Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The latest in preschool fashion

Growing Pains

The Boy had a doctor's appointment yesterday with the orthopedist (the muscle/bone doctor--did I get that spelling right? If I wrote foot doctor, I meant the other!) He's been having knee pain, in both knees, for a few months now. Initially, we did the ice, ibuprofen, heat, warm bath soaks, etc...but to no success. Then, we consulted with our pediatrician, who said after doing those things without improvement, we should seek out the help of a specialist. So, we made our appointment about 6 weeks ago (really, why does it take so long to get in with those specialist guys!) and finally had our consultation yesterday.
The doctor was great. He had a really nice manner with both me and the Boy. He asked a few questions of the Boy about where, when, how the pain is, etc...and then turned to me. "Has he had any growth spurts lately?" Um, yeah, if you consider putting on 30 pounds and growing 6 inches in less than a year a growth spurt. "Yes." Then he asked, "How about shoes? Has he gone through a few shoe sizes in the past year or so?" A few? Are you kidding? This is the same child for whom I had to buy two new pairs of black dress shoes for band and altar serving in less than 3 months because the first ones were TWO sizes too small! "As a matter of fact, he has." He then performed a few assessments in the form of stretching, reaching and bending. Just as quickly as he did so, he then gave his diagnosis, "Well, here's what it is. His bones are growing faster than his muscles. This is causing him to have pain in his knees from the weakness in the muscles that haven't caught up to the bone growth yet." He presented us with a sheet of exercises to do, prescribed the use of knee braces during sports and said that in six weeks he should be healed. He also told us that the pain could return if the Boy experiences another big growth spurt, but that once he is finally done growing, he'll be pain-free. He made a big point of telling the Boy, however, that if he only followed these directions a *little bit*, he'd only feel a *little bit* better.
So, we discussed this in the car. We talked about how important it would be to make time for these exercises over the next six weeks and being disciplined enough to follow through with them every day in order to get rid of the pain. As we talked, we realized that six weeks from now, is basically Easter Sunday. And then, it hit me. As my son committed to the discipline of his knee regimine for the rest of this Lenten season, I realized that in doing so, his body and soul would emerge from Lent to be healed by Easter. Hallelujah!
The Dynamic Duo strikes again

You know that there's trouble on the ark when the youngest pair of females can't be seen or heard. More trouble should be assumed when you call down to the playroom in the basement for them...

Dad: Girls, what are you two doing?

The girls: Ummmm, we're just standing.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


On fasting days during Lent, when you sit down (hahaha) to eat your breakfast at 8am but the cat needs to be let out, then you grab a bite, the baby needs to be changed, wash your hands and then you grab a second bite, the phone rings, then another bite, the doorbell rings, a quick swig of coffee, the dryer signals it's finished and you go to pull the laundry out and fold it, cram the last bit of toast in your mouth, the other baby needs to be changed, down the last of the coffee as you check the clock and see that it's time to wash hands again in order to begin preparing lunch...

Have you *eaten* between meals?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Our Mom's Group met yesterday and the topic was sharing Lent and Easter traditions/ideas. There were lots of good ideas discussed. It got me thinking a little bit as we talked, and then a little more later, as the day wore on, about what I would be doing for Lent.
Yesterday, by the end of the day, I was drained. Physically, mentally, and emotionally I was spent. The thought of getting all my ducks in a row for Lent was daunting-especially the 6 little ducklings here on the ark, who vascilate between getting on board with my plans and full-blown mutiny.
When I woke up this Ash Wednesday morning, it occured to me, however, that this Lent what I *do* or *give up* really isn't as important as the growth that thankfully still occurs, inspite of my plans for perfection. There is nothing that I can do, no amount of chocolate left uneaten, no specific number of prayers said, no perfect parenting skill that can match the sacrifice of Good Friday. Forgiveness doesn't come with a debt. Lent is not about my perfect sacrifice-it's about preparing for Christ's perfect one. So, I'm going to sift through the Lenten activities below and find something that seems appropriate to help myself and my family grow closer to Jesus this Lent. I'm thinking that abandoning the need for perfection and the opportunity to become more humble might be a good place for me to begin. Check back in with me in 40 days. Hopefully, you'll find me a little more perfect and a little less perfect, too.

