Friday, July 31, 2015


You know one of the perks of taking the kids to appointments with their amazing specialists with the cleft team at VCU in Richmond?   Sure, they are amazing.  Yes, they are efficient.  Absolutely, they are are great with communication.  But they are (kinda') close to the Richmond zoo, which, lack of pandas and elephants aside, is hands-down better than the National Zoo.  (We live in-between the two.)  But at the Richmond zoo, you can feed the giraffes.

So, after the kids spent 2 hours at VCU this morning, we spent a few hot hours enjoying the zoo.  It was great to see Joseph able to respond to what he was seeing this year.  It was great to see Abigail act confidently in when she knew and how she acted on the trip.  

Picture time!
Jos, in awe of the giraffes

Jos and Baba feeding a giraffe

That is my daughter's arm.  Her hand is inside the giraffe's maw.

Zebras.  If the kids get any cuter I might explode.

Me and my kiddos with my 2nd favorite zoo animal.
Giraffes win first prize.  (Beautiful, tall horses?  Can't be beat.
But these pre-historic relics come pretty close.)

After almost 2 hours in the almost 100 degree heat,
Larry got saddled with two hot, sweaty,
exhausted kids.  (We need to be strategic in
planning for our NYC trip later this summer!)


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lake House Vacation

Recently, Jim and Steph (my brother and his wife) rented a gorgeous lake house with its own dock on Smith Mountain Lake.  We were invited to spend 2 days of their vacation with them!  I had no idea about this man-made lake in the western part of our state, but it has 500 miles of shore length in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The lake is super clean so that swimming in it doesn't feel gross and when you get out of the water you don't smell like fish.  Since I detest the ocean (salt water is not my thing), I adored Smith Mountain Lake.

Joseph didn't love the water, but he loved playing on the beach. When he was in the water, he wanted to be held and he also liked putting his face into the water and lapping it up like a puppy, but on the shore, he was a fun little boy, building sand castles to stomp on them with great satisfaction and playing with a bulldozer/digging truck he had.

Abigail gave us the most amazing surprise of the trip: she started swimming!!!  She learned to "cannonball" off of the dock (it was more of a crazy limbs-flailing event than a big splash, but she was brave).  She also "swam" (wearing a life jacket) several times across the inlet with Jim and Steph.  Once, at night when it was dark, she swam across and there was a docked boat and Jim or Steph dared her to "touch the butt**." After asking what a dare is, she obliged, and then swam back to their dock in the dark.  Jim said he was a bit freaked out in the dark, deep water, but that Abigail was so brave.  My kid is the coolest kid ever.

But even more amazing to me wasn't that she could doggy paddle around in a life jacket in the dark, but that at the beach, when she was in water where she could stand, she wore goggles and went under water and just started moving her legs and arms around and started swimming underwater to get places and dive for things!  It was such a proud moment watching Abigail swim.  A month ago she was afraid to get her face wet.  Now she is swimming!!!!

** this is a Finding Nemo reference

Happy Match Day to Abigail, a girl without a horse

Our baby girl is outgrowing her love of horses, I think.  She used to be obsessed.  Every morning she would ask if it was a day that she would get to ride a horse, much like her little brother asks if he will get to drive a tractor every day.

But last summer, she made a wish on a star or candle or wish bone or clover or something.  A few days later, I asked her what she had wished for and she said "a horse of my own."  

About 8 months later, she said "I wish I never said out loud that I wished for a horse [last summer].  Now that wish will never come true."

So as we planned her Match Day fun, we offered to get her an hour-trail ride like we did the past 2 summers.  She demurred, saying she would rather spend the day with her bestie "A."  They went to a local jump-castle warehouse, went swimming, pelted each other with water balloons, shared lunch and dinner, and had a wonderful day.  Larry tried to explain to "A" what a match day was and Abigail was embarrassed, telling us later that she doesn't want her friends to know she used to live in an orphanage.  It opened the door for new dialogue about her past.

She is growing up so fast.  I love her more every day.  She is clever, funny, intelligent, loving, and more empathetic than her years would suggest her be capable of doing.

Photo Captions, top to bottom:
1.) Abigail with her match photo
2.) Joseph quickly jumped into the photo session, not wanting to be left out of anything that involves his best friend, role model, and center of his universe

3.)  Abigail and "A", drinking juice, making gators, and singing out loud to Katy, Miley, and a dozen others I never heard of, yet they both knew by heart!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Happy 4th Of July Weekend!

