Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Blessed Again and Again!

Over the past week, two more wonderful families have given us generous gifts to help us with our adoption expenses! We are so grateful, and truly humbled! God is clearly working - doing what would seem to be the impossible! Yet, we are reminded daily...

"...all things are possible with God." Mark 10:27

Today we received the final piece of paper we need - our updated I171 from USCIS (Immigration). We can now move forward with making our Consulate appointment in Guangzhou and planning our travel!

We are getting so close to finally being with our little Shi Shi! Yet there is still SO much that needs to be done here to prepare, not only for our trip and for his arrival, but also for our girls who will stay home while we're away. My mom will come and take care of them, but I will need to get her up to speed on their school schedule, activities schedule, meal preferences, routines, etc. So much more complicated than when we traveled last - Hannah and Rachel were 5 and 2 then!

David's room has been a storage room for the last couple of years. It is slowly but steadily getting cleaned out. I am also trying to organize the rest of the house so that once we come home with an active toddler with jet lag, I won't have to do much thinking about running things around here!

Also, once we have our travel dates, I can begin making medical appointments for David for when we get home. He'll need the typical post-placement medical exam and blood work done, but I will also be making apoointments for consultations with cleft specialists, planning a course of action for his treatment. Then will come Early Intervention assessments and possible services.

There's a lot of work to be done to bring our little boy home. But it is the work of my heart, and I welcome it!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We Are Blessed!

Yesterday, as I opened the mail, I found a small note card in with the stack of Christmas cards. Inside was a lovely note - and a check. A check for a substantial amount of money. A check, the note explained, that was meant to help us with David's adoption.

I cried hard as Al hugged me.

David's adoption came up fast. And as anyone who is even remotely familiar with intercountry adoption knows, the huge expenses related to his adoption came up fast, too. We've been scrambling, crunching the numbers, weighing our options. I will tell you that we've both lost more than a few hours' sleep wondering where we would come up with that amount of money so quickly.

I've read many blogs written by adoptive families who have found themselves in this same situation. So many times, God has provided exactly what they have needed to complete their adoptions, often in the form of a surprise gift like this. I have tried to continuously keep in mind that God knows what we need, and He will take care of us, and especially David. The speed at which all of the steps for this adoption have been completed is evidence to us that He is working everything out. But surprise gifts of money are the kind of thing that happens to other people - not us. I guess I've been proven wrong.

Yesterday, Hannah was looking for something to do. She wandered into our bedroom, picked up my Dad's old King James Bible that I display on a little table and began to read. This morning she told me that she had chosen to memorize Isaiah 41:10, and recited it to me:

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

What a blessing it was for me to share the news of our gift with Hannah in light of this verse she learned! I love when we can share with our children the real-life examples God gives us of His love and provision!

Friday, December 18, 2009


That's Travel Approval! It arrived at our agency late Wednesday afternoon, and I got the call from our social worker yesterday! This is the official OK to travel to China for the purpose of adopting our son.

Our son. It won't be long now...

We are just waiting on our updated I171 from US Immigration - that should just be another few days. Then we can schedule our US Consulate appointment in China, figure out what day David will be placed with us, and make travel arrangements (book flights, hotels, etc.).

We are praying that we will be able to leave China by February 14th. That's the start of Chinese New Year. The entire country will shut down for two weeks beginning on that date. If we aren't able to schedule everything by then, we will have to wait until early March to travel. It's looking good for us, but we're not taking anything for granted.

There is so much that needs to be done around here. I'm going through each room in the house, getting rid of stuff we no longer need. David's room is still a storage room. I'm going to spend much of Christmas break getting it ready for him - cleaning it out, putting new shades in the windows, setting up his crib and dresser, digging toys out of bins in the basement. I need to get an area rug for the wood floor, lamps, a bookcase. I'm excited to get working on his room, but I've had to put it on hold while we prepare for Christmas.

