All The Fingers On One Hand
That's how old Addison is today. 5 months old! 5 months of orphanage life. 5 months without a Mother or a Father. 5 months of growing and learning and understanding the world through a whole different lens than what she will soon experience.

According to Baby Center
Addison should be learning to roll over and entertain herself by playing with her hands and feet. I am pleased to note that, based on her latest pictures, she has hit both of these milestones.

It goes on to say that she can also recognize her name and turn toward sounds. This makes me feel guilty for even considering changing her name to Addison. I have a long history of guilt when it comes to given names. Both of my current dogs came with names, neither of which I could bring myself to change despite hating the names. Really silly, particularly with our newest dog, since he was a new tiny puppy when we brought him home. It doesn't help me to know that her name was likely chosen by the orphanage she resides in. If she can recognize it, somehow it feels like she owns it. It is a part of her. How do I just opt to strip that part of who she is?

It goes on to say that she may be learning to sit momentarily without support. She may be mouthing things. And ::cringe:: she may be experiencing stranger anxiety. Meet me: stranger. Stranger Mommy. I hope, selfishly, that living in an orphanage makes stranger anxiety less intense. At the same time, I know it is a sign of a well bonded baby and I definitely hope she is bonding and feeling love toward her nannies.

I know that in the grand scheme of one's lifetime, 5 months is hardly anything. But it is everything for her, her entire lifetime, the sum total of all her experiences to date. I miss sharing that with her.

Soon enough, my sweet baby girl, soon enough. Hopefully we will celebrate six fingers together.
posted by Stepping On Legos at 9/28/2006§

For those who don't know, an NOID stands for "Notice of Intent to Deny" and they are given by the US Embassy when there is a decision to deny a newly adopted child their US-entry Visa, essentially creating a situation where the parents can not leave Vietnam with their newly adopted (in the eyes of Vietnam) child. The solutions are to either relinquish the child or live in-country for 2 years at which time the visa would be issued.

Everyone fears the NOID. There is a lot of talk on the various Vietnam adoption lists, right now, about NOIDs. This is because at least one family has been issued an NOID and possibly several others. People have talked openly about how horrible it is to be issued an NOID and expressed their sympathy to the family or families overseas who are stuck there. People have shared their own past experiences and how, in the past, the Embassy has overreacted and issued NOIDs where they weren't truly warranted. Essentially people have portrayed the NOID as if it is a Bad Thing and the Embassy is a Bad Entity for issuing such a thing. I even read somewhere where someone said that NOIDs are bad for children!

Here's the thing people: NOIDs are issued for one thing: suspected child trafficking. If the USCIS determines that your child is not an orphan by US standards, something went wrong in a big way. I don't care who you are or how long you have wanted a baby or how long you have waited to adopt or how much money you have paid or how much you love your new baby. Child trafficking is wrong. NOIDs are not wrong. Child trafficking is wrong. Corruption is wrong. Agencies who support or engage in child trafficking are wrong. Agencies who aren't really sure but turn the other cheek are wrong. Parents who don't ask the tough questions or sign on knowing what they risk are wrong. Parents who don't do their research up front and use this as a justification for sticking around, later, when they later find out they made bad choices are wrong. These situations are not ok. They are not good. And any process that is set up to prevent these situations is A-OK in my book.

Was the Embassy issuing NOIDs where they weren't warranted before the close-down? Probably but there was so much corruption, who decides when and where an NOID is warranted and when and where it is overkill in a situation like that? Corruption breeds distrust. Distrust breeds overreaction. So the program shut down and many processes and changes and procedures and an entire governmental body was established in order to make adoptions more ethical in Vietnam. This is valiant but where there is adoption, there is money to be made and where there is money to be made, there are corrupt people who will take advantage of the vulnerable. Those are the poor and needy (birth parents) and the desperate (PAPs). Processes are in place to make that less likely. But it is still an almost inevitability that people will attempt to act in a corrupt and unethical way. We have already seen it! We know what Decree 68 says about the processes under which a child can be released as an orphan and we know the approximate length of time it takes to investigate these children's histories and work through the many stages of government red tape put in place specifically to weed out corruption. When an agency refers extremely young babies, it is possible* that they are skipping steps. When an agency sends families traveling within weeks of referral, it is probable that they are skipping steps. Why are they skipping these steps? Is it *probably* because the agency has "connections" and wants to get their families home (and their pockets filled with cash) all the more quickly? Or is it *possible*, in some circumstances, because the baby was taken by illegitimate means and a full investigation might reveal that? I don't know. You don't know. Guess who else doesn't know? The Embassy! So an ethical Embassy in favor of keeping an ethical program in Vietnam is doing its job to to investigate whether or not a child is being trafficked or corruption is at play. They may never be able to prove it but they - and you and I - can see a mile away when an agency is acting outside the bounds of "typical".

When a person signs on with an agency knowing that they will receive a very young infant and travel very quickly then they are making a decision to possibly face an NOID in their future. And let's say that in real person terms: they are making a decision to support possible child trafficking. That doesn't sound so pretty does it? But that's the bottom line here. We can pretend that we PAPs are the victims. We can pretend that the Embassy is evil. We can even have the audacity to blame our agencies but if you are reading this now, you certainly have the technological ability to find your way to the various information and support groups that discuss ethics in Vietnam adoptions. Bottom line is it is each of our individual responsibilities to make sure that we are making choices that do not support practices that can even be construed as unethical or corrupt. The choice is ours. If we don't support unethical agencies, they won't be in business and NOIDs will be a thing of the past. I believe no one wants that as much as the Embassy.

