12.25.2008

Merry Christmas!

We're going away for a few days... won't post again until the New Year, most likely. Have a wonderful Holiday season!

Chris and Lee and Habtamu and Yordanos

12.22.2008

You Should See the Other Guy

Last week at the farm we visit... we call it "the 3 boys house"... the kids were all sledding off the deck. The older 2 of the 3 boys pack one of the stairways off the deck with snow and make a nice, scary sled hill of sorts. Habtamu came to the door and said "Um, Mom? Yordanos, she is bleed." Well, I didn't hear any crying or screaming, so I said "Really?" "Yes, she is bleed."

























Sure enough, there she came with a big fat bleeding lip where her top tooth had punctured it after hitting her chin on the ice. She did not cry at all and I calmly cleaned her up and she looked at it and didn't freak. I was not expecting that after the Splinter Incident, in which she thrashed and carried on like I was chopping her hand off. Kristen, the 3 boys' mom, assured me that at least one of her children does the same thing.

The other day Yordanos came down first in the morning. This NEVER happens. After a couple of minutes I asked if Habtamu was awake. "Yes. He is cry in bed." So we go up and, sure enough, he's crying because he can't feel his leg... yes, it had fallen asleep. Now, I do have sympathy for this one, after the incident in high school when I found somebody's cold lifeless hand under my pillow. It was so asleep, that I didn't know it was mine.

One more of my own childhood stories... Mom, I'm sure you remember this... I was fiddling with a barette... one of the plastic little girl ones that has a little post that snaps into a hole. I was fiddling with it on my lip and I got it snapped shut on my lower lip. I panicked at that point, and couldn't understand why my parents were laughing so hard... it was tragic to me... but I was blubbering with this barette bouncing on my lip.

I leave you with this picture of my (now) experienced and competent sledders:

Yordi's fat lip did not stop her from sledding the very next day. She hardly mentioned the pain, but was (in true girl fashion) more concerned that her lips were not pretty now. Sigh. Less than a week later, the big scab has come off and she is very glad.

Snow Angels... wait, what?

Silly me... of COURSE my Ethiopian children would have to be taught how to make snow angels. Do you remember being taught, or does it feel like you've always known how? Do not judge me for my terrible direction giving... it was early. This is back on December 1, and they'd had very little interaction with snow at this point... Habtamu asks in the first video if he can lay down in it.


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12.18.2008

Seeing Stars... Not the Good Kind

My friend Katherine (another homeschooler) and I took our kids sledding this morning. Katherine asked if I was going to sled, because SHE was going to. I said no at first, but it looked really fun. And it was... the 1st 2 runs. Then I got daring and went over the little jump, got some air, and landed HARD on my coccyx. That's when I saw stars, and when the sled stopped, I laid there, unable to summon up the will to move. Trying to be brave so my kids didn't flip out, I started moving and got back to the top of the hill.

But YIKES, I sounded like a creaky little old lady for the rest of today. Getting in and out of my low riding Saturn was torture. And to put my boots on, I had to put my back against a wall and slide down. I tried not to grunt, but it hurt so bad, that I made a sound every time. And every time both kids said "What?" And every time I said in a strained voice "My back!" (Thinking "Remember? You were THERE when Mommy hurt her back.")

The kids were very helpful with the dinner prep... had them get everything lower than my waist. Forgot about the cookie shards that had to be cleaned out before making dinner... so I was down on my hands and knees cleaning that (now burning) crud out.

We decided to watch a movie together after dinner, and Yordi made my chair very comfortable for me, with pillows and blankets... very sweet. Habtamu had written notes to Lee and I earlier today and we opened those... also very sweet.

So, even though some stuff was bad, we came through it OK, and better than a lot of days, so I'd call that a Win for Team Gardner today. Even if getting up tomorrow is going to take me 1/2 hour to straighten up. :)

ALSO, did you know that "really" is a really, really hard word for new English speakers? The kids both say "early". It's very cute. Oh, also, just so it's documented, they both say "holgon" for "hold on". And Yordanos still calls the Library the "libaby". It won't be long before there won't be any amusing language fodder. I will miss this time for it's comedic value. :)

12.16.2008

Pride comes before the (snow)fall

Just so you all know, I wanted to write a delightful story about Habtamu first encounter with a spork, but this came up instead:

Oh, and be sure to read the previous post first so the stage is set appropriately, and bear in mind that I had no idea what kind of day Chris already had when all this went down.

So my morning started with my alarm not going off and Chris kicking at me an hour and a half later than I normally get up. I speed through my morning routine, grab CatX (Working title: Momo,) who is due for a neutering, and get in the car. I drop the cat off at the vet and head to work for what turns out to be a fairly routine day, other than the fact that I'm close to 2 hours later than usual.

It starts snowing in the early afternoon and there's not a thing I can do to get out of work early. 5:30 rolls around (which is like working the 2nd shift in education, where 'after hours' starts at around 3) so I go out and brush nearly 4 inches of snow off my car and get ready for the long haul home. Today the commute took 20 oz of Coke, 2 phone calls, a good mix on my iPod, and an hour and a half of driving 20 to 40 mph. Not the worst, but it still wears on you. Pulling into the driveway I notice that the garbage cans are still out and nothing has been shoveled, fortunately, I was caffeinated and took care of both items.

I enter the house at 7:15 pm. The kids are in pajamas and fidgety. I haven't eaten and am just trying to keep it together.

Dinner gets reheated for me and I eat with two other heads closer to my soup bowl than my own. The invasion of personal space I could deal with. The burping, farting, and giggling I could deal with. The problem is, that they were too close to each other, and so what started out as an amusing game of 'Irritate Daddy and act like we don't know why' quickly decayed into pushing and slapping.

Daddy's had enough and explains, in so many words, that they need to go in opposite directions quickly. Habtamu takes the hint and, although frustrated, removes himself from the situation (kudos to Chris for facilitating the distraction.) Yordi follows H into the other room. I explain that this is unacceptable and that she needs to find something else to do. She holds her ground and gives me the old 'but Daddy I'm just looking' shrug which is one of the ways she says "I'm really tired but I don't know it." So, Chris and I decide for her that it's bedtime. She doesn't move. My last emotional thread is tightening. I'm not asking for her to carve up the moon and give it to me on a plate, I'm just asking for her to comply with something... anything... I've asked for in the whole 15 minutes that I've been home. At the very least figure out that Daddy doesn't think it's a game. "It's time for bed, honey. Come on, let's go," I say with what turns out to be my last truly calm words of the evening. She gives me the shoulder, my thread snaps. "I asked you nicely twice," I say (which I had at that point) and grab her arm to take her to the bedroom knowing exactly where this situation is going: it's going down the same road I went with her brother two days ago, which ironically, he claims started because she was mimicking him during grace at dinner. Always gotta try things out for herself...

After wrestling her into bed, I calm down a bit and say something to the effect of, "You still have a choice at this point. You can go to bed and cry and be grumpy, or you can go to bed and I can check your closet and we can talk for a little while."

"YOU NO TALK! NEVER TALK! NO LOVE! HABTAMU MOMMY DADDY FAMILY, ME NO FAMILY!" blah blah blah she was reading Habtamu's script from the other day line for line. Any rebuttal or reassurance digs them in deeper. So I played my role, letting her have the same experience as her brother.

