Thursday, December 27, 2007

Another year is almost gone.

Another year is almost gone. They seem to come fast and loud with fanfare which is drowned out by the whooshing of the rest of the year as it whizzes right by. Every year of my life has been a mix of joys/sorrows, achievements/disappointments, victories/defeats, happiness/sadness, gains/losses. Some years standout as incredible highs and some unspeakable lows - most however fall in the "normal" range. Lost loved ones, lost jobs, arrivals of children, physical and financial health, marriages, divorces, and graduations tend to define the peaks and valleys. Every year starts with hope and promise. Every year brings new challenges and opportunities: 365 new days to grow and learn; 365 dawns and sunsets to see.

As each year comes to a close, I always try to reflect back on the last 12 months and look ahead to the next 12 months. I take a mental tally of the good things and the bad things that happened this year. I'm hoping that I'll find ways to increase the number of good things and figure out how to avoid those bad ones. Sometimes that works but most of life is unrehearsed and unwritten. People are ad lib-ing all around us, all of the time. We don't have a script. If I had lines, I'd probably forget them anyway. When you have kids, it's even harder. They are always coming up with stuff that I haven't thought of and wasn't prepared for. Yesterday, I was having a conversation with Grace about how you should "enjoy what you have rather than fret about what you don't have." I told her, "Some people waste their lives fretting and grieving the things they don't have. It's really sad to watch someone who has so much, not appreciate and recognize what they have." She was grieving over a toy that she didn't have and someone had given her a doll that was very similar. It had the wrong outfit or crown or shoes or something. I know that kids do this ( and I'm sure that I did when I was little) -- not focusing on the good ( someone went out of their way to give you a gift) but rather only seeing what was missing or what they didn't give you. It seemed so trivial at the time but there is a powerful message in that logic. It is easy to grieve what we don't have but it is much healthier to appreciate what we do have: each other, our children, our friends and families.

Dan's father passed away many years ago and I know for sure he thinks of him every day. Over a year has passed since our dossier was received in China and Lily still seems so far away. Dan and I both think of this situation every day too. It would be easy to grieve what we don't have. We could wallow in self pity all day long but what do you gain from that? How much of our lives and our children's lives or our friend's lives would we miss? Families grow out of love...or at least that's the plan. There is no limit to love: add more people to the circle and love just expands. A life with love is a celebrated life.

Our hope for you in the New Year is to live, love and appreciate everything and everyone you have. May you have a blessed New Year! :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A glimpse of Christmas Eve and Day

Grace in her new puppy sleeping bag that Santa brought her.

Trying on one of her gifts...a striped hat. And Grace putting out milk and cookies for Santa on
Christmas Eve.

We had a great Christmas, very relaxing and spent Christmas Eve with just the 4 of us, and Christmas Day with Nick and Grace's Grandparents and Uncle here too. A big dinner in the afternoon, lots of playing with toys, games and checking out gifts. And Dan cleaned up the kitchen for me...I couldn't have asked for more! :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

"Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people; for to you this day is born in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men." Luke 2:10-14

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas
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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas from our home to yours!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Greetings from the past!

Me and my little sister, we are very close in age. I was 2.5 and she was 1 here.

This was the photo from my parent's Christmas card in the mid 1960's. I'm on the left with my 2 brothers and sister Betsy. My parents had 4 children in 5 and 1/2 years. Those handmade stockings behind us were knitted by my Mom. We now only live an hour away from my parents and my Mom still hangs those same stockings up every Christmas in their home. Yes, I grew up in the 60's and 70's and we have great memories of many Christmas' past.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Favorite Photo Friday

Probably my all time favorite one of Grace, she had just turned 4 here ~ we used it in our Christmas card last year ( a professional photographer took it). I cried when I saw it for the first time. She is our little angel, and we are so blessed to have her in our lives. :)

Santa's helper

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Some really good news!

Well, dossiers logged in for the month of Oct. 2006 are officially "out" of the review room...that means that us Nov. 06 folks are now in!!!! Our dossier is being looked at carefully by CCAA. I'm so happy, and I'm looking at it as an early Christmas present. Now to get out of review and then more waiting. Presently there are about 11 months worth of dossiers ahead of us waiting to be matched. Hoping and praying for a speed up in referrals in 2008, and certainly even more so after the Olympics! :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My favorite ornaments

Possibly my very favorite ornament is this Santa on a rocket. This is a very typical 1960's era Christmas ornament, and I remember it on my family's tree for many years (my sister has one too), until my Mom gave it to me. I'd be very upset if he got broken.

