Tuesday, August 31, 2010

From the beginning

Recently I have been contacted by someone who is adopting a 13 year old daughter from China. She has lots of questions that brought back so many memories for me that I thought I would write them down and share with you some background too.

My little sister Jana had "female" problems at an early age and after surgery to correct the situation was told that if she was ever going to have children, she needed to hurry. Well at that point in her life she was all about career, education, and who ever she was dating, she knew she did not want them to be her children's father.

Fast forward to where she finds her "then" Prince Charming and the race is on to have children.

My niece Gillian is the result of the power of prayer. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that is the only way she is here because Jana had endured more than 5 years of medical intervention trying to get pregnant and when she stopped, she got pregnant.

But Jana wanted Gillian to have a sister and after researching all the options, chose to adopt from China.

At the same time, I had started my job and in those days I had time to sit and talk to the older adults who came to my programs, which is the biggest drawback to my program getting so large. I loved to talk to one man who was still so in love with his wife who had passed away, Gracie. He touched me with the stories and his love and I thought Gracie must be special, so I begged Jana to name her daughter from China, Gracie.

Jana, of course, had other ideas and soon my beloved niece Darcey arrived from China.

As I have told many, I have been around children all my life, but something happened to me the first time I saw Darcey and now I believe in love at first sight. She captured my heart in a way I had never felt. Jana told how a friend of mine had also adopted, a friend I knew was single.

Without drawing too much attention to the idea, I made an appointment to speak to someone at Hope Cottage about adopting. She tried to encourage me to adopt from India and did not give me a lot of hope about adopting from China. Right as our appointment ended, she mentioned an agency in Colorado that was placing "older" "waiting" children for adoption.

Before I left their parking lot I was on the phone to CCAI about their "waiting" child program. I'm single, I knew my limitations, and knew a baby just did not fit and I could not imagine trying to start at my age with a baby, but this group had older children who needed to be adopted and I quickly began the paperwork.

It took a while but I knew when I opened the email and saw the first picture of Hong Hao Yuan Jie, that she was my daughter and her name would be Grace.

Whatever I thought I knew about children was thrown out the window the second I became a mom. I worried about the "big" issues, like what kind of shampoo she would use and how we would handle the grocery store, but "assumed" too much when it came to sleeping arrangements, room decorations, language differences, etc, etc!

With my brilliant artist niece, we prepared her room with a beautiful field of flowers painted on one wall and lady bugs crawling up, a wonderful four poster bed, and loads of toys.

I won't write the whole adoption trip here, since she is really more interested in what happened once we got home, which was the biggest learning opportunity I have ever had.

Jana always put her kids to bed and would sit in the doorway until they went to sleep. Of course this was after they were 3 and 7 and sharing a bedroom, but I thought I was supposed to put Grace to bed and she would go to sleep. What I didn't realize is that the painting and lady bugs on the wall terrified her, that she had NEVER slept in a bed alone, much less a room. Since this was how I was "supposed" to do it, I kept at it until we reached some level of success, but will probably cause millions of dollars in psychological counseling later in life!

School started earlier than I thought it should, but she wanted to go with Gillian each day and was bored hanging out with me, who had no idea how to handle a 6 year old, and we did not share a language, so why not go off and start learning. For her, school was great and even though she started 2 months behind the other English as a Second Language students, she caught up and passed them before the end of the year. Starting in first grade, which was where she was supposed to be, seems an easier place to start.

Then I decided Grace needed a sister, I mean, what would happen to her when I am gone? I was worried about the distant future and wanted her to have a family to celebrate holidays with after I was dead. I know, it doesn't really make sense, but it did provide me with my next daughter, whom I cannot imagine life without now.

In 2006, you could see the lists of the waiting children from all the adoption agencies, which I soon learned were lots more than I thought. I spent hours at night obsessed over finding my daughter and then one day I got an email from a group called Rainbow Kids and the featured child was my child. I knew it the minute I saw her.

In the time it took to complete all the paperwork to adopt, my sister Jana passed away suddenly and we moved. All of which brought us to our current home and two years of so much emotional turmoil, at times I am not sure that I have ever fully recovered from.

Without Jana being my guide, I had to make my own gut decisions on so many things about my new daughter. The first of many was choosing a name.

I loved the idea of having Faith and Grace or Hope and Grace, but Grace had VERY strong opinions on most names I came up with and could make them sound like they totally would not work. She had her own ideas and eventually Annabel was a compromise. For Grace, we had a contact in China who talked to her about her new name, only it was translated without the vowels so it came out sounding like Gerce, but I knew she had been talked to about it and she said she was OK with it, which made me feel better about changing her name. I knew I could not pronounce Yuan Jie correctly and after a lifetime of always spelling my name, did not want her to deal with the same.

While in China she wanted and needed me to call her Yuan Jie and told the guide that when we got to the US, I could call her Grace. I still called her Yuan Jie for a long time but everyone else began calling her Grace. It was a fairly smooth transition on the names, I think. Who knows? It might also cost millions in counseling later!

