When we started looking into another adoption eighteen months ago, we thought in all likelihood, we would be matched with an AA child. I read up on racially mixed families. I remember a comment from one adoptive mom in particular. She said that adopting across racial lines meant that suddenly your family became "conspicuously adoptive." I pondered that statement a long time. While we eventually decided we could handle that adjustment, I knew and admitted to our social worker that it would be the most difficult transition for me. We already turn many heads when we are in public because of our size. I suppose by now I should have a thicker skin, but if I am being honest with myself, the stares, comments, questions and whispers, still annoy me. Oh, I have my carefully thought out responses always ready, but it bothers me that I have to use them at least once each and every time I stir out of doors. Just one time in three years have I had to broach the additional topic of adoption with these nosey strangers. And in truth, that was a relief for me. Because Marina is white, people naturally assume that our "weirdness" is limited to having an "insane" number of children. Any questions of, "Are they all yours?" are answered in the affirmative. Sometimes, someone will notice that Marina is very tall for her age (not like the rest), but I choose to simply say, "Yes, she is" and leave it at that. We believe Cara is at least partially Hispanic (1/2, 1/4?). Her birthmother, C.C. was 100% Caucasian, but that is the minority in south Texas. We love Cara's beautiful black hair and dark (my mama calls them "Spanish") eyes. So far, we have had two comments from strangers. Both were from African American women on separate occasions who--after looking over the other children--asked, "She looks mixed. What is she mixed with?" I found that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I said, "She is adopted. We believe her birthfather was Hispanic." Do you think that was all right? Or perhaps, I should say, "She is adopted." and leave off the part about her birthfather. As long as I didn't have the master with me, I could say, "She is half Hispanic." and not even bring the whole adoption thing up. NONE of it is their business, but I am reluctant to respond rudely to rudeness. And I'm learning there are funny moments for bi-racial families, too. A few weeks ago, we were sitting at Wendy's after Sunday night church. Two older ladies began to comment on our family. They didn't realize that--in talking loud enough for audibility between each others' hearing aids--they were broadcasting the conversation to the entire restaurant. They exclaimed over the amount of food on our table. Recalled all of their acquaintances who also had large families. They counted the children. They grouped boys and girls. Made guesses on their ages. They noted how well the kids behaved. Remarked how pretty and fair they were. And coming to the end of the dialogue, their eyes came to rest on me as I held Cara. "And look at that! She finally got one that looks like her." Ha, ha, ha. I smiled broadly at them. Those near-sighted ladies made my day.
You may remember that last Thanksgiving we traveled to Illinois to visit the master's extended family, but most especially his aging grandmother, "Grandma Z." We both thought it would be the last time we saw her, and it was important for us that she get to see the children. We were very glad we made the trip, especially when his grandfather (on the other side) passed away unexpectedly three weeks after. We have some wonderful pictures of the kids getting to be with him and love on him. However, Grandma Z is still with us, though she has had some touch and go moments over the past year. She is the master's last remaining grandparent. She has been on dialysis for over a year now and must go in every other day. She is tired and has just announced to the family that she will not continue dialysis after Christmas. When we got the e-mail, we discussed over dinner what we should do. We had not planned to return this year, but should we change our plans in light of this new information? Of course, the kids wanted to pack up right then and head out to see Grandma Z. We freely discuss finances with and around our kids. We want to give them a good foundation, so that hopefully they will learn from our mistakes, glean wisdom from our successes, and become problem solvers. Last night was no exception. A trip to Illinois is expensive and financially draining to our budget, particularly right before Christmas, and we explained that to them. That's when K looked up from his plate and offered this suggestion: "What if we gave up our Christmas presents? Getting to see Grandma Z before she went to be with Jesus would be our present!" I looked around the table. There was no outcry of dissent but nods of agreement, smiles, and a few exclamations of, "Yeah, Bubba, that would work!" My heart swelled with pride. Thank you Lord for giving me these sweet children. They teach me so much.
