Monday, December 15, 2008

Some Christmas Miracles

Well, I'll probably get around to writing the posts that I have mused over this week someday (one on the fact that every person is absolutely exotic, and one that I can't remember right now -- which means that I probably never will [I just remembered it -- note to self "tall man"]), but for now, let me share my day. First of all, you should know that "It's a Christmas miracle" is one of my husband's favorite phrases to throw around during this season at bizarre (and often inappropriate) times [be advised, we are talking about the Hallmark movie of the week/nightly news feature story "Christmas miracle" that he's mocking -- not the actual birth of Christ. He's a very good man, my husband.] So, in keeping with his bizarrity (not a word, but should be), I'm going to share three of today's Christmas miracles.

1. Josh's passion for the song "November Rain" seems to be ebbing! Each evening, he plays and sings for the kids for an hour or so -- they love it (and he's actually kind of awesome now, after all of that practice). For the last month, however, about HALF of each music hour has been occupied by the Guns 'n Roses song "November Rain".......seriously. I cannot tell you how unproud (not ashamed.....just unproud -- this should also be a word) I feel when my four year old walks through the kitchen belting (Axl Rose growl notwithstanding) "I guess you need some time....on your own....oohhhhh, everybody needs some time....on their own......" etc. And as of today, I am almost positive that we have migrated back to a welcome cocktail of Bob Dylan, folk, classic rock, and whatever random tabs he has stuffed at the bottom of his case ---- along with some beautiful new chord progressions all his own! This fantastic turn of musical events is truly a Christmas miracle.

2. Two of the teethers teethed! Four of my children are in the process of cutting teeth right now. Olivia's smile is an endearing, captivating melange of baby and adult teeth, just making their way to the surface of her grin, and the babies, of course, still sport shiny gums in every radiant, wild peekaboo laugh. Today, however, Tarikwa and Girum BOTH cut bottom left incisors, quelling, I hope, some of the obvious discomfort that has disturbed their nights (and continues to plague Taye --- come on Taye teeth!). Another Christmas miracle.

3. The brilliant Aunt Katie and fabulous (generous, magnificent....imagine, here, a long string of effusive adjectives --- all appropriate and ultimately understated) Grandma L. managed to get all seven members of my family, dressed up, gathered, and awake for a Christmas picture! In spite of the insanity that ALWAYS attends our family photos, they took a handful of pictures that I will cherish, and managed to walk away with only minor evidence of post traumatic stress. Thank you thank you thank you for these wonderful pictures!

Find a way to make all seven of us smile all at once for a picture, and I will believe in Santa Claus!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Match Point

Josiah loves to match the people he loves. He loves to love the same things they do, wear the same color, or share the same opinion as Josh, or I, or Olivia, or a friend. Like my husband (and my father), Josiah does all of his worrying on the front side of change, and during his delliberation about his new baby brothers and sister, still unknown, not "matching" bothered him...a lot. I first learned of his struggle after a free swim session at our public pool.

Josiah had played with a little baby sitting in a stroller near where I was changing. In vintage Josiah style, he had the little one cracking up at his ninja-warrior dance moves. When I took his hand to leave, I told him how proud I was that he was so gentle and fun for babies. He said, "I love babies." [Big pause.] "And I really like light-skinned babies best."

I said, "It's okay that you feel that way, Josiah. And I'm so glad you told me. Can you tell me why you like light-skinned babies better?"

"Well....they just seem more.....powerful."

Powerful? It took me a minute to reign myself in from the vortex of white privelege/white shame and race theory that "powerful" dragged me toward, but Josiah's reference point for power, of course, includes none of that language. Power, for him, involves the force, and web-slinging, and super-human strength. I quickly realized that, at four, he might well me that white babies can fly, so I asked: "What does powerful mean?"

" me. We match."

Matching, for Josiah, is so....powerful.

We had just received the pictures of the triplets, and (despite the fact that we had spent hours looking at pictures of people from Ethiopia together) I think the fact that our babies would have skin that was different from his hit him kind of suddernly.

"Are you worried, Josiah, that you might not love the new babies because you won't match them?"


