Thursday, March 26


And now he taught Zoe chess

I love what's happening in this photo.

Ben and Zoe focused on a game of chess.

I love it because, yay, siblings cooperating!

I love it because, yay, Mommy doesn't care to learn chess at all! Thanks, Zoe!

I love it because Kris had that table when we got married and so I have fond memories of it, but we weren't using it at the house (the Jones used it for awhile) but now it's back and in our sun porch and the perfect size for a homework or chess table.

And I love that because it is past Ben's birthday, Zoe is 8 and a half.

Zoe has now lived with us longer than she was in China.

Feels good.

Tuesday, March 24



I love Ani’s speech therapist so much. (I might love her vision and physical therapists, too, but I haven’t really met them.)

I’ve only been present for 2-3 of Ani’s sessions, but she leaves notes after each one. Yesterday’s note dealt with some of the aggression Ani has been exhibiting lately. (Kris and I feel the root of the aggression is that she can’t express her wants/desires/opinions verbally and so acts out. But still, you can’t scratch people.)

Marilyn (the Wonder Therapist) was able to explain at the daycare that transitions are rough for Ani and that certain times will leave her more unsettled: like the gym. It’s big, bright and loud. So for Ani with her low vision and history of sensory issues, I see where this is a possibly triggering space.

But also, the idea of the gym for toddlers is unstructured free play. And Ani’s not quite there yet. She does much better with structure and routine.

Another time is when the kids watch cartoons in the afternoon. The other kids sit down, tune in and zone out. Ani does not. Television doesn’t make sense to her. (That’s a paraphrase of the therapist’s words. I would have said she’s not interested. Now I see that’s not the root — she isn’t interested because it doesn’t make sense. Ahhhh...)

I get... focused on the task at hand. We need Ani to speak. And I just start to forget that we are still dealing with sensory issues and also trauma.

From an old NYT op-ed I bookmarked — David Bornstein’s “Schools That Separate the Child From the Trauma:” (emphasis mine)

“When kids have undergone a lot of adversity, it changes how they respond to people and challenges in their environment, including very simple things that we might not think about — like how many transitions you ask them to do before lunch,” ... “For traumatized people, changes are encoded largely as danger.”

Transitions used be triggering to Zoe. And we certainly saw some of this:

When a child violates rules or expectations, the standard response is to try to reason with the child or use punishment, he added. “What the science tells us about how stressed brains react to change, loss or threat is that children will often violate rules because they feel profoundly out of control. It’s a survival reaction and it may actually be intended to control the situation.”

I read this and wonder if it has anything to do with Zoe's trouble with dates, times and the calendar:

“When you come from a home that is very disorganized, sequence and cause and effect can be thrown off,” explained Cole. “This affects language development, memory and concentration.

The home that Ani and Zoe are in now is a structured and nurturing one. But a lot of neural pathways were laid in another foundation. Those are being overwritten. It just takes time. And repetition. Lots of it.

Monday, March 23



Ben is eight today. I didn’t make him suffer a photo shoot. Partly because he hates it. Partly because school pictures were last Friday and that’s close enough, right? And partly because I’m just kinda tapped out on birthday shenanigans.

We were in line at WalMart yesterday and I went “candles!” Totally forgot candles. But we still have eight left from the pack we bought for Zoe’s 8th birthday. Whew.

Since I don’t have photos, Ben stories from his last weekend as a 7-year-old:

FBC had an Easter egg hunt Saturday; Ben wanted to go when he saw the flier in his school folder.

“Ask Daddy nicely,” I told him, because I was having lunch with the sisters Roark, so Kris would have to fly four kids solo. (Ben was nice. Kris is aces.)

Easter egg hunt 2015

In the afternoon, Zoe wanted to tell me something that happened at school, but she checked with Ben to make sure it was okay with him. (Sibling solidarity, FTW!)

A little girl at school told Ben she loved him. The kicker was that he returned the sentiment.

Of course, how serious is a second grade declaration of love if you don’t at least follow up with an invite to your birthday party? (There was only one kid at school that he asked me to invite.)

On Sunday, this year’s Bethel team was at church and it made Ben sad to realize that Simeon didn’t come this year and that we aren’t hosting anybody. I didn’t know it meant so much to him.

When it was time for bed last night, Ben wanted to sleep by himself. (He usually lets Cash – and Zoe too on weekends – crash with him.) Cash cried to be exiled to his own bed (“I just love Ben so much!”). When I came upstairs later, I saw that Cash snuck into Ben’s bed anyway once his brother was asleep.

This morning, as soon as Zoe came downstairs, Ben was all up in her space to see if she felt better. She went to bed with a headache, and he wanted her to be okay so she’d feel like jumping at The Factory after school.

Eight is great. And so is Ben.


Wednesday, March 18


St. Patrick's Day 2015

Ani was running a fever yesterday morning, so I stayed home with her. Once the ibuprofen kicked it, she was super-wily. We went to Goodwill and to the Times. (ETW documented this visit.) We went to the Moxie from there and Kris informed me that Striplin called and Cash didn't feel well! AAAAAGGGGGHHHH.

