Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Quote for the day...

Justine has a bad attitude. I know she looks sweet and innocent. But she's developed a bad habit of bossing me around and talking rudely to me. I have found myself constantly reminding her how to speak with respect. Today was one of those days.
While at the zoo today, she states, "Get me some water."
Mom "May I have some water please?"
Justine "I don't have it, you do... duh."
So I go on to gently explain that I was showing her how to ask for water appropriately.
Mom "Now, I'm sorry I spoke to you disrespectfully."
Justine "Ah, that's OK mom."
Mom "No, that's what you're supposed to say."
Justine "Geez, you make this so hard... OK, I'm sorry I spoke to you dis...dis...respeckledy."
Yes that's better.

Friends, dinner and a set of handcuffs

Tonight was a special night. No, not as special as the title would imply, but pretty close. We went out to dinner with two other couples who have adopted from Ethiopia. These people have become such wonderful friends to us. They have been there through the thick and the thin... through the waiting, through the travel, through the pouting. As you might imagine, it is difficult to get any "adult" time without kids. Between the 6 of us, we have 13 children... so getting babysitters, a night void of children's activities, and a free moment is not an easy task. Tonight we made it! As we sat enjoying each other's company, our phone rang.... home... Our first instinct was to not answer it. Jeff starts laughing as he gets off the phone. "You're not going to believe this." As the mother of 6 kids, especially my 6 kids... there's not much I can't believe.... on a daily basis. So we wait to hear what could possibly surprise me at this point.

"Someone put handcuffs on Justine, and now they can't get them off."

We had just been served our wonderful dinner. Jeff says, "I guess we'd better go."
I make him call back to get more info:
"Is the circulation cut off? Well, are her hands blue? What do you mean they're on her feet? Well, are her feet blue? Is she attached to anything? Is she hog tied? Well who did it? Is she crying? Try pushing it tighter to see if it will release. Put some soap on her feet and see if you can slip them off."
The rest of us are laughing so hard, we're crying. Only us. It would only happen to us. The one time we get out of the house, and our children are playing cops and robbers at home. (Jordan was babysitting and made the gruesome discovery.)
4 phone calls later, we find out that they were able to get the cuffs off of her and she is OK.
Crisis averted. We were able to finish our dinner and even had dessert. And we put the handcuffs away... where no one can find them.

Team Ellerbee

The girls have been watching the Olympic trials over the past few weeks, and while gymnastics has topped their watching interest, they have also decided that they will all be divers as well. Their plan is to be double entered gold medalists in the 2016 Olympics in both gymnastics and diving. While I was teaching them to dive, they started insisting on calling me "coach," which was cute but kind of weird at the same time. Jameson is learning to go along with all the imaginative play found at this house, and is even participating in it a little. This is huge because she is so literal and has never played like that. They crack me up!
Gold Medalist Jaiden Gold Medalist Justine
Gold Medalist Jameson
And for your viewing pleasure, a little snippet of what awaits my little gold medalists as they practice their diving.

Warning: this will make you laugh and possibly make your belly hurt.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Photo of the day...

Is it a sign that I'm blogging too much when the girls play house and all they do is blog on their "laptops"?

Prayer request

Please remember my friend Denise in your prayers. Denise is a friend who I work with and who lives up the street. Her husband died yesterday. They have two small children. I have yet to understand the why. The how will be very hard to come to grips to, for Denise as well as her children.

They love me... they really do love me

When I got home this morning, Jaiden had made my bed, straightened up my shoes and left me a note on a napkin that said, "I love you, mommy." Ahhh... how sweet is that?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Nothing to blog...

Well, this has been a relatively tame week here at Ellerbeeville. I think I've just been too tired to notice all the bloggable moments. The kids were gone to my SIL's house (sister in law for you non-textors) Friday afternoon through today, so Jeff got to have some free time. He played in a double header softball game on Friday night... (got hit in the stomach with a softball... left a mark... can't quit talking about it. Ha) Saturday night, Jeff and Jordan had a "date." They went to dinner and TWO movies. I have never even rated high enough for TWO movies! What a date night!

I worked all weekend... story of my life! I did get a second job... I know. I know. How on earth could I possibly fit that in? Well, I currently work part time, 24 hours in 2 12 hour shifts at night on the weekends as a charge nurse in a surgical intensive care unit. I got a PRN (that's "as needed" for you non-medical people, "per diem" for you Latin lovers, and "extra money" for people who are feeling the crunch of having 6 kids, $4/gallon gas and $4/gallon of milk) job as a house supervisor at the hospital where I work. I will just fill in as needed either 3-11pm, 5pm-1am or 11pm-7am. Attempting to get back a little cushion depleted by our adoption adventure, I have been working way too much! Going from 24 hours a week to working over 40 hours in a week just might kill me. The new job is a nice change though, and while I'm still on orientation, I think it will be kind of fun to be in charge of the whole house while the big wigs are away. I enjoy what I do now, but 12 hour shifts take a lot more out of you, not to mention all the lifting done in an ICU. If I work one of those evening shifts, I can still get up early and spend the day with the kids, so it's not like I miss out on that much. Once my orientation is complete, I will probably just work an extra shift every 6 weeks or so. Perhaps we can replenish our funds and adopt again...? I don't know... do they let you adopt when you're 65? Because that's probably how long it will take to replenish our funds....

The kids had a great time with my SIL. Thanks Jen. The kids seemed to really miss us while they were with my SIL. Josh came in and gave me 2 big hugs and a kiss unsolicited! Jameson was all over me, as usual. Jack wanted to be held - he's always been a mama's boy. Mae Mae cleaned her room - she's always helping and cleaning. Justine just cried because I think she was overly tired. (as usual) Mae Mae was cleaning her room and trying to make her take all her toys downstairs. You must understand that I'm not sure how Justine can even fit in her bed with all of her toys she keeps in there. So Justine comes to me crying... "They say nothing is important to me. What they don't know is that everything is important to me." Evidently Mae didn't believe her million "bed" toys to be "important" enough to take up all that space in their room, and she was trying to get her to take them downstairs. Sweet. It was a good lesson to teach about how each of us have things that are important to us, and one man's trash is another man's treasure.