"I can totally understand that. You know, I used to worry about that, too."

"You did?"

"Yep. But I'll bet we'll find lots of ways that you match them once we're all together. One thing that will match right away is that you'll both be in our'll be brothers and sisters. And, after awhile, we'll probably find other ways that we match. Maybe they'll like Ninja Turtles."

"Do you think they'll like Ninja Turtles, Mom?"

"Maybe, or dinosaurs."

"I could share my dinosaurs with them!"

"Exactly, so it's okay that you feel the way that you feel about light-skinned babies. I think that you'll find lots of ways to match your new brothers and sister once we're together as a family. When I was a little girl, I wanted to bring a dark-skinned baby home from the hospital after my mom had our little sister. I just liked the way she looked. But you know how much I love Aunt Karen. She is my sister..."

"Do you still?"

"What's that Josiah?"

"Do you still like dark-skinned babies better?"

AHHHHHH, now we're at the heart of it.

"I love my children. I LOVE your light skin, Josiah, because it's on you, and I love you. And I LOVE our new babies' dark skin because it's on them, and they are my children. Your skin is absolutely perfect for you. You make your skin beautiful. And the new babies' dark skin is perfect for them, and they make their skin beautiful." ....on and on.....etc., etc..

So he was satisfied....for that day.

A few weeks after we were home, I overheard him run into the kitchen where Girum was playing in his exersaucer. (I was changing someone or feeding someone in the adjascent living room) whispering, "Girum, I prayed and prayed for God to make one of my new brothers look like me, and God gave me you" (people often comment on the fact that Girum and Josiah sort of resemble each other. I guess he sees it too)......I started to smile....matching solved, right? We've arrived. Josiah left the room and then scurried back in to add, "but I still like light-skinned babies better...." So, maybe a little more ground is left to cover....

I write ALL (ALLLL) of that as background information for a conversation that happened last week. Josiah bolted up the stairs (he bolts everywhere....I think that's part of being "powerful" :), ran over to where I was holding Girum, laid his cheek against Girum's so that both of their faces shown up at me, and said, "Look, Mama. Girum and I match perfectly. We both love you!" And then he scurried off.

I can't get that moment out of my mind.

Both Girum and Josiah are particularly attached to me, in their own ways. Both boys calm in my arms and look at me with a disarming adoration that NO ONE deserves. And now, Josiah thinks they match.....with a force stronger than superpowers.


And, now, I keep thinking of the ways that all of us match because of Whom we adore-- in various shades and flavors of adoration....we powerfully match.

Monday, December 1, 2008

What's in a name?

I'm too tired to plunge as deep as the Shakespeare passage that I pulled my title from tonight, but I keep talking to people (wonderful family people, mostly) who are interested in the origins and meanings of my kids' names. SO, I thought I'd share. Here they are, in the order of their birth:

Olivia Anne

Olivia -- We didn't name Olivia until two days after she was born, just before we left the hospital. After jostling around Zion, Elizabeth, and Olivia, we chose the name that seemed to suit our beautiful daughter. A name that, with its nod to the Olive tree and (by extension) branch, symbolizes peace, hope, and victory. Also, I was drawn to the name's "Ya" sounding suffix -- the same "from God" sound affixed to the names of the prophets. If my daughter's life was to embody prophesy, I wanted it laden with hope, peace, and victory -- messages, also, that still spill from Jesus's time on the Mount of Olives. So many layers to that one, no?

Anne -- Another biblical reference (Anne is a modification of Hannah -- Two great Hannah's came immediately to mind -- Samuel's mother, whose mother-prayer got answered, and Hannah the prophetess, who immediately recognized Jesus as the Messiah in the New Testament). More specific to Olivia, though, Anne draws upon the middle names of her grandmother (my awesome mom) and her magnificent Aunt Katie -- and later, though we didn't know it at the time, she would bear the middle name of her inimitable Aunt Valerie. THIS is profoundly good company to be among! We chose to spell it with an "E" because -- well -- because of Anne of Green Gables.

