Christmas is coming!

Are you ready for it?

This is what seems to have become of Christmas in America.

What I thought about for 2,000 miles

I had a lot of time to think during my Thanksgiving road trip (over 1,000 miles each way).  The kid mostly watched movies and drew pictures (while taking special care to make sure that no magic marker in her collection will ever see its respective cap again). On the way to Oklahoma, I listened to music on my iPod, as well as parts of an audio book I'd purchased (the new one from David Sedaris). On the way back, I mostly listened to the radio.  I heard "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield at least half a dozen times on Saturday. I'd complain that there ought to be a law, except that my oldest and dearest friend is a die-hard Rick Springfield fan and I can't bring myself to besmirch his (Rick's) fine reputation.

As the miles ticked by, I thought about a lot of trivial things, such as "why do people tailgate me in the left lane and then, when I move to the right, move over and tailgate me there, too?"  However, I also found myself pondering a weightier issue: what will happen to my child if her dad and I are suddenly wiped out by a bus? I have no idea why I settled on something so morbid, but indeed my brain got stuck there. For hundreds of miles.

I did contact an attorney about this matter a couple years ago.  However, apparently you can't just issue a decree as to what will happen to your offspring if you kick the bucket.  You have to address the whole kit and caboodle - your entire estate and what will happen to it if you expire.  Both our kit and our caboodle are pretty far in debt.  It hardly seems worthwhile to address the property issues at this point.

We are mostly in agreement about what should happen to our daughter, though, and have passed that information along to family members.  If my other half and I both perish, we want my sisters to decide between themselves which of them is best able to raise another child (at that particular moment, at least). Basically, just do what is best for their niece. They are to do this without bickering and without the delivery of any sisterly nougies. If neither sister can care for A, we'd like my sister-in-law and brother-in-law to petition for custody.  We really have no idea how these things work from a legal perspective, but those are our wishes.

Obviously my plan is to live long enough to raise my daughter and then to be a complete and utter nuisance to her every day of her adult life. But if I can't, I just want to be assured that she'll be okay and that she'll become the person she's meant to become.  I want her to be a free-thinker, free to choose her own religion and way of life. I want her to take chances and to be extraordinary, but to live kindly and gently.

I hope my sisters are taking notes here.  If my daughter registers as a Republican, I will never forgive you! (Even free-thinkers have limits, people.)

Happy Thanksgiving

Lots to write about. Shad and I were in charge of a family reunion on my side this year. We chose Thanksgiving at my house.

22 people+ 3 days+tons and tons of food=wild, crazy and stressful, but super fun, full of love and incredible weekend.

I might have to blog it in parts. Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

*Picture is of Tanner right before school last week. His kinder class had a big pow-wow. Of course he loved it.

A Legacy of Lives

A very special woman got married on Saturday.

When I attended the wedding I more fully realized just how special she is. Hers was the largest wedding I had ever attended and a full one third (or more!) of the guests were children of all ages. The significant relationship these children had with the bride is that most of them met Heather for the first time in the first moments of their birth.

Heather is not a nurse or a doctor. Heather is a midwife. She trained with her mother, who is also a midwife, and together they have helped to bring many hundreds of children into the world, including our Samuel and Peter. Seeing all these children together celebrating the marriage of Heather and Walter, made me think deeply about her unique impact on the world.

The work that this mother-daughter team has done over the last two decades can only be described as completely selfless and loving. As a recipient of that loving service I can testify that what they do is a most important work and it leaves a legacy that can be seen in the faces of all those little humans who joyfully played at the reception as well as their mothers and fathers who hugged and blessed Heather with their attendance. These families all dearly love the bride and feel connected to her by a special friendship.

The reason that her wedding and reception had a standing-room-only crowd is because of that legacy. Midwives touch families in a way that no other people do. They not only build a relationship with the woman carrying a child but also with her husband and her other family members. They go into the homes of the families and give them loving care at one of the most significant events in their lives- the birthing and welcoming of a new baby.

With great personal sacrifice, midwives attend to the health-care and comfort needs of mother and baby. They are the most skilled and knowledgeable people about birth, I believe more so then doctors. That sounds like a ridiculous statement I know. Having had three homebirths myself and having attended several others, I can testify to that knowledge and skill. I had complications with my homebirths that were handled by my midwives with competent skill, gently and lovingly. Midwives have the skill and knowledge to help women birth babies that are in difficult positions or "stuck" babies. In a hospital setting these situations are not allowed but interrupted with surgery. Under the care of a midwife, women are gently coaxed and drawn through long difficult labors to accomplish what women have been doing naturally since the beginning of time. They are never left to suffer alone and unsure or treated as just one more patient. Midwives do a great service to women by empowering them- giving them control over their own bodies and babies and showing them what they are capable of doing during the most challenging moments of their lives. I am in awe of what they so compassionately do for women.

My admiration and respect for these women and other midwives runs deep. Midwives sacrifice so much of their own personal lives; they shoulder serious responsibility for the welfare of others and they do so with grace, love and honor.

