans and took off for the Humane Society.

We were met by an awesome tour guide named Will. A young man in his late teens, Will began volunteering when he was only 13 years old--his first job was to unfold the newspapers used for kennel lining. He was willing to help out in any job that they gave him, and now he is an animal cargiver in a paid position. We were pleasantly surprised because we were shown every room in the place--where the most itty bitty brand new kittens are, where the sick dogs recover, the supply storeroom--even the garage and van! It was an awesome tour and we have tremendous respect for this fine organization.

After the tour, we returned to our home and feasted on "Pup"cakes and ice cream--yummy! The Pupcakes were a huge hit, and we had a blast making them the night before.

Friday, July 27, 2007

"Uncle Fred"

So I'm sure by now everyone knows who I'm referring to when I write of Atticus' Uncle Fred. . .the very nice gentleman my boys eat 'Man Food' (i.e. breakfast) with every 'Man Day' (i.e. Saturday) at the 'Man Restaurant' (i.e. Skip's Diner). Uncle Fred is the most kind and generous man, and recently he gave Atticus a tree.

"You can plant him in your yard and name him after me," explained Uncle Fred.

So Cliff and Atticus planted this tree in the perfect spot in our backyard which has needed a tree for some time.

"Fred looks great!" I told the boys, who were very proud of their Man Job of planting their Man Tree.

"Mom, the tree is named "Uncle Fred!" Atticus informed me.

So please meet Uncle Fred the Second:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Up Nort'

Going "Up Nort'" is a big deal here in Wisconsin. Everybody knows what that means, and most have been there at some point or another. When living in Washington, people were often shocked to find out that there was something North of Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Total sidetrack here, but something I always found funny was the number of people who thought Green Bay was in Florida, right next to Tampa Bay). When living in Milwaukee, I always laughed at those city folks who would call anywhere from Fond du Lac to Green Bay "up north."

My kids have not spent a lot of time Up Nort', the way that many other kids around here have, and we are slowly trying to change that. We have wonderful new family friends, Jill and Brent B., and their four kids, Noah, Dominic, Klarina and Audra---we met because Hatfield and Noah were on the same soccer team. They are also our close neighbors living just the street over from us. And they are now adopting a gorgeous little girl from the SAME orphanage as our boys--Stania, who will turn 3 this October. Our boys will now have an orphanage sister living just a street over! HOW INCREDIBLY COOL IS ALL OF THIS?!?!?

Anyway, Jill hails from Up Nort' and last weekend they invited us to spend a day at her family's summer home. What a new adventure for our children!!! Hatfield had a blast tubing with Noah, and Atticus--so often to timid to try out new things--had to jump right on after watching the two of them! Cliff treated Atticus to canoe and paddleboat rides, and Jill and I took off with Hatfield and Atticus for a jetski tour of the three-lake chain. The water was shallow and clear, so little Paloma had a wonderful time splashing about, and the beach had a perfect sandy spot for her and Audra to toddle about!

And to top off a wonderful day, Cliff and Brent were treated to a wild ride of "Who can stay on the tube the longest?" in which they were whipped around the lake like ribbons in the wind. Who won? 9-year old Noah! While Cliff and Brent were flipping off like flapjacks, Noah was on his knees, hopping from tube to tube, yelling, "Is this all ya got?!?"

Methinks I hear the Survivor Themesong playing in the distance. . .

Up Nort' Rocks Like This!!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Third World Living

(This beautiful little boy is available for adoption along with one of his younger brothers. . .check out our O's website at www.littleangelshaiti.org)

I'm in a bit of a dour mood tonight, but basically my thought process is this: we all need to quit whining and begin counting blessings. Myself is included here because I am so ashamed to admit that I was feeling frustrated earlier today when I didn't have it in our budget for a haircut and color. . .honestly, Sarah. Boohoo! I found this on another woman's blog and decided to post it here.

1. Take out the furniture: leave a few old blankets, a kitchen table, maybe a wooden chair. You've never had a bed, remember?

2. Throw out your clothes. Each person in the family may keep the oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. The head of the family has the only pair of shoes.

3. All kitchen appliances have vanished. Keep a box of matches, a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a handful of onions, a dish of dried beans. Rescue those moldy potatoes from the garbage can: those are tonight's meal.

4. Dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, take out the wiring and the lights and everything that runs by electricity.

5. Take away my house and move the family into the tool shed.

6. By now all the other houses in the neighborhood have disappeared; instead there are shanties - for the fortunate ones.

7. Cancel all the newspapers and magazines. Throw out the books. You won't miss them - you are now illiterate. One radio is now left for the whole shantytown.

8. No more postman, fireman, government services. The two- classroom school is 3 miles away, but only 2 of your 7 children attend anyway, and they walk.