But until it does, I'm thankful for the NOID. I hope agencies and PAPs will heed its warning and will take a step back and remember that there is a lot at stake for those who choose to cut corners and skip ahead in line.

posted by Stepping On Legos at 9/26/2006§

I Can't See It!
I know I've blogged, before, about the surreal detached sort of anticipation that is the Adoption Process. Well it has hit me hard, yet again. As we cross off our to-do list, one item at a time, it becomes startlingly more real but unreal all at the same time.

I know it is not PC to use pregnancy analogies so, at the risk of offending the singles out there, I'm going to use a wedding analogy. You know when you first get engaged and the wedding is, like, forever in the future? You are excited, full of adrenaline at the prospects of the Journey. It doesn't matter that the actual event is a year away. You have no concept of time, as of yet. You revel in the newness of this Journey and that is enough.

But then, eventually, you realize it is just a lot of work. A lot of stress. A major headache. You don't quit becuase, of course, you want to marry, to become spouses, to live happily ever after. You just have to get through THIS part of the process to get to the reward.

Well this is where the analogy ends. Because I know in my own wedding preparations, the closer we got to the actual ceremony, the more and more I could picture it. I could envision walking down the aisle, meeting my fiance's eyes and standing in front of the group of our closest family and friends. I could envision dancing, hand-in-hand, to the music we so love. I knew what to expect, I knew how the event would play out.

Not so with adoption. At least not for me. As some of you are aware, I have been a clothes-buying NUT for the better part of the last 9 months. But the clothes I've bought are fancy, special, extravagant items. These aren't items that we can easily picture a child in. As we buy some of the bigger things like Addison's car seat and some of the more ordinary items such as her socks and pajamas, it has become increasingly impossible to avoid picturing the events unfolding. I have this car seat sitting in the middle of our living room and how can I walk past it without imagining my daughter in that seat? I have these sweet little pajamas that I sometimes hold up a dozen times a day, just to imagine them filled out with baby - my baby! These ordinary items represent ordinary life. The mundane things you use as part of a family, day in and day out. Toothbrushs, soap, nail clippers, strollers. These are the things I've resisted buying up until now. I never could really figure out why but now I know. I was waiting for it to feel real. To feel like I could picture my baby being a part of this family day in and day out.

The problem is, I try but all I get is a void. I can't fill out those tiny baby jammies or picture Addison all snug in her seat while we head out for dinner as a family. To picture it seems like hitting the lottery - another thing I've never pictured because it was so preposterous and impossible. More than that, I can't picture walking into Addison's orphanage. I can't picture what that would be like. I have no ability to conjure up an image of our first meeting. I can't imagine what it will be like to stand at a G&R and become Addison's mother. I can't imagine walking around Saigon or Hanoi with a baby strapped to my chest or hip. I can't imagine snuggling in bed with this sweet bundle of joy - the face in all these pictures - cuddled between us. I can't picture what her smile might look like. She doesn't seem real. So those experiences seem impossible. They seem like experiences that happen to other families. Lucky families. I can't wrap my head around the idea that *we* are this family!! How could we possible ever be so fortunate????

And it's not just Addison. Sometimes when friends of mine who are also adopting send their children small gifts and then, later, share photos of these children holding the very gift they sent I feel completely irrational about it. I look and can't imagine that that same photo album was once held by this family and now is in the hands of their child, halfway around the world. Sometimes I have irrational thoughts like "It's a scam, the orphanage put together an album similar just for the photograph". haha. Obviously I know this isn't true but that just goes to show how far my head has to stretch to imagine that truly there are real children half a world away waiting not just for me but for some of my friends also going through this process.

I guess this is not all bad. It means I don't have any expectations and, therefore, can't be disappointed or disillusioned. But as the waiting gets harder and we reach the home stretch it sure would help to be able to picture what it feels like to walk up and touch my child for the first time ever. I could hold that in my heart as we wait, using it to motivate me to be patient and ground me with the knowledge that this IS real and will really happen. And soon. Instead, I rely on my poor husband. I ask him stupid questions like "Will we ever get to meet Addison? Will she become our daughter? Will she ever come home? Is this real? Are you excited?" in order to feel like I"m not just walking through a dream and to feel grounded-by-proxy. It doesn't work so well which is why I keep having to ask. But during this long wait, it is all I have.
posted by Stepping On Legos at 9/25/2006§

Back-Breaking Labor
With no new news in AdoptionLand, I have no choice but to proceed as if travel will still happen as (I) scheduled. Haha. I figure, based on my Ideal Timeframe* I have a good two weeks of lackadaisically preparing for baby Addy-Mai before The Rush To Travel begins wherein we need to do things like gather medications, luggage, prescriptions, airline tickets and the like.

So today I finally did it - I broke into my box of quilt squares I have been methodically and somewhat obsessively collecting for months. I have well over my goal of 100 fabrics and wishes for Addison's 100 Good Wishes quilt. Many of these squares were still in their envelopes so it was like Christmas, but a lot more work and less fun. So maybe more like opening a lot of envelopes. But, of course, the harder part is actually squishing those pieces of fabric together into something that might, at some point, resemble a quilt. Have I mentioned I don't actually know how to sew quilts? Nothing like starting big.

Along the envelope-opening journey I stumbled upon a few really special quilt squares. One is from my Aunt who sent me a swatch of cloth from her scrubs she wore taking care of babies in the NICU where she worked for decades. How special to have such a healing piece of cloth on Addison's quilt. Then I opened the envelope from my stepMom who hand-painted this beautiful picture of a bird with a wonderful inspired quote to go with it for her quilt square. It is too big to cut down so it will take up two squares and will be the centerpoint of the quilt. I cried, I loved it so much.

