Thursday, August 16, 2012

Winter into Spring

I always believed that the greatest gift my mother ever gave me was faith.  As a young person it was a concept but in adulthood it became very real. 

In the winter of 2004 when my mother was very, very sick she told me that she knew her time was coming but that she wanted to wait until the spring.  She believed that the harsh Midwest winters would be too much of a strain on her friends and family.  She started telling me that in early November and continued to get more and more sick.  I couldn't see how we could possibly make it to spring, I wasn't sure that we would make it to Christmas.  The doctors kept giving us the 24-48 to live conversation.  The hospice nurse had been in my house twice telling us that my mother was transitioning.  My mother died early in the morning December 27, 2004.  It was 5 degrees below zero in Chicago, there was a blizzard in Indianapolis.  A few days later while getting things ready for her funeral I thought I just felt hot because it was so overwhelming but my car said that it was 75 degrees.  I pulled my car into a parking lot, got out and it was hot, HOT in December. It stayed hot that entire week.  My mother was buried January 4, 2005 in Indianapolis and we were not wearing coats.  Once in her resting place and most everyone was on the road or in the air heading back to their homes, winter returned in the form of a severe ice storms. I was stranded in Indianapolis for two extra days because of the bad weather.

In that time I was trying to figure out how she would hold on for a few more months but God had the power to turn a Midwest winter into spring.  That was a power beyond coincidence and it wasn't magic either.  The news reports said those temps had neither been the highest high nor the lowest low, but never in history had their ever been such a drastic gap in temperatures and in was unexplainable.  I'm sure those days had different meanings for different people, weathermen tried to explain it but couldn't, and for some it had no meaning at all.  For me it was my mother's last lesson before dying; God is faithful to the end even unto death.  Death is never easy and losing a mother is something that is hard to explain but knowing for sure that she did not leave not one day before she was meant to leave allowed me to truly let her go in peace. It also showed me in the most demonstrable way that no matter how dark any day may be, my creator has the power to move mountains, heal broken hearts, and turn winter into spring.   

I believe that there is a power greater than myself, a way over every wall, and an opening in every dark place.  I can choose to focus on the darkness or put all my effort into finding the little light.  I could be angry about hardship and loss or I could choose to revel in and celebrate the fact that there is never loss without renewal. Whenever I think of those hot December and January days of 2004 moving into 2005, I smile in the knowing that no matter what happens in this life, my life is as it should be. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

More than Orphans

 I've had so many conversations over the past few years about "orphans".  When I hear people use the word orphan it sounds like something rejected, neglected, or discarded.  Saying orphan in some ways paints a tainted picture of the children rather than the situation or the condition. I choose to use orphan as a verb (if it has to be used at all) and not a noun to describe children who have done nothing but follow what the adults around them have told them. I know a lot of adoptive parents feel that God sent them to save the widows and orphans, but I don't believe that in the wisdom of his creation that God ever created an orphan.  He made every child as special as the next, the same worth, the same value, and the same opportunity.  For every one of them, he had a purpose and a plan that extends far beyond what we might be able to see.  All he needs us to see him them is His divinity and grace.  

When I look at my kids and see who they are and watch who they are becoming, I always think back to the first day that I met them.  I allowed myself to see them, to see them while I was watching.  I didn't see orphans, I saw children living, laughing, and playing.  They were interacting, negotiating, arguing, and sharing with their friends.  Sure when I walked into the gate I noticed the sparse furnishings and the thin mattresses on the oversized bed springs.  I saw the tattered clothes that were too big or too small; a little dusty and a bit mismatched.  Standing there on the dusty lot with the playground equipment doubling as a clothesline,  I saw children.  I didn't see children waiting for a forever family.  I didn't see children who drew from me sorrow and pity, I saw children who cast against the dusty playground shined when they sang songs, tried to out dance, out skip, outrun, and outshine each other.

They made me smile, they made me laugh out loud -- often.  They were kids and I couldn't help but see how wonderfully special they were.  I don't mean wonderful in the they-will-eventually-be -my kids kind of wonderful or the how-great-they-are-to-laugh-in-the-face-of-all-their-pain kind of way.  I don't mean wonderful in the agency pamphlet sort of way, I mean, I thought they were incredible and awesome; talented and brilliant.  My daughter was confident and bossy, her leadership ability was apparent.  She was observant and engaging.  She wasn't shy or reticent and she smiled so brightly you barely notice the half-torn shoes.  My son was fast, athletic, and sensitive.  I witnessed his brash sensitivity when he got scolded and he came and stood in front of me with that one Denzel Washington playing in Glory tear coming down.  He was decisive and strategic -- he really tickled me.  He was just a little boy playing with his friends.  He was not a label or statistic, he was an orphan. He was just a great little boy and I watched him with the eye of an eagle.

