Friday, October 31, 2008


Over on the site for Samuel (where I have been posting of Sam's remarkable progress) we have had so many inquiries about the upcoming benefit being given for us by the Sullivan EMS. I can't scan the flyer to put in the format so I'm going to attempt here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

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The Accident

It has been one week since our lives were altered by the accident. Horrific and tragic - yet I won't be using those descriptors again.

Because we have SAM! He's with us. His body has changed forever but he's still got the same spirit and I am seeing him emerge from his sadness and flickers of that little guy who could make me laugh and see red with regularity.

I have been described as strong and such and believe me, it is simply God and prayer. Sam is the one who has been so strong and he's not only fighting this setback, he's starting to shine. I can talk about when he gets new feet/legs and he'll look at me and give his head a shake of affirmation. He is still sad but at times I am too.

So am I mad at God? Heaven forbid, no! Haven't even thought of it. Where was God then? Right there. When I first realized I tried to grab Paul and Mary and get them up the hill to the house. We stopped on the driveway and held hands and I instructed them to pray. And we did. And we asked God to hold little Samuel. And He did.

During the long drive to the hospital (its about an hour) I was of course in shock and for the first part Marty and I drove in silence. I realized that it was grave and that we would very likely experience the horror of losing a child. I admitted that I didn't know what to pray. Sam's injuries were so severe that I felt selfish pleading with God not to take him from me. And yet I thought of Maria Sue Chapman and knew that I didn't care what - I wanted my son. And I was torn. How could he survive and yet, how could he ever function?

So I prayed specifically for Sam to know he was loved and to have peace and to realize he was being held in God's very hand. And that is exactly what happened.

Sam's injuries have altered his body permanently. We still do not know the exact extent - yet he is still our Sam. If I cannot look at his severed limbs and accept, then how can I ever ask for him to? And I have come to realize a couple of things this past week . . .

Sam is beautiful. His legs are beautiful, his arm is beautiful, his colostomy is as well. He is precious and although his legs are now "different" from many others, he is no less precious or loved or worthy. I saw his arm for the very first time today and as the area was being exposed I simply prayed that I could look at this area and see him simply as God did. I could look at his arm and then directly in his face and say . . . hey, it looks great! And I wasn't telling him a lie. He is gloriously and wonderfully made and this accident did not change that.

I live in Wisconsin so I have to put a Wisconsonite spin on it. This accident happened and to quote Brett Farve (during the recent trade request) . . . "it is what it is." I cannot change it. So as a Christian I can rant and wail and lament and lash out, or I can set my shoulders forward and step out in faith in this new direction. We had an accident and God stepped in a swooped up my child and carried us through to a place where Sam is able to begin the healing process.

This is an opportunity. We can either fold up and wither or we can choose to plant ourselves firmly right where we are and decide to aim for blossoming once again.

I have been enriched, embraced and enveloped in the body of Christ through this. How could I think about choosing otherwise?

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Samuel was injured today in an accident involving the tractor. He was airlifted from the park behind our house to Children's Hospital in Milwaukee. We need prayers.

Currently he is still in surgery and will need many, many more. He has lost one leg below-the-knee and the other they are trying to save to the ankle. One arm is broken near the shoulder but the elbow is more critical - open fractures with tissue damage/missing.

His pelvis is also fractured on one side. His buttocks and back are injured and he needs a colostomy. If he continues to do well in surgery tonight that will be performed now.

His vitals are good. He was awake up until surgery where we were able to kiss him.

Please lift him up. He's such a precious, vivacious, mischievous guy.

Marty and I are good and feeling the prayers and have our faith to sustain. It is the other children (Paul especially and Mary) that I worry about - they are with their Uncle Mike and Aunt Sheryl at our house tonight . . . . all the kids are piled in bed together (Paul usually sleeps with Samuel).

We love you all. We appreciate the power of prayer. We have a website titled samuelphillipson that does not require a password and will keep all the medical stuff there.

Blessings to all. We praise God that we are His children and that we are in such a place where Sam is being tended to so well.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday morning

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. My first day as "under-the-weather Mom" and all four children were in my care. Mary and Paul do not have school on Fridays. I had originally planned to enroll Paul, Mary, and Sam in gymnastics today (enrollment started today and it fills up fast) as well as get Mary and Paul to school anywhere between 8-10 for pictures.

Well, the past two afternoons I had run a fever that responded fairly easily to Tylenol. I canceled plans to visit with Mike and Diane (and tribe) earlier this week for fear that I may be contagious. It is harvest time around here and I've been sniffing but it could be simply more residue in the air, especially as there is a field abutting our property.

I woke this morning at 1 a.m. and knew immediately the source for the fever. I had an ear infection. It hurt to place my head on the left side. If I moved my jaw in a certain manner I would gasp and grimace and try NOT to cry. Ugh!

So I head to the living room and try not to wake the boys (they are still on "light" sleep mode and feel entitled to waken anyone if they emerge during our sleep cycle). I tried various comfort measures, watched some programs I had TiVo'd, researched when the urgent care opened, and planned the logistics for attending the clinic and pharmacy with the kids.

I was on the road by 8. And I was tickled pink by how few times I had to verbally "corral" the kids. The waiting room had a large fish tank. I've been attempting to explain the concept of carving a pumpkin to the boys and there were enough "fake" examples at the clinic to detail. Sam did attempt (semi-successfully) to shuck a scarecrow decoration before I could curtail. That was our only time out.

We drew attention, my crew and I. The children held hands and were quiet and orderly in the halls. If anyone approached then Mary would launch into a diatribe . . .

"My name is Mary and I'm five years old. This is my sister Julia. These are my brothers Paul and Samuel. I'm five and Paul is five. Sam is three and Julia is two. Julia is from China and Paul and Sam are from Ethiopia. I'm from her!" while jutting a thumb in my direction.

My immediate reaction was to laugh which evoked more pain and sent me into a spasm which caused my nose to run. The staff winked and smiled in return. The children beamed.

We were led down the hallway and my vitals were obtained. Paul discovered the "sticker" bin and each child was able to claim one. We went to the largest examination room they had. Paul hesitated upon entering the room but I assured him that we were there for ME, not for him. He immediately began to relax (and explore).

I began to attempt to prepare him for having his blood drawn in the near future to obtain his titers for vaccinations and he explained to me that he had his blood drawn four times previously and had NOT cried. Even Samuel did not cry.

I told him that I didn't cry either, Mary did cry but would hold still, and Julia would fight like a tiger and require three adults to attempt to locate a suitable target. He laughed.

When the doctor arrived she confirmed my infection. Before we exited she asked how I coped. I told her senility played a factor. (Actually, I do remember calling my friend Coni in Memphis when I first learned we were expecting and telling her she'd have to prepare to travel frequently to Wisconsin to help me remember where I put the baby). I assured her that I was very human and subject to "grumpy Mama" mode as well as "angry Mama" to which my children laughed but confirmed.

We now headed to the pharmacy . . . Walgreens. Now I have gone on limited outings with the children since we arrived home with the boys. We've gone to McDonalds once, WalMart fairly frequently, church once, school, and that is it. I knew that Walgreens would not have large enough carts to assemble the little ones without fussing over who was in front/back so we were going on foot power alone.

And they were remarkable - really. I was told it would be 15 minutes (which was 25) and all of the six seats to wait were empty. I directed the kids to the four in a row and took mine facing them. I was still very uncomfortable but insistent on bottoms on the chair seats and no sliding, changing seats, and no being able to sit next to me (just another thing to cause a ruckus).

They chatted and sang - Mary in English and Paul in Amharic. Paul asked once to "go, go, go" and I found it hard to convey that we were waiting for a prescription. But our name was called and three of the staff came to the counter to comment on how marvelous they thought the children were. I was caught between being proud, being afraid to jinx the situation, and simply wanting pain relief.

Either way, I stopped at the cooler section for each child to choose a Propel with a twist-cap (clear liquid and lower possibility of spilling). I also bought a small tub of gummy worms (more like caterpillars as they were short).

When we got to the van I distributed the liquid refreshment as well as five gummies apiece. We drove home in contentment. Once home I admit that I utilized the DVD player for quiet time and went to our room to lie on my side with ear drops instilled.

No outbursts. No drama (well, except for a protest or two concerning who was picking the DVD. We rotate turns for choosing in descending age order. My children guard that right to pick closely and any monitoring or especially touching of the current selection available upstairs is cause for protest).

I am now pain-free, maybe uncomfortable but good. Marty is home. Our friend Marla came by for a visit and to catch up on how life goes in this early post-adoptive phase.

The girls wanted her to witness their bath. Julia didn't want me to brush her teeth or even tried to brush off my goodnight kiss for a request from Marla.

