The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

We've Moved

In case you missed it...we've moved.

We now share HERE.

And we'd love it if you'd visit. And follow. And talk back.

See you over HERE.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Makeda's newest trick, or accomplishment, or whatever you'd like to term it is to stand alone and emanate - share - the most incredible of facial expressions. (She has become quite expressive, you know. I predict some serious, yet irresistible attitude come...oh, perhaps around her second birthday and likely lasting until what, her sixteenth?) Her expression, it's a cross between absolute shock and awe, pride and genuine joy. And, it's the most incredible thing to witness.

And it is completely put on. She has us eating out of her sweet, dark, perfectly chubby little hands. Our little drama queen in the making.

Two days ago she could hold her "free stand" stance for a second or two. Yesterday, it was more like three or four seconds. This afternoon she was standing for likely near to ten seconds. She's making remarkable progress...leaps and bounds. She gets attention each time she attempts her new milestone...and she knows it. She is a very bright little girl. I think of and give thanks for her birth mother every time I look at her and more so every time she hits a new (tangible or not) milestone...and they are frequent in occurrence. I think of her birth mother often. And it's all I can do not to hop on a plane to Harar, seek her, and share in the marvels of her daughter's accomplishment(s).

Her facial expression never changes, once she climaxes to her standing, very poised biped position.

And I can't help but wonder, what if.

What if we'd thrown in the towel nearly three years ago.

What if before that, we had never tried.

What if we were too calloused to allow the burden of the orphan to ache our hearts.

What if we had turned the other way and ignored or overlooked that inkling, the nudge, the whisper, to chose this very winding path.

I read articles such as the one just released and I recall with chills how we first felt when that horrific nightmare-of-an-email entered my inbox. I reflect upon play dates, conversations, friendships I would consider one-of-a-kind, all formed and taking place in their entirety due to this path and the way it wove into the most horrific then joyful experience we could have (never ever) fathomed. The connection we feel to a country about which we would have only read, had we not pursued the tap on our heart muscles. The ache, the relentless twinge inside, felt each and every single time a friend goes to meet or bring home her child. (I still scheme ways to fit inside a suitcase undetected by an airport scanner.) The passion planted inside, which took years to grow, and which catalyzed a move to a new province, a new home. These are all results, side effects, gifts, rewards.

They are unique.

This is rare.

We are living a privilege.

And I can't help but rejoice in Our Now. And in the strength, the raw and pure ache observed and fought and carried on the shoulders of those families today in the thick of our life a mere two and a half years ago - the determination you don't know exists. A(nother) agency will now survive because families have and continue to rise up and fight for the faces they have yet to know. I believe the instinct to fight for our children (the ones we know and equally the ones we do not) is intrinsic. There is no other explanation.

This place has been a joy. It has been a therapy. It has been a place of refuge and a place of witness and a place of elation and a place of pure despair. It has been a space in which we, as a family and I as a Mama and one very flawed human have shared and shed light into moments of our little life and our journey. Here, I have met friends. Here, we have been blessed and graced by the most incredible, faithful, strong, real people.

As the saying(s) go(es): There is strength in numbers and There is safety in numbers.


Here we have found both. You have graced us with this.

But this part of our journey is over.

Truthfully, our family is here due mainly (largely?!) because those whispers turn taps turn nudges turn scratches on our hearts experienced - rejoiced in - fruition.

And she is home.

Makeda is home.

Our family - our five - is complete. We are whole. Our house is a home and the walls shriek joy-filled screams (well, most of the time...). And so this space, this blessed space is also. It is complete and it is done.

As we grow, we do so in all parts of our life. We avoid stagnation when desiring such a path as this. And I chose growth. And change. Our five is the new norm and so while there will always be moments to share, this chapter of our lives must close and complete the book to be placed on the shelf. It just feels time. It feels right.

Truthfully, I started this place with the intention (among many) to one day print and bind it and place it on the shelf for our daughter to keep. A Life Book of sorts. The time is here. She can look back and see how we longed for our call, our first meeting, our life with her. And she will never doubt - through your comments and the monologue here, filling the space on the screen and soon to be pages in the book - how much she has always been wanted, needed, sought, intended for this family.

Never, will she doubt.

The saying, "It takes a village to raise a child" I believe it. More though, I believe that it takes a village to wait on a child. I believe it takes a village to remain the course, to stay focused, to risk what some days feels like every shred of emotion...It takes a village to wait on a child.

And our village has never let us down. And she is home.

So thank you.

For sharing in our life over nearly four years - less only a month - thank you.

Our story is not done. Our life will continually evolve. Our life together - adoption will always be an integral part. The journey continues. We will change. (And, we will embrace it.) We are wanting to be healthier and better and live longer and share more and grow. We want to grow. And so I am now sharing here...please come follow. I would be honoured. Truly.