And so here we are just chilling out at Ellerbeeville for awhile. I work tonight and tomorrow night... then we start packing for DC and NYC, then St Louis! Hopesters - I can't wait to see you soon!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My perfect day....NOT

Today would have been the perfect sleeping in day. A huge thunderstorm rolled through here early this morning... my favorite kind of sleeping weather. Except I was awake. Lying on the bathroom floor throwing up and in excruciating pain. I felt like someone had taken a knife and impaled me with it all the way through to my back. Nice huh? Good way to start the day. Like I have time for that. I find it funny that when I get sick, I'm more upset about how it's going to disrupt my household than the fact that I am miserable.
Justine came in at one point when I was throwing up and said, "You're disgusting. I can't stand to look at you." Nice. Right back at ya kid.
So I went to the doctor and have a "rip-roaring" kidney infection. Thus the back pain. And I guess the "disgusting" vomiting. I really thought I was going to die. Thank God I didn't; that would have really put a kink in my day.


Josh was fine today. Who knows? It was just a bad day.
I have one of those every once in awhile....
Today for instance, I went to the grocery store 3 different times and forgot to get milk... 3 different times.
I forgot about dinner in the oven and made garlic bread bricks.
I practically forgot how to speak at the sub shop today and couldn't order simple sandwiches for my kids.
I spent hours attempting to make something for a friend's little boy and screwed the whole thing up and had to go buy all new stuff to try to make it tomorrow...

My mind has been all over the place. Mostly with my fellow Hope"stars" who are waiting to get through court. You would think that once your adoption is complete, you could stop freaking out and worrying about courtdates and MOWA paperwork and court closures... but with friends like mine, it goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Quote for the day...

Let me preface this "not so friendly pet quote" with the history of our cat, who is like a million years old and has taken to... um... ahem... urinating on all of our stuff and therefore has been banned to the big bad world of the front yard. We have been trying to get the kids to not let the little booger in everytime we open the door. I think we may need to try a different approach.

Justine proudly stated this morning, "The cat tried to get in. So I kicked it in the face."

Sorry to the pet lovers out there. She's only 5. How hard could she kick? Really?!

Monday, July 21, 2008

While they wait...

Adoption is all about waiting.
We wait for home study appointments. Dossiers. Notaries. Secretary of States. Referrals. Courtdates. Rescheduled court dates. Travel dates. Waiting, waiting, waiting. UGH!
Just as we were waiting; so were our children. I can remember when we were discussing with Shimellis and Crystal when they would tell the kids they were being adopted. I wanted it to be just the right time. Kalkidan and Michael, their cousins, had just been picked up by my hero, Susan. These 4 cousins were so close. They were like siblings. They lived with Grandma. They came to Hope together. I often think about how scared that must have been. What a bad day that must have been for all of them. They lived at Hope together. From what I hear, our kids cried and cried when Kalkidan and Michael were picked up. Josh even refused to come out and say goodbye. (hey once I wrote that, I thought about my last post about his previous coping mechanisms of withdraw... isn't it great when things come together in your mind...?) So the decision was made that the kids would find out we were coming to get them around the same time Kalkidan and Michael were picked up. I can remember us struggling with this, as we weren't even done with our home study yet; we didn't have any idea how long it would be before we would be able to pick them up. Time moves so slowly, especially when you're a child, waiting for a family. God forbid, what if for some weird reason, we weren't approved? How would I live with myself knowing that we gave them false hope of a future?
Last night as I was taking Jameson's braids out (2 hour ordeal of hair!), we had a great conversation about waiting. Doing hair seems to be a really great time to talk to her as she gets so relaxed when you do her hair. She really opens up. She's just like me. She's practically falling asleep half way through. Anyway, we were looking at the picture on the wall of my bedroom, which is an 8X10 of I guess what we would call her referral picture. It's actually a picture my friend Julie took of her when she picked up her baby at Hope in June 2007. We were talking about the picture and about the orphanage. I asked her to tell me what it was like to find out about us and to wait for us. Here is what she said:
"I came home from school one day and I'm very tired and they give me your baby doll. They say, you have family."
"I was so happy. I think I must be sleeping... ah... dreaming."
"So I ask, is my family coming today? And they say no. Then I ask the next day, is my family coming today? And they say no, and then the next day, I ask, is my family coming today? Finally they say, no, not yet. Quit asking!"
*( this was funny because I know how persistent she is and I bet she drove them CRAZY!)
When I asked her about looking at the photo album we sent them, she told me they would always look at all the pictures and how they wouldn't put the album down. When we picked them up, I was so grateful that they had the album still. The album and the baby doll. They had moved from Faithe to the new house at Hope, and I was so afraid the album would be lost. I didn't care about the clothes. The kids who remain need the clothes. Our kids have plenty here. So that's what they came with... a baby doll, and a photo album along with the clothes on their backs. She had memorized ALL the details of every single picture. She talked about the clothes Jaiden and Justine were wearing in the picture. After she got home, when she saw the sweater Jaiden was wearing in the picture, she said, "Oh, I remember that. I tell my friends, when I get to America, I'm wearing that." And she did.
I tried to get her to tell me about what she was feeling during that time, but I think those emotions are just too hard to put into words of a second language at such a young age.
She remembers getting new clothes and toys. She remembers giving some of her toys to her very best friends Kalkidan and Dagemawit.
When I asked her about the day we finally arrived, she said that when she woke up that day, someone told her "today is the day your family is coming."
I've posted about this before, but the day we met our kids was worth the wait. As soon as our car entered the gates of the compound, both kids came running out, climbing into the car, hugging and kissing us, saying, "mom, dad." It doesn't get any better than that. I am a planner and I have to admit that I could not have planned that moment any better than they did. She remembers it. She remembers the wait. She remembers those she left behind. She's glad the wait is finally over.

