Q&A Time

Anyone have any questions for us? It's been awhile since we've done a Q&A. (Actually, I have no idea when the last one was... it just FEELS like a long time.)

Put your Q's in the comments, and we'll get right back atcha with the A's. :)

Before I forget...

Yordi calls the Library, Libaby. It's very cute.

Sweet Release

Lee's birthday is Sunday, and so we wrangled his folks into keeping the kids over night last night. (We didn't have to wrangle - we asked, they said yes - it's just a fun word.)

I met Lee's mom half way for the "drop." The kids went willingly into Grandma's "fancy" car and waved and smiled as I threw the car in reverse, squealing tires, not looking back.

I drove straight to my Local Yarn Shop (LYS if you're a knitter) where they have Friday afternoon knitting. I used to be able to go more frequently, obviously, and this was the 1st time I've made it since the kids. (Oh, wait... I didn't drive STRAIGHT there, I stopped and got a smoothie 1st, because I COULD.)

The main reason for having Lee's folks take the kids was so that Lee and I could both go to Karaoke. I know, I know... living life on the EDGE, I tell you. A bunch of work peeps were there to celebrate Lee's birthday. It was pretty fun, considering how LATE it was. I did sing 2 songs, and did not completely disgrace myself. It's was nice having a table full of adoring fans to sing along. And I realized that while I do not miss work at all, I DO miss the people. Great to see you guys!

Now we're headed to Lee's sister's house for a birthday lunch, and if I know the Gardners, we'll all hang around until dark. Lee's folks are bringing the kids straight to Aunt Carrie and Uncle Paul's, and I'm sure there will be lots of stories to share. Shebala-shaying, as we like to say.

Spitting Distance

The other day, Habti claimed that Yordi spit on him. (I get tall tales all day, so I usually ask both parties what happened... if no concensus is reached on "truth," I have them both apologize to each other and sit apart for awhile. There's usually egging on by one or both parties, until someone's feelings get hurt, so I figure they're both probably at fault.) Anyway, I asked Yordi if she spit on him.

"Yep!" she said proudly, with a grin, then "Sorry!"

I said "Chair, 5 minutes, for spitting on someone."

"I said SORRY!"

"Chair, 5 minutes."

As if there wouldn't be any consequence for spitting on someone! She went to the chair and cried and gave a much more sullen (and I felt, more repentant) apology to Habtamu.


Answer to Yesterday's Word Scramble

For the 3 of you who were anxiously awaiting the answer... I apologize... I meant to get it out 1st thing this a.m.... ooops.

Anyway, what she was trying to say was

ELECTRIC. <----- highlight that white space to see. :)

ADDENDUM: She was looking at the power lines. I finally got it because it was the ONLY thing left that I hadn't said. We were driving through corn fields ... well, not THROUGH, but that was the only thing around other than the power lines.


Lost in Translation, Part 3,482

In the car today, Yordi lets out a "Mommy! Look! Red Leek!"

I said "Oh, uh-huh." This never works anymore... they are not fooled... they know I have no idea what they're talking about.

"NO, Mommy! Red Leek!"

"Red Leek?"


"Saying it louder is not really helping me." So then I resorted to I Spy Red...

Red... car? NO
Red... truck? NO
Red... stop sign? NO
Red... flower? NO

I was wracking my brains there, casting about... red, red... she can't mean that the drying corn stalks have taken on a gentle red color and look like a red lake? NO

Then she says "Red Leek zzzt". Then I got it. Guesses anyone? I'll post the answer tomorrow. :)


Just another morning at Ice Station Zebra

I missed my alarm this morning and found myself running about 20 minutes late. As soon as I started using the toilet, I heard shuffling and the 4 trademark Gah-JOONK's of H's chest of drawers rattling the wall between his room and his sister's. It's been a while since he, and subsequently his sister, have been awake when I'm getting ready for work. But today their shower kicked on before 7am. I sighed into my sink. I love my children, but that doesn't mean I want to see them first thing in the morning. Besides, I think it's a little early to scar them with visions of me grousing around in my underwear swearing at uncooperative socks.

So I did what any responsible adult would do and hid in the bathroom to dodge my children until I could at least see clearly out of one eye. (I can't usually see out of both until I'm at least 15 miles into my commute...) Anyway, I didn't come out until I was fully dressed and had my car keys in hand. I kissed Chris and told her I loved her and that I was on my way out. Overwhelmed by my morning affection, she grumbled something about the TV being too loud. I then walked to the living room where the kids were watching Pocahontas with it's soundtrack swelling to unholy levels at irritating intervals (yeah VHS!.) I walked up to the television, lowered the volume, turned around, and was met with this:

Note the look of unspoken gratefulness in Yordanos's pleasant smile. Note the glow of adoration that beams from Habtamu. Who wouldn't be motivated to go to work for these shining faces? I'm the luckiest man in America.

But the reason I took this picture isn't because I wanted capture the everlasting gratitude of my children. It's because of their chosen outfits. Yes, Yordi is wearing a sweater beneath her jacket and Habti is chilling under a fleece blanket. Um... It's still August kiddos. Admittedly, it's been a cool summer and last night the temperature dropped... are you ready for this... it dropped down to a unforgiving 60 degrees. That's right, I said 60! Any lower and we would be in the upper 50's, people! Time to break out the mukluks!

Again they tried to explain to me how cold they were. Again I listened and nodded, standing in my short-sleeved, business casual attire jingling my keys. I kissed their foreheads and headed out the door with a genuine smile.

Oh my children, what wonders await you in the next 90 days... how are your mother and I going to keep a straight face through it all?

It's probably also worth mentioning that the kids are really looking forward to getting bikes "next year" which, as far as they're concerned, is January first. Yeah... have fun with that.


