Saturday, December 27, 2008

It's the Economy stupid

This morning I was reading one of my business magazines. Marin (age 6) strolls by and asks "Daddy, what are you reading?" I told her I was reading about the economy.

"Oh, that, conomy. I know all about that." she said.

I asked "Marin, tell me what you know about the economy."

Marin "It's really boring."

Christmas morning

Marin calls to us from her bed. When we go in to see her, she just turns over and closes her eyes as if to fall back to sleep.

Colleen and I look at each other like "Wow, did she forget this is Christmas?"!

Then Marin, eyes still closed, asks "Did Santa leave us presents last night?"

US "Yes"

Marin "But he didn't come in the house, right?"

US "Right, Marin, he stayed out in the cold living room

(We call the family room over the garage the cold living room because we heat it only from Thanksgiving to Christmas and, otherwise, close it off and shut it down. Our kids are still terrified of any strangers coming into our house. From what they tell us, they had some bad experiences with intruders beating their families in Ethiopia.)

Marin "Are you sure Santa did not come in our house? He scares me."

US "Marin, we promise, Santa and all the elves stayed out in the cold living room."

Marin breaks into this wide grin, wakes up Emmy, and we all head downstairs to the cold living room to unwrap presents.

The Inquisition

We attended a large family Christmas party a few weeks ago and Santa was a surprise guest. After all the children had an opportunity sit on his lap and pose for photos, Marin and Emmy approached him.

They just stood there, staring, jaws agape. Then the questions.....................

  • Where is Rudolph?
  • What do you feed him?
  • How does he stay warm?
  • How does his nose get red?
  • Does he need batteries?
  • Where is Mrs. Claus?
  • Why is she not here right now?
  • Are you nice to her?
  • Do you remember when you saved Frosty from the bad magician? I saw that on TV.
  • Why are you not green like the mean Santa (the Grinch).

and on and on and on

It was hilarious. The kids were dead serious. And Santa started looking around for help like one of those felons on Cops or something. Marin and Emmy are getting ready for a career in journalism on 60 Minutes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Singer Songwriter

Emmy is very creative with words. A few nights ago I overheard her singing this little ditty to herself in the back seat.

When the car breaks............I want to buy a vaa-aaann.
When the car breaks............I want to buy a vaa-aaann.

Do you really want a van? Yes I do!
Do you really want a van? Yes I do!

What color will it be? Is it blue? Is it green? Is it red? (and so on through all the colors she knows)

Watcha gonna do with all that van?
Watcha gonna do with all that van?

Gonna take my friends to the WalMart
Gonna take my Mom to the WalMart
Gonna take Marin to the WalMart
((and on and on naming all the family members and friends she can think of))

Buy an ice cream cone there. Yum Yum Yum.

By this time we were pulling into the garage, so she wrapped it up. Now I kinda wish I'd just kept driving in circles to see how far she could have taken this song. Emmy is just too funny.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mesgana Dancers

Every now and then the girls will ask me to bring up You Tube and find something Ethiopia. Today we stumbled across this dance troupe of young Ethiopian girls. As we watched, Marin began narrating to me............

" I know that song. We used to do that one to get food. We sing and dance and tell the people our belly is hungry."

" That girl is saying she misses her Mommy. When she does this (moves her hands and arms a certain way) she is thinking about hugging her Mommy"

" This dance is about asking for a drink. The girls is thirsty. Very thirsty."

" These girls are playing a game like baseball. Not baseball but like baseball. The bat is not round." (I think she is saying Cricket but does not know the English word for Cricket)"

" These girls are planting seeds to grow food and then they are singing to the sky to make rain for their food."

The detail and nuance Marin went into as she continued really caught me by surprise. She was very calmly narrating the action. The fact that she spoke in a continuous stream without any pause to think about what she was saying added to her credibility. Now I wonder whether she and her friends might have done some street performing/begging to get food.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Genet Asefa, Awassa, 2-07 Kebele Ethiopia

The girls have an older sister, Genet, who they have never mentioned until this week. Now she is all they want to talk about. We cannot fill in any of the blanks for the girls because we know nothing about Genet, we did not meet her when we travelled, and we have no photos of her. So Genet is this big open canvas that the girls invent and reinvent as the days go by. Some days Genet wears a dress, other days pants, long hair, short hair, braided, not braided, etc. etc. .

