Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Art of Laziness

The definition of Laziness (also called indolence) is a disinclination to activity or exertion despite having the ability to do so. It is often used as a pejorative; related terms for a person seen to be lazy include couch potato, slacker, and bludger.

If someone were to ask me what the number one thing that bothered me the most I would say someone who is lazy and makes no effort.  Laziness is definitely learned when a person is young.  Perhaps they had parents who did everything for them or they figured no one noticed if they just stopped trying.  How many people do we know like that?  The start of the school year prompts me to write this post since I'm working really hard to instill a hard work ethic and dedication in my children.  So many times it's easier to avoid starting or finishing something due to one's own desire to do something more fulfilling to them.  I love the quote, "Success is not easy especially for the lazy".  So many people look for the quick fix, wait to the last minute or act like they're busy all of which are transparent to the non-lazy person.  I also love this:
Someone can also be lazy in a relationship.  They believe that the other person will always be there to take care of things or work harder to overcome the other person's choice not to engage.  But what's really astounding is that most lazy people don't believe they are lazy at all.  Of course not, that's how they were trained.  The 'not knowing' makes it really hard to become motivated in the first place.

I'm just one of those people that can't just sit around.  Not only do I feel guilty since I have a large family, I just feel like it physically makes me feel bad.  I'm really trying to stop this sort of behavior in my house which is why I'm setting the rule of no TV after dinner until homework is done, which is typically around nine o'clock.  The little ones don't like this because they head to bed at eight thirty.  They also seem to have more homework than the older ones so far in the school year.

I've been thinking about this for some time and observing how people try to hide from their laziness.  It's never too late to get your kids inspired and challenged to do something other than video games and TV.  One day they too will have to lead and provide for their families, but there has to be a desire to do so and reason to be motivated.  Parents, teach your children well!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lessons from Summer

Obviously our summer was quite busy since there was no time to write in my blog.  It started with a bang as I landed my dream job in my current company...the same day the kids were let out of school. June was packed with travelling every week for work and the rest was doing my best to learn my job while keeping the kids entertained and happy.  The first lesson I learned was that the kids would be okay.  Kids don't always need to be entertained.  Having that down time to just kick around with other kids is perfectly normal and healthy.  Second lesson I learned was that family trumps anything or anyone.  Yes...friends are important but our kids share the same values as their cousins and play dates are so much easier because of that.  The third lesson we learned was 'less is more'.  Since there was no real time for a fancy vacation, a cabin in the mountains was just as good or better. It was packed with rope swings, rafting and hanging on the porch.  We also spent a good chunk of summer decluttering our house and organizing what was left.  More stuff equals more stuff to clean.  After two big trips to the dump and ten trips to Goodwill, our house is a bit more comfortable. Check out this video for inspiration:
 The forth lesson is you can never have too many kids or too many pets.  Not only did we end up with an adorable rescue kitten we named, Smudge, but also a rescue pup called Fisher.  Needless to say our house is in constant chaos but that's what makes it great.  The fifth lesson is that it's okay to be happy when it's time for the kids to go back to school.  We love them greatly but they truly need and crave that structure.  I always feel guilty when it's "that" time of year again because I realize how much work I put on hold and still wasn't able to do all the things I planned to with the kids.  They really don't feel like they missed anything and they too were looking forward to getting back into a routine.  The sixth lesson is similar to number three...the more you have, the more problems you have.  To me, the idea of simplifying my life allows for so much more enjoyment with our family.  I remember the days when we had our fabulous log cabin vacation home up in Alabama while living in Atlanta.  Though it was only two hours away the constant nag of trying to get up there, especially with kid's sports and other activities, created this ongoing swirl of crazy.  The reason we chose to live where we live was for the "one stop shopping" mentality.  We can live the vacation lifestyle year round and not feel pressured to spend more time in our vacation home, which was wonderful but unnerving as well. The final lesson from this summer was love the ones your with.  Breaking the mentality that everyone is your friend and using unnecessary energy to foster a relationship that isn't reciprocal...that's just silly.  As I grow older, I want to surround myself by people who genuinely inspire and uplift me.  I want my kids to be loved and celebrated and not judged by the decisions we have made for them.  Life is way too short to be weighted down by unnecessary negativity.  Always choose joy!!
First day of school 11th, 9th, 4th, 2nd, 1st

