Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009 year-end quotations

Well, since I drastically under-ordered our Christmas cards (math is obviously not my strong suit), I thought I'd share part of our letter online! Each year, we write down funny things the kids say, and it's the only part of our Christmas letter anyone ever talks about. :o) So, in place of a real, mailed card, here are a few photos and our year in quotations.

Anya Rashi:
(at the library, seeing a girl dressed in a princess outfit) LOVE that!

(I promise, I tried not to pass along my phobia) I see clowns . . . I scared.

(about a girl with extremely long hair) That girl got BIG hair.

My eye have a sore spot. Can you take out my eye and fix it?

The moon is out in the daytime! Hey Moon, I'm not sleeping anymore!

I love my really pretty Daddy.

God is in my heart? God in mine tummy too?

I'm Super French Fry!

Mama, mine baby sister can hear me in India? HEY, BABY SISTER? YOU COMING?

(after Aaron & Nathan told her to "blow kisses for the camera") No way! People need kisses, not cameras!

(after being told that he'd need to sit still in a nice restaurant)
Just so you know, that's going to be really hard for me. I have loads of energy. I'm like a suitcase packed with live things!

(after the boys prayed for our pet parakeet to get well) Once again, God's work is done, right on schedule!

I'm doing something embarrassing right now. I have a ball of rope in my underwear.

Roll me up in my blanket like a tuxedo -- I mean a burrito!

(playing with Nathan) Okay, the first chicken is named Kyle, the second chicken is named Barry, and the third one is named Roadkill.

Best conversation of the year:
Nathan: Anya Rashi, do you want any hugs and kisses?
Anya Rashi: I want ham.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

She's three!

Anya Rashi is now a three-year-old! Here are a few things we want to remember about you at this stage:

You weigh 30 1/2 pounds and are 38 1/2 inches tall. You wear size threes and fours, and your shoes are size 7 1/2 and 8. You are in the 90th percentile for height, and the 50th for weight -- which explains why we have trouble finding pants that will stay up!

The night our family celebrated with birthday cupcakes and your present (a box of new dress-up clothes), you started sleeping in your toddler bed. You are doing very well in it! There will be more birthday party fun with grandmas and grandpas after Christmas.

You love painting, playing in the snow, PlayDoh, cooking and baking with me, and pretending to be a baby bug, baby giraffe, baby dog, baby bear . . . etc. And Daddy and I must be the corresponding Mama bug, Daddy giraffe, etc. You also have a vast array of "boy" skills, thanks to your older brothers, including some awesome light saber moves.

Nearly every day for the past three weeks, you have grabbed paper and a pen or markers to write a letter to your baby sister.

You speak in long sentences, and have a lot to say! Much of it is crystal clear, and for some things, you've chosen to hold onto your first baby pronunciation. This seems to have sentimental value for you, since you only do this for words like "grandma" (dabya), "Nathan" (th or dll), and "princess" (peena -- that has led to some embarrassing moments in public places!). The other charming speech thing that is very unique is that you say many "f" sounds like "s" -- so "flip flops" becomes "sip sops," etc. I could try to correct it, but I'm enjoying the cuteness too much!

When we come to an automatic door, you are convinced that your magic arm moves are what make it whisk open for us. :o)

Yesterday you told me that you wished I could go back in my mommy's tummy so I could be a baby -- so you could hold me and take care of me. That's about the sweetest thing I've ever heard!

This special day makes us think about two people on the other side of the world. We often wish there were some way to let your birthparents know that you're well and happy, and that we are forever grateful to them. Until we have that opportunity, we will continue to pray for their circumstances and those times when they miss you and wonder how you are.
Happy birthday to our favorite three-year-old in the whole world.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Two years ago . . .

