Thursday, December 13, 2012


Christmas and Ethiopia are so intertwined up in my mind, I'm having a hard time knowing what to do with myself.

I can't complete a coherent paragraph. Sometimes sentence.

*cue going off track*

I was looking though photos of my Christmas Eve trip to Kechene and remembering how ridiculous Americans looked in the photos they sent these kids. Fluffy tutus, cruise ships, matching sweaters. They were just family pictures. Pictures like I've taken. Pictures my friends have taken. And I think of Mockingjay and the people of the Capital and how utterly frivolous and ridiculous they are. (Google Hunger Games if you don't get the reference and read the books, not for the "bloodlust" but for the moral of the story. If all you get out of those books is bloodlust, you missed the whole point.)
Granted, I'd been in Ethiopia for two weeks by the time I visited Kechene. I'd been all over the country. I'd visited Iris' mother. I'd visited World Vision. I'd handed out more birr to more armless people than I have ever seen in my life. I'd bought more gum from more street children than I could chew in a lifetime. I'd seen boys "polish" tennis shoes. I'd listened to a man beg us to find his daughters a home before he died. And I walked into that school where children with clothes hanging on by a thread sang a welcome song to me that was filled with joy.

(Learn more about Kechene here.)

I was asked recently to write an article about "Our Christmas Miracle" and I had to tell her I'd write something, but it wouldn't fit into that heading. The miracle of Christmas in Ethiopia had nothing to do with us.

I'll post it sometime. Maybe.

I'm having a hard time embracing the Christmas traditions anymore. Or better said, the American Christmas traditions.
I've opted out of cards.
We haven't taken a picture.
I don't feel like shopping.
I have lost weight. Yes, in December.
I wake in the dead of night in a financial panic.
I'm desperately searching for a sponsorship program  that will go find Iris' little brother and closest cousin and get them signed up.
My filter is still gone. In fact, so far gone that I probably won't have a friend left if I'm not careful.

I did realize today that we haven't had a "normal" Christmas in years. There is no reason for me to not miss the December traditions because we don't really have them since the move. And I rather like it. I like the parties we don't go to and I like the programs we don't have and I like the dinners we don't eat and I like not pretending to enjoy myself at some function I'd rather not attend. I like not buying stupid gifts for silly exchanges and I like that there is no stress when I don't know the answer to Christmas movie trivia. None of it matters.

I have a broken little girl who has a very broken mama. And we are healing together. I think she before me. I get impatient and frustrated and then I look at her life and I wonder how she isn't a blubbering idiot. We'll figure this out together.

Not over Christmas. Christmas has brought out a bear. Well, Thanksgiving brought out a bear that Christmas hasn't tamed. (imagine with me a misunderstanding about how much money your parents have with a dash of believing that everything one has ever heard about Christmas in America must be true about this new home. Big. Mistake.) But for January, I'm hopeful.

Today I'm worn.

One of my adoption friends posted this video tonight, and it's just so appropriate.

I'm OK. If you run into me at the grocery store, I'll probably even have a smile for you. We're OK. We're just tired. And very glad to be closing out 2012. Hands down the hardest year so far. Including the years of middle school, infertility, miscarriage and joblessness.

Hands down.

So if you're inclined, shoot up a prayer for us. We always need them. Even on the great days.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


"My friends had become billboard advertisements of themselves. Is that all people were anymore? An advertisement of a person that catches our attention because we like the layout, the copy, the font? Had people become that easy to define? I used to think so. But now I realized all of my digital friendships hovered on the surface. There was never any depth. We didn't discuss ourselves because we didn't take the time to know ourselves. We were too busy being shown who we should be, what we should wear, what groups we should join. Who we should mimic. We didn't have time to form our own thoughts or opinions so we quoted others." From Awaken, by Katie Kacvinsky

Definitely worth a read. And no one provided a book so that I would say so. But in this age of bloggies and facebook and email and texting, in this age of info sharing and less privacy, I'm discovering how isolated we are becoming.

I do love me some online friends. I do. There are a handfull that I'd say know me far better than anyone I see on a regular basis.  HOWEVER, some days I think we've taken our online personnas too far and if people met us on the street, they wouldn't recognize our actual personality. Only the one we've cultivated and shared.

Am I wrong?

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Political Philosophy

College years: idealistic and excited
twenty-somethings: passionate and on fire
late thirties: care, vote, realize there is not one thing you can do about it beyond that.

I'm going to bed.
I'm too old for this.

Friday, November 02, 2012

I gotta say it

After one hard move and one really long rainy season that packed on half a person, or twice a newborn.
After two trips to Africa.
One bout of food poisoning.
Long sleepless nights of crying.
And very early morning awakenings for prayer.
After giving up pepsi.
And creamer.
And bad desserts that aren't worth it.
And sloth.
The sloth had to go, too.

I'm in my 20s again.

And I'm very, super, yippie-skippy happy about it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Six Months and Counting.....

On Monday we hit that magical six months home day. The one where "they" say "they really start to feel like yours" and where "you achieve your new normal."

So, my new normal is:
going to bed at 9 every night because I'm so exhausted.