In the last few days, I have been amazed by the number of blogs and bumper stickers of professing Christians who are supporting Obama. How can they vote for a man who has voted against medical aid for babies who are BORN ALIVE? James Dobson'sbroadcast sickened me even further. This man goes way past pro-choice. He is adamantly and completely pro-abortion. He would even repeal the laws that require doctors to explain to the patient what will be done to her body and the baby's body during the abortion process. Cara was born four months ago to a VERY confused, traumatized woman. There is so much of the story I can't give you, but the circumstances were ugly, brutal, horrific...some of the worst I have ever heard of. I am convinced, after hearing this broadcast, and reading the article that under an Obama presidency, babies like Cara will be partially born, mutilated, murdered, and discarded. [Yes, even at 33 weeks. If you doubt it, please read the article.] Hospitals will have nothing to lose and government money to gain by shoving a piece of paper at desperate women in their most vulnerable moments and aborting these babies. I am not pro-choice, but even if I was, how does this protect a woman's choice?
So, I was getting on to check my comments from the last post, and the master decided to read over my shoulder. He got to Tami's, "You are so together," and--kid you not--burst out in full belly guffaws. I had to smile myself when I read it, but honestly, did he have to LAUGH OUT LOUD? Cari, fess up, you are laughing, too. Tami, if you could see my house, you would KNOW that I definitely do not have it all together. I put everything on hold--cooking, cleaning, basic hygiene, etc.--for the week before fall festival and create. I don't know why, but I really have alot of fun with costuming. The kids get into it as well, but probably only because I have conditioned them with years of elaborate dress-up. In another life--without the chuckling husband and kiddo cast--I could see myself as a Broadway designer.
Well, I have a few more sequins to sew on...a little magic with the glue gun on finishing touches and I am done with Fall Festival Costuming 2008. And it is going to be a good year. Ultimate cuteness. I'm a little disappointed with Randy's outfit, but I think, in context with the other's, it will be o.k. I couldn't find the right type of fur at any of our fabric/craft stores, so I had to improvise with a much shorter nap than the pattern called for. And the dye bath for Cara's costume didn't quite come out the color I was hoping for--but at any rate--it is done. Again, I'm hoping the overall theme will pull it off. Aren't you dying to see them? Tune in tomorrow, friends it is worth logging on for. The master went to Houston yesterday morning. He had two solid days of fittings and this afternoon walked out of the office with his FINAL prosthetic. This one has a working ankle (his real ankle was fused) and it also has a pump to return his energy, so he will be able to RUN!! For the first time in his life. I can't wait to see it.
I will happily share my pelmeni recipe. I got it at our very first culture day, which we attended BEFORE being matched with Marina. The recipe itself is very simple--it is the rolling, filling, and sealing of the pelmini that is tedious. But if you have as many happy helpers as I do, it is not too bad. Tami, I think this would be a great dish to add to your holiday feast. Pelmeni is an EXCELLENT make ahead meal, and--I think--one of the ultimate comfort foods. I freeze the pelmeni completely assembled, but uncooked. When I'm ready to serve them, I take them directly from the freezer to the boiling pot. Mamaporuski, I don't know if you ate pelmeni while in Russia/Ukraine, but I found that after one bowl of the meat stuffed dumplings, I was usually FULL. As I said, our pelmeni are a little on the large side (on account of the little hands and fingers shaping the dough). For this batch, I estimated eight dumplings per family member for one meal when dividing them into freezer bags. Cari, pelmeni is a traditional Russian meal (sometimes served as an appetizer), and we found that it is generally served with a broth consisting of the water they are cooked in and sour cream and butter. I love it so much this way, that I have never tried it any other, but our translator told us that many eat it with a thin tomato ketchup. Russian mommies, how have you eaten them? Here is the recipe, along with some Su____ tips:
Dough: 4 Cups Flour 1 Cup Milk 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil 3 Eggs
Meat Filling: 1/2 lb ground beef 1/2 lb ground pork 1 onion finely chopped salt and pepper to taste (sometimes I am tempted to get fancy with my seasonings, but sticking with salt and pepper only produces a truly authentic taste.) 1 Tblsp milk
*I triple this recipe for our yearly pelmeni making.
Directions: 1. In a medium bowl, combine ground meat, onion, milk and salt and pepper. In a larger bowl, combine flour with salt. Add eggs, milk and oil until a soft dough forms. Knead on floured surface until dough is elastic. 2. On a lightly-floured surface, roll dough until 1/16 in thick (easier said than done!!). Take a glass and or cookie cutter approximately 3 inches in diameter and cut into rounds. 3. Place 1 teaspoon of meat into the center of the round and fold into a half-moon. Pinch edges together to seal. (We sometimes moisten edge with water to create a better seal. You don't want you pelmeni to pop open in the pot.) *At this point you can freeze them if desired.* 4. Bring water to boil in large pot. Carefully drop pelmeni into pot and gently stir from time to time to prevent their sticking together. Boil 20 minutes (I don't think mine take this long. I boil them until they look right, then I fish one out and cut it open to make sure the meat is cooked.)
