Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted
according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or
slow to do the humble work.

- Mother Teresa

About Me

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Sunny Florida, United States
I am the proud mom to 6 kids: Natasha, 24, Nikolai, 20, Reese, 20, Maylee, 14, Erik, 10 and Violet, 7. The kids come from Russia, Ukraine and China; I'm so proud of my family sometimes I think I'll burst and I needed an outlet for it - so I've created this weblog. :o)
If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
- Mother Teresa

Motivation for Moms

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One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.
Mother Teresa

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Last week, I figured out how to save 40-50% off my grocery bill - my Wal-Mart grocery bill (the total would be more like 50-60% if I shopped at the "regular" stores)!! The idea has been there all along, but I didn't think about it until last week.

All I do, is I go to our neighboring grocery stores' websites and look for their weekly ad. I go through it, clicking on whatever item they have on sale to add to my "grocery list" that is generated for me automatically. When I'm done, I print the lists. I staple them together. I grab my coupons, and off to Wal-Mart I go!

How it works is, Wal-Mart price matches almost every ad you can find. The other 2 grocery stores offer lots of "Buy one get one free" sales, of course, at much higher original prices than Wal-Mart. I get that item, use a coupon if I have it (boy, is THAT fun when I do!), and voila!!! At check out, I have my list (with items that I got circled to help me find them) and as the checker took each item, I'd tell her what the price or deal was.

Yesterday, my shopping list from a neighboring grocery store offered Uncle Ben's wild rice "BOGO free". I found the bags of rice and they were $3.24 each (ouch). With my BOGO ad from the other store, I got two bags for $3.24, making them each $1.62. Then, to my absolute delight, I noticed that each bag had a coupon stuck to it (you know what I mean) for $1.00 a bag, making each bag only $0.62!!!!

I'm not an "extreme couponer" like seen on TV, because I haven't got 30 hours a week like they do to mess around (plus, in FL, stores don't double coupons), but I have found a very easy way to save 40-50% on my groceries and it only takes 10 min. online to do it, and a little concentration when in the store!

I had so much fun yesterday, that in the canned fruit aisle, two older ladies were debating on what kind of fruit to buy. I told them that P*blix had a BOGO ad for Del Monte canned fruit, and we stood there and I showed them my list and told them how they could this and that free just by mentioning it at the register! Soon enough, a gentleman showed up and we let him in on the deal, and a mom with a little boy chimed in, too! We had a little crowd of "price matchers" in the canned fruit aisle, all conspiring to get a good deal! It was fun!

Anyway, I thought I'd pass on this tip to you! Hope you try it and I hope it helps! :o)
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Every year on my daughter Natasha's birthday (on Oct 30 - I'm late blogging), we make caramel apples. We started this the first year she was home (at age 5/6) and we continue it to this day, though she is not with us anymore. I wonder if she ever thinks about those days and what fun they were? The kids always looked forward to it, and they still do today. We got apples for "caramelizing", but I forgot sticks, so we used Erik's little forks. ;o)

This is one of Reese's favorite yearly activities. He got to go first.


Erik's turn!!

And Mark's!!

All finished! Yep, they were sloppy, but that's half the fun!

Saturday, November 19, 2011
A lot has been going on with me medically and a lot of people are asking a lot of questions, so to avoid having people wonder and to maybe even keep rumors from getting started, here is the skinny on the situation:

I had a slight problem that caused my doctor to order a CT scan. This was interesting, because I am the type of person who is never sick. Nothing ever goes on with me medically. So, with interest, and a bit of amusement, I had the CT. The nurse called after the results were in and said that the doc now wanted an MRI, but didn't tell me why. So, again, with interest and a bit of amusement, I had the MRI (these were done of my abdomen).

The doc called me in. With concern, he told me that it looked like there was a mass on my pancreas. He referred me to a GI doc (which I felt was good, since at least he didn't refer me to an oncologist!!). After a nightmarish week when I was convinced I had pancreatic cancer, the GI doc studied the reports and to my HUGE relief, told me he really didn't think that it was a mass (NOT CANCER!!), but a big aneurysm. He had spoken with a radiologist at the hospital and because I have no history of alcohol or cigarette use, or drugs, or a family history of aneurysms, or pancreatitis, or trauma, they really could not understand why in the world it was there, but it was. They scheduled me for an angiogram. They would thread a catheter tube up (starting at my groin) my artery to the aneurysm (ballooning of the artery) and fix it. Well, they tried. Once they got up there, they realized the job was too complicated for them at that facility and I needed a more sophisticated hospital. It was a real letdown...

