"Anyone can have one kid. But going from one kid to two is like going from owning a dog to running a zoo." - P. J. O'Rourke

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Dad Is Willy Wonka

Yesterday, Nina, Molly, Aidan, Emily and I went to my parent's house to make candy. This is becoming an annual event for us as my dad passes on his candy making knowledge to the next generations. Dad has been making candy for many years - maybe 20 or so. He doesn't just do the simple stuff either. His candies look like they belong in a Godiva box. We're not quite up to his level yet, but we're getting there. In another twenty years or so we'll have it done pat.

Each year we learn a new kind of candy. This year we added chocolate covered cherries to our repertoire as they are my all-time favorite type of candy. They turned out reasonably good and I am sure they will taste great. We haven't eaten any yet, as they have to age a little bit. We also made turtles and peanut butter cups yesterday and came home with several pounds of yummy candy. Now would be a really good time to show up at our house for a visit - if you like candy that is.

Anyway, here are the pictures. 

This wasn't taken while we were making candy, but this is what the great candy maker looks like!

Here's Molly putting the fondant in the chocolate covered cherries.
Emily filling the peanut butter cups.
Aidan filling peanut butter cups.
Nina putting the bottoms on the cherries.
Here we are dipping turtles in chocolate.
And here are some of the finished products.  I didn't take a picture of the turtles because they aren't as "pretty".

At the end of the day we ended up with about 80 peanut butter cups, 80 cherries and a whole bunch of turtles!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Sister Is Martha Stewart

Who knew?  Not I.  I've known my sister for 43 years and I always thought I was related to her, but now I am not so sure.  Here's what happened.  I show up to Thanksgiving dinner (at Mom & Dad's house) with the required bread/rolls and  salad.  My sister Deb shows up at Mom & Dad's house with all the material to make turkeys out of Oreos and candy corn, little muffin papers with nuts and candy corn, place cards to organize the seating, Turkey Bingo cards, veggies (asparagus wrapped in prosciutto , corn & brussel sprouts) and dessert (two pies with REAL whipped cream and frosted sugar cookies).  Hard to hold a candle to that! 

So, I have come to the conclusion that Deb is really Martha Stewart in disguise or maybe she's just channeling Martha.  It should be noted that she possesses only Martha's good qualities and Deb has never done jail time.  Since I have virtually NO creative talents (save blog writing) I'm not sure we are really related.

Here are the pictures to prove it (that Deb is Martha, not that Deb and I aren't related).







Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I FINALLY Did It

I did it, I did it, I finally did it!!! Finish reading Les Miserables, that is. All 987 pages of it.

I absolutely LOVE the story. I've been to the traveling Broadway production about four times. I've seen the movie several times. I own the soundtrack. I walk around singing the songs frequently. Even my kids sing them. So, about a year ago, I decided to actually read the whole book since the musical and the movie are quite abridged. Well, it took me a year to do it, but I made it all the way through. I almost gave up during the forty page history lesson on the Battle of Waterloo (which, by the way, came in handy when we were learning about Napoleon a few weeks ago) and the ten pages on the sewer system under Paris was interesting (in a not so interesting sort of way). The story is SUPERB and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has a lot of time to wade through it!

Here is my favorite quote from the last few pages, spoken by Jean Valjean on his deathbed - 'It is nothing to die; it is frightful not to live.'

And to that I say, "Amen!"

Another Quiz

Okay folks, we've all been humbled by our lack of knowledge of the countries in Africa. Now we can show everyone how much or little we know about turkeys. Take the quiz and let me know how you do. I answered 13 out of 20 correctly.

Aren't They Cute

Sometimes I just need to post a cute picture :)

Flashback

In honor of our anniversary week (why limit yourself to a day), I thought I would post some wedding photos :) This is one of the things I love about blogging - I can shamelessly show you whatever pictures I want to . Of course, you don't have to look at them, but you can't stop me from posting them (mwa-ha-ha-ha)

Okay, let's take a trip down memory lane. Flashback 18 years ago and here is what you have - less wrinkles and more hair.
I thought I would include the whole wedding party since some of you read my blog.  
And this is my favorite wedding picture because I really like the back of my dress (and my flowers).  As an important aside, my mom made my dress.  Didn't she do an outstanding job?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Things I'm Thankful For

Or, for those of you belonging to the grammar police :

Things For Which I Am Thankful

In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, I thought I would list 10 things I am thankful for today.

