Saturday, July 26, 2014

5AM wakeup

Sleep isn't working.  The stress levels are so high--so very very high--that I wake up with nightly panic attacks, or fail to fall asleep at bedtime, or wake up too early.  Today, it was 5 AM.  A child went to the bathroom, and, despite a 12:30 AM start to my night, I knew the night was over.  I came downstairs, made a cup of coffee, and buried myself in the mundane tasks of bill paying, emails, and clutter-shuffling.

By 7 I was on Facebook.  A friend posted the link to another friend's blog.  My heart was written out:

"In my heart I know that she will forever and ever say yes to us; we are her people.

But I know that she can say yes to us and still simultaneously say no to adoption. Because saying yes to us isn’t just saying yes to us. It’s saying yes to a new culture. It’s saying yes to a new language. It’s saying yes to a new school. And it’s saying goodbye to some very precious people who have cared for her in the midst of her own gigantic waves. And goodbye to friends and school and language and a culture she very much loves.

When I think about her saying yes to us but no to adoption, I get scared. That fear, it paralyzes me momentarily, and it knocks the wind out of me. It makes me turn inward and silences me. It makes me rethink pouring out more and more and more of myself."  

I live in daily, hourly, constant fear of both the yes and the no.  She is suddenly clearly aware of the many sides of the "yes".  She's scared of the language change.  Yesterday she suggested that she could finish school at home and then be adopted, which I had to say wasn't allowed. She loves us, but that's not the whole question she's being asked.  We love her, but that's not the whole question we're being asked, either.

This week, another friend in this process had her potential adoptive girls (yes, two) both state quite certainly that they would not say yes if asked, and not to invest any more time into their adoption.  While heartbreaking, it was an honest conversation that allowed them to re-prioritize their resources to better support the girls into the future in a way that honors their choices. I see this.  I wonder.

Other friends have completed their adoptions of teenagers.  Some are going (at least to my eye) smoothly.  The kids are adjusting and are as reasonably happy as your average teenager tends to be.  Others are struggling mightily with the many challenges that come with such a huge change.  I see this.  I wonder.

I have considered asking her (with the help of a skilled translator with social work training) what her thoughts are, but honestly I don't know what it would change.  If she says yes, then of course we continue.  It may provide more peace for our hearts, refocus us all, but not change the steps.  And I worry it will make her feel obligated to something she may be questioning and later regret. I want this to be a free choice for her, without guilt or pressure or implied debt.  And a no?  What would a "no" right now mean?  Does a "no" right now--when she's the most scared, when she's most homesick for her friends and ability to communicate freely, most frustrated with her lack of language progress during a long stay--really represent a long-term choice?  If she said "no" this week, I don't think I could accept it.  I think we'd still have to go in August and let her choose "no" again, after a week back in her reality.  And even if that's a no, after only one week back in that reality when she's in the honeymoon of easy conversation and beloved friends, I think we'd have to continue.  We have to keep that door open for her until the last chance for a "yes" has been given.  Because a "no" for her is a "no" forever.  US immigration laws will not allow her to say "yes" to us or anyone else later.

And so we keep looking at our bank accounts and trying to figure out how to hold doors open.  We write out longer grocery lists to set the house up for my parents who will be watching the three ring circus.  We pray and pray and pray and pray.  We ask you to keep her and us in your thoughts and prayers as we all wrestle with what it means to be saying "yes."

Monday, July 21, 2014


A few weeks ago, we had a bunch of red beets from our farm share.  I asked M if she'd like to make borscht and she agreed.  Only when we finished did she tell me "I come all the way to America to learn to make Ukrainian Borscht."  Ha!

Borscht is basically a beef-vegetable soup.  The really unique part is the addition of shredded red beets which adds a bright purple-red color and a sweetness similar to roasted carrot.  If you aren't accustomed to using shredded cabbage in a vegetable soup, you'll probably love this addition, too.  Cut it very thin and it simmers in.  It adds a mild flavor but provides an almost noodle-like texture to the otherwise fairly soft soup.

Here's the basics: (video link)

We skipped a few steps by starting with a watered down beef broth rather than making that from scratch; and we added peppers to the vegetable mix:

1 qt beef broth + 4 cups water
1 pound roast beef cubes (uncooked)
3 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves

1 onion - diced
1 carrot - shredded
1 small red pepper - diced
1 small tomato, chopped
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1-2 Tbsp oil

2 medium or 3 small red beets -- boiled and peeled then shredded*
1/2 a head of cabbage, shredded
1 tsp sugar
2 cloves garlic - crushed
3 tbsp parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

sour cream for serving

1. Add to a large soup pot: broth and water, beef, potatoes, bay leaves.   Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or so.
2. Meanwhile, saute carrots, pepper, and onions in oil until browned.  Add tomato and tomato paste and simmer until thick.  Add beets.
3. Stir the vegetable mixture into the soup.  Add cabbage and stir.  Simmer 10 minutes (until cabbage is wilted).
4. Add sugar, crushed garlic, and salt-and-pepper to taste.  Serve with sour cream.  We actually added about 1.5 cups of sour cream directly to the soup and served it that way.

