Monday, December 31, 2012

Dear President Putin...

There was a time when Jamie and Henry were our sons in every sense, except officially and I have two favorite ornaments on our tree that are a reminder of those not quite complete Christmases.

When we were first matched with Jamie in 2002, we were told by our agency that while it was likely that this little guy would become our son, there are always unknowns in the process and there was a chance that he might not. However, with each successful step of the process completed, we grew more confident that he would soon be ours. When December arrived we were far along enough in the process to believe that his homecoming was only a matter of time, and besides he had become such a part of us that it seemed strange NOT to include him in our Christmas this is the announcement we included with our card.
And here is that same adorable little fellow today, Christmas ten years later.
Two years later, as we were waiting for Henry's adoption to be finalized, we included a photo that was taken and sent to us of our new little son in foster care along with our Christmas card. 
He was even dressed for the occasion in a Christmas motif...just as though we arranged for him to wear a cute picture day outfit.
Only he was not officially ours...yet. 
And here is dear Henry today, Christmas 8 years later.
We can't imagine our family without him.

Three weeks ago, a Cincinnati couple visited a 4 year old little boy in an orphanage in St. Petersburg Russia. The child's name is Constantin and Mike Sweeney and his wife Natalia Zimina are in the process of adopting him and adding him to their family.
On Friday afternoon, a bill was signed by Russian President Putin banning Americans from adopting children in Russian orphanages. This means that Constantin, who was so close to being a part of a family, will instead grow up in an orphanage.
I can only imagine the heartache of those families...both the parents who won't be able to bring home the children who they have already begun to bond with and the children who will languish in an orphanage instead of learning to love and trust a family of their own.

Please sign this petition begun by Alexander D'Jamoos asking President Putin to allow the 46 children who are already matched and in the process of being adopted, to join their future families.

Alexander is a 21 year old college student at the University of Texas at Austin who was adopted six years ago from an orphanage in Russia. Like little Constantin, he was living in an orphanage for children with disabilities in St. Petersburg, perhaps the very same place where little Constantin now waits, and hopes for his adoption to be finalized so that he can have a family of his own.

Read his letter, grab a hanky, and be inspired. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Hoggy-days from the Big Pig!

Can you believe that our beloved big cement pig received her very own Christmas cards this year?
I sure couldn't believe it, but she did.
We received some lovely and thoughtful messages addressed to"Big Pig," wishing her a Merry Christmas and thanking her for her fun presence in our community
They were all anonymous-
(very mysterious) 
and signed from "a neighbor," or "a friend."  
Some were signed and sent from a "Hyde Park Runner."
 I am certain that we live in a neighborhood full of the most thoughtful folks ever to take the time to write a kind note to a big cement pig during the such a busy time of year. 
Here reads her latest signage...
The Big Pig
 and the 
Big Pig Little Free Library
would like to sincerely thank 
all of her friends
for their support

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Press Send.

Here is Mary early Monday morning...beaming with happiness and excitement.
She has just hit the send buttons and sent her applications on to the college admissions powers that be.
Boom... she has officially applied.
Mary has been sweating out these applications for months and months... writing and rewriting essays and supplements until she was certain that they were her very best work.
 And they were. 
But she was still nervous to "press send." 
So she called in her applying to college support team... the dear counselors in the high school admissions office, who stood by her as she pressed those buttons and then kindly photo documented the experience to send to mom. 
After those buttons were pressed,  Mary and her super supportive team, celebrated with an orange juice toast.
While only time will tell of Mary's future (she has windy city aspirations, while I lean more Buckeye) I am proud of my dear daughter for working so diligently on something that was difficult but important.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fierce Teachers

Some of my nearest and dearest friends are teachers of the very young, and there is something about them that I know for certain.
Elementary school teachers are fierce when it comes to protecting their students.
They will lay down their own life to keep them safe from harm and evil.
It's what they do and it's why they are teachers.
I know that many children's lives were saved in Connecticut because their teacher protected their lives and futures as only a teacher could.

