Big Week Ahead

Big Week Ahead

I’m not sure I’m cramming enough exciting things into my week. What do you think?

Embrace It

Embrace It

No matter your age, it’s not too late to chase your dream. Maybe you’re already doing it, which is awesome. Or maybe we are closing out another year where you have still been making excuses about why you didn’t go for the longing of your heart.

Life is long, but it’s also short. Do you really want to spend a minute of it not living up to your potential?

Photo Friday: Hope in Grief

Last Saturday, Levi turned four. It could have been an awful, hard, day of mourning. But it wasn't. It was a day of joy, and remembering, and thinking about our little man. Together.

Live Wire

On Saturday, we celebrated Levi's third birthday with the available extended family. (Those of you who couldn't be here, we missed you. But I passed along your birthday greetings. Not sure Levi got it, but hey, I tried.)

Despite the fact that we had started the day with a panicked trip to Sears to buy a floor-model fridge (upon discovering that our thirty-plus-year-old decrepit thing had picked that very morning to give up the ghost), the ice cream I had purchased the day before was still a little soupy. But still yummy. And since the morning was taken up with changing the fridge out, we had unfrosted cupcakes for the "birthday dessert" instead of a beautiful chocolate cake. But they still tasted delish!

And you know what? We all had fun anyway.

Plus! We all got to enjoy Levi's funny, silly, energetic, smiley self. So it was a win, all the way around.

Yay! For Jude's rubber boots!

"Chocolate cupcakes make me silly."

I asked for a smile. He is getting quite good--and goofy--with his "poser" grins. :-)

It was an adventure, but a good one.

We love you, Little Man!

This Little Man

A little over two years ago, we were given a precious gift.

Since he came into our lives, Levi has made every day more active and interesting.

Finding new ways to use the Fish Puzzle pieces... (Pretty impressive tower, really.)

And louder. MUCH louder. :-)

Sunshine and Levi - best friends forever. :-)

Happy 3rd birthday, Munchkin! You make my heart smile!

March Whirlwind

Luigi wasn't done in time for Noah's party.

In fact, he's still not done. I've been working on him as I have had time, which I haven't had a lot of.

This past week, I was running a combination online auction (on Facebook) that culminated in an in-person Silent Auction at my church yesterday as a Heart4Children Canada fund raiser. It was a huge success, which I am thankful for--but it did not leave a lot of time for handicrafts. Or cleaning my house. Or sleeping. So guess what I have been doing today? (Well, not a lot of the sleeping yet, but that's coming soon!)

Noah still doesn't know that he is getting Luigi, so it will be a nice, "late birthday" surprise. And he had a blast at the party, anyway!

Now that the fund raiser is done, I have three big tasks next up on my plate:

  • Choose an accounting software to use - after 10 years in business, my fingers are in enough different pies and my time has become limited enough that I can no longer justify the time required to manually enter everything into an Excel spreadsheet. Any tips on your favourite multi-currency software that imports and exports CSV files?
  • Finish formatting and publishing "The Friday Night Date Dress" - Yay! I finally finished the "Getting Started" tutorial on my new software, and can finally get going on/finishing this project. My next story has been burning a hole in my brain, and I have been feeling severely hampered by my lack of familiarity with the software!
  • Prepare a presentation on online marketing for the upcoming "Women in the North" conference, for which I was flattered to be invited to do a breakout session on the topic.

And that conference is one day before Levi's 3rd birthday. Whee!

Despite the mild weather, it doesn't look like the typical whirlwind on my calendar is going away any time soon. :-)

What have you been up to for the last week, friends?

Hibernation Time

After a huge dump of snow on the weekend, I finally feel like winter has set in here. Officially. None of this pussy-footing around with mere cold temperatures. Once there is enough snow to make me wonder if I can get out of the driveway with the van, and once the sky maintains "gray" as a normative state over even the thin pale blue that I expect to see again in January or February, that's when I hit "hibernation mode"--just let me stay home and knit and drink tea by a warm fire.

There are always obstacles to this kind of burrowing, not least of which are my commitments (which seem to be more numerous than usual this year.) Ah, well. As much as I may prefer it, God has decided that being a hermit is not in my best interests. That's for the best, probably. :-)

So, in the last week, my third child has turned 9, and got his first pair of glasses. Hard to believe this sweet boy is in his last year of single digits--he was so LITTLE not that long ago, wasn't he?

Reaction to seeing the Pokemon Card Collector's set in Jabin's birthday gifts.

We had a family birthday supper on Friday, but his party with his friends will be this upcoming weekend, so there will be more on that later.

Jabin showing off his new Angry Birds flannel robe that I made him on the weekend as a birthday present.

Jabin, you are still pretty sweet, even if you are not that little anymore. Keep growing and grinning, little man. We love you!