I keep trying to imagine a two-year-old boy running around our house. It's going to be fun! We're ready!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A New, Um, Preoccupation

OK, so the other evening, this Houseful of Girls was discussing the arrival of the new Little Brother. I mentioned that since David was not yet potty trained, they would be blessed with the supreme privilege of helping me with diaper changes. The question was asked, since he's a boy, would putting a diaper on him be any different than on a girl. You know, because boys have "peanuts". I said no, diapers were worn the same way by both boys and girls.

So yesterday, Abbie and I were walking through Target, choosing a few small items to put in a care package we'll be sending to David in China. The store wasn't too busy - just a few old ladies and moms with young children.


Did I mention Abbie's voice could slice through steel, especially when she's discussing something she feels is of extreme importance?

"Ummm, yes, honey, he will, because he's a boy."

I quickly looked around. No one too close to pay much attention. Time to redirect.

"Oh, let's go down this aisle. I need contact solution."


Yes, honey, I'm sure she set you straight. "Mmm-hmm... Hey, what do you think you'd like to have for lunch today?"

"Can I have some of the chicken noodle casserole from last night?"

"Sure, we have plenty left over!" Huge sigh of relief from me...

"MOMMY, HOW BIG IS DAVID'S PE*** GOING TO BE? WILL IT BE THIS BIG (holding thumb and finger about two inches apart)?"

"Honey, he's a toddler. We'll see when we get him home and change his diapers... Oh, look, I need a new tablecloth..."

"Hey, Mommy, you know how Daddy travels a lot for work?"

Whew - definitely a new topic. "Yes..."


It's not easy getting out of Target without making eye contact with a single person, but I tried. Where does she come up with this stuff???

Monday, November 30, 2009

A New Glimpse of Our Boy!

Today, we were blessed with a wonderful gift. Bill, our agency's facilitator in China, sent us these three new photos of our David. We are so excited to see what he looks like now. He's grown a lot - he's not a baby, but a little boy now. And a real bruiser, too! I just can't wait to hold him tight and never let go!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Holiday Photos

I tried to take our Christmas card photo yesterday. This is one of the choices...

Back to the camera...

The Effects of Tryptophan on a Five-Year-Old

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Update On David

Yesterday we received a wonderful gift - an update on our David! Bill, our agency's facilitator in China, contacted the welfare institute where David is living, and asked them a long list of questions we had given him. Here is some of what he found out for us...

Our little guy is a pudge! He is in the 25th percentile for height, but the 95th percentile for weight! The really good news, though, is that his growth is staying on the curve, so he's a healthy boy - what we most hoped for him!

His development is normal and on target.

He likes vegetables! Oh, happy day! Let's see how long that lasts...

He enjoys balls, toy cars, a rocking horse and a slide.

He naps from 12:30 to 2:00 - not very long. Wonder if he has an early bed time.

He's not potty trained yet. Which is fine with me. I was hoping he'd either be entirely potty trained or not at all. That in-between stage is rough when they're transitioning to their new family. So we'll tackle that once we've been home a while (oh, joy!).

He is afraid of strangers. I'm thinking our placement is going to be interesting.

He is called "Shi Shi", so that's what we'll call him for a while. I like it!

He uses regular bottles to drink. It sounds like he has learned to eat and drink without special equipment. Don't know if he's ever used a sippee.

Just these little bits of information have really lifted my spirits! This is a challenging time - we know about him, we know he's going to be our son, but there's no activity right now - we're just waiting. The new little bits of information help it to feel more "real" for us - he's a real boy, not just some paperwork being shuffled around!

We're hoping for new pictures soon...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Happy 2nd Birthday, David!

Today is David's second birthday.

I have never missed one of my children's birthdays. Hannah was placed with us just two days before her first birthday. Rachel and Abbie were placed at 9 months and 8 months respectively. When we accepted David's referral, I knew we would miss his birthday, and it made me sad.

