Sunday, July 24, 2011

Vacation, Readoption and Birthdays, Oh My


It has been a very busy couple of months. We went to Florida the beginning of May. I got to go to the opening for my sister's solo show. My mom did face painting, and I got to vamp it up with my sisters. Oh, if only they lived closer! We went to the beach with my cousin and her sons (I love you, Cherie!). Thankfully, no one drowned, although Child #3 did her best to go face first into every wave, and Child #4 ate everything. Seriously, I pulled a rusty bottlecap out of her mouth, and she actually chewed a shell before I was able to fish it out. She pooped sand for three days afterward. We went to the Playmobil Fun Park, only $1 per child, and you can play with all the toys! It is still one of our favorite Florida spots. Then we went to the west coast and had a family reunion with my side of the family. I met my new niece, and everyone else met our newest child. We also had a blast at Busch Gardens. I highly recommend the Sheikra, funnest ride I have ever been on. Make sure to sit in the front row. We had tons of fun, but half of us had raging fevers/coughing by the time we drove the 18 hours home. Thankfully, everyone got better fairly quickly once we were home.

Soon after returning home, Child #2 graduated kindergarten. Generally I think graduation for anything less than high school is silly, but once I started homeschooling, I celebrate those kindergarten graduations.

Then the week after that, we did Child #4's readoption. If she had come to the U.S. on an IR3 visa, all we would have had to do was a recognition of foreign adoption, but since she came home on an IR4 visa, we had to do a readoption. We just recieved the TX birth certificate, and it was very exciting for us.

The week after that, we celebrated Child #4's 2nd birthday and Child #3's 4th birthday. I actually spent four days straight baking three different cakes and wrapping oodles of presents. I treated Child #4's birthday more like a first birthday, and made her a little square splat cake to dig into. She mostly poked it with her fork and ate the frosting off the top. Out of all the gifts we gave her, I think the thing she liked most was a pair of gold sandals my mom got her. She refused to take them off and wore them to bed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why Mothers Don't Nap...

Because their kids don't...

Actually, child #4 does nap. But this is the work of Child #3, capable of doing more disaster in five minutes than all the other children combined throughout a full day. What you don't see in the photo is that she also painted the walls, the windows (apparently taking the time to lift the shades, paint the glass, then politely put the shades back down), and dripped all over the carpet. I'm not entirely sure how she did that without painting the shades themselves. I was able to remove the paint from the shelf, the windows, and the carpet, but the upholstery has me stumped. Any suggestions?


So to recap, fifteen minute nap = four hours cleaning up (and still not done yet).

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ethiopian Cabbage Recipe

I had some vegetables to use up in my fridge, and I decided that tonight was the night that I would finally work up my courage to try out an Ethiopian dish and crack open some of my berbere. I used this recipe. I used baby carrots, potatos, one onion, and a half a head of cabbage. Instead of the spices listed, I used salt to taste and a teaspoon of berbere. It was a big pot, but I could have used half that amount of berbere! I served chicken and egg noodles with it which balanced out the heat a little, but it tasted great! And my house smells like an Ethiopian kitchen, which brought back all my memories. Now that I've taken the plunge, I am going to find some injera (or make my own sad version with buttermilk flenjses) to serve with it next time. Child #4 loved dinner tonight. She does not go for bland foods. She loves spicy sausage too :). (Child #1 also loved it, but Child #2 and 3 only wanted noodles and chicken. Sigh.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

With us longer than...

the time she spent in orphanages. She was in orphanages for four and a half months (which is a blessedly short amount of time compared to most orphans), and she has now been home longer than that! She is usually quiet, unless she wants food, but lately she is babbling more during playtime. I am really glad to see her trying to talk to the pets and her brothers and sister now. I think for a long time she was fascinated by how very loud and verbal they all are, and she was content to just listen. I can see she has been very busy learning. She defenitely understands what we tell her. I tell her to put things back or bring something to me or shut the door, and she understands all of it. I am constantly amazed.
And by the way, this week has been MUCH better than last week.

Monday, January 17, 2011

4+ Months Home...

