Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ethiopia Bound

We're headed back to Ethiopia for two months this summer. Check out our new travel blog to stay up-to-date on our adventures!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How'd my babies grow up so fast?

Schools pics, Fall 2009
Yes, it is the long lost blogger.... truth be told, I'm not a blogger but only an occasional poster. C'est la vie! I was just looking back over my old posts- and thus the pictures.... my babies are SO grown up. I mean, I knew that, but.... REALLY! Who are these children....er.... ahem.... young adults?

Josiah, Spring 2011

Oh! And by the way, I'm no longer the mother of twins. No, no, no, don't panic, both are still alive and well. They have claimed from Day One that they were not twins, but didn't know what, if any, the age difference was between them. It ranged from 5 days to 2 years. Ha!

But by the second annual visit to the pediatrician, doctors expressed a concern that Josiah was developing too quickly (for his "age"), to which I replied, "Well, I don't actually know his age." We were sent to an endocrinologist for bone age scans, which I requested for Naomi as well so we could compare, and indeed there was about a two year difference. So, maybe you're not twins. Well my paperwork says you are, so I guess you are now. That worked fine and dandy for another year or so.
Gotcha Day, March 2011

As the kids grew older, it became more and more obvious that Josiah was physically and socially more developed than his age. I deliberated a long time and carefully weighed all the factors before deciding to go ahead and change his age.

Naomi, Spring 2011
One factor his grade in school. Since the kids came to America at age eight and did not speak English, they were placed in 2nd instead of 3rd grade, so are a year behind. I didn't want Josiah to be two years behind and be teased and tormented. So I would have to move him ahead a grade. Neither were quite up to grade level in reading and writing, but my logic was that if had known his true age he would be in the higher grade anyway and still lagging by the same margin (you can only learn so fast). I spoke with the schools and they agreed. Next I approached the topic with Josiah. He would have to agree to tutoring all summer to make up as much of the missed grade as possible. He agreed.

The last birthday as twins, June 2011
Then, I began making my case for the court. I had medical evidence. I had the kids' first person account. But I really wanted something from relatives in Ethiopia.... and I had a phone number. I passed the number on to my sweet friend, Essete, whom we had met in Ethiopia and remained friends with, and asked if she could contact them and ask for something in writing regarding the kids ages. I had her assure them they would not be in trouble for hiding the truth... they had been afraid the children may be separated if they were not twins. Accurate birth records are not common and I was delighted when we not only found how how far apart they are - no, they are not twins - but the actual birth dates!

Josiah is exactly 301 days, about 13 months, older than Naomi. But their legal birth date was not right for either one of them. Josiah was born in November 1997, nineteen months prior to his legal birthday and Naomi was born in December 1998, six months from her legal birthday. So now I needed to decide how to approach this change. First, I decided not to go through the legal process and cost to change Naomi's for just a six month difference. Second, I also really wanted their birthdays to have an accurate biological time span between them. Third, and one of the most important reasons for my final decision is back to the school issue. Moving ahead a year in age and a year in school still left Josiah a year behind. I did not want him to have a November birthday and thus be two years behind for so much of the year. So we chose a date exactly 301 days earlier than the initial legal American birthday, making his birthday May 1998, replacing the former June 1999 (which is still Naomi's legal birth date).
Josiah, Fall 2011
Naomi, Fall 2011

Are you lost yet? I get it. The kids get it. Everyone else is lost. But the kids really like having two birthdays a year. No, not twice as many gifts! They can recognize and celebrate both, but only gifts and a party at one.

This year they both chose their Ethiopia birthday!

Happy 14th birthday, Josiah!
Happy 13th birthday, Naomi!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Crazy Ideas

In case you haven't noticed, I haven't blogged in eons. Life with the kids is so busy and so fulfilling and so crazy and so frustrating and so wonderful that I simply don't have time. Oh yeah, and then there's Facebook.

So why now? Well, a couple of weeks ago a friend who moved to Ethiopia to serve as a missionary for a couple of years posted that the school she works at lost a teacher (who went back home). I flippantly commented that I should come over and fill the vacancy. (I love to teach, though never have in an academic setting). She responded that if I was at all serious, I should contact Bingham Academy ... hmmmm ... did that ever put a bug in my ear!

So I did. I even filled out their online application for a teaching position. It was only after I sent it that I noticed that "All candidates must have received teacher certification or qualification appropriate to their country of origin." Drats! So much for my hair-brained ideas.

