Monday, February 17, 2014

Training for Tomorrow


When I returned from Ethiopia, I wrote a post, Fridays in Ethiopia, about our experience visiting three orphanages. It was an incredibly difficult day but it's been memories of that day and the faces of the children we met that have partly been the impetus and inspiration for the volunteer work I am doing for Studio Samuel, a non-profit started by my friend and fellow adoptive mom Tamara Horton. There are nights when I am in bed and I can't fall asleep and my mind wanders to Ethiopia. I think of the kids we met and their living conditions. I think of the older girls getting ready to age out of the orphanage with no support system or skills and that sadly many of them will end up as prostitutes. I tear up as I think of them and the heart ache can be unbearable. But that heart ache is not enough. My tears are not sufficient. 

Of course, my mind also wanders to LB's family. What are they doing? Do they have enough food? The loss that they sustained is enough to bring you to your knees. My love for LB and his Ethiopian family is the other big piece driving me to work past my tears. There have been countless times when I have gone over the details of his story and what led to his arrival at an orphanage in Southern Ethiopia. I know his story is not unique in Ethiopia. So what could have been done to prevent it? Was there a way to keep more children with their families? I couldn't shake these thoughts. The underlying answer always went back to women and mothers. Better education for women. Less child brides. Access to pre-natal care and birth control. I read statistics and quotes like:

The number one cause of death for girls 15-19 is childbirth. - World Health Organization

Educated mothers are more than twice as likely to send their children to school. - UNICEF

and

"When you educate a girl you educate a nation." - UNICEF

"If we are going to see real development in the world, then our best investment is women." - Desmond Tutu

I also felt strongly that I didn't want to be part of something that felt like a handout. The Ethiopian people are smart, capable and proud and I think all of us who have been there see that they are on the rise. It's amazing what one can do with education, resources and opportunity. In 2012, Tamara launched Studio Samuel with the mission of providing life skills to vulnerable young women with the mantra Empowerment Without Pity. I knew I had found my place. I was so excited when Tamara asked me to join the board. Studio Samuel has accomplished a lot but we have more we want to do.

Our newest program, Training for Tomorrow, is quite the endeavor but we are committed and believe it will make a huge difference. 

Training for Tomorrow is a  two year sponsorship program that will provide 40 young girls with:
Occupational Training
Life Skills Training
Healthcare Courses
Counseling & Mentoring
Karate Classes

We have partnered with Children's Heaven, an organization on the ground in Addis Ababa that provides programs for vulnerable young girls. Most of them have lost one or both of parents to AIDS. 
The sponsorship fee is $30/month. That is less than $10/week and about a $1/day. 
You will receive a photo of the girl you are sponsoring along with her name, age and her goals. You will continue to receive updates on her progress and will have the opportunity to exchange letters. You will be making a difference in the life of a girl. And if all the data and research is true then you are impacting a family and a community as well. This project is so important!

Will you join me?
You can sign up now to sponsor one of these precious girls. Thank you so much, friends!





Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Christmas 2013

Let's see if I can wrap up 2013 before it's February 2014!

Tulsa and Kansas Christmas:

Christmas this year was so much fun! Since driving went fairly well last year we decided that was the way to go again this year. Unfortunately, we were faced with a bit of crummy weather in the form of sleet and freezing rain but thankfully it didn't slow us down too much and the road conditions were fairly good. LB did amazing on the drive thanks to one of my best parenting decisions yet. Drumroll please. I put an end to the Ipad right after Halloween. I felt like it was getting out of control and was more of a pain than a help. Every time I told LB it was time to turn it off he would try and negotiate "five more minutes" or would just plain throw a fit. I love some of the educational games and puzzles we had for him on the Ipad but the netflix and movies would just suck him away from actual play. So I told him the Ipad was going bye bye until our drive to Tulsa. He shockingly handled it pretty well and didn't really bring it up that much. However, we hadn't even pulled out of the driveway and he asked for it. HA! But I didn't even care because it kept him so entertained. He did play with some of the other stuff we brought for the drive and did a little sleeping and snacking but mostly he was content to play with the Ipad and that was fine with us!

He was asleep when we pulled into the garage at my parents' house and I wish I could have captured his face when he woke up and saw my mom standing next to him! My parents and my sister doted on him the whole time we were there and LB was just as happy as can be.



