Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Laughing with Little Boys

This year has absolutely flown by. I can't believe that we are at the end already. I know I've been severely neglecting the blog lately, but here are a few amusing comments by the boys to finish out the year:

One night in the car, the boys were arguing over which one of them could kiss an imaginary girl. Yikealo was making all kinds of smooching sounds and finally told Sintay, “Okay, now it’s your turn to kiss her.” I asked why in the world they were practicing kissing girls, and Yikealo replied, “Well, we’re planning for the future! You know….like the ant in “The Grasshopper and the Ant” that we read in Language Arts last week. You wouldn’t want me to be like the grasshopper, would you?” Somehow, that is not QUITE how I envisioned that particular moral being utilized.

 This is the kind of face we get from Mr. Y while trying to take Christmas pictures. Isn't it beautiful? I guess we probably don't have to worry about him kissing girls yet after all. Any self-respecting girl would RUN from this!

Sintay walked up to me one day and proudly announced, “Hey Mom! I put yodent on my pickle!” I had no idea what he meant, and questioned him further. He held up the deodorant bottle and motioned applying it to his underarms.

Yikealo’s journal entry one day: “Gues what my least favorite lesson is besides writing? Langwige Arts. It’s the werst lesson ever. That lesson I can never ever do. Aspesholy the tests. Those are the night mears.” Just as an aside, he’s doing quite well in Language Arts. On the day in question, he had missed one answer on his Semester test. I think someone is a bit hard on himself.

When he writes in his journal, he is supposed to write 3-5 clear sentences on one topic. I found this little gem the other day: “Do you love god? I love god. My mom loves buoble shoot. We get to go to Diney World tomorrow!” Would anyone like to explain to me how any of these sentences are on the same theme? And considering that we have no plans to visit “Diney World” anytime soon….

Or how about this entry: “This is Spider Man. This is not true but I wunt to use it for a sentince. In the Bible it says wich ever way SpiderMans web was faceing would lead to freedom. Mom can I be done?”

Listening to Sintay talk to himself while playing is always entertaining. One morning I caught this while he was playing JumpStart on the computer: “Mommmmyyyyy?? Please can I come back home now? No! I going to Acrifa! AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!! I SINKING INNA WATER!!! HELP!! DERE’S CROTTODILES!! Oh, wait…no, dat’s just a spring water. Digging up flowers, Yee-Hah!” This goes on All. Day. Long. And then I wonder why my head is usually splitting by the end of the day.

Another day he was playing with Legos. Here’s a small portion of that sound-track: “OOOOOOOO!!! My butt is on fire! I need put dis guy in jail. Oh yeah….where da jail be? Take him to da udder jail….dis one be full. Oooof! Here’s da weapons! HELP!!! You got your dragon? NO! I don’t got da dragon - I got food. WoooHooooo!! Budda ladda lee! Madda ladda lee! SOMEBODY GET HER!! I can’t get her. WHOA! Is dat a ninja?!” Why are little boys always so violent in their play?

We were doing some Christmas shopping at the mall, and Yikealo had said that he really wanted to buy a gift for me. David said that he’d help him find something while I went off to finish up my shopping for the boys. When I met them a little later, Mr. Y told me in a very disgruntled voice that he had found something for me, but “Dad wouldn’t let me buy it.” David rolled his eyes, and said, “Yeah….they “found” a sparkly red sweater…in size 3X. Yikealo, do you really think that Mama is that big?” Yikealo replied, “Well, I thought she could wear it for a really long time that way, ‘cause she wouldn’t grow out of it as fast.” We had to explain that my hope was that I’d never grow into it in the first place.

David and I began discussing the possibility of getting away for a day or two over our upcoming anniversary, and Yikealo immediately started arguing that we shouldn’t leave. When I explained that he’d be staying at Aunt Susan’s with his cousins, he relented slightly and compromised by telling us that we were allowed to have a 2-minute date at Eddy’s Bike Shop followed by ice cream cones at the yogurt shop next door. Let me tell you, the romance is alive and kicking in this family. Needless to say, we don’t feel that it’s necessary to follow his rules.

