Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas Wrap Up

She decided Santa was real this year. 

So last year I wrote a note to myself (here) about how to do Christmas better, or at least, OK.

Reviewing it I have to say, we scored about 85%. This holiday season was MUCH better than the last three, for sure. Of course, it helped that no one had the flu and we have a working kitchen. It also helped that we continued in our yearly Lowering of the Expectations.

The Christmas Season in America is SO BIG. As soon as you've blown out the candle in your Jack-o-Lantern, BOOM, the Santas and the Reindeer and the Lights and the Chocolate and the STUFF is everywhere. There is absolutely no pretense of waiting until after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is just the dress rehearsal for Christmas.

For adopted children who have trauma and loss in their little lives (which is all of them) and/or for children with less than jolly lives, all this forced cheer and bright lights can be agonizing. It's all just too much. So in our family we try, all December, to turn the volume down. We put the tree up the weekend before Christmas. We don't do Santa. (gasp! Read my apology/explanation here.) We don't spend a whole month talking about presents and Elves. I may feel a lot of extra stress and have a lot of extra chores, but I try to keep the kids out of that loop. It's my choice to make handmade cookies for my co-workers and send out lots of Christmas cards, not theirs. So all December, they go to bed early, and I do my holiday "work" in the quiet dark.

This Christmas the best thing we did was NOTHING. Christmas Eve we went to church and had famliy over for dinner and had a great time making a glorious mess opening presents. Christmas morning the kids found a small pile of unwrapped, pre-battery filled toys, and they simply started playing. We ate, we lounged, we played, we ate again, and we went to bed early. It was great! Low expectations equals low stress.

I hope your holiday season was just want you wanted- whatever that was! Here is to next year!


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Say His Name

Tamir Rice,

Say His Name

Michael Brown,

Say His Name

Trayvon Martin,

Say His Name

Cameron Tillman,

Say His Name

VonDerrit Myers Jr.,

Say His Name

Laquan McDonald,

Say His Name

Qusean Whitten,

Say His Name

Dillon McGee,

Say His Name

Levi Weaver,

Say His Name

Akai Gurley,

Say His Name

Kajieme Powell,

Say His Name

Ezell Ford,

Say His Name

Dante Parker,

Say His Name

John Crawford III,

Say His Name

Eric Garner,

Say His Name

Victor White III,

Say His Name

Andy Lopez,

Say His Name

Kimani Gray,

Say His Name

DeAunta Terrel Farrow,

Say His Name

Malcom X,

Say His Name

Martin Luther King Jr,

Say His Name

Emmitt Till,

Say His Name

Too many to name.

Say His Name    Say His Name   Say His Name

The 14 Teens Killed By Cops Since Michael Brown

Police Killed More than 100 Unarmed Black People in 2015

Unarmed People of Color Killed by Polic 1999-2014

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas, Christmas

 The December passed in a big, jolly blur. There was much celebrating of many things, and many, many lists were made and checked and crossed off.

We are very tired.

Our Christmas surprise to the kids was a night at their favorite hotel. It has a giant water slide. And a buffet breakfast. What else do you need to be happy, at ages 5 and 9? Nothing.

So, here are some blurry photos of our blurry Holiday season. 

I look forward to the clarity of January!

We celebrated 3/4 Advent Sundays! A record!

I trimmed Lily's hair! 

We went to see The Nutcracker! (With our nutcracker, of course)

A tree was purchased.

And decorated.

Christmas morning! No tears! (This year we did not wrap the kids' presents. We unpackaged them, put the batteries in and put them under the tree. Christmas morning was "wow! Yes! Let's play!" BEST decision of 2015, hands down.)

Light sabers. Of course.

Recovering, poolside. Love those happy smiles.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Monday, December 7, 2015

Advent 2015

It's the Tuesday after the 2nd Sunday of Advent! Which means, it's about time I wrote about how awesome Advent is going this year! I'm permentally one week behind in life right now. I'm fine with it at this point. Anyway... Advent 2015!

But first, a little walk down memory lane...