Two years ago today, Peter, my sister Alicia and I met Anya Rashi for the first time! It was 70 degrees in Kolkata, which felt balmy to these Wisconsin natives, who had left below-zero temps to fly off to India. On that day, we showered, made a few nervous phone calls to the baby home, and prepared gifts for the Ayahs. Then we piled into the car with our driver Nayeem and drove off to a changed life.

My most powerful memories of our visit to the baby home are that the ayahs cared very much about the children (especially one very young woman who teared up watching us hold the baby she had cared for over the past 12 months). I was afraid I wouldn't be able to pick out our daughter's face among the other babies . . . but there she was, and I knew her instantly.

Anya Rashi was not entirely happy to meet us, however! I knelt down beside the crib she stood in, and talked softly to her so she could see that we were safe people. Peter and I took turns holding her, and the ayahs gave her a bottle to soothe her. Then, we tearfully thanked the staff who watched over her. I had purposely learned how to say "thank you" in Bengali, but my wits left me, and I completely forgot in the emotion of the moment.

Then we packed ourselves back into the car, and she fell asleep on my chest. What a lovely feeling that was. It's hard to believe that tentative little baby is the noisy, joyful, busy little almost-three year old wandering through my kitchen right now. Happy two years together, Anya Rashi!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The best Christmas gifts

If you remember way back when, I posted that a script I wrote would be produced this Christmas. Well, faster than I can believe it, the show dates have crept up on me. I saw it last night with some friends and family, and was totally astonished. I will see it again on Sunday with the boys, and with my 90-year-old neighbor Ann. (She's been my date for the past 6 years, since Peter is the director and has to be there early.)

I wrote most of the script two years ago while we were waiting for Anya Rashi. I had a four-month window after Nathan started kindergarten, and before we traveled to India -- that's when I wrote the bulk of it. Then, this fall, three experienced writers helped me polish it up into the final draft.

I was really nervous watching the show during the first act -- my hands were like ice, and I was experiencing what can only be called flop sweat. :o) It was really fun to hear how the actors chose to say lines, see how it was staged, and see how the music and lighting made the script three dimensional. We have some very talented singers and actors at our church, and it was very humbling to see how much they've invested.

The other surprise was seeing how the audience reacted. It was really thrilling to hear them laugh, or catch the Biblical references in our modern retelling of the first Christmas. And it was so touching to hear people sniffling when the two main characters are changed because of the poor, pregnant, unmarried couple, and when the Christ child (a real baby of someone in the cast!) and his mother emerge from a homeless person's shack (our modern version of the manger).

The very best thing, though, is knowing that this show is having a spiritual impact. After the show, people are invited to begin a relationship with Christ if that's something they've never done before. That is the entire reason our church does a Christmas musical, and it's the thing that makes me happiest about having this script performed. One of my uncles was at the show last night, and said that he wanted to know Christ as his savior. His decision, and that of others who attended, is the best gift I will receive this year.

Since I don't have photos of the show, I thought I'd post our Christmas card photo -- my other favorite gifts, along with Peter!

Friday, November 20, 2009


It's been a bit of a whirlwind here -- and our camera broke, so there have been no post-able photos for the last few entries. We're using a disposable camera so we don't miss anything important, but I can't upload those pictures, unfortunately.

We've been joyfully following along with the three (soon to be four) Dillon families who are in India right now meeting their children for the first time! Congratulations to the families of Mason, Keira and Pala -- your long wait is over! We are also celebrating with the families of Maiya and Alesha, who just received their referrals and saw the first photos of their beautiful little girls. (On a more self-centered note, that also means we've moved up 2 spots on the waiting list!)

The past few weeks have been very busy with normal life, and with more frequent rehearsals for the Christmas show at our church. It's a family affair this year . . . Peter has directed the show for the past 9 years, my brother Matt helped design the set and is working to finish it, Peter's brother Bob loaned his expertise for the medical scenes (it's set in an ER, and he's an ER doctor), and it's my debut as a playwright. I haven't gone to any rehearsals -- I'm waiting to be surprised when I go to the show. :o)

We've also had our share of sadness in the past several weeks. Our dear friend Joel's father passed away after an inspiring battle with cancer. He and his wife Mary Ann were so graceful and strong through the past year, and showed me (and many others) what it's like to be honest about fear and grief, while remaining solid in the knowledge that God is still good during our pain, and that Jerry gets to meet the Savior he's loved and served for many years.

