Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas!

For the last decade or so we have always been on the road for Christmas. This year, due to the way the schedule worked out, we were able to be home for F.G.’s and K.D.’s first Christmas in America. We went to church on Christmas Eve and then came home, built a fire, read the Christmas story, and then slept “under” the Christmas tree. It was fun to wake up in the morning and to not have to drag myself out of bed to go down and open presents. I was already there. Here are some fun shots from it all.













Monday, December 24, 2007

December Photos

Just a few photos to share. We made our annual trip "down south" to our favorite Christmas tree farm. It was a perfect day - great packing snow on the ground and a warm sun in the sky. F.G. made a little snowman which she hauled all the way back to the front. F.G. then walked up to the manger scene they had set up and set her snowman down next to the wise men. It was just the right size to fit in.




Every year CrazyMom and some of her friends get together to make sugar cookies with all of the kids. Imagine 17 kids, flour, frosting, and those dreaded sprinkles. Now that you have that picture in your head maybe you can understand why the men gathered at a different house to work on finishing a basement. Here is a shot of one of the tables.


Our kids never cease to amaze us with the things they dream up. F.G. and Little Foot were outside playing in the snow and somehow they ended up making a large snow head for Little Foot. It was all fun and games until Little Foot got a little off balance and the weight of the snow head pulled his real head backwards to the ground. He didn't put it back on after that . . .


F.G. and K.D. got the idea of dressing up one day and went all through the kids' drawers looking for clothes of the right color. K.D. is a reindeer and F.G. is a Santa worker. She tried riding K.D., but it did not go so well.



Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hunger

One of the ongoing themes during the Christmas season is helping those in need. In thinking about the needs that people have in the world and my almost total insulation from them, I was reminded of something that happened in our home a few months back. We were all having supper together and the conversation turned to rocks and dirt. My birth kids were making jokes about eating dirt and what it would taste like when K.D., who is five, said,

“This one, I try this one,” indicating with his hand that he had eaten some dirt before.

“You ate some dirt?” I asked.

“Yes, this one. Me so hungry, me try this one,” he said indicating again how he put the dirt in his mouth.

“Really?” I said.

“Yes, but this one no good,” he offered scrunching up his face and waving his finger back and forth in the air.

The conversation moved on and K.D. moved along with it as if nothing big had just been said. It was one of those matter-of-fact moments for him. It was just how life was.

Many young children in America put dirt in their mouths sometime in their lives out of curiosity. I assume I probably did it too when I was young. But few of us know what it is like to be hungry, truly hungry. This no-end-in-sight hunger is the sort of thing that leads a child to the point where he is willing to try anything, even dirt, to make the hungry feeling go away. And, after a brief delusional moment of hope as they place the dirt in their mouths, reality sweeps back in.

It is a sobering thought that many children across the world will be putting dirt into their mouths today trying to make the hungry feeling go away. It causes me to pause and to wonder if I am doing enough for them. I don’t know if I can ever do enough, but I realize that I can always do a little more.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

First Thanksgiving

“It is fun?” F.G. was earnestly asking CrazyMom. F.G. knew Grandma R and Grandpa R were coming and that the other kids were excited, but she could not figure out why.

“It is fun if you like to eat,” said CrazyMom.

F.G. gave up on trying to figure out what the big deal was about having a meal and decided just to wait and find out.


Well, it was a BIG meal. CrazyMom did not hold back at all. At the end of the meal she said, “So that was it. Was it fun?” F.G. agreed that it was.

K.D. did not think so, however, because of a new discovery he made at the thanksgiving table – stuffing. When he asked for his fifth serving, I gave it to him. It is hard to tell anyone no when you are not saying no to yourself. Well, for the rest of the day he walked around the house saying that his tummy hurt as he gingerly held his stomach with both hands. It was a good lesson, I suppose. At supper the next night he asked for more food and then, after a moment’s reflection, decided against it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Update on Anna

Now that CrazyMom and I are in the middle of adopting again, we have a better idea of what to expect. This does not make the waiting any easier.

The first phase of adopting is bearable because YOU are doing things to make it happen. You are running here and there collecting endless notarized signatures attesting to your worthiness. If you want to make your adoption happen faster, you can run around faster, make persistent calls to dislodge papers languishing on desks, or pay more to Fed-Ex documents around.

But then you complete your dossier and send it in. It is done. There is nothing more that is in your control. All that is left to do is to wait while your paper work travels the world and sits on unknown desks. Weeks go by and you wonder, "What if it has been put on the wrong pile?" or "What if it has fallen off the pile onto the floor?"

But then a glimmer of hope comes. Our glimmer came in the form of an email from our agency.

