Monday, November 30, 2009

NaBloPoMo 30--What's in a name?

I figured I'd end on a post I've been meaning to write for a long time.  Stephanie referenced something to this point the other day, and since I've been wanting to write about it forever, I thought it was finally the time to do so.

Long before I ever had Patrick (in fact, long before I ever met Jason), I had dreams about having children someday.  This was odd enough since when I was conscious, I never thought I would get married or have children--I just didn't see myself that way.  I always saw myself in a cool apartment, hanging out with friends, and having a grand old time.  But in my dreams, the oldest or only child was always a little blond-haired boy who looked just like Patrick as a toddler.  The others varied but he was a constant.  And even though I never thought I'd have kids, I knew that I would name a little boy Patrick John.  Before I was ever pregnant, I knew that would be his name.

So I was shocked when he was born and I spent hours while we were in the hospital agonizing over my choice!  What if he's not a Patrick? I wondered.  What if I've chosen the wrong name for him?  Does he look like a Patrick?  Naming a child is an incredible responsibility.  In many ways, it sets the stage for them.  I've been surprised at how often a person's name fits them perfectly.  Clearly, we chose to keep Patrick as his name and I can't imagine him with any other name.

When we chose to adopt, we originally wanted to adopt an infant and planned to rename him.  We planned to keep his given name as a middle name, drop his last name for ours, and give him a first name of our choosing.

Then we learned that children in Ethiopia are given their father's first name as a last name.  It didn't feel right to drop that--it's too important to him.  So we figured we'd keep both his names as his middle names, but still give him a new first name.  An American first name, one that would be easy to pronounce and spell.

While we waited, though, I read a lot of adult adoptee blogs.  (I still do, actually, though they are not easy to read in many respects.)  I heard their words about many things, and one of the things that resonated with me is the importance of having their name, of knowing their name.  It's one of the few things that their firstparents are able to pass on to them, and not even all of them have that.  Those who didn't seem to keenly feel its loss.  I thought How can I do that to my child?  How can I take away the name that might be the only thing he has left of his family?  When Jason and I discussed it, we both felt the same way--we couldn't do it.  It didn't feel right for us.  We decided that having the same last name was enough "claiming".

Besides, with a sister named Siobhan, hard-to-spell-and-pronounce names are nothing new to me.

When we told people about our referrals, one of the first questions we always got was "Are you going to change his name?"  And we replied, "No, it's his name."  At first we prevaricated, saying that since he wasn't an infant, it would be too hard for him to learn a new name; ultimately, we just told people that we felt it was important to keep it.  Still, many people persisted in telling us that Melkamu would need a new name, one people could pronounce and spell.  Someone told me "It will be too hard for him to spell!"  (When I pointed out that it has the same number of letters as Patrick's name, he stopped saying that.)

In Ethiopia, when the adoption is complete, a new birth certificate is issued for the child being adopted.  Instead of the child's original name, it has Child's first name - Father's first name - Family last name.  Melkamu Delelegn became Melkamu Jason Morrey.  I figured we would immediately rename him when we did the readoption to be Melkamu Delelegn Morrey, but Jason liked having his name in there.  Go figure.  After much discussion, we decided that he would be Melkamu Jason Delelegn Morrey.  It's a mouthful, but every part of it is important. 

Still, I have to admit that an exasperated "Melkamu Jason!" doesn't roll off the tongue as easily as "Patrick John!"  It's getting easier the more I use it, and I use it a lot lately (oh, 3 is fun...).

Melkamu means "The good one" and "Handsome".  How could we possibly have chosen a more appropriate name for him? We've yet to find out exactly what Delelegn means, since it's not a common name even in Ethiopia, but the closest we can get is that it may have some reference to trade as a business.

Names are important.  Names have meaning.  A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but Melkamu by any other name would be missing something vitally important to his heritage.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

NaBloPoMo 29--Nearly there (*gasp, choke*)

Almost there!  I have almost made it through the 30-posts-in-30-days that is NaBloPoMo.  My Bloglines is full beyond full, I've left very few comments on other blogs, but I have posted almost 30 posts this month.  I almost missed today also, primarily due to being sick and trying to get work done for tomorrow.

What's that, you ask?  Wasn't I just sick?  Why yes, I was. 

College students + children + airline travel + not enough sleep = Erin's immune system under attack

On the bright side, there are only 4 days of classes left for me!  On the busy side, this week includes:

1. The last 4 days of classes, which means hordes of panicked students who've decided that now would be the time to ask if there's any way they can still pass the class.

2. Lessons-and-Carols week: choir rehearsals every night except Wednesday, show on Friday, and two shows on Saturday.  Please, please don't let me lose my voice again!  And if you haven't bought your tickets but would still like to go, let me know--I can easily give you the ticket info!  You would love the show...we sound incredible!

3. Patrick's 6th birthday: his party's not until the 13th but I still have to figure out birthday cupcakes for school and plan celebratory meals for that day.  And that also means my baby is turning SIX!  Wah!  (More on Thursday.)

4. Time to write holiday cards!  We've missed out the last 2 years but have sworn that we will get them out this year. 

5. I have to plan an activity with cells and microscopes to present to high school teachers on Friday.

Off to bed--this will be a busy week!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

NaBloPoMo 28--Home again, home again, jiggity jog

We just got home a little while ago from a wonderful Thanksgiving trip to visit Jason's family.  It was really great to see everyone and spend time with them--we can't wait to do it again!

I'd just like it known that I am currently 3-0 for visits to a casino without losing money.  Jason is not. 

(And yes, I do gamble.  I spent almost 2 hours playing blackjack ($3 table.  I gamble but am not stupid).  I started with $60 and finished with...$60 exactly.  I was down to about $20 at one point, up to almost $100 at another point, and was right back where I started when I finished.  It was lots of fun and since I always plan on losing any money I bring, I consider it a huge success!)

