Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rewarded for Laziness!

Okay, the title is misleading. But I did get a blog award from the amazing Miss Leslie. (and yes, I know it was awhile ago!) I found it somewhat amusing given that most of my posts lately were thefts of the amazing thoughts of others. :) But I'll take what I can get! Thanks Leslie!

Here are the blog award "rules" (and they are very, very strict):

1. Thank the person who awarded me the award, and link that person's blog on my blog. (check)
2. Identify seven things about myself. (see below)
3. Award seven bloggers with the "Kreativ Blogger Award," post links to their blogs, and leave a comment on each of their blogs, to let them know of the honor. I don't really know what a "Kreativ blogger" is, so you can just give it to whoever you like!

Alrighty, seven things about me...

1. I am currently addicted to craft blogs - it is amazing what people come up with! And the best (or worst?) part is that most of the good ones link to OTHER good blogs, so the fun continues! I have spent (wasted?) HOURS jumping from blog to blog to website to website in search of fun things to make. How many projects have I attempted? Sadly, not many. But I have a big list. ;o) My new goal is to now spend more time MAKING the fun things, rather than reading about the fun things made by others!

2. I will admit that I read the Twilight saga. I will admit that I read them all ridiculously quickly (24-48 hours each, give or take) - the books are kind of like candy. Or crack. But I must also admit that I thought the first movie was dreadful and I don't have any big desire to see the new movie, especially since the 2nd book was the worst of the 4. Interestingly, I actually like the books less and less the more time goes by since I finished them. They are kind of like junk food for your mind. Not necessarily a bad thing. But I wouldn't say you are missing much if you don't jump on this Twilight/Twinkie bandwagon.

3. Speaking of Twinkies, I don't like them. To my recollection, the first Twinkie I ever ate was consumed during my freshman year of college. The sole reason was that my roommate discovered I had never eaten one and needed to remedy the situation. It tasted stale. I also have trouble eating many Little Debbie items - the concentrated sugar hurts my teeth. But I luv oatmeal cream pies. They could be the death of me.

4. I am a ridiculous klutz. And Ally takes after me. A lot. Poor kid.

5. Along the same lines as #1 above, I really enjoy sewing. But give me a straight line any day - basic quilts are my favorite because they are easy (although time-consuming). I have pledged to sew some doll clothes (pledged to myself only of course - not stupid enough to promise the kids!). But we shall see. That seems very tedious. And this klutz does not always handle tedious well.

6. For the past several months I have had an on-again-off-again fantasy about homeschooling. It isn't in the cards for us right now for many reasons, and may never be, but I LOVE to read about the experiences of others via books, blogs, whatever. This new-found interest of mine continues to baffle me given my embarrassingly-low patience level, but whatever. It's a fantasy. ;o)

7. I have a deep desire to be ridiculously organized - this is probably the OCD and control freak in me. As a result, I love planners. Love to look at a clean page that can be quickly marked up with appointments and "to-do" items. However, I often have a problem filling up said-planners/calendars. Not because of lack of things to do (!) but because I get lazy on actually following through on my OCD tendencies. Ah well. :) Also, I will publicly admit to writing items on my "to do" list that I have already completed, simply for the satisfaction of crossing them off. Yep, I'm that gal.

Now I get to pass this lovely honor on!

1) The Kladder Adventure - Check out Holly's interesting thoughts on parenting, adoption and everything else! She also has some lovely art and photography of northern Michigan - can't beat it!

2) A Family Without Borders - Although Amanda has been relatively quiet this month as her family adjusts to adding a daughter, I've enjoyed her blog for awhile now and I think she tackles some very worthwhile issues. And seriously - her kids couldn't get much cuter! Be sure to check out this post - truly heart warming.

3) Mt. Hope Chronicles - This is a deviation from my standard adoption and crafty blog reading. Heidi is an interesting homeschooling mom to 3 young boys. And her blog is pretty. And informative. I just started reading it in the last couple of weeks, but I think it will be a regular check-in for me now.

4) A Bushel-and-a-Peck - I have been reading Lisa's blog for quite some time now and have really enjoyed watching it develop, especially over the past year or so. As a mother of
eleven beautiful children, seven by birth and four gifts from Ethiopia, her writing delves into such topics as parenting, attachment, building family memories, homeschooling, HIV awareness and education, and a slew of other interesting and informative topics. Lisa's blog is a can't-miss. Although I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Lisa in person, I have been lucky enough to share several phone conversations and email communication with her and appreciate her mentorship.