Yes, I forgot I had a blog. My bad.
I could say it's because I have been crazy busy and overwhelmed and exhausted at the end of every day, and that would all be true. But it's mostly that my brain just hasn't had enough cells to work with for writing anything worth reading. That may still be true, but I'll give it a try anyway.

Our first few weeks were the hardest, but even at the hardest, it wasn't unbearable. Child #4 was almost fifteen months old when she joined our family, and she only weighed 16 pounds. She attached to me right away, and those first few weeks she didn't like to be set down. She had a fairly easy time adjusting to sleep schedules, and she took two naps a day for a month or two, like she had to catch up. Now she takes one nap in the afternoon. She was sleeping in our room at first, but we moved her to Child #3's bedroom a couple months ago. I think it has been better for both of them. Instead of competing for my attention, they can team up being mischevious. One of the harder parts for my husband was that she liked him holding her in the very beginning, but then within a week, she developed a major aversion for him. It was to the point that she wouldn't be in a room with him if I wasn't holding her. She liked him okay if it was morning and he was the only one awake to feed her. It felt like a really long time (really just a couple months) before she liked having him hold her. Now of course, she runs to greet him when he walks in the door and loves having him pick her up and make her giggle. Even our daily routine has gone way better than planned. The chaos level is not near what I was expecting. The hardest part has been dealing with her daily moods, some days she's cheerful and smiley, other days she is whiny and cranky. On the bad days she has to be held most of the day. She has had about six teeth come in since coming home, four of them molars. One of those is not quite out yet. I'm hoping that is what the bulk of her cranky days stems from. She is nineteen months old now and she weighs about twenty pounds. (Other kids are Child #1: 8 1/2 yob, Child #2: 6 yob, Child #3: 3 1/2 yog). Most of our days are chock full of food, noise, playing, learning, food, laundry, food, noise and sleeping, not nessacarily in that order. That is also where all my energy goes. I'm just thankful that I usually get a couple of hours at night to watch Hulu or read a book. I think I would be cross eyed and slightly unstable if I didn't have a little time at night to collect my wits. My good days are when everything on my list gets done AND my children all listened to me without debating or talking back AND my husband came home in a good mood AND I actually cooked a home made dinner before 6:30 pm AND I get a compliment. I might have that kind of day once a week, and it's what keeps me going. My average day has about two out of five of those elements. I also usually get about one or two BAD days a week, and I wash those days out my hair because they are far too demoralizing. And since I know you all love hearing about the bad days ;), they usually include at least three of these elements -

  • I have to strip and change Child #3's bed because that nighttime cup of water was one too many.
  • I spend the entire day looking for Child #2's favorite book (currently Wacky Wednesday) and listening to him ask me if I've found it yet "No, I'm still looking". (This specific scenario went on for three weeks daily to the point where I was debating between getting it off Ebay or Amazon. Then it appeared today, under Child #1's bed, where I'd already checked twice!)
  • Child #1 decides to assert his #1 status by questioning the legitimacy of school work, cleaning and getting out of pajamas. He may carry this on all day and into a second or third day, thereby losing electronic priveleges and being periodically banished to his room. All of which is my fault for making it "the WORST day ever". Oh, you know it!
  • I have to strip and change Child #4's bedding because she figured out to get out of her clothes again. That is the number one factor when deciding what she will wear, "Can she figure out how to take this off?" And it always has to been when she pooped because she just loves to spread that crap around. So we do spontaneous bathtimes for that too. Everyone in the house is on alert for it now. If someone hears Child #4 awake, they peak in and it is either, "MOMMY, She's only wearing A DIAPER." (level orange alert) or "MOMMY, SHE TOOK ALL HER CLOTHES OFF." (level red alert).
  • I spend an hour working on dinner only to find out that an integral ingredient in the recipe is missing or is unuseable. Thankfully, I have a lot of experience in adapting recipes. I get better at improv cooking every year.
  • My husband walks in the door, sees seven things on the floor and three dishes in the sink and some school books still on the table and wonders what I did all day. This means he is in a bad mood and he will spend the evening being dissatisfied and possibly vacumning and doing dishes. I love it when he cleans, but it's usually because he's cranky. Not a great trade off.
  • Somebody has a fever, stomach flu, or nasty cough, thereby cancelling all activities for the next few days, like cub scouts or Bible study, and turning us into groundhogs.