I have a pattern all picked out but decided, today, that I didn't like it after all. I like parts of it, however. So I'll keep the border and piece together a sweet Vietnamese girl at the top. But the main body of the quilt I ambitiously decided to reconstruct from my own vast wealth of knowledge. Haha. I picked the hubby's brain and we settled on a pattern we both could live with. Then we spent about 2 hours debating how to best lay out the various colors. We thought maybe we would lay out the colors in a sort of rainbow gradient pattern but - yeah - no. So in the end we ended up going with a boring random variation of colors throughout the quilt. Except I don't *do* random so I had to lay them all out and pre-design my random blocks. Haha.

With that finished, the real back-breaking labor began. I have a really wonderful cutting mat and some great cutting tools (rotary cutter, various transparent quilting rulers, etc) but nowhere to put said equipment except the floor. Let me tell you, hunching over a rotary mat for hours on end? Not good for the lower back. At one point I crumbled to the floor in agony and begged my poor husband to put his entire body weight on my hip bones chiropractic-style. He had no idea what I wanted and kept pushing them the wrong way until I screamed "No, not in! Down! TO HELL! Toward HELL! DOWN!". This is pretty much the way my mood went. The 200 lbs of weight on my hips did not a thing, I'm sorry to say. He's no chiropractor, it appears.

I'm not done. I'm about 2/3 done cutting out my squares and about 1/10 done cutting out my sashing. Don't know what sashing is? Me neither!!! haha. Eventually I gave up for the day when I accidentally found another 30 quilt squares I need to figure out how to incorporate somehow. Hrm.

Having rested my back long enough to scarf down dinner, I decided the pain was in my head and went back to cutting, this time a new project: a baby sling. Not just any baby sling but a reversible baby sling. I envisioned a sling one day with a nice neutral khaki cotton on the outside and a funky brown and pink and green polkadot fabric inside. Ok, so I also have never made a baby sling. I knew I needed some fabric and some sling rings. That stumped me until I remembered that I own two old slings that I can't stand so I'm going to steal the rings from there. Woot! Except I can't even wrap my head around how to make this sling, even after buying the fabric and reading the directions online. This should be interesting. After spending another 15 minutes cutting 5 yards of fabric to a width of 36", I decided to set that, too, aside for the night. Back. Now. Throbbing.

Moral to this story? Nicki takes on more way more than she can chew in some idealistic vision that she possesses more talent than she has and more back muscles than she has built in a lifetime. And also? Save the money on the endless fabric projects and buy a damned proper sewing table.

* Ideal timeframe conveniently located above on everlasting adoption ticker
posted by Stepping On Legos at 9/23/2006§

Wasting Time
Today is the day we hope to get an update on travel. We have felt, lately, like the update won't be one filled with hope and promise. So I'm pretending today isn't going to be a day of immense disappointment and, instead, focusing on other things.

So I have a cold. Just the run of the mill cold but it kept me from exercising yesterday. Today I woke up with a really sore throat but otherwise that horrible weird head wooziness was gone so I exercised for 20 minutes. Which kicks my butt. I'm that out of shape. But I've never been one for rigorous aerobic exercise, even when I was stick-figure-girl. Anyway, I'm on week 3 of daily exercise and except maybe 3 days, I've hit the aerobic dance circuit every single day. I'm proud of me. But bored and ready to get some new DVDs to sweat away the pounds to. Specifically I want some toning DVDs and a good yoga DVD that doesn't give me a headache. I'd love to do 3 workouts a day - an aerobic 20 minutes, and then a yoga 20 minutes and a toning 20 minutes dividing throughout the day. That's my goal.

It's fall. Do you know what fall means? It means FALL TELEVISION!!!!!! We are ridiculous with our tv addictions and feel so....empty inside....all summer without our shows.

So it started with WEEDS. Someone in a comment asked what WEEDS is. Wow, you are missing OUT! Weeds is a show on Showtime which is a channel we don't actually get so we had to subscribe specifically for this show. It's about a upper class suburban housewife who is widowed at a young age with two children and no money and turns to drug dealing in order to make ends meet. It is hilarious and jaw-dropping every single week. Think Desparate Housewives but WAY better. Way.

Then Boston Legal came back on. We love Boston Legal. The season opener - HILARIOUS!

Then of course, last night was Grey's Anatomy. Ugh that show just kills me. It makes me cry every single week. It feels like some stupid torture I put myself through to watch that show because it makes me simultaneous happy and miserable! I've SO been Meredith before in life and can relate to her character in a ridiculous embarassing way. So I have been both dreading and eagerly anticipating last night's show. Let me say it did NOT let me down. And if Meredith chooses Fin I will be forever heartbroken.

Other shows I'm wasting time with: Desparate Housewives, Men in Trees (which is SO Northern Exposure remade), Six Degrees (which I didn't really like) and, of course, LOST which is going to be the last of the fall shows to premier I guess. I am also addicted to Big Love but that isn't supposed to debut it's next season until 2007. Blah. And we watch a scattering of random half-hour sitcoms like The Office, Lucky Louie (which is also over for the season), etc

You will notice a distinct lack of Reality TV on that there list. I just can't get into it anymore. I'm sort of curious about the new Survivor but not enough to tape it or tune in. I also DVR Wife Swap but almost never watch it. Unless there is a Detroit connection, I just dont stay tuned. And I hate to say it but I can't stand any of those dance/singing/ice skating reality tv shows. I really can't. My husband? Loves them. Heehee. Sorry, I had to out him.

