Tuesday, November 30, 2010

National Use the Good Dishes Day

Today is National Use the Good Dishes Day
Life is too unpredictable. Use the good dishes.
You need to celebrate the people you love and one simple, easy way to do that is to let them eat off the dishes that would cost you an arm and a leg to replace - or are irreplaceable. Because the people you love are irreplaceable. 
Our friend Serenity is a beautiful, young mom of 3 boys who is undergoing surgery today. About 5 years ago, cancer took part of Serenity's shoulder. Today cancer will take part of her lung. The prognosis is great. This is good because Serenity is irreplaceable. 
Today, on National Use the Good Dishes Day, use your good dishes, kiss the ones you love and please say a prayer for Serenity and her family.

Life is too unpredictable. Use the good dishes.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Adoption Update

We LOVE hearing how our experiences have impacted other people's lives. Truly, I believe that we experience hardships in life for our own growth experiences but to help others and to be a resource or inspiration.

Recently, we received an email from a friend of J's. She had read through our Adoption Story and bawled the entire time. Hopefully she found a few points of laughter too. But she had questions. So I'm going to update:

When is the book coming out?
For right now, this blog is my book. What you see on my blog is pretty much what I have time to write in my current life. I do have a partial mock up but it needs a LOT of work.

Will you ever adopt again?
- No. We have 2 children and we are done. J and I never wanted more than 2 children.

Did you ever find KK? Do you still have a relationship with her?
I don't know that KK was ever 'lost'. Things and transitions were happening in KK's life for a few years and we moved out-of-state so some natural distance was created. But it's like a relationship you have that goes through periods of extreme closeness then not so close but the love is still there.

KK and I have been Facebook friends for awhile but KK finally kicked it up a notch recently. Now, we communicate a couple times each week on FB. A few weeks back, we chatted on FB for hours - I'm thinking 4 hours but don't quote me.

KK has always been a proponent of open adoption. When she was 16, she lived in a home with other pregnant teens. They were keeping their children and some told her she was wrong to place her child. At 16, our little hero stood up for her decision. 7.5 years later, a married, 24-year old mother-of-three girls, KK said she wasn't sure if when she would regret her decision when she was older but recently told me that she has no regrets.

Does TT still come around?
TT never 'came around'. Our relationship with TT is deepest when she is incarcerated. This is why I have come to love prison. During some of the first two years of Mini Me's life, we would travel 90 minutes each way monthly to visit TT in prison with Mini Me. When TT is out, we seldom hear from her.

TT had been in prison again this year but got out last month. I had been writing letters and postcards to her. Before I send each note, I check the prison system to make sure she is in the same facility. Except this time, she wasn't in a new facility. She is out.

From what I have researched on TT, she appears to have drug related issues when on the outside. We don't talk about those issues when we see TT. All I care about is being with her at that moment, remembering as much as possible so I can share with Mini Me.

Info on the rest of the family
JJ is Mini Me's birth father. He is still in prison. I check before sending him mail. He has been moved to a new facility. Typically, there is a wait period when they move to a new facility before we will hear from him again.

Birth grandparents. TT's step-dad passed away this past year. JJ's grandfather passed away this past year. Thanks to the miracle of open adoption, Mini Me met them both and has photos with them.  That alone makes open adoption perfect, if you ask me.

The kids get correspondence from Mini Me's birth grandparents and see them when in Tulsa. Her birth grandparents, uncles, etc. are pretty great people that we absolutely love and adore. They say you can't pick your family, but sometimes you kinda can and we got lucky. I owe them all pictures. I should get off the net and go do that right now.

How To Measure Success

"To laugh often and much; 
to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; 
to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; 
to appreciate beauty; 
to find the best in others; 
to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; 
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. 
This is to have succeeded."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Knowing Me Knowing You - Nov '10

knowing me, knowing you - november 2010

Time once again for my favorite monthly interview project hosted by The Fairy Blogmother. I hope you'll play along.

1) Last month we were asked if we had started our Christmas shopping yet, this month, what's on your Christmas wish list?
I don't have a Christmas wish list. As a grown up, I buy what I need all year long. That's the benefit of being a grown up. Instant gratification. 

2) Do you have a hand held video game in your house?
Would that be a Wii? The kids play it and watch movies on it. I am so lost on that thing, it's not even funny. I played it with them the first couple of weeks and now they say I slow them down so they won't let me play with them. 

3) Are you going to participate in the 25 Days of Christmas Challenge?
It sounds like more work than I am up for. I might do a few things here and there. We are all excited about Moo Moo the Christmas Cow returning. There was a Moo Moo siting this week. Seems that naughty cow may be in town already!

