It really is amazing how quickly the kids are learning English, and the rest of us are trying to pick up some Amharic. Fasika's face lights up when she hears Audriana call the car a "Mah-kee-na" or when Mariya says, "In-kah-lef" (when it is time to go to bed).
By now, most of our routines are well-established, and our schedules are very structured, which I know has been a huge help. Bed-time is the one that we mastered first (if you can believe it)!
We are really getting to know each other's personalities, which is exciting. It is funny to me with 6 kids you would think there would be some over-lapping in personality, but they are each so very different.
Fasika is a dedicated student. She is extremely academically driven wanting desperately to learn to read and write and doing additional school work by her choice! She already has about 20 sight words memorized, knows all the sounds of the alphabet now, and is sounding out words already!
People ask me frequently, "How is the language barrier? How difficult is it to communicate?" And, I was extremely concerned about this at first, but we are working it out. Fasika and Markos are picking up English at a rapid rate; plus, Fasika is really good at charades to tell stories using words that she does know in English. It is quite entertaining, and she is teaching me Amharic. She gets so excited when I use a word that she taught me, and she even compliments my pronunciation (though I am pretty sure I am butchering it). She is a very sweet child!
We also have a friend, Tegegn, that has been a huge help with translation of topics, questions, and answers of things that are not really things that can be acted out. He has helped us so much with that, with clarifying cultural differences, and explaining things for us. We owe him so much for helping with the transition. Fasika even got a chance to meet him when she traveled down to Beaufort, SC to meet her Aunt Erica, Uncle Travis, and cousins (that is where Tegegn lives). Prior to that, she had only talked with him on the phone.
Markos doesn't seem to be bothered with the language difference. He has already mastered all the words to express what he wants or doesn't want which covers basic necessities...sleep, water, food, hugs, kisses (yes...those are all necessities) :) Sometimes he sings songs in Amharic and talks on the play phone in Amharic, but mostly he is using his English he learned. He has completely mastered his manners; he always says "yes, please" and "no thank you." It is really sweet!
We haven't started schooling Markos yet, but we have talked about colors, shapes, letters, numbers,...etc. He will start kindergarten next year. The older children have been giving some little lessons during school time to their younger brother and sisters helping them work on their colors and letters and such. It is cute to watch (and it reinforces what Fasika has already learned).
Bryce and Blake have been a very big help with everything at the house. They have had to do more independent schooling and have bumped up their chore list too. Bryce especially has been given a great deal of responsibility, and has really stepped up to the challenge. He takes the kids to the bathroom, washes their hands, buckles them in car seats,..etc. I honestly don't know what I would do without all of his help!
The older three children do the dishes, dry them, and put them away (along with setting and clearing the table). Plus, all three of the older ones, have to do their own laundry. It didn't take long for me to realize there was NO WAY I could keep up with everything with out their help. Fasika actually seems to enjoy the chores. She takes such pride in her cleaning. Her room is always spotless with bed made, and all toys and clothes put away. Saturday mornings have become our cleaning day with a list of additional chores that they all need to complete, and they have all been pitching in and doing their share without complaining.
After about two weeks home, Dustin took the older three to Raleigh, and Fasika got to swim in a pool for the first time. He also surprised her by taking her to the Ethiopian restaurant there!
Fasika has learned to ride her new bike (courtesy of Erica..thank you) in only a couple days, by herself (she didn't want any help doing it). She loves to ride around the block with her brothers! Markos hasn't figured it out yet, but my friend Suzette was nice enough to give us a bike his size with training wheels, so I don't think it will be too long until he gets it.
Markos is a very smiley and happy child. He LOVES to laugh. He loves big hugs and kisses too, he is very affectionate. He always asked to be picked up and hugged. One challenge is that he laughs at everything (even if he is getting in trouble) :) One thing he does that makes me kind of sad is that if any of the other kids are in trouble he immediately starts saying, "I love you Mom, I love you Mom" over and over. It's like he doesn't want to get in trouble (even though he isn't the one that is in trouble). It kind of breaks my heart.
