Sunday, September 29, 2013

Happy Fourth Birthday, Bean!

Curly made his cake (yay!) and he chose the Breakfast Club for his special lunch with Mom. He also picked a toy cash register to get with his birthday money. 


Saturday, September 28, 2013

My Weekend In Brief

For the first time in the nine years they have done it, Hubby and I finally got to participate in the UI Homecoming Alumni Marching Band. It's sort of a reunion for band nerds, where we get to go back for a day and pretend we are not all old and overweight with lots of kids. We get to be silly, and meet old friends, and play "Go Vandals" in the Breakfast Club and Starbucks. Perfect. 

Plus, with Grandma N wrangling the Goombas for the weekend, Hubby and I had conversations with multiple uninterrupted sentences in them. A rare occurrence indeed. 


Thursday, September 26, 2013


Look who came to snuggle with Mommy, not because she had to, but because she wanted to!


Snapshots: Karate Fun

We go to Karate twice a week, and I count it as our PE time for school, as well as some fun social time. Hubby usually puts on his old Tae Kwon Do uniform and works out along with the kids, and helps Abi learn the katas and stay oriented in the games.

Monday, September 23, 2013

An 1880s One-Room Schoolhouse

Several homeschool families organized today to meet at an authentic historic schoolhouse 20 miles south of town. The building, available for rent to groups, has electricity but no running water, so we even had the authentic outhouse experience!

We dressed in period costumes, and gathered in our one-room schoolhouse to experience a day of school like scholars might have done in 1880.

The homeschool moms took turns teaching lessons. We wound up with more than 30 kids, ranging from 3 to 15 years old. 

With homemade slates and chalk, we worked sums, listened to a history lesson, learned about edible local plants and read from the McGuffey Reader. 

We had a lesson in art, and made homemade butter by shaking cream in jars until it separated. Then, we got to eat the fresh butter on homemade bread!

At recess, the kids played jumprope, and relay races. Everyone enjoyed picking little sour apples off a bush in the yard, and climbing on an antique wagon. 

Bean loved the chalk. It did not take long before he got covered. 

A real schoolhouse bell called us back in from recess. We all took lunch in baskets or bandannas, and most kids had homemade bread and apples, and such. 

During a school-wide spelling bee, two of the big kids spelled so many words, we finally had to declare a tie!

We finished up the day by learning a country square dance (link goes to a video of us) while one of the students fiddled "Pop, Goes the Weasel." The Littles had their own dance nearby!

We ended the day with homemade root beer and a group picture. What a great day!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

After Karate

There aren't many new places to find in our small town. I thought we had gone to every park in town, in fact. I guess I was wrong.

 After karate today, we found this little park under one of the water towers on the other side of town. Although it's small, it has a lot of nice features.

We spent a few minutes enjoying the view and the sunset, before we headed home to bed.


We're On Week What, Four?

Things are finally slipping into a rhythm here with school. We have more smooth days than rough ones. The kids have good attitudes and work hard to get their lessons done so they can go play. 

I'm slowly beginning to relax. I did not realize that formal teaching was going to give me anxiety attacks and nightmares because of that old job I had at Colton in 2002, but it did. I'm glad I stuck with it, though, because like getting back on a horse after a fall, I'm doing better. 

Plus, third graders are a lot of fun. :)


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

One of Those Days

Yesterday was a humdinger. 

Hubby had a rough day at work. We went on a field trip, leaving the Bean with Daddy for a while after preschool. Apparently, he used up all of his "being good" at Daddy's office, because coming home after our field trip, this is what we found: red tempera paint EVERYWHERE. Bean had used an unguarded opportunity to sneak into the school room and dribble, dabble, pour and spill!! 

After Abi being pouty on the field trip, Curly leaving her jacket, and Soldier regaling us in detail about zombies, this last straw produced hysterical laughter. 

Life just gets so absurd sometimes. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Doctor For Each Eye

At 1:30, we saw Dr. W for the eye that still has glaucoma. 

Then, at 3:00, we saw the ocularist to check Abi's surgery site and prosthetic. Bean got to come along for the trip. 

