Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NaBloPoMo 30: Oh, thank goodness

30 days.  My 30th post.  I think 3 of them were late but they're all here.  I'm beat.

That serious post I mentioned?  Yeah, it's going to have to wait.  I've been considering writing it for a long time and want to write it properly, not try to dash it out before the end of today.  Plus, I've already dozed off once this evening and I suspect that I should probably get to bed since I have to give my first final exam of the year tomorrow afternoon.  It's all written but there are some other things I have to finish before then.

So thanks for reading over the past 30 days, and for putting up with my rambling.  (Jason says that my love of talking translates to blog posts that are way too long.  He's a lawyer.  If he blogged, his posts would be three times the length of mine and filled with words like "heretofore" and "wherewithal" and things like that.  That's another reason he doesn't blog.)  I actually enjoyed NaBloPoMo more this year than I did last year, and hope that I'll actually post a little more often in the near future.

NaBloPoMo 29: The return of Fred

Since I'm missing a post and I'm a little anal about not actually having 30 posts in 30 days, here's a quick one.  Then I'll post another one.

I've talked before about Fred.  He's a toad that keeps showing up at our house.  We find Fred in the strangest of places.  This year, he didn't show up at all until last month.  It was a bit surprising since we've seen more frogs and toads this year than almost any other year.  One frog, which our kids and some friends were watching in the sandbox, promptly hopped out and directly onto Melkamu's nose!  I kid you not.  A little green tree frog.  It stayed there just long enough for Melkamu to say "AAAGH!!" and then hopped away.  Once Kamu got over the surprise, he thought it was really funny.

But of Fred, we saw nothing until early October.  Then I happened to be looking out of the dining room window one day and saw him on the tiny little window ledge there.  I figured that was our Fred sighting for the year. 

Less than a week later, however, I happened to lift up a flowerpot on our back deck railing and lo and behold, we found Fred.

And this year, he brought a friend!  The two of them lived in the flowerpot for about a week.  Fred's friend hopped away on a lovely fall day, and a few days later Fred had also left. 

It's always fun to see where and when Fred will show up.  The weather is cold enough that I know we will not see him before next year, but we will look forward to the First Fred Finding of 2011!

Monday, November 29, 2010

NaBloPoMo 28: I carry out my threat

My pictorial jam-making experience :-)  I have to admit, this is some of the best jam I've ever eaten.  Patrick swoons over it.  I didn't grow up on homemade jam but Jason's aunt makes some of the best that I've ever had (and if she ever wants to share her plum jam recipe, I would be glad to partake of it...hint, hint...) and I thought I would try it.  Our family loves to go fruit-picking, so I took the kids berry-picking one day earlier this summer.

We picked a LOT of strawberries.

And a LOT of blackberries, which were later combined with both strawberries and raspberries for triple-berry jam (which is amazingly good), but which I will not be showing you here.
Cutting the tops off that many strawberries took forever.  This jam is well worth it.  They were really easy to mash, though.

 Then they get boiled with sugar and pectin.  Sadly, you have to scrape off the foam before canning the jam.  Happily, you can then EAT the foam, which is awesome.

Processing the jars in a boiling-water bath.

And voila, they are done!  Hearing that little popping sound as the jars seal is always fun.  I've given away several jars, but still have a few left.  We're really enjoying this jam.

Even better is that we picked so many berries that I
have pureed triple-berry mixture in the freezer, ready to be made into jam when we run out!


Because I've been having just a little too much fun with canning, I've also canned blueberry syrup, bread-and-butter pickles (Mom M's recipe, and they're delicious!), and spaghetti sauce. 

Tonight, I ventured into the making of applesauce  
and made 6 quarts with a mixture of honeycrisp, pink lady, gala, and one other kind of apple that I've since forgotten.  We didn't get to go apple-picking this year so I had to buy them at the farmer's market, but they seem to have worked.  I've only used up half my apples (apparently about 4 apples makes a quart of applesauce), so I'll be making the rest tomorrow night.  Part of it will be pear-applesauce, which is my favorite.  Our shelves are stocked!

Before (I only made the ones in the bowl)

After

Sunday, November 28, 2010

NaBloPoMo 27: They are really cute

As grumpy as I've been the last little bit, there are some awfully bright spots in my life:

Halloween was a good one.  I think we had most of the kids in the neighborhood trick-or-treating in our group, as well as several "honorary neighbors" who joined us.

Watching the kids have fun:

Melkamu doing mazes

Patrick batting a balloon around

And Melkamu's choice of an outfit today was not to be missed.  Mind you, it was in the 40s today.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

NaBloPoMo 26: The day in which I gave up

That would have been yesterday.  All day, I procrastinated posting, with the end result that I didn't post at all.  I've been feeling tremendously out-of-sorts.  Thanksgiving was like a lovely respite in the overwhelming amount that I feel like I should be doing.  I've done almost no work all week.  Finals' week is coming, I've got a hundred papers to read and nearly as many tests to grade, and I've done nothing.  It's like there's so much to do that I can't possibly even know where to start, and so I've started by doing nothing.

I have been a tremendously lousy friend lately.  There are some friends who are going through some really, really rough times.  Have I bothered with a visit, a phone call, even a quick text or e-mail?  No.  I feel so grouchy and incapable of saying anything right lately that I just haven't said anything at all.  Then I feel even guiltier for not helping, for not doing what I know that I should be doing, and that makes me even more grouchy.  For example, I
I've been going through a lot of guilt that we're not raising Melkamu with enough Ethiopian influences but when one of my friends who is Ethiopian called the other day to see if we could get together, I missed the call.  Not on purpose, but I haven't called her back yet.

I've been short with my husband and short with my kids.  The kids have been pestering each other a lot lately and it's on my nerves more than I can explain.  We don't know whether Jason will have a job come March (one-year contract and we still don't know if it's being renewed) right when we'll have the new baby in our family, and that's causing a lot of stress.  I keep reminding myself that when we decided to do the fertility treatments that led to this baby, we were under the impression that it was sure to be renewed.  That's not really helping me relax about it, though.

So yesterday, I couldn't think of what to write.  I have one more serious-type post brewing in me for NaBloPoMo and I know that if I'd written it over the last few days it would have been written in a way that would upset people and not get my point across.  I'm hoping this mindset will end so that I can get it written the way I want.