Subject: Group Z

Hi CrazyD and CrazyMom,

I have been informed that your case was submitted to court and included in Group Z. The court date will be scheduled for early January. Once your case successfully passes court, you will be able to travel to Ethiopia approximately 4 weeks later to bring home Anna (most likely early to mid February).

Thanks and congratulations!
Sally

Just a few lines of text and yet the landscape has shifted. Our paperwork has not been lost. Something must be happening somewhere which means someday Anna will come.

May that day come quickly.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Learning to Read

Having adopted older children (5-8) from Ethiopia that do not speak English, it has been fascinating to watch them take on the language. Since we live with them, it is hard to see the growth every day. But then something happens and you say, "Wow!" as you realize that since the last time you noticed, some substantial growth has taken place.

This happened to me the other night when I saw K.D. reading before bed. Yes, I said reading. I quickly grabbed the video camera to capture a few moments of it. Keep in mind that K.D. did not know his Amharic or English letters when he came to us 9 months ago.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

CrazyMom's Birthday

CrazyMom had a birthday recently. One of the great things about big family life is that whenever you are wanting a party you just have to go through the house and round up all of the kids. Of course, when you are wanting a little peace and quiet . . .


Before you watch the following video of the kids singing happy birthday to CrazyMom, an explanation is in order. We have some good friends (CountryDad and CountryMom) that had this tradition. Whenever one of their girls was having a birthday, CountryDad would "warm up" his voice by singing "la-la-la-la" at an ever increasing volume and as far off key as he could. I witnessed this many times both in his home and, much to the embarrassment of his girls, in public restaurants. His girls always seemed to have that look in their eyes that said, "Yes, I know you love me dad, now could you please stop it!" Anyway, my kids just loved it and now we "warm up" our voices as well right before singing happy birthday.



Here is CrazyMom enjoying her favorite ice cream (coconut almond chip), her favorite beverage (coffee), and one of her favorite cakes made by the girls (white cake with white frosting covered in coconut).



The kids made presents for CrazyMom and I also took the kids to the dollar store so they could buy her things as well.













I got CrazyMom a gift to fit a homeschooling mom - a photocopier. Yeah, I know men aren't suppose to buy their wives electronics for their birthdays, but she does seem to really like it and has used it a lot already. Who wants flowers anyway? You can't even plug them in to keep them fresh.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

CrazyMom, Mass Emails, and Smores


CrazyMom knows best. Of course, you already knew that. There is all of the obvious stuff, like what would make for a good dinner, if that orange shirt should go in the red laundry pile or the bright laundry pile, and how to comfort a child when they suffer a significant loss – like somebody drawing on their Sunday school paper which we throw out every week anyway.

But there are other ways in which CrazyMom knows best - ways that involve me. We were at a home school conference this summer and CrazyMom took a liking to some guy who was funny and had written a book or something. When we walked by his booth, she told me that she had signed me up to receive “encouraging emails” from the guy. Being the cynic that I am, I knew that I would not become a better father by reading some funny guy’s mass emails. I was also not sure if CrazyMom thought that I might LIKE the emails or, due to some deficiency in me, she thought I NEEDED the emails.

Well the emails started coming. I don’t even think I read the first few and instead noticed how fast I could delete them. Then the title of one caught my eye and I read it and thought it was OK. Then I read a few more and found them, well, kind of encouraging.

I got this one email and it was talking about . . . well, here . . .I will just give you an excerpt:

I’m thinking that this Friday or Saturday night would be the perfect time for a little marshmallow roasting. About the only drawback is that it’s pretty much a big pain. In my head I picture laughing, roasting, and singing. In reality, it’s gooey hands, potential 3rd degree burns, and flaming sticks being swung around like light sabers. I’m sure I’ll do more yelling than singing---but you know what? It’s worth it.

I know that there is no better feeling than to sit around a warm fire with the people you love the most. In fact, if I were only given 24 hours to live, I would spend at least a couple of those hours around the campfire with my family.

So, Dad, let me encourage you to enjoy some of that good, God-given fall weather with your family this weekend. Make a campfire, go pick apples, drink apple cider, or make s’mores.
The email gave me a real hankering to do s’mores with my kids despite the hassle it would be. Ever since, I have been keeping an eye out for the perfect night and tonight it came. The weather was unseasonably warm and the air was still. We did the campfire/s’more thing despite the fact that it was a Tuesday night. It was great.

Any by the way, dads. You can sign up for the emails at Family Man Web.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Top 10 from the First 100

Note: Things have been crazy for the last few weeks and I couldn't keep all of the balls in the air, but I have now picked the blog back up off of the ground.

