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Monday, December 26, 2011

The Joy of Christmas

Christmas was about a million times more exciting this year than it has been since maybe 1982 (for me, anyway). At first, Ben and Hugh seemed just as confused as they were excited, but once the reality of their new toys started to sink in it was just pure joy!

This was their first view upon coming out to the Christmas tree... the unwrapped fire trucks from Santa:

Look at that exchange of expressions... so magical!

Hugh figuring out how his truck works.

At about this point both boys were playing with their own trucks, but kept eying each other, almost as if they couldn't believe they each had their very own truck.

Ben opening another gift, but clinging tightly still to his truck!

That look says it all, doesn't it?!

It was a wonderful day! We enjoyed the company of my parents, who added their own surprises to this mix and making the day even more special. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast of bread pudding and my Mom's trademark tea ring. Opened lots of gifts and felt so full of gratitude. After the morning excitement, we headed to Church for a wonderful meeting. Just before rushing out the door, we got really lucky with snapping a quick photo with the help of the camera's timer. Not bad, right?!

I hope it was a very Merry Christmas for all of you!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Number Three

For the last (roughly) six weeks, I've been trying to recover from shock that I'm pregnant. Not too long ago I was complaining to a friend about people who ask me what has become the most dreaded question: "are you going to have more kids?" There are a few reasons the question bothers me.

One, it's such a personal question that doesn't have a simple answer and in most cases I don't want to give anything but a simple answer, which usually means my answer of "I really don't know" is probably not a very satisfying answer to most people.

Two, even though I've managed to get pregnant three times in the past nine years, my stats clearly aren't anything to brag about. Getting that question reminds me of the painful reality that I have no idea where I stand in my battle with infertility.

And, three, honestly I feel so blessed with these two boys (and our two on the other side), that to be blessed with any more would just feel greedy. In fact, a few months ago when a friend offered to let me hold her newborn, not only did I not feel baby hungry for a new baby of my own, I also had zero desire to hold her baby. Is that weird?

To be honest, we really thought we might be done. At the very least, we decided we wouldn't even consider adding to our family until the boys were at least three years old.

As that pink little line immediately appeared, the very first emotion to stink deep in my heart was the most overwhelming exhaustion. Not that I was suddenly tired, but the exhaustion that is sure to come... being pregnant while running after two nearly-two-year olds and then the exhaustion of having three kids under three. Ben will have just barely turned two-and-a-half and Hugh just barely two, when this baby is due to arrive.

Not to mention the overwhelming worry about my parenting qualities drastically dropping with an addition so soon. While getting pregnant right now was not the plan, in the last six weeks, between episodes of throwing up and spending endless hours curled up on the couch all while yelling at the boys to stop hitting each other or to get off the kitchen table (clearly, the drastic drop has already begun), I have started to feel the overwhelming exhaustion turn into the most overwhelming love.

Love for this new little miracle. Love for my two boys who seem to know something is a little off and show their concern with extra love and kisses. Love for Marc who I interrupt in the middle of his work day to change nearly all of the poopy diapers, which he does without a single complaint. Love for my parents who have made sure the boys get some real play time and I get a little rest time every single afternoon, along with the meals they've brought over. And, finally, love for the Giver of life and that for some reason He has blessed us again with a new life, a new little miracle.

So, some of the nitty-gritty details: I'm ten weeks along and due sometime around July 8th. Morning sickness is just as awful as with the last pregnancies. Even with the miracle drug, Zofran, I'm still throwing up about once a day... at least it has eliminated those days a few weeks ago when I was getting up to three times in per day. Not fun. I've lost eight pounds in the last month. If things continue like they did, then I can expect to be throwing up for another ten weeks.

One upside to having such terrible morning sickness is that I keep thinking that adding a newborn to the mix can't be too much harder than what the last month has been like. Or maybe I'm just delusional. That could be.

Three kids suddenly feels like a million. Maybe it's just the fact that both boys will still be so young. If people at church are enjoying the little show we put on every week right now, it's about to get a whole lot more entertaining!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011


Last Sunday I was sitting in a church meeting where the topic of "hope" was being discussed. Immediately I was taken back to October 2008. The very same teacher was teaching a similar lesson on the same topic, though from different lesson material. In fact, I just looked back in my archives and found that I shared some of my favorite parts of the particular talk that was used in that lesson. If you're interested, you can read it here.