5) Better Than Good - I've been following Andrea's beautiful family for awhile now and enjoy her candid and uplifting honesty. As someone that has been putting more energy and thought into my faith-life lately, I really enjoy Andrea's sincere posts about her faith exploration, as well as other topics.

6) The Return of Idealism - Marissa's adjusted the privacy settings on her blog recently (for good reason!) but I'm hoping she may eventually change her mind some day and make it public again. She tackles some deep issues with great thought and frankness and I always enjoy her updates. :o)

7) Destination Desta - Mandie's blog has gained significance for me in the last year because she is now the mother of two good friends of Selam! Selam loves to check in and see how her friends T and K are doing. Mandie has also generously tackled the AAI Holiday Gift project, raising funds to bring the kids at Layla House (where Selam lived) a wonderful Christmas holiday. Check it out!

Back into the world of blogging. Knocking on wood, we are all healthy and doing well. I have lots of updates I need to do, especially on the topic of education, but that will have to wait for another day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I'm out.

This whole posting-every-day-thing...

Seriously - what was I thinking???

Poor Hana has been home sick since Sunday. Today we finally went to the doctor (they've been telling everyone to stay home so I listened!).


Strep throat AND influenza (probably H1N1).

Come on people.

The ironic thing is that I have all these post topics floating around in my head... and no energy to write them! Someday... until then....

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Orphan Sunday

This year I happened to share my birthday with a meaningful event - Orphan Sunday. Orphan Sunday is a great time to "Defend the cause of the fatherless..." Isaiah 1:17. Due to other plans, we did not attend an event or specifically acknowledge it this year. However, I think it is a great example of the many people that are working to raise awareness for the 132 million orphans world-wide. (2008 UNICEF)

There is still much need and awareness is more than half the battle. Keep these children in your hearts this week.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

When you just can't take another "but mom..."

... at bedtime.

I found this great post via Mary at Owlhaven. Don't we moms (and dads) all feel like this sometimes. I know I do. Work all day, come home to homework and activities and bathes and whatever. Get the kids to bed to squeeze in some chores (and maybe relax). Wake up and do it all over again.

Why is it so hard to take a few moments for an extra cuddle? To hear another story about recess? To answer, yet again, how many more days until we see grandma? Why is it that so often those questions make me cringe a bit, feeling that desperation to close the door?

They are growing up so fast. And yet, some days it is hard.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Birthdays and Getting Involved in Adoption

Thanks to a tip from a little bird, I'm still going strong on a post each day. ;o) Here's another quick one while I have a moment.

First a little shout-out to my family. My big brother's birthday was Wednesday and my wonderful mom's is today! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love you guys and miss you.

Second, I ran across a post I really liked via Shell's blog. So, being me, I'll steal it. :) Basically, the author talks about how many people are called to support the ministry of adoption, but aren't in a place where they can adopt themselves. I hadn't really thought about it the way he puts it, but I think he makes some great points.

When people find out we have adopted, it is not uncommon to hear "Adoption? I've thought about that" or "I've always wanted to do that" or "maybe someday". First, many of those people probably would be wonderful adoptive parents, but may not take the leap. I hope they do. :) Secondly, there are many reasons why people that are moved by the message of adoption just can't do it. Whether it is finances or the way other extrinsic factors are moving their lives, sometimes that isn't the best place to bring a new child in. But there are other ways for people to participate and to support adoption.

Really, Randy says it far better than me. He makes some great points and it's worth the read. Check his post out here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Who Am I Kidding?

I can't post every day! As Selam would say, "It is impossible!" (it's really funny when she says that by the way).

So we'll see if I can find other ways to hit the 30 posts in 30 days. :) But don't expect too much substance! :)
But here is a quote I like:

"Other people and things can stop you temporarily.

You're the only one who can do it permanently."

~Zig Ziglar~

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happy (Belated) Halloween!

Not quite sure what Hana was paranoid about (?),
but everyone seemed to enjoy the night! :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Older Internationally Adopted Children and Education

Damn my blogging every day promise! Adoption-related no less!

I actually have a few posts floating around in my head, but I'm too tired to make much sense. So continue reading at your own risk. ;o)

So, this evening, Mark and I actually scored a sitter (wonderful neighbor!) and we both made it to all 4 of the older kids' conferences. It was a whirlwind! But all in all very good. The kids are progressing very well and I'm proud of them.

The conferences got me thinking about education generally and, more specifically, education for "older" internationally adopted children. This topic probably deserves several posts and more thought than my befuddled mind can muster right now. But here's what I got.

