As Promised...
I said I would share about Z's first smooch on me. He had had an especially rough evening--where everything that could go wrong did go wrong. He fell and scraped his elbow pretty badly, he did not get a cupcake because there were only enough for the baseball players, he lost a toy, and he was pretty tired. He melted down in sobs. I mean sobs!!! He is usually pretty stoic (old orphanage behaviour, I suspect) so I was taken aback by his distress. I sat down on the couch and said, "Zinabu, honey, come sit in my lap."

That's all it took.

He climbed in my lap and immediately calmed down. I wiped his tears and hugged him, and he responded by wrapping his arms around me and kissing my cheek. It was a remarkable breakthrough, because he usually does not like hugs and kisses, and flat-out refuses to give them unless dessert is involved. He's not cold with me or unattached to me--he's just not so "touchy feely." I usually have to wait until his defenses are down and then he's more cuddly, but that unexpected kiss made my whole year.

I love him so dearly.


Silly Ramblings...

Another day, another dollar. Oh wait, I forgot... this "being a mom" thing is all volunteer work. At least I'm the CEO! Here's a little breakdown of today:

1. David is in Cali. and felt the earthquake.
2. Carver had his last baseball game tonight and my mom and I yelled like fools anytime he hit the ball.
3. Zinabu willingly kissed me today. Totally by choice. All on his own. This is the first time he has ever done this!!! I will post more on that tomorrow.
4. Began learning disability testing for "child X" and you all need to completely disregard yesterday's post where I lambasted people for bragging about their kids' achievements because our kid tested at a 12th grade level for comprehension!!!!! Granted, the same child bombed a lot of other areas but we're so happy about that success.
5. I helped Z learn to ride his bike without training wheels.
6. Lily wants to know how much a chinchilla costs. What????
7. There are only 114 days until the next Harry Potter movie is released. Call me a dork, I know.
8. I ate apples with fudge for dinner.
9. Made plans to meet my cyber-blogger buddy Deirdre on Monday. Can't wait.
10. Am currently reading 4 different books. Why do I do this to myself?


The Beginnings of a Shiner!

Carver and Lily were jumping on the trampoline, and as luck would have it... they jumped into each other. When I took this photo, it was just a few hours after the incident. When Carver woke up this morning, his eye was almost completely swollen shut, and the purple and blue hues of a deep bruise were up to his scalp and down into his cheek. It looks quite brutal.

David is out of town again, so we (um...me) are trying to be upbeat and happy. One thing I like to do when David is gone is rent tons of movies just for me and watch them at night to unwind. So of course the electricity would just have to go out at 7:00 and it was hot and getting dark and the kids got their second wind. Lily wound up dancing in the front yard in her nightgown, and Carver played baseball with friends across the street. Not exactly what I was expecting for the evening, but we survived.

Tomorrow we begin the first round of learning disability testing. A woman who specializes in this style of testing (dyslexia/dysgraphia) is coming to our house and will stay for an hour and a half, then come back on Friday for another hour and a half. I could write a novel about this situation and our options and roadblocks, but I'll refrain. I feel quite blessed to have a husband that works for our school district and speaks the language so we at least feel like we are already on step 3 out of 3,000. One of the reasons we're going with the tutor/special education professional is because she will help us write a 504 plan (our rights as parents to determine what our student needs). This means we can go into the school year, meet with our teacher and principal, and explain our child's issues and what we feel will be the best learning methods for them. So if our child has a learning disability in writing, they can be allowed to dictate their homework to me and use the computers at school for more writing assignments, rather than pencil on paper. This is just step A for us, because we need school to be a positive experience again for our sweetie. Right away! Then we get to step B and step C, etc., where we determine how to help our child write better.

Sorry to go on and on, but this is very worrying for us. I don't give a rat's patootie what grades our child earns. Grades are just that--grades! Who cares. I don't play the game of "my child started reading at a 4th grade level in kindergarten" or "my child is in the gifted and talented program." (insert a lot of false humility and batting of eyelashes here.) Some kids really are that smart and that's wonderful for them. But I'm on the other side of the fence. We have a child that finds school so draining and full of opportunities to fail, we watched their zest for life being snuffed out. We have promised our child it will be different this year. I will do just about anything to make sure our child learns to love school again!