This is the 100th post. These arbitrary base 10 milestones seem like a time of reflection, so both CrazyMom and I looked back over the blog so far and picked out some of the posts that we liked the best.

CrazyD's Favorites


CrazyMom's Favorites

Saturday, October 20, 2007

F.G.'s First American Birthday



We celebrated F.G.'s 9th birthday on Friday and she was radiating the entire time. Some grandparents were suppose to come into town to help celebrate her birthday, but were prevented due to some health issues in our extended family. It was unclear to us whether or not F.G. would be sad about celebrating her birthday without them, but it turned out that nothing could keep her down.

We asked her who all of the presents were for and she said, "Me!" and threw her arms in the air. The above photo captures the moment.



One of the presents brought back some old memories for F.G. and she played a song that her Ethiopian mother had taught her, captured in the following video.



Our other kids were not quite as graceful with the drum and F.G. was not able to teach them how to do what she could do. Finally, she jumped on the couch behind Miss Bookworm and grabbed her hands to make them do what they were suppose to do.



It was a grand affair. F.G. felt all of the attention on her and she was thriving on it. It is too soon yet to know when she will come back down to earth.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sparse News about Anna

We don’t have a lot of news about Anna to share, but here is what we have.

The last official information we received about her was from well over a year ago. We have a picture where she is wearing a hat and looking down and not much else. Based on what we were told then, we think she is now about 3 years old.

Anna was moved from where she was living in southern Ethiopia to an orphanage in the capital city, Addis Ababa, about 3-4 weeks ago. We are hoping that now that she is in Addis Ababa our new agency will be able to get updated information to us soon.

The courts in Ethiopia shut down for a couple of months each year and they are just re-opening now. We don’t know how big their backlog is nor when our papers will make it to court to be processed. We are currently guessing that we might be traveling to Ethiopia around January or so.

Someone from our agency is traveling to Ethiopia soon, so we get to send along a little welcome bag. We will pack the gallon size zip-lock with photos, a t-shirt, a doll, a few small toys, and a disposable camera. The camera will be used to snap some pictures of Anna and then it will be mailed to us to have the pictures developed. We don’t know how long it will take for the camera to come back to us. We are already anxiously awaiting its arrival and we have not even mailed it with the welcome bag yet.

Not much news, but in some sense not much is needed. We know Anna needs a home where she can be cared for and we are excited to be able to provide that home and bring her into our family.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Family Love

(Note: In the post Telling the Kids I mentioned Miss Bookworm reading a journal entry to the family. Here is that entry.)

We used to have a cat named Smokey who was a bit too feisty so we had to take him to the Humane Society. Some time later, we found two cats from the same litter that a person couldn’t keep. A few days later, Cocoa and Patches were a part of our family.

Their colors were very different. Cocoa was brown with dark stripes and Patches was Calico with patches of orange, black, and white. Patches was a jumper, pretty light weight, while Cocoa was a little heavy and lazy.

We found out a few months later that they fought just like brothers and sisters. We think Cocoa starts it. They start batting each other then become a blur of fur until Patches breaks away and Cocoa streaks after her. Patches ends the fight by gaining higher ground – Cocoa usually doesn’t follow her.

It is the same with us kids. Someone starts a fight and they start “batting” – hurling insults back and forth until one person breaks away and gains “higher ground.” Higher ground is tattling to mom or dad.

But sometimes with Cocoa and Patches, Cocoa starts licking Patches, just like sometimes the kids are nice.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Busted

On Saturday I needed to retrieve something from the master bath so I ran upstairs to get it. The door was closed and when I went to open it I found that it was locked. I thought that was pretty strange since I couldn’t recall any other time that I had found the door locked. I tried it again and sure enough it was locked.

I heard some noises inside and realized that CrazyMom was in there. We have not ever had a lock-the-master-bath-door type of relationship before and I was beginning to wonder if things might not be going as well between us as I had thought. Us men are often the last to know.

I tentatively knocked on the door.

“Who is it?” came the reply. My antennae were up to try to discern the tone in the voice and calculate how bad things might be. There was an inflection up in the voice, which was a good sign. Other tones, however, gave me the feeling that the question was being posed in a court of law so that the respondents name could be recorded. This would enable the court to ensure they were prosecuting the proper person for the egregious crimes they had committed.

“Umm. . . It’s me, CrazyD” I said, for some reason stating my name as if my wife would not recognize my voice.

There were noises from inside and a slight delay. My level of concern was rapidly rising.

Then the door opened and CrazyMom was smiling broadly.