Please bear with me.  I'm not normally so melancholy and overwhelmed but right now, it's hitting me hard.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

NaBloPoMo 25: Thanksgiving

In the spirit of sharing things for which I am thankful this week, I was so thankful to have fallen asleep at 7:30 last night that I completely forgot to blog!  Alas, I needed the sleep more than I needed to blog.

Today was Thanksgiving, and we celebrated with several of our neighbors.  Almost all of us are Atlanta transplants and our neighborhood has really become close.  I've described it as the "Leave it to Beaver" neighborhood before.  When Jason and I were looking for houses, we drove onto our street (actually to look at a different house) and there were...wait for it...kids outside playing on a nice summer day!  I know, we were shocked also.  I don't think we'd seen that anywhere else.  When the first house wasn't quite what we were looking for, we still knew we needed to move into this neighborhood and have never regretted it.

We had a block party last month.  A real, honest-to-goodness block party.  It was great.

We live very, very far from family.  No one is within a 6 hour drive; our immediate families are quite a long way beyond that.  When we decided that travelling for the holidays this year couldn't happen, we were thrilled to be invited to one of our neighbor's homes for the holiday.  There ended up being 20 people there (I think, if I've counted correctly).  The weather was gorgeous, so the kids spent a ton of time playing outside.  The food was absolutely phenomenal, and incredibly plentiful.  It was a wonderful, relaxing, and truly enjoyable day.

I know I've said it before, but I am so very, very thankful for having not only wonderful family members but for all of our friends here in Atlanta who have become our family over the last 8 years.  We are so glad to know all of you, and are so lucky for having you in our lives!

NaBloPoMo 24: Wordless Wednesday--Bwahahahahaha!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NaBloPoMo 23: How do people do it?

It's Thanksgiving week. I'm going to recognize things for which I'm thankful this week.  Yesterday was clearly Jason--he's given me so many things for which to be thankful, and he himself ranks first among them :-)


For today, I'm thankful for our schedules and jobs.  As I've said before, I get asked "How do you do it all?" and there's no good answer for that.  I don't manage to do it all.  I slack on many things and beat myself up frequently for not managing to do things well.

However, this week Patrick has no school.  I don't understand having an entire week off for Thanksgiving break.  They also have 2+ weeks off for winter break.  To me, let them have school on Monday and Tuesday of this week (like several other area school districts), let them have school through Wednesday of the week before Christmas.  That's 5 days.  Then they could have started school a week later in August, rather than on the 10th or whatever insanely early date it was.

But I digress.  The fact is that he has no school and we just have to deal with it.  Yesterday Jason took the day off to take care of him and today he came with me to work.  He's sitting here next to me, eating his lunch in my office, and I got to thinking about the fact that we're really, really lucky.

Jason and I have some flexibility in our schedules.  Not a lot--once my schedule is set, I have to go with it however it is; Jason has some vacation time that isn't yet accounted for and we've been able to use it.  But we're among the lucky ones.  We tried to find someone who could watch Patrick yesterday but it didn't work, and Jason was able to take a day of vacation to do it (in fact, Jason ended up watching several children in addition to Patrick yesterday).  Just trying to arrange it was a huge strain on us; plus, who wants to feel as though they're burdening another family with an extra child?  And then when we couldn't, we were extremely lucky that Jason had some vacation time that he could use.  Many families don't have that.  The parents either show up for work or they don't have a job anymore. 

We could have sent him to the daycare with Melkamu but that would have cost more money.  There are many families who really live paycheck-to-paycheck and the extra several days of full-day care would be both a necessity to keeping their jobs and a big hardship for them financially.

There are many things that I have the flexibility to do on Mondays this semester that allows me to spend more time with my family in the evenings and weekends, like actually doing work and my doctor's appointments and grocery shopping and all of those little other things that a family needs done.  I also do a lot during the summer when I have the time off with the kids.  I often wonder how people manage without that time.  How do women who work full-time, typical-schedule (9-5ish) jobs find the time to go to the doctor if they're pregnant?  Do they have to take vacation time for each appointment?  There are an awful lot of appointments, especially near the end.  What if they're in a job where they don't have any vacation or flex-time?  Do they have to go without prenatal care?

What do families do when their kids get sick?  We've got remarkably healthy kids (knock on wood) and so far, the only times they've been sick we've been able to switch off or flex time or whatever to make sure we're there and can take them to the doctor or whatever.  What about families whose children are not as healthy, or who have normal kids who get sick occasionally?

I'm extremely thankful that both of our jobs come with health insurance.  We don't use Jason's since it's more expensive than mine, but this is all related to what I've just been saying.  How do families manage when they don't have insurance, or only have catastrophic insurance, and their kids are typical kids who get sick or need a physical to play soccer?  Many of those families are already living paycheck-to-paycheck.  The idea of having to choose between taking a sick child to a doctor and having electricity at home is just sickening.  I feel so fortunate that we've never been in that position.  We were in a position at one point where we made so little money that Patrick (this was before we had Melkamu) was eligible for Peach.care, which is the subsidized healthcare for children in Georgia, but I still had student health insurance and we paid for him to be covered by it.  And again, we were fortunate--we could pay for that.  We had both the option and the means to do it.

Many families don't have these things.  Being thankful for what we have also makes me remember that helping those who do not have these things is incredibly important.  We donate to several different charities, both domestic and international, and one of my goals for the coming year is to get the whole family involved in more active volunteer work.  Jason's already looking at opportunities for him to use his business skills as a volunteer in local organizations and I'm trying to come up with ways that the kids can help.  They always donate to Toys for Tots during the holidays and Patrick alternates weeks with us for donating to tzedakah at Sunday school (one week we give him money and the next week he takes it from his allowance), but I'd like for them to have a more active role so they can help personally.  A few years ago, I took Patrick to an MLK, Jr. Day event in which he helped make sandwiches for a local homeless shelter and he really liked it.  Both of my kids are so generous and have such big hearts, and I know they'll learn a lot and help other families--those who are struggling to make it--at the same time.