The girls include Genet in their playtime now. For example, when they are playing kitchen or tea party, they make a meal for Genet or they set a place for her at the table. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

Colleen and I make up little sing song rhymes about the girls, and now the girls sing the songs about Genet. For example:

I know a girl named Genet
She is a beautiful girl
She has a beautiful smile and
She has beautiful curls.
laaa lala laalaalaa

I think the message here to parents adopting older kids is - you never know when the next layer of the onion is going to peel back. Our girls have never mentioned Genet and we were certain they had either never known Genet or had totally forgotten her. Now, 21 months into the adoption and over two years after being relinquished to the orphanage, Genet is alive and well in their minds and imaginations.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

High School Mascot

I took the girls to their first high school football game today. Our mascot is the Windham Eagle. At half time I took the girls down to the sideline to watch the cheerleaders, the band, and to get a photo with the mascot. Emmy and Marin wait until we are face to face with the Eagle to ask me......

Emmy: "Daddy, why is he looking like a penguin?"

Marin: "Daddy, what is that turkey thing right there?"

How embarrassing.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I can handle stuff

Tonight I took Marin and Emmy to the town Halloween party. There are about 400 kids all running around in the dark with flashlights looking for candy, then we retire to the library for cookies and cider. It's fun. Emmy was dressed as Elmo, and she got a lot of comments. Marin was dressed as an angel with wings and a halo, but in a long cleopatra robe. It really worked for her. Now to the point of the story.

As we were leaving the library, Marin looks ahead of us as exclaims "Look! That's the girl that's mean to me on the monkeybars at recess." I ask Marin to calm down and tell me her name. "I don't know her name, but that's her dressed like a cheerleader. We have to get her now!" And Marin charges off into the darkness to chase this cheerleader and her mother.

I finally catch up just as Marin is beginning to engage the mean girl. Marin says "I know you. You cut in line on the monkeybars. That's not nice." And the girl looks at Marin as if to say "What are you a freaking stalker jumping me in the dark in a halloween costume?"

So Marin marches right up to the Mother and says "This girl here is mean at recess. She cuts in front of people on the monkey bars." And the mother said "Oh, that's not OK." And Marin says "I really mean it. I'm telling you the truth." And the mother said "OK, I'll speak with her about it. Thank you for telling me."

At this point I pull Marin away, we go to the car, and drive home.

Now Marin is in the kitchen telling Colleen this story and Colleen looks at me like "Dear God Did this really happen?" I told her it did, almost exactly like Marin said it did. And Marin is sitting there looking all proud of herself for righting one of the worlds greatest wrongs.

Then Marin says, very confidently, "I know how to handle stuff!" Do you suppose Michele Obama was like this at age six?

Friday, October 17, 2008


Last night Marin was really sad at bedtime. I asked her why. She said she missed her Africa Mommy and she started crying. Whenever this happens, we tell Marin her mother is safe in heaven with Jesus. And Marin usually asks us how we know that for sure.

So last night I asked Marin if she wanted to say a prayer to Jesus for her mother.

"Dear Jesus. Please keep my Africa Mommy safe. Give her a cozy bed, and healthy food, and she is not thirsty. If she is sick, you give her medicine and a doctor. And give her pretty hair and pretty clothes and make her happy all the time. Amen. "

Nintendo DS

I am going to kill whoever invented this stupid game. A few kids on Marins' bus have one and now it is all she ever talks about. Her first question to me upon waking up is "Will you buy a DS today?" and her first question upon walking in the door after school is "Did you buy a DS today?"

Now its' to the point where I have to give her five mins a day to log on to the DS website and let her play a mock game. She is so funny. Half these games are video demonstrations - in other words - the mouse and keyboard have no effect on the game. Doesn't matter. Marin is always yelling to me "Daddy! I won! Come See! I am super good at DS!"

School pictures time

We really want excellent school photos, so we spend some time with the kids posing them in front of the mirror and teaching them how to smile nice.

Fast forward to dinner following Emmy's school pictures. I asked "Emmy, show me how you posed today?" and she said "Like this, Daddy"

I turned around to see her and she had her lower eyelids pulled way down and her nostrils pushed way up. "Do you like it?"

She is such a button pusher.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Book of Revelations

Last evening we had dinner with a young Ethiopian, Mammas, who is studying for the priesthood with the Archdiocese of Boston. He was fascinated with our kids, and they were fascinated with him.

Our kids, who lost both their African parents, are always very concerned that their parents are safe in heaven. We told the girls that Mammas is a man who prays to Jesus, and they seized this opportunity to pepper Mammas with questions:
- Is there lots of food there?
- Can they sleep or do they have to work all the time?
- Is there a doctor if they're sick?
- Who makes them safe when Jesus is sleeping?
- Do they have warm clothes?