Good thing that I'm not more sensitive with age (and don't tell Marty I typed that - he doesn't read the blog). I survived my first not-feeling-so-hot day and mainly resorted to sugar and DVDs. Not bad I think.

Blessings -

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dinner conversations

We had our first dinner CONVERSATION with the children I believe last night. Paul and Mary have been studying body parts in class and yesterday was the eyes. Now Mary's eyes are currently a grayish color and will lean toward blue or green as the mood warrants. Mine are hazel (light brown/green), Marty's are blue-gray, while Paul, Samuel, and Julia's are such a dark brown that I would label them as black as I cannot distinguish a pupil readily.

My student children came home with papers stating "Paul's eyes are brown" and he signed his name and drew a brown eye. Mary's was "Mary's eyes are green" with her name signed completely backwards (YarM) and her eye drawn huge with a mixture of green and brown flecks. She announced to me that she had blue eyes just like the paper said and was adamant I was wrong when I told her the paper had her with green eyes.

This just couldn't be! She was furious! Why, she had even traced the word "green" with a green marker.

I had prepared Marty ahead of time and he began by initiating the conversation about having a green-eyed daughter. This sent Mary on a blue-streak of talking about her eye color.

And the Paul says . .. "Mom?" "Dad?" "Mary?" "School?" "Blah, blah, blah" with the most mischievous twinkle in his eye and his grin about to explode across his face.

"Oh?" Marty delighted in hearing about school from another perspective. Imagine Mary talking excessively in class!

I changed tactics. I asked Mary about her brother Paul in school. She seemed confused.

"But was Paul naughty in school today?"

Paul gasped and squealed and began to wag his finger. Mary insisted that her brother was well-behaved.

Marty joined in. "Are you sure? Paul - good? Not naughty at all?"

All the children are now laughing and Paul is beaming.

We talked about eye colors and named each person's eye color. Mine stumped Paul totally and he kept looking to different objects that may match mine.

Then he pointed to his skin. "Mom?"

"Ahhh - you have lovely brown skin" I told him. He smiled.

"And what color is Mama's skin?"

"Pasty" Marty chided. Paul looks confused.

We looked at freckles - a new concept to these dark-pigmented children.

And then Marty's tan line from his watch was discussed. How do you explain a tan to a newly-arrived Ethiopian? Paul would hold up all his fingers "Ten?" You looked in his face and saw oblivion.

Samuel joined in more readily when we talked of moods. What does grumpy Mama sound like?


Marty added - and grumpy Daddy? Hesitation. He blew his knuckles and rubbed them on his shirt with satisfaction. Paul spoke with authority "Now you stop that!" I laughed.

And Grumpy Samuel? Everyone threw back there head with their mouths wide and screamed in a high pitched voice.

Sleepy Julia? Snores and then cries and then snores (she still will cry out in her sleep frequently through the night).

Our first lively animated conversation at the table that included our boys and not speaking to them or at them! Ahh - the moments of satisfaction that continue to evoke such feelings of utmost peace.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sunday's outing

I guess Sunday was our official "coming out" party for the guys. We had previously made an attempt at church (that is another story in itself) the week before - but didn't quite make it through the service and this time the whole family was there.

And what a marvelous time! The affair officially began at 1 but we didn't arrive until almost 3 (mowing, bathing, food preparation, naps, visiting Marty's mom). I could sense Paul's apprehension. Mary's take was . . . a picnic? Do I have to eat anything??? And this is the child that is supposedly linked to my DNA (laughing).

We knew most people on arrival and the children were dispersed in various activities as there was a playground, basketball, soccer, chalk, bubbles, etc. Mary takes off immediately to tag up with her friend Grace and the the boys are rather dumbfounded by this presence of people. Most have already eaten (imagine the children didn't wait two extra hours . . . ) and we start to assemble some plates for those that desire. The weather is marvelous . . . warm but not hot unless you chased too many youth on the soccer field (Marty). Of course my sons are in long pants and Sam is actually in a sweat suit at times with the hood up. They just intrigue me as I am such a weenie when it comes to heat and I'm having a hard time adjusting to having cold-natured children. Even my daughters both refuse any and all covers when sleeping.

The boys played more with each other or alongside other children as opposed to WITH them - and that is just fine with me. I knew we had a football game later tonight and Marty and I had agreed that if we stayed until 5 we'd still have plenty of time to get all of our "to dos" accomplished and have the children tended to and still have plenty of time to enjoy the game. The game is another matter entirely but my sister and brother-in-law rejoice with the outcome. I love Mary and Craig so if we are going to lose I guess it is best to lose to someone who has die hard fans near to my heart.

I did the initial gathering as a good wife at 4:57 to honor our previous agreement and was pleasantly surprised when there were no takers! Everyone was happily situated in play or looking for more food or such and that to me was a measure of the days events.

Here's a few photos of the events . . . the bubble-maker was by far the most intriguing for all of my children, although we did "catch" Julia drinking the container on more than one occasion.

I'd call the outing an overwhelming success. When asked if they'd like to do this again all children gave a resounding "yes" without hesitation.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Look Dad - Two wheels

We have a bike-riding son in Helenville. I knew that this child was determined and once I saw how he was persistent in learning how to simply pedal his bicycle just over three weeks ago, I felt that this day would arrive soon. Paul took off his own training wheels. He put them back on after a day or so and they came back off a couple of days ago. He would resort to another sibling's bicycle/tricycle if he needed to feel speed in the meantime.

So I am walking through the living room today and I catch a glimpse of him on HIS bicycle and see him complete two, three, and sometimes four rotations before letting his legs check his balance. I step outside. I try to capture pictures but he poses and puts his foot down (hence the first one from behind).

And before the day is advanced much further he's adept in his two-wheeler skills. He wears winter mittens as biking gloves (we haven't done a long bike trail trek yet so he hasn't seen Marty and I wear ours). I'm so tickled over this.

He now calls his bicycle simply the "cycle" and I believe in his mind he is racing along like his Dad on the motorcycle. I'll try to get a picture of him in comparison . . . the only one I believe I have is the Harley Davidson that is long gone (traded in favor of the more comfortable Honda Goldwing that we had on order with visions of long road trips together . . . . then we discovered I was pregnant with Mary before it was actually delivered) . . . hehe.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Foggy Sunday morning

What a beautiful morning. Its a sleepy morning and just oh-so-nice having time to simply be together as family. I couldn't sleep earlier and got up around 4 but then crawled back in bed after three of the kids awoke and had time to simply talk with Marty (and Julia was in bed with us). Then Julia left and eventually Samuel joined us. He has the NICEST smile! Samuel left and Paul soon entered. I left intending to get the camera of the Phillipson men but soon the children noticed the fog and that began a whole new concept for my newest arrivals.

Paul determined that this MUST be the snow that he has seen pictures of and heard tales. He throws the door open and races out in his pajamas. A crane that is at the base of the hill is startled and takes off with what I call the "pterodactyl cry" of protest. Paul scampers right back in. Its funny explaining birds and caterpillars and worms and grasshoppers/crickets etc. to your never-exposed-before children.

Yesterday we went to a local church bazaar and ALL the children discovered that they love homemade doughnuts. There are apple festivals abounding and the trees are starting to emerge in their show of fall colors.

And I just embrace it all. The wonder, the colors, the joy of pillow talk with my spouse, my children . . . my life. How marvelous that God put me on this adventure. We're headed for a large get-together with other adoptive families in the Madison area today. I'm curious to see the interaction level of the boys - I KNOW Mary will be swept up quickly.

I'll keep you posted and will TAKE the camera.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Friday - Single Parent Day

I was rather dreading today. Its not like Marty has a LOT of time home lately with the children awake but tonight he wasn't going to make it home before they were tucked in bed. Things get crazy and while at times I can "go with the flow" there are other times when I find myself surprisingly rigid and unbending.

I wasn't sure how I would gauge the day. But Hahn came over in the morning. She is Marty's sister visiting from Florida with her daughter (from NM) and they are staying the block behind us at Mike and Sheryl's house. She offered to take ALL the children to the park behind us, thus allowing me the ability to fire up the lawnmower. I took to this task with gusto. I was able to work out any frustrations or such with the ragtag flowerbeds that were long dormant. I saw far too many frogs of various sizes and varieties fleeing and would try to avoid confrontation. I began to perspire and that just felt MARVELOUS. I was free. I was accomplishing something that would show for a couple of days (instead of housework which may last 15 minutes). I felt and feel refresh and invigorated. Thank you Hahn!

Then a dear friend Julie P. that I met through our adoption of Julia came over to bring four totes of clothes for the boys. Wow - and once again I cannot say "gently used" as there were things in there that still had tags. My boys can be picky though and I thought it might be best to have them assess before being greedy over such nice things. Chaos ensued. One bin would be opened and things that were too small were being tussled over. Pants were worn on the head and there was one darling jean skirt that Samuel had a particular passion for. It was wild there for a bit.

