Saturday, January 30, 2010

Healthy lifestyles with surprise endings!

There have been significant events in my life that it seems would have motivated me to change my eating habits.

When I adopted Grace and saw that she was one of the few adoptees who was not underweight, but definitely malnourished, it seems like as a new mother, I would have started planning and preparing healthier meals.

Then when I adopted Annabel and she was so underweight, again, seems like that would have been motivated me to provide a healthier lifestyle.

Or when Jana died so suddenly that I would have been motivated to ensure that I did everything possible to avoid any risks to my heart.

Instead, for most of these events, I chose to handle the stress through overeating! At times, a whole bag of the Hugs Hershey Kisses were the choice to provide a relief from stress.

After my first surgery last year, I HAD to make adjustments, as the repair work was allowed time to heal. Then after the second, I HAD to make more adjustments to ensure I did not risk having the problems of a hiatal hernia with my stomach pushed through and squeezing my lungs so I could not breath, again.

I'm sure the information on the importance of a good diet have always been there, as well as the benefits of organic food, but until recently it had not sunk in.

But now that I have developed an interest, the information is overwhelming! This week, Oprah had Michael Pollan on her show. He has written several books on food, most recently examining what has happened to our food through mass production. It is scary! We have flipped our spending from food to medical care to pay for the effects the wrong food has on our bodies.

A recent report shows that cardiac issues have peaked and will begin to decline, not due to a change in our actual number of cases, but because we now have medication to treat it.

All this being said, I have rejoined our local organic coop. They actually moved to a location within walking distance of our house. It is delivered every other week.

Today was the first time in the new locatoin and Annabel and I decided we should just walk. OK, I decided we should! She just went along for the fun of it and hoping that I would let her go to the dollar store and buy candy!

It was SO COLD!

Dad even poked his head out and questioned our sanity since it was only 29 degrees!

It was very encouraging to see so many people taking part in this "movement" to improve our food source.

We even took our recyclable grocery bags to put the produce in!

We brought home our wonderful produce eager to try the bounty.

ONLY it is not quite so simple!

When we got home though, we had a big glass of our new "raw" milk with a DONUT! The same type of donut we bought 2 weeks ago which never molded! YIKES!

Changing our eating habits is HARD!

Friday, January 29, 2010

One of the benefits of older adults living close by

We have continued to listen to the girls' book for Language Arts, "The Giver" by Lois Lowry.

And I have continued to be fascinated by the creativity of this story, yet the eerie similarities to the book I was reading for my book club, "The Lost Daughters of China".

What to do with the older adult seems to be an issue in both books.

The motivating factor for "losing" the girls in China is to make way for sons. The older adults in China do not have the Social Security benefits or Medicare as they do here, so they rely on their children to provide for them. Only the daughters are not allowed the privileges that the sons are allowed and are expected to care for their in laws instead. So when you are getting older and have no son to care for you, your future is uncertain and rather bleak. You become desperate for a son.

In "The Giver" the older people are released.

I had to skip ahead a few chapters to determine exactly what "released" meant, although I had an idea. Euthanasia, whether they wanted to be or not.

Well I am quite glad we don't do that here.

Last night, during a torrential down pour, Annabel announced that they toilet would not flush.

Of course I was in mine and it was not really convenient for me to try to diagnose toilet problems at the moment!

All three of us worked on repairing the handle that connects to the flapper or whatever it is! When we failed, we desperate! So if you are desperate to have your toilet work, you are very glad that someone older and much wiser lives right next door!

After a lot less grumbling and complaining than I would have done, Dad arrived carrying Mom's umbrella and after unbending a giant paper clip, proceeded to fix the toilet!

Thank goodness my parents haven't been "released"!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Two books

Yesterday Grace stayed home sick from school. She seems to share the severe allergies and sinus problems I have known for so long. I can even predict when it will be the worst and when I will finally have to let her stay home so she can get well.

This left Annabel with plenty of time to talk on the drive to and from school.

Only we did not talk going.

They are reading a new book in English called, "The Giver" by Lois Lowry. Reading is still so difficult for her that I bought the book on CD, or tape or DVD, all of us call it something different!

It is really interesting, so much so that I listened to the first chapters by myself today.

It is a futuristic society where everyone knows the rules and everyone follows them in a very structured identical way.

Also today we had our book club for our older adults.

