Friday, 30 September 2011

A Rare Treat

L to R, Top to Bottom: Aunt Robin, Katie, Colleen, Mom, Me, Emily, Heidi, Erin, Gretchen, Grandma Cox

All of my siblings were in town for Grandma Kay's surprise party, something that occurs much less frequently now that we live scattered all over the country (LA, NY, Chicago, and soon, Seattle). It just so happened that my Dad's brother's girls, who are also spread out like we are, were also in town on the very same weekend for a baby shower. That meant that we had a rare assemblage of sisters, cousins, moms, aunts, and Grandma Cox at the shower, so we decided to take a picture to commemorate the occasion. Here's some reproductive multiplication for you: Grandma had four sons, those four sons had fifteen kids between them. Seven of those fifteen kids have started families, resulting in sixteen grandchildren (this includes those currently in utero). Imagine what might happen when the rest of the bunch decides to reproduce!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

We May Never Fly Again

Rewind a few days- the boys and I flew out to California to surprise my Grandma for her 80th birthday. I haven't blogged about it because the party was Friday night and up until that point we were in hiding so as to keep the whole thing a surprise.

Wednesday morning I woke up with the flu. Thankfully, it was a aching/chills/congestion flu, and not the sort where you are running to the bathroom and puking. Jeff took a sick day to take care of me and the boys, and our flight wasn't until the evening, so I figured I had plenty of time to recover and regain my strength. I might have been wrong.

I rolled out of bed long enough to finish packing and get myself semi-presentable for the airport. In all honesty I looked wretched, but what can you do? It would have cost us more than our tickets were originally worth to change them, and since I haven't noticed any money trees growing in my garden lately it was fly sick or miss our entire trip.

Our problems began on the way to the airport. About twenty minutes into the drive I heard a soft snoring from the backseat. Tommy was out like a light. Now, for some people that might not bode ill, but Tommy is s-l-o-w to wake up from naps if he does not wake up on his own, and in those cases he usually wakes in what can only be described as a foul mood. We roused him at the departures curb and he immediately began to cry...daddy...daddy...daddy. He kept up a low, moaning, cry of daddy all the way through security. Now, if my kids looked like me this would probably be merely annoying, but since they don't, I got stared at like I was some kind of kidnapper. You have no idea the hard looks I received standing in the many lines, and since I am on the oblivious side when it comes to people staring at us (you learn to ignore it), that means it was really bad. More than one person tried to ascertain our relationship in a clumsy and obvious way. It got to the point that I started referring to Tommy only as "son" and myself as "mommy." Tommy cheered up right at the endpoint of the security line, which was good because I've gotten lazy about traveling with copies of our adoption papers.

After security I took the boys to Potbelly's for dinner. Tommy adores the airport Potbelly's because he can sit in the outside part and watch all the people walking through the terminal. I adore it because it is seriously cheap for airport food. I never spend more than ten bucks there, and for three of us at an airport that is not bad. So, we are in Potbelly's, I order us a big sized sandwich to split, and we snake through the line which is cleverly set up to cram as many people into a very small area as possible. Between the crowds and the noise, I began to feel a little woozy, then light headed, then hot, then cold, then really really nauseous. By the time we got our sandwich and made it to the cashier the room was spinning and I had just enough time to ask for a bag and sit down on the floor before I started retching.

Now, Tommy has, in all the time that he has lived with us, NEVER thrown up. Never. Ever. So he is staring at me like I have four heads and he is scared to death of me. Nicolas, on the other hand, pukes with great frequency, so he thinks mom barfing is hilarious. He was positioned on my front in an Ergo (while I'm crouched on the floor) desperately flailing his arms in an attempt to stick his hands into the brown bag that I was vomiting in. I'm sorry to say that he did succeed, but I was fast enough to keep his hands clean.