2014: We did Advent, a little bit sloppily, but we tried. We nailed Christmas Eve, but by Christmas Day we kind of all fell apart again. Read Advent thoughts from last year  here

2013: We didn't do Advent, and also Christmas sucked because we had a construction site/house and the flu. You can read that fun journey here 

2012: First time celebrating Advent! I was ON THE BALL! Oh, man it was planned out. However, I think we may have missed one or two Sundays... We did still have a toddler living in our house. Everything from 2012 is kind of a blur...
            Advent Parts 1 -4 here, here, here and here

So here we are, four years in. And, I've figured out a couple of things. 

1. Children older than 4 are much, much easier to sit down and have a spiritual conversation with. Or really, do anything with.

2. Advent+ Ice cream = Success! Everyone is too busy sucking down their sundaes to realize you are trying to TEACH them something! By the time their bowls are empty, Ha! You've done it! MAGIC.

So this year we have twice so far, with the help of ice cream, successfully taught our children a little bit of the mythology and history of Christmas, and tried to reinforce the magic that we are hoping will happen... not the magic of getting everything you want from your Christmas list, but the magic of the world stopping, for just one night, to reflect on the birth of a child in a manger. And perhaps, perhaps, marveling at the humanity and miracle that is in each of us. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Three ways to help your marriage outlast your kids' childhood. Part 2.

It's no secret that raising kids is tough on a marriage. The sleep deprivation alone is enough to make your normally happy relationship fraught with tension and resentment. Romance, date nights, lazy Sundays together, brunch: all of those are kind of out the window when you have young kids.

BUT,  you don't have to wait til your kids are grown up to enjoy a happy marriage. In fact, you really shouldn't! It's not like your relationship has a "pause" button. (Well, maybe it does, but not a 18 year pause.)

There are three things we do to keep our marriage from falling apart under the pressure of raising children.

1. We invest time and money in our relationship. Time and money are in short supply all the time, especially when you have little kids (daycare, ballet lessons, co-pays, new shoes, school supplies... Kids are expensive!) This year Andrew and I very intentionally set aside a bit of our budget for a monthly date. We try to schedule the date early, before our calendars are filled up with family gatherings, sporting events, playdates and school functions. So far we've had 4 dates in 4 months, with only one of those interrupted by a frantic phone call from the babysitter about a sick kid. We try to plan our dates to be a little bit more than just dinner out. We plan a "grown-up" outing that we wouldn't enjoy as much with the kids in tow. We visit a museum, or take a long walk in the park or visit a part of the city we haven't been to in a while, or ever.  This summer we took a river cruise, which was so lovely. We try NOT to run errands during the date. As convenient as it would be to get some shopping done while the babysitter is still on the clock, a trip to Target is not romantic.

A couple of ways to save money on date night is to get friends or relatives to babysit (for free!) Or, exchange babysitting with another parent. Also, dates don't have to be at night. Brunch is lovely, and much less expensive! Plus you don't run the same risk of falling asleep in your dessert.

10th Anniversary of our First Date, last month.

2. We rescue each other. Parenting is hard work, and sometimes you just aren't have a good day. (or week) Even though we have a pretty good routine in place about who does what chore (Andrew does bedtime, I do the morning-get-out-the-door thing) - sometimes we each need a break.  Sometimes you can see that your partner is about to hit his breaking point during dinner, or if you do one more load of laundry you just might burst into tears. Tag team. Take a break. Hide in the bathroom. Put your headphones on and shut your door. It's okay for the other person to pick up the slack, just so long as you take turns helping each other out. 

Daddy is very good at taking the kids to the park when Mommy needs to stay home and clean veg out to Netflix.

3. We express our gratitude to each other. Even about mundane things. As in, "Thanks so much for folding all that laundry." Or, "That was delicious, thanks for making dinner." Of course the laundry is going to get done and dinner made, but it's so much more pleasant and supportive when you acknowledge each other's hard work. It helps remind you that you are in this together, and that even if the laundry is wrinkled or the dinner is instant mac and cheese, you're both trying your best. 
mmmm... oysters on the river cruise. Thank you!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Lazy Mom's Guide to a Happy Thanksgiving

Dedicated to my mom. The original Amazing Lazy Mom.

Step 1: Don't cook. Make sure to announce to your family that you are not cooking so everyone can adjust their expectations accordingly.

Step 2: Get out of the house. Go watch a parade! What fun! Make sure to pack snacks, because hungry tummies are annoying. Also, scout the locations of bathrooms.