 For Annabel, they translated it as Apple, but I did not have anyone to contact her and I just assumed it would be find with her to change her name. Again, I called her Wan Yun while in China and she let it be  known that I was to still call her that after we got home, that everyone else could call her Annabel, except me. With the aid of our guide, I told her we could call her Ann, Anna, Annie, Belle, or any combination. NO, it would be Annabel!

I thought I understood the sleeping arrangements much better the second time and had planned a tween bedroom for Grace and Annabel to share, with separate beds. Grace and I shared the room before we left to get her used to it. I don't think it was as difficult for Annabel and she was used to a "dorm" type bedroom from her group home.

We had arrived home two weeks before school started and I thought it would be fine to start her with everyone else. That is the one thing that I wish I could re-do. I wish I had kept her home and done home schooling to have saved her from the really bad experiences she had her first year in school. We are still trying to catch up on learning and if I were faced with the uphill battle she continues, I think I would have given up.

I cannot imagine life without either and while they share a similar background they are as different as night and day. I wish more people would take a chance on adopting the older children. It is difficult, but I have not found anyone who has children, whether through adoption or biologically, that finds child raising a simple job. BUT it is by far the most rewarding job I have ever had.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A flat week

In Sunday School we have been studying the book of James in the New Testament.

Our teacher has been very thorough in explaining each verse and it has been a series that I have thoroughly enjoyed learning.

James teaches that belief only is not enough and the more like Christ you live the more attention you draw from the devil in expectation of trapping you to drop your Christian facade and ergo sin.

Well, anyone who has been around me lately knows that I have not been the best example of Christianity so I am not sure why the devil seems to have been chasing me this week.

Wednesday morning the weather seemed to have changed and we finally were getting a break from the record high temperature. As we drove to school I made the promise to Annabel that we would ride our bikes that night.

Early morning is not the best time to make those kind of commitments, especially when faced with a very difficult day that started with me wondering if I should call 911 after breaking out into a sweat, my heart started racing, and I thought I might pass out, but troopered on to work hoping that if something did go wrong, at least I would be in a hospital! Just so you don't get stuck at this point in the story, I realized much later that I must have taken too much of an allergy pill and was glad i had not called 911!

By the time the work day had ended, dinner was prepared and eaten, homework was completed I was almost sure I could not put one foot in front of the other, much less ride my bike. Annabel is very persuasive by not pressuring me but instead having a rather wounded look like she knew I too would disappoint her.

So again I troopered on, which I am not sure if that is a word, but that was how I felt.

We aired up our tires and took off.

The wind around us at dusk felt wonderful and we were having a great time pushing ourselves a little further and a little further.

For those who know us and where we live, we made it all the way to the Bishop Arts District and then started our journey home.

Trying to get us off the busy street, we turned one block north and then it happened!

My front tire went flat.

I'm not good at judging distance, so my best guess is that we were one million miles from home or at least it felt like it as it was getting dark very quickly and we did not have too many choices, since I forgot my cell phone. Besides, not sure that Grace was up to learn to drive that night by herself and Mom and Dad were not home.

The main street is littered with used tire shops and some body shops that resemble more of a chop shop, but I knew they would have an air compressor, so we pushed back onto the main street and within a block came upon a shop with their door open and several men working feverishly on some cars.

Although we did not speak the same language, they understood my predicament and Annabel followed as closely as possible behind me as they aired up my tire. It did seem like a setting of a scene from a Law and Order or something where we stumbled upon a crime in the making and would have to be silenced, but thank the good Lord, it was not and we pressed on toward home making it almost half a block before my tire went flat again.

Growing up in this neighborhood, I knew there were plenty of routes to get home, but by then we were just under one million miles away and I thought briefly about sending Annabel on without me, as I was doomed to walk with my bike all the way home.

There was just one big problem; I have been reading a book about a child who was kidnapped and I could not bear to let Annabel get out of my sight, as I don't know if the kidnapping gets resolved in my book, and did not want to risk her being kidnapped. For the mothers reading this, you understand. The men are probably rolling their eyes.

Of course you know that we made it home, finally, otherwise, what happened on Friday could not have happened.

We have been blessed to find a family who wants to carpool and this has truly been a wonderful blessing for me. It has been beneficial to lessen the number of trips to the school and back, but also introduced us to another great family.

Friday afternoon was my turn to pick up and we planned to meet with our carpool friends and some others after school to get to know each other better. I planned to make a quick stop by the uniform store as the cheap shirts I bought Grace last year did not make it to the new year and either Annabel has lost weight or her skirts have grown, so she was down to just one skirt. I jokingly said that I was not sure she washed her skirt from August to May last year, but this year insists on having it clean each morning! Life is a lot different when you are in 7th grade!

The time at the uniform store put us into heavier traffic as we got close to downtown. Since we had slowed to a snail's pace, I called my niece for a minute, when I realized the car felt odd. I glanced down at the gauges and saw the light for a low tire light up.

