"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

Monday, May 31, 2010

We're Back!

Once again, our family is all under one roof.  I love going away, but not so much so when we are not all together.  Unfortunately, as Evan gets older we, more often than not, are without him for our ventures :-(  I know, it's part of his growing up and it's good, but this mama bear likes all of her cubs with her.

Anyway, I'm tired, so I'm not going to make a long post, but I wanted to apprise you of how Evan did this weekend at his competition.

The competition was definitely tougher this weekend than last, as this was the US Open Bagpiping competition.  When I spoke to Evan yesterday morning after he had played his solos, but before the results were known, he informed me that he "didn't do too well."  Bagpiping is like that, some days you play well and other days, not so much so.  He felt like he was having an off day :-(  Well, Chris called me as the results came in and I was very surprised to hear that Evan took 2nd in his 2/4 March,  5th in his Piobaireachd, and 1st in his 6/8 March.  Yay, Evan!

I was even more surprised at the end of the day when he was awarded the Ronald J. Chapman Memorial Award for Best Amateur Piper of the Day, Grade IV!  He even got a fancy little silver plate :-)

Here's a nice picture of Evan before the competition - check out their fancy new ties (the old ones were black)

This is Evan's instructor, Stephen, tuning Evan's pipes before he competes.  As a side not, Stephen is an EXCELLENT teacher and we are so happy that Evan has started taking lessons with him!
When he's not competing or tuning, Evan spends the rest of his time at these events doing this...
The band played well and took third place (or tied for second - I'm a little confused about the details on that one).  They were hoping for a better placement, but I'm proud of them all the same.

With Memorial Day and all I already feel behind for my week and then we leave on Friday for the competition in Milwaukee.  After that, I promise, no more bagpiping pictures until August.  Then be prepared!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Out Of Touch

Well, it's Memorial Day weekend and we are off to the cabin in the morning, at least the seven remaining kids and I.  Chris & Evan left this morning to make their trek to Alma, MI for the US Open Pipe Band Championship (a warm-up for Scotland later this summer).  The band competes on both Saturday and Sunday and Evan's solo competitions are all on Sunday.  It should be a great, tiring weekend for the two of them.

Anyway, the rest of us are going to soak up some fun and sun at the cabin.  The weather promises to be beautiful and we should all come back relaxed and tan :-)  The only downside is that I can no longer blog or check my Facebook or internet while I'm there, as the neighbor locked his wi-fi :-(  We were enjoying pirating his wi-fi until last month, when mysteriously he locked it.  So, farewell my friends until Monday.  I hope you all have a wonderful, blessed, relaxed, eventful weekend!

New Word of the Month

I started reading Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott last week.  This should provide me with a plethora of words for the Word of the Month.  I might have to go back to Word of the Week or maybe even Word of the Day.  I'm not quite sure why I enjoying reading books that require me to have a dictionary at my side, but I do.  This one also requires a glossary of Scottish words as well.  Fun, fun!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Who Names These Things Anyway?

So, I'm in the process of planning a Boundary Waters Canoe trip for Nina, Molly, me and some friends of ours.  We've gone up there a few times before, but my mom has always come with us and done most of the planning (we miss you, Mom).  Anyway, without Mom, the planning has fallen on my shoulders.  That's all good and fine, except I am having a hard time figuring out what our destination should be.  Some of the members of our party have never been to the Boundary Waters before and we don't want to work them too hard, yet we do want to get away from the "crowds." 

Last night, I was pouring over maps of the area trying to figure out which lake we should camp on.  I think I've found the lake, but I have one problem.  The name of the lake is Disappointment Lake.  Now you tell me how excited you'd be to go with me if I said, "Say ladies, how about paddling all day and portaging a couple times to camp on... Disappointment Lake?"  Um, couldn't someone come up with a better name for this lake?  But hey, it beats Bog Lake.  That one sounds like a winner, don't you think?



Then there's Lake One, Lake Two, Lake Three and Lake Four (a lovely chain, I'm sure).  Apparently the lake namers were fresh out of creative names that day.  There's Sixmile Lake which is no where near six miles long.  Elbow Lake looks kind of like an elbow - actually, only if you squint. 

