Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas pictures

Click on the word Christmas pictures above and it will take you to some photos from this morning.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Annabel made sure she was getting a present!

Annabel is so excited about Christmas that she bought herself a present at the dollar store today.

She wrapped it up and put it under Mom and Dad's tree.

Tonight she made a BIG presentation to herself, reading her gift tag, To: Annabel, From: Annabel.

Then she opened it as if she was not sure what to expect with LOTS of fanfare and excitement!

Sure enough, it was the glove (her word) that she had bought herself with basketballs on them for a dollar at the dollar store!

Grandmother Hattie Edith

To quote my Grandmother Hattie Edith,

"Lord, what have I done to deserve all of this!"

Grandmother was the kind of person who thrived on the crazier the better and so every year her tiny house was packed, every single room, with every member of the family.

More than once Lisa and I drove from Abilene after getting off from work at Luskey's Western Wear, all the way to Paris, Texas, many times with only one working windshield wiper.

But it didn't matter, we had to be there. Grandmother would know and be so disappointed if we missed. One year I picked up Jana from her retail job at Mervyn's and we probably made it down there by 9:00, only to turn around and come right back home. Again in a Volkswagen that had the traditional VW heater system. In other words, none!

The evening was capped off with Grandmother finally sitting down to the biggest pile of gifts you have ever seen and her exclaiming repeatedly, "Lord, what did I ever do to deserve all of this!"

I feel the same way tonight.

Incredibly the snow continues to come down and the more the snow, the more hyper my girls are!

Annabel has openly been so excited about the possibilities of Christmas. She is ecstatic over the tree, the lights, the food, the family gatherings, but especially the anticipation of what tomorrow might bring.

Grace is more reserved, but has kept a count down on Mom and Dad's chalk board.

We have spent the afternoon in our fabulous new kitchen preparing our meal for tonight. We had lots of plans for going somewhere special for dinner but so very grateful to Gloria for the HUGE Honeybaked Ham for a warm dinner at home instead.

Annabel has been my sous chef getting into chopping up things. Most things are chopped enough that even someone on a pureed diet could eat it! Grace has put the final touches on gifts for the grandparents.

I feel so blessed to enjoy the excitement of Christmas with my girls and my parents!

Lord, what did I ever do to deserve all of this!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas lights

This has been a really long day.

It ended less than an hour ago as the bus pulled up to the hospital's main entrance and dropped off the rest of our passengers of older adults who went for the Christmas lights and dinner tour.

When I posted last week that I was finished with all my job festivities, I completely forgot about our trip tonight. I was reminded frequently that I had come up with this idea and three months ago it sounded great! Of course that was before I knew what all could happen between then and now.

In an effort to save money, we booked a much smaller bus, which left us taking my car to hold the overflow. Thank goodness Gloria had planned a great meal otherwise we would have been famished just from the wait time to get into the Prairie Lights display. The line was even longer as we left! The lights are really pretty, but a one hour wait to get into the park kind of puts a damper on things. At least we had good company during the wait!

Lisa and the girls left shortly after coming back from the doctor's office. I was glad I had a distraction for my girls, as it is always such a down time when Gillian and Darcey left.

The doctor is not sure why Dad is running the high temperature, but gave him some medicine including antibiotics. Tomorrow is Mom's turn to see the doctor. As someone mentioned, now that some of the shock is wearing off, they are more aware of the pain they are in and not bouncing back quite as quickly as they first thought they should/would. Of course when you hit a concrete wall going 60 m.p.h. it is a little rough on your body, regardless of the age.

Top priority for me is making sure that Santa is ready for Friday! I've had no trouble coming up with ideas for Annabel and trying to decide if I can afford the portable basketball goal she has wanted for so long.

Grace is my problem this year as the only things are her list are books or Nintendo games. She needs clothes but not sure she is quite old enough to "value" them for gifts! The other things she would LOVE are a netbook and a new phone, but she knows they are out of our price range this year so she did not include them on the list.

I took the time yesterday to write out a lot of Christmas cards and then promptly left them here with no stamps! Hmmm, maybe I will just be way ahead next year!

Update on Mom and Dad

The girls are busy trying to build a gingerbread house and learning that construction is more difficult than originally expected. We have added corn starch to the royal icing in hopes that it would be a good thickener and also they were reminded that reading the directions would have been helpful too!

Mom and Dad are on their way back to the doctor via Lisa.

Dad has been running a temperature of 102+ for the last two nights with some serious chills and shaking. The doctor's office admonished that he could ONLY see them for this ONE issue, none other. How irritating is that!

Last Thursday I took Mom and Dad to see their doctor but instead we saw is PA. Mom and Dad were disappointed as they have great faith in their doctor and had never met the PA before.

The PA ordered more x rays since other issues continued to surface that were not initially addressed in the ER. It takes some time to get over the shock and realize what all is hurting.

We were there for hours and then on Friday they did not call with the results, so we really don't know much at this point.

In spite of how they felt, they were intent on us having our family Christmas party on Saturday night. Somehow all of it is a blur right now, but the girls had a great time. We have had "sleepovers" the last two nights with all 4 girls sleeping on our living room floor.

Last night we went shopping as the girls each received a very nice monetary gift from a very sweet lady at church. The money was burning a hole in their pocket!

Lisa felt like we were herding sheep and that's exactly what it seems like sometimes. As soon as you round up all 4, then you can't walk because they are so close. But if you blink you lose one!

The evening brought back lots of memories of our Santa Fe trip. We agreed we had to repeat it this year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

My job as a sandwich!

Most of the time I really love my job.

Today was our second Christmas party this week. We have one at each location.

I've always said they are a tough crowd though to please.

The coffee is too hot, too cold, too strong, too weak. The water has too much ice, not enough ice. The plates are too big, too small. The room is too cold, too hot. I have even teased that the sugar was too sweet or not sweet enough.

Generally I can overlook this, but have tried to learn not to make these kind of comments myself, when I am invited somewhere.

Today though, before we could even get started I had people complain that the music was too loud, too soft, the line was too long or too short, there was not enough coffee, too much coffee.

You get the point.

My tongue hurts tonight from biting it. It did take a lot of the fun out of the hard work we had done to try to ensure they would enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A follow up

When I graduated with my Master's Degree from UNT in 1993, my first job as a rehabilitation counselor was over a caseload of individuals with traumatic brain injuries. Very quickly it became evident that the majority of the injuries were the result of a car accident.

Working with these individuals, many times looking as though nothing was wrong with you, it gave me a deep appreciation for the complexities of our brain and how much damage can occur when your head is jerked around or goes through the windshield.

None of these individuals returned to their "old life". The damage was done and it was permanent.

Shortly after getting the job it was necessary to get a new car.

My sole criteria for the car was an air bag.

Now they are "standard" on most cars, but then they are new and just being included on some models.

I will always be grateful to whoever invented airbags and those who had the foresight to require their inclusion in cars.

Mom and Dad were not in their car on Monday.

They were test driving a car.

They are sold on the safety that the Infiniti provided them in their accident.

My nieces journeyed out to the car dealership to retrieve Mom and Dad's car and while there, thankfully Katie thought to take pictures.

Everyone asked me what it looked like.

I really cannot tell you because once I saw my parents and realized they were hurt, I zoned into them and only them.

The pictures really tell a gripping story of the potential damage that could have occurred to Mom and Dad.

The front and rear fender and bumpers on the passenger side look like an accordion.But the airbags did their job and kept them cushioned and not flying through the windshield.

I've learned several things from this experience.

One that my father is the master of understatement. He told me they had been in a serious accident, but failed to mention how much either had been hurt.

That people are kind and caring and willing to say prayers on your behalf, which is a huge point in itself.

That airbags and all the safety features of a car make a difference.

It's been a complicated 48 hours trying to juggle all that had to be done.

Thank goodness that everyone chipped in, even going so far as to pick up my girls the last 3 days!

We enjoyed a great meal that Martha prepared and Lisa served, along with Lisa's ham and pasta. If Lisa is around, she is going to make sure you get a good meal.

Drew, Marcie, Katie, and Lisa all made trips out to the school for the girls.

Marcie and Katie drove almost to Oklahoma to get Mom and Dad's car.

Katie cleaned Mom and Dad's house.

And while all of that is extremely wonderful, the best was Drew mowing and clearing out all the leaves in both our front yards!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Best laid plans

Some days you get up just sure that you know what the day will bring. Mondays are a pretty good example. Mondays especially seem to follow the pattern you expect.

But sometimes Monday surprises you.

Our usually prompt starting meeting on MOndays was delayed, so the end time went over.

When I got back to my office several people mentioned that Dad had called looking for my co-worker. They mentioned he sounded upset? in a rush? Something just didn't sound right.

I knew my parents had planned to check out a car to buy and then planned to do some Christmas shopping on their way home.

I actually dialed Dad's cell phone number halfway expecting that he was calling to tell me he had found a car for me to buy too and what did I think.

Instead he said they had had a serious accident and I needed to come pick up mom.

His directions put them on a service road, so I expected a fender bender of some sort and began to plan that MOm and I might be able to squeeze in a little bit of shopping before coming back.