Education decisions are very tough. Older children adopted from other countries come with a range of life experiences and educational backgrounds. There are the obvious challenges of English as a second (or possibly third or fourth) language, but that goes deeper than most people realize. Well, at least more than I realized. Until we started the adoption process, I did not know that language acquisition actually begins in the womb. So that even children adopted as infants from non-English speaking countries have ground to make up as their language develops. Obviously things can be trickier with older children...

Yep, I'm rambling. :o)

At the beginning of the summer, we met with Selam's principal to begin to determine a proper grade placement for her. At the time, we didn't know much about her education level, nor did we know her exact age (although we were guessing closer to 11 at that time). Anyways, we were hoping she would be in 5th grade, but we figured we would wait and see when she got home. Once she did get home, we arranged a meeting with the principal and the school counselor to discuss options. At that point, we now knew that Selam had been to school consistently in Ethiopia and then at the orphanage. She would have been in 7th grade in Ethiopia (and age-wise) in the U.S., but we knew that we couldn't throw her into the pits of junior high.

My gut told me she should be in 5th grade. That would give her 2 years in the 5/6 school and give her a little wiggle room to get settled in. I knew it wasn't ideal as far as age, but age just isn't the only determination. But I received resistance from the school. Basically, they did the math and realized that if we put her in 5th grade, she would be 20 years old when she graduated. They did not force us, but they really guided us toward 6th grade.

She's been trying so hard and has had such a good attitude. But 6th grade is hard! Even though she is speaking so well, she's reading at about a 1st grade level. How can you do 6th grade ... anything (?) when reading at a 1st grade level.

So we just got home from conferences. There was lots of gushing about how sweet she is, how hard she's working, how she's so amazing. (This is all true by the way, and fun to hear). We talked about things that we need the teachers to do that we can stay in the loop and provide support at home. Fortunately, her teacher was very receptive and we were able to brainstorm some ideas.

But I asked my big question. And I was not overly pleased with the answer.

I asked what the school expected from Selam in order to pass the 6th grade. What was the answer? They don't know. They have some discussing to do and will get back to us in January.

Do you know what I think that means? I think they must have had completely unrealistic expectations of her. They didn't listen to anything we said back in August. And now they are talking about what we might do if we do hold her back.

And I'm sad for her. She will totally understand what is being done. And even if it's for the best, she has a lot of pride and it will not be easy to accept.

And I'm frustrated. I'm frustrated at the school and their (apparently) ridiculous expectations. And I'm frustrated with myself. Because I should have stood up for my child. And even if we had still chosen to go with sixth grade, at least I would know that I put every effort into determining if that was the right fit.

What does education really come down to for any of our children - but especially our older internationally adopted children? We need to be our children's biggest advocates. Not sure where things will go from here, but we aren't throwing in the towel. ;o) It's only November.

And yes, I need to go to bed!

Monday, November 2, 2009

November is National Adoption Month

Whoo hoo!

November is national adoption month and is also National Blog Posting Month where bloggers challenge each other to post every day this month. Given my recent track record, this would be quite a task.


Given the two themes together, I'd love to get an adoption-related post up daily. But I make no promises. ;o)

We are now on Day 2 of November. What a good day to think about adoption generally. What are your thoughts? Concerns? Perceptions and misperceptions?

Awareness is step one. :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Enjoying Fall

Okay, well, the camera with our Halloween photos has a dead battery, so I'll just share a couple of recent photos of the kids - carving pumpkins, cider mill with friends and who knows what else...

Kids carving. Not sure why Abi looks like a demon and Grace looks like a pirate, but ah well. :o) You will not find Ally in these photos because she would have NOTHING to do with the pumpkin guts. Abi wasn't thrilled either, but Aunt Julie kept him busy. ;o)
Finished products!

Family movie night.

Cider Mill Fun

Hana's getting tall!

Ally and Abi cheesin' it up.

More photos to come! :)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Anything Goes

Ally is currently using a playing card as a phone.

Why do we bother with toys?????

Monday, October 26, 2009

Meeting your newly adopted kids... Am I the only one...

Okay. Am I the only one to think that the day you meet your new children is one of the weirdest days possible?

Sure it is joy-filled and exciting. Overwhelming. Emotionally draining. Exhilarating.

But it's also super-weird.

