11.29.2012

Breakfast Revolution: Going Raw

Breakfast is on an overhaul here at the Scooping it up household and it feels goooooood. And it involves banishing most of the pasteurized dairy.

That's right. We are changing over to raw milk. Not just organic, grass fed, happy, hormone and antibiotic free cows. It is all those things plus, it is basically straight from the udder. 

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I want to share some thoughts before I delve into the how and oh-my-word why. I believe all healthy, lasting food choices happen in a snowball effect. First one decision, then the next little tweak, then the next. I didn't become a raging crunchy hippie about food overnight. In fact, I don't think very many people transform their relationship with food in one fell swoop and it actually "stick."  My journey to change the way I relate to and consume food is six years in the making and continues to evolve. I have so many thoughts on why I eat what I eat and why I eschew certain foods or non-foods, but after having written it all out, I deleted it.

Because, it sounded like pedantic, boring, obnoxious snobbery. I sounded like some kind of Natural Foods Evangelist. It sounded like guilt. And I like the people who come here too much to be a voice of guilt in your ear. You don't need that.

Eating whole, natural foods (or going paleo, or eating raw, or going vegan or whatever you are into) can feel a bit like a new religion, because you feel so good when you start making better choices it is like a film comes off your eyes, there is a bounce in your step and you think Holy Whole Foods I need to tell people about this. What if they don't know? Why aren't they throwing away their Cheetos? Why are they handing their child that fruit snack?! Maybe they think Totinos pizza rolls are a legitimate food, I NEED TO HELP THEM SEE THE LIIIIGHT! 

But then just about everyone who has ever overhauled their diet learns, people don't want your conversion story. They want to drink the Coke without judgement. And so they should. There is balance in all things, and finding it with food is the hurdle of a lifetime for many of us.

When I was newly married to the Hubs, he met a family at church who needed a little friendship. She was expecting her second child and so one night I brought her dinner. She looked like she might gag. She was torn, frozen.  She explained they didn't normally eat whatever it is that I made, but then put on a brave face attempting to eat it. I thought she was a snot. I was miffed. All my effort and I clearly made her uncomfortable.  But she raised questions for me. Who doesn't eat this and why? What is her deal? This woman taught me three important things. First, abstain if you must for personal reasons. You do not have to eat something just because there is pressure to do so. Hold to your guns. It's your body.  Second, if you absolutely can't abstain from food you don't want to eat for any reason, it is not worth making someone feel badly about it. Swallow the pride with the aspartame. Three, finding the right way to talk about food to others who may not be on the same page is incredibly challenging and takes sensitivity and practice and often, silence. And truly, she ended up teaching me so much more. I began to change how I eat in great part to her example. And I certainly am still working on the "how to talk about it" part.

The example that eventually led us here, to jumping straight from Costco, non organic $2.60 a gallon milk to $8.50 a gallon raw, organic, grass-fed cherished (Maybe even sung-to! I don't know!) milk. I will pause here while you throw up a little bit. I know. It's expensive.

What I really wanted to express is how fun it has been to change things up for the first, all important meal of the day. So fun even the ever-tolerant Hubs might allow me to describe him as "moderately jazzed" about breakfast. These changes were warranted for a few reasons. We have far more children now and breakfast cereal, even ones with all natural ingredients, are high in sugar, expensive and our kids were burning through them. We were spending a ridiculous amount of money on cereal. I had to keep about ten to twelve boxes in the house at all times. With this much cereal consumption there also came heavy milk consumption.

This was a piece of the whole eating puzzle that has not been up to par with the other choices that we made with less reservations. Despite all my concern with what we are putting in our bodies, milk (and eggs, actually) seemed too expensive and picky to change. Budgets require give and take. And buying organic milk for this many people has always felt just too much. Wasteful, out of reach. Just forget about it. But it has been eating at the shelf in my brain on which it was sitting for over a year.

Then I kept reading blogs and noting when friends talked about how changing to raw milk completely changed the health in their family. Kids perpetually running noses stopped. Ear infections stopped. Breathing improved. Colds were non existent. Allergies subsided. Behavior and concentration improved. Whaaa?

I liked the idea of raw milk, or at very least organic milk, and on a whim a few weeks ago, asked Facebook what they thought. I was FLOORED about how many people responded that they already drink it and that they will never go back. I had no idea so many people do this and like it. It added fuel to my research fire. And after a day or two of discussion, Hubs and I found a breakfast solution that makes us happy.

We wanted the health benefits of raw milk in our lives. But because of how expensive it is, we knew in general the dairy intake needed to go way down. Better milk, less of it. We also wanted to cut back on the expensive cereal habit. Luckily, these two goals went hand in hand. We told the kids we will no longer be eat cereal regularly, for breakfast we now eat oatmeal, or steel cut oats at least five days a week. (We will make fun breakfast like eggs and firfir or pancakes the other days.)

