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Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day in the truest sense of the word

16 years ago, our 3rd child was born a few hours shy of Labor Day.  I had held him briefly, but we spent Labor Day getting to know our first born son, Patch, through the plastic of a NICU incubator.

12 years ago in 2002 I literally labored the birth of my 9 lb 15 oz baby, and Boo was born, on Labor Day.

Exactly 6 years ago in 2008, again on Labor Day, we were ushered into a tiny hot steamy room in the Thu Duc orphanage in Saigon, Vietnam.  We were nervous, sweating profusely and tried not to be shocked when we were offered hot tea.  And then Tess and Jude were carried through the door, and it was one of the most surreal moments of my life.  It was a Labor Day unlike the others.  In many ways Tess and Jude's labor was far more painful.  Those of you who've been caught in the middle of an international adoption gone sour know what I mean. But it was still definitely a "labor" in every sense of the word.

3 years later on I-should-stop-being-surprised-that-all-these-life-changing-events-happen-on-the-same-day Labor Day, 2011, I sat there staring at Mimi's face on my computer monitor and wondered, but was pretty sure that she was ours. We would give our official yes the next day.  Labor Day that year was full of thought and what if's and wonder.
Labor Day always holds special memories for me, of my life and my family changing.  In hindsight it feels like all these things happened in the blink of an eye. I never could have imagined what our family would be like a couple decades ago!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Happy Birthday, Tess

We're right in the middle of the Crazy 9 birthday blitzkrieg, and this year all the kiddos, regardless of their age, are getting the same questions on their birthday interview.  I think it's so fun to see how a 7 year old answers a question compared to an 18 year old!  

Now up, Little-Miss-always-on,Tess!  She is in first grade this year, she always keeps us on our toes and says the craziest things! LUV this girl! 

How old are you today?  7!
Can you describe what type of person you are?  I am ninja.  I am a human. I look like a kid and like a girl ninja.  I have dark dark dark dark hair and I look like a princess. I am happy because I'm I have all my stuff.  

What's your favorite color?   My favorite color is black because I am a ninja.  And also pink is a beautiful color. 

Who is your favorite person in the whole world?  My favorite person in the whole world is God because he is just awesome!  He is the master of everything, and also he's handsome because I see him before in my brain.  He has a house in my brain. 

When you grow up, what do you want to be?  I want to be a police officer because they arrest people and they get to have a gun.  And they try to make people safe.  Like if someone is in trouble they say, "What's the matter?"  
I think Miss Surly Pants was done getting her picture taken!
What is your favorite thing to do?  Play with Lego by myself. I don't like to share.

What are your favorite foods and drinks?  Dumplings are my favorite food because they are so yummy! ***insert lots of lip licking here***  I also like to eat Pho.  I like lemonade and orange juice too.  

What do you not like?  I do not like avocados because one time at the cabin I was sitting in the kitchen and my mom said I had to try an avocado, and I didn't want to try one.  But mom said I had to have one bite.  And I didn't like it at all. So my mom let me have a popsicle after that.  (Yep, Tess's nomination for my Mom-of-the-Year award was mailed just after this incident.  Not.)  I don't like it when my sister is mean to me like when she plays with my Legos.  I also don't like cleaning up. 

What do you want for your birthday?  I want candy, Starburst and Skittles. I also want a Nerf gun like Jude got for his birthday. 
This sweet amazing strong vibrant girl is happier than she's been in the past.  I know that the opposite of happiness, security and love isn't anger, defiance and aggression. It's fear no matter what it looks like on the outside.  So after years of reassurance, unconditional love and time and time and more time... this extra happiness and joy in her makes my mama heart just sing my thanks to God!  Thank you God for patience and time and all the angels that helped us when we needed it.  Tess still has the same ol' struggles for control and attachment issues here and there, but generally, she's just a happier girl in the last 6 months.  I think a lot of that has to do with growing older and seeing the unwavering security and love around her regardless of anything that happens.  Something you'll hear frequently around the Crazy house... You're stuck with us, sweetheart. We're not going anywhere. 

I am so so fortunate to have the honor of raising this child and seeing her grow and change over the last 6 years.  She makes me want to try to be the best mom in the whole world!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Labor Day traffic jam

To get out of the scorching heat, we drove up to Little Cabin in the Woods.  Unfortunately lots of other folks had exactly the same idea.
 And unfortunately there was an accident... or 2... and a road closure and miles and miles and miles or traffic stopped dead in it's tracks.