“I was so going to nail a kid for trying to open the door without knocking first!” she said.

Turns out that CrazyMom, in her pursuit of sanity, had issued a decree from Mount Olympus to our six kids:

From this time forward, CrazyMom, in her capacity as answer-giver and request-fulfiller (but not in her capacity as a 911 operator), shall not be unduly disturbed for the 10.5 minutes that it takes her to shower and get dressed.


CrazyMom is fair game when she is drying her hair, however, provided you can yell your request loud enough.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Telling the Kids

(Note: If you have not read I was wrong. Adoption IS Risky., you should read that post first.)

Telling the kids that we were adopting again was a lot of fun. We gathered them up in the family room to do some public readings. Miss Bookworm read a journal entry that she had written recently and then I read the soon-to-be-public-we-are-adopting-again post. The kids had this wild look in their eyes that said it all – they were really excited but kept looking around at each other to try to make sure I was not kidding. Once they knew it was for real and a new ~3 year old sister would be joining our family, they let themselves express the excitement they were feeling.

After the initial buzz, the kids immediately started lobbying for where Anna would sleep. F.G. wanted her in the girls’ room. Ed wanted to leave Miss Bookworm and F.G. behind and shack up with Anna in their own room. K.D. thought Anna should be with him in the boys’ room and said she could sleep in his bed. CrazyMom and I told them we would resolve such issues at a later time.

While all of the kids were excited about the news, they responded in different ways. Buddy’s excitement lasted for about 30 to 45 seconds. In that time he processed the whole thing, thought it would be great, and then moved on to try to ask CrazyMom which book she thought he should read next.

At the other extreme was K.D. He was excited at first, then turned thoughtful for a minute or two, and then was verbally processing the event non-stop for the rest of the night. About every minute or two he would blurt out some new thought.

“What is his America name?” (K.D. uses “he” for boys and girls.)

“When he cries I will hug him.”

“Will he do school with us?”

“I want to give him this toy.”

“We will have to buy him a swimsuit.”

“He will need clothes. I want to buy him nice clothes. I want to buy him a shirt with a lion on it.”

“Where will he sit (at the table)?”

“He won’t know how to pick up toys. He will just dump them out.”

“When he cries we will make him some k-nex.”

“I will hold his hand for a long time.”

This last comment was particularly meaningful to us. When K.D. arrived at the airport from Ethiopia, he walked right up to Little Foot, grabbed his hand and would not let go. Little Foot was K.D.’s lifeline for his first few hours in America. K.D. remembers this clearly and still talks about it. Now he wants to be the one to comfort Anna when she gets off the plane. Here is a photo from the archives of when K.D. met Little Foot at the airport.



The next morning, K.D. and Little Foot were eating breakfast and having a conversation about the order in which they would take Anna through the house. Sounds like it will be quite the mess since they thought it would be fun to dump all of the baskets of toys so she can see everything she has to play with.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I was wrong. Adoption IS risky.

In the post "Is Adoption Risky?" I reflected on the risks involved with having a child by birth vs. having a child by adoption. I concluded that while the risks are very different, I am not sure that one is more risky than the other.

I was wrong.

Let me explain. Let's say a family has n children - remember, I am a math/science guy. Consider the following birth family conversation:

Wife: You know honey, I have been thinking.

Husband: Uh-oh.

Wife: No, really. I know we have n kids and all, but sometimes I think our family might not be complete.

Husband: Uh-oh.

Wife: Have you ever thought about what it would be like to have n+1 kids? Another child for our n kids to play with? I think it would be pretty special.

Husband: Are you crazy? We already have n soccer games on Saturday morning and I am coaching n/2 of them. Then there are the n*2 parent conferences each year, the n bikes in the garage, the n*10 shoes in the closet, the n future orthodontist bills, the n future tuition bills, the n . . .

Wife: Ok. Ok. I know. It was just a thought.

Now, compare that conversation to the following adoptive family conversation:

Wife: You know honey, I have been thinking.

Husband: Uh-oh.

Wife: No really. Do you remember Anna?

(Anna is a child the couple met through the first adoption process.)

Husband: Yes, I remember her.

Wife: I have been wondering a lot lately about how she has been doing.

Husband: Does she have a family yet?

Wife: No, she doesn't. The adoption agency has dropped her. They are pulling out of that part of the country.

Husband: They dropped her? They are pulling out?

Wife: What do you think her future looks like?

Husband: You know the stats. Things are pretty grim.

Wife: I wish there was something we could do.

Husband: Short of loading our family on a plane and moving to Ethiopia, there isn't much we can do. Unless . . .

