Sunday, December 31, 2006

1st "Do"

Grace and I took our first foray into the world of "hair-dos" today. Up to now, we have focused on keeping her hair moisturized and tangle free (not her favorite pastime). Quite often, she flops to the floor and attempts to rub her head on the carpet while I try to pick out the curls. Fortunately, she was in an extra coopertive mood this morning, since I was not feeling particularly dextrous when it came to taming those locks. She still has an (almost) bald strip across the back of her head, but the curls that are present were just long enough to gather into a bunch of tiny ponytails. I was fairly pleased with the results. She must have been too, because after a few touches to see what was going on, she left the rubberbands in all day. Look out hair world, here we come!!

Go Chargers!!

My husband was born and raised in San Diego. He is a die-hard fan of the Padres and Chargers. I guess you could say he is a real hometown kind of guy. His favorite teams have not always given much him much hope or reason to stand by them, but he always has. This year, has been a rare exception to the general rule. Will's precious Charger's have a record that is actually leading the entire National Football League. They clinched their division early, ensured themselves a "buy" week in the first week of the play-offs, and now just need to win one last game to ensure home field advantage during their whole play-off experience.

All of this brings us to the dilemma I had when considering Christmas gifts for my husband. He is not the easiest guy to shop for. He pretty much has what he needs, and is not the kind of guy to whine about the stuff he wishes he had. He is always far more concerned about taking care of his wife and family. Long before I knew the Chargers would have such an amazing season, tickets were on sale and I had the offer of babysitting services for our 5 kids. After a lot of thought and arranging, I decided to take the plunge. I knew it would be one of the only times we have left Grace with a sitter. I knew it might turn out to be a "meaningless" game since it was at the end of the season. I took a shot anyway.

This all turned out to be a good thing. Will was VERY surprised when he opened the tickets on Christmas morning. He was even more surprised to hear there was already an arrangement in place for the kids. The best part though; he was truly excited about going to the game. It really does mean something for the Chargers, and hence, to my husband. At 1:15pm PST today, Will and I will be sitting in Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, to cheer on the San Diego Chargers as they face the Arizona Cardinals. I truly hope the Chargers will emerge victorious in this game, but regardless, I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to spend the day with my husband. I appreciate this chance to hang out as grown ups, without our beloved kids, as husband and wife.


V I C T O R Y ! ! !

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Scary Thought

As I was perusing the headline news on AOL this afternoon, I came across this article...
Girl, 12, Proves Toilet Water Cleaner Than
There are even a few more details in this article. After reading the whole story, I was a tad grossed out, to say the least! I'm not quite sure what to do about this newly acquired knowledge, but I figured I had to share it. Who would have guessed?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Family Fun

We have lots of branches on our extended family tree. It is not always easy to stay in touch with all of them, but we do our best. In fact, that was the main reason for the creation of this blog. Each year, as the holiday season gets into full swing, we start making the rounds. We have a set schedule for which group of family we visit for each occasion. The Christmas celebrations always get started with my Dad, Bonus-Mom and family. This year, we were fortunate enough to have Grandma Vi (that's Great-Grandma to my kids) visiting from Illinois. We also had the pleasure of having our dear family friend, Nancy Brown, with us as well. She is an adopted Great-Grandma. It turns out, this was also the night Gil asked my Dad for my sister's hand in marriage. Quite a night, indeed.

Holiday Humor

As he was licking his Chistmas candy cane the other night, Justin (4 years old) imparted this little bit of wisdom on me ...

"You know Mom, these are enjoyed by tongues all over the world!"

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Let it Snow

A while back, I did a post about missing the wintry weather of my childhood, but appreciating our ice and jacket free winters in sunny Southern California. This past weekend, I had occasion to visit my childhood hometown. It was a whirlwind trip, taken especially for my sister's wedding, but still long enough to get a taste of the differences. The tips of my fingers and toes were rarely warm, and going outside without a jacket was simply not an option. Upon my return, I stepped out of the airport in San Diego, and basked in the warm, glorious sunshine. Ahhhhh....Home!

I must make note here; there was not a flake of snow to be found while I was in the Denver area. There was a chilly bite in the air, but the skies were clear and sunny. My flights were smooth and timely, and we never even saw a hint of ice on the roads. That is most definitely not the case today! About 48 hours ago, the weather took a turn for the worse. The snow started to fall at an alarming rate, and didn't stop until late today. The total accumulation varies depending on the specific region one might be in, but 18 inches to 36 inches, with 6 foot plus snowdrifts, is not uncommon. Wow!!!! The visibility was near zero, and thousands of Holiday travelers have been stranded in the airports. The latest word from the local clan is, "We are staying in where it's warm, and enjoying the view outside." There's not much point in doing anything else, since it will be at least a couple days before the plows get around the whole city to make it safe to commute again. Oh, how I am counting my blessings to be home with my family right now. We have had our famous frost warnings again the last few nights, but the skies are bright and sunny. Our ability to get around town will not be dependent on a plow anytime soon, and the latest weather report calls for a high of 68 degrees on Christmas Day. Yes....we are blessed.

Snowdrifts as high as the 2nd floor balcony!!
About 18" of snowThat's Mary and Joseph peaking up out of the snow. Baby Jesus is nowhere to be found.

Updated: Now, they are predicting a high of 77 degrees on Christmas day. This will definitely be a California Christmas. 8^)

What a Week!! (Updated)

I thought we had already seen all the action we were going to see this week. We had a graduation, a wedding and a referral for two gorgeous little girls. How could a family do any more than that in one week? Well, silly me!!! There was more to celebrate after all.

My youngest sister, the baby of the family (and the one that just graduated from Nursing School), got engaged on Tuesday evening. I imagine this is a week she will not soon forget!

Congratulations Amanda and Gil!!!

Updated to add a picture of the happy couple and my (soon to be) new niece...

