PBS and YouTube Comas

Do you remember this post? How different they are now. How long ago that seems.

Some things though, haven't changed.  Sometimes I let PBS and YouTube babysit while I load the dishwasher or mop. It's imperfect, sure. I never thought I'd use media to sedate my children. I am a bit of a technology- phobe in general. But this isn't the only thing I've done that I swore I'd never do.

I'd never eat food off the floor.
I'd never open a package of crackers in the grocery store to keep my kids quiet
I'd never let my child sleep in my bed
I'd never hand a baby a bottle in his bed to go to sleep (as opposed to rocking him and taking bottle with me when baby is done)
I'd never go four days without showering.
I'd never yell.
I'd never pee in a public restroom with a child strapped on my back in the Ergo and holding another one on my hip
I'd never send kids to bed without brushing teeth.
I'd never just throw a towel over a pee accident and tell a sleepy child to just go back to sleep.
I'd never nurse a baby past a year.

I'd never have a kid who got into things.Or wiped poop on the wall. Or bit other children in public places.
I'd never let a child use a paci past the age of two.
I'd never make my child miss naps and get off schedule.

The things we think before we parent, or the ways we change as we parent more kiddos...are downright comical. I recently heard of something my husband's late aunt would say. She had eight children close together and legend has it that she'd claim "If each night I can say all of my kids are one day older, I count that as a successful day."

It's a message that resonates with me big time. Between Tsega and Brady, the possibility of injury and death at any moment is at an all time high. I am getting more and more grateful just to make it to bedtime without stitches or Heimlich maneuvers.

And so, I use PBS a few times a week to teach my kids about stygimolochs and counting to nineteen. And YouTube to inspire their artistic minds. Because there is a high likelihood that during those times, no one is going to get hurt and I might get half an email sent, or a few things loaded in the dishwasher. I call that success.

And for your sedation pleasure, here is what completely transfixes my kiddos while I make dinner. (Actually, these get them singing and dancing too.)

Then for fun they always ask for this one after the previous

This one is fabulous beginning to end.

Happy dancing!


How to Occupy One's Self During Tropical Storm Irene

The kids are playing and making royal mess, Hubs is away helping bail out his poor parents' basement, I have been sewing, but took a break to answer a mental question.

I decided to play a game called "How White is my Town?" I went to the source of all truth (jk) Wikipedia and was not surprised but disappointed all the same.  As of the census of 2000 the racial makeup of my town was:
94.82% White
0.70% Black or African American
0.03% Native American
3.54% Asian
0.25% from other races, and
0.67% from two or more races.
Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.18% of the population.

Cringe cringe cringe.

Then I went to some neighboring towns, some to which we entertain notions about moving.

Town M:
As of the census of 2000 the racial makeup of the town was
85.4% White,
10.2% Black or African American,
0.1% Native American,
2.0% Asian,
0.0% Pacific Islander,
0.6% from other races, and 1.6% from two or more races.
Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.7% of the population.

OK, still very White but significantly better as far as the Black population goes.

Then I looked at town N,

The racial makeup of the city was
88.07% White,
7.68% Asian,
1.97% African American,
0.07% Native American,
0.03% Pacific Islander,
0.71% from other races, and
1.46% from two or more races.
Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.52% of the population.

What about town B?
81.08% White,
2.74% Black or African American,
0.12% Native American,
12.83% Asian,
0.03% Pacific Islander,
1.01% from other races,
2.18% from two or more races
3.53% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

What about town A? Surely this one would be a great deal better.
The racial makeup of the town was
90.97% White,
1.70% African American,
0.13%  Native American,
4.97% Asian,
0.01% Pacific Islander,
0.66% from other races, and 1.56% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.86% of the population.

What about town D? We go shopping there all the time and are thrilled that there is far more diversity than in our town. What would the numbers say? I was very surprised by this, and would not be surprised if the numbers today indicated a greater Black population than eleven years ago. But according to Wiki, it is
94.51% White,
1.54% Black or African American,
0.16% Native American,
1.87% Asian,
0.04% Pacific Islander,
0.80% from other races,
1.08% from two or more races.
2.42% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

I turned my search inward, into Boston itself.

