Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Preview

We opened gifts at our house this Saturday because we're going out of town this week. Bryan and I were up until 1:30 a.m. assembling the new train table. As we were finishing, Bryan said, "Now I know why my parents were always so tired on Christmas." Yes, we are just now figuring this out. I anticipate many sleep-deprived Christmas days for years to come, until the kids are old enough to request gifts that do not need complicated assembly. Of course, by then we will probably be waiting up for them to come home...

The late night effort was SO worth it though! I held the kids at bay until Bryan had the video camera ready. They walked in, saw the train table and raced straight for it without a word. Alex soon discovered stockings, candy, and presents, though Sam remained happily in Train Heaven for most of the morning.

Alex and I had been talking a lot about the song, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" which she has requested as her bedtime song for the past few weeks. I also explained to her that good kids get presents, toys, and candy - while "bad" kids get coal, which is like rocks and isn't much fun. When she saw the presents she said, "I was GOOD!" and "I did not pout!" and "I did not get rocks!"

Sam's fun was interrupted by a much needed bath, to his dismay. He did get to keep his Tootsie Pop in the bathtub though, which was a good receptacle for the copious amounts of green drool.

I am loving Christmas with a 1- and 3-year old! It is so easy to make them happy. And fun to see the innocent, surprised happy expressions. I'm glad we get to do it again in another week or so.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Just" adopt

I really enjoyed this article by Sarah Kelly. It's about the well-intended phrase tossed out by so many people who don't know what else to say when confronted with infertility - "You can always just adopt."

Not sure if the link above will work - and don't want to violate any copyright laws but here are some excerpts -

"Which is why you cannot tell someone to “just adopt.” As if there were anything “just” about it. It’s not like, “Hmm, what should I do today? Oh, I know! I’d love to fill out 500 government forms! I’ll just do that today! And then I’ll just schedule multiple visits with social workers, request letters of reference, declarations of good health, a complete financial inventory—I’ll lay bare every aspect of my life that can be summarized on paper. And then I’ll just have everything notarized. In triplicate.”

The complicated process aside, before making a new map for your life and choosing to adopt, you need to go as far as you feel comfortable going with treatment, mourn not being pregnant, and say goodbye to the future you assumed you’d have.

I liked the last paragraph too:

After everything my husband and I went through in our quest for the “miracle of life,” I know now what the real miracle is. Through everything—through miles and oceans and air and time and loss and grief and healing and acceptance and love—we found a way to our son and he found his way to us.

Kudos to you, Sarah Kelly - lots of heads are nodding in agreement and appreciation for what you put into words.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

bizarre, and sad

So, I'm in my office working away and the sound of a helicopter circling barely registers, but keeps intruding on my consciousness. Eventually a co-worker sends out an e-mail: there's a news helicopter and the Credit Union (across the street, visible from my office window) is surrounded by fire trucks and security. What's up?

Turns out a construction worker was buried in 8 feet of dirt when a trench collapsed on him. Heavy equipment was brought in to rescue him but they were unable to reach him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

I can hear the news helicopter again, sitting here at my desk on a sunny cold December day. A day just like any other day - for us - but for one man, his last day. May he rest in peace.

Friday, December 7, 2007

little faces haunting me

In the midst of the Christmas season, with all the shopping and the lights and the cheery music, I am haunted today by two images which have reached around the world to me. It would be easy to forget them, and in prior years I probably would have been able to, at least with more ease than I can now. The needs of the world are overwhelming, and it becomes too hard to think about them all the time. But this year, these two images are lingering in my mind.

The first is a picture of several children at an orphanage in South Korea. The picture was taken recently by an adult Korean adoptee who writes for the NY Times Relative Choices blog ( She was adopted at age 3 and grew up in the US. Seeing these kids, she wrote, "Looking at those children I could not help but think: I got out."

As great as it is that we were able to adopt Alex and Sam, in slightly different circumstances they could easily have ended up exactly where these children are. They could be the kids in that picture.

The second image is a black and white photo of a baby in a North Korean orphanage, sent to us by Holt International. They have been supporting orphans in North Korea for about 5 years, but this year, due to flooding on top of famine, hundreds of children are starving - and dying in terrible numbers. There is no heat in the orphanages; children are huddling together for warmth. Milk is so scarce that staff workers are grinding rice and grain into powder for "formula." After recently reading about the conditions in post-war South Korea in the 1950s, it strikes me that after all this time things are just as bad in the North--even worse, because they are cut off from many sources of aid that were available in the South. Once again - if Sam or Alex had been born just a little north of where they were - they could be the ones in these photos. The thought brings tears to my eyes.

There is normally little opportunity to send aid from the US to North Korea, due to government policies and other factors. I hope Holt will collect a lot of donations for its North Korea program (see As for us - how could we say no?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thanksgiving, the Good Earth, friends

Wow, I haven't blogged in a month now, since Halloween.

Thanksgiving was great fun this year. We were all reasonably healthy (the kids had runny noses). Cameo and I split up the cooking for Thanksgiving dinner again and it was a true feast. Thank goodness the turkey turned out well - I always feel I don't know what I'm doing when I try to make big meat dishes. I have a new favorite dessert - Bryan's mom's recipe for "Captain Scott H's Key Lime Pie." Yum. The stores here don't carry key lime kool aid, so I used lemon lime and it was OK, but if I ever do find key lime kool aid I'll buy a lot. :-) Cameo's pumpkin gooey cake was very delicious too. We had our friend Jill and Buzz's friend Alison and family and we all played Catch Phrase after dinner. A good game you can play anywhere with any number of people. The kids were playing semi-independently, though at one point I wondered where Sam had gone so I checked. I found Ava pressing down on him in a corner with one of the chair pillows in the toy room. He wasn't complaining, just trying to sit up despite having a pillow and Ava on top of him, and Ava explained something about how she was trying to play with something (translation: trying to keep Sam out of her toys).

It was interesting preparing and eating such a decadent feast while in the midst of reading about the famine in The Good Earth. Several thoughts I've had while reading it...

- Women in this country are very, very lucky to live here and now.
- I thought I worked hard and for little reward in residency - reading about how the people worked themselves to the bone on the land (and still risked starvation) really puts things in perspective!
- Things happen "when the rich are too rich, and the poor are too poor." Reminds me of the line in Les Miserables, "Something's gotta happen now and something's gotta give."
- The protagonist of The Good Earth is a man, but I think Pearl Buck secretly makes the real hero of the story a woman. A plain, silent, selfless, sad woman who no one wanted.
- I cried when I read about Olan's death and Wang Lung's response. I'm pretty sure I liked this book well enough when I first read it in high school (20+ years ago now!?) but I think I appreciate it much more now. How many other books were half wasted on me in high school and college?

Anyway - not much more can be said about a long weekend of feasting and friends and time with my beloved family. I am deeply thankful.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Argh and Boo

Well, it's one step forward, one step back with the final bit of adoption paperwork. The application for Sam's certificate of citizenship was returned because I sent a personal check and they only take cashier's checks or money orders. I should have known better, having done this all before..."Doh!" Luckily this mistake "only" cost me the money it took to send the application by registered mail ($13 to cover several hundred dollars worth of original documents). What's another $13 at this point? Nothing really. It's just frustrating to make a dumb mistake on the last step!

The amazing thing was, they actually had the rejected application and all my forms back to me within 2 days of their receiving it. Not bad at all for a government office. :-)

On another note, we spent our Saturday morning with the largest mob of costumed people I have ever seen at the zoo's annual Halloween event, Boo at the Zoo. The animals must have wondered what was going on, but they took it in stride. It was great! Alex discovered blue taffy, Sam had his first big Tootsie Pop, and we all had a grand time.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Pumpkin Patch

Took my little tiger and pumpkin to Engh Gardens' "Pumpkin Patch" today.
Alex took off through the hay bale maze, so I had to grab Sam and follow before I lost her. Luckily I was tall enough to see over the bales so I could sort of tell where she was. It was cute seeing her little tiger tail wagging along behind her. Sam liked playing with all the tiny pumpkins, and several people commented on what a cute pumpkin he was. Alex wore it 2 years ago, but she would never keep the hat on.

