Friday, March 30, 2007

Letting Go

This past Sunday, we celebrated Baby T's first birthday (pictures to follow). He's not quite walking yet, but that hasn't stopped him from getting into anything and everything he can. He's become quite the little escape artist, actually. This afternoon, I was struggling to keep my eyes open as I fed him his afternoon bottle and as he finished, he wriggled free of my grasp and speed-crawled out of the family room. Little did I know, he was going to rouse his big sister N from what should have been her naptime. Suddenly, from above, I heard N call out, "Hi Mama, the baby is here with me." Groan. So, I put away any thoughts I might have been having about afternoon naps (for anyone) and went upstairs to catch my little diaper wearing Houdini. He was as unhappy to see me coming as I had been to chase after him. He caught sight of me opening the gate at the top of the stairs, grinned his 4 tooth grin at me and made a hasty retreat to the kids' bathroom (one of his favorite places to escape).
I stopped for a moment and thought about how quickly these (almost) four months have gone since he and H joined our family. When he arrived, slightly underweight and still carrying the vestiges of 6 months worth of living in an orphanage in Ethiopia, he sat contentedly while Mom, Dad and his new siblings flocked to him on his little blanket island in the middle of the family room floor. He cried when one of us left him sitting there, or for that matter, even attempted to do so. Now, he's decided to turn the tables on us; me in particular. When I see that toothy grin now, I know he's ready for his own little game of hide-and-seek. And while a part of me is thrilled that he feels secure enough to venture off into the other rooms of the house unattended, another part of me is feeling uncertain about this next step.
He's even started standing, unassisted and walking while someone holds his hand. I know it's just a matter of time before he, and I, find it's time to let go.

I'm not the only one...

who is unhappy with the newly mobile Baby T.

Sorry, Kitty.

Birthplace of Coffee

My husband found this very descriptive pictorial on the Trib's website. He called H and I in tonight to view it. As we watched, H's eyes lighted up. This was just like she explained to me last week, as she and B sorted multiple bags of jelly beans by color, the sorting of the coffee beans in Ethiopia. Apparently, this was one of her birthmom's jobs, one which H remembered her doing---and doing very quickly as she demonstrated by her own deft hands flicking the colorful jelly beans into their rightful bowls. So, I wanted to share the story in pictures with everyone and write it down myself so that Baby T will be able to read this story about his birth mom when he gets bigger. Check it out here. (Note: You may have to register to read this article, but it's easy, quick and free to do.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Charity in transracial/transcultural adoptions

The question about charity in transracial/transcultural adoptions came up again on a Catholic International Adoption group, to which we belong. Below is an edited version of my response, which I decided to post here for a few reasons. First, I know this is a relatively common question/concern for parents who are in the adoption process, but also for those who are discerning whether or not they are called to adopt. Adoption can be an emotionally draining and overwhelming process at times, add to that the sense that not everyone is fully behind your decision and it can get downright scary. Second, there has been a great deal of discussion about the topic and I'm sure there are lots of other ideas beyond the ones I've discussed-please feel free to add your own suggestions. Finally, when this question comes up, it presents a tremendous opportunity to educate and inform.

From my response:
I'm not sure if we had/have anyone who is not in favor of our choice to adopt internationally/transracially/transculturally, but if they did/do they have kept it to themselves.

On my husband's side, it is a little different because he is the oldest of 11 children, 9 of whom are adopted. While none were international adoptions, all were children of different races. So, at their house, it is just what "family" looks like. To other people, though, there were questions about the impact of the adoption on "our own" children and how would we know if our Ethiopian children were really healthy and well-adjusted.

Our response to that, besides lots of prayer, was education. Our agency put out a DVD about their work in Ethiopia that we shared with tons of friends and family and we also sent them email links and other information to explain the process to them. Heck, I even started this blog. We also did a fundraiser at the school our Ethiopian daughter would attend, where we provided, along with two other Ethiopian adoptive families, information, support and dialogue about adoption.

