October 25, 2012

Hot-Diggity, New Blog-Diggity and My First Giveaway

Check out my new McBloggy! If you're reading this via email, you have to come check out my new digs (Mom, that means click this link to my blog, so you can see it because I been pimpin' my crib and it's lookin' flyyyyyy.).

And I did it all by myself thanks to Desirae at Sommerfugl Design who asked me to test and review her Blogger Design eCourse.

Absolutely adorable.  Can I get an Amen?
Have you been toying with the idea of starting a blog? Have you been looking at your current blog, thinking it looks uglier than a tied-up, hissing, Canadian Hairless? Are you a moron with the mouse, but really want to take your blog from suckin' to rockin'?

Well, now's your opportunity to change all that!

Enter to win a Blogger Design eCourse that takes you step-by-step through the process of designing your own blog. 

One lucky follower will WIN a spot in the Sommerfugl Design eCourse (a $25 value)!  Just enter the giveaway below.  The eCourse is November 15th, so mark your calendars and enter away (should you enroll in her eCourse directly, then win the giveaway, Desirae will refund your money)!

Off the top of my head, here are a couple benefits of designing your own blog
  • You own your design.  It belongs to you, nobody else.  You get the credit...or...get laughed at for your creation.
  • I learned a lot of things (see "what is taught" below) that I would never know if someone else designed my blog.
  • I learned a lot about html.  I can now make future changes (with Desirae's included eBook close by) when I get sick of my new site.
  • I get to design it myself.  I majored in Design in college.  Okay, it was one design class...Interior Design, but I got an A...(pause for effect)...so, of course I want to use those same skills I used to create that sleek and modern man-cave to produce something that totally represents me on my blog.  And I think I did that: feminine and simple (wait...), with a focus on my writing (I decided against the designs that represented me as someone who rarely showers and lives in a pig-sty, no matter how accurate they might be). 

When is the eCourse: The first course will start November 15th, with other courses to follow (you can sign up for December 15th as well).

Price: $25 (unless you're the lucky winner!  Then it's free.)

Length: There will be a number of lessons over a two-week period. You'll have access to all lessons and personal help from Desirae for one month.

Size of Class: Limited to 30 people.

What’s included: One month access to the lesson site, an eBook with the general lessons for future reference, free blogger templates, resource lists, one-on-one help from Desirae, peer feedback on your design, and video tutorials.

What is taught: 
  • The basics of coding for your blog (CSS and HTML).
  • How to design a great looking header image and blog button.
  • Fonts: How to install them on your blog, and use them in your designs.
  • Backgrounds: How to add them, and what works best.
  • The blogger elements, and how to customize them.

  • The Navigation Bar: how to customize it and how to create drop-down menus.

  • How to add social media buttons.

  • Adding additional widget areas to your blog.

  • The little extras: post signatures, post dividers and more.

  • How to install your new blog design.

Want to ensure you have a spot in the November 15th class? You can purchase your place in the Desirae's Design Shoppe by clicking here. The December class is also currently on sale.

Now, it's time to enter to win!!!

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September 20, 2012

Where Disobedience Really Shines. Or, A Six-Month Update

After the joy of embarrassing my husband with last week's post, I decided to settle down and write a six month update since we adopted Autumn. I really thought the five month update would be the last, but BAM! Autumn started speaking English. Like overnight. She's not speaking in full sentences, but is putting together two to three words at a time. So, I figured while I'm sharing that, I'll share some other tidbits.

Howdy Folks!

As I've probably mentioned before, Autumn is pretty social. She's living in a house with three introverts and an ambivert (it's a real term), so all of this talking to other people stuff is taking us out of our comfort zones – which is good...I guess. She regularly greets people we pass anywhere. We were at McDonald's last week and the kids were playing in the Playplace. I couldn't find Autumn, so, being the good worrywart concerned parent, I started walking around looking for her. Oh me of little faith. I found her at a table under the Playplace sitting down with a family, dining on their french fries and ketchup.

As also mentioned before, she's very active. I'm pretty sure her future entails one of the following careers: professional skydiver, missionary in the Middle East, Navy Seal, or human cannonball. Here's just a little taste of life with Autumn: I heard her messing around with the TV, so I went to see what she was doing. She had turned the TV off via the wall switch, which we've told her not to do, something like, 2,178 times. I reminded her not to turn off the wall switch and turned it back on. She picked up a DVD, which she knew she wasn't supposed to touch. I reminded her and took it away. She grabbed another DVD and before I could take it, she licked it, slammed it on the table, went behind me, wiggled her fingers in my butt crack then took off running before I could grab her. She does stuff like this at least 186 times a day.