Hahn and Jenny returned and it got a mite more hectic before it began to calm down. I had actually never met my niece before and afraid that I was more than a bit distracted - but sure we'll get a time to visit in before she leaves. Both Jenny and Paul have reminded me today that I have been lax in taking pictures but at the moment I am not able to locate my camera . . . one was damaged during the trip and the other I have hidden from apparently myself as the guys think electronics are NEAT and since they don't really have the concept of possessions, they also have trouble with boundaries. I'll get on that . . . as Scarlett would say "tomorrow."

After a bit things got more settled. The children were tired and I led them back for a REST (we don't say nap around here as I don't require sleep as if they will just be still awhile they most likely will succumb quickly). Julia was out first and Mary crept her way into the boys' room. This of course resulted in conflict as three children usually mean that one is excluded. That "one" became Samuel and Paul and Mary would shift from top to bottom bunk readily to avoid Samuel and I just ached at seeing his hurt. He's always had his brother and this upstart of a sister was elbowing her way in and him out for the moment.

I carried him out and into the living room to continue visiting with Julie. Samuel then crawled from my arms to hers and settled in and was asleep in no time. I think Julie enjoyed my snuggler. Mary and Paul never did sleep but then again . . . they are even more tired tonight. Hooray!!!

After Julie left we had some time to regroup and I admit . . . I used DVDs to entertain for a mite. Two bags of microwave popcorn in the middle of the floor and The Incredibles then the Garfield Tale of Two Kitties had my children for the most part entertained.Dinner became a smorgasbord of various leftovers which the children thought was fabulous. I ended up eating their leftovers we had on hand. We ended the night with the lights dimmed and each child with a flashlight. Games of tag and chase became that much more animated and repeated warnings of "no light in the eyes".

Marty called before I had them in bed and I allowed them to stay up actually over an hour past their bedtime to be able to see their dad. It is such a kick to watch them greet him. For those that have not been to our house, our front living room window is centered in the room and is a bow-window. I had the curtains open although it was DARK and the children did not know Marty had arrived home. He was on the front porch peering in at them and gently tapped. I'm not sure who realized he was outside first but the joy escalated beyond measure in flash and he was given the royal greeting.

It was a good day. I still have to sort through the clothes but the house is still standing, dishes are done, laundry is almost caught up (the boys bath always entails washing another load of towels), and I'm not any the worse for wear, thanks to helpful friends and family.

Marty leaves for work once again early tomorrow but we are planning to explore more as a group. I'm pleased with this day and oh-so-grateful that I have a husband that adores his role of parent with me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yard work

I like gardening but usually at some point it ends up getting ahead of me and often times I am welcoming the more dormant phase of seasons so that I can cut down the straggling plants and plan for more dedication next year. This year I was concentrating on our trip to Ethiopia. Last year I was headed to China . . . a few years back I had pins in my hand/pinky and movement was limited. Yada, yada.

And since we returned from Ethiopia, Marty's job has taken a new dimension and he has recently found himself facing some meetings and conferences that have required him to be working longer hours and more days.

Some days I'm struggling to simply vacuum, dust, keep up with laundry and dishes (some days I don't struggle . . . I just don't do it - hehe). And we have over six acres. The garden around the house is not manicured (shoot I let one side go wild as well as back garden next to the detached garage). Just mowing is something that requires time and right now Marty is only here with the kids awake about two hours a day. Just logistics. It won't always be this way but right now it is simply what is. At times I'm feeling overwhelmed with the changing dynamics of family and the physical demands of the household, much less the emotional . . .

And I feel guilty because I can't help but think of the struggles here pale in comparison to the joys. I'm getting to witness and live the peaks and discoveries and such. He gets to come home when I'm tired and looking for his assistance and he's taking up slack here when he probably would prefer to have some time to simply chill.

Yet I digress. (You can at least ACT surprised) This spring we had the great mulch debate. I was planning on taking the 1 hour a day I utilized the year I was most successful at keeping the plants alive for the spring/summer/fall. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of mulch. I had a number in mind and Marty about choked. He was firm on his lower estimation. I am the gardener . . . I pleaded my case. He told me we could order more. I relented. And I was determined to move that mulch off the driveway and started in earnest.

I had my trusty wheelbarrow and each day I set a simple goal of 10 loads a day. I did it. I did good with weeding and mulching and within a week the front and one side of the house was complete. Marty was pleased. The mulch pile was lessened by probably half. I relished my accomplishment and planned to continue. It rained. I procrastinated. The wheelbarrow was moved back to the detached garage. I got interested in . . . anything but mulch and weeding.

So the other day Marty says something about we need to get the mulch moved before winter because it'll just make a huge pile of ice/snow that is blocking vital driveway in winter. And I knew he had a point. It was my project and I decided that I was going to get going on that mulch. I can do that with four children 5-1/2 to 2-1/2. There are no spinning blades or motors or such involved in the process.

And so this morning I began to assess the situation. I had some grass and weeds infiltrating but if I added more mulch to what I had done earlier this spring, I could make yet another major dent in that pile that the children love playing on. I began in earnest.

Now Paul and Samuel are very cold-natured and they only wear long sleeves and pants except when they are in their soccer gear. Mary is in short sleeves and shorts and Julia is in a sleeveless Packers cheerleader dress and we start our odd attempt at mulching. I'm sure we could have turned heads in our odd assortment of gear as well as skin tones.

I begin to shovel into the deep wheelbarrow and Paul squeals in delight. He is hovering all around me like a gnat, watching intensely and then begins to try to assist. He locates a child-sized wheelbarrow and soon is matching me move for move. He is so very eager to assist and have purpose. Samuel and Mary are intrigued by their bikes/trikes and Julia vacillates between work and play. She's still a mite displaced by not having Mary's attentions. She loves Paul and not sold on Samuel . . . . he's just a mite too close in age for her comfort level. Its a hoot though because when I come home from taking the older kids to school they immediate go for a "rest" and Samuel asks to sleep with Julia. She climbs up in Mary's top bunk but is adamant that he go to his room. Samuel climbs up in Paul's bunk and then they chatter back and forth for a good 15 minutes animatedly and good-naturedly.

So, there is only so much room to work in the first flower bed. It is situated between the garage and the front door and is almost a half-oval and still pretty filled with daisy, columbine, bee balm, hosta, etc. I am trying to work my way in without doing damage and every time I turn to scoop another shovel from my wheelbarrow Paul is right there and we are bumping. At some point I give him my short-handled shovel and I get a long-handled one. He laughs with delight at this most precious gift. Julia immediately decides she wants a hand spade.

And we work, this odd group. I attempt to make another entrance to this particular plot so we can both work. And with Paul's next load he is right there next to me. And as close as he is to me . . . Julia is to him. It gets so very, very comical. He keeps saying "Excuse me, Julia" and she doesn't budge. He'll ask her to move. She smiles and digs her hand tool in his wheelbarrow. They at times simply move their mulch to my wheelbarrow. He looks at me and rolls his eyes and simply picks her up and moves her over two feet. He is so gentle though and she doesn't protest. At one point Paul needs water and Julia goes in with him to retrieve their labeled water bottles. When Paul goes into the house to emerge shirtless later on, Julia comes out with her dress now removed. I had to stop her on that one (laughing) . . . but you get the gist.

And in the end? We did a pretty good job. We got the first small bed mulched and there is a portion of the mulch pile gone. We have a sense of accomplishment. Paul is a wonderful assistant and Julia adores him. He's my shadow and she is his. Weather was nice and I so very much enjoyed being outside and not having a battalion of mosquitoes attack me. We removed the hanging baskets. We took down shepherd hooks. We made progress as a family. We bonded.

And when Marty came home for a little less than an hour before having to head back out - it was Mary who was seeking accolades for all of her hard work and effort!

Never wake a sleeping bear

I've been accused of being too "sunshiney" in the mornings by former coworkers. In fact it downright irritated some (hi Tricia). I tease Marty about his inability to communicate in the mornings and his disdain for light sources during his sleep cycle or early waking.

And I've been able to wake pretty much instantaneously. Maybe from working odd shifts/hours for so long. Shoot, I would be at work by 5 a.m. on my last shift so I could pad downstairs and have the computers fired up and headphones on without much more than a blink of an eye.

But now . . . I need my sleep. Six hours is necessary and anything less is putting my body in touch with my own "inner bear" to be dealt with. Apparently they did not tell my Ethiopian-born sons that you do not wake a sleeping bear.

I know I could head to bed shortly after they do, but that is MY TIME to straighten, wash/shower, mop, dust, correspond, maybe even (gasp) watch a TV show, unwind, read my Bible or current study lesson, etc. I often am too wound up mentally to simply drop it at that point.

