Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ethiopia Travel Journal - Part 4 - Lalibela

Even when I got back from Ethiopia and began posting about my trip, this day in Lalibela was difficult to write about.  The ancient churches carved straight from the ground are too wondrous to put into words.  I knew there was no way I could do them justice.  But I do want them included in this journal so here goes...two years later...

July 25, 2010
Considering my girls are from the south and Lalibela is in the north, it was definitely an out of the way trip for my mom and I. But Lalibela is thought of as the unofficial 8th wonder of the world and is probably the most famous thing to see in Ethiopia. (Personally, I think someone should make it an official wonder of the world. It's that amazing!)

Our morning flight from Addis was short but unfortunately delayed. And then there was some waiting for our ride to depart for the hotel. And the town of Lalibela is rather isolated and quite a distance from the airport. Soooooo, by the time we got to our hotel, Tukul Village, I was frantic to see the famous churches because we were leaving early the next morning. I was forced to settle down because the churches were closed for 2 hours during lunchtime. Luckily, we were able to see everything we wanted to in our one afternoon in Lalibela so all my stress was for naught.

The view on the drive to town from the airport.

Our room at Tukul Village Hotel
Tukul Village Hotel
It is believed that the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela were carved in the 12th century AD.  I say carved and not built because individual stones were not used to construct these buildings.  Instead, workers carved down into volcanic rock to make the outside shape of the walls.  Then they carved windows and kept carving and crawling in to hollow out the interior.  Of course, all of this was done with out modern tools.  Each structure is made from one single piece of rock...from the floor to the ceiling, exterior and interior walls, stairs and second floors, decorative columns and details, doors and single piece of rock.  

This area is an UNESCO World Heritage site and is being preserved by these hideously huge structures covering them. Luckily I was able to get most of my photos without them but here you can see how big and deep the churches are (and how ugly the UNESCO roof is).

Here are a few photos of the amazing churches of Lalibela:

Ancient crypts carved into the ground

The famous gold Lalibela Cross

A painting of the story of the Queen of Sheba

The most well-known church, Bet Giyorgis (St. George)

This church was carved out of a cave and has had to be restored using individual blocks

Pathways carved from rock

Lalibela is something to be seen in person and even then it is still not to be believed.   Such a magical and beautiful and tranquil place...  I can't wait to take the whole family there one day.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Babies Again

Besides the severe tantrums that I mentioned in another post, the girls are having other adoption-related behavioral issues specifically with food and regression.

One of their regression behaviors (which is not challenging or an issue) is extremely interesting to witness.  When either of the girls lay flat on their back with me sitting right next to them, they lift up their legs, knees bent, and gently kick.  Their arms make sudden jerky movements.  And they typically make cooing noises and smile.  I am automatically reminded of an infant responding to their mama's affections.  Though the girls frequently see babies, they are usually in carriers or strollers and never in a completely prone position.  So it doesn't feel to me that they are copying a behavior they have seen recently.  It feels like they need to be babies again, if only for a few minutes.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Phony Photos

More snippets of daily life taken with my phone:

 1. Jack mining for minerals and gems  2. sleepy Des in Papa's arms  3. Bri taking a break form picking boysenberries  4. Logan in the strawberry patch

1. Bri, Des and their good friend, Yuliya, dressed to impress  2. Jack on a pony ride  3. Papa and the kids on the train on Father's Day  4. Logan and his pony  5. Jack and Great (Aunt) Dona performing circus acts at the beach  6. the 'kid's table" at a lunch out  7. Logan and kinder friends on the 2nd to last day of school  8. Papa's favorite place to eat  9. Des and a new hairstyle (rope twists with snaps)

1. Logan and Jack starting off summer at a pool party  2. cuddly Bri with Mama  3. what happens you shut the half door to the girls' room and think they are happily playing  4. Jordan, Des and Bri enjoying summer

Friday, June 22, 2012

Big Feelings in Little Kids

The girls have been home for nearly two years now.  Two years filled with a lot of love and growth.  Two years filled with a lot of challenges.

I love Des and Bri with every fiber of my being.  And I would take this crazy journey again in an instant to have them be a part of our family.  But almost daily there are still very real challenges to parenting two "damaged" young children.

Imagine having your family leave you at an orphanage.  Imagine getting moved several more times over the course of a few months.  Imagine being taken half a world away and living in a very foreign atmosphere.  Imagine losing every person you've ever known and your language and your culture.  Everything looks different and smells different and tastes different and sounds different.  Though I don't really like the word "damaged," I think any child going through what I've described above (the loss of everything, the grief, the feelings of abandonment) would be considered severely emotionally wounded.

Do Bri and Des know we love them?  Absolutely...but it doesn't change what happened to them before us.  The girls test us a million times a day.  If they do X, will we leave them?  What about if they do Y?  And Z?  Will that be the straw that breaks our backs?