So, imagine my embarrassment when I realize that (of course) basically everyone in Potbelly's is staring at us, and a bunch of people are crowding around and asking if they can help. That placed me in an awkward position. I mean, who wants to announce something along the lines of "don't worry, I just have the flu!" to an entire roomful of travels who probably haven't gotten their flu shots yet? I might as well wear a sign that says, "I am a really bad person who travels when sick because I can't afford to change our tickets." No thanks. So, instead I accepted some help with our food, a cup of ice water, and I staggered to a table with the boys in tow hoping that no one else will take notice.

About two seconds after we sit down, Tommy announces that he has to pee. NOW. I have to admit that we broke a major rule. I asked some nice looking men sitting next to us to watch our bags while we went to the bathroom. I simply could not drag the boys, the food, and our toy bags into the bathroom. I didn't have the energy. So, our bags were out of my sight before we boarded the airplane. Forgive me, Shannon Hamilton.

Dinner was uneventful, I felt a little better after eating and Tommy had a grand old time people watching and seeing how many travelers he could get to wave back at him. I felt strong enough to make it to our terminal, until I found out that we were in the one terminal (in a relatively small airport) that was THE FARTHEST ONE. It took us so long to get there that I was a little worried we might not make it, but we did.

The flight started out great. Both boys behaved really well, they played with their toys, ate their snacks and were generally happy. Then the requests for going to the bathroom began, and of course, the seat belt light was still on. I am such a rebel that I took Tommy to the bathroom anyway. It was better than him peeing on himself, which is what would have happened since the seatbelt sign remained on for about all but twenty or so minutes of our four hour flight. You can understand that the boys felt a bit squirmy after the first few hours. Nicolas was particularly restless, and worked himself up just enough to vomit (see a theme for the evening) all over himself, my shirt, my jeans, and our seat. It was so voluminous that it even made it down the outside of our aisle seat. It was quite a highlight. I think my tipping point was when the flight attendant asked if Nic (who at his age does not listen to reason or logic and was fussy but was not by any means screaming) could keep it down so that passengers around us could sleep.

Our flight landed at nine.


It was not a red-eye. It was a half-full flight with open seating so anyone who really didn't want to sit near children could have moved when we sat down (or, not chosen to sit near us in the first place). I was so irritated I sort of wanted him to scream just out of spite. I am all for polite behavior when children travel, especially for children who are old enough to know better, but I also think it is silly to expect that kids, especially infants and toddlers, won't make any noise on a four hour flight. Seriously, if any airline doesn't want kids making noise on a plane they should change their business model and not sell tickets to young passengers. We were on Southwest for crying out loud, it wasn't as if we were in first class or on an airline that markets to primarily to adults!

Anyhow, we arrived safe and sound in LA and the wonderful women sitting behind us assisted us to baggage claim, and my parents took over from there. My mom informed me publicly that I looked "peaked" (which is her code word for awful), and privately informed me that I looked horrible, and since my mother is biased toward thinking I look good, I can only imagine how wretched I must have appeared to those around us...hopefully they all went home and sanitized their hands really well, because it turned out to be one nasty bout of illness.

Saturday, 24 September 2011


Last week at bible study I received a challenge to choose one word to focus on for the rest of the year. On my own I would probably not do such a thing, but my naturally competitive nature can never refuse a challenge, so I resolved to take it. Immediately the word "contentment" came to my mind. At the time I was thinking it was appropriate for this phase of my life for the following reasons:

Jeff's job is not a permanent position, because it is a post-doc. The way a post-doc works you trade security and money for a chance to learn a new skill. It isn't a bad trade-off while you are learning that new skill, but once you are good at it (and Jeff is) it is really just working for a fraction of your market value. And since it isn't a permanent position, you can never really settle. That bothers me. I am so thankful that Jeff has a job, and that he has the security of one more year of funding, but I would really like for him to earn what he is worth, because money=children when you are an adoptive family.