Last beach trip before school

always fishing

in the mountains selfie

mountain hike

Rope swinging at Cabin

hiking again

One of many waterfalls we visited

new puppy, Fisher

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Looking in the Mirror

Those first few days we spent with Ava in the orphanage and in the apartment in Siauliai Ava resembled the care givers more than she did a little 4 year old girl.  She seemed to be a little replica of the "Bolba" women in grupa.  Time went on and Ava went through some intense acculturation to become the little American girl she is today.  Then why am I still baffled with her when she gets bossy or sassy with others?  The other day I caught her saying exactly what I say when I get frustrated.  It's not the best choice of words but it tends to fall out of my mouth when I get stressed or have to deal with bad drivers on the road.  I corrected her and said "Ava, I know Mommy shouldn't say those bad words and you certainly shouldn't use those words either".  Now, I know our kids are a reflection of who we are and become close to clones of ourselves, good and bad, but it seems to be much more apparent in my adopted child than with my birth children.  I feel like my birth children try to take the good from both my husband and I and still weave in those unique traits that only they can own.  With Ava, she truly needs someone to show her who to be, how to act, and what's right and wrong.  When I realized how desperate she is to live this way I really had to stop and remind myself to be that person I want her to become.  That's really hard to do in the craziness of raising 5 kids, working full time and juggling life events.  I talked to Ava about it and reminded her to start thinking about who she wants to become and not to follow some one's lead, especially when they say or do bad things.  This sort of thing must come from the fear of rejection that she has deep in her heart.  I know deep down she still struggles with whether we will continue to love and accept her.  Naturally she gravitates to being someone else that is already accepted.  I'm trying really hard to be aware of what I say and do for her sake.  Even a few nights a go I was pouring a glass of wine.  She said "Mommy, why can't I have wine?".  I told her that it's very bad for children.  She pretended to try and take my drink and I had to tell her, "Ava, when you get older you're going to have to try really, really hard not to drink wine.  It's going to be very hard but it's very important that you say no."  Now, with a kid with fetal alcohol syndrome it's especially important that they are not exposed to alcohol in the home.  I do my very best of hiding it from her and it's not that it's something that is always consumed around the house anyway.  The net of the story is that we have to be all so careful with these fragile beings.  They have little hope left in their heart and truly struggle with acceptance.  The reason they are so sassy and bossy is because they are protecting themselves fiercely from being hurt and rejected.  There is never one day that my birth children had felt this feeling.  They know without question that we truly love and accept them.  Though we try and reinforce this with Ava I think she will always struggle with rejection and self worth due to the damage that was done to her when she was given up.  When her mother chose more than once to reject her.  She still vividly tells the story of the last day she saw her mother and how she stripped her of anything she ever owned or cared about.  I have to always remind myself that we're dealing with a much more fragile heart that seems so strong on the outside.  I'm not sure what others have experience with their adopted children but my guess is that it's a similar feeling.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Your Life is What You Make of It

I haven't written in awhile mostly because there's not much to report.  Sure, the kids always keep me on my toes and there's the daily drama here and there but there's nothing out of the ordinary going on.  Work is certainly keeping me busy and I find that most days I barely have time to leave my desk for anything else.  For whatever reason two big themes have been keeping me up at night.  The first one is "getting things done"...not the usual stuff but the stuff I've always wanted to do like trying to make my inventions come to life.  Of course, that would require lots of time and money but I started making baby steps in that direction.

The second one is trying to teach my kids about responsibility and owning their actions.  Like most kids, there's always someone else or some other reason they didn't complete a task or do something wholeheartedly.  I'm living proof that we are a product of our choices and experiences.  We all have a big say on how we turn out.  I'm going to be that one that always reminds them of this choice and that the choices they make will get them to their ultimate destination.  I think that's why I have a really hard time with people that complain, or give up and stop trying to better their life.  I lose respect for them because I know their not making the investment into life that they should be making.  What even pisses me off more is when they complain about it, blame others or not doing anything to change their situation.  I remember at a young age constantly counseling my older sister.  I must have been ten or eleven and she was always down.  I knew then that most of what she was dealing with was a choice.  Sure, we all have bad days and question our decisions and how we handled something but we have to get back up everyday and try again.  As a parent, this is one of the hardest things to teach kids in my book.  Regardless, my job is to instill good values and lessons so they become responsible adults.  It's really hard to see sometimes but I know that my kids have big hearts and the right values in place to create big things in their life.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Slow Start

I have had a very slow start to the new year.  I really think 2014 took the wind out of me and I'm just guarding my energy.  There's no doubt that work and life will get crazy again and I'll be ready when that happens...which is actually next week.  I'm really hoping that this year will be different.  Don't get me wrong, last year was wonderful but it seemed to be so action packed with so many events and demands on our family that sometimes it's really hard to stop and enjoy them.  Scott finally quit his time share gig and is focusing on the cremation business. As long as he stays interested he should do okay.  I'm hoping now that he has weekends off again our family trips will be all together and a lot easier to manage.  Now if I can just get motivated to workout and get the house organized that would be great. It just goes hand and hand with my slow start to the year.

