Friday, July 30, 2010

You've Got Mail

A week or so ago a package came in the mail, addressed to my Aidan. My Aidan doesn't receive much mail, as most of his friends are still learning to write their name.

So imagine his delight to learn that he got a PACKAGE in the mail from his AUNT DEB in KENTUCKY!! Now imagine Aidan screaming that sentence in a tone and a pitch that only Aidan can scream.

Aidan, what was in the package?

It's a golf ball! It's the golf ball that Pappy gave me when we went golfin' in Kentucky!!

I liked going golfin'. When you go golfin' you can get a Sprite or maybe a Gatorade for just a quarter. And a dollar.

Aidan, we'll have to send a thank you note to Aunt Deb for finding the golf ball you left in Kentucky.

I need to send her something too!!

What are you going to send her?

I'm going to send Aunt Deb one of my soccer trophies!!

Ummm, how about a picture of you and Dane on the golf cart instead?

Okay, Mom.

Thanks, Aunt Deb for finding his golf ball! It was the highlight of his week!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dane Date

Brandon left this past Sunday for two weeks in Pasadena, California as part of his Masters program, taking Mac the Mac with him. Before he left, I wrote out a couple of blog posts with pictures and scheduled them to post while he was gone and I was Photoshop-less. Fortunately, I am borrowing a back-up laptop so that I'm not completely computer-less!

It's always a bit of a challenge when Brandon is gone, this summer more than usual. He will have been gone 4 out of 6 weeks this summer, and I am always searching for ways to be more of the "fun mom" while he's gone, and less of The Enforcer, since Fun Daddy is not here to balance that out. Does anyone else's house work that way?

I had an appointment to get to this afternoon, and had decided to hire a babysitter for half a day and use the time to get a bunch of errands done and take a 27 pound box of books to the post office, which is on the list of things that I Would Rather Poke My Eyeballs Out Instead Of Doing With My Three Kids. Is there a magic time to go to the post office when there is no line? Because I haven't found it.

Where was I...this morning we woke up and I decided that what I really needed was a date with my Dane. I haven't been on a date with him in a while, so we left Aidan and Harper with our sweet babysitter (and Aidan played AND WON about 4 board games with big brother gone), and we headed out. At Dane's request, we lunched at Schlotzsky's and then headed to Half Price Books in search of another book from his new favorite series. He has started reading books in the Geronimo Stilton series, (there's about 45 books) and Half Price Books didn't have a single. one. So we hustled down the street to the Barnes and Noble and picked up a couple before we raced to my appointment. We also made it to Kid 2 Kid to sell a few clothes, and Dane picked out hair accessories for both of his little sisters: hairclips with ostrich feathers, fake flowers, and a big rhinestone in the center ("look, it has a diamond, mom!") for Harper and Emerson. They may look like Vegas showgirls wearing them, but it's the thought that counts. We had a great afternoon, and I loved spending some one-on-one time with my biggest.

We are expecting to hear from our adoption agency any day now about our travel approval. Families usually get it about 3-4 weeks after their Article 5 letter is sent to the CCAA, and ours was sent on July 9. I'm actually hoping we get the approval next week, because once we do, I will be a panicked mess trying to arrange travel details, flights, childcare, etc., and frankly, next week is less busy.

Checking the mail at our house continues to be a little bit like Christmas. I got the CUTEST goodies for Emerson yesterday from my Aunt Betsy, and I can't wait to post pictures when Brandon gets back. Speaking of Emerson, what do 3-year old little girls play with? I realized recently that she may not be interested in footballs and Legos and dinosaurs. Do they play dress up when they're three? Anyone know where I can find a baby doll that looks more Chinese and less white-girl?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

July. July. It has flown by.

I have decided that all of my blog posts will rhyme from now on. Or perhaps be haikus.

Moving on...

