Thursday, April 21, 2016

Oh hell to the no

Since choosing to have 4 children, I've been warned about how my life would be when they all became involved in extracurriculars.  The time is upon us, folks.  Well, kinda.  By the time Ella was 4 months old, I had her enrolled in little gym, mommy and me classes, future geniuses of America, etc., etc.  Poor Zeke is 6 years old and I'm still telling him he's too young for most things in a desperate move to save my sanity.  So, I've got 3 to deal with right now.  I'm praying that by the time Zeke catches on, Ella will be old enough to drive him to his stuff.  But, I digress.  Let me tell you how my evening went.  Kids get off the bus at 4.  After quick snacks and a lot of "if you don't get in the car right now" moments, I dropped Cat off at gymnastics at 4:30.  Owen was next for lacrosse team pictures at 5:00. Then off to the lacrosse game at 6.  Back to pick Cat up at 6:25 then home to grab Ella from horseback riding lessons.  By 6:45, I was dropping them off at 4-H and heading back to pick Owen up from Lacrosse.  Made it back to 4-H just in time for them to adjourn the meeting at 7:50.  I seriously contemplated having an ambulance pick me up from lacrosse because I was surely having a stroke.  Typically, David is flexible in his schedule and can help out, but not tonight.  My house is trashed, my children are late to bed, I had yogurt and wine for dinner and my eye won't stop twitching, but, by golly, I did it!  I survived this night of parenting hell!  Bring it world!  You don't scare me!  Ok, that's a lie.  Please don't bring it.  I don't have it in me to do it again.  I'm begging you, for the love of god, don't bring it.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Line in the Sand

A few weeks ago, our 6 year old lost a tooth while Dave and I were out.  The babysitter sent me a text to let me know, even though Cat asked her not to.   I assumed she wanted to surprise us in the morning, but it turns out, the little bugger was setting a trap.  A tooth fairy trap.  A little girl on her bus, whom we will refer to as "Jerk Face," told her that her parents are actually taking the tooth and leaving money and that the tooth fairy doesn't actually exist.  She decided that, if she didn't tell us about the tooth, she would know if Jerk Face was telling the truth because how could we leave money if we didn't know?  She ran into our room in the morning to tell us about her tooth, but hadn't checked for money yet.  As she's talking, we're realizing the tooth fairy hadn't come!  I engaged her in more exciting tooth fairy stories while Dave snuck out and hid money in her pillow.  Even with our best efforts, she still came to me asking, "mom...are you really the tooth fairy?  Jerk Face told me so on the bus."  I always knew that if they asked me point blank, I wouldn't lie.  So, I told her the truth.  It was quite sad.  Her eyes filled with tears, even though she pretended to be ok with the news.  I told her that she is now part of the tooth fairy magic and her job is to help other little kids keep believing.  She's lost another tooth since and asked me if she could flush it down the toilet and then told me I owe her money for the lost tooth, so I think she's over it.

So, now we have 1 that doesn't believe in the tooth fairy and 2 that don't believe in any of it anymore.  For a quick second I felt sad about them growing up.  Then I realized how awesome this is going to be.  I can delegate!  No more finding creative hiding spaces for the freaking elf on the shelf!  No more trying to find time to stuff Easter eggs with candy!  My creative, less exhausted and more enthusiastic daughter can help with these things!  By the time she has kids, she going to be so over this whole thing after helping me for so long, but I guess that's her problem.