While this new space won't be solely adoption focused, it will be family focused, growth focused, health, and food, and budget focused. Learning how to live better with less has always been a passion and so we will share some insight over here. And yes, photos of the wee one(s) will always prevail! Stories of our growing children, of adoption, of this multi-racial family...they will interweave with other stories, glimpses, tidbits I pick up and wish to share. Truly, this is just the beginning...we are merely at the starting line of Five. (I sometimes share here, specifically on adoption.)

Please join me...join us...share your thoughts and we can grow there.

Closing this book it's harder than I anticipated. But it's time.

New adventures await...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Alive And...Well...Well

We are in fact alive and well.

This time last week, not so much.

Two at the Dr, one feeling like she fell out of the stupid tree, hitting most branches on the way down, after said visit. Perhaps she drew the short straw. Regardless, going to proved an exercise both in a sense of futility but fortunately also as an exercise in prescription reception. (On the To Do List: find a new GP. The sweet, wonderful, ever kind children we all seek our best to raise do, from time to time offer enough free advise and reminder of "Mama you just don't know" that an added dose simply is not necessary from the Doc. Especially when said Mama was in fact correct and trained professional, well, not so much.)

We now feel better.

{monkeying around...}

For now, a few photos are all we've got. As we head into our week of Winter Break and Family Day (yay Alberta!), there will be more. For now, just some colour seizing a few of our moments over the past week.

{someone turned 5.
hard to believe he was a month younger than makeda is now, when we started our adoption journey.
very hard to believe.
and best not to ponder for too long.
instead, we continue to be thankful and rejoice.}

{we had the best Harari playdate last week. warmed my heart
...pure ethiopian joy in the form of much giggling, running around, and joyful playing!}

That project mentioned a few posts back is still in the works...nearly ready to share. Just needs a few tweaks and a bit more TLC. Last week the latter was given all to the babe. And the Mama.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Pair And A Sweater

Long before she came home...likely, (certainly?!) before our referral, I made a sweater and leg warmer set for Ms Makeda. And while it's still quite roomy, after looking at the dusting of snow which fell last night and the colour of her onesie which would match the vest perfectly, I thought: "why not?!". She look(s) so cozy in it and it makes this sick Mama feel maybe just a wee bit warm and fuzzy inside. It's soft and makes me want to grab (another) cup of tea and cozy on up.

And, after taking a few glam shots I looked at this one and thought "oh my, whose child is this?!". What kind of unkempt hair has come upon her?! In all my woe-is-me-I-feel-like-I-am-swallowing-nails moments this morning I obviously didn't realize it (the african baby hair) was as bad as it truly

So, we cuddled on the couch and as she rested her head on my chest I fiddled my fingers around a created another single non-row corn row.

Oh...yeah...and Curious George was on. Just for her. Specifically for that purpose - the one of getting her to sit still.


I have become that mother.

The one who bribes her child with television.

Well...she is the third. No two ways about it.

And I'm definitely ill. I have the Dr's appointment to prove it. (If you know me well, you'll know this definitely does prove it.) And the babe's sick too. And she's got an appointment to prove it too. Boo hoo.

I digress. Yes, I am the horrible mother of a 14 month old who turned on the TV simply to be able to non-row corn row her daughter's hair.

But then I looked at it and the single row thing just wasn't doing it for me. So, I doubled it. A pair. Two are better than one.

And it's sweet, no?!

And so that I could get a half decent shot, this time I bribed her with my cell.

Like I said, apparently I am that mother.

I've accepted it. Let's all move on.

Friday, February 3, 2012

For The Box

I was stumped the other night.

My intention for sushi (which transpired the following night) wasn't in the plans. Why? Oh, I didn't check first to see if I had sushi (or any other) vinegar. But, the pre-cooked wild salmon was out of the freezer and wanting to be used so I tried to get all creative and such. I'm on the hunt for new, easy, really healthy, cheap (of course) meals. And I hit the jackpot. This one's for the recipe box I'm sure of it. It got rave reviews by four out of five and I'd say in the world of feeding families with wee ones, those are darn good stats. Don't you agree?

This one was for homemade salmon burgers. I believe the recipe calls from fish from a can but as I mentioned, we had a bunch (!) leftover that had previously been frozen so I used it and oh, the flavour!

The recipe originates here.

My recipe was something like...two large handfuls of salmon (previously cooked), 1 egg, 1 slice of bread (you could easily use spelt/rice/etc bread), salt and pepper, dried oregano, fresh lemon (this added awesome kick and I didn't have any bottle lemon juice...), olive oil (2 tsp).

Soak bread in egg or make bread crumbs and soak them. Ensure the bread completely absorbs all liquid and mash it until smooth. Add salmon, about 3 tsp of salt and 2 tsp pepper, a small handful of oregano ( can't really overdo dried spices unless...well, you really overdo them...just don't dump the jar and you'll be fine), juice from 1 lemon or about 1 - 2 tbsp. Stir and mix with a fork. Form into patties. We have an old school tupperware burger/pattie maker and it was awesome. They looked, like, professional and stuff. Oh - I saw some mustard powder in the pantry and threw in a couple tsp of that...I just felt it would give the burgers some extra love. But, I can see dill being a fantastic addition!

