Friday, June 27, 2008

Waiting for ???

For the past few weeks, I've been living in limbo a bit. Waiting for news, waiting for resolution, waiting for....something. On Fridays of these weeks, I get a twinge of sadness when I realize that there has been no big news for the week. Instead, I'll have to go through the weekend, hoping that next week will bring resolution.

Today I found out that resolution is further away than I'd hoped. So I'll wait longer.

Yes....someday I will divulge the reason for the waiting...but now is not the time. You'll have to wait with me.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ants Climbing Trees * RECIPE



Ok...Here's the recipe I used. I melded a couple of recipes I found together and then added my own twists, so some of this is guesswork. For some reason, I never can just leave a recipe alone...I always have to add a little of this or a little of that.

The photo is from here. I did not use this recipe, though it looks pretty similar to what I did. But, what I made last night looks a lot like what is in the picture.

Add the following ingredients to 1/2 lb. ground pork:

1 Tbsp. soy sauce (I used Kikkoman)

1-2 tsp. granulated sugar

1 tsp. sesame oil

pinch corn starch

Mix together and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Brown the above mixture in wok or large saute pan. When pork is almost cooked through, add 1-2 tsp. siracha chile sauce (or more, to taste), and 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger. Stir together, then add 1/2 cup grated carrots, 1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped green peppers, and 3/4 cup chopped green onions (both green and white parts).

While you are doing all of this, you should soak 1 (8 oz.) package of bean thread (Chinese vermicelli) in hot water, until soft. Drain the bean thread when ready.

When the pork and veggies are cooked, add 1/2 cup chicken broth to the meat mixture, then add the noodles. Stir and cook for another minute or two.

This really is quick and easy. I mixed together the meat and marinade ingredients and while it was sitting for 5-10 minutes I chopped up the green onions, peppers, and grated the carrots. When the meat was in the pan cooking, I soaked the bean thread so it was all ready when I needed it. In all, it probably only took 20-25 minutes to make (and I think I could have even done it in less time).

I also saw a recipe that included shiitake mushrooms, which would have been great in it, but I didn't have any left in my pantry. The recipe called for dried shiitake mushrooms soaked in hot water until reconstituted. Then chopped up and added to the meat mixture during cooking. You could also use the mushroom soaking water in place of the chicken broth if you happen to have dried shiitakes in your pantry.

I would also be willing to bet that this recipe would be great as a fried rice recipe...just substitute cooked rice for the bean thread. I might have to try that sometime, too. My boys LOVE fried rice.

Ants Climbing Trees

During the two months that I lived in Taiwan doing field research, I fell in love with a noodle dish made with ground pork, a few veggies, and bean thread (Chinese vermicelli noodles). It was SO GOOD!! I have always wanted to try to make it, but had a really hard time finding a recipe that looked like it might be the right thing.

Over the past couple of years I've started collecting ethnic cookbooks. I have a couple Indian cookbooks, Thai cookbooks, a Chinese cookbook, African cookbooks, and a few that cover a mix of several different types of ethnic cooking. Sometimes I like to just page through the cookbooks, looking at pictures of the food and scanning the ingredient lists to see if I have the ingredients to make a dish, if it looks good. During one of the sessions, I came across a recipe for "Ants Climbing Trees". And, it turns out this is the noodle dish I've been looking for! I just had no idea what it was called!

So, last night was the night. I made THE noodle dish. With a little tweaking the dish tasted JUST like the noodles I had in Taiwan. Boy, did that bring me right back! All I needed was some bubble tea or a watermelon smoothie and I would have been transported right to the streets of Taipei. We finished the meal with some fresh pineapple. Yum!

While I was making this dish, I was absolutely convinced that the boys wouldn't like it. I thought for sure I'd have to convince them to try it....encourage them to keep eating...and then I wouldn't really enjoy my meal. But, they surprised me. The took one look at it and said "yummy!" After they tasted it, Jellybean said "this is good food, mommy!" The noodles in the dish are not like regular pasta...the texture is different and they look different, too. I've always called them glass noodles, because they are shiny and transparent like thin threads of glass. Personally, I think they are fun to eat - and the boys thought so, too. They were laughing and enjoying each bite.