1st Day of School

We started school today at home. I was going to ease into it, so I set the timer for 20 minutes per child. H and I worked on reading in this book, then I gave him a Grade 1 math workbook. We worked on it together until the buzzer went off, and then he kept going through the book... for the next 2 hours. Granted, the Grade 1 book was pretty easy for him, but there were some gaps that it filled in nicely. All told, he did 27 pages.

Y and I worked out of a Kindergarten Basics book, then K-1 math. Once I explained what to do, there was very little she had trouble with. But again, I think starting this way will fill in any missing pieces, plus it was a totally fun day because they mostly understood everything and were able to do it well. Y also finished 27 pages in the math book and 18 in the K basics. We weren't rushing or anything, and I didn't let them go on until I was sure they understood.

I was worried about the workbooks because a friend of mine who home-schools says her kids HATE workbooks. But, mine love them, just like I do... and always did.

I did a bunch of cooking for the food co-op my church has put together. Everyone makes x number of the same meal, then we all swap and give one or two meals to someone who needs meals. It's my first time and it's 15 meals for 4-6 people each. I've been cubing/cooking/bagging chicken for 2 days now... just finished all 30 pounds. I'm making Doro Wat, in bulk. Yikes.


Scientific Methods

So, I don't remember exactly which button the kids were pushing the other day, but it was one of those exercises where they attempt to exhaust all possibilities through the process of elimination. It was most likely the ever-irritating, "Who owns what" game that they like to throw out when they're feeling insecure. It's a control game. The rules are simple, just point at something and ask who owns it. Then challenge the response and ignore rebuttals. Repeat until you are denied something you deserve to own, then pitch a fit. Logic twisting and abusing the language barrier are fair game.

Sometimes this game is played for keeps. If a child is already in a bad mood, it's a great way to bring down someone else and/or create a 'real' reason to be angry. Other times, I'll find myself in a practice heat... I don't know why, maybe just to keep their game sharp.

Anyway, the last round happened in the kitchen, which is a terrible place because they never run out of freaking things to point at. I came home and disrupted a tournament between Chris and Y. I can imagine how it was playing out before I got there. Y would say, "Mommy's?" and point to a spoon. "We share spoons," would be the logical and therefore completely ignored reply. "Mommy's?" again. "Share. Everybody," it would start to break down. "Everybody's?" she'd question. "Yes. Everybody's." "Eheeeeverybody's?" Y would say pointing to the neighbors house. "Well, not their's but everyone in this family shares the..." "Mommy's?" she's start over, making YOU the jerk who's been caught lying because you don't know who owns the stupid spoon.

So at this point either you get really angry, or you laugh. When I walked in Chris was laughing, shaking her head. I asked what they were talking about (although I had a pretty good idea) and she just said that the children were being very scientific. "Really?" I said. "Yes, I think they're going to be scientists. They are very good at persistently approaching a problem from all different angles and possibilities," she said. "Oh," I replied, "So kinda like the velociraptors systematically attacking the electric fence in Jurassic Park?" "Yeah," she giggled. "And today I'm the fence." I knew exactly how she felt.

And speaking of electricity and learning experiences, H learned a valuable lesson about monkeying with outlets immediately after swimming. He was unplugging and re-plugging an extension cord and I told him after the second time to knock it off. Two ins and outs later he dropped the cord and stared at his hand making his 'horror of horrors- I'm too distraught to scream' face. "Yep," I said deadpan looking at his hand, "You're ok." "I am NOT OK!!!" he winced. (Note the perfect English...) I smiled and said, "The fact that you can tell me you are not ok, means you are ok." He fussed a little bit but made a remarkable recovery after a couple grueling, agonizing seconds.

Honestly though, I think the best part of his new found respect for voltage is that I think his sister, who watched the whole thing, caught onto the lesson. Generally she likes to follow in her brother's footsteps, but hopefully she won't have to repeat this one herself.


Art Work

I've wanted to show you all examples of the kids' drawings. When they first got here, they were very perfectionistic about their drawings, so they all got destroyed before I could save them. I'm not sure why they felt they were not up to snuff, because I thought they were totally charming.

Yesterday, Yordi was drawing and wouldn't let us see...

See? Charming. It's our family and our church. That big black square? It's the parking lot. ("Big asphalt.")

Side note: I was shocked the first time Yordanos pointed at a tar truck and said "New asphalt." Turns out it's the same word in Amharic.

After Yordi unveiled her drawing, Habtamu did this drawing.

Not to be outdone, he drew the street in front of the church.

Click on the images to embiggen.


Caught! Eventually...

It must have been yesterday when Habtamu pulled out "little men" to play with his Lego stuff. I didn't think much of it until today. And I questioned him about where he got them, since we only have one little Lego guy that came with the Lego helicopter. When pressed, he said he "saw it in Daddy's car." Um, ok. So then I changed my questioning to "Is it from kid A's house or kid B's house?" He would not make eye contact with me and was looking extremely guilty, so I kept asking until he told me. He said "Kid B's house, ok?" Um, not ok. I remained calm throughout, and inside I was sighing, because it's a thing we all have to learn. He seemed quite ashamed as I was explaining that that is called STEALING and that he'll have to give them back and apologize. I think by the way he didn't want to make eye contact with me that he understood. I made him make eye contact, and told him I loved him, and these are the consequences...

I had him go get the little men and I wondered why I didn't question it sooner... because we certainly don't have any Lego's that would have had included Star Wars battle droids.

I had him sit in time out for awhile, but the bigger "punishment" will be owning up to the other family that he took their toys. That's the tough one, I think. Hopefully the lesson will be well learned, but if he's anything like other humans, he'll have to learn it again and again. Doh!