Throw patties onto a medium heat pre-heated pre-oiled pan. Cook four minutes and flip. Cook another four minutes. There's no real concern with undercooking as the only thing you need to ensure isn't raw is the egg and it'll cook quickly.

I topped our burgers with some leftover french onion chip dip (from our New Years...yes, we really break out around here!), some mustard, feta, and fresh spinach. Yum.

On the note of inexpensive, healthy, creative, homemade meals and lifestyle...well, I'm working on something. It's taking a bit of time and some patience. Major patience. However, seeing as our adoption journey is over...well, the nauseating roller coaster thrill part of it, the season is changing and our focus needs to shift a little. So, give me time and please, a little patience. I'll continue in this space as I love it...for now. As with all things though, if we're not growing we become stagnant and bad things happen to things that are stagnant. And, I chose growth. I will continue to chronicle bits and pieces of our wee crazy life in beautiful, sunny, Alberta with two fantastic growing boys and one beautiful Ethiopian born baby girl...but the focus will shift.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

We Are.

Makeda's been sucking her thumb as per usual. Most days I don't mind. I know it's something she'll likely continue to do for some time and it's the one of the few things she brings with her from Ethiopia. It's part of what has made her, her. The necessity to self-sooth was developed, I suspect, very early on. And, while I sometimes glance over and think how sad it is that she still does this, I also know it's partially habit. Oh yeah, and she's a's what a lot of them do.

But today it just got on my nerves. There was a lot of spit and drooling (perhaps another tooth? it has been a couple days since the sixth cut through) and the noises were gross. And I was a bit short tempered. Tired. And a couple times I pulled it out, as I just couldn't handle the noise.

I digress.

This will be redundant for some...perhaps many.

A couple weeks ago when I traveled to the Island we made a quick detour on the way to our final destination. We stopped in at Choices so the incredible women who supported us throughout our journey could meet the little girl they helped bring home. It was a 'can't miss' situation.

While there, we talked briefly about the Hope non-bankruptcy, bankruptcy. A local BC agency closing it's doors after 25 years and having to close their doors on 180 families. Gut-wrenching. Perhaps, the silver lining (if there is any and if we can in fact give it that kind of status) is that this agency wasn't one who dealt with too many international countries. They weren't a facilitator of sorts, such as Imagine was or CAFAC. Doesn't make it any better. Tragically, some families using the services of Hope have already seen and had to live through the nightmare of the Imagine bankruptcy.

The only other agency in Canada who facilitates adoptions through well as many other countries.

CAFAC. Who has been known as a reputable agency for the last 17 years and who has helped create over 700 families, and who is currently working with such a sheer volume of families in all stages of the process that the thought of closing it's doors in two days sickens me. CAFAC...struck by the slowed pace of international adoptions and the financial implications thereof.

This is a tragedy of which nothing compares. And as thousands did on our behalf, it is now our turn to return what may seem like a measly favour but is, in reality huge.*

The Unknown: we've lived it.

Yet, the difference is this agency was, is, and continues to do all it can to keep itself afloat. Monies are all still in trust (novel huh?!). Staff were sadly, though pro-actively let go. Families received communication of problems.

I sent an email to a some family members and close friends tonight, sharing some of the details. It didn't cut too deep until I gave it some real thought. And, until I received an email reminding me of how blessed and lucky Makeda is.

But that's the thing.

It's us.

We are the ones who are blessed, changed, better, our family is complete because of her.

And I can't imagine not having her. I can't imagine being so close yet losing her. I can't imagine our family without her.

I can't imagine.

My heart breaks for those families who's futures are uncertain. Those families who tonight must live the horrific roller coaster on the cusp of the end. Those families who wonder, after waiting for three or more years if their family will ever be created or completed. Those families who just don't know.

International adoption. It's always been said that it's not for the faint of heart. But this is unjust. And in this situation it's at the fault of no one. Systems slowed and more paperwork required (I think of Ethiopia specifically) to protect the innocence of children. Bar none, this is at the crux of it all. The safety, well-being, health, care, protection (!) of orphans. And yet, because of this we now see Ethiopian adoptions taking 5-7 years...thousands of (more) dollars...and it still isn't enough for agencies to remain viable.

And, while families are left in the lurch and suffer emotionally, (financially), immensely, it's not the families who suffer ultimately is it.

It's the orphan. Each. Innocent. Child.

Tonight, as Makeda sucked her thumb through the teething slobber that was her mouth, I could do nothing but pick her up and hold her tight.

We are so very blessed. I won't ever take it...take her...for granted.


*PLEASE, do at least one of these things tomorrow.

#1 Call a reporter in Manitoba and tell them why it's a tragedy if CAFAC goes
under/ceases operations.