I know that this feeling is shared by the many others whose lives they have touched like my own.

I have been blessed by my association with them and I am grateful for their love and friendship.

Weekend updates.

  • Thursday, after school, I met Kerri's teachers. We were all surprised to find out that in Kerri's old school they are teaching in first grade what should have been taught in Kindergarten. This means that Kerri is a year behind and has technically "skipped" a grade even though she really did not. Luckily, I homeschool quite a bit on my own, so I supplemented her learning. But she is behind this school's first graders in reading, writing and French. The teachers were amazed that she caught up with two months of homework in one week. And they seem to think she will be OK and catch up. The principal of the new school is now meeting with Kerri every day for half an hour to work on her reading skills! What a difference from one school board to the other.
  • Friday there was no school. So Kerri's boyfriend, (who just got over a stomach bug), decided to invite himself over to play with Kerri. He tried to compromise with Kerri in an attempt to convince her to let him play the Wii. She told him he wasn't her boyfriend anymore. He seemed to be thrilled she even considered him boyfriend material at this point. To make a long story short, they played for a few hours, argued a little bit like a married couple, laughed a lot like old friends, and then it was time for him to go home. Phew.
  • Friday evening Nana came over, and after dinner, we had a girl's night out. We went to see the new Harry Potter movie, which I really liked. But I am not used to staying out so late!
  • Saturday morning was busy, and I braved the Costco crowds on my own. While Daddy and Kerri went to Kung Fu, I prepared dinner for Carol and Andre's visit. We celebrated Andre's 62nd birthday and had a lot of fun!
  • Saturday night Kerri complained of a headache, and went to bed. At some point she threw up while asleep. At 2 AM she woke us, covered in a cold, sticky mess. Hubby stripped the bed, we cleaned her up, and she went to sleep with me.
  • Sunday morning, Kerri continued vomiting (I suspect boyfriend gave this to her). We could not keep anything down until 3 PM, when she was able to sip on a freezie. It has been a long day, and Kerri has spent most of it napping on the couch with a bowl next to her and Pookie at her feet. Anyone that knows Kerri, knows this is not like her.
  • This evening I received a phone call from her new speech therapist, who will see her tomorrow at school (providing Kerri is well enough to attend). The therapist will be seeing her biweekly, but will switch her to weekly sessions in January! If I thought we made a good decision in changing schools before, now I am convinced of it.
  • Chanukah is almost here and I still have not gone shopping! But I have a good reason. I am still trying to get over whatever I had, and have not been feeling well in weeks.
  • It snowed this weekend. My Mama Mobile was coated in ice and we had to break it off. She complained (her sensors kept flashing "ICE") and although she is not happy, she is handling the slippery roads really well for a Floridian. ;o)
  • Girl Guides is going really well. Kerri loves going. I am glad we joined.
  • Kung Fu is going really well too. Kerri is really progressing, and learning new things. She seems to be very competitive at times. But mostly she is having fun, and loves going. I think her Sifu and his family have a lot to do with that. Enrolling her in Shaolin Kung Fu was one of the best decisions we ever made, for many reasons.
  • Back to my procrastination. I have yet to decorate the house for the Chanukah and Christmas holidays. I did make cookies, but someone keeps making them disappear. I bought Kerri a Gingerbread house kit to make with her Nana, it has become quite the holiday tradition every year (as is carving a pumpkin!). Maybe I can convince Nana to help me set up the tree this year? And I am definitely looking forward to making my potato latkes this year. Yum! Kerri is looking forward to "gambling" (playing with the dreidle and using the chocolate "gelt" coins to wager). That too is becoming an annual tradition.
  • Pookie is now in clothing 24/7. Winter is here and he is always cold. When he isn't playing or harassing Kerri, he can be found cuddled in a ball next to one of us. Lucky for us, Tia has bought him quite the wardrobe. He is a bit spoiled, me thinks.
Life with Kerri is better when she is healthy.

The Turkey Report

A few notes on our Thanksgiving Day...

The organic turkey was by far the best, most succulent, melt-in-your-mouth tender turkey I have ever prepared or eaten. It was even better then our own home-raised birds. It was well worth the higher price tag!

Bobby Flay's Pumpkin Bread Pudding was good but I'd be satisfied with a mug of the Creme Anglaise for dessert. The Spicy Apple Caramel Sauce is also delicious for coffee or hot rum drinks.

Our mountain man guest (back left) was an interesting guest. A Gulf War vet, he had lots of stories to tell, some of them plausible, some... not so much. Everyone was glad he came.

The mountain man's dog, Captain Tuddles (aka Cuddles) was a retired/rescued IED sniffer from Iraq. His owner says the army gave her a purple heart when she retired.

At the after-dinner Shoot-out at OK Corral, the little boys graduated to the Annie Oakley line-up. My babies are growing up. {{sniff}}

Despite my concerted efforts to have a game of Pinnochle, I was rejected for the hallowed and sacred tradition of Shanghai. Isn't thirty-five years of this game enough? Can I introduce you to 500 or Euchre?? Shanghai was more interesting back in the day when the card sharks of the family tried their best to Shanghai the rest of the table.