What we have found is that often times, people speak out of ignorance not out of an unkind heart. The other thing that has rung true for us (as well as other families with this issue) was the change of heart once these other people actually met our children. We felt that extended family and friends needed time to grow in love of our children, just as we had been growing in love for them throughout the adoption process.
I think that, in the end, you continue to live out the life that God has called you to and as St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words." Your actions will speak louder, every.single.time, than anything you could ever say.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Bone to pick

Last Sunday afternoon, the girls and I visited the library. It was a lovely trip and everyone was in prime library mode. No one ran off down an aisle unseen by me, no one cried about coming, going or having to stay for longer/shorter than she wanted and everyone located plenty of books, puzzles and dvds to make them happy.
One of the dvds we brought home was an educational video about Africa (part of a larger series in the Discovery school geography series) called Africa Today. As is typical for the Discovery channel programs, the quality of the filming is exquisite and the information is, well, not as good as the filming...
Here's my beef-the Ethiopia segment, which was only about 2-3 minutes long (the same as the rest of the country segments), focused ONLY on the life of an 11 year old girl in a rural Ethiopian farming community. That's it. Where were the pictures of Addis? of the coffee shops brewing up macchiatos? of the internet cafes? of the universities filled with anthropological gems? of the international flavor in a city of over 5 million people? It was unfortuntate that as good as the Discovery program was trying to be, it did a disservice to the students watching, whose brief exposure to Ethiopia was limited to two minutes of water retrieval, farmwork and woe. To be sure, much of Ethiopia is farmed and is rural, but amidst this beautiful, ancient land is a glimmer of the modern world that is also a part of this country's story.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lenten Discipline Revisited

Yesterday was Tuesday, right? I thought so. Only all day yesterday, I could have SWORN it was Monday because it felt

Our Tuesdays are those days where we get up in the morning and by 8am I'm shuttling myself and all six kids out the door and into the car for a whirlwind of school drop-offs and pick-ups, morning Mom's Group at church, and a few miscellaneous stops along the way. Needless to say, it leaves a couple of the youngest crew on the ark a little nap-deprived, to say the least, which becomes all too apparent by late afternoon (aka the "Witching Hour" as I've heard it called).

Normally, when I leave to pick up the big kids from school, I wait until precisely the last moment to head out so that everyone gets the full effect from the rejuvenating effect of afternoon naptime (Mom included). Yesterday, however, there was no point, really, in waiting to leave as there were no naps occuring. As I only had the two aforementioned nap-missers with me, I decided that not napping in the car was as good as not napping at home so we quickly loaded up and drove to school. We arrived and were early enough to get a middle-of-the-crowd spot. For a few minutes, while I sat waiting for dismissal, in the relative quiet of yesterday, I remembered a whole host of things I needed to do. As I scavenged my purse for a pen and paper, I succeeded in finding only the former. Surely, I thought, somewhere in this car is something on which to write down the thoughts that were threatening to escape my brain. I scanned the car again and then I saw it. No lovely, seasonal notepad color-coordinated to go with the pen I was brandishing. No, my solution sat in the cup holder next to me. It was a tissue, otherwise clean save for the piece of cinnamon chewing gum I had discarded in it earlier in the day. I snagged the tissue and began furiously writing on it until the bell rang and the car doors opened and broke the short-lived silence I had enjoyed.

So this morning, I was reviewing my "notes", after a successful grocery trip with the three little ark members and during the morning nap of the youngest one. The phone rang in the middle of my "work" and I shared with my dear friend and H's godmother how, vanity permitting, I should post a picture of my pathetic little tissue. It would be a piece of concrete evidence to the people who erroneously (trust me on that point) believe that I always have my act together...all of the time...every day. I remebered my Lenten discipline, that I was going to let God work on my need to present that very same image and thought, pride-schmide, I'm posting the picture. Come to think about it, I think it's here less for everyone else's eyes, and more for my own, for days like yesterday and for those to come long after this Lent is over.

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in my weakness." So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." 2 Cor 12:9

Monday, March 19, 2007

Saint Joseph

As a child, I always associated this feast day with the festival of San Giuseppe at the Catholic high school my dad worked at of the same name. Now, as an adult, but especially as a wife and mother, St. Joseph holds more meaning for me than the cannoli-laden plates of my youth.

