Friday, January 9, 2015

I Remember Her Candor

I had a flashback after getting some news the other day. I thought about my mom.

I'm at a very sensitive time of my life remembering my mom. My girlios are in and around the age when she was sick and when she died. I marvel at the situation from the other side, as the mother, a healthy mother, with daughters. I have long forgiven my mind for having only a few memories. It was a hard time, and I was young. I had guilt for some time as I developed emotionally and cast my maturer emotions on old memories expecting more of myself at a young age. Watching my girlios at this age and seeing their priorities next to mine, I release myself all the more and let my childhood be a childhood. Feelings are more memorable than details.

I don't remember a lot about my mom. I remember her hands and the smell of Oil of Olay. I remember her and I fighting. I was a feisty child. I come from stubborn stock, and I have passed it on. I remember her making clothes for us on her Singer sewing machine. Her craft room was full of projects. She crocheted dolls and doll clothes. I remember her telling me that she learned to knit using spokes from a bike, I remember her undoing a sweater she made to make another one. It hangs in my closet. She sewed, crocheted, knitted, and drew. She walked me to school across the street the long way around the corner. On Valentine's Day she made me a Valentine's pillow and left it on my bed so I would wake up to it. I didn't notice it until she pointed it out.

I remember her being sick and bedridden. I remember the wigs that she wore out and her bald head after chemo. She looked good in a bandanna. I remember her last day at our house. My memories are few and scattered.

The memory that came back the other day was a conversation that she had with me and my brother. The conversation. She sat with us in our sun room to tell us that she only had a short time to live. She was honest about her condition, her illness and her prognosis. By that time she had been battling cancer for a long time. I absorbed it as much as my young mind could. She was very candid.

I count that conversation as part of her legacy. I admire her strength. Remembering it brings me to tears. As a mom now, I cherish that memory even more. That had to be heartbreaking conversation for her, especially to children who could not full understand. Being honest and straightforward with my children is something I strive to do. Sometimes it's hard. I hope to not have the conversation with my children my mom had anytime soon, but I do hope they appreciate the honest conversations we do have. I did. I do.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Recap of 2014 and Ready for 2015

Let's take a look at last year. After finishing the Naperville Marathon in November 2013, my right foot started hurting on runs. It got to the point where I actually went to the doctor in January, where my car also died on a major road on the way home, and it was -20 degrees out. Sweet. The doctor gave me the okay to run the Frozen Gnome 10k but I chose a DNS (Did Not Start) as my foot HURT. The doctor sent me to the podiatrist who made me snazzy orthotics, told me my calves were too tight and sent me to the physical therapist. I went through PT for months starting with picking up marbles with my toes which KILLED. I had neglected so many of my small muscles and tendons, and they were upset about it.

2 out of 3 DNS shirts. I think I may have thrown the other one out. Sad.
Meanwhile, we were matched with a beautiful boy from China who was younger than the ages included in our home study. So we filed an amendment on our home study to include his age and waited for the state to get its paperwork back. And we waited. And we waited. And I fretted. And we waited. China got our stuff together, and we still waited for the paperwork from the state.

My poor PT, who was fabulous, heard all about it, but he didn't hear about when the paperwork came. He said running the Wisconsin Half Marathon was not a good idea. Another DNS. I would show you a picture of that shirt, but I can't even find it. I did find the $20 deferment from last year. I'm already signed up for this year. He said I could do a Fall half marathon if I was very very careful in my training. I was doing ankle, core and hip exercises regularly. Basically, he said the whole body needed to be strengthened. My calves were tight and doing all the work.

Love that they do this if you can't run. Love it.
I did do the Esprit De She Naperville Triathlon again as an ambassador. I love that race. It's a full body exercise, and EDS puts on a great all women event. As slow of a runner as I am, I feel great running and actually passing people in the run. Nobody sees me crying in the swim. I'm an ambassador again this year on June 14. If you sign up too use code EDS033 to use me as a reference.

I also ran the Antioch Run for Freedom 5k. My parents and family friends run it too. My dad didn't medal this year because there were 4 men in the over 70 category and he was the 4th.

In other areas, I taught some lovely hard working students this year. I finished my first class in my MSM program, and my head spun. I love math, and I find it so interesting, but I can also feel inadequate. Getting over myself is a full time job.

