end of days

The internet was gone for fifty four hours. The first day was lovely. I accomplished quite a few chores and activities as could be expected, I accepted Vershmizon suckiness with a smile and thought This will be nice.

I did laundry, I played with the children. I organized every blessed DVD and CD in this house into their rightful leather storage cases and threw away every jewel case and DVD case I could find. I even washed -with soap and water- the smudged ones for heaven's sake. This is what I call over-productivity. I was graceful in my cave of solitude.

The second day was irritating. I had things I needed to arrange, look up, and I was trapped. I don't own phone books. I live and breathe by the internet. This day the children staged a small coup and I had highly unproductive conversations with customer service people who kept asking me things like
how many lights are on the router?
do you really not have a smart phone in your home? a lap top? no?
did you try turning off the router, restarting your computer?

I started getting wicked sassy with these folks. Then at what felt like 2am my father, patron saint of IT Nerds, who works for a Large Computer Company, did a jam session with me to try to troubleshoot. He asked if I had some kind of operation system or another.

When I confessed in a whisper what I had I think he threw up a little. I know in techno land a phone, computer, gadget or operating system is considered obsolete four days after it is released, but I bought this computer when Samantha was one, and I protect my electronics. This ship has run smooth sailing with zero intervention, zero viruses, zero problems and is more organized than any other aspect of my life. So I was bummed to hear I needed to do something about my home girl here, Computer. Also what stinks is realizing Verizon didn't screw one over like one thought they did. It's so much nicer to blame them.

Day three dawned with a blood red sun. The children were possessed by zombies, I started twitching and frothing at the mouth with the need to Get Crap Done that I could in no way accomplish without access to the internet. By ten am I thought we had entered the Apocolypse. The 'cave of solitude' was no longer lovely, rather, I thought we were all gonna die or I was able to lose my ever-loving mind. How did the internet being gone trigger the worst mutiny uprising I can remember? My 'therapeutic parenting' skills were flushed down the toilet. My attempts at calm sounded a bit like this:
Mama loves you.
Please stop screaming in my face.
I want to help you. Here, let me hold you.
I want to but you cannot talk to me like this.
You MAY not talk to me like that. Stop screaming my face.
(Child escapes and flings a something with something liquid and sticky in it. I don't even remember)
(Another child walks by and pinches the child I am trying to calm which escalates the already distressecd child into higher pitched screaming.) OH YOU DID NOT JUST DO THAT, COMERE, COME.HERE! NOW! If you touch your brother again EVER I am gonna tie your arms down and you will have to learn to do everything with you legs, DO YOU HEAR ME?!

So very many interactions went south despite my continued attempts to not get my stress triggered.

Something had to give.  My dad, rescuer, my only hope for survival put in a call to a friend. I drove to Cambridge where this angel of mercy works, tripped all over myself with thanks for this life saving dose of new operating system that hopefully would solve all my problems.  The tripping over myself was made worse by the fact that my dad's friend was incredibly attractive and I had the horrid mid-handshake thought as I glanced down at my ratty Celtics shirt and ripped jeans OMG did I remember to put on a bra? (I did.)

After hours of file backing up, uninstalling stuff, I, the non-IT-person upgraded my operating system and I can say that I have stopped trying to chew my arm off.  The command post is fully operational. I have internet.

I am still trying to unknot my shoulders and head and stomach from the roller coaster ride the kids were on today. I should not have jumped on it with them. Blech.

One good thing came of my internet free week: I started chipping away at my to-read list. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday I finished three novels. No, I didn't sleep much. Yes, I know that meant my perception of the children's behavior may been clouded by tiredness. Barely, people, barely. They really did have a hard time today. No I won't keep up this pace every night.

For your pleasure, my three late night companions, all worth reading and here they are for you to check out:

The Taliban Cricket ClubThe Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N. Murari
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was important, lovely, eye opening, if a little unconvincing. I think it is such a relevant book to read because of the setting and the perspective of women and men forced under Taliban rule in Afghanistan in the 90s.
I certainly learned and enjoyed it but felt the largest failing in the book was the voice of the central character who was narrating. It is a young, bold, intelligent Afghan woman, but I don't know how believable she was, especially in the first half of the book.

I think the author painted a good picture with the plot and certainly my stomach was in knots much of it, but her voice; the way she phrased things and described her feelings wanted something.

I think this would make for a fantastic young adult read. In fact, I hope it gets picked up for high school curricula. The writing felt a little under-nuanced. Good for discussion, but not a difficult read. Bottom line, I would recommend it, but I wasn't blown away the way I wanted to be.

The Language of FlowersThe Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book wrecked me last night. I read it in one night, it was so engrossing (also, my internet wasn't working so I was distraction free.) This tale of a girl aging out of foster care is so full of suspense, heartbreak, symbolism, and what I consider vital insight into the failings of foster care, how it affects young people and their ability to learn, attach to others, be in relationships, have safe view of the world, make choices.

The author didn't miss a darn thing. This main character is intelligent, capable and like with many kids who've experienced trauma and never been claimed by a family, full of contradictions: can plan a stellar flower arrangement and theme for a shi shi wedding for five hundred guests one day, and then blank out, dissociate and sleep homeless in the park for night or two. The bouts of PTSD, the flashbacks, the tension leading up to learning about why this sweet girl was never adopted was riveting and gut wrenching.

*The author is a foster mother herself and her deep insight into how kids in foster care fare is very clear. This tale is told by a compassionate insider. I love the author's passion for helping foster children aging out and going into the wide world with absolutely nothing but the repeated message for years that they are not worth loving. Please watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5-wIN...