So we finally secured an appointment with a vascular surgeon at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. I had my scans and reports sent up there beforehand. We met with him and he was as confused as the local guys were as to what was going on. The aneurysm was in a VERY unusual place and was very large. Armed with the knowledge of the first angiogram info, he felt that he could do another one, only more sophisticated one, and approaching the thing from both ends. We scheduled it.

Well, at our pre-op appt, the doc said he'd consulted with several other vascular surgeons and they said that they noticed something: a nearby artery was very narrowed and the artery with the aneurysm was compensating for it, and the pressure caused from the double duty is what caused the ballooning, so simply fixing the aneurysm wouldn't solve the problem - the narrowing would need to be fixed, or another aneurysm would grow. I would need major abdominal surgery to fix the narrowing. Nice.

I called my mom, who is always faithful to help me whenever I need her. She made plans to come to help take care of us for my December 5 surgical date.

At my pre-op appt, we had yet another curve ball thrown at us: the doc again consulted with several other vascular surgeons, and they wanted to do another angiogram for diagnostic purposes: he wanted to zone in totally on the aneurysm and narrowed artery and get a much better look before making any decisions on big surgery. After the images are taken, he will send them to the vascular surgeons at both Rochester and Arizona Mayo clinics so they can all see them and a recommendation can be made.

He said that he is aware of only THREE other documented cases like mine worldwide have been found, which is why they are being so careful and why he is getting so many consults from other surgeons!!! I'm glad that they are trying so hard, but I'm anxious to get this thing fixed... I don't LIKE walking around with a huge aneurysm (plus a smaller one) that could "blow" at any moment!!! I am otherwise very healthy, other than my weight, so that should work in my favor.

But that's what's going on with me. I will next have an angiogram on Dec. 5 and after the doc shows the images taken to the other docs in the other regions, a decision will be made and the recommended procedure will be scheduled pretty soon afterward.

This was a long post, but it's a long story! Thanks to any of you who made it this far! :o)
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Now that Erik has been home for over 2 years, we can now say we have "traditions" with him. For example, this is his 3rd October with us, so it is now "tradition" that we visit the Methodist church's pumpkin patch and get pictures of Erik each year. Here he was on the very first October that he was here (he was home for just over a month at this time):

He was terrified of the whole thing! He wouldn't touch the pumpkins, he hated sitting on the hay bales, and he wanted nothing to do with the scarecrows! At the time, I felt really guilty taking these pictures of him bawling (he did cry an AWFUL lot those first days, in my defense), but knew that someday it would be worth it, and it is. New parents of adopted children, document EVERYTHING you can when your child first comes home!! It is so wonderful to see them progress and you don't want to have forgotten any of it!
Here he is again, terrified of the scarecrow! His nerves were really shot by this time, and after this picture was taken, we paid for our pumpkin and went home.


Fast forward to the next year - what progress!! Look! He's sitting by a pumpkin without screaming!! Yay, Erik!! And look - he has HAIR and is smiling!! :oD

Also notice too, in this one, he is standing and walking, though not with confidence just yet, and is willingly observing the pumpkins. What a kid!!


Fast forward to this year: He's still really hard to get a posed picture of, but we tried. ;o)

See?? Saying "Smile!!" only elicits a blank stare. LOL Here, I had just told him to close his mouth - what a goofball!!

This year, instead of passively looking at the pumpkins, he thought they were balls and he kept throwing them! LOL We couldn't get him to hold on to any!

Yes, this is sweet, isn't it? A nanosecond later, he threw the pumpkin. ;op

Ah, life is always better when your favorite big brother is around! Nikolai was volunteering at the hospital this morning, so he missed the trip this year.

Can't leave The Bearded One out of the picture-taking action...!

I'm open to caption ideas, but I think he was telling me that Erik left his designated spot and was on the loose.

"How much longer are we going to be taking pictures...? This is getting embarrassing."

As long as Erik's having fun, we'll keep taking pictures. ;o)

That's my boy!! :o) I just love him to PIECES.

