Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Thoughts and Thanks

Today is Memorial Day. Three years ago, Jacob and I started a new family tradition. It was his first Memorial Day in the United States and he was a new American. I took him in his stroller and we walked about 20 minutes to the local parade. We bought breakfast at McDonald's near the parade route and ate it while we sat in the grass waiting for the parade. It was a great time and we have repeated it every year since then. It is why I try hard to get this holiday off work.

Memorial Day has taken on new meaning since I took my first international trip to Peru and even more after I became a mom. My first trip to Peru, I realized how blessed we are in this country. It is the land of opportunity. Yes, it is harder to succeed if you grow up in certain areas or families but I have seen enough people come from very difficult childhoods to be successful adults. Whether it was my friend whose aunt and uncle raised him in a low-income neighborhood and left him mostly unsupervised, my friend who was adopted from foster care at age 13, a fellow student who was severly abused as a child or any of the countless other people I have met, they all show it is possible to make your dreams come true here. It is a gift that many other people around the world will never experience.

I always get slightly emotional when the soldiers and flags go by during the parade. I remember all the blessings I have. I think about my children and how in so many other countries we would not be allowed to exist. Single parenthood is never tolerated and sometimes outlawed. In this country, I do run into resistance occassionally. People who think my children would be better off in other families. People who as why I "just don't get married." People who assume I am unethical and immoral because my children and I don't "match."

Yet mostly we receive support and love. Most people get excited when they ask about M's adoption. We have become somewhat of role models for other people looking to adopt children. A month doesn't go by that someone doesn't approach me looking for answers about foster care adoption or international adoption. Many people ask if I am done having children. When I tell them I want one more someday, they get excited and begin telling me where they think my next child should come from. At this time, I don't know when that child will come or from where. I am still waiting for God to tell me.

This Memorial Day I want to say thank you. Thank you to the civilian emergency responders who protect me and my family on the homefront. Thank you to the military members who protect us overseas and protect our borders. America is not perfect but it has given me more blessings than I could ever imagine. I love this country and am glad we live here.

Pool Pictures

Jacob and M got a new pool last week. They have been begging to swim in it every day since then. Here are some pictures from the first time.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Recent Pictures

10 Things You May Not Know About Us

Here are 10 things you may not know about our family (indluded extended family):

1) Our family represents four different racial ethnicities.

2) There will soon be four family members who were adopted (one international, two foster care and one domestic).

3) Of our friends we speak to or see often, there is only one family that is a married couple with a biological child. Others have children through adoption, are single parents or are not married to their children's parents.

4) Jacob wants to be a doctor or firefighter when he grows up. M wants to be a police officer or a firefighter with Jacob.

5) Whenever someone says Jacob is lucky to be my son, I always tell them I am the lucky one because I was allowed to be his mom. Jacob interrupts and says, "No. I'm lucky your my mom." Maybe we are both blessed to have found each other.

6) Jacob's estimated birthday is 2 days after my Grandmother's. She is 86 years older than him.

7) M came to me exactly 1 day short of 1 year after Jacob's adoption was re-finalized. M came on August 21, 2008. Jacob's adoption was finalized in the US on August 22, 2007.

8) Jacob's first name has the same meaning as his Ethiopian name (Mitiku). They both mean replacement or he replaced him.

9) Jacob was also the name of my great-uncle. M's middle name is my father's name.

10) Jacob and M are 20 months apart in age. My brother and I are 20 months apart in age.

Summer Is Here

Jacob excitedly told me that this weekend marks the beginning of Summer. And it does. We got a kiddie pool (pictures to come) last Wed. The boys have spent as much time as I would allow Wed evening and last night in it. They love to fill it up as high as I will allow and don't seem to care how cold the water is. I am pretty sure we got our money's worth out of that pool in just the past three days and they have a long way to go this summer.

I am forced to work this weekend and my weekend sitter is out of town. That leaves my parents to watch the kids. They decided to go to a state park for the day today and the kids are really excited about it. M told me it is a "drowning lake" but he will swim with Grandpa so he doesn't drown. Jacob told me as long as he stays in close to shore he won't drown and that he will be careful. The lake they are going to is shallow for quite a ways out so he may not even have to wear a life jacket if he promises to stay near Grandpa in the water.

I am extremely jealous of course. Going to the state park is one of my favorite activities of the summer. We only went once last year but I vowed to go more this year. There are many things I plan to do since we decided we can't afford any big trips. Here are some of my "plans."