So that's my sad existence and Why I Love Fall. Rock on, DVR!!!!!!!
posted by Stepping On Legos at 9/22/2006§

My Addy-Mai!
Today we got an update on my sweet baby girl. We got four new pictures and new measurements! I just absolutely love every single new piece of info we get. I have found that the wait to travel is surreal in that it is easy to get detached from the idea that somewhere in the world my daughter breaths, cries, messes her diapers, drinks her bottles, learns and grows. I can't even wrap my mind around this. Sometimes I even feel like it is all a dream and someone will call and tell me there has been a terrible mistake, back to the drawing board. So when I get these updates the emotion I feel most obviously is *shock*. Slapped back into reality, this baby girl of mine is a real, living, breathing precious ball of love a half world away. And with that reality check comes the unbearable pain of not being able to run to her right this minute. I want to just pick her up and gobble her sweet fat baby cheeks and kiss that tiny nose and those huge eyes and make her giggle and smile and offer her the warmth of arms and heart that this family has grown for so long. I want to change her diapers and feed her and show her all the love I can give and teach her about the world and soothe her and wake up at night with her. I want this baby NOW.

On to the update: She is growing! She looks like a...well...a 4 month old! She resembles my two boys so much. She has the same long thin feet and although she is not as fat as they were at her age, she is the orphanage equivalent of fat weighing in at 14.5 lbs! She looks really really good, to me. In one photo, it looks like she rolled off her picture-taking spot onto a nearby area where she was practicing hanging out on her belly. She is strong, developed. She just looks...good. I feel very confident that she is being taken care of and loved on.

I'm so ready to travel. Well not ready as in packed and shopped. But ready as in emotionally, I could jump on a plane today if I was given the ok. My kids are ready. We all just want this baby girl home! But we aren't going to get a call today, no matter how many times I call my agency to whine! They refuse to do things unethically - darn them! ha. I tease. Seriously I appreciate their strong ethical approach to adoptions, I don't mind the wait from that standpoint. But I will be hitting the 3 month mark very very shortly and I'm ready to get the show on the road. Hopefully by the end of this week, we will have confirmation that my ticker is close to accurate. Cross fingers!
posted by Stepping On Legos at 9/18/2006§

The Dam Just Broke!
Have you ever felt like you had a huge huge laundry list of things to do and no motivation? Not just no motivation but something holding you back? And maybe not just any something but something you can't quite pin-point? That has been me for the last several weeks.

I have had a long and growing list of things to do. Deadlines pressing. And I wasn't making real headway on any of them. I was experiencing more and more anxiety about not making any progress and feeling so stuck and overwhelmed. Last night I sort of cracked. I felt like so many people were needing and expecting so much from me, all at once. And I just coudln't catch up. I'm pretty good at saying 'no' but, unfortunately it usually comes too late after I've already made plans or committed. Which leaves everyone, including me, feeling pretty disappointed and let down. Not cool.

Well I finally figured out what was plugging the dam! Of all things, it was a quilt square swap. Not just any quilt square swap but the Mother of all swaps. It is called the Around the World swap and involves picking a country and creating an informational page on that country and sending it, along with a square of cloth representing your country, to each participant. My country of choice was - you guessed it - Vietnam. Anyway, it has been fun but overwhelming. When I initially signed up, there weren't many participants but by the end, there were 83!!!! That is 83 squares of fabric with 83 informational sheets and 83 address labels and 83 envelopes and postage for 83 different places on envelopes weighing different weights. I have put it off and put it off. But today is the deadline and I have never been late sending out a swap and this won't be any exception, darnit. So we knocked it out last night and today it is ready to roll! I feel so accomplished.

And sure enough, with it, the dam has burst. I feel eager to clean the house (!!), bust out that new floor cleaner that is still in the box, start cutting out for Addison's 100 Good Wishes quilt, start the scrapbooks for the above mentioned World quilt swap, etc. I even started making lists - travel lists!

Speaking of travel lists.....

Does it seem over the top that I have an entire college-bound notebook page PLUS part of another devoted to nothing but medications to bring with us? Is this ridiculous? Because it seems ridiculous. But I can't figure out another way to do it. What do you leave off? Here's the problem. I'm bringing 3 kids ages 4, 9 and 12. And our baby will be around 6 months old. So she can use infant meds, but the 4 and 9 year olds will need kid meds and then there are the adult meds we need to bring. Our oldest son, at a whoppin' 70 lbs, can go either way with the meds. But either way, whatever we bring, we need 3 versions of. Therefore the list is very very long. Thank goodness none of us take any sort of prescription drug on top of the OTC precautionary stuff! Will we be stopped by customs for having an entire suitcase filled with meds? I had considered also bringing medications for the orphanage but now I'm second-guessing that. And for those who have brought or are planning to bring antibiotics, do you bring them just for the baby or for yourselves as well? I'm wondering if my doctor will have a cow if we ask for six antibiotic prescriptions? HELP!!!!!!

Incidentally, thank you so much for all the empathetic comments about fear of heights and how it doesn't necessarily equate to fear of flying. That helps. I have not flown a lot (exactly twice - once to Las Vegas and once to NYC). My fear of flying isn't pronounced and I am not really sure it has anything to do with my *very* pronounced fear of heights. I just know that when I was freaking out on that dumb ferris wheel, airplanes were on my mind!! I am hoping there turns out to be no relationship and once we get into the flight, I will be fine. I don't have huge issues with landing and I don't think I have huge issues with the take-off. It's just the unknown that freaks me out (anyone who emails me knows my sig-line acts as my constant reminder about why this is unncessary). I am feeling a lot better after reading those comments. A *lot* better!
posted by Stepping On Legos at 9/15/2006§

I was kidding about the rain!
I can't believe it is still raining here. Thunder, lightning, gloomy from morning until night raining. The kind that affects your mood and casts a sort of hazy film over everything in sight. That kind of rainy. Ok, so I was kidding about the rain! It can stop now. Or yesterday.

