Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Great Turkey Fryer Incident of 2011

"Want To Make Your Own Maple Syrup? We Have The Supplies You Need!"

It all started with that innocent sign outside Hiller's Hardware Store. We drove past after Sunday School and suddenly Cale was turning around and we ended up in Hiller's parking lot.

Stef: "What do you need at Hiller's?"
Cale: "They have supplies to make our own maple syrup"
Stef: "Huh?"
Cale: "We can tap the Maple Trees in the yard and make our own syrup"
Stef: "Uh, we only have one Maple Tree"
Cale: "We can tap the neighbors trees too."

And before I knew it Cale was in and out carrying a bag of maple syrup making supplies.

Stef: "How much?"
Cale: "I bought 4 taps and some bags, it was only $30"

Let me say right now, I know nothing about making maple syrup, but I had a hunch you needed more than a small bag of taps and some plastic bags. We know a few people who make maple syrup and they have pretty extensive equipment for it. But I just nodded my head and smiled and waited to see how this would all play out.

So back to the story...
Day #1. Between our yard and the neighbors we had a total of 4 trees to tap.
Day #2. After work Cale and Lucky collected the sap and then encountered the first problem. The sap needs to be cooked down and we didn't have anything big enough to do it. So Cale ended up cooking it down using 2 different pots in multiple batches, one out on the grill and one on the stove in the house. Let's just say he was up late that night.
Fast forward to Day #4. Sick of using multiple pots and being up late Cale informs me he needs to buy a turkey fryer because then he can cook all the sap down in one batch.
Day #5. Cale comes home with a brand new turkey fryer from Wal-Mart. Only $40...a small price to pay for homemade maple syrup, right?

Now before I continue I need to explain something about Cale. Anyone who knows him knows he is very mechanical. He can fix pretty much, motors, toys, lawn mowers, you name it, he can fix it. But he has no use for any safety equipment. If a piece of equipment, machinery, or tool has a safety feature, he will probably figure out a way to take it off or turn it off. Safety-Schmafte.

So back to Day #5. The new turkey fryer is out of box, assembled, and cooking down sap. Cale comes in the house and asks:

Cale: "Where's the duct tape?
Stef: "Why???"
Cale: "The stupid thing has a safety switch on the timer that automatically turns it off after 20 minutes if you don't manually reset the timer."
Stef: "So why do you need duct tape?"
Cale: "Because I'm going to tape the thing wide open so it can't shut off." Stef: "That doesn't sound like a good idea. What if you forget to check on it?" Cale: "I won't forget"
Stef: "But what if you do?"
Cale: "I won't, you worry too much"
Stef: "I'm stating for the record this is a bad idea"
Cale: laughs and heads outside with the duct-tape

Fast forward to 10:00pm that night. I'm in bed sleeping when Cale comes to bed:

Stef: "What's that smell?"
Cale: "I burned a hole in the stupid turkey fryer"
Stef: "WHAT!?"
Cale: "I fell asleep in Lucky's room after I read him a story and never checked on the sap. When I woke up and went outside there were flames shooting out of it and there was a hole burned through the bottom of the pot and all the sap is ruined."

Stef: (not successfully trying to hide laughter). Now what?
Cale: "We need a new turkey fryer."

So for those of you who are keeping track, check out my pic at the bottom of the page to see what $70 of maple syrup looks like.....

Sunday, March 27, 2011

World's Greatest Mom

I'm not the World's Greatest Mom...the closest I'll ever come to getting that title will probably be on a cheap, ceramic coffee cup once the kids are old enough to pick out their own Mother's Day gifts for me. But I do think I'm pretty good Mom...I try my best and I do okay. So far my kids are healthy, happy, and we're always able to find willing babysitters (which I think is a great indicator of how likable your kids really are). And since everyone has been asking me for more of my Top 5 lists, here is my Top 5 list of things that are okayed by the "World's Okayest Mom"

#1. It's okay to miss brushing your kids teeth every once and awhile. Because seriously, it's 7:55pm and a new episode of Modern Family starts in 5 minutes (and they're only baby teeth right?)