I got a call from our adoption agency this weekend.  They wanted me to reach out to a family from the US who was in Lithuania adopting a little girl with FAS.  Of course I was thrilled to help.  Of course I wouldn't mention their names in this blog.  I will say that their situation brought back a lot of memories and emotions from the early days of Ava's adoption.  I'll never forget how excited we were to travel overseas to finally meet her after two years of waiting.  I'll never forget that moment when we saw her for the first time.  She was so tiny and sleeping in a crib.  I'll never forget how angry she was for taking her away from everything she ever knew and trusted.  She would curse at us in Lithuanian, hit us and pull my hair [almost out!].  Though people don't like the word "Ferrell" that's what she was.  She had no idea what it felt like to be loved. She had no idea what it felt like to be accepted into a real family. She had no idea what it felt like to feel worthy of others.  She also didn't know what if felt like to be healthy.  Between the neglect and the parasites that ridden her body, her outlook was pretty dismal.  The months and years ahead were difficult.  It took almost a full year for her to hold down any food without throwing up.  It took two years, and some help from growth hormones for her to finally hit the growth chart.  This process of integrating a new child into the family is not for the soft at heart.  Yes, we were guilty for having inflated dreams of finding "the perfect" child but really there's no such thing.  Though it's been two and a half years since we brought Ava home we can honestly say she has made huge leaps of progress.  My best advice is to stay firm.  She will never be like your other children.  She is a mastermind of protecting her heart and will go through great lengths to get your attention and to get her way.  She's very grateful for anything that she gets and knows where she came from. She has perspective that most six year olds will never have.  She's not perfect and she'll never be a stellar student but because we took her home, she has a fighting chance.  A chance she never would have had if we left her in Lithuania. I didn't even mention the impact it had on our family.  The early days were pretty tough.  I usually slept with one eye open since we didn't know what she would do once she slept by herself, in her own room.  Love was not immediate and has taken it's time to really happen.  I think that's natural.  I think we all, including Ava, had to figure out how to fall in love with each other.  For the other kids at home, that happened pretty easy.  They are better people for going through what they went through.  They learned to be selfless, thoughtful, giving and empathetic.  They too know where she came from and saw first hand how sick she was when she first arrived.  I too had thoughts of not completing the adoption in those early days in the apartment in Siauliai.  The fact is, this little girl is that missing piece to the puzzle that may not fit perfectly into that perfect picture of your family but she will make your family better for it.  Friends and family will marvel at how sweet and wonderful she is but will never really know those dark days that were spent convincing her and ourselves that this was all going to work out.  All the meds, appointments with doctors and shrinks, all of the timeouts, love and patience it takes to make real change to a person.  It's not something you can speed up and make happen overnight.  It takes a vow and a conscience decision that you will give her a chance.  I've been praying for this family and know the struggles they have felt and the struggles they'll experience once they get home.  Each little day will be bring small steps of change to their little girl and soon their family will blend to the perfect puzzle, that may look a little different, but perfect none-the-less.  I still have days where I just stare at Ava in marvel.  In one moment she can totally rattle you in frustration and the next moment she's smiling and thanking you for bringing her into your family. This is a kid that had faced so many disappointments in her life, so early, yet her outlook is so hopeful.  Her own mother took every last belonging from her little hands and didn't even kiss her good bye.  This is real stuff and stuff that will give her the strength to do whatever she dreams of doing, regardless of her condition or rotten start at life.  Another friend I met on this journey, who too will remain nameless, also played a big part in our ability to accept Ava.  I remember having doubts after the first few days in Lithuania and she told me to stay strong.  She cheered me on and gave me perspective to stay the course, for the sake of the child.  She told me that if I really couldn't go through with it then I should bring the child back to the US and then put her up for adoption.  If we would have sent her back, her future would be dismal.  She would have been placed in an institution and kicked out to the streets once she was a teenager.  Her odds of surviving after that were very slim.  Though we never had true intentions of sending her back, it was good for me to hear the alternatives for her.  It was never about me.  It was always about giving a child a second chance.  That's what you have to remember.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Joy of Christmas (video)

This video was probably the hardest thing I ever did.  Probably because Apple's iMovie is probably the WORST application ever.  Ultimately, I think the video turned out pretty good and sums up another great year for our family.  Of course I chose Sister Hazel's song "River" which really gave it the emotion I was trying to capture.  Hope you all enjoy it!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tis the Season to be Somber

I can't shake it!  For the past two weeks I am utterly exhausted.  Not sure if it has to do with the colder weather or that works is finally slowing down and my rest is catching up on me.  All I want to do is sleep.  It's not a bad thing.  I'm a true believer that our bodies give us all kinds of messages in order to maintain good health.  The only problem is that I still have a ton to do to get ready for Christmas.  My first priority is the annual Christmas letter.  I'll give a sneak peak of our Christmas card picture but to me the letter is the hardest thing to write.  You never want to sound too braggy or too deep since this is supposed to be an uplifting time of year.  I need inspiration but can't seem to put my finger on it.

This is technically my last few days at work until the New Year.  We don't have a lot planned which is even better.  It will be just lovely sleeping in late and letting the kids play.  Actually, we do have a lot of work to do gathering Mistletoe.  Last year the kids tried to sell it but I don't think people really "got it".  This year they will sell bundled firewood and Mistletoe.  They are little entrepreneurs always looking for the next opportunity to hit it big.

More to come as we dive into the Holidays...Here are some pics from our annual photo shoot.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

I just wanted to post some pictures from Thanksgiving.  We all experience the rapid pace of life passing us by and I want to do my best to document it for my kids so they have the memories some day.  So many times we take these moments for granted and then the moment is gone.  I can't promise to catch them all but I'm certainly gonna keep trying.

Can't Buy More Time

Usually this time of year slows down for me at work and I can balance work and life more in favor of my life activities.  This year, for whatever reason, I can't catch a breath.  My calendar is booked back to back everyday with conference calls and I'm on the road more than ever.  I'm cringing at the thought of early 2015 because that's when I typically go back into overdrive.  With that said what suffers the most is my daily exercise routine and getting into school to volunteer. I haven't walked in weeks and I can feel the pounds going back on but even more horrific is my brain just isn't as sharp.  I totally believe all of the research that says exercise helps clear your mind and gives you better ability to think.  I've also dropped the ball on this blog.  There is just no time to write every day or even every other day.  I'm really not sure how working women in higher ranks than me "do it".  How do you balance all of the daily demands?  I do plan on taking the last two weeks off work but they will be packed with extended family activities.