To match the gloomy rain, I have a nice gloomy sore throat. And a severe lack of sleep. I have been getting about 50% less sleep than I need for around a week now. I am feeling it. My glands are swollen, my throat is raw, my bones are tired. I feel like I'm 100 years old.

Once, a few weeks ago, I thought I was ready to travel to Vietnam. Bwa hahaha. Not really. I was kidding about that too. I'm not ready. I have yet to buy any baby equipment. I don't even own a car seat. Or a baby bottle. And about those baby bottles? How do those actually work? Also, I'm afraid of flying. Or rather, I'm afraid of heights and airplanes go very very high. I had lived in a quiet state of denial, realizing that this was a necessary part of the process. Until now. Specifically, I went to an amusement park and offered to take my 4 year old on the ferris wheel. Turns out the ferris wheel goes very very high. And I almost had a panic attack while I white knuckled the seat with one hand and gripped my four year old with the other (sure he would climb up over the edge and fling himself out right as we reached the top possible height at the top possible speed). He proceeded to scream at me to stop touching him and leave him alone. It was quite an enjoyable ride. The entire time I kept thinking "Airplanes go much higher than this. Oh no!". And here we are. I've been running through the heavy duty drugs I might consume in order to tolerate the flight but my tentative plan is to sit in the middle of the rows and pretend I'm on a bus. I may also pick up one of many books on fearless flying. I think knowledge is power and from the last flight I took, I specifically recall that my fears stemmed from hearing and feeling very odd and concerning (to me) noises and believing the plane was going to go down as a result :-) So knowledge is power over fear? Maybe.

So the ticker says 40 days today. While that's an approximation on my part, I hope it's close within a week or so. Something about 40 days makes travel seem very very close. Close enough that the current feeling is panic, trepidation and fear of the unknown. Hopefully I'll work through that, soon, and on to excitement and joy.
posted by Stepping On Legos at 9/13/2006§

Rain Rain (Don't) Go Away!
Today is a day that can only be described as 'sleepy'. It doesn't help that I was up very late last night and then the sweetest little pumpkin in the world woke me up at 7am. Yes, 7am is early for me. You can at least pretend to have sympathy.

I thought for sure I'd need a nap today but I made it! I'm dog tired though. And then the rain started. And it rained and rained and rained. Any plans we had of going to the cider mill and munching on donuts and apple cider (I'm craving it HOT - yummm) went right out the window. So we had one of those lazy rainy Sunday afternoons.

That's not all bad. There is something to be said for staying in your PJs all day, doing nothing, going nowhere, no commitments to tie you down, no pressure to do anything. That's the kind of day we had. I made yummy cinnamon waffles for breakfast. Noah suggested that I plop some banana slices on top of them while they cook and I tried it. He didn't like the results but I did - DELISH! Then we sort of blew off lunch, munching off and on, and had the yummiest weird stuffed cannelloni for dinner. They were made with eggroll wrappers instead of actual cannelloni. And the stuffing was ricotta, diced ham and a huge slice of turkey! Isn't that the weirdest thing? But they were sooooo good!! And filling. We'll have plenty for lunch tomorrow and the next day which will make my pb&j haters happy! Now the baby is all tucked in, I'm getting ready to kiss the boys goodnight for an early night and head to bed with a hot cup of butterscotch milk and wait for Weeds.

It won't be long before I really feel down and miserable on these rainy home-bound days. But today it just feels like a welcome prelude to autumn - my favorite season of the year. So, today at least, bring on the rain.

A few of you emailed to ask what I ended up buying and whether I love it. I bought the Hoover Floormate with all the attachments. I have read mixed reviews but it was the last day of the sale. How do I love it? Well, it's still in my trunk. It's heavy and cumbersome and I have had a pretty full last few days. Ask me again in a week. :-)
posted by Stepping On Legos at 9/10/2006§

I am crabby
Do you ever have one of those days when absolutely everything that any given person says grates on your nerves? I'm having one of those days. It's one of those days when I think, out loud to myself, many times a day "are people always this annoying?? what is WRONG with people?" and then I realize it is, yeah, um, probably just me.

So if you cross paths with me today and I seem, well, bitchy? You probably aren't off target. Sorry.

Which reminds me (don't ask me why) that blogger only sends me 1 in every 15 comments to my email box. Why?!?!? Does anyone else have this problem besides me? It leads me to continually check my junk mail folder for missed comments where I get to sift through goodies like:

Subject: How U doing? [gosh, I think it's my long lost friend, author named
Nicki, just like me!!! How nice of her to check in and see how me doing!!!]

Subject: Make your fat friends envy you [isn't this everyone's
motivation for losing weight?]

Subject: With our Viagra soft tabs you
can screw a horse [wow - another goal of mine just a url click away!]

and this one:
Subject: Lean and Mean is in [now THIS is good news! I
may not be lean but today I am mean so that means I'm not only mean but cool
too? How useful junk mail really is after all!]

So after I sift through my junk mail and find nothing, I plod on over to Blogger where I view my own blog like some sort of narcissist and am always surprised to see comments that I had no idea where left for me. So thanks commenters :-) I'm not ignoring you if you asked a question - I just never got the comment. Because Blogger makes me want to scream. Like everyone else today. Oh yeah - that's how it reminded me!!!!

