keeping it real

What Brady does when he discovers his siblings left unauthorized writing utensils out in the bedroom where he naps.

Samantha getting ready for Hurricane Sandy. I made her go back in and put on more clothing.

Hubs and the ladies preparing to go for a walk in the storm. It was strangely warm and the rain was blowing sideways. As you can see, Samantha is not thrilled she had to change out of her swim suit.

Cookie found something to get upset about and would NOT go on the walk in the storm. Everyone loses when Cookie gets upset. I tried so hard to help him work through quickly so he could join them on their adventure, which he really wanted to do. But it didn't work.

*I calmed my sweet boy down after an hour with, of course, a cookie and a story. I don't know who weathered the worse storm, me inside or the crew outside in Sandy...


Never ever ever

Tsega tells you his feelings about chores, meat, green beans, diaper changes, bed times, etc.

Happy weekend friends. I am off to half-heartedly buy a few more flashlights and water bottles.


One month in

Our girls have been here in the US for exactly a month. Four weeks. It is hard to imagine a group of children who have worked harder and handled changes, unknown and chaos better than my kidlets.  The girls coming has brought good changes to our home. The house felt run by erratic and dysregulated toddlers despite my best intentions. Now, there are more people "with" the program than not most days. Heck, we attended church for the first time last week (my brain almost exploded with how hard it was for me to want to go) and with six kids it actually went better than any time we've gone in the last year with four kids. And by that I mean we actually stayed in in the bench one hundred percent of the time. There were tears, pouting and pinching, but no launching over the pew and no blood, so I count that as a success.

The four older kids have learned amazing things in the last few weeks. Like that Mom doesn't give a crumb if you walk by while I am cooking dinner and say I don't like dees. Or that sometimes it's easier to do a quiet puzzle with one sibling than play a game with everyone all together. That it's okay if we split up sometimes into pairs to eliminate tricky dynamics. That we eat breakfast only after bed is made and clothes are on - weather appropriate clothes. That Dad is cooler, but Mom is the one who will always read One more chapter pleeez Mama!

I can't say "I've never been so tired," because I have had times with the bebes that made me so bone tired I never thought I'd make it to the next day. This is not that. I am not "falling asleep on the toilet" tired and I have been there. It's not a happy place. But mentally, I am fried eggs. I am worn out with all the coordinating. I am seeing that to deal I am shutting down a little. Smiling less. More stern. Trying to get ahead of these ineffective coping strategies and set a good example and act ultra loving even when I am depleted.

They themselves are a good antidote to my sagging eyelids and blank stares while managing the day. They are making me laugh constantly. Tsega was being a total punk in Target yesterday and at the last straw which involved opening a bottle of lotion and going to town, he saw I was about to come unglued and he put up a hand, and said calmly but loudly Stop, Mama, Jesus loves me! As Target staff started to laugh out loud, I told him Yes He does, but He isn't going to save you right this second. Get in the cart!

My mind feels like a balancing act that keeps toppling over. I am learning too, though. It only took me three weeks to figure out that when Fikir says No! Lela! She is not talking about the care center in Ethiopia named "Layla House" she is saying lela, the word in Amharic that means different. Ahh, she wants something different than what I am saying. Gotcha.  Light bulbs turning on every day. And sometimes burning out.  Every second Hubs and I are awake that we aren't with the children we are talking about them. Who needs extra love, who needs a talk, who needs a solo date, who needs more hugs, who needs an eye on them, do we have the kids in optimal sleeping arrangements? How are they doing in their classes? In each relationship with everyone else in the family? Is everyone safe? No? Does Brady need to move back into our room? How are each of the kids coping with the new rules? Expectations? Who is tantruming the most? Why? What can be done about it? How are you doing, dear? What? I can't hear you over the sound of this ice cream sundae that I eating to cover up my stress.

I know it's blasphemy to post a picture of fall leaves and drain away the vibrant colors, but this boy in black and white won out over protocol.