And me being behind a locked door is unacceptable.  No matter whether I'm showering or takin' care of business.  She wants to be. with. me.  So, if I lock her out, that translates into a directive.  Locked Door Directive:  “Autumn, please go into Mama's drawers and break, ransack, destroy, and blow up all of her things. Thank you.”  And she does.

She's getting better with the potty “training”. She's been letting me know when she needs to go more often. She no longer flings her diaper across the bedroom at night. Now, she simply removes the flaps of her diaper, pulls the diaper down, pees all over her bed like a fire hose, pulls the diaper back up, then repositions the flaps. I know this because she wakes up in the middle of the night every night, staggering into my room, with her diaper hanging low on her hips like a loin cloth. I stagger into her room and change her, then take her back to bed, check the sheets for wetness and splash my hand in a puddle of pee. That usually wakes me up.

One of many surprising blessings is how often Autumn says thank you. She says it all the time, like every time I hand her anything. “Thank you, Mama.” Hearing those three little words in that precious voice just fills something inside me that's been empty for a while. It's like a little message to me from God, saying, I know this parenting thing is hard; but I'm in it with you.  I so need that some days.

The kids started gymnastics a few weeks ago. This is where my children's disobedience really shines. There are three separate groups of kids, but all of my kids are in the same group. It's just plain magical how that worked out. So, here's what I witness, when I'm not hiding in the bathroom pretending they're not mine.
  • Josiah beating Autumn over the head with a carpet square.
  • Autumn running to the window to wave hello to me every three minutes.
  • Sheehan dragging Autumn like a cavewoman back to her carpet square every time she runs over to say hello to me.
  • Josiah trying to use the plastic ring meant for standing in, as a hula-hoop.
  • The teacher tells Autumn to sit. Autumn bounces on the trampoline. The teacher says jump. Autumn sits. The teacher says, do a somersault. Autumn runs off, looking over her shoulder, laughing and singing, “nanny-nanny-boo-boo”.

I was talking with a woman at gymnastics and she asked how things were going. And I told her it's challenging and the transition after an adoption can take six months to a year to get through. She said, “Oh, every mom has a transition like that.” I thought, Wow. I didn't know there were so many six-month old infants running around climbing on toilets and breaking into locked medicine cabinets, then sticking their hand in your butt and saying “nanny-nanny-boo-boo”.  I'm so clueless.

We started homeschooling at the end of August.


Here's how Day 1 went.

Day 1 - My Plan: Study the Arctic with the boys while Autumn plays quietly in the basement. (don't laugh)

What Actually Happened:
  • Sheehan made a spy notebook for his stuffed harp seal.
  • Josiah drew a giant hockey rink on butcher paper for his hockey figures.
  • I studied books of Arctic whales with Autumn as she smacked my arm (hard) every three seconds because she thought I wasn't paying attention (which I wasn't).

End of day: Josiah prayed, “God, thank you for homeschool.”

Day 2: We did everything I planned.

End of day: Both boys said, “We don't like homeschool.”

Needless to say, I've made some adjustments and compromises to our homeschool plan.

Slacker parents letting their three-year old go too high on the spiderweb.

We were riding in the car the other day and Autumn was singing a song repetitively and loudly. Sheehan shouted out, “She's really pissing me off!”

Oh crap. I thought. Did he just say...? Steve's gonna kill me. I swear I've only said it once...maybe twice...I think. I quickly assured him that the correct pronunciation was “Ticking. She's ticking me off.” I explained how “pissing me off” probably wouldn't go over well in Sunday school.

Josiah piped up, “Well, why do you say it, Mama?”

“I've said it twice, Josiah. And really it's not about the word, but what's in your heart. When Mama says that, I've got some anger in my heart and probably some discontent.” (Conviction pimp slapping me across the face) “I guess I should probably pray when that happens.”

“Yeah, that's a good idea.” Sheehan said.

Which ties into how well I'm doing with that whole not exasperating your children thing. On multiple occasions I've caught myself screaming, “Stop yelling!” And I found myself saying, “Stop talking (garble, garble) with food in your (garble) mouth,” and then accidentally shot two half chewed Raisinets across the table.

We took the kids on a camping trip...to the backyard. We agreed to test the waters before committing to anything bigger. Good thing. Autumn ended up on the air mattress which left me in her Teletubbies sleeping bag and Sheehan said he couldn't handle it and went inside to his own bed.