Then some of the lakes have nice informative names.  Take Big Moose Lake.  No doubt the lake namer saw a Big Moose there.  It is close to Big Rice Lake which could, I guess, have big rice.  Not far away is simply Big Lake which is, you guessed it, big (although not as big as lakes like Saganaga).  Apparently the Indians named some of these lakes. 

Not sure how to even SAY this one: Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake.


Here's a list of lakes I will stay away from:  Phantom Lake, Bog Lake, Swamp Lake, Deadman Lake (um, that's worse than Disappointment Lake by a long shot),  Lynx Lake, Gun Lake, Wolfpack Lake, and Devil Track Lake (yeah, definitely going to stay away from that one!).

Anyone out there ever camped on Disappointment Lake?  Tell me, truthfully, were you disappointed?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Educational Reading

While this article contained information I was already aware of, I thought you all might find it interesting/educational. It is regarding race/gender and its effect on the cost of adoptions. The article mirrors our experience, so I can attest that what is presented is as true as it is disturbing.

The Economist: Discount babies

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's What's For Dinner

Well, at least it's what we had for dinner tonight.  Once again I will supply you with an outstanding recipe without even being asked.  You can thank me later.

As usual, this one came from Tami The Recipe Goddess and it is excellent!

Rigatoni with Sausage, Artichokes and Asparagus

3/4 c oil packed sundried tomatoes (reserve 2 T oil)
1 lb. Hot Italian sausage, removed from casings, cut into bite size pieces
1 can marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 3/4 c chicken broth
1/2 c dry cooking white wine
12 oz Rigatoni pasta
1/2 c Parmesan cheese
1/3 c fresh basil, chopped
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped
8 oz fresh mozzarella, cubed

Heat reserved 2 T oil in large frying pan or dutch oven over medium-hi heat, add sausage and cook until browned about 8-10 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove sausage and transfer to a bowl; set aside.  To the pan add the artichokes, garlic and asparagus-saute until garlic is tender (2 min).  Add to the pan the broth, wine and sundried tomatoes-boil on med-hi for 8-10 minutes until liquid is reduced a bit.  Meanwhile, cook noodles and drain.

Add pasta and sausage to skillet, toss until sauce is absorbed some (2-3 min). Remove pan from heat.  Stir in cheeses, basil and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.

Happy Day for Raelea


Yesterday was a very happy day for Raelea.  After waiting for two months, Raelea finally got to meet her birth mom's new little baby girl, Kailey.  She was so excited to meet this new little addition to her biological family.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Minnesota Highland Games 2010

Our Saturday was pretty much consumed by the MN Highland Games.  Evan left the house at 7:30 am and didn't get home until about 8:00 pm.   The day was filled with lots of piping and lots of fun.

Evan competed in two solo events and did a great job.  He took first place in Grade 4 piobaireachd out of ten competitors and he took a third place in his 2/4 march (out of 15 competitors).  He has worked so very hard on this piping in the past few months and we are REALLY proud of his accomplishments.  We are also VERY thankful to all of the band members who have helped him out, given him advice (whether asked for or not), provided constructive criticism (sometimes loudly), and generally encouraged him to become a better piper.  You guys and gals are outstanding!


Speaking of the band, they did OUTSTANDING as usual.  The Grade 3 band (which Evan plays with) took home four first place awards and two second place awards.  They rocked!

Now for some pictures...Here's my favorite piper.
The Three Musketeers.  Evan with his friends Alyssa and Joel.

The band marches onto the competition field.  Evan is the third person in the second row.

Doesn't he look like he's having fun?

Truth be told, the whole day wasn't filled with piping.  Nina did get a henna tattoo and we came home with three additional knives.  Why is it that we always come home with more knives or swords whenever we go to these Highland events????


Anyway, it was a great competition and they get to do it all again next weekend in Alma, MI, except next weekend Evan will be doing three solo events and he's hoping to come home with three first place ribbons :-)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Where's Evan?

A friend recently pointed out that I have not had any posts about Evan lately, so here it is, a post about Evan.

He is still alive and well - actually very alive and very well.  He finished up his first year at a local community college with a 4.0.  He is glad to be on summer break so early and has pretty much spent all his free time practicing his bagpipes.  Competition season starts in less than 12 hours for him, so tomorrow will be an exciting day.  Stay tuned for the results of the competition.  You'll be hearing a lot about Evan and bagpiping over the next three weeks as he has three consecutive weekends of competitions.