Part of Boston but it's own neighborhood JP boasts as of 2000 the ethnic make-up
50% Non-Hispanic White,
23% Hispanic or Latino,
17% Black or African-American,
7% Asian-American,
3% Other

OK, doesn't that seem better?! But there is so much more to a town than these numbers. First of all, these stats are old, and hardly say everything there is to say about a town, like how expensive it is to move into the city, and try to find a house with a yard, or a driveway or garage for that matter.  But these little numbers do provide some food for thought, especially considering the Transracially Adopted Child's Bill of Rights, found in this awesome manual written by adult adoptees.

How does your town look on Wikipedia?  


Good fences

For three years my view from our back door.

See that pretty green mesh construction zone barrier? Highly safe and attractive, dontchathink? But after some saving up, we decided to up the ante.

Today, the day before the hurricane I might add, these angels of mercy came. (They are still here, and clouds are gathering. Hurry guys, hurry.)

Now this is my view. That is, until we paint it. Then it will be even better.

Who wants to come over to play in our prettier and safer yard?


Baby Monitors and Hull Beach Habeshas

My command center, the computer, lives in the kitchen downstairs from the bedrooms.  At night time I flit back and forth from the sink of dishes and the broom to the keyboard, one ear to those monitors at all times. 

Right now from one monitor I hear the hum of Tsega's fan and gentle snoring.
From the other rustling of blankets, giggles, whispers and pretend names. Today Samantha insisted on being called Robin and calling Cookie Drado or something. I already went up to remind them to shush. But I am not going to intervene anymore. I know they are snuggled up in what appears to you or me an ordinary comforter, but to them is an alternate universe involving unicorns and fairies. I don't want to get in the middle of all that.

Before I commence in earnest with the Dish Festival, The Battle Against the Fruit Flies, and the ninth and final floor sweeping of the day, I wanted to share some pictures from last weekend. We didn't get to stay long at this adoption event, but every minute there was heavenly.

We got to play with our wonderful Boston area Ethiopian adoption peeps. There were about twenty little Habeshas running around, and five or six non-Ethiopian siblings including my three. I love days when they get to be the ones that are grafted or adopted in. I love days when I get to feel like an honorary Ethiopian just by sharing the day with these amazing friends.

The blasphemy of the activity: I forgot my camera. All these shots of my brood are by my friend A, who claims she is charging me to put these on the blog.

The sixth iteration of baby boy braids for Tsega. I thought this was the most "masculine" look I've done so far but I was wrong, he's been called a girl at least twelve times this week. I can't win. Our hair plan for now: one week in, two weeks out. I might move it up to one week in, one week out since he has been doing so well holding still and truly seems to like it braided. I wish his hair lasted longer in cornrows but that is the limit before the fuzz takes over.

Hubs rescued Tsega's hat from the tide. And then wore it because, well, he just doesn't care.

Samantha and one of her besties.

This is by far my favorite capture.

Tsega: Hey M, hey R, wanna hop on my dump truck? Room for three, laydeez. 

We are magnificently blessed to live so close to so many awesome families who look like ours. Ya know, all non-matchy matchy.


Itty bitties regarding superheroes, preemies, home school prep and guest blogging

Did you catch it? Sure, it's not big news compared to a famine affecting people we love and debt crises, but hey, I still think it's noteworthy: According to Marvel Comics, Peter Parker is has been killed by Green Goblin and a new boy has taken his place as Spiderman. And who is this superkid? Wanna see what he looks like?
So glad to meet you Miles Morales, a half Black half Latino superhero. On behalf of my three boys who have yet to learn about Spiderman but will someday, I salute the creators/writers at Marvel for giving us a superhero with brown skin!