Monday, November 22, 2010

NaBloPoMo 22: Jason

Continuing in the long line of November birthdays in our family...today is Jason's birthday!  He's turning 29 again, or so he tells me.  I could swear he was older than that but hey, whatever.

Jason and I actually had our anniversary of starting to date on Melkamu's birthday (we don't actually celebrate this but we do remember it), and this year was 15 years that we've been together!  We met on the second day of college, although it was several months before we started dating.  I was 17 and he was 18.  One time, a friend of ours heard about when we'd met and said "You're the ones--I'd heard there was a rumor that something like that worked for someone, but I didn't believe it was true!"

Jason is an awesome person.  He makes me laugh and smile, even when I feel really down.  He's pretty laid-back about most things and really rolls with the punches.  It's hard to keep him down--he can find something good about almost anything.  He's certainly good for me when I get to feeling a little cynical about something!  It can be hard to tell when he's being serious but after 15 years, I've figured him out.  Most of the time.

He's the best dad to our kids.  He brings playtime and stories, and the kids can think of nothing better than to wrestle with Daddy in the mornings.  The only problem is that now when they work together, they can beat him!  This makes them very happy.  I once saw a picture of Jason doing volunteer work with a bunch of kids while we were in college and knew he would make a great dad.  Seeing him with our kids, though, is infinitely better than I ever knew it would be.  He's been excited about each and every one of them joining our family and learning more about being a parent, being an adoptive parent, and so on.  He's supportive of them and helps them when they need it.  Jason works with Patrick more on his math homework than I do because they really enjoy doing it together.

I am so lucky to have such a wonderful man for my husband.  We got together when we were so young and we've worked hard to grow together, to support each other and share our dreams and make them work.  There are times when we'll look at each other and say something about how we're a little too similar, and other times when we're polar opposites but compliment each other really well. 

Happy birthday, my love!  I'm so lucky to have you in my life, and so thankful for you every day!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

NaBloPoMo 21: A really nice trip

This was a very short trip to NY but I really, really enjoyed it.  I've gotten to see a lot of family and even some friends, had a lot of good food, and got to celebrate my dad's retirement after 38 years in the NY state library system.  It can be hard living so far from family.  We love Atlanta and have a wonderful surrogate family there, but we miss the people here very much.

It will be good to be home also.  Tomorrow is Jason's birthday and he's requested a dinner of pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream--how could I possibly say no?  I'll be picking up the strawberries on the way home from the airport and we will have a lovely birthday celebration for him.

I'll sign off for now!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

NaBloPoMo 20: In NY

Tonight is my dad's retirement party from decades upon decades upon decades of work for the NY state library system.  He's been the director of his current library for 16 years, so it's clearly well-deserved.  I flew up to NY this morning so that I could be here for it and have spent the day with my parents and siblings.  This has involved much laughter and many rude jokes at each others' expenses.  My brother, for example, just called me a dork and says he will be refusing to acknowledge my existence tonight.  We are a loving family ;-)

We're about to leave and I don't really have much to write for today.  It's not as cold as I was expecting it to be up here, which is nice for this girl with thin Southern blood.  I'm sure it will be bitterly cold after dark (which is also earlier here as they're in the east part of the time zone and Atlanta is at the very western part).  It's almost dark already and it's not even 5 p.m. 

But hey, I'm 2/3 of the way done with NaBloPoMo.  On to the last dying gasp!

Friday, November 19, 2010

NaBloPoMo 19: Melkamu

Melkamu is four today.  I don't normally get weepy over birthday (a little schmaltzy, sure, but not truly weepy) but today it hit me hard.  Four is no longer a toddler.  Four is not a little kid anymore.  Four is a big kid, who will be going to pre-K and playing soccer and learning to read and write. 

Let me tell you all about my wonderful, sweet, beautiful big four-year-old son:

Kamu is amazing.  He is so full of life and happiness that it's impossible to be around him without smiling.  He loves to cuddle and play and run and jump and wants to do everything that he sees.  He has learned to recognize the letters in his name and can write a few of them.  Once we realized what a tremendously kinesthetic learner he is, we've found some ways to help him and he's really learned a lot.  He knows his colors perfectly now.  He knows many of his letters and is getting better with numbers.  His coordination is amazing, which shouldn't really come as a surprise given his kinesthetic tendencies.  His skill with Legos has always been great, and lately he's been building things that are actually recognizable!  Kamu just got a soccer ball of his own and has fantastic control over the ball already, and some pretty good accuracy.  He's now talking about wanting his own football and throwing it at things to knock them over.  In other kids, I might say that it would take some practice but Kamu's had great aim ever since he came home (he used to throw things at us from his crib).  If he says he can do it, I'm inclined to believe he really can!

 
Over the last year, Kamu has grown tremendously.  He was already tall last year but now he's super tall for his age.  At an appointment in September, he was measured at 46" tall and he's grown since then!  I think he just went through another growth spurt since he's suddenly quite skinny and we no longer have to fold up the hems of most of his pants.  He wears mostly 5T clothes but has a few things in a size 6 that fit him pretty well.  He wears a size 12 sneaker.  He wears the same size hats that I wear (which means he borrows them frequently).

A few months after he came home, we nicknamed him Master Destructo.  As you can see, that still holds true.  He's not nearly so constant about it as he used to be but when he decides he really wants to make a mess, he's a pro.  No "half-way messy" or anything--no, he goes all-out.

We really love reading with Melkamu!  This has been one of my favorite things to see about Melkamu since we brought him home.  When he came home at 16 months old, he didn't care about books.  They weren't interesting to him.  He didn't want to sit and read them with us.  It was hard since bedtime stories had always been one of our favorite parts of the day.  Now, however, he is a big fan of reading.  He's always excited about bedtime stories and will often ask for us to read to him at other times also.  He definitely has favorite books and is starting to learn them so that he "reads" also.  It's not unusual to go up there when the kids are supposed to be sleeping, only to find Melkamu laying on his stomach with a book open.

My youngest son is 4.  It has been a year of tremendous changes for our family, and especially for him specifically.  Before he turns 5, he will be a big brother for the first time.  He loves to feel the baby kick and will often sit on my lap, waiting for the baby to kick his back.  Then he'll turn to me with this pretend surprise look on his face and say "The baby kicked me!"  And then he'll lean back and wait for it to happen again.  If I say "The baby's going to kick you," he just starts giggling.  He's going to be an awesome big brother.

