"We wanted you more than anything."

When I got home from yoga class last night (around 8:30 or so), my daughter was in bed, reading. I went in to give her a kiss and tuck her in. As I got closer, I noticed a tear sliding down her cheek.  Then I saw what she was reading. It was the storybook I made a few years ago when we had the big adoption talk with her.

"Why are you crying, sweet girl?" I asked. I was almost afraid to ask, because I sensed that it wasn't the usual "Dad wouldn't take me to Dairy Queen" stuff.  I inhaled slowly and held my breath for a moment.

"Because I can't see J," she replied.  Tears immediately sprang to my eyes. I scooped her up and held her in my arms, rubbing her back with one hand and smoothing her freshly-washed curls with the other. I told her that J, her birthmom, lives far away but that I'm sure she will see her someday.

"If you want, you can write her a letter and I'll mail it to her," I offered. She nodded. 

I do have periodic contact, via email, with my daughter's birthmom, and I'm fairly certain she would be okay with receiving a letter. At age six, A mostly only writes about kittens and rainbows so I'm not sure what she plans to say, but I'll be happy to mail it for her!

Before tucking her back into bed, I asked, "Do you have any questions I can answer for you?" I always try to make sure, when this topic comes up, that I don't leave her with any lingering questions or misconceptions (I remember how my brain worked at her age - for the life of me I couldn't understand how I could turn off the radio and then turn it on later and the same song wasn't still playing. How could it go on without me?) She shook her head no, but then asked me if we had given her a bath in the hospital when she was born. I have told her in the past that the nurse showed us how to give her a bath when our new daughter was just hours old. We certainly needed the lesson- we had no idea what we were doing. I'm not sure why she is fixated on this, but maybe it has something to do with the need to know she was connected to us right from the start. I have read that all adoptees must work through feelings of abandonment and that there is really no way around it. However, I'm hoping to lessen that burden for her because really, she has always been with us. We were in the delivery room when she was born. Her birthmom loves her very much and thinks about her every day (I know this because she tells me so). There was never a single moment when A was unwanted by her birthfamily or by us. I'm hoping all of this will click with her, but I would also never want to downplay her feelings, whatever they may be.

She thought for a moment. "Mom, how many diapers did you buy for me?" Easy questions - yes!

"I don't know," I responded. "About a million, it seemed like? We kept them over there, on your changing table."  I pointed to where the table used to be.  I could almost still see the ten-month-old version of my daughter, gleefully pulling the diapers off the low shelf and flinging them one by one onto the floor.

She laughed.  "I was naked when you gave me a bath at the hospital?" 

"Yeah, that's usually how these things usually work, Goober," I said. I tucked her back into bed and pulled her comforter up to her chin. I leaned down close and kissed her on her tear-stained cheek, then laid my head against her chest. "We wanted you more than anything," I whispered. 

She nodded, smiled, and closed her eyes.

My little helper

Smart phone pictures!

Nana and Kerri at a coffee shop.

Daddy and Kerri watching "Spykids 4". Kerri loved the movie, although she had to cover her ears several times because it was too loud and hurt her ears.

I just figured out how to save pictures I take with my new Android phone and put them here. I may have a smart phone, but it has a dumb user!

Life with Kerri is picture perfect.

Blueberry Maple Syrup

We are having a bumper crop of blueberries this year.

Whether it's because of the weather, the fact that I was too lazy to prune the bushes too hard last winter or some other unknown factor, we have so many to harvest that we can't keep up with the picking. They are exceptionally sweet this year too. Our freezer was empty of berries so we're very glad to get them and it's such a blessing to wander around the front yard every morning grazing on berries for breakfast. We just don't get tired of those fresh anti-oxidants.

When I met up with my daughter, Katie, in Oklahoma, she brought me a load of her home-produced maple syrup. My son-in-law gathers the sap in February and they cook it down in evaporators with their Amish neighbors. It's great to have a ready supply of this quality, natural, mineral rich sugar. I love it in my morning coffee.