Well, I'm not, but I hope it isn't forever.

In six months we have:
*taught Iris to eat pizza. so well, in fact, that it's all she wants and drives me crazy about it.
*taught Iris that toilet paper goes in the toilet and not the trash
*taught Iris that she can tell us anything and we'll try not to freak out until she is tucked safely away in bed.
*gone off on a child who ate the same thing for 10 days running for saying "again" when we had Mexican buffet two nights in a row. "get used to it. you can change it up. see all the options?"
*cried more tears than we can even remember
*watched ourselves get old and drawn
*the ability to communicate really well.
*found out our newest child is an "aggressive learner."
*celebrated contact with birthfamily
*begun to "fix" our youngest since "he's only five" doesn't translate. (and shouldn't have this long...)
*given and especially received undeserved love and affection and forgiveness.
and lots more.
we've grown.
All of us.

And you know what?

"They" are right.

She's mine. 

Crazy fake smile and all.
(By the way, very excited because she just got pizza....)

But I hope the new normal includes Iris learning to speak in past and future tense. I have a feeling it will be less confusing.

Friday, October 12, 2012

If I Were to Write a Blog Post

This would be it. If you change all the "boy" to "girl," that is.

And I would tell you that this is my sister and we are all in deep mourning.

And these children were friends with my Iris in Ethiopia.

Sometimes I want to scream at the injustices of the world. Those "sometimes" have become nearly "every waking hour" anymore. And sometimes I wake up just for those moments.

It's been a very emotional week and frankly, even though it is contrary to my make-up, I've got no words to describe my chaos anymore. I could tell you a funny story about the first grade field trip to the pumpkin patch in a freezing cold downpour, but I just don't have the heart for it. That sentence just about sums it up without actually complaining about something that is irrelevant compared to life's true problems.

So there you go. My week in review.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Time Warp

It's an interesting thing, leaving and returning to your hometown nearly 20 years later.

I've made new friends and it doesn't bother me at all to see them in the role of "Mom." After all, that's what we are.

No, what gets me is seeing my old acquaintances rockin' the minivan.

I realize this is shallow. I drive a minivan and it is perfectly normal. I rejoiced the day my first one arrived. It was like driving a house. And when my daycare kids were over I wasn't housebound. It was awesome.

But there are people who will never look right to me because I didn't see them transition from muscle car to minivan. They're just.....there. Driving one. All of a sudden. Like time has passed or something.

I am living Marty McFly's nightmare. Thank goodness *I* am still 17.

Monday, October 01, 2012


I'm 37.

I guess I should back up.
Yesterday as I sat in the back row of church and analyzed the heads of women ahead of me, I again had the thought that someday I, too, would be an adult woman who got up every day and "did" my hair. Meaning, I guess, that I would use a blow drier, or curling iron, or flat iron (as if that would be remotely necessary) and have a style beyond, "Hey! I graduated in 1994, the year of the grunge!"

When the thought occurred to me, Well......I'm 37.

I'm not sure you get more grown up than you are when you are 37. Wiser, yes. But grown up? I don't think so. If I was going to do my hair, I would be doing it already. I'm going to quit lying to myself and let myself off the hook. I will probably never grow up and do my hair.

I cut 10 inches off a few weeks ago in honor of a friend in the throes of chemo. If I wanted a style, that would have been the time. I chose, instead, to tell her, "A style that doesn't require style."

Hello grunge, ole friend, ole pal.


Monday, September 17, 2012

The Birthday Card

Today I turned 37.

Let's just take a moment and reflect on WHERE in the WORLD the last 20 years have gone.

Moment over.

If I still act like a 17 year old, I'm still 17 in spirit. Right?

Yes, you too can have these beauties for the remarkably questionable price of $89.95. Don't miss the fact that they are tiger striped and will make you six feet tall.

Or, you know, you could feed a child for THREE MONTHS.

This is Jose Luis. Today is his birthday. He needs school fees and healthcare. He needs you.
My husband very graciously let me take a long weekend with some other adoptive mams where we learned new methods to parent our children who are used to parenting themselves.

And we laughed a lot.

I might have gone more for the laughter than the stellar parenting advice, but I'll keep that under wraps.

And this morning, after four days off and before I had my first cup of coffee, I pulled the birthday card. My rant speech went like this:

"I hate to do this, but I'm going to pull the birthday card. I have a minimum of three children crying at me for something that is either frivolous or out of my control and not one of you has told me happy birthday. On your birthday, birthday trumps all. So stop."

I said it calmly.

They mostly shaped up.

Today is my birthday. I am 37. I need nothing. I want new carpet because I have seven colors of carpet, none of which I like, but I don't need new carpet. I don't even want tiger striped will make you six feet tall backwards heels. (Which, by the way, other women came and tried on after I did because I made them look so good. Or because they wanted the photo opp. One or the other.)

Today is Jelsy Mary's birthday. She needs protein and water and will eventually need school.

She has no one to pull the birthday trump card on. She needs you.

Today is John Lenard's birthday. He loves math. But he needs someone to pay for his school, to help provide him the water that he carries for his family.

He has no one to pull the birthday trump card on. He needs you.

