Saturday, December 27, 2008


Christmas was busy, fun, memorable, and a little bit crazy. We were host to both our families this year, and there were a few wrinkles in the plan. First, the night before the Eve, Nathan had a stomach bug -- which, thankfully, no one else caught. We had a great conversation at 1:00 a.m., talking about how Christmas would still come, even if Nathan was sick. Then Nathan said, "Jesus knows exactly how I feel when I'm sick, because he was a boy once too." I loved that he thought of that all by himself.

The second wrinkle was the weather. It has been crazy here, varying between sub-zero temperatures and LOTS of snow. We didn't know when the safest time would be for my sister to make the two-hour drive. She ended up coming early, to do the driving between two snow storms -- hooray! An extra night with Aunt Alicia sleeping over. :o)

Our celebration began with my family on Christmas Eve. We gather in the afternoon while Peter is doing services at our church, then have a traditional turkey dinner. Afterward, we open presents, have dessert, and drink my sister's fabulous homemade rummy egg nog. Then my dad, mom and brother head off to midnight mass at their church.

On Christmas Day, it was our turn to host Peter's side of the family. We crammed 31 people into our house for a fun, loud, joyous celebration. In the evening, we all drove half an hour to his cousin Jason's (and new wife Robin's) house to meet up with more relatives. All the cousins played together so well throughout the day.

Peter, Anya Rashi and I ended up making an unexpected visit to the hospital in Jason's city. Our dear friend Molly's dad had emergency surgery on Christmas night, and since we were already in town we stopped by for a few minutes as they waited during the operation. It really is nothing short of a miracle that he got to the hospital in time and came through the surgery well. We are so grateful that God answered so many prayers and saved his life.

After that very full day, we added what we hope will be a new tradition this year: Peter's brother Dave and his family slept over on Christmas night, and we all had a pancake feast in the morning.

Anya Rashi was so excited about the presents this year -- and not only for herself! She spent all of the gift opening time taking packages from under the tree and handing them out (to anyone at all!). She was delighted with all the people, all the noise, and with her special clothes. It was really a joy to see how different she is this year compared to last year. She reveled in all the excitement, strutting through the house like it was all her idea. She made us smile especially whenever she saw a picture of Santa -- she says "Who, who, who!" instead of "Ho, ho ho!"

The shock, then the relief, of the news about Molly's dad reminded us how much we treasure the people we love. We were also reminded powerfully that the Gospel is still true in every circumstance. No matter what is happening in our lives, Christmas "came just the same," to paraphrase the Grinch. Whatever your circumstances are, we hope you feel God's love in very real ways during this blessed season.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy 2nd Birthday!

Today is Anya Rashi's birthday! It was 6 degrees below zero this morning when we drove the boys to school. Thankfully, it wasn't quite this cold last year when we were bringing Anya Rashi home!
Last year, we celebrated her birthday on our way home from O'Hare. Our drivers, friends Tina and Todd, stopped off at my sister Alicia's house, where her friend Renee had a Strawberry Shortcake birthday cake waiting for us. Peter's parents and brother Bob drove to Milwaukee to meet Anya Rashi, and celebrate with us.

Then, after two more hours in the car, we were home just in the nick of time -- it was just a little before midnight -- so we could always say that she arrived home on her birthday! :o)

This year, we were a lot less tired, and very happy and amazed that a year has gone by. On Sunday afternoon, Anya Rashi's grandparents came over, along with Aunt Alicia and Uncle Matt. The rest of our family will see her in 9 days for Christmas.

She loved every minute of her party! She was fascinated by the Elmo balloon, the red balloons, and her Elmo cupcakes -- and she had fun opening her presents, with a little (okay, a lot!) of help from big brother Nathan. We've never had a birthday so close to Christmas in our family, so everyone agreed that it felt a little bit like an early Christmas celebration.

Today, in honor of her actual birthday, I'm trying a new recipe for Chicken Makhani. If it's any good, I'll post it later. :o) Tonight, we will show her the video footage taken of her at the Matri Sneha baby home, and look at the scrapbook Alicia made of our India trip.

