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Saturday, August 28, 2010


Summer is drawing to a close; four of our five kids started school last week and our youngest (still in elementary school) will start just after Labor Day. We've been dividing our time between end of summer fun, painting and renovations at our new house, back-to-school shopping, and settling into a routine for the new school year. We have a buyer for our current house and are set to close on September 30 which is a great comfort in this tough housing market. It means that soon we'll be able to access the equity in this house to pay for the necessary repairs and upgrades at the new one. In the interim, we're throwing all our extra money and plastic at plumbers, electricians, flooring guys, replacement window folks, and kitchen renovators. The people at Home Depot now remember us and greet us as old friends, referring to us as "regulars" these days.

We're also working as a team; the kids helped us clean and paint the basement so it no longer resembles a dungeon. Here's the before shot, complete with hanging wires, decades of dirt, and large spiders.

Here's our basement after power washing, wire removal, new lighting and the family painting party. We even managed to have some fun in the process.

A little at a time...soon this space will house a playroom with a couch, a large TV, and all the kids' videogame toys. There will also be a workshop for Dad, storage space, and a laundry room. Our new front-loading steam washer and dryer will be delivered in a couple of weeks. Fortunately, the space now almost meets my specifications on the reduced basement creepiness factor to permit me to actually do laundry down here...and you should see my wonderful old soapstone utility sink! It's original to the house so it qualifies as an antique; it was gross and disgusting before Craig attacked it with a putty knife and cleansers, digging up layers of sludge and grime. Now it's clean and tricked out with a new faucet compliments of our wonderful plumber, the same guy who removed our 1950's leaking hot water heater and installed a spiffy new hybrid continuous hot water system that hangs on the wall.

Don't get me started on the kitchen renovation we just contracted for...I'll start weeping with joy. Then there are the new windows, the carpet for the stairs, the wallpapering and painting, the rewiring and new lighting...it's all happening in the next month or so. Now that's progress!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Happy 15th. B-day, Kate!

Yes, it's true...the girl for whom this blog is named turned 15 at 8:14 am today. She's now a sophomore in high school who is beginning to talk about college applications and driving a car in the not too distant future. Eeek!! Where have the years gone?

We'll celebrate here at home with a cooked to order birthday dinner, cake and gifts. The diva has requested sirloins wrapped in bacon, roasted potatoes, and zucchini with parmesan...no more hot dogs for this girl! She really is growing up.

We love you sweetie...enjoy your day.

Love, Mom and Dad

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A mother's pride...

The morning didn't start off well...I'd barely sipped my morning life-giving latte when Tanya and Aniyar got into an argument which spiraled out of control. I spent the next half hour holding my youngest son and telling him that I loved him but that I wouldn't let him hurt himself or others in our house. Next Madiyar and Tanya got into an argument over an old Ipod and a non-working phone that they had traded each other last week...by the time that discussion ended, Madiyar had thrown the Ipod over our fence into the swamp so that neither he nor his sister could have it. Then Max decided to show his support for his brother by being rude and disrespectful to Mom, earning himself an early bedtime. When it was time to go to church, we had a sulky posse of boys who were picking on Tanya when they thought no one was looking. Once at church, the boy posse remained unrepentant for a time and there was tension in the air...so what the heck could I be so proud of? My kids made some bad choices and so did I in parenting them today. Apologies and consequences for actions are in the works...but I can also look back across time and see so much progress in our kids that I have to be proud of them, too. Here are the reasons why:

They've learned to band together and support each other.
Sometimes it's boys against girls, sometimes it's older kids vs. younger ones or some other alliance...but they have a sense of loyalty that will serve them well in life. I'm so glad you guys will always have each other's backs.

Aniyar didn't hurt himself or anyone else. He was also able to calm down in much less time than he used to need, and was able to apologize for his behavior. I'm glad you're trusting us more, my special boy!

Tanya stood up for herself when she felt she had been wronged. Tanya desperately wants to be liked and will sometimes give in to her friends or sibs in order to curry their favor...but this time, she was ready to stand her ground. Tanya, sweetie, you were right and I was wrong...even Moms make mistakes and I apologize for mine...but I'm very proud of you for sticking up for yourself!

My boys controlled their anger, swallowed their pride, and calmed themselves. Believe me, guys, I know how difficult it is for you to do these things...but when I showed up at church, you were being respectful and even singing a bit. Seeing my wild child get up and dance to the songs brought tears to my eyes...and watching my other two boys slowly shed their anger in favor of smiles caused the tears to fall. Boys, I hope you know by now that I may fight with you when I think you've been wrong...but I'll also fight for you...and I'll always love you. I'm proud of all 3 of you for choosing to let go of your anger during church!