Oh, happy Josh, where are you?

I thought we were over this. Here I have been bragging about how wonderful we are doing. Giving advice even. Ah, the teacher gets another opportunity to be taught. I'm not claiming to be the Yoda of the Older Adopted Children's World, but I thought I had a handle on it. I thought we were over the silent treatment, the pouting, the shoulder shrugging. But, alas, it raises it's ugly head again. More importantly, I thought I was over being pissed about it. I thought I was over being hurt by it. Josh has pouted ALL day today and has not spoke one word to any of us. He sat 6 feet away from us at gymnastics with his arms crossed for 2 hours. He hid in his room as soon as we got home. Oh, happy Josh, where are you? I guess it's important for me to realize that everyone can have an off day. Everyone gets moody once in awhile. Shimellis told us that Josh used to withdraw and pull away before. In Ethiopia, when things got to be too much, he would just shut down and go into his own little world. It's not me. It's not me. It's not me. Sometimes we take so much credit for our children's happiness, that we also end up with the credit for unhappiness. Sometimes it's just a bad day. And it's not about me.

Girls Trip

Jordan and I are going away. Far, far away. We are having our first annual mommy/oldest daughter get away. As you know I have had a mini breakdown about only having 525,600 minutes left with her at home, so we have decided to take advantage of at least 8640 minutes by traveling to Washington DC to visit Georgetown and American University, then on to New York City (NEW YORK CITY!) for a tour of NYU. We are both so excited to get to go! Thanks to my husband for *allowing* (wink, wink, nod, nod) us to go. Thanks to my parents for helping with the remaining famous five. Thanks to the internet for allowing me to scour every nook and cranny for good deals, cheap flights and an awesome hostel in SoHo. (And no I don't watch horror movies, and I haven't seen the movie Hostel) We came in way under budget thanks to priceline.com and a super deal from Southwest. We are planning on doing all the usual DC things, as well as a lot of New York things! Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, Greenwich Village, Ellis Island... all the touristy things to do. We will be flying back into St Louis just in time for the Hope Reunion!

Warning, Warning, Warning

In the next few days, I'm going to be unrecognizable! Well, at least my blog is. I'm getting a blogover by blogovers with love. My surrogate sister Susan's blog looks so awesome at Team Killeen, I hate to admit that I was jealous! Our new look will bee so Ellerbee!

Friday, July 18, 2008

First time at a buffet...

I can't stop laughing.
We went to a pizza buffet today. I guess it was the first time for Josh and Jameson to go to a buffet (or as we in the healthcare field call it... a barfet, but that's another story) We have over the past 5 months gone over appropriate restaurant behavior, etiquette, ordering, etc. I guess we never went over what to do when you go to a pizza buffet that also has dessert. Everyone was doing their own thing, which is the good thing about having kids over the age of 4. I came back to the table and found Josh with a plate HEAPING with dessert only. There was not one single piece of salad, pizza, anything that resembled a healthy lunch by any standards. And he was almost finished with it. When I asked him if he had eaten any pizza... he kind of coyly said, "What? I don't understand." I thought, "Oh great, we're back to that." "Did you eat any pizza of just dessert?" "Yes?" Another great aspect of having a large family is that every other child at the table blurted out "No. He didn't." Oh boy!

Homeschooling 101

Summer is winding down. Can you believe it? It's time to start thinking about school next year. I am in the process of ordering books for all of the kids and figuring out where to start with Josh and Jameson. I have been twisting myself up worrying about where to start, and finally I decided that they need to start with 1st grade to really get a firm grasp of everything they have missed out on. The beauty of homeschooling is that we can move them through 1st grade as fast as they are able. Even if we start at too low of a level, it will be a good review and hopefully give them a firm foundation of basic concepts. As an added bonus, I'm hoping it will help them adjust to homeschooling and will teach them to sit still and listen.
We took the tables out of our schoolroom and got desks. These desks are extra special because you can adjust the height, and they can be folded up and placed out of the way for times when we need extra floor space! I'm so proud of my purchases!
So now that the room is organized, it's time to start thinking about curriculum. Where do I start with 2 kids who are behind in just about everything? Hey you homeschooling moms, if you have any advice or other curriculum ideas, please let me know. This is our Curriculum so far:
Bible - The Children's Story Bible and picture cards from Veritas Press which place biblical events in chronological order.
Reading - Phonics Pathways. I chose this over some of the others simply because it has great phonics foundations, and our kids do not seem to have gotten that. Some of it will be review, but I think a solid foundation is going to be what helps them the most, even if they know some of the material already.
Math - We are starting with Abeka Math first grade for both of them. We will move through it as fast as we can as long as they are getting it . I know Josh is probably above 1st grade level, but both of them still count fingers and don't really know addition and subtraction tables. Abeka does not allow that, so they will be memorizing these basics.
Handwriting - We are starting Zaner-Bloser 1st grade with both. Jameson's handwriting is pretty good, and she should be able to move ahead quickly. Josh's is not. He still makes his letters a lot like Amharic printing.
Language - First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise. This will cover a lot of our weird English grammatical rules and basic grammar and language lessons.
History - History for Little Pilgrims. Justine is doing this for kindergarten and although it sounds somewhat silly, it is an excellent resource that ties in history with biblical ideas. It has a color book with it and a question/answer section after each reading. I think it will be a good resource to get a good basic foundation. It also requires that you listen to the story in order to answer the questions... definitely something we're working on.
Geography - We will begin a basic overview of the world with A Child's First Picture Atlas.
Spelling - We will begin spelling power at level A.
Science - according to my favorite book of all time, The Well Trained Mind.