The morning of Christmas Eve, my dad and LB were playing a fun game of hide and seek. My dad decided to hide in the closet where LB's gifts from Santa were hidden. (In my dad's defense, he was not aware that was the designated hiding place and was just being a good grandpa indulging LB in one of his fave games.) Well, LB found my dad and since he has excellent plane radar he spotted the planes right away! My dad felt badly but in the end it worked out. We told LB that Santa delivered some of his gifts early and LB played happily with his new planes until it was time to go to church. He didn't spot his drum that was also in there so he still got to be surprised by a Santa gift on Christmas morning.



LB continued his tradition of doing a great job at the Christmas Eve church service. He got a little antsy at times but I just gave him a snack and he was fine. He loves all the singing and that helps keep him happy. We sat next to my friend's family and her daughter and LB kept each other happy prior to the service.


At one point, the minister said "King of Jews" but all LB heard was juice, which he then exclaimed quite loudly. I hope I never forget that. Too funny. My mom got a nice shot of D and me as well.


Last year during the candle lighting, I got a really sweet picture of my mom and Ezra with their candles and this year it was D's turn to be with LB. All I can think of when I look at this picture is the line "Wonders of His Love" from the song "Joy to the World." Two of my loves.


Christmas morning was a lot of fun. LB got his drum and my parents spoiled the rest of us as well. We had a yummy breakfast and LB spent the entire day in his PJs. Perfection!


Before LB was in the picture, our family would make the trip to Kansas City to spend time with my mom's side of my family. Several of my Christmas memories from childhood are from time in Kansas City with my cousins and grandma. When LB came home, my aunt, uncle and cousins offered to come to Tulsa instead so we could limit our travel with the little one. We appreciated that so much but found after a few years we wanted to get back to Kansas. So this was the year. The day after Christmas we said goodbye to Tulsa and drove to KC. LB adores my cousins and aunt and uncle and includes them in his nightly prayers even though we usually only see them about once a year. They go all out and play with him from morning until night and it makes such a big impression on LB. Gathering around the table for a post Christmas meal with my family is always a little bittersweet for me. I think we all feel the loss of my Grandma Virginia and Uncle David but we bring up their names often as we happily look back and reminisce and that helps greatly. They would have both loved LB so much. I wish I would have taken more pictures but many memories were made and that's what matters.



Christmas in Yellow Springs:

We celebrated Christmas with D's side of the family the first weekend in January. D's cousins had already opened most of their gifts from Nana and Poppy on Christmas Day and they were very patient while LB opened most of his gifts. D's parents held back a few and we gave them gifts but it was mostly LB opening gifts. He got some great loot, including a scooter, and the kids had a fun afternoon playing together.




I love that the three cousins are so close in age. They are tight and watching them play brings me a lot of joy. I know that D's parents feel the same way. 

Christmas 2013 will be tough to top. This stage is so magical and I hope we have several more years of it.



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

End of 2013 Recap

So it appears any attempt to thoroughly recap 2013 is a lost cause. This will be my lame attempt and then it's time to move on to 2014.

Halloween 

In the months leading up to Halloween, I was pretty sure LB was going to be a pilot. I had this super cute costume picked out and thought he would love it. As we got closer and started talking about it, he was not enthused about the pilot idea. I didn't get it. He's Mr. Plane. Right around that time we discovered the TV show "Jake and the Neverland Pirates." It's on the Disney Channel, which we don't have, but we found it on Netflix. This was also around the time that LB discovered the movie, Peter Pan, which he fell in love with. I did not remember all the sexist and racist comments in Peter Pan so I cringed through the first viewing and thought maybe LB wouldn't like it. WRONG. He's obsessed. He started to say that he wanted to be a pirate for Halloween. It was a tad confusing because his "r" sound still very much sounds likes a "l." So I kept clarifying by asking him, "You want to be a pirate like arrrghhh matey or a pilot that flies planes." He would always answer back "argghhh matey." I found a Jake costume online and showed it to him and we had a winner! As soon as we got it, he had to put it on right away and we also got him a little Jake kit from Tar.get that had a sword, spy glass, gold coins and a map. He was pumped.