- Swimming at the state park
- Camping
- Trip to an amusement park for young kids
- Many trips to the zoo
- Trips to the local gardens
- Picnic lunches at the park
- Visit a nearby cave
- The newly renovated children's museum (when it opens)
- Grilling in the driveway while the kids ride bikes and play
- Work in my garden
- Circus World Museum

I'm not sure how many of these activities we will actually get. I am sure we will do most of them. My number one goal is just to relax and have fun with the kids. I really like the ages they are at and want to enjoy every moment I can with them.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Our Family Doesn't Match

Jacob had a confession to make in the car today. He is tired of people asking him if M is his friend. He stated he always answers that M is his brother not his friend but he still wishes people would just see that. Jacob also confessed that he wonders if we can be a real family if we don't "match." I responded by asking him all of the ways we do match. At first he didn't understand but I pointed out that our favorite color is pink. Here are other ways Jacob and I match:

- We both like the movie Cars.
- We both prefer gummy candy and fruity candy over chocolate.
- We both love baseball.
- We both enjoy riding bikes.
- We both love M.
- We both like spaghetti.
- We both like ice cream.
- We both love to swim and would live in water if we could.
- We both enjoy watching movies.
- We love to have "Idol parties."
- We both love to go for walks when the weather is nice.
- We both enjoy going to the park and playing on the slides.

There are many other ways that Jacob and I "match." We decided that what we look like on the outside isn't important. We match on the outside in many ways. We also agreed that matching isn't what makes us a family. It's that we love each other and are committed to helping each other. That is what makes a family and we are one. No matter how strangers may view us.

I am working on a photo montage to show how the boys have grown to be brothers. I plan to post it as soon as I am allowed to finalize M's adoption. It may not be for several months but it is my current project.

T-Ball Pictures

If you have never seen a preschool t-ball game, you are missing out. It is some of the cutest and funniest baseball I have ever seen. These are pictures of Jacob's first t-ball game. He is wearing a brown shirt, black hat and gray baseball pants. The shirt is an adult large but Jacob wears it with pride.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Who Were Those Kids?

So my boys are like most 3 and 4 year old boys. Full of life, energy and very rarely caught sitting still. As an example, M greeted everyone in my parents house by hopping to them and then giving them very fast hugs. He continued to jump up and down for about five minutes before he fell into the TV and almost found his way into a timeout. That is normal behavior.

Last night I wanted to visit an 8-year-old friend in the hospital. She had been admitted over the weekend and diagnosed with diabetes. As we were preparing to leave for the hospital, I could tell the boys were tired and on the verge of meltdowns. They had timeouts just trying to get toys picked up and put away. I wasn't sure how it would be in a small hospital room with no toys and nothing "fun" to do.

When we got to the hospital, I explained to the boys that there are a lot of very sick kids and their families there. I told them it was very important that they be quiet and stay right by me so that they don't disturb anyone. I also explained that hospitals are full of buttons and big hallways but it is important not to touch any buttons or run in the hallways. They each had questions about whether or not they have ever been to a hospital before (Jacob has, M hasn't). They then had a conversation with eachother about how sick you would have to be to go to the hospital and debated with each other about if the day trips to the surgery center or OR count.

The boys were awesome. No one ran and they were both quiet. I thought we would be lucky to be able to stay for 5 minutes. We were there for over 30 minutes. The kids were so quiet the nurses didn't even know we were there. I am hoping our friend will be going home today or tomorrow but the kids are hoping she stays "for two more weeks" so they can visit again. Sorry kids. She's stable now and going home soon.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wisconsin Dells

I am trying to organize a gathering for a group of friends from all over the country. Most of them have never been to Wisconsin Dells. For those of you who have been, what are your favorite hotels/waterparks? Any attractions you would recommend?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Challenges and Excitement

It has been one of those weeks that are full of challenges but also fun and excitement. Here is a summary of the week.

- Our house has been dealing with some lingering effects of child neglect. There are days that I get really frustrated but know that the behaviors are what once helped this child to survive. I just wish people would consider the lasting effects their actions have on their children. I don't ever hate the abusers but I do hate the abuse. I don't know if that even makes sense to most people but it is how I can work with parents who abuse their children. There are so many reasons behind why the abuse occurred that I try not to judge the parents. Rather I just work with the children and parents to overcome past abuse and prevent future abuse.

- Jacob started t-ball last weekend. I have some great pictures if/when I have time to call the cable company and find out why my internet is not working. Jacob spent the first game laying in the dirt, the second game twirling around on third base and chewing on his glove and the last game standing by the other team's third base coach pretending he was the coach also. He even asked the coach questions about what he was doing and had the coach teaching him how to coach!

-Jacob loves to bat and is getting pretty good at hitting the ball off the team. He enjoys running the bases afterwards. Another boy on Jacob's team just likes hitting the ball. Every at bat, he calmly hits the ball as hard as he can. He then casually walks back to the dugout smiling and looking relaxed. He is definitely the calmest batter I have every seen. I love 4-year-old t-ball! Just don't expect a lot of actual baseball.