Merry Christmas

Dearest Family and Friends,

For the most part, I try to stay off the email forwarding train. If your in-box is anything like mine, you already have more than enough to sort through without multiple copies of the same trivial thing popping in from different email friends. However, every once in a while I get something that moves me. After taking a moment to check that it's not a scam (thank goodness for, I ponder who I know that might appreciate the message. Yesterday, that very thing happened. You see, I have had a tough time getting into the "Christmas Spirit" this year. I can't seem to get the sights, sounds and smells of our trip to Ethiopia out of my head. I look at our beautiful daughter Grace, who spent months of her life sick and failing to thrive, and find it very difficult to shop for gifts that will just be added to the abundance that already exists. It's not about a lack of appreciation, but of greater need somewhere else. Our own Christmases of the past have been an awesome sight. That's something we needed to reassess this year. Our adoption journey and travels to the 3rd world have changed something deep within us. If we, like so many others, are going to stretch our budget for the Christmas season, we need to use wisdom and discernment in deciding where those resources should go. We will still be giving and receiving gifts this year, but they will be more on the modest side, and whenever possible, will benefit those in need. So, back to the email I got yesterday; I couldn't decide who to send it to since the message is intended for everyone. Please enjoy this beautiful take on the impoverished, but amazingly joyous birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas and much love from our house to yours!!


Philippians 2:6-8, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedience unto death, even the death of the cross."

What is Christmas today? Christmas trees, decorations, lights, tinsel, parties, Santa Claus, and an over abundance of food. Total antipathy to the very first Christmas!

The first Christmas was celebrated in poverty. Today, if a couple were so poor that they had to have their baby in a dirty animal stable, the Social Services would take their baby away from them. But 2000 years down the line, it seems that the humility of Christmas has been forgotten.

I think it would be good to remind ourselves of the true reality of Christmas, don't you?

1. The humility of Mary.

Mary was a humble maiden with a humble lineage. She was not a royal princess. She was not a High Priest's daughter. She was not rich. Mary herself confesses in her song, "He hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.... He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree..." (Luke 1:48-49) But God chose this unknown virgin to bring forth His precious Son. He chose her because she was a willing vessel. Often those who have everything materially, are not willing vessels.

God is not looking for riches and material possessions. He is looking for women with obedient hearts-- mothers who will welcome to their hearts the children whom God has planned to send them. He is looking for those who have the same spirit Mary had when she said, "Be it unto me according to thy Word." (Luke 1:38) She was totally surrendered to the will of the Lord. In the face of poverty, ridicule, rejection and estrangement, she embraced this child who would be the Savior of the world.

I will never forget going to the famous art gallery in London and seeing a painting of Mary. It was such an anointed picture. The artist had captured the look of total submission and abandonment to the will of God upon her face. It was amazing. I looked and looked at it for hours. The caption was the very words, "Be it unto me according to thy Word."

2. The humility of Joseph.

Joseph was a humble carpenter from a humble village. Do you remember that Nathanael said of Jesus, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46) Jesus was spurned by his fellow residents of Nazareth who asked, "Is not this the carpenter's son?" (Matthew 13:55)

3. The humility of His birthplace.

Jesus was born in a stable, most probably a cave, with the dirt, the smells and messes of the animals all around. He was then laid in a stone feeding trough, fit only for the animals. Jesus was born to be King, but God didn't provide a palace for His Son in which to be born. He didn't provide a doctor, nurses and hospital. There was no cradle, beautifully draped with lace and frills. Only straw! Was there even that? No Christmas card paints the true reality of the scene.

If this was the beginning of the Son of God, why do we, the sons and daughters of God, expect that we should have all the niceties of life? Of course, if God blesses us with them, we will receive them with joy, but should we expect them? Everything surrounding the birth of Jesus was humble. It is interesting that in the body of Christ we have the "Faith movement" and the "Discipleship movement" and so on. But has anyone ever heard of the "Humility movement"? We don't take to this aspect so well, do we? And yet this is how God planned for His beloved Son to be born. And this is how he lived all through His life. Shouldn't humility also be the hallmark of our Christian experience?

I think that God revealed His heart in the place He chose for His son to be born-the lowliest and humbles place possible. God loves the poor. He promises to raise up the poor. He watches over them. Even in the birth of His son, He related to the poorest of the poor.

It is also amazing to think that God chose to bring forth His beloved Son through the process of birth. He could have sent him down from Heaven on a chariot of fire! He could have sent a legion of angels to escort Him from the majesty of heaven. But no! He chose for His Son to be conceived and nurtured in a womb, to be born of a woman, the way that God planned for all human life to come into this world.

Surely this raises birth to a high estate. What a privilege to give birth and give life to children, the very same way that Jesus came into the world? How blessed we are as women.

4. The humility of Jesus' dedication.

After the days of a mother's purification, the parents took the baby to the temple to be dedicated. They had to bring a lamb to be sacrificed for the dedication. However, if they could not afford a lamb, they brought two turtle doves or young pigeons. (Leviticus 12:6-8) The account in Luke 2:23-24 tells us that Joseph and Mary brought doves or pigeons. They belonged to the poor class. They couldn't afford to bring a lamb. And yet God chose from the poorer class to bring forth the King of kings and Lord of lords.

We don't have to own our own home and have all the modern conveniences before we are ready to have a baby. All we have to have is willing and welcome hearts. God will always provide for the children He sends. The poor who have children are richer than the wealthy who reject children.

May God pour out His Spirit upon you at this very special season as you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah together as a family. May God keep all our hearts focused on the humility of His birth, rather than tinsel and toys.



"Dear Lord Jesus, Thank you for leaving the glory of heaven to come to this earth. Thank you for humbling yourself to become a little baby. Thank you for being humiliated for me. Thank you that you came to die, and to die for my sin. How can I ever thank you adequately? But with all my being I worship and love you. Amen."


Zechariah 9:9 NAS, "Behold your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey"

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Do you remember this?

Well, they have worked feverishly for the last few months to bring their kids home, and finally made it through court in Ethiopia yesterday!!!! It is my great pleasure to announce that we have two new little cousins! Liya is almost 4 years old and Meg is 4 months old. The family is hoping to be able to unite for good before the end of January. Yippee!!!!

We can hardly wait to meet these Ethiopian angels!!

