Friday, June 27, 2008

Date night, PMS explained and Opera

Jeff and I had a date tonight... our first in about 4 months! We went to this wonderful Italian restaurant and actually had adult conversation that did not involve telling anyone "NO", threatening to take anyone to the "bathroom," (ie: threatening corporal punishment), breaking up any fights about who was going to sit by who, or running for my life to get away from the spilled drink (which inevitably happens every meal with our children.)
Unfortunately for Jeff, I took this opportunity to explain to him the ins and outs of PMS and how horrible it is to feel like Holly Hunter in the movie Raising Arizona crying, "I love them SO much," one minute and Linda Blair from the Exorcist spitting green vomit the next. I am Jekyll and Hyde. Forgive me for my very random, rambling thoughts...
So where was I going with this? Oh yeah. They were playing the most wonderful opera at the restaurant where my husband had to endure my company (I mean where we went on our wonderful date night.) Opera is so soothing to me. I love it so much. It doesn't even matter what they're saying; I just love it. Insert random thought here: Listening to the opera at the restaurant made me think of something I really love ... therefore I'm going to share it with you now. I think the lesson here is: when I feel like throwing things and spitting green vomit while my head spins around, I should listen to opera because it makes me happy and soothes the beast. Aren't you glad I finally got around to the point of this post?
**Pause the music player at the bottom of this page. You will want to hear this! It always takes my breath away and makes me cry every time I watch it. Get your tissue handy.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My surrogate sister

My surrogate sister, Susan, mother to Kalkidon and Michael, our kids' cousins, went to Ethiopia recently to secure a facility for her program - Project Glow. The first time I ever talked to Susan on the phone, I felt like I knew her. We have become internet friends and support for each other. You can read about the time we got to visit with her family here. She went to visit the grandmother of all of our kids. You can read about the time we spent with grandma here.

From her email:
"I also went to visit Grandma, Sazina, and Uncle Tomas. Overall though she was so happy to get photos of the kids...brought some of yours from our zoo visit. She was so funny and obviously LOVES you. In a sense she said, "your sister Gina stayed 2 days with me when she was here so can't you spend the night"....yeah right! She also said you had "meat" with her and insisted that I at least have some bread and tea. AND if that were not enough, the girl that was with me she thought looked like you and so she had to have her photo taken with her!!! You're obviously her favorite!

Two things she said about your kids...Joshua is an angel and always has been. I said, Merkeb is doing well...a little stubborn at times...and she quickly replied, "she is like her father" with a grin. SO cute!

My friend (the one that looks like you) just got home but she took some photos and will be sending them my way. She is a professional photographer and I can't wait to see the pics. I will be sure to send them on."

We were so excited to hear about her visit and her project. She is such a wonderful Godly woman; with a wonderful family. I love to lean on her in the rough times and support her in her rough times. As I have mentioned before, adoption has made me realize how important friendship, fellowship and truly loving your neighbor really is. Please pray for Grandma. She has not been in good health for quite some time, which is why the kids were all placed in the orphanage in the first place.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


This is a story about two brothers. Two brothers with similar aspirations. Two brothers who both wanted to achieve greatness. One brother had a natural God given gift. The other brother gave it his heart and soul and time. He practiced day in and day out. He was good. He just wan't as good as the other brother. There must have been some competition between brothers. There must have been hurt feelings along the way. How does a mother allow one brother to excel exponentially and explain to the other brother that they are just as special? How does a mother shine a light on the gifts and talents of all of her children and explain that they are all as wonderful and special as the one receiving all the accolades?

Nope, I'm not talking about Romulus and Remus... although I wonder if Mama Wolf ever felt bad that Romulus was the one to found what became the Roman empire... of course he killed his brother in order to do so... OK this was a bad example. Move on.
Nope, not these famous brothers either...
How did Babs make sure brother Jeb didn't feel like a loser? I'm sure this picture didn't help...
What about these brothers? One a gorgeous hunk of a movie star...err, I mean a talented actor making history with his philantrophy. The other brother living in the same boring city as me working on computers.... (snore)
What about David Cook; this year's American Idol? His brother tried out for AI and made him try out along with him... guess who won? The one who didn't really want to try out. Go figure.
Nope, I'm not talking about any of those brothers. I'm talking about these brothers.
Jack has played soccer since the year before Kindergarten. In comes Josh, a soccer superstar. A soccer superstar that people in this city are beginning to recognize and stop and say things like, "Everyone is talking about you. You're the man. There's no one in the State who we (SSC team) can't beat with you on the team..." And on and on.
Jack is a very good natured boy. He has so many wonderful and amazing talents. They just aren't advertised on a soccer field. I can see his little face looking somewhat forlorn when people begin bragging on Josh, and while I am SO happy for Josh, I can't help but feel a little bit bad for the boy who has been practicing and playing on a team for 5 years and is now in the shadow of his new brother. So how does a mother keep the playing field level? How do you make sure brothers learn to be happy and excited for each other, but also make sure they feel secure and happy with their own accomplishments? I don't know the answer to this, but here's what we're trying to do. We are trying to let Jack excel at the things he really is good at. We want him to be proud of his accomplishments in the many different areas that he is really, really great at.... school, music, reading and yes,
guitar hero champion of this house.
We will just continue to allow all of the kids to be individuals and to let them excel at what they do best, while embracing and feeling happy for their siblings.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Springfield Soccer Club