Today I just kept reminding myself that this was the last birthday we would miss. That every birthday from now on we would celebrate with him. I thought it would be fun to celebrate him anyway, so I went to the Jewel for a tiny little birthday cake and a "2" candle. It was all I could do to keep from crying as I bought my little cake and took it home. The girls were great tonight, as they sang Happy Birthday for their brother. I wonder if his birthday was observed in any way in China?

These are the challenging days of waiting. So much to do here at home to get ready for David's arrival, as well as holiday preparations. I need every day I can get to prepare. There is no news right now. We are waiting for our updated endorsement letter from DCFS, and then for USCIS to update our immigration paperwork. We are also waiting for Travel Approval from China. Once those three things happen, things will really move forward - scheduling our US Consulate appointment in China, booking flights, planning the itinerary, shopping for little boy clothes.

And getting ready to hold my two-year-old.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Today I had to drive down to our adoption agency to drop some stuff off. Well, I didn't have to go in person - I could have just dropped it in the mail and it would have gotten there by Monday, which would have been fine.

But no, I did have to go.

I appreciated the hour and a half round-trip drive. Quiet time to think, pray, listen to some good radio. But what I really needed was to just connect with our agency, even if only for a couple of minutes.

I don't get to go to the OB for periodic checkups. No ultrasounds. When you're waiting to adopt, particularly from China, all you've got is a couple of pictures (in our case, 9-month-old pictures), and some dated medical and developmental reports. And you do a whole lot of "hurry up and wait", and you don't really know for how long. There's no "due date", really. So sometimes, you just need to connect with someone who is helping you through the process. Just to get that feeling that it's still happening. That it's still being worked on.

I'm not complaining (well, maybe just a little). I'm actually making a conscious effort to treasure this time. Afternoons to myself while the girls are in school, doing things with our big girls, savoring the anticipation of a new little one in our family. But when David finally gets here, we will be so ready!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Sister Love!

The other evening, while I was preparing dinner, Abbie asked me how to spell David's name. Later, I went into the living room to see what she had been up to, and found this...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

We Got Our LOA!!!!!!


That's "Letter of Approval"!!!!!! It's the final approval from China saying yes, we may adopt our David Heshi!!!!!

We were told it has been taking three to four weeks after pre-approval to receive the LOA. It took 8 days for us to get it. Oh. My. Goodness!!!!!

I actually got dizzy when I read our social worker's email giving us the good news.

Stay tuned - it's gonna be a wild ride! One step closer to our son!!!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hey, Guess What???





Dang He Shi

to be forever known as

David Heshi Cormier

David - "beloved of God"

He - "kind, gentle" Shi - "scholar"

DOB - November 18, 2007

Datong SWI, Shanxi Province

We are overjoyed and overwhelmed with this amazing blessing! A son! And a little brother! The girls are thrilled, too!

I'll post more information as it becomes available!

Finally... I am Chinamama4 for real!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Things that are currently broken or not working properly in our home...

1. My car

2. Al's car

3. Our internet

4. DVD player

5. My printer

6. The lawnmower

I thought things only broke down in threes...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How We're Doing With This Challenge

OK, so today is Day 10 of the challenge, and we're doing OK. I went over budget at my "big shop" this week, but not by much (spent $81). I was very conservative last week (about $38), so hopefully at the end of the month we will still come out on target.

In the process, I'm learning a lot. In addition to last week's expensive fruit run to Jewel, I am really thinking carefully about wants vs. needs, especailly about sales. There's nothing wrong with stocking up, but if we're not careful, we can wipe out our week's budget with such stocking up and still have nothing for dinner.

In thinking about each purchase I make, I am reminded of those "money makeovers" where you write down every cent you spend and what you spend it on. Makes you think really hard before buying something you're going to have to document at the end of the day...

We did go out to eat once so far. On Sunday we drove up and spent the afternoon at Lake Geneva. It would have been unreasonable to drive home without feeding the girls dinner! On the other hand, we went home after church to change clothes and eat lunch and pack snacks instead of eating lunch and snacks out, too (which is what we would have done in the past).