"Is this your family?"
"NO!"
"Is this your house?"
"NO!"
"Is this your bed?"
"NO!"
"Then get out of it," and I threw her blankets off.
"This is my daughter's bed, are you my daughter?"
"NO!"
"Then get out of my daughter's bed."

silence.

"Is this your family?"
"NO!"
"Is this your house?"
"NO!"
"Then you must be in the wrong house."

silence.

"NO FAMILY! NO blah blah blah..."

"Do you want to stay?"
"NO!"
"Ok, I'll help you leave," and we walk downstairs to the back door. I open the door and all that's standing between her and the new fallen snow is the stormdoor and her pink socks.

"If you want to go, you can go."
"DADDY SAY LEAVE, DADDY SAY NO WANT YORDANOS!"
"No, *you* said this is not your house. *You* said this is not your family. Do you want to stay?"
"NO!"
"Your choice." I open the storm door and cold air hits her squarely in the flannel pajamas.
"Come back when you are ready to be part of the family and say you're sorry for not doing what Daddy asked."

Now, I'll be honest... I expected her to turn around and come in after about 5 seconds, but I waited on the stairs and got my shoes on just in case.

She didn't come in.

I see her standing right outside the door crying so I motion to her to come in.

She won't.

I think she was outside for 3 or 4 minutes in 20 degree weather before Chris intervened. "Either she's going to freeze or someone's going to call the cops," she said, and somewhere under all my anger, I know she's right. I keep thinking my kids understand cold, but they really don't. I also keep thinking my kids understand how much we love them, and that the point of letting them 'leave' is so they get the happy 'coming back' experience, but they really don't understand that either. And on top of it, their stubbornness must be fueled by hellfire because I don't know what else in this world would make you think that not apologizing would be worth losing a couple fingers. Habtamu had to be dragged back in the other day too but at least he picked a 40 degree day to have a meltdown. So I go out there, hoist my daughter's wailing body over my shoulder and say, "You are making such a bad choice that I need to stop you. Daddies protect their children. We are going inside to get warm before you get hurt." She's kicking and screaming the whole time, wrenching her cold fingers out of my warm hands, fighting me while I try to take her wet socks off.

"DADDY SAY GO! NO LOVE! ME OUTSIDE SLEEP! ME OUTSIDE SLEEEEEEP!!!"

Sigh... Yeah. You're welcome. It is so bed time.

Before anyone decides that my daughter would be treated better at Gitmo, and starts making phone calls about my 'snow-boarding' technique, know that she's fine. 10 fingers, 10 toes, and was only quivering with rage when I brought her in. Also, she was determined to walk back to Ethiopia until the moment she fell asleep, so apparently the self-imposed deep freeze treatment didn't even flicker the fire of her spirit. One word: Hellfire.

If anything good came out of this, it's that Habtamu seems to understand that she picks up these 'I'm too stubborn to admit I should have put on my shoes first' ideas from him. We've been trying to explain that he can't really stop her from copying him, and though it's hard, he needs to remember that she's always watching how he deals with situations. He asked if he sounded like that when he Umbie-Umbies. "Yeah, exactly," Chris replied, "And you do it longer."

We'll find out next time if any of that sunk in.

Remind Me

Remind me, next time a kid says their stomach hurts... to put a bucket near them BEFORE they vomit on the rug. Not my kid, but a friend who was over... anyhow, people vomit is WAY worse than cat vomit. Remind me to thank my children for not yet vomiting, and making me have to complete my parenting training. Actually, I feel pretty blessed to not have had to change any diapers. It makes me useless for watching other people's babies, but that's not a bad exchange.

Kudos to single parents. Lee is late coming home today, and I'm not sure what I would do if there was no one coming home to help... even late help. Maybe you've been in this situation before: it's after dinner and the kids are chasing each other around the house. You're doing the dishes, and enjoying a few minutes of nobody asking you WHY?. You know that the running around will end in tears, but at this point, you feel like you could not possibly care LESS about what's going on. Your brain waves are registering a low hum, and that's about it. The noise level grows and you hear a large crash, followed by debris flying across the floor. It is suddenly VEEEERRRRY quiet in the house. Do you a) enjoy the peace and quiet for a few minutes, or b) go check it out?

I checked it out, and found all my beading supplies strewn about the floor. The sound of beads skittering on the hardwood floor had not stopped. There were two children looking at me like deer caught in headlights waiting to see what I would do. I'm proud to say that I chose the high road, although a sizable part of me wanted to place hands on hips and start yelling. I said "Oh dear! Well, help me pick this up." We all helped pick it up and it was over. I did stop the running around the house at that point, although I was pleased that it did NOT end in tears as I predicted.

Sunday DID end in tears, and we weren't expecting it. H went down HARD. Lee's folks and his sister and her husband were over, so he must be feeling comfortable with them. Small comfort while I'm an emotionally wrung out rag, and Lee had to go lay down when it was over. H spent several minutes (30?) outside in just his socks and a spring jacket. (And other clothes... just pointing out the inappropriate parts of his attire.) When it was all over, I tried to make clear to him that other people MAY call the Police if he's wandering outside like that, screaming and crying, and that the Police would say "Bad Mommy and Daddy." I think he understood, but I'm not sure if we've seen the last of that kind of outburst.

12.12.2008

My New Job

Nope, it's not a typo. I really did write it.

12.09.2008

Leverage

Well, it took a while but we finally have some leverage on our children. When your kids have had nothing, expect nothing, and are used to nothing, it doesn't leave you much to work with on the discipline front. You can't take stuff away because it either doesn't mean anything, or it means everything. Like Habtamu and shoes. We don't know what the story is there, but the boy gets really edgy about his footwear and it would just be cruel to even threaten to take a pair away. Grounding doesn't mean anything unless you can explain to them what they're missing out on, and in general, lingering around the house is just stressful for everyone.

It's taken six months but the kids finally have a routine that they understand and like, and they have expectations. Which means, we can now say, "Because you (fill in the offense,) the TV will not be turned back on until Thursday" and it stings a little. It's enough to make them think twice and start cutting deals.

Hitting. No discussion. No TV. One day minimum. This knowledge alone has stopped Habti faster than I can grab his elbow when starts to wind up.

Burping (not regular burping but the, "Look at what I can do" kind) at the dinner table means you take everyone's plates to the dishwasher after the meal.

Yordi tried out some new English today. In specific she tried out the phrase, "Don't you talk to me like that," on her mother. Unfortunately that's a one-way statement. One-way to the no TV zone. Chris responded with the grammatically correct, "Oh no you didn't," and thus ended today's viewing of The Parent Trap.

It's just nice to have an avenue of discipline that doesn't involve dragging, suppression, screaming, banging, yelling, crying, etc...

I also wanted to mention that, when the kids were still speaking Amharic they would have this little banter between them. Kind of like how you see lawyers talk to their clients in movies. They would either lean in toward each other, or say something so nonchalantly that you'd hardly know that one was addressing the other, and suddenly a decision would be announced. The example I remember is that at meal times one would often talk their sibling either into or out of eating something, sometimes mid mouthful. There would be a whisper, or something that sounded like, "Hmm, which one is my salad fork" and abruptly the other would point to their plate and say, "This? No thank you," even though they had just devoured half of it. Or the opposite, one would approve of something and start cooing into their bowl, then the other would take half-hearted spoonfuls and choke it down.

