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Easter sweetness

I LOVE Easter. Primarily because the whole hope of the Christian faith rests on the event of this day: That we worship a risen Lord. That God came to walk among us in the person of Christ, lived and was tempted and tried and betrayed and tortured and everything else, and then conquered death. I loved this essay about Christ’s resurrection that was published on Huffington Post for Easter this year.

Here are my sweet kids on Easter. Baby girl LOVES her biggest brother.


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Then they decided to get goofy…

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I love these kids! Ok wait, then we had an Easter egg hunt. Coloring Easter eggs is almost as much fun as hiding them. Just saying. And how about the miracle of finding an Easter egg? As evidenced by this look of utter amazement:



(Sorry about the tacky shoe choice…Ellie paired her tennies with this Easter dress. The better for speed while hunting eggs.)



Check out this one…he walked past it twice:



Here is the reveal on the last egg, a small green one exactly the color of the emerging Daylillies in which it was hidden. Kids didn’t have a chance!
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We had such a fun time with our friends. So much so that after dinner we started a fire in the fire pit outside and stayed up late hanging out and talking while the kids put on plays for our entertainment using various props from the garage. A very happy start to Spring!


Just Thursday


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.


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.


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!


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!


Today has been a day that included the full spectrum of parenting: Snuggles, “I missed you Mommy”‘s after school with hugs, laughter, breakfast-making, lunch-making, dinner-making, school meetings, big decisions, reading time, potty training, homework help…AND…”I hate you. I wish you weren’t my parents. You are mean.” refusal of eye contact, banging on things, tears, defiance, rage, hyperventilating. And a fairly rapid return to calm and peace. Trying to celebrate the fact that the kid who was raging put words to his feelings. That’s a step in the right direction. and that he didn’t have a complete meltdown. In my weakness, however, I find it hard to celebrate the “I hate you”‘s and the “I wish you weren’t my parents.” I always take a moment to remind him that neither of us has a choice in that…that I’m his mom and that’s that, and while he can walk away when he’s 18, up until that point he lives in my house and follows my rules (including the one that says banging and trying to break cabinets is not allowed.) I started to try to point out that if I hated him I would never challenge him to practice his reading homework, because I wouldn’t care if he learned or not. Then I reminded myself how useless it is to communicate with a raging child, and decided to let it go.

I’m tired. And ready to start again tomorrow!

Here’s a video I took of Eliana on Friday night. I have watched it several times, partly to try to figure out exactly what words she was putting to the tune of The First Noel. She was all wound up and having the best time with her friend. Watch for the moment toward the end when her dear little friend holds up a hand and says “Stop!” Doesn’t every girl need a friend like that? Someone who’s willing to be a supportive sidekick while you parade around, full of yourself, and then to be honest with you when you start to get annoying? I hope they stay close and we get to watch this itty bitty bff relationship develop. Ellie’s just finally at the age where she is enjoying scampering off to play with a friend. It’s awesome!

And now it’s time for an episode of Downton Abbey on the Kindle and a good night’s sleep.

A New Year

Just last week I read a desperate message from a new mom, three months into the adoption of a 9-year old kid. She was at a low point, and described the horrors she was living with as this child worked through his desperation, frustration, and brokenness in what is possibly the most safe environment he’s ever been in, his new family. The rejection, the harmful behaviors, the manipulation, the gross things, the loud things, the most shocking things kids can think of to do, to try to rattle the new cage and see what it’s made of. My heart broke for this mom. I don’t know what will happen with this family, but what I thought about was how deep down, somewhere deep that may never show itself, this kids is so GRATEFUL for her consistency, for her reliability, for the safety she represents. Afraid to trust it, so afraid, but so thankful for the glimmer of hope that it might possibly be real.

