Tuesday, December 21, 2010


We have a Christmas tradition that I think is a good idea though it admittedly can make me crabby when all is said and done. After Halloween, the kids each have to earn money that is used solely for sibling Christmas presents. That sounds great until one realizes 2 things: quite a few worthwhile jobs need to be created and once the money is earned, quite a few things need to be purchased.

Today was the day. We went to the mall. We divided and conquered. We drank coffee and divided and conquered some more. The kids did a terrific job. They bought thoughtful presents. They are excited about the gifts they are giving. There's a wahoo in that, but the Wahoo Title comes from a time that Emma was walking with Lizzie in the mall.

A woman stopped Emma and asked who did Lizzie's hair. If she had stopped me, I would be instantly sweating, instantly apologizing for being white, instantly agreeing that my daughter's entire life's worth of self esteem was riding on the look of her hair and of course I had fallen short.

Oh, but Merry Christmas to me. The woman, a black social worker, said, "Is your mom biracial? She did a really good job." This Germanic/Danish/Other Things White Mom is celebrating a cross cultural victory.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Children's Books to Avoid

I think I have just read the official winner of the Worst Book in the World. I checked it out from the library because of the cute wind up soldier on the front. I will return it tomorrow because of everything that comes after that.

Summary of "I'm Number One": Soldier makes everyone else wind him up. Soldier makes fun of all the other toys' things so that they give them to him (a hat, a scarf, a backpack). Soldier mocks all the other toys. Other toys start repeating and changing the mean things Soldier said: "We're the no so bad, the no so worst, and the so no good," said Maddy, laughing. Then the soldier laughs, gives back the things he manipulated away from the other toys and announces that he is now "one of the gang."

I think Maddy the Goose, Sally the Doll and Sid the Pig need some counseling. I'm not a big believer in self esteem but honestly. The soldier needs a big ole spanking but of course that isn't in the book.

In contrast, is one of my favorite series: Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. In this book, kids are selfish, slow, sassy, forgetful, etc. In the chapter I'm reading to Levi, Dick Thompson is shamefully selfish. His mother watches him hit another child with a bat and hoard peppermint sticks. His mother calls his father and has the following conversation:

Mrs. Thompson said, "Herbert, this cannot wait another minute," and she told him about the candy and the baseball bat.

Mr. Thompson said, "Why not give him a good hard spanking? Tell him that you are going to give him something that he can keep all to himself."

Mrs. Thompson began to cry, partly because she felt so humiliated over Dick's selfishness and partly because she knew that crying was one way to get action out of Dick's father.

Dick's father said, "Now, now, dear, tears won't help. Let me see--shall I hop into a taxi and come home and thrash Dick?"

He doesn't, but the fact that he offers is so completely refreshing. Hooray, hooray for books written in the 1950s.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Recent pictures 2

Emma is returning to Ethiopia in February. She sent out this picture with her support letter.

Sadie has teeth and can eat an entire gingerbread man.

Emma was Candy Giver Outer for part of Halloween.

Zeke was either a pirate or a patriot. After an hour, it didn't matter. He had to put his coat on.

Emma and Grace followed the Button Rules for Costumes: you can be whatever you want (with, you know, the normal sorts of boundaries) as long as you can find whatever you need in our house. Hence, Liz the Princess who also needed a winter coat very early on.

I do have other children who don't seem to ever get fairly represented in pictures. Sorry Eli, Grace and Levi. When it's not almost midnight, I'll look through iphoto a little longer.

Christmas Presents

I've been trying to stay ahead of and out of the Christmas present hysteria. To that end, Joel and I went out on a casual shopping date to Target. We picked out two toys. We put them in our cart. We picked out stocking stuffers. We put them in our cart. We got to the check out. "Are these gloves yours?" I ask Joel. "No, I don't know where those came from." So, we unload the cart, give the cashier the gloves, pay for what is pretty much the last of our shopping and go home.

We unload the bags. There are no toys. I search the bags. I scan the receipt. I read the receipt line by line. There are no toys.

When did we exchange carts with someone who wanted to buy large black gloves?

*Sigh* I'll try again tomorrow. Maybe our cart will just be sitting there waiting for me to come back.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010


I love watching slides/video set to music. Now, after nearly 8 months, I am just about done with pictures from Ethiopia set, yes, to music.

Goal: totally drain my itty bitty reservoir of artistic talent.

Pictures coming soon.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Book I Actually Finished

A good friend of mine sent me a book called Baby, We Were Meant For Each Other, by Scott Simon. Simon is the host for NPR's "Weekend Edition." He wrote the book to explain his and his wife's journey to adopt two girls from China.

It is fitting that I finished the book today for on Wednesday, my birthday, we will go to the Washington County Court House to
formally adopt Lizzie and Sadie.

On page 173 (of 178) was this quote: "We wanted a child. We heard you needed parents. We wanted a miracle in our lives. Darlings, it was you."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

That's IT!!!

I was, yes, in Walmart. Why? Now I don't know. Oh wait. I do. I had a gift card. I bought diapers and hamburger. I was carrying Sadie; Grace was with me.

At the checkout, I asked Grace to hold Sadie. Sadie turned around, reached for me and whined.

"Ohhhhhh," cooed the Walmart checkout woman. "She wants Grandma."

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I have been casting about, trying to think of a new post. I guess what it comes down to is that while things get funny, things also get....settled. That is good news.

Lizzie is still falling off footstools in the bathroom as she tries to get toothpaste at the EXACT same time Zeke does. She is also spinning out of her crib and hitting the wall as she tries to show me, "Bizzie do it!!" She'll be the one in our Christmas card picture with a helmet.

Sadie can bark. Drool. Eat. Poop. She's made quite the impression on Zeke as he now asks, "Did she make those little ball things come out?" referring to the diaper gel balls that explode out of her pajamas a couple mornings a week.

We cleaned up the yard just before 80% of the leaves fell.

I'm going to try to make my own pita bread tomorrow.

Eli has an American History Project due on Monday. The history of New Jersey. Of all the places. My synopsis of New Jersey's history is that everything interesting happened nearby or while passing through. Apparently even then, no one really wanted to put down stakes or interesting patriots (I've googled) in New Jersey. Thank goodness some of them signed the Declaration of Independence. That gave Eli's Trifold Project Board its necessary content. Oh, and George Washington graciously had a couple battles there. We would have had to talk about the history of gambling otherwise.

I love fall.

I'm running a 10k on Saturday. That's more miles in one morning than I have run in the last 2 months.

Thank you so much for caring about what happens in our family.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

All At The Same Time

This is a story about deer, diapers and baths.

Joel and the 4 older kids went to a homeschool conference on Saturday morning. Joel was giving a presentation; the kids were visual aids.

I stayed home with, you guessed it, the toddlers and the baby.

I got Sadie up. Her diaper had BLOWN OUT. This means the little gel balls in the diaper had exploded out of the top, had spread all over her onesie and onto her stomach. One swipe with a wipe just moved the gel balls around; it accomplished nothing in the way of actually cleaning.

So, suddenly breakfast time became bath time. Just before the bath, Zeke asked if he could go outside on the front porch and blow the Whistle That Used to be Mine When I Was A Soccer Coach. I was coaching soccer back in the day when people said it was easier to wait for adopted children to come home if one kept "busy." It didn't work for me, but I got a pretty loud whistle out of the whole deal.

I said yes, Zeke could go out on the porch and blow the whistle. That moment of permission giving meant that in nanoseconds, Lizzie would come careening over from wherever she had been to say: "BIZZIE OUTSIDE WHISTLE ZEKE GO??????!!!!!!!!"

Yes, Liz. You can go out too.
Mom? Bizzie potty.
Ok, you go potty first, then outside.

