Welcome to America! Again.

We’ve come so far, but sometimes I realize just how much further we have to go!

This morning, we went out to the garage to leave for school.  Andrew’s car was already gone.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Ayub:  Where Daddy?

Me: Daddy’s at work.

Ayub:  Daddy aeroplan?

Me:  No, Daddy drove to work.  He here.  He’ll be home tonight.

Ayub:  Daddy work in America?

Me:  Yes.  We’re all in America.

Ayub:  Tomorrow, I go to America please?

Me:  Ayub, you ARE in America.  THIS is America (pointing around the garage and to the outside world).

Ayub:  No, Mommy, this is home (he says, laughing, as though I were teasing him).

And for those who are wondering how school is going, I’d have to say we’re doing pretty well.  We met with the teacher early this week and she said she’s already seen an improvement.  He obviously struggles with handwriting, due to the lack of exposure to any writing utensils.  He seems to do pretty well with math and counting objects.  Letters are impossible at this point, but we still practice writing them at home.  He has fun…and that’s what matters.  Today I told him he didn’t have school tomorrow.  “WHY NOT?!?!?”  Then I told him he had “three sleeps” and then he’d go to school again.  He immediately faked being asleep for about 15 seconds and then told me the first sleep was over!  To me, that’s proof that he’s in the right place and as long as he enjoys it, the rest will come later.



Closing the Door

We began our adoption journey looking for a domestic infant, so it only made sense to use a local agency and there is only one in town, which came very highly recommended.  Then, when we made the switch to international, our social worker made an agency recommendation.  While we looked around a little, we trusted her opinion and went with Wide Horizons for Children.  Only later did I find out that we had stumbled upon one of the few widely-respected and ethical agencies.  For that, I am eternally grateful.

As more and more questions have arisen about Ethiopian adoption and the future of the country’s program, Wide Horizons has stepped back.  They have stopped accepting new families on the wait list and are working on more humanitarian programs.  For a while now, we’ve seen signs that once the wait list has decreased, Wide Horizons may not continue adoption work in Ethiopia.  This week, I read that they have closed the “big kid house” where Ayub lived for three months.  They are now housing all the kids at the guest house, where Hawa stayed.  To me, this is a further sign that they don’t expect to have many kids housed in the future.

For some reason, the closing of the big kid house has made me incredibly sad.  I can’t really even tell you what I’m most sad about.  We fully plan on taking our kids back to Ethiopia one day, and knowing that we won’t be able to take Ayub to the place where we played soccer and drove around in the Little Tykes cars makes me sad.  The fact that some of the nannies have probably lost their jobs makes me sad.  I am sad because I see the end of a program that made our family complete.  I’m sad that others won’t follow in our footsteps and have the same experience that we did.  I’m sad that future parents won’t pass through those green gates and see their little one shuffling to get their Crocs on and come running for a hug.  I’m sad that two governments can’t find a way to make it work, when there are so many children in need and so many families who long to care for them.  (Okay, that last one makes me more MAD than sad, but still…)

Here are some of my memories of the big kid house.

I loved seeing the kids crowd around the door to see who was coming through the green gate.


The first time all four of my kids were together.

The room where I spent my first night in Ethiopia with 18 kids (none of them mine) and learned that play is play in any language.


Bunk beds in the room where Ayub slept.

The kids were always so excited when they got to sit on the ledge.


The clean Crocs lined up and waiting for playtime.



Alphabet Activity with Edible Play Doh

Pinterest is making me do things I wouldn’t have done before.  Yesterday I wanted to continue working on our Letter A activities by using play doh to make letters.  However, one of the challenges of any of these alphabet activities is that I always have a toddler underfoot.  Last time we used Play Doh, I was constantly grabbing her hand and sticking my finger into her slimy mouth to scoop out the last fistful that she’d shoved in.  So yesterday, I made edible Play Doh…just in case.

So, here’s the recipe I used:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 3 tsp Cream of Tartar (can someone please explain what properties this contains, as it is in all Play Doh recipes?)
  • 1 packet of Kool-Aid or Jello (we’ll come back to this)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil (I used Canola, but I think you could use whatever’s handy)

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a medium saucepan.  Mix the oil and water (really?) and add slowly while stirring.  Keep stirring over medium heat until it starts to thicken to the appropriate consistency.  Remove from heat and when cool enough, knead well.

I started with the Kool Aid.  Very kool, indeed.  I was fired up.  The color was beautiful and it smelled delicious (I used tropical punch).