And unfortunately it was 105 in the shade when said road closure happened.
And unfortunately there is absolutely no way to turn around.

And unfortunately our 3 hour drive turned in 6+ hours!
But fortunately... it wasn't actually that bad! My kiddos rallied!  We played music. We got out of the cars because it's cooler outside than in the car.  We got to know our car neighbors.  We ate snacks.  We took in the gorgeous scenery around us that we usually pass by going 70mph. Some of us needed to wander into the desert to use the facilities.  And yes I took photos because that's what I do and I could. 

And we made do! Because what was the alternative?!
If was funny as I looked around at my car neighbors.  There were 2 choices really, accept it and make do with what we had at the time.  Or get mad and frustrated.  And some people did choose that second option.  But for the most part, most folks said Hi to those around them. Pet their neighbor's dogs. Asked about their families or their destination.  Some shared snacks and cell phones.  In general, most everyone was happy as we sat around.

I want my like to be that way and I want my children to have this outlook too.  Accept what I can't change and make do when the unexpected or undesirable happens.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Annual Pow Wow pics!

The only unfortunate part about going to Vietnam was that I missed the pow wow that I attend every year.  I go for 3 days in a row each June, so I was kinda mad that I couldn't go this year, but let's be real here... I was in amazing Vietnam!  But still I was sad that I missed one of my very favorite festivities of the year.  

Anyone watching that tv show, Who Do You Think You Are?  We've been loving that show here at the Crazy house.  My favorite episodes are the ones where they learn more about their grandparents or great grandparents, the generations that aren't that far back.  Cause let's face it, if you go back far enough, you're likely to hit on something amazing eventually.  

If I go back far enough, back to my great great grandmother, I have Native American blood coursing in me.  I knew my great grandmother, who was half Choctaw Indian, and she died when i was 13 years old.  I wish I had known her longer and known more about this part of her life.  Maybe that's why I feel drawn to the pow wows.  Don't get me wrong, I feel totally out of place at a pow wow, like a tourist with a camera.  But I still love attending. 

Later in the summer, I was briefly visiting my parents.  My papa, who always seems to know the best little things that ever go on, took me to this tiny little pow wow in my home town.  This one was very unlike the pow wow that I attend each summer by our Little Cabin in the Woods.  It was tiny!  And unlike the other annual pow wow I attend that has tribes represented from all over the nation, there was only one people represented here, the Paipai people. 

It was hot.  
It was dusty.  
I was sweaty.  
The sun was high in the sky, the worst time of day to take photos.  
The Paipai people stretch down into northern Mexico, and there were several participants at this pow wow that spoke no English, only Spanish and Paipai.  Their costumes weren't as ornate, yet more colorful.  The drums and instruments were quieter.  Many of the women wore their hair straight down or in a single braid down the back, unlike the ornate french braiding that I was used to seeing.  Many had these amazing beaded capes over their dresses.  There was no fry bread or snow cones but at one point, they stopped the whole thing and served a spaghetti dinner, made with bison meat, for everyone that was there... for free.  

I'll let the photos speak for themselves. 
I wasn't there long, but as always, pow wows touch my soul.  And this one, although it was a totally different flavor, was no different.

And I couldn't leave you without any pow wow pictures this year!

PS-Don't let the swastika alarm you.  "The broken cross" is a symbol of the sun, the four directions, and the four seasons and can even be good luck!  These amazing people were wearing it long before Hitler. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

How much do we know? (about our Vietnam adoptions)

Over on the Q&A Carol was curious about Tess and Jude's adoptions from Vietnam.  

I'm curious about the information about birth parents given in Tess & Jude's adoption files. I have adopted kids from China, and I completely respect your privacy. I'm not asking anything about Tess & Jude's specific stories, but I would love to learn more about that process of the information being deemed inaccurate by Vietnamese officials and what happens. You touched the surface of that this winter in a blog post, and it makes me want to learn more about it! 

As I'm sure you know, Carol, the China and the Vietnam adoption process are similar in some ways and different than others.  For our China adoption on Mimi, like the vast majority of Chinese adoptions we have no information on her birth parents.  She was abandon as a newborn with no identifying information, likely because relinquishment of a child is illegal and birth parents aren't likely to leave any information that could trace back to them.  Anywho, back to Vietnam. Tess and Jude were both born at the same hospital in Vietnam to 2 different birth mothers.  Both birth mothers provided identification upon checking in, had their babies, and left without them.  We were told it's not an uncommon way to "surrender" a child for adoption this way.  But there's nothing that says this identification was accurate or even theirs.  Based on the information they provided (who knows if it's true of not) we have both the birth mother and birth father's name, age, and address.  

