Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Today is Memorial Day here in the States.

In my family, it’s got slightly more importance to us, simply because of the date the holiday falls upon.

Today, it’s three years.

Three years since Hubby, Dad and I woke at the crack of ugly early to pile into Dad’s van (now ours) and drive six and a half hours to a little Podunk town called Pulaski, VA.

Three years since we buckled three very little girls into carseats, popped a series of VeggieTales and Disney movie DVDs into the van’s player, and drove back to PA.

Three years since I stood in what used to be my dining room, became my toy room, and is now my living room, holding Small Fry in my arms, both of us in tears.

Three years since I felt the least heroic I’ve ever felt.

Three years since Po scared Small Fry.

Three years since Medium and Large Fries tried to crush Po in exuberance.

Three years since our cats decided they hated us for allowing these little invaders.

Three years since baby gates and diapers and sippy cups and high chairs and diaper bags and small toys and pack-n-plays and daily laundry became the norm.

Three years…since we became a family.

One thousand ninety-five days.

There are times it feels like one thousand ninety-five years.

But I am grateful for each and every one of those days.  Because I have a family to celebrate them with.  It’s a different sort of anniversary.  And a very good excuse to eat cupcakes.
Large Fry

To celebrate, we met up with Gramma and Boppa at the local municipal park, where we had a picnic lunch.  (Complete with cupcakes.)  And after that, we stood in line for nearly an HOUR in 95-degree heat and 80+% humidity to get into the municipal pool (which had inconveniently decided to change their rates, start charging for all children 5 and under—they were free last year—and didn’t have the new rates available online when I checked).  Ever since Large Fry’s 5th birthday last summer, the Fries have been addicted to the bigger pool, so that’s where we—and the rest of the borough, it seemed—opted to hang out. 

Medium Fry
The kids had a marvelous time.  We ran into Small Fry’s physical therapist from the first year the Fries were with us, who could not believe how big the girls had gotten and was thrilled to hear that we had finally won custody.  (It was nice to catch up with her.)  She could hardly believe that Small Fry now was the same (formerly) timid, cautious little toddler she’d worked with.

I apparently need SPF Bulletproof sunblock, because the SPF 50, despite reapplication, still left me rather rosy.  (Okay, okay…a lot rosy.)  The Fries, with their lovely shades of melanin, suffered much less, and came home sporting tan lines.  Which, after three years, are still as comical to me as they were that first summer.  Medium, having the lightest skin tone of the three, has some pink spots high on her cheeks, but in a few days, those will have faded to a nice tan.
Small Fry.  Armed.  Look out.

We adults rotated in and out of the pool, but obviously not in and out enough with enough reapplications of SPF 50 to keep Hubby and me from getting burned.  The Fries made friends with a couple of little girls just older than Large Fry, who determined I was their “dolphin” and played and hung out with me more than they did the Fries, after awhile.  The water helped disguise my ankle’s crankiness until after I’d hauled the aforementioned seven-year-olds around the shallow pool for about five minutes, after being jumped on, grabbed, and shoved underwater (the last, gleefully done by Medium Fry…repeatedly).

Happy Fries.
We finally left about 5:30ish, and came back home.  We ordered pizza, ate it on the porch, and Hubby set up the globe sprinkler that Mom had found for us at The Christmas Tree Shop.

Mom and Dad headed for home after pizza, as the kids started in on the sprinkler fun.

It was a great day.

I have a great family.

I am grateful…for so very much.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Around the Neighborhood

Specifically, the view down my driveway this morning:

"Uncle!  Dey'wre putting a hole in ouwr wroad!" ~Medium Fry

Why, yes.  That IS a man standing waist-deep in our street, right at the end of my driveway.

And more of this fun tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Payroll Tuesday

It's payroll day.

Usually, this is the day I tear my hair out, because I'm missing a whole slew of stuff to finish off the final details before I can send the final report to my boss, who then sends it out to the payroll management company. 

I spent nearly all of yesterday sequestered up in my bedroom, working on making sure I had as much done as possible before emailing the list of missing information to the office staff.  (I work 350 miles from the scene of the crime.  We communicate a lot by email.)  Today won't be quite so bad, since I'm usually done by noonish.  (Heavier on the -ish some weeks, but that's about right.)

The office faxes a lot of stuff to me, too.  I have a fax-to-email protocol, and when the fax popped in this morning, I was actually happy to see it, because it meant I could eliminate a few more things before playing wait-and-see on the rest.  (There must have been something in the water this pay period, because I had three times as many unverified shifts as I normally do.)  I wasn't nearly as thrilled when I realized it was 24 pages long.  Oy.

