And Then she was a Teenager

Months before it was impending, Hubs and I thought up the perfect surprise for Mimi's 13th birthday present. We figured, this was her first birthday with us, first birthday celebration she could remember ever, and the first and only time she will become a teenager and so it was worth pulling out some stops.

The funny thing was, we were going to tell her on her birthday what the surprise was, but a few weeks leading up to the big day, she became indignant. Grumpy. Sullen. She was convinced we would not be celebrating her birthday. She was setting herself up for disappointment and being vocal about it. I don't even want any presents. It's fine. I know I won't get anything for my birthday... Because we insisted we'd tell her soon enough, she truly thought we were lying and had no surprise. One could scoff at that kind of pouting until one realizes the hurt, disappointment and rejection that have led up to those feelings. Heck, she doesn't know what day her actual birthday is (we are awfully close within a few weeks) and that doesn't help either.

It occurred to me, her knowing her present and having something to look forward to could really help her feel good. The utter absence of understanding and knowledge that is an essential part of a surprise was not a pleasurable experience for her. One day, after one her "no body is going to give me anything for my birthday" declarations, I realized this is torturing her. As much as I wanted to hold out, I saw what it was doing to her. I decided to tell her the news:

For her birthday we'd drive, a solo Mom and Mimi trip, to New York to go visit her dear friends from Ethiopia, who were adopted a few months before she was to a family upstate. When I told her her reaction was fairly sedate, not earth shattering, but her smile and her confidence were back. Sometimes, a happy contended kid is more important than a WOW! moment.

We prepped by checking out a few books on CD with the hard back novels to hold and for her to follow along (Superfudge by Judy Blume and Trumpet of the Swan by EB White were our travel companions) and left late on a Friday afternoon. Five hours of girl time with just us was pure bliss.

We arrived late at night to their house, and Mimi was able to get a feel for what I had planned and wanted all along for her, by surprising her friends who had no idea she was coming. Fifteen minutes into our stay the three girls had jammies on and closed the door and giggled themselves to sleep.

girls 4
The above picture is actually from the 2nd night, when I took them to a hotel and they stayed up late watching movies. I really wish I had a picture of the three girls sharing a bed. They clearly were used to it, as they all rolled over into a ball of snuggles and fell asleep instantly. It was the cutest thing I've ever seen such big "kids" do.

When I woke in the morning, I found Mimi and her friend "A" had found matching twinsy clothes and were reminding each other that they were still best buds. I sneaked this while they weren't looking and wiped away my tears.

the girls
More than a year apart, finally back together. 

They spend the day together with games, girly time, called other friends from Ethiopia living all over the US,
girls 5

girls 3

Making up dances

It was a weekend of teenage bliss. I enjoyed no toddlers crying at me, reading quietly by myself, and acting as willing chauffeur. Mimi was thankful, gracious, kind, silly. I was so proud of her, and delighted to see her connect with her friends. They have a special bond, a shared (crappy) experience. I loved how they moved in and out of Amharic and English together, almost without noticing. I loved getting to know their awesome mom.  What a blessing, to have these dear ones so close. Who knows, maybe 14 needs to be a big-trip kind of birthday, too. Oh, and if this is the teens, I have nothing to fear from this one.

the girls2

Happy Birthday to the best helper, best attitude having, buddy a Mama could ever have. She blows us away with her spirit, her generosity, wisdom and patience every day. I am so so lucky.



The thing about shoes

Shoes have been giving me grief lately. With six children, all of whom have anywhere from three to seven pairs of shoes, that puts us at approximately eight billion pairs of shoes in this house. At any given time, many are lost, mismatched, don't fit, or are in piles blocking doors, tripping me constantly. I saw Tsega dropping his Crocs out the car window while on a highway last week, and that is just one part of the problem.

Much to my chagrin many of my wily kids, despite having several pairs of shoes, need shoes. They are growing like weeds and it's hard to keep up. I've been checking out second hand stores, and keeping my eyes open for sales, but it is sobering to buy that many shoes for that many people. Shoes have been on my mind big time lately. How to not lose them, how to organize, how to find cost effective replacements, etc., etc.

And then today I was struck by another shoe problem, one far more serious. Some kiddos I love and know in Ethiopia need shoes.  A little guy we sponsor and send to school and his friends are going barefoot, or sometimes wearing ones like these.

Kids grow. Shoes get worn out. You, me, we are blessed to live near Targets, near Old Navys, near Savers, near Nordstroms. As much as we cringe, when it's time for our kids to get new shoes, we get them. Our children do not get kicked out of school because they can't get new shoes. They don't walk on rocks til their feet bleed because Oh well, the shoes don't fit anymore. 