Y still wants to marry me. One morning he was asking, “So why can’t you be married to me AND Dad?” I told him that it’s illegal to marry two people, and that you certainly can’t marry your own mother. He said, “Well, what if we just don’t tell anyone?” I asked why he wanted to marry me in the first place. His reasons were: “I could kiss you as often as I wanted, you wouldn’t be able to boss me around and make me do school, and I could have all the electronics time that I wanted.” Lovely. Sintay wants to marry Aunt Susan.

About every other day or so, Sintayehu will refuse to answer to anything but “Yucky Yayko.” Don’t ask me where he came up with that lovely moniker, or why in the world he’s so attached to it.

On the way home from church one afternoon, Sintay was sitting in the back seat chanting, “Awesome, Behbeh!” over and over. I asked him where in the world he had heard that anyway, to which he replied, “I learned it in Pope-ia! My family say dat!” Ummmm…..pretty sure that’s not true, Dude!

One day, Sintayehu got in trouble for saying the word "poop" over and over. I told him that if I heard "poop" one more time, he was going to be in the corner for quite some time. Shortly afterwards I overheard him shouting "Winnie-da-POOH!!" repeatedly. Talk about abiding by the letter and not the spirit of the law.

While snuggling Sintay one morning, I asked him if he was going to be my good boy that day. He responded with a whiny “I can’t!” I asked why, and he said, “I can’t find my brain. I put it inna box, and it falled out, and I can’t find it.” On another day he told me that he couldn’t listen because he didn’t have a brain…“Grammy taked it, ‘cause hers is getting too old.” And here I thought that he was just choosing not to listen. Now that I know about the missing brain, everything’s becoming clearer somehow. ;-)

On Sunday morning, David showered Sintay in the basement and lotioned him up, I did his hair, and we sent him upstairs to get dressed for church in the clothes that I had carefully laid out on his bed. This happens every Sunday morning, so it’s not like this was a new routine for us. However, ten minutes later when we were ready to leave, we discovered that he was still running around in his underwear. The reason, you ask? Well, rather than getting dressed, he had been spending his time spitting onto his chest and then performing various gyrations in order to try to get the spit to fall into his belly-button. SERIOUSLY?? What is WRONG with boys??

I was commenting on some rough behavior from Mr. S, and told David, “He has been SO belligerent today!” Yikealo asked, (in a completely serious voice, I might add) “What does belligerent mean? That he has seven nostrils that are invisible?” Huh?

During our recent remodel, the boys have had all kinds of ideas about how things should be done. One of my favorites was Yikealo's suggestion that we install the water lines for the kitchen sink across the doorway between the kitchen and the garage....so that we have to do the limbo every time we come into the house. It seems like bringing in groceries would get a bit cumbersome, but I guess we would get more exercise that way.

The boys were eating caramel corn mix and came across an almond. Sintayehu was convinced that it was a ninja turtle shell.

And on that note, we'll close out our posting for this year! Wishing all of you a blessed and beautiful new year, filled with joy and laughter in the little moments.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

On Bedroom-Kitchens

"Hey! It's a Bedroom-Kitchen!"

This was Yikealo's succinct assessment of our new living quarters. We are in the process of expanding the kitchen and bathroom on our main floor and, consequently, our family of four is squeezed into about half of our basement (the other half also showing signs of construction).

The thing is: while the arrangement is inconvenient at times (with "times" being whenever we're home), the thought that nailed me as soon as I heard "Bedroom-Kitchen" was that ours is, by far, the nicest Bedroom-Kitchen I've ever seen.

The fact is that during this time of thanksgiving and reflection, I could quickly think of loved ones who would gladly trade all they had for the amenities of our Bedroom-Kitchen. These dear ones live with so much less than what we have piled into a 11 x 12 room. They live with no hope of betterment. They can't "hang in there" just a few weeks longer to reap the benefits of a more convenient circumstance.

Yikealo's brief observation started me thinking. A lot. And I think that what I think about this holiday season goes something like this: there are four ways we can consider our affluence, but only one right way.

First, there is entitlement. We are in the middle of reading Jen Hatmaker's book "Seven" and it has shone light on new areas of the things we "need" to have. Yowza! The new appliances, the fancy coffee machine, gifts for the boys, new shoes because (gasp), the old ones are starting to develop holes.