Without exaggerating, there are at least 6 or 8 lanes of traffic each way through this area as you head into the mixmaster of several freeways that meet at once to spit you out on the right road. This particular area has so many lanes there is no room for a shoulder and no way was i getting out of the car in the traffic to check out the tire. I fought to remember all the training and rules you learn about what to do if your car breaks down and especially how to handle a tire situation. Way back in my memory I thought Dad had always said it is better to get to a safe place and risk ruining the tire so we creeped on searching desperately for a place wide enough to pull over.

By then I was adding to the traffic jam and everyone was quickly pulling around me and the gestures they shared were not very nice.

The first place I could pull over already had a car with another car stopped to help it. So we kept going.

By now I can hear the whop, whop, whop of the tire and know it is not just low, that it is flat.

Just west of the infamous grassy knoll, but still very much in the middle of the mixmaster, there was a place to pull off.

I am not normally a person who is easily scared (except of Dracula from a book I read lately, no not Eclipse and I think the fear of Dracula is rational, as you just cannot be too sure what is lurking in the dark) but every horrible traffic accident where someone is killed seems to start from a disabled car on the side of the road being hit by a reckless driver and I was terrified. I worked through in my mind if more people had been killed that got out of their cars or if they were killed inside their cars when it was hit and then exploded, and the scenarios just got worse in my mind, so I was anxious to get the situation remedied as quickly as possible and on our way before something really bad could happen.

I could almost see our exit up ahead and was tempted to continue trying to drive when I saw how flat it was but instead resorted to calling Dad.

My poor father.

I want him to diagnose whether I should continue trying to drive on a flat tire in traffic in a place that was difficult to explain, all while he is at Home Depot. He tells me there is a number you can call from the highway department and they will help you, but he has it on his cell phone, so hang up and he will find the number and call me back.

In the meantime I remember paying an exorbitant amount for roadside assistance for the life of the car when I bought it and start trying to find the number to call, since I've paid for it and now need it.

When I could not find that number, I called the dealership, which promptly put me on hold, finally through to someone, who gave me the wrong number. While listening to the recorded message on the wrong number, my phone beeps and I know it is dad so I try to switch over only for it to go to voice mail.

I am confident that I can handle this problem so I try to call Dad back and tell him but his number is busy.

I call the dealership back for the correct number, again put on hold, finally someone answers and they give me another number.

I call that number which begins with a recording asking me some rather inane questions or that seem to be inane if this was truly an emergency and which it was beginning to feel like by then. When I did not have the VIN number the system did not like that much so I had to answer lots of other questions to ensure what exactly I don't know.

When I finally get to speak to a person my phone beeps again. I'm sure it is dad and ask the woman to hold on and I switch to the other call just as it goes to voice mail. I try to switch back to the other call and the woman has hung up.

By now a very kind man has stopped and asks me lots of questions about my spare and jack, which I realize I don't know, but he starts looking where he thinks it should be while I am trying desperately to dial the rescue service back and again going through their very long series of very personal questions to finally reach someone who will talk to me and seems like he has some sense, and offers to send someone to help. He tells me I will get an automated call in 5 minutes telling me the ETA of the rescue service.

By now my knight in shining armor is sweating so profusely I am afraid he might pass out and the traffic is just getting worse as everyone who drives by has to stare long and hard to see what exactly I don't know. Obviously I look stunning stranded on the side of the road and they were overwhelmed by my beauty!

He asks me for my wheel lock. The only reason I even have a slight idea of what that is is when I got my previous car, the salesman told me he was putting this package of these locks in my glove compartment and to leave them there because I might need them someday, which I did when I bought new tires.

By now all three girls have seen my frustration level escalate with the heat and they are wanting to help anyway they can and tear the car apart looking for anything metal in any hidden place. And all I can see are three children that I am terrified that I have put at risk.

They could find NOTHING.

The knight thinks about tearing apart the back but suggests I call the dealership and ask where we can find the wheel lock.

Hmmm, they have been so helpful so far, why not???

I call them back and the answer is with the jack tools.

No, trust me, it is not there.

Check the glove box.

No, trust me it is not there.

Well it is in a black bag with the spare and the other tools.

NO, IT IS NOT!!!

I explain that I am in the middle of I35 and the response is the question, why didn't I pull off on the side of the road.

I am on the side of the road, but in the middle of the expressway!

While having this brilliant conversation my phone beeps again and I think it is dad but know I have not managed to catch him yet so I will call him back.

After 30 minutes of waiting on the rescue service and the knight going back and forth to his big rig, checking on tools he might can use to remove the tire, I call the rescue service back.

Their response? Oh, they still have time before their hour is up. What?? I'm sorry, I don't understand what you are saying to me, they have an hour before they begin to come or what? These are highly trained customer service individuals at this place. Whoever I had talked to the first time was supposed to tell me that they would be there within an hour. OK, so how much longer will it be? They could not tell me and verified that I was on the north bound side of the freeway. NO, we are southbound. Oh, well I am sure they can find it.

I have to say that between the very kind man trying to help but asking me questions that could have been in Russian as I had no answers for him, other phone calls made to the dealership and their stellar service, my sales person, who insisted I bring the car there and he would make it right, the increasing traffic, my feet killing me in my rather cute and strappy sandals that are not made to stand on the side of the road in, the heat, my increasing fear over the safety of my kids, I am sure I am going to lose it as I see a very familiar large, red pickup creeping up through the traffic, trying to get to us.