1. 18 years of wonderful marriage to my sweetie.
2. Eight amazing, uniquely individual kids.  Our life would be so boring without them!
3. A warm house to live in and food to eat.  Many in the world don't have these things.
4. Corn bags.
5. A Saviour who paid an extravagant price for my salvation.
6. Homemade bread rising in the oven.
7. Music that fills our home - piano, flute, bagpipe & French horn.
8. Family to spend the holiday with (or with whom we can spend the holiday).
9. Hot tea (six cups a day).
10. A church where I continually learn new things about God, Jesus & the Bible.

So, what are YOU thankful for today??

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Congratulations, Marcus!

Today in Sunday School Marcus received his book bag for memorizing five verses - no small feat for someone who is only just learning English.  Actually, as you know his English is coming along great, but let's just say some of the words used in the Bible aren't ones he uses everyday.  I am sure he has no idea what some of those verses he's memorized mean.  That's okay though.  He will still have them memorized when he figures out what they mean :)Good job, Marcus!

You Are Going To Be Jealous

You really are! Chris & I will have our 18th anniversary on Monday. To celebrate, our dear daughter Nina wanted to make us a very special dinner. So, she enlisted her Aunt Joy & Uncle Jim to help put on a wonderful dining experience for us last night. Now I know what you are probably picturing - a nice meal of, say, lasagna, a few sides and a dessert. WRONG!  

Here's the menu (click on it to enlarge it so you can read it better).

In case the print is too small for you to read, I will recap it here Appetizer - Creole Stuffed Shrimp, Salad - Spinach salad with feta cheese, dried cranberries, crumbled bacon, red onion and Vadalia dressing, Entree- Bacon wrapped filet mignon with Twice baked potatoes au gratin, asparagus and garlic ciabatta bread, Dessert - Creme brule.

Okay folks, this was, in all honesty, the best meal I have EVER tasted. It was incredible. It was amazing. It was close-your-eyes-and-savor-every-bite amazing! Now since you don't get to taste it (bummer for you), I will show you pictures that will make your mouth water.


And now, some miscellaneous pictures from the evening. 

 Here's the kitchen staff :)  Chef Nina, Sous Chef Jim and Kitchen Manager Joy

The Happy Couple

Auntie Joy spent the whole evening washing dishes from what I can tell.  Oh, and keeping the other kitchen staff in line.

We had the best waitress/chef ever!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

R.I.P.

We came home from the Tim Hawkins concert last night to a semi-crisis - our microwave had died! Why is this a semi-crisis you might be inclined to ask? (I love putting words in your mouth) Well, every night our microwave gets a work-out warming up corn bags for everyone (sans Zoe) in the house. Now, some of you aren't familiar with corn bags (poor souls). A corn bag is a flannel bag filled with feed corn (thus the name) that you heat up in the microwave and then place in your freezing cold bed. When you climb into bed you put your cold little tootsies on the corn bag and enter that wonderful bliss of a warm place for your toes.

So, as you can see, no microwave = no corn bags = really cold feet!

If you don't already own a couple corn bags, you should run out right now and buy the supplies and make a few for yourself and everyone else in your house. It really doesn't work well for only one person in a house to have one, as it creates all sorts of jealousy and conflict - even threats of theft...

It's really ideal to have two for each person - one for your cold feet and the other for your cold hands. You can make it out of rice or other grains as well. We just use feed corn because it's really, really cheap and it has such an interesting smell when you heat it up. Even the smell brings happy memories to my mind :) Just don't use popcorn - for obvious reasons. Now I know that some people out there are thinking. This lady is a lunatic for getting so excited about a warm bag of feed corn, but you wouldn't say that if you had experienced the pleasure of one. I am sure I will get wonderful testimonials on my comment page from other corn bag owners. You just wait and see...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

This Is Fun - And Humbling

Test your skill in identifying the countries of Africa.  I did pretty poorly (43% in 4 minutes).  Let me know how you do.  Africa quiz.
Okay, this is humbling. Evan just got a 60% in two minutes!

Great Article

I just got done reading an article in World Magazine and it was so good, I HAVE to share it with you.  Here you go.  It is perfect for getting ready for Thanksgiving next week.

Scones

Okay, I'm not English, but I really love scones! We had some for breakfast this morning and if you were here you would now be asking me for the recipe. How do I know this? Because every time I serve these particular scones, I get asked for the recipe. So, since you asked (or would have asked), here it is.

Scones
1 egg, beaten
Buttermilk
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 Tbs. butter softened
1/2 cup craisins, currants or raisins (today I actually used dried blueberries -mmm)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Put egg into a 1 cup measuring cup and add enough buttermilk to make 1 cup.  In a different bowl combine next four ingredients.  Cut in butter until crumbly.  Add chips and raisins.  Add liquid and stir until just moistened.  Drop 1/2 cup at a time onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Makes 12 scones.  Bake at 400 deg. for 12-15 minutes.

