Star Wars: More influential than Rome

So the other evening at dinner I asked my son what he was studying in math. He told me he was doing decimals and Star Wars numbers.

"Star Wars numbers?" I asked, "What do you mean?"

"You know," he said, "like Star Wars Eye and Star Wars Ivy. I can count to 1000."


"Oh, gotcha. Star Wars I, and Star Wars IV," I said, "Yes, those are important to learn."

PS) It's also notable that Star Wars math has it's limitations, other than just missing a 'zero.' For instance Star Wars II + Star Wars III does not equal Star Wars V. Just ask my wife.


What's black and fuzzy and can't stop smiling?

Here's a little Monday morning warm fuzzy.
So this little Sesame Street video got it's 15 minutes of fame on the internet recently.  If you haven't seen "I love my hair" here it is:

 (Pardon the video formating, I'm new at this...)

Of course, the most interesting part of the sketch for me is the story behind it.  Just to spoil it, one of the head writers wrote it for his adopted Ethiopian daughter (as if I wasn't all misty already.)
Click here for the interview.


Daddy wasn't born yesterday

I was in the bathroom this morning when Yordi waltzed in.  She saw me preening in the mirror and told me that I looked great. I said I would be finished as soon as I yanked this one particularly irritating hair.

"Really, Dad, your hair looks fine as it is," she smiles.

"Thanks, but this one is grey and it's bugging me."

"Gah... Dad.  Everybody at church has grey hair.  It's okay." She smiles and bats her eyes reassuringly.

"Um... that's very thoughtful honey.  Wait.  You just want me out of the bathroom don't you?"

"Yeah, I need to brush my teeth."


Sleeping in Seattle

Lee and I recently got a week long vacation in Seattle, without the children.  I KNOW, right?  Well, it was wonderful.  We walked and talked and finished sentences, had whole conversations, picked up ideas from the day before and, in general, remembered why we liked each other.  It's so easy for that core of the relationship to get buried with all the needs and demands of the OTHER PEOPLE that live in our house. 

I was a little worried about flying.  The last time I was on an airplane was coming back from Ethiopia, and that was a horrible trip... worth it, don't get me wrong... but, horrible.  The flight to Seattle was reasonably set at 4 hours... instead of 16... so that helped.  Lee got me a window seat, which I didn't want... me of the tiny bladder... but it turned out to be really nice.  The whole flight was clear and blue, and seeing the horizon curving pleased me.  From up there, water towers looked like jellyfish and wind turbines looked like wispy flowers.  I loved watching the land undulate across the country. (I think we were in Canadian airspace at least part of the time.) Here is where the mountains stopped for a bit.

The reason for our visit to Seattle was a conference that Lee was attending.  With the conference, we got a dinner in the Space Needle at dusk.  The people we were with had speculative conversations about whether the top portion actually was rotating or not.  I'm sure the open bar had nothing to do with that particular line of reasoning.

And here's the city as the sun was setting.  I took plenty of pictures of this as the evening wore on.  I kept walking around and around the circle.  It was mesmerizing.

 More later.  Possibly. Probably.


Careful which way you launch that conversation

I read this article today about how children who have a "conversation friend" learn better. They figure out reading quicker because they've already heard the words used in context. They also gain better problem solving and social skills if they have someone available with which to talk through their thoughts. The article then lamented that the role of the conversation friend isn't being filled by parents any more, exacerbated by the economy, both parents working, longer shifts, etc... What I took away from the article was, as a parent, we need to create opportunities for conversation time with our children and relish those times when they happen. Sounds basic enough, but it's something I've kind of gotten away from as I've become one of those in the 'longer shifts' category.

So tonight, I had that article percolating in my noodle as I picked up the kids for soccer. And, I think that's the reason I left talk radio on instead of switching it to the top40 station the kids usually prefer. The kids asked why, but accepted my answer of, "sometimes I'm in the mood for music, other times I'm in the mood for talking." Maybe the kids would pick up on something and it would spark a conversation that didn't involve deciphering pop lyrics, or on the other hand, the talking might mellow them out a bit before bed. Either way, I welcomed the change. The radio host had latched on to something (or a series of things, honestly I don't really remember) to be highly incensed about and he was very animated.

