Language and Communication pt I

I've been meaning to write more directly about some of the tricks our family uses to communicate for some time now.

The other day, while AWOL at Culvers, I read an editorial in our local paper where the writer explained how he would teach people proper English. He had a very tidy 3 point method that I'm sure he spent a lot of time on (I know that because they all started with 'S',) but was completely... um, how should I put this, theoretical. Point one was "syntax" and honestly I didn't get much further into the article than that. Clearly this guy has never tried to explain to crying children in a crowded airport why driving home from Africa is not an option, or he would have known that Point one is "Gesture wildly." So let me tell you what we've figured out through trial and error, but keep in mind that our kids did learn some English before we met. Your results may vary.

-Gesture Wildly. First of all hand motions, funny faces, and noises are generally engaging, memorable, and most importantly duplicateable. They reinforce whatever you're blathering on about and give your child an alternate way to communicate back to you. It's really frustrates our kids when they say something in English and we look at them blankly. "Fish" and "Fix" may sound identical but their hand motions are completely different.

-Generate a list of 'Single Lesson' words. These are words that stick and are instantly usable. In retrospect, we've spent a lot less total time teaching a word by hammering on it for 5 or 10 minutes instead of just using it over and over in context. For instance, early on we put the kids in swings and asked, "Finished?" If they said "Yes," we quit pushing and ask the question again about 3 seconds later. "Finish" became an immediate part of our working vocabulary. The more words you have like that, the better.

-Avoid Homonyms and words with double meanings. This is where English gets stupid because it's practically built on words that sound alike. The only difference between "Don't know" and "Don't, No!" is how angry you're voice sounds when you say it. Stuff like, "Left?" "Right!" is confusing even when you have a good grip on English, so I've made a very conscious effort to replace 'know' with 'understand' and 'right' with 'correct' whenever possible.

-Unless you are a Queen, they will not learn the Queen's English. I wince on the inside when my son responds with, "Yep!" or "Nooope," because I know he didn't pick those up in Ethiopia. Nothing like new ears to remind you how sloppy your speech has become. Enunciation takes energy which is why we usually wait until Sunday or someday later to practice it. (See...) And that leads me to the last point:

-Here's a thought, Use actual WORDS. I know what you're thinking, but this is more difficult than it sounds because we are so accustomed to our own little verbal shorthand. When our children ask a question, they expect an ok, yes, no, or maybe. Not an: uh-huh, uh-uh, huh. huh? nah, eh, meh, pfft, Hmm... heh, HA! err... or *shrug.* Can you imagine trying to sort through all those sounds and picking out which words they represent?

So keep it simple, K? Goddit? Well, dooya? Hmmm? Dunno, huh? Eh... nevermind. Whatevz.

Stay tuned to the tube for part two tomorrow too!



Like Chris said, no news is good news, but many of the little things are still really interesting. When you stop to think that this is either only week 7 or already week 7 (depending on the mood of the day) it's remarkable. So yes, those of you who felt it necessary to encourage us with the old "It'll get better soon" line, feel free to treat yourself to a big cup of, "I told you so." Apparently all those years of treating my wife like a 6 year old have finally paid off!

I read some other adoption blog a while ago where the writer was relaying an anecdote that happened at WalMart and I remember thinking, "What would possess you to think that taking your internationally adopted child to WalMart was a good idea?" Well, the Gardners haven't done the big W yet, but I can see surviving it now. If, you know, by some freak of fate we ended up there. Like if our plane went down in it, or mystically dense fog, or twister ala Wizard of Oz or something.

Here are some notables that have happened in the last week:

-Habti can now swim just by kicking his legs. This is a huge accomplishment for a boy who had to be verbally shamed into a foot and a half of 102 degree water two months ago.

-We went to a pool party with several other good friends and their small children. We got to smile proudly as, not only were our children self-entertained for a large chunk of the afternoon, but we were also able to let them splash around in the pool with minimal supervision. They should really start putting that in the adoption brochures. "Adopt older children: They can touch in a 4 foot pool."

My personal highlight was when one friend asked, "So how's the communication coming along," just as my son yelled, "Daddy Come!" from across the yard. I looked back at my friend and said, "You tell me, did you have trouble understanding that? I thought it was pretty clear." Laughter ensued.

-We watched the movie CARS (thanks Sean!) in full surround sound. H loved it and kept making this, "did that car just drive in from behind the couch?" face. Y has fallen asleep during it twice. I keep wanting to tell her that real racing cars put daddy to sleep too, but she wouldn't think it was funny.

-You know those things you get used to around your house and you forget that other people deal with differently? Well, we had dinner with the Bonsol's this weekend, who also have younger children (their oldest is about Y's age.) It was fun and really nice to hang out with them, but the thing is, their kids don't eat pizza competitively... seriously, my kids ate 10 slices, in one sitting, to their 2. People, that's a ratio of 5:1. Lord have mercy on their slow eaters if we ever get the home court advantage, and they should probably lock some snacks in the car just in case.

-VBS (vacation bible school) started this week. Today went well all facts considering. New kids, new music, new format, new crafts, new teacher, new food, etc... I spent the evening with H, who stayed pinned to my side and was uncomfortable, but not overloaded. Chris said Y was sociable with her teachers. Both kids wanted me to play the VBS songs on guitar this evening, which is kind of a problem since I've only heard them once too. Maybe by the end of the week...

-Oh, and this weekend was Law Enforcement free!


No News is Good News!

I know by saying the following that I'm just begging to be smote (?) smitten (?)... but

Things are going really well. (Ducking for cover from the lightning bolt about to strike.) I really can't believe how quickly the children are learning English. That alone has solved a bunch of issues. Now when H yells at Y, I can get him to tell me WHY, instead of being all lame... "Um. Stop that. Even though I don't know what you're saying."

H has become the emotionally steadier of the 2 lately... blows MY mind too. No tantrums in quite awhile. He weathered his first 2 zits... the first one jutting out of his chin like Mt. Rushmore, and the 2nd on the lash line of his right eye.

Yordi is a grudge holder and has taken to, in essence, saying to the OTHER parent, "Tell Mommy/Daddy that....." Things do usually blow over quickly with her, unless she's tired. And, oh yes, you can tell when that is... She becomes more and more irrational in her button pushing. There's no way to placate... you can't say the "right" thing. Only ignore it or answer patiently every time. We haven't found a way to diffuse it. I usually end up talking loudly to her (we won't call it yelling... it's not quite) but that always ends badly for everyone. She has found the button of asking me the same question 100 times. I keep giving the same answer, but on the 101st time, I'm fed up... hence the outdoor speaking voice.

Otherwise, the problems we are having seem to be common to ALL parents and children, and are less and less problems related to adoptive issues. I know we'll have to deal with more of that later, but for now, things are good. :)

Thank you all for your continued prayer and support!


Scenes from Addis Ababa

Finally getting through the backlog of pictures from last month.

Poor Lee. I found this mesabe right away on our outing to the "post office". (The Post Office is a shopping area.) Our Transition Center liaison got the price knocked down to 450 birr (about $45). I wouldn't have dared buy one, except that I saw another family had bought one. Turns out there's a place at the Addis airport that wraps bulky items up to be checked. We inspired another family to buy one too! Problem was, our private bus was VERY crowded, even without the addition of 2 mesabes.

Can you find the ferenge (foreigner)?

Traffic patterns in Addis Ababa are... well... let's just say that THERE ARE NO RULES. I could never drive there. It's a free-for-all. This is a pretty tame traffic circle... we saw worse...

There were also several torn up roads, and the worst road was in front of this building, ironically. Click on the pic to see the name of the building.


(Unnecessarily) Sneaky

Today we went and saw Daddy at work. It was big excitement. However, it required leaving the house.... It took 45 minutes to get the kids out the door. They could NOT have been more trying if they were, um, trying. After 30 minutes I lost my temper and the kids found it... in the form of a sarcastic, mean lady who kept saying (quite loudly) "Hurry! Yes, NOW! Hurry!"

Once in the car, I turned the radio UP, drank my coffee, fielded a few questions from the peanut gallery... until the drone of the engine did its work, and mellowed everyone the heck out. Especially Mommy. Listened to Christian radio, heard a certain song, was chastened, coffee kicked in...

Seeing Lee at work was good for H&Y. They were awake for the whole trip and the gist of their comments were "Daddy long drive." I said "Yes, every day." Them, "Wow. Daddy home, water, Daddy home, sleep, Daddy home, eat." (As in "No wonder Daddy comes home and needs water, sleep and food.") The people at work were awesome, and I was so glad to see everyone too! (Hi guys! I know you're reading at work!)