I remember I was sitting on the front row that Sunday, all alone. It had been just a few months since we'd lost the twins and I was still really struggling. I remember feeling a little frustrated by the intangible, elusiveness of hope... wanting so much to understand what it meant to have hope and how to capture its light in a way to have my burden eased a bit.

It felt frustrating to hear examples of when hope for something consisted more of concentrated hard work than anything else. What about those more faith-trying examples when no amount of hard work will make your dreams come true? How do you have hope when the one thing you want more than anything, and you're willing to do anything to make it come true, still evades you?

Well, as you can probably imagine, sitting through the lesson on hope this last Sunday wasn't nearly as painful, but I could still remember the feelings from three years ago so poignantly. I was mostly amazed at how differently things have turned out than I ever would have imagined. Back then I was too afraid to hope for what I have now.

Instead I tried to focus my hope in having more trust in God, in his purposes for my life, and in the time and way those purposes would  come about. But, more than that I just couldn't do. It was far too painful to hope for a family of my own, and somehow I think God understood and still blessed me with more than I was able to hope for.

There is still a lot about hope that I don't fully grasp. And yet, I cannot deny that I have experienced the feeling of hope, been blessed by the benefits of hope, and the healing that comes from hope. And, I just find myself hoping that those out there who are struggling with hope's elusiveness will somehow find the strength to continue to hang on until their hope sees them through to a brighter chapter of life.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Adoption: My Dream Come True

November is National Adoption Month. I had plans of sharing more about my feelings about adoption throughout the month, but this particular November proved to make that much more difficult than I would have expected. I'll probably get around to explaining the reasons behind that in the coming days, but for now I can't let myself get distracted from sharing just a few thoughts about adoption (before the month is officially over).

I suppose the following story, though short and simple on the surface, was the very beginning of our adoption journey.

It was September 2005. Marc and I had been married just over three years. It had been two years since our miscarriage and two years of experiencing the painful ride of infertility. Then, one night I had a dream. I don't remember much about the dream, except the very specific image of a little boy. He had blond hair and blue eyes and a mouth full of teeth, which was what made me guess that he was about two years old. He was smiling at me and me at him. There were no words exchanged, but there was this overwhelming feeling of love and gratitude. As I watched him, there came two very clear thoughts. One, that he was my baby boy. And, two, that he did not come from my body.

I honestly didn't take the details of my dream too seriously (even though the image was so detailed and etched in my memory forever), but I did feel the power of its message. I just figured that the little boy in my dream was simply the face of our adoption hope and the push behind us to find our baby. It wasn't until the following year that we finally jumped into adoption. And then it was another two years before our adoption dreams came true.

And come true they did. In every way I could have imagined. That boy from my dream six years ago is very real and brings us so much joy. To look into those blue eyes and to run my fingers through his soft, blond hair, to hear his giggle and watch him do all sorts of daring things, I feel so incredibly blessed that I am able to call him mine. And, that he came to us in such a special way, through an amazing woman that loved him first. Adoption is a gift and a blessing, on more levels and in more ways that I can count. I find it so fitting that the month set aside for honoring adoption is shared with our holiday of giving thanks.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Two Little Monkeys

Correction: MY two little monkeys...

... feeling extra grateful tonight for the blessing these little boys are in my life.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In Knots

A few days ago Marc and I decided we really wanted to take the boys to a pumpkin patch this year. After some searching online, I found what seemed like the perfect place. A pyramid of hay bales for climbing, a petting zoo, pony rides, and pumpkins, of course. We figured a Thursday afternoon would be the perfect day and time to avoid big crowds and so that was our big adventure for today.

We made a scenic 45-minute drive past beautiful autumn-colored grapevines and those lovely rolling golden hills, with Grandma and Grandpa in their car behind us and some other friends following behind them. It was the makings for a perfect day of fun!

We started off watching the chickens behind their cage. Ben got pecked on his curious little finger that got a little too close, but didn't seem to mind. He did learn his lesson, though, and would just lean his face in close to the cage instead, but clearly keeping a much safer distance. There were cows and at least five little piglets, two ponies, and lots and lots of flies. There was a large field of rows of pumpkins and old rusty tractors for playing on and taking fun photos.