#2 Call Minister Jennifer Howard's offices 204-945-4173 (ministry) 204-946-0272
(constituency) to voice your support for CAFAC and to encourage the ministry to
allow for interim funidng and fee increases.

#3 if you can't call, email your concerns to the minister:

Mini Hair

A braid.

A single cornrow-like braid. Except you can't call it a cornrow when there's nothing on either side, right? I still think it's sweet. I've always loved french braiding and while I realize the upcoming years will present many dozens of opportunities for the learning curve to take a significant swoop upward, this was a good place to start. It also negates the occasional "clip war" as I so kindly phrase the battle between Mama and babe, at the end of a long day when all she (the babe that is) wants to rip out her clip.

The true triumph in this little hair style is the fact that she sat still long enough for my fingers to work through.

A little bonus to boot? It's been in for 48 hours (two naps and two log nights' sleeps) and is still holding strong.

It's a start.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Friends With Texts

In September we moved from a town of 2,500 people to a city of 42,000. I know, right. We went from a place that had no stop lights to one in which I have to drive through two sets to take kids to school. The former was twelve (plus) minutes away the latter is about three or four...if I get stopped by both lights.

This time last year we lived a simple life. Right now it's...busier. It's busier because of said decision/relocation. It's busier because of our kids' ages (and honestly the number of kids we now have). It's busier because we've made it such, through many conscious and unconscious decisions. And it's fantastic. And we work hard and intentionally, to maintain that which we sought when living rural...homemade, from scratch, the importance of basics and necessities and having what we need not what we want. (That last one can be a toughy when living among the masses who have Apple this or that and other name brand items in abundance.)

This time last year I didn't have a cell. Didn't own one. Didn't have any desire (much the opposite, if we're being honest) to have one. The additional cost in my mind wasn't worth it. We didn't go too far from home, ever. After a gross couple months of winter, we took the plunge (ah hem, if we are still being honest, I was finally convinced) and bought a pretty cheap (!) but great plan that didn't put us in the hole or anywhere near the realm of the hole. Free phone, $15/month with a bunch of call minutes and a more than sufficient texting limit.

And it was handy.

And part of the motivation was the hope that a referral call could be received through it.

And it was. You remember, right?! The phone pretty much paid for itself that day.

Not pretty much.

Had I dropped it, stepped on it, and had it become irreplaceable - that day alone it paid for itself.

I digress.

We moved. To the city. And everyone here and their dog (well, pretty much) has one.

And because of that, I've made a lot of friends through texting communication. More than email - that one surprises me. And, most definitely more than through our home phone...we could be in the minority of the population here who still has one. A landline...I wonder if our kids will actually know what that is as they grow up.

Sometimes I wonder, would I have so many whom I call 'friend' here, if I didn't have this little Koodo deal? (Yeah that's right. Koodo. I said it was handy, not fancy.)

Is that superficial to wonder, or is it naive or ?? Am I more content and socially involved because of this silly little thing I often leave at home or forget to turn on? I wonder some days. I wonder, as I sit here having just texted three friends, a husband, and a mother with questions, comments or dialogue in anticipation of the week to come. Are we too reliant and less communicative? Or, on the flip side are we more communicative but perhaps the thoughts and conversation is less personal or in depth. Have we made ourselves so busy that there is simply no alternative.

Or, should I just be grateful?! Should I be thankful that this is one of the means through which we have settled so quickly. The friends I've made: they aren't superficial.

And they all (almost) have cells.

I don't know the answer. But I often wonder.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Makeda met her best friend this past weekend. They were lovely together.

They clicked and their unique personalities were so complementary.

It was simply lovely to return to a place full of friends who had hoped, wished, waited, and fervently prayed for Makeda's arrival over the past several years...even if it did pour the entire weekend and a tree nearly stopped us from returning home.

We were blessed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mama, Please Make Them Reeeeeally Chewy

Around here we (ah hem, apparently) like our granola bars chewy. I say ah hem...and apparently, because how we like 'em can change as quickly as the days of the week. Whatever. Right now we like 'em chewy and so that's what we did. And that's what we ate. And that was a success. Oh, and we like 'em healthy. So we did that too.

Proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks is in the recipe below.

I know this because they ate 'em up. All of them. Actually, all of us. All five (!!!) of us. We all ate 'em, liked 'em, and I think I'll make more tomorrow.

Before I share this recipe - which, may I add is nut free (score for those whose children attend nut free schools and for those of us with wee ones who are getting used to finger food and whom we don't want to choke on chunks of nuts) - I have to say I am appalled at how many unhealthy granola bar recipes come up when I google "healthy chewy granola bar recipe".



Does that make sense? It seemed to me that over 3/4 of these so called "healthy" recipes included chocolate chips, corn syrup (they know that just because it has the word corn that doesn't make it healthy right?), brown sugar, etc. Ridiculous, people. Perhaps the word "chewy" somehow outweighed it's precursor?! One of life's mysteries, I guess.

I digress.

