Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The next time I think our house would be cleaner if I stayed home full-time, would someone please slap me on the back of the head? Being on vacation is wonderful, but having two toddlers around means it's not anymore feasible to fold laundry, unload the dishwasher or complete household tasks than it is when I'm at work. I need to remember that and let myself off the hook a little.

Aside from the Sisyphean nature of housework, things are going well. The sun was shining today and we were actually able to take a walk! Heaven!

Atticus has begun to use a few two word phrases like "Where's Bapa?" and "more milk". Tonight he paged back through a book we'd read and spontaneously pronounced the subject of each page (including "teacher")!

Norah learned how to give hugs a while ago and now adds her own sound effect when delivering a hug: "Awww!" I wonder where she learned that? Sometimes if Atticus isn't receptive to her hugs, she'll grab him by his shirt and pull him toward herself.

The kids received a new baby-doll for Christmas and spent a long time today nurturing her and their other doll. It was adorable to see them giving their dolls hugs and feeding them bottles. (As a side note: Doesn't it seem like a bad idea to make a doll that performs when you abuse it? This new baby sneezes when you put your weight on her nose and laughs when you press hard on her chest. Atticus and Norah love it, but it makes me wonder how they might treat a baby now!)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Too Relaxed to Compose

Paul and I are both on vacation and it's wonderful. It's been bitterly cold here for the last four days, so we've spent a lot of time lazing around the house with the kids.
Here are some things the kids have been up to recently:
  • Atticus is a bubble fiend. He gets so excited about them that he shakes.
  • Norah told us her first joke the other night: Do-do-do-do-do-do-do. She clearly thought she was being hilarious.
  • Atticus threw a Christmas ornament (a glitter ball I thought was made of plastic) to the dog. It was actually glass and it shattered all over the floor.

  • Norah has discovered a love of thumping her way down the stairs on her bottom
  • Yesterday Atticus pulled the stool over the the kitchen sink and tried to eat food out of the drain. Then while I was cleaning that out, he climbed on top of the kitchen table and was standing on it. Ah, toddlers!
  • They both love to dance.
  • The kids have been spending a ridiculous amount of time looking out the front window.

  • We have the most patient dog on the planet.
  • My brain is on vacation-mode and that's all I can remember right now. We're having a wonderful time though and keeping warm. Eventually I'm sure I'll think of something interesting to post about.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


On weekend evenings Paul and I often let the kids watch a Baby Einstein sign language DVD while we prepare dinner. We worry about them being underfoot in the kitchen and the hour before dinner is often a rather grumpy time for them. (Can you tell I feel some guilt admitting that we let our kids watch TV?)

Last weekend Atticus was having a particularly rough night, so Paul cuddled up on the couch with him for some downtime while Norah watched the DVD. To our shock, he realized both kids were performing almost all of the signs! Smart babies!

We've been doing a few signs with them since they were very little - milk, more, and our own rendition of "all done" which consists of hands held high in the air. That last sign came about organically at the end of meals and seemed like a good idea at the time. The reality, however, is that the hands held high in the air get tired quickly and need somewhere to rest. Both of them have begun to wipe their messy hands on their hair when they're done eating. It definitely doesn't expedite the clean-up process and isn't at all convenient when we're hoping to go out in public with them after a meal!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Paul entertained Norah for quite awhile the other day by touching the Christmas tree and then pretending it had hurt his finger. Apparently, she doubled over laughing so hard. Here, she recreates the scene for you. Also of note: We have a pair of minature hiking boots on the tree that the kids love to touch. Shoes!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Transracial Adoption

Paul and I spent some time last night listening to NPR archives about transracial adoption. Three that we found most interesting were Growing Up Black in a White Family, When Mom Doesn't Look Like the Kids, and Black Family, White Child: Another View of Transracial Adoption.

We're still new enough to this that I don't have many of my own insights. One thing that has hit home for me is how conspicuous our family is. At first when we came home with Atticus and Norah it seemed normal to me that we attracted a lot of attention. They were our new babies and it didn't feel too weird that people asked questions about them everywhere we went. We had just become parents and it seemed commonplace that the rest of the world was taking notice of it!

These days, our family seems so average to me. Two parents, two kids, two jobs, a dog, a house, and a partridge in a pear tree... We spend our days like all the other families of young children we know. We go grocery shopping and to the park. We rejoice in tiny daily accomplishments like one of the kids mastering a new word or looking particularly cute while doing something. We juggle daycare pickups, dread gross diapers, read about how to handle toddler tantrums, pray to the gods of baby sleep, and sometimes miss sleeping in on the weekends together - normal, normal, normal.