Me and these three kids, today is our birthday. And we're pulling the birthday trump card. If you have been riding the fence on child sponsorship, today is your lucky day. I have a deal for you. I have three very special kids from three very different countries that would love to have a very special birthday. They would love to hear they have a sponsor. I'm giving you the chance to give that to them.

I have their cards. If you claim one of these kiddos, I'll send you their info with a dozen cookies and my eternal gratitude.

I have been on a World Vision Project. They are legit, people. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On a Mission

“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wel...lness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but no
t inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships.

These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can
bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete...

Remember, to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person might not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.”
― Bob Moorehead

Chaos here: sadly, Bob Moorehead is an accused child molester.  Goes to show that you can have great thoughts and still be a fallible human being.
Doesn't make his words any less profound, but sure taints 'em.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Conquer Your Fears and “Live to Give” Webcast

Thomas Nelson Author and Hoops of Hope founder, Austin Gutwein, to host September 6 online event to focusing on themes his latest release, Live to Give.

 On September 6 at 8 PM EDT, Austin Gutwein will be hosting a live Facebook web event to encourage participants to conquer their fears and use their talents to help others. The webcast will center on the themes Gutwein writes about in his latest release “Live to Give: Letting God Turn Your Talents into Miracles(Thomas Nelson/August, 2012). At the conclusion of the webcast, the winners of a month-long social media fueled “Get and Give” contest will be announced, including the winner of a Kindle Fire and $250 donated to the winner’s charity of choice.  

Join Austin on the evening of Thursday, September 6th as he shares about his own experiences and encourages others to conquers their fears and “live to give”. Austin will also be taking audience questions and interacting with participants. PLUS – there will be several “Live to Give” giveaways – books, gift certificates and much more! RSVP today and tell your friends.

Based on the John 6 story of Jesus feeding the 5000, in “Live to Give” Gutwein challenges his readers that regardless of age and talent, God can use them to make a difference. Even though God could take care of everything Himself and doesn’t really need our help, He desperately WANTS us to help Him care for others. Gutwein walks young people through discovering and embracing their unique God-given strengths and abilities, then figuring out how to use those talents to help others. Sometimes doing that takes a leap of faith on our part, and often becoming fearless in the process.

 More about Austin: At eighteen years old, Gutwein speaks with wisdom and has the experience to reinforce his message. When Austin was just nine years old, he watched a video that showed children in Africa who had lost their parents to AIDS. Gutwein realized these kids weren’t any different from him—except they were suffering. Feeling called to help, he took his love of basketball and decided to shoot free throws to raise money for orphans in Zambia. On World AIDS Day in 2004, he shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during his day at school. Through sponsorship from parents and friends, Gutwein raised over $3,000 that day to give hope to eight orphans in Zambia. Over the past eight years, Gutwein’s efforts have created Hoops of Hope, the largest free throw marathon in the world. With an estimated 40,000 people in more than 25 countries participating, Hoops of Hope has raised more than $2.5 million to build schools, medical clinics, dormitories for orphanages, and the only computer lab in Zambia.  

Enter to win a Kindle Fire and have $250 donated to your favorite charity. Click for the banner for details and entry or visit Learn more about Austin and Hoops of Hope at and + Unending Devotion, Jody Hedlund

Monday, September 03, 2012

The power of fives

Iris and I have been noticing a lot of fours around here.

Our table fit four kids. Had to get a new one. (Now it fits 6. She is petitioning for another.)

Four matching frames with photos of me with my three week olds.
      (OK, I missed the boat with Princess. Rectified with the next two.)
She's a really big three week old. This saddens me.

Remember my silver van issue? Solved with the cheezy Kansas family. Finally got another girl on there.

Great Granny used to get each new great a silver cup. Granny found one for us the other day.
Slowly , but surely, we're getting our fours up to fives.

I'm not sure if she feels any more a part of us or not, but each time she discovers a five, it makes her smile.

I'm thinking she might even smile for a family photo now. Time to get out the awkward family photo matching outfits.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Whispered Sweet Nothings

Oh the things Brent and I whisper to one another over turkey carcasses. The cleaning up of after, which makes the children scatter.

Me: I just had a bad thought.
Him: What's that?
Me: Middle school dances.
Him: I want to die.
Me: You don't have to die; you just have to chaperone.
Him: I think I'd rather die.

I feel the need to tell you that the "I want to die" comment is incredibly melodramatic for Brent. He doesn't say things like that. I am often heard saying "kill me now" but that usually irritates him. Which means he is really in agreement with me regarding those dances.

Kill me now.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

All My Free Time

Well, we're in day four of school. Day. Four. As I type this looking at my clock, that would indicate I just finished my eleventh "free" hour.

Any time I run into someone who knows me, they seem to feel obligated to ask me what I'm doing with All My Free Time.

What I thought I would be doing with All My Free Time:
Systematically cleaning and organizing every room of the house without people watching in case they need to rescue a treasure from the donation pile.
Preemptively starting supper so as to not have the rush crush from 4-6.
Working at the greenhouse
Helping out with school parties.
Starting a fundraising auction for my new nieces.
Finally putting all those photos from the last 12 years into scrapbooks.
Writing the book that has been festering for months, years maybe.