I always seem to have meat mixture left over. I think this is due to not getting our dough thin enough, so of course, we run out of dough faster. Beef and pork mixtures are a staple of cajun cuisine, so I'm using my excess meat to make dirty rice this week--a meal of my OWN cultural heritage. ;0)
Pelmini dough that is! Suz posted last week on their family day dinner of Russian cuisine, and it got me hankering for a big bowl of pelmini. Making pelmini from scratch is a family affair, and you can count on completely destroying your kitchen in the process, but it is alot of fun. Because they are so labor intensive, we only make them once a year (in the fall or winter) and freeze several batches. The master tried to find some Tchaikovsky on the computer for our listening pleasure, but when his search proved fruitless, he settled for a you-tube of Ray Stevens, "Surfin' USSR." Ha, ha, now that's cultural education at its finest. For those of you who have eaten real Russian pelmini, you can see that ours are not quite as dainty, but I assure you, they are as tasty!
Outside My Window...a fall sunset. This evening on the drive home K said, "Mom, you know how you say that when you watch Cara sucking her binkie, you can't imagine how some people believe there is no God? Well, that is how the sunset makes me feel." Well said. I am thinking...about the week ahead. All the work I need to do for a Saturday garage sale.
I am thankful for...last night after church a man from the congregation showed us the van he is GIVING us. I'm so thankful for it! We were just about to sell our car anyway, and I was not looking forward to "making do" with one vehicle. Problem solved! From the kitchen...Frankly, not a whole lot going on in there. The master had a budget and finance meeting tonight and we caught an early supper at McAlister's. I am in desperate need of a trip to the grocery store. Like Old Mother Hubbard, my cupboard's (and fridge, and pantry, and cleaning closet) are bare. I am wearing...H_______ Track and Field shirt. They were selling shirts at the 5K run for a $1. I couldn't pass that deal up! So now, we look like quite the avid racing enthusiasts. I am creating...six fall festival costumes. Two down four to go. I'm hitting the why-in-the-world-did-I-ever-start-this-project? stage.
I am going...to the "big city" on Wednesday for Cara's doctor appointment. Fun, fun.
I am reading...The Trumpet Of the Swan (kid's bedtime chapter book), A Place Called Home (Lori Wick), need to get back in the Word.
I am hoping...that we will have no more trouble getting payment out of the man who bought our vending machine business. He was two months delinquent and we had to bring a lawyer into it. Then he got really ugly yelling, cussing, the whole nine yards. Made a complete ass of himself. I hate to point this out to him but HE is the one not abiding by the terms of the contract.
I am hearing...K clearing away his homework, Abby, Ian, and Marina involved in a rowdy game of pretend. The early fussing of Cara getting ready for her bottle. We're going to have to wrap this one up quick.
One of my favorite things...A finely stitched seam.
Around the house...the air of an impending garage sale.
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...Wednesday appointment and children's group, Thursday meeting for church directory, Friday and Saturday garage sale, throw in a few fall festival costumes, and I think that will do it.
Here is picture thought I am sharing...
Guess who? The fall air takes me back to football games and fire batons, late night bus trips and nacho cheese chips. Amazing that they were a regular meal in my diet, and I still looked like that. More amazing still--at the time--I thought I was FAT.
