Just Thursday

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These two moose, a mama and her youngster, are in my 94-year-old neighbor’s yard across the street. It’s spring time in Sandpoint, and these two have been hanging around the neighborhood for the past couple of weeks. They are lovely! Looking a bit mangey as they get ready to shed their winter coat, but otherwise healthy. And peaceful. They just meander, eat peoples shrubs, stand there and look at the dogs that bark at them and the cars that pull over to photograph them. And me as I walk outside to take out the garbage. It’s so cool! Not that they are to be trifled with. A friend here posted a video she shot in front of her house of two moose fighting. They rear up and kick their front legs at each other, much like an iconic girl fight, except that they are enormous and can kill a person or dog by striking them with those long front legs. I took this photo from behind the wall of my front porch, with a telephoto lens. ’cause I’m smart like that.

Almost two years home and really enjoying the rhythm of the family. Significant events of the past three months include moving our oldest son to the local Waldorf school (where he joins his little brother), and potty training our youngest. Both boys are working through their paces in Taekwondo, taking an occasional swimming lesson, going to birthday parties and play dates, improving at math, reading and all sorts of things. More importantly than any of that, is how they are getting to know themselves and be more at ease. We still have many challenges, but they are different, and more constructive than they were 18 months ago. The truth is, the really interesting stuff that I could write about, is too personal to my kids to be publicly shared. As they get older, our adoption story becomes in many ways more theirs than mine to tell. So it becomes complicated to decide what is and is not ok to write about. I’m working on that. All the kids’ language skills continue to improve, which means when emotional issues come up, they have a much broader means of communicating. This is huge for them, and also much easier for us parents to understand and be able to meet their needs. Yes, we still have fits of rage, but they are quite rare. And the kids are able to recover from them and express their feelings. Which, I know, is actually better than not having a rage in the first place. They have a lot of feelings to deal with, and sometimes just need to get them out. They are doing a beautiful, amazing job of it, and I’m so proud of them!

A revelation of the older boys patiently enduring our little one’s potty training has been their acknowledgement that things didn’t exactly go this way for them, when they were learning the same skill. Both remember being punished, sometimes severely, for accidents. Both feel that they got none of the patience and gentleness that Ellie has enjoyed (confession: I wouldn’t always call my attitude during potty training ‘patient!’). They didn’t get rewarded for doing it right. Their experience, according to their memories, was all stick and no carrot. And the stick part was really a stick, or a switch cut from a tree branch. The amazing, breakthrough thing is that they’ve been able to verbalize their frustrations. “I’m jealous that I didn’t get to be a baby here.” Things like that. We’ve included them in the rewards many times…like we had a rule in the beginning, if Ellie poops on the potty, EVERYONE gets candy! This increased Ellie’s group pressure, and let the boys share in her successes. But still, they’ve been feeling sad and a little angry, and a bit resentful towards their sister. So we’ve been talking that out, acknowledging feelings about it, processing, and moving forward. I wonder if they will always harbor that kind of resentment a little. Like siblings who, as adults, still see the baby of the family as the one who got all the breaks. In our case, Ellie won’t have any memory of her time before America, either good or bad. But I’m sure the boys will tell her, everything was easy for her. I also am keenly aware of their loss, because being Ethiopian is an amazing, beautiful thing. And although my sons’ experience early in life wasn’t great, they still lost the great parts of their cultural heritage when we took them away. They may grieve it for a long time, and we will be here to hold them, support them, help them search for answers when they need that.

Last weekend we built a little model of a ‘Sidama village,’ the boys and I.

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I had seen a similar project on some other adoptive Mom’s facebook post. So I shared the plan for creating our little structures, and then we went on a nature walk to gather materials. We spent a good part of the weekend putting it together. And in the productive time of sitting side-by-side, hands busy glueing things, my oldest son’s memories were triggered. Like what the doors looked like on his home and some of the others in his village. There were two versions, and I encouraged him to make both. Some had low wooden barriers at the bottom that, during the day, served to keep the chickens, and maybe other things like Snakes, out of the house. But each time a person went in or out, one had to step over this board. That memory was very clear to him. Others just had a door that swung upwards during the day and was propped up. We took the not-quite-finished model to school on Monday where Alex could share it with his friends, and continue to search for materials on their nature walks to complete the model. His friends were so affirming to him, they all loved the model and wanted to know more. In his Parent-Teacher conference this week, his teacher told me that he shared a lot about his village when he showed his classmates.

We recently celebrated Eliana’s third birthday.

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You know that song “Thank Heaven for Little Girls?” That’s how I felt on her birthday. The things she and her friends love, like tutus and pompoms and tea parties. They are just the sweetest! Guiding the development of small humans is amazing. It’s crazy that our femininity or masculinity is part of who we are from such an early age.

The week after Ellie’s party, she and I got to go to a princess tea party for her friends’ 4th birthday. Here’s Ellie in her tea party hat we made together!

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Is she not the funniest person? All coked up on sugar and femininity. My friend, who threw this party, really should be an event planner. The details were outstanding. Notice I only showed one photo of Ellie’s birthday party…there were no details to speak of. Maybe every year I’ll just post photos of Ellie’s friends’ birthday since they are so close together.

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At any rate, I am loving the girl stuff, and looking forward to things like dance classes in the coming years. I’m so glad that among our crew we got a girl.

The boys are at spring break ski camp this week. All day lessons every day, and the weather is beautiful and warm! I love that we live so close to ski resort and can take advantage of such opportunities. Just like that, my little boys are skiing black diamond runs. Awesome!

Happy Spring everyone. Sorry for the randomly strung together thoughts here, but that’s reflective of life right now!


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