I kept Sadie lying still in the urine soaked gel balls by giving her a bottle. However, when Lizzie was done going to the bathroom, she needed me. "Stay there," I commanded my 1 year old.

I helped Lizzie, came back to the livingroom and found U.G.B. (urine gel balls) in a line where Sadie had rolled over and tried to crawl to find me in the bathroom.

Sent Liz out with whistling Zeke. Picked up Sadie, plopped her in the bathtub.

10 minutes later, I hear a strange, muffled sound. It's crying. It's hysterical crying. It's crying and Mommy all put together from someplace I can't find.

It's Lizzie and Zeke and the whistle. And.....the 8 point buck who has come to play with the toddlers. The toddlers have smashed themselves up against the back door. Zeke sort of likes the deer. Lizzie hates him. I finally arrive on the scene, naked baby wrapped in a towel, tear soaked Lizzie who looks like she's just seen a bomb go off and Zeke who says, "The deer came to me when I whistled."

A New Question

I was at the store yesterday with the toddlers and Sadie. A woman turned and smiled at us. I was expecting the standard:
1. Are all these yours?
2. Do you have a daycare?
3. My, you must have your hands full.

Instead, I got, in reference to Lizzie and Zeke:
"Are they twins?"

Ummmm. Well. There's a thought provoker.

"They are the same age," I answered. And then I stared hard at them. Am I missing something? Have we spent so much time together that we are ALL starting to look the same?

I'm including a picture. Zeke's on the right, just in case you can't tell them apart.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hanging Clothes/Mrs. Jean Belz #3

Mrs. Belz rarely told me what to do. She made "suggestions," usually only one time. I learned to listen for them: they were few, far between and valuable.

One beautiful summer day she remarked, "This is a perfect day to hang clothes on the line."

"Done," I thought. I pulled the still damp clothes out of the dryer mid-cycle and took them to the clothesline. I hung them carefully over the line, felt accomplished and went back inside.

Mrs. Belz came over. She was suppressing a smile. "Sometimes it's easier if you use clothespins." She put an ice cream bucket of clothespins on the kitchen floor.

I left that first load out on the line. They had been nearly dry anyway when I draped them; it seemed silly to interrupt the whole natural drying process now. But for the next week, I watched the clothesline. There was an art to hanging clothes. Shirts, pants, towels, all were hung with an obvious plan inmind that went beyond draping.

After watching, I began my quest to Hang Clothes. For awhile, I found very little satisfaction in the whole thing beyond the importance of having followed Mrs. Belz's suggestion. Then I noticed that I was beginning to enjoy the process. When life got busier or came apart completely, there were my dish towels, flapping in silent testament to the fact that there was someone who knew and could keep order.

Two years after my hanging clothes started, Mrs. Belz called me. "That's a very attractive clothesline you've got out there."

I called my friend. "SHE LIKES MY CLOTHESLINE!!!"
My friend didn't miss a beat. "Marty, you've arrived."

The day after her funeral, I hung three loads of wash outside with Mrs. Jean Belz clothespins. It then rained for 2 days straight so I had to stick them in the dryer after all. But it was worth it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Weird Week

1. The toddlers went to preschool.

2. Sadie will turn 1.

3. Eli will start classes at a co-op.

4. Emma got her driver's license.

September 7-September 14

For You, O Lord, have made me glad by Your work; at the works of Your hands I sing for joy.
Psalm 92:4

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mrs. Jean Belz Story 2

Mrs. Jean Belz helped to plant 5? 12? evergreen trees when she was 84? 85? years old. I was at her house on the tree planting afternoon. She asked me to help her into bed saying she didn't feel "quite right." While this was much more common in the last 5 years, it was not at all a common occurrence then. I helped her to her room, then she asked me to call her daughter in law, MaryAnna. I called, but Mary Anna was off campus. She would be back in 1/2 an hour. I sat on the other bed, stared at Mrs. Belz and thought about how bad I am at handling medical situations. She asked me again when Mary Anna would be back. That question filtered through some medically alert section of my brain and became, "Can you call 911?"

I went in another room in case her well known frugality extended to ambulance calls as well. Perhaps I also didn't want her to know that I didn't know what I was doing, that MaryAnna coming home in 28 minutes seemed like forever. The call felt like it was more for me than for her at this point.

The dispatcher asked me what the problem was and then asked, "How old is she?"
"She's in her 80's," I said.
"Ohhhhhhh. Well, we'll be there as soon as we can."
Now another section of my brain whipped into high gear translation. It became clear to me that this dispatcher had no idea that we were talking about a dorm parent, a Latin teacher, the Manners Teacher for Wayward Teens and International Students, the founder of a school and the calmer of not just students but staff as well. Like me.

"You have to come now," I told him. "I need this woman here. It doesn't matter how old she is. She is really, really important."

"Of course," he says, we'll be there as soon as we can."
"How soon?"
"We can be there in 15 minutes."

I hung up. I looked at my watch. I looked at Mrs. Belz. I called 911 again. It had been 3 1/2 minutes.

"I just called."
"We know."
"You need to come."
"We are."
"Yes, but you're not fast enough."
"We're coming as fast as we can."
"I know. Come faster."
"Mam......" (cue slightly patronizing tone.....)

The ambulance came. I felt sheepish/apologetic/awkward and entirely relieved. What if she had been just tired? Maybe it had been no big deal. Now her insurance would probably skyrocket all because I called an ambulance for her fatigue and my panicky incompetence.

She'd had a heart attack.
She lived for another 7 years.
She died after having a massive stroke.
As many as 500 people gathered yesterday for her funeral.

Blessed are those whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. Ps. 84:5

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Tonight I happened to look in the mirror. I only looked because I was giving the toddlers a bath and I stood up to get the shampoo. Bam. There I was looking back at me. My firework hair, my drooled on/cried on/spilled on shirt, told the story of today in more than vivid detail.

I stayed up too late last night. If you got an email from me after midnight, this day might have been your fault. We did an entire day of school. Still not used to it. I took the toddlers and baby on 2 separate trips. Still not used to that either. The police came to my house. Told me someone from our address had called 911, 911 had called back, someone had picked up the phone, there was static and then the phone went dead. I didn't tell the police officers this, but my boys had been playing poker. With chips. 2 of my children were in cribs asleep. One of my children was downstairs with me asking me questions every other minute. One of my children was in the shower. And if Emma was the one to make the call and the hang up then we're in more trouble than I know.

Maybe I called them. Maybe I somehow knew that after they left I would go to a soccer game with 3 kids 3 and under. And they would be hungry. And it would get cold. And it would rain. And then it would lightening. And then Zeke would put his hands over his ears and start screaming so loudly that he couldn't hear me tell him to get in the car.

Maybe I knew that while I gave Sadie a bottle tonight she would crank her head around and practically knock my lower jaw out of joint.

Maybe tomorrow I will call 911 just to see if they have Emergency Helpers, although the plan is to go to the Minnesota State Fair. I'm sure livestock, sewing, yodeling and walleye on a stick will go a long way in restoring my youthful vigor. Something needs to happen. If the Fair doesn't work, I think I demonstrate "emergency" quite persuasively. Maybe 911 needs a poster child. I saw her in the mirror just today.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Recent pictures

Hey everyone. Look over your shoulder. Here, no, Zeke! Sadie? Levi? Hey--Eli? Ok. Nevermind.

A Question

Levi: "Mom, is it ok if I wore these shorts yesterweek?"

Mrs. Jean Belz 1919-2010

Joel and I spent 7 years working at a boarding school in Iowa. And that's a blog all of its own. Tonight, though, and maybe more nights after this, will be about the woman who founded the school in the 1950's and who, at the age of 80, was still teaching and dorm parenting when I arrived on the scene in 1998.