Rooftops of TehranRooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really really enjoyed Rooftops. This book has helped feed my growing hunger for insight into family life and cultures in the Middle East. I am rather sick of the doses of negativity and "terrorism" that define what I know of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc and this book was just what I was craving. The author himself, an Iranian, says he wanted to impart the beauty and culture of his native land through this novel.

Beautifully written, funny, moving and even some nail biting sections as a story evolves around a group of teenagers coming of age in Iran. I loved this and couldn't put it down. Despite the handful of f-words, this would also make a pretty great young adult read and definitely a fabulous book group read.

And now, my friends, the laundry calls. And neglected email inbox. I am happy to be connected again.  Best part of having internet back? In two days skyping with Hubs and our lovelies in Ethiopia!



An attempt to capture what life is like in the final weeks before we are joined by our two new daughters from Ethiopia. The following are glimpses of moments, things I think about, observe in the children. I want to remember this time. In the continued torturous absence of my stolen camera, words must suffice.

At the excellent advice of a friend my children are "taking a bath" in the kiddie pool outside. There is grass and mud, but there is also water and conditioning shampoo;  in a match up with the filth I am just going to assume victory. It took approximately thirty trips to the sink with my 10 quart Le Creuset pot to get enough hot water to make the hose water bearable. It is a cast iron pot patterned after one used, I dunno, in mid evil times to withstand roaring campfires. Filled with water, heavy is an understatement.  I felt all Laura Ingalls minus bears.

They are splashing, playing, hysterically laughing. I am supposed to be here in the house getting the diapers, books, bottles and jammies prepping for Bed Time Mayhem. I just heard Mom, Tsega is putting stuff in the pool!  I believe it was this same sagacious friend, the one who told me about Kiddie Pool Bath, who intoned If it's not cocaine or poop, really, it's not worth getting worked up. She of course, is right.

Cookie monster does this marvelous, amazing thing that is so uniquely him and I love it so much. Every morning he gets out of bed, quietly, alerts no one, wakes no one and plunks himself down in front of the bookshelf and turns pages. He will leaf through five or fifteen books, until a parent wakes or he's ready to engage. But I love this calm side of him. He knows how to be still; he was like all the time before he was blessed with two brothers. Sometimes when I am lucky enough to sneak up on this, I see his mouth moving, sounding out a word here or there. Cookie, a stack of books quietly sitting in soft morning light. When I die, this picture in my mind may be one of the last things I see.

Cookie monster has a defiant streak. It takes all I've got sometimes to reign it all in and parent the way I want to in his moments devoid of logic and reason.  I have really really been trying to rewire my psyche and my brain to be nonreactive and regulated when my kids are flipping the crap out for what looks like no reason  dysregulated. The reason why I love Bryan Post's work and insight for children who's behaviors reflect their trauma, is that whenever I do what Bryan tells me to do, Cookie responds. I just finished this book and it was pretty intense for me, in a good way. Notice the title Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control. That title alone had me at hello. I love how this book focuses on how to help children with difficult behaviors with new tools, not the typical 'common sense' parenting ones. Sticker charts, losing privleges, times outs are lost on my kids.

When a child is pushing REALLY hard or being defiant about something that seems really trite,or plain ol' manipulative, Post insists it is stemming from fear. He suggests helping a child realize that I as the parent know what they are afraid of, or at least that fear is what they are feeling.  At first I resisted. I didn't like the idea of telling my kid he was afraid. What if he wasn't? Am I planting ideas in his head? Making something out of a kid who's just throwing a tantrum?

But I decided to take a leap with this. A few times this week when Cookie was flipping out and resisting something we or he needed to do I asked very quietly and gently

Cookie, are you scared that you won't know what to do when we are there? or
Cookie, are you afraid I won't help you and you won't know what is expected? or
Cookie, I think you are feeling nervous about this, can you tell me what is making you afraid?

The first time I asked and used those words, he actually paused, shrank down, eyes went to the floor and nodded. He was then able to verbalize that he was indeed scared and it blew my mind. Sometimes he tries to insist he is angry or just doesn't want to. But when I follow up and ask again, he zeroes in on something that is making him anxious. I can already tell working to reduce his anxiety about transitions is going to be key for him in learning to cope and stop throwing a wrench in our plans. And frankly, hearing someone state, as the book authors do, that something as simple as being asked to brush teeth is a transition and can trigger fear in kids was very relieving. Because we have teeth-brushing anxiety among all other transitions. There is work to be done up in here.

Brady has found it. His voice. He has officially joined his twin as another squeaky wheel. My baby who was locked in silence for so long, unable to vocalize at all has become a wet noodle for his Mama.  This week meal prep has been a holy nightmare. While I attempt to collect ingredients, chop, cook, move about, he hangs on my legs or face plants on the floor near me sobbing into a puddle of snot and drool insisting I pick him up. He has learned to yell for me. He comes and runs after me if I leave a room insisting hand! hand! And grabs my hand to pull me back to his presence. He just wants me to sit with him. He doesn't even care if we are playing a game or reading a book, sitting is just fine. He certainly is no fan of me being productive. He just wants me to be with him every moment he is awake. This is obviously not possible. And he is telling me how it makes him feel very loudly. I am so proud.

