Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Our Trip to Springfield: Friday

I started writing one post about our trip to Springfield and realized it was far to long, so I'm splitting it up...

When Mom and Dad were in town we decided to make a trip down to Springfield to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. I have been wanting to do this since the museum opened years ago, and I knew that my Mom and Dad would really enjoy seeing it as well, so we decided to take a mini-vacation together. I am so glad we did.

We had an incredible time. Everything went so well, and we had so much fun. I was ready to move to Springfield, but Jeff says we can't because his job is here (what a killjoy). Also, we got stared at a ton while we were maybe it wouldn't be the best environment for the boys. Which is weird, right? Because it's the town of Abraham Lincoln, and his face is everywhere, and everything is about how great he was and how he ended slavery, and so on, so one would think that people might be a little more accepting of a family with both white and black members and not gape at them...but I digress. No one said anything directly negative to us anyhow, just lots and lots of staring.

But you should still go to Springfield. I was so impressed with the quality of family activities they have, and how many opportunities there were for the kids to be engaged and learning. Here is the list of things we did: Illinois State Museum, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, State Capitol Tour, Lincoln Home National Historic Site, and the Dana-Thomas House.

We left for Springfield on Friday. We had great intentions of leaving the house early and getting down there to see things, but we all woke up late and it took forever to get things together, so we arrived around two and decided to go straight to the Illinois State Museum. This FREE museum (or at least, Free to those who don't pay IL taxes) has the most amazing children's museum area. Certain adults (ahem, Jeff, ahem, Mom) may have had an even better time than the kids as they played with a huge microscope. I had a good time assembling broken pottery puzzles in the archaeology area, and of course, digging for dinosaur bones. Tommy packed up a jeep and went camping in a cave, while Nic banged on a little computer. Dad examined his wrinkles in the aforementioned microscope and chatted forever with the volunteer about California. Seriously, it is the best children's museum area I have ever been to. The rest of the museum was well done. The exhibit on how the environment changes was interactive and appealed to all of us, kids included. The upstairs exhibits on the homes of Illinois residents from different communities and time periods was also well done. The only exhibit that looked in need of some TLC was the very random and dated exhibit on the first peoples of Illinois (i.e.the Native Americans or Amerindians, whichever you prefer). We spent our entire afternoon in the museum and didn't leave until they kicked us out!

We went and ate horse-shoes as recommended by the visitor's center. Mom and Dad were not impressed. Jeff and I were, but a piece of Texas toast topped with meat, french fries, and cheese sauce is not for everyone...but since cheese fries are a junk-food favorite of mine that I almost never eat, I was a rather happy girl.

The only aspect of our trip that was less than perfect was the hotel. We didn't anticipate that it would be particularly nice, but the last time that Jeff and I had stayed at a similar type of hotel (different chain. same idea) we had been pleasantly surprised. Trip adviser gave the hotel we chose the highest ratings for the value, but failed to mention that the floors were constructed out of some kind of amplifying material. Either that or a herd of elephants had the rooms above us. Also, the doors were very thin and the hallway was not quiet because the manager apparently personally delivers wake up calls by banging on people's doors. However, it did appear clean, and that counts for something. And it had a pool, so Jeff and I took the big boys for a "late night" swim at seven o'clock and racked up lots of "cool parent" points.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Family Photos

We finally got to see the results of our family photos! I am so happy! Check out the rest on my friend Julie's blog.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Yummy Fall Granola

First, my Dad is out of the hospital and doing great. Many, many tests have led to the conclusion that he is very healthy and what happened was a fluke. Mom made her flight home last night so that she could make chemo this week, and Dad followed today. We had a nice day with him that included playing at the park, reading, and some football in the backyard. While he read/played I got to start the clean up on our apartment and do a little cooking. I made some cinnamon cranberry walnut granola, which not only tastes awesome but made the apartment smell like Fall is here...even though it was a glorious 75 degrees today!

I love this granola recipe which I concocted one day when I felt like having some granola but had fairly limited supplies on hand. I've made it again and again because it is so absurdly easy and it makes a really filling breakfast (half a cup with milk gets me through to lunch without a growling stomach).

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

5 cups oats (the slow cooking kind)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Put all of the above in a big bowl and stir it up really well. Be careful that the brown sugar is mixed in thoroughly and not lumpy.

Dump mixed up granola on a rimmed baking sheet and cook for 15 minutes. Stir and rotate pan. Cook 15 more minutes. Stir and rotate pan. Cook 10 minutes. Check to see if your granola is brown/crisp to your liking. If not. put in for another 5 to 15 minutes. When it is light brown and the oats are crunchy remove from the oven and let cool.

