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Saturday, January 31, 2009
Because I Never Procrastinate
No, it wasn't procrastination. It had to be something else. Why else would a post I meant to write almost two weeks ago just now be appearing?

At the end of our unexpected 5-day weekend, four of which were spent stuck inside during -19 temps and a foot+ of new snow fall, Jim and I decided to spend that Monday together. He took Sera to daycare while I showered and dressed and then we headed out. We went to lunch, where I could order what I wanted without making sure it was something Sera would like and eat. We had a wonderful meal at a restaurant that's fairly new around here, Granite City. It's a midwestern chain that I had never heard of until it opened here.

We had a wonderful meal and took our time. No rushing to get out before Sera's patience wore out. I would not give up one minute with Sera, but it was very nice to just relax, have a meal, and converse with my husband. We even ordered a big decadent chocolate dessert. We never order dessert.

We left the restaurant in time to catch the first showing at the local theater. That's now the third movie I've seen in a theater in the last two years. Luckily, I really don't miss it because we enjoy the drive-in so much during the summer. In any case, it was fun to actually see a grownup movie in a movie theater.

We went to see Defiance. I think I enjoyed the movie more than Jim did. The opening scene was very difficult as you see families ripped apart by Nazi soldiers sending the female Jewish villagers one way and the males another. I've become much more sensitive to scenes of mothers and children being separated. Knowing their outcome did not make this any easier to watch.

The film was based on the true story of the Bieski brothers and their time in the forests of Belarus. Literally hundreds of Jewish refugees found their way to this forest to hide. Over 1200 walked out years later alive and well. They built homes, schools, even a hospital, all while hiding from the German army.

I found the movie to be touching and very well acted. Daniel Craig and Liev Shreiber were just awesome.

Maybe it wasn't dinner, but it was a meal and a movie with my husband, and I enjoyed it.


Monday, January 26, 2009
Bring On The Cow!
I've wanted a freezer for years. We have a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer that holds hardly anything. Shortly after we moved in we bought a used refrigerator from a co-worker of Jim's for $50. It was old with the freezer on top. It also has a bullet in the side. She sold the refrigerator because her insurance paid for a new one after her house was mistaken for a crack house and shot up in a drive-by. Luckily, neither she nor her dogs were hurt. She no longer lives there either.

Anyway, that became our backup freezer. Even better, it's a backup refrigerator. We keep it stocked with beverages, and it comes in very handy when cooking for holidays.

Today's newspaper advertised this deal at our local grocery store. If you spent $100 on meat, seafood, or frozen foods, you could buy the freezer for $99. It's not the upright freezer I've wanted. I'm afraid of what I'll lose in the bottom of the chest. But $99? It's worth the risk.

We've always wanted to take advantage of the deals our butcher offers a few times a year where you buy a whole, half, or quarter cow. I think we can do it now.


Sunday, January 25, 2009
Gung Hay Fat Choy


Saturday, January 24, 2009
Flat Out Tired
It was an early start. We usually get out the door by 6:30 am. Today, I had to be out by 6:00 am.

I took nine of my students to a town one hour to our south to compete in the district level competition of BPA. This was our first competition. It's also our first year as a club. Our chapter president was active in BPA during her freshman and sophomore years at another high school in our district.

She transferred over her sophomore year. Since she had already qualified to go to state, she was allowed to participate through her old school. We didn't have a chapter. She talked to me then, but we were in adoption wait mode. I was living each month thinking we could be next. I certainly couldn't commit to this.

Her junior year was our first year home with Sera. I was trying to negotiate the timing of my new life. I just didn't have the time to give another new endeavor. Sera was, and always will be, my first priority.

When she approached me at the end of the school year last year, I told her to get the ball rolling. I'd sign on as the sponsor. She didn't need me to say it twice.

We had a good turnout at the beginning of the school year and ended up with a dozen students who committed to competing. Of the 12, 9 competed today. We lost three this week. We lost two when the competition was postponed a week due to the unbelievably cold weather last week. The third one overslept and missed the bus.

We had a team of three and an individual win first in their categories and six of the eleven have qualifed to compete at the state level.

I've very proud of them, and very, very tired.


Thursday, January 22, 2009
Another First

I've been a bad blogger this week. I have no excuse other than I just feel tired. I guess having to work for four days in a row this week is more than I can handle. HA! I've had a post on the back of my mind, but haven't felt inspired to write it when I have more than 10 minutes to write it.

Last night, Sera and I were cuddling on the recliner in her room before bedtime when she pulled out this Language Littles doll named Ling. It's easy to find the 16" version, but this is a smaller version that only says four things in English and Mandarin: hello, how are you, I love you, and good bye. My secret pal during our wait included this in one of her gifts. It is adorable.