Photo of the day...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

525,600 minutes

I have five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes left (approximately) to spend with this girl until she goes away to college.
That's 12 months. 365 days. 4 quarters. 1 year.
I am absolutely in awe as to where the time has gone. Jordan was my wonderful, wonderful surprise when I was 19. I would never call her a "mistake" because she single handedly saved my life and made me what I am today. She has always been clever, witty and incredibly smart.
She is the reason I read "The Difficult Child" 3 times in a row. She is the reason I cried uncontrollably on her first day of preschool. Because I never wanted her to know how I struggled as a single parent, she is the reason I lied about taking the TV to the "repair shop" every couple of months when in actuality it was a pawn shop. She is the reason over and over again that I have laughed until I cried. She is the reason I graduated first in my class from nursing school. She is the reason I finished my bachelor's even when it was difficult. She is the reason I am who I am today.
She is the reason I could pronounce all the names of the dinosaurs in the early 90's. She is the reason I have become somewhat well-read. She is the reason I love orange chicken. She is the reason I can make the sound of a dolphin and recognize the individual sound of every kind of whale. She is the reason I have stepped outside of my comfort zone to prove what type of person I want her to be. She is the reason I pretend to not be scared even when I am. She is the reason I want to be better.... a better parent, a better wife... and overall a better person. She is the reason I recycle. She is the reason the other kids are what they are. She is the reason I can't keep a secret.
525,600 minutes... Those minutes go by so fast. Think about how fast 1 month goes... when you're busy and life is happening... 1 month is here and gone before you know it. And then it's the next month gone. She has already told us that she is going "far" away to college. She was identified as being "profoundly" gifted at the genius level in grade school and went to high school in the fifth grade. She deserves to go away to college. She's earned it. She's looking at California, DC, Chicago, and New York. Can't get much further away than that, can you? Part of me wants to say, "No. You can't go." But I know that I have raised her to not be scared of new things. I have raised her to not be afraid to live out her dreams. To not be afraid to be a stranger in a strange place. And because of that... I only have 525,600 minutes left.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Is there anything worse?

Is there anything worse than going to the grocery store with 5 children? 5 hungry children? 5 hungry, tired, fighting children? 5 hungry, tired, fighting, whiny, throwing stuff in my cart behind my back children?

Pap smear? Nope.
Phone call from the IRS? Nope.
Root canal? I doubt it.

Oh and I would like to send out an apology to the woman buying the Pamprin, tampons and Ibuprofen for my children running over you with my very full shopping cart. My bad. That's quite a dirty look you've got. Congratulations.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

5 months home...a comparison and contrast

Today marks 5 months home for Josh and Jameson. Wow. Things are so much better. I almost giggle when I think about how desperate and despondent I was when they first got home. Silly me! Those first few weeks, I will admit now that I felt so helpless and somewhat hopeless. I had such overwhelming feelings during those first few weeks. A very wise friend shared with me that what I was feeling was normal and to just "fake it til I make it." I read and read and read about bonding and attachment, post adoption depression and parenting hurt children. I'm not convinced that I had post adoption depression. I think I had pre adoption delusion. I had an image in my head of what life was going to be like... a fairy tale like the rest of my life (ha). I had no idea some of the fears I would face; how I would question my sanity in this decision to adopt two older children. Most everyone else I knew who adopted was loving on their new babies, while I was being told, "I want to go back to Ethiopia." It somehow didn't fit into my vision of what life was going to be like. Thank God I was able to fake it until I made it. Because my friends, we have finally made it. (I think)

Let me share some 1 month fears contrasted with 5 month realities.

I was afraid they would never eat American food. "I don't like that." I thought if I heard that one more time, I was going to scream! Making 4 different dinners because they wouldn't try anything made me want throw the bowl of pasta across the kitchen. Now they eat everything in sight. They beg for hamburger pizza and bacon sandwiches. They are eating me out of house and home!

I was afraid they would never stop hiding their clothes in the toy box, the floor of the closet, behind their door, or under their beds. Not only have they stopped doing that, but they have started doing chores and putting their own clothes away. They will bring up their laundry, sort it and help me fold it!

I was afraid they would never stop throwing poopy toilet paper in the trashcan or worse on the floor. Nope. Nothing more than a kind of funny memory now.

I was afraid they would never stop chattering and laughing at us in Amharic at the dinner table....without sharing... and when we would ask what they were laughing at, they would chatter some more, point and laugh at us. Not in a good way. They occasionally talk Amharic now, but quite honestly we don't hear it that much. When Josh talked to Anteneh the other day, he had to ask me what the names of certain words were (like I would know). It's not that I want them to forget it, but I want them to be respectful of language differences and not use it as a way to make fun of people. I want them to improve their English skills. Jameson is such a little chatter box... her English is almost perfect. She talks non-stop! Josh is getting so much better and learning to talk more and more.

I was afraid that the kids would never really bond. I can honestly say the kids are bonded now. They play together, they comfort each other in times of pain or sadness. They are brothers and sisters of one family and not siblings of two families sharing a living space. Josh greets Jack in the morning with some sort of wrestling move that puts him on the floor. They sit and giggle and play games together. Josh picks up Justine and comforts her if she's sad. He laughs at her silliness. Jaiden and Jameson are practically inseparable!

I was afraid that I would never be seen as the "mother." I feared that I would forever be seen as the caregiver, the food preparer, the housekeeper, but not the mother. I don't want to ever take the place of Nebiat, but I do want a position equal to Nebiat. Jameson answered this question a few weeks ago when someone asked if she missed her parents, and she stated, "no, they're right there." I think they now see us as permanent parents in a forever family.

I was afraid I would be forever manipulated by pouting children and their refusals to speak to me. I never in my wildest dreams thought these children that I had waited for for so long would treat me this way. I had no idea they would refuse to speak to me or that they would pout if they didn't get their way. We no longer have the arms crossed, won't make eye contact pouting fits. Occasionally, Jameson will pout, but she actually catches herself doing it, stops, and even says, "Oh, I'm sorry!"