Poor Mammas. He looked at me more than once and commented "These are really tough questions!"

With the kids satisfied, we shooed them off to play and settled into adult conversation. Mammas wanted to know all about our adoption process and what we knew about our childrens lives in Africa. So we told him.

By the by we mentioned a cute little song Marin and Emmy used to sing when they washed each others backs in the bath tub. Mammas looked puzzled and asked us to say it again. Then he thought about it a long time and finally said "based on what you told me about their lives after their parents died, I'm not sure you really want to know what this song means." Now me, Mr. Curious, I absolutely must know and will threaten his life to learn it.

The song means "you are dirty you are dirty, but I don't care because you don't belong to me"

My mind flashed back to the muddy filthy alley where our girls lived, and imagined the other mothers mocking our poor orphaned kids. And our kids were too young to even know they were being mocked! They thought it was a cool little rhyme that you sing when you are cleaning up. It was so saddening. Even after 18 months home, we are still learning little pieces of the puzzle.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chronic Lyricosis

You know how some people sing a song a get the words totally wrong? That is chronic lyricosis.

Some nights I pull up YouTube and show the kids some of the songs of my misspent youth. Tonight it was "The Clash live in Brazil - Rock the Casbah"

You remember this one. Shareeeef don't like it Rock the Casbah Rock the Casbah.

Now Marin's version. The kiiiiids don't like it rock the paper scissors rock the paper scissors.

Now Emmy's version. MaMaaaaa don't like it. rock the baby rock the baby

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Popping the question

Marin and I were chatting about our day and she pipes in with "How can I make a baby?" Not "Where do babies come from?" or "How do people make babies?" but specifically "How can I make a baby?"

I mean, for crying out loud, she just turned six years old last month! So I gathered my thoughts and we had the talk - and I told her the truth.

"Marin, these are all the things you have to do to make a baby, and they have to go in this order. No cutting the line."

First, you have to graduate from college. Nobody can make babies until college is over.

Next, you have to find a boy you love too much, and he loves you even more. He's kind to you and he respects you. You have to look a long time.

When you find that boy, then you marry him. Nobody can make babies until they are married.

Finally, you have to kiss the boy you married. That's it. If you do these four things, in that order, then you can make a baby.

Marin was on board until I got to the 'kissing the boy' part. She turned up her nose a little at that and asked why that step is necessary.

Aye aye aye. Mom is having the next talk.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Fatness is confusing to our kids, especially fat men.

One of the men at Emmy's daycare is really really overweight. One day Marin was staring at him and asked me "Daddy, that man a him or a her?" I told her it was a him. She asked "Him having a baby?" I thought what kind of question is that and told her "No." Marin insisted he was having a baby and when I kept saying "no" she got these puzzled looks on her face.

So Colleen and I were discussing that one evening and it occurred to us that Marin had never seen fat people in her village unless they were pregnant. So she did not understand how somebody could be fat and NOT pregnant. It just did not compute. Every day continues to reinforce what a fascinating place our kids came from.

Africa in America

Our kids talk about Africa a lot now. Some of it is obviously manufactured - for example - Marin insists she used to play ice hockey in Africa; but some of it is very interesting and gives some insight into what their life was like.

For example, we went apple picking last weekend. While there, we saw a tractor pull a large wagon full of black men through the orchard. I believe they were migrant workers. Their clothes were well worn and they had the look about them of people who lived a very hard life. Marin perked up and said "Daddy, look. Them brown skin people from Africa. I knowed them. I knowed all of them in Africa." And even though it's impossible she knew these particular people; it is very likely that she saw this scene every day in Africa. A wagon full of laborers being pulled by a team of donkeys or cattle through the streets of her village.

Just today, the kids and I were out in the driveway playing. Marin asked me to help her draw a hopscotch grid using driveway chalk and Emmy was riding her bike. I lost track of Emmy for a minute and then she called my name. I looked around and did not see her, but her voice was very close by. Then I looked up, and she had climbed a tree to about 15 feet off the ground. Emmy is three years old, I have never seen her climb a tree even one branch high, I am forever lecturing her about how dangerous stairs are, and she is very cautious on playground equipment. Even in the apple orchard last weekend, Emmy did not climb trees.

Now I am looking up wondering how the heck I am going to get Emmy down. I asked Marin "Where did Emmy learn to climb a tree?" and Marin said "We do that in Africa to get food. Watch, I show you." And Marin proceeded to scamper up the tree next to Emmy. Unbelievable.