What a role model our sons and husbands (and fathers) have in him. Given a culture that belittles the role of authentic fatherhood, St. Joseph is a beacon for those men, young and old, trying to find their way. Two wonderful articles are over at the Catholic Exchange. You can read this year's article here, and while you're at it, this is an oldie (from last year) but a real goodie!

Blessed Saint Joseph,
holy guardian of Jesus and Mary,
assist us by your prayers
in all the necessities of life.
Ask of Jesus that special grace
which He granted to you,
to watch over our home
at the pillow of the sick and the dying,
so that with Mary and with you,
heaven may find our family unbroken
in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
-from A Prayer For a Family

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Hoping you all celebrated a blessed St. Patrick's Day! We had a double header in basketball this morning and clearly St. Patrick interceded on both of his namesake's behalves and gave endurance, strength and resolve to their team to a) win both games and b) allowed the senior of the be-named to watch the games in their entirety with little distraction from the traveling peanut-gallery that tags along to all the games.

How did we celebrate? Well, it is customary in our family to allow the person to celebrate their Name Day by selecting the dinner menu for that night. In this case, since two people share this feast day in our family, it has generally defaulted to the younger one (with the older one knowing that the traditional corned beef and cabbage will be prepared specifically for him--since no one else will partake of it-- Saint Patrick's Day or not). So tonight, for his Name Day, the Boy selected Domino's Brooklyn Style pizza. Not to seem ungrateful for all the blessings of his patron, the Boy even managed to eat nearly an entire pizza all. by. himself.
Birthday Gifts-Part 2

The Boy may be right. Perhaps the little man does want Guitar Hero for his first birthday!
Birthday Gifts-Part 1

One of the gifts given to H for her 9th birthday was a gift card from her paternal grandparents to go to Build-A-Bear workshop. Each of our other girls has at least one of these self-created furry friends and nobody wanted H (or her ever growing stuffed animal collection) to feel left out.

So on a recent day off from school, the six kids and I picked up Grandma and headed for the mall.

*H had never been to a mall before (at least not one in America) and to say the least she was just thrilled with the entire concept. After the stop at BABW we raced upstairs to Libby Lu to let her and B get sprinkled with pixie dust. As we jogged past the fountain crowded with toddlers raising a chubby arm to drop a coin in, she stopped and looked around. The bright colors, the bustle of the markets, the open air kiosks, Starbucks right beside wafting the scents of freshly brewed coffee, people laughing, she turned to me and said, "You and Dad coming here?" "Not too much," I answered. "Why?" she asked me with a very puzzled look on her face. I tried to enlighten her to what seems to be a universal (or at least in our family) mall truth, "Well...Dad doesn't really like the mall." She clucked her tongue as she shook her head and said, "Dad no like? Oh no. This place, I think, is very, very, very fun." Poor Dad. I guess he doesn't know what he's missing.*

We also managed to fit in a ride on the carousel, another first that was extremely well received, and then headed back home. Once there, H decided that since she now had her own "child" (she has the BABW birth certificate to prove it!) and that very day was the day her "child" was "born" that she wanted to give her a special birthday party just like she herself had a few days prior. She and her sisters set to work, creating a cake out of a tower of blocks, inviting all of their friends and even getting their own party bags from H's party to use the remaining candy as party favors. It was quite an affair. I only wish I'd been invited.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Family Heritage

Tonight, after AI was finished, of course, (can you believe that Sanjaya is still hanging around?) H and I were sitting flipping through a catalog from Catholic Relief Services. The catalog is called Work of Human Hands and highlights many beautiful items with a direct connection to the farmers and artisans who produce them. We were able to search their US coffee map to find a store that promotes Fair Trade and found this great Ethiopian coffee from the Oromia region---motherland to H and Baby T's birth mom.
Many other countries are highlighted in their products as well. For example, they sell silk scarves from India and Bangladesh, baskets from the Phillipines and Uganda, pottery from Vietnam, wood carvings from Kenya, coffee, music and more--just to name a few! It started an interesting conversation about how increasingly multicultural our community and even our family has become. When I saw the items from India, I pointed them out to H and said, "See these things, they were made where Fr. Ery (her favorite priest at our church) comes from." She smiled and nodded. Then, seeing a beautiful wooden cross from Mexico, I pointed to it and said, "Remember, Uncle Chickendance's wife, Aunt G's family comes from Mexico." She nodded again. "Aren't we lucky to have so many people in our family from so many different countries?" I asked, "Ethiopia, Mexico, India, so many places!" Then I had the brilliant idea (with Saint Patrick's Day just around the corner) of pointing out my Irish heritage (as if the red hair and freckles hadn't tipped anyone off)! So I asked, "Do you know where my family comes from?" And without missing a beat, H turned to me and said, "Yes, I know! New Hampshire!"