For a short while, I actually considered that I had quite honestly ruined my life and the lives of my entire family. Now granted these were fleeting moments in the mind of a sleep deprived, exhausted, overwhelmed mother, so don't judge me harshly, yet they were feelings that certainly nagged at me during those early days. I faced the fear that perhaps the attachment issue wouldn't be with them... it would be with me. I faced the fear that perhaps I wasn't the person I thought I was. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I cannot tell you how much time I have spent on my knees over the past 5 months. I prayed for everything under the sun (Son). For God to soften my heart towards them. For God to take away my feelings of annoyance. For God to bond me to them permanently. For God to make me not grieve what was my family before, but to embrace what He has made my family since. For God to give me the right words to help them as they grieve their losses; the loss of their parents, their cousins, their country, their grandmother, their friends and their culture.

Today, I can't imagine life without them. I absolutely cannot tell you what a difference 5 months makes! We are family. We have our issues, but who doesn't? We are 8 people who really, really love each other and belong together! We have grown from what we've seen; from what we've experienced. We have emerged better people; a better family because of it. I don't write this to scare any soon to be adoptive parents, but to help you realize that if you are going through this or if you ever do, IT DOES GET BETTER. Time is on our side! God Bless.

Book Review

As you know, I am a book fiend. I am obsessed with Amazon.com as well as B&N, Borders and the library. I get so excited when I find a good book, I wanted to share with you a few of my finds.
All the Colors of the Earth is a beautifully illustrated book about children of the earth who come in all different shades with all different types of hair. The descriptive verses of the book along with the illustrations make it a wonderful read aloud book for any child.
"For love comes in cinnamon, walnut, and wheat, Love is amber and ivory and ginger and sweet."
You can order this book here. I bought a gently used copy at Amazon for $3.20. It looks new to me.

My second wonderful find is When the World Began: Stories Collected in Ethiopia. I first came across this book at our library, and I knew immediately I would have to add it to our home library. This wonderful book has stories from Ethiopia that I'm sure were handed down via oral tradition from generation to generation. These are the things I don't want our children to lose. Some of the stories include: How the tortoise got her shell, The enchanted flute, and The Monkey's Birthday.
You can order this book here. This book was a little more expensive, but it is a hardback book and has many, many stories. It should be on the bookshelf of any child from Ethiopia!

And lastly I found a book by a favorite author Jane Kurtz. Ms. Kurtz is from Ethiopia and has written several children's books about Ethiopia. One of our favorites is Fire on the Mountain. I found a chapter book called The Storyteller's Beads, which is a story about the 1980's famine of Ethiopia. I am going to read it first and then decide who will read it and when, but it is definitely a part of Ethiopian history that I will want our children to know and remember. You can find this book here.

You can see Fire on the Mountain here.

Another great book that I am waiting to arrive is E is for Ethiopia. It is a picture rhyming book that takes you through the alphabet using pictures in Ethiopia. The pictures are awesome and will serve as a great teaching guide for children too young to remember Ethiopia, as well as a great source of comfort for those old enough to remember. Take a look at this wonderful book here.

Baseball Days

I love watching our kids participate in sports. Jack has done a great job at baseball this summer! People at the games say Jack has the biggest fan club of anyone on the team. There are on average, 12 to 15 people yelling for him at any given game. Oh yet another great thing about having a big family!

My boys! This picture makes my heart skip a beat!

Jack hamming it up...

Doesn't it look like the boys are being pictured with their future parole officer?

Watch this video to see my boy make a hit and hear me screaming like an obsessed maniac parent!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Dance like no one's watching

"Work like you don't need money.
Love like you've never been hurt.
And dance like no one's watching."

Quote for the day...

AFTER walking what seemed to be miles..... in the rain..... at the amusement park today looking for a bathroom.......
Justine tells us, "I hate to havta be the one to havta 'splain this, but I already peed in my pants."

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Nature Walking

Yes, this falls under a category of secrets that we don't tell our homestudy agency. (Crystal... if you're reading, just stop here.) We have an ongoing joke in our house about what we shouldn't tell Crystal. I won't share anymore here as it could be evidence used against us... ha. We decided we wanted to go on a nature walk, but many of us didn't want to walk. So we loaded up the bikes and scooters in the back of the Expedition. Thank goodness for bungee cords. Doesn't this look so safe?

Josh was way ahead of us and looking for wildlife. He found this a few times...

But he screamed as if he had found this...

It was hysterical. We had a great time riding through the water left over from our recent flooding. I now have to figure out a safe way to get all the bikes and kids in the Expedition for further adventures.

Organization OCD

I thought I would share with you some of my Organization OCD. When we were preparing to add 2 people to an already busy household, I found myself trying to find ways to organize our household. The less time I have to spend looking for lost items or doing things that the kids are highly capable of doing is taking away some of my joy; some of my time that I could spend with them, so we are always looking for ways to make things work better, run smoother and get done more efficiently. These are some of the things I came up with:

Each person has a laundry basket and are responsible for putting away their own laundry. Jordan does her own laundry (when she is home and not away for the entire month of July... wah). People tell me I should make the other kids do their own laundry, but honestly I love my washer and dryer too much to allow that. Sorry, I've already admitted the OCD and control freakness...

I have multiple cameras, chargers, plus 5 fairly expensive MP3 players belonging to the children that I could never find. I bought this over the door shoe holder for my cameras, USB cables, chargers, MP3 players and misc other expensive, difficult to find, difficult to replace, frequently used items. The pockets are see through, therefore you can always find what you are looking for. It hangs on the inside of my pantry door, therefore it is not an eye sore. This has made a huge difference for me as far as my pictures and camers are involved. I have found that not finding a dead battery every time you pick up a camera makes it a lot easier to take more pictures!

Every child (except Jordan) has a different colored mesh bag. These bags are to be used for going to gymnastics, swimming lessons, overnights with grandparents, or any time in general that they feel the need to take something somewhere. This too has been very helpful because they are responsible for their bags and what's in them. If they have been given a task to *pack* for an event, they better be sure they do so appropriately. And I know immediately who has not packed their bag, or who has left their bag somewhere. This is an OCD mother's way of teaching responsibility.