I thought to myself who made them?  Who created these amazing little wonders?  Who instilled in them the confidence, strength, and fortitude that even behind this tall blinding gates they were able to stand without shaking and look me in the eye with self-confidence and certainty?  Who had encouraged them and taught them that their situation and condition were temporary and to never give in to the despair?  I looked at them and watched them frolic across the dusty yard and wondered how they did it?  They were not orphans they were children of the Most High God.  They had been parented obviously in a way that allowed them to thrive and not crumble although the things around them crumbled and were in need of repair.  How?  Who?  What extra dose of I am somebody had they been given that allowed them to stand out against the backdrop of despair and not sink down into it? These children way on the other side of the world were just like the children I grew up with in my own neighborhood, the children I had mentored over the years, the children that I eyed out my windows when I drove through the Westside of Chicago.  Those are the children that I brought to America.

I brought children who had strength, identity, purpose, focus, and an ability to love beyond all imagining.  I can't take credit for who they are and how well they are doing because the tools that they needed they had before they ever met me.  When I watched how certainly they moved and interacted with the new world around them, I did not feel worthy to parent them.  They didn't really need me to make them over. All the parts and pieces of who they were to become were there. I knew that for sure when I watched them pray with intention to a power much higher than myself, and the way they moved on with their day with every expectation that the pray they prayed would bed one.  I knew each time they patted me and told me that their God of Ethiopia was looking out for me too. I had foolishly thought that I'd have to teach them everything from how to use a fork to how to tie their shoes.  I imagined how afraid they might be in such a busy, bustling city with big building and 24-hour lights.  Please!  They took it all in stride.  They weren't wide-eyed at the sight of their new home, the downtown Chicago buildings, nor the new clothes in their closet.  Shoes, were a completely different story.

Young conservationist; I remember how they would go through my house turning out lights scolding me, "mabrite" the word for lights.  Home economist; I remember them in the market smelling fruit as they knew how to pick out what was freshest.  When they refused food, they told me "garbage" or "it's no good" they would say.  "No more this!"  These little food critics were were also able to tell me why; too sweet, too hot, too much salt, no flavor, no good! She would stand in the kitchen watching my every move checking like she was making sure that I was not adding harmful ingredients to their food.  "Cow, mommy?"  "Pig, horse?"  She would ask me while I cooked.  While I'd make something she would look in the fridge and hand me something,  a tomato or whatever she "knew" should be added to the dish.  Or maybe it was a day I reached for a stick of butter and he asked her what it might be and she knowingly said that it was "zite" or oil. I laugh and how my son use to taste all the food before he'd tel his sister it was okay to eat. He too had an eagle's eye and it was usually focused right on me.

These little beings that others called orphans knew a great deal about the world before they ever met me.  They knew a bit about politics, a lot about God and religion, the difference in Angus steak and regular old beef with one taste, picking fresh produce, cleaning, folding, sweeping, and other chores.  My son was even an expert backseat driver who would beep his imaginary horn at slow cars in our way. I later learned that him constantly yelling "bizit" from the back seat meant to go around.  These were people, real people with hearts, spirits, and minds that were engaged.  They already had a way of seeing the world, the people in it and their place.  They were not just little blobs waiting for life to be awakened in them they were wondrous beings waiting for someone who could see their magnificence.  They had definite likes and dislikes, favorite colors, food preferences, and style.  They had so much charisma and style that one could not help but notice. These kids had a knowledge and sensibility that demanded that I step up my game to meet them at their level.  They had and have a wisdom that commands my attention.  Maybe for a brief moment, I believed that I was changing their lives and I'm sure on some levels that do matter I have; I'm just not sure that I've changed them as nearly as they have enlightened and changed me.

