Wednesday, July 22, 2015

In lieu of...

Disney World or Land * (I always mix those up).... Lily and I headed to Sesame Place**!

I had to do something special for my girl, as I sent her favorite brother away to sleep away camp for a whole week!

Lily has no qualms about running up to the characters, nor does she have cognitive dissonance about knowing that there are real people inside. She loves all the walking giant fuzzy characters. She does think it strange that they don't talk. 

I'm so glad I followed the advice of online reviews and paid for a "Dine With Elmo" dinner. The characters weren't really accessible in the park. In fact, a couple of them rebuffed Lily's attempts at hugs and were pulled away by their handlers. If the pay-enormous-fees-for-prints photographer isn't there, no hugs!

The dinner was fun: A buffet of simple, kid-friendly food and a little show. Plus the characters are all hanging out in one room and there was plenty of time for photos.

Lily charmed the Count by trying to hide in his cape.

They sat together during the "Birthday Party" show.

Feeding Cookie Monster her cookie. I'm sure that has never been done before!

Not pictured, mercifully: me trying to get my butt out of the inflatable tube,  my crazed expression going down the water chute, or my face trying to hide my fear of heights at the top of Slide Mountain.  Lily was adorable throughout the day, saving her temper tantrum for the shoe store we stopped in on the way to the hotel to replace my broken flip flops. Apparently it was very, very important that she have all white sandals one size too small, and I am the meanest mom ever for denying her.

In all, it was a great day. The water rides were really fun and the park was clean and well staffed. We lucked out on a stormy/cloudy day- it wasn't crowded at all. Lily would have spent all day at Count's Splash castle, and I was pretty happy sitting poolside. 

I am in no way being compensated for writing about our fun day at Sesame Place. If Sesame Place wants to give this little blogger free passes for life... that's totally fine... 

* We've pretty much decided that Disney is out of our league, financially and patience-ly. Forgive us, Disney.

** I did have a few qualms about giving any money to Sea World (which owns Sesame Place), because I cried my way through Blackfish. But... there are no sad dolphins or tortured whales in the splash pad, thank goodness.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Harry Potter Birthday!

Decorations, before the children arrived

We had a Harry Potter birthday party! In April! But, you don't mind reading about it 3 months later, do you? Of course not! (thank you.) 

It was an awesome party, and since none of the kids noticed any of my handmade decorations (too busy running around screaming)... I'll share them here! I may have spent a lot of time on Pinterest while planning this party. Did you know some people had Harry Potter weddings!?! The world is a wonderful and strange place...

A hand painted Hogwarts Castle mural, complete with banners and "floating" candles.
(Actually toilet paper tubes with battery tea lights taped inside)

Our front door, aka "Platform 9 3/4"

It looks so simple on the outside...

Surprise! Jelly Beans inside! This was the highlight of the party, I think.
This actually worked! The mess and chaos stay contained on the main floors of our house.
And I don't even have a 3 headed dog!

This was actually from a few days later, but I had to show off. Daniel's spooky Diary of Tom Riddle cake, complete with "blood" (strawberry jam), and a fake basilisk tooth (actually a replica dinosaur tooth)

Next year I'm just ordering pizzas. Actually, who am I kidding, I LOVE this nonsense. They will only be kids for a few more years...  bring on the themed, crazy birthday parties!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

4 Years

Four years ago today we arrived home in America with our children. It was a very, very hot day. It had been chilly in Ethiopia (July is rainy season), so we were all dressed in long sleeves and pants. At the airport, my sister asked me, "Don't you want to change?" "No", I said. We didn't have any clean clothes left. And anyway, the last particles of Ethiopia still clung to our clothes. I wasn't ready to get rid of them, not yet.

 Daniel had learned a handful of English words: hungry, mine?, mom, dad, plane, America. He pushed all the buttons on the little TV screen on the back of the chair in front of him hundreds of times. He fell asleep across two seats wrapped up in a green blanket with dinosaurs on it.

This week the dinosaur blanket is with him at sleep away camp. It's probably crumbled up in a mess on the floor of the cabin he is sharing with 9 other boys. He's probably spending the day swimming and boating and playing games. He will not remember that today is our "Family Day." And that is just fine, because we've been working very hard for the past 4 years to make every day, Family Day.

When we arrived at the airport 4 years ago, we had so much in our arms. Bags and blankets and bottles and a squirming, teething just-learned-to-walk toddler.  We lost the little cup that Lily was used to drinking out of somewhere in the German airport. We ate our first non-Ethiopian meal at McDonald's. With his meal Daniel got a little spinning toy from a children's movie we still haven't seen.  A couple of years later, that too was lost.

By the time we landed, Lily was wearing her last clean onesie, and probably the last clean diaper. She'd drunk every ounce of formula, downing bottle after bottle. The exasperated flight attendant filled with warm water every 1/2 clean bottle I handed him, hour after hour. The women flight attendants let me stand up, Lily strapped to my chest in a carrier, until the very last second before we landed. 14 hours of flying and she was not a very happy 15 month old.