OK, can't even type this without crying. It doesn't matter that he can't fix it, that he came to rescue us is all that matters and for that I will always be grateful.

Almost simultaneously, two more men stopped to help, and promptly at 59.5 minutes after my call to the rescue service, the tow truck showed up.

I send all three girls, my two and our carpooler, home with Mom and Dad, thank my other knights, and try to climb into the tow truck, grateful to get off my feet and on my way home.

$125 later my car is parked back in my driveway, while my sales person is texting me that I need to bring the car there. It is after 6:00, we've set on the side of the road for close to 2 hours, everyone is hot, tired, thirsty, and hungry and he really thinks I am going to head back into the traffic now?

Today I call the rescue service back and since it is all automated, I don't get to tell them that the wheel lock is missing, but guess that they will know how to handle it.

NOPE, no one can do anything without that wheel lock.

I call back to the dealership where their representative tells me that he will not listen to me talk about my problems, that he is aware of them and wants me to drive to the dealership and get the wheel lock so I can change my tire. I work really hard to calm down and explain I cannot drive to the dealership as I have a flat tire. He tells me that someone else will call me back within the hour.

Again, at 59.5 minutes later my phone rings and the first nice person from the dealership calls, says he gives me the number of their tow truck service, that will pick up my car (since I had lost my wheel lock) and then they will bring me a car to drive in the meantime. I explained very patiently that I had not LOST my wheel lock that I never had one. I felt like he was saying that we could agree to disagree, but at least he was promising me some help.

So here is one of the great ironies of the whole situation. My all time favorite car was my VW convertible that I sold in 1994 and made the switch to Honda.

Since 1994 I have had Hondas, mostly the CRV.

Because I knew I needed to carry at least 7 people, Honda did not have a car in my price range and I went to Toyota.

The entire time that I had Hondas, I cannot remember ever having any service problems, at all. The most I ever did was an oil change.

So when the man from the dealership shows up with a car for me to drive, guess what it was? Yes, a Honda CRV!

I am certainly to stay under the radar this week if the devil is out to prove a point again!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Checks and balances

In school you learn about the founders of our country's brilliant plan to set up a checks and balances system to protect the people basically from themselves.

Well I have to say, I am glad to report I have my own checks and balances system.

At work, I have always said, I cannot do anything right.

When I have a program, I receive complaints that the coffee is too hot or too cold, too strong or too weak, all from the same pot of coffee. With the food, it is too fattening and too healthy, from the same menu. The speaker is too loud or too soft, for the same audience. At our last event, the number one complaint I got was there was no water to go along with the free meal we had provided. We had tea and coffee, but no water. So there is little chance that I can ever get the "big head" at work, thinking that I am doing ANYTHING right.

At home, thankfully I also have a checks and balances system.

Our big splurge this week was to download 5 songs from Amazon to make a CD to play for our long drive to school, which also helps us avoid songs that suddenly break into words that I would rather my daughters not hear.

So as we listened to the same songs over 5 days, I felt comfortable belting out the lyrics with one of them.

For those who listen to this type of music, the words are not, "I'll be good as new", rather they are "I'll be bulletproof".  On another song, I am still disappointed to learn the singer is NOT singing about Galileo and instead is advising, "gotta let go...". I really liked it better when I thought he was singing the Italian astronomer!

I can't remember what possessed me to ask my daughters this week, what they would think about me dating. Without blinking an eye, they asked, "one of your imaginary boyfriends?".

What?

"You know Mom, one of your imaginary boyfriends, like Limo Bob?" among others they named, like several TV characters.

OK so thankfully I have my checks and balances to keep me from getting out of hand!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pencil us in!

The plan tonight was to get homework done and then go to the memorial service for the little girl I wrote about last night.

Plans for us always need to be done in pencil!

Like right now. My plan was to sit down and write a few notes about the day and catch up on other things and as soon as I sat down, Annabel came storming through the kitchen, open the cabinet doors, got out the sani wipe things and went back to their room. Usually not a good sign! OK, never a good sign.

I followed her back to their room to view a pile of throw up on her clean sheets, right by her head!

Since my girls don't throw up and they don't eat dog food, I was almost sure that one of the dogs was suspect!

Thank goodness we have a variety of beds to choose from in their room, from our summer of guests!

Homework tonight was the first for Texas History. I remember loving this class in 7th grade but was born and raised in Texas and a lot of things you learn about a place, you learn from living there.

For Annabel this was a difficult as it focused on a lot of Texas trivia, like the presidents who were born here, information about different counties, and even an A to Z list of things about Texas. Thank goodness we live in a state that has Quanah Parker, the XIT Ranch, and zoos to take care of the more difficult letters.

Homework took too long and then it actually came a thunderstorm, so my memorial to that sweet baby was time spent with my own girls.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Put into perspective

I think that I have forgotten how to go to sleep.