We move from entitlement to complacency. Of course we have food. Of course we have sufficient heat and clothing. Six inches of snow isn't life-and-death, it's a welcome treat secure in the knowledge that it's always warm inside with plenty of hot chocolate. The lights come on when we flip the switch. Clean water is abundantly available.

As we become aware of the circumstances of those less fortunate, we inevitably embrace guilt. Why us? Why so much? Shouldn't others have more? WHAT ARE WE DOING? Larisa and I recently encountered our budget from 2005 and literally wept over the luxury spending. Who were those people? (and why didn't they have their house paid off?)

I've pretty much laid bare all of the poor attitudes I bring to the season. While considering this post I had hoped to explain the three bad attitudes and then smugly paint myself into the fourth. However, writing the blog has been a ringing indictment that my heart is not quite so mature as I had hoped.

Certainly feeling entitled or being complacent are not helpful perspectives on all that God has given us, but neither is it helpful to feel guilty. As cliche as it sounds, the only healthy perspective on our affluence is to have a grateful heart. Maybe our government was onto something when they designated "Thanksgiving Day" rather than "Apathy Day" or "Me Day" or "Woe is me Day". True thankfulness comes from realizing that everything we have is God's, and it is only out of that recognition that true generosity can flow.

It is, therefore, with a grateful heart that I contemplate my family, reflect on the babe in a manger,  "survey the wondrous cross", and retire to my Bedroom-Kitchen.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Runaways

It all started with this:

My parents were visiting for a few minutes yesterday afternoon, and the boys were using their typical "hey-we-have-someone-new-to-show-off-for-so-let's-act-as-crazy-and-out-of-control-as-possible" company manners. They were running frantically through the house, hitting each other with the above toy snake, and shrieking with laughter, and let me tell you, it is next to impossible to try to carry on a conversation under those circumstances! After asking nicely several times for them to stop, I finally resorted to taking the snake away, and asking them to read some books quietly in their room.

They obediently disappeared into the bedroom, but a few minutes later, Yikealo emerged wearing his stocking hat, his binoculars around his neck, and carrying his backpack and a blanket. He informed us melodramatically that he was running away, since I had taken his pet snake away. Sintay, who copies pretty much everything that his big brother does, said he was going too. They marched over to the door, jerked it open, and stared out at the wet concrete in our driveway.

S: "Uh-oh! It's waining!"
Y: "Oh blast! Well, I guess I can wait until tomorrow to run away!"
(insert snickering from the grandparents....)
Me: "Yeah...because if some barely-there rain is going to stop you, I certainly wouldn't risk it. Besides, you're not even wearing shoes."
Y: "Well, I guess I'll go get some more supplies while I'm waiting." (grabs his water bottle and a banana that he holds like a pistol). "Now I've got some food fer if I get hungry." (adds the Jesus Storybook Bible to his backpack, and puts his tennis shoes on.)
S: (dressed in a spiderman costume with a pirate hat) "I'm taking 'dis!" (holds up his plastic hammer, a cup half full of water, and a pair of nunchuks from a set of ninja weapons.) "Kahlo, you need put dis inna bag" (holding out a belt to a Batman costume.)
Me: "Excellent. I'm glad you're going to have the Word along with you, so you can keep learning about Jesus. Sintay, what are you going to eat? Yikealo only has one banana."
S: (running to grab the bag of kettle corn from the fair) "Popcorn!"
Me: "Very nutritious. Yikealo, what all do you have in your bag?"
Y: "Don't worry. I have all the clothes I need. I think I'll take my cash register to keep my money in."
Me: "But you don't have any money. You just spent the last of your money at the fair."
Y: "I have one dollar to buy gum, and I'll stop at the bank to take my savings money along."
Me: "You can't. Your account is in Daddy's name, and he wouldn't let you take your money out so you could run away."
Y: "Well then I will sell lemonade, and we can buy food with that money."
Dad: "Yikealo, how will you buy the lemons?"
Y: "I will ride my bike to the fair. They have lemons there. Besides, I will take my bow and arrow, and maybe we can shoot animals, AND I know where there are some apple trees in the forest. Here, Sintay, let's get your sippy cup. We should take our toothbrushes too."

