Stinkers and Floaters

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

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

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

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


Halloween and Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

Of course we had to be goofy:

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

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


One Goes Up, One Goes Down

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

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



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

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

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

All Time Low

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

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

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

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

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


Triumphant Fall

I'm glad Chris has had the stamina to post, because although "How will the kids react to snow?" is the question of the year, those of you who have been following along have seen that they have really taken Fall in stride. From falling leaves (no, the trees aren't dying just sleeping) to football games (Blue and Orange GOODGUYS, holding facemask BAD) to the shortening of days (Bed time, no???) they've dealt with a midwestern fall fabulously. Apple picking, Corn mazes, cold monkey bars, Sunday School, tree climbing, choosing Halloween costumes... they've gotten a pretty good taste of Americana this season.

Living the American dream, however, has been taking it's toll on me. Carpooling an hour earlier than I'm used to, coming home and taking the "Evening Programming" shift with the children while trying to figure out where I can squeeze another $20 out of my paycheck, then having just enough energy to watch Heroes with one eye open before crashing. Lather, rinse, repeat. My single income friends with children have told me, "Congratulations, you're really one of us now." I guess this is the club I signed up for but I didn't know the membership dues would be so high. ;-)



Recently the children have wanted to offer their own prayers at bedtime when we pray together. Here are some of their prayers:

Thank you God, family together.

Thank you God, park playing.

Thank you God, food sharing and games sharing. (Today at Jim and Nikki's we had BBQ chicken and played Wii.)

Thank you God, good friends.

Thank you God, good day.

Thank you God, bike riding. (We visit friends once a week who live on a farm, and the kids ride bikes there.)

Thank you God, sunshine.

Thank you God, Grandma and Grandpa.

Thank you God, house and Daddy working.


It is so sweet to hear them pray. I tell them every night that God is SO happy when they talk to Him.


It's a pretty squishy task!

Me, sorting seeds out to roast. I baked them at 350 deg. in a greased pan for about 20 minutes, sprinkling them with salt and cinnamon, stirring every 5 minutes. Habtamu and I couldn't stop eating them. Yordanos was yelling at us "Let's go! Park now! No more eat!" We ignored her and kept eating. :)

The finished products: (The kids lost interest after scraping out the insides, so I just cut lame designs...)


Thanks Uncle Bob and Aunt Helen, for the bowls. The children of course fought about which was cooler, but in the end kept the ones you had chosen for them! They may be unclear on what to DO with them.


Daily Giggle...

These kids make me laugh every day!


Shunning the Camera

Habtamu has been shunning the camera lately, and I get lots of pics like this:

And this:

So, I have to be sneaky and catch his great smile on the sly...


I know that everyone thinks their kids are the best looking, smartest, etc, etc...

But, c'mon... this girl is going to be T.R.O.U.B.L.E. We'll be training Habtamu in all the martial arts and sending him along on dates with Yordi. Oh, wait... NO DATES... until she's 25.

And, apparently, she's going to be a plumber. :)


Baking Cookies

We made yummy ginger cookies for Grandma. They're her favorites...

Downside to Cooking

I don't mind cooking, but I DO mind this:

Sugar Lumps

Since we are eating more healthily now that we have children, sugary things are scarce in our house. That's ok for the KIDS, and all, but I have NEEDS. :)

Did your mom let you eat the "sugar lumps" from the brown sugar? My mom did, but I don't think she let me eat one this big.

Don't think I didn't consider eating the whole thing....


Genuine Fear and False Guilt

Based on my children's past experience, I have tried to keep myself very healthy, so that they'd have no cause for alarm. Even when I was sick, I did tried not to make a big deal of it. Not that I was trying to keep the truth from them, but I didn't want to give them something real to worry about... ie: parents get sick, and then they die. I'm afraid that's all too common in Ethiopia, and other countries, where entire generations are being wiped out.

Lee stayed home from work on Friday, and was very sick with a head cold. When the kids got up, I told them that Daddy was home and that he was probably going to sleep for a long time. Yordanos said "Daddy sick, again, again, again? No work today, again, again, again? No food, then Yordanos and Habtamu..." then she made the "dead" face (head and arms back, tongue hanging out.)

I made sure to reassure them both many times that day that Daddy just had a cold, and would be ok in a couple of days. And that No, he won't be going to work tomorrow or Sunday or Monday (holiday), but that Tuesday he would go back. Yordanos then said "Tuesday work? Then no more work? Then Y & H (dead face)?" It breaks my heart that they have to worry about that... and that there are MILLIONS of children that don't have the chance that Y&H have now.

How do you all reassure your children in difficult times, or when times are uncertain? I won't lie to them, but I don't want to burden them with adult worries or cares.

[When we were at the Hilton in Addis Ababa, we had a HUGE language barrier, obviously, and one of the maids was helping us interpret. She was very kind, but when Yordanos told her that she was afraid to fly, the maid told her "Oh, you don't have to fly, you'll get into a big car, and I'll meet you there, and you'll get lots of candy." Um. Not helping. So we had to do damage control with someone else.]

Today, one of the windows in my car broke. Yordanos happened to be the one pushing the button at the time. She felt terrible and cried and would not be comforted. We kept trying to explain that it was not her fault, that we were not mad at her, that the car is old, and it could have happened to anyone. She calmed down after a bit and I told her again that (see above)...

How do you all get your children to not take on guilt that is not their own? (I had a huge problem with this until I was in my late 20s... I'd like to help them not have that burden.)