-M had his 3rd birthday. We celebrated with a party at a nearby YMCA. M and his friends had a great time. His favorite gift was a road mat that he can drive his matchbox cars on. Jacob picked it out for him. Sometimes the simplist toys are the best.

- I started playing softball again. This was the first time I have ever played slow pitch. It was different but fun. We won the game! We will be playing on Monday nights. After the game I asked Jacob if he saw anyone laying on the ground or chewing on their glove. He stated, "No. They did that while I was at the playground."

- My parents returned from a trip to Italy. I haven't heard how it went yet. They got back late last night. My brother was kind enough to come to town to pick them up from the airport. Thanks Chuck!

-I watched a JV soccer game. One of the kids I mentor, B, was playing. She is a really good athlete and I always enjoy watching her play.

- The weather finally warmed up and I grilled salmon for the first time. It wasn't a big hit with the kids but I enjoyed it. I plan to grill it again tonight but this time I'll grill something else for the kids.

- My grades for the semester came in. They were slightly lower than last semester. I had a lot going on. I wasn't able to study at work much, M's case made significant progress and I had to complete an adoption study (for when he is finally legally free) and my foster home license had to be renewed. I was pleased that I did as well as I did in school with everything else going on.

- The kids and I had a picnic lunch with two friends at the zoo on Monday. It was fun to finally be able to spend time together outside in the sunshine.

Jacob, M and I really enjoyed our first week free from school. It was nice to have evenings free and even a few days off work. I plan to take time to relax and enjoy life every day this summer. The fall semester will be here too soon...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Looking Forward To Mom Time

Last night was our last night at the sitter's house we use for school. She has agreed to watch the kids again next year and I am thankful. She does a wonderful job. Jacob gets sad when we go sometimes because he would rather be with me but after a few minutes he warms up and always has a great time. Here is the conversation between M and Jacob on the ride to Nicole's house.

Jacob: M! This is our last time going to Nicole's house!
M: It is?
Jacob: Yeah! Now we get to spend more time with Mom!

We took cupcakes to share for their last night for awhile. Nicole told Jacob she was sad he was leaving and that she would miss him. He replied, "It's okay Nicole. I'll be back next fall. I have to spend time with my mom now." The other kids in the home were also sad to see him leave but he reminded them he will be back in a few months. We may even go up just to say hi and check in sometime this summer. Maybe it would be a good excuse to go camping for a night.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


It has been raining almost every day for about a week. The grass is wet and the baseball fields are muddy. Jacob has been excited ever since his last practice to play t-ball against another team. Unfortunately, his first two games were both rained out. Last night I asked him if he was disappointed or sad about it. He stated, "No. I know the new flowers and plants need water." I was amazed at his good attitude about the rain (much better than mine is). I really hope the rain stops and the ground dries out in time for his games on Saturday and Sunday.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What Now?

It feels weird. I keep thinking that there must be something I need to do that I am forgetting about. After all, I have literally raced from one activity to another for the past nine months without any extra time. I was either working, studying, writing papers, caring for my children or trying to squeeze in a load of laundry. Usually I was practicing my multi-tasking skills and doing more than one of those at all times. If I actually took a couple hours for myself, I felt guilty. I knew that I would pay for it later when I had to rush even more to get caught up again.

Today was different. I knew this day was coming and that it will be an adjustment. A good adjustment but an adjustment just the same. I finished my last paper of the semester this morning (10 pages) and then sat there wondering what to do. Suddenly nothing was calling me to get done as soon as possible. It was wonderful.

I pulled out my calendar and realized I now have time to do things just for fun. I began planning activities for this weekend. So far we have a t-ball game on Saturday morning, M's birthday party Saturday afternoon, church Sunday morning and possibly the zoo on Monday. Our schedule is still full but almost all fun things now. Activities that won't affect my grade or career. Just opportunities to enjoy time with my kids. It is great. We all need this time together and I can't wait to spend time just enjoying life again.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Mother's Day To Remember

Today is a mother's day to remember for good and bad reasons. The day started off on a positive. My last alarm (I set three in hopes one of them will actually get me out of bed in a timely manner) and I sat up. I thought up getting out of bed and even started thinking about everything I needed to do before going to work. At 5:00 exactly, I called work. I was told that there were extra people working and I was the first on the list of people who asked off and were denied the day. I quickly told him I did want the day off and to charge it to my vacation time. Yeah! That meant an entire day to spend with my boys. I had no idea what I was getting into.

