Monday, March 30, 2009

Questions for Super Nanny

If you find out that the Nanny tv show is looking for a real-life family in the NY Metro Area, feel free to submit our family. I know what I am supposed to do differently (at least some of it) but I'd really like to watch her incorporate "house rules" to children who don't speak her language. I'm eager to see if she loses her cool after one of the kids leaves a car door open or a car light on for the fourth time in a row requiring yet another visit from AAA. I wonder if she would allow all three girls to wear their pajamas outdoors if it means a quieter, calmer morning. I am curious if she would allow 9-year-old children who weigh what an average 7-year-old in America weighs and have the body fat content of a professional athlete to consume 5,000 calories a day (most but not all nutritious food). Would Nanny let the kids sleep late if they were up crying several times? What if sleeping late meant that one of the younger kids didn't make it to preschool? What matters? What really doesn't? And at what point do the things that "don't really matter" begin to add up to the tipping point of really mattering?

I asked myself where God was in all of this, and then I realized (with some degree of horror) that He is in my dining room. The good news is that He knows me and my mess-ups, and He is walking beside me. If I could get the kids to quiet down, perhaps I could hear Him.

Keep those prayers up.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Chicken Tikka Masala and Other Blessings

I want to share yesterday's blessings. Mainly, I am doing this for myself as a reminder of God's work in my life. (When I read scriptures, it's mainly when believers deny or forget God's strong arm and huge heart that the real trouble begins. Check out the life of Moses if you disagree.)

The day started off with Natalie's fever gone. That was a blessing.

The twins cleaned--scrubbed--the kitchen spotless after breakfast without being asked. Blessing number two.

All three of them ate oatmeal without complaining, playing with it, or smearing it around on the table. Blessing Three.

The shower water was hot and plentiful, and the 70-year old pipes didn't clog which meant that the $200 we paid the plumber last night was worth every penny.

The car started despite having a bad battery that I have neglected to have changed.

The policeman who pulled me over for making an illegal left hand turn smiled as he approached our car and instead of giving me a ticket he just reminded me to pay more attention to the road.

There was cash in the ATM.

As we drove east over the Tappan Zee Bridge and marveled at the incredible beauty of the Hudson River, the kids and I sang together with the Jamaican lady on the cd singing, "This is my message to you...Don't worry, everything is going to be all right..." at the top of our lungs with the sunroof open and the warm spring air rushing through our hair.

Then there was more: Amy M. babysat Natalie ALL DAY.

My plan was to drop off Natalie in Westchester and then take the twins to Manhattan for Ethiopian food and to meet an employee of NYU who speaks Amharic. I had left the lady a message offering her to meet us at Awash Restaurant, or if she couldn't meet us we would call her en route to West 4th Street and meet up with her closer to the NYU campus. Another blessing: I found curbside parking! But then I realized I had no quarters for the meter. Next blessing: a guy working on a roof nearby reached down and gave me 8 quarters and shared that the fine would be $125 so keep watch of the time. I love NY. And I love the Lord.

S0, this is where some would say the blessings "dried up."

The Ethiopian restaurant on W. 6th Street was CLOSED.

I had been talking about it for days with the girls and I knew the closest one was on the Upper West Side. Worst of all, I couldn't find my cell phone whichI had used at Amy's house. That meant I couldn't call the lady from NYU to tell her not to meet us at the restaurant. We waited a bit for her, and then I rationalized that she likely had called my cell phone to say she couldn't meet us at lunch. I figured after we ate I'd go back to the car and ask the roofer if I could borrow his phone since we were both out of quarters for me to use a pay phone. So, we wandered West 6th Street ("Little India") with its dozens and dozens of restaurants to decide which one to enter. We started into one, but for some reason I backed away. "Not this one, girls." We walked between 2nd Avenue and 1st Avenue, walked past a place called the Spice Cave, and then re-traced our steps to go in there. It was a typical NYC restaurant: small, dark and cramped. No Zagat rating sticker on the door. We grabbed a table and I ordered for them.

As we ate our tikka masala and delicious nan I heard the waiter ask a newcomer, "Do you want to stay or have take-out?"

Then I heard a female voice ask in response, "Maura? Excuse me, are you Maura?" There was Aday--the lady from NYU whom we were supposed to meet 30 minutes earlier!

She said she had left me a message on my cell saying she'd meet us at Awash and left me another message when she reached Awash and it was closed.

Aday said, "I never came here before. I just wandered around looking at the restaurants. I went into one but then walked out of it. I saw this place and decided I'd do take-out. " She said that she had noticed my girls, who looked Ethiopian and about 9 years old, and then she noticed me. (I do not look Ethiopian.)

She sat down and rattled away in Amharic with the twins for three hours! The girls were animated, talkative, and treated Aday like a long-long sister.

They told her they are very happy living with us, and they shared about their childhood, that Dora knows how to roast coffee beans over a raging fire and can perform the traditional coffee ceremony, that Marta can braid Dora's hair, that they love to cook. They described their home--a tribal hut with no bathroom or running water. Hyenas and packs of wild dogs roamed around the huts, scaring them.