I chose the book this time and so we read, "The Lost Daughters of China" by Karin Evans. It explains why there are so many "daughters" who are available for adoption. It discusses the Cultural Revolution, the time in Chinese history between 1966 and 1976 when Chairman Mao tried pretty much the same thing as the story in "The Giver".

The book discusses the remarkableness (if that is a word) of the common characteristics between the parents and their adopted child. It discusses the "matching room" where the China Center for Adoption Affairs matches babies to their expectant parents. All eerily similar to the book "The Giver", where the babies are produced, then nurtured by the nurturers, before being placed with their family at age 1.

The "matching room" is used to match those who have applied for adoption and primarily are waiting for babies.

When I adopted both Grace and Annabel, I chose them.

For the older, waiting child, their picture and background are sent to the different adoption agencies. From there, the agencies each handle it a little differently, but if they have someone who has applied for a "waiting child" and the child "fits" their criteria, the child is offered to them. Which really does not sound right as I write this, but basically what happens.

Before Grace, the agency I used sent files from several other children. Each had medical issues that I did not feel I was prepared to handle or they were too young. I knew being single I could not "raise" a toddler or a baby.

But when they sent me Grace's picture, the second I opened it, I knew she was my daughter. Karin Evans discusses the exact sensation and realizing that the match had to be at that very second, in that very place, or you would have missed your daughter.

Grace and I could not be more alike. Physically we share so much, but more than that, our whole sense of being is so similar. If the physical traits were not different, you would have trouble knowing we did not share DNA.

Grace and I also cannot see a purpose in doing any more than we really have to and would be pleased to be left to lay on the couch and read all day.

That is where Annabel comes in.

When I decided to adopt again, I was fearful of choosing an agency, because I would be dependent on who the CCAA sent to them. I wanted to be free to "find" my daughter.

And I did.

There is a website called www.rainbowkids.com and one day I happened to look at their site and the featured child was my daughter, my Annabel.

For Annabel and I it has been a little different, but she has helped me find a side to my life that has probably always been there, but needed to be found again.

Physically we could not be more opposite, she is small and petite, and I, well I am not!

But for Annabel, it is going to take a long time to "find" herself as well. She spent the majority of her first 11 years being the "caregiver" for younger children, one of the jobs given to 12 year olds in the book, "The Giver", and robbing her of the ability to be a child herself. She is bound and determined to get a shot at it this time and I encourage her to do so. Tonight when she should have been doing homework and I should have been cooking dinner, we somehow got a beat going between us and she would clap and hop on one foot as I clapped and stomped on the other. So we are working on our rhythm but if I had been Grace, I would have screamed at us to be quiet!

On our ride home from school though, Annabel had lots to say, and I did as well.

I had received an email from her math teacher notifying me that she was failing. That she had problems on some assignments and had not completed some work.

I do not have to worry about her hiding this from me and she quickly tried to explain before I even told her about the email.

We made an agreement that I would devote 30 minutes to helping her with her homework each night. That doesn't sound like much, but really about all there is.

Last night we tried to do her math together.

Miss Childers or was it Ms. Childress, in 10th grade scarred me from ever thinking I knew how to do math! But now I am having to learn it! We worked on those math problems for two hours! The exercises are computerized and you don't get to finish until you make a passing grade. By 9:30 we were both so punchy and exhausted we just kept hoping our "best" guesses would be correct.

Tonight we had to write a paper on Sir Isaac Newton. I did not know he invented the refractive telescope! I thought he just got hit on the head by an apple.

The two books were alarmingly similar in so many ways. The role of the government in trying to structure people's lives, yet if it had not happened the way it did, I would have missed my daughters.

Monday, January 25, 2010

God hears our prayers regardless!

OK, I admit. I might have done more than I should have tonight and tireder than I realized.

I just closed our prayers with "Good bye", which was quickly corrected to "Good Night", and finally to the more traditional and scripturally correct, "Amen!".

Girls had a good laugh!

God understands. Oh well!

Update on multi-tasking

Some people think I make up the stuff I write about.

Others, who are familiar with mmy family, think I exaggerate.

But I really could not make up what happens at times in this house.

Grace and Dad have been sick today, with different ailments, but both of which could benefit from a bowl of soup for dinner.

I had just delivered potato soup for mom and dad, and had begun our tortilla soup, along with a pan of rice, when I decided I had to give the dogs a bath.