After listening a bit, Yo piped up from the back seat, "Dad, what's a launching pad?" Perfect! An excellent question asked because this guy on the radio used the phrase. So I stumbled through the definition in Tired-Daddy-ese. My explanation went something like, "Well, a real launching pad is where a rocket or missile sits before you shoot it. But he's using it to mean a place where something big and important starts." "Oh, like how a rocket starts slow and then gets faster and faster," chimed in Habtamu. "Well, no, in this case I think he's talking about something that starts quickly too, but you've got the right idea." The radio guy was actually talking about Afghanistan being a 'launching pad' for terrorist attacks, but of all of the words in that statement, I was glad that 'launching pad' is what got Yordi's wheels rolling.

A couple minutes go by and the radio blathers on.

"Dad," I hear from the back seat. "What's a drug dealer?"


I'm afraid my answer this time wasn't nearly as eloquent...


A Day in the Life

H: Let's play basketball!
Y: OK!

H: (paraphrased) You're doing it wrong!
Y: (paraphrased) No, I'm not!
H: (paraphrased) Fine.  You want to do it wrong?  OK!

Y: You can play by yourself then!
H: You SAID you wanted to play!

Y: Mom!  Mom!  He's telling me what to do!

Y: Mom! Mom!

Y: Mom!  Stoooooooooooop! 

Y: Mom!  I'm trying to stay angry!

Y: Mom!  Stop making me laugh!

Y: StooooooooOOOOOOoooooooop!

Y: Oomba.  (Ethiopian equivalent of a pout.) I'm not talking to you!

30 seconds later...




Those of you who have become parents know that some major re-wiring goes on in your brain because of them.  There are, of course, other things that help change you (passage of time, maturity, God: not necessarily in that order), but in my experience, becoming a parent made the most life altering changes in my brain.

Patience, Patience.
How many of us have prayed for patience.  I would tell people half-jokingly, "Don't do it!  Don't pray for THAT!"  Because, guess what?  You don't automatically become patient. It's not a gift that is yours for the taking, purchasing, begging, borrowing, OR stealing. You learn it through repeatedly being in situations that make you want to lose your mind, blow your stack, erupt like a volcano.  Well, you get the drift.  And if anyone can tell me a better proving ground for learning patience than having children, I'd love to hear it.   The practice of patience is daily, hourly, minutely... and secondly on some days.  One of the major things that stops me in my impatient tracks is the realization that I am modeling behavior for my children.  ARGH.  I HAVE to take the high road if I expect them to see how to live patiently.  Some days, for me, patience is keeping my mouth tightly shut when I want to say totally useless and unhelpful things like "Hurry up!"  and "We've got to go NOW!"  and "What is taking you so long?!" and "You should have done that earlier!"  These only serve to add fuel to a fire that is beyond my control.  The invariable answer from the recipients of these phrases is "I AM HURRYING!" and then their increased frustration, which makes them MOVE SLOWER.

Unconditional Love
We know that God loves us unconditionally, but we never realize what that means until presented with people that you HAVE to love because they are yours. In our case, getting older children with a history, memory, past, personalities already in place, created much opportunity for learning about love.  It makes sense that we did not all love each other right away.  We had all just met.  And, while Lee and I had a choice in choosing each other as mates, bearing or adopting children gives you little choice.  You get what you get.  True in any way you create a family.  So, now you've got these little strangers in your house, whether a baby born to you, adopted by you, depending on you.  And you've got to make the 1st move of loving them.  For me, after a couple of weeks I realized that these children were going to be our children forever... and then I had to keep realizing it every day for awhile.  We had not had children in our house for that long before, ever, and I'd wake up at night and think, "There are children in the house!"  That thought filled me with dread and wonder and fear and joy all at the same time.  After a couple of months I realized that I would give my life for theirs, but grudgingly, because it was the right thing to do.  After a couple more months, the grudgingly part went away and was replaced by GLADLY.  (God never had the grudging part, I'm sure.)