Not to be all braggy, but I just donated a pair. It was $20. And you can donate a pair, too. I know $20 sounds like a lot for a pair of shoes. They should cost less in Ethiopia, right? The way I see it, the logistics of getting more than a hundred forty pairs of shoes that actually are going to fit the actual kids there, to Shanto, Ethiopia is no small task and costs some money, too. If you are in this season of shoe buying, join me and help out a child who needs shoes and will not have them without our help. 
My friend Ingrid writes here about the story behind the shoes in that picture. The little boy wearing them, well, he will break your heart. Click here to help with this important project. It's the easiest donation form I've ever filled out. It will take you less than a minute.
C'mon. Do you hear me bullying you? 

Good. Let's do it. Happy shoe shopping! And if you can't shop, share this with someone you think might be able to, please. Every pair counts, for a real honest-to-goodness child. 


Don't be jealous

I learned how to make homemade, fresh-from-the-goat ricotta cheese yesterday. Yes, it is creamy and amazing.

2 gallons raw or real goats milk heated over low flame until 190 degrees, no boiling.
Turn off heat the moment it reaches 190
Add 1.5 cups apple cider vinegar
Strain it, first with colander and then cheese cloth, not too much drainage, you want the moisture
Start eating immediately, or chill it first and add maple syrup and strawberries, or chocolate chips. Whatever does it for you.

I know, it's all about food over here lately. Sorry. I mean, you're welcome.


All About Sprouting

Lately I've been flirting with cutting back on gluten for some of the kids* but after some experimenting and reading, because it is not medically indicated, I have decided for the most part I am not a fan of the vast expense of pulling that off for this many people; the high number of ingredients necessary to create palatable baked goods, and the artificial nature of the ingredients in so many gluten-free recipes. No, they are not all like that, but many many of the recipes I found have over twice the amout of ingredients and I just am not going to do this.

*I have several friends who saw drastic positive behavioral and mood changes in their kiddos by changing the diet, specifically cutting gluten. I was curious about this notion, and have been doing some non-gluten substituting just to see if it was something I could or wanted to do. I started testing to see if it made any difference in the children in question. The jury will never come back because I don't think I will ever be able or want to go 100% with the experiment. 

As a side note, I witnessed a hilarious packaging stunt in the store the other day. There was some sad meat byproduct, possibly bologna or hormone-soaked hot dog and on the packaging it read "always gluten free" stamped on a green leaf. I can just envision some hipster advertising liars in a dark room somewhere hatching up this scheme to attempt to convince consumers this hot dog is somehow healthy because of this natural- looking leaf and Hey! Out of all the horrible things in this food-like-item, it doesn't have gluten! It's practically broccoli! I wanted to slap my made-up guys with the soggy hot dog.

The fun result of my less-gluten experimentation is I've learned a new way to make bread that I love and the children love. They do not want to go back to regular bread and instead are insisting on sprouted whole grain bread! There is no end to the rabbit hole of the whole, healthy food journey. This bread is much lower in gluten, (though not free, esp since I did add a small amount of whole wheat flour to make it easier to work with and to get it to rise). It is also higher in vitamin B6 and protein rich and less starchy, and the nutrients are absorbed better by our bodies than regular flour-based bread.

Ready to learn the process?

I did not measure. I am so sorry. You are gonna have to play with this, just like I do. I think I took about three or four cups of whole wheat grains. Sometimes called wheat berries. I also grabbed, literally with my hands, two handfuls of lentils, just for fun. I poured water over them in a bowl and let it sit for two days.

They did not sprout. I rinsed the water a few times, and in 36 hours, still nothing. Then I read more recipes online and switched tactics. Then I transfered the grains to jars with lids and added a small amount of water.

In one day I had lovely little sprouting grains and lentils. In all, these babies sat in moist or wet conditions for five days on my counter before they looked like this. I was worried they'd get fermented and nasty but they smelled just great so I pressed forward.



I transferred the grains and lentils directly to the Vitamix blender and started on a low setting, maybe 2 or 3. This shows about ten seconds in of blending.


Using the tamper to keep things moving, I blended at about a 4 until it looked like this:


I cracked two eggs right into the blender

Then stopped because I was so excited about the grain part I forgot about the yeast part. So I grabbed a spoonful of regular ol' yeast and added it to a very small amount of warmish/hottish water mixed with a few tablespoons of honey. I didn't want much water becuase the grain mixture has a lot of water and I knew I was already in trouble consistency wise, I knew I was working with a very wet dough and if I wanted to knead it at all, I was going to have to add some flour. (Not everyone kneads sprouted grain bread dough, in fact, some recipes don't use yeast at all, but I wanted it a little fluffy, not too dense.) Thus just enough water and honey to give the yeast something to grow in.