I'm trying to get back in a bloggy habit, just so I can remember things for later. Earlier this month Brandon was out of town, and my mom came down to help out for a few days so I could work a few days. Then my dad flew down to mow my grass and change the oil and fix the handle on the toilet that's been broken for about 6 months. That may not have been the exact reason he flew down, it may have had something to do with my grandmother being in town instead, but he managed to make good use of his time while I was at work on Friday of that week. My mom repainted the downstairs bathroom for me, since I have been talking about my loathing for its seafoam green walls since we moved back in about a year and a half ago.

Apparently Brandon and I have a tendency to procrastinate home repairs and redecorating projects. And despite all evidence to the contrary, I did not ask my friend Handy Matthew to come over and install the "new" bathroom light fixture that we have had sitting in our garage since before Harper was born, in exchange for potato casserole. I would never barter simple home repairs in exchange for warm cheesy carbohydrate goodness.

That particular Saturday morning found a random assortment of my extended family congregating at my aunt and uncle's house for a quick breakfast before my cousin Gretchen flew to Brazil. And yes, that makes total sense.

Since you asked, Brandon was out of town, so my mom was in town. Then my cousin Gretchen came in with her parents and brother because she was flying out of Houston to go to an aerospace engineering class in Brazil for a few weeks (of course). My sassy grandmother decided to come to town to see her off. My dad decided to win a few "good son points" and flew down to visit my grandmother and get my oil changed. My other cousin Dana was in town from Kentucky with her son Asher, but her mom was out of town. And my cousin Jana and her family have been at her parents' house since their house sold because they're moving to Tulsa next month. Her husband Jared has a PhD in neuropsychology, and I'm pretty sure there was enough pathology in that house for breakfast to fill a journal or two. My Aunt Carol and Uncle Tom were there because they live here. We used to live with them post-Ike back in our homeless and pregnant days. I left the boys at home with my mom, because a mucus-covered alien has taken up residence in Aidan's nose and was determined to GET OUT.

My family is completely normal, and sometimes we gather together for bagels and eggs before sending one of our own to continue her education in Brazil, where they don't speak Russian, which is too bad for Gretchen because that is her second language.

And now, a few random pictures from breakfast:

Jared looking on as Zeke, Silas, and Asher play at the little green desk.
Harper (probably) stealing the cute little cash register away from Asher.
My cousin Dana with Asher. Asher is 3 months older than Harper.
My cousin Jana with Silas, who will be one in September. Another one of Harper's buddies.
Uncle Phil and Harper
Harper rejecting a room full of toys in favor of the Maglite and magnifying glass.
My Aunt Mary, getting a dental exam from Harper
And Jared, Harper's new BFF
She's a pretty big Jared Fan
Saying goodbye to Silas...
Breakfast was great, the company was even better. I enjoyed spending a few hours with some of my favorite people.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Putting it into Words

I'm having a hard time processing this adoption so far, putting my thoughts into words, if you will.

Somewhere along the line it became about something more than adding another daughter to our family. It became about more than Brandon and me wanting four children.

Somewhere along the line it became about faith. And God. And what happens when, despite all logic, despite all the little reasons why something "can't" or "shouldn't" be done, what happens when you do what God wants you to do, even when you have no idea how you're going to do it.

What happens when doubt creeps in, fear about what this will do to your perfect little family, that split second when you wonder if you've made the right decision. God steps in, and says yes. And shut up, a little. And it's the most humbling feeling in the world, to realize in a very tangible way that you are an idiot. That God has this totally taken care of, and who are you to worry, even a little bit. Because "Don't worry, God is in control" are very easy words to say, and they look so pretty embroidered on pillows, but very hard sometimes to really know to your core.

I'm not quite ready to go into details about how God has made a way, financially speaking, for this adoption to happen. Let's just say, I would have been less surprised if little green gnomes had appeared on my doorstep with a nap-sack full of money. While pigs flew in the sky behind them and I danced with rhythm.

I remember several years ago, before I had any children, having a conversation with a single girlfriend. She had just returned from a mission trip to Romania, and had spent a lot of time serving in a Romanian orphanage. She came home wanting to immediately return, to move to Romania and adopt a houseful of children. I remember saying something to her along the lines of "I think adoption is great. But I think you have to really want to adopt a child, and not do it because you feel like you "should", and Brandon and I just don't have any desire to adopt."