#2. It's okay to put your kids in the bathtub but forget to actually wash them up because you were checking emails on your laptop while they played in the water. Bubble bath counts as soap right?

#3. It's okay to justify to yourself that Kid Cuisine microwave meals have some nutritious value since they come with corn.

#4. It's okay to take your kids to McDonald's and only spend $1 on one hamburger for them to split because you're really only there to use the playland because you're going to go crazy if you have to spend one more day cooped up alone in the house with them. (It's also okay to go back up and ask for 2 free baby cones before you leave as long as you ask a different person than the one who gave you the funny look when you only ordered one hamburger for three people).

#5. It's okay to secretly judge other people's kids at the playland and wonder why on earth they would let them leave the house looking like that. You know the girl I'm talking about - the one wearing the ripped pink and purple sweatpants, red striped Thomas the Train shirt and two different color socks. (But then you see the Mom is wearing Spongebob pajama pants and a Bum sweatshirt and it all makes sense).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Snow Day Brawl

I have HATED being at home for the last 3 weeks. I thought this was going to be the best 12 weeks ever and it turned into me counting the days until I could go back to work.  I like to think of myself as a pretty competent, take-charge, can do-anything type of girl...but then why have I been letting two toddlers run my life?  Seriously, they have been kicking my ass.  The house is a disaster, I'm constantly refereeing fights, my patience is shot, we're always running late, not eating supper until after 6:00 each night, and I've turned into the type of Mom I've always hated...the yeller. 
I know a lot of people yell at their kids and if it works for you, great.  But for me, I hate it.  In my opinion, if you have to yell at your kids to get them to do something, it means you've totally lost control of them.  And since you can't yell in public, it means that you've got no way to control your kids where it front of other people.  I've spent the last three years trying to break Cale of the "yelling habit" with Lucky and now I've found myself going down the same path out of sheer frustration.  Well, in the timeless words of Twisted Sister "We're not gonna take it anymore".... More specifically, I'm not gonna take it anymore.  I decided on Sunday that it was time to take back control of this house and that started with two important things: 
#1: No more "Mom in the middle"
#2: Getting organized again
By no more "Mom in the middle" I mean that I'm done being a ref for their never-ending fights about toys, shovels, buckets, and whatever other random injustices they think they see.  From now on, they are on their own to duke it out.  I think it's a fair fight...they're both similar height, weight, and build...and what Livvie lacks in all three she makes up for in sheer determination.  (The pictures today may make it look like Lucky is winning, but at the end of the brawl, I think Livvie actually came out on top).  I also took another Blogger Mom's idea and started "toy time-outs".  This means if they are fighting over a toy and can't work it out, the toy gets a time out for the day.  The toy goes on top of the fridge and no-one gets to play with it.  At the rate we're going, the fridge is going to collapse from the weight of the toys. 
I also got back to the core of what makes me kick-ass - I got organized.  I started weekly meal-planning again, started getting breakfast ready the night before in tupperware containers, lining a week's worth of outfits (pants, shirts, socks, and undies) on the bottom shelf of each kids closet (so they can grab their own complete outfit in the morning), and putting the kids in charge of cleaning up all their own toys.
It's only been a few days but I feel like me again.  And more importantly, the inmates are no longer running the asylum.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


At bedtime:
Me: Do you know why I love you?
Turtle: Why?
Me: Because you're sweet, funny, kind, smart, a awesome big brother, and
Turtle: And Crazy!
Me: Yep, you are kinda crazy too
Turtle: And I'm gonna give Livvie crazies like me!


To random stranger at McDonald's:
"This is my sister we bought in China".