This recipe for actually (!) healthy (!!) and chewy granola bars was originally found here. I'm going to re-write it for your viewing pleasure and edit the parts we, well, edited while throwing things in the mixing bowl. It was a good recipe though. I'm just too controlling not to change some part of it. (Insert smile, here.)

Actually Healthy and Chewy Granola Bars

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup spelt flour
1 cup left over cereal bits (we used kashi)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup flax meal
1/4 cup (slightly less) oil (we used olive but I think I'll use coconut tomorrow)
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp blackstrap molasses (this stuff rocks in the Iron department!)
1 cup sugar free applesauce (...we added a bit more for a little extra...well...chewiness!)

Preheat over to 350. Toast oats for 5 minute in a dry skillet. In a large bowl, combine...everything. I like to do it all at once because it saves extra dishes and I'm kind of kamikaze in the kitchen like that. Just ask my mother. If you need more moisture just add more of the applesauce. Either line a 9x13" pan with parchment paper or tin foil, or give it a little spray with EVOO. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until slightly browned.

Oh, we added raisins to ours. And coconut. Unsweetened of course. Why, you ask? Why not?! I think sesame seeds would give an awesome crunch...and I'd add them tomorrow but it's supposed to be something like -25 C outside and I just don't want to get out of the car to whip into the grocery store that badly. You know?!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


The phone rang this morning at 6:43am.

I hate early morning calls.

It almost always means someone is critically ill, injured, or dead.

Sorry for scepticism but it's true.

(Plus, I went to bed late and really wanted those extra few minutes of sleep. But mostly because of the dark thoughts above.)

Turns out, however, when the weather hits a temperature feeling like MINUS 45 (with the wind factor), school around these parts gets cancelled.

Okay, Debbie Downer maybe give the day a chance next time eh?!

On a slightly separate note, in past years (being the practical people that we are) Ben and I have always given each other very useful Christmas gifts. We've done super fun things such as winter tires, a new built in Central Vac (canister), and a wood burning stove. Each year said items have come in fantastically handy. Fantastically.

This year we thought (and purchased) along the same lines for the boys. We figured that seeing as we now live in (what we anticipated to be) such a cold winter climate, we would gift them with something fun yet something to give them a little energy outlet. We got them a (sports package only, as far as they currently know) Wii.


(I can't believe I just said booya.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Eat. Cheap. Well. On A Budget.

I grew up being taught the importance of budgeting. I never remember a time when there was frivolous spending. That said, I also don't recall having felt restrained by the comment "oh, that's not in the budget"...well, perhaps when I wanted an article of clothing as a teen that was completely absurd. My parents always spent just what was necessary and taught us to do likewise.

So, here we are now a single income family (we can count Parental Leave if you'd like as it is definitely factored in the budget, but it will run out and seeing as we don't live in the same province as we did when it started, there is no job awaiting my return). We've always lived so that I don't have to work (though I always have up until this point) but the additional income is good and definitely helpful.

And now we are five: using more power, kids in school (we pay tuition - not sky high fees but definitely not public school rates - and can I just say that pre-school in Alberta will rob you blind), sports activities, and well, we eat more. Boys eat a lot, people. And five people eat more than four. I know, intelligent statement of the year right there.

While we cannot manipulate certain aspects of the budget such as the mortgage, schooling (the school/education route we have chosen for our children is very important to us), insurance and gas, monthly savings and investments etc, there are certain areas we can shave and we do have choices as to how we will do just that. Our kids are currently each in one sport which will possibly overlap into two, for a short period of time in the spring. But that's one way we can save a little. We do lots of free, family (or after school) activity without spending money. We spend a lot of time outside, on bikes and at the park. We have our own soccer ball, hockey sticks, ice skates, legs (yes! we use them a lot) get the point. While it may not all be on organized teams, as long as the kids are getting out and working out the energy - and socializing and skill building - we're happy with that.

Another area we manage is food. We have a date night budget which is used from time to time when we (the Mama and Daddy) eat out, go for coffee together, rent a movie, etc. We try to keep this just for the two of us and it isn't huge. However, if one month we go for supper as a family we may dip into this as eating out obviously cuts way into the grocery budget. Obviously.

Speaking of the groceries. I've had many conversations this past week with friends and acquaintances about the grocery budget. It would seem - based on other families of either 4, 5, or 6 members - our monthly food spending is often half of that of other families. Whoa. That's stopped me in my tracks several times. The looks I's actually kind of funny. I think though, it's such a simple area to cut back and save. And so, if you're struggling to spend less or wondering how on earth you spent that much this month, I'll give you some of the rules and tricks we try to live by from month to month. Little bits each month could make a huge difference on the year...especially in a growing family (currently or anticipated!). Because while EI (parental/maternity) is helpful, it certainly doesn't replace the salary.

Keep in mind my frugal, well planned, food budget spending is genetic. It's a personality trait long worked on. Ha ha. That said, we do eat well and there's always plenty to go around and these boys (and actually the wee girl) eat a lot. Some days I truly believe in the hollow leg concept.

