internet marketing The Big Sis Diaries: August 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Misc. News from the Palace of Sasha

So much news that I want to report here has been accumulated, so I thought I should finally squeeze in a post to get it out there!

1) I am once again in my town's newspaper! They did a follow-up article on my delivery of the pajamas. Unfortunately, the story wasn't big enough to post on the website, so I can't put a link to it here, but basically, it described my experience dropping off the pajamas and my goal to do much more for AHOPE through subsequent drives in the future. And speaking of AHOPE, I haven't forgotten about letting in here how that went. It's just that I have so much to write about it that it'll take me more than a few minutes to type out. I'll try my best to get to it over the weekend.

2) Melissa Faye Green, author of "There is No Me Without You", who I have been corresponding with personally through e-mail since before our referral, is coming to a town near us!!!! She'll be stopping by the library at a neighboring town on Wednesday, Sept. 26th. I'm pretty sure I'll be pulled out of school to see her- I mean, it's not every day you get to meet someone that huge in the Ethiopian adoption world (or a bigger world!) and she has after all been communicating with me...she knows all about Sasha at this point! She'll be there for an hour, and since I have my free period for part of it I'd only be missing math, which, according to me, is completely worth skipping ;-). In any case, my mom will for sure take Sasha, but I'm pretty sure I'll go too. I can't believe I'm finally going to meet her! (For those of you who don't know about MFG, she wrote the very famous- at least in the adoption world- book called "There Is No Me Without You" about a woman in Ethiopia who took in orphans and ended up opening an orphanage. It follows the stories of families in the U.S. and other countries who adopted those children, and it's all very heartwarming and heartbreaking. It also talks a lot about Ethiopia as well as the history of AIDS. The website is .)

3) I was tagged by Staci ( ) for a "middle name" meme. Like Staci did, I'm going to do Sasha's middle name, Eraye- for one thing, this blog is mostly about her, and for another, I don't have a middle name ;-).

E- Energetic. She's like the Energizer Bunny (sorry to refer to such an oft-used synonym)- she keeps going, and going, and going...until she crashes.
R- Resourceful. Language so far has been a bit of a struggle for her, but she almost always manages to get her point across in a variety of (often hilarious!) ways!
A- Attention-hogging. She's on a constant quest for attention and most often gets it.
Y- Young- she has her whole, exciting life ahead of her! She's only 19 months old, but she has so much personality. With such character, one may ask, "Where will she be in 20 years?" The answer? Wherever the heck she wants! (With some limitations, of course...)
E- Effervescent. When I come home from school, the glowing expression of pure joy on her face could light up the room!

Since "Eraye" has five letters in it, I will now "tag" five people: Nikki (, Erin (, Marissa (, Ally ( and Kelsey ( .)

If you've been tagged for this already, just ignore it- or do someone else you write about (like a sibling.) Thanks for tagging me, Staci! This is fun!

*Oh, to give you an idea of how tired I've been and how occupied I have been with hard classes: Going through my next day's schedule last night before bed, I told myself I had AP Band (it doesn't exist) and honors lunch. Hmmm.

Monday, August 27, 2007

First Day Of School

Yes, that's right- this early! I think it's ridiculous. Every other school district I can think of starts after Labor Day. It's annoying, but I'm trying to make the best of it.

School wasn't TOO bad today. Not great, but not horrible. I really liked seeing my friends again, but not many of them were in many of my classes. I'm trying to look on the bright side: better opportunity to make new friends, right? As for my classes themselves, I liked my teachers overall, but I know I'm in for a tough year. I'm a junior now, so it's "The Big Year" for college, etc. I'm nervous, but I also kind of enjoy the responsibility of it all. I do have a lot on my plate this year, though- I have a pretty heavy courseload, with three honors and one AP class. Outside of school, I'm busy, too- I'm president of two clubs and Activities Coordinator of another, and I'm involved in one other club (that's four total), marching band, my job which starts Sept. 8th (I'm going to be a babysitter at the YMCA for kids who have parents working out at the gym), and of course, spending as much time as I can with friends and family. I think it will all be exciting though. At least I know I won't have a problem with boredom!

As for the boys, I think they did pretty well today, too. It was Kristian's first day of middle school, which was a big change, and Carsten moved up from the lower elementary school to the higher elementary school, so that was a difference for him as well. I felt sorry for Sasha having all of her siblings leave at one time, but she was excited to see us when we came home.