Fred Rogers was also a teacher of the very young and here is what he had to say about times of heartache and disaster. 
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."
There is so much in this world that is beyond comprehension. 
 It's a huge comfort to me to take measured notice of the many caring people... "the helpers" in times of sadness and loss.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

NFL Go Go Boots.

 Henry has effectively turned his little sister into a huge Bengals fan through the magic of go go boots.
He returned from a home game with big news for Rosie... "the Bengal cheerleaders wear white go go boots that are EXACTLY LIKE YOURS!!!"
Rosie adores her big brother, but they don't often have similar interests... the gap between 4 year old girly-girl and 8 year old sporty dude can be wide.
 While it might be a stretch to find something Rosie friendly in the NFL, Henry did so when he slapped his game day program in front of her and pointed out those shiny white booted Ben-gals.

She agreed that they were full of awesome and ran to put on her cool tiger t-shirt.
Her friend and partner in go go boots fashion happened to be over and the two junior Ben-gal cheerios struck a pose with their sporty cool boots.
Henry is very proud of his little sister's Bengal fan-ship, he pointed out
"Maybe if I grow up and play for the Bengals... you can wear your boots and yell for me!"
In the mean time... they both continue to practice their respective future careers.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I didn't realize how closely Rosie and Cocoa Puff resembled each other until I took this photo.
And here is how Websters defines attitude...
Attitude-(noun)  position or posture of the body appropriate to or expressive of an action, emotion, etc.
So the question remains...
How on earth is it that girl and pony could have the exact same countenance at the exact same moment in time?
It seems that an aged pony and a four year girl old can eerily sync when it comes to important things like feisty girl attitude.
Who knew?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cincinnati- Our City, Our Story

 Jamie is published!
Jamie's drawing of a shark at the Newport Aquarium was chosen to be one of the illustrations in a book called Cincinnati- Our City, Our Story, that was done as a benefit for Every Child Succeeds. His drawing was picked after being submitted by his art teacher to and organization called Storytellers Project. The Storytellers Project was designed to create a children's book by bringing together the hipster YP's of the C-Change leadership development program with children's book author Louise Borden along with support from many others who agreed that this was a fantastic project. 
  Jamie at the book release party with author Louise Borden.

Cincinnati Our City, Our Story, was written to express civic pride in our dear city and highlights local landmarks with illustrations drawn by young Cincinnatians, ages 7-13. 
Author and illustrator happily review the finished, published book.
I think that Jamie was correct in wanting to look stylish for the book release party, his signature bow tie works well for all literary occasions.
 As you can imagine, most of you will be receiving the book as a Christmas gift from Karl and I, but if you would like to purchase one before the holidays, please visit the very best children's bookstore ever...Blue Manatee Booksellers in Oakley.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bengal Fever Friday

Henry made a personal declaration on Thanksgiving Friday that he and Jamie were the luckiest boys ever.  I have to agree with him on that... all three of my guys, four including Grandpa Jim, got to spend a morning of football with the Bengals, at Paul Brown Stadium.
Since it was a dudes only outing, I pleaded with my dear husband to capture the magic photographically for me... he delivered with some great shots of the boys.
My favorites are of the younger two leaping into the end zone...
Dad and Grandpa chose not to do a goal line leap, but did pose on the big Bengal B at mid field.
 And then the little guys ran a few 100 yard sprints, just because they could. that #18, wide receiver AJ Green chillin' at his locker?
Hmmm...he looks a little shorter in person.
Nope... here is the true (super cute) A.J. Green.... he's the tall fellow in the middle.
This is an example of why moms and sisters were not included in Bengal Fever morning... there is a good chance we would have embarrassed all parties by paying too much attention to the cuteness of the players... not so cool amongst the dudes in our family.
The awesome (and as noted, super cute) quarterback Andy Dalton,
(again, tall guy in the middle),
with my two very happy (and cute) boys.
Punter Kevin Huber and long snapper, Clark Harris were kind enough to grin and pose with numbers 14 and 18. 
 I think H-Bomb needs to grow a smidgey more to fill out these pads.
The boys delivered an inspired pretend post practice press report...
but Coach Lewis didn't appear too worried about them taking over his job.
Doesn't Karl look a little bit NFL coach-y, sporting his Bengal logo gear that his wife gave him as an early Christmas gift?