Somewhere on my drive to "pick up Mom" DAd and I talked again. I asked if Mom was ok. He said no, you need to take her to the hospital.



Yes, the paramedics and the fire truck were just leaving but we still need to take Mom to the hospital.

STill really not making sense.

He told me they were on the service road, but it seemed odd that the traffic on the freeway was stopped in both directions. That's because they had the freeway blocked because of the accident.

Only when I saw Mom sitting in the car with both air bags deployed and Dad standing on the side of the road did it hit me what a serious accident this was. Mom was not moving and I had expected her to be able to scale down the embankment to get in the car. Instead I made a trip back around and up on the freeway.

There sat a giant tow truck, a couple of police cars, lots of flares, a car with the doors open, and an assortment of characters standing around and a policeman flagging me down thinking I was just intent on busting through the accident to get to the exit ramp.

I grabbed my coat and put around Mom and led her to my car. She was holding on tight to her Christmas cards and her lipstick. She seemed to be in shock but came out of it enough to instruct me on the other things I had to get out of the car.

Not until I went back to the car did I realize it was not their car! This was the car they went to look at! It had a sticker on the back window. But I don't think i could tell you anything else about that car just from the shock of the two giant airbags and that I was still trying to make sense of what was going on.

Dad filled me in on part, explaining that MOm refused to go to another hospital and the paramedics refused to transport her to our hospital, as they would pass 3 others on the way, and felt like she needed to be there quickly.

It seems that a car, trying to change lanes, clipped the back of the car Mom and Dad were in, causing it to spin around, and then get hit by the giant tow truck, that I thought was there to pick them up. At that point they crashed head on into the concrete embankment which made the airbags go off. All Mom remembers is Dad telling her to hold on. Thank goodness there were airbags and the paramedics told them if they had been in their little Jetta, the situation would have been much worse. I have to thank God that while they were spinning that no one broadsided them either. This is probably one of the busiest stretches of Central Expwy too.

When we got to the hospital, after VERY careful driving, and my talking ninety to nothing trying to figure things out and see if I could get a better feel of mom's condition, I knew she was in a lot of pain when she agreed to riding in a wheelchair and then not wanting to get out of it.

Gloria and ERika met us in ER and Gloria agreed to go pick up Dad. YOu can give Gloria a remote spot in any part of Dallas and she can find it. I knew with little instruction she could find Dad.

Eventually we got both into the same ER room, both wrapped up in a variety of layers of sheets and blankets, and the transporter or tech, moved them close enough so they could hold hands. Neither was satisfied until they can feel each other. It did not help that they had HUGE stiff cervical collars around their necks so they could not turn their heads and see each other.

Marcie got in touch with Drew and he picked up my girls, then they took them home and fed them their favorite meal, Chinese noodles!

By the time they came back it had been decided that Mom needed to spend the night for observation and that Dad would be discharged, but expected to stay at the hospital. So technically he could go, but they still wanted him around, just in case anything on him changed.

Both are extremely sore from the seat belts and the air bags. Both have very sore necks and chests.

Mom's EKG was not quite right, plus her right knee looks like a softball, and she is experiencing a LOT of pain in her chest.

After I had time with the girls, we decided we needed to take them clothes, toothbrushes, medicine, and a milk shake for Dad. I was glad the girls got to see them, but did not think I could pull them away and back home.

It is so odd for me not to be there tonight, but I knew for my girls' sake they needed to be at home and in their beds.

All Mom can do is fret about what all she still needs to cook, clean, wrap, and people to buy for. I hope she can get some rest with some pain medicine tonight. They wrapped her knee in a stabilizer and covered it with ice. I know Dad will be more sore tomorrow unless he gets somewhere to lay down.

It is really hard raising your parents! Prayers are greatly appreciated!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

More questions than answers

The Christmas tree is finally up and the stockings are hung by the chimney with care. I just hope that Santa will get her act together and get the presents bought!

This year is producing a whole slew of questions from Annabel about Christmas. I feel very unprepared because I cannot even remember why we have a Christmas tree among others.

This morning on the way to church, I think Grace must have asked me a question for each rotation of the tires. Among those were how do you get a license plate? How do they make them? How do they know which is your number? How do they keep from giving people the same numbers? All I could think of was that I thought prisoners made them but did not have time to answer before I was asked several more.

I made one big mistake this weekend. I watched 48 Hours Investigates last night.

The story focused on adoptions from Samoa that were a scam.

If one set of adoptive parents had not started asking question, I guess it would have continued, although the Samoan authorities did investigate after a baby died from malnutrition in the adoption agency's "foster" home.

The family that started asking questions was prompted to do so after their daughter began to talk at length about her family, including where each person slept. She never mentioned being in the "foster" house, just about her home and family.

This child had basically been "taken" from her parents after they were led to believe that she was going to a "foster" family in the US until she was 18 to provide her an education. Then she would return to Samoa.

Recently a friend told me she was glad my daughters were older when I adopted them so she did not have to worry that they had been stolen babies. She knew that their stories were legit.

But after seeing this story I have felt shaken up.

Many of these children were older, not 11 years old, but 3-5 years old.

Grace and Annabel only have memories of their foster families. It worries me that their "foster" families might have been part of their biological family. I know they weren't as each set of parents have fostered lots of other children too, but still I have found myself doubting.

I think what disturbed me the most was the family who decided to return their daughter to her Samoan family. She was so comfortable there and loved being with this huge extended family that all lived together. She adapted so quickly to their lifestyle and just as quickly, forgot how to speak English. She was more than willing to give up the "American" lifestyle just to be with her biological family. Obviously possessions don't provide the basis for a long term relationship. Another family took their daughter to visit and she was very sad about leaving her Samoan family to return to the US.

The third family was refusing to acknowledge the Samoan family.

Many have told me how fortunate my girls are to be here. But what if they decide they are not fortunate. I've always felt like I was the fortunate one.

But I wonder, are there inherent qualities that make you part of your biological family? Or your nationality? Or your ethnicity?

Was I wrong to take them from the only family they knew?

I know the facts and I quote them often.

If a child is not adopted by the age of 14, they are basically on their own. There are no accommodations to take care of these older children.

There is no money to pay for education or health needs or housing. Many end up on the street. Or that is what I have been told.

There recently was a story about a young Chinese boy who actually had gotten separated from his family while traveling. The authorities did not know what to do with him so they took him to the local orphanage and a US family adopted him. When his US family took him back, they found a lot of holes in the story that the Chinese family told. I believe he returned to the US with his adoptive family.

My girls were left as infants. I know where they were left. Or I know the story I have been told.

Somewhere there is a biological mother and father. I don't know if they are alive or where they are. I do not know the circumstances surrounding their decisions.

Right now Annabel is going through a tough time. She gets as close to me as she possibly can but the minute I try to reciprocate, she winces. She is struggling to learn what she needs to at school and shocks me at her grasp of math. Sometimes I think her insides must feel like electric bolt coursing through her body as I see the nervousness on the outside. Today at church there was simply no way she could hold still. Is it biological and can be corrected or is she just nervous? Or ill at ease?

Tonight I feel very lacking. I know we will have to travel back to China to try to answer these questions but not sure that I really want to know the answers.

I don't know if they will want to try to find answers or not.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Sandwich Generation

My girls are intrigued by the title of this blog and Grace, especially, has asked several times what it means.

For those who don't know, "they" (the media) are calling people whose lives are sandwiched between their children and their older adult parents. Now my parents are not dependent on me and I hope that we actually have more of an interdependent relationship, but my job does make me feel sandwiched sometimes.

This week there have been several things that have occurred that have caused distress? Not really? Stress? Some? Sadness? Probably more than any other emotion.

Today a woman, just a few years older than me, wandered into our area at work. She was looking for someone to pay for a taxi to get her back to the homeless shelter. Before we could find someone to help, she began to slur her words and appeared to pass out. Thankfully we have an emergency response team that handles these types of situations, but when I found out how young she was (58) it really made me wonder what happens in your life that causes you to reach the point she was.

Last week we heard about two long time friends who had passed away.

One's body was ravaged by cancer, the other by diabetes and heart disease. Both leave wives who are fairly independent, but still so lost now without their husbands, with their own health also failing.

The worst was learning Saturday morning about a friend who was missing. Most people have friends their own age. My friends are all in the 80's! This woman had received notification that the Department of Public Safety wanted her to re-take her driving test, it had been reported that she was perhaps, not safe to drive any more.

This outraged her so much that she got in her car to drive to the driver's license office and show them that she was quite capable of taking care of herself.

Somewhere on the way she became disoriented and lost.

She was found Saturday morning, with her window down, screaming and yelling out the window.

Thankfully someone stopped to help, which supports my belief in guardian angels, as this man did not take advantage of the situation, but instead called the sheriff's office, and stayed with her until help arrived.

She had run out of gas.

Friday night the temperature dipped into the 20's.

Where was she all night? Did she have anything to eat or drink? No one knows.

We just know the story from where the good Samaritan and the sheriff came in.

Then I try to shift gears and focus on my daughters.

Sometimes it is harder than others.

Tonight we had our Christmas party with our volunteers.

