Saturday, April 27, 2013

Keeping busy...

Well, it's been a very busy April around here...

We celebrated a three year old...

and a seven year old... (click here to read all about how I feel about my kids getting older)

 enjoyed a dance recital...

started enjoying weekly baseball games... (someone likes hitting a whole lot more than fielding)

 AND... decided to move.

Yup. We found a neighborhood not too far from us that is safe, quiet and has small houses with driveways and backyards for sale. Daniel has been begging us for a "small house with a big backyard" (you'd think he was born on an African farm or something!)  So when we saw what the housing market was offering... we had to take the plunge. Our little apartment will be put on the market on Mother's Day.  So I've got two weeks to finally! fix the plaster in the kitchen, hide all the photos and knick-knacks (good thing I've been zenifying!) and touch up the paint for the open house.

Oh yes, and I requested a grade transfer at work for the next school year... because I like to keep my life as complicated and challenging as possible interesting.

Which is why I've been looking like this by 8:00 in the evening:

Motherhood, it's so glamourous.

Do you notice how a certain toddler DOES NOT look sleepy in that photo? Lily's new sleep challenge is falling asleep before 9:30PM. Yes, NINE THIRTY PM.  Yes, it's terrible. No, we have no brilliant ideas about how to fix it. She has to nap at daycare because otherwise I'll need to buy her teachers a new house too.  Sigh. 

But, life is good. We are very lucky to have these two goofballs keeping us awake and making us buy them houses with backyards. :)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Do you clean your child's room? Why?

The news this week was just so awful.... I have no words for it.

 But, I do have plenty to say about the state of my children's rooms and their toys... so let's talk about that, shall we?

Because there's this:

that's all his bedclothes on the floor, along with his collection of super hero accessories.
This month my kids received a new dollhouse, hot wheels tracks, musical instruments, remote control cars... what are they playing with this morning? An old piece of rope.

Which makes me think of the question I ponder weekly: Why do we have all. these. toys?

And, why do I clean my children's rooms? Because I do, about twice a month, or when I just can't stand it anymore. Because the sight of the legos mixed up with the hot wheels makes my eye twitch. Because I'm OCD Swedish like that.

I mean, this is how I store Lily's hair accessories:

oh yes, sorted by color and in a rainbow arrangement.
So when her Barbie accessories get mixed up with the kitchen set and the dinosaur toys, I have to step in.

There's pretty much no use at this point of telling my 6 year old son to "go clean his room".  He'll just go in, wander around, and take out more toys. If I say, "pick up everything on the floor", he'll do it. And put everything (dirty socks, pajamas, hats, shoes, books, action figures) in a heap on a shelf. He can't help it; he's not Swedish.

After I've spent a hour putting all his things back in the right places, I'll call him back into his room and say, "See?! See?!"  I will get a big 6 year old eye roll and be asked to leave his room so he can play.

I've made peace with this.  I'm training him to put dirty clothes in the hamper, bed clothes on the bed, and shoes in the shoe bin. If he wants to put his superheroes in the playdough bin, that's fine. When I need an hour of free Swedish therapy, I'll go in there and sort it all out to my heart's content.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


I find myself getting emotional and weepy and sentimental around my kids' birthdays (which happen to be 10 days apart in the same month)  I sigh, I look at my children, I look at photos of my children from a year ago and sigh again.

 Perhaps all parents get this way...  do you?

Birthdays are BIG days for my kids-and most American kids, I dare say.  Ethiopians, on the other hand, don't really celebrate individual birthdays.  Most rural or poor Ethiopians are born at home, without any medical care at all.  Most Ethiopians don't remember their birth date.  That our children have specific birth dates reported by their Ethiopian family is special and rare for African adoptees.  My theory is that since they were both born around Easter, which is a big holiday in Ethiopia, their First parents remembered the dates.

Even so Daniel, who came home at age five, had never had a "birthday" until he turned 6 in America.  He had no idea about cupcakes and presents and candles and singing and being a special prince-for-a-day. And oh boy! did he LOVE IT.  So did Lily, once she got over the whole "cupcake/fire" confusion. :)

This year they are turning 3 and 7. They've been home just over 20 months.  When I think about how much they have learned and grown in the past year, it astonishes me. A year ago Lily was a diaper-wearing, not-sleeping-through-the-night, not-talking, chubby cheeked baby. Daniel was just learning English and how to read and count and make friends and ride a bike.  Now they are these two little independent people who sass and talk back and demand certain songs be played in the car. Who take dance classes and have baseball practice and wear underwear and demand "jeans mommy! with the pink shirt!"