Since I'm fairly used to the elements of a bad day, it makes the good parts of those days shine all the brighter. Compliments are sweet nectar to my ears and obedience honey to my heart. If you can't tell, today was a bad day. Yesterday was too, which is unusual. But that puts the odds in my favor for a super day tomorrow! Thank you Lord for the gift of optimism, I couldn't be a stay at home mom without it. So let me know if you spot any typos or mistakes because I'm too tired to proofread this, plus if I don't get in the shower now, my next chance won't be for another 22 hours.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Photos from 2nd Trip...

Craft Bazaar at the International Evangelical Church -My favorite table there Abebe at the Oziopia Guest House
Some photos from our trip to the Southern Region

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

HOME!!!

We've been home a week and a half, but I've been a little busy...
Our week in Ethiopia was wonderful, but we didn't get out much. The first day we arrived, we were on our own, so we stayed at the wonderful Oziopia guesthouse. Abebe was the best guesthouse manager I have met yet. He took us around in the blue minibuses (that was a thrill! and only 2 birr each, unbelieveable), and he even suggested the once a month bazaar at the International Evangelical Church. They only have it the last Saturday of every month, but it was the best place to shop! When I post photos, I will put up a photo or two from there. We went to the agency guesthouse that night, and the next morning we traveled south to meet birth family. The drive south was so beautiful and it was priceless to see all the families outside of their tukuls going about their day to day lives. We even passed a soccer game with a huge ring of people watching. Meeting the birthfamily was difficult and wonderful and priceless, and I'm very thankful that I was allowed to record it. It was a long full day, and we fell asleep at 6:30 pm that night. The next morning we saw Child #4 and she was wary of us, like I expected. Just for reference, she is fifteen months old and weighed 16 pounds when we picked her up. She took to me easily again, so I was thankful for that. We didn't have her in our care full time until the next day (embassy day). I was really nervous about that, but she was fine as long as she was attached to me. We were at the embassy four hours and she didn't really cry. Rather unheard of in our family. We stayed at the guesthouse three more days and she started to relax a little. I still couldn't set her down though. She hated the guesthouse bedroom. She tensed up and cried everytime we went in there (maybe because it was small, dark and quiet?), so we stuck with the outdoors and dining room mostly. She slept through the night very well and still does.
It's been interesting to see the progress we make with Child #4 every day. In Addis, she was fine as long as I was holding her, but she didn't smile much at all. The plane ride was about as long as I imagined it to be, but it wasn't quite as awful as it could have been. Sure, I'm not positive I had more than two hours of sleep during twenty eight hours of travel. And sure, I ended up arriving in Houston with a giant mustard colored poop stain on my jeans and twelve various milk, banana and drool related stains on my shirt. But she didn't cry as much as other kids. Actually, she really only cried when she was tired and trying to stay awake. I will admit that I almost burst into tears in the Customs and Border Patrol office at the Houston airport where we sat waiting after already being in line for over an hour. All I wanted was to pick up my luggage and go home and see my kids and sleep, but the agents behind the counter were joking with each other and in absolutely no rush. That was the closest I came to crying during the whole trip. I was thinking how nice it was to finally be back in America with our efficiency and routines, but they were apparently running the office on Ethiopian time. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Anyway, I somehow lasted through a half hour there (in retrospect, that is still far shorter than the four hours we spent at the embassy), and we finally got to go home. I was a bit nervous of what Child #4 would think of our other children, but there was no need to be concerned. We had a brief mishap right after we got home. She was fast asleep in the car seat, so hubby set it on the floor when we got inside, unbeknowist to me. I noticed the same time as our sweet timid little dog started licking her toes thereby scaring her awake and into screaming, crying mode. She was in hyper vigilant mode for a little while after that, but she quickly warmed up to Child #2 and even let me walk four feet away while they played. The hardest part has been holding her all the time. She will occasionally have an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening where I can set her down as long as I sit on the floor and don't move while she explores within an eight foot radius. If she is hungry, tired, etc. then I have to be holding her and standing up. Although, she let hubby hold her the first couple of days, she has been wary and scared of him since. It's not uncommon, but it is difficult for both of us. Last Thursday was a horrible day, probably because she had just had shots and a double ear infection, but Friday was much better. I have to focus on the baby steps that we make each day. Count every smile and laugh and remember it during the bad times. Notice the moments of independence and exploration and remember it when she won't let me put her down. Today and yesterday have been great as far as her exploring more without me, and she's been smiling more often than not lately. On the other hand, we found out she has Giardia, and I'm having the dickens of a time trying to get her to swallow the medicine. Out of seven doses (only 1 ml each), I'm not sure I've gotten even a drop down her throat. I've put it in every manner of drinks, sugary syrups, fruit. I've used a medicine syringe to push it right at the back of her throat. But without fail, she has spit it on me, her clothing, the floor, dribbled it out the sides of her mouth and down her neck. I don't blame her, if it tastes half as bad as it smells. We've been relying on YL DiGize, and thankfully, that seems to be helping quite a bit. She has even gained a pound this last week! I'm just paranoid of having Giardia go throughout our family of six and making a permanant residence here. So now I carry a bottle of Purell with me everywhere. Today, we went in to have blood drawn (six tubes!) and she had the skin prick for the TB test. It was just awful, and I don't think she liked it much either... Hopefully, there won't be anything to worry about there.
I'll try to get around to posting some photos of our trip later...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back from Ethiopia: Gondar