I've decided after all these years I should really just get a costume I like and wear it every year for Halloween. I tried looking around for some fun masks or hats, but all I can seem to find in the regular stores are very ugly, gory, or grotesque. Not to mention boring. There are a hundred variations on witches, vampires, beasts, ogres, etc. Where are all the cute, innocent, funny costumes? Nothing seemed to inspire me. Finally I bought a $2.50 headband with two spiders with "googly eyes" wobbling around on springs on top. If anyone knows where I can find a Lisa Simpson costume, let me know. I would dress up as Lisa and carry a sign with my favorite quote of hers: "The courage of the small embiggens us all!"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

One More Step

For over four years now, we've had adoption paperwork in process.

Today we got Sam's social security number in the mail. That means we have ONE MORE STEP in our adoption paperwork - obtaining the Certificate of Citizenship. After 4 years, I am ecstatic at the thought of being DONE!

The last step is exciting, but as with most things in adoption, it comes with a pricetag. The $420 fee for a Certificate of Citizenship is annoying for a couple of reasons. First of all, there is a law in effect that declares our adopted children citizens at the time of their adoption. BUT - despite that law - we still have to pay them $420 for the piece of paper that says it. Second, it is not technically "required" for us to get that piece of paper. Our childrens' passports, birth certificates, and adoption papers prove their citizenship. But passports expire, and in case there is ever any confusion (throughout our kids' lives the laws could change again - not taking away their status but people's understanding of it may be muddled, for instance if they are trying to apply for college scholarships, etc) so it's just nice to have that final declaration. For Sam, it's also a means of making sure he is never called to serve in the Korean army. Korean men have mandatory military service and I've heard about immigrants who were basically drafted after living in the US their whole lives. As I understand it, Sam's US citizenship means his Korean citizenship is automatically revoked.

So, I have downloaded the 7 page application for the CoC and the 8 pages of instructions and I will be happy to get them in the mail, despite having to write that $420 check. Lord willing, by the end of this year, we will be officially FINISHED with adoption paperwork. YAHOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Unless, of course, I can talk Bryan into adopting again in a few years! ;-)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sam at 18 months

Slammin' Sam is a little ball of energy, a 21-pound tornado who spreads crumbs, toys, germs, kisses, and joy. We are in love with him. Well, with Alex it may be more like love-hate, but...anyway, here he is figuring out how to feed Elmo and modeling his shark pajamas. Note that his manhood is not at all challenged by the act of pushing dolls around in a pink stroller. He is in touch with his feminine side.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

my Saturday

Lest I let days like this go by without remembering how fun they are, I will blog today's events for posterity...

Sam wakes up and as usual, mine is the first face he sees in the morning. Happy Sam. I wish I had a video of his facial expression, though, when we enter the kitchen and he sees Lena smiling up at us from her seat on the kitchen table. You can just read "What is THIS doing in MY house!" all over him. Later, I'm goo-gooing to Lena and she's smiling and we're having a happy aunt-niece bonding moment, when Sam taps me on the arm. I turn and say, "Yes, Sam?" and he plants a big kiss right on my face. And some people think babies have a hard time communicating without language!

Enter Ava, a few minutes later. She is greeted by Sam with his favorite all-purpose name for people, "Mama!" and she says very seriously, "I am not a mama." Take that, Sam-I-am!

We make blueberry pancakes with pink food coloring (lately Alex is really into colored pancakes) and the girls help stir the batter. While the pancakes are cooking the kids eat frozen blueberries. Soon I have 3 happy kids with blueberry faces and fingers, and spots of squashed blueberries on my recently-mopped kitchen floor.

Soon it's time to go to Calvin's birthday party (he's 3). Alex throws a tantrum over having to wear clothes instead of pajamas, and refuses to go potty (it's 10:30 a.m. and she woke up dry and hasn't gone since last night). I realize I have not had a shower and now I don't have time, so I put on more eye makeup and hope it will detract attention from my greasy hair.

The birthday party is well attended, chaotic, and a big hit with the kids. I enjoy talking with friends I rarely see, and we all say we should get together more but no one has time. Sam pushes trucks around and makes truck noises while Calvin opens his presents. Sam cries when he can't have Calvin's new trains. Alex starts whining that her tummy hurts, which means she REALLY has to go to the bathroom now. I take her to the bathroom but Sam sees us go, which causes his face to crumple and he stands at the door and wails until I let him in, while Alex pees about a gallon and instantly her tummy is better. Later she wants to be "baby Lena" and eats chocolate cake with her hands instead of a fork, and then gets into smearing the cake all over her tray and hands, laughing hysterically. (At least she didn't smear it into her hair, though it would be easier to remove than A&D ointment.) Sam grabs another kid's cake and runs off with it in his mouth, a huge grin on his face. He then climbs up on me, smearing chocolate onto my pants and shirt. He falls asleep in the car on the way home.

We all take naps. Afterwards, the kids get baths and I dress Sam in a cute outfit he could wear to church tomorrow. I make spaghetti for dinner. After picking a thousand strands of red-stained angel hair pasta out of Sam's clothes, high chair, table and surrounding area, I vow to make only "shell" pasta from now on. Sam is whining about something and I hear Alex say to him, "Sam, where is your sunshine?" I smile. My sunshine is right here, all around me.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

the things kids do

I don't know if it was the first snow of the season (in September), or the barometric pressure, or what - but I was so tired! I had just been chatting with my friend who also has a 3 year old, about how good our kids are. My friend said, "I can take a nap with Aimee free in the house and I don't have to worry about it. I know exactly what she'll do." I said, "Alex is pretty good too, I could probably do that too. It's Sam I have to worry about." So after putting Alex and Sam down for naps, I thought, Why not? I'll just take a nap too. Even though Alex can now climb out of her bed and basically roam the house unsupervised, she never does that. I heard some clunking sounds from the direction of her room, but that's not too uncommon. Some days she doesn't sleep, but she generally stays in her room and plays.

So after Sam got up I was in the kitchen giving him a snack when in walks Alex with a huge grin on her face. Her hair was completely PLASTERED with A&D ointment - which has been sitting on her changing table for years without her ever touching it. I couldn't help laughing, but after 4 washes with baby oil and shampoo neither of us was laughing anymore. Her hair is still stiff and sticky. In case you've ever wondered, A&D ointment just doesn't make a good beauty treatment.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Slowing down; books I'm into

Whew. This month has been busier than I wanted. I usually work 3 days a week but for the past 3 weeks I worked full time (2 weeks of ward attending on the VA neurology service, and one week of work meetings and recertifying ACLS (Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support)). I'm hoping for things to settle down now, and looking forward to enjoying the fall weather. This morning I was surprised by the first new SNOW on the tops of the mountains near our house - a rude awakening! The leaves are barely starting to turn color - I hope the valley floor doesn't see snow for another month yet. I don't think Sam has a winter coat that fits!

Speaking of Sam, he has had a runny nose and 2 white sores on his tongue for the past 2 days. I wonder what this is, and I hope I don't get it. Since he has sneezed directly into my face a few times, I'm sure I'm exposed. Oh goody.

Despite my schedule I've managed to stick my nose into a few good books lately. I've read one chapter of The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, and I can see a kindred spirit in him already. I felt like I could close my eyes and point to the page, and almost anywhere in the chapter I'd land on a good quote. I remember laughing out loud at one description of someone whose "cheese is falling off his cracker." Wish I had a sample for the blog, but I don't have the book with me. I'll work on that.

I also started reading Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith by Rob Bell. I think anytime someone starts talking about "repainting" or "re-visioning" or "re-thinking" some aspect of Christianity, it makes some people really nervous and threatened. There is a Wikipedia page about Bell in which some of his critics call him various names, like "relativist" and "liberal" and the like, but I find it interesting they are calling him these names rather than pointing out flaws in his thinking or inconsistencies in his positions. If they want liberal, they should read something by John Shelby Spong - perhaps "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism", a book whose title I really love (haven't actually read the book though). Bell is pretty moderate, if you ask me. It seems he is just out there saying what a lot of us(maybe most) have been thinking, and is trying to swing the pendulum from way over on the "orthodoxy (right doctrine)" side, to a balance between orthodoxy and orthopraxis (right living). I think it's a healthy change. I bet I'd enjoy going to Mars Hill, the church where he is a pastor. But alas, I haven't found a Rob Bell or a Mars Hill in Utah yet.