Orphan might be an act that one does to a child, a verb.  Orphaned may be a visa designation but it is definitely not an accurate description of the children that I've been blessed to know and to love. I honor the place within them that has no limits and pray that I have the ability to foster that limitless possibility born to them. May I continually be granted the ability and wisdom to recognize who they are always in relation to their creator and never their situation or circumstances.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Deciding How to Decide -- CHURCH

From the I'm Still Here Article:

I've thought through most decisions that I needed to make for them hundreds of times like church, summer activities, school, language, family introductions, friends, doctors, food, clothes sizes, shoe sizes, sleeping arrangements, and crisis plans. I thought I'd feel more anxious now, more hurried, more how-do-I-get prepared but I just feel very calm and more steady. I'm not frantic about what I will pack or making travel plans that is the easy stuff.

What did I decide to do about CHURCH?

I left a church that I had attended for four years because I did not thin that it provided that supportive type of environment that my children would need. I had started attending an AME church a couple of months before they arrived and let the minister to know about my trip and that I would return with two children. I knew a few people there but not the pastor so I was surprised that first day of church when towards the end of service he asked for us to come to the front. The problem is I had taken my kids to the bathroom and we were walking back in and as we walked past the rows of people they were asking, "Are you the lady from Ethiopia?" How did they know. "Go, go he's calling you." Then I heard the pastors voice, "Yes, Ms. Washington you and your kids come here to the front." There were about 400 people there and I led the kids to the front. He made this overwhelming speech about me adopting and how no one was every going to publicly tell my story because I did not have the wealth or fame of a Madonna or Angelina Jolie.

Today those words seem even more prophetic. He talked about the road ahead for me and my children and again told the congregation to embrace us and that we would need them because in the world at large, single black mothers who crossed the waters to adopt in Ethiopia would be well kept secret. He said like anything else our experience would just lay in the shadow of the "great white hope" phenomenon. He promised me that day that they would support us as a family. I looked down at my kids who had turned towards the crowd and were waving at the smiling strangers. It was a unique experience and then he asked for a special prayer over us. After church that day people came and literally and figuratively encircled us. I kept watching my children who spoke no English; I watched how warmly they returned greetings to all who greeted them. They didn't shy away or show fear but somehow figured out they were very special. Was that evidence of an attachment issue, being too friendly with strangers? I didn't know but I was a stranger to them as well, a stranger with papers that I but they did not sign. No, I thought, this gathering of brown-faced well wishers just didn't seem threatening but familiar to them. I can't tell you how I could tell but I knew. The people around them knew as well and they asked polite questions about how to interact with my children, nothing at all about their adoption story.

Over these three years I've learned that seems to be a definite cultural marker; the way that white and black strangers interact with my kids. I watched those first months how people would ask how they were but always, always they spoke directly to my kids and each week remarked about their new word acquisition. I watched the weeks that we sat too close to the speakers and my son would cover his ears from the loud booming music. Did he have a sensory issue, I wondered and then thought I must have one too because it's also too loud for me. When people sang songs and the words appeared on the big screen ahead, though they couldn't read I'd point to it and move my finger along with the words and they understood it went along with what was being sung. Within a couple of weeks they too would point to the screen moving their fingers with the words. They began to rock from side to side with the music and my son had learned to shout, "Amen" with everyone else. He knew that word already from Ethiopia, but the day he surprised me was when he yelled out, "Preach, preacher," like had heard others do. I knew then that they were fully engaged.

My children sat through the two or more hour service each week, alternately sitting, drawing, or scribbling on paper but they were quiet and attentive from the beginning. My children had attended church regularly in Ethiopia, they were use to sitting and being quiet. When able my daughter would ask me why we sang in church more than we prayed, why we ate before church when she had been use to fasting so that she could take communion. My son with no English words sat in his seat and acted out the entire crucifixion from carrying the cross over his shoulders to nailing his hands and feet and then hanging his head to die. I was shocked watching him and tried to get him to stop stretching out his and on the cross but he wanted me to know that he knew where he was and understood the significance. FAITH, something that it was evident had been instilled in my children and something that we shared.

Within months they were going to children's church services without me, without incident except for the little girl who scratched my son intentionally one Sunday. Within about six months they were in the Christmas pageant, my daughter would listen to me repeat her Christmas part and she was able to deliver the words through the thickness of her accent without showing fear in front of the audience. They were invited to join the sign-singing choir and learned to sign the English words they weren't yet could at speaking. It proved to help their speech tremendously even though that was not the intent.

