Thursday, May 31, 2007

Can you hear me now?

Motherhood is full of gifts, some obvious and in-your-face, and others not so much. One of the more subtle ones, I think, has to do with a mother's intuition. You know, that funny, inexplicable feeling that we, as mothers, have about our children...often with regard to their well-being. It's one of those feelings that might appear, on its surface, to only be available to the biological mom who has the unspoken connection that comes from carrying a child for 9 months. I'm learning, as I go, however; that this gift crosses the adoption barrier with ease and surely by God's grace, allows we adoptive mothers to tune-in to our adopted children in the same way.

In late April, Baby T was seen for an ear infection and given 2 weeks of antibiotic therapy. At his follow-up appointment, his ear infection had not resolved and had actually worsened. He was given another 2 week course of antibiotic therapy and was referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. He was seen at the end of May by the specialist who found both ears to be infected still. After reviewing his situation, and at the advice of the specialist, we have scheduled him for the placement of Pressure Equilization Tubes in both ears during the first week of June. This procedure will allow the fluid to drain out of the ears and promote the healing of the lining of the middle ear. In addition to alleviating his ear pain from the chronic infections, it will also allow for the appropriate hearing necessary for speech and language development.

End of story, right? Not by a long shot.

After a number of times, where I thought to myself H's speaking volume is, at times, quite loud. Upon talking to her, I learned that she remembered some ear troubles of her own as a child, which were treated with onion (rubbed on the outer part of her affected ear). I put aside the thought for a while, but it kept popping up again and again. So, standing in the ENT's office, I thought, I may as well ask about having her evaluated. He said, "Of course," and arranged to see her just 2 days later (can you imagine a specialist with that short a wait time!)
So, at our request, we also had H’s ears and hearing evaluated. I watched as the doctor removed a considerable wax build-up from both ears and, smiled to myself as H sat up and remarked how much louder everything sounded! Thinking that we would just finish up quickly with the hearing screening, we moved to the next room for the audiogram. If you've never seen this test performed before, the patient sits in an enclosed sound-proof room with a window to see the audiologist. As I was concerned that testing environment might cause her anxiety, I asked and was allowed to sit with her on my lap inside the testing "box". A headset was placed on her and the instruction to raise your hand when you hear the beep was given. As I sat in the box, listening to the ever increasing volume of beeps (yes, even I could hear them) and staring at H's hand in her lap, I began to suspect we had trouble. My suspicion was confirmed when we emerged from the booth and the audiologist asked H to show her which ear she used to talk on the telephone. She held an *imaginary* phone up to her left ear, and I questioned her to make certain she understood what was being asked, "You use the other ear to talk on the phone sometimes, right?" She looked at me and shook her head. The audiologist spoke, "I'm not surprised," she said, "her left ear is fine, but she has profound hearing loss in her right ear." We are currently investigating which, if any, therapies are appropriate for her at this time. Some that are available were not recommended based on her present age and might be more appropriate as she gets older, but we did leave with a laundry list of accomodations to help her teacher during classroom instruction (but that's a post for another day).

So, we now have a child who is learning English and is basically deaf in one ear, and it's a gift.
It's a gift because together, as parent and child, we read each others unspoken language and discovered this; and, as parent and child, we'll work through it together learning from each other as we go.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Do you know this young mother's story? Perhaps you already do. Or perhaps, her story mirrors yours...or your spouse's...or parent's or child's.
There is nothing remarkable, in this day and age, about someone battling cancer. Certainly you know, or someone you know knows, someone who is valiantly fighting that good fight.
But what is so remarkable, and the reason why this story is different; is the courageous faith and trust in the Lord that this woman possesses. Her spirit on, what I can only hazard to guess is, a journey fraught with ups, downs, unknowns and unimaginables is taking the of menacing stare of cancer and turning it into a joy-filled battle cry for victory in Christ.
And what's even more amazing? She's leading hundreds (maybe more?) people to the battlefield with her for the win.
So, if you haven't yet done so, click on the button above, and read her story. I'd tell you to go and offer her your encouragement, too, but she and her God have cornered the market on success stories; so maybe just let her know you'll pray for her, for her husband and three small children.
I guarantee you'll leave with more than you entered.
"Today God is loving the world through you and through me and through all those who are his love and compassion in the world." Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Babies and language...

HT to my sister, Lizardo, for this interesting article on babies and their ability to process all types of cues when it comes to language acquisition.

Toddlers and thinking...

Comment by N after our friend, who is pregnant and due on Saturday, left our house today:
"Mama, I think that Mrs. L might be having a baby!" Observant, eh?