Other books to consider, when there is time - Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, by Marcus Borg - anyone out there familiar with this author?


The Kalahari Typing School for Men - by Alexander McCall Smith - I cannot say enough how much I have enjoyed this whole series!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

New Song women's group

Last night I attended the women's group of New Song Presbyterian Church, where we've been attending for the last couple weeks. I don't remember the last time I attended a women's church group - the idea usually turned me off. I had visions of sitting around doing crafts, painting toenails, swapping tips on makeup and telling childbirth horror stories. Not my thing. But this group was not like that. On the surface, what struck me most was that everyone was so young and skinny! I did have the advantage that my buddy Tammy had been in the group, and I knew she wouldn't have kept going back if it wasn't pretty good.

As an icebreaker we talked about where we were from and how we came to Utah. Not one person there was a Utah native. Several had just arrived here in the past 1-2 years. Amazingly, I had the (dubious?) honor of having been here the longest (13 years). Makes me feel old, but I probably was the oldest one there aside from the pastor's wife who has me by a few years, I think. Anyway, it reminded me that non-Mormon, non-Catholic Christians are truly in the minority (2%) here.

It also took me back to the days when we first moved to Utah. We went to First Presbyterian church and made friends with a bunch of people who were similar in age to the ones in this group - and they all moved away. I wonder how many in this group will still be here in another 10 years. I think a lot of people who move here wind up moving away again - especially if they're not of the "dominant religious affiliation."

Monday, September 10, 2007

terrible threes

What happened to my sweet, mostly compliant, reasonable little girl? Someone has kidnapped her and replaced her with a screaming, thrashing, tantruming little monster! The past few days she has been really obstreperous! The other day, after multiple scream-filled time-outs, she told Bryan, "I had a horrible day." Usually in the evenings she tells us, "I had a GOOD day."

resisting control or restraint in a difficult manner; unruly.
noisy, clamorous, or boisterous: obstreperous children.
[Origin: 1590–1600; < style="FONT-VARIANT: small-caps" href="">ob- + strepere to rattle); see -ous]

In her defense, she hasn't had the best week. She was ill for a few days, and last night she fell out of bed again (we really do need to install that bedrail). She also has not been napping consistently, so she gets more worn down at the end of the day. Between Sam's giving up his morning nap and Alex giving up the afternoon nap, we are all getting less rest these days. Anyway, I hope this behavior will be short-lived. I have heard people say that "threes" were more terrible than "twos" and I'm starting to fear what this year will look like!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Got my Silver

Today I broke the 45,000 point barrier and earned my Presidential Champions Silver Award. Woohoo!

I started this thing in January of this year as a way to motivate myself to keep working out. It is offered through my work and I signed up after getting a mass e-mail from the big boss challenging everyone to do it. Every time we work out, we log our points online and as they accumulate we earn "awards." The awards are mainly symbolic, but it's nice to have some little external motivation.The only other person I know who is participating is my friend Tammy, who has probably earned seven gold medals in the time it took me to get my bronze and silver. (Her 2 year old frequently boasts that his "mommy is buff" and it's true!) Anyway, I am taking the "slow but steady" tortoise approach but at least I'm still in the race.

On to the GOLD!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

anticlimactic first day

So, today was Alex's first day of preschool. I'd been trying to prepare her for the past couple days, telling her how much fun it would be, especially since her friend Aimee and cousin Ava would be there too. We loaded her little purple backpack with a set of extra clothes just in case of accidents, since she is still perfecting her potty training skills. She looked really cute in her pink blouse and matching pink barrettes. As we left the house she waved good-bye to Sam and the babysitter, saying, "Sam doesn't go to preschool." She seemed confident enough.

And then, in the car on the way there, she started crying and saying her stomach hurt. I took her inside and she seemed OK for a few minutes, even playing and smiling at a cute boy (already a natural born flirt!). But I noticed she stopped playing and started grabbing her belly, and soon she said again that her tummy hurt. Was this just nerves? She told me she wanted to go home and, despite my uncertainty as to what was really going on, I decided I'd better be safe than sorry. So we left - and very shortly afterward, she did throw up, thankfully not in the car. All told, I think her first day of preschool lasted about 10 minutes. Poor Alex. I was so disappointed! But VERY glad I didn't leave her at the preschool!

Sometimes things just don't turn out the way you planned.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sam - one year later

August 24 was our first anniversary of Sam's arrival day. Pictures then and now...

It's been kind of a whirlwind month. We spent a busy week at Donner Lake, and between being gone 2 weeks in July and a week in August I'm still feeling behind at work. I also decided to make some slideshows for Alex and Sam, for her 3rd birthday and his 1st arrival day, and this was fun but pretty time-consuming. I tried to post one of them on YouTube but it never did work despite multiple tries - I'm guessing the 35 MB file size was too much, though the YouTube site says my limit is 100 MB. Oh well.

So this Saturday was Alex's 2nd 3rd birthday party, with family and friends at the park. It was really fun, the weather was perfect, and we had a great turnout - I think everyone we invited showed up (33 people counting ourselves and kids)- but between getting up early to work out, working on slideshows, planning and cleaning up after this party I'm feeling exhausted! But I couldn't be happier. Feeling so grateful for my life. :-)

We had the party at Wheeler Farm, a pretty park with large lawns and little streams that are instant kid-magnets. At one point my friend Nancy rescued Sam just as he was leaning over the stream and looked like he might fall in, and later in the evening Bryan looked for Sam and saw him standing in another little stream! Yikes!. I should have been keeping a better eye on him, but I was also trying to rescue Alex from bees, serve dinner to 2 kids, carry stuff from car to table, make party punch, and have some semblance of conversation with friends I hadn't seen in awhile. The older kids at the party were a lifesaver as they helped entertain little kids and keep them from wandering too far. Thanks to Nancy, Alex finally got her beloved bunny cake, with blue M&Ms for eyes, red string licorice whiskers and mouth, and chocolate chip nose. At the end we lit up the remaining sparklers from 4th of July which attracted not only the kids at our party but also random kids from the park who wanted to get in on the action.

After all the excitement I thought the kids would crash. Sam did, but Alex was up until MIDNIGHT playing in her room - since we put the big girl bed in, she is loving the freedom. I think we may have to curtail or end her afternoon naps if we want her to sleep at night.

Signing off - pictures to come soon, I hope.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Birthday Girl

Alex was 3 on August 19. A quick review of her first 3 years...

At birth...

6 months...

1 year...

18 months...

2 years...

2 and 1/2...

and now, "I'm THREE!"

I'm working on a video/slideshow, compiling the best of the past 3 years. Fun but it's taking longer than I wanted. She's really growing up. I asked her if she wanted to go to the beach and she said, "That would be fun, actually." She cracks me up.

Love you girl! XOXOXO

Thursday, August 2, 2007

an unexpected gift

Yesterday we received a surprise in the mail: a letter and small gift from "Mrs. Kim," Alex's foster mom in Korea!

Until it actually happened, I wouldn't have believed how much this would mean to me. The letter was addressed "My beloved Da Eun" and "Dearest lovely Da Eun" (English translation, of course.) Mrs. Kim thanked Alex for growing up so well and said how much she appreciated all the pictures we sent. She said she is still caring for little babies and "they are all so precious in their own way." She also sent a little package of hair accessories for Alex to wear. Incredibly sweet!

I got out the photograph of Alex with her foster mom, which had been put away for a while. I showed it to Alex and explained to her about her foster mom who took care of her when she was a baby. A couple months ago I started explaining to her how she was born in Korea, but I'm not sure how much she gets it. In a way, this letter and gift were the perfect catalyst for me to reinforce the story I've been trying to tell her - the story of her beginnings. For a while I wasn't putting too much effort into it, because she's so young, but I'm convinced it's never too early. I expect we'll be talking about it with Alex and Sam through all their developmental stages, and bit by bit, as they grow, the story will become part of their identity.

