Winter’s been a little hard for D. In the beginning of
December it was warm enough some days that we could still go to the nearby
state park and to the wildlife refuge to ride bikes. But the last couple of
weeks have been cold, and of course the days have been very short. A goes off
to school in the morning and in the afternoon he has his homework, and that
keeps him in his routine, but D doesn’t have that. We have playdates and
library storytime and swimming, we take the dog on long walks, we snuggle together to read, we do literacy and math lessons, and we make holiday crafts, but it’s not quite enough. I hadn’t realized before just how
much bike riding calms D. On cold days, without his bike he is wired. Talking constantly, literally not stopping unless he
is asleep. He talks when he’s playing, eating, in the bathroom, everywhere. And
he’s always talking to me,
always. His favorite topic is When I’m big and he tells me over and over about the cargo truck and the fire
engine he will drive and how big they will be and what street they will be on
and how many things they will carry and what he’ll eat for breakfast before he
goes out to drive them and how the food will go down his esophagus and his
stomach will mush it and how strong he will be and how strong his trucks will
be and how many wheels they will have and how many people will be needed to drive them. Increasingly, it is less complete thoughts and more
single words shouted over and over: Ma, ma, ma, protein, ma, protein, protein,
protein - yes, sweetie, eggs have protein - ma, protein, protein, ma, protein –
yes, protein makes your muscles strong – ma, protein. protein! proooo-teeeeeen!
ma, protein, protein, protein, ma, protein, protein – OKAY!!! PROTEIN!!! - or sometimes it's just wordless yelling. The little guy
just needs Christmas to be over, for one, and then after Christmas we will
start looking at preschools for maybe two days a week. He’s not ready for
full-time, more than ever he either clings to me or orients too much to other
caregivers, but he needs the structure on the days that he doesn’t have a
planned activity, and frankly, I need a break.
When one is down, the other is up. At the beginning of the winter, while D was still fairly calm, A went through a rough patch, when he was yelling at me and ordering us around a lot. Now things are much better. A has really enjoyed the holiday preparations. He's excited for Christmas but not losing his mind like D is. Last night we went caroling with a big neighborhood group (I love this neighborhood!) and A had the best time, running to ring doorbells, excited to sing the songs I had taught him at home, and picking up the words to new songs on the fly. A has such drive to learn, to be part of the group, to fully live in this new world of his.
Finally, this past week the boys had an impressive achievement. I left them at their friends' house to run what I thought would be a quick errand and ended up being away for three hours. I was so late we completely missed A's swimming lesson. When I returned, they moaned for a bit, I validated their feelings, A and I came up with a plan to make up for the missed lesson, and then... that's it. They were fine. What a long way we have come.
We go to the Ethiopian church once every two or three weeks. The last few visits have been wonderful. Have I mentioned that religion is never, ever spoken of outside of the sermon? Here's what we've been getting out of it: Beautiful music, friendly people, delicious food, Ethiopian-American children modeling how to straddle two cultures, and a growing reconnection to Ethiopia. The boys barely complain anymore about going. Today I took A back to the "bible study" room for first time, and guess what?!?! There was no bible study!!! It was an Amharic lesson!!! This church is awesome!!! And while A was in the back having the importance of preserving his language skills totally validated, D was with T stuffing his face with vegan fasting food (in a memorial service and I'm sorry for someone's loss and thank you to that someone for the food). Then we met a woman who lives near our house, a new potential friend... and it was just fun. Feeling grateful for the Ethiopian church.
An aside: I've realized I have a double standard when it comes to Ethiopians and everyone else. Ethiopians can ask, "What happened to their family?" and I have no problem with it and answer honestly, but if anyone else asks it feels intrusive and creepy. It's all about what's appropriate in the speaker's culture.