Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Life with Boys

A Winter's Work



Thank goodness shorts weather is on its way.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Statistical Improbability

It is Statistically Improbable to get 5 children who are related to one another to all smile in a photo.



One always has to be the Anti-Establishmentarian of the Bunch.


This has nothing to do with this post except to inform you that while I was waiting for the two photos to upload, I tucked Atticus into bed.

Where he spent 6 minutes (I was watching his clock) explaining to me why Ninja's wear black uniforms.

Which is Equally Adorable and Mind-Numbing.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Good Man Gone

This afternoon, my Grandpa Joey passed away.

We were told yesterday afternoon that he likely wouldn't make it through the night, so we knew it was coming. But knowing really doesn't make it any easier. Before today, all four of my grandparents were living. I realize that I'm quite an anomaly, to be 35 with four living grandparents (especially considering that my parents were not firstborns and did not have me at a young age). And in my adulthood, we could see this coming. Yet still, it does not feel any easier at this moment.

Grandpa Joe was my Father's father. Because of the paternal lineage bond, losing him really feels like I've somehow lost my last link to my Dad. My sister said she feels the same way, so it can't be all that crazy.

My heart is breaking for my brother. He is the last in the line, unless he someday has a son. He's only 26, but he's lost his Grandfather and Father.

My heart is breaking for my Aunt Louise. In less than a year's time, she unexpectedly lost her husband and now her father.

And my heart is truly broken for my little Grandma Fran. She is a woman who has so much loss in her life. First the sudden death of her only son, then the sudden deaths of her two precious son-in-laws, and then the death of her husband of nearly 70 years. I can't imagine what it is like to go to bed for the first time in nearly 70 years and not wake up with someone. Even in the nursing home, and with my grandfather's spiraling dementia, their love was still so evident.

About 6 years ago, I sat down with my grandparents and Aunt Louise and wrote down our family history and stories. I am going to spend the next few days having the Mister scan in family photos, and writing up a family history of sorts. So that my children can have it for their children.

I am concerned about Hatfield. She remembers the years we lived in Milwaukee quite well, and all the time we spent with Grandpa and Grandma (her Great-Grandparents.) She took the news very quietly, but her face turned quite red. Once I get the little ones to bed, I will spend some one-on-one girl time with her. Having Uncle Gary die broke her heart, and I'm worried about how she is processing all of this.

I am so proud of my little sister, Stephanie. She is always so strong in times like these, and she handles the responsibility of inter-family communication with grace and poise.

Tonight I'm going to have a glass of wine and a huge cry. The next few days are going to be so difficult. I cam barely stomach the thought of having to see my grandmother in such pain. Tomorrow I am going to wake up and LOVE my family with all that I have. Because as I see with my grandfather, at the end of your life, family and love is all that matters.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Insanity Challenge: Completion of Week Three

A month back, the Mister and I got sick and tired of feeling sick and tired and sluggish and blah. So we decided to commit to the 60-Day Insanity program.

The workouts are tough. With a capital "T." It was a week and a half before I stopped wanting to cry during the warm up alone. Yet when I compared the results of my initial Day 1 Fitness Test, to my Day 13 Fitness Test, I was shocked to see just how much improvement I showed.

To say we are pleased with the results is an understatement. The Mister has lost nearly 10 pounds, plus his love handles, and his cardio strength has improved greatly.

I have lost maybe 4 pounds, but I cannot believe how much everything has toned up. My double chin puff is gone, my arms have slimmed down, and my stomach is losing a lot of the fat that I never thought possible. The cottage cheese on my hamstrings is disappearing, and I can't believe how the ripples back there are smoothing out.

The Insanity regiment also comes with an Eating Plan. They give you a formula that you plug your measurements/weight into, and it lets you know how many calories you should ingest each day to lose weight/maintain weight/gain weight.

I have always been a pretty healthy eater. I am a vegetarian and love veggies, fruits and whole grains. But, I have 5 kids. Which means that I often will mindlessly finish off 5 plates of leftovers (oops) instead of making my own lunch. Or that I slurp out of the bowls those last melty bits of ice cream. Or, those bites of the Girl Scout cookies one child tried but did not favor (because God forbid we let a Girl Scout cookie go to waste! I'm pretty sure that's listed as one of the 7 deadly sins.)