Josh attended two soccer tryouts last week for the Springfield Soccer Club. We found out on Friday that he made the team. We have decided to let him play with some school related stipulations. He is so excited! We are really happy for him and proud of him.
We'll let you know when practice and games start. It's going to be awesome!

Photo of the day...

Am I the only one in the history of blogging to blog about dog poop? This was just too funny. My dog ate red glitter and had an accident in the kitchen. Imagine my surprise when I saw my little transvestite dog's gift looking so spectacular! Sorry... I know it's disgusting, but I just couldn't help it.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Church Update

We visited a church on the north side of town today. This is a church that I have heard a lot of good things about, and I have wanted to visit for awhile. We were really in for a surprise. As soon as we got out of the car, we were pleasantly surprised to hear outdoor speakers in the parking lot playing Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Sammy Haggar songs. LOUD. We immediately saw the one African-American friend that we have - Jeff's friend Derek. With him was the mother of a young couple from our church who are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia. How bizarre is that? Not that it matters, but there were several biracial couples, and families. There were several dark skinned kids. There was a lot of diversity!

The service was awesome. We took the kids with us to service, but they do have a completely separate sanctuary for kids for their own church service, with music and puppets. We will try that next time. I realize it's not about the building, the donuts and coffee in the sanctuary, or even the music. It's not about any of that. It's not about what you wear. It's not about the guy wearing the Dos Equis shirt in front of us who was playing an air guitar during the service. It's not about the awesome music. It's not about the fact that they played my favorite U2 song, Beautiful Day, during the service. It's not about any of that. But in a way, it's about all of that. We felt really comfortable there, and we will definitely go back and try it again.

Here's a video the church made about their modern church. It stars our very own weather man, and father to some of Jack's best buddies. It's hysterical!
**Tip: Hit the pause button on my music player on the bottom of this page to be able to hear the clip.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Happy Summer Solstice

Well today is the official first day of summer. The longest day of the year. I feel like this has been the longest year of my life. We have accomplished so much! Several months ago, I kept thinking that if I could just hold on until summer, everything would be better. Well my friends, it's summer and everything is better. The kids are doing great. We are doing great. Things are starting to come together. We had a wonderful first day of summer, which I will post about with pictures tomorrow. HAPPY SUMMER SOLSTICE!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Did I ever tell you...

Did I ever tell you how we became the Ellerbee Eight?
How God chose these children for us?

I have wanted to adopt for many, many years. I don't know if it's because I myself am adopted, or just that I always wanted a big family. My mom once told me that my favorite nursery rhyme as a child was the "old woman in the shoe with so many children, she didn't know what to do"... well that kind of sums it up, doesn't it? My desire to adopt came and went for many years. I spent many hours on the internet, scouring agencies, countries; soaking up as much information as I possibly could. I printed off and filled out papers for local foster to adopt at least a dozen times. I agonized over waiting children. I had chosen two older children from Russia - Ivan and Eugenia many years ago. God knew it wasn't the right time for us. The finances weren't there. Our children were too young. It just wasn't the right time for us. Jeff wasn't on board with the idea. But I never gave up hope.

The last few years we kept saying that we would look into it. Jeff was at least open to the idea. I heard through the grapevine that an acquaintance from church was adopting. Julie was someone who I knew and would have said hi to if I saw her at church, but we didn't really have a relationship. She brought her baby home in June of 2007. I picked up a local parent magazine in July of last year and read an article about several families who had adopted recently. Julie and her husband were one of those families. The article had some information about what local agency they used. Once I read that, I felt like I had a starting point. I knew they hadn't gotten ripped off. They had their baby. I saw her picture. That same day I looked up the agency and called about their next informational meeting. Well it just so happened that it was the next day! Talk about God's intervention.

We went to the informational meeting the next day with the intent of getting information only. We still didn't have financing. We were just in a seeking mode. Information only. Oh, yeah... and we were planning on getting a baby boy. One. One baby boy.

Once the meeting started and basic information was given out, Crystal, who works for the agency and actually helped facilitate our adoption, began to tell us about her recent trip to Ethiopia. She began to tell us about the orphanage and specifically about two kids who were 8 and 10. They had been there longer than the others. They were sweet and wonderful. She told us of a family who recently went to Ethiopia and absolutely fell in love with these children. They were heartbroken to leave these children there.