Halloween morning they were having a parade at school and the kids were encouraged to wear costumes. I got his out and was super excited. LB decided he wanted nothing to do with it. I was all of a sudden devastated. He flat out refused to wear his Jake costume. My mom had come to town for the week (which was great since D was out of town) and she had brought with her a Pilot shirt from the new movie, Planes. She convinced him to be a pilot for the parade at school. Although he refused to even put the pilot shirt on until we got to school. In hindsight, I think he was overwhelmed by the idea of the parade and kids and teachers wearing costumes. But once he got to school and realized none of the costumes were scary he relaxed and seemed to enjoy it. I would also say that I set my expectations WAY too high for the day and didn't act with a whole lot of compassion towards his refusal to be Jake at school. Expectations always get me in trouble.
Here are a few pics from school:



Yes, his best bud was also Jake and they would have been SO CUTE together but oh well. He's a cute pilot too.

Thankfully, he totally embraced being Jake for trick or treat and he had such a blast that night. My mom is the most amazing grandma and dressed up like the Cat in the Hat. LB has the coolest grandma ever. We have a tradition of trick or treating at our friend's house with another family and they have the perfect street for the kids. Lots of street lights and friendly neighbors. It was such a fun evening! Oh and D made it back in time for trick or treat, which was nice!






November

I tried to do some cute Thanksgiving crafts with LB in the week leading up to the big day and I would say our favorite one was his thankful turkey that we made out of a paper plate. I cut out the feathers and asked him to list 5 things he was thankful for and I wrote them on the feathers. I also cut out the other parts to the turkey and then LB glued everything together. He was really proud of it and we had it displayed in the living room through Christmas.


The weekend before Thanksgiving we met LB's cousins at the zoo for the holiday light show. It was freezing but we endured the cold and had a fun night. The kids also got to see Santa, which ended up being a nice reprieve from the cold, and since not too many people were brave (or stupid) enough to be out in the cold we didn't have to wait in a long line. LB asked Santa for "a plane and a drum." I didn't realize you could ask Santa for two things but I guess LB decided it was okay. He stayed consistent with those requests all through December. (Confession: We ended up seeing Santa 4 times before the big day. LB is a fan.)



Actual Thanksgiving day was a bit of a bust. D's parents were hosting Thanksgiving but not until Friday to accommodate every one's schedules. So our plan was to chill at home on Thursday and put up all our Christmas decorations. It was a good plan but LB woke up in a foul mood and I think I was in a bad mood too. I was missing my family and just felt blah about the whole thing. So the tree got put up and we did some fun Christmas crafts but overall it was just an okay today. Not what I hoped. Thankfully, Friday was fun and we stuffed our faces and LB played with his cousins. Somehow I managed to take zero photos. I must have been too busy eating and drinking.

December

We got a fair amount of snow in early December and LB had more stamina this year in terms of being willing to play in the snow. And he has learned to put his gloves on all by himself which meant I cursed much less this year. Is there anything more annoying than trying to get gloves on a toddler? I think not. 


We had several fun playdates with old friends and new friends. I have loved watching LB develop good friendships at preschool this year and to see him seek out his special friends.



LB had his Christmas program and party at school. I was in love with the shirt I bought him for it. I'm biased but he was so darn cute.



Okay, so I lied. I have rambled enough and I still need to recap our trip to Tulsa for Christmas. That will have to come later. 

Until then..... I hope January is treating you well, friends!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Update Time

Is anyone still out there? I can't believe I haven't posted since October 14th. It wasn't intentional. Life got busy. And a certain three year old decided he no longer needs naps. Yes, we are going through the dreaded transition of not napping. My typical time to sit down and read other blogs and update my own was beloved nap time. That only happens a few days a week and it seems I have twenty things to get accomplished during that precious free time. Here is a quick update of the past 6 weeks and hopefully I'll find new motivation to blog at night because I do miss this space.