Some of our food budgeting strategies...

We do a lot of our shopping at Superstore and some at Costco. I try to purchase items in large quantities (or bulk) when possible. That doesn't mean I'll buy the most dirt cheap item or 'no name' brand simply because the dollar amounts the lowest (quality is very and definitely more important!) but if the cost per gram is less on the no name oats or the bulk oats over Quaker then yes, I will buy the no name. On that note, items in the bulk section are often more costly than if you were to purchase the large "family" pack size in the aisle. True story. This happens more often than not and I'm always surprised when it does.

I always have a list. I stick to my list.

We eat a lot of fresh produce. (You can get lots of it, often organic, and for a great price frequently at Costco...try to buy seasonal, too - that will always stretch a buck.)

I don't buy pre-packaged. Period. We don't buy juice boxes, mini chip bags or granola bars (that falls under the unhealthy category anyway and you know my feelings on that), or other pre-packaged items. We don't have crackers (such as Wheat Thins, Triscuits, Ritz, etc) around here. Those, along with so many other pre-packaged items are not only costly per box but they are also not really all that great for you. We do buy rice crackers from time to time. Often from Costco.

We don't have juice at all. We drink water and milk and...ah hem, and an adult beverage from time to time...that adult beverage will often come out of our Date budget line.

We minimize the condiments. Not because of wanting to pinch a penny but you get used to things based on past habits, right? Our boys have had ketchup once in their lives. Yep. One of us doesn't like it and the other could care less so we don't buy it. We use mustard as a main condiment (when necessary) and it's dirt cheap. We don't use jam. We don't need it. It's expensive-ish, has sugar, and we substitute berries (picked for free locally) or bananas in our sandwiches. We only use honey in baking as one of our substitutes for sugar (the other being apple sauce...home made and unsweetened). We don't buy dips and and have dressings for salad only. That said, there's a smokin' awesome recipe below for hummus which is a fantastic dip.

We eat a lot of nuts. Almonds and Walnuts mainly. Whole. Skin on. Not salted. The omega factor alone is enough to make you nearly want to live on them. And, while a large bag isn't cheap they last forever and are so good for little (and hopefully bigger not-so-much) growing bodies.

We buy our shampoo and other toiletries in big boxes. (We do like our certain brands though.) If an item is on sale for a discounted price if you purchase multiples, and especially if it's something we can freeze or that won't go bad, then we will purchase multiples. I make all baby food from scratch and it's fantastic how far a butternut squash really will go.

Snacks include nuts, raisins, home made granola bars, muffins (I fill them with all sorts of filling ingredients such as oats, flax, raisins, coconut, whole and spelt flours), loaves, cheese, pretzels (these, I consider one of the more 'junk food' options we purchase but it's a filler and we do buy them in bulk often and the kids think they're a treat).

We do eat meat. Often. So don't go thinking we're livin' on a dime and eatin' veggie.

I make hummus. It costs about $1.25 - $1.50 for me to make about 2 1/2 - 3 cups worth. It costs double, if not triple that at Superstore for not as much in quantity. Hummus is such a versatile, healthy (!) snack or addition to a snack and we love it around here. I'm rather kamikaze in the kitchen (what?! I know, right). So, to make this uber complicated dip try to follow along...

Grab blender. Into said blender pour: 1 can of chickpeas (or 1 can of white kidney beans...they are a new fave) with all but 2 tbsp of it's liquid. You can just get rid of remaining liquid. Add 3 pinches of salt, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/2 clove of grated garlic, 1/4 cup tahini (sesame) paste, 1/8 cup oil. Blend. Taste. Enjoy. We like ours with veggies, taco chips, or rice crackers. Makeda often enjoys it mixed with sweet potatoes and Balkan yogurt.

Speaking of treats, we buy popcorn (the actual kernel to pop on the stove - again, this concept is derived from both the pre-packaged no-no and the health factor) for movie night treats. Taco chips for our layered dip supper nights. And, from time to time (seldom) a bag of potato chips - those won't really set you back though, will they. I make cookies for the Daddy who, from time to time will indulge. We never buy them. All these items are very inexpensive. We don't buy cookies, cakes, muffins, donuts, others "baked" or ready-to-make treats. I'm pretty sure they are mainly edible oil products aren't they?

We buy whole grain any and every thing. It fills everyone up more quickly and for longer.

If I know I'm going to make muffins or a loaf with them, I will always look for overripe bananas which are always priced 50% off. Why not?! They're just getting mashed up anyway. Tricks like this can save a bundle - and they add flavour to the baking.

We use coupons from time to time but more so, look over flyers at the start (or end) of a week. I won't run all over town for a single item from one store and another from another store (that would kill the gas budget) but I'll try to plan it into my week.