So it is often 11-midnight when I climb under the covers with Marty. Its funny that we used to have those phone conversations that extended into the wee hours when we were long-distance in our relationship and I used to yearn to be able to see him during these. Hehe - now we may begin a conversation in earnest but once we are horizontal there is the distinct possibility that one of us will fade into oblivion quickly.

I used to be able to do without sleep or get by on so very little sleep. Shoot, I simply cannot anymore. Maybe all the years of single-parenting with two jobs and late night calls to Marty took their toll. Maybe its age. Regardless . . . I NEED SLEEP.

So when I waken to LOUD chatter and boys flying off the top bunk onto the floor, the staccato laughter of Samuel, a horrid thump-thumping which ends up being the guys yanking on the antique dresser drawer that has become whompy-jawed in their efforts . . . I AM NOT HAPPY. It is not yet 6 a.m. I head to their room and find the boys mid dresser assault and Mary is perched on the top bunk with her head propped in her hands I let them know in no uncertain terms that the behavior is not considered acceptable and I do not appreciate the early hour or the assault. I climb BACK in bed. And I hear giggles. Then the laughter. The volume picks up. The chatter continues. Jumping ensues. I am facing Marty in bed (he's on his back) and I actually have my back to the bedroom door. I snap.

"HUSH" I scream. It quietens down.

And picks right back up. I hear Julia begin to stir and I am now transformed into ANGRY Mama bear.

I get back to the boys' room and tell them how I feel about this intrusion and shut the door with a resounding slam.

I climb back into bed and there is a familiar shake to the bed. Marty is giggling at me . . .

He asks if I should further yell from our bed could I please at least turn my head? Julia plods in our room. The alarm goes off and the children snicker from the room next door.

At least my less than desirable reaction has a positive effect on my usually slower-to-be-happy in the morning husband. He shakes his head at me and chides me good-naturedly. I have to see the humor.

When I finally rise the boys are already outside and I hear the bicycles whizzing on the driveway that wraps around the house. I head to the laundry and am removing the load from the dryer when Paul steps in the house.

"HUSH!" he exclaims upon seeing me standing there as he races to me with outstretched arms and a waiting smile, hug, and kiss.

Ahhh, they may not have learned not to wake a sleeping bear - but then again - they have all the tools necessary to tame it once it does.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Julia is going to be . . .

We received a call from Zor Temple today . . . the Shriner's in Madison that arrange our marvelous transportation from Janesville to Chicago each time Julia has an appointment at the Cleft Clinic at Shriner's Hospital. It is a marvelous service (I love each team member but Lee has an especially special place in my heart) as well as a phenomenal hospital.

Well, they have an awareness campaign over the University of Wisconsin campuses where the Shriner's are present at games and they have a flyer and try to highlight a child that has been affected by their outreach.

Would we consider allowing Julia to be a "princess" for the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater??? For those of you that do not realize, this is Marty's Alma mater!! We need to submit a short biography and can have her picture (or not). She may be part of a presentation.

It is 11/08/08 at Whitewater (about 13 miles from where we live) with a noon kickoff. How cool is that??

I ended up talking extensively with Lisa, the woman who called, because somehow we talked of how we had just returned from Ethiopia and she was supposed to have done a mission trip there next month (she could not afford the airfare though as it was a last minute notification).

So if anyone is going to see the UW-Whitewater game on 11/08/08, we'll be there. Poor Marty doesn't know anything about it yet, I felt confident that this was something that I didn't need to run by him first. It seems that I'm always filling up his "off" days with activities, but this is one that should be fantastic for the whole family. Whooo hoooo!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

family dynamics

You know, sometimes I can blind myself to the truth. I tell myself that I haven't gained THAT much weight or that my gray hair is simply a sprinkling . . .

Or that my daughters would not be the instigator for disharmony in our family household.

Let me back this up. When we first arrived home with Julia she was a firecracker. She was less than 20 pounds and could have Mary cowering on the bed (where Julia could not climb) because she could break skin with her bites and was quite adept at hitting and pinching (as my cheeks can attest to). Through time and especially as Julia learned to speak/sign she was less frustrated and she and Mary developed a close sisterly relationship. They can still fight with passion but not physically.

Well there have been more incidents of late. Paul isn't always the compromising compliant playmate he was when he arrived (good for YOU, son). He doesn't always allow Mary to dictate what activity they will participate in and who is going to do exactly what and for how long. He will shout "NO" and either attach Mary or Julia's name. He can tease his siblings (Samuel included, ESPECIALLY Samuel included) and even mimic Julia's speech which I have not yet addressed as she doesn't seem to realize that he is laughing AT her. Sam? Sam is a scrapper and although his is much more of a wailer than fighter, he is not above hitting, shoving, kicking, or spitting. I have also caught him tattling on his sister when she was not even in the same area as him.

So when they boys kept tattling repeatedly (over 100 times a day) and mainly it was directed at Julia I at first was skeptical that she could be inflicting the injuries that she was being assigned blame for and I am frankly sick and tired of hearing " Mom?" and being expected to immediately stop whatever I am doing to go watch the pantomime of the offensive behavior and have her name assigned. I have used "time out" for both the culprit as well as the tattletale. I have ignored the behavior to try to discourage tattling as I have not witnessed the behavior and don't want to let a child get power-hungry for the ability to fabricate an offense to have control of removing a sibling from play.

But my eyes are open. Today we were outside and I was scooping dog poop and removing my long-dead hanging baskets and Paul sits down on the children's swing. Mary of course joins him and then Samuel joins her to completely fill this supposedly two-seat contraption. Julia approaches, squeals, and launches an attack or Samuel's head. I was appalled. I was dumbfounded.

I was guilty.

Samuel has been the most attention-seeking of the four children at home. He causes the most commotion and turmoil and has the most tantrums and such. His squeal can be heard at any time and often you cannot tell if he is doing his "fake cry" for attention or really in distress.

And here Julia is pommeling his head.

Furthermore during our speech therapy session Julia baited her brother. She extended a hand to offer a token gift and when he reached for it she shrieked and struck at him. Her blow did not land but I was taken aback at her actions. And yet later in the session she positioned herself to kick him and shrieked when he was simply . . . there. We stopped the therapy twice for her to lament the situation.

And I didn't give Samuel the benefit of the doubt for all his tattling. He has made it up that I know of twice but I have probably overlooked far, far, far more. No wonder he's been cranky! I'd be cranky too!! I knew that Julia was having trouble adjusting but I was allowing her the power to intimidate her older brothers.

So I'm trying to find that balance of not allowing myself to become referee yet teaching the kids to work out their differences without interfering. How do you do that?

I can't always be watching closely with needing to prepare meals and wash dishes and clean house/do laundry. But I need to be more watchful and maybe do some of the other tasks while they sleep.

I'm so sorry Samuel. I feel like I let him down because he was trying to tell me . . . shoot he DID tell me and I ignored him. Yet he seems to forgive me my imperfections and embrace that I have finally SEEN the situation.

Just another reason to love my children. I am supposed to be teaching them, but they are sure teaching me what I feel is so much more.


I hesitated even sharing this post. It is not something that I have ever done before or will likely do again. I was on the way to picking up Paul and Mary from school and noticed a man walking along the rural Highway. Something about him peaked my interested. Maybe the fact that he was a black man in this homogenous (white) area or his shock of white hair. He was not hitchhiking and carried a backpack - the camping type. I looked for a vehicle but somehow knew that he was a traveler and not stranded. From within I knew that I needed to offer assistance. I began praying. I picked up the two oldest children and began the approximately six mile journey back home.

Now I needed to run to the store (out of bananas again as well as needing a giant fruit-fix) so was planning on heading into Jefferson (our county seat) to the nearest grocery anyway. I began to explain to the children that I felt led to ask if I could assist this man. Now I know all the dangers and perils and that I could have been leading my children into a potentially dangerous situation but I could not deny the urging coming from within. As I approached the area where I had seen the man I noted that there was not any car behind me (not exactly unusual in that it is a rural area). I did not immediately see him and was feeling relieved that he had already received a ride (certainly he did not stop as there is NOTHING but a few farms scattered) and suddenly he came into view. I continued praying and pulled over.

The man was appreciative of the offer and initially tried to open the door to the back and I had him sit in the passenger seat. We introduced ourselves and through a very distinct and familiar accent I learned my guest's name was Solomon. A beautiful Biblical name -no? And I just had to ask.

