Family Party

December 31, 2007

Our annual family gathering was on Saturday. Lots of food, lots of presents, lots of laughs, and lots of of a new baby on the way, Uncle John's birthday, Baby Foster, and a new family calendar.
The traditional steps photo

The new generation of cousins

Food Obsession

December 27, 2007

I have been staying up until midnight lately focused on food. Felt food. Wish I could say I was putting my effort into real cuisine, but instead I am obsessed with hand sewing tasty little treats for the kids' new kitchen (the beautiful wooden food really hurts when an angry two year old throws it at you!). Here are the sets I made for my niece's Christmas present.

Breakfast...eggs, strawberries, and a waffle

Lunch...sushi, seaweed salad, carrot, peas, and a fortune cookie

Tea time...chocolate chip cookie and sugar cookie

I owe my inspiration to Ericka and these amazing sites: Felt Cuisine , Rivulette, Retro Rags and Craftster. If only cooking was this much fun!

Christmas Day 2007

December 26, 2007

A sunny Christmas morning full of suprises and happy facesThe amazing rocking toy made by Emee
Noah's favorite gift...a space shuttle setWe spent the rest of the day in St. Martinville with family and friends feasting on gumbo and crawfish etoufee. Noah and Camille had a blast with their cousins. We drove home last night under a full moon...looking at the lights and watching fireworks over the cane fields. It was a good Christmas.

Christmas Eve 2007

A blustery, grey winter day on the prairie. Frantically finishing up the presents. Baking cookies for Santa. A walk in the fields with the dogs. A suprising sunset to the end the day.


December 20, 2007

Today was just what I needed. A picnic in the park with Erika and Baby Julian. A sunny, balmy day of climbing trees, finding large acorns, holding a sweet baby boy, some adult conversation and chasing my two monkeys. And dinner tonight at our favorite pizza place (hooray no dishes) followed by dessert at the coffee shop next door. We ate outside under a nearly full moon while listening to a local musician play the guitar. A nearly perfect day after several days of stress. Perhaps there is a Santa for mamas? or just the universe responding to my pleas? Or perhaps I really have let the stress go for today.

Holiday Frenzy

December 19, 2007

I just returned from my fourth trip to Target this week (and second trip today). I foolishly thought I had finished all of the holiday shopping on Monday (one of the last days before the kids got out of school). Every year I promise that next year I won't leave things until the last minute. This year has been better than most because we have been making a very conscious effort to limit gift buying and trying to focus more on making gifts, but there are still the last minute things I didn't think about. The neighbors who gave us an unexpected gift... meaning they weren't on our gift list, but now we need to reciprocate. The baking ingredients I was sure we had, but didn't, etc.

But there's more to it than just the last minute shopping. Over the weekend I foolishly patted myself on the back because we have been having such a relaxed and low key holiday season. I felt like I had finally conquered the frenzy that can happen during the holidays. But a few days later that little bubble burst. I suddenly felt/feel overwhelmed and frantic. And it seems to be all around me. The traffic is more brutal. The check-out lines are longer. Everyone in a rush, but not moving anywhere quickly... wanting to be somewhere else, honking, fidgeting, snapping. And its the same with me. I am staying up too late. Grouchy and scattered during the day. Worried I won't get everything done that I had in mind.

This afternoon I snapped at Adam on the phone. I felt bad about it because he was trying to tell me to just let go of all the expectations and to slow down. But I was in the midst of running errands and I snapped when I didn't mean to. Minutes after I hung up, I loaded up the car and headed out of the parking lot. The light was green and just as I made my right hand turn I was nearly hit by a woman coming from the opposite direction. She was honking, flipping me off and calling me some unpleasant names. Instead of getting mad (because she was clearly in the wrong), I felt as if I was looking in a mirror and I remember thinking to myself that must be what I look like right now...pissed off, frazzled, and angry and it wasn't a pretty image. It was such a strange experience. A holiday wake up call. And hey maybe even a scene from a made-for-tv Christmas movie. A message from the universe to slow down and re-focus on the things that really matter.

So to get back in the holiday spirit, some friends and I went to see a local actor doing David Sedaris' "Santaland Diaries". The comic relief was good. But it didn't stop me from making one last trip to Target on my way home. Which is where I discovered the camaraderie of all the other weary moms doing last minute shopping. Seriously those were the only people in the store besides the staff. Women wandering the aisles trying to check off their lists. Women wishing there really was a Santa to do all of the work. Women who should just go home and go to bed. And that is what I am going to do now. And I am NOT going in another store this week! Hoping you are all able to escape the holiday frenzy and just curl up with a cup of hot chai.

