Adoption from the Outside

For the past year, a dear friend has been in an adoption process.  I’ve watched others over the years.  From the first paperwork to the trip overseas and then the first meeting… it’s always fascinating.  I enjoy seeing the differences in how countries handle things.  It fascinates me.  Some seem to whiz past at speeds that seem unreal.

And the heartache.  I’ve seen that too.  The mother who had everything ripped apart close to the end of the process.  The mother who is waiting after YEARS and will finally get to bring home her babies soon… leaving a sibling in a grave in his home country.  They aren’t babies anymore.  And my friend.  She was matched with a baby.  Just days before it would have become official, an official confiscated the baby girl and she was sent out of the country.  Oh, the heartache.  We all wept for them.

I watched as my friend turned her grief into joy as the other child they’d considered became officially theirs.  I watched as she researched.  I watched as she prepared.  I watched as her heart knit in a womb of a different kind with her daughter thousands of miles away.  And I watched how others interacted with her– particularly those who had walked that road already.

Watching is fascinating… and one thing that this outsider noticed is that when reading about how things will be, even (if not especially) those who have adopted previously will comment about how “this will happen” and “that will happen” as if people are adopting Webkinz rather than people who are individuals.  I’m astounded at how often I read,  “your kid will love having her hair played with” or “your kid will hate having her hair played with.”  I rarely saw comments like, “Some kids react strongly to people messing with their hair.  In our case, our daughter loved it but…”  They were almost all decided opinions almost as if laws.

From how they slept to what they ate to being naturally possessive or unattached to “things”, It seems like everyone expects being an adoptee to be the defining personality trait rather than one of many.  Even now that little Kiffanie is here and home, I see her mother responding to expectations.  I don’t even know if she knows that she does it.  If she says the girl is settling in well, she’s quick to acknowledge that this could change.  If she says she doesn’t have this or she does do that, and obviously some or a lot of children do the opposite, she makes a point of recognizing that.  It really is amazing.

There are so many things to learn about adopting.  I know that all I know from watching is that I know pretty much NOTHING.  However, I have learned one very valuable lesson from the observation deck.  If I ever adopt, I am going to work hard to keep in mind that all the advice and “knowledge” in the world about the process of adoption won’t change the fact that the child is still a person– an individual–and keeping that thought in mind as it seems my friend, Dell, has is probably one of the most important things I could do.

Thanks for the lesson, Dell.


Peanut Butter Bars were the fun of the night.  Jul tried hard to stir the icing, but he’s a bit small to be of much help.  I enjoyed making them and of course, tasting them to ensure that they were not poisoned.  Yes, yes I did.  For those who have never had Peanut Butter Bars, here is the recipe.  I believe it is from Taste of Home magazine, but I can’t remember.  Friends gave it to us years ago (as in the mid nineties!) and well, we’ve loved them ever since.

Peanut Butter Bars


1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (I think they said creamy, but we’ve used both just fine)
1 egg
1 teaspoon  vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oats (regular or quick cook both work)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons milk


In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugars and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, oats, baking soda and salt; gradually into creamed mixture and mix well. Spread into a greased 13 x 9 baking pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.
Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 10 minutes.  Combine icing ingredients; drizzle over the top. Cool completely. Cut into bars.

EAT!… Jul will… if we give him half a chance!


Ok, so they’re Tootsie Pops, but suckers made a better title.  I went the easy route on Sunday mornin’.  I didn’t feel like doing anything major for it, so I fell back on ye olde candy thing.  The kids love it, of course.  Voila.  He tried to hide them all on the top of the shelf, but alas, he just didn’t manage to eke out the other one.  It’s a lot of work carrying something larger than you!

Oh, and thanks to the lovely ladies from “Do Not Grow Weary,” our Elf has a name.  His name is Jul, which is Norwegian for Christmas.  Their suggestion was for Navidad or something or another in German.  Weishunteit.  God bless ’em.  However, I decided that if I have bestekids and am Bestemor and Kevin is Bestefar (since Norwegian is such a cool language), then we should have a nice little Norse Elf.

Jul.  I’m guessing it is pronounced as if it was Brenner’s first name.  Ahh… the king…

I digress.