Thankfully, my printer is networked wirelessly.  I'm able to print without having to go downstairs and connect directly by USB cable.  However, I do not have a magic wand anymore; they confiscated that when I flunked out of Fairy Godmother School.  Which means I usually have to go down and get my printed materials.  And 24 pages tends to overflow the receiving tray on the printer, and since the printer sits on my desk in the living room, five feet off the floor, paper winds up everywhere.

But wait!  I have children!

And a cool husband, who rescued my printouts.

I had actually forgotten (temporarily) that I was printing things, because I turned off the annoying audible alerts for my printer, when I heard small feet pounding down the hallway.  Both twins burst into my bedroom, shrieking happy greetings.

"Speciawl delivewree!" Medium said with glee, handing me a fistful of papers.

How awesome is that!

I got hugs and they went back downstairs.  And I'm supposedly going back to work.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Why Bill Cosby Is So Brilliant

From my college chaplain Mike Schutz:
"Seriously?" Father said, rolling his eyes. "How could they misinterpret that?" Just then Jesus walked in. " Sometimes I wonder if..." but the Father interrupted, "...If we should have even given them a book. I mean, they couldn't even handle two stones with ten rules on them. How difficult is it to understand 'Don't kill'?"
Then the Spirit blew in, "Have you seen what is going on down there?" "We know, we know," Jesus and the Father replied together. "Idiots," said the Spirit, under her breath.
The Father started looking through His files. "Where is that file... of Cosby quotes?" Both Jesus and the Spirit started laughing. "I bet I know the one you're looking for," said Jesus. Then the Spirit, in her best Huxtable voice, said, "I brought you into this world, and I'll take you out!"

 Always liked The Cosby Show....

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pest or Pet?

It's spring.  And, here in our house, spring is the time when young ants' fancies turn to love, and they fall in love with my kitchen sink (which is inconveniently located right next to my back door).

Thus, we have had a huge influx of tiny brown ants, which are just icky because I have ants crawling everywhere.

Hubby picked up some ant traps a few days ago, to help curtail the problem.  We placed them strategically in the kitchen, and subsequently had strict instructions to the Fries that they were not supposed to touch them.

Yesterday, Small Fry found an ant crawling along the floor in the living room.

"He wants to go to his howse," she told me.

"Just go throw him in the sink," I told her.  I don't want the ant in my house.  And the sink is surrounded by little black plastic traps.

Small Fry moseyed in to the kitchen, and was back fast enough that I didn't wonder too much about what she'd done in there.

"I put him back in his cage!" she announced happily.

Oh, dear.

His "cage" must be the ant trap on the counter by the sink.  I'll bet the ant just loooooved that.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Grace, Redux.

Rain makes for a cranky ankle (four healed breaks, two titanium screws, and the inevitable arthritis).  That makes for a cranky Auntie J.

This morning was no real exception.

I finally get the twins and their bedding downstairs (figuring it was overdue for a wash), have them pick out cereal, and get them set to eat...only to have them fight over who is going to pray.

Medium Fry insists that she's going to pray for everybody's food.

Small Fry has a conniption, because she wants to pray for everybody's food, too.

I call a halt to the debate, and pronounce judgment.

They can both pray for all the food.

Medium goes first.  "Deawr Hebbenlee Faddewr, please help my sins to gwrow, an' my muscles, so I can gwrow big an' stwrong.  An' da food."

I sure hope God got as big a laugh out of that one as the one I had to muffle.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I was sitting here at my desk, uploading pictures from the camera and editing titles on a DVD-RW, when I heard a sneeze from the hallway.

A decidedly non-kitty sneeze, and since it wasn't Hubby or me, and the kids were all supposed to be in bed, it got my attention.  But when no small person appeared within the next thirty seconds, I assumed I must have misheard, and it really had been a kitty sneeze.  A doozy of a kitty sneeze.

I went back to my pictures and saved the title information on the DVD...and it was a good thing I didn't move on to the next title, because Medium Fry walked in.

Hubby looked up and noticed her, too.  "Hi, honey.  What are you doing down here?"

"Dewre's somesing scawwy in my wroom."  Medium clambered up next to him on the loveseat and snuggled in.

"Something scary?  What?"


"No, there can't be.  Do you know why?"

Medium shakes her head against Hubby's chest.

"What are monsters scared of?"

"Wittle giwrls."

"What else are monsters scared of?"