I bring this up because the tone and rhythm of that banter has returned, but now it's in English and I still feel like I'm listening on their secret language. Chris wrote about the, "Don't hit me, and I won't hit you so we can watch Hercules this afternoon, Ok?" pact, but there have been many other communiques that are reminiscent of table talk during a card game, or like two mobsters making deals in a confessional.

Oh and speaking of language learning, the kids are now in the epicenter of the, "Why?" phase. Insert both eye roll and eye twitch here. They love to ask it. Won't answer it.

Why? Because it's time to find something else to do other than watch TV.

*CLICK*

12.07.2008

Sledding - another first off the list

Armed only with an inflatable tube, Habtamu sizes up the opposition

I was going to let the pictures speak for themselves, but that's just not my style. The kids had no problem figuring out the rules of the hill, and even exemplified proper 'sleddiquette' by not line jumping and (generally) waiting for others to move out of the way before barreling down. We went sledding two days this weekend with no hard life lessons, with the exception of one headlong encounter with an immovable iceball. Otherwise, as Yordi put it, it was, "Down very fun. Up not fun," the rest of the day.

You tell me, does he look like he's having fun?

Yeah, she isn't either.

It's really interesting to me to watch my kids literally get 'up to speed' with American life. 6 months ago we were cramming Habtamu into a baby swing with a plastic seat and a safety bar. 4 months ago the one ticket rides at the fair were invigorating, then bikes stepped it up another notch. Now they are sledding and their brains are calculating and adjusting for everything the whole way down. They ditch and roll when they want and not accidentally. And you know things were going well because I asked for 'real smiles' for the following picture and actually got them. Woo-hoo!

Ahh, just like the good ol' days on the frozen hills of Ethiopia.

To wii or not to wii

I wanted to write about this earlier, but I was afraid that if my kids ever read this, I would be on the unforgiveable list with my name written in red. It's one thing to tell adults that you can't afford to buy something fun and cool. It's another thing to have your kids find out you returned their Christmas present.

Since the beginning of my marriage to Chris, we've had the red-light/green-light system as part of our vocabulary. It's a communication technique that I heard some other couple using where you don't go forward on a big decision unless you both get a 'green light.' Red means forget it. Yellow means you either don't care (and it's the other persons decision) or that discussions need to continue. What I really like about this techniques is that it takes into account your gut feeling on a situation. "I don't know why, I just have a red light right now," keeps communication open instead of, "No, because I said so."

So for Christmas we've been going back and forth about how we should celebrate, and in specific, how much stuff should be under the tree for the kids. We've gone through their Birthdays, garbage bags full hand-me-downs, Halloween, and a couple gift showers so it's not like Christmas will be the first time they've received presents. But we aren't to the Christmas List point yet, they kind of know what they like, but mostly we know because they wear it on their sleeves. If it's pink, Yordi will like it. If it's on TV, Habtamu will watch it.

We have a couple friends with gaming systems, and when we have visited, the wii has been a big hit with both children. So Chris and I figured picking one up for the whole family would a quick way to wrap up the Christmas shopping season. Everyone wanted one... it was a no brainer. So when one of my friends offered to pick one up while he was out shopping, I was all for it. Because the only thing that would possibly be better than getting a wii, was not having to fight the crowds for one. I got the call a couple hours later saying that I could come over and pick up the wii at my earliest convenience, and to bring a check.

Now, I don't even remember how much I thought the wii was going to cost, but when I saw the price tag (and it was a good price) my light went from green to yellow. Several of our friends have wii's so going out to their houses has been an extra special treat. This was just the price of the base unit, let alone the wii-fit, and the second controller, oh and games, probably need a couple of those. How are my children ever going to learn 'social engineering' if they have everything they want? Will they ever use crayons again if there's a gaming system in the house? We can't afford it, we don't need it, and I should have spent the money on new tires. This is rapidly becoming a red light situation. But since Chris was gung-ho about it, I left my light at yellow. A very stale yellow.

I talked to Chris expecting some kind of "If we don't get a wii-fit our children's brains will rot into the couch during the winter months" speech, but I never got it. She just sighed and said that she saw my point but still wanted it. It was in our basement, unopened, I still had 20+ days to return it if I really felt strongly about it.

Then, about a week later, Habtamu ended up with a dollar to spend (whole different story there...) so I took him to our local Dollar Store and said, "Ok, You can buy any one thing here." Long story short, it took him 2 hours to decide on a pocket radio. Two hours of picking things up and putting them back. Shopping, prioritizing, making any form of financial decision was a completely new skill set for him. We came home, and I told Chris that we had grossly underestimated the power of a dollar in our kids lives. Red light. I returned the wii the next week, and prepared myself to someday be seen as The Grinch for the rest of my life when my kids found out. Maybe next year, I thought, but we can do without this year.

Meanwhile, the friend who bought the wii for us had already cashed the check, saw the reimbursement on his credit card, and wrote us a check back. On friday, I was hitching a ride from a workmate to get to the bank, when he nonchalantly says, "Oh, by the way, word got around that you returned the wii. It's down-right heretical work in the computer industry and do that, so to keep you from burning in techno-hell for eternity, we took up a collection. Someone is standing in line right now ready to make the purchase, but we thought we'd check with you first."

I started laughing, "Um... let me call my wife," was the most coherent thing I could think to say.

Suddenly my light turned green and it was like there were a bunch of people I've known for years honking at me to punch the gas and get through the intersection.

There's probably a spiritual lesson to be learned here about the importance of community, generosity, and humility, but I think the real moral of the story is: don't get in the way of computer geeks on a mission, they can change traffic signals.

They are kinda like ambulances with pocket protectors.

12.05.2008

Playing Catch Up

Wow! I'm really behind in reporting the day to day activities around here.

Tuesday: Habtamu had a 4 hour umbi-umbi rage ("Umbi" is "No, I won't, I don't want to, etc" in Amharic, so now we call these episodes "umbi-umbi's") I was emotionally and physically exhausted by it, and the reason (had to do with tea - SO not the real reason, if there even was one) was silly. For his 4 hour ("Not 4 hours, Mom! 3 and a half!") umbi-umbi, he got his favorite video series taken away for 4 days. We had to explain exponential growth between the infraction and the consequence.

Also, the kids have been kind of hitting each other... well, especially H toward Y, which is unacceptable on many, many levels, him being so much bigger than her. We told them if it happened again, we'd take away their other favorite video series. Today I heard them making deals like "You don't hit me, I don't hit you, or no Avatar." "Ok."

Wednesday: At our friends' farm, Habtamu had his first driving lesson... a little tractor their kids use to plow with. Habtamu promptly drove it through the electrified fence, into the ditch. Go Team Gardner! He admitted that he was NOT looking where he was going at the time, oh, and, also, he didn't know how to stop it. When the boys came up to tell us, Habtamu had blood pooled under his left eye. On closer inspection, it turned out to be his latest sty that must have exploded on impact. Thankfully, I am not squeamish and since he wasn't screaming, I deduced he couldn't be hurt THAT badly, and he wasn't. He got driving lessons, and is VERY attentive to where he is going now. I think a monster has been created, though, becausee all he can talk about is driving that tractor again.

Thursday: We went to our new pediatrician's for the 1st visit. There was very little drama this time. SO MUCH BETTER than previous Dr.'s visits. We got meds for his eyes.