'Tis the Season

December 16, 2007

For cheesy Christmas movies and I LOVE it! I have always loved seasonal movies. I remember the thrill of anticipation as the time approached for the annual viewing of Frosty, Charlie Brown Christmas, and The Sound of Music. Times have changed. Kids no longer have the same level of anticipation now that we have DVDs, DVRs, and way too many choices. Remember when Rudolf was only shown one time, once a year? And if you missed it you had to wait until next year? I'll get off that soapbox and tell you about my addiction to cheesy, made-for-tv Christmas movies. I have always loved sappy, predictable movies. But my affinity for Christmas movies started when I was pregnant with Noah. While on bed-rest and then in the hospital for an extended stay, I became hooked on these movies. I cried, I laughed, and I couldn't get enough of them. Part of the reason was boredom, but the bigger reason was my need to be surrounded by happy endings and miracles. There were some scary moments during pregnancy and I desperately needed to believe that all would be ok. Christmas movies (and the entire Anne of Green Gables series) became my miracle drug. I have yet to see a Christmas movie that has a sad ending. And since that time I eagerly anticipate this time of year because I know I will be able to get my fix. Unlike childhood, there is no shortage of Christmas movies. I can turn on the tv anytime of day and find one. And with the recent tv writer strike, poor Adam has had his fill of Christmas movies, but I haven't. And if for some reason I can't find one on tv,then I just pull out Sound of Music. Yes, hypocritical of me to complain about modern convenience but when it comes to Christmas movies, I can not get enough.

Tagged Again

December 13, 2007

Melissa tagged me. So here are my responses:

5 Things I was doing 10 Years Ago:
1)Getting my Masters in Social Work
2) Dating Adam
3)Living in New Orleans
4) Working at a transitional housing shelter for homeless women
5) Worrying about my roommate who was fighting cancer

5 Things on my to-do list for today:
1) Address and mail holiday cards (not done)
2) Work on making holiday gifts (not completed, but got some more sewing done)
3) Laundry, Dishes, Vacuum (done)
4) Finish reading Peter Pan for my on-line book club (almost done)
5) Go for a walk (didn't happen, but we played soccer and built more fairy houses)

5 Things I would do if I were a millionaire:
1) Travel around the world
2) Beef up my kids college funds
3) Pay for my sister's college
4) Do more volunteer work and give more money to good causes
5) Hire a personal chef and someone to put away my laundry

5 Things I will never wear again(or have never worn):
1) Maternity clothes
2) Roller blades
3) My favorite old Tretorn sneakers which I wore to shreds
4) Headgear (for braces...five years of awkwardness and bad sleep)
5) The silver and turquoise bracelet that Adam gave me when Noah was born (lost it two months ago and it still makes me sad)

5 Favorite Toys (not sure if this is supposed to be current or past so I'll just stick with things I enjoyed doing as a kid and still enjoy doing now with my kids)
1) Blocks
2) Dollhouse/Fairy Houses
3) Bubbles
4) Homemade playdough
5) Paint

And this wasn't part of the original tag, but on my mind with the holidays:
5 Favorite Holiday Foods:
1) Eggnog
2) Pralines (my Ganny would always make these at Christmas and wrap them individually in tin foil)
3) Gumbo (not a strictly holiday food, but always good once the weather gets cold)
4) Ginger bread houses (the real homemade kind)
5) Those chocolate oranges

If you want to play along, please do! If not, that's ok, too.

Fairy Magic

December 12, 2007

We have been building a lot of fairy houses our yard, in local parks, and even yesterday in a parking lot. It is something Noah and I have done for awhile, but recently something very exciting happened. The fairies left a thank you note in one of the houses. A tiny scrap of paper rolled up and tied with a blade of grass. Noah discovered the note and ran into the house yelling "they are real! the fairies are real!!". He tucked that note in his pocket and showed it to people throughout the day. Proof of their existence. Confirmation. And suddenly the magic of the fairies has been consuming. He checks the houses daily for more notes or changes that might have occurred over night. He routinely does repairs or new construction. Always thinking of additions...little ponds, soft things for beds, pine needles for rooftops. And over the weekend some fairy treasure was discovered in the backyard...a fairy necklace. I had never seen it before. Which has increased my belief in the fairies. I love building the houses with Noah. I love seeing him so excited. So glad to see he is a believer.
In the midst of our fairy frenzy, we have recently been inspired by this beautiful little film about fairy houses (Thanks, Megan). Which prompted me to start dreaming about visiting this place/festival. How magical!