Lenten Activities

1 c. whole pecans
1 tsp. vinegar
3 egg whites
pinch salt
1 c. sugar
zipper baggie
wooden spoon

Directions:Preheat oven to 300 F.
Place pecans in zipper baggie and let children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested he was beaten by the Roman soldiers. Read John 19:1-3.
Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1 tsp. vinegar into mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross he was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30.
Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10:10-11.
Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27.
So far, the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1 c. sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Ps. 34:8 and John 3:16. Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity in God's eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isa.1:18 and John 3:1-3.
Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper covered cookie sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid. Read Matt. 27:57-60.
Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus' tomb was sealed. Read Matt. 27:65-66.
GO TO BED! Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus' followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read John 16:20 and 22.
On Resurrection morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Resurrection day Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matt. 28:1-9. HE HAS RISEN!

Russian Easter Bread
2 1/4 -3 1/4 c. flour
1/4c. sugar
1 t. salt
1 pkg. yeast
2/3c. milk
2 T. margarine
2 eggs
1/2 c. candied fruit
1/2 t. anise seed
melted margarine
5 colored raw eggs

Mix 1 c. flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Combine milk and unmelted margarine in a saucepan until warm. Add gradually to dry mix. Beat 2 mins. at medium speed. Add 2 eggs and 1/2c. flour till batter thickens. Beat on "high" 2 minutes. Add more flour if necessary. Lightly flour board, knead 8-10mins. Place in a greased bowl. Turn to grease top. Cover and rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
Combine fruit and anise seed. Punch down dough. Knead in fruit mixture. Make 2 ropes of dough. Twist into a braid and form a ring on a greased baking sheet. Brush with melted margarine and place colored eggs in the braid. Cover and let rise one hour. Bake at 350 for 30-35 mins. Remove and cool.

Frost with: 1 3/4 c. confectioners sugar. 2T. water. 1/2T vanilla all mixed together.

You can find more Lenten activities here and here,as well as Lenten ideas for kids , here ,here and here. Plus, check out Danielle Bean's discussion about Lenten activities here . We also talked about doing a family service project, stations of the cross for children, a Seder meal and a "Loaves and Fishes" meal as well.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ethiopian Restaurant

We had a great time at the Ethiopian Restaurant
Ras Dashen. The food was wonderful! We could smell the strong scents of berbere and shiro in the air as we were seated. (We were even able to go to the little Ethiopian market next door and purchase these unique spices for H and I to have our own Doro Wat "Throw Down"!) As soon as we walked in, H's eyes twinkled as she heard the first notes of Teddy Afro and called out, "Mom! I know this one!" And the people...my husband came home from Addis raving about the grace and beauty of the Ethiopian people and their sheer hospitality. Apparently, coming to America these things are not lost in the translation. Everyone was kind and cordial. The waitress tried cajoling Baby T, who is a bit of a momma's boy, I admit (selfish grin!), but he wanted no part of it. H, however, ordered for the whole table and before we left had made friends with the people at the table next to us and was making plans to go back again. We were even invited into the back of the restaurant (to a large, party sort of room) to meet the children of the waitress and the owner's husband. (The owner herself was already out front with our ever-increasing group and trying, without success, to make friends with Baby T.)

We were also given information about the Midwest Ethiopian Adoption Reunion held this past summer in Wisconsin. This event was sponsored by the Ethio-America Community Service Agency (EACSA) who develops and support opportunities for cultural and educational exchanges between the population of the USA and Ethiopia. We left with their flier as well as the name of three local contact people, who have also adopted from Ethiopia and are involved in the planning of this event.

We're already planning to go back! It was so wonderful to see H in her element, as it were. She even said to me once we were on the way home, "Mom, I think so everyone there is from Ethiopia. They all speak Amharic." (Ed. note: I'm fairly certain that the young Asian couple a few tables away was probably not from Ethiopia, but you never know, right?!)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Ethiopia Reads!

As the daughter of a librarian, I am always on the lookout for a good book. The other day, my neighbor pointed me in the direction of the non-profit group Ethiopia Reads. Taken from their website, here is a brief introduction on their mission:

Do you remember the first book you loved as a child? Remember the magical experience of getting to know and love the characters — even missing them when the book was finished? For children, books can be so many things: comfort, learning tools, windows to other worlds both far-away and familiar. Books teach us that we have the right to dream.
Since Ethiopia Reads opened Ethiopia’s first free children’s library in 2003, thousands of children have experienced the joy of reading for the first time. This seemingly simple act has had a profound impact on their young lives. In Ethiopia, books represent hope. Ethiopia is a beautiful country, with breathtaking scenery and a vast richness of culture and spirit. But it faces tough challenges. Reading will equip today’s children with the skills to become tomorrow’s problem solvers.