But that little bug kept tickling my ear.

Well, I thought, why not? I have an undergrad degree and I thought there were programs where I could get a teaching license in a year. That wouldn't be so bad; a year is not so long. Onto the internet I went, looking for schools where I could get my degree online - and fast! *Sigh* The only online programs I could find were 2-3 years and most were Masters programs. Did I really want to commit to a Master's? Did I really want to wait 2-3 years to put this silly notion into play?

And that little bug kept tickling my ear.

Next thing ya know, I am narrowing down my choices, weighing the pros and cons of each, attending an open house, and applying for grad school. PLEASE don't ask where I will find the time as I have NO idea. But I feel like God is once again leading me into unknown territory and I just need to trust Him our future.

Right now, the kids are all for it! Yes, we do want to move to Ethiopia for two years. LOL! They probably don't clearly remember the life they had there - though we would certainly have more conveniences than they left behind, it would be nothing like the closets full of clothes, the video games, weekend outings to Skate City and all the other "spoiled rotten" perks that they have here now.

My biggest concern is how this might affect their academics and chances for future scholarships and sports opportunities. Josiah has his heart set on becoming a professional football player and certainly has raw talent enough if he continues to be serious about it. In 2 years - the length of the program - they will be 13 years old. Two years in Ethiopia will put them at 15. Will they have time after that to create opportunities by the end of high school? I don't know? This will take allot of prayer!

In the meantime ... that little bug and I are pressing on.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Family Pics

OK, it's true.... I'm the worlds worst blogger. Blame Facebook! I've done so much sharing there of tidbits and photos and such that I've let this blog completely go by the wayside. Or can I blame it on being so busy with the kids and school and sports and such... yeah, that sounds better.... that's it!

Well, while we're waiting for me to catch up on posts and life, here is a link to our recent family photos. (Be sure to click on the "click here" button to browse all 333!!!)


Here's a sneak peek...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Happy Birthday! -- the twins turn 10 ...

A HUGE Happy Birthday to Josiah & Naomi!!!! They are getting so big and so mature!

On Saturday we had a pool party to celebrate. It was a great success with about 30 people - adults and kids - enjoying the sunshine and pleasant day. Somehow - thank you, Jesus - we even managed to avoid the afternoon showers and didn't get rained on.

After we all dried off, a dozen or so of us headed over to our favorite Ethiopian restaurant for a great dinner. Then the kids talked me into letting their cousin stay the night, topping off a wonderful day.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

One year later

Milestone #3

UTTERLY AMAZING! We have already been home on U.S. soil for one whole year! So where are we now?

First of all, I have a request . . .

I would like to ask those friends and family who know any details of the twins’ birth family and circumstances in Ethiopia to regroup, rewind, and refrain from sharing that information with anyone.

During adoption training the PAPs (prospective adoptive parents) are cautioned against sharing the children's stories. However in the excitement and anxiety of the process, it is difficult not to share what few snippets one does know with close friends and family. That was my experience. But even before the kids came home, as the time grew nearer and steps were completed, I felt more and more protective of them and wished I had said nothing of their past. We have now been discussing it together, and even though they are proud of their heritage, both have chosen not to share their story at this time. It is their personal choice and I am doing my best to respect it, despite my earlier faux pas. I am also teaching them to be W.I.S.E. when asked questions.

Twins, Naomi and Josiah are 9 years old. In the past year Josiah has grown 3-5/8 inches and Naomi has grown 4-1/4 inches (but it seems like much more!), and each are about 6-3/4 inches taller than when I first received their referral 18 months ago. They have gained 13-1/2 & 12 pounds since home and 17 & & 14 pounds since referral. Both have changed from the children I picked up a year ago to the young adults they are today, maturing in facial features, mannerisms, and interests. "Childish" toys and activities that were attractive in the beginning (as they had not had the opportunity to experience those things) were quickly outgrown and tastes now run more in alignment to their peers. In fact, we were recently watching my video footage of us together in Ethiopia and they were laughing at what they now see as their silly behavior.