Monday, March 21, 2011

1 Month

It's hard to believe that Livvie's been part of our family for a month today. In some ways it seems like yesterday and in other ways it seems like forever. It's amazing how quickly she's settling in and becoming comfortable with us. We're learning our first impressions of her were way off. The naughtiness and stubbornness in China must have been a type of coping mechanism, because that's just the opposite of her personality at home. She is actually very easy-going, playful, sweet, and funny. She is very, very attached to me, but is also slowly warming up to Cale. She LOVES to play outside ("out-tide") and LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to take baths. When the water turns on, she takes off running like a banshee, stripping off her clothes en-route yelling "tubby!-tubby!-tubby!". She also loves Penny and always needs to know where she is.

Lucky went back to Kelly's today and it's been nice being able to spend some one-on-one with Livvie and try to fit in some "learning time" with flashcards and workbooks. She understands at least 50%+ of what we say already, but the speech is not happening yet. I made a appointment for her with Early Intervention through the school district and they will evaluate her to see if she qualifies for speech, occupational, and physical therapy through the district. Based on what we're seeing now, she's definitely not going to be ready for 3K this Fall. Our plan is to keep her and Lucky at Kelly's and start them both in school the following year. Lucky already knows everything they teach in 4K, and he flourishes at Kelly's, so we're going to skip 4K with him and just start him in Kindergarten when he's 5.

Livvie is quite the little peanut and even 24 month pants are too long on her. Size wise I would compare her to a just 2 year old. But she does need 2T or even 3T shirts because of her Buddha belly. The girl loves to eat!

She had her first MD appointment last week and Dr. P gave her a clean bill of health. All her lab work came back with no issues, so at this point we have nothing to be concerned with. Next big appt will be at the dentist and I know she is not going to like that.

Blades Hockey 2023?

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I hate Play-Doh. It makes a mess on the floor, sticks in the carpet, smells really bad, and when you play with more than one color they get mushed up together and then you can't separate them and get them back into their respective containers (I'm obsessive compulsive people - I NEED things back in original containers or I can't sleep at night!). I didn't like it as a kid and I don't like it now.

That being said, I still let the kids play with Play-Doh every day. Why? Because it's the one thing they play with really well together and it keeps them occupied for an hour at a time. An hour of heaven for Mom.

Here are my observations on Play-Doh:

#1. It's okay to read a magazine while the kids play with Play-Doh. It's about creativity and imagination (and I'm trying to find a creative way to afford the pair of shoes on page 38).

#2. It's okay if your dear daughter likes to lick all the Play-Doh. Yeah it's gross and weird, but we all have our issues.

#3. It's okay to let the dog eat Play-Doh off the floor. Less for you to clean up and let's be honest, multi-colored turds in the snow ARE a little funny.

#4. It's okay to "accidentally" throw away the Play-Doh accessories that create way too much work for you. You know, the ones that never stay clamped together and your frustrated 3 year old brings it to you 50 times begging you to "make it work again" or the ones that have teeny-tiny little holes and the Play-Doh gets stuck inside and all crusty and you have to use a toothpick to try to clean it out.

#5. When your 3 year old asks about said accessory, it's okay to say "Hmmmmm, I don't know where that could be - check the tote again honey."

#6. It's okay that the only thing your dear son makes with Play-Doh is "turds". Big turds, little turds, spaghetti turds, and turds on a plate. He's a boy. And from what I've been told,boys think turds are cool. Who am I too judge?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is Love Enough?

About 5 minutes after you start looking into adoption, you start hearing about the worries of attachment. Attachment disorders, attachment issues, and the scariest of all...Reactive Attachment Disorder(RAD). Before you've even been matched with a child, your agency educates you about attachment, the adoption forums discuss it on a daily basis, your social worker advises reading books about it (and there are hundreds), you take online courses and tests to prove you "get it". But in reality, you think, "I don't need to worry about this stuff, everything will be fine".