One month in, feels miraculous. The children are doing well, still. All the bumps and bruises are all understandable, deal-with-able.  Me, I am gonna go try to not eat another cookie. And pray to not suck tomorrow.  These fun people deserve a mama that does not suck.


A letter to the cat shelter folks...

...the ones (three of them) who turned down our extensive application because they saw us as unfit to care for animals. The ones that saw the number of kids in our family, and their ages and turned us down flat out. The ones who have cats, some lined up in cages, who are waiting for homes who want to care for them and still didn't want to consider that a cat or two could actually be happy here. This is especially to the woman who said We just had nine kittens arrive today, but....(longest pause in the world) I think you should call another place. We can't help you:

I'd like to introduce you to our babies, Lilly and Selam.

Two, four-month-old kittens. All six children in this house love them. They have learned to go slow, be gentle, show love, and give space and all sorts of other amazing, beautiful things from these sweet girls. And after a few short weeks here they are coming out of their shells. Well, Lilly didn't really have a shell. Selam in particular has been in a sort of Kitty Attachment Therapy to help reduce her fear of the fast-moving little people.

Here they are in a safe, small quiet space where our kids have been assigned "visiting hours" to go in alone, one at a time, and hang out with them and let the kitties get to know them. This sequestering has really helped. And no, the youngest two don't go in unsupervised. Look, we can be thoughtful, intentional and keep everyone safe. Imagine.

But now, they both purr when they are held. They are coming when they are called. They crawl under covers with all of us. They are enjoying the petting. After some hard work and amazing restraint shown by the children, Lilly and Selam are seeing that everyone here wants to be their friend. No, the don't love the youngest, who's learning curve is slower, but they are smart kitties. They stick around for a pat on the head and then find a safe spot when he comes crawling after them. They are happy. They are loved. We all adore them.

After weeks, no months of searching, we found two little girls who needed a family to care for them,  no thanks to you, Cat Shelter People. The experience the children are having learning to care for them and respect them is just what we envisioned.

On another note, it feels good to have the calming, sweet presence of felines in the house again after what happened to our Fifi this past summer. (Don't worry Fifi, the kids remember you every single day. Tsega mentions you in his prayers often and Cookie Monster blurts out in the car, at the park, in the library I miss Fifi. We all miss you. Every time we see an old picture of you everyone becomes quiet and sad for a few moments. We hope you check in every now and again with us.) 

We are so happy Selam is happy to be out and about; these are the first pictures I've been able to take of her in daylight with the kids milling about around us.

We brought home Lilly first, alone. When we met the kittens, Selam, then nameless, was skittish. We did not feel our home was a good match for her, at first. We didn't want her to be traumatized by the craziness. It was clear from the beginning Lilly was down with the crew. It's fascinating that after just two minutes with a group of kitties their personalities shine through.  But as time would tell, those two minutes aren't everything.  We worked for a few weeks to find Lilly a buddy. We wanted her to not be a solo cat. But rejection after rejection from local shelters and some encouraging texts from the woman fostering her made us rethink. We drove back to visit Selam who was still shy but we thought Let's see how she does. Maybe she will be OK. We decided if she was miserable after a few days we would work with the foster kitty mom to find her a better, quieter home.

The moment we let Selam out of the cat carrier the two kittens started to hug. Lilly spent the whole night showing Selam around the house and playing. The sisters were so happy to be back together. Looking back I can't believe we almost separated them.

I am grateful to the blog reader (Hi, E!) who read my kitty search woes, reached out and helped point us to these little ones. A a big thanks to my friend L who tried to help us adopt a kitten (or two or three!) and was rejected herself by local shelters.  Apparently cat shelters in New England have plenty of people lined up to rescue cats and kittens so they can be very choosy. It's a little baffling how two women, mothers, with smart, capable children who managed to complete loads of paperwork and undergo scrutiny from the FBI, and foreign governments and social workers to adopt children internationally, couldn't make it past a phone interview for a cat. It's worth noting Shelter Folks: your standards in this neck o' the woods are high. 