All of this tooth fairy and Easter Bunny talk lately has gotten me thinking about how out of control holidays have gotten.  Everything seems more complicated and more involved than they were when I was a kid.  For instance, I had never heard of a Leprechaun bringing candy on St. Patrick's Day, but now I hear stories of kids waking to find glitter all around their house leading them to a treasure.  Zeke actually told me on Valentine's Day that the Giant Heart would be coming to bringing him treats.  What in the hell?!  No!  And my kids think that we will be celebrating their half birthdays!  Stop the madness, people!  If we don't stop this now, one day our Children will be telling tales of Uncle Sam riding in on a magic donkey to fill their top hats with treats to celebrate 4th of July.  I am taking a pledge right now to be a mediocre parent - no more, no less. I will not let the better moms kill me slowly with peer pressure!  I pledge to provide my kids with a reasonable amount of holiday magic while still allowing myself the ability to enjoy the holidays with a glass of wine and time to sit on the damn couch!  No Leprechauns!  No Giant Hearts! No Uncle Sam!  Who's with me?!

The worst mom ever

Friday, March 20, 2015


When we tell people we bought a horse barn, the questions are always...what made you do that?  do you have horse experience?  How did you find this place? So, I thought I'd tell the story of how we landed here.

I grew up with SOME horse experience.  My extended family members had horses and, like any little girl, I begged my parents for one.  The best I could get them to agree to was summer horse camps in Pennsylvania.  It was awesome!  We lived for a week in cabins and had our very own horse to take care of.  Clearly, that level of experience qualified me to own a barn.  The end.

Ok, so I actually had no business buying a farm, but "having no business" usually doesn't stop me.  As my oldest, Ella, pointed out to me recently...I'm a dreamer.  I LOVE that she knows that about me.  And it's true.  At least once a week, I call David and say, "I was thinking..."  This usually causes him to jump with excitement.  And by jump with excitement, I mean cringe.  I've had people suggest to me that Dave does anything I want.  That makes me laugh because it's not even close to being true.  He probably agrees to about 50% of my ideas.  It's just that the things he agrees to are so crazy, that people just assume I have him wrapped around my little finger.  I can't even imagine a life where he said yes to all of my ideas.  It's exciting and scary all at the same time.  One thing I know for sure is that I would have a pet pig that lived in the house and that I dressed up in cute outfits.

I've always been drawn to the idea of farm living and, after my experience working at a hippotherapy practice, I made the goal of owning my own farm based practice some day.  For those that don't know...I am an Occupational Therapist and hippotherapy is the use of horses in OT, PT or SLP treatment.  This was really a pipe dream and nothing I was even working towards - something I would do "some day" when the kids were older.  Well, one day, I drove by this boarding facility that was for sale.  I called David and said, "I was thinking..."  Much to my surprise, he didn't say no!  We drove out to look at the place and he loved it.  He loved feeling some seclusion from the chaos of his work day.  He loved the peaceful atmosphere.  For him, I think it was more about the land than the animals.  I, on the other hand, had dreams of snuggling farm animals day and night.

After A LOT of discussion, we decided to take the risk and jump at the opportunity.  Our plan was to buy the facility, learn the ropes and eventually build on the property in a couple of years.  But, one day, we received a call from a realtor friend of ours, who said she had someone she thought would be interested in purchasing our house (which was not on the market).  I told her that for the right price, I'm sure Dave would sell the kids and me, so I'm guessing he'd sell the house.  The buyer ended up wanting it and we had to start thinking about where to live.  With 4 kids and 3 dogs, landlords were not jumping at the chance to rent to us while we built our house.  Dave came up with the genius idea to build out an unused barn on our property and turn it into temporary living for us while we designed and built our house.  In 45 days time, we converted the hay loft of the barn into a 3 bedroom home.  After moving in, we found that we loved living in the barn and have ditched the idea of building a house.  We've had various animals live in the stalls below us - horses, chickens, goats.  While it was very cool to walk downstairs and see my horse standing there, the smell was not so cool.  So, now all of the animals are in the big barn and we are back here with only our mud covered dogs to stink up the house.  And Owen.  He also stinks it up.  There's something wrong with that child's feet.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Let's try this again...