Most have been with me for at least 7 years or is it 8?

But with this population, the older adults, you always have lost some. Some have passed away. Some have become too frail and elderly to continue working. Some are currently struggling with serious health issues.

But all have given their time to help others. Most can still run circles around me. All have been part of the "Greatest Generation". They have survived the Great Depression and WWII. Most of their children are part of the "baby boomers".

But for some of those adult children, it is too difficult to see Mom or Dad getting older so they skirt their responsibilities to them, sure that they are ok or leave someone else in charge.

So tonight, with all this on my mind, I had to force myself to focus on using water as an alternative form of fuel! Now that does take some concentration to try to explain that concept to someone whose English is still VERY unsophisticated? Developed?

PLUS, she, being Annabel, has to prepare a Powerpoint presentation on her research with animation!

OK, I admit. Tonight I feel sandwiched!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas and Annabel

This will be Annabel's second Christmas ever.

I got a little teary eyed realizing that she will never experience writing a letter to Santa, but we go on.

I'm not sure how I have brought it up in conversation, maybe it went like this,

Hi, my name is Jerri and this will be my daughter Annabel's second Christmas.

There is a real possibility on that scenario as I catch myself dropping them into EVERY conversation.

Anyway, the whole concept of a 12 year not having had but one Christmas before is really confusing to people.

They cannot imagine what the circumstances were that would prevent a child from having Christmas.

The main reason is that I do not think it is celebrated very widely in China.

China is a communist country and while there are some Christians, the majority are Buddhist, so the whole concept of celebrating Christ's birth would not come up in the Buddhist religion.

The second main reason is that she has spent the majority of her life in an orphanage. There were no extra means for "gifts". Daily needs were met basically and that is all.

I really wish I could get inside my girls' heads and see what they are thinking. She had been home about five months last year by Christmas and we had already had her dress in an angel costume and beg for candy at Halloween. Then we all gathered around a very large bird and ate too much for Thanksgiving. Now we wanted her to believe that an overweight white man with a white beard would bring her presents just because she was good?

Regardless of what she believes in, this year she has figured out that it does mean a slew of gifts for no apparent special reason other than that we put a tree in our living room.

She has pored over every advertisement with toys.

She brought me another one tonight with more things circled in case I needed to know what she wanted.

But when asked she will tell you she wants a Santa Clause outfit, along with the beard, and five Golden Retriever puppies.

I know why she wants the Santa Claus outfit.

She wants to be the one who gives.

Bless her heart.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Salado and Zhu Zhus

Yesterday was a really long day.

I had to be at work early, so Mom and Dad took the girls to school. I had to meet a busload of older adults headed to Salado for the day.

The weather forecast went from great to bad to worse, but they never mentioned ice, so we decided the trip was on!

Those who cancelled really missed out on a great day. Our load of 50 stopped first at West for kolaches, which alone would make the trip worthwhile, but we pressed on to Salado, despite the blustery, gray skies.

Maybe the weather helped clear the highways, but we made record time and had chance to look around before lunch at the Stagecoach Inn. If you have never tried it, I really recommend it, even if for nothing else than the chicken broth and hush puppies they serve with every meal. In fact at our table one person turned down dessert for more hush puppies!

The snow started soon enough and we held our breath but it stopped as quickly as it started.

On the way home we stopped at the new Collin Street Bakery in Waco. This group LOVES their fruitcake and large shopping bags were brought on the bus for the trip home.

We had a great group that wanted to see it all and were generous with their compliments. It made the late return worth while.

Salado is a place that I am always afraid that I will get sad because it Jana made us all go to the Salado Stroll one year at Christmas in a cold, drizzly rain. Gillian was just a little girl and we had great fun.

But instead of being sad, it usually just reminds me of my last boyfriend who wanted to go there regularly. He had seen a painting of a deer one time that he decided he just had to have. We spent so many trips looking for that picture! It is no easy task since the town is known for their art galleries! No, he never did find it!

While on our trip I got an email notifying me that there were Zhu Zhu accessories at our local CVS.

Now if you don't know what Zhu zhus are and I can't seem to get a picture to post, but on one list of the top 10 toys of the season, they are number one. I had bragged that my kids did not want them but at the last minute they have decided it is tops on their lists too!

So at 7:00 p.m. I head to CVS trying to buy the accessories for these motorized hamsters I don't even have yet. My friend Jamie has made the connection and located at least two for me. We are planning a swap of some accessories for hamsters later this week. It feels like some sort of clandestine affair!

At the last minute the manager decided I could only buy 2 of each item.

Maybe I looked so tired and worn out that he acquiesced and had each cashier check out two of each item. So it took longer, but I left with a carload of much revered accessories.

The day was not over as we still had to feed our neighbor's cats. She had called and asked me to cover up ALL of her plants before the big freeze this week and while I did, I wasn't sure if one cat slipped out. I am really anxious for her to return tomorrow but also worried that cat is gone! He stays hidden most of the time and even she rarely sees him. I just hope he is still there!

Today we tried to do a marathon of catching up on homework. We took a break to go to Costco and Kohls and then tonight to the Winnetka Heights Christmas Tour, both well worth the time off.

When we came back from the home tour, Grace counted how many Christmas decorations we had up, especially in comparison to those on the tour. The total number for us? Two! Decorating is a top priority for tomorrow!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Music to my ears!

It's official. Tonight I became my mother!

Sitting there listening to the North Hills Philharmonic, I was nodding my head, tapping my toes, smiling, as if it was the most beautiful music I had ever heard. It's amazing how motherhood even affects your hearing. I no longer heard the squeaks, squawls, and missed notes. Instead I heard beautiful melodies and was so proud of Annabel's abilities, I thought I might bust.

There is a great old movie about a couple that over time see only the beauty in each other and others are shocked that they cannot see themselves as they really are. I LOVE that movie. I had no idea that the love motherhood brings, also brings that type of "vision".

Last night while Annabel was practicing I could not imagine how it would all come together. My mom came over and bragged and bragged on how beautifully she played. At that point I could only hear the missed notes. I finally realized tonight her self esteem needed me to hear it through a mom's ears.

Yesterday morning on our drive to school it started snowing.

With the very first splat, instead of a rain drop, I made the girls check out the windshield so they did not miss a flake.

Annabel was like me and ooohing and aaahing continually.

Finally Grace said "Wow!". I said it is beautiful, isn't it?

She said, "Mom, I mean the line at Starbucks is long!". Oh well! She's a little harder to impress with the weather!

It's great to have your caretakers next door and when you come home late from the North Hills Philharmonic, or the beginner middle school band concert, and find the plug and light switch have been repaired and your Christmas wreath hung up!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Trying to catch up!

Before I sat down tonight, I had to look at a calendar, because it felt like it must surely be Thursday, rather than just Tuesday. Some weeks start off with more happening I guess.

Since I sat down last, Thanksgiving happened. Had it at our house for the first time ever. Have continued to wish I could start that whole process over and improve on the end results. I actually visualized serving appetizers! We were lucky to get it on the table before anyone died of starvation!

If you ever consider having major changes done to your kitchen, just leading up to a big meal/celebration at your house, let me tell you, that is just about the dumbest thing you can do. You have to wash everything, even things in your cabinets, much less putting things back in place.

But I have to say the room is awesome and we are really enjoying having a work space, dining space, and then the kitchen all together.

After we survived Thanksgiving, we packed up and ran to Austin to be there for LIsa's birthday. Lisa took us to all the neat places in South Austin and we got to enjoy some incredible meals at well known Austin establishments, like Fran's Hamburgers, Chuy's, and My-T-Fine Burgers! Gillian and DArcey stayed with us at our hotel, so it was like a giant slumber party. Only we had walked so much that I was the first asleep!

Sunday we enjoyed a birthday party before trying to catch up with all the homework missed while they were both sick after getting their immunizations. According to the mid semester grade report today, we did not quite get to where we need to be.

I'm not sure how Annabel has done any of the work, but she continues to plod on trying to learn. I know if the roles were reversed, I could never have done what she has done.

The last two nights have been long while trying to get all the homework, laundry, dishes, and lots of flute practice by Annabel.

Annabel's Christmas concert is Thursday night. The teacher still hasn't decided what songs they are going to play, so she practices all of them. I think they need a lot longer to practice!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Weekends mean work!

Weekends are supposed to be fun, right?

I'm sure I will have one without so much work soon, but this weekend was focused around trying to cram all of my kitchen stuff back into the kitchen! Plus having to wash everything! My dishwasher thinks it deserves a break and I am sure my hands do. I am much too old to be dealing with dishwater hands now. I need Madge! Remember that old commercial where the lady went for the manicure and Madge told her she was soaking in Palmolive or whatever brand it was? OK, I do feel my age!

We took one break and ventured to the New Flower Market Farmers Market, which Grace and Annabel both felt like was a weird name for a grocery store. I agree.

They were roasting corn and raising money for the food bank, so Annabel had 2 ears and I had one. Grace doesn't eat corn. Right....

We bought our turkey and other ingredients so we can host the family Thanksgiving meal. Our very first attempt at it! I think I might trick everyone like I have done before, order the whole thing, put it in my dishes, and then take credit for the meal.