I can't believe he's four already.  He was such a peanut when we brought him home at 16 months old.  Now he's a tall, strong, handsome little boy who has brought so much joy to our family.  Happy birthday, my Sweet Pea.  We love you so much!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NaBloPoMo 18: Meme day!!!

Yo-yo Mama, a blogger whom I've had the privilege of actually meeting, has tagged me in an interview-style meme because she knows the intense pressure of coming up with something new to write every single day in November. 

These are the questions I'm answering:

1.If you were gifted $5,000 tax-free and you had to spend it (not save it), what would you spend it on?


If I could save it briefly but have a plan to spend it, it would be put aside for our next adoption in a few years.  Otherwise, I'd probably spend it on home improvements.  We're already planning to put down new floors through most of our downstairs, but I'd splurge on hardwoods instead of laminate.  I'd also buy some dining room furniture that's not falling apart.  I'd get us a new dishwasher and new washer/dryer.

And I'd spend some on a good camera.  I really want a good camera that doesn't have the delay that ours has, and can take pictures rapidly--I miss so many good shots of our kids due to that brief delay and then having to wait before I can take another one.

2.How many times have you moved in your lifetime?

Since it says lifetime, I'll go back to the beginning!  My parents bought their first house when I was somewhere under a year old, so that was #1.  Move #2 was two months before I graduated from high school.  I won't count each move in college as separate ones since I lived on campus all four years, but I will count moving to Virginia for college as #3.  #4 was when Jason and I moved to South Carolina when we got married, then #5 was a year later when we rented a house with a fenced backyard so that our dogs would stop destroying our apartment.  We had move #6 when we moved to Atlanta and the final one was move #7, to our current house.  There will be another move at some point in the next couple of years but we're not exactly sure when!

3.Have you ever been so angry, you hit someone or at least felt like hitting someone (or something)?

Yep.  I have a very quick temper that I've learned to control, but there were some instances in the past that came awfully close to that level.


4.What’s your favorite article of clothing or pair of shoes and why?

My very favorite pair of winter-worthy shoes is a pair of brown Steve Madden flats that have pointed toes and bronze studs in a criss-cross pattern over the toes.  I also love me some sandals in the summer!

5.Are you hanging lights this holiday and if so, when is the turn-on and turn-off dates?

Jason is very big on the holiday lights, though I have reigned him in a bit.  There are only two insanely tacky reindeer in our yard, and I've turned off the animatronic aspect.  I'm not sure when they'll go up (along with the other lights) but it will be sometime after Thanksgiving, and they'll be put away by New Year's.


OK, now I get to tag 5 other people :-)

1. Wendy at The Spin Cycle

2. Heather at A Day at The Beauchamps

3. Julie at the eyes of my eyes are opened

4. Ruby at Black, White, and Read All Over

5. Emily at Mommy Made Green


Ladies, should you choose to accept this challenge, here are your questions:

1. What is the hardest thing you've had to do in the last week?

2. If you could have any outside-the-home profession, what would it be and why?

3. If you could take a trip to any place in the world that you've never been, where would you go?

4. When you are completely stressed-out, how do you cope?

5. What is your quest?  What's your favorite guilty pleasure?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NaBloPoMo 16: Placeholder

It's almost 10:15 p.m.  I've been up since 3:45 this morning (trust me, it was not by choice--I've been having a lot of trouble falling back to sleep when I wake up at night).  I worked a full day.  I'm working in another window on my computer.  I've probably got another hour of work that MUST get done tonight. 

But hey, I blogged today!  More than halfway there!  Two weeks left!

Monday, November 15, 2010

NaBloPoMo 15: Connections

There is a process of attachment when you have children, no matter how they come into your life.  A lot of people assume that it's a natural process when you've given birth to that child, but there's a lot of talk about attachment with a child by adoption.  Recently I was told that there's just something special about the ability to give birth to a child that isn't there with adoption, and I've got to challenge that one.

I've talked before about how tough it was for me as a mother when Melkamu first came home.  I never doubted that I would love my children and I expected there to be a process of attachment.  But that first month, and several that followed it, were hard, much more so than I'd expected.  We did our best and tried to be the best parents for Melkamu that we could be, and we kept going through it.  One night, when Melkamu no longer needed us to sit by his bed when he was falling asleep (this was probably 4 or 5 months after he came home), I gave him a kiss and hug, put him in his crib, and said "Good night Sweet Pea, I love you."  I say it to both my kids in some variation every night.  That night, though, I stopped short right outside of his room because it was the first time I hadn't had to think about saying it to him.  It just came out...and I meant every single word with every bit of my being.

The bonding process with Patrick was easy.  The bonding process with Melkamu was hard-won, and I often cherish it in a way that I don't think parents through biology only can often appreciate. 

*********************
By a year old, he'd lost both of his parents.  In pictures of him with his firstmom, he is joyous, laughing, smiling--a child who was loved and knew it.  And then suddenly, he had lost all of that.  He was deeply scared and confused and grief-stricken.  But over the next 4 months, he started to love again--to attach to his nannies, the kids in his toddler room.

Then all of a sudden, this strange white couple and their little boy show up.  The lady kneels down in front of him to meet him, trying to keep herself in check, but when the nannies indicate that it's OK to pick him up, she bursts into tears against his little shoulder as she hugs him tight.  He doesn't know her.  He doesn't know what she's doing or why she's doing it.  She holds him and cries and says words in a strange language.  She introduces him to the little boy, who seems pretty nice and gives him a toy.   Then the man picks him up and smiles at him.  He knows something is going on but it's too much to take in, so he falls asleep.  The people leave but they come back to see him each day.  It's really scary.  He thinks they're nice, but he's thought that about people before.  They've left him.

Just a few days later, they take him away from his nannies.  They take him away from his friends.  They take him on a big, loud plane for a really long time, then to a strange house.  There are scary animals there, although he soon realizes they're like living toys.  Maybe it's not too bad.  But then the lady takes him to a place with a lot of kids...and leaves him there.  And doesn't come back for hours.  He's terrified.  He thinks he's been left again.  She does it a couple of times a week.  When he sees her, he's both grateful that she's back and furious that she's done that to him.  He clings as tightly as possible out of desperate fear and the tiniest shred of hope that if he holds on tightly enough, she won't go away again.