Jeff and I started writing notes to each other. We hadn't even considered two children, much less two children basically the same age as our kids. I was there for a baby boy. It was as if God actually tapped us on the shoulder at the exact same time. We had goose bumps. We weren't even listening to what she said for the rest of the night. We wrote notes. We looked at each other like we were crazy. At the end of the night, we told Crystal we wanted more information about those two specific children. We also told her that we knew Julie and her family, and that was how we had heard of their agency. Crystal gasped and said "Those are the people who fell in love with those kids and wanted to bring them home."

Wow. What now? We talked and talked and talked, but honestly it was like God had already laid the answer on our hearts. We knew we were adopting those two kids... we just didn't know how. The next day, I called Julie and asked if we could get together to get more information about those kids and their entire adoption process. She immediately started crying and said "We have been praying since we got home for those kids to be adopted." I'm not quite sure why, but we were all amazed at the sense of humor God showed us by not only answering her prayer, but by answering her prayer with a family who went to their church and lived 5 minutes away. It still makes me giggle to think about God's hand in answering prayer; not only answering it, but slam dunking it. I imagined Him laughing and saying, "You silly child, did you ever doubt what I could do?"

And so we found financing and began our paperwork pregnancy. We started officially in August. The adoption was finalized December 26th, and we picked up the kids February 4th. When I was going through the rough patches, I found it very helpful to share this story as a reminder that THESE were the kids for me. It was predestined by God as much as if they shared our DNA. There was never another option. And now that things are better, I still like to share this story as a perfect example of what our God can do. He can bring families together from across the world.

Julie and her family have become invaluable to us. Our families have become one. I not only gained 2 children, but 5 more children in another house and the best friends we have ever had. What a gift God gave us when he bound two families together from so far away.

Guess who's coming to our house?

Yep, the tooth fairy!

Jameson lost her "first" tooth since coming to America. It's been loose for the entire 4 months she's been here, but she finally got the courage to give it a little tug... and out it came.
We have been trying to explain "who" the tooth fairy is.
Yes, I know. It seems cruel to lie to your children about fantasy things, but it got started long ago, and who am I to break the family tradition? The older kids don't seem to be mortally wounded by finding out who the real tooth fairy is. And so now I scramble to find some change to put under her pillow...

Hey Mendy....

Cabana Blogging

This is how I blog so much! Thank you God for laptops, wireless internet, and my shaded cabana! Having a little "me" time while the kids swim; spending time with our eldest. Yes, both of us have an umbilical cord connecting us to our laptops.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Quote for the day...

Jordan, "There's a fine line between helping people and being a white supremacist."

***Disclaimer - after saying it, she realized the line isn't really that fine, but it certainly does seem like a lot of people help people because they BELIEVE they are so much better than those they are helping.

Overheard at baseball game...

Little girl to Jameson, "Were you happy when you moved here?"

Jameson, "Uh, I guess so. Yes."

Little girl, "Do you miss your mom and dad?"

Jameson, "No." Pointing to us, "They're right there."

Little girl, "Oh, cool."


Xenophobia - noun.
Definition: an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange.

This is a difficult post to write.
As you know, Josh has not wanted to participate in vacation bible school this week, but he has! He has sang the songs, done the crafts, listened intently to the stories. He has done everything I have asked... and more. We have pulled back from Sunday School and kids things the last few months because of how uncomfortable the kids were. Jameson came home several weeks in a row in tears over the subject matter - ie: AIDS, orphans in Africa and hunger... (Duh). I thought VBS would be good because of how easy they make the salvation plan, and I thought it would be a good short term goal for them to attend. I thought this would be a safe place for them.

Today during the large assembly with ALL of the kids in our church, one of the children's directors was explaining that we are collecting soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and deodorant for the international students at MSU. We are doing this because, according to her, some people from foreign countries don't have good hygiene and don't know how to keep themselves clean. I felt Josh's back stiffen as soon as she said it. And it wasn't just once. It was said several times. And it was all about people from foreign countries. I think the final straw was, "Would you want to sit next to someone who didn't know how to brush their teeth?"

I was completely overwhelmed by the superiority of these statements. We think we're so much better than people of other countries because we use deodorant? In fact, most people from foreign countries find our perfumed up, cologned up, sanitized, soapy smells to be disgusting. Once I heard the reference to brushing your teeth, I started thinking about Josh's teeth when he gives you that huge toothy grin. He has the cleanest, best, whitest teeth of anyone I know. The first time we took them to the doctor, the doctor said, "Wow, he needs to teach the other kids how to brush."

When it was time to move to the next area, when we filed into the pews, the pew became full, so Josh went to the next pew, and no one would sit next to him. Then the next pew filled completely with children. So Josh sat completely by himself in the pew. I was behind all of the kids, or I would have done a better job at directing them. I sat next to him as did the older helper for the class, but none of his peers would sit next to him. I could feel my blood start to boil as I sat there. Self-righteous. Fake. Ignorant.