Young Mandy would have laughed if you told her that in just a few years, she would be adopting her fourth child. And then she probably would have cried.

I remember sitting in a youth conference as a youth leader, and hearing a man speak about prayer. He had been journaling his prayers, and the ways they were answered, for upwards of 25 years. I remember sitting there in awe, thinking to myself, "No one can ever tell that man that God doesn't exist." That's kind of how I feel today. No one can ever tell me that God doesn't exist, or that He's not behind this adoption 100%.

When Aidan was about a year old, we started trying to get pregnant again. What we didn't realize, that about the same time that our disappointment set in, another mother a world away was pregnant with our daughter. It's so hard in those moments to appreciate the fact that God's got it under control, and will give you exactly the family that He wants you to have, because in that moment, you are so very caught up in your plans. And how could His plans possibly be better than your own?

Thanks for hanging in there with me through this pieced together, disjointed post. I was reading this morning about what Mike observations on worship, and I am having a very face-down type of day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

For my GG...

Friday, July 16, 2010


I have a bit of writer's block lately, hence the lack of blogging. And July has proved to be quite a bit more boring than June was for our little family, so I'm somewhat lacking in the "cute pictures of my kids doing summery-stuff" category too. July has been about survival mode, with lots of working, Brandon being out of town half of the month, and just trying to get through each day with my sanity intact.

Brandon and I made it out of the house for a couple of hours last night for a date night, and decided that in August we are going to take a few days for our version of a family vacation this year. What does a family vacation look like when one is enjoying the glamorous lifestyle of international adoption? It will involve a few hours at the beach in Galveston, and a trip to Brenham for a tour of the Blue Bell Factory, and we're still piecing together the rest. Probably a night or two in a hotel with a pool, since that is the highlight of any out of town trip for our boys. I'd love suggestions on what else is fun to do (on a tight budget) not too far away from the Houston area. Any ideas?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

FAQ's: Adoption Edition

The adoption is truckin' along and we're getting closer and closer to bringing Emerson home, and I thought I would take a few minutes to answer some FAQs that I've been hearing quite a bit. I LOVE talking about our adoption process, and it never bothers me to share our journey with others and answer the same questions over and over :)

Q: So when is she going to be here?

A: We are expecting to bring Emerson home sometime in late September or October. Lots of little steps have to be taken before she is legally ours, and legally an American citizen. If everything goes smoothly, we should have our travel approval around the end of August, and will plan to travel 3-6 weeks after that. Our travel dates are ultimately determined by appointments with Chinese officials, and we may not know our exact travel dates until 2-3 weeks before we actually go.

Q: Oh, so you have to travel to China?

A: Yes, Brandon and I will take an approximately 2 week trip to China to get Emerson. She will join us about 3 or 4 days into the trip, and will travel with us home.

Q: Two weeks?? Um, don't you have other kids? Kids with school and preschool and diapers? What are you doing with Dane, Aidan, and Harper during that time?

A: Um, we haven't figured out all the details yet. The short answer is some friends from church who love us very much will probably be tag-teaming kid duty while we're gone. We've told Dane and Aidan that they will probably get to have lots of slumber parties with their buddies. Dane will be in school, so them going to stay with family out of town is not really an option, and both sets of grandparents have to work. Have I mentioned how much I love my church family? I'm not going to worry too much about the childcare details until we get our travel dates nailed down.

Q: How on earth are you paying for an international adoption? I thought those were super expensive. Did you have to sell a kidney?

A: Well, just one kidney. ;) I'll have specific stories of how God has provided for our family to tell later. Lots and lots of extra work shifts, a couple of generous and unexpected gifts, and a hefty tax return are just some of the ways we have paid for the adoption fees so far. We applied for several grants through non-profit organizations who assist people with adoption expenses, but were declined. We have about $10,000 still to pay for our international flights and in-China travel expenses, and I'm very excited to see how God will work all that out for us. If our family can afford adoption, anyone can.

Q: So, Emerson doesn't speak English. How's that going to work out?