We're trying to teach that he should tell us the truth, obviously, because we've heard some other tall tales that we couldn't prove or dis-prove. And a couple that we did have proof, and even when presented with the proof, he stuck to his "story". So, I'm glad that he told me the truth... I figured that yelling would only make him not want to tell me. I wouldn't want to tell a yelling person the truth.

The rest of our day was pretty good. We made some cards to send to friends in Ethiopia, and I ordered new pics to send along.

The kids let me take nice pics of them in the yard today.


Back to Work! Kinda...

I just got back from the 1st night of my new job. It's pretty much a dream job, and it's so small (one night a week), but I am sooooooooooooooo happy and proud about it. (I think that means Mommy needs to get out a little more...)

Friends of mine own Scrap Inn. Yep, same place I went a couple of weeks ago. They asked me (after I kinda strongly hinted that I'd like to help them out a bit) to do some setup and cleaning once a week starting in the Fall.

Tonight the owners were not available, so I met a group and showed them around, got them settled, showed them how to use some of the equipment, hung out a bit, scrapped a bit, and came home. Awesome. See? Dreamy...

On the home front... things were very quiet today. I think the kids were relieved that it was just us today too. They're getting used to just little old me all day, and I'm getting used to filling the time without the "Oh no, oh no, what can we do now? Why is it only 10:15?!?!". Part of that is because they play better now, and also, I had everyone clean the house for a couple of hours this morning. Boo Ya! They were reluctant at first... well, Yordi wasn't... she loves to clean. (And she likes things tidy and put away.) Habtamu went upstairs to "clean" and I found his computer on. Um, yeah... good try. Then he rallied, I think because I caught him red-handed, and he vacuumed and dusted the upstairs. Then he "straightened" the living room, by putting blankets over the couches and chairs and spreading out his stuffed animals decoratively. It's cute.

We went to the park today, which was empty... hello first day of school! Both kids can now swing by themselves. It took all summer, but they can finally pump and get themselves going. I did an underdog with Yordi today, and she suddenly forgot how to pump. Uh-huh. So we spent a while with me alternating between the kids giving underdogs. No disasters, although, dudes, I am not so young anymore. I think I pulled something.

Also, those of you who used to read my yarnsmith blog may be interested to know that I have finished a little sweater. I'll get a pic and put it up over there. It means a lot to me that I did that, because for awhile there I felt so lost and separated from who I was that I didn't think I'd ever knit again. Dramatic much? :)



I've been watching 2 other kids this week for a friend whose first year of teaching starts, um, tomorrow. She had meetings and whatnot Mon, Tues, Wed. The kids are roughly the same age as mine, so it worked out pretty well.

I am absolutely exhausted, even though I technically got more time to myself as the kids played with each other and didn't need me that much. I think the noise level increase did me in early on. The other kids were pretty high energy... not naughty energy, just MORE than my kids.

On the first day, the boys ganged up on the girls and vise versa. I was so proud of Habtamu... actually conspiring (ie: playing/interacting) with another kid.

On the second day, there was squabbling within sibling groups, not outside.

By the third day, it was like family. There was inter- and extra-sibling "Don't! Stop it!"

Also today, the 3rd day, we went to the farm of another friend with 3 boys (she who saved my bacon last week). The boys helped unload hay and played with toys with batteries. I taught some of the kids how to crochet, with varying success. So, it was 7 kids and 2 adults. What was I thinking? Those are terrible odds! The day was without mishap if you don't count one of the kids in my charge being thrown from a donkey. Oh, THAT?

I am going to bed shortly, and am looking forward to tomorrow! Good night!


Bye Bye Birdie

This morning about 5am I heard a thump. My gut reaction was that a cat must have knocked something over, so without even putting my glasses on I stumbled into the kitchen figuring I'd just trip over whatever it was I needed to clean up. Since I didn't land on my face or step in anything sufficiently squishy, I went back to bed.

Then Chris came back to bed, which was a little unnerving since I hadn't noticed that she was gone. She flopped down and said, "The kids say they saw a bird." I could feel what little brain function I had fizzling out trying to decrypt what that sentence was supposed to mean. "A small bird," she added. I guess subconsciously I expected her voice to trail off, but it didn't. She was quoting one of the kids and 'small' was important. It was the kind of detail that was going to keep me awake.

See, the kids, especially Habtamu have figured out that they don't need the correct word for something if they can just get close enough. The other day, I heard one of them use an Amharic word that I know I'd heard before. I asked him what it meant and he said, "little umbrella" and put his hand close to the ground. It took me a second, but then after a head slap moment I figured out the word was "Mushroom."

Small bird... small bird... what stupid small bird would be flying around at 5 in the morn... OH CRAP!!!

"Really?" I mumbled.

"Who knows. I couldn't find it, but that explains why the cats are at DEFCON 4" She said into her pillow.

See, the other problem is that H enjoys telling stories. The stories get more interesting the more times he tells them, so you actually get the most reliable facts the first time around. Unfortunately, the first telling was at blurry o'clock this morning when everyone was kind of in a stupor. And remember, this is from the boy who claimed the black cat scratched his face the first night home. That would be the same black cat that hides under our all day bed until they go upstairs at night.

Anyway, by the time I got home from work, his account of the morning's events included the small bird landing on his face and him waking up screaming. I'm sure that's how he'll remember it. Chris said there had been no more sightings of the bird and asked me to double check while the kids were distracted with the Olympics. So I went upstairs and poked around all the bedrooms but came up empty. I was about to head back downstairs when I did indeed find 'the bird' dangling upside-down behind a valence in the hallway. Using my friend Dan's swat-stun-and-chuck technique (the secret is in how you fold the towel!) the house was bird free in about 30 seconds.