Moving on to other matters, I am in the delightful phase of collecting my curriculum and organizing strategies   for doing kindergarten at home with Samantha. I have begun timing us as we work on things like our reading lessons and writing practice, etc, to get a sense for how much we can accomplish together during the beloved naps. I am working on designing my planner that will allow me to pencil in a week or two at a time, leaving room for jotting down notes about what we actually did, how I might do it differently next time. Because knowing me and the movers and shakers coming up behind Samantha, there will probably be a next time.

So far, my favorite home school acquisition is a dry erase writing tablet. Perfect for writing s s s s s s s s s s over and over again. Samantha loves immediately erasing letters she doesn't like, and trying again. I like that we can practice writing anywhere and unlike paper that wrinkles, the board is nice and hard and doesn't slip away.

I found it at Mecca, otherwise known as Lakeshore Learning, and anticipate saving money on paper.

In other news, Brady is going to ramp up his Early Intervention schedule next month. We've been doing PT for awhile now, and she happens to be awfully good and sneaking in OT as well. Now we will have a dedicated PT, OT, Speechie, and Nutritionist. That is at least three appointments a week for the wee lad. And lest you wonder what on earth a Speech Therapist can do with a kid who at 14 months looks and acts at most 8 months, she has tricks up her sleeve. Like this one: feeding him a Cheerio not directly into his mouth, but tucking it into a side cheek pocket, where he must use his tongue to go get it and bring it to a place where he can chew it. Speech requires a tongue that can form sounds, and since his tongue doesn't know what to do much of the time  and is a very weak muscle for him, we must trick him into exercising this muscle. Never in a million years would I have those kinds of ideas. I think a good therapist in any of these areas is worth his/her weight in gold. I am excited for Brady and for all we are going to learn. Sometimes I pause and think how incredible it is what can happen to a kiddo when he is born too early.  All the things a typical baby brain and body become capable of when he is born full term can get shot to crap when the baby doesn't get enough time to cook.

My water broke at 27 weeks, and every once in awhile, like when the therapist acknowledges that yes, his reaction times and responses are very slow, they might always be I wonder what Brady would be like if that hadn't happened. I love him fiercely, and don't want him to be any different than who is, and we are so very blessed to have all these pillars of support to help him reach his potential, whatever it may be.

Finally, I am guest blogging over at EOR's blog today. I started this thought a few posts back, and continued it over there. Have you voted for them yet, by the way? Do you need another reminder? They are in the category for Most Innovative Use of Social Media for the Classy Awards. Help them $15K to help orphans and at risk children. If you already voted, go and do it with all your email addresses, and your best friends' and whoever else will let you. One vote per email address! They are still in third place out of twenty five charities.

No, really, this is final thought: is it the weekend yet?


Lunch Break

This is the fountain across the street from Daddy's work. We popped in to say hi during lunch and no one stayed dry for long.

This one is always the first one in, but he's never the last.


Scratch that, and Watch This *with update

My last post ended with the phrase I can't wait for date night...

I am revoking that statement, though I do love my husband. See, I go in and out of wearing my heart on my sleeve about what is happening in East Africa right now. Sometimes it consumes me, and then I shut it off, tune it out, don't click on links or read the reports or watch the videos because it makes me sad, I feel powerless, and if I am honest, I don't want to feel badly about the way I live or spend money. It is that simple. I doubt I am alone.

But, this week I turned it back on. The thing about knowing about an epic tragedy is the mantle of responsibility that swiftly descends with that knowledge. With problems this massive, numbers so staggering, and reality so stark, it feels like one person or one family can do so little. And there is the go-to entitled person line:

                  "Why send money when I can't be sure it's getting to the right people?"


I have thought this in my life, at different times about different things. I have heard versions of this concern floating around a lot lately. People don't know what to do. Somalia is a hot mess, and you know it's bad when you flee to Ethiopia for refuge.

When things are so bad in your country that you walk, with your starving children hundreds of miles to the third poorest country in the world rife with poverty and lack of clean water and medical care, seeking relief. Please, don't tune out today. Please watch.

