fiddlehead.....every changing, ever growing

fiddlehead....ever changing, ever growing

Friday, December 31, 2010

love at first's a Christmas Pyramid

Ah, love at first sight.  The Christmas pyramid.  This is on Jeni's list of favorite things!  For the full effect you need to see the way it glows, how the heat of the flames push the fan blades so the angels fly and the bells ring so softly.   

We purchased this in Germany during the Christmas we lived in Strasbourg, France.  It is one of the best purchases from our year abroad because it brings me back there for a moment and makes every Christmas feel extra special.

How sweet is this.  Tessa and Drew glowing in the holiday light. 
Drew is telling Tessa about how the Christmas pyramid works and then blowing out the candles.
Notice there are 4 angels.

I think it is love at first sight for her too.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

African Ornament

Tessa's first Christmas home.  I remember last Christmas so clearly and how I was dreaming of our next Christmas together.  And here we feels like a miracle in so many ways.

This beautiful Africa ornament recently arrived and has been gracing our tree this year.  I love its simplicity and beauty.  I love that it will hang on our Christmas tree forever reminding all of us of Tessa's homeland, her birth family, our love for Ethiopia.  The bonus is that this ornament is apart of the Moore family's fundraising efforts to bring home their son, Miles.   Please check out their blog and order something to support their efforts!

Santa tool

Sometimes I like to think of myself as a Mom with a tool belt full of parenting techniques.  That is not to say it is a perfect tool belt....far from it.   But I am a visual person and this helps me feel like I have options.   This tool belt has everything in it from "parenting with Love and Logic", aka... "oh, oh....that is so sad".  Then there is the distraction method tool often used with toddlers.  The tool of giving choices.   Then I have my bribery tool....often used at the grocery store with donut holes.  There is the threatening tool, "I am taking t.v./wii away if you don't ____".   Then the classic, "I am counting to 10, or 5, or 3, depending on my patience level.  Lastly, there is the raising my voice and feeling like a crazy Mom tool.....often ineffective, but sometimes it is all I have left.

And so since we are in full anticipation of Christmas (2 days and counting) I have pulled out my seasonal tool...Santa.  At times the kids winter angst, sugar high and santa anticipation can present itself as very naughty behavior.  Santa does not like to see this.   Of course,  this is when I pull out the very effective Santa tool.  I remind all the little people (who all believe) that Santa is watching.   Specifically, I say in a very concerned voice, "You know, Santa knows that you are acting naughty.  I don't think I would do that if I were you."  And somehow they pull themselves together.  Very effective in the months of November and December.  I highly recommend it.

 I'll use whatever tool I have, and right now it is the Santa tool for 2 more days!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Periodically I just smile.  I just have a whole lot in life to smile about.  
While we were in Ethiopia these smiles really filled me up 
and thought they might make you smile as well.

Smile at a stranger in a bus

smile for no apparent reason as you walk down the street...

Smile...because your Mommy is standing above you acting like a fool in love and
 trying to take a photo of that sweet face.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

the question

2 weeks ago my son, Judson, the "thinker and questioner" asked me

"So Mom, when are you going to get a real job?"

The question came out of nowhere for me.  But, knowing Judson, I bet he has been wondering this for a while.  Comparing my life with other people, other Moms.  Judson doesn't remember the years when he was so small that I HAD to work outside the home. He doesn't remember bring up at 5:30 a.m. to breastfeed him, get ready, get him ready, 45 minute commute one way, drop-off at daycare all to be at the middle school by 7:30.  To which, there were so many mornings I had a crisis waiting for me at my office door.  Back then Andy was in his residency years and cutting back on my hours as a social worker wasn't even an option.  I carried the weight of the health insurance and much needed income.  Of course, this is the story for many, many people, not new at all.

 I found myself in a new position... wanting to explain myself to him.  It was the first time I wanted Judson to be PROUD of me and it was for something exterior.

When you think about it, his frame of reference is that his dad is a doctor, a profession that is greatly respected and admired.  In our culture people are impressed when they hear that....that is just a fact.  They aren't impressed when you say your Mom is.....a Mom.  When your Mom doesn't have a "real job".  It is so very much apart of our culture to place value on people in that way, and it starts young without this Mom even really being aware of it until he posed the question.