"Right.  Curtains."  Hubby stroked her back.  "Are there little girls in your room?"  Medium must have nodded.  "Are there curtains in your room?"  Another nod.  "Then monsters won't go in there."

Hubby hugged her.  "You need to go back up to your bed.  Can you do that?"

"But dewre awre wombats."

Ahhhhh.  Now we have a villain.

"Can you come up an' get da wombats out?"

"Yes, I can come get the wombats out."

Medium stood up, thumb in her mouth and duckie in hand, and shuffled towards the stairs, Hubby following.

It's always good when you know your daddy will get the wombats out.

Friday, May 13, 2011

I'm opening myself up for cute-childhood-story retribution.

Last night....  It's bedtime.  Hallelujah.  The Fries have been hyper little terrors tonight since Uncle D went to praise team practice.  Perhaps dessert was a bad idea....

So I'm tucking the twin Fries in.  I've gone through the routine: let them each ask a question, ask which blanket they want on them first, kicked out unfriendly monsters, giants and wombats, and told the friendly ones (Small Fry's friendly ones) that they have to go to Gramma and Boppa's (this is new).

I bent down to give Medium Fry a hug and a kiss.

"Deawr God," she mumbled.

"'Dear God' what?" I asked.

"Deawr God, please keep me fwom seeing da monstewrs.  Amen."

I grinned and gave her a smooch and a hug. That's a good prayer.

I went over to Small Fry to do the same thing.

"Deawr God," she says with an impish grin, "pwease keep me fwom seeing da giants."

Then she lowered her already-husky voice. "I weeywll do that."  She grinned happily at me.  "He talked back to me!  He said he'd do dat!"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why, yes. I truly AM insane.

Six months, start to finish (give or take).  Approximately 300 hours of work.  A squillion stitches.

 I've totally lost track of how many crib covers like this that I've sewn for babies of friends and family.  I think this one is in the neighborhood of #30.  (Five for Snarkydad and Supermom's five youngest, two for a close high school friend, two for my best friend JJ, one for my sister, 3 for the Fries....  The list goes on.)

I made this one for my dear friend MB's baby.  I'm rather pleased with the monogram of the baby's initials.  It's the first time I've attempted a monogram as a personalization, and I think it looks great!  Of course, I'm biased.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

To be brutally honest, this is not a holiday I thought I'd ever celebrate, except as the de-facto "mom" of ornery cats, whose only use for me was as food provider, litter-box scooper, water-bowl filler, and the occasional skritch-giver and warm lap.  Oh, and the one who gave the cats all their cool stuff, like "their" queen-sized bed, "their" couches, "their" floor rugs, tv, windows, and birdfeeders (for entertainment purposes).

For five agonizing years, Hubby and I tried to have children.  I have friends who have suffered miscarriages...my heart breaks for them, but I don't even have a miscarriage to prove I could even get pregnant.

In those five years: my best friend JJ conceived twice, a close high school friend conceived twice, my oldest nephew and his wife conceived only months after their wedding, Snarkydad and Supermom had one (if not two) of their youngest kids, my sister and her husband announced they were expecting, and my brother and his wife conceived...twice.

Pa'ani (aka Weasel), not a kitten now...
It was heartbreaking.

I cried a lot.

One month was so bad that Hubby came home with a kitten we didn't really need, but that I wanted, just to cheer me up.  (Hello, Weasel.  Yes, I'm talking about you.)

And while I was happy for my friends and family, my heart ached.

The fact that JJ was my best friend before she got pregnant and still is now speaks volumes of her gift of friendship.  She walked with me through it.  She let me cry.  I'm pretty sure she understood why I never felt the baby move.  She understood my deep hurt and deep delight, occurring all at the same time.

Then the unexpected happened.

Our lives got invaded.

And I've never been the same.

(I still think I've got it all over my sister, because I got my kids in one fell swoop, and she got hers one at a time, and had nine months to prepare for each.)

Fries, June 2008
Three little imps, one who was not quite three and twins barely 18 months old.

I really don't know who was more scared: them, or me.

My college roommate Peppermint asked me not long ago, as I recounted the loooooong story as to how the girls came to be with us, how long it took me to have the feelings of mother-love for the girls.

A matter of days, I told her.  Days.  If that.

How could I not?  Their entire little lives were now in my hands, and they desperately needed love and security.  While I cried daily for several weeks, being totally overwhelmed at times, I knew my fear and insecurity were nothing compared to how they must have felt.

Heaven help whoever might think of hurting them.

