Thursday, December 24, 2009

It’s a . . . Dog! (Part 2)

I mentioned in the last post that the kids were excited. Here is a video where you get to see their reactions first hand.

And a few shots of the dog that we took of him at the organization that is now caring for him.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It’s a . . . Dog!

Our kids are always asking for a dog. The conversation usually goes like this:

Kid: Dad, can’t we get a . . .

Dad: No!

I don’t even give them a chance to finish their sentence. Over the last decade I have projected nothing but a impenetrable wall on this topic.

But inside, there have always been secret fissures in the wall.

A few years ago we were on a trip to Purina Farms when I came into contact with a small Golden Retriever of the field retriever variety. I knew I could take that dog home on the spot. But that dog was not available, so the NO-DOG wall was still strong.

This year around Thanksgiving CrazyMom starting asking me if we were going to do individual gifts for the kids or if we were going to do a family gift. Always hoping for an easy Christmas shopping season, I am partial to family gifts so I asked her what she thought a good family gift would be.

“Well, we could get a dog,” she said.

As you probably already know, we humans have the amazing ability to rationalize just about anything. It was so easy to convert my top-10-reasons-not-to-get-a-dog list into a top-10-reasons-to-get-a-dog list. So, like the Berlin wall, the unthinkable happened, the NO-DOG wall crumpled.

It turns out that looking for a family dog did not make for the “easy shopping season” that I had hoped for, but in the end, I think we found a real winner. As you can imagine, the kids were quite excited when they found out. But more on that later . . .

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Blind Side

Once a year or so CrazyMom and I go to a movie in a theater to maintain the false pretense that we are connected with modern American culture. A few nights back we went to see The Blind Side, which is the adoption story of Michael Oher.

We loved it . . . but please be advised that you should never take movie recommendations from people who only see a movie a year. Also, as adoptive parents, we might be a little biased.

There were a few themes in the movie that resonated so strongly with me that I was able to overlook any other faults the movie may have.

Consider the following moment in the film (it is in a trailer, so I don’t think I am spoiling anything here). Leigh Anne Tuohy, the mother who took in Michael, was having lunch with her friends.

“I think it is just great what you are doing for that boy. You are changing him,” said a friend.

Softly, almost to herself, Leigh Anne replied, “No, he is changing me.”

That moment drove home a larger theme in the movie - that the adoptive family is blessed just as much as the one who is adopted. So many times people have said similar things to me – “Those kids are so lucky to be a part of your family,” or “How blessed they are to have you guys.” While I think this is true, these comments leave out half of the story. “They have not been blessed as much as we have,” I often reply.

Another theme that resonated with me was captured well in this scene (this one was not in the trailer, but the movie is not a mystery, so I don’t think I am ruining anything here). Leigh Ann and her husband Sean are getting ready in the bathroom. Leigh Ann is pressing Sean to agree to something that he is not ready to agree with.

Leigh Ann: Will you at least think about it?

Sean: Alright.

Leigh Ann: “Alright” you will think about it or “alright” you agree with me?

Sean: Aren’t they the same thing?

Yes, in the end they are the same thing and women like Leigh Ann and CrazyMom do get their way. Of course, this is how the world ought to be since they press forward to do what is right.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Crazy Hat Night

Last Wednesday was "Crazy Hat Night" at our church's AWANA program. Buddy came to me the night before and said he wanted to wear a wheel on his head. If you recall the crazy outfit that he came up with for Halloween, this type of thing should not come as a surprise. So we went to the garage, pulled a wheel off of my beloved scooter, drilled a hole in one of his baseball hats, and mounted the thing.

When we were done, Buddy was proud of the finished product and said, "I think this is the first year that someone from our family will win the hat contest." Well, Buddy did not win, but he was happy with his second place finish. I was happy, too, because I enjoyed seeing Buddy's creative mind at work.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Breakfast Time-Lapse Video

I am obviously on a video kick right now. My place of employment issued me a new MacBook Pro this year and I have been playing around with iMovie, Garage Band, and the like. Here is a time-lapse video of our family having breakfast last Saturday morning.

A special thanks to one of my students, Brad, who tipped me off on how to hack my small Canon Powershot camera so I could program it to automatically take a photo every 5 seconds. This saved me from having to go out and buy an intervalometer.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Blanket Monster

I tried something new this weekend with the kids. They had a blast.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Something to be Thankful For

“So what would happen if we did not have these antibiotics?” my father asked his doctor as the doctor wrote out a prescription. My father had developed a fever as his body was fighting off of an infection and he was curious which would win – the infection or his body.