I am struck by how easy it is to say no to a pre-conceived birth child. That child is an abstract idea, not a flesh and blood individual. But how difficult it is to know a child, to have pictures of the child, to have heard stories about what the child has been through, and to have knowledge of what the future will hold if nothing is done. Such a child is already here with us in the world struggling for life.

This is the risk of adoption.

It is nearly impossible to go through an adoption process for the referral you accepted and not meet another child - an Anna - in need of a home. For some reason you will feel connected with Anna. But you will dismiss the thought of adopting again as absurd. You will find out that other families have not chosen Anna. You will dismiss the thought again. You will walk by a room in your home with space for a bed for Anna. You will dismiss the thought again. You will find yourself counting out n plates to set the table and wondering why you are not counting out n+1. You will attempt to dismiss the thought. You will try to focus on utility bills, food bills, clothing bills, future tuition bills, your crazy schedule and other things that have helped you dismiss the thought in the past, but their potency will wane. Anna will always be on your mind.

Wife: Hon, our family just doesn't seem complete.

Husband: I know. I know.

Wife: It feels like she is already a part of our family, but that she is just not with us yet.

(long pause)

Husband: Ok. Let's bring her home.

Wife: I will make the call.

And so CrazyMom called. Anna is on her way. We are adopting again.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Something Breaks Through

Today I sat in a school assembly and heard students speak of their time this summer helping with the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. I witnessed high school boys who were moved by what they saw and compelled to share it with us with raw emotion.

It reminded me of Melissa Fay Greene recounting when the HIV/orphan crisis broke through to her. It was a summer Sunday morning in 2000 while reading a NYT article. Melissa was never the same again and the course of her life was changed. So it will be for these boys.

These things that are somehow at a distance - the stuff that we hear about but don't witness for ourselves, the stuff that is all important but gets thrown out with the daily paper - when it does get through to us there is an irreversible direction about it. Once it has touched us, there is no going back.

No one says it better than Sarah Groves in her song about her experience in Rwanda.

I saw what I saw and I can't forget it.
I heard what I heard and I can't go back.
I know what I know and I can't deny it.



And so it is for me. I know what I know and I can't deny it. There is no going back.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pledge of Allegiance

As I have watched F.G. and K.D. learn English, I have been reminded of that time as a child when your brain can absorb new information at a remarkable rate. Our kids go to a children's program called AWANA at church on Wednesday nights and a part of the program involves learning the Pledge of Allegiance. We taught this string of unidentifiable sounds to them - think of republic, indivisible, liberty, and justice. It amazes me that they can remember it.

Here is K.D. saying the pledge. I told K.D. to wait until the red light came on before he started to say the pledge. If you watch carefully, you might be able to pick up on when he noticed that the red light is on.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Games We Play

I find raising a gaggle of kids to be deeply satisfying, but there are plenty of things about it that I could do without – like brushing the teeth of younger kids. This is just one of the mundane chores that CrazyMom and I don’t feel particularly drawn to. Because of this, there is a little game we play. Here are the rules:

1) If it legitimately appears to be your turn to brush a child’s teeth, you can’t pass the buck.

2) It is your turn if subtle circumstances indicate that it would make “more sense” for you to do it rather than the other parent.

3) It is legal to manipulate such subtle circumstances, but only in ways so that the children will not notice. Of course, the spouse should notice, otherwise it is not much of a game.

Here are a few examples of how we play the game.

CrazyMom and I are running the boys through the bathtub and K.D. is waiting for his turn. I go over and begin to shampoo Little Foot’s hair. Just when the suds reach a maximum and are all over my hands, I say, “Hey, K.D.! Why don’t you brush your teeth while you are waiting?” K.D. notices I am busy and so he asks CrazyMom to help him brush his teeth. CrazyMom gives me one of those furrowed-brow-you-are-so-pathetic looks, but just for a moment so as not to violate rule #3.

And don’t think that it is just me that does the manipulating. When I get done with breakfast and head upstairs to brush my teeth, CrazyMom will say to K.D., “Why don’t you run upstairs with dad and brush your teeth?” She wins the game here because it makes “more sense” for me to brush his teeth if I am going to brush mine anyway.

I just showed this post to CrazyMom and she said there is no game and I am just trying to get out of brushing K.D.’s teeth. No wonder she has been giving me all of those furrowed-brow-you-are-so-pathetic looks whenever I would win the game. Here I just thought she was a poor sport.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Jesus Loves What?!?

“What is this word, dad? It says Jesus Loves . . . something. I can’t read the last word,” said Little Foot.