I learned that Dora can actually read Amharic. They went to school for a short while but stopped because they got beat up a lot by other children.

Most importantly, Dora was able to explain why she is awake at night: "My Ethiopian mom died last year. I miss her." And she eventually told her that she's angry with her Ethiopian father who used to steal the mother's hard-earned cash to buy liquor. When he returned drunk to their hut, he'd beat up the twins until the mom stopped him, and then he'd beat her up. She is afraid that the parasites she's being treated for are huge worms in her stomach that are growing larger everyday.

With tears running down her cheeks she told Aday, "My heart beats so hard and fast because the worms are moving in my tummy."

Wouldn't all that keep you up at night?

When we went to leave, they asked me, "Aday, New York to go?" which means "Can she come home with us?"

Oh, how I wish she could!

Specific prayer requests:

1. Please pray that the Lord would heal these girls' hearts. Their grief is tremendous. They need healing and to be set free from their anger and resentment.

2. Please pray that the girls' medical treatment would be swift and effective.

3. Please pray for the girls' father and their 3 brothers in sister still in Ethiopia. The famine is severe and life is so hard.

4. Please pray for the street children who have no family or neighbors to care for them. Please pray for the children, especially the older children, who are in orphanages.

5. Please pray that I would be patient, kind and loving all day. (Please pray this one everyday, ok?!)

God bless you, dear ones.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Our Reality Show

Ok, so I laid out a typical schedule in the previous post. Here is some of the colorful examples of what life is like at 33 Sunrise Avenue:

6:30 AM
Natalie: "Mom, my sister is touching me. Take her back to Ethiopia. Now!"

7:30 AM
Twin #1: "No more 'Dabash.' Call me 'Marta'"
Twin #2: "No more 'Alem.' Call me 'Dora.' "
Natalie: "That's not fair. If she's going to be Dora, I want to be Boots."

9 AM
Dad: "Any reason why your car battery would be dead?"
Mom: "The girls are still learning how to shut car doors. I guess we forgot to check them. I'm sorry."

10 AM
Mom to twins: "Girls, we need to collect stool samples for the doctor. Kaka goes in this plastic cup. Like this, see? Poopoo in this container...? Ok? Next time you go kaka, go in here, yes, I know it's silly and weird and embarrassing. Just do it, ok? No shinte. Just kaka. Then yell, 'mama, kaka here,' and I will come and get it and will spoon it into this little tube. I know this sounds very ridiculous... we don't do this all the time in America...just today, and well, tomorrow, too, and also the next few days, ok? Just don't forget to tell me, don't just leave it in the cup on the bathroom floor, let me know it's there, and don't let Natalie play with it, either. Please be careful and don't kick it over. Thank you, sweeties."

11 AM
Mom to twin#1: "No! That's dog food. Put that bowl down! No eat."

Mom to twin #2: "That's called a water fountain. Clean water, yes, we just have to push a, it never runs out."

6:30 PM
Twin #1: Eating dessert and looking adoringly at her new mother. Twin says, "I love you..." mom looks so pleased until she hears the rest of the sentence..."ice cream."

Things that are new to the twins:
Western style house
washing machine
single beds
bath tubs with no baskets for babies inside it
food everywhere, anywhere, all for the taking
shiny shoes
new sneakers
snow and ice
ice cream
mittens and gloves
hairbands of all colors
a closet with all their own clothes
a playground with slides, jungle gyms, and several swings
automatic toilet flushing, automatic faucets, hand dryers, paper towels
computers, keyboards
music class

Month One

It's hard to know where or how to begin this post. Tomorrow will mark the one month anniversary of our traveling to Addis Ababa. We have had our two girls, "Dora" and "Marta" with us since Sunday, February 16, 2009. We arrived home nearly three weeks ago. It's been organized chaos since then.

A typical day looks something like this:

6:45 am I am up, coffee is made and breakfast is on the table
7:00 am All three girls are up, one or two might be dressed, and we sit down to pray.
9:00 am Breakfast is long over, beds are made, girls are dressed, teeth are brushed, and we are more or less ready to be seen in public. We are on our way to nursery school, the gym, music class or cleaning the house.
10:00 Snack time
11:45 Lunch
12:30 Storytime upstairs, each girl chooses a book, naptime & quiet time begin
2:30 Snack time (again!)
3-4:30 Play outdoors
4:30 Prepare dinner
5:15 Baths for the girls
5:45 Dinner
6:30 Storytime
7:15 Bedtime (that does not necessarily mean "sleep.")
11:30 pm, 1:30 am, 3:30 am typical wake-up times for one or two of the kids

Did you notice that there is no school? Yeah, that has to start sometime soon...and I need to have more time by myself in the morning to pray and read. Also, Bible study starts next week and I will be back to having daily homework. I am in desperate need for time to myself to spend with the Lord. I miss Him even though we talk throughout the day :)

So, that's a day without the post will include some of the specifics of what happens when this schedule is in play.