The weird thing was that our neighbors, the ones we never talk to (Ha!  Like we ever talk to any of our neighbors; we're introverts), also camped out in their backyard the same night. They had their tent up a day ahead of us. And on top of that, the weekend before, they had a yard sale on a Thursday and ours was on Friday. Of course you know what they're thinking: Those jerky neighbors that never talk to us are copycats! Well, the following weekend they bought a fire pit. But, we already have one of those and had been smoking up the neighborhood with it for two years, so mnaahh.

Well, that about sums it up.  Oh, in case you missed it, I joined Twitter (@KateWhineHall is my handle. Is it called a “handle”? Or is that just for a CB?) Don't miss all the exclusive, never before seen on my blog or Facebook page material...maybe. For example, “Modern Art = I could do that + Yeah, but you didn't” - Craig Damrauer. See the great stuff you're missing! Actually, I think that's the only thing you're missing. I'm just not pithy. I mean look at how stinking long this post is!

Don't forget to leave some love in the comments.

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August 17, 2012

Five Months as a Family of Five Update

It's hard to believe it's been five months since we were sitting in an office, waiting with butterflies in our stomach for Autumn to arrive. She has changed our world and we are so blessed because of her.

Here's what life is like after five months. By the way, I skipped the four month update because not much had changed.

Communicating with Autumn
She understands most English words we use around the house, but we still don't understand a lot of what she's saying.  We've been working on her speech together and she'll be starting speech therapy soon.

She's begun Operation: Intense Whining. Even when she's trying to say a word, it often comes out as a high-pitch whine. She's trying so hard to communicate, but gets frustrated and therefore whines out her request. Poor thing. ...I'm talking about me.

And today, I confirmed that the Mandarin Chinese I spoke to Autumn for the first three months we had her, was indeed her third language learned. I met a woman at McDonald's today who was from Shanghai, very close to Yangzhou, where Autumn lived. She spoke Autumn's dialect, which is not Mandarin. Autumn had a lively conversation with her in not Mandarin. Which explains why Autumn gave me so many blank stares early on when I spoke to her in what I thought was her first language.

Autumn's Activity Level
This has not decreased. She still has to be strapped down to go into any size store. She is never ever...ever...ever content holding my hand and letting me lead her.  When we don't go her direction, she collapses to the floor and I have to drag her or pick her up. Lately she's been casually letting go of holding my hand and folding her arms, as if to say, Thanks, but this is more comfortable for me.  Um...you're three!

Around the four month mark I started feeling like I should begin seeing signs of obedience. Well that mark came and went. In the mall the other day, she took off running and I said, “Autumn, come back here. Autumn! Lie. (Come, in Chinese). Lie! LIIIIIE!!!!! She finally stopped. So yeah, that's encouraging. At least she obeys when I scream.

Then the other day I was working in the garden and turned around to find her playing in the compost bin. Nothing like playing in a barrel of rotting food. She really does get into everything.

Her grandpa took her fishing recently and she was leaning in too far and fell in the water.

Before she fell in the water.
After she fell in the water.

Her cleft lip/palate
We took her to see our oral surgeon and he said that she doesn't need any work other than speech therapy for a few years.

Potty training
That's a pretty lofty choice of words considering it simply means she's wearing Pull-ups. Am I supposed to physically put her on the potty? I mean, I could be playing SongPop or watching Project Runway or clipping my toenails. So, I just tell her to let me know when she needs to go. She hasn't yet. But at least she stopped the Pull-up fling in the middle of the night.

My mom was staying with us for a few weeks while she recovered from emergency gallbladder surgery. I was able to do a little organizing and found a training potty tucked away that I had forgotten about. I showed it to Autumn and thought I would up the potty-training a notch by offering it to her to try out. I set it in the middle of the foyer at the foot of the stairs. (And no, I don't know why I didn't put it in the bathroom – hindsight is always 20/20.)

She was excited and sat on it and after a few minutes peed! I helped her pull up her Pull-up then tugged on the basket containing the pee to get it out of the potty. Of course when I tugged it, it jerked out and the pee went splashing across the floor. I ran to get a cleaning wipe in the kitchen, only to find that the container was empty.  So I ran up the stairs to get some from the bathroom.  When I came down the stairs I was so focused on Autumn that I stepped right in the pee!  I looked up at my mom and said, "I stepped in it," as if to say, what do I do now, Mommy?  She started laughing and then I started laughing, which made her laugh more which wasn't good because she had just had surgery and it really hurt when she laughed, and trying not to laugh always makes me laugh more, which is what I did. She had to leave the room.