To cheer myself up, I'm going to drag 2 of my unsuspecting 3 kids along to Best Buy for a Homeschool Lesson on Economics and the importance of having clean floors. Yes, I'm buying another floor cleaner. I won't even admit on this blog how many I already have. But I will say it has been over a year since I've purchased a vacuum. And I'm not purchasing a vacuum. That, right there, gives me carte blanche to buy anything I want, I think. And it is not a carpet cleaner. I have an upright and a spotbot and they keep me happy until the pros come. But the rest of my home - the parts without carpet - are nasty. With dog hair and crumbs and stinky stuff from unknown origin. And I'm pretty sure buying some sort of machine to better handle the mess is just what the doctor ordered to pull me out of my crankiness. Yes, I've thought it through. It sounds like a good plan. A great plan. And for doing such hard work to make the house cleaner I may just reward myself with ice cream, too!
posted by Stepping On Legos at 9/08/2006§

6 Random Thoughts
1) My dogs have a fun new habit. They do this as soon as anyone gets up out of their seat sensing opportunity. They know it is naughty. I don't know what to do about it! They are clearly dumb since they never touch the open bag of dog food in the open pantry or dig through the garbage like normal dogs. They won't even pee outside. They are total sissy cat-dogs. Don't tell them I told you that.

2)In lieu of screens, my kids just homeschool all day "for fun". They do craft projects with their baby brother. They listen to A Story of the World Vol. 4 on cd for *fun* tearing open the package that arrives from Amazon as if it contains the greatest Lego set in the world. Clearly, despite the home education, the boys aren't all that swift either because otherwise surely they would be more openly hostile without their favorite video games, television and computer time. Intelligent or manipulative. One of those. Of course they were manipulative enough to stay up all night playing video games in their room, thus earning said restriction.

3)In lieu of homeschooling, my 4 year old throws huge tantrums that sound like "How will I EVER LEARN TO READ" screamed at the top of his lungs through sobs while throwing his body on the ground over and over. Why such a travisty? Noah was in a silly mood. I would ask him to sound out the letter "e" and he would respond "tree". Cute. But not. So I canceled "school" for the day. You can do that when your kid is 4. I did give him a million "chances" and a serious lecture about just giving me a few minutes of his attention to no avail. But when I made good on it, his whole world fell apart. I wonder how long it will be before he stops seeing schooling as a privilege. My plan is never.

4) Childhood obesity's hidden risk: standing on dresser drawers. Thank goodness I have a skinny lightweight. Otherwise the boy who used the dresser as a climbing gym today would have either broken the beautifully constructed natural pine drawers right off the drawer slides or he would have had the entire 4.5 foot tall 200 lb dresser plus large heavy tv plus dvr plus dvd player plus various dvds come crashing down on him. Or both. So add that to the list why childhood obesity should be avoided right along with increased risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and poor self-esteem. Or at least use wall anchors.

5) Boys without good small motor skills but great imaginations are a tantrum in the making. After fifteen sheets of colored construction paper and many tears of frustration, Noah finally asked if *I* would draw the cool creature in his head. Because I'm such a good artist - a fact every person in my home might quickly dispute. I've never had images of anything in my head in my life! Is this a disability? Do I have a disease?

6) Speaking of this, I was watching a recorded Primetime Medical Mysteries (because clearly my anxiety about all things medical needs further compounding) and found out about a disorder where people don't recognize facial features. Like any good disorder or disease there is, of course, an online quiz. Which I failed. So if you see me walking by, don't feel obligated to say hello. I won't recognize you anyway!
posted by Stepping On Legos at 9/07/2006§

A Dark Chocolate Dove Cookie for the Teacher Please
Today is Back To School day. In our house that means hubby's three kiddos go off to school and it also marks the day we officially begin homeschooling for our next school year (we casually homeschool throughout summer but now the big guns are drawn). Usually we do something snarky and fun to celebrate 'not back to school' day but I wasn't in the mood today. Actually I wasn't actually prepared to start homeschooling as of last night so I had to sort of scramble to make up schedules and agendas and goals for myself, the kids, etc. This year Dalton is in 7th grade, Teegan is in 4th grade and Noah likes to say he's in Kindy :-P I managed to pull off a great schedule for all of us, a new leaf turned over.

To mark this new leaf, hubby just happens to be out of the house every day for 2 weeks wrapping up with a 2 day trip out of town. Today's first lesson: This is Mama's House!!!!!!!!!!!!

So here's what we got done today:

  • I woke and started my new exercise routine and actually liked it!
  • Had a light breakfast
  • Waited and waited for Teegan to wake up at 10am (!!!!) to start homeschooling the bigger two boys.
  • We did Saxon Math for both boys, journaling, spelling, Dalton did a paper on research, we started a geography project and also hung our huge map of the world and picked two countries from the Around The World quilt square swap we are in to locate on the map and learn about - Germany and El Salvador. This also led to a search for various countries (always begins with Vietnam) and then various flags (again with Vietnam). We did some Great Editing Adventure and each boy read an entire biography of a famous American Inventor (Thomas Edison and the Wright Bros, specifically). All of this in 3 hours!
  • made HUGE lunch and ate
  • homeschool Noah: we read a book, worked on reading (he read his first word - boy was he proud) and did some math tiles (patterning). Then we read another book on the Human Body which he then took and re-read to himself and begged a brother to let him read to them as well. I guess the body book was a big hit. Then he traced a bunch of letters, numbers and pictures in a sudoku book (don't ask!).
  • quiet time
  • Daily cleaning: Tuesday = bathroom deep clean
  • Nicki time :-) That means checking email and blogging