Please feel free to stop by their family's blog to congratulate them, and welcome these lovely girls home. Thanks 8^)


There was a lot to celebrate in my family this week. Not only are we all getting ready for the Holidays, but there was also a graduation and a wedding. My youngest sister finished nursing school. She has worked very hard to put herself through school, and managed to graduate debt free!! She had two job interviews the week of graduation, and has already received an offer to work in the ICU, and eventually receive specialized training in the care of cardiac patients. That is the exact specialty she hoped to go into. The pay and benefits are outstanding, and she looks forward to staring ASAP.

Congratulations Amanda!!!!

My other sister, Shannon, got married this Sunday. Her husband Joe is in the Army, and preparing for deployment to South Korea on January 1st. This created a need for some hasty preparations over the last few weeks, but it turned out quite nice when the day came. Joe has two beautiful little girls, Kayla and Alicia, that seem to be quite taken with Shannon. The feelings are definitely mutual. I managed to contort my crazy Holiday season scedule to make it to Denever early Sunday morning. I spent the day arranging flowers and wrapping up last minute details for the late afternoon ceremony. Shannon and Joe filled the room with lots of love and smiles, as my brother Shane, who was just ordained as a pastor this Summer, performed the wedding (his first). He did a great job!! Both families enjoyed a delicious dinner at Olive Garden following the marathon a pictures, and the guys even entertained us with a peppercini eating contest. Pastor Shane was victorious!!! Obviously, fun was had by all. Those of us in the younger set (how cool is it that I qualified for that?!) wrapped up the night with a trip to the local country music club for some line dancing, bull riding and general fun and conversation. I was exhausted when my plane hit the ground Monday afternoon, but it was definitely worth it.

Congratulations and Best Wishes Shannon and Joe!!!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

She's Chasing the Boys Already!!

Lost & Found

A couple months ago, we were working on refinancing our house. There was the usual paper shuffle involved, with a variety of faxes and phone calls between us and our loan officer. Fortunately, Will is good friends with him, so the process was far more pleasant than it could have been. When it came time for us to have the house appraised, our friend strongly recommended that we use one certain guy. It just so happens the two of them are neighbors, and good family friends. Since we didn't know anyone else in that profession, this seemed like reason enough to give him the go ahead.

So, one Friday afternoon while the boys were eating lunch, my door bell rang. As is her usual response, the dog went beserk. I quickly wrestled her into her kennel, scooped up Grace in my arms, and ran to answer the door. As expected, it was the appraiser. He was very polite, and following a quick introduction, got straight to work. He walked around the front and back yards with obvious purpose. He took down measurements and notes with great efficiency. Then he started on the indoor assessment. He went room to room with obvious experience. The whole time, the dog was losing her mind from the sight of this strange man invading her territory; from the safety of her kennel of course. Grace seemed very concerned by this stranger in our house as well. I was forced to stand in the living room holding the baby and petting the dog through the roof of her kennel to attempt to forge out some semblance of calm. Other than the obvious auditory trauma we were all experiencing, everything seemed to be progressing satisfactorily. My only disappointment was that I couldn't walk around with the man. Call me crazy, but I don't usually just give strangers free reign in my house.

Over the following weekend, we decided we would like to listen to some music. The obvious choice seemed to be the Ipod (60G w/ video)and Hi-Fi speaker that Will gave me as gifts for this past Christmas and my birthday. Since I spent a ton of time loading up every CD we own onto the Ipod before our trip to Ethiopia in April, we were sure to find something we wanted to listen to. There was just one problem. The Ipod was nowhere to be found!!! We searched, and searched, and searched, and searched some more! Still no Ipod. I was seriously bummed, and I think Will might have been even more upset. We spent hours searching and trying to think back over the last few days. I knew I had not taken the thing anywhere. No one else in the family had used it. We had not had any company over, and the kids had not had any friends over either. As hard as it was to think of it, we really thought the appraiser might have taken my Ipod.

Will emailed our friend that was helping with our loan to see if he thought this man might have done such a thing. He felt strongly that his appraiser friend was totally incapable of such an act of duplicity, but he also agreed to look into it further if he ever saw his friend with an Ipod. You see, Will had an inscription put on the back when he gave it to me. I was pleased that Will made this contact, but I also felt some hesitation about pursuing the issue any further. Even though there seemed to be no other explanation, we also had no proof. The principle of "innocent until proven guilty" was apparently ingrained rather strongly in me.


For the last few weeks, the subject has been raised on several occasions. Even the kids have brought it up. Will and I both spent time looking for the Ipod now and then. We took off all the couch cushions. We looked under all the furniture. We checked every shelf, drawer and top of every high piece of furniture. I even searched both cars top to bottom. Still no luck.

Today, we decided it was time to do some SERIOUS house cleaning. This actually had nothing to do with the missing Ipod at all. I think I was pretty much resigned to the idea that it was gone. The housework today happened because I told my family that we would not be getting out one single Christmas decoration until the mountains of clutter were gone. I was not about to add more stuff on top of the junk that was already all over. I know...Bah Humbug. Since everyone was excited by the propects of getting to put the tree up, they were all fairly enthusiastic about their chores. There were the typical distracted kid moments, but we got a ton done. They even earned ice cream at the end of the long day of hard work. I was thrilled!

During the cleaning marathon, Will took on the computer desk. Now, this is no typical desk. It wraps around the corner of the room, and has a huge file cabinet and book shelf attached. A ton of stuff had collected there. Most of his day was spent sorting out piles of papers and finding homes for all sorts of other sundry items. Just after dinner tonight, as I was sitting on the floor sorting out my huge piles of magazines that have been collecting, Will decided to check behind the desk. This no easy feat with such a large piece of furniture. We can't just pull it out from the wall, so Will crawled under the desktop with his trusty Mini-Maglite to see what he could find. He came across a paper or two, a baby toy, a coaster and much to his missing Ipod. Yippee!!! The kids were cheering, and I gave him a big hug and kiss and told him he's my hero.

So this brings us back to the appraiser. We were so tempted to go farther in our attempts to find out if he took my Ipod before. I am so glad we didn't. I am so grateful that our loan officer friend kept our suspicions to himself, and didn't allow our concerns to damage his relationship with his friend. This whole thing could have turned out bad in so many ways. So mostly, I'm just happy it didn't.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Another Request

It seems there are lots of reasons to pray lately. Not that we need a special reason. 8^) I got an email from a blog friend today. It seems another blogger she knows recently welcomed new twin sons to her family. Unfortunately, they are very premature and are struggling mightily. They sent out an urgent request for prayer, and asked that anyone who is able join them in their petition for healing for their sons.