Humanitarian Crisis in East Africa from A Glimmer of Hope on Vimeo.

For our information: Two reputable organizations, on the ground, helping hungry people affected by the famine, today:  A Glimmer of Hope and Doctors Without Borders. 

**updated. This week we found out Hubs' company matches charitable donations up to $500 to any charity of an employee's choice. There is fine print, and some easily filled out paperwork, but check to see if your employer can help you double the amount you feel you can donate. It was thrilling for us to give twice the amount we thought we were able. Go call your HR department right now, I never would have guessed this company would do that kind of thing, so you never know!

Another update I need to mention: I totally failed to include another wonderful charity called the Mudula Water Project. Please learn about this amazing endeavor in this video.

Mudula Water Project from hope by twelve on Vimeo.

Possibly the most important thing you need to know about this water project is that Mudula is located in the drought zone of East Africa and is in dire need of water. This project is crucial now more than ever. We  know personally the family who got this project off the ground and who tirelessly fund-raise and raise awareness for this important project, and encourage you learn more.


Maybe instead of our next "date nights" or "take out nights" or "name brand diapers" or from wherever we can pull it from the budget, we can go online and punch in some credit card numbers. Maybe the amount we type in could be higher than what we would have spent on the date, or diapers.

Maybe that amount we send to feed some starving people should make us a little uncomfortable. Because for most people who read this blog, no matter how much we give, there is a good chance we will still not go hungry or thirsty the next day.

Pounding myself over the head today with a snippet from Luke 12:48

            ...For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required...


File this under: Activities Easier Done Without the Babies

I can't lie. When Hubs wields a bat, I get tingles. The way he swings is like the way you or I brush our teeth: like he's done it a million times. I love that his first son is starting to catch the vision, the wonder of baseball. And Daddy Worship increases proportionally the more they spend time with balls and bats and gloves.

The girl child loves it too, though she doesn't sleep with baseball glove like her brother.

Mama got in there too.

It was immense fun, the kids thought their parents were cool, and it would have been utterly impossible with the babies.

As Hubsy and I decided we were gonna hit up the cages for date night soon, I remembered one of our first dates Hubs handed me a glove and taught me how to throw a baseball. It was totally romantic.

Holy cow. Did you just notice that? I remembered a time before we had kids!  Much of the time I can't, as cliche as that sounds. But it's true, because I swept the kitchen floor eight times today; and I mopped up the floor four times due to milk, yogurt, spaghetti and pee incidents. And actually said yesterday

            "Please, don't throw the baseball in the family room, it could break the TV. Please take it to the kitchen."

And I tried to save Tsega from killing himself in the name of "ceekoos" (cookies) yet again.  Half the time I don't even know what day it is. You'd think after more than a year of having these two babies I'd be in the groove.  At least, I thought I would be. But we keep falling out, mostly because the littlest boys have no sense, or self-preservation skills.

I like that in this picture his feet are not securely placed at all, so you know he's hanging on only with his upper body. I also like displaying private shame of  crowded pantry.

Looking forward to that date night...



This is one of those posts that has had me lingering over the "publish" button for a few days.

I have learned and benefited from people's transparency in their writing so much in the past few years that I cannot be so selfish to say well it's OK for other people to put themselves out there and share hard but meaningful things. Me, though, I want to maintain my privacy and the illusion of perfect, normal predictable perfectness. Looky looky, all is mainstream over here!

But still, I've been trapped by my fears. I will let you in on a secret: If anyone ever admits reluctance to be open about anything in a blog, there is a 92% likelihood they are experiencing a phenomenon called "Blogging Tends to Go Over Better with Strangers."

This phenomenon presents as a writer self-censors and feels stunted because she has a feeling anyone unrelated to her may appreciate the writing, but worries or knows it may serve to alienate members of her family or circle of friends. Blogs that take a turn towards openness and commentary nestled in among the "this is what we did this weekend!" start giving family members of writers hives. As the writer of the blog starts worrying more about what those close to her will think, she develops ulcers and can't sleep at night. These are medical facts.