The kids just went to bed, as they are on Mountain time right now and it just now feels like bedtime.  They had a great time being spoiled at Grandma and Grandpa's house and have already lamented having to leave several times.

OK, I'm exhausted and going to bed.  More tomorrow, with the very few pictures I took before my camera battery died!

Friday, November 27, 2009

NaBloPoMo 27--Flashback Friday

And...I'm officially caught up on missing blog posts!

Patrick normally has reasonably good fashion sense, but he decided to abdicate all ability to match patterns one day in early summer--and this was the result.  The shirt and shorts were bad enough, but then he passed over all the normal plain colored socks in his drawer and decided on the camouflage pair.  It could only have been worse if he'd chosen his tie-dyed shirt instead of that one, and I don't know that it would have been THAT much worse.

NaBloPoMo 26--Morning snickers

Melkamu: "I hurt my arm!"

Me: "Oh no Kamu, what happened?"

Melkamu, very matter-of-factly: "Shark."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

NaBloPoMo 25--Thankful Thankgiving Thursday

It seemed appropriate to have a Thankful Thursday on Thanksgiving!

Today, I am thankful for:

1. Wonderful families on both my side and Jason's side.  They never fail to make me feel lucky to have them, to have their love and support for our family.  We genuinely appreciate spending time with all of them and are so glad to get to see both sides during this year!

2. The gorgeous area in which we're spending our time with Jason's family.  They live in southern Utah and the area is just breathtakingly beautiful.  Melkamu, Mom, and I went for a nice long walk through the rocks and hills today, so that Kamu could climb and play.  We had a great time.  Dad, Jason, Patrick, and Adam (Jason's brother) went off-roading in Arizona to see pink sand and petroglyphs.  They came back dirty and dusty and grinning from ear-to-ear.

3. An incredible Thankgiving dinner shared with loved ones.  It was absolutely delicious and we are so grateful to Mom for such a wonderful meal!

4. A surprise at dinner tonight--to celebrate Mom and Dad's birthdays (Mom just turned 60 and Dad is turning 70 next year), we're all going on a cruise in Alaska next summer!  I believe I just posted that going to Alaska was somewhere I've always wanted to go, and being able to go with everyone will be such a wonderful trip.  I'm already incredibly excited and can't wait to go!

5. The joy of both family and friends, at this time of year and the rest of the year round.  I am so thankful to have all of you in my life.

NaBloPoMo 24--The missing days

Alas, my streak broke when we were getting ready for our trip!  I could have decided to only get an hour of sleep on Monday night and get a blog post written, but decided the extra 30 minutes would be important.  As it turns out, 6 hours of sleep spread out over 2 nights still wasn't enough.  Go figure.  On the bright side, I did get all my work done and brought nothing work-related to Utah, so I'm enjoying the vacation without the worry of work!

The flight out here wasn't too bad.  Our flight was set to leave at 7:30, which is normally when the kids go to bed.  We didn't get to the airport as early as we'd planned, though we were still at our gate before our flight boarded.  However, we didn't have enough time to wait in one of the long lines to get food.  We bought a few snacks but I figured that we'd just buy some food on the plane (though I hate the fact that they charge so much for it).  To my surprise, AirTran does not have food even to purchase on their planes.  Hungry and tired children do not make a happy combination.  Then we had to beg people to switch around seats because they'd seated all 4 of us separately and wouldn't help us get them moved when I asked at the gate; after the moves, Kamu and I were together and Jason and Patrick were together.  It worked OK, but we did have several people who didn't want to move.  I seriously wanted to ask the AirTran people if they expected other people to take care of our children on the flights.  Last time we flew Delta and were assigned seats apart, they were happy to help get us seated together.  AirTran fail #2.

Jason and Patrick played some Uno for a while, and Kamu and I read some stories.  Then Kamu was finally ready to sleep.  I asked for a blanket, because Melkamu was cold, and was told that AirTran doesn't have blankets or pillows either!  I was appalled at their lack of service. 

I don't think we'll be flying AirTran again.

Thankfully, I had my sweatshirt and used that as a blanket for him.  He slept on my leg most of the way, and Patrick slept on Jason most of the way--which meant that Jason and I also got to sleep most of the way.  We finally got to Las Vegas, exhausted but happy to see Mom and Dad M.  We spent the night at Treasure Island (the kids were disappointed that their pirate show is not going currently but really enjoyed seeing the ships) and then spent the next morning wandering around some of the hotels.  The Venetian is so cool!

Mom, the kids, and I came back to the house while Dad and Jason went to get Adam at the airport.  We got all settled in and the kids got to open their birthday presents--needless to say, they've been having an awesome time here!

I'll post lots of pictures when we get back and will probably post more then also.  Until then, have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

NaBloPoMo 23--The one I almost missed

And is destined to be really pathetic, because I'm trying to finish all of my work before we leave for Thanksgiving. I would LOVE to not have to bring my laptop or anything else with me so that I can just relax and enjoy our trip to see the Morrey family. Mind you, this may mean no more posts while we're gone--it is highly unlikely that I'll get to writing and scheduling posts ahead of time. Before we get on the plane, I must:

1. Finish writing a lecture.

2. Grade 50 tests from 2 separate classes.

3. Grade 17 research papers.

4. Grade 20 lab notebooks.

5. Figure out what we're doing in tomorrow's lab.

I think I'll post some pictures for your viewing "enjoyment".  Without further ado, some more photos of the last week:

The birthday boy's breakfast!

Mama and Daddy may have known what to get Kamu...he can't wait to take it on our trip tomorrow.

Did we ever mention Melkamu's love of Mickey? ;-)

Dinner at Meskerem, our favorite Ethiopian restaurant in town.  It is always a fun night out, and we actually got Patrick to eat zil zil tibs this time (he polished off the leftovers the next night).  Kamu, as always, scarfed down some kik alicha and Jason had the lamb tibs.  It was soooo good.