***Yep!  You read that right... we have NAMES & ADDRESSES of their birth parents!
Those of your more familiar with the China adoption process can pick your jaw up off the floor now.***

A police investigation was conducted (we have no idea how thorough or how it was investigated) and stamped on the back of the paperwork we were given is that the information provided is "inaccurate."  We have no idea if the name is inaccurate but maybe the address is not.  If only the birth mom's age is incorrect.  Or if someone went to the address in her home town (The address listed is not close to where they were born.  It's not even in the same province.) and knocked on her door and asked.  Maybe she was home. Maybe not. Maybe she lied and said nobody by that name lived there.  If you had a child out of wedlock and the police can to your door would you lie?  With the implications it has in Vietnam, Carol, I think I might!  Maybe it's standard operating procedure to never investigate and say they did.  There was way nuttier crazy things going on in Vietnam adoptions back then. There are a million scenarios of what part if any or all of it is "inaccurate."  So Carol, when you ask about, "that process of the information being deemed inaccurate and what happens," ummmmm... well your guess is as good as ours!  We haven't a clue! I would also love to learn more about that process. 

But as I talked about here, what we do with the information, or rather what THEY do with the information, isn't up to us.  It's up to Tess and Jude and we'll support them regardless of what or when they do it.  

So Carol, as you can see, if they ever do decide they want to do a birth family search, they have a lot more information to work off of than Mimi does.  And that makes me conflicted.  what if Mimi is the one that really wants to search and has the empty hole and no info to go off of.  Yet her brother and sister do?  Still all these years later, there's not much easy about international adoption.  Few clear cut answers and blacks and whites.  Except for the one where you wonder if you can love with a child that another women grew within her womb.   The answer to that question became totally clear the very first time I held them in my arms. 
Our sweet things, 6 years ago in HoChiMinh City, Vietnam, before they came home.
They knew each other before they knew us!
Every time I see this pic I giggle. Tess looks a bit ticked off, ya think?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Goodbye summer

With school back in full swing for 2 weeks now and the desert 110 degrees everyday,  homework, carpool, doctor's appointments, rush hour traffic, bills to pay, phone calls to return... I'm missing my summer in the mountains already. It went by so fast this year.  Too fast. Why does that seem to happen the older I get?  Why does time slip by faster and faster with each passing year. I remember someone told me that once.  He said if I though it was fast now, wait until I'm in my 50's. Then 60's.  Wait  till you see how fast it goes when you're in your 70's.  I cannot imagine how fast the seasons will turn and children will grow then.
Anywho, I'm finishing up some pics from Little Cabin in the Woods.  And it's making me nostalgic already.  I know it seems early, but for the Crazy 9, summer is over.  And I miss it already.
We finish off the summer every year with one last trip to paradise creek.  And by August the monsoons have thoroughly soaked the forest and the wild flowers have exploded.  It was really this green.
Goodbye summer.  I miss you already!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The other talk (part II)

***Warning: content not for everyone.***
No discussion of rainbows and bunnies today, folks!
No seriously. 

The first talk is here.
You thought that was bad?  This other talk is even more scary!
The birds.  The bees. Ya, THAT talk!
And not just for the kiddos staring absently at the wall before them hearing it.

One thing you may not know about me is that when I was preparing for my teaching days, I really wanted to be the one to teach sex ed.  I know that's odd but I felt someone really needed to do it the right way, and I wanted to be that person.  I'm a product of the hippie generation so maybe that makes it make more sense.  I actually lived in van down by the river at one point in my life.  Literally.  Okay, so it was an ocean, not a river.  But still, I lived in a van.  A wonderful stereotypical hippie VW bus that I still adore, and I had my own bed and everything!  They were great times!
Bunny trail...

See how easy it is to get side tracked when we have to talk about it?

When it comes time for the talk, I'm not really one to shy away.  Those scary words don't really scare me or make me feel particularly awkward.  The P word.  The V word.  My parents talked to me about this stuff pretty matter of factly, and contrary to my husband's ultra-conservative Baptist upbringing the proper vocabulary words when it's appropriate to use them, float around this house pretty comfortably too.  But I know that's not the case for everyone.  Make NO doubt about it, that if you're not educating your children about sex and relationships, someone else is.  The television. Someone at school or the internet.  It is happening.  100% for sure.