With such an abundance of blueberries it's finally time to make some more blueberry syrup. I don't like to use white sugar to make the syrup so was happy to find a recipe for blueberry maple syrup. It' so simple and straightforward and results in a delicious pancake syrup.

To make about two cups of syrup, combine in a pot: 6 tablespoons pure maple syrup, 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, 1/4 cup water and 2 or 3 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice. Heat and simmer for five minutes until berries are soft.

As you can see I made a big pot. I used twelve cups of berries and a whole quart of pure maple syrup.

When the berries are soft, strain the berries and juices through a fine mesh strainer or a food mill. Press the berries to extract as much of the berry goodness as possible. Discard the solids in the compost bucket for the chickens.

Since I made a large pot I reheated the syrup and sealed it in pint jars.

When I brought out the blueberry syrup for Sunday morning pancakes, nearly a whole jar disappeared during the meal. That means I'll need to repeat this project about seven more times to have enough to last until the blueberry harvest next summer. Which means I'll need more maple syrup.

What a great Christmas gift home-made blueberry syrup would make too!


Shad and I, along with Ross and Lillie, took our 3rd trip to Hawaii together. The first trip was to Oahu, the second to Kauai and this time we did Maui. It was so fun.

Lillie and I haven't swapped all our pics yet. Most of the ones of Shad and I are on her camera. Most of her and Ross are on my camera. So basically get ready for way too many photos, because that's the way Lillie and roll (sorry Shad and Ross....you were good sports).

But here's a iPhone pic of the 4 of us.

Test results are in.

After three days and several hours of testing, our speech language pathologist (Melissa) found three additional areas to work on with Kerri. (I will know more next week when I pick up the report with the "official" diagnosis on it.) I was also informed my daughter is gifted, which is why she has been able to "get by" all these years undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. And I was told Kerri has an exceptional memory - something we already knew.

Therapy commences next Wednesday. In addition to the professional therapy in her office, Melissa will also be providing me with training to work on a specific therapy (guided lesson) plan at home. Kerri is now being referred for a psychological educational evaluation to further diagnose her visual/motor skills. And Kerri will continue separate therapy at school for her phonological delay.

I absolutely love Kerri's speech therapist Melissa. She has such a great rapport with Kerri, and is so upbeat and positive - she loves her job and it shows. Kerri loves going to see her and enjoys her therapy sessions! And every child - that I have seen leave her office - does so with a smile, truly happy and engaged. Just like Kerri.

This Friday I am picking up Melissa's recommendations for the school board to implement. And next Tuesday, on Kerri's first day of school, I will be personally handing them in to her second grade teacher, whomever that is. I hope her teacher this year will be as wonderful as her first grade teacher was.

So we will be spending the rest of the day outside playing with neighborhood friends. And enjoying the last week of summer vacation - before school and some serious therapy sessions begin.

Life with Kerri is on a mission.

Weekend with Nana.

It's always fun when Nana comes to visit.

And Kerri is always willing to pose for Nana, even if she is in the middle of playing with her friends.

And sometimes the kids just love to hang out on the love seat and watch TV.

But no matter what they are doing, Nana and Kerri always love being with each other. And Nana goes home convinced she is not ready to have a child after spending a day or two with Kerri.

Life with Kerri is more fun when shared with cousin Nana.


When I left for Oklahoma, this is what the back entrance to my little farmhouse looked like:

A few days later when I returned, this is what it looked like:

I'm glad I missed the in-between part that happened here.

This was the start of the home improvement project that has been planned and intended for a few years now. It isn't spring any longer, our original start time, but we do hope to get the bulk of the building done and a roof over it before the rains begin in October. We better get hopping.

The final assault for this phase took place a few days ago with the removal of the porch and the old concrete steps that were under it. Jack hammers may have been used.