When we got home Mom came over to "help" with the kitchen. I realized later that she just got us all working and then went home.

Today after lunch Dad was asking Grace if he should buy Mom some piece of jewelry that was on the TV. She told him, no, she would just lose it. Oh that is cold!

Then Dad, not learning from his previous question, asked if he should get himself an Iphone. Grace quickly told him that he doesn't use his current one enough to warrant a new one.

Awww, the joys of grandchildren!

This afternoon we helped out a friend by partiicpating in a photo shoot for her company. There was no pay involved, but hopefully some great pictures of the girls. It was a glorious day and fun to be at the park and talk to some of the other moms. The photo shoot was easy as the photographer just wanted them to play.

After we came home I knew I had to tackle the huge piles of leaves in our backyard. I got a little punchy from it and worked out my Ode to my pecan tree. hope you think it is funny!

Ode to my pecan tree, subtitled, late Autumn mowing

Oh pecan tree, our state tree. The tree whose leaves do not appear until late spring. Your branches are long and tall, extending to the skies, arching into the perfect shape to provide a canopy.

Your branches soon become full and luscious, providing shelter and cooling from the hot Texas summers.

You provide a veil for squirrels to hide in so they can torment our dogs.

Ollie and Nina look and stare, eyes fixed at some unseen sight, sure they have seen some movement, but all they can see are your leaves fluttering in the wind as a squirrel rushes by.

You, pecan tree, allowed us to hang up a swing from one of your many strong branches. Wonderful memories remain forever since KK took great pictures of your branch supporting the weight of all who wanted to swing.

Your branches sometimes break and drop and I don't know if you are sad or thankful to shed your unneeded weight.

You who teased me last year with the beauty of small green pecans peaking through your leaves, but when Autumn came, they were gone.

Now you have succumbed to the pressure that Autumn places on all trees and plants and your lovely leaves have fallen to the ground. Piles and piles of cracked and brown leaves, no longer providing the cool or the shade, no longer needed or useful. Piles and piles, so high you would think you were hiding or protecting something on the ground.

Are you in cahoots with someone or something I do not know?

I must find out. I must start the mower one last time to rid the ground of the piles of damp leaves knowing that their beauty can not be regained.

The electric mower runs so quietly. No exhaust fumes. No damage to the ozone.

I begin to push across what once was your beauty, your crown in the sky.

I hear a loud noise and soon the ground is covered with cotton fluff.

Oh now I see what you were hiding. The octopus that Ollie brought to your feet as an offering for a squirrel. You hid it from him under your leaves. Sadly, Mr. Octopus ic now gone.

But I press on and hear a strange rattling. It sounds like popcorn under the mower.

I stop and look down, wondering what else you have hidden.

Here, there, everywhere are your bounty. It is not just your leaves you have dropped, but your fruit, my favorite nut, pecans. While some feel your fruit is not fancy enough to put into bags to enjoy on airplane flights and many from the north mispronounce your name, we in the south love our pecans and all the glorious treasures we can make from your single ingredient.

We love them in pies, we love them in salads, we love them in cookies, cakes, icing, rolls, we love them sugared, we love them spicy, we love them plain.

Oh pecan tree, you have left us a beautiful memory to carry us through the winter. We will nibble on them slowly to make them last until your branches are full once more of your glorious leaves.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Barbie's Dream House!

I feel like a kid on Christmas morning!

I walk into my kitchen and just in awe of how wonderful it is! It is so bright and airy and uncluttered! It is just beautiful! I realized last night if any of the men in my life had ever offered me a great kitchen, I probably would have married them.

I feel like I did when I first got a Barbie Dream Home. The possibilities are endless!

There is only one problem.

It is so uncluttered because all the stuff that should be in there is in the dining room, living room, and sun porch! I just don't want to mess it up again! I wonder how long I can live with all the clutter in the rest of the house if just this room remains cleared out??

Yesterday morning I left Grace at school with huge tears rolling down her cheeks. What a bad mother! I was just sure if she got there and got started she would forget about her arms hurting from the shots and that the fever would go down after the Tylenol.

But of course it did not work that way.

My phone rang by 10:30. It was the nurse letting me know that Annabel was there with a temperature and feeling dizzy. Annabel?? Really? She told me she was OK. I told the nurse to get Grace too and I would come pick them up. Grace's temperature continued to be high all day and night, but Annabel's slowly came down late last night. Both are home today due to the rule of being 24 hours without a temperature. Besides it is rainy and nasty outside and I do not want a repeat of a few weeks ago. Annabel is very mad that I will not let her go to school.

The fact that Annabel would not let me know she was not feeling well is why I am reading a new book, "The Connected Child". When the social worker was here recently she brought up some interesting points about the survival instincts of these children covering up the trauma that has been inflicted when they are so young. She started me thinking about the eleven years pre-adoption for Annabel. Because her history is so sketchy, I really have no idea what all took place. And she does not like to talk about it. Grace will, but even in the first few chapters, I can see that Grace retreats rather than deal with conflicts.

Gladney has a treasure in Amy Curtis. She is so kind and gentle in broaching difficult subjects. She is willing to help any way she can.

I guess I have dallied enough and the "stuff" is not moving by itself back into the kitchen.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Last minute fashion needs

Rarely do we have a day without much going on. But some days just seem like a LOT going on.

Although I was fully prepared to give up my kitchen 3 weeks ago, it really was not at a point that we had to be out of it completely. They came and worked while we were gone. They went home, we came home, and life was pretty much normal. IF you consider having most of your kitchen items in your living room and dining room and everything being covered with dust and having funky odors from paint, sanding, sawing, new wood, etc.

I knew the time would finally come when they would tackle the floor. All of these old houses have hardwood floors under years of accumulations of the latest in floor coverings, but when the original floors were put it, I don't think anyone could have dreamed of how we would LOVE those hardwood floors.

We had talked about putting some other trendy floor covering in to tie the two areas together, but our contractor LOVES the personality of the old houses and convinced me that the hardwood floors, sanded down to the bare wood, stained, and then sealed would be the best.

Oh he was so right.

BUT that is a LONG process and even though I knew it was going to start, it was also the first time I did not haul out our microwave, paper cups, plates, etc, so all the things we have been needed are trapped in the kitchen. AND we cannot get to the washing machine or the dryer and Annabel's gym uniform is still being held captive in there.

The wood working guy called tonight and said they were finished with the desk and shelves. Something tells me that it is so much better than anything I visualized, but I will finally see it tomorrow. I can't wait to splash pictures of the finished product on my blog and heartily recommend the guys who have done all the work.

But where I started with this line of thought is where our day ended up.

Annabel had to be at school at 7:30 and we did much better leaving in plenty of time to actually allow her to walk into the classroom, rather than arrive breathless from the run. But since we still are without a kitchen, we drove through McDonalds one more time for breakfast. I didn't think my cholesterol could take another sausage/biscuit, so I opted for just coffee. For Annabel, she rarely tires of a food and will eat it until you think she might become that food. She is still fired up about a sausage/biscuit. Maybe tomorrow will be our last day of those for a while.

Today at work we had a doctor talking about diabetes. He was fantastic and did a great job of actually addressing the topic in a way that everyone could understand. While I love having these programs, they are very taxing, with the fear that no one will show up, that the speaker won't show up, that the coffee won't be hot enough. By the time it is over, I feel spent!

When we went to the pediatrician for the girls' flu shots they mentioned that they had not had a physical. Hmmm, oh yea! Today was the appointment for their physical. I felt so sorry for them as they each had to get numerous shots, then a H1N1 nose spray/mist thing. I'm not sure who changed the immunization requirements for those entering 7th grade, but my girls are up to date and there will be no mad dashes this summer to take care of that! They both went to bed with sore arms though. Poor babies.

Last night Annabel handed me a piece of paper from her band teacher. It explained the winter concert, dates, times, locations, and then told in detail what they were required to wear. Now since school started Annabel has been after me to buy her a tuxedo shirt, bow tie, black pants, and shoes.

Believe it or not, none of that was mentioned as to what she needed to wear to the concert!

No, instead she needed a SOLID black dress, or black skirt and white blouse, with black shoes, and black socks or tights. The dress or skirt had to be plain black with no embellishments. I think we had plenty of things that are black, but none of them plain.

So after the doctor's office we ran to Wal mart. I had a few great neighbors offer me their daughter's clothes, but we still had to have the shoes, socks, or tights. Black socks would not be found in either girls' drawers, I knew that!

Thankfully they had just the exact dress she needed and it fit perfectly. Plus they had the black socks and black footless tights she likes, but NO SHOES! She seemed to need a half size and there were NONE in that store!

We ran to Payless and they had buy one get one half price. I wonder if that sell used to be buy one get one free. I would like that much better!

The problem with the cheaper shoes are the sizes are not very accurate and her size varied almost two whole sizes between the two stores, so it took lots of trying on to find just the right shoes, only they were boots! How could I pass up the bargain of getting something half off, so I sent Grace to find some boots too. Of course what she found was twice as much as Annabel's because they had the Jonas Brothers name attached. Why would the Jonas Brothers have their name on girl's footwear????