And where is Solomon from? You knew probably as soon as I did. Solomon is from Ethiopia. He has been in America for four years and five months. He is traveling our country to see everything that he can and experience as much as possible before settling down. He is a nomad on a journey of epic proportions. He detailed his journeys in a booming voice with such joy and animation. I learned of his stops and how he has seen my country in ways that I could only dream of. He works at factories or for individuals for a period of time to collect enough money to push on to the next leg. He was currently traveling from Milwaukee to Madison, Wisconsin. I told him that I was headed to Jefferson and could take him that far and he was grateful.

We talked of our recent trip to his country and he was pleased to see our sons in their car seats. When he spoke to them in Amharic - they refused to respond. I had noticed this even on our return flights home that they would withdraw when spoken to often and if they DID respond, it would be in very soft replies or simply with the eyebrow-raise or the sharp intake of breath. Solomon asked what their birth names were and commented (like Helen) that they were most probably from the Tigray (Tigre) region of Ethiopia and then told me more of the region and the people.

The highway was closed in two different sections in Jefferson and I knew it, so I took Solomon further than he asked to alleviate him from having to maneuver the long detour. Julia had decided that this man talked too loud and had begun holding her ears and protesting.

After Solomon left my children returned to their normal post-nap/school state and we continued on our way for refreshments and such. Its funny how once your eyes are opened that you find your lives touched in so very many ways. I have thought of Solomon often today and wondered if he reached his next destination yet. He's been to 23 states so far and that is . . . he has experienced them. He laughed at people he has met that fly back and forth between destinations. He is a free spirit with a zest for adventure and happy to simply have the experience and ability to be able to embrace life. I wish I could be more like him - rather than lamenting having to vacuum a third time during the day, appreciate that I have a home, vacuum, and the children and pets to make the task necessary.

In so very many ways Solomon is so very wise. He isn't building up his treasures here on earth - he's spreading his joy. He tells me maybe in a few more years he will head back to Florida where he believes he will make his home.

I feel richer just from our 1/2 hour encounter.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Two weeks home

Yesterday late evening marked our two week anniversary for being together as a family. Hehe - I guess for Samuel it was actually this morning since he slept through arriving home, being placed in his bed, and meeting his sisters - but it has now been two weeks.

Wow. So many changes. We have been so very blessed. Blessed by family and community that has embraced us. This weekend we spent a good bit of time going through the donations and presents of clothes and realize that we lack for NOTHING. Our children have so many nice, wonderful, stylish things. Paul is still amazed at the volume of clothes that are HIS. He doesn't have to share (although it is funny because if things are not earmarked specifically both boys will try to wear each others things and Sam swims in his clothes and Paul looks comical with capri-looking jeans). Its fine until Paul wears Sam's underwear and that gets a little uncomfortable.

Thursday morning Mike and Sheryl arrived with a laundry basket overflowing with gifts from Marty and Mike's church. There were glorious sunflowers and baked goodies as well as a complete dinner, clothes, even towels and brand new Packer's sweatshirts. It had a WalMart gift card as well as books and crayons and . . . oh so much. We have been welcomed into the family of church, community, and family and are humbled by the outreach.

Paul has become more a boy that the caregiver we first met. He can be sloppy and not put his things away (which we did NOT see before). I like this newer, more relaxed child. I may miss his not picking up his clothes but I do not miss feeling that he has a personal agenda that he needs to fulfill. He's a boy, a child. I am trying to find that balance between his striving for perfection and wanting to please everyone and simply letting him be a normal, active boy. He can aggravate the other kids mercilessly. His laugh is genuine. He delights in discovery. He screams like a girl - very high-pitched and it sounds very odd. He is scared of spiders and today was out-of-breath with discovering a snake (another fear). Marty went outside to discover an earthworm trying to make his way across the rain-covered driveway. I told Paul that worms are good and that I liked them for my garden and he could not hide his disgust at the very thought of such. Hehe. He has started school and loves it. His artwork is very meticulous and he draws arms, legs, feet, and faces which are happy. He rides the zip line at the school playground and we went after hours so that he could demonstrate his mastery. He chides Mary at her shall we say less accomplished penmanship, drawing skills, and especially her hesitancy regarding that zip line.

Samuel? Oh my goodness. We are seeing much progress with our youngest son. First of all Sam has an infectious smile and laugh and will use dance/gyrations to try to get out of sticky situations. He is a snuggler. He is a handful. His voice is at about the level of PeeWee Herman for those that remember him . . . very loud for this 26 pound wonder. He does not like being told what to do or especially "no" and will ignore anything he doesn't want to hear. When we first met Samuel he was very whiny and cried almost continually if he didn't get what he wanted (our digital camera, our video camera, anything food related or any object that he didn't currently have whether it was a computer, watch, toy, pen, etc.). It was harder getting close to Samuel at first because he was simply not very pleasant to be around with his constant screaming and tantrums. But that was the OLD Sam. We are still working out some kinks and bumps but Marty commented the other day that he thought Samuel was starting to "get" him. He is learning that crying isn't going to win him the prize he is coveting and that is hard to grasp after 3-1/2 years of it being a successful tool. With accentuating the positive traits (raising the toilet seat, listening after being told "no" 13 times, using words instead of wails and pointing) we have seen the neatest little guy emerging. He is delightful. He is affectionate. He is learning to accept that it is not "anything goes" anymore and is showing that he can try to seek acceptable behavior. I have started lying down with both Sam and Julia in our bed for afternoon nap and love that time to hold them close - he will fall asleep within minutes.

Both boys adore their baths. They are showing they have clothing preferences (Paul refused a Packer sweatshirt today much to Marty's chagrin). They are talking more and more in English and are teaching me more and more Amharic. They delight in seeing pictures from their orphanage and following the blogs of their friends they had from Ethiopia. They share the names of other children and tell me things about them (one little guy ate a spider, if they have a brother or sister, if they tease or are funny).

Their capacity to love is amazing. I get hugs and kisses freely and without asking. Marty's arrival home is a source of delight beyond imagination. He snuck in today and they spotted him and shrieked and chased him about the house before he was cornered with laughter and leaps and hugs and such.

And I'm reminded of how I'm told I'm doing such a marvelous things for these kids. Shoot - they lift my soul and inspire me. They mirror God's love and depth and mercy and joy. They teach me so much about myself as well as about hope and faith.

I have to repeat. I am the one blessed in this.

Blessings to all.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Happy belated birthday - Marty

Wow. Another year and so many changes. One year ago on Marty's birthday first we crossed the international date line on our way home from China and he got some extra hours out of his special day, but then especially we landed in Los Angeles and Julia became an American citizen.

And this year we have not only Julia who doubled our number of children at home, but Paul and Samuel are with us already. Can you believe it?

And we haven't celebrated yet. I held the cards until sometime today. We're really pretty low key and a cake and ice cream signify the passage. I of course am happy because the 100 day age difference is now lessened by the fact that our ages "match" once again and all is right with the world.

I actually spent the morning we had designated for the zoo yesterday at the doctor's office because my eye infection is not getting better even with the prescription. I now have a combination treatment that I apply hourly while waking (one drop on even hours and the other on the odd hours). My eye was swollen/stuck shut again this morning but . . . we'll keep working on it. I'm just grateful that so far everyone else seems to be unaffected.

And the kids wore their Aunt Sheryl thin yesterday. She has never said they were horrid but I believe the term she used was "terrible" and that she will check caller ID before answering a phone call from me starting yesterday. Yowzer! She did add that Paul was the best one of the bunch. I'm sorry!!

We have rain this morning, the nice lazy slow rain that isn't yet the effects of Ike. No outing planned as I'm still pretty freakish-looking and its weepy. I have the baggies for the spent tissues and trying to contain any possible cross-contamination.

If it weren't raining I'd try to get some yard work done. As it is, I think I'll try getting a handle on either the girls' or boys' clothes and cull out the ones that are not currently fitting and find a PLACE for everything . . . so that each child knows what fits him/her. Poor Paul frequently wears Samuel's things I think simply for lack of knowing that there are clothes specifically for him alone. It doesn't really matter until I find him wearing 2T underwear and THAT can be a little constricting!!! :o)

We'll see about celebrating though. This is the first day since Labor Day that Marty hasn't had to go into work at least some of the day. We're showered and the children are rambunctious. Its a good kind though, we're still getting used to boys.

Of note, Julia and Mary slept in the top bunk together for the first time - I think because their brothers usually do in their room. They do emulate each other often.

I'm going to run. I'm showered and Marty is making breakfast although we've been up for hours. It has been marvelous just simply being family this lovely Saturday morning.

God bless.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


If you are blue with pink eye . . . does that make you purple? Yep, I got it again. What is weird is that this is exactly what happened last year when I returned from China. I made it through the trip okay and within a week had a raging case of pink eye.

Its better now . . . I have a TINY amount of eye drops that I'm using and will resort to the doctor if I just must. This morning I was just frustrated thinking . . . four kids in a waiting room? Four kids in an examining room? LOL!