* To prepare beets: cut the greens off about 1 inch above the beet.  Gently scrub off loose dirt.  Put beets in saucepan and cover with water.  Boil for 15-20 minutes or more depending on the size of the beet.  "M" insisted that you had to pour off the water 1/2 way through and finish with fresh water.  If you plan to do that, consider having a tea kettle or second pot of water boiling before you drain to save 15 minutes.  Our beets were about baseball sized and took 35 minutes.  Then drain and cool (can drop into an ice water bath).  Once cool enough to handle, the skins should slide off.  They will dye your hands red, so wear gloves if you prefer non-red hands.  Shred.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

More photos

After three days of rain and busy-busy house stuff, we took Thursday and Friday for family fun.

Thursday: horse-back riding at a farm about 45 minutes south of us.  They also had egg-laying hens, piglets, puppies, kittens, and sheep so there was much animal cuddling.

Friday: Niagara Falls.  We'd gone during the winter hosting but it was unbearably cold standing in the freezing heavy mist.  And the snow and ice had built us so heavily that orange cones had barricaded us away from the falls about 300 yards before the usual railings.  We promised we'd go back for a summer visit, which was (as expected) way way better.  We arrived early afternoon and had a picnic near where we'd been fenced at Christmas.  We walked from Goat Island to Luna Island to the mainland and then went went out to the Maid of the Mist and accompanying observation deck.  By then it was nearly 6 so we headed to the restaurant over the falls for dinner.  Unfortunately I had something with wheat and was sick for about an hour after that, but we eventually rallied and walked along the river to the upstream edge of Goat Island and then across to the Three Sisters islands.  By the time we got back to the falls, the night illumination was about to start.  We headed back to the Bridal Veil falls edge of Goat Island and admired the glow, watched the fireworks, and then headed back to see the Horseshoe Falls in their glow.  All told, it was about 9 hours at the park, plus a 2.5 hour drive each way, meaning a long energetic day.  Today has been a lot of sleeping in and lolling about.



Losh-cloff -- Wash cloth.
"what" = merger of that and which.

Usage: I used the loshcloff to wash my car what was dirty.  I used the stick to get the dirt off what was on the roof.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


We got the final approval from her country and are able to proceed.  In less than one month we will be in-country doing legal paperwork.  Anxiety, fear, excitement, and straight-up panic are all mixed together here.  I was up at 4AM unable to sleep.  At 5AM I gave up and went downstairs to work.  I checked in on the girls on my way down, and as soon as I walked in, M looked at me, fully alert herself.

Reminder: Whatever fears, anxieties, and panic we may feel, hers can only be more extreme.  Hurt kids and kids from hard places: the only thing harder than parenting them is being them (h/t Christine Moers).  It's not about me, or us.  It's about family and healing and forever.  Deeeeeep breaths.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Watkins Glen, NY

We spent the afternoon at Watkins Glen.  Crazy fairy-tale-beautiful.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A month into forever-esque

M has been with us for a month.  We've been busy doing RegularLifePlus, which is exhausting.


At the end of June, we had a 1-month-belated Sweet Sixteen:

Cheesecake is a favorite favorite favorite, so naturally her birthday lunch was appetizers and dessert at the Cheesecake Factory.  20+ types of cheesecake were a tough choice!  I had tipped the hostess off to the birthday party, so they showed up with M's cake on a decorated plate with a candle and some singing (fairly quiet and non-obnoxious at TCF unlike most places).  

An then nothing says Sweet Sixteen like driving, even if it's "only" a go-kart.

The next week, in early July, we did a family camping trip to the northern Adirondacks. Katie and Jorge did their 3-day-2-night sleep-away camp and the rest of us stayed at a cabin 15 minutes away to avoid making the 4 hour drive back and forth.

The kids camped with us the first night.  They have a 10AM drop-off and it's a 4 hour drive, so it makes more sense for us to drive up the day before, camp nearby, drop them off, camp 2 nights, and pick them up.  While they were away we did a lot of relaxing, a failed hike (downpour mid-hike, completely soaked by the time we got back to the cabin) and a semi-failed kayak adventure (way over-did it and had to kayak back a long distance against a strong wind and 2-3 foot waves).  But we had some great bonding and connections between the kids developing during our concentrated family time.

On the way home Saturday, we stopped at a rocky waterfall and river area for some exploring and hiking.  

 And now we've been home for 2 days.  Still on the agenda (Things Promised that we need to do lest we be proven Flaky-No-Good-Liars-Who-Can't-Be-Trusted): A few days in DC, a day-trip to Niagara Falls including seeing the night-glow, and a trip to the local waterpark amusement park.  And church youth group to make friends, a tour of the local high schools, a trip to the dentist, weekly HipHop classes, the three littles to VBS for a week,   Horseback riding at a local park, Katie's much belated birthday party, and general day-to-day errands.    WOOOOOSH goes the summer.