In Coming to Grips with Attachment, by Katharine Leslie, the author talks about three months being the safety and security period. This is where the child finds out whether they are in a safe place. It happens with newborn infants, and it happens with “newborn” adopted children (meaning children of any age who newly enter a family). Kids who have been through trauma are pretty aggressive about testing the validity of that safety. Ask any adoptive parent and you might just be amazed by what lengths their kids went to in their testing process! Ms. Leslie goes on to say that the next year is the ‘falling in love’ period, where real love develops among the family members. That can only happen when everyone feels safe and comfortable in their roles, so the drama of the first three months (or however long it takes) is sort of inevitable. I know in our family we saw a significant behavior change begin to take place around the three month mark. And thank God, because I wasn’t sure how much more I could handle. I felt that same sentiment in this poor momma’s words on the screen, more so, as the things she’s dealing with now are more extreme than what I endured with my three. I didn’t feel I had advice to offer, but told her about the above-mentioned book, and told her I’d be praying for her, specifically that she’d start to see that shift happen. There is such huge potential for relationship with a newly adopted child, but boy does it take time and testing. I so hope that she finds a fulfilling mother-child relationship with a healing version of her child sometime very soon.

So I was thinking about this as the year turned, our second holiday season together. As we returned from a wonderful Christmas week traveling with our three kids to visit their grandparents and cousins. I am so proud of my kids! They are a pleasure to travel with, they are fun to share the world with, they are neat people to hang out with. They have worked hard to get to this place, where they are comfortable enough to relax and enjoy themselves. We have all worked hard at it, and the hard work is paying off. And I’m so grateful for my family!

We took an epic bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge on our trip to San Francisco. That was CRAZY…crowded, overstimulating, far too close to a lot of car traffic and even more foot traffic, but so cool!

Grammy and Poppy were such troopers! As was Melkam, the youngest rider on two wheels, and Ellie, not pictured, who did it in a bike trailer where she slept through most of the adventure.

We were missing a couple of our group, but here’s the crew who went! Grammy and Poppy were such troopers! As was Melkam, the youngest rider on two wheels, and Ellie, not pictured, who did it in a bike trailer where she slept through most of the adventure.

Our boys played beautifully with their cousins and watched way too many movies, which they loved. Grammy was great to stay with Ellie when she napped so the rest of us could get out and experience San Francisco, which means enjoying a lot of Asian noodles. We rode cable cars, visited parks, did a little shopping for the right fit of jeans for one of our boys. We visited Grace Cathedral for their Christmas Eve service, and the life-sized gingerbread house in the lobby of the Fairmont hotel. Grammy and Poppy surprised us with a wonderful gift, tickets to see The Lion King, our kids’ first experience with live theater. It was spectacular! The costumes, the music, the sets. so cool. I just felt grateful for the whole trip.

With the cousins, all dressed up for a party

With the cousins, all dressed up for a party

Sunrise over the city from our window at Grammy's house!

Sunrise over the city from our window at Grammy’s house!

And then we came home and still had a week to enjoy together. Now a year ago, I probably still would have dreaded that (what am I going to DO with the kids for five extra days??). This time, I really had fun with them. Genuinely. I know, I surprise even myself!

We went on a snowy hike one morning with some friends and I marveled at how far this boy has come.


This one was ‘hypervigilant’ when he came home…his brain was spending a lot of time worrying about safety, trying to make sure there were no surprises, and watching out for everyone and everything around him. When we went on walks or hikes, the rest of the kids would run ahead and play, and he’d hang back near the adults, feeling more a part of our group than theirs. It was sad, and a complicated problem…encouraging him to go play wasn’t helpful. He’d just worry that he was doing something wrong, or that the adults were making other plans that we didn’t want him to hear. That hypervigilant brain on overdrive. As we walked last week, with some boys who have become good friends, I was overjoyed to see him run ahead, a big smile on his face, and to adventure with the rest of the group. I mean, look at that face! Open, happy, relaxed. I love it. He was laughing out loud, climbing up things, getting too close to the icy water’s edge. Being a little boy!  Really, really warmed my heart and made me so proud of him! And also proud of the work we’ve done as a family, because it’s the boring, daily stuff that creates a sense of security. The boring daily stuff every day for a year and a half. That’s what it took for this kid to spend half of a walk letting go and letting himself be free. He did hang back during the second half, began caring for the toddlers and acting like an adult. And that’s fine, that’s part of who he is (and a part I love, this caring, sensitive leader), but it really made my heart leap to see him allow himself a little abandoned joy. I hope there’s more and more of this in the future.




boys on a log

boys on a log

My toddler is another story right now. She spent almost this entire walk in a backpack on my back screaming in my ear. It was rather hard to enjoy, I must say. Didn’t want down, didn’t want up, didn’t want snacks, etc. When we got home and finally got her calmed down I asked her why she cried through the whole walk. She said, “I didn’t like the walk.” Got it. That’s what I thought. It’s the phase she’s in. But darned if she isn’t cute as a button!

sorry about the fuzzy photo!

sorry about the fuzzy photo!


