Monday, November 28, 2011

Africa to America: Christmas Part 1

Hard to believe a year ago, we were in the "process" of adopting 2 children and curious about what Christmas would be like for them. Hard to conceptualize how different this Christmas will be for them and what they must be thinking.  We have such an awesome opportunity to begin new traditions, to decide how our family will celebrate, how this crazy guy with a red suit & long beard that everyone keeps asking them about and they have no idea what you're talking about will work into our celebration of what we really are celebrating- birth of Jesus Christ.

Here's some of the questions we've been asked.
Q: Are the kids ready for Santa Clause?/ What is Santa bringing the kids?
A: They have no idea what that/he is. We're still trying to understand why there are trees with lights on them inside our house but we REALLY like looking and touching the lights

Q: Are you going to do "Santa" with the kids?
A: I think it's difficult in our culture to not at least talk about/tell them about "Father Christmas"/Santa Clause. We'll likely do the cute picture of them sitting on Santa's lap but we haven't decided if we're going to do presents from "Santa" under the tree and pretend like he's this real guy who lands on our roof top and comes down our non-existent chimney. I'm honestly split right now, it's fun, imaginative and all that but at the same time, I don't want them to look forward to Santa and not look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus. I know this forces us to be intentional and I've been reading several opinions but would love to hear more ideas/traditions that you've done or started with your family.

Q: You mean they didn't have Santa Clause in Uganda?
A: well, I've heard that some guys do dress up in Santa/Father Christmas outfits but it's not quite the marketing /commercialized holiday that it is here. For most Ugandans (I hear), it's most important for them to come together as a family, celebrate with a big meal and spend time together (not inserting batteries into the newest noise making toy!) I definitely think they've been doing this holiday the right way!

We obviously still have a lot to decide on and a lot to discuss as a new family!

Stay tuned for pics & more on Christmas!

Africa to America: language

We are often asked how their English is doing, how many words do they know, has it been difficult for them to learn etc. When we first started caring for them in UG, the reality of them not speaking many words became VERY real, as in we had 8 "words" to work with! In English, they would say: momma, daddy. Luganda words: Boda boda/Motorcycle. Words they occasionally would interchange between Luganda & English: Pia/Ball, Fuca/potty. Words they spoke in baby talk that we figured out: Biem was Car, "Kai-eat-a" was water or bath.

They understood a lot more in both Luganda & English than they could speak. In some ways that was good for us but hard for them, they had trouble responding in a way that we could understand. There was a lot of hitting & biting and some of it (not all of it) was likely a result of this communication gap. Despite our attempts to teach them some English, they really only picked up on Car & Ball and we eventually got them to say "cup pease." I remembered baby sitting for a family who used sign language with their baby. I vaguely remembered a couple of the signs: all done, more, eat  (not sure if they're the correct signs but it was at least a start to help with communication!)

I've said this many times but once we got home, it was almost like a switch flipped for them and they both began showing an interest in learning the language. We seemed to spend a LOT of time in the bathroom, if one was going, the other wanted to sit in there too. They would say "Momma mmmm" and point to something so I would tell them what it was. They quickly picked up Monkey, sink, bathtub, potty, picture, rug and towel. At the table we would go through the same routine and they picked up: table, chair, plate, cup, fork, spoon, curtain and window. They obviously wouldn't remember everything so there was a lot of repetition and we kept things in very broad categories at first. For example, any kind of bird -owl, penguin, flamingo, peacock etc. was just "bird" that says "tweet tweet." And any type of vehicle was a car -truck, van, bus, tractors etc. and they all say "beep beep."

Now they know how to say "what zat" and we occasionally have discussions over what something really is (perhaps our fault for putting things in such broad categories). For instance we drove down the road and saw 4 school busses. Amiya counted them and said "4 bus" and Malakai insists it's "school bus." They're both correct but don't quite get how 2 different things are indeed the same thing. Often even though I tell them they are both correct, Malakai gets his feelings hurt and starts to cry.

All in all, I think the kids are learning the language very quickly! I begin to realize when we're around other people that sometimes... most times it's hard for them to understand what they're saying but we've somehow learned to understand most of what they are trying to say, even if they're missing a syllable or a letter in the word.