We arrived in Gondar around lunch time, and agreed to split a taxi with a German couple. I had no idea how seriously the husband took bartering, and all to save 5 birr. I think he may have pissed off our driver too. We seperated from them at our hotel, the Lodge du Chateau. From the moment we drove into Gondar, it had a very different feel to it. Our driver told us about how they love Americans there because so many of their family members live in America and send money back to build. He motioned toward downtown, "All this is paid for by American dollars." I didn't know that, but I could see the difference in the personality of the city. The clothes were more western, and I actually saw quite a few people smoking. There were nightclubs, and people flirting out in the open. Oh my! There was also new government subsidized housing, and it actually looked like "projects". I don't really know that they got the best of our culture. The staff at our hotel were by far the friendliest and most helpful people in the city. Our room was very affordable. My only quibles were that the bathroom door didn't shut and we had such loud music coming through our wall for twelve hours a day, it felt like we were in a discotheque. I never did figure out what was next door to the hotel. The hotel manager says it is a music store... On the other hand, Lodge du Chateau has one of the most beautiful views in Gondar. They have a well maintained courtyard garden, that is meticulously cared for every morning by their staff. They should be very proud of their flowers, especially the daisies. And the terrace where they serve breakfast was amazing! You can look out over the city, and watch people in the neighborhood going about their day. It was simply priceless to watch kids play marbles, or walk to school with each other. There was a motorcycle that appeared one morning, and the kids totally congregated around it pushing each other on and off it. You could tell when the owner was near because they disappeared really quick. On the last morning, I watched a woman cooking outside her hut. It was very humbling. Most everything I experienced on our trip was humbling. We did not get a guide for Gondar, and I think we did alright on our own. We waited until our first full day to go sightseeing, and we went to the Royal Enclosure right when it opened (50 birr each, priced just right). It wasn't as amazing as Lalibela, but it was pretty amazing on it's own. It isn't just one castle, it's a whole series all built near each other. The first was built in the 1600's and each successive emperor would add their own building or castle. You could see the different styles in each building. The coolest is Fasilida's Castle, but they are all beautiful. I just wish you could go inside more of them, but I don't think they are in the best shape inside. And I saw more birds, so that was great! I didn't know I liked birds so much until I came to Ethiopia. But now I've decided I'm going to make a book about birds of Ethiopia. I have so many photos of them, I just have to. Just on the castle grounds I saw a beautiful little gray bird with a blue belly and red spot by his eye, and a brown bird with a perfectly speckled belly. There was also sparrows flying in and out of the castles. They seem to have nests in the castles and they swoop quickly round and round the arches and through the windows. Anyway, moving on. After that, we walked through downtown past the internet cafe (not super quick but very affordable) to the Dashen Bank. Best exchange rate on the whole trip. Then we hiked 1 km out of town (but it felt a lot farther than that, probably because we were huffing and puffing up a hill) to see the Debre Birhan Selassie Church (25 birr each, again priced just right). Debre Birhan is famous for the painted walls and ceilings inside the church, and they are breath taking. There is no flash allowed, so you need to have a steady hand and a great camera. The ceiling is the most famous part with it's 80 cherubic faces, but I was just as impressed with the front of the church. There are tiny paintings going all along the curtained archways and corners, and the awesome Holy Trinity above the crucifixion