Jabin at a school choir performance last week. He wouldn't stop flirty with the girl beside him long enough for me to get a decent shot. ;-)

The month that Levi turned two...

April. Oh, April. Where did you go?

Still, I welcome May with open arms, with all its inherent sunshine and green things and outdoor activities.

Besides disappearing in the landslide known as "tax season", April was notable for two major events in our house: Levi's second birthday, and an adoption shower thrown for us by our church.

At just past a year, it seemed a good time to reflect on the changes our family has gone through in the last year, and the way we have grown because of it.

At Levi's first birthday, we had had him in our home for less than two weeks. His attachment to us was still very weak, but to the Stanleys, it was very strong. He was confused about what was going on, and often unhappy. When the Stanleys came over to see him (which was very often in the first month), he got confused on how to behave, and acted out in ways he wouldn't normally do to see if he could draw the attention of his Nana and Papa, and see whether they would correct him.

At the party, I felt like an outsider, since Levi didn't really see me as his mother, and he craved the attention of his previous caregivers. Not only that, they missed the little man terribly, and unintentionally contributed to my feelings of imposition by usurping roles that the parents would normally play at their child's birthday party... but at that point, was he really "our child", yet? No, not emotionally. Not in any way but verbal agreement between the caregivers concerned. Emotionally, we were just the babysitters who had planned the party.

The adults involved were feeling a wide range of emotions that were common to us all--guilt, fear, regret, sadness, grief, uncertainty. We were trying to redefine our relationships to each other and to this precious boy that bound us all together beyond what our previous friendship ever had. There were other emotions that accompanied grief that had to be dealt with. Relationships had been torn, and needed to be mended in a shape different than how they had begun.

The process was painful, and felt interminably slow, but as time went on, and steps were made, healing has continued. The new shape of our family tree may be slightly unconventional, but the ugly scars are starting to heal and fade, and the overall beauty of the design is beginning to be seen.

Levi is still very attached to his brother Quinton (whom he calls "Tintin"), his birth mother Jenn (whom he calls "Nen"), and his Papa and Nana (Jennifer's parents). But, he is also most definitely Levi Winters, now, and Jason and I are "Dad" and "Mom", and Jude, Noah, and Jabin ("Ju", "Wa-wa" and "Dabin") are some of his favourite people, too.

After some hard turns on the road of our friendship, the adults have regained firm footing in where we stand with each other--and maybe a new level of love and respect. Jenn and I have gotten to know each other, now, and I just so appreciate how respectful she has been of me as Levi's new mom. She may be more like the "cool aunt" in his life, but she still loves him dearly, and I am glad that he will continue to have a relationship with her as he grows. Perhaps he can avoid the issues of abandonment that so many adopted children face, because everyone who loved him is still a part of his life.

Pictures from the birthday party:

Levi gives his brother Quinton a cuddle.

Chocolate cake--a Winters Family birthday tradition.

Musta been good!

Happy birthday to you!

Grandpa Mike can't help but tease the boys. Grandma Laurel helps me serve dessert.

Despite the many environmentally-conscious and fiscally-responsible adults at this party, it so happened (because of schedules, etc.) that each person there brought their own vehicle. It was so funny to see so many cars in our yard for such a small party, I had to take a photo.

Papa and Nana (Brian and Laverna) Stanley

Opening presents with Jenn. The little hat was one of her gifts.

Surrounded by brotherly love--and help, too! :-)

The following Saturday, First Baptist Church put on an adoption shower, organized by my good friends Larrissa and Cheryl, with help from another lady I am just getting to know, Joanna. I was delighted when I got there to see the "Moustache Party" theme, with adorable bow-tie napkins, and moustaches everywhere. (Larrissa and Joanna have a real flair for decorating.) Sadly, I did not think to take photos until just before clean up commenced, so I did not capture it in all its glory. (Being the centre of attention has a way of making you forget about taking photographs.)

Jenn and Laverna both attended the shower, and it was such a blessing to be able to share with my church family about how this change has brought our families closer, and how much courage I believe it took Jenn to make the decision she did. It was an even greater blessing later on to hear how that day brought some  healing between Jenn and Laverna.

When Levi first came to us, I read a very excellent book called "Attachment in Adoption" by Deborah Gray. I was surprised when I read that everyone involved in an adoption grieves--the birth parent or caregivers for what they have lost, and the adopting parents for what the child has lost, and in our case, we were also grieving for what our friends had lost. For the child, they grieve many things, depending on the situation. I believe Levi grieved (in his own way) losing daily contact with a mother and grandparents and brother that were his whole world, and being put into a new situation where he felt very insecure for months before strong attachments began to form.

For the adopting parent, there may also be a period of grief if they discover their child has some special needs, as they will then grieve over the hopes and expectations they had of their child and their own family's future that will never come to be. While Levi does not have any special needs, Jason, in particular, had a period of grief over having our family go back to having such a little guy around--while there is much joy in having a little one, there are many restrictions that he was sure we were beyond.