We went to my parents' farm in PA for the holiday weekend and had the rare opportunity to also have both of my brothers and one of my sisters-in-law there too!  My brother Jim hitched a ride with us to PA in the van.  With the kids.  For almost 6 hours, 1 hour of which was "Let It Go" on repeat.  It was an experience for him, to be sure, and probably some pretty compelling birth control. 

We enjoyed hanging out together at our childhood home, making new memories with my kiddos.  We are acutely aware that The Farm won't last forever and it is bittersweet, but having weekends like this are just amazing.  

Jim was a very proud uncle as he taught his niece the family game of croquet:

The next generation of siblings, having down-time at the farm
(If only there were cousins too...):

Showing off their dirty farm feet.

Catching lightening bugs (or fireflies).  See the one in the upper right corner of the pic?

My son needs a haircut.

The kids had mini light-saber glow sticks for the 4th of July.
They circled the perimeter of the camp fire area in an effort to ambush the grownups.

Bedtime is pretty easy at the farm.  They just pass out.

Jos got into fishing this time more than ever before.

Me and my boy.  

Uncles Jim and Dean got quite a workout pushing the kids up and down the hills on the big wheels.

Blueberry picking

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Existential Musings (part 2), aka: Go Adopt A Kid!

I recently posted a lengthy tome about how all kids start out needing exactly the same things: love, human touch, comfort, security.  I am very lucky to have friends who are parents by having children biologically, having children only through adoption (some as a first choice and some following infertility), and parents who have some biological and some adopted children.  This brings many perspectives to conversation about children and who they are and how they came to be that way.

Anecdotally, I would say that kids are who they are and they are going to be who they are going to be if given a proper place to do so.  In other words, some kids are easy going, some are introspective, some are high strung, some are hilarious.  Others are easily stressed, good at music, athletic, introverts, extroverts, or whatever they are.  Your genes have nothing to do with that.  There is a (finite) rainbow of human personality traits.  If your child is biological, you might say "he gets that daredevil streak from his Uncle Tom."  But, I know this from experience, if your child was adopted, you might still say "he gets that daredevil streak from his Uncle Tom."  Did he really?  No.  But we attribute common characteristics to where we see them.  But your little daredevil just came that way.  

Another important thing I hear all the time from my friends who have both biological children and also children who were adopted is that there is no difference in their feelings for their children.  That, if they are being completely honest, sometimes it is even easier to love the children who came into their families through adoption.  That the feeling of having a child placed in your arms, whether the child is 1 minute old and you are in a sanitary hospital or the child is 18 months old and you are in a grungy government building in a faraway country, it is the same feeling: the child is yours and you are hers.  Go back to part 1 of this mini-series:  all kids are born with a need to be loved, taken care of, and held.  Your bio kid was no different in this need than my adopted kid.

One of the most fun things to talk about in adoption is the day that the child is physically placed with their new family.  Some people call this "Gotcha' Day" but that phrase seems to be losing vogue within the adoption community.  If you want some real fun, go on YouTube and search for "Gotcha Day" videos.  That is some reality TV!  It is a beautiful thing to watch a young child be placed into his parents arms for the first time.

Don't believe me?  Check out this amazing, beautiful, spiritually humble, big-hearted, first-time mom-friend of mine right after she was handed her brand new son, almost 2 years old, who curled up and took a nap on her shoulder.

There are no words to describe the joy, fear,
excitement, and wonder of this moment.
This is Gotcha Day.
Adoption is a beautiful thing.

I want to close by saying that I would not expect any fertile couple to make the choice Larry and I made before we even got married to adopt our future children.  We are unorthodox, I know.  We may have had different intentions back then ("save the world!") but the outcome was the same: two beautiful, amazing children whom we could not have created better ourselves.  
But if there are any readers out there who are struggling with infertility, please PLEASE consider adopting a child who needs a home instead of spending time and money on creating a kid with your DNA.  Your genes are not that special:  all kids start out needing the same thing (see part 1) and then, given a loving family to support them, they become who they are meant to become.  There are literally millions of kids in need of a home in this world and dozens of paths you can take to bring them home.  Every child deserves a family.  

Okay, I am going to climb off this soap box now.  The air is pretty thin up here.  :)