The classic.
Step 3. Let the kids play! Who is in a rush? Ramble around! Climb rocks! Enjoy the sunshine! There is nothing that needs to get done.

Who needs to watch a parade! There is a rock to climb!

So. much. better. than. turkey.

Step 4: Eat out. We have eaten Peking Duck for many Thanksgivings of my life. It's delicious, and you can order a ridiculous number of side dishes. Overeating is not culturally restricted. And, leftovers! We prefer loud, simple Chinese restaurants. Fancy is not for us, thank you very much.

Duck? Really?
At first very skeptical, but then chomping down!

Should read "yummy!"

Step 5: Go Home. Put on your pajamas and watch a movie. This is the best part. This year we were watching Elf and eating pie by 3:30PM. I baked pies, because I like pies and I like baking. But a truly lazy mom could have just broken out a tub of pumpkin ice cream and called it a day.

Step 6: Dinner? Who needs dinner!? Have some more pie.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

How to help your marriage outlast your kids' childhood. Part I.

giggling, always a good way to start a marriage

I've been thinking lately about marriage*. And about how our current culture (cult?) of the Magical Childhood may be obscuring or perhaps interfering with some of our relationships.

I used to think, "If I had to choose between my husband or my children, I'd choose my children."

And that may still be true, in a fire or a cruise ship accident. As Mother, my fierce protection instincts for my children will win out over all.

But. "I'd choose my children" does not hold true for our daily, non emergency situation Life. Nor should it, I think.

Because the marriage came first. It was the foundation upon which this family with children is built. And one day (not too long from now), the children will grow up. And the marriage will remain. We certainly hope.

I read a book a couple of summers ago (during my obsession with all things House) about designing homes for children.  It has lovely glossy photos of impossibly clean homes with sweet little nooks and child size furniture and adorable antique toys. I'm certain no actual children lived there, or maybe they were heavily sedated. Anyway, one of the houses had a slide built into the floor of the master bedroom that led down to a ball pit in the living area.

Let's think about that.

A SLIDE, built into the FLOOR of the MASTER BEDROOM that led into a BALL PIT.


And at first I was like, oh that is so fun! What a cool idea!

And then I thought about it for a second...

What if you are stumbling to the bathroom in the middle of the night and you forgot the slide hatch was open?

What if all the children in the neighborhood find out you have an indoor slide and suddenly you are hosting a daily play date party?

What happens when the children grow up?! Now you have a SLIDE in your BEDROOM.

Lately I've been wondering: are we building figurative slide hatches in our houses? When our children are grown, are we going to be left with a hole in the floor?
Are we creating adorable, magical homes for our children, and neglecting the foundation, the marriage?

There is definitely a strong push in our current culture towards creating homes around our children. Creating schedules and routines and traditions around our children. We've got Elves on our Shelves (don't. even. get. me. started.). We've got entire weekends spent watching soccer practices-games-trophy ceremonies. We've got race car beds and Princess Fairy Birthday Party Extravaganzas.

 Certainly, it would be fun for the kids to have an indoor slide. But childhood is fleeting. We aren't trying to raise perfect, adorable children. We are trying to raise responsible, independent adults. Right? Adults who don't think the world revolves around them. (Right!?!)

And when the children leave, what will you do with all those traditions and routines? Will you force your grown children to re-enact them like in some horrible sitcom?

Let's all watch Johnny put the star on the tree! Then let's all take a turn on the magical slide! 

Johnny is 26 years old. This isn't magical; it's just weird. And he doesn't fit in the slide anymore.

I'd like to think that we can create homes, routines, traditions that nurture and create magic for everyone. That our traditions and our homes will grow with our family. That in 10 years, instead of having a whole bunch of tiny furniture and stale rituals I have a home that embraces each individuals'  tastes and celebrates our grown-up family.

And I hope that our marriage is as healthy after the kids have grown up as it was before they came home. I wonder if the "empty nest" syndrome is more severe for folks who've built indoor slides. Every time they see that hole in that floor, they think, Oh, remember when the kids were little and they used that fun slide. What will we do now!?!

So, I'm making a clear intention these days to choose my marriage. To choose my husband and myself. The kids have plenty (plenty!) of special things (They have an entire floor of our house!)