Mrs. Belz had an interesting way about her. I wasn't scared of her, but I did feel I needed to act a certain way. I needed to be proper. I needed to be careful. I needed to be alert. All those things in a good way.

One of my first memories of spending time with Mrs. Belz was at her 80th birthday party. Eli was either a newborn or at home or both. That made going to a non-family member's birthday party possible since he was a horrible child from 9 months to oh, 6 years. Emma was little--4 or 5 years old. Grace was 3. Grace was too small to hold birthday cake on her lap, so I scooted her up to the table that held all 30 to 40 pieces of cake, made a little spot for her and gave her a piece. She and Emma were holding up well--no spills, no cries, no offenses that made people wonder if my children had been raised by wolves.

Until Grace finished her piece and reached for another. I pulled her hand back, pushed the cake back, explained that she had finished her piece and those were for other people. She became a sobbing mass of distress. Alert to the unraveling of my proper, careful image, I realized: she thought every one of those pieces was for her; and she was just getting started.

Now it was time to 1. preserve my dignity and 2. get control of my daughter. I don't know if either one worked. It didn't matter because Mrs. Belz came to the rescue:

"Well. I certainly understand her disappointment. I think she was really looking forward to my birthday party."

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

School Starting

We did our first whole day of school yesterday, which meant that by 10:30 am I was completely run over. The "how do I do this? what does this mean? which notebook do I use? should I be done or do more? is this right?" storm just about did me in. So yesterday afternoon, as I wrote out a menu plan for the week, I decided to assign my children times when they could ask me questions. In doing this, I felt as if I was going against everything big homeschooling families cherish: "oh, the time with my children.....they can ask all the questions they want to and I'm just never too busy to answer them." I will absolutely not make it through the first half of September, or in the case of yesterday, the first half of the day.

So, the toddlers get me from 7:30 to 7:50. Eli gets the next 30 minutes followed by breakfast. It's Levi's turn from 8:45 to 9:15, Sadie's turn from 9:15-9:30 and the toddlers again until 10. The older girls get their turn until noon. Day One? My eyebrows are still above my eye sockets. Everyone got school done earlier than usual. I could remember who was learning what.

So far, Day Two definitely exceeded Day One. Only 178 more days to go.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Discussion with Levi

After watching the 3 minute trailer to the documentary "Don't Waste Your Life Sentence: Voices from the Louisiana State Penitentiary," we decided to buy the 37 minute video after church today. The video documents our pastor, John Piper, giving a sermon to inmates. We were talking this afternoon about when to watch it since our whole family wants to see it.

Levi asked what the Louisiana State Penitentiary was for. Images of unspeakably horrific crimes went through my mind, but I decided instead to gear my explanation for an 8 year old. "Well," I slowly began. "If you stole someone's car, you would go to jail in Stillwater. But if you RAN OVER someone in the car you stole, you would go to the Louisiana State Penitentiary. It's a prison for some of the worst people in the United States."

"oh......" said Levi, slowly and carefully, already large eyes somehow bigger. "What did John Piper do?"

Monday, August 16, 2010


1. I helped Emma get the baseboard off her wall. Then I made coffee. I told Emma I would buy her a crowbar and an espresso machine for when she grows up. Both are profoundly satisfying.

2. I am not the soccer coach of Levi's team this year. That is very, very good news.

3. The thought struck me yesterday as I was in the midst of.... something: "I think I'm getting used to this." (this meaning 2 toddlers, a baby, 7 children, etc.) Also very good news.

4. I needed Elmo or Thomas or even Dinosaur Train to babysit the other day. Turned on the tv. There was Kelly Ripa. There were Kelly Ripa's arms. Her arms give rise to many spontaneous thoughts: how long does that take? would I want to look like that? and honestly, does she ever think about wearing sleeves? I tried to watch her go on about whatever the day's news was, but then I gave up. All I could see? Arms. And I didn't want them babysitting.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Who Would Have Thought...

On our drive to Chicago, I expected that my husband and John Piper sermons would be my main form of entertainment. Was I ever wrong.

Turns out Wisconsin has Threatening Pigs. We'll have to save any sightings for our next trip.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Up North

We just got home from a trip to Duluth. I love Duluth.

We spent one night at the Sheraton, then two nights at the Inn--free breakfast in the morning, free smores at night. Joel went to a conference. The kids swam, wave boarded, walked around, ate ice cream, played fiddle at night for the people at our hotel, went
running along the lake and watched the "Tall Ships" come in and out of the harbor.

Lizzie and Zeke had their first Lake Superior experience. They threw rocks, climbed on rocks and fell off rocks. Sadie sucked on rocks.

I made the kids take a bike ride on a "double surrey."
And all this time, we were within walking distance of a Caribou.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My husband and I drove to Chicago. We are celebrating great friends who are willing to take some of our children for the weekend and wonderful grandparents who are willing to take the rest. Oh, and we are celebrating 20 years of marriage.

On the way to Chicago, I found a few things particularly fascinating:

  1. I can have a complete thought.
  2. Joel and I can have a complete conversation.
  3. We need to order only a small pizza for supper.
  4. The Wall Street Journal has a sense of humor even if they don’t know it. Here’s the quote I read today about France and their new law against wearing burqas:

“ It forbids concealing the face in public--with exceptions for motorcycle riders, surgeons, individuals wearing carnival or Santa Claus costumes, riot police, metal welders and others.” WSJ; July 14, 2010

For our 25th anniversary I am going to France dressed either as a metal welder or Santa Claus. Not sure just yet.

Enough Incompetence to Go Around

The International Adoption Clinic gave each of the girls a TB mantle. 2 days later I was supposed to go to my clinic, have someone look at the spot, measure it and fax it back. The nurse I got, at 8:30 am, looked all of about 13 years old. She took all of 7 seconds to inaccurately measure the bumps on the girls’ arms.

“They both have TB,” she announced authoritatively. “Are your other kids coughing yet?”

“No. And I need to see the doctor right now.”

“Really?” she wonders. “Are you on the schedule?”

“No, I’m not on the schedule. I need him to know what is going on.”

“Well..... I’ll see what I can do.”

I took iPhone pictures of the girls’ arms. I emailed them to my friend Beth. I called her no fewer than 3 times. I marched everyone upstairs and told the receptionist my story. I saw the doctor. He remeasured. Lizzie’s measurement is half of what the 13 year old nurse measured. Sadie’s is a bit higher but not by much. He amended the form and faxed it in.

I called Beth to tell her about getting a doctor . “You did the right thing,” she says, not knowing I’d crafted a Voodoo Doll Nurse that I planned to cough on.


Ethiopian daughters who were formerly Ethiopian orphans need to be taken to the doctor. Daughters who have smelly ear drainage need to be taken to an ear doctor. A daughter who, according to the ear doctor, “might have latent TB in her ear,” needs to be taken to the International Adoption Clinic.

We have just the place at the University of Minnesota. I found myself finally in very capable hands, particularly when I met Beth, an RN and my new best friend. Trent, the travel agent from Velocity Tours who made the trip to Ethiopia possible, has been replaced. Beth makes being home from Ethiopia with two daughters possible. She told me, as I tried to relate my long story of woe from one failed doctor visit after the other, that she would “be there for me all afternoon.” I burst into tears.

I made my clinic appointment. The appointment person was not Beth. It was Someone Who Needed to Follow The Rules Rather Than Think. Our conversation went like this:

Me: I need to make an appointment for two girls.

Her: We don’t make appointments back to back.

Why not?

Because one appointment takes a long time.

Ok. I’ll start with the sickest one. Her name is Elizabeth.

How old is she?