The sign singing choir of children do a public tour of nursing homes and a youth correctional facility two or three times a year. I drove in my car behind the bus on that first tour not sure how they would handle riding alone with 20 other kids and several adults on the bus. That first tour in April following their June arrival moved me profoundly. I watched these little kids in a nursing home with elderly people in wheel chairs and different states of health and thought of how fearful I'd always been of old people. I cautiously stood on the sideline ready to swoop my kids up if they felt uncomfortable but what I say was so moving. My son went right up into the face of a woman in a wheel chair and signed the songs for her as though she was his personal audience. But the one that really got me was when we went to the girls youth correctional facility and I saw all those hopeless young faces, it instantly took me back months to my time in Ethiopia. You could see how life had already worn their young lives down and I watched my children, singing and singing as though they'd done it all their lives.

I had to move to the back of the room to get in the corner to avert my eyes so that they could not see the tears streaming down my face. No one could possibly understand what it felt like to see my children, children who had no shoes or clothes to call their own a few short months earlier witnessing through song a testimony of hope. I couldn't stop my tears from flowing, in that moment I knew what ever happened if they who had been counted out could lovingly, gracefully, fearlessly get right in the faces of these girls and look them dead in the eyes and sign hope, that I would always do the same for them -- my kids. Words will never convey what it was like to see. They have even sat on a dais with the other kids for the National Convention of Interdenominational Clergy. This was a convention of over 100o ministers from every faith and our sign singer were chosen to perform. Watching my kids on that big jumbo tron screen still gives me chills.

So, church was one of my first and best decisions. We joined this church exactly one week after my kids landed in Ethiopia. Today at that church they are still warmly and affectionately welcomed. They sing in the kids choir, my son sings solos, my daughter dances on the church dance team. They love that place and the people in it and any day that I say we are not going they instantly become disappointed. I think going to that place and seeing 400-500 people who look like them and affirm them as been powerful.

I mentioned once to a lady that I'd been asked by some adoptive parents why I thought my children were doing so well. She told me to tell them it is because I found my children a village and all the villagers were working together for their good. At the same time we also attended the church attached to their school, it was not the same warm feeling. So, that's what I will tell you our children need a village of people who truly care for them not in symbolic or superficial ways but in sincere, demonstrable ways.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Queen, (The Prince), and I

People keep asking me isn't it tough, having adopted two (older) children at the same time. For me it isn't but I truly believe that we are only given vision for those things that we have also been equipped to do.

All the vision talk aside the ride just wouldn't be nearly as much fun without both of my treasures. There is nothing like watching them interact with each other, listening to him tell me how much he loves his sister, and her saying, "Yea, I love you but no touching me and no kissing me." I watch sometimes from a distance as she gently manipulates him into thinking that her ideas are really his own and then there are those classic moments like her polishing his fingernails and toe nails and then sending him to me with pride in his eyes while she laughs knowingly in the background.

Don't be fooled by those pretty doe eyes and innocent smile. She is truly made of sugar and spice and all that nice stuff with a little don't even try that mess with me thrown in. I think back to those early days of her refusing to wear pink with purple and now watch her apply three-days worth of lipgloss (chapAstick) in one application. She has the fashion thing down now and plans many of her outfits at night making sure that the tiny speck of pink on the tiny flower at the neckline matches the the pink in her socks that will be hidden by her shoes. She is so confident in her styling ability that she even wants to dress me. If it were up to her, she and I would wear coordinating outfits everyday, matching lipstick, and carbon copy hairdos. The day she put on that wig I thought she'd never take it off. She flounced around the house throwing the hair over her shoulders and telling me that she was definitely going to wear it to school for show-and-tell. She is all girl and for as much as I love her, uh and need her to constantly and lovingly REMIND me of ALL things I seem to forget, my life with her is deeper and more colorful because I too have my young prince.

If it weren't for having two of them then I wouldn't get all those wonderfully long periods of mommy time while they find and create new ways to play. I walked into their room the other day after a 2-hour mind-my-own-business pretend getaway in my room and was so incredibly pleased and proud to see that they had pulled out a lego set giving to them by the fabulous Kristine and my princess was reading the directions and putting together the fire truck for her brother as he sat trying so hard to help her. It was funny to hear her trying to explain how he needed to be patient, "slowly" she would tell him as he tried to rush the process and just use any piece of lego he could find. I was impressed she really managed to get those 60 or 70 little pieces into a truck with lights and wheels that he is still rolling around the house.