Here he is after his thievery.  Ornery cuss.


They are the folk of Tolkien and the North Pole.  I’m talking “North Pole Variety.”  So, this year I hear about the “Elf on the Shelf.”  Apparently he’s a little tyke that sits around watching the family and reporting behavior to Santa.  Well, we don’t “do” Santa around here and I don’t like the idea of a Yuletide Narc in the house.  Then again, I do love that they’ve removed the omniscient aspect of Santa with this new thing.

But some people take the Elf to new levels of coolness.  Theirs are the mischief makers– the little darlings get into all kinds of trouble at night.  Maybe they make a mess with the socks or have a tea party with the Calico Critters.  Perhaps they made “Sugar Angels” in the powdered sugar left over from cookie baking.

Ok, that part I can get into.  So I started thinking about it.  Our Elf doesn’t have to have anything to do with Santa at all.  He can just be a cool little dude that points out what’s going on in the advent boxes.  That got the juices flowing.

One problem.  No Elf.

I went shopping.  Yes I did, I went shopping.  Called Baxendales my “go to” place for cool unique things.  Nope.  she had some that were 20 inches tall and 145 dollars, but I didn’t think I’d want to risk sugar angels with something so expensive.  So, I went to Kmart.  Not an Elf in the store.  Walmart.  Nope.  Disillusioned but not despairing, I came home with plans to make said Elf.  I had everything I needed and after several hours of hand sewing, voila.  We have been Elved.

The first night was simple.  I put smarties in our advent boxes, made a trail of them across the floor, and went to bed.  The kids loved it. Lorna has adopted the little guy as her playfellow.

I promised myself that it was time to do things that weren’t just “more candy” and easy– you know, the things that make life fun and memorable that we let other things crowd out because they’re more urgent?  Yeah.  Those things.  So, what did I do?  I’ll tell ya.

I have been wanting to see the new movie “Hugo” ever since I saw the first preview.  I decided to be daring and take the kids without even previewing.  We’re talking amazing thing here.  So, I went to see when it was released, discovered it was Nov 23, and made the tickets.  Then I put the Elf on the box to guard it and went to bed.  B.E.D.  I love that thing.  Just sayin’.

The next morning, the kids were excited.  Hugo.  AHA!  (name that movie).  Anyway, I went to see what time it started.  It didn’t come to our town.  *insert weeping and wailing fiddles here*  We settled for Arthur Christmas.  To be honest, I hadn’t wanted to see it at all.  However, the other options were The Muppets (not hardly), Happy Feet 2 (no thank you), or Puss in Boots (NO!).  Sooooo Arthur Christmas it was.  Stay tuned for my review.  Just a hint.  I’m buying it.

Then came Friday night.  It was time to do something but I wasn’t sure what.  Do I hide the presents and then shred a bunch of paper and ribbon under the tree?  Oh, wouldn’t that be hilarious.  Might have to do it, but not yet.  It’d be more fun if there was a game hidden under there to play that the Elf “got into.”  So, then there were things like hot cocoa (didn’t want to go to the store for that either) and finally I gave up.  I decided it was cookie night.

So, at one o’clock en la manana, I mixed cookies.  Put the dough in the fridge to cool.  Timer set for 2 hours.  I wait.  Then I make cookies.  Plate those suckers, take a couple of bites out of one, stick them AND Elf in the box, and voila.  Done.  Cookies for breakfast.  I am such a good mom.  All that health food.  Eggs, flour, beans (vanilla), dairy (butter)… we’re talkin’ the works!

It’s ten thirty-two.  We’re about to start a movie.  I have no idea what I’m doing for tomorrow.  Just sayin’.

What do my kids think of the Elf?  They think he’s a funny looking little doll that gives hints to what the advent treat of the day is.  It never occurred to them that it could be anything else.  After all, that’s how I used him.

Oh, and Elf needs a name.  I might even have a cool little blog prize for the one to give me the perfect name.  Right now, I’m workin’ with Bernadina, but I really kind of like something “gender neutral.”

Thanksgiving 2011 Is Over… Hello Christmas!

