Posted by: Kristin W | July 11, 2012

Our Amazing Little Guy


I am so impressed with this little guy.

His enthusiasm is unstoppable.  His smile is contagious.  His giggle is hysterical.

I have to admit, when we were in Ethiopia, I had serious doubts about this whole thing.  I wondered how on earth we would ever deal with these tantrums and carry on our normal lives.  I even emailed our social worker from Ethiopia and told her we were having serious problems.  She, of course, said kind words of encouragement, which made me think I hadn’t adequately described the level of hell we were in.  Then when we got home, we had this little guy who reminded me of a caged animal.  He would kick, cry, bite, and lash out in any way he thought might hurt us.

But today, he is a happy kid.  Truly happy.  He is funny.  He laughs.  He makes faces to make us laugh.  He tells us stories that he thinks are hysterical (like when he stood beside the fridge and jumped out so that S spilled his water on the floor).  I know there is sadness and grief somewhere inside, but most days, he’s the happiest kid I know.  Even when he gets in trouble, he ends up laughing.

I met this week with the principal of our kids’ elementary school.  I think we’ve decided to go ahead and send him to Kindergarten.  We realize that we may have to hold him back and do it twice, but it just seems like the best option right now.  He will be classified as an ESL student, but we are not the district’s ESL school, so he won’t be pulled out for any English instruction. The teacher will assist him in the classroom.  This seems like a complicated endeavor to me.  Let’s say she hands out a worksheet and asks the kids to circle words that start with a “B” sound.  Many Kindergarteners will struggle with the “B” sounds, but ours doesn’t even know what it means to circle something.  That seems tough to overcome in a class of 18-20 other kids.  But, we’ll give it a shot.  Everyone keeps telling me how quickly he’ll catch up.  But even if he doesn’t, I have a feeling he’ll just laugh about it.


Posted by: Kristin W | July 5, 2012

The New Americans

For those who didn’t see them on Facebook, our two new Americans celebrating their first 4th of July:

Posted by: Kristin W | July 4, 2012

A Different Perspective on July 4

So, today is the 4th of July.  Parades, watermelon, and fireworks.  But this year, I have a very different feeling about today, for so many reasons.

A and L were relinquished by their birth family on July 4.  One year ago today, someone (we’re not sure who) took them to the Dagu Relief Orphanage and told the director that the family couldn’t care for them any more.  From what A has told us, they took him into the room that shows in his referral photo where they gave him a bath, shaved his head, and changed his clothes.  He was scared.  He cried.  The paperwork that was filled out that week indicated that he was very scared.  And although little L can’t tell us, it must have been a shock to her to longer be breast-fed, but to have a bottle shoved in your mouth by a nanny you’d never seen before.

Fast forward 365 days.  Today, they will go to a parade.  They will eat watermelon.  And, if all goes well and no one freaks out, they will see their first fireworks show.  They will wear red, white and blue because they are proud American kids.  A has a Team USA jersey that he would wear every day, if I would be more prompt about doing laundry.  It amazes me how much their lives have changed in a single year.

As a mom, I choose to be happy for the 4th of July that we celebrate today.  I mean what greater story than one of immigrants, coming to this country for a better life?   But it doesn’t mean that I can forget everything that they went through a year ago.  That day will always be a part of their story, and I predict that I will always feel a touch of sadness on an otherwise celebratory day.  And there is also thankfulness, because on this special day, our kids took their first step toward becoming American citizens.

What a difference a year makes:

Posted by: Kristin W | June 7, 2012

Things I Want to Remember

I feel like our lives are being lived in fast forward.  Adopting older kids (I’m even putting L in this category since we didn’t get her as an newborn) means that you have a lot of “firsts” right away, and a lot of development that happens very quickly.  We have been home for three months now, and so much has changed so quickly.  L was eating stage 1 baby foods, now she is completely on table food (with the exception of a few bottles a day).  A couldn’t speak in English at all, now he can tell us stories about what happened at school today.  (That’s right, Miss Alex, watch out…he’s telling us everything!)  L couldn’t walk, now she’s running around the house chasing the cats.  A didn’t know what a book was, now he can practically “read” to us from his superhero beginner books, which he has memorized.  I remember when I was pregnant with S and everyone told me to enjoy it, that it all goes by so quickly.  They were right.  But in this case, even more so.  Because it’s all happening so fast, I want to remember the little things.  Here’s a (very) partial list:

  • L sucks her finger.  Not her thumb.  She has a callous on her finger where her top teeth rest.  Yes, it will suck to one day have to pay for braces, but it’s so stinkin’ cute right now.