Eventually he learns that she really will come back, every single time.  And the man hugs him and plays with him, and sits by his bed and rubs his back while he's trying to sleep.  And the other little boy, the one who shares his bedroom, is really cool and fun.  And he starts to know them as Mama and Daddy and big brother Patrick.

He has nightmares for years--but Mama and Daddy always come get him and hug him until he feels better.  It takes a long time before seeing Mama or Daddy at daycare in the afternoon is just a happy thing, not a happy/relieved thing.  While he never forgets that he's been hurt in the past, he loves these people as much as they love him.

*********************

When I think about how much Melkamu has been through to get to this point, I value our connection more than I can ever express.  He usually wakes up shortly before our alarm goes off in the morning and it means the world to me that he comes into our room, knowing he'll be welcomed with a big hug and kiss and cuddle before getting dressed.  I think it would be impossible for someone not to fall in love with him.  His personality is one of the most open and loving and happy that I've ever known.  He feels things deeply and has a desire to be right in the middle of anything that's happening.

The fact that he has lost so much in his life and yet has been able to love and trust again just staggers me.  It's not something I can ever take forgranted.  Every giggle, every kiss, every hug, every "Mama, I love you"...they are the most precious things in the world.

The connection between parents and the children they've adopted may come about differently than it does with biology but I think it's all the more special for how much it takes to get there for both sides.  It may be impossible to understand that if you've never had a child by adoption before, but trust me when I say that it it is as strong as any bond could ever be. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

NaBloPoMo 14: Made it!

It's not quite midnight, so this counts.  I just wish I could think of what to write.

Oh, Jason got a promotion.  He was made assistant fire marshall for his side of the building.  It comes with a day-glo vest.  Pretty exciting, no? 

That was his contribution to what I should write about tonight. 

And that's why he doesn't blog.

I promise something more substantive tomorrow.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

NaBloPoMo 13: Soccer kids

Patrick played soccer again this fall.  In the last few weeks, we have been really amazed at how much agility he seems to have developed.  He's learned to stop and turn on a dime to keep the ball from going out, to (finally) kick the ball in the right direction, and really gets in there to challenge other players.  He gets a huge amount of satisfaction from challenging the best player on their team at practices, especially when he can block him.  Today he said that he wants to play in the World Cup someday.  He really enjoyed watching it on TV this summer and we're all thrilled that the Ethiopian Soccer Tournament will be held here in Atlanta next year.  We'll be getting tickets to at least one game and I know that both kids are going to be in awe of seeing fantastic soccer played right in front of them.

The soccer season ended today.  Patrick's team had a tough season but won their last two games--today they beat the only unbeaten team in the league by several goals!  Patrick had a great assist and missed scoring a goal of his own by inches.  We're now considering options for an activity for Patrick over the winter.  He's expressed an interest in both gymnastics and indoor soccer, so we're looking at options to figure out which will work best for us.  He's done gymnastics before and really enjoyed it, and we know he'll play soccer in the spring, so something different for the winter might be just the thing.

Melkamu is desperate to play soccer (and football eventually, but the Gwinnett Football League doesn't start until age 6).  We're hoping our soccer league has different age guidelines for the spring leagues, as the fall league's 4-year-old age bracket had a cutoff of August 1st.  Melkamu already towers over the other children in those leagues...seriously, he must be a head taller than the majority of them.  We got him his own soccer ball a few weeks ago and he's quite good with it for someone who's never actually played before.  He's not very fast but is very careful about controlling the ball and has a really strong and pretty accurate kick when he's aiming for something.

It's been such fun to watch the kids develop their interest in sports.  Patrick has taken to heart being told that it's good to play with kids who are better than he is because that's how he'll learn.  He really feels great about doing well and it's been great for him to learn to work as part of a team.  Melkamu, who is my football-watching buddy, has been taking in more than I'd realized at all of the practices and games, and can't wait to play on a team of his own.

They are such great kids.

Friday, November 12, 2010

NaBloPoMo 12: Type A and gold

I am a planner.  It helps me feel more relaxed when things are done ahead of time.  I am a completely Type A person--a "gold" according to the book that I read that classifies people as certain colors.  When we travel, I like to have the house generally clean and neat before we go because otherwise, I get stressed again the minute I walk through the door and see the house.  I almost always make a packing list for traveling, for myself, for the kids, and for the general family stuff that needs to come.  One time, I tried making a list for Jason.  I asked him what he wanted on it.  "Clothes" was his only input.  I gave up on making lists for Jason.  But there's usually a to-do list somewhere in my near vicinity.  I just feel more organized when I know what needs to be done and how it's going to go.

Recently, Jason and I were talking about something to do with our family and I said, referring to my pregnancy, "Since I won't be doing THIS again..."  He looked really surprised and said "Isn't that kind of ungrateful?"  It took me a minute but I figured out that what I was saying and what he was hearing were different.

I've wanted to give birth to another baby since...oh, since Patrick was born.  We'd already struggled to get pregnant with him and knew that adoption was in our future already at that time, but I really felt a pull to have another biologically.  Five years of recurring infertility later, we finally managed to get to this point with the help of some talented doctors and many dollars.

I feel like I've spent many of those years hoping for this.  Praying for it at times.  Begging for it at others.  Beyond depressed about it at many others.  To have finally achieved this point--it is a wish come true.  But I knew then, and know beyond a certainty now, that this is it.  I'm not willing to put our family or my body through these treatments again.

When I said "I'm not doing this again," what I meant was that I've been fortunate enough to have that wish answered.  For years now, my desire has been to have one more biologically and then adopt our last one.  If I hadn't gotten pregnant when I did, there was going to be one more chance (by our choice, not medically).  Just one.  And if that hadn't worked, we were both ready to move on.

But it did happen.  Somehow we hit the lottery and I'm now 24 weeks pregnant (into the realm of viability, says my cynical, infertile mind that still can't wrap around the idea that I'm really getting to do this again).  And my planning nature is feeling more at peace now than it has in years.  Infertility is impossible to plan.  You can plan when to do cycles, but you can't plan the outcome.  You can't plan your body's reactions to the medications--will they make you sleepy or bitchy or achy or all of the above at one time?  You can't plan beyond that one cycle really, because there's always the hope that one will be the key.  You can't plan for your own emotional response to the cycle and its outcome.  There is no planning that happens.