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The steel cut oats are healthy, have no sugar (we add a little bit with agave or a little honey) fill the kids up more effectively than cereal, one or two bowls, and require very little milk. To each bowl of oatmeal we need only add 1/8 cup of milk, as opposed to a bowl a cereal where each child had at least three bowls and each bowl of cereal required 1/2 - 1 cup of milk each.

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Cookie likes his with raisins. The girls all like when I add in an entire apple chopped up small and cinnamon and a dash of vanilla because it tastes like apple pie.
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Brady actually eats breakfast. Before, with cereal, he had a hard time with all the crunchy chewing. He took a long time to consume very little. Now, my tiny man is full every morning!
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We also have added in a new kind of vitamin that my new pediatrician swears by. He claims out of all vitamins out there, this is absorbed by the body most effectively and basically sold me on the idea that I am killing my children slowly unless they have this vitamin. (Just kidding, he didn't pressure me at all. He had a willing lamb at the slaughter on this one.) This vitamin is in powder form and mixes with a small amount of water to make a tiny drink. All six kids like it and drink it. I take some too. It is also, like the milk, expensive and I will admit, we do it every other day to stretch it. We were eating either no vitamins or occasionally Trader Joe's gummy ones which I am pretty sure are 19% vitamin, 81% sugar.

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After a week of better eating I can tell the children are not as hungry, they are focused during school in the morning and everyone just feels better. Even this man, for whom meals tend to be difficult, inhales his oatmeal gladly without bribery or tears, and charges off for his day of slaying dragons and jumping off of small cliffs.

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Thus, breakfast has been changed. Not everyone would want to do this. Pregnant woman shouldn't. And not everyone can, because raw milk is outlawed in several states. But for those interested in some of the research, you will find plenty of people who want to shut it down and think it is unsafe. There are also many many who swear by it. I am in the early stages, liking and testing the waters.

Here is some of what I read about the safety of raw milk, from a licensed farm in Massachusetts.

Benefits of Raw Milk

One of nature's perfect foods, milk is an excellent source of nutrients, enzymes and beneficial bacteria (lactobacillus, acidophilus, vitamins, calcium). 

Pasteurization destroys vitamin B12, B6, beneficial bacteria (called probiotics), damages fragile milk proteins and enzymes, and promotes pathogens (pathogens which cause pasteurized milk to rot quickly, rather than sour naturally). Raw milk, contains beneficial bacteria and inhibits the growth of many food-borne pathogens.

When the enzymes are not destroyed by pasteurization, raw milk is easier to digest. Many people who think they are allergic to milk, or “lactose intolerant” may be able to enjoy the benefits of raw unpasteurized milk. Raw milk assists in maintaining a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. Probiotics, are the "good bacteria" found in unprocessed foods, in raw milk, and in some yogurts. Keeping a healthy balance of these good bacteria can aid in digestion, help with digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, and assist a healthy immune system in fighting "bad bacteria." When antibiotics are necessary, health care practitioners use probiotics to replace the good bacteria, destroyed by antibiotics along with the bad.

Raw milk also contains the enzyme phosphatase that helps in the absorption of calcium.
Raw whole milk from pasture fed cows is known to contain increased amounts of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an omega-6 fatty acid over cows fed large amounts of grain. CLA is thought to provide some anticancer benefits. 

Q: How do I know the milk is safe to drink?
Milk quality starts with healthy, clean, comfortable cows!

Our milk production and bottling practices ensure that the milk is clean, safe and exceeds the raw milk testing required by the state of Massachusetts. We bottle only milk from the first group of cows, when the equipment is freshly washed and sanitized. The cows' teats are double washed and prepped for milking. No cows with any hint of health concerns are included in the first or raw group. Cows are closely monitored to avoid any contamination.

We bottle directly from a separate bulk tank into clean plastic bottles and snap caps. As the milk goes through a rapid cool down process in the pipeline, it is immediately cooled before entering the refrigerated bulk tank. Bottled milk is dated and stored in our farm stand refrigerator.

Q: Is your milk routinely tested or are you licensed to sell the milk raw?
A: Yes, we are a licensed dairy. We are licensed to sell retail raw milk and to sell wholesale raw milk for pasteurization. Our milk is tested every other day for somatic cell count, fat, protein and antibiotics. Additionally, our raw milk is tested for coliform. We are required to be less than 10 and frequently have been less than 1. We also voluntarily test our raw milk for the "bacterial limit." The bacterial limit requirement for grade A pasteurized milk is that it "shall not exceed 2500 per ml." Our grade A raw milk (not pasteurized) has not exceeded 1000 per ml ever.

You can find more helpful raw milk reading here

Happy moooo to you all!
 

11.27.2012

Sir, he is not on speed, I swear

The pastor, or bishop of my church congregation is a fairly famous person very high up in the goings on of a very large sports organization. He also happens to be a great dad, and a humble, kind friend. A few nights ago he popped by to check on our family and and ask how things were going with our new girls home.

Hubs has been gone on a business trip for what feels like decades and something clicked - in a bad way- for Cookie Monster who smelled the adult testosterone from the other room. He came charing in at Famous Bishop, and alternated between slapping him, wrapping arms around his leg (which is as tall as my entire body) and biting it, and chucking balls at his face. For thirty minutes.