What do those choices look like? Next post...

*Ours is doing well, FYI. Nobody panic!

** Speaking of homes for children, here is a beautiful and heartbreaking photo essay about where Syrian refugee children are sleeping. And here is a link to an organization that is trying to help them.

All children deserve a safe home.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Three Rules

Say it loud; let them hear you!

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.

Henry James (1843-1916)

The last couple of weeks have been rough. ROUGH. Crying in the bathroom rough. (Can I get an amen- crying in the bathroom at work is pretty much as low as it can get, right?)

But I'm hear to report that James' 3 rules work. 

Let me back up a bit...

Lily has always been a challenging child to raise. As I said before, she's a strong willed child. She was a strong willed toddler and she was a Strong Willed 4 year old. 

She was a strong willed baby, which is what kept her alive. I'm not a big believer in angels or fate or fairies, but this I know for sure: Lily's mother passed on to her some amazing strength, strength that is still protecting her to this day and will hopefully keep enveloping her the rest of her life.

But inside of that amazingly strong child is still a sensitive, sometimes sad and lonely girl. And that sad and lonely girl was acting out terribly the past few weeks. New school. New routines. New teachers. New friends. It was all too much. (And then there was Ballet. ugh.)

So last week we started the positive reinforcement. We just killed her with kindness- we marinated her in love and support and reminders of just how wonderful she is. 

We taught our daughter the 3 rules, and we started practicing them ourselves.

And it's working.

This may be the most "Well, DUH!" moment of my parenting career. 

For a while now Lily has been thinking of herself as the "bad girl".  Now all day every day I remind her, "Who are you?" 

Funny, smart, loving, kind, GOOD. 

This is not to say we aren't correcting mis-behavior, rudeness or disobedience. We are just spending more energy and time on the good stuff, and giving her low key time outs and calm corrections for mistakes. 

Parenting: just when you think you're reaching the top of the steep learning curve, another hill appears.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween 2015

Trick or treat! This year after MUCH deliberation, the kids dressed as a gladiator and Elsa from Frozen. (That Etsy Frozen dress has seen ALOT of wear!)

Trick or Treating with friends Fairy and Panda.

Inspecting her candy

The haul.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Calling Truce on the Dinner Time Battles

ice cream, now that we always like

I don't know how anyone parented before the Internet.  The Internet has saved my trans-racial, adoptive parent butt many, many times.

Most recently, this article has helped us have peaceful, happy mealtimes. No, really.

I've read a lot about picky eating. I've written about it too. Here and Here It's been almost as frustrating a parenting battle as our sleep struggles.* Not even close really, but pretty unpleasant.

But this week, we figured out a solution that seems to be working. Hooray!

I make dinner - something I know the three of us non-picky eaters will enjoy. I put it on the table, or more like because our son is kind of an over eater, I plate our dinners and put them on the table. Then I put a small amount of a plain starch (the pasta we're eating with just butter, or some bread, or plain rice) on a plate for Lily. Then I put small amounts of 3-5 healthy choices on a plate and put the plate on the table where Lily can reach it. Usually the choices are carrot sticks, apple slices, hard boiled eggs, cheese slices, nuts, etc.

We all eat. We eat what is on our plates, and a little bit off of the healthy choice plate. With some encouragement, Lily will eat her plain starch and a good serving of protein, fruits and vegetables.

Most importantly, we've stopped fighting over food at the table. We have pleasant meals with conversations! Amazing!

Occasionally Lily will fuss over food, and I just say, as the article recommends. "You don't have to eat it."

Bon appetite!

* We seem to have reached an end to those too, thank you every god that ever was. Most of our sleep struggles seem like hazy nightmares now.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wild Thing

...."His mother called him Wild Thing!".. .and he was sent to bed without eating anything." ***

Our 5 year old is currently spending the evening in her room, because she was just kicked out of Ballet school.

(Now, 5 year olds getting kicked out of ballet school is a little ridiculous, I know. Like how hard is it to keep 5 little kids in a straight line? Not THAT hard, I know from 15 years experience. But... anyway.)