After several years of not being sure how our third and fourth children would join our family, now I know.  I've felt so up in the air about it.  Our third child will be born to us, and our fourth child will join our family through adoption in a few years.  And then we think our family will be complete.

I've spent much of this pregnancy thinking about the fact that this is the last time I will be pregnant, and I'm surprisingly at peace with it.  I'd been a little afraid that I would still feel that same drive that I felt while pregnant with Patrick to have another one biologically, but I don't.  I'm content (truth be told, more than content) to know this is my last one biologically.  I'm more than content knowing we will adopt again.

The planner in me is happy to have nailed down the vision of our family.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NaBloPoMo 11: Title? Who needs a title?


Too tired to write.  Slacking by sharing a video from over the summer.  I love how wonderfully the kids play together.  Earlier this week, Patrick told me he loves Melkamu because "Melkamu has such a good heart."

Way to make a mama sniffle, kiddo.
video

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NaBloPoMo 10: Thoughts about Ethiopia

Our family is very conspicuously a transracial adoptive family, though I do occasionally get comments from people who believe that both boys are biologically mine bu have different fathers.  Regardless, the question often comes up as to where Melkamu was born and when we reply Ethiopia, the next question is usually "And did you have to go there to get him?"

My response is that yes, we got to go there to get him.  I consider it a huge privilege that we were able to see where my child was being raised for the several months after he was relinquished but before we brought him home.  I hope desperately in the future to get to see his firstfamily's home in person.

When we decided to adopt, we had some strict guidelines about what we were looking for in a country.  We wanted to be able to adopt an infant (we changed our minds before we actually started the process).  We wanted to be able to meet our child's firstfamily if possible.  We wanted to go to the country where our child was born, but we didn't want to have to make multiple trips or stay for an extremely long time.  We were not interested in having our child escorted to the U.S.

Ultimately we chose Ethiopia.  I didn't know much about it, other than it "fit" our criteria for adopting.  Over the course of the adoption process, we read books and learned about the history, learned a few Amharic words here and there, but mostly prepared to have another child.  Getting on the Ethiopian Airlines plane in Washington was when it started to truly hit me--I was going to Ethiopia.  Not just that I was about to be a mom again, but that I got to go to Ethiopia to become one

I was not prepared for my completely visceral reaction when we landed.  It was chaotic and busy in the airport.  It was unfamiliar.  And somehow, it felt right.  My heart felt at peace in a way that it hadn't in such a very, very long time.  I soaked in every bit of the travel to the guesthouse.  I wanted to go exploring all around.  I wanted to meet people.  The next day, when we started to do some of that, I felt like I'd opened up to something miraculous and new.  When we would walk around, people smiled and I wished for nothing more than to be able to talk with them.  A few nights later we went to a restaurant for dinner and dancing.  The man standing at the table said they had mild versions and spicy versions, and warned us that the spicy versions, while traditional, were much hotter than Americans were used to eating--but it was exactly like it is at our favorite restaurant here in Atlanta.  My doro wat and injera felt familiar, comforting.

When we traveled south to meet Melkamu's firstmom, the landscape reminded both Jason and I of the American southwest, a place we both love to go.  It felt natural.  It didn't feel strange at all.  Patrick seemed to feel the same way as he immediately made friends with our driver and guide around Hossana.

I had never expected to feel such a connection to a place I'd never been.  Sure, I expected to feel a connection of some sort--my son was born and spent his first 16 months there.  I figured I'd feel something for the country and appreciate it, but I never expected to feel such a bond with a place.  Jason and I never really talked about that part of it but in the last year or so, we've realized that we both found the same connection--and would like to move there someday (probably not until the kids are out of the house, so don't start panicking yet, Grandparents).  When we came home, I went to the grocery store...and it felt weird.  Complete culture shock even though we'd only been gone for 10 days.

Most of it can't even be articulated.  It just felt right.  I look forward to going back in a couple of years with my family.

I miss Ethiopia.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NaBloPoMo 9: Back on track

My default setting lately has been set to "Nap".  The first trimester of my pregnancy with Patrick was exhausting.  This time around, it's been the second trimester.  I went to bed before 9 p.m. last night.  This would not be a problem if I didn't have work to get done during the evenings.

Sometimes people ask "How do you manage to have a marriage, two active kids, and a full time job?"  Sometimes, I don't know the answer.  Usually I tell them that I traded money for flexibility in my job, which is a huge part of it.  While my schedule is fixed every semester, I have a lot of flexibility in setting up that schedule in the first place.  This semester, for example, I have no classes on Mondays, which allows me to get the grocery shopping done and have all of my midwife/chiropractor/other appointments, and I get a huge amount of actual work done after a relaxing weekend.  I'm done (with classes, at least) by 3:45 the rest of the week.  I have most of the same breaks as the kids.  I'll be paying off my educational loans forever to get this flexibility, but when I was looking at getting a job after finishing my Ph.D., it seemed (and still seems) far more important to have the time available for my family than to earn the kind of money I could be earning with a pharmaceutical company.

Plus there's the fact that I generally love my job.  Before I started teaching, I worried that I'd get bored with teaching the same basics every semester.  Now that I'm in my 5th year, I've learned that the same basics change tremendously in biology and that the dynamics of the class make each one interesting and new.  Maybe I traded money for flexibility, but the job satisfaction is tremendous.  I may complain about events in my job but on the whole, I really feel glad to have made this decision.

Honestly, though, when I am home full-time over the summers, I wonder how it works during the rest of the year.  I feel so tremendously busy with the kids and managing the house over the summers that I can't figure out how I "squeeze in" my job the rest of the time.

Like I said, I generally do a lot of work in the evenings after the kids go to bed.  (One of the other flexible benefits of my job is that I can do it from anywhere when I'm not physically in class or office hours.)  This trimester of my pregnancy is taking it out of me, though.  I am exhausted and not getting much work done in the evenings.  I'm basically a big lump.