"Eyeses bird?" I was asked by H when I came back downstairs. "Yes," I replied. "Finished?" He said, sticking his tongue out to the side making his dead face. "No, but it's gone," I responded.

Chris and I kind of shrugged at each other, just glad that our kids first bat experience wasn't particularly traumatic. There's sure to be more.

I'm no Olympian, but I get by.


Photo Finish

I was really getting into photography this past year. I thought once we got the children, that I'd use my "real camera" constantly, and that I'd fiddle with my pics in the evenings, and have just amazing pics, because the subjects were so great.

(sound of stereo needle being dragged over a record)

Uh huh. I can barely keep myself together every day, much less get into my right brain. Children assure that you are never alone with your own thoughts.

Anyhoo, I've been mostly using our little point and shoot with its crappy video taking ability. According to the children, this is the GOOD camera because of the video. They're always disappointed when I take pics with my digital SLR. "No video?!"

I now have hundreds of little video clips and pics that are sorted by dates. I always mean to post more pics, but not having sorted them, nor edited them in any way, makes me not do it.

Also, this picture is kind of indicative of our life just now, so it's not something I necessarily want to put out there for just anyone to see. Who is that tired, crabby lady in the middle? I'm almost sure I look better in real life. :)


A Taste of Home - UPDATED 8/18/08

On Saturday night, we met 2 other America World families at an Ethiopian restaurant in Evanston. We're all in different phases of adoption. We've got our children, obviously. :) One couple and their little boy just received a referral for a baby girl, and the other couple and their 3 boys have got their dossier in.

Huh... I just figured out there were 12 of us at Addis Abeba , and HALF were children. I was certainly distracted by MY children, who were not being naughty, but were touching me constantly and "mommymommymommymommymommy".

Yordi wore her dress from Ethiopia that Grandmama got her. Our server hugged her and spoke in Amharic to her and got her name and a giggle out of her. Habti hid his face in Lee's chest when spoken to in Amharic. He's on an "Yes English, no Amharic" kick.

I felt we were more of a curiosity at that restaurant than anywhere so far. I noticed people looking at us on our manymanymany trips to the bathroom. I think Yordi especially attracted attention because a. she is beautiful in any country, b. she was dressed like an Ethiopian princess, and c. there was a white woman holding her hand, whom she was calling Mommy. I just pretty much felt proud.

Both kids did GREAT! I am still amazed at how far we've come in such a short time.

Did we ever tell you how we solved Habtamu's tantrums? I can't remember, but I'll tell you now. We figured out that he NEVER had the big meltdowns with me. It was always with Lee. I'd just tell him to go to Time Out and he'd complain, but he'd go. With Lee involved, tantrums would escalate to screaming, etc. Yes, he's emotionally tied to Lee, but that didn't fully explain it. We knew he must be getting something out of his interaction with Daddy, that he didn't get with me. I forget who thought of it first, but we realized that Lee got angry quickly and became physical right away (in terms of restraint... I knew I couldn't restrain him, so I never even tried.) Lee is not by nature angry. He is the calmer one of us, FOR SURE, but having children certainly brings things out in a person! Anyway, at their birthday party, Lee excused himself when things got dicey with H, and H calmed down within 20 minutes. We used that technique a couple more times, and now, I'll tell you about a huge breakthrough.

When we were all out at the campsite with Lee's folks, H got in a snit and stalked off. We let him go. He'd stalk back and forth making sure we were noticing just how angry he was. We all ignored him, and yet were all totally focused on him, trying to show we were NOT noticing him. Lee decided to take a walk alone to take himself out of the picture. The rest of us continued to ignore him as he threw his water bottle in the garbage, then, when that didn't elicit any response, he threw it into the woods. I looked at him like "whatever, kid". He stalked off again. By now 15 minutes had passed. 5 minutes later, Lee and H came hand in hand talking and laughing. H had met Lee on the way back, and APOLOGIZED. When I went to walk to the bathrooms, H followed me and apologized to me. Whoa! Talk about progress. He got himself out of his snit, people! And apologized, of his own volition. What a great kid!


Saved my Bacon.

After a terrible, terrible, terrible yesterday... mostly because of my resentful attitude that I do not have time alone much anymore, and due to the fact that one child was on my nerves from the moment I woke up... I started making calls to the school district about getting the kids in school in 2 weeks. I was convinced that I would not be able to home school, and that I would go bonkers if I had to spend every day/all day with the children. Alone. After getting some answers from the district about their ELL program (total immersion with 1/2 hour breakout was the only option), and after cooler heads (Lee's) prevailed, I decided not to jump into anything based on my feelings this week.

Also, I set our dryer on fire yesterday. Thanks be to God I knew where the extinguisher was. I won't go into details, mainly because I am super embarrassed, it being my fault and all. Yeah, yesterday... not so hot. (Well, hot in the dryer; not for me.)

Today, I had set up a play date/get to know ya visit with friends from church. They've got 3 boys and Kristen, the mom, home schools. They live on a 9 acre farm just north of us, and they've got animals. When we got there, the children got to feed the new ram. Then they discovered the bicycles. Remember, we've been telling them next year for bikes. (This is mainly because we live in town and the rules are different... ie: stop at stop signs, wear a helmet, etc, etc... Um, also, we didn't think giving them that kind of mobility this early on, before we know their characters, or if they would obey rules, was a good idea.) Ok, so, we got some training wheels on one of the bikes and Habtamu spent about 4 hours on it. I'm not exaggerating. Yordanos spent the same amount of time on their youngest boy's tricycle. They'd walk the bikes up to the top of the incline by the garage, and ride them down to the chicken coop, which I think H used more than once as "brakes". At one point, I saw H limping up the hill with the bike, his clothes and hair all dusty. He hadn't seen me watching him, but when he noticed me he grinned and said he'd fallen. I'd just like to remind everyone that a scant 4 weeks ago, this would have been cause for him to yell bloody murder. I was so proud.