Our three youngest men were put to the clean-up task.
Working hard or hardly working there, guys?

first grade....i'm still not ready

and he's sitting in his first grade classroom, right now.

why do they have to be gone for so long everyday?

i already miss his little voice in the background.

summer went by way. too. fast. i wish we could have summer all over again.

i held up strong, and acted super excited for him to go to school (i think i did a good job faking it), we met his teacher, Mrs. Root....apparently the "one" to get (so i hear from the other moms...obviously i'm still new at this), and walked to the play ground. it was too hot. much too hot. it's supposed to get to 112 degrees today. he got hot and sweaty, didn't see his friends from last year, started crying, wouldn't let go of me and said he wanted to go home.

i did everything i could think of to get him to stay. i reminded him of how much he loved kindergarten and how he hated missing school last year. i reminded him of the parties, the monkey bars, the art projects and his friends. i bribed him with no-bake cookies when he got home after school. he wouldn't bite. i'd finally given up and thought i'd have to leave him bawling at the door to his classroom, when i remembered he's had his eye on the new Batcave (a fisherprice toy that he looks up on Amazon every day to stare at....he's been saving his chore money). i whispered in his ear, "come everyday to school this week, and on friday, we'll go buy the batcave". done. as fast as he could he went to his seat, and as fast as i could, i walked out the door.

maybe i shouldn't have bribed him. i'm sure she wouldn't have agreed.

but i don't care.


This past week Kerri has been undergoing a series of tests to confirm her diagnosis and start therapy and recommendations for an IEP for school. In a few days she will be undergoing testing for a visual disability and for dyslexia.

Kerri is also being referred for other testing and therapies to deal with her coordination issues, but our primary focus right now is to target the more immediate issues that are affecting her ability to learn and hear clearly.

We already knew Kerri was brilliant, but the test confirmed that. She scored extremely high on language comprehension and above average on all her other tests when they were done in a very quiet, sound proof room. So we confirmed that her intelligence and comprehension is not really the problem. Kerri's ability to comprehend was greatly reduced when minor background noise was introduced to the test. And when there is loud noise, Kerri says it hurts her ears and she covers them with her hands.

We learned that Kerri definitely has CAPD - Central Auditory Processing Disorder. It basically means Kerri cannot process the information she hears in the same way as others do, which leads to difficulties in recognizing and interpreting sounds, especially the sounds composing speech. Hence her severe phonological delay. And it probably was caused by the lead poisoning she had in China. So we finally have a confirmation of what I have been telling her doctors all along. Mamas listen to that gut of yours, mine has never been wrong!

Kerri's phonological delay has greatly improved with years of speech therapy, which she is continuing to receive. Additionally, she is now going to start therapy for the CAPD. In the meantime, we have pulled Kerri from Kung Fu, and are focusing on all the different therapy sessions. But Kerri is an unstoppable force to be reckoned with, and will continue to pursue extracurricular activities like Girl Guides and sports until she is ready and able to go back to her Kung Fu training.

So we are starting to get some solutions. And that is a very positive thing.

Life with Kerri is in process.

Back to Schooooool

School starts on Thursday.  My baby will be in first grade. I'm excited to see what she will learn this year, how she will change and grow. What I'm not looking forward to: filling out paperwork. I understand the need for the emergency contact forms but some of it feels a little like overkill.  Maybe it seems worse than it is because I also have to fill out a lot of paperwork for Kindercare (where A goes for before and after school care). Last week I had to submit FIVE forms in order for Kindercare to drive my kid the mile or two to school each day. I am not exaggerating - I counted them. I can only imagine how daunting all of this must be for parents who have multiple school-age children.

I stupidly waited until after our vacation to buy school supplies.  I guess I just don't like to think about summer ending until it's actually over. I did pick up a few items when we were on vacation and happened to be in a Dollar General store, but I figured I'd wait until we got back to obtain the rest.  The list I received from the school was pretty lengthy.  I went grocery shopping Saturday morning and then headed to another store for the school supplies.  Empty shelves.  The school supply aisle was all desert winds and tumbleweeds.  The on-the-ball parents had already been there and cleaned the joint out. Gah!

When I got home, I posted this on Facebook: Clearly I waited too long to buy school supplies. Who do I have to sleep with to get some bleeping glue sticks!?!?