Josiah John

Josiah -- Josh actually picked this name. He liked its singularity and its consonance with his own first name. Josiah was also one of the few good kings recorded in Israel's Old Testament history -- taking the throne at the age of 8 and revolutionizing his failing people by turning everyone's eyes back toward the law. Not a bad heritage, eh? (Note, please, the "ya" suffix on this one, too -- an emergent pattern? perhaps.)

John -- John is my Dad's name. If you could only meet my father, then you would need no further explanation. If you know him, then you are wondering why I even needed to explain this much.

Girum Samuel

Girum -- Girum means "Amazing" and "Surprising" in Amharic (the national language of Ethiopia). Birhanu (the triplets' birth father) chose this name because he identified the birth of triplets (a first in his region) as both amazing and surprising!

Samuel -- Samuel is my paternal Grandfather's middle name. He bore a quiet integritiy and patient wisdom that I hope will translate into similar gifts for my own children. He is well worth being named after!

Tarikwa Rebekah/Rebecca/Rebekah/Rebecca --

Tarikwa -- Tarikwa means "This is her story" in Amharic. Like Girum, Tarikwa's name reflects her father's astonishment at the miracle of the triplets' birth, an event that impressed him as integral to the life story of this little girl. So much love is inscribed in her still short story already!

Rebecca/Rebekah -- Can you tell that we still haven't settled on the spelling for this one yet? Tarikwa gets her middle name, first, because of my little sister, Karen Rebecca, whose impact upon my life could never be measured or recounted in words. Also a person well worth being named for! I also have two wonderful aunts named Rebecca, whose love for this little girl will always be a part of our family's fabric. But how to spell it? I really like the biblical transliteration of the Hebrew Rebekah -- I like the way it looks with the name Tarikwa. "Tarikwa," however, is spelled a number of different ways on our paperwork, and I conjoined this Rebekah spelling to a different Tarikua spelling --- with the "kwa" ending, I'm not sure which spelling flows best. ......hmmmmmm....

Taye Stephen/Steven/Stephen/Steven

Taye -- Taye means "He has been witnessed," or, as one Ethiopian friend explained, "His life is an event so important that it cannot help but be witnessed." Again, Birhanu gave Taye this name because of the overwhelming miracle of his childrens' birth. His beauty and joyful spirit certainly bear out all the significance ascribed to his lovely name!

Stephen/Steven -- We struggle with spellings, don't we? Steven reflects the names of Josh's wonderful father and the middle name of his amazing big brother. The love and the spirit of these important people have helped my husband to become the fantastic father and man that he is, and the same love that nourished my husband continues to encourage all of us -- every day. A wonderful name with a wonderful if we could only settle on a spelling:)

(I think we have to solidify the spellings this week -- the kids' green cards are in, and we are preparing to file all of the stateside paperwork to confirm their citizenship and change their names).

Here's a fact about the babies' names that we didn't know until we met Birhanu -- Their names, in the order of their birth, form a grammatically correct sentence in Amharic. "Girum Tarik(ua) Taye" means "I have witnessed the most amazing story" or "An amazing story has been witnessed here (by me)."

Interestingly, on the day we received their referral, while we were still months from knowing about the sentence their names actually formed, Olivia and I worked all of the kids' names into a family sentence that we walked around saying for the entire "referral week": "I have witnessed the most amazing story of hope, peace, victory, and a boy king!"

What a great first sentence in the story of our lives together!

Monday, November 17, 2008


I'm it! My friend Dani "tagged" me (that's blog lingo for a fun, circulating post prompt). I have been asked to post the fourth picture from the fourth file on my computer so here goes:

It's Josiah! We must be at a children's museum somewhere -- I'm not sure what adult is attached to the arm that's playing with him, but I have no doubt that everyone involved was having a blast. Thanks for tagging me, Dani! I would like to pass this fun along to my entire travel group! If you travelled with us, consider yourself tagged. Fourth picture. Fourth file.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Election