4) What is your favorite kind of cookie?
The chocolate chip cookies my friend, Lori's family makes. Lori says the directions are right on the bag but they must do something a little different 'cause that just says 'home' to me. I do like white chocolate macadamia nut cookies if Lori's cookies aren't around.

5) Coffee or tea?
Tea. My latest love is hot Green Tea Ginger Twist Tea from Argo Tea. It's like a surprise and burst of excitement with a hint of splendor in every sip. Excuse me. I gotta go to Argo Tea.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

12 Days of Christmas 2010 - Planning

The 25 Days of Christmas is a pretty popular thing to do. However, Mini Me will be in Canada for half of December because her school gets 3 weeks of Christmas vacation. This means, we will only have 12 days in which to Christmas together.

Here is what I am thinking of doing.
I pulled out our schedule for the month, factored in J's work schedule and Motor Mouth's swim schedule and Mini Me's travel schedule. Then I dumbed it down so I could handle all of this with minimal help from J.

Moo Moo, that crazy-naughty-singing-dancing cow
from the North Pole has to return.

Help me out:
Do you have any naughty ideas for Moo Moo?

12 Days of Widney Christmas 2010 - so far

Nov 30 - J's birthday
Moo Moo the Christmas Cow returns

Dec 1 - Hot chocolate w/mini marshmallows
Read the Christmas Story

Dec 2 - Decorate Christmas cards

Dec 3 - Make snowflakes

Dec 4 - Make gingerbread houses
Drive to burbs to see Xmas lights

Dec 5 - Put up Christmas trees and decorations
Watch Sound of Music

Dec 6 - Decorate Christmas cookies

Dec 7 - Wear red or green
Moo Moo leaves 'cow turds' (Milk Duds)

Dec 8 - Present each child with Christmas ornament

Dec 9 - Visit Santa
Go to top of Hancock Building to see city Xmas lights

Dec 10 - Watch Polar Express

Dec 11 - Give each child a small present (book)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rundown - Nov 21

What a week! Here is the rundown:

We hosted an Open House at the school where I do recruiting and marketing. I never know if anyone will show up to these things. We had a full house!!! 

I spent a great day at a cafe getting caught up and doing some organizing. 

J and I attended an education summit at our church. We got to stand toe-to-toe with Geoffrey Canada, a legend in the education field for his work with the Harlem Children's Project. Canada transformed a 100 block radius in Harlem where children had almost zero chance of completing high school, much less attending college. Go HERE for more info on the program.

Oh. THIS was THE day. J got stuck in traffic. He called me at 5:45 pm to say he was 45-60 minutes out from picking up Mini Me from after school care. I called a friend who lives next to the school. She wasn't home, but her husband and daughters were. 

I called the after school care people and said, "Please let Mini Me know a man she has never met will be coming to pick her up but it's okay because his wife is a friend of mommy's." 

Fortunately, JG's wife is the founder of the babysitting co-op I am a part of and JG is a strong activist for Mini Me's school, currently serving on the Local School Council. JG was kind enough to pick up Mini Me, take her home and let her play with his daughters and dog for 30 minutes until J got there.

We've been trying to work out a solution for the kids' boots and hats and gloves for the entry for 2 years. It finally dawned on me that we should custom build the entry closet to suit our needs. Container store doesn't have solutions for our size of closet but now we are on to something!

Motor Mouth had his very first swim meet. He came second in his first race! I'm so proud of our boy. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Use the Good Dishes, Life is Too Unpredictable

On Friday evening, I was reading my friend's blog. We've known Serenity for almost 15 years. When we met, she was a sweet, high school girl living at home with her parents. Now, Serenity is the beautiful wife of her childhood sweetheart, the mother of 3 delightful boys, a writer, and continues to be one of the most wonderful, kind, generous, and inspiring people I've ever met.

The first time Serenity learned she had cancer in her shoulder, her oldest son was in kindergarten and she was pregnant with her third son. Today, the baby Serenity was carrying is in pre-kindergarten and she has been diagnosed with cancer in her lung. It is treatable with surgery.

Serenity is amazing and we love her dearly. Her blog had me in tears when J came home with pizza for our family night. Typically, we all eat our Friday Family Night pizza on plastic dishes and the kids use plastic cups. Last night, we used the expensive dishes and glasses. All 4 of us.

Life is just too unpredictable. Use the good dishes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Like Retirement, Only Different

J no longer works for a church. This is monumental in our lives. I've known J since 1995. He has been working for churches for pretty much our entire relationship. The night we met, J had been working on a Christmas production at his church. There were a few months here and there where he didn't work for a church. Like when he worked for his father and volunteered at a church. Or that pesky little lay off situation of '08.