Happy October!!!
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
I love shopping at Publix, Winn-Dixie, and the like, but obviously those grocery stores can be a bit pricey, unless you are getting a BOGO free sale and have a coupon. Therefore, I only shop at those places when I need a few things or one thing, or they have some great BOGO offers. For my "big shop", I have to admit I shop at Wal-Mart. No, I don't like Wal-Mart or what they are doing to the "little guy", but in this economy, for the good of my family, I have to shop there.

HOWEVER, lately, I've discovered quite the little grocery store gem: Aldi!! The first time I went in an Aldi, it was because I was curious and they advertised a gallon of milk for $1.99. I paid my $.25 deposit for the grocery cart (yes, I got it back), and was surprised by the lack of name brand grocery items. Check-out was lightning fast, because they don't bag your groceries - you do - and they simply swipe the item over the scanner and drop it back in your cart. Checkout can take seconds!! I bought my paper bags, bagged them, put them in the car and returned my cart (to get my precious quarter back). I'll admit, it was a bit weird.

Still, I kept going back for my cheap milk. And picked up some cheap yogurt too. And cheap juice. And cheap spices. And each time I went back, I liked Aldi more. I got used to their brand of food, and found it to be every bit as good as the "name brand" grocery stores. I stopped feeling sheepish shopping there, and started enjoying it. It was small and things were easy to find. And you simply can not beat their prices. When Publix had fresh pineapples for $3.49, Aldi had them for $1.49.

Now, we don't get *everything* there. We have our favorites. We get our dairy there, and sometimes we get fresh meats (they have really good bacon wrapped sirloin steaks). We also get lots of frozen veggies which are great, and juice that is comparable to V-8 F*sion. The frozen treats are also very good, and last week I got a frozen apple pie that could EASILY have passed for homemade!! (It was fantastic!!) We also get frozen berries, fish, pizza, chicken breasts, etc. The only thing that I shy away from is their breakfast cereal, a lot of their produce, and some of their canned veggies (though others have told me these are great). They also have fresh made pizzas (that you take home and bake) that is great.

This is sort of a commercial for Aldi, though I am not getting paid or was not asked to do this! I'm just passing along my really good experience with this store. I know that some of my friends have relied on the Angel Food Ministries that recently closed down and they are worried if they can afford groceries. To them, I say, TRY ALDI!!! It's waaaay cheaper, even than Wal-Mart, and while some of their stuff isn't the best, most of it is great. And they import their chocolate from Germany (or somewhere like that) and it is out of this world. I've looked on many of their labels, and can't remember ever one thing having a "Made in China" label like most of Wal-Mart has!! Most of their stuff, from what I can see, comes from Batavia, IL. Good enough for me!

Just a tip from one frugal mom to another! :o)
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Didn't sleep well last night, thinking about Mr. Pound Puppy! Up early this morning with my laptop and one eye open, looking at different dog sites. When we were looking into Newfoundlands, I found this site: K9 Carting and was really excited about getting a cart for the dog to pull Erik around. Great exercise for the dog, great fun for Erik, great bonding for both of them together! But when I thought about a lab pulling, I was sort of let down... Labs are waterdogs and retrievers, not working dogs... Can a lab pull a cart??

I e-mailed the manufacturer and asked.

In the meantime, I looked again at the photos, and sure enough, there were photos of labs pulling carts. Wouldn't that be COOL if it worked out?? What a fun thing! It would probably motivate me to get out there too and walk, as I'd have to walk the dog on lead while it pulled, as Erik would not be able to control it just yet - he wouldn't have a clue about that sort of thing for awhile. We could even put little Mary on the seat with him! What a riot!

If anyone has any knowledge of dog cart-pulling, would you please tell me your experience? Thanks!

(This is not a lab, obviously, but it's about the size of a lab, and the cart pictured is probably the model I'd want to get.)

Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie Waiting to Adopt tickers
Saturday, September 17, 2011
For awhile now, I've been thinking that Erik really needed a dog that he could actually interact with. Mary and Daisy, our 12 and 18 pound dogs, are really too small for him. He is as gentle as he can be with them, but he is unpredictable, and they avoid him for the most part, except when he is eating, as he is a wonderful provider. Erik is a shy kid, and not really a do-er, and certainly not a risk taker. I believe he could really benefit from a friendship with a dog "brother" who could help him to gain confidence and self-assurance, as well as a lot of stimulation from the interaction. I did lots and lots of research and decided that a Newfoundland/Standard poodle mix would be the ideal dog, but YOU try and find a Newfypoo breeder!! It is impossible!!! I came close to deciding that a purebred Newfy would be excellent, but there was the issue of excessive drooling and shedding, and with a dog that huge, that would mean a MASSIVE amount of drool and hair all over the house.

So, I kind of dropped it.

I do some volunteering for our local SPCA, mostly dog walking, and I really love it. Our SPCA is a no-kill shelter and is a really nice one. The dogs are really well cared for there, and the staff are protective of the dogs, which is great. There is also a high-kill shelter in our town, the local "pound", or Brevard County Animal Services and Enforcement, and unfortunately, they do not have the cartel of volunteers that the SPCA does, and they sure don't get the donations they they do. Their kennels are indoor/outdoor, so they don't get the playtime that the SPCA dogs do, in large runs with toys, etc; and they desperately need paint and amenities to make their place more homelike (if ANY shelter can feel homelike...!). It's incredibly sad.

So, several days ago, I went in to see if they needed any volunteers (like they'd say no - duh!) and of course, I had to look at the dogs. 80% of the dogs there were pit bulls. What a sad fate that breed has now, with all of the fighting they've been used for, ruining their reputation. Doing homecare, I have met a great many pit bulls, and I've never met a mean one. They are all obedient, affectionate, silly, and wonderful. It broke my heart to see so many looking so rough in this place, where the day I visited, I'd learned that 5 dogs were euthanized. :'o(

As I wandered through, I noticed a small black dog lying in the kennel with his back to me, with a bit of one ear sticking out through the chain link. It was ignoring the deafening barking of the other dogs and I was surprised that it was so calm. I said something like "Hey, buddy" to it, but it didn't move (probably couldn't hear me). I bent down and touched its ear and it SPRANG to life, wiggling and wiggling and wiggling with the happiness that only a puppy knows! I put my hand in the crack of the chainlink by the door and he licked and slurped and rubbed his snout against my hand, while wiggling the back half of him so fast I could hardly see it! It was a PUPPY! A black lab puppy, purebred, from what I could tell. How adorable was he!! There was no intro sheet on his door, so I assumed he was on hold for someone.

The pup in side of his kennel, in one of his non-wiggling
moments (few and far between).

This picture breaks my heart. Could there BE sadder eyes, anywhere??

So I asked about him, of course!! He was found as a stray in Cocoa (2 towns over) and was on a "stray hold" until the 15th. This was the 12th, I think. I went home and told Mark about him, and we both went that night to see him again. Well, to make a long story short, he liked him, too, and we put an application on him. Yesterday I took Erik out there to visit and, while the pup was really hyper, of course!, he did great in the visiting room, and seemed very friendly and unafraid of anything, even the cats, with daggers in their eyes, from the cat perch things they were on in the visiting room. Erik did pretty well too, considering the pup was pretty overwhelming, jumping on everyone, panting, excited about being out of his kennel for the first time in a week (poor thing).

Today, Mark and I went back again, as the kennel-mistress (for lack of a better term) asked if I wanted to take him for a walk, and I couldn't do that with Erik, so today he and I went for a visit. It went great!
Here we are (don't look at my enormous butt, please) (You just looked.), after letting the poor baby outside for the first time.
Here he is with Mark (who would also tell you not to look at his ...well, I guess just his self). Mark had a black lab for many years who was an extremely good friend to him, so this dog was especially special to him.

Finally, I got to take him for a walk!! (You are looking at my butt again.) I was ASTONISHED at how well he walked on a leash!!! After only 2 or 3 mild corrections, he settled in right beside me and we were able to walk with a SLACK leash!! What a GREAT dog!!!!

Now, for the very BEST part!!! This dog is going to be evaluated on Monday to be a participant at our local county jail's "Paws and Stripes" program!! They will take him and several other shelter dogs (from this place and the SPCA) and for 8 weeks, will train the dogs!! The adoption fee remains at $50!! He would leave for the program on Sept 26th, I believe, and be there at the jail for the 8 weeks, then we'd take him home. Based on how well he did on that simple walk we took, this dog should do STELLAR in that program!! Oh, I hope he's accepted!