Grace's problem stems from allergies and when the dogs begin to be aromatic, her allergies increase, so it was absolutely necessary that they get de-aromatized tonight!

I got both dogs in the tub when the phone rang.

Surely neither girl will bring me the phone KNOWING what I am doing.

But of course they did!

I hear Annabel telling Mom, no, it's no problem for you to talk to her!

Mom wonders if I forgot their cornbread for their soup? Not really, she just knows I always have stuff like that on hand.

I tell Annabel where to find it in the freezer and go back to lathering up these two mutts.

In a few minutes Annabel is back.

"Mom, is it ok if we give them four muffins?"

They can have all of them.

She tells me they don't want that many but was not sure if it would be ok with me to give them four!

I have started the washer, unloaded the dishwasher, maybe I have time to color my hair before the rice is ready???

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Multi Tasking!

Last week I heard just a few minutes of an interview on NPR of a writer from The Washington Post Magazine, discussing the strain of balancing life at work with the demands of home. I did not get to hear the whole interview because as soon as the girls bounce into the car there is no room for me to be distracted!

It has taken me all week to read the rest of the interview on line and then to read the actual article that led to the interview.

I don't feel so badly now that it took me a week, because it too the author, Brigid Schulte about a year to complete the journals required of her by a time studies guru. Her story sounded familiar as she would begin wholeheartedly on her record keeping on Sunday and Monday and then realize on Friday that she had missed most of the week!

The time studies guru wanted her to record what she did every minute and categorize it. She soon found that she was not doing just one thing at a time, but continually multi tasking, for which there was not enough space on his forms to record ALL she did each minute.

After reviewing her records, he found she had 28 hours of leisure time each week! Some of those hours included waiting for a tow truck when her car broke down, reading to her children, and exercising! She did not feel these were leisure activities.

I loved this story! If you click on "Multi Tasking" in the title, it will take you to the article.

Tonight we returned from an event for the older girls from China to find that Ollie, the dog, had torn into the trash and spread it ALL over the floor! So while we start trying to clean that up, I am also bagging up the recyclables to take to the curb, cook dinner, and wash one last load of clothes.

Right as I got dinner ready, while answering questions for Grace while she did her homework, Annabel started searching for her book for English. As soon as they got the list of books needed for their class, I ordered them from Amazon so I would not be blindsided by a book that was needed the next day! But I guess I ordered them a little too soon for Annabel, since shew as sure it was now lost and would never be found.

Grace was trying to complete her homework, so I took the charge of trying to help Annabel. Thankfully we found it, along with lost shoes, school uniforms, a pencil bag, 2 pairs of scissors, and more "stuff" than I care to remember. I found lots of empty space on shelves, drawers, cubbies, all the things I have bought to help them get organized, and most of the stuff in stacks on the floor, beds, and corners!

Last night I was trying to come up with something for dinner as Grace read page after page of her new book to me, as Annabel was tossing a toy to the dogs. Grace continued to read as Annabel began to scream because Nina had jumped on top of Ollie in a less than feminine gesture and Annabel wanted to know what Nina was doing. All of you know, but I don't think I had ever seen a girl dog do it! Grace continued to read aloud and I passed by Nina and Ollie "romping", Annabel screaming, as I made my way to the refrigerator!

Friday night I was having digestive issues and had run into the house and directly to the bathroom only to be interrupted by a very quiet tap, tap on the door and the question, "Do you know where that bucket is that I used Saturday to clean off that ball that you put in the trash?". I suggested going back to that place where she had left it only to soon have Grace tapping at the door and updating me that Annabel could not find it, where else could it be?

I crawled to my bed hoping my stomach would quit hurting only to find both standing in my door, looking like they had been beaten and so sad. What could they do? They could not find that bucket! Somewhere in there they had roped Mom into helping them look. I had to crawl into the living room and hug Mom and beg her for forgiveness because I was sure we had done the same thing to her, only with 4 kids looking for something, right as she needed just a minute of quiet!

At work we are doing a 100 day challenge on improving fitness and weight loss. I knew I needed to begin working out and last Saturday as soon as I turned on the Wii Fitness program, in came Mom wanting to fix a "to go" dinner for the young man who had been working for me that day. I don't know how to "pause" the Wii, so I had to run in and out of the room trying to find containers, baggies, and a sack for mom.

