Life with 4 kids 6 and under. Our trip to pick up Tonito in China is: mid-March 2008 through April 12. Our trips to pick up Ricky in Ethiopia are in June and August of 2010.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Princess Party!

I whipped together a princess party for Princess Maya! We invited playgroup over and asked everyone to dress up in their prettiest princess dresses:

So cute!!! We played "freeze dance," "pass the purse" (hot potato), decorated goodie bags, had races with a magic wand as the baton (this was the favorite game), played pin-the-princess in the castle, Disney movie trivia and had some fancy snacks and cupcakes. I have always wanted to have a princess party, and I love that Maya wanted one as her first "friend" party. She so big now!!! I can't believe 3 years have gone by since I had Maya, and saw that precious little baby with dark curly hair, and the perfect little lips. She's still my curly, girlie, girl, my spider monkey, munchie munchkin, pumpkin pie, Maya papaya, Maya-boo.

If we were to judge by the shrieking and giggling, the girls had a lot of princess fun! Ricky hung around and played the games with the girls, a little bit curious about all of the little girls in pretty dresses running around. Tonito got to go with his friend (and older brother of a princess) to the Science Museum- and when they came home they literally munched and munched and finished all of the goodies left on the table!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Working hard

Check out what Maya and Ricky are doing to concentrate- look closely!:) How cute! Also notice that Ricky is using his left hand-- finally one of my children take after me!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Princess!

We celebrated Maya's birthday opening presents in the morning, and having cake in the evening.

During the days, with the 2 bigger kids at school, the little ones are having a chance to bond. They are so cute together- they definitely fight and take things constantly from each other, but they also giggle and play silly games and somehow communicate. Now granted they also like to have tantrums at the same time, but the other day for a half an hour I had respite from the stereo tantrums while the 2 of them played cars together. Ricky kept telling Maya long soliloquies in Sidaminya and Maya just kept saying patiently "I don't know what you mean. I don't understand you."

Ricky really likes pasta! Watching him enjoy pasta is better than eating it myself!

Maya helped me make her chocolate cake, and got to lick the spoon. A sweet end to a happy birthday.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Naps: proof in pictures

Ricky is a comical little guy who is always trying to make us laugh- I can't wait until we can understand him because sometimes I feel like he has a ticker of jokes that only he knows are funny! We are slowly getting the sleeping under control- a well-rested mama is a happy mama and I really like my sleep. Here is proof of my first successful day getting both the 2 year olds down for a nap simultaneously. I was in the middle, letting my twirl my hair while I was rubbing Ricky's back... and then I very slowly crept out and miraculously did not wake either of them up. The second picture is in our bike trailer, which Ricky refers to as "macchina de mami." Fortunately they both love the trailer and the double stroller, enough to sit for long rides and even fall asleep sometimes!

Monday, August 23, 2010


I can't believe it. I hate when cliches are so true: "They grow up so fast!" What can I do to slow down time!?!?

I put on a very brave face and only shed a couple of tears. Drop-off was a little frantic because of all of the extra bodies helping their kids unload their cargo (ie school supplies) and hang up their backpacks... some parents seemed to be experts at these good-byes, and with quick kisses they were off to work, Starbucks, or errands. Some of us newbies couldn't cut the umbilical cord and waited through the pledge before we kissed and hugged one last time and then literally moped out the door backwards, waving until we were in the cafeteria by ourselves.

When the kids got home from school, they were bubbling over with excitement, "We LOVEd it mommy!" They were filled with funny stories: Miss P is so tall she is a giant that can touch the ceiling... There is a mean girl named M but I don't play with her... At recess B asked us to run in circles with him and it was fun!... 2 boys were fighting and some kids really don't know how to follow the rules... I was talking the whole lunch and didn't have time to eat anything!" Tonito couldn't remember who was at his table but he said they were very nice kids. Vivi told me that she sits next to the girl who was crying and the boy-who-burps-a-lot. It's going to be an exciting year!!!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