This weekend I will be on the road again taking the girls to see their cousin in the Nutcracker.  Hopefully Sunday I can finally "deck the halls" and try and get into the Holiday spirit.

Monday, November 24, 2014

It's Monday Afterall

Kids are off school for the whole week for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I still have to work, at least Monday. I was woken to kids singing along to Sponge Bob.  I pull myself out of bed WAY earlier than I wanted to.  Went to turn on the shower and there were only dropletts.  Go to make coffee...right, no water.  Call the hubby for instructions on how to fix the water pump. I grabbed a broom handle, went outside to the water pump, removed the power plate covered which was covered with ants that proceeded to attack my hand.  I take the stick and tried to get the unit to hit a spark.  It finally fries off millions of ants and I claim victory.  I begin to walk inside where the boys are plotting their first run of the morning on the newly reconstructed Go-kart.  I have to remind them for the ten millionth time not to flip it or run into any moving vehicles.  I proceed to walk in where I'm greeted by Ava wearing a myriad of mix-matched clothes and tell her to keep it simple and put on "jeans".  She doesn't know what "jeans" mean (the things we take for granted).  I go and show her what jeans are and she throws a tantrum that they won't fit. I pull all the button adjusters inside until the pants could fit around my wrist and sure enough, they fit her now. I proceed to go and make coffee again but realize the dogs weren't taken out.  Sponge Bob is still blasting and I realize that this is Monday afterall.  Here's to a better day ahead...sigh!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

IT Happened

When you adopt internationally you learn about all of the possible things you could be faced with once you get home with your child.  Remember, many of these kids spent their entire short lives in an institution and have had no prior training on how to be part of a real family.  Most of their issues and behavior are explained in depth by the agency in order to prepare you.  You also learn from other people who have adopted, adoption classses and the ever so popular internet.  Most of what we learned have indeed happened and some things didn't.  So far we have experienced all of these things with Ava since we brought her home two years ago:

  1. Reluctant to listen and very strong willed.  Uses manipulation to get what she wants (from day 1)
  2. Has to be in charge ALL of the time (from day 1 but getting a little better)
  3. Very sassy.  She always has to say something in reaction to what you're asking her to do or roll her eyes to show her discontent.
  4. Would not eat and for the first year she would make herself vomit.
  5. Preferred Dad over Mom (very normal since these kids never had a father figure)
  6. Can't sit still in school and was and still is hypervigilant (meaning if there was drama in the classroom her attention went right to that action versus staying focused on her stuff)
  7. Was very tidy in the beginning and now the extreme opposite (orphanage was all about routine)
  8. Will interrupt just about anyone so she could be heard and she would talk random jibberish to keep the conversation going and the attention on her...always with adults.
  9. Preferred being with adults.  She doesn't think of herself as a child.
  10. She lies often and doesn't understand why it's wrong to do that.  She also has a hard time following/remembering rules.
AND the number #11 item that finally presented itself just yesterday...she stole and hid from me.  She went into my cosmetics, took a cosmetic bag and filled it with my makeup.  She hid it in her closet and proceeded to put makeup on before school. When I asked her where she got the makeup she said that "it just appeared because she is turning into a witch".   I then asked her again and she said that someone gave it to her at school.  I then asked her again and I asked her not to lie this time because it's a sin, she told me she took it out of my bathroom.  Usually when I can't find Ava, she's in my bathroom getting into my cosmetics.  I have to constantly remind her that she is not allowed in there.  Then just recently several items went missing and I chalked it up to leaving it in the hotel when I traveled for work.

Adoption is not for the soft at heart.  It's tough love and you cannot treat the adopted child like the child you birthed.  This is the hardest lesson for my husband.  I had done so much research and online classes before we adopted and he didn't.  He thinks if you just love the child, they will become a loving child.  Don't get me wrong, they need a whole lot of love but they also need very tight guardrails or else they will slip into their dark past of self reliance and manipulation.  

All and all Ava has come a long way.  Like any child they will fight for what they want but the adopted child will fight ten times harder.  The only thing they know is to trust no one and self reliance will save them.  Besides, their mother rejected them and in Ava's case, her mother rejected her more than once.  Just the other day Ava revealed more to me about the last time she saw her mother.  Word got out that we were on our way to get her.  The mother went by the orphanage and collected all that she could from the few things that Ava had in her little cubby.  Ava told me how she was holding a little toy purse with some toys in it when her mother went to leave and the mother took it away from her.  So not only did this women break her heart but she took every item that this kid ever owned.  This is the stuff that makes trust such a difficult thing with these kids.

People often say that I am too hard on Ava but little do they know how complicated the situation is.  They have no idea how much these kids crave direction and structure.  I know Ava knows I love her and I know she knows that this is the way to becoming a responsible and caring adult down the road.  There's no easy way around it.  They have to know and respect the structure of the family and that we have rules for a reason.  Birth children learn and follow suit from the time they are babies.  Adopted children who come into your life a little later, have to catch up and that makes it a lot more difficult for them.

With that said, we are making progress.  I'm happy that she finally revealed #11 to me because now I know it's over and we can keep moving toward being just a normal American girl.

Here's an early picture of her from the orphanage days:
 Here she is in the first day of pre-school a few months of being home.  Notice how she looks at the other kids and wonders how she will fit in:

  A year later and she couldn't be happier:

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's All About That Faith, Bout that Faith...No Trouble.