I am also keeping in mind that "stuff happens". This weekend we are having friends stay with us for two days (two adults, two children) - that's lunch and dinner on Saturday and breakfast and lunch on Sunday. So that's more food to buy, and that's totally OK, because we love our friends and are so happy to spend the time with them. But I have planned a menu, and it will still be so much better than going out or ordering in. It just takes a bit more planning and prep time.

We're also stocking the freezer with fresh fruit that I will use later this fall for jams I will give as Christmas gifts. I am not counting that as groceries - I should actually count that in my Christmas budget! And we're spending a little extra every couple of days for fresh sweet corn - we won't have that to enjoy much longer. And I went to the local apple orchard yesterday and bought a peck of apples. The girls are enjoying munching on them so much, I'll have to pull enough out for a pie before they all disappear! (I will count the corn and apples in the budget since we're eating them now.)

I have been doing most of my shopping at Aldi. I have really come to appreciate that store. They have all the "basics" I need, since I'm cooking and baking so much from scratch again. The store is pretty small, so it's a quick in-and-out when I go. But today I had to make a run to Woodman's to pick up a few "special" items that Aldi simply doesn't have (pie crusts, girls' shampoo, pita chips). Woodman's is absolutely HUGE. Their prices are very good (pretty comparable to Aldi) and they have an enormous selection. I was tired after picking up just a few things because I had to walk through the entire store. And it was all I could do to restrain myself from indulging in all the great deals they had going - deals on things we simply do not need this week. I'm proud of myself - I stuck to my list! But I can see where all those crazy-low prices can be a real trap!

I made a great discovery - Leftover Night! There was plenty of food from the week, and the girls got to choose exactly what they wanted. No complaining, no expense, minimal prep and cleanup for me! What a deal! We just added fresh sweet corn to the meal to round it out. Everyone's a winner!

So, seriously, even if I don't manage to meet the challenge by the end of the month, I have learned so much in the process, that that's what this challenge is all about, as far as I'm concerned!

So here's what we're having this week...

Sunday - Dinner out on the way home from Lake Geneva

Monday - Leftover Night

Tuesday - meatloaf, mashed potatoes, fresh sweet corn

Wednesday - pork tenderloin, wild rice, green beans

Thursday - whole chicken in the crock pot, brown rice, sweet corn

Friday - Nana's American Chop Suey (macaroni and meat sauce, made and frozen during her visit last month), salad

Saturday - ziti bake with friends, salad, bread, cinnamon sopapillas for dessert

Sunday - We have our annual outing at Blackberry Farm with Hannah's China group that day. I planned a great picnic lunch with subs and pasta salad and fruit for us and our visiting friends so we won't have to spend piles of cash at the concession stand. But I forgot to plan for dinner - oops! Probably leftovers or something pulled together from the pantry!
BTW, I had a great time searching vintage photos for the image in this post...

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Challenge Day One: A Huge Reality Check

Yesterday was the first day of September, the first day of the $75 per Week Grocery Challenge. I had done our big shopping for the week on Sunday, but we were already out of fresh fruit, a staple in our girls' diet. So after putting the girls to bed last night, Al ran to the Jewel to restock our supply.

Now, I love the new Jewel, only 5 minutes from our house. It's new, clean, attractive, well stocked, and the produce is always great.

But it's expensive!

Al came home with one box of strawberries, two boxes of blueberries and a bunch of bananas. He also picked up a package of razors and some shaving cream (both store brand) and deoderant (name brand). And a couple of cups of yogurt he enjoys after his running. There were no "extras" like snacks or bottled drinks.

The total came to $26.03. That's a third of our weekly budget.


So I have found a huge hole in our grocery budget. We do have to restock our fresh fruit halfway through the week, but I can do better if I go to Woodman's or Aldi. And if Al needs something, he can tell me and I can get it somewhere much cheaper, and maybe even with coupons.

I still think I'll be OK this week and can come pretty close to meeting the challenge. But what's priceless (sorry MasterCard) is finding that huge hole! Which is really a big part of what this challenge is all about!