And, just because I'm really proud of them, I graduated another Bradley class last night.  I can't wait to hear about the babies that are coming soon!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

NaBloPoMo 22--Happy birthday my Jason!

It's Jason's birthday :-)!!! He's now 21 years old and looking forward to having his first legal drink tonight....wait, that was 12 years ago. He's 33 today. Silly me, how time flies! This is what Jason was doing a month before his birthday 12 years ago.
Drunken Santa for Halloween. Sadly, very little changes as Jason had a lovely time drinking with the other dads at our friends' house on Halloween while the moms took the kids out trick-or-treating.

The birthday boy is being shy this year and won't let me take a photo of him yet just because he is still in his pajamas and needs to shower and shave. Misplaced modesty in my mind. You'd all love a picture of him in his shark shirt and polar bear flannel pants, right?

We had a wonderful birthday breakfast of waffles and bacon, per Jason's request, and will be having homemade pizza tomorrow night for dinner. Unfortunately his birthday dinner is getting preempted by my Bradley class's final meeting tonight and we always do a potluck for it. So pizza tomorrow night it will be!

Happy birthday, my love! I can hardly believe we started dating just before your 19th birthday--I feel so lucky to be able to share them with you!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

NaBloPoMo 21--Your questions answered!

At least a couple of them (I'm saving more for later--promise the rest won't be this long!):

Courtney asked: "You receive a million dollars to be spent exclusively on travel. How do you spend it?"

Courtney, did I tell you of my love of travel? If I had piles of money, that's what I'd do. Rarely does much time go by before I'm telling Jason of some other place I'd like us to go sometime. Oh travel, how I love thee...which is actually a little odd, because having a happy and comfortable home is so important to me.

A million dollars to spend on travel? I'd take my family, of course. We'd do a world tour. I've never been to South America, Australia, or Asia, so those are the places we'd go first. I'd love to see the Andes, the outback, the Great Barrier Reef, the beautiful and gorgeous areas all over Asia. Then, when we'd had our fill of all of those places, we'd go back to Africa. Of course to Ethiopia, and spend as much time as possible touring and learning the country, but there's so much more that I'd like to see there. It's such a huge continent with so many incredible countries...there are just infinite possibilities. If there were anything left, my next destination would probably be eastern Europe. Architecture isn't normally my thing but the photos I've seen of places in Hungary and Turkey are simply breathtaking. I've never been to Alaska and would certainly want to go there, as well as the Pacific Northwest.

There are so many choices! I'd love to hear where other people want to go also.

Stephanie asked: "Can you share how you are raising the boys as it pertains to both religions. I'm stumped which is why we've done nothing yet."

We actually agreed to raise our children Jewish before we got married, shortly after getting engaged. My parents have an interfaith marriage also, in which my mom is Jewish and my dad is Catholic, so I had the experience of being raised in a home with multiple religions. I also knew that it's really not possible to raise a child in both a Jewish and Christian religion at the same time--there's no way to get through the "Jesus is your personal lord and savior" issue if the other side is telling you that the Messiah hasn't come yet. My siblings and I are Jewish. We weren't raised in both religions. We didn't go to church except for special occasions (sibling baptisms and confirmations, and the rare Christmas Eve when my parents would let us to go midnight mass. I think I went twice.). We went to synagogue and Hebrew school and Sunday school and had Bat/Bar Mitzvahs. And we understood that the Christmas tree and stockings were to help Daddy celebrate his holiday, not ours. (OK, we eventually understood--as little kids, it was just another great excuse for more presents.)

In college, I participated in the Jewish student organization but wasn't really sure what role I wanted it to play in my life. Nevertheless, when Jason proposed, we had a discussion about what religion to raise our children, and I told him I wouldn't marry him until we figured it out.

Jason was also raised in an interfaith house, but both were Christian religions. He was raised going to both churches and at age 18 chose to be a Mormon. He had figured that we would do the same thing--raise the children going to both Jewish and Mormon services, then letting them choose when they were old enough.

From the start, despite the fact that I was still not sure about the role Judaism would have in my life, I still wanted them raised Jewish. One of my points was this: I didn't know how children would reconcile the LDS idea that people who are not Mormons cannot attain the highest level of heaven with the idea that Mama is a good person and why wouldn't she be there? I told Jason that I had no objection to bringing the children to LDS services sometimes, but that I still wanted them to be raised Jewish. I pointed out that they would be Jewish simply by the fact that I am Jewish. I pointed out that they would need to be Bar/Bat Mitzvahed at 12 or 13 and that waiting until 18 to choose wasn't a good option if they wanted to be Jewish.

It ended up coming down to what I said at one point: What child would give Judaism a fair shot when it involves Hebrew school twice a week, synagogue on Saturdays, and Sunday school on Sundays? They would look at their friends in the church who go to church and Sunday school one day a week, and there would be no way to give the two religions equal access. That a child is not going to look at what is right for them spiritually, they're going to look at which one gives them more time to play after school.

We agreed to raise them Jewish, but I said that we would still take them to Jason's church sometimes. Then I went with him once. The elders knew I was there and that I was Jewish. And at one point, the person preaching said something very much to the effect of "And let us help the Jews realize that they're wrong and find the right way." Let's just say I haven't been back since.

The elders who've come to our house for home visits have always been extremely respectful of the fact that the kids and I are Jewish, never once trying to preach to us or anything. Still, it did make things difficult for Jason in the church since those who are LDS are all about family--and Jason's family wasn't there with him because they're Jewish and have no intention of converting. He hasn't actually been to a service in years. He tends to keep his spirituality more private but I do think he misses having a church.