I should probably be a little more aggressive with the potty-training because one day last week I found poop on the carpet, the couch, the wall (in three places), the furry Elmo chair, Sheehan's favorite stuffed animal (and it wasn't his poop), streaked across the counter of the bathroom sink, and on the remote control. Once that was cleaned up, Josiah announced he had a bloody nose which dripped across the same bathroom sink, floor, and couch I had just cleaned.

Is anybody else out there a slacker potty-trainer like me?  Someone please say yes.  Because really, I think I'm the only one.  Did I miss a class on this or something? You'd think that with all my frugality that I would be more on top of this. But gosh, it's just so much work.

How the rest of us are doing.
Do you ever make a grilled cheese sandwich and forget the cheese? No?...um, me neither.  Last Monday the boys were to begin an all-day summer camp. I packed their swimsuits, towels, and lunches, applied sunscreen, lectured them on obedience to their counselor, and drove them to camp. When we got there it looked like the Wally World parking lot - empty. We were a week early.

I didn't cry...outwardly. But, I did take them home and yell at them to go in the backyard so I could have a temper tantrum in private. I threw my tantrum then apologized for yelling. I had a scheduled doctor appointment for Autumn that morning, so I had to drag the boys along at the last minute. They sat in the waiting room playing with toys while I took Autumn in to be examined. The first time I looked out they were playing nicely. But the second time, Josiah was laying on the floor across the doorway from the waiting room to the exam rooms like he was laying on pillows waiting for someone to put grapes in his mouth. When he saw me he said, “I'm soooo bored. When are we going? Can I have something to eat?”

And therefore, I find myself staying home a lot. Mostly to avoid public humiliation. So I came up with a list of a few benefits of being a hermit:
  1. Nobody ever sees how really out of control your kids are.
  2. You can catch up on all those episodes you missed of Project Runway.
  3. Vitamin D gummies taste like candy.
  4. You never get sunburned. Besides, the sunken eye look is in this season.  Like, sunken eye is the new black.
  5. It's easier to focus on your narcissism. Nothing helps you think more about yourself than being alone.
  6. You don't have to have a heated argument with that other mom at the McDonald's Playplace about whose kid is the bigger bully, especially when you get home and find out that it was indeed your kid that pulled the first punch.

I've had a twitch in my right eye for the past three weeks. Lack of sleep? (blasted Olympics!) or maybe stress? So if I'm shockingly out of my house and you see me, I promise I'm not winking. It's either from the lack of sunlight from my hibernation or it's my eye twitch.

I no longer where earrings. Somebody stole all of them. And the culprit wasn't Steve, Sheehan, or Josiah.

Josiah and Autumn are getting along very well. Josiah tackles her and she screams. Then she takes off with his toys, laughing, and he screams. The other night Josiah was dressing Autumn up in her dress-up clothes and was bringing her downstairs and presenting her to us as the Queen. A few minutes later he came down wearing Autumn's ducky one-piece bathing suit. Uh...

Sheehan is still the Hall House police officer even when mom and dad are present. He reminds us of the rules, about every six nanoseconds, that she is breaking or he thinks we are letting her break.

Steve has found a new level of work/life balance since time at both places are equally stressful and exhausting. He's stopped trying to find peace and solace at either location and is simply cherishing his 25 minute commute with his Ipod. Which is why he wants to move to Galena (three hours away).

So overall, things are getting easier...but my expectations are getting higher, so really we're in the same boat as two months ago.


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June 20, 2012

Three Months as a Family of Five

March 12, 2012

Three months.  Three months.  I'm letting that sink in.  Has it really been three months already?  Has it only been three months?  I find myself going back and forth like this, shocked that we have known her for such a short time and yet somedays I'm left wondering how long it will take before I'm not exhausted all the time...or maybe that's just what comes with being 40 and having three young children in the home.  

Aside from being tired, things are going well.  Autumn is doing great.  She is such a blessing to us, even though her brothers may not agree with that right now or until adulthood.  She's understanding a lot of English and speaking it more everyday.  When I say a word in Chinese she will often correct me and say it in English.  It's still a little difficult to understand her, however, because she leaves the ending consonant off of every word and will sometimes just improvise with sounds.  She often screams, "Aaaaaaaaaa!" Which, I believe, and correct me if I'm wrong, is Chinese for "You misunderstood me, you bozo!"

She began swim lessons this week.  Every kid was required to jump into the pool (10 feet deep) to a total stranger on their first day of lessons, two times.  If you're interested in traumatizing your children like we have, check out Splash Aquatics.  In spite of the intensity, she enjoyed it and didn't cry at all, which is unusual because sitting along the side of the pool you'd think the children were being tortured based on the screaming and wailing coming up out of the water.  With that said, it's only taken each of my kids three days to learn to swim. They may be scarred for life and blame their future marital problems on the fact that mom put them through the American version of water torture, but at least they can swim, and all for the low price of $65 per kid.