“Well, before we had these antibiotics, people died from this,” the doctor replied.

As my father was later relaying this story to me, we were both struck by how much we take for granted the life-saving medicines that are readily available to us.

I reflect on this conversation every time I have a child who would likely die if it were not for modern antibiotics.

Last weekend was one of those times.

Ed developed an internal infection that led to a soaring fever and abdominal pain. After 12 hours of tests and debates among doctors in the emergency room, the root cause was discovered. IV antibiotics were injected into her veins and she was admitted to the hospital for close observation.

Ed responded well to the antibiotics and she is back home with us now, although the sum total of her activity each day has been to move from her bed to the couch in the morning and then move back to her bed at night.

This most recent event has caused me to reflect on how many children I would have lost already without access to medical care. By my count, the number is three. But the divide between “would have lost” and “have lost” is so enormous that the two hardly seem related. I recall reading a news article that had a photo of an Ethiopian mother holding her dying child. Her despondent face clearly conveyed her pain over the hopelessness of the situation. There were no doctors, or enough food for that matter, and her child was going to die.

Naively, I thought it could not be worse for this mother. But I was wrong. She actually had three kids and this was the third time she was holding one as they died. Such pain is too great for me; I cannot come to terms with it.

So this Thanksgiving, as I see Ed moping around the house, I am truly thankful for how access to modern medicine will allow all of my family to be together on Thanksgiving day. As I look at my family, however, I also see beyond them to the families of Ethiopia and I realize that I need to do more for them.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Solving the Rubik’s Cube

“Buddy did a great job today,” a grade school teacher said to me as I walked by her in the hall.

“Oh, yeah? With what?” I asked.

“He solved the Rubik’s cube under the Elmo,” she replied.

We had walked past each other at this point, so even though I had no idea why Buddy would hold his hands under a stuffed Sesame Street character when solving the Rubik’s Cube I said, “That’s great” and continued on my way back to the high school and my own class.

It turns out that the “Elmo” is a document projector and Buddy had solved the Rubik’s cube while it was being projected up on the big screen during an assembly. Pretty cool stuff for a 10 year old.

One of the things that educators love is to see independent learning. One of the “opportunities” that big families offer is a lot of independent learning. Mom and dad often have too much going on to hold the hand of every child in the home.

I had shown Buddy a You-Tube video on how to solve the Rubik’s Cube, but that was it. After that, he was on his own. I did not even know that he had finally got it down until I found out in the hallway conversation above that he not only had it down, he was performing for the school.

Well, when one brother does something sweet like that, another brother wants in on the action. Little Foot got Buddy to show him the You-Tube video and he then learned how to solve the Rubik’s Cube. Pretty cool stuff for an 8 year old.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Beggar's Night Costumes

Little Miss Anna dressed up as a cheerleader.

F.G. as a black Crayola crayon.

Little Foot as a bow hunter.

Miss Bookworm and Ed as injured soccer players. This fit pretty well since Ed could not play in the tournament this weekend since she has pneumonia.

K.D. as a rock star.

Buddy as a headless man walking on his hands. He sure got a lot of comments on his costume as we roamed the neighborhood.

Here are the pumpkins this year. One was designed by Miss Bookworm and the other by Buddy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Needed: Nurse’s Clipboard and Second Thermometer

“Hi, hon,” I said. I was calling CrazyMom on my way home from work on Monday to let her know that which she already knew – I was running late. I was expecting her to start reminding me about how I only had 11 minutes before I had to leave for the soccer fields.

“I have four kids with fevers in the house,” she said.

“Four kids? How can that be?”

I was incredulous because this fact went against my understanding of how this world should be dealing with us. It all started a few weeks ago when the first kid got sick. We were pretty much processing the kids sequentially – when one kid would recover, the next kid, who was secretly incubating, would go down.

On Sunday CrazyMom was not with me at church because she was home with a child who was nearly recovered and another child who was the latest casualty. I remember telling others that we were basically out of the woods now. We were running out of kids to get sick, so the end was near.

Well, I was wrong. Now it was Monday evening and kids who had recovered were relapsing.

When I got up this morning and came down for breakfast, only two kids were up and able to make it to the breakfast table. It sure made for a quiet breakfast.

Later in the day, I got an email from CrazyMom giving me the current medical status of each child at home. At the end of the message she wrote:

“I need a nurse’s clipboard and a second thermometer.”