The Last Night of Hanukkah

December 11, 2007

Happy Families

December 7, 2007

We got two happy e-mails today about families that are growing though adoption. Mazel Tov to the Clontz family (Florida) and their sweet new Mei-Mei, Olivia from China. And Mazel Tov to the Bailey family (Japan) with their new son, Carson from Russia. And while talking about babies...Mazel Tov to Lagarde family (Louisiana) on the healthy arrival of their fourth son, Foster who was born the day after Thanksgiving. Mazel Tov to the Landes family (Italy) and their new daughter, Elizabeth. Nothing more miraculous than new babies, especially during the holiday season. We are thrilled for all of you and can't wait to meet your newest additions!


December 6, 2007

Today I caught Noah teasing Camille. This isn't something new, the tune is almost always the same, but the words always changing. Today's chant was "Mei Mei is an asparagus". When I called him on it, he protested that he wasn't saying anything bad. We had a conversation about tone vs. words. I was glad he wasn't calling her something worse, but I am getting just as agitated with the teasing tone as she is. I guess this what "they" mean about "paybacks". As the oldest child, I did plenty of teasing and taunting. Now as the Mama, I am seeing it in a different light. I used the same sing-song taunt. I wonder if that sound is a universal one. Same tone in different languages/cultures? Perhaps it is part of our human wiring. Did Neanderthal children tease each using that same grating tune? These thoughts were on my mind this morning as I drove the kids to the dentist. And I remembered a website with sounds of children all over the world making animal sounds (oink in the US, boo boo in Japan for the pig on the animals surrounding the home page to hear the sounds). Perhaps I should send in a recording of the "teasing" song and see if it is as universal as I think it is.

Hanukkah Past

Hanukkah 2003, Okinawa

Hanukkah 2004, Okinawa

Hanukkah 2005, Okinawa

Hanukkah 2006, Florida

School Garden Update

December 4, 2007

What started in the summer as an idea has sprouted and grown into a beautiful school garden. I feel very proud of our little plot now filled with carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, dill, rosemary, cabbage, strawberries, pansies, and paperwhites. Parents, teachers, and community volunteers (and donations) helped us get the garden started in September.

Here are the "carrot corner" labels Noah's class made to protect the seed area.

The lettuce and broccoli in late October

And our garden today! Some of the lettuce will be harvested this week so the young gardeners can get their first official taste of the garden. The best part of this whole project has of course been the kids and their reactions.Whether the young gardeners are one year old or five years old, they all enter the garden with curiosity, enthusiasm, and pride. Each class painted the colorful stepping stones and they all take turns watering, weeding, and mulching. It makes me so happy to see a new generation of gardeners.

The First Night

We celebrated the first night of Hanukkah at the local Jewish Community Center. The evening starting with lighting the large outdoor menorah. We then headed inside for dinner and lots of fun activities (a gym full of games, arts and crafts, etc). Noah had a blast with several of his classmates and we had fun getting to know their families. Adam proudly wore his Hanukkah gift from amazing hand painted train t-shirt. On the way home we stopped for donuts. A great first night of Hanukkah.

Getting Ready

December 3, 2007

Hanukkah starts tomorrow night and we have been getting ready. Making decorations and gifts. Building up excitement about the holiday. Enjoying time together around the kitchen table...creating, laughing, sharing.

Car Talk

Love the NPR show by the same name, but this post is about the chatter in our own car. It's not a new phenomena. I remember having some of the more intense or uncomfortable conversations of my youth while in the car. Something about the intimate space, the lack of direct eye contact, the confinement while waiting to reach a destination makes it an easier space to ask questions and to speak more openly. As a child, I remember both initiating and responding to these car talks. I remember sitting in the back seat working up my courage to bring up a question that had been on my mind. And I remember the intense desire to ignore topics that felt way too awkward, but which I knew my parents had been carefully crafting into what would appear to be a casual conversation like those about the "facts of life". And now as a parent I am once again experiencing this dual role of initiator and respondant.