Just ignore the sheer terror on Josiah's face.

Autumn is regularly mistaken for a boy, so we've been trying to grow her hair out, but the back hasn't gotten any longer in three months.  At least its a cute cut.  I guess we'll just keep putting her in pink and more pink because she refuses to wear any of the thousands of hair accessories we've inherited.

One particularly warm night, I sat with Autumn as she wrestled to fall asleep.  I was absorbed in a book when suddenly I heard a tearing noise, somewhat like Velcro being undone.  In the dusk I saw an object fly over the railing of her crib like a giant beanbag flung at a baggo board.  It was her Pull-up.  Full.  Apparently, it was hot and full.  We had just changed her before bed.  What was the deal?  So, maybe she ate a quarter of a very large watermelon that evening.  And maybe I forgot that watermelons are made up of 92% water.  And just maybe it was about 80 degrees in her room with no wind because I was too cheap to turn on the air.  Don't worry, I learned my lesson.  Now we give her watermelon only before 5 pm and we use the A/C on hot nights.  But unfortunately, my lesson was learned too late.  A trend was started.  She does the Pull-up fling almost every night now, causing her to wake up whining in a pool of pee, forcing me to do daily laundry.  I'll probably just go buy more crib sheets to support her Pull-up flinging habit.

She continues to get into EVERYTHING.  She's learned to open locks and regularly uses chairs to get to higher places.  We took the little tea table chairs out of her room, so at least she can't access anything upstairs.  We're running out of places to store things where she can't get to them.  

She has no fears and still puts everything in her mouth.  I apply at least three Band-Aids per week to some part of her body even with my "there must be blood" requirement.  A few days ago I caught her chewing on a fish oil vitamin.  Gross.  Even worse, is she seemed to be enjoying it.  

I'm slowly getting more accustomed to having three children.  I've become more lax, and even more laid back.  When Sheehan was three I made sure he was well groomed, I fretted over getting him enough fruits and vegetables, I matched all his clothes, and kept all the game pieces with the appropriate game.   With the introduction of each new child that high level of parenting has disintegrated to something like, "Oh, you wanna take up chain-smoking?  That's interesting.  Well, lemme get a 5-spot and we'll head on down to The Smoke Stack for a pack of Marlboros.

We've seen a lot of progress with the boys over the past month.  They are beginning to act like typical siblings - playing together and terrorizing their sister: sitting on her, taking her toys (just for fun), and sticking their finger up her nose - in a store no less - simply to antagonize (I can think of less gross ways to antagonize).  But, this is great progress because a month ago there was no playing, no terrorizing, just complaining and heart break.  

A few weeks ago I caught Sheehan protecting Autumn from a 4 year old bully at the playground.  He told him to stop then kicked the little boy in the eye.  On the same day, there was another bully on the playground.  He blocked the entrance to the slide so there was a line four kids deep waiting to get on.  He wouldn't budge.  As Autumn was climbing up the ladder the kid sized her up and snarled, "is she a baaaay-bee?"

I countered the little potato chip on his shoulder with the cow chip on my own.  "She's three!  How old are you (punk)?"

As haughty as a teenager, he replied, "I'm two."  I sneered and thought, Yeah, that's right you're two, you little twerp, she's older than you and she's tough and she'll take you down.  Look at her.  She's completely ignoring you because you're so nominal to her.  That's right...That's right...Tough guy.

Note:  For anyone preparing to adopt a child just assume that the first two point five months will be very, very, very challenging.  Hey, but then it's all fun and games after that - kind of.  Oh, but if it's your first child ever, I'd give it six months.

In our attempts to encourage better relationships in the family we did something that wouldn't be considered one of our smartest family moves.  We gave Sheehan the title of "Captain of the Kids".  Our intention was to encourage him to be more responsible and to lead and protect his siblings.  We had thought it through and talked it over...

"Do you think the title Captain or Dictator would be better?"
"Oh, definitely Captain.  Although Dictator does have a nice macho ring to it."
"Yeah, but Captain sounds so nautical, and since he's a good swimmer and all..."
"Yeah, you're right.  Definitely Captain." 

Needless to say, it backfired.

Josiah has quickly adjusted to his spot as the middle child.  Like a little Jan Brady, last week I caught him wearing a wig and rubbing lemons on his face.  He's drowned out by his older brother who demands attention and his younger sister who cries for it.  He's particularly easygoing and doesn't always express his needs audibly; Steve sent him to the stool last week for a time out and accidentally left him there for 45 minutes or three days or something like that.

