Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Where to begin?!

Well, the anniversary of the birth of Jesus has come and gone once again, and I'm still sorting and organizing the pictures. Took less this year, whether I meant to or not, and I'm okay with that. This year I truly enjoyed the visiting I did with loved ones, so here are photos of the people I spent the last week with.
#1 Well... Darth Vader counts, I think. We saw Star Wars costumes at Henry Ford Museum on Christmas Eve. And you can bet Roman was over the moon.

#2 My cute kids on Christmas Day. In their new jammies and silly head gear.

#3 Cousins (and assorted aunts, uncles, and grandparents) on Doug's side of the family! They live out of town and we hadn't seen these cousins since April.

#4 Cousins (along with grandparents & aunt & uncle) on Amy's side! We hadn't seen them since October, even though they live just a couple hours away. E. wasn't thrilled with his picture taken, though.

#5 More out-of-town goodness comes to visit! Friends Cat & Paul were in the area with their 9-month-old, Sam, so we met at the Kalamazoo Science Museum (so Roman would have something to do) and spent a couple hours catching up.

Cat & I met in first grade, and what an amazing coincidence that we both got pregnant within a couple weeks of each other. Charlie was originally due end of March and their son due beginning of April... although both were born early, Sam arriving mid-March to the surprise of his parents!

In the plans for the rest of the week are New Year's Eve with our friends Paul & Nicole and their son, a trip back to Beaumont Hospital for Charlie's hearing check (and a stop at the NICU), and one more day of merry-making with my dad's side of the family. Whew!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas, one day late

A quick post, as I'm meant to be playing Legos or Jedi or something with Roman. Both boys slept until 7am Christmas morning, for which we thanked our lucky stars. The whole celebration took about an hour between stockings and gifts. Then Doug made blueberry pancakes but Ro was so excited to play he barely ate one. Charlie, too, was really thrilled with Santa's gift of a ride-on-and-push toy and also spent lots of time putting animals in and out of Noah's Ark. Photos are still on the camera, so I'll post those later. Santa brought me socks in my stocking, which I really wanted. Doug got a book & movie, and of course Santa brought us all our favorite candy; Skittles for Ro, KitKats for me, and Reese's Pieces for Doug.

I can post pictures of Christmas Eve, where the boys each opened one present - and got special Christmas jammies to wear!

Fire trucks for Roman, and fleece decorated with penguins, moose, and polar bears for Charlie.

Roman took this portrait of us before we went to church.

And our house on Christmas Eve. Doug was so pleased to put up lights this year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Cheer, T-3 days

Yesterday was the pageant at church, Roman's first one (we've always been on the road before). Our friend's son Mitchell sang "Little Drummer Boy" and these three stole the show. Roman took his drumming very seriously.

Today was bake & decorate day. Now, I just don't enjoy baking as my father did. I remember Saturday marathons when I was younger, Dad in the kitchen baking dozens upon dozens of cookies (it seemed like it at the time, anyway) and Jeff and I would invite a friend over and we'd sit at the counter, frosting cookies all afternoon. Well, thanks to GFS I don't have to bake from scratch. Just pop the precut sugar cookies in the oven for 12 min. a batch and they're done! Of course, there were 72 cookies and my tiny cookie sheet only held 9 at a time (we have a small wall-mount oven). So it still took awhile. Then it was time to decorate.

After sampling a couple each, we had dinner. Then jammies on at 6:30pm (at least, the little boys and myself) and we hopped in the car to head to the Wayne County Lightfest. We have gone a couple times in the past, but the last was probably 4 years ago. It is a 4-mile stretch of lit-up holiday scenes along a road that has small county parks on either side. It took us about a half-hour to drive through, snacking on more cookies and enjoying.

(I totally didn't take this picture. I snagged it off the Wayne County Executive's website).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Must be Santa, Santa Claus!

Some Christmas cheer from last night. After lots of "is it or isn't it going to happen?" debating, our church & the Co-Op preschool decided to go ahead with the "Milk & Cookies for Santa" gathering. Roman only knew one other child there, but at least it was his good friend Sammy!

