Monday, 31 January 2011

Needles, Jam, and Preparing for the End of the World: An Update

Well, I feel like a pincushion. For those of you (mom) who think I am just being a wimp, Jeff is complaining too, and he is very reluctant to whine about pain. It may have been the chemicals in the vaccine or the nurse's technique, but we are both having some serious soreness, and Jeff felt pretty under the weather the day after the shots.

Since we went in on a Saturday we did not get the usual nurse. We had the training nurse (intern) and her supervisor. So, as an example, the nurse-in-training did my weight and vitals. I had to ask to take off my snowboots before I got on the scale, because she didn't tell me to. I don't know about you but I am not inclined to be weighed in my shoes, especially very heavy ones. Then, she figured out my weight and told it to me while she wrote it down. I laughed and said I was glad because it appeared that I had gotten rid of my Christmas weight. She looked at me and said, "How could you weigh any more?"

Yes, let that sink in. Just how you want to start your Saturday (well, actually I started my day eating raspberry French toast, but I wasn't about to tell her that). However, after further reflection I think she was probably not trying to insult me, because the longer we talked the more I realized that her grasp of English was not fantastic. And, as a point of honor, let me state for the record that I am well within the "normal" weight range for my age/height.

Anyhow, our shots took a very long time to administer, with a few mishaps, and now our arms hurt like the dickens. Best part? We get to do this again next week! (Different doc though, so it should be better).

Thus, we took it easy on Sunday. We came straight home after church, and Jeff rested and played with Tommy while I ran to Western Union (I forgot to send Mtoto's support for the month last time I was at the store), and then I made mixed-fruit jam. That was a bit of an adventure because I have only made jam once before (actually it was strawberry-lemon marmalade) and I did it with someone, and by "with" I mean that she was totally in charge and I just chopped and stirred and ladled. Also, I didn't have enough of any one fruit to follow a recipe, so I improvised- which is exactly what the instructions say not to do. However, it appears to have turned out well enough. The flavor is certainly interesting. But considering that I mixed pineapple, raspberries, tangerines, and limes, "interesting" is sort of what I was expecting. At least it looks pretty.

Best of all, my cans sealed! It was also my first time canning solo (I got a small canning kit for Christmas), but it went so well that I will do it again soon. I still have a lot of tangerines, and since the snowpocalypse is coming I will probably have some extra time on my hands, and I think this looks rather nice. This time I plan on following the instructions.

It is the last day of the month, and I am happy to say that I kept both of my resolutions this month. I have blogged more than 12 times, and I have read three nonfiction books: Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal; Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value; and Love at Last Sight. I am also halfway through three more non-fiction books, although one doesn't count according to my rules because it is a child-development book. They are all on hold because I have to finish this month's book club book, The World According to Garp, which has over 600 pages...and I just checked it out from the library, and we meet next week. I have quite a lot of bedtime reading to do.

Still no news on Mtoto's ruling. We are waiting as patiently as possible. Some days are better than others.

Words of Tommy Wisdom

(With extreme enthusiasm) Oh my goodness, Mtoto will have brown eyes just like Daddy and just like Tommy! Man, what a treat!

He's been picking out his own clothes lately and insisting on dressing himself. This making for some creative combinations:

(Trying to get him to stand totally still for this picture was almost impossible. I think I need one of those sports-action cameras).

Friday, 28 January 2011

Some Much Needed Busy Work

Earlier this week I got an email asking us to send the money for Mtoto's passport. So, clearly someone believes that we will get the paperwork we need to get him home (I'm trying, I'm trying). Anyway, it was nice to feel like we were doing something...even if that "something" was filling out paperwork at Western Union in Dominicks while Tommy pulled things off of the grocery checkout displays. Why are displays always at a child's eye level? Why are the things so easy to pull off the racks and shelves? I love my child, and yes, we are working on keeping our hands to ourselves, but the grocery store is killer. So many things to touch! But, I digress. We are still waiting for the "big" news that we have passed court and that our paperwork is in order. Waiting slightly more patiently this week than last week, which is good. In the meantime, a little more busywork: this weekend we will get round one of our travel shots. Yuck.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Dying Well

During my last trip home I had the privilege and honor of visiting my Aunt Judie one last time. We drove up to Big Bear and back in the same day, traveling behind way too many people who have no understanding of mountain driving etiquette and an apparent belief that the posted speed limit was 10 miles too high despite the clear weather. I really shouldn't complain though, since my mom drove the whole way and brought good snacks and Emily brought good tunes. But, it was a stressful drive. We were worried about making it up the mountain quickly (we left a little later than we wanted to), we didn't want to arrive at a bad time and miss out on the visit, and we all knew that this was a final visit.