During my break, I went to the head children's director and as soon as I uttered the words, "I need to talk to you," I was suddenly unable to speak. I was so overwhelmed with tears that I'm sure she couldn't even understand what I was saying. It makes me so angry that I cry when I'm mad... and then I get even madder and it makes me cry even harder. So I spent most of the morning as a blubbering idiot.

Once I was finally able to make more than just a groaning noise, I explained that it's not OK to overgeneralize like that. We are trying to get Josh involved in church and to make good Christian friends, and when things like that are said, it just makes everything worse. I explained that EVERYONE must be completely aware of what they say. The woman who said it didn't say it out of spite or even prejudice. She said it out of ignorance. She said, "Well, I didn't even think about him being from a foreign country. He's been here like 6 months." I had to explain that he still thinks of himself as an Ethiopian. His family is there. His friends are there. His history is there. His pride is there. There is never going to be a time when he won't know and feel that he is Ethiopian. I want him to feel pride about his country. I want him to remember. I want him to feel that ethnic pride. It's important to him.

I cannot express how important it is to educate your children with an appropriate worldview. I cannot express how important it is to REALLY live like Jesus would want us to. Our children are going in and out of VBS making crafts and having fun with their friends, but do they really get it? Do they stop and try to befriend the new kid? Would they "have dinner with the taxpayer?" Do they really do what Jesus would do?

As soon as we left the church, I drove to Julie's for an ear and a shoulder and a lot more tears. (Julie's baby was in the same orphanage with ours; she met our kids before we did!) Julie gets it. She understands. Although her baby is small and she's not had to deal with much of this, she still gets it. She understands. She's been there. She's often able to make me laugh and talk me off of the bell tower. What came of this discussion was the fact that so many people don't get it. So many people don't understand, misunderstand or just don't think before they speak. It brought up a lot of questions.

The question becomes: Do we look for another church? Somewhere downtown or midtown where WE would be the minority? Is it fair to the kids to be the only dark skinned kids in the church? (Or close to it... 2 of maybe 6?) Or do we make this our mission? Is it our mission to educate everyone in this white, middle class, Midwest city what it's like to be adopted from a foreign country? Is it our mission to help these kids learn how to really be like Jesus? It is our mission to help make people understand? Is that an impossible mission?

One good thing that came out of this... and perhaps that was what God's plan was all along... I knew in that moment that I was their mother. Not in an intellectual way.... I have obviously known that for quite some time. But in my heart, I knew I would do anything to protect them. When they hurt, I hurt. I think I needed to be reminded of that, and boy was I ever reminded. I felt like someone had tore out my heart as I watched my boy sit there by himself. I felt my heart pound, and I felt the mama bear come out in me. Watch out when mama bear comes out!

Monday, June 16, 2008

epiphany at ellerbee eight

I have done a lot of research on bonding and attachment with adopted older kids. And while I know we have much attachment and bonding to do, I do think this week we have made some head way. I'm not sure what made the difference between Josh and I, but I think whatever it was, it was a God send.

I read a lot about touch and adopted older kids. I gafawwed when the book said you should rock them and feed them like a baby for all the things you missed out on. I kind of put that information in the back of my mind. Somehow, I thought Josh might think I was crazy if I tried to rock him and feed him like a baby! But reading that information again this weekend made me think about what was going on in our family. Josh's attitude and lack of feeling has been affecting all of us. A mother is only as happy as her most unhappy child. Woe is me!

When you adopt a baby, you get the opportunity to hold, kiss, hug, rock, bathe and massage them. You get to meet their every little need. You're there when they cry. You supply their bottles. You get to attach to them on a very personal, very intimate level. When you adopt older kids, a lot of that is uncomfortable. It's foreign. I'm not sure who it's more uncomfortable for. Us or them. This wasn't something I was expecting. I am not typically a "huggey" type person. Being in my husband's family, I have definitely learned how to accept that, but overall, my personality is one that values the "personal space." (*Now girls (you know who you are) don't be upset. It's not that being "huggey" is bad - it's just different for me. And thank you for helping me get over my fear of the huge hug)

Even though I'm not an overly huge fan of public displays of affection, this has never been the case with my kids... as you know I can't seem to get enough of them... from smelling their stinky feet to cuddling with them even at the age of 17. It's been weird with Josh though. You hug, he stiffens. You kiss, he turns his head. I was able to do a lot of this bonding with Jameson as she is VERY affectionate. Spending hours fixing hair is definitely a bonding time for those of you with newly adopted girls! Jameson was so affectionate, even from the very beginning. She was all over me from the minute we picked her up. Josh has been a little more hesitant to commit to this relationship.