Yet, it's not unusual for us to attract attention when we do these things. We've been introduced as "Paul and Betsy who have two kids adopted from Ethiopia". Someone recently remarked about the fact that one of us referred to Atticus as our son. The cashier at our local supermarket started recognizing me after our second visit. I thought she just had a good memory when she asked where my other child was, but then she pointed out that there aren't too many white moms with two brown babies who shop there.

When we were preparing to adopt, I was mentally aware that we would stick out. It doesn't really bother me, but it is kind of weird to think that for the rest of our lives together as a family we will be labeled this way and set apart from others. We want our kids to have a healthy understanding of our identity as a family created through adoption, but it's a rather bizarre notion that for many people this will be the predominant identity of our family. My kids are just my kids to me. We hug and kiss them, give them baths, repeat random actions that make them laugh, would throw ourselves under a bus to save them... It feels miraculous yet completely normal all at once - just as I imagine most parents feel about their kids.

With all of this said, it's our job to continue educating ourselves about transracially adoptive families and how to raise happy, healthy children in them. Some of the comments in the NPR segments listed above really hit home and led to some great discussion between the two of us.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Word of the Day

Snow! Both kids learned how to say it and identify it this weekend. They spent hours watching it fall on Saturday.

Atticus hasn't decided yet whether he's a fan. He doesn't like to keep his mittens on and doesn't like cold hands either. Still, he enjoyed getting a chance to use his swing in the backyard again after he unearthed it.
Norah is officially a snow bunny. Snow cushions your falls, you can throw it, and eat it! What more could she ask for?

We also put up our Christmas tree. Much to my dismay, we needed to set it up behind the couch this year to keep little people from eating/climbing/destroying it. The kids think it's pretty, but they were far more interested in the box. Norah has never climbed on top of anything before, but yesterday she scaled the box just seconds after Atticus took the lead. (Side note: Her messy shirt in the picture demonstrates what happens when you try to give a toddler a sip of your fruit smoothie from a regular glass.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Siblings' First Hug

Yesterday Atticus scooted up behind Norah, wrapped his arms around her and gave her a gigantic, grinning hug. Then Paul and I melted into two gooey puddles on the floor.
We'll try to get them to re-create the scene for a photo soon.

P.S. Norah and Atticus got a new cousin yesterday! Welcome Madonna Faustina!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Norah Goes Solo

Paul and Norah had some one-on-one time over the weekend while Atticus and I napped. He's been going down at bedtime like a champ; we tuck him in, hand him his Dino and bottle, and the kiddo falls asleep right away. At naptime, however, he will occasionally jump in his crib and fuss. Often, if we pull him into our bed to nap with one of us, he's asleep before we count to one hundred. Anyway, father and daughter spent some quality time playing downstairs and Paul was able to get some good videos of her in action. These days she loves to play with hats and bounce on top of the yoga ball.
I loved the time when our kids were still babies, but I'm finding toddlerhood to be so much fun. Atticus has been inventing all sorts of little games recently. A new favorite is asking to be shut in a closet and then popping out and yelling, "Boo!" Norah is highly amused by this and Paul and I find it hilarious for the first ten minutes or so each time we play (the kids could do this for hours). After bathtime the other night, Atticus came up with a new game where he would hand Paul the bath towel, then squat down and yell "Go!" until the towel was tossed over his head. He has also begun to love putting their toys away. After cleanup last night, he found one wayward truck, opened up the toy chest and put it away without any prompting. It won't be long now before we can teach him to fold and put away the laundry! (A mom can dream, right?)

Friday, November 28, 2008

New Things

Atticus likes to help clean.
Norah trying to take off her brother's shoes
Siblings arguing over the telephone already
Putting on Bapa's boots
World's most patient dog
As infants who were adopted internationally, both Norah and Atticus were automatically referred for an evaluation and qualified for early intervention. On Wednesday, we had their six-month case review and both were discharged. When therapy started in May, Norah's goals were to roll over, crawl, and walk. As evidenced by the fact that she never stands still long enough to get a decent picture, she has more than made up for her early days of sitting still.
Atticus's two favorite things this morning: the tablecloth and his doll PeePee

Both of the kids are getting very good at identifying items that are off-limits. They now chant "no, no, NO!" as they open the toilet, unplug cords, push buttons on the telephone, and steal toys from one another.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I need to write a big post with pictures and anecdotes, but I'm too full of turkey and pie right now. It's time to enjoy a quiet evening now that our guests have left and the kids are asleep!