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Tell us how you really feel

Since moving to the midwest, we've become American Idol watchers. We were very excited when it started this year and H said she knew that show from Ethiopia. She said excitedly, "I know that one!!! It is Ethiopian Idol ." (You can read a review about the show here.) So, our girl is a big Idol fan regardless of the country of broadcast. Like tonight, she watched the singer, Haley, with a furrowed brow and a very disgusted look on her face. And when Ryan Seacrest came on to tell America how to vote for her. H looked at me and said, "Where is phone? I call her and say, 'You no come back next week. You dress is too small and you sing very, very bad." Simon Cowell--look out!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Just a little different

Thanks to our dear friends in Arizona, we've been enjoying some fairly regular movie rentals from Blockbuster. When we went this last weekend, I decided to let the Boy choose (in place of his movie selection) a Playstation2 game. He loves playing all the sports type games, which is fine with us, because we steer clear from the violent, explicit language or gratuitous sex genre of video games. So, he selected the current Nascar racing game. Since his Dad works for a certain Nascar sponsoring, big box, home improvement chain, everyone gets a big kick out of seeing him race that car on screen. After watching the Boy play for a while, his two younger sisters, our "artificial twin" girls, decided to give it a try.
I was upstairs when the laughter started. (Apparently, Nascar as well as Playstation are not big with the pre-teen girl set, and even less so with those of Ethiopian heritage.) So, as I watched them from above as I came downstairs, they were rolling on the floor in fits of laughter and shouting things such as, "Did you see that?" "Our cars are on fire!!!" Their Dad, who was supervising this activity, watched as our Ethiopian daughter held the controller in her hands, but never touched a single button. They wrapped up their *game*, and we loaded up everyone to go to Grandma's house for a birthday party.
Unbeknownst to us, what should be on the television at Grandmother's house when we arrived, but a Nascaresque race. (I say this because I do not know if it was officially a Nascar sponsored event, but it had the track and the cars) As H sat down next to me, I pointed this out.

Me: Look, H, it's just like the game you and B played on our tv.

H: Yes, just a leeeetle different.

Me: Oh?

H: Yes, no fire.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Never alone

In the car tonight, I listened to the Boy and B debate about whether Mom and Dad ever get to do anything alone together...

B: Why can't we watch the movie with them?

The Boy: They should watch the movie by themselves. They never get to do anything without at least one kid around.

B: Yes, they do. They got married without any kids.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Birthday Wish List

Me: (to the Boy) Do you have any ideas what Baby T would like for his birthday?

The Boy: Hmmm...I think he would reeeaaally like Guitar Hero.
Loving till it hurts

I have never experienced more opportunities to witness God's sense of humor since I've had children. On a fairly regular, read daily--hourly, perhaps, even--basis someone takes something that I've long held sacred and turns it on its ear; allowing God, I believe (actually in this case, I especially hope) to avail me of his oh-You-are so funny-this-MUST-be-God- sense of humor.

So the other night when I was out Easter/First Communion/Aunt's Wedding/Uncle's Wedding children's outfit shopping, it didn't even faze me when my cell phone rang and my husband was on the other end asking if we had Crazy Glue...and did I know where we kept the Crazy Glue...and if not, would I kindly purchase some Crazy Glue.

I arrived home to find that our youngest daughter, 2 year old, N, had been playing with a beautiful statue of the Holy Family we received recently, which resides on our family altar. In her zealous "play" she, God forgive me, broke the head and hand off the innocent baby Jesus.