It was a pretty restful day for me, as the kids were so entranced with the bikes, it was like "Mommy? Mommy who?" And Kristen and I were able to talk, and she pretty much allayed my fears about being able to home school, and she gave me some good information about what she uses. We WAY overstayed our welcome... 9:30 to 3:00, but we got invited back next week. I told Kristen more than once that she saved my bacon today.

Again and again I am humbled by the willingness of people to help us out. I'm also awed by the doors that adoption and parenthood has opened. I'm getting to know people I wouldn't have, and it's been awesome.

The kids are still thumping around upstairs, and I'm ok with that... please, please, please sleep in tomorrow! Lee's at Karaoke with his singing buddy, Marty, and I'm going to finish this and watch a dvd and knit. I believe there are popsicles in my future. I've been without since Tuesday and maybe that's why this week stunk?

Oh, one more thing, before I forget... for some reason, this week, H&Y decided to try calling us "Mom and Dad" instead of "Mommy and Daddy". I think it's because of movies they've been watching. Anyway, it was funny to hear them try to remember. "Mommy... Mom..." We told them either way was ok with us, but they've reverted back to MommyDaddy now.



So, the other night we were playing Go Fish together as a family. It beats the humiliation of playing Concentration with children. (Dang it! The last person turned up a "9"... where the blanketyblank is it?) Anyhoo... every time Habtamu got a good card he said "Awww, Yeah." We thought it was very cute and funny, but I got to thinking: Lee and I don't say that. Ha Ha... but I know who does! Aunt Carrie, you're already having an influence, and it's good!



Today was our first official day of me being home with the kids all day while Lee was at work. Yesterday didn't count because we were at the campground until 3, and I still had back-up, in the form of Lee's AWESOME parents.

I thought the gloves had come off before... bwa, ha ha, not so... it was only the veeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrry outer wrapping of the gloves. I don't think we're down to bare knuckles yet. They threw everything they had at me today, testing-wise. I'm not sure how I did, but I feel like I've gone 10 mentally challenging rounds with small people that do not use logic.

There was some conflagration out on the porch, while I was on the phone. I rushed out to see Yordi's chair flipped backwards, with her leg caught in the back of the chair. I looked over at Habtamu who was looking pretty nonchalant. I tried to comfort Y, who refused my help, got out of the chair herself, then refused to be comforted. I looked over at H, who now had something dripping from his head and he'd worked up some tears. He ran into the house and threw himself crying onto the landing of the stairs. Y threw herself onto the couch and started crying. Well. What the heck?

Now, here's the tricky part... I think they're both lying... here, tell me what you think:

He said: I was sitting with my head laid down on the table, and Yordi spit into her hands and wiped it on my head, then I woke up and she flipped her chair backwards trying to get away.

She said: Habtamu spit on his own hands, wiped it on his head, grabbed Yordi's throat and pushed her chair backwards.

While I was on the phone, I heard nothing until Yordi started screaming and crying. H didn't start crying until after I'd assessed. After that, I kept them apart for awhile, but they kept egging each other on and doing things to each other out of my line of sight, and then coming to tattle. Argh.

I told them I was not going to be home for dinner. (There was a picnic for our women's group at church.) They both put up a fuss, and I said "Oh, come on! You guys are totally sick of me today." I didn't add ("and I am totally sick of you" and "nah, nah, nah, ppppppppppbbbbbbbbbbbbttttttttttt"). I think I've grown. :)


Gooooood Morning CAMPERS!!!

What do we have behind curtain #1?

Hey, Look! It's a happy camper!!!

Yes, Grandma and Grandpa's camper was a hit. It even survived H's rigorous flip every switch, open every door, rifle through every bin, touch everything twice routine. Yeah, fortunately this passed inspection too.
Next time kiddo, put on the while gloves.

Chris, being the resident genius manipulator asked the kids early in the afternoon if they wanted to sleep in the camper. Well, of course they didn't, Mommy. That was the most ridiculous idea evar! That is, until about 8pm when it became their idea to stay the night. Then, as if by magic, their pillows and pajamas appeared from the trunk of the car! And suddenly with a puff of smoke (or maybe it was gravel dust) Mommy, Daddy, and Daddy's car disappeared! I think they were still clapping for more before they realized exactly what was going on. :-) Friday night went so well, they opted to stay again Sunday evening. Man, I love the way that woman thinks.

The kids were speculating what naughty and decadent things mommy and daddy would be doing without their ever present eyes keeping them in check. I think Y guessed we'd eat popsicles. H, being more knowledgeable in the ways of the world, figured we'd watch TV. Neither even hinted at any form of "Business Time" which I kind of took offense to. For the record, we are not as boring as our children think we are. Chris and I really let loose with the kids out of the house.

Ok, fine. We are boring.

On a completely different note, Yordi has started swapping words to "Stand up and shout if you love my Jesus." She decided that the second verse is much more entertaining as, "Sit down and Oofah (that's 'stink' in Amharic instead of the English, 'whisper') if you love my Lord." I have to give her credit though, combined with the gesturing and fart noises, it certainly is more amusing.



I'm increasingly amazed at how far we've come in 2 short (long?) months. Things that used to be cause for tears and screaming for Habtamu are now relegated to "It's ok." and a shrug from him that says "eh, no big deal." H also used the word "delicious" today... I mean Come On... that's a big word!