Aunt Judie and Uncle Bill have been married fifty years. They are a very tight-knit couple - the kind of couple that you know enjoys each other's company, and whose love for each other is apparent to everyone around them. I know there is no person in the world my Uncle Bill would rather be with than Aunt Judie, and vice versa. Not just "suspect," or "think," I know. When I spoke to Uncle Bill on the phone before the trip he described a few of his caregiving duties to me, and I responded, "That sounds like a lot of work, Uncle Bill." He answered, "No, it's my pleasure." And I know it is. I know he loves to serve her. He loves to care for her, and to dress her, and to feed her, and bathe her, and wipe her nose, and dry her tears. I know he really loves her because he loves to serve her.

About two years ago my Aunt and Uncle retired and were adrift and looking for a place to settle. First they traveled the country, then they went to Big Bear, which was a very special place in their history as a couple - because they honeymooned there. In Big Bear they stayed in a hotel while looking into some senior housing. They went and met with the manager of the complex and were placed on the waitlist, somewhere in the 20s. A few days later they received a call from the manager. A unit had opened up, did they want it? Since they were the only ones without living arrangements in place (and to get out of) the spot went to them. It was a miraculous provision, and not without purpose. They moved in and began to enjoy their new community. Aunt Judie began attending a bible study in the complex, and decided to turn her life over to Christ. Uncle Bill soon followed.

Not long after, Aunt Judie began experiencing some health problems, and was eventually diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. As her health began to fade, she decided it was time to be baptized. Due to her failing health, this had to be done in their apartment. Their very very small senior housing apartment. Along with the pastor they invited a few friends, but word spread and a few more people decided they were coming. Although they feared that there would be too many people for the space, and that it would be too overwhelming, Aunt Judie and Uncle Bill did the gracious thing and accepted the larger crowd. They opened up their home and shared their lives, even in a time of great sorrow and infirmity. After witnessing the baptism three other women there decided they too wanted to commit their lives to Christ. God used Aunt Judie's weakness to draw others to Him. He used her willingness to open her heart, her life, and her home. Blessings can flow from sorrow. Our hard stories can have sweet, meaningful endings when we allow God to use them.

Knowing all this, we came to Aunt Judie's side. She looked so much better than I had prepared myself for, but there was no doubt that she was in her last weeks. Despite a great deal of medication and I'm certain more pain than I can imagine, she was able to speak with us, look at family pictures, crack a few feisty jokes, and pour out words from her heart. She went in and out a little, but she was often very clearly there, and continually communicating that she intended to see us again, and that she knew she was in God's hands. We thought we would be spending fifteen minutes, or perhaps half an hour with her, but we were able to spend two hours at her side. Sitting at the side of someone who is dying well is such a privilege. The intimacy of those moments is a priceless gift.

A few hours ago I picked up the phone, and listened to my mom tell me that Aunt Judie passed away early this morning. She had been having a rough night, so the hospice nurse came to stay over and help. The nurse sent Uncle Bill to the store to pick something up, and when he returned he said to Aunt Judie, "I love you little one." She replied, "yep." Those were the last words she heard. The last word she said. I imagine that she probably hung on until he got home, just so she could be with him. I am so thankful that Uncle Bill had this last tender moment with her.

As we mourn Aunt Judie- her warmth, her concern and care, her thoughtfulness, her feisty attitude and sense of humor, her ability to turn a few balls of yarn into something truly impressive - we will rejoice in her release from pain, and in the peace we know she has found in the arms of her Savior. Blessed assurance.

The Days Grow Longer

After cruising through the holidays, I am here to admit that I am in a waiting rut. It was that last update that really did me in. As much as I am happy that we can probably expect good news in the next two weeks or so, having a tangible target has made waiting harder. Everyday that news doesn't come seems to confirm that lurking fear (the one that probably sits in the back of the minds all parents in the process of adoption) that something might go wrong, take longer, shut down, etc. It doesn't help that I have friends who have waited much longer and more patiently than I have whose adoptions continue to drag out beyond all reasonable expectations. Thus, in a strange twist of logic, the closer we actually get the farther and less likely Mtoto joining our family actually seems.