I'd love to go on and on about our lives now, not to mention all of the stuff from the past I haven't talked about (like our Ethiopia trip! Sheesh) but I have to go start the homework I've already been assigned (luckily it's not too bad tonight.) Since this weekend is a three-day weekend, I'll make an effort to put up a few posts both about what I haven't mentioned about the summer as well as how school is going. For now though, as you can see, I posted a new "video of the week"- another one of Sasha being a nutball. Enjoy!

Oh- one more thing I want to mention. It has been two months today that Sasha has been officially ours. It's amazing how much she's blossomed in that time!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Kristian: Catastrophe Magnet

As if the big old lump on his head isn't enough, Kristian and that same friend of his came across a bee nest today and they were both bombarded by them. Kristian now has at least four or five stings covering his body, including on his face. Kristian's friend's mom brought him home (they live down the street), and they excitedly told us about it. Their final verdict? "Man, that hurt!" accompanied by peals of thrilled laughter. Then they ran off to do more danger-seeking.

Boys will be boys.

Monday, August 20, 2007

He Went To Bed And Bumped His Head...

Except it's more like, "He was being the wild, free-from-school 11-year-old boy that he is and got the hammock knocked into his eyebrow by his friend and subsequently bumped his head."

As proved by the giant, cartoon-like goose egg on his forehead.

Of course, he's an 11-year-old boy, so he bounced back pretty quickly. The doctor told him he had to lie down for the rest of the day, which of course is the worst thing a kid like him could possibly hear- especially since it didn't come with the benefit of getting to miss school.
I guess whatever game he and his friend were playing was worth that bump. No doubt he'll go back to playing it again tomorrow.
*I've just been informed that the game is called, "Egg Sack." It should be called, "Egg Sock" given that after you're socked in the head, you get a giant goose egg there.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sasha Update

I will post more pics from our trip, but I thought I'd just give another Sasha update to keep all you eager readers informed on her progress.

She's been officially ours eight days shy of two months, and has been home with us for about a month and a half. This kid, I'm telling you, just rolls with the punches. Like everyone hoped, she's both a boy's girl and a girl's girl. She loves putting on headbands and clothes, and parades around in them, expecting us to comment on how cute she is. She's also insistent in trying on clothes in stores, fully convinced that they're all hers. It's also essential to her that she's in on all the action; she follows the boys everywhere, especially when they have friends over. Today, Kristian, Carsten, and a friend of theirs taught her a secret handshake, and she promptly repeated it, to the delight of everyone- especially her. She just basks in the attention. Nothing is better to her than her entire family sitting in a circle around her, giving her our undivided focus. She doesn't care where we go as long as she's with all of us, as proved by our recent 12-hour car trip. The only thing she's truly afraid of is being alone. For this reason, her most frequent word nowadays is "Mon! Mon!" (Her way of saying"c'mon") acompanied by a "come here" gesture. And nothing delights her more than Kristian sitting on her lap. (Yes, you read that right- not her sitting on his lap, him sitting on her lap!)

This kid continues to be quite the smarty-pants- or at least, the most observant human being I have ever seen. I was at the Gap yesterday trying on clothes, and she insisted on being in the dressing room with me. Without hesitation, she began pulling her own pants off, and pulling them back on when I tried on a new pair of jeans. She then looked in the mirror, lifted her shirt all the way up so that her big Buddha belly was sticking out, and tilted her head to the side with a look of deep concentration on her face. It took me a second to figure out what she was doing- I then realized that I'd been doing that a second before, to see how the jeans fit around the waist. It never occured to me that she would have noticed that. The same thing happened later in the day, when I bent over to adjust the cuffs on my pants. I looked over to see if she observed that, and of course, like Simon Says, she was fiddling with the bottoms of her pants, too. I've never seen a kid that age do that before. She really defines the term "Monkey See, Monkey Do."

Another example was the other day, when I was measuring myself against the wall. I panicked when I did it myself at first, thinking I had somehow shrunk since I was a bit shorter than the mark on the wall I made a few months before (because I'm very petite- 4'11'' at best- I'm very sensitive about this!) When my mom said she would measure me herself, Sasha eagerly decided she needed to be measured too. After my turn, Sasha stood against the wall with a concerned expression on her face. It then dawned on me that I must have been doing that when I stood against the wall, afraid that I'd be upset by my measurement (I hadn't shrunk though, thankfully!) Since when can a 19-month-old pick that up???? Of course, she had no reason to be concerned: she, unlike me, has grown a ton in recent months!