There was a time I wanted so badly to be a social worker.  To help others help themselves.  My ultimate dream job was to be a school social worker.  I worked so very hard to finish my Master's in Social Work and find a job as a school social worker.   However, after Judson was born I wanted none of it.  Going back to work when Judson was 12 weeks old felt like torture to me.  I hated everything about it.  It was a real emotional struggle to hand Judson over to the daycare caregiver.  Would they know his needs, his cries...and they couldn't nurse him.  To top it off they also dumped out bottles of my milk that first week because it had separated in the fridge.  That hit me so hard.  All that liquid gold and time pumping, preparing for my child to be thrown away from me down the drain.  It hit me hard back then.  I can still feel it.  That is when I really knew where I wanted to be.

Eventually, the day came when I was able to say good-bye to working as a social worker. I was so ready to say good-bye.  While I know I was a great social worker and I did help many students and families during those early years of motherhood, it wasn't what my heart and soul desired any longer.  When "we" finally finished residency years, it was a relief to be able to focus on motherhood, especially with the demands of Andy's career.

There are days I miss the pay check in my name, the reward of completion of a task or seeing a student or family create positive change in their lives.  At times I miss feeling like a think people actually use to listen to my opinions, they wanted to know what I thought about a student, family situation or crisis.  But it is also that very pressure that I am glad to let go of.

My kids may not always listen, and they may not think I know anything about anything outside of motherhood right now....but I know I do.  I know that I am planting seeds, nurturing them like no one else can and managing the everyday lives of our family because I want to.  Right now that is exactly where I am, where I want to be "real job or not"  it is the most important role I will ever have.  This also made me wonder is it a job only if you are paid for it?  I don't know that that is true....I think the definition of job is dedicating yourself to a passion, a calling, but it can also be dedicating yourself to a task to be able to support yourself.  Perhaps there are many ways to define it, but in my mind it is something you are responsible for, you hopefully love and need to do for whatever emotional or physical reason.  Ultimately, having the choice to be a stay-at-home mother is one of the gifts in my life I am most grateful for.  That choice alone, which isn't for everyone.  It is is a privilege to be able to be a Mom, to guide a soul through this world, whether you work outside the home or is the REALEST most important job in the world.

So, how did I answer Judson's question, "So Mom, when are you going to get a real job?"
me answering in paraphrase-
"A real job?   (with a surprised giggle)  Well, I do have a job, it is the most important job in the world.  Taking care of all of you, feeding you, teaching you right and wrong.... all the things I do.  I am not paid for it, but it is what I want to be doing.   I use to work as a school social worker (and explained that role a bit) before you were born and when you were little...but now Daddy is able to make enough money so I don't have to and can be a full-time Mommy.  Isn't that lucky?"

Judson, "Yep.   When is the pizza getting here?"

Here is my little questioner....Judson-you always get me thinking.
 How I love you and all of your many, many questions!

Monday, December 13, 2010

i heart faces- pets

i heart faces: pets

I am a pet lover....can't hardly imagine our house without pets in it.  We love our pets.  
And so I present to you....  "The day Bob the Bulldog met Toad"

I Heart Faces - Photography Challenges, Tutorials and Tips

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

new painting

I just finished this new painting recently....and I adore it.   It isn't every day I finish a painting these days....and not everyday I absolutely fall in love with it.

It is from the sacred coffee ceremony in Hosanna, Ethiopia during our journey to adopt Tessa.  On this day, we went to met Tessa's angel, Amarech.  In fact, our entire group traveled to Hosanna  to meet a birth family representative/member....which I really don't have the words for right now, it wouldn't do it justice.   I can say it was entirely beautiful, sacred and one of the most important, emotional days of my life.  To see the post on Hossana go to:     This is Big Love   from our journey to ET in Feb/March 2010.  That says it all.

I knew the moment I took the photograph that I wanted to paint the moment.  That doesn't happen everyday.  I love how it came together and hope Tessa will treasure it in the years to come....

Not sure what its name is yet.   "Coffee Ceremony" seems far to mundane, not special enough.  Maybe I will go back and read my post to see what its name is....perhaps its name is "sacred".


That's right.   I am growing whiskers.

Do you ever have one of those days where you may as well be the hamster on the wheel.  Ever so endlessly, go round and round?  Gosh, I hope you do (sorry) because then I am not so alone in this.    As a full time Mom I sometimes miss the days I went off to work.   At least then, while I may have been totally frustrated and miserable because I want'ed to be with my kids, I would have at least helped a student, intervened in a crisis situation, just been a stellar social worker.  (not saying I want to go back....that is another post).