Josiah is a natural athlete, excelling in everything he tries. He loves all sports, wants to play them all, and do everything! He's been on a couple of soccer teams where he has been a star player and is anxious to play football and baseball. He likes Spiderman, Bakugan, and would play video games or watch movies 24/7 if he could get away with it! He is sharp, observant, and curious - the quintessential child of a million questions. Naomi is athletic as well and always picked first in dodge ball for her speed and agility. She wants to be on a basketball team and try cheerleading. She is also a girly-girl who loves princesses, High School Musical, jewelry, and dressing up (preferably including heels and makeup). She is a "fashionista", skillfully putting together creative and attractive outfits. So cute! She is intuitive, witty, and compassionate, loves music and dancing and prefers listening to a CD to watching TV. Both are very social and love to have company or go play with other kids.

Both are in the third grade, enjoy school and doing well. They are still behind in reading and writing skills, but I'm confident they will catch up in due time. We try to read together every day. Sometimes they read to me and much of the time I read to them. I love to read and do so allot, hopefully providing a good role model. They are doing grade level math and also take science, music, art, and PE. Spanish is a required class at their school and neither of them like it very well. I could opt them out, but had a long discussion with the school staff and we all agreed to leave them in. They are very popular and well liked by both students and teachers, although Josiah tends to play a little too rough and has made a couple of trips to the principal's office for tackling on the playground, and Naomi sometimes struggles with the "clique-ish" behavior typical of young girls.

Kids are so amazing and it is such fun to watch language grow and change. I admit there are some "errors" I don't correct because it just sounds so cute! Many people have asked how we communicated at first when they did not know any English. My answer now? "I can't remember!" Surprisingly enough, it was not difficult. I would say the first 6 months were easy because language at that point is essentially for survival and communicating basic needs. Much can be expressed with a few words supplemented with gestures, facial expressions, and pantomime. The next 6 to 12 months were much more difficult. They could understand allot of what was being said, but did not have enough words to express what they wanted to say. They would string together words in such a way that I'm sure made sense to them, but half the time I could not for the life of me figure out what they were getting at. At first they would say "forget it" and refuse to try further. I'm sure this was very frustrating and I would feel so bad for them. But we are all trying hard and even though we laugh (usually) at the occasional misunderstandings, it is getting easier. I do have to constantly remind myself that even though they understand allot, they don't understand everything completely. Especially if I am using uncommon words or referencing images, experiences, or ideas common for someone brought up in America, but not so for them. Research shows that conversational language fluency is attained in 1 to 3 years, but full cognitive language proficiency takes from 5 to 9 years to achieve. See "Language and the Older Adopted Child"

I had also hoped that in adopting multiple older children they would retain their birth language, but those skills seem to be fading. See my post on international satellite TV. They can still understand Amharic, but rarely speak it to each other anymore (unless trying to sneak something by Mom), and respond in English to Amharic conversation when we socialize in the Ethiopian community. Doing further research, I am also now finding that there other considerations around helping an IA (Internationally Adopted) child maintain their birth language. See "Pros and Cons of Keeping the Native Language of an Adopted Child" and "Language Development in Internationally Adopted Children." Believe it or not, forgetting their birth language may not be such a bad thing.

NO land line. ONE cell phone. TWO kids. THREE family members. NOT really working anymore. The kids are starting to bring home phone numbers of friends, so we will have to address this issue soon. It is easy for them to carry on conversations in person, but understanding and being understood on the phone is more difficult. I'm of the mindset that they are too young for cell phones themselves, and I don’t really want them using mine too often. So … do I add minutes to my plan and we all use my phone - UNLIKELY … break down and get them phones with pre-paid minutes - UNLIKELY … or perhaps get an old-fashioned land line for the house - HMMMMM? What a novel idea!

All three of us still sleep together in one double bed though we all agree it is starting to feel a bit crowded. Despite one or two well-meaning friends who frown on the practice, I am amazed when I mention it, how many people remark that they slept with their son/daughter until they were 12, 13, 14 years old. Culturally my kids are used to that type of arrangement, and being single it does not hinder any other family relationships. It is a wonderful time of bonding and physical closeness as well as a time when we share stories and pray together. Once when we were listing some things we like, my Josiah named "Jesus" adding "Sorry, Mom, I love Jesus number one and Mom number two." My heart sang with joy. I am so blessed to have kids that love the Lord!

Another question I often get is "How are you adjusting?" I used to answer that there did not seem to be any adjustment. We molded into a family from the get-go. It seems like we have always been together and we are affectionate and comfortable with each other. Rather than throwing my life topsy-turvy, they have given me a beautiful sense of peace and balance. But looking back and stepping back I can see how we have been subtly adjusting to each others temperaments and needs.