I also would like to be settled. I know that life and real estate aren't what they used to be when my parents got married and bought their first house right away, but I never thought I would be THIRTY and renting. I feel so irresponsible. With Jeff in a position that isn't permanent we can't settle. I have no idea where we will be living this time next year. That bothers me. It would also be super nice to have a washer, a dryer, and a dishwasher. It wasn't too much effort to go without these things with one child, but with is a lot harder. (For the record, I fully realize these are dumb "first world problems")

Furthermore, until we know where we will be living we can't even think about starting another adoption. Since Nic is so young we would likely be waiting a while anyway, but it irritates me that I can't even ponder it. (In case you were wondering why-each state has different rules, and if we end up moving mid-adoption we will have a lot more work to contend with, and lose quite a bit of money).

I will be honest with you, I like control, and having all of the above totally and completely out of my control drives me a little crazy. Hence, I need to focus on contentment for my "big picture."

Then, this morning I realized my need to find contentment is in more than those big things that I was focusing on.

I was so excited to go to bible study Tuesday morning. We are reading a great book (Thomas, Sacred Parenting), and it was my turn to lead. I prepared the previous night and was looking forward to a great discussion because my bible study group ROCKS. Imagine my dismay when I awoke Tuesday morning to the sweet sound of Tommy hacking up a lung. I asked how he felt and he said he was sick. Last week at bible study I made a big deal about people keeping sick kids I could hardly pretend to ignore the cough and congestion and take him anyway. Thus I got up and made him a special breakfast and coddled him all morning, I wrapped him up on the couch so he could listen to Adventures in Odyssey, and gave him tons of snuggles. Imagine my dismay when he experienced a mid-morning recovery and used the brief period during which I was putting Nic down for his nap to cover our living room wall in Oberweiss cow stickers. Our new decor features dancing, ice-cream eating bovines- it's tres chic.

At that point I was not in the most pleasant of parenting moods, and I was really really mad that I had missed bible study for no reason. In my little snit I realized that my need to be content in the day-to-day is just as important as my need to be content with the transitions in my life. I apparently have a lot more to work on than I originally thought, because it's going to be really hard to learn to live with those cows...

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Meeting Nicolas

In honor of Nicolas' six month adoptiversary here are the videos of our first meetings with Nicolas.

I met Nicolas the day after I arrived in Congo. I had time to adjust a bit, sleep...sort of, shower, relax, and get really sweaty driving around in an un-air-conditioned van before heading to Nic's orphanage to meet him. Nicolas' orphanage was closer to a group home than a standard orphanage. They had about ten kids there, and ages ranged from a young teenage girl to a baby slightly younger than Nic. There were actually only two babies, so the crib Nic and the other little guy slept in wasn't very crowded. It was the first orphanage we visited, and I was impressed with how spacious and clean everything was, even though it was clear (based on watching them feed Nic) that nutrition wasn't optimal. However, conditions there were infinitely better than everywhere else we visited. After viewing the yard and home, I went into the sitting room with one of the other moms (who had been in DRC longer and had met her son already) and we all sat down and they brought Nicolas to me. He had on his "confused" face- the deeply furrowed brows, but he came to me, which was a relief.

Here is the big moment:

I didn't actually get to leave with Nic right then. The orphanage wanted us to come back in the evening for the official pick-up with the patroness of the orphanage present (and she was working at the time). I handed him back and prepared to pick him up later on.

Jeff's meeting with Nicolas was very different from mine. When Jeff arrived at the guesthouse, Nicolas had been living there with me for three weeks, and he was napping in our room. Jeff had only a few minutes to settle in before Nicolas woke up, and we didn't have any time to waste on showers or eating because the planned transition period between Jeff and me was so short and Nic needed to start acclimating to his dad. Here they are:

Here are Tommy and Nicolas meeting in the airport:

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

A Big City Weekend

Last weekend we were happy to have Aunt Katie and Uncle Jeremy come for a visit. They happened to overlap a few hours with Aunt Emily, so at one point we had five adults and two kids in our apartment- who would have guessed we could all fit?

Both Katie and Jeremy had been to Chicago before, but Jeremy's only visit was for a job interview, so he hadn't seen many sights. Also, Uncle Jeremy likes to eat. I think it might be his passion. Thus he had a few places picked out that he wanted to try, so the rest of us went along for the culinary adventure.

