Thursday, January 15, 2015

Bring home the bacon

I know I haven't been faithful about posting, but the kids are aware of the blog (they googled themselves at school and now feel they are famous). I try to be cognizant of what they do/do not want to share.

But I do have to share this.

David did not always love bacon. In fact, for months, he wouldn't eat it, but one day decided it was delicious and so worth eating. He used some of his birthday money to buy his own packages of bacon. He asked for bacon for Christmas. And got it - twice.

Then, out of the blue today, he said, "it must have been a precious sight to see all those pigs run off the cliff into the Sea of Galilee. At that bacon," he sighed, "wasted."

Last year, Christmas vacation was very difficult. This year, it was so much better. We all knew what to expect :).

Speaking of, here we are, decked out in our Sunday best, for our Christmas dinner. The kids were supposed to eah pick two dishes they wanted. David picked mashed potatoes and little smokies for an appetizer. Roxy picked - are you ready for this?- hot dogs and s'mores. For Christmas. I vetoed the hot dogs and said yes to the s'mores.

This little munchkin is growing so quickly. I love seeing the mutual love between all three of our children.

We had a wonderful time in Ohio the weekend after Christmas, and the kids enjoyed visiting their old friends. Me, too!

Monday, December 1, 2014

A jar of pickles and a long-gone rose

Today I took a picture of a jar of pickles, canned in 2011. I should eat them. Actually, I should have eaten them a long time ago.

But each time I think about it, I hesitate since it's the last jar of pickles that I will ever get from my Grandma Kathryn.

In the last year of her life, even though it was filled with hospital visits and pain, she managed to can pickles. That amazes me.

I spent quite a few afternoons at her house during that last year, helping her a little bit with a medical issue she had. I was so happy to do it. Each time I flushed her drainage tube or changed a dressing, I was so grateful to be saying thank you. Thank you, Grandma, for loving me when I was unlovable, or when I wasn't thankful for a gift you gave me. I still remember my selfish tears when I opened a gift that you spent time on, sewing tiny stitches and hours cutting. And I didn't like it. Years later, I remember, and I am sorry for my childishness. 

As I cared for her in a very small way, I remembered weeks spent at her house in the summers, glasses of "onion" tea served in tinted plastic cups, and years of watching her serve others in a quiet way.

I remember how beautiful she was, that age and wrinkles and faded skin were only vehicles to display the great beauty within. A beauty that bloomed greater, the longer I knew her.

When I only wanted to serve her, without receiving anything in return for once, she pushed gifts on me every time I would finish my little afternoon visits. "You're busy," she'd say, "so here is a little something for supper." Or, "how about a little jar of jam."

I always took whatever she offered because, even though I wanted to say Grandma, I am here because I want to serve you for once, I knew every part of her would be unwilling to do that.

In November 13, 2011, she died.

When my roommate's town home sold in 2002, I packed up everything and turned in the keys. Then I realized I had forgotten one last thing, one of my most prized possessions: a faded, brittle red rose.

"This is an odd request," I said, when I called up the realtor. "I forgot something in the house. Any way you could meet me there?"

She looked at me strangely when I came out of the house, tenderly holding the rose. I smiled at her, but offered no explanation.

The rose came from the spray of flowers that covered my father's casket in December, 1999.

Fifteen years ago today, in a mixture of relief and profound sadness, I said goodbye to my dad. Relief because it was so hard to see him suffer. Profound sadness because, well, obviously.

I wondered how we were going to make it. Kids need their fathers. Wives need their husbands. Grandchildren should meet their grandfathers.

The passage of time has been a great gift. I have seen how God has provided for our family. How would things have been different had he lived? That is a question that has no answer and really has no point, since he didn't.

When we celebrated my youngest sibling's birthday last week, I looked at around at our growing family and marveled at how much we enjoy being together. At the inlaws who have come into the family. At the grandchildren who play together. At our stepfather who quietly takes care of our mother and gently nudges us back on track to the way Home when we get out of line.

The rose is long gone, despite my extreme care to keep it on the dashboard every time I moved (yearly for awhile). When it crumbled at last, I was sad, but I carry memories that can't be taken away.

Every time I see that brother walk, I am reminded of my dad. Or seeing that brother tell a story. Or the kid-loving side of that brother. 

We tell stories. We remember. But most of all, when this day rolls around, I think we all thank God that He gave us a loving father and then took care of us with such loving care after Dad died.