And here we are. It's only 4:30. I feel super productive and great about my day. Tomorrow we are doing a crime scene investigation and starting our writing projects. We I am particularily excited about the crime scene investigation :-) now I'm off to Supper Thyme to make 12 meals for the next two weeks which is really fun and enjoyable for me. I don't have to shop, chop or clean up! Woohoo!
posted by Stepping On Legos at 9/05/2006§

Part 2: I miss my baby!
So while our vacation was nice and enjoyable, I just couldn't shake that feeling that something - or someone - was missing. Ironically, or maybe not, this was supposed to be our sort of last hurrah. An outing with the "big kids", doing all those things we won't be able to do - or at least not as easily - once Addy-Mai comes home. But, instead, all I could think about was how empty my arms felt. More than once, I uttered the phrase "I miss my baby".

This might sound strange to someone who has never experienced an adoption before and maybe some of you who have! But I really do miss my baby. It's completely selfish. I'm not worried about her, I don't fear for her life or her health. I think she is in excellent hands, all things considered. I'm not terribly upset that she is getting older without me. But I miss my baby. I feel the emptiness in my own home, my own life. I really miss having a baby - any baby. But I especially miss THIS baby. I yearn to be able to hold her, to feed her, to cuddle her and induce smiles and laughter. I yearn to bathe her, to rock her to sleep, even to change her tiny baby diapers. I really yearn to just *know* her in a way that I can't quite glean from a photo.
I am starting to have that heart-stopping nausea-inducing occasion bouts of grief that I haven't experienced for at least two months - since my days of waiting and waiting for a referral, for just wanting to *know* who my daughter is, what her name is, where she is on this Earth and what her face looks like. Now I know that face, I know that intense look in her eyes. I want to be her Mama, I want to learn her needs and meet them. I want to carry her close to my heart like a permanent attachment to my body. I miss her. Without her, my home, my arms and my heart feels empty.

So yesterday I changed the ticker (yet again). Now it reflects my time until travel - a countdown. I don't have travel dates yet - just a firmer and firmer general idea of travel. So even if this countdown is off by a few days, it is enough to keep me going, to keep me motivated. We are getting close, right? We are half way through our wait to travel. The fall will be busy, it will fly by. We will keep busy. I have projects and goals all lined up to keep me busy until we travel. I hope the time flies as quickly as I need it to.
posted by Stepping On Legos at 9/04/2006§

Part 1: I'm home!
I'm home from our not-so-spontaneous spontaneous summer vacation. We decided to hit the west coast. Of Michigan. haha. There are sand dunes out that way that my family has never seen and I decided if we were going to ever move out of state, now might be our last good chance to see a bit of Michigan before we leave it.

Hubby traveled with us. The deal was he was going to work during the day while we did touristy things. This sounded perfect. It turned out to not exactly be perfect, however. Our hotel had a weak internet connection and no cell signal so work was difficult, he was stranded without a car which meant I was on a somewhat short leash and we had almost non-existent communication thanks to essentially no cell signals on that entire side of the state. Cingular might not drop calls but that's becuase they have no towers to begin with!!

BUT! We had fun, darnit!! We walked the most luxuriously silky sandy beaches that ever exist, I am sure of it. There is so much silica in this sand that it is one of the premier places to find fulgarites (petrified lightning). The dunes are an incredible sight to see, Lake Michigan is beautiful and the kids were most definitely impressed.

First we went to explore the beaches of Lake Michigan. Gorgeous. Truly amazing. The kids sort of tide-pooled which was fun for them and they played in the water and splashed around despite the water temp (58 degrees). None of them had ever been on such an amazing beach with amazing sand. If I could have caught their expressions the first time they put their toes in the sand, I would have. They were truly awe-struck. And remember we have our own little beach in our own backyard so they aren't exactly cityfolk but this was different - this was a REAL beach.

I made the mistake, straight away, of climbing the dunes on Day 1. Have I ever mentioned how pathetically out of shape I am? I am out of shape. Very out of shape. I was looking forward to this vacation for it's plethora of enjoyable exercise opportunities but this was, perhaps, not the smart one to begin with. I felt faint walking up the very steep flight of stairs which then abruptly ended in an even steeper, non-shaded hill of sand. Every step I took, I swear, my feet sank 4 inches and my ankles would turn and it was so hard to walk I thought I might die. The kids, of course, were sprinting off like little antelope. Then they'd say things like "It's not hard to walk in - your feet don't sink in at all!" Well gosh, not when you weigh 50 lbs I suppose! Sigh. Finally, at the top I saw a tree. Or rather the top of a tree (the rest was covered by sand dune which apparently is "alive" and moves and shifts to the tune of 10-20 feet a year - not great for local homes and businesses!!). And I sat under it to catch my breath and stave off the heart attack. That's when I saw it: miles and miles of nothing but hills of sand. I thought I might die just looking at it. The kids were thrilled. I immediately knew doing this adventure, in my condition, without my husband was a grave error. I let the kids run off and play but then quickly realized I had no way to find them, get hold of them or rescue them should something happen. I wobbled slowly over to the top of a hill and just started miserably calling for them, sure I'd lost them to the Dunes forever. Thankfully they heard and made their way back to me. I thought I had lost them forever! Never again, I swore. But they convinced me to let them go off and play on some dunes within sight so I stayed with Noah, under the shaded tree top, and let the bigger kids go off and play. This worked out well. I was none too thrilled to get out of there eventually with my heart still beating in my chest :-) Unfortunately there was one big casualty. I set our digital camera down on the dune and it hasn't worked since. Sand. I was so sad - no more pictures :-(

Later we went out and did this dune ride and it was amazing and thrilling and relaxing and beautiful. That is definitely the out-of-shape fat girl grown up way to explore the dunes! The kids all loved it and said it was the most fun they had while on vacation!