Then a quick drop off at Grandma and Grandpa's and I went to get my hair cut. It was the full color/cut action this time, so it was a 2 hour appointment. It was great while I was under the dryer reading trashy mags, but carrying on a conversation with the stylist became work after a while. I just wanted to stare off into space. Empty, quiet space. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I was hoping that while I was at the hair appt, Lee would be laying the groundwork with H&Y for us to ditch (I mean "leave them in safe hands") with Lee's folks so we could sneak (I mean "we're adults, we don't have to explain our actions to you") out and see the new Batman movie. He didn't, but we decided to try it anyway. Lee's folks were game, and the 2 of us haven't been out together alone since, um, when was that? We sucked it up and brought H to the clock in the kitchen. (He's got a rudimentary idea about time telling.) We said "Mommy, Daddy, car. Habtamu, Yordanos: Grandma, Grandpa's house. Mommy Daddy at Grandma/Grandpa's house at five-three-zero, then Mommy, Daddy, Habtamu, Yordanos: home, dinner." (That's pretty close to how we communicate. If you throw in a bunch of adjectives, etc... it's too much and they don't get it.) He repeated it all back to us and shrugged and said "Ok." Um, really? We went up and told Y, and she repeated it back to us and said "Ok. Bye!" Um.

They walked us out to the car and we had the usual parent leaving ceremony. They gave us hugs and kisses, and waved us out with smiles. Um. On the road we were in awe. "It can't possibly be as easy as that." Woo hoo! Who wants 'em next? We'll swing by and drop 'em off. (Ha ha, just kidding... I think the reason it worked so well, was because they know G&G very well now, and as Grandma said "Yeah, it's nice here with Grandma saying Yes to everything they ask.")

Anyway, we did see Batman. Not a feel-good family flick, but pretty good if you like dark movies.

We did NOT make our five-three-zero deadline. I was worried about that; H&Y apparently noted it, but didn't fuss. We got in at six-zero-zero and went home. :)

After dinner, we looked at the big family calendar, and H&Y finally showed an interest in it and wanted to know what was happening tomorrow, and, and, and... So we went through it together. It really helps them to know what's going on. (And they understand "Maybe" now, so, boy, does THAT help.) Anyway, I thought I'd try a little "here's what's next, and when" action to bedtime. We've been pretty consistent with bedtimes... usually 9:15, 9:30. (It may seem late, but they just fool around until 10/10:30 anyway, no matter when they get up there.) We told them at nine-one-five, you are going to bed. Guitar and books, yes, if you get pajamas on and brush teeth ahoon (now). Habtamu sure understood... he started pecking at Yordi on his way running up the stairs. They pj'd and brushed in record time... usually it's a struggle. At 9:15, we closed the book we were reading and tucked them in. Huh. How about that.

Every time we've showed them where the lines on the road are, they've complied and seemed relieved even. Remember the banana craze? I finally told them 3 bananas each per day, instead of pestering me all day... and it worked. (Also, bananas are now out of favor.) They used to drench their pasta with sauce until Lee (tired of the slurping) told them ONE ladle full per bowl. Now when they ladle their sauce, they say "Oooooooonnnnnne." H had been begging for new tennis shoes (which he does need - we're not TOTAL suckers) for several days in a row. We set a date on the calendar for shoe shopping next week, and Voila! Happy boy, looking forward to that day.

I showed them when Christmas was too, since Yordi has been asking things like "Christmas Monday?" They seemed a little disappointed with the number of pages I had to flip to get to December. Then I showed them January 2009 and said it's next year. And they promptly celebrated and said "Yay! Bicycles!" Yeah, the fateful words came back to haunt us... we'd told them "Bikes, next year." I tried to explain about COLD and SNOW, but they wouldn't believe it anyway. I pointed to April and May and said "Bikes in Spring."

Magic Waters, Indeed

The first time our kids ever went swimming was in Addis Ababa at the Hilton. They were skeptical of the water at 1st. The Hilton was the perfect first-time swimming experience... the water was so warm... mmm... bath water. At first they were sticking their thumbs in their nostrils and index fingers in their ears to keep the water out. We showed them how to put their face in the water.

Fast forward 5 weeks and several positive pool experiences later... Our church had a private party at Magic Waters. The kids immediately wanted to go on the slides. I was skeptical that they'd actually do it. They did it, and not only once, but several times. They also loved the wave pool.

In Soviet Russia, Police are busted by YOU!

I figured that since we were planning on going to Magic Waters with our church on Monday, it would be a really good idea to take the kids out to "Big Wanna" (That's Amhar-glish for "large pool") beforehand for some recon. They tend to do better if they have some clue what they're getting into, so Sunday afternoon we drove out for a look. I knew we wouldn't be able to see much of anything from the gate, but at least they'd know how far it was, and get a vague lay of the land. So we park and trot up to the gate where we get a lovely view of the lazy river. Both kids were duly unimpressed. From where we were standing, you could barely see the wave pool, and really all you could see was a lot of bodies in something blue. I figured the wave pool would be a better selling point so we walked along the fence for a bit hoping for a better view. There really wasn't much to be seen so we stopped at a spot where we could at least see the slides and the large water bucket that dumps every 3 minutes.

We were waiting for the bucket to go one last time when I looked over my shoulder and realized that Rockford's Finest had pulled up behind us. I had my sunglasses on so I don't think he saw my eyes roll as I walked down to his vehicle with a smile. Officer Friendly was actually very nice and asked me if I needed help, so I explained the situation. He was cool with that, but didn't make his exit before the kids figured out what was going on and came running to investigate. Now there are three heads leaning, and two fingers pointing, through his passenger window. H spots the gun and the handcuffs right away and correctly mimes how they both work. The officer smiles.

Then my son says, "Daddy No Seatbelt." Again, I've got my sunglasses on and really couldn't see much inside the car. I look at him and say, "No, I'm sure the police man has his seatbelt on." I look back to see that indeed, his sidearm is blocking the seatbelt clasp. The Officer just shrugged and said, "Eh, write me a ticket,"which actually was better than anything what I would have said. All I could think of was, "When you get a gun, you won't have to wear a seatbelt either."

So there you have it. My son, whose complete understanding of American traffic laws consists of, Red Stop, Green Go, and "Everybody Seatbelt," called out an armed Officer. Fantastic.

Hmmm... Gardner family attracting the attention of the Police, must be Sunday.

PS) The title of this blog is from a stupid internet joke. It's not really that funny even if you get it...


Home Alone

And loving it.

My awesome husband just took the kids to the park for the afternoon. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. All I could think as they were preparing to leave was "Go, go, go, so I can eat a popsicle (or 4), and hide the evidence deep in the trash." Done and done.

I wanted to tell you about some of the fun/funny things that go on in our family. It's not all screaming, cop cars and time outs. Although those stories DO make good copy. :)

-- I know any of you with children know that if you lay down a rule, the children will be on the lookout for you to break it. One night at dinner, Habtamu was trying to "correct" my behavior, by pointing his finger at me and repeating the rule to me. This would have been more effective had his OTHER finger not been up his nose at the time.

-- "Toots" are almost always funny to 10 and 7 year olds. It's sometimes funny to me, but it's HILARIOUS to them every time.

-- When the children are out with just one parent, there are always stories to tell the other parent when we get back. The kids will excitedly mimic an action, and/or give key words about the story, and then point at the 1st parent and say "Shaybela, shaybela, shay!" and point at the 2nd parent. It's great to build stories together as a family.

-- Every day gets better and better family wise. Now when the children don't whine or cry, they let us know that they didn't by making the faces and noises and saying "No." Then they show what they actually did that was right and say "Yes." We give lots of praise at that point. They really do try to do as we ask. In that, we are very fortunate. Whatever rearing they had before we became their parents, was very good.



Ah, Saturday! 2 parental units, 2 children... evens up the score a bit. We decided to go to Summerfield Farm and Zoo today. Lee surprised me back in May with a trip there, and it's a neat little place. Today and tomorrow is Christmas in July. Soooo... we end up with this: (I mean, really, how do you go about explaining this to children 5 weeks out of Ethiopia?)

It was not super hot today... good cloud cover, but it was muggy. I pity the elves in their felted layers.

Also, Santa doesn't usually have to worry about flies in December. He was a really authentic Santa too. And nice.

Also, I just found out, to get these smiles out of our kids, Lee was sticking his finger up his nose.