Yesterday was the election. Grinning broadly, nervous hands poised to display their photo IDs, my kids approached the poll. As they neared the door, a man (my husband) disrupted their path with bags of pretzels and an exhortation to "Vote for the jungle gym! A vote for the jungle gym is a vote for exercise!" This in spite of the fifteen crayon clad posters on notebook paper throughout our house urging us to "Vote for the Pop-up Camper!" "Pop-up Campers ROCK!" Some with fabulous artwork to boot! In conjunction with the campaign speeches from the night before and Olivia's spontaneous Halloween candy handout on Sunday, punctuated with "Vote Pop-up Camper!" and "We appreciate your vote for the Pop-up camper!", the campaign itself might have deterred a lest ardent polster, but not Josh! He was at the door in full force! The vote would have been unanimous, too, were it not for my voting booth conversion to the Jungle Gym camp. (Contrary to Josh's probable supposition, it was NOT the pretzels that swayed me -- I just wanted to mix things up....and I thought a jungle gym might be fun:).

The vote was spurred by two factors: 1. Our involvement in the whole process (campaigns, primaries, debates, etc.) of the OTHER election, and 2. The undecided Grand Prize in our family reading program. For various reasons, I put together a project (complete with a giant wall hanging of a flower whose stem we will climb toward the grand prize should have seen what I IMAGINED it might look like!) to keep everyone excited about reading. Each family member maintains individual point breakdowns [i.e., Olivia gets 10 points for a picture book, 50 for a chapter book, etc.; Josiah gets 20 points for letter sounds, 30 for three-letter words, 100 for easy reader books, etc.; they both get 10 points for every sibling listening when they read their books (more if the book is longer); Josh and I get smaller point values for books we read to the kids, 500 points for books we read to ourselves... (which almost never happens anymore), and (this is a rider proposed by my husband, who, I think, is getting a little anxious over my project) I get 2000 points for every chapter of my dissertation that I finish. Everyone is rooting for mom, now! (Even more than before!)] We get a family fun day at 3000 points (leaf #1), a membership to something at 7000 points (leaf #2), and a grand prize that was subject to such debate that we decided to cabbage onto family election hysteria (we are a house divided, which makes for constant conversation) and vote on it, formally.

THE POP-UP CAMPER WAS VICTORIOUS! In spite of Dad's lobbying, the kids stuck to their guns and voted their consciences. So the center of the giant construction paper flower was adorned today with a picture that I found online of someone's father in front of a random pop-up camper. If I've estimated appropriately, I should be able to put $10 per week in a jar to significantly offset the cost when the point total is attained. However -- they've been reading like mad, so I'm anxious to see what the Saturday tally reveals! (Anxious in every sense of the word!.....Better start finding ways to fill that jar early, I think!).

You should have heard the victory speeches. Josiah noted that "With a pop-up camper, I would never have to be homesick!" and Olivia walked us through a series of "Can you sleep in a Jungle Gym!? (Well, maybe you can...but...) Can you cook over a fire next to a jungle gym (maybe, I guess....but....) can you take a jungle gym with you? No! And does a jungle gym have beds!? NO! Pop-up CAMPER WINS!!!!!!!!"

And then (my favorite), Josh's concession speech (which I will botch horribly, I know, but even if I got every word right, I could never capture the spirit and intensity with which it was delivered...or the uber-political hand gestures that accompanied it). "We fought a good fight...ran a good campaign for the jungle gym. I want to thank all of our supporters, my staff, and everyone who voted for the jungle gym. We congratulate the Pop-up camper on its victory. It was a well fought race. And rest assured, we will be back. This is not the end of the jungle gym." No. I'm sure it's not:)

After the vote, the tally, and the celebratory hooplah, we grabbed popcorn and watched blue and red Rorshach blotches coagualate across a giant a family.

What election did you think I was talking about?

Rock of Ages VS Philosopher's Stone (Steele cage grudge match of the millenium)

I've blogged a million posts in my head this week, but nothing actually made it to the screen. This moment is one that I MUST not forget, though, so I might as well share it while I record it for posterity (and for my deplorable memory). A few weeks ago, I realized after Sunday service that we discussed a question I had never brought to my kids: "What do you know?" As a lifetime student of philosophy (with the papers to prove it!), I could have kicked myself for letting this one slip by! So, over a backyard picnic, I sprung it, ready to pounce with a little deconstruction and immaterialism (maybe little cognative science just for flavor). Here are my kids' responses, in order:

My question: "Is there anything that you KNOW, and how do you KNOW that you KNOW it?"