*I got a job!!! Oh yeah, another big reason life got busy. Well, it's a super part time job. I work for a non-profit, Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services (ETSS), and am part of their after school tutoring program. ETSS started out as serving the Ethiopian immigrant community in Columbus but have expanded their services across the city and serve a wide variety of immigrants and refugees. I know the director of the non-profit because of some volunteering I did for ETSS a few years ago. I emailed him to let him know I was interested in applying for any positions pertaining to teaching English as a second language. He let me know those positions had been filled for the school year but he would keep my resume on file. That was ideal because I wasn't really looking for this school year but wanted him to know I was still interested for next year. About a week later, I got an email from the manager of the after school tutoring program and he said he needed to fill some positions and asked me if I was interested. I decided it didn't hurt to interview and see what they were looking for. I wasn't sure we would be able to make it work in terms of child care but wanted to get my foot in the door. I interviewed and it couldn't have worked out more perfectly. The position is only 9 hours a week and 6 of those hours are spent on site twice a week. The other 3 hours are for prep time that I can do at home. I work at their East side location which serves the children of Ethiopian immigrants! The other great part is that the site is about 5 minutes from D's office. So twice a week I drop off LB with D at his office and then I head to work and they head home. I started a few weeks and so far I love it. I did get puked on by a kindergartener on my third day and also caught a cold from one of them but I guess that is what you expect when you work with little kids. But I love being surrounded by kids who look like mine and share his culture. I will probably learn a lot from them as well. I'm enjoying meeting their parents and hopefully I can be of some help in terms of communicating with schools and providing tutors with extra resources. It's a good outlet for me and I feel really lucky. I also feel like LB is in part responsible for this job. I love how his adoption has had ripple effects on our life.

*LB is going to be 4 years old in two months! I can't believe it. He continues to go to school twice a week and it's been going well so far. There have been a few mornings when he's said he doesn't want to go but he eventually comes around and drop offs have been tear free! I had my first parent teacher conference about a month ago. I was nervous! But it was fine. They have him nailed to a tee! His teachers described him as joyful, social, smart, easily distracted and a bit wild. He also struggles with "walking feet" in the classroom. No shock there. But I love that he has some favorite friends and that they get excited when they see each other. It's especially great when we run into these friends outside of school and they go nuts with excitement. I worry a bit (a lot) about how small he is compared to the kids in his class and most of these friends are actually several months younger than him. But for the moment he seems to hold his own and doesn't let it hold him back. I've been happy with his school. I wish there were more diversity but his teachers have been working with preschoolers for a long time and seem to do a great job with the kids. He comes home with cool crafts and stories of looking at bugs on the playground or pretending to be rabbits with his best buddy. The teachers send me a photo about once a week of LB doing one of the scheduled activities and they post their lesson plans online as well so we can see what they are learning. I'll say it again. I wish there were more diversity. I suppose no school is perfect. Here's his school picture.


*My mom came to visit Halloween week and we had a lot of fun. I hope to do a separate post on Halloween. The timing of her trip was great because D was in California for work and it also ended up being the week I had my interview so her help was a huge gift! We went to the zoo, the OSU airport and she bought LB a new bike. A few weeks before her visit, I was backing out of the garage and clipped the side of his bike. It was officially broken. I felt like the worst mom EVER! LB handled it pretty well. Thank goodness Meemaw came to the rescue.

*So back to this no napping nonsense. In a nutshell, it sucks. The silver lining is that he goes to bed at 7pm on the days he doesn't nap and it's nice to have a full evening to relax with D. One of the first nights he went to bed to 7pm, D and I looked at each other around 8:30pm and couldn't believe how early it still was. I also like not feeling rushed to get back to the house around lunchtime so he can be down for a nap by 1pm. He'll go about 2 or 3 days without a nap and then be in desperate need of one. That seems to be our current pattern. The days feel long that's for sure. I'm working on implementing some quiet time to replace the nap so that I can still get a little break mid-day and he can do something restful. I recently tried to explain quiet time to him and we were brainstorming activities he could do. One of his suggestions was "playing my drums." Clearly, the concept went a bit over his head. We're still working on it. LB has always been such a good napper and I was convinced he would be a regular napper until kindergarten. Sigh. But I should be grateful he lasted this long as I know some kids who gave up their nap at 2. I'm trying to count my blessings. Here he is asleep on the way to the grocery store on a no nap day. It's tough being 3.


*We continue to do music class weekly and we both absolutely love it. The final session for the year was the week before Thanksgiving and I am not sure how we will make it to January. Music is becoming a really big part of his life. I found out about a marching band competition going on at the high school in our neighborhood a few weeks ago and we took LB. It was cold that day but he loved it. We sat in a stadium for 2 hours watching marching bands and he still talks about it. We kept asking him if he was too cold and wanted to go home but he insisted on staying. On Thanksgiving, we were watching the parade and sadly they didn't show too many bands but when he got a glimpse of one he would get really excited and he kept asking us to "check and see" if there were any bands we could go see that day. I'm constantly scouring the internet for cheap and/or free musical events going on around town. I'm excited to take him to Tuba Christmas again in a few weeks. I also can't wait to see how this love of music continues to develop and what it means for him. Maybe nothing. Maybe something big.