Ode to Dog

Last Saturday I started writing this post. It began like this:

“Only a couple of weeks after his 12th birthday, Noah is dying of cancer.”

Noah is my dog. My beloved companion, beautiful Vizsla, our first child (and only child for ten years of our marriage), running partner, fellow adventurer, faithful protector. Perhaps most importantly, he has helped teach my kids about love over the last year and a half. We nearly put him to sleep on Saturday. It was an absolutely wretched weekend.

The short story is that after several tests to determine the cause of a strange variety of symptoms over the past couple of weeks, a chest Xray on Friday revealed what the vet described as a classic picture of metastatic cancer in his lungs. We were devastated. We picked him up that night and he was terribly, terribly sick. He hadn’t eaten during the 24 hours he’d been on IV fluids. I was encouraged when I got him to eat scrambled eggs at home that night. Saturday morning I had trouble waking Noah from a deep sleep. I thought he was dead or in a coma. I’m not kidding, he was that out of it. But he did wake up after a minute, and slowly that day he started to get a little better. Eating and drinking at various intervals, sleeping a lot. But we were going through the process of saying goodbye. My husband and I were a wreck, crying at the drop of a hat, neglecting our kids’ requests to play games or have friends over, resenting their neediness. The news was so sudden and such a shock to me that I couldn’t quite get there…making that terrible decision. I just wanted another day.

2010, hanging out on the boat with my two favorite boys in the world at the time: My husband and my dog. We all loved that boat and being on the lake.

So we waited a day. We had some family photos taken of us on the porch with Noah in them (with enough makeup to cover my swollen eyes). We created a concrete garden stone from a kit and pressed his paws into it to memorialize him. We tried to find ways to say goodbye.

By the end of the day on Sunday he had improved quite a bit. But it was Monday morning when we saw a drastic difference. He was alert, interactive, wagging his tail and wanting to snuggle, back at his post beside the high chair, waiting not-so-patiently for Eliana to drop something. He was finally hungry, really hungry! We were perplexed, relieved. I took him in that the afternoon to have the catheter removed from his leg…the one they left in in case we brought him back for the deadly injection. We got a prescription for prednisone, which should help with pain and inflammation for the time being, and which they tell me may actually have an impact on the cancer itself.

Maybe we’ve bought ourselves a few weeks with him, maybe longer, it’s impossible to say. What I do know is that we did some serious grief processing over the weekend and it wasn’t pretty! So now I have a dog with cancer. For now he seems like he may have a few more happy days in our family, and we’ll take them.

But it does prompt me to write a post to remember him by (Perhaps more for me than for the listening audience). My sister did this once, the year before her dog had to be put down, and I always intended to do the same, to capture memories of a beloved pet. So here it is:

CH Bitteroot’s Bellwether Captain Noah

My husband and I got Noah about a year after we got married. I won the argument over which breed…I was not going to be cleaning up Bernese Mt. Dog hair in the apartment, and we didn’t have enough room for a dog that size. I knew I was going to win that argument…I had planned on getting a Vizsla since meeting my first V puppy while still in college. I was very determined.

This is not Noah, but this is what a newborn Vizsla looks like. I didn’t get the chance to meet him at that age!

Noah was 12 weeks old when we had him flown to SFO from Spokane airport. I picked him up out of the travel crate and he wrapped his paws around my neck and snuggled in for a very intense hug. He rode home curled up on my lap. I was smitten!

Our life in San Francisco was a sweet one for Noah. He got to come to work with us most days. He played every day at a local dog park or went on long walks or runs with me through the beautiful Presidio Eucalyptus woods. On the weekends we often went on ‘Vizsla walks,’ meeting fellow Vizsla owners in the area for hikes through some of the amazing national park system and beaches in Northern California. It was not unusual for there to be a pack of twelve or more Vs; they are very social pack-oriented dogs and they loved running together at full tilt. It was a beautiful experience. He was an integral part of our daily exercise and the reason we explored so much of the Bay Area’s incredible park system and beaches.