Inspired by my success, I decided to try one with Jello.  Immediately, I had a bad feeling about this one.  It looked like slimy chicken and was the color of human flesh.  It was grape, so I was expecting purple.  Not even close.

This is what it looked like when I took it out.  Notice the slimy texture.

But after a while of kneading, it actually did turn into a pretty nice consistency.  Just an ugly color.  The weird thing is that smelled just like grape Hubba Bubba gum.  It plays tricks on your mind when something looks like this and smells like grape.  I thought I might be having a stroke.

I figured no one would want this one, but leave it to Eleanor to find some creative ways to use brownish-grayish Play Doh.  A bird and a volcano.

And, as for the alphabet…Ayub had minimal patience for that activity before he moved on to other more fun things.  But, breakthrough at dinner…he was able to tell us that A says “aaaa.”  Good enough.

Forever Family

Here’s something interesting to consider:  Lucy has now been with us longer than she’s been with any caregiver in her life.

Birth Family – 2 months

Orphanage – 5 months

Horizon House – 3 months

Our Family – Forever



Today’s Alphabet Activity

One of the reasons I quit my job is so that I could spend more time helping Ayub to catch up.  My grand plan was that after school, while the older kids did their homework, Ayub  and I could do “homework” too.  Since I wanted to start the school year right, we started this week by learning about the letter A.  (I figured this would be good…either his teacher will start with A or at least it is HIS letter, so it makes sense either way.)  I’m trying to keep it fun, so I’ve been using Pinterest and some homeschooling sites to find some fun activities.  Today we made “A for Apple Pie” treats for snack time.

We started with refrigerator biscuits (a staple food that Ayub WILL eat) and Ayub used slices of apples to make the letter A.

Here is Ayub looking guilty because he ate some of the apple slices.  (And for those of you who are regular readers…note the lack of belt.  We are making progress.)Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake.  Yummy. He still can’t tell you the sound that A makes, but at least we all had a nice snack.

Back To School

Ignorance is bliss.  That’s what I’ve decided about dropping Ayub off for school this morning.

Sam and Eleanor have been through this before.  They were both a little apprehensive.  Eleanor doesn’t have any of her friends in her class this year…a situation that hasn’t occurred since Kindergarten.  She knew to be nervous.  Sam is starting middle school today.  Who wouldn’t be a little nervous about that.

But Ayub?  No fear.  Ready to go.  He didn’t even know to be nervous.  That makes me happy.  And sad.  You see, he’s had so many changes in his short life, that it’s status quo for him.  This, to him, is just the next thing.  Friends?  He’ll make them because he always has.  Routine?  He’ll figure it out because he’s had practice.

I look at Ayub marching off toward “big school” and I see something different.  I see a sweet, funny little boy who is TOTALLY unprepared.  He can barely speak the language.  He can’t write his name.  He doesn’t even know his last name most of the time.  He doesn’t understand what school is or what’s going to be expected of him.  He doesn’t know what’s trash and what goes back in the lunch box to bring home.  He doesn’t know how to ask for help if he needs it.  There is just so much that he doesn’t know.

I know, I know…he’ll be fine.  He’ll learn.  He’ll figure it out.  He’ll have a great teacher who will help him catch up.  He’ll make friends.  He’ll do great.

Today, when I dropped him off, he wasn’t ready.  But the good news is that he didn’t know that.

What’s Cooking?

When I quit my job, I realized that there would have to be a few changes to the way we did things around here.  I really want to be a “fun” mom and enjoy time with my kids, but let’s face it, some stuff has to get done around here.  My kids actually expect to be fed.  Yes, in addition to playtime, cuddle time, story time, music time, shopping time and sports practice time, they expect three meals and one to two snacks EVERY DAY!

Disclaimer:  I do not enjoy cooking.  I do enjoy eating (maybe too much…but we’ll save that for another post).  Andrew has always done all the cooking in our family.  I know, I am incredibly lucky that for 14 years, he has done all the grocery shopping and cooked dinner every night.  But now that I’m home all day and he gets home later in the evenings, it only makes sense for me to pick up this responsibility.  So I started looking for ways that would make it easy.  By easy, I mean, I don’t want to spend hours looking for recipes, making grocery lists and figuring out nutrition statistics.  Ideally, it would take 30 minutes or less to prepare dinner and all four of my kids would eat it.  (YES – I am aware that this is a complete fantasy.)  I have found a few things that help, though, and already I am saving time and money, so I thought I’d share.

First I turned to the trusty iPad.  I found several apps, but the one that I started using is Menu Planner.