100 years ago, I had a boyfriend who played bridge, wild one that he was, on Thursday nights. I would catch myself sitting up, hoping he would call when he got home, so I would rarely go to sleep before really late on those nights. A side note, rarely would he call....

The next boyfriend was much more prompt and would call each night to tell me good night and then again, first thing in the morning to wake me up.

But when I became a mom, he decided he did not like waiting for me to put Grace to bed before he could talk to me, among so many other issues, so those "signals" to go to sleep and wake up are gone.

Then as a mom, I realized that I sleep much too soundly to wake up if my children need me. During the short stint that Jana, my sister, and her daughters, Gillian and Darcey stayed with me, I learned first hand the importance of being a light sleeper. Even though I was sleeping in Grace's little twin bed, before her adoption, I fell asleep like a rock, and when Jana burst into my room telling me I had to wake up and help her, I felt dazed and confused until I got the first whiff of throw up!

Thankfully I have not had a repeat of that with my own girls! And I should realize that my girls probably won't need me during the night!

So with the addition of kids to my nightly ritual, checking email doesn't happen until late. And I am sure if I don't check my work email before going to bed, that some dreadful thing will hit me first thing at work!

Tonight though, something caught my eye on Facebook. There was a notice about a memorial service for a little baby tomorrow night. It gave the link to the mother's blog and I cannot stop thinking about this family. I don't know them, but evidently the beautiful daughter who is chronicled day after day on her mother's blog died suddenly last week. The pure, undulated joy this beautiful baby brought to her mother and family makes the loss even more traumatic.

And so all the problems that seemed so big when I started trying to wind down tonight are quickly put into perspective in reading about this family's loss.

My sweet girls are sound asleep with their two stinky dogs in there protecting them. I want to go in and wake them up and hold them, but I won't, but I will ask you to say a prayer for the family of Margot Rose Miller.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The first day of school and wonderful progress!

Today was the first day of school and we all woke up before the alarm clock and were headed out the door with breakfast in our tummies and a meal packed for lunch on time! Actually I was the last one out the door waiting on the last drop of coffee to brew to help wake up for our important journey!

If you have been reading for a while, then you know that we have chosen a charter school that is between 15 and 20 miles from our house, depending on which route you take, which depends on the traffic and construction for the morning. By the end of May, I began to wonder if the drive outweighed the benefit of the school, but hoped it was just fatigue from the end of the year and other complicating factors.

The school has a nice long winding drive to the front door and as we approached the school itself, Annabel saw her beloved English teacher from last year and immediately started waving, asking if she could please roll down her window. Of course! So as we made the last few curves before getting to the front of the building, Annabel has assumed the pose of royalty everywhere with her waving to her subjects as we arrived! It was pretty hysterical!

Grace, who is just the opposite in every way possible from Annabel, assumed a much more calm approach until she began to panic as to whether to take in her summer math project, as she could not see enough of the kids from their class and if they were carrying their projects. Thankfully the principal was there to open the car door and answered the nerve wracking question and Grace slid out with her project in tow. Annabel had jumped out before I had even come close to the door, so she could greet her subjects personally!

The car pool lane has to move quickly so there was no time for tears or even goodbys, so I had to say a quick prayer that it would be a good day and that my decision to drive the extra distance was indeed worthwhile.

This afternoon I was greeted with lots of stories and updates from both girls and was reminded again that this is the best school for both. It was great for them both to experience being "returning" students and experts in all things having to do with the school! Some of their friends had commented on how YOUNG the 6th graders looked!

BUT the best part came when Annabel was telling me about the test in English over the book they had to read for summer. When the school year ended she was still completely dependent on the ESL teacher to read her the tests. This time she was able to read the test and felt like she did pretty well with those that were multiple choice. She is not as confident in her ability to write short answers! Wow! The tutoring through the SMU program is definitely paying off! I had bought her the book and the book read on CD so she could listen and read along with it. The book was The Alchemist and now I am anxious to read it as well.

Because our drive is so long and music on the radio in the morning is mostly talk, I announced tonight that we could download their top 5 favorite songs to play in the car in the mornings. What a great mom I am, right? If I could have only held this position a little longer and I would have if I had not opened my mouth. While trying to choose a song, with Annabel singing it full blast, I corrected her and said I think he is saying Galileo, which probably did not fit into the song and she and Grace looked at each other, like, what???? So I looked up the lyrics on line and sure enough, there is nothing about Galileo in the song, but instead says, "gotta let go". Hmm, I was sure there was an educational component to the song that Annabel just did not understand, but I just can't understand song lyrics. Oh well!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The last days of summer vacation

With the start of school on Thursday, I was bound and determined to show my girls a good time before summer vacation ends, but still trying to get well and catch up on some things, but really, really trying to have fun.

So if you don't feel well then you should try grooming your dogs!

While trying to recover, I have been reading books for book club and both have shown fantastic views of foreign cultures and countries. Before I had kids I loved to travel and would love to share that with my girls. I resolved to re-organize our spending so we could spend on better things. I've switched getting our hair cut to the Aveda Institute, which is really a beauty school, but when you put the name Aveda on it, it makes that $15 haircut seem better, right? So why was I spending $75 on getting our dogs' hair cut??? Surely we could do it for less.