Thankfully, our Conservative synagogue is very welcoming to us as an interfaith and transracial family. Many interfaith families attend Reformed synagogues but I was raised in a Conservative synagogue and never felt comfortable in a Reformed service--I like Hebrew and hearing the traditional services. Our rabbi has met Jason several times and always been just as pleasant to him as to anyone else. Jason comes to help everytime we lead the Tot Shabbat services, so he's there a couple of times a year; the kids and I go most weekends (though we've slacked lately). Patrick attended the JCC daycare for 2 years and while we won't send Melkamu, for several reasons, he enjoyed learning more about Judaism and the Torah and everything.

Judaism became more important to me as I thought more about what was right for me spiritually. I love our synagogue's diversity and accessibility. We do not keep Kosher as a family but do incorporate other important aspects. Our family tries to do Shabbat dinner at our house often, with candles in holders from Ethiopia, grape juice in the Kiddush cup I got for my Bat Mitzvah, and a beautiful challah cover made by Ethiopian-Jewish women that my mom found for us. The kids say Shema as part of their bedtime prayers every night. Patrick goes to Sunday school and Kamu will start in 2 years. We still have a Christmas tree (when we're home, anyway), the kids have stockings, and we do a little Easter egg hunt each year...even though the eggs often have to be filled with Kosher-for-Passover chocolates. The kids are always reminded that we do these to help Daddy celebrate his holidays. Melkamu will be formally converted to Judaism with the other children that we adopt. It will be a Conservative conversion, not Orthodox or Reformed. He's been raised Jewish since he came home and even with an occasional Christmas tree around, the kids have no doubts in their minds that they're Jewish.

Anyway, that was an exceptionally long-winded explanation about how we decided to raise the kids with regards to religion. (Yikes. I wonder how long it will take for this post to publish.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

NaBloPoMo 20--Flashback Friday

Answers to questions being worked on for tomorrow--if you've got more, feel free to ask them in the comments today! In the meantime, here's a picture of kids in a bath...this was the very first bath that Melkamu actually sat down and enjoyed it, rather than grabbing onto our necks and screaming through the entire thing!

Patrick, meanwhile, has always enjoyed baths (well, after that first one) and now has started to enjoy showers. The problem? He already showers like a teen. Really hot, LOOOOOOOOOOONG showers. In a related note, we discovered on Tuesday night that the smoke alarm outside the guest bathroom will go off if the bathroom door is open and the showerer is taking an extremely hot and LOOOOOOOOOOOONG shower.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NaBloPoMo 19: Thankful Thursday

Today is Melkamu's 3rd birthday!!! I can hardly believe my baby is 3 already. Jason and I were just looking at his visa picture the other day, taken when he was 13 months old, and he was such a tiny little peanut. It's hard to imagine how much our family has changed thanks to our beautiful son.

So today, I am thankful for:

1. Melkamu. I cannot imagine not having this happy, joyous child in my life. He likes nothing better than to be smiling and laughing, and to make other people smile and laugh.

2. How excited Kamu has been for his birthday. It was absolutely precious watching him each day ask "Today Kamu birtday?" (not a misspelling) Last night at bed, he even started singing happy birthday to himself. He is just beyond thrilled to be celebrating today!

3. Listening to Melkamu talk. Less than a year ago, Kamu barely spoke. He had a few words and even those were only understood by the immediate family. Around April, though, his speech just absolutely took off. He uses such wonderful sentences and has so much to say now. I hope I never forget how when you ask him what color something is, his first response is always "" Then if you tell him to try again, he responds "Yeyow?" He usually gets it on the third try, but it is just adorable. The other day, he and Jason were reading a book and he was trying to count. Apparently he said "Sih, sehn, eight, four, EIGHT!" Jason counted and lo and behold, there were eight of the picture. He is so cute! And I know I will never forget hearing him say "I love you" (or "I luh you!"). He doesn't often say it unless I say it first, but I treasure it every time I hear it.

4. How thrilled Melkamu gets when he goes swimming. I know Jason wants him to play football but he is truly a little fish. His confidence in the water is astounding, which scares us to death sometimes--because he doesn't actually float yet. There was a time over the summer when I took he, Patrick, and a friend of Patrick's swimming. Patrick and his friend went down the stairs into the water since they can both swim. Melkamu followed right along behind, all the way to the bottom of the stairs. (I saw this happening and was on my way over.) Unfortunately, the bottom of the stairs was deeper than he is tall and so he was underwater. The lifeguard was sitting right next to the stairs and jumped in to get him out. He came up just fine, since we have taught him to hold his breath--he wasn't choking or coughing water or even scared--and the lifeguard gave me this bewildered look and said "He just looked so confident, I figured he could swim!" I said "Yeah, he doesn't know that he can't." He doesn't mind wearing a lifevest but we're hoping to teach him to swim without it at some point soon.

5. The way Melkamu moves and runs and jumps now. He was in physical therapy for just about a year after he came home. He didn't walk until 17 months and while he learned to walk reasonably well by the time he turned 2, he didn't run or jump until closer to 2 1/2. I would see these tiny little children, 18 months and younger, dashing about and Kamu just couldn't keep up. It never fails to make me smile to see he and Patrick chasing each other around the house, giggling like mad, or to watch Kamu say "Jump!" and jump into the air. I know how hard he worked to learn to do those and it is so wonderful to see it in action...lots and lots of action!

I could go on and on now but I will save more for when I post the second half of this: photos of him on his birthday!

Happy birthday, my baby! I love you dearly :-)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

NaBloPoMo 17--I think I can, I think I can

I feel like the little engine that could...I think I can make it through NaBloPoMo. I hope. I'm desperate and soliciting for topics to write about in the coming days! (I don't think that type of solicitation can get you arrested, so I should be OK.) Anything you really want to know about us? Light and fluffy questions as well as deep and heavy questions welcome.

We leave a week from today to go to Mom and Dad M's for Thanksgiving. We always have a great time out there and can't wait to see everyone. We fly into and out of Las Vegas and this year are spending the night at Treasure Island. The boys cannot wait! Just this morning, Kamu poked his bottom lip out and said "I wanna go see Grampa." It was so nice to be able to say that we are leaving in a week.