 Thank you to ll of the good folks with the Cincinnati Bengals for making this special day possible for my guys. It was the opportunity of a lifetime and a day that they will never forget. I can imagine that it's distracting to have a couple of kids (and dads) poking around the locker room and asking for photos and autographs, but the players, coaches and front office could not have been kinder about them being there. The tour was offered by the Bengals organization as an auction item at the International Adoption Center's party, Passport to Forever. I am grateful that the Bengals have a heart for adoptive families and opened up their stadium and practice to benefit the kids. Thank you dear Bengals for your support and generosity and congrats on a fabulous season.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Dear Turkey.

Ten years ago, on this national day of Thanksgiving, the world was graced with a charming little Boston terrier who would soon become Anna's Christmas puppy.
Here is dear little "Turkey" as he was so lovingly christened, and 11 year old Anna, during their first days together.
And here is the duo today...
Happy Thanksgiving and birthday to my favorite little Turkey grand-dog , wishing you only the very happiest and healthiest years to come!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Welcome to Cincinnati, Emilio Estevez.

Emilio Estevez as a broody and intense Billy the Kid in Young Guns.

Yesterday morning was full of excitement for me in terms of my very rare celebrity sightings.
Ok, here goes...
I was enjoying a cup of coffee with friends in a downtown coffee shop when in walks Emilio Estevez. 
And I got a little distracted.
(sorry friends) 
As a middle aged housewife of the new millennium,  I am also, most definitely, an adolescent of the 80's and spent my awkward, but formative years going to the movies. 
Many movies.
And 87% (conservative estimate) of these movies starred my now coffee shop neighbor, Emilio E.
I swoon.
And the best part about seeing him now is that he seemed to be a really nice guy. 
While I don't spend a ton of time hanging out with movie stars, I can imagine that they might be a little bit bossy and a smidgey bit over confident at times.
But not my teenage hero Emilio... he was quiet and polite and  as he left the coffee shop he stopped to chat with our local Streetvibes salesman Andre. Unlike me, Andre didn't seem to recognize dear Mr. Estevez and asked him why a guy like him got to hang out with such fine and foxy women.

   (I completely agree, the two women that Emilio was with, were definitely fine and foxy and also members of the Greater Cincinnati Film Commission )

 And Emilio chuckled and gave him a few bucks... because he is adorable and sweet, and then Andre tipped back his head and belted out a joyous Christmas song for Emilio Estevez and the fine and foxy ladies.

And I took this picture because I'm sneaky that way.
Later, when I tried to convey the magnitude of my exciting morning to my dear daughter Mary, she  had a tough time wrapping her mind around it, even when I showed her this photo of dear Emilio listening attentively.
"Mom, he's like older than you!"
Imagine that...gasp.
"Maybe a little, and when you run into Joe Jonas is 30 years, you will still be wowed, and he will be a few years older then you too." 
(I was impressed by my comeback and eager to stick up for Emilio and I)
"Did you get to talk to your teenage moviestar hero?"
"Why didn't you ask someone to take a picture of you with him?"
Don't know. 
"If it was me, I would have asked him to put me in a fun headlock and then asked someone to take a pic... " 
I would have likely been arrested if I asked Emilio Estevez to headlock me this morning, sorry to let you down, Mary. 
"So you just weirdly stalked him and took his picture when he wasn't looking?"
"You are such a creeper."
Apologies for the stalk, Emilio, and welcome to Cincinnati. 
Thank you for shooting your film here and for being so positive and generous about our fair city. We are delighted that you chose Cincinnati to film Johnny Longshot and look forward to being a part of a great family film.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Young Writers for Adoption

The young writers were recognized for their talent at Passport to Forever.