I read in an adoption magazine that it's a good idea to practice telling your children their adoption stories, even when they're babies, because then by the time they can understand it you'll be used to talking about it and hopefully it won't feel strained or awkward. At the time, I thought it was a little silly, but the first couple times I talked to Alex about it, it was harder than I thought to find the right words. It's getting easier.

I have a friend with an adopted daughter who doesn't seem to want to acknowledge her daughter's birth parents at all. She's afraid it would be traumatic and she (the mom) really believes that her birth mom had (and has) no significant place in her daughter's life anyway. I can understand that viewpoint, but I wonder what that does to her daughter's image of her own biological mother and her own identity. Like all adoptive moms, I suppose, we will have to figure out what is the best approach for our families. I hope Alex and Sam will never fear talking with me about their birth moms.

Alex's birthday party is approaching and I'm thinking about having a green candle burning during the party in honor of her Korean mom, like we did last year. In addition, I'm considering adding other candles to represent her foster mom and dad, and myself and Bryan. I'm hoping this will encourage people to see, acknowledge, and be thankful for all the people who have loved and cared for her.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

family on display

Last week Bryan, Alex, Sam and I traveled to North Carolina for our annual family reunion. For some reason, we seemed to attract more attention than I remember getting recently. (Maybe Sam's noisy squawking and running in all directions contributed...) Anyway, all during the trip, a lot of people (strangers) commented on how beautiful our kids are. At first I didn't really think much about it, because of course they ARE beautiful. But then, while walking around Blowing Rock and the mall and other public places, I kept overhearing conversations springing up around us that had to do with adoption. I began to suspect that we are being noticed more because of our "blendedness" as a family. It's the old "living in a fishbowl" phenomemon we were warned about. You may think you are just out doing normal things all families do, but like it or not, you attract attention, and you might as well get used to it.

One man approached us in the airport and said his daughter and her husband were considering adoption. He wanted to know how much it cost. I usually love talking to people about adoption (shamelessly promoting it, of course), but I am starting to balk at the "cost" question especially when it is being discussed directly in front of the kids. I want to be honest - yes, adoption does involve fees - but it seems pretty tactless to quote numbers - like putting a pricetag on your kids. And really, if you just met someone who had required infertility treatment to have a child, would you ask them (in front of the child), "So, how much did you wind up paying?"? I read one adoption magazine article that suggested, when asked how much you paid to adopt, to ask the questioner how much they paid for their house! I haven't done that yet but some day I may find the nerve. For now, my answer to the "cost" question is something like, "After the tax credits, it costs about as much as having a baby in a hospital" and "A substantial part of the fees go to support other kids in orphanages who are not adopted."

That said, it still saddens me that adoption fees are often high enough to be out of range for a lot of decent hardworking families. I bet a lot more kids would be adopted if the fees were lower. Once I read that for every healthy baby that needs a family, in the US there are 25 couples looking to adopt. No wonder international adoption is so popular. I also read that before Roe v. Wade, the demand for adoptable babies was pretty much equal to the supply. I'm not sure what adoption fees were back then, but it would be interesting to know.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

first overnight away in 2 years

So, last week I went to DC for 4 days and 3 nights for a team meeting. I was somewhat apprehensive about leaving the kids, since I've never been away from them overnight. Even though I leave them 3 days a week to go to work, it seems different not to be greeting them first thing in the morning, and not to be kissing them goodnight.

The good news was, they seemed to do just fine. My first day back home they both kept within close range of me and wanted to be held a lot, but by the second day back they seemed to be back to normal. Oh, and Alex didn't urinate for 18 hours that first day. A little scary. Of course I can't prove there's a connection between my absence and her withholding,'s pretty interesting.

The bad news was that Bryan admitted he felt more relaxed while I was gone. Oh. I didn't think I was that anal, but he says I'm "uptight" since the kids came along. Probably true. I suspect this comes from my criticism of his feeding them hot dogs a lot, putting pots in the "wrong" cupboards, not soaking dishes, and letting them wear their pajamas all day. I think I've probably always subconsciously assumed the role my mom had, which included being in charge of everything involving kids, the kitchen, and laundry. I think it's hard for me to share this stuff with Bryan and let him do it his way. I remember my sister in law telling me she had to learn that "Daddy's way works too." Anyway, I'm trying to un-tighten myself but when you've been a perfectionist this long, it's an uphill battle.

On a completely different note, I finished reading The Time Traveler's Wife (the greatest things about this trip to DC: time to read, and seeing Phantom of the Opera at the Kennedy Center). The TTW was a fun read - at least, fun at first, and then it got really sad, but I guess that's just art mimicking life. It was well written, very evocative, and got me thinking about appreciating the everyday stuff of life. The other book I just finished, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, was very fun to listen to (I listened in the car) because of the reader's accent(s). As my friend P. says, "It makes you LOVE Botswana." True. I would love to have Mma Ramotswe as a friend. She's one of the most lovable characters I've ever met in a book.

Well, tomorrow we fly out to NC for our annual family vacation. Sam hasn't been on a plane since his airlift out of Korea, and I'm dubious about his tolerance for being confined that long. I'm bringing crackers, cereal, dried blueberries and cranberries, new books and toys they've never seen, dental floss to pull out and unroll (cheap, but Alex liked it last time she was on a plane), the Magna-doodle, a sticker book, and crayons. Oh, and a box of band-aids, that should be a big hit. Alex's new favorite book is "Doctor Dan, the Bandage Man." First published in 1950, it features a very 1950's looking mom and kids putting plain band-aids on their toys and each other. It doesn't seem to matter that there are no Dora or Tigger characters on them - Alex shares that universal toddler trait of band-aid love.
Guess I'll go start packing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Last night I dreamed there were large holes in our roof during a colossal rainstorm, so that little waterfalls were cascading from various places in our ceiling. This also caused all the wallpaper to come off the walls in the kitchen (in the dream we had wallpaper in the kitchen). As if that weren't enough, I saw a big snake in the living room and before I knew it, Sam was trying to play with it, so I quickly stepped on its head and killed it. Soon other snakes were popping up and Bryan and I were busy trying to catch them and protect the kids from them. Bryan got bitten by one but he assured me it wasn't poisonous. Weird dream huh? At the end of the dream there was also a mouse in the room, and we surmised that all the water was attracting rodents and therefore, snakes. It was nice to wake up to an intact and snakeless house, after that.

I have a theory about the origin of this dream...Recently I've been listening to a fun novel in the car, "The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith. It takes place in Botswana and snakes do figure in the story a couple of times. In one episode, the protagonist sees a snake disappear from the road while she is driving and is astute enough to realize that the snake has gotten into her engine block. Bryan and I actually witnessed this once, in Arches National Park. We saw a large hawk swoop down and grab a snake, but then it dropped the snake on the road. The car in front of us had stopped to watch, and then they lost track of where the snake went. Sure enough, it was coiled around the various engine parts under the hood, and we spent some time trying to get it out. Eventually we succeeded, but the poor snake crawled away rather crookedly. That was a bad day for him.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

summertime - random stuff

It is HOT. We've had weeks of temps in the 90s and 100s and it's not letting up anytime soon.

July 4 we went to the pool with our friend Scott and his 3 year old daughter Lora. It felt good to cool off. Sam has a total kamikaze approach to the pool. He would just walk right in and drown if we didn't stop him. Several times he got a faceful of water, or got his head dunked when other kids bumped him or he just fell, but he just took it in stride. This kid has no fear. I am constantly reminded of his need for supervision. Yesterday he opened the front door by himself and went outside - it was a minute before we realized where he was. Oh brother. Speaking of Sam - today he really and truly signed his first word: "More." I was kind of relieved, because he has been slower with language than Alex. He babbles and shows understanding of what we say, but hasn't said any words for sure.

Luckily I went to the pool on the 4th, because on the 5th I had a skin lesion frozen off my back (probably an AK) and I was told not to go in chlorinated pools for 2 weeks. Hm, that puts a damper on pool time with the kids. Oh well...there are always the sprinklers.

