Our Trip to the Museum of Science and AARGHYOUTWOSTOPTOUCHINGRIGHTNOW!!!

You know those days where you can't 'capture the moment' with your camera to save your life? Like when everyone's happy and having a good time, but for whatever reason, whenever you try to take a candid shot someone has one eye half closed, or people just look frumpy instead of jovial? Well, the day we went to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago was not one of those days. I only took a handful of snapshots, which I present to you in all their unedited glory, but I do believe they capture the essence of the trip.

Here's the harbinger:
Granted, it's a decent snapshot of Yordanos in front of a wicked-cool mailbox, but what's important here is the question, "What is so interesting that would divert her from looking at the flippin' sweet mailbox?" The answer is, her brother, of course, who thought the R2D2 thing was pretty cool until he realized that Daddy and his sister were also enjoying it. He then noted the camera and marched off making sure that the proper tone would be set for the rest of the day. Had I really believed that he was never going to snap out of it, we probably wouldn't have even gotten out of the car.

But since we did, I got a bunch of shots like this:
Of Mr. GrumpyPants getting angrified by the mock in-flight movie in the mock airplane that's mocking him. Ahh, does this bring back memories...

MeanwhileYordanos enjoys hanging out in the car of tomorrow, today!

But when H tries, he can't seem to find anything to his liking in the future either.

So, long story short, the day pretty much went like this:
Except when it was going more like this:
Yes, I see how her elbows light up when you bend them backwards, now LET GO OF YOUR SISTER!!!

So, you know those days when you look back at the hand life dealt you and you say to yourself, "Why did I think dumping my aces would be a good idea?" Well, this day was full of them. We had a snack at 11:30 which is way too late, so by the time we stopped in the food court for lunch at 12:45, I had a full on hunger strike on my hands. "No food, No thank you," is all I got from the kid who looked at me after the snack and said, "Lunch, now yes?" Then Yordi wouldn't eat because she's empathetic like that. Now I knew they weren't starving, but I also knew that this was nature's way of saying we were done at the museum. I called Chris, who was at a meeting at the University of Chicago Children's Hospital six blocks away, and told her not to bother parking and to just pick us up at the front door. We were only there for 2+ hours but it wiped me out for the weekend.

Habtamu made an announcement while we were stuck in traffic on the way home that cleared up the question as to why today was the day to become Baron VonCranky. Perhaps if I had studied this last picture more closely when I took it, the whole situation could have been avoided.

So go ahead seasoned parents... can you spot the problem?
(Check the comments for a hint and the answer)

I go back and forth between telling myself, "Don't sweat it, I've only been doing this for 7 months, rookie errors are to be expected," and "Gah! Idiot! 7 months and I'm still forgetting the simple stuff!" As I eluded to earlier, it was just me and the kids, Chris was not there for this one so I chalk it up to the fact that if she were, we would have figured it out. I was spending so much energy trying not to rip his head off I missed the obvious. As a side note, keeping myself calm did pay off. As frustrating as it was, there was not a meltdown and I suspect if I had gotten very physical at all it would have decayed rapidly. Deep down I think he knew it too because he was generally still obedient amidst all the surliness. He even sat down and had a timeout with me (frankly, I needed one too after the thermal camera debacle) without argument.

The city makes both Chris and I cranky and tired. Hopefully this will be an isolated incident and that we haven't extended that family tradition to our children.


Kickin' Butt and Takin' Names

As soon as Habtamu got into karate class 3 weeks ago, he asked how to get a yellow belt. I said "Oh, honey, I think that's going to take awhile." But he persisted and I asked the instructor. Turns out the yellow belt is the easy one. You have to know the kicks (front, side, round-house, back), 1 form (20 steps), 3 - 3 steps (block, block, disable opponent) ... and that's about it. Oh, AND you break a board with your foot. Wait? What?

