Friday, December 29, 2006

A Different Take on New Year's Resolutions

Well, it's that time of year --

  • lots of leftovers;
  • major sales of picked-over goods; and
  • commercials for diet plans, diet pills, and health clubs every 30 seconds.

Insult is added when the Valentine candy was put on sale the day before Christmas!

The more insightful among us use these final days of the year to reflect on the past and plan for the future.

The most common resolutions in the U.S. are (order may vary by region):

  1. exercise more,
  2. lose weight,
  3. get out of debt,
  4. quit smoking,
  5. quit drinking,
  6. spend more time with family,
  7. get organized,
  8. learn something new (read or go back to school),
  9. find balance in life, and
  10. help others more.

Noble, yes! All these things require so much discipline! Sounds like more work to me. Fortunately, I'm 50% there with the common resolutions -- can you guess which half? I figured that to only have 5 resolutions would defeat the purpose, so I've come up with 10 new resolutions for the year.

Here are my resolutions (or should I say "aspirations") for 2007:

  1. I will toss the burnt garlic bread out the kitchen window before the smoke alarm goes off.
  2. I will hit the snooze button no more than twice before starting the day.
  3. I will remember all the logins and passwords that I use on the internet.
  4. I will not buy any crack houses this year.
  5. I will complete the sleep study and do what's necessary so that my apnea won't wake hubby at night.
  6. I will learn to hip hop dance in a way that will impress my kids.
  7. I will do another stand-up comedy routine in public.
  8. I will embarrass my kids in public.
  9. I will laugh more.
  10. I will share my dazzling wit with family, friends, and anyone who crosses my path.

I wish you and yours a New Year filled with wonder, wisdom, love, great health, and prosperity.

Monday, December 25, 2006

2006 Christmas Fashion: Pajamas

We had our appointment with Santa at Phipps Plaza at 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve day. Katrina and Alexander cleaned up nicely and while they were working for coal in the car drive, they were sweet as sugar when they got their turn with Santa. Katrina is now 12 and this is her 11th year on tape with Santa. Alexander is 10 and 5/6 and this is his 11th Santa visit as well.

Robert baked another batch of his famous cookies for Santa and watched Miracle on 34th Street with the kids while I wrapped gifts and baked for Christmas morning. The kids were warned that they could wake us up at 9 a.m. and then we would open presents.

No alarm clock was needed this morning -- at precisely 9 a.m., the pitter patter of their feet was heard down the hallway as the kids came into our bedroom singing "We wish you a Merry Christmas." Their dad tortures them by taking time to shave and brush his teeth before going downstairs to set up the video camera to capture their descent down the stairs to get to their stockings.

This is the first Christmas day where we stayed at home all day. This was quite disturbing for our daughter, who felt we broke the important family tradition of having Christmas dinner at Aunt Linda and Uncle Ted's home. In recent years, we would join our cousins Catherine and Christina at their parents' home. Now that Catherine's two kids are getting old enough to fully grasp Christmas morning, they decided to stay at home (in Florida) this year. Of course, that means that the grandparents would drive to Florida to see their grandkids. So we are left to fend for ourselves for Christmas dinner.

To prepare for Christmas breakfast, I made mom's famous Jewish Coffee Cake and Grandma Vesta's Blueberry Buckle. It's always fun to start the day with dessert first, and these go great with my morning coffee. Gram has been on my mind a lot the last couple of months -- I'm sure her message will reveal itself when I just sit still for a bit.

Robert and the kids decided to stay in their pajamas ALL day. Katrina and Alex are assembling Lego Ferrari cars and Hogwarts trains while listening to the sixth Harry Potter book on CD.

I got a great nap in the middle of the day -- I can't remember when I took a nap without being ill! I got a great book called, The Moon Watcher's Companion. It got me started to think again about the writing career that I've yet to seriously launch. What could I write about? So much has already been said. My brother Gus came up with a couple suggestions:
* Motivations for People Who Relax Too Much
* Google Zeros -- help for people whose names get no hits on Google

Friday, December 22, 2006

Locks of Love -- A Gift That Keeps Giving

December 22nd, 2006

Katrina went to Salon Greco this morning to get a very special haircut. She had 11 inches of hair cut off into three ponytails so the hair she's grown for three years could be donated to Locks of Love. This nonprofit organization accepts donated human hair in good condition and has wigs made for children who lose their hair due to cancer and other illnesses which cause baldness.

