Archive for February, 2013



Happy birthday Keta!





I don’t know how we’ve avoided it, the emergency room.  Keta flings herself from the highest thing she can find.  She sees how far she can jump, doesn’t even matter if it’s across a creek or onto a rug on a hard slippery floor or while ultimate skipping through the kitchen while I’m cutting sweet potatoes with a massive knife.  She’s shut her hand in the car door and thinks all those really fun trampoline moves are really fun, not on trampolines.  Her tricycle does not corner well at high speeds and sometimes that third wheel is just totally not used.  Makes her laugh every single time.  Why doesn’t everyone want to know if she can run fast enough to make trees blur into cool greenish blobs?  I don’t even get in a “go slowly it’s your first time walking across a narrow bridge without sides” before she’s disappeared over the hill on the other side.  There’s a church in town we walk by that has a really steep and really high roof that goes almost to the ground.  She thinks it’d be fun to climb to the top and slide down.  None of this stuff is that bad or too scary.  She has a sense of adventure, she’s daring.  I love it.  She’s three days shy of four though.  What is my daring little adventurer going to think is fun when she’s older?  I guess this is where I apologize to my mom for (very entry-level!) rock climbing and SCUBA diving and doing those century bike rides that go up and over narrow curvy mountain passes (totally worth the climb up!) and for the motorcycle and for skydiving.  Sorry mom! I pretty much avoided the emergency room though.  I hope Keta has as much fun and is as injury free.  I hope I’m strong enough to watch her do it all too.  Atta girl!



the hard part

Several years ago a coworker adopted a sweet little girl from China.  He said they adopted her and then she was their daughter and that was it.  Made sense.  A child doesn’t keep being adopted.  They don’t wear that label forever or carry it around like it’s most of who they are.  These children aren’t adopted daughters or adopted sons, adopted grandchildren or adopted cousins.  They’re simply daughters and sons, grandchildren and cousins.  Now that I’m a little more up close and personal with adoption, it makes even more sense.  It’s not that my kids ARE adopted, but that they WERE adopted.  Adoption is just part of their past.

It’s pretty obvious my girls were adopted, except to us (most of the time).  They’re just my daughters and I’m just their mama.  It’s so normal to me that I’m sometimes surprised people even notice us.  I can only assume it’s because I’m hanging out with and get to have as daughters the two cutest girls ever, who also happen to be crazy brave and smart and funny.  (Everyone thinks that about their kids, right?!  Totally normal?)  Sometimes, though, I’m reminded that even though Keta and Francine aren’t adopted, they WERE adopted.  Experiencing so much loss and trauma so early in life would have to have some kind of lasting effect.

People think that since they’re in this “better place” with healthy food and safe water to drink and lots of people who love them that they’re suddenly and constantly just fine.  Nope.  Keta and Francine were adopted, recently!  Just try to imagine everything that it means to be adopted.  Don’t forget to consider they were internationally adopted and a bit older.  Now try to imagine all that led up to the actual adoption and all that immediately followed.  You’ll never be able to, ever.  I can’t and I’m here, helping them heal and grow and I’m constantly experiencing the effects of that rough start to life, that trauma of being thrown without warning into a new life and the struggle to accept it.  When school started and you asked me how they’re doing and you dismissed their unease and fear as normal behavior, “almost all kids are scared of school at first” you said.  Don’t be surprised when next time you ask I just smile and say they’re doing fine.  Most kids do not have a true fear of abandonment, or worse, an acceptance of abandonment.  Most kids don’t get left places with no experience of people coming back for them.  Most kids don’t have to try so hard to trust.

What I’ve learned, in part, is that there is no one hard part to get through, for me or for my two awesome kiddos.  There is not a now-we’re-done-with-the-hard-part and we all go whistling on.  It’s easy to forget how recently their lives were turned up side down though.  They’re such wonderful girls who have come so far in such a short period. Then, seemingly out of the blue I’m reminded it was practically a minute ago that we all saw each other for the first time and there was a lot of yuck that led to that moment for them and we rock and cuddle and slowly return to the usual business of being three.  Each hard part we get through makes the next one not quite as hard and everyone is reassured mama is here and can be trusted and we’ll all be okay. It would have been great if life had allowed them to stay with their birth families in their birth country, but it didn’t and I’m glad life decided to give them a family here.

More and more often I can just smile and say they’re fine, and mean it.  It’s pretty great.




Keta’s first birthday is coming!  She’s turning four next week and is super excited.  Francine’s birthday was a few months ago, so she kind of knows what’s in store.  She doesn’t have a lot of experience with getting to want things.  She does want to take the same treats to school that Francine took, even though they’re not her favorite.  Apparently, when it’s someone’s birthday, that’s what you take to school.  She wants hot dogs for dinner which we don’t eat at home, usually.  I’ve been asking her what she wants her presents to be.  She can’t come up with anything, nothing at all.  I ask her specifics, “What about clothes or new shoes?”  “What about books or doll clothes?”  “Maybe a game or a ball?”  “No, mama, I already has so much of those stuffs,” she tells me.  She’s thinking though.  She knows she gets presents and there must be something she wants, but she just can’t think of a thing.