So, Habtamu and I took the test tonight, and well, here's the scoop:

Here are the white belts hopeful that they'll leave yellow belts.

And here we are, significantly sweatier (in my case) and holding our broken boards. Yes, I broke a board with my foot and it was awesome.

And here we are with our new bling...

And if you think Habtamu looks like he's gaining on me, height-wise, you'd be right. Yikes. He's a good 3" taller than 7 months ago. And his voice is starting to crack. Help me, Lord, I'm not ready for an adolescent male... I was just getting used to the boy-child.


Bedtime Reassurances

Since day one, Yordi has wanted someone to look in her closet and check out the window before going to sleep. As a side note, with the snow, I have seen footprints left from feral cats outside her second floor window. Huh, maybe there really IS something outside when she gets spooked in the middle of the night. She used to be more insistent about checking under the bed too, but we kind of phased that one out by not letting our housecats upstairs at bedtime. Anyway, this was our conversation the other night:

"Daddy, check my closet please."

"Ok, Honey I'll check your closet."

"Daddy, check my window please."

"Ok, Honey I'll check your window."

"Daddy, check my butt please."

"Ok, Honey I'll check your... HEY!!!"

"HAHAHAHAHAHAAAA! Habtamu! Daddy check my butt yes!"

Sigh... I guess I'm destined to be the straight man for the next generation of Gardners too. Fantastic.


Yahtzee: Game of Chance OR Game of Character Building?

I have to say, Yahtzee is like a bad boyfriend for me. I LOVE to play Yahtzee, and I really shouldn't. It's loud - I don't like loud, in general. And, the biggest reason for me NOT to play is that I NEVER, and I mean NEVER get the 3rd of ANYTHING I need. I can get a Yahtzee occasionally, but do I win that game? NO... because I couldn't get the bonus on the top half, because I got a 43, not a 63.

If the children (either one, but Yordanos especially) has a 1,2, and 4 and they need a 3 and5 to make their Large Straight, they will get it... every time. I don't even try, when I can't get three stinkin' 1's to save my life. Today Habtamu rolled a Yahtzee... in ONE roll. Yesterday he rolled, literally, 10 Full Houses. Today I rolled a 1,2,5,4,4. I needed three 3's. Oh, yeah.

And YET... tomorrow, when the kids want to play, I will totally play because I keep thinking, "This time will be different, right? I have to win sometime, right? Those dice totally didn't MEAN it when they didn't give me what I needed, right?"

Maybe I need a Yahtzee intervention.

You can ask my children... I am not exagerating about my "bad luck" at dice. They noticed it before I said anything, and now we just laugh when Mommy has to cross yet another item out. If anyone gets a bad roll, they say "Oh. Just like Mommy's rolls!"

Ha ha ha... Ho ho ho... heh heh... um, yeah...



Well, Habtamu finally dropped the "You're not my mother" bomb today. It was at the end of a grueling morning of the grumps, in which I ended up yelling (ok, screaming) and called Lee crying and angry and frustrated. Sigh.

I have never met people who push my buttons so quickly. I've never lost it so many times as with my children. Gah.

When he said the YNMM line, I answered back, "Ah, yes. I've been waiting to hear that one." I wasn't too upset about it. He was also saying he was going back to Ethiopia. I had to refrain myself several times from saying "OK. See ya." I know that sounds bad, and it's not a thought I'm proud of, but there it is. Instead I said, "I would miss you, and this is your home now. I am your Mommy and Daddy is your Daddy, and we love you." I know that's true, regardless of what my head was urging me to say out of spite and anger and frustration.

Thanks to Katherine for taking Yordanos to play for the afternoon... and getting her out of the fray. Now Habtamu is asking that we go get her. Hmmm... missing your little sister?


Marital Relations

No, no, not THAT kind... although that could be a post for a different time...

We've had trouble explaining how people are related by marriage. (I should explain that Yordanos has a way of running their two names together, mushing them into one entity... it usually comes out "Yordahabtamu".)