I got quite a few responses from friends and acquaintances. Some commiserated with my plight and some offered to send me glue sticks. From this I can only conclude: a) most of my friends are more organized than I am and b) a few of them really want to sleep with me.  

Two full bags of required supplies (the ugly shoes are in there, too). The kid needs to get a job.

Summer Saturday Kitchen

It's August, for a few more days anyway, and that means that there are wonderful things happening in the garden and in the kitchen.

One of my very favorite summer garden flowers is oriental lilies. This majestic white beauty is called Casablanca. Since I can see it from my wicker chair perch on the deck I haven't had the heart to cut it. Their bloom lasts so much longer on the plant.

But I had to bring this amazing one into the kitchen so I could enjoy its fragrance.
Despite the best efforts of an underground varmint to eat all my lily bulbs, I have a few of these to enjoy. I have many more of the Asiatic variety but these Orientals just knock my socks off every time.

Alyssa and I spent the morning in the kitchen preserving some of the garden bounty that has just begun to be harvested. Yesterday a customer gave my husband a box of fresh ripe peaches so Alyssa peeled and sliced them.
I'll make a peach pie filling by baking the sliced peaches with sugar, cinnamon, tapioca starch and butter in a 350 degree oven until they are bubbly. Just like making a pie without the crust. After the filling cools completely I can freeze it in containers for future pies or maybe I'll throw a pie together to eat now. I have found that making a filling like this for peach pie is the best way to avoid those soggy bottom pies that juicy fresh peaches tend to produce.

I also took our first good harvest of basil. Alyssa made several batches of pesto that we put into the freezer to enjoy over the winter.

Except Alyssa's asking for pesto pasta tonight.

I spent the morning picking blueberries, making strawberry jam, blueberry jam and blueberry syrup.
Later this week I'll post the easy recipe for making blueberry syrup.

Chocolate Banana Muffins

No sugar.

No artificial sweeteners.

No white flour.

Really, really good.

Chocolate Banana Muffins
**adapted from Smart Muffins, by Jane Kinderlehrer, and changed by Rebecca and myself

1 large egg
3 T melted butter
1/4 c honey
3/4 c mashed banana
2/3 c plain yogurt (I used greek)
1/4 c fresh pitted dates (sugar medjool is my favorite variety for this recipe)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 c + 10 T of whole wheat flour, spelt flour, Kamut flour, etc
1/3 c cocoa
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
3/4 t salt
1/4-1/2 c finely chopped dark chocolate (optional...and obviously this has sugar in it)

In a food processor, or blender, combine egg, butter, honey, bananas, yogurt, vanilla and dates. Process until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients with dry, gently and just until combined. Scoop into greased muffin tins. Bake at 400 degrees. For mini muffins, it makes 24, and they cook for about 12 minutes. For regular sized muffins, it makes 12 and they cook for about 16-18 minutes. Remove from tin immediately.

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

I am drowning in dirty laundry and piles of unopened mail, but I thought I'd take a quick moment to update my blog. In short, we had a fabulous vacation at the lake. My wee baby sister and her family drove up from Oklahoma and we met at a Shell station in the small town closest to the cabin. It's impossible to explain to someone how to get to the lake (miles of winding dirt roads), so our best bet was to have them follow us the rest of the way there. They had actually arrived the day before and camped nearby. They also brought a bunch of ATVs to ride. Did I ride one? Yes, I did, albeit briefly. Now you are probably wondering if I've been abducted and replaced with a pod person.

My daughter was so excited to spend time with her cousins (as well as her aunt and uncle, of course).  My nephews (ages 2 1/2 and 4) spent a lot of their time smacking each other (I guess this is what happens when kids are sixteen months apart and are, well, boys).  At one point we all went swimming in the lake and we had the boys in a small inflatable raft.  They immediately launched into a full-blown fist fight. This seemed like a poorly-conceived plan on their part in as much as they were in the middle of a deep lake - where did they think they would go?  When they weren't clobbering each other, they enjoyed fishing, riding the ATVs, watching movies, and running around with their cousin. We took all of the kids to a state park for a little hike, and they did great. They even held hands most of the way, which was beyond adorable.