Devonshire Cream (You HAVE to have it with the cream!)
3 oz. softened cream cheese
1 Tbs. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3-1/2 cup whipped cream

Beat the cream cheese and add the sugar and vanilla.  Beat well.  Beat in whipped cream.  Cover and chill 2 -24 hours.

If you make the cream tonight, you can, too, can have awesome scones in the morning!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why Big Brothers Are Great

They'll read to you when Mom is busy making dinner.Yes, they're reading Garfield. Hardly an intellectually stimulating read, but it did keep them happy while I got dinner ready :)

It's A Date

We finally have a date for our adoption finalization hearing!! It's Dec. 11. We could have done this much sooner if I had gotten my act together and finished all the paperwork, but once we had the kids home I lost all motivation to do paperwork. Go figure! Anyway, soon we will be DONE with all adoption stuff! Yippee!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Kids' Clubs

My kids are into forming clubs these days.  Every morning over breakfast they decide who is going to be in which club.  They also decide important things like what the club "uniform" will be. This is tricky sometimes as they don't really have matching wardrobes.  Well, the uniform for today's club was Vikings shirts and black pants.  Aidan & Marcus provided the shirts for all other club members.

Here they are....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Love?

"Why else were individuals created,but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently?" - C.S. Lewis

I've been thinking about this quote a lot recently. A week or so ago Marcus had a really hard day. It was the first time in the eight months he's been here that he wept over his losses. He cried for his family back in Ethiopia pretty much all day. It wasn't an "I hate it here," type of crying. It was an "I'm so sad about all I've lost" sort of crying. It was hard to watch him go through. It breaks my heart to watch my children have to deal with grief and pain over losses greater than most of us will EVER know.

Yet, I know that God preordained Marcus' life before the beginning of time and I know that for some reason, his losses and his coming to live with us was/is the very best thing for him. Wow, that doesn't look a lot like the love I'm comfortable with...

So, last week when I was reading about Lazarus (you know the guy that Jesus raised from the dead) some things stuck out to me. What do you make of this excerpt?

"Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was." John 11:5-6

Jesus LOVED them, SO he didn't go to them right away. What happened? Lazarus DIED. Hmm. Interesting thing this love is. In case you think Jesus didn't know that would happen, here's what He said to his disciples, "Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe But let's go to him." (John 11:15)

Now Lazarus' sisters weren't FEELING particularly loved by Jesus when he arrived. They said things like "If you had been here, my brother would not have died." We know the rest of the story. Jesus went to the tomb, they rolled away the stone and out came Lazarus at Jesus' command.

Why? Why didn't Jesus just prevent his death (he had done that for other people)? Why hadn't he shown up the same day Lazarus died and woke him up then (he had done that for other people, too)? Why did he put Mary & Martha through four days of grieving their loss?

"But that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently?" (CS Lewis) and "so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." (Jesus - John 11:4) Sometimes God brings us up to the brink of the Valley of the Shadow of Death and then pulls us back from it. Sometimes he shows us a way around our pain and suffering, but sometimes he lead us head long straight through it all.

So, back to Marcus, for whatever reason, what has transpired in his short life is what an all-loving, all-powerful God has ordained for him. God IS showing Marcus His love even in his pain and suffering.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Love My Kids



Aren't they just the best???

Cooking At Our House


Even cooking is filled with DRAMA over here!

I Got My Haircut


So, what do you think?

No, the pink is not staying.  My friend Amy, who cuts my hair, and I were a little bored tonight.  I've always wanted pink highlights though.  I think I could pull it off...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hard To Say Good-bye

I have a hard time replacing old things with new things.  I call it "thrifty", "prudent" or maybe even "green".  Others (Chris), call it by not so flattering names :)

Chris & I were married (almost) 18 years ago.  We received many wonderful things for our wedding, not the least of which were a couple of kitchen towels.  Okay, maybe those were the least of which, but they have served their purpose faithfully for these last 18 years.  Yes, I am still using the towels we received 18 years ago and, yes, they have worked quite fine all these years, thank you very much.  

Well, tonight I broke down and spent the $5.99 to buy six new dish towels.  I would like to suggest a small moment of silence as I say good-bye to my faithful dish towels.