We'll also be going up to NY for the winter holidays (OK, Christmas, since Hanukkah is over by then). We're driving up there. It's a long drive but actually only about 2 hours longer than going to south Florida, and I took the boys there by myself over my last spring break. The only factor could be the weather. We're hoping for nice and clear driving conditions with very little snow or ice.

Can anyone say "filler"?

I taught Melkamu to say "ostentatious" the other day. There are some houses near us that just put up these wrought iron fences around them, and they have these enormous gold medallions on them. We were driving by and Kamu said "What's that?" and I felt that ostentatious was the best word to describe them.

OK, I'm done driveling. Questions please, I beg you!

Monday, November 16, 2009

NaBloPoMo 16--Fall fun!

The weekend was just wonderful, and Jason raked the leaves. The kids had a great time playing in them!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NaBloPoMo 15--Memories of Ethiopia

I realized that I never really did post photos of our trip to Ethiopia.  I couldn't upload them from overseas and when we came back, it was a little too overwhelming to really get it done.

I really believe everyone should go to Ethiopia at some point.  It was one of the most welcoming places I have ever been, absolutely beautiful, and the food is incredibly delicious.  (If you're ever in Atlanta, we have several wonderful Ethiopian restaurants here and we'd be more than happy to take you to one.) 

To all of my Ethiopian-adoptive blogger friends, I would love to hear some of your non-adoption-related memories of Ethiopia.  One of mine is of our drive to Hosanna.  Both Jason and I made the comment that it reminded us of the American southeast (a region we both love).  It was very sparse and bare, but beautiful with the sun just rising over the mountains.  The picture was from a moving car--I apologize for the quality, but the light was just gorgeous.  What amazed me even more was seeing pictures from other travelers of the same area just a few short weeks later--the rains had begun and that sparse area was lush and verdant.  Next time we go, I look forward to traveling around the country as much as possible.

These are in no particular order, and are a small percentage of my favorites.

The CHSFS main guesthouse.

The walk from the main offices to the care center.

Some views of Addis Ababa.

Scaffolding. Scary, huh?

The replica of Lucy's skeleton.  I believe she was on tour in Houston while we were there.

The ceiling of the restaurant we went to for traditional Ethiopian food and dancing.

Patrick making a friend in Hosanna.

A family near Hosanna.  We stopped on the way back to see their home.  The kids loved to have their pictures taken and then see them on the cameras.

On the way back to the guesthouse the first day we could take Melkamu from the care center.  He wasn't so sure about the carrier, but I got lots of approving looks from other people who liked that I was carrying him close instead of pushing him in a stroller.

My boys after the embassy visit, when Kamu was approved for his American visa.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

NaBloPoMo 14--Things the books don't tell you

I'm not exactly shy about sharing my thoughts.  Never have been, never will be.  I have gotten better at responding to "What happened to his real parents?" or "What happened to his birthmom?" by matter-of-factly responding "We don't share that information.  It belongs to Melkamu," and changing the subject or continuing the conversation while leaving that alone.  Most people have been very respectful of that approach, but there have been some who continue to believe that they deserve the information and ask about it frequently.  I'm sticking with the same approach for them, but it drives me up a wall to be asked repeatedly about information that we've said we're not sharing.

The issue is that both Patrick and Melkamu are starting to ask questions about adoption, and they can't be put off with that kind of statement.  Patrick met Melkamu's firstmom when we were in Hosanna.  We had a meeting with her first, just us and the translator, while the other wonderful people in our travel group helped by watching him.  It gave us a chance to ask her questions and for her to ask us questions.  It was not an easy meeting emotionally; we were also unprepared for how awkward it would be to have to talk through a translator, and we're not sure that either one of us was translated entirely properly.  I sobbed through most of the meeting and was completely unable to talk for a good bit afterwards.  We were able to take some treasured photos of us with her and have those for Melkamu.

After each family had the chance to meet the first family or finder of their child, there was an entrustment ceremony. 

The first family/finders read these words in their home language (there were three separate languages represented at our entrustment ceremony).  They pass a lit candle to the adoptive families.

Then the adoptive families repeat these words.

Patrick was at the entrustment ceremony with us.  Right before it started, he whispered "Which one is Melkamu's firstmom?" and I pointed her out to him.  Then the unfairness of the situation struck me and I began to sob.  It seems so wrong that simply because we have more money, we were able to adopt this beautiful little boy.  (Yes, I know that this isn't the only reason but it was what I was thinking at the time.)  It seems wholly unfair that she's seen Patrick more recently than she's seen Melkamu.

I cried through the entrustment ceremony, as did Melkamu's firstmom.  After it was over, Patrick asked if he could meet her and I said of course.  He immediately, with no hesitation, went over and gave her a hug.  She hugged him back and then she kissed me before leaving.  I believe that Patrick's hug helped show her that Melkamu will be raised with love in a way that no words from us could have done.

Lately, Melkamu has been fascinated with babies.  I remember Patrick going through this stage, but it was easy with Patrick--we know his birth story.  Melkamu asked "Baby in Mama's tummy?" and I replied no, but that babies do grow in their mama's tummies.  Patrick said "Like I grew in your tummy!" and I replied "Yes, and Melkamu grew in his Enat's* tummy."  Kamu looked at the picture of us with his first mom and said "Kamu go Enat tummy?" in a very confused voice.  I said yes, and we looked at the picture for a while.

He doesn't have the vocabulary to really ask the questions yet but I know they are coming.  I've read many, many books but it's one thing to read a potential response in a book, quite another when you are looking into the big brown eyes of your child as he asks the questions.  I hope I have the right answers when he asks, and that he will forgive me for messing up some of them, as I am sure to do.

*Amharic word for mother, though we may change this to Aachie, which is the Hadiyan word and the language his first family spoke.  I just learned it recently.