I was in the car with Little Foot and F.G. on the way back home from Out-Of-Our-Way Christian Bookstore. Little Foot was trying to read the words on his new $9.99+Tax-Jesus-Loves-Something water bottle that he just bought with his own money.

I admit that I did not really care what the water bottle said and was more interested in getting home. My mood was already slightly fowl since I was running an errand that I did not want to run. Before we started home schooling, CrazyMom would run errands during the day. Now errands get done in the evening and I can’t quite figure out how to get out of doing them.

Little Foot persisted and finally F.G. decided to try to help out, but she could not read the word either.

Meanwhile I was reflecting on how Out-Of-Our-Way Christian Bookstore had caused me to be on this errand. CrazyMom had taken the six kids to their store so F.G. could buy a Bible. F.G. really wanted a Bible with a buckle and found one in her favorite color – orange. But when Out-Of-Our-Way Christian Bookstore imprinted her name on it, they messed it up. Too bad it was the only Orange-Buckle Bible in the store and too bad that F.G. would no longer settle for any one of 1,000 other Bibles in the store. So a return trip was needed to pick up the Special-Order-Orange-Buckle Bible.

Now over half way home from Out-Of-Our-Way Christian Bookstore, the water bottle finally made it up to me and I read it out loud.

“Jesus Loves Kimberly”

My son had just purchased a $9.99+Tax-Jesus-Loves-Kimberly water bottle. The slightly fowl mood in the car went quickly downhill. Knowing that I had fulfilled my fatherly duties by taking two kids to Out-Of-Our-Way Christian Bookstore where they could get what they wanted and knowing further that my car was not going to turn around to go back to the store, I began crisis management.

“Little Foot, what we can do here is this. We will take the $9.99+Tax-Jesus-Loves-Kimberly water bottle home and next time that CrazyMom goes to Out-Of-Our-Way Christian Bookstore she can trade it in for a $9.99+Tax-Jesus-Loves-Little-Foot water bottle,” I said trying to sound comforting, reassuring, and firm all at the same time.

Tears were coming.

“Are you with me here? We can trade it in for another one next time mom goes to Out-Of-Our-Way Christian Bookstore. She was there at Christmas and now again in September. I am sure she will be back before next Christmas.”

The tears arrived.

I got off the highway and completed two left turns in traffic to get back on the highway going the other way.

When we got back to Out-Of-Our-Way Christian Bookstore, the two girls behind the counter and a lady making a purchase thought the incident was “cute” and “funny”. We went back to the rack with all of the $9.99+Tax-Jesus-Loves-Somebody water bottles and had to look at every water bottle before we could be sure that they did not have one with Little Foot’s name on it. Fortunately, there was a generic “I Love Jesus” water bottle.

Clearly CrazyMom would have cared what the words were on the bottle and read them before setting out for home and avoided this whole mess. Clearly the moral of the story is that I am unqualified to run errands. Now if I can just convince CrazyMom.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Who are these kids?

The children we have in our home now are completely different than the ones we brought home from Ethiopia. Now I can see how CrazyMom and I were a little irrational during the child selection process. When we were pouring over a photo list of kids, we assumed that the expression captured in the photo reflected in some way the personality of the child. Then when CrazyMom and I saw a 20 second video clip of our children, it felt like we knew them. F.G. was soft spoken and shy; K.D. was nonverbal and mischievous.

Well, we were wrong. We did not know we were wrong when we picked up the kids in Ethiopia because they were still like they were in the short video clip. But half a year in America has changed all of that.

It reminds me of the age old debate of nature vs. nurture. I can’t tell for sure if our kids’ personalities have changed or if their true personalities are now emerging. Either way, F.G. is clearly not soft spoken and shy and K.D. can talk your ear off.

Another thing that has either changed or emerged is that both F.G. and K.D. are real jokesters. On a trip this summer CrazyMom and I were helping manage the food line at my sister’s house as nine kids went through. After the kids were taken care of, the adults went through and got their plates of food. As we finally settled into some chairs outside ready to enjoy our first bite of food, K.D. came busting out of the house yelling.

“Mom! Mom! Me spilled my food!”

CrazyMom groaned and began to set her plate down when K.D. laughed, said, “Just kidding!” and disappeared back inside.

We were shocked. It was the first of what has now become normal behavior.

Then the other day CrazyMom sent F.G. down to the basement to get some potatoes. F.G. came back and said she could not find them. CrazyMom explained again, very carefully, where the potatoes were. A few moments later F.G. was back unable to find the potatoes. A little annoyed, CrazyMom set off to get them herself and as she started down the stairs she found the bowl of potatoes concealed a few steps down. F.G. thought it was so funny that she got a bad case of the Uncontrollable Giggles.