But here I go. Because I think it warrants mentioning.  And if no one does it, then people who have experienced this may feel alone, and they aren't.

I was warned by a friend it might happen, but I dismissed it because I thought it was impossible for my situation (more on that in a moment.) This friend wrote bravely and beautifully about this and I think all pre-adoptive Moms should read it, and then do some serious self-reflection. So, go read that link up there first.

I will wait.

Sooooo, my toddler, who is marching towards age two, who was adopted, has been asking to nurse. I am talking about non-nutritive, or comfort nursing.

Gasp. Crunchy granola hippe freak, you might be thinking.

But wait. Old timers on this blog may remember that after Brady was born at 28 weeks, Tsega was the recipient of breast milk for several months. I pumped for both my babies. One side I would take into the hospital, one side went to Tsega at home. I had a ridiculous, other-NICU-moms-jealous kind of supply and neither baby had formula for months. It was a massive success and privilege.

During this time, I tried to teach Tsega to nurse. But in all my attempts Tsega writhed, resisted and said in no uncertain screams give me my bottle you crazy woman, and I very quickly abandoned the notion.

Tsega is now steadily approaching two years old. And today, for the fourth time this week he pulled down my shirt and basically asked to nurse. I have been utterly flabbergasted each and every time he's done this.

Why? Why now? There is no milk there anymore.
How does he know that is what "those" are there for?
Does he remember seeing Brady do it?
Does he remember him doing it before he came to the orphanage even though that was almost two years ago?


I know so many people are disgusted or at least squeamish about the concept of nursing in general: public nursing, nursing any child past the age of nine months, etc. I myself once shamefully believed if a child was old enough to tug on a blouse and indicate he wanted to nurse than it was time to stop.

That was before I became a mother. That was before I nursed three kiddos all for over a year. And that was before I parented a child who came from trauma, malnutrition and separation from his birth mother at young age.

This kind of nursing is not about the fact that a kid is old enough for a sippy cup, or cows milk, or his first pair of roller skates. It is about comfort, reassurance, communicating to a child seeking answers yes, I am your mother. You are safe, I am here for you, in a language he understands. It might not be a new adoptive mother's language though, and that can make the request seem strange and scary.

I have no idea where this is coming from from Tsega boy. Talk about left field here, though I can tell you this much: my kid wants to be close to me. Cue the singing of the Attachment Angel Choir, shafts of light and whathaveyou.

I am so proud of him. So grateful. Because he is learning to claim a period of ownership over my body that in my opinion, is every baby's right. Sure, it's much later than I thought it would be and I thought the nursing ship had sailed.  But here we are. Maybe by sharing this I am now firmly placed in the "she's a total wacko" camp. But maybe I was there already? Yeah. I was.

Today, I was kneeling on the ground when he ran up to me and pressed his face into my chest and was still for a few miraculous moments. He pulled at my shirt and non-verbally but clearly asked to suck. After a few moments, he was done.

Then, even stranger, he put his hands on my cheeks and gave me the softest, sweetest kiss I've ever been given. So unlike him. So unexpected.

It was one of the best moments of my life.

It could happen to you, adoption Mamas. I hope you will be open to it if the moment presents itself. If your little one asks. It could be uncomfortable, catch you off guard, feel like an invasion, particularly if your child is two, three or four and/or you've never used your body that way. But take heart because it's not unheard of, it's not disgusting or fundamentally inappropriate, and it could be just what your child needs. It could happen on the first night you're together, or like me, fourteen months into your attachment process. It could happen once or twice, or go on for a few months. But consider yourself forewarned, and supported if this is something you are willing to do for your child. I hold no judgement for those who don't want to; this is a message of peace, sisters.

And Shannon, now you are not alone in writing about it. Thank you for your support, inspiration and bravery to be the first one.

Anyone else?