Paul has asked twice if it is time for school (still the excited state, not fearful). We may try to eat EARLY and have pasta, THEN give the guys their bath before school. That should relax Samuel for his nap and then I can pry Paul out of his clothes. Funny guy dresses as he rises and if I don't hide his clothes from the evening before then they go right back on his body. Good for low laundry volumes . . . bad for mommy image at school! Haha!

On another positive note - we meet with our social worker tomorrow evening. She will officially gather the documents to begin the re adoption process. For those that are not familiar with Wisconsin law, although the adoption was finalized in Ethiopia - since we did not meet the boys prior to this happening (done by proxy) we now will RE-adopt in our state and then perform their final name change and citizenship procedures. Their names currently (as dictated by Ethiopian courts) are Abel Martin Phillipson and Tekleab Martin Phillipson (their birth first name, Marty's first name, our last name). After court they will be Paul Martin Phillipson and Samuel Michael Phillipson. They will get birth certificates. There will not be a need to continue keeping their adoption paperwork available at every turn.

Its not a huge deal for us but we will be able then to secure their citizenship and social security numbers in their final names. I hear them softly saying their names frequently . . . rolling off their tongue. Last night at the voting station a woman asked Paul "And what is your name?"

He said softly yet clearly "My name is Paul" and I wanted to cheer. Full sentences!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Paul made major strides today. He returned to school.

We weren't expecting it. We weren't pushing it . . . well, his sister Mary was but we were telling her to cool it. His book bag is still packed and ready and we allow him to peek but not to play around with the contents.

The school has been very understanding. They said to take as much time as needed. He has had encouragement and even allowed to do projects at home to be turned in for a reward sticker.

I don't ask "do you want to go TODAY?" I simply felt that after he faced his fears that first day I wasn't going to (at this point) push him. I think he pushed himself enough. I wasn't sure when I might start encouraging his return.

But today Mary came racing in and said "Paul said he wants to go to school today!" I didn't totally believe her. I didn't seek him out and ask him. I thought . . . let it be.

And sure enough, he verified Mary's position. He seemed excited. Their Aunt Sheryl came over to watch the little ones while I took them to school just in case he became overwhelmed again. I had been told I could stay as long as needed and he could leave with me when he returned. I didn't want Samuel and Julia sitting in the car - this needed to be about him.

So we pull in the circle drive and he starts a nervous whine/laugh/cry. I open the van door and he's out first but as Mary tries to exit, he acts like he's about to head back in the van. But its different this time. He is grinning like a Cheshire cat and its more of a nervous, excited state as opposed to being totally overwhelmed and shut down.

I tell him that he needs to simply come inside with me. He can leave immediately with me but he can wave to his schoolmates/friends/teachers. I can stay with him. I can leave. We can stay together as long as he wants (he didn't know I had promised Sheryl I would be no more than an hour total). We walk the same hallway and as we stop outside his room there are children already assembled in various stations of his classroom. Mary deposits her backpack on her assigned hook and he finds his. The door is cracked and Ms. B peeks out to tell Mary hello and doesn't see him as he's bent over retying his shoe.

When she sees Paul she holds her hands up to her face in exaggerated surprise and then turns around as if she is seeing things. He giggles. She spins and embraces him. He is beaming. Greetings are warm and he's nervous but seems so very happy. The other children approach. A song begins about greeting your friends and walking around the room and I stay. They head for a story and I stand right outside the area. Paul is beside Mary. It is a tactile book and the children are feeling things on the pages. The book is not finished and I see him place his hand by his face, thumb to his cheek and his finger waggle as his eyes dart at me.

Bye? Are you telling me to leave?

He nods yes. His eyes are dancing and his smile is contagious.

"Tell Paul's Mom bye!"

Mary interjects that I am HER mother too.

I leave. I am a totally different woman than I was one week ago trying to drive between the tears.

My son has mastered his fears. He comes home that afternoon a conqueror . . . a HERO. He painted. He interacted. He was a child in school who enjoyed it.

And we rejoice.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mayhem and motorcycles

We planned church today. We planned church today. Julia was screaming in her sleep at regular intervals, the windows were up and someone was burning something during the night and we all woke with "crud" in our throats (although it smelled glorious).

I finally moved Julia to our bed after 5 a.m. and of course that prompted Mary to move as well. Julia drifts to sleep and Mary flips and flops and fusses with being covered. I'm exposed as she moves on top of the comforter. Marty is either feigning sleep or infuriatingly able to rest. I get up.

The boys begin their morning assault on the household and I shush and whisper and then even threaten. I shut all doors in the hallway (including one of the bathrooms) and instruct them to silence. When they drift back there I stand in the hallway protectively and motion their retreat. We watch Veggie Tales and snuggle in the living room while the rest of the family sleeps.

And I'm at peace. Sarah and Andy have the drive back today and I don't want them exhausted for it. I know that Marty is needing rest and he needs to head back to work again today for a few more hours. Mary then Julia join us. I have my children gathered as the sunlight streams in and the morning unfolds.

I worship. Oh how wonderful are His works. His love envelopes me. I am so very blessed.

Later the rest of the household wakens and as Andy begins to apologize for sleeping I let them know that I am at peace. I have my family surrounding me. The boys head outside while Marty prepares for work.

And suddenly Paul races in all flush with excitement. Mom? Mom???? He pantomimes a face shield and helment and then mounts a motorcycle and I understand. Marty has ridden in and Paul is beside himself in the fascination of his father and the fact that a motorcycle has been in the garage.

Ahh, the sense of discovery is just so joyful. And I'm grateful and humbled by my family here as well as scattered about this nation (and in Ireland).


Sorry to be a couple of days between posts. We've been simply being a family.

Its funny, I continue to be amazed at the kids. I "told" on Paul when Marty got home from work for not picking up his things the other night and Marty looked at him and exclaimed.

"What? You didn't pick up your toys? No!!! You didn't do that, did you?"

He looked blank and confused. Then his eyes danced. The corners of his mouth quivered into a grin. And then he was beaming.

"You are SOOOOOO busted buddy" I told him. We'd heard while in Ethiopia that some of the older kids in the orphanage had passed along the information to "play dumb" to get away with things and to be able to do/get what you want. He's normal! :o)

Yesterday Marty had a meeting at work so I was here with all the children (Sarah and Andy included). We all ended up squeezing into the van (Andy between the two high-backed booster car seats in the back) and went to McDonald's. I deliberately picked between 10:30-11 so that we could miss a lot of the ruckus. We made sure everyone had shoes with socks so nobody was excluded.

And we ended up having a LARGE time. Even Julia who has never been too interested in climbing was convinced eventually to head up to the top and go down the slide (sandwiched between a brother and sister) with squeals of glee. She then proceeded to a table and pointed deliberately at the empty top. This gal means business.

So Sarah and I went to order just basic food (burgers) and Julia made sure we got the order right. She didn't ever fully return to play once we had food. The boys would stop and grab a bite or two then take off again. Mary? She simply wanted to be able to sip something cool and wet every so often - I'm not sure she ever took a bite. After about an hour and a half they were tired but happy.

Late yesterday afternoon we went to take a walk. Marty, Andy, and Paul took the three dogs to the bike trail for the longer version while Sarah and I took the girls and Sam around the "loop" where we planned on stopping at the playground. Sam has a habit of if something isn't going exactly as he desires he pulled the potty card. He asked me to carry him. We were three houses down. I explained that a walk means we should walk.

Twenty seconds later I was told that he was in dire need of bathroom facilities. It was urgent. We head back and Sarah and the girls continue. Of course we get home and he opens the door with such force as I have a dent in the drywall with chipped paint and he races to the bathroom to emerge . . . seven seconds later. He's normal too!

Yesterday evening we celebrated Sheryl's birthday, almost a month late. She was actually on a trip out of town with Mike when her birthday occurred and then we were preparing for Ethiopia when she returned . . . but this is her first Phillipson birthday and I wanted to make sure she felt welcomed with a cake . . . and the children more than agreed. The boys think it is a nice tradition. We had to relight the cake to allow Sheryl a chance to blow her own candles and it was simply fun.

Then Paul discovered we owned a Wii. We don't utilize it weekly - but it is something that we do for entertainment as a family. We bowled. Everyone got a turn and it was simply fun. We also had to do the game where you race while riding cows (you don't have to push a button) and it was a hoot especially when Paul and Sam were racing. Any attempt to guide them or assist was met with definite resistance! What fun.

Our first week is over. We had once instance where we caught Julia deliberately scratching and I was amazed at her attack on Mary for something she perceived Samuel to have done (Sam removed a toy from the couch that she and Mary were sitting on so Julia protested and attacked Mary). I had not seen this behavior since Julia first came home and although the children had reported it to me, I did not want to believe it was happening and certainly not to the degree I witnessed.