I am excited about J not working for a church. Don't get me wrong. Churches have been good for J for many reasons including being diverse creative outlets for him. But now, I'm excited about the possibilities.

For the first time since having children, I won't be a single mom getting our kids ready for church alone. I will get to sit in a service with my husband and not worry that he will be called away to fix something. Or that I have to sit in the sound booth so I can be with my husband during service. I don't have to worry that my staff kids are behaving in children's church. (Like the time our staff kid bit a 1st time visitor child...that's how I came to love my Hero, PR).

We LOVE our church in Chicago. We love the leadership. We love the staff. We love the people. We love the teaching. We love the kids' ministry. We love the free, covered parking in the winter for families! J's position at Park has been wonderful for his career and for our family. An opportunity presented itself that will enable J to utilize his creative talents in additional areas. J is leaving staff, not the church. In fact, J is volunteering at our church for a few weeks during the transition.

The first thing people asked when they heard J was leaving was: "Will you be leaving the church?" Heck no! One has nothing to do with the other. Park is our church home and, as I said, we are in love with the place. We do want to check out other churches in Chicago but not because we are unhappy. We moved here and for 2.5 years, Park was the only church we attended or visited. we could have visited other churches - we didn't. Haha! We have lots of new church pastor and leader friends so I'm sure we will visit other area churches from time to time. You know, to confirm that Park is best church in Chicago for our family.

I'm pretty excited that very soon, J and I will be able to sleep in on a Sunday and NOT go to church!! Guilt free. And we will have a weekend as a family!! What does THAT feel like? I have not had this for almost 8 years!! My kids have never experienced what so many families take for granted - a full weekend of family time.

It's refreshing and weird all at the same time. I'm wondering if it will be like when husbands retire. The wives get tired of the men being around and wish they were working. I'm gaining a weekend husband but I'm losing my Sundays alone.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why Mini Me?

Why do I call her Mini Me...?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Indian Summer in the City

Gorgeous fall evening in Chicago
Museum Park Campus - November 2011

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rundown - Nov 15

Alright, I know I've been posting mostly minor pics and not much text. Here is the Rundown of my life this past week.

The redecorating project is almost done. Here is a sneak peak:

Sunday was my first full day off in almost 2 straight weeks. I spent it cleaning Mini Me's bedroom to convert it back from a laundry staging area to a little girl's room. I'm exhausted and in pain. But she is sleeping in her own bed for the first time in, sadly, months.

I do marketing and recruiting for a small private school. Last year, our school had 105 students. This year, we have over 140 students. I've had 'Walkthrough Wednesdays' each Wednesday for the last 6 weeks where I give people tours and they see classes in session. Of the 12 families who toured, 6 applied. That's a pretty great return on time invested. (We have more applications for 2011. This is just from those who toured on a Walkthrough Wednesday.)

Motor Mouth and I spent Saturday afternoon volunteering at a thrift store that donates 1/6 of it's sales to our son's school for tuition assistance. The thrift store was started with the sole intent to help Christian schools financially. Last year, they donated $38,000 to our school.

When Motor Mouth and I got home, we found that J had painted a wall, put together a bookcase and decorated a reading corner. It used to be a desk area with a cherry bookcase and was not really working for us. 

I don't check our mail. Neither does J. This is what was in our itty bitty city mailbox...for the past month!! Our poor mailman.  Gotta feel sorry for the guy. We did the same thing in Tulsa. Once, I found a note saying our home was abandoned and the mail was at the post office!!

My brother got hacked. I received an email saying he was stranded in Madrid. Sure, they got his bday right, but 1. my brother would NEVER ask me for money and 2. my brother NEVER emails me. I did have fun when our mom emailed me to warn me that it was a hoax. And I had a lot of fun when I talked to my brother on the phone and nearly gave him a heart attack thinking I had actually sent in $2,000. Haha!!

My birthday is coming up!! I'm so excited. I'm turning 40 (again). All I can think about is how I want to go to the Museum of Science & Industry and stand in front of the baby chick hatchery for an hour then head to the south side for a traditional Trinidadian meal. My friend, MAM, has already begun to plan her 40th bday party in 8 months. She called me an amateur b/c I've only been planning my bday for 2 weeks. 

I have enjoyed being 40 and am not ready to give it up just yet. I really like being 40. Gonna stick here another few months and see how that goes. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Should Kids Have iPads?

I think so. There are a lot of educational applications (apps) you can download for children. 
Motor Mouth waiting for me while out 

Our kindergarten teachers use an iPad in their classroom. Later in the school year, the children will use the iPad for sending e-mails to their parents during the day (kindergarten has a letter writing curriculum component and emails are a modern version of letter writing). But at this point, they use the iPad for things likes practicing letter shapes by tracing the letters on the iPad's touch screen. 