About that time both girls came in talking to me about something and then as soon as I got down on the floor the dogs thought surely that I was there to pet them. OK, I have to agree that exercise time is NOT leisure time!

I'm not complaining about this and really find it instead quite amusing! It's hard not to laugh at how many things we can have going on at once!

The funniest part of the article was where it was disclosed that the time guru was single, lived alone, and was an academician! That explains a lot! I spent a lot of time living alone and I would have thought the same thing!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

If you recognize this behavior, please do not let me know!

If you recognize your children in this post and they are teenagers, please don't tell me. Let me be surprised!

First I should have consulted with my psychic, Annabel, about today. She corrected predicted that I would take the trash that was in my hand and put it in the trash can, so why not consult her on the more major things!? Right?

Anyway, yesterday afternoon we went to the grocery store to specifically pick up the items that Grace needed for her science class today, like Annabel had to have last week. She mentioned blue jello and I knew we did not have that on hand. As soon as we got into the store, they both had to check out the DVDs as I went off for blue jello.

When we all caught up again, I asked Grace what else she needed.

Her answer was, for what?

Me - for your science class?

Her - what do you mean?

me - what else did you need for your science class besides the blue jello?

her - what do you mean?

me - Grace, what else did you need for your science glass to make the picture of the cell or nucleus or whatever it is?

her - Oh, just the blue jello.

me - I thought you said there was a list.

her - there is, the blue jello.

Tonight I noticed a bowl of blue jello in the refrigerator that was not congealing. I asked her if she had made the jello while I was at work.

Grace - silence

me - Grace, did you try to make the jello today? I noticed it was in the refrigerator but that it did not gel.

her - silence

me - Grace, did you make the jello but not use boiling water? (I know she is scared of trying to pour boiling water.) Did you follow the directions? I'm just trying to figure out why it did not gel.

her - um, um, no.

me -ok, do we need to buy more?

her - could we? thanks!

If this is normal behavior for teenagers, please do not tell me. Let me be surprised!

My psychic might have been able to tell me that neither girl would feel like going to school today, but I guess I forgot to ask.

Today we did training for all our volunteers. At the end of it some of them gave similar responses to Grace's!

Somehow I seem to be getting an unusual number of complaints that are escalating up the chain quickly and trying to head off and answer the problems before they get any higher. Right after I hung up soothing ruffled feathers my phone rang again.

The voice on the other end said, Mom?

I always assume it is Grace, but this was Annabel.

Her first words were, "please don't be mad at me." Somehow your stomach just drops over that kind of statement.

The rest of the sentence though was not bad. She had used the rest of the rice making teddy bear rice/hot packs for people and wanted to make sure that we still had more.

I wonder what my psychic predicts for tomorrow? More trash for the trash can? More dishes to wash? More complaint calls? Maybe it is better for me not to know!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Thermometers and psychic predictions

Today ended with Grace checking everyone's temperature, which is an exercise in futility. Even though all of us are running a temperature we still have to be at school and work tomorrow!

Annabel, on the other hand, has announced that she is psychic, and was predicting my next moves after our prayers, which just shows how predictable I am.

She was right on about me cleaning up the dishes, especially three pans that had burned roast in them.

Which brings us back to where the day started. Since the girls did not have to go to school, it was somewhat of a break for me to be the only one up and not facing our long drive. So I took advantage of the break and put a roast on to cook for dinner. Before I could finish brushing my teeth though, it had already begun to burn! So, I put it in another pan, covered it with cream of mushroom soup, and ran out the door, being sure the burner was low, but high enough to cook.

It felt like we hit the road running at work this morning as one of our "older" friends who has been MIA quite a bit lately, called with an emergency situation. Thankfully Gloria handled it while I tried to meet all the noon deadlines. She ended up playing counselor and social worker to the adult children, which is really not part of her job.

About the time a complaint was being escalated up the chain, I tried to head it off as Gloria again had to "counsel" with the adult child of another "older" friend. It was pretty crazy.

When I got home, the girls were still in their pajamas! One in front of the computer, and the other in front of the TV! Now that is a day off! And my roast had burned in that pan! I threw it into a third as I dragged them to Costco, or did they drag me? Anyway, they had money burning a hole in their pocket from Christmas and we needed a few other important things.