Tweens and sharing wisdom with siblings...

To his 9 and almost 9 year old sisters: "The reason why people go to high school dances together is because it would cost too much money to go alone." The Boy is a pragmatist if nothing else.

Friday, May 25, 2007

May Birthdays
Four years ago this past Monday, we welcomed home our third daughter, CB. Born the day after her Dad's birthday, she has been a joyful child, full of life and emotion, since she arrived. Here are some pictures of her family birthday dinner (as well as some pictures of the cards that B and H made for Dad's birthday).

Cards from the two big girls

Message inside B's card to her Dad...a Hallmark moment of sorts

Thursday, May 24, 2007

So that's what it's for!

My kind neighbor called the other day and asked if I was still having ant problems. After telling her "yes", she offered to send her son, the Boy's friend, down the next day with a product that had taken care of their own ant problem a number of years ago. I immediately agreed.

The next afternoon, her son arrived after school bearing the goods. As he stepped through the front door, he handed me a plastic container designed with a convenient hand grip and the lid on the bottom. His preschool groupies, N and CB, had also come to welcome him. N, with her ant spotting eagle eyes, noticed approximately 4 small ants on the floor near the front door. She cried out in fear, as well taught by her mama, and I (still holding the container of ant-poisony goodness) leaned over and with four quick thunks, *removed* the ants using the lid of the container as my instrument of attack. N was quite pleased with my results.

My pre-teen exterminator, however, looked at me quizzically, obviously unimpressed.

"Ummm, Mrs.'re supposed to take the lid off and use the stuff that's inside to kill them," he grinned.

Smart boy. Lucky for me he came with the container. ;-)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Adoption Round-Up

Read more about adoption here or stop by and add a story of your own.
What am I?

I sat at our final soccer game of the season on Saturday, in the warm afternoon sunshine of a late spring day. We decided to take the three littlest ones to the game while the Boy was leisurely returning from spending the previous night at grandma's house.

I'm pretty sure a soccer game was played, but given the whirling dervishes that accompanied me; in addition to the cell phone calls from the absent Boy; and, of course, the competing cries for attention from the budding soccer stars, I was becoming frustrated that I might actually not see what I came to watch.

Suddenly I saw, as both girls took the field, what I had really come to see.

As CB and N, vyed for space on my lap, I realized...

I am...a comfy seat, a back rest, a portable armchair.

I am...a shoelace tie-er, ponytail fix-er, shin guard-adjuster.

I am...a portable snack shack, an oasis of juice boxes, a gum giver.

I am...a cheerleader, a customer care phone rep, a chauffeur.

I am...a restroom attendant, a hand sanitizer, a (gasp!) soccer mom.


I am...waved to, smiled at, called for, hugged and kissed and squeezed on, looked for, pointed to


most of all,

I am loved.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Try not to laugh

The other night at dinner, N's behavior was, shall we say, not fit for dining at the Waldorf.

HRH Dad issued the edict to the rest of the diners that they not encourage the little stand-up comic by laughing at her.

As you can imagine, the intentional ignoring of our resident table clown only forced her to try harder for our laughs. And, as you might also imagine, it was working. While the older children were able to muffle their laughs when they caught a sharp glance from Dad, CB was not as successful. She looked up at her Dad and between giggles, said, "I can't help it. I just can't stop thinking about laughing."

I glanced up (because I, too, had hidden my smirking face), to find that the whole table was laughing--Dad included; while the little comedian sat back and smiled, satisfied with a job well done.
Ants, 1 --Family, 0

You may have won this round, creepy little picnic crashers, but the game is far from over. Just because you've located the front door AND found a way into the dining room that I have yet to discover, doesn't mean you've won. Not by a long shot. Just wait to see what happens in round two.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

And I thought I only had one

brother, that is. After seeing this video (that I cannot believe I am a full six days late in seeing) I'm not so sure. In case I'm not the only person left in America who hasn't seen it, here it is...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Live Free or Die

Apparently, New Hampshire's state motto not only appealed to my parents when they relocated there a couple of years ago, but to the die-hard natives and the local black bear population as well.

Be careful taking out the trash, Mom and Dad,CNN doesn't need any more excuses to visit the Notch (minus the Fourth of July "Duck Derby") this year!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Chez Mom

To the cheers of N and CB, "Hooray," they cheered, "Mommy is a hair cutter;" I dug out the home clippers and decided to trim up my unwilling client's hair.

So, these are for Daddy who can't wait until he gets home to see his little boy's new look!