My child acted like I had given him some uppers and/or been bitten by a rabid racoon. It would have been humiliating if it wasn't so dang funny. Famous Bishop laughed, brushed it off, but importantly, not my child whom he continued to engage and goad and tolerate with all the patience and composure of Job. This darling man has six kids of his own and can handle himself with no-look passes from a flailing, spastic four-year-old. I noted that one can truly identify a seasoned father of boys when he can maintain eye contact with a woman and discuss revamping the nursery room at church (ooh, we need built in cabinets!) while balls fly and a child is convulsing at his feet in a fit of giggles.

Like any father, when I tried to pull Cookie away or chastise, he continued to facilitate and escalate the play in a way that I, as a mom, girl, what is the thing I am missing? cannot and do not do. I cannot play like this with my boys. I am not built this way. The rough housing and the made-up games and the fists and the hard throws make me tense. But Hubs, and Famous Bishop stay cool as cucumbers while managing to rile up and wear out little boys. It's a gift. I don't have it. And Cookie loved being played with in this way.  I was relieved to see that Famous Bishop didn't mind and Cookie was laughing so hard I thought he was going to add to the magic of it all by also peeing on our visitor.

Now what makes all this even better is that a friend of mine was here for dinner, who happens to have a minor crush on Famous Bishop. We are talking child-hood hero.  She had been hoping for a sighting for more than a year. We were in the kitchen preparing dinner and chatting when she admitted This bra is killing me. I am so uncomfortable. It's coming off. I of course, agreed she should start shedding her underclothes if they were making things unpleasant.

That is when the doorbell rang. I ran to get it, opened the door to Famous Bishop and knew there was a high liklihood of her passing out so I just went for it and said "Friend, I'd like you to meet ___________."

I was busy trying to keep my kid from killing him while he was here, so I am not sure, but there is a chance she was holding a book in front of her shirt the whole time.

Just an average night around here. Happy, blessed, calm, drug-free (unless you need it) night to you all.

Proof:
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11.24.2012

Home Two Months: As it Stands

Our girlies have been home nine weeks. How did the two month mark pass us by so quickly? Frankly, it feels like they've been here a century. Everyone has come so far.  Hubs and I are off the adrenaline rush and feeling more wiped out than we did a month ago. But what continues to surprise me is how well the children move in and out of each others' space, how much like like each other. And maybe most of all, how well they communicate.

I overheard a conversation in the car last week wherein Samantha and Fikir were trying to explain how the problem of baby teeth are handled in their respective cultures. Samantha said Tooth out, put under pillow, squish, wake up, tooth all gone! Fairy, come, take, all gone!  She used hand motions to show the tooth coming out, pushing a pillow down over a tooth, sleeping, and waking up. She did naturally was speech therapists do: she took out all the filler words and stuck with nouns and verbs, used motion and facial expressions to get the message across. Fikir understood perfectly what she was saying. Samantha knows just what information to include to get her sister to understand. How does a six year old figure this out? And Samantha also understands Fikir's pretty substantial difficulty pronouncing words, remembering English phrases, etc, and when I am saying Fikir, say again, I don't understand, try again. Samantha casually butts in,  Mom, she means ________. Cookie and Samantha and I are all picking up more and more Amharic. We work on it, we take turns reading stories and exchanging out the English words for Amharic. It's hard work but so very much fun. The dictionary is our best friend around here. And I think the girls enjoy a chance to be the experts and the teachers every once in awhile. The power shift is a helpful one.

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Thanksgiving this year was sufficient. How is that for an adjective? We hosted, the food was good, the children were on fairly good behavior. I cannot complain. I am certain it will not go down in the books as Most Memorable Ever, and that is okay. Here I am with the 30 lbs turkey, baked five hours to perfection. I cannot believe Hubs and I pulled it off. It barely fit in the roasting pan. I didn't bother trussing it.


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My favorite stuffing is so darn pretty, and none of the kids loved it, more for me!

We are blessed. We worked hard all week to help the children think about that, remember to be grateful, to be aware of our blessings and we almost survived the day entirely. Around 5pm a colossal headache took over me and the last hour I was walking around I do not remember what I said or did. I do remember feeling irritated my children and the others in the house were begging for desserts with the sound of entitlement and whining. I realized around this time my headache was making it impossible for me to stand, let alone have patience. I was about to make a scene. Truly, I might as well have been drinking because I have no recollection of going to bed but I surely did, before seven pm. I have no idea when our guests left,  Hubs put all the children to bed, and I didn't wake up until the next morning at 8am, feeling like I was hit by a truck. It was a bizarre experience and I still am working on that headache.

Before more holidays come my way, before the new year bursts upon me like tidal wave I do not want and cannot stop, I wanted to pause and write a little bit about how things are with the children. Buckle up. Here is how things stand right now with each of my lovelies.

