Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Our fireplace with stockings already hung.

Stockings handmade by my mother who is a gifted knitter and needle worker. These have a Scandinavian look which I love because I'm half Swedish.
Armoire in our family room.
{Photo collage of different parts of my home that are in the festive spirit of the season.}
Christmas is my favorite holiday and time of the year. As I write this post, it's looking even more like Christmas in southern Wisconsin as we're getting 5 inches of snow and it's our second snow in a week. If you know me well, I love to decorate my house and change it up every year. Not that I buy a lot of new things, I move stuff around and use old and new as my taste is quite eclectic. Our house doesn't have a certain style and has many antiques(family pieces and things we just love), contemporary and Asian name's here if I love it and 'it looks right' to me. Christmas is all about family and home. I have wonderful memories of Christmas' past growing up in the Midwest. My mother always made it special for us and I hope I'm doing the same for my children too. This is William's first Christmas with us and I'm not sure what he's thinking about it all. He loves the lights I do know that and when we hung the big wreath over the fireplace, he actually said outloud, "Wow, Mommy!" And as I'm in the Christmas spirit, it will be carried on this week when I travel to meet my good friend Lea(Ohmy6) who is from Toronto, in Chicago on Wednesday! We are meeting for the first time in person and I can't wait! I truly hope she loves my favorite city as much as I do. We will shop, eat lunch, take in the beautiful sights and I'm sure talk and laugh a lot! Enjoy this time of the year.

Some random pics of our last week

Miss Grace ready for school, dressed as a scarecrow.
Some of the scarecrows getting ready to eat at their Kindergarten 'Harvestfest.'

Thanksgiving Day at Grandma and Grandpa's house in Illinois...playing with their 12 year old cousin Matthew(who is extremely patient and great fun to play with!)

Me and my BFF, my sister Betsy. We are 1 year apart in age.

Superman and WonderWoman playing with their space guns, or as Will calls them "Buzz Lightyear guns."

Will opening some early birthday gifts.

Getting ready to blow out candles on his Spiderman cupcakes.

Miss Grace modeling her beautiful new pink coat and hat on the way to church this morning.

Well we've had a crazy busy week like most folks have lately. On Tuesday, Grace's school had a Harvest Fest to celebrate Thanksgiving. I was fortunate to be able to come to school and help the class put on makeup and straw(made of yarn) to become scarecrows for the day. The kids made most of the food and learned about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving Day the 5 of us drove down to my parent's house in northern Illinois and spent the day with Grandma and Grandpa, my 2 brothers and brother-in-law, my sister and 12 year old nephew. William and Grace had a blast with their cousin Matthew. Will's 3rd birthday is Christmas Day, so since we had the entire family together we had a family party for him and celebrated his special day a little early. We'll be celebrating his bday on Christmas too!

Friday, November 28, 2008

A little bit of cuteness...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Giving Thanks by Dan

Thanksgiving isn't "Thankful day" but rather "give thanks day." To whom are we giving "Thanks"? God, of course. 18 years ago in this month of November I was in a near fatal car accident driving back home on a business trip through central California. I can't count the number of times that someone has asked me, "Did you pray for God to save you?" When I was trapped in the wreckage, I remember clearly asking Him to "let me get to the hospital". I knew that I would have a fighting chance if I could make it there. The other most popular question I am asked is, "Did it change you?" Of course it changed me. It made very aware that everything we have can be taken away in an instant and it made me appreciate the value of every day. I spent 4 long months in the hospital and there were some very dark days during that time. For a while the doctors didn't know how to help me, I was that sick. During my recovery, at some point I began thanking God daily for all he has given me. I try to say it every morning, sometimes in the evening and whenever I notice the beauty that surrounds us. It goes something like this:

"Thank you Lord, for this beautiful day. For my wonderful children, my wife, my home and the life you have given me. Thank you for my friends & family and all the special people that you have had touch my life. Let me walk in your shadow wherever you lead me. Guide me to be a better person tomorrow than I am today. Thank you for this day and every day and the opportunities you give me to learn and grow."

Everything in life is transient - good times, bad times, happy times and sad times. Everything comes and goes. Time passes. We are blessed with this moment. Someday our kids will get older and move away. We have a brief few years to help them learn and grow - to help them find the beauty and the joy in themselves. Life is a precious gift that comes with no guarantees other than the chance to make the most of it. Thanksgiving is every day.

Monday, November 24, 2008

First Snow

Checking out the snowy terrain.
What ARE these things on my hands?

" I yike (like) snow Mommy!"

Hey...who's following me?

Making my first snowman!

Me and my best friend...Daddy.