Please keep
the Bolline family in your prayers; especially little Adam and Andrew.

Quick Update

Grandma said Grandpa John took the news of the next 6 months on crutches pretty hard at first, but after some good pain medicine and a cup of ice cream, he found a much more positive outlook. He was already requesting his cell phone and Palm by the next day. It seems he didn't want to waste any of his waking hours. She held out on him for a while, but did finally give in. He has been able to get up and around a bit as long as he uses his trusty crutches. In fact, he finally got to take a shower on Thursday morning. It tired him out a bit, but definitely boosted his spirits. Much to the surprise of all of us, Grandpa was doing so well, the doctor let him go home from the hospital a whole day early! He is now at home where he can enjoy the comfort of his own bed, recliner, home cooked food, Dairy Queen and no nurses poking and prodding him in the middle of the night.

Here's wishing you a Speedy Recovery Grandpa John!!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


As many of you have probably already figured out, I am not very good about responding to comments. You can usually count on a response from a personal email, but I get a bit lazy when it comes to these other little tidbits. I promise I don't mean anything by it. I L-O-V-E to hear from all of you! I just can't seem to find the extra time in my day to respond to each and every person that leaves their calling card. It's probably because I talk way too much, and would feel the need to write a novella in response. Something tells me my family would not appreciate that. 8^)

That said, a couple days ago I was inspired. I received a comment on this post, the likes of which I have never known before. It wasn't mean or disrespectful, wasn't from an anonymous source and it wasn't spam. Most importantly, IT DID NOT OFFEND ME. It WAS long though, and it made me think (read what KHS said). In fact, it made me think so much that I couldn't gather my thoughts enough to answer it until today. After some more thought, I decided to post my response here on the blog. I wasn't sure at first, but since the comment is out there for everyone to read, the response might as well be too; just in case anybody else out there has a different method of handling this issue like Karen does. So, without further ado....


You have some pretty valuable things to add to this discussion too. There are so many variations in families, and they all have to be accounted for when we decide what works for our own individual family. Divorce, remarriage and siblings with different biological parents definitely throw the whole system into a frenzy. I know. That's how I grew up. My parents separated when I was 2. They were both married to new spouses by the time I was 4, and each pair had two new children together. I have a Mom and a Step-Dad (I have called him Papa, Dad & John at different points), a Dad and Step-Mom (I've always called her Diane), and four half siblings that are just my brothers and sisters as far as we are all concerned. I couldn't agree with you more about the parents' approach to all this confusion setting the tone for what's "normal" to the child. My parents always took all the extra family I had in stride, so I did too. It was a little hard explaining it to my friends sometimes though.

I am so sorry if my previous post implied that the solution that works for our family when referring to birth parents is the best thing for everyone. That is so far from what I meant. We were very lucky to get the name of Grace's mother when we went to Ethiopia to bring her home. It is not uncommon for abandoned babies in Ethiopia to have a similar lack of information from their pasts as what you described about your Chinese daughter. The photos we got were a gift beyond my wildest expectations. If it hadn't been for a thoughtful nurse at the hospital when Grace was born, and the commitment of a kind volunteer that took care of her for the first couple months of her life, we wouldn't know anything. As it is, that is the full extent of the information we have. I am not exactly sure what we would have chosen to do about how we refer to Grace's birth mom if we hadn't learned her name.

The terms Mom, Mama, Mommy, Mummy, etc. are all intended to denote a certain connection. There aren't many sweeter sounds in the world, than hearing your children say "mama" for the first time. It isn't said because you labored and delivered the child. They are expressing their love and connection to you as their most prized caregiver and nurturer. Birth mothers are mothers in the sense that they sacrificed their bodies, time and personal feelings for the betterment of their children. They could have aborted them, or placed them in an adoptive home and then ripped them back out because of their own selfish desires. Many (or I even dare to say most) birth mothers have long term issues finding peace with their decision to place their child for adoption, but we, as adoptive parents, are still given the gift of mothering these children in spite of that. Those are pretty big sacrifices. However, that doesn't obligate you to use any specific term of endearment for them that you prefer to save as a special expression between yourself and your child.

As for me, I have never been "Mommy" to any of my kids. All of them called me Mama when they were little, and graduated to Mom after that. In fact, it sounds a little strange to me to hear someone else refer to me as their "mommy". I imagine that played a big part in my willingness to give up this particular term to the women that played a pretty darn significant role in my ability to parent my children now. There were a few important things that we considered when trying to decide how to refer to our kids' first parents:

1. Is it a term that my children understand?
2. It is a term that shows respect/love for their 1st/birth/bio mother/father?
3. It is a term that both my husband and I are comfortable using?

As I wrote # 3 just now, I felt a tiny check in my spirit. I wasn't always comfortable with calling another person my son's Mommy. She most definitely was, but there was a part of me that seemed to dream of wishing all of that away so he could just be mine. That was my issue though; not his. I wouldn't have been fair for me to make it his issue either. He felt love in his heart for his first mother, and we all needed to honor that. I am happy to be able to report that those reservations have long since faded from the picture for me. I just needed time to make my own memories and past with him, so I didn't feel like I needed to covet her's.