There's a song we've sung to all our kids by folk singer Red Grammer that says everything about our joy today:
On the day that Anya was born
On the day Anya Rashi was born
On the day Anya Rashi was born
The angels sang and they played their horns
And they danced
They danced
Then they smiled and they raised up their hands
On the day
On the day
Anya Rashi was born

Friday, December 12, 2008

The day we met Anya Rashi

December 12 last year was the day we held our little girl for the first time! Peter, my sister Alicia and I went into the little room full of cribs and searched every face for the one that matched those precious photos we'd been clutching for the past seven months.

Part of me was afraid I wouldn't be able to pick her out from the crowd -- but we knew instantly which baby was ours. She seemed afraid, so we went slowly, getting down on her level and talking to her before we tried to lift her from the crib.

It was love at first sight -- for us, at least! Anya Rashi was not as thrilled to meet us as we were to meet her. After some tears, whimpering, and a bottle, she settled in with us a little better. We felt such compassion for her -- she was one smart little cookie, and knew that something momentous was happening.

Then it was our turn to shed tears of joy as we thanked Ms. Roy and the ayahs. They took a moment to say goodbye by laying their hands on Anya Rashi's head and murmuring a few words to her. Then we went down to the taxi, with Anya Rashi clinging to Nancy.

We can't believe it's already been a year. She is vivacious, smart, funny, loud, loving, and beautiful. We are so grateful to God for giving us our daughter, and our thoughts are with her birth parents, who wanted a good life for their baby. We pray so often that we are honoring and fulfilling the trust they placed in us.

Friday, December 5, 2008

One year ago today . . .

. . . we were boarding a plane to meet a baby girl called Rashi! Chicago to Delhi, Delhi to Kolkata, and then magically, blessedly, we became a family of five.

We thought we would share a few of the photos lovingly taken by other traveling families. They were our first glimpses of Anya Rashi, and we cherished each one of them. These pictures and this little girl were on our mind every minute of those flights.
The top photo was our referral photo, and the infant pictures were ones that Dillon found later for us. The bottom two were taken when she was about eight months old.

At the end of all the waiting, and those two long flights, was this little beauty!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pooh, Indian banquet, and first snow!

*Hopefully, there will be photos with this post soon! We have a new camera that is not playing nicely with our computer!*

One really funny thing to report from Miss Anya Rashi. At a baby shower last summer, someone gave us a package of Huggies diapers featuring Winnie the Pooh on the front of each diaper. She has a Pooh stuffed animal, and was REALLY excited about the diapers. In true almost-two-year-old fashion, she turned the whole thing into a mildly embarrassing episode. In public, to anyone who is remotely interested (or not!), she will point to her diaper area and say loudly, "POOH!!" So far, the response has been a few semi-horrified looks, and one person who said, "Looks like mommy needs to change you." Ha!

In other news, this weekend, my sister Alicia visited. She lives about 100 miles away, and we always wish we could see her more. She's the ultimate fun aunt, and gets right into whatever the kids are doing.

This time, Alicia came for a grown-up reason: to go to an Indian event with me! Our city has an organization called Indus, which is a group for both Indians and non-Indians who are interested in Indian culture. Each year, they do a variety of cultural, educational, and fun events. Friday was their 10th annual banquet. The food was outstanding! The theme was "Fusion," and the menu included:
Paneer Tikka Pizza
Chicken Masala Almandine with Pinapple and Nuts
Sweet Potato Kofta in Spicy Tomato Sauce
Grape Raita
Lime Pickle
Naan and Papad

There were about 300 people, including two congressmen, our mayor, and variety of community leaders. About 2/3 of the crowd was Indian, and it was glorious to see the variety of Indian dress represented. The women wore elegant, beaded saris in every possible hue -- beautiful! I saw my doctor there, as well as an Indian mom that I knew from swimming lessons at our YMCA. There was a silent auction, and a play about the blending of cultures in a first-generation Indian family.