Fries, Easter 2009
By the time the Fries had been with us for a year, what love I had felt in those first few weeks was almost laughable when compared to how fiercely I loved them at that point.  It's something that has only grown, not lessened.

They were, my mother said, the "children of [my] heart."

So much so, in fact, that I did what some might think were some pretty crazy things.

I scoured the internet, searching for a specific Baby Gund retired duck, for Medium had latched onto hers as her security "blankie."  Mom had bought three of these little ducks at the Christmas Tree Shop for Easter of 2008, and it had gotten to the point that Medium had basically annexed all three of them.  If we couldn't find a duck at naptime or bedtime, there were problems.  (Read: major meltdown.)  The day that all three of them got misplaced and I had to conduct a search to find one for nap was the day I started looking online.  Mom had paid the outrageous price of $1.50 each.  I bought five ducks online, ultimately costing me about $7 per duck.  Plus shipping.

Downtown Disney, May '10

We took them to Florida and endured countless watchings of the "Shamu" DVD and nearly a year of praying for Shamu at every mealtime and the occasional bedtime.

I bought fleece fabric and had Mom make blankets big enough to cover the crib mattresses, because Medium, my soft-and-fuzzy addict, was griping about her crib sheets in garbled not-quite-two English and had completely stolen a pink chenille throw pillow so that she could have something soft to lay her face against.  The blankets went on top of the sheets, so that Medium could rest well.

I had my mom make fleece pillowcases because Medium was so much my soft-and-fuzzy lover that regular cotton percale pillowcases weren't soft enough.

We filed suit to protect the Fries when their own biological parents, in a fit of pique, revoked the powers of attorney we'd been operating under and transferred guardianship to someone who would, undoubtedly, put the children in danger.  We fought in court for custody, because we felt that our home, with a stable marriage, was a far better environment for these children than either of their biological parents, who were splitting up.  And it was the only home the twin Fries knew.  (We won primary physical and shared legal custody in August 2010.)

I had my mom make fleece pillowcases again this spring, this time for standard-sized pillows, because I knew Medium would still want something soft against her cheek.

We opened our home to these little ones, not being parents, understanding and yet not really understanding the massive change we were about to experience.

In the worst moments of the custody fight, in the moments of my deepest doubt, in the agonizing pain of barbs flung at us by my brother and his estranged wife...always, there were these three.

This is now my third Mother's Day with my girls.

I love them so much it scares me.

I love them so much that I've actually teared up when I see them playing happily in the yard, safe, secure, and knowing that they're loved.  That this is their home too.  That our kitties are their kitties.  Knowing that we'll always love them.

I love them so much that there have been nights that I've not turned on the tv, not turned on music, and just listened to the sounds of their breathing, and been filled with so much emotion I thought I'd burst.

I still have my days when I count myself out, when I think I'm screwing up this most important job I'll ever have, when I don't think I'm cut out to be a mom, and when I think somebody ought to just pack me off to the rubber room and leave me there because I totally don't get it.  And I think that, golly, my husband should hate me because I can't give him his own children.  And that I'm somehow letting my parents down because I can't give them more grandchildren.

Hula Fries, March 2011
And that's usually when a pint-sized person runs at me pell-mell, hugs the stuffing out of me, and happily chirps, "I love you!"

And when my husband tells me that he married me for me, not for my ability to bear children, and that these girls--to whom he has no blood tie--are just as much his children as I feel they are mine.

And when my parents eloquently remind me that more grandchildren is nice, but to know that these precious children are safe, secure and loved is worth far more than my ability to pop out half a dozen more grandkids.  And that, as far as they're concerned, I'm their mom.  Regardless of birth certificate. 

Because, after all, adoption--no matter what its form--is when your children grow in your heart, not in your tummy.  (A very wise little first-grade girl says that's the only difference between adoption and birthing children.)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Moment to Pause and Think

How on earth do I, as a parent, ultimately explain to my post-9/11 children the kinds of evil that Osama bin Laden committed?  How do I justify the actions of the elite team that took him out?

How do I describe why I believe it was necessary, and find it an abbreviated jump at justice, but find no pleasure in it?

From the anonymous at Ravensbruck, a well-known Christian apologist and a modern thinker, I can point to something to say.  Something right.  Something I can show my children in the years to come, as the questions begin and the unadulterated happiness of childhood begins to fade with the reality that creeps in.

A friend on Facebook (and in real life) wrote this, and I have to say, I like his choice of modern philosophers at the end.* 

*If his security settings prevent you from viewing, comment and I'll imbed the text here.