And finally, in the last move of the game, after three hours of play, Kris managed a real, true Shanghai. I think it was an accident.

Then the kids brought out the Quelf.
Quite possibly the most insanely ridiculous game ever. I mean trippy.

I got talked into this game once and figured out very quickly that I am just not uninhibited enough to play.

How was  your Thanksgiving?

Have a magical day!

Today is our last full day of vacation.  Tomorrow we hit the road. Rather than splitting the drive in half, I'm going to drive the lion's share tomorrow and then enjoy (and I use the term loosely) a shorter drive on Sunday.  P leaves for work at 4:30 on Sunday so I'm trying to get home by then - the kid misses her papa.

We spent Thanksgiving at my sister's house.  With the exception of my brother-in-law (who was out on call), the rest of us are vegetarian.  So, there was no turkey on the table, but we managed to stuff ourselves nonetheless.  I brought two desserts I'd made - brownies and apple cake.  And here you thought pumpkin pie was mandatory! My sister did a great job and dinner was delicious. My youngest nephew wore some of his mashed potatoes on his forehead to show his appreciation.  Then Dan (the family's Bluetick Coonhound) did a drive-by whipped cream licking at the kids' table, which caused my other nephew to start shrieking and turning red.  I couldn't understand anything he was saying except "AAAAAAAAAAAH! DAN! AAAAAAAAH!"  Then the younger nephew climbed into my sister's lap and started eating from her plate, with the highlight being the part where he rubbed some of his mashed potatoes in her hair.  At some point, a largish glob of stuffing landed on the floor and someone stepped in it. The other dog, Jules, was on the case and ate it shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, my daughter announced that the dinner roll was the only item on her plate that she was willing to ingest. Thanksgiving dinner may not have been a glamorous affair, but I don't think we'd have it any other way.

My baby sister and I had made plans to go Black Friday shopping, but my brother-in-law was on call again so she couldn't go.  The kid and I spent the night and I got up at 4 a.m. to go shopping by myself (while my sister watched the kids).  I know a lot of people think it's sheer lunacy, but I actually enjoy the adventure of it all.  I don't think I would bother doing it in a big metropolitan area, but people in Oklahoma are legitimately friendly (even at dawn). There is a sort of "we're all in this together" vibe that seems to prevail. I hit Kohl's first and got some good bargains.  Then Target, then the Disney Store. The Disney Store had 20% off until 10 a.m.  I picked up the Rapunzel doll for the kid and got some stuff for my nephews.  The Disney Store was very busy, but the employees (I mean "cast members") had helpfully laid out red tape on the floor to lead the customers (I mean "guests") to the check-out area.  I dutifully followed the tape.  Someone was shouting something about having your ID available when you got to the register.  I sent a text to my middle sister while I was in line. "You are crazy," she wrote.  "Did you bring a flask?" Finally, a cast member checked me out.  I grabbed my bag and began to weave my way out of the store.  "Have a magical day!" she called after me.


Conversations with Kerri.

Kerri and I are Jewish. And her Daddy is Catholic. But Kerri has never seen a cross, nor does she know about Jesus - yet. It just is not something we taught her at home. When we recently had to switch her to a Catholic school because of the bullying, we knew she would be learning more about the Catholic religion. And Kerri has been coloring in lots of pictures like this one at school:

So I asked Kerri what this was a picture of. And this was her reply:

"I don't understand this school's fascination with the letter t."

Life with Kerri can be funny.

Protecting Kerri.

When we travelled to China, we noticed that homes had certain things hanging in front of their entrance doorway: scissors, a mirror, banners with guardian's names on them, etc. I do not know all the proper Chinese terms for these items. But I do know they are meant to protect the home from bad spirits and the like.

A couple months ago, I was talking to Kerri's Kung Fu Sifu (Master) about my memories of these items, and other things that I did bring back from China for Kerri. He seemed surprised that I knew so much about them and was interested in the Chinese beliefs. I never gave that conversation a second thought, until yesterday.

Yesterday, Kerri and I went to her Kung Fu class. And her Sifu told me they had just come back from Chinatown in Montreal, and had brought me back the mirror for the front doorway - the one that wards off bad spirits. I was so touched by their thoughtfulness! They handed me the beautifully inscribed mirror (with two hands, as is the Chinese custom), and explained how to position it correctly above our door. And I am ever so grateful for their kindness.

Tia and fate brought us to the Shaolin Kung Fu school and Master Ly, but the added bonus was that we made new friends in the process.

Here is a picture (the mirror is covered in protective paper and the item is in a plastic bag):

It also has Chinese writing on the back in red ink. I can't wait to hang this up this weekend!

Life with Kerri is surrounded by kind people who want to protect her. We are truly blessed.

The day I broke up with popcorn

The kid and her cousins
The vacation has been fabulous so far.  Well, until Monday night.