  • A says “I love dat” more than any other phrase.  A song comes on the radio…”I love dat.”  I hold up an orange…”I love dat.”  I get out his belt in the morning…”I love dat.” (See next entry…)
  • A loves to wear belts.  Seriously, the kid for some reason relates belts to America.  Every morning, he wants to wear one.  With his shirt tucked in so everyone can see his belt.  So funny.  (BTW, not ideal when you’re in a hurry to potty.)

  • L is only ticklish under her chin.  I don’t think I ever met a kid whose feet weren’t ticklish.
  • A is fascinated by the sun.  He asks about it all the time.  “Sun hot?”  “Aeroplan fly up, get hot?”  “Sun sleep?”  I am still having trouble explaining the sun went behind a cloud.
  • A and L both sweat a lot.  Poor things are always hot.  (I know Dave will say it’s just because I don’t keep the air conditioning cold enough in my house…)  But A seems fascinated by the sweat, as if this is something that didn’t happen in Afar. He enjoys wiping his forehead and then wiping it on us.  Totally gross, but he seems so pleased with himself for producing it.  I’m not sure if it is the humidity that is different for them, but I know it was plenty hot in Afar, so they have to have experience with sweat, right?
  • A can already pick out his letter.  We learned this at Chili’s where there was a large “MARGARITA” sign over the bar.  “A for A___.”  “A for A___.”  So awesome.  (We did verify that he was pointing at the letter and not asking for an adult beverage.)
  • L doesn’t like bows in her hair.  Or headbands.  This is currently killing me.  A rare exception:
  • A thinks it is hysterical that E was scared of the baboons.  When we told him the story of feeding the baboons in Afar, E mentioned that she was scared.  “A no scared of baboons.  E scared of baboons?  HAHAHAHA!”  Now he brings it up regularly and points out to her that she is scared of baboons.  She regrets mentioning it.

Before we came home, I read so many posts that talked about how resilient these kids are.  But it’s more than that.  It’s like they are making up for lost time while hurrying to catch up.  Or maybe it’s just me who’s trying to catch up.

Posted by: Kristin W | June 6, 2012

Today’s Conversation

We haven’t really had a lot of awkward conversations about having kids of a different race.  Yet.  But today, I had a funny conversation with a four-year-old while waiting for E and A to finish swimming lessons.

Kid: Who’s that? (pointing to L who was in her stroller next to me)

Me: That’s L.

Kid: But who is she?

Me: She’s my baby.  And E’s sister (pointing to E in the pool).

Kid: But she’s not…you know…the same COLOR as you.

Me: Nope, she’s not.  She’s from Ethiopia.

Kid: I’m from California.  We moved here.

And then he proceeded to tell me the long story of his journey from CA and all of the snacks his mom packed for the long car ride.  But don’t worry.  They stopped to eat dinner at restaurants.

Anyway, the whole conversation took just a few minutes and was not incredibly remarkable.  Except for the fact that it was the first one.  That’s right, it’s the first time someone has actually mentioned the fact that my new kids don’t look like me.  I guess it’s not really something that comes up, I just thought it would come up more.  And I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.


Posted by: Kristin W | May 28, 2012

Stories From the Past

As A starts to develop more language, we are learning more about his past.  However, he still can’t really tell us a story without acting out and pantomiming a lot of parts.  So, as you can imagine if you’ve ever played charades, there are often a lot of wrong guesses about what he’s acting out.  Here’s an example:

This weekend, we took the kids to beach for the first time.  A has been to the pool and was excited about swimming.  And fish.  I asked him if he’d ever been swimming in the river in Afar (which was close to where he lived).  He said yes.  Then he proceeded to tell us a story (many parts acted out) about how he was swimming, a fish was swimming, he jumped into the water (done with a diving hand motion), and caught the fish in his mouth.  I was pretty sure that this was fiction.

This morning, I turned on an episode of Dinosaur Train for him to watch and he got all excited and acted out the whole thing again.  You see, he wasn’t talking about himself diving into the water and catching a fish in his mouth, he was telling me about when he saw the episode where the pteranodon dives into the water and catches a fish in his mouth.  Whoops!