Right before this picture was taken, a lady with a big camera approached us and asked if we live in Boone County. She was a photographer for a weekly paper in the county. She asked if she could take a picture of the children. Um, sure... But then she was trying to figure out where to put them, trying to set up a shot, wanting to take a family picture of us. And I'm thinking, "Um, lady... take it or don't, but the dithering will not work for our children." And H and Y were looking confused and moments away from scared, when the nice elf lady swooped in and introduced them to Santa and got them to sit for this shot (taken by me). We tried to explain that they were new here, and didn't know much English. I was prepared for all manner of crying, but whatever magic elf-lady had, she totally charmed our children into following her. Meanwhile photo lady was setting up photos with a different family, and we beat a hasty retreat toward the hay ride (fun-o-meter score: -1). On the way out of Santa's lair, I noticed that pics with Santa cost $5. Oh rats... I ran back with $$, but nice elf lady said "Oh no, honey, not for you! Have a great day." How very, very nice.

After an hour, we asked the children if they wanted to look around more, or go home. We had a consensus on HOME, so we got in the car and left. No drama. Wha?! I had brought a bunch of snacks just in case, since our visit was going to cut into lunch time. They happily munched on popcorn all the way home. I said to Lee "You know what that crunching sound is? NOT CRYING." And we high-fived each other.

Also, because you may need a good laugh as much as we did today... Check out the sheep that sounds like Robin Williams pretending to be a sheep. Everytime he did it, Lee and I just cracked up. It's right at the end... you can't miss it! :)



since having children
there is water
on my floors
on my walls
in Habtamu's ear (just ask him!)
on my toilet seat

i hope that's water

Ok, Ok

I think I've mentioned it before, but Yordi (and Habti, to a lesser degree) have been using the following frustrating formula:

Y: (pointing at something) Mommy's?
Me: Yes
Y: No Yordanos or Habtamu?
Me: No (or Yes, doesn't matter which way you answer)
Y: OK, OK, no Yordanos Habtamu.

Last evening I was going to go out with coffee with the ladies and then go to the store, while Lee took the kids to the park. So, we told them "Mommy, suk (store). Daddy, Yordanos, Habtamu blue slide (playground)"

Y: Hot!
Me: yes, it is hot.
Y: Mommy, suk, no hot. 3 (Lee, Y, H) hot. (Then she mimed me walking all cool and comfortable and the 3 of them slogging through the heat.)

Well, I started laughing, because, really!

Y: Ok, Ok, Mommy, suk (miming me happily walking through the store)
Me: Yep.
Y: Daddy, Habtamu, Yordanos words in Amharic raccoon (and she mimed her arm being gnawed on by raccoons.)

Bwa ha ha! I thought she must be kidding, but no.

Me: Yes, honey, I'm going to go shopping, while you all get eaten by raccoons. Have fun!


Successful Birthday... Mostly

Today was the children's Birthday. Lee left without saying "Goodbye" to them this morning, since he left earlier this a.m. to be able to get home earlier. I expected repercussions from that, but it was surprisingly light. Yordi came down 1st - NEVER happens. She said "Habtamu sleep no finish." After a bit, Habti calls down "Daddy" quite pitifully. I don't answer. Then "Mommy" pitifully. I don't answer. Yordi goes up and comes back to report "Habtamu no stand up." Ok, and? After a little more time, H starts crying, so I roll my eyes and go up there. He was not in his bed. He was curled in a ball next to his dresser. I'm thinking "Oh great! Of course, we'll start today badly." He's just kind of laying there whimpering and I can't see anything wrong. Yordi points to her little finger and makes a pinching motion to it. I look closer at Habti, and his pinkie finger was "stuck" under the dresser. Now, I was not born yesterday. This had the total look of a play for sympathy, for attention, for something. I lifted the dresser a little and he pulled his finger out. I hugged him and he cried for 2.2 seconds, then was fine. OooooooKkkkkkkk.

They were quite excited about setting up for the party... we moved chairs and tables out to the deck. They found my wrapping paper and asked what it was. I showed them by giving them an early present... water bottles. Habtamu loved his right away, Yordi was disappointed by the color.

(Let me 'splain about colors... Early on in America, the children established whose car belonged to whom, based on color. Habti gets all the red, blue and yellow cars. Yordi gets all the white and green cars. Daddy gets silver, and Mommy gets black. Well, Mommy got black cars until yesterday when they realized that my Saturn is actually dark green. Now Mommy gets green cars. )

SO, Yordi's water bottle was green, and she was not happy. Green would have been fine yesterday. Habti kept kissing his bottle, so I guess he liked it ok.

After putting water in their bottles, Habti discovered that his leaked, and he walked off in a huff. Stomping included! I looked at his bottle and saw that Yes, it would leak if it weren't closed entirely, which it wasn't.

I put both water bottles aside in the kitchen, waiting for the tide to turn, which it finally did, and now they both like the bottles, thank you very much.

I knew it was just a matter of time before someone broke down. We made it through pizza, and sitting on the deck for while. We flipped a coin to see which child would blow candles out first. Yordi won. We lit the candles and we sang and she blew them out. We lit Habti's candles immediately... before her candles had stopped smoking. He took off in a huff. Who knows why... he understands the coin toss to choose.

He went down stomping and yelling (but not screaming). Everyone except Grandma and Grandpa left. Thanks, you guys, for understanding! We tried our decided on strategy... that Lee would excuse himself, and I'd see the time-out through. When the buzzer went off I asked him if he was finished. He gave me an unconvincing Yes. Finished. I told him how it should sound and he did that and apologized and hugged me. The Lee came back and H cried on his shoulder for a few minutes. Good crying, not bad crying.

THEN they noticed the huge mound of gifts for them. They had not had the bandwidth to see them while everyone was here. We decided to risk the gift opening, which went very well. There was no "She has, He has..." They then played with their new gifts for an hour or so. Awesome!


Tap, Tap... Is this thing on?

I know this is common to all children. Knowing it does not make me more patient. Why do I have to repeat myself, again and again and again? Ok, there's the language thing, but I use words that they know.

Ok, and I have a question for you seasoned veteran mothers out there. Were there battles that you fought for awhile and then decided were not worth it? What were they? What are the battles you always choose to fight?

This morning Yordi started asking about her "church cake". Church cake? YES, CHURCH CAKE!!! Then Y was all angry because I didn't understand "church cake". OH! Church cake! You mean the donut you didn't eat on Sunday? YES. Um, that's long gone sweetheart. Today is Wednesday. She then started yelling at me in Amharic and saying her latest unreasonable thing about "Yordanos no food? OK! OK!" So I put her in time-out. I set the kitchen timer for 5 minutes and walked away. She did stay in her seat, but I had to set the timer 4 more times for 5 minutes each before I got a real apology and a real hug. After a fake apology at the 10 minute mark, I demonstrated with Habtamu how it SHOULD look and sound.

Lee was reading on-line about time-in disciplines, and how before you can discipline un-attached children, you have to establish a touching routine... touch them 100 times a day or more. Just a little touch... pat on shoulder, gentle squeeze... even if they pull away. Been working on that today. Got some shoulder shrugs, and pulling away, but mostly I was sneaky and made it seem accidental. We'll see if it makes any difference... it's supposed to take a couple of weeks.

Went to the library this a.m. The kids did well. We got Air Bud (the first movie - we rented AirBud-World Pup earlier). Thank the good Lord it was in. We got it home and the sound didn't work. I called Lee at work, because things were going to go critical soon if the sound didn't work. I found the errant cord and all is now well in the basketball-playing-dog-world.


Mommy Learns a Lesson

This morning went really well. I was expecting melt-downs after the weekend, and with Lee going back to work Monday morning. Nope. Of course, our morning was not strenuous in the least. They finished up the movie "Little Women", and we headed to the playground. Their play was pretty lack-luster... I chased them around the equipment again. We talked about the fire truck and the fire men we saw. (The park is near a fire station.)

There was a park district guy there dressed in shorts, tank top, rubber boots that went up to his knees, and a big clear face mask. He was hosing down the pavilion with a pressure hose. That was HIGH ENTERTAINMENT for a certain 2 children. They just stood staring, and he looked up from his work. I said "They've never seen anything like that." He gave us a little demonstration of the hose on the pavement. Neat. Then Habtamu starts miming (he's REALLY good at getting his ideas across) about how the hose is not to be used on people. Later I found out that he'd seen a hose like that at Zac's and he'd explained it.

I decided the park was a bust, so we went to the library for the 1st time. My card had expired (I'm a sporadic patron at best... I borrow from friends a lot... especially Anna.) so I got it renewed and paid the $1.20 fine. Doh. I can't remember the last time I'd checked out a book, so who knows how long that was sitting out there. Got the kids cards, and we checked out several randomly picked books. They were kind of swarming (as well as 2 can be a swarm), so I grabbed a few books from the Easy Reader section and got out of there.