When I set out to write this blog I chose not to write about my religious and political beliefs.  Like everyone else, I certainly have them but didn't want to push my ideas on anyone else.  I also didn't want to sound to preachy and promised to just speak from the heart.  I read a lot of different blogs and the ones that really inspire me are the ones that speak honesty about life experiences.  Strange things have happened in my life where they were truly little pinches from God, reminding me to wake up and be aware of all the beauty that surrounds me.  To remind me that this day will never happen again and to cherish the joyous moments that we have together.   This weekend my baby sister organized a long weekend with just the sisters in my family.  Five of us who live relatively close all got together at the beach.  It was a glorious weekend filled with laughter, eating, dancing and singing.  All of the things you could do with sisters and not really anyone else. I brought my oldest daughter Lydia with us and she really got a kick out of what sisterhood is all about.  There we were enjoying some wine, two of us singing to old Billy Joel tunes while my other sister was in constant breastfeeding mode with her newborn, and the other two cheering us on.  We stayed up late and had to force ourselves to get to bed or else we would've stayed up all night.  This is what I want for my kids.  I see how the world is and I see how people behave and it makes me sad.  So many times we're let down by friends and find that it's really hard to trust anyone.  Strings are usually attached and one bad move, the relationship can be over.  This was one of the main reasons we chose to adopt a sister for my daughter.  Women need other women and sisters will always be there for each other.  Brothers are the same way too.  Of course like any relationship, it takes some work and a whole lot of forgiveness.

This weekend really reminded me that all of our life experiences are how we choose to create them.  Yes, we get little pushes from above but for the most part we have to decide with who, what, where and when we want to share them with.  Sharing our stories from the past reminded me of all the times we were challenged by our faith and where we needed to let go and let faith take over.  All of those lessons got us to where we are today.  Amazingly we're all in tact, healthy and happy but it would have never happened if we didn't trust God and each other.  Thanksgiving is just a few short weeks away and to me, it's about be thankful for the faith that we all have had to get us through stuff and to this wonderful place.  Sure, some not so great things have happened along the way but we picked ourselves up and only got closer because of it.  Society today doesn't celebrate the family.  Many families dread holidays like this because they have to tolerate each other during their time spent together.  I think that is so sad and such a missed opportunity.  One day it will be too late to make a change for the better.  I challenge people to embrace their family and trust that love conquers all.  Give people a chance instead of judging or being critical.  Step out and believe that we're all going after the same things for our lives and for our families and that is love and happiness.  Believing it can be better and different is what faith is all about.  Isn't it?

A picture from Thanksgiving last year...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My Wish for the World

I think every person on this planet has a perspective. I think everyone has strong beliefs, and nobody else has to like it, but we do have to respect it.  I think everyone wishes that their voice would be heard. I personally don't care who hears me and who doesn't but I do have wishes none-the-less. It would be great if we all took time to reflect and create our own personal 'wish list' before the holidays begin.  Here's mine (but it may change as time goes on):

You matter
What you say matters.  You will make change in something or someone in some way.
Stand up for something.
Respect what others believe or say, but if you think it's important...stand up.
Practice using your voice.
I was so afraid my voice would fail me and people would judge me.
It wasn't until I hit my forties that I started to believe that I had a voice after all.
Don't follow the crowd, because "they" are just following the crowd.
Listen.  Just stop and listen.  It's amazing what you'll learn and the bond that you will create.
Stop.  Look around.  Gain perspective first before you act or say.
Feed your body and soul only nourishing images, thoughts and food.  You are what you eat.
Surround yourself with loving people, always.
Surround yourself with people that truly care and that want nothing more than just to know you.
Make time for your kids, each minute with them is an eternity into who they will become.
Don't believe everything someone tells you.  Be your own judge.
Trust.  God has a plan and he will remind you often that it's not your plan.
Embrace nature and other beings.  You can learn so much and become more patient.
Don't put material things ahead of what's most important, and you know what they are.
Open your eyes.  One day they will go dark and in that moment, you'll wish a lifetime for one more day.
Simplify your life.  Stuff just doesn't matter in the end.
Love as much as you can.  Even if you can't say it all the time, your actions will.
Give people the benefit of the doubt.  Most people have kind hearts but get tripped up along the way.
Rest and rejuvenate.  Tomorrow's another day and it will always be better.
Be gracious and show appreciation always.
It's better to be humble than to be pompous.
Know that you are doing the best that you can do and that's all you can do.

That's all I have right now but I know I will continue to think about my "wish list".  If we only knew how short our time here on earth is, I think we would do things a whole lot differently.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Wrath of the Candy Wrappers

It's been 11 days since Halloween and my house has been littered with candy wrappers EVERYWHERE!  Some kids get it, some kids don't.  All I can say is that everyday I sweep up at least 30 candy wrappers. Don't get me wrong.  Many times my kids are not guilty because it could be the friends passing through, grabbing candy in pure excitement.