I have been trying to make a conscious effort of making contact with him. This weekend I really stepped up this strategy. When he pulled away, I pulled closer. When he hid in his room, I laid down next to him. When he walked by, I pulled him into my lap and tickled him. I allowed him his space and then invaded it, over and over again. I didn't want to freak him out, but I also wanted to let him know that I am serious and I am not giving up on him. Last night, he came and sat down on the floor next to the couch where I was sitting. I started rubbing his head and playing with his curls. He didn't withdraw. He didn't get up and run away. His back didn't stiffen.


He laid his head on my chest and let me rub his back and his hair, and then he fell asleep. The first time ever!

The child has not left my side today. I was the teacher in his vacation bible school class today and he participated in everything we did. He even sang in worship and did the motions to the songs. He smiled at me when he thought I wasn't looking. He has gone out of his way to help me since we got home today. Without being asked to! Trash, recycling, lunch dishes... Justine started crying in the other room, and he ran in to pick her up and make sure she was OK. (A first and something I've been waiting for!) His mood has definitely changed, and we have had an epiphany here at ellerbee eight. In thinking back over the past four months, I have to realize that everything happens in God's time. I think if I had chased him around like this when he first got home, he would have been scared to death. It was just the right time to step things up a bit. I'm a huge fan of "if it's not working, change it." And I'm not going to beat myself up over what I have and haven't done right with these children. I only have to remember that if it's not working, change the way you're doing it. And that's what I did.

For those of you adopting older children, I cannot stress how important it is to try to make up for all the things your kids have missed. The easy things. The free things. Hug them. Kiss them. Play with their beautiful hair. Let them lay next to you in bed while you read them a book. When they come into a room and look uncomfortable and don't know where to sit and what to do, reassure them and continue to ask. Continue to tickle and rub their backs when you get a chance. Continue to give these little love touches every single chance you can. Eventually they realize that you want them near you. Eventually they give in to allow you into their hearts. I'm sure we still have a lot of bridges to cover, but we both are feeling so much better!

Well I've got to go, Josh is yelling, "mom, mom..." He wants to show me his soccer trick he's been working on. YEAH!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

For Minte's mom and all my waiting Hope friends...

It only seems fitting that my 200th post sends a shout out to all of those parents who are still waiting for their kids to come home. Oh, how hard that wait is! Many have been waiting for a long time. The agony of their wait is almost over. HOPE kids are coming home soon! Many have just started this process and are still pregnant on paper. Hold on tight and know that it is so worth it! They will be home soon.

May you be safe while you're waiting...

May you be safe and sleep soundly through the night.
May you be safe as you wake to the morning's light.
May you feel our love from so far away,
May it comfort and protect you throughout each day.

We will pray for you my little one,
Until our time of waiting is done.
We will pray that the Lord keep you safe from harm,
Until the child of our hearts becomes the child in our arms.

Author: Anonymous

Friday, June 13, 2008

It's raining, it's pouring...

It's been raining for hours. It isn't stopping. It's flooding. I'm freaking out.

The water continues to rise. It's about 3 feet from our backdoor. Some roads are closed; some should be. There are "creeks" running that I didn't know existed. Several of the houses nearby are flooded.

We are safe inside, cleaning for our Father's Day BBQ and swim tomorrow. We had to let some water out of the pool because it's overflowing. I hope everyone doesn't mind just swimming in my flower beds because the pool is going to be freezing cold tomorrow.

Pray for us that we don't get washed away overnight!

Quote for the day...

Justine, with a kind of saucey attitude, "Yes, your minus."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A pair of socks and a scout

We have taken this week of soccer camp to attempt to teach the boys about responsibility and the importance of getting their stuff in the laundry. They have been directed to lay out their uniforms, including soccer socks, indoor shoes, outdoor shoes, water bottles and clothes for soccer camp in an attempt to decrease the early am scramble and nervous breakdown of their mother. Josh has definitely had a difficult time with this, and rather than look through their sock drawer, he chose some of Jeff's dress socks off the top of the laundry basket for his soccer socks today. These would be the dress socks. At least they were clean... I think.
I didn't even notice his sockwear until we got in the car and I heard Jack say, "nice socks." When I turned around and looked at his socks, a part of me wanted to make him go to soccer camp like that. The love and logic part of me. The part of me wanting to teach him about consequences. I could have guaranteed an entire day of torment if he wore those socks to camp. I really didn't want him to experience that, and well today was family day... and to be perfectly honest, those were my consequences too. All the other soccer moms would be there. The ones who have their hair fixed all the time. The ones who don't look like they just rolled out of the garden to slide in just under the wire to pick up their kids. Yes, it would be those moms! So I ran back inside and found a pair of soccer socks * you guessed it * on the top of the sock drawer. And yes, for those of you wondering, he does know where the socks are, and yes he does know which socks are for soccer.