Our two boys and our friends' two boys ran around from one fun corner of the patch to another, with smiles and laughter and that contagious joy you wish you could bottle up and keep forever.

Then, it happened.

Marc was holding Hugh, watching the ponies from behind some railing. Ben ran over to join them and I was standing just a few feet behind them, watching. Then, before I knew what was happening, Ben was on his hands and knees crawling under the railing into the ponies area. Marc tried to grab the back of his pants, but he wiggled free. I ran over as fast as I could, but it was too late. One of the ponies got scared and jumped out of the way, hitting Ben right on the side of the head with his hoof.

It's all such a blur. I grabbed him up as fast as I could. He was screaming and I was so scared of what I'd find when I turned his head over to survey the damage. There was some blood on the upper portion of his right ear and some mud (and/or poop) caked into his hair and head right behind his right ear. My Dad whipped out his trusty white handkerchief (so glad he still carries one around with him) and I used that to put pressure on the part that was bleeding and then we took him to a far corner to try to clean him up and look at everything a little closer.

Luckily, our friend is an RN in the ER and was able to take a look and reassure us that Ben was going to be okay and that his cuts wouldn't need stitches. The upper part of Ben's ear has some cuts and was pretty badly swollen by the time we laid him down for bed tonight, but that seems to be the extent of his injuries.

Oh, and that my stomach is still in knots from replaying the scene in my head all night. But, really, the main reason for the knots is knowing how much worse it could have been. I'm just feeling so relieved and grateful that Ben was spared more serious injuries from what could have been a much more serious situation. With this being the third blood-involved injury in a week, I have two main thoughts: I'm really grateful we were required to take a First Aid class for the adoption process and I'm wondering how I'm going to survive life with such fearless boys.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"More, more, more!"

Ben and Hugh both LOVE trucks. They have books of trucks that they fight over. They have hot wheel trucks that they hide from each other. They like to watch youtube videos of trucks. Whenever a truck passes by they pause in complete adoration. Hugh will pull out his higher pitched voice and say, "aaahhh, truck!" while pointing in its direction and leaning forward with excitement.

Ben isn't saying truck consistently yet, but the other day he did something even cuter. We were out on our afternoon walk and approaching an intersection with an ambulance coming toward the same intersection. So, I stopped about fifty feet from the corner to let the boys watch it pass by. (I didn't want to be too close, in case the loud siren would scare them.) The noise and excitement were too much for Hugh and he just sat there, stunned. Ben, though, leaned as far forward as he could, with the stroller straps stretching to their limits, and then as quickly and emphatically as he could do it, he signed "more, more, more!"

It was so awesome! I wished I could have gotten it on video. We've been concerned a little about Ben and what seem to be a language delay and I've been trying sign language and other one-on-one activities with him to help him learn more words. His receptive language skills are improving by leaps and bounds lately, but we're still struggling a little with his expressive language.

But, there was something about that moment... it was so sweet and rewarding to watch him get so excited about that ambulance that he expressed it with a sign he's familiar with (though we mostly use it for wanting more food), and that he also expressed it without any prompting from anyone. It was a pure moment of the most honest expression of a true desire. And, it was beautiful!

These simple moments of motherhood are so joyful. I love watching my boys as they experience the world and feeling their excitement about things like trucks driving by and airplanes flying up above. When their eyes light up, it's just contagious. So, if you see me stopped at a street corner watching trucks passing by and pointing at the airplanes in the sky, come on over and enjoy the view with us! I'm not sure it gets any better than this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Slowing Down

After dinner tonight I was in the kitchen doing the dishes, when Hugh came up behind me and grabbed onto my legs from behind, clearly trying to get my attention. So, I dried my hands and bent down to his level and we looked in each others' eyes. Pretty soon I was tickling him in his most ticklish spots (his neck and under his arms) and he was giggling away with his head thrown back. That was about when Marc announced from the living room that Ben was coming to join in the kitchen fun. I was laying down flat on my back on the kitchen floor with Hugh trying to tickle my tummy and Ben trying to squirm away from me tickling him in his most ticklish spots (just under his chin and his belly).

It was one of those moments of pure joy, when time seems to pause for just a moment and I was lucky enough to have the right frame of mind to pause long enough to capture it. Unfortunately I know I don't always do that, but I've decided to change that.