We also checked out the DVDs. We got 2 dog movies. I'm getting to the point of the title now. No, I did not let them get Old Yeller! They did pick it up though, and I said "Um, no." I made it clear they were to pick from the ones labeled G, not PG, not PG-13, not R. We ended up with Homeward Bound and AirBud. We watched Homeward Bound before lunch. OK. So. I probably should have watched the movie ahead of time. *****SPOILER ALERT*****STOP READING IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE PLOT OF H.B.*********** Anyway, there's a part in it where the cat goes over a waterfall, and the 2 dogs couldn't save her. The kids made a cry of dismay "OOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooooooh Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo." And I thought "Oh, crap. I THINK she's ok, but I can't remember." So I kept reassuring them that I THINK she's ok.... please let her be ok. She was. Then there's a bear and a mountain lion, and the old dog falls down a shaft and can't get out. And I think "Oh, crap. It's not one of those horrible 'no, no, you go on' movies, is it? Where the old dog gives his life for the others?!" High drama here. And no, it wasn't.... he lives, but you don't know that until the very end.

Habtamu LOVED this movie. He totally got what was going on, and was so into the characters, and was moved in the right spots... in short, this movie played his emotions like a fiddle. At the end, when the old dog comes limping over the hill, he stood up and cheered. When Lee got home, he got the full re-enactment. When Lee looked confused, H would look at me and say "Shaba shaba shay" (which is his "tell him in English" request. It doesn't mean anything, it's his imitation of what English sounds like to him.)

SO... any suggestions for G movies that have a little suspense, but not MORE than Homeward Bound? Also, H.B. may have played MY emotions like a fiddle, since I was crying within seconds when the old faithful dog was playing with his boy.

Lee's Addendum:
This is totally off topic, but it's worth noting that yesterday (after all the hubbub) H said that he wanted smaller portions at meals, after miming his stomach exploding, of course. We were glad it was his idea. 'Food issues' is one of those things the books say will eventually work itself out. Hallelujah, let the self-regulation begin!

Q&A revisited

Q: I have another question. I read that you are home-schooling the kids. Will that continue indefinitely? Did they go to school in Ethiopia?
Just curious.

A: They did have a teacher at the transition center for a couple of hours every day. Before that, H had maybe 2 years of school and Y maybe 1/2 year. We will home-school indefinitely. There are the 2 theories... one is to throw them into school right away and they'll flounder about, but will learn the language quickly. The other way is what we're trying... to ease them into transitions as transitions are very stressful for all of us. I don't think either way is inherently BETTER, but the easing in is better for them and us, we feel. They are learning so much every day, and we're providing learning experiences for them. Well, that's easy, because EVERYTHING right now is a learning experience. :)


Relapse or "How I became a domestic disturbance"

Well, with yesterday being all wonderful we really should have not pressed our luck as much as we did. The kids had to be woken up for church today and were groggy and cranky until H realized that we really were going to go to church whether he ate breakfast or not. Then they both started eating and the mood lightened. They handled church really well. I mean they were both fantastic. We were really impressed so we went to the park of their choosing afterwards as a reward. Then as we were toodling on the riverwalk, H suddenly yelled "NO!" and got all angrified so we set him down on the bench. The problem was, it was a lousy substitute for "the chair" and it still had way too much going on around it for him to relax. When he gets worked up, so far all our attempts to let him "walk it off" or "go to his room" have failed terribly. It has to be "the chair" and it has to be isolated. So after about 20 minutes of sitting by himself, he was still muttering which is his way of telling us that he hasn't cooled down yet. It was lunch time so I approached him with said information and Voila! we had a full blown tantrum on our hands, right there on the riverwalk.

So picture this... you are in your home enjoying an absolutely gorgeous Sunday afternoon, when suddenly you hear screams of terror coming from near the river. You look out to see a white man wrestling a flailing, screaming black child to the ground, and then suppress him. The child continues to scream for half an hour. There have also been reports of two child abduction attempts in the area over the past couple weeks, what do you do?

Two concerned citizens approached me about the situation and as I was saying, "Attention feeds the problem" H escalated, proving my point nicely and they backed off. When the police came, the officer was actually very understanding once he ascertained that I was indeed the boy's father. I gave him the, "I know it looks bad, but..." speech and he gave me the, "It's not illegal to discipline your child" line, and that was about it. I then dragged my son into the car and his tantrum continued for another 30 minutes at home.

Chris was exhausted from keeping (and carrying) Yordi away during the whole ordeal. I was covered in sweat and mud and wishing I had eaten a bigger breakfast. We felt like we were back at square one; back at the airport. There wasn't even a pretend reason for it, like "Y got such-and-such and I didn't." It just happened. And I keep hearing the voices of various people in my head saying, "In Ethiopia, a 9 yr old boy acting like that would be beaten." But that doesn't help me resolve the situation. It doesn't even make me feel better anymore. I know it's driven by fear and grief and that he doesn't know why it happens. I also know that he isn't delirious and he's very aware of what's going on while he's screaming. But again, how can we help close this chapter and move on?

As near as we can tell, here are the contributing factors:
-We were on a path we hadn't been on (i.e. unfamiliar territory)
-We had been to church, which even though they handled it well, there's still a lot to process.
-My son had his first full-size, jelly-filled doughnut. I know someone was just trying to be nice, and I didn't swat it out of his hand either, but frankly I can't ignore that as a factor.

Once it was over, everything was fine again (as far as the kids were concerned) and Chris and I had to cook up the economy size bag of quick-rising forgiveness. We ended up spending the afternoon with our Amharic speaking friend and his family. We told him how well things had been going and about today's episode. He later struck up a conversation with H who eventually asked him why the police came. He told him it was because he was acting like he was being attacked by a kidnapper and that in America there are indeed kidnappers (just like in Ethiopia) so boys don't scream like that unless they really are being attacked. I think for my benefit he tacked on a line about how it's dreadfully disrespectful to treat your father like a kidnapper.

He's really wise. I'm glad he's on our side. :-)


"No English"

Yordi likes to say "English, no. Amharic." when she doesn't understand something. Today, we heard an exchange between the kids that was completely in English. I hope that they will keep their Amharic... they have a good chance since they have each other and they are older.

One of the cute sayings Yordi uses all the time is "oooh... big head." What she means, of course, is "long hair". I didn't want to forget that, because she said it again today, and I realized she may soon say "long hair" and that day will be kind of sad. She really wants long, straight hair. I haven't gotten it across to her that a) it will involve growing her hair out, and b) it will take an incredible amount of work to get her curly, curly, curly hair to be straight.

Banner Day

For our one month anniversary, the kids gave us an amazing gift... they slept until 8:30. Probably had more to do with the long thunderstorm last night and this morning being cloudy, but we appreciated it greatly. Of course when they did get up, they were both unnecessarily cranky but that was remedied when they saw their first raccoon. We had been talking about them for a couple days but this morning there was one in the trap and I waited for them to wake up before taking it to "a better place."

Then we got productive. A car was washed. We went to the recycling center, or as we called it, "Garbage Again-Again-Again." Mowed the lawn. Weed-whacked. Trimmed two trees. Swept the sidewalk, and both kids bathed, all before lunch!

I really wanted to do something special at this point so we decided to press our luck and take them one their first American grocery run. On our walk yesterday they had pointed at our local grocery store and said they 'just wanted to look at the building' but for whatever reason respected me when I told them no. So today on the way, I gave them my, "American stores are very big, but we're here only for the items on mommy's list. Mommy Daddy little money. No pointing at things and saying 'me? me? me?' understand?" They both nodded as they had heard the exact same speech last week when I needed to run into the hardware store. Inside they were very good although Yordi found a loop-hole and would point at stuff and then ask, "No this?" Her brother eventually intervened. So in the end they got 2 treats, they picked out a birthday cake mix and the frosting, and they got to choose a box of popsicles (they went for the bomb-pops, baby!) which was a far better deal than they had gotten at the hardware store.

It's not that there wasn't sass or stomping or pouting or "Daddy No! Daddy Go!"s or a really stupid argument about cereal today, but overall everything just came together.

Today's fatal pantomime was a double header. H showed us why he won't touch my box of electrical wiring tools, and Y gave us an excellent rendition of what could happen if you got too close to Canadian Geese protecting their young.