His birthday was April 3rd, when he turned 5 years old. He loved the new shoes he got for his birthday, and was dancing around the store singing loudly "Kon-jit, Kon-jit." (Which means he likes them). Everyone was looking at him, and it was adorable how excited he was. All that day (and some of the next) he would just randomly break out in song, singing, "Happy Birthday to Markos...." It was precious.
Markos and Mariya are hilarious together. Markos likes to tease his sisters, and Mariya responds quite dramatically with whining and fussing at him (which Markos of course finds absolutely hilarious).
Audriana on the other hand, doesn't tolerate Markos teasing her. If Markos takes a toy from her, she yells at him and takes it back (and hits him over the head with it). Needless to say, Markos doesn't really mess with Audri anymore. :)
Markos and Mariya like to play together too. They both like dress-up and love to pretend play together. They also both don't like television, and would rather play with baby-dolls, puzzles, or books than watch TV.
Since Fasika and Markos came home, Mariya initially regressed to some behaviors and issues she had already overcome, but that was only briefly. Since then, she has matured a great deal and is such a pleaser trying to be a "big girl." She asks to be excused from the table, goes upstairs and gets in her bed for nap time (without being told), and always tries to do the right thing.
Audriana is more of the loner. She still loves to play outside above all else (which all my children love), but Audri prefers to play in dirt and mud...this has not changed. She takes buckets of water out of the dogs water-bowl and dumps it into the dirt where she proceeds to jump in it; she also draws in the dirt and plays with sticks, rocks, and dirt. She is so pretty, but she sure loves to be dirty!
Blake has really taken extra special care of Audri, recognizing her time alone, he seeks her out to spend special time with her. It is really cute how he is so aware. He also has been making a special point to try to make Markos feel comfortable in his new home (Blake and Markos share a room together). Blake has a very compassionate heart, and it is such a blessing to witness his care.
Markos is doing better with his walking and running. When we first brought him home, he ran very odd, and the doctors were concerned with him. We took him for x-rays and to the orthopedic, and they determined that there is nothing medically wrong causing him to run so oddly. I must say that as time goes by, he is getting better at his running and we are hoping it will correct itself!
The doctors are still concerned with the effects of Markos's previous mal-nutrician, and have had him do some additional testing (results have not come back yet). The doctors have also discovered a weakness in the muscles in Fasika's eyes for which they are referring her to a specialist for to figure out what will need to be done.
We haven't started any extra-curriculars yet. The boys quit their music and sports for the time being to prevent us from having to run all over the place. We knew we wanted to just have extra time as a family, and I am so glad that we did. It has been invaluable. The kids playing board games together, playing outside together, and really getting wonderful opportunities to bond that would have been hard to do if we had the regular schedule of public school and soccer, gymnastics, music lessons, and so on.
We have gotten together with some terrific friends and have attending the one home school a co-op, Classically Inspired Academics (CIA), that we were involved in before (which was a huge success). It was a nice atmosphere, and there is a nursery, so I was able to leave the little kids there, and go to class with my older kids. And, obviously we are attending our church (Grace Church of Topsail) weekly which the kids so look forward to.
One thing we have really tried to do is spend special time with each of the children separately. We do game nights at least once a week as a family, play outside together, and read books together and so on; however, we also think it is important to take each child out for time alone with the parents.
One day, I took Fasika out for a girls day and we went to the beach (for the first time), another time, I took Blake out to dinner, and Bryce and I went to the book store for dessert and hot-chocolate...little things like that. Dad takes them out separately too. We want to make sure every child knows how special they are, and with 6 of them, it is important to make sure we schedule in time for everyone so no one feels overlooked. Plus, it gives us an opportunity to talk with the child one on one about whatever they want (with no interruptions).
The kids are adjusting so well. I attribute it completely to God's grace. Though we would love to take responsibility for it, we cannot, for it is God who loved us first so that we could love others. It is God who has brought these children into our family, and we thank God daily for bringing all of these children into our live. It is God who give us wisdom, patience, and peace in all circumstances.There is no way we could do all we do without His grace.
Yes, we have struggles, difficulties, and bumps in the road at times; but, we ask for His strength and grace, and He provides it to us. Every day is truly a blessing, and we are so grateful for all we have been blessed with. We strive each day to be an example to our children and encourage them in their relationship with Christ.