If it were not for having both of my treasures, I would not get to experience them trying to one up each other for my attention; race to me to kiss me first; insist that I hugged one longer than the other; or hear them say, "I am your baby too!" Without two who would take up for the other or plead the other's case to me as they both often do? And, I can't tell you what it is like to see him pick up a book and take it to her knowing that she can read it to him or now that he TOO can read he will often ask her first to help him.

Were it not for having both of them I wouldn't have so many laughs listening to their conversations in the car; hearing my daughter tell him in her best sista-girl voice, "stop I'm not playing with you." Then when she gets too bossy it is him telling her, "Don't tell me. I don't listen to you I only listen to my mom." That's right baby listen to your mama.

Then there are those comments that just come out of the blue and remind me of how wonderfully blessed I am to have them. For a few days my daughter kept asking if she could have my eyes. When I'd tell her I need them to see she would tell me that I could have her eyes for trade. No amount of telling her that her eyes were much prettier would convince her. Finally, she said she wanted my eyes because, "they have already seen everything and learned it." Profound right?

Still the best of the week was driving them to school and hearing them laugh and talk about a woman they saw driving a big semi-truck. "Mommmy, that's a lady? She's driving a truck?" They both just cracked up thinking that was so ridiculous.

Me: "Ladies in America drive trucks. They can do anything."

The Princess: "Anything?"

Me: "Yea, when you grow up if you want to you can drive a truck."

The Princess: "Who? Not me?"

Me: "Well what will you be when you grow up?"

The Princess: "A teacher I think. No...I am going to be a QUEEN."

When I walked in her room last night to turn out the light, I stopped in my tracks and laughed when I saw the royal way that she was sleeping. Do you see my baby wearing an eye mask? Help me please! I had to grab my phone and take this picture. What you can't see is that these pajamas have a fluffy fur-like collar and her legs are stretched out and crossed at the ankles.

All hail the QUEEN!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I Give You Everything!

For two years I wrote this blog and now it seems I'm on a once a month diet. Waiting for the kids to arrive gave me so much time to be reflective and usually I was writing about my feelings. Now that they are here I'm enjoying living every single moment with them and rarely pause to think or write about it. There are so many special moments, how do you pick just one. For me it's been impossible but I did want to share this little story.

My son is extremely talkative. He talks from the moment he wakes up and talks until he drifts off to sleep. Sometimes I think that he just talks because he is so impressed and amazed at his ability to speak English. I think he loves hearing words roll off his tongue and waiting for my reaction to the many things he says that he knows he should not say. I watch him amazed that four short months ago the only English word he knew was NO and he enjoyed speaking Amharic to one of my great friends who often called. Well, she called a couple of weeks ago and I put him on the phone. She immediately started greeting him in Amharic and he just as immediately said and I quote, "Hey what is this you are talking to me? I am ENGLISH, my mom is ENGLISH, everyday ENGLISH, ENGLISH, ENGLISH! If you want to talk to me you talk ENGLISH!" Then he handed the phone to me in a huff as though she had insulted him. For days after that he would say, "Mom, people know I am ENGLISH...right? I will talk no more Amharic."

Right after that he went into a story about his mother (I've chosen to call her that without the need to refer to her as the first one, the Ethiopian one, or the birth one). He told me that when he closes his eyes that he can see her running to him and he then he demonstrates how he will reach his hands out for her. He told me, "Mom, when I see her I am going to hug her and say HELLO." Right when he said that it was like he realized in that moment that she didn't know English. He looked and me and said, "What will she say, mom? Amharic or English?" Then he dropped it with a little sadness at the realization of what he said. My son's mastery of the language is pretty amazing, he has started correcting his sister's sentencing; he chimes in while she practices her spelling words (usually he is right about what letter comes next). However, because he talks so much and has so many ideas going on all the time sometimes I miss a few things and now when I do or tell him that I don't understand he ask, "Are your ears working? I'm talking ENGLISH to you. Do you hear this ENGLISH? Mom, you no listening to me?"