I contacted someone who told me about her experiences and what clippers to buy and ignored all her advice and bought a set of human hair clippers at Costco for cheap. Then I proceed to clip their hair in my bathroom, in my pajamas, while running a fever, and both girls as assistants, Grace with scissors and Annabel as the dog whisperer, keeping everyone calm. This is when you need a video camera going so you can earn millions on America's Funniest Videos! Our dogs are small, Nina is 8 pounds and Ollie is 18 pounds, both have a variety of breeds which all have long hair! While vacuuming up the hair, I had to stop and empty the filter twice! Neither are show dogs, so I think they will survive! We learned lots and ready for the next try!

While I was on a roll saving money I also went through all my bills. The amount for just a basic cable package has jumped to almost $80 with nothing special so spurred on my quest to reallocate our money, I call to find out how I can make some adjustments, saving my threat to change carriers as my Ace. I got an extremely apathetic service rep who immediately cancelled all our cable, although I had asked for basic. I hate dealing with these companies especially because I expect I will have problems and have to call back and of course they have not let me down yet! I checked out all the channels we have now, all 60 of them and great to know that NONE of the Nick or Disney channels were affected, just all the ones I like to watch!

While on hold for the cable company to get it reconnected, I made the mistake of checking my work email which contained notification of a HUGE issue with a project I have been responsible for. Why oh why do I do that to myself??

The plan for Tuesday was to attend a funeral for a dear sweet lady from church who has been kind and generous to my girls as well as so many others. With the weight of work problems on my mind, I slept very little and sent my girls with my parents to try to gear up for our BIG plans to end the summer.

Our first stop was the school to drop off the immunization records, which showed they got all their shots in November of last year (for once I got something done early!) and pick up the schedules for the school year. Immediately Annabel began to fret when she saw that she was registered for Spanish. She kept asking how was she expected to learn 4 languages???? It took me a while to figure this out, but the second semester they do Latin, so her 4 include English, Spanish, Latin, and Chinese! I thought that was funny but knew she was distressed. Oh no, our attempt at fun was starting on a sour note.

We were very fortunate and the recipient of a nice gift of a night at Great Wolf Lodge. I have looked at this online for months, sure that it looked like THE best vacation and tried repeatedly to schedule a visit when I could be sure that Gillian and Darcey could be here. But our time was running out and the free night ended on August 15, so we had to go!!!

If you have never heard of Great Wolf Lodge, here is a link, http://www.greatwolf.com/grapevine/waterpark so you can see how much fun you have been missing!

Whoever developed this concept is a genius as they did not miss anything. It is so kid friendly and the best service I have ever experienced. I can't say enough good about it yet if you run, don't walk the other way! I can't imagine going through if you did not have kids, but saw an amazing number of older adults, people on crutches, walkers, who seemed to be in for the fun of it!

You can purchase any number of packages to supplement your fun. These include meals and entertainment packages. Since the room was paid for and this was our BIG trip, I decided to spring for the meals, rather than eat at their fast food places they have there, but drew the line at only one of the entertainment packages. Besides, I had saved on dog grooming and cable!

If you ever go, the Family Suite is the lowest priced and plenty nice! So save the money on the better room, as you never go there until you are so exhausted you collapse and don't care!

They let us check in early, we made it up to the room, changed into swimsuits and headed to the world famous indoor water park, which is this HUGE enclosed area that is so FULL of children of all ages, screaming and hollering and whooping it up, and parents trying to keep up with them who are also screaming and hollering and water is EVERYWHERE!

We did a quick scan, chose the longest line possible to stand in for the scariest ride they have to get things started. The problem with rides that depend on water is they have to start from tall place, which requires LOTS of stairs that are wet and loaded with lots of kids and parents trying to keep up with their kids.

The ride lasts maybe 30 seconds, the whole time you are seeing your life flash before your eyes, and holding on for dear life hoping that won't throw up! Then you hurry up and get back in line for more!!!

We tried out almost all of them and I have to say another thing that impressed me was the high number of lifeguards. There seemed little risk and I was sure if I could get to sit in the outside warmth for just a little while I might be able to get well so the girls ran to stand in more lines and I took some quiet time by the outdoor pool.

We finally took a break, late, and had dinner. I had paid the extra for the buffet and I would have thought that much water and stair climbing would have made my girls famished, but each ate the smallest servings I have ever seen them eat, and it was an all you can eat! I took back the breakfast buffet pass after that!

We had our Paw Pass, which was the entertainment package, and between Annabel and me, we had claimed what we wanted off the pass, leaving Grace with the rest.

The package included 20 tokens in the arcade, which is where we started. Annabel called it a carnival and kept wanting to go back there. I don't even know what to say about this as it was shocking. Kids standing at some of these "games" trying to win as many tickets as they could to turn in for cheap little prizes. I watched as one kid "fed" the machine tokens as fast as he could! I asked him how  many he had just spent. $10 worth of tokens! All for a chance to win a plastic blow up guitar! One of the employees said it was like a mini casino for kids. My kids were disappointed that I would not spring for more tokens, but after seeing the spectacle of the others, I just wanted out of there. They each ended up with 100 tickets, which qualified them for such great things as a ring pop, a 2" pillow that said Princess or something as astute (yes that is inches), a variety of pencils, candy, and other treasures. Annabel decided pretty quickly, but for Grace, she faced it as if the decision would determine her entire future.