At each stop I asked the girls if they were hungry, since they said they had only had dry cereal, with no milk, except the milk they drank. Neither was hungry until we start heading home and Annabel asks if we can go to CiCi's for pizza, right after I told her Mom had fresh corn for dinner. She was not interested in corn unless it was corn on the cob, which of course, is what I meant by "fresh" corn!

On the way home, I asked them what time they needed to be at school Tuesday. They alternate between being there at 7:30 and 8:20. So I asked if they needed to be at school at 8:20. Grace told me it was an "A" day. OK, so does that mean you have to be there at 8:20?

By this time I can feel her rolling her eyes at me as she slowly explains to me that they do not need to be there at 7:30, as it is an "A" day.

Right, so what time do you need to be there? She tells me again they do not have to be there early. I ask again, what time do you need to be there then?

Grace answers, "I don't know!". Seems she just knew for sure what time they did not need to be there!

About this time Annabel decides she is psychic. She begins to predict what I am about to do, as I am doing it, so it is really not a prediction, but more of a play by play. She keeps it up through Tom Thumb, only after reminding me to be careful not to drop anything. Seems the last time I was at Tom Thumb I dropped a pair of my underwear that must have been hiding in my pants or coat or something!

Mom rescued my roast and had the "fresh" corn ON THE COB ready for dinner, which was very handy since no one had finished their homework!

Which brings us back to checking our temperature and predicting the future. Good night!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Who has the book?

If you have checked out the only remaining copy of "How to be the Perfect Mother" I really need to borrow it.

Most days, I realized, I keep my daughters' health and welfare constantly in a corner of my mind. I go from thinking we will travel the world while they are still young enough to "enjoy" my company. No, I will save every penny and send them to the best college. No, wait, I will quit my job and join a kibbutz and we will grow together. No, wait, we will be so thankful for all we have and be thrilled to maintain the life we now have. No, we will go to Chinese school. No, maybe we will travel to China and help out at one of the orphanages or travel to Africa so it won't make them uncomfortable. I know we will take weekend trips and see as much as we can in as short a period as we can. I know we will join the museum, no, we will take art lessons, no music, no cooking!

So you see my mind is a very busy place and this is while trying to deal with the AARP Safe Driving group needing a room, a TV/DVD player, bingo group needing a key to get the prizes, and trying to offset a complaint that is escalating to the president of the hospital, VERY quickly!

As I drive to the school, I rehearse interesting things to discuss, what we will have for dinner, and really looking forward to being "family" to end our day.

Real life jumps right in sometimes and even before I can put the car from park to drive, Vesuvius erupts!

Annabel had a hard day. Her lunch caught on fire. This is when I am SO glad I still make them sit in the backseat because I am quite amused at her insistence that her lunch caught fire. She likes to take ramen noodles and for some reason put them in the microwave to cook with the foil backed lid on them. Yes, I am sure there was some sparking, but she was able to buy her lunch, and still had her extra treats.

Maybe I did not realize how terrible this event really was and as soon as we tried to change the subject, she made sure we did understand that this was REAL TRAUMA!

I interrupted and said no one could talk the rest of the way home.

While my oil needs to be changed desperately, I also know the weather forecasters are predicting a lot of rain the next few days, so I opted to take them home instead so they could play outside.

Here is where I made my worst mistake.

Outside???? What are we supposed to do?

Walk the dogs????

2 seconds later the dogs were brought back from their "walk".

Can't we come in now???

So in trying to find some balance and the right way to handle things, I busy myself with some projects trying to listen carefully to hear the right words to say.

I have no background in being the mom of a "regular" family, where there is the dad and birth children. Now that is how I was raised, but, make no mistake, being the daughter and being the mom are two completely different roles. So I never know if part of "our" issues are due to their backgrounds, their lack of nurturing when they were very young, the lack of touch, of voice, of love and caring, or if they are just normal kids who can misbehave and pout and shout.

We had a talk. Oh how I hated those growing up! Maybe I should do more of them.

Anyway, I digress.

I explained that the three of us are family and when all else is said and done, we have to be there for each other, we have to be the ones who cheer or cry, but we always have to be there because we will be a family forever. Nothing will ever change that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Early retirement

When you are a late bloomer, sometimes you are reminded of the differences in your life compared to your "peers" in subtle ways.

In the mail today I received the latest copy of ACU Today, my Alma Mater's magazine.