The kid and I spent Monday afternoon with my sister and her kids. My sister lives on a farm and owns chickens, goats, etc. I had two traumatic incidents that day. First traumatic incident: I witnessed chicken sex.  I was following my sister around as she fed her goats.  Suddenly, one of her chickens came running through at full speed and dove under a nearby bush.  A rooster was right on her heels, flying (well, sprinting really fast) after her like his tail feathers were on fire. He dove under the same bush, threw himself on top of the lady, and then pinned her down.  My sister said, "Oh, now you've seen chicken sex."  It was already over, though (apparently it doesn't take long for sweet love to be made when it comes to our feathered friends). I found it all a bit troubling, though.  It was like the original wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am.  I mean, he didn't buy her a glass of wine or compliment her shoes or anything.

Later, after we went out to lunch and then let the kids play at a park for a while (it was 70+ degrees outside), we went back to the farm.  I was sitting on the couch watching Dr. Phil. My younger nephew (age two) took the opportunity to take off his diaper and air out his business.  I was fine with that.  However, moments later the little guy climbed up behind me and hugged me around the neck. 

"Um, I'm not sure how I feel about my nephew pressing his manhood against my back," I confessed to my sister.  That was traumatic incident number two.

Later, A and I headed back to my mom's house.  I made the kid some popcorn before bed. She had been feeling a little iffy and handed the still-full bowl back to me a few minutes later.  Not wanting it to go to waste, I added a bit of butter and sat down to eat it myself.  You know me - waste not, want not.  Then my mom roasted some pecans (she has a pecan tree out front).  I was stuffed, but couldn't resist grabbing a few of the warm, buttery nuts.  I only ate a couple before my stomach advised me that I was done.  I went to bed soon thereafter.  

I woke up a couple hours later.  "Hey," I thought, "I'm cold.  But also sweating."  Moments later, I was hunched over the toilet as the popcorn and nuts exited my stomach at high velocity. (TMI! Sorry!) I crawled back into bed, continued the sweating/freezing routine, and eventually hurled twice more. Good times.  I thought of one of my favorite Brian Regan routines, where he goes to the hospital with a severe stomach ailment.  When asked, "What seems to be the problem?" he responds, "Well, it seems like my insides . . . want to be on the outside." 

On Tuesday morning, I woke up slowly and thought I might be okay.  I got up, took a shower, and took the kid to the store to get her a new Barbie DVD (because God knows you can never have enough of THOSE).  By the time we got back to my mom's house, I realized I had not rebounded after all.  I spent the rest of the day on the couch watching Judge Judy (Mom had lots of episodes on the ol' DVR). I momentarily pondered the idea of rallying and taking the kid to see the Megamind movie, but the thought of entering an establishment whose primary form of revenue involves popcorn was more than I could bear. Eventually I gave up on wanting to be conscious at all and went to bed, leaving my mother to deal with her granddaughter (who would, I'm told, spend the rest of the evening demanding to watch the Barbie movie, play Pretty Pretty Princess, play Don't Spill the Beans, and so forth).  By Wednesday morning, I felt mostly human again. I was afraid to eat (and still am, for the most part) but managed to have a fun day at the science museum in Oklahoma City with my sister, her kids, a friend of mine, and her kids.

I was disappointed to lose a day of vacation to illness, but was glad I had the luxury of lounging around until I felt better.  At first I thought maybe I'd just eaten too much fatty stuff (I have no gall bladder and technically, I'm supposed to stick with low fat foods, which I typically do) but later realized it was probably a virus, as my mom started feeling like poop the next day (and the kid has felt iffy off and on for a couple of days).  Anyway, I'm looking forward to enjoying the last few days of my vacation, preferably puke-free.  I can't help but shed a tear over the fact that I'll never be able to eat popcorn or roasted nuts again.  Or even say any of those words out loud.  Speak of them never. 

My Thanksgiving Menu

This has been our weather this week:

I'm posting this especially for those in sunny South Carolina or for those enjoying SUMMER down under in Australia. This is the kind of winter we are in for.

And there is nothing like some snow followed by melting boots, drippy coats and soggy gloves lying in front of the doorway to get a person into the holiday mood.

Tomorrow in America it is Thanksgiving which means that today is Food Preparation Day.

We are having a smaller crowd then usual which is okay with me but the kids have been complaining. A groaning board of fantastic food is not enough for them. They want relatives and cousins filling the furniture.

Here is our menu for the day:

The Ubiquitous Thanksgiving Menu

This year since we did not raise our own and since the crowd is small enough to afford it, I bought an organic turkey. Organic is my preference over a factory-farm-raised bird. I figure that when we had raised our own turkeys, (turkeys are eating machines) we easily poured $3 a pound worth of feed into them. I didn't see any organic store turkeys that were as big as what we raised though. One of them topped the scale that year at 40 pounds. That dinosaur did not fit into the oven.