No running medals this year, but cute shirts. 
In July, I said goodbye to my Seamus dog. Great sadness. In August, our paperwork got speed routed, and we had 13 days to get our act together to travel. THIRTEEN DAYS. I freaked out like it was my job. I ran 8 miles with Bobbi as my longest run of the year before heading out to China. To read more about our adoption read the current 5 part series here. God was so good to us. He is still good to us.

My Seamus dog
After coming home I decided to take another DNS for the Prairie State Half Marathon. Do you see a trend here? DNSs are sad. Don't get me wrong. I am glad I can still run, and that I am being body wise, but I still grieve the DNS. This year I stopped recording my miles on Dailymile. I even forgot my password. A hard fitness year. Let's call it a rebuilding year, because it was.

In an effort to keep my sanity, my fitness and my run, I joined my local Jazzercise. I love it, and my whole body loves it too. I'm stronger, and I know my weaknesses. And it's fun. My elder girlios come too - voluntarily. After a few weeks of Jazzercise, I ran the Kenosha Mayor Turkey Day 10k. I didn't come in last, and my foot didn't hurt. I win. As it has gotten colder, it has been fun to workout inside. I have to tell you that the people in class are inspirational. All different shapes, sizes, and levels of fitness doing something positive for their health. That's so good. The instructors are fabulous too.

Melanie teaches, encourages and makes Jazzercise look easy.
My sweaty self says, "It's not."
So there. What do I expect from this year? I resolve to thrive. That's my word for the year. I've seen it in my son. I want to see it in me. I may not run a marathon this year, but I want to feel strong. To make choices and create habits that encourage development. I'd rather not break anything again. I want to be strong mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. To grow vigorously and flourish. To THRIVE.

Thriving, like this guy.
See what I did there. I didn't make any measurable yearlong goals. Nope. Little goals. Little successes. A year full of wins.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

There Were Blues [Adoption Series Pt 5]

I love shopping at Goodwill, and I enjoy trolling the book section. As we were in the process, I repeatedly saw the book "Post Adoption Blues" on the shelf. I saw it over a period of months before it was finally bought. I never picked it up; I ignored it. From our adoption training and the presence of a whole book about it, I knew the blues was a definite possibility.

I feel stress all around my body but it is most often manifested in my face, particularly my chin. Depression I feel in my arms. I learned that many many years ago when breaking off an engagement. At that time I felt so manipulated and that I lost so much: trust, friends, and some self-respect. My arms ached for about a month.

Coming home with our son was such an adjustment. My in-laws were with us for a week, and shortly after they left my husband went back to work to a packed week. Settling in to a schedule was tumultuous. Let me be very clear, our son is adjusting really really well, almost picture perfect, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been difficult.

Toddler says, "Everything is mine and I will put it wherever I want."
I can say having my son has been harder than having my bio girlios. That seems reasonable. There are language and culture barriers. Time zones, nap times, feedings and diapers again. Instead of a tiny baby that sleeps most of the day, I have a rapidly developing heavy toddler. But there were things I didn't think of and things that were more taxing than I expected. Adopting a child is like birthing a baby, but it is definitely different. I was surprised and hurt that our workplaces didn't acknowledge our adoption like a birth. I apologize to all the adoptive parents I know that I didn't come alongside, and I thank all the ones that have encouraged me through this first few months because they know. So many said, "Stay strong; this is the hardest part." when we got back, and it was so encouraging. I am so thankful for Cara for setting up a meal plan and for all the families that brought us meals. We never had that with the girlios, but I can not adequately convey my gratitude. I...was...overwhelmed. I am thankful for Jennifer for clothing my son across the world and back, and for Kelly and Nadege for clothing him for the next year. We had so many offers of help. Even with all the support, it was hard.

One of the things that I didn't expect to be so hard was the 24/7 attachment process. I mentally knew it, but I didn't physically know it. Unlike my bio girlios where I felt I could get a sitter, and the girlios would still know that I am their mom, weeks and months of attaching could get exhausting, especially when meals and bedtime were stressful too. Before my son came home, we were out of the strollers, diapers, and naps phase. I enjoyed more 'free' time than I knew. Keeping up with the house post adoption was just not happening. My son got my attention. My girlios had to adjust to him and getting less attention. There were times that I felt more exhausted than I should, and my arms ached. It was another adoptive mom who brought up the blues, and it resonated with me.