Also attending was another mom with three adopted children from south India. Her kids are all quite a bit older than Anya Rashi, but we've gotten together at a local park and e-mail each other. She was seated near one of our congressmen, and went to bat for Wisconsin families who have adopted from India and Korea. We have to apply for and pay $450 for our Certificate of Citizenship, in contrast to families who've adopted children from other countries -- their children are citizens upon their arrival in the US, and pay nothing for the exact same piece of paper. She's investigating a letter-writing campaign to lobby for the fee to be eliminated. Go Mary Beth!

I "won" a gorgeous embroidered kurta in the silent auction. (All the proceeds went to fund early childhood education in our city and in India.) I will be happy to wear it for a few special occasions, then I plan to pass it along to Anya Rashi when she's older.

Oh, and today we woke up to our first snow of the season! I had a good time shoveling with Anya Rashi "helping." :o)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Indian cinema notes

I caught part of a documentary called I for India, and thought I'd pass along this interview with its director, Sandhya Suri. Released a few years ago, the film is about her family's journey to England, where her father was a doctor. Some years later, they attempted to relocate in India and ended up back in Darlington, England. The film features the family's home movies, and is full of poignant insight about parents and children, and how working to fit into a new culture sometimes means you can't quite mesh back into the old one.

(Just so you know, there's one scene in the documentary that is definitely R-rated. It's the sales pitch of an Indian patent medicine salesman, and contains graphic language.)

Here's a link to an interview with her:

And, of course, Slumdog Millionaire is out in theatres now! It is set in Mumbai, and I hope to be able to see it soon. It's the story of two brothers who survive on the streets, and follows the two different paths their lives take. Peter has visited Mumbai twice on mission/service trips, so I'm eager to see if the depiction on screen matches his memories.

This reviewer called Slumdog Millionaire one of the best films of 2008:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cleo = Cletus?

Get ready for bird drama, part II . . . when I brought Cleo to the vet for her re-check, the receptionist looked at her chart and said, "Cleo? That's a funny name for a boy." Apparently the vet discovered and recorded that Cleo has been living a lie (and didn't really mention it to me!). So our bird is actually a male.

A woman in the waiting area cracked me up. She overheard our conversation and asked, "How much did that operation cost you?"

My sons are thrilled that the balance in our house is no longer 3:3, but 4 to 2, in favor of boys again. They can turn anything into a competition! Of course, we had to come up with a more manly name, so we're happy to announce that Cleo shall hereafter be known as Cletus. :o)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Apparently it's possible to be morbidly obese, yet malnourished . . .

Poor Cleo. After just two months of pet ownership, we made our first-ever trip to the vet. We discovered that Cleo has been hitting the birdseed a little too hard over the course of her three-year life, and is overweight. She's supposed to weigh 30 grams, but tips the scales at 50. (Mind you, she looks just like all the other parakeets at the pet store, but what do I know?) Ironically, she is malnourished too -- the vet said her seed diet with raw veggies has not provided balanced nutrition.

The solution? Jenny Craig for parakeets: she must switch over to lower-cal pellet food and take a vitamin supplement. We are treating her for a possible digestive infection of some kind, which means I have to catch her twice a day and give her medicine from a teeny dropper.

Cleo is not amused by this process (although she doesn't seem to mind the liver-flavored medicine -- yummo!). Aaron and Nathan, on the other hand, LOVE watching the whole procedure. It's better than TV, candy, or a trip to the zoo, judging by their reactions. Clearly, we lead boring lives. :o)

In people-related news, Anya Rashi is trying out some new words. "Domino" is the funniest, which requires a tongue flipped in and out of her mouth to make a sound like "mun-ah-min-uh." She is also saying the favorite phrase of every not-quite-two-year-old: "I do it!" This week she started calling Peter and me "Daddy" and "Mommy" instead of Dada and Mama -- she sounds so grown-up!

She's logged a few time-outs this week, most notably for taking a plate off the table and walking into the family room to hit Nathan on the head with it for no apparent reason. Good times. Oh well, you only hurt the ones you love, right? We had our dear friends Scott and Molly over this weekend with their three children, and there were some serious 2-year-old territory issues between Anya Rashi and their daughter Morgan. It was pretty funny to see two such cute little girls scowl and face off over the coveted Wiggles book.