This day was SO busy, that I don't even want to talk about it. Or think about it again.

Friday: Lest you think that I've forgotten about Yordanos... we were getting ready to leave for Hometown Christmas tonight (all the local businesses gussy up their windows, and there are crafts and games and horse rides up and down main street), and I put on my Head Sokz, and Yordi flipped out. She was saying something about how I would be the only warm one. I offered it to her, and said I'd wear a different hat if she wanted it. (I THINK I said it nicely.) Anyhow, she was discontented, and Habtamu and I were getting irritated and angry, because we wanted to GO. So, we all get outside and she takes off in the wrong direction. We have to go after her because it's NIGHT and she's too young to be wandering around alone. Then she heads back towards home and I tell her she has until the house to stop umbi-umbi or I take away Avatar. I take it away for multiple days and still she doesn't come back. Finally, I firmly take her arm and lead her back into the house where she screams bloody murder as I take her boots off (didn't want her taking off) and I left her in the hallway.

Habtamu and I played Jenga, and she calmed down and came to watch. I asked if she was feeling better. Yes. I said "Come here and tell me what happened." She starts to cry again, so I went to her and held her and FINALLY she says "Red hat, Mommy scary." Well, I felt bad at that point because it never occurred to me that my HEADGEAR would be scary, but it kind of is. So I apologized and said "I never thought about it being scary, I'm so sorry." Then I suggested that in the future she could just say "Mommy scary" earlier and avoid the whole umbi-umbi and getting your stuff taken away.

This parenting thing is like herding cats.

Speaking of cats, I won't tell you about the cat that's now living in our basement. Because we are Suckers, is why. We're both avoiding making a decision about what to do about him, because I think we both know where this is headed. His name is Momo. Dang it.

12.03.2008

On Joy and Sorrow

Adoption does not cure infertility. I had kind of assumed being a mother would purge those biological urge feelings once and for all. It doesn't. I'm thinking that there must be a God given imperative to create life in our genetics. I can't explain away that little spark of jealousy and anger and disappointment that I get when others are pregnant with their 1st child. I need to grieve that I will not have a child that looks like me. I grieve that I will not be their caregiver before they draw their first breath. I grieve that my womb has been labeled "inhospitable" for life to grow.

The logical part of me does not even want a baby. I don't even want to deliver a child. Thanks, Nicola and Katherine, for showing me that I am not missing anything by not giving birth!

For many, many years I could not/would not attend a baby shower. How could I bring myself to go to "Babies R Us" and pick out some cute little outfit? I tried once and ended up sobbing in the car for 1/2 an hour afterward. So, I'm sorry to whomever was pregnant during the "dark years" of infertility. I couldn't even BUY you anything, much less attend your shower. I couldn't even think about you without tearing up.

Once you had your babies, I was fine. I didn't want YOUR baby.... I wanted MY baby. And, once you were on your 2nd child, I was mostly fine. I don't know what made the difference between the 1st and 2nd child, but it mattered.

Mostly now, that infertility sorrow is buried pretty deeply under LIFE. Life does go on. If people live far or I am not close to them, I am able just to be happy (tra la la) for them and not think about it. I am still blind-sided from time to time, but I am no longer a slave to those feelings. I know that they will pass, and that I shouldn't be afraid of them. Crying with Lee for 10 minutes makes the world right again.

I had thought that I could purge those feelings once and for all, that there would be only joy for those who give life, but I see now that it doesn't work that way. I'm way to human, and we humans have feelings... even the yucky ones, even the ones we don't want to have. I have learned to handle those feelings better now, and not let them lead me on a path to despair. I am able to have joy for my friends and sorrow for me at the same time. Then the sorrow goes away, and I'm left with joy and peace. Praise God.

11.29.2008

Holiday Shuffle

Because holidays aren't disorienting enough, we decided that since we were doing Thanksgiving dinner on Friday at my folks, we would put the tree up on Thursday.

With full concentration, Habtamu attaches ornaments to the tree.

This year, Santa's little helper has afropuffs!

So we get the tree out and the kids were like, "Yay, Christmas!" and we're like, "No, it's Thanksgiving." And they're like, "Yay! Turkey today!" and we're like, "No, turkey is tomorrow." And they're like, "Today, holiday, no?" and we're like, "Yes, today is a holiday." And they're like, "Yay! Christmas!"

Once we admitted defeat, they were ok with spending the afternoon digging through boxes of decorations and arranging the tree.

video
Yordi finds a Christmas stocking

H dives straight into the underbelly of the holiday season

Habtamu had been juiced up for days about the thought of trying turkey. As soon as we described it as "big chicken" there was no turning him off of it. When we got to Grandma's on Friday, he was the first out of the car and made a bee-line straight for the oven. He wanted to see this thing, and grandma did not disappoint. She bought a 17 pound turkey which easily qualified as the largest chicken he had ever seen.

Being one who has seen a lifetime of holiday smorgasbords and Methodist potlucks, I forgot to inform my son of the rules of gluttony. Case and point, after grace, Habtamu started by putting 3 full slice of turkey on his plate, then a large helping of corn, some fruit, and two pieces of bread. Generally, orphanage tactics are a solid strategy, except when the food is unlimited. I passed him the mashed potatoes and he was completely baffled about what to do next. "My Plate! Is Full!" he exclaimed. At this point only about 1/3 of the food had been passed, not including dessert. Sorry sport, daddy forgot to teach you how to pace yourself. At my suggestion, he put a slice of bread back.

Fear not dear readers, it was only a minor set back. H's stomach is slightly larger than Grandma's dining room table, including the leaves.

The day was good and the kids got to meet a new relative, Uncle Jim, who snored very amusingly after dinner. Apparently Thanksgiving is a weird enough holiday that it didn't trigger any Ethiopian flashbacks, so we were all able to just enjoy being together. We'll see about Christmas.

11.28.2008

Thanksgiving

As Habtamu went for his 3rd dinner of the the day... I knew that Thanksgiving was a hit!

Yordi picked at the dinner, but had a fine appetite for pie and cake. Hmmmm....

At one point, the kids were both vying for my attention at dinner. I said "Shhh... Mommy's busy stuffing her face. " They both said "What?"

11.27.2008

Adopt more?

We get the question from time to time if we will adopt again. I try not to look at the people like they are CRAZY, but my mind is going "WHA?!?!? Have you not been following the blog, and do you not see how ridiculously difficult this is?"

Also, turns out we adopted more than 2 children anyway... the following children also live with us: Notme, Notmine, What?, and Idontknow. It's funny how many things laying around the house belong to these children. Do you all have extra children, too?

Every handle and knob in the kitchen is sticky... I'm guessing it's one of those OTHER children, because I'm SURE Habtamu and Yordanos didn't do it. :)

11.26.2008

He Shoots He Scores!

Back in '88, the Elgin High basketball team went 28 and 3. I was... er, not in high school yet, but I remember getting dragged to many games that season. Even though I could barely keep track of what was going on, it was exciting, and it was forced Father-Son time, and the good guys were winning a lot. I couldn't tell you who they played or any of the stats, I just know that 1988 is when I gained a respect for basketball and as the season wore on, came around to really enjoying staying up late with my dad, hanging out at a big scary high school talking about how well they played.