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Mimi. She is the perfect age. I remember worrying so very much about what a twelve-year-old does, feels, needs, likes, wants. But as it turns out, she is the perfect tween. Old enough to put the babies' shoes on and young enough to play baby dolls with the younger girls. Old enough to love watching The Cosby Show, young enough to like reading Elephant and Piggie books. Old enough to fold clothes, put them away and not flinch at two hours of hair braiding, young enough to want to color in coloring books and do crafts with her siblings. Her English is coming along beautifully and we are jamming like crazy to make up for three or four years of missing math lessons. Right now we are in third grade material but with lots of one-on-one we hope by the end next summer to be rocking 5th grade, ready for 6th. Lofty goals, but she is a smart cookie. She is also patient, helpful, cheerful, silly, confident and good at asking for help with she needs it. I love that this week she asked if I would stay to watch her zumba class. And while she danced she kept looking at me with a beaming smile, making sure I was there watching. I also loved that when she noticed the checker at the grocery stored looked Ethiopian she asked the woman if she was Habesha and had a conversation in Amharic with her.  She is a heart breaker. She is, without knowing it, a poster child of older kiddo adoption. Not everyone has her ease, and peace about her.  I keep waiting for attitude and normal kid stuff; I think she is still on her best behavior and while I appreciate it, I kinda am looking forward to her realizing that no matter what she says and does, she will still be loved and accepted. I want to peel my peaceful little onion a bit.

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The Six Year Old Duo, Samantha and Fikir. They are the ultimate twins. They love doing things together, sharing clothes, toys, day dreaming together, and simultaneously are working on dealing with not being the best at everything. Samantha can read, Fikir can't yet. Fikir can do front and almost back walk overs, Samantha has been working on those for months and isn't there yet. They push each other to try hard and while there is a bit of competition there, they love each other so much. I am so proud of them for working through the hard moments and enjoying the silly times. They are a really great team. They, with Mimi and Cookie Monster, are in a full blown Horse Worship mode. They play pretend Saddle Club non- stop, draw pictures of their future horses and stables, write stories about their lives as horse riders. I support the obsession and hope someday, somehow, they will get a chance to fulfill this very expensive dream. Because I still harbor that same dream. Age six horse love has never left my system.

Our current read-aloud book for school is Little House in the Big Woods, and I am starting to separate the girls' school assignments more and more. Fikir hasn't had school, and Samantha needs to move forward. The best part of home school is being able to meet everyone where they are, and that has meant some major adjustments for me. I had planned on the girls learning first grade together that is not possible. And that is OK. I have discovered Samantha is good at writing poetry and stories, and when left alone will spend hours writing her notebooks, imagining and creating. Samantha, the leader of the pack, is doing such an amazing job of relinquishing her hold of the power in the house. She still loves to lead, but has learned so much about letting go. My heart goes out to her for learning some hard lessons early in life.
Simultaneously, we have discovered that Fikir, when she is not even putting forth more than an ounce of casual effort, runs faster than every person in our family. She actually can keep up with the two adults while not even trying. I don't want to race her when she's trying. Fikir had a few rough weeks, and I am sure will again, but we've made some adjustments in the family and I am amazed by her strong spirit and drive to connect and have closeness with her parents and siblings. So many of us, when faced with challenges, heartache, disappointment, hurt withdraw. She does not quit. She is sparkly and silly and has a loud, unabashed laugh.

It is a joy to watch this friendship I am just so happy that they are finding mostly positivity in this new sister dynamic. I hope it stays.

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Cookie Monster. Four and a half. He is reading like a tiny machine. He is on lesson 55 of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and he is chugging right along. So proud of him. He is loving his gymnastics class, itching for soccer and is holding me hostage to my promise that when he turns five he can start cello lessons. Cookie is going through an uber silly/awkward little boy phase; when he doesn't know how to break the ice with a stranger, he assumes that wrestling with them is the way to go, or chucking a ball at their head. The good news for him is that most people that come into our home can handle rough housing, but bad news is, he has a LOT of physical wiggles to get out, and he is very much like a puppy in a pack of wolves. He is the biggest puppy, and attempts night and day to rope his sisters into his physical play. He loves driving them bonkers. If we are all reading, he just needs to make it physical. So he will lay across all their laps and start rocking. He is not content unless he is touching someone at all times. It is kinda hilarious, sweet and sometimes, when he's pushed everyone past their limits with his pinching and harassment, I assign him to go outside with a stick and hit a tree. Seriously. Cookie, just go outside and hit a tree. Favorite endearing trait, he eats a pear every night in bed. He cannot live without pears.

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Brady and Tsega  A picture says a thousand words, but this one requires more. I took this shot at 1am. I walked by their room and under the door saw that the light was on. This is never a good sign. Tsega was out of his crib, in Brady's, had stripped he and his brother out of sleep sacks, jammie bottoms and diapers. He had hauled a chair cushion and bean bag up into the crib to create more height, (more danger) and they were taking turns jumping or flipping down the hill into the left side of the crib. The room was strewn with wipes and diapers, which had been on a shelf so high Cookie would not be able to reach it. I DO NOT KNOW how Tsega got to them, since they were on this high shelf in the closet. This crib in the picture, by the way, was broken the next night in another midnight party. Tsega ripped off one of the sides. Brady now sleeps on the mattress on the floor.