After years of experimentation I now have developed a recipe I use every year. It always has the traditional bread and corn bread (which I make ahead), apples because we live in an apple valley and wild rice. I was born in Minnesota and my dad and other relatives harvested wild rice in canoes so adding it to our stuffing is a nod to our family heritage. I always stuff the bird then put the rest in a side dish to bake. The stuffing out of the bird is moister and more flavorful then the dressing in the side dish so just before it goes onto the table I mix the two together.

Mashed Taters and Gravy

Of course. I make my mashed potatoes with heavy cream. Sometimes I add parsley or chives. I make my gravy with the cooked potato water because that is the way my mother taught me.

Cranberry Salad

Back in the early days I got a recipe from my mother for a molded cranberry salad. It has been a staple on the menu ever since. I have tried to replace it with other cranberry salads which resulted in table banging rebellion. So we always have this salad which is made with raspberry jello, canned cranberry sauce, chopped apple, chopped orange, cinnamon and cloves. It is made in a ring jello mold because, like I said, we are from Minnesota!

Squash and/or Sweet Potatoes

Because somewhere there is a law written that there must be orange vegetables on every Thanksgiving table. This year it will be only our garden's buttercup squash. Because I don't need so many leftovers cramming the refrigerator.

Dinner Rolls

Homemade. Cracked Wheat Rolls. This is an old magazine recipe from my first Thanksgiving dinner. I am making these today because I have never found a better recipe. If you haven't tried these you are missing the best homemade dinner rolls ever.

The New Menu Addtions:

Sirloin Tip Elk Roast

Our son Neal got his first elk this year. It was a beauty. We will be having this wild game (and gravy?) along with our organic turkey. I don't know if they had any elk around Plymouth Colony in the seventeenth century but somehow it seems appropriate for a Thanksgiving feast.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

We never, ever ate brussel sprouts growing up. I never fed them to my children. Brussel sprouts have a very bad reputation and the first time I ate them (as an adult) they lived up to it. The sulfurous, cruciferous flavor made me go Hoi. Then I had them again a few years ago, prepared by a catering friend at a gourmet dinner event. They were sauteed with bacon and drizzled with lemon juice. The brussel sprouts were delicious and I have been a convert ever since. I will be roasting fresh brussel sprouts with bacon and apple and they will be drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction. If anyone complains or turns up their nose, I will gladly eat them all myself.


Has always and ever been pie. Pie, pie, pie. I have made hundreds of pies this year and I'm tired of pie.  I expect another rebellion from those not tired of pie. We'll be having Bobby Flay's Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Spicy Carmel Apple Sauce and Vanilla Creme Anglaise. Who can complain about that? Again, I will be glad to eat it all by myself. We are also having a pumpkin cheesecake with a ginger cookie crust.

And okay, fine. A pie. Maybe a chocolate pecan pie.

So that's the menu and for any of my family reading this, there will now be no surprises.

We will have one unusual guest.

Last fall when Mr. Dirtywrench was hunting up in the mountains he came upon a mountain man living back in the forest with his dog. Mr. D. has since seen him a few times hiking on the road to town to get supplies and he's done some investigating about him. Last week Mr. D. located him and invited him to our Thanksgiving dinner. The mountain man accepted the invitation.

And just so you don't think that our Thanksgiving is only about food, we start our day by attending a worship service at our church to properly give thanks for our abundant blessings.

I hope that you and yours have a wonderful day together and that your blessings are always more than you can count!

What are you going to be eating on this iconic American holiday?


As the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I want to make a list of all the things about Kerri I am grateful for:

I am thankful that Kerri has learned to trust us.
We were strangers when she was placed in our arms. She had never seen anything like us before, nor heard our language. We smelled different too. For a long time, she held on to the fear that we too would abandon her. So she would constantly be in survival mode: trying to please us, or pushing limits to see if we would give up. The trust took a long time to build, and was tested many times over. But I think we are finally over that hurdle, and Kerri is now free to be herself without worrying that her behavior would cause us to leave her. And she is not afraid to tell us anything - even when she thinks she may get into trouble.

I am thankful that Kerri's attachment issues are less prevalent with each passing day.
I am not that naive to think they will magically disappear some day. I know she will deal with this her entire life in some way. And although she still works hard to deal with some of her issues, she really has come such a long way. Gone are the RAD rages. No longer does she have to co-sleep. She no longer gorges or hides food. Kerri still needs the lights on at night, still needs us there with her until she falls asleep, but no longer has the horrific night terrors. Nightmares are few and far between.

I am thankful that Kerri survived serious medical issues that were not disclosed to us when we adopted her.
She recovered from RSV and a long hospital stay. Kerri had her skull re-shaped, and needed glasses right away. She had lead poisoning, salmonella, and dealt with the effects of drinking counterfeit formula in China. She recovered from the melamine damage to her gastric system and kidneys. She was malnourished, and this affected her eyes, teeth and her development. And she is dealing very well with her asthma and psoriasis.

I am thankful that Kerri is not an introvert.
Her Daddy and I are introverts. So it is interesting. We are grateful she is not afraid to try new things, take risks, and make friends. She embraces life and every challenge. And she is loving team activities: like Girl Guides, and Kung Fu. She says "Hi!" to everyone she meets, and is not shy about it.