On Friday we drove first to UIC's campus to visit the Hull House. Aunt Katie is a social worker, so she was interested in viewing the exhibit. The museum supposedly offered a little game to keep kids distracted, but when we asked the docent she said they were revamping the program so they didn't have it. That was a bummer, because it was one of those museums that is on the boring side for kids and Tommy was not entirely thrilled about the visit. Even worse, it turned out that they did have the kid's game, but we didn't find out until right before we left when another docent offered it to us. It did distract Tommy pretty well for those last few minutes though. After the museum we went to Hot Doug's, one of the places Jeremy wanted to try that was fairly close to the Hull House. I had never been there before so I didn't realize that the lines to eat are very very long. Thankfully you spend most of the wait time outside, so Tommy ran around and played with sticks. The food at Hot Doug's is amazing- it was worth the trip. We made it home late in the afternoon just in time to rest for an hour and then drive to a pizza place Jeremy want to try in Morton Grove. It was very good pizza.

On Saturday we took the train into the city. It was a very long day, but it was also a lot of fun. We hit all the tourist spots, State Street and Marshall Field's, Millennium Park, the Magnificent Mile, and the Hancock Building. The only thing we didn't get to do was an architectural tour, but Jeff and I have been on quite a few, so we were able to do a fairly lame imitation of one as we roamed the streets. Then Jeremy and Katie went to a Rick Bayless restaurant and we took the boys to Chipotle. Same difference, right? After dinner we met up and the old guys went to a Hum concert while Katie and I took the boys home on the train.

Sunday we tried to make it to church, but I gave up on the idea when I realized we had about 20 minutes until the service started and only one person ready. It is not much fun to have six people and one shower. We ended up heading to Naperville for the river walk, then back to Oberweiss for some ice cream (Tommy's favorite). All in all, it was a great weekend, even though I never want to eat out again!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Destination: Indiana Wedding, The Final Stretch

Our vacation ended very well. In describing the fun things that we did during the wedding weekend I have neglected to mention that the place we had rented for the weekend, which was supposed to be a cozy cabin in a family friendly area turned out to be a filthy, trashy, gross little room in a place that is decidedly not family friendly unless you think loud, drunken, chain smoking adults blasting music at 11:30pm while playing bean bag toss is "family friendly". Now, recall, Jeff and I both spent time in the Congo recently so it isn't as though we must have luxury accommodations...the very worst room I stayed in at the guest house in DRC was by far cleaner than this cabin. The dust was so hard on Jeff's allergies that he was miserable every time we went in, and it was so dirty that we were constantly worrying about what the boys were touching. Thus, we stayed away from our cabin as much as possible. However, on Sunday a room at the wonderful lodge that the wedding reception was held at opened up, so we were able to enjoy the last night of our vacation in a clean, comfortable space. It was awesome.

Also, that meant we were closer to the wedding party and lots of our friends...and it meant a late night campfire and s'mores and an early morning boat ride. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful time away.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Time For A Swim, Or, Destination: Indiana Wedding Part III

Disclaimer: We are still catching up on posting about all of our end-of-summer vacation activities. We're almost done, but we've got a couple left.

Sunday began grey and rainy, but by the time we finished with lunch (which was late) the sky had cleared and the air approached warm. For the kids, this meant only one thing: swim time! The lodge that the wedding reception was held at had a play area and beach with a sand entry, a shallow area surrounded by a dock, and a water slide. It took Tommy a few minutes to get up his courage for going all the way in the water, but after seeing his older buddies take the plunge he was anxious to follow their example, and ended up asking to "swim" all the way out to the float where a number of the grown ups were soaking up the sun. Nicolas stayed dressed and dry, and had a nice time playing in the sand. It was a a nice last hurrah for summer.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

And So It Begins

Today marked the first day of our fall schedule, so summer is officially over. BOO. We have had a crazy schedule these last few weeks, between vacations and out of town guests we have been alone in our home only two of the last eighteen days. Yes, I counted so I could impress you. We've been out of state twice, had one Grandma, two Aunts, and one Uncle stay, and we had a blast...but we are exhausted.