It's okay, I guess. I mean I'm no beauty school dropout, but when God was handing out the gift of home hairstyling, I was clearly out to lunch. I think he'll be nice and cool for summer, but I *miss* his fuzzy head. At least it'll grow back!
Dancers, Drummers and Culture Camp

I received an email from one of the parent-volunteers who coordinates the Ethiopian Adoption Family Culture Camp weekend in August. It is held in Wisconsin, not too far north of Milwaukee. If you are interested, check out this link to read more about the details.

You can also read more about this active group -- Illinois Ethiopian Kids -- and learn about the many exciting events (Mesgana Dancers, Djembe Drummers, and more) going on in the area.
ELL Resources

Thanks to JJ for sending along this most excellent resource. You are so truly the ELL *queen* and oh, how I wish you worked at my children's school!

Check out the Illlinois Resource Center. From their website:

Since 1972, the Illinois Resource Center (IRC) has provided assistance to teachers and administrators serving linguistically and culturally diverse students.
Even if you don't reside in Illinois, click on the link for "resources" on the upper left hand side and you'll find many national resources and programs available to English language learners as well as the parents and teachers who support them!
Online Magazine for Girls

Looking for a magazine for your daughters? Check out Philomena Girl. Here's some of what you'll find:
  • Learn how to make today's style work for you!Jeans too low? Shirts too short? Here are some great ideas to make anything look as sweet as you are!
  • What's new here? Here's Ella Gunderson, a young girl who asked a major department store to sell the kind of clothes she wanted to buy and guess what? They listened!
  • Who is this Philomena? You're gonna be such good friends!
  • Free mp3 downloads of pop songs based on traditional prayers. Also, a guide to help you choose music that suits both your personal rhythm & eternal soul!
  • See what other Philomena Girls have written and share youre thoughts here!
  • It's Spring! Here's some great stuff to do for Spring!
  • Pray! Pray! Nothing else matters if we don't spend some time here!
  • Stuff for Philomena Girls to buy!
  • Cool places for Philomena

(HT: Dawn for this link)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ain't No Picnic

If one were to have, for example, a colony of picnic ants who decided they had squatter's rights to your kitchen; what might one do?

I've looked around a little and as a costly back-up have the name of a recommended exterminator, but I'm wondering if we can find a happy medium where the ants and I can come to a mutual parting of ways. I'm thinking a little more involved than the ant "traps" that currently dot the landscape of my kitchen yet something short of burning the whole house down and building a new one.

My repetoire is about exhausted. Searching the internet I've come up with these gems:

  1. Clean your room and pick up food wrappers (My family or the ants? I'd take the ants 10 to 1)

  2. Essential peppermint oil (at least this suggestion *smells* good)

  3. Follow the ants to see where they live (and I thought I had too much time on my hands)

  4. Draw a chalk line (and what? dare them to cross it?)

  5. get TWO GALLONS of ant/bug spray and use spray your house (what, only TWO?)

  6. Refrain from storing any food out in the open (see below for my epiphany moment on this one)

  7. Sweep or vacuum the kitchen floor weekly (I don't know about you all, but in my house waiting a week to sweep or vacuum would bring in ants from neighboring subdivisions)

Some of you may remember during my college days, a few of us (you know who you are!) babysat for some people who held some, shall we say, alternative parenting/living/eating/etc...beliefs. One of the families had an ant problem, which we had been warned about as the *solution* they came up with was to (I'm not kidding here, people) write notes to the ants politely explaining the family's proprietory status in the house and requesting that the ants find a more suitable dwelling place. My then boyfriend/now husband suggested once that we write a note back to them, on behalf of the ants, explaining their point of view and how they would love to find someplace else, but with the cost of move and it being the middle of a school year and all...But then again, these are ALSO the same people who left little plates of food and drink out for their ancestors to eat.

Okay, wait a minute, I think *I* just solved THEIR ant problem...clearly they hadn't seen bullet number 6 above.

So, swell, the crazy people I babysat for 15 years ago are free of ants. And me? I think I'd better go sweep the kitchen floor again.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Instead of...

calling the school to report the Boy's absence (due to the never ending stomach bug on the ark) or blow-drying my hair in order to take B to a dentist appointment---this seemed much more interesting.

"Nearest Book, Fifth Sentence"

Here's what you do. Grab the nearest book and...
1. Open it to page 161.
2. Find the fifth full sentence.
3. Post the text of the sentence along with these instructions.
4. Don't search around looking for the coolest book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

The book nearest to me, The Twenty-One Indespensable Qualities of a Leader, has (of course) 156 pages. The book on the other side of it (so the next closest) was my bible.