It's been a loooong time since I've written, but that's a good thing.  When we started this blog, it was to help us process our difficult transition period when Zeke was adopted.  Things got better and I stopped having a need to write.  Well, it's been suggested to me on several occasions that I blog about our family.  While blogging was great during our difficult patch, it seems overwhelming to me to blog during normal times.  Do I have enough to say?  I know I never stop talking, but does any of what I say have enough substance for a blog??  I guess we'll find out!  Don't know how often I'll write, but hopefully you'll enjoy it when I do!

As a re-cap for those that may be reading this blog for the first time, the title "This Strange Place" comes from a saying you often hear in our home.  "This is a strange place to live," is something of a slogan to us.  We find ourselves saying it often.  We've taught the kids that if you're not weird, you're boring and, let's just say, we've all embraced that concept.

So, I guess I'll start thinking of topics to blog about and you stay on the edge of your seat in the meantime.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Zeke's Journey Home

Well, it's been a long time since we've written and I feel bad about that.  Not because I think you are sitting there on the edge of your seats waiting to hear from us, but because we basically left it at how hard things were.  For those of you reading this blog because you are in the adoption process yourselves, I feel a sense of obligation to keep you updated and I'm sorry I dropped the ball.  The good news is, the reason we haven't been writing is because we haven't felt a need to use it as a therapy tool. So much of the previous writing was cathartic for us, as we've mentioned, and with things going well, there isn't a real need for it.

I do want to write more about bonding and the troubles we had with that, but there never seems to be enough time to really get into it.  I hope to start back up on that topic after the new year.  In the meantime, we leave you with this video.  We wish you a safe and happy holiday season!

Friday, August 3, 2012

kisses and laughs

Today was a mini breakthrough with Zeke.  It was a clear sign, to me, that he is learning to trust me more.  While he loves affection, he always became overwhelmed when I kiss him all over his face (different reaction than he gives Dad).  I do this with all of the kids.  When I put them in bed or say goodbye or just because - I grab their little faces and go to town!  Well, Zeke would always get kinda angry about it.  He clearly felt out of control.  He seemed not to be too sure whether I was being nice or mean.  It always bothered me.  With the rough year we have had, the times when I felt like being affectionate in this way with him weren't as often as I would have liked.  So, when I would actually feel the desire to bond with him and he would essentially push me away, it was hard...just another reason to be irritated with him.  Well, today, I was "nuggling" (snuggling) him before nap time and I whispered in his ear "I'm going to kiss you" in an "I'm gonna getcha" kind of way and then I proceeded to kiss him all over his little face.  He loved it!  I was so happy.  I felt like it was a sign of him trusting me.  It made me reflect on the "journey" of him becoming ticklish.  When we picked him up, he wouldn't even smirk if we tickled him.  He wanted nothing to do with us and especially not with us touching him.  I was super bummed.  If I can't even get him to laugh with a tickle, how were we ever going to be able to play and bond?  This went on for a couple of weeks and then, all of a sudden, he laughed!  I couldn't believe it!  He WAS ticklish...he had just been hiding it because he didn't trust us!  Zeke has the absolute best laugh in the world.  You can't listen to him laugh without laughing yourself.  Now, if you come even within 6 inches of his body (specifically his belly and neck), he falls apart with laughter.  It's a deep, guttural, out of control laugh that just makes me smile.  Only a happy kid can laugh like that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Who's Zeke?

For those of you who don't know our family personally and have been reading from the beginning, you may be wondering, "who is Zeke?"  We mention him in the first post, but then only talk about Ella, Owen, Cate and Obsa after that.  The short of it is that Obsa is Zeke.  For whatever reason, I felt it made more sense to speak of him as Obsa when he was Obsa and Zeke when he was Zeke, but have realized that it may have been confusing to readers.  We didn't expect to change Obsa's name.  We never want him to feel like we are trying to "take the Ethiopia out of him".  We thought it would be important for his identity to keep the name his birth father gave him.  In fact, to be perfectly honest, I was a tad judgmental of those who had decided to give their child a new name.  Weeelllllll, that all changed after we got home. Here's the story of how Obsa became Zeke...