There is one decision that would have to be made first, though... He'd need a place to stay between Monday and the next Monday, as they need the room, and with him being a puppy, they don't really want him in a shelter, as it's not good for his development. So, we could foster him for that week, or we could have them foster him at another place for the week. This is something we have not considered. Also, if he does NOT get accepted into the program, we probably could not adopt him, as we could not handle an untrained 5 month old lab puppy with me working and being as busy as I am and with Mark not feeling so hot much of the time, etc. Anyone who knows anything about lab pups knows that they are NOT EASY PUPPIES and they chew and chew and chew and chew and chew!!! So to have him 2 1/2 months older, and trained, is really something we'd need for him to be. I'm just being honest.

Sooooo... What do you think??
Monday, September 12, 2011
Anyone else have a typical teenage boy? It's not that Reese didn't have a great time with his great-aunt and great-grandmother, it's just that he's a typical 16 year old boy, with other things on his mind. ;op (I think he rocks!)

After multiple weeks of nagging Reese to write thank-yous to his great-grandmother and great-aunt, I finally handed two blank cards to him and said, HERE!

“Oh, yeah, thanks! I’ll do this right away.”

A week later…

“Reese, I’m assuming you sent those thank you’s.”

“Oh! Uh, oh, yeah. Uh… well, not yet. But I’ll get on it right away.”

A week later,

“Have you written those thank you’s yet?”

“Huh?? Oh. Uh, no, but I will!”

3 days later…

“Reese, where are those thank yous??”

“Huh? Oh, yeah! I gotta do those.”

“How about now??”

“Uh, okay.”

The next day, I see them on the table, written, but no envelopes in sight.

“Hey, great, you finally wrote your thank-yous. Where are the envelopes?”

“Huh?? Oh. Uh, I don’t really know...” Starts looking around. I find them in the other room under the coffee table.

“Okay, thanks. Um, can you mail these now?”

“ME?! How old ARE you, son?? YOU address and mail them! You are 16 years old!!”

“Me?? *sighs* Okay…”

A week later, I find the cards and the loosely scattered, blank envelopes under a stack of papers on the dining room table.

“REESE!! You haven’t mailed these yet?!?!”

“I don’t know the addresses!! Can you give them to me?” I write out the addresses on a piece of paper and hand it to him.

3 days later…
“Are the thank you’s ready to mail yet?”

“Well, actually, I sealed them and don’t know whose is who’s…”

“Oh, Reese!!”

“Sorry.” He carefully opens them and identifies which one is which. Recloses them. That afternoon (heaven forbid he did it right then), he writes the address on the envelopes.

“These look like a First Grader did them.”

“Really? I thought they looked pretty good. Can you mail them now?”

“No, you still have to put our return address on them.”

“You mean, our address? Can you do it for me?”

“YES. And NO.” (Losing patience.) “Right here, in this corner.” I show him an example of a piece of mail addressed to us.




“Yes! Give them to me now.” He write our address in the right spot. “There, can you put stamps on these for me?”

“NOOOOO!! YOU will put stamps on them!! You know where to find them in my desk. You do know where to PUT the stamps, don’t you??”

“Yes, right here.” Points to the right spot.




“Yes, Ma’am!”

Several MORE days later,

“Reese. Son. Look at me. You have GOT to get some stamps and get them on these letters and get them mailed before your Gram Faye and Aunt Cathy forget you were even there because it has been such a long time ago!!!”

*sigh* “Okay. Where are the stamps, again?”

“You know exactly where they are. The Ronald Reagan stamps. Right there in my top drawer.”


I’m not kidding you, it was still another 2 or 3 days before,

“Reese, why have you not put stamps on these letters?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, well, I just forgot.”

“Do it right NOW while I watch.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He puts the stamps on.

“Now, in the morning, before school, you will put those letters in your hand and walk down the driveway and put them in the mailbox. Do you know how to raise the little flag on the mailbox so they will be picked up?”

Smiling, cause he knows I’m teasing him,

“Yes, ma’am, I know how.”

Nikolai chimes in, “I can show him!!!”

“No, thank you, Nikolai, Reese needs to learn how to put a letter in the mailbox all by his big boy self.”