I remember meeting Abi and Hana. We flew into ET the night before. Got to our hotel between 7-8 p.m. ET time. Managed to eat something before the 3 of us crashed with our crazy jet-lag and travel exhaustion. Woke up at 3 a.m. wide awake and crazy-excited to meet the littles. Randomly cleaned and organized our hotel room. Crashed for a bit longer and then drug ourselves out of bed to meet our agency rep by 9 a.m. So, the weirdness is really already there considering how absolutely exhausted - yet wired - we all were. So she drives us over to the orphanage and by the time we walk through the door, the nannies already have Abi right there. He looks at us with a mixture of excitement, happiness, terror and confusion. Poor baby. We hold him and hug him and love on him... which we have been waiting forever to do... and it's wonderful but yet I feel like I'm watching from above. Somewhat removed. I want to cry and there are tears, but they don't really come out. I'm not sure why.

Then we find out that there was some miscommunication and the orphanage didn't know we were coming - so they sent Hana to school! So that poor girl is sent off to school like normal, then about an hour later, is drug out of class and back to us. This is her last time at school, last time with her friends and ripped from her last real routine - and brought to us. Now that's weird. But she handles it all like a champ. Before we know it the van pulls in the drive and she come barrelling through the door and into our arms. Shortly thereafter the nannies whisk her away to change her out of her school jumper and into a rather frilly dress. I don't like it - I don't want her out of my sight, so I follow awkwardly. I watch these women help her dress for the last time. Their last act of service for this little girl they have cared for for over a year. We take more photos. We look at their beds. They show us their welcome bags - most of the items are still there.

And then... it's over.

We leave. We go back to the hotel. They are now our children. Grace is so excited, she is trying desperately to interact with them, to play. They are mostly uninterested in her - they've had their fill of dealing with other kids. They wanted Mark and I. And they divided us up - Hana claimed Mark and Abi claimed me.

And so, by 10 a.m. we are back in our cramped hotel room with our new children and I have no idea what to do with them. The first day of the rest of our lives as they say.

It was weird.

Honestly, I was glad to put that day behind us. Not because it was a bad day. It wasn't. Not because the kids were demons - they really weren't. Not because I was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. I was, but that wasn't the reason.

I think I just wanted Day One over. Day One felt too significant. Too important. Too easy to screw up. Day Two sounded safer.

And it was. Maybe not better or worse - just less pressure. And every day got easier. Not in the sense of kids being easier (b/c they were progressively more difficult for awhile) but just easier to find our place as a family of 5 (until we got home - then 6).

It was perhaps even weirder with Selam. Talk about build-up there! We waited SO long to bring her home. And there was so much personal drama for me and our family in between (unrelated to the adoption). Really, most of 2009 has been either emotionally super-charged or emotionally flat (as a result of coping with the super-charge). So all that as a backdrop. And Mark and I can't travel together for a number of reasons, but I'm lucky enough to have my mom travel with me. Which was wonderful on so many levels. But in the back of my mind I had this extra fear - I didn't know how Selam would behave for me. I was already rather freaked out about how to parent a 12 year old in the first place. The last thing I want is for my parenting skills to be on display (Mark doesn't count). Now, my mom did not and does not put any pressure on me, nor judge my parenting skills (or other skills). But still. I"m the queen of developing my own stressful situations.

So we arrive in the evening, again around 7:30ish. It's raining and dark and kind of crazy. We get to the guesthouse and I try and figure out the phone and internet. I can't. We collapse and sleep. I actually sleep great. Morning sun wakes me up at an acceptable hour. We head down and start meeting the other guests at the guesthouse. We have breakfast. We wait for Gail. No idea when she's coming (we didn't have a set appointment like we did last time). We hope she is coming that morning. We contemplate walking to Layla ourselves if she does not. Finally she arrives (in her defense it was only shortly after 9, so no big deal at all!).

Anyways, after a bit we head over to Layla. On the way Gail comments that she's not sure if Selam knows we are coming today. The guards open the gate and we pull in. As we are parking, I give my mom my camera to catch a photo. Then a flash of braids. I know it's her. I don't even get my door open and she's there. I barely slide out of the seat and she's in my arms. She knew. She was waiting. My poor mom is still trying to extract the camera from the bag. If I know her she was crying or nearly crying, which I'm sure exacerbated the problem. I remember this distracting, nagging thought running through my head: "I should be crying. Why am I not crying. Why am I happy, yet feeling numb?"

We extract the camera and get a few shots. Then Selam takes us on a whirlwind 6 minute tour of the orphanage. We see her room, her stuff. She interrupts a few classes to wave to friends. She gathers a few things. Gail asks if she wants to stay and spend the day at Layla with us, or go to the guesthouse. She wants to leave.