Here's my sentence:
"Then he said to Korah and all his company, "In the morning the LORD will make known who is his, and who is holy, and who will be allowed to approach him; the one whom he will choose he will allow to approach him." Numbers 16:5
What's yours?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day Revisited

Mother's Day 2007

Why didn't anyone warn me? I guess, really, the onus is with me. I should have seen it coming, but I didn't.

It's not like I haven't realized that Mother's Day might be difficult for those whose mothers are no longer a part of their lives (for whatever reason). I taught grade school long enough that I learned to temper my words around this holiday: "Okay boys and girls, this gift we're making could be for your mother, as Mother's Day is coming, but you might also decide you'd like to give it to your grandmother or aunt or some other special woman you know."  My own family tree even includes the far-too-early passing of maternal grandmother while my mom was just a child. So, you'd think it might have dawned on me. Instead, I woke up this morning, not really sure what to do with today.

Whispers of, "She's awake." "No, she's not." "Yes, she is, one of her eyes is open." were quickly replaced with giggly children presenting hand-crafted gems (and the not without notice Yahoo's "Singing Baby Quartet" ecard). We had planned a lovely picnic after church. The day felt full of potential for lots of gushy mommy-moments. A few times today, however, my thoughts wandered into more serious territory as I wondered if the two newest additions to our family were--in all likelihood--trying to celebrate this happy family day while the specter of their first mother's death lurked nearby.
"What does it mean to sleep beneath the heart of another person, safe and warm, for almost a year? No scientist can truly say. But it must have some visceral power that we cannot really understand, only intuit."
The quote above is taken from an article published in Good Housekeeping magazine nearly 20 years ago. (And is unfortunately impossible to find online)  The author, Anna Quindlen, wrote "On Losing Your Mother," about her own mother's death. It is a very moving article and one which my own mom shared with a very dear friend of mine when she, too, lost her mother at a young age. It left me thinking about what we could do to make today a celebration of our newest daughter's  mothers (yes, I said motherS) America mom and Ethiopia mom. I'm thinking that we'll light a candle, pray a special prayer and see how that goes. But I'm left with a feeling that no matter what, it just won't be enough.

"There's just a hole in my heart," writes Ms. Quindlen, "and nothing to plug
it. The truth is that there is no one, ever, in your life like your mother."

And now, I find, there's a hole in my heart as well.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

How'd you get here from there-Part IV (updated with picture)

How do you prepare siblings for an adoption? Adopting a baby? The preparation would seem pretty much the same as preparing for a birth in the family. But adopting an older child? Well, it might be a little different. People tend to gush over little babies, especially very adorable Ethiopian ones, but it might be harder for a sibling whose place in the family is about to be usurped or well-meaning family and friends to visualize a positive outcome when an older child(ren) is (are) adopted.
Take a hint from Mary Magdalene. What a beautiful example of steadfast love. Remember the story of Mary Magdalene on the morning of the Resurrection? Scripture tells us (Jn 20:1-2) that she ran to the tomb "while it was still dark" even in her sorrow and exhaustion because of her great love for Jesus.
So, what's the point? It is simply that our great love, our sheer desire, which can be all consuming when welcoming a new child to the family, was what we wanted to convey to our kids. How'd we do it? Same as Mary did. We ran, full speed and head first towards our loves and we grabbed the hands of our four children along as we ran. We talked frequently both as a whole family and in smaller one-on-one conversations about our new kids. We prayed for them nightly, at first in a general sense, but later-once we knew them-we prayed for them by name. Our children all accompanied us to the store to select items for the "Welcome Bags"--everyone was able to include something. They helped select and/or take photos for the Family Albums. We prepared bedrooms and selected photo frames to begin displaying our "new kids" pictures (that we searched for together on our agency's Snapfish account) around the house in prominent locations. At the suggestion of a friend, we added our two new chidren to our family "operations center" (shown right) prior to their arrival and even selected job cards for them each Sunday. The "resident" kids pitched in to help do the "new kids" jobs until their homecoming, which was a real motivator for our two older children to anticipate the swift arrival of their chore helpers! The children, who were old enough, wrote letters (on their own) to send. The younger ones drew pictures that they signed, "Love, Your Sister N..." When a stumbling block occured, we shared our sadness with the children and when news that filled us with joy came, we shared that, too. As a matter of fact, we celebrated with a special dinner when our court case passed. It was just that important.
Our oldest son (12) prepared for their arrival, in a very real way, as he accompanied my husband to Ethiopia to bring our kids home. Our three girls (8, 3, and 2) helped ready the house and make giant "welcome home" signs to bring to the airport for their arrival.
Did it make a difference? I can't say for sure as this is the only time we've adopted. But what I can say for certain, however, is that by the time H and Baby T walked through the customs gate that our children ran those final few steps into each other's arms in what might have seemed to the unknowing onlooker a long-awaited reunion.
Roll On **(Updated for the un-ecosavy such as myself)**