Sera has played with her on and off, but last night she was enthralled. She also pulled out a tiny Barbie that she received in a happy meal. She gave me the Barbie while she kept Ling and asked me to play with her. We undressed and redressed Ling to get her ready for the ball. Then both of them started dancing and talking to each other.

Why is this significant? It's the first time Sera has done interactive play with dolls like this. By the way, their collective name to her is dollies. She has been playing with her babies for a long time. That play is all about her taking care of her babies. This play was about changing clothes and going to parties.

My baby is growing up.


Saturday, January 17, 2009
Beneath the Surface
I've been living a risky life. All of our pictures and videos of Sera are on my laptop. I've burned the China photos to a dvd, but hadn't done the others. I also didn't have a good backup system in place. Talk about living on the edge. I'd noticed the last few months that my laptop had gotten slower and slower, but didn't really think about it. A few weeks ago, it was annoying me enough that I decided to do a disk cleanup. I couldn't remember the last time I had. Imagine how startled I was when I got a message that my hard drive was too full to defrag. Yikes!

I decided it was time to get smart and bought an external hard drive. A 1 terabyte hard drive at that. Our good friend, Eric, came over and set it up on our network. It now holds the backups for both our computers, plus it's the new home for my media files. I'm going to burn dvds, too, but I'm in a whole lot better shape. I've already released over 18 gb of information from my laptop.

Last night I was copying over videos and watched the one where Sera was placed in our arms for the first time. The emotions that popped to the surface were overwhelming. I remembered the joy of the moment for me, but I could see the terror of the moment on Sera's face.

Sera loves seeing herself in pictures and in videos. This afternoon we showed her this one.

Part of our nightly routine (on my nights) is telling her story. I've read I Love You Like Crazy Cakes to her for well over a year. A month or two ago, I put the book down and started telling her her own story, but I paced it like the book. She recognized the familiar parts, but now it's personalized to reflect our story.

This afternoon, I pulled her on my lap and asked her if she wanted to see the video from the day we got her. She was very excited and loved watching it. She commented on the crying baby in the background, pointed out daddy, pointed out mommy, and pointed out the baby. We talked about the baby being Sera. She was laughing and loving the video. As each clip ended, she asked for more. I kept clicking on the next one. About five or six clips in we got to the one where our local guide was asking the SWI ayis my questions. Jim was videotaping because we knew neither of us would remember anything they said in the emotion of the day.

I had been watching Sera watch these videos, so I noticed right away that this video was different. She was staring intently with her eyes glued to the laptop. Her thumb slid into her mouth. After a few minutes, she scampered up and turned around so that I was holding her to me instead of her just sitting on my lap. I closed the clip and went to the ones from later in the day. Ones that showed just the three of us playing and laughing. She turned back around and started laughing again. After a few minutes, I ended the videos completely. I had wanted to end them on a happier note.

After this, she spent the rest of the afternoon glued to my side. We did a lot of mommy/baby play, switching roles at her request often. She kept patting my face and hair and saying things like my mommy or that she was baby mommy. Her way of saying she is mommy's baby. I just cuddled and snuggled and kept reassuring her that I was her mommy.

She likes to put her hands on my face and stare at me. Sometimes we roll our foreheads back and forth, sometimes we rub noses, and sometimes we steal kisses. Today, she looked in my eyes and said they were blue. Jim asked her what color eyes he had, and she said blue. I asked her what color eyes she had, and she said blue. I told her that she had beautiful brown eyes, just like chocolate. Chocolate is a very good thing in her world, and mine. She pointed to Shadow and noted he had brown eyes, too and a brown nose. Since the eye observation was made before she watched the video, I know it wasn't related. I do realize, though, that she is starting to notice the differences between us. I just hope I don't screw this up. I want her to love who she is. I want her to be happy with her life.

I've read before about children reacting to pictures, videos, Asian people, or hearing Mandarin, but this is the first time I've seen it in Sera. It's a sobering moment.

If that wasn't enough to knock me off my feet, she then shocked us both. While Sera and I were playing on the couch, Jim was channel surfing. He turned to the local news channel as we're very interested in the weather reports right now. Sera looked up when they displayed a picture of Barack Obama. They were doing a story on the upcoming inauguration. She looked at the screen, and I very clearly heard her say, "Barack Obama." I said, "yes, you're right. That is Barack Obama." Jim gave me a look like I was crazy and just thought I'd heard her say that. So he asked her what she had said, and she repeated it. I asked her who had taught her his name. She gave me a big grin and said, "ME."

Sera has loved her kitchen, and this play pizza, so much that tonight we made our own pizzas for dinner. They were, to quote a certain someone, tasty.