After the soccer camp, I was walking up to where Josh was standing with his coach. He could see me coming, but the coach had his back to me. I heard him say, "Is your dad here?" Josh just wagged his finger at me... When the coach turned around, he looked surprised. I'm not sure if he was surprised that I wasn't a dad or that I was white. But I digress. Three different coaches came up to me to ask if Josh could try out for the Springfield Soccer Club Team. That would be the "highly expensive, practice all the time, must be chosen to play for" team. As we were walking away, the coach said to expect a phone call tomorrow. Then another coach said to expect several phone calls tomorrow... what does that mean?

I immediately imagined a book with a touching story about a little boy from an orphanage in Ethiopia who made it big in soccer after being adopted by a wonderful, loving family....
I think Jeff immediately saw this:

When I explained to Josh what a club team was, his response was, "I play with Ronaldinho?"
Ronaldinho is a professional soccer player who Josh adores. Not quite buddy, but maybe later.
We are so proud of him and will let him try out next week. If he makes it on the team, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. I am so happy because he is so happy. I finally saw a smile today and if I could see that everyday, it might be worth the price of being on a club team...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An apology

I would like to apologize to my neighbors for inadvertently playing the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie over my new outdoor speakers which are evidently connected to my TV in the basement. I also apologize for doing so at a volume level 53. My bad. I obviously don't understand the way things work around here. OOPS.

Seriously? Dude, I could be a pedophile...

So we're finishing lunch today and the girls are getting ready to go swimming... the doorbell rings. I know it can't be the double trouble blonds from up the street because Justine has already stalked (er, I mean looked in their windows and rang their doorbells a thousand times to see if they're home...) So when I open the door there is a man, who hands me his card which says "Adam, the handsome handyman." He explains that he's roofing the house up the street which caught on fire last month. (And no, my son didn't have anything to do with it... I already checked into that) So he goes on to explain that his wife had to go to work and she dropped off his son with him. "I saw that you had a trampoline in the back, so I wondered if he could stay and play?"

"Seriously? Dude, I could be a pedophile!"

I couldn't help it. It slipped out before I realized it.

I cannot even IMAGINE leaving my 5 year old or any age child with a complete stranger just because I saw a trampoline in the backyard.

So what did I do, you ask? Well, what do you think I did? What would be the typical "Gina" response... (after of course outing myself as a potential child molestor)

"Sure. Why not?"

I wanted to ask him to sign a waiver, a release of responsibility in case of injury. But I
couldn't find any of those handy at the time.

At first, I was pissed. Really, really pissed. Pissed at myself for never having a backbone.
Pissed at the Handsome Handyman for putting me in that position. Pissed that some people don't take parenting seriously enough. Pissed that people could put their kids in such potentially bad situations because of their poor planning and prioritizing. Pissed that it's never enough. Pissed that I give and I give and I give and it's never enough.

So I found him an old swimsuit of Jack's and put sunscreen on him, this little child, whose
name I keep forgetting, who has a freshly shaved mohawk and poop stains in his underwear that he left on my deck. I began to feel sorry for him and his family. I began to think about when I was a single parent, trying to work and unable to find anyone to watch my daughter. I thought about the desperation I felt about trying to make enough money to pay the bills, much less the astronomical price of daycare.

And so, little Brendon is here for the afternoon. Our friends teenage daughter Emily also came
down to swim and is actually playing with all of the kids... so I'm sitting in my shaded cabana, sipping lemonade and blogging. What am I complaining about?

I am trying to figure out a way to let "Adam, the handsome handyman" know that this is a one time thing. He's not going to make a habit out of getting free childcare out of us. I have done enough!

I also want him to know that I seriously could have been a child molestor. How do you ever really know? You cannot just pick random people off the street to watch your kid. Watch the news. Make a plan and figure it out. Grow up. Quit relying on your good looks. OK, that last part was just because I thought his business cards were stupid.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