But we'll get through it.

Let me run. The boys are awake and I'd like to attempt to allow the girls, Marty, and the grown kids the possibility of being able to get more rest this morning. We need a sound-proof room for that to happen!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Mean Mama

Well I guess the honeymoon is over.

I'm exhausted. The boys are allowing me some more sleep but they are going through the house and things like a wrecking crew. I've been more than patient I believe. I have explained and I KNOW that they understand about picking up.

And the thing is if you say . . .

Go upstairs and take off your shoes and socks, put on pajamas and your robe and then sit at the table for a treat - they will be waiting in the appropriate manner expectantly.

But if you say . . . pick up these toys - there is a blank stare or simply you are ignored altogether as if you have not spoken at all. Not a "huh?" or anything. I told them that if they didn't get them put away I would take them away. They laugh. Heck, there are PLENTY more toys available. Well, there WERE.

As I said, I'm tired. Over the past three days I've gathered up toys that have caused fights as well as those left for me to trip over or pick up because they have moved on to something else. Many are outside on the back porch, some in a Rubbermaid tote.

I have Sarah and Andy coming tomorrow night (my oldest daughter and son-in-law) and they will be staying in the basement which is also a large playroom. It has a futon, fireplace, large screen TV along with DVD, stereo, etc. It has its own bathroom. It is a virtual fantastic kids area and has the majority of toys (soon to be MAJOR as in 95%+).

I have warned that the time for clean-up is coming. I have warned that the toys will be removed. Now true, Mary and Julia know that when the "mean mama" voice is enacted you'd better beware.

So Paul has to defecate. Sam has to urinate. They race off with a toy upstairs. I tell them I am not happy and they giggle. I haul them downstairs to assist so I can SHOW them how nicely things can go in the colored bins and they double up on the wonder-horse with glee and then act like they haven't a clue.

Fine. I banned them from downstairs. I told them we were family and if they could not help as a unit get things ready then they lose the ability to be able to play down there for two days. I was cleaning their mess.

I feel better. And from their mood they could not care any less. They stated at the top of the stairs and Paul would get Samuel to race down to check our progress and announce himself then race back up to report.

And that is fine by me. I'm not wanting them sad or hurt. I'm simply wanting not to be the maid. I know, I know it goes with motherhood but I'm not talking about a vacuum/mop/dust/laundry/meal preparation strike. If we have so many toys they cannot be managed then maybe we have simply too many.

End of lecture!

Divas, DVDs and Drudgery

It is so interesting having my sons home. They are into EVERYTHING and while not intentionally destructive, they don't seem to know limitations. Much to Mary's chagrin, they don't know about such things as possessiveness. She has readily shared all she has but it drives her NUTS when Paul wears Samuel's clothes and vice versa. They simply don't know. They don't care. They are pleased to have clothes to wear and will pick up something that peaks their interest and proudly put it on. Who cares of jeans land below the knees or five inches below the ankle? What if the sleeves of a shirt hang past the fingers or if raising your arms exposes four inches of skin? They are happy. Mary announces each fashion faux paus with clarity and I try to explain to her that they don't care. SHE DOES! It's a hoot most of the time. In all actuality Paul will be in his soccer outfit or his sweats once he realizes one is clean - soccer is preferred but sweats are warmer.

We have started the use of DVDs on this rainy day. Before I had only used it in the van but its rainy here now and outside activity is curtailed. Paul adores Veggie Tales. He just emerged from the basement with his arms loaded with probably 15 DVDs . . . all Veggie Tales. I'm not huge on cartoons all the time but for something with a good message to convey I'm all for it. We'll limit the time spent in front of them but after the fifth dog yelp because of being hit with the Tonka truck (being ridden on) maybe some Veggie Tale time vegging out in front of the TV may be just exactly what the doctor ordered. We have about an hour before getting Mary ready for school and I'm thinking we may attempt a picnic lunch in the floor today.

Naaaaah, I'm not that cool yet. I'll keep my mind/heart open though.

Screams from the hallway - need to scoot. :o)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Paul school update

Today at lunch Mary was chatting about school. Paul didn't seem distressed but didn't seem that interested either. I asked him (once again) if he would like to go to school. He didn't immediately answer but he eventually turned his face toward me and then looked PAST me and wagged his finger . . . "No."

I told him that it would be just fine to stay home. He doesn't have to push himself to be in class at this point. He could stay home and we'd still go to school to take MARY, but then he'd be coming home with me. He seemed to relax.

And true to my word as we got to the school I parked on the street (further from the building) and warned the kids to stay put, locked the van, and then went inside with Mary. We talked with the principal who was more than understanding and then went to their classroom. It was offered that Paul could come if/when he wanted and stay for a partial class if he'd like. They are so open and understanding. Furthermore Ms. B walked out with me to the van, said "Hello" to Paul and they exchanged a "high five" as well. He seemed to exhale deeply when we pulled away and I was able to show him that I wasn't blowing smoke at him.

Pick-up went just fine and Mary returned with work for Paul in her backpack. He can do whatever class projects on his own at home and turn them in through his sister so that when he does come back he won't be left out or behind. His work/projects will be there with the rest of his classmates/future friends.

All right!!

Wednesday morning

We have a breakthrough. While Samuel has been a "dog convert" for a bit Paul has remained reticent about accepting canine companions. He'll walk with them while they are on the leash but is timid when approached. He has made progress daily though.

Last night for the first time we did not put the dog gates up. We left the bathroom light on so they wouldn't trip over their bulk in the night (we've always left it on for them anyway). We slept until about 5:30 this morning which is acceptable to me. We had very short naps yesterday.

The dogs of course were calm. Paul indicated his understanding that they were safely locked in the garage and I told him they were in our bedroom with Daddy. He doubted me. He checked the garage. He tentatively stepped out and confirmed my statement. We went down the hallway to peek in our room and sure enough, the bodies were draped on the carpeting. He seemed surprised to see them at rest as they are usually fired up since they are just being let in or out.

After Marty had left for work, the skies appeared overcast and there was a sprinkling of raindrops here or there. I let the dogs back in. The kids dashed outside and took various dog toys. After one initial retreat by Paul he decided that although they can be overwhelming - they are also pretty neat.

He has since learned to groom and takes great pains to comb and brush. He can command "sit" and is gentle and thorough. The dogs adore the attention. Paul can command their actions.

One more hurdle cleared. Comfort has been established.

Splish splash

Its hard to write this post. With adoption there are uncertainties. With parenting there are uncertainties.

Especially when you introduce boys in with your girls there are warnings to watch carefully and to look for signs of molestation in both the boys (as victims or predators) and guard the children at home. I will be a mother to all my children and protect them all from harm to the best of my ability.

I had pondered about how I would assume the role of mother to boys. I had not dealt with boys before. I wasn't sure how to handle assisting with bathroom habits or bathing or such. Would they be embarrassed? Should I defer to Marty? What about the girls with the boys? How can I be Mama with limitations?

Well Samuel who is wearing between an 18 month and a 2T arrived from the orphanage in 4T pants. This isn't at all to complain as they were clean and loved and well-cared for, but simply to convey how terribly large the pants were on him and he looked like one of those teens with the droopy pants except that he didn't have underwear on to reveal to the world. We began searching our stash of clothing immediately upon coming to the guest house in Ethipia to see what we had that may be appropriate. He noticed our activity and stripped naked immediately in the bedroom. That set the stage for our embarrassment level around them. They readily shower/change in front of me and nakedness is simply that - the lack of clothes and not a source for shame or even curiosity.

Last night Samuel went to time out for spitting out his Jello in the floor and as I went to get him back out I stopped to run a bubble bath. The kids were covered in chalk dust and I thought I'd simply start with him. He was NOT happy with the bubbles and kept trying to simply stand in the tub and attempting a quick cleansing with his hands and looking for the shower as we've done before. Mary and Julia were immediately in the room and stripping before I could stop them. Julia was trying to climb in with her diaper on and Mary was scooping up the bubbles and sculpting a beard. Samuel wasn't happy still and any attempt to have him sit was not greeted warmly. The girls were situated happily and they began pouring from cups and pitchers in the tub and I was trying to show Sam how the "paper dolls" could be utilized by sticking them on the tile. I feel a hand on my shoulder and Paul is bracing himself to step in as well.

I have to laugh as he scoops up the bubbles playfully and grabs the cups and is mesmerized by the water. Samuel immediately changes his tune and is giggling. Paul reverts suddenly to caregiver and begins to bath his siblings. Mary isn't sure of it. He pours a cup of water of Julia's head which she doesn't like. Her protests are met with yet another dousing. The splashing begins and suddenly they are all attempting to swim. I call to Marty to get the camera (he finds his) and I'll upload that one as well.