Hubs is going to Europe for work. He travels much of the time, but usually stateside.  Today he called me with a confession: he decided that he was going to tack on three days at the end of his tour to  jump on over to Ethiopia to visit our girls. I don't know whether to smack him with jealousy or make out with him for what an awesome Daddy he is to our sweet ones. We need to make sure they understand he is there just to check on them and make sure they are okay, NOT bringing them back with him. I love that he made the arrangements. I love that he thought to do that. I love that to him, being across the Atlantic ocean was all the reason he needed to go another few thousand miles to visit his daughters. Holy hannah I love this man. And I am relieved one of us will get to see the girls and keep the bonding process going until we can make there for our Embassy appointment.

Continues to get more mature with each passing day. An easier child never existed. She cleans, she helps, she is fun, she is reasonable, she goes with the flow. She writes awesome notes, makes elaborate plans, thinks deeply and feels deeply but is far more reasonable a person than her mother. Dear God, please help us survive her teenage years. Please, help me to not screw it up so we can be best friends forever. To reward her stepping it up while her three brothers have been a collective hot mess the last few weeks, I am going to treat her to a hair cut and a stay-up-late nail party with me before her sisters come. Girl bonding, just her and me.

Something on my mind. I am not one to misuse DSM IV classifications for mental illnesses. For example, it really bothers me when I hear people reference their "OCD" when they are very particular. I know a few people who live with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and is not a fun little picnic of wanting to be neat or have things a certain way. It is daily pain and being a slave to a compulsion that will not relent unless one follows it. It can be debilitating. I don't like hearing 'OCD' thrown around. Another one: multiple personality disorder, which is actually now called Dissociative Identity Disorder being mistakenly and or jokingly confused with schizophrenia.  DID  is a serious coping mechanism that arises when someone, usually as a child is severely sexually abused. A person's mind dissociates to such a severe point that his or her conscious creates different personas to help shoulder and deal with the abuse in order to survive. It has to be one of the saddest things that can happen to a person. I don't like jokes about DID or MPS or schizophrenia, which is a genetic mental illness causing hallucinations and breaks from reality. I've read a few blogs of people who live with alter identities and DID and are trying to process their abuse. It wipes the smile right off your face. None of it is funny to me. I also have friends that struggle with bi-polar disorder, which can also be a painful life journey to finding a non-manic non-depressive state. I don't like when I see folks reference someone acting moody as being bipolar.

Then today I realized something. I joked recently that a certain ice cream is so addictive to me they must lace it with heroin because it controls my mind and I crave it daily. But then I thought, I have some friends with family members who's lives have been destroyed by heroin. Real addiction isn't a joke. It's terrible. I need to practice what I preach. Being funny isn't more important than being sensitive.

And speaking of pendulum swinging, what I meant to get to is this: Tsega is a tiny rock star lately. Has had some astounding highs lately. His communication is through the roof, even when talking about his needs and feelings. His recovery when he gets out of control is faster. His cognitive ability to play has matured. I hear him vocalizing what the toys are doing and saying. He is imagining and role playing. He is so very fun and brilliant to see. I love this boy. I love his confidence, his silliness. But his lows are not easy to weather. His ability to cope shuts off and on like a light switch each day. Meal times are sometimes unspeakable. As in, I really don't want to describe them for posterity.  His impulse control and creativity combined is um, remarkable. Case study 1,029: he awoke from his nap today, instead of calling out to let us know he was up, decided to push the cribs out of place, found a metal bar that a drawer might have slid on (why this was under the crib I don't know), and proceed to hack at the wall. There are thirty or forty gouges in the dry wall. I walked in to the furniture in the room moved, holes in the wall, and I ponder:

How did none of us hear him going all The Shining on the wall of his bedroom? How does a two-year-old have the strength to move furniture? And perhaps most relevant: How am I going to explain what is going on with Tsega, Brady and Cookie -who all move in and out of crazed fun and tears throughout the day- to our new daughters? What are they going to make of this?

I teasingly asked Samantha today if she thought I was incompetent -as the trio of boys swirled around us leaping off couches and punching. All of them had closed fists and were using them and laughing. (I swear this is chromosomal. I have never smiled while punching someone.) She said  No, you're doing alright. They are impossible. I love this six-year-old's way with words.

I told her No, they aren't impossible. There are just a lot of them. Things will get better. Maybe when the girls come home, if things get nutty with the boys, you can suggest the girls have quiet time upstairs. Will you help me find ways to maintain the peace and help the girls feel alright?

Samantha, who even with two sisters older than she is coming into the home, will always be my right hand woman, smiled and said Sure, Mom.


logistics session

Conversations at 11pm

I was thinking to make things easier we could ditch the towel bars in the bathroom and put up six hooks. Trash the ratty old towels we have and get each child a different color/pattern and say "this is your towel, this is your hook. thou shalt not use someone else's towel or hook. amen."

Yeah, or we could also turn our bathroom into the girls bathroom and move all the hair and other girly supplies in there, and have the other bathroom be the boys bathroom.

It might also be time to implement a rule about bed making.
Yeah, I respect that you like that, but I don't know if really want to do that because, really, who cares? I don't know if I want one more battle to fight with them, especially if I am not passionate about it.
But I think it's a good habit. I think it's important.
But I say it's all or nothing. I don't like covers pulled up over bunched-up turned the wrong way sheets. Do it right, like a hotel, or don't bother. 
I think you're gonna have to let go of that All or Nothing philosophy with six kids. Nothing is gonna be perfect.
I have issues, yes, but I think it's a legitamate question. Why bother if it's a half way job? 
I still think we should teach our kids to make their beds.