Me: Aunt Carrie is Daddy's sister, and my sister-in-law.
Y: Everybody's sister?
Me: No, Daddy's sister, my sister-in-law.
Y: ?
Y: So, you Daddy, brother sister? Like Yordahabtamu?
Me: Uh, no. You don't marry your brother. Daddy is my husband.
Y: Yordahabtamu no husband?
Me: Right. Daddy is my husband. I am Daddy's wife.
Y: Yordahabtamu no wife?
Me: Right.
Y: Uncle Paul?
Me: Uncle Paul is married to Aunt Carrie (Lee's sister), so he is Mommy and Daddy's brother-in law.
Y: Yordahabtamu no brother?
Me: No, he is your Uncle.
Y: Yordanos no brother?
Me: Uncle Paul is your Uncle.
Y: NO-uh. I said something different. Habtamu Yordanos brother sister?
Me: Yes. You and Habtamu are brother and sister.
Y: Me marry Habtamu?
Me: No.

This is about the time my head explodes. It's like sparring with an opponent with no reasoning skills or logic. It's like they're CHILDREN or something. :)


The Awesome Part

The awesome part about home schooling is this:

Just when I think I cannot possibly do this long term, cool stuff like this happens, and I realized how much they have learned. And I get proud, of them, of me. I taught them how to do this... pretty heady stuff.


Yordi's ESB Review

If you haven't seen The Empire Strikes Back yet, you might not want to play the following audio clip. Then again, it probably wouldn't that hurt much either...

One of the things that masochistically enjoy about my children is hearing them talk about movies. It's just really interesting what 4 seconds of plot either of them will pick up on from a 2 hour movie. The problem is, they're only excited to talk about it once then the magic is over, so it's really hard to catch it. This following is an audio clip of Yordanos revealing to me the highlights of Empire Strikes Back. I'm sure many of you have seen it multiple times, but you probably missed one of the most critical plot points. Don't worry, Yordanos has it all figured out.

Christmas Day CatchUp

Christmas day we piled into my car, which normally fits four people just fine, and headed out to White Pines to meet up with the rest of my family. This was our first full family overnighter, so we hoped the kids would be fine, but you just never know. The thing we had going for us though, was that in general, the kids actually do better in close quarters with a bunch of people around.

Long story short (because if I give you the long version it'll neh-hever get posted) the kids did great. They received a cubic ton of stuff from their grandparents and their Aunt Carrie and Uncle Paul, and it was enough to keep them occupied for 4 days. Uncle Paul brought their wii but between the puzzles, the erector set, the pretty princess tea party, the food, and the StarWars marathon, it wasn't even missed.
The Haul

Habtamu carefully chooses his first victim.

Don't get too comfortable in that Tiara there, sunshine.

Umm, never mind. Put the tiara back on.

Habtamu gets Old School'ed by Activision's Pitfall2, and loves every minute of it.

Who you callin' Old Maid?

The High Court has spoken, this Christmas royally rules.

Just a little lockerroom talk

So before all this fever business (which is getting better by the minute, btw. We can tell because H is starting to enjoy the crackers and TV of his sick day...) I took the kids swimming at the Y for the evening. H and I were getting out of the showers when we passed a large naked man heading in. I had already pulled my towel out of the locker and was drying off when I looked back and saw H standing at the shower entrance shivering (at this point we didn't know about fever.) He asked me to get his towel for him and my gut reaction was to tell him to walk the 6 feet and get it himself. But I didn't. I chose not to fight that battle, and as I'm turning, I hear the large naked voice say from the shower, "If you forgot your towel, I have a spare." I replied that he did indeed have a towel but thanks for the totally naked offer. I mean offer.

As H and I were getting dressed, I noticed that the guy's spare towel was personalized and after his name it had the letters 'SMSGT' which sounded military to me.

"Hey Habti, I think that man that said you could use his towel is a soldier," I noted.