The next day sort of sucked. We had to check out of our (crappy overpriced) hotel by 11 and Tony had to work so we had to sort of run back and forth with me keeping the kids out of his hair and him trying to pack up and get us out of the hotel. It wasn't fun. We did get to walk out to some lighthouses and do some pier fishing but not nearly enough. When Tony could escape, we headed out on a rafting trip and that was fantastic. It was so quiet and gorgeous. Unfortunately it appears neither Tony nor I can actually navigate a raft! haha! We spent an inordinate amount of time crashing into trees, rocks and whatever else came our way. Occasionally I'd drop my paddle (or oar? I dunno) into the water when I had to quickly make a choice between small child and large tree branch. Eventually we figured out that if we just spin the raft enough we can avoid maybe 50% of the obstacles in our paths! haha. Really it was beautiful and we all had a great time. It was hard work but definitely my kind of exercise - very invigorating. I'll trade dunes for rafts any day.

We drove on to Muskegon where we stayed the night in a very beautiful room only to be kept up half the night be people partying above us. Eventually they shut up or were kicked out and we got a few hours sleep before it was time to head to Michigan Adventure amusement park. We've never been - we are Cedar Point lifers. But I heard Michigan Adventure - owned by Cedar Faire, the same company as Cedar Point - was geared toward younger children and also doubled as a water park. Perfect! It was definitely more fun for those who aren't interested in the whole stand-in-line-for-2-hours-for-15-minutes-of-top-thrills variety of amusement. The water park was a huge hit as well. We had a great day and decided to head the 2.5 hours home at 7pm.

And here we are! It wasn't exactly the "live free, fly by the seat of your pants" trip that I had hoped for and needed. But it was a realistic good vacation. The kids were (generally) well-behaved, they all had a great time and we did, too.
posted by Stepping On Legos at 9/03/2006§

Ethical Agency List
We all have our opinions on which agencies are ethical and doing their job in a solid and reputable way. I'm no exception.

So...in true American style, here is my list of agencies* (in no specific order) that I currently consider to be ethical. This may change as time goes on and new information becomes available:

Pearl S. Buck
Holt International
Children's Hope International
Vietnamese Orphan Relief Fund
Dillon International
Families Through International Adoption

Harrah's Adoption***

If you have questions about an agency on the list or that is licensed but not on the list, feel free to email me and I will try to respond as soon as possible with as much info as I currently have.

*An ethical agency is not necessarily an agency with good customer service, a good bedside manner, a lot of hand-holding, etc. These agencies are also not, by default, agencies I would recommend to people but they are definitely agencies I consider, at this time, to be ethical. An important first step in researching agencies.

**no, I won't disclose the list but you know who you are!!

***these agencies, it should be noted, are currently *untested* under the new system but have had good programs in other countries and no complaints to date.
posted by Stepping On Legos at 9/02/2006§

Baby Shopping
I've sort of held off shopping for Addison except for just some cutie boutique clothes or sales stuff from Old Navy and Target. We are also not doing a nursery. We co-sleep for the first little while. We do have a crib in case Addison just sleeps horribly with us but we won't be setting it up or shopping for it unless we end up needing it. So that takes all the fun out of nursery shopping! haha.

Here are the things on my list so far with links to the specific item:

Car Seat: Graco SafeSeat in Central Park or in Heirloom. This won out over the Britax Boulevard mostly becuase the fabric I want for my Boulevard won't come out until after we leave to get Addy and so this seemed like a good alternative. It is safe rear-facing to 30 lbs and 32" so should work until we need to go to the forward-facing Boulevard in a year or so.

Playyard: Graco Pack N Play in Central Park.I chose this one because I love toile and it matches the car seat (like they will ever be seen together!). We were on the fence over whether to get one or not but we don't do baby cribs or nurseries so I thought it might be a nice safe place for a nap.

Baby Gymnastics Deluxe Jumparoo

Feeding System: after much discussion, we settled on the Playtex disposible feeding system but NOT the drop-in system. The reason is becuase we felt like the drop-ins would take up just that much more space in our luggage, the boxes are pretty big. So we went with the much smaller traditional disposible bottle liner system. We bought the Naturalatch nipples (for lack of options) in the fast flow size and bought 2 of each - silicone and laytex. Hopefully one of those will work. Once we get home, we'll switch to a different system. I am currently debating between the Avent nursers or the Bottleflow bottles. We hope to eventually breastfeed so something that is compatible and encourages breastfeeding is the goal. We will also slowly reduce nipple flow size so she has to work harder for her food, mimicking the breast.

Stroller: I am on the fence. I'm waiting for this stroller from Fisher Price to be re-released this month (Sept) and may buy it. I'm not sure if our 4 year old really *needs* stroller access, though. It's awfully heavy for a single stroller if that is what I'll use it for 90% of the time. Also Addy will be carried in a baby carrier much of the time. So I will probably start researching single strollers instead.

Baby Carrier: I'm going to bring a traditional unpadded ring sling to Vietnam, for sure. I may also make a Mei Tai carrier, if I'm up to it. I will definitely use the mei tai at home for big outings and probably the ring sling for quick in-and-out-and-in errands.
posted by Stepping On Legos at 9/01/2006§

Name: Stepping On Legos
Stepping On Legos Stepping On Legos Home: TX, United States
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