Then you're matched with a beautiful little girl and that seed of uneasiness starts growing in your head, "what if she doesn't attach to us?", "what if she isn't capable of forming healthy relationships?", "what if she has issues?". But you push it away and focus on that one picture, that one with the smile, and you think "she's perfect, she's smiling, it's going to be fine".

Then you actually get to hold that little girl in your arms and be her Mom and that's when it becomes a reality. All that attachment stuff that you didn't want to put stock in becomes a reality. You start to analyze every single thing you do and every single move she makes. You become obsessed with all things "attachment". You scourer every attachment forum you can find, you talk with other adoptive Mom's, you worry every second about what might happen if she doesn't attach. But in reality, you're not sure what real attachment even looks like. You're not even enjoying your little girl because you're too busy worrying about "attachment".

All the experts say "love is not enough" when raising a adopted child who spent time in an orphanage. They say that because of the abandonment and lack of a maternal bond during the infant years, adopted children are actually hardwired differently than your biological children. Something about the brain and the cycle of needs and it causes a actual shift in brain chemistry. They give you lists of things to do, lists of things not to do, they warn of the long-term consequences of not doing it right, basically, they scare the poop out of you.

So that brings me to today, our family, our decisions, our Livvie.

The experts say your child should sleep with you for at least the first year to promote a bond. The experts have obviously never slept with a 2-year old who snores like a trucker and flops around like a fish all night. I would argue that a rested, happy Mom is much better for Livvie than a crabby, sleep deprived one who glares at her all night willing her to stop snoring so I can fall asleep. So as of last night, Livvie is sleeping in her own bed, in her own room. Does this mean she'll need therapy when she's 14? Maybe, or perhaps it means we're both getting a good nights sleep and waking up happier.

The experts say you need to give your new child everything they need and want, unconditionally. They also seems to frown upon any form of discipline (supposedly discipline is taken care of later, but no one really says when). Penny the Dog disagrees with this wholeheartedly after being clunked across the nose with a frying pan for the second time in one week. Granted, it was a toy frying pan, but I'm quite sure it still hurt because she is now hiding under the bed. The first time it happened, I was still in what I will call "attachment fog". I said "no-no Livvie", she laughed and that was the end of that. This time, I took the frying pan away and set her in the chair for a time out. Now, the experts are uniformly dead-set against time outs for adopted children. So have I traumatized her for life? Maybe, but my Mom instinct told me the kid needed a time out.

So...will Livvie have attachment issues as she grows up? She might. But I'm done revolving our life around what might be. Instead I'm going to live in the moment, enjoy the amazing little girl we were blessed with, and go back to what we believed when we started this process - "It's going to be fine".

Because I really do believe that love is enough.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dirty, Rotten Liars....

You know who you are. All you Mom’s that kept asking me: “When are you going to have another one?” To which I would always reply: “Oh-no, one is enough work for me!” And you know what the response always was? I know you do….”Oh - two is actually EASIER than one! They keep each other occupied”.

Now I’m a fairly educated person and I knew that statistically the math didn’t make sense on that one. If one kid kept me crazy busy every waking hour of the day, how could two kids possibly not create double craziness? But oh no, you all stuck to your story….”Two is easier than one”. Well I’m here to tell all you innocents out there that still have only one that they are all dirty rotten liars. Two is not only NOT easier than one, it’s MORE than double the work.

Do Lucky and Livvie play together and keep each other occupied? Yes, that is true. But it’s what they do to keep each other occupied that is the problem. In the time period of two short weeks I’ve learned that when two kids play together there is some unknown law of nature that compells them to use hurricane force strenght to demolish what ever room they are in or start an all out brawl over a toy that neither of them actually care about (but now have to have because the other one was playing with it). Seriously, I leave the room for 10 minutes to do laundry and I come back to a disaster zone that takes 30 minutes to clean up. You do the math.