A: Needless to say, Brandon and I are expecting some very frustrating weeks at first. As far as we know, Emerson doesn't speak or comprehend any English at all. It may be much like communicating with a baby, except she is a three year old, who is more like a two year old developmentally. We expect her to pick up English quickly, but expect it to take a full year for her to "catch up" all the way. Based on the information we have been given, she has some pretty significant speech and language delays, not unusual given that she has been institutionalized for three years and has a (partially repaired) cleft palate. She will be starting speech therapy as soon as we get her home, and will initially be under the medical care of physicians who specialized in treating internationally adopted children.

Q: So what are you doing now, adoption-wise?

A: Brandon and I will very soon be applying for our Visas to travel to China. Visas are required for anyone entering China.

Q: What do the kids think about all of this?

A: They are pretty excited about getting a new sister. We pray for Emerson with the boys when we say their bedtime prayers, and they love to look at the picture that we have of her. They know that she does not speak English, and they are excited about "helping her learn about stuff." We are working hard to make this whole experience a positive one for all of our children, but expect there to be a rocky period of transition when we get home.

Thanks for praying for us, and supporting us as we continue our journey. Brandon and I are so blessed to have such a strong network of support in our friends and family!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Swim Team 2010

I've been saving all of the pictures from Swim Team 2010 for one big post so here goes. For those of you who have no desire to see my son in skin-tight swim jammers, consider yourself warned. For those of you who do have a desire to see my son in skin-tight swim jammers, please go to another site. And ewww.

Our swim team participated in its' last swim meet of the season several weeks ago. I didn't mind swim team too much. It's the cheapest way in the world for my kids to learn how to swim, and because of work, I only made it to three meets this year. Other than all the heat and humidity and constant sweating and having to watch other kids swim and the constant sweating, it's not a bad way to spend 4 hours on a Saturday morning. We get to hang out with our kids and an ever-expanding group of friends from church who have joined the team. Dane has loved swimming in "the races" on Saturday mornings.:
He mastered the backstroke this year. And by "mastered", I mean he floats on his back and kicks as fast as he can, hands by his side. He knows he's reached the end of the pool when his head bonks the wall. He's come in first place several times with his arms-free backstroke.
He's still in the process of mastering the "graceful dive":

Aidan loved going to swim practices every day and using a kickboard to kick his way across the pool, but he's going to need another year under his belt before he will successfully make it across the pool without a coach.

On afternoons post-swim meets when we're not at a "World Cup Watching Party" (I was so into the game), the kids come home happy and tired from spending four hours outside with all the sweating. Aidan's actually been taking the occasional afternoon nap after long swim days.
Last week in the midst of Cousin Camp 2010, the boys and I went on a date to the Swim Team Banquet. They wore new shirts, I took a shower, and off we went to eat some Mexican food and retrieve Dane's trophy. We sat at a table full of friends, and all in all, it was not a bad way to spend an evening. At one point after dinner, the President of the Swim Team Board had us vote "yay" or "nay" on next year's board officers. There were about 200 people in the room, and I had a sudden urge to be the lone voice who piped up with "NAY!" when voting. I restrained, and later regretted the missed opportunity. Not that I have strong feelings about who is on the Swim Team Board next year. I don't have many chances for a yay/nay vote, and I may institute this type of decision making for routine household chores. "Those who think Brandon should check the mail, say yay. Those opposed, nay."

My two handsome dates:
Fortunately, Aidan did not leave empty handed. He wore his medal around his neck with pride, and only took it off at bedtime because his mother was concerned about a possible choking hazard.
I'm acutely aware looking at the above picture that Aidan is quickly catching up to his big brother.
See you April 2011, swim team, and we may just have another swimmer for the 6 and under crew!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cousin Camp 2010: An Illustrated Guide Part 2

Cousin Camp 2010 continued for four days last week, only to end abruptly on Friday with Aidan vomiting donut holes all over Aunt Val and Uncle Izzy's house.

But let's pick up where we left off, shall we?