As a quick side story, we saw a flock at the park this evening and Chris and I had already made gestures showing that geese will bite. H noted that they were big birds. I agreed and held my hand about 3 feet off the ground showing their height. He then made a biting motion with his hand and pointed it toward his stomach. I then winced, and moved his pinchy fingers to match the height I was indicating... which fell squarely, um, below his belt. His eyes got really big and even though we were 20 yards from the birds, he took another 3 steps backwards. Chris, through her stifled giggles, asked if that was really necessary. "It is," I said, "if you want him to have a healthy respect for geese."

He who has not scarred his children, throw the first stone.

A's to Q's So Far

Q. Do they have you just where you want them or do you have them just where H and Y want you to be?

A. Good one! Well said! It IS a matter of all of us learning each other's idiosyncrasies, and adapting. Hopefully, we've influenced them at least as much as they have us. But, yeah, there is a bit of them training US.

Q: Were you surprised at the behavioral issues you're dealing with with older children, or did your training prepare you for it adequately?

A: Our training prepared us as much as it possibly could. Since every child is completely different, there were so many unknowns... would they bond? would they have all or any of the behaviors we'd studied? So, I'd say we weren't "surprised", anymore than we would have been getting to know any other children. It's an interesting thing, making a family this way. Lots of give and take. Imagine asking 2 strangers into your house to live, and more than that... to make a family out of 2 sets of people with very different ideas about how things work.
Lee's Addendum: We had studied and were prepared for some 'behavioral regression' which happens when a child skips a critical stage and then feels the need to experience it later. Such as drinking from a bottle or walking around with a blanket. I was not prepared for H's tantrums. We knew that it was something we needed help with, so we asked for it and two days later it was not an issue. As obvious as that sounds, it can be difficult as an adoptive parent to ask for help. Fortunately, that was also in the training. :-)



It's been awhile since we did a Q&A...

Bring your own Q's to the Comments, and we'll provide the A's.

One Month Anniversary

One month ago, yesterday, was the day we took Yordanos and Habtamu into our family, although they'd been in our hearts for quite awhile before that. It was a Tuesday. We'd met them the day before. That seems wild, doesn't it? So little time we've had together as a family, and yet, I'm amazed (and dazed and confused and befuddled) at God's grace toward us, allowing us to bond as we have.

They learn so much every day. And WE learn so much every day. Every day we muddle through...

Tonight I pulled out a meal from the freezer. It was a chicken noodle casserole. I had the children eat one scoop before they could have macaroni and sauce. You would have thought it was atomic waste, the way they took their time about eating it. I had made the deal VERY clear... "No finish this, no macaroni." They kept trying to barter down. Nope. Yordi had separated the vegetables from the noodles and said "Yordanos no green." I countered with "Yordanos green, yellow, AND orange. No brown. (mushrooms)" Mommy had not eaten the "brown" either, so I couldn't very well say she had to. I have never liked mushrooms... texture or taste. I've tried them as an adult, and I just can't do it.

I remember sitting for hours (probably wasn't, but seemed that way) in front of a plate of (now cold) steamed spinach. Mom even let me put sugar on it. But all the sugar in the world could not help me choke down that spinach quickly.

We had friends over for playtime today. It went really well. Habtamu and Kai kind of played together, and the girls all kind of played near each other. No one got a time out. Our friends stayed for lunch, and I made macaroni for 8 instead of 4. No problem!

I do not know how people with more than 2 children can do... anything. I can barely keep track of the 2 I have... thankfully they're usually together. If anyone out there has more than 2, how DO you do it?


Oh, there will be blood... well, not mine...

So Chris and the kids met me at my parents house in Elgin today for my father's birthday. Apparently I walked in just as H was finishing an extended time out for going AWOL, but as far as I was concerned, it was a great day at my folks. This was his first TO since I started back to work so it was kind of a milestone in that Chris was able to administer discipline effectively by herself.

Meanwhile, I've kind of resigned myself to the fact that our children (unlike all the others out there) feel the need to learn things the hard way. A week ago, H was *convinced* that wearing mommy's winter gloves would help his hands not hurt as much on the playground. We told him, "No Gloves. Gloves for cold, not park." etc... etc... etc... Then the next day, like a gift from heaven, some gloves miraculously showed up in the car as we got to the park. After a brief discussion of whether or not we should reward the "oh lookie here, I gotz gloves" behavior, we decided, Fine wear the freaking gloves. Needless to say, after sliding off the monkey bars twice, he handed the gloves back to me with the obligatory, "Why would you ever think I'd want these?" look.

So today's lesson in gravity happened because H likes to take my parents hoseless hose caddy and give Y rides around the house. They were told to stay in the backyard. So after one lap, he started to push her around to the front and Chris reminded them of the mandate. So they did a U-turn and went around the other side of the house to the front instead. What *I* saw was my son return the caddy to it's proper place and then ask to play with something else more exciting (i.e. the weed wacker.) What I didn't see or hear was his sister crying at the front door with two bloody elbows. Yes, sidewalks are significantly harder than grass. I can run some numbers for you if you like, but really you could have just asked.

I'm afraid there will be a hard lesson about the slipperiness of water at some point too. H loves to play in the tub and even stood on the edge in a superman pose after his last bath. Cast iron has some very similar properties to sidewalks, but I don't think he's made that connection yet.

All the words for 'danger' or 'caution' or even 'careful' in Amharic are unpronounceable. So we've resorted to gesturing wildly, sound effects and then the inevitable head cock, eyes closed, tongue out to symbolize death and destruction. In general they then get it and are respectful of the situation from then on, but the trick is catching these things far enough in advance to act out the worst case scenario. They will usually mimic it back to us, which then is totally amusing and softens the tone while still getting the message across. If you haven't seen a child pantomiming what could happen if you approach an angry raccoon, (not that they've even seen one yet) I highly recommend it. Maybe we'll get that on video next time...

Another Lesson Learned

Earlier this week, Habtamu found the last "fancy" napkin... the one with chili peppers and fiesta design. He was bummed because there was only one. He and Yordi were talking about sharing it. They went out on the porch, where we eat our meals, and were fiddling with the napkin.

I was in the kitchen and happened to look down the hall and saw Habtamu walking back in the house screwing the cap on something.

Um... was that a GLUE STICK?

I run out to the front porch, and they had quartered the napkin and glued the pieces to the table as placemats (?), to save for later (?) ?!?!?!

I was pretty calm... all I could say was "Oh no. Oh no no no no no no no no." I got a wet paper towel and had him help me clean it off... it was still wet, so it came off pretty easily.

Then I explained through miming that it would wreck the table. I think they got it, and it IS pretty funny and goes in the "What the heck were you thinking?" category. (AND, it wasn't on my GOOD table inside... might have been a different tone of voice there.)


Quick Bedtime Story

Wherein Yordi totally picks a fight with me for no reason what-so-ever, and it made ME act childish.

Monday was the 2nd visit to the U of Chicago Hospital. Things went mostly really well... so much better than the 1st time.

We got pizza in the hospital cafeteria, just like last time. And, just like last time, I got a big cup of fresh pineapple. Throughout the meal, I kept offering the pineapple to everyone, making it clear that anyone could have a piece. Habtamu and Lee both had a couple of pieces. Yordi turned it down every time.

I got down to the last 2 pieces, and I offered it again to everyone. No takers. As I put the last piece into my mouth Yordi said "No, wait!" Taking it as a joke, I laughed and popped the pineapple in my mouth.

She then went into "Mommy, Daddy, Habtamu pineapple. Yordanos NO pineapple. OK. OK." mode. I still thought she was kidding, but she was not. She gave me "the glare" and "the shoulder"... two of her trademark moves.

This really made me angry, because of the IRRATIONALITY of it. I mean COME ON! What else could I have done to ensure she got a slice of pineapple? I made the mistake of taking it personally and could not even LOOK at her for about 15 minutes. Ugh.

Today I'm on the good list with Yordi... lots of hugs and kisses and just flopping on me for no reason. I like that.

Habtamu's lesson for today: Bathing is NOT optional.

Don't tell anyone, but boys are kinda smelly. I did some laundry the other day and just about passed out sorting his basket. I may have even sworn, but I can't say for sure because I was overcome by the fumes.


Lee's FIrst Day Back to Work...

Or... The Day the Mommy Died...

With fear and trepidation, I faced the fact that Lee did indeed have to go back to work at some point. He will be able to work 1/2 days through July, Praise Be to God! Today was the first of his half days.

Did you ever notice that your children will wake up at 6:32 EVERY DAY for days and days, until you need them to get up at 6:32. And then you'll have to wake them up at 7:30 to leave by 8? And when you can sleep in maybe, they will ALWAYS get up at 6:32?