Her spending an hour in her room isn't really teaching her anything, but it is giving me time to collect my thoughts and compose myself. Because getting told by an irate ballet instructor that your daughter can't come back is pretty much the most embarrassing thing that can happen to a Mom.  And the embarrassment - fear- shame - fury- cycle does not lead to good parenting.

I know from experience.

My daughter is having a hard time with rules and school and expectations. This is not a huge surprise.... she has always been a strong willed, energetic child. Now she's a strong willed, energetic child in Kindergarten, Afterschool, and Ballet class. And all of those places have reported this week, to various degrees,  dissatisfaction with her behavior.

"She doesn't listen!" "She's all over the place!" "I had to separate her from the group!" are common phrases from the past week's conversations with teachers, coaches and Ballet mistresses. And I, red faced with embarrassment, say, "I'm sorry. I know. I'll speak to her." because there is really nothing I can say that will assuage their anger and frustration.  Then I get in the car and compose myself yell at my daughter while trying to not run into trees.

So here is what I would say to Lily's teachers, if I could manage to remain composed and stay out of the shame spiral during these conversations.

"Our daughter is a strong willed, independent and very intelligent person. She does not follow rules because they are rules. She will obey the rules only if she sees that as the best option. She views instructions as optional, and commands as suggestions. She respects people who are consistent, smart, loving and who display special talents. She has no regard for titles. "The Principal" means nothing to her.  She values creativity, smarts and quickness over diligence and hard work. She very quickly learns which adults are not going to follow through.  She will see through your fake threats in a second. She can make herself cry real tears on command. She would win Oscars for her performances.  If there is an opportunity for mischief, she will take it, and she will take anyone around her who is willing with her. She is a leader, and loves an audience. If there is an opportunity to take the stage, she will. Even if that stage is the classroom/hallway/sidewalk. She knows she's adorable and she uses that to her advantage.

Our daughter has great capacity for empathy and kindness. She has know deep physical suffering in her little life, and she is very attuned to other's physical pain. She has a fascination with people, with the human body and with Life. She will ask the most amazing questions and come up with hilarious, imaginative stories. She can weave quite a tale. She is devoted to her family and to her closest friends. She values connection and communication above all else.

Our daughter is going to be an awesome adult. She is going to take the world (whatever corner of it she finds herself) by storm. I pray every day that she learns the value of hard work; because although her beauty and brains will take her pretty far, she will need to strive for true success.  She's going to be a leader. She's not going to let anyone get in her way or hurt her. She's going to be generous with her talents and find a spotlight to sing in. I pray every day that she learns the value of kindness. I pray every day that she will learn to live up to her namesake "Patience".

Until then, we must have patience with her, because amazing, strong-willed women start out as strong-willed, disobedient and challenging girls.

*** In an amazing coincidence, Where the Wild Things Are was in her book baggie the next night!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Screens and Kids: Where we are right now.

Babies with screens. Pretend, but still captivating.

My kids love screen time. They LOVE it. It has been proven to me, on several occasions, that they will play on their screens for hours and hours... basically all day if I let them. This summer I threw my back out, and since I could not get out of bed and didn't have alternate child care plans, they had unlimited screen time for 3 days. Not once, in all that time, did they come up to me, hand me the i-pad, and say, "I'm bored of Netflix. I think I'll go play outside." They did however, request the chargers so that they could continue watching "Lab Rats" for the 7th hour. Then they sat on the floor next to the outlet.

So, screen time limits are a must in our house.  My children will not self regulate this one.

(I don't really need to reiterate the pretty well proven fact that 7 hours a day of screen time is bad for kids. Or anyone. Right? We can agree on that?)

We've had a variety of screen time limits and rules in our family life, ranging from NO screen time to screen time every day for 3-4 hours. (Summers, they are long.)

This school year, we limited our kids' screen time a lot. After a summer of fairly lengthy TV time every day, and plenty of I-pad/Kindle time, we realized a few important things:

1. Both kids are noticably more grumpy, less compliant and sass back a whole lot more after TV time.

2. Both kids will wake up extra early on weekends in order to have more screen time.

3. Both kids will ignore ALL bodily functions in favor of more screens. No bathroom breaks, necks held at odd angles for hours, rumbling stomachs ignored. No wonder they are grumpy!