I think around 3.

What language does she speak?

Ummmmmm. Nothing really.

Well, the doctors want us to have a translator there.

That’s great, but I don’t know what they would translate.

(slight detection of exasperation on her end...) What language did she speak in her country?

They spoke Amharic at the orphanage but she didn’t.

I need a language, mam.

Ok, Amharic.

Where is your daughter from?


How do you spell Ethiopia?

At this point, I couldn’t spell it. Gone was my confidence. Gone was my “I’m finally in good hands” feeling. I finished this most painful conversation and called my new friend Beth. Again.

Hi Beth, It’s Marty... I made an appointment.

Oh good!

Well, I have a couple things that went wrong. First, they won’t let me schedule both girls.

Call them. Tell them Beth says she wants them both here.

Thank you. Also, the girl asked me how to spell Ethiopia.

Oh..... ok. I’ll deal with that. Anything else?

Yes, one more thing. They insisted that I have a translator.

OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!! Ok. Yes. I just...yes, I just cancelled the translator. Anything else?

No. That’s it. Thank you.

It was a long visit. It was a thorough visit. It was a good visit. They knew the girls’ history before I got there. They knew what to look for and what to tell me to do and what to do to undo what hasn’t been done or done incorrectly. Beth and Dr. Kang. Great people. Phone lady? Didn’t have to meet her. That’s also good.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's Coming

I have two to three blogs just waiting to come to life. The problem is I have seven children who seem to come to life just as I'm settling in to write.

Thanks for checking in.

Coming soon:

Incompetence; more incompetence, and one great nurse.

Intriguing Wisconsin signs, pictures included.

Coming now:

Lizzie's really cute face.
Sadie's really cute hand.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Celebrating America

I dressed the toddlers and the baby in red, white and blue. We ate hamburgers and hotdogs. We watched the fireworks. But the best part of this week was watching something I had never seen before: people becoming American citizens.

A good friend of Joel and mine from high school married a woman from Russia. He posted on Facebook that she was going to take the oath of American Citizenship, and he invited anyone who was interested to come.

Sounded like the perfect social studies field trip to me.

I loaded everyone who wasn't throwing up (left one at home) into the truck. We stopped at Brueggers just in case this turned out to be like law school graduation: really, really long. We used the bathroom, got a drink of water, had a bottle ready. Good to go for.....probably an hour.

There were 90 countries represented. All the countries were read while the people from each country stood up. We sang the Star Spangled Banner. We said the Pledge of Allegiance. The new citizens repeated the oath of citizenship. The judge welcomed and congratulated them on their long journeys. I kept thinking, "And NOW they will read (and butcher) the names of each of the 770 people." But they didn't.

Next, there was a slide show set to the song, "Proud to be an American." "Oh great," I thought. "Now we'll see slide after slide of white children on merry go rounds." But we didn't. Instead, there were pictures of very few white people. "Proud to be an American" went with a slide of a man wearing a turban. It went with a slide of a little, tiny, very old Asian woman who was crying and waving her American flag. "I won't forget the men who died" went with slides of white caskets being rolled out of airplanes flanked by military personnel.

Our friend's mom stood in front of me. She is single. She was married to an American citizen. He went to Vietnam and never came home.

The whole ceremony lasted for 34 minutes. The toddlers weren't to the end of themselves. I wasn't even close to the end of myself. Our friend's wife finally has her citizenship and, after 11 years, has her last name spelled correctly.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Random Updates

At the doctor's office, I was asked if Lizzie had ever had tubes in her ears.
I informed the nurse that as Lizzie's village did not have roads, Lizzie's home did not have toys and Lizzie's family did not have a mother, I was fairly certain that no, she did not ever have tubes in her ears.

I was asked, "Are these your real children?"

Joel managed to collect 3 SETS of stool samples. And now I take them to the lab in a labeled paper bag and I drop them off. No discussion.

Perforated eardrums do not hurt when they become infected. Good news. Perforated eardrums smell really bad when they are infected. Bad news. Very bad news. Especially for the sibling who has to sit by it in the car.

Minnesota Orchestra:
Plays an awesome free concert the Monday night before July 4th.

Easy recipe that I liked:
Pasta-feta cheese-tomato-garlic-olive oil-thawed chopped spinach-summer sausage

Great quote from John Piper:
"Hold fast to the Word of life or you will be mushy, hazy and irrelevant."

Fiddle Camp Year Two

I am just now able to raise my head out of the World That Was Fiddle Camp. Someone asked me if it was the sort of camp where I dropped off my kids for the day. The answer to that would be no, because we couldn't afford that kind of camp. This is the kind of camp where I played a large enough role to cut the camp rate to the level of being affordable. I was the Director. And the Cook. I was Everything That Didn't Have to Do With Music.

I had incredible people helping me cook. Without them, 80 people would not have eaten after the first day's lunch. With them, 80 people had 4 lunches and 8 snacks. Apiece. With them, the kitchen was clean after the 80 lunches and 160 snacks. With them, the leftovers were attractively arranged on the last day so that something close to an entirely new meal arose out of the week's previous meals.

The night before the last day, I had a dream about sleeping. My feet were hot, swollen and explosive feeling. I learned to run the industrial dishwasher. I learned about proportions: 80 people do not need 6 watermelons, only 3. I shopped at Sam's Club for the first time. During a tornado warning. I learned what it feels like to be covered in a thin film of Crystal Lite Cherry Pomegranate powder when my great friend and loyal kitchen helper decided to "agitate the juice" with a power sprayer before I'd finished emptying the container.

The best part though, was being around extraordinary musical talent. The instructors were April Verch, David Keenan and Brian Wicklund with his band Ten Penny Nail (see video below). If you have time, I hope you enjoy:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

An EKG in My Kitchen

We switched health insurance companies in order to save some money. We each had to get a physical so that the health insurance company won't ever have to spend money on us after we give them a lot of our money.

But I did get a "free" EKG. I sat on a kitchen chair in a running tank top with super sticky things all over me. I watched my heart beat being recorded on a long strip of paper. Every now and then I would try to get my heart to do a different little thing. It just kept going which is actually pretty amazing.

I was also asked a lot of questions about my physical and mental health. And this is where things get sort of interesting after having gone through an adoption and brought two children home. Questions like:

"Is there anything that keeps you from completing your daily tasks?"
All the time.
"Have you ever experienced heart murmurs or chest pain?"
My entire trip to Ethiopia.
"Do you ever think about suicide?"
Hm. Not really. I just think how nice "lying in repose" sounds.

We're still waiting to see if we "passed." In the meantime, I'm trying to conquer parasites, an ear infection and my daily tasks.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Joel and I were getting ready for bed. "Hey," I said suddenly. "We have more kids than the Brady Bunch did."

"Wow," said Joel, and we both developed one more dark circle under each eye.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What I Learn When..

What I learned from People Magazine when I got my hair cut: Sandra Bullock adopted a black baby boy. Go Sandra.

What I learned from National Public Radio: Sumo wrestlers are having a PR Nightmare. Apparently, they have been betting on baseball with the Japanese mafia. And drinking. And womanizing. The end of the interview went like this:

Announcer: "Now, to give you one perspective, many Americans see Sumo wrestlers as very large men wearing....ah... diapers."

Man from "All Things Sumo:" This is the Japanese pastime. They take their wrestlers very seriously.

This little interview just totally made my day. I had given no thought to sumo wrestlers for quite some time. Actually, the last time I thought of them was on Halloween when a boy dressed as a sumo got stuck in the door to Kwik Trip. And now, on a peaceful drive home from Target, I got to be a part of a Sumo Scandal. My world was broadened. And I did think that it's probably easier to raise 7 children than it is to be a sumo.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

An Honest Friend

Sometimes people will say to us, "You're such good people. You must have a really special family." Invariably, these comments make me think of the most recent time I lost my temper, found moldy food in the refrigerator or served my children hotdogs and jello.