Early last year, I attended a talk given by one of the fabulous English teachers at my kid's school.  It was called  The Science of Developing Strong Writers, and it caused me to start thinking about what I could do to encourage kids of adoptive families to express themselves through their words. I know that a lot of adopted kids have had some very remarkable and inspiring early histories and I would love to give them an opportunity to share their hopes and dreams. Their pasts, their present and their futures. I wanted to invite and encourage kids of adoptive families to get their thoughts out of their head and hearts and onto paper to share.

With the help of my dear husband, we decided to host a contest for young writers of adoptive families asking youth to participate by sending their written work to a website. We  opened it up to all ages, and all experiences, kids who were adopted themselves and also those who maybe lost their status as an only child or youngest kid, but gained a brother or sister.

The young writers were invited to choose from a couple of questions with the common theme of family and to share their thoughts in less than 500 words... either poetry or prose. We were eager to read what they had to share. A panel of very qualified (and fair minded) teachers carefully read each submission and judged them based on overall quality and emotional impact. I was very happy to pass on the difficult job of choosing the top submissions to this fine group of teachers... judging this contest was not at all an easy task.

 Last weekend, Karl and I were able to meet the writers in person... we were thrilled to have a chance to see the young faces behind the words. The International Adoption Center at Children's Hospital hosted their annual benefit gala, and offered to recognize the contest award winners. It was an honor to meet each one and thank them for participating. Each writer showed a great deal of determination, creativity and above all, courage. Writing about something as personal as adoption is extremely difficult and these writers showed a huge amount of bravery in sharing their story. My hope is that each of these young people feels good about being a part of the project and gained something by sharing their words. I very much hope that they continue to share their gifts as they grow.

Below is a prose excerpt from a young writer who was adopted from a Bulgarian orphanage at the age of 11. He chose to define the word "family."
 "The term family had a different meaning for me when I was growing up in a Bulgarian orphanage. I made friends who I considered to be my “family.” Daniel, Yordan and Veselean were my three closest friends. They were my support system. When food was scarce, my friends and I would leave the orphanage and go into the town to find small jobs to earn enough money for food. One job required us to sweep a large taxi parking lot to earn enough money for a loaf of bread and a container of butter. It wasn’t much but we were satisfied with our efforts. We were trying to take care of each other as a family but we were only seven-year old kids. We didn’t have parents to give us guidance or care for us. There were many pieces missing in my “family.”

 I was searching for the pieces to complete a family while I was in the orphanage. I now realize that the missing pieces were a mom and a dad."

This young writer expresses her feeling for her sisters through poetry... here is an excerpt from the poem that she submitted.

"I tell them it’s not blood that holds a family together
Its love, the glue that lasts forever
So yes, I love them just as much
And I’ll hold each of their little quirks
Their grins, their laughs, their teddy-bear hugs
In the deepest part of my heart
Because nothing can break my family’s bond
We’ve loved each other far too long."

true sisters.

To read all of the winning submissions to
Young Writers for Adoption
please visit our website

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Design/Build, Talking Head.

From interesting concept...

to completed project.

Dad totally nailed the cool TV- talking head Halloween costume so Lily could go trick or treating with news anchor gusto.

Thank you dear architect-y Dad (aka, Karl Gieseke AIA, of G/R Architecture and Design), who happily switched roles with Lily who designed the project while Dad/Karl worked as the the building contractor.
Who says architects don't get to do cool projects anymore?


Friday, November 2, 2012

Big Pig Returns to her Corner!

A Cause for Celebration!

Our Big Pig is home from the hog hospital and now guarding her rightful corner.
She remained brave throughout the quite lengthy cosmetic double ear surgery and the subsequent rehabilitation.
We are all very happy... our family is complete again now that our fine swine has returned home. 
 I thought about posting a curbside note warning any potential pignappers to stay away from our newly restored cement hog (now with state of the art anti theft security) and threatening prosecution to all pignappers, but Karl thought that I sounded crazy. 
And also mean.
So, to avoid sounding crazy and mean, I will post no notice... but instead provide a warning here.