My aunt Yvonne also died unexpectedly last Sunday. She and my uncle Ernie just celebrated 50 years of marriage in September, and they have a grand legacy of caring for others through Habitat for Humanity, tutoring Hmong school children here in our local schools, mission trips to Mexico, and their five children. Two of my cousins shared about their mom at the funeral, and it was so beautiful to hear the everyday ways she loved her kids, and about moments of transforming mercy and tenderness when Yvonne truly lived out the grace of Christ's love.

Please pray for Mary Ann and Ernie and their children as the holidays approach. It will be a hard year for them.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The list!

I'm happy to say that we are officially on the waiting list for Baby #4! Tami, our case worker and the co-director of the India program at Dillon International, e-mailed this morning to make it official.

It's a little goofy that we're so excited to reach this step, since we will be likely be here for quite a while . . . but we are excited, nonetheless! Families are told to expect to wait about 12-18 months, so we still have lots of time before we see the first photo of our next daughter. (By this time next year, we may not be quite as excited about being on the list. Ha!)

Hmmm . . . I'll have to think of something fun to celebrate . . .

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cold weather = crock pot + book

Since we've had our first two frosts, I am dusting off the crock pot and having the urge to sit down with a good book! I want to share an Indian recipe that my family loves, and that I will make for Diwali. It's a lighter version of Chicken Makhani, a.k.a. "Butter Chicken."

Chicken Makhani

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or chicken breasts (can be frozen)
1 medium onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
4 Tbsp. butter
15 cardamom pods (sewn together with needle and thread)*
2 tsp. curry powder
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. garam masala
½ tsp. ground ginger
1 14-oz. can light coconut milk
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup plain yogurt (can be fat-free)
Place frozen chicken in 5-quart or larger crockpot. Layer with diced onions and dot with butter, and place cardamom seeds or pods in the middle of the layers. In a medium bowl, mix tomato paste, coconut milk, lemon juice, garlic, curry, cayenne pepper, garam masala, and ginger. Pour the mixture over the chicken. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours or high for 4 - 4 ½ hours. 30 minutes before serving, remove and discard cardamom pods. Remove pieces of chicken and shred, then return it to the sauce to stay warm. Stir in plain yogurt 15 minutes before serving.
Serve over brown, jasmine, or basmati rice.

* If you can't find whole cardamom pods, you can empty out a cheap tea bag and fill with the equivalent amount of cardamom seeds. 18-20 seeds = one pod. Just tie the ends of the tea bag with kitchen string and let it steep in the crock pot.

The Indian book recommendation is Motherland by Vineeta Vijayaraghavan. It was in the "young adult" category at our library, and is an excellent, universal examination of family and growing up. The main character is a young woman in high school who goes to live with her uncle, aunt and grandmother in south India for the summer. She grows to understand and have compassion for her family members in a new way.

Because she is an "outsider" in some ways as an American, the book had many insights for me about the culture and tradition of that part of India. It was a great read!

Cozy up and enjoy the crisp weather!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Adoption update

Since our first three children are usually the stars of this blog, I thought it was time to write about Baby #4 for a change. Where are we in our adoption process? Right now, we are waiting for the State of Wisconsin to apostille our documents so we can send off our India dossier and officially join the other families on the waiting list.

We hit a few snags with pulling our documents together -- one notary on a reference letter had forgotten to write when her commission expired, and somehow we didn't see the fine print about our birth certificates. They needed to be issued in the past 12 months, and Peter's was too old.