I guess I can eat that jar of pickles after all.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Reflections on Motherhood

I take a long time to adjust to life changes, but I think I am finally adjusted to being a mother. That doesn't mean I have anything figured out at all. I just mean that I am kind of getting used to the chaos. One afternoon, all kids were napping at the same time. As I buzzed around the kitchen getting some food ready, I was thinking that three kids was not a big deal. And then they woke up. 

You know, I thought I wouldn't be an overprotective mom. Just let them explore their surroundings, satisfy their curiosity, and so on. I thought they might to perform an experiment to answer questions like, what happens if I don't add baking powder to my pancakes. Clean stuff. Not dangerous stuff.

Instead, these intensely curious kids have these types of questions: will this butane torch explode if I throw it in a fire? Can a chicken fly if thrown off the scaffolding? If I spray this chicken with foam, how long will it stick on the feathers? If I light the fence posts on fire, how quickly can I put them out with a water hose?

Compared to last year, I think it's safe to say my hearing is less sensitive, my nerves are less sensitive, and our chickens are just plain scared.

They were delighted to return to school, to escape from my mountainous chore list. And they have been doing well. David read piles and piles of books over the summer. Roxy is turning into quite the little reader as well. 

And Oliver also likes to read. Please ignore my creepy face. Also, his eyes are not usually crossed.

When Oliver was about three weeks old, we went with friends to the Lincoln Park Zoo. It was a great zoo, and it was free! Then we went to the Rainforest Cafe for supper which David proclaimed "the strangest restaurant he has ever been to!"

David wanted to learn the violin. Doesn't he look like a graceful violin player here? Okay, maybe not. So far he is enjoying it. And so far, the rest of us are surviving, but he isn't allowed to have his bow yet. When that happens, if we had a dog it would be howling. (And I know this from personal experience. When I was learning to play - which is a term used loosely here - my skillz sent my sister's boyfriend home early more than once.)

We have really settled into being a family. The kids seem very secure and seem so happy to have friends and enjoy our large family and church family. I am so grateful by how well they have been enveloped and welcomed by the people we love. 

Oliver is doing well. He is still a good-natured little guy and the kids still love him.

The other night, we were all outside. And I looked at them in the golden light of the early evening, in their inside-out clothes or too-small clothes (depending on which one we're talking about) and I thought to myself, "I really like having a family."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Oliver makes five

After months of wondering what it would be like to birth a child, and what he would look like, and how I would feel, July 3rd is when I wondered no more.

My first glimpse of the dusky-red, squalling infant with dark hair was one of amazement, wonder, and deep gratitude.

"Your eyes are leaking," said the anesthesiologist as he dabbed at my eyes with tissues.

"I know," I choked out, "but this has been such a journey."

My doctor said the same thing. "It's been a journey, Lisa, but your faith got you here."

Every time someone congratulated us, I started to cry again. I felt (and feel) so unworthy to get to have this experience and a sweet baby when so many of my friends haven't and maybe never will.

His name is Oliver Wendell and he was 8 pounds, 3 ounces, and 21 inches long. He looks like his dad, but he does have dark hair.

Bryan and I liked the name Oliver, and when we asked the kids for ideas, David mentioned Oliver, too. It is the name of his best friend from the orphanage. Wendell, of course, is after my dad, who, incidentally never liked his name. But I still think Oliver Wendell has a nice ring to it...a familiar ring to it, thanks to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., and Jr. The Sr version supposedly said one of my favorite quotes: Most people go to their graves with their music still inside them. Or something like that.

The entire family is smitten with him. David calls him his "little buddy." Roxy says he is SO CUTE. All four of us can't hold him enough. I know that eventually he will be their annoying little brother and he won't listen to his parents, either, but now, when he is so innocent and cuddly, we can't help but breathe in his baby freshness every chance we get.

He is a good baby, and I am feeling quite well by now. As I said, we're grateful.

How is the summer going? We have just 5 weeks until school starts. Last year, I would have said we have 5 more weeks to survive! We went through a rough time in April and May but things are going well. The kids (due to gentle encouragement from their dad :) have been offering to help me as I recover. And we have been able to do more fun things this summer, since the kids are much more settled this year.

Life is so much less stressful and so much more enjoyable this summer :).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

365 days

365 days ago
As I look at the above picture, the kids don't even look the same to me. It's weird to think that we had to communicate via a translator and we didn't know each other at all.