Call me a proud mama, but considering just one year ago Z could drown while wearing a flotation device, I am so, so happy that he's learned to swim. This is our neighborhood pool and lessons are very cheap. The lifeguards are amazing, and all of my kids have had a blast swimming every day.

Keep your eye on the blue slide (on the right) and watch the Ethiopian shoot out of it and swim by HIMSELF to the side. Yippee!!


At Least The Gerbil Was Nice Today...

Because I sure wasn't! It was one of those days. I now know why God made days in 24 hour increments. Any longer and I might have landed myself in jail. Oops, I have to go. Carver is hollering that Z called him "Doo-doo head."
I am SOOOO looking forward to the ice cream waiting for me in the freezer.


Splendid Summer!

I love summer. Love it love it love it! Yesterday the kids made cupcake cones--each had a special job: Lily mixed the cake batter, Zinabu put the cones in, and Carver frosted them. Of course it was 95 degrees outside so YES let's turn the oven on, but it was so worth it. I love to bake and always encourage them to "help" me when I'm mixing up some goodies. The end result was quite yummy.

Our summer is wonderful. Last spring was pretty rough--for one child in particular. We were tired and dealing with crummy attitudes and some behavior issues. As your kids get older, you have to grieve the fact that life might be hard for them. And you have to accept the fact that despite all your best efforts, they can still make bad choices. But this summer has been so refreshing and our quality time together is off the charts. Carver and Lily and Z are doing so well together, and I love having so much time with each other.

Still, school looms on the horizon. I've been doing some reading and David and I have been doing some talking and it is becoming obvious that we need to have one of our kids tested for dyslexia--and other possible learning disabilities. I won't say which kid, since I'm sure they would hate to have that news broadcasted to the world, but I confess I am secretly hoping they are dyslexic as it would explain so, so, SO much. The past school year was horrible for said child (see above paragraph). Low self-esteem, feeling defeated, work that felt three times harder than it should have been, and inability to work well. Turns out there are different kinds of dyslexia. There is the kind we all think of, mixing up letters b and d. But there are more. We had a hard time figuring out there might be a problem because our kiddo is actually an excellent reader. It's writing and spelling that are throwing them for a loop.

So I'm making some calls and finding out how/where to be tested. And I hope my child fails the test abysmally so that we can have some answers!


Swimming In It!
I'm up to my ears in a mess. We're busy enough that I don't have much time to pick up the debris my kids are trailing behind them all day long. We're hopping from one activity to the next, and all I can do is push the mess farther into the corner. And since I am a bona-fide NEAT FREAK, I can feel the gray hairs trying to pop out of my head in all this. So it was with great delight that I organized my sock and underwear drawer today. It's clean. It's tidy. And no one can mess it up.

That my life has been reduced to such pitiful accomplishments is pathetic.


Bring It!!!

I am home alone for the next several days with the cherubs as David rides off on his mountain bike. So many mountains in Colorado, so little time. David and I are contemplating big changes in the upcoming year, and we are hesitant but optimistic. I hope this is a time of relaxation for D (since it certainly won't be for me) and a time to prepare for what lies ahead...

Are we adopting again, you might ask? I can say with complete certainty that the answer is no. David is starting a doctorate program at the end of August (while keeping his full-and-a-half-time job of assistant high school principal). I am very proud of him, but I dread that for the next 3 years I'll have a mentally stressed-out hubby. And the other news is that we have decided to move in with my mom.

After my dad died, we realized it was very important to her that she not move. She has a beautiful house tucked up against a hillside. It is big, it is lovely, and it holds dear memories of my father. Since she wanted to stay there, but hates being alone, David and I agreed that we would combine our households. For the past year, we had been thinking that we wouldn't move until 2010 or 2011, but financially it doesn't make any sense for us to keep putting money into our own house when we're planning this move. Therefore, we are getting the wheels rolling, and that includes meeting with lawyers to determine how you split a mortgage, define ownership, blah, blah, blah... And we're looking to hire a contractor to do a lot of work on her house before we move in. Like, change the house from a 3 bedroom to a 5 bedroom. The thought of a home renovation scares me a little. Okay, a LOT! This is uncharted territory for me.