Olivia's reply (looking a little annoyed at the question's apparent condescention):

"You can't KNOW anything, Mom. You can only choose to believe. Everything anybody thinks they know they are really just choosing to believe. For example, I choose to believe in God because it's better, but not because I KNOW. No one can KNOW anything."

As I wound my immaterialist tail back between my legs and prepared to limp home with a weak, "Very interesting thought, Olivia. How did you know that?" (This time, a sincere question rather than a provocative one), Josiah jumped in with his reply. [Be sure to imagine his Rs as Ws and his Ss as SHs....I love the way he talks but trying to write his sweet particularities is....annoying).

Josiah's reply: "Well, I believe in God....because...if I didn't, He might not KILL me.....but He might WANT to."

Now there's a boy who's been to Sunday school! That's material I can work with! But who wants to? At this point, I was bested, laughing, and ready to dive with my kids into the waiting pumpkin pie. What great kids!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ethiopia Montage -- Katie's Present

As if her friendship, her love of our children, and the gift of her time and energy in journeying with us to Ethiopia were not enough, Katie (Josh's sister) made this beautiful montage for us! Thank you, Katie -- for everything! There are no words to express how much the sacrifices you made, the encouragement you offered, and the loving arms that you shared with our tiny babies on that trip meant to us. You are a fantastic sister, sister-in-law, aunt, and friend. And we LOVE the montage, too!

(And thank you, travel group, for allowing us to share this excerpt from such a pivotal week -- and some of your pictures, as well. No one ....NO ONE...has ever experienced the emotional whiplash and euphoria of meeting their children for the first time with a better group of friends. Thank you for a lifetime of memories.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

As promised.....

Here are the awesome pictures that a friend took at a cider pressing get together with a bunch of people from our church. Please note: our kids are awesome! They bob for apples with such vehemence (even Olivia, despite her obvious five tooth handicap)! Josiah loves his friend Autumn with such tenderness! We love them ALL like crazy! Thank you, again, to our fantastic picture taking friend and to those of you who have waited patiently to see these pictures posted (i.e., my family:).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Zoo Crew

My husband thinks I'm some kind of nut, but the truth is that I'm a much better get-me-out-of-the-house-before-I-go-crazy mom than a stay-at-home mom. I don't have all of my domestic inadequacies glaring at me from the overfull sink and the brimming hamper to impinge upon my time with my kids -- maybe that's why. Whatever the reason, while my mother-in-law was here (thank you, Grandma:), we headed to the zoo the first chance that came our way. I'll share some of her pictures, and then I PROMISE I'll post the raft of family pictures from the Autumn-fest:) Included in the background of the goat-petting pics (for you, Adam, I said it for you) are my gorgeous sister and her beautiful brilliant son, Jonah who joined us on our zoo story. Karen, of course, looks fabulous. They are VERY unflattering pictures of me. I post them because I love her:) Also, I am including a couple of pictures of the lorikeet feeding extravaganza. The babies wanted to eat the birds, Josiah was very unsure of the birds, and Olivia is clearly an old pro. I left the shark petting pictures out, but the babies loved the aquarium and the older two are endlessly fascinated by petting sharks -- and Grandma loved it, too! We have an awesome zoo. And the one with the animals in it is pretty great also.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Random Pic(ture)s

I have a minute before the quesadillas burn, and I thought I'd post a last round of random pictures from Grandma's visit before catching up with a more recent group. And if you like the Indonesian sling....wait until you see the FANTASTIC carrier that my Mother-in-Law made for me (and the awesome one she made for my carrier-shy husband). She took the Mei tai to the next level! For now, here goes:

P.S. Burned the quesadillas....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Daddy's got the gang downstairs...