By the time all of these supplies were gathered, the rain had stopped, so the intrepid adventurers headed outside. First though, they stopped to discard the banana ("Mom, this banana is getting too squishy. I'll just share Sintay's popcorn.") I kissed them goodbye, but told them to be sure to hurry back, because Daddy was going to be home soon. Yikealo said he wasn't coming back, and they walked toward the woods at the end of our little dead-end street. When they reached it, they turned back for home. Yikealo needed to see if there was any mail for him, and they were getting way too hot. It seems that running away is more work than they really wanted to do. They decided instead to explore the new toy catalogs from the day's mail while eating their popcorn in the air-conditioning. Besides, Yikealo informed me, "I forgot to pack any clothes for Sintay, and I didn't even have any swimming trunks for him, in case we discovered a river and needed to bathe."

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Thoughts From Yikealo

Mr. Y may be growing up quickly, but thankfully the random comments and ideas haven't slowed down yet! Here are some examples from this summer:

While driving past our church one day, he commented, "That is God's house. He sure has a lot of houses! Hey....do God and Jesus sleep in the same bed?"
Me: "The Bible says that He neither slumbers nor sleeps, so no....they don't even need a bed."
Y: "Well, is He allowed to lay down with His eyes open - like on His side - so He can still see all of us but get some rest?"
Me: "God doesn't need rest like we do."
Y: "He sure must have a lot of energy!"
(My pictures this time are from our beach vacation in May. Since I haven't ever gotten around to blogging about it, I may as well use some photos, right?)

While listening to a story that quoted Hebrews 13:2 on entertaining angels unaware, he looked up with a rather shocked expression and asked, "They entertain angel UNDERWEAR? Does that mean they provide underwear for angels?"

One day, when apparently he needed some extra words of affirmation, he asked, "Mom, which is more beautiful.....me, or a dirty truck?"
Me: "You."
Y: (beaming triumphantly) "I knew you'd say that!" I guess that is one way to get compliments....

"Mom, when I am really old - like 14 - and if I am still losing teeth, will the tooth fairy still bring me money?"

Y: "Mom, would you like to eat one of my boogers?"
Me: "Ummmmm.......NO!"
Y: "Well, I eat them sometimes." Excellent....just what I wanted to know.

"Did you know that when I was jumping on the trampoline, my butt had a heart attack?"

Y: "Mom, if you were already dead, but you could still open your eyes, would you just have to wink and then God would let you into Heaven?"
Me: "Huh?"
Y: "Well, Dad said one time that it was just a wink of an eye to get into Heaven."  Let me do some explaining, son!

This child is not only color-blind, but completely fashion-challenged. I allow him to choose his own clothes whenever we are home, but when we go out in public, I generally give him a choice between two outfits that I have pre-selected, which drives him crazy. One day, he was arguing with me about my choices, and he asked why I didn't just let him pick. (His choice that day consisted of a gray t-shirt, khaki shorts, and black soccer socks pulled up above his knees....I rest my case.) I said that I didn't want him to look like a child who had no one to take care of him, and he replied, "Maybe you could just always let me pick my own clothes, but you could just carry a big sign with you that has an arrow pointing to me that says, 'He is not an orphan!'" I guess I could do that.....or I could just pick a nice outfit instead! Here's another recent ensemble:

"Hey, when I am nineteen....I mean, if I'm not married yet....can we do this? Can we race....except that you and Dad can drive the van and I will ride my bike? Who do you think would win?"

"Mom, you can either agree to marry me instead of Dad, or I will have to cut your legs off." Now THERE'S the proper way to woo a potential spouse!

And....a few recent excerpts from his journal:

"If I was a looth tooth I would tell the grone up that is my Dad. I would tell him I felled wigely and loosh. My dad tolled me what would hapin. When I herd that I felt scard cause I didn't want to leve dad."

"When I grow up I will climb lots of trees and hav fun. When I grow up, I will mary Aquinnah. I would say she was lovelly every time I came back from work."

"I'm going to rite about Redwall. A yung mouse named Mithias turns to be a woriar and fights a seur rat named Cloony the skerge. I like it cause it has lots of fighting in it. It is cool how a baby can do a big thing. It makes me think that I can do big things too."

"My family is a big family. My mom is not like dad with her temper. Dad is very callm and mom on the other hand sometimes gets her temper up to a hundered. Sometimes when we did school she got her temper up to a hundered but she yuseuly didn't. Like when we were doing a History lesson but I think it was the lesson." (Nice save, dude!)