"Soldier what mean? Like Police?" He replied.

"Um... not really. Soldier is a man who fights for America," I stammered, but I thought it was a decent description.

"Fight for America," He repeated, trying to processes what heck his Dad was talking about. "Did he win?"

"Win? Him? Uh... Yeah. I guess. He's home now so that's a good sign." Habtamu accepted that answer, as lame as it was, for which I was grateful. Sometime after that it did occur to me that maybe this guy wasn't a frontline grunt or squid or whatever, so I tried to explain to H about how some men actually do the fighting while many others help those men to fight by keeping them fed and getting them in the right place with the right tools. For all I knew, this guy could have been anything from Admiral to chef. H politely ignored me.

Eventually as we were leaving, this guy came back to the locker area. I told H to thank the man for offering his extra towel. H said thank you and looked me square in the eye and whispered, "Ask him." "Ask him what?" I said. "Win," he whispered. I smiled and explained the situation to the man, including my son's question about whether he has 'won the fight for America or not.' The guy smiled and even though I totally put him on the spot, he diplomatically answered that everyday we get a little closer to Freedom. This was not an acceptable answer for Habtamu who then looked to me for clarification. "Not yet win," I said, "Still trying." H was ok with that. "Good guy?" He asked. "Yes," I said. The man smiled. I thanked him for his time and we left.
Them's a lot of stripes!

I googled SMSGT when I got home and turns out, he was far more polite than his rank required. On behalf of myself and two of America's newest permanent residents (soon to be citizens) thank you, Sir, for continuing to serve our country even when you're off duty and caught in your birthday suit.

Q and A: Will the fun ever start?

Q: Does this mean than many months from now we are still going to have regressive behavior, with no clear explanation and no clear resolution?

-Kate (recently adopted 2 Ethiopian children)

I'm afraid so, BUT they come less frequently. Also, once the language fills in, some explanations come. Not always, but sometimes. :) We do the best we can with what we've got!

Other A:
If your current misery needs some company, read our posts from July and August. We didn't have scabies, but we did get the cops called on us... oh, the Glory Days...

You know what though... It's been 6 months and Habtamu's last meltdown was so half-hearted it was almost amusing. He tried really hard to steady himself first because he knows the discipline routine, and at the last minute decided to commit to being disobedient. But really, you could tell that his head was telling him it was a bad idea, he just couldn't stop the train. He didn't yell as long, he didn't cry as loud, and (relatively speaking) it was over quickly. And basically it was a routine that he KNEW wasn't working but some wayward emotion told him to give it a try it anyway. The outcome was predictable and he received the same set of consequences he always does.

I guess what I'm saying is that it gets better. Another reader who had adopted a 10 yr old boy commented on our blog early on and said that basically, the demons will come out less and less and after a year you'll have the son you fell in love with "full-time." There were days that that comment alone is all I could hang onto.

After 6 months I can totally see that coming down the track. I can joke with both children and more importantly, they can tell me when I'm not funny. Anyway, in general, they both would now rather put effort into communicating their feelings than screaming themselves into exhaustion while Daddy 'helps them help themselves' pinned in a full-nelson. They don't like losing TV for days at a time. They have a love/hate relationship with apologies. They move on and hold grudges less than I do.

We take those as good signs.

It kind of disturbs me though to think that our blog could someday possibly turn into one of those happy/sappy/crappy life-is-like-our-Christmas-card-everyday ones. What would I write about? "Dear world, our kids were simply awesome today... Again! That makes 682 straight days of awesomeness. Can you believe it? Please comment."

Gag me.

Anyway, in my oh so wonderful world, I've been awake since H upchucked at 3:30 and should probably stop writing before I type something that I really regret. The good news is, I was up for the Snow Day call at 4:45am (one of the big advantages of working for a school system.) The bad news is it's -13 with a windchill of -30. Fan-freekin-tastic.
Ok, time to step away from the keyboard!