Overall, I am so proud of the boys on the restraint they have, more often than not, exhibited when it comes to putting up with a little sister that messes with their things, is difficult to understand, and bangs on their backs with her fist when she doesn't get her way (she's so stinkin' cute!).  Things are coming together and we are getting into a groove with a new normal.  The house is noisy, but it's a nice noisy...most of the time anyway.  Autumn is very funny and makes us laugh everyday.  And I enjoy seeing her wake up with a big smile on her face every morning as she runs into my arms.  A true blessing.
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June 12, 2012

New Blog Title?

I've been toying with the idea of changing the title of my blog.  I know, I know...why change it when Welcome to the HOG (the Hall Blog) rolls off the tongue so easily? Well, I don't know if I'll actually change it, but if and/or when I do I'd like to be prepared, so I scribbled a few ideas down.  Let me know what you think.

1. Me and My Family:  Full of...Wit
2. Family Ties...Up Their Kids So They Can Get Some Peace and Quiet
3. I Hate Angry Birds...and Other Things My Kids (and Husband) Are Obsessed With
4. A Family Affair (Man, That Mrs. Beasely was One Ugly Doll)
5. Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine with My Morning Quiet Time
6. Happiness Is A Warm Puppy...and Low Expectations
7. Eight Is Enough...Actually, So Is Three
8. Dang, Which One of You Just Passed Gas?...Or Was That Me?
9. Just Let It Go and Love...and Then Go In Your Bedroom and Punch the Wall

I couldn't come up with a clean 10.  Any suggestions?  If you had a blog what would you call it?
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June 06, 2012

Autumn's First Wedding

We took Autumn to her first wedding a few weekends ago.  My friend Lauren was getting married in Indianapolis.  The wedding was outside at a beautiful nursery with creeks and ponds and lots of flowers on display.  It was a hot day, like 88 or 188 or something like that.  

We arrived about 15 minutes before the start of the ceremony and lobbied for the box seats (in the shade), but my kid's sweaty heads and somber faces weren't convincing enough to make the groom's family move.  

We dragged ourselves back about five rows to the Hades seats (appropriately named by us because they were somewhere in close proximity to the white hot gaseous fire-spitting blazes of the sun).  Lauren's invitation said to dress for the weather, but I didn't think it was appropriate to wear our bathing suits.  

Steve and I took turns walking the kids over to the shade about 15 feet away from our seats (actually walking to the shade was more for Steve and I and if I'm really honest, more for myself because Steve only took one turn).  The couple sitting in front of us offered the kids Tic-tacs.  The man held out a handful and I told the kids to each take one.  The boys each took one, and then Autumn took the remaining eight and threw them in her mouth.  The couple laughed and said they had a three-year old at home...AT HOME!

The seating of the grandparents started and I looked down to see J-Man laying in the grass at my feet.  He was flat out with his arms behind his head like he was sunbathing or taking a nap.  I whispered for him to get up and sit in the chair, but my wide eyes had a more threatening tone. 

He got back to his chair as Autumn began wandering back to the Tic-tac couple. She reached her arm between the man and woman, holding her palm up, implying she was ready for a second handful.  I pulled her arm back gently and tried to explain that they were all gone, which was a big fat lie because she could see them as clear as day, but I didn't know how to say, "you can't have anymore," in Chinese, I could only say, "all gone."  She made three more Tic-tac attempts before the ceremony was over, and one time I caught both Autumn and J-Man, on separate occasions, looming in the wife's purse that was wide open showing off the Tic-tacs.  They each leaned in to take some before I grabbed their arms.

Holy crap it's hot! ... can I get a Tic-Tac?

The bride was ready to enter, so everyone was asked to stand.  Both boys started complaining loudly that they couldn't see anything, even though Lauren was coming in through the side, a perfect view from our seats.  As I saw other children, sweetly sitting on their mother's laps or in chairs next to their parents I started to wonder what kind of manners classes they were sending their kids to and how in the heck did I miss out on them.  Because clearly, the homeschooling version of Manners 101 is significantly lacking.

With our seats in the sun with no breeze, the temperature, at that point, was something like 212 degrees.  I think I saw bubbles rising in my bottled water.  But this wasn't the hottest wedding we'd been to by any stretch.  In 2007, my cousin and Steve's cousin each had weddings in separate states on the same day.  Steve and I split up so we could each represent.  I took Sheehan with me.  It was over 100 degrees for both weddings, one in Minnesota, the other in Virginia (we still try to convince each other that the wedding we each attended was the hotter one).  Sheehan was only two and he stripped off all his clothes down to his diaper in the middle of the ceremony.  Classy.