In the past year, our car has become the place where most of my most intense exchanges take place with Noah. He has started most of them with questions. Little zingers that seem to pop into his head like "When are you going to die?" . Or this little conversation he started with Camille last week:

Noah: "Camille, I was grown in a tummy and then born, but you were adopted".
Mama: "Actually, Noah you both grew in tummies. You grew in my tummy and Camille grew in her Taiwan mama's tummy"
Noah: "Well, why didn't her mama keep her after she came out of her belly?"
Mama: (frozen...trying to come up with the perfect response to this big question...stumbling..pausing) "Camille's Taiwan mama loved her very much but she couldn't take care of her"
Noah: "Why? Was she sick? If you get sick, will we go to a new family?"
Mama: (UGH, heart pounding, don't screw this up, stammer) "You will always be in our family. We will always take care of you and Camille. If I get sick..."
Noah: "Mama, look at that garbage truck!" (and the conversation ends as suddenly as it began)

Or yesterday's little car talk:
Noah: "Am I going to move again?"
Mama: (he must be getting nervous about another military move...must have heard me tell someone we move every three years) "Well,
Noah : "I mean will have to move to another family?"
Mama: (oh, he's not talking about military moves, he's talking about adoption.) "Noah you will always be in our family. You aren't going to live with another family"
Noah: "No, I mean when I get grown up. Like why don't you live with your mama and daddy anymore?"
Mama: "Well, that's because when I got big I fell in love and married your Daddy. And we had to move because of the Navy. But maybe when you get big, you will still near us. Would you like that?"
Noah: "Yes"

I know there will be many more car talks. I sometimes wish there was some way to "prepare" for them, but I guess that is part of the whole thing...the intimacy, the spontaneity, and the authenticity.


December 2, 2007

Today we saw a sign for orange picking, so we stopped and picked! Lots of juicy sticky fun.

Winter Celebration

One of the things we love most about where we live is our local park, the Walter Jones Historical Park. There's no playground equipment which was a big disappointment to Noah on our first visit. But that disappointment was quickly replaced by excitement about the climbing trees and meandering trails. It is an old family farm complete with restored barn and farm house. Wonderful paths shaded by oaks and magnolias. The paths lead to a walk along the river which is bordered by cypress trees and finally out onto a long dock/walk over the water. There's also a little museum with local history. We come to the park for picnics, bike rides, and sunsets. We saw our first and only (so far) manatee here. And a few times a year the park holds some wonderful festivals. Yesterday was the winter celebration. Highlights included riding the "train" ...rail car (used for working on tracks), playing some of the games children played in the 1800s like Graces, eating smores, weaving, and visiting with friends. Didn't feel very "wintery" thanks to the balmy temperatures (upper 70s), but it certainly was another good day at the park.

Sweet Relief

December 1, 2007

It's been sort of a hard week...getting back in the routine after traveling and having company, dealing with colds and allergies, etc. Camille has been especially fussy, clingy, and whiny. It makes sense because there were so many changes in her routine and in the faces she saw each day, but it still made it hard not to want to pull my hair out or whine back at her. So yesterday afternoon came as such a blessing. Noah invited Camille to play soccer with him. He was so gentle and so encouraging with her. And they both had fun...running, kicking, and rolling on the ground together. I love my kids.

Family Issues

Last night we attended a talk by Jane Brown, MSW. She is one of the most recognized names in the adoption world. As an adoptive mother and social worker, she has written extensively about adoption, especially international adoption. She was here for a playshop weekend, where she works with adopted children and their families...using play therapy techniques and opportunities for children (bio and adopted siblings) to talk about issues related to adoption, identity, race. Our kids are too young to participate in the actual "playshop" so we attended the parent session. It was an interesting evening although I have to admit I left the building feeling overwhelmed. She addressed issues we have read or thought about, but hearing other parents share stories about their older children's struggles with bullying, racism, and grief made it feel much more real and made me wish I could just freeze our little family in time.....away from the social judgements, the emotional pain of grief and anger that comes with development and increased awareness, etc. But we can't.

The reality is that our family is a transcultural, transracial one and that will bring joy but also loss (of original family, original culture, original language, etc). She kept emphasizing the importance of surrounding our family with diversity. Living in a culturally and racially mixed area, schools where there are other children of color not just an occasional "representative" or "token", and the importance of friends (for both parents and children) who are not all white. In general we do enjoy having a broad mix of friends, but I couldn't help myself from feeling it isn't enough. That perhaps we need to create a personal ad: "Family seeking friends. All cultures and races welcome. We've reached our "white" quota. In search of more friends of color. Please help". I can understand the importance of surrounding ourselves with more than white, but it also feels awkward to purposely seek out those relationships. But then I start to place it in the context of our Jewish identity as a family. We do try to seek out Jewish friends (not always easy thanks to the Navy) because we feel it is important for our children to have pride and a connection to others who share the same beliefs and history. To know that it is ok to be different. To look forward to Shabbat each week because it is a joyful celebration and not some weird thing that only our family does. And we need to continue to do the same as a transracial/cultural family.