The lesson is obvious. You can’t really know the personality of a child from a 1” by 1.5” photo and a 20 second video clip. It is only later, under a different set of circumstances that one gets to discover who a child really is.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A New Marriage Low Point

CrazyMom and I have reached a new low point in our marriage.

I wanted to ask CrazyMom if she had remembered to take F.G. to the doctor that day. Since she had missed several appointments lately, I thought I had better follow up on this one.

Entering the kitchen I found CrazyMom cooking dinner and answering the question of a child. Behind that child was another child politely waiting to ask CrazyMom a question. Behind that child was a third child politely waiting to ask CrazyMom a question.

As much as I wanted to ditch in line, I knew it was not the example I should set. Instead, I went back to the office and sent CrazyMom an email.

When I checked my email later, sure enough, there was a response from CrazyMom. Turns out she had not taken F.G. to the doctor because she had cancelled the appointment.

While it was great to get my question answered, an internet relationship is not what I am hoping for. We will certainly have to continue to find ways to connect with each other in the real world.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Hair

One nice thing for dads living in America is that there are pretty low expectations for us in caring for the hair of our daughters. If I do my girls' hair and it is done poorly, others smile and are impressed that I tried. I am even seen as a great modern day dad. If my wife does a great job with the girls' hair, nobody is impressed since she is doing what moms ought to do.

Well, I have on occasion fancied myself as a modern day dad and I have, on occasion, done my girls hair. I can do pony tails, mostly symmetric pig tails, Laura Ingles braids, and the easy headband.

Then came F.G. There is no way I can do anything with her hair. Now that her hair has grown out some, she wants things done to it. It involves gels, oils, rubber bands, stretchy thingies, and a whole host of other materials that I don't work with. But above all, her hair requires skills that are far beyond my capacities.

The good news for F.G. is that CrazyMom is here. CrazyMom braided F.G.'s hair the other day for the first time. I don't know how she did it without taking a class, but she did. I tried to braid a patch and F.G. let me know in no uncertain terms that she would not need my services anymore.

It is a good thing I still have my day job.


Friday, August 31, 2007

One Lost Toy

As I was putting the boys to bed tonight, K.D. lay on his top bunk blankly gazing at the floor littered with toys. I had run out of gumption for the day and could not muster the energy to have the boys pick up their room before bed.

"Daddy, in Ethiopia I have only one toy," K.D. said without looking up from the toys.

"Only one toy? What was it?" I asked.

"It was small car. And I looked and looked and could not find it."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Building a Hovercraft

I was standing in my classroom at the end of last school year when I saw some students out on a playground trying to demonstrate a hovercraft that they had made. At that moment I knew I had to make a hovercraft this summer.

Well, I go back to work tomorrow so on Saturday I decided to drop my chore list and spend the day making a hovercraft with the kids. The entire time I had no idea if it would actually work or not so there was suspense right up to the moment when we tried it out.

The only sad thing about the whole event was how many times my kids came up to me and with all sincerity thanked me for making a hovercraft with them. Their gratefulness seemed to testify that I have been working a little too hard this summer on my to-do lists and not hard enough at carving out time with my kids.

That being said, Saturday was a fantastic time-with-Dad day and the fact that the hovercraft worked so well was a real treat. Here are some video clips of the hovercraft in action.







Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Kids wanting more kids

Before we adopted, some people in our lives were concerned about the impact on our birth kids from bringing new kids into our home. What would the kids think? Won't they have less of our attention? Might they not be resentful?

We have been fortunate that none of this has been true for us. Our kids are young enough that they really love to play and having more kids around just makes most games better. Lately our kids have been playing freeze tag after supper. Freeze tag works with six kids. Our kids also really like to play a version of capture the flag where you can freeze people. This game does not work with six kids and they only get to play when at least two neighbors show up. So last night they decided to lobby for a more permanent solution – having us adopt more kids.

Miss Bookworm thinks we ought to adopt four more kids, but this time we should get two older boys and two younger girls to mix things up. Buddy thinks two more would be good – a virtual twin for him and Miss Bookworm since Ed and Little Foot essentially got twins last time. Ed likes this plan as well. F.G. is neutral on the age/gender, but thinks more kids are a good idea. Little Foot has really enjoyed practicing his parenting skills on K.D. and prefers having more kids for him to parent rather than having more kids to parent him.

This is not the first time this has come up either. Every time we have guests with kids in our home our kids talk about how great it would be if we could adopt our visitors. After our friends leave and we take the leaves out of the table, the next time we sit down for a meal the kids will say, "Our family seems so small now" and they start asking about adopting again.