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Friday, January 16, 2009
Now This, This Is A Snow Day
These pictures are from yesterday as today was far too cold to let Sera play outside. Yesterday was probably borderline, but as you can see she had a blast. I had to bribe her with hot chocolate to get her inside. She was so hyped up after playing in the snow. She kept asking me to bake chocolate chip cookies. She was too wound up to do something with that many steps, so I talked her into a box mix of brownies instead. Just stir, pour, and bake.

In case you're curious, we woke up to a a temperature of -19 degrees with a windchill of -35. That's insane. We got up to around 4, but it's back in the negative numbers. We expect to warm all the way up to 20 next week, and I can't wait. And I'm not even kidding.

Sera ran to the door and said take a picture me, Mommy.
She thinks the front door is where she should pose.

Checking out the snow. Notice the snow is up to Jim's knees?
He's 6'4"
So he dug out a boogie board and put it to use as a sled/snowshoe.
Now Sera doesn't fall through the snow. Here's she's making a "snowman".
Unfortunately, it's light, fluffy snow and won't pack. Think she's having fun? Daddy goes to help and buries her instead. Wild laughter ensued. Balancing on the boogie board. Snow Angel
Step 1
Have someone drop you in the snow. Snow Angel
Step 2
Wave your arms wildly. Snow Angel
Step 3
View your masterpiece. A quick trip around the yard.


Favorite Ingredients Friday - Pie Edition II

After the holidays I linked to some new recipes I tried. This one was so good that I keep thinking about it. It's super easy and very, very good. We just really don't need a pie around here right now. But if we did...
Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
1 cup sugar
1/2 stick butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
2 Tbs. bourbon
1 pie crust
Mix pecans, chocolate chips and bourbon and let soak for 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally. Blend melted butter into sugar until fully integrated. Add beaten eggs and blend. Add corn syrup and salt and blend fully. Fold in pecan/chip mixture. Pour into pie shell with edges crimped.
Bake at 350 for approximately 45 minutes until center of pie rises and cracks. Let cool. Best served slightly warm with either fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Be sure to visit the Favorite Ingredients Friday home to find more great recipes!

Past FIF recipes:
Clam Chowder
Amish Friendship Bread
Ice Cream in a Bag
Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake
Chocolate Pudding Fudge Cake
Pasta, Pesto, and Peas
Basic Beef Starter, Plus
Pineapple Upside Down Biscuits
Tomato Chicken
Greatest Hits: Enchiladas de Pollo and Old-fashioned Peanut Butter Fudge
Almost Cabbage Rolls
German Chocolate Pie
Carne Asada & Sour Cream Tortilla Casserole
Dorito Salad
Shrimp Stuffed Potatoes
Apple Cake
Vegetable Beef Soup
Stuffed Cabbage Soup
Raspberry Pie & White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Pie
Breakfast Granola
Shrimp Creole
Lazy Man's Lasagna & Apple Cake
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Jim's Favorite Jelly Cookie
Eye of Round Roast
Mozzarella & Tomato Sandwich
Marcia's Taco Soup
Chicken Parmesan Casserole
Cajun Baked Catfish
Jim's Snickers Pancake
Crawfish Monica
Grilled Meats and Vegetables over Saffron Orzo
Crockpot Red Beans
Better Than Almost Anything Cake
Fruity Sangria
Outrageous Brownies
Enchiladas de Pollo
Catalina Chicken
Croissant French Toast
Corned Beef
Sloppy Joe, Mac 'n Cheese Casserole
Shredded Chicken
Baked Bean & Burger Casserole
Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
Crab Rangoon
Sausage con Queso and Ro-tel Cheese Dip
Blueberry Multigrain Coffeecake
Banana Bread
Bananas Foster
Old-Time Beef Stew
White Chocolate Snack Mix
Gorilla Bread
Ginger Shrimp
Roast Chicken
Tex-Mex Chicken Taco Soup
Shrimp Mold
Pasta Puttanesca
Pork Milanese
Pumpkin Dip
Oven-fried Chicken
Best Bundt Cake Ever
Hot Dog Casserole
Chicken & Rice
Peanut Butter Fudge
Omelets in a Bag
Shrimp Boil
Apple Cheese
Pulled Pork BBQ

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Thursday, January 15, 2009
Snow Day!
The view from my back door at dawn

In a very rare moment, our schools decided last night to call a snow day today. We don't usually know the night before. In fact, we usually find out after we're up showered, dressed, and halfway out the door. I was able to stay up late to watch Top Chef guilt-free.

We probably have close to two feet of snow on the ground. We had about a foot from last week, and we've been getting inches of snow every day. We're in the middle of a lake-effect snow warning with the possibility of up to 6 more inches. I don't think we're going to hit that since it hasn't snowed since I woke up at 6 am. Someone forgot to tell Sera she could sleep in. The main weather issue right now is the cold. We're expecting a high today of 4 with a windchill of -15 to -20. Tonight, we're expected to go down to -10 with a windchill of as low as -30. One report stated that if the clouds clear tonight, we could beat the record -22 temperature. That's temperature, not wind chill. If it gets that cold, I don't think we'll have school tomorrow either. You can't have kids waiting in that kind of cold for a bus. That's water pipe bursting cold.