Caring More and Less
There are many things I used to care about, but don't anymore.  You can imagine what they are... Lee and I were alone, with 2 good jobs for 10 years.  Alone in our quiet house.  Able to do anything, anytime.  Go anywhere, anytime. I miss those things sometimes.  I miss being able to complete a sentence, a thought, an idea without being interrupted.  I don't think I've even been to the bathroom in the last 2 years without someone needing me urgently as soon as I close the door.  And yet, all this needing me is fleeting.  I know that some day, they will not come to me at night because they had a bad dream, because they feel sick, because they heard a noise.  I know, or at least desire, that they will grow and mature into a man and woman of God... people that care about the important things (God, other people, injustice, peace) and care less about the unimportant things (power, money, position, video games, TV).  In wanting to teach these things, I have been changed as well.  I thought and hoped I didn't care about money, until we went to one income so I could stay home with the children, then went to a lower one salary when Lee got laid off and had to find a new job. It took some adjustment, but I certainly care less about money now that we've got less of it. We've got riches in other areas that are much more important.

I know there are many more ways we have been re-wired.  What are the ways you have been changed?

These pics have nothing to do with the post, just thought you'd like to see them.


Half Empty or Half Full?

I forget what Habtamu even said one day, but I called him "Mr. Glass Half Empty."  He didn't know what I meant, so Lee volunteered to demonstrate.

He asked the kids, "Is this glass half full?"

They answered "Yes."

"Is is half empty?"


"Well, which is it?  Half full or half empty?"

Habtamu answered glumly, "Half empty."

And Yordanos chirped happily, "Half full!"

And there, my friends, is the truth of my kids' personalities in a nutshell.

When I announced to my family that I had finally swum the length of the pool (25 yards) without taking a breath, Lee and Yordanos cheered.  Habtamu's comment?  "Huh.  I bet lots of people can do that."  Lee shook his head and said, "All that water in the pool, and it's STILL half empty."

Can you guess what kind of a personality I had as a child?  Hello 1st grade!  (Mom? Were there no re-take days available?)

It gives me hope that if we're born with a "glass half empty" sort of personality, we can sometimes, with God's help become "half full" people.


Inanimate Love

I finally broke down and bought a food processor. There have been many times I have not made something because it needed a food processor, OR I tried whatever it was in the blender, and it just didn't work right.

I can't help but love the cheerful red color, and this little cutie has been used nearly every day since I got it.

This appliance also gets a daily workout...

But, of course, this is my favorite...

Which kitchen helpers make your life easier?

This was NOT posted by Lee.  Anyone know how to change that once it's posted?


Happy Belated Birthday

I am the world's worst birthday party thrower.  I don't care about themes, prize bags, or raffia decorations.  I know, being crafty, I SHOULD care, but I just don't.  This year, I asked a friend to make the cakes, and they were totally awesome. 

Cakes of chocolately awesomeness:

My hastily thrown together event went surprisingly well.  It was horribly HOT, we were at the park for 2 hours and then strategically retreated home to sit in the A/C.  I know, I know... I'm RUINING birthdays for my children by being a Grinch.  Don't tell them, though, because they had a great time. :)

Here's Habtamu receiving a bag of things that he'd left at our friends' house... his own hat and his own sunglasses.  He also got a baseball game for the Wii.

Here's Yordanos receiving every Hello Kitty thing on the market... thanks Grandma!  Lee said, "Somewhere, Hello Kitty is walking around with no clothes."

And here's one of the happiest sights for my children.  Grandma and Grandpa arriving... laden with food and gifts.  Grandpa let the children dig out one handful of coins from his change jar and keep it.  It was something his Grandpa used to let him do from time to time.  It's amazing how much change can be held with the right motivation.  I think both kids got over $12.