Today we woke up in southern Wisconsin to about 3 inches of the white, fluffy stuff on the ground. It was Will's first snow. He'd seen a little bit of it fall from the sky last week and we'd talked to him about snow...and here it was up close and in person. He loved it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Favorite Foto Friday

We recently had professional photos taken of Gracie and William. I was a little concerned about William and how he'd do with the whole experience, but he did great! The above picture was one of our favorites though there were so many that were just amazing and it was hard to pick a favorite... there wasn't one. The photographer is a local one that we've been using for the last 3 years. She has the God given talent that truly captures a child's heart and soul. I'll be posting more of her pictures next week and in December. We have a pretty laid back weekend ahead of us, and we're going to start decorating for Christmas. Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

4 months with our happy little guy!

The month of November is National Adoption Month and today is our 4th month being a family together with William. This experience adopting William has far exceeded my expectations of what it might be...yes we had some rough times in the beginning and there have been some bumps in the road, but it's definitely headed in the right direction. It feels like he's been with us much longer. He fits our family so well. What has worked for us? Establishing a routine that Will can count on. I'm a big believer that kids thrive on routine. No I'm not so strict about it that we can't deviate from it some, but William knows we eat meals together, he naps around a certain time and goes to bed with a bedtime routine. The first month or so we basically didn't go anywhere except outside in the neighborhood to play and meet some new friends. He didn't do so well meeting new people initially so we went slow in that area. I also would verbally prepare him for a trip in the car, clothing change, bath, diaper change, etc. because at first those transitions were hard. Now they aren't at all. William was very sad/angry that first month. Dan and I always kept in mind how much he'd lost and when he was combative we'd hold him until he calmed down and never isolated him in a room. It works much better for him if we speak in a normal tone of voice. When he's naughty (and he is sometimes) he goes in 'time out' or we call it 'time in.' Again we hold him until he calms down and then talk to him about the incident briefly. We ask him to apologize if he's done something wrong and then we say, "I forgive you." I give credit to Mike and Deena Van't Hul of the Hidden Treasures Foster Home where Will lived in a little village just outside of Fuzhou, in Fujian Province because I see the qualities in William that Mike and Deena would want. They established love, trust and respect for others. We will forever thank these people for the gift of William Michael. And he is truly a gift. Adoption is a miracle, sometimes it just takes a little time for the miracle to show it self. Add to that trust, love, consistency, patience and also knowing this is a journey for us all. At bedtime now, William gives each one of us a big hug and kiss and spontaneously says, "I love you!" We waited a long time for this and it was so worth the wait. :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What have I done?

I have seen this list several places and thought it might be fun to do to see how much I've really done in my life. Except, that this is someone else's list and not really the complete list of the things I want to do. But, oh well. It's fun! Play along and let me know by leaving a comment so I can see what you've done. I added a few comments of my own here and there...

Bold the things you’ve done and will admit to:

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower( that was in Hawaii)
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain (a small one)
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped (not happenin' ever)
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning(on the first trip to China, fortunately not on a plane)
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked(thought about it a few times as a teenager but the fear of my mom finding out was enough to stop me)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill(yep)
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke( at many a wedding reception)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving(also won't be happening anytime soon)
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (my Raggedy Ann and first Barbie doll)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life (many times as a nurse)
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

I believe my total was 58 which isn't too bad. I've been fortunate to be able to travel and hopefully will be able to more in my lifetime. Your turn!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Choosing a change

I've written before about how blessed I am to be married to my husband. Dan is a gentleman, a scholar, my partner for 19 years, truly the kindest person I've ever met and he recently made a choice that would affect our family. Dan worked for a very large international pharmaceutical company. He's worked for this company for 5 years. Less than 2 months ago his new boss decided that Dan should be gone for 2 full weeks a month at the company's U.S. home office(which is 2 states away). He also would have to travel an additional 25-40%. Dan said, "no thanks." He resigned from his position 2 weeks ago. He'll take a couple months off and start a new job in January. I cannot imagine what it would have done to William and Grace with Dan being gone pretty much all the time except for weekends. Most people would be pretty afraid right now to quit their job with the economy the way it is and the holidays coming up, and he did the right thing...he chose our family. And that's what is important. William is loving that he's home full time. And so am I!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A letter to China