And sure enough, the very next morning, without a reminder, the boy actually took the letters to the mailbox and mailed them!!!!!

I love that kid. ;o)
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Okay, for those of you expecting big news, sorry! But for those of you who know Erik and know how important each little thing is that he does, read on!!

Lately, Erik has been making HUGE strides. I give the credit to the gingko biloba that he gets everyday, now. Those of you who know him, know that for the first full year he was here, he really didn't progress too much. He DID start walking, and started feeding himself, but other than that, not too much. VERY small things. Well, lately, it's almost daily that he does something new!

Today, I was sitting in the computer room, and I heard a bunch of sloshing. Sure enough, he had found my big 44 oz. diet coke in the styrofoam cup in the kitchen that Mark had brought me, and instead of drinking from it, he actually brought it to me and signed, "please drink"!! But get this-- I then told him to go get his cup from the kitchen, and sort of gestured so, and he DID!!! He brought me the cup!! Now, I don't normally let him drink soft drinks, but I HAD to reward this behavior, so I filled his cup (that had about 1" of water already in it) and added another inch or so of diet coke to it (yuck!!). He took it, finished it and brought it back for more!

This is a big deal because 1) he brought me my big cup (without spilling or dropping it) rather than just helping himself and 2) he actually went back to the kitchen to get his sippy cup to bring it to me!

Like I said, if you don't know us, you might be expecting a lot, but if you do know us, you know why I'm so pleased! :o)

P.S. He handed his empty cup back to me again, and I told him no. I gave the cup to Nikolai to fill with water, which he did, then Erik came back AGAIN with the cup filled with water so I could pour more coke into it! He's THINKING!!! :oD
Friday, August 26, 2011
Yesterday, Mark took Erik to Arnold Palmer Children's in Orlando for a swallowing test. The test itself was no big deal, but he was not allowed to eat after midnight before it. They had to arrive at 9, but the test was at 10, but they didn't get in until 11...

Now, poor little Erik had to go 18 hours without food. If you know him, you'll know that Erik lives to eat. The boy will eat anything!! I hardly EVER give him junk food because he simply is happy eating anything, so I give him healthy stuff (am I lucky, or what?!). He just simply EATS. He is still tiny, 33 pounds at 7 years old, but he IS growing, that is sure!! It's like his tiny little body simply can't get enough in its rush to get him to grow and fill in whatever "nutritional holes" there still are inside. He lives to eat.

So 18 hours without food for him, is a lifetime. Mark told me that the closer time got to his test (the longer the time without food), the harder of a time he had. He said he simply "shut down". He said he kind of sat slumped in his chair, eyes half closed, head tilted to one side, and he had a look of hopelessness, the same kind of look that we saw in the orphanage. A look of having given up hope. It was like he was remembering how he felt when he lived in constant hunger in the orphanage, and the loneliness and hopelessness he must have felt. The hunger apparently triggered this. Is that not the saddest thing you've heard??

Once the test got started though, he apparently snapped out of it and the barium they gave him to swallow got guzzled down with great enthusiasm (much to the delight of the SLP's, I'm sure!!!) though no doubt it tasted horrible!!

It surprised me though, to think that deep in the recesses of his brain, he still remembers the orphanage and the hunger and the feelings that he had. It breaks my heart to think that he suffered in ANY way. :'o(

Of course, as soon as they were done, Mark took him to an Italian restaurant (Italian's his favorite) and he INHALED a MASSIVE plate of spaghetti. :o) Good as new!!

Next week he has another procedure, sedated this time, but it starts at 6:30am so he won't have to go NEARLY as long without food.

My poor little pumpkin. Behind that silly, happy enthusiasm for everything life has to offer, lies a tiny little boy in an orphanage who lived a miserable existence, struggling to survive each day. Let's hope we can keep that little boy hidden away until he no longer re-emerges.

Say a prayer today for all of the millions of little boys and girls still wasting away in orphanages, hungry and hopeless, who will never have a huge bowl of spaghetti ready to take away the nagging, hungry feeling, that never ends.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
For the last 2 or 3 months, at LEAST, our "mudroom/scrapbook room/storage area" ceiling has had a leak. This is something that is easily put off, especially when buckets can be positioned amongst the junk to collect it. Well, when pieces of the ceiling start falling off, and chunks of white stuff gets tracked through the rest of the house by little pawprints, it's time to do something.