4. Both kids (but especially our son) will not be able to engage in any other type of play if they know that screen time is an option. They will literally WAIT AROUND for screen time. And by wait I mean, flail around and whine for an hour with that favorite phrase "I'm so bored!" on repeat.

So in September, we set up the following rules:

1. No TV on school nights.*
2. No screens on weekends until AFER 7AM, AFTER breakfast, and AFTER they are fully dressed.
3. No individual screens. They have to share the TV, not hide in their rooms bingewatching Netflix on the i-pad.

Basically, they are getting about 6 hours of screens in a regular week, mostly on Saturdays. When someone is sick or we have a school holiday, it goes up, but on normal school days, they don't even ask for TV anymore.

* However, they did just get a Wii after saving their allowance for several months. So, we sometimes let them play a few games before dinner. The Wii seems to not lead to as many negative behaviors as TV time does.

Why let them watch TV at all?, you might ask. I ask myself this question a lot, especially on Saturday mornings when someone is melting down over not being able to see the next episode of Justice League.

Well, TV is a great motivator for cleaning up, for one. My kids will run around cleaning up anything I need them to for a chance at screen time.

Also, when I need an hour of peace and quiet, the TV is a very, very effective distraction!

When I'm doing Lily's hair, we need the TV to keep her from crying and running away, her curls 1/2 braided.  Daniel will sometimes say to me, "Don't you have to do Lily's hair today?" because he knows it means 2-3 hours of movie time.

So far, our current screen limits are working for us. No doubt we will need to update them as our schedules change and the kids get older. Some day soon, I'm sure, they will not need prodding to stay in bed past 7AM. I hope.

How do you manage your family's screen time? 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Enjoying our African hair time

I thought I'd have some fun reminiscing about Lily's hair. Join me, if you will...

Baby Lily with teeny baby curls...

Toddler Lily with WOW! CURLS!

Toddler twists, or How fast can mommy work before you start running!?

Ohmygoodness, you are not a baby any more hair. Sob.
(These beautiful box braids courtesy of Lily's Pre-K teachers, God Bless them!)
Really, really, really long 5 year old hair.

Beautiful, healthy twists after a little trim.

I am often asked, "Who does Lily's hair? and my reply "I do!" is often met with incredulous admiration.  But I've noticed that if you really want to learn how to do something, you can. It takes some resources, and some practice.  Caring for my daughter's hair is a source of pride for me, and connection for both of us. Yes, it takes a lot of time. Yes, she has to sit still for hours sometimes. But Lily sitting on my lap, enjoying a movie and having hair time is now one of our favorite moments together.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Got Milk?

If this was a post about sewing instructions or a fix-it manual, it would have a key on the top saying: 

Degree of Difficulty: High

Raising my daughter has proven to have a high degree of difficulty. An easy child, she is not.

Here is the situation.

My child is lactose intolerant. She has not had milk as part of her daily diet since she was 18 months old. This has never been a problem.

My child has started Kindergarten. I told the cafeteria staff, no milk. I reminded my child, no milk.

My child has been drinking several cartons of milk per day since September. GUZZLING IT.

She has had a stomach-ache since the beginning of October. She continues to drink milk.

I remind the staff, no milk. I remind my child, no milk.

"Lily, why do you think you have a stomach ache?

"Oh, it's because of all the milk."

I go beat my head upon a wall for a few minutes.

Last week I upped the stakes. I said, if you drink any more milk, I will make you wear this t-shirt to school. (This child spends lots of time and energy deciding on her outfits every day. She has very definite opinions about her clothes.)

She replied, "Oh, I like that t-shirt!"

I smiled. This child is a very good liar.

For two days, she did not drink milk. (I also compromised and sent her to school with a small container of almond milk for her cereal. Dry cereal isn't much fun.)

Monday, she drank a carton of milk at lunch. *

Tuesday morning**:

"Mommy, who do you make me do all these things and keep saying no!?!"

"Because I'm trying to raise you to be a decent person who makes good choices."


The stakes are high, people. The stakes are high.

*She also ate a hamburger, which she has never done, ever, anywhere. And it definitely was not organic, humanely raised beef, that's for sure. Sigh.