We also should talk about the laundry system.
Oh I don't think I can talk about the laundry right now. I am not emotionally capable.

I was thinking about how to establish expectations  and a schedule with bathing, hair care, and exercise for Mimi. What about you inviting her on morning jogs with you? You guys can bond, she can train for soccer, establish exercise habits? The little kids run around like crazy anyway, but we want to make sure she can get used to PE several times a week. We will also do yoga every Friday still but running might be good.

Oh yeah, we talked about not taking the girls on big outings like shopping trips the first few weeks home, but we gotta get them shoes. And running shoes aren't things we wanna guess at.
How about the _______, it's a small mom and pop place that only sells shoes, we went there growing up. That would be a perfect and won't be too overwhelming.

These little messages we keep getting to send them, and their messages to us... it kinda feels like an 7th grade crush. The emotions are high. Both parties are ecstatic to have someone love them, feel special, be noticed. Every word, every picture is a rush. These sweeties want to be here. They want us to come. It's a pretty amazing feeling, this mutual admiration thing.

Yeah, it will be hard when reality sets in and the honeymoon ends. We know it will happen. We expect the hard parts. They don't know. They are nervous and giddy just knowing they are loved and missed.  They don't know how much work it will be to love their new family. 

Luckily, it isn't really their job to love us. It's our job to love them. They can freak out and fall out of love. Then the work really starts. 

Yeah. By the way, the carpet installation guys come Friday for the girls' room. And the HVAC guys are coming tomorrow afternoon, maybe the electricians too.

OK. Time for bed.


soft and hard

Hard: I wandered downstairs to find two children shoving a DVD from the library the wrong way into a new gaming system we just bought. The had cracked the DVD in half from the force and I hope to heaven they didn't to anything to the play station. We've had it two weeks. I can't keep all of them in my line of sight at all times. In the moments where I choose to not be a prisoner to them, like when putting in laundry, or cleaning the bathroom or heaven forbid going to the bathroom, they destroy. And I don't know how to fix this. I don't know how to help them stop making idiotic choices. This is the third thing in two months we will have to buy from the library. Rips, breaks. I am wondering today should I stop going? Stop checking things out?  Should I stop doing my favorite thing with the kids because the respect and understanding is not there?

I can't lock every blessed thing in this house up. We don't have enough places to lock. The amount of child locks on doors and cupboards is kind of maxed out already. "Out of reach" doesn't apply to almost any place.

The four-year-old and the oldest two-year-old were involved  this time.  I plan on making them "work it off" by doing chores. I have no idea how I will implement these supposed that chores that somehow "make this better" because even normal everyday please put away the books you just took out can cause huge defiance, tantrums. Transitions of all kinds with the four year old are just as destructive as the two-year-old's ideas for how to have fun. Their forces combined are wearing me out.

Should we stop going to the library? Or should I just take these destructive acts, respond as best I can, and chalk it up the cost of raising little boys? No idea. But it's ticking me off, the waste of money. But one of them walked past me with an open bottle of sun screen heading for another room, looking behind him to see if he was going to get away with LotionPalooza on the couch. He is not. But in another minute, he will find something else to get into that is not OK. Only an empty padded room would be appropriately safe for this child.

Hard: traveling not quite as soon as I hoped. Found out we have several more weeks. It is still "soon." The to do list is being whittled away. As it turns out, I don't give a crap about the list. I'd rather have them here. Good to know. Cross your fingers for September sixth, people. Say a little prayer soon after that day I can buy a plane ticket and end this waiting and longing and replace it with our two little people. We all want to be together so much.

Soft: In preparation for my trip with our daughters I learned something from Facebook. You people are passionate about your pillow pets. I put out a request for opinions regarding these little furry stuffed animals and a resounding, unilateral response was YOU MUST BUY THEM FOR THE GIRLS FOR THE TRIP HOME THEY ARE AMAZING WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

I felt stuck though. And I sent out an email to a friend who is there, in Addis. It seemed so silly at the time, embarrassing. First world problem-y. Who really cares? But I asked her to ask my sweeties: What animal would you like?

I just got an email back. They are standing right here. They say they love you. We have a request for one lion and one dolphin.

One lion and dolphin coming right up. Something soft to hug for the plane ride to a new home, a new life.


a day without pictures + poster freebie

6:45am  Alarm goes off. I think aw heck no. 

7:45am  Wake to raining, sounds of children singing

7:55am  Wonder why I cannot summon the mojo lately to wake up before the children. Realize it is not "singing." Run to babies' room. Deal with colossal mess made by two very awake toddlers, bite marks, messy diaper.

8:10am  Carry two boys downstairs, find a bit of a mess but Hubs attacking dishes in sink. Thank you Hubs.  Surprised to find him still here. Breakfast for babies. Only two spills.

8:30am  Initiate start of school by pulling books for the older kids, and the brand new "School Time ONLY" toys for the babies. Tsega's therapist suggested it to get the boys on board with school. They now have their own "school cubbie" with toys they like and know.  Spend forty minutes trying to convince them to have fun and leave me and the older kids are working. Samantha reads three chapters in her book and then is sent to draw her favorite scene and write out what is happening. Sit to do Cookie's reading lesson. All the while, Tsega and Brady make all manner of mischief.

9:30am  Boys have finally stopped being a collective pain. But they have dumped out the puzzle tote. Enlist help of older kids who are now done with reading and writing for the day to help put 16 puzzles back together. Do calm blue ocean thing, breathe, realize I've already lost my cool twice this morning and I need to pull my crap together. Words from most recent adoption/therapeutic parenting book ring through head like a mantra soft face, soft voice. Soft face, soft voice...