Up until now, I've coped with that.  I've managed to get done what had to be done, sometimes by the skin of my teeth, and pull it all together.  And with only 3 weeks left until final's week, I can probably survive.  I'm not feeling quite as overwhelmed as I normally do right now.

That all changes this week.  Starting today, I will be getting over 100 research papers from my three lecture classes.  I will be getting probably 20 lab reports this week and close to that number again next week.  I have three more lecture exams to write and then give, which means over 100 exams to grade by the end of Thanksgiving break.

Somehow, it will work out.  It always does.  But I've never tried to get it all done on top of a lump-like habit.  I suspect the end of this semester will bring more relief than most.

NaBloPoMo 8: The forgotten day

Mondays don't count, right?  That's why this is showing up on Tuesday.  Hum dee dum, nothing to see here folks.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

NaBloPoMo 7: Total cop-out

I completely forgot to blog today--but it's not quite midnight yet, so I didn't miss it!  Score!

It would, however, be nice if I had anything at all to write about.  But I don't.  I'm basically a lump lately.  Jason and I are going over our Bradley stuff to get ready for this baby.  It loses a little something in the "going over it" part when we've taught 20 classes in it between Patrick's birth and this pregnancy.

I don't know if I mentioned on here that I'd stopped teaching classes in the Bradley Method, though.  Honestly, I'm just burned out.  In some ways I find it very ironic.  I taught it from when Patrick was 18 months old, through more than 5 years of infertility, only to give up shortly before I found out that I was pregnant.  It got to be too much.  I usually held classes on Sunday evenings and it felt like it pretty much consumed our weekends.  I usually get home from Patrick's Sunday school around 1 p.m. and we'd generally start cleaning the house around 4 p.m. to be ready for a class from 6-8:30 or so.  There wasn't any time to relax.  There wasn't any time to do anything else.  It got to feel like more of a burden than a pleasure, and I'm sure that my teaching suffered as a result.

In the 5+ years that I taught, we had somewhere around 100 couples take our classes.  We had close to 150 babies if you include second (and even a few third) babies.  We had people tell us how glad they were that they'd taken our classes, that they learned so much and felt so prepared for the births of their children.  That's really all we could do and ask.

Maybe someday we'll go back to it.  It was a difficult decision to make but for now, I'm content with having closed that chapter.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

NaBloPoMo 6: By the skin of my teeth

I almost forgot that a post every day means every day.  Even on the weekends when I'm doing nothing and haven't touched my computer since yesterday.  And here it is, Saturday night, and I am blogging.

Wow, I am so cool.

Jason asked what I was going to blog about today and I told him that I have no idea.  "Give me a topic," I begged.  He blustered for a bit and then said "Arthritic dogs."

Um.  OK.

Our dogs turned 11 last month.  We've had them since they were 7 weeks old.  We've been told in the past that a typical lifespan for dogs of their size (they're considered a large breed since they're half Lab and half Bassett) is about 10-12 years.  Well, we're right in the middle of that.

They've really aged a lot in the last year, but Neitzsche (Jason named him) is getting the worst of it.  He's developed really severe arthritis in his hind left leg and has a lot of trouble walking now.  Caesar has had arthritis in his front right shoulder for years now but it's never really gotten bad--it's almost like he developed it and it's remained at that level since then.  It doesn't seem to affect him much at all.  On the other hand, Neitzsche really doesn't put weight on his leg at all if he can help it, which has raised issues for us about treating him.

There's really very little to be done.  He takes medication now but his liver isn't healthy enough for the typical anti-inflammatories, so we're doing what we can without the several-hundred-dollars-per-month meds that our vet recommended.  As much as we would like to be able to do everything like that, the sad reality is that we don't know if Jason will have a job come March and we're uncomfortable making the decision to spend hundreds or even more between now and then treating an 11-year old dog. 

We're also uncomfortable NOT making that decision.  The dogs have been our babies since less than 5 months after we got married.  I want to be able to say "Damn the cost, he'll have the best!" but the vet told me that she's not even sure they'll help him regain much function of that leg.  The treatment would require multiple injections a week.

I think back to when the dogs were puppies, small enough to run all over us.  When Neitzsche stole my bologna sandwich one day and then sat in front of the couch with it hanging out both sides of his mouth, acting as if he were saying, "What bologna sandwich?  I've never seen a bologna sandwich.  You should ask Caesar."  Watching them both chase the light from a laser pointer back and forth along the courtyard behind our first apartment each evening before we went to bed.  Their resigned acceptance every time we brought home orphaned puppies that we were fostering.  The curiosity they had when we brought Patrick home, and their complete nonchalance when we brought home Melkamu (who was terrified of them for all of about 24 hours).  The trainer at Pet.Smart who basically admitted that our dogs were some of the most stubborn she'd ever met--they know all of their commands but will only do them when they feel like it.  They've turned up their noses at treats many times simply because they just didn't feel like sitting at that moment.

And Neitzsche is sitting next to me on the couch right now, pushing on my lap desk so that I will move the computer and pet him.

Gotta go--there is a soft dog to pet, and I've just started to realize that won't last forever.

Friday, November 5, 2010

NaBloPoMo, day 5: Yep, they're mine

When we started telling people that we were expecting another child, several people immediately asked "One of your own or are you adopting again?"  I responded with "I have two children of my own--this will be my third child and I'll be giving birth to this one."

Snarky?  Perhaps a little.  I tried not to say it too sarcastically but when I'd heard it for the 10th time out of 12 calls, it got a little tiring.  I've said it before and I'm sure to say it again and again: all of my children are my own.  I don't care if we share blood or not.  But this time, permit me to go further.

When I would respond that I am pregnant, people would instantly say something to the effect of "How incredible!  How exciting!  How wonderful!"  And I was left wondering if the response would have been different if we'd said we were adopting (and thinking that yes, it probably would have been different, but that's a post for another time).  Joyfully expecting a child through any process whatsoever, which we were pretty clearly doing, is to be celebrated.  A child is a child, and a new family member is a new family member.  This is something exciting and wonderful and incredible--and I wish that had been the first thing people had said.  It felt to me like people were reserving those statements until they'd checked to see if there was a biological connection between this child and me. 