I'm guilty of getting distracted with other things. There are times when I look at the luxuries and technological advances we have at our fingertips, and I just wonder whether or not we're really better off. There are advantages, sure. But, I can't help but wonder what kind of damage the disadvantages could potentially cause us, as individuals, as families, and as a world-wide community.

A couple of weeks ago I read an article in USA Today about The Slow-Family Movement. It was my kind of article. My whole soul totally resonated with the ideas, the arguments, the whole philosophy of slowing down, spending time together as a family, simplifying schedules and eliminating extra distractions that come in all different forms.

Of course, if I'm being completely honest, if given the chance I would jump at the opportunity to live in the woods with the likes of Thoreau, just to experience life stripped down to it's barest essentials.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion." - Henry David Thoreau

I know that kind of experience might not appeal to everyone, but reading that makes me itch with the desire to detach from modernity, only to then be able to better attach myself to what's really important in life.

It seems like there's a trend that has snow-balled through the last couple of decades of parents signing their child(ren) up for every possible activity - soccer, ballet, football, painting, piano, hip hop, violin, baseball, yada, yada, yada. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of being active and having an active lifestyle, as well as exploring new interests and developing talents. But, I cringe at the thought of my life, and especially the life of my child(ren), revolving around activities that take up every spare moment of the day.

I'm already taking mental notes of the personalities of my boys and trying to be aware of where they have natural strengths and interests. It's important to me to provide opportunities for them to develop and explore and dive into whatever activities that mean the most to them. It's avoiding the trap of getting them overly involved in more than is necessary. The unnecessary is what will replace what could and should be reserved for time spent as a family.

I suppose it might be as simple as making a conscious effort to have a well-balanced schedule that includes quality family time and quality personal time spent exploring and developing talents and interests. I think the key is being aware of what is most important for our family and making sure we work hard to keep those important things as the top priorities.

I think there's something to this message from Simon & Garfunkel: "Slow down, you move too fast. You've got to make the moment last."

I'm hoping so much to do just that. Slow down, enjoy every stage of my little family, and really make these moments last.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A not-so-ordinary day... Continued

... I'm really sorry about keeping anyone in suspense. It honestly wasn't my intention. It just got late and I was too tired to finish and that seemed like a good place to stop. And, even though I know how the story ends, all day today I found myself wondering where some of you might have guessed where the story was going to go. You might have thought it had something to do with the little old lady... well, that is a really good guess... but not even close.

When we were about half a block away from her house, we crossed an intersecting street where I noticed a strong smell of burnt rubber or something, but didn't think much of it and kept on going. We arrived at the lady's house and I rang her doorbell once, but when no one came and I was a little worried that she might have been resting, so we turned and went back in the direction we'd come.

As we approached that intersection we'd come from, I noticed some thick smoke and that burnt smell was much stronger. There were a few people rushing around and that was when I saw that a car parked in front of the house on the corner was on fire. I grabbed my cell phone and dialed 9-1-1, but right away a man called out, "they're already on their way." So, I just stood there, stunned. I was pretty sure I was far enough away to not be in any danger, but just in case we backed up some.

I had to go down that particular street to pick something up from my parents' house, so I decided we'd wait until it was safe. Plus, with how much both boys love trucks, I knew they'd probably enjoy seeing the fire trucks so close. It's crazy, though, how when you're at the scene of an emergency how slowly time ticks by. I know it must have been less than five minutes, but it felt like so much longer.

We had backed up enough that we didn't have a direct view of the car, but close enough to hear two very loud bangs about a minute apart. That might have been the two front tires, not sure though. But with each bang I started to wonder if the whole car was about to explode and debated about whether or not I really wanted to be around for that.

Once the fire trucks, police cars, and ambulance all arrived, the fire was out and things were under control within a few minutes. Ben was so excited, trying to wiggle his way out of the stroller to get in on the action. He happened to be wearing his favorite jacket with a firetruck on the front - surely that was license enough to lend a hand, right? Hugh screamed in terror, not wanting to have anything to do with it. Funny how different their reactions were.

*here's the car, a day later

So, that was my not-so-ordinary day. And, really, what a relief! If I learned anything at all it was that I could not handle a job that would require me to be cool, calm, and collected in intense situations. And, just as I type that I fully recognize that having two boys could very much become such a job... haha! But, it did make me so much more grateful for all those who do have those kinds of jobs and fulfill them with such courage and expertise.