Brown Skin

Emmy is finally noticing skin color in a big way, is quite fascinated by it, and raises some interesting questions.

For example, while bathing in the tub, she asked if she washed hard enough would she have white skin. When told no, she quietly pondered that for awhile. Then she asked "When I go to heaven, will I have white skin then?"

Yesterday Emmy was on the phone with Colleen. She told Colleen she was going to draw a picture of Colleen eating ice cream. Colleen thanked Emmy and told her she can't wait to see it. Then Emmy asked Colleen "Mama, you want me to draw you with white skin or brown skin?"

Monday, July 28, 2008

Scholarship money

Readers of the blog know we have raised the kids to be value shoppers and save money for college. When we go shopping and the kids want something, they pick it up, look at me and ask "go to college?" If I say yes, then they put it in the basket; otherwise, they put it back on the shelf. It's a great system.

Last weekend I bought a giant package of hot dogs to take to a cookout. It was on the countertop and Emmy saw it. She picked it up, her eyes got huge, and she said "Mama, this is a big one!" "Are we still going to college?"

Biology lesson

Colleen recently asked Marin how her day at school was. Marin talked and talked about the new boy at school named Michael. All about Michael - his hair color, how tall, what games he liked on the playground, what was in his lunchbox, and on and on and on.

During this entire monologue, Emmy sat quietly and attentively, hanging on Marin's every word. When Marin finally finished, Emmy looked right at her with this deadpan expression and asked "So Marin, did him have a penis?"

I had to sprint to the other room so Emmy did not see me laughing. Marin had a total fit. "Emmy. No potty talk in the kitchen. That's gross. That's disgusting. We don't talk that way here. You need a time out."

And Emmy said "Did him?"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Koo Koo Loo hit and run

This morning, as we were leaving, there was an enormous ball of feathers smack in the middle of our driveway. It looked strangely familiar, but utterly foreign. I finally figured out it was a dead chicken or rooster. (the guy across the street keeps a flock) By the way, kookooloo is the amharic word for rooster.

I had been staring at it long enough that the kids saw it........and the questions began. We're talking torrential questions.

What is it, Daddy? Kookooloo?
Him dead? Why him dead?
He in heaven?
How you know that?
Can we see him?
He gonna wake up tomorrow?
His mama know?
Is he bleeding?
Call the doctor? Medicine? Bandaids?
Is the kookooloo a him or a her?
Can we eat him?
How we gonna have eggs now?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Marin's Secrets

Last night I was lying down with Marin trying to get her settled to sleep. She was so excited. She said she had a lot of secrets to tell. She pulled her sheet up over her face and began whispering her secrets into the sheet.

" I love Mama. She's too pretty. She makes my chicken nuggets and potato tots. I love it when she does that, and when she hugs me."

"I love Emmy. I love to play with her. She so cute. She my favorite sister."

"I love Daddy. He a big boy. He take good care of me. He so handsome, too."

And on and on about her grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends at school. She had something really thoughtful and nice to say about everybody. She is such a sweet kid.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Is she already a teenager??

Last night Marin (age 5) and I were rolling a basketball around on the floor. She reached over and picked up her toy cell phone and said she was calling me. I opened my cell and pretended to take her call.

Marin was telling about her day when, in mid sentence, she said "Daddy, hold on I have another call." Then she starts yapping away with an imaginary caller and looks at me and says "Daddy, I'm not talking to you now. Someone else." As if to tell me to give her some privacy. Dear God. She's only 5. It gets worse.

To whomever she is speaking, she says "I broke up with him today." (What!!!!! she doesn't even know what that means) Then she says "But it will be OK because we only had one kids." (double heart attack)

I said, "Marin, I think it's time to put the phone down and play ball with Daddy." She smiled and said "OK, Daddy. Let's play some more." (Pheww, she really is still 5)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bleeding Heart

Marin started a summer rec program to which the ice cream truck comes every Friday. No way am I shelling out $4 for a 50 cent treat that will melt before Marin eats even half of it. Parents have to take a stand on crap like this. I asked one of the counselors if there is a freezer and could I bring a treat for Marin every Friday. She said there is and I can. Perfect.

To digress a second - Emmy's school had arranged to have the ice cream truck visit weekly but the parents protested so loudly that the school cancelled the visit.

Back to Marin. I went to the grocery store and bought Marin a box of 8 prefilled cones (drumsticks, I think) for $2.50. I explained to her that all the other kids would be paying a lot of money for a treat from the treat truck tomorrow, but Marin's treat will be in the freezer for her, and we are doing this so she can afford to go to college.