This one is another favorite, we got it in China in 2003 when we adopted Grace. It's a cloisonne baby shoe.

Well I have to admit, this wasn't exactly an original idea for a post. I copied it from RMJ. She inspired me to talk about some of my favorite ornaments on our tree. We have ornaments given to me by my Mom that were mine as a little girl, one's that I made as a child, one's Nick made growing up and all kinds of other ones. One in particular is rather unusual. It's what I call the "pretzel ornament," but should be called the "petrified pretzel ornament." Nick made it in 1994 when he was in 4th grade. There's a photo of him in the center and his teacher had the kids glue pretzels around the photo kinda in a frame. Then they put colored glitter on top. Last Christmas I asked Dan how much money would it take if he took a bite out of one of those 13 year old pretzels? He told me there was no amount of money in the world to eat one of those rock hard nasty pretzels. I told him, "come on they can't be that bad...they probably taste like cardboard (whatever cardboard tastes like) or something." He still wouldn't try one. Something about that ornament I just love. :)

Holiday swap thank you!

Thank you to the Konstantaras family from our WWF (worth waiting for) China 2006 yahoo group. We participated in a holiday swap and received a package yesterday with 6 gifts inside.

We received:

~a pine oil burner set

~some very yummy chocolate/raspberry truffles, bing cherry chocolates and chocolate covered raisins (my favorite)

~sugar cookie mix with a hot pad holder and...

~ an adorable play castle with a prince (2 I believe), 2 princesses, horses and carriage and pretty much everything and anything that a castle needs inside. Best of's portable so can be taken to Grandma's house or on any other travels that Grace goes on. Grace thanks you for the castle and she has it all set up and is just delighted with it!

Thank you for your very generous gifts and we wish you and your family a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

It's clinch time

I had a very productive weekend as far as Christmas preparations went. There's been a lot of multi-tasking going on around here I will say. I made cookies for a cookie exchange that I'm going to today, did some final shopping for Nick (with Dan's assistance), wrapped many gifts with my 2 assistants ... Grace (she tapes) and Jack our cat (who doesn't help, but MUST get on the table while I wrap and bite the ribbon or bows or lie down in the middle of everything), and also did mountains of laundry too, which is not really a Christmas preparation but I was way behind on it. Grace played outside in the snow some and we also took some time to see our church's live nativity. It was lovely. I hope you are all taking some time to enjoy the season. :)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thank you Ashley!

I am a member of a hair bow exchange in my Nov. 06 LID group, the November Nightingales. Hair bows are always a good thing around here I say and you can't have enough of them. My friend Ashley gave to us (Lily) this month. Ashley has superb taste and I can tell that her little girl (also Lilly) will be one well dressed little girl. She sent us an adorable multi-color korker bow, a red grosgrain bow with a gingerbread man embroidered on it (which Grace may have to borrow ), and a panda bib and panda socks. Ashley was so thoughtful and included Grace by giving her a snowman nightlight which now resides in Grace's bedroom. She also gave me a festive spreader that is totally "me" as far as something I would pick out. I emailed Ashley a thank you, but wanted to say again that this wait is very difficult sometimes but if it wasn't for the wait I wouldn't have met her and so many other genuine and kind people that I now call my friends. I consider Ashley my friend and know we will meet in person someday. Thank you again for the gifts! :)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Some favorite photos from the past week

Gracie with the gingerbread house she made in school yesterday. Of course most of it has been eaten by now!

Hair in pigtails (her new favorite way to wear her hair), sunglasses and a scarf.

Grace at the Museum of Science and Industry, with a friend.

Grace in Marshall Field's last Sat. among the big stuffed animals on the FAO Schwarz floor (5th).
She loves unicorns. :)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Guess I should have a Blue Christmas tree?

You Should Have a Blue Christmas Tree

For you, the holidays represent a time of calm, understanding, and peace.
You avoid family fights, and you don't get too stressed out - even when things are crazy!

You like to make Christmas about making everyone's life a little bit better.
You don't get caught up in greed or commercialism. You're too sincere for that.