** She actually did not wear it to school. Her stomach was hurting her so much she decided that the milk wasn't worth it. I took the picture as leverage. I also have the shirt in my bag.***

*** Have I mentioned that my children attend the same school I teach at? I have my spies everywhere. Poor kids.

Friday, October 16, 2015

picky eaters vs. hunger

The thing about having a picky eater is that it is a pain in the ass, as I said here.

The thing about having a picky eater who also happens to be adopted is that really, the issue is attachment and power and identity and control. Not food.  It's still a pain in the butt, but it's also complicated.

The thing about having a picky eater who also happens to be adopted from Ethiopia is that...

Remember when your mom said, "Finish your dinner, there are starving children in Africa"?...

The truth is that I could say to my daughter, as she cries over her buttered pasta or not-syruped enough pancakes, "Finish that, because your sister in Africa is starving."

Of course, I don't say that. Lily loves her sister in Africa, and I don't want to worry her any more than she already worries about our Ethiopian family.

But I sometimes wish I could. Because her brothers and sisters (and grandparents and cousins and aunties and uncles) are hungry right now. Possibly starving. And here we are arguing over whether she needs to finish her carrots before she can have some crackers.

How do you teach your child gratitude and humility without scaring them? 

I feel like we are often walking a very narrow, not well traveled road. We're raising "third world" children in the "first world."  We're raising children of severe poverty in a comfortable life.  We want them to practice gratitude for the simple luxuries we enjoy - clean water, abundant food, free, great schools, a stable (if pretty nutty right now) democracy, libraries, safe roads, medical care... appreciate it and cherish it, without having to suffer (anymore) the deprivations that their Ethiopian family endure.

There is a drought right now in Southern Ethiopia. Millions of people have watched their crops whither and their cattle starve. It is bad. And our family is living in the middle of it.

We have not told Daniel and Lily about this, because they already worry about our family, and we don't want to cause them more anxiety. We've donated money. We are trying to keep up to date.  We're praying.

And we're practicing gratitude. Because right now there is a pizza pie cooling on our dining room table, and a fridge full of food for tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. As much as I worry about money, or stress over whether Lily is eating enough vegetables, or fret over Daniel's addiction to salsa, we are not hungry.

We are not hungry.

Ethiopia 2014, after the rains

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Happy October! It's been an interesting few weeks... and by interesting I mean, insanely busy and stressful and exhausting. Also, Lily and I had the stomach bug that is going around. I lost 8lbs in 3 days - on the most uncomfortable and most distressing diet ever. And I'm sure I gained it all back by eating nothing but plain pasta and Gatorade for the following week. 

I also ended up watching all the TV ever (or so it felt). So I'm all caught up on the Election-that-will-never-be-over, and all the crimes and all the shootings and all the political-inaction-that-will-never-end. 

There's plenty that I'm upset and disheartened by, but you really don't want to read my diatribe against the 2nd Amendment. (We heard the gunshots that killed a young man around the corner from our home. So, yup, taking it even more personally now.)

So in the interest in both our our sanities, and because it is a beautiful Sunday morning, here are some things that are making me happy these days.

L and her beautiful cousin L taking a Fall stroll to the park.

Celebrating Meskel a few weeks late (stomach bug!) with our traditional fire and marshmallows.

Impromptu Halloween decorations that make me smile.

Getting back into quilting after a 4 year hiatus. (Hmm... what have I been doing for 4 years!?!)

What is making you smile these days?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Having a Picky Eater is a Pain in the A$$.

Can I get an Amen?

So Lily started Kindergarten this month. (Hooray!) One day last week she forgot her lunchbox (containing a peanut butter sandwich and a container of grapes, as per usual) in the car. So, she had to eat school lunch.

The lunch ladies proudly informed me that not only did Lily eat her whole lunch, she also asked for a second piece of chicken. (My kids attend the school I work in, so I am kept informed of their every movement by my helpful colleagues. My kids LOVE this.)

I said, "Lily ate chicken?!"

Oh, yes, that's right. She ate a piece of DARK MEAT CHICKEN WITH THE SKIN STILL ON. And, RICE WITH VEGETABLES IN IT.

Why the all caps? Why am I freaking out about chicken?

Because if I had placed that same food in front of her in my home, she would have cried hysterically.

She is a Picky Eater. But only in my house.

This is what happens every night:

I put dinner (homemade, with starch and protein and vegetables, but nothing crazy, no weird sauces, nothing strange looking) on the table.