We loved hanging with Alyssa one last time! She drove us up, and we had a great time. 

I think I must have subconsciously been dreading this trip, because I feel so much better now that it's over! There have been too many times in the past two years where a routine check like this resulted in surgery, it's easy to feel jumpy. This time, though, the good eye was stable, the surgery site looked great and we are not scheduled to go back for another six months. Can I get a Hallelujah!!!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Too Busy Playing With Friends To Be Socialized

I read this blog post, and laughed aloud! It's such a perfect picture of what homeschooling really looks like. We intend every year to get around to "socializing" our kids, but we're so busy doing Karate, going to friends' birthday parties, hanging out with church friends, spending time with the neighbors, playing at the park, running around at orchestra practice and just enjoying each other, that we never actually get around to it!

Watching Little Mister, my least social child, at the birthday party this weekend, I said a prayer of thanks again that he can school at home. Although he enjoys people, he is smart like I was, and just isn't thinking along the same lines as the other kids his age. Putting him in school would not change his nature, as it did not change mine; it just gives lots of semi-supervised opportunities for torment and bullying, which tears apart kids' self-image. Instead, we gather at family events with a wide range of ages and interests. Lots of parents around means that kids aren't usually mean to each other. Mister can find an adult or an older kid who will talk with him about the physics of using the teeter-totter as a catapult, while his little brother runs around yelling like a banshee for the sheer joy of it. 

It's not that Mister is unsocialized; if he gets with a buddy who likes Minecraft or LEGOs or trains or science, he'll have a great time. He just struggles as I did with activities that are highly athletic, and not too cerebral. (Bean, on the other hand, thrives in such a situation!) Still, by the end of the birthday party, he'd found a niche and still had a great time. 

For Curly, my super-social child, it's just a matter of finding people. Just about anyone will do: she makes friends at the drop of a hat. But her closest friend plays Breyer horses with her, and they build fairy houses and both have pet bunnies. 

Bean is surprisingly extroverted too. He loves people, and loves to have a good time. He's certainly always ready for a party. Abi loves to find a group of girls to play and giggle with. Her bestie moved away this year, which made her sad. I hope she finds another good friend soon. Until she does, she has a lot of kids around to play with!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Snapshot: Me Being Silly

This was taken at Alyssa's bridal shower. I plead the fifth. 


Wednesday, September 11, 2013


To say I've been struggling the last few weeks would be an understatement. Starting our homeschool using a curriculum has been stressful. Quitting my job of the last five years has made me sad. Abi has been stressful. Adjusting to teaching an extra kid has been stressful. Not having a speck of "me time" in my schedule has been stressful. Our finances stretching tighter than a rubber band is stressful. 

And we all know how well I handle loads of stress. 

Yes, the chemical imbalance has started kicking in. Sleeplessness, depression, anxiety attacks. I'll admit, with some shame, that I had a bit of a meltdown this morning when a financial snafu, lack of sleep, the promise of a long day, and a scheduled phone call with a school administrator over a clerical error all conspired to hit me in the gut at once, not to mention that three-year-old Bean still rocks the endless "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy" phase. Thankfully, Hubby is more even-keel than I am, and he calmly rode the wave, fixed me green tea, helped get school going and finally took off for work leaving a much calmer me with the kids. Still, it wasn't fun. 

I'm seriously crossing my fingers and praying hard that things settle down soon. I'm not entirely sure what I was thinking, setting my year up this way. 

Wait, I do know what I was thinking. Hearing Curly say, "I LOVE school this year" and listening to a reluctant reader suddenly immerse himself in Peter Pan so thoroughly that he only comes up for breath two pages later... that's what I was thinking. Hearing the tinkling notes of a beginning piano tune as a promise of future concertos, watching a struggling speller get a 100% on a spelling test, explaining the feudal system by playing chess... this is what I was thinking. 

It'll be worth it. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tactile Puzzle

In my kids' Sunday School class, a favorite activity is doing puzzles. You know the kind with a dozen cardboard pieces and a brightly colored picture. 