Here's to more just plain, ol' good ordinary days... like today! Except for the snake part. (Don't worry, nothing happened with the snake. It just scared me as it almost slithered across my bare toes while out on our walk this afternoon. Maybe I should stop going on walks.... haha!)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A not-so-ordinary day

After a bit of a long night, with both boys awake and crying a couple of different times, morning came with a terrible lack of enthusiasm. I had planned out my morning very precisely before going to bed, reviewed it with Marc so he would be on board with my plans, and felt sure it would all go smooth as buttah.

While I was grinding my wheat (to make a batch of whole wheat bread), I decided to grind a little extra to make some whole wheat pancakes for my boys. So, I got the pancakes mixed up while waiting for the yeast to get all frothy like it's supposed to, then had Marc step in to finish flipping the pancakes while I added in a few more ingredients to the bread dough. Then, Marc and the boys had breakfast while I headed out the door on my morning run, which I was actually pretty excited about since the skies above were clear of clouds and rain, leaving the air clean and fresh.

I had anticipated rain this morning, so being out without the rain had me on cloud nine. I was making great time, running at about an 8-minute pace. I went on my favorite four-mile loop that starts off taking me through the neighborhoods at the foot of the west hills that leads me passed old Victorian-style homes and quiet streets, then I wind down toward the center of downtown and passed this local bakery that tricks me into thinking I'm back in Modena and craving those darn bombolas (a doughnut of sorts that is filled with Nutella or Creme) that we'd eat after teaching English class. Then, I eventually wind back up to the second main drag in my small town and back home.

Well, just as I was passing mile three, there was an older woman out on her morning walk up ahead of me, coming toward me. I was running in the bike lane and when she saw me, she went to move up to the sidewalk. Everything happened so fast that I'm not sure exactly what happened, but all of sudden she was down on the sidewalk, hitting her head hard enough that one of the lenses of her sunglasses was knocked right out of the frames.

I ran right to her and helped her to a sitting position. She was clearly in shock and feeling a little embarrassed. As I tried to reassure her and assess the situation, blood started trickling down the left side of her face, where she had fallen. I don't do so well with blood or emergency-like situations. Just ask Marc. On the few somewhat serious situations we've been in with the boys and their accidents, I am quite the sight. I can't help but laugh out loud at the replays I do in my mind of those moments, watching myself go into full panic mode... nearly hyperventilating at the slightest hint of blood.

There I am wiping her dripping blood with my hands, trying to figure out what I can use to stop the cut on her temple from bleeding. I didn't have anything. I almost stripped off my shirt. That was (thankfully) when I saw an older gentleman just about to go into a doctor's office right in front of us. I called to him, "Can you grab us some tissues?" He sort of nodded, a little confused, and continued with his cute old man meander. Remember, I'm in panic mode and just about jumped up and sprinted passed him in my anxious state of trying to clearly save this poor woman's life. That was about when I noticed more blood is now coming from a cut on the bridge of her nose.

In the meantime, my new friend remembered she had a kleenex in her jacket pocket. But, turns out she couldn't unzip it because of how she fell on her wrist, so I helped her with the zipper and we finally got the bleeding under control, when a nurse and a doctor come out from their office. After a brief conversation with them, the sweet little lady decided she just needs to walk back home and then find a way to the hospital to get her wrist checked out. She never did accept my offer to walk with her, insisting she was "just fine and not dizzy at all."

There was no way I was going to let her walk, what turned out to be, almost a mile back to her house. I was going in that direction anyway, so we walked arm-in-arm making small talk the whole way, talking about her grown children and grandchildren, her husband who passed away last year, and a mutual friend of us both who had a similar fall on the same street while out on her morning walk not too long ago. Crazy small world. And, apparently some crazy dangerous sidewalk on that street.

In the end, I got her safely to her house with a plan in place to call her daughter for a ride to the hospital. Upon returning home I had forgotten about my rising bread dough that Marc had appropriately (at my instruction) beaten down (twice) when it had gotten too big, which for some reason made my bread loaves very deflated and ugly-looking. I just have to remind myself when I see it sitting all ugly on my countertop that it still tastes good and that having ugly-looking bread isn't the worst thing to deal with. (or is it? I'm still trying to convince myself... )

Later in the afternoon, when there was a break in the storm, I took the boys out on a walk and decided to drop by the lady's house to check in on her. That was when our day got even more exciting....