Now, let me assure you that I am functioning quite normally and not sitting in a dark room pulling out my hair. I have read enough books that I can pretty much psychoanalyze myself. Losing Leah continues to affect me. The closer we get to bringing Mtoto home, the more real he becomes, and the more painful it will be to lose him if something does go wrong. Thus, in a misguided fit of self-protection, I am starting to detach a bit, and start to contemplate all the things that might go wrong in the adoption process, or could happen to Mtoto. I am very creative and come up with some very odd things, some more likely than others. I even found myself thinking today (this in reference to some issues that are happening with the US embassy), well, if they do (insert only slightly crazy idea that would prolong the adoption 2 to 4 months), at least I won't be surprised. Really?!? Is this how I want to spend my time? Does thinking about it affect my actual circumstances? Would being prepared really make the pain of losing Mtoto or having our process drag out better? No!

This week I am going to make a concentrated effort to stop thinking about what might go wrong, and instead to pray for peace, the ability to trust in God's timing, the integrity of our adoption process, and Mtoto's safety. Pray with me if you will. If not, next week I might be sitting in a dark room pulling out my hair...

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Tommy Boy

We were talking about Mtoto coming home, and I asked Tommy if he was going to be a great big brother to Mtoto. His answer:
     "Yes. I will steal his toys and then give them back."
At least we have a few months to work on this...

The day after we returned to IL, I asked him what he wanted for dinner:
     "A hamburger and french fries at In-n-out."
He'll be waiting a rather long time for that dinner.

When Tommy was going through a scratching phase, we would counsel him to put his hands together when he got upset. It would go something like this: "Make a good choice! Put your hands together." This week Tommy has figured out how to scale the baby gate that we put up on his bedroom door at night. He has taken to climbing over the gate then walking into the living room with his hands clasped together and announcing: "I made a good choice! I put my hands together!"

We were at a friend's house for a "coffee hour" and one of the women there had some visible gold teeth (from dental care received in another country). Tommy was very impressed with said teeth, and knowing that gold teeth are treasure (thanks Jjaja,for that one) and that pirates have gold teeth, began to recite a passage to her from his favorite pirate book: "Ahoy there, Matey! Be this the Spanish Main? No, this is North Beach..." Thankfully, his annunciation isn't the best when he recites, and her English was limited, so she had no idea what he was saying. When she asked what he was talking about, I let her know that he was admiring her teeth, and that he believes gold teeth are treasure, because his poppa has gold teeth too. I left out the part about him probably thinking she was a pirate.

In the fall of 2009 Tommy received some toddler clothes as a baby gift. The mom who gave them to us wrote in the card something about the clothes seeming large, but that he would be fitting them before we knew it. As I looked at those 3T pants I thought that she was crazy, because it would be ages before my little guy (who was still wearing some 12 month clothes at the time) fit into those gigantic pants. Last week I pulled out those pants and added them to his rotation. I know every parent says it, so now it's my turn: I cannot believe both how quickly he has grown and how fast that time has flown by.

And now, a video of Tommy belting out one of his current musical obsessions (I must say I will be glad when he moves past this repetitive phase and adds a little musical variety to his life):

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Everyone Needs T-Shirts

An adoption friend of mine is fundraising for her adoption by selling shirts. Part of her idea was to get others to talk about the shirt by offering an incentive - a donation to an orphan care organization. I am hoping to generate enough orders (I need to get to 25) to raise money for an organization that we think is fantastic - OFA (their primary focus is orphan care in the Congo). So, maybe you were thinking that you don't have enough adoption-themed shirts. If you need another, here is the link:

When you order please mention that you heard about it from me (Amy Klug), so that I get credit for generating the order.

Monday, 17 January 2011


In-flight entertainment

Love At Last Sight

So, if you know me you know I love to read. LOVE. It's my hobby. I came across a program called "Blogging for Books" (link if you want to sign up too) where you can request free copies of books in exchange for posting an honest review on your blog when you finish reading them. Now, I know everyone comes to this blog for cute pictures of Tommy and not boring reviews of books, so, if you sit through this one I have an incentive for you. I'm done with the book I reviewed. If you read the review and the book sounds like something that might interest you send me an email (address is on the side bar). If more than one person emails (doubtful, I know), I will randomly select a winner and mail you the book. And the best part is you won't owe me a review or anything else.