Anyway, Annabel had found a pair that she REALLY liked, not the black ones she had to have for school, but a fuzzy, warm pair for around the house and weekends. She is so cold natured, I was glad to buy her these boots. I think she was kind of stunned when she realized the haul she had with the dress, jacket, two pairs of boots, and the tights and socks. I wish I could let her know how special she is and I would do that more often if I could.

By now it is getting close to 7:00 and we have had no dinner and no homework. A quick trip to Panda Express provided us a meal and a quicker journey back home to complete homework.

Tonight, I am just tired!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No school today!

Last night I fell asleep with my cell phone with me as I was waiting on an answer to an email I had sent. Not my usual way to do things, but paid off this morning!

The phone rang right at 5:00 a.m. and it was a recording notifying us that the school was closed due to a water main break.

By then I had also gotten an email and forwarded it to Mom and Dad and work and went back to sleep.

Annabel came in at 6:30 panicking that I was not up. When told there was no school, she promptly went back to bed.

Then Grace got up and wondered why we were not up but soon as she knew she also went back to bed.

This is the first time I can remember school being closed due to something like a water main break! I kept expecting to wake up to find ice and snow on the ground.

It was really nice not having to drive so far for one day. It also gave the girls an extra day to catch up with homework.

Tomorrow we are back to our usual schedule leaving REALLY early to get Annabel to school by 7:30.

The first coat of varnish is on the kitchen floor tonight. At least 1, maybe 2 more coats and we will be back in our kitchen! Yea! I never thought I would miss it, but it is especially difficult even if you want a glass of water, much less to reach the washer and dryer. I didn't plan to well and even the microwave is in there!

Pretty soon though I will be able to post pictures of my new and very much improved kitchen. He even painted the hall for us today, which was not part of the contract. Nice to work with nice people.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cleaning is not good for your health!

When you have packed way too much stuff into a weekend, there is at least one thing I know you should not do on Sunday evening.

Go into your daughters' room and try to straighten up and rearrange furniture!

After, I think it has now been four weeks, of our kitchen under construction, we hope to be in the last week. This week will include staining the floor. With that comes the need to bar the kitchen from all traffic, which includes the dogs usual way out.

There are two back doors on our house. There are actually 6 doors out of this house, which seems like a LOT, but it was a duplex at one time. That is still a lot of doors. Unfortunately only two go into the backyard and if we try to take the dogs out the front, well, I don't want to have a repeat of other ventures which include Annabel and I running for blocks trying to catch Ollie.

But to "visually" close off some of the doors, I have put furniture in front of them. Plus it made me feel safer having it blocked since it was in the girls' room.

Now we needed out of it.

That entailed moving Grace's bed and ALL the stuff she keeps around it and on top of it and beside it and under it. Plus the need for a lot of just cleaning and I think we found two more loads of laundry of clothes hidden in their beds.

But we got it done and hopefully the week and the inconvenience will soon be a memory. I HOPE!!!

This afternoon I had organized a vegetable gardening class in association with our new community garden. We had it at the Bishop Arts District right in the middle of a new festival called Cliff Fest.

I think our speaker was thrown off a little when he realized he was speaking in a hair salon. But it worked out beautifully and we all learned something new.

It was a brilliant day to be out enjoying all the very positive changes to our neighborhood, but I had to leave the girls doing homework! So I tried to hurry home, after stopping at only 2/3 of the booths. At least I got them some of their favorites for dinner from Chan Tai and from Zen Sushi! (I had a ham sandwich. Something just isn't right about that!)

This weekend they have been feeding a friend's fish in his koi pond. They absolutely LOVE taking care of those fish and wish they could have more time to get them trained. I think if anyone could, they could!

Saturday was the International Festival Day at their school. I know I have said it before, but I LOVE the ethnic diversity at this school. This festival was celebrating all ethnicities with booths, entertainment, and food from all the different countries.

I had volunteered to make a Chinese dessert and on Friday night faced a very dusty and dirty kitchen due to the sanding of the texturing on the walls. Mom called and asked if I wanted to use her kitchen and jumped at the chance. It was an interesting recipe that required sweet glutinous flour and red bean paste. It was used at the Chinese table and the people running the exhibit was very kind telling me it was delicious. The other woman made a dessert that looked like rosebuds. It was beautiful. It too was filled with red bean paste. My girls LOVED them. I FORCED Annabel to try a small piece of my cake. There were no comments from her about it!

Saturday afternoon was so beautiful, it was impossible to make the girls work on their homework. It has been a challenge to catch up from their absences due to their illnesses and of course more homework and tests just keep stacking up! We took a breather and visited with our neighbors and loved seeing their new baby.

We ended Saturday with our traditional multi generational event of going to Costco! Plus we had to make a side trip to try to find me some new pants. I've finally lost enough weight that my pants keep sliding down! Now that is a fun time. Having your parents and your daughters wait while you try on clothes!

Tomorrow Annabel has to start a remedial math class to try to catch up. Math no longer is just numbers, it now includes a lot of word problems. These are pretty difficult if you can't read the words.

I am thankful they are providing this extra class, but it starts at 7:30. That means we have to leave by 6:45!! Goodness! I guess it is past my bedtime then!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Like mother, like daughter

When I was growing up, Mom would load up her big old white Pontiac and take a bunch of us to school each day. Not elementary, since it was at the end of the street, but these memories are from when I was in junior high and Lisa was in high school.

At that time, we probably did not venture out of a 5 mile radius from the house very often. There was no need to as everything we needed was close by. We could walk to Skillerns for all our drug store needs and on to A & P for groceries. We could even buy new clothes at a dress shop called Yantis and at one point there was a shoe store on Davis also.

Gas in those days was $.29 or maybe $.30 a gallon, so a dollar's worth bought you a lot of gas! Plus if you weren't going very far, you didn't need much, right?

But I can remember more than one morning as we cruised in the big old white Pontiac and getting to the gas station on the corner by W.E. Greiner Junior High and Mom having to coast the car up to the gas tank as we had run out of gas! $1 and we were on the road again.

I tell this story to set the stage for our morning.

Last night Annabel asked several times if we could get to school early so she could go to a special tutoring with her math teacher. Of course, we can surely do that!

But when the alarm went off some of the motivation was gone. Especially when Grace comes in to tell me her throat is really sore, hinting that she does not feel like going to school.

I was determined to get Annabel to school as she really needed the help on the math project and I pushed us all out the door early. Extra early!

As we leave, Dad always comes out to tell us bye. He announced they were going shopping at Kohl's, Coldwater Creek, and Costco. I ramble off a quick list of all I need at Costco as I remembered I had two $10 off coupons for Kohls. I ran back in and actually found them AND my credit for them to use at Kohl's.

As soon as I started the car, a bright light on the dash caught my attention.

Oh no, I meant to buy gas when I went to Tom Thumb last night, but did not go to Tom Thumb, since one of my prescriptions was out of refills, and now I don't have any gas.

I keep this information to myself, as it has a tendency to panic Annabel.

Usually if we leave right after 7:00 we don't have much traffic. Today of course was the exception and each time we sat waiting on others to move, I stared at the gas gauge, willing it to show more gas rather than a dwindling amount. That just didn't work.

As we got within a mile of the school, the needle on the gauge made a giant dive and I could just see us running out in front of the school. Their school doesn't have a gas station on the corner like ours did though.

At the last minute I take a QUICK detour and promise Annabel that it won't add but a few minutes and then we are assured that we will make it if I buy just a little gas. More than a dollar's worth, but not much more.

As soon as I took the detour traffic came to a standstill.

I had seen from the distance some motorcycle officers with flashing lights but I thought they were pulling someone over. Instead they were stopping all of us for something that I never got to see.

From the backseat you could hear fidgeting, but Annabel never said a word. I turned off the radio so I would make sure and hear if the car died while we sat there for 10 minutes, waiting for the unknown traffic incident.

Right at the time that I knew the last bit of fumes were being sucked through the carbeurator, the traffic began to move and I knew if I needed, I could roll into the gas station.

Thankfully it was not necessary and gas was purchased and since I had gas, I felt I could speed us on to school! With the emphasis on the word speed.

This afternoon Annabel told me in a very polite way that I could buy a bunch of gas at Tom Thumb so we did not have to do that again. That is exactly what I did tonight.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November 11

As of tomorrow, my little sister, Jana, whom I write about often, will have been gone for three years.

Time goes so quickly and I am so grateful for the healing that it has brought.

But I knew I needed to do something to remember her and hopefully impact others' lives through my memories of her.

Jana died due to a heart condition that no one knew she had. We don't know if she had any symptoms. She never mentioned any problems. She is a strong, hard working, fearless, loving, caring, charitable person who was taken so quickly that nothing could help.

To help remember her and to remind you of your risk of heart disease, I am asking everyone to wear red in her memory tomorrow.

It's especially funny to wear red, not just because of the Go Red for Women campaign, but because she had bright red hair and that fits so well too.

Homework and Social Worker Visits!