But God gives grief a beautiful function--to heal. If we allow the process to continue, and do not get "stuck", time will heal the wound that caused the grief in the first place. In the process, he remolds our ideas and beliefs and values, and if we allow it, brings them more in line with his.

Over a year after Levi joined our family, I believe that all those involved are either in the final stages, or have moved beyond grief to focus on the joy and blessings to be found in the new configuration of things. I am thankful that the Lord has allowed us to grow in these ways. As I shared at the shower, "When an artist is making a sculpture, he has to make many cuts into the marble to reveal the beautiful image beneath. The cuts are painful, but without them, the final sculpture will never be seen."

I am so thankful for the beautiful sculpture I am beginning to see. Lord, continue your work in me.

"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6 (NIV)


Noah Turns Ten

Two weeks ago today, Noah hit double digits.

Hard to believe that this "little man" is now passing the decade mark. In honour of the occasion, I decided it was high time for a list.

Ten Things I Love About You

  1. Your smile.
  2. Your sensitive spirit.
  3. Your goofy sense of humour.
  4. How affectionate you are.
  5. Your love of music.
  6. Your imagination.
  7. How, once you learn how to do something, you always try to do your best and get it right.
  8. Your artistic side.
  9. The comics you create. (Sub-topic to #8. :-D)
  10. Your hugs.

For Noah's birthday, he wanted a pirate party (costumes optional--YAY! I didn't have to sew anything new!), so the Saturday night after he turned 10 our house became the centre of activity for all kinds of scallywags.

Jude helped make some party decorations, including a bang-up Jolly Roger. The boys all blew up and hung balloons. (Well, Jason did most of the hanging. And Levi mostly chased balloons and popped them.)

Jude and his Jolly Roger

As per usual, I left things until too close to the last minute (thanks to an unplanned, last-minute trip to Lacombe the weekend before to visit my grandmother, when I was planning on completing all the party preparations), so I actually had to put my mother and Amanda M. to work helping me finish the birthday banner when they arrived! Oh, well, at least the food was ready, for once! :-)

Kid's got "'Staches and Tats" galore, and ended up covering foreheads, hands, and arms. Jabin thought a beard was in order. Darryl thought Groucho Marx was in order. :-)

The activity that surprised us with its popularity was that all the kids got to decorate a white balloon with a permanent marker before they went home. They were very intent on it, and got really creative.

'Twas a fun night had by all! Argh, matey!

"Argh!" says Pirate Noah

Wasn't That a Party?

Cake is something that doesn't make an appearance here very often, mostly because there is so little to redeem it, as far as nutrients are concerned. As a "recovering sugar addict", I generally don't need to have any more temptation around the house.

However, when birthdays come along, I ask the guest of honour what special dessert they would like to have. More often than not, it is chocolate cake.

Jabin, who turned six on the 21st, seemed to be having a difficult time making up his mind. DQ ice cream? Chocolate cake? Pie? He kept waffling back and forth. I felt bad for the little guy--such a big decision for an almost-six-year-old.

So, this time, I made an exception. On his actual birthday, which was a Monday, I took him and Noah to Dairy Queen for lunch, complete with an ice cream treat (for them) as dessert.

Then, for his party on the following Friday, I made Chocolate Gingerbread cake--served up with even more ice cream!

The Jabin was very pleased.

(And I even snuck in some nutrients, anyway, in the form of pumpkin. Want the recipe?)

I knew it! ;-D

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake
(Click to follow link to a PDF 4x6 recipe card.)

olive oil
1 c. butter, softened, divided
1 ¼ c. unpacked whole sugar
1/3 c. molasses
3 eggs
4 1-oz. squares semisweet chocolate
2 c. pureed cooked pumpkin (or 1 14-oz. can)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
2 c. unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. sea salt, ground fine
icing sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray or brush a large Bundt pan with olive oil. 
  2. In large mixing bowl, cream ¾ cup butter and sugar. Mix in molasses and then add eggs one at a time, mixing well. 
  3. Melt remaining butter with chocolate; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Blend chocolate mixture, pumpkin, and vanilla into the creamed mixture. 
  4. Combine flour, spices, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Pour into a Bundt pan. 
  5. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5-10 minutes before inverting on a cake plate and removing pan. Let cool completely, then dust with icing sugar; serve with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. 

Note: For a more subtle flavour, the molasses can be left out and the sugar increased to 1 ½ cups.

Copyright 2011 Talena Winters.

Winters African Safari 2007

Winters African Safari 2007

Jude had his fifth birthday party today, and to escape the whole "we are preparing stuff for 30 people because we are inviting our friends and all their siblings and parents too" thing, I suggested a sleepover with three friends. Also, a safari theme was decided on, because Jude LOVES African animals.