Pignappers Beware- 
Our fine swine is too delicate of a hog to endure the horrors on any further foul play. 
Enjoy her as she serenely and stoically guards her corner, 
but please leave her in peace.

Welcome home Big Pig,
We missed you. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Guest Blogger Dance Off...

The following Just Dance post was written by my dear daughter, Anna.

The most humbling aspect of this was the many reassurances in the "comments" section of her class blog, sympathizing with Anna for having such a dorky-dancey family.

What the what!?!

I believe I dance just as well as any rhythm challenged, middle aged, white lady.
Ok... maybe not Madonna,
(a middle aged white lady full of dancerly awesome)
But perhaps there are a few other gals who I could get down and boogie with on similar, if not completely equal, dance footing. 

I feel the need to take this moment, (and sorta public forum) to give a shout ou to my Ohio State dance tutor and dear friend... Terror Rose. I'm very sure that she is proud and honored to be associated with these "hands in the air like you don't care" moves 25 (ish) years following those very fun and educational dance offs.

Rock on Buckeyes everywhere,
maggie g.

Just Dance 

Rosie of the better dancers in the family.
               One of the things I love most about my family is how much we like to dance.  Nobody in our family is very good at dancing, but we dance all the time anyway.  Throughout high school it was perfectly normal to come home to my mom doing “the guns” in the kitchen as she makes after school snacks.  I remember after she met my stepdad, Karl, one of the first things she said to me was “Anna you’ll love him he does such a good running man”. Everyone in my family has the same dorky dance moves.  And with the only exception being the father daughter tap dancing class that Lily and Karl took, the older members of the family try to limit our dancing to just inside the house.  But this isn’t the case for the younger members, Lily, Jamie, Henry, and Rosie dance everywhere they go.  In the grocery store, on the sidewalk, outside the gas station, sometimes it will be a full minute of freestyle, other times just a quick moonwalk.  They dance everywhere they go and I love it. It’s the videos of them dancing that make me the most homesick.  I love the carefree attitude they have and how they don’t care about anything other then the fact that they just want to dance.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Gulliver's Travels... middle school style.

My daughter as a drunkard.

Lily happily participated in a very impressive middle school production of Gulliver's Travels last weekend and had a wonderful time with it. She was thrilled to play three parts...

Dranic - a drunkard
Prosecutor Horse- A Houyhnhnm; an excellent and totally rational horse
Flimnap- lord high treasurer of Lilliput

Mary was also very happy to to be the assistant director of the production. She loves working with kids and all things theatrical- so assistant directing a middle school play was a rewarding fit for our high school senior. Lily also thought it was pretty cool to have her big sis so involved.

 Jonathon Swift wrote Gulliver's Travels 392 years ago, so while it's an important and relevant play, it's is also quite challenging, however, I have learned never to underestimate the strength and power of middle school kids when it comes to drama. They were committed and quite cool with Swift although they were asked to remember some extremely complicated lines... just the names of Swift's characters were difficult enough... while I realize that it is a satire and ridiculous by definition... the young actors referred to the emperor by name... "Golbasto Momaren Evlame Gurdilo Shefin Mully Ully Gue."
You must admit, it hardly rolls off the tongue.

One of my favorite parts of the play, was the introduction of the houyhnhnms, which Swift characterized as brilliant speaking horses who ruled over the Yahoos.*
(Yahoos themselves were rude, unsophisticated and uncouth and apparently needed super smart horses as lord and rulers)
  To play the horses the young actors manipulated life size horse head puppets that were designed and built by another student Meg M.
Meg, also a senior and a good pal of Mary's... is a girl of many talents, including art and design. I have no idea how someone so young could design and facilitate such fantastic puppets (watch out, Julie Taymor) but she did, and they were were terrific.
The four smartypants speaking horses stand in judgement. 