So, everyday we hear his version of English, English, English and a few days ago he said to me, "Mom when I'm very big boy, I will give you everything. Mom, I'm gonna buy three cars and give you two of them for you to drive. I'm going to work, work, work and give you my money, $100 I will give you. Mom, I will buy you leebs (clothes) at the leebs store so you can be pretty. Mom, I will get you shoes on your feet and socks for you. I will take you to the restaurant and get you food. Mom, when you get sick I will take you to doctor for him make you well." Then he started looking around the room. "Oh, yea mom I will buy you food for this house at the food store." He looked overhead at a kitchen light that was out. "Mom, I will get you this light here then it will no be dark in here...mmmm....mmmm.....Mom I will shower your car and make it clean and I will take you to church....mmmm...mmmm....mmmmm....Mom, I will get you pretty rings for your hands. Mom I will give you everything!"

I was smiling from ear to ear as much for what he would give me as for what he has learned since he's been here. It was so cute watching him roll his eyes upward to think of more and more things for me. "Mom, I stay with you forever. I stay HERE, no more change. Mom, this is it, I stay with you all the time and you stay with me. That's it!"

"Mom I love you for everything!"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yes...My Baby Can Read

As I drove the children to school this morning it was hard to concentrate on the road. My daughter pulled her book from her book bag and told me she was going to start reading at page 18 where we'd left off the night before. After telling her she needed only to read the first story starting at page one, she found the start of the story, corrected me and told me it began on page 7 and then she started reading about Henry, his dog Mudge, and the picnic lunch they had in the park. This morning as I listened to her she was reading with a different boldness. It wasn't because she knew all the words and could read it effortlessly -- she would try the words that she didn't know first, then spell them to me to help her fill in the blanks. But, as she read this morning I knew that she understood what she was reading. In the last week or so she has just begun to associate the words in the story to real meaning. So I listened to her stumble over "picnic", shout out Mudge, and laugh when she asked me about a "ginger snap". I was so proud of her and also aware that her brother, who never stops talking, was quietly and patiently listening to his sister as she read.

Riding in the car with my kids to school has become the favorite part of my day second only to when I pick them up after school and they run to me and begin telling me about their day. Or maybe my favorite part is waking them up and hearing the princess say, "Mom, oh my gosh I'm too sleepy," while the handsome prince, tells me to look outside, "Mom the sun is not up." He also uses the sun is not down line when I tell him it's time to go to bed. I don't know maybe my favorite time is sitting around the dinner table and them telling me about their day, what they want to do during the week, or sharing a story about Ethiopia. No, it's definitely when I put them to bed and we go through the same routine every night. Dinner, shower, pajamas, TV (maybe), 7:45 goodnight. People have asked me how I get my kids to go to bed so early and we've come up with a system that really works for us. We usually eat dinner around 5:30 or 6. After dinner my children know that if they want anything, a special treat or a chance at watching TV they have to be showered (with soap), have their pajamas on and be in their rooms.

My son runs from the table to take a shower everynight. The gentle princess typically takes her time eating and just moves at a slower pace. She will try to wiggle out of the shower or try to negotiate but ends up not far behind her brother. They are usually in separate bathrooms showering or bubble bathing at the same time. They each scream for me to come and sit with them so they can talk to me about how many times they've lathered up, asking questioned about how near finished the other is. I run back and forth between them until I hear one scream, "Mom, T-O-W-E-L!" That's my job. I am the towel lady. Since the day that my children arrived they have not needed me to help them or monitor them taking a shower. They are capable of adjusting the temperature, deciding if they want a bath or shower, stopping up the tub and draining it when they are through. However; they both love for me to hold out the towel, help them from the tub, wrap them in their towels and hug them as I dry them off. It's in this sweet loving embrace that they whisper in my ear. "Mom, TV?" "Mom is Meron finished?" "Mom, ice cream (juice, special treat)". The always end up giggling, hugging me tight, kissing me on the cheek and telling me that they love me. Mmmm....maybe this is really my favorite time of the day with them.

Anyway, all cleaned up, most nights they are running for their beds between 7:00 and 7:15. That's when the negotiations begin. No matter what time they hit the bed the TV goes off at 7:45 after a 10 minute warning. First negotiation is what to watch. I-Carly vs. Sponge Bob oh my but the princess will usually give in because she understands that the clock is ticking and any TV is better than none at all. Or we could watch a few minutes of one of three favorite movies: Shark Tales AKA Jelly Fish; Pinnochio AKA Father, Father; or The Emperors New Grove affectionately known around my house as, "What's Your Name?" Don't even ask but they have giving movies and songs their own names I even speak the language. My son does understand that watching a movie means they will not see the end and he tries to plead his case up front. Somehow they work it out every night, they watch, and the mommy walks in at 7:45 and they say in unison, "TV off?" Yes. "Awwh Mom...okay." Because they have learned that too much protest means NO TV the next day or even longer. They get under their covers stretch out their arms for hugs, the princess arranges all of her babies and stuffed animals under the covers with her and after hugging me, exchanging I love yous, she covers her head for sleep. The handsome prince always calls for me to come and lay next to him so he can look in my eyes. That's when he does things like count the moles on my face and tell me that's where God has kissed me. He tries to come up with many reasons for me not to go but after about five minutes will say, "Go mom, see you tomorrow." That's definitely my favorite part of the day.