We had no idea how challenging things would get. In fact, to remind ourselves how far we've come, tonight we looked at some old videos we took of the kids (without the kids around). I'd forgotten how both kids would cry each time we got in the car, or that we used to have difficulty communicating, or that - well, there are a lot of things that are better - but I should probably just keep those in the family. I also reread our old blog posts. I am glad to be where we are now.

Every now and then, I still hear that I am the MEANEST PERSON IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD. Yesterday, though, I felt redeemed when the other child said, "Actually, there are ladies at school who are meaner than you are."

Tonight we celebrated with a steak dinner and cookies-on-a-stick. We asked the kids what they remembered about the day we met them (Answer: Not much). We also asked if they were glad we adopted them and why.

David: Yes, so I can play with my cousins.
Roxy: Yes, so I can play with my cousins and my daddy is awesome!

They don't always say that. But that's okay.
Today, we look a little older. A little more weary. But we're comfortable with each other and that's a good place to be.

One of my favorite stories to tell (and retell and retell - sorry, it's in my genes) is about the time David was in the principal's office. Another kid was in trouble, so Mrs. H, the principal told him that if he did that again, he was going to be in hot water with her! David's eyes got huge and he said, "If he is bad again, he has to take bath with principal?!"

Their English language is great, but idioms and figurative language are difficult. I have to be careful when I talk about starting off on the wrong foot or the ball is in your court or things like that. School has been better than we thought, although Aberle kids are spending more time in the principal's office more than I'd like. It's not always the other kid who is in trouble ;). But they are learning what is socially acceptable. We're also starting to work on table manners now that we have the time and energy to do so. And after months of refusing to eat pork, after eating ham and eggs at Grandpa and Grandma's, David suddenly decided that it was delicious and gushed over some Polish sausage their doctor gave us (along with pierogi and some Polish cookies - yum!). And  - should I say this out loud? - David is now sleeping at least until 6 am, sometimes even longer. I hope the days are gone when I hear him stomping around his room at 5 am.

We also have cut down our bedtime routine from 2 hours to about 10-15 minutes. I no longer get scared to handle them in the morning or evening by myself. They now perform almost all personal care tasks by themselves. They have chores that they do to help out around the house, although they complain sometimes. It's hard for me to remember the blur and stress of months ago. They've come a long way, and so have I.

They definitely keep things interesting around here. I found the letters ROXY carved into our piano. I still ponder the unanswerables, like how could my good kitchen shears have disappeared without a trace? Or, is it better to live with snowpants, snowboots, and gloves, or the zillions of empty cups and open refrigerator of the summer? And the day Bryan overheard David: "What do you want to do today, Roxy?" Roxy: "Let's go break something." Or when I found my sister's old Cabbage Patch doll looking like this.

A drill is a bad thing to leave around.
Everything is going great with child #3 so far. About 10 weeks to go, and it's been really easy so far. The kids are really excited about it, unless you ask David. He can't admit excitement to such a thing in public.

In other happenings: In March, we went to Oregon, had a wonderful time, Roxy wants to marry Darwin (my sister's husband) who happens to be "the cutest person ever in the whole wide world!", the kids and parents want to make it back soon, and I loved being with my little sister and her sweet husband. For more information because I am a lousy blogger (along with being unphotogenic), check out my sister's blog.

In January, we hosted a Polish meal for a local benefit. We had a great time and plan to do it again this year. So if Dill Pickle soup sounds like something you want to try, stay tuned!

I'm sure there is so much more I could write, I don't want to overdo it. We're just so thankful to be at this point!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Aberle, Party of FIVE!

I have been wanting to write a post on Florida, but I'll make it quick: Long trip. Car broke down. Car got fixed. Weather good most of the time. Way home? Torture for all parties involved. David summed it up best when he said, "Next time, let's just drive one state away, okay?"

I wanted to write about how proud we were of them at our church Christmas program. As I watched them say their memorized verses perfectly, I found it hard to believe that they spoke just a few words of English eight months ago.

Lots of things I wanted to write, but I don't have much time. And I want to tell you about something else.

We're expecting a baby in June! 

Just to keep it short and sweet, I am making up some frequently asked questions, even if they're not frequently asked :).

Are the kids excited?

Remember I told you Roxy prayed for a sister? Well, a week or two ago, she complained that God hadn't answered her prayer yet. She was mostly excited although she was worried the baby's crying would keep her up at night.

David has not been excited at all. Since he (well, both of them) like kids, I am not worried about this long term. And I am sure they both will feel threatened at some point, but hopefully they will warm up to the idea eventually.

Are you going to find out what you're having?

We haven't decided.