Friday comes. Put a treat in the freezer at school. Remind Marin and teacher it is there. Mission accomplished.

Pick up Marin in the evening. Marin is quiet and sad. I asked her if she enjoyed her treat. She did. Did the other kids enjoy their treats? Yes, they did. Then why are you so sad?

Answer..... "I'm sad because all my friends at school won't be able to go to college because they spend too much money at the ice cream truck." I mean, is this kid too good to be true, or what? She is such a sweetheart.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


About a week ago, Marin started telling us about her bus ride from her village of Shebedino to Horizon House. She said Marin and Emmy were way in the back of the van crying the whole way. Solomon was the driver, and Abaynesh and Lidet were in the front.

I immediately called Meg (mom of Abaynesh and Lidet) and asked if Lidet had ever spoken about this. Meg said oh no no. She knew all about her girls story and it did not involve Marin and Emmy.

A couple of nights ago Meg called back and told me she was mistaken, that she actually asked Lidet whether anyone else was in the van with her and Solomon and Lidet said "Yes, Marin and Emmy rode way in the back and I was in front. Abaynesh was in the middle."

It's amazing how this one little piece of information puts so many memories into context. For example:

- Why did Emmy and Lidet share the same room with Abaynesh and Lidet at HH
- Why, at HH, was Lidet always hugging Emmy
- Why, when we came to America, our kids were always pointing to the photos of Lidet and Abaynesh.

I so wish I had known this information when I was in Ethiopia. I would have grilled Solomon about the pick up in the village and the ride to Addis. I would have asked him to take us to Shebedino instead of (or in addition to) the Aunts house in Awassa. Our kids are true orphans, so much of the family information is lost. People in the village could have helped fill in the pieces.

Emmy Hancock

Hancock is this new movie about a mild mannered guy with super human strength. Before I tell you the story, I want to remind you that Emmy is a petite 3 year old who does not yet weigh 30 pounds.

A couple of nights ago Emmy and I were wrestling around on her bed. Emmy said "Sit up Daddy, I show you something." So I sat on the edge of the bed with my feet on the floor. Emmy positioned herself to my left, facing me perpendicular.

She said "Daddy, this might hurt a little bit"
me - "what are you going to do?"
Emmy - "It might hurt. Probably gonna hurt a little."
me - "what are you going to do?"
Emmy - "Daddy, take off your glasses first." (I put them on the floor under the bed)

Emmy gently grasped my Adams Apple with her left hand. Again I asked her what is she going to do, and I have to admit - even thought she is only 3 - I am getting a little nervous now.

Emmy said " Don't worry Daddy, will only hurt for a little."

Then, with the strength and quickness of a karate master, Emmy grabbed my adams apple with her left hand and yanked it toward her. Simultaneously, while grunting, she upper cut the heel of her right hand at the base of my skull just below the left ear. This had the affect of practically ripping my throat out and snapping my neck at the same time.

I could not believe her power. She looked at me with this really proud grin and asked "See? Only hurt a little bit, right?" I asked Emmy where she learned this and she said watching the boys at school play video games. Holy crap.

Don't be surprised if you find Colleen and I duct taped to the rocking chairs gagged and blindfolded.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Poor Emmy. She was strapped into her car seat just singing away having a great time. Old McDonald, Twinkle Little Star, the 12 Days of Christmas - all her favorites just belting out at the top of lungs.

Suddenly, in the middle of an Old McDonald verse, she just burst into tears. Wails and wails of tears. When she finally composed herself, between sobs, she began asking questions.

"In Africa, why nobody take care of me?"
Why nobody feed me?
My belly was hungry.
That hurt my feelings.
It's not fair.
Before Ababa Cakos (that's what she calls the Director of the Orphanage) take me, I was too hungry.
That make me so sad."

In 16 months, this is the first time Emmy has done anything like this. Colleen and I looked at each other like "Where did this come from?" and "God forbid, what is this a harbinger of?"

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Pee yeeeeeeewwwwwwww

Today we drove past a recently killed skunk. Emmy was in the back seat yelling "Stink! Gross! Plug your ears. Plug your ears."

So Marin plugs hers ears. Emmy looks at Marin, starts laughing hysterically, then says "I mean nose! plug nose!"


Marin is so cute the way she sometimes reverses words.

Today she was given a time out at school for allegedly writing on the tabletop - a crime she says she did not commit.

"I didn't do it, Daddy. I tell you the truth. God to swear. God to swear. "

Girl Genius??