Well, eight Hungarian Coffee Cakes, four pies, two batches of rolls, an enormous batch of mashed potatoes (without a single spoonful left), gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, and TURKEY later, Thanksgiving is over.  We played games, did a bit of shopping, enjoyed more good food than we usually eat, and enjoyed a lot of work.  Yes, I mean enjoyed.  My eldest son turned seventeen– full circle from birth.  He was born on Thanksgiving Day.  I tease him that the Lord did that to remind me to be thankful for him.  As if I needed it.  Friday began the Christmas season.  I was awakened at around six-thirty by my daughter Andra and I drove her out to Inyokern so she could go shopping in Lancaster with friends.  I came home and went back to bed while the family shopped.

At ten o’clock, I got up and Kevin and I went to buy a new laptop.  The one I wanted was no longer on sale.  I was so disappointed.  The one I have I liked, but it isn’t as perfect as the other one was.  I am working on letting go of that disappointment.  I had no idea why the other one mattered so much to me.  I had no idea I felt like that.  I didn’t know.  However, I’m getting accustomed to the change.

Friday was spent pounding out words, cooking more, and having fun with the kids.  We played more games, laughed a bunch, and then had Mud Pie to celebrate Nolan’s birthday.  It’s a tradition.

Saturday was even more exciting.  Christmas trees, decorating– a beautiful house.  I love my house.  It’s exquisite right now.  There are lights, villages, greenery, trees, cranberries, candy candles, and even better- a new carousel!  We splurged. Everyone spent Saturday night stringing popcorn and cranberries.  We sang, laughed, and enjoyed hot chocolate with a dinner of leftovers.  YUM.  Unfortunately, Morgann had to zip on back to Irvine in order to have time to finish assignments.

Speaking of which, most of Sunday was spent writing by three of us!  While Braelyn took her final math test (possibly of her life), Nolan wrote about the evolution of science fiction in the twentieth century.  Jenna and I both wrote of pirates.  She wrote about what they are, what they stole, and such, while I actually wrote about pirates stealing, murdering, and finally reaching the Caribbean with a huge prize to boot!  (Or is that booty?)

Finally, at around ten o’clock, I finished and validated my 50k words for my NaNoWriMo novel.  This novel excites me.  I love the young boy who battles self who wants his own way against what he knows is right.  He loves and respects his father and yet despises their life and wishes for a different one.  Finishing was great for me because there are only about another 10k words to finish.  Now, if I could just find a replacement for illegitimate children.  There is one sentence where I WANTED to use that word.  I really wanted it (that’s a pretty unusual thing) but of course, it’s inappropriate.

So, now life goes back to normal.  Tomorrow I have more cleaning to do– my room is a disaster. It always is the Monday after Thanksgiving.  I need it cleaned up so I can get going with the rest of the month.  December is a huge thing in our home.  We have a lot of fun.  I can’t have fun in a mess.  No, no I cannot.

School goes back to mom involvement (including me helping the older kids to break down their papers better in the future– oh and I won’t be scheduling two intensive classes to take place during the same week and on the week of Thanksgiving!  YIKES!  My poor son was writing on Thanksgiving (remember… his birthday too).

It also means my blog is no longer neglected.  It means that Confessions of a Decluttering Junkie can end now!  Just a few more posts and it’ll end!  I have another idea for January.  “Frugal to a Fault.”  I can’t wait for you to meet our new friends.

Life is good.  I am very blessed.  I have had a lovely life, a wonderful family, and God to keep me grounded when things feel like they’re spiraling out of control.  Isn’t it strange how feelings are lies just as often as they are truth?  The feelings are real, but they may not necessarily be true.  That’s what my life feels like when it feels so uncontrolled.  It is.  I live in the palm of the Lord’s hand, in the shadow of His wing.  I am a daughter of the King of Kings and my life reflects that– even when I can’t see it.

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas, my friends.

Ode to a Fridge

The doors open to reveal your soul
Oh, dear, in there is an uncovered bowl
Of eggs, flour, and butter so sweet
For cookies we’d all love to eat

Alas the shelves are loaded down
With food that once was golden brown
But now it sports a fuzzy do
My nose wrinkles and the kids cry, “EW!”