Both babies were fascinated by the Macy's Day Parade this morning. The Rockettes were a particular hit and Atticus did a wonderful job of alerting us to every balloon that came onscreen. The dog show that was on later was also very popular. They are both so good at identifying dogs - even the dumb-looking breeds that look like rats or mops were correctly deemed to be dogs.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Think I'll Pass

I'll leave it up to the reader to guess why I'm up at 1:30 AM researching food poisoning online. Apparently, eMedicineHealth has a slideshow of photos I can view on the subject. Somehow, I don't think that would make me feel any better.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Scary Things

Norah has apparently refined her Halloween scary face and was ready to show it to the camera today.
Atticus discovered a frightening (to me) new way to use their favorite push-toy.

Paul has gotten excited about making his first Turducken for Thanksgiving this year - also a little terrifying. Be sure to listen to "The Turducken Song" included at the link site. Dinner should be interesting.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Random Reflection

At my teacher development today we did a VTS activity using a photograph of Ruby Bridges. As I was looking at the picture of a tiny six year-old with pigtails and a determined stance, I lost my breath. I couldn't stop myself from imagining sending Norah off to first grade amidst a mob screaming at her, holding up coffins with little black baby dolls, threatening to poison her food. What kind of courage would it take, as a parent, to choose to march your child into that type of situation? Would I have the strength to risk sacrificing one of my own kids for something I believed in? I'd like to think so, but I have to admit that my gut reaction is a resounding No. Not my child. Can't they send someone else's baby?

Ruby Bridges's mother was a cleaning lady and her father was a gas station attendant who was fired because of their decision to allow Ruby to integrate her grade school. They eventually divorced and Ruby's mom raised their eight children in a Florida housing project. Her grandparents were kicked off the land they'd sharecropped for 25 years because their granddaughter was in the news. Can you imagine?

Of course I have enormous respect for Civil Rights leaders like Dr. King. At the same time, the stories that bring me to tears are most often those of the unsung heroes who never enjoyed fame or admiration - everyday people who took a stand and did their part to make a change.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

One Year Ago...

We got The Call telling us that Atticus and Norah were the children we'd been waiting for. Actually, the anniversary was yesterday, but I fell asleep on the couch before I could post. What a wonderful year it has been!

Norah spends long portions of her days running around the house with no real purpose other than the joy of running. Above she demonstrates what happens when you laugh too hard with a mouthful of kefir.
Last weekend, when the Paul and the kids met me at the airport, Atticus came running with a huge grin to great me. I am such a lucky mom!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008

Atticus and Norah won't remember it, but they went with me to vote last week. I wanted to be able to tell them they'd participated in this portion of history. The wait was an hour long and I'd forgotten to bring a stroller. In the end, they were much more interested in the big picture windows and the power strips giving electricity to all the computers. I was too focused on filling out my ballot and getting out of there to remember to take a picture. Still, they were there.

I don't really believe either of the candidates has the power to do everything he's promised. As I drove to work today, through a neighborhood that was recently denounced as a "forsaken ghetto" in our local newspaper, I was so inspired to see it alive with citizens grinning and waving banners while lining up to vote. My students today were almost as hyper and unruly as I'm used to seeing the day before Christmas break. It was an amazing thing to see. This election has helped people to overcome being disenfranchised and apathetic and that gives me enormous hope for our future as a country.

P.S. Obama Poster by Shepard Fairey

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In Memory of My Grandpa

My grandpa passed away yesterday. I was so lucky to have had such a wonderful grandfather. Here are some things I want my kids to know about him:

  • When I was little, I had an irrational fear that my parents would abandon me somewhere. Two things comforted me: 1. I knew my mom wouldn't leave her purse (and rationalized that if her purse was with me she must be planning to return). 2. I knew my grandparents' phone number and could just call my grandpa to jump in the car and get me. He would have too, even though he lived 700 miles away.

  • He loved children. As a little old man who bore a passing resemblance to Pope John Paul II, he got away with a lot and was known to pick up strangers' babies who held up their arms to him in restaurants and grocery stores. When I was trying to describe to my mom how much Ethiopians doted on Norah and Atticus when we were traveling with them in Ethiopia, I explained that it was like having a country full of my grandpa.

  • My grandma wasn't supposed to know, but he sent me shushkis (envelopes with notes and spending money) regularly.