Tonight Annabel and I spent the evening trying to make sense of the concepts of speed and velocity. She has a science test on Thursday and did not do too well last time, so we are trying to really work on it this time. But these concepts are pretty vague anyway. I did not know you could not comment on velocity unless you include direction. So you can say the speed of something was 100 m.p.h. but you cannot say the velocity was 100 m.p.h. You would have to say the velocity was 100 m.p.h. south.

Ok, might have gotten it all wrong after all of that!

Her homework for World History was to write a paragraph first as a European explorer when you first saw a native American. Then as a Native American when you first saw a European explorer. I'm pretty sure she never studied any early American history in China and it is a little hard to catch up!

Maybe this is like the person who supposedly picked up a calf the day it was born and kept picking it up every day and got stronger and stronger. Only for me I will get mentally stronger and stronger.

No, I don't think so!

Tomorrow is our one year follow up with the social worker from the adoption agency. Our one year anniversary was actually in July, but they give you time to get settled in before they check up on you.

I am so glad this social worker is so understanding. I told her the house/kitchen was under construction and we might not have a place to sit. She answered that we could just sit outside and talk if the weather is nice. It is supposed to be gorgeous outside tomorrow, but not inside. The man doing the work is in the process of closing on a house that was a foreclosure and has become distracted with that, so our house is a wreck. If I can find where I downloaded the pictures I will show you what I mean.

At least this time there was NO way I could clean up. The other visits by social workers I have driven myself to exhaustion making sure everything was in its place and there was no sign of dust! Woo Hoo! It is horrible in here right now!

So here are the photos to prove it! Thankfully I am no longer nervous about these meetings either. That helps a LOT!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Click on these words to see our picture!

Hopefully you can click on this link. Oak Cliff Magazine - The Next (Door) Generation

We were interviewed several months ago for a local magazine. A lot of the details are wrong and they failed to mention my brother and two nieces also in the neighborhood. I have to see if I can get the picture to post though because it was prety good of all of us! Oak Cliff Magazine - The Next (Door) Generation

My solo visit to the Chinese market

Tonight I was driving home from Richardson, drinking the last bits of a cup of coffee from the Exxon Service Station I had bought almost three hours before, and filled with a flood of memories and thoughts.

My last stop for the evening was at Jeng Chi Restaurant, a restaurant I discovered while reading a woman's blog about eating out every night for a year, and then commenting on how they handled it with kids. She had specifically mentioned this as her favorite Chinese restaurant. I think I would like to try eating out every night, sometimes, at least!

The girls had LOVED this place when we tried it and I tried to entice them to go with me to the Chinese market by promising dumplings from there as a final stop. They both told me they did not feel like going. That has me worried and had stayed on my mind the whole time I was gone.

But I was hoping that some "home cooking" or "comfort foods" would make them feel better and stopped there for an order of chicken dumplings and pork with napa cabbage dumplings, along with chicken noodle soup and two sesame balls for dessert.

If you have never had Chinese dumplings, they are not like what Mom makes for chicken and dumplings.

This is what they look like and you dip them in a sauce to eat. They are pretty tasty and can be steamed or boiled, but the girls like the steamed ones the best.

A quick note, this is how I talk too, isn't it? I get sidetracked, but want to explain as I go so it makes more sense!

While I sat there waiting on our order to be ready, the door would open with a gust of wind from the west. It looked like rain all day and the sky betrayed the warm temperatures outside. This wind made you think that you would freeze when you went outside, but thankfully it was quite pleasant.

Going to this area was so difficult a couple of years ago because I had made my maiden voyages to those markets with Jana and the girls trying to find anything that would help Grace feel at home. We ate several times at a different restaurant and I wonder if that is why I have chosen a different one for us to go to now.

I am thankful for the healing that soon to be three years has brought, as I can almost say her name now even when talking to myself. Not sure if I can as easily out loud though.

My mission at the Chinese market was to find sweet rice flour and a can of red bean paste to make a cake with!

This Saturday is the International Festival at the girls' school, one of the many reasons I love this school.

They were needing volunteers to make desserts from different countries and I have been wanting to learn to make more Chinese dishes, so I volunteered to make a Chinese dessert. Only when I googled "Chinese dessert", most resources said there was no such thing! That left me with a problem until I asked our good friends, Bob and Tina, if they knew a recipe I could use. Tina promptly had Bob send me her favorite New Year's Cake recipe which called for sweet rice flour and a can of red bean paste. Believe it or not, they did not have either at our local grocery store!

Since I have never made it, I'm not sure, but think it might look like this.

I bought double of everything in case I make a big mistake!

When we were in China adopting Annabel, she wanted us to order a cake one night with our dinner. I LOVE cake and thought that sounded great. When it arrived, it looked more like rolls with butter and chives, almost biscuity. I thoroughly enjoyed them but it was not what Annabel expected. Still not sure what she wanted. Maybe my cake will be just right!

Knowing I was headed to the Chinese market, I took time to read most of my Martin Yan cookbook that the sweet catering guys at work had autographed for me, since I missed his appearance at our hospital!

Martin Yan has a list of items that must be in your cupboard at all times to prepare Chinese food.

I tried to pick up several of them but really needed Annabel to read the labels for me. I hope I bought the right things. I want to try his recipes, but not sure what the girls will like and hate to go to that much trouble if it just ends up being dinner for the dogs!

There is also a bakery attached to the grocery store and I had my orders to buy a couple of the rolls with the dried pork on top. Grace also wanted one with the cream filling.

Driving home in the dark, with my McDonalds sack for my dinner, orders of Chinese delicacies, and my ingredients needed to open a Chinese kitchen seemed somewhat surreal. I am always hesitant on using that word as it is SO overused by the media, but I think my life has changed so much that when it is quiet I have a chance to take stock. Also last night I dreamed about the two men I dated for most of my adult life and had them on my mind.

It is so ironic that if I had been planning my life and things had worked the way I wanted them to, I have a feeling I would be miserable. This life is so much better than anything I could have planned. Glad God knows better than I do!

This has been a very busy weekend with another work day on the community garden yesterday to start. I loved the work and felt the exercise was something beneficial, rather than just walking on a treadmill. Shoveling wheelbarrows full of soil gets your heart beat up for sure! Only one wheelbarrow full took me down with it and I ended up flat on my back with the wheelbarrow full of dirt spilling to the wrong side! Makes for a very sore rest of the weekend.

Today I took some stew to a family with a new baby and left our lunch cooking while I was gone. I guess you just can't fry chicken if you are not watching it the whole time as the stuff burns pretty easily! Thankfully there was plenty and the dogs had a great dinner tonight. I am not worried about their carcinogenic intake.

Tomorrow the girls have to go back to school as they have missed a full week of school. They finally were fever free on Saturday but still have a terrible sounding cough. Hopefully the workers will be back to do the last week of work on our kitchen. I took some pictures and as soon as I find the cord to connect the camera to the computer I will attach them as well.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

God answers prayers!

Even though my last post was just a few hours ago, I felt this was worth the time and energy to write about!

I told Mom today that all I wanted was a hole in one wall. I did not want electricians, 2 kinds of sanders, plumbers, etc. All I wanted was a HOLE! One that I could see through to the front door from the kitchen.

Thankfully I hired someone who could see more possibilities and completely reconfiguring the space so I will have a fantastic kitchen. It is going to be better than if I had added a spa! This is all just for me.

But the electricians finally finished last night around 8:30 and this afternoon the other guys left shortly after 5:00 and I could come in and take a look at all they have accomplished.

The smell from sanding the floor was strong, but the layer of dust on everything was even stronger, so I got busy wiping everything down or sweeping and cleaning.

I decided I had to wash the girls' sheets and insist on a bath so they could rest better, so I uncovered the stuff on their beds until I found the sheets. The loads consisted of all sorts of random clothing items and a few cup towels too!

When I went back to Mom and Dad's to fix their supper, I heard a noise that I have not heard in three days!

Annabel was laughing and talking!

I cannot tell you how very relieved I am on hearing this wondrous sound!

She has literally laid around or slept for the last 48-72 hours.

I tried to explain to the doctor that I knew she was sick because she was so quiet. That, I have learned, if just a mother's intuition and diagnosing and is not readily recognized by the medical society.

BUT she seems to have turned the corner and feels well enough to tease and laugh.

Thank you for your prayers. God listens and answers them.

She is still mad that I won't let her go to school tomorrow since she still has a temperature of 100+!


Sunday night I heard Grace coughing off and on all night. She seemed to be following her usual progression for a sinus infection. When the alarm went off I told them we would sleep a little longer and see how they felt then.

By 6:15 Annabel came in with her uniform on and was ready for school.

I'm not sure why I touched her forehead, but she was burning up with fever.

I sent her back to bed and came with tylenol and thermometers to see what we were facing.

Annabel's fever was over 100 and Grace's was right under.

I put everyone back to bed and planned to get up to let the workers in by 8:30. When the door bell rang, the dogs jumped into action to protect us. I tried to grab them and run out, only I slipped and crashed right on top of poor Ollie. He yelped and got out of my way.

Plans were to start sanding the floors on Monday. Yuck!

Thankfully that got delayed but trying to take care of two sick kids without a kitchen is very hard. We moved over to Mom and Dad's when it became unbearable and everyone was hungry.