So, as abruptly as we arrived, we left. Gail drops us back off at the guesthouse. Now what??? We play for awhile with one of the toddlers who is there (Selam is great with little ones). She plays with some of the baby toys laying around. Eventually we go upstairs so she can check out her clothes and the items I brought. I realize quickly I didn't bring enough stuff (toys, activities, etc). I don't know what I was thinking, but I really didn't gauge that well. We had excess with Abi and Hana, so I planned smaller this time. But I didn't really take into account that with this adoption, we couldn't leave the guesthouse. Last time, we kept ourselves very busy running around Addis with 3 small children. This time, it was me, mom and a pre-teen, stuck in a house with other families trying to figure out how to keep busy!

So we hung out upstairs for awhile and my mom gave us some space. I was conflicted. I wanted some alone time with Selam and thought it was important to take that. Yet, I wasn't quite sure what to do with that time (!) and I wanted my mom to help. And yet, I was feeling very unsure about things and didn't want her to watch me muddle through. ;o)

So we survived. But it was weird.

Would it have been any less weird if I was a teacher or coach or in some other profession where I regularly spent quite a bit of time with kids of various ages that were perfect strangers? Because, objectively speaking, it was weird to just be handed the hand of a 3-5-12 year old and be told "go to it, they're all yours!" ARG! It was different with my bio girls. I think in that case, biology really is on your side. They didn't feel like complete strangers - after all, Grace and Ally inhabited my mid-section for 3/4 of a year. We felt pretty intimately connected before we'd met. And part of me expected (hoped!) for that same feeling with the other three. I know some families are lucky enough to have that. We didn't - or at least, I didn't.

I had stared at their photos and read the letters and scoured yahoo group emails for any scrap of news about them for months. My heart ached with each passing day, week, month of waiting. And yet, when we finally met, they were still strangers to me. They didn't pull at my heart quite the way I wanted, or the way I thought they should. I didn't feel quite like I thought I should. In some ways it was easier with Selam - I knew that I might not feel instant love and attachment and I was giving myself some leeway. I also knew that it would come and feeling terribly guilty about it wasn't going to make the love come any faster or stronger. So that was good.

But all in all, the experience was just. so. weird.
And wow, that was random.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'm not on a mission...

Okay, this is something that's been rolling around in my head off and on for months and months. I'm not sure it will come out right, but I'm going to try and share it anyways:

I caught just a few minutes of an Extreme Home Makeover re-run last night while on the treadmill flipping channels. I didn't really catch the whole story, but it appeared that a single mom had adopted or fostered a number of children with fairly extreme special needs (physical, mental, emotional...).
Anyways, she said something that really struck me. She said that people often ask her if she is on some sort of mission. And she said something along the lines of, "I'm not on a mission. I just found my children."

I love that.

On occasion, people act like we are something special, some sort of saints. Not much could be further from the truth. Just ask my kids! :o) But seriously though - the vast majority of people who adopt do so for primarily selfish reasons. We all want to add to our family and think this is the best way for us at this time. Mark and I are no different. After Ally was born, even though she was a tough baby, I knew I wanted more kids but I wasn't so sure I wanted to HAVE more kids. We'd talked about adoption over the years, but then we got serious. Because we had plans. We wanted a son, and hey, we've got a 5 year gap between the girls, so we could get a little toddler/preschool age boy to fit right in and we'd be all set!

Oh, we had good intentions, but looking back it was awful close to trying to order our perfect family out of a catalog. Fortunately for us, God laughs at plans. ;o) And our family developed from there, including two more daughters than I had anticipated!

People tell us quite often how lucky our kids are. And I suppose they are. They are warm and fed, have access to great schools, plenty of toys and are loved.

But so many people want to gloss over how lucky WE are. We are lucky because we found our children. And they love me even when I'm a frustrated, hot-tempered jerk (and I can be). And they love each other even when someone is being a drama queen or out-of-sorts for x, y, z reason (which is almost always). And, interestinly enough, while finding our children, we found an important part of ourselves.

We're not on a mission. We just found our kids.
And we are so blessed.

Over 1 Billion Are Hungry

More than 1 billion going hungry, U.N. says

Story Highlights

World Food Programme: One in six of world's population is now going hungry
Nearly all the world's undernourished live in developing countries
Number of hungry spiked as the global economic crisis took hold, report says
Calls for greater investment in agriculture to tackle long and short-term hunger

(CNN) -- The global economic crisis has caused a spike in world hunger that has left more than a billion undernourished, United Nations agencies said in a new report.

"It is unacceptable in the 21st century that almost one in six of the world's population is now going hungry," said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Programme.
"At a time when there are more hungry people in the world than ever before, there is less food aid than we have seen in living memory."

The report by the WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization was released Wednesday, ahead of World Food Day on Friday.