So to wrap up my rather long winded response, I will leave you with this. Don't call your son's birth mother "Mommy _____" if it makes you feel uncomfortable. As long as it conveys respect, any term that you use consistently will likely be fine with him. Kids, especially young ones, tend to follow their parents' lead. If you force yourself to say something that you feel uncomfortable with, your attitude is likely to show through to your children, so don't do it. If they indicate that they need something different in the future, try to be open to it. These are their identities/memories/feelings after all. As far as your children having different backgrounds, I suggest honesty and a whole lot of compassion. To quote my husband, in our family we have children that are, "Yours, Mine, Our's and Someone Else's". There is no way that I can make any of them have the same past. It is just plain impossible. It probably will be hard for your daughter when she gets older and really wraps her mind around the idea that her brother has photos and information about his first Mom, and she has nothing. This might sound harsh, but life isn't fair. She will have to make peace within herself for this injustice she has been dealt by life, and she will likely need lots of love from you to help her do it. In the mean time, since you don't have a name, perhaps the word for mother in Chinese would be a way to refer to this special lady. Another option would be to ask your daughter what she would like to call her when she is old enough to talk. Things that start early in life have a tendency to stick around when they become part of the fabric of our family conversation. Your daughter might even forget that she "named" her birth mom as she gets older. It would be a sweet memory for you to share with her later. Of course, sticking with "Birth Mom" works too. I'm not sure what the best answer is, but anything done out of love, and concern for the well being of your children and family, sounds great to me.

Best of luck,

PS See...I told you all I might write a novella!!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Hip Replacement

About 13 or 14 years ago, my Step-Dad (better known as Grandpa John at our house) had hip replacement surgery. He was only in his mid-40's. Unfortunately, he was the beneficiary of the same degenerative joint condition that his Dad had. Ever the determined one, he had his surgery in April, and was skiing again by Christmas. Even the doctors were impressed.


Last year, when my family came out to stay with us for Christmas, we saw the first signs that there might be trouble brewing. Grandpa John had been up in the loft playing with the grandkids. As he was coming down the stairs, a pained expression washed over his face. He sucked in his breath, and limped over to the dining room chair to sit down. After a few minutes, he stretched a bit, and everything seemed to be fine. Almost fine anyway. The smallest of limps was still evident for the next few hours.


Over the last year, he had more and more moments like the one last Christmas. For a while, he just focused on other things. He is an avid scuba diver and instructor, and loves to swim and ski. After a while though, the pain was rearing its' ugly head too often to ignore. He finally went in to see his trusted orthopedic surgeon. The doctor confirmed what we all feared. The artificial hip joint was deteriorating, and would need to be replaced again. This might seem extreme to most people, but here's the thing; artificial joints are only designed to last about 15 years, That is for someone that does an "average" amount of activity. Grandpa John is a pretty active guy. With that in mind, the timing is just about right.


So, my parents have been preparing for the impending surgery ever since. First, they scheduled it. Seems logical, right? Unfortunately, their insurance company decided to get into a bit of a squabble with some of the local hospitals, so that date was no longer valid. They would have to move the whole thing to a different facility, and a different date. Then, everybody made nice. The surgery was back on at the original hospital, but on a third date. Give me a break! Grandpa John has been working feverishly to have the house ready and all of his work caught up, before he knew he would be down for a while. My Mom got her Christmas shopping done early (a rare event), and has been tying up loose ends to make sure that she would have no need to leave once he needed her to take care of him at home. They had to cancel their plans to come out to see us for Christmas, as it will be too soon after surgery for Grandpa to be feeling up to travel. We're a little sad, but grateful that he will be getting his hip fixed so he won't be in pain anymore.

hospital bed

Now that you're caught up on the story, here's the big part. TODAY WAS THE DAY. My Mom and sister took Grandpa John into the hospital early this morning for his operation. Overall, things went well. He made it through the surgery, and is expected to make a full recovery. However, there was a hitch. Part of the first artificial hip joint had begun to deteriorate the bone behind it. The surgeon said it looked a bit like Swiss cheese. This was not expected. In order for the new joint to be placed, they had to fill in the damaged bone with some sort of putty. Now I don't know all that much about this sort of thing, but that does not sound good to me! Apparently, the doctor agreed. He has ordered Grandpa not to bear weight on that leg for. the. next. six. months. That is how long he expects it to take for everything to heal and fuse together. Yikes!!!

crutches silhouette

I'm pretty sure Grandpa had already resigned himself to missing out on ski season this year (not easy when you live at the base of the Colorado Rockies), but he definitely did not plan to spend the next six months of his life on crutches. After the first surgery, he was able to bear weight on his leg right away. While we are all extremely grateful that the surgery was successful, this part is a pretty major bummer! In the grand scheme of things, it is a small price to pay for pain free mobility for the rest of his life, but that doesn't make this time any easier. My Mom is trying to be very strong and positive, but there is no doubt that the burdens of the next six months will be mostly on her shoulders. So, dear readers, I need to ask for a favor. Please keep Grandpa John and Grandma Carroll in your prayers. I will do my best to include an update here from time to time, so you will know the specific things that could use lifting up. Ok?

Praying Hands


Monday, December 04, 2006

It's a Mystery (Updated)

Over the past few months, I have had the good fortune to make a few friends out in the great, big blogosphere. Our ages, vocations and locations vary widely, but one thing is a constant. We are all parents (or waiting to be parents), and our families are the center of our lives. One of my sweet internet friends, ever mindful of my tender, sensitive Mommy feelings, sent me this email (privately, of course).....

OK - where are Grace's teeth? I'm sure there's a good reason I'm not seeing any - I'm just curious. Not that it matters - she's about the cutest thing walking.

So, with no hesitation, I shot this one back.....

I don't know. The truth is, none have come in yet, and there doesn't seem to be any sign of any coming in the immediate future. I asked the pediatrician about it at her 12 month check-up. He assured me that it is not all that uncommon for some children to get teeth later than others. He said he treated a family that included several children that didn't get their first tooth until they were about 18 months. Since we don't know her genetic history, and she has been growing like gang busters since she got home, he didn't want to jump to any hasty conclusions about the lack of teeth. After seeing my obvious concern, he did concede to ordering x-rays if we still didn't see anything by 15 months. That date came this past week. I guess it's time for me to call the good doctor. Ugh! I can't imagine what we are going to have to deal with when they try to take dental x-rays from a 15 month old child. Prayers would be good.

PS She is awfully cute, huh?!!

Leave it to a friend (even one that I have never met face to face, that lives a couple thousand miles away) to remind me to get off my lazy buns, and take care of business. Especially the kind of thing that, as a Mom, I kinda don't want to know the answer to. Just in case it's not what I want it to be. Of course, that would be rather pessimistic of me, wouldn't it? God sure does know when we need a little shove, doesn't He?