On Friday, we took Anya Rashi to lunch at one of the Indian restaurants in our city. We may not go to that particular place with her again . . . almost every dish on the lunch buffet was quite spicy, and she would only eat naan and gulab jamun. No surprise there -- she's got quite a sweet tooth! She's been dragging a chair over to the counter by the boys' Halloween candy and saying "more?" It's nice to know she has "inherited" something from me. :o)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Cute costumed creatures

Well, our costume plans changed due to weather. It was quite warm here -- in the upper sixties! -- which is very unusual for Halloween in Wisconsin. The boys were thrilled because they didn't have to wear coats over their Spidey costumes.

Anya Rashi was going to be a lady bug, but her costume was too warm. It's one of those furry one-piece toddler outfits that could double as a snow suit. Instead, we took a look at some dress-up clothes from her friend Sarah . . . and voila! Cinderella to the rescue! She was a princess who did not wish to be photographed, however. :o) Trying to get away before the clock struck 4:00, no doubt.

After going trick-or-treating at a few neighbors' houses, we headed over to our church. Each year, we host a Fall Festival for anyone who wants a safe, non-scary Halloween experience for their children. There were inflatables and games for older kids, and toddler games (which Anya Rashi wanted no part of!). She kept up with her brothers as best she could, playing Plinko and tossing pom-poms into fishbowls (or at least in their general direction).

The best part was when Peter took his turn in the Dunk Tank. We all took a turn throwing bean bags at the target, which resulted in water balloons crashing down on Daddy's head. Anya Rashi LOVED it, and kept saying, "Dada . . . WA-WA!" Aaron and Nathan were quite impressed that their mother could lob a bean bag while holding Anya Rashi in one arm, with a diaper bag slung over my throwing arm!

Anya Rashi will probably remember the occasion because she had her first taste of chocolate! It was a huge hit, and she kept diving for the candy bag while I carried her from game to game. Of course, with so much going on, it completely escaped me to take any pictures at the Fall Festival . . . :o)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happy Diwali!

Happy Diwali! Diwali is a major Hindu holiday in India, and is about the victory of good over evil or light over dark. In India, it is celebrated differently in various parts of the country, but virtually everywhere there are lamps and fireworks. I'm hoping Zachary's family will experience a little bit of Diwali while they're in Kolkata (and share it on their blog, of course!).

Our second-grader Aaron made the Diwali lamp pictured above. His class has been studying India and China, so everyone made his or her own clay lamp. Nice work, Aaron! We love their school -- our city has 12 charter schools, each with their own focus. (Our school's focus is the E.D. Hirsch core knowledge curriculum.)

Literally 24 hours after Anya Rashi was over her first cold, she was hit by another one! We were really fortunate last winter -- even though the boys had lots of bugs, she only caught one or two of them. This year, though, we're out and about much more than in our first months home with her, so she seems to be picking up every germ that gets within a mile of us.

She's trying out some new phrases, including "I don't know," complete with a shrug of the shoulders. In preparation for turning two, she also likes to declare "No, no, no!" She even said it in her sleep the other night! So much for trying to use other words when we redirect her . . . seems like she really enjoys saying "no!", no matter what I say. :o) She's also enjoying taking care of her dollies -- feeding them and reading stories to them are two favorite things right now.

Over the weekend, we saw something very interesting: a glimpse of our boys' understanding of adoption. They were playing "Adoption Center" with their stuffed animals. Each animal, starting with Hoot the Owl, had a turn in a basket covered by a blanket. Nathan sat to one side, busily "writing out papers" for the animals. I guess all that paperwork made an impression on him! It's sweet to see their take on adoption, and that it's a normal part of life and play for them.

It snowed here yesterday! Yipes -- winter's coming!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Three more families are traveling!

My new look is in honor of Kristi, who "tagged" me . . . I am very happy with my 'fro, circa 1978. It's a shame I was too young to be in charge of my own hair decisions in '78, or I'd have much more memorable school pictures. Ha!