And don’t even get me started on getting two kids ready in the morning. Lucky was a breeze to get ready. Breakfast while watching Curious George, washcloth to the face, potty, teeth, dressed and out the door. Simple, easy, quick. Two kids…sigh. By the time I get the second one dressed, the first one has their clothes dirty already. I’m going to be lucky if I roll into work by 11:00 each day.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

We're Home

After over 24 hours of straight travel, three flights, and one poopy-pants blowout...we're finally home! We got home at around 10:30pm on Friday night and we've been trying to get over jet-lag and get back onto a semi regular schedule. The kids have been waking up at 3:30am the last two days since their bodies are still on China time (and then we're all dead tired by around noon and ready to sleep all day). Hopefully our bodies will start to catch-up in a few days.

Both kids did incredibly well on the flights home. They both slept on and off on the 14 hour flight and for the most part were pretty laid back. Livvie is looking a bit shell-shocked and I don't think is loving the cold weather and snow.

Our first two days at home have been 500% better than it was in China. I think Livvie is starting to realize she's stuck with us and may be actually starting to like us. When we got in Friday night she was pretty crabby and unsure when we showed her around the house. But when we got to her room and she noticed the 3 baby-dolls I bought her, she lit up! She started babbling in this excited voice and went and grabbed all three of them and found the pretend bottles and food and started to feed them. She's been playing with them all weekend and loves to carry them around and kiss them. She's also started to give me kisses on the hand which is a great sign that she's attaching to me.

It's amazing how quickly she's grasping the language too. She can't say any words, but man she can understand a ton of what we say already. If we tell her to go get her shoes, or go potty, or put away the toys, she knows exactly what we mean and does it. Her attitude is getting much, much better and we're starting to get to know a very sweet, funny little girl.

She still wants Mama all the time and Daddy is pretty much chopped liver. So for right now Dad's in charge of Lucky and I'm in charge of Liv. The house is a disaster and I'm not sure how I'm ever going to get caught up with all the laundry we brought home. But we're home and that's all that matters right now.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The End is Near

Well it's Wednesday here in China which means we only have one more full day before we head to the airport (Thank God!).  This afternoon we have group photos at the White Swan hotel and all the kids in our group wear traditional Chinese dresses for the pics.  We have a strong willed group of little girls, so I have a feeling the pics are going to be a bit of a disaster!  :)  Oh well, it will be a cute keepsake.
Tomorrow we have a free day so we're going to finish up our shopping for keepsakes for Livvie and also try to get some more pictures of the island.  I also need to start packing and hope I can fit everything into the suitcases.
Friday morning we head to the airport at around 5:00am, so it's going to be a very early morning for us.  We fly to Shanghai and then have a 7 hour layover until our flight leaves for Chicago.  14.5 hours later we should get to Chicago and then another hour to CWA.  I'm hoping we'll be home around 10:00pm Friday night.  People have been saying that the jet lag on the way back is even worse than on the way here, so I think our first weekend home will be spent resting and getting Livvie settled in.  Cale is heading back to work on Monday, so hopefully he can get caught up on sleep over the weekend.  Truth be told, I'm kinda jealous he gets to go back to work on Monday...I think I'm going to have my hands full at home and the thought of going to work sounds like a vacation to me.
Livvie continues to be a "spirited child" which as you all know if parenting code for brat.  We love her to death, but man she is stubborn.  I think getting some structure at home is going to do her a world of good, but for now, it's still tough.  And since she's attached to me it also means she goes ballistic if I hold Lucky or give him any attention.  It's the all mama show, all the time.
One new development is her and Lucky are finally playing together (remember the saying, be careful what you wish for?).  Wow - the two of them together are a TORNADO!!!  The hotel room is a disaster of epic proportions and the sound level is super sonic.  I feel so bad for the other guests on our floor...they must thing we are skinning cats in our room.
I'm hiding out in the hotel bar writing this since our room doesn't have wireless Internet.  Too bad I don't know the Chinese word for Whiskey and Sour........