If you look closely, you'll see the statue to the top center of the picture. You'll also see (if you're looking carefully) a copy of the New Testament in Amharic on top of our family bible.And here, you'll see a close-up of the same statue next to a nearly empty bottle of
Holy Water.
But that is a story for another post.
So, I purchased the Crazy Glue, at the time not knowing the reason why and praying that one tube should suffice. When I arrived home, after the Christ child's assailant was in bed, I took out the Crazy Glue and attempted to fix the damage. While I did so, I thought surely our Lord had not considered two year olds, and a certain blond haired, blue-eyed one in particular, when he invited, "Let the little children come to me..." (Mt 19:14) The operation appeared to be a success and I set the statue back on the table on my way up to bed. I peeked in her crib and saw her sleeping. She was laying, as only a two year old can, sprawled across her mattress, blanket wrapped around one chubby little hand and her Dear, God book in the other. My little girl loves Jesus and considers Him to be her friend in such a way that she doesn't think twice about asking Him to play, even when she plays rough.
On second thought,I think she, and her other two year old peers, might have been just what He had in mind.

Monday, March 05, 2007

"Blowing up pigeons"

Don't go and get all worried about this post's heading. My daughter, B, used this expression about a week ago to describe the way that the pigeons looked downtown when the wind ruffled their feathers (no pun intended).
She reminded me of her homemade euphemism this afternoon during the car ride home from school as CB and N recounted a tale so shocking it almost kept us from entering our house this morning.
I'd like to go on the record, if I may, as stating that I am not an overly delicate and fragile female creature. I am generally not afraid to get my hands dirty (remember, I have six kids...)but one thing turns me into the proto-typical frantic woman screaming from atop the nearest chair---MICE---and there was one a big, fat, blowing up mouse in my garage as I hopped out of the driver's seat this morning.
(Ed. note: I have already shared this story with my mother who between laughs kept saying, "I'm so sorry to be laughing at's really not funny...mawahahahaha" and who clearly did not feel my pain so this is my attempt at a little well deserved sympathy for my pathetic mouseaphobic self)
As a point of reference, my last close encounter of the rodent kind (minus the trophy ones our cat drops on the front porch) was at a school I taught at in Alabama. I was setting up my classroom when I noticed a slivery flash along the floorboard. As I made my way, screeching, along my students' desktops the headmaster came in with the custodian who together solved my problem with my teaching bag and a large shovel. Both I and my teaching bag have never been the same. But I digress.
So, as soon as my feet hit the floor in the garage and I noticed M-I-C-K-E-Y curled up at the bottom of the stairs headed into the house, I did what any self-respecting lady would do and slammed the open car doors (you know, before it could jump inside the car!) and picked up my cell phone to call my husband.
My husband calmly talked me through the situation (all that Army training prepared him well for crises such as this). While I shuttled the three crying little ones out of my car one at a time and onto the safety of the driveway, where they could then run for the cover of the front porch, my beloved said he was on his way home to deal with the varmint. We quickly unlocked the front door and stepped inside as visions of escape artist mice sliding under locked doors flooded my thoughts. I contemplated rolling a towel up and cramming it up against the garage entry door inside the house as a preventative measure, but was certain that if I did that little brown ball of fur would come shooting out across the door sill and my husband would find no mouse, assume everything was fine and never make his way into the house where I would lay passed out on the entry floor. Fortuntely, as this mental exchange continued in my mind, I heard the melodious sound of the other garage door opening. Help had arrived!! After listening to a few minutes of quiet shuffling noises on the other side of the door, it finally opened and my husband walked in and sounded the all clear. Apparently, my hero drove twenty minutes home to rescue me and my babies from a dead mouse! Sigh. The good news is now that we've run through this drill, we'll be operation ready when the real thing happens!

I cleaned everything. Seriously, everything...

I replaced toothbrushes with brand spanking new ones.

I washed all the bed linens.

I washed all the towels.

I Lysol-ed. I bleached. I disinfected.

And still...

Strep claimed three more victims on the ark.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Reported by the Basque news and information service
Foreigners kidnapped by eritrean forces, Ethiopian official says

An Ethiopian administrator accused Eritrean forces of kidnapping a group of 5 Europeans and 13 Ethiopians. "They were taken to Wema district of Asab Province in Eritrea," he told Reuters by telephone.

