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


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."