Holiday Shuffle

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

With full concentration, Habtamu attaches ornaments to the tree.

This year, Santa's little helper has afropuffs!

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

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

Yordi finds a Christmas stocking

H dives straight into the underbelly of the holiday season

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


Adopt more?

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

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

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


He Shoots He Scores!

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

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

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

All new, all exciting.

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

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


Had to Share

How American are you? Oh Spare me.

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

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

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

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

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

(Insert polite smile from me)

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

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

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

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

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

Complete with silly shoes and personal trainers.

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


One More Time

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

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

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


And Snow It Begins...

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

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


Random Bits

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

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

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

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

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


Playing with a Full Deck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I made Calzones... and you can too!

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

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

Preheat oven to 450.

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

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

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

Knead, let rise 15-20 minutes.

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

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

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


Tangible Progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you, everything, too!


And the Winners are....

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


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

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

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

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

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


Extreme Home Makeover Ethiopian Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here's the second question of the quiz:

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

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



Winter Contest

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

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

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

Happy Contesting, and thanks for reading!


Good Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Touch Therapy

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

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

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

Those are the nights everyone goes to bed happy.



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

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

"You took those?"

"Yep, right in my living room."

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

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

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

And I answered, "Nope."

Home School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Insane Generosity

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

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

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

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

Hooray for balloons that won't fly away!

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


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