Thank you everyone for respecting our wishes and not approaching the kids. They were so overwhelmed and you guys were incredible. Levi talks about the airport all the time. He will be like, "I saw so-and-so, and so-and-so, and so-and-so," and point to your picture and I will say, "Yes, and they love you SO much!", and he will smile and duck his head. :)
Second I need to say another HUGE thank you to some special friends who made our coming home and first week amazing and easy! We were driven home by the lovely Jamie, and we arrived to find our house stuffed with ballons, cards, welcome home signs, and a refrigerator and freezer full of food and meals. We had pot roast, pork roasts, pizzas, lasagnas, frozen meals, and fruit and veggies galore. Even just two days ago, someone dropped off a delicious meal of homemade mac and cheese, salad, bread, and ice cream. HOW DID I GET SO LUCKY?????? This is unbelievable. The support and love you have shown us has blown our minds.
I also need to say thank you for the cards and giftcards. We have literally received SOOOOO many giftcards to Target and Wal*Mart (thank you for clothing our children) as well as to other stores, that we have been able to purchase everything our kids need from your generosity. We are STILL getting cards in the mail!!!!! We even received cards from families I knew when I was little, but who I haven't seen in YEARS. Like, since I was 15 or 16. Over a decade. Seriously, you guys all make me want to cry. I am so blessed.
So how is it being home after two weeks and having the kids full time for a total of three weeks?
Nothing can describe this. Having my two babies HOME is absolutely incredible. It's been three weeks home (and one month together) and I can't imagine life without them. They are an extension of us; part of us. Was the first week totally different than life as we have known it? Yes. Was it a little tough being tied to two kids and having them 24/7? Of course! (We are talking about ME here, Miss Independent and Always On The Run....I've spent more time in my house in one day than I have in the entire time we have lived here.) Did I think, "OMG, what have I done?!?!?!?!?" Several times. Did I wonder why I had thought we could handle a teenager? Once. It's completely normal. Our life has changed. Many mothers experience post-partum depression when they have a baby. It's hard when everything changes and your life goes crazy. I am so thankful that we have had it VERY easy, and that the first week was simply adjusting and trying to figure out a new schedule and routine that works for all of us. Really, about four days in was the hardest, and everything has been downhill from there. By the end of week one, we were grooving. End of week two, loving the groove and ready to bring home two more kids ASAP. Yeah that's right. It's gonna happen. Not right away, but it will. Bring on the babies! :)
Here's our routine so far. It's been working great. I work 4am and get home at 7:30am and then Abe leaves for work. The kids and I make breakfast together and set the table. The kids are AMAZING. Soooooooooo helpful and they always want to do everything with me, which is great, because we have plenty of time, and they need to learn a lot of American basic life skills. :) Z LOVES making eggs in the morning. We cook together and then we eat together. After breakfast, Levi does the dishes (his favorite chore). Zahria sweeps the floors and stairs. I pick up anything around the house, start the laundry or whatever, and then run and do my makeup. We all meet back downstairs and read Bible stories and then do schoolwork. We do school for about three hours or so (the kids are super smart and they love to learn). Then we make lunch, eat it, and clean up together. After, we play with JD in the yard, and then go running, or play basketball, or do P90X (Levi is obsessed with it, and he is GOOD!). In the afternoon we color or play games, and then often Skype with their ET friends. We then make dinner, eat it with Daddy, clean up, and get ready for bed. The kids sleep 12 hours and are used to going to bed when it gets dark, so 7pm-7:30pm is bedtime. By that point, not even gonna lie, we pretty much go to bed too. We are both shot by that point. They kids are AMAZING, and they also take all our energy. Plus I wake up at 3am pretty much on a daily basis for work, so I'm readyf or sleep anyway. Weekends have been a great time of family hangout and fun.
So what have done since we've been home?
-Met a few people
-Made paper chains, Thanksgiving turkeys
-Board games and card games
-First doctor visit
-Made a movie "David and Goliath" (the kids were hysterically cute and Abe totally put his pride on the line and showed what a great father he was by letting Z put a pink crown on him and also wearing tinfoil armor and allowing us to put en eyeliner beard and moustache on his face. LOVE THIS MAN.)
The kids have been angels. I keep waiting for the honeymoon phase to drop and the war to start but so far, parenting these two has been a piece of cake. They are amazing kids and have been trained and raised so well. They are so respectful and helpful that it is literally not possible. I am so thankful to their mother and the other people who cared for them and taught them how to act and live. I can in no way take credit for their stellar behavior but am forever blessed by it. I couldn't ask for better kids. I LOVE having them around, I love being with them, I love living LIFE with them. Listening to them laugh is the best thing ever (and they do that a LOT). They say the cutest things, do the cutest things, and are all out awesome.
Levi is my handsome young man. He has been great; is always trying to learn new signs and asking for the "name" (spelling) of something. He works so hard at his school and is always so willing to help me. He will NOT let me do the dishes. Like, ever. I have to trick him into watching a movie and then do them sometimes, and he yells at me after. He is also always convinced that I should eat half his food. He will NOT be affectionate to me in public (a cultural thing) or around Abe, but in the house when it is just us and Z, he will hold my hand or hug me and he says "I love you, Mom" about a bazillion times a day. We have this thing where he says, "I love you," and I say, "I love you SOOOOOOOOOO much!", and he says, "I love you SOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH! S-O M-U-C-H!!!!" He also is constantly telling me I am beautiful. He especially says this after I have my makeup on........... :-D He's also made up a sign for "I-REALLY-LOVE-YOU-MOM". He is SO expressive and loves to tell me stories or describe stuff. He is going to be KILLER at ASL. So proud of him. He is an amazing kid and I have no idea why I am so blessed to have him in my life.