Stir it up

And in ten minutes I had a bubbly growing swamp of yeast

I dumped the contents of the Vitamix (the grain/lentil mash + eggs than I buzzed for a few seconds) into a big bowl and then added the yeast honey swamp


For fun I added in a handful of chia seeds (which I could have sprouted with everything else had I thought about it), a little more honey, berbere, cardamom, cinnamon and salt.

At this point I really needed firmer dough, it was about the consistency quick bread batter, way too wet, so I added two or three cups of whole wheat flour. I hope to perfect the recipe so I need less or zero flour.

The next step is essential. I turned around to see the most adorable baby in the world playing with a baby doll. Enjoyed how peaceful he was during our rare one-on-one time. Invited him to come taste the dough, which he did. He loves dough. Please, please note his dirty feet from running around barefoot outside. I want to eat him whole, every day.

I stirred it up, used a little more of the blasphemous flour to get my hands knead-ready and after kneading for something less than five minutes I transferred to a bowl sprayed with coconut oil and covered with a towel. It rose for two hours and looked lovely.

This, you should know is a massive amount of dough. I took it out of the large bowl and knew I needed my  extra long and high bread pan ideal for sandwiches (which makes it easier to cut bread into slices) for as well as one of my regular-sized pans. I kneaded a bit, and eventually cut this shaped, lovely dough to fit the pans. If you look carefully at the photo below, you can see my favorite picture of Hubs and me.


I let it rise in the pans another 45 minutes and tucked them unto the oven at 350 and watched it for a little less than 30 minutes. I think. I really don't time this stuff. Here they are right as they went in.

It is amazing, soft and oooh it is delicious. We may never go back.

Another sprouted grain (and gluten free) recipe is up on the Scooping it Up Facebook page today, my kids can't stop eating the muffins!


Mother's Day Wishes

I heard a commercial last night that made me want to barf.

Here at JC Penny's we believe your mother deserves everything she wants on Mother's Day...

Or something like that. Of course they really mean, We believe she deserves for you to buy a whole bunch of crap from our store. 

Here is what I want and according to that retailer, "deserve" for Mother's Day:

I wish my girls could hang out with their first mom on Mother's day.
I wish I could make my son feel better about the fact that we don't know his Ethiopia Mommy's name and can't call her like we can his sisters' mom. I wish I could fix this problem. I would do anything to fix this.

I wish the people at church wouldn't make any of the talks about mothers. Period.
I wish they wouldn't spend precious financial resources on buying all women over age nineteen mothers or not, flowers, chocolate, cupcakes.

See, the flowers are likely going to die, and many of us are trying to not amplify the size of our butts. We are already self-conscious and feeling guilty about our bodies and our mistakes as mothers, I don't think we need to turn church into another place we feel badly about ourselves.
Not to mention the women whose mothers were horrible, mentally ill, absentee or passed.
Not to mention the women who desperately want to be mothers and are not on the "club."
Not to mention the women who've lost children with miscarriages and stillbirths or accidents or illness.
Not to mention women who've placed children for adoption and know their kids are making cards for other women who get the love and praise for being mothers.

Pass out all the cupcakes and flowers you want to each woman to cover the bases: It doesn't take out the sting.

I wish the folks at church would take the chocolate or flower money and announce a single thing over the pulpit

We are grateful to our mothers who birthed us, women who raised us, and all women who spread goodness. We have donated our congregation's money to a women's shelter in Boston. Have a lovely day, by way of gratitude, we are canceling the last hour of church so everyone can enjoy this lovely day with their families.

Mother's day is hard. Despite so many who wish it to be otherwise, despite the good intent of making this a national holiday, it's a hard day. None of my wishes are going to come true. Maybe I can go to yoga before church to help me steel myself for the discomfort and take it all peacefully.

I hope all women can make it through this day, my sisters everywhere. My children's mothers: You are not less. You are everything to me. You are not forgotten. I don't want the cupcake.

PS. I am remembering how I felt last year on Mother's Day, apparently I have a history...



I feel like I am in a perpetual state of behindedness. (May not be a word.) I have 187 emails in my "draft" folder. Partially written, never sent. I have 23 unheard messages on my cell, and 12 on the land line.

I still have a land line.

I have posts partially written on artificial twinning in adoption, with awesome, thoughtful submissions from you cool people to go with my own humble writings on the subject.