Thus I have mixed feelings about the start of our schedule. On the one hand, I am excited about seeing all of my friends (and Tommy was THRILLED to see his) and starting up some great bible studies, but on the other I sort of feel like I need about a week of nothing to get ready for all of it.

The thing that I was least ready for was dropping Nicolas off in the nursery. It was Nicolas' first time in childcare. It was hard. He's been with us for almost six months (can you believe it?), but I still had a difficult time with this step, in fact, it was harder with Nicolas than it was with Tommy. Nicolas is not a fussy guy. He is one of those kids that you worry about because there is nothing to worry about (for those of you without adopted kids, perfect behavior is a huge red flag because it often means that the child has been conditioned not to complain). Since coming home he has become much more vocal and demanding about his needs and very good about communicating what it is he wants, so I feel really good about his attachment and his adjustment to family life, but I do worry about his needs being met in a large group because I know he likely won't complain in that setting. True to form, when I picked him up the caregivers said that he didn't fuss at all (big surprise), and that he was perfectly behaved (of course). As soon as he came to me it was obvious that he was very thirsty (he has a signal for drinking that is pretty easy to interpret). Now, I am happy that he made that need known to me, but it is hard to know that he had a need and did not seek to get it met. I am not at all blaming the caregivers- they couldn't have known that he was thirsty because he chose not to fuss. I am completely at a loss as to what to do. He is only in childcare situations for two hours at the most a few days a week, so it isn't as though he will suffer any physical harm if he does not complain when he is thirsty, but I don't want his fears of unmet needs reinforced. Anyone dealt with this before? Any ideas?

And for fun...a little picture of Tommy and his Aunt Emily from our crazy few weeks. They are posing with their "Bub" at Tommy's very favorite rib joint. Aunt Emily knows how to speak Tommy's "love languages"- snuggles and food!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Whistle Stop

The day after the wedding was damp and cool, so we scrapped our plans to swim and visit a nearby buffalo farm (a wet hayride did not sound like fun) and instead went to a few antique/junk stores and to a fun train-themed restaurant. It turns out that antiquing with a two young boys is not exactly relaxing, because they really like to touch everything. It worked because we were with lots of friends and therefore many extra hands. Tommy found a number of things he wanted but did not get, mostly because I don't want a trumpeting Cookie Monster or a Cars themed kitchen towel/potholder set in my home.

For lunch we went to the Whistle Stop restaurant in Monon, IN. It was perfect. They had trains that ran around the interior of the restaurant on elevated track, and outside they had an open refurbished caboose car that the kids played in, some other train cars to look at, lots of track to run on, and a depot to sit at. Tommy and the other kids had a great time. We enjoyed the chance to sit around a big long table with our friends and hang out and eat mid-western food...just like old times in Galena.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Destination: Indiana Wedding

Last weekend we attend out first "destination" wedding. Most destinations weddings involve a beach in Hawaii, the Caribbean, or Mexico, but this one was different. Instead of traveling to an exotic local we went to the shores of a lazy river, next to an old family cottage, and watched a dear friend say her vows. It was hot, it was sticky, there were many mosquitoes and a few rude jet skiers, but it was also beautiful.

As a family we've attended three weddings this summer. We love that the boys have been invited, because that has allowed us to come too (we are just about to take the baby sitting plunge with Nic but haven't done so yet). Each has been absolutely lovely, but I never remembered to bring my camera, so I haven't been blogging about them.

This weekend also doubled as a family vacation/ reunion with dear friends, so between the festivities and the down time we had one wonderful weekend.
I am scrambling to get ready for some out of town guests, so I don't have the time I would like to reflect on how incredible our time was. It was restful, it was restoring, and it was FUN.

Here are a few pictures of the main event. I'll post some of our "down time" pictures tomorrow.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Grandma Janie Comes to Visit

Last Sunday we drove home from Kentucky so that Jeff could head back to work Monday morning. Monday afternoon Jeff's mom, Jane, flew in from Kentucky and the boys and I picked her up at the airport. Tommy had asked if Grandma Janie would go to the zoo with him, and he was more than a little disappointed that we didn't head straight to the zoo from the airport. We wisely decided to wait until the next day.