Ethiopia has a strong tradition in oral story telling, an ancient history and written language, components that inspire a literate book-loving culture. Yet there are many obstacles to education. Consider:

  • 58% of Ethiopians age 15 and above cannot read.
  • Classes in government schools around typically have approximately 180 students at a time.
  • At present, 99% of schools in Ethiopia have no libraries!

They also sell, as a part of their fundraising efforts, children's story books written either in Amharic (the Ethiopian national language) or a dual language Amharic/English translation. There are a few titles in each format. We were so thrilled to discover this and so grateful to our neighbor for sharing. Click here to read more about the books available. AND for all my educator friends looking for something to do this summer check this out!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Places to go and people to see

This very interesting blog entry comes from the New York Times Online via my mom (thanks, Mom!) I know for those of you parents who traveled to Ethiopia to bring your children home, it comes as no suprise to read about the beauty and charm (as well as affordabilty) of travel to Ethiopia. It's nice to see Ethiopia get this type of a positive review and maybe a little tourist traffic, too!

February 14, 2007, 1:29 pm
Where Else Is A Hotel $2 a Night?
Nicholas D. Kristof
I'm regularly badgering students to travel abroad and, especially, to escape their comfort zones and visit the developing world. So here's a more specific suggestion: take a vacation trip to Ethiopia, for it's a perfect place to make a first visit to Africa.
For the last few days I've been running around rural Ethiopia, on my third visit, and it again strikes me as safe, cheap and even vaguely efficient. You can get relatively cheap flights to Addis Ababa, the capital, and then there are plenty of public buses that criss-cross the country. Roads are pot-holed but aren't bad by African standards (which means that you're bus is unlikely to disappear into a pothole and never be heard from again).
People are friendly and helpful, and enough English is spoken that you'll often be able to find someone who can help you out if you get lost. There are also a fair number of English language signs to go along with those in the local Amharic alphabet. And there is plenty to see in a land with a truly ancient civilization, from historic churches, castles and obelisks in the north to exotic tribal cultures in the south. And on the way you'll have fun, too: On the seven-hour journey from Addis to Jimma, I encountered a large group of baboons, including a mother with a baby on her back. When I got out of the car to take their photos they scampered about 50 feet away but didn't seem unduly alarmed.
Ethiopian food is perfectly good, and (as Naka noted in a snarky comment below about my provincialism) delicious macchiato coffee (however you spell it) is available even in small towns. I've been having about five a day. In one little town I ordered four of them – for me, Naka, our interpreter and our driver – and the total bill came to about 40 American cents. Which reminds me of another attraction of Ethiopia: Its currency is called the birr.
Bus fare for a day-long trip would be about $10. A night's lodging would start at a few dollars for a basic room, equipped with a bed and a few cockroaches. And if you do get malaria, there are plenty of private clinics to make you well again. If you're nervous, you could even buy a used cell phone with a local sim card and some talk time for less than $80. You could use that almost anywhere in the country.
So pick up a Lonely Planet guide and make the leap. You can't consider yourself fully educated until you've experienced how much of the world lives, and that's something you don't learn in class but by traveling in the developing world. And this is an African country where you can drink macchiato coffee.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

I have fond memories of my Dad coming home on Valentine's Day, after work, and bringing each of us kids a Russell Stover's heart-shaped box wrapped in red cellophane. I even remember as a pre-teen, loving the heart-shaped box even more than the chocolate inside (now THAT'S a long time ago...). So, I have always made certain, ever since our children were small, that each one received a similar box of chocolates on Valentine's Day.

My girls, as you may know, love spending time in the kitchen with me and really love doing special things for the holidays. With St. Valentine's Day being no exception, we've created a special family meal for a number of years now to celebrate. We've had a variety of red foods, heart-shaped desserts and pink drinks. This year's feast included: Heart-shaped meatloaf with ketchup sauce, pink mashed potatoes and green beans (I just couldn't figure out a way to make them pink or red and (much to the children's chagrin) insisted that at least one vegetable from a non-starch category be served.