Aside from playing his pipes, he is enjoying his job at Wendy's and hanging out with his wonderful friends (he's got the best friends a mom could ever ask for!)

There.  Now you are completely caught up with Evan :-)

Oh, I forgot to add, I gave him another haircut :-)

OUCH!

As you know, Evan has his driver's permit and he is anxious to get his license.  Well, Chris thought he'd better contact the insurance agent to see what it's going to cost to get insurance for the young lad.

OUCH!

Currently, it costs us $500/yr to insure our little truck (which will be Evan's mode of transportation).  Once we put Evan on the policy it will cost....hold your breath...or maybe you should sit down and take a stiff drink...


$2500/yr!

Can you believe it?  This is a very responsible, 4.0 student and they want an additional $2000/yr to insure him!  CRAZY!  Well, let's just say, we're in no hurry to get him his license now :-)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oh!! I Am Livid!

Grrrr!

You know that beautiful yellow daisy that I posted a picture of on Saturday?
Yes, this one.    It has such a pretty combination of yellow and purple. Isn't it pretty? Well, it's GONE!  Yes, some sort of little furry creature has eaten it right down to the dirt!

Now, I love furry little creatures as much as, maybe more so, than the next person, but right now I could string that furry little guy up by his toenails!!!  GRRRRRRRR!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

No Plans for Saturday?

Hey folks, if you don't have any plans for this Saturday and have a hankering for some good old bagpipe music, come on down to Farmington and join us at the Scottish Fair and Highland Games.  This is the first of three consecutive competitions that Evan and the band will be competing in this year and it is the only local competition for them.  Over Memorial Weekend they/he will be competing in Alma, MI and then the following weekend they will be competing in Milwaukee.  So, my Minnesota friends can get in on the fun this weekend, but my Michigan and Wisconsin friends will have to wait a week or two.

If you can't make any of these fun events you'll have to catch them at a parade sometime this summer OR you could all come to Scotland in August for the World Pipe Band Championship...teeheee...

Yikes!

Spring sports are in full swing around here!  Molly is doing soccer with our community program and Marcus is doing t-ball through the YMCA.  This is all on top of swim lessons for the younger five, flute lessons, piano lessons, drum lessons, bagpipe lessons and then just regular plain old lessons.

When my first five were young we really limited what they were involved in to preserve family time and sanity, but now that everyone is older we have allowed more extra-curricular activities.  It hasn't been something we've entered into lightly though.  With eight kids it would be really easy to get TOO busy and the family unit would suffer.  While trying to maintain consistent family time, we have seen the benefits of allowing the kids to participate in activities that they enjoy and that challenge them.  So, this means that during different seasons of the year life gets a little chaotic.  This happens to be one of those seasons :-)  This will all go on until late June and then we have a reprieve until football season starts in August.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Fine Weekend

Finally, the weather has turned warm and I got to spend almost the entire weekend outside.  Ahhh!  I needed that!  So, I will recap the weekend for you in pictures...

I spent much of the day Saturday doing this...
And here are some of the beautiful flowers I was able to plant.  Would you believe these beauties came from the grocery store?
On Saturday night we decided to have our first bonfire of the year.  It really is just an excuse to eat s'mores, because as you can see, very few people actually sit around the fire except when the s'mores are being made.
So what  are people doing instead of sitting around the fire? 

Swinging.
Playing ninja. (I haven't the foggiest idea what this game involves, but the kids sure looked silly striking ninja poses)
Apparently shouting for joy was an exciting pastime. 
As was carrying around your younger sibling
.  
Relaxing on the grass is always a fun time, as well.
  
Eating chives is always Raelea's favorite thing to do.  She actually spends most of her summer smelling like chives. 
 
Um, I'm not sure what Molly is up to, but we do have an inordinate number of pictures of her doing this...
In addition to all this excitement there was also a rousing game of keep away - boys vs. girls.  Girls won....teehee...at least that's how I figure it :-)

And last but not least, here's the cute dog we're dogsitting for the week.  He enjoyed the evening of fun as well.
There you have it - my weekend in review.  Today was spent much finishing up the planting and spending as much time soaking up the sun as possible.  I hope you had a great weekend as well.