So, we hopped in the car and drove to another county to get new copies. We made a fun trip of it, just Peter, Anya Rashi and me (the boys were in school). He showed us the school and church he went to, where his parents worked, and the house he grew up in until he moved to our city when he was 15. We made the best of a minor frustration. :o) I was just grateful that he didn't grow up in another state!

But we had hoped to already have our dossier sent in by now, so we feel a bit like we're wading through molasses to get this step finished. We will breathe a big sigh of relief when it's officially out of our hands. It is a little funny to think how eager we are to join the waiting list -- by next autumn, I'm sure the waiting list won't seem nearly as exciting to us!

So, that's where we are. Meanwhile, we have our three to keep us busy. The picture at the top of this post is Anya Rashi, all ready for "school" at the YMCA. She is so proud of her lunch box, which she calls her back pack -- and she is the best reminder that someday, this wait will be over.
6 hours later:
And right now, I just have to add that she's charging through the house with a frisbee balanced on her head, a wooden back scratcher in one hand, hollering "I'm Super French Fry!" And then, "I'm going to India!" This will no doubt convince the authorities to speed up our adoption . . .

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lasts and firsts

The past few weeks have brought many 'lasts' and 'firsts.' We squeezed in a few 'lasts' as we tried to hang onto summer for a few more warm days: our last trip to walk the trails at a local nature center before the leaves change colors, our official last summer trip to our favorite ice cream place, last roasted corn on the grill, and our last trip to the Lake Michigan beach in Milwaukee with Aunt Alicia.

Our 'firsts' included all three children's first days of school! Aaron entered 3rd grade, and Nathan began second grade. Even Anya Rashi is attending "school" at the YMCA while I go to a strength and resistance class. It's one hour, three times a week, and she brings a little lunch box with her snack -- this is by far the most exciting part of the deal for her!

She is doing wonderfully there, and loves the routine. The hour she attends includes story time, snack and arts/crafts. What more could a girl want? She was very proud of herself after her first visit, and beamed as she told me "Mommy, I not cry!"

Our autumn schedule is now in full swing as well, bringing Aaron's first boychoir rehearsals, and Nathan's first Cub Scout field trip to a rehabilitation center for birds of prey. He asked so many questions that I think the presenter was worried he would eventually ask something she didn't know the answer to! We also had our first multi-boy sleepover in the tent . . . which was kind of a misnomer, since not much actual sleep happened . . .

I'm experiencing a 'first' of my own -- a full-length script I wrote was chosen to be produced at our church this Christmas. It's called A Star Over Us, and is a drama about what the first Christmas might look like if it happened today. The first act is set in an emergency room, and the second act happens on the streets of the city outside the hospital.

I'm a kind of shocked that it was chosen, and excited to see what it looks like when it's staged. (Although I do have to say that it feels a little bit strange to think of 3,000+ people watching something I wrote . . .) Mostly, though, it feels like my Christmas came early this year!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


This week I turned 40 and Aaron turned 9. Peter spoiled me completely, with seven days of surprises -- including lunch with my high school best friend, dessert with some of my grown-up pals, a drive to Chicago to spend time with my best college friends, our parents/family having pizza and cake, lunch with some good friends from church, and lunch with two dear former co-workers . . . I joked with him that I would be gaining 40 pounds to celebrate my 40th birthday!

And then came the big surprise: a freebie 2-night jaunt to Seattle, courtesy of our frequent flier miles! Wow!! We love Seattle since we honeymooned there, and we made sure to have dinner at a seafood restaurant where we ate on our 2nd night as a married couple. This time, we stayed with a good college friend and his wife, whom we haven't seen since Peter officiated at their wedding 4 years ago. Peter is so thoughtful: I am a little bit of an introvert, and would've been overwhelmed by a big surprise party . . . so Peter just spread the party out into little groups over an entire week. He knows me so well, and is an amazing man. I am so grateful that God joined our lives together.