Naturally, Abi doesn't think much of these puzzles, and today she started acting out during puzzle time. Of course she got scolded, since acting out in Sunday School isn't okay no matter how bored you are, but it got me thinking about how unsuited those puzzles are to her, and how inaccessible. 

This afternoon, down in my craft room, I tried to make a puzzle that contained a picture that would interest her and enough tactile elements that she would have no problems assembling it successfully. 

 Crossing my fingers that next week will have a better puzzle time. :)


Friday, September 6, 2013

Second Annual Post-Adoption Report

Every year, we send a report to Ethiopia about the child they have allowed us to adopt. I love that they care enough to keep track of their children, and the report is a great time to reflect on how far we've come. This year, there is a lot of good news to share, all of it better than this time last year.

It's sent early to be translated and ready to be received by the Ministry of Women's Affairs on our adoption date of October 17. :)

Here's our report from this year (with some information withheld, obviously!) and it's cause for rejoicing for sure.

Date of Annual Report: September 6, 2013

Child’s Original Name: XXXXXXX
Child’s Current Name: “Abi” Elizabeth Joy XXXXX
Place of Birth: Tefki, Ethiopia
Gender:  Female
Date of Birth:  XXXXXXX
Date of Foreign Court Order: October 17, 2011

Date of US Adoption Court Order: XXXXXX

Status of US Citizenship: Full U.S. Citizen as of XXXXXXX

Adoptive Father: Matthew XXXXXX

Adoptive Mother: Erin XXXXXX



To whom it may concern:

Continued Adjustment:
Briefly discuss the strengths and challenges and how they have been met.

As Abi approaches the two-year anniversary of joining our family, she continues to make fantastic progress in her bonding and adjustment. She has learned English rapidly, and now speaks nearly as fluently as a native-born five-year-old. She is almost always cheerful, friendly, healthy and a delight! She has many interests typical of a five-year-old: playing with dolls, pretending to cook with toy food, watching cartoons on a small screen that she can hold close to her eyes and see it, playing with her siblings, coloring pictures and helping Mommy and Daddy. She still has a few days here and there when she is sad and moody, especially if she is tired, but they are much fewer and less severe. We hold her close during these times and comfort her. In the future, if she still struggles with melancholy at times, we may pursue some therapy to help her deal with her grief.

Family Life and Support Systems:
Mention relationships and interactions with all family members, extended family and assimilation into the community.

With us, her parents, she calls us Mommy and Daddy like our other kids do. She gives spontaneous hugs and kisses, and tells us that she loves us, and that she is happy to be in a family. I do her hair in pretty braids, and she absolutely loves that! She gets along with her three siblings well, and says that she loves each of them, especially her younger brother. She has met each set of grandparents many times and they give her the same love and attention as they give the other kids.

She has assimilated very well into our community. Because we have so many adoptive families with blended race, we don’t stand out much, and she has friends who are also adopted from Ethiopia. She has friends at church and enjoyed a week of Vacation Bible School in the summer. She also has enjoyed many trips to the community swimming pool with the family.

Daily Routine / Day Care / Academics:

Abi is in Kindergarten this year. We are homeschooling using a State online charter school which will provide the Braille and other supports she needs as a blind student. She appears to be very bright and is doing excellent work, learning to read and count. Our family is also taking lessons in Amharic together.

Her days have a stable routine that involves choosing her own breakfast, usually uncoolal (eggs), and watching cartoons for a little while with her younger brother. Sesame Street is a show she loves, and it has been helpful in her English learning. Then, we begin school, and we rotate teaching her and her siblings throughout the day with plenty of time for play and exercise as well.

We eat dinner as a family, and do something fun in the evening like visit a park. She is really good about bed time, and sleeps well every night.

Changes in Family Dynamics Since the Child’s Placement:
Community and extended family and social relationships

Her community has remained stable this year with no changes. We attend the same church, live in the same house and have a very similar circle of friends. Within our extended family, Matt’s brother got married, but that is the only change.