So there you have it. Perhaps it all makes sense and seems obvious. Perhaps there are a few tricks and tips in there to help you shave a buck or two this month. I hope so. Do you have any tricks up your sleeve? We don't live near the US border so crossing over for gas, cheese, or milk isn't optional. Coupons in Canada don't look anything like coupons in the US...though from time to time we do definitely cash in on those.

I don't menu plan because, while I'm crazy ornery for some reason this carries zero appeal to me. We do have a pretty good meal rotation/repetoire which I draw from so when making that grocery list I mentally figure a couple of our go-to's into that.

And, I make it a bit of a game with myself little can I spend?! How much can I save?! How well can we eat while putting some aside to add to the food budget for the following month?!

It's actually rewarding.

Who doesn't like a challenge right?!

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Name

We shared, upon receiving our referral (actually, upon passing court) that our desire was to keep Makeda's birth name as her middle name and to give her a new first name. That had always been our wish and plan and momentarily - just prior to opening our referral and seeing her photo - we brushed over the fact that if she did not at all look like a "Makeda" we would change our decision. We'd never given any thought to whether our boys would "look" like a "Noah" or a "Tait", prior to (or just after) their births but for this time was different.

And, I always thought that after we transitioned from "Mihret" to "Makeda Mihret" to simply "Makeda", that would be it. She would simply be "Makeda"...plain and simple.

But it's not.

And she responds to all three of the above names.

And I love that.

And what I love more is when I hear one four year old boy call her by either of the two former (above) names or combination thereof, and she turns and smiles at him. It rolls off his's second nature. "It's her name, Mama. It [Mihret] is her real name too." It's as if on some level he knows the deep, sacred importance of maintaining her birth name. It's as though he wants her never to forget. Neither does he want us to forget. As with their bond, it is of utmost importance to him. Because he knows it is of utmost importance to her. Somehow - purely, simply, intricately, he knows. And, it is soft and sweet and gentle when he says it.

It carries innocence.

And while we may fail at times, to maintain and honour as much of her culture and heritage and identity as we should (not for lack of effort), this is perhaps one of the simple yet deeply pervading ways in which we can.

We can honour her birth mother through maintaining use of her birth name. Not in replacement of her given first name but rather in conjunction. Just as her two worlds meet and she will always hold a part of both, so too will her names reflect this phenomena.

I love that Mihret turns when she's called. Either way. With the use of either name she responds.

I hope, I truly yearn, to honour her birth mother's greatest sacrifice if only in this small way...every. single. day.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Objectively Updating

I realized recently while I'm sharing lots of what is taking place in this crazy journey of ours, I've neglected to post some "real" updates. You know, the kind you notice weekly (sometimes daily) regarding growth and change and all that fun kind of stuff. So, here we go. In point form so you don't lose interest and in hopes of my long-windedness not getting...well...just that.
  • When I picked her up in Ethiopia, Makeda's wee body weighed a whopping 8.2 kg and her legs curled under her as do those of a newly born babe. She had gained a mere 1.2 kg in a six month period (whilst in orphanages) and she maintained that for another month and a bit once home with us. Now, weighing much closer to 10kg, she not only mastered crawling Christmas Day, (prior to that for nearly a month it was the army crawl), she is making her way along furniture quite quickly and proving that when I tell her brother's to move their stuff, I am saying it not for nagging purposes.
  • She wore 3 - 6 month clothing and some of that was big. Her feet drowned in 6 month socks. She now boasts 12 - 18 month attire always and those 6 month sock are about to be consigned.
  • While she arrived home on Sept 24, Makeda didn't gain weight until sometime late November. I know this because at her specialist appt in late October she hadn't gained a single ounce. We also know the culprit of such weight maintenance (and not gain): Giardia. It's nasty. I can tell you this first hand because, well apparently we like to share in this house and Makeda shared nicely with me. She also came home with another rather serious "disease" which is now gone and for that we are thankful. If I could offer up a single piece of really good advise: immunize your family. That statement includes those who aren't traveling to Ethiopia but who will be in frequent, loving contact with your child. I don't feel I need to disclose what exactly she had but fortunately, we are happy to report she is completely happy and healthy - as are we.
  • She didn't have a single tooth when I brought her home at a day short of ten months. After her first tooth popped about ten weeks ago, she's cut another four. There's never been any complaints from her. Ever. Well, except for the diaper. Apparently she complains out the other end and while I would take this any day over sleepless nights and napless days, the cloth diapers (and wipes too!) can get rather rank. Not complaining'...just sayin'.
  • Makeda now signs..."all done", "more", "please" are all part of her repertoire of hand signs. They are the basics and we feel that with so much to teach, learn, and experience not only in the first year (plus) of life but also with so many other stimuli being thrown her way, these really are the only ones she needs to learn for now. She does, however, also love to blow kisses and wave hello/good-bye. She has acquired a few syllables used for specific people/puppy.
  • The girl has attitude. Not always but when she's seriously opposed to something and perhaps just a bit overtired she shares her pre-adolescent, perhaps genetic, most definitely female-estrogen induced attitude. Make no mistake.
  • There is no longer any food she will not eat. For awhile eggs seemed out of the question but once she turned one and we could feed her scrabbled eggs including both the yolk and the white, she proved to us that tastebuds do change and she was more than happy to chomp away.
  • Speaking of eating, she does that a lot. I often overlook the fact that she has a healthy appetite for a one year old. Currently favourites include sweet potatoes/butternut squash, hummus (homemade from either chickpeas or white kidney beans), plain (balkan!), whole yogurt, to name a few. Her favourite snacks could include homemade granola bars (recipe to follow very shortly) and bananas. She prefers savoury over sweet and this doesn't surprise us as the Ethiopian diet is definitely more of a spicy, flavour-filled one. She likely ingested such flavours in utero.
  • She's not had any illnesses other than the two she came home with in September. Healthy kid.
  • Though some days I forget and cannot believe she is one, she's proving daily that she truly does know exactly what is going on everywhere. This can now be understood when something is being taken away from her and she screams and cries in protest. Oh, that sad sad cry.
  • Jealousy. Truthfully, we have been so blessed. The only jealousy seen from her brothers is between the two of them when they are both vying for her attention. She was so long awaited that her brother's don't show an ounce of jealousy. We are so grateful. They are helpful and eager to play with her (most of the time...they are human after all) and help make her smile. They love to praise her when she reaches new milestones and do what they can when they are asked. It's incredible.
  • And, while my intention isn't to make it sound like everything is perfect (we are human after all), this journey - Makeda's coming home and integrating into our family - has been more seamless than we could ever have hoped or prayed for. Often it is as if she has always been here. And so, when she is reminding me at the top of her lungs, that she no longer wishes to be in the car, I have to in turn remind myself what a gift it is to listen to that scream...even if some days it takes everything in me not to return the favour at a pitch only dogs can hear.