We're not planning to go anywhere today. We're going to stay home where it's nice and warm. I am thinking about a cookie baking session after naptime. Sera's been wanting to make cookies again, and this would be the perfect day.

I wanted to get a picture of Shadow in the snow to give you some idea of the amount, but he didn't want to stay outside long enough. Can't imagine why not. Anyway, this is Sera's water/sand table on our backporch. We probably should have put it in the garage for the winter, but that would have meant we needed to clean out the garage. And then I wouldn't have had this lovely photo to show to you. I think Jim got a shot of Shadow later this morning. I'm sure he'll post it if he did.


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Sunday, January 11, 2009
Time For A Do-Over
Okay, I've been around blogger for awhile now (since 2006!). And it's past time for a new look. My header and footer pictures are hopelessly broken, and I'm tired of the way it looks, and how long it takes to load, and how cluttered it has become.

I kept putting it off thinking I'd tackle this project and learn how to create my own template. I learned a lot of html and how to tinker with my blog while we were waiting for our referral. In the last two years, I've pretty much done nothing more, and it shows.

In case you haven't been able to figure it out, this is my call for HELP! So many of you have such cute blog templates. Can you recommend some people to me? The cheaper, the better.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Make Believe
Sera is all about the make believe right now.

If she's not in her kitchen making us all sorts of yummy snacks and tea, she's either a baby or a kitty.

The baby stuff is different from what it was the last time I talked about it. She is very clear that she is "pwetending" to be a baby. She talks in a baby voice, but mainly she whines or coos or cries. She will take a sippy cup and pretend it's a bottle and literally crawl into my arms to be cradled.

I guess this is where the second guessing comes in. Most of me thinks this is perfectly normal, age-appropriate make believe. But there's that little part of me that wonders if it's adoption related. Is she seeking out more of the cuddling and bonding behavior she missed out on during her first 11 1/2 months?

The kitty cat dosen't inspire such deep thoughts. She meows a few times, crawls on all fours, and wants her belly rubbed. Then she's on to the next game.

She sure keeps us hopping!

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Saturday, January 03, 2009
Elmo's World
The other day I received an email from my friend, Lauren. Lauren's LID was about two weeks after mine, so we got to know each other during our wait. She had extra tickets to the travelling Sesame Street show, "Elmo Makes Music." They were actually vouchers good for any showing. The show was going to be in town this weekend only.

I jumped on that offer. At 10:30 yesterday morning, all three of us were in our great seats and ready to watch Elmo and friends. Sera was transfixed. Again, I wasn't sure if she was enjoying the show until the end of the first song. When the clapping started, she threw her whole body into the most enthusiastic clapping. When we'd first arrived, I asked Jim if we should get her a souvenir. He scoffed at the idea. While she and I made a trip to the potty (against a certain someone's will who was fascinated by the theater), he changed his mind. We came out to see him holding a pair of Sesame Street binoculars. It was a good purchase because she was able to use them during the show and will be able to use them afterwards as well. Jim wisely looked a little sheepish when I looked at the binoculars and then looked at him.

We ran into one of Jim's co-workers and her son at the show. They actually sat three rows ahead of us. They joined us for lunch at this really great Irish pub around the corner. We don't get downtown too often, so it was a nice treat. We even sat next to our congressman. Jim wanted to get a picture with him, but he looked busy, and we didn't want to intrude.

It was a great way to end a vacation. I do enjoy my job, but I'm still sad that we won't be able to spend as much time with Sera as we've had over the last two weeks.

For those of you who marvelled at the tidiness of Sera's kitchen, this is how it usually looks. The first batch of photos came from the initial putting away of all the kitchen related toys.


Thursday, January 01, 2009
Sweetie. That's the pet name that Jim and I have called each other from the beginning. It could have been honey, babe, sweetheart, but it wasn't. It's sweetie.

Because we're both in the habit of using that word, we often call Sera sweetie, too. We also call her Stinkerbelle, Squirtle, Sera Kitty (she came up with that one, and sweetheart.

Occasionally, I'll actually call Jim by his given name. He rarely calls me by mine. It's sweetie.

The thing is, we don't generally call each other any name when we're in the same room or within easy voice range. That means when we say it, we're usually calling from a different floor or room in the house. That means we're yelling it.

Sera has decided this is the word you call out when you need someone's attention. If she's on the potty and needs some assistance with the paperwork, you'll hear "SWEETIE!" If you're downstairs and she's upstairs, she'll yell down for "SWEETIE!"

You get the idea.


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