I am thankful that she is learning good habits from us, not just the bad habits.
Kerri has a big heart, and is always helping someone. She loves to laugh and has an incredible sense of humor. She loves music and art, and is extremely creative. She has what seems to be an unending curiosity for learning. And a fascinating imagination. Her vocabulary astonishes me. And she loves to talk, and loves to read.

I am thankful that Kerri's sensory processing disorder has not greatly affected her.
This has yet to be seen, since it is causing some concerns at school. She still "tunes out" when she concentrates on something, which could be dangerous, and also affect her learning. And there seems to be some concern with how her mind works too. She "sees" things differently. She can do a puzzle upside down and backwards. She can write that way too. We are not sure yet if she is dyslexic. And she is still clumsy and sensory seeking in her behaviour. But so far, she is focusing very well in Kung Fu, and is learning a great deal.

I am thankful that Kerri's phonological delay is decreasing.
She can now be understood 60% of the time. And she has learned several new sounds. She works hard to pronounce sounds correctly. And her delay has not intimidated her in any way, she feels comfortable speaking and does not get frustrated as often.

I am thankful that Kerri is a normal height and weight.
Her medical issues have not affected her growth, and she is tall and fit. She is currently over 50 pounds and wearing size 7 tops and size 6X bottoms. And a size 13W shoe. She turned 6 in September, and she seems to be the same height and weight as her peers in school.

I am thankful that Kerri challenges me.
She can be stubborn sometimes. But she is always logical. And she has taught me that love and patience can get through the hurt and the fear. She did not love me right away, and I had to earn her love and trust. She did her best to push me away, and some of her RAD rages left me crying at night, wondering if we could ever reach her. And as quick as she is now to hug and kiss me, she is even quicker to point out when I do or say something she perceives as "wrong". She chastises me if I put my elbows on the table. If I say "stupid", I have to take a time out for saying a "bad" word.

I am thankful that Kerri embraces her identity.
We are a blended family, and each of us are different. Daddy is Canadian and French, Irish and Catholic. Mommy is American, Argentinian, German and Jewish. Kerri is very aware that she is Chinese, and all of the above. And she embraces her differences. She loves Kung Fu because there are several Chinese children in the class, and her teachers are Chinese. She loves Chinese foods, the Chinese supermarket, and learning about her heritage. She loves how she looks, and compares herself to Fa Mulan. She wants to learn Mandarin and return to China some day. And she wants to adopt Chinese girls. And at the same time, she embraces our ethnicity too. When you ask Kerri what she identifies herself as, she says: "I am Chinese-American-Canadian-Jewish".

I am thankful that G-d and China trusted me to be Kerri's Mommy.
Life with Kerri is something I waited a very long time for. And it was worth the wait.

Easy as Pie

Just in time for a Thanksgiving Pie-a-palooza, my niece Elizabeth is here to demonstrate how easy it is to roll pie crust. With the parchment paper method it is so easy, even a child can do it.

You simply roll your favorite pie dough recipe between two sheets of parchment paper.

After a few rolls, loosen the paper on both sides so that the dough will continue to expand in size.

When the dough is rolled to the needed size and thickness, loosen the paper again and remove one sheet. Then use the other sheet of paper to lift the dough and transfer it into a pie dish.

Crimp the edges of the pie crust in your favorite manner. Refrigerate the dough-lined pie dish while you prepare the filling.

Lizzy made an old-fashioned pumpkin pie.

It took more muscle to stir the filling then it did to roll the pie crust.

Put the filling into the chilled pie crust and bake!

It was her first ever pie and it tasted mahvelous!
For a more detailed tutorial on making pie crust, check out Pie Crust 101.

Thanksgiving is only two days away!
Are you making pie? What kind?

What to do with pumpkin puree?

So have you baked up some fresh sweet pumpkin? Now you have a load of pumpkin puree and you don't know what in the world to do with it?

Here's just a couple things that I did with mine this weekend:

Sunday Morning Pumpkin Pancakes

2 whole eggs, beaten
2 cups flour (any kind, I used spelt)
2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
 1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
a pinch of cloves
1/3 cup oil
2 cups buttermilk
Whisk together and fry on a hot skillet. Top with real maple syrup and chopped walnuts or pecans.

Saturday night we had pumpkin soup. I could have eaten the whole pot all by myself!

Curried Pumpkin Soup

Sautee one half of a chopped large onion and one chopped tart apple in two tablespoons of oil in a pot. After they are soft transfer to a food processor and puree. Put four or five cups of pumpkin puree in the soup pot and add the pureed onion/apple mixture. Stir in two cups of chicken broth or more, until the consistency is what you like. Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar or maple syrup. Season with salt (1 teaspoon), pepper (1/2 teaspoon) and 2 teaspoons of curry powder (more or less according to taste).

If there is still plenty of pumpkin puree to cook with there is always pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin cookies and pumpkin bread.