Before our vacation, I sent Reese up on the roof (poor guy is as handy as ...well, you fill in the blank). He patched up the spots he could see around a pipe-looking thing as best he could and came down. I wanted to get up there, but I was too chicken, being such a petite little thing, and I was afraid the wind might carry me right off the roof. (cough!)

But it only got worse. Much worse. By the time we got back from vacation, we were using 6 or 7 buckets and rain was coming down so hard in a couple of places that it was almost a stream.

I am NOT handy when it comes to house repairs. I'd just as soon buy a new house when something needs repair rather than actually fix the problem. But buying a new house was not possible today and this roof NEEDED to be fixed!! In FL in summers, it is customary to get hard afternoon showers every afternoon for a few minutes (it's lovely here this time of year) and I knew the wood in the roof would rot even more than it probably has. It was Desperation Time!!

While we were gone, Mark had purchased more leak-squirt stuff (you know, like cault tubes), but he was not available today to help, so it was up to me.

I borrowed a ladder from a neighbor. Spent 10 minutes getting it situated just perfectly and went up, down, up, down, up, down, trying to make sure it was in the PERFECT spot and trying to get my nerve up. Erik was happily splashing in his little kiddie pool in the driveway, happy as happy could be, and Nikolai couldn't resist the urge to watch me in my comedic performance.

I went inside to make sure all was well (what could be wrong? We were all outside!) and charged back to the ladder, determined this time.

I stiffened my lip, grabbed hold of that ladder and made it to the top (for about the 8th time!) and without really thinking, hoisted my big ol' -I mean, PETITE- self up there, rolling onto my side, right into a big, dirty roof puddle. But I MADE it!!! And it wasn't that hard. ...really.

Nikolai handed up my bag of supplies and I set to work. The roof on that part of the house is flat, so it was very easy walking around on it. I am quite sure I found the 18" long crack that was causing the trouble and I put a triple wide strip of black-gunk on it. Since I had more stuff in the tube thing, I went ahead and put it all over the place up there, on every crack I saw. I even put it on stuff that looked like it might think about being a crack someday! It was kind of fun, I had to admit.

The time came that I was really dreading though: time to get DOWN. I handed my bag of goodies to Nikolai, who was waiting below. I laid down on the roof, and peered over the side. With enormous pride, I looked him in the eye and exclaimed loudly, "YOUR MAMA CAN DO ANYTHING!!!"

Without emotion or excitement, he dryly replied, "All mamas can."

Not to be defeated, I said with resolve, "Not like YOUR mama can!!!".

Still not impressing him, I didn't care. I was filled with so much pride I could have burst. Little did I care that I was filthy dirty from rolling in that roof puddle when I first arrived. Little did I care about how wet I was. Little did I care that sweat was pouring off me like the rain poured in through the ceiling. I had stopped the leak!!!

I laid down again (in the same puddle that I was so familiar with) and swung my leg over the side. I easily found the ladder step, and with Nikolai's warm moral support, put my weight on it. Swung the other leg over, and carefully descended to the ground.

VICTORY!!!! I DID IT!! That darned roof has been leaking so badly for so long and I FIXED IT!!!

...of course, it hasn't rained yet, and we don't really know if I fixed it.

But I don't want to think about that just yet.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Remember the old days when folks went on vacation and invited their friends and neighbors over to watch 1500 slides of every single minute thing they did? Well, now we have BLOGGING!! The modern way to bore our friends and neighbors! The best part is, you don't have to look if you don't want to (I'll never know!), and it's such a chore uploading photos to this blog that there will be about .5% of the amount of pictures shown that were actually taken! :o) Do I hear any cheering out there??

Reese, Erik, Nikolai and I drove 24 hours over 2 days from FL to Reinbeck, IA, where my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents all are from and where both of my grandmothers and several aunts and uncles still live. When I was a kid, my brother Mike and I used to get sent up there most summers, and we spent many Christmases there, too. To us, Reinbeck and the surrounding areas were the best places to vacation in the world. As an adult, I lived there with my kids, but it didn't last too long (see post from July 4, or so) before we relocated to FL. Anyway, I hadn't visited IA for about 4 years at this point so the kids and I were very excited to go! As a bonus, my mom and stepdad were also going to be there (from Seattle)!!