It was bound to happen.

Our kids have been SO healthy this whole time. Seriously, aside from Habtamu's eye sties, there's been sniffles and that's it.

Finally, the other shoe has dropped. Habtamu has a fever of 102.9. He said his head hurt and he was shivering, so I took his temp. Yikes! I was hoping the maternal instinct would kick in and I'd know what to do, but I had a few "run around in a circle like a chicken with it's head cut off" moments before figuring it out.

I gave him acetaminophen and put him on the couch. I'm settling in for a long night of no sleep... Lee's going out for saltines, 7-up, and chicken noodle soup, and possibly a Coke for me.

Yordanos woke up with all the moaning, and moving him downstairs, so she's down on the other couch... afraid to sleep alone upstairs... rightfully so.

Habtamu is sleeping finally... I think. Whew. Pray for us, people. Thanks.


Follow Up Questions

Oh, you people with younger children should laugh it up while you can... your children will start with the questions soon enough. :)

You missed Habtamu's follow up question to yesterday's conversations. "Um, Mom, how do the egg and the sperm come together?"

I wimped out a little, and talked about how the sperm works it's way into the egg and then a baby starts to grow. I'll have to get a book.

Morning Greetings

So, I'm sleeping this morning and I hear a little voice. I take my earplug out and open one eye and say "What?" Not a mean what, just a regular what. Yordanos rolls her eyes and says "Nevermind!" So I summon up patience that could only have come from God, and say "I couldn't hear you, I was sleeping." She says "ARE-YOU-AWAKE?" I said "Well, I wasn't until you woke me up." She said "GO-AHEAD-AND-SLEEP-ALL-DAY!" and slams my bedroom door shut, and then slams some more doors. And I thought, Today is going to be a long day.

And, indeed, she finished school and became angry and sullen. I got her to eat lunch, and she was mean to everyone and everything, so I sent her to her room. She's been up there for 2 hours beating up her stuffed animals... actually beating their heads on her bedboard. Then she pitched all the stuffed animals down the stairwell. She finally picked them all up, and so I went up there. I apparently am a catalyst for her anger today, as she glared at me, baited me, and started beating the stuffed animals again when I left.

I'm at a loss today, as I got my period and did not sleep well, and I cannot hardly think. I've called Lee about 10 times to see what to do or try, because my blood pressure rises just seeing her glare at me.


Topics Covered at Lunch Today with the Children

1. How babies are made.
2. Why Mommies and Daddies sleep in the same bed. (I told them it was because Lee was warm.)
3. Why you can't marry your brother or sister. (Or first cousin.)
4. Circumcism: pros and cons. Discuss.

Previous Discussions that I never thought I'd have:
1. Do dead people celebrate Christmas?
2. If only your soul goes to heaven, how do you play with no eyes?
3. Why the new boy cat has to go to the vet. And, as a follow-up question, why he has to have those things cut off.

I really try to answer questions as matter-of-fact as I can. I have decided NOT to be embarrassed about things related to the common human experience, and want the kids to be able to talk to me about ANYTHING, and so far they DO.


Rookie Parent Alert

The best laid plans often go awry...

We joined the YMCA at the end of December and I signed Yordanos up for Dance and Swimming, and Habtamu for Tumbling and Swimming. Doesn't sound too taxing, right? Huh...

Monday: Yordanos comes back dreamy eyed from dance class. I promise her if she still likes it after the 7 weeks, I'll buy her the dance shoes and outfit. I went to a Step class, which, when you are almost 40 is pretty hard. I'm still recovering from the sledding incident awhile back, and my tail bone area is twinge-y.

Tuesday: Tumbling. Habtamu and 2 little blond girls. Um. I had Yordanos along too, and they lady said she could see if she liked it. Y liked it, H, not so much. My friend's son used to be in the class, and I think that would have flown better with H, but since he was not in it, we had to do some fixing. I couldn't get my $ back, but I was able to put Y in instead of H, BUT then H only had swimming, and he's the one who really needs more activity. Sooooo....