Noah’s protective instincts showed themselves at an early age. When he was five months old we were leaving our office in Emmeryville one evening (this was well before Emmeryville was a nice place to live or work). A suspicious-looking character approached us in the parking lot and Noah put himself between me and the stranger and growled at him. The first time we ever heard him growl. It was pretty cute…he was far from scary at that age.

After a couple of years, Noah moved with us to Washington DC. He and I both hated that move at first. It was August, and unbearably hot. We moved for Charles’s job, and I was job searching for three months after we arrived. Noah and I spent a lot of time together during that three months, trying to get our bearings and find relief from the heat. We began to discover Washington’s impressive park system and made some new friends, first through the Vizsla community.

Noah on the left, sweet friend Emma on the right.

Before long we moved to a house in Northern Washington DC, just a block or so from one of the entrances to Rock Creek Park. I ran or walked with Noah on the trails almost every day. And even though I was warned not to go in there alone or I’d end up like Chandra Levy, I always felt relatively safe with Noah at my side. Although sometimes he was far from my side, exercising the over-abundant deer in the park. In our house in DC there was a dog door in the basement. I would regularly hear Noah bound down three flights of stairs, bump open his door, and then lay on the top of the slope in the back yard to sun himself. He loves the sun. Any source of heat really, but the sun in particular. He looked like the king of his domain out there…so happy and content.

Looking handsome in our garden in Washington, DC.


While he was highly trainable in many ways, I never succeeded in training Noah to walk nicely on lead, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. He pulled like a maniac, except on a show lead. I just tended to prefer places where we could enjoy off-leash walks and less yanking. He also has loved to roll in dead things all his life. Couldn’t be happier…the stinkier the better. Two memorable rolls come to mind: the remains of a dead seal at Ocean Shores while visiting my parents, and the remains of a dead racoon in a field near my friend’s house. You can’t imagine how horrific. At times it seemed the only solution would be to just burn the dog. But we bathed and scrubbed and always forgave him in the end. Noah couldn’t have cared less.

Not a very nice habit for such a gentleman. You see, back in California, the owner of Noah’s sire had convinced us to enter him into a show when he was six months old. He won best of opposite sex to best in sweepstakes (this means something to some people), and then went on to earn his championship on the East Coast after we moved to Washington.

Looking awkward and uncomfortable as his owners, not knowing what to do in a dog show photo. But very proud. This handler’s name was Nancy Brown. She took on quite a project when she agreed to handle Noah for his first show, but she did a great job!

What a stunning guy, no? This is a shot of Noah from a later show, handled by Pat Malan, a Giant Schnauzer breeder and show handler.

You wouldn’t know it from those photos, but he was very unruly. Very. When I took him to puppy school he was the one in the room that made all the other puppies look like nice, trainable dogs. I just knew everyone was thinking, “Well at least my puppy isn’t as bad as THAT puppy!” He was completely disruptive. Young Vizslas have an unbelievable amount of energy. But he did learn his lessons pretty well.

I titled this shot “I’m Too Sexy.” This is in our sun room in Washington DC. Noah and I loved that light-filled room with windows on three sides.

We also did a little field training. Just outside the DC metro area there are some amazing places for upland game.

Noah sired two litters while we lived on the East Coast, as we dabbled in and were tolerated by the true enthusiasts of showing, training and breeding dogs. It was a pleasure to see his beautiful puppies go on to light up each of their new families. Here’s a shot of Noah with some of his kids on our last group walk before moving to Sandpoint, Idaho:

All the ones with lolling tongues (1st, 3rd and 5th from the left) are Noah’s kids. Hilarious that he passed that trait on to them! Noah is on the far right.

Our move to Sandpoint in 2005 was a bit of a homecoming for Noah; he was born in Kingston Idaho. We visited the family we bought him from not long after we arrived. Noah and I set about finding our new hiking trails, and making friends through fellow dog owners. In fact, we have met some of our very best friends through Noah, both in DC and here in Sandpoint. Although the local parks in our new small town were ‘unenlightened’ when we arrived (lots of NO DOGS ALLOWED signs), we were able to find wonderful trails, a dog beach, and plenty of fun to be had in the wild west. And our lake is such a great place to swim in the summer! Noah took to flinging himself off the end of docks, or the bows of boats; the bigger the splash, the better.