I finished reading a fascinating, and scary, book called The Coming Plague (thanks to Tammy my microbiologist friend). If you're not germophobic now, you will be after reading this. I don't relish getting on a plane this summer after reading about all the diseases you can get, especially in light of the multi-drug resistant TB case last month. There is nowhere to hide from the microbes...

Next week I head to DC for a work meeting. I'll be gone for 4 days, the longest I've ever been away from the kids. :-( On the bright side, a work friend and I are already planning to see the Phantom at the Kennedy Center.

That's it for is uneventful, but I don't mind. Life has a way of generating events, and I'm sure we'll experience something soon enough.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

bye bye bottles

Another milestone has quietly passed in Mouse's House. Sam has graduated to the sippy cup at 14 months. Hooray! No more milk being squirted all over the carpet (at least, until he learns to suck the milk in and spit it out his mouth, something all kids seem to try eventually). I'm almost as happy about this turning point as I was about his transition from formula to milk. No more taking bottles apart or putting them together, no more "bottle paraphernalia" cluttering up our kitchen counter or dishwasher baskets, no more scrubbing nipples with a tiny brush to get the encrusted goop out.

Still, there was a pang as I packed up the bottles and bottle warmer. My baby is growing up and doing it fast! Next thing you know, I'll be sighing with relief when he's out of diapers - but already missing (and forgetting) all the cute things he does now - his babbling, his bow-legged baby gait, and the way he throws his hands in the air when we say "Yay, Sam!" Good thing I have a brand new niece to dote on. She's cuddly, softer than silk, light as a feather and exudes that new-baby smell. Another whole "first year" to observe and marvel at.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"give to him who asks"

As I mentioned before, I've been reading this book about Mother Theresa and the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Theresa: A Simple Path). One thing that strikes me about them is their lack of the need to control those they serve. As the sisters explain in the book, at Calcutta's home for the dying, they don't try to convert the people who come to them for help. They provide Hindus and Muslims with burial services and practices that are consistent with those traditions. Basically, they let their actions speak for themselves. "Results" - whether measured in terms of numbers converted or saved from drug addiction or healed of disease or whatever - are not emphasized nearly as much as "process". As the sign on the wall of one of their Calcutta homes says, "It is not how much you do, but the love you put into the doing that matters."

I was thinking about this kind of "love in action" as I pulled into the parking lot of Barnes and Noble on Sunday. A middle-aged man with sandy hair, glasses and a plaid shirt waved me down and asked me if I could spare any change. I don't know about other cities, but I've noticed that in Salt Lake the new story is always that the money is needed for gas. They are passing through town, they ran out of gas, they just need money for gas and they will be on their way. In fact, every time I've been approached in a parking lot in the past few years, this is the story. Anyway, all the reasons not to give money to this man went through my head. "Maybe he's lying about needing gas. He will use it for drugs or alcohol. My money won't do anything for him. It won't change him or get him a job or whatever he needs. Why should I give him my hard-earned money? If I give him money it will just encourage him to keep preying on kindhearted strangers in parking lots." Etc., etc.

But here he was, asking me for help. Another voice spoke in my mind. "Give to him who asks of you, and to him who would borrow from you, do not turn away." I imagined Mother Theresa and the missionaries, who give away everything that comes to them and make it a point not to turn anyone away who comes to them for help. There is a freedom in that. I don't need to know the history of the one in need, or the outcome of any gift I give. As Momma T. said, "We are not called to be successful, but we are always called to be faithful." I gave the man some money. Maybe I'm a sucker, but in some way it is hard to describe, it was more satisfying to know I gave something away than to listen to all the reasons not to. Maybe this is part of the meaning of "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

a new discovery

Bryan and I discovered a new hiking trail yesterday. Granite trailhead is probably no more than a mile from our house, so it's pretty pathetic that it took us over 2 years to set foot on it. I actually heard about it from a guy at work who lives out of town. Go figure.

We walked up the trail about 20 minutes to view the lake and the Salt Lake valley. Bryan is better than I am at looking at a scene and spotting things - he kept pointing out things I totally missed. If there are any animals around, he is always the first one to see them. Most of the animals there last night were of the homo sapiens variety, but we did see a pair of ducks, a lizard, and several birds, including one with a black "flat-top" (Bryan called it a "Marine"). The wildflowers were blooming. The cool breeze and the sound of a waterfall in the distance tempted us to go further, but it was already dusk so we lingered on the rocks overlooking the lake. We hope to return and make it all the way to the falls soon.

It's an amazing thing to leave the city, the house, the job, the phone, the whole daily shmeer behind for an evening and be surrounded by shining stillness.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Arrival Day - times TWO!

Two years ago today, we brought Alex home from Korea. Ah, memories. It was a magical, brutal 38-hour day thanks to the 14-hour time change and the long overnight flight. I had a fleeting sense of panic as the foster mother kissed Alex one last time, whispering Korean secrets into her ear, shoved Alex into my arms and ran away weeping. Alex had a great time in the Korean airport playroom, but cried for much of the plane ride, and was subjected to a full-body search in the San Francisco airport. The pictures of our arrival in SLC tell the story: we are rumpled, our hair is a mess, our eyes are tired, Alex is somehow still awake and alert and looking around curiously- but we are finally HOME.

I can't believe how much my baby has changed since then. There is no way to describe the delights of the past two years. I think back to my life before I was a parent and it seems almost one- or two-dimensional in comparison to the full-color, 3-D, high-speed blur that life has been since then. Alex is such a joyful little girl, so animated, so full of life and zest. We are truly BLESSED to have her and days like this just remind me of it.

In addition - an extra-special ARRIVAL happened today here in SLC. John and Cameo's long-awaited baby was born this morning at 7:15 a.m. Cameo went into labor shortly after midnight, I think, and she pushed for about 1 and 1/2 hours before delivering a beautiful 7 lb, 6 oz girl with ten purple toes (see picture). Everything sounded like it went smoothly, a relief since this was Cameo's first "regular"-style delivery after Ava came out by C-section. They really liked the nurse who was on duty (her son goes to our church - small world) and Buzz seemed really happy with the way it all happened. Lena latched on and nursed shortly after birth and seems to be content, quiet, and interested in this strange new world she has landed in.

Two cousins - two arrival days - two years apart. Welcome to the world, Lena. So happy to have you, Alex. My cup overfloweth. :-)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today my dad is 71. He happens to be in Papua New Guinea right now, volunteering with a surgical mission team, doing primitive anesthesia with some sort of ether contraption. He had been warned about extreme heat, and malaria, and dengue fever, and having to haul a 50-pound box of supplies into the bush, but he still wanted to go. Sounds like dad! He finally retired last year, but I knew he would find ways to keep working. I think he really loves doing what he does.

He also loves outdoor adventures. I don't know how much this is a reaction to spending his early years in Brooklyn, but once he moved out west he never looked back. He drove, rafted, hiked, backpacked, and motorcycled pretty much the entire Western US. I wish I had a map of the miles he's covered, including umpteen trips through the Grand Canyon. When he gets back, I'm going to encourage him to write a memoir. I bet he's got stories I've never heard.

So, here's to you today, Dad. I hope you're having fun, using your mosquito netting, and keeping your patients pain-free. Happy 71 to you!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mother's Day 2007

This is the first Mother's Day since 2003 that I haven't been in the process of "waiting" for a child. There is such a deep inner joy that comes with having some of your life wishes fulfilled. It's not that all of life is perfect now, but in this motherhood arena at least I am feeling full and happy.

I am also mindful of the fact that, due to the nature of adoption, my happiness had to come at the expense of someone else's. Now the tables are turned - it is the birth moms of my kids who are "mothers without a child" on mother's day. I wish I knew if they ever go back to the agency and check out the file on their babies. Do they look at the pictures? Read the letters? Or is it just too painful?

Another mom posted this on a website I frequent. Once I thought these kinds of things were sappy. Now they make me cry. :-)

Legacy of an Adopted Child

Once there were two women who never knew each other.

One you do not remember, the other you call Mother.

Two different lives shaped to make you one.

One became your guiding star, the other became your sun.

The first one gave you life, and the second taught you to live it.

The first gave you a need for love. The second was there to give it.

One gave you a nationality. The other gave you a name.