But everything happens for a reason. Maybe, if you saw this, Cat Shelter Folks, in the future you would give people like us a chance. And let loving families, even ones like ours, adopt cats into good homes.  You had the info, and you wouldn't even call our three non-relative references to find out anything about us beyond what you saw on paper. I think you missed out.

Your friend, Mom to six lovely humans and two awesome, happy cats 

Participating in:
Ni Hao Yall


Forest for the trees

Sometimes when I want to put distance between myself and a scuffle in the comments section of a post  I feel a need to post again. It makes me feel a little better. I was saving these for a rainy day anyway.

I would say these pictures make me feel all Calm Blue Ocean, but really, they make me feel all Minute Man National Park. Which is almost as good. Sunshine, empty woods, history all around us in every boulder, wall, tree. It really is as peaceful as it looks there. I need to remind myself that when I am feeling stifled, grumpy and insecure, I need to go walk a battleground where men fought and died for freedom. I feel like I have my head back on straight. I feel like I can breathe again.

On another note, remember when I was here last?  Holy mackerel, I only had two children then and they were so so little. What is bizarre about that statement is that it was only three years ago that I had two tiny  kids. A lot can happen in a little time, friends.  I am blessed beyond measure to live where I do, to have these people in my life.

Happy weekend to you all. If you are feeling out of sorts, I hope you can find your calm blue ocean or national park tomorrow.


Habesha Hair Diary

This week's styling! I had a hard time describing to Mimi how I wanted to do her hair, and thankfully, she just let me have my way with her and trusted me. Each side took one hour, two hours total, which is not bad. Thankfully one of the hours she spent on the phone with one of her best friends from Ethiopia (who was adopted to the US a few months before Mimi came here.) They giggled and chatted in Amharic and I was grateful she had a buddy to keep her company while I went to town. This is simply cornrows leading into french braids.

Here she is half way done.

Final product. Posing as a Minute Man hiding behind a famous boulder in Lexington where a few Red Coats were ambushed.

Fikir likes having some of her hair free. Which makes doing her hair simple and fast. Language barrier sucks. She sometimes cries when I do her hair because she has a hard time understanding when I attempt to tell her what I am doing. Then, when I show her in the mirror, she is all smiles and happy and thankful. I think she is stressed out that she won't like it. Next time I am going to draw her a picture before I start and see if that helps. Another factor leading to Hair Pouting is that I think she'd like to wear her hair free every day, but I don't have time to do it every day, so she has to live with braids sometimes to lessen daily maintenance routine. Luckily, she has continued to be happy with the result, even if she's a little miffed during the actual braiding.

Fikir's rows.

From the side

If any of you have links to pictures of cool styles I should try on the girls, we three are looking for cool suggestions. We prefer braids to twists as they stay in longer, but let me know if you have ideas please!


Without You

While we were in the adoption process one of our kids' favorite songs became Without You, sung by Usher. It made it to the top of the After Dinner Dance Party Mix. We all resonated with the imagry in the music video of the continents moving together to bring people together, as it felt pretty dang literal. We yearned to be close to our girls. We wanted to transport them here.

So here we are today. We've brought two continents together. The yearning is over. And now as I listen to the words I am faced with the reality that adopting older kids is not the same as having them as infants. It is not the same as giving birth. It doesn't feel the same.

It feels a little like a strange arranged marriage following a very short courtship. We like each other. We want to truly love each other, and we are most definitely tied together as a new family. But that breathless lovely feeling of holding one's children in one's arms. That sameness of being. That soul-connection. That sharing of air and space and couch cushions and spoons. It's not there yet. They don't occupy my soul and body the same way their siblings do yet. I have faith they will. I believe with everything I have that in time, perhaps without me even registering it, their smell, their touch, their sounds, their essence will feel as natural and essential to me as the other children. No, I know it will happen. We just need time.