Nearly all the world's undernourished live in developing countries, according to the report.
An estimated 642 million people are suffering from chronic hunger in Asia and the Pacific. An additional 265 million live in sub-Saharan Africa while 95 million come from Latin America, the Caribbean, the Near East and North Africa. The final 15 million live in developed nations. Should developed economies be doing more to eradicate hunger, poverty?

The number of hungry spiked as the global economic crisis took hold and governments pumped resources into stabilizing financial markets. The move meant smaller investments in agriculture and food distribution.

"World leaders have reacted forcefully to the financial and economic crisis, and succeeded in mobilizing billions of dollars in a short time period. The same strong action is needed now to combat hunger and poverty," said Jacques Diouf, director-general of the FAO. "The rising number of hungry people is intolerable."

The report calls for greater investment in agriculture to tackle long and short-term hunger by making farmers productive and more resilient to crises. "We know what is needed to meet urgent hunger needs -- we just need the resources and the international commitment to do the job," Sheeran said.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Oooh I want this book!

Owlhaven is giving away 3 sets of 3 copies of her book, Family Feasts for $75/week. I want one! Check it out.

Family Feasts for $75 a Week: A Penny-wise Mom Shares Her Recipe for Cutting Hundreds from Your Monthly Food Bill

Saturday, October 3, 2009

a REAL update

Okay, I suck at blogging these days.

Sue me. ;o)

It's not for lack of content. We've certainly been busy. But actually putting it into words seems daunting. So many things that I want catch up on. But how to decide... I guess I'll try. ;o) Here's a random, incomplete summary of my thoughts as of late.

Older child adoption is amazing. It's incredibly rewarding and just ... great. BUT that generalized statement is misleading, I suppose. A more accurate statement is that Selam is amazing. How seamlessly she fits into our lives is astounding and incredible. She has been home over 2 months now and it is just getting better. Dare I hope that this isn't a honeymoon- this is just our life?

She is sweet and smart and funny. She sincerely wants to love us and wants us to love her. For those families that have not experienced attachment problems, it is hard to understand how huge this is. To be perfectly frank, she has opened herself up more completely than even Abi and Hana did. She truly wants to be our daughter.

If I'm being really honest, the hardest part of the adoption (thus far) is ME. Well, that's not quite fair either. The hardest part for me, is figuring out how to parent a 12 year old. Sometimes, I am just confused! fortunately, she really doesn't push anything. She doesn't demand things, she tends to go with the flow of the family (you would not BELIEVE how many PBS shows she watches with Ally in a given week). Mostly it's just me - my neurosis, my temper, my confusion, whatever.

But she puts up with me. all of it. Sure, she gets annoyed with me. Sometimes mad. Sometimes very oversensitive. Sometimes I'm over sensitive. ;o) But overall... things are just so... good.

I know you thought we were crazy. Barely in our late 20s, adopting a 12 year old (as our 5th child - and 4 girls! Maybe that is a bit crazy...). But you know, we've been told we are crazy for years. And that hasn't stopped us yet.

I can very honestly say that we are doing great.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Soccer Mom

It's official. I have entered the world of the soccer mom. So far we've been able to take it slow, but it's ramping up. Selam and Hana are both playing this year, so that's 2 night of practice each week (one for each) and Saturday games - sometimes all day. And Selam being on the under 13 league has to travel to some other local YMCAs to play. Sigh. I wasn't quite ready for all that!

But it's really fun to watch them play. Hana's first game was last Saturday (Selam had a by-week) and she did really great. Her team didn't win, but she scored her team's only goal and was pretty proud of herself! For never really playing before, she did very well. I was really happy to see it as she has become really shy around other kids she doesn't know well and needs the confidence booster. Here's a few shots from the game.

Hana is in the white shirt with the blue underneath. Here she is totally stealing the ball and heading downfield.

Thirsty girl! You also get a pretty good shot of her missing teeth. She had to have her top teeth pulled last summer, but she just lost her first tooth on her own last week (that bottom one) and was so excited!

Can you tell who played photographer to keep herself entertained?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Uh oh

More books added to my list...

When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box

I need someone to give me an extra 2 hours each day just for reading. :)

Friday, September 18, 2009

My wish list - books

I love to read. I have for as long as I can remember. I used to have a bit of a code - 99% of the time, I would finish any book I started, even if I didn't like it much. It drove me NUTS not to finish a book. Oh, and I would only read one book at a time.

I'm not quite sure when this changed, but my "code" is gone!!!

I rarely get to finish books any more - even those I like! And I am often reading 6 at a time. All the info seems so important and what is fascinating tonight might put me to sleep tomorrow... And let's be real. If I can squeeze in 10 min of coherent reading before I pass out, it's a good day.