Here are some pictures of the dinner, as well as a few of the *sides* the girls helped prepare.

Above, strawberry jello jigglers made by N and CB. The chocolate covered strawberries were B's own special creation---and did they ever taste good!
And just because he let me take his picture, I won't even mention that you should take notice of the Boy trying to duck out of the picture because he had just come back in from basketball practice. See me not even mentioning it!


Here are just two of my favorite sweeties--showing off the valentines they made for Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa in NH.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Little House on the Prairie

You would think I'd know this by now, but it is not possible to get through an episode of this classic TV show without Kleenex. Years ago, watching as a child with my siblings, it's the same quality that would make us all carefully watch our Mom to see if she was getting teary-eyed. But, we still love the show. We love the characters, the stories, the history--all of it. It is one of the few shows now that all of our kids will sit down and watch intently together.

So, when CB selected one from the library the other day, I thought it would be a great "family night" program. With the threat of snow looming large, Daddy out for the evening, and all of the kids in their pjs early last night, we decided to watch Part I of Little House on the Prairie-Journey in the Spring. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Long after the hour-long segment finished, I'm still wondering if it was a good idea AND if Part 2 should be shown at all.

In the beginning of the special, we saw Charles' mom and dad in their little house up in the "Big Woods" of Wisconsin. In less than 10 minutes, however, we watched with typical Little House sadness, the passing of Grandma Ingalls. I cringed inwardly as I heard H raise the question, "Mom, what is grandmother?" Quickly, before I could answer, CB jumped in, "She died." To which H responded, "What is died?" But as she did, a look of recognition swept across her face. It was as if all of a sudden she knew what had happened to this motionless, pale woman lying in her quilt-covered wooden bed, while her husband lay his head on her chest and wept. But to confirm her suspicions, she whispered to me, "She is no talking?" I couldn't even open my mouth to answer her yes. I just shook my head and held her next to me as she cried. Not a wailing, hysterical cry, but the slow, gentle tears of someone who was reliving a moment right then and there of a not recently tapped memory.

We did make it through the rest Part I, but I am uncertain about Part 2. I explained the story to my husband when he got home and while I was happy to see that H was able to grieve and express sadness (rather than bottle it up inside), I just don't want to force grieving on her. I am also all to acutely aware that these types of scenes pop-up more often than I might like and that I am happy to have had this one in the privacy and comfort of her own home with people around her who realize the reason for her tears. So, I think for tonight, I'm taking the coward's way out and we'll come up with another after dinner activity. Maybe we'll see if anyone shows any interest in watching the rest of the show or maybe we'll just return in to the library and be done with it completely. It's due this Friday, anyway.

This time, I just don' t know.
Dangerous Words

After hearing some unusual sounds coming from the front hall stairs followed by shrieks of laughter...

Dad (to N and CB): Where are you girls?

The girls: Nowhere!

Dad: What are you doing?

The girls: Nothing!

I think my husband and I would relish even 15 minutes to go nowhere and do nothing...if we could only figure out where it is.

Friday, February 09, 2007

5 + 1 = 8!!!

Nope, this is not *new* math. Nor have I lost my mind (although I realize that point is up for debate). This is the antibiotic equation for the people in our house.

Right now, there are five people in our house on antibiotics, with three confirmed cases of strep throat. The other two are suspected and treated as such. (See, even the doctor's office doesn't want my germ-carrying crew to stop by for a visit!) So, if you stop by and peek in the fridge for a cold drink, be forewarned your local pharmacist probably has less amoxicillin on hand than I do.

And, if you like logic puzzles, we've created one from the medication schedule we're operating on-ready? Here goes...

There are two bottles of pink amoxicillin with 250 mg/ml inside.
There is one bottle of keflex.
There are four small bottles of pink amoxicillin with 100 mg/ml inside.
N and Baby T have separate manufacturers for their meds so they should not be mixed-up.
CB is allergic to penicillin and CANNOT take anyone else's medicine.
All of the girls except H are on antibiotics (I'm sure that H's immune system laughs in the face of such things as strep!)
Everyone is on a ten day course. (Note: this is rather superfluous, but it is a reminder to me of when we're finished!)
Oh and did I mention, one of the adults in the house is on amoxicillin pills.