She's less quick to pick up English, but she's getting there. Here is what she says now:

  • "Bye"

  • "Kitty"

  • "Papa"

  • Some combination of Kristian and Carsten; she applies this word when trying to get the attention of either of her brothers

  • "C'mon" (or "Mon")

  • "Peekaboo"

  • "Eye" (She says it and points to it when we ask her where her eye is)

  • "Mouth" (Or at least, she tries to say it...sometimes it's just an "mmmm" sound, and sometimes she says "mow"

  • "Ow" (She repeats it when we say it; she understands it's what people say when they hurt themselves, and sometimes, remembering when she pinched someone, she'll say "ow" and rub herself on the arm)

  • "Off" (I'm pretty sure she said this when I took her off the tire swing yesterday)

  • "Elmo" (She says it whenever we turn the TV on. She refers to all of the Sesame Street characters and the Teletubbies as "Elmo")

  • "Uh-oh!"

  • "Num-num" (How she refers to food)

  • "Hi"

  • "Hello" (She says this when pretending to talk on the phone. Yesterday, she used her half-eaten ear of corn as one.)

Her perseptive language is better though- she understands "no" and certain phrases like "diaper change." Though she doesn't say too many real words, she thinks she's talking. When my mom and I talk in the car, she'll babble the whole car trip, convinced she's contributing. Sometimes she'll pick up the phone and babble with certain expressions on her face that are exactly the same as one of us would have when really talking on it.

This kid is amazing. I jokingly tell her all the time that it's not fair to the other babies that she took more than her fair share of brains and cuteness. In all honesty though, she's totally defied all of the adoption handbooks. Nowhere did we read that a kid could be as amazingly good-natured, hilarious, fun, and totally well-adjusted as her. Not to mention that already her looks have model potential. It makes me want to adopt again, but then I think on it and decide that I should probably just absorb every ounce of her that I can for now :-).

Friday, August 17, 2007

We're Home!

Whew, do I have a lot to tell.

In a nutshell, the cottage renting didn't work out this year, unfortunately. Normally, we rent this really great house facing the water with a private little beach- it's secluded, pleasant, and relaxing. To our dissapointment, it was booked out this year, so we decided to rent a different cottage nearby. We were hoping to make due this year, go back to the old one next year, and pretend that the year without our beloved beach house would not stick out as "breaking our tradition."

The other cottage looked cute on the website. It was smaller, but quaint. Another family we know rented the one next door, so we thought everything would be fine.

I think you can probably guess what comes next...

You guessed it. It wasn't fine. The cottage looked old, falling apart- even haunted. My mom even said, and I quote: "This place makes me feel depressed about life!" Okay, so maybe we're exagerating- but only a little. It was really just not good. But we figured we could put up with it since we mostly spend our time on the beach anyway. As long as we only went inside to sleep, we could survive.

Well. Unlike the owners promised, there was absolutely no beach. It was on a bluff, and after going down thousands of stairs (or so it seemed) we reached about a two-foot spot of wet sand. Honestly, you couldn't stand there without getting your shoes wet. How could eight kids total- not to mention supervising parents- fit in there, even if everyone was on their tip toes? The answer was no way. We just couldn't stay there. So we left.

Luckily, very luckily, we had a back-up. My grandparents live in Birmingham, Michigan, under an hour away, and we were already planning to stop there on the way home. So, willfully forgetting this bad experience, we booked a hotel near to my grandparents' (given that my grandfather's health is not at all great and they live in an apartment, it seemed unfair to burden them with lots of kids and luggage.)

It ended up being a lot of fun. We visited my grandparents every day, and they were so happy to meet Sasha and just spend time with our whole family. It was also a great change of scenery for my grandpa, who is on permanent bedrest now. It made me feel so good to hear the way he talked about her to us, marvelling at how utterly beautiful and amazingly well-adjusted she is. Sasha really took to him too. She insisted on playing with her toys in his room, and had an ongoing game of peekaboo with him.