The kids had a great time at the beach, even if no one caught a fish in their mouth.  It wasn’t because he didn’t try…

Posted by: Kristin W | May 19, 2012

I Pinned It (And Actually Did It)

So I have been trying to figure out what kind of mom I am.  I know, I’ve two kids for a while, so I should probably already know this, but it seems like time to reassess things.  Am I the fun mom?  Am I the one who always does crafty projects on playmates?  Am I the mom who lets her kids make whatever kind of mess they want?  (Ummm…no…to OCD to even really consider that one.)  Am I the mom who bakes cookies, volunteers with PTO, takes my kids to fun places or does extra science projects just for fun?

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m too much of the “I have stuff to do” mom.  Laundry, dishes, cleaning up, picking up, feeding the dog, etc.  I think that’s how my kids will remember me.  But, since I have three more months of leave before I go back to work, I’m going to try to do some fun stuff.  So I joined Pinterest.  I’ve pinned lots of stuff on a board that I named “To Do With Kids.”  That was months ago.  I haven’t done any of it.

Until now.

This week I made “calm down jars.”  They are lava-lamp inspired things.  I was hoping that when Andrew and S get A all riled up, I could use these to calm him down.  I had so much fun making them that I made extras.  They are basically bottles filled with water, glue and glitter.  You shake them up and the glitter floats around in a calming way until it settles at the bottom.  A lot of people use them as timers for time outs, which I figured might also be a good use.  Here they are…

So, how did they work out?  Fail.  A looked at one for about 4.7 seconds and moved on.  He hasn’t been in time out since I made them on Thursday (which is almost something worthy of a post of its own), so I haven’t tried them there, but as a calming device, they are not working.  However, L loves to roll them around on the floor, so not a total loss.  And E is giving one to a friend for her 8th birthday.  So, not a total loss.

For those interested, I used Voss water bottles, clear gel tacky glue, food coloring to tint the water, and ultra-fine glitter.  (Be sure to use ultra-fine, the regular glitter sinks too fast.  I know because I used it on the first two.)  Use warm water so the glue dissolves and use more glitter than you think you should need.  I tried a few with glitter glue, but they needed extra glue anyway, and it was harder to dissolve.  I glued the lids on with super-glue, but if you are a crafty mom, you probably have a glue gun.  I’m not that mom.






Posted by: Kristin W | May 18, 2012


Before we adopted A and L I did a lot of reading about “conspicuous families.”  It’s pretty obvious when we walk into the grocery store that our kids are not biologically our kids.  Adoption is obvious with us.  It’s out there.  People notice.

But I forget.

People look at us in public, but I forget why they are looking at us.  My kids are SO stinking cute that I just assume they are looking at them because they are so gorgeous!  (Or maybe it’s the super-hero costume?)

Everyone comments on how pretty L is (which is true).  I’m not sure if they just think that’s a safe way to start a conversation with me about her, or if really she is just so beautiful that they feel the need to express it.  Today, I was strapping her in her car seat (on the driver side) and a woman was actually tapping on the back windows on the opposite side of the car and telling her how pretty she is.  REALLY?  A stranger tapping on my window because my kid is so cute?

I have been surprised, though, that most people seem to assume that she is, indeed, my daughter.  I figured I would be mistaken for the babysitter or the friend.  But they seem to know.


Posted by: Kristin W | May 16, 2012


We have now had both of our kids tested for development, and though you might be interested in the results.

First, the good news…L:

L had an assessment a few weeks ago by the Children’s Home Society Early Steps program.  She passed with flying colors.  She was ahead of the norm for gross motor skills, right on track for self-help/adaptive skills, social/emotional skills, and academic/cognitive skills.  She was slightly delayed in her communication, but the testers attributed that to the change in language and they had no concerns for future language development.  They were also not overly concerned about her hesitation to eat foods with more texture and told me to just keep trying.  This is fabulous news.  I continue to be amazed that a baby relinquished at two months of age, and spending eight months in orphanage care does not have more delays.  She is now walking full-time, is picking up sign language, and eating more and more foods.  I really never imagined that we would have so few areas of concern with her.