I should have known better. With a name like "Ants Climbing Trees", how could two little boys NOT like it?!?!

Monday, June 23, 2008

A note on comments

I've been getting spam comments on my blog lately, so I've decided to add word verification. That means that those of you who want to comment will have to do an extra step.

Sorry!

I really want you all to continue to comment (and if you haven't commented yet, feel free to come out of lurkdom and say hello)...but I also don't want a lot of spam.

If you happen to look back at some older posts and see "comment deleted by blog moderator" it is not because I deleted someone's comment because I didn't like what they had to say. I just got rid of some spam....

A boy and his dog...


Sunday, June 22, 2008

The grass is always greener...

Today at lunch I had a conversation with Jellybean and Peanut that reminded me about just how complicated all this adoption stuff is. Sometimes adoption seems simple. Kids who need a home find a place to call home with parents who want children. These parents bring the kids into their home and promise to love them and treat them no differently than if they had arrived biologically. But the truth is, adoption is complicated. Especially when you add in the children's "memories" of their previous life.

I know (and have known for some time) that Jellybean and Peanut have a very romanticized view of their life in Ghana. According to their memory, they always had lots of good food, they never had to eat yucky "begetables", they had lots of fun toys, they never had to share, they never got in trouble, and they had as many comforts of home as you would need or want.

But, the truth is, they arrived at Eban House with bellies distended from malnutrition. They both had parasites living in their bellies from drinking unclean water. They didn't have to share, because they simply didn't have anything. They didn't get into trouble because no one was watching over them during the day to keep them safe.

I know that some of their memories are confused with their time at Eban House. They were loved there. They were treated well. They had lots of food to eat (probably for the first time ever). They had toys and other kids to play with. They had lots of Aunties who watched over them to keep them safe.

I find myself walking a fine line some days. I want them to love Ghana and to remember it fondly. I want them to remember their birth family and to love them. I love that they are in a place where they can glamorize their time in Ghana...and I LOVE that they can look back on their time in Eban House so fondly. How many children can look back on their time in a children's home and have these memories? I am fine with them thinking that Ghana is a land of perfection. I'm ok with them having inaccurate memories right now. I know that someday they will realize their memories aren't exactly truthful.

I know that someday they will understand what their situation in Ghana really was. But for now, I'm ok with them thinking they've always lived a charmed life. When they ask me questions, I always answer them honestly (to the best of my ability). When they asked me today why they went to Eban House I told them the truth. I told them that their birth family couldn't afford to keep them. They didn't have money for food. They didn't have money to go to the doctor when they got sick. They didn't have money to buy clothes. They didn't have money to send them to school. They were afraid they couldn't keep them safe and healthy. So they made a difficult decision to bring them to Eban House and ask the aunties at Eban House to help them find a new mommy and daddy in America. I explained to them that they (Jellybean and Peanut) did nothing wrong. It wasn't their fault. They weren't bad boys. They weren't brought to Eban House because no one loved them. They were brought to Eban House because they loved them so much they wanted them to have more opportunities than they could provide.

It is hard to walk this line sometimes. Its hard to want them to keep these glamorous memories for a while, yet still tell them the truth. I know with every bit of truth, a little bit of air is being released from the bubble they've created in their minds....Its hard to hear that everything in Ghana was great when I'm having a particularly difficult day handling two little boys who think that life in America isn't all its cracked up to be. But, I know that there are two little boys who go to bed each night with full tummies, surrounded by lots of toys, with a mom and a dad who love them deeply watching over them. And I am forever thankful that I get to be that mom.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A laugh a minute

So, I guess this is what happens when you tell a four-year-old (who is in a particularly silly mood) to go put his clothes on....



Wednesday, June 18, 2008

But I'm not sick...