9. No hospital, no doctor. The nearest clinic is now 10 miles away with a midwife in charge. You get there by bus or bicycle, if you're lucky enough to have one.

10, Throw out your bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, insurance policies. You now have a cash hoard of $5.

11. Get out and start cultivating your three acres. Try hard to raise $300 in cash crops because your landlord wants one-third and your moneylender 10 percent.

12. Find some way for your children to bring in a little extra money so you have something to eat most days. But it won't be enough to keep bodies healthy - so lop off 25 to 30 years of life.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Livin' It Up!!!

We decided to try a bit of a vacation last week, and headed up to the beautiful Upper Peninsula's Lake Michigan shore.

Of course, the weather became cold and rainy, so visiting the beaches was out. Luckily, our hotel had a great indoor water park geared towards kids 12 and under. Unluckily, our 23-month old daughter has NO fear and a complete disdain for age appropriate activities. After a few mundane runs down the small hippo waterslide made just for toddlers, she decided that she needed to go down the BIG waterslide that even Atticus wouldn't go down. I took her down once and she loved it. Up again we went for a second run, but she decided that she wanted to go down alone---ha ha ha, NO! She bit and kicked and fought me, but down she went on my lap. At the bottom of the slide was the hotel pool staffman, looking down at me with a very sour face. "No babies on the slide. Only people who can stand or swim." He spoke loudly (yelled, really), and I kindly explained that his sign states that people shorter than the height noted could not go on "unassisted." I, therefore, was merely assisting her, and I could easily stand in the 3 1/2 foot water. "Well, don't do it again," and he huffed away.

After another 20 minutes of trying to keep a constantly screaming Paloma away from the big slide's steps, I rounded my disappointed older children up but managed to quickly cheer them up with the promise of swimming in our room's large whirlpool tub!

The kids had a blast and came out shriveled as prunes! It took my nerves that long to recover from the swimming pool tantrums, and we went on to have a nice quiet afternoon, far away from the pool room.

My Big Brother is SOOOO Cool!

Paloma Posts:

My big brother Atticus is just the best! Today he showed me how to not only avoid drinking my milk, but to make a big mess and have lots of fun while I'm at it!!

Technique is important

A little patience goes a long way

I give it a try


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Baby Brother!!!

We just returned home from a huge birthday fiesta for my baby brother (ha ha!) Adam's 24th Birthday!!!

Our fam joined up at our favorite local Mexican restaurant, housed in a former Wisconsin supper club that has a large back room where the kids can run and our noise doesn't drown out other tables (a very easy feat for all of us!). Adam is the baby of our family with two old maiden sisters who are now both in their 30s--ack! (photo of my sister Stephanie, my brother Adam, and myself).

Atticus *worships* Uncle Adam--which is the biggest understatement of the year--and spent the whole evening lavishing compliments upon him. "You're so COOL!" Atticus while gazing at Uncle A's many tatttos. A short while later, Uncle Adam nearly regurgitated margarita through his nose when Atticus proclaimed, "Uncle Adam, you ROCK like this" and then proceeded to do his very best air guitar ever!

We're looking forward to your 25th birthday bash, Uncle A! YOU ROCK, BABY BROTHER!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

Like Crazy!

The kids and I have been busy at the beginning stages of our harvest. Green beans, yellow beans, violet peppers, Hungarian Wax Hot Peppers, green peppers, jalapeno peppers--ripe for the pickin'! We're eating well and having fun anticipating what our next pick will be.

I realize though that I am in major need of additional garden space, as my garden is seriously crowded and still growing like mad! Sometimes it's difficult for me to see the obvious, but it finally did occur to me that our side yard is the *perfect* spot for my dear hubby to build some beautiful raised bed garden plots--just like the ones in all the garden books he checked out for me from the library (bet he'll be regretting that move, ha ha ha!).

I would very much like to have a garden that would provide a substantial amount of our winter's vegetable consumption. I realize that with five growing children (and hopefully more than that one day!), this will have to be a well-planned, thoroughly thought out endeavor. But I feel up to that task, and I think it would be a great homeschooling activity as well. Researching the growing cycle of a variety of vegetables: science; drafting garden plot configuations: math; growing seedlings from seed: science/botany; learning the best ways to compost and reduce garden waste: ecology/science; figuring the money we save growing our own produce: economics; memories of gardening fun and excitement: real life.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

An Unexpected Gift

While in Haiti, I met some really wonderful people.

One such person was a French-Canadian woman from Quebec. She and her husband were in Haiti visiting a little girl whom they very much want to adopt; they adopted her older biological twin brothers 2 years ago. Canadian laws are quite different than ours, but they are hopeful and I heard she is planning on returning to Haiti this October for another visit.

Anyway, this woman just emailed me some photos of my time in Haiti with my boys. I have very few photos of me with the children, so I was thrilled to get them.