  • He and my grandma were married for 64 years. He would regularly stop by the side of the road when he saw wild tigerlilies or sweetpeas and cut her a bouquet.

  • As a former funeral director, he taught me how to apply makeup using samples in drugstores while we waited for my mom and grandma to finish their shopping.
  • Another professional perk: He maintained an excellent relationship with his local Lincoln dealer and they always called him up when they had a good deal. For my college graduation he gave me his Lincoln Town Car. A few years later, Paul and I had to replace Paul's car. I knew if I mentioned this to my grandfather he would give us another car. We wanted to be grownups who took care of our own needs; we quietly purchased a Toyota Corolla. When my grandpa found out about it a month later, he bought himself a new car and promptly drove the old one out for us to have. Until the day we traded those two Town Cars in, I kept finding little vestiges of my grandpa tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the cars: plastic bags rolled and rubber-banded into the tiniest of squares, stray cigars and an ancient pack of Marlboros that he never would have smoked but probably was given and kept "just in case" he ran into someone who wanted them, silk flowers pinned to the sun visors, a bobble-head Jesus...
  • He loved dogs and horses. He kept sugar cubes in the car for horses he came across. The neighborhood dogs used to stop by to visit him for treats.
  • When Paul announced he would be moving to my college town to be closer to me, my grandpa's first words were "Keep your pants zipped."
  • He loved checking up on people and making the rounds. He had a long list of daily stops (the city mission to help serve food, the grocery store to see what he could see, the newspaper store, my mom's cousins' house next door when we were at the lake to find out what people were up to and what was in the candy jar...).
  • I lived with my grandparents every summer when I was growing up. Sometimes after evening meetings, he would wake me up with a coffee Fribble from Friendly's.
  • He didn't get much time with Atticus and Norah, but he was delighted by watching them swim and getting a chance to hold them.
  • He was absolutely the best grandfather anyone could ever wish to have.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Halloween Preview

We're still keeping our germs to ourselves today, but it was too beautiful to stay inside all day so I put the kids' Halloween costumes on and took them for a nice long walk. I think they make a pretty cute mouse and poodle.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Does This Make Me a Published Author?

Imagine my surprise this morning when I opened the December issue of Adoptive Families and saw a passage from my own blog! It's on page 15 in the event that anyone wants to check.

It's been an un-newsworthy week around here. All four of us have had colds and all of us except Norah have been slightly miserable because of them. I know we're not dealing with a serious disease or anything and should be grateful, but I am so sick of us being sick. Ugh.

Atticus has discovered that he loves to have his ears cleaned out with Q-tips. He actually requests it and has tried to do it himself.

Norah continues to keep us on Baby Suicide Watch. She's determined to walk right off the top of the stairs, the bed, the couch... She spent a good portion of yesterday amusing herself by putting a dishtowel over her head and then running around blindly.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Last weekend I was relaxing outside in an Adirondack chair while the kids played wondering why I didn't do more of it over the summer. Then I realized that they've developed so much in just the last couple of months. Norah wasn't even crawling throughout most of the summer and now she's delighted to run around chasing the dog or exploring the yard. It gets better and better. (Yes, Atticus is napping in the first picture.)

Both of them have recently developed a taste for cherry tomatoes and Monday Atticus began to pick the red ones and eat them. Norah followed suit, except she skipped the picking part and pulled the tomato vines straight into her mouth.
Here's the other big development around here:

He not only figured out how to climb into the kitchen chairs and move a stool around this weekend, but also began to read aloud some of the words from his favorite books. I'm sure he just has them memorized and isn't actually reading, but we think he's a genius nonetheless.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


When I was growing up, my dad and I had a Halloween tradition of driving around to find the biggest pumpkin possible and then carving it together. This weekend he was nice enough to pass along the tradition with Atticus and Norah. Atticus wasn't too sure about this new activity; he spent most of the time in his great-grandma's lap checking out the action from a distance. Norah, on the other hand, thought it was fantastic. A big orange thing to chew on! Something to stick her hands in! Gooey pumpkin guts to wave around!