Your blue tree would look great with: Lots of silver tinsel

You should spend Christmas Eve watching: It's a Wonderful Life

What you should bake for Santa: Chocolate chip cookies

Monday, December 10, 2007

You can go home again!

Both sides of our family have long and deep ties to Chicago. My Great-Great Grandfather, George B. Swift was in fact the mayor of Chicago around the late 1800's. Dan's earliest memories of Marshall Field's (now Macy's but always Marshall Field's to us), were the windows at Christmas and buying his 1st cub scout uniform there. When Nick was young we would go ice skating across the street on State Street at the outdoor rink. It is no longer there--things do change. We decided to re-live some old traditions and start some new ones. We spent a couple of nights at the Palmer House which is a gorgeous 135 yr. old hotel downtown (now owned by Hilton). The ceiling of the lobby is covered with original Italian murals. No acts perform in the Empire Room anymore but the walls are filled with pictures of the "greats" who performed there 30-60 years ago. Sinatra, Burns, Youngman, Lewis, etc. all greeted us. Walk out the front door and you'll see the old Carson Pirie Scott Building (currently under renovation). Look to the right and you'll see the historic elevated train ( the "El" to the locals). We went to the Museum of Science and Industry to see the Christmas trees from around the world. The exhibit has been there every Christmas season since WWII. Grace loved the interactive exhibits. Dan and I have been going to that museum since we were little kids. My Great Grandparents used to live on Hyde Park, just a block away. Chicago has great shopping--one of the many things we miss about the area. No trip to Chicago would be complete (at least at Christmas time) without a trip to Marshall Field's and a look at the story in the window displays. This year it was "The Nutcracker." It was adorable as always. We didn't stand in line for an hour to eat in the Walnut Room under the Great Tree, we have done that before many times, another Chicago tradition that goes back over 100 yrs. and several generations in our families. Lake Shore Drive, the Field Museum, North Michigan Avenue, the theaters, the matter where we travel or live, this place always feels like home.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Greetings from the frozen tundra!

This morning when I got up to walk our dog Molly it was 8 degrees below zero. That is awfully cold to me, and the temperature is usually in the minus area more like in Jan. or Feb. in Wisconsin. Guess Winter is here to stay. We are getting more snow tonight. Grace has been having a blast playing in it. :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, December 3, 2007

Graceful Gail

It snowed about 7 inches this weekend with a topper of sleet that later froze again on the snow. Dan shoveled the driveway and sidewalks. This AM I took Grace to preschool, then came home to walk our black lab Molly (big Molly weighs about 90 lbs.) Of course it's 16 degrees outside. Molly and I took one step out on the driveway and I wipe out majorly on what I thought was a patch of snow (obviously it was ice) was one of those falls where your legs fly out from under you. The first thing I do is look around to see if anyone saw me. Thankfully no. I'm a little sore, probably more embarassed than hurt. Can't imagine what Molly thought when she saw me laying on the driveway. I'm not known much for being graceful. And now it's supposed to snow 4 more inches tomorrow night and we're supposed to get a lot more snow next week. I'm so NOT ready for winter. Sometimes I wonder why we live in the Midwest? :) Gail

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Visit to the tree farm

As long as I can remember my family has always had the tradition of a having a live tree for Christmas. And not a tree bought from a lot somewhere, I was brought up with the experience of getting in the car (in those days a station wagon), and going with my 3 siblings and parents out to some remote tree farm in the cold and snow to find just the "right one." As an adult I've lived in North Carolina, Ohio, California, Illinois and now Wisconsin, and it's something I've so loved about getting ready for Christmas ~ getting that tree. Yesterday we took Grace out to a tree farm about 15 minutes east of where we live. The day we picked to do this happened to be the day of the first big snow of the season. Grace's favorite part of the tree farm is seeing 2 reindeer that live there and are cared for quite well. We brought some apples for them to eat. Grace told me their names are "Donder and Blitzen." Don't know where she got that from, but it is very sweet. So that's what we call them. Hope you all have Christmas traditions that you continue each year. :)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Favorite Photo Friday

Grace's first Christmas with us in 2003. She was 16 mos. old. Grace took to Nick right away and they have been best buddies since then. :)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

This and That...what's going on here or going on in my head

~ Dan is a "hunted man" in the biotech world. Hunted in a good way that he is being recruited by several companies and considering a job change. No we would NOT move. No moves here.