Stir in one cup dried cranberries (I use Craisins because the massive bag at Costco is cheaper than buying off-brand).

Store in an airtight container and enjoy!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

More Prayer (it never ends)

Last night we had a scary incident and Dad ended up needing to go to the hospital at 3:30am. It appears that he was dehydrated/sick/had low blood pressure, but the doctors are keeping him at least for a few more hours to run some tests on his heart. Please pray that there is nothing really wrong with him for them to find, but that if there is they will catch it. Also, Mom and Dad were scheduled to fly out today, so please pray for Mom as she sorts out their schedule since they will likely need to leave tomorrow. Pray they can find a flight that isn't too expensive (unlikely this last minute) and that Mom will be able to fix her chemo schedule. Thank you all so much! We are really grateful for your prayers.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Local History Day

Our family went and picked up some interesting artifacts at the airport on Monday afternoon. These fine circa 1950s specimens have been entertaining the boys and helping with dishes. In addition, they enjoy spending time in museums. We went to Graue Mill, an operating Grist Mill/Museum. It's very close to us, and I had been wanting to see it for some time, but was nervous about taking the boys by myself. Since Mom and Dad were willing to come and lend a hand, we made the trip, and are so glad we did. The museum had a Miller who did demonstrations of the Mill and let Tommy and Nic attempt to grind corn by hand. He was fantastic. Upstairs they had a woman carding, spinning, and demonstrating a loom. She had a small loom that Tommy got to try. She did a wonderful job explaining spinning and carding to him, although Tommy was more interested in baking a pie in one of the "hands on" exhibits. We didn't have much time downstairs, but the Mill was a stop on the Underground Railroad so they have information on that as well. Unfortunately it was raining, so we couldn't spend time looking at the grounds (Mom has to stay out of our yucky weather), but they looked beautiful and there is even a nature center down the street that we will have to explore in the future.

Afterwards Tommy went to school and Nic went for his nap, so Mom, Kenny and I explored the Downers Grove history museum. It was free, so I guess we shouldn't complain about it, but seriously they have a great space that they are doing very little with. Also the "staff" tried to get us to leave without seeing both exhibits because they didn't want to go unlock the door on the outdoor building that housed the other part. Mom got a little feisty with them and so we eventually got in. But seriously, why make it hard on visitors to see your displays? Why leave whole rooms of displays completely uninterpreted? It makes the historian in me a bit irritated.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Getting Ready For The Holidays

Today Mom and I spent the afternoon trying to figure out what on earth I'm going to wear for our Christmas card photos, and how I'm going to plan our outfits so they are all in the same color family and coordinate but don't look "matchy matchy." This is likely not going to end well. The only way I know to keep things in the same color family is to keep them the same color. So we are all going to be wearing blue, I think. But, so as to avoid the crime of all looking too similar, we are wearing different sorts of things, which may work or seriously, seriously fail. I'm guessing we will land on the fail side of things, but I'll let you judge
for yourselves when the pictures come back. Also, they had nothing in the shade of blue I wanted to wear at Old Navy...and if Old Navy doesn't sell it, chances are you won't find me wearing it (I am constantly covered in boy goo and thus I like to wear inexpensive clothes so I can hug my kids and pick them up without worrying).

Anyhow, I've already found the cards I think I am going to use on Shutterfly, providing it doesn't clash with our outfits! Click to check out their Christmas Cards. I am thinking of using the one titled "His Grace Alone," but I'm not sure if it will clash with our all blue theme (it's under Holiday Cards, Themes: Religious). Also, we will be sitting outside on a red couch with grass/trees in the background. What do you think?

[Full disclosure, I am telling you about Shutterfly's holiday cards in exchange for getting a whopping discount that should cover the costs of all of our Christmas cards. Thanks for humoring me on this.]

Shutterfly has lots of cute cards to choose from in a variety of styles, colors, and themes. They also have special offers that you can check out here:

Look who is practicing his poses for our pictures...he sure loves his Jjaja!

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Last Thing I Expected at a "Rock Concert"

On Saturday night we took the boys to a "rock concert." Yes, they loved it!

A few weeks ago we got an email from Show Hope asking for volunteers at a show, and without even checking what show it was (I just checked the date/asked Jeff), I said yes. Honestly, we go to volunteer, not for the music, so it didn't really matter to me. It turned out to be Andrew Peterson, whom we had never heard before, and Caleb, who we had heard once and liked. Regardless, we knew the boys would think it was super cool.