"If I was a lizard I would be a kumillyon and if any sterangers came I would stick my tung in there ear two times. I would use camuflog when I went to my cusuns house to play hide 'n seek for they couldn't see me. My owner would be my brother Sintay."

"If I were a toy I would be a Lego guy. I would ride in stuff that my owner made for me. I would be a ninja. I would have osome cars. I would save the world with my cool powers with help from the guys that have gas and wheels."

And my personal favorite: "The thing I hate about school is my Jernle and reading. Sometimes I wish I could just throw it away. But I get over it and just rite." This bit of whining was accompanied by this picture:
Just in case you're wondering, that is me to the right, ordering Y to write in his "jernle." He is wearing the saddest face ever at my cruel demands, while a tiny Sintay happily plays with his truck in the foreground, completely free of the oppressive restraints of dictator Mom. Life can be SO hard when you're seven!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Four Years Old

Sintayehu turned four on Monday. My little boy is growing up so fast! He has really turned a corner behavior-wise during the last few weeks too....he seems much more focused and settled and loving than he had been in quite a while. We still have a bad day every now and then, but we're no longer having rough spots constantly throughout each day. This kiddo is SO much fun when he's happy! He is learning to use his inside voice (a HUGE relief to our exhausted ears!), he is learning to ask nicely when he wants something instead of throwing things or slamming doors, and he is learning to talk through his feelings instead of throwing temper tantrums. His language skills are coming along, although he is still somewhat difficult to understand if you're not used to deciphering his speech! Some of his mis-pronunciations have made their way into our family lexicon:
  • "fosa" (sofa)
  • "sicky puck" (sippy cup)
  • "vay hop-hee" (very happy)
  • "Look! It's a chunka-munka!" (said about a squirrel that he thought was a chipmunk)
  • "Kank you!" (Thank you)
  • "asselpauce" (applesauce)
  • "jump-a-leen" (trampoline)
  • "pan-panks" (pancakes) The other night, I had mentioned that I was making "pan-panks" for supper, and he was quick to give me orders, "Don't put bwuebways (blueberries) in it, or I be fwustwated wis you!" :-)
  • "I 'cared o' sumping." (I'm scared of something. This is the latest excuse to get out of bed, although when pressed, he can never actually come up with anything that he is 'cared of, except maybe a vague-sounding "montuh" (monster.))
A few other Sintay-isms:
  • "Oh, blasted mushrooms!" He says this whenever things aren't going his way, usually several times a day. When we were on vacation earlier this summer, he and I had just walked down to the beach one morning when he threw his arms up in disgust and said, "Oh, blasted mushrooms!" "What's wrong?" I asked, to which he replied in an exceedingly whiny voice, "Moooooommmmm, I don' have my supah powahs wif me!" (He couldn't actually articulate what his super powers are....)
  • On our last day at the beach, I asked what his favorite part of vacation had been. He said that he liked swimming in the ocean and the pools. I asked if there was anything he hadn't liked. "Ummmmm......(thinking carefully).....yeah! I don' like tigahs eating me." Okay then! I hadn't realized that we'd had any tigers gnawing on my child while on vacation, but there you have it.
  • One day I was listening to praise music in my bedroom while folding laundry. Sintay came in and asked, "What dis song?" I told him that it was called Breathe, and he asked why. "Because it's saying that we need God like we need air, sweetie." Sintay: "Like a hump-back whale?" Huh?? But then, that's usually how conversations go with this kiddo.
Then there's the way he insists on walking around our street wearing swim goggles instead of sunglasses....charming, isn't he?

After supper Monday night, we had some cake and ice cream to celebrate his birthday. He was most excited about "blowing fire," but once the candles were extinguished, he immediately dove head-first into the cake. I guess we're just getting to the whole first-birthday-destroy-the-cake thing a few years later than usual!