Last night, since the kids were cooped up most of the day, Chris was about to take the good cat and move back in with her parents, so I needed a plan badly. I called our friends with the 4 dogs and the wii, but they wisely screened out my call (I KNOW YOU WERE THERE, I COULD HEAR YOU GIGGLING AT MY DESPERATION!!!) But a quick look online showed that Belvidere High had a game tonight so the kids and I jumped into the car and headed off for another set of first in America. They caught onto basic rules of the game very quickly and thankfully, BHS has a nice big scoreboard that shows individual points and fouls so the kids had plenty of numbers to track throughout the game. Calling fouls 'pushes,' cleared up that whole concept. And when they found out that 5 pushes meant you were finished, the kids were really morbidly curious to see who would get kicked out of the game first.

Squeaky shoes, adjusting to gymnasium acoustics, climbing bleachers, begging for popcorn, seeing the dance team perform and a cheerleader flip-flop across the gym, watching the good guys come from behind to win, going down to the court afterwords and realizing how high the hoop actually is, getting home too late for book time.

All new, all exciting.

Yordi asked if girls play too. "Yes. Not tonight, but yes they do," I said. She smiled.

Of course today I'm paying the price as she's currently crying in the other room because she was too ramped up last night to sleep well, but at this point it was worth it.

11.25.2008

Had to Share

How American are you? Oh Spare me.

Yordanos exercising her Freedoms:
Prayer.
Pursuit of Happiness.
Right to bear a pink matching bowling ball.

I think this has come up before, but people have different metrics by which they measure the "American-ness" of our children. I just find it amusing. Usually the conversation goes something like this:

"So... did your kids ask for a (insert trendy whatnot) for Christmas, yet?"

"No, they don't even know those exist."

"Oh, well it won't be long before they start acting like real Americans and demanding everything they see. My kid has been asking for a (whatnot) since August and yada yada yada"

(Insert polite smile from me)

Now don't get me wrong, I'll take the "What constitutes a Real American kid" conversation over the "Why are you adopting, is there something wrong with your plumbing?" question any day of the week. (I think that period of our life is over, btw...) I just think it's funny that people have vastly different ideas of American milestones. Usually, at least conversationally, it involves materialism. Oh and for the record, pointing at stuff and asking for it is universal. It doesn't make your kid more Americaner than mine.

While we were still in Ethiopia, Habtamu pointed at a bottle of Jack Daniels, looked me square in the eye, and said, "Me, Daddy. Me!" What was that? Your 9 year old wants an iPhone? Pfft... call me when he's ready for whiskey shots.*

Anyway, I prefer to think of their indoctrination into this country as a series of experiences. Yes, the ridiculousness of the Big Box stores is one of those experiences, but so is walking out of them empty-handed because you don't have any money. (Credit is a life lesson for a different day...) But you can't dilute the American experience down to what you've got and what you don't, and when it's all new, you are reminded of that.

Water slides and chlorine up your nose. Seeing your breath and snow in your hair. Taking the training wheels off. Falling on grass instead of concrete. Watching Daddy get excited about Football. Monkeybars. Learning that Cool Whip and Sour Cream, though they look the same, taste quite different on baked potatoes.

The list goes on, but I was really stoked when, the day of the first snow, we jumped in the car and went BOWLING. Two big midwestern milestones in one day. We went with friends who knew the rules so the kids caught on very quickly. A little too quickly. Habtamu bowled a flippin 94 his first game, nearly envoking one of the lesser known rules in bowling, "He who beateth the Father, walketh home."
video
Complete with silly shoes and personal trainers.


*Before you call DCFS, NAACP, PETA, and AARP on me, No, I did not buy my son Whiskey just because he pointed at it, although it probably would have helped on the plane home.

11.24.2008

One More Time

If one more kid spills water at the dinner table, I swear I'll...
(eye twitch)

As God is my witness I'll...
(shaking fist at the heavens)

Oh, sigh... I'll just act like it's no big deal, which it isn't. But it is ALWAYS a full glass.

11.23.2008

And Snow It Begins...

It's true. I have not been faithful to all the loyal bloggies out there. I've been holding out on you. Two weeks ago it snowed... well, we had light flurries, but it was the first time there was actual flakes and not little ice balls. And though I ran and grabbed the camera, I did not post. I really wanted to clean up the video first. You know, add music, soft focus, slow motion, lightsabers... just to heighten the emotion. Actually, I just wanted to trim it down. Anyway, Habtamu had already been out and came back in, so what you are seeing is real from Yordanos and the 'Daddy's got the camera and thou shalt not be upstaged' show from H. So so much for my Hallmark moment. There is a brief moment where he drops the act out of genuine awe, but I have to keep repeating the following mantra, "I'd rather deal with the clown than the bully. I'd rather..."
So without further ado:
video

And since Yordi kinda got hosed in this video, here's a bonus moment of silly brought to you by a little girl and a large coat:

11.21.2008

Random Bits

I keep repeating myself... I am the President of the Redundant Redundancy Company. I'm not just a customer, I OWN the company. My employees keep saying, "Uh huh" or "Ok, Mommy" and yet make no move to comply. I repeat my instructions until I get an "I know! I know!" and I put my hands on my hips and say, "Well, if you KNOW, then you should DO IT." Hands on Hips is SUCH a MOM thing... I guess it's official.

I imagine God doing the same to us, except, I'm guessing, without the edge in his voice... "Hey, why don't you try this, or do that..." And we sit there half listening saying "Oh, ok, good idea." And we make no move toward it.

And now I am totally sidetracked because Habtamu wants to learn division RIGHT now, and he's not ready. My voice kept rising and rising, trying to get him to count 2 groups of 4 as 2 and not 12 or 8 or any other random guess. He's really got to learn his multiplication tables 1st for division to make sense.

Yordi was just in the bathroom for a looooong time. She was singing at the top of her lungs. I heard "Cock-a-doodle-dooooooooooooooooooooooooo" and a bunch of other random English words tossed in. Cock-a-doodle-do is what they call Corn Flakes... because of the rooster on the front of the box. You should have seen the mayhem when they didn't have the rooster, but some famous person. "No Cock-a-doodle-do?" "Yes, it's the same cereal." "No Cock-a-doodle-do?" "Yes, it's the same cereal." "No Cock-a-doodle-do?" This was a couple of months ago, so they understand the ways of the world better!

People have asked if they still speak in Amharic. I have to say, "No. Never." They speak in English, they think in English. They try to think of Amharic words, and Yordi can sometimes come up with it, although, we wouldn't know if it's the right word or not! Habtamu can't think in Amharic anymore and knows it. He says it ruefully. It makes me sad that we couldn't keep it for them. I know, I know, there are some Amharic speakers and we could have found an Ethiopian community, blah, blah, blah... the truth is, we only barely have the band-width to do the things we are doing now. If we were those super, high-powered, and possibly experienced parents, we'd do everything exactly right for the kids. We are just normal human parents, though, and stuff falls through the cracks. I suspect it is the same for every parent. And I don't have time to kick myself for what I'm NOT doing, when there are so many things I AM doing. You all understand, I bet!

11.17.2008

Playing with a Full Deck

I don't know if it's just our children... probably it isn't, but...

Let's say our children each have a set of emotional cards. There are certain rules (which we are trying to figure out) by which they play these cards.