Well, for the last twenty-six hours I've been fighting off a sense of pervasive panic and despair, thanks for asking.

You know what I do with my three "free" hours a day? I play catch-up on all the things I didn't get accomplished in the preceding twenty-one. I make mental lists of what things most need to be done so as to have the fewest people complaining to me at bedtime for whatever thing wasn't done.

Is my laundry caught up? Mostly.
Are my dishes done? Finally.
Is my sink clean? sorta.
Is any room in any part of the house even remotely organized, much less clean? NO.
Is supper in the crock pot? Yes.
Will anyone eat it? Doubtful.
Yes, I have blogged. This post took 12 minutes.
Haven't been to the greenhouse.
I took one look at those party sign-ups last night and nearly burst into tears.
Haven't started an auction.
Scrapbooking? *hysterical laughter*
And that book? Ask me when I'm fifty.

I've gained three pounds since the kids started school. You'd think I'd have time to walk. No. And I'm shoving chocolate chip cookies in my face like they are my lifeline.

I'm suffocating under a deluge of unmet expectations. Mine. Brent's. The kids. And that phantom woman who I dread showing up at my house and seeing what it looks like when there is a stay-at-home wife whose children are all off at school

After all, I have All This Free Time so the house should be spotless, the scrapbooks predominantly displayed, while I'm off volunteering somewhere and making money with my side business.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Other Diva

As I saw my Princess moving around the kitchen this morning, I was struck with the difference.

Sheesh, she's nearly a teenager. I mean, look at her.

See the wrinkled nose? "Mooooom, why are you taking this??"
She can now put an outfit together.
Thanks to some generous (and slightly larger) neighbors, she even has some rockin' clothes to compose those outfits.

I'm reminded of when she was seven and I would send notes to Mrs C that said, "I let her make her own clothing choices and do her own hair."

If I were on top of things, I'd find a "before" photo. Alas, Princess at 7 is trapped in Photoshop which I don't think has even been installed on this computer. 

But, trust me, based on Princess there is hope for Iris yet.

Today......not so much. But someday.

Monday, August 27, 2012

In the Continuing Saga

 So tonight I thought I'd be proactive. I offered to do braids. She told me the braids she wanted, I did my best  to provide. I even did the external cornrows rather than the under braid like I usually do.

Whew, dodged that bullet, I thought.

 Let's focus on the sparkly eyes, shall we?
 Alas.....she found the clips she wanted to add.
I'm so proud.
Like my mother was when I raided Dad's closet for his plaid shirts and added a huge black belt and some leggings and called it Rad.

I'm sure tomorrow I'll fixate on something else.

In other news, Iris learned to ride bike without training wheels tonight.
That makes five out of diapers.
Five out in school.
And five out of training wheels.
Next up: five readers.

For Andrea

I had finally decided I was exaggerating.

And then I picked her up from school

Here's my dirty little secret: I fear that when people see her like this, they think, "See? I told you she can't handle five kids. What was she thinking? Look at that hair. I told you she couldn't do that hair. And those clothes! You can afford to adopt a child, but not to clothe them nicely?"

This afternoon, her daddy said, "Didn't mom tell you you don't match?" (thanks dear)
She said, "Huh?"
He said, "Your clothes don't match." (better)
She said, "Yeah, I know."



With all the kids in school, I find myself with three hours a day to do "what I want." Which currently translates into sorting paper.

I ran across a note to self I imagine I wrote trying to keep enough info on it so that I could write a blog post when I had time. Years later, I have time. If only because I am procrastinating the real work. I give you (six year old, yes three years ago) Frodo sez:

Deer were overpopulating a local park a few years ago. There was some concern that with the increased deer population, there would be increased ticks and with that, increased Lyme disease, if I'm remembering correctly. The city finally came to a decision to bring in bow hunters and euthanize some hundred or so deer and donate the venison to a local shelter. It was on the news a lot for a couple weeks. Protesters. People worried someone would get killed with an arrow. People worried that the meat would go to waste. People worried that the deer would die. People worried that the meat might be tainted and homeless people would die. Conflict.

Frodo overheard the statement, "The deer were euthanized today."
He piped up, "That means destroyed, right?"
A sibling (probably Eldest) said, "Yeah, they killed it."

My final note says, Even kids know, without the politics.

Now, I'm not anti-bow hunting, so I presume I was going to tie it in to human euthanasia. Call it what you will, killing is killing. Even kids know.

And now I can pitch that piece of paper into the recycling bin.


My Little Diva

This morning I sent Iris off to school in a purple floral tank top with green floral leggings and crystal encrusted sandals. She had pulled the top half of her hair into a silver bowed, slicked down pony tail that hung next to her face and the back was in a loose low pony at the nape of her neck. She topped it off with bug-eyed sunglasses.

I feared that if I took a picture she would think it was because I thought her choices quite excellent and she might repeat the experiment.

I took the above photo yesterday so she could see how ridiculous her new fascination with "bangs" looked. As you can see, the bright eyes and smile make the bangs almost unnoticeable.  In fact, she looks dang cute. I decided maybe I was overreacting and let her wear them. Sadly, that led to today's half head bang/bowed-pony.