Sometimes, when I share news that I find hard (my daughter has parasites) people will say: "Oh, it's no big deal." "You can handle it." "I'm sure you'll get it all taken care of soon." And immediately I think, "Oh, it IS a big deal. I don't want to handle it. In order to even know if I have it taken care of I have to take 3 more stool samples. And just ask the crabby lab lady at the doctor...I do not have what it takes to execute that successfully."

But yesterday, I left a message with a friend. She's adopted two children from Ethiopia as well. It was a two word message: giardea and whip worm.

She called back 10 seconds later. Her response: "What the hell is whip worm?"

Somehow, this made me feel better. It was the acknowledgment that this isn't a Gap commercial. This isn't Fresh Flowers and Meadows. This is Orphans. And orphans are... messy. They are also good for the soul, good for the family and great for keeping pride in check.

Small Talk

I find it easy, for the most part, to make small talk, especially if I am in a situation where it is important for me to appear polite.

I have found 3 situations in which it is hard for me to make small talk: annual exams at the doctor; check ups at the dentist, and today, a new place: the pharmacist. Specifically, the pharmacist to pick up Albenza, "an anthelmintic used to treat infections caused by tapeworms."

Usually Sue, the checker-outer at the pharmacy, is the only person I see. Today, there was a "gathering" at the pharmacy counter: two pharmacists and Sue. All curious eyes seemed to want to ask the same question: are you Lizzie and are you contagious? They made a point of telling me, not the side effects but the fact that "we didn't have this medicine in stock." Suddenly, I didn't feel the need to be polite so much as the need to appear... clean. competent. not Lizzie. But instead of small talk, out came what is commonly known as Too Much Information. "We've had her home for three months, but the first stool samples leaked." "Oh, she's probably had these parasites all her life but she's just used to them."

The good news is the prescription was only $8.53. In an effort to make everyone feel more comfortable about this very personal transaction, I said, "Wow. I thought it would be closer to a million dollars. Maybe they feel sorry for people who need parasite medication."

A weak "heh-heh" was all that I got from the curious audience which now included at least 2 other customers who were probably picking up medication for tennis elbow and golf knee.

The other good news: I got a $10 giftcard with my new prescription. So actually I got paid to have parasites.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Snacks of the Tired

I dragged us to the library. Again. This time, the only thing threatening to accost me was the No Handicapped Door Button Press Thing. I had Sadie, who weighs 16 pounds in my arms and 45 pounds in her car seat, dangling from my left forearm. I had 17 books in a Huggies diaper box that I was carrying in both hands. I got the door open, wedged myself and the car seat in it and made the mistake of saying, "Lizzie? Honey, can you hold the door open?"

"Yes, can you hold it open?"
And with this final moment of complete incomprehension, she tried to duck under the suspended car seat and between my leg and the door. It was one of those moments that creates an out of body experience where one says, "And now I wonder what I will look like when I lose my mind."

We made it in and made it out and made it home and made it into bed. I sat at my table. I drank a Peach Citrus Fresca. I ate half of a glazed donut. I made and drank a caramel latte. It was the weirdest snack ever and it was perfect.

Now, I am looking forward to having wine and cheese with my husband. As I reflect on this day, I am grateful for the friend who sent me this verse:

"Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them." -Psalm 119:140

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lizzie's Help

Levi and I were cleaning out the hamster cage. The hamsters were happily rolling around in dirty plastic hamster balls. Lizzie noticed.

"Here, Levi," she said. We turned around. She was holding both hamster/hamster balls, one in each hand.

"Oh, Lizzie. We don't need them yet," I say in my Sweet Teaching Toddler Voice. "You can go put them back in the hallway."

3 seconds later: THUNK!!! THUNK!!!!

Me, in my I'm Now Tired Of Toddlers Voice: "Levi, go see if the hamsters are dead."

Sadie's Brothers Love Her

Tonight Eli was holding Sadie. His first remark was "Ewwwww. She has sweaty armpits." (Sadie is all of 8 months old) After that observation, he and Levi's next logical step was to talk about her ability to fight off attackers.

"She could spin around!"
"And spray everyone!"
"With spray from her armpits!"

She loved the attention. And I think she's still too young to know about self esteem.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I had a husband-sponsored night out. He stayed home with the toddlers and baby; I took the older kids to a movie. While they were there, I went to my favorite library. I returned the books that make me not want to read to my children anymore: Sleepy, Sleepy Bed and Anna Shares, just to name a few. And, by the way, Anna does not share. Her friend has to go home because she won't share 2 cookies, then she "shares" with her teddy bear and some other thing that doesn't eat. I need to write children's books. But that's another blog.

I got 24 items at the library. It was like a new wardrobe. I took them to the self check out scanner at which point I was informed (after a bonking noise, not the welcoming beep) that I was "banned from checking out items." The good news is, I knew why. I had returned a DVD case without the DVD in it. The case was returned at least 2 weeks ago; the DVD was returned today.

"You have to go find the supervisor," the circulation desk person informed me.

I found Diane. She pulled up my records and frowned. "You have an $8 fine."

"I know. But I returned it today."

"Yes, but it took a long time. And you've done this before."

"I know. But I have 7 kids. 2 are from Ethiopia..." I trailed off. Diane had less than no interest in my story. Her focus was entirely on the fact that "Very Hungry Caterpillar" disc and case had been separated for much longer than the allotted time and that furthermore, I was a repeat offender.

She took off the fine eventually with this warning: "I'm making a note that I told you I would only do this once."

So now I live with The Bad Library Credit Rating for...ever. It will probably have its own sound when I scan my card.

But I have my 24 new items. And for that, I am thankful.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Going North

We just got home from "up north." That means we jammed ourselves and our stuff into the Suburban and drove 5 hours up. Thankfully, there is a well-placed Caribou Coffee in Duluth. It tasted particularly good during the snowstorm yesterday.

Here are some observations about going up north with 7 kids:

1. I can parent with no technology (tv) as long as we have a wheelbarrow, rocks, sticks, snacks and the biggest lake in the entire world just out the back door.

2. Hiking is interesting. Good thing Lizzie and Sadie are still pretty light and the other kids are willing to help out.

3. Fishing was interesting. That was Joel's Mother's Day present to me. Not that I went fishing but that he went with 5 of the 7 kids. The two he left behind were napping.

Time for me to feed one, get one up and take one potty. More soon.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Little Pieces of News

1. We are going to take everyone to a cabin near Lutsen. We leave tomorrow. Zeke keeps asking Lizzie what her "favorite part" of the cabin is. Then gets mad when she doesn't answer.

2. Did our first college visit yesterday with Emma. Went to University of St. Thomas. Liked it.

3. Figured out that by the time Sadie graduates, I will have been parenting from 1994 to 2027.

4. Talked to my girls today about what I'll be like when I'm old. Figure I'll be weird after all this parenting. I just don't think there's any way to avoid it.

5. Nearly bought a chocolate chip chocolate muffin with chocolate frosting to eat for breakfast. Resisted.

6. Had coffee, a banana and Peanut M&Ms for breakfast the other day.

7. Don't want people to say,
"I don't know HOW you do it" because I don't either. And sometimes I don't.

8. It's all worth it.

Emma with Sadie in Ethiopia. 1994 (Emma's birthday) to 2027 (Sadie's graduation). Well worth it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Our Pastor's Last Message for 8 months

We went to a church absolutely packed with people. Our family had to sit in 3 separate places and we didn't even have the 3 youngest kids with us. Piper's sermon was called "Consider Your Calling." The songs were extraordinary. The service was too short. I know he's making a good decision to leave even though he will be missed.