The most amazing part of this birthday celebration, though, really had to do with Chris and Erica's trip to Ethiopia last week. They were able to spend a few days in Gambella, the region where Sintayehu lived. While there, they met his birth mom (A) and were able to give her a photo book that we had made of Sintay's first year with us. A was able to communicate to Erica how thankful she is that he is in America, where he has the chance to be safe and happy, how blessed she feels that he is being raised in a Christian family, and how much she loves him. It felt like such a gift on Sunday evening, to hear Erica's description of that meeting. It was even more beautiful, when on Sintayehu's birthday, Erica forwarded many new photos of his beloved first mama. He was overjoyed to see her again, although he wanted Erica to know in no uncertain terms that A was "MY Mommy A, NOT Ehkah's!" I am grateful beyond words to be able to have ways to keep in touch with our boys' first families.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

One Year Home

One year ago today, after approximately 33 hours of travel, we arrived in the USA with Sintayehu!

We've come a long way since then. We still have a long way to go, but we've overcome quite a few obstacles in the last year. So thankful for a God who redeems hard situations and makes something beautiful out of pain!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Remembering and Reconnecting

One year ago today, we landed in Ethiopia to bring our Sintay home. We spent 3 days stuck in the Riviera Hotel, waiting on his travel visa and getting acquainted with the A family: Michael, Mindy and their new daughter Alaysia. Mindy and I had connected the year before via e-mail after she had met my father-in-law, who was speaking at her church in Illinois. I had also been with her in Atlanta in March of last year at the Created for Care retreat.....as it turns out, on the very day that they received their referral for Miss Alaysia. Their case was a few weeks behind ours, but since our case was delayed at the Embassy level for a couple of weeks, we ended up in Ethiopia to pick up our kiddos at the same time. Really, it was a God thing all the way! We had some great conversations together, and connected on so many levels. Their sweet Alaysia was struggling with the transition, while Sintayehu was doing great, so we were able to spend some time lifting them up in prayer and walking the courtyard with them as they tried to calm their screaming daughter. Miss A seemed happier when Sintay was helping to entertain her, so we definitely logged some hours in that courtyard! Sometimes, some very strong friendships can be forged in the rough places....God is a master at bringing beauty from hard situations.


Ready to leave the Riviera for America! June 22, 2012

When I met Mindy again at this year's C4C retreat, she invited us to spend a weekend with them. We chose Father's Day weekend....just days away from our one-year anniversary of being together in Ethiopia. We had a wonderful time getting reacquainted and marveling at how much our little ones have changed over the intervening year. It was nice to meet their two sons as well, and we truly enjoyed being together again! Here are some photos from our weekend:
Miss Alaysia today....isn't she gorgeous?

Noah and Levi, Alaysia's big brothers

We took the short walk to a beautiful park right around the corner from Michael and Mindy's. It was a cool, cloudy day with a bit of rain every now and then, but that didn't stop my boys from getting soaking wet as soon as they saw the splash pad.

Mindy's children, clearly less crazy than mine, sat quietly (and warmly) on the sidelines, watching Y and S cavorting about in the water.
Saturday evening, we walked uptown to a great ice-cream/coffee shop, where we met another AGCI family, Ryan and Amber. I have known Amber's family since we were both little girls, and today she lives just a couple of miles from Mindy, who happens to be her close friend. It really is a small world sometimes! Alaysia and Sintay held hands all the way there....too cute!

The kids all walked around the fountain area in uptown, and of course my boys were the only ones who got completely soaked once again!
Amber, me and Mindy

After church on Sunday, we snapped some Father's Day photos of our men with the little ones.

I feel so blessed to get to parent our boys with David. He is such an awesome Daddy!

Sintayehu LOVED Mindy, and insisted on holding her hand whenever possible.
Aren't these two adorable?

We all look a lot more relaxed than in the photo taken a year ago!
After we left Michael and Mindy's, we drove to Indiana to stay with Jason and Lori, some more great friends. Lori and I became buddies in Sunday School, when we were four years old, and I still consider her to be one of my very favorite people. We've got lots of memories, good and bad, and I love seeing how God has changed and molded both of us during the last 30-odd years. We enjoyed seeing their new-to-them home, and the boys loved the pool in the backyard. Jason and Lori are expecting a little boy in September of this year, and we can't wait to meet him! Their girls, Lindsey and Elise were awesome with our wild boys....they'll do just great with a little brother!

Our weekend may not have been very restful, between the 16 or so hours of driving and staying up late talking for several nights in a row, but it was definitely a blessing!