See where I'm going with that? A vegetarian lifestyle will only carry you so far. Because Girl Scout cookies are vegetarian.

This is the first time in my life I have ever counted calories. Their eating plan gives many meal recipes with the calorie counts (all are for 300--they give you ideas to make the meal 400 calories, or 500 calories.)

I aim for 1750 calories a day. So I eat roughly 2-400 calorie meals, and 3 300 calorie meals. A typical day looks like this:

Meal #1 (early morning): Fruit Protein Smoothie. 1 cup vanilla soy month, 1.5 scoops vanilla protein powder, 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries.

Meal #2: (mid-morning) 3/4 cup low-fat Stonyfield Banilla or French vanilla yogurt, 1 cut up apple or peach or banana, 1/2-3/4 cup organic flax/pumpkin granola (I buy it at Sam's Club and it is soooooooo super yummy!)

Meal #3 (lunch): If Cliff comes home, I'll make a huge chopped salad and grill up some tilapia on the stove top. If we're crunched for time due to violin or piano lessons, I'll eat a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread with 1 cup grapes and 1 cup soy milk or 1/2 cup almond milk

Meal #4 (Snack): 1 Clif bar.

Meal #5 (Dinner): Varies. But I aim for a 400 calorie meal.

I rarely eat after dinner, but if I feel like I've eaten too lightly or need a bit more protein, I'll have a a protein shake or a 20 raw almonds with some carrot sticks.

Today, the Mister began Week 5, aka The Recovery Week. Promptly afterwards he informed me to not let the term Recovery Week fool me, because The Recovery Week is its very own special version of physical hell. Tomorrow I complete Week Three, because the ruptured ear drum and an injury slowed me down a bit. While the workouts are difficult, I look forward to them because the results are incredibly motivating.

But not so motivating that I would publicly proclaim I will post before/after pictures upon completion of the program. But maybe the Mister will volunteer ;)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Celebration

Yesterday, we Finalized the boys' adoption.

They are really, truly ours.

Being the Mama, I, of course, got choked up during the hearing when the Judge made a beautiful speech about family and the parent/child relationship. Don't tell anyone, but the Mister cried more than me.

My father was a Judge at the courthouse when he passed away in 1991. Going to the Courthouse and seeing his photo hanging in the hall is always an emotional experience for me.

Judge Hinkfuss' assistant has worked at the Courthouse since 1973. She knew my father well. She was so excited to see me and my family. Many of the Courthouse employees came around so they could meet Judge Fenwick's grandchildren.

After the hearing was over and our paperwork was notarized, we took the children over to Chuck E. Cheese for a big Celebration.

This was Keenan's first trip to CEC. He LOVED it.







The entire day was so emotional and special that it is hard to even put words to it. So I won't even try. Other than to say, we are so blessed.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

This and That

* The Mister is cleaning the garage without any cajoling, promise of sex, and/or threats to go back to work and turn him into Mr. Homeschool Mom. This scares me. I figure that either 1) he found out that he has one week to live when he was at the dentist on Thursday or 2) he wants to buy something big and needs the room.

* This is the "MotherBoard." She has saved my sanity many, many times. I love her.


However, I have learned that the MotherBoard is only as good as I am. Meaning that if I write Spring Break in on the wrong week, my kids will miss an entire week of school.

* I went to the Adoption Conference on Saturday. It. Was. Awesome. I learned a ton and made some great contacts.

However, while there I went to an attachment session, and talked at length with the gal there. She gave me a list of possible symtpoms indicating Attachment Impairment. I checked off 14 of 16 things for one of my sons.

Seeing that list was mind-boggling. Because we never deal with ALL of those behaviors at once. But looking at what we deal with, week in, week out, in its totality was a huge dose of reality.

We have a lot of work to do here.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this.

I am exhausted, but optimistic. Angry and confused at the "how?" "Why?" "what can we do?", but relieved that we have a starting point. Grieving, but thankful for the support system we have. Worried about how we are going to meet everyone's needs here in the house, but hopeful that somehow, someway, we will do it.