We're celebrating -- and living vicariously through -- three Dillon families who are traveling to pick up their children in Kolkata this week! Two of the families are completing their second adoptions from Kolkata, India.

Zachary's family is in India right now, and are almost to the happy day when they will meet their son for the first time! He has big sister Hannah and big brother Samuel to welcome him home. He is a doll, and you can follow their trip at:

Amanda is traveling to meet her son, Prasun, and her blog is at:
I feel especially invested in Prasun because we met him at Anya Rashi's orphanage and took photos for Amanda and her husband. He was such a sweet, sunny boy, and I'm so excited that he will finally be with his family! They have another daughter from Kolkata named Ananya, as well as a bio son Anthony, who shares the same birthday as Prasun (although Anthony is about 7 years older!).

Also, Kristi is traveling to meet her new daughter Shaili. Their daughter Daya is from Kolkata too, and they have two bio sons, Alex and Eli. If you'd like to travel along, their blog is at:

Nothing nearly as exciting as an India trip is happening at our house -- just a nasty cold for Anya Rashi, and three mice that took up residence in our basement (which the boys wanted to keep as pets. Sorry, guys.). So, I think I'll sign off for now, with a smile on my face for these three families!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Because nothing says "Autumn in Wisconsin" like bare feet, a sleeveless party dress, and a lei around your neck!

It has been a freakishly warm weekend here. Saturday was 8o degrees, and today was 85 degrees! It is so strange (but nice!) to have one last taste of summer this late in the year.

This afternoon, we were a strange sight: raking leaves in shorts and bare feet -- and sleeveless party dress with a lei, in Anya Rashi's case! Usually we wear jeans and sweatshirts for raking and making leaf piles to jump in.

The party dress was for a special occasion with our friends Tina and Todd, and their baby Liam. We were Liam's sponsors at his dedication today. Liam is the mellowest, smiliest little guy, and did very well with all the attention. The lei was courtesy of Aaron and Nathan, who attended their friend Logan's birthday party this afternoon while the rest of us were at Liam's house. Whew -- with all the excitement, followed by leaf-jumping, we are one tired crew.

I just had to post the funny Play-Doh pictures of Anya Rashi. She was having fun demolishing big pieces of Play-Doh into lots of tiny ones, when she was inspired to feed one of her dollies. It was so funny watching her stuff bits of Play-Doh into the doll's mouth, until a big lump was on the doll's face! Never a dull moment.
She's wearing a birthday crown not because it's her birthday (that's in December), but because a saleswoman at Toys R Us thought she was so cute. We couldn't agree more!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Update on Orissa

Since the previous post on this topic, many people have asked me where to find news about the violence against Christians happening in Orissa. Here is another article:
Thanks for caring about people on the other side of the world.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Autumn fun

Before I talk about our family, I just have to share a great blog/web site: the International Princess Project at
I bought some fantastic jammie pants for my sister's birthday, made by women in India who had formerly been trafficked into prostitution. I met the women who started the business at the conference I attended a few weeks ago. Love this!

Anya Rashi is up to lots of new tricks. She is quite a singer lately. This morning, I was getting her dressed, and I heard the melody for "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." The words need some work, though -- I only heard one: ba. :o) She also sings to her dollies, which is the sweetest thing. She has figured out how to tickle people, and thinks it's really funny to tickle Daddy or Mama. Anya Rashi has fallen in love with Elmo, and a few times each week, we turn on the last part of Sesame Street, when Elmo is the focus. The funniest part is that she forgets to blink! By the end of her 15 minute Elmo fix, tears have formed and rolled down her cheeks to keep her eyes from drying out!

One of her favorite things when Peter is at work and the boys are at school is to name her family. She says all of our names, and waits for me to ask, "Is that your family?" so she can say yes. Her name for our pet parakeet Cleo is "Coco," and she loves to point to the food and water dishes and tell me what they are. She is fixated on the number "two," and when we read counting books or count fingers, she carefully says, "Two . . . two . . . two . . ." :o) She also likes to "read" my books, and very seriously turns pages.