So, here it is, my review of Love at Last Sight (Kerry and Chris Shook):

I admit, I picked up this book believing it was an "improve your marriage" type book, a genre I rarely read these days. Once I picked this book up, I found out that it is not specifically designed for marriages, and was written to support any close relationship. I like that. Although marriages are our most important relationships, they aren't the only relationships that frequently change and require tune-ups, and this book aims to help you improve any close relationship that might be faltering, in fact the authors ask you to pick three to focus on as you read, whether it is a relationship with a spouse, parent, sibling, child, or friend.

The main premise of this book is that we tend to have a backwards view of relationships, a "love at first sight" focus on immediate chemistry and getting along which lead us to discard relationships when they get difficult or messy. The authors hope to develop a "love at last sight" mentality, in which you intentionally invest in relationships so that you can say that the last time you saw someone was the time you loved them most. The book is meant to be read in a one month period, reading one chapter each day and completing its accompanying "challenge" section. Topics include: being fully attentive, going beyond surface issues, risking awkwardness, and letting go, among others. The main point of each chapter was well-explained with pertinent examples and challenges.

Since I tend to agree with the basic point of the book- that love is a commitment that requires action and not just a set of exciting emotions- I was probably bound to agree with many of the points made by the authors. The content of the book is solid, biblically based, and helpful. There were a few instances when I thought the authors made a good point, but really stretched the context of the biblical passage that they used to support it, but that's common enough in Christian books and this book is far from the worse offender. The authors also repeat the term "love at last sight" far too often. Since they are arguing that "love at last sight" is real love, it would have been better had they transitioned to simply using the term love, using other terms to distinguish love from infatuation, or insincere commitments. One additional criticism- the book is coauthored by a husband and wife team, but they chose to speak in one voice rather than two. While I agree that books that repeatedly switch back and forth between authors, using parenthesis or "I, so and so" can be distracting, it isn't really less distracting to have two distinct yet intermingled voices. That said, if you are looking for a book about creating and sustaining relationships this book has a lot to offer.

Ok, you made it all the way through - send me that email!

Also, in case you wondered, my very very favorite book on Marriage is Allender/Longman's Intimate Allies.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Resisting the urge to nest

Ever since our last round of adoption news I have been itching to set up Mtoto's crib. Thankfully, until yesterday I was in California so doing it was impossible. Now I am fighting off the desire to set it up, even though I have a pile of little clothes for him that I have no room to put away (the crib currently takes up 60% of the space in Tommy's closet, and Tommy's hand-me-down clothes and toys which fit in bins that go under the crib take up the rest). However, I just know that as soon as I get it finished I am going to get very antsy about going to pick him up, and we are quite a ways away from being able to do that. I don't need a constant reminder, in the form of an empty crib, that our family is separated.

We haven't decided when we will get ready for Mtoto, but I think we will wait until we have a visa appointment/travel date (which we should have in advance) to actually move things around, although I may break down and do it once we have our written ruling. With Tommy we didn't set anything up until after Jeff came home from Uganda, but this time I need to be more prepared. We are considering switching rooms because that will give the boys more space to play, and it will give us the room with the bigger closet. I would like a bigger closet.

In the meantime, I am working on scheduling all of our travel shots. We have an awesome travel doctor from the last trip, but we are trying to get our insurance to cover a few of the shots, so we can't go and see him until we can connect with our family doctor...which has been harder to do than one might think. Making phone calls to one's HMO and PCP is decidedly less fun than rearranging a room, but it will have to do for now.

The Kellogg House/Heritage Museum of Orange County

Four score and seven years ago, my siblings and I went with some good friends of ours, the Chandlers, to visit a museum. We had a great time, and I have fond memories of dressing up in old fashioned clothes and turning the kitchen grinder.

Recently the oldest used-to-be-Chandler (she's married now) emailed me with an idea- returning with our kids to the Kellogg House. It sounded like a great idea to me. So Heather, Evan, Micah, Natalie, and Karen (the brave mom who took us originally), came and got Tommy, my mom, and me, and we all went together.