I’ve failed you my lovely fridge
With food that builds a nasty ridge
Of hardened goo along the shelf
I have to clean it off myself

But now you’re clean so off I go
To fill you with things that I know
The family will love to make me cook
When I’d rather sit and write my book.

You’ll hear it a lot around my house.  About every 2-4 weeks I say, “If you want me to buy food, it’s simple– clean out the fridge.”  I don’t tell them when, how, if, where, why.  I figure, if they want FOOD, they’ll do it.  Self-preservation is a great motivator.  Sometimes, the pickin’s in this house are so slim that they don’t delay.  Before I’m done with my reminder and promise of food, they’re in there pulling out the nasty old stuff and wiping down shelves.

(This is where a REAL blogger would post pictures of her gorgeous fridge with a single fuzzy container that looks suspiciously as if it was “grown” for this purpose.  I obviously do not have a REAL blog.  I have pride.  It’s sinful, but hey… I tell it like it is.)

Other times,, they wait a day or three.  Those always crack me up.  They’ll ask what is for lunch and I’ll tell ’em– “Leftovers.”  Of course, most of the leftovers in there are sporting fuzz. So, those things get pulled out.  They used to get put back, but someone (I have rocket scientists for kids) figured out that if you just put them in the sink, there’s less to do on clean out day.

Now, if they’d just figure out that there’s almost no clean out day if they just keep what goes IN, coming back out for a meal…


Yeah, right.


I saw you.  I know you weren’t doing it “to be seen” but I did.  I don’t know who else might have– I love that you didn’t try to hide it.  There you stood in the produce department, pushing a cart with a little boy in it and with two more little boys around your legs.  It was amazing to watch.  Frankly, I don’t see that very often anymore– dads out with their kids, in the produce department no less.  However, that is not what impressed me.
So, what was it?  Your awareness of them while you still enjoyed them and did your errand.  You bagged your lettuce, corrected one son, delivered a single swat and a word of reproof to another one, and without missing a beat.  There was no anger, no ugliness, no haphazard reaction.  You also didn’t do what most dads I see do; you didn’t wait until your son became obnoxious.  You corrected him, he didn’t listen, you gave a swat.  It was automatic, unconscious, and yet deliberate.  In this day of fearfulness in being forthright with our kids, you did it without thinking about it– or at least that’s how it seemed.
It was beautiful.  By the time I chose my bag of Spring Mix veggies and turned around, you were all laughing– the perfect picture of how discipline doesn’t have to be heavy or ugly.  Your son was happy and secure knowing that his father loved him.
I also have to say that it was refreshing not to have to hear the correction.  I have no idea what your son did.  It wasn’t a tantrum, it wasn’t unkind or ugly– not in any way I could see– but it was most definitely something wrong.  It was evident that you weren’t going to scold a child for doing nothing.
Too often, I go into a store and hear (from several aisles over) some parent (often a mother– interesting, isn’t it?) shouting threats at her child.  She berates him, demands he stop his tantrum (and the kid is usually either totally silent or trying to drown out mom with his own verbal battle)  and threatens him with loss of toy, treat, limb, or life.  The language she uses will be hurled back in her face in just a few short years (if it takes that long) and she’ll wonder why he thinks he can talk to her like that.  Why indeed.
With rage barely contained, she’ll weave up and down the aisles, subjecting the entire store to her tirade (proving that she’s “taking care of it maybe”) before she checks out and drags the kid, kicking and screaming, from the store.  We’ll all sigh collectively and then shake our heads.
However, no one will even think of calling the police on that abusive parent.  Her horrible words, her entire demeanor that screams, “I don’t like you or want you– you disgust me” is perfectly acceptable.  However, had she dared to say quietly, “Stop your fussing right now” and–horrors!–delivered one stinging swat to his upper thigh for emphasis, she’d have to wonder if she’d be led from the store in handcuffs.
I understand that at present, people fear repercussions for being “the parent” in public.  Scolding a child (as opposed to screaming their heads off to make a scene and prove “who’s boss”), even the swat– it was exactly what this society needs.  Fearfulness is taking over Americans.  We fear “the village” and its idiots who set themselves up as advocates for poorly behaved children masquerading as tyrants. You were another brick built in the wall that separates family from state.  We are not under state rule but under state protection.  Thank you for standing up for that with your actions.
However, what I loved most was your interaction with your sons.  They truly love you.  I saw it in their eyes, in their laughter, and in the way they were absolutely at ease in your presence.  Being out with Daddy wasn’t just a treat– it was a common occurrence that FEELS like a treat to them.  That is beautiful fathering.  Thank you.
You  know, I wanted to stop and say something– thank you not only for not dragging all of us into your private corrective moment but also for taking the time to make it, but I didn’t want to embarrass you or your son.  You got in line behind me.  I got to see you interacting with your youngest while the other two went on some errand for you.  You know– that son who less than five minutes earlier had a stinging reminder to his backside that you won’t put up with his shenanigans?  Yeah.  Well, guess what.  Obviously, you’ve done your job well if you can trust him away from you so quickly.  You know his strengths, his weaknesses, and how to steer him in line.  I doubt he’ll be the kid that I cringe to see at the movie theater or bagging my groceries fifteen years from now.  He’ll probably be just like the nice kid who bagged them today.  Pleasant, helpful, and respectful.  Thank you for that.  Thank you very much.