First of all, I don't think the talk should be a singular occasion.  For us, the talk is a progression of conversations that starts out very young.  Because ultimately, the talk is more a discussion about relationships than sex.  So in our house, the talk is something that progresses over years, not all at once or at one time.  It starts when they are young about what good friendships looks like, and what bad ones feel like and what it means to be a good friend.  We talk a lot about how love is a verb, and actions speak for more loudly and clearly than words.  We speak about serving God and others first, before self, and look for examples and point them out in our own family.  Did you do your sister's chore on her birthday without being asked?  Oh goodness, that's God's hands right there!  We discuss doing what you should and not necessarily what you want and how the two are often at odds.  Impulse control.  THESE are some of the foundations that we'll build upon when we talk specifically about sex later.

But let's get down to brass tacks.  Eventually, there are things a parent has to say to growing kiddos.  And when you have to say these specific thing to your own rapidly growing and maturing children, it's different!  You have to, you need to say these specific awkward things eventually.

Like last night.

Oh help me.

Because like I mentioned, if you don't talk with them about sex, even if that means talking at them rather than with them, they will hear it from someone else.  And who do you want creating that foundation? Only you of course!  So the goal is to beat the other someone else to it.

We do think that the same sex parent is the one that has the most influence on a child and is likely the one that will need to lead most of the discussions.  Moms influencing their daughters the most and dad impacting their sons the most.  BUT I don't think that gets the other parent off the hook about talking about the hard stuff.  Mom's still have to talk to the sons, and Dad need to have the talk with their daughters too.  Our children need to hear the perspective of the opposite gender parent.  And the other parent needs to reinforce what the same-sex parent is discussing anyway. Honestly, the more we talk about it with out children, the more we reinforce the foundation we are trying to build. So I'm a firm believer that, moms, you need to be talking to your sons too.  You need to be reinforcing your husband's talk and giving your sons a woman's perspective.

We do explicitly tell our teens that we expect our children to wait until they're married to have sex.  We say it a lot.  And we are also realistic and know what type of world we live in.  So we additionally tell our teens that if they do decide to have sex before they are married we will not judge them, and that they absolutely must tell us before they do, so some things can happen to ensure their safety which we explicitly spell out.  Diseases are real.  We talk about the specifics of VD and what they do to your body.  And pregnancy will change the course of not only their life, but a child's life also... forever!   Sexually active women of any age need to see a doctor.  In the middle of these hard talks I make this very clear; if a child isn't comfortable talking about sex and VD with a doctor, and telling us that he/she is thinking about it, and talking about and making decisions about birth control, and going to see a doctor and yes, putting her feet up in the stirrups then she likely isn't mature enough to have sex either.  I want them to know it's serious.  It's real.  In some ways I want it to feel awkward emphasizing it is a big deal.  And ultimately we know that they are the only ones that are in the control of making this decision.

Are you waiting for you teenager to come to you with questions to start that talk?  To all the mamas (and dad's too!) I'd recommend that you bring up these talks with your children.  I think it's a rare child that's going to be coming to you about these things.  I hope they do, but under no circumstances do I think my children are going to come to me to talk about the hard stuff.  The vast majority of these talks, some times every single talk with some children, are brought up by a parent.  There is no way that I would have brought it up with my folks, and that fact keeps me talking to my kiddos even more.  Strangely, 95% of these talks happen in the car where I have a captive audience.  The kiddo can't get away, and it's a one-on-one conversion except for maybe a toddler that's obliviously to it all.  And the teen has the comfort of knowing that the conversation will end as soon as the destination is reached.

If your neck of the woods is anything like mine, sex is already being discussed in middle school.   Pictures and videos are being looked up on YouTube on their friend's cell phones while at the cafeteria at school.  Really.

And I'll end this by saying what I always say on these parenting posts... what in the world do I know!  Seriously folks, 3 teenagers later with 1 more coming down the chute and 3 more after that, we still feel like we're winging all this stuff.  It's very possible I'm all wrong because it has so happened before!  This is just what seems to work for our family so far.  And what works for one family may not work for another. So take what you like and leave the rest on the page.

This is hard stuff.  But like I said, I think it's important to talk about.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


I think I forgot to show off this young lady!
I had lunch with a friend about a month ago, and we got to talking about vacations.  Of course I whipped out my photos of Vietnam, and she was surprised to find out I was a photographer.  I guess it was one of those rare occasions that I wasn't wearing my camera around my neck.  She mentioned that her daughter, who has been in pageants for a while now, wanted to explore modeling.  And I jumped!  You see I had been shooting a lot of little kiddos lately and the though of shooting someone that would actually follow directions made me drool a little bit was so exciting!

