Happy Family Day to Us

Last year on Mother’s Day Keith and I were boarding a plane to Ethiopia to go pick up the boys, which was very sweet but a little annoying at like 4:00 A.M. This year all 3 came excitedly bouncing up the stairs, at a very reasonable hour, by the way, to retrieve me for the big “reveal” downstairs of a decorated kitchen complete with homemade cards and gifts with their daddy’s signature wrapping of grocery bags. I won’t brag about the Junior Mints from Ivan, the scarf from Garrison, or even the headband from Avery embellished with feathers and jewels. I won’t even brag about having the best husband in the entire world, who not only vacuumed the entire house but also spot shampooed the heavily trafficked areas this weekend. That would just be cruel to all the other wives out there. No, I won’t do it.

Wow. A year. It seems much longer than that. Feels like they’ve been part of our family and lives forever. In a good way, of course. Here’s a look back at the last year.

One of the first pictures we ever saw of them. That was October 2010. I had no idea how and to what capacity they would change our lives.

Okay, this picture really doesn't relate to the post, but I found it going through photos chronologically. One hot couple going out on a hot date on their 11th anniversary. I can call us hot...as a couple, or hot to trot, if you like.

The day we picked them up at the orphanage. We were clueless as to parenting boys. I'll admit I haven't gotten much better at it. Just yesterday I told them to get in the van but failed to tell them what not to do on their way. If I don't explicitly state, "Do not drag out or play with any toys in the garage on the short walk to your seat," they will inevitably do it.

This gal had no idea what was in store for her either. She had been saving seats at her table for them months before they came home. I got snapped at frequently for trying to sit in one of the green chairs. Oh, no. Those were taken.

During our first week with them while still in Ethiopia, Garrison is getting a 2 from Keith, marked by his "I'm serious" face. Thank you, 1-2-3 Magic. However, not much has changed except that Mommy is the one usually giving those 2s...and 1s and 3s.

During naptime one day this week Ivan fell asleep with half his body off the bed...much like he did in Ethiopia a year ago. At least he gives out while playing instead of mid-tantrum like in these pics.

Mealtimes are still messy, but we are working on "human table manners" during every meal for which I am present. Getting into the habit of thanking me and complementing the food was easy. But I can't count how many times each day I remind them to simply act human. Even Avery. "Walk like a human." "Pick up your cup like a human." "Stop panting and breathe like a human." "You have opposable thumbs, not paws, use them appropriately." We may as well be roughing it in the wild sometimes.

Riding on the luggage cart through the airport. Almost home! They are still loving the thrill of speed, minus the wind in their faces, asking me to go faster or ridiculously demanding that I be the leader in any line of cars on the road.

Our first morning at home together. Pancakes. I don't think the food battles will ever end. The battle began as one child stubbornly refused a delectable PB&J. What planet were they from? Now, they're hiding their veggies in the bushes during picnics or stealing Hershey Kisses, reserved for the completion of lessons, while Pa Pa is sleeping on the couch. The normal kid stuff.

We're due for the annual family torture...I mean pictures...this month. I think we insanely did this after being home less than a week.

One of my favorite sights. What is it about our kids that make my gorgeous husband even more appealing? The picture above is from about a year ago. The one below was last week.

I love that I get to see this nearly every night.

This dry-erase marker sketch doesn't do Garrison's ability justice. I am baffled by his creativity almost daily. And, he's so smart. Reading on nearly the same level as Avery. A year ago he didn't even speak English, let alone read it. Well, he does have a fantastic teacher.

Family dedication at church. An important occasion, but included also because our church is our extended family. The kids love it. No matter if it's ubercool Miss Joanna or 50-year old Mr. Doug, the kids adore them as if they were rock stars. So sweet to know they are being loved and poured into by other Christ-like individuals.

The re-adoption at the local courthouse...after another mound of paperwork...which also preceded even more paperwork. Did we actually adopt them again? I haven't the slightest clue. I remember hearing something about estate settlement being tricky if you haven't re-adopted stateside. We're just thinking ahead. Yes, it's a load of work, but so is conception, pregnancy and labor. We all end up with the same thing: adding another arrow to your quiver.

Let's not forget about Halloween. I bought these felt bags because 1) they were on clearance a year prior and 2) the candy and toys make no sound rattling around inside there. However, "someone" treated them to real buckets filled with goodies, which I of course weeded through. I've hidden them in a closet. I've taken them away. Tucked them into a dark corner of the garage. Those darn pumpkins keep showing up! It doesn't matter what fancy pencil case or car carrier they receive, they want to pack it all into the annoying, cumbersome, loud buckets.

Christmas with Keith's extended family in Texas.

This might be the only birthday cake picture we have out of all 3. Sad. Before the chaos arrived, we captured all family members for any momentous occasion on camera. We'd all pose with child behind the cake. One shot before lighting the candles. Another with candles lit. Several tries to get an action shot of blowing out the candles. And, for good measure, go ahead and take another after removing candles. During the boys' birthday parties, there was no time to take pictures. I barely had the mental capacity and time to even grab the camera for the ones you see below. Yes, very sad. Next time I'll designate someone as the official photographer. He or she will not be allowed to enjoy the party. Just snap away.

Those necklaces were sent from my Aunt Nancy. They belonged to my grandmother, whose costume jewelry collection was my favorite plaything while at her house. Avery often picks out matching necklaces for the two of us. FYI to those of you who may have seen some questionable pieces around my neck.

Garrison's family birthday celebration. The epitome of coolness.