I could keep rambling on because my head is still full of the many issues raised in last night's lecture/discussion. But I will stop here. I know there will be situations in the near future. Uncomfortable talks. Joyful celebrations. Painful confrontations. This is part of parenting, but with some added issues in the mix. I know that we won't do it all perfectly. I know that we won't be able to protect our children from everything. That we will make some decisions or comments we will regret. But I hope our children will always know we love them dearly. We are trying our hardest. And we are proud of our little Jewish, Cajun, Taiwanese, American family.

And finally, if you are an adoptive family or work with adoptive families here is a link with articles written by Jane Brown. If you have the chance to participate in one of her playshop weekends, I would highly recommend it.

Words and Rice

November 28, 2007

Several people have recently shared this interesting site with me. Free Rice. It's an addictive vocubulary game/quiz/SAT prep tool that is trying to end world hunger one grain of rice at a time. Check it out.

Holiday Fever

November 26, 2007

We returned from our Thanksgiving trip last night to discover the early signs of Holiday fever with the appearance of big puffy holiday creatures in front yards, bright lights, and festive wreaths. During our bike ride tonight we stopped to admire one yard filled with mechanical figures. We watched as the owner of the house methodically went around his yard with a can of green spray paint to disguise the spider web of wires in his lawn. He was very focused on his task and grumbled to us that he had been working on the yard for the past two days. This little glimpse into suburban holiday preparation left me feeling split in two. On one hand it made me wonder "is this what the holiday spirit is really about? spray painting the wires to match the grass, isn't that going overboard?" and on the other hand it got my competitive fire going. Once we got back home I headed straight to the garage and started to unpack our Hanukkah decorations.

Now this is a point of contention for some Jewish families. Hanukkah is not traditionally a big holiday in the Jewish calendar but with the close proximity to Christmas and the increasing commercialism of holidays, Hanukkah has become a more prominent holiday. I haven't seen any big inflatable menorahs or mechanical dreidles in front yards (don't be surprised if those appear on shelves soon) but it is much easier to find Hanukkah related items these days. Some argue that displaying lights in the yard or having too many decorations around the house is a sign of "assimilation" and shouldn't be a part of the holiday celebrations. We however feel that some blue and white lights in the yard is a good way to mark the "Festival of Lights".

So with my competitive fire burning I frantically untangled our lights from last year and tried to get them hung before it got too dark. Note to self: in the future don't do it solo. I ended up nearly breaking our dining room window when I fell from a ledge on top of the ladder which was useless in the thick mounds of mulch and mushroom compost (my secret weapon for winning yard of the month). I twisted an ankle, bruised an elbow, and thought I had a bloody nose (turned out it was just competitive juices!) But I got up and finished the job. By nightfall we had blue and white lights around the front of the house. Our dreidle wreaths proudly hung on the front door. I hate to think this was all brought on by my desire to keep up with the Joneses. I'd like to think that under that frantic rush of adrenaline was my desire to create a magical and memorable holiday tradition and to proudly show that amongst our neighborhood displays of Santa and Rudolf there is also a place for our Hanukkah lights (and the menorrah that will soon be glowing in our front window).

Thanksgiving 2007

We had a great Thanksgiving on Tybee Island. A perfect relaxing Thanksgiving day which started with a walk on the beach, some play time at the park, and a delicious feast on the screened porch. The next few days were spent exploring the island and nearby Savannah. Here's a little slideshow from our trip. Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Click to play Thanksgiving 2007
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Giving Thanks

November 20, 2007

Noah came home today with a Thanksgiving "hat" he made at school...a feather for each thing he is grateful for:"My family and friends, the sky, me, and my house". It made me smile.
Here's what would be on my hat:
My energetic and beautiful children
My loving and thoughtful husband
Friends and family all over the world
Good books and the ability to read and share them with others
Hot chai on a cold day
Broccoli and nasturtiums sprouting in our winter garden
Past travels and daydreaming about future adventures
Laughing so hard it makes me cry

What are you giving thanks for this year?
We wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Family Visit

We had a great visit with my Uncle John, Aunt Avis, and Chris who stayed with us during the first part of their Thanksgiving road trip.

Lost in the Maize

November 19, 2007

A fun farm day complete with a corn maze in the shape of Noah's Ark, feeding the goats, riding the cow train, playing in the corn box, hanging out with Nana, Poobah, Laureen, Isabel, and some new friends. We all went home dirty, happy, and exhausted.

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