That's our past six weeks with a few holes that I plan on filling in soon! I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! One more picture before I let you go.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Professional Photos 2013

LB and I made a trip to Tulsa about a month ago. Southwest had some great deals so we took advantage. While we were there I had my friend, Maggie, take photos of LB. It's become an annual tradition. This was her 4th time taking photos of LB and she never disappoints. She is so great with kids and has magical ways of getting good photos! It is definitely getting harder to keep him happy long enough so that Maggie can take several shots of him. This year he was into it initially but then was over it pretty quickly. My mom had brought a soccer ball, a bat and some baseballs and that served as a good break from posing for photos. Go Grandma! And I actually really love some of the action shots she got of him playing. Then he was running and fell and that caused a delay too. I gave him a sucker to try and bribe him to be patient for a little bit longer. In the end, she got a lot of great ones and I love looking at them. As per my usual, I am holding my absolute favorite one back to use for our holiday card. Did I mention that I could just stare at them all day long? I think I did. Here are a handful of them. Thank you, Maggie!










He's growing up so much and I think he gets more and more handsome by the day. I wasn't sure that was even possible. How did I get so lucky?



Get Outside


Last Monday morning, I woke up in a bad mood. I was tense and stressed. I hate it when I feel that way first thing in the morning. LB has not been sleeping well lately and I'm in that frame of mind where it feels like he isn't going to sleep well for the rest of his life. I know that is ridiculous and that things will change but I'm tired. I just want him to get the sleep he needs when I want him to get it. I am apparently asking for too much. LB, like most kids, can pick up on my moods and so it was a bad combination of crabby mom and crabby three year old. That's never good. Typically, on Mondays we go to music class but it was cancelled that day. So instead our plan was to go visit the local fire department with our playgroup because it was fire prevention week and they had invited us. We got there and I immediately knew it wouldn't work out. As soon as we walked in there were a few kids crying near the door. Then they turned the lights on the fire truck and there was all this blinking and flashing. And then they decided to close the garage good with no warning and it was really loud. LB was not gonna have it. There was way too much sensory stimulation going on and he turned to me and said, "I want to go. NOW!" I decided not to fight it and we left. 

I didn't feel like going back home and entering the world of crabby. Even though it was a bit chilly, I suggested to LB that we go to a great park that is near our house. He agreed. We live in the city but are lucky to live in a city that has tons of amazing parks. And they aren't just your typical parks with a playground and sandbox but are parks with tons of open green space and trails to explore and flowers to smell. I decided we both needed the fresh air. That little decision may have been one of my finer moments. We spent two hours outside just walking and running and exploring. It didn't take long for both of us to start smiling again.


Don't you love fall clothes? There is something about corduroys and down vests that make me happy. 


As we were sitting on this bench, LB observed that a lot of the leaves were falling from the trees. It was a little windy so we talked about how soon it would be winter time and that most of the leaves would eventually fall. He decided he wanted to find lots of red leaves (Red is one of his many favorite colors. We are still working on the meaning of favorite.) so we started looking. He also got excited about finding "super tiny" leaves so we did that too and he put them all in my bag.


LB found a hill and immediately started running down it. The sensation of running down a hill has become a recent favorite. I joined him and he liked taking turns so that we would pass each other on the way up or down. We'd make a funny face at each other or say something goofy as we passed.



He walked around this ledge more times than I could count. He eventually got brave enough to try jumping off at a few spots.



He found a really big stick and was pleased that he could pick it up and whack it around. Boys and sticks. Sigh. There is no point fighting it.



He found a big rock and decided he needed to turn it over to look for worms. He's Mr. Curious, which can be a blessing and a curse. He didn't find a worm but he found something he'd never seen before and that's always a thrill. Perhaps it's an inch worm or a millipede? I'm not very skilled at bug identification.



We had a great morning. I'm nervous that soon it will start to get really cold but as long as we can we'll be outside exploring, digging in dirt and running down hills.

"I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes." - e.e. cummings