Our kids think of adoption like an extended play date. Play dates are a blast, therefore adoption is a long term blast. Life through the eyes of a child is so simple – more kids = more fun.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Pickles

Our birth kids are crazy for dill pickles. If you were to throw a single dill pickle in the middle of the dinner table, you would get a reaction similar to throwing a piece of meat into a tank of starving piranha. When F.G. first came to America, she saw how much our kids clamored for dill pickles and decided to try one. I wish I had a picture of the expression on her face when she put it into her mouth. It was clear that this was not ever going to be a food F.G. would tolerate.

I heard that when you are introducing a new food to a child, you should offer it to them about 30 times before you decide that they don't like it. CrazyMom and I certainly found this effect to be true with Ethiopian food. The first few times we tried it we did not care for it too much, then we were neutral on it, and now we enjoy it.

Tonight, towards the end of supper F.G. was clamoring for us to open up the one gallon jar of dill pickles we had – for dessert. To get an idea about how big these pickles were, the side of a jar said one serving was 1/5 of a pickle. F.G. along with our four birth kids each happily munched a whole one down.

Now, if we can just get K.D. to like anything other than pizza, mac and cheese and ice cream, we will be all set.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Learning English

When CrazyMom and I would talk to people about adopting older children from Ethiopia, it would eventually occur to them that the kids might not speak English.

"So, do the children speak English?"

"No. They speak their mother tongue and a little Amharic, the national language," we would reply.

For those who were already feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole idea, this was the last straw. We were now officially filed away in the admirable-but-misguided-friend file.

Well, learning English has not been that bad. Here is what we have experienced so far.

In the first few weeks, some things were tough and some things were surprisingly easy. It really helped to have other kids in the home so that F.G. and K.D. could just watch them. One of the first nights back, I walked into the family room and said, "OK everybody, time to go upstairs to take a bath." All of our birth kids took off to run upstairs for baths and F.G. and K.D. followed as well. Pretty easy.

There were also times in the first few weeks when we were desperate to communicate with them. They had something to say, something that was more significant than baths, mealtime, or getting dressed and the Amharic dictionary was not working for us. Pretty tough.

Within about two months the receptive language was so high for the kids that someone coming into our home would see them functioning just like our other kids. Their expressive language was at the point where they could communicate quite a bit, but it would definitely give away that they were learning English.

Their language was at the point where acquiring more language skills for daily life was no longer urgent, just important. With all that was going on, it was easy for CrazyMom and me to let natural daily life be their teacher rather than specifically working on English with them.

So we purchased the computer software Rosetta Stone for English. The kids work on this every day and it helps us to see gaps in their English that we might not otherwise notice. This gives us lots to talk about. Like the differences/similarities for the words girl, young woman, mom, lady, old woman, grandma, and grandmother.

There are some hurdles, however -- like getting Little Foot to speak English to K.D. When the kids first came from Ethiopia, there was a lot of talk like "me hungry" or "me go outside." Little Foot became enamored with this type of speech and still speaks this way to K.D. "Me done," he will say to K.D. when he is done brushing his teeth and it is K.D.'s turn. In fact, Little Foot now uses the word "me" so much I don't know how may years it will be before we will get K.D. to use the word "I".

Other than that, things are going great. It is a little too early to tell whether or not F.G. will retain an accent but it appears K.D. will not.

And by the way, K.D. has already picked up the selective English skill.

"Do you want to go out for some ice cream?" I will ask.

"Yes! Me love ice cream," he will respond.

"Can you carry this to the kitchen?" I will ask.

"Kitchen? What is this? Me don't know kitchen."

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hey! I know you!

My wife and I read multiple blogs of people we don’t know. I know we will probably never meet any of these people, but we like to share in their lives in this small way.

One Sunday morning on our last vacation we walked into a small church in another state. CrazyMom went ahead of me into the sanctuary and sat down with the kids. A few moments later, a woman came up to her and said, "You are going to think this is a crazy question, but are you the Big Crazy Family?" She had recognized the kids from pictures on the blog. When I came in, I found two adoptive moms engrossed in conversation.

I decided that I had better start keeping my eyes open. Who knows? Maybe I will get to run into someone whose blog I read.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Vacation!

We are back! We have been gone for two weeks visiting just about every relative we have. F.G. and K.D. got to meet aunts and uncles, cousins, and a whole host of other people whose actual relationship is too complicated for me to figure out. It was a grand time traveling around the country with 30+ hours behind the wheel. There were new experiences almost every day for F.G. and K.D -- attending a wedding, camping, boating, riding a go-cart, and lots more. Here are a few photos.