Friday, December 25, 2009

Conflicted Christmas

First let me say we had a wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning. The kids were great, the tree looked great, we spent time with everybody we wanted to spend time with, and everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy the two days. So why the conflictedness?

I think its something every parent who has adopted from a poverty stricken country is feeling today. It really hit me when that song "Do they know its Christmastime at all" played on the radio. I mean, talk about a stupid song. The lyrics (when you can understand them) attempt to paint this dreadful portrait of a poor and starving Africa that we all witnessed when adopting, but trivialize it by way overdramatizing. In contrast, the melody and rhythms are joyous Christmas bells and upbeat rotodrums. Weird contradictions. Anyway, in the middle of all this nonsense, one of the singers belts out, clear as day, "Tonight thank God it's them instead of you."

That's the line that grabs me. When you think about it, the only thing that seperates us from some poor Asefa or Ketemash living in a dung hut spending Christmas morning looking at their drought and insect decimated crops and their starving children is where we were born. Doesn't that seem capricious? Doesn't that seem tenuous? Isn't that the most random thing in the universe, when you really think about it? Makes me feel like a lottery winner instead of someone who knocked himself out in college, grad school, and building a career.

So then I look at our girls. They are now normal size for their ages, totally healthy, comfortably playing with their new dolls in a warm house and enjoying a balanced breakfast. Three years ago they were starving and filthy, earning their own way in the village by tending chickens, collecting firewood, washing clothes and dishes, sweeping floors, fetching water, etc. Today, their are countless orphans in Ethiopia and other countries living exactly like our kids once did.

"Tonight thank God its' them instead of you." It's enough to make you cry.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Defending home field

I was holding this story from Panama because I could not decide whether it belonged in the blog. What the heck, we are recording history, right?

Marin and Emmy were playing in the pool. A group of boys a little older than Marin jumped in the pool and started playing rough, so Marin spoke to them about safety. This was the opening the boys needed to start teasing Marin.

Emmy, watching carefully, began to see that Marin was getting upset. I was about to intervene on Marins' behalf when Emmy unleashed a barrage of angry F-bombs and other choice words at the top of her lungs that set the boys back on their heels for a minute (FYI, she is not learning these words at home). While I sat in stunned silence watching from a pool chair, the boys regrouped and began teasing Marin a second time.

Emmy looked up at them, smiled sweetly, and informed them that she had just peed in the pool. The boys recoiled and moved on to another swimming pool.

Then Marin turned to Emmy, drop dead serious, and asked "Emmy, did you really pee in the pool?". Emmy burst out laughing and said "No, Marin. I was trying to trick those mean boys."

I really don't know where she learns these tactics, but Emmy is one little firecracker.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Why I don't share

Emmy has been reluctant to share with one of the kids at preschool. We talk to her about it, explain why it's good to share, why it's important to have friends, etc. Emmy has humored us for a few weeks but not changed her behavior.

In the car this morning I was lecturing Emmy again when she blurted "You don't know it, but (kids name here) sticks her hand down her pants to scratch her butt and then she doesn't wash her hands. It's disgusting. I will never touch anything she touches in my whole life."

Well, that little piece of information helps put things into perspective.

Santa's Village aftermath

Each Monday the children in Marins' class have a 'sharing minute' in which they bring something to show the class, or a story to tell. (I think we used to call this show and tell).

Anyway, Marin brought the photo of her and Santa taken at Santa's Village over the weekend. Unfortunately, I did not anticipate the controversy.

The kids peppered Marin and challenged her credibility.......
- Was he real or fake?
- How do you know?
- Did you see Rudolph?
- Isn't Santa really Mom and Dad? and on and on and on

Marin stood tall. After realizing she was getting no help from the adults in the room, she said "Listen kids. I sat in his lap and I heard him talk and he looked right in my eyes and told me I am a good girl. I gave him a picture I drew and Santa said Mrs. Claus was going to hang it on the wall in the North Pole. So he is real. I saw him myself."

That's my girl!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Santa's Village

Last weekend we took the family to Santa's Village ( to get into the Christmas spirit. I am writing because our girls were so well behaved I want to tell the world.

First, it was a very long day for us. We drove 2.5 hours to get to the place, then there was a long line to get in and a large crowd inside. Kids were melting down all around us. After a few hours of waiting in lines and listening to kids throw tantrums and scream for this that and the other thing, it dawned on me that our kids were behaving wonderfully.

They lasted until the 7pm closing time and then were very well behaved on the car ride home. After putting the kids to bed, Colleen and I talked about how lucky we are our kids behaved so well and how that really added to making a special day even more special.


We were driving slowly through the center of town this weekend and someone was on the sidewalk dressed as Frosty the Snowman and waiving at the passing cars. I slowed and rolled down Marin's window so she could wave to him. Marin was all excited and said "Hello Mr. Snowman. Merry Christmas!"

Emmy was bummed that she was on the wrong side of the car, so I turned around and gave Emmy a chance to say hello to the snowman. As I rolled down the window, Emmy stuck her head out and screamed as loud as she could "You're a fake!!"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chick magnet

Recently we were checking in at the Panama City airport for our flight home and there was a very attractive woman in the line beside us. Marin starts asking me questions about this womans' hair, nails, etc. Finally I said "Marin, go introduce yourself to her." To my surprise, Marin does. Even said "Mucho Gusto" which is a phrase we had worked on all week.

Anyway, they're getting along pretty well and I thought I should get a photo of this woman with the girls, so I asked. She says "Sure" and whips out a ..........drum roll........... Miss Panama sash. Now, suddenly, it all makes sense.

Attached is photo of Marin and Emmy with their new friend, Miss Panama.

National Geo comes through again.

Emmy has little scars on her cheeks. Nobody at horizon house could tell us what caused them, other than to say they might be tribal markings (like Sister Tyrhaz has in her eyebrows). We've always wondered, because Emmy's scars do appear to be intentional.

The Dec 2009 issue of Nat Geo has an article on page 94 about the Hadza tribe in East Aftrica.

One of the photos has faces of children with scars cut into their cheeks. The explanation is it conditions the children not to cry because the salt from tears will sting the small cuts in their cheeks.