Just a Thought…

When I am eighty and need a ride to the store or help with a project, will my children sigh and sound like it’s a huge inconvenience when they agree?  Will it go like this:

Me:  Hey, do you have time to run me to Wal-Mart this week?
Kid (who isn’t so little any more):  *groans, sighs, or otherwise sounds terribly put out for the “inconvenience”*  “Ok… I’ll come over later….”   *insert another heavy sigh*

or will it sound more like…

Me:  “Hey, do you have time to help me get the cooler going this week?”
Kid:  “Sure.  Happy to.  Can’t come until Thursday, is that ok?”

Why do we let ourselves sound like the slightest thing is such an inconvenience– even if it is!  So what!  If we’re going to do it (and even if we’re not) why not be pleasant about it?  Will we want to feel like a huge burden when WE need help later in life?

I think I’m getting better about it…  I know I’ve got a long way to go.  Thank goodness my children are merciful.


I didn’t get graduation up last week, so here it is as well as this week’s of Jenna dressed for the homeschool formal.  YAY!

Oh, and I started a new blog (stop laughing) to catalog places that have kits I like etc.  I am always finding things and then later don’t know where they are.  Bookmarks don’t work, I’ve lost more files to organize this stuff than you can ever imagine, so I am hoping this will work.

Stamp-a-logue.  It is a lot of fun!


Camping Take One

So, a bunch of Braelyn’s friends were going camping last weekend.  This was going to be a huge HUGE thing for Braelyn since she can’t remember our single attempt at camping.  We lasted 2 hours in the blasting sand and then gave up.  So… off to Darwin Falls they… didn’t go.  When the weather wasn’t going to be the low “50’s” like the weather had promised (a week before…snort), they opted for a different camping experience.

Last week, I didn’t have photos to do, but now they’re done.  Emma!

Better Than Nuttin-

Ok, so I meant to have a nice spread of several people… but then as I was working on this, I had too much fun with that one picture of Jenna.  So, I’ll have to get more pictures of her this week and add them to the second page.

And, because it is so cool, here’s Ethan’s project du yesterday.  Kevin brought home our case of Girl Scout Cookies.  Ethan cannot resist a box.  He started building.  He created a three story house complete with couch, fridge, bookshelves, trash can (complete with plastic liner), toilet, sink, bed (complete with linens) and I can’t remember what all.  then, he proudly displayed it.  After Andra called it a “cute doll house,” Ethan informed me that he planned to add a roof and a pole to the bottom.  It’s a BIRDHOUSE don’tcha know.  The kid is ALL boy.


Funny website.  I got an account because I wanted to play Mafia.  Played for the first year or so, but the gals I liked to play with seemed to stop playing and new people came in with less than stellar language choices, so I stopped playing as well.  However, it’s been a lovely way to see what’s up with friends and family I don’t get to see much, leave a message for a kid, or tease my husband.  I like it.  Sure, I get frustrated when someone posts something indiscreet and dishonors parents/spouse/or the Lord, but for the most part, my Facebook friends are pretty decent people.  I like them.