On Wednesday we went to Cantigny. We started with an hour long tour of the McCormick house, and the boys made it through with only some minor fussing and one incidence of laying down on the floor. This led to me carrying both boys through quite a bit of the house, but it was worth it. Afterwards we stopped to smell the roses in the garden and had a picnic lunch on the lawn. Then we went to the First Division Museum. Tommy had been before, about a year ago, and actually liked it a lot, but this time he found the exhibits to be scary...either that or he wanted someone to carry him through the museum, which Grandma Janie did since Nicolas was sleeping in the Ergo by that time. He did really like the replica soldiers in the front of the museum, and I am so PROUD to say that his favorite was the Revolutionary soldier. My influence abounds.

Thanks for visiting Grandma Janie!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Happy Game Day!


Friday, 2 September 2011

Our Old Kentucky Home

Last weekend we spent fourteen hours on the road. Seven hours each way, plus stops, for just under two days with our family. It was a lot of driving, but some times you have to go the distance.

Three years ago we had the opportunity to visit our extended family in Kentucky, and we had such a good time it's hard to believe it has taken us so many years to get back. We went down this time for the yearly family reunion. Jeff's grandmother, Sue, was one of ten siblings, and the vast majority of those siblings and their progeny continue to live in or around Kentucky. As you can imagine, when ten kids have kids, and then grand kids, the resulting party can be quite crowded even when not everyone can make it.

Surviving siblings with their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren

We drove down Friday and spent the evening with Jane, Jeff's mom, her Aunt Audrey, and her cousins Donna (our host for the weekend) and Mona. Friday I had my first (and only) Kentucky grammar mix-up. I took Tommy outside to play, as Donna has an immense yard, but he spied the swing set in the (unfenced) neighbor's yard and made a beeline for it. I was explaining to him that he needed to get off because it wasn't our swing set when the owner of the swingset came out.

Her: "I don't care for him to play on the swing set."
Me: "Ok, I'm working on getting him off."
Her: "No, I don't care for him to play on the swing set."
Me: confused face.
Her: "I don't care. I just want him to be careful because the last swing is broken."
Me: "Oh, so it's ok for him to play on the swing set?"
Her: "Yes, I don't care."

And that's how it went. Thankfully, that was my only incident.

Saturday we spent the morning being stuffed to the gills by Donna, all while she insisted that it wasn't a proper breakfast. She is the hostess with the most-ess, let me tell you. Then we went to the community center of Broughtontown (pronounced Brought-in-town) for the big gathering. Broughtontown was the place that the family first settled in Kentucky. There was a massive potluck with lots of fried chicken, ham, roastbeef, every kind of side dish you can imagine, and at least 10 different desserts. The big highlight for Tommy were the fresh fruit smoothies that were being whipped up to order and served in fancy glasses. Needless to say, we did not go hungry.

Good eats

Making smoothies


Smoothies are serious business

After eating there were some performances, one of which Tommy decided to participate in. He actually got up on stage with the big group of kids and sang "He's got the Whole World in His Hands" complete with hand motions. That was obviously my favorite, but my second favorite was the rendition of "I am my own Grandpa[w]." Hilarious.

When things wrapped up we played bingo, and I won the blackout round. I do love bingo, so it was quite a triumph.


The biggest surprise of the party was how much fun Tommy had. Sometimes strangers/large crowds throw him off, but he fell in love with the other kids who were there and spent the entire time playing. I barely saw him the entire time. He is still talking about "those kids at the party" and asking to play with them. It was so sweet. Both Tommy and Nicolas seemed to hit it off with all the relatives, which was wonderful.

Making friends

Group photos are a challenge

We spent the rest of the weekend hanging out and being stuffed full of food, which is always nice. We are so thankful to have some family within driving distance and for the weekends that we have been able to spend with them.