One gave you a talent. The other gave you aim.

One gave you emotions. The other calmed your fears.

One saw your first sweet smile. The other dried your tears.

One sought for you a home that she could not provide.

The other prayed for a child and her hope was not denied.

And now you ask me, through your tears,

the age-old question unanswered through the years.

Heredity or environment, which are you a product of?

Neither, my darling. Neither. Just two different kinds of Love.

© Author Unknown

Wishing for healing and comfort for all mothers who are grieving lost children. And to the birth moms of my kids: you are in my heart forever.

Friday, May 11, 2007

reasons for eating less beef

Even though I don't eat much meat, I've never seriously considered being a vegetarian. I think it's mainly that I don't want to restrict my diet very far in any direction. I like variety and convenience.

That said, some people in that small group I've been attending were talking about global warming and the surprisingly large contribution cows are making to our "carbon footprint." Not only do they produce that infamous methane gas, but the land cleared and water used for their pastures means less land and water for other food production, and the amount of land, water, hay etc. to support cattle is much greater than to support chickens, people, etc.

According to my vegetarian friends, the single act of abstaining from beef would have much greater positive environmental impact than almost anything else we (as individuals) can do -- including buying a hybrid car. Interesting.

So, if it would stop global warming, would I give up eating beef? Sure. I enjoy a good steak now and then, but I hardly eat beef anyway. For me it would be an easy sacrifice. But then I got to thinking - what if I had to give up dairy? Does dairy production require a similar number of cows and have the same impact on environment? Heaven forbid I should have to permanently forego ice cream!

If anyone knows about the relative impact of dairy consumption on the environment vs. beef consumption, feel free to respond.

Friday, May 4, 2007


The past two weeks I've been attending a new small group. I was invited by one of my fellow church-nursery volunteers. In between holding babies and picking up chewed Cheerios, we had discovered some common interests, and he thought I might enjoy this group. So far, it's been good.

Last week, one of the group members invited us to his home - which he brought to us. It's a converted bread truck in which he has been living for the past three years. A white painted board on the back proclaims "Simplify" in green letters. Five portholes punched into one side provide light; the inside is spare but inviting and clean, with a faint smell of varnished wood and a camp-out feeling. He explained that he used to have a three-bedroom house full of stuff--but became convinced he really didn't need it. He plans to spend the summer on the road, sharing his home and his "simplify" message with whoever happens to be open to it. He pointed out to us that the average US family has decreased in size since the 1950's, while living space has increased - to the point where we now have 6 times the living space our grandparents had. "Give away your stuff!" he encourages. "You'll be amazed at how good it feels."

Refreshing - and challenging. I love the fact that this guy is living out his convictions--"walking the talk", so to speak. I've always liked the concept of living simply, though I haven't practiced it consistently. I sincerely enjoy the process of de-cluttering, and I think if I lived alone I would prefer a smaller, emptier space - but since kids have entered my life, the process of accumulation has already accelerated. How much time do we spend just trying to sort through and clear away the sheer jumble of stuff that comes at us?

I remember reading an article about the psychological stress of all the choices we have to make now - from buying a digital camera to simple grocery shopping. Is it possible to have too many choices? I remember trying to choose a health insurance plan when I was hired for my current job. It literally took me an entire day. I pored over the fine print trying to compare apples to oranges and weigh multiple types of benefits against each other. Choosing a cell phone plan, or buying a computer, is the same way. Even if we didn't own a lot of stuff, or gave most of it away, just living in this world requires us to navigate complex systems on a daily basis.

So, besides giving away your stuff, and not buying junk you don't need in the first place, what other ways can we simplify? Should simplicity be an end in itself, or should we focus more on managing the complexity we necessarily face - taking from it what we can and minimizing its potential to overwhelm us?

Friday, April 27, 2007

mom's day off

Today, I did something I bet most moms fantasize about but never (or rarely) do: I took an entire day off. No kids, no housework, no chores. I actually planned it a couple weeks ago. I arranged for child care and dropped the kids off about 9:30 in the morning. Then I went to the local bookstore, bought a big latte, and immersed myself in a novel (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan). I spent a good part of the day there. The rest of the day I played on the computer, talked on the phone, and bought groceries (without kids yammering in the cart and pulling things off the shelves). All in all, a very satisfactory day!

As good as this felt, I feel a little guilty. It felt so decadent to spend the whole day on ME, doing what I like. But still, I had a great time! I think the fact that I'm working and earning money helps me justify the cost. And when I picked up the kids at 5 p.m., they were happy. We took them to McDonald's for dinner and then got their portraits taken at Sears, and they were happy, well behaved, fun to be with, and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

So - you moms out there - how often have you done this? What did you do on your day off?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

the great car dealer rip-off

I can't believe I lost a $350+ keychain!

Ironically, I misplaced my keychain the day of Sam's adoption in Utah's great hall of justice, the Salt Lake County Courthouse. At the time I thought, oh well - I'd rather gain a kid and lose my keys than the other way round.

But that was when I had no idea how much car dealers charge to replace keys and those little "keyless entry" remote controls. We could get copies of one car key at Lowe's for a couple bucks, but the Toyota key has a "chip" to prevent such convenience. This way, the dealer can charge $45 for the replacement key, $138.75 for the remote, and of course an additional $45 for the "labor" of programming the remote. The Chevy dealer - isn't this amazing - charges the exact same fee for the programming, but the Chevy remote is "only" $45.

This all reaffirms my view of car dealers. It's kind of like dealing with surgeons - I don't want to at all if I can avoid it, and in the end it's just painful. I'm still trying to decide how much it's worth to me to be able to lock/unlock my car remotely. Before kids, I wouldn't have cared at all. Now, I really like it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

thirty-something isn't THAT old!!!

So, on a whim I went to see a "B" movie at the dollar theater - "Music and Lyrics" starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. It was cute, pretty predictable but nothing spectacular. What got me, though, was the portrayal of women in their late thirties as "menopausal."

A little background: in the movie, Drew Barrymore's older sister is revealed to be 38 (same age as yours truly). Hugh Grant performs at her high school class reunion, which happens to be the class of 1987 (my class). Hugh Grant is an 80's pop music "has-been" - he was a big star in the 80's but has since been relegated to playing at, well, high school reunions. At the reunion, when he performs, the women in the crowd go crazy. Later, Hugh Grant jokes about his following among the "menopausal" crowd. Maybe it's just supposed to be hyperbole, but really, is that society's understanding - that we 30-somethings are already having hot flashes?

For the teens and twenty-something crowd who most likely make up the majority of this movie's target audience, I'm sure "38" does sound hopelessly old. But I protest: I still like to think there's a difference between late thirties and early fifties (the average age of onset of menopause). When you're 18, though, I think it all looks the same. Old.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Happy Adoption Day

Yesterday was the big day - we went to court to finalize Sam's adoption. He is now officially, legally, and forever our son! As Bryan says, "Now he's stuck with us." And we with him. As Alex frequently proclaims, "I'm HAPPY!"

We went out to lunch with Buzzmeovaby and Tammy, Calvin and Michelle to celebrate. For a table with 5 adults and 5 kids ages 3 and under, it was remarkably calm and pleasant--I know it sounds unbelievable, but it was. The key was having crackers to dispense to kids waiting for the food to arrive. Crackers = happiness for all. Must remember to have lots of crackers every time we go out to eat. Sam is able to tolerate sitting in a high chair much longer now, as long as he has something to eat, which gives me hope that we will be able to enjoy restaurants again more often in the future.

The court proceedings went smoothly, though the setting was very different than last time (with Alex). Instead of being in the big fancy wood-paneled courtroom, we were ushered to the judge's "chambers" (an office with a window, desk and several chairs). The judge was very impressed with Sam's tux and said if he'd known, he would have put on something more formal. :-) While our attorney presented the documents and stated the case to the judge, there was a fair amount of background action going on, all of which should be captured on videotape. Sam got restless and started exploring, at one point venturing behind the judge's desk. Aimee, my friend's daughter, tripped and bumped her knee and cried and had to be carried out. Alex pulled her skirt all the way up to display her bare tummy and diaper for the judge and attorney. I'm sure there was more, but I was trying to pay attention to the attorney and answer questions. In the end the official pronouncement was made and we got our picture taken with the judge. The only down side to such a great day was that somewhere I put down my keys and we were never able to find them again. Blast. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

Welcome to the family Sam! As I say to him every night at bedtime, "Sam, I'm so happy you're my little boy."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Happy Birthday Sam!

