Archive for November 2013

So Thankful

I don’t know about you, but I often imagine parts of my life set to music. Is that weird? For my wedding, I used nontraditional music to set the ambiance and did my best to have the wedding party enter onto the scene at the appropriate time to coincide with the crescendos of the music. I thought it was moving.

In my head I have envisioned various other pieces of my life set to music. For years I have wanted to actually make some of this happen, but didn’t know where to start. This past week I spent some time creating a simple little picture montage–capturing some monumental moments in my life as a parent, set to music. It epitomizes a couple of things I am incredibly thankful for, so I figured it was the perfect time of year to share it.

May we remember to be thankful every day, not just today.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Quips from Our Funny Boy

Jan 09 005

Along with the many memory books, as I noted earlier, I keep a small journal near the kitchen, which I grab and jot down funny things that the kids say. If I ever lose this book I will be so sad. Periodically, I pick it up and read through it and most times, like tonight, I end up in tears from laughing so hard. I know it’s probably not as funny when it’s not your kid or you weren’t there when it happened, but I thought I’d share some of them here anyway. These all happen to be from Nickolas. I’ll post some of Ella’s quips later.

The day after Nickolas turned 3 I introduced him to pull-ups. I showed them to him and explained what they were called. He put his hand on my shoulder to steady himself and as he was lifting his foot to put his leg through the pull-up he said, “Oh, that’s wonderful…{pause}…and counselor and mighty God.”

===

A few months later, I was pushing him around the store in a cart. We overhead a mother in the next aisle having a hard time with her two kids and she said rather firmly, “You need to take your hands off of your brother!” Nickolas misunderstood what she said and looked up at me with his big eyes and said, “Mama, that kid put his pants on his brother!”

===

That fall, the three of us got into the car and headed to our town’s Civil War Days. We tried to explain to Nickolas, a little bit about what we were going to see and do. This was not an easy task. We told him there would be guns and cannons, but no one was really fighting, it was all just pretend, even though it might be pretty loud at times. Before we backed out of the garage, Ken said a prayer for our day. As he finished Nickolas chimed in, “Dear God, help us be healthy and I hope no one shoots us for real.”

===

He was eating a pb&j sandwich for lunch and I noticed a big piece on the floor and asked him what happened. He said, “I dropped it. I was holding it, but it escaped!”

===

While driving I pointed out 2 deer that were running across the road ahead of us. Nickolas asked, “What are they doing?”

I said, “Probably just out looking for something to eat.”

“Like sandwiches?” he innocently replied.

===

I had been trying to train Nickolas to pick up after himself a bit. After dinner one night he had put his dirty dishes in the sink and his remaining drink in the fridge, but I asked him to push his chair in. As he did so he said, “Mom, how come you’ve got me doing your jobs lately?”

===

Overheard from the backseat of the car: “I think I’m growing a beard.”

===

Nickolas: On my 6th birthday I’ll be 6.

Me: That’s right. How old will you be on your 20th birthday?

Nickolas: Old!

Collector boy

One evening, when Nickolas was four, Ken said something, to which Nickolas replied, “you can say that again.” Ken laughed and said, “You sure are a smart boy.” Nickolas replied, “you can say that again too!”

===

Later that night he said to me, “Mommy, let’s pretend I’m Chad Vader and you’re Darth.”

“OK,” I said as I was cleaning up the kitchen. “What do I do as Darth? Just keep cleaning?”

“Yes,” Nickolas said. “You can just do that boring stuff that you like to do.”

===

In 2011, shortly after bringing Ella home, Nickolas went and checked on her while she was napping and reported back to me. “I can’t believe Ella is sleeping, just like a beauty.”

===

We drove by a police car and someone who had been pulled over. The officer was standing outside the person’s car speaking to them through their window. Nickolas shouted out, “Oh yah! He got ‘em! He caught him left-handed! Mom, if a policeman runs out of handcuffs he can get more, right?”

===

In prepping his sister for her upcoming eye exam, Nickolas said, “There are big letters and little letters. The little ones are a challenge.”

DSCN2641

As we pulled into the parking lot for the dentist office I heard him repeating to himself, “must be strong, must be strong.”

===

And finally, here’s a good one to end with for now:

We were looking through our wedding album and Nickolas {at age 5} said, “You found each other, you sticked together and you got married. You don’t leave once you found somebody.”

I actually let Nickolas read through this tonight and we had another good laugh. My kids absolutely love to hear us retell funny stories about them. They eat it up and want more.

What funny things have kids in your life said? I’d love to read some in the comments section.

DSCN0279

Remembering Birthmothers

After my last post on National Adoption Day, I thought of a couple of things that I wish I would have mentioned.

I saw that a friend, who is a foster parent, had Liked my post on Facebook and immediately realized I needed to change my summary paragraph. I had neglected to add “foster parents” to my list of people who could use some encouragement–so I went back and added that immediately.

