Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Josh asked me today if we could watch a movie tonight. I asked him what kind of movie he wanted to watch. Expecting vampires, violence, or blood and guts, I was surprised when he asked to watch something sad.

"Mom. What's a sad movie?"
"Well, I always thought Bridge to Terabithia was sad. The little girl dies in the movie."
"I've seen plenty of people die in real life. That movie is not sad."
"Buddy, I doubt we will be able to find a movie as sad as what you've seen in real life."
"Yeah. Probably right."


Saturday, June 20, 2009

tennis, old hat, and some other stuff

I really like tennis.
I have never really played tennis before.
But now I really like tennis.

Jordan and I took all the kids to play tennis yesterday, and I learned a few things about them. Josh and Jameson are so used to new things. They are so used to being in new situations and trying new things. They don't give up. New things are old hat to them.

Justine was playing ball girl, which was really kind of nice.
Jack and Jaiden were whining.
"I'm hot."
"I can't do this."
"I want to go home."
"I'm no good."

It was then that I realized a major difference between the original Ellerbee kids and the extended Ellerbee kids. (I don't like to differentiate by bio/adopted, new/old, or the color of their skin. They're all my kids)

The original Ellerbee kids lives have been so easy. They haven't had to worry about where their next meal is going to come from. They haven't experienced the loss or the adversaries that Josh and Jameson have. Things have been handed to them their whole lives. And I'm not saying this is a bad thing. I would never want any of my kids to have to struggle or worry about their basic needs being met.

That being said, I was so proud of Josh and Jameson and the way they keep trying at things that are new to them. They have so much drive to accomplish new things. They learned how to swim in 2 lessons last year. They both have learned an entire language over the past year and a half. They have learned the ins and outs of our family. I love their competitive nature. I love their athleticism. I love that they don't give up when things are hard.
I love them.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

We could be our own Geico Commerical

No. We're just kidding. We aren't selling insurance... we are studying ancient history.
This is our cave painting project. I'm sure you've noticed that one caveman is missing. Josh was too cool to paint or participate with us in this project. Evidently he already knows everything he needs to about cavemen and cave painting. Ha.
We had fun anyway!

Jack's Painting

Jameson's Painting

Justine's Painting

Jaiden's Painting

A crazy cave woman

Quite an addition to our house... until daddy accidently opened the garage door.

Sorry honey.


How much do you wanna bet...

These beautiful fruit and cheese kabobs I made for the kids ended up being used in a sword fight...

After they were devoured by the whole crew...

Except Justine... who insisted I make a special one with no fruit...because she doesn't eat fruit... (or vegetables or meat of any kind...)

Oh a cheese kabob. Just what I always wanted. I'm telling you, the girl is special in more ways than one.

We been experimentin'

That's Ozark slang for the science experimentation we have experienced in summer school thus far.

My kids love science. I love science. But it is summer!

Because we are homeschooling during the summer (I know... boo hiss...,) I am trying to make it as much fun as possible. As I've said before, we don't homeschool because we believe the public school system to be bad or unable to educate our children; I just really (usually) enjoy being with them, watching them learn, and re-learning right along with them. We are having a good time with our study of plants.

These were our plants on June 7th

Our plants on June 17th... check out those roots!

We have been learning about dicots and monocots and primary roots and secondary roots. My kids can tell you anything you want to know about photosynthesis. I am so proud of them. I am especially proud that the experiments I planned ACTUALLY worked the way they're supposed to! You gotta love that!
Check out the seed coat on this baby.

Proving the theory of cohesion of water molecules and the process by which water is suctioned UP a root... a piece of celery has soaked up the red food coloring.
How cool is that?

The kids have their final on Wednesday July 8th before we leave for the Hope Reunion 2009 in Ft Worth. I have warned them, it's gonna be a doozy. Let's hope we fit some studying in somewhere.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

University of Chicago

Chicago was recently ranked by the Princeton Review as one of the top 10 schools where students always go to study. University of Chicago is one of the top 10 schools in the nation.

I thought I would share with all of you. It's pretty cool.

Chicago students believe that "no university offers a better academic experience." Undergraduates must complete an intense, "interdisciplinary" core curriculum that "teaches them how to think about literature and philosophy and science." The Core is "rigorous" but also "fantastic, and you come out an incredibly well-rounded thinker with opinions on a wide variety of subjects." The quarter system "makes for a particularly fast-paced" schedule. "We wear T-shirts that say 'U of C: Where fun comes to die,' and we're proud of it," explains a first-year student. "Don't come here if you don't plan to work very hard," an economics major warns. However, according to one student, "As much as a lot of people complain about the extremely rigorous academics at this school, we all secretly love it or we wouldn't be here."

Students who considered University of Chicago also looked at
Northwestern University, Brown University, Cornell University, Washington University in St. Louis and New York University.


Thank you...