I am also recognizing behavior consistent with attachment issues -- frequent control battles, bossy, argumentative, defiance, anger, manipulative, lying about the obvious -- along with plain old disrespect and disobedience. Some of you are probably wondering where my rose-colored glasses are that I usually write through? They are still firmly seated on the bridge of my nose! I still find life wonderful and full of joy and would not trade my newfound motherhood for anything. Some of you are probably also thinking, "That sounds just like my 9 year old! Just wait until they're 12!" And I'm sure some of it is normal adolescence. However we are looking at various resources to help facilitate their adjustment and success in life and relationships.

I have found some success with the Love and Logic techniques, which seems best suited for general behavioral issues. But I also find it often on the verge of sarcastic, manipulative, and degrading. Not the values I am trying to teach and certainly do not wish to model. And sometimes, logic just does not work. Really tough for we left-brained folk.

For those deeper issues of attachment and early childhood trauma, I am convinced that the teachings the Beyond Consequences Institute (BCI) will be our true saving grace (other than of course, daily prayer). It is based on love, and who does not want to love their kids?!!! Promoting connection, emotional validation, and nurturing compassion, BCI is often diametrically opposed in philosophy to the methodology of Love & Logic. This makes it critical to be in tune with your child’s needs and constantly vigilant to the source of their "behaviors". No easy task.

It is similar to pulling weeds … If one merely snaps the tops off they are gone for a little while, but always reappear; often in greater number! But if you dig down deep into the root and remove the whole thing you have a much greater chance at long term success.

In fact, I highly recommend that all parents explore the BCI model for parenting all kids. There are many, many kinds of trauma a child may experience (real or perceived, both have the same result) and the BCI model is an awesome, healing process for the whole family! It is totally about relationships!! Let's get rid of all of those nasty weeds at the root!!! Whew! Take a breath, Nancy … regulate.


* If we have a major challenge, it continues to be FOOD. Josiah and Naomi still do not care for most American food. And not being much of a cook, I'm reluctant to try new things or put much effort into it, as it is usually met with such disgruntlement. Thankfully we go out for Ethiopian food about once a week and often have leftovers for another meal. I had to laugh the other day when rather than asking, "Mom, what's for dinner?" instead I heard, "Mom, where are we going for dinner?" Oops! Nutrition is definitely one area where we need some improvement.

* The HAIR Challenge has been met! Follow that journey at Naomi's Sisterlocks blog.

* With still limited language skills, HOMEWORK takes a really long time. It is not something they can do much of independently. Even with math I have to read the instructions and story problems to them, and often explain words and reinforce concepts. Sometimes their homework is similar to each others, and sometimes it is not. When it is not, I get pulled back and forth between the two, both wanting (and needing) my help. Getting home at 5:30 or so and getting dinner, homework, sports or extracurricular activities and into bed at a decent time takes some balancing and hard work!

* Speaking of extracurricular activities, don't you all wish there was enough time and money for soccer, basketball, football, volleyball, cheer leading, singing, dancing, theater, piano/guitar/drum lessons, gymnastics, wrestling, track, swimming, and just staying home to relax?!? In your dreams, Mom! (Not to mention occasionally cleaning the house). They each get to do one thing -- ONE. Over the winter we were all taking Taekwondo together. I appreciate the aspects of respect, discipline, and focus and would love to continue, but that would exclude other opportunities. With the kids' natural abilities in athletics and music I feel like I need to (and of course want to) allow them to experience other options. How to choose where to place the limited resources? Heavy sigh! Both are in soccer for spring, but that means two different teams, two different practice times and fields, and two different times & locations for Saturday games. Thank you Jesus, for my dedicated support network that helps out and allows us to do this. I am ever so grateful to you!

* Not enough TIME. Not enough MONEY. Not enough SPACE (we live in a townhouse with no yard, no basement, no family room).

But we have Lots and Lots of LOVE! Stay tuned as our adventure continues . . .

Monday, March 30, 2009


It is the season of milestones for us. Earlier in the month we celebrated becoming at legal family (our court date) with our dinner party at the Ethiopian restaurant. TODAY was exactly one year since we MET and have been together as a family -- it is Gotcha Day!!!