Saturday turned out to be an awful day - it was just crazy trying to get all the cleaning, shopping, and so on done before we had to leave. Then we left and there was a big accident on our on ramp, it was raining, Google maps gave us bad directions, and once we figured out the correct directions we still missed the turn off. Since we were so late we didn't have time to stop and pick up dinner like we had planned. Needless to say, I was in a pretty unpleasant mood by the time we arrived, and was feeling less than my happy ready-to-volunteer self.

When we arrived we found out we were the only volunteers. I admit I was bummed. Last time we did this we worked with a large group of families, and it was very encouraging to hear their stories and to have some adoptive family camaraderie time. I was looking forward to a little of that, and so I added this to the increasingly long list of things that didn't work out the way I wanted them to . More stinky mood.

Anyhow, we manned the booth. The boys rocked out. We did our bit to represent Show Hope and pass out sponsor forms, I talked adoption with a few families considering it at intermission, and shared some more about Show Hope's mission. That helped a little.

After the break the boys danced and played air guitar/drums a whole lot more, and I got to talking with the woman who was in charge of Show Hope that night. You know how sometimes the thing that you were expecting or hoping for ends up not being what you need? And the thing that you get instead turns out to be what you should have hoped for in the first place? Well, that night I thought that I needed to hang with a whole bunch of families, but it turns out that God knew that I needed to spill my guts to an almost stranger (we met once before), and to talk about what He has done in our lives for the last few years. Apparently I needed to summarize and review the hard things that have happened so that I could be reminded of the amazing things that God has done despite the pain we had endured. I needed to be reminded that life is hard, but heaven will be sweet, I needed to remember that God will do beautiful things with my ashes.

After the conversation had progressed through Leah and Sickle Cell Disease, the woman said something to the effect of me seeming so peaceful despite all of the loss, and I totally lost it. Because my mom is dying and I am sad. So, so, so sad. And while I do believe that God can use this hurt too, right now I'm living where it just stinks, and I can't see past it. That's why I need the reminders. During the conversation I was thinking back to the time when Jeff and I received our Show Hope grant four years ago. I was deep in grief and even though we were working hard on our adoption it felt far from certain, and there were so many days when I wondered if we would ever have a living child. Three boys later, look what God has done. I know He will carry me through this valley, through these trials, into a place of abundance. I was losing sight of that, and He knew it, and I knew it, and so He rescued me through a simple conversation with an understanding person who could gently encourage me and speak a little truth and light into my darkness. Also, I apparently needed to sing a little Psalty, laugh about cleaning boy dirt off of carpets, discuss the benefits of living in small spaces, and talk about teenage awkwardness. Upon reflection it was a rather unusual conversation, but it was refreshing and renewing.

It wasn't the experience I anticipated, or the one I expected, but it was what I needed. And it was Good. Praise God.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

A New Sort of Apple Picking

This weekend we have a special visitor, so we decided to do something fun to take advantage of the extra set of hands. To apple orchard we went, where we "picked" apples with the boys. Sadly, an early warm spell followed by a frost destroyed apple crops across the midwest, so most orchards were closed this year or had no u-pick apples. The one we went to brought in apples and hung them from trees in rain gutters, and declared "it's raining apples!" It was silly, but the kids liked it, and it turned out to be better for them than actually having to pick. Nic was the most enthusiastic about the activity, pointing into the trees and saying, "apple, apple." His bag was much heavier than Tommy's by the time we left. Tommy spent most of his time playing "apple soccer" with the rotten apples that littered the ground, and Kenny, well, he slept. Everyone like the tractor ride through the orchard and the hot apple cider afterwards. I'm guessing they will be equally thrilled with the apple cider donuts we brought home for tomorrow morning...

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Update on Mary: Out of Surgery

Quick update: Dad just called from the hospital to let me know that Mom is out of her surgery and that they said everything went well and the port is in place. Thank you for your prayers for the procedure, and we would appreciate it if you would keep praying for her recovery.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Update on Mary: Port Surgery WEDNESDAY

Well, thank you all for those prayers! Mom was scheduled very quickly for her surgery, and will go in tomorrow morning and have the port put in at 1pm (PST). The surgery is outpatient, and if all goes well she will still be able to make Thursday's chemo appointment. Please pray that her surgery will go smoothly, that the port will be placed quickly and that it will be done well. Pray that she doesn't have any complications from the anesthesia, and that her body will recover nicely. Pray that she can tolerate Thursday's chemo appointment. Thank you again for surrounding Mom in prayer. We love knowing that all of you are praying alongside us for her continued health and healing.