All this in only three and a half months home.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Snapshot Saturday

I'm exhausted. Such a great day...couple of days...week - it's been a fantastic week. But the days have been packed and the evenings likewise and I want to get some stuff down here, in this space, except my brain won't work coherently. We found a fantastic (soft, chewy) granola bar recipe I want to share very soon. Excellent for wee helping hands, (near) toothless mouths, and even the biggest of kids love them. But not now. I'd likely leave something pivotal out.

So for

Overwhelming beauty. Mercy abounding.


She brings just that to our family.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Here We Go...Here We Are


So far it's been good to us.

Scratch that.

So far, it's been nothing but great to us.

How could we not be thankful, grateful, rejoicing, feeling most blessed.

I've been thinking over the past few days, how odd it is that with one turn on the hand of a clock we feel this fresh slate...a new outlook, opportunities perhaps felt or at least perceived in abundance, energy renewed by the advance of a single second, minute, day, year. It's just odd.

How was last Saturday to Sunday any different from the ones before, or the one before that even?

It is though isn't it? Different. New. Exciting.

I'm excited. Not for any reason in particular. The year ahead is promising. Some plans already made bring even more anticipated joy. One small six year old did indeed verbalize his love for this place. Our home. He echoed his Mama's thoughts, as the sun shone on our way to school.

And, as for the goals? The ones that aren't New Year's Resolutions because apparently I don't like those three are they going?

Well, day four and they are great - thanks for asking.

Running: check. Dressing More Care-Fully: well, our last two days of holidays didn't count right? Since the start of school and work, ah hem (that would mean) yesterday, I can say there has been success in the wardrobe department! Doing Something For Makeda's First And Second Families...For Her Orphanage: they have received hard copies (hand delivered!) in abundance. And, in return I have received a photo of their faces (oh the joy) while they looked through them all. They've seen their of their children. They know she is doing well. They know she is thriving. More importantly, they know she is happy and oh, so loved. I hesitate to share said photo. Perhaps another day. It's part of Makeda's story and I'm not sure it's mine to share. Facebook: HA! I laugh in the face of Facebook (and yes, that's another tick on the "it's going great" list). Saying Yes: hmmm, let's just say there's been lots of Take The Cake and Chutes And Ladders going on around here. A few additional deep breaths have been taken and a little less Raised Voice to report. Sugar: well, I never claimed perfection and as soon as all that freaking Christmas goodness is gone, serious strides will be made. Mark my words.

A sweet, sweet friend (and uber talented girl to boot!) came to visit and if you live in the Thunder Bay area or somewhere thereabouts, can I please put in the most fantastic word on behalf of Ilo Photo. What a talented, gracious couple...with four young kids! We were blessed to have (most of) them visit, and enjoy a crazy fast photo shoot. (Like I said, they have four young kids so she knows how to snap quick and quality!) We weren't all able to be there as it was during a work day and so we had a local company take family shots over the break. More of Ilo's work and our other photographer to come...but for now...enjoy this sweet little "oh no! don't let her fall!!!!" shot that makes me smile each time I look it over...

Yes, 2012 has indeed been gracious already.

And we welcome it with open arms and joyful hearts.