For my daughter, her baby cousin is the BEST THING EVER.  I rarely get to hold my niece.  

She's pretty much as cute as these babies... my "little" ones.


Shadow Warriors

One of the joys of soccer is seeing your children learn and be excited about playing.  The delight these girls have as they take the field is palpable. They run out onto the field with huge smiles and energetic hops... like lambs leaping just for the fun of it.

Once the game starts, though, they are all business.  Focused.  Tough.  Last year, Yordanos (Yo-Yo to her teammates) took a ball to the face in the last few minutes of a game.  It looked like her mouth was hurt, but she didn't stop playing.  The game ended and she comes over and I see that both her upper and lower lips were cut and bleeding from the ball hitting her.

"Honey!" I say, all concerned, "Why didn't you tell Coach you were bleeding?"

She rolled her eyes and said, "Mom!  I didn't want to get pulled from the game in the last 2 minutes."

I've seen her crumple to the ground after being tripped, pushed, hit in the stomach with a ball.  She usually bounces right back up and keeps playing.  A couple of times she has lain there a little bit crying, but still she gets up with renewed vigor and KEEPS PLAYING.

People, this is so NOT ME as a child.

Last weekend the kids played in a tournament in Elgin.  Here are the U-12 (Under 12 year old) girls going to warm up for their 1st game.  They played 3 games... losing one and winning two, which was enough to get them into the finals.  Getting to the finals is something you hope for and dread.  Hope for, because, well, COOL, you'll get a trophy no matter what.  But dread, because, AW MAN, we have to wait around for 3 hours for the final.

The girls played their hearts out, and were briefly in the lead, but they couldn't hold onto it and lost 2-1.  Here is Yo-Yo and her coach.  That is the 2nd place trophy.  Can you believe that?  That thing is huge.  This is her 2nd trophy. 

Habtamu handled the "my sister got a trophy and I didn't" much better this time than last time.  His team, a co-ed U-14, won one, lost one and tied one in the tournament... not quite enough to go on.  They kept the ball mostly on the "right" side, meaning they had dozens of attempts to score, but just couldn't do it.  Their coach told them (loudly) after the game, "I don't care if the score is 1,000 to 1... you keep playing like it's 0-0....you keep running and trying!"  I love him.


Good Thing...

Good thing he doesn't have to worry about being President of the U.S.  It's the only job unavailable to him.

If someone could explain adolescent boys to me, I'd appreciate it.

Also, to all you kids out there... if you're going to take pictures of yourself with the camera, assume that they will be posted on your parents' blog.



But enough about us

A couple weeks ago a co-worker of mine mentioned that she had seen an article in our local paper about another couple adopting from Ethiopia. Although this person has never steered me wrong at the office, my 'baloney alarm' went off immediately. First of all, "local Ethiopian news" is a complete oxymoron out here. Secondly, although it doesn't happen as often as it used to, good-natured folks would catch wind of some Africa story (usually adoption related but not always) and tell us about the one detail they kinda remembered.

Stuff like this:
"Hey Gardner, where are your kids from again? Africa, right?"
"Yes. Ethiopia."
"I think the Jones's went on a mission trip to Africa back in the mid-eighties. It might have been to Ethiopia. You should ask them about it."
"..." "Um... ok, I'll do that."

And thus my friend is now freed from all that bottled up "I-know-something-about-Africa tension" and I am left trying to figure out if I even know who the Jones are (or were?).

I know this comes with the territory. You tell people you work with computers, you get computer woes. Expecting moms get TMI on other peoples pregnancies. Doctors hear medical stories, etc, etc... I'm not knocking the intention, just the execution. And honestly, most of the people I come in contact with these day are now pretty informed and/or invested in my family, making it a non-issue. Oh, and on a related note, I've been pleasantly surprised at how many folks have been pronouncing my children's names correctly lately. I don't want you folks to think I didn't notice. Kudos!