Just Do It (again, this time with your mom's email address*)

This post is back. I am a pushy broad, it turns out. My kids have something to ask you. Actually, a million or four kids have something to ask you:

Ethiopian Orphan Relief is a wonderful charity that we love and trust who has years of great work in ET. They have been recently recognized for their philanthropy and are up for a Classy Award, which is kinda like the Oscars of charities. Except, you, we are the "academy." They need votes. Their category is "Most Innovative use of Social Media." They are currently in third place. We want them to win.
Wanna know why? Along with the distinction for the good they do, they also win $15,000 for their charity. That, my friends, can bring water, and food and love to 100s, 1000s of children and families in a part of the world in desperate circumstances.

Please, click on the Classy picture just above, spend three seconds voting for EOR. Help get them to first place. It's an easy way to help without lifting your butt out of your soft couch or opening your wallet. Also, some other awesome charities are up for awards, you can vote for those as well, and get weepy like I did, reading their stories.

*regarding my unethical plea in the post title, you of course, should ask her permission before voting with your mom's email address. Or your spouse, best friend, cousin, neighbor, anyone you know. But you can use their email address to vote. So ask "May I vote for you? You will never receive spam from them. It is for a good cause." I can't do this alone. EOR can't do this without you.  GET THEM TO FIRST PLACE!


Aggression, Attachment and Missing Vacay

Sometimes I experience a strange phenomenon. It feels like my most insecurely attached child is not the one who was adopted. There is another child who has been aggressive, even violent lately.

This child rages without explanation at the drop of a hat, is full of love and affection one instant, but then in the next turns around and attacks the nearest human without provocation. Who constantly seeks attention, even negative attention from me. This child is not always able to identify and communicate feelings well. Loses any control and can't make eye contact when upset.  Sometimes it feels no matter how much love I pour in that heart and those little hands, it falls out, dries up, or runs out quickly.

Today I was compelled to pull over on the highway -twice- to stop biting, scratching, hitting, yelling from this child. Today this child hit me and a sibling hard with a stick, I yanked the stick out of child's hand, child fell down on the ground, screamed head off, and onlooker accused me of knocking down my kid.

It was a hideous, embarrassing display,worsened by a second child getting swept up in the downward spiraling maelstrom and offering unwanted snippy commentary You always do this! unknowingly daring the onlooker to go ahead and call CPS on me.

I always do what? What did I do wrong?!

No, the real question is, what am I doing wrong?

The past five weeks or so of building aggression and acting out have spelled it out clearly: am not parenting this child effectively. There are little storms of insecurity in this little heart that I am not addressing properly. It's time for some reflection, a little prayer, one-on-one time with child and hitting The Book (again). This is the best parenting book I may ever read, and despite it's subtitle, it is a parenting book for possibly for all children and all parents, and I don't say that lightly.

Alas, being home has been a bitter dose of reality. There is so much to do and I wish I required zero sleep so I could just stay up all night to do it and still have time to read, relax, exercise, think, do fun projects, read blogs, write blogs, get more organized, finish photography work for clients, clean... it would be wonderful if I could just push through each evening in a glorious combination of productivity and blissful self-restorative playing. I desire the opposite of Hamlet. 

               Ah, to never sleep...no more. 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

In addition to the violent behavior from my beloved child, there have been more than two medical mishaps with Brady (other stories for other days) and I have not just. not. hit. my. rhythm.

I miss blissful, busy vacation. I mean, who wouldn't? Look at all we did:

constant cousin play time

lake time

"girl only" time

pool time

puppy party time

farm time

daddy-got-a-firetruck-for-his-birthday time

*flying down the main town road at 35 mph with babies clinging for their lives on top was not what we had in mind when we requested a firetruck for Hubs' birthday party, but it was certainly exciting

wrestling time -wait, how did that get in there? We do that here, too.

Uncles and Aunts meet Brady for the first time time

Papa Randy time

rainbows every day, without fail. (Full on.)

I kinda need a rainbow today. {Sigh}