Thanks, Perri, for sending that email. 8^)


Update: Grace is scheduled to see the pediatrician next Tuesday, but I doubt the x-rays will be taken that day. Unless he can see something that none of the rest of us can, I don't imagine he will have too much to say until we have x-rays to look at. I'll be sure to keep you all posted.

Thanks to those that took the time to comment or send me a private email. It is always a comfort to know there are other parents out there to lend their knowledge and support. 8^)

Cold Weather

Last week, we FINALLY had a few cold days. Well, cold by Southern California standards anyway. The high temperatures were only in the mid-50's, and the lows actually got below freezing for two nights in a row. They have something called "Frost Warnings" where we live. The weather man on the news reminded us to take care of our 3 P's; People, Pets & Plants. That's right, here in So Cal, people go outside and wrap their plants in burlap and take other precautionary measures to try to save their precious foliage. What? My fellow Californians will have to forgive me for a moment as I sit here laughing my head off.

I was born just outside Chicago, and spent the majority of my childhood living in Colorado. Winter was all about cold and snow. Much of Fall and Spring could be counted on for it too. We didn't just tolerate these conditions, we coveted them. We belonged to a ski club so we could spend large portions of every weekend playing in the winter wonderland that we called home. When school was called off due to weather, you could bet our entire family would be found outside shoveling off our walk, and helping our neighbors when we could. I would have never admitted it as a kid, but some serious family bonding happened over those snow shovels.

I must admit that I miss that wintry weather from time to time. I don't miss having to bundle and un-bundle five kids every time I need to head out somewhere. I don't miss having to scrape ice off my windshield and trying to navigate the icy roads. I don't even miss shoveling snow. I do miss waking up to a peaceful word, blanketed in white. I do miss being the first one to make tracks in the freshly fallen snow. I do miss the satisfying sensation of the warmth seeping back into my body after playing outside in the snow for hours. Mostly, I miss my friends and family that live far away in those colder climates.

We have a very nice existence here in our cozy corner of the country. It is "pool" weather more often than not. We can grow just about anything, and sometimes even get two harvests before the growing season passes. Sun, and a little rain, rarely make the roads very slick. Most of the time, a jacket isn't even necessary, but when it is, a light one will do. We are nestled comfortably between the mountains, ocean and desert. Drive a hour in any direction, and you have reached your desired terrain. We may not bond over snow shoveling, but a good round of group pool cleaning from time to time does the trick.

As much as we enjoy our cozy abode, a little variation is nice now and then. One dissatisfied local resident gave a very accurate quote to one of the local news channels last week. "We had Summer, Thanksgiving, then Winter." She was absolutely right. We had a scorcher of a Summer this year, and we were still getting high temperatures in the 90's throughout November. I, for one, was ready for a change. I reveled in the opportunity to wear my warm, cozy clothes last week. Even the kids seemed to enjoy the need for a jacket in the morning before school. Grace had a ton of "winter" clothes, just waiting in the drawer for some cooler weather. You can bet I took the opportunity to see her, in all her cuteness, in her new clothes. I even found a minute to snap a couple pictures.

G-Mencer Outfit


For what it's worth, our cold spell has passed. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon at the park yesterday (without jackets), and clear skies and temps in the mid-70's are predicted for the rest of the week. Welcome to Southern California!!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Birthmom...To say it or not to say it?

Nowadays, most adoptive parents eventually find their way to some sort of online forum for whatever specific area of adoption they are participating in. These can be hugely valuable resources, as many questions and concerns can be answered and alleviated in short order. There is always lots of talk about the specifics for the "paper chase", the details of traveling or escorting to bring new children home, and sharing news of the latest steps in each family's process. My favorite part though, is the discussion about how to actually parent our new children when they get home. Obviously, this includes as many different points of view as there are families participating in the group. It is VERY important to remember the "shopping cart" technique when reading these posts. Take what you need and works for your family, and leave the rest behind.

Today, the topic of proper terminology when referring to "first families" came up. Is it best to use the terms "birthmom" and "birthdad"? Would it be better to say "first Mom" and "first Dad"? Quite often I find myself doing a lot of lurking on these forums, with very little chiming in. However, today I couldn't resist. So, for what it's worth, here's my take on the "Birthmom Controversy"....

My family comes at this issue with a slightly different perspective, but I think we have something valuable to add to this discussion. My husband and I were both widowed before we met (about 6 weeks apart). We both had children with our late spouses, and therefore had to figure out how to handle many of the same things that come up in adoption in our newly blended family. It would have sounded terribly strange to refer to their first Mom and Dad as "birthmom" or "birthdad" when talking with our children. They had been raised for the first few years of their lives by these parents, and they needed continuity in the way we referred to them. Since the children had begun to call their new (step) parents Mom and Dad, we also needed to figure out a way to cut down on the confusion in our conversations when speaking about two different Moms and Dads. We ended up adopting the terms "Mommy Karen" and "Daddy Jeff". This made it clear which Mom or Dad we were all referring too, and kept their first parents in that special place that the children needed them to be in.

It is 6 years later now, the children are all quite a bit older, and these terms have definitely stuck. It is very common for us to discuss Mommy Karen and Daddy Jeff. Even our son that was born to my husband and I in our new marriage, refers to them this way. Now that we have adopted our youngest daughter from Ethiopia, we intend to continue this tradition. As she gets older (she is only 15 months right now), I expect that "Mommy Etenesh" will become a regular part of our families discourse. It is so important to us to make sure that all of our children, regardless of the circumstances of their loss, know that we hold their first parents in extremely high regard. None of them would be able to be the cherished part of our family that they are, if it weren't for these three great people.

On the other hand, there are times that my husband and I are faced with the need to discuss "first parents" with people other than our children. Using our family names for them would be just a tad confusing, and I dare to say, weird. How can we possibly expect strangers or casual acquaintances to know what we mean when we say Daddy Jeff or Mommy Karen or Etenesh? This is where the terms "birthmom" and "birthdad" enter the picture. Neither one of us have ever used these terms meaning any disrespect. It is simply a way to differentiate and explain our situation to those that don't have intimate knowledge of our family's special terminology. We are always sensitive to our children's feelings when we talk about these things, as you never know when they might be overhearing every word.