This morning Atticus practiced his newest skill, climbing up into chairs, while observing the pumpkin from a closer proximity. Videos of his weekend will be posted soon.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Odds and Ends

Seriously, how cute is my son? These kiddos melt my heart over and over again and I feel so lucky to be their mom. The picture of Norah is representative of all the pictures I've tried to take of her recently; the child does not stop moving long enough to capture anything that remotely captures her essence.
Here are some things the kids have been up to:
  • They like to compare their bellies. They can both show us where their tummies are and then they like to hold up their shirts and stand face to face laughing. It's adorable.
  • Atticus has started to throw temper tantrums when we don't drop what we're doing to read him a book RIGHT NOW. His current favorite is Oops! and we must have read it at least six times tonight.
  • He has been transferring his favorite word ("more") to all sorts of things and now uses it to ask for the toy drawer to be opened, to be spun around more, or to get into his highchair.
  • Before we stored it someplace secret and high-up, he was obsessed with our iron and would tote it around the house. Don't worry, we never actually use the iron or plug it in, so I doubt we have to worry about him burning himself.
  • Norah loves climbing out of the bathtub. She has also learned her brother's trick of using her sibling as a step to get onto the couch. They are so funny.
  • We took a family walk around the block the other day and both kids walked 3/4 of the way all by themselves. It was a fantastic way to tire them out and they thought it was hilarious.

Friday, October 3, 2008

She Has Them Eating Out of the Palm of Her Hand

My grandma has been in town for the past couple of weeks. She fractured her hip on Labor Day and had a portion of it replaced, so she has been staying with my parents while she recuperates. I can't believe she had such major surgery only a month ago and was walking around the library with us today! She is truly an inspiration.

It's been great to see her more regularly. Since my grandparents live in New York and my grandpa hasn't been well, we haven't gotten to spend nearly enough time together. She totally won Atticus and Norah over this summer by introducing them to their first cookies. Atticus learned to get the box off the table and take it to her since his mean old mama wouldn't have complied. Now that she's in town, the kids know who to turn to for their raisins and Cheerios. In addition, Atticus is besotted by her cane. Go figure. [For the record, those aren't real scissors in the third picture. They're a pair of cooking forceps that have provided endless amounts of entertainment to the kids. Again, whatever works...]

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Will We Ever Dine-Out Again?

I haven't written about bedtime recently because I didn't want to jinx anything. In July we moved Norah into her own bedroom, moved bedtime to an earlier hour (as suggested by a book) and sleep-trained the kids. It worked like a charm and within one night we saw them sleeping through the night at least 90% of the time. We (actually, just I) felt guilty about the sleep training, but our pediatrician urged us to try it and I must say it worked really, really well. These days, as long as we stick to our schedule, the kids go right down to bed without any fussing. Atticus actually gets really excited about being tucked in and handed his Dino and special blanket. Norah is happy as long as she gets her bottle. I can't tell you how much of a relief this was after five months of being up for hours at a time in the middle of the night. Everyone in our house is happier - especially Atticus who I think was truly making himself sleep-deprived by being up so much.
Anyway...the schedule. If we don't stick to our schedule, if we take the kids out for dinner or try to put them to bed somewhere other than their own rooms, all hell breaks loose. When we went to Paul's family reunion last month Atticus was up pretty much all night both evenings. In all fairness, he was also getting a cold, but the experience definitely left a mark on us.
Last night, we were invited over for dinner by some neighbors and it was kind of a disaster. The kids have a tendency to get crabby in the evenings and last night was no exception. When they weren't fussing, they were wreaking havoc on the un-childproofed house. They found the computer keyboard, figured out how to turn the TV on and off, pulled a good portion of the books off the shelves, opened the kitchen cabinets, and left a messy trail of food all over the floor. I know this is par for the course with toddlers, but it was exhausting for both of us and I felt like we were awful guests. The neighbors have many kids and grandchildren of their own and were very nice about the whole thing. Still...ugh. What's the point of having dinner with someone if you have to spend the whole time chasing after your children minimizing the chaos they're creating? I don't mean to say we didn't have a good time with the neighbors and didn't enjoy their hospitality; they were wonderful and kind and went out of their way to accommodate our kids. I just feel like we should start apologizing the second we walk in someone's front door. It's exhausting going out with toddlers!
Anyway, enough ranting. I was reading an article on a parenting site the other day about how deceptive blogs can be because parents only post about the good things. I do strive to record the good moments here rather than the bad. For one thing, the good moments outweigh the challenging ones by far and I don't want to focus on the negative. Still, I know it comforts me when other parents post about the low moments of parenthood and I can see that their lives aren't perfect either. Someday I'm sure Atticus and Norah will have their own destructive toddlers and I hope it comforts them to know that they went through the same phase and eventually grew out of it.
The pictures are from our trip to the park yesterday where we fed the ducks and of Norah's crazy hair this morning.