His ‘game for anything’ attitude has always been a source of joy for us. Noah was like a marine for most of his life. You’d say his name and in a split second he was at your service, sitting in front of you with a look that said, “Yes sir? Reporting for duty sir!” He wanted to go anywhere with us, and was fearless about new experiences. The elevator, the airport, the boat, yes sir! He would get in a car with anyone, ready for the next adventure.

Caught airborne while running on a trail in Sandpoint. A way I will always remember him!

Noah’s hearing and alertness also were a pain at times. He developed a bad habit of ferociously responding to the mailman who pushed mail through the slot in our front door in Washington, DC. He would hear him coming and start barking, and when the mail emerged through the slot, he would grab the bundle and fling it into the house. Sometimes our mail ended up scattered down the hall. Never chewed, just violently tossed. Many accumulated hours of watching the mailman retreat from the house after the delivery seemed to teach Noah two things: 1) That he was winning the battle against an intruder, and 2) That mail carriers could be identified by a specific uniform. To this day, on walks around the neighborhood, a mail carrier in uniform gives him pause. He doesn’t do anything but stop and notice, but I’m sure he’s thinking, ‘I’ve got to keep an eye on that one.’

But he was also a source of protection and comfort to me, especially when Charles had to travel. And there were years where he traveled a lot. I never felt scared sleeping alone in the house with my faithful dog present.

One of those times, after we’d moved to a ground-floor apartment in Sandpoint, there was an attempted break-in in the middle of the night while Charles was away in Asia. I was awakened by Noah’s ferocious barking, and I saw the shadow of a person pass by the window. Despite the sound of a scary dog inside, the guy returned a few minutes later, methodically going to each window and door. Noah followed his every move, barking like a maniac. I called 911 and the craziest thing happened; the dispatcher said this to me: “I’m sorry but I don’t have any officers available right now.” I remember how my heart sank in that moment. I was watching someone on the other side of the blinds try to pry open a window. The dog was furious and ready to do battle. After a couple of minutes, a squad car came speeding across the parking lot, slammed on the breaks, and the cop jumped out and tackled the guy who was on top of a garbage can prying at the window. Turns out the 911 dispatcher did report the call, she just failed to tell me that. After they arrested the guy, the cop came to the door to talk to me. Noah, who had been completely amped up for twenty minutes, recognized him as a good guy, and turned into the welcoming committee, bringing the cop a toy and going into a full body wag. “That’s a great watch dog you’ve got there,” the cop told me. I know, I thought, he’s the very, very best.

Noah running in the K9 keg pull during Sandpoint’s winter carnival in 2010. His bait? Me! Charles would hold him back while I started running away from him just before the starter said ‘Go.’ He will follow his Mommy anywhere! I think he won 2nd place for his class that year, and we took home several great prizes.

There’s a common thread through the majority of Noah’s life: ours was a family without children. We wanted children, prayed for babies, read a million books and ran what felt like a million tests. We had unexplained infertility, and struggled with that for nine years. Noah was the willing recipient of our parental love and affection; the only child. It was important to have a place to channel some of that maternal energy. My way was to take the best care of my dog I knew how. For my husband, Noah has been his first dog ever. Despite wanting pets as a child, it was never allowed because of allergies in his family. He has loved Noah ferociously.

All of our lives changed dramatically a year and a half ago, when we adopted three children from Ethiopia.

Noah was already in his golden years when we exploded the family structure with three loud, energetic foreigners who were not just here for a visit. The baby bugged him, stepped on him, invaded his bed, played in his water bowl. He was not thrilled at first, but he took it all in stride. The boys had screaming rage fits every day or so in the first three months of homecoming. Noah dropped several notches in priority in terms of my time or ability to meet or exceed his needs. Despite all this, within six months he had come to not only accept, but love his expanded pack. He handled the change with impressive grace, and he played a critical role in welcoming these frightened, mistrusting children that I had never considered: Noah was a non-threatening model for love and affection.

Alex, our oldest, quickly became a big fan of Noah. He brought him to show and tell in 1st grade, and began walking him all by himself in recent months.

2011. Welcoming a snuggle from a boy who really needed some uncomplicated love.

Noah has brought so many gifts to our family. He’s been a pain, a joy, and everything in between. He has made me burst with pride, shrink in embarrassment, burn with anger, and roll with laughter. He has shown me that particular joie de vivre that only a dog knows how to live out, and that a Vizsla knows especially well. Noah represents an era in my marriage, the Before Kids era, which is proving to be so different from the After Kids era. Having him here now has been a strong thread to that past that I’ve so cherished. But the time is coming to say goodbye. Oh the agony of falling in love with a faithful dog and knowing that their lives are typically little more than a decade; a block of time, a portion of our own history. That someday, with a breaking heart, we will have to say goodbye.