Today was a 6:32 day. Because we needed to leave by 8, Sunday was a "oh no, how do you wake up sleeping children without them needing therapy because you wouldn't let them sleep, and oh my goodness, LET SLEEPING GRUMPY DOGS LIE." And also Monday, because we needed to leave by 8 for the Dr., was a "Ok, everybody up... it's 7:30... pee and get dressed... breakfast in the car" day.

Anyway, back to Lee deserting me, I mean going back to work... the children were up and dressed by 6:35. We had breakfast together and we all saw Daddy off to work. The kids kept checking "Ok, Daddy home lunch?" Yes. "Daddy? Daddy home lunch?" Yes. "Mommy? Daddy home lunch?" Yes, yes and yes.

We did our usual morning routine, which is nothing special, believe me. Even got in a little school. I mean like 20 minutes. We do the Today is... Tomorrow is... Yesterday was... and a little reading and printing.

The kids wanted to go to the M playground, but I had forgotten that summer school was in session until we got there, so we went to the L playground by church. Wouldn't you know it? They were laying down fresh mulch. Strike 2. So we went to our least favorite park downtown. Teenagers hang out under the pavilion there... smoking and swearing. The kids didn't really want to play, but I thought, "Well, as long as we're here, *I* may as well get some exercise." Because goodness knows that Mommy could use a little workout. I started kind of half heartedly jogging on top of the playground equipment. There were 2 landings with 2 different kinds of swinging/swaying bridges between... it made a nice little track. Anyway, I started doing that, and H thought I was chasing him... so he started running the track too. Then Y joined in. Well, after about 6 laps, my heart was beating pretty fast (you know, because I'm in SUCH excellent shape), and it was SO muggy that I was already sweating profusely. The kids kept wanting me to "chase" them, so we did that for about 20 minutes. I tried to indicate that they could chase each other. No go. By then it was close to 11, so I took the "scenic route" home to make sure it would be after 11 when we pulled in. We played a couple of rounds of Concentration, and then Lee was on his way home.

No one died. Nothing exploded. Lee asked "Do you still like them?" and I was able to answer truthfully that "Yes, I do." They were glad to see Lee, and no fingers were pointed at me, so I must have done OK. :)

Is that covered under the Warranty?

After all the good news at the Dr.'s yesterday, we'll have to check the warranty on Yordanos... pieces of her are just falling off...

Since last week, she's been wanting us to take her to the Dr. (Hakeem) to have her loose tooth removed. Um, SURELY you didn't go to the Dr. every time you had a loose tooth? We kept telling her to jiggle it, and she kept wanting us to tie a string and pull it. Egads... I did NOT sign up for THAT... did I? I'll have to check the fine print. I remember enjoying working the teeth loose as a kid... and grossing out the adults. Heh heh. Oh, right.... ew, gross.

The kids then wanted to throw the tooth up on the roof. I didn't understand what they were talking about, but Lee said "Yeah, I think it's a THING." He doesn't know where he heard it or saw that it was their version of the Tooth Fairy. Heck, I'm just glad I don't have to sneak up there and exchange money for the tooth. It's safely up in one of our gutters. There was a successful throw after this attempt. Also, there's a song that goes with it. I'll have our friend translate and I'll let you know what they're saying...



When we received the referral for H&Y, we knew that Y had tested positive for Hepatitis C. That's the chronic one that causes liver damage. The Dr. in the States that we consulted said he considered this a "high-risk" adoption. We prayed about it and decided to go for it anyway, and face the consequences of a possibly chronically ill child. (You can treat the symptoms of Hep C, but the virus itself never goes away.)

We hadn't told too many people this... mainly family and a few friends whose children ours played with... to reassure that it's not something you can just "catch." It's blood-borne, so if you're not sharing needles or bleeding open wound to open wound, it's pretty hard to get.

All the tests from the University of Illinois show that Yordanos DOES NOT HAVE HEP C!!!! She shows NO antibodies to it (that's one of the main tests), and the virus count is ZERO. The Nurse Practitioner was surprised and pleased... and we were thrilled. And yet, I wasn't surprised. All along I felt very calm about the whole thing and that God would take care of us either way. In my gut, I felt that she did not have it.

We'll have her tested again in 6 months just to be sure, but we're calling this a miracle, and we're pleased to share our great news with you!

Both kids tested well in everything (blood-wise, that is). We'll get the stool sample results later. I knew you'd want to know that the poop was safely delivered. And the kids learned a great new fun-to-say word. Poop!

This trip in to the hospital went much better. They both hugged Linda and Judy, our awesome care-givers. And a big shout out to Lolita, the kindest TB test giver EVER. H got a little squirrely and cried like a little girl for the TB test, which he couldn't even feel because of the awesome cream they put on the skin before hand. Y WATCHED the needle go in with her arm held out, and then made fun of H for crying.

Just got the statement from the hospital... let's just say that our insurance had better cover all this. Yikes. From our 1st visit alone... $2,500... each. But then I was thinking about it... they're 9 and 6, so that's 15 years of Dr. visits we haven't had. I still want insurance to pay, though. They're on our policy as of their official adoption day: May 23.


Blog Worthy

Church this morning went pretty well. We didn't stay for communion or the end of the service. Both kids went from church to home to major time outs... hmmm... no spiritual warfare there! We watched a little of Mary Poppins after that. (Lee asked me last night how that movie ended, and I said "Oh, it NEVER ends, it just goes ON and ON with the singing and the dancing.)

We took the kids for a walk after that, but they refused to play on any playground equipment that wasn't at Lincoln school. Then they said they had to go to the bathroom. Well, by that point we were about a mile from home, on a Sunday... the closest toilet was at the park downtown, a playground they had earlier shunned. Yordi kept saying... "No home? Fine. No toilet? Fine." Not sure what she was muttering in Amharic, but we got the drift. Habtamu was no better. Mutter, mutter. AND they kept asking for ice cream. Um, let me do the math on that one... um, NO. Lee and I were befuddled, because why the heck were they acting like this? We got to the toilets, and at least they both went, so we weren't the total chumps we were starting to feel like. Lee and I sat on a park bench, like, "Well, this day is a wash... and it's only 1 p.m."

We thought we'd go for a drive and our friend Jim came to mind. He lives about 20 minutes away with his wife Nikki and 2 little girls. Jim also has a pool. Um, yeah... we'd have come anyway! No, really! Great guacamole!

The kids were hovering around the bench we were sitting on "Home? Now? Home? Home, here?" So we told them we were going to our friend Jim's house. Yes, we're going home, then toilet, then Daddy's car, then Jim's house. Well, suddenly everything was ducky again. What the?! They didn't even know about the pool yet.

So, yes, Jim and Nikki, you guys are totally blog worthy. The kids had a great time, Nikki took pics, they served us dinner. (That burger was seriously delicious.) Habtamu had watermelon for the 1st time. And we collected Yordi's stool sample. Wow! (Oh, I didn't tell you about that? We're going back to U of Chicago to finish up the rest of the tests they wanted to do to get a baseline for their health. The appt. is tomorrow and they wanted stool samples. Can our kids deliver the goods, or what? We mimed to them what we wanted them to poop into, and they were rightfully skeptical, but they both let us know when and at least I can stop thinking about poop for a few minutes.... until we have to transport it tomorrow. Ugh.)

Back to goodness and light... a palate refresher if you will:

So, Jim and Nikki, not ONLY are you blog worthy, but because there were 3 adults playing with 4 children, I was able to sneak away and publish a little blog... right from your kitchen. You guys are awesome... thanks for being available exactly when we needed you! :)

Trial and Error

How NOT to present new food:

Mommy, WHAT?
It's a Hot Dog... mmmm... yummy!
Hoooooooooot Doooooooooooooooog. Mmmm, yummy!
Well, not DOG.... you know, meat.
No dog, just meat.
What is name?
Um... Hog Dog
DOG?! No thank you, Mommy.


Doing something right

Chris had stated in an earlier blog that the last time our Amharic-speaking friend Zac came over, the kids had plenty to say and were running out of fingers with which to point blame. But it's worth mentioning what was on their minds. Think about it, if only one person could speak your language and could translate directly for you, what would you say?

Here's what they were concerned about:

-Frustrations with the language barrier. (totally understandable)
-They drive with only one foot here. (there was then a brief discussion about manual versus automatic)
-Mommy drives slow Daddy drives fast. (that wasn't an observation, it was a complaint)
-We can't touch anything in the house
-They still say 'No' even after we say 'Please'
-The only thing we have a say in is which foods are served. (let me guess... anything as long as it's drenched in tomato sauce?)
-They make us go to bed and then stay up late playing on the computer and watching TV
-Mommy and Daddy are rich and yet they won't buy us anything we ask for.
-They must be rich because we have a big house, all we do is play at the park all day, and neither of them work.