Emmy was in the shoe aisle at WalMart watching two teenage AA boys trying on new sneakers. They were jabbering in another language that we did not understand.

Emmy looked at us and asked "Why they not talk English?"
Colleen asked "How do you know they are not speaking English?"
Emmy "Because I don't know what they say."

At this point, Emmy has drawn the attention of the two boys and they start asking a few questions about her. Then one boy turns to Emmy and asks her a question in whatever language it was he spoke (still don't know what it was). Emmy looks up, smiles, and says "I am three years old."

The boy looked stunned, turned to us and said "You have one really smart little girl here."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Marin's first boy crush

Tanner is a second grader in the after school program. Seems like a real good kid. Nice personality, good looking, athletic, generally respectful (or at least acknowledges when he isn't and changes his ways). I usually banter with him when I go to get Marin.

Over the last few weeks, Marin will casually work Tanner into the conversation on the car ride home. "Tanner was on my bus today. Tanner played football today. Tanner was up on kid zone hill today." etc. I didn't think too much of it because Marin always talks about other kids at school or after school.

Fast forward to this week. On her weekly library trip Marin borrowed a book about football and could not wait to show me when we got home. "Look Daddy. This book is about football."

Me: "Why did you choose a book about football?"
Marin: "Tanner plays football."
Me: "You borrowed this book because Tanner plays football?"
Marin: "Yes. Maybe his picture is in here with all these boys. Then I can see Tanner's picture all the time. I like Tanner."

Monday, May 5, 2008

Gotta get the tooth, man

Last Friday, when flossing Marin's teeth, I noticed how loose her left upper front tooth was, and told her it would come out soon. tooth. tooth.
Sunday night Marin was tossing and turning and working that tooth like there was no tomorrow. She would not go to sleep. Finally I asked her if she wanted me to pull the tooth. She said yes. I asked her why. She said she wants to show it to Mrs. Whynot (her kindergarten teacher). So I pulled it. Marin was thrilled and fell asleep in about 3 seconds.

Monday AM I take Marin to school. She rushes to Mrs. Whynot who makes a big to-do about the lost tooth. Then Mrs. Whynot says "Marin, this is the first lost tooth of the month, that means you win the big prize for May." Marin was beaming. I thought to myself "So this is what all that commotion was about last night."

Problem Solving Skills

We play this little game in which I hold three golf balls in my right hand and three golf balls in my left hand. Marin takes one hand and Emmy takes the other. Whoever can pry all three golf balls from my grip first wins. It's a great game because I can just lie on the floor on my back and get a rest while totally entertaining the kids. Talk about win/win.

The point of this story is how creative Emmy became after realizing there is no way she will win the game on strength. One night she turned my hand so it was palm up. Using both her hands, she peeled back my thumb and stood on it with one foot. Then, using both her hands again, she peeled back my pinkie and ring fingers and stood on them with her other foot. Then she used her hands to peel back and pin my remaining to fingers. Now all the balls were exposed, but she had no hands with which to pick them up. Emmy tried blowing on the balls to move them, then she tried rocking my hand without losing her grip. Finally, she turned to Marin and asked "Marin, will you please pick these balls up for me?" When Marin said "No", Emmy tried to get the cat to roll the balls off my hand. I gave her the win for ingenuity.

Next night, I changed my grip so Emmy's foot trick would not work. She took my hand, turning it and exploring it every which way like it was a Rubik's cube. Then she grabbed my wrist with both hands, looked at me sweetly, and bashed the back of my hand with all her strength against the edge of a table leg . Of course the golf balls went flying as I screamed in pain and surprise. Emmy, totally ignoring me, turned to Marin and said, matter of factly, "I beat you again."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Do I hear witness?

Sunday we took Marin and Emmy to the AME Zion church so they could mingle with other African Americans. They were the belles of the ball. Everybody wanted to touch them and hold them and ask questions about them. The kids, being attention hounds, lapped it up.

The first half of the service involved a lot of music and gospel singing and our girls seemed to really enjoy that. They were smiling and rocking back and forth in time with the music. Then the sermon started. If you've ever been to an AME service, you know the sermon can be enthusiastic.

Afterward, I asked Marin how she enjoyed the church. She said "Why that man yell at me too loud? Why he angry. I was good girl. Why he yell at me too much?" It is always so interesting to see how Marin and Emmy interpret things.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Grand Theft

I took Marin to the library for story time this week. There are about 8 families of children and Moms crammed in a semi circle while a librarian reads childrens books.