The little boys are on a free fall of danger. They are not getting more regulated and smart as time goes by. They continue to make worse choices. It is not fun to watch and exhausting to be around. Because of so many older siblings in the house it's hard to keep track of all the "no no" items that the boys can get access to. Markers, pencils, scissors, push pins. They find them, even when we think we are being careful. These two are going to eventually put Hubs and I in cardiac arrest. We are doing a safety overhaul by adding higher, more intense locks on many doors leading outside and inside the house. We also are working on a monitoring system in the room, (we had to take the baby monitors out a few months ago because cords are not a safe item in those boys' hands.) If those don't feel enough, we may also have to have Tsega sequestered. If I can't trust them in the middle of the night to sleep, then, well, we can't leave Brady in there. This all would be funny if it weren't so discouraging and worrisome. Relieved to have a plan in place to up the ante as far as safety goes. Hopefully it will make things easier.

In positive news, when they are not brawling, getting into the trouble with Vaseline and pens and furniture, or screaming, these two are the best of friends and both are getting more and more chatty. I love hearing their little voices, seeing how they think, what they love. Tsega is picking up Amharic from his sisters and is getting more cognizant and proud of identifying as an Ethiopian as well as talking about being adopted.  Brady thinks that every person who comes over to our house is a person from Early Intervention and is therefore here to play with him and do no other thing. He is turning into a clingy Mama's boy which I love since he is my last baby, but also highly inconvenient.

Hubs and I recently realized we are tired because Baby Mode has been going on since 2006 with no breaks. There has been someone in diapers non-stop since 2006. Since 2006 there has been danger of someone choking to death, drowning in the tub, falling down the stairs, poking their eyes out, drawing on walls, waking up at night etc etc etc.  It's been a long haul and it's not over yet. Is it possible some day we will miss it?  Or is it possible that some day it will be over long enough for us to miss it?


11.21.2012

Gifts and Goats

Chapter 1: GIFTS
For those who haven't been around a long time, last year we had a phenomenal Christmas. Hubs and I did not go shopping. We entered zero malls. We participated in zero sales. Our children gave up their Christmas presents from parents and St Nick to help fund a surgery for two special people in Ethiopia. It turned out to be wildly successful, and the best Christmas ever. It was very non-presents based, and it felt very special. The children were very happy with the few presents they got from extended family, and we spent most of the holiday talking up how excited we were about helping others because that is exactly what Jesus would want for his birthday.

We are a little late in figuring out what our special project will be but we are excited to get the kids pumped up about a cause again this year. Someone we can help. We will likely took again to Ethiopia for obvious reasons, but in the meantime, we are focused once again to keep the presents side of things really small. Like, silly-putty-in-the-stocking small.

But then I found something I wanted to get the children. See, a few months ago, before the girls came home, I hit the chapter books hard with Samantha and Cookie Monster, who are four and six. We read Chancy and the Grand Rascal, Charlotte's Web, Castle in the Attic, fifteen or so Magic Tree House books, and then I decided it was time for Roald Dahl. I didn't want to start with Matilda or Witches because those are a little scary and intense, so I chose a book I had never myself read. New to us all, we read Fantastic Mr. Fox. It was the experience every parent dreams of having with their children. Every night they begged for more, riveted, eager. Then came a pivotal moment in the book wherein Mr. Fox shows truly how Fantastic he is. And at this very part in the novel, my kids almost peed their pants laughing. This moment is in the top five of my life, where my children wiped tears of hysteria from their cheeks, and I delighted in the joy it was to have such children, with whom I could share a love of reading. I loved that they got it.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Our new girls are learning English. I find it exasperating how everyone and their mother LOVES to claim how kids learn so fast. Because it is hard. And frustrating. And they are doing great, but it feels very slow. But reading together every day and night is certainly helping. Samantha and Cookie suggested that we re-read Fantastic Mr. Fox, so we could share it with them. They were anxious to hear it again, and knew we could polish it off in less than a week. So we did. And the children loved it. All of them.

So, this gift I found, for the children? The one I feel like I wanted/needed/wanted/needed to buy for them? On the official Roald Dahl website is a store. There are limited edition art prints of some of Quentin Blake's timeless illustrations, and lo and behold, the picture, from that one moment of the book that brought howls of laughter from my children, was for sale. It is gorgeous. It is a memory. I knew when I saw it I wanted it somewhere in our house, to canonize forever the special experience we had of reading it together twice, and both times loving it.


It isn't cheap. I have been sitting on this decision for a month. Shhh. I just clicked "purchase." (Sucking in breath). I think we can still accomplish a slow, mostly present-free Christmas. I don't think I ruined it. Please tell me I didn't ruin it by being a spendy hypocrite.  Heck, it might not even get here by Christmas, it is shipping from the UK!  Time to go find our person/organization to help and remind our loving and generous relatives that we do not want any toys or movies to enter our home this year. It's tough being a control freak around the holidays...