Health and Development:
Cover immunizations, name of pediatrician and specialists. Date of last appt. Illnesses, medications, evaluations, dental issues, developmental milestones, emotional and behavioral issues, etc.

Immunizations: XXXXX

Pediatrician: Dr. XXXXXX

Specialists: Dr. XXXXXX

Illnesses: Abi has no other significant medical conditions besides her late-stage glaucoma. She is generally a healthy girl and is rarely ill.

Medications: Abi currently takes several medicated eye drops daily to lower the interoccular pressure in her remaining left eye. This will prolong the the small amount of light perception there and avoid more delay of sight loss. She takes XXXXXX, XXXXXXX, and XXXXXXX.

Evaluations: Abi’s right eye (which has no remaining sight), became chronically painful earlier this year. After consulting with her ophthalmologist, it was determined that it should be removed. Dr. XXXXXX performed an enucleation surgery on April 9th, 2013 and within just a few days, the pain was completely gone. She was initially given a temporary fake eye. On July 11th, 2013, she received a custom fitted and painted prosthetic right eye.

Dental Issues: Abi had several abscessed teeth pulled by the dentist shortly after she arrived in the U.S. as well as several small cavities filled. The development of her teeth is now considered normal by her dentist.

Developmental Milestones: Abi is on track for all of her developmental milestones to date. She chooses her own clothes and gets dressed. She can zip her zipper and put on her own shoes. She helps with chores like setting and clearing the table and feeding the pets. She is also on track academically as well.

Emotional and Behavioral Issues: For the most part, Abi seems happy and well-adjusted. On a rare occasion as mentioned above, she gets sad and moody. She exhibits a few of the symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder, such as lying, asking nonsense questions, ignoring us, or withdrawing into herself for several hours, but as I mentioned above, these episodes continue to decrease in severity and frequency.

Please address dates for Adoption and US Citizenship or plan for completing the same.

Ethiopian Adoption date: XXXXX
US Adoption date: XXXXXX
US Citizenship Date: XXXXXX

Why you feel this placement continues to be in the best interest of the child and the family.

Abi is thriving in our family. She has access to the best medical care for her eye condition, and although her sight is likely to ultimately deteriorate, we have access to excellent educational resources that will allow her to grow up into a contributing member of society. She has learned to love us and we love her deeply. We are happy to embrace her beautiful culture into our family by doing coffee ceremonies, learning Amharic and observing some of the Orthodox feast days. We hope that she will be able to retain some of her cultural identity, even though she is growing up in America.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Life, Ongoing

Each day follows the next with startling regularity. Sometimes, I forget to notice. The tiny details that make up our days eventually make a whole life, as noiselessly as snow melts.

This weekend, a welcome three-day-weekend consisted of just those normal things that make up our lives. The kids alternated between melting my heart with their cuteness, and making me tear my hair out with their impishness. Hubby and I kissed, and argued, and kissed again. We abandoned our plan to go to the movie theater ($44) in favor of renting a movie ($2.50). The kids did not care. We made popcorn and bought candy bars at the mini-mart down the street.

Sometimes I love my house; sometimes I feel trapped in it as if it's my prison. Sometimes I dread tomorrow and teaching school. Sometimes I think of a fun lesson we can do, and I can hardly wait. I used my white cane around town, a small victory. We had leftovers for every meal.

Life feels so hum-drum, and yet, so miraculous at the same time. Abi is doing wonderfully well. Bean has a habit right know of coming up to me and kissing my knee as I sit on the couch. All of the kids are healthy and happy. Curly plays with horses and builds fairy houses with her friend from across the alley. Little Mister builds marble tracks and dreams of getting a "real" model train. So little, so innocent, so unaware of the world and its heartache, even the children of mine who have been deeply hurt. They make even a walk downtown a thing of wonder.

Last night, Hubby and I got to go to a wine tasting at a friend's house. We ate hors d'oeuvres and talked about our lives, our hopes and dreams and fears and about trusting God. We connected. I feel blessed.

As these days pass by, I think of a verse in Ecclesiastes, one of my favorites: "They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart." (Eccl 5:20, NIV)