I had a zip lock bag of cereal in my jacket pocket for Marin's snack on the ride home. So we're reading, listening, reading, listening. Suddenly I notice a strangeness about Marin's face. I asked her what she was doing. She got this guilty look and held up the empty zip lock bag.

I could not believe it. Marin was able to search my pockets (she did not know I had a snack in there), extract the ziplock bag, and eat the entire bag without me or anyone else in the room noticing.

It's stuff like this that makes me so curious what skills she had to develop to survive in Ethiopia.

Happy Birthday Grammy

My Father's room mate, who the kids call Grammy, had a birthday this week. We asked the kids to phone her and wish her happy birthday.

Marin: How old are you?
Grammy: I am 80.
Marin: What did you say?
Grammy: I am 80.
Marin: (jaw on floor and eyes like saucers) Wow. That's a big one. You are really old. Too old.

And Marin is going on and on about how old Grammy is so we took the phone from her and gave it to Emmy.

Emmy: Grammy, you old?
Grammy: No, I'm 80.
Emmy: You dying?
Grammy: What?
Emmy: You dead Grammy?

Now Colleen and I want to crawl into a hole.

There is some history here. Our kids are fascinated with death. No matter who we are talking about, they ask if the person is dead. Many times the answer is yes, and the kids want to know why. Our standard answer is "He was too old." because we don't want them to be afraid of being sick (sick people die in Ethiopia) and because their English comprehension does not permit a nuanced explanation of death.

So now, whenever Emmy hears that someone is old, she immediately wants to know if that person is dead or dying.

jet fuel

Our home has a center chimney and traffic flows through rooms and hallways surrounding it.

One evening I am in the sitting room reading the paper and the kids are just running circles through the house. I was too absorbed in the newspaper to notice at first, but eventually they started panting and sweating, which got my attention.

I asked them "What are you doing?" and they both said in unison "Running too much. Have to get sleepy. Ate too much sugar."

Apparently they had raided the cookie jar when out backs were turned.

Monday, February 25, 2008


It finally happened. A kid on the school bus has an iPod and Marin wants one for her birthday.

First, a rant. Can anyone explain to me why a first grader needs an iPod? Is he so stressed out that he needs immediate relief anytime anywhere? Is it to pace his 10K runs every other day? Perhaps the world of a 6 yo is so harsh he needs to retreat into his own private space? Parents!!!! Wake up!!! Put the price of that iPod into his 529 plan and have an extra thousand or two for college.

Second, the story. Marin is at dinner last night telling me what she wants for her birthday (which is not til September). "Daddy. I want the box that puts things in my ears and sings to me." I look at Colleen "Huh?". Colleen says "She wants an iPod. A kid on the bus has one."

I said "Marin, why do you want an iPod?"
Marin "No Daddy. Not want it. Need it." (Dear God, its a question of survival now)
I asked "Marin, when would you use an iPod."
Marin, matter of factly, "On Tuesday and Friday" (very convincing)
I asked what songs her iPod will sing
Marin "ABCD, and Santa Claus songs and Life is a Highway"

Now it occurs to me that what I was viewing as playful chit chat, has turned into a dogged negotiation for Marin. She believes she's scoring major debate points and is about to close the sale on this thing. Thank God for Colleen, sensing the rising tension, she breaks the impasse with a chocolate chip cookie diversion.

Let this be a lesson to us. Do not underestimate the negotiation skills and determination of your child, even if she is really young and English is not her native tongue.

favorite songs

Every time I drive Emmy to school I have to sing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and Tom Cochrane's "Life is a Highway". Then Emmy sings them to Colleen on the ride home in the evening.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A rare moment of candor

Our kids, like most kids, are at their slowest when we are most pressed for time. Colleen lets the kids know we are unhappy by pointing out they are 'dilly dallying'.

Dilly Dally is an olympic sport at bedtime. Just as we get the kids tucked in they need to go potty, or they're thirsty or hungry, too hot or too cold, or they want to read a book or tell us a story, they want to feed the cats or call a relative on the phone. The list goes on and on. Our standard reply is "No More Dilly Dally".

The other night we just get the lights turned out and Emmy sits in bed and says "Mama. I need some dilly dally water." We both bit our tongues to stop from laughing.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Everybody let's get stoned

When I take Marin to kindergarden, we usually go a few minutes early so she can help Mr. Stone set up the gym class for the day. It gives Marin a change to burn off some morning energy and she really enjoys helping Mr. Stone. Mr. Stone gets a lot of mentions at our dinner table because of this.