The Big Kahuna card is called "the Golden Child." H is the only one who uses this card, but I think it's just because Y has empathy for H, and not the other way around. The GC card works like this: Y will get a time out, the "Chair," and H will immediately play the GC card. He will lavish attention on me... "Mommy, I LOVE you." He will kiss and hug me and THANK me for all I do, and offer to HELP me. All in front of Y, who then dumps all her "I'm no good" cards, and sinks deeper into bad behavior. It makes me cringe when H is so loving to me (for the wrong reasons), so I don't make a big deal about it, because I know I've been GC'd.

When H goes down in flames, Y plays her "Empathy" card and will feel badly for him and will not accept love or attention from anyone until H feels better.

They both have multiple sets of "Farts are Hilarious" cards, and will play them one after another. They also have "Pretending to be Angry" cards, which, if not handled carefully by adults, will turn into "Angry for no Reason" cards.

These cards mask hunger or tiredness: "Pinchy," "Cranky," "Fight Picker," and "Just Joking, but really trying to make you cry."

Oooh, I forgot about the "Killjoy" card that Habtamu has... if Yordi has anything, he'll practically shove her away and take it. We're working on this, but then he plays the "Martyr" card, which forces Yordi to play HER "Martyr" card. Ain't nobody can play the "Pout" card like my boy. And ain't nobody can play the "Scream in Indignation" card like my girl.

11.14.2008

I made Calzones... and you can too!

I won't turn this into a foodie blog, I promise. These were such a hit and you should try them. Yarnsmith says so. :) You do have to make your own crust, but it is not that scary, I promise.

Pizza Dough (makes 2 regular crusts, or 4 calzones) [I got this recipe from Katherine who had the original recipe and tweaked it. I tweaked it further to this point.]

Preheat oven to 450.

2 pkg yeast (4 t.), mix together with 1 1/4 c. warm water. Let sit 5 minutes.

Mix together the dry ingredients:
4 c. flour (I usually use 3 cups white flour, and 1 cup of whole wheat or spelt flour)
2 t. salt
2 t. sugar
1 t. onion powder
2 t. garlic powder (you can use fresh garlic too - we like a lot of garlic, so you could ease back.)
2 t. red pepper flakes (this is probably too much for you, but it's not for my kids.)

Pour in the yeast mixture and 1/4 c. oil. Mix together.

Knead, let rise 15-20 minutes.

If you're making crusts, cut dough in half and roll out two crusts. Pierce with fork several times. Put in oven for 4 minutes. Put toppings on and bake again until done.

If you're making calzones, cut dough into 4 pieces and roll out oval-ish crusts. Fill with pretty much whatever sounds good. I made pizza ones. I used a pre-made pizza sauce, a handful of shredded mozerella and spicy sausage.

Bake for 10 (?) minutes. I've never timed it, but I do the pizzas and calzones until they are golden brown on the edges.

11.12.2008

Tangible Progress

We've been working with Habtamu a lot with his anger issues. We keep talking about anger and what to do IF you're angry. And that we still love you and we're still family if you're angry. Mommy and Daddy get angry too. Everybody gets angry... it's what you do with your anger that is the key. And it's Mommy and Daddy's job to help you find good ways to deal with your anger. (And in our minds we're thinking, "Lord have mercy, please don't let him kick another hole in the wall, because we don't know what the heck we are doing.")

WELL, he thought of an anger outlet we hadn't. I doubt this would have worked if he hadn't thought of it himself. And, actually, it SHOULD have been so obvious to us, since it's what Lee and I do to get unstuck and get over things... we write.

Habtamu was asking me this morning, "How do you spell..." and "How do you spell...", and I was obliviously helping him. Making him try to sound it out. What's the next sound? What letter is that? Oooh, that's a funny English word. I'll spell it for you.

Then he presents me with this... and an apology from his own lips. What the? The part about bedtime was as far as he had until we got home from playing with friends. I had the nerve to tell him to shower again because he had mud in his hair. (Bike riding in the mud... mmmm.) He stomped around for 1 (?) minute, showered, came downstairs and wrote the next apology, and the lovely sentences for Mommy and Daddy.


Ok, and also... they've only been here 5 months. I think their writing and thought processes are AMAZING.






































Not to be outdone, Yordi received a stuffed animal from friends today. Boys, who said she could have the stuffed animal "because it has a bow." I helped her with spelling, but the words are all hers from the heart...



I love you, everything, too!

11.11.2008

And the Winners are....


Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

10
8
26
19
4

Timestamp: 2008-11-12 13:58:10 UTC


4. Jim and Ryane, 8. Molly, 10. Karin, 19. Sharon K., and 26. Christine:

Please, send me your mailing address to yarnchrisATgmailDOTcom. (You know to replace the AT and DOT, right?) I promise not to do a thing with your address except send you your gift. If you don't want the gift, email me a "no thanks" and I will randomly pick another person.

















You win one of these lovely crocheted snowflakes. Ha ha... see? No two are alike... get it? They were in their pre-starched form. I kept finding them and was unable to part with them, so they sat, wadded up like used Kleenex. I'll choose the snowflake for you. Thanks again for playing.

Yes, Sue L., I noticed that you entered twice. I'll let it slide THIS time. :)

11.09.2008

Extreme Home Makeover Ethiopian Edition

Almost as soon as I became an insta-parent, people making light conversation would often interject something to the effect of, "Well, I bet you look at your father differently now, huh?" I'm guessing it's a fairly standard new parent ice breaker, but it's a valid point and honestly I had never thought much about it. I guess I didn't really walk into parenting thinking my dad was some idiot whose every action needed to be corrected in the next generation, nor am I naive enough to think he was infallible. But the bottom line is, yes, I do view my father differently.

I remember my dad sleeping. A lot. I mean seriously, as a child, seeing your dad sleeping on a perfectly good Saturday afternoon completely defies all kid-logic. Why would anyone choose sleeping over say, rollerskating? I harbored some resentment over that for a long time. Sure, he was teaching day and evening classes, but what would that have to do with Saturday afternoon? And why would he even bother turning on the Sunday football game if he was just going to sleep through it anyway? Now that I'm an adult, of course this is all perfectly sane. And as a parent, I now fully understand just how much will power it takes to not backhand a child who wakes you up in the middle of a nap. I've come to the conclusion that having memories of my father sleeping isn't much of a cross to bear.

Dad, who taught math, created a story problem about me at one point (that I know of.) So pull out your number 2 pencil and brush off your Algebra because here's a pop quiz for you:

Question:
Lee can paint the shed by himself in 4 hours. Ken can also paint the shed alone in 4 hours. How long will it take Lee and Ken to paint the shed?

A) 20 minutes
B) 2 hours
C) x = 2
D) Infinity + 1

Answer is D, because Lee and Ken will never, ever get that shed done.

Somehow, I lived to tell the tale, but I bring this up because this afternoon Habtamu and I decided to get 'handy' and took on some holes in the walls. I enlisted his help because, well frankly, he's the one who made the holes in the first place so it seemed like a parent-y thing to do... kind of the home version of "you break it, you buy it."

So here's the second question of the quiz:

Question:
Habtamu is 10 years old and has to do some wall repair with his daddy. If the wall is 6 feet long and 8 feet high, what's the appropriate way to prepare for said task? Circle the best answer.

A) Whine loudly
B) Beat on your sister so daddy will be in a good mood too
C) The hypotenuse
D) Become one with the plaster and be it's master

Answer:

11.08.2008

Winter Contest

I found an old, old project that had not been finished. It needed only one final step to complete. I believe it's been waiting on this final step for at least 5 years, and has been through at least one move.