I won't run, I won't fly
I will never make it by
Without you, without you
I can't rest, I can't fight
All I need is you and I,
Without you, without you

Today in the car as all six little people sang You, you, you oh oh oh! at the top of their lungs I smiled and wiped away tears. I cannot wait until I truly and firmly feel the lyrics, that I couldn't make it by without them. Attachment goes both ways. And it has goodness and God in the details. 

P.S. Usher's hair cut in this video was the number one influence on Tsega's 'hawk. There, I said it.


Making Injera: Not for the Faint of Heart

I made my first batch of injera a few days ago, and I cannot tell you how surprised I was that it was terrible. I know I know, I shouldn't be, almost everyone's first attempts are.  Please forgive my arrogance, but I just do not screw up in the kitchen that much. Hoo boy it was humbling. I had to redeem myself by trying again immediately.

I changed everything about the way I made the batter the second time around just for kicks. This time, the recipe and instructions were told to my Ethiopian babysitter by her mother, over the phone. This kind woman 1) thought I am nuts for trying to do this and almost spent more time telling her daughter to tell me to forget about it than actually imparting Injera Secrets. 2) Never measures  3) Obviously withheld information about something she adds because she didn't think I could find it or would know what it was. I want to uncover this secret. She has no idea how relentless I am.

But even without her Secret Flour that she adds, this second batch worked. The kids were ecstatic. It was passable. To me, it wants that Secret Flour to make it truly amazing, but I am happy to say that in a pinch, in 48 hours I can whip up homemade injera.

I will share with you the method and ingredients I tried for this batch of injera. I cannot wait to revisit the first recipe again and tweak and mesh to find my favorite method and ingredient proportions, so this is not the last you shall hear from me on this vital topic.

First of all, it's worth noting, I sucked it up and purchased a mit'ad (a round grill that is only used for injera, no eggs and bacon made on this sucker). I also have three safed that I brought home from Ethiopia that make the cooking/cooling process a piece of cake. You can get away with not having these items, but I gotta admit, there is something lovely about doing it the traditional way. It feels good to do it "right." And just like with being able to handle the amazing amount of hair in this house coming from the Ethiopian folk, I can tell they respect that I am doing this. They know how it's supposed to look, taste, smell, be made, and the little smiles and nods of approval mean a lot. The Teddy Afro playing the background and the burned fingers and the safed heaped with injera make them feel like our house is home. They appreciate it. This good, Mom. Now need shiro!

Injera Day 1
In huge tupperware type container with good sealing lid, mix 1 tbsp active dry yeast with 1 cup warmish hottish water and let sit for five to ten minutes.
Scoop in three cups straight up t'eff. I used ivory, if you want to use a mix of ivory and brown, go for it. I am sure I will add brown in one of these batches.
eye ball more warm water and mix with hands. It is completely vital to use your hand to mix. Using a spoon will not get lumps out. The texture before you are all done and ready to put the lid on your container should be a little thicker than pancake or cake batter, but not too thick. It is slimy and oozy and completely bizarre feeling. Injera is 30% science 70% art. This batter consistency was not a product of water measured. I just kept adding warm water and my friend/sitter kept squishing the batter-turned-sensory-experience between her fingers until it looked and felt "right." Welcome to VagueVille. Population: Injera.

Lid goes on. Sits for 24-30 hours on the counter.

Injera Day 2
Add one more cup of t'eff and two cups of self-rising flour and more hot water. This water was also not measured in anyway. This time the batter will be thinner. Pourable. Think a little thicker than what you'd use for a crepe and thinner than traditional pancake batter. And speaking of pancake batter, you know how that is supposed to be stirred and mixed as little as possible? Not so here. You want zero lumps. In fact, Ethiopian Mama on the Phone told me her method is the blend the whole thing. Smooth as silk is her direction. So in three batches I put it through the Vitamix.

After all blended and smooth in texture, return to plastic container and put lid back on. Let ferment again for five to six hours. Worth noting: My container was not big enough or lid tight enough. When I left it it was fine. Six hours later, it had expanded and blown the top off  and wasted one or two rounds worth of batter out onto the counter. Bummer.