Thank you to all the readers who listened to me gripe and complain about my children yesterday. Thank you for not writing a comment about how horrible I am. What a horrible woman I must be to be frustrated with two little children from Africa. They can't help it. Trust me, I have already chastized myself enough for all of us. After I wrote it, I considered deleting it; then I got busy. Imagine that.

So often, I get people who say, "you're so amazing." "You're a super mom." blah blah blah. And while my ego likes to hear these things, it's so not true. I lose my temper and patience as much, if not more. I have high expectations; probably too high. I don't want people to think that we are some weird family who never fights, who never has down days, who never worries about the future. I do. I worry all the time. I'm worrying right now.

I hope and pray that they will understand why we expect so much out of them. Today, Justine, who is probably the wisest child in the house, said, "Mom, I know you just want us to turn out to be edumacated..." She's right. There is a lot of pressure with homeschooling. Perhaps I try to do too much for fear of doing too little? Better to teach them more than they need to know than to miss something they do need to know.

Tonight, I was complaining about long division with my friends.
"How hard could it be?" I exasperatedly asked.
"In the middle of summer?" they responded, "Pretty hard."
So perhaps I need to simmer down and attempt to relax a little?

I write this blog for several reasons, one is to keep a record for myself and the kids, although they will probably want to avoid 6/16/09's post. I also write as an outlet for myself. As you can imagine, with all of these youngsters, I don't get a lot of free time for manicures, movies or "me" time. This has become that. I can pour myself into this computer and then leave it here. I can complain about dyslexia or laziness or adolescent funks here and then move on and forget about it. Unfortunately, you all get the brunt of it. But I want to be real. I want to be able to share the ups as well as the downs. Parenting 6 kids is no easy feat. Working. Homeschooling. Attempting to maintain a marriage. None of it is easy. But it's real and it's us. So there you go.

Thank you for praying for us. You will never know how much we appreciate that. We need it.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

If I've said it once...

"Are you freaking kidding me?"

If I have said that once this week, I've said it a million times.

I had an adoption specialist person disagree with me recently on my view that adopting an older child has more challenges than adopting a baby. I've never adopted a baby, so obviously I don't know what that's like, but the process of trying to get older children caught up in school has got to top sleepless nights and diarrhea diapers. At least with infants, they learn the language and skills they need before school.

I am having my own sleepless nights imagining them trying to ever go to high school or college or hold down a job where you have to... oh, I don't know, read and write, tell time, make change. Seriously!

I am at my wit's end with trying to catch them up. If I have taught long division once in the last 6 months, I have taught it a million times. Josh totally gets it while I'm doing it with him, then when I'm grading his homework, all I can say is "Are you freaking kidding me?"

Jameson is still struggling with reading simple words at times. Today she looks at me quite seriously and says "mom, what's diddle?" I look at her assignment and it's BIBLE. There is no rhyme or reason as to whether they will get it. Some days they do, other days they look at me like they have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about.

There is so much pressure to try to get them caught up. We are doing school year round. I have become a total hard &*^, and I am grading them quite harshly. I can't tell if they have learning disabilities or just think I won't notice that the page is still only half done in handwriting you can't read.

GEEZ. Are you freaking kidding me?

On a serious note, Jameson is being tested for learning disabilities next week. As for Josh, he knows how to do it... so I think his might be more of a behavioral issue. That wouldn't be too far from reality with him.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Our poetry lesson...

We are studying poetry in our summer session of homeschool.

Today's was so good; I just had to share.

Of Mere Being

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze distance.

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhapy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

--Wallace Stevens

We took this poem to be about the anticipation of the imagination. It's about reality and finding our own happiness. We imagined that perhaps he was imagining heaven. I'm sure there are probably a lot of much deeper thoughts and ideas found in this poem, however this is what our little minds thought.

The assignment was to write short, declarative sentences. These sentences were to be about their own beyond; their own heaven. The kids wrote their own poem about what they believe their own heaven will be like.

I think they did a pretty good job.


The garden at the end of the world,
Beyond the last breath, begin
The streets of gold.

A sunshine-maned lion named Steve,
Waves and says hello.
Native tongues speak; all ears understand.

A gentle breeze, neither hot nor cold,
Perfect fragrance of flowers.

The lions full mane envelops us all.
We are happy.

--The Ellerbee Kids

This is Steve.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Adoption Perspectives...

As an adopted person, with adopted children, I continue to seek to find a reasonable perspective on adoption in general. For those of you who aren't adopted, it's a whirlwind maze of emotion that I have sought to figure out for 30 plus years. No matter how much you think you understand, there are just some things you can't get. There's issues of abandonment, grief, loss, and just plain "where do I fit into this world?" feelings.

Today while the girls and I were painting fingernails and toenails, Jameson said something about her "real mom." And while I knew this phrase was bound to come up eventually, actually hearing it for the first time did sting a little. I tried to gently say, "Your first mom..." I'm OK with being second, but I so don't want to be a "fake" mom.