See this drawing below here? Motor Mouth figured out how to draw on the iPad without anyone showing him how. Wait, let me rephrase this. We did not know you could draw on the iPad without downloading an app. Not only is the kid creative and talented, but he is resourceful as well.

Super Mario masterpiece.
Motor Mouth created this by drawing on the iPad with his finger.

Not convinced my 7-yr old did a good job drawing Mario? 
Here is my kid in his Super Mario costume.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Freaky Friday - Couch Potato

Do not adjust your screen.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Halloween Costumes 2010

Halloween is my new favorite holiday!!
We had such a wonderful time this year. It was an all-weekend event. 

Soul City Church Fallapalooza with inflatables, carnival games, lots of candy, concessions, great volunteers. Our children had a blast!! J and I know the pastors of Soul City and there were several friends we ran in to there, making it feel like home!
 Super Mario from the Mario Brothers video game

J died Mini Me's hair black and did her makeup.

Mini Me the next morning... 

Chicagoween at FrakenPlaza (Daley Plaza).
We caught several amazing shows!! The Midnight Circus had acts that I can't even describe in words. I was blown away and I don't really care for circus type acts so that is saying a LOT!!

Of course, our kids' favorite thing about FrankenPlaza was sliding down the Picasso sculpture. I'm sure that is not what Picasso had in mind... 

Willow Creek Chicago had Willow Street for the kids to get candy. They had a couple inflatables. The real fun was driving through the city, seeing all the costumes then trick or treating in Evanston. It was the kids' first time trick or treating!! 

We ran to the beach and grabbed a couple fun pics!
 Beach Mario

Beach Witch

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Ever since we moved into our downtown loft, I've wanted a telescope. What's the point in living so close to others if you can't peer into their homes.

Recently, I decided to verbalize my desire. I began researching what to look for in a telescope, price ranges, etc. They said that for peeping tom activities, a binocular is best. To get a good set of binoculars, you should spend no less than $100. For telescopes, you should not believe the 10,000x zoom as it is not the Hubble that you are purchasing. Any telescope worth having should be no less than $3-400.
One day, I happened to be in a CVS Pharmacy where I spotted a telescope for $19.99. Perfect!! A telescope for that cheap sounds perfect for viewing close up. No way you can see stars for that price!!

Motor Mouth was with me. He was appalled. "Mom, are you buying that telescope to look into people's homes?" Naturally, he wasn't whispering. "Mom, it is INAPPROPRIATE. Do not buy a telescope."

Do you think he will lighten up when he gets older? Live a little? Take a few risks?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

This Kid Brightens My Day

Every time I see one of this kid's videos, it brightens my day. He cracks me up!!

Here is another of his videos. This is an earlier version - before he spruced up his style.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Truthful Tuesday - American Healthcare

I really hate the American healthcare system.

We may be switching medical providers very soon. As a result, we can't do basic, routine medical care for fear the new company deems it a 'pre-existing condition' and therefore do not have to cover care. And, of course, the company that we were with wouldn't have to pay a dime should we come to find out there may actually be something wrong with any of us. 

Simple things like a routine mammogram. 

I'm of that age where I need to have those slamming exams yearly. I have no expectation of there being a problem. However, if there is, and I go now, I'm screwed!! In Canada, this is not the case. And trust me, I would LOVE to move back to Canada. I would too, if it were not for my husband's career, Motor Mouth's school, and my love of Chicago (but Toronto and Chicago are a LOT alike).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Stage Parent

Motor Mouth has been asked to join the swim team. I've been taking him to swim class for two years because we wanted him to be safe in the water.  A few weeks ago, his new instructor approached me and said how well Motor Mouth is doing in swim class. Then he asked if Motor Mouth could join the swim team. If my child is being promoted, I'm not going to hold him back. We are going to take this swim team thing as far as we can this season.

My goal is to NOT be the stage parent. I am hard wired to be 'that' parent and I know it. To counteract that, I work very hard to be the opposite way. Signing my kids up for every activity under the sun is part of who I am. But I don't want to pass that on to them.

I don't want my kids to be over-committed because it is not healthy for them. I want them to enjoy school, enjoy their activities, and to enjoy life. With other things Motor Mouth has going, this makes 3 after school commitments. Family time is important. Simple things like eating dinner together, reading a bedtime story, and the kids getting 10-12 hours of sleep each night are more important to their growing bodies and developing minds than extra-curricular activities.

Other children will be counting on Motor Mouth as he will be on a relay team. We'll take this one swim season at a time. I'll make sure he gets to have play time in the pool before or after practice. We will be supportive parents and I will do my best not to be 'that' parent.