And finally our chore chart. What a revolution this has made. Our kids were so tired of always doing the same chores, so we made this chart to be able to change chores every week. The chart has enough velcro spaces below the chores for 2 people to share a chore. Everyone gets to pick a chore and pick a partner. They are responsible for making sure their partner is helping them. The kids think it's funny to pick chores. The chores that are left over are assigned by me. (That can be quite fun as well.) There are also some chores with the name "everyone." These are the things that everyone is responsible for doing. Some of these chores are: recycling, putting your clothes away, putting your dirty clothes in the laundry basket, changing your underwear everyday (yes, we added that one for the boys)... etc. Some of the assigned chores are: scooping dog poop (oohh, that's a favorite one... Josh threw up the first time he had that chore), sorting everyone's laundry to be washed, cleaning the toilets, replacing the toilet paper rolls in each bathroom...
I hope you've had a good time looking at my OCD in action.

I love fireworks

Yes, I know I'm contradicting myself. I can't be trusted. On the fourth of July, we went to a huge, outdoor fireworks display and Christian concert put on by a church in our community. From what I heard, there were about 100,000 people there. It's one of those occasions where you pack up the cooler, the kids, the bag chairs, the picnic blankets, the card games, bags of food, the kitchen sink... you get my point. I think we started packing for this occasion back in June. As we loaded up the kids... and by loaded up, I mean piled stuff on them to carry, we started our long trek into the main event. Justine was carrying her bag, a chair and a blanket, and as she began to lag behind, I asked her if she was OK. Her reply was sentiment of the entire day, "Never Better." Everyone got along. Everyone participated in carrying all of our belongings. They kids helped each other. Jeff and I were able to handle the fiasco of keeping track of 5 kids among thousands without even so much as a harsh word. It was fabulous.

As the sun went down and the music began, the kids all settled in on their blankets in front of us. I felt this calmness and absurd dream like feeling come over me. It was as if I were watching our family from a window. I remembered back to last 4th of July when my adoption frenzy peaked. Last summer, I was so desperate to begin the process. I can remember sitting there wondering what the year would hold for us. This year as I sat and watched the fireworks, it was as if every single one of my neurons were supercharged. I felt like I had an altered sense of awareness. Perhaps an LSD trip without the LSD? Who knows? With every single boom and pop of the fireworks, something was ignited within my heart. I soaked in the sulfur smell of the fireworks. The flash of the lights was embedded in my soul. The music vibrated me. The coolness of the air gave me goose bumps. The words of the songs praising God in front of so many unchurched people brought tears to my eyes. This is one of the moments life is about. This was one of those moments that make me feel alive. This is one of those extraordinary moments that make all the other ordinary moments tolerable.