Later that day, as I was driving to an appointment, I turned on the radio to hear a woman speaking of the son whom she chose to place for adoption, and I immediately realized my next oversight.

The words “birth mother” or “birth parent(s)” can be hard words to utter in the beginning stages of adoptive parenting–especially amongst parents who have adopted internationally, I believe. But once we got over that hurdle and just started saying the words and using them with our children, it became easier and more commonplace. I feel that it’s a very important thing to do, right from the beginning, so our children can begin to process who they are. It also encourages trust and open communication, so our kids know that there is no subject that they need to fear broaching with us.

Although many of us may never know what circumstances led to our kids being left without parents or placed for adoption, we can all agree that, regardless of what other choices they made in their lives, birth mothers chose to give birth to their/our babies, rather than ending their lives in utero, and for that choice, we will always be grateful beyond words.

First moments with my new daughter.

First moments with my new daughter.

So with that in mind, may we also remember birth mothers during this National Adoption Month, and be supportive of the many young women who are making the choice to carry and birth their babies, and place them in the waiting arms of others, when they could have been swayed to do otherwise. That is an incredibly brave and selfless choice–worthy of much respect and gratitude.

 

National Adoption Awareness Month

Our boy on his re-adoption day in Chicago.

Our boy on his re-adoption day in Chicago.

Did you know that November is National Adoption Month or National Adoption Awareness Month?

National Adoption Day is traditionally observed on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, with thousands of domestic adoptions being finalized simultaneously in courtrooms across the country.

I sincerely appreciate the efforts that are made on a national level to help promote awareness of adoption. It does seem, however, that those of us directly connected to adoption can often be the most effective tools in promoting positive perceptions of adoption and debunking myths and stereotypes that often go hand-in-hand with adoption ”stories.”

As an adoption advocate, I celebrate adoption as a positive way to build families and I strive to draw attention to the many thousands of children, nationally and world-wide, who are in need of permanent families. It can be heartbreaking and overwhelming to consider, but lives are changed one at a time and we can all make a difference, in one way or another.

The first glimpse of our daughter.

Here’s the first picture we saw of our little girl—which came to us in an email on November 22, 2010—three years to the date of my typing this. Sure am glad we opened that email!

As an adoptive parent, I have been blessed with two incredible children, and friends and relatives who have wholeheartedly embraced my family and encouraged us every step of the way. I am so incredibly thankful for that!

On the other hand, I have also been asked quite a few insensitive questions and have had to endure inappropriate comments and discouraging stories. I’m sure I haven’t experienced the last of this, but I am learning to extend more grace—realizing that most people don’t mean any harm, they’re just curious or revealing what little they know about the adoption process. I have personally regretted how I’ve worded things at times, so I know how easy it is to stumble over your words when speaking of adoption. I need to remember that others are going to do the same and I don’t have to catch them on every single slip-up. But, if it’s a matter of someone repeatedly stating something offensive or hurtful, or if I feel I can use the opportunity to educate them on more appropriate terms, or a better way of seeing a situation from a different perspective, I will often do so, with all due respect.

My biggest tip that I would like to share here: I would encourage people to stop and think before they ask an adoption-related question or share their opinion on adoption if my kids are within ear shot. If someone makes a remark that is going to make my kids feel devalued or like oddities, I will strongly attempt to redirect or leave the conversation.

So now I will ask, have you considered adopting, or are you wondering how you can positively change the life of an orphaned child or a child in the foster system? Or how about encouraging an adoptive or foster family, or a family in the process of adoption? Feel free to ask me any {appropriate} questions you might have.  I would be thrilled to share with you what I have learned.

This Week’s Projects

FallGathering

I’ve mentioned that I’ve had some projects keeping me extra busy this week, so I thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve been up to.

First, it’s Operation Christmas Child National Collection Week! If you’re not familiar with Operation Christmas Child, please head over to the Samaritan’s Purse websiteand check it out.  Like many others, I have been involved with Operation Christmas Child for many, many years. I don’t remember the first time I packed a shoe box full of items for kids, but I do remember the first time I was able to help deliver boxes to children in Russia and Belarus and saw the smiles on their faces. That experience has motivated me to get more involved with OCC over the years.

Here is a picture of the boxes that our church family put together this year {and of course my cute kids}:

kids with Operation Christmas Child boxes

Secondly, I have been working on decorations and centerpieces for this Sunday’s Thanksgiving service at our church. I created these mason jars with acorns and candles last year and was able to incorporate them into this year’s table centerpieces as well.