And suddenly, black/white - boy/girl just dissipates. These are simply children, MY children. I will watch and protect and guide but they are simply children that are enjoying their first bath. Paul told me that he'd never done that before. I reminded him of his immersion at Pewee and Rosie's house with the fish yesterday and he beams and laughs. He liked this one better. He thinks he'll prefer to bathe now.

Ahh the simple delights in life.

School daze

Paul is one of the most fascinating, intriguing guys I've met. I think he assumed the caretaker role long ago, not only a brother but simply in the orphanage as I watch him interact with his brother and sisters. Mary continues to simply be completely enthralled with the completion of our family unit (well, she did mention her Ethiopian sister still waiting again today but I simply told her "No").

I did not intend for Paul to start school immediately. I wanted to give him time to acclimate. I wanted more time to hold him and let him simply be. I wanted to protect him from feeling overwhelmed or out of place.

But this child is such a charasmatic individual. He was determined in Ethiopia when speaking through Caanan that he wished to be back in school. He had been previously and then was pulled out for reasons he did not know. He wants to learn and excel. How do I convey to him that he has time?

Yesterday we did go out and get his supplies. He glowed as we browsed the glue and such. He proudly picked his Diego backpack and then indicated to me (through pantomime) "bicycle". I told him that yes, Diego did ride a bike and then Mary reminded me that his bicycle had Diego on it. Ahhhh! He kissed his pack of pencils as he placed them in the basket.

I thought . . . we'll be prepared for school should he continue this quest - but he can defer if needed.

We've decided to simply go with 4K for now. Mary was held back under advice of the professionals (late summer birthday) so it is her class. The program is noon-3 p.m. Monday thru Thursday. It would allow him time to be in school yet still plenty of time just to be. I'd notified the school this spring of his impending attendance and they have be so very flexible as well as supportive.

Marty left for work. The boys had been dressed since 5 (they do NOT go barefoot in the house either). Since Marty had prepared breakfast I was able to be showered before his departure (a luxury for me). Paul and Samuel are in and out of the door frequently anyway but as I checked for the sound of his training wheels on the driveway that loops around the house I realized that it had been absent. I was on immediate alert and Mary picked right up on it.

"Paul and Samuel are in Stan the Van" she told me.


I head out and there are my sons. Paul is in his favorite Old Navy sweats. His paint/art smock is on. I believe he thinks it is a school uniform of sorts. His backpack is strapped on and there are beads of sweat forming on his brow.

"Mom?" he asks questioning me when I open the door.

It is so hard to explain to him. I call the school. They check with the school psychologist and powers that be and call back within the hour. Yes, Paul is more than welcome at school today - we can register him officially with a packet to be returned tomorrow (actually now today). He can start 4K with his sister and they can be in the same class to assist. We talk of immersion and the possibility that he could be reevaluated as needed and moved up if we all think it may be in his best interest. He's beaming at the prospect.

Sheryl comes over to watch the little ones. I still cannot locate my camera from our trip and find myself utilizing his Fischer Price model to capture the moment (I'll upload later). We go early to meet the principal and staff (Mary has done this before but not Paul). His eyes are huge as he drinks in the environment and poses for yet one more photo.

And we head to their classroom and find where to place their backpacks on hooks in the hallway above their name placecards. Their teacher is young and so very sweet and friendly without being overbearing. Paul begins to simply withdraw. The aide in the room notices his eyes watering and I'm horrified to see him dabbing his eyes with the short-sleeved shirt I had convinced him to change into (with his sweat pants). I watch my son struggle.

And I feel like I have betrayed him. Mary is scampering about the room euphorically. She is clueless. I place my arms about Paul and ask if he is okay and if he'd rather go home. His body racks with sobs. He will not answer. He doesn't cling. He will not look at me nor will he respond either physically or verbally.

The children begin to assemble for a story while the parents that are lingering are free to witness. Paul indicates that he needs to go to the bathroom and I readily take him out, hoping to be able to convey to him that simply put - this is not mandatory. Once at the bathroom he darts in and is back out immediately. He walks down the hall while I am trying to talk to him but it is like he is that child that I met the first day in Ethiopia . . . he is blanked out in the face. He returns to the room and I try to convey to Mary that she needs to assist her big brother. She comes to his side and almost immediately embarks on her own agenda again.

Another boy approaches him and says . . . "Do you want to play with me - I can build Lincoln logs!" We head to where there is a partial cabin being assembled but Paul is just standing with tears. He is given a small bear to hug and tissues are made available.

The story begins as another mother introduces herself and offers comfort. I'm wanting to pick him up physicially and run. After the story the children with parents still lingering are to come and place a heart ink stamp on the back of their hand to signify a kiss and the parent in turn places on theirs. Paul and Mary are first and I still am wearing the two hearts. I in turn place stamps on their hands. Paul is so very dark the red isn't seen easily. It is time to go.

I'm fighting tears in the parking lot and another mother from class offers me her phone number. The tears come within a house or two and I drive home just trying to see. I'm sobbing from the exhaustion and doubting my ability to know what is in my son's best interest. I feel that I should have disappointed him by not allowing him to go to class with his sister and allow him to be simply a kid. I was to call Mary Romer with the results of his drop-off and I cannot because I cannot speak.

During the wait for pickup Samuel and Julia keep me occupied but not enough. I am the first parent in line for pickup (we won't be using the bus service). We have changed the video in the van and Sam and Julia are fast asleep. I see the first activity of children taking down the flag and I am on full alert. The van is running with the air conditioning going and I get out and walk to the door with the sleeping toddlers strapped in place. Then I see Mary and Paul walk out. All seems fine and they do not even notice me. I call to them and Paul lights up and he and Mary race to my arms.

I ask how his day went and am told that he is "brave" and did well. I keep checking his face and body language - not sure we'll be returning with him tomorrow. He laughs as we open the door of the van and his sleeping siblings are revealed. He is fascinated by the new video in the van - a Signing Time series and he is practicing sign language with delight. We head to the local BP station and I take the school kids in while the younger ones sleep and we get a treat of gatorade in twist-top bottles for everyone and I allow them to each pick one treat. Paul got the M&M's he has been admiring since Ethiopia and Mary got Skittles. I also told them that while I would be happy if they shared - this was their treat for starting school and I would not require it. We bought two large carrots and two apples and Paul did not know what was in store next.

I pull from in front of the station to the side and tried to explain that there was a small petting zoo. We disembark with the whole crew in tow and Paul is delighted to see the rabbits and chickens with chicks. The goats were both a mite overwhelming and fascinating. He watched with interest as the miniature horses wrestled with biting off the carrot. He would attempt to feed but then withdraw with a mite of fear and excitement when they would reach for him.

The apple was more difficult to stabilize (usually the station offers to cut up the produce to feed easier) but oh so much fun. He tentatively stroked the extra-fuzzy donkey and cajoled the alpacas to get up and join us but they ignored his antics. Julia covers her ears when we get to the sheep as they bleat so loudly and once again Paul assumed the role of caregiver. We fed more horses and soon the food had run out.

We head back to the van (which has gotten pretty hot) and delve into the drinks and I open the candy treats. Samuel DEMANDS a treat and I explain that he got a doughnut from Aunt Sheryl while I took them to school the others didn't. Paul laughed at his antics and for the first time ever didn't offer to share. As we pulled out of the parking lot I hear him . .

"Mom? Thank you."

We make it home and my son has returned to normal. Samuel continues to cry for candy and suddenly they are laughing and sharing and racing about the house. I am instructed to open my mouth and a sour Skittle with a peanut M&M are placed in . . . interesting combination.

We concentrate on chalk drawings for the driveway and porch and Paul begins a version of hopscotch. I'm surprised (and pleased) when he adamantly refuses to allow Mary to decorate his board and persistently redirects her attentions to another area. She continues but he ultimately wins out - silently pulling her wrist over to another spot.

Later on I hear her first protest over her brother. He has place her "princess" basket from her bicycle onto his. Well, Mary has refused to ride her bicycle as the brakes caused her to pitch over early in her bicycle "career" when she was attempting to go into reverse like her tricycle. Paul is accomplished now and we were hoping he would cause her to step up in her efforts - yet she prefers to ride Julia's tricycle or simply trot next to Paul as he races back and forth. I allow the basket to remain until she is riding her bicycle. She explains that her worry is humanitarian as she didn't want someone to think he was a "girl" with such a basket. :o)

But my giddy guy has returned. He tells Dad that school is good. Over dinner (more of the "lasagna" and chicken/stuffing in which Paul was chomping the drumstick bones until we begged him to stop) I tried to get the children to say what their favorite part of school was. Paul would smile but Mary would answer for both of them. Girls!

But he told Marty he wanted to return today.

If only I had 1/5 of the character of this child.