Every night I lecture to my kids why it's important not to litter, especially inside one's home or in neighbor's yards (sorry Ted and Jamie).  And this is why I think Halloween is "for the birds".  That and all the costume boxes sprawled all over my garage.  Kid constantly changing their mind as to "what they're going to be for Halloween" from September 1st until October 30th.  Christmas isn't much better.  Wrapping paper everywhere, boxes ripped open with no meaning (and you pray you don't have to return anything because these toys and packaging are virtually impossible to reassemble).  Don't get me wrong, when October 31st is over and when December 25th is over and everyone is tucked in their beds, I'm thrilled that everyone is happy. I'm just glad they had a fabulous time and I can put life back together.  I really love both holidays but panic a few weeks before at the chaos I'm about to experience.  Believe me, I do love these holidays and I will certainly miss the chaos when they're all grown up.  I just want to make sure that they enjoy these holidays responsibly and don't get too crazy with excitement.  Halloween is really All Saints day but to kids it still fits nicely into their definition of Halloween...celebrating those who have passed.  Christmas is a little easier for kids to understand as it really is about the birth of Jesus...up until December 24th, until we finish midnight mass...really up until 5:45am...That's the time when the parents get woken up painfully early so the wrath of present opening can begin.  Yes, they waited all year for these wonderful holidays but it gets a bit chaotic.  Every year I suck it up, not to upset the spirit of the season but I'm usually perplexed at the amount of trash that these holidays produce.  Just sayin...

I gave the kids a deadline tonight.  If the candy is not gone by the eve of Thanksgiving, the goblins are coming to take it all back. I have already made the investments in the Dentists and the landfills because of this stuff and I'm ready to move on to the next big trash day.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Taking Things and Others for Granted

Do ever say to yourself that "I'm not going to take anything for granted today" and try and go through the day REALLY appreciating everything?  It's really hard to do because by the end of the day you've forgotten to stay focused on the most important thing, which is the one thing that got sent to the back burner.  I have these moments with my family where I say, "man, I wish I could just freeze today and life was always this way".  Then, a kid will start an argument with another and I end up sending kids to time out.  It's only when I'm travelling I can really look back and appreciate all of those moments without the everyday interruptions.

This weekend my brothers and sisters ran a 5K together and then we went camping with the kids.  It was lovely.  The kids ran and played with each other and the parents shared stories of growing up and recipes we recently made that they had to try.  I love moments like this because these people, your siblings, know you better than anyone...probably better than your parents.  They have invested decades in all of your ups and downs and you have done the same with them.  My mom came from a family of seven kids and I came from a family of twelve.  My mom's siblings are starting to pass I think there may be only four of them left.  I unfortunately lost two of my siblings when I was in my twenties and it was horrific and it changed the way my other siblings and I approached life from that point on.  I think about relationships everyday and my siblings are the ones that keep me going. They keep me honest and remind me of who I was, and who I am.  They tell me what I need to continue doing to be a good parent to my kids and when to get grounded again.  Their kids keep my kids in check.  I can't rely on other kids to do that.  We practice a similar faith and know that there's no way we can go at this life alone.  What a gift.  I'm thankful for that gift everyday.  We all have struggles at some point and I couldn't imagine not having my family to fall back on.

The Holidays are approaching and all of the conversations have begun.  Who's bringing what for Thanksgiving? long is everyone staying at Mom's?...What is everyone bringing for our big Friday "Fry Fest"? and when can we all get together to make Christmas cookies?.   My kids are always asking to spend time with their cousins, who luckily live close by.  I know it's a gift and I try to stay present when we're all together.  I know my kids will cherish all of these memories someday.  So, when people ask me why do you have so many kids?  I usually respond that I did it for they always had a network.  Friends come and go but family is there for a lifetime.  You can mess things up now and then, but family will be the ones to make it right again.  It's that simple.  My siblings are my best friends.  A week or day doesn't go by that we're not in constant contact.  It's the constant stitching and mending of the quilt.  I know a lot of my friends have similar experiences with their families and cherish that time they have with them.  I think that's why I love Thanksgiving so much.  We all come together because we want to and to stop and really appreciate that we are not taking each other or these moments for granted.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Time Keeps on Slipping into the Future

I wrestle with this every single day. Time passes so quickly and you suddenly realize that your little ones are no longer little.  Last night Trevor found my You Tube channel which doesn't have much of anything, just a couple of videos.  He stumbled across the picture of his umbilical cord tied in a perfect knot and was so proud.

This then lead to the video I did about his first year in life and how he survived against all odds.  It wasn't even about the cord as much as it was my ability to have a successful pregnancy.  His brother, Matthew, was a stillborn baby born at 25 weeks which happened a year before we conceived Trevor.  Now Trevor is nine and it's so hard to grasp how fast it has flown and how incredible this little boy is.  I'll never forget when I was pregnant with him my acupuncture doctor, from China and a true healer, kept assuring me that he would make it, unlike his brother.  He kept saying "this child will do great things". A day never goes by that I'm not thankful for him and all of my five children.

The last couple of weeks I have been going through all of the kids old toys and clothes and sending them to Goodwill.  It's as if that short chapter of childhood is leaving us with each toy that leaves our nest. It makes me a little sad with each and every item but then I think, I may get all this clutter under control at last.  Christmas is another reminder of our kids getting older.  It becomes less and less about the toys for them, which is kind of nice but I fear the day when the kids sleep in and don't come running to wake us at five in the morning to see what Santa brought.  My older friends assure me that the kids growing up and fleeting the nest is enjoyable and gives you so much more time for the things you want to do.  That little always says in response, "but I don't want to do anything else!  I want my kids to stay little!!".  I guess we all wrestle with this in different ways.  I make deals with myself saying I'm going to be a better mother and I'm going to make more time to spend with each one and I'm going to tell them every day how much I love them.  It may not happen like that but I do think about each of those always.  I guess it goes back to the struggle of being "human".  We have so many interruptions and things that happen throughout our days to blur what's really important.  How many of us truly stop, reflect and thank God for all that we have?  Okay...that will be my next blog post!