One of the best parts about this production, was that it was such a great collaboration of students of  many different ages and talents. From the 10 year old actors to the high school seniors, each student understood the importance of supporting each other... being helpful without being bossy wasn't always easy, it was necessary, and the kids did a great job in learning this skill that will serve them for a lifetime.  

Personally, I was most happy and relieved on Lily's behalf that the Monday that she was scheduled to begin her bout with orthodontia was following the play instead of before. The language of Swift is challenging enough- but delivering those lines with a mouth full of brand new braces would be next to impossible!
Here is Lily outside her orthodontists office they very next morning...
Oh, the added complications of being a middle school actor! 

* to Jane.... did you know that Swift came up with the term "Yahoos?" I thought you would enjoy that factoid!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dog Jog.

Jamie and Henry are both feeling the runner's high after being a part of "Barktoberfest's Dog Jog" in the park on Sunday morning. 
 Penny our sort of sporty schnoodle.

The dog jog is a very fun run benefit run to raise money for Friends of Noah, a pet shelter that helps find families for dog and cats and other furry little beasties. The run takes place over a 2 mile course through a very pretty park, but the thing is, you need a dog to jog. It's completely against the dog jog creed to jog solo. While we are a two dog family, we have only one sort of sporty dog and Henry called Penny as his own. This left Jamie in need of a running partner, which was absolutely not a problem at all because as a fundraiser for an animal shelter, a surplus of hounds eager to run with boys was ready and available.     
Jamie was assigned a charming hound with a sparkly blue eye named Luckystar who was full of awesome. Luckystar and Jamie quickly became good friends and a fast team.   

     Henry and Penny started strong but got overwhelmed by the scene and together made a joint decision to dog jog back to mom after the first mile. 
Can't blame them a bit... Henry was the youngest runner and got separated from the pack jogging alone with only a little brown schnoodle as a guide made him nervous, so hanging out with mom at the finish line seemed like a wise move. 
 But there was no way Jamie and Luckystar were turning back. They both ran the two miles as fast as they could without stopping and were very proud of themselves. 
While a fully realize that it's an obnoxious move to cut, copy, and paste the race results here, I will anyway... because I think it's way cool that 10 year old Jamie and dog "Borrowed" came in just beyond the medals of 4th place in a race full of grown up men and dogs of their own. 

Dog Jog 2012

Place    O'All    No.    Name    Sex    Dog Name    City    State    Time    Pace
1     5     1740    TIM SMALLIDGE    M    ROXY    HEBRON    KY     12:41     6:21
2     10     1690    BRAD MIDDENDORF    M    WINNIE    FT MITCHELL    KY     13:42     6:51
3     24     1748    NICK DAVIS    M    CLAYFORD    CINCINNATI    OH     18:00     9:00

4     25     1671    JAMIE GIESEKE    M    BORROWED    CINCINNATI    OH     18:08     9:04
5     35     1712    ERIC SOTZING    M    COSMO    MIDDLETOWN    OH     19:30     9:45
6     58     1659    EDWIN BROTT    M    LINCOLN    CINCINNATI    OH     27:39     13:50

 I think it's really important to make sure that the athletes in the family maintain some humility, so to ensure that they didn't get too full of themselves, I caused them a little hardship by locking the keys in the van after the race. Here is my little huddled mass waiting and freezing in running shorts for dad to come rescue us. It was about 40 degrees and they were really very crabby as you can see.

Jamie really liked his running partner Luckystar and wished that he could come home with us. Unfortunately, our household is at full dog capacity right now, but after spending the morning watching Jamie and Luckystar, I can honestly say that she is a great dog, with a huge joyful personality and a lot of energy. She loves and adores people of all kinds...also other dogs, Luckystar happily ran in a pack of people and dogs and didn't show any signs of  nervousness of fear. While there are likely reasons why she shouldn't be so darn happy, she doesn't realize that and would make someone a very fun, and fearless friend. 
If you are interested in this sweet girl, please contact Friends of Noah for more information.