Monday, October 3, 2011

Surgery Day

Our morning started extra early. Ben woke up at 5am. We hoped he'd go back to sleep, but ten minutes later Hugh was up and both were crying in unison. Not exactly how I was wanting the day to start. Hugh wasn't able to eat or drink after midnight, so I got him up at 11pm last night to feed him some yogurt and nurse him once more. Still, he was just a little confused (and possibly mad) this morning when I didn't nurse him or make him any pancakes. One of the hardest moments of the day.

We had to check in two hours before his scheduled time, just in case they finished with the other patient early and could get Hugh in early, too. Hanging out in a waiting room for nearly two hours on an empty stomach, Hugh was a champ! He played with his cars, "bbbrrrrmmming" the whole time... until he noticed the cats on the TV, which then had him meowing. He is my little ham, constantly bringing out smiles and laughter from everyone in his presence.

It was so perfect when they called us back to the pre-op room, to find on his bed a tiny hospital gown with little tigers on it. When I pointed it out, he went back and forth from a meow to a roar. And, then he kept trying to find a way out of his gown.

He put up a good fight with the blood pressure cuff, which dashed the nurses plans to try get the IV in with Hugh awake and aware. So, that came later, after they put the mask over his face and made him drift into some crazy deep sleep. But, I wasn't there for that part. I had to hand him off to a kind-faced nurse named Lisa. She had a warm blanket in her arms, ready to embrace him as I gave him to her at the door of the operating room. I walked away quickly, so he wouldn't look or reach for me. And so I wouldn't cry. And then I took a deep breath.

For the next hour, I filled a prescription for some pain medicine for Hugh, went to the bank and the grocery store, and checked off a couple of other quick errands. I made it back just in time to get settled and about to open up my new book, when I saw one of Hugh's nurses rushing toward me in the waiting room. I hurriedly gathered my things and followed her to Hugh's recovery room. Just as she opened the door, I heard his undeniable scream.

Music to my ears. He was waking up from that deep scary sleep and he was alive and well. In pain and a little confused, but that was remedied with some snuggling and his delayed morning feeding. Soon he was fast asleep in my arms. After they felt satisfied with their monitoring of him, he was discharged and we came back home to more snuggling and sleeping for the rest of the afternoon.

Hugh seemed to not be able to use his legs much, even by the end of the evening, but we're thinking that's probably normal and we're hoping all will be back to normal tomorrow. But, he can still meow. He sat comfortably with Marc while I made him some soup for dinner, laughing at Ben and "bbbrrrrmmming" while playing with his cars. And, he still remembers how to give kisses.

I'm realizing it was silly of me to hope for a boring day, but it definitely lacked drama and trauma, and that was more than what I could have hoped for. I'm breathing more calmly and deeply tonight, so grateful for my two boys sleeping peacefully down the hall, for their lives that continue to be preserved and for the joy and fullness they bring to my life.

And, a big thank you (again and again) to those of you who offered your prayers on our behalf!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hoping for Boring

It was a good weekend. Started off with a family outing to Beverly's (a craft and fabric store), to pick out some new fabric for curtains in our front room and kitchen. Would you believe we've lived in this new home for six months now and we still haven't taken down the flowery valences that were left up by our landlord? And, as bad as that is, it gets even worse. We still haven't unpacked any of our paintings or photos or wall hangings of any kind, except for the large mirror that hangs in our front room. Six months... sigh. Maybe the new curtains will be the right kick in the pants.

Most of the rest of the weekend was spent watching and listening to General Conference. One of my favorite moments was hearing a talk on Saturday afternoon by my mission president, LeGrand R. Curtis, Jr. It has been almost 11 years since I've been home and probably 10 since I saw him last. He is such a neat man, whom I love and respect so much. It was wonderful to see him and to get to hear him share his experiences and testimony again! Lots of good stuff to put into action from all the messages.