10:15am  I manage to fix my attitude and affect, get silly, elicit laughs, get all four kids dressed, hair combed, skin lotioned, find a bra. Realize there is no point in trying to hang on to the "designer" aspect of these jeans since they holes in the knees from constant squatting are now ridiculous, put all four kids in the van. Remove jeans, find sewing scissors and make them shorts. Head out.

10:28am  Arrive at Lowe's to see if they have spray can chalkboard paint. Cookie realizes we are not at a toy store and completely melts down. I stay calm and tell him I have to go in, and his cooperation is vital to the chance of us hanging out in a toy store all together later. He is crying and yelling when we go through the doors. They do not have the paint. Older gent in paint section thinks it is criminal I won't buy the kind I have to brush on that is twice the price of spray.

10:37am   Everyone is strapped back in van. Cookie suggests shockingly that we should try Home Depot and he will do a "redo" of his behavior to show me how good he can be. Everyone else agrees this is a good plan.

10:50am   In HD, the front door greeter says when seeing me walk in with a baby on each hip and Cookie holding my back pocket, "Dear God, what do you need?" I ask if he knows where spray chalkboard paint is. He tells me exactly where. We leave with cheers and high fives. Through this whole thing Tsega and Brady are sedate. No one knows why.

11:29am   Arrive at toy store. Best toy store in Boston Area. A place I occasionally promise for good behavior and rainy days. Today hit both qualifications. They play, I find a few good games for sibling bonding and home school activities. I rein myself in considerably. Wish someone would create such a thing as a Adopting Older Children Registry. It's not like I need a "baby shower" but man, there are some great games and activities out there that would be fun for our first months home.

12:45pm  All of us walk to grocery store in same strip mall to buy granola bars and string cheese for lunch since I did not bring food of any kind on our journey. Not one child cried the entire time we were in toy store. Reflect on possibility that instead of adding speed like he usually does, Hubs put Quaaludes in the children's' breakfast. Discover with horror that when grocery store is in Fancy Whitey Richvilletown, the food is outrageously expensive. The children still are laughing, singing, staying together, even helpful. I do not understand, but enjoy it. As usual in the grocery store, we are a sight.

1:30pm  Strap still-happy children in car seats, hand out bars, pears, cheese, etc. Rush home because we spontaneously decided on ice cream and waffle cones for after dinner partay.

2pm  Enter home. They disperse while I put groceries away and make Part B of lunch including yogurt, grapes, quesadillas. Realize we are going heavy on the dairy today.

2:40pm  Attempting to read super insightful articles online about gender stereotypes and parents raising children with gender identity disorders and realizing this is not a good time. Persist, stop every thirty seconds to tell children to stop jumping on their older sisters' mattresses and box springs which are sitting in our front entry way. I am not effective. I keep reading. I tell the boys "it's almost time for a nap" about eight times while still trying to read articles.

2:50pm Remember sale is going on at online store were I wanted to buy 12-year-old daughter and myself some clothes. Open up new window of internet. This is stupid. Need to put babies down for a nap. Start adding to 'cart.'

3pm  Realize I have lost all control.  I hear wild laughter. I ask what is going on? Tsega answers Nuffing! I run. A huge bag of cotton balls has been released into the living room. The three boys think it's Christmas. I direct clean up. Go fill up bottles for naps. Come back in room to see they have all been dumped again. I don't yell. Win for Mom.

3:30pm Babies are down. Lunch clean up. Time for math with Samantha, skip the text book today and try
new game we just bought. It's hard but good. Cookie threw in the towel early, but we were only including him for show anyway. He sits and looks at books while she and I keep playing.

4:15pm Call it quits. Give Sissy one more assignment: To try to complete a maze out of Kumon Maze Workbook. Challenging but not impossible for a six year old. It took her almost ten minutes to get it. Love that brain work! Turn on Dinosaur Train (new episodes this week!) go to internet for dinner recipe. Remember I wanted to create a poster for the school room with cool quote. Consult pinterest. Decide to make my own in Photoshop after twenty pointless minutes.

5pm  Babies still asleep. Have not started dinner. Send Samantha and Cookie to attic to play. Get serious about dinner. Remember I wanted to spray the chalkboard surface. Want it to start drying, put off dinner a few more minutes.

6:50pm Holy crap that dinner took longer than intended. The older kids had come down, helped which slows things down considerably, and had a big small but badly placed (for coordination and speed's sake) mishap with knife. Also used brown rice which takes exactly three years to cook. Recipe was fantastic for me. Kids felt meh about it.

7:15pm Kids are winding up into hysteria. Babies did not love dinner. Did not each much. They do not earn ice cream. I am totally not giving in. They are all playing tag and duck duck goose wildly. I am cleaning up the seventy five dishes it took to create the meal.

7:35pm. Story time. Prayers. We skip teeth brushing because my finger is throbbing and teeth brushing is a full contact sport in this house. I need all limbs functional. Lotion time with Brady and Tsega. I go on and on about how amazingly awesome their awesomeness was today.  We sing a few songs and it's lights out for the littlest ones. Please God, give Tsega a day like this tomorrow. He was so happy.

8:15pm  Older kids have gotten into jammies by themselves and were reading books while I did the baby thing. I come down stairs so we can bust out the ice cream cones. We snuggle up to our new novel Babe: The Gallant Pig. Farmer and Mrs. Hogget have Irish accents (obviously). We button up three chapters. All is calm. Best part of my day, right here.