This has been our routine for the last three days!

Yesterday I did take the dogs to the groomer to get them out from under foot. That helped!

Then I have had to make several trips to banks covering all my bad checks that I did not know I had.

On Tuesday we went to the doctor and just as I expected, Grace had a sinus infection, so she got antibiotics.

Annabel, on the other hand, has a viral infection, so she gets nothing, except tylenol to help her feel better. I am so frustrated that they would not give her the tamiflu as she had all the symptoms, but the test showed she did not have flu. Her fever has not gone below 100 except while we were in the doctor's office! She continues to be dizzy and coughing, but even a call today to the doctor and I am still told that it has to run its course.

Grace's cough rattles the windows and she is just miserable, but I know it will be cured, fairly quickly. Thankfully!

Dad's younger brother was scheduled to have stents put in his heart on Monday. When they went in to look, they found blockages that require bypass instead. So yesterday he was to have a quintuple bypass. When the doctor finally showed up at 5:00 p.m., my uncle refused the surgery! It is now scheduled for Thursday morning.

Mom has been on a variety of antibiotics since the summer and the most recent had terrible side effects. She has been unable to keep any food on her stomach and has grown very weak. This has not stopped her from trying to tend to my girls though!

In the meantime, I have been reading our next book club selection, "Say You're One of them". This is also Oprah's selection for November and I can see why.

No matter what we are going through this week, it cannot remotely compare to the stories in this book. They are stories by children, in different parts of Africa. They are first hand accounts of how children are impacted by genocide, poverty, children being sold into slavery, etc. Even our worst day is better than their best.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The day after

Tonight felt like we were packing up to move!

Everything that was sitting around in the kitchen, on the walls, counters, or the table all had to be packed up and moved out in anticipation of the work on the floor this week.

It already has that fine layer of dust that you get from sanding sheet rock, so it all feels pretty gritty.

To have a place to move it, the girls had to pack up all their homework off the dining room table, which took a LONG time. I love this school, but was warned early that the amount of homework is tremendous and that was not an understatement.

But the girls got it cleared off, Grace tried to use the dust mop to get some of the dust off the floor, and Annabel started moving things onto the table.

In the middle of all of this, I was trying to make dinner, fixing washing clothes, and loading the dish washer.

For the first time in a while, I had SOME sense though.

I really meant to put beef stew in the crock pot and start a pan of pinto beans, to make for some easy dinners this week. By the time I turned to get the flour to put on the meat, Annabel had moved my canister. I took that as a sign to take it easier this week and settle for easier meals, like eating out, or bring something in!

We don't have any light in the dining room and most of the plugs in the kitchen don't work, so you can't heat something up in the microwave, and if you do, you have to sit in the dark in the dining room, or try to find a seat in the living room, where we no longer have the TV hooked up.

The time change has really thrown us off and once it started getting dark, I wanted everyone to go to bed, until I was reminded it was only 6:30. I guess that is too early, but felt like I need to!

Last week I told the girls that it would be even darker leaving for school after the time change, so I was quite surprised when I was woken up by the sun bright and early this mornig. It was glorious to see though after all the many days of rain and cloudy days.

After a lot of work, the Austin crew finally managed to get packed up and leave fairly early.

That left Annabel with a VERY sad feeling and she cried through most of church until she fell asleep. I also knwo she is exhausted as they stayed up too late and get up too early while their cousins are here.

Annabel "lost" her gym uniform again, but was sure it was in her grandparents' house. They looked everywhere and Mom kept telling her it had to be in our house.

She finally found it on Grace's bed but forgot to tell Mom and Dad they could quit looking. Not sure how it ended up there, but they were in the process of folding clothes and did not want to interrupt too much.

Hopefully all the homework is done, all the uniforms are clean, and vitamins are taken. I think an early evening sounds great. Let's see if they agree!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or Treat!

My bathroom and shower have a rock star, a Dalmatian, a cow girl, and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, trying to get make up, hair paint, and an overdose of sugar out so they can go to bed.

The outside things are coming off with the water.

The inside accumulation of too much sugar will take a while to wear off.

This is the first Halloween that we have been wtih Gilian and Darcey in a while and it made it so much fun! This was just the second Halloween Annabel has ever had so she was especially excited about it. Gillian is so much like her mother, that Halloween is one of her favorite holidays. We discussed this evening that Jana LOVED all holidays, and I think Gillian is just like her. Any excuse to celebrate and be together!

Grace and Darcey are the quieter of the quartet when they are all together, but ready for whatever is planned and intent on a good time.

The Austin crew arrived last night. Lisa says she has returned to being chopped liver if she arrives with the girls. The fatted calf is no longer slain for her arrival. Now it is whatever Gillian and Darcey want, which thankfully is the same as Lisa wants.

Since our kitchen and breakfast room are now in our living room, there was no place for our usual sleepover arrangement, so all four girls stayed at Mom and Dad's. If I had not been so tired, it might have felt weird to be home all alone.

We started our Saturday at church for breakfast. Everyone had to comment on how tall Gillian is. She is going to catch me soon. All four really love all the older people at church and very patient with all the hugs and questions.

From there we had to go to Tom Thumb and buy two more pumpkins so when Marcie, the artist in residence, came to help carve, we would be ready. Only I forgot to buy her one! Yikes!

After I paid the two guys working on my kitchen yesterday, one called back to tell me the bank would not cash my check, as there was no money in there. Oops!

So we also had to make an emergency trip to the bank to cover the check and others that were quickly coming through. I HATE when that happens. The NSF fees eat my lunch!

Our next stop was Lake Cliff Park where I had volunteered us to help spread mulch. I'm not sure that we were much help, but we did what we could! I love for them to have the opportunity to do volunteer work and get that started early.

Lisa and I took off for the Bishop Arts District while everyone else chowed down on Sonic burgers. It is such much fun to show Lisa all the new neat stores and restaurants down there and it is even more fun that we don't have to go to North Dallas for something good to eat and places to shop.

Lisa wanted to find some flowy type of outfit to make pictures with angel wings. Not sure I knew what that meant, but there were several places to look and she find two perfect items at Zola's, a vintage dress shop.

The best was last and she treated me to the best iced latte that I have had in months from Espumoso. She had a guava and cream cheese fried pie looking thing and insisted it was the best dessert she had ever had. It was so good she had to bring one to Dad!

Time was running out to get ready for Halloween and we still had not put up our decorations.

Thankfully the cute boy from across the street, who is smitten by Gillian, came to help. When the plan for spider webs from the Lowes website did not quite work out, we all walked up to the dollar store.

What a flashback or deja vu or whatever! We were on the same route that we walked to Skillerns for the same kind of things! Only we never had a cute boy accompanying us!

Between all of them, we have a giant spider web across the porch, strobe lights strung through it and the pumpkins and we were ready, only no one had their costume on and we had not eaten!

After a quick dinner of Mom's world famous roast, we applied make up and hair paint, made pig tails for Dorothy, and ran to Evan's Halloween party.

We had been invited to several things, but Gillian really does not like to be too far from "home", so the invitation from Evan was just around the corner. Thank goodness we got to start the evening off on a sugar rush before we even started trick or treating!

We hit a couple of blocks around the party and Gillian was ready to come home.

Since I had to clean out last year's candy for them to reuse their trick or treat bags, I knew we did not need to do much trick or treating. Yes, I am on top of keeping this house spotless, except the trick or treat bags. Actually we still had valentine and Easter candy too, which I gave some of away. Well, some of the people who show up at our house are older than teenagers and I thought it would be ok.

The best part for all of them was being back home and passing out candy.

Zach, the smitten pre-teen, decided he would rather stay and pass out candy than go with his buddies trick or treating. I wonder why this was everyone's favorite part of the night.

We passed out all the valentine hearts, Easter bunnies, and Halloween candy bought this year while Zach entertained everyone pretending to be a ninja.

Tomorrow life returns to normal as the Austin troop leaves early and all the homework and chores we ignored today, have to be done.

NO, I do not have pictures of Halloween! Lisa took some and better post them!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One last laugh for the evening

With the new layout for the kitchen, the door is where the refrigerator used to be.

Annabel was the first to notice that I will be able to see her in her bed from the kitchen now.

And she was right.

Just then I was standing at the sink taking my evening meds and when I turned around, there was Annabel waving from her bed, mouthing, "Hi Neighbor".

A jumbled house!

Right now our TV is ressting precariously on the piano bench, which seems extremely wobbly tonight.

The piano is blocking the French doors into the dining room.

The China cabinet is in the middle of the dining room.

The entertainment center seems more wobbly than ever!

So I thought I would sit down and blog.

For once the day started off with no rain and actually seeing the skies lighten made it feel like we were in for a great day.

My day took me out to our other hospital with a presentation on breast and colon cancer and genetics, followed by flu shots.

The crowd was smaller than usual, but the number of treats was the same. At this location they serve pre-packaged goodies, like small packages of oreos, chips, nuts, etc. This was more than most of the crowd could handle and they were very much like kids trick or treating. Each uncovered an even more desirable snack than their seatmates, so many trips were made to dig in the goodie basket.