Both H & Y have been using more and more complete sentences. It's kind of like watching Wheel of Fortune where the words are becoming clear as more letters are added. They showed off to the Grandparents by being model children as they spent the night in the camper (without us!), sleeping 9 1/2 hours like everyone else. I was told they used "please" and "thank you" often and appropriately.

They both are less picky food-wise, and are asking for foods that they previously rejected. H wanted me to get strawberries at the store the other day. I said "but you don't like them." He said he did. Well, when we first got back from Ethiopia, they'd point at them and say "strawberries" then I'd offer one and they'd both say No. Now they claim that they'd eat them all the time in Ethiopia, and that they'd picked them off trees. So.... I'm not sure WHAT fruit they were eating, but probably not strawberries. H did eat a couple of them, Y ate 1/2 of one... but no biggie, as I love them and polished them off just fine.

Lee and I have settled more comfortably into parenthood. We've picked our current battles and are still on the same side. The kids haven't really tried to pull us apart, which I hear can happen. They like to see us hug and kiss. They used to ask things like "hug and kiss, asleep?" I think they may have been asking about s-e-x, as they were used to the family bed with their Mom and Dad in Ethiopia. We're not prudish, but we kind of glossed over that one... not that we have much energy for THAT right now anyway.

Yordi asked about my wedding dress today... I had told her a couple of weeks ago, that Yes, I have the dress and that she could see it sometime. So, I dragged it out of the back of a closet, and she wanted me to put it on. Well, I did not have much confidence that I COULD get it on, but I humored her. It zipped, but was a little shorter than I remembered, so I'll let you do the math on that one. Y kept saying "Oooooh, pretty mommy. Very pretty." She was disappointed that I didn't have the veil anymore. I told her about how Mommy's Mommy made the dress for me, and she seemed pretty impressed with that. In the end, I gave her the crinoline slip that my mom also had made... it's a half slip with netting and lace sewed on it. Y then hiked it and bunched it up on her size 6x hips and flounced around, twirling. H looked at me and I said "It's a girl thing." He shrugged and grinned, shaking his head.


Woo Hoo - AND a bag of chips.

We visited Lee's folks at their campsite at Rock Cut State Park. We asked the kids if they wanted to spend the night there while Lee and I went home. There were mixed reviews. Yordi said Yes, Habti said No. We said it was ok either way, but I'd brought their pajamas and toothbrushes, JUST IN CASE. Me being ever hopeful. :)

We had dinner and visited, and helped Uncle Paul and Aunt Carrie put up their tent and prepared the go home. The kids said together "Sleep here, no?" "You want to stay here? Mommy and Daddy home?" "Yes!" Um, ok. We would have peeled out of there, squealing tires and all, but the speed limit was 10 in the campground.

The kids kept reassuring us "It's ok. Habtamu Yordanos here, Mommy Daddy home. See you tomorrow!" Yordi said "See you next week!" Ok, then.


County Fair -or- Where'd the money go?

The County Fair is this week, and we've been 3 times already. The kids have done a great job so far... we can stay about 2 hours, and then things get dicey... or rather, some kids get squirrely.

Tuesday night (the 1st night) we made it clear that we were JUST LOOKING. We showed them the lay of the land, and told them which rides cost a lot... that was obvious... they were the ones they were pointing at and asking "Me?"

Wednesday was reduced ticket day. Those carnies... they'll work every angle. Usually the ride tickets cost $1 each with rides being 2-4 tickets. That day, the tickets cost $1.50 each, BUT every ride was only 1 ticket.

We started out slow... they'd been on a carousel last month (the day of the Tilt-a-Whaaaah).

I couldn't help but think on this next ride... Man, if I had to tear down, pack up, and set up these bees every week, I'd eventually want to punch them right in the nose, or break one of their little red shoes off.

H had fun because there was a lever to push and pull and make the bee go up and down.

We waited in line (in vain, as it turns out) for the Teacups. The cups were so cute, but alas, we didn't look for the Size Stick and both our kids were too tall. :( Darn you, Size Stick!

So, being the awesome parents that we are, we took them on the Tornado. Lee and I both got sick on this thing a few years back, so what we were thinking, I'm not sure... other than "It's 'kind of' Tilt-A-Whirly and Tea-Cuppy and we don't HAVE to spin fast. (There's a wheel in the center that you can spin, or not spin to make you hurl or not hurl, as you rotate at an angle.)

Turns out, I cannot ride this under ANY circumstances anymore. I used to love the spinny rides. Dang.

I CAN, however, still ride roller coasters. Ok, so this thing is like the smallest of the smallest coasters you've ever seen. Y made it once around, shrieking/crying, but this carnie was totally nice and he stopped after one round and let the crying kids off (not just mine) and gave their tickets back. H went on alone, then once more with me. I showed him how to put his hands up in the air.

The kids have now had their first Fair Food... H had a corn dog, and Y found pizza she doesn't like (hasn't happened until now.) Then H had her pizza. We all had grilled corn on the cob which we all loved. They both asked for dinner at home tonight. Fine with me... Lee smelled like onions for, um, since yesterday, and counting...


The Night the Lights went out in Belvidere

Two nights ago, there was that kind of pending doom feel in the air. I really wanted to start this post with, "It was a dark and stormy night..." but it wasn't. It was just creepy. Finally, around 7 I looked the front door to the east and ask Y, "What color is the sky?" She said, "Daddy's car," which is Amh-inglish for "Silver." We found H and looked out back to the west. I asked him the same question. He responded, "Green." "Yeah," I said, "Green bad. Green very bad." Y argued the color, but there wasn't anything negotiable about it.