Here is what it looks like at this point. You can see how the level is lower because I lost so much batter.

Get ready to cook! Process instructions I learned from the awesome book You Can Make Injera (and the proceeds from sales of this book all go to improving access to health care in Ethiopia. Go pick a copy up, other great recipes in there as well!)

Basically, heat the pan, don't suck too badly at pouring in a circle, and throw the lid on. If you did a decent job with the batter, in about 1 minute, you have a gorgeous crepe-y looking round of injera, that is removed easily with your safed, a flexibly flat woven basket, pictured below. It is the ultimate spatula as it slides right under and picks it up right off.

Let it cool on the other thicker safed(s), while you use the first safed to keep scooping the injera off the mit'ad. Keeping them separate while cooling is important because they will stick when hot.

This is not a perfect recipe. My kids are not picky. Your family might not love this recipe. I don't love it, yet though I think I can get there. It certainly works. Tonight we had shiro, gommen, doro and misir wot all eaten with the homemade injera. It was pretty cool. Good luck in your own endeavors!


Deep end

Welp. I wasn't lying in a recent post when I mentioned we jumped into the deep end as a family. Our new 12-year old and 6-year-old from Ethiopia have been here almost three weeks, and life is in full swing.  And it is worth mentioning that "school" right now is looking very very unschooly, which is not something I ever thought would happen, but here we are. We are in an intense time of learning how to be a family, learning how it works to be together, learning how faucets work and flushing toilets and how often one must wash hair and just how dirty is too dirty for a shirt?

Before we can get to math we need to learn things like how toilets can have paper flushed. Promise, it's ok. And All clothes can come off for a shower, and only mom carries the two-year-olds down the stairs and only mom or dad open the envelopes that come in the mail. And, please for the love of pete we stay in our seats while the car is moving.  Despite us taking a few weeks to focus on learning basic words in English and practical family and life skills before even thinking about cracking open science curriculum, a few days after the girls got home, life with a schedule began in earnest.

Tsega and Brady for the first time joined a class sans Mama. Normally weepy and hesitant over such things I find myself relieved and excited for my babies. This class is offered through Early Intervention which was essential to the decision, as my special boys are in a class with teachers who get them and are specifically using this class to help teach them certain social, behavioral and speech skills.

I feel particularly blessed that one of Tsega's angel therapists, who does not teach this class, made room in her schedule to be his one-on-one support during class, as he is not capable of making it through a class without direct and personal help.

She comes, in addition to her normal therapy with him, two times a week to class. Team Tsega, decided that we should use the last few months we have of Early Intervention giving him a chance to stretch and get some new skills (Read: desperately needed regulation-in-public skills), and this class may give him more confidence in a group setting. I hope, I hope.

Brady, though developmentally behind most of the kids in there, thinks he's died and gone to heaven. He does not miss me for a second and believes himself to be at some kind of Disneyland. He also thinks he's hot stuff.

Tsega and Brady aren't the only ones who started classes. Fikir and Mimi started a home school singing classes with Samantha. Fikir blew me away on her first day, which happened to be after five days of arriving here.
In mere seconds she was singing, joining hands and having a grand ol' time. Though she has NO idea what she is singing, she loves being apart of a class and the music and sticks close to her Sissy, Samantha for now. 

Mimi had a harder first day due to a MomFail of not adequately informing the teachers of who she was, that she'd only been in the US for a few days and that she could use some support and extra demonstration. I think we both cried that first day. But after a pushy  advocating email to fix things, the teachers have been wonderful and Mimi is having a blast in her class as well.

In addition to choir, Mimi has started exercise classes at the local YMCA, which offers classes to kids and teens at two price points: free or five dollars a pop. So she goes to fitness classes, on her own, three days a week. Tonight she decided to try out a zumba class, and I desperately wish I'd stuck around for pictures. She came home and told us the routine she learned was to All the Single Ladies, so I pulled up the song and she demonstrated. It was awesome and hilarious and, did I mention awesome? Mimi is fearless and fierce. I pray the US of A does not rob her of her confidence. Tomorrow's class involves obstacle courses and dodgeball and she can't wait. Creating PE and enough exercise for a home schooled twelve-year-old at first seemed difficult. But this girl can do it all. (Including teaching herself to ride a bike and mow the lawn this week.)