We love you Samuel Gil Sang-Ah!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

My baby's turning ONE

Sam's birthday is tomorrow. We're celebrating tonight, and I'm looking forward to all the hoopla - dressing him in his hanbok, doing the Toljabee (see if you don't know what this is), singing the happy birthday song, lighting his one candle and watching Alex "help" him blow it out, and giving him his presents. For some reason I'm feeling really happy about this milestone. He has made it to ONE! Even though I know his sweet little "tiny baby" days are over, I am looking forward to all the FUN stuff we'll be doing together. I think having Alex as the "prequel" helped. :-)

Of course, the one-to-two age range is difficult as well. Dangerous combination of mobility and utter cluelessness. Sam is already more mobile than I'm comfortable with. Today, for example, I caught him with his hands in the toilet again, and this was shortly after he learned he CAN tip over the kitchen trash can and sample the contents. I got him in bed for a nap and went to fold laundry, only to discover the little "present" he had left me - a puddle of baby puke on the carpet next to my bed. (And yet for some reason I still LOVE, love LOVE the little punker! You mommies and daddies out there understand.)

Had a dream last night that he emptied a bowl of hot wax over his head. Don't ask me how there came to be a bowl of hot wax, but I just had that terrible sinking feeling as (in the dream) I was picturing him in the burn unit. I do worry more about Mr. Go-getter Sam hurting himself than I do with Alex. Trying to dance the fine line between being extra-vigilant and being the dreaded and scorned "over-protective" mother. It still irks me when Bryan pooh-poohs my "mommy safety rules," such as no balloons in the house (choking hazard) or no whole grapes for kids under 3. Even seemingly innocent things can turn deadly: on Easter, I was enjoying a quiet moment with my Time magazine when I heard Sam whimpering. Looked up and saw he had gotten his plastic Easter bucket handle around his neck and was stuck. He can find a way to make anything dangerous, that boy.

Anyway...back to Sam's birthday. This blog entry would not be complete without a mention of Sam's first mother, his Korean mother. Even though we've never met, I've been thinking about her a lot as his birthday approaches. How is she doing? How must she feel as this date approaches and she remembers it all - being pregnant and alone, going into labor, giving birth to this healthy boy with the fuzzy black hair sticking straight up from his head - all of it knowing this was her son - and yet she could not be his mother. :-( Did she hold him? Rock him? Sing to him? As happy as I am to have the privilege of being Sam's mom, I can't help feeling sad for her. Wherever she is, I wish her peace in her heart.

The adoption agency in Korea keeps a file for each child. If Sam's first mother ever wants to, she can come back (secretly, probably) and see his pictures and letters we send. Every time I send an update, I hope she will eventually see it. Even if it's painful, I so want her to know what a great little man he is and how much we love him.

Friday, April 13, 2007

just rambling...

Well, I haven't posted in a while since I didn't feel like I had anything new to say. But here's what's been going on the past few weeks.

- I finished reading The Great Influenza - a good, if long, book about the influenza pandemic of 1918. Scary. I didn't know it primarily killed people ages 20-35. We are so not prepared for the next time it happens. I passed up an "emergency food kit" at Costco, a big bucket of preserved food for $99 that's supposed to last 6 weeks. Some day I'm going to get just a little more paranoid and start buying that stuff. For now, we are still hoping to rely on the mercy of our good Mormon neighbors in the event of catastrophe. :-) Today, in fact, the same good Mormon neighbors invited us to an "emergency preparedness" event at the local ward.

- Bryan's grandma, Great Nana, hasn't been doing so well. She's been combative and non-cooperative at the nursing home. :-(. She even threw her Bible at one of the aides and called her a "hussy." This is about 6 weeks after starting Zoloft...sigh. It's sad.

- Am currently reading "The Courage To Be" by Paul Tillich. Apparently this book was all the rage when it came out, but by the time I was in college had dropped off the required reading lists. I like it but it's pretty heavy stuff. I feel like I'm back in college again. I wish for a group to discuss it with, but I doubt I'll find one anytime soon. Maybe online.

- Listening to "When We Were Orphans" in the car - a detective story taking place in London and Shangai. The reader is one of the best I've ever heard - he ranks up there with Willem Dafoe reading Steven King's The Langoliers. He does voices and accents really, really well. It makes me glad I'm listening to it rather than reading it. Fun.

- Alex said something cute the other day. Her pants had no pockets and she said, "Oh, I'll go get my overballs. They have pockets." Overballs. As my friend Nancy said, "If she were a boy, that would be true!"

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Wealth, poverty, and guilt

I think often about the disparity between rich and poor in this world. Specifically, I am more and more aware that I fall into the "rich" category, especially compared to the vast majority of people in the world. I read a lot about social justice (and injustice) and how the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow, and I end up feeling guilty. I live very comfortably, and yet there are countless people who - through no fault of their own - cannot even feed, clothe, house, or educate their families. We do make regular donations to reputable charitable organizations, but this in itself doesn't seem like "enough."

I guess I am having "survivor" guilt. I am no more "worthy" than those who are suffering, and dying, merely because they are caught up in circumstances beyond their control. I happened to be born into relative privilege, and on top of that I've been "lucky" (or "blessed") in a lot of other ways. When I read books like The End of Poverty (by Sachs) or The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, I feel both hopeful and impatient. I'm glad there are people out there who are really making a difference; yet I wish the difference were more tangible.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I like words. My work offers a free library of audio books. Too bad they are all "educational," but hey, I can always learn something new. I have a 20 minute commute, so I decided to check out Word Power, a CD designed to "build your vocabulary."

Despite what you might think, for an "educational" CD, it's not as boring as I thought it would be. For example, when using the word "relentless" in a sentence, the narrator says:

"The rabbit's appetite was relentless. He ate and ate until he was all swelled up like a furry balloon. Then, he exploded."

Overall, the readers do a good job of entertaining you while presenting groups of related words. Problem is, after the first 15 minutes I realized I already knew most, if not all, of the words. Is my vocabulary really that exemplary? I doubt it. I also subscribe to "A Word a Day," which delivers a new word to my inbox each morning. Many of these words are new to me, like today's. "Calvous" is another word for bald. I will always remember it because my friend Tammy's son Calvin was essentially bald for his first 2 years. Unlike my kids, who both needed haircuts before their first birthday, Calvin was quite a calvous little guy. :-)

Oh well. If anyone has any good recommendations for books on CD or tape - preferably older ones, so I can get them free at the library - please feel free to suggest them!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Musicomedy - "Rachmaninov had big hands"

I rarely frequent youtube, but recently received a link to this video by Igudesman and Joo - well worth watching! As a violinist and pianist with "small hands" myself, I found it especially appealing.

And for a rendition of "I will survive" like you've never seen before, check this out:

I've known a lot of musicians, but not many with the combined musical and comedic talents of these two.

Joo is of Korean heritage and was raised in England, according to his bio. I enjoyed hearing him count in Korean ("hana, dul, set, net").

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Birthday Thoughts

Today is my birthday. Hard to believe I've been part of this ol' world for 38 years now.

For some reason, I think my 25th birthday was most traumatic for me. At that time I was working as a secretary and taking some pre-med or pre-nursing classes. I think it was bugging me that I was 25 and still didn't know what I was going to "do with my life." I could no longer pretend I was just starting out - I'd already graduated from college. Yet here I was back in undergrad courses, taking out loans for more tuition, and still not sure what the heck I was doing.

Today, I'm feeling pretty darned happy about where I've ended up. Seeing my brother hard at work studying to get through medical school reminds me of how nice it is to be finished with school once and for all! (Sorry, Buzz.) After years of working overtime, nights, weekends, and holidays, I now have a part time job with paid holidays and very rare night work. After years of researching, planning, saving, filling out forms, jumping through hoops, and praying, we are thrilled to have adopted two wonderful kids. For the first time in a long time, I don't have any big hurdles in my immediate future. Life is pretty well balanced. I'm enjoying it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

first choice?