We didn't go in the basement, mostly out of my own pride. We don't let the kids open the door on the other side of the laundry room because that's where all of Daddy's toys are, and it's a huge mess. So as far as they're concerned it smells bad and is dangerous, which actually is pretty accurate. Anyway, I didn't hear the tornado siren so we went upstairs to get a better look. H had just gotten his head pressed against the screen when *BOOM* the power went out. Mild hysteria ensued, but fortunately we found three working flashlights (the rest I found left in the ON position. Hmmm... I'm guessing Chris didn't leave them that way...) and a couple candles.

We had to kill some time before bed, so we played cards and later went out to inspect the tree that had been struck by lightning a block away. Later there was also this surreal orange sky behind the green, so everything had this unearthly orange backlighting. We tried to play another round of cards, but the kids were getting weird and having mini-Mag lights waved in your face every 3 seconds really lowers your tolerance for silliness, so we called it a night. It was, oh, about ten after 8. Whatever, there's no clocks. Go to bed. Y wanted to leave her flashlight on which we talked her out of. H confessed that in Ethiopia they didn't use any lights at night, which is what I figured. Ethiopia is better than some other African countries, but they still have a lot of electrical outages. When we were at the Hilton the kids slept just fine in the pitch black, but since we've come home they cry injustice when we turn them off at bedtime and have just recently quit turning them all back on.

Anyway, over all, everyone survived and to my surprise, when the power came back at 2 in the morning, not every light in the house came on. I think they both went through and flipped all the light switches once just to make sure the power was out everywhere. Yay for two wrongs making a right!


Christmas in August

Everyone has been so great about giving us just what we need at just the right time. I know I don't ask for things... mainly because I can't think right anymore and I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I NEED at any given moment. I'm so glad that you all are following the Holy Spirit's leading and calling at just the right time and giving us clothes and feeding us.

Habtamu had been campaigning for "t-shirts" like Daddy's. We said to him "remember in Ethiopia and Habtamu was saying 'shoes, Daddy, shoes, Daddy, shoes, Daddy' and we said 'in America, LOTS of shoes' and how now you have 6 pairs of shoes? Well, we know what you want... don't ask anymore." He seemed to get it. Then Lee came home with bags and bags of boys' clothes from a friend at church... full of t-shirts, and tons of other clothes, including a winter jacket, boots, and snow pants.

To say that the kids have not got a CLUE about winter is an understatement. It's all fun and games until someone loses... a toe from frostbite! For your viewing pleasure...

Man, does this kid make me laugh!


All Hail the Conquering Hero

I should go away more often! Just kidding... ok, I'm not kidding. It was AWESOME!

When I got home, I received the welcome Lee usually gets after work: "Yay!" accompanied by hugs and kisses.

I went to the Scrap Inn this weekend with my sis-in-law and one of the owners of Scrap Inn and another friend. I highly recommend the Scrap Inn for your scrapping get-a-ways. Call today! Shameless plug for you, Kat and Kim!

I got 21 pages finished of our Ethiopian trip. I didn't journal much yet, and I've got another 200+ pics to go through. Yikes! I have to say, it was sooooo therapeutic... I was able to concentrate and do something I REALLY enjoy... yes, cutting pictures up and putting them back together, as Lee says. :)

I made pizza for lunch today and was a hero yet again. Then we went for a drive to DeKalb... oooh, I know you're jealous. Lee's and my ulterior motive was to stop at Mango's and get smoothies. We took a walk around the pond on NIU's campus... explained to the kids how there would be no ice cream for them if they did not walk without complaining. We met Aunt Carrie at Mango's. There are roughly a million choices of ice cream, so we asked the kids "chocolate or vanilla?" and the kid behind the counter said "Um. We're out of chocolate." To prove my blurtiness, I said "Oh. That's lame." There's more to the story, but it's kinda boring and I can't think right now, and if I don't publish now, I'll just delete this, so here... and yes, you're welcome to blurt "That's lame." :)

Rodeo Dad

It probably goes without saying that the day I write a blog about communication is the day I blow my stack and for all intents and purposes, hog-tie my son. Gah, we were so close to a well executed time-out and then he had to leave the chair and start beating the piano with the doorstop. No, I didn't actually rope him down, but I 'suppressed the threat' in record time without even getting my chaps dirty or losing my hat. By the time Chris could say, "Lee, just leave, follow the plan..." it was over. I was angry, he knew it and so he got whatever attention he likes when he watches me lose it.

And here's the other problem, I'm getting really good at it. I'm still bigger and stronger (which will probably last another 3 or 4 days at this rate,) but now I've had practice. He flails, I focus. Here's something your father never told you: if you need to restrain your child in an 'authoritative manner' add a slight twist to whatever limb you are holding onto. It doesn't have to hurt or be much at all really, it just has to be enough to keep them preoccupied so they don't get creative. It also disrupts whatever momentum they're trying to build up if your child likes to bolt.

I was already fired up because Heaven forbid daddy have a friend over and not give his complete and undivided attention to his jealous child for 20 minutes. H ended up outside pouting on the far corner of the block. The whole time I was walking toward him I kept telling myself how he was going to experience his first real All-American spanking when I caught him, but somehow, I approached him passively enough to talk him back into the house and even into The Chair for a timeout. There was a brief dialog. I don't want to give the impression that Plan A was to wave a red cape and skewer him as he charged through.

I think we've mentioned this before but in case we didn't, Plan B, is to let Chris enforce discipline with H. They never escalate to the point of being physical. If I'm around, or if he thinks I'm around, he'll keep pushing, but with Chris he'll calm down during a time-out. So the drill is that I excuse myself as soon as I can after punishment has been decided upon. This time though, I just didn't get far enough fast enough and could still hear him mauling my piano.