Here's a little flower that my littlest boy, Blake brought to me yesterday after school as I was working in my office.  He just gave it to me and said, "Mommy, I love you so much".  Keep these moments close to your heart all!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween is Upon Us

It's happening...two days until Halloween and all is a buzz in our household.  All of the boxes from the attic are down and costumes and decrepit decorations are spread throughout the garage and kitchen. In a matter of five minutes the seven year old has changed his mind seven times as to what he wants to be for trick-or-treating.  The good news is that after my three year plea of not buying costumes, I think it has finally stuck with these kids.  All except for Ava.  She squeezes in the occasional "when are we going to buy my Elsa dress for Halloween?" and I tell her that we are going to be creative this year and make our own Elsa costume.  She doesn't complain but looks a little confused.  As of today, she's going as a "good witch" since I have no idea how to make her look like Elsa.  It all came crashing back to me when I read this blog post:

Back in the day, we NEVER bought costumes.  In fact, growing up in upstate New York, you were forced to be really creative incorporating your snowsuit into a costume.  A princess just never seemed to work.  I'll never forget counting the minutes and seconds till the last bell rang at school and we rushed home to get ready.  My Mom would always make us eat a bowl of her famous Halloween chili when all we could think about was juicy fruits packing and pulling at our silver fillings.  It would be pitch dark outside, the smell of burning leaves, a stiff chill in the air and the glow of Jack-o-lanterns on every front porch.  I just loved the smell of burning pumpkins as I would run up to our neighbor's front doors.  Then, when we could go no further, when every house had been picked and every light started to dim, we would head home to count our loot.  My brothers and sisters would study the bag full and study the bag empty.  It was the big dump to the floor where we drew boundaries with our pillow cases or tootsie rolls.  My Mom would collect the apples with pennies jammed inside which would be the makings of the next night's apple crisp for dessert.  The candy trading would soon begin and the hot commodity was Razzle Dazzles (root beer), licorice gum and Reeces cups.  Never did we get full size candy bars but we did get the occasional small paper bag filled with candy corn and hard candy which always warmed my heart.  Somehow we made it to our beds with teeth brushed and the sound of howling owls outside.  I have to say that we may not have the snowsuits and the vintage candy of the past but our neighborhood is able to replicate 80% of what we experienced back when.  I really think that my kids, homemade costumes and all, will have similar memories and tell similar stories to their kids someday.  As much as I dread the rush of pulling a costume together and calming the craziness of my little gremlins, when they're off, running down the street with their buddies while holding their mask in place, I just have to smile and be glad that they're still kids and they can experience the thrill that I once felt.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Furbies are Evil!!!

It's been almost 11 months since Christmas has come and gone and the only toys that remain intact and aren't broken or in some landfill somewhere are...the Furbies.  What the heck was Santa thinking?!  Do you know that there are no off switches on these little Gizmos??!!  Really!?  I think whoever invented these things were trying to get back at their parents.  The non-stop interruptions in the middle of the night got these guys got moved [permanently] to my office closet.  I was curious if they were still "alive" tonight.  I ventured to open the closet door and look!!!
This is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night.  They just never shut up!!!  I can't throw them away or else the under 8 crowd will throw a fit.  So, here they live, in my closet, keeping each other company.  I'm sure they're saying not very nice things about me and I really don't care.  What's worse is when I'm on a conference call and they suddenly break out into song...people are like, "is there a party at your house or something?"...nope, just a bunch of freakin' Furbies in my closet trying to ruin me.

In other news, today was the big progress report day.  Oh joy!  The top 4 brought home fabulous reports and even the middle boy pointed out that he over achieved with a 12 out of 8 in reading.  Way to go!  Now, the youngest did NOT bring me that same sort of excitement.  Just a quick reminder, she's repeating Kindergarten for the second time.  This is what her progress report looked like:

I wasn't entirely shocked by this.  I have had many meetings with Ava's teachers and we're working very hard to get her an IEP.  Unfortunately, it can take up to two years.  All I hear is that Ava is "so cute" and that she "tries to charm everyone with her personality".  Today I asked Ava, "Is it better to be cute and liked or to be smart?" ...her response was, you guessed it, "cute and liked".  I had to explain to her that you will go so much further in your life if you achieve academic excellence (in a way that she would understand).  This is so foreign to me because I was never 'that girl'.  I didn't even know that was an option until I hit high school.  I just pray we get this IEP sooner than later.  I called the county...again and shared my feelings about this process.