He is also in an American-only phase. He will not read in Amharic. He will not use Amharic Sign Language. I wanted to videotape him signing in Amharic before he forgets but he is constantly tell me, "AMHARIC NO. ME ENGLISH." He says that about everything. He wants American Sign Language. English reading/writing. American food (he loves pizza especially). He is always pointing to an American flag and saying, "MOM, ME-LOVE." I'm like, "I know sweetie." He is beyond precious.
Zahria is our sunshine. That baby girl is constantly laughing or being silly. She is a RIOT. I wish I could record everything she does. Luckily, she loves the camera and lets me get a lot more pictures and videos of her than Levi does. She is my helper and is always running around by herself and finding ways to help me; she folded laundry when I was with Levi, and she sweeps and dusts and does whatever cleaning her little hands can find. She loves to run the washing machine and dryer; she will follow me around and say, "Mom! Laundry! Mom! MOM!" She is shy in public but at home and with her brother, she is crazy. She is also agressive....we were playing basketball with Grandpa Brian and she was bodyslamming him and Levi for the ball! She actually stole it a few times and at one point she and Levi both jumped for the ball, both missed, and slammed DIRECTLY into each other mid-air. It could have been an NBA move. They narrowly missed hitting Abe's car as they fell, landed on the pavement both laughing, and then Z jumped up and grabbed the ball and took off. Abe and I were DYING. The kid is COMPETITIVE.
These kids are also so much like us that it's scary.
Z can't do anything (play, school, whatever) unless all the cleaning is done. She can't focus. She's gotta wash all the dishes and fold laundry with me before a movie. She's crazy competitive. She has to get everything 100% perfect. Period. Angry Birds score of 1 or 2 stars? No way. She will stay on a level till she passes with 3 stars. Always. Produce a sign wrong or say a word wrong? She will go, "A-gan (again), a-gan!" and do it over and over until it is perfect. She loves getting her hair and nails done. She talks in her sleep. She cries like me (no sound, and just a few tears.) She's like Abe in that she LOVES taking her time with things and playing games that require patience and thinking. She's like Abe in that she is brilliant in math and she loves to learn in general. She loves music. Also like her daddy, she will give me the clothes off her back and food off her plate, literally.
Levi is so much like Abe. Chill, sweet, beyond helpful, totally selfless. Always putting others first. (He also wants hair like Abe's; he talks about this EVERY. DAY.) Good at basketball (he's also awesome at soccer!). Takes care of his family: if Z is sad or needs help he takes care of her or helps her (or anyone who needs it). He (generally) dislikes having his picture/video taken. He sleeps like the dead (literally can NOT be woken. Trust me, Abe and I have tried!) He's like me in that he likes quick decisions and action, minimal details. Slow, thoughtful processing and strategy bore him (us) to tears. He loves to read (although his version is looking at pictures and making up the stories since he can't read English). He has two chapsticks on him 24/7. Yes, that's right, he sleeps with them. (He's a child after my own heart!) He loves avacados and mangoes. He's a clean freak. He loves music.
I wish I could record everything that has happened the past few weeks. The kids say and do so many funy and sweet things. And they have had so many firsts these past few weeks! First hot chocolate, first ice cream, first time living with electricity and running water, first time picking out their outfit from their OWN clothes, first Thanksgiving, first time making cookies, first time trying to ride a bike.
What's the hardest part of all this? It's actually that both kids need exposure to language, only they are both trying to learn TWO languages (ASL and English) andddddddddddddd I can't do both at once. So everything takes twice as long. For example: I will read a Bible story in English while both kids look at the pictures and then Z will hold the Bible and turn the pages and I will sign the stories for them both. Z signs almost as much as Levi which is amazing and awesome, but it is still hard. Also extremely hard is the fact that Levi has had almost no education and he does not have a language yet period, but he wants to do school. Thankfully, both kids are super smart and eager to learn.
Things I have learned over the past month:
1. I LIKE staying home with my kids (although I do miss my crazy old schedule. Life is still crazy, just different crazy. :-p)
2. I can lie (not sleep!) on the edge of a bed with a tiny 200 degree Ethiopian grip-locked around my neck for 11 hours straight for three consecutive nights to scare away bad dreams. (I lost all feeling in my left shoulder and arm those nights haha).
3. I still don't like to cook.
4. Cornrowing hair that is 1-1.5" long IS possible. Barely. But it CAN happen.
5. My 8-year old is going to know more math than me within two years. #babyengineer #daddysgirl
6. Being a mommy and doing your makeup is still totally manageable, it just takes a little planning
7. The past 4 years were INSANE and almost killed me and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I would I am doing it again. ASAP.
8. There is nothing like my daughter being wrapped around my leg and saying firmly, "Mom work-work-work? NO. Mom STAY. Work-work-work? No no no," and shaking her head while squeezing my leg with all 57lb of her tiny self.
9. My heart can explode and yet still function when my son (who by every right should be a hate-filled, bitter child) randomly signs, "MOM, I-LOVE-YOU. I REALLY LOVE YOU!!!!!!!! SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
10. My husband is a sexy daddy. Especially with an eyeliner beard and tinfoil armor, or cardboard ears and a tail (long story, we made a movie of David and Goliath, or as Z says, "Dawit and Go-lee-ath!").