Roman asked for "everything Star Wars!" Santa asked him to be more specific but Roman was frozen. Then Santa opened his book of toy ideas for good little kids and Roman could point to what he wanted.

Then we quickly got the poses with Santa, before Charlie freaked out! Not bad looking for a family where 3 of us are on antibiotics! (Roman=sinus infection, Charlie=4th round to kill the ear infection, Amy=strep throat)

Friday, December 19, 2008

All about Doug

Doug doesn't usually want me blogging about him. In general, he doesn't think the world needs to know, or cares, what he's up to. Sometimes though I get blogs practically written in my head, and such is the case today - so I asked permission to write about him. And with a heaving sigh, he said, "I guess if you feel it's necessary." He then gave me a guideline of how he'd like me to phrase things. Funny guy.

President Bush has announced a loan with strings, so Doug's job is generally safe until the end of March. That really helps with a decision I was faced with, which was a possible interview & transfer to another middle school that is looking to hire for a full-time position in January. I'll stay put now, thank you, and play Russian roulette with Doug's job. He's got his resume out in the world again, second time this year. Last spring we got fed up with living in this area and realized that long-term we want to be on the "west side." Doug applied many places and even interviewed at a couple, coming very close to an offer in Kalamazoo (but they dissolved the position because sales were down). The funny thing about when his resume goes out online is that headhunters call. And in Spring, he said he wanted to stay in Michigan, and yet they were calling from out East, the Carolinas, Alabama - all places really wanting to hire.

Now that we've been reevaluating options, we've got two things on our minds. We still want to end up on the "west side" but we also need to consider making the jump out of the automotive industry. And that may mean a move out of the state. Something we've never talked seriously about before. So he's marked along with his resume that he would be willing to relocate to Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, and a couple other places I really can't remember. And wouldn't you know it - he got a call from a headhunter for Texas. Normally we would laugh at this, except his words were magical to Doug - "I see that you have a degree in chemical engineering and a lot of experience in program management."

Many times Doug has expressed frustration that he stayed in mechanical engineering too long, when his first and true love is chemical. And how it's been too long, and he'd never be able to get back into chemical engineering. And now this call. We assume oil, and wouldn't that be a field to get into! A little more job-secure. However, Texas is definitely not on our list of "if we could live anywhere...". But the idea of Doug using his chemE degree plus his second love of program management, well, I suspect he just may chat with that headhunter a little bit more. I doubt there will be real interest on Doug's part - Texas has no snow, after all - but it's a little heartening to know that people may still be interested in him. Now the question is, are we willing to jump the USS Michigan for unknown waters?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bad news revealed

So a couple posts ago, I mentioned how I was feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed. There was more to that, of course, and now I can finally mention it. In the scheme of things this isn't as bad as many people are dealing with, but Doug got the news last Tuesday that he will be laid off. For him it's only 2 weeks, but it's the beginning of a much larger problem that we believe will continue to happen.

His company is a supplier, of course. They work with all "Big 3" but very little with foreign makers. While sales were down in December, the sales are down a LOT in January. Big 3 have put everything on hold, of course, with the bailout being up in the air and not sure if GM/Chrysler can make it until a new Congress can come in. So the manufacturing arm is actually down 5 weeks, but Doug, because he works with new designs, only has to be off 2. He was even allowed to select the 2 weeks, isn't that nice? Everyone has to take one for the team - including the owners, who pledged not to draw a salary for the month of January.

Of course, we fully expect this to happen again in March, as any emergency plan President Bush can put into place will end then. If no long-term agreement is reached, Doug will most likely be out of a job. So that has been cause for lots of thinking, planning, double-thinking, mental juggling, proposing scenarios, and worst-case options.

So... big sigh. Belts will be pretty tight from here on out until... well, just until. As I said, at least we're not facing what many others are having to endure, but it still stinks.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

One week countdown

There's one more week of school until break. What a very different point in life than this time last year, and last year I tried to imagine what life would be like today. Last year: 6 months pregnant, body swollen out of shape, feeling the baby kick, but dealing with Rebekka and her family to make arrangements over the holidays was at the forefront. We were preparing for 5 days on the road to visit family and sorting and wrapping presents. This year: an absolutely adorable 11-month-old baby, I'm down 25 pounds from my just-pregnant weight, we have no idea where Rebekka is, and we're preparing for our very first Christmas here at home (and sorting and wrapping presents).