You'll note the distinct lack of, oh say, "They beat me daily, please call the police" or "When I close my eyes I have nightmares so I haven't slept in 3 weeks." I understand that getting used to the American Way is a little jarring after coming from poverty, but I didn't realize it would be that consuming. At the end of Zac's visit, even though the kids were riled up and some buttons had been pushed, I was relieved. I don't know all the kids in America, but I suspect most of them have similar frustrations bridging the gap between what they want and what they have (and blaming their parents for the difference...) If Zac had turned to us and said, "Do you know your daughter is afraid of your toilet and has been sneaking into the backyard to take care of business?" I would have been mortified.

So I guess we're doing something right, although I'm hesitant to check behind the garage. ;-)

One last thing about Zac's visit that just puts things in perspective. When he came, he brought injera, the traditional bread of Ethiopia which is extremely difficult to acquire here in the States. The kids, however, received it lukewarmly. He asked them if they had had any injera since they came to America. They answered "Yes, at the Hilton." For those of you not in the studio audience, the Hilton to which they are referring, was back in Ethiopia. No wonder the 30 hours of travel was such a blur, as far as they were concerned, they were already here. I don't know, I just found that fascinating.

Oh, H's life lesson yesterday was learning that clenching up and screaming for Daddy while spinning too quickly on the get-sick-quick ride at the playground does not help you slow down, dropping your feet and dragging your heels is much more effective.

Today he learned the joys of having water in his ears. We had a great holiday hanging out with some friends getting sunburnt in their pool and on the trampoline. Our kids handled themselves very well both in the pool and with the other children. I handled my first cheddar-filled brat of the season very well, although not in the pool, nor did I share. This was the kids first time at someone else's house, other than Grandma and Grandpa, and they did really well which gives me hope for the party we're going to tomorrow and our first Sunday morning the day after. I'm sure Chris will be posting pictures later, but I hogged the computer tonight.


What's Eating You?

Seriously, spaghetti sauce makes me retch... even just writing the word made my stomach wince. I was never a big fan, but we go through the huge family size jar in about 2 days. The kids want it on EVERYTHING. We're really trying to introduce new foods... Lee and I eat something else and H. will usually at least try it. We have been teaching them to say "No thank you." if they don't like something. When we first got them they'd pull these terrible faces and carry on and on. They're pretty good about that now.

Every day seems better and better. We're still tired and overwhelmed, but it feels more normal, if that makes sense. It's to the point now where I can't really remember life before Y&H. There is a sort of amnesia that comes with parenthood.

I had a couple of wonderful hours to myself this a.m. Target for larger undies for H, and various other necessities... then Woodman's, which was packed. I really couldn't figure out why it was so crowded.... um, yeah... July 3. I have lost all concept of time.


Just Kids

H's 1st American haircut. He didn't really like the clippers, so I'm not sure how his hair was cut in Ethiopia. I assumed clippers. Huh. He did very well... I think the promise of candy weighed heavily on his behavior. :)

Language issues aside, and other issues like the fact that we all just met less than 4 weeks ago, they are just regular kids in so many ways. It's very heartening to realize that. Also, we're just regular parents, who sigh and roll their eyes, and make mistakes, and do the best we can. That also is a good thing.

There's a bunch of fun to be had. Y&H get hysterical about farts. We call them toots, and wouldn't you know that they sure enough know how to spell T-O-O-T. Lee kind of rolls his eyes, but I think toots are pretty funny too. We all blame others for our own. I tried to blame Murray (the cat) the other day and Y&H thought that was great.

Here's a video that has nothing to do with T-O-O-T-S, but shows our regular kids. Um, kind of... I'm not sure what H was up to, but he's 9 and it seems very age appropriate somehow. He can pull faces that make me crack up, and then he cracks up... it's all good.


Here's the thing, I have this fear of being the empty threat/don't make me repeat myself/walk all over me Dad so I think that makes me tend to overcompensate. My father was very benevolent towards me so I'm not sure where I get it from, but there have been very few 'three strikes and you're out' situations in this Gardner household. It's had to be ultimatums simply because of the language barrier. The kids know "almost" and "again" but not other important negotiating terms like "if/then" and even "or" has been a little hazy.

So we're at the park the other day (surprise surprise) and Y takes off her shoes at the top of a twisty slide so that she can reach maximum velocity in her socks. She gets to the bottom of the slide and instructs her brother, who is now at the top, to throw down her shoes. He complies... and then spits. Somehow he missed both her shoes and the back of her head, but my brain flashed the word UNACCEPTABLE in bold red letters and I knew I had to nip this in the bud. I go running up shouting, "Habtamu! No Spit! *Ptew*! No! Habtamu spit again, Everybody home!" I'm sure what he heard was, "Bad dog, Bad!" but I thought it was pretty clear all English and sound effects considering.

10 seconds later he spits over the other side of the slide thinking I won't see it, and I took it personally.

The problem is I didn't say "H Car" or "H Chair," I said "Everybody Home." Also, there was no condition set on where it was inappropriate to spit. "No Spit" is not the same as "Please don't spit on your sister." So I look him in the eye and say "Car. Now." He winces and then doesn't look back. His sister whispers to him to apologize. He mumbles something, but really, the discussion is over and my Ace was on the table. Y looks at me and says, "Yordanos stay." "No, " I say, "Habtamu choose. *Ptew* Everybody home" and I proceed to drag two whimpering children, one guilty, one innocent, to the car. Chris had been on the cell phone for this whole 60 second fiasco and unfortunately wasn't available to play the good cop.

So we all get in the car angry and frustrated, except Chris who was wrapping up her phone call, and I'm fuming. I end up having Chris drop me and the kids off 6 blocks away from home so we can 'walk it off' (for my sake as much as theirs) and she can sneak out to Walgreens for craft supplies. I got some lip, but they both got out of the car and walked with me.

About two blocks later, they start picking up empty bottles along the sidewalk and were back to being curious about anything and everything. H spotted a "garbage can" and made a bee-line for the Salvation Army Donation bin. "Not Garbage!" I called out, but he was already across the parking lot trying to read the big red words. "No Garbage?" he says. "No. Err... Gifts. Give." I fumble knowing that it doesn't mean anything to him. He looks it over and then sees something under the bin. My son then gets down on his hands and knees in the parking lot and pulls out a yellow matchbox car. "Up! Look! Glass!" I yank on his elbow, but he's beaming at his new treasure and just says "No daddy, more," looks briefly for glass shards, and then goes right back down.

Under-the-dumpster diving at the Salvation Army yielded 3 cars, a train engine (with working batteries) and a blue airplane. He was in heaven and by the time we got home, all was forgiven. I was just glad that respect for broken glass was not the life lesson of the day.

Chris mentioned in her last entry that Y got benched at the playground until she apologized. But she never did say she was sorry, and then was bitter until distracted by lunch. We agreed that next time around we should consider implementing time limits and/or more conditions on punishments. Neither of us are really heavy-handed types, and neither of them are acting 2 years old any more, nor are they covering for each other when one gets in trouble. Y would have probably bounced back fine from a 5 minute time out, and H's indiscretion shouldn't have affected the whole family. Live an learn, I guess...

And speaking of living and learning, H's life lesson today was that cereal with milk is good when eaten "now" and completely inedible when eaten "later," even if you cover it with Saran wrap.

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Today, we, um, went to the playground yet again. This time, we hooked up with friends of ours with 3 kids, whose mom blogs here. It went pretty well. H was hesitant at first, but he and K ended up kind of playing with the soccer ball. Y went down for a time out and didn't recover until lunch time.

When we got to the park, Lee and I headed for the playground and Y & H dawdled about the car, eating their raisins (now rationed, because of excessive usage - 24 oz. bucket o' raisins in one day) and
bananas and Cheerios. But let me back up a minute....

Yesterday, we did a lesson about TODAY IS and YESTERDAY WAS and TOMORROW IS... and we realized that tomorrow was Grandmommie's birthday. OK! So we talked about that and called her to see if we could come over today (yesterday's tomorrow). So, today, we had to get in baths (we're not the best about this, and the kids sure as heck don't remind us) and make cards for Grandmommie and meet our friends at the park at 10.