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Challenge

Mary, who blogs at Owlhaven, has been one of my favorite bloggers ever since I discovered the world of blogging a few years ago. She is Mom to 10 children - four by birth, and 6 by adoption from Korea and Ethiopia. She does a great job of feeding her lovely brood with tasty, healthy, yet frugal, meals. Her chicken enchilada bake is one of our family's favorites (divided by 1/4, of course!).

Mary recently wrote a book called Family Feasts for $75 a Week. For the month of September, Mary is challenging her readers to feed our families for just that - $75 per week (or any amount that we feel is reasonable). I've decided to take the challenge!

For new readers visiting my blog, we are a family of 5 - Dad, Mom, and three girls, ages 10, 7 and 5. All three girls are in school, though only two carry lunches to school (our Kindergartener goes in the afternoon after lunch at home). I stay at home full-time, so I am able to spend a good part of my day in meal planning and preparation.

I am adding an additional challenge for our family. We will not eat out this month, unless truly necessary (like a day trip). We did quite a lot of eating out or eating takeout during the summer, and it definitely had an impact on our budget.

I was telling a friend of mine about the challenge, and she asked me to get back to her at the end of the month and tell her the 5 top ways I was able to accomplish this goal (she seems pretty confident I'll be able to do it!). I can think a few things already...

1. Plan meals. If I write out a menu plan for the week, then shop only once for that week, I don't have to keep running to the store, which usually results in extra purchases I didn't really need to begin with. And we don't have to resort to takeout or eating out because I have nothing planned for that evening.

2. This is directly related to #1 - shop the pantry and freezer first. Sometimes I'm amazed at how much food I have in the house already that will make complete or almost-complete meals.

3. Make more food from scratch. Now that school has begun, I'm back at home a lot more, and am able to cook and bake more foods. Definitely cheaper, as well as healthier and yummier.

4. Make larger amounts of foods and then freeze meals for those busy nights when it would be much easier to order a pizza or pick up a rotisserie chicken at the Jewel.

The challenge officially begins tomorrow. I did a stock-up shopping yesterday, but followed the challenge rules and stayed within my usual weekly grocery budget to do so (actually, I was well under!). Here's my menu plan for this week...

Sunday - hamburger stroganoff on noodles, sweet corn from the local farm stand

Monday - pot roast, potatoes and baby carrots in the crock pot

Tuesday - garlic basil chicken in the crock pot, rice, sweet corn

Wednesday - tacos

Thursday - ravioli, salad

Friday - chicken and stuffing bake, sweet corn

Saturday - baked fish, pasta salad, sweet corn

(Yes, I know I listed sweet corn four times. It's been a great year for sweet corn, and we won't be able to get it much longer.)

Lunches are usually sandwiches for the big girls, and anything I can improvise for the rest of us, including leftovers. Breakfasts are also pretty simple, except for our big Sunday breakfast that Al prepares for us every week. Desserts are a treat, not a requirement (as I keep telling our girls), but now that I have time for more baking, they may appear more frequently on our menu!

I forgot to mention - the $75 per week includes paper goods, cleaning supplies and health and beauty products. Eep!

I CAN do this! I WILL do this! Stay tuned...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Three Years...

As of today, our dossier has been logged in at the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA) for a full three years. At the rate referrals are currently being released, we've got a good two more years to go...

I won't fill this post with whining. Just saying that on most days, I'm OK with the wait. I can be philosophical, I can remind myself that God's timing is perfect, that the child He has chosen for us is just not ready yet, that maybe our family is not ready yet...

Other days are simply sad or hard. I just want to get on with our lives as a complete family.

So I rest in this...

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
Psalm 130:5

(Taken shortly after receiving Abbie's referral. Rachel is 2, Hannah is 5. It took us 5 1/2 months from LID to referral for Abbie...)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Making Memories, Part 2

We've finished the first week of August already! The summer is flying by, and we've done lots of fun things this past month...