The question you're too polite to ask...So did you, uh, use, you know, assistive reproductive technologies or fertility drugs? 

Nope. Nothing.

Were you surprised?

Yes and no. We were not surprised because we always believed this would happen. It's a cool story that I can tell you in person if you're interested. The timing did surprise me, although it seems to be miraculously perfect. Of course.

Is everything okay?

As far as my doctor can tell, everything looks completely normal. Of course, you never know, but things are lookin' good at the moment.

How are you feeling?

I am feeling fantastic at the moment. I had very little morning sickness, although I was grumpier than normal :). It's been very easy so far.

Do you want a boy or a girl?

I really don't care. I can see benefits to either one, mostly practical reasons, like who would share a room and of which gender do I have more clothes? But I could care less. Bryan does care a little bit. But I am sure he will like him/her no matter what.

It does make me think of Baby J. He was such a sweet, sweet baby. We still miss him.

How does this feeling compare to adopting David and Roxy?

We are really excited with this baby. It seems like such a privilege to be able to love this child from the very beginning...and such a privilege to be able to have the chance to carry a life. Many of my friends have not had the opportunity. Or they did have the opportunity, but their babies aren't here with us. And that could happen with us, too. As long as the baby lives and as long as I am living, I will be able to share memories with this child that we missed out on with our two other children. We are so grateful. Yet, I don't view this child as more mine than David and Roxy are. I don't view this child as a "reward" for adopting. Instead, we are so thankful to have the opportunity to be parents to three kids, no matter how they came to our family.

I am certain this baby will take after his Dad and be wild and crazy. He/she won't make it too easy for us and act like me ;0).

Already, I feel like I can sincerely say, "We have three kids. Two are adopted. But I forget which ones."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The biggest challenge

So it's been a long time since I've updated, but things have been moving along. Sometimes it's bumpier than others, but we just keep moving forward and I think we improving in general.

The biggest challenge

My sister asked me recently: "What's the biggest challenge about adoption?"

There have been many, but the one that has stuck around the longest and bothers me the most, is that the kids feel we aren't always trustworthy. Even after months and months of meeting their needs, being consistent, and daily assuring them that we will not lie to them or leave them, they still do not always believe it. I understand why this is a problem, but I don't know how long it will be an issue. Maybe forever? Even though I see security building in some ways, in others it's regressing.

This week, one of them said, "I know why you adopted we could do all your work!" They are not a fan of their chores :). David also told us he is going to get married as soon as possible so we can't boss him around anymore.


The first weekend in November, we took my Grandma and went to visit family in Ohio. First, I was pretty tense on the way out. I think I was worried that their friendly and not-so-friendly banter (quit touching me, stop pulling my seatbelt, give me that book!) was driving my Grandma batty. She deserves to ride in peace! I have no idea what she really thought, but she was calm throughout the trip.

The whole trip was sweet to me. It was my old place that I loved and didn't want to leave. I introduced them to family, I showed them my old house, and they made friends with my friends' children which was probably the sweetest of all.

On the first night, we had pizza with an old, old friend. This friend is a good one and we go back, way back. When I was walking around on the playground alone at recess in my shiny purple coat, I once looked at the swings and saw this bubbly, vivacious girl laughing and talking. I thought to myself, Wow, she has so many friends. I didn't mind walking around alone at recess. I liked to read books, so I didn't really care if I had friends or not. But I remember thinking she was so different than I was. And I thought she was pretty cool. Someone like her would never want to be my friend.

And then one day, we did became friends. From that day to today, she has been the friend who stuck by me (even when I was a jerk - and I was sometimes). She is the one I can always count on to cry with me when I cry and to laugh with me when I laugh. She has cheered me up more times than I could remember, once sending me a sunshine box in a particularly sad time in my life. She was there for my dad's funeral, for my wedding, and for an amazing crepe- and antique-filled weekend. Every time I see her, we can pick up where we left off. I have some really, really good friends. But I think she is the only friend (except for some special relatives) who loved me as much when I was unlovable.

This time, her husband was home and it was like I was transported back to 8th grade, when the three of us were really good friends. We laughed and laughed, just like we did back then. And it felt good.

It also felt good to watch her daughter play with mine. And her daughter wanted to give mine a special gift. I was overwhelmed as I watched her little 6-year-old girl be generous to mine. I knew where she got it: from her mother who had learned it from her mother, a special lady named Barb H.

So that was good.

Old friends who are still young. Right? Right?!