You can accuse me of a lot of things, but spending money needlessly is NOT one of them :)

No Words Needed





Monday, November 10, 2008

Hypothetically Speaking

Hypothetically speaking, if you were to make a lovely pan of brownies and decorate them with a dollop of whipped cream with a  cherry on top and a dog licked off the topping would you still serve them to your children??

Just wondering.........

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Heritage

I've been thinking some lately about heritage.  Not a topic that most people give a lot of thought to, but when you adopt transracially/transculturally you do think about it.  

There was a discussion on an adoption forum I frequent about "how important is it to incorporate our children's birth culture into their lives".  Some people are of the opinion that it is of the utmost importance while others think that it has no significance.  Personally, I fall somewhere in between those two philosophies.

An interesting thing happened while we were in Texas.  Actually lots of interesting things happened, but for today's post we'll focus on this one.  The twins found out that they are part Irish.  Now this might not seem particularly earth shattering to you, but to them it was a big deal.  I am sure when St. Patrick's Day rolls around it will be an even bigger deal.  When they hear about Irish events or Irish history they will have a certain resonance with that.  The information they received will change the way they think of themselves and may change the things they do (like celebrate St. Patrick's Day) in the future.  The fact that they were born in Texas was already a BIG deal to them (like Texas is a completely different culture from Minnesota, isn't it?).  Although they are Mexican and African American those things are not priorities in their lives at this time.

Let's look at Nina now.  She goes through phases of telling people about her heritage as well.  She is very proud to be Native American and African American.  She is also proud that she is (distantly) related to Abraham Lincoln and that her ancestors came over on the Mayflower.  She is Puerto Rican as well, but that doesn't resonate with her at this age.  Now, if she and I take a little vacation to Puerto Rico, she might be more interested in that part of her heritage (I'm liking this heritage thing more and more!)

Even Marcus thinks about his heritage at just four years old.  He says, oozing over with pride, "I'm Ethiopian and so is Zoe!"  

So, we do things as a family to reinforce the heritage of each of our children.  We incorporate food, art work, books, stories, etc. from each of their cultures and heritages, but, by default, they will be brought up in a home that is predominantly Eastern European.  Personally, I don't think that is a bad thing.  It will be part of who they are and who they become.  Marcus & Zoe will always be Ethiopian, but they will also be American and they will eat polska kielbasa (hey, I'm Polish!).   They will learn about being Swedish and German and Polish and we may even include a little about being Dutch and Swiss and French.

They will also eat Thai food even though no one in this house is Thai.  It's just something that Mom & Dad like, so it becomes something of who we are.  They will grow up hearing bagpipe music even though most of us aren't Scottish (excepting Raelea).  

There are many things that go into who we are.  Some of them are what we are born into.  Some of them are affected by where we grow up.  Some of them are things that we choose to associate with ourselves.

For me, for us as a family, the most important bedrock of WHO we are is our faith.  I want my children to get their IDENTITY from Christ.  I want His opinion of them to be of the utmost importance.  I want His plan for them from eternity past to be their grounding in this life.  I want them to identify themselves first and foremost as followers of Jesus and all the other things that make up who they are will become less important (not unimportant, just less important).  In my opinion, it is crucial for everyone, but especially adopted kids, to understand that their life was not set on its course by some person's choice or, even worse, by some random events.
"For you formed my inward parts;  you knitted me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.   My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them." Psalm 139: 13-16
I guess I kind of look at it like this - Our identity in Christ is the outline of who we are like in a coloring book.  Picture the lines of an uncolored coloring book.  You can see what the picture is before you color it.  The picture has shape and form all the important identifying things are there.  The rest of the things that influence our lives (our culture, our heritage, our personal life story) those things color in the outline.  They don't change the shape of the form, they don't make up the most important parts of us, but they do make us who we are as well.

Okay, it's eleven o'clock and if I don't end this now it's going to start getting really weird because I get very strange  late in the evening (just ask my sister, Deb).  I  hope you have enjoyed this essay which has interrupted my usually very shallow blog :)  Good night!

It's In The Bag

Well, nothing's in the bag yet, but Raelea got a book bag today in Sunday School. It was her reward for memorizing five verses from the Bible. She was VERY excited to finally get her bag (after an excruciating wait of about six weeks - hey, that's a long time for a four year old).We're very proud of her.  It's a pretty huge accomplishment for a little girl who couldn't even say a complete sentence a year ago.

Stay tuned next week for Marcus receiving his bag...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cooking With Nina

Most of the kids wanted to run right out and play in the snow, but not Nina. She saw the snow and started thinking, "Let's make sugar cookies!" So, she gathered her crew together and away they went.