Archive for November 22nd, 2007

Some Thanksgiving reflections

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

On November 9, 2006, Joe and I left the Manchester airport on the biggest adventure of our lives to date.  We were on our way to China to meet our daughter, Anna.  She was a beautiful, frightened, angry little girl, and it was a real challenge to learn to like her and for her to learn to like me, but after almost a year, we won each other over, and we are now inseparable. 

Exactly one year later, November 9, 2007, we arrived again on US soil in Newark, NJ, with our son, Will.  He’s a much different child, older, more outgoing, more cheerful.  He hides his fright and grief behind a cheerful, defensive facade, and we only see the sadness in him at night.  It will take time for him to integrate fully into our family, but he has made a fine start.

Anna and Will get along well at this point, and I have high hopes that they will be close siblings throughout their lives.  I know there will be fights and tears, anger and estrangements along the way, but as the children of older parents, it will be so wonderful for them to have each other in the future, when Joe and I are gone. 

Joe and I are so blessed to have been allowed to become a family of 4 within a year’s time, and to have 2 beautiful, healthy, smart, good-natured children.  We never could have expected to have achieved that all by ourselves.  We made choices early in our married life together to pursue careers rather than family, and had no right to be so lucky to have these two after we became middle-aged fogeys.  They are a gift to us, and we have to thank the good Lord, our friends and family, our social worker and our agency, and the People’s Republic of China for being so gracious as to allow us to bring two of their most precious children home with us so we could become a family.  I hope that someday they will be able to see how their children have thrived in our care, and how their unselfishness in sharing their children with us has enriched at least 2 continents.

Now, for some more entertaining reflections (I couldn’t be serious for more than a couple of paragraphs!)  I think, after 43 years, I am finally aquiring a bit of wisdom.  My early mentor here in the north country, Dr. Craig, was a philosopher savant of sorts, and I gleaned a number of helpful hints from him that I have put to use in my home life as well as my professional life.  I will always remember his comment when presented with a proposal from some non-local vets for performing a larger number of low-cost spays and neuters in a day by using corner-cutting techniques and inferior materials.  Craig was incredulous that someone could even think of doing something like that, for many reasons, but the first thing that burst from his mouth was, “Why in the world would I want to work harder to make less money?”  A very good question.  This version of “work smarter, not harder” has infiltrated my life in many ways, but I have to share one manifestation of that I have just discovered. 

For years, I have avoided many of the “pre-made” dishes available at the grocery store, reasoning that they were much more expensive than making things from scratch, and that they were cheating, in a way, since I am perfectly capable of making them without all that help.  These things are, of course, true, but I have finally realized that if I only intend to make one batch of cookies, and the leftover ingredients may well have to be discarded before I decide to bake again, the unit cost of a tub of pre-prepared cookie dough is much cheaper than purchasing all the ingredients. 

So, I got smart this week.  I bought a tub of Nestle Toll House cookie dough for roughly $5, and I made 60 fresh, hot, delicious cookies this morning.  I had no left-over ingredients, and for dirty dishes, I only created a teaspoon and 2 cookie sheets that must be washed.  Incredible!  Bakery cookies at the store are usually about $3 per dozen, so it’s still cheaper than that.   I also bought a SaraLee pumpkin pie for $2, and we baked that this morning.  I couldn’t even begin to buy all the ingredients needed for a pie for that kind of money.  I also discovered that our local grocery store has quite an assortment of side dishes from Boston Market.  All you have to do is put them in the microwave!  Last night we had creamed spinach, garlic roasted mashed potatoes, cream of broccoli soup and chicken tortilla soup, all hot and fresh.  Much cheaper than eating out, and very little work on our part.  I can’t imagine why I didn’t discover all of this sooner.  It would only be easier if someone would deliver the food directly to my house, and stick it in the microwave for me. 

We’re getting ready to see if Pizza Hut is open so we can order our Thanksgiving dinner.  I know, it’s not turkey, but I don’t like turkey anyway.  And the joy of being able to lounge around my house all day in my pajamas certainly beats cooking and entertaining all day.  We’ve still only been in our house 10 nights since we got home from China, and it’s a real treat to have a whole day to ourselves. 

I hope everyone reading this is having just as pleasant a Thanksgiving Day as we are!!!

My little cheeseballs

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

Grandma Winter sent both kids vests from Macy’s to help keep them warm indoors in our frigid house.  They were both quite enchanted with them, and they had a good time modeling them.  After a year of training, I think Anna has finally mastered the “cheese” face, so that she only looks a little bit fake.  Will seems to have it down already.  I just have to keep his hands occupied during photos so he isn’t sticking them up in front of his face making the “peace” sign, or “V for victory”, or whatever it is all the kids seem to do in China.

11-22-07-14.jpg 11-22-07-15.jpg

Videos from the coast

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

The Maine coast

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

Last weekend, we traveled to a rented house on the Maine coast as part of Kay and Raoul Casciari’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration.  It was the first opportunity for Aunt Renee and Uncle Jon, Aunt Eileen and cousin Colin to meet our young Will.   I was having serious second, third and fourth thoughts about going as we crawled through Franconia Notch in near blizzard-like conditions to get there, but it warmed up as we headed south, and by Saturday morning, the weather in York was just beautiful, as you can see from the photos.  Cold, but lovely.  The house was beautiful, with plenty of room for all of us in separate sections, so we didn’t keep each other awake.  Anna and I were in one room, and Joe and Will in the other, and both kids slept through the night for the first time since arriving home from China.  The house, and the views from the front porch, are shown below.

11-22-07-1.jpg 11-22-07-2.jpg 11-22-07-3.jpg 11-22-07-4.jpg 

11-22-07-5.jpg Cousin Colin in his jumpy chair

We were only a short walk from “Short Beach”, which had a lovely playground attached, so we spent an hour or so playing in the afternoon.  Most of Anna’s time was spent trying to keep her hat on (yes, Mama forgot to bring her hood, although I did have gloves for both kids.)  Somehow, winter caught me by surprise.  Winter has been so late in arriving here the last couple of years (not until January!) that coming home from the 80 degree weather in Guangzhou to find winter in full swing was a bit of a shock.  I was scrambling to find winter coats, and I haven’t located all the mittens and hats yet.  Trying to get out the door Friday night in a timely fashion after a full day of work was quite a challenge.  Thank heavens Natalie, our housesitter for the weekend, was already at the house, and was willing to put in an hour of baby sitting so Joe and I could do our last minute packing and load up the car.  Thanks, Natalie!  Let me know if you ever feel the need to spend a couple of uninterrupted hours with 2 rowdy children!

Pictures from the beach:

11-22-07-6.jpg 11-22-07-7.jpg 11-22-07-8.jpg 11-22-07-9.jpg 11-22-07-10.jpg 11-22-07-11.jpg 11-22-07-12.jpg 11-22-07-13.jpg

Grammy was able to walk down to the playground with us, and I think she had a really good time playing with her new grandchildren.  Will did very well most of the weekend; he’s very outgoing and quite the charmer.  He still does his best to win everyone over with his cuteness, as a prelude to misbehaving while grinning at us cheesily.  It doesn’t work with Mama and Baba, of course, but it does with everyone else, so he tends to gravitate to other people when he has the chance.  He’s done well this week, though, and is even approaching us for spontaneous hugs on occasion, so I think we’re making progress!