What will they accomplish by next year!?

Birthdays are special days... and perhaps in a unique way in adoptive families. I didn't give birth to my children; I have no part in the story of their birth days.  My 'war story' and triumphant creation of a family have different anniversaries (referral day, adoption day, homecoming day) The woman whose story it was to tell is no longer in this world. On their birthdays, I think of her. I think of their births: unattended, un-medicated... yet, from all reports, peaceful and safe.  I think of how lucky they are that this was so. I think of how much they were loved from their births, even if for too short a time.

I think of how lucky I am, to be able to pick up where one mother left off.  How lucky I am, to be able to marvel at their lives.  How lucky I am, to celebrate their birthdays with them. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


as in Possessions...

we. are. coming. to. take. over. your. home. 

The theme of my vacation this Spring (which sadly is coming to a close today) was SIMPLIFY. 

(Lily decided that her theme for the week was NO SLEEP,  but anyway...)

I came across this great collection of photos: Children From Around the World Photographed with Their Toys  It's a fascinating look at what children play with around the world: and brings up both the universality of childhood and the gross disparities between the "First World" and the "Third World". 

Our children have lived in both worlds.  They've played in a small home in rural Ethiopia. Daniel says his favorite game was to go hide under and climb in the banana trees. If Daniel had been photographed with his toys while he was living with his first family I'm not sure if he would have been able to find anything to show off but a patched-up soccer ball. 

They've shared the small supply of toys in an orphanage. I'll never forget bringing a box of markers for the children at the care center. I opened the box and each child took one marker.  They didn't fight over the colors, they didn't trade, they didn't try to find the pink or the blue ones. They just picked one and clutched it for the rest of the visit. 

Now my kids live a thoroughly American life. Daniel saves his allowance to buy bey blades. They create elaborately detailed Christmas and birthday wish lists. We are constantly running out of batteries for all the cars and musical instruments and things that beep and bop and blurt. I try to keep the plastic junk toys contained for my own sanity, but for them there are never enough toys. I resist reminding my son, when he complains about not having the latest whatever,  that in his former life he didn't have any toys at all and he was still happy.  (Sometimes I have to resist pointing that out pretty hard.)   Bringing up his previous deprivation is not a great teaching tool for him. 

However, we are trying to get closer to a simpler life. We are trying to keep our possessions from possessing us. I read this article this week about living with less.  One of the fascinating statistics the author quotes is that researchers found that women's stress hormones spike when they are dealing with (I assume: cleaning, repairing, locating, sorting, organizing, stepping on in the middle of the night) their belongings.

So we all get stressed out by our stuff. I'm so glad it's not just me!

Here is to simplicity! I'm not quite ready to go live in rural Ethiopia... but if my kids were ever photographed with all their toys, I'd want them to be visible in the frame.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Parenting in the Deep End

our tiny little man, just a few days before coming home

It may be because of Easter, or because his birthday is coming up, but Daniel sure has lots to say and ask about Death, God and Heaven/Hell lately. Oh boy. It is at these moments that I take a deep breath, and forgive myself for totally winging it. After all, this is parenting in the Deep End, and we didn't wade in from the kiddie pool, oh no, we started out swimming in water over our heads.

We became parents instantly one day just over 18 months ago. And oh, yes there was lots and lots of planning and nesting and a super long pregnancy two year long adoption process. And oh yes, we had know for 6 months that we would be parents to Daniel and Lily. But still, adopting two children, two children who are not, by any stretch of the imagination, infants, is DIVING DEEP.  Think storm tossed seas, sharks swimming around, no flotation devices visible.  Daniel was 5 when he came home, and Lily 15 months. She had learned to walk the week before. (Gosh darn it! That still irks me, how close we were to seeing that big milestone.)  It was tough. As an example: Andrew and I both lost pounds (I mean, POUNDS) the first few weeks we were home with the kids.  We were just too busy and stressed out to eat. So on top of having to suddenly chase after two little kids during the boiling hot summer, now I had to hold my pants up while I did it!

So, I don't feel guilty (too guilty) when I hem and haw my way through answers to Daniel's meaning of life questions. Most parents have a few years, at least, to figure those answers out. Newborns don't turn to you to ask you what happens when you die. Our son (as soon as he learned enough English) did. (Which was at about 5 weeks home.)

Deep end parenting- you just grab onto whatever floating things you can find and you HOLD ON.  Eventually the seas calm, you start breathing normally and sometimes, sometimes you feel the sand beneath your feet again.

he's grown a bit since then.