My sister and I landed in Addis Ababa just after 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 30th, 2008. We had breakfast with our friends who are missionaries there, after which they took us to get settled into our hotel. Then about noon, Kassahun from CWA took us to the foster home to meet the kids. The boys and girls are housed in separate facilities, so we met my amazing son, Naol (Josiah) first. After a short tour to see his bed, dining area, etc., we walked a half a block or so down the street to the meet my wonderful daughter, Firaol, nicknamed Flower (Naomi) and received a similar walk-through. We've been together every since!!!

Then and now ....

Josiah (Naol), Mom (Nancy), Naomi (Flower)

"I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him."
~ 1 Samuel 1:27

Friday, March 27, 2009

Making Easter Cookies

I'm posting this early so you can gather the ingredients and get a head start. I've been so excited to do this with my kids. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Make these cookies with your children the night before to teach the true meaning of EASTER!



1 cup pecan halves
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
3 egg whites
1 pinch salt
1 cup white sugar


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place pecans in a re-sealable plastic bag and let children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, He was beaten by the Roman soldiers.
~ Read John 19:1-3

Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1 tsp. vinegar into mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross he was given vinegar to drink.
~ Read John 19:26-30

Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life.
~ Read John 10:10-11

Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers, and the bitterness of our own sin.
~ Read Luke 23:27

So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1 C. sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him.
~ Read Psalms 34:8 and John 3:16

Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color represents the purity in God's eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus.
~ Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3

Fold in broken nuts, Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper covered cookie sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid.
~ Read Matthew 27:57-60

Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus' tomb was sealed.
~ Read Matthew 27:65-66

GO TO BED! Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus' followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed.
~ Read John 16:20 and 22

On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty.
~ Read Matthew 28:1-9

This recipe is attributed to Wanda Long in "Home Life Magazine"

Makes 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 dozen cookies.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Earth Hour

Turn out. Take action.
Be part of this historic event.
March 28, 2009, 8:30 pm local time

In it's third year, and with time still to go before the globe switches off for Earth Hour, the number of cities and towns signing up to switch their lights off at 8.30pm on 28 March has already exceeded the ambitious target of 1,000 set by Earth Hour organisers.

Earth Hour 2009 – What Will You Be Doing?
Cuddling up with your loved ones and admiring the stars in the night sky or organising a treasure hunt in the dark? At 8:30pm on Saturday 28 March, people from all corners of the world will turn off their lights for one hour - Earth Hour - and cast their vote for action on climate change. Anybody can participate and join together with millions of people across the globe celebrating Earth Hour.

Earth Hour is about taking simple steps everyday that collectively reduce carbon emissions – from businesses turning off their lights when their offices are empty to households turning off appliances rather than leaving them on standby.

Here are 10 different ways to spend Earth Hour and reduce your carbon footprint:

1. Attend a local Earth Hour event or organise your own by throwing an Earth Hour street party with your neighbours
2. Gather family & friends for a night picnic in your local park and look at the stars
3. Enjoy a family dinner by candlelight
4. Organise a treasure hunt in the dark
5. Take the dog for a night walk
6. Have a candle-lit bath
7. Sit in the dark and share stories
8. Organise a family night playing board games
9. Share a romantic night in with your loved one
10. Upload your ‘on the night’ photos and videos to flickr and YouTube respectively, and then add them to the Earth Hour flickr group and the global YouTube Group.

Make Earth Hour work for you. Families with young children should feel free to turn their lights off earlier than 8:30pm and for those having too much fun in the dark during the hour, don’t feel you have to limit yourself to one hour and switch back on at 9:30pm.

In Sydney, where Earth Hour began in 2007, every ferry in the city’s famous harbour will sound its horn at precisely 8.30pm to herald the beginning of Earth Hour in Australia, while in Melbourne a people-pedal-powered concert will be underway at Federation Square.

On the other side of the world, arrangements will be underway for a host of concerts and parties in cities across Europe, including a ‘circle of percussion’ in Athens, where people will be given percussion instruments to play, led by a conductor, as the lights go out on the Acropolis.

To find out more about Earth Hour or see what events are happening in your area, visit the official website http://www.earthhour.org/, sign up and join millions of people in more than 1,400 cities and towns in 80 countries throughout the world by turning off your lights for one hour at 8:30pm on Saturday 28 March.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Celebrating a Milestone

Yesterday was ONE YEAR since we passed court and legally became a family!!! We celebrated by inviting a bunch of friends and family to our favorite Ethiopian restaurant. We had 32 attend, including ourselves and all the kids and babies. It was so much fun, that we are sure it will be an annual tradition. So mark your calendar for next year!