  • Hannah attended a friend's birthday sleepover
  • Went to a Kane County Cougars game with some of Abbie's China group
  • Learned about bees at a local forest preserve program
  • Al played oboe at church, and I sang a few times
  • All three girls saw the dentist - NO CAVITIES for any of them!
  • Saw Kit Kittredge at the movie theater - $1 each for tickets, but spent nearly $20 on snacks
  • Went to Splash Country with friends from Hannah's China group
  • Saw another movie at the Purple Store in Kaneville
  • Learned about butterflies at another forest preserve program
  • Had some new friends over for lunch and play time
  • Heard a friend's band play at our church
  • Went to Kiddieland in Melrose Park with Hannah's China group
  • Hosted a Knitting Day here - six moms, 14 kids, yummy lunch, lots of fun, not so much knitting
  • Attended a Homemade Gourmet party and got to know some more moms from the girls' school
  • Had several play dates with girls' friends from school
  • All three girls enjoyed a week of Chinese Culture Camp - I worked in the kitchen that week and really enjoyed it (though I was exhausted every evening!)
  • Al and I attended a concert by a virtuoso erhu player (erhu-ist?) at Fermilab
  • Spent a Sunday afternoon at Shedd Aquarium and had dinner that evening in Chinatown
  • Girls enjoyed a week of VBS
  • Checked out a couple of new gymnastics schools for Hannah
  • Got all three girls' school supplies bought
  • Ongoing shopping for First Day of School outfits, sneakers, activity clothes, backpacks, etc.
  • Attended the tenth wedding anniversary celebration of friends from Abbie's China group
  • Celebrated my Fortysomethingth birthday
  • Al went to Maine to play oboe for his niece's wedding

Hope to post pictures soon - pictures I'll be taking with the new camera Al got me for my birthday!

Just a couple of weeks left before school starts - more fun planned!

Monday, August 03, 2009

How Things Get Out of Control Around Here

So I made homemade mac and cheese for lunch today. And there was SO much left over that I needed to put it away in a container in the refrigerator...

1. Noticed there were no containers in my cabinet (except for the little tiny ones I send to school in the girls' lunches).
2. Looked in the refrigerator to see if they could possibly all be in there, holding leftovers.
3. Suddenly recognized The Horror.
4. Took everything out of the refrigerator and either threw it away or put it on the counter.
5. Took drawers and shelves out to scrub.
6. Except the door doesn't open more than a 90-degree angle from the fridge. So I had to move the whole fridge out from its little alcove so I could open the door wider and remove one drawer and the bottom shelf.

So right now...
- my trash barrel is full of garbage,
- my counters are covered with food,
- my sink is full of dirty containers,
- my refrigerator is stuck out in the middle of the kitchen at an odd angle.

And the leftover mac and cheese is still in the crock pot...

Sunday, July 26, 2009



The sister of one of my knitting friends was looking for a new home for this sweet little hamster. We had a hamster a few years ago, but she only lived about two months. Al and I discussed it, and decided it was time to try having a pet again. So Ida joined our family.

We are all enjoying her very much! She sleeps pretty much throughout the day, but she perks up in the evenings. And her rattling around in her wheel keeps me company at night and in the early morning while the girls are sleeping.
We love you, Ida! Welcome to our crazy family!

Summer fun can sure wear a girl out!

(She fell asleep mid-snack!)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chicken and Wild Rice Salad

I love making this tasty, easy recipe for luncheons. I serve it with croissants and fruit...

1 lb. boneless chicken breasts
1 (6 oz) package Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice
1 cup seedless red grapes, cut in half
3/4 cup celery, chopped
1 cup cashews, coarsely chopped

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. milk
2 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. onion powder

Cook chicken in covered sauce pan. Cook rice according to directions. Combine chicken, rice, grapes and celery. Mix dressing ingredients and fold into mixture. Refrigerate 2-3 hours; add cashews before serving.

Notes: I use 2-3 large cans of chicken breast instead - much quicker and easier! I also use the 5-minute quick-cook Uncle Ben's wild rice - again, quicker and easier.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Another Artist in the Family!