I made some pumpkin bread also that will be made into Bobby Flay's pumpkin bread pudding for our Thanksgiving feast. I can't wait to eat this one!

What are you cooking up this week?

We're he-ere

Heinz, one of my mother's millions of cats. She's just five cats away from appearing on an episode of Hoarders.

Well, we made it. I jokingly told a co-worker that I predicted the kid would ask, "Are we almost in Oklahoma?" before we got out of our own neighborhood.  I was wrong.  She waited until we were fifteen minutes away.  Fifteen minutes out of seventeen hours.

We drove for just over eight hours and then stopped at a hotel.  We got there at about midnight.  As it turns out, this hotel (which was actually more of a motel - some sort of family budget inn) was a hub for hunters.  The parking lot was full of pickup trucks and trailers.  One of the trailers had a dead deer lashed to the back. I was grateful that the kid had conked out by then, because I was way too tired to have to explain this sort of thing.

I checked in, woke the kid up just long enough to throw a nightgown over her head, and then we climbed into bed and fell asleep almost immediately.  Normally I would grouse about having to share a bed with Short Stuff, in as much as I find sleeping difficult when I've got a size 10 kid foot planted in my kidney.  However, I think we were both too exhausted to flop around much.  Oh, perchance do you know what time hunters get up? 4:45 a.m. Also, they are required to slam lots of doors before heading out into the woods.  When we got up, all of the trucks (and the carcass) were gone.

We spent another eight hours in the car on Saturday.  The kid would pipe up every half hour or so to announce: "We're in the middle of nowhere."  She wasn't just whistling Dixie - we truly were.  We'd go for hours at a time without seeing anything but plains and farmland - and an occasional hand-painted sign advising us to repent ASAP. Finally, we arrived in Oklahoma City and met my mom, sister, and one of my nephews at a Chili's, where I promptly ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio (I earned it, ya'll).  If I had realized then that my sister would be picking up the tab, I would have gone for a Grande Margarita.

We're all settled in, hanging out at Meemaw's house.  My daughter is spoiled beyond all belief.  My mother bought her a bunch of toys and then bought her two more when we stopped at a store.  And this doesn't even include any Christmas gifts - those are piled in the guest room and are, for now, unopened.  I'm planning to do a lot of relaxing over the next week.  What I'm not planning to do: drive a car.

Harry Potter's biggest fan.

Another weekend, and yet again Kerri is watching another Harry Potter movie. She is wearing her Gryfindor hat, has her wand in hand, and a broomstick close by. She practices her spells while watching the movie. You would think she would tire of watching the movies over and over again. Not Kerri.

The new Harry Potter movie has come out and we decided not to take her to the theatre to see it. Instead, I am going to wait until it comes out on DVD and we will buy it to watch at home. That way I can pause, stop or have her walk away if she gets too scared. But knowing Kerri, she will be glued to the set.

If she ever finds out that Hogwarts is not real, I think she will be heartbroken.

Life with Kerri requires an imagination!

what my kids spend 4-5 hours on a day, realistically

Of course with many, many interruptions, tantrums, requests (or demands) for food, fights with each other over markers, etc. And of course the day ends with a gigantic mess...tape stuck to the chairs, table and floor, markers, crayons, play-doh and pencils all over the floor and table, and a million "art projects" that heaven for bid should ever be thrown away.

Fresh Garden Pumpkin

We had a bumper crop of little sweet pumpkins in the garden this year.
We picked them and put them in storage a few weeks ago so that they would have some time to harden off and ripen before their Thanksgiving premier.

It is so very easy to make homemade pumpkin puree to be used in holiday desserts.

You simply cut up the pumpkin into even-sized sections and remove the seeds from inside. Put the sections into a baking dish and add a half an inch of water to the bottom of the pan.

Next lay a piece of parchment paper over the pumpkin and cover with aluminum foil. Seal the edges of the foil so that the water will steam the pumpkin while it bakes. Bake the pan in a 375 degree oven for 60-90 minutes until the flesh of the pumpkin is completely soft. It can be tested by sticking a fork in it.

After the pumpkin cools in the pan, it can be easily separated from the skin.

I have used it immediately like this with only a slight mashing with a fork but when I bake a large amount I like to put it into my food processor to puree it. In the absence of a food processor a simple old-fashioned potato masher will do the job. Or an electric hand mixer.

Take note that this is not done with the decorative jack-o-lantern like pumpkins. They have a stringy flesh that is not sweet for baking. The small sweet baking pumpkins are the ones to use.

This fresh pumpkin puree is now ready to be made into cookies, pumpkins breads, delicious soups and of pies. It can also be frozen in bags or containers for future use.

A pie made with fresh pumpkin is better then any other. The superb flavor and texture will satisfy and bring back memories of your grandma's pumpkin pie.