And now for a giggle, Chapter 2: GOATS, OR, A FACEBOOK CHAT GETS OUT OF HAND

Me: Guess what I just found on craig's list?

Friend: What?

Me: Nigerian Dwarf goats that could come home tomorrow and are the size of your dog and need to be milked. THEY ARE SOOO CUTE

Friend: YOU NEED TO GO GET THEM RIGHT NOW
Friend: Why are you not getting them right now?
Friend: I want them right now

Me: I know, right?

Friend: get in the car

Me: This solves our need for raw milk issue, and the kids will never ever be able to complain about pets again. We have a problem. We don't have room for them.

Friend: Hubs can figure it our while we are in the car on the way to get the BABY GOATS

Me: The kids are on board

Friend: How much are the goats?

Me: I think $150 or so, some are up to $400

Friend: My dog cost a crap-load more than that and he doesn't do anything

Me: Exactly. These goats will provide milk. And fun. And more poop in my life. 

Friend: They could live in your garage. 

Me: OMG that is so TRUE
Me: This is my dream. A crap-filled garage

Friend: You are already half-way there

Me: That is also true. I read you have to trim their hooves every 4-6 weeks.

Friend: I will do it. It can't be any different than cutting my dog's nails. When are we buying the tiny goats? Also, I want a tiny pig. Can we get a mini-pig?

As you can see, not only do my children want more animals, but I get peer pressure from friends who are willing to take up hoof duty in the name of tiny dwarf milking goats.

It takes a village. Would you ever consider owning goats? Tiny cute ones? On second thought,  maybe it takes a crazy village. Hubs laughed when I told him my brilliant plan. The laugh that means I hope she's kidding. Remember our town won't even let us have chickens...Dangit, she's never kidding. Why isn't my wife ever kidding with these schemes?
 
Enjoy this wonderful holiday. Counting my many blessings this week. Be well, friends.








11.17.2012

So simple

Today the kids and I toured a farm where Tsega may do hippotherapy. It was pristine. It was the kind of place where you want to handcuff yourself to the barn door and tell the owners Sorry, folks, I don't mean to intrude, but you can't make me leave ever. I felt a little like Matt Foley in the SNL skit where he claims he is leaving his van down by the river and bunking with his new family. I swear, their gorgeous barn, indoor heated ring, paddocks, stables, and pure bred icelandic ponies for the therapy had me and all the kids drooling. There are a hundred reasons hippotherapy is good for people, and the tip of the iceberg is that just being around the horses and their gentle hugeness is humbling and calming. It was so peaceful there.

But even more distinct about our hour there, was the woman giving us a tour. I had a moment, there at the farm. An eye opening, mind blowing moment.  Tsega wanted to climb a fence to get higher to pet one of the ponies. No one freaked out. She reached for him to support his back, and I reassured her that he wouldn't fall, and she immediately backed away and said OK.

She never told him to get down or made him feel like he was doing a bad thing. She actually said Wow, great balance, what a strong kid!  I was thunderstruck. She saw his eager attitude, climbing and balance and strength as positives. It took me aback, I am used to taking Tsega places and his demeanor, his coordination, his lightening fast climbing is seen as disruptive, dangerous, inconvenient, or irritating. I have sometimes been convinced by others to view him that way too. But here, his skills were noted and appreciated. It made him feel good. Heck, it made me feel good. They helped me see Tsega in the light he deserves: as a truly gifted kid. We've been so neck deep in therapy and dysregulation I am used to thinking about all his special, high needs. At this place, the short time we were there, I was so proud of him, and simultaneously ashamed of not being as proud as I should have been.

I had the chills thinking If these people can help give my son confidence and nurture his natural love of animals and use his strengths to work on his weaknesses, this is officially the Happiest Place on Earth.

We have one more farm to tour and a few more calls in to insurance to make sure we are good to proceed. But I feel like prayers are being answered.

I truly hope for all of you who have kids who struggle for any reason, you can find a place for them to be and learn where the teachers or instructors genuinely see your child as wonderful and strong. Because we parents need support for these kiddos who need extra help. And sometimes we need the reminder to see those strengths for what they really are.

This is an old picture. Our family's horse obsession was firmly rooted over a year ago. #TheBlackStallionChangedTheirLives


Happy, peaceful weekend to you all. 

 

11.14.2012

He's Still Alive

I should feel a sense of accomplishment today: I - with the help of a wily and pervasive pack of guardian angels- have kept Tsega alive to see his third birthday. This kid, the nutty one below in the "group shot" is still living, breathing, learning, growing and has still amazingly never had to go to the ER.
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Today we celebrated him on a wholly fabricated birthdate. As of right now, he doesn't care, because he doesn't know it's a made up day and and I hope that if that ever bothers him that we don't know the exact day he was born, he can take comfort in the fact that more than half the Ethiopian people who knows, adopted or diaspora don't know the exact actual day. Maybe we can one day say All the cool kids have fake birthdays! I dunno.