Yesterday was just one of those unavoidable days where you feel like you got absolutely nothing accomplished.  It didn't help that there were 2 sick kids home and major puke clean-up.  Thank you Lord for my wet vac....if you don't have one, why not?  They are a god-send.  Anyway, I felt frustrated by the pillows on the floor, blankets strewn here and there, extra laundry from pukers, Bob peed in the house because he hates the cold ( welcome to winter for Bob the Bulldog)....I could go on.

So, I feel the compulsion to put "out there" what I accomplished.  Just for myself if nothing else.  And perhaps it will keep me from growing whiskers if I validate myself!

Took good care of little pukers.  
Pick up and dropped off Jack from school...he remained well and even got a cat nap in on the couch- which is more his accomplishment.   Filled the "L" letter box for tomorrow.
Worked on a puzzle with the boys.     Read to Tessa.  Read to Jack.   Made a pot roast in my crock put (how I love thee).   Made cookies (from a tub) and ate too much dough.
Disinfected many, many surfaces.
After the kids were in bed I did escape to the art studio and started Margo's painting for her yoga studio "Vessel Yoga".  I am pretty geeked up about is going to be A W E S O M E.  Maybe I will be able to accomplish that tomorrow.
Notice got dressed is not on my list.  Why bother.  I looked like hell...or perhaps a hamster- all. day.
There was a long hot shower at the end of the day....and then we watched Dexter.  Oh yeah- that show is crazy good.
 I think I had better go "pluck" some whiskers and hope for a better day today.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The moment a child is born,
the mother is also born.
She never existed before.
The woman existed, but the mother, never.
A mother is something absolutely new.

Eleanor Leona
Born November 28, 2010
7 lbs, 4 oz.

Every child begins the world again.... ~Henry David Thoreau

Welcome to the world sweet Eleanor Leona.  
Congratulations Krissy and Steve!  You have entered the wonderous world of parenthood....your heart will never be the same for now it will only grow and grow with your sweet girl.  love you all.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Over due!

This is my beautifully pregnant sister, Krissy.  
She is overdue....I thought for sure her little bundle would be here for her Auntie to snuggle with for the  Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  To Krissy's dismay, this did not happen.  If you have never been "over due", let me just tell you the anticipation is emotionally exhausting and your body is so uncomfortable that you just want to get that baby OUT, OUT, OUT.  Well, it was like that for me anyway....and my sister is no different.  The selfish bonus for me is that now I am in MN while she is about to have her first baby!  The other bonus is I was able to see her at full-term and twisted her arm to get these beautiful photos of her in full blossom.  I love them and know someday she will too.  But as I type this she is in the hospital working on bring this precious new life into the world....she really is.   She is about to be a mother.   Isn't that so incredibly amazing and beautiful!?  


my I have so very much to be thankful for....

the kid table, which was right next to

the grown up table, where everyone was too busy eating and talking to look at me and my camera.  Seems about right! 

This is my nephew....seriously adorable.
gobble, gobble.

Last Thanksgiving I was so thankful for our sweet girl's referral.  
This Thanksgiving I give thanks for so many blessing in our lives, 
and being able to hold her in our arms is one of the greatest of all.

Hope your heart is full of thanks...and your belly too.

ET girl meets MN snow

After a 5 hour drive we arrive to Minnesota to be greeted with winter....and snow for Thanksgiving.  Here, our little Ethiopian girl meets Minnesota snow.  Though for now, it is through Nana and Pops' big window.  Actually getting bundled up and getting out there and experiencing snow photos to come.

Monday, November 22, 2010

i heart faces- paper!

My entry:
Paper....the i heart faces challenge! I Heart Faces - Photo Challenges, Tutorials and Tips
I love love of paper started with the letters from my grandfather with "fivers for fun" aka...$5. bill.  As I think about it I love books ( I want to write a children's book desperately), printed photos, stationery, the hand written note, magazines, card board boxes....paper is wonderful isn't it?  And so I share my paper moment with the boys.

 I have been waiting for the perfect challenge to enter this photo in of my cardboard-loving boys.  Last summer they tackled an ever-so-large box, where they played all day. ..all day... yep, all day!  Paper can just be so blissful! Of course, I speak for all of us. Notice the windows and the mailbox in their new paper home.  To further support the paper theme, the boys declared this box was made into a paper store where neighbors were subjected to their paper "sales".    I used picnik's "reverse process"to create this vintage feel....I just love that effect.