Friday, May 14, 2010

I'm A Slow Learner

Now that the school year is winding down, I have finally figured out how to get Marcus & Raelea's school done each day.  All year they have been a bit shortchanged because the schooling of the other kids took so much time.  It has typically been like this in our house - kindergarten is VERY relaxed (read - not done many days)!!  Nonetheless, Marcus and Raelea DO need to learn to read and that just isn't going to happen unless I sit down and teach them!

About a week ago it occurred to me that I needed to do the school for the two little ones BEFORE starting school with the older kids!  I know, brilliant, right?  Why didn't I think of this months ago, like last September?  I'm slow!  It's working like a charm.  They are getting their schooling in every day AND I am less stressed about their reading lessons.

As long as we're on the topic of reading lessons, I've also figured something else out rather late in the game.  Marcus and Raelea need to do different reading programs.  We started the year with one program.  When we ran into difficulties about halfway through the year I switched to a different program.  This switch did wonders for Marcus' progress, but it proved difficult for Raelea (probably because of her apraxia), so now I am back to the original program for Raelea.  It's all working like a charm.  The other advantage to having the two of them doing different programs is that is eliminates the "competition" aspect of the whole thing.  As in, "What page is s/he on?" and "Am I further ahead them him/her?"

So, although I figured these things out late in the school year they should benefit me for years to come :-)  Even after teaching for 12 years I'm still learning that I have more to learn :-)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Yay, Molly!

Last night was a big night for our Miss Molly.  Because of her love for Jesus Christ and her desire to obey his commands she was baptized.

We love you, Molly, and we are so excited to see what exciting plans God has for your life!

Monday, May 10, 2010

You Are Going To Be SO Jealous!

I've been reading my Facebook today and all my wonderful mom friends posted about their wonderful Mothers' Day gifts.  Well, sorry ladies, you are going to be SO incredibly jealous of MY Mothers' Day gift.  You will be turning green with envy...

Of course, I received the wonderful bouquet of roses, a purse and wallet, some wind chimes, chocolate, more chocolate and an iTunes card, but those are just small change compared to the most amazing Mothers' Day gift ever.  I got this...

Yes, I am now the proud owner of a Great Scientists Trading Card, and not just any card, the great Nikola Tesla card.  Judging by the looks of it, I think it's his rookie card.  Sorry, I won't be trading it any time soon.

Eat your heart out ladies!

Happy Mothers' Day, Mom!

Thanks for being the perfect mom for me.  Not only did you teach me to cook and sew, you also taught me to integrate equations and portage a canoe.  I appreciate all the you've done and continue to do for all of us.

You're the best, Mom, and I love you very much!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Birth Mothers' Day

Today, the day before Mothers' Day, some people in the adoption community have declared as Birth Mothers' Day.  A day set aside to honor and show appreciation for our children's birth mothers.  Just as you do not appreciate and honor your biological mother only on Mothers' Day, we do not just appreciate and honor our kids' birth moms on Birth Mothers' Day.  Nonetheless, I wanted to publicly bestow praise and appreciation upon the birth moms of my kids today.

We have been blessed beyond words, beyond what most people can comprehend, by not just the children God has placed in our home, but by the birth mothers and birth families that He has entwined into our family.  You see, for us, our kids' birth moms are not just someone who gave birth to our kids, they are a part of our family, grafted onto our family tree through the branch of our child.  We LOVE our kids first moms as we love the rest of our family.  They are not "those people" they are family.

Since our kids' birthmoms read my blog (hi, guys), I want to speak directly to them today -

Ladies, we love you!  You are precious to us in ways too numerous to count.  We had NO idea that when we adopted your children we would have the added blessing of having each of you become part of our lives.  Not only have our children benefited and thrived by your presence in their lives, we each have benefited and been blessed through you.

Today, I want to thank you again.  I want to thank you for choosing LIFE for your child/children.  For seeing them as a child and not just a choice.  I want to thank you for the months you carried these precious children.  Caring for them by taking care of yourselves, even though your lives were in turmoil at that time.