So anyway, since most of the second-hand adoption stories have petered out, I was really skeptical to hear this report about a newspaper article involving a local international adoption. And not just an African adoption, but an Ethiopian adoption. And not just an Ethiopian adoption, but an older Ethiopian adoption. And not just that but the adoption of a 6 year old girl!?

I call shenanigans. Surely you've mistaken someone else's story for, say uh, maybe, MINE.

So I jumped on the ol' internet and 30 seconds later found this article. In case the link disappears, it's about a family in our neighboring county who has been matched with their 6 year old daughter in Ethiopia. They're waiting for the call to come get her.

Click Here for the Article

I promptly went back to my coworker and apologized for ever doubting her. The next thing I did was write the reporter a hurried email that sounded more like an insecure freshman botching a date than a viable invitation. It went something like, "Dear Mr. Stanley, I'd like to meet those people you interviewed. So if, like, they want to, you know, get together or something, that'd be cool, but you know, if they, like, don't, then, that's cool too. I totally understand." I probably could have just posted, "OMG, ME TOO!!!" in the articles comment section and been more coherent, but fortunately Mr. Stanley was able to cut to the chase and relay my contact info.

Two days later I received an email from them excited to hear from us and thirsty for information. I did my best not to spew too much advice, and I only shared Chris's and my first reactions after reading the article.
-I told them to start their cardio workouts now. The 8000 ft. elevation of Addis Ababa can be a show stopper. If I could do one thing differently, that I had any control over, I'd have hit the treadmill harder.
-Chris suggested trying to get a picture of the inside of their child's mouth so a dentist could give them a better approximation of her age.

I hope things work out and we can get together sometime. I'd love to tell them that story I heard about the Jones from the mid eighties...


News Flash: English is still stupid two years later

Wreaking havoc with prepositions:

Dad: Don't touch the door handle! If you pull it twice, the car alarm will go off.
Habtamu: No Dad. (Eye roll) The alarm go on.
Dad: That's what I meant... when I said... it goes off.
H: But it goes on. Open the door and the alarm go on.
Dad: I know. When the alarm goes on, we say it goes off.
H: (blink) But it goes on.
Dad: I know. The alarm goes off. English is stupid.


Dad: I'll go rent a movie for tonight.
Yordanos: Oh Dad! Can we see the dog movie!
Dad: No, Marmaduke is out at the theaters.
Yordanos: Can we get the DVD?
Dad: No, it's not out yet.
Yordanos: WHYYY-YUH?
Dad: (Leer) because it's still out at the movie theater.
Yo: But you said it was out!
Dad: It is.
Yo: Then lets get it!
Dad: We can't. It's not out yet.
Yo: *Huff* *Pout* You said it was out!
Dad: Ok, it's still out IN the theaters, not out OF the theaters. So it's not out ON DVD yet. Get it?
Yo: (Gives me the 'I understand I ain't gonna see the movie' look)


Dramatic Entry into Adolescence

Oh, yes, dear readers, we are deep in the throws of adolescence. The boy child has been rapidly turning into the man/child.  Man in body, boy in spirit.  I believe Habtamu is now taller than me.  I'm trying not to think about it. Yordanos is now in young lady phase... sometimes "You come here right now, Young Lady!"  and sometimes, "You are becoming such a kind young lady."

I was reminded the other day how far we have actually come with overcoming childish behaviors... I should say we ALL have been working on this.  Turns out I had my own share of childish behaviors to overcome after seeing how obnoxious they were in children.  If I don't want my child to x,y, or z, then I can't x,y,or z.  Nuts.

Back to the man/child...  "Wha?"

He's desperately trying to grow up, and we're trying to give him more freedom.  He recently learned a big lesson about lying and a big lesson about messing up, fessing up, and moving on.  We're getting there.  He seems to grow up a little every day and I realize how quickly time is flying by.  He is very interested in "When I'm 16 can I ___?" and "When I'm 18 can I ____?"  "How old do you have to be to do _____?"   Part of us is trying to hold on tightly and say "NOoooooooooooooooooooooooo!  You can't be thinking about that YET."  and the other part is saying "Well, we've got to let go of some things."  Habtamu will often say things like, "So, you want to control me?"  and I'll say, "No.  I want YOU to control yourself."  And he'll say, "HOW I SUPPOSED TO DO THAT?"  "Well, pay attention to what I'm telling you now so you can make good choices later."