I did try to talk her into matching her clothes. I did offer to help with her hair. She wanted none of it. And, because I have to say no to ever so many things, I sent her out into the world, clashing clothes and all, biting my tongue so that I wouldn't tell her she needs a mother, looks like an orphan, or looks ridiculous.

I looked at her, so proudly strutting her stuff and was overwhelmed with her independence.

What were we thinking, sending an independent child of seven, with the street smarts of a 35 year old, into first grade? She's too old for all of them. Sometimes I think she's too old for me.

I figure today could go one of two ways: The kids will see her lack of fashion sense and mock her into conformity OR (and I suspect this may be the case) she will announce her presence with confidence and next thing you know, all the little first grade girls will be begging their mothers for pony tails that hang in their faces and insisting that Iris doesn't match her clothes and they should also be able to wear purple stripes with red plaid with a rockin' orange floral hair bow.

You are welcome.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What's One More?

Last night, Princess had a friend over for several hours and the two of them somehow persuaded me to allow a sleepover.

Today, our church had a potluck in honor of the returning college students.

And, though this seems redundant, I think it plays in, so I'm adding it: it is Sunday. If you don't know that Satan and his minions work overtime on Sunday, you must not go to church with kids and a spouse.

Last night I made my brownies. This morning, I got up, got the coffee started, mixed up the casserole and loaded it in the crock-pot. I sat down and read my Bible. Some of my boys came down and chatted me up while I drank my coffee. I went upstairs and had a shower. Turned on the light for my younger children to waken somewhat naturally. Got dressed. Came down and found most of the kids eating. Ate breakfast. Had more coffee. Sent the kids up to get dressed. Fed the two stragglers who stumbled in in their jammies. Sent them up to change. Went up to do my hair. At which point Brent asked how I was doing.

It's Sunday morning. Potluck Sunday. And I have six children in the house. It's a freaking recipe for disaster. That's what it is. But I told him, "OK." And then I realized, it really was OK. No one was crying. We were all going to make it to church on time. Everyone would look presentable and the food would be done. And I thought, I can do this! This is totally do-able.

I think there may be hope for us yet.

Hello? Salam?

We called Ethiopia yesterday. Five different numbers.

Have I told you our daughter unearthed phone numbers for every known relative that had a phone? First, we had her translate what was written, who the person was and their number. We told her we'd call "soon." I wanted her to be comfortable enough in our home that she wouldn't tell them we were horrid people who only ate cheese and white sauces and were starving her to death with our protein laden meals. I wanted her to be fluent enough in English that she could tell us what they talked about. And I wanted her to still be proficient in her native tongue, so she could talk.  As recently as three weeks ago she was asking to call them.

Yesterday, when we offered, she said, "Maybe tomorrow."

Nope, today's the day, chica.

We called her mother's number first. We got a message telling us the phone had been "turned off." Well....what does that mean? Powered off? Ran out of minutes, off? Disconnected? Several calls, same message.
So we started down the list. One number connected, but we couldn't hear them.
Two numbers connected, but they couldn't hear us. Or couldn't understand. We just kept yelling, "Iris" and "America" and her mother's name, over and over. They both ended up hanging up on us.

Iris just shrugged and asked if she could go play now. She claimed she had no idea what they were saying and had no idea how to say, "Hello! This is Iris, daughter of XXXX, in America," in Tigrinya anymore.

Does she or doesn't she? It hasn't been all that long since she was still trying to talk to her friends in her language. But for the last week, she's been info-dumping on us. Horror stories, the likes of which you hope are made up, but probably aren't. Death and death and death. Bad people and fighting and death. It's almost as if she's going to tell us all about it, and then put it behind her. Brent thinks we need to view it less as truth and more as therapy. Did she really witness all that? Did she just hear the stories of some of it and pass them on? We may never know.

What I do know is that I don't know enough.
And my precious child has decided she's home.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ode to Joy

 It has been an atrocious summer. Our honeymoon period lasted approximately 12 seconds. And though many things have gotten decidedly better, many things, like the sibling rivalry, have gotten out of control. My newest child very quickly picked up on the fact that whining and tattling works to bring daddy in to the rescue and I am sick, sick, SICK of it.

I was ready for them to move on out.

Rockin' her new bangs.

After four months, I recognize look for what it is: Pure Terror.

He looks happy. He is not.

That hair! I mean, rockin' the hair and the jacket....

Sadness....PM kindergarten. All dressed up with nowhere to go.

Holy.....say it isn't so. How did those 12 years go so fast? HOW are they in the big school?
 I dropped off my babies and lost it.
Brent looked at me and asked, "What's got you?"
To paraphrase Jen Hatmaker: last night I was hip-hip-horray, yippee-skippy happy (this is where the paraphrase comes in, not the whole paragraph) that school was finally starting and I could ship the fighting, power struggle, who-does-mom-love-most, does-she-really-not-understand-or-is-she-working-it-to-get-her-way, play my parents against each other, she is feeding me poison by cooking white sauce, who is the queen bee, I don't have to obey you because you aren't my real mom, gonna pout on the couch since I can't have a popsicle five minutes before dinner, "no eat!," "I small brown, Eldest BIG brown" prejudiced heinie OUT THE DOOR so she can have another "mean" authority figure in her life besides me. And then I realized in my attempt to do so, I was shipping the rest of them with her. And then I had guilt about all of it.