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Tsega celebrated with a new vat of Vaseline. The amount of time I spent today trying to undo Vaseline Bomb 2012 is unholy. While I was washing Brady's victimized hair for the fourth time (totally pointlessly as it seemed to have removed zero percent of the jelly), Tsega found a bottle of nail polish one of the girls left out and went to town. I am going to say the amount of yelling and chastisement was held back because it was his birthday. I hope the coming year brings us all slightly more impulse control and freaking-out control. Tsega and I will be working in tandem on these weaknesses, obviously.

Every moment of every day, yes, even days with Vaseline, broken cribs, broken electronics, spilled nail polish, and as usual untraceable blood, I am profoundly grateful to be this boy's mother. I am proud to be his mother. He is a survivor. He is a snuggler. Every day he shows more of his brilliant mind and gentle spirit that is hiding sometimes underneath the pack-of-wolves dynamic the little boys have around here.

Tsega requested a poopy diaper cake for his third birthday. I told him, seriously, I'd make him a chocolate cake that looked poopy. His chocolate banana cake with chocolate peanut butter frosting gave the appearance of something suspicious and at the same time delicious, so he was able to get his laugh in before everyone forgot about it long enough to stuff their faces.

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Tsega is a magnificent tiny human. He is a blessing. I kinda love that my most important job right now is to help him know that, deep down in his bones. Almost every night we have a ritual where I repeat a mantra while I tap or pat his back, his face, his arms, his chest, his head. It is soothing, rhythmic, and some folks think this kind of repetitive, positive activity can heal people. I don't know if I buy it, but he loves it, I figure, it can't hurt.  Last night as he burrowed into my shoulder and I started tapping and talking, he started saying the words too. It felt a whole new kind of powerful to hear his tiny toddler voice whispering these truths along with me

Tsega is a good boy
Tsega is a good boy
Tsega is a smart boy
Tsega is a smart boy
Tsega is strong boy
Tsega is a strong boy
Tsega is precious
Tsega is precious
Dada loves Tsega
Dada loves Tsega
Jesus loves Tsega 
Jesus loves Tsega 

Mama loves Tsega
Mama loves Tsega
Mama will never leave Tsega
Mama will never leave Tsega
Mama will never leave Tsega
Tsega can be calm
Tsega can be calm
Tsega can use his words
Tsega can use his words
Tsega is wonderful
Tsega is wonderful
Tsega is wonderful 

We breathed slowly together, feeling so calm. So opposite of how most of our day went. Like I said, it can't hurt. Also, today, I heard two miraculous, wonderful things about his therapy situation. A happy birthday, indeed.


Melkam lidet yene konjo hassan.Ewudehalehu zehlalum.

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11.09.2012

Victory, therapy, with an updated Victory

*UPDATED VICTORY!!
Yesterday I hit "post" on this piece, but need to add to it. Are you sitting down? This morning, I woke up to the sound of a vacuum. My three girls had woken up, gone straight to our attic to organize all the toys, barbie clothes, legos, etc, and then proceeded to vacuum the space. It is spotless up there. All while I was sleeping. For fun. Because they knew we had friends coming over and cleaning is, wait for it, the right thing to do when company is coming.

I don't even know what to do with myself.


WAIT
Today I dropped Mimi off at her yoga class and she laughed when she found out she was the only kid again. I was all proud of her for being so OK with doing her thing, not being self conscious at all, not wrapped up in what someone might think. (Please USA don't ruin her). Then I thought. Wait, I want a private yoga lesson. With that twenty-something heartthrob teacher. How is this fair? And should I be concerned I am leaving my twelve-year-old with a twenty something heartthrob with a name like Tucker or Hunter or something? I don't know anything. And I certainly never thought in a million years I'd have a twelve-year-old Ethiopian daughter who had private yoga classes with hot guys. I just didn't see it coming.

FIRST SNOW
The kids' first snow fall resulted in eating, snowmen and jolly frolicking. I hate the stuff. Bah humbug.
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WINNERS DON'T GO TO DISNEYLAND
This week I took the six kids to IKEA, list in hand. We were on a mission for a friend who does not live near this abomination of a store. Forgive this listing our achievements, for they truly require documentation. After all, have you ever taken this many unstable little people to this place?

They all sat and ate lunch like normal humans who were not raised by wolves. (Thank you kids-eat-free Tuesdays!)
No one spilled anything. No one choked or gagged or peed their pants.
No one ran away or got lost.
We did helped a little lost boy who, incidentally, didn't match his Mama. I had noticed them earlier because I always notice other non-matchy matchy families. No one at Ikea would have thought for second to not look for an African American mom for this boy. He was brown, kinky hair, and his mom was Chinese. Luckily, I saw him, grabbed his hand and headed back where his family was.
The crowning glory of the afternoon: We made it through that ridiculous place with zero tears. I don't know the last time we made it two hours anywhere without tears and for some incomprehensible reason they all chose to make it through IKEA way past nap time. They won. I won.
Also, what the heck, yene lijotch? Where are these skills while we are trying to do school work, or go to church?