In line (in a very, very long line) for Immigration (our special adoption immigration visas sealed carefully in two large manila envelopes, clutched to us amongst the bottles and toys and blankets and children) - another mother offered our children lollipops. It was like a sacrament, one I am still grateful for.

Our paperwork was stamped. We walked through the doors. We were met by our wonderful, patient family. The children played. We were all delirious. We got into our car (and the wonderfully helpful man at the car park helped us fix Lily's car seat strap, which was too small). We drove home. Lily played a game of spitting and making noises with her lips. They both laughed hysterically. We arrived home. We carried us up the stairs and showed the children their room. We bathed. We ate the mac and cheese my mother and sister had left in the fridge for us. Another bottle was made. The midnight bottle was prepared. (Oh how I forget how little Lily was, she still woke for night feedings those first few weeks.)  We slipped them into new pajamas and settled them into their beds. Lily slept in the pack and play in the living room because her mattress was too high. They slept. Andrew and I opened beers and sat quietly in our little office and grinned at each other.

We did it. 4 years, 1/2 a foot of paperwork, two international trips, hours and hours and hours and hours of waiting and work...We were a family. We were exhausted and proud and terrified and deliriously happy.

I think everyone feels this way, that first night. And then the rest of your life begins.... It's only sometimes that you remember to stop and marvel at the miracle that is your ordinary life.

4 years later Daniel has now been in our American family as long as he was with his Ethiopian one. He's spending the day playing with friends and doing whatever 9 year old boys do at camp. Lily, who is now the same age that Daniel was 4 years ago, is upstairs in her Princess Ana dress playing with her dolls and waiting for me to make her pancakes.  This week we got an email reporting that although their first harvest was poor, our Ethiopian family is all well. The children are all in school. The new baby is healthy. They are enjoying a good rainy season.

A very ordinary, miraculous life.

Happy Birthday, little family.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Camp Mom

We are two weeks into vacation now, and so I feel qualified to call this summer's experiment in home-camping a modified success. 

For the past 3 summers I've had both kids in some kind of camp or day care for part of the summer.  Mostly for my own sanity, but also because each summer I had some kind of big project to accomplish. 2012: Painting and moving the kids bedrooms. Lots of Ikea furniture assembly.  2013: Moving (So much for all that hard work painting our condo.) 2014: Dealing with the fall-out from moving and construction. Lots of cleaning.**

This year... I really had no big reason to send them off to camp, nor the extra money to pay for it. So... 2015: "Camp Mom"!

I made up a schedule, I assembled some games and notebooks. I researched free and fun summer stuff to do (no shortage of that here in NYC.)  I even pondered making t-shirts.

So each day for the past 2 weeks we've started off the mornings with some school work. Daniel (I mean I) am determined to memorize those multiplication tables before 4th grade. So each day he cheerfully sits down with his notebook and flash cards. Actually there is a fair amount of grumbling and foot stomping, but not as much as I expected.

Here he is trying to think of other ways to make the number of the day. Lily is fooling around avoiding eating, which is her new favorite pastime.  I have no idea how she got so big, because she eats nothing. But that's another post...

After chores we head out to do something fun. Like this:

Lily flying away on a ride near the beach. She went on this one 4 times.

After our fun in the sun, we head home for our "screen time"* and while away the afternoon til Daddy comes home and rescues me we eat dinner.

*If it was up to me (and many doctors and researchers) I would eliminate screens from my children's lives completely. BUT, those screens do offer a tantalizing prize for managing behavior. They really will do anything to earn their screens, even CLEAN. So at the end of the day, they veg out while I make dinner. So far the fact that they know they can have screens at the end of the day keeps them from whining for them all the time. Mostly.

Here we are, being silly with fruit. I'm starting to do anything to get this girl to eat anything besides buttered bread.

This week, Daniel is away at sleep away camp for the first time. We dropped him off Sunday and I was a very brave mommy and did not cry. So far they have not called to tell me that he's refusing to eat the bland food, nor has he fallen off the cliff or developed some weird rash nor has he called home weeping. I'm sure he's having a wonderful time.

And that is what I will keep repeating to myself until we pick him up Saturday morning. Until then Lily and I will be brave together and have lots of fun fights about eating vegetables.

** I do have a long list of mini- projects I want to finish this summer. Like fix the whole in our bedroom ceiling and clean out the closets. Not surprisingly, I've got none of those things done.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Garden Tour...

Our garden continues to grow, despite the best efforts of the neighborhood cat gang (they like to use our yard as a toilet). I'm a bit worried that the trees we bought aren't doing too well in our cement-like clay soil (classic Brooklyn dirt). I'm composting and mulching and singing to them, so we'll see...  The roses and shrubs that thrived on our windy rooftop, and lived through 18 months of  snow -construction site-snow are still thriving, proving them extremely hardy souls.

Lavender, not working as a cat repellent quite yet.

Ivy growing under the kids tree house.

Peas! Giant squash leaves!

Ice plant flowers...