Thankfully, rather than attending the back-to-school bash, I found myself crying on a friend's living room floor, confessing my sins, and she suggested we pray.

It's gonna be a good year.

Please, God.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More Notes from the Canyon's Rim

Scene: Mom has just indicated to Princess that she might want to change before she goes to 6th grade orientation. Princess exits, dressed, stage left. Thirty seconds pass.

Princess: Mom!
Frodo: .....and he said that she said that he meant that.....
Princess: Mom!
Iris: ....and I went like, PISSA!.....
Princess: Mom!
Eldest (now speaking to his out of touch family):......rode bikes and then went to.....
Princess: MOM!
Dad: Come down here! Maybe Mom isn't answering because you are interrupting which you would know if you weren't yelling from the top of the stairs!
Frodo:....and then he threw his web and caught a frog.....
Princess: I can't!
Mom (interrupting Frodo's endless story): Yes, you can, if you want to talk to me! (aside) just a minute, buddy.
Princess: I don't know where my black pants are!
Eldest:....but going to the pool so he can't......
Mom: Probably in your bag from Sunday!
Princess: *whining* no! they aren't! are they in the laundry basket?
Iris: Mom can I have a gum?
Mom: How would I know? Come look! (aside) eat your lunch first.
Princess: I'm in my underwear!
Mom: Put on some clothes! (aside) I really am listening, Frodo.
Charming: Mom, can you get me some milk?
Princess: I can't! I can't find my black pants.
Frodo:....and he caught the owl and....
Eldest: *snickering* (mutter, mutter, and they say I'm in a canyon mutter mutter)
Dad: They need a class for problem solving, but instead of math they give real life challenges. Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello! You have just taken off your clothes, clothes, clothes, clothes. you don't know where your clean pants are, are, are, are. What do you do, do, do, do? A) stand at the top of the stairs and yell for your mom. B) put on the clothes you just took off and go look for the clean pants.
Mom (standing in front of the fridge where she has just finished pouring milk): *maybe pees herself just a little bit*  

Notes from the Canyon's Rim

Eldest has hit the stage where he thinks his parents are out of touch. He's moody. And he punishes me when the school tells him he has to change for PE like I made the rule or something.

The following is an actual conversation that happened at our house today, the beginning of a new series on this blog titled, "Parenting with Mockery and Sarcasm."

Dad: Mom tells me you have a bad attitude today and you are taking it out on her.
Eldest: *silence* *no eye contact*
Dad: Why is that?
Eldest: *silence* *no eye contact*
Dad: What are we going to do about your attitude?
Eldest: *silence* *no eye contact*
Dad: Apparently he's fallen into the canyon of adolescence and I'm talking to myself now.
Eldest: *silence* *no eye contact*
Dad: Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello!
Can you hear me? .... hear me? ....... hear me? ......hear me?
Do you need help?.....need help? .....need help?
It's an abyss!......abyss!.....abyss......abyss......
Eldest: *cracks smile*
Mom: *dies laughing*

And because we are awesome like that, he's talked to Eldest in an echo all. day.

Goodnight! Goodnight! Goodnight! Goodnight! Goodnight!
I love you! I love you! I love you! I love you! I love you!

That Hair!

I've been getting a lot of comments about Frodo's hair. You know the type. When you gonna cut it? How long you gonna let him grow it? What's up with it? What you gonna do about it?

Here's the thing. I made a deal with this child the night before Easter. If he would let me cut it then, I wouldn't touch it again until school starts. Since then, he as let me even out the shaggy ends, trim up the bangs and take him into the salon for a thin out. Also since then, he has begun helping me with the dishes without being asked. He helps me cook every meal. If he sees me doing laundry, he comes in and assists. He jumps up from his art projects to unload the dishwasher as soon as he sees me start the process and sometimes he just unloads it because he can tell it is ready to be done (or that we are out of cups). He is congenial almost all the time, babysits for free and has been picking up after himself.

And he made me iced tea today.

I tell you, Frodo took a happy pill and long hair is the only side effect.

If the worst this child can dish out is long hair, he can have it.

I don't want to hear any more about it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Here in Whopperville

My daughter had a huge inground pool at her old house.
And three wind turbines, the kind like they have in Nebraska.
She had 12 cats.
And three dogs.
Three goats.
Three cows.
And chickens.
Twelve pair of shoes.
A big bed. Bigger than mine.
Oh, and she had 12 shots, too. Which I sure wish they'd recorded so we could have skipped this shots every week nonsense to get her into school.
She likes the number 12. And 3.
She loves to brag to her brother about all the spectacular stuff she used to have and he totally buys into it.
One of her friends had a TV as big as his wall.
Another had several cars. Nice ones. Like my neighbors'.

All things in Ethiopia were awesome. America is a downgrade. She's now living in the depths of poverty.