Also worth noting, they love this place so much and that is kinda wrapped up in why Hubs and I never want to take our children to any kind of Disney establishment: the insane joy and overload they can experience for free just playing at IKEA for fifteen minutes. I don't think we are cut out for Disney.*

*Will revisit topic in eight years. But frankly, we'd rather visit Bermuda or Ethiopia again. I just don't see how Cinderella and Buzz could move up the list into worthwhile expenditures.I mean, can you imagine the thousand-dollar tantrums and overload we'd get there?



FEELING LIKE A LOSER
Felt proud to vote Tuesday. I maybe felt prouder that I took my kids with me. The day before we had a lesson devoted to democracy, and who gets to vote and why, taxes, withholdings, entitlement programs, charity in general, ending in watching part of the debates, and our own town-hall speeches. The children had thoughtful answers about the pros and cons of the candidates and Samantha made an excellent point that whoever lost the election should be the Vice President so everyone in America could be happy that their priorities would still be validated and heard in Washington. There you have it. A six-year-old has the solution to our woes. Still, all this being said, the electoral college kinda takes the wind out of my voting sails. It's hard to tell people "your vote counts" when that is only true for about ten counties in the whole US. However, I will say this, while I am not the woman to reform it because I have no working knowledge of things like election reform, I will make some cookies for whomever does.
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THE END OF AN ERA
The primary source of stress in my life for the last six weeks has not been adding two new children to our family. It has been my daily and nightly search to find therapy for Tsega, who is turning three next week and aging out of Early Intervention. Tsega has had, by the hand of God, the most amazing women placed in his life to support him and his parents and the last two years have been surivivable almost entirely because of the therapists he sees each week. They keep us all stable, above water. Over the past few months I have probably looked into twenty different therapy places/people and none have turned out to be a good fit for my sweet little man. Some didn't want to work with him becuase he was too young. Some places didn't accept insurance. Some folks that were recommended to me said they wouldn't work with him because they didn't feel they were the right person. It has felt like a ticking time bomb because I did not want "holes" in his therapy. In my, or rather, his ideal world, Tsega would end therapy with EI one week, and the next, start at the new place. This is it. His last week. And I still don't have everything lined up. I have headaches, can't sleep. I have even been emailing specialists in other states. Talking with Hubs about flying Tsega and I to therapy.

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As today a door closed, and I fought some ugly crying, a window opened just a crack. The HR chica at Hub's work is calling our insurance *for me* to ask all the questions I would have to ask about getting reimbursed for a therapy I'd like Tsega to receive.  The mercy and genius of this arrangement, if it is not obvious, is that she can do it in the privacy of her office and I'd have to do with with the kids screaming and bleeding. She has no idea the burden she just lifted from me today. I also appreciate she knows ins and outs of insurance better than I do and will ask questions that probably wouldn't occur to me to ask.

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Wanna know what I am trying to get insurance to cover for my sweet man? Hippotherapy. No, not hippos like in Botswana. But occupational and behavioral therapy with a licensed therapist who also teaches children to ride horses. OT via horseback riding. I actually found an OT who is willing to work with Tsega even though he is young (two farms I looked into recently only work with kids age four and up) and she actually has openings starting in three weeks. And all I need is insurance to decide to cover this.

I am praying this is the right fit. He is losing his special teachers, his best friends, frankly. He needs something in that place. I learned a long time ago that Hubs and I are not enough for him. We love him. And when it comes to trauma, love is not enough. He needs support we cannot give him. And I would very much love this to be "it." I feel a heavy mantle of responsibility about this. It has turned into a spiritual journey for me, frankly. I am a crazy woman on a mission to find him the right people. 


11.05.2012

Habesha Hair Diary: Halloween Installment

Yeah. We did Halloween. I was totally not going to do Halloween this year with our kids. We were going to have a "harvest" party, play games, make treats, do crafts, watch movies and just sit tight at home. With kids newly in the US it is a very bizarre, purposeless holiday and I do not like dealing with all the candy fights and begging and whatnot. I thought the recent adoption of the big girls was a great excuse to get out of it this year. The kids were on board even.

And then everyone and their mother kept asking them what they were going to "be" this year. And then one day Brady woke up from a nap with perfect Justin Bieber hair. And Tsega makes a really great Usher... and it all snowballed into us actually doing Halloween, dressing up to the nines and trick-or-treating.

The family costume theme: Rock Stars. Mimi let me, as usual, go to town with my idea for her hair and she pulled it off swimmingly. Each side was braided up into her 'hawk. She really is a rock star in all ways.


The back up band.


The cutest Usher you've EVER seen.


And, well, Brady's costume didn't work out in the end. He is not Justin Bieber. Here he is, a warm and comfy pumpkin and psyched out of his mind to get candy. After every single house he said I did it! More? while trying to figure out how to sign "more" whilst holding a pumpkin.

In the end, it all worked out. I've thrown away a ton of candy and only one of the kids had a meltdown the day after so it I cannot complain. The Scooping it Up kids say HAPPY HALLOWEEN THANKYOUSOMUCHTRICKTREAT!