I have a post partially written on how grateful I was for all the kind feedback from the last post but how I still  sometimes feel like giving up on insurance and therapy because the it feels too hard, and I can't delegate it and I have four kids to educate and two toddlers to keep alive and I am burned out and I haven't even started. So, everyone said You're great! Go get' em tiger!  I am decidedly not feeling tigerish. Do you hear me? Zero progress.

I have another partially written post on all the books I've read so far this year with reviews. And yet another on city life and country life and my journey to give my kids the best of both worlds, while living smack in the middle the suburbia.

I have a post partially written on "lying" and truth and how it affects adoptions and relationships with friends and family in Ethiopia. This one has Be Sensitive written all over it, and it just takes more time to put together than I am giving it right now. But it's in my drafts folder, germinating.

And speaking of germinating, I made sprouted-wheat bread for the first time ever (OK, I used 1/3 flour to get my feet wet) and it was amazing. Seriously lovely bread. I have a new method for sure.

Confession: I haven't gone to a yoga class in over a month. I cannot tell you how sad this makes the approaching swim-suit season. I am in crummy shape and I do not like this feeling.

In the name of lil' bit of catching up, here are some bite-sized updates, to soothe my, so-very-behind soul.

My sweetness, Cookie Monster, turned five and Samantha turned seven and gladly consented to a combo birthday celebration as long as they each got their own cake. Vanilla coconut for Cookie, and chocolate brownie peanut butter for Samantha. We had a crammed house full of love. These two are my first two babies, and they are such good friends. A note about these cool kiddos on their birthdays for posterity's sake: Samantha is our resident story and power poetry writer and creative director of the children, and sadly for her, has not yet lost any teeth. She would give up a vital organ to have a horse and has a knack for languages and is too artistic to bother with putting clothes away.

Cookie is the perfect middle child and can move from being part of the little boys pack and leader of Terrible, Dangerous, Messy Planning Committee, and then the next moment, recall minute details from the novels we are reading and facts about the Periodic table of Elements with the older girls. He has the closest relationships with all five siblings and though he tortures all of them, they forgive him because he's hilarious.

We like to rock party games that cost zero dollars:

In other news, Mimi played in her first softball game and loved it, but after her first practice Hubs noted she was frustrated by how stinking hard it is to try to pick up on a new sport that everyone else on the team knows from years of being an American and watching it, and years of previous play. She was able to express how sucky it is for everything you do to feel like an uphill climb. Language, math, speaking, making friends, spelling, reading, sports: there isn't one thing that isn't profoundly more difficult having to do it in another culture and language. But girlfriend has fire. She doesn't know like we do how brilliantly she's doing. I don't care if on paper she's reading English at a third grade level. She cares, because she's wicked smart and knows she's behind other kids. But we could not be prouder. (And Brady still worships her, so there's that.)


It's official. Granola bars are too expensive for this size family. I have taken to making muffins, thirty-six at a time, for a quick grab snack.


These babies don't have one bit of sugar, just some local honey. More and more, everything we make is from scratch. The kids are not complaining, but it's kinda funny how our life revolves around food and clean up from making food. Someone, please, just buy me a denim jumper so I can get on with my life.

Seriously though, speaking of not wearing the denim jumper, at the softball game when interrogated by all the other sideline parents about our family, the home schooling, the holycraphowoldarethey? Now that I think about it, I am pretty sure the only thing that bridged the Weirdness Divide was that I was wearing designer jeans and mascara at the time. It was like a battle was being waged in the other mothers' minds:

Wait, this woman looks normal. Like she fits in with us, we just don't understand the words coming out of her mouth about her life. But she must be OK, because look, see? The jeans...

I created one of our favorite hairstyles this week and Fikir cannot stop admiring herself. It's alright because everyone else is admiring it too.


I was thinking the other day about my failings, mistakes, mess-ups. My daily need to apologize to the kids and do "re-dos." But really, I do not have time to dwell on my short comings. Because dinner for tomorrow night is already late, there are five loads of laundry that may never actually be put away, and we need to go to the library and work on fractions.

The kids have going on:
gymnastics (four of them)
therapy (five appointments a week)
farm internship day
piano lessons (three of them)
cello lesson
yoga, zumba and sometimes singing classes and this summer there will be swim lessons and track.
Looking at this list that does not include academics or housework or time spent reading or my violin teaching schedule, it's safe to say I think I will be staying behind permanently. I will never ever again be caught up. I am throwing in the towel.

Oh, and after the beep? Don't leave a message. Just call back sometime, I am very sorry and grateful in advance.