This morning we spent some more quality time at the doctor's office. Over the past 5 months, Jellybean has had way more than his fair share of doctor's visits - visits to our pediatrician, to a specialist in Iowa City for his sickle cell, visits to another specialist in Des Moines, visits for immunizations, a visit to the eye doctor, visits for additional testing in Des Moines, and today a visit with the pediatric cardiologist. He's had lots of blood tests, additional immunizations, ultrasounds, chest X-Rays, an EKG, and a transcranial doppler (not to mention other routine tests for parasites and such when he first got home). No kid likes going to the doctor, but Jellybean has additional reason to be nervous when we announce another visit to the clinic.

But the thing is, he's FINE. Yes, he has sickle cell....and because he is almost 6 years old, the doctors have lots of tests they want to run. Because he wasn't diagnosed until he was 5, the doctors have no base-line history for him, which means they have to get everything now. He has never been sick since coming home (knock on wood). He is healthy. He is athletic. He is active. He gets plenty of sleep, drinks plenty water, and he eats well. He FEELS FINE. All of which makes it difficult to explain to him that he needs to go to the doctor AGAIN. How do you explain to a 5 year-old (who feels fine) that he needs to go to the doctor, but his little brother doesn't have to go? I can't just say "the doctor will help you feel better".

We have done our best to explain things to him and to help him understand that all of these doctor visits will help him STAY healthy. He has done so great with all of these visits (even though he freaks out when he sees a needle). And today I feel like we're seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Today is the first time we've left the doctor's office without having to schedule another appointment. Woo Hoo! I *think* we are done with all of the baseline testing that needs to be done and we are now in the "maintenance and prevention" phase. It feels good to have a schedule free of doctor visits (for now).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Improvisation

When all you have around the house are boys' toys, you have to improvise when it comes to feeding your "baby". Long before we knew whether we'd be adopting boys or girls, I purchased two baby dolls (who could pass as either boys or girls). Our boys have not shown too much interest in these dolls until today. They've been playing with them all morning. They've given them rides in the dump-truck, rides on a toy pig, baths, and naps. But, when it came time to eat, they decided that the closest thing they had in the house to a bottle was a matchbox car. Whatever works!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

WARNING: A million gratuitous photos ahead....

Today for Father's Day, we spent the afternoon taking the boys to the zoo (for their first zoo visit). We ALL had a ton of fun!











And we ended the day with some ice-cream cones. This is the life!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Swimming Lessons



The photos are a little blurry, because Z took them with his phone...but today was the boys' first swimming lesson. They had TONS of fun!

It must have been a rough night...


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

5 Months Home


Tomorrow and Friday we will reach the 5-month mark of the boys leaving Ghana and arriving home in Iowa. Lately, I've been reminiscing about these past 5 months and thinking about what life was like for that first month or so.

Z and I went from having no kids to suddenly having a 4 year old and a 5 year old in our home. We knew from reading about other adoptive parent's experiences that the early weeks and months could be HARD. We were bracing ourselves for hard times and at the same time trying to soak up every little piece of their personality that they were willing to share with us.

During those early weeks we ate a LOT of rice, bananas, and oranges. I quickly learned that the boys LOVED pancakes, red beans and rice, fried rice, and chicken (of almost any sort). Now days, the boys have decided that pizza and cheeseburgers are their all-time favorite foods (how American, huh?). The switch was almost immediate. After their first week at daycare (the boys go twice a week) they suddenly realized that other kids like pizza and cheeseburgers and they would be missing out if they didn't like them, too.

During those early weeks, I would lay down in bed with them at bedtime and wait for them to fall asleep before I left to spend the rest of the evening with Z. Almost every night I would wake up in the middle of the night hearing crying and sobbing from their room down the hall. I would get up and run to their room to find one of them sitting up in bed, tears streaming down his face. "Mommy, I wee wee" would be whispered as I entered the room and I would take him to the bathroom, help him get settled down a bit, and go back to bed. These days, the boys sleep easily through the night (almost all nights) and when they need or want something from me they just yell "MOMMY!" and I come to check on them. There's no more crying...no more waking up in the middle of the night...and no more need for mommy to stick around at bedtime...