Wednesday: We all went to Karate. It was $70 for one person or $104 for the whole family. So we all went to Karate. There are classes 4 days of the week, and we can go as many times in a week as we want. We bought H the uniform because we are suckers, and he has been wanting one for, oh, um, since we picked him up in Ethiopia. He started complaining about the new uniform right away, which made me want to rip it from his hands and throw it away, but I resisted, and figured he was doing his "say the opposite of what I really feel, because I can't handle my feelings about getting what I want." I do a lot of shrugging and making my face as neutral as possible these days.

Thursday: Y and H had swimming lessons. (Thanks Uncle Paul and Aunt Carrie!) At the end of class, the teacher asked if they'd taken classes before because they did so well. I was able to be one of THOSE parents and brag that they'd never swam before last June, and aren't they wonderful?, etc... etc...

Friday: It was Family Fun Night tonight. (Forced Family Fun, if you will.) There were not that many families there, and Lee was the only father. Of the families there, many were of mixed race. Not sure why that was. Yordanos wanted to play ping-pong with me, and I prepared myself to chase the ball a lot. BUT, she plays very well for her age. I said "You played in Ethiopia, didn't you?" "Yes, a lot!" Huh. They continue to surprise me. Also, they got to swim, but not until 8 p.m. There is Open Pool from 8-10:45 every night, which makes me think "Oh, thank you very much. What about bed-times, people?" They were in bed at 9:45 (Yikes!) tonight, and were exhausted. We certainly got lucky in the "good sleepers" category. At the Hilton in Addis Ababa, they slept 11-12 hours every night, and they do about 10-11 hours here. They rarely get up at night, unless Yordi gets scared (very rare now), or if someone has to use the bathroom. They got up at 10 this morning. (Sorry, Katherine! - My friend Katherine has early risers, no matter what time they go to bed.) Must have been tired from the pool the day before. Hoping they'll sleep in tomorrow, so WE can sleep in.


Christmas Morning

We told the kids that we would open presents at 8. We figured there was no way they would wait that long. Especially after they found out that their friends were going to get up at 6. I told them that they were more than welcome to go to their friend's house in the morning and watch them open their gifts as long as they were home at 8. They didn't think it was funny, I thought it was hilarious.

They were up at 7, which was extremely reasonable. On top of it, they tried to play quietly until 8, with mediocre success. So Chris and I finally got up and the festivities began.

The kids first went for the two small bags in front of the tree. Yordi dumped out a pile of candy and said, "Wow, that's nice. From Santa?" Before I realized what she asked, Chris answered, "No honey, it's from Daddy's friends." "Oh, that's nice," she said again without disappointment. I just stared at my wife thinking, would it have been too much to ask to just say "Yes"? Yordanos wasn't expecting anything big from Santa... a little pile of candy was enough to satisfy the gift requirement and her curiosity. So I glared, sighed, and moved on. There was too much going on to let this missed opportunity ruin anything.

The rest of the morning was your typical Christmas morning feeding frenzy. The torn remains of wrapping paper littered the floor. What took weeks to create, was undone in about 7 minutes, and that included several 'intermissions' to wrangle a cat out from under the tree.

OOoooOOOooo Blue Pencils!

The kids did really good about not coveting thine siblings treasure, which shows Chris did a really good job of keeping the playing field even. Habtamu's big gift was an Erector Set, which we thought he'd be more excited about, but really he didn't understand what it was. Yordanos knew exactly what to do with the Pretty Princess Tea Set for 4 (complete with tiaras and boas) that she got.
Pink Pencils! How did you know?

Yordanos actually jiggled the fireshield at one point. I don't know why, I just know that she couldn't open it so the gift inside is still a surprise.

