Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Back to a Routine

The summer is rapidly approaching it's end (although the extremely hot weather seems like it plans to go on quite a while longer), and because of the adoption this year, summer has seemed like the lost season. Where did the time go, exactly? And why are there still all these jobs and tasks around the house still to do?

I spent a lot of my career avoiding routine. I used to revel in the variations I would experience each day in my work routine -- problem solving, a new project, an interview, travel, etc. It made the day interesting and exciting.

Now, however, I'm looking forward to establishing a new routine. One where I feel like I'm actually making progress against the never ending tide of mechanical and electrical deterioration of the house, and the longer term writing goals I've set (admittedly self-imposed). One which accommodates my family's needs and my own.

It seems a strange turn of events, this routine savoring...

Friday, July 15, 2011

What happened to work?

Prior to the adoption trip, I'd been fervently pursuing my writing career. But since returning, I've been... well... slacking?

At least it seems that way. Today, while Paula was running around on errands in Omaha, I was watching an episode of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy with the kids, feeding them lunch, and afterward swimming for hours in the lake.

If you'd asked me two years ago if I could ever imagine myself spending a goodly portion of my time playing with little kids, and ignoring the my career (regardless of how it had morphed), I would have thought the idea was just crazy.

And yet, I'm having trouble getting back into my writing, which I generally love -- although, I'm in editing mode right now, which isn't my favorite activity.

I guess the lesson to be learned is -- never say never.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ethiopian cooking

I tried my hand for the first time at honest-to-goodness Injera (for the uninitiated, it's the pancake-like bread Ethiopians use to eat their food). I'd heard it was a bit tricky to make, but went at it with supreme confidence.

The Injera is a fermented bread with a taste somewhat like sourdough. Last week, I kicked off the process with a sourdough starter (which made decent sourdough bread, by the way). On Friday, I took a cup of the starter and mixed it with water and flour to get my Injera batter rolling. Yes, I know Ethiopians use Tef (a different kind of flour), but I didn't have any handy.

Today, the mix smelled perfect. While we were in Ethiopia, I watched one of the guest house cooks making the bread, and figured I had it down.

It smelled right, but seemed a bit runny. I didn't want to run out of time if the mixture was off somehow, so I tried cooking one.

Disaster. It was a gelatinized blob. I couldn't even get myself to taste it, the mixture looked so disgusting.

So I tried adding some flour -- you know, to thicken it up a bit.

Another slightly less disgusting disaster. The batter next went down the drain.

Of course, I had a back-up plan of sorts. There is a pseudo-Injera detailed in an old cookbook (Jeff Smith -- Our Immigrant Ancestors) that I've successfully made before. In a rush I mixed up a batch of that batter.

It also didn't work. This time I figured out why, however. It seems bread flour is a poor substitute for self-rising flour. Oops.

On the fourth try I did finally manage to make the back-up pseudo-injera. It went fine with the spicy beef stew and Chick Pea stew I made, and a tasty dinner was had by all.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Expecting the Worst, Hoping for the Best

It is no secret that the twins have been a bit difficult. Heck, after a full two years in our family, we have still been having nearly nightly battles with them over going to bed.

So it shouldn't be surprising that I had some trepidation over adding another child into the mix. I envisioned Paula making multiple meals every night to satisfy their finicky tastes, a higher level of bickering and conflict among three kids, and the nightly bed war extending from one hour to two or more. I'd steeled myself to the greater demands and time commitment. Essentially, I'd been expecting the worst.

But the worst case scenario hasn't played out -- far from it, in fact. Thomas has been mild mannered, happy most of the time, and generally accepting of his place in the family. We thought we'd glimpsed those characteristics when we'd first met him back in March, but it's hard to feel confident in such a judgment based on a few hours together in a manufactured encounter. Now, after ten days together, the early impression appears to be holding.

What has really surprised me, however, is the way his presence has impacted the twins. Their bickering with each other is down by at least fifty percent, and they appear to be taking great pride in showing Thomas how to be good -- including cooperating during the recently altered bedtime ritual. While I'm not optimistic enough to believe all these changes will stick one hundred percent, I'm definitely excited about the direction.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Whoa, I'd forgotten how crazy it gets...

After a year of filling out documents, making plans, and waiting, our adopted son, Feyissa Thomas, is home. We crossed the threshold of our doorstep last night after about thirty hours of combined traveling (and about five hours sleep out of the last forty).

So bright and early at 7:30 this morning he came tromping downstairs from his room with Sarah, and things have been in a mild to major state of chaos since.

When Candace and Sarah first came home, they roamed the house flipping switches, pressing buttons and going through every closet, drawer and cubby they could get to. And since they were five, there were a lot of places they could reach -- either normally, or by climbing or hauling a chair to the needed spot. We used to describe the situation as "toddlers on crack", but a better description might be "first graders without boundaries".

Feyissa Thomas is all they were and more -- he is very nimble and dexterous, and completely lacks any understanding of what he is, and is not, allowed to do. Just a few minutes ago, for instance, I saw him attempting to wrench the door to the under-stairs storage room open, despite it being held fast by a flip-lock. Undoubtedly, we'll next find our video camera disassembled, or the contents of the refrigerator out on the front porch. The only solution seems to be to follow him around, saying "no" a thousand times a day.

I seem to recall it took about two months to teach the twins the basic rules (not that they don't elect to ignore them regularly, but at least they know). Sounds like it may be a tiring remainder of the summer.