Since we spent nine eventful days there, I can't really describe each one in detail, so I'll mention the highlights of our trip:

1. Visiting the Detroit Zoo. Seeing all of these animals was a big first for Sasha, but while she was fascinated, she was a tad bit confused. We walked into the penguin house and when a big penguin walked out, she flapped her arms excitedly and called out, "Kitty! Kitty!"

2. Going to an Ethiopian restaurant a half a mile from my grandparents'. Again, she could not stop stuffing her little mouth!

3. Celebrating my 16th birthday there on the 8th. (I can't believe I'm eligible to get my learner's permit now!) We spent it with my grandparents and had the most gorgeous cake. I'll have to post a picture of it here- it was truly a work of art! Oh, and speaking of pictures, I got a digital camera (pink!) for my birthday! You can expect many more pictures here now. I'm already having fun with it- I have a few cute pics of Sasha playing dress-up.

4. Taking the People Mover around Detroit and going to Greektown. Sasha, apparently, loves Greek food. (But not fruit or sweet things. Go figure.) We also went to this outdoor plaza with many, many fountains in a row. Stripped down to her diaper, Sasha had the best time. I'm kicking myself now that I didn't have my video camera there, but my dad did take a video of it, so I'll post that here later. I'd say about 95% of the people who walked by her playing in the water commented on how adorable she is, many of them businessmen. It was like she was a big celebrity, the way they were exclaiming, "Ooooh, just look at her!!!!"

5. Going to the Detroit Science Center to see the "Our Body" exhibit. It featured real human bodies, which was SO cool.

6. Driving back to Lake Erie for the day to visit a family friend who has a beach cottage there. Sasha was the center of attention, and had a great time in the sun, sand, and lake.

I should also mention that I was really impressed by how well Sasha did in the car, there and back. Of course, Elmo and Barney DVDs helped, but we got through the drives with only one stop for lunch each way. She hardly fussed. Amazing.

I'm so mad at myself that I didn't videotape more. I have to get into a better habit of that. I will post, though, a video here of Sasha at a restaurant on the way home, just being the typical goofball she is. It's nothing particularly funny or surprising, but it's just a little glimpse of her personality. I added it to the sidebar; I'm starting a new tradition called "Video Of The Week": every week, I'm going to post a new video I've taken of Sasha, the boys, or just anything interesting my camera happens to capture!

Friday, August 03, 2007

And We're Off...Again!

We will be away for the next two weeks, doing the same trip we do every year in August. This will be Sasha's first vacation with us (not counting the few days we spent in Dubai on the way home from Ethiopia.) We'll be driving to a cottage we're renting on Lake Erie in Ontario with some family friends- my mom, growing up, used to own a house in the same area that she went to during the summer, so this is a nice tradition for us. On the way back, we'll stop in Michigan for three days to visit my grandparents and uncle who live there so we can show off our newest addition :-). This will be our first time introducing Sasha to extended family! (Unfortunately, all of ours either live several states away or in a different country.)

Driving to Canada means 12 hours in the car, so I have to give my family credit for taking on this risky- and possibly dangerous- journey! In the past, we've had no problems- we have a DVD player in the car, I have my iPod, and the boys have comic books, so the trip has been relatively smooth. Of course, it will be totally different with an 18-month-old. Having said that, she was an angel on the way home from Dubai, so maybe it won't be as horrendously horrible as one can imagine driving for that long with a young toddler. Having said that, she has been noticeably antsier (is that a word?) since coming home, since she's realized there's so much to do when not sitting still and so many people to give her the attention she greatly takes advantage of. So, this is an experiment. Wish us luck.

Luckily, we will be breaking up the driving into two days, to mitigate a little of the potential problems that might come in this situation. We'll leave early tomorrow morning (my mom said 9, which of course will mean 10 or 11...we've had problems getting out of the house on time even before Sasha joined us) and driving six hours to Batavia, New York, to stay overnight before driving the rest of the way the next day.

I'm really looking forward to this. This is the fifth consecutive year we're doing this, but it will be totally different with an 18-month-old baby sister in tow- and not just having her will change things. In Michigan, we're going to go to an Ethiopian restaurant, which we wouldn't have gone out of our way to find had we not become so strongly linked to that African country.