To my beautiful, sensitive, rambunctious boy: When I can see in your eyes that you are suffering too much, that you are ready, we will do the impossible and let you go. For today, I’m so grateful for the extra hours of your loving and faithful presence in our family.

By Alex (and Mom)

Awhile back, when we were reading a book from the library called When Africa was Home, my oldest son, Alex, asked me, “Why don’t we write a book?”  Today he has school off, and I’ve invited him to be a guest writer on the blog. He would prefer this time that I ask questions and he answer. Someday soon, he’ll write the whole post!

Hi, I’m Alex and this is my sister, Ellie. She’s a monster!

I like to bug her and make her scream. It’s fun! You should try it with your baby sister. Just kidding!

Ellie is really cute and she loves to eat strawberries.

This is my mom and Ellie. They are really silly.

This is a story about coming home to America.

K: What do you remember about going to the airport in Addis Ababa to fly to America?

A: We went in the taxi, then we drove all the way to the airport, then we waited for the plane to come.

K: Do you remember the food we had in the airport, or having to rest on the floor while we waited?

A: Yes. We had some peanuts. I was really bored and scared. I was scared of you guys.

K: Then what happened?

A: Then the plane came, and the lady let us in. And we got to be in the plane, we had to wait in a long line.

K: Was the plane what you expected?

A: I didn’t really know we were going in the plane. I didn’t understand the taxi driver…I thought he was talking to you guys. (we had had the taxi driver translate expectations to the kids about what was going to happen…guess that was useless!). The plane was a lot bigger than I thought. I liked having my own seat, and being able to watch movies.

K: What else do you remember?

A: We went in three planes, two small and one big. I remember sleeping in the plane and the lady woke us up when we were at the airport. Then friends came and picked us up and we had snacks.

K: What would you tell a kid who was getting ready to come to America and was feeling scared?

Don’t be scared! It’s fun, and you will learn lots of new things. You will learn to like your parents. It takes a really long time, and you can watch movies in the plane, and you might have to do three planes or four planes. It’s really a long drive, a taxi comes and picks you up. Don’t be scared. It’s fun to move to America. In the plane the food is not that good. And you have to have peanuts and sparkling water, the sour kind. And your ears hurt from the plane going. the server comes and picks your plate up after you are done eating, and there are a LOT of people on the plane and you have to sit with somebody.

K: What was your favorite thing when you first came home?

A: We ate homemade tortillas in the middle of the night when we woke up. The next day we met some friends. Grandpa and Nana came over with their friends. You guys showed us around. Grandpa took us up to Schweitzer and showed us the snow. Then Grandpa and Nana left. Then you guys took us up to Schweitzer and you teach us how to ski. Then Grammy and Poppy came to keep Ellie with them so we could ski. Learning to ski was one of my favorite things. I like summer because you can go swimming and make sand castles and you can go on the boat and go tubing fast. You can jump off the boat into the water. And there are sailboats and speedboats and regular kind of boats. And we have chickens and we have a dog named Noah and we had five chickens and one of them got sick and died. Now we have four chickens. Two spotted ones and two light colored ones. We used to have one black one but she died. And Noah is our dog and he’s really nice, he does not bite and he’s friendly.

K: When you first met him (our dog, Noah) were you scared of him?

A: Yes. I just kept petting him and knowing he is not scary.

K: Do you remember being frustrated when you first came home when no one could understand you?

A: Yes. I felt angry. I wanted to go back to Ethiopia. Learning things made me feel better…riding a bike, going to school, learning to ski, going to the beach.

K: So, just getting used to your new life?

A: Yes.