I saw this link on an adoptive parents' website I visit frequently. It's about an adoptee's thoughts on being her parents' "second choice," in the sense that if they could have had biological children they most likely would not have adopted her.

It's painful to imagine my own children might ever feel this way, but realistically it would be very natural for them. And it's a double whammy - to an adoptee, it can too easily seem that they were not "first choice" for EITHER their biological parents or their adoptive parents. Ouch.

Like many adoptive parents, we did try to conceive before starting the adoption process. Unlike some, we also always hoped to adopt someday. When we ran up against infertility, we decided to forego any treatments and proceed directly to adoption. We knew we were already interested in adopting, even if we eventually conceived, and it just seemed like adopting was the right way for us to become parents. Will knowing this help Alex or Sam? I don't know. What I DO know is that I have absolutely no regrets. I can't imagine life with any other children besides the two I have. I may not be able to keep them from internalizing the messages society sends to adoptees, but I hope we'll be able to have honest dialogue about it all someday.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

a countercultural valentine's day

I've been reading Shane Claiborne's book The Irresistible Revolution and it's got me thinking about what love is all about. I don't know for sure, but I have a feeling St. Valentine would be unhappy with the way his holiday has turned out. When did we turn it into a one-dimensional celebration of eros? Not that there's anything wrong with romantic love--but I'm sad about the poverty of our language that forces us to use one word for love where the Greeks had several. There's brotherly (and sisterly) love too - why don't we have a holiday for that? And then there's agape love, the love that loves because love is its nature just as the sun shines because it is its nature to shine.

So, friends, brothers, sisters, parents, children, and fellow lovers, I invite you to join me in a daring countercultural protest. If you are in a romantic relationship, by all means celebrate that. But go a step further. Be an equal opportunity lover. Do something to show you love your brothers, your sisters, your friends. Call up your mom. Put change in parking meters that have expired. Love strangers, refugees, sick people, homeless people, orphans, people of other races, alcoholics, people with AIDS, Iraqis. Instead of going out to dinner tonight, Bryan and I are making a donation to Holt for Korean orphans who aren't being adopted. (But we are still going out for dessert.)

As Shane Claiborne says: Another world is possible.

Monday, February 12, 2007

gotta love two year olds

Yesterday I put Alex in bed for her usual afternoon nap and went to read on the couch. An hour went by, during which I heard her chattering to herself as she often does. I figured she just wasn't tired and went to get her up. When I walked in, I found her buck naked, jumping up and down on the bed and singing Jingle Bells at the top of her lungs. :-)

There is just nothing like living with a two year old. Every day brings fresh surprises!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

adoption - the search

My cousin and his wife are looking to adopt a baby. I knew they had been wanting to become parents for some time, so I was thrilled to hear about their decision. I pray their journey to their baby is mercifully swift. I know how cruel infertility can be, and how heartbreaking it is to wait year after year while all your friends already have kids. I don't know this cousin particularly well - we didn't grow up in the same part of the country - but I've always liked him. Anyone who features Oreo cookies at his wedding reception is automatically dear to my heart.

They are currently spreading the word, hoping that in their extended networks of family and friends they will find someone who knows someone who is pregnant and needs to find an adoptive family for her baby. I'm putting this out there just in never know how a connection will be made, but I'm willing to use my blog as a vehicle if it could help bring a baby to his or her "forever family." Let me know if you know anyone, and keep your eyes open.

The adoption world is full of twists and turns. A weird thing happened to us just a couple of months ago. Back in 2003 we had given our profile to a local attorney friend who does adoptions, and when nothing came of it after a year, we decided to go ahead with international adoption. Three years and two adoptions later, we got a call saying a pregnant woman had seen our profile and was interested in us; would we be willing to adopt her baby? Eek. I was POSITIVE we had removed our profile from the attorney's office when we applied to adopt from Korea. It felt awful to feel we had actually misled anyone, even unintentionally, and to have to say "no" - the timing now would be impossible - Sam's adoption isn't even final yet. May the mom and baby find the family they were meant to be with.

Speaking of adoption, my friend and fellow blogger - who is also mom to a Korean adoptee - recently cancelled her subscription to Parenting magazine. They published a pretty stupid and offensive piece in their "Mom Debate" feature this month: Should singles be allowed to adopt? For more see

I'm cancelling my subscription too, out of protest. But I can't help pointing out an ironic twist: Korean adoption agencies do not allow their babies to go to single parent homes. Ah, what a world we live in.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

community food co-op

I was surfing the net and came across this Community Food Co-op of Utah.
I've been griping about grocery stores and their prices (and shameless marketing ploys) for a while, so this looks pretty cool. People are banding together to outwit the grocery stores and buy directly from wholesalers. Volunteers collect the food, bag it, and distribute it. You sign up for a measly one-time $5, and order from a list of options once a month. Then you pick up your food once a month at your local distribution center. The only requirement is that you do 2 hours of community service (anything you do for free, like volunteering for your church, counts).

We're going to try it. If we don't like the food we don't have to keep doing it, but it looks like some good stuff...lean sirloin beef tips, chicken stir-fry tenderloins, fresh fruits and veggies, whole wheat bread, and more. You can get Chicken Cordon Bleu - eight 6 oz breaded chicken breasts stuffed with ham and swiss - for $10.50. And I'm happy to see they have Fair Trade coffee and locally bottled jam.
Beware evil grocery store conspiracy, we are on to you now!

Monday, February 5, 2007

role reversal

Last night I woke up with an earache. That hasn't happened in a long time. Just when we thought we were all healthy, too. I feel fine except my ear hurts.

I went in to the PA who covers my regular doctor. It's always kind of weird being a patient when I'm used to being the one with the stethoscope. I was happy to see my blood pressure was low and my resting heart rate was 56. Guess the exercisin' is paying off :-)

The nursing student asked me to "describe the pain." This is the thing now - "pain as the fifth vital sign" - but all I could think of was "it's an ACHE" (as in EAR ACHE, duh, but I resisted making smart remarks). Both the nurse and the PA agreed - I have a rip-roarin' case of otitis. I wish I could see it myself. They need to make a little flexible scope for that. I would buy one.

Pain does funny things to people. The nurse asked me my allergies and I told her, but in the back of my mind it seemed like I was forgetting something. Oh well. Then when the PA handed me the prescription, I remembered. Oh yeah, I'm allergic to that too. Write me another one please. The guy probably wrote "patient is a poor historian" in his notes. Oh well, I deserve it. Next time I have a patient in pain (which happens every clinic), I should remember to go easy on him.

Friday, February 2, 2007


On January 31, our furnace breathed its last. Cracked heat exchanger, or something like that. It's 20 years old. In our prior house, which was built in 1926, the furnace was from the 1940s and still going strong. They really don't make 'em like they used to.

We thought we had it all figured out. We put space heaters in both kids' rooms. The unforeseen problem was that when both are on, they tend to trip the circuit breaker. Great huh?

We got 3 bids on new furnaces. The "friend of a friend" saved us about $900, so we'll go with him. I'm looking forward to more efficiency and lower heating bills, and Bryan's looking forward to the new air cleaner/dust filter.

The joys of home ownership!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

my chance for a medal

OK, I'll never be close to competing in the Olympics but I found a way to earn a bronze, silver or even a gold medal. My boss sent out an e-mail inviting all of us VA grunts to sign up for the Active Lifestyle program or the Presidential Champions program. It's very simple: you earn points every time you exercise and when you've earned enough points, you get an award. There is a website that lets you track your activity and points online, and you can compare your progress within your group or with other groups. My family is also eligible to join, so if you've always wanted a medal too, let me know.

I've been working out somewhat regularly anyway, so I figured I'd sign up. Maybe it will give me some added incentive to work out on those days I don't really feel like it. They let you count any activity, even housework or chasing your kids or walking to your car, as long as it takes at least 5 minutes. I might as well get credit for all those trips up and down the stairs with a kid on each arm, right?
I need 20,000 points for a bronze medal. We'll see how long it takes me.