Another part of the entertainment package was for a stuffed animal that you make, sort of a very down scale version of Build a Bear. Annabel really wanted this and Grace thinks she has plenty of stuffed animals. The choice of animals was small but after a LOT of thought, Annabel decided she needed the night to decide! So she decided to get the tattoo part of the package instead. The glittery, I heart dogs was perfect!

The other big part of the package was the Magic Quest game, which includes one magic wand and a quest to try to advance through a series of levels, which requires that you can actually read the instruction book, decipher it, climb up and down stairs while trying to meet the requirements in the correct order so you can proceed. And believe it or not, there are a MILLION children of all sizes running up and down the halls and stairwells too trying to solve the same problems followed by parents of all sizes wishing the game had never been invented!

I'm pretty sure the girls were asleep before their heads hit the pillow!

Today we finished up with lots more water park fun, a stuffed animal, more tromping up and down stairs to try to reach the next level in the Magic Quest game, and overall had a great time!

Lights were out early tonight. School starts tomorrow!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Why it is good to be in the sandwich life

Reading my last post makes me know I really do not feel very well, but wanted to catch up on some things and tell you how great it can be to live the sandwich life.

For a while this summer, we had several Saturdays with no pressing engagements and could actually take our time planning and doing whatever we wanted.

As soon as it is time for school to start, our Saturdays seemed destined to get complicated.

Almost simultaneously, I was asked to make a brief talk about the program I run at work, as the announcement of the big pancake breakfast at the school was made. I had forgotten that is when the kids get their schedules, and had already accepted the invitation to speak and knew I was on the agenda.

Thankfully Mom and Dad agreed to take my darlings so I could do my duty.

ONLY I had not expected to wake up Saturday, not sure if I even felt like getting out of bed.

This same bug that I have fought all summer just does not seem to want to go away even after a round of antibiotics. Friday, I ran into my doctor at lunch, which was just brilliant and after a few questions and my co-workers insistence that I had not improved, called in another round of antibiotics.

So after sending my darlings off to school with Mom and Dad, I probably should not have, but checked my temperature and it was close to 100, but knew I was even on the program and did not want to let anyone down and started getting ready to go.

Before I could leave the house, however, Dad called to say the school had not received their shot records and could not give them their schedule. I asked if we could fax them and Dad, bless his heart, tracked down the nurse, the principal, and anyone else he can find and still the answer was no. They must have them in hand. I told him I would drive to the school with the shot records and then turn around and drive the 40 miles to my program, but before I can even finish saying that I break into tears and Dad insists it will be fine, go do what I need to and they will take care of the rest. I know I am sick then since I am beginning to feel like a big baby crying on the phone to my dad!

I make it to the program and very glad I did. I love to talk about the great things we have and this was a whole new audience to share with.

By the time I drag home, they have already done the school thing, taken Grace to piano, Dad is spraying for bugs around our house, and Mom is teaching Annabel how to make pudding.

I go in and crash!

Since then Mom continues to feed my girls and send some for me. I've had very weird dreams and in each, I have acquired more children, first toddlers, then teens, and in each, I keep thinking, I wasn't doing too well with two, what made me think I could handle 4 more!?!? Some of my dreams have even had musical accompaniment, which coincides with Grace practicing the piano. Most have dogs in them that bark, which I am guessing are ours. I've just been thankful for the rest and knowing my girls are care for by my parents. Thanks Mom and Dad!

How old are you kid?

Friday, before I could even think about wrapping up the week, Annabel called wanting to know if we could go to Costco as she was so excited about getting her new glasses.

From our very first day together in China, I knew Annabel needed glasses. She would squint to see anything in the distance and again while trying to read anything. I asked our guide to take us to get her glasses. She refused. She told me she did not need glasses. I have no idea why the guide would not help us but I wanted Annabel to be able to see.

One of our first appointments when we got home two years ago was for an eye exam. I had learned with Grace that Pediatric Ophthalmologists are quite adept at examining children's eyes, even when they cannot read the usual eye chart we see as adults.

Of course she needed glasses and when they finally arrived at Costco, I will never forget the look of amazement on her face as she was able to look around and see her whole world! She still did not have any English, but whatever is Chinese for WOW! came out of her.

So if Annabel calls and anxious to get new glasses I was determined to get them for her.

Only I had planned to take off a few days this week for us a mini vacation before school starts on Thursday, and I always work too late trying to ensure things are handled before I leave.

When we were finally on our way, we ran into a rare, but exciting thunderstorm and were drenched by the time we ran into the store. It took no time to get the new glasses, but it was pouring rain so hard that we decided to shop around. By the time we finally left it was 8:00! and still had not had dinner.

IHOP was the winner and their new promotion about a free kid's meal helped clinch the decision.