Here's a video of Amiya getting onto me for taking her peanuts

It's been hard to get a video of Malakai saying very much. He's very much all BOY and will insert explosions or random sounds so I settled for this precious video where he's pretending to be a cat, sees himself on the camera & decides to give himself a Hi-5

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


We may not have experienced a lot of the traditional firsts that parents often catch on camera or record in their baby books. Nor will we ever know what those first moments were like. However, the awesome thing with adoption is we do get to experience a ton of firsts with them. It just looks a little different. For one, they can talk (or try to talk) about what's going on!

There were a lot of firsts for our new family that we had in Uganda-first bath (didn't go so well 2nd bath and on have gone much better), first time eating out, first time going to the playground, first time trying on & buying shoes, etc.

Here's some firsts once we got back to the states:

Meeting Miles (cat)=successful! meeting the dog, not so successful and no pictures of them together for about 2 months to prove it! (July 18)

 First wagon ride (July 21)

Painting toenails (July 23, 2011)

first dining out & waiting for a table at PF Changs (the kids went through a bowl of rice by themselves!) July 24

Trying on Mommy's shoes (August 25)

 Playing in the sprinkler=HUGE hit! Anytime they see running water like this they yell "Arms Up" code for take these clothes off, I want to go play in the water (July 30)

Eating Krispy Kreme donuts=insanely hyper for about 30 minutes and then crashed on the drive home (August 25)

First craft project if you can call it that. Definitely won't have anything on Etsy anytime soon! (August 27)

First time to use shaving creme or pretend to use daddy's (Sept. 8)

 First winter coats (September 8)

First time at the beach...going to have to watch these digging pros and help exhort that energy towards some sand castles (Oct. 11)

First Halloween costumes & Trick-r-treating.
Learning to trick-r-treat was fun and interesting! the first house we went to when the door was opened, Amiya just walked right in and Malakai was close behind. I don't think they understood why we were all laughing so much. Thankfully the family who opened the door was very friendly! Once we finally got them out of the house, we headed to the next house. When the door wasn't opened immediately, Amiya decided she would open the door! We only had 1 fit where a bag of candy was thrown on the ground, the rest of the night went pretty smoothly!

There's still a lot of firsts to come. I can't wait to see what Thanksgiving and Christmas will be like!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Monkey's & Giraffe's

 Our first halloween was fun and interesting! I found some cute costumes at TJ Maxx. The giraffe was the first costume I found. Malakai screamed and said "Noooo" when I showed it to him. Amiya liked it and put the "hat" on~perfect! I started looking for a second costume and Malakai kept giving the same response as he did for the giraffe until I found the Monkey costume. 

We brought them home & tried them on and they loved them! loved that they had tails and they did NOT want to take them off! For the next few weeks they asked every day about the monkey & giraffe!

When we started getting closer to wearing the costume time, we realized both Amiya & Malakai were making monkey sounds.  Well, a Giraffe clearly can't walk around sounding like a Monkey so Wes & I looked at each other trying to figure out what sound a Giraffe makes & he finally yells "looka-looka-looka." Amiya looked at us like we were crazy and she still refuses to make the sound, on rare occasions, you can get Malakai to make the sound. I have a feeling they know the truth about Giraffe sounds!

 My office had a little parade for all the kids, we had to practice saying "Trick-r-treat" and holding a bag at the same time. This was our best attempt at a family picture.

Halloween night was hilarious. We have always gone to a friends' house for halloween so we continued that tradition and went trick-r-treating with their 4 year old son.

The first house we stopped at, when the door opened Amiya walked straight in the door and Malakai followed. It was hilarious the families who's home they just walked into laughed (thankfully) and had several small children who looked all ready to head out the door. Amiya seemed very confused why she wasn't being welcomed into the home & why mom & dad weren't following!

We finally got them out of the house & headed to the next. The door wasn't opening quick enough so Amiya decided she was going to open it for them! By the third house we were figuring it out & they were pros with all the other kids by the end of the night.

I can't help while enjoying this time with our children, also thinking about the many families in the world who would love to just have a piece of bread to fill their bellies and here we are collecting about 10 pounds CANDY. You can help in a multitude of ways. I've added a tab to our blog with a variety of organizations out there who help families & children around the world in a variety of ways.