Now, the not-so-great news…A:

Today we had an appointment to have Ayub tested for Kindergarten readiness.  In our ongoing attempt to determine where the best place for him next fall will be, we decided to enlist the help of someone not affiliated with either the preschool that wants to keep him another year or the elementary school that wants to enroll him.  Andrew took him to the appointment today and it was a train wreck.  He was in one of his super-hyper, bounce-off-the-walls, babble and singsong, act crazy moods.  Basically, she didn’t even do the assessment, but told Andrew that she could tell by looking at him that he is not ready for a classroom.  This is somewhat unfortunate, because we’re getting great feedback at preschool that he is doing well in the school environment.  But, we will probably lean toward giving him another year of preschool before throwing him to the public school system.

My own assessment:

I continue to be amazed at these two.  Considering all they’ve been through and all they’ve experienced, they are doing fantastic.  I read all the books with the horror stories, and was prepared to have a knife-weilding, bedwetting, food-hoarding, grief-stricken lunatic living with us.  While we’ve had a few rough bumps, for the most part, they are settling in well, attaching wonderfully, and adapting great to their new culture.  It is truly amazing to watch.


Posted by: Kristin W | May 1, 2012

So How Am I Doing?

People keep reaching out asking how we’re doing.  Honestly, most days, I think we’re doing pretty well for being home just shy of two months.  Andrew described our lives the other day as part train wreck/part fairy tale.  I would agree.  And I think the fairy tale days are increasing while the train wreck days are decreasing.  So, here is a stream of consciousness to catch you up on what’s going on.

Names: So you’ll recall that I was stuck on this topic last time.  I think my frustration was that I felt like I had to either keep both Ethiopian names or change both to American names.  Then one day I suddenly realized that I didn’t have to treat them both the same in this regard.  TA-DA!  We are calling the 5-year-old by his Ethiopian name and calling the baby by her American name.  (As a note, her Ethiopian name did not sound good with our last name, which is why we agonized so long over this anyway.)  Also interesting is that many of the Ethiopians we have met here in town encouraged us to change their names and give them American names.  I think that helped us decide.  This is a very controversial topic in the adoption world, and I guess we found a way to straddle the fence and not land on either side.  From now on, you’ll see A and L (instead of H) when referring to the kids.

Birthdays:  Both kids have now celebrated birthdays in the US.  And I am realizing that two birthdays and Easter within a month’s time is a lot of shopping, organizing, preparing and wrapping for one mom!  Anyway, a few pics from the happy occasions:

A was already familiar with Thomas when he came home, so he had a Thomas birthday.  Very excited about “Thomas the Baboul.”


Food:  We continue to struggle here, but they are at least getting their basic nutritional needs.  We eat a lot of fruit and bread/pasta.  Hardly any meat.  No veggies.  But, both kids had gained weight and grown at their last doctor appointment, so I guess it’s good enough.  We are also struggling with getting L to drink from a sippy cup.  We’ve tried several brands, but she’s just not having it.

School:  A started preschool.  He loved it so much on day 1 that he was up and ready to go at 6:08 on day 2.  We don’t really have the language to explain to him that school doesn’t open until 7:30.  “School tenya.”  He continues to be excited and we’ve heard only good reports about him.  He has participated in collaborative play with others, sits quietly during circle time, thrives on the routine, and has even napped on a few occasions.  We were planning on starting him this summer, but it was clear that he wanted to go now, and I think it has been a great decision.  We are still debating whether to start him in K next year or give him another year at preschool.

Big Kids:  The older kids continue to do great with the little kids and fighting with each other nonstop.  E loves to help with bath time, and S is great with high-energy play.  We have tried to make individual time with each of them, and I actually think they are adjusting fairly well.  E had mono, so was home from school all last week, feeling terrible.  But still, it was nice to have lots of time to snuggle and read with her.  This week, we’ll be attending a luncheon honoring S for being Youth Volunteer of the Year at his school.  He is an amazing kid.

Past:  We are beginning to learn more about the kids’ past.  A is able to tell us some stories, like how a dog gave him the scar on his leg.  It is a lot of acting out and using only a few common words, but it is fascinating to hear more about what their lives were like.  I can’t wait till he has even more language and can fill in some gaps.  One of the amazing things about adopting an older kids is unveiling the layers little by little.  Some of it is heartbreaking and some of it funny, but it is always wonderful to have these little tidbits of information.

And now, just some total cuteness for those of you who have not already seen these on Facebook:

So many of my blog friends are traveling soon (or right now).  I’m so excited for all of you to have these same experiences.  Safe travels and can’t wait to hear more.


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