Usually I am the one who eats the kid's meal, which works out great for my girls, only now Annabel is too OLD to be a kid. I ordered all three meals to avoid confusion but when they were delivered, they just instinctively gave Annabel the kid's meal.

When I was 12, I think I must have looked 12 and when I was 13, I must have looked 13, and on and on because no one has really ever thought I was an age that I am not! Except now and I usually get the senior's discount without asking!

But here is my newly aged teen age daughter being given the kid's meal AND to make matters worse, the kid's drink! She was not amused.

When the waitress came back she had a pancake club you could join if you were at least 13. She gave me the form and asked Grace if she was old enough. Grace just grinned at her as Annabel almost shouts, that she, Annabel, is and she is the OLDER sister that Grace is only 12!

The rest of the way home we had to hear complaints about everyone thinking she is younger. She is considerably smaller than Grace and just looks younger. Grace has a tendency to want more mature looking clothes, while Annabel is perfectly satisfied with whatever she can find, usually something I bought her 2 years ago!

Never a dull moment!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A brief catch up

I know I must be getting older because I barely sit down and huge chunks of time have passed.

School starts next Thursday and I don't think I accomplished all that I meant for us to do this summer. I was sure that the slowness of summer would allow us to catch up on the things that the hectic pace of school causes us to miss, but it hasn't. Besides it is so hot you really don't want to do anything outdoors that does not include a pool. Getting back into the car can be a shocking experience, as we found out Saturday afternoon. Now if there is even a twig of a tree in a parking lot I make a bee line for a space by it. Grace teases me that the car will be so cold as a result that we will have to wear sweaters when we get back in!

The girls had a fantastic time at camp. They met so many great new friends and enjoyed the time getting out and seeing and doing different things. This was their first horseback ride and the discussion on that alone took hours. I believe they each grew and became more tan while gone. I am very grateful to have a group like My Tree House to bring out into the open discussions with our children on sensitive issues of adoption. If you are interested in learning more, the link is http://my-treehouse.org/.

My Tree House uses the Enneagram as basis for helping the children and parents understand each other better. The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system that identifies Nine Personality Types, and how these Personality Types are expressed individually and in relationship to others. Unlike Marston’s DiSC™ Assessment or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator™, the Enneagram acts as a unique tool for understanding and explaining human behavior, and the underlying motivations that drive behavior. So I cut and pasted that from their website.

Anyway, for the kids, they have used animals to help them understand their inherent traits. The different personalities are Perfectionist, Giver, Performer, Romantic, Observer, Devil's Advocate, Epicure, Boss, and Mediator. Right now I can't remember which animal represents each, but just know that Grace continues to think of herself as the "lion" and Annabel has changed from thinking she was a "rabbit" to a "monkey".

I am supposed to know which one I am, but so far have not figured it out. I think my life has taken so many turns that what I started out being probably is not what I am today. They say that usually others can see your traits much more quickly than you can sometimes.

So the best part of this camp was a parent discussion group while the children prepared Parents User Manuals for each of us. It was great to hear from the director about experiences that the kids had and probably would not have shared while at camp, but also it was helpful for us to see where they are secure, struggling, or maybe just need some space right now. The director gave us our Parents Manuals and tried to help out with the parts that we did not understand. In each was a report card on how we are doing as a parent. From Grace I mostly made A's with a few B's and C's thrown in, but for Annabel, I got mostly F's except buying her the clothes she wants! I wasn't surprised by this and was glad she had a chance to openly record some of what she is feeling.

When we met up again, Grace came running to me and Annabel was no where in sight, as she was hiding behind the door ready to scare me!

There was a brief final ceremony and we were headed home with lots of talk and story telling and assurances that they were not tired, even though most stories included how late they had stayed up each night.

I'm not sure who was more proud for them to be home, whether it was me or Mom and Dad, but it was so nice to all sit around the table for dinner together. You would have thought they had been gone for a year the way we acted!

While they were gone I finally made it to the doctor, who gave me a shot of steroids and three new prescriptions with the admonition that if I did not allow myself time to heal, I would end up in the hospital with pneumonia! So even though I went home early that day, I tried my best to get back to work the next and finally gave up! I took advantage of a quiet house and tried to convince my body to heal in the next 24 hours!

Sunday afternoon I managed to get a brief nap and was so glad to wake up to the noises of my girls back home. While I sort of enjoyed the time apart, especially since I was sick, it just feels odd now to be alone. I thank God daily for sending me these daughters.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My peeps!

I will get back to our story soon, but when I read this, it hit me as so funny, especially since this is the group I work with everyday and then have live next door to me and have at church and you get the picture!

ELDERHUMOR


A group of 40- year old friends discussed where they should meet for dinner.

Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the waiters there were cute, had great tans and were very young.

10 years later at 50 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the food there was better than most places and the wine selection was extensive.

10 years later at 60 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because they could eat there in peace and quiet and

the restaurant had a beautiful view of the ocean.

10 years later, at 70 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the restaurant had early bird specials and they even had an elevator.

10 years later, at 80 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because they had never been there before.