We talk very openly about Eyob and Nebiet... Our kids "real" parents. We talk about what they were like, how happy they would be to see them now. We refer to them as "your parents." But suddenly today, I felt like the Velveteen Rabbit, waiting to be abused enough to become "real."

As settled in and OK as our kids are now, I am not naive enough to believe they aren't still processing and grieving. Jameson asked me the other day if I thought she cried very much. I told her, "No, not too much." She replied with, "I cry a lot at night because when I open my eyes, my parents are there." Did not know this. I found a picture in Josh's room of his parents that he had blown up on the copy machine, he had autographed it in their absence; it was signed, "We love you Filemon. Love, your parents." WOW.

When people find out that I'm adopted, inevitably the question is: have you ever thought of finding your "real" parents? Geez, how I hate that phrase. Anyway, of course I've thought about it. What adopted child hasn't thought about it at one point or another? Adoptive parents, let me tell you, when those difficult pre-teen years start, you will probably hear that "real" parent phrase even more. It's normal for an adopted child to have this fantasy of their birth parents. They will be perfect. They would NEVER be so unfair as to make the child behave, do homework, or have a curfew.

I have little information about my "birth" mother. I will refer to her as my birth mother and not my real mother until the time I find out she was indeed a wooden puppet named Pinocchio who became "real" later in life. Anyway, I at least have a name. Karen Gamble. I saw it on some court documents when I was 18. Her handwriting looked just like mine. I have some vague recollection of minor details I probably propagated as a child. She was good at English. She was a college student. But even though I have even less information than my kids have, I have something. And I have something because of what my parents shared with me. And probably what I made up in the corners of my mind. But you know what? Even if I made up half of the stuff I believe to know, it's OK. As an adoptive parent now, I struggle with the chasm between the knowledge we don't have and what we believe was most likely the truth. Is it ethical to share with our children that their parents loved them very much? That they chose life for them and wanted more for them? Absolutely! Is it ethical to say to our kids, "I imagine your mother was..." I think so.

I heard a story this week that will never be shared. It's a story of desperation. It's a story of beginnings and endings. It's a story of how a baby ended up in foster care. I shared with this mom that as an adopted person's point of view, that story must never be shared with her child. It made me think how we can give our kids the best information they need, but make it what they actually need. Do they need every little nitty, gritty detail? No, they need to know what information they need to form their fantasy family in their minds. So often when people ask me why I never found my "birth" parents, I tell them it's because right now, they are OK people who wanted more for me. Finding them could potentially ruin that fantasy. Am I a chicken shit? Probably. But I have a family who loves me and has from day one. What more do I need?

All of this thinking brought me around to an idea I have wanted to do from the beginning, but was:
a) too busy,
2) too overwhelmed, and
III) not emotionally ready.

And that is to begin work on a lifebook for Josh and Jameson.

You can read about Adoption Lifebooks here.

An adoption lifebook which is the story of your child. It's not about you, your adoption journey, your life together. It begins at birth. It includes as much information about birth parents and family as you know. What you don't know, you don't make up, but you include information about what you think is the case. For instance, you may not have specific information about parents or family, but you know the child was taken to an orphanage by a family member who loved them very much and was unable to care for them.

Trust me, it's enough.

In our lifebooks, we will include information about family, culture, about the loving caregivers at the orphanage, about their wonderful friends and the adults who helped them. We will attempt to fill in the gaps and stimulate as much memory as we can. We are not making up memories, we are providing our kids with the information to stimulate their own memories. For instance, we know that Nebiet (the first mother) was a hair braider, so we will do a page about the beautiful braids the Ethiopian women can weave. We will work through it together, to create dialogue between us and them, and hopefully to help heal all of our wounds.

Some great books about Adoption Lifebooks are:
Adoption Lifebook: A Bridge to Your Child's Beginnings
Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child
Before You Were Mine

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Some Pre-graduation Pictures


Springpatch USA

I know we often make fun of living in Springpatch USA, and I have many times wondered what would have happened if we had relocated somewhere exotic before we were old and "settled." But I have been reminded as of late, why we truly are living in a great area.

We drove 45 minutes in one direction this week and ended up at the lake. We went out on the boat with a friend, swam in the still frigid waters of Tablerock Lake, and excitedly planned our camping trip.

We drove 45 minutes in the other direction and eneded up at the drive in. A real old fashioned drive in complete with deja vu from my childhood. We cuddled up with blankets and watched a double feature, getting all 6 kids home after 1am.

We went to Shakespeare in the Park and laughed our heads off at "Much Ado About Nothing." We are studying Shakespeare in school, so I started with this play. The kids actually laughed at the appropriate places, were engaged with the story, and knew the names of the characters before most adults caught on.

We also went to Jordan Valley Park and played in the fountains one day. This is an awesome green space in the middle of downtown. The fountains are great. The grass is rolling and thick. The flowers are in bloom.

As you can see I used this time to rest.