I'm not really sure if other adopted kids use their charm the way that Ava does.  Everyone is always telling me how "charming" she is and so "candid and sweet".  She is, and that's great, but she's realizing that it doesn't really get you good grades.  Wish us luck, tough love and tutoring ahead!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

"When You Tug At a Single Thing In Nature, You Will Find It Attached to the Rest of the World"

-Quote by John Muir-
I may sound a little obsessed with Tiffany Shlain but I finally watched her film, "Connected" tonight.  Not really sure when she produced it but it was moving, none-the-less (especially for someone like me who doesn't go to movies or watch TV).  In fact, I'm going to make my kids watch it because it captures so much history on why "we humans" have this never ending need to connect and how that has changed how we're designed.  She explained why technology has changed so much the way we live and our desire is driven by the chemical our brains release when we make these connections.  This is no big secret but she artfully tied it back to the Da Vinci's (?) theory on how humans behave and how they will "evolve" in the future.  There was a theory that if honey bees ceased to exist the human race would be extinct within four years.  She clearly explained why this holds true.

I would like to expand on the title of her film by calling it "Connect with What and Who Matter Most".  I really think that's where she was ultimately going.  She weaved in her Dad's death throughout and shared his wisdom so beautifully.  I struggle with this concept EVERYDAY.  I work hard, but that's relative.  I work from home so I'm not getting up super early to shower and brave the crazy traffic on a daily basis.  I get to pack my kids' lunch and kiss them goodbye as they ride their bikes to the bus stop.  I get to take walks through my wonderful neighborhood full of nature and wonder. I'm grateful for that.  I'm home when they walk through the door and though I don't have fresh baked chocolate chip cookies everyday, I do a lot of the time.  I struggle because I know everything she said holds true.  I know what she was going through when she talked about losing someone close and losing your babies...over and over again.  I still deal with that on a daily basis but I'm grateful for the short time I had with each of them.  My Mom always says that all of the babies I lost would run to hug me when I go to heaven (given I  That's really the only hope that gets me through those loses. I blame myself for 'doing this and not doing that'.  The fact is, I have a terminal illness that I will always struggle with.  It's not like cancer but if all of my medications I take on a daily basis would go away and I didn't have access to them, I would only last a year or two.

I think we get so desensitized by the news.  I try and tell my husband that those images are not healthy for him and if the kids hear or see any of it, it "changes them".  He just sees it as "life as we know it" and accepts it as "normal".  Is it really?  I don't accept all of that hate and those visuals of people hurting others.  I don't believe that's how we all got here.  I think we all got here because ultimately we need each other to survive.  There, I said it.  I love how Tiffany shared that a four minute hug gives us the brain stimulus we need each day to survive.  If we all chose to live differently, life could be so much more fulfilling.  Choosing to disconnect is what I strive for so I can be more present for my family and friends.  I want to be "all ears" when they tell me their story or when they're hurting about something.  We've trained ourselves to "not care" which puzzles me in so many ways.  Why wouldn't we care about each other? our neighbors, friends and families?  I hear stories about someone's mother who is struggling with cancer but she tells the story as if it's the latest tweet on her emotion, no remorse for not being there, no feeling. For me, I just want to be a better human, connected to everyone and open to their story.  Mine can wait.  I like my story.  I wish a lot of it didn't happen but it did, and I am who I am because of it.  So, with that said, if you ever have a day where you don't know how to fill it, watch "Connected".  If you don't walk away feeling a sense of ownership to this world that we need to take a long, deep look into yourself to figure out your role in this life.  We all make a difference, if we decide to.

Monday, October 20, 2014


I'm a late bloomer and I also don't follow conventional films,shows and newspapers. In the last week I've been blown away by a film maker named Tiffany Shlain (watching her YouTube videos...can you tell?). Everything she writes and her own life experiences are so much like mine that I'm drawn to her work. I'm dying to see her film called "Connected". I guess it came out a few years ago but since I'm just "catching on" I figured it would be worth watching this weekend when Scott and the kids go camping. This time is usually held sacred to no devices or media in any way, except for my Sister Hazel playlist. If it doesn't get bumped off Scott's Netflix playlist, I'm sure it will be a treat. Here's a little Tedx talk from Tiffany.

I had no idea she shared a similar journey with miscarriages either (she had 5). I too went through a period that death is all around us and life is incredibly fragile. I still believe that it is, which is why I pump my kids up with healthy home cooked meals each day loaded with all things if they knew about them, would probably not eat them, BUT it's my job to give them the best start. Anyway...CONNECTED. This word keeps me up at night. Look around at all your friends and friends of friends and you can tell pretty quickly who is really connected to the things that their spouse, to their kids. Tiffany doesn't really go too deep into this with the idea of connections but it really intrigues me. I'm not one to judge but I do believe that that families that are tightly connected have less issues with their kids and much more success with big life experiences. I don't have a magical formula and it's not what you can give them from a monetary or a material standpoint. Yet this is how most people live, all the time.  My own kids are guilty of this too, don't get me wrong.  I think it's impossible to be totally immune to all the "stuff".  They know what's important and deep down, they know how I feel about "stuff".  I guess I just get frustrated by certain things.  Right now, I just want to make sure my kids grow up "right".  I'm always asking them about what they're feeling, if they're happy or sad.  I don't really care if my needs are met but I think they are.  I'm healthy, I still sing each day and walk with my ugly weights.  My kids still give me kisses, share their ideas and I know exactly what to pack for their lunch each day.  They have great souls and will do great things.  Just gotta keep them on the right track.  The time will come for all of us when we will have to ask ourselves some tough, real questions like, were we really present for our kids?  Did we feel that we were whole heartily connected to them?  Were the connections we made with others, meaningful?  How will you feel when it's time to leave this earth?