But I've got a number of books that are waiting in line fore me. Some I've started, some I've read lots of, but most are just patiently waiting for me to clear out some of the clutter earlier in the line!!! Just thought I'd share a few for a random post today - feel free to share your books in the comments section (or I love recommendations!).


The Connected Child by Dr. Purvis (I read quite a lot of this one, but then it was overdue at the library!)

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey (Yes, I realize I'm the last person to read this. I started it earlier this summer and didn't finish it. Perhaps it is my lack of effectiveness! Maybe this one should get pushed to the top of the list...)

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren (another one that I've read quite a bit of, but just haven't put the time and effort into really using the book like I should)

Hmm... I can't even remember the other 10 million that are on my list...

So, for a little change of pace, how about some recommended reading (that I actually finished that you should too?)

For mom's of any family size: A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family by Mary Ostyn (aka Owlhaven)

For job-seekers or those looking to make a career move:

Anything by Malcolm Gladwell. He does WONDERFUL audio books - very worthwhile if you like that sort of thing. Even if you don't agree with all his conclusions or explanations, I think he raises some fascinating points and ideas.

And last, but not least, a book for those of us that think the fear of this world has gotten a bit out of hand. That want our kids to have some of the same kind of fun we had as children...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Darker Side of Adoption

I don't spend a lot of time on the various yahoo adopt groups that we are "members" of these days. In the early days of our first adoption, I could read for hours, gleaning information and (what I hoped was) wisdom. Even before Abi and Hana came home, I grew tired of the larger groups and the bickering that often ensued. Now, I typically just check in to our agency list now and again.

But today I decided to go back to the main ET adopt group (the big one). Not even sure why. Oh, the drama. Some of it was just typical nonsense (easy to get a temper up when you can't read inflection, etc). But some of the discussions were very disturbing. As a result, I have spent much time today stewing a bit over some of the darker points of adoption. I don't want to get into the specifics, but there were several families who shared their personal stories with their agencies (several different agencies) and made some very serious accusations. Accusations of some very unethical practices, including lying about health information and "harvesting" children, especially from rural areas.

And it makes my heart hurt.

When we first chose Ethiopia, a big draw for us was that it was still a smaller program. It had seemed to fly under the radar a bit and, we hoped, was avoiding much of the corruption and scandal that many other programs (e.g. Guatemala) were suffering.

But while we were researching, so were hundreds, thousands of other prospective adoptive parents. When we first began our search, only 7 agencies (American agencies) were registered in Ethiopia. Now there are ... I don't even know. 30? The program was growing, so big, so fast... that creates a situation ripe for abuse.

Were we naive? Probably. Frankly, I am probably still naive. I haven't begun to imagine what might really be going on around the world. But I do know that it isn't right.

Adoption is a blessing. Adoption unites families. It gives many children at a last resort that chance they need. It is wonderful and amazing.

But adoption is also a business. And with business follows money. And with money, corruption is often close at hand. Especially with PAPs evaluating agencies (understandably) based on a number of factors - including speed of referral of healthy infants (typically at least). There must be unbelievable pressure to keep parents happy and keep referrals (and court dates and travel) moving - those are stats that PAPs strongly consider.

I don't even know what else to really say - I can't quite make a coherent point on this topic. Just feeling some sadness and needed to vent I suppose.

But I wanted to say this - although I wasn't always 100% happy with the way our adoptions were handled and with our agency in general (oh, just search through my "adoption process " posts and you'll see some good vents. BUT - I have never, ever had reason to question the ethics of Adoption Advocates International.

And that is important. That is a stat that matters.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Labor Day Weekend

We were fortunate to have such a wonderful bonding weekend just prior to starting school. We took the opportunity to spend some time together relaxing as a family and were able to spend some quality time with Mark's parents up at their cabin. The kids had a BALL. The weather was amazing (best of the summer) so we spent basically 2 full days on the water.

I came home exhausted, yet rejuvinated. ;o)

Could the kids be much cuter?

Lovin' the water.
Selam did not so much love getting her knee cut open by a zebra mussel though. :(

hanging out on the back of Uncle John's boat

Selam loved the boat ride!

Fishing. Patiently. :)

Sleepyheads! Not sure HOW they could nod off with the boat flying across the lake, but they slept HARD.

Hunting for frogs.

Celebrating her birthday a little late.

Look at that smile! Ally kept yelling at her grandpa to "go fast"!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Yay Adoption

Whoo hoo to Katherine Heigl and her husband on their new baby!