This is the second time that Katrina donated 11 inches of her hair to Locks of Love. The last time was over the 2003 Thanksgiving weekend.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Holiday Gifts or Guilt?!

This time of year feels like life is running on fast-forward. And for what? Everyone I talk with laments the commercialism of Christmas. Yet we continue to participate. People (women, mostly) feel obligated to give gifts to people whom they usually don't even send a birthday card during the year. They confess to having a few extra wrapped gifts tucked away in case they receive a gift from someone who wasn't on their list. "It's to avoid those awkward moments," they explain.

Why? Why do these seemingly mandatory gifts come with an unspoken expectation that each gift must be reciprocated?

I confess to being caught up in the holiday gift rat race. Each year I say that enough is enough and I'm not going to do it the next year. This year, I mean it. I'm growing up! Okay, well, I'm weaning off of the gift madness. I asked my husband to make his famous cookies this year so we could give them to neighbors and friends whom I normally feel compelled to spend money buying things they don't need.

I've warned some friends that they are receiving "Robert's Famous Cookies" for the holidays this year. That is code for, "I'm not buying anything for you this year, and I hope you don't buy anything for us this year, either."

The real test of my growth is how I will handle it if they give us store-bought gifts anyway. Will I whip out one of those pre-wrapped gifts I've stashed away over the years or will I just say, "thank you!" and share a hug?

I did manage to get some holiday photo cards printed up this year and wrote a one-page year-end letter to send out. I've even addressed and stamped about 30 of them this weekend. Now they just need to make it to the post office.

I had gone almost ten years without getting holiday cards mailed out -- letters were written almost every year, but they stayed in a stack until it was too embarrassingly late to send them out (like the wedding thank you notes I found five years after our wedding).

Let's make a pact for next year -- it's not too early to start talking it up:
No store-bought gifts beyond immediate family for Christmas 2007. Make a donation to a local charity in honor of all those candles, ornaments, and tchochkes you normally buy for people. Let your friends know that you are honoring them by supporting an organization that helps others throughout the year.

Peace to you and yours!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Paperchase Home Stretch

Nine months of paper gestating and no baby.

But finally -- four months after the Atlanta office of the USCIS received our request for permission to adopt internationally, we received our permission slip, called the I-797. (Adoptive families in other states receive an I-171H form -- go figure!). I spent most of a day this week getting it notarized, notary verified by the County, and the county certified by the Secretary of State, so the whole thing can be certified by the Chinese Consulate in Houston, TX.

As soon as we receive the papers back with the consulate's certification, our dossier will be complete with our adoption agency! YEAYYYYYYYY!!!

Next up, our dossier will be reviewed by the agency, translated into Chinese, and bound with a bunch of family photos and shipped to China. There, our agency's staff will deliver our dossier to the Chinese government where it will be logged in and processed sometime 15-17 months after it is logged in. As of now, China has more qualified families wanting to adopt than they have orphans who are "paper-ready" and in the system for international adoption. Does this mean that all orphaned children are being placed with families? Unfortunately, there are still several hundred thousand orphans living in institutional and foster care across that beautiful, vast country.

We began the adoption process in March of this year and here we are, 9 months later, to be only about one-third of the way to being united with our child. It is extremely frustrating, especially for one who likes to see immediate results once a decisive action has been taken.

I do not believe in coincidences. I know there is order in what seems to be chaos in the universe. I don't always like being in the midst of it, but I accept it. So what am I to learn from this process and journey?

I choose to believe that children are given to us as they are to teach us and help us grown-ups be the best we can be. The little soul who is to be part of our family is not ready for us -- or maybe we are not ready for her/him. Other parents who have children through adoption tell me often that when we meet our child, we will know instantly that we are meant to be together. I just want it NOW!

Katrina and Alexander are so excited about having a sister or brother (we haven't specified a gender, but odds are strong that we will get a girl) and I want them to have enough time together in the same house before the older ones go off to college.

Over the next two weeks, I'm doing what I do best -- making a list of things to get done before we are matched with our daughter or son. I have plenty of time, so there go my excuses for not learning conversational Mandarin, getting in shape so I can manage a toddler with ease, de-cluttering the house, getting her/his room ready, preparing my team at work to move our agenda without my daily presence, learning from adults who were adopted from Asian countries and grew up in a white household, etc...

I also need to remember how to be in the present moment... Katrina and Alexander have taught me more about that than any other experience in my life. To honor them and our yet-to-be-known child, I must recommit to being in the Now.
Okay, I get it! These kids are here to teach me. And their snuggles are amazing, too!