So I had two kids with a fever who, if doped with medicine, felt good enough to GET INTO THINGS.

I re-arranged some furniture. Cash and I played UNO.

When Kris came home with the twins, we went outside to take a St. Paddy's day photo like last year. We tried to get one of Zoe mimicking the leprechaun on her shirt.

St. Patrick's Day 2015

Before bed, I tried to upload these photos to Flickr. I was in the midst of that when the mouse froze. I had to cut the power to the computer. And now it won't boot up. NOOOOOOO.

I don't want to buy a computer. (But I want to have one, y'know? I do bills on it. I use it for photos. The kids play games.)

I don't want to lose anything on that computer that I didn't back up. (I know.)

Eric used his Secret Magicks and salvaged 700+ photos from the memory card in my camera. I really need to look into some cloud storage. Anybody got suggestions?

It was a bummer way to end the day.

Kris took Cash to the Moxie with him today. My dad kept Ani.


Here's how you can tell your pre-verbal daughter now loves her grandparents:

• When you wake her from a nap and ask "do you want to go to Monk & Mink's?" and she JUMPS up and says "muhmuhmuh"

• When she wanders over to Patsy during worship and wants to sit in her lap

• When she hears GrandDad's voice in her house and runs to him and then gets mad to realize he is leaving without her

• When she cries when it's time to go home from the grandparents

Monday, March 16

Comfort & Cab


We hosted another WineVikings event on Friday: Comfort & Cab. Like last time, I didn’t participate in the actual tasting. Unlike last time, this time I was too tired to even document the evening. (Cash had woken us up at 2am and I never fell back asleep. Zzzzz…)

It’s not often we have new people in our house anymore. I think it happened on a more regular basis at the duplex. But now we’re a settled old married couple (with a boatload of kids), so mixing with new peeps doesn’t happen as much?

So I was out of practice showing people where the restroom was, where the guest room was (we use the bed in there as a place to stash coats & purses, etc.), the deck for smoking...


It’s not often I am introduced newly, either. I was described as both an artist and a photojournalist.

Whether or not I am doing any “art,” I always consider myself an artist. It’s in my bones. I have a degree. (Though multiple times, Zoe has commented about how her mom is not an artist.)

But even if I take photos or write articles that are published in the newspaper/magazine, I never think of myself as a photojournalist.

It would be easy to spiral into pondering about the roles we self-identify with and those that are attributed to us, but if I do that, I won’t get around to sharing photos and stories of the kids and be honest, that is what you are here for :)


Ben pulled one of his teeth this weekend. He came to show us it was loose on Saturday night and Kris was like “yeah, loose but not there yet.” And Ben went off to the blue bathroom and then came back holding the tooth and some tissue paper on the empty space! Whoa, Ben! (Who IS this kid?)

He wanted to show his teacher, but I didn’t really want to send a tooth to school, y’know? So I asked “what if we take a picture and share it with her on Facebook?” He was amenable to that. (And so like his mom – he totally wanted to read the comments and see the list of people who liked it.)


Cash was not pleased to learn that the Earth has a core of molten lava. Ben was giving him Earth Facts and Cash came to me because he wanted this to stop.

“He says there’s lava,” Cash told me in the laundry room. I kept transferring clothes from the washer to the dryer.

“There is,” I answered. (Like I’m gonna downplay the lava.) This did not sit well.

“I want Daddy to come home.” (Kris and Zoe were on the weekly grocery run.)

“Cash, there has been molten lava at the Earth’s core for your whole life and you’ve been okay.” Seriously, IS there a Best Tactic when trying to assuage your child’s molten lava fears?

“But I dig in the dirt,” he protested.

“It would take, like, the hugest tools ever to get to the lava. It’s not going to happen. You don’t have to worry about it.”

And he let it go.

Until Ben came inside and brought it up again.

“Stop talking to your brother about magma.” One of the more interesting admonishments I have yet to utter.

I overheard Cash telling Ani to “please back away” because he needed his “private C.” (I am 98% sure she followed him into the bathroom and that he was pooping.)

When he finished his bath on Sunday morning, he noticed Zoe was vacuuming in the guest room. “I love you, Zoe!” he called out as he passed. (I told this to Kris, as he is the parent who is always shouting “I love you, Zoe!” or “Hey, Cash, guess what? I love you.” And Kris told me that every day when the big kids get out of the truck, Ani fusses to be left behind and Cash tells her that he loves her and will see her later and to have a good day. Aww.)


Zoe was vacuuming because we have had Some Attitudes from the big three lately. Our recourse has to been to load them up with chores. This was one I actually had to come up with on the fly. (Her chore was to put her laundry away and she got confused about something and needed my help, but I couldn’t go upstairs yet and so she asked if she could vacuum the living room instead. Kris had just done that but you don’t turn down vacuuming offers, right? “How about the guest room?”)