Menu Planner

It allows you to download recipes from many popular online sites (All Recipes, Food Network, Real Simple, Recipe.com) and assign them to days of the week.  Then you can use the ingredient lists and make a grocery list based on the date range that you’d like to shop for.  The grocery list can get very detailed – you can even enter information about where foods are located in your particular grocery store to make shopping faster.  It took me a while to browse around all the recipe sites and find things to make, but I made two complete weeks of menus and shopped accordingly.  I liked taking my iPad to the store and checking off everything electronically – no need for carrying a list and pen, that the baby will just try to grab from me anyway.  One disappointment was that it didn’t calculate the nutrition information for me, so I had to use a separate app to do that.  Overall, I would give it a thumbs-up, my only hesitation is that I’m not sure it saved me a lot of time in finding recipes, as I was a little overwhelmed by the choices.

Then, as luck would have it, I got a Groupon offer for emeals.

This online service provides a weekly menu and coordinating shopping list.  You can choose from several different meals plans, most of which are family friendly.  The plan is coordinated with your local grocery store, to take advantage of weekly sales.  My first week using this, my grocery bill went from an average of $150 to $98.00.  I really like not having to search for recipes, and since there are seven meals included, I scratched off a few so we could either eat out or eat leftovers.  They make it easy to eliminate meals from the shopping list by numbering the items to correspond to the recipes, so if you’re not going to make meal #3, you just don’t buy any ingredients that have a 3 next to them.  The site says the recipes serve 4-6 people, and so far, that has been accurate.   The kids have eaten most of these recipes.  (Well, at least two kids have enjoyed every meal, which is probably the best we’re going to do).  Ayub and Lucy even ate meat in a casserole without even knowing it!  The downside to this is that we’re back to a paper list (you download a PDF, so you could use it electronically, but wouldn’t have a way to check off items).  And, while I chose the Low Fat plan, I don’t feel like the recipes are really low fat.  They usually just substitute things like fat-free cheese or reduced fat sour cream, but if you’re cooking chicken thighs, that’s not really much help.  They also don’t include nutritional information, so I’m still stuck with figuring that out separately.  Some of the recipes have taken a little longer to prepare than I would like, but I’ve been using nap time to prep and slice so everything is a little easier when the kids are running around in the evening.  There is also usually at least one crock pot recipe each week, so I just assign that to a night I know we’ll be too busy to cook much.  Overall, I would give this a thumbs-up, too.  It costs a little more, but takes ALL the work out of menu planning and grocery shopping, and I think I will end up saving more than my subscription in grocery costs.  I just wish they had an app that would make it more portable.

Both of these are great option for busy parents, and I would say especially for working parents who don’t have a lot of time to plan and shop.

Hair – Bippity Bop Barbershop

When we got a referral for an older boy and a baby girl, I breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn’t have to instantly start braiding hair.  I figured I’d have a few years before my precious girl asked for her hair to be long and smooth or until she was disappointed that it didn’t look like the Cinderella’s.   I thought that we could just use the clippers on a boy and keep it really short.  I never imagined that he would care.  I was wrong.

Yes, Ayub is having issues with his hair.  He has made it clear that he wants it to look like Dad’s.  On our first trip to Ethiopia, he spent a lot of time running his hands over the top of Andrew’s hair.  That should have been my first red flag.  He never paid attention to my hair, even though it was long.  He was already thinking then that he’d like to have Andrew’s hair cut.

Now, he spends time in the bathtub pouring water over his hair and flattening it with his hand until it’s relatively smooth.  But then, when he gets out of the tub and we dry him off, he gets angry that we’ve messed up his pretty hair.  He will touch Andrew’s sideburns and then his own and tell us that he wants them the same.  Ummm….not gonna happen, kid.

So, being the avid children’s book collector that I am, I turn to literature to try to help him be proud of who he is.  I found this book, by the same author as I Love My Hair and ordered it as fast as I could:

The description talked about a young boy, Miles, who had some apprehension about his first trip to the barbershop.  Since the theme of Tarpley’s other book was loving the hair you’ve got, I thought this would be a perfect read for us.

Turns out, a big theme in this book is Miles’ decision about what kind of hair style he would like.  And guess what?  He decides he wants his hair cut JUST LIKE HIS DAD.  (Sorry if I gave away too much and spoiled the suspense.)  That doesn’t help me.  At all.  It is a sweet book, with themes of friendship, pride, and family.  It has beautiful water color illustrations, similar to the previous book.  For the average toddler, it would be a great book to read before a haircut.

But my little boy will never have the option of having dad’s hairstyle.  It’s just another in his long string of losses.