Updated to add: This is something I didn't think to include in my previous post, but was reminded about it by another parent on our local adoption list. We also keep pictures of our kids' first parents up at our house. Each child has a photo of themselves, with their parent, in a special frame that they got to pick out themselves at the store. They all keep them in places of honor in their rooms. This really helps when the time comes that memories start to fade a bit. All of our children have come to the place where they couldn't quite get a picture in their head of what their birthparent looked like anymore. The photos immediately eliminated the problem, and seem to be a source of comfort and reassurance on a regular basis.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ethiopia...Older Children...Don't Be Afraid

A few days ago, I received this message on one of the adoption Yahoo groups that I am on....

Okay, I can't wait any longer! We are very pleased to announce that we have chosen to adopt a sibling group of three from Ethiopia. We are excited, anxious, and yes, even crazy! We hope to have Bisrat (12, m), Yeabsira (10, f) and Mihiret (6,f) home sometime this spring or early summer.
We'll sign the placement papers as soon as we get them. The staff at AAI are preparing our dossier to be sent to Ethiopia, and we are waiting for our "official" homestudy copy to arrive so that we can send in our I-600A. While we wait for the "powers that be" to review and approve our paperwork, we'll be getting rooms organized and prepared for becoming a family of seven!

I was so excited to read this news. This sibling group included one of the kids that Will and I had TOTALLY fallen in love with when we went to Ethiopia to bring Grace home. I quickly responded...

Is this Bisrat that used to be at Sele Enat, then moved to Layla in April or May this year? If so, we met him, and possibly his siblings when we went to pick up our daughter at the beginning of April. I have many photos, pictures drawn by the children, and a fun story to share. Please let me know. We have been praying for him since our trip. He is a WONDERFUL boy!!

I was so excited to receive this response...

Yes! My understanding is that they were at Sele Enat for two years before coming to Layla in April. Bisrat must be a great kid... I've heard so many wonderful things about him. I would love to hear your story.

I could no longer contain myself. This is what came pouring out...

Oh Bisrat! What a gem!! He was the star of Sele Enat. When my husband and I traveled to Addis this past April, one of the destinations we hoped to visit was Sele Enat. It was the 1st orphanage that our baby girl lived in, so we wanted to take pictures and meet the people that had cared for her. We connected with an AAI volunteer named CJ. She was from Denver, Colorado. She was a woman that had a plan. She knew what she was going to do, and when she was going to do it. She had trouble with the concept of "Ethiopian Time". The day we met her, we were running late. She was feeling impatient, as the delay would cause us to have less time to spend with the children. She was prepared to teach the children a lesson, and had all the supplies with her to accomplish the task. She only went there once a week, so time was of the essence.

When we arrived at Sele Enat, I could hardly believe we were at an orphanage. We passed many homes (if you could call them that), and hadn't seen a shop or business in quite some time. Even though Layla doesn't seem to be in the BEST neighborhood, this was so much different. There was nothing but squalor all around. Could people really live like this? Could there really be an orphanage here? Was my daughter (and all these other children) so bad off, that this was a better solution? Wow! When we entered the orphanage property, things improved a bit. There was some play equipment. There were happy kids. Who would have guessed?

Sele Enat is run by Hanna Berhanu. She is an amazing lady! She was dressed nicely, and always had her headset on, connected to her cell phone. This was a woman that is dedicated to the children she cares for, 24 hours a day. Even though our daughter had not been in her orphanage for over 4 months, she recognized her right away. She actually called her by name. My heart started to break that very moment. I guess I didn't expect to find people that actually cared. How ignorant of me! Hanna showed us Grace's first crib. She even posed for photographs. What a wonderful lady!

When we all got back to the main building, and the rest of the children. We got our assignments from CJ. Will (my husband) was to read a book to the children. Even though he is a teacher, he was feeling a bit intimidated at the thought of reading an English book to children that spoke Amharic. He need not have worried. The children were like sponges. They enjoyed the story, and loved drawing pictures about it too. Some were very young, and drew simple pictures. Some were a bit more mature, and had very well thought out ideas. All of the pictures were beautiful to us!

Next, we headed outside to have snack. Since the story was about growing watermelon, the snack was watermelon. Bisrat, being the oldest, immediately took charge. He cut the watermelon, handed out the appropriate portions, and guided the children when they needed to take care of the rinds and paper towels they had used to clean themselves up. What a blessing he was. When everyone was cleaned up from there sticky snack, it was time to hand out the drawings to the appropriate children. We carefully looked over each drawing to see if there was a name or some other identifying mark. We managed to match all the drawings to the right children. We followed by taking their photo with their drawing. So sweet!

After everyone had their photo taken, a beautiful thing took place. Bisrat brought his drawing to my husband, said "Thank you", and gave him the paper. He encouraged each child to do the same. We weren't sure what to do at the time, but quickly realized this was exactly what these children needed to do. Their very life was being provided for by the charity of others, and they felt the need to give back. We have every one of those drawings to this day. What a treasure!!

When we arrived home, we had the opportunity to discuss our trip. We went to Ethiopia to bring home our daughter, but there were a couple other children that we would have happily brought home. Bisrat was one of them. We did not know at the time that he had siblings. Honestly, it never occurred to us to ask. I am SOOOO grateful that God had a plan for Bisrat and his siblings. We fell in love with him, but that was as intercessors. I have prayed for him daily since April. Oh the joy when I found out that he, and his siblings, had a family this past week. I am absolutely thrilled. Praise God!!!

Please keep this family in your prayers. Even though I have never met most of them, they are precious to me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Counting My Blessings

As I cruised the web today, I have came across lots of reminders of the upcoming holidays. I'm not quite ready to face the fact that Christmas is only a month away, but Thanksgiving is tomorrow, whether I'm ready or not. So that got me to thinking. What am I thankful for? This has been a year of extreme blessing (Grace came home from Ethiopia) and some pretty tough times too (finances, stuff with some of the kids). So, what is it that I appreciate beyond the extremes? It took a little time to come up with this, but here it is...