An Ethiopian administrator accused Eritrean forces of kidnapping a group of 5 Europeans and 13 Ethiopians
Related news
Fifteen foreigners believed kidnapped in Ethiopia
An Ethiopian administrator accused Eritrean forces of kidnapping a group of five Europeans and 13 Ethiopians in a remote part of Ethiopia, and taking them to a military camp near the Eritrean border.
Two groups of tourists, including at least seven French nationals and five Britons, were believed to have been kidnapped in a remote, inhospitable area of the Horn of Africa nation.
"They were taken to Wema district of Asab Province in Eritrea. This has been confirmed by two Ethiopians of Afar origin who have been left behind," Ismael Ali Sero, the head of the Afar administrative region, told Reuters by telephone.
"We have confirmation that the commandos came from Arat military training camp inside Eritrea. They torched four vehicles and two homes before they left with the group."
Britain sent a six-strong team of senior Foreign Office officials to Ethiopia to step up diplomatic efforts to free the foreigners.
The head of the tour company that organised the trip for the seven French tourists said earlier on Saturday the French were safe. But a French diplomat was unable to confirm the report, saying Paris had not yet made direct contact with them.
British officials said five of those missing were staff from the embassy in Addis Ababa or relatives of members of staff.
Officials said the team sent to Addis Ababa early on Saturday had arrived to help diplomats at the British embassy.
A small delegation of embassy staff has already flown to the city of Mekele in the north of the country, which has the closest airport to the area where the Westerners went missing, expatriate sources said.
Foreign Office officials in London declined to say whether hostage negotiators were among the team sent to Ethiopia.
Tour companies said the groups disappeared while visiting the northeast Afar region, considered one of the world's most hostile terrains. The missing Ethiopians were people from the Afar region and were working as drivers and translators.
Afar, one of Ethiopia's poorest regions, was also the site of a low-level rebellion against the government in the 1990s by separatists calling for an Afar state on territory straddling Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Ethiopian Blog

An adoptive mom, who maintains a blog at the site Owlhaven, made mention of a blog written by a freelance journalist in Ethiopia. His name is Andrew Heavens. You can read a little about him here. Currently, in addition to his freelance work, he maintains a blog called Meskel Square/ from his location in Addis Ababa. It is very interesting to read his perspective of the goings-on there and to view his frequently uploaded photos of the city. He also keeps a list of families, who have adopted from Ethiopia, hence the origin of mention at Owlhaven and you can even find our little ark listed in the sidebar!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Thanks, Mom

(and E, too, for sending this along)...

A newborn's conversation with God...
A baby asked God, "They tell me you are sending me to earth tomorrow, but how am I going to live there being so small and helpless?"
God said, "Your angel will be waiting for you and will take care of you."
The child further inquired, "But tell me, here in heaven I don't have to do anything but sing and smile to be happy."
God said, "Your angel will sing for you and will also smile for you. And you will feel your angel's love and be very happy."
Again the child asked, "And how am I going to be able to understand when people talk to me if I don't know the language?"
God said, "Your angel will tell you the most beautiful and sweet words you will ever hear, and with much patience and care, your angel will teach you how to speak."
"And what am I going to do when I want to talk to you?"
God said, "Your angel will place your hands together and will teach you how to pray."
"Who will protect me?"
God said, "Your angel will defend you even if it means risking its life."
"But I will always be sad because I will not see you anymore."
God said, "Your angel will always talk to you about Me and will teach you the way to come back to Me, even though I will always be next to you."
At that moment there was much peace in Heaven, but voices from Earth could be heard and the child hurriedly asked, "God, if I am to leave now, please tell me my angel's name." God said, "You will simply call her, "Mom."

For all you moms--both young and not-so-young moms, near and far moms, just starting out and blessed with experience moms, adoptive and birth moms, at home and at work moms, healthy and sick moms, on earth and in Heaven moms, yesterday, today and tomorrow moms---Thanks for accepting the gift of life God has given you! Without you, we'd be nothing...literally!

A special thanks to those moms adjusting to life with brand new little blessings---H's godmother, A back in NY and all of our friends and family in our lives who await the arrival of a brand new soul to learn to call them "Mom".