Unfortunately it didn't open until one, just before Tommy's usual naptime, but he managed to stay awake and be reasonably well-behaved. He did overwhelm Natalie with his love, by kissing her hand quite ardently... he is becoming quite a ladies man, I'm sorry to say.

If you are in the Orange County area, go and support this place. It is one-of-a-kind, because they have so many things for kids to touch and play with. The tour guide played old phonographs and sound machines for us, let the kids play a pipe organ and piano, and had an entire laundry set-up (featured below) for the kids to wash and wring out clothes.

After our museum day we went to eat Mexican at a restaurant we all love: Leo's. They have the best cheese chips in the world. We were joined by the rest of my immediate family, and we dined together in memory of our friend and neighbor Allison.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


Between Christmas and New Year's Mom and I went to a party to learn to make tamales. It was a great deal of work, but lots of fun. We are thinking about doing tamales next year before Christmas instead of cookies.

Wrapping them up

Everyone hard at work

Our end product

We made over fifty tamales in a few hours. Yum, yum, yum.

Saturday, 8 January 2011


I am not one for making News Year's resolutions. I have never been that interested in New Year's as a holiday, and it just feels so forced to me to place so much weight on the power of flipping a page in the calendar to magically transform your life. January 1st really isn't much different than December 31st, or any other day, so if I really wanted to (eat healthy, lose weight, quite smoking, organize my house, get out of debt, win the lottery, etc) I would not wait until the start of a new year.

However, now my life is a bit busier than it ever has been, so I don't always have the time I would like to reflect on the state of things in my life. Coming home for Christmas does provide a bit of downtime. Anyhow, I have two goals this year. One, to read at least one non-fiction book a month that is not about parenting or adoption. I read plenty of fiction, both good (thanks to my classics book club) and brain candy, and I read parenting and child development books as well. For too long reading nonfiction felt too much like work (aka school). Now that I am completely done, with a diploma signed by The Terminator and everything, I feel like I can once again enjoy reading nonfiction. I'm sharing this because I think that publicly announcing goals makes you more likely to follow through. And, since I decided this at the end of December, I actually did start this month's book prior to the new year. In case you are wondering, it was a social science text of Jeff's from an undergrad honors class, and it's about being black in America. I have to admit that it has been disappointing so far because it is hardly academic, but, I should have been forewarned since it prominently states on the cover that it is a NYT bestseller. My mistake.

My second resolution is to blog at least twelve times a month. I'm doing this because otherwise I almost never take pictures or write down cute stories, and also because the bit of writing I do also give me time to reflect, which I need. So, things might be getting slightly more regular around here, or, I might just be posting a whole bunch the last week of each month (again, see December because I started right away).


When we were in the process of adopting the first time in 2008, I went and bought a "Baby's First Christmas" Ornament during the day-after Christmas sales. At the time we hadn't been matched with Tommy, but I just had a hunch that our baby was born, and would need an ornament for that year.

This time around we have been matched, and we know for sure that Mtoto needs a "first Christmas" ornament to commemorate this year. On the day after Christmas I went to the Hallmark store again, but this time they were all sold out! I eventually made it over to a different Hallmark, and was able to find a blank baby ornament with a space that we can personalize with the year. Although I was unhappy that I didn't find the exact year ornament, I really like the ornament I found. I'm a sucker for bunnies.

Lest you worry that Tommy has been neglected, he got ornaments from both his grandmas this year. One with the year 2010, and one featuring a pirate and his treasure.

And, of course, our Leah ornaments. Three this year. It's hard to believe.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Supervision Required

This is why I have to supervise all of Tommy's visits with my family (wink wink):

Tommy is in a singing phase. He sings constantly, and often the same two lines over and over again. Although I love his serenades, they can wear out their welcome, especially during car rides.

After we dropped Jeff at the airport yesterday, Tommy crooned part of the chorus from "Seed to Sow" for quite some time. You know, "One thing, I know, everybody has a seed to sow." Again, and again, and again. He loves his African Children's Choir.

Finally, hoping to distract him, Mom cut in with a question:

"Tommy, do you have a seed to sow?"

"NO! I have lots of seeds."

Her response?

"Just like all men."

(Yes, Mom knows I'm posting this. Thanks to my sister's twitter habits, Mom's random and slightly inappropriate comments often appear on the internet.)