Anyhow, I have completed this project. Leave a comment for me (even just saying "hi") and on, oh, let's say Wednesday morning... 8 a.m. Central Time, I'll randomly pick 5 people. If your name is chosen, I'll tell you where to email me your address, and I will send you an early Christmas gift.

I'm warning you, it is not a big deal, so don't be all "Pfffft" when you get it. It is, however, hand made by me. :) I won't tell you what they are, but I will tell you that no 2 are exactly alike.

Happy Contesting, and thanks for reading!

11.07.2008

Good Day

An unusual thing happened this morning: I woke up happy.

In the past 5 (!) months I've woken up in the following ways:
1. Tired, oh so tired. (Do I have to be the adult AGAIN? Taking the high road every time stinks.)
2. Grumpy. (Mornings have never been my "thing")
3. With adrenalin clutching my chest. (As soon as Stompy McStomperson wakes up, he stomps around "getting ready" for 20 minutes.)

Happy was a nice change... I'd like more of that. :)

Lee came home early from work so that I could go get my hair cut and colored. I had a liquid dinner. Don't worry... just Starbucks, not Schnapps.

On the way home, I got to sing loudly and badly to the radio. I found a good station. It turns out that I am no Pat Benatar, Steve Perry, Freddie Mercury, or Bono. And I am definitely no Peter Cetera. (Key change?! It's already too high!) I'm no Bonnie Tyler either, but I really wanted to hear "I need a Hero," because I sing my loudest and worst on that one!

While I was out, Lee took the kids bowling with friends. Then the kids had dinner with those friends, and are currently spending the night there. Huzzah!

Touch Therapy

Having children is teaching me that I'm slower to forgive than I thought I was. I know, I'm a genius, right? The kids can bounce quickly from mood to mood without a lingering thought, I however, am not that flexible anymore. I've had some pretty lucid and graceful moments under fire, but the recovery time it takes to get over the resentment later is killing me. The childrens' moods are fluid. You've got to get over it faster, sometimes within seconds. I get really irritated with myself when 15 minutes of bad behavior spoils my whole evening (or more) and I wind up lying in bed seething, while apparently everyone else has moved on and is sleeping soundly.

Which is why this past week has been so important. I think we've talked about this before, but our assessment of Ethiopians is that they are far more comfortable with human contact than Chris or I are, which translates to the fact that generally I error on the side of 'not touching enough.' So bedtime is a time when we are very intentional about reaffirming the kids with hugging, kissing and eye contact. The problem is, this attention sometimes winds them up even though we are really trying to keep the bedtime routine as relaxing as possible. Yes, I realize we're the first parents in the world to deal with this...

So lately I've tried a couple of slight variations that have really paid off. For whatever reason, when we started this parenting stuff, I figured 'my thing' would be rubbing my thumb across my children's forehead while looking in their eyes telling them I love them. I've been doing this for months, and I wouldn't say it's totally ineffective, but doesn't seem to be sinking in as a love statement. So the other night after Habtamu had started to settle down, I palmed his whole forehead and then began massaging his scalp. His eyes rolled back and his smile twitched uncontrolably, so I knew I was onto something. Yordanos likes full-on body hugs, koala-style. Sometimes she's too wound up for it to work it's magic, but if she's on the way down, she'll just slump into me and her head will roll around on my shoulder.

Those are the nights everyone goes to bed happy.

11.05.2008

Ego

So we went to Walgreen's to pick up photos from our photo shoot the other day. There was a note on the envelope saying "Need copyright release". The cashier explained it was because there were professional photos in the envelope.

"Oh, I took those," I said. (Probably smugly.)

"You took those?"

"Yep, right in my living room."

"Oh, ok. Otherwise we'd need a release."

"I'd be happy to sign anything you want, because I took them."

As we walked out the door, Lee said to me, "Can your ego fit through the door?"

And I answered, "Nope."

Home School

Someone asked in a comment about the homeschooling we're doing. I'll try not to be embarrassed about how little formal what-you-would-call-school we do. My homeschooling friends say I'm doing ok, but honestly, I'm kind of winging it with the schooling of older children who didn't speak any English 4 months ago.

Our morning looks like this:
H gets up at 7 (it used to be 8, #$@& time change)
I get up at 7 or 7:30. (used to be 8, $@@# time change)
Y gets up at 7:30 or 8 (also used to be later, &%$# time change)
I write in my journal and have breakfast.
I go shower while the kids eat breakfast. (It's great having older kids!)

They start their copy work after breakfast. They choose a book to copy from. Their handwriting is very good now. I make suggestions on how to improve it, but I've noticed that it mostly improves without my intervention. If I notice a specific problem, I work with the child on perfecting the letter.

Then I do reading with Habtamu. I'm using "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" for both children. It's got a script, and it's really cool to see him make the connections between sounds and words. The other day he started laughing in the middle of a story, because it was a funny story. That's priceless.

While I start reading with Yordanos, H looks at his math dvd. We use the Math-U-See system.

Then H starts math and Y watcher HER math video. I then help them both with any math questions. H has story problems at the end of every page, so he needs help with reading those. He can do the math once it's read to him, usually.

All this usually takes 2 - 2 1/2 hours.

Then they work on other projects. They've always got things going on with paper, glue, markers, crayons, etc... They did not take to making woven pot holders like I was hoping they would. I remember cranking out about a million when I was their age. Hoping they could use them as Christmas gifts. Will have to find something else. Meanwhile, I guess I'll be making pot holders. Surprise!

In the afternoon, if it's nice, we go out somewhere, usually to the park to play. If not so nice, maybe just a walk. Not sure what we're going to do this winter.

Other than that, the way I see it, is that every day is a learning day. I'm a life-long learner myself, and I model that all day for them. They've seen me read every day and ask me what I'm reading. My hope is that I can instill the love of reading (ok, Grandpa Gardner, and MATH) so that they will also become life long learners who are interested in things outside of themselves.

11.03.2008

Insane Generosity

A big shout out to Lee's folks' church (also the church where Lee and his sister grew up) who threw us the most amazing, generous, awesome shower yesterday.

It had all the elements of disaster for Habtamu... new place, new situation, new people... lots of people... cameras, etc, etc... And yet, disaster never occurred. He and Yordi did great!

We opened the gifts at home, making use of our "studio" setup one last time.



With his new watch, I am kept apprised of the time in 5 minute intervals. :)


















Hooray for balloons that won't fly away!








































It's not just me, right? This is an obscene amount of gift certificates... and these are just the Target ones.

















THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!

The children kept saying "Nice, good people, gifting family..." and we couldn't agree more!

10.30.2008

Stinkers and Floaters

Well we've had a couple of landmark events recently. Chris and I both started noticing that after trips to the park, Habtamu was smelling less and less like a breath of fresh air and more like a small caribou. So Chris ran out to Walgreens and picked up my son's first stick of deodorant, and I got to show him how to use it. One stroke down, One stroke up. No, you don't have to start at your elbow and make contact all the way to your lowest rib. He figured out on his own that applying a second coat of deodorant without taking a shower gets nasty. Chris told him that it was 'unscented' but both he and his sister spent a ridiculous amount of time with their noses in his pits making sure.