Mostly, I just want to help my little guy.

* We are SOOOO blessed to have my friend Becky and my sister Stephanie. Both ladies have been an immense help to me, both this weekend with my kids and in the past month with my emotional/mental health and sanity. Thank you, Becky and Stephanie.

* I need to finish our taxes. We have a whole lotta adoption reimbursement comin' back at us, and a whole lotta adoption loans to pay off.

* Spring is springing, and I spent the afternoon joyfully bagging up leaves that were never raked before the first snowfall hit. I have bags of leaves now in the backyard, joyfully awaiting their participation in the lasagna gardens I have planned for the backyard.

I realized that as long as I can be outside doing yardwork and gardening, my house can go to pot and it will be quite a while before I really care.

* We have the boys' Re-adopt Finalization tomorrow at our County Courthouse! The process will really, truly be over. We have court at 11:30, and then are going out to lunch to celebrate! I'm so excited for the event.

* Grilled Garlic-Lime Prawns in Cilantro/Poblano Cream Sauce. Heaven.On.Earth.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Since I Can't Praise Corey Because She Closed Her Comments

for her 500th post over at Watching the Waters, I'll say it here.

Damn fine post, Corey.

Damn. Fine. Post.

Giving you a standing ovation here in Wisconsin.
(((Hugs)))
Sarah

Adoption in the Land of Beer and Cheese

Are you an Adoptive(ing) Family? Interested in Adoption but haven't started? Do you live in the Land of Beer and Cheese?

Tomorrow, OURS through adoption is holding their 25th Annual Adoption Options Conference at St. Norbert College in DePere (Green Bay), Wisconsin. Click HERE to learn more.


Walk-in registrations are welcome.

I will be there, and if you are going to be there too, let me know!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Our Mighty Po

What our Po lacks in size (she just hit 30 pounds at age 4),
she makes up for in personality.
Here is Po after using all of her physical might to throw
a 5.5 pound bowling ball down the aisle.

Here she is, 4 minutes later, chilling out,
while waiting to see if the ball would actually make it to the pins
(it touched them, then stopped.)


Our Itty Bit's fourth year has made the first three certainly worthwhile. This child is a dolly and a delight. I cannot begin to express the amount of joy this child brings us.

Now, for those of you gagging on your cereal right now, rolling your eyes thinking I'm all rainbows and sunshine, please know: I wasn't sure if both Paloma and I would both be standing by the end of her 3rd year. She was an extraordinarily challenging little one. Go back and read some of my blog. I deserve this joy with her, and I'm going to milk it for all it's worth, lol!

Paloma is strong-willed and loud.

Yesterday I picked up the children from school.
Mrs. Stewart winced a bit and said, "Well, one of your children hit another one of your children."

As I read her face, I gasped. "Paloma hit who?"

"Keenan, but they seem okay now." she said. I told her I'd talk to Po about it.

In the car, I said, "Paloma, why did you hit Keenan at school."

Paloma let out a purely exasperated sigh, "Mom, I didn't hit Keenan," she began. "I spanked him! He was not following my rules or listening to me!"

"Paloma, you can't go around spanking your brothers whenever they bother you." I informed her. Pause. Then I asked, "What did Keenan do when you spanked him?"

"He stopped annoying me."

Despite the fact that Keenan has 15 pounds and Miles has nearly 20 pounds on her, they are *terrified* of Paloma and her mighty wrath.

Paloma is a bit bossy,
but very loving.


This is Paloma with her Great Grandpa Joey, who is suffering from dementia.
He doesn't know who she is, but he adores her.
She is so very sweet and loving with him.
She is not scared of anything or anyone in the nursing home
(dementia wards can be scary to little ones.)
Here she is, helping steer his wheelchair,
"So you don't crash into the wall!" as she knowingly told him.

Paloma is quite hysterical.
Helping Mommy with the laundry.

Jimmy and Boppa were eating dinner at our house. Trixie, resident 6 pound Papillon-on-Crack, spends the meal yipping and trying to jump up on Jimmy's lap.