There are always great stories about how the school has developed, new buildings, new scholarships, newsmakers, etc, but I always flip to the back for the alumni news.

It dawned on me today that my class has not had a listing for a birth in quite a while! Some adoptions, but I think they were just my two.

Rarely is there a wedding and if there is, it is the second or so for each classmate. (Keep hoping to list mine someday!)

Instead, my class lists all the latest retirements! And the number of "friends we will miss" continues to increase for my class.

Even the newest professors had not even been born when I graduated!

After realizing this, I looked at the next piece of mail, thinking to myself about the possibilities of retirement.

The next letter was from my one and only IRA! I eagerly opened it hoping to find that retirement could be imminent.

My balance on my IRA? Drum roll please....
$3800.00.

Yes, the zeroes are in the correct place. And no, there is no need for a comma!

The one good thing? At least I don't look as old as my classmates! Just kidding!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Lot and a little

This weekend I have accomplished the most and the least in a long time! That might not sound quite right but it is how it feels.

We survived all the cold, record breaking nights with no frozen pipes, warm under our covers, and glad we have a good heating system. But with each cold day my shoulder began to hurt worse and worse. I fell on top of our dog Ollie before Thanksgiving, but did not have time to worry about it and it seemed to have improved, until the cold set in.

Thank goodness we have a new shoulder specialist at work and he was able to see me Friday morning. He says the type of injury I described is pretty common and the only relief is a short of cortisone in it. I tried to explain that I am deathly afraid of needles, but before I could get it out, it was a done deal.

He warned me though that it would probably feel worse before it felt better.

There are a few luxuries that I absolutely love. Actually just 2 of them. One is a pedicure. The other is someone to clean my house. I am the world's worst housekeeper and everything I do hurts my back and then my shoulder. I hurt my back years ago doing Dukes of Hazzard driving and then the doctor warned that the smaller, intense moves would hurt the worst. That is what makes up washing dishes, vacuuming, folding clothes, all those things!

So now I sound like a big cry baby, but maybe i am trying to justify the expense, at least in my mind, of someone else cleaning house!

There is one big problem with someone else cleaning your house. You have to clean it first! Mom came over Friday night and helped us clear out the rest of the Christmas stuff, loads of clothes that needed folding and put away, and all the other assorted clutter that had been forgotten about.

Saturday morning the lady arrived bright and early. I still had some things to work on in the kitchen, but then shifted my attention to my bedroom. Oh what a mess! They had asked to film an episode of Hoarders just from my room. Not really, but no wonder I had trouble resting in there!

The cleaning lady was through at noon and from that time on, I did NOTHING, which is a really long time for me to do NOTHING!

For Sunday I had invited my family for lunch. There was one main problem. I had done NOTHING on Saturday night, so I did not have a menu in mind.

Thankfully I keep too much food on hand so kept cooking until I got a meal done.

None of what I prepared though was half as delicious as the rolls Mom made from scratch. It's terrible to just want to sit and eat bread, but I could have eaten all of them.

Then she contributed a chocolate pecan pie. Wow! Yummy!

It was great to get to visit, but we all missed Em who was sick.

So after all the cooking and cleaning up, for the rest of the day, I have done NOTHING! The only thing I did do was try rolling Annabel's hair and mine on hot rollers. Neither one of us looked much better after that though.

The girls are busy trying to make sure they have their uniforms for tomorrow and I am trying to convince myself that 8:30 is not too early for bed.

Hope you have a great week!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Who is the oldest?

We have all battened down the hatches in anticipation of the Arctic blast we have been warned about for over a week. We have a big pot of chili simmering on the stove. The girls are finishing up their homework and the dogs are being lazy. They have cleared our area of the dreaded squirrels. The dogs that is, not the girls.

Today I was freezing and the temperature was still in the 40's.

Most of the day I wore my coat in the office!

Then when we got home, I found out that Dad had been crawling around under our deck looking for any holes or areas that still needed to be blocked before the weather changed tonight.

I come home exhausted from "work" and my 80 year old father has been plugging up holes and trying to ward off any potential problems from our plumbing freezing up!

While the back of our house is pretty high, it is not tall enough for a man who is 6'5" to fit under.

I have seen things that have disappeared under the deck, but had decided that was like "no man's land" or quick sand and just pretended not to see it.

How can my father make me feel so OLD???