On a totally different note, one of the kids' gifts to me was a ShamWow . . . totally cracked me up! Nathan has only seen two infomercials in his life, one for the ShamWow and one for the Little Giant ladder. He must be their target audience or something, because he was completely fished in by them both. (Thankfully, he didn't try to talk Peter into the ladder!)

We celebrated Aaron's birthday today with his friends at a local planetarium. He had a space theme, of course, complete with a rocket cake and activities such as the Moon Rock Relay, building spacecrafts out of marshmallows and toothpicks, and seeing a show in the planetarium. He was so excited all morning, and kept asking what time the party would start. We do a "friend" party every other year for the boys, so it's really a special occasion for them.

This year, Aaron had chosen to ask for pet food for our local humane society, so we will have the fun of delivering bags of dog and cat chow to the shelter tomorrow. Then, tomorrow night we will celebrate with the grandparents. More cake!!

Aaron, we love your character and can't wait to see how you will make an impact on the world as you become a young man. Your love for God, your sweet nature, your consideration for others, your desire to learn, and your great sense of humor . . . these are just a few of the things that make you a remarkable boy. We have been so blessed to be your parents for nine years, and we love you always. Happy birthday!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


We took our last little trip of the summer, to visit Aunt Alicia and do some fun Milwaukee things. If you only think of beer and Harley-Davidson when you hear the word "Milwaukee," you really have to come visit, especially in the summer. There's a gorgeous, long stretch of beach on Lake Michigan, complete with rows of volleyball nets, and all kinds of outdoor recreation. We spent some time watching sailboats out on the lake -- beautiful.

There are also some wonderful museums right on the lake. We visited a new one, which was an instant favorite of Nathan's and Aaron's. It's called Discovery World, and focuses on science and the Great Lakes. During our visit, we also spent a day at the Wisconsin State Fair. In addition to seeing all the animals, and spending lots of time in the DNR Park (that's the Dept. of Natural Resources, not "do not resuscitate"!), the kids also learned how to hook up a milking machine (those are the photos with the plastic cow).

Our other fun game of the day was keeping track of all the different -- and frightening -- food-on-a-stick options!! The winners this year were fried macaroni and cheese on a stick and chocolate-covered bacon on a stick. (I am not making that up!)

The boys, Peter and Aunt Alicia also went to a Brewer game one afternoon while Anya Rashi napped and I had a few rare quiet hours to myself. It was a great way to spend one of the last weeks of summer.

Today we went to the boys' school because the class/teacher lists were posted. Anya Rashi was asking questions about "her" school the entire time . . . she meant Sunday school (where she finally is comfortable), and the YMCA, where I've been exercising for the past four weeks. I hadn't been to Strength and Resistance since Anya Rashi came home, and my back was really starting to let me know it wasn't happy. I've been going in the mornings before Peter leaves for work, but the class time changes when school starts -- so I've brought Anya Rashi to visit the short-term child care a few times. We will see how she does when I'm not there! I'm hoping we will both be pleasantly surprised. :o)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer's not over yet!

We've been having that feeling of urgency that means summer is drawing to a close. Aaron and Nathan played their last baseball game, and have been asking "how many days are left until school starts?" In another week we will find out who their teachers will be, we just received a boy choir schedule for the year, we scheduled our piano lessons -- all sure signs that August is ticking by.

But -- there's still lots of fun to be had before September! We traveled to Green Bay to go to an old-fashioned amusement park on the shore of the bay. Rides are 25 cents for little kids, and 50 cents for the 'big' kids. We had a ball for hours, and spent $12. :o)

We've done our share of swimming, since we finally had a few warm days during this unusually cool summer, and we're headed to a Brewer game and the State Fair later this week.

Last week brought a favorite new holiday to our home: Raksha Bandhan, an Indian celebration of the love between brothers and sisters. The kids all shared sweets and tied on string bracelets to symbolize the lifelong bond between them . . . and talked about the new baby sister who will celebrate with us in future years.