"Trixie! Stop jumping on Jimmy!" Po scolded. "She is a very OLD grandma and you could break her!"

Sassy but Sweet
Loud but Loving
Little but Mighty.
I am so grateful for my girl Po.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Full Circle

About three and a half years ago, we had just moved back to my hometown and I begged, pleaded and cajoled the local (full) soccer league to let my Hatfield on a team.

They consented.

* * * * * * * * * *

One Spring evening, I gathered up my 1-year old Pona and nearly 5-year old Atticus to attend Hatfield's soccer game.

An adorable little blond girl befriended Pona. I saw her mom from a distance, who waved to me from her Soccer Mom chair.

Heading over there, I realized the Mom was watching her own 5 year old boy playing Legos, while she was nursing an adorable, squishy little baby. We discovered that my Hatfield and her Noah were on the same soccer team. We introduced ourselves and our children and chit chatted throughout the game.

* * * * * * * * * *

A few days later, my stepdad and I left for Haiti to meet my two little boys.

* * * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, back home, the Mister escorted our crew to the soccer game. My new friend was there. "Where's your wife?" she asked.

"In Haiti, meeting the two boys we're adopting," the Mister responded while attempting to keep Paloma off of the soccer field.

"Haiti? Adopting?" this piqued my friend's interest. She proceeded to drill the Mister with questions regarding our adoption and adoption procedure, and he was able to answer. . . .one.

"Best to just call Sarah," he said. "Here's our number."

* * * * * * * * * *

I returned home from Haiti, and the next day brought our children to the soccer game. My friend Jill was ready and waiting. We talked children, adoption, Haiti the entire time. She took notes. While nursing. Literally. We stayed late and let the kids run around while finishing our conversation.

* * * * * * * * * *

A great friendship bloomed that soccer season. Between Jill and myself, our children, our husbands.

3 months later, they told us: They were adopting a little girl from Haiti.

* * * * * * * * * *

The next three and a half years are a blur of
waiting,
nerves,
lost referrals,
tears,
moral support,
finger nail biting,
hugs,
tears,
support,
worry,
anxiety,
hand holding,
emotional support
and more waiting.

Tonight, we got together for the first time as Complete Families.
Moms, Dads and 10 children.
Miles is home.
Keenan is home.
Amandine is home.
All of our children--
Hatfield
Noah
Dominic
Atticus
Amandine
Clarena
Miles
Keenan
Paloma
Audra.
Together.

Our Fabulous Five Year Olds: Miles, Clarena and Keenan
Miles tries Jill's favorite Sea Salt & Vinegar Chips.
Keenan, Miles, Atticus, Dominic, Clarena and Paloma
Jill playing "Up High, To the Side, Down Low, Too Slow" with Clarena and Amandine. Like any Mom of 5, she can multitask the important things: children and red wine.
Proof that Jill is the way better mom of the two of us. Here she is giving Hula Hoopin' Hatfield a run for her money.

Po shows us all how it's done.

Amandine knew Ti-Blan right away.

Ring Around the Rosies knows no language boundaries.

Mr. B. teaches the kids an American song about Magical Fruit.

Jill, Myself and Our Crew

Beginning to end.
We have come full circle.

For the first time
I feel like this adoption journey has truly ended,
and life as we know it
has truly begun.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Perspective

I've spent the past few weeks feeling overwhelmed. 5 kids can do that to you. Really, any number of children, pets or even a single spouse all on his own can do that do you, right? But 5 kids is certainly doing it for me.

For the life of me, no matter how hard I worked, I always felt like I get *nothing* done.

For the past two weeks, my throat has been hurting. Badly. Then the headaches started. And by Wednesday my ear was ringing and I had stuff oozing from it, and I realized that Airborne and vitamin C weren't going to cut it.

Went to the doctor and was diagnosed with tonsilutis, a sinus infection, an ear infection and a perforated ear drum.

Ouch. If you have a child with an ear infection or ear drum issue, give them extra extra TLC, because I cannot believe how badly this mutha hurts.

I have spent the past 2 days in bed, throwing up from the antibiotics, feeling even more overwhelmed because now I was truly getting nothing done.