I read a few books on our trip to China. One of the books that I read most of, and it really resonated with me was "The Happiness Project." I'd like to finish it, but we'll see when that happens. I love that she makes tangible goals in the book. I wrote myself a list of things I want to do long term and short term. I set some goals. It gave me perspective. Exercise, particularly running, has been an important part of my physical, emotional and mental health. I was finally at a point post physical therapy that I could run again and now when I needed it I was too tired to go out. My arms ached. My super supportive husband gets it. I love him for it. I joined a group class and have run a few times. I gave up on the house, reminding myself of toddler life long ago, and gave myself some grace.

I'm getting better. We are getting better. We are a family. There are still bumps in the road, and some of them smart. We feel like a family. I still have to remind them that I am the mom, but I've done that everyday I've been a mom. They are my favorite people.


Favorite Peeps!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Poinsettia is Acid/Base Wise

Yesterday, I didn't post the winner of the reflective headband. After the holiday long weekend, I had laundry up to my eyeballs. I used a random number generator to pick the winner. Congratulations Barb (and her friend Chris) on your headbands. I picked up yarn today, and I have some online training to do for work so those headbands will be done pronto.

So, I got this poinsettia from a raffle at Jazzercise class (Yes, Jazzercise. It's fun, and that's another post). As a science teacher I was so excited. You see, poinsettias are acid/base indicators. It is not as dramatic as red cabbage, but it still indicates, and it smells better.


Here's what I did, and you can to. Gather all the things you want to test (clear solutions are better as color affects color), a poinsettia, a French press (or something to make your 'tea' in), containers to test in (we used glasses), hot water, and eager helpers.


Have your super helpers take the red leaves off and put them in the French press. It does take a lot of leaves. It actually helps to rip the leaves or cut them up. On a side note you can use the green leaves too but the solution goes from green to clear rather than green to red. It's a fun secondary test if you have the time and the ingredients.

Steep the leaves. The 'tea' should be a red-brown color.


Remove the leaves. The longer it steeps the better. The more concentrated the 'tea' the better the color.

Set up your testing materials. Add water to powders like baking soda, salt, baking powder, and borax. We diluted all the containers so the color was not as striking but it was detectable.



Give the little information on acid and bases. Ask questions on which ones do you think are acids and which one do you think are bases. Why?


What is up with this picture? The milk has a hue.
Remember that the orange juice affect the color. It is pink at initial mixing.

I take fabulous pictures; I know it. You'll have to trust me on the colors. Anyway, the acid solutions are pink. The basic solutions are green, and the neutral solutions are brownish. We didn't put them in order from acidic to basic yesterday, but we have done it before. We did mix it all together to see what colors they would make. I, being the geeky teacher, did ask if the new solution was more acidic or basic. Our big bucket in the end was slightly acidic.

Give it a try if you have a chance. It's an easy experiment, fairly clean and definitely seasonal.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Our Hotels, The Families, My Village [Adoption Series Pt 4]

We stayed in three different hotels in China. In Beijing we only stayed in our hotel for two nights, and since we stayed there for so little time I don't think I even have a picture. What was significant was meeting the other families from our agency. My friend Laury, who introduced us to CHI, commented before we left that it is not uncommon for families to get close during their time together. Here is what was so neat for us. There were four families together from our agency. The families split in pairs to two different regions to meet our children and then came back together in Guangzhou. In Xi'an we met two other families who shared our Xi'an experience and the same hotel. One family walked through the whole time with us.

Neat is not a strong enough word. It was all such a blessing. I met some amazing people. AMAZING families. Beautiful families. I often send off my students with the phrase "Be amazing." because there is a choice to be made to go beyond ordinary. I met and saw so many people being amazing. People adopting their second or third child from China, giving kids with an array of special needs a forever home.

Our Xi'an hotel room

The opposite view and me on the bed jet-laggin'
Our hotel in Xi'an was very fancy looking. However, it sometimes had a smell of sewage and/or backed up plumbing. Bummer. On the plus side, we were put on the same floor as two families, one from our agency and one from another. This was great because we could have play dates in the hallway. I cherished those times. It gave us the opportunity to share our experiences. For me, I needed to hear other's joys, struggles and progress. I also enjoyed just laughing. Amy brought her whole family to adopt a second child from Xi'an. Her family is a hoot. And just precious. I have occasionally called my son, Chicken, and I have Amy to thank for it. Spending time with the families, with my new family member, was a great support. When the ladies went to the baby store and to the department store it was an adventure. We enjoyed different restaurants together. One of the families spoke Chinese, and we got the opportunity to experience a local hot pot/bbq meal that I would have missed without them. I laughed hard during a stressful time, and it was good for me.