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Baby it's cold outside! And inside!

My parents bought their house when I was just a baby, so they have lived there for about 40 years. OK, longer than that!

While we were growing up there was only one space heater in the dining room to heat a 2 bedroom 1 bath house, where there were 6 of us sharing the space.

I don't remember really being cold, but do know we could not turn over in bed due to the pile of covers on top of us and as soon as you got up, you made a beeline for room in front of the Dearborn heater!

Now summers I remember as being VERY hot. There was just so much you could do to cool off after 100 degree days and the low was still in the 90's. Fans were all we had.

As soon as we all moved out and Dad retired, they put in central air and heat, got insulated windows, and siding!!! All of these helped keep it cooler in the summer, but it has never been too warm in the winter.

Lately their house has been even colder and you can feel a breeze blowing across your shoulders! And this week it is just supposed to get colder and colder.

After consulting with other authorities on old houses, I decided to get them an electric heater for the living room to supplement the heating system.

While buying the heater, we also picked up a couple of other things they needed.

I then began coaching the girls on how to answer and/or explain these purchases and why I did not want any money for them.

By the time I had the car unloaded, they had already told our story to Mom and Dad. Of course they still felt like they owed me, BUT here is the kicker to the whole story.

I think I am doing something to help them out, by stopping and buying a heater.

Today, while I was at work, Dad went to Home Depot, got a bunch of insulation stuff, and proceeded to take care of pluggging all the holes in our house and cover all the faucets!

He worked on it long enough that he hurt his back and was unable to do their house!

I tell you what. You cannot out work any of these older adults! They always do more!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Chef's surprise!

When I thought that Gillian and Darcey were going to spend last week with us, I stocked up on easy meals that could feed an army. One thing I bought was some special chili that had steak and black beans in it.

Over the weekend, I offered it to the girls.

Oh they don't like chili.

Yuck! No chili!!

Tonight I wasn't sure that I even had the energy to drive home, much less cook dinner, and it is SO cold here, that the chili really sounded good to me. But if I ate that, then I would still have to fix the girls something and I knew we were down to just one bowl of Chinese noodles, so that would not work either.

So I decided to trick them.

I made some rice, heated up the chili, and then told them dinner was ready.

Grace asked if it was Gumbo. Annabel asked if it was soup. I told them it was meat and beans.

They LOVED it!

It was hot and spicy and just what they wanted!

That's when I told them it was chili.

A lot of disbelief, but then the rationalization, it wasn't just any kind of chili, and I never said it could be served with rice, etc., etc. You just have to laugh! Each had second helpings and there were no leftovers!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A mystery solved

Tonight I finally solved a mystery that has perplexed me ever since moving into this house two years ago.

My sister Jana died in this house and it took months to be able to come in here, much less work through the decision to buy it from Mom and Dad.

With the advent of adopting Annabel pressing ever closer I finally decided we had to have the extra space this house provides.

Before we could move in, I had several of the rooms reconfigured in an effort to lose the sadness and regain the happiness of this great house that had been Jana and her girls' home.

One night, shortly after we moved in, Grace and I heard a soft chiming noise.

We could not determine where it came from.

I was sure it was an alarm on a clock or watch or even a cell phone, but we could not find it.

At the time, at school, all the kids were talking about ghosts and others returning from the dead and I did not want Grace to grow fearful of our new home, but the noise reminded me of the sound Clarence Oddbody makes when he finally earns his wings in "It's a Wonderful Life". I almost treasured the idea that Jana was communicating with me that she had earned her wings.

The noise has continued randomly for the last two years. There did not seem to be any pattern and it was over before we could track it down. Just a soft melodic chime, nothing more.

One night I actually found that it was from an area between the girls' bathroom and the laundry room. But it stopped before I could find the source.

To set the stage for the mystery being solved, you have to understand our laundry room is actually the original back porch, where Dad has installed windows to avoid pipes from the washer freezing. It is a pretty cramped space and is definitely the catchall. The light fixture is original to the house circa 1923, so there is not a lot of light in this area.

But tonight I moved the tool box that rests on top of the dryer, since there is not another good space for it, as I was adjusting the temperature for the drying cycle I realized that there is another switch in the middle between the cycle settings and the amount of time for drying.

It says, "Cycle Chime" and then "Off" and "On".

You can already guess that the cycle chime was on and that was the noise I have heard for the last two years.