Then they got to experience another fine Gardner tradition... grab whatever gifts will fit into your overnight bag and jump in the car. Yes, for many generations we've been traveling on Christmas Day, and probably will for years to come.

I hope it's a box of personal space!

My folks rented a cabin near White Pines State park this year, so though we knew Christmas would be an adventure, we also had to prepare the kids for being away from home for the 4 days.

The kids survived Christmas morning, but would they survive closed quarters with the rest of the family? The saga continues...

Blogging Here Too

I'll be blogging here, too, now (again). Don't feel duty bound to read it, it's just boring stuff rolling around in my head that needs to come out somewhere. :)


What, me worry?

We've had to hire a lawyer to finish up the adoption stuff for Illinois. Basically, it's presenting all our Ethiopia paperwork and the kids' Permanent Resident cards to the Illinois courts for them to acknowledge them. Then we'll get new birth certificates, and be able to get Social Security numbers... oh, yeah, and they'll be citizens. Anyhoo, all this fun costs about $2,000.

We had to give a $1,000 retainer to the lawyer to start the process, and though we did have the money, it was painful because that was 1/2 our vacation money for next summer. So, we sighed and paid it. No choice.

We went away for a few days with Lee's family for Christmas, and when we got back, we had a check waiting for us for the exact amount we'd just paid from America World. (We'd paid something twice at some point.) Then we got another check for that same amount, and then another check for a smaller amount. Then I got paid for my newspaper article. And to top it off, today we got a check for $5 from the Oklahoma Secretary of State. (Some fee we overpaid for a document we needed last year.) I mean, really, come ON. I said to God, "Now you're just showing off!"

Our God is an awesome God and I felt privileged to be shown so clearly, time and time again, that He will take care of us.


In case all you geeks out there were wondering where we were with the SciFi Indoctrination, you'll be happy to know that the kids watched Star Wars, Episodes IV, V, and VI over Christmas. I also let them watch episodes I, II, and III... let us never speak of THOSE again.

Habtamu pretty much understood what was going on in the movies, or at least didn't ask the same question 900 times like Yordanos did. She really can't understand complex thinking at this point. (C'mon kid, you're like what, SEVEN?) She wanted to know Good or Bad? and Died? So all the movies had live commentary:

"Mommy, good or bad?"
"We don't know yet. Watch the movie."
"Mommy, good or bad?"
"We don't know yet. Watch the movie."
"Mommy, good or bad?"
"Mommy? I mean Daddy? Good or bad?"

"Bad guy died?"
"Bad guy died?"
"Good guy died?"
"Bad guy died?"
"Bad guy died?"
"Good guy died?"

Then we get to the dramatic scene where Darth Vader expires in Luke's arms, and she asks, "Sleeping?" Lee and I looked at her like, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? One of us answered nicely, "No, honey, he died, but he died a good guy."

And here, for your listening pleasure, before she learns English too well, is her attempt to say "Obi Wan Kenobi". (Sorry, the pic is dark... it looked better before I blogged it.)


Christmas Eve: Manipulating Loved Ones 101

One of the nice things about having children 10 years into our marriage is that Chris and I know how to communicate and, in general, are on the same page about snacks, bedtimes, and appropriate behaviors/consequences. This helps us present a very solid, unified front and allows us to tagteam effectively. We may still get played, but we rarely get played against each other.

On the other hand, having children this late into our marriage can make you feel like a newlywed again... and not in the good way. I'm talking about the "Of course we'll drive to Paducah for Easter, right honey?" way or the "Why didn't you tell me your aunt was Vegetarian before I started grilling steaks?" way. If anything can bring out situations that you should have already discussed, it's the holidays, and the first big one with new children is no exception. It has been exciting, forming new traditions, introducing the kids to American Christmas, etc... oh, by the way the kids did not celebrate Christmas in Ethiopia, they only remember birthday parties, which kinda makes me giggle when that 80's song by Band Aid, gets played on the radio. There's a line in it about "Do they know it's Christmas Time at all?" I just keep thinking, "Nope. And they really don't care."