The Xi'an families
When we got to Guangzhou we had to say goodbye to the families from the other agency in Xi'an as they were in another hotel. We did see them on different occasions like the boat tour and at the consulate. Another blessing. The Garden Hotel was amazing. I have used the word 'opulent'. We didn't take a panoramic of our room but the lobby took my breath away. Our room was huge. A couple of the families got rooms that were actually apartments. Huger huge.I am thankful that we could use their washer-drier to do our laundry. Nothing dried in Xi'an, and we were living on the edge. It was so nice to see the other families again and share our stories. And we all had stories. Then we got to share our time in Guangzhou together to build more stories. We went on outings, to restaurants and shopping with some or all of the other families. The Malaysian restaurant was fantastic and by the third time our family went, it was like Cheers when we came in.

The CHI families in the hotel lobby
The other awe inspiring thing was that most of the other families in our hotel in Guangzhou were adopting children, many with special needs, so breakfast in the hotel was a beautiful rainbows of families. People, it brought such joy to my heart to see, like almost to tears when I looked around the room, and that room was big. As the week went on the number of adoptive families dwindled, but it was still marvelous to see all the families. We got used to seeing certain families, asking how they were doing and sharing our stories. We were one of the last families to leave, and the last morning for breakfast there were only three adopting families a breakfast.

Clinic craziness
One other event I want to note was the medical checkup morning. Apparently there were 90 children being adopted to the US that week. All those children needed to have their medical clearance before they could get their visas. Saturday morning is check-up day for all the kids at the clinic. Children over two had to get TB tests. Every child had to get a general physical in accordance with their paperwork, vitals, passport photos and ear/nose/throat. That place was a madhouse. A madhouse. There was a lot of hurry up and wait. It was a great opportunity to chat with other families with a lot of background noise, mainly crying. At one point I looked around, and I got choked up. There were children with so many special needs - missing appendages, Down's Syndrome, wheel chair bound, older children, facial issues, and more. And they were all getting ready to go home. Home. Families were opening up their heart and sharing their lives. It was BEAUTIFUL. I get why people go back to adopt again. There is such a need. A huge need. From an institution to a family. Beyond surviving to flourishing. To thriving.
At the zoo. Our last day all together. 
To all the families we met, have a memorable wonderful first Thanksgiving together.

A Flashy Crafty Headwarming Giveaway

It's that time of year again. The time when the sun goes down at 4:30 pm, and I'll probably be running in the dark and cold until March. Thankfully, I am running again, but I am doing other things to round out my muscles. I think my physical therapist was fantastic, but I don't want to see him again if I can avoid it. Tomorrow is my longest race this year, and my first race in a long time, the Mayor's Turkey Day Run 10k in Kenosha. More on this later (as well as finishing up my adoption series). Much to do.

Back to topic at hand. There's a guy running in my neighborhood that scares me when I drive because I can BARELY see him until I am practically on top of him. I've 'seen' him twice. He wears red, black and NO reflective gear. Good for you for running, but don't be stupid. It is dark out there.

When trolling through the yarn area at the store the other day, I was so excited to find that Red Heart makes a reflective yarn. And in lots of colors. So excited.

Look at all the colors and possibilities.
Check out how cool they are. With the flash on they reflect everywhere. There was a pattern on the package so I bought the same colors and made a couple of headbands.

No flash. I swear by those pocket guides.

Will the flash on. Super cool!
You may wonder when I have time to be so crafty. My answer is in two parts. These are fast to make, and I don't sit still well. I never thought I would be a crocheter or a knitter. My mom was and I didn't understand. Now I do. It's rhythmic, it can keep me awake when the day is long, and it keeps my hands busy. I don't make big or involved things, but I do have a sense of accomplishment in a short time. It is rather mindless. Considering I feel like I get nothing else done, it helps.

Blue trim.

Purple trim. 