She’s done it a few times before, asked about all the “stuffs” people have.  Looking at someone’s closet with work clothes, and work-out clothes, and weekend clothes and maybe occasion clothes (but not really a lot of clothes at all) she’ll ask “Why so many stuffs?”  It’s, I don’t know what exactly, but it’s something to hear her ask without a trace of judgement or jealousy or accusation or anything that would allow the person being asked to answer without really wondering themselves, even if just that morning there was “nothing to wear.”  She does have a lot of stuffs, especially considering that less than a year ago she had two stuffs that I sent her and almost nothing else.  She doesn’t have a crazy amount of stuffs, but she doesn’t need anything either.  I’ll pay for a girl in DR Congo to go to school for a year, a girl who otherwise might be on the street or married really young to ease her family’s burden, in Keta’s name, through a great organization called Muanjadi Foundation (you can find them online at if you’re interested).  I’m getting her some stuffs too, mostly beads for her hair, not too much.  I’m sure she’ll be excited with whatever new stuffs she gets and I’m sure our family will understand she’s easily overwhelmed by stuffs and not get too crazy.  Four years old, that’s crazy enough!



recurring silliness (and others)

Our first “mustans”

Why shouldn’t they go here and here and here?IMG_2179



……and here?

Silly, and explains why her hair is usually smashed in places.


We made slime!IMG_2132

Big muscles!IMG_2143

So great to have a big sis!

Ooh la la!  Sparkle shoes 🙂IMG_2170


thank you cinderella

We don’t have a lot of sweets in the house.  If we did, we wouldn’t have a lot of sweets in the house, for long.   At first, Keta and Francine didn’t like anything sweet at all.  That’s changing.  When there is candy (this just happened at Halloween) or dessert, it’s a pretty big deal.  They received, for Valentine’s day, their very first Pez dispenser and then a second one just a few days later, Cinderella first, then Tiana.

After some discussion between the two of them, they decided it would be best to have one piece of candy a day, so they could have candy for lots and lots of days.  What an awesome plan!  I was impressed.

When we got home we loaded Cinderella up with the chosen color and asked her nicely for a piece of candy.  She delivered!  “Thank you Cinderella!”

We Skyped with Bibi about Cinderella and days later Bibi and I are still laughing.  Keta and Francine acted out the whole Pez process, their parts and Cinderella’s.    ….and then you ask her please and you do this with hers head and she goes back like this and right here is the candy and you pulls the candy out of hers neck like this and ……

As soon as we get home, “Mama, can we asks Cinderella for those candy?”

Yes, thank you Cinderella, not so much for the candy but for the entertainment for me and the daily excitement for Keta and Francine.

Making Shrinky Dinks — thanks Auntie B!





It’s not easy to let Keta and Francine learn to deal with frustration and anger, let them learn that actions and choices have consequences. It’s not easy to let them fail. Sometimes it’s hard to tell them to try for just a few more minutes or again tomorrow or maybe not until they get a little bigger. Sometimes all I want to do is scoop them up, take over the hard stuff, pave the way for them, zip all the zippers and button all the buttons. Sure, it’s easier and faster and a lot less messy if I do it all, take over when they’re about to totally mess up or not even let them try. How sad and patronizing would that be though? What kind of adults would they make if they had never experienced hard work or the pride that comes from a job well done? What kind of adults would they be if they’d never been allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, even value those mistakes a little? I know what kind of 8th graders they’d make if mama bails them out every single time they mess up or forget something at home or take over before they can fail at something. My girls deserve for me to let them learn to believe in themselves, deal with consequences, let them accomplish great things, and let them trust themselves enough to try and be strong enough to be alright when things don’t work out just how they want them to.  I’m here to help them learn from their mistakes, not keep them from making them.

They ask for help a lot. I could help them right away, but I know that with a little more effort and determination they can do it. I’ll slowly walk over like I’m about to help, but only after making sure they keep trying until I get there. I know I’m just going over to give them a high-five or a hug. I’m just getting a bit closer so that I can see their faces light up when they accomplish whatever task was trickier or just taking longer than they wanted. It’s a pretty awesome face, that excited look of triumph that would not have been there had I zoomed right over and fixed everything. Even if on the way over they’re frustrated and about to quit, even if they don’t get it this time but sometime tomorrow or next week, even though letting them try until they get it sometimes is painful to watch and makes us late for lunch or the doctor or whatever, that look is completely worth it.



testing, testing 1, 2

The duty of every toddler (and in my very limited experience, every child with adoption in their past, my two anyway) is to test and retest and then test again the structure, stability, boundaries, rules etc that have been set up at home and in the family.  Thinking of them as tests of stability and structure seems healthier than thinking of them as fits or temper tantrums or head spinning, foot stomping, screaming craziness.  They need to make sure they can trust it all.  They need to make sure they do not need to be in charge, that they are being taken care of and will be taken care of.  It’s all about consistency and trust.  They need to know they can count on all of this, depend on it.  No surprises or major changes, please.  The fact that I get it and totally understand the need for repeated tests, especially given the not so great start to life my daughters had, does not mean that these tests are fun.  I do not enjoy these tests.  Thankfully, they have happened in the privacy of our home, but I’m sure that won’t always be the case.  Life has taught these two that not much can be counted on, not much can be trusted.  I don’t know how they’re able to, but they both trust me enough to conduct these tests.  They’re not too afraid to make sure everything will be alright.  They’re learning that I love them.  Period.  They’re learning that I’m the mama and it’s my job to take care of them.  Period.  As miserable and exhausting as the tests are, I’m thankful they’re happening.