I quietly put the phone away and went back to sleep. Ahh. A chance to get some extra sleep. Little did I know how much I would need it. At about 6:15 AM, the first child woke up. Jacob asked if we were going anywhere. I told him I had gotten the day off work and we would be going to church in a few hours. He asked, "Your boss said it was okay?" I told him my boss had said it was okay and we would be spending the day together. Jacob responded with a "yippee!"

I suggested that Jacob and I sleep in a little longer. Jacob is a child who enjoys having sleep habits similar to a teenager. He would stay up until the wee hours of th morning if I let him but also loves to sleep in. He snuggled in close to me and we went back to sleep. About 6:45 am, M came into the room. He asked to watch cartoons. I agreed and he immediately climbed into bed. Cartoon watching didn't last long. After about 10 minutes, both boys were up and playing. They let me stay in bed for about half an hour longer before asking if it was Mother's Day. I told them it was and Jacob asked if I would open my presents. Who am I to turn down presents?

As I began to unwrap the first gift, the boys told me I had to share them. I had been warned that the boys had spent a long time at the dollar store looking for just the perfect gift. Jacob bought me gummy life savers and M bought me a box of Dots candy. Perfect! I love both kinds and promised I would give them both some later in the day.

Jacob also gave me a bronzed shoe he made in school and M gave me a handmade book. The book was my favorite gift of the year. Here is an excerpt.

Why do I love my mom? Because I want to!
My mom's name is "Mommy"
My mom is "4" years old.
My mom is pretty when "she wears pink"
My mom always says "Go to your room and stay there until I say!"
My mom is funny when "she watches movies with me."

Earlier in the week he had done a project in his room. The teacher asked all of the kids "What is your favorite thing to do with your mom?" M's answer was, "Get in trouble." Yep. That sums up M pretty well. I love him to death but he does seem to enjoy getting in trouble.

After gifts were opened, we headed to McDonald's for breakfast and then church. Let's just say they were not the best behaved children there. I actually wondered who's kids they were for awhile. Both of them know how to behave but they seemed to be a little too excited to have an extra day with Mom. It didn't help that it was confirmation Sunday and the church was packed.

After church, we went shopping for vegetables for our garden. I was surprised to find strawberry plants. I have never planted strawberries before but it sounds great. These plants are suppose to produce fruit all summer. I guess I will find out soon. We are also planting tomatoes and green peppers. I am hoping to get some carrots and green onions planted.

The boys took nice long naps and I wrote my last paper of the semester. I still have a little work to do before I turn it in on Tuesday but it is mostly done. It is my last paper of the semester and a huge relief to finish it.

This afternoon we went to shopping and bought the party favors and decorations for M's birthday party next weekend. I still need to find a birthday cake. I am hoping to get that done after work tomorrow. We had dinner and then planted the vegetables and strawberries. We finished off the day with a walk around the block and said hi to some neighbors outside.

Overall it was a good day. Yes, the boys frustrated me and M went to bed a little early after pouring water all over the bathroom floor. Right now he is refusing to go to sleep. I guess he will be tired tomorrow. He is in his room and that is pretty much all I can ask. I can continuously go to his room and put him in bed but that just makes the fight longer and rewards him with attention. Hopefully he will go to sleep soon so he can have a good day tomorrow.

It was a mother's day with good and bad. Just like most of parenthood. I hope everyone else had a good mother's day.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Tough Semester Is Coming To An End

Today was my last Saturday class of the semester. I have one more paper to write before Tuesday and class Tuesday and Thursday evening. It has been a long semester and one that I am really glad is coming to an end.

This semester has been a roller coaster ride. For awhile, I was really worried about school and my grades. Life was getting in the way and my grades weren't anywhere near where I had hoped they would be. M's case was hitting very critical points in the court system and I had a lot of stress surrounding that. I had to get my house ready for two home studies. One for my foster home license and one for M's adoption home study. I passed both home studies with flying colors and now am just waiting for the court process to finish. M's adoption and when I can show him to the world is still months away but we are getting closer every day. I don't have any control over the timing so I just work on helping him grow and our family continue to thrive. While all of this was going on, I still had school, work and my intership. It wasn't easy but I managed to raise my grades back to close to where I wanted them.

M and Jacob have done great. They are both thriving at their new school and I am so happy we made that switch. I am also happy that summer vacation is coming for all of us. It means more time with them. Since neither are working on academics and Jacob won't start the 4K curriculum until the fall, I can pull them out of daycare when I have days off during the week. My plan is to give myself one day alone to run errands and work around the house. The other two days off will be with them. Some days I will take one child to daycare and have alone time with the other. Other days I will take both together and we will enjoy family time together.

I am optimistic about the future. I found a career I love (child welfare) and know I will find a job in it when the timing is right. In the meantime, I am really looking forward to just hanging out with the kids more and finally having time to do some of the things we want to do.