When the boys first arrived home, they had a hard time playing with their toys. Instead of playing they would grab as many toys as possible and try to keep the other one from getting their "stash". They were so worried about the other one stealing their toys that they couldn't really play. We quickly put an end to this...we no longer allowed them to put toys in their pockets, hide toys under their pillows, or have a private toy stash. Instead, all the toys belonged in one basket, they had to share, and when they were done they ALL had to go back into the basket. If they were playing with Legos, their "creations" needed to be taken apart before going back into the basket. At first, the boys HATED these rules. When we caught one of them breaking the rules (which happened OFTEN), we reminded them of the rules and made the offender sit with mom (or dad) for a time-in. Oh how they cried and cried and screamed and cried and flailed and cried and screamed when they got disciplined for these offenses. When they would play with Legos and someone created something they wanted to show mommy and daddy, they would lift it up proudly for display. If, however, during this display the creation accidentally broke apart they would crumple to the floor in agony, crying uncontrollably, kicking and screaming. It took a long time for them to understand that if it broke they could just rebuild it. We would help them and eventually their tears would dry up.

I can't even begin to estimate how many hours Z and I would sit with one of the boys on our laps (either for cuddles or for time-ins). I didn't get a whole lot of anything done during those early weeks. I do know that I ran up and down the stairs countless times during the day to take one or the other to the bathroom, to get new toys, to get clean clothes, or to take one boy away from the other to settle down for a bit during an especially difficult tantrum.

Yes, those early weeks were hard...but they were also really great. Z and I were parents for the first time and we had these two very handsome boys who we were suddenly responsible for. We would watch them experience eating something new or experiencing something new for the first time and we would stand back and smile, thinking "this is exactly how I thought I would feel at this moment". We had rough moments, but we also had some really amazing moments during those first weeks. Hearing "Mommy!" for the first time, watching them sleep peacefully in their beds in OUR house, holding them on our laps, getting sloppy wet kisses on our cheeks, hearing their infectious laughter, taking them to the movie theater for the first time, introducing them to our families for the first time, and hearing "I love you, too, Mommy" for the first time are moments I will never forget.

Today I watch my boys and I realize that they are no longer scared little boys. They are smart, funny, athletic, musical boys who very desperately want to be BIG boys who can do EVERYTHING by themselves. When they first arrived they wanted me to do everything for them (which I happily did)...but now, those little boys have suddenly turned into big boys who don't have as much need for their mommy to help them out. Once in a while, though, they throw me a bone and ask me to help them with something that I know they can do for themselves. I smile, help them do it, and hear "Thank you, Mommy!" before seeing them run off to do something else.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Optimism


Peanut: Mommy! Look!
(as he points out the window at the willow trees swaying in the wind)

Me: Yes...it is very windy isn't it?

Peanut: No! The trees! They are dancing!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pregnant Dreams

Over the past few years, I have learned that most of the big changes in my life have been accompanied by "pregnant dreams". Dreams where I see myself pregnant, or I feel in some way that I am pregnant in my dreams. I don't very often have dreams that I wake up and remember, so when I do they make me feel unsettled and off-balance.

During my senior year of college I had pregnant dreams shortly before going to Tanzania, a trip that totally changed my life and in many ways led me to where I am now. Then between my senior year of college and graduate school I had more pregnant dreams, and of course big changes were in store. During the period of time between Z and I dating and breaking up (but not yet back together) I had more pregnant dreams...only to later get back together with Z and I soon realized I was with "the one". I had pregnant dreams while Z was in Iraq and I was dealing with lots of things on nearly every front.

Strangely enough, I have not had pregnant dreams since Z was in Iraq...at least not until two weeks ago.

After waking up from these dreams they consumed my day. What changes are ahead? What is in store for me? Is this change one for me to look forward to, or one to dread? Should I be bracing myself?

I know it sounds kooky, but I do think of these dreams as a notice of sorts. They make me start thinking outside the box. They get me to examine where I am and try to anticipate what the change might be.

This morning I got a phone call which may explain the current round of "pregnant dreams". Now I just need to figure out how it is all going to play out. If you are of the praying persuasion, prayer would be appreciated. Its a big one!