AcornJars

FallCenterpieces

We will have straw bales and pumpkins and various other decor, but this is an example of how the individual centerpieces will look:

FallCenterpiece

Also, I belong to a blogging community called Blogging Your Passion. Jonathan and Bob from BYP have helped me out so much with setting up my blog on WordPress and being there to answer any questions I have. They have started an online university which keeps me motivated and consistently offers help and insight into this blogging thing. With November being known to many as National Novel Writing Month, BYPU issued a challenge to write at least 10 new blog posts before month’s end {with the incentive of winning a nice little prize}. I had a bit of a delayed start, but I am doing my best to complete the challenge and be eligible for the prize drawing.

And finally, this is what has been slowing me down {quite} a bit this week.

bandaged wrist

I have developed what seems to be tendonitis in both my wrists, but my right wrist has been pretty painful this week, putting me completely out of commission for 1 day so far. I’ve had a bit of a reprieve from the pain today, so hopefully it doesn’t get worse as I try to make up for lost time now that it’s feeling a tiny bit better. We’ll see what tomorrow holds!

The Corners of My House

I thought it might be fun {and perhaps a bit therapeutic} to document the condition of my house these days. I honestly think I will look back at these pictures fondly when my kids are teenagers and my heart is begging for them to stay home and mess up my living room again. I tear up just thinking about that. Some days I can be seen with my hands on my head exclaiming how the clutter is driving me absolutely crazy, and how I cannot bear to live in the chaos any longer. But I also recognize that it’s a season of my life, and frankly, I LOVE this season, so I don’t want to wish it away any time soon.

So here are a few snapshots of the corners of my house that I took yesterday morning, after my parents left. First, the four corners of my living room:

Toy corner of living room

Cluttered shelves

toy car clutter

punching bag corner

That last corner looks kind of neat compared to the others, but yes, that is a punching bag and there are currently close to 40 Operation Christmas Child boxes stacked next to it.

Here’s another corner of my dining room that I didn’t share yesterday:

dining room cluttered corner

A corner of my son’s room:

cluttered boy's room

A corner of my daughter’s room:

daughter's cluttered room

The corner of our loft, formerly known as our guitar room–we ran out of room for the guitars so those had to go elsewhere:

cluttered loft

Pictures of a cluttered house are generally not blog worthy these days, but I am thankful that these pictures make me smile. They really do. Sometimes the odd things that I find in a pile or lying around crack me up and reflect my kids’ incredible imagination–and I love that! I’ll get around to straightening things up sometime soon {probably}, but in the meantime, I’ll keep busy with other things and my kids will keep playing hard…and I think we’ll all remember these days as the best of times, clutter and all!!

Living in the Chaos

Dinner with Grandma and Grandpa PrattMy parents were just here for a 4-day weekend.  My father still farms with my brother, so it’s not always easy for them to get away, but it’s always nice to have them visit.

Generally I prepare for their visit a little more than I did this time. I’m in the middle of a few projects right now that are cluttering up various parts of the house, and I didn’t have the time or energy to organize or clean very well before their arrival. This probably would have bothered me terribly in the past, but I have to admit, I’ve become a lot more laid back about my house the last couple of years. I still feel and function best when things are clean and neatly in their place, but I honestly haven’t been able to keep up with it lately and have just been living in the chaos instead.

If my kitchen is cluttered or my laundry is piling up, it becomes too much and I get overwhelmed. I notice that I tend to spin my wheels and be less productive everywhere if those two things are out of control. So I try to tackle them first {and continuously} and work on the rest of the house as I can. But, as I mentioned, other projects have become my current priority and I am taking a deep breath and admitting that I’m okay with that…for now.

This is what my dining room looked like moments before my parents arrived:

Cluttered dining room

And this is what’s going on behind the scenes {and behind the table} in the top picture, where it looks like all has been cleaned up. At least we were able to use the dining room for its main purpose while our company was here.

Dining room clutterThis is how my coffee table has looked all weekend, plus or minus a random tchotchke or two.

cluttered coffee tableAnd this is what’s going on under that same coffee table:

Legos under coffee table

Gotta love kids and their version of “putting the Legos away.”

Come back tomorrow for more telling photos of how we really live  🙂

 

More Scrapbooking Shortcuts

Continuing on from my last post, I wanted to include a couple more scrapbooking shortcuts that I use to help me keep track of my kids’ growing-up-years.

This is the book that I use to store memories of their birthdays:

Birthday memory book

Birthday Memory book

Each year has a place to post a picture and record details about the day and their party. The pages are also pockets that hold cards, invitations and photographs from their special day.

Finally, I use these School Memories albums to record general information from each of the kids’ school years:

School Memories book These pages are also large 8 1/2″ x 11″ pockets to store report cards and a few other items.  {For ideas on how to store larger school papers and artwork, check out this post.} It will be fun to look back on these and see how their signatures changed as they got older.

semi-homemade scrapbooksSo, as you can see, I record a lot of things, but it’s not terribly time consuming and I’m pretty happy with the end result. When we go on trips, I try to shove all of these irreplaceable albums into our fireproof safe, but needless to say, I am running out of room.  If I ever get their Disney scrapbooks done, I will definitely need to ask for a bigger safe for Christmas!