Diva Kate was able to be Switzerland during the drama. Sometimes it's hard for our oldest to stay out of the fray even when it's not her fight...but today, she limited her involvement to calmly telling her sibs that they were all being a bit foolish, then she butted out. Thanks, diva, for letting Mom and Dad handle the parenting...I'm proud you mostly remained neutral on this one!

My kids fight, forgive, forge alliances, then fracture them, and forgive again. They've become a true family, imperfections and all...and that's a lot to be proud of even on a tough day.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

We are family!

For the past week, our house has been full...really full. We hosted the Schoelles family reunion here in Salem last weekend and relatives from several states joined us. Craig's mom, sisters, brother, and their spouses arrived first, followed by a variety of Schoelles cousins. Some relatives stayed with us, some at local bed & breakfasts, with our house being the central gathering point.

Our reunion events began on Friday with fruit, wine and cheese at our house before our group of 20 headed to dinner at the Sugarcane, a wonderful Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant. Saturday, we had perfect weather for our family picnic at Forest River Park where we ate, shared photo albums, and wove the fabric of family a little tighter with the thread of stories from the past. On Sunday, we had 22 for a church service and lunch at our house.

All of this took months of planning (kudos to Donna and Karen, Craig's sisters who did all of the advance work!)and lots of help (cousin Judy and her husband brought stellar wine and cheese and cousin Sally brought tins of scrumptious homemade cookies.) Everyone pulled kitchen duty for both food prep and clean up. Even more important, my awesome mother-in-law, her off-spring and their spouses took turns keeping my kids entertained with stories, card tricks, wrestling matches, hugs, and good-natured teasing. What a pleasure!

We have a nice life here in Salem but the one thing we lack on a daily basis is extended family. Our relatives are spread across the country so seeing them is a rare treat; to have all of Craig's siblings and his mom at our dinner table with our own family is a precious gift. Adding in cousins my kids have never met before is the icing on the cake. Craig and I are so grateful to all of you who came up with this reunion idea, made it happen, and brought it to our home. We'll always treasure the memory of our house brimming with family and hope you'll come back again soon.

Here are a few of the memories I will treasure from the week, complete with pictures:

Tanya having a whole cheering section of aunts, uncles, and cousins for her final Little League softball game of the season!

Watching the paparazzi work at the picnic...

Our kids climbing rocks and hunting snails with their cousins.

Kate and cousin Julie doing the tourist thing in downtown Salem.

Girls night out with my sisters-in-law!

The kids thanking Uncle Dale for treating us all to pizza on Sunday night...

Madiyar and Julie skyping each other on their laptops while sitting in my kitchen side-by-side...go figure.

It's quiet here now; everyone has gone home and it's just our little family of 7 (Ha!) It's time to get back to our project of cleaning, painting, and renovating the house we just bought. The kids will be doing their summer reading and preparing for a new school year while Craig and I begin packing for the upcoming move. I'll be busy as usual but thinking of the family I've joined not just by marriage...like our kids, I feel I've been adopted with love. I'm honored...

Monday, August 2, 2010

We are officially home owners...again!

It's a done deal. We closed on our new house last Wednesday, only one day late which allowed the lawyers to generate more paperwork for us to sign. Our closing attorney apologized for the inch thick stack of docs he presented to us for review and signature...but after compiling our 4 adoption dossiers for our kids which averaged 185 pages each, what's a paltry inch of papers for a house to raise them in?

The real fun has begun...we're cleaning and repairing, shopping for new appliances, choosing wallpaper and paint colors. After discovering that the kitchen cabinets are lacquered in about a decade of cooking grease and the countertop is in danger of collapse, we're getting estimates for another kitchen renovation. The kids are helping to wash woodwork, trim unruly bushes, sweep, and help Dad prepare the truly scary basement for powerwashing and painting. Craig has already added some electrical outlets and shop lights in the basement so at least it's not nearly as dark and creepy. The hot water heater is leaking and has to be replaced; no great loss since it's only 25 gallons, not nearly big enough for our family of 7. Craig met our trusty plumber at the house this morning to make a list of things that need to be repaired. The new dishwasher is being delivered around noon today so it can be connected while the other plumbing work is being done. The electrician is scheduled to come by tonight for an estimate on upgrading the ancient knob and tube wiring throughout the house. There's lots of painting in our future...so we're keeping busy.

Did I mention that Craig's family reunion is this weekend? Did I mention that it's here in Salem? His siblings, mom, assorted cousins, and various other relatives begin arriving tomorrow. By Friday, we'll all be together for a weekend of family activities. Actually, some folks might think this isn't perfect timing...but I'm thinking painting is a great family bonding activity!