Somehow this makes perfect sense for her, that she should tell me these things. Because it is somehow better for her mother to have relinquished her because......? It wasn't because she was "so poor." It was because, I dunno, she had to make room for her new TV?

Apparently this is right on schedule, the fantasies about how great life was.
Their care center was luxurious.
Their homes were full of all the modern amenities.
Their caretakers were angelic.
The food was, OK, the food wasn't as good as pizza, but they got to eat exactly what they wanted when they wanted to. They didn't have to wait for mealtimes and their cook was a short order chef that served popsicles for breakfast.

I don't know why I'm telling you this. It really isn't funny. It's flat annoying. It irks me to no end. Just like the fact that complaining about her left knee this morning got her daddy to carry her all over the school and house all day, but tonight, the sore knee switched to the right one. Oh, reeeeeeeeally. Let me call in the paramedics.

None of this bugs Brent at all. Not in the least. Which irks me even more.

It's the craziest thing.

Nope, if you are reading for the silver lining, the insight, the intuition, the Thus Sayeth the Lord, you aren't going to find it. I've got nothin'.

I used to be fun. I did. I remember it. Uncompromisingly frugal, yes, which people sometimes interpret as not fun, but my sense of adventure was intact and I enjoyed a lively story, an unexpected bend in the road.

Lately, I'm just going seven kinds of crazy.
1. depression
2. anxiety
3. anger
4. insomnia
5. Manic
6. OCD
7. living in a fantasy world (I'm sure there is a term for this, but I'm tired) psychoses?

I'm overtired and underfunned. I lose my temper in the wrong situation at least once a day and it is usually in front of someone who shouldn't see it.

I have chigger bites.

I'm not fun. I'm not funny. And I'm not humored when hearing for the 12 thousandth time about her freaking inground pool that was SOOOOOOo much better than the one we go to here in town (the one, I might mention, that she begs to go to daily). And I like it even less when I hear Charming tell yet another friend that his sister used to have a pool bigger than our open plan living space. "Right, Iris?"

Thank the good Lord I live in the world of fantasy online friends who teach me to say things like, "Of COURSE you do!" when faced with yet another whopper. Though tonight and the knee...let's just say I pointed to the other one and told her that had she complained of IT, I might find some ibuprofen, but since it was that one, she could have a nice pat on the head.

What she heard was "Wah, wah, wah, wah."

I should also thank the good Lord that Brent hasn't lost his funny bone. (She probably had a pond and she's relating that to this. She probably has a windmill at the pond and that's what she means by having three wind turbines. She probably means she saw a TV once. Maybe they did have all those animals. Maybe she means all of her family had a pair of shoes each and that makes 12. No, I'm sure that was the knee she was complaining about earlier. SUCKER.)

I think I need to go to bed.
The end.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Right Where I Belong

Less than two hours after I typed my last post, my phone rang with one of those calls you don't like to get. Let's face it, phone rings at 2 AM, no good will come of it.

And before I get too overly dramatic, I'll preface this with: she's OK, and I haven't slept.

I discovered, at 3:30 in the morning, as my dad and I followed a speeding ambulance carrying my mother across the prairie to the ICU, that though I don't fit, I'm right where I belong.

In other news, after watching 12 hours of the food network on mute while waiting for that elusive Dr visit, I came to another conclusion: food network food, though it looks amazing, is far too time consuming for the larger family. Putting that much effort into four servings might be worth it. I'm relatively certain that instead of 3/4 of my waking hours in the kitchen, it would be all of them. Sorry kids. It's foodie or mommy. Since you don't eat any of my exotic foods anyway, I guess I'll throw some burgers on. The birds' nest spaghetti with moz balls just isn't gonna happen.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Feels like home?

After a very rough summer, my kids and I decided we needed a weekend in our old hometown. Coincidentally, it was the same weekend as an Ethnic Festival that presented Ethiopian dancers and doubly coincidentally, Iris had a couple friends that she knew from Ethiopia that would be attending. I couldn't think of a better excuse if I'd written a book.
Princess, learning the shoulder dance on stage. Crazy girl.

More than Ethiopia was represented, as Frodo demonstrates.

Iris isn't so sure about visiting Ireland.

Old buddies, reunited. Foreground AND background.
Mom and mom swap stories while the kids act like maniacs.
I am so in love with the intercultural interactions happening here.
It was such a whirlwind trip.
We didn't have a place to stay until Friday night at 10 at which point Hubs decided to come along.
We called someone on the way up to see if they could meet for lunch (they could! It's a miracle! No kidding, it would have taken a meeting of the UN for us to have scheduled a lunch with our families when we lived there, but the spontaneous call worked out. So thankful.)
We went from lunch to the festival and walked in as the Ethiopian dancers came on stage.
We discovered in this huge crowd of people, that Iris' old friend was only three rows in front of us.
We took a two hour tour of the world (the kids have passports to prove it) then met online adoptive friends for Ethiopian food for supper. (interesting aside: in our three families, there were two "eldests" and two "frodos." Half the time we didn't know who the kids were talking about.)
We went from dinner (Iris: In Tigray, I like shiro. In America, I like pizza. *push food away, mom inwardly rejoices* ) through a drive through for burgers (Mom: now, who needs a burger? Iris: ME! *mom inwardly rejoices, again) and then on to our host home to crash for the night. (RB, you are an amazing host and you humble me. Truly, I will never view hospitality in the same way, again. Ever.)
Get up, go to our old church (Oh, my, word, I'd forgotten that people actually sing, loud, in church!), talk and hug until they turn the lights out, and head out to a spontaneous lunch, in, with more friends where we camp until we can meet up with my niece for ice cream (are we seeing the food trend here?).
And out.