Do any of these albums look like items that would be helpful for you? Do you have other items that have worked well or other ways of recording memories? Let me know in the Comments section if so.

Semi-Homemade Scrapbooking

In my last post I mentioned scrapbooking. I have done some of this in the past. Real scrapbooking, I mean, and that’s a lot of work and takes a lot of time, creativity and materials. Although I love the final outcome, I fear that these days if I insisted on “real” scrapbooking I might not ever get finished {and might be afraid to even start}. So over the last few years I have done some quasi-scrapbooking, or semi-homemade scrapbooking you might say, and that has made a big difference in my motivation level and my completion factor.

Christmas Memories Journal

Here is an example of what I mean. At Christmastime I have used this scrapbook/journal over the past five years. Last year I finished it up and ordered another to have on hand for this year since I love the design of it so much. This book calls for more journaling than I care to do {well my heart would like to do it but my hand and neck problems keep me from fulfilling my heart’s desire at times}, so I fill the pages in with lots of pictures and it turns out just great.

Christmas Memories Scrapbook

I bring this album out after Christmas is over and work on it, but this year it hit me that during the holiday season I should have it out on our coffee table for my family and guests to browse through to enjoy seeing our Christmas celebrations {and cute kids} through the years.

Wedding Anniversary Memory Book

This is another album that I have kept up over the years. It’s a place to record yearly happenings from one wedding anniversary to another. I hope my kids will enjoy receiving this someday. I’m thankful that I have all of this recorded in on place.

Annivesary Memory Book

Since we didn’t have our kids for the first year(s) of their lives, they don’t have an official baby album, but I do have this album which records Nickolas’ first year with us, month by month. It’s a nice little adoption journal—the best one I’ve found so far, and I highly recommend it for parents who have younger kids who are adopted.

My Family My Journey Book

Adoption Journal

Ella was given her own wonderful scrapbook made by the caregivers from her orphanage in China. It holds priceless pictures and memories.

Orphanage Scrapbook

We are so very thankful to have this book. It was an incredible surprise for us to receive such a precious gift.

I have a few more books that I use for recording my kids’ birthdays and school days. I’ll share those next time!

 

 

Just Back From Disney World

kids with Mickey Mouse

We recently returned from a family vacation to Disney World. What a trip! I was so immersed in that magical place that it has taken me several days to get my feet back under me here in the real world. Experiencing all four parks and seeing everything  through the eyes of my kids really allowed me to get lost in the moments there…and it was fun!

Now that I’m back, I feel like I could almost be one of the experts whom I researched and consulted as we planned our trip. Having experienced it makes me want to share the ins and outs of it with others so they can get the most out of their trip. So if you plan on going soon and haven’t been there before, be sure to let me know because I’d be happy to pass on any knowledge that I have before I forget it–because unlike the real experts, I won’t be going again anytime soon and what is so fresh in my mind now will quickly fade.

Grohs at Magic Kingdom

My biggest take-away: Plan an extra day, maybe in the middle of your trip, to sleep in a bit and enjoy the pool or other amenities of your resort or hotel, and relax. We didn’t do much relaxing once we were on Disney grounds. We poured as much fun as we could into the 7 days that we were there, and that meant getting up early and going to bed late. It paid off, but some down time would have been nice too. I took a book and a couple of magazines to read, and they never got touched.

Something that pleasantly surprised me was that the parks aren’t actually as big as they appear on the maps. What seemed to be “way on the other side of the park” was really a pretty reasonable walking distance away, and that’s a very good thing.  Everything was surprisingly close together—I noticed this especially in Magic Kingdom. Don’t get me wrong, I believe we walked 7 or more miles each day {my father-in-law wore a pedometer}, and we were worn out every night, but the parks themselves seemed very manageable.

The bus rides to and from the parks were another story. I never followed what route they took, but it seemed like we drove around, here and there and I never had any clue when we were going to arrive at our destination. We always did though, and that’s what’s important, right?

I was glad I took a lightweight sweater with me every day. It was either on me or tied around my waist. It was cool in the morning and evening and COLD inside the restaurants and shows, in my opinion anyway. The buses were generally freezing.

I had read somewhere that we would never see everything so we should not expect to, and that was a helpful piece of advice. We did what we could and what we thought the kids would enjoy the most, and left it at that. No need to push anyone into a meltdown.

Grohs with Donald Duck at Animal Kingdom

Now it’s time to get pictures arranged in albums and scrapbooks so that we have something tangible to help us remember our trip. Our kids were at a great age for this trip and will hopefully remember a lot of it, but I know having a scrapbook full of pictures will help them remember it even more. So that’s one of my next projects!

Grohs at Hollywood Studios