Still at this time of year it was nice thinking that angels were earning their wings! And even better that we were being notified.

I turned it off, but think now I will turn it back on and enjoy the sound and the legend that bells/chimes ringing represent.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Two questions answered

The two questions I am asked most often are:

How are your parents?

How is Annabel doing? Has she learned to speak English yet?

So I decided to provide an update on both.

It is less than three weeks since Mom and Dad's car accident. If I had been in the same accident, I would still be trying to eke out sympathy and expecting others to take care of me. Of course not for Mom and Dad.

Dad gets cabin fever very quickly. He would probably get island fever if he ever visited an island too!

Even though it still hurts to laugh, cough, raise his arms, lower his arms, or pretty much anything that requires his upper body, he is out trying to help others any way he can.

Mom's knee is still giving her fits and when Annabel tried to massage it today, we found out just how sensitive it still is. Yet, she too can't sit still very long. I'm snacking on her DELICIOUS banana nut cake as I type!

On New Year's Eve we all went out to dinner together and to see Christmas lights with me driving. This brought up the worst problem for them - still being VERY uncomfortable in a car, especially with the craziness of the drivers that night and the slick streets did not help. I think they just wanted to get out and sit quietly for a LONG time afterward!

Annabel continues to make remarkable progress. Yes, she speaks English, but still has a lot of trouble finding the correct word, much less the name of things. She wanted to tell me about something you squeeze, finally adding that it was in a bottle, and then with the final clue we had seen it on TV. Oh, ketchup!

For the purpose of explanation, I researched the average vocabulary of an American. Estimates range from 10,000 to 50,000 words. I'm sorry, but I could not find the average vocabulary for Chinese. The big difference is one symbol for them, can many several words. There is no alphabet like we are familiar with.

Reading and writing are of course the most difficult parts. The spoken language will come and rarely is she shy on trying to find the right word. Sometimes she will make up one with pretty hysterical results. Thankfully she thinks it's funny too.

So many things through this holiday have made me think of a toddler in her maturation rate. She has utterly and completely enjoyed all of the holiday components and squealed so much with delight, she has made it fun for all of us.

But there is a dark side and this week she shared more than she ever has about her life in China.

She began by telling me that she was always in trouble. Many of her stories have the people in China calling her Annabel also. Grace questioned her about that one day, but she blew her off with the reasonable explanation that was what they called her!

This week though she told me about LOVING to watch TV in China. BUT her vision was so poor, she had to sit very close to the screen. When her foster family could not see over her head, they would scream at her, and finally punish her for sitting too close or wanting to watch too much.

That sat her in front of a mirror and made her stare at it.

Or they would put her at the foot of the bed and turn on the TV so loud she could not sleep and she was not allowed to look at the screen.

The worst though was making her sit on her knees on a washboard for long periods of time.

I know she is struggling to make things make sense. Here she is praised for doing things right. There are no cruel or unusual punishments. The worst has been losing the privilege to play her Nintendo for a week. And while she can misbehave, it is just your average childish activities, nothing that would fit the punishment she was used to.

My heart breaks for the losses she endured so early in life, but I know I can only go forward. We will still address the past, but hopefully she will learn what real love is.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year's!

Two weeks of vacation are nearly over for the girls. I have been so busy at work that we have not had time to do anything "special" together. Twice they came up and helped me and I know we could never have finished our project if it weren't for them. They are work horses! I come up with these "brilliant" ideas at work but the execution is always way more complicated than the idea made it seem. We have packed up a library, two offices, and a reception area, moved it all to another location, and unpacked. Since it was the holiday week all the supporting departments were shorthanded, so we had to do ALL the work ourselves.

All that being said, I am glad we had a great way to bring in the new year.

Yesterday we rented enough DVDs to ensure we would still be awake at midnight, plus purchased new nail polishes in case we got bored. Then at midnight stood on our porch and banged pots and pans until we were sure the neighborhood was aware that the new year had arrived.

Today we joined our friends downtown for lunch and the New Year's parade. It was a beautiful day and great fun to see all the bands, floats, and made even more fun sharing it with friends.

After we got home we returned the DVDs, took some black eye peas to some church members, and fed our friend's fish. Then we enjoyed dinner with Mom and Dad and had our own black eye peas. Annabel has discovered another new favorite food!

Hope your new year is bright!