Plus, a date with Mom.

It's finally Ivan's turn.

Look at his little feet kicked up off the ground in this hug with Keith's BFF Andy. If I believed in the reincarnation religion, I would say Ivan was a leech in a former life.

The kids at their birthday party with their favorite babysitter Miss Phyllis, who's been babysitting for us since Avery was 1. And, shockingly, these are Phyllis' favorite kiddos.

Blowing out their birthday cupcakes at the 3-way bash.

It is highly likely that the kids prefer Miss Megan over me, their own mother! I'm going to chalk it up to the fact that she doesn't make them do school lessons and also gives them cookies for no special reason. Maybe I should take notes. She is pretty fantastic.

When the tornado sirens went off, I made the kids get their rain boots, rain coats and games and camp out in the downstairs coat closet. Simon was having a nervous breakdown, so in he went. I delivered lunch to them in tiny increments while Keith stood outside waiting for the tornado.

Garrison's chore is walking Simon...and drying his wet feet each morning, which we are working on.

One of our rituals is "Friday Family Fun Night." Usually it includes board games, puzzles or the occasional movie plus yummy food and treats. I mean, a treat. Featured above are the kids' own pizza creations. Sometimes we make our own dough. And, sometimes Mommy is a slacker and buys it packaged. Popcorn, brownies, ice cream. Oh, no. Not all of them. Just one per FFFN. That's how it's labeled on each week's menu...because I'm super cool that way. Who wouldn't look forward all week to board games and a U.S. presidents' puzzle? It's super duper difficult but also their favorite, so of course I pull it out when we want to kick up the fun a notch. Oh, Avery also gets to sleep in the boys' room Friday nights. And, they have the freedom to do pretty much whatever they want except wake Daddy in the morning.

They beg for a beat down every evening.

And, they get it.

Even this one.

She's come a long way in a year. Never any issues of jealousy or not wanting to share her toys or even not wanting to share Mom and Dad. Much like an only cild would go through a phase of acting like a baby when the new sibling arrived, Avery went through something similar. She saw Ivan getting all the laughs, and in many ways he was like a baby when he first arrived, but with a weird dry sense of humor. I finally convinced her to be Avery, reminding her of her fantastic qualities, including sweet and silly. I had to cover the kids' bathroom mirror because it was a distraction to her getting ready, brushing teeth, or just using the toilet. She could stand there for over an hour practicing and perfecting her goofy faces. And, she does all of these crazy voices when reading to me. I love it. Kind of reminds me of the way my dad used to read to her when she was tiny. Of course I would scold him for it, but it appears to have influenced her anyway.

She's been asking me for pink streaks in her hair since we both went from long to short back in October. With her birthday in January, she switched to red hair...all over. I opted for magenta streaks because it's easier to look at than hot pink or messing with her entire head of hair. What you see is "semi-permanent."

Traveling with grandparents back to Texas while we took our vision trip to Ethiopia. This photo features my fabulous leash. I don't cruelly harness them in. They hold on to it by their own free will. This is how I travel. Leash in one hand. Roomy wheeled gym bag in the other.

Watching the planes not headed to Texas.

Gu Gu pampered them with a bubble bath every night. It's part of her right as a grandmother to spoil them. Bubble baths are one quick and easy route to these boys' hearts. However, this indulgence is a rarity at home. I shuffle all 3 through the shower as fast as I can. Too much to accomplish to waste time playing and soaking in the tub. That's reserved for Mommy.

Avery is waiting to be swaddled in her Hannah Montana blanket before bed.

After devouring candy on Easter morning.

This will be the only protruding belly you will see in this family for the next 20 years, when Avery begins her own brood. So many of our close friends are very prego right now that my kids are inspired to come alongside their journey, pretending to be with child, which always ends in a super speedy delivery. Thank goodness!

During a visit from some grandparents, we all went to the Wild Animal Safari. We hadn't been since I was pregnant with Avery.

All of them began scared of even throwing food at the animals' mouths, but by the end they were gently placing the food directly in there. Yuck.

Another common sight around our house: delicious smoothies. Usually they are green or a shade or poopy brown, but they are always loaded with veggies. Loaded with them. Although Keith won't even come near, the kids beg for them. Sometimes they ask what kind of ice cream I used.

So. Much. Fun!

I've left out so many events and stories. Surviving a week alone while Keith was in Japan. Coming home to not just a child who had pooped his pants during naptime but one who smeared it all over his room...while with a new babysitter. Dealing with one who was so determined to get a new pair of pants for the day (because sibling had accident and got new pants) that he submerged his pants in the toilet and brought them to me, balled up and dripping. Establishing the rule that "all gas be emitted on child X's face" because he kept doing it to siblings, and to avoid time out said that yes he would very much like gas in his face. A child who purposefully wet his pants to prove a point: that even though he went to the bathroom within the hour he was desperate to go again. Imposing the consequence that all 3 lost all toys, including access to the playroom, for 7 days.

There are other common terms used to name the day an adopted child joins his new family. We're calling ours "Family Day." Monday, May 14, 2012 was our first anniversary. The celebratory plans for our Family Day? Homemade pizzas, with yeast, watching dough rise and all that jazz. At the end of dinner, we sat down and told the story of how God brought the boys into the family then wrapped up the evening by plugging the laptop into the TV and letting the kids look through their pictures and tell stories.

P.S. If you’re holding your breath for the rest of those Ethiopia pictures, more to that story, and the story behind out most recent news, keep holding it. I’ve got several blogs written that I just need to post.