Despite having three young children in the cabin, my vacation was still fairly restful. I read a book in its entirety, which I seldom have time to do. I slept in - well, 7:30 is sleeping in for me. Yesterday morning I stayed in bed for a few extra moments and was rewarded with a visit from a hummingbird just outside the window (I could easily hear the beating of his wings) and the call of a loon out on the lake. That's good stuff.

Two funny memories from the trip:

1. My youngest nephew was wearing a Carhartt shirt that had the words "Tiny but tough" printed on the front. We were out to lunch on Sunday and A remarked on the shirt.  However, she read it as "Tiny Butt Touch."  Needless to say, we got a lot of comedic mileage out of that for the rest of the week.

2. We had a fire in the firepit every other evening during our stay (we would have had a fire nightly except that we found it too exhausting to keep yelling at the kids to stop running precariously close to the flames). After we were done roasting marshmallows, we would usually burn a few items from our quickly-accumulating garbage, like paper plates and such. On the first night, P went to the cabin to grab a bag of garbage and brought it back to the firepit. One of my nephews spotted the white bag and shouted, "White trash!" Of course, the grown-ups in our group chuckled a bit. Spurred on by that, all three kids proceeded to march around the fire yelling, "WHITE TRASH! WHITE TRASH!" as loudly as possible. It is also worth noting that sound carries over the lake like nobody's business. Occasionally I can hear people talking on the other side and I swear it's as if they are standing right next to me.

Here are a few photos from the trip.

Park Day Poolside

The other day it got up to 115!  Since it is too hot to enjoy the parks in the area we have been having fun at splash pads and the pools.  We had a great time staying cool the water the other day with the little ones.  Can't wait to go back for more fun in the sun and splashing around!

Noon temperature at the pool!

Such a fun pool area for little ones!


Here comes the water! 

Snack Time


is 6 1/2 old enough for him to make pancakes by himself?

he only did the cooking for this batch.

mixing is easier than cooking. right?

i think we're on to something.

Photo Album

All right. I'm going to share some random photos from the Pie Workshop Weekend at The Lodge and then we'll move on, because....aren't you tired of hearing about it by now? These photos are mostly of food and the preparation of it because food was why we were there in the first place.

I am a salad lover. Love, love, love a good salad. This was a good salad. Spinach with bacon and poached eggs drizzled with mustard vinaigrette. Classic and sooo yummy. It accompanied those cheesy grits and pork loin with apples. I ate it for breakfast and lunch too. I'll be swimming a few extra miles for a while to work that weekend off my hips.

Friday was our prep day for the workshop. There was much to get ready. Alyssa valiantly squeezed lemons for my lemon curd.

My girls made a small trailer load of pie dough. They know how to make my pie dough better than anyone else.

Ellen chopped mushrooms for Tiffany's pot pie fillings.  Tiffany, by the way, was the assistant cook that made this workshop so successful. She was masterful!

Vivacious April did the grunt work with the apples and the dirty dishes. Always with a smile on her face.

Ree cooked for us again Friday night. She's good at that. I'd like her secret to staying so svelte.

Friday night supper was a delectable Asian style chicken on egg noodles. Afterwards Evan licked everyone's plates and cleaned their chicken bones. It was that good.

Saturday morning prep included getting the mise en place ready for quiches. Roasted red peppers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and spicy sausage set a mostly Italian theme.

Ree's willowy girls swept up a bit before the guests arrived.

April's Ellen and my Alyssa bonded over the baby.

More food. Yes, because can there ever be enough food? This was the spread put out for the guests to graze on in case they got hungry while making pie. Delightful chicken salad wrapped in crepes was my favorite. And I loved that simple cheese with jalepeno jelly!

The buffet of pastry goods was sampled but the whole fruit pies in the pretty fluted glass pans went home with their makers. The newly minted pie bakers were thrilled to share the fruits of their labor with friends and family at home. A couple of those mini quiches went on the plane home with me which was appropriate because pie was the pre-sandwich era travel food.