I love postive adoption stories in the media. Good for them.

The Week Continues...Poor Al

So, I don't think I'm actually cut out for 2 blogs. In theory it made sense, and it will annoy me that my blog address is so boring and solely adoption related, but ah well. I might just have to get over it - so you will too. :o)

Day 3 of school (day 2 for Ally). So far, the big kids are doing great. Everyone has been excited and enjoying things, so that's good. Today I dropped Ally off and even before getting out of the van, she was asking me to stay at school with her. :o( She didn't cry when I left, but it took awhile to extract myself (the play cell phone was strong motivation for her...)

I'm still feeling awful.

You'd think that this was the first time I'd ever left a kid anywhere! Hardly. Grace was in daycare until she was 5 - much of it was full time. She liked it overall, but she had her days that it was tough to leave. I guess my viewpoint is a little different now than it used to be. It feels very unnatural. And maybe it's because Al is my baby. I don't know. But I don't like it.

Anyways, more about theo ther kiddos later...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Day of School!

I can't believe it.

The house is silent (other than the dog snoring). It's a little creepy. I miss them all already. And it's 9:30!

That's right - all 5 kids headed off to school today. Here's the run-down:

Selam - 6th grade

Grace - 3rd grade

Hana - 1st grade

Abi - Kindergarten

Ally - preschool/daycare

Can't believe my little boy is already in kindergarten. We've all been a little nervous - Abi in particular. I didn't want to rush him. Our district has a Young 5s option that I thought would be perfect for him (basically 2 years of Kindergarten instead) - after all, he just turned 5 in June. But the Young 5s was limited to Sept - Dec birthdays. :( I thought they might make an exception, given he's only been speaking English for the last 15 months or so. But nope.

We decided that putting him in kindergarten was the best choice. If he really isn't ready, we'll pull him out and put him in a pre-k program at Ally's daycare twice each week and give him some more time. But I think he's ready. He just needs some confidence. And he really needs some friends. Some boys. The poor guy puts up with a LOT of estrogen... He has a busy day today though! Normally he goes every day ½ days. But, to match Al’s schedule (and mine – see below), on Tues and Thurs he goes to an extra K program and comes home on the bus. Unfortunately, we started on a Tuesday so he’s got a long day! Should sleep well tonight!

And yup, Ally is going to "school" twice a week too. I decided I needed 2 days a week for work related stuff (more on that in a future post...) and just couldn't quite do what I needed to do with her home full time (namely, make phone calls and meet during business hours...). And I know that she'll benefit from structure and rules that dont' just come from mom and dad. She's the youngest in her 3 year old class (she's not quite 3 yet) but I am pretty sure she'll hold her own. ;o) I just hope she doesn't bully anyone! I dropped her off after the other kiddos were at school. She didn't even want me to come in with her!
She relented since I was carrying her stuff. But after a quick hug and a kiss she was off to look at the frogs and play with the toy food. I think she’ll be just fine.

Grace is in 3rd grade this year. In a lot of ways, she will always be my “baby” and I can’t believe she is 8 years old and one of the big kids at school! She was very excited to start the year. I am very proud of her – her best friends are in a different class than her, but it doesn’t even phase her. She knows she can still play with them on the playground and have them over. She’s looking forward to making some new friends. She has just grown so much over the past couple of years, really maturing and developing as a wonderful little person. I love it.

And Miss Hana. Wow. First grade. She’s been VERY excited to start going full days. And what a resilient kid. She didn’t make any really close girlfriends last year in kindergarten. She tends to roll with the boys a bit easier (which make sense since Abi is her best friend – she just loves to run and play and dig in the dirt and catch bugs). But she had no concerns about starting school at all. She’s excited for a new class, a new start and new friends. I really hope she’ll find a nice girl to buddy up to so she can start having some play dates and sleepovers!

And my dear Selamawit.
Sixth grade. I am just speechless at HAVING a sixth grader. She is very excited. I thought she would be a bit more nervous to be honest (I know I would be! Seriously – a new school after being in
America only 5 weeks?!?). But Selam is just excited to get started and meet some friends. She is a bit nervous about the language and what not – she hates when she says the wrong thing or cant’ remember a word. But her confidence level is generally very high. She was extremely popular in Ethiopia and I have no doubt she will be here too once she finds her footing. She is just one of those kids that you are attracted to – she draws people in. She has a bright smile and kind eyes. I’m just so proud of how far she’s come so quickly. I’m nervous for her, navigating the world of the 5/6 School… but I also trust her instincts and I trust her to ask for help if she needs it.

I have such wonderful kids!!!