Brent and I decided, upon careful discussion....we don't belong anywhere. Very happy to go. Very happy to leave. Didn't see enough people. Saw way too many people...while stopped at way too many stoplights. I really, really, really miss my friends. And I am really, really, really happy to be home.

This is an interesting life we've chosen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Fun House

My house accumulates children like it accumulates dust.

At the moment, there are three children doing a recreation of Star Wars upstairs, four heading out to the trampoline with a football (wait, I think one of them was in on the Star Wars play, make that two), three negotiating car trades in the living room (whoops, just lost one to the trampoline), two doing.....something, one irritated that so many kids are over.

I'm not sure how you do that math there, but I counted 10 at one point.

There go the last three to the tramp.

Aside from the one pouting on the couch.

There was a time I told Brent that I wanted to be the Fun House where kids went.

My parent's house was not it. And I was introduced to stuff I shouldn't have been in while I was at some fun houses. Some fun houses are safer than others. I want to be the safe fun house.

I do not, however, want the aftermath.
Oh dear.

If I'm being honest with you, I have to say that when I went around the house with the camera, it wasn't as bad as I'd expected. Most of the mess is right here where I watched it happen.

I was told once by a dear lady that to keep kids at your house, you have to have The Food.
My food budget is already blown and it's the 14th.
I need to take out stock in popsicles.
BUT aside from the popsicles and popcorn, kids mostly don't eat our food. Apparently I don't have Fun House food.

I should probably work on that.

However, I think this is priceless.

crappy photo quality intentional. I have no permissions to post photos.
Wait.....someone is crying.....make that two someones....
It's time to throw down some smack at the Fun House, again.
Which means it never really will be.

Monday, August 13, 2012

It's the little things

Yesterday was....hard. And it was also huge. For house Chaos, anyway.

Iris cried.

Now, I have friends whose children came home and they've been having huge meltdowns virtually every day since. Iris is silently sad. She's flop-on-the-couch-and-stare-at-the-wall sad. She's make-no-eye-contact-first-thing-in-the-morning-because-I-woke-up-in-stinkin'-America-again sad. She's reject-all-motherly-advances-as-evil sad. She's demand-all-food-is-pizza-even-though-I-didn't-want-to-try-pizza sad. She's rip-out-any-hairdo-mom-puts-in sad. And even when you try to be the bigger person and remember you are dealing with a child embroiled in rejection, it still hurts a little ton when nothing you do (including cooking Ethiopian foods) is remotely acceptable outside the confines of serving pizza and buying new shoes that are too small but the right color.

So excuse me while I have a moment.

My child CRIED because her feelings were hurt which means she might think her feelings matter or that someone might care enough to hold her and give ear to her pain.

Even if it is about an orange marker.

I'm sure I'll look back at this someday and laugh at myself. I told Brent last night that I hope this isn't the dam that broke and she has fits over everything now. But so far, so good.

And second:
She let me braid her hair.

ALMOST like I'm a mom.

And even though it was after 9pm, we dazzled her up with "a circle, inside and circle, inside a circle and a hair in the middle." Which I translated into a dutch spiral that is less than perfect, but our version of baby's first smile.

And it's still in.

Friday, August 10, 2012


mom wised up.
Princess discovered the box, pawed through it, dusted the stairs, recovered her stuff.
Eldest discovered it. Cleaned the microwave. And then figured out he had nothing in it.
Frodo discovered it and his shoes within. Laughed. Unloaded the dishwasher. Pointed it out to Charming, who did the following:

Then broomed the kitchen to recover his precious emergency kit.
Iris discovered the entire remaining contents were hers. Lay on the couch in a full on pout for an hour. Did the littlest mediocre chore she could find (carry down laundry) and recovered her money. Left the rest. Decided this morning I really meant it and broomed the dining room. Recovered her balloon that popped. Not sure what else is left.

It might wear out, but for now, I'm thrilled.

Friday, August 03, 2012

A Vacation Story told through Signs

You know you've always wanted to see it.


I didn't see this as the warning it was.

I did see this for the warning it was.

Oh, yes it was.

I thought those holes looked rather suspicious.

"Mom, what does 'spawning' mean?"

'nough said.

I really don't have anything snarky to say about this one.

I'm pretty sure the child sitting in the rear left seat did not make it to Wyoming.

Because we flipped a U to get back here.

Such a great story. My children did not get the significance. I assured them they could make fun of me to their children when they come back someday.

Now that there's just funny.

There was one house.

You can't tell me this isn't wrong on SO MANY levels.