They have big feelings that come out in big ways...biting, hitting, kicking.  Sometimes they shut down and go completely blank.  And very frequently (sometimes multiple times a day), they have 45-minute-long tantrums in which they are inconsolable and contradictory and don't even know what they want.  They thrash their little bodies with all their strength.  They scream and cry.  They jump and stomp and throw themselves on the floor and into walls.  It takes a lot out of them.  And it takes a lot out of the rest of the family too.

Most of these severe fits happen at home which is good because the other three kids get little to no attention from me while this behavior is happening.  And the tantrums seem to come in waves.  I think the big feelings are always there but sometimes the girls are able to tame them and other periods of time they can't. Usually the girls take turns going through periods of these outbursts (hallelujah!).

Of course, in addition to the possible adoption-related triggers, there are other contributing factors.  They are twins and frequently egg each other on.  They are best friends and worst enemies, sometimes taking the brunt of their sister's big feelings.  There is also their age to consider.  At this point, I'm not sure how old they are but the ages of 2, 3 and 4 years old are all challenging for parents.

I am surprised that after almost two years there are still so many behavioral challenges with Des and Bri.  There are a few more issues but none as all consuming and exhausting and challenging as the tantrums.  The girls have grown and changed so much since coming home that I know these behaviors will eventually pass...I just wish I knew when...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Let's Do Lunch...

I mentioned the other day that we recently went camping.  For each of our two trips we were in charge of providing a lunch for the group.  For the cub scouts trip it was suggested that we also set up "a make your own trailmix bar."  We set out the following:
pretzels                              peanuts                                    raisins                   big chunks of granola
crasins                              sunflower seeds                   almonds
yogurt-covered raisins       crispix                           honey-nut cheerios

The kids made their own choices, filled a cup and had a snack for the rest of the afternoon.  I'm thinking of doing this over the summer with my kids.  Add a piece of fresh fruit and call it an easy lunch.

For our other trip which was much a much smaller group I needed to find a lunch that would please young kids and adults alike and could be vegetarian or not.  Scott and I decided on "tacos in a bag."

We bought individual bags of fritos (or doritos or tortilla chips could also be used).  Before everyone opened their bag, we asked them to lightly break up their chips.  (The kids were especially fond of this step.)  We had set out all the possible fixings for a taco:  ground beef, black beans, lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheese, cilantro lime rice, salsa, sour creme.  Everyone opened their bags, piled in their favorites, closed the top of the bag and lightly shook their "tacos."  We handed them a spoon and said "lunch is served."

I think this might also be on the summertime lunch menu at our house.  Another favorite easy meal at home is our "ice cube tray" lunch.  It's a little strange but the kids love getting lots of little bits of food served in ice cube trays.  Here are some things I typically include:
nuts or seeds                    hummus                       baby carrotts                        corn
edemame                         pita chips                    cut-up string chesese              broccolli
apple slices                       sweet peppers                 chicken nuggets and ketchup         grapes

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Happy Papa's Day!

Grown-up holidays are hard around here...we are so focused on the kids and so busy in our daily life that celebrating Scott's and my birthdays or Mother's and Father's Days doesn't really happen.  These "grown-up holidays" also happen to fall in the midst of our kids' birthdays so it always seems like we are thinking of how to celebrate for the kids and what presents to get them.  (And I hate to admit, but I am horrible at thinking of gift ideas for Scott, well, all grown-ups in general.)

So I decided to dedicate this post to Scott for Father's Day.  I tried asking the kids some questions about him (with little success from the girls)...

What do you love most about Papa?  Everything!
What is your favorite thing to do with Papa?  Go bowling.
What do you do that makes Papa happy?  Try all my dinner.
What does Papa do that makes you know he loves you?  He gives us dessert.
What is something that Papa does that is silly?  Take funny pictures of himself.
What do you want other people to know about your Papa?  He's the best dad in the world!

"Papa, I love you the best in the world!"  -Jack

What do you love most about Papa?  Because he doesn't hurt me very much.
What is your favorite thing to do with Papa?  Go to the beach with him.
What do you do that makes Papa happy?  When I sit down and eat dinner.
What does Papa do that makes you know he loves you?  He helps me and I help him.
What is something that Papa does that is silly?  He makes funny faces.

What do you love most about Papa?  Ummm...
What is your favorite thing to do with Papa?  Ride bike.

What do you love most about Papa?   Hmmm...
What is your favorite thing to do with Papa?  Nothing

The kids and I are so lucky that Scott works nearby and is able to spend so much time with us.  Every weekday, he eats breakfast with the kids and walks the boys to school (and often the girls tagalong too).  He is almost always home for dinner and puts the girls to bed nightly.  And on the weekends, we all spend time together running errands or going to the beach.  Scott puts us first in everything he does.  He shows us everyday in a million little and big ways how much he loves us.  And we love him for it!
Happy Father's Day to my amazing husband!  You are an wonderful dad to our children and I love being a family with you!