A good choice for this picture would have been to smile naturally, so you don't look like a rabid badger.


Holy Smokes!

Is it July already?

I think this is the longest we've gone without blogging here... ever.

I'll start you out with pics from Yordanos' Track and Field Camp in early June.  I don't think she had any fun.  Nope, not one little bit...


Pants on Fire

Me:  Did you eat breakfast?

Habtamu: Yes.

Me: (Go into kitchen, see Yordanos using the last of the milk.  Think: "Huh.  I didn't think there was enough milk for TWO bowls of cereal.")

Me: Hey, Habtamu?

H: Yeah?

Me: Did you say you ate breakfast?

H: Yes.

Me: What did you have?

H: A banana.

Me: Oh, ok.  You need to eat a little more.  You've got a soccer game this morning.

H: OH...  ERG...  BUT...  MOOOOOOOOOOOOM......................... (said in whiny, whiny voice)

Me: Just do it.  (Now thinking to myself  "I wonder if there's a banana peel in the garbage.  Should I check?  Should I become THAT mom, who checks up on every little thing?")

Me: Hey, Habtamu?

H: Yeah?

Me: You had a banana?

H: Yeah.

Me: Where's the banana peel?

H: What?

Me: Where's the banana peel?  You said you had a banana for breakfast.

H: Yeah, I did.

Me: Ok.  Where's the peel?

H: Oh, I thought you were talking about what I ate last night.

Me: Oh, uh-huh.  I think you lied to me.

H: FINE!  I lie about EVERYTHING!

Me: Sigh.  Why even BOTHER to lie about something so small?


Easter 2010... the Family Photo Fiasco

Just TRY to get a good picture of the whole family... when one of the adolescents refuses to even try for a good smile.  Just you try it.  We will gladly show these pictures to any of Habtamu's future girlfriends...


Take Someone Else's Kids to Work Day = SUCCESS

Excuse me, but I believe you're wearing my sash

I meant to blog about this earlier, but last week the kids went to 'Take your child to work day' at the Sears corporate office. No. I don't work for Sears now, but I know a guy... Anyway, it's brilliant. Sears gets to do marketing and product recognition research on a youth audience for a full day. The kids get food, meet some celebrities, and come home with a bag of stuff (Erin O'Connor, Miss Illinois 2009 was not IN the goodie bag...) And mom gets a day off. Everybody's happy.


The problem with having 2000 songs on your iPod

Scene opens with Habtamu and Lee in the car listening to Lee's MP3 player on random. An unfamiliar song begins.

H: (with trigger-happy finger on the NEXT button) Do you like this song?

L: (Song's Intro continues) I like how it starts but honestly I can't remember what song it is. What is the name of it?

H: I don't know. It's your music.

L: Well you can read now, what does the screen say.

H: (Squints at the music player) Cawd Heart SomethingSomethingSomething

L: Cahd? Like... C-O-D? Cold???

H: Yes. Cold Heart.

L: (brain searches by decade for a cold heart song while the song plays... still no lyrics) I don't know any cold heart songs. Is there more to the title?

H: Yes.

L: What's the rest of the title. Read it to me.

H: I can't.

L: Sound it out.

H: (getting frustrated) I can't. The letters are moving. I can't read it.

L: (realizing that long song titles start scrolling after a couple seconds) Ok, well spell it out for me.

H: C-O-L-D-H-A-R-D-B-I-T-C...

L: Yeah, you know what, lets just skip this song.

H: Why? You don't like it?

L: Not in the mood anymore. NEXT!

Aaaaand Scene


Yordanos in April

April 2008 - Ethiopia

April 2009 - USA

2010 - USA