9pm  They are all abed. Go to check email. Hubs emailed, he's on a plane. Totally forgot he was traveling this week. Was really hoping he'd do dishes tonight with my injury an' all.

10pm Clothes ordered for me and Oldest daughter. She's gonna be psyched. And I can't wait to have fresh canvases a few new t-shirts for the boys to bleed and barf on. that will last a year.

11pm load dish washer

11:45pm finish printable quote thingy. Going to print it here in an 16x24 and then will laminate. The "be's" inspired by this talk to young people.

12:09am  I have more than sufficiently screwed around on the computer. Must sweep kitchen floor, then upstairs to put away approximately half a load of laundry. Read a little. And hope tomorrow I will have the strength to get up before the children do, to exercise a little. Only time will tell.

** A reader asked if she could have this poster to print, and because I think it's pretty, the answer is yes! Anyone can email me at scoopingitup at gmail dot com and request the poster. I will send you the file. It is meant to print at 16x24 size but you could get away with a bit bigger or smaller as long as you keep the proportions the same (i.e. no 8x10). 


Size doesn't matter

It doesn't matter if one is a size zero or a size 24.
It doesn't matter if one has birthed children or not.
It doesn't matter if one has ever been teased or not for one's body.
It doesn't matter if people think one is beautiful or not.
It doesn't matter if what is on the outside is "acceptable" on BMI scales or any scale.

Today I watched this talk which is lovely, brave, awesome. And I cried a little, not because I feel like her actions validated me or set me free. No, I cried a little because one can be in pain about one's body even if society tells one You're not allowed to feel bad. Even if every conversation about health, weight, dieting, exercise, sadness about feeling out of shape one is dismissed, shut down and told "Oh whatever, you can't talk...."

One can feel ashamed or insecure about one's body even if to everyone else one looks "fine."

What if we as women realized that every one of us wears scars, some of them are more obvious, on the outside. Some are internal, some can't be seen. What if we didn't silence each other and believed each other when one of our number says I feel ________? What would that be like to dispense with the eye rolling and assumption?

It doesn't matter one's size. One can still feel terrible and work really really hard to stuff it down to a small place where it doesn't rear its head more than a few times a day when one passes a mirror or sees a picture of oneself.  Sometimes it can stay stuffed away for a week or two at a time. One will work especially hard to model healthy eating and food choices and try really hard to use positive words about everyone's body including one's own in front of the girl child. The daughter. Who hopefully will never feel terrible about her body. Her size.

Because ultimately, it doesn't matter. Maybe someday one will believe it about oneself.


Wild things and the perfect Misir Wot

Before we get to the wot, I need to paint a few mental pictures. Today Tsega, two years old, arranged a safety pad of pillows around the couch, and from the highest point on the arm, he stood perfectly balanced, knees bent, arms out and ready like the guys on the high diving platform, and alternated catapulting forwards, or, jumping blind launching backwards into the couch cushions as far as he could, adding twists as he got braver. Watching him make up games like this is stressful, and as I told a friend tonight who saw him at it again, "I don't know how I can put a stop to this kind of thing." She said wisely, "I don't think you can."

Speaking of life threatening, Brady, also two, has learned terrible things from his brother. Even though they share a room at night, the boys nap in separate rooms so they won't play because heaven knows I need them to nap or I will be totally incapable of functioning. Apparently I put Brady's pack n' play too close to Samantha's bunk bed because somehow, he was able to get ahold of the cross beams and haul himself up and out of the crib. I found him up on the top bunk, sobbing, unable to get down today when he should have been asleep. Brady has learned to jump without looking and to go without thinking from Tsega, but lacks the skills to keep himself safe. They are driving me totally nuts. Someone, please tell me how to get this memo across to my Destruction Duo:

Hubs and I are reading this bookto try and help us deal with keep alive nurture the boys and it is disconcerting to read; like the authors are spying on our family. It is insightful and also very creepy how much they talk about my every day life. I had no idea other people live like this, with the raging little boy testosterone and what not. If you have one boy or three, this book is chock full of wisdom.

And speaking of my boys, Hubs has been getting snobby about his Ethiopian food. The last time I made it, he actually declined because it wasn't authentic enough. This would have bugged me more if he hadn't been right. It lit a fire under me to practice, do more searching and fine tune my preparation. My biggest challenge has been with the dish misir wot, a spicy lentil stew that is truly heavenly when done right.

Finally, I located a recipe and saw a online video tutorial that made all the difference. I combined the different tips and tonight was delighted to share the most perfect misir wot I've ever created with friends and now, you. Though I can't send you leftovers, I will give you the recipe and some of the tips. Even all written down, I must admit, there is an art to it. You have to be willing to own Ethiopian food. Like, if the time I wrote seems too long or too short or it needs a little more oil or salt, you kinda have to develop an instinct and go for taste and texture over obedience to the recipe card. Practice definitely helps. I was trying to do that before, but within the framework of this recipe, trusting my gut now seems easier. I hope it brings you there as well.