She isn't the only one who needs fitness though, and so Fikir has joined Samantha at rhythmic gymnastics. This gym is not "cutesy." The girls train for two hours at a time, the first hour strength, flexibility and apparatus training, the second hour at the barre, with ballet instruction. It's hard core. And Fikir jumped right in. And Samantha is doing beautifully "sharing" her activities with her sister, who I suspect in the future may want to make things competitive between them. I am keeping my eyes close on their friendship and dynamics to be sure.

Samantha in the foreground, Fikir behind her working it out. Samantha is more graceful, Fikir has almost 20 lbs on her sister in sheer muscle. It will be fun to see what they do with their respective talents.

In addition to this the Cookie Monster also attends a gymnastics class, the three girls start piano lessons next week, and we are starting to fit in slowly slowly academics with reading and writing. But it's no small task.  For example, today I was surprised to realize that neither of the new girls understand how months, weeks, days and years work in the US. The calendar is different in Ethiopia, and even then they did not pay attention to dates the way we do here. The girls didn't even know when their birthdays were until we told them last week and that is typical of many Ethiopians. Trying to explain why October is the tenth month, so when we write the date we use 10/10/2012, well, lets just say I was speaking in a language they don't understand twice over.

There are tears. Fits. Bumps in the road. But we are still doing well. The smiles still outnumber the tears and I couldn't be prouder of all of the children. This stuff is hard work. And I am enjoying watching unexpected friendships crop up among the siblings. Like I said, for the most part, we are still paddling in the same direction. I hope we can keep it up.


Dropping off the goods

A few months ago I made a plea on Faceschmook about a special orphanage in Ethiopia called AHOPE, needing some medical supplies. I volunteered to be captain for Team Antifungal Cream at the request from my online buddy Morgen. I was told my goal was to collect one hundred tubes to bring with me to Ethiopia on my second trip to pick up my girls. I had two months to accomplish this and thought it would be a good distraction to fill up the wait.

Within a few days of the request on the Scooping it Up page and on my personal FB timeline, I had boxes and boxes pouring in. People I don't know mailed boxes, friends from church and playgroups and my kids' music classes dropped tubes off on my front porch. Friends I haven't seen in twenty years (junior high, no joke) joined the cause.

I was moved to tears in awe over and over and over. It rained anti-fungal cream for a week, and without counting I knew I had exceeded my goal. It felt like Christmas and the kids here had a blast opening up boxes. And while in Ethiopia, my girls and I were able to sort the tubes, count them a final time: one hundred forty eight in all. On behalf of some amazing kiddos at AHOPE, me, and my girls:

Thank you so much.

I couldn't help but think of one of my favorite scriptures

Now ye may suppose this is foolishness in me; but I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass... Alma 37:33

PS. Let's do it again sometime OK? 


attachment and adjustment

It is kind of surreal watching the girls learn the drill in this new place, this new family.

These girls love to love. They accept hugs and snuggles and back scratches and seek them out. I am blown away by their ability to accept affection and help.

I am blown away that tears can be rocked and kissed away and smiles follow so soon. I am humbled that my arms and my lap are so well utilized by each child in this family. I am fiercely proud of the fight these girls have in them to stay in it, stay "with" us when things feel scary.

I love that these girls know how to play. They are learning our first four kids' brand of playing, and they in turn are teaching them new elements, new games; their kinds of play are melding and merging. Despite the language barrier, they are forming their own sibling language and communication. Sure, it is starting to involve pinching from all parties, but I'd be a big fat liar if I claimed pinching wasn't a part of our social struggle before the girls came here.