Our post-placement visit went very well. They arrived about two hours early (that seems to be a recurring theme with our social workers), but we were good. Not one to make the same mistake twice, I'd mopped the floor FIRST this time. ;0) We weren't sure how long it would take them to drive from Houston here, so it was probably our fault. We over estimated. But, it gave us time to visit with them (two ladies from our agency came), before the second shift of kiddos got home from school. I have to say this again...I love our agency!!! This will sound so cliche, but they truly do seem like members of the family. The conversation was easy and not forced, as it often was with agency #1. That is due, I think, in a large part to everyone at this agency being mothers themselves. In Marina's adoption NOT ONE person we dealt with--U.S. side or Russian--was a parent. Yesterday, I was chatting with women who have been in the trenches. The director, Jan, raised six kids. All adopted at birth, five with special needs. The other lady who came is Ann, she and her husband have raised 15! I believe birth and adopted, with most of their adoptions coming from the foster care program. I would have loved to just sit and pick their brains all evening. Much wisdom could be gleaned from them, I am sure. Mostly, though, we talked about how Cara was doing and how we were all adjusting. Then the older kids came home, and praise be, everyone behaved well, with their good manners. My kids can be very charming and entertaining. They get that from their dad. We all had a lovely dinner. Yes, I served them dinner, Christine. I didn't have to, but like I said, it was really as though some of our great aunts had dropped in for the evening, and I wanted them to share a meal with us. I feel so much love and thankfulness for these people. They matched us with Cara and have STOOD BY US, despite her diagnosis. There have been no, "Well, the risks were clearly explained to you..." speeches, just love and support. They have worked countless hours to ensure Cara benefits from every service possible, and all without pay. The director has told us that our account is considered paid in full. We only paid $750. We will have to pay court costs, if we are allowed to finalize, but still that is an amazing, generous, miraculous, gift. I hope I am not stealing their reward, but I feel as though I must sing their praises. They are very special ladies--all of them. Our worker from the adoption, Denise, did not get to come, but we will see her the first week in December when we go to the agency Christmas party.
This is a challenge post. Hence the title. You are supposed to post the sixth picture from your sixth file on your computer. I haven't yet checked what that will be....Yikes! It is a picture of a very pregnant me unwrapping gifts at Randy's baby shower. At least the gift is covering much of my hugeness. Thanks, Tami, for that little walk down memory lane. Anyone else?
I have always been the subject of my children's first drawings. Usually, I'm pictured under a rainbow, or beside a darling house with a smoking chimney. Sometimes I'm seen skipping through exceptionally large wildflowers and sometimes I'm grasping a bouquet of "roses." Other times I'm holding a baby or the artist's hand. Added to the artwork there is typically a great profusion of hearts and X's and O's and even the occasional careful inscription, "ILUVMOM." And I am forever smiling. Last Christmas, my mom gave Marina a M*gn* Doodle. And early last spring Marina's first real drawings emerged. Sure enough one of her first exclamations was, "Look, Momma, I drawed a picture of you." But lifting the screen to admire her work, I saw a stick figure with hair, two arms, and two legs...and a huge scowl on it's face. Where were the wild flowers? Where were the kisses and hugs? Where was my enormous, stretching-from-one-side-to-the-other smile?
Me: Marina, honey, you drew it very well, but why did you draw me with a frown? Marina: Well, I can't draw it good the other way. Me: Oh, I'll help you.
So we erased the frowning mommy and I helped her several times with making the U shape. Over the next few months, my sinister expression kept re-appearing on the M*gn* Doodle. It got to where--when I saw her busy with the pen--I would catch her attention and flash her my broadest grin, "See, Marina? I'm smiling. Mommy is happy. I like to smile. Please draw me smiling, Rina." And that seemed to help. While I didn't star in any wild flower fields, at least I didn't look ready to carve some one's liver. But on Friday, Marina was working on the carpet with her precious Doodle, snickering all the while. After a few minutes she sat back on her haunches, evidently pleased with her masterpiece. She brought the Doodle over to me on the couch. The screen was 3/4 ths the way covered with scribbles and in the top right hand corner was a stick figure with two eyes and a big frown.
Marina: pointing Look Mommy...this is you. Me: inwardly sighing Marina, why am I frowning? Marina: indicating large mass of scribbles 'Cause this is a tornado, and it is about to carry you away. She does not seem troubled whatsoever over my sudden and traumatic departure, but rather impressed with her own ingenuity in writing me out of her life's screenplay. Me: extensionally also impressed, somewhat amused, and mildly alarmed. My attachment sensors just went on full alert But, if I went away in a tornado, who would take care of you?
Marina pauses, then a light seems to dawn. She grabs the Doodle and goes back to the carpet. I'm thinking she has realized that perhaps my being spirited away in a whirlwind would not be best and is revamping her artwork. Guess again.
Marina: excitedly I have enough room at the bottom...I can draw Daddy...He will take care of me when the tornado take you away.