After spending the past 48 hours with a handful of stomach-sick kids here on the ark, I have become intimately acquainted with our downstairs powder room. I know exactly what can and cannot be found in the small basket positioned on the toilet tank (hand cream, hair "pretties", one black pick, one hairbrush and the head of a Polly Pocket). I know exactly which corners and baseboards need a thorough cleaning (all of them). I also know that located on the small, metal trash can with lid was an extra roll of toilet paper. This is a must have for a main-floor powder room in a houseful of 8 people lest we find our guests having to, ahem, drip dry.

After tucking the five littlest ones in to bed last night, I meandered past said room and noticed that the toilet paper roll was empty. My eyes quickly darted to the spot where I had repeatedly seen the extra roll during the day. Lo and behold, it wasn't there. I couldn't believe it. I looked in the trash can, behind the toilet, in the basket, even in the toilet itself (yes, that's been known to happen here on occasion), but to no avail. I called out to the Boy, the only child still awake, "Do you know where the toilet paper is?" He glanced up at me, shook his head and went back to his "oldest kid" zone-out fest. I called up to the two older girls, who had just been tucked in for bed. Again, no clue. Honestly, I was starting to question my sanity. In a powder room no bigger than a coat closet, where I had logged an easy 6 hours over the past 2 days, I thought maybe I had missed it. So, I checked again. Nothing. Not even a spare square left as a sign that my mental health wasn't totally deteriorating. Finally, defeated, I headed up to our bathroom to grab a new roll PLUS an new spare. I stopped in the nursery on my way where Baby T and N were snuggled in the cozy, darkness of their cribs. That was when I heard it, a quiet voice said, "The paper towels are in the basement." I looked and found N, with her two big blue eyes peering out from under her blanket, and asked, "Did YOU put the toilet paper in the basement?" She answered without hesitation, "Yes." (This next question may seem unnecessary as the mystery was solved, but I couldn't help it, I had to ask.) "N, WHY did you put the toilet paper in the basement?" Again, quick to respond, she said, "Because I didn't want anyone to find it."

Of course, now why didn't I think of that?

**If you, too, live under a large-diesel fueled un-ecofriendly rock you can click here to get the inside poop (pun totally intended) on Julie's Sheryl Crow comment. ;-)**

Monday, May 07, 2007

First Communion in Pictures

Yesterday was such a beautiful day. Both girls were so happy and we were all so proud of them. In the program, one of the songs played was, as you may remember, a favorite of mine. The moment I saw that song, I knew my chances of making it out of the church dry-eyed were slim.

What a blessing when your big brother is asked to serve at your First Holy Communion!

In just a little over three months, H received three sacraments! Talk about a grace-filled way to start the year!!! Our pastor, shown here, was present for every one of them.

B and H's special friend, who came to see her friends on their big day. The girls can't wait to go to her First Holy Communion in just two more weeks.

Another family picture...

We were so blessed to share this day with Grandma, Grandpa and lots of aunts and uncles! And thank goodness we had Grandma there to walk the ever-squirmy Baby T in the back of the church.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Last Word

(A friend asked yesterday if I thought H had become comfortable enough with us to "have a bad day." There is no doubt in my mind that the answer is an emphatic YES! She can be as annoying, nerve-grating, persistent and stubborn as her mother, oops, I mean siblings. Here's a little interchange that those of you with children--adopted or not--might relate to illustrate my point).

Sometimes H talks a lot, but sometimes she will be quiet and moody. I don't always know if it is related to how she's feeling or if sometimes she is just more quiet/loud than others. Either way it is tiring. She can also be very insistent about things that she doesn't completely understand.

For example, she will ask (on a Saturday), "Tomorrow, school?" and I will respond, "No, tomorrow is Sunday." She then, very matter-of-factly will announce, "NO. Tomorrow school." This interchange will go on for a few rounds until I pick up the calendar and say, "Okay, look, here's today. Here's tomorrow. Tomorrow is Sunday. There is no school on Sunday. Remember?" To which she replies, "Oh right." and skips off leaving me emotionally exhausted from battling over a fact with someone who is certain I am wrong about said fact even when it's a black or white issue. (Is the sky blue? No, the sky is not blue. Yes, remember it was blue yesterday...and on and on...)

Language issue, maybe? Preteen girl, perhaps? Annoying quality to her mother---definitely.