Plan A is to not show aggression in the first place. Escalation is reflective. With Chris gone this weekend, I really couldn't afford any kind of blow out while the good cop was off duty. This turned out to be a really good thing because it took 'brute force' out of my vocabulary for the weekend. So I practiced some new skills, like "active ignoring." It's not quite the silent treatment, but it's more like refusing to give any credence or reinforcement to bad behavior. Granted there's a limit to this technique, but it's funny how quickly a child's behavior can turn around if they really aren't committed to being bad and are just randomly pushing buttons to see what's going to happen. Along the same lines, I really needed to let them bicker and yell at each other without intervening. As long as blows weren't being traded, I let the kids work through just about all their issues on their own. Not because I didn't want to jump in, but because they were battles I couldn't understand or emotionally afford getting into.

Case study: H was starting to melt after church finished up today. I don't know why, all I know is that he went to get a donut and came back loaded for bear. He didn't even eat any of it, so it wasn't a sugar issue, but we do have history with jelly donuts. Anyway, his eyes made it clear that it was time to go, so I rounded up his sister and told him gently that we were leaving. He glares and doesn't move. Y and I take about 5 steps to the door and he catches up. Next thing I know, some Amharic words are exchanged and he gives his sister a good shove in the parking lot. I don't know why, all I know is that she's still standing and now they're snarling at each other from separate lanes. I unlock the car with the remote and make a bee line toward it. I sit and buckle my seatbelt. Y cautiously creeps up to the car from her side and gets in, never letting her guard down. H doesn't get in the car. I wait and chill. I catch him looking at me from my rear view mirror trying to gauge my mood, but I stay silent and deadpan. 10 seconds later he's in the car. 2 minutes after that all is back to normal and we're talking about watching The Lion King.

Getting H out of the building was not the right fight to pursue. Pushing his sister in the parking lot wasn't either. Any confrontation or aggression I would have shown him prior to getting him into the car, would have resulted in him NOT getting in the car. The goal was to get out and get home, the other infractions would have to wait. It takes a lot of concentration to act nonchalant when part of your brain is saying, "He'll get in the car eventually" and the other part is whispering "Go on, you know you could take him." It's even harder when you know deep down that neither voice is wrong.

Fortunately Plan A paid off.



Today was the day Chris left for her 24 hour scrapping weekend, or as I like to call it, the 'Why did we buy a fancy digital camera if you were just going to cut up perfectly good pictures then glue them back together and call it a scrapbook-a-thon.' She's just one town over but that meant that I would be flying solo for the longest stretch of time thus far.

The kids took the situation in stride. We told them that mommy had to work on Saturday and would be back for lunch on Sunday. No explanation asked for or given. I don't know exactly what things were like in Ethiopia for them, but so far, saying "I need to go to work" goes completely unquestioned. They have their trump card too, though. We'll stop, drop, and run if one of them says they need to go to the toilet. It just isn't worth arguing about or the stress of possibly incorrectly calling a bluff. Anyway, so emotionally Chris was cleared for take off... well, from the kids at least. I, however, had to put on my, "That's cool, Baby. Have a great weekend" face and then mutter, "Crap, what am I going to do now?" over and over to myself when no one was listening.

So my saving grace came in the form of a pool party/barbecue. We were told we could come as early and stay as late as we wanted by the hosts who really should have known better. So 24 hours later... just kidding, but we did stay from noon until bedtime, about 8 hours. H was pinned to my side for the first 2 hours until he finally concluded just how boring his father is, and went swimming. I know the time will come when I miss my son clinging to me, but really... dude, you are 10 and there's airhockey in the basement, why are you hanging out with me? Y was perfectly content doing flips on the trampoline and running around with the other kids w/o any parent intervention until she needed a push on the swing. Thank goodness I'm still good for something!

Chris sounded great and relaxed on the phone. The kids were well behaved and got to play in a pool literally all afternoon. And I'm just happy everyone's happy and that I didn't have to cook.


Honeymoon wanes but it ain't over yet

I've heard from other folks who have adopted internationally say that the honeymoon period often lasts about 2 months. After that, children start 'behaving like family' and quit making their beds, being polite at the dinner table, etc... especially if there are other kids in the family for them to take cues from. As we round the 8 week mark, it lingers in the back of my mind that some of the good things I've gotten used to (like relinquishing the remote control when asked) may be on the way out. But on the other hand big thresholds are still being crossed and I wanted to jot them down before I forgot.

Yesterday we were all geared up to go swimming after lunch and it rained. I believe this was our first rain out of the summer, so the kids were kind of jittery as Chris and I had to say, "I don't know, Maybe" about 400 times as we debated whether or not we should go to Plan B, which was... um... I don't know... Plan B. Color? Computer? Something not within my personal space, please. Anyway, I laid down and H actually (eventually) took a siesta with me. Chris entertained Y by answering "I don't know, Maybe" another 300 times. When we woke up, the rain had stopped and Y was packed and ready to go. H was still groggy and didn't feel like getting wet. We decided that I would take Y swimming and H would stay home with mommy. Let me repeat that... My children actually separated willingly and without debate for about an hour and a half. That's a big step that we've been waiting for.

Also, today Y said, "I am ready" and "I am OK!" That's an appropriately used pronoun folks, and a connecting verb to boot! H can string long sets of nouns and verbs together into understandable stories, but isn't making sentences yet. It's funny because he will, in so many words and hand motions, tell me to relay a story to mommy that he and I already talked about. We'll look up at Chris and she'll just say, "Yeah, I got it Habtamu. You just told me the story," and everyone is happy.

Hearing "I am ok" instead of "Yordanos OK" was welcome relief, even if it was totally regurgitated. It's progress. I'll take it.