Why move in with my mom? Will it be hard? Will we all wind up hating each other? I am not concerned about my relationship with my mom at all--and if you knew my mom you wouldn't be concerned, either. She is practically perfect in every way. The house is laid out well so we will all have lots of space. Also, we truly benefit because we're acquiring a home that we would never, ever be able to afford on our own. Just like the Jeffersons, we're movin' on up! Also, I cannot tell you how blessed I feel to give my children this experience. I want them to honor and respect ALL people, including the elderly. My mom's not elderly now, but you know what I mean. My kids will have their Nana to themselves at all times, and they will have the chance to watch her grow old and to sit under her wisdom. And finally, my mother spent many years giving me all she had. How could I not return the favor?

So let's recap, shall we? A doctorate program, a home renovation, and a move.
Bring it!

***EDIT: Yes, Deirdre, my mom lives in Colorado ;)


Want to know what I got for my birthday???? Huh? Huh???? One of these babies:

The little Nike chip that fits in your shoe and talks to your i-pod telling you how far you've run, how many calories you've burned, etc. etc. It totally rocks. We are an "i" family--quite addicted to our i-pod, nano, and i-tunes. When I run, I listen to all the crazyfun music, which keeps me actually moving, as well as loads of audiobooks. It almost (almost) makes you forget you're exercising. There is a chance I will get an i-phone, but hell hasn't frozen over yet. I am still cell-phoneless and loving it. David's cell phone plan is up this fall, and I will probably be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of technical ear growths, but until then I will not use one.

Running used to be a lot easier for me. As I mentioned above, it's my birthday and I'm getting older and for pete's sake my body just doesn't want to do what it used to. So I need fun gadgets like this to make it fun. I'm (gulp) training for the Denver half-marathon in October and need all the help I can get.

Oh, i-technology... I love you!



A little of this...

and some of this...

a bit of this...

a LOT of this...

and some of this....
makes me one happy mama. I do forget that we are eyed like a traveling circus wherever we go. I get used to being stared at, but it becomes old when you're on vacation. I think I'm more sensitive to it when I'm away from home. Yes, 3 brown children with 2 white adults do turn heads, but do people have to ogle us like we're purple with orange polka-dots?
The hot springs were fantastic. My kids are completely worn out--between the water and the fresh air and chasing the chipmunks around our campsite. We're happy to be back home and in our own beds, but I cherish the time we have when we're away together with no interruptions. And despite many, many attempts and lots of practice, Zinabu still cannot understand how to work a knock-knock joke. David and I about wet our pants trying to coach him in this fine art.


Report from the Underworld

David thought it would be hilarious great fun to buy a box of smoke bombs for the kids. Guess how many smoke bombs come in a box? 72. Yep... so we'll be lighting these babies off well until Christmas. I took these photos as the smoke was winding down, as they really do put off great clouds of the stuff. There is also a burning, sulfurous, rotten egg smell each time, too, so when you walk by our house I'm sure the odor is fantastic. The 4th of July was a total bust for us (kids falling asleep and begging to go home to bed) so I guess smoke bombs it is for our patriotism this year.

I am recovering from our big trip to Minnesota but gearing up for our next trip tomorrow. I don't do well with this much activity. Seriously. I feel like bursting into tears every five minutes and I'm barking at the kids, which makes me feel terrible. We're going to Glenwood Springs, where there is a humongous (as in an entire city block long) swimming pool with water from the natural hot springs. I know it will be great once we get there, but it's the getting there that is giving me more gray hair and a bad attitude. We will be torturing ourselves camping, so it's the food and the packing and all the what-not that has me jittery. The pool is amazing, though, with huge water slides that are "made to wear the kids out," as the pool website reads. Since all 3 of our kids were born with hidden gills, they will be in heaven.

Other than me being the moody one at home, this is turning out to be a fantastic summer. Our kids have really taken to playing together quite a bit and they're loving each other's company. Yes, they have their moments, but overall they're pretty good friends. Lily is shining in her self-proclaimed role of "activities director" as she corrals the boys and directs them in arts and crafts, trampoline time, and reading books. It's quite funny and sweet all at the same time.