1. We all woke up today.
2. We're all healthy.
3. We have food to eat and clean water to drink.
4. We have a much nicer, and larger house than we really need.
5. My children get an education at good schools.
6. We have access to pretty much any healthcare we need, at very little cost to us.
7. I can turn on my a/c or heat if the temperature is uncomfortable to me.
8. I can go through the drive thru at McDonald's if I have a busy day, or just don't feel like cooking.
9. My family and I all have plenty of clothes to wear.
10. I have a washer and dryer, right in my house, to keep all those clothes clean.
11. I was able to carve enough time out of the last couple days to get All. The. Laundry. DONE.
12. I will have the opportunity to sit down with family tomorrow to enjoy a wonderful meal (most of which will not be prepared by me).
13. Barring any emergencies, I won't be doing laundry tomorrow...YIPPEE!!!!!

Empty laundry hampers...a rare sight with a family of 7

She's 12

My oldest daughter turned 12 this past week. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it. Have I really been a Mom for THAT long?! I remember the day she was born very clearly. I was so excited to be a Mom, but now I know, I was hardly more than a child myself. Kayla has not always been the easiest kid to parent. As a baby, she required every ounce of my attention. She was a happy kid, as long as she was the center of my universe. A lot of chores were left undone, but I learned to relish the experience of being her Mom. Even now, her will is strong, but that will serve her well. It just means I have to seek out lots of guidance and wisdom as she reaches each new stage. She is growing into a beautiful, bright young lady. She is excelling in school, and her maturity and compassion for others increase everyday. I can defintely say that I am proud to be her Mom.

Happy 12th Birthday Kayla!

Deep Conditioning

Grace's hair has really started to grow a lot lately. She has the cutest little curls. Unfortunately, this has not been a universal phenomenon. The front/top is shorter than the back and sides, and there is this funny strip around the back that has little more than peach fuzz on it. What the heck?! Well, in the interest of keeping the hair she's got looking the best it can, I decided to use a deep conditioner today.It left her hair feeling super soft, and the curls were nice and easy to comb through. I'm not sure I found the final solution by any means, but it took care of business today. Grace really enjoyed her bath in the kitchen sink too. 8^) She usually bathes in her baby bathtub in the master bathroom. She was totally fascinated by the big faucet, the bottle brush and even the dirty dishes on the other side of the sink (oops). I was worried that she might be bothered by the sprayer, or that she might get soap in her eyes since this wasn't "baby" conditioner. In the end, it all turned out just fine. The price we girls pay for beauty!!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Too Much Fun!!

This is one of Grace's FAVORITE toys!

She loves to bring it up to one of her "big people" to have them push the right buttons. Unlike many toys that play music or make noise, it is fairly kind to the ears. It even has a switch inside the padding that can be switched to "off"; just in case the need to feign dead batteries arises so a little peace and quiet can be achieved. 8^) This toy counts, sings little diddys about colors, and even teaches about classical composers. That's right folks...Mozart, Chopin, Bach, etc. No dumbing down the babies (and their parents), with this toy. Grace's favorite setting is the "Musical Medley". It plays a sampling of all the different composers one right after another, without having to push any more buttons. It makes her feel like dancing every time. If I time it just right, that can buy me enough time for a quick trip to the potty without company. I like this toy too!!

TheLeapfrog Baby Counting Pal can be attached to the crib rail, the front of the stoller, or just played with on the floor. Although, the best use that we have found so far is lullaby singer....

Perhaps, The Most Patient Dog Ever...

What should a baby do after she locks the dog in the kennel, then splashes all the water out of the water bowl?

Share her water, of course!!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Groundbreaking for King Memorial

I came across this article this morning as I was catching up on the daily news. There was plenty of the usual gloom and doom, but this article made me smile. It's about time!!

MLK-I Have a Dream

WASHINGTON (Nov. 13) - President Bush, appearing at a groundbreaking ceremony Monday for a memorial honoring slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said the National Mall monument will "preserve his legacy for ages."

Under overcast skies, Bush joined former President Clinton and a host of civil rights figures and members of Congress to celebrate the monument to be built not far from where King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech in August of 1963.

"When Martin Luther King came to Washington in December of 1963," Bush said, "he came to hold this nation to its own standards. ... He stood not far from here ... with thousands gathered around him. His dream spread a message of hope."

"An assassin's bullet could not shatter his dream," Bush said. "As we break ground, we give Martin Luther King his rightful place among the many Americans honored on the National Mall. It will unite the men who declared the promise of America and defended the promise of America with the man who redeemed the promise of America."

The memorial, to be built roughly a half-mile from the Lincoln Memorial, where King gave his historic speech, will be the first to honor an African American on the Mall.

Among those present for the ceremony were poet and novelist Maya Angelou, television personality Oprah Winfrey and the Rev. Jesse Jackson and several members of Congress.

Donations for the memorial, which have mostly come from major corporations, hit $65.5 million earlier this month.

Harry Johnson, president of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, said he hopes to have the site completed by the spring of 2008.

The location is flanked by the Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Franklin D. Roosevelt memorials near the eastern edge of the Potomac River Tidal Basin. From a distance, visitors can see the stairs where King delivered his most famous speech during the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963.

The entrance to the memorial will include a central sculpture called "The Mountain of Despair." Its towering split rocks signify the divided America that inspired the nonviolent efforts of King and others to overcome racial and social barriers.

"This project has been over a decade in the making," Bush said, thanking Clinton, who signed the legislation authorizing the monument.

11/13/2006 11:28:34 EST

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Park

Grace was feeling a tad under the weather this morning (she vomited twice in the previous 18 hours, and had a seriously runny nose), so we decided that church was not an option. The trouble was, everyone was up and ready for the day, and Justin's favorite part about church is the chance to play on the playground. He was heart broken at the thought of missing out on that. Will came up with a great solution to the problem. We went to the park. It was pretty much empty, so Grace wouldn't have the opportunity to share her germs. And...Justin, and all the other kids, had the opportunity to work off some extra energy. All in all, it was a pretty great morning!!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

My Hero

In honor of Veterans' Day....

Viet Nam

KLIK - Lai Khe, RVN - 1967-68

Thank you, Daddy!!! I love you!!!!!!!!