School is almost here and a Scary Trip to the ER with Boo

Things are crazy busy here. We're trying to get ready for kindergarten, getting school supplies, Tonio is leaving his old job and soon will be starting a new job, I just "remembered" that Maya's birthday is coming up and I'm planning a princess party for her little friends from playgroup, my laundry room looks like some suitcases threw up, and the tantrums... well, we all know how fun they are, but in stereo they are doubly delicious. My strategy with tantrums is to immediately put him in the carrier. It sounds like I am rewarding him for the tantrum, and I struggled with that, but after reading a lot of attachment books and articles, it really is the right thing to do to help him overcome whatever frustration he is dealing with at that moment, in addition to the life-changing traumas and transition he is going through. It seems to be working at reducing the length of the tantrums- and now when he starts crying he just brings me the ERGO carrier! hahaha- he knows it's in the closet. We are following an attachment program or philosophy called "Taming the Tiger While It's Still a Kitten," which basically says to carry the new child as much as possible during the first 6 weeks (ideally 6 hours a day or more), spoon feed them while maintaining eye contact, lots of massages, rocking them to sleep, lots of hugs and kisses, low on the discipline while working on bonding, etc, etc. I can tell you that if instead of other children I had a cook and a housekeeper living with me, the program would be a lot easier:). But we're doing the best we can and trying to sprinkle in some fun activities during the last week before kindergarten!
Tonito and Vivi are SO excited, and a little nervous. Tonito had been at the elementary school for a special preK program last year, but for Vivi it will be entirely new. She was a little sad and disappointed when she found out that she will not be in the same class as Tonito, but fortunately they are right next door to each other and all the kindergarteners are together for social studies, science, and health I think. We know a handful of kids and of course they are all scattered throughout the 4 classes with none being with out kiddos. The meet-the-teach day intensely chaotic and both Ricky and Maya were overwhelmed and wanted to be held. I wanted the big kids to have a positive experience meeting their teachers and seeing the classroom, and I only had one set of arms to calm down the little ones. It was extremely stressful! There were a million people swarming around, tons of kids running back and forth to the 4 classrooms that open up to each other, and Ricky got away from me and dumped a whole bin of gluesticks on the ground. I ended up dragging out the little ones, both crying, and had Vivi and Tonito follow me. Why don't they have the event at a time when both parents can come!? The insanity continue 2 days later when I had the brave idea of taking all 4 kids to a MOMS Club activity at a pizza parlor where the kids got a tour of the restaurant and then got to make their own pizza. I always think it sounds like a great idea, and then I get there and wonder why on earth I left the house! This time at least I had Ricky strapped into the carrier (to Maya's chagrin and dismay) and the big kids got to make pizzas with their friends. But it was really crazy, and I was wrought with worry the whole time that someone would get their fingers shredded with the cheese or burned on the huge ovens. We survived and at least felt like I was spending a tiny bit of quality time before my babies started full-time kindergarten. I just can't believe the timing of everything- I come home and only have 1 before they start school to squeeze in summer. The guilt wa overwhelming.

Ricky is phenomenal little guy, laid back, happy-go-lucky, who enjoys almost everything we do. If someone is helping me with the laundry, emptying the dishwasher, or setting the table, Ricky just jumps in and mimics them. So on the one hand it is hard to have to divide my time among the kids and make sure they are getting enough attention during this transition= but on the other hand it is ideal to have the big kids around for him to follow around, and kind=of learn about how our family works. He also is the most playful little guy ever, and he would have been bored going into a house with no other children. It's funny how God picks the perfect child for each family:).

He loves the bike trailer (phew) and calls it a macchina (his/Italian word for car). On this particular day, the day before school was to start, we loaded up all the kids for a bike ride. Tonio had the dogs and was on rollerblades, and I pulled the little ones. Tonito and Vivi aren't good enough without training wheels to go for very far so they just rode their bikes with the trainers.
We left our house and rode to a park, where we gave the dogs a lot of water and had them relax in the shade. On the way home, Boudicca (our black dog) sat down and refused to get up. This has happened before when she gets really tired, so Tonio told me to go home and he would let her rest a bit. We all went home, and 20 minutes later Tonio came racing in with Mingo and grabbed his wallet, yelling that someone was taking care of Boo and that he was going to take her to the ER! Tonito was crying, Tonio drove away, and I didn't know what was wrong. Long story short she had severe heat stroke and if they hadn't started treatment right at that moment, she wouldn't have made it. He vet says he *frequently* has patients go for a run with their dog, and then hop in the shower, only to come out and find that their dog has passed away! Isn't that terrible!? Boo had to stay in the ICU, and they gave her plasma, blood, valium, IV, oxygen, and other treatments after she had seizures, was temporarily blind, had internal hemorrhaging, and was temporarily blind. Tonio said when he got there, he told the doctor "you have to save her- we just adopted my new son, my kids are starting full-time kindergarten tomorrow, I'm changing jobs... you just have to save her." After spending a couple of nights in the ICU, she came home and is doing much better!! Poor Boo- we were so, so worried about her and are so happy she is going to be OK!!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Transitioning and Chocolate

School is almost starting!!! I can't believe I will have TWO kindergarteners- that is so big. Kindergarten. I think that that is when I start to have school memories. Anyway! We found some time to cook together- this time chocolate covered strawberries (does that count as cooking?)