Naked Time!

The other day, I told the kids "showers in the morning!" Of course I got the standard, "No." Of course I ignored this, since that is their response to everything I say. And, to their credit, they say "no," but actually do what I ask anyway.

Anyhow, Habtamu got up the next morning and showered right away. Yordi came downstairs, naked, of course, ready to bathe in my bathtub. She looked tired still. Lee had already gone to work and I was out of bed, so I asked her if she wanted to sleep in our bed for a little bit.

All this is to set the stage for what I walked in on later. Yordi had gotten up and was attempting to make our bed... still naked... and there was a white paw on a black cat arm taking swipes at her ankles when she got close to the bed. And she'd keep trying to make the bed and that cat would keep swiping.

Dana Carvey had a great skit about his kids and "Naked Time." Here it is for your enjoyment.


Scaried Update

We had a great night of sleeping last night. No wake ups, and the kids slept until 8.

Lee wants you all to know, for the record, that Yordanos did not take the Benadryl the other night.

Here's what we did leading up to last night. We talked about it several times during the day... about how we all need sleep, and what can we do to help you not be afraid? She said that having Habtamu use a lighter colored pillow case would help. No problem. Did that. Prayed together about peace and no bad dreams.

At one point after they were in bed, I knocked over a small table and it made a loud crash. I went to the bottom of the stairs and said in a normal speaking voice. "I'm sorry. That was me." Habtamu asked "Not a cat?" "Nope, I knocked a little table over." "Oh, ok."

Thanks to you all for you input. I know that sleeping issues can be tricky to decipher in an adopting situation. We haven't gotten the impression that her being scared is about adoption. (Of course, on some level it could be.) It seems to us like regular kid stuff and that we'd gotten into a pattern of her calling and us giving her a payoff. Both kids have often tried to prolong the bedtime ritual, etc... all the regular kid shenanigans. Not that we shouldn't show them we're there for them IF they really need us. Gah... it's so hard to know what to do.


Scaried Part 2

Weeeeeeeeelllllllllllllllllllllllllll... we've had some sleepless nights here at Chez Gardner. Little Miss Scared-y McScarderson has been hard at work being "scaried."

Let's see, we're scared of

Tigers (Lions are ok)
and last night, paraphrased by me: "I couldn't see Habtamu's head on that dark pillowcase."

At some point, you start to feel scammed, you know?

She cried and cried from 10:30 - 12. Lee kept going up there, and wouldn't let me go. Let's just say, by that point, I would have been less than kind. (My plan was to make her stand in the middle of her room with all the lights on until she was ready to go to bed and GO TO SLEEP.)

I finally sent him up there with Benadryl (Judge not lest ye be judged) and they both slept until 8:15.

I talked to her about it this morning... found out the "reason" she was scared. Had trouble not laughing... I mean c'mon! You couldn't see his head on the pillowcase?!?! I asked her why she had her eyes open, then she wouldn't have to worry about it. I told her that we can't have another night like last night OR like the night before (she was up at 4:40 waking H up and bugging him to call me.)

Any suggestions for children scared at night? Last week, we talked about how she could pray to Jesus and hug her stuffed animal, and that worked for a couple of nights. Last night the "Please Jesus! Please Jesus!" she was sobbing was not really calming her down.

I'm pretty tired today... would like to sleep through the night tonight... please help. :)


To be loved by a child

Last week, Yordanos sauntered up to me while I was in the kitchen. She threw her arms around my waist, looked up at me and said "I love you, Mom." My heart grew 10 sizes as I hugged her back and said "I love you, too!"

That was the 1st time she said that to me. She'd said it back to me a couple of times, but never initiated it. (Habtamu has been saying it for several weeks, so it's a big coup for Yordi to say it.)

I think she and I have turned a good corner. I get fewer cold shoulders in church, and she's very lovey with me (for now... I know Lee's turn is coming!) I always get bedtime hugs and kisses now.

It's good to be loved by a child. I never really knew that before.

Table Manners... or "Miss Manners would never approve"

I've been meaning to write about this for awhile... you see, Lee and I are brand, spanking new parents... we have very little prior experience with teaching younger people manners or etiquette or cleanliness or... or... or... plus I forget things now.

1. I never thought it was a big deal that our kids eat with their hands all the time. It makes sense that they would, since they ate that way in Ethiopia. I heard another parent say something about THEIR kids enjoying Ethiopian food because they could eat with their hands for once. "Oopsie," I thought, "should I be doing something to make them eat with utensils?" I decided (and Lee agrees by default, because he has never said anything about it) that I DON'T CARE if they eat with their hands. They eat with utensils when the need arises... soup... spaghetti... meat to be cut.

2. We made a conscious effort NOT to nit pick at the children about spilling food on themselves. OK, I guess we were too tired at first to nit pick, because "please, just eat SOMETHING!" They have learned in the last 3 months, all by themselves, that they should eat OVER their plates, that spilling water is NO BIG DEAL (except to Lee), and that fooling around with food will almost ALWAYS result in tragedy for your favorite white shirt. Yordanos, however, is unfazed by stained clothing. She has a favorite shirt that has chocolate ice cream stains on the SHOULDER. That was from the day that she got that same ice cream in one of her hair puffs. Good times... :)

3. I have only recently begun insisting that the children wash their hands before meals. I know, I know... but they have not been sick yet, so you be the judge. I finally got tired of the sticky hands when we prayed.