Here's how we spent our time from July 3 - 9:

Reese and his Papa Joe (my stepdad) love sparring at ping-pong in my Gram's basement!! You'll have to ask them who won the most games, cause I'm not getting in the middle of it!

Take it easy on him, Joe! He's only a boy!!

Take it easy on him, Reese! He's a Baby Boomer!!

Here's the gang (sans me!) getting ready for the Fourth of July parade. Hey, Joe! Look THIS way!!

Reese's favorite part of the parade is getting candy that the people on the "floats" throw! He's got his bag ready and everything! I think he'll always be a big kid at heart. ;o)

"Hey, when's the parade gonna start, Mom and Reese??"

While Mom is waving hi to her friends on the float, Reese is saying, "Hey! Throw me some candy, lady!!" LOL

What's gonna go by next, Erik?

Takin' some time for a sweet kiss from his Gram.

What? Sitting in Old Men's Row??
(Actually, Erik was spooked by some of the loud noises and felt safer sitting a ways off, with the "grown ups"!)

Hey!! You gotcha one!!

There is a beautiful park nearby, that I suspect is rarely used, and is a wonderful place to take pictures! I would love someday to be able to do freelance photography (or pet portraits, baby portraits and the like) so I practice on my kids a lot! This day, Mom and I took Erik (the boys -ahem!- declined to go) down to get some nice shots of him. Unfortunately, in addition to the fact that Erik is already a rather difficult subject to photograph (he's not always terribly cooperative and has no clue what "smile!" means), it was very, very hot and VERY humid that day and the bugs were HORRID. *I* would have had a tough time relaxing and smiling for a picture, let alone poor little Erik! Nevertheless, we tried, and these are the best shots that we ended up with. :o)

Often, the only way to get him to smile is to do the "I'm gonna get you!" thing. Unfortunately, he had his hands up still when I got this one, but I had so few ones of him smiling that this one is pretty good! lol

I love this one of him and his Gram!!

And this one's sweet too! Isn't this a beautiful park??


Mom worked for quite awhile teaching Erik to give a kiss!!

Pucker up...

Get ready...


Ah, poor Joe got sentenced to a day (or two) staining my Gram's deck! It sure did look nice when he was done!! Good job, Joe!!

Here is rarely photographed Carlos, my first cousin's son. So that would make him my... second cousin?? He's spending July with Reese, detassling corn. He was also visiting my aunt (his grandma) from Tampa!

And my very sweet cousin, Steve.

Here is my Gram visiting with another second(?) cousin, T.S. and his wife Anne, from Minnesota. Super nice people. :o)

That little Erik is learning stuff easier all the time! Here he is, with a Jack-in-the-box at my Gram's house, cranking the ...crank. He didn't care so much for Jack and the way he jumped out of the box, but he liked the music and he learned how to crank the ...crank, and in the right direction, in no time! We were all really impressed! He loved this toy and played with it every day for a long time.

A visit to my Gram's isn't a real visit without a wild Marble Game!! Here she is with Carlos (left), Nikolai (middle) and Reese (right). I stayed away while they played. I didn't want her to beat me if she got "sent home"!!

Here we are, four generations: my Gram, my mom, me and my kids. :o) I hate this picture because I look soooooo fat, but I figure it's motivation for me to lose weight!!

We had a lovely visit in another town with my dad's side of the family! Here is my Aunt Annie, taking my picture!

And my great-uncle Leroy, brother to my hugely loved grandpa - he and Erik really hit it off! Uncle Leroy is such a riot and such a good time. :o)

Reese, Erik, and Uncle Leroy

Here is Erik, practicing his newly learned High Five with his uncle. I can't believe I didn't get a picture of my grandma!! If she finds out, she'll have a fit! Yikes!!

Ahhhh... After 2 more days, and 25 more hours on the road, it's GOOD to be home.

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If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.
- Chinese proverb
It is not the will of your Father that any one of these little ones should perish. Matt. 18:14

Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. Matt. 18:5

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

My family

My family
Nikolai, Mark, Missy, Reese, and Erik

Nikolai, 19

Nikolai, 19

Reese, 19

Reese, 19

Erik, 9

Erik, 9





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