4 months home

Well it dawned on me today that we have been home for 4 months today.
What's happened in 4 months?
4 birthdays. Ice storms, snow storms, tornadoes, floods. Flowers have bloomed. Pools have opened. Valentine's Day, Easter, Memorial Day. Last day of school. Soccer games. American idol finale. Many hours of laughter. Many bouts of tears.
Today was an especially rough day dealing with responsibility and attitudes. The girls fought ALL day long... and of all things to fight about... sharing some clothes a friend brought over for them. They have more clothes than they can know what to do with... UGH!
I continue to struggle with so many things. So many things that aren't what I thought they would be. So many things are.
What have I learned in the past 4 months?
  • I have recognized the importance and value of time - sometimes I think that the one thing keeping me going is the promise of time. The promise that things will get better consistently with a little more time. I was holding on for summer for things to be "better." Now I'm just holding on.
  • I have recognized the importance of unconditional love.
  • I have recognized the importance of identifying the lessons we are learning every single day... yes even the bad days have important lessons in them.
  • I have recognized how important it is for parents to say "no" more than they say "yes."
  • I have recognized how important rules and consequences are.
  • I have recognized how important hugs and kisses are... even when you're not feeling kissey and you're kids seem unhuggable.
  • I have recognized kids are kids no matter where they are from.
  • I have recognized it's not as easy as it looks... and it doesn't look all that easy.
  • I have recognized that grief can come at all different times and look like a lot of different emotions. You can grieve "things" as well as people... food, weather, music, pride, ideas, dreams and the past to name a few. And it's not just affecting the new kids, but our family as a whole. You can grieve from change, even good change. You can grieve from growth, even expected, anticipated and wanted growth. Just as the kids sometimes awake with leg aches and "growing pains," so does a family awake with some aches when it's growing. And that doesn't mean it's a bad thing; it just means it's a part of life thing.
  • I have recognized the importance of spending time together as a family - the importance of using every opportunity to be PRESENT with them and not just in the same house.
  • I have recognized the importance of not taking things personally - just because Josh sits at the top of the bleachers while we sit at the bottom doesn't mean that he hates us. Perhaps he just likes the top of the bleachers. It doesn't always have to mean something.
  • I have recognized the value of maintaining a good sense of humor in the face of change and adversity. I think this has been vital to our survival. We HAVE to laugh about something hysterically every single day. It really is the best medicine.
  • I have recognized that watching the girls sleep cuddled up together in one twin bed because they can't bear to be alone is absolutely heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.
  • I have recognized that brothers can be made in 4 months time. Those two know each other. They take care of each other. They get it. They greet each other with a wrestling body slam as a way to say "good morning."
  • I have recognized that sometimes my kids are more mature, patient and loving than I am.
  • I have learned that adopting older children is a complicated process with many issues.
  • I have also learned that it is so worth it! I can't imagine life without all of them. I would have a clean house and be well rested... but that's about it. I would be lost and lonely without all of them or any of them.

We are a puzzle, figuring out where the pieces fit, turning them, right side up, upside down, trying to not force pieces where they don't belong. We are a puzzle. You won't be able to see our full beauty until we get all the pieces in the right place, but we would not make sense without ALL of the pieces. We will be a masterpiece.

Photo of the day...

Why you shouldn't attempt to:
1) let Sesame Street babysit your 5 year old
2) have pirate tattoos in your home
3) take a nap while the 2 previous items criteria are in effect

**doesn't it look like her belly button is the mouth of a screaming pirate? She really did do a great job don't you think?

Forrest Gump on worms....

"Well, you've got your tapeworms, your inchworms, your earthworms, your pinworms, your roundworms, your hookworms, your heartworms... "

I think Mae Mae has a ringworm on her arm. We have had more than our share of fungal infections, lice, scabies... I'm beginning to feel like a public health expert.

Anyone got a jock itch they need identified?

This little sore started out looking like a big bug bite, but when she woke up this morning, it had a perfect circle around it. It looks like your typical ringworm. (Of course, that's just my amateur opinion...)
I spent much of the day trying to figure out how to tell the little girl who fainted when she saw that dirt came out of her ear, that she has ringworm.

When we were trying to explain that it wasn't actually a worm, our kids sounded like a bunch of little Forrest Gumps talking about "all kinds of different worms." And all this over dinner! EW!


Justine woke up today and said, "what should I wear to drama camp today?"
It was like yesterday never happened! She ran right in and started playing this morning. I'm sure my kids just do this kind of stuff to keep me guessing!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Swimming Photos

Retardadon and Lameasaurus

We have been looking forward to it for weeks... Fine Arts Day Camp at a local church. The girls blessed the actual day with the dramatic flair that made me enroll them in the first place.

As we were going in the door, Jameson heard a father ask his also quite unsure daughter to "give it a shot." Jameson freaked out and started running for the door. She kept saying, "I don't want a shot. I don't want a shot." Of course, I was sporting my usual befuddled look, requiring a rewind/playback of the last 5 minutes to try and figure out what on earth she was talking about. When I try to explain what the slang phrase, "give it a shot" means, she continues to clammer for the door. After a mini English lesson, we get that straightened up and head into the registration area.

Justine suddenly becomes attached to my leg... I keep trying to kick free. I have no idea what's wrong with her. She's been to preschool at this church. She's been to vacation bible school here before. I knew when I looked into her eyes that this wasn't going to work. I coaxed her into the gym by dangling the possibility of a new Barbie in front of her like a carrot. New barbie... new barbie... new barbie... I try to mesmerize her with the possibilities.

I leaned down with my arms wrapped around her, at first trying to be ultra sweet to her. Then I begin threatening. "If I take you home, you're going to have to do chores. This is a lot more fun." She replies, "I don't like fun."