I was a little distracted for much of today. I kept getting this urge to get out the video camera and capture Ben and Hugh doing all the cute things they're doing these days. (They're also doing not-so-cute-things that I really don't care to capture, like tackling and biting. Yikes!) I was super excited yesterday when I finally got them to figure out how to give kisses, not only to Marc and me, but to each other... and it is the cutest thing. EVER! It makes me laugh and makes my heart all warm to witness it.

But, I'm a bit more emotional than usual because Hugh is going in for his hernia surgery tomorrow morning and there's something about general anesthetic and my baby that has made me all nervous and uneasy. I hate the reminder that life is fragile and I hate that my mind automatically goes there in moments like this. I'm just praying for a good ol' boring story to share. I don't care for drama, never have.

And, assuming that all goes smoothly, then I'll have a good couple of hours to get lost in Catching Fire... something to keep my emotional mommy feelings calm and collected while my baby is away. Anyone else already read it? I can't wait to jump and see where the story goes.

As for Hugh's story tomorrow, hope with me for boring? (and smooth and successful, too!)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Life with Boys

Where did September go? My absence around here should clearly indicate that I'm the mother of two very active toddler boys who are on the go go go, which actually requires me to be going even faster. I was warned of this, but it's pretty funny how often I find myself having to run in opposite directions.

It's been a busy month, mostly spent enjoying the final hot days of summer (as in triple digits), knowing that our rainy season will be just around the corner (which means like three straight months of rain in some cases).

Have I ever expressed how much fun it is to have boys?! They are fun and hilarious and so stinkin' cute! And, just in case you need some proof, here is just a glimpse of our last month:

Ben and Hugh - sword fighting with Grandma's silk flowers... boys will be boys!

Ben doing his yoga... a pretty common pose to find him in throughout the day:

Hugh finding yet another way to pester his big brother:

Hugh picking blackberries, not afraid of the thorns or the sour berries

The frog we found in the sand/water table in our backyard... he quickly became Ben's best friend, picking it up without any hesitation but with so much gentleness, then gently placing him back in the water after a quick blow on the face (we think that was his way of kissing it...haha!)... Hugh, on the other hand, didn't want to have anything to do with the little frog.

Here you can see the frog where Ben had placed him on the ledge, hoping he'd jump into the water again:

Hugh learning how to rake the leaves... might as well get them working young, right?!

Shouldn't every kid have a picture like this as a baby?

Or at least one like this:

I look at pictures like this one and am amazed at how fast the time is going... look how big he looks!

And, then I look at pictures like this and just about die laughing... how much will he hate me for this?! (He is normally dressed at all times, but on this particular day he had a bad rash, so I was letting him air out a little.)

So, yes, life is busy with these two. But, boring? No way! And, though I feel like I'm always saying it, I'll say it again and again:

I wouldn't have it any other way!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Forever - a year later

I can hardly believe it has been a year. Seems like yesterday. The day Ben was made officially ours. Forever.

Below are some of the photos we had taken that day by my dear childhood friend, Sarah, who happens to be a really talented photographer in the Bay Area. If you are in the area and need someone good, she is it!

I don't know that I'll ever find words adequate to express what it means to have been blessed with such a perfect little boy who came to us in such a miraculous way by a woman who acted with the most pure, selfless love. Adoption has overwhelmingly blessed my life and I will never be the same.

For more photos from our special sealing day, go here.

For some of the thoughts immediately following our experience on this day a year ago, go here.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Our fun-packed August

After spending a week at the beach in July, we came back home and I decided we'd spend the rest of the summer getting out of the house every afternoon to do something fun. It's a lot of work with these two young and active toddlers (made much easier with grandparents who live closeby!), but it has been so much fun. The month of August has flown by!

We've spent some days up at the lake - feeding the ducks and getting in the water. Ben has already started to show the first signs of learning how to swim!

We've gone to the park, where the boys love to explore this little area of redwood trees - collecting sticks and gather rocks. Ben has even found a little nook in the fence where he keeps all of his treasures, returning with each visit to check up on everything. I love having boys!

We've spent a lot of time at Grandma and Grandpa's, playing in their backyard. Ben loves playing in the water and Hugh loves finding rotten plums that have fallen off the plum tree. I just find them so adorable with their chunky little bare chests!

While visiting Grandma and Grandpa, Ben and Hugh also love a little time tinkling the ivory on my Mom's baby grand piano. They play quite the duet!