Yesterday, Abbie picked up our copy of "I Can Draw Animals" from Usborne Books and turned to this page:

Here are her results. She's 5. Pretty cool, huh?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Pictures... So Far!

In early June, we spent a weekend with Hannah's China group visiting one of the families in the Quad Cities - this is the fifth year of our tradition. We stayed at a hotel with a pool, and the girls had lots of fun swimming and splashing.

Our Hannah, cruising around on a pool noodle!

Abbie, relaxing on a fish...

...and of course, Rachel, having a blast in the water!

We visited a small, but excellent zoo in the area that weekend.

Abbie and Rachel feed an impatient goat...

...while Hannah and her friend Abbie feed two more docile critters.

Abbie got to feed a bird.

Our family loves to visit historical museums, and there are two right in our area. First, we visited Blackberry Pioneer Village in Aurora.

Hannah and a turkey check each other out.

Rachel grinds some coffee the old-fashioned way.

The girls enjoyed the old one room schoolhouse.

We also spent a beautiful afternoon at Garfield Historic Farm in LaFox.

Rachel and Abbie play checkers with slices of dried corn cobs.

Hannah talks history with one of the guides.

This wonderful lady taught me a lot about spinning. It's a hobby/craft I'd love to enjoy someday!

Rachel was great at the hoop game.

Hannah learned about dipping candles in tallow.
Abbie wrung out a clean shirt.

Laundry isn't nearly this fun at home!

Enjoying my favorite animals, the sheep!

We had some friends in for a barbecue the day before the Fourth of July. I have always wanted to make one of those American flag cakes like in the magazines. Not especially pretty, but the spirit was there!

It's always more fun to eat outside, especially with good friends!

Every holiday, Al goes running with some friends in Wheaton. On the Fourth of July, Hannah joined him for the first time. She's becoming quite a runner, just like her Daddy!

I took the girls on a firefly walk at a forest preserve in St. Charles. They loved watching the fireflies twinkle over the high prairie grasses, and they even caught some. And it was a real treat to stay up so late!

We met some friends from Abbie's China group at a Kane County Cougars game. Here, the girls are hanging out at the fence (actually, on the fence), watching the catcher warm up.
Rachel, Abbie, and the girls!

There was a fireworks show to enjoy after the game was over.

Lots more to come - stay tuned...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese

This fabulous macaroni and cheese recipe is from The Freezer Cooking Manual from 30 Day Gourmet by Nanci Slagle. Low fat it's not, but our girls absolutely love it. The recipe makes enough for dinner one night with enough leftovers for several lunches and dinners or sides. It's a big hit at parties with children.

Crock Pot Mac 'n Cheese

16 oz dry macaroni (I prefer rotini, but you can use pretty much any shape you like)
10 oz can condensed cheddar cheese soup
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
8 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
12 oz can evaporated milk
1 cup milk

Cook macaroni according to package directions. While macaroni is cooking, add soup, grated cheeses, evaporated milk, and milk to crock pot on low. Stir to combine. When macaroni is cooked, drain and add to crock pot. Stir to mix. Cook on low 3 hours.

See? I told you it was rich. But I also told you how easy it was! This can be frozen to be eaten later, but we've never gotten that far! You can also double or triple the recipe and freeze some. Also, I usually use a full 16 oz of extra-sharp cheddar instead of 8 sharp and 8 extra-sharp - more flavor!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Making Memories, Part 1