Ricky follows along with whatever everyone else is doing. They empty the dishwasher, he empties the dishwasher. They play with bubbles in the bath, he plays with bubbles in the bath. "Oh, we're dipping strawberries in melted chocolate and placing them on a tray. Ok, here I go!" He was a little disappointed not to eat the entire tray after making them- one strawberry was NOT enough-

We drizzled the leftover chocolate over pretzels, and he discovered the joy of licking the spatula- now THAT was enjoyable!

In the past couple of weeks he has gone to see Tonito at kung-fu, the girls at ballet, he's been to 2 different birthday parties, and has had a playdate at a friend's house. He happily goes wherever I take him, and loves to be carried everywhere in the carrier. We are still spoon-feeding him exclusively, although he wants to eat by himself, so he loved licking the spatula with chocolate!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A week of fun

Our first week home was definitely a period of adjustment. Ricky and I are trying to get in the right time zone, and he's been waking up at 3am every morning. Since he is sleeping in our bed, I am also waking up at 3am and desperately trying to keep him quiet so the other kids don't wake up. We have resorted to long walks by the bayou, and playing with sidewalk chalk by the moonlight! Right when I am sweaty and ready to come home from a really long walk, I check the time and it is "only" 5am! Sometimes he falls back asleep in the stroller and I am able to read a book until he wakes up. Then when it is time for nap at around 1 in the afternoon, his body thinks he is going to sleep for the night... and it is almost impossible to wake him up at 3 (because it feels like 10pm). Poor baby- I could stand him up, try to feed him-- and his little ragdoll body would fall back asleep. I can't wait until we can shift over- I am really, really sleep deprived and cannot think straight! So the nights are hard, and being tired in the day is hard, but at least dDuring the day he is having a lot of fun:

He marvels at the toys, and while he doesn't know how to "play" exactly, he loves those that make noise and will obsessively press the buttons over and over again:

It's nice to have family here because all of the kids are needing lots of carrying and hugs. How am I going to do this when Tonio goes back to work and my family goes back to Chicago!? Look at Ricky playing Twister:)-

Ricky LOVES to play soccer, but it is so much hotter here, and so much more humid than ET and he gets sweaty and tired fast (who doesn't??)-

Fortunately, when we're melting in the heat we can quick cool off in the pool!!! Ricky did GREAT in the water- he is a little daredevil and we have to watch him very closely so he doesn't jump in the deep end! We went to a kids pool and he went down the slide the first time, no fear (and then repeated it many, many times). He doesn't even wait for us to catch him- which gives me a heart attack because he can't actually swim. He does try to swim and opens his eyes WIDE underwater and looks up at me with those huge fluttering eyelashes, smiling underwater.

He loves water, and turns on all of the faucets in the house (sinks, bathtubs, etc) and leaves them on until someone finds them running. The problem is that he knows how to open doorknobs, and we can't put a childproof lock on the bathroom doors because all 4 kids are potty-trained and need access! I need to figure that out...

We celebrated Tonito's 6th birthday (I can't believe he is already 6!?) with Grandma and Grandpa, and he was so excited to get some Star Wars toys. He's never seen the movie, but we have read some Star Wars books and it must be in in XY genes to these guys:).

Look at how much Maya looks like Vivi in the above foto! In other news, Vivi lost her first tooth!!! Actually, Tio Co pulled it out (thanks Nico!:) as it was hanging on by a thread. Vivi was SO excited, and wrote the toothfairy a letter that says "Please give my tooth to Maeve" (her baby cousin who is just getting baby teeth). Sweet!

After a couple of days my family left and we were alone as a family of 6. I am juggling holding Ricky as much as possible to facilitate bonding, and holding Maya as much as possible to avoid jealousy, and my arms and muscles are sore. Many times I am carrying them both to avoid stereo tantrums- 60 pounds of squirming toddlers! The hardest part of the day is around 4pm, when I have woken up a tired and unwilling Ricky from nap, I have to start to think about dinner, and both the little kids want to be held. I am SO thankful to the MOMS Club I am in that is providing dinners for 2 weeks (whew)- they have been a lifesaver to whatever is left of my sanity. The food is so good, usually different from what I normally prepare, and comes right when I'm about to pull out my hair- we should arrange a dinner co-op more often! It is the best idea!:) One mom even included a bottle of much needed wine- I need to remember that next time I am making a dinner for someone.