Last weekend we visited a pumpkin patch/apple orchard/hobby farm with our friends Todd and Tina and their three month old son Liam. We had a great time. Anya loved the goats, and fed them goat chow, pellet by pellet. I was a little concerned that her fingers would become part of the meal, but the goat was very careful. Now she's fascinated with pumpkins, and when we walk or drive past yards decorated for autumn, she points with great excitement.

I was able to spend a whole day with my sister Alicia this weekend. Originally, the plan was just to attend the last Milwaukee performance of Cirque du Soleil to celebrate our birthdays . . . but then the Brewers made it into the Wild Card playoff, so our day grew a little longer! We went to the game at noon, which was not pretty. The up side was the fans -- after the game, while the Phillies celebrated their victory on the field, everyone stayed to applaud the Brewers and thank them for a great season.

We made our way downtown for the Cirque show, Saltimbanco -- it was a phenomenal performance, and we were amazed at the athleticism, creativity and beauty of it. Alicia is a big fan of Cirque, and has seen several of their shows. I went to one with her two years ago, and it was completely different than Saltimbanco. Thanks, Alicia, for the fantastic day, and thanks Grandma and Peter for making it possible!

Good news on the adoption front: Devika's ( and Zaleeya's ( families are traveling to bring them home! They are blogging during their trips so we can follow their journey. Congratulations to them!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Peace protest for Indian Christians

I found an article today about a peace event in Chicago on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Indian state of Orissa:
People have been attacked, as have buildings and institutions, including churches, convents, and Christian-run orphanages. It chills me to think of someone bombing or burning an orphanage -- how desensitized do you have to be to destroy a building that houses innocent children?

We know a couple who runs a Christian humanitarian aid organization in Ooty, as well as a Bible college and a home for abandoned baby girls. I am in awe of Usha and Murli Menon and their worthwhile, heart-breaking work . . . they pour out their lives and their love each day. They are the reason we adopted from India. They spoke at our church about the baby girls they are raising, all of whom were rescued after being left to die at birth. We felt an instant connection and calling, as though God was showing us how our next child should join our family. We have been immeasurably blessed by them -- they set in motion the process that led to our dear Anya Rashi.

I met an Indian pastor at a conference two weeks ago. His name is Sunny Abraham, and part of his work is reaching out to trafficked women in Chennai. He asked to see a photo of Anya Rashi, and then thanked me for adopting her so she would not end up living on the streets. I didn't know what to say -- we feel that we are the ones who should be thankful, especially to her birth parents. Truthfully, I don't like to think about what her future might have been, had she not been placed with a forever family . . . and it makes me think of the millions of kids in India who don't have anyone to care for them. Sunny also told me a little bit about his life. His wife is a "tribal," a designation within India's caste system. Sunny's parents have accepted her, but his siblings no longer speak to him because of his marriage to her.

Would you please join me in praying for these three -- for their safety and their ongoing work? There are so many others, of course, but sometimes it helps to know a few names and a little of their stories. Thanks.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A slice of normal life

So . . . the past two weeks have been full of lots of "normal." No big huge summer activities, but lots of details I don't want to forget. I want to remember what my kids were really doing at different ages, and I know from eight years of experience that the things you think you'll always recall -- well, let's just say that in the rush of life, they get lost more often than I want them to.

The pictures are of:
1.) & 2.) Anya Rashi climbing our playset and sliding down all by herself
3.) My amazing mother-in-law reading to Anya Rashi in the backyard
4.) Our kids playing with our neighbor Jadyn in a homemade porch fort (until their snack resulted in The Great Wasp Invasion of '08)
5.) Our two Spidermen taking on Daddy in a wrestling match
6.) A very chaotic -- but fun! -- dinner with our Indiana pal Jane, and our friend Kathy's kids. There were 6 kids ages 8 and under in our house from 3:30 on . . . yipes! Anya Rashi declined to sit still long enough to be photographed. :o)

A very sincere conversation heard before swimming lessons today:
Aaron: "Is it just me, or does something smell like camel poop?"
Nathan: "I think it's my feet."
'Nuff said!