Afterward, Emma's Ethiopia team gave a presentation on their trip. We got to see our daughter in all sorts of different pictures doing all sorts of things.

We got home at 9:30. The babysitter told me that Lizzie had been asking for me.

It was a really good night.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Not What I Had Hoped

Oh, I am a bitter, bitter woman today. I endured holding my children down while they got their shots (3 apiece); I paced around the little, tiny room while Sadie reminded me that she should have been napping; I spoke Manglish for 57 minutes and finally, walked to the lab to turn in the stool samples.

One had leaked. It was Lizzie's.

The liquid was still very, very, very near to the required red line.

The specimen looked to be still very, very much intact.

But no.

The receptionist, whose express purpose in life seemed to be Condescend To Harried Mothers told me these three helpful things:

1. Specimens do not leak in equal proportions.
2. It could not be used.
2. The lids of the vials are supposed to be screwed on.

Really? Really? I have since thought of all sorts of Specimen Revenge I'd like to take. Instead, I will simply close with her picture.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stool Samples

I have been putting off "specimen collection" for about 6 weeks. Every other good adoptive parent seems to have "collected" as soon as they got off the airplane, if not before. I dutifully gave the deworming medicine while in Ethiopia. I gave the Flagyll for parasites as soon as we got home. Still, the stool sample thing nagged at me. I couldn't be sure the girls were free from parasites until someone had looked at their samples. Confirmation of this nagging feeling came from a doctor I spoke to at church who said, "There may still be cysts of parasites." Now there is a sentence that gives one pause. And makes even Subpar Adoptive Parents like me call the doctor, get an appointment and pick up a Stool Sample Collection Kit.

On Wednesday morning, as the feeling of doom threatened to permeate the day, I decided to drink a second cup of coffee and dive in, so to speak.

I read the directions which oddly told me time and again not to drink the preservative that was in the vials. The other fascinating aspect of the direction sheet was the number of languages into which the collection process was translated. Cambodian, Laotian, German, Hmong, French... Then I thought about whose language wasn't included, like the Russians. Are they particularly impervious to parasites? Or does specimen collecting come naturally to some but not to others?

All of my musings did nothing to help me do what needed to be done. Unscrew the three lids, use the integrated lid-spoon, scoop out the required amount of "specimen," check to see that the undrinkable liquid reached the red line, screw the lid back on and "shake vigorously."

I did it. And there was absolutely nothing about it that I found even remotely satisfying. There are many things I don't like to do (clean the shower curtain; vacuum the van; pry the lids off abandoned dirty sippy cups) but I am nonetheless satisfied after I have done them. Specimen collection? Still not over it.

Tomorrow I will take Lizzie and Sadie to the doctor. They will get their first round of shots and hate me. They will have their ears checked and their weight checked and their poop checked. And when they are done, I am going to Caribou. I will buy a double shot Lite White Berry Latte. I will probably drink it before I get to the door. I will congratulate myself on being so responsible. Then I will make everyone my slave for the remainder of the day.

Levi's Language

A friend inspired me to at least start thinking about next year's homeschool curriculum. I paged through a catalog, found the usual (math, science, social studies, etc.), then found the section of "electives." This section has the strange effect on me of stoking my imagination: could my kids become fluent in Latin? could they learn the names of all the countries in the world by listening to songs? what about sign language?

I decided to talk to Levi about sign language. He's usually not the first one to come to mind when I start Future of My Children Dreaming but he happened to be in the car.

"Hey Levi. Do you think you'd like to learn sign language?"

"Ummmm. What's that?"

"It's where you use your hands to talk to deaf people."

"Your hands talk?"

"No, they make signs that deaf people can understand."



At this point, the momentum that had been building as Levi contemplated Talking to the Dead, suddenly ceased. He now understood that whatever explanation was going to come next would most certainly be a disappointment. I did lamely explain the population for whom sign language is extremely important but gone was my initial enthusiasm. Levi's transcript would no longer stand out with Talking to the Dead fulfilling the language requirement.

I haven't brought it up again. For now, we'll just work on finishing this year.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lizzie's Language

I appreciate the people who ask me how "things are going." There are a lot of things. They always seem to be going. One is Lizzie's language. She used have a very Amharic sounding babble. She still does; now it is sprinkled with English. I was trying to think of what this new language might be called. It is loud. It is repetitive. It echoes anything anyone else says. New English words usually get extra syllables.

I have decided to call it Manglish.

The rest of us are trying to catch up on learning it. I think Zeke is going to be the first to go bilingual. Here are the few words I know:
1. "Sadie dalala dalala da:" Sadie is awake; Sadie is smiling; Sadie is doing something cute
2. "Mama? Mama? Mama? Bizzie dalala dalala da:" Mom? Lizzie is going to do something.
3. "Bizzie side:" Lizzie is going outside.
4. "Mama buna?" Is that Mom's coffee?
5." EMMA! LEVI! ZEKE! GACE! EEI! BIZZIE laka delana nanana:" Lizzie is about to do something and you need to watch me.

Manglish. The mangling of 2 languages into one really cute, intense means of communication.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cries for Ethiopian Food

I am not all that intuitive when it comes to things my kids need. For example, I had/have an ear infection. I decided to take Zeke with me to get my ear checked out. He seemed a little crabby, more because his life has been turned upsidedown than that there was something physically wrong. Diagnosis: me--one ear infection; Zeke--double ear infection. That's a story that could be retold in many different ways all with the same conclusion: I am often clueless.

However, Lizzie showed a thriving capacity to burst through my Huh? What? Really? Syndrome. We had pasta with a can of tomatoes added. After 10 minutes of trying to eat the pasta, she started digging through the noodles, joyfully exclaiming in 2 year old Amharic, that she'd found a tomato piece. Then she'd grasp it with the 3 Finger&Thumb Grip, shove it in her mouth and look for more. "Looks like she misses Ethiopian food," I thought astutely. Called my friend who can make Ethiopian food taste like Ethiopian food even though she uses roughly half of the oil and onions that the recipe calls for.

Today, my husband brought home containers of three different dishes. Lizzie stared at me. She tore apart the bread as I had seen her do in Ethiopia. She dipped it. She scooped it. She ate and ate and ate. She ate some for a snack. She ate more for supper. We ran out of Ethiopian bread (injera) so she ate with little pieces of Target Sandwich Bread.

Good to know that all it takes to get the message across is digging through a bowl of pasta with one's fingers. I wonder how she'll tell me she has an ear infection.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010


It's spring cleaning time at the Button home. That means I take the vacuum, stick a really long attachment on and suck up the dust from inside the fireplace. There is something very satisfying about cleaning styrofoam gas logs and cobwebby edges. Maybe it's knowing that by tomorrow, it won't be undone.

I had almost finished my Version of Spring Cleaning when I was brought to an abrupt halt. By Ashy Preserved Super Creepy Tree Frog. It started up the vacuum attachment until its back left leg decided that no, actually this was not the day to get thrown in the garbage in a vacuum bag. Perhaps the indignity of dying in a gas fireplace was more than it could take.

I banged the attachment against the grate. I wiggled the end of the hose. The Left Ashy Preserved Leg held its ground. Not going up the tube.

I turned off the vacuum. I shuddered. I am done spring cleaning.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lots of Smiles

No eye has seen a God besides You,
Who acts for those who wait for Him.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sharing Things

Our family shares some things very well. Like colds and coughs. Last week Lizzie and Zeke had runny noses. This week Zeke had a fever. This week Joel and I both got sick. This morning I decided that I could either puncture my own forehead in order to relieve the sinus pressure I had or I could go to urgent care.