Monday, July 07, 2008

A moving Sermon by a fellow Hope parent... Deanne

It's not OK with me that there are over 145 million orphans in the world.
It's not OK with me that the poorest of the poor in America are among the 9% richest in the world.
It's not OK with me that there are 45 million orphans on the continent of Africa alone.
It's not OK with me that 3/4 of the world lives on less than one dollar a day.
It's not OK with me that 3/4 of the world does not have a toilet, not even a pit latrine.
It's not OK with me that 6500 Africans die each day, 1500 each month (the same amount as were killed by the tsunami) from HIV.
It's not OK with me that more non-christians donate to AIDs and orphan charities than do Christians.
It's not OK with me to withhold lifesaving ARV's out of deference to the office of patents.
It's not OK with me that where you live determines whether you live.
It's not OK with me that every fourteen seconds another child is orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
It's not OK with me that the church has been slow to respond to the modern day Leprosy of our time.
It's not OK with me that 2,102,400 more children become orphans each year(in Africa alone). It's not OK with me that In Ukraine and Russia 10% -15% of children who age out of an orphanage commit suicide before age 18.
It's not OK with me that every hour one thousand children die from HIV/AIDS.
I think you get the point, or at least some of it. I am here today to talk about God's love of the poor, the orphans, the widows, the strangers of the world. I am here to talk about what you can do to make a difference in the world and in the life of a child by following God's word. I am here to tell you that the nameless and faceless orphan found in these statistics is by no means nameless or faceless to God.
Psalm 139:13-14 says
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Mostly I am here to deliver the message of our Lord that Caring for the least; a major ingredient of Biblical Christianity has been forgotten by the church. I want to ignite this fire within each and everyone of you today. Throughout scripture and throughout the history of his people, God has called his chosen one's to spend themselves on behalf of the poor, the oppressed, the orphan, the widow, the prisoner, and the stranger in the land.In fact, caring for the orphan is mentioned over 40 times in the scripture. Poverty is mentioned over 2100 times. Now that's a lot of airtime my friends.
Galatians 6;2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of ChristJames 1;27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted from the world.
Mathew 25;40 The king will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
Mathew 18;10-14See that you do not look down on one of these little ones.
For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father in heaven. What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.The gospel that I believe in offers a cup of cold water in Jesus' name. The only gospel worth living is the one that incarnates love. The only gospel worth giving our lives for is the one that elevates the needs of others above our own. That's what the good news is all about folks. History will judge our generation by how we responded to those in need. History will judge the church by how it responded to those in need. We have the opportunity to show the world just what it truly means to be Christ-followers. You and I can make a difference. Someone once told me when I first wanted to adopt that I couldn't change the world. Well I happen to disagree. With God at my side anything is possible and you and I can change the world. We change the world when we lead with compassion and move from apology to action. And out of action springs hope- and out of hope, life. So for our mistakes, I am sorry. But for our potential, for the impact you and I can have on a world in need....I am hopeful. Our adoption by God cost us nothing. However it did cost God something; it cost him his son. The high fees and costs for adoption today are indefensible, but they are not inconceivable. Adoption is costly. Whether in the realm of finances, emotions, relationships, time, or effort, adoption will cost.But think of what it cost God, and yet he was willing to undergo that cost. And not simply undergo it but to undergo it with joy. I have heard so many comments from people about adoptions and the ones that stun me the most are from Christians, like, Well can't you have anymore children? Why don't you just have another child? Oh it's not that we don't want you to adopt but we just feel sorry for that poor black child being raised in a white family. You don't have the money. You will be taking away from your kids now. Oh do you really want to do that to yourself. First, yes I can have more children. and I don't know why people find it so hard to believe that I want to give a child a home that needs one. And the sacrifice? Well taking care of one God's orphans is the least I can do to repay the price he paid for me. We were not put on this earth to get by with the least possible. We were put on this earth to serve the Lord. Through adoption, I am serving the Lord. I don't expect it to be easy. And about the poor black child being raised by a white family as opposed to not eating every day, sleeping on dirt, and suffering from needless illnesses, I think living with a white family may not be ideal, but we are all God's children. God adopted all of us, black, white, chinese, indian. We are all God's children. He did not think twice about adopting us. It was more difficult for God to adopt anyone of us than it would ever be for me to take care of one of his children. We were not a cute little puppy, looking for a Father. No we were evil and putrid and we were repulsive. Some of us would reject him forever, some of us would never want to know his love or grace and yet he still adopted all of us, even if only one would ever love him and come to know him. Can you imagine dying for someone that would reject you and that you knew would reject you? How many of us would do that?The adoption journey is not an easy one, but every hour of toil, every obstacle encountered, every tear shed, every sleepless night---all are but a shadow of the price that God paid for us. Jesus came to be a ransom for many, and if God was willing to pay that ransom for us, how much more will he be willing to lead us in ransoming his beloved children from their state as orphans? And it is his love that compels us onward in obedience, whatever the cost, for he who calls us is faithful. Our God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, who is rich in mercy and grace, who generously provides for all that we need, this God knows the costs we will incur, and promises to be with us and for us every step of the way. This is about faith in action. This is an invitation to experience god in ways we've never experienced him before. In Matthew, Jesus says, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." God's heart is invested in adoption. Let us view the costs, both known and unknown, as an invitation for us to invest our resources, and therefore our hearts into the things of god. You know I used to think the same way, that going to church, living right, praying, and talking to the Lord was enough, but the scripture tells us that faith is not enough. Faith without deeds is dead. It's like a quarter with only one side. Faith on one side and deeds on the other. You can spend it unless you have both. Bono tells a story of a wise man that changed his life. He told this man that he was always seeking the Lord's blessing when he had a new song, had a family to look after, or a crazy idea. The wise man said " Stop. Stop asking God to bless what you are doing. Get involved in what God is doing-because it is already blessed." Well, God as I said is with the orphaned and the poor and the widows. That I believe in what God is doing. And that is what he is calling us to do.I have often heard people talk of seeing the face of god in the poor. I never really understood it until the Lord sent me to Zambia with his own intentions in mind. Well let me tell you my friends that the orphans, the widows, the poor, the sick and oppressed is where God said he would be and it's there that you will truly experience him, see him, touch him, and walk with him. I know that 40 million is an unconceivable number to comprehend. Sometimes we hear the numbers and they are too overwhelming. I want you to think about this number for a while. Think about 40 million children going to bed at night without a kiss from a mom or dad, 40 million children that will never have anyone teach them how to ride a bike, rejoice with them every time they make an A on their spelling test, cheer them on in their soccer game, 40 million children with no mommy or daddy. I also know that as a Christian not one of you would purposely ignore the grave statistics. Sometimes the sheer magnitude of the numbers is just too much to handle so we block it out and go about with our lives. It's so easy to just turn the channel instead of watching the two year old with big brown eyes and a swollen belly. But I am asking you right now; right now if I told you that there was one child depending on you, one child that needed you, would you say no. As a Christian could you say no I won't help. I don't think you would. If you knew there was one child in the world that needed you, I think you would reach out and do whatever you could to help. So don't tell me that I can't change the world. I along with everyone in here can change the world. My God is bigger than the 145 million orphans in the world. My God is bigger than the HIV/AIDS crisis. How about your God. If you think you can't change the world by helping one child then you are wrong. That one child is one of God's chosen ones, destined for greatness. If you think you can't change the world by helping only one child, why don't you ask that child, because I guarantee you would change that child's world. So I am asking each and everyone of you today to let this hurt into your heart. You can take this message and turn it off just like you do the TV shows or you can let the hurt in, feel it in your heart and decide to make a difference in the world. A difference in one of God's miracles, the lesser. So I am asking you today to not only let this hurt into your heart but also to act on it. Turn your faith into a faith with action. I am asking you not only to believe in God, but to also walk the walk. You don't have to adopt a child to help out, but someone in your church, or family, or neighborhood may feel the calling for adoption. This family may not have the financial resources to adopt. Support that family financially. Start an orphan ministry within your church to support families that feel called to adopt. Support a child through a christian foundation for 30 dollars a month. Go on a mission trip to an orphanage and teach the children about God. Tell them that even though they feel all alone in this world that they are God's chosen ones and he will not forsake them.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Breakdancing 101

For your viewing pleasure: A bootlegged copy of the previously conviscated "Breakdancing 101" video featuring my husband Jeff the Dork teaching Josh and Jack the Dorks how to breakdance. Enjoy now before he notices the video is posted and has it removed and my camera permanently placed where I can't reach it...