Print the recipe PDF here:
Misir Wot, Ethiopian Spicy Lentil Stew
 Ingredients: 2 onions yellow or red, finely minced (food processor is easiest), 3-5 cloves minced garlic (or 2 tbps), 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger, 3-4 tbsp berbere, ½ cup – 2/3 cup crushed tomato (from can), 1 cup dried red lentils, ½ cup vegetable oil, 4 cups water, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp cardamom. Please note, this stuff is hot. And ye'taftal! (yummy!)
 Directions: Get all those ingredients pre-minced and measured before you start. (esp the water, as you will add it in bits and it’s hard to keep track of how much you’ve put in. measure it out in a bowl and take some as needed.)  Heat stew pot over medium heat. Add minced onions dry, no oil in pan. Stir and cook for 5-6
minutes, add in garlic and ginger. Saute sans oil another few minutes. Add oil; after 1 min. stir in berbere.
Simmer, stirring often for 15-20 minutes, should resemble a paste. If starting to get too thick/stick, add a
little water from the bowl you premeasured, no more than ¼ cup. Add in tomato. Rinse lentils in fine mesh
colander under hot water.  Add lentils to onion, cook while stirring for ten minutes. Add water ½  cup at a       
time over next 15 minutes. Once water is all added, lower heat and let simmer with lid on, stirring
occasionally another 10 minutes. Test the lentils, you want it to be  just a bit softer than chewy, not too
mushy. Towards the end of cooking add in salt and cardamom. Some Ethiopian cooks also add another  
dash of garlic powder, so go for it if you want. While cooking the oil will rise to the top. Stir it all in. Let
cool for a few minutes and serve with injera. Pita will work if you are desperate. Eneblah!
(Amharic for Let’s eat!)
 Notes: berbere (ber-beray with rolled “r”) is an Ethiopian spice consisting of red chili pepper and about nine
other spices. I prefer to not make it but buy it. Injera is a sourdough pancake bread made mostly from t’eff.        
,xadnI hope y    
Happy almost-weekend to you all, and a sincere thank you for coming by and reading.


Cramming and process update

Did I mention that we were submitted to Embassy this past Thursday? Maybe I didn't since I was being so vocal and obnoxious with the joyful freak out other places online. And even better news, there is a chance my trip to Ethiopia for an interview at the US Embassy in Ethiopia and bringing the girls to our family is going to come up rather quickly (which is awesome in its awesomeness.) A friend of mine, who had court the same day, but was submitted to Embassy exactly one week before us, has already been cleared. They were given the green light to travel after a measly eight days.

As much as I'd like to leave tomorrow to go be with them again, and end their stay in an institution that frankly, is rapidly falling apart, we are so totally not ready. We are four days into our case investigation. I could need (get) to be in Ethiopia in just two or three weeks if things go exceptionally quickly. Which is great, but there are definitely things around the house that will never happen if I cannot summon the fortitude and the babysitting money to finish them. They will not get done. I know they won't because they aren't done now.

If you'd like to also break out into hives, I will share a small part of the list with you

girls' room

finish paint
carpet installation
schedule finish electrical stuff
assemble dressers and desks
buy mattresses and bedding (find bedding that is not ugly and works with color scheme is a whole other first world problem)
print a few pictures to go in room
purchase 1 weeks worth of clothing and undies for the girls
organize clothes

Hubs test drive a few cars, narrow down our options
current options to try out
Ford 350 passenger van
Chevy Express passenger van
Nissan NV passenger van
Suburban of some sort
Mercedes or Dodge Sprinter Test drove. Loved. Too tall for Cambridge and Boston parking garages.
put feelers out for selling our van
decide on either dealer trade in or private sale
if private sale, fix squirrel damage and this squirrel damage
(OK, the damage isn't that bad, it's just funny to have some reminders of that problem)
(Also, on paper, this doesn't sound nearly as stressful as it is. I cried about it this morning and last night.)

organize linen closet upstairs, throwing away any excess anything
laundry room clean out
new curtain rod for Samantha and Cookie's room, get other curtain up
scan Samantha's art work and throw it the heck away
organize my clothes, make bag of giveaway
clean basement stairs covered in unimaginable filth. (It has literally been eight months since they were vacuumed. it is a walk of shame every time I go down there)
give Hubs a hidden pile checks to deposit because I go to banks never. Especially since our bank now "only works through appointments" and turns me away when I ask to speak with a teller. I am not interested in that. He will ask when he sees this pile of checks: You realize these things count as money right?
find a new owner for some of our baby stuff

resume start in earnest research on receipts to try to get stolen equipment covered. Need want need want need to buy camera before heading to Ethiopia again

And on top of this entire list, I am cramming. I am reading every post I can from families who's kids recently came home. What grief looks like, what freaking out looks like, what attachment issues look like in older kids. What to do about it. I am trying to prepare. Trying to get my kids ready. I am cramming in hair care and styling tutorials, I am cramming in Ethiopian cooking tutorials and practice. We are cramming in Amharic lessons.  I am cramming in every inch of preparation I can to be able to take whatever storms may roll our way during an adjustment from four to six kids. I am trying to lower expectations or delete them, while still planning and preparing. It is a weird balance to strike.

I am realizing I could do a little more cramming of a different kind. I need to cram in the one true source of real peace. Real stability. I need to look a little less to the internet and books and instead look to God.

I need to hit my knees a little more in prayer and meditation. I need to take care of myself.  Or rather, I need to let God take care of me. I need to stop trying to control everything. You'd think like a control freak like me wouldn't have opted for a life that clearly is so far out of anyone's ability to control. And when I say I can't control, anyone who has ever spent time with my three boys when they are "at it" knows what I am talking about. Sometimes I feel like a spectator who is there to mop up the blood and tears.