Friday night, I put Grace to bed. Dan and I usually divide and conquer with the 2 kids. He takes one and I take the other. Bedtime at our house is happily a very calm and relaxed event, we read books and talk. And mostly I just listen because with my 3 kids I've learned all kinds of things about them. What's in their heads and hearts and I don't have to ask many questions, it just comes out. Friday was one of those nights with Grace. I walked across her bedroom to get a few books and paused by the light switch. Above the light switch is one of Grace's adoption announcements that were sent out when we adopted her in 2003. Also framed with the announcement is a baby picture taken of Grace when we were in China at that time. Grace asked me when that photo was taken and I answered her. She then said to me, "Mom, I miss my China Mom and Dad sometimes and wonder what they look like. I wish I could meet them someday. " Now Dan and I have been very upfront about Grace's adoption with her, we've spoken about it honestly and at a level that we feel she can understand for her age. I told Grace that my greatest desire would be for her to meet her China Mom and Dad, but I don't know if it's possible. I don't know who they were or if we could find them. There are times that Grace seems to 'get it' with the explanation about her adoption and the reasons why she came to live with us...we explain it that China has a rule that you can only have 1 child. I've also told her that sometimes countries make rules and the people have to follow them. The sad fact is that I don't have the answers for my daughter and never will. I know that at about age 6-8 most adopted children start asking real questions about their past and begin to start to understand it more fully. She asked me a second time what I thought her birth parents look like and I said, "If you look in a mirror you'll see your Mom and Dad, Grace because you look like them." We also talked about what her parents might be like. I also encouraged her to to draw a picture for them and maybe we could write a letter. And that's what we did on Saturday and Grace drew a picture for them. She told me what to write and here it is:
"Dear China Mom and Dad,
I love you and miss you. I wish I can come back and meet you. I wish you could meet my Mom and Dad. Someday I'll come to China. I am a good swimmer, I'm smart and pretty. I know my numbers and letters. I might take piano lessons.
Love, Grace"
If what I do as a mother to my children is help them to understand as best as they can the circumstances that allowed them to be adopted and be secure in themselves as people, I will have done my job. I hope and pray I can do that. Friday night Grace and I prayed together to God, that He somehow tell her China Mommy and Daddy that Grace is safe, happy and very much loved. Grace talked about mailing the letter to China and maybe it could find her parents there. I wish it could dear Grace. I wish with all my heart it could. Someday we will return to 'My China' as Grace puts it.
For now the letter from Grace resides in her bedroom, taped to the wall. Maybe it will find it's way to China. I'll encourage Grace to write as many letters as she wants to her birth parents.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The changing moods of a 2 year old

The silly boy face. He was playing the recorder in the car.
The "I'm not happy with you Mommy" face.

Here's the goofy (moving) face.

(Batman of course.)
I took these 4 pics today over a period of 15 minutes. We ran a few errands and William was playing his recorder in the car. I happened to have my camera with me and took the first 3 of him in his car seat. As soon as we came inside he wanted to be Batman and asked to have his picture taken. William can be funny, silly, cantankerous, energetic, charming, delightful, social, engaging, confrontational, belligerent, demonstrative, loud, stubborn, demanding, aggressive, affectionate, loving, and is always adorable.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's a new day...

I cried last night, during McCain's gracious and heartfelt concession speech and when Obama spoke in my hometown of Chicago. I felt like I was right there in Grant Park. I'm so proud of my country... that the people would speak up and want to go in a new direction. As a mother to 2 minority children I couldn't be prouder that a man of color would be elected President. I wasn't sure I'd ever see that in my lifetime. I have hope for the future. It won't be easy but we can get there together. I hope and pray that our country can be united now.

Monday, November 3, 2008

November 4th

November 4th is an important date for me for 2 reasons. First, Dan and I were married on that day 19 years ago. You can look here, and read my post from a year ago. 19 years is a long time. Dan and I eloped 19 years ago and went on a really nice honeymoon in Hawaii. I cannot imagine a better father for my children or partner for me. It's been a roller coaster, but isn't that what life is? Happy 19th Dan! I love you so much.
The second reason that November 4th is important to me is that tomorrow is an historic Presidential election in the U.S. I think that every Presidential election is important and I've always taken my right to vote seriously. I've voted since I was 18 years old. I debated a long time about what I wanted to say in this post and decided to write from the heart. I grew up in a conservative upper-middle class family in the Midwest. A Christian, Republican family. As children we were always encouraged to think and question. And question me and my 3 other siblings did. We loved to debate. Religion, politics, you name it...we debated it. I've heard it all, believe me. My father in law was one of the first paratroopers to land in Normandy, France on D-Day during World War 2 in 1944. My father fought in the Korean war in the mid 1950's. I respect all those who serve their country immensely. I respect Mr. McCain and his service, but I don't feel that I can vote for him. When I vote, I don't vote for someone because of 1 issue, I vote for the whole package. The United States is an amazing country and I love it with all my heart. I feel privileged and honored to have ancestors that settled here and that I was born here. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this Christian Republican is voting for Mr. Obama. And yes a Christian can vote for a Democrat. Like I said, I don't vote for 1 issue. Dan and I are in a tax bracket financially that we highly likely will have our taxes raised under Obama. But it's not about me and my taxes, it's about what is best for everyone in our country. Change. Change is good. Our country is not a perfect one, there are many things about it that could be so much better. I'm not telling you who to vote for, I'm just asking you to vote. I want my children to be proud of their country.

Okay, please don't scream at me too much...
© Aging with Grace and strong Will
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