It is a beautiful and fascinating exercise to see the girls learning to be in a family with this many kids already. In some ways, it must be more difficult than the alternative of coming to a family as the only children. There is less attention to go around, less time for explanations, hugs, lingering. Certainly a lot less cocooning and way more required as far as patience and time in the car for someone else's activity. No big returns on investment sometimes with waiting for siblings to finish a class or a therapy appointment.

And I am strapped sometimes. In a No I Won't Yes You Must standoff,  at times I have to shrug and walk away because someone, somewhere in the house is pouring cereal in the toilet and eating it. There is only a 49% chance the said toilet was flushed. If child had been the only child or one of two, I would have been able to spend time in a well-thought out Re-Do scenario. I wouldn't have to shrug, let it go and run like mad to stop something. Their days and mine are filled with unfinished business. I can only hope I'd be a little more generous with time in moments of difficulty. If it was just those two, I might be a better, more thorough teacher. Needs would be met faster and better.

But in some ways I suspect coming into the fray is easier. There is less pressure. At any given moment of the day, someone is not meeting expectations. Someone is always talking back, throwing a fit, getting correction, getting a time in or out. People are "failing" all over the place in front of them, and they see that it's OK. Mom still loves Tsega, in the middle of the twentieth break down today. Mom still gives kisses to Brady after he dumps his dinner out on the floor.  Mom isn't picking on anyone, everyone is expected to take the plates to the sink and to go get dressed (forheaven'ssakerightnow). Everyone occasionally gets raised eyebrows and a stern voice. Everyone gets hugs and tickles and thank yous when obedience and kindness and cooperation are observed and when I am on fire, they get the hugs and tickles even when cooperation is lacking.

They also have seen me, already, get short, lose patience. I haven't yelled, though I've raised my voice to make some seriously physical play stop. They are seeing the functional dysfunction of a family. Everyone trying, everyone messing up. All day, every day. I think in some ways it's comforting to them. We say a lot chigger yelem. No problem. Brush it off. Let it go.

Another cool thing about entering a large family, they are able to learn the drill from the kids who've been here longer. It's easier to follow an example of a gaggle of little, silly, imperfectly funny kids than take and adhere to instructions from a grown up in a language you don't fully understand. It lowers the stakes somehow. Sure, it makes for more relationships to manage, but  it plunges everyone into the deep end and for now, everyone is mostly paddling in the same direction.

I wish I could shut up. Literally. Some days I feel like I have to be so flipping hands on in every interaction to instruct, teach, referee. I don't know about them, but I am sick of hearing myself talk. Especially tired of teaching the minutae of every little interaction and saying things like

Qoy! (Wait!)
Askemchi! (Put that down!)
yanchi terano! (It's your turn)
No, now yene tera1 (now my turn)
Ahoon! (now!)
Tollo tollo! (hurry up)
No, qoy, bekerb! (No, wait, soon)
No no no, zelalum no (No no no, FOREVER AND ALWAYS no - usually about touching certain electronics)

It is exhausting. For all of us. The end of the day comes and the two newbies often want to go to bed before stories. They don't have any more mental energy to give. They spent it all learning how to be in our family. And it's not easy. I mean, I can just see the thought bubble above Fikir's head:

This women helps me put on my shoes this morning, why is she insisting right now I put them on myself. Perhaps if I keep saying No, she will go back to helping me... (Fikir isn't noticing in this scenario that we are late, and I have to put on Tsega and Brady's shoes and pants and this particular time I don't have the luxury of babying her. The intricacies of my role escape her, currently.)

But amazing things are happening. God is with us. There are no two ways about it. I know He will stick around for when the honeymoon ends. Because no honeymoon lasts forever. Every relationship in every family that ever existed is tested and tried. These freshly forged bonds surely will see strain, soon. I am thrilled we have this time to lay down some roots, some love and some routine. I hope that these days we are having and the grace of God will carry us through whatever lies ahead. For now, I am gonna take and give those hugs. Somehow it feels like every embrace, every help, every kiss, every hair comb, every story is making up for missed things, lost things.