Flash on! Look at Me!
In the spirit of Thanksgiving and giving in general, I am doing a little giveaway. The winner will get to pick two colors, and I will make them two headbands, one in each color trim. One is to keep and one to give. In order to enter, leave a comment on the colors you would choose, who you would give the other headband to and follow the blog if you haven't already. The giveaway will end on  midnight Sunday 11/30, and a winner will be picked using a random number generator on Monday (Remember, the headbands are handmade so they are not perfect, unless perfect means flashy and cozy. I have worn mine around the house.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Getting to Know You - Daily Gains and Losses [Adoption Series Pt 3]

When we show people pictures of our son, they are often taken aback because of his fair complexion. He has albinism. Albino is the more familiar term, but it can have a negative connotation so I hesitate in using it. We weren't sure when we met him if he would have red eyes and white hair, which is not uncommon with albinism. In fact, he has blue eyes and light red/blond hair. He actually looks like he fits in with our family.

Albinism affects vision, skin sensitivity and vary rarely can be associated with a bleeding and neurological disorder. We were not sure what to expect when we met him because there is very little on his medical report. It did say that he was afraid of light (which he is). The condition is called photophobia. It's like being woken up by a bright light and not being able to relax your eyes. It hurts. Poor depth perception, nsytagmus (involuntary wiggling of the eyes) and lower resolution vision are some of the vision issues related to albinism.

This post comes off a bit clinical. I'm sorry for that. My mind works analytically and loves observation. You may not see in my observations the emotional roller coaster, the emotional weariness and the grief of letting expectations go. A friend said when she met our son that he was surprisingly average. I take that as a huge complement because it shows how far he's come.

When we met our son, he was stressed and nervous. His nystagmus was in overdrive. The first day he self soothed with his shirt on his imaginary soul patch and his eyes danced eerily. Because of his poor depth perception and lack of vision resolution he had to be dependent on his caregiver and he played with toys very close to his face. He held the toys we brought very close, curving his neck and back to see more clearly. Consequently, we don't think he walked much. He stood up for us on the second day and walked a few steps before throwing himself into our arms, but he was unsteady on his feet. He had a squishy belly and squishy thighs. Since his calves were super strong, we suspected he scooched on his bottom and kicked like a champ.

While other children were running around and enjoying their new freedom, our son sat and played quietly. It worried me. When our son cried, he cried a close mouth cry except when he had a full out tantrum, and then he would flail so much that we tried to keep him from hurting himself. We suspect that the children could have those tantrums in their cribs and not be injured as they would have been on our hotel marble floor. That first night, I confessed to my husband, "He's so broken." My husband replied, "He's who God chose for us." I had to let go of all my expectations and get to know our son right where he was. I had to cheer at every gain and not be discouraged by the losses.

His nystagmus his calmed down so much. Now, I rarely see it. He's got to be tired or stressed out. He still self-soothes on everything he can find that is soft and cuddly. I made him a blanket out of the softest yarn I could find. He's attached to it well, and it signals naps and nighttime. We all walked him down the hall of the hotel holding his hand for long stretches of time. He would walk and walk and walk. He never walked independently in our first hotel room. In our second hotel, he walked cautiously around the room. It filled me with joy. He's still unsure on slopes, grass or uneven ground, but he is making strides. I see them as huge gains, but to the outside eye may not even notice. He's smart, determined and a quick learner. He is almost running now, but only where he knows the terrain. He doesn't play on playground equipment, yet.

He has lots of eating issues. When our son eats, he makes a sound like "yumm" but the "um" doesn't stop. It started out endearing but it became stressful. The noise would go on for the duration of the meal. Baby signs and food security has made meals more manageable. He has transitioned from a bottle to sippy. He didn't eat solid food when we met him. His tongue still got in the way and he didn't know what to do with his bottom lip. He didn't open his hands to put hand held food into his mouth. He didn't use his thump effectively. Now, he'll try to feed himself with a spoon. The dog loves it. Huge strides in a short time.

I could go on and on about how he is overcoming delays. Two things I want to note. When we were at a meal in Xi'an our guide Sherry encouraged me by saying that some kids in the orphanage get attention because they are loud and demand it. She said that other kids are quiet and since they play by themselves they don't get as much attention, but they still need it. "Don't worry," she said, "He'll be fine." She was right. Our son has attached remarkably well. The psychologist at our adoption intake evaluation made a statement that has stuck with me. "Somebody at the orphanage loved him." They did, and we do too.

Everyday we make gains. I can't imagine where we will be in a year. I look forward to it.

Photo Drop Time!
Our guides, Sally and Sherry, in Xi'an

In the new section of Guangzhou

My favorite cling-on before the river cruise

Making it legit and getting a visa

At our hotel in Guangzhou and pretty happy about it