Her daughter and mine

David doesn't always smile or look at the camera, but I got him on this one!

Then we went to another old friend's home. With both friends, the time spent together is always too short and the time between visits is always too long. But every time we get together, it's like we've never been apart. I won't wax poetic on this one, only because I would say many of the same things. But it was so good to see my kids playing with hers immediately. Roxy even slept in their girls' room, the first time she had ever done that. (Makes me wish we had a sister for Roxy, but more on that in a second.)

Then we spent time with family. I knew David would enjoy my cousin's boys. Sure enough. He did. He said at one point, "Those boys are the same kind of crazy I am!"

Tomorrow, we have a 19 hour trip to Florida. So our Ohio trip was kind of a short test run. Anyway, on the way home, the kids were complete angels. In fact, I wasn't sure if someone made a kid swap and we had actually left the kids in Ohio! But they slept almost half the trip. When they were awake, they mostly just looked out the window. It was lovely.

You know what else is lovely? As I mentioned, things are getting better. When we were in Poland, our bedtime routine took somewhere around 2.5 hours. 2.5 hours!!! When we got home, we shaved off an hour, but we also had problems with getting them to relax enough to sleep. Our family doctor suggested melatonin and it.was.fantastic. I had bottles everywhere, so I never went without it. She told me that eventually the kids wouldn't need it anymore, but I have to say that I didn't really believe her. But you know what? Listen to your doctor. She was right. We stopped giving it to them regularly about a month ago. One child is really easy to get to bed now, but as recently as a couple of weeks ago, one child was still requiring about an hour to get a bath, read books, and fall asleep. If I left the room before the child was sleeping, well, cries would begin and wouldn't stop. Then I was thinking: Is the child feeling abandoned? Is this helping bonding? Should I really stay here until they fall asleep? 

So on the advice of my sister-in-law, I told the child, I will stay in here for 10 more minutes. Now I leave when the ten minutes are up. It's usually fine.

They are still usually up by 6 am. Even on Saturdays and Sundays. They don't always appreciate that Bryan and I might like to stay in bed past 6:01 on a Sunday morning. "It's 6:01," hisses a voice. "It's time to get up." And if the hissing won't make me get out of bed, the morning breath will.

Anyway, I was just about to institute an amendment to my previous policy (you can't come out of your room until 6:00) to say it must be 6:30 on weekends, when the kids decided that they liked sleep more than they thought. "I don't get it," said David. "I don't know why I like to sleep more now, but I do!"

I don't usually have problems getting them up for school, so I should be thankful for their early morningness. Just not on weekend mornings, thank you.

A random funny. I put on a jacket one day while I prepared to take the kids to school for the Friday morning assembly. "Mom?" said David. "Are you wearing that?" "Yes, I am." "Please don't wear it in the school. It looks...stupid." So I did what any parent would do: I wore and I wore it proud. Even when the gym got hot, I would not take off my jacket. Now why do I feel the need to embarrass my child?

Lisa is crazy

If you know about any of the challenges we faced through adoption, you will think I am crazy. Along with everyone else. Anyway, a few weeks ago, I thought it was time to start the adoption process again. We have done a lot of things wrong, and we're far from great parents, but I still felt I had a little love left to give a child or children. So I talked to Bryan about adopting again and I even showed him who I thought we should adopt.
Bryan: "Are you psycho?" Followed by, "Ever since I married you, you have made me uncomfortable!" Which I thought was a fantastic compliment!

That night, Roxy prayed for a sister who could sleep in her room and play with her. "Dear God, please bring me a sister from" - "Hey, mom, where from? Fairbury? Forrest? Poland?" - I thought it was cute. And it was funny when David prayed to not have any more siblings because he didn't want to share his toys.

Anyway, I was pretty confident that we should be moving forward with another adoption, when I talked to my caseworker. "I really don't think your kids are ready yet." And I was thinking, but it will take at least a year again. Surely Bryan and the kids will be ready in a year. 

But I was the only one who was really ready. And then I found out that my prospective children had found a new home. So we're back to enjoying our two kids and no plan to move forward. It's pretty difficult to see all the waiting children who come from our adoption agency, though. They usually have some special needs, and one boy just died a few weeks ago while waiting for a family. If that doesn't break your heart, I don't know what will. Life is hard sometimes.


School continues to go well. Roxy is reading a little bit and David's teacher said he should be totally at grade level by the end of the school year. He is also reading chapter books fairly easily. And their English is doing great. I haven't used Google Translate for weeks!