I highly doubt I'll be able to post until we get back- unless my dad lends me his coveted work laptop, which I'm not counting on- so I'm leaving you this picture for you to enjoy for the next two weeks (above.) Friends of ours sent Sasha a "welcome home" gift, which included this cute vest. Sasha, being Sasha, put it on and refused to let anyone take it off her for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Love Thursday

Happy Birthday Kitties!...and More About Sasha

I can't believe Coco and Fifi are two! I remember completleting our "first adoption" so well...seeing them for the first time, at two months old, I couldn't believe that these tiny things would be ours for the rest of their lives. Now, I can't imagine life before them!

I feel the same way, already, about Sasha. My family ran into another family we knew today, who had an adopted daughter from China. The mother said to us, "It's just a miracle, isn't it?" I watched Sasha smile and wave at them coquettishly, then run and bury her face in my legs. I couldn't imagine a greater miracle.

She's doing so wonderfully. Like I said, she'll immitate everything in a snap- when Kristian has a nosebleed (the poor thing suffers from them frequently) she'll grab a paper towel and hold it over her nose; when someone in the family sneezes, she immediately tries to, too (though she can't really conjure one unnaturally.) She still displays actions we think she learned at the care center- she pretends to make her stuffed animals wave at us, and today she even grabbed Coco's paw and made her wave. Her physical abilities are excellent, though we're still working on language. For a child who spent the first 12 months of her life listening to one language, the next five months another, and the next time month TWO more, naturally it would be confusing. It didn't seem like she picked up much Amharic at all, so we think that she kind of gave up trying to learn. But she is gathering words now slowly but surely. Her first word was "Papa", which she still says when she sees my dad. Her most clear and frequent word is "bye-bye"; literally, whenever there's any indication that she or someone else is leaving, she'll wave and say it over and over again, even if it's just leaving an empty room in our house. She also says "hi" when she waves, though "bye-bye" is more common. She says "kitty" very distinctly as well, giving very definite pronunciation to the t's. She attempts to say "peekabu" which is more like "ababu"- she played it with the trees outside today, which she thought was hilarious (like I said, very strange sense of humor.) As far as names in the family go, we're having a little more difficulty. She for sure says "Papa", but we haven't really heard her use "Mama" in the right way. She says it, but she doesn't connect the word to her mom. Whenever she does say it though, often mindlessly, my mother responds; our theory is that eventually she'll make the connection herself if my mom keeps answering to it. When we point to her and say "Sasha", she'll point to herself and say something like "Papa", but she doesn't respond at all when we call her name. As for the boys, she tries to say a hybrid of their names, but only when she's repeating us or hears us calling them. She hasn't attempted to say my name at all, but I'm not concerned since "Susanna" is a little hard to say. I'll wait to be insulted until she can say everyone else's name clearly and not mine :-).

However, her receptive language is really good. When my mom says, "Sasha, do you need a diaper change?" she'll march herself to her room and reach her arms out to be lifted onto her changing table. We're working on teaching her her body parts; so far she'll point to her eye and mouth when we say the words, and she tries to say them herself; "eye" is almost perfect and "mouth" is some kind of "mmmmmm" sound.

Overall, she's just a very, very good girl. Her behavior does reflect that she's been a little spoiled since coming into our care, but only in a very normal way- while she was perfectly happy to go with the flow when we first met her (and she still is really good that way), she does fuss sometimes if we have to take something away that she wants- but again, only normal for an 18-month-old, right? As far as moving her from place to place, she's quite calm about it- none of the tantrums or fits I see from other kids her age. I admit that she is very spoiled with attention though- we often call her the queen, and the rest of the family is her entourage! She's definetely picked up on it. If she hurts herself and starts crying, she immediately seeks the sympathy of everyone in the family. If my mom is there to pity her and no one else is, she'll fake-cry (very obviously) when she sees someone else in order to get them to give her attention. Even if she's totally over it and someone walks into the room 10 minutes later, she'll pretend to cry again just for the sympathy! It's so funny the way she picked that up by herself- but I think she's always been like that. When she was at the care center, we received a report saying that she'd refuse to eat if the nannies didn't personally feed her. Of course I don't want her to grow up thinking she's Paris Hilton, but I think that she should be allowed a length of time after coming home where she can keep the rest of her family under her control. At some point she has to figure out that the cats won't always obery her, though- she still hasn't figured out that they're not human, and still mimes to them to bring her things and gets angry when they won't take what she's offering them. Hmm, maybe she's not quite as smart as I thought...(just kidding :-))

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