I am entering the photo up top....the one below is just for fun.  It was a hard choice because I love the glow on the boys in the box below (did I make the right choice? hmm).
Enjoy more great entries at i heart faces!

Just for fun....not my entry

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Full circle moment

Tessa caught me off guard yesterday while we were in the art studio.  I was working on a new piece specifically for a silent auction benefiting Seeds of Africa (whom work in Ethiopia!).  There she was....admiring the "Message from Swaziland" series.  The paintings are right at her level (because of the angle of my studio wall space), which really seems perfect now that I think about it.  

There she was looking into the eyes of the children that had touched me so deeply in Swaziland.  I can remember clearly while in Swaziland that when I looked into the eyes of those beautiful children that I was thinking of our daughter who was on her way to us.  I had so many questions...had she even been conceived?  Was her birth family living in similar circumstances to what I was seeing?  I thought about her and asked myself questions that were unanswered around every corner.  I looked into those eyes and wondered....  and now I have the answers.  full circle.  And here I was creating a new piece of art specifically with images of those very eyes I had looked into 2 years ago and at the same time our sweet girl was looking back with wonder and curiosity.  full circle moment.

Here is the piece 

It is loaded with symbols....the postage stamps are a literal symbol of sending you a message "postcard" from Africa.  "See Hope" is scratched in by the butterflies, which have fiddleheads painted on favorite symbol of hope.  (As fiddleheads bloom early in the spring after the winter...I also named my website fiddlehead art for this reason).  Then "see us" is scratched into the boys forehead....and "see Africa" is scratched in next to the antique map of Africa. This piece is all acrylic and mixed media with paper, clay imprints (in the corner) and photo image transfers of the eyes.   

I am so incredibly grateful to be able to create art I love and be able to give back through it.  
Heres hoping it generates some $$$ for Seeds of Africa this weekend!  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

i heart faces- orange!

i heart faces- orange   photo contest
I Heart Faces - Photography Challenges, Tutorials and Tips
I love orange....I even have an orange guest room in my house!
Here is Jack from last spring making bubbles with his tiger.  
He was so excited to have a matching Tigger hat to boot! Can you see his Jack Jack spunk?!
The second photo  below is just for was a hard decision!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

8 months & 8 months

8 months in Ethiopia....

Tessa was 8 months old when we brought her home and into our family's life forever.  For 8 months she had a journey without us....there was loss, changes and her ability to thrive in her environment.  We didn't even know of her until she was 10 weeks old.  I wish I had more to give her from those first 8 months.  I do know she was loved and cared for well at the care center.  I also know that in that time she was resilient and left as healthy as possible.  She hadn't bonded to any one person, but she was loved and cared for.

8 months home....she has been loved and care for by us for 8 months.  At first I was a nanny to her.  I am sure of it.  But really, it was her only frame of reference "People care for me, but I don't have one person".  I felt her emotional distance in many ways, it was intense and painful. I was so ready to love her and be loved.  But it was going to take time.   I knew it would be different than my experiences with my birth sons, but you never know what it will feel like until you are in it.  With time, consistency and lots of love, touch and care the bond started.  It grew, and grew.  She began to reach for me, want to be comforted by me.  All beautiful signs of such an important developmental and lifelong skill....attachment.  It is complicated, but aren't all things that are this important!?  Being able to trust, to love and be loved.  We are there is growing everyday.  I still look for the signs that she is giving me that say "I need you" and look for the moments when she seems distant.  Those distant moments seem fewer.

Our sweet girl is growing, changing all too quickly.  Babyhood with Tessa went so fast, she is a full on toddler now who loves to explore.  Actually, that basically all she does when she isn't restrained in a car seat or high chair now that I think about it.  I have emptied drawers to prevent some of her messes and moved dangers out of the way.  She has the most infectious little smile and laugh.  Her beauty is really stunning.  Tessa feels things intensely....yep, she has a temper!   She is a wonderful little soul, who we feel blessed to be guiding in this world.

8 & 8....Tessa, you have been with us now for as long as you we were without you in our arms.  Look how far we have come in just 8!  Here's to a lifetime.  We love you.



love. peace. hope.

(piece from an artist's outdoor art display in Sausalito, CA- artist unknown)

Halloween trailer style

Why not start a Halloween post with our very own Halloween cat....
this is Felix, one of the 2 black cats that live at our house!  Here he was freaked out by a neighbor's dog. Now onto Halloween at the Rikkers!...trailer style!