Trying to get the kids healthy, too. Charlie seems to have recovered from ear infection #2 and just has a lingering juicy cough. Roman keeps developing a low-grade temp. every couple days and is very exhausted. A couple people have mentioned mono or strep throat, my guess being strep. Doug tried to look in his throat but Ro's tonsils/adenoids are huge. Guessing I'll be calling the doctor tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The stress starts to rise...

I have just written a letter to my neighboring town's District Court, fighting a ticket I received a couple weeks ago. Not only does the ticketing officer have a "mean" reputation (as in jerk, not tough-guy), this article was also in the local paper just days before my ticket. In case you don't want to read the whole thing, the clincher is this line: "The (traffic ticket) increase was even larger in small towns like Plymouth which saw the number of tickets go up from 440 to 2,500 — up 480 percent — over the same amount of time (one year). According to Detroit area police the reason for the increase is dwindling property tax revenue." So I'll line your coffers, Plymouth, but quit trying to charge me 3 points on my license. Grrr.

It's been a busy week and not necessarily the events have been stressful, but apparently I'm reaching my personal breaking point. I actually was almost paralyzed by having to cook, get ready for Scooter Club at church, and come home to do schoolwork. I've done it every Wednesday since mid-September, so why would today be different? Who knows. Christmas Break is fast approaching, it's a full moon soon, and therefore the kids are a little more to handle than usual. Maybe that's it.

Of course, the uncertainty in Congress over the auto industry is stressing a lot of people out around these parts. It's just sitting around and waiting - will we all continue to be in business or shut down? It seems to be in Congress' hands, and Lord knows they shouldn't be trusted to run anything. A student was telling me the other day that his dad owns a trucking/delivery company that delivers Mopar parts (Chrysler parts) to customers. He's basically in limbo - if Chrysler is divvied up or declares bankruptcy, his company is gone. If they get a loan, then at least they can continue for a few months while Chrysler sorts things out. It's beginning to hit even the affluent area where I work. What a disaster if this Congress can't get their heads out of their butts...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Secondhand Charlie

The little bugger is darn cute. Good thing, too, so he shines right through all the hand-me-downs he gets. This doesn't bother me at all, except I realized the other day that he has one outfit in the closet that was purchased new for him, and 2 pairs of jammies because he outgrew the 12-month sizes. Everything else, from onesies & socks to his winter coat, are hand-me-downs. We have them from Roman of course, and our friend's son Perrin, and our neighbor's son Evan, and a church family's son Sammy, & a cousin's friend's daughter's son. If that made sense. The stuff I have bought "new" came from the resale shop.

This was never so glaring as when people asked me if he has certain toys in preparation for Christmas. He has nothing new, people. All his toys are hand-me-downs as well, from Roman and our friend's son. And the poor boy... the idea for this post popped into my head last week, when I finished Roman's bath and we decided to just plop Charlie in the tub real quick afterward for a washdown. Yes, folks, Charlie even has secondhand bathwater. Stinks being the 2nd kid, huh?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

bedtime conversations

As I tucked Roman in for bed this evening, I said I'd tell him the story of Jesus' birth. Of course I like to embellish with modern sayings to make it a little more accessible for my 5-year-old. Well, Roman got me back this evening. Here's how it went...

"...so Mary was outside of her house, getting water for the family or something, when bam! an angel appeared."
*Roman giggling*
"and the angel, whose name was Gabriel, said "do not be afraid, even though you've never seen an angel before!"
*more Roman giggling*
"Do not be afraid, because I bring really good news. You're going to have a baby!"
Roman: "That's not very good news."