Sometime last week, I realized that June was over, July had begun, and we'd hardly done anything on our "Fun Things To Do This Summer" list! Then I went back through my calendar and noticed that, yes, we had already done a lot. Maybe not "big stuff" like water parks or a vacation, but certainly lots of things that would make for some great memories for the girls (and Al and me, too). And since I want to actually remember some of this stuff this fall, I'm making a list here...
  • My BFF Linda visited for 10 days
  • Linda and I painted my laundry room
  • She and I took the girls to Chicago by train, rode the water taxi to Michigan Avenue, ate lunch at the Walnut Room in Marshall Field's (I refuse to call it Macy's), and went to the Art Institute where the girls drew in their sketch books
  • Went to a free movie at the library
  • Signed up for Summer Reading at Barnes and Noble and our library
  • Spent a weekend with Hannah's China group at our friends' Greg and Betty's (an annual tradition)
  • Swimming lessons for Rachel and Abbie
  • Basketball camp for Hannah
  • My mom visited us for a week
  • Had the girls portraits taken
  • We've eaten a lot of ice cream
  • Abbie had her first eye exam for Kindergarten, and I got new bifocal contacts
  • Saw a movie outdoors at the Purple Store (Hill's General Store) in Kaneville
  • Went to the huge annual Wilton tent sale
  • Planning for, purchasing for, and beginning several projects for Christmas gifts, both knitting and sewing
  • Lots of visits to the library
  • Took my mom and the girls to Blackberry Farm
  • Completed another round of Immigration paperwork for Sarah's adoption
  • Discovered what a wonderful movie "Singing in the Rain" is and watched it several times
  • Planted a little garden (tomatoes and green beans) - watching it grow like crazy
  • Visited Garfield Historic Farm where we dipped candles, spun wool and chased chickens
  • Made some yummy jams with my friend, Jackie
  • Had a BBQ with friends
  • Saw Ice Age 3 in 3D
  • Spent an afternoon at Lake Geneva
  • Sang and played at church on several Sundays
  • Had play time and lunch at a new park we learned about
  • Had a play date with Rachel's China friend, Jasmine
  • Took the girls on a "firefly walk" one evening at a local forest preserve
  • Ate more ice cream

And that's just through the first week of July! Our calendar is quite full already for the rest of the summer until the girls go back to school on August 26th. And while we won't be taking any big trips or vacations this summer, I think it's the little outings and activities that will make lots of great memories for the girls!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Old Family Photos

I was organizing a bookcase this morning and found a little photo album I had filled with copies of old family photos. I thought I'd share them with you...

This is my great grandfather, Michael Lambrese, with my grandmother, Lucia. I wish I had known Grandpa. He was a musician, as was my Grammie. He came to the U.S. from Italy when he was a young man.

This is my Grammie, Lucia, with my Grampie, Albert Skalski. They were newlyweds here, in the late 1930s. Love the car.

My Grampie served in the Army during WWII and Korea. His Army buddies called him "Skal". He was the mess sargeant, and I understand he could do wonders with basic Army food.

Grampie looked so handsome in uniform. I've been told he was a talented rifleman.

Here is my great grandmother, Nellie Lambrese, holding my mom when she was a baby. My mom and I called her Nana, which is part of the reason I wanted my girls to call my mom Nana. Nellie came to the U.S. from Italy when she was very little (3, I think), and worked in the textile mills when she was about 9 years old. She and Grandpa ran a successful little neighborhood grocery store during the Depression.

Here are my Grammie and my mom, Cynthia. Judging by my mom's age, I'd say this photo was taken in the late 1940s.

This photo was taken in my great aunt Esther and great uncle Johnny's basement at a family Christmas party. Grammie is seated on the far right, Grampie is standing behind her, and Mom is standing on the very end. Notice my mom's lovely "picture feet" - she knew how to place her feet properly at a young age.

My mom is a teenager here - probably the mid-1950s. Again, the attractively positioned feet. I think my mom bears a striking resemblance to the young Audrey Hepburn. My dad thought so, too. What do you think?
See? What did I tell you?

My mom and dad, Cynthia and Bruce, basking in the glow of the aluminum Christmas tree, circa 1960. I think they were engaged here.

My Nana, Nellie. She had such a pretty smile.

Mom and Dad, and a stuffed dog named Fafu that Dad had given Mom. Note the ball fringe on the lampshade!

Grammie, Mom (and Fafu), Nana, and Grampie.

I have lots more to scan and share for future posts, including Al as a little tyke! Stay tuned...