~ I hate my hair. I've had this haircut for about year or so and I'm getting a little tired of it. I don't like the thought of growing it out, so it'll probably stay the same for now. I like change...haircut wise.

~ Nick is having a great semester at Wisconsin academically. He loves his classes and is making good grades. That of course makes me happy too. :)

~ We have a 7 month old kitty named Jack who is a wild man. Every morning when I come downstairs he has knocked 4-6 ornaments off the Christmas tree and they are scattered across the room. He loves to play with the tree. One year when Nick was young, a cat we had climbed up to the top of the Christmas tree and it fell on the floor. That was a huge mess.

~ Grace takes gymnastics and swimming. Last evening we were driving home at 4:30pm from swimming, and it was already dark outside. We were driving up the road through an area of open farmland with a few houses in the distance. Grace tells me from the backseat, "Look Mom, I see Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer out there in the sky pulling Santa and his sleigh! Do you think he's coming to our house right now?" I said, "Grace, Santa won't be here for a few weeks, maybe he's practicing for Christmas." That seemed okay with her. :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

1 Year!

One year. When I say those 2 words out loud it doesn't seems so long. 365 days. So what has happened in the past year that our dossier has officially been logged in to adopt a second daughter? A lot in the China adoption world. Namely...a huge slowdown in referrals. It's truly God's time frame. And that is what we have come to accept. I could talk about how long it took for us to adopt Grace, but it doesn't really matter. Can't compare, it is a very different time now and situation. I think about this child of China, this little girl we call "Lily," every single day. I often think of what she might be like when I see Grace's smile, hear her laugh, and look into her eyes. I share so much of our joy with Grace on this blog for all waiting families to see their future children too. And so we wait. In the last month or so I'm in a new phase of this thing. I'm stronger, calmer, positive and I know we all will have our children in our arms someday. The wait will be a memory. My goal now is to support my fellow friends on this journey. And it's a reciprocal relationship because I couldn't do this without you supporting me. I thank you all so much for that. So here we are exactly 1 year after our LID of our dossier to China. It is a milestone! :)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

One of our traditions

We go a little crazy here at's our favorite time of the year. Crazy by we have 2 trees because we have a LOT of ornaments. A long time ago Dan and I decided to collect glass ornaments, so after 18 years of marriage we have quite a few of them. Then we have the family ornaments. You know the handmade ones that your children make for you each year, so we have another tree for those that we go and cut down in December and put up in the family room. I think that ornaments kind of tell the history of your family and every year when I open up the boxes of them, I can remember a little bit about each one. Many of them remind me of people and times in our lives that have come and gone. 2 years ago when Gracie was 3 she and I put up and decorated the glass ornament tree or as Gracie says, "it's the fancy tree Mom." And that it is. So she and I have a tradition every year of decorating this tree ourselves and spending some fun time together talking about the ornaments and what Christmas really is. :)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Last week Grace brought home from school some things she was thankful for, and the list inspired Dan and I to think of some things WE are thankful for every day:

~every sunrise and sunset
~every hug and kiss
~each other
~ the gift of our children
~our parents who love and guide us
~our family and friends who have become our family
~our health
~that we have a home to live in and food on the table
~the many opportunities that we have been given--education, travel and to choose where we live and work
~the opportunity to give back to others
~the difficult experiences we have gone through because they have made us stronger and more empathetic people
~that we have been led to adoption again
~that we live in a country where we have the freedom to vote for who we want to, have as many children as we like, and to worship freely
~and every single day we thank God for more blessings than we can count :)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Some Favorite Photos...My little Helper

I'm one of those people that takes photos all the time. If you come over to my house you will see I have photos everywhere, photos of family, friends and even my friend's children too. I take pictures almost everyday. I took these of Miss Grace a couple of years ago, she had received a play vacuum cleaner for her birthday from my sister. Grace loved the vacuum (in fact she plays with it even at age 5) and went all over the house "vacuuming." And she still likes to clean and help me around the house. She is a great little helper. :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Friday, November 9, 2007

Favorite Photo Friday--Silly Girls

I am fortunate to be able to stay at home with Grace. She goes to preschool a few mornings a week, and in the afternoons she and I have a lot of fun together. About 6 months ago we got out some of her hair bows and put most of them in our hair. Then we took pics of each other. I love this photo of Grace, she is a silly girl I will say. :)

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