Still, mornings aren't bad either. I decided early on that I didn't want to be the screaming mother in the mother so I go in and gently rub my children on the back telling them to wake up. My son the entertainer likes to imitate by using a soft voice and saying, "Good morning babies, wake up." It doesn't usually take much more than that to have them sitting on the edge of their beds. I go downstairs to start breakfast and before long they make their way down announcing that they have already washed their hands with SOAP. Our goal is to be dressed and out the door by 7:30AM and most days we make it. In the car we practice spelling words, saying bible verses that Meron needs to learn for the week, or taking turns picking our favorite CD selection. They will ask me when we get in whose turn it is to pick and then we usually listen to their choice or Marvin Sapp or Martha Munizzi. I've really tried to play other things but these are their favorites. I'm usually smiling all the way hearing them sing the words to songs and even getting some of them right. But this morning, nobody asked whose turn it was. We pulled out of the driveway with Meron saying, "I trust...Mommy you say it." Her bible verse this week is "I trust in you O Lord, I say you are my God." I said it but she cut me off to say it herself. The handsome prince also says it and is learning right along with her. Then she said asked me if I wanted her to read her book.

When she pulled the book out and started to read, I just kept thinking back to the second day of school when her teacher met me at the door and told me that my newly immigrated, limited English speaking daughter with little formal education did not read well in class "today". I was surprised that she was surprised since I was shocked, stunned and amazed that my six year old baby was reading at all. I wanted to tell the teacher that if my sweet Princes on day TWO could do all the things that the other kids her age could do that would suggest that she was far more advanced than her peers. The teacher asked me again that day if I wanted to consider putting her in first grade and again I declined. What I knew was that as my daughter developed more language skills that her ability to read would catch up. So, I didn't stress over trying to make her read the 62 page Frog and Toad book. I accepted that it may take two to three books before she would be able to read out loud in class. Well, we are in the fourth week of school and Henry and Mudge are book two. This morning I saw and heard that by the time this book is finished not only will she be reading it well aloud, she will also understand what it is that she is reading.

I was listening to her just amazed and proud and humbled and thankful beyond belief. Everyday I realize that somehow I was given the honor of mothering two of the most precious children ever. Every moment with them is special to me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Than I Hoped For

Well, we are coming close to ending our second week of school and I couldn't be more pleased with my little ones' ability to jump right in like they've been here forever. I look at them so amazed at how far they've traveled, what little time they've been here, and what they've already accomplished.

I'll definitely catch you up on the transition from camp to school and the funny and interesting phrases that my children are now saying, but I just wanted to dedicate this song to them as an expression of my love and pride.

I wasn't looking, all the colors were gray
It's hard to notice when you're out in the rain
All of a sudden, colors are starting to change
You brought the light
Now the darkness is gone
The search is over now I know you are the one(s)
Somebody tell me where does an angel come from?
Cuz you're more than just the one

Yeah, you're more than what I wanted
Everything I never had
Gotta get right to your heart
You can show me where it's at
You are the miracle I needed so bad
And you're more than what I wanted,
everything I never had

Something about you can't say what it is
Thought you should know that you are the reason I live
I would do anything to make you believe somehow
So I'm telling you now that you're...

You're more than what I wanted
Everything I never had
Gotta get right to your heart
You can show me where it's at
You are the miracle I needed so bad
And you're more than what I wanted,
everything I never had

Just let me say I would die for you
Give all I have to prove my love is true
And I'll never let you go...

Mmore than what I wanted
Everything I never had
Gotta get right to your heart
You can show me where it's at
You are the miracle I needed so bad
And you're more than what I wanted,
everything I never had

Original Court Date: April 18, 2009
Final Court Date: May 18, 2009
[607 total days & 165 days w/IAN]