Lily arranging beads.

Carver painting string for necklaces.
I think that summer was made for families to reconnect, as that has surely happened here. It has been so sweet.


The Picnic

Our trip to Minnesota was truly, truly wonderful. Driving was actually a breeze. The kids were fantastic and every day they were up for a new adventure. We stayed with David's mom, who lives in a building with a vintage elevator--the kind with the metal grate door. Carver especially enjoyed playing elevator operator. The kids got to experience summer in a small farming community and were so spoiled by the miles of flat roads, corn fields, and freedom. They rode their bikes everywhere.

We drove to the Twin Cities and tried not to cry at familiar landmarks. We miss living there--especially now with so many families that have adopted from Ethiopia. We spent the afternoon at the Mall of America and burned off some pre-picnic excitement. That evening we checked into the college dorm room where families were staying. There was a pool party that night, and Stacy and Mel proved themselves as "greatest moms in the universe" because they were in the pool with their kids and I swear the water was maybe 50 degrees. We met some families and admired all the children. David was overjoyed to see some of the children he played with at the care center in Addis Ababa. To see them again a year later with their families here in the United States is quite moving. Diana (David's sister) and he got to catch up with some of their travel group, too, and oooh and aaaah over how much the kids had grown in a year.

I learned a valuable lesson.
I should not have expected to have time to really talk with the families I so wanted to meet. Our kids all had their own agendas! Trying to talk to Lucy was a little bit like trying to catch a fairy. Every time I got close to her, I started a conversation but she just smiled at me and dashed off. Stacy had to chase her, I had to chase my kids... and that was that. Next year I will make sure we meet friends for dinner or breakfast over the weekend so I have more one-on-one time with them. That being said, I still think Lucy is one of the darned cutest kids in the world.

Some very touching moments included meeting Sigame and Dengalo. They were at the care center with Zinabu for several months and were adopted right after Z. They have many memories of Z and have followed our blog for the last year. Sigame was so excited to see Z again, and after Z finished his Ethiopian food, he was pretty excited to see her too. We are bonded with this dear family because our children spent time together before they came to us. They share a history. They share a past. They lived in an orphanage together and survived trauma I just can't imagine. I love knowing about these kids because they are a part of Zinabu's story. We will keep in touch with them.

Another time I got teary was meeting Lindsay, our rep. at CHSFS. She is the woman who took on our family after we left our first agency and helped us day after day as we refiled all our adoption paperwork. She is the one who called with our referral of Zinabu. I will never forget hearing her voice on our answering machine... "Hi there. This is Lindsay at CHSFS. I have some important news for you, so please call me back." She sought us out at the picnic and I was so happy. Another piece of the adoption puzzle that brought Zinabu to us.

At the end of the picnic there was a performance by traditional Ethiopian dancers, and when they came out on stage I pretty much burst into tears. The men did a kind of "hop-skip" and it was so exactly what Zinabu does around our house day in and day out. Not having been around for my son's first three and a half years of life is hard for me. So when I see something that is so genuinely from his life in Ethiopia, I am honored to share part in that.

Who am I to be so blessed?
Here are some photos... Enjoy.

Meeting Tyrone! Even I was pumped up over this. Does anyone love the Backyardigans as much as me?

Zinabu and Lucy and Lily. Carver is a blur in the background and Lucy was about ready to dash. Turns out Lucy will only smile for the camera if you tell her not to.

Here I am with Lindsay. So special. And, uh, this is right after my kids got the free CHSFS hats. Can you tell?

Sweet, sweet Sigame and Zinabu. Z took a quick break from shoving injera into his face to smile. That Sigame still loves him after watching him eat is a testimony to her devotion.


We Are Home

Right now I am recharging the battery on my camera so I can upload the 2 billion photos we took on our trip. I am tired and worn out and I actually allowed my children to eat tennis-ball sized jaw breakers on the drive home today. The kids were very quiet but, strangely, are very sticky. We're home safe and sound, and I'll post some highlights of our trip tomorrow. In the meantime, I leave you with a link to my super friend Heather. She just wrote THIS post, and I love her all the more for it. She's very pregnant and possibly hormonal, but her writing is true. Especially for those of us with international children who have cultural names.