scene. And like all amazing Ethiopian churches, it is still in use today. There was a particularly nice boy in the church courtyard that wanted to practice his English, and he walked all around with us talking. Outside the church, he went on his way, and we started back to the hotel. It was really sweet and refreshing to talk with a boy that just wanted to talk, especially after our walk through town. By the time we had gotten back to our hotel, I told mom that everyone seems to think our names are Mrs. MoneyPotts and Mrs. MoneyPenny, but mostly the kids. I understand we are western tourists, but we had already given all our clothes away in Lalibela. Our money was dwindling since this was our last stop, and I still wanted to go to the Falasha settlement and Goha Hotel for dinner. There is no easy way to explain this to young boys that have limited English. We hired a driver to take us to the Falasha settlement. This is where the Ethiopian Jews had a settlement before they were air lifted out over a number of years. From what I understand, now most of the families that live there are half Jewish. They still have amazing handicrafts, much of it with the Star of David. And I think I can safely say, it is home to the most determined sales women in all of Ethiopia. It was a rainy afternoon and we were the only visitors. From the moment we stepped out of the car, we were surrounded by women and children selling their wares. They started with necklaces and clay handicrafts, holding the necklaces four inches from our faces, each jostling to put their product closest to our eyes. "30 birr, 30 birr, okay for you, 25." They didn't even slow down when the rain started to pour. It was just like all of a sudden we were surrounded by umbrellas and untouched by rain. We tried to buy a little from everyone. Every time they would see us buy something, they would appear in front of us with similar items in that category, like, "Oh she likes the baskets! Show her our baskets!" And their prices were great, so I didn't bother bartering much. I loved their sign that said, "We will not beg for money, we do not charge for photos." Dude, they earn their money. I'm glad I saved my money for that village. Shopping there was an experience by itself. We drove to the Goha Hotel next, which sits on top of a mountain looking out over Gondar. The Goha is the nicest hotel in the neighborhood, and you can pay a bit and actually get Wifi up there. I've heard that it is the nicest hotel in the government hotel chain, and that wouldn't surprise me. Their restaurant was certainly along the lines of any five star American restaurant. Except they had birds flying around and chirping inside, which actually made it six stars in my book. Plus, I was able to find a copy of Journey to Ethiopia at their gift shop, which is out of print and very hard to find. We went to bed early, and left for the airport in the morning. I have to say the airport security there was much more vigilant than any of the stops we had previously been to. I'm not sure if it's always like that or what, but we were ready to go home by then. We ended up spending about eight hours in the Addis airport before it was time for our flight home to leave. I was pretty impressed by the shops in the upstairs of the Bole airport. Many of the stores had very good prices, and there was a lot of variety in the goods. Eventually, we made it all the way back to my family and home and bed. Thus ended my very first trip to Ethiopia, and my first trip out of the U.S. I am beyond excited to be going back, although this time for a much different reason. I won't have much time for sightseeing or shopping on this trip. Well, maybe just a day or two before all the fun starts...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Embassy Date!

We actually recieved our embassy date while I was still coming back from Ethiopia! But I've been so busy with preparing for our new daughter to come home, and doing laundry, and catching up on everything then getting ready to leave again, that I haven't had time to post about it. Our embassy date is just 32 days after our court date! I can't believe it myself. My post about Gondar is coming soon.