Then this morning, I showered and went downstairs. Looking around at my house, you know what I realized?

I get a whole lot of stuff done each day.

It took seeing just how much wasn't done to make me realize how much I actually do. Pathetic, but true.

Ha!

God Bless the Mister, this post isn't to put him down. The kids are happy, healthy and well-fed. Which is the important stuff.

The house, on the other hand, well, let's just say it's still standing.

It's all about perspective, isn't it?

Today the sun is shining and the snow is melting. I cracked the windows and have fresh air pouring into our house. I feel like the fresh air and sunshine are pouring into my soul as well.

It's a good day.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Peek at Hatfield's World

(photos from Hatfield's first week with her new camera)







Wednesday, March 03, 2010

March's Mantra: Aim Higher

I think I subscribe to 2 magazines. Maybe 3, because my mom gave me a subscription to a health/fitness magazine for Christmas.

Somehow, though, I always end up with at least a dozen magazines lying around. Which amounts to a lot of clutter when they all build up. I used to save magazines for when I would "need" that recipe, or that article, or that picture with the Benjamin Moore wall color that I really want for my bedroom.

Of course, with dozens of magazines scattered throughout the house, I would certainly forget which magazine had which. I'd hit a "My clutter is drowning me!" phase and recycle them all away, acknowledging the fact that by the time I'd get around to convincing the Mister to repaint our bedroom, I'd be onto a new color scheme anyways.

So lately, whenever I read a magazine and I want to save something, I rip it out. With a big messy tear. Decimating the magazine, and as soon as I'm done with the magazine, I recycle it.

I created some files for recipes, home ideas, clothing ideas (because I am a clothing retard and can't put an outfit together to save my life.) So far, I file about 10% of everything I rip. The other 90% gets "lost" on my desk, until I get into the "Ack! My desk is drowning in clutter!" and I throw everything out.

Here's something, though, which I liked so much, I stuck up on my bulletin board, right above my workspace: "Gretchen's Yearlong Plan."

I really don't know who Gretchen is. I think the woman wrote some book on how to achieve happiness. I remember thinking: what a dumb idea for a book! I guess I still do think it's a dumb idea for a book. Because I don't think happiness is something you can really checklist yourself to.

But that's just me.

However, all that being said, at the bottom of the article, there was a neat little box listing this gal's year long plan: "Each month, Gretchen took on an additional challenge in pursuit of the final goal of happiness."

Truthfully, I feel I have enough challenges in my life where I don't need some huge "pursuit of happiness" plan. My plate is so full right now, there is no way I could handle Gretchen's 258-page find-your-happy plan.

Still, I like the idea of having a Mantra for each month.

A 3-or 4-word mantra is something I can handle.

March's Mantra is: Aim Higher.

I like this. I am feeling burnt out in many, many --, all, really--areas of my life.

I have taken a lot of time to re-evaluate my goals (okay, seriously, I don't even have goals because then I just feel more pressure that I failed when I can't fulfill them. Is that a bad thing?), but rather my priorities. And right now they are: my marriage, my family and my God.

I have had to cut a lot out. Which is usually really, really hard for me to do, because I can't stand feeling guilty for saying "no." This time around, I feel so tired and fried that cutting cords was much easier. And if there was some discomfort, I'm tired enough by the end of each day where I really can't remember it.

It would be swell to be at a point in my life where I can say, I'm going to Aim Higher by re-organzing my basement, or re-decorating my living room, or by co-coaching my kids' soccer team, or by cooking two new reciples/dishes each week. But I'm not at that point. Right now, I'm struggling while just trying to figure out a way to manage the basics.

For me, truly, the place where I need to Aim Higher is My Attitude and My Self-Belief. Because somewhere along the way, I have felt my confidence in my self flounder. I need to regain my sense of "I can do this."

I can tackle these attachment/anger/grieving issues.
I am equipped to find resources to help my son.
I can give my children a great education.
I can have a marriage that strengthens and doesn't fizzle out.
I can learn more and have a deeper understanding of God's word.