Friday, November 13, 2009

NaBloPoMo 13--Flashback Friday

The very first picture of my babies together!  Patrick was so elated and Melkamu was so confused.  It was followed shortly by "Mama, he's heavy...get him down!"

NaBloPoMo 12--Thankful Thursday

OK, I'm a little late--yesterday was crazy busy and my blogging time was taken up dealing with the metal that caused one flat tire and damage to another tire.  Two tires and a new spare later...

But I decided not to give up on NaBloPoMo!  Aren't you glad ;-)

I figured that since Thanksgiving is coming up, I'd start "Thankful Thursdays".  I'd like to invite all of my fellow NaBloPoMo'ers to join me in thinking of five things (or more) that they're thankful for that week.

This week, I am thankful for:

1. My family, of course.  I genuinely never pictured myself married or with children (yes, I know I got married at 21), but I can't imagine my life without them.  Jason and I celebrated 10 years of marriage in June.  Melkamu turns 3 next Thursday (bet you can imagine what my post will be about that day!), and Patrick turns 6 two weeks after that.  Our children are such a joy to us.  And our extended families are absolutely the best!  We can't wait to see you all in the next couple of months.

2. My friends.  I've spent a lot of time with them in the last couple of weeks, and I am so thankful for each and every one of you.  I've really enjoyed getting to know you better, sharing our lives together, and feel very thankful that we've been able to have that time.

3. My job.  In this economy, I'm extremely thankful to have gotten my letter of intent for next year.  If you have any spare prayers, Jason's pretty eager to find a job and could use them!

4. My home.  Falling apart or not, it is a home.  It is comfortable and cozy, and is the place I most want to be with my family.

5. The weather.  OK, I'm reaching now--I started out broad and am losing steam.  But it really is gorgeous weather now that the rain has stopped.  The trees are brilliantly colored, it is supposed to be in the 70's and sunny all weekend, and I can't think of a nicer time of year!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NaBloPoMo 10--The end of the road

I think I'm done with NaBloPoMo.  I feel like I'm talking to myself since no one's commenting--I'm not even sure anyone's reading.  5 comments on 2 posts, no comments on the other 7.  I can't see bothering to write another 20 posts this month if no one else is reading them, and I have other things to do with my time than obsess over what to post each day if I'm the only one who's reading.  This was never meant to be a major blog, just a way to keep up family and friends with what's going on in our lives, and I see that was definitely the way to go with it.  I'm going back to posting when I feel like there's something to post, when I have the time to do so. 

Those of you who've commented, thank you.  I really appreciate it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

NaBloPoMo 9--Vocals

Patrick said his first word, Dada, at 8 1/2 months.  Melkamu said his first English word, Mama, shortly after we came home.  Jason's a lawyer, he clearly knows how to talk. 

Me, I would like to be able to start talking again.  Now.  Because it's hard to do this professor thing without a voice.

I had a cold last week, just a normal cold.  I felt lousy for about 2 days and felt pretty good on Friday...until that evening, when I could feel the tell-tale signs that my voice was going to go out.  Could I have stopped talking then?  Not really, since we (read: my fellow co-advisors and I) had taken our health sciences club to an exhibit and they kept asking us a lot of questions.  I skipped shul on Saturday morning, by which point my voice was fully gone, figuring that at least then I wouldn't be tempted to talk to my friends.  But none of my voice came back and I spent all of Saturday night chit-chatting and having a grand old time with my raspy, squeaky voice.

Unsurprisingly, my voice wasn't even remotely better yesterday morning.  I tried not to talk all day but yeah, like that was going to happen, and then I had to teach my Bradley class last night.

Today: two lectures--done.  I rasped and squeaked my way through them.  I even let the second one out 10 minutes early because my voice was gone and I couldn't do anything else.  What a surprise--today, I've already had 3 students in my office during office hours.  I can't tell you how often NO ONE shows up but today, when I have no voice, they're all coming by.

Choir rehearsal tonight: I'll be there, oh I will be there.  But I will be sitting in the audience and taking notes on my music without saying a word.  Lessons and Carols is in less than a month and we only meet once a week until the week of the performances.  (And yes, you COMPLETELY want to be there.)

If you happen to find out who stole my voice, I need it back.  I really need it back.  Help!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

NaBloPoMo 8--ማኅበረሰብ

ማኅበረሰብ means "community" in Amharic, and that's what we feel in the Atlanta area.  There is a large Ethiopian community here, as well as a large Ethiopian adoptive community.  It started small, around the time that we started the adoption process, and our Yahoo group has grown to include well over 100 families.  Thanks to Renee, we've restared the monthly gatherings that we used to hold.  They'd faded out last summer as people brought home their children and got busy, but she spearheaded and organized the effort to get them going again.  They are so important to our ማኅበረሰብ.

There was a gathering of the group about 10 days before we brought Melkamu home.  We almost skipped it because we were so frazzled, having just found out 4 days earlier that we'd be traveling on February 27th.  There was so much to do!  But we also needed to go, to relax, to rejoice with our friends at the news of our son's homecoming and celebrate the families who'd just gone to get their children.  It made me so grateful to live in this area while going through the process of adopting Melkamu, and that feeling has not changed.

We had another get-together at Stephanie and Jason's rec warehouse last night and it was just wonderful to celebrate with friends that I've known for several years, to meet new friends, and to watch all of our children playing and having a great time.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

NaBloPoMo 7--"Germs? EEEWWWWWW!"

Kamu tends to say "Ewww!" anytime he hears anything new, but when he said that the other day, it was very appropriate.  Patrick was talking about how you get sick from germs and Kamu said "Germs?  Eeewwwww!"  I could not help but agree.

With both boys in daycare or school and me being a college professor, we're constantly around the germiest of germs found outside of a hospital.  At Kamu's daycare, some of the kids still suck thumbs and then play with toys without washing their hands.  Or they sneeze on another child and keep playing.  It's a wonderful daycare and they keep it very clean, but there's just no way to have a class of 12 2-year olds that stays germ-free.