Of course, this was somewhat distracting to the speakers.

Before this program was over, people began arriving for the flu shots, which again distracted the speaker, as most speak in a "stage whisper".

The snacks were accompanied by a punch waterfall.

One of the women arriving for the flu shots complained loudly that there was no ice in the punch! Did not seem to notice the elegance of the punch waterfall!

I fielded lots of complaints that we did not have the H1N1 vaccine, even though the county has just now gotten the first doses in Dallas and still have not figured out a way to administer them. I guess they recognize that I am a miracle worker!

On the drive home, the girls were eating some chips.

Grace commented that there were LOTS of chips in her bag and wondered how many.

Without blinking an eye, Annabel answered, "23".

You just have to laugh when she comes up with these things.

We stopped at Sam's so I could price t shirts, but was so distracted by a crying, sccreaming boy, I lost my mind instead! I don't understand parents that will allow their child to be in such misery that they have to wail like that. Obviously something is wrong, whether is it real or perceived, something is wrong!

Anyway that made us in a major traffic jam and I was anxious to get out of the chaos and into the house.

I just thought I had seen chaos on the freeway.

There were 5 men in my house with various parts torn up, one supervising, Dad, of course, and 2 dogs barking their head off on the back porch.

Too bad I did not take before pictures so then I could post progress pictures, but hopefully will get some on here sooner or later.

There were two men moving the telephone line, so the girls could have a temporary work station on the computer and then put in the permanent line for when the construction is complete.

The problem with the initial remodel is we keep coming up with more to do! These guys have great ideas and are making it look great. But right now it has only been a week and expected time was two weeks. With all the extras, I hope they are through by Christmas! They are so careful of cleaning up each day and trying to keep the mess to a minimum, but today I had a BAD surprise.

When they had turned off the electricity to move some of the plugs, for some reason the plug for the stove and the small refrigerator did not work again. So for about a week, the little refrigerator has had my crock pot full of chicken and rice soup. That was quite an odor.

So I am trying to clear that out, take out the trash, answer questions about where I want what plug, and do I really want to move the water heater to the attic, and am I sure the stove has worked in the past?

The last one reminds me of when my car would break down and men would ask if it had gas in it.

Yes, I was sure my stove had worked prior to them turning off the electricity!

Each time the dogs hear my voice they bark more. We have trapped them on our tiny back porch and the men working are scared to death of them. So no matter how much they bark, they are not getting out. But they can sure cause plenty of annoyance. Kind of like the little boy in Sam's! Only I could not fix it for them either, since the men moving the plugs were in and outside, so they had to stay trapped.

Meanwhile, next door at Mom and Dad's, Mom has fried chicken and baked potatoes ready. I've had a virus and have not eaten much the last two days, so I was STARVING! Mom hated to start eating without Dad, but he had to supervise the work over here!

My plan is to move the TV into the dining room, the piano into the living room, andd all the pieces that go with each, plus set up the computer for the temporary work station.

So I started moving furniture and then felt I needed a break. Thank goodness Grace has the ability to put things together and while I have been typing, has moved the computer onto the table, put it all back together, and ready to move the DSL.

I just hope I can get out of bed in the morning!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

If I had not fallen asleep by 8:30 each night, I could have updated all the thousands of things that went on this weekend! Now I have to rely on my memory and will know I will leave out the best details.

So I will go backward and hope to remember it all!

The last thing on our agenda for the weekend was looking for Halloween costumes. I needed to check out paint colors and knew a way to drag the girls to Lowes was to promise Halloween costumes at the end at Wal Mart, my least favorite store, especially on a Sunday afternoon!

This is just Annabel's second ever Halloween. Thankfully she had been here a couple of months before last year's Halloween and caught on pretty quickly. She knew she wanted to be an angel and was so cute dancing around in her costume. The concept of going door to door and asking for candy was a little weird though. She asked me tonight what that thing is you say to ask for candy. I realized with my Texas drawl it comes out as one word, trickrtreat. She wanted to know what a trick was and why we say that. Good questions!

For Grace, her first Halloween came within two weeks of coming from China and my first two weeks of being a mom.

Halloween was Jana's favorite holiday and she had us at Target as soon as we came home from China looking for costumes. No waiting until the last week for her!

I was shocked at how much costumes cost and I refused to pay the price, so we opted for a "dress up" kit for Grace instead.

Grace was one of the few adoptees that did not come looking malnourished and instead wore a larger size than I expected. She had a foster mother that was still giving her a bottle of milk with sugar in it for bedtime.

So these "dress up" clothes were really way too small. I didn't know and she sure didn't know!

With no shared language and my lack of skills as a mom, I let her wear them to mom and dad's to meet Uncle George. I still get so tickled thinking about how she looked that day. The back barely met and it was velcro. The shoes were plastic high heels and the skirt was really short.

I called and warned Mom and Dad to be prepared. Thank goodness she could not understand what I said.

I learned a great lesson that year. Buy the costume they want, almost regardless of the price, so you don't waste a ton of money on things they won't wear or won't fit.

That being said, Annabel had decided she wanted to be Scooby Doo, or a dog, or a tiger. The main problem with those, the costumes are for toddlers! None for a size 10-12. I tried to talk her into a white coverall from Lowes and go as a hazmat person. At this point, she has no clue what a hazmat person is, but I thought it was hysterical. From there I talked her into turning it into a dog costume. Thankfully the woman at Lowes talked us into buying sweats and pinning on spots instead. Annabel would have been swallowed by the coverall and hopefully she can wear the sweats again.

BUT when we got to Wal mart she was not so sure about the sweat shirt. She felt it would be too hot, but I insisted she try it on. Then she wore it the rest of the time until Grace suggested she take it off. Then she was COLD! I hate to always be right but I am !!!

Grace on the other hand wanted to be Dorothy from Wizard of Oz. Wish i knew where she came up with that idea as she really does not remember the movie very well. Just that she called it Wizard of the Boz and that her cousin Marcie gave her some great ruby red slippers that are now 5 sizes too small.

It is almost impossible to find Grace a children's costume, so we looked in the adults. I guess I had not realized that most adults want to "enhance" their image through their uniforms, so the necklines are cut VERY low and the hems are VERY short! Even for Dorothy! We finally found just the right costumes!

Now we can't wait for Gillian and Darcey to come! We think Gillian is going to be a cowgirl. Annabel suggested that Darcey could be one of those people who take care of cows, like a cow mother or something like that. She wasn't sure what it was called. I told her I wished she had chosen to be a cow and I would have been a cow mom!

Gillian texted me yesterday that Darcey was getting her ears pierced! How brave is that?

Grace and Annabel enjoyed another stint of pet sitting, only they learned a LOT more this time. Last time was taking care of fish in a koi pond. This time was cats and that included the need to scoop the poop. GROSS! We won't have an indoor cat any time soon.

We thought we had lost one of the cats, but it showed up today. Yesterday we couldn't get the door to lock. I think Moms need a cut off the top on pay. Annabel is thrilled at the prospect of earning more money. She has a tendency to spend it as soon as she gets it and has a LONG list of things to spend it on.

Last night we went to Macy's for the end of the Clinique Bonus week.

Yes, they are too young for makeup even though EVERYONE else in 6th grade wears makeup! But I really wanted to get them on a skin cleaner routine to avoid what I went through as a teenager.

If you know Clinique products, they have a 3 step process. That's all, just 3 steps.

The lady was so sweet and showed them how to do each step, trying it out on them. She even put a little blush and eye make up on them which it was difficult to notice. They felt quite exotic! And mature! Annabel fought against it but it was quite obvious that she wanted to try it, just was terribly unsure of herself about it. Then she beamed with the end result.

For just 3 steps, there must have been a MILLION questions. Once we got home questions about using it in addition to washing your face in the shower, which product comes first (the bottles are numbered), how do you put it on, where are the cotton balls, etc.

Thankfully faces were cleaned, toned, and moisturized appropriately and everyone made it to bed on time.

Saturday morning was our first work day on our community garden.

Two years ago I started looking for a place for Dad to be able to garden. When Mom and Dad bought my grandmother's house, Dad enjoyed the hard work and results of a big garden. He planted gardens in everyone's lot that would let them.

Originally talk was about starting a garden at the girls' school, but it was taking forever to materialize. I have a tendency to be more pragmatic and just want to get something started. I knew if I could get it started, that Dad would make sure that it was taken care of! I never would have dreamed it could take a full 2 years. Or has it been more?

The members of the community garden group would meet regularly discussing potential sites. Soon I realized that the hospital had lots of empty space and began trying to find who would be responsible for giving permission for us to dig.

It took a while, but permission was granted and Saturday was our first day to work.

After Dad took a look at the lot we were going to use, I am sure he wished I had not done him any favors! But of course, Dad was willing to help and was the first one there with his lawn mower loaded and ready to tackle a very soggy, overgrown, fire ant infested, glass and gravel filled lot! This in spite of the fact that his back was killing him from tearing off their old deck and beginning the process of rebuilding. I wish I had that kind of stamina! After we finished, Dad came home and mowed our yards! I took a nap.

Rain is in the forecast again. I wish I had bought gas!