After the bride was given away we were asked to take our seats.  I began to sit down and heard a sudden yelp a few feet away.  I looked over and Steve was jumping up out of his seat.  Apparently Autumn moved her water bottle to Steve's chair while we were standing.  It was one of those small squatty bottles and was standing upright...until it met Steve's rear end.  Thankfully, only the eight rows behind him noticed.

Steve explaining to Autumn why a wedding is 
not the time or place for a proctology exam.

The ceremony was hot and beautiful.  Afterwards, we walked through the gardens to the tent for the reception.  They had different flavored popcorn as appetizers, which I thought was really creative, and kid-friendly to boot.  (Although, you could tell which flavor Sheehan chose because his white shirt was streaked all over with orange fingerprints.  We're still working on that whole napkin thing.  Who needs a napkin when you've got a shirt?  Same goes for a tissue.)

As we waited for the bridal party to arrive after pictures we took the kids out to the creek to look around and cool off.  J-Man began moving large rocks around from a display to build a dam.  We explained to him that the rocks were part of the landscape display and shouldn't be moved.  You'd think that we never get out of our house by the way our kids act.  I really shouldn't be surprised by their behavior - I mean, they're just kids - but I always am.  My mom still shares the story of when I was a teenager (a teenager!) and we went to a Christmas program at a church, and at the time we didn't do church, so my mom was feeling a little uncomfortable.  Well, there was a sweets table after the program with cookies and cakes and other goodies.  I got a plate and piled my cookies and cakes and truffle balls up like Mount Vesuvius.  My mom was mortified.  And if that wasn't bad enough, as we walked toward the steps to leave, with everyone watching, Mt. Vesuvius erupted and my rum balls and truffle balls rolled off the plate and bounced down the steps.  My mom couldn't get to the car fast enough.  I don't think we ever went back to that church.

By dessert, Autumn was running around like a little maniac that only had a five minute nap (which is all she had).  I suddenly hit a point where I thought, "We have to leave.  I can't do this anymore."  Steve is always - ALWAYS - the one who wants to leave anywhere first, but I've found that with three kids and one as active as Miss Autumn, I'm ready to leave a place sometimes as soon as we walk in the door.  I am perpetually exhausted.

Before we left, I found myself hanging out outside the men's bathroom like a wedding crasher (I was waiting for one of the boys) and a man came out, that I'd never seen before, appropriately dressed in wedding attire.  He looked at me like I was a wedding crasher.  Then he asked me my name.  I thought, "this guy thinks I'm a wedding crasher...and who is he anyway?...sizing me up like he wants to know what I'm doing hanging out outside the men's bathroom at a wedding.  With a little "I'm NOT a wedding crasher" chip on my shoulder, I told him my name and shook his hand.  Then he introduced himself as the Father of the Bride.  How could I not know that he was the Father of the Bride?!  He only walked Lauren down the aisle two hours prior.  He was in the Top 5 Most Important People at a Wedding, and I didn't have a clue who he was.  Plus, I had met him before at a party for Lauren a few years ago.  I backpedaled and explained that I used to work with Lauren "at the church" (which I stressed to show that I did indeed know Lauren and wasn't just some weirdo out for free popcorn), and that I had been to his house for a party, and blah, blah, blah.  I looked like I was lying, like I really was a wedding crasher.

As we were leaving, we found Lauren to say good-bye.  During the goodbye, J-Man disappeared and when we turned around to look for him he was on top of the railing of the gazebo. If we had stayed any longer, we probably would have caught him leaping from table top to table top like a gazelle.

In the parking lot, one of the women I was talking to at our table mentioned how hard it could be with three small children (she has three that are 11, 10, and 9) just from the sheer exhaustion of constant multi-tasking.  I said, "That's it!  That's exactly it!"  She said, even if all you're doing is watching them, they're all going in three different directions and you're trying to keep track of all three at the same time.  She hit the nail right on the head and what makes it even harder is that we're still transitioning with Autumn and are still learning what she may do next.  There are so many situations where we can't even predict how she's going to respond or act.  We just move forward and see what happens.  And then sit back in total exhaustion at the end because we've spent so much of that time chasing her.

Ahh...guess we won't use this one for the 2012 Christmas card
...or maybe we will.

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May 22, 2012

Two Month (and a week or so) Update

I can't believe we have been Autumn's parents for over two months already.  She fits in so well with our family, even as she tornadoes through the house like the Tasmanian Devil.  She seems to have grown and blossomed so much in these two short months.  In China, she was barely able to jump in place, now she's jumping off chairs and out of wagons...with wheels...and landing on her face.  In China, she cried because I held her, now she cries when I don't hold her.  In China, she learned to climb a small jungle gym, now she's learning to climb trees (I caught her 20 feet up in our pine tree today!).