I loaded Zeke into the van with me. We both got checked out: he has a double ear infection ("Bet this was pretty painful," said the doctor. All I could think of were the times I had made him sit in his room until he stopped crying....)I have only one ear infected. We both started on Zithromax. Zeke looks a thousand times better already. I do not.

My cold heard me and decided it would take care of relieving some of the pressure after all. By coming out my eyes. Think Goopy Stray Cat. Do they have prescriptions for this? We'll just shroud the mirrors.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Group Home

My children are no longer individuals. That's because I cannot remember their names when I want to. They are now in groups, except for Sadie. She is in a group but she's the only one so I guess her individuality has been spared.

I have The Baby, The Toddlers and The Older Kids. The Toddlers are currently chatting in their bed. They are having their first sleepover. I hope they can actually sleep.

Joel and I are attempting to finish a movie we started 4 nights ago. It takes a long time to watch a movie when you can only get through 20 minutes at a time before you begin to fall asleep.

Time to quash the Fun of the Toddlers. I'm motivated because on the other side of this activity waits a $3.99 bottle of wine from Trader Joe's. And a movie.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Coffee Over Which I Obsessed

Here it is. The $.46 Ethiopian macchiato I couldn't stop writing about. I think I'm dangerously close to a Wasting My Life Activity if I try to make that little design on the top; however, I am really curious how to do it.

The girls, by the way, are doing great: fitting in, happy, playing, making messes. We're pretty tired from Sadie's late night/middle of the night feedings (only 2) but other than that, the adjustment is pretty remarkable. It also helps that we have people bringing meals. I tried to make Chinese frozen chicken with sauce and rice last night. Had to ask my husband to help me as I got lost in all of the 4 steps it took to make it.

All of this though, easier than the waiting was. The girls are here and it is remarkable.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


In order to have our children announced at church, we needed to have decided on names. At this point in our fatigue, it is good to have some external pressure. We could have gone round and round for years.

So, here they are:
Elizabeth Lansa Button; born December 11, 2007

Sadie Addis Button; born October 11, 2009

Lansa (pronounced Lahn-sa) is from the girls' family name Wolansa. We just lopped off the first two letters (stating the obvious), made up a whole new name and decided it worked. We had hoped to give Lizzie her birthmother's name as a middle name but were never able to find out what it was. Addis is in honor of Addis Wolde. They may each get another name (Elizabeth Lansa Caribou Button; Sadie Addis Starbucks Button) if Sadie keeps up her current nighttime feeding schedule but hopefully the official announcement will come before we resort to that.

Friday, March 5, 2010


This is one of the first pictures of me with my girls.

Here we are in a van bringing the girls out of the orphanage, back to the guest house.

After the first bath.

Me with Fikre Addis and her mother who is HIV positive.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I Will Post Pictures When I Figure It Out

I realize these posts would be much better for two reasons: if they had any sense of order; if they had any accompanying pictures. They have neither. They just tell a small part of the story of flying across the world to get children who are now sleeping in adjoining cribs in our bedroom.

My daughter is really good at posting pictures. She is watching Singing in the Rain. My husband is good at posting pictures. He is at a meeting.

The good news is we have pictures. And they're not of Lizzie crying (like most of the pictures we had) and they're not of Sadie with her eyes closed. They're coming soon. And they're worth the wait.

Change in Perspective; Ethiopia

1. When I smell something rotting, I now assume the smell is coming from me.

2. I find myself wondering, how will the deworming medicine that I gave my daughter work? I asked a farmer. He deworms cattle. He assured me he doesn't see worms coming out. I am going to take that as transferable information.

3. I don't mind the dogs barking as much now that I know they are barking at the hyenas that are prowling this area.

4. Feeling conspicuous has taken on a whole new meaning.

5. People can thank God and give me their blessing while I stand in their 1 room house made of dung, mud and straw. Raw sewage ran outside. And the woman who blessed me is HIV positive.

6. Drug companies would be much more popular if the side effects for pediatric medicine were sleepiness and a sense of calm. Instead, I get the following side effects for Sadie: irritability, restlessness and excitability. Curse the childless drug researcher who thought this one up.

February 22

Sadie smiled.

Lizzie called me Mommy.

February 21; Finally

Today has been incredible. 9:00 to the Sheridan Hotel to change money. Van was searched by one man, watched by another. The watching man was actually more threatening as he had a very large gun. The Lay Across Your Lap Kind of Gun, not the Stick In Your Pocket Variety. Exchanged $100 for 1333 birr. Met Daniel. Met Agitu. She had changed her schedule in order to be with me. Went in the care center. Grounds were beautiful. Buildings were dark. Was led to Sadie first. Burst into tears. Held her, snuggled her. She wore 3 month pants, a 12 month dress and a 12 month turtleneck. Then someone plopped Lizzie next to me. I touched her hand. Cried again. Daniel was filming. Agitu was explaining her humanitarian projects. I was trying to get Lizzie to not be afraid of me. The nannies were bringing out children, some of whom I knew, some I did not. Agitu was telling me to take pictures. The nannies started up a coffee ceremony. There was a black hair in a bowl of popcorn that I was trying to avoid. I toured the grounds. A rat ran in front of me.

I brought the girls back to the guest house. Lizzie is trying so hard to not cry. She is absolutely gorgeous. Sadie looks like a man. She is congested but happy. She cries when she coughs.

No smile from Lizzie today though we got close during her bath.

Thank you, Lord Jesus. Thank you for our girls. They are absolutely unbelievable.

February 21; Getting the Girls Morning Of

I need not have worried about hearing my alarm this morning. There is a very long Muslim prayer going on--has been since 6:30 a.m. It is punctuated by the most incredible rooster who seems to know just when to chime in. 3 floors below me, on the street, I've watched a woman wash her hair by squatting next to a plastic bowl of water.

I'm getting our children in 2 hours.

I'm getting coffee in 2 minutes.

Night Before Getting the Girls

"May you be strengthened with all power according to His glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father..." Colossians 1:11

February 20: My last night without the girls. Amazing. Two empty cribs tonight. Two little sleeping girls in them--clean, in pjs, in a diaper for the first time. I can't believe it. Thank You. Thank You. I abound in thankfulness. I am where I thought I'd never be.

February 19

Twenty minutes ago, it was 9:23 a.m. on Friday. Now it is 8:23 p.m. Friday. We are flying over places I don't even recognize as being part of this planet. There is a distinctly cumin-curry-something smell which I originally thought was coming from the other passengers. Now I realize there is the very likely possibility that it is coming from me. I have become one with my pants. I have had probably 5 meals in the last 12 hours. The last one I had was breakfast. That was just after I turned my clock ahead to Friday night.

While I was waiting for the bathroom, I made small talk with a man who was holding his 9 month old daughter. "How is she doing on the flight?" I asked. "Oh. My wife deals with most of it," he replies. "Oooooohhhhhhhh," comes my long, drawn out politically correct response to a completely politically incorrect situation. I find myself again grateful for my husband who is at home with 5 children dealing with not most of it, but all of it.

Good news--it looks like we've passed the Middle East. 8:14 Friday, February 19.

Arabic coffee is really strong.

We're Home

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us, stopped over to see us, called us, made a meal for us, not called or stopped over because you're letting us settle in. I don't know how we would have done a 22 hour plane ride plus layovers (a 40 hour day) without friends willing to come alongside and encourage us.

I thought about how to blog while in Ethiopia. I did it the old fashioned way called Write Down Thoughts On A Piece of Paper.

I have some catching up to do but first wanted to say thank you; we're home; we're tired; the girls are wonderful.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I'm packed. I'm kind of organized. My husband has been cleaning like crazy. He even did boy baths and cut boy toenails. That's love.