We've also stayed close to home, playing in the backyard with the sand and water table. Just the other day Ben figured out how to climb on top and get right into the water. And, while Ben can most likely be found dumping a bucket of water down his front side, Hugh is most likely to be found near the blackberry bushes, eating the berries right off the vine - literally - as in, not even bothering to pick them off with his fingers first. Silly boy!

With Ben and Hugh at their current stages, we have some struggles at times with teaching them how to play nicely together. But, I'm feeling more and more grateful for little moments when I find them playing and laughing, completely on their own, without a mediator standing guard. A week or so ago I was busy doing a few things and realized the boys had wandered back to their bedroom. I was just about to get up to check on them (hoping they weren't trying to injure each other), when I heard the happiest giggles coming from their room.

I love moments like this! It is such a joy to watch these two grow and learn and become little boys!

Saturday, August 27, 2011


This is a quite a bit overdue, but I wanted to thank you all for the advice with the bottle weaning. It was helpful to hear what others' experiences have been like - to know I'm not alone in this. I also appreciated the help with readjusting my perspective and expectations. I've decided to give my little Ben time to make the transition when he's more ready for it. And, I'm pretty sure he's more than happy with that decision! Really, so am I.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bottle weaning

We have (what feels like) a very serious dilemma we're facing right now and I need help!

We're trying to wean Benjamin from the bottle and nothing seems to be working. He only takes a bottle before his nap and before bedtime. Part of the problem is that his bottle has a three-fold purpose: 1) drinking milk, 2) sucking on it after the milk is gone, like he would a pacifier (except that he has never taken a pacifier), and 3) using it as a teether.

He uses a sippy cup during meal times and throughout the day just fine, which is mainly filled with water. So, our first attempt at bottle-weaning was to feed him milk out of his sippy cup, when it came time for nap and bed time. He hated it. Screamed. Threw it on the floor. We were firm at first and would just put him down without any milk for the first couple of naps (we didn't dare try it at bed-time until we (and he) felt comfortable with the change). But, after a couple of days of just miserable nap-times, we caved and went back to the bottle.

Our next attempt was to gradually water down the milk in his bottle until he would just flat-out refuse the bottle on his own. That backfired. Turns out that Ben likes his bottle, even if it's filled with plain, pure water.

Then I went to the store and bought different types of sippy cups, thinking he might take milk from a different kind of sippy cup than what he usually uses during the day for meals. Approximately eight different sippy cup styles later and still no luck.

We're at a point now where his bottle nipples have been chewed so much that they're cracked and falling apart. Buying new nipples is not an option. This is the perfect opportunity to finally cut off the attachment to the bottle and throw out the nipples.

BUT, I don't know what to do! Is this something we should be patient about and let him decide when he's done with the bottle? Or do we need to just throw them out and not worry about whatever trauma results? Has anyone else had a child so attached to the bottle like this? What did you do to wean your child from it? Does anybody have any genius ideas that worked?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Beach Bums

We spent the entire week last week at the beach. Some friends of ours were unfortunate enough to have to go to Spain for two weeks, and we were fortunate enough to get to house-sit for them for one of their weeks away. My parents spent a couple of days with us, and since Marc had work projects for the first part of the week, he joined us mid-week.

The days we were there were gorgeous and absolutely perfect - blue skies, warm air, cool ocean breeze.

We played in the sand...

we chased seagulls...

we tried to tackle waves (which never worked out in our favor!)...

we explored all the fun stuff on the beach (Hugh tasted every last object he could get his hands on)...

The waves were inviting - in fact, a little too inviting for my two little boys. If ever there was a question of their fearlessness, it has since been washed away along with any hopes of my sanity past the age of three. Maybe four. Are boys just born without fear?

It was the perfect time to spend a week at the ocean, just after passing the twins' birthday, with my thoughts turned a little more tenderly toward feelings and emotions in my heart. There is no place like the ocean to process some of those feelings, as those waves seem to know all too well the ebb and flow of the heart's emotions.

And, as I watched my boys run full-speed toward those impressive waves, with determination and unmatched courage, I realized how much I have to learn from these little guys. It was so clear to observe that there is a joy that comes when life is embraced and faced head-on, lived like it's meant to be lived. I left the beach last week with a new perspective and renewed desire to live life a little more fully and to not be so afraid of life's ebb and flow.