Only a few sweet and wonderful people said "I'm so thrilled for you!" and then asked about biology or adoption.  Let me be clear--I don't have a problem with someone asking whether our next child is by birth or by adoption.  We have a mixed-together family and have made no secret of the fact that we plan to adopt again, nor was it really a secret that we were open to doing some more fertility treatments (yes, that's what it took for this one).  It was a completely valid and reasonable question, and one I expected to be answering.

My frustration was when the happiness didn't come out until after the person had been assured that this child is likely to spill things all the time due to sharing Jason's and my DNA.  I also had a lot of frustration with the fact that people phrased it using that "your own" rather than simply asking if I was pregnant or we were adopting.  When you ask me if this child will be "my own or adopted", you're implying that my child by adoption is not "my own" (at least, that's how it comes across to this parent by adoption).  And when you imply that he is not "mine", I'm not quite sure what you mean.  All I can do is explain to you how it comes across to me, the one hearing it.

I'm hearing that you're implying that adoption is less than biology.  To me, it comes across that having a child through adoption is not quite as meaningful as having a child through birth.  And when I hear, whether you mean it or not, that "adopted" < "birth", it implies to me that YOU think my child is less than my child.  That YOU don't see him as equivalent to my other child. 

I already wondered if that was true when we brought him home.  There were multiple members of our extended families who didn't even send a card or make a quick phone call to reference the fact that we had a new child, even though they had done so when we brought Patrick home.  No one was obligated to do anything when he came home any more than they were obligated to do anything for Patrick's  arrival.  But now I'm curious--will this new child bring those cards and/or phone calls simply on the basis of biology?  I rather hope not. 

If the lack of cards and phone calls after Melkamu's arrival was simply because he was not a first child, I will understand that--a first child does hold a unique place in a family (why yes, I am an oldest child).  There's always a drop-off with subsequent children.  I get that.  I'm not upset by that.  But it will hurt me tremendously if this child gets things from people who didn't bother to acknowledge Melkamu's joining our family...because ultimately, that implies shouts from the rooftops that it was because he was adopted.  That those people consider him and his arrival in our family less worthy of recognition than those of our other children.

Some will call this oversensitive.  I know this for a fact because someone flat-out said I should stop being so sensitive when hearing that whole "my own or adoption" thing.  I am a Mama.  I am supposed to be sensitive about issues regarding my children.  It's in the job description.  Frankly, I can take it.  Call me whatever you'd like.  I'm an adult and have outlets to express my feeling about those issues.  I'm of the opinion that regardless of how someone makes a statement, it's ultimately the recipient's perception of that statement that truly matters.

My child did not choose to be adopted so regardless of what you think of my beliefs on this, consider this--if I'm hearing it this way, how is my child hearing or seeing it?  Melkamu, who is almost 4, is extremely perceptive.  Maybe he doesn't hear your words or see your actions that way--but what if he does?  He probably would not know how to tell you that it makes him feel sad when you say that.  That your words are hurting him.  That it makes him wonder if you truly don't believe he is worthy of being considered our child.

Would it matter to you if he sees it that way?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NaBloPoMo, day 4: On a serious note

I've been keeping things lighthearted here but the fact is that my aunt passed away due to advanced lung cancer on Sunday.  I won't be going to the funeral.  There are a host of reasons but really when it comes down to it, they don't matter.  Jason pointed out that funerals are for the living, and that's the major reason that I'd like to be there.  I wish I could be there with my dad, my grandmother, my aunt and uncle.  As sad as I am about losing her, I am more sad for those who knew her far better and longer than I did.

It wasn't a sudden passing.  It's been expected for a long time now.  I knew when I saw her over the summer that it was probably the last time that I would get to do so.  It's still extremely sad.

I'll miss you, Aunt Kerry.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NaBloPoMo, day 2: Election Day

I'm going to vote on my way home from work today, in about 30 minutes.  Is it common that kids have no school on Election Day?  I don't remember having the day off.  Patrick had today off and so Jason took the day off with him. 

My polling place recently changed, which is nice because the old one was less user-friendly than the new one.  I only wish the potential candidates were changed.  I can't even call the choice between the gubernatorial candidates choosing between the lesser of two evils, because it's embarrassing that they're the best Georgia has to offer.  On one hand, we have the ex-governor who was voted out a while ago for a myriad of legitimate reasons; on the other hand, we have the soon-to-declare-bankruptcy candidate who has a host of other bad qualities and policies.  That, folks, is the choice I get to make.

Siobhan asked about some of the ways that it's different living in the north vs. the south.  I will say that my perspective is different on both places because I've lived my whole adult life in the south, so almost all of my political experience has come with conservative southern politics; however, my developmental years were in the north and my political leanings are certainly more liberal than most people down here.  Jason likes to ask me if I'm "going to go out and throw away my vote" when it's Election Day.  Pretty much, but at least I'm having a say. 

Maybe I'll vote Libertarian. It wouldn't be the first time. I took a political quiz one time and ended up in the quadrant between Democrat and Libertarian, and that seemed to be a pretty accurate fit.

Yessir (or ma'am, as the case may be), politics here is certainly challenging.  I can't imagine why anyone in their right mind gets into it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaBloPoMo, year 2, day 1

OK, I'm in.  It's National Blog Posting Month, affectionately (at least today, maybe less so in 30 days) as NaBloPoMo.  I've been less than bloggy this year lately and it's time to get back to it.

I need some help.  What do you want me to write about?  Otherwise I can almost guarantee multiple posts about canning, which is a new skill that I've been developing over the last year.  I even have pictures of the jam and spaghetti-sauce-making processes.  They'd be easy to upload, and I'm pretty psyched about all the delicious jam and spaghetti sauces and pickles and fruit syrups in my laundry room.  Just sayin'...

November is always a busy month for our family as it is, what with Melkamu and Jason's birthdays (and then Patrick's only 3 days into December), Thanksgiving, and the near-end of the semester for me (which always coincides with getting many research papers, lab reports, and panicked student e-mails); however, I'm going to do my best to keep up with things. 

As always, there will be Wordless Wednesdays, which will likely feature pictures of our two ever-eating and therefore ever-growing sons.  One post today, four posts planned--that only leaves 25 more to figure out!

Eeps.