I think I'm still in denial. Maybe if I weighed 40 more pounds and had on maternity clothes this would seem real.

My friend is here. Her son was in a car accident just two days ago. Please pray for him as he goes to a burn clinic in Atlanta. This is a very brave friend who is still willing to go across the world with me to bring home two little girls.

I don't think I'll be able to blog from Ethiopia but I will try.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


I have 16 file cards. A word in Amharic is on one side, the English translation on the other.

Went on a date with Emma and Gracie. Ran out of shopping steam. Went to Caribou. Took out my file cards. Began to practice. Noticed two men at the next table who were fairly Ethiopian looking, definitely speaking another language. I, ignoring my good upbringing, stared at them wondering, "Do I ask them how to pronounce a couple of these words?"

The "I'm Leaving for Ethiopia in Four Days Mentality" won out over the "Maybe These Men Would Just Like to Enjoy Their Coffee and Be Left Alone Mentality." So I asked, "Are you, by any chance, Ethiopian?" When they said yes, I went on to explain my cards, my necessary vocabulary and my inability to pronounce some of the words I had copied from the internet. (internet Amharic is very sketchy when it comes to accented syllables and vowel sounds in case you're wondering if my asking for help was warranted or just another outcropping of my craziness).

They dutifully took my file cards and began to help. I pronounced, they stifled a giggle, they re-pronounced, I tried again. After a couple easy cards, we came to a really long word. "I just cannot get this one," I told one of the men. "I can't ever remember what it means nor can I say it." He smiled. He got sort of quiet. He said it; his friend erupted with laughter. That's when I suddenly got really, really hot.

"I just made you say 'I love you,' didn't I?"

About then, 2 women showed up who were obviously with my newfound friends. And lover. I quickly explained what I was doing, even pulled out a picture of Lizzie to make me look increasingly legitimate as my reputation was fast slipping away. They were extraordinarily gracious. The women went through my cards. They might have even been just a tad bit impressed.

I left before anyone had the chance to tell them what I'd done.

Happy Valentine's Day, me.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

One Week

I think I'm getting close to being ready to go. I have a week to "finish" things; with that much time it's hard to choose: organize the basement? throw out the liquifying garbanzo beans? vacuum the hamster room? buy more diapers?

It's hard to make decisions right now. It's somewhat hard to sleep. It's hard to not be crabby. It's hard to wait and it's hard to go.

Here's the plan:
Thursday: 11:30 a.m. flight to JFK
Thursday night: 11:00 p.m. flight on United Arab Emirates to Dubai
Friday night: Arrive in Dubai at 8:00 p.m.
Stay one night in Dubai
Saturday: 8:30 a.m. flight to Addis Ababa arriving at 11:25 a.m.

I can only imagine what I'll do with the girls. If it were just the baby, I would get her right away. However, our 2 year old seems very shy. I think (and simultaneously know nothing) that I would like to see them on Saturday afternoon/evening but let them sleep one more night in a familiar place. On Sunday we would go in the morning, spend some time at the care center and then bring them with us.

I'm trying to learn words in Amharic. So far I know: come, joy, tears, thank you, mom, dad, home, water and milk. The word for bathroom is terrifically long. Maybe Lizzie will take to diapers though I imagine her looking at me thinking, "You're white. You're scary. You smell funny. You massacre my language. And now you want me to go to the bathroom in my pants. This mom? Anyone? Anyone?" In the meantime, my 9 pound wonder baby with her 5 pound eyes will just stare at me and think, "Boy, do I wish I would have learned to drive."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Things I'm Doing to Get Ready

I have a new perspective on my house and its situation. For some reason, having two children come in, oh, 2 weeks for, oh, the rest of their lives, has spurred me on to see everything as A Thing in My Way, A Thing Not Going My Way or A Thing That Has Been Dirty for Way Too Long.

A Thing in My Way:
1. Levi, trying to help put up a crib
2. Clothes. Got rid of 4 grocery bags of them.

A Thing Not Going My Way
1. My dark chocolate candy bar getting eaten by my children.
2. Lady with puffy hair at Walmart who didn't like the sides of the aisles. Only the middle.

Things That Have Been Way Too Dirty For Far Too Long That Got Cleaned (because the girls will notice and they will care)
1. The boys' toothpaste cap. Got the crust off.
2. The edges of my bedroom carpet

I was able to get a lot done today that did not include being possessed by a woman who was possessed by her chocolate. There are 2 cribs in our bedroom. I helped put the border of a Yoda puzzle together. I bought toddler underwear with princesses on them. I helped talk the fraud department of our credit card company out of canceling our account because of a freakishly large purchase made yesterday. It was called airplane tickets.

Friday, February 5, 2010

My New Alarm Clock

I had something new wake me up this morning.

It's my heart. Pounding.

Time to cook things with sugar and eat things with chocolate.

And thank the God who is orchestrating and caring and loving and patient and powerful and merciful; who is doing a thousand things, or more, every second.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Our New World

The phone rang this morning:
"Hey, Marty..." says our adoption agency. "We were just wondering if you might want to go to Ethiopia on the 25th."

"Oh, well, I was kind of looking forward to going for the March 11th embassy date but it's ok." And in the meantime I wondering what on earth I am going to do with myself for 6 more weeks.

There was a long pause on the other end of the phone. "I'm actually asking you if you want to go in February."

There was nothing flattering in my response. I was shrieking. I was scaring my children. I was back pedaling so quickly, I couldn't even form a thought. "Really? You want me to go then?"

And on and on it went with me making phone calls to my husband, the travel agency, the adoption agency (again); snapping my fingers at my children to make simultaneous phone calls to friends on another phone because I couldn't bear for them to not know and yet airplane tickets seemed a bit more crucial. (Note to self: just because you've sent a lot of emails to a man named Trent in Utah who works for a travel agency, doesn't mean he is your b.f.f.)

My fight or flight response is amazing. The first thing I did was read a missionary story to Levi. It was about a Canadian missionary who was driving a tractor across a frozen river. In Ontario. In -35 degree weather. He fell through the ice that was really safe and really thick. So did his tractor. I stopped reading the story.

The next thing I did was take Emma to the doctor so he could diagnose not an allergic reaction to her malaria meds but scabies.

The next thing I did was itch.

Then I bought funky rotisserie hotdogs from Target for lunch because I couldn't think of what else to feed my children.

Fiddle lessons followed as did a run 2 times around the block and the boiling of 8 eggs.

It was a very random day and I'm exhausted. It's not really hitting me at all that 2 weeks from today I will be at the JFK Airport. Because it's February 25th. Not March.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ethiopia Sidamo, by Starbucks

I decided to do a little reading today. I had time to read the back of my pound of coffee. Fortunately, there was something interesting:

"There isn't a culture on earth that appreciates the coffee it grows more than the people of Ethiopia. Making coffee is a spiritual experience that begins with roasting beans over an open flame, grinding with mortar and pestle, brewing in a long-necked pot and then pouring the aromatic brew for all gathered. It's a ceremony that recalls the splendor of a regal people..."

A couple observations:
I've had the "spiritual experience" of having beans roasted over an open...burner. The spiritual part of it happened for me as the house filled with smoke and I prayed it wouldn't burn to the ground.

The Starbucks people astutely left out two other components that take some getting used to: popcorn, served with the coffee and incense that is burned along with the coffee. The back of my pound of coffee recommends instead "lemon bars and a seat drenched in sunlight."

So soon I go to "regal people" with "reverence for the bean." I would absolutely love to meet a Starbucks marketing person there. I might ask them, through the haze of incense and coffee bean smoke, if they happened to bring lemon bars.