I have faith we will be OK at some point, though I can honestly say it took almost two years for things to feel manageable after adding the two babies simultaneously to our family. I can't help but wonder if this will be the same. Crud, our "normal" or version of "manageable" is not easy. I am a windshield wiper. Nervous. Happy. Nervous. Happy. This is all happening so fast. Soon I get to hold my girls again. Soon these two lovelies will be in my arms, in our home.


his big take away and some of mine

One of my children has deep thoughts and questions occasionally. He usually shares/asks during our moments in the bathroom together. Somehow the quiet privacy of the toilet and Mama's brief undivided attention is a trigger for philosophical revelations. Past deep thoughts include gems like

When I die, will I still want my blankie?

Will you love me a little less when I turn eleven?

Why we make shadows?

I think the Daddy poop was lonely for the baby poops.

My pee not coming. Maybe it run out of batteries. 

Yesterday's thought stopped me in my tracks.

Mom, you get mad and yell. You yelled a lot this week.

He said this with a calm, serious face. I was stunned because while my patience goes through cycles and my personal discipline with excellent parenting cycles as well, this particular week has been awesome. I felt like I'd spent the week giving daily fun, reading lessons, trips to parks. I felt on top of my Mama Game. I didn't think I'd yelled very much at all. I hadn't been perfect, but certainly not out of control I-need-to-get-help-immediately kind of stuff.

But Mama was fun this week too. Remember doing x,y,z?
Yeah, but you yelled sometimes.

Out of all the fun, good things I thought I was doing, he latched onto the yelling. The moments I wasn't regulated, kind, perfect were his take-aways. Sucky suck suck.

I've been sitting on this several hours, trying to decide what my take away from his little observation is.

First of all, I need to up my positive to negative ratio. For every reprimand there needs to be ten smiles. For every "I've had it. Stop it now!" There needs to be ten tickles and "thanks for obeying."  For every No, this is not OK!  I need to give ample, maybe almost excessive hugs and positive direction.

I am not talking about over-praising. Nurture Shock taught me all I need to know about inadvertently killing our kids' success with too much praise. I am talking about my childrens' take away. What do they take away from their relationship with me? From our day to day interactions?  What are my goals? Do they recognize the fun and good and the love or are they overwhelmed with constant correction with splashes of Mom Totally Losing her Crap.

I want them to feel unconditionally loved, no matter how they act.
I want them to know I love being with them and spending time with them.
I want them to know I value their gifts and will help with their weaknesses.
I want them to know I love being their mother.

If I want them to feel those, I have to show them I am happy. I am happy to know them, be with them. While they are also allowed to know when I am disappointed and tired, they also deserve the confidence that accompanies security that Mom isn't going anywhere. She's reliable because she loves me so much. She's reliable because she loves being a mom.  Maybe this feels like an over reach to  you, but I have insecurities as a kid and I worry about these things.

Sometimes, I feel like I've lost my Fun. I don't smile or play as much as I should. I bark orders like Captain von Trapp and frankly, I think his whistle and uniforms plan are not a bad ideas. That crap would simplify this whole operation over here.

But somehow it's hard to set high expectations and teach well without being stern and serious. I find it a terribly challenging balance. And parenting kids is draining whether you have one or ten. I only can speak from experience, but parenting with four and two with high needs, has wiped the smile right off my face sometimes.

I wonder how it comes across to my kids? On an average week I think I am doing well, treading water, hanging in there. I feel good about the feelings in the house, overall the way I am responding to them. But it might look and feel like this: (*I should note when I wrote "pissed" I don't actually mean I spend entire days angry. I have moments where I feel like I've lost my mind, but never entire days. The point is, I think my children take a weak or impatient parenting moment and it takes over the good feelings and the good moments. It's no one's fault, but I don't want it to be like this.)

What if things looked and felt more like this? The happy much happier, living most of the time well above neutral with realistic hard days sprinkled in.

I don't know what the goal should be.  Maybe I am lame because I assumed in an average week I am capable of being happy but not joyful. What does this say about me? But I do know when I am feeling good and proud of my kids and happy, I want to make those positive feelings more obvious to my children.

So, the second take away is that I am trying to remind myself to smile. Act fun when I am feeling it, and making an even bigger effort to be fun when I am not feeling it. Be silly when I just want to send them to bed. Go in for a hug a kiss, or even make a crazy face and act like I am gonna tickle every time they pass by me in the house.

And in case I do start feeling impatient and yelly, I need to breathe. And realize it will not help. Sure, it may scare them into submission. But now I am just scary. Not loving. Scary. And that is not what I want to be. My most recent "go to" getting silly, "out crazying the crazy" keeping it light, showing love even in the act of a power-struggle techniques are

1) Dancing "she's a maniac" from Flashdance
2) Opera versions of "Frosty the Snow Man"
3) Pretending like I can't see a child who is being naughty or stubborn or tantrumingand I keep calling for him and asking him if he's there. Where are you?!!

4) Singing a song they know with the wrong words on purpose (twinkle twinkle little goat usually gets a good laugh)
5) If someone is not cooperating getting dressed or a diaper change, start trying to put the diaper and clothes on myself.
6) Pretend sneezing so hard I knock myself down.

Resorting to the play and the silly instead of yelling or franly, breaking down and crying at the ridiculoudness surely can add to that feeling fo security and love. The less I show mad, and the more I show silly, the better. Because once a negative moment is turned into a positive one, a Mama can herd all the feral cats into their carseats or beds and no one is worse for the wear.

I was in the red and I didn't even know it with the loving feelings this week. Do you have anything you to do outweigh all the Nos and Stop thats and You're driving me Crazy's with positive and loving feelings in your house?