I was very much prepared for the possibility of Obsa having a difficult time bonding to us and that we may have to do things to encourage a bond.  What I didn't expect was that I would have a hard time bonding to him.  When I looked at his pictures, I felt like he was my son, so I would obviously love him right away...right?  Wrong.  My favorite way to explain this is that my biological kids were born with a pair of rose colored glasses.  Yes, I knew they could be highly annoying at times, but just look at them...they're so stinking cute, how could I stay mad at them for long?  (The first problem with this statement is that they actually weren't as cute as I thought they were at the time.  I look back at some old pictures and think, "ouch.  that's a face only a mama can love"- but I digress)  For me, Obsa did not come with a pair of these magical glasses.  In fact, it seemed he came with a pair of magnifying glasses instead.  Everything he did was much more annoying to me than it would have been if one of the other kids did it.  I was holding on to so much resentment from our experience in Ethiopia that the poor kid didn't stand a chance.  Granted, he has a tough personality, so it's not like he was sitting there like a little angel and I was just mad and him for no reason.  I was beginning to fear that the bond would never come.  Everyone else could look at him and talk about how cute he is, but I wasn't seeing it.

Luckily, I'm not one to keep my feelings inside and I immediately started acknowledging my feelings to anyone who would listen - anyone that could offer some support - and even to those who couldn't and just stared at me like a deer in headlights.  Hey, I always tell people, don't ask me how things are going unless you really want to know!  I think I was just short of telling the pizza delivery boy all about it just because it made me feel so much better to talk about it!  Becky  from YWAM (the adoption agency) called a couple of days after we got home to see how things were going - and boy did she get an earful.  I just started sobbing, "I am worried we made a mistake", "I don't feel a bond to him", "I feel like I have post-adoption depression".  Luckily for me, Becky was extremely supportive and told me that how I was feeling was normal for someone who has adopted a child Obsa's age and with his personality - not to say everyone experiences it - but it's not uncommon.  She set me up with another YWAM family who had gone through similar things.  It was helpful to hear someone else say they once felt the way I was feeling.  They were only 4 months ahead of us in the process, so they were still doing work on this too, but at least they were able to tell me it gets better.

I started feeling like I needed to do something that would make this process familiar to me.  Something that would make him feel like mine and not just some kid I was babysitting.  The only thing I could think of was for David and I to chose a name.  David was reluctant at first, but he could tell it was something important to me, so he opened up to the idea.  For me, the name Ezekiel was perfect.  I was just drawn to it right away, but then when we found out that it means "God strengthens", I knew it had to be his name because boy did I need some of God's strength now.  Once David was onboard, it was time to tell everyone else.  I thought they were going to kill us because they spent so much time trying to figure out how to pronounce Obsa and now we were changing it on them!  Although, I think people have come to expect the unexpected out of us.  Everyone was very understanding and agreed that it made sense.  The kids were pretty confused for a few days - except for Zeke.  He immediately answered to his new name, even better than he ever answered to Obsa (at least for us).  We didn't want to completely get rid of his Ethiopian names, though, so we added Obsa and Birhanu (his birth father's name) as middle names.  So, now the poor kid has the very long name of Ezekiel David Obsa Birhanu.  I thought that it might be important for him someday to know that his Ethiopian names were still a part of who he is.  I think of them like rings on a tree - a storyline of "becoming Zeke".  First, he was Obsa Birhanu.  Then, once the adoption was final, the Ethiopian government changed his name to Obsa David (every child, boy or girl, gets their adoptive father's first name as their middle name).  Then we added the Ezekiel.  I didn't want to lose any of that story, so we just added it all in there.

There's so much more to say about the bonding issues...too much for one post.  I can tell you that one year later, things are sooooooo much better and I feel bonded to him, but it was a long road.  I have a lot to say about it, but not tonight.