One large sharpie marker later, everyone's medicine is marked and the dosing can begin. If I could only figure out where to put the milk?!
Any guesses?
Case closed and case opened

In case you don't remember, there was some unpleasantness related to the car rental in Germany en route to Ethiopia to bring home H and Baby T. Many of you sent your suggestions and shared your own car rental experiences (read: horror stories) with me and for that I will be forever grateful. When the entire matter was resolved, I promised, I would fill you in on the outcome. So, after some hard work and determination, the matter has been resolved, to our satisfaction and fortunately-- for the world at large --our story will not become one worthy of Yahoo! news. In the end, we paid for our car rental and the rest we chafed out and blew away with a breath of thankfulness (particularly to the woman at Avis' customer care center, who was our tireless advocate as well as Ameri-German liason).

In the second case, we have our re-adoption process in the works. Thanks to friends of ours, who used this same attorney, our case will be handled swiftly and with the experience that a big-city lawyer can provide. Otherwise, there were concerns that our small town county seat judges just might not have seen as many adoptions, let alone international ones and from Africa at that. So, after the case is filed, we'll make a day trip into the city for our court date and be one step closer to seeing the end of the paperwork jungle that is international adoption.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Finding God

Over the weekend of H and Baby T's Baptism, we decided it would make the most sense to go to the Saturday vigil Mass rather than try to get everyone (remember there were 11 people in the house that weekend) ready for the Baptism AND for Mass at 11am on Sunday morning. So, after a meeting of the logistics team, we decided to split into two groups-one would go to the vigil to the church in our town and one would go at 7am Mass on Sunday morning at our church where the kids attend school. It just so happens that the church in town is fairly new, quite spacious but usually pretty crowded (at least the handful of times we've gone). As we walked in, it seemed like a good idea to duck into the 'Children's Chapel'; a large room with multiple pews, a large floor to ceiling window looking out on the rest of the congregation, and a speaker system, which was either had the volume turned way down...or the children in our little chapel had their volume turned way up...but that's a story for another entry.
Needless to say, we sat in the very first pew, where N made herself quickly comfortable on the floor in front of the window and in full view of everyone on the other side of the glass. While she did sit pretty well (even by 2 year old standards) for the majority of the Mass, at one point, she very loudly went from one adult to the next with a deep theological question.

N: (to Grandpa) Where is God?

G: He's everywhere.

N: (to Auntie F) Where is God?

Auntie F: (shrugged her shoulders) and looked at me.

N: (getting frustrated with the adult's lack of enlightenment turned to me and said) WHERE.IS.GOD?

Me: (giving a great motherly answer) Shhhh...you're in church.

She settled herself back down on the floor and seemed to be quietly pondering our ineptitude when she suddenly stood up and pointed, while she proclaimed, "Mamma, look! There God is!" I looked up just in time to see the tail of the pastor's vestments breeze past the window.

Our kids have such a concrete, tangible understanding of our intangible God, while we as adults struggle to explain who, let alone where, He is. While the adults weren't even looking, God walked by and we almost missed Him, had it not been for a two-year old's insistence that He was there somewhere if she just kept on looking. If it were only that easy, I thought. Then again, maybe it is.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Better late than never-Part II

These are pictures from our trip to see the Christmas lights at the zoo in December.

Uncle Chickendance and family.
B and Uncle N (with the whole gang of 23 of us in the background)

Time to go home...

Better late than never-Part I

These are some pictures from Christmas dinner 2006 at Grandma and Grandpa M's house.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Groundhog's Prediction

We're not sure about that guy in Punxsatawney, PA... but around here, the groundhogs (it is the ark after all-it goes without saying that there MUST have to be TWO of them!) have been out and about with a vengence. Seems as if no one saw their shadow (or at least wasn't frightened by it). Either way, with the temps this weekend predicted to fall into the single digits for the HIGH temperatures,
I'd say the groundhogs on the ark are ready for spring!

-------- Groundhog CB -----------------

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Groundhog N------------------
Check this out!

Some of you may remember, or perhaps have met, my friend Paige whose family was stationned with us in Germany. She and her family now live in the upper Midwest and she is a midwife as well as mom to 4! And, she has a new blog which you can read here. I'm so excited to hear about her work as a midwife--I imagine her stories will be quite interesting AND I'm really thrilled to keep up with her lovely family on a more frequent basis!
First Haircut


And as far as Baby T is concerned, he'd rather not comment about the middle part!