Monday, October 12, 2009

Camping with Friends

“Oh, I have been meaning to tell you,” said CrazyMom as she sat next to me in the RV. “F.G. is missing school on Monday.”

We were packed up and heading out of town to go camping with friends on what we thought was a long weekend for the family. Managing all of the different school schedules got the best of us, however, and we did not realize that F.G. would miss a day of school. Our big-family friends ended up having the same problem for their kids as well. But we did not let a little school ruin a fantastic family outing. Here are some photos of the trip.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

bump . . . Bump . . .BIG BUMP!

While I am by no means a packrat, there are a few odd things that I have hung onto over the years. The other day I went up to the attic and pulled down the scooter that I use to ride around campus in my college days. Yes, I did say scooter and I do mean the type that you push with your foot.

The front tire was rotted out, so I called CrazyMom on her cell and had her stop by a bike store to pick up a new tire on her way home from doing errands.

When she got back to the house, I was hunched over the scooter on the garage floor working on it with kids around me. She handed me the tire and said, “bump . . . bump . . . big bump.” I looked up, caught her eye and grinned as we exchanged knowing glances among kids wanting to know what was going on. It was the same phrase that I had been thinking of ever since I pulled the scooter down from the attic and to hear it in her own voice, albeit devoid of the urgency with which it was originally spoken, was delightful.

It was a warm evening back in our college days when I was giving a ride to CrazyMom (I guess it was CrazyGirlfriend at the time) on my scooter. She would stand on the front part of the foot area while I stood on the back and reached around her to hold onto the handlebars. As we were weaving our way through streets and parking lots, we finally came to the sidewalk outside of her apartment building. CrazyMom saw that the pads were uneven ahead creating a bump in the sidewalk.

“bump,” she said in a normal voice to point out to me what was ahead.

Now, us guys are a funny breed. We have a streak in us that produces everything from knights in shining armor to cocky boys full of themselves. This streak kept me on my current course.

“Bump,” CrazyGirlfriend said again a little louder clearly communicating that we were coming upon a dangerous situation.

Little did CrazyGirlfriend know that earlier I had jumped two side-by-side parking curbs with room to spare. This two-inch rise in the pavement paled in comparison to that. I held my course, flexed my knees, and prepared to wow the woman of my dreams.

“BIG BUMP!” came her cry as I pulled up hard on the front handlebars. The front wheel did not clear the bump and CrazyGirlfriend went over the bars and into the pavement only to have me then land on top of her.

This was not the last time that CrazyMom would utter a warning that I would not heed, but over time I have finally come around to listening to them. Now when we are driving in a car and CrazyMom yells, “CrazyD!” I automatically hit the brakes.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Gone Camping

“But in a motor home the kids could play cards as we went down the road,” CrazyMom was saying. All nine of us were packed into the van on a road trip to Grandma and Grandpa F’s house (my folks). CrazyMom and I were reliving the same debate that we had been having for the last five years – she wants a motor home, but I want a travel trailer.

“The last thing we need is another engine to maintain. Plus, they cost a lot more money,” I said as I had said over and over for five years.

Then I looked in the back bench of our twelve passenger van. Miss Bookworm was sitting there reading.

“Hon,” I said in a softer, different tone. “Miss Bookworm is 13. If we talk about this for five more years, then it will all be over. She will be out of the house and we will never have been a camping family. I don’t care if it is a motor home, travel trailer, or a pop up. We need to get something - even if it is the wrong thing - this summer and just start camping.”

CrazyMom agreed and we purposed to find something soon.

The next day we were sitting in the shade in Grandma and Granpa’s yard watching the kids roll by on the go-cart. In my line of sight was their camper sitting in the field where it had been parked for a year or so. I did not think anything of it until the night before we were to leave their place.

“Hey Grandpa F, what are you guys doing with that camper?” I asked. By the next afternoon, after a tow out of the field, a new battery and right front brake calipers, we were on our way, driving the RV.

Here are some shots of our first camping trip that we did at the end of summer. It was a fabulous time together as a family and we are looking forward to our second outing this fall.

Monday, August 31, 2009

First Day of School

We are a multi-school type of family with kids spread all over the place. Each year CrazyMom and I put our heads together to figure out what would be the best option for each of our children. This year Miss Bookworm and Ed will be homeschooled, F.G. will be in a public school, and Buddy, Little Foot, K.D. and Anna will be at the private school where I teach.

We (almost) always snap a few photos as we send them off to school on the first day. It is fun to see these photos over the years to see how the kids change physically, but also to see how excited they are each fall to kick off a new school year.