The boys complained about how long it takes to sort and fold laundry. Like, yes, I am aware. I do this all the time. Keep folding.

Zoe got in trouble on Sunday morning, and once it was all dealt with and over, she wanted each of us to hold her for awhile. I snapped a pic while Kris had her, because seriously, I doubt we get many more moments like this.


Let’s see, do I have any Ani stories? Ani’s eating fruit. And she had her first jellybeans. The Dollar Tree had four different colors of plastic bunnies filled with beans. “Hey, I have four kids!” This was the first time to get something like that for them where Ani could partake.

“If Ani doesn’t finish her jellybeans,” I think all the big kids wanted to know this. She will, I told them. (They are used to getting to split Ani’s candy since she didn’t eat it before. But Ani is boarding the candy train!)


Monday, March 9


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Ani was a wonderful laundry helper on Saturday. She likes to sit in my lap while I swap clothes from the washer to the dryer, but on Saturday, she wanted to put the wet clothes in the dryer. Alrighty then. (Later in the day, when I was carrying an empty basket back to the laundry room, she took it from me to finish the job. Girl knows what’s up.)

She also “helped” with the recycling. By which I mean, she wanted to help real bad but didn’t know how to sort the plastic and cardboard. So after I got those out, I just let her play with the empty glass bottles. She re-arranged them forever.


Verbal mysteries: okay, so Zoe learned English really fast. And she took to reading supremely well (I give her extra points since she is, y’know, legally blind.) But she is terrible at dates and the calendar.

Last week, she knew Monday was March 2, but then she looked at the calendar and saw “B, C, Z dentist 2 p.m.” written on the 30th. When my dad picked her up from school (he has been rotating getting the big three once a week on Tuesdays for some GrandDad time), she told him she had a dentist appointment. He texted me to ask if that was true.

So I’d like to practice with Zoe, but I don’t know how. She has a good memory, she can read well. But something about units of time and the sequencing... it just stumps her.

I can pull out a cd she hasn’t heard in ages and she can sing along to the chorus on most songs and yet I ask “when is Halloween?” and she blanks.

I say “you guys will be at the middle school in three years” and she asks “you mean in May?”

What? No.

I am equally stumped on how to curb Cash’s impulses to... disobey is the wrong word. He does that, too, of course. What’s the word for getting candy before breakfast when he knows that’s off-limits or changing into his pajamas when we still have somewhere to go or breaking the Twistable colored pencil one of Ben’s school friends gave him so that I have to find a replacement Twistable to keep the peace. Is there a word for that? Beyond “scamp?” That’s my go-to for Cash. (And Ani as well. Scamps.)

Ben is going to be eight this month. We assembled his party bags. (I should have reiterated that these are the last party bags. We’re calling party bags quits at EIGHT.)

I measured their feet on Sunday. It was warm enough that they all wore flip-flops. Time to size up.

Thursday, March 5


China 2014

This time last year, I was in Guangzhou.

As we approach Ani's one-year-home mark (and her third birthday in May), I think to myself "man, I really need to make her lifebook before I forget everything or lose something." (A lifebook is to represent the portion of an adopted child's life prior to placement.) I don't have a lot to put in Ani's.

Zoe was in China for four years, in an orphanage where Love Without Boundaries has a good presence. And the SWI seems pretty open to visitors. So I have LWB reports and oodles of photos I found online. It's good that Ani was home before her second birthday, but I don't want her lifebook to be an embarrassingly slim volume, y'know?

So I asked Kris for his Google password and pulled some photos from his account. I can do a little bulking of Ani's book with extra photos. Like, "here's a sunset over your city of birth!"

Kris takes way more videos than I do. Here's me making faces at Ani on the day we finalized her adoption. Notice when I try to give her a kiss, she rears back. (I think it's less an "oh no, I don't think so" reaction and more of a "what the hell are you trying to do?" Like, I'm not sure Ani knew what kisses were back then. She does now.)

And here's Ani in Guangzhou, being unexpectedly delighted by something. (She still laughs like that. It was her reaction this week to me snapping my fingers for her.)

She was so little! And she barely had any hair!

China 2014

But she's a lot more fun now. Since school was canceled again today, I had a little shadow while I got ready this morning. She was pretty content to wander into the boys room and explore the costume chest or flip their Hot Wheels ramp over into a makeshift chair. Then she wandered into Zoe's room to do what she usually does in there: yank all the covers off her toddler bed and flop onto it. (Chica, when you are ready to start sleeping in there, WE WILL SO LET YOU.)

I tried to hold her hand as we walked downstairs, and she wouldn't let me. But she didn't fall. "Good job, Ani!"

Ben got a worship song caught in his head this morning, so I found it on the ipod and had the playlist going in the kitchen. (Ben of course had long wandered off to play dragons with Cash. "I'm a night fury!") Ani wanted to dance.

It's good to be home.