Today I took Emmy so Colleen could get to work for some early meetings. As I carried Emmy through the halls of the primary school, she pointed at every adult male and loudly asked "Are you stoned?" It took me awhile to figure out she was trying to meet Mr. Stone. In the meantime, her question made for some embarrassed looks and uneasy conversation.

Whose the coach?

Marin plays kindergarden basketball on Saturdays and I volunteered to assist the coach. Coach Cruz is a very large black man - former division 1 college running back who has maintained his conditioning.

Last week we were in line for team photos. Marin was chatting with one of her team mates and proudly says "My daddy the coach!"
The little girls says "He's big"
Marin says "No, that coach is my Daddy" and points to me.
The other girls says "No, that coach is your Daddy" and points to Cruz.

This exchange went on for 3 or 4 rounds, and finally Marin just gave up with this look of exasperation on her face.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Brown eyed girl

Each night when we put the girls to bed they ask me to tell them a story. The story can be about any wacky abstract thing. Tonight I was asked to tell a story about everybody's (in our family) favorite colour.

Marin has about six of them, and Emmy about eight, and I had to make up a story about each colour.

When it was my turn to talk about my favorite colour, I said "the colour of Mama's eyes", in a lame attempt to make up for a verabl transgression earlier in the evening.

Dead silence. I hear Colleen muffling her laughter in her pillow. Then Marin erupts, flashes me the angriest eyes, and demands "Why not me? Why not my eyes? You not lika me? You hate me Daddy? Why you say Mama's eyes and not my eyes?" There was no consoling her; and believe me, I said every apology I could think of.

And the whole time I hear Emmy in the background, trying to make sense of what just happened, asking "What Daddy say? What's happen? Why Meron crying? What Daddy say?" Which only made Marin even more upset.

I pity the guy who two-times Marin. He may not live.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Always pressing my buttons

Marin has been using the phrases "That's weird" and "You're weird" quite a lot lately. Today I asked her where she learned this and she told me it was Madelyn (a kindergardener).

I asked Marin whether Madelyn calls her weird and Marin said "No Madelyn called Mrs. Whynot (the teacher) weird" . I just looked at her and Marin said "Yes, Daddy. Madelyn called Mrs. Whynot weird and had to go to the Principals office."

I said "Marin, I don't ever want to hear about you going to the Principals office, right?" Marin said "I already did." Of course, I did not believe her and asked her to tell me the story.

Marin said
"All the kids were noisy and playing rough. Mrs. Whynot was getting very very angry. Then Mrs. Whynot said 'Marin. You come to the front of the class right now because you are going to the Principals office.' "

Now I'm thinking "Crap, this sounds for real." and I asked Marin why Mrs. Whynot wanted her to go to the Principals office.

Marin gave me this wise guy grin and said "because I was the only kid sitting quietly and Mrs. Whynot wanted to give me a sticker."

First Christmas

It was perfect.

For Christmas Eve the girls wore beautiful red dresses, white tights, and black shoes. We had dinner at Aunt Joy & Uncle Vinny (long family tradition) and later visited the Pompeo cousins (new family tradition). The girls did not hit the pillows until 11PM. That was a blessing because they slept in Christmas Day until 8AM.

Finally, Colleen and I were worried they may never wake up, so we tiptoed in to check on the girls. Marin was lying on her back, eyes bulging, and this glorious look of anticipation in her face. She whispered "Did Santa come to my house?" And we told her yes. She asked "Did Santa eat the cookie I made for him?" And we told her yes. Now, barely containing her excitement, Marin asked "Did he drink my milk, too?" And we told her yes.

Marin could not wait for Emmy to wake up, so we took her down to see the tree and presents. She took a quick look around, smiled with satisfaction, and announced matter of factly that we must go wake up Emmy immediately. So we did. Emmy was cranky and wanted to sleep, but Marin finally persuaded her to join us downstairs.

The girls got sleeping bags, a LeapFrog computer, a beautiful maple toybox, and clothes, games, food and candy. It was not an expensive Christmas, but no matter, the kids were overjoyed.

Christmas Day went smooth as silk. Colleen's side of the family joined us late morning for gift exchange and mid day meal. They left about 2PM when we put the kids down for a rest. We woke the kids around 4PM, just in time for Leo's side of the family to join us for another gift exchange and the evening meal.

I know life has a way of throwing curve balls just when you think you have it figured out - but man - we are so pleased with the way we put this Christmas together and we think we have the model for the future.

Merrrrrrry Christmas everybody.