I hate fireworks

I hate fireworks. Not the sparklers so much... or the smoke bombs. But I hate the rockets and the dangerous stuff. 4th of July at our house always involves fireworks as the male members of our family are undiagnosed pyromaniacs. (Or if you've read about Jack catching my bathroom on fire, REAL pyromaniacs) And so we had our 4th of July early... last night. And it reinforced what I already knew. I hate fireworks. There were a lot of kids there who didn't belong to us, and that makes me nervous even without explosives involved. So I was at a maximum level of worse case scenario anxiety. Jeff did a really good job of doing the safety speech, letting them know the rules and a basic "don't be stupid" speech. I was really proud of him. Evidently he should have repeated this speech for the adult neighbor who came down later with his wife and small son. I looked over and saw Jameson right next to this IDIOT holding a rocket in his hand. At the time, I couldn't tell whether she had lit it or was just standing there. Fire was shooting out of the rocket, right in her face. He drops the rocket, and it shoots off into the crowd of kids and runs right into the ankle of one of the visiting kids. Jameson came running over to me crying and completely freaked out. She was shaking and scared to death. Luckily she was not physically hurt at all. Rachel was crying because it burned her ankle... and the IDIOT... the idiot said, "Oh, I thought it was a Roman candle." I was so angry. He could have made her first 4th of July her last. Our friends went home. Their daughter hurt and scared. My daughter completely freaked out. I am still really mad about it... No more fireworks for me.

My internet penpal

Last year when I announced that we were adopting older kids from Ethiopia, a dear friend and co-worker gave me the name and number of her neighbors daughter, Kristy, who also had recently adopted an 8 and 10 year old from Ethiopia. Kristy and I became internet penpals and have developed this friendship from our computers. This week they were in town to visit grandparents and we had the opportunity to get together, finally meet, introduce the kids and compare notes. It was awesome to finally get to meet her. We hugged huge, and I felt like I was getting to see an old friend after a long separation. It was awesome! Kristy has been a great inspiration to me as well as a "go to" girl about older adoption. She was there when we didn't pass court the first time. She was there when we were making our travel plans. She was there when we got home, and I didn't know where to start. I was there as she went through the process of adopting another child. I was there when she didn't pass court several times. I was there as she went back to Ethiopia to get the child she could not forget about. For those of you adopting children, the best advice I can give is to develop relationships with people who are exeriencing the same thing you are. Whether you are adopting older kids, or a toddler, or a baby... find someone who is in the same shoes as you are. The friendships I have developed along this journey are treasures to me. The friends I have through the internet, this blog, the Yahoo group are invaluable resources and sources of love and support to me. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


I know it may seem like I have it all together. The organized mom everyone else is jealous of... (ha ha ha ha, this is me laughing hysterically), but there are moments when I just can't get it together. For some reason, baseball has been one of those things this year that I can't seem to get it together for. A few weeks ago, we were all running around the house attempting to get ready for the big game, and I could not find Jack's baseball uniform. I usually keep all uniforms (or costumes as I always call them) in the laundry room so that we can avoid the last minute screaming of "where is your uniform..." Jack finally showed up in this #33 jersey. I'm so on top of things, I didn't even notice that it was last year's jersey. What kind of mother doesn't even know her son's baseball number? Well this one, I guess. I even went so far as to get a #33 painted on his face at the free face painting at McAlister's where kids eat free on Tuesdays. When we showed up to the game, I was immediately accosted by Jeff and all the rest of the team because it was the wrong jersey. I didn't see how it was such a big deal, but evidently they had to change the batting line up, blah blah blah. Besides feeling like a complete failure as a mother, it ended up just fine.
The next week, I was determined not to let that #33 thing happen again, so 10 minutes before it was time to leave, I finally located Jack's jersey in the bottom of his laundry basket... where it had been for 2 weeks. Yes, I know, you're all thinking I had a week to take care of this, but as I have stated, I've been having a hard time getting it together for baseball. So as I pulled it out of the basket, I was overwhelmed by the smell. It smelled like a combination of wet dog, dirty socks and vomit! I put it in the dryer with a bunch of laundry sheets. Wet dog, dirty socks and vomit. I put it in a bag with dryer sheets and squished it around. Wet dog, dirty socks and vomit. I thought about washing it and hanging it out the window to dry on the way to the game, but that seemed like a lot of effort when we only had 5 minutes to spare at this point. So we left it in the bag until we got to the game. Poor Jack put the shirt on and said "What is that smell? Is that me?" "Well next time, you'll make sure your laundry is brought up." Wow, talk about a love and logic moment. Nasty. I could see the other kids on the team smelling their shirts to make sure it wasn't them. What a wonderful learning opportunity. At least that's what we all called it.... After he showered and we washed the shirt... twice.

Ah... Retirement...

I'm pretty sure we are enjoying my Dad's retirement more than he is. In case we forgot to say it, thanks Poppy. We went to Silver Dollar City last week and had a blast. I was trying to find the Amharic word for Roller Coaster... but somehow it just didn't translate. Up...Down...upside down, inside out... what? Our explanations of how much fun we were about to have just didn't translate, but once they rode a roller coaster for the first time, it definitely was understood.
Jack and Josh worked together to get to the top.
So did the girls!
So did Poppy and Justine. Look at that face.... doesn't that just say it all? Actually look at both of them. That really does say it all.
We got wet. We got scared. We had so much fun. Justine was big enough to ride a roller coaster this year, and after her first ride, through her tears, she said, "Mother, what have you done to me?" Jameson was too scared to even make a noise. She mouthed the words, "I'm SO scared." But don't get me wrong, they wanted to ride again and again and again.
Justine is a lot like me. She enjoyed cleaning up the balls the most. Oh, how we Ellerbee girls love to clean!

PPV Bandit

Well I am sad to say the Pay Per View Bandit has struck again. I thought we had fixed that. We blocked all the channels and made it password sensitive. They could only watch what we approved when we put the code in. Evidently we have had some high def pay per view channels added to our already obnoxious and nauseating list. Last night, we found Josh watching the $50 WWF Smackdown thing, and I didn't know enough to know that was a "special" occasional "smackdown". Thinking it was just your usual "smackdown", I didn't think to look and see what channel is was actually on. Jeff immediately knew that this was not just your usual ordinary "smackdown," and sure enough it was an ALL DAY PAY PER VIEW event... AGAIN. Josh was watching it. Jack had been watching it with him, but wasn't at the time of the discovery. So both boys are grounded from TV for a week. And absolutely no more WWF "smackdown." They will have to work to pay it back. I'm about to have my own special occasion "smackdown," and it won't be pay per view... trust me.