Okay... here's the game:  Guess how old she is?
(No fair playing if you're in one of my photography groups and I already told you.)

These are a few of my favorites
I think one of the funny parts of the shoot is that even though the pics are really serious looking (that's the look they wanted to expand her portfolio) we giggled and laughed almost the entire 2 hours.  She was amazingly fun to work with and I had the best time!

Answer: 14!  I remember 14 being all braces and awkward and weird looking.  Ya, 14 just doesn't look like it used to.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Frist day of school

As usual we waited for the last moment to head back to the desert from the gloriously, perfect, 75 degree cabin.  Back down to 115 degrees in the shade in a 3 hour drive.  Needless to say we are all still sweating and hibernating indoors unless it's absolutely necessary to go out into the oven.  We arrived back in  the desert with just enough time to buy last minute school supplies, get hair cuts, meet the teacher and push 'em out the door to the first day of school.  We start school early in Arizona, but the trade off is that we're out by Memorial Day.

Notice that you won't see Liv's first day pic below.  As a college freshman, she doesn't start for another couple weeks. Lucky girl!  I was also happy to see quite a bit of color/melon/ethnic diversity in all the kiddo's classrooms.  It's something I'm pretty aware of, and I couldn't be happier to see the diversity.

On with the obligatory first-day-of-school pics.
See that smirk on Patch's face?  That's his I'm-not-a-freshman-anymore smirk.  He's off to his sophomore year at high school.  Boo, starting 6th grade is the only one in a uniform this year. That's not why he's surly.  He really did not what his photo taken on the first day of school.  But I think it's a right of passage, no?
The not-twin twins, as they've been called already at school this year, are starting first grade.  With a little persuading, they are again in the same classroom.  Seriously, their pics just make me smile!
And lastly our littlest girly off to her first day of preschool!  She's been begging to go to school since she saw the school bus a couple years ago.  The expression in this pic really doesn't come close to how she was feeling.  So she was ready and so so so excited to go!  She has the same teacher that Tess had for preschool.  It always amazes me that kiddos are so different.  Sunny, Boo and Jude weren't scared necessarily when they started preschool but cautious and quiet.  Liv was scared out of her skin and silent tear rolled down her cheeks.  Patch just looked at preschool as a whole new way to push my buttons.  After seeing some kids hollering on the first day, on day 2 Patched gripped the door jam and screamed bloody murder as I left, all while smirking at me.  Only the teacher was fooled by his antics.  Tess took 3 adults to get her off me with ear piecing screams, and honestly I cried the whole time too.  And nowMimi?  She had absolutely no fear at all about going to preschool, smiles the whole time and never even looked back when I left!  
Notice below that she's wearing a totally different outfit by the time she gets to class.  

The good news is that her preschool is 4 days a week, every day but Wednesday.  Papa was out of town that day, so things were so crazy whompus busy that I had trouble remembering my own children's names much less which of the 4 school started at which time a bit more harried than usual. So on Monday, the first day of school I made and served breakfast, clothed the kiddos, packed lunches and backpacks, photographed and loaded them all up for school. Drove to the appropriate schools.  Unloaded, walked them to their classes and kissed them goodbye.  I was late getting Mimi to her class seeing as how her school is 15 minutes away from Tess and Jude's school and starts at the exact same time.  Needless to say we arrived 30 minutes late to Mimi's classroom.  The classroom door was unlocked, and I signed her in.   But I noticed that the lights off and nobody was home. I searched the playground.  I asked the secretary, and we looked together for where her class had gone.  My girly was a bit concerned but confident we'd find her class! 
The bad news is that it was actually Wednesday, not Monday.  The only day she doesn't have school
And my girl was ticked off that we had to go home!
But Thursday, her actual first day of school went off without a hitch!

So much for trying to remember everything.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mamas of little boys

I found a home for the clothing.  Thank you!

I was going through the kiddo's closets doing a seasonal thinning, and my sensitive Jude has outgrown many shirts, and my nephews even though they are younger are now too big for his hand-me-downs. Jude's a little concerned about where his clothes will be going.  Like I said, he's a sensitive little guy.

I'm looking for a little boy who will be wearing size 3's soon to send a medium-sized box of hand-me-down t-shirts.  This little boy's mama would need to pay for USPS shipping via Paypal, (I don't think it would be more then $20 though) and send us a pic of him so I can show Jude who will be getting them.

Any takers?

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