I'm sure similar things happen at Patrick's school, even if they're just sharing food in the cafeteria or the like.  The school supplies list had a bottle of hand sanitizer and I know they use it.  I went to his class the day before Halloween to help with their "Halloween centers" and they keep them on the tables.  The kids were pretty good about using them, but it's still a classroom with 19 5- and 6-year olds.  In terms of germiness, they're not much better than the class of 2-year olds.

In my case, the sickest students are the ones who, instead of staying home, come up at the beginning of class, lean in close, and whisper in my face "I'm really sick, I might have swine flu.  I just wanted to let you know in case I get up and leave in the middle of class."  Fortunately we have the authority to ask sick students to leave class now (we've been getting all manner of e-mails regarding the institution's H1N1 policies) and while that helps, it's still too little, too late for me.  I know for a fact that I have been exposed to H1N1 and consider it pretty lucky that I haven't come down with it yet.

H1N1 is most likely in my family's future.  We will not be getting vaccinated against it.  I don't feel comfortable with the lack of safety studies of the live virus vaccine in children, so I wouldn't get it for them.  I also don't normally get a flu shot myself--in the last 15 years, I've had the flu 3 times.  Two of those were the only two years that I also got a flu shot.  That puts me at 100% for getting the flu in years when I do get a flu shot and only 8% in years when I don't.  Jason prefers not to get any shots at all if he can help it, so he certainly won't be getting it.  Beyond that, Jason and I are not in a high-risk category and I wouldn't feel comfortable getting a vaccine recommended first for those high-risk groups when there is a shortage of it.

Kamu will be getting a seasonal flu shot (if his pediatrician's office ever gets more).  He is in a high-risk category based on his reactive airway disorder.  We got him one last year and will get him one again this year.  Patrick will not be getting one.  He's never had one.  Two years ago, his entire preschool class got the flu.  The kids who'd gotten the flu shot were the ones who were sick for a week or longer.  Patrick came home from school sick on Friday, had no fever by Sunday, and was back to school on Monday.  I figure that he just paid his dues when he vomited every time he nursed for 8 weeks straight as a baby before we figured out his casein allergy!

This semester has been a pretty healthy one for our family so far.  The kids haven't been sick at all.  Jason and I came down with a cold in the last week, but aside from the fact that I've lost my voice, I feel pretty good.  Last year at this point in the semester, I'd been coughing for 6 weeks before being diagnosed with walking pneumonia (10 days of Cipro), a severe sinus infection (10 days of Cipro), and was about to develop a corneal abrasion (that would put me on both antibiotic and steroid eye drops for over a month).  A cold seems like nothing compared to that.  Perhaps I paid my dues last year!

Another question: are you being vaccinated (or hoping to be vaccinated) against H1N1?  Why or why not? 

Friday, November 6, 2009

NaBloPoMo 6--The house with no joy

Jason and I made the decision to get rid of our cable, and yesterday the cable was removed from the house.  I am a bit sad about this, as I'm not quite sure what I'll do about my HGTV and Food Network, and I'll have to catch Top Chef on Hulu, but I'll survive.  It seemed stupid to be paying $50/month to watch almost nothing, after all. 

I'm not sure how the boys and I will get along without our football games on Sunday.  Any suggestions?  Because hearing both kids say "Go Dolphins!" last weekend as they trounced the Jets warmed the cockles of my heart.  Anyway...

We had planned on switching our internet to Clear but tried it over a weekend, and found that it kind of sucks.  It was slow and spotty, and I kept getting randomly disconnected in the middle of doing things.  So we're keeping our cable internet because we need it to be reliable and fast for Netflix.  Yesterday Jason bought a Blu-Ray player with wireless access so that we can download their "instant play" shows/movies to the TV.  (We figured that a couple of months without cable will pay for it anyway.)

Last night was our first night without cable and Jason had been playing with our instant queue for an hour.  What he found was "30 Second Bunnies Theater" and we spent 30 minutes watching different movies.  It's stupidly funny.  It's actual movies, remade with cartoon bunnies and covered in 30 seconds.

And yes, that's what people do on Thursday nights when they've been married for 10 years.  We are so cool.  Can't wait to see what Friday night brings!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NaBloPoMo 5--Iron Chef Morrey Household!

The Chairman has declared that I'm winning so far!  Admittedly, it's a limited competition since I seem to be the only one entered, but why should I let that bother me?  And it may be heating up!

The other day Patrick was helping me make scrambled eggs.  He cracks the eggs, I pour in the milk, and then he mixes them.  I give them a final mix and pour them in the pan.  He does most of the cooking (with close supervision) and they're done.  If he were old enough to use the stove unsupervised, he could do the whole thing himself.  Perhaps I should actually say that I helped Patrick make scrambled eggs--that would be more accurate!

Kamu is getting there.  He is starting to help mix the eggs.  Both kids seem interested in learning to cook, which is great because they're not leaving my home without knowing how.

While Patrick and I were making the scrambled eggs, he asked about doing more cooking and I promised that I will teach him how to cook.  "In fact," I continued, "By the time you're a teenager, you'll know how to cook and then you get to start cooking dinner for the family one night a week as one of your chores!"

"Really?" he asked.


Then I thought about it and realized that if a) we have 4 kids, and b) they're each expected to cook one night a week eventually, I may end up only cooking once or twice a week.  We'll be sure to have at least one night of leftovers or eating out and I can certainly expect Jason to cook one night a week.

I love to cook.  Cooking is awesome.  If there is any way in which I am artistic (and anyone who has seen me draw knows that's not my forte, to say the least), it is probably with cooking.  I really enjoy finding new combinations of flavors and also remaking favorites, and I especially enjoy eating them and watching other people enjoy them.  I used to make two new recipes every week until Patrick was a toddler, just so that I could try all sorts of things.