Daniel starts wolfing his food down before he's finished sitting, and I have to remind him to breath. He's asking for seconds before anyone has started eating. He's probably pushed his plate away or refused to eat something maybe 1/2 a dozen times in 4 years. And THANK GOD. Because:

Lily sees her plate and starts crying.

Almost every night, almost any plate of food.

This summer I had to feed her 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, and after about 3 days of fighting with her I threw in the towel. 5 times a day crying over food is just. too. much.

So this summer Lily ate:

french fries
toast with butter
pasta with butter
peanut butter sandwiches
carrot sticks
hard boiled eggs (only the whites)

It really was incredible. I think that she may be one of those people who doesn't care about food.


And it's really strange to have one of those people in my family because I'm not even friends with people who don't food!

and ring pops. She loves ring pops


She's healthy. She's strong and she's tough and she runs fast and her cheeks are rosy. Somehow the toast with butter and the fruit is working for her. But God help me, her picky eating is a pain in my a$$.

First of all, I'm a good cook. So as much as I try not to take it personally, it's hard not to. Especially when she asks for a 2nd piece of school lunch chicken. Which is definitely not organic.

Secondly, it's hard to plan meals. I don't want to spoil her; I want to gradually increase the variety of foods she enjoys, but I also don't want so much drama and crying at dinner. I mean, I'm trying to eat! So I end up curtailing our menus a bit to try to include things she likes. So, we eat a lot of bacon, hard boiled eggs and pasta or bread.  I have this image in my head of our happy family happily eating dinner and all of our plates have the same food on them.  This rarely happens. Usually Daniel has the same thing as Andrew and I, with lots of salsa on top. And Lily has all of the white, plain elements and a side of carrot sticks.

Thirdly, eating out is so difficult. She will eat exactly one thing on a traditional Ethiopian plate, and not much of it.  French fries are available everywhere of course, but they are so unhealthy! And having to pay $7 for a plate of buttered pasta just irks me. So, we eat a lot of pizza. At least we are all enjoying the same thing!

Lily, in 20 years, I hope you have a healthy appetite and aren't one of those people who can't order off the adult menu. If you are still eating buttered pasta when you are grown up...

Until then, I will pour myself another glass of wine and grit my teeth before setting down the tear-inducing food.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hot and Bothered.

This is how we feel at the end of the summer... like we are waiting for the party to please, just be over.

The first week of summer is all WOO-HOO! PARTY! SLEEP IN! ICE CREAM!

The last week of summer is all... please, just stop, no more, too hot, is it Fall yet?

We've had a great summer, really, it was awesome. But we're all a bit worn out from all the fun having and the ice cream eating and the not having any structure all day-ing. 

We are hungover from the Summer Party. 

School starts in one week. And like it always is here in NYC the week before school starts, it's hot. Melting, sweaty before you dry off from the shower, smelly, nasty HOT.  Makes picking out cute back to school sweaters tricky. Makes lying around next to the air conditioner very appealing. Everyone in my house is highly unmotivated to do anything. Everyone in my house is very grumpy. Summer hangovers will do that to you.

So to all those folks who are already back-to-school- Congratulations! 

And for us here in the baking Big Apple, hang in there...


This August the kids and I were lucky enough to enjoy four weeks at our family beach house in Maine. (Andrew, poor guy with a "normal" job, enjoyed 2 weeks.) I started the month feeling a little bit guilty that I was doing no "work" except for menu planning and grocery shopping- but then I realized that I was taking a month of Sabbath time. I was enjoying the fruits of my labor over the year and just being. Being a mom, being a daughter, being someone who floats around in the ocean thinking about nothing. It was heavenly.

And now we are home, it's September 1st and school starts next week. It's not so heavenly around here, just now. But that's the point of the Sabbath- to soak in some sunshine and peace to last through the back to school shopping and the endless whining over summer homework and screen time.

This was August:

on the road

can't get a better view

sand castle # 1

sand castle # 2, a prize winner!

candlepin bowling = harder than regular bowling

the fireman's slide, aka, "slip and slide" 

sailing cove

sailing race

swimming hole jumping
We are very, very blessed.

Let's hope that feeling lasts through my morning trip to pick up school supplies.