Now here’s a story from Alex from when he lived in Sidama, Ethiopia:

First we went in the garden and went to pick some coffee cherries. Then we let them dry, then we stepped on them with our bare feet. They get dry pretty fast. Then you put them in something you hold like a basket, and they toss and catch them to get the sun heat. if we need more we go get more. Then you cook them. you can eat them or you can make coffee out of them. We usually make coffee out of them. It’s really fun to make coffee, I like coffee. No one really knows about teas. No one drank tea in Sidama. A boy his dad was leaving a big coin on his table and a really small boy picked it up and ate it. And then he couldn’t breathe so he suffocate and he died. His dad tried to help him. We went to church. When you come from the market, our house is really close to the market. When it gets rainy people just come in our house and it’s really loud. And sometimes we don’t let the people in becuase their shoes are really dirty and they just still come in. When you go to market, the big market, when you go far away from your house to market a trolly comes to pick you up. For little kids you don’t have to pay money for it. Trolly looked like a flat trailer and there were horses that pulled it. There wasn’t anything to hold on. It was really fun to go fast! Sometimes we go to that big market when our wassa is not ready (in our garden) and we get wassa. I don’t really remember what else. And we used to have chickens. And we used to have two pigs. They were not that fat. We didn’t eat them. They were like the size of Noah (our dog).

K: What were your chores in Sidama?

A: We had to clean the pig’s pen and the chicken house. We had to fill their water up and make sure they had enough food to eat.

K: Who cleaned the pigs pen with you?

A: My brothers. I had eight brothers and sisters. All together if you count moms and grandma it was twelve of us in my family. of the kids, the oldest was like an adult, he could drive. Maybe he was 17, he lived with us sometimes, but not always. Then a girl she was 16. Then the second youngest girl was seven years old and she was older than me, her name was Genet. There were two more boys, one was sick and younger than me. He had rash all over his head I think his name was Zachariah. He was older than Melkam. The other boy was older than me. Then me, then Melkam was 3. And we had a two-year-old boy. Then we had grandma and mom. Mom had six sisters, six aunts. One had two babies. The others didn’t have any babies, but one was pregnant.

One day when my oldest brother was sleeping in the house and I came from a friend’s house to wake him up, with my friend. We saw a snake going through the crack under the door. We called a friend from next door and he got a hammer and smacked it and killed it. It was a poisonous snake, it was black and orange. My brother didn’t wake up, he was still sleeping when the snake died. Then my mom woke him up!

Saturday is for Soccer

I think my transition to soccer mom began when we traded in our old SUV for a new, ultimate-mom-mobile minivan, the Honda Odyssey. None of our kids were yet playing soccer, and I was unaware of the giant leap we were taking down this path. Fast forward a few months and I was somehow convinced to enroll Alex in Strikers, the more organized, competitive option for soccer in Sandpoint. Since Melkam was already in karate, I reasonably surmised that one sport per kid at a time was enough, and he could do soccer next year.

Alex’s twice-weekly soccer practices fall right during the dinner hour, so we joined our close friends in a family-focused practice of bringing portable dinner to the field. Because we eat together, and one of our family members had to be on the field, so the rest of us were there too.

Getting pretty comfortable guarding the box

This has proven to be a lot of work, but it’s also been fun. And what I realized was that Melkam was choosing to don his hand-me-down L.A. Galaxy Jersey, and practice soccer on the sidelines of Alex’s practice the entire time. Twice a week. And he was good!

As our friends with five and six year olds signed up for rec league soccer and asked me where Melkam was, I found a rec league team that happened to practice on one of Alex’s practice days, on a neighboring field. Ah, what the heck, I thought! Melkam can be on a soccer team too.

Melkam hustles!

And now, we are officially a soccer family. Stinky socks in the wash, shin guards strewn about, water bottles in wash rotation, soccer balls rolling around in the back of the van pretty much all the time. At least for the rest of October. And guess what, it’s SO FUN! We’ve had the most beautiful fall, with not a drop of rain for a practice or game. We’ve seen the boys develop confidence and skill, and they love it. And we really enjoy watching them play! Both have improved tremendously since the first few practices (during which I was thinking, “somebody get the coach a scotch, how can any human being have that much patience?!”). Alex plays defense, and he’s getting it! He’s earning his nickname Alex “The Wall” Manning. Which he’s quite proud of. At Melkam’s age, they rotate positions a lot, but he’s fierce out front. Fast and agile and incredibly determined. He shoots and scores

! He also talks to himself the whole game while he’s racing around, and his arms flail a lot. Very cute.

Anyway, Vive La Soccer! We’re in! Here are a few more shots for the grandparents!

Little sisters and dear friends, cheering on their brothers!