Halloween 2010
Mario (aka Judson), Rex from Toy Story (Jack), Swampfire form Ben 10 (Drew), 
Purple People Eater (Tessa) & Andy as Best Daddy
Our silly cat...who is rather dog-like, followed the kids to the neighbors for trick-or-treating

In Monroe, you can go to "town" and hit all kinds of houses door to door.  We live just outside of town in the country, so we go trailer style.  (I hate to admit it, but this trailer does come in handy from time to time)   The kids loved being able to jump out at houses in our neighborhood.  Amazingly, the kids did awfully well with candy.  Since people out here don't have lots of trick or treaters the boys come away with loads of candy people don't want to keep!  
(Hence, I have way to much candy tempting me at all hours of the day!)
Rolling through the streets on Halloween in the trailer is all kinds of fun...making memories!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Napa...need I say more?

It has been a LONG time since we had a get-a-way as a couple.  (I know we just went to Ethiopia together 7 months ago, but that doesn't count as a vacation. It was all about bringing our sweet girl home, and while beautiful was a very emotional and difficult trip- that said...)   A trip lone as a couple!  I was resistant to the idea at first.  Crazy, maybe.  But was nervous about leaving Tessa.  Turns out she was absolutely, totally secure and fine in everyway.  Good to know for future get-a-ways!

Andy's conference was a great excuse to plan a trip to San Francisco and Napa Valley.
I had to share these shots from Napa.  How I love Napa.  Let me count the ways.....  o.k.  I am too tired to actually count all the ways.  But let me just say it was so relaxing, our tummy's were full of amazing food, and there is something about the way the roads just lead you to the next great taste of wine or great thing.  Love, love, loved it!
Us...all relaxed and feeling good by the vines

I just liked the way I could see the wine stains on these barrels... I wonder what it is all about....were they excited, messy...hmmm.
And then there is this view.
Napa valley has the same trees you see all over Italy.  I love those tall pine trees
- I need to paint this photo....

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


project64 button

This photo is dedicated to our beloved Omie in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness and all things "pink".  Omie is all things wonderful, including a breast cancer survivor.  She exudes a quiet strength and is a woman I admire and love.  Omie raised 4 boys (including my wonderful husband) who are her greatest testament to her love, patience and kindness.  We are blessed to have her in all of our lives...and are especially grateful she is here to know and love this little bundle of pink!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Family. photo.

I love this family photo.  
It looks all perfect in the moment of a beautiful fall morning.....but I would be lying if I told you there wasn't any frustration right before it.   Sunday morning....morning rush, went to church and came home with the Frehners to take each other's family photos while we were all decently dressed and groomed! What does it take to get a family photo like this?  Sometimes a little bribery and a strong Mommy voice, a.k.a. a little yelling....well, Drew was half naked having took off his shirt right before this shot when he thought we were done.  I had to squeeze Jack a little extra tight to look in the direction of the camera.  Convince Juddy to relax his smile as to not look too posed.  Tessa had just gotten sad a minute before...I think it was too close to nap time.  Andy and I desperately wanting to get that nice family picture for ourselves and our Holiday card! But here don't we all look happy?  I think we really are, but sometimes it is an effort for all of us to show it at once!  
I love this photo.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Smirk! i heart faces

Smirk: A smirk refers to a smile evoking insolence, scorn, or offensive smugness.
The i heart faces challenge is "Smirk"...and my little guy Jack Jack has it perfected.  This shot was from just last weekend at Cheese Days.  Of course, that cheese head cap that is helping him feel "smirky".

I Heart Faces - Photography Challenges, Tutorials and Tips
Check out i heart faces for all the great Smirk entries~

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cheese Days hits Monroe!

Cheese Days 2010
Every other year the city of Monroe stops everything to celebrate our love of Cheese.  Yep, I live in a pretty great place!  And as you can see we got into the spirit of things this year!  The boys in their Cheese head hats and Cheese Days shirts, while Tessa sported a Cheese Days shirt and tutu. Jud and Drew wore their Laderhosen (spell check please) from their Dad's childhood and I wore their Grandma's traditional German dress.  Of course, the attire is a total rebellion against all fashion sense, but it is fun.  And just like "When in Rome"...wear else could you actually get away with this!?

To top it off, my brother's family came to enjoy the festivities with us.  So, it was a weekend of play, cheese curds, parades and of course, there was always yodeling in the background.

Thank you for visiting the fiddlehead report!