I laughed so hard I could barely get the rest of the story out! Out of the mouth of a fairly new big brother, obviously. He also led me into some rocky areas of his adoption story this evening, too.
Roman: "Babies are born in every month."
Me: That's true. I was born in April.
Roman: "I was born in April."
Me: No you weren't. You were born in June!
Roman: "how do you know that?"
Me: Because the people in Russia told us.
Roman: "How did they know?"
Me: Because when you started to come out of your birthmama's tummy, she called an ambulance to go to the hospital. So they knew what day you were born."
...silence as he soaks this in, and then...
Roman: "What if I still lived in Russia?"

Oh boy. I knew he just wanted a brief imagining, but my mind went all over. Does he mean with his birthmom? Or at the baby home? Or just wanting to know a little more about Russia? Which angle do I approach? It's not that I have a problem talking to him about any of it, but bedtime is not when I expect these things! So I simply said, "well, you wouldn't have Daddy & I in your life. And we would probably be a little lonely, not having had a boy to love the past 5 years." He didn't say anything after that and mumbled about wanting a Band-Aid for his thumb, but the comments and questions are coming more frequently now. I guess he's at the age where he begins to own his story & realizes there's loss mixed in with that joy of adoption.

There was so much more I could say, in retrospect. But I suppose the point right now is to continue to make him feel secure in the adoption, because I really don't think a 5 year old is ready to hear about Russian school, or the playground at the orphanage, or the 1 bedroom apartment his birthmother shared with other relatives. I did mention that Daddy and I wanted to take him back to visit Russia someday, and he said "No. Only McDonald's & Red Square." Interesting.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"Christmas is here again...

...stand up and cheer again!" That's a line from one of my favorite Roger Whitaker songs. My parents have made me weird in so many ways, like a love of Roger Whitaker, for instance. I even saw him in concert when I was in college. What early-twenty-something kid gets excited about that? Exactly. And I won't even discuss my love of John Denver right now. Saw him in concert, too... but that's another blog on another day.

I listen to Roger Whitaker's Christmas album every year as I decorate the tree. Have to. I've gotten flexible on when the decorations go up, when they're put away, where they go, and even when I start to listen to Christmas music... but it's always gotta be Roger during tree-trimming. Just as it always was when I was growing up, complete with a couple skips in the record. Except my copy is CD now!
Roman helped, of course. He has gotten the biggest thrill out of going through our boxes this year. He pulls everything out lovingly, often saying "Oh, it's beautiful, Mommy!" or some such exclamation. He laughs at his old decorations that we've saved, such as the handprint wreath ("what's that supposed to be?" he asked), or the framed & decorated picture of him in reindeer antlers that was our first official gift from him.

We have gotten the tree up and gone through 2 of the 4 boxes of decorations. I am actually cleaning out and donating some this year, and many won't make it out of the box because of either lack of horizontal space or lack of safe place away from grabby infant hands.

Even our poor tree cannot be fully enjoyed this year, as anything dangly or lit up seems to catch Charlie's eye. Roman also is entranced with the tree, constantly pulling ornaments off & moving them to different places. There will be presents under there soon (something else to keep away from Charlie's exploring hands & mouth), as we are going out Friday night to do the bulk of the kids' gift shopping. I ordered a couple things online today and I'd say probably within the next week, given some uninterrupted time (maybe this weekend?), I will have most, if not all, of the Christmas presents taken care of. Christmas cards were printed today, now I just have to get envelopes and address them. Moving right along, as 3 windows have been opened on the advent calendar...

Monday, December 01, 2008

3 reasons to celebrate

Now you'd think I was talking about my wonderful boys, wouldn't you? But no, this one's all about ME. The drama with my coworkers has been solved to my satisfaction with no union involvement (whew!). Also, I finished and sent off my last paper for this semester's grad class tonight. Done until January 7! I can free up that section of my mind for a little while, and maybe remember important things... like calling that mom for a playdate this week which I totally forgot to do tonight (after telling her I would...). And doing some serious cyber-shopping for Christmas, and maybe even get a scrapbook page or four done... And lastly, one of the swim coaches stopped by school today to say hi and confirm that I am "on board" for this season and start laying out plans for getting our paperwork & signup together. Whoopee!

Pictures later. I'm going to have a cookie, and then going to bed. Some celebration, eh?