I want to thank you for making the courageous and unbelievably selfless decision to place your children for adoption.  For having the faith to entrust their care and life into the hands of people you barely knew.  Your faith in a sovereign God who would look out for them and help you make the right choice is commendable.    Thank you for being willing to allow your heart to break into a thousand pieces to do what you felt was right for your child.  There is no way for me to truly understand that kind of pain, that kind of self-sacrifice.

Thank you for continuing to share your lives with us.  We are so excited for each of you and what God is doing in your lives.  I hope you are proud of your kids.  They are unique and amazing individuals - wonderful to behold.  Just like their moms.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thoughts

While I sit here typing this blog and teaching school to my kids, Evan is performing the solemn duty, with the Minnesota Police Pipe Band, of helping with the funeral of  Police Sgt. Joe Bergeron (Killed in the line-of-duty on May 1, 2010).  It the most important services that the band provides - performing at funerals for officers who fall in the line of duty.  It is Evan's first officer funeral and I am sure that it will be a solemn and sobering day for him.

Next week is Police Week here in Minnesota and the band and its members will be performing at a variety of Police functions throughout the week.  Next Thursday, Evan is performing solo at a Fallen Officers memorial service in Burnett County, Wisconsin.

All this to say that my thoughts today are ones of extreme gratefulness for all police officers, firefighters and state and county law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line day after day so that we can go about our lives in safety and ease.  We really don't think enough about this.

So, thank you to all of the public servants who do their job day after day, at their own peril, so that the rest of us can enjoy life  Thank you to the husbands, wives and children of our law enforcement officers who live every day with the "what ifs" hanging over your head.  You are very much appreciated!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What's On My Mind Tonight

Raelea's Latest Request

Raelea has made known her latest cardboard request -

Cardboard French horn
Cardboard bagpipes and
Cardboard chanter

Hmmm....not quite sure how I'm going to make these.  Any ideas?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Kitchen Help

There's no shortage of kitchen help around here :-)  Actually, half the time I am turning away offers to help in the kitchen because, quite frankly, there's no room for anymore people in the kitchen.  You know, too many cooks and what they do to the soup?  Well, the chicken dumplings don't fare any better with too many hands!

Nonetheless, my two helpers yesterday were very adept and peeling (or attempting to peel) my carrots for the chicken dumplings.  As you can see they took their job very seriously.
You're never too young to learn to handle a carrot peeler :-)  I'll have them cooking on the stove top any day now!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Yippee!

Today there was yet another sign that summer is almost here -  I just finished lesson planning through the end of the this school year :-)  I lesson plan on a monthly basis and, although we are going to do school through June 11, I just completed the remainder of the lesson planning for the 2009/2010 school year.  Hard to believe yet one more year of school is almost past.  Even harder to believe is that I have been teaching my kids for eleven years!

I was grocery shopping yesterday and my eye was caught by the graduation cakes and stuff being displayed.  It occurred to me that in just one year we will be purchasing a graduation cake and planning a graduation party for Evan and then I started to get all teary-eyed in the bakery section!  Where does the time go?  Wasn't it just yesterday that he was a precocious 18 month old who could identify about 20 states on a US map? (yes, that is the truth - he was/is something else!)

Oh, wait, this was going to be a happy I'm-done-lesson-planning post and now it's turned into a my-baby-is -growing-up-too-fast post!  Forgive me.

Happy, happy, happy that summer is almost here :-)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Looking Forward To Flowers

I am anxious to get my annuals in the ground and start seeing my perennials bloom!  For the time being, I will have to settle for pictures from last year...

Raelea's Big Day

Who knew, when we woke up this morning, that today would be such a fun day for Raelea.  When I went to let the dog out this morning I found a BEAUTIFUL May basket on our door for none other than Miss Raelea.  We had to wait several more hours before she got up to find it, but it was worth it.

Although she was half asleep when she found her basket, she was very excited about it.
After all the May Day excitement, Raelea got all dolled up and was off to a Princess Birthday Party for one of her friends.

Just a happy day all around for my sweet girl.

If, by chance, the giver of the lovely basket is reading this, I want you to know what a sweet memory you've given my little girl.  Thank you so much for your kindness!

A Girl And Her Dog