So that's where I am right now, at this time, "March"ing (ha!) forward with a simple but solid mantra: Aim Higher.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Dance Fever

Hatfield, Atticus and I just returned from an ENTIRE weekend away, so we could attend their first dance competition.

The past 8 months have been both good and bad for my "big kids." The addition of two new baby siblings into any family means lots of shifting within that family. Well, the addition of two 4-year old boys and their accompanying issues has required an insane amount of shifting.

Hatfield and Atticus are loving and attentive big siblings. Many times they or their possessions have been treated poorly through no fault of their own, and they have taken it with grace and in stride. They have witnessed some Ca-ra-zy behaviors which they have NEVER seen (and still can hardly believe, at times). Many times, due to my own adoptive parenting infancy, we have had our lives and schedules held hostage to these crazy behaviors.

Through it all, Hatfield and Atticus have kept their positive attitudes. It has not been without tears, concerns, exhaustion and exasperation on their parts. We are so thankful that they are able to talk to us about how they feel and we move forward.

To say that they deserved a much-needed vacation away from the craziness of having two 5-year old brothers and a 4.5 year old sister is an understatement.

We had the best weekend. At lunchtime on Friday we hightailed it down to Madison where the kids were participating in the Thrive Dance Competition at the Overture Center.

Hatfield and her troupe performed their jazz and tap routines first. These girls take their stuff seriously.

And that means serious hair (I don't use that much hair spray in a year.)

Serious make up (she soooo got the wrong mom for that one.)

And seriously blinged out fake lashes (eye lash glue---UGH! Need I say more?)

But most of all, serious fun.

For the 90 minutes the girls were in the dressing room, it meant Serious Boredom and Games of Sudoku on mom's cell phone for Atticus.


Who was a good sport and camped out in the hallway.

And he only tried to peek in the girls' dressing room one time.

Or 100 times.

He's lucky he's cute.

After Hatfield's dance, we noshed at Noodles on State Street where we had a great time watching all the people walking about, enjoying the sunny weather. Then we went back to the hotel and swam, swam, swam.

I loved watching my two "big kids" play in the pool, just like they did when they were my "little kids."




Sunday morning we were up bright and early because Mr. Atticus' Troupe was performing first thing at 9 am sharp (which in Dancing Lingo means 9:40ish)

Here is Atticus chilling in the Holding Area.

Surrounded by adorable little girls who all ADORE Atticus. He's all, life's rough, I know, tell me about it.

After they slammed out their jazz, they had 7 minutes to change into tap. Which had me completely stressed out because I forgot that in Dancing Competition Lingo, 7 minutes = 25 minutes.

Oops. Sorry for getting stressed, Atticus.

Seriously, though, how stinking cute is this kid?!?!

When their tap number opens, Atticus is in center stage all alone, back to the audience. The music starts and he starts this cute little hip/butt shake.

So I always yell, "Shake it, Atticus!" Because they encourage us parents to hoot and holler and whoop it up for our kids. Which I think is fun.

And it only embarrassed Hatfield like thhhhhiiiiiiiissssssss much.

That was fun, too.

After Atticus performed, I was tired. Because whooping it up at such an early hour on a Sunday can really take it out of you. So we hit State Street and drank coffee and hot cocoa at Steep 'n Brew. Who roasts the best beans this side of the Mississippi. No joke.



We stayed for Sunday's awards. Atticus' troupe took First Place in Jazz, First Place in Tap. Then the judges (who were ALL from So You Think You Can Dance! and I didn't make a fool of myself yelling, I voted for you! too many times. Promise) gave out special awards for their favorite act. Atticus' troupe got a Most Energy from Jeanette (love her!) and a "I Love You Most" from a really cute guy whose name I forget.

Hatfield's troupe, which had a larger group of competition, placed very well. They received two "High Gold" rankings for the performances, and placed Third overall. Plus Jeanette awarded them the "Best Smiles" award. Totally love that Jeanette. And I'm serious when I say I did vote for her. Because I did.

After the awards, we packed up our stuff, jumped in the Mister's car and headed back for home with my big kids in tow.

No one asked to go to the bathroom.

No one got car sick and threw up.

No one asked me how long until we get there.

It was the perfect ending to the perfect weekend.