It feels like I was there a lifetime ago. When I left Haiti, I was so tired and overwhelmed and sad that I was certain I would not return until it was time to bring the boys home. Now, *all* I can think about is going back to Haiti as quickly as possible. But since the adoption is so expensive (and it's hurricane season which completely freaks me out), it's going to be awhile before I have the ability to travel.

Another woman I traveled with in May just returned to Haiti last week for her second visit. We were very similar that by the end of our first visit to Haiti, we just wanted to get the heck out of Haiti! She is very fortunate to live in Florida where the flight is fast and easy, and airfare inexpensive. Like me, her exhaustion ended and she found herself just needing to go back. She is adopting a beautiful baby girl who had a rough start to life and has a lot of catching up to do in terms of growth and nutrition. Baby girl was a tired, weak, sweet little thing at the beginning of May. I could hardly believe her most recent photos and the marked difference in her baby girl already: shinier hair, skin, eyes, fuller face. Wonderful!

Just makes me wonder if my boys are taller, or heavier, or learned new things. I mean, I realize that it's yes to all three, but I want to know how much taller, how much heavier, and what new things.

Our good news is that we are in IBESR!!! As of June 15th!!! We have those two file numbers and they are emblazoned on my mind, embedded in my heart. The people whose files are two months ahead of ours are still in IBESR, so our wait is still unknown at this point.

I was so naive and arrogant to think that I could handle the wait. That I could just separate and block out so much of it, like I was able to do while in Haiti. But that ability to block things out doesn't last forever, and it sure hits hard. Just the knowing, that life in Haiti is going on and I'm not there. And that life here goes on and they're not here.

And so they grow. And the clock ticks. And the unknown wait continues.

A Jello-Magical Fourth

Happy Belated Fourth of July!

We had a great time celebrating the Fourth at our Jimmy and Boppa's house this year! Jimmy put on one of her usual fantastic feasts, and when I asked her days earlier what I could bring, she assigned me a dish or two from the Jell-o cookbook that she bought for my kids.

Now, I've never cooked with Jello before. Never a huge Jello fan. But my kids are! When I told them that they had to pick out two treats for us to make to take to Jimmy's, you'd think I told them that they were going to Disney World. After 30 minutes of careful deliberation, they came to me with the results: Jell-O Rocket Pops, and Holiday Poke Cake.

So we first decided to tackle the Rocket Pops.

Basically, you make red jello. Pour it into cups. Place in freezer for one hour. Then immediately make blue jello. Place that in the refrigerator for the hour that you have the red jello cups in the freezer. After one hour you take out the red jello cups and spoon an approximately three teaspoon layer of cool whip into each cup. Then poor the blue jello on to of the cool whip layer. Place cups back in freezer for one hour. Then remove and insert a popsicle stick into each layer. Return to freezer for 3 hours. Serve.

Personally, I found solo cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for 12 to be less complicated.

What Jell-O fails to tell you is that if it is 85 degrees outside, the Jell-O will turn to gel faster than you can spell J-E-L-L-O. Hence Atticus eating his Rocket Pop out of the cup, as seen here:

But hey, a Mom's dismay is often a kids' delight, and my kids thought the Rocket Pops ROCKED! So score one for mom and Jell-O!

Earlier that day, I attempted the Holiday Poke Cake after I put Paloma down for a nap and Cliff took the big kids to Jimmy's to swim. I followed the directions perfectly. Bake white cake in two round pans: check.
Let cool: check.
With a large fork, poke holes no more than 1/2 inch apart in each cake: huh? okay, check, I think.
Make red jello: check.
Make blue jello: check.
Carefully poor red jello over one cake: Carefully? Take that to mean slowly, check. The WHOLE cake looks like it is completely saturated in red jello.
Freak out and consult Jell-O book to see if this is normal and find there is no mention of full cake saturation in the directions: check.
Repeat procedure with second round cake and blue jello: check.
ENTIRE second cake looks like it is FULLY saturated in blue jello: check. Sarcastically think: This is supposed to look all cool and swirly and marbly when done? HA HA HA HA HA!; check.
Refrigerate 3 hours, frost with Cool Whip and put lame blueberry star on the top which looks nothing like the professional one in the Jell-O cookbook: check.

So Paloma wakes up and we bring the cake to my mom's. I dread the cutting of the Jell-O poke cake. She cuts the cake and I am in shock!!! Hot damn, IT WORKED!!!

Moral of my story: The Jell-O people KNOW Jell-O. Trust in the Jell-O.

So after my two-for-two Jell-O victory, the kids went down to the pond with Boppa and Dad to do some Fourth-of-July Fishing! Ernest Hemingway, eat your heart out! Atticus caught 11 fish, Hattie 9!!! They had a blast and were sooooo proud of themselves!

There was so much hooting and hollering with each fish caught that Paloma and Jimmy had to come on down to see what was going on!