Then Patrick hit the toddler years and his love of eating any and everything changed.  The boy who used to snarf up pasta with spinach and roasted red peppers refused to touch almost anything resembling a vegetable.  We call Patrick our "protein boy".  He loves proteins...the more expensive, the better.  Regular peanut butter?  Meh.  He prefers the soy nut butter that they use at school.  A hamburger?  Nah.  Give him a steak.  A good cut of steak.  When he was asked what he wanted for his birthday dinner last year, he chose salmon.  While I can't fault him for any of that, it's not quite as balanced as I would like it to be.  (Thankfully he's always eaten fruit and grains; as he gets a bit older, he's started eating more vegetables.)

Kamu is even harder to please.  He's our "carbs boy".  Give the boy a bowl of pasta and he'll go to town.  Rolls...mmm, delicious!  Rice?  More, more, MORE!!!  Salmon--uh, no thanks.  Steak--don't think so.  Chicken (unless in breaded nugget form, and even then only if mass-produced and heavily processed...the ones I make aren't acceptable to him)--probably isn't going to happen.  And while he is the carbs boy, he's also very picky about vegetables and fruits.  They're iffy on an incredibly good day, next-to-impossible on a normal one.  He's willing to try them but the first bite and they're out of his mouth with a "Yucky.  I no like____ (fill in the blank with almost any and everything nutritious)."

I swore I would frequently cook adventurous meals for my children, that they would be the children who ate everything because they had been exposed to it all when they were little.  And I was great about it with Patrick.  I wasn't even too bad about it with Melkamu, since Patrick can be adventurous sometimes.  But the whining!  Oh, the incessant whining of "Do I have to try any?"  "I don't like it."  "Do we have to have that for dinner?"

As a side note: I love my supper club because then once a month, I have the chance to cook something new. Something adventurous. I get to try a bunch of new foods. And no one whines about it.

Whining wears on me.  And I find myself cooking far less adventurous meals that I know they like, solely to avoid the whining.  I even (gasp, choke) found myself making a dinner of macaroni & cheese and fishsticks recently.  I have no problem with either macaroni & cheese or fishsticks by themselves--in fact, I like each one a lot--but the combination had almost no redeeming nutritional value.  Mind you, both kids scarfed it down and were thrilled.  Naturally.  I still cook the occasional new recipe but knowing that it's probably going to be met with whines and groans makes the idea of it much less appealing.
So tell me, as comments have been few and far between this week, how do you get your kids to eat well?  I am open for all tricks and have no qualms about lying to my children about what's in their food if it means they will eat a vegetable at some point.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NaBloPoMo 3--An ode to November birthdays

November has always been a big family birthday month.  My step-grandmother's birthday is November 1st, my brother's is today (Happy 26th Birthday Sean!!!), Melkamu's is November 19th, Jason's is November 22nd, my dad's is November 23rd, and there are various cousins and other relative scattered in the month as well.  In fact, Patrick barely missed having a November birthday, since my water broke on the night of December 2nd.  Mind you, he wasn't due until December 19th.  He just didn't want to miss the fun.

When we got Melkamu's referral and our caseworker told us his birthday, my first statement was "Of course it's a November birthday!  He fits in perfectly."  I have the late birthday in our family, as mine isn't until 6 weeks after Patrick's.  But Melkamu, Jason, and Patrick have all of their birthdays within 2 weeks.  Somewhere in there is always Thanksgiving.  We're also gearing up for the holidays and since we have an interfaith family, we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our home.  Plus, I have finals starting a week or so after Thanksgiving and there's also my holiday Lessons and Carols concerts with the Emory University choir.

It's a fun and crazy time for our family.  If you have a moment, spare a thought for my sanity through this fun.  I believe it's already gone missing and I'd really like it back.

Monday, November 2, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2--Disney on Ice: The Aftermath

Disney on Ice was SO MUCH FUN!  I'd never been to an ice show like that before, or at least not that I remember, and the kids were extra-excited about it.  I strongly, hugely, absolutely recommend it to everyone if you have Mouse fans in your family.

We were invited to the VIP event by Mom Central but unfortunately, due to traffic, we were late and missed the visit by Mickey.  I was disappointed mostly for Kamu, since he loves Mickey so much.  But he didn't know he missed it and so he wasn't upset about it.  We met some lovely Atlanta bloggers who were there and enjoyed chatting with them about the blog world.  I need to add more of their links to my sidebar!

Then we went into the show.  Since Patrick's fiancee Snow White Sophie was there with her family, we met up with them for a minute.  Don't they make a cute couple?  You're all invited to the wedding, to be held someday after we allow them to start dating.  In 2030.  Or later.

Melkamu, my child who doesn't normally fall asleep until close to 9 p.m. when we're at home, was sleepy even before the show started at 7:30 (normal bedtime for both kids).  He cuddled close the entire show but really enjoyed seeing all the characters.

We were treated to a preview of The Princess and the Frog before the show began.  It looks like such a fun movie and we can't wait to go see it--especially since Disney will have their first African-American princess, Princess Tiana.  She starred in the ice show and we got to hear some of the music from the movie.  Very jazzy and bouncy--it was great! 

The show was a lot of fun.  It was Disney on Ice: Celebrations, which was the same theme from when we were in Disney this summer.  The Halloween dance medley was absolutely spectacular!  I'm not a big fan of The Nightmare Before Christmas but Jack was the host of a party and they had all the bad characters from other movies show up for his party--Cruella DeVille, Captain Hook, and many others.

The other favorite for both Patrick and I was the Hawaiian luau at the beginning of the second half.  It was so exciting and energetic!  We loved seeing the dancing and skating.

Patrick could NOT be kept in his seat the entire show.  He was either right on the edge or standing up the whole time.

Kamu rocked out to the music while cuddled up on my lap.  He loved it!

If Disney on Ice is coming to a place near you, I strongly recommend it.  We thought it was a really great show!