Anyway, This year I whiffed on a big one... well ok, we talked about it, but I kinda changed the flight path without clearing it with ground control. See, I told you, total new groom mistake. The topic: Santa.

The game plan was that we would tell the tale/legend/mythos of Santa, but emphasize that it was only a story. I've got no beef with Santa, but Chris wasn't a big fan and I don't think the, "OMG how did this present fit down the chimney?" surprise factor was part of her Christmas Day tradition. Knowing that she was going to spend the most time explaining, prepping, and wrapping, I didn't argue and frankly at Thanksgiving, this made a lot of sense to me.

But you can only answer, "That's how the story goes," so many times. And as December 25th drew closer and closer, the questions and reassurances came faster and faster. I could feel my stock answer crumbling under the pressure.

"Santa come here, yes?"
"Yes, that's the story."
"Santa fly?"
"No, but his reindeer do."
"Yes, that's the story."
"Deer fly? No!"
"Santa's reindeer really fly."
"Yes. That's how Santa gets everywhere."
"Everywhere what everywhere?"
"Every house."
"Yes, every family. Oh, I mean, that's that story."
"So that everyone gets a present."
"How in?"
"Through the fireplace."
"Really? No! Too big!"
"That's the story."
"Really fireplace?"
"Really, Really?"
"Yes! That's really how the Santa story goes"
"Really Santa?"
"Um... Really Santa... story? Wait, what?"
"Really Santa?"
"Er... uh, Senator, at this time I have no recollection of those events."

Finally one evening while I was reading books to them, Habtamu announced in front of his sister that there was no Santa. So I said, "If you don't think he's coming, then do not expect him to leave you any presents." I could see his pupils dilating as he tried to wrap his mind around that one. It may have ended the discussion, but I also knew I was on the downward spiral toward sleeping on the couch. I never said, "Yes, Santa will bring you stuff" but I certainly didn't say no. In my tradition, the family gifts were put under the tree before Christmas Eve, and then Christmas morning there were more presents and the stockings were mysteriously filled.

About a week before Christmas, the kids were out of the house for the evening and so Chris wrapped all the presents and put them under the tree. She also stuffed their stockings. I asked her if she saved anything for Christmas Day. "Why would I do that?" she asked. That's when we *should* have had the Santa discussion, but I just walked away. Its kind of hard to argue the case FOR Santa with another adult. Again, she did all the wrapping, it made sense to let her decide when to put things under the tree when she wanted to. We did save one present and two small grab bags that I got for playing guitar at a party, because we hadn't decided exactly what we were going to do with them. We knew that we would be leaving for 4 days the afternoon of Christmas Day, and this particular gift we didn't want to have to pry the kids away from after they opened it, so we decided to unveil it after the trip to the cabin.

Christmas eve, I rearranged the presents so at least maybe it would *look* like more stuff was under there, and put the two small bags with candy in front, figuring they could tear into those first thing and let us sleep an extra 30 seconds. Then, after Chris went to bed, it was really bothering me that nothing was coming from Santa, so I took the last gift, added "From Santa and his little helpers" to the card that came with it, and stuck it in the (unlit) fireplace. We have an iron fireshield which would have to be removed in order to see what's inside. I put the card on the mantle amongst the lights and decorations.

Tomorrow, we would no longer be waiting for Christmas. The anticipation would be over.

For whatever reason I was under the impression that family traditions were well thought out and had some form of rhyme and reason to their creation. "We visit your side of the family for Easter, mine for Christmas," kind of wheeling and dealing. I didn't realize that some were created because somebody ran out of time and needed a scapegoat, or because Daddy is lazy and passive-aggressive, or simply from whoever is the most stubborn and willing to put a present in the fireplace at 2am.

We must be family now because it's Christmas Eve and we haven't decided whether to invite Santa or not.