SO, I'm gonna post some more pictures!!! (Isn't it great that Grandma wields a camera!?) These pictures, taken shortly after we arrived home in September, chronicle the Spa Day Olivia insisted upon having with her baby sister. At six, Olivia loves to "beauty up" with sparkly lipgloss, various lotions, and REALLY obnoxious creamy kid versions of eye shadow and blush -- all gifts. I figure if I let this phase ride, she'll lose interest eventually and understand where real beauty comes from (blah, blah, blah...etc., etc.. We'll see.). ANYway, I don't wear make-up, generally, so I don't have to worry about her using mine. I DO occasionally borrow hers! In the absence of any grown up lip treatments, I often go to church looking mighty sparkly. It IS rather fun. I get the attraction, Olivia, and hopefully Tari does, too. (I should probably mention that no obnoxious gels or creams were applied to the baby -- just some FANCY jewelry and innoccuous lotions). One thing I know for SURE, Josiah is quite grateful to be relieved of his brotherly beauty up duties (though he can work a tutu and nail polish with the best of them...He is a magnificent brother-- patient beyond belief with the whims of his big sister -- much like my own brother was when I forced him to comply with the vagaries of my bizarre imaginary worlds). Okay, on to the pictures. Aren't they sweet?

This is how we roll...

Well, before I post the more recent pictures from Autumn-fest, I thought I'd share some shots that my awesome Mother-in-Law took when she visited in September. Thanks, Grandma!

FIRST, check out the handy triplet stroller that I bought off of Craigslist. My parents-in-law picked it up for me near their hometown (once again, thanks, Grandma!). It's been helpful on treks to the bus stop and the park, though I generally strap one baby on and push a double stroller for trips that require car rides (and yes, I do take those occasionally. I even took all five to Sam's Club by myself a week or so ago! With the two best helpers in the world by my side, what can't I do!?).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Captivated by Autumn

If you find yourself enamoured by my clever double entendre blog titles, prepare to be wooed once again. (If, as is more likely, you find them groan worthy -- even irritating -- brace yourself). First, I chose tonight's title because I am -- Autumn. I love everything about it -- leaves, smoke, school, sweaters, windows open -- everything. And my son, who, I am sure, also loves the season, found himself sweetly captivated by a little girl named Autumn tonight at a cider pressing party at a friend's house. Sweet Autumn is much younger than Josiah and followed him all evening, calling his name intermittently. I think Josiah relished the hero-worship and responded in kind with his signature style of chivalric sweetness that never fails to make me grin. When kids make friends, they do it without contract -- without expectation or insinuation. They just enjoy one another. Sometimes, of course, they don't (and then there's the pushing and the pulling and the ninja fighting....etc.), but mostly, small children are content to be exactly who they are and to let others do the same. A friend (the inimitable Autumn's dad, in fact) took some pictures of our family this evening, too, so you can expect to see an updated peek into how we roll very soon. You will be amazed! Let me just say that the babies have each put on nearly a quarter of their body weight in the last two weeks! At their adoption clinic weigh-in, they were 13 (Girum), 11 (Tarikwa), and 14 (Taye) pounds respectively. A week or so ago, I weighed them here at 18, 15, and nearly 20 pounds -- weights that we have no doubt exceeded already! (And, by the way, you should have seen Olivia bob for apples tonight with all FOUR of her front teeth missing -- well worth the trip to the country!) Well, that's enough topic whiplash for one evening. It all comes of drinking 4 cups of Ethiopian coffee to start my day. I love the taste; I enjoy the buzz; I don't make any linear sense for the next several hours.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

This Big Life

It's 12:23pm. Asleep in the room directly adjacent to this computer wall are three of the most important people in my life: a man whose hand I have held and whose heart I have relied upon for nearly ten years, a little girl whose unsettling wisdom and whiplash laughter incinerate my pretenses, and a tiny little boy who chose me with his eyes and captured me, liquified me, with his smile just 5 short weeks ago (read: a lifetime). Across the hall lay three more of the most important people in my life: a little boy who has never, ever given up on his mama, a tiny little girl who has owned me with her eyes since before I knew her and has delighted me with them ever since we met, and a sweet smile of a person who makes everyone feel pertinent -- special -- especially me -- when his hair and eyes and face and mouth erupt in unmatchable laughter. Thank you all for your prayers and your patience. We are home. Home indeed.