Suddenly they turn on the PA system/microphone, and it makes the most horrible noise I've ever heard before. My head was swimming, the room was spinning. Justine freaked out and pulled down on my neck, pulling me over on top of her. So now I'm LAYING on the floor of the gym... on top of Justine...holding my head...struggling to get up. I'm sure no one saw it though. Yeah right!
The children began to gather in a circle in the middle of the gym. Suddenly Jameson and Jaiden act like they have no idea what a circle is. All of the other children were pretending to be animals; while my children are standing there looking quite lost. Jordan and I attempt to get them to participate. When asked what kind of animals they were, Jordan mutters under her breath, "Retardadon and Lameasaurus." I stifle a giggle while I try to get a good picture of Justine crying and pouting... just for posterity's sake. Always the supportive older sister, Jordan says, "This is so embarrassing." I'm not sure why it as SO embarrassing for her. I was the one sprawled out on the floor 5 minutes before.
So we end up taking Justine home with us. As soon as we get in the car, she asks, "Are we going to get my Barbie now?"
"Oh no little girl. No Barbie for you."

Friday, June 06, 2008

Her kids were always reading...

That is what I want my tombstone to say...

Reading is a love of mine. I would be happiest reading, reading, reading all day long. I am even happy just looking at books; imaging that I am reading them. I am even happy making lists of the books I'm going to read... when I find the time. I know it sounds... like it's been said before... but reading is fundamental! (What a great reading campaign.) We read books aloud. We listen to books on CD. I am reading fairy tales to them and a storybook with Ethiopian fairy tales I picked up at the library. I am attempting to instill this love of books in my children... and so far, most of them LOVE to read. A few of them obscess over books like I do. The rest I'm working on.

We are in the midst of a reading competition in our family. We are going to read 200 books over the summer... and the prize... well I haven't exactly figured that one out yet. I hate to reward them with movies or video games since that's what I'm trying to get away from. Perhaps a special night out?

So we have been living at the library. I just about need a suitcase to go in and out of that place. On our last trip to the library, I showed Josh again where the books are. I explained fiction, non-fiction, biography, reference etc. I made a big deal out of the library tour. I sent the kids off to look for a few books of their own. Josh came back 15 minutes later, "I didn't find one."
"What do you mean you didn't find one?"
"I don't like these books."
"Well, what do you want to read about?"
"Well, what are you interested in?"
"Nothing." (Sadder statements have never been said.)
"Well, what do you want to learn more about?"

So we went up and down the aisle looking for a book that interested him. I started calling out topics. We looked on the computer for books that interested him. In the end, I told him that he would either find a topic that interested him, or I would find one for him. He wasn't happy about it, but he finally found a book about Ethiopia and a book about soccer.

I explained to him that without practice, reading will never get easier. He reads on about a 2nd grade reading level right now. I gave him the "if you can't read, you can't get anywhere in life" speech. It must have helped in some way, because I found him reading his book about Ethiopia twice now.

Is he just homesick? What is his deal? Yesterday the kids were all swimming and he sat in a lawn chair looking solemn. Then retreated to the house to look solemn. He has gotten in a bad habit of eating as fast as he can, putting his plate in the sink and disappearing before anyone else is done with dinner. I should call him Houdini because he disappears more than anyone I know. UGH! On a brighter note, I think he is beginning to maybe realize how much this hurts us, as he has gone out of his way the last few days to come give me a hug... I don't know. I don't feel like I can do anything other than support him through this slump... and attempt to not get sucked down into it with him.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Quote for the day...

While discussing who wasn't doing their assigned task of keeping the bathrooms stocked with toilet paper. (Yes, we have to assign that as a daily chore - sad I know!)

Justine, "Well, I don't even use toilet paper...."

Everyone, " EEWW. Gross."

What story does your quilt tell?

We had the wonderful opportunity to meet and paint with an artist from Nigeria. His name is Ibiyinka Alau (or some phoenetic resemblance of that).
He has donated several paintings for a fundraiser my friend Becky is doing for deaf children in Ethiopia.
He invited all of our kids to paint with him. It was an awesome experience to get to see what they could create. The kids were absolutely silent and so thoughtful as he gave directions. They listened to every word as he created a painting, telling them step by step how to do it, giving them insight into not only artistic techniques, but also insight into their developing legacies.

This is one of his wondrous works of art. He talked to the kids about the story our artwork can tell. The quilt in the background of this painting is beautiful. He taught the kids that each person could recreate this piece of art, and it would look different because we are all individuals. We all have something different to create, something different to bring to the table. He explained that it doesn't matter what color your quilt is. It doesn't matter where your quilt has been. What matters is the story your quilt can tell. How profound!
Look at her concentration and determination.

Justine's getting some one on one assistance. She was the youngest one of the group, and I think her painting was just as good as some of the big kids... if not better.
Jack did a great job on his painting. His perspective was perfect.

My Painting!

Jack's Painting!
Jordan's Painting!

Justine's Painting!

Jameson's Painting!
Josh's Painting!

I somehow didn't get a picture of Mae Mae's painting, but here she is painting her masterpiece.