The Drive

The kid and I are leaving for Oklahoma on Friday afternoon.  When people find out we're driving (17 hours), they look at me like I'm barking mad ("barking mad" is my favorite British phrase of all time - please try to use it as often as you can). There is no convincing them of my sanity after that. I started to tell a co-worker, "Well, the benefit of driving to Oklahoma is -" but he raised his hand and interrupted me. 

"There is no benefit to driving to Oklahoma." Okay, fair enough. 

I made the kid sort through the contents of her room a few days ago and choose items to give to her little cousins (boys ages two and three).  She selected some toddler toys that she has outgrown*, some chunky board books, and a few stuffed animals (although did inform me that every single one was her absolute "favorite" even if she had not laid eyes on it since she was in diapers). Every time she would toss an item into the bag she would remark, "Yeah, I can sell that to my cousins."  I kept reminding her that we don't sell things to family members.  I picture my little nephew saying, "How much for the Elmo again?" and digging in some wee little wallet.

So, we are hauling the toys and whatnot, as well as a bed rail, a water table, a bolt of fabric, and lots of other bulky items that I'd never dream of mailing.  See, there is this one benefit, which is that I don't have to freak out over what will or won't fit in a suitcase. Another perk: I don't have to endure my lady parts being patted down by airport security.  Have you been following the news stories about the new travel procedures?  Full body scans, thorough pat-downs, etc.

I started packing on Monday.  Yes, it takes me five days to pack for a trip. I made a hotel reservation for Friday night (we'll stop at the halfway point).  On its list of features, the hotel notes that it is three miles from a particular detention center. That's some good marketing right there.  "One mile from McDonald's, three miles from the prison."  P suggested that maybe my lover lives there and that this whole "visit my mother" thing is just a ruse.

The week has been pretty hectic, but I'll be on the road Friday regardless.  Last night I went to yoga class so that I could, you know, ground myself and find my center.  My center has been a little bit irritable lately. This may have something to do with a certain foster puppy and rampant diarrhea, but that's a story for another day.  Anyway, I don't know if I'll manage to squeeze out another post before I leave but if not, I'll catch ya on the flip side.  Happy Thanksgiving!

*I tee-hee'd under my breath as I loaded the electronic Mickey Mouse phone into the bag.  It has no "off" switch. All you hear, all day long, is Mickey's voice saying, "Hi Pal! How are ya?" Oh, I'll miss it so.  I love you, sister o'mine!

Another first, big step.

My big girl took a huge, independent step today.

She took the bus to school for the very first time. She sat at the window and waved happily while I tried not to cry and the other Moms laughed at me.

And later that afternoon, I waited at the bus stop anxiously and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw her step off the bus:
And a very happy Mommy handed out leftover Halloween candied popcorn packages to all the kids at the bus stop, to thank them for making sure Kerri got on the right bus. Kerri's boyfriend turned to his Mom and told her he wanted me to pick him up at the bus stop from now on because I brought snacks!

Kerri loved riding the bus and sitting by the window. And I love that Kerri is so much braver than her Mom.

Life with Kerri is full of first, big steps.

Growing up too fast.

Just like that, it happens. Kerri is growing up right before my eyes. And I am so not ready for this. I want to hold on to my baby girl.

Kerri has been asking to go on the school bus for years. Due to her asthma, we never let her. With the bitter winter cold, and 20 minutes without access to her inhaler, it was just not a risk we were willing to take. But Kerri feels ready, even if we are not.

So I called. And found out she was approved for the bus last week. She will be so excited when I pick her up today and tell her. And I am a nervous wreck.

I wasn't this nervous her first day ever at school. Or the first time we left her with her Nana. But for some reason, the bus - to me - symbolizes her independence. Her right of passage. Her ability to go forth without us. And I am not ready!

I am already worrying about her. Wondering if she will know what bus to get on. I will talk to our neighbors today to see if they can keep an eye out for her (after all, they take the same bus). And I think tomorrow will be tougher on me than on Kerri.

If putting Kerri on a bus is this hard, what can I expect down the road? Oy.

Life with Kerri is changing.

I'm A Bag Lady

I got a shopping bag for my birthday.

And I love it!

I've only used regular old paper and plastic bags when shopping though I have occasionally (read "rarely") remembered to take along a canvas bag or a homemade bluejean bag. The problem is that they aren't very attractive; they aren't big enough to hold much; and I can't remember to keep them in the car so they are ready when I go into a store.

So I've been stuck with a cupboard stuffed full with paper sacks and plastic bags that I recycle when I can no longer shut the cabinet door.

Then my friend, Karen, gave me this lovely, heavy-duty, large capacity, water-proof work of art!

I've been enjoying its use so much that I decided to splurge and buy another one for myself so that all my groceries and Wally World purchases can come home in style. I have found that one of these bags can hold the equivalent of at least four of those plastic shopping bags.

This is SO my style!

I've never been enticed by the shopping bags with store names or cause logos on the side. I don't care to be a walking sign board for where I shop.
 But this? Adorable!
They add some charm to the mundane chore of grocery shopping.

And I know where to go if I want to find more like these.

After handing over all my money to a clerk in a store, I can still leave the store with a little smile.