She is fearless.  I took the kids to the pool last week and she kept pushing my hands away, so she could "swim".   Of course she sank, but then she just shook the water off her face and pushed me away again.  

The boys are still struggling with her, but I like to think that it gets better every day.  When Sheehan was recently asked what the best thing is about having a sister, his answer was, "nothing."

Josiah is coming around much quicker.  I've caught him playing Barbies with her.  But, on more occasions I've caught him wrestling with her, pulling his signature "pancake move", which involves laying stretched out, flat on top of her, while she squeals and laughs, and sometimes cries.  

But, she's a tough girl.  When the boys take something away from her - that almost always belongs to them - she hauls off and punches them on the back as hard as she can, with her little fist.  This has called for a lot of restraint from the boys and they've been successful about half the time in holding back on knocking the crap out of her.

Her English is getting better.  She repeats everything we say.  She asks for water, her shoes, books, etc.  Her favorite phrase is, "num-on," which is another way of saying, "come on."  I never realized how frequently we say this in our house:

"Come on!  It's time to go."
"Come on!  You have to go potty now?
"Come ooon!  Don't lick your shoe!

She uses the phrase very appropriately.  I was trying to squeeze her size 3T legs into a pair of size 2T pants, and she squeaked out, "num-on."  I've also caught her grunting "num-on," when on the potty.

She says another phrase that sounds something like "gobb-ee-oh!"  We have no idea what this means, probably something like, "stop it!"   If I take away something she shouldn't be playing with or if Josiah plays the drums on her butt, she'll cry out, "gobb-ee-oh!"  I took my phone away from her the other day and she said, "gobb-ee-oh!" and I said, "you, gobb-ee-oh!" Then she said it back to me again, so I'm sure I'm giving in to some form of Chinese sass talk that I can't translate.

The best thing she does (they must have taught her to do this in the orphanage) is every time she sees a picture of Cinderella or picks up a Barbie, she says, "mama."  Of course, she also says "mama" whenever we read Pajama Time and she sees the gray dog with floppy ears (I felt better when Steve told me that she says he's the rhinoceros).

On the Serious Side...

The rest of the family is struggling.  The boys are hurting.  Not getting enough attention.  You can see it in their acting out, in their whining, in their pained faces.  I pray that God will give them what they need because I cannot.  I am worn out, unable to give any more.  Autumn gets it all.  She does not take a break, cannot play with a toy for longer than 30 seconds, cannot keep her curious hands out of places I wish they weren't.  Only when she sleeps, but by then I'm usually so exhausted that I am asleep.  The boys get so little.  But, Autumn has gotten so little for the past three years.  We try to tell the boys that, but they don't understand, their little minds are unable to comprehend such lacking.  Such lacking, that they too experienced when they were babies.

Adoptive parents learn in class after class that their number one priority is to meet the needs of the child ("at every cost," is implied, merely because of the frequency you hear it).  I'm coming to realize that this is a goal from the pit of Hell and Lucifer himself.  I cannot meet all the needs of my children, nor should I.  There is not enough of me to go around to meet even the needs of one child, so I surely can't meet the needs of three, especially when some of those "needs" are desires in disguise.  Only God can meet all our needs.  I'm learning that sometimes I have to let go and let God deal with my children's unmet needs or desires.  I'm not even meant to meet those needs and can even be downright sinful as I try to usurp God's job.  But, if I hear "I don't get enough mama-time" in an angry tone one more time, I'm going to slam some plastic plates in the sink and watch them shatter.  Oh wait, I did that yesterday.

I found the following in my journal this morning from a year ago, but it felt appropriate for this week.  This was what I felt like God was saying to me:  "My child.  I love you.  You are going through some challenges right now.  I see your pain.  I am with you. I will never leave you.   My hand is upon you.  Even as you question me, I still hold you fast.  Your heart is precious to me.  You are my child. And I will never let you go.  I love you."

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May 10, 2012

First Visit to Chuck E. Cheese

I decided to take the kids to Chuck E. Cheese the other day because it was chilly and rainy and I was too lazy to be resourceful.  Autumn's favorite activity was the Sketch Pad.  The camera takes your pictures and prints it out like a sketch.  Here's what we got...

Autumn (she looked away)

Autumn with Mama (she was looking at herself)

Autumn and Josiah (she was drunk)

Autumn and Sheehan (um...he was strangling her?)

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