The other milestone wasn't so jovial. The kids go to a mid-week childrens' church on Wednesdays. They are in separate classes which makes for interesting revelations when I go to pick them up. H's class is pretty academic and so he often appears proudly after class with a completed word-find puzzle or worksheet and a fancy pencil. Yordi, however, is apparently in the "Knick-knacks for Jesus" class and usually comes out hunched over with both arms loaded carrying the evenings projects and prizes. I'm kind of surprised they didn't decorate backpacks the first week. That would have been a good idea. Anyway, this week Yordi came out with 2 small goody bags, a craft that somehow incorporated a working flashlight, a balloon, and a 10 inch pumpkin. Add her jacket and Bible into the mix and you can see why a glittery backpack might have been appropriate. Not surprisingly, Habtamu did not rush in and help her carry anything. I offered to hold the balloon but she didn't think that was funny, so I ended up muling about half the payload. Habtamu kept his jealousy in check until we got out to the car. After taking inventory of her goody bags, he couldn't hold it in any longer and ended up jumping out of the car and running straight to the house as soon as I pulled into the garage. Couldn't blame him really... she got a flashlight and didn't even have to memorize anything. So with H out of the picture Yordi stumbles out of the car with her her half of the loot (I've got the rest,) waddles to the backdoor, reachs for the handle, and lets go of the string.

Then the earth shattered under the weight of the largest tears and tormented cries of a girl who just lost her first balloon.

Sorry honey, usually daddy's make that mistake with their first child, but your daddy's new at this and didn't even think about tying it to your wrist. I'll remember next time, I promise.

10.29.2008

Halloween and Lessons Learned
















































We had some friends from church come by on Saturday to take pictures of us. They set up the backdrop, set up umbrella flash things, and got everything ready.

Habtamu went down in flames... started out sad and crying, moved to angry and crying, and when all was said and done, there was a hole in the wall of his bedroom. We were confused and scared and felt completely out of our league. H was finally able to tell us what happened. Turns out all the set up and equipment reminded him of the time his family in Ethiopia went to get their pictures taken. Oh. We have that picture... never even occurred that this could be an issue. We had him clean up the plaster (we have lathe and plaster walls) and he had to miss a costume party (I took Yordi, and we were both pretty sad the whole time) and he'll have to fix the wall with Daddy next week. We talked about good choices vs. bad choices, and how it's ok to be sad and angry, and it's ok to tell us before things escalate. He said he was scared to talk to us, which as a parent made me kinda angry inside... I mean haven't we ALWAYS been available and willing to talk about their Ethiopia family?! Haven't we ALWAYS comforted them when they miss Ethiopia and found ways to send pictures to their friends?! Then the adult part kicks in and thinks, well, how WOULD you know you can talk to me about anything... you've only known me 4 months!

By Sunday, things were back to normal - ish. H still felt bad about himself and was making up scenarios in which we would kick him out. "If I ____, then Habtamu no family." "If I ______, Habtamu outside, no house." Sigh. We reassured and reassured. I was nervous about Monday, and my nerves were stretched pretty thin that day, waiting for "something" to happen... alert to any sort of defiance or sadness, and trying not to walk on egg shells, but really - walking on egg shells... I HATE confrontation... I HATE chaos... I HATE not knowing what to do. (Ha ha. Welcome to parenthood!)

Our friends left their equipment set up and hooked my camera up to the flash umbrellas, so if things settled down, I could take pictures. Thank you so much, Curt and Becky! It's not you!
We were able to take pics on Sunday... old memories apparently processed for now... new memories made.

Of course we had to be goofy:


















And, of course, we looked to my senior portraits for inspiration:
























They wanted to wear the mittens, and what knitter could refuse them? I couldn't!

















































10.24.2008

One Goes Up, One Goes Down

Habtamu is a-ok today. Yordanos is trying very hard to be angry all day. Her attempts are totally different from H's. She doesn't do anything naughty, doesn't test any limits, just glares and speaks sharply. There is little defiance... if I ask her to do something, I get a glare, a mutter, and she does it anyway. I have no problem not being angry with her. I find it hard not to laugh when I'm able to distract her, and she forgets that she's trying to be angry, then remembers. She didn't want me to look at her handwriting. I brought out the thermometer to check her temperature to make sure she wasn't sick. She was immediately engaged, and we spent a happy 20 minutes taking all our temps.

We've noticed this about Habtamu before: the worse Yordanos acts, the better Habtamu acts. He becomes the devoted and helpful and loving son... the golden child. This helps Yordanos sink lower into the "Garbage" cycle. "Yordanos Garbage." "Yordanos Garbage for dinner." etc, etc, ad nauseum.

10.23.2008

Represent













Finally figured out how to get a screen shot of this and post it. Don't ask... this laptop doesn't have a bunch of editing things I'm used to working with and I banged my head against the wall for an hour the LAST time I tried this.

Anyhoo, here is what I see from statcounter... this shows the location of everyone who visits our blog. I also know which internet browser (including version) you're using and what your screen resolution is. Ooooooh. In theory, this info would help me design a website that looked great on the screens of your most frequent visitors. I just find it fascinating... wow... lots of Firefox users... who's still using Internet Explorer 4?... Safari? Ah, yes, you Mac user, you...

Of course Illinois is well represented! At least the 10 mile radius around our family... I try to tell people at church about our day and the standard answer is "Oh, yes, I read that on your blog." That lone dot on the furthest north tip of the Upper Peninsula of MI is my parents. I can only assume that nobody actually LIVES in the western half of the U.S. ... Except... Big shout out to Karin in OR, who used to be the only dot on the West Coast.

All Time Low

Today started well enough, but we were off our routine, as Lee was going in to work late to be able to work after school hours. Things rapidly deteriorated with H. He was being incredibly defiant... haven't seen THAT so much. I won't go into detail, but the "event" ended with me calling Lee and sobbing (an ugly sob, hiccups and incoherent speech included). I ended up raking outside waiting for Lee to come back home, too angry to really care what was going on in the house.

As soon as Lee came home, I got an apology from H. (Half-hearted, but I tried to pretend forgiveness for now, knowing that the forgiveness feeling WOULD come later.) Lee took H out for a drive (a modern day equivalent to a "trip to the woodshed"?), and they picked up lunch for Yordi and I.

I was exhausted by the drama, and Lee still had to go back to work, and I had 17 meals prepared for the food co-op at church tonight. I can only credit God with the energy to accomplish anything after Lee left for work (again) around 2.

I took the kids to the food exchange. Y opted to play in the nursery with the other kids, but H wanted to "help". I was kind of looking forward to NOT being around him for a little bit, but resigned myself to motherhood. (Lord have mercy, do I need a break.) He was VERY helpful, and liked being given jobs. He became my runner, and I sent him to collect all the food with my name on it, and to help other people carry their food.

I think we're back on track for now. I'm annoyed with myself for my anger, which flared like white lightning... where did THAT come from? Must have been in there, being activated by defiance, and knowing that I can't actually MAKE H do anything. He's too big for me to drag him to time out (which is where the conflagration started) and now, he knows it. That's what scares me the most. He is usually a very sweet kid, but he spiraled out of control quickly and I couldn't break the cycle... probably because I was so stinkin' angry. Huh... sound familiar? Yes, Lee used to have the same issue with H. So now we learn from each other, accept that we're not perfect, and hope tomorrow is better.