Step 12: Take everyone to see Toy Story 3. Discreetly cry in theater, thinking of the day when the little people sitting next to you will leave forever. Aidan confirms his fear of pink bears. Harper eats 4 pieces of popcorn from the floor of the theater lobby while walking around with mommy instead of screaming in the theater. Mommy needs faster hands.
Pose for pictures with the "good hair" sisters, and vow not to make Crazy Eyes at the camera anymore.

Step 13: Take all children to CiCi's Pizza, and have the brilliant idea to sit in the giant corner booth, which, unbeknownst to us at the time, was really a giant wrestling ring.

(Note: I've edited probably 40 pictures from Cousin Camp, and have realized that Aidan just does not like to smile at the camera. And Dane likes to pose for every. single. picture. I have very few "Aidan looking normal" pictures, and tons of pictures of Dane smiling or posing for me. Hence Aidan's bee-hind in this picture.)

Step 14: Add water. Again. Mix well.

Step 15: Talk Aunt Val into making calzone "for the children".

Step 16: Bake cookies. Have the nerve to leave them on a cooling sheet on the counter top where little hands can reach them. Bake more cookies.

Step 17: Take cute pictures of baby Uriah with his biggest cousin

and try to keep Harper from squishing him:

Step 18: Dream the impossible dream... take the impossible picture...
...and wonder why our children never wear shirts.

Step 19: Show off massive underbite, and plead to Uncle Jeremy to pretty please become an orthodontist. Pretty please?

Step 20: Contemplate why blogger must mysteriously underline texts. Enjoy a rare moment of peace when Dane reads to his little cousins before bedtime.

Cousin Camp 2010 was a success (minus All The Vomiting), and I think I can safely say that we CAN'T WAIT for Cousin Camp 2011. Three big boys, two big girls, one little Uriah, and lots of fun.

And one mommy who is definitely going to need a nap or 50 between now and then.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Cousin Camp 2010: An Illustrated Guide Part 1

Cousin Camp 2010 started with a bang on Tuesday of this week. What is Cousin Camp, you ask? Well, this year's ingredients for CC were as follows:

Cousin Camp (*feeds 5 kids, 2 aunts and a mommy for 4 days)

2- husbands out of town
1- out of town aunt in town
1- week off of work for this mommy
3- little boys with way too much energy
1- Harper girl who wants to be big like the boys
1- baby Uriah who is just trying to survive the week without being squished

Step one: Add above ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Step two: Add water and shake.

Step three: Admire baby Uriah's sassy sandals...
...and watch him sleep at the pool.
Step four: Leave Harper with aunts and take Dane and Aidan to swimming banquet. Pretend it's a date with my two big boys. Dane gets a trophy and Aidan gets a medal, and Aidan declares that he wishes he could have "Bullet" in his name when he hears someone named Alexandra Bullet receive her trophy at the banquet.

Step five: Take everyone to the park. Watch them all run around in the stifling heat and 8000 percent humidity and dream of the wonderful afternoon that they will all spend sleeping off the exhaustion.

Step six: Ignore Aunt Adrienne's pleas to NOT TOUCH THE DEAD TURTLE.
Step Seven: Discreetly water the big plant at the park while Aunt Adrienne pretends not to notice.

Step Eight: Watch Aunt Adrienne run around with all the children while this mommy and Aunt Val casually snap a few pictures.

Step Nine: Put children to bed later that day and watch 3 episodes of Glee.

Step Ten: NEVER mention fireworks. Sing loudly in the car when driving by fireworks stands, in hopes of distracting busy big boys with our stunning renditions of "Don't Stop Believin' ". Mommies don't want to light fireworks, mommies want to wait until all the daddies get back in town, so they can blow things up in the driveway with their sons and we can hide indoors watching So You Think You Can Dance! on TV and NOT think about our children lighting themselves/our husbands/the neighbor's yard/the neighbor's cat on fire. Don't you wish you lived next door to us?

Step Eleven: Take so many pictures that you soon realize that Cousin Camp: An Illustrated Guide will need at least 2 Parts. Stay tuned for Steps 12-4,012.