However, this week I found a new use for it.  With so many people in the family and all of them coming and going, I’ll give a message to a few and assume they all got it.  OR, I won’t say something that I want to say because I know I’ll miss someone and then be frustrated that they didn’t all get it.  So, last weekend I got a great idea.  I sent a Facebook message to all my kids who had it.  Then it was easy to give the rest of the family the “heads up.”

The topic?  Bathroom Common Sense  (Not to be mistaken for bathroom sense of humor).  This is what I sent.

Dear Residents of the Havig Household,

Sons, Daughters, and beloved friends… lend me your eyes.  I’ve noticed a few things that would make the bathroom stay a lot cleaner and be easier for Andra to have to clean if we all did a few small things.  None of this is burdensome, rocket science, or in any way meant to be a horrible punishment inflicted because I am the vicious mother that rumors insist I am.  It’s just what my mom used to call common sense.  So, if you would be so kind (or even if you don’t wanna be kind, do it), in the future, please observe the following requests.

  • When you take a shower, please put your towel over the rod, hamper, or on a hook– this also includes whatever towel you used to step on when you got out of the shower.
  • When you use up the last of the shampoo, conditioner, face wash, shaving gel, or anything else inside the shower, please throw away the empty container.
  • If you get hair in the drain, it goes in the trash, not on the corner of the tub.  Just sayin’.
  • When you’re done in the shower, please close the shower curtain.  Leaving it open encourages the growth of mold and mildew.  My lungs can’t take it.
  • Do not store things in the window sill anymore.  This is why we bought the corner shelving thingie that I will put up when I’m done writing this.
  • When you wash your face, brush your teeth, or do anything else that requires a sink and water, please put the toilet paper on the back of the toilet and wipe down the sink when you’re done.  This has the brilliant effect of keeping the toilet paper from being soggy BEFORE use.
  • Your clothes can go in the hamper instead, but thanks for trying to give me new floor coverings.  I don’t like carpeting in bathrooms.
  • If you get toothpaste anywhere but running down the drain, please wipe it up.  I’ve grown out of the toothpaste glob decor phase.  It had to happen sometime.
  • If the trash is overflowing, please take a moment to tie up the bag or call Andra in to take it out.  Shock me once in a while and do it instead of demanding she does.  After all, she does a lot more around the house than most of you.
  • The back of the door is not a closet.  I am speaking to myself here as well.
  • Leaving the door open a small crack when you’re just putting on makeup or curling your hair lets others know that they won’t scare you off the pot if they knock.
  • We do not have a fan in the bathroom.  Do not shut the window.  Just don’t.
  • Shoes are kept in the hall closet, not the bathroom.

I hope you enjoy your time in the bathroom.  In the event of an emergency, stay calm, take a deep breath, flush, and don’t forget to pull your drawers up!

Now… we’ll see how this works.  Let’s just say that knowing they all got it helps!  I think it looks pretty good… and I’d like to keep it that way for the 2.3 days that it might manage to do that.

P.S.  I did not get the corner rack put in… it won’t hold anything heavier than a body scrubber.  It went back to K-mart.  Guess they’ll have to learn how not to have twelve different bottles in there.

Art Class– Home School Style

One day my fabulous illustrator, Craig, and I were discussing Thomas Kinkade. I was curious to know what other artists think of someone who became wildly popular.  Let’s just say I wasn’t surprised when he sent me a link to his blog and pictures of his Thomas Kinkade wallpaper border– liberally decorated with dragons, dinosaurs, monsters, and all kinds of fun stuff.  With a sharpie.  I showed Ethan.  Ethan already thought Craig was the world’s most awesome guy after seeing the Tardis” in the most recent map for my book, but a guy who draws on the wall with a Sharpie… ON PURPOSE???  WOW!  This dude is COOL.  Instantly, Ethan wanted to put together one of our Kinkade puzzles and do the same thing.  Craig challenged Ethan to do it.  The kid worked HARD on a very large puzzle– only to have it destroyed by children Morgann babysits.  He was daunted.  Then he found this one and begged to do it.  As you can see, it was missing a piece, but he didn’t mind.