So, we're making cards... nothing elaborate... the old heart cut out and glued onto the inside of another piece of construction paper. Woo. Well, I keep forgetting that A. my kids just learned how to use scissors, B. they have never used glue? and C. they both have decided to be perfectionists about their writing and drawing. "Garbage!" rip, tear, shred.... Me and Lee: "It's fine! It's very nice... grandmommie will love it." Finally they each eek out a card, then want to make more. Fine, there's a little time. I give them 15 minute, 10 minute and 5 minute warnings. Y didn't want breakfast earlier, so she picks the 5 minute warning to say "Breakfast?" I say, "Yes, now if you want breakfast." She says "No, one more card." I say, "Then no breakfast." She looks up at me all innocent and says "Yordanos no breakfast?" I say " Yes! Right now. Breakfast." She says, "card for Aunt Carrie." I say "ok, then no breakfast." She says pouting "Habtamu, Daddy, Mommy breakfast. Yordanos no breakfast." GAAAAAAAAAAAAH.... that is the sound of my spleen rupturing. So we get the kids in the car, and I packed up the Cheerios, bananas and raisins, which they wanted to eat as soon as we got to the playground.

Ok, to resume... so they're dinking around with breakfast. Lee and I are swinging from the bars (Lee can swing... I can kind of hang) and I say "They're really acting like... CHILDREN." Lee says "Yeah, like they need to be TRAINED or something."

Y went down for time out because she used her imperial "COME!" to me and then made a face at me when I said "Come, please." I have less and less tolerance for that, which I assume means it is a BUTTON TO PUSH AT EVERY MOMENT. She sat on the bench and threw her beaded necklaces to the ground. I picked them up and put them in my pocket. Once home, her bad mood continued. She walked around the house muttering "Daddy, Mommy, Habtamu, Yes: Yordanos, No" (Do you sense a THEME?) We ignored her until lunch time... remember, we were still on a schedule... oh, yes, and we had to get Lee and H haircuts at 1 before Grandmommie's house. We made her sit with us at lunch. She pushed her macaroni away. H would make high pitched exhortations to her to just say Sorry and eat macaroni. And then suddenly her face changed from scowling to at peace and she said "Sorry Mommy, sorry Daddy. Sauce, please." Ah, the fickleness of youth.

Grandmommie ended up getting 3 cards from H and 2 from Y. I had the kids bring their cards downstairs earlier, so I just grabbed the pile. H had made 4 cards, and I knew that, but had no idea where the 4th one was. It was enough for him to be all, well, pissy about it when we got to Grandma's, and we were like "HEY! It's not Grandma's fault!" Well, yikes, I found the 4th card at home, sitting where I'd apparently left it. I must admit that I took and hid the card, since he'd moved on since then. Should I bring it back out and confess, or should it stay hidden and I'll tell him about it when he's 16?


Kudos and such

Before I get rolling here, I just wanted to also say thanks to all of you for swinging by our little corner of the internet. Really, knowing that we aren't just blogging into thin air is a huge motivator for both of us to keep posting. And, as with any conversation, it helps to know who your audience is, so thanks to all of you who have and/or will post comments. We really use this blog as our lifeline back into the world since we have to be so inwardly focused during this stage of the game.

For Chris and I, when the possibility of an Ethiopian adoption presented itself, it didn't take us long to become emotionally prepared to be a mixed race family. We were ready for the gawking, the questions, the whispers and fake smiles, the whatever. We were cool with it, our families and friends were cool with it, let the rest of the world think what it may.

Here are three situations I was not prepared for:

While we were in Ethiopia we met the husband of our primary contact person, a man who I realized very quickly was worthy of my respect. Selfless, observant, engaging but not annoying, good with kids, that kind of thing. At one point he pulled me aside and said that chances were good that his life would also involve adopting an older child. He then told me that he found the way I treated Habtamu during one of his (practice) episodes, and this is the word he used, inspiring. I laughed out loud and couldn't make eye contact after that. All I had done was drag my crying son into the hallway to chill out. This was our first week together and I was totally in survival mode. The last thing I wanted was to be seen by anyone. I thanked him and somehow managed not to tell him to get a real role model.

When we were on the way home and in between flights in Washington DC, H threw a fit (not figuratively) when he found out we had to walk to another gate. So my father and I each grabbed a hand and dragged the boy halfway across the terminal. When we got to the gate, which of course was packed, we went straight for the far corner with no seats, where I planned to corral him until he settled down. It's all kind of a blur, but I don't remember it taking very long before he actually fell asleep. However, I sat there beside him for the next hour in case he woke up. Meanwhile, the guy sitting directly in front of me was wearing fatigues and an "Airborne" patch. Now, on the flight to Ethiopia I had read the memoirs of Dick Winters of the 101st Airborne division from WWII, so I was all patriotized (if that's a word) and star-struck having a real live paratrooper sitting in front of me. I wanted to say something, but what do you say to a guy who is willing to dive out of a plane for his country? Keep up the good work? Anyway, I had a full hour to let my imagination run wild of how ridiculously brave this man must be and how lame anything I could muster up to say would sound. So as the plane is boarding, HE turns to ME, and says, "You've got a long road ahead of you. Hang in there. I have a lot of respect for people who do what you're doing." Wait what? Did he just...? But he's the one... I did verbally fumble out something about the book I read and that I admired his commitment to his country, which was really just a long way of saying, "Yeah, you too!" And I thought to myself, holy crap, here's a guy who has been trained to jump out of aircraft and remain clear headed while completely surrounded by the enemy... maybe that really isn't that much different than parenthood, except I was never issued even a jump-knife.

Last Friday, I ran into some folks I know from the Karaoke bar. These "kids" are way out of my life-style league (I'm talking major piercings and face tattoos here) but since I occasionally attempt to sing 90's grunge songs, they know me. Anyway, they had seen me and the family out walking around and asked about how the adoption was going. I thought they were just being polite at first but I think they were genuinely interested as I got into more detail about the trip and how quickly life has changed for all of us. "Dude, you've got some serious stones to do what you're doing," one of them said. The others smiled and nodded. I asked him to repeat himself because surely I missed something. But I hadn't. A guy with a neck tattoo and something the size of a nickel through his lower lip just complimented the size of my testicles. What's the proper way to respond to that? I laughed and said, "Yeah, when I'm not singing I do things like that just to impress the cool kids."

So I guess what I'm saying is, Chris and I didn't choose this life path to gain notoriety, we did it because it's the right thing for us to do. The amount of respect and support has been staggering, unexpected, and thoroughly appreciated, though I know many of you are itching to do more. I can't wait for the children to really grasp how many people are reading their stories, waiting to help, and cheering them on.

Thank you for being part of our story.


Holy cow, you guys... I asked and you answered! Wowee! Lots of people I didn't know about came out of the shadows... I'll be checking out your blogs too! What did we ever do without the Ye Olden Internet?

Molly - I love that you have a heart for adoption!

Patty V. - I probably have pics of your daughter if she's at the TC. Email me at candl(at)core(dot)com. (Same for all you AWAA fams with referrals.)

Marlo - There ARE many blessings along with the trials!

Andrea - Jumping in the middle is as scary as it sounds! What were we thinking?! :)

Sue L. - we love your comments... glad you check in!

You can't imagine how supported we feel today. Every time we refresh, there's another comment. Awesome.

Hey! Guess what we did today? That's right, the playground. Ha ha. We had to go to a different one because there was summer school(?) at our usual school playground. Took the long way to the school near our church. I thought it was near, anyway, until 10 minutes into playing we (by we, I mean Y&H, ok, and me) needed a potty break. It seemed just as far to the car as to the church, so we walked, and walked, and walked. And walked. It was good, though, because they got to meet the pastors and see the building inside again. We're aiming to go to church next week. We will probably arrive right at 8:15. (Yeah, right, like THAT'S going to happen when we couldn't get there on time with just the 2 of us.) And we'll probably slip out early to avoid a mob scene. We really want the children to have a good 1st church experience, and not be too overwhelmed.

Another thing we learned from Zac yesterday... there is no middle class in Ethiopia... it's RICH or POOR. And this explains some of our children's frustrations when we do not buy them everything they ask for. They think we are rich... and by most of the world's standards, we are. However, we just had our 1st single paycheck, and yikes... we really don't have extra $$. There's enough, but not much extra. Especially since we just paid the credit card bill from our Ethiopia trip. Also, we broke it to the kids that Lee will be going back to work next week. He's on FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), so he'll be working 1/2 days for awhile to stretch out the time we have. The children were upset that he'd be going, and possibly MORE upset that they'd only have ME. I'd like to think the reaction would have been the same if I had been the one going back to work. :)