Saturday, September 29, 2007

Which Nouns are Verbs?

We've been taught a lesson by our youngest daughter on the art of using nouns (or prepositions) interchangably with verbs. A few samples:
  • Cupping (v.) - To fill a cup with water; to place a cup into a cupholder or on a coaster; to carry a cup.
  • Hairing (v.) - To sweep up hair from the floor, especially with a wisk broom and dustpan.
  • Carring (v.) - To ride in and/or drive a car.
  • Booking (v.) - To look at pictures in a book; to put a book on the shelf.
  • Bibbing (v.) - To tie a bib around one's own or another's neck.
  • Downing (v.) - To sit. (i.e. "sit downing")
  • Upping (v.) - To stand; to lift; to ascend a staircase.
  • Forking (v.) - To place forks on a table; to put silverware of any kind into a dishwasher; to stab and/or cut a piece of food with a fork.
Enter her world and it's easy to see how this happens. She spends her day swinging on a swing and sliding on a slide. If you dump water on flowers it's called watering. Yet dumping the same water on your hands isn't called watering, handing, or even soaping. It's called washing.

Why is it that some nouns can be verbs and others can't? What's the criteria?

Meke has none. Any noun can be a verb.

I'm becoming fond of her method. It's not only amusing but also an efficient way of saving wear and tear on the vocal cords. Imagine how many words could be saved. Instead of saying "I'm putting the cup into the cupholder," a simple, "I'm cupping," would suffice. A "I'm going out to the garden to pick tomatoes", could be replaced with "I'm tomatoing."

All this discussion begs the question: When using one of these words are you "nouning" or "verbing"?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Daddy Eating Bread

Or Edward Scissorhands By Meke

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"I Support Orphans"

Our family was asked to volunteer at a Steven Curtis Chapman concert tonight. Normally, we're not concert goers. Three or four live songs is generally enough for me. But this volunteering was for a good cause.

For those of you who don't know, SCC is a huge adoption advocate. He has adopted three children from China himself and has started a foundation that gives need-based grants to adoptive parents. On his tour, Chapman is collecting "Change for Orphans". The money they collected at the Toledo concert tonight will be given to a family in the area to help with adoption expenses.

In addition to our booth-manning, Neti and Meke held a "Change for Orphans" bucket at the door while concertgoers arrived. Neti handed them a brochure while Meke would smile and say, "Donations please," in her thick Ethiopian preschooler accent. It was fun to watch people walk past several adults who were holding buckets only to be instantly taken in by two little girls. We just sat back and watched. At one point a man in an obvious hurry ran past the girls. 30 feet after passing them you could visibly see the impact. The man stopped dead in his tracks, smiled, reached for his wallet, looked at us and said "That's not fair."

The lowlight of the night:

During intermission I was holding a five-gallon "Change for Orphans" bucket in one arm and Meke in the other. By that time of the night she was getting restless and hungry. She wanted down. She wanted food. Right now!

Not a good time for either in a crowded I gave her an answer she's heard many times: "In a little bit." Intermission was only 15 minutes long, after all!

If you've ever held a preschooler that doesn't want to be held, you've probably experienced something similar to what I'm about to explain. While they generally don't become violent, kids this age have the uncanny ability to become instantly slippery. It's akin to putting a big healthy worm on a fish hook.

So the battle to hold Meke began. (Remember, this is all happening with a five gallon bucket in one arm and in an extremely crowded lobby where people are stopping and wanting to talk.)
I felt her bottom wriggle out of my elbow pit so I compensated. She wriggled the other way. I compensated again, this time clamping down hard. Bottom captured. Escape averted. Battle over. Daddy wins.

How do you say "OK Daddy, it's on!" in Amharic?

Undeterred, she began trying to find ways to make things uncomfortable. Two little hands began pushing on my face, not hard enough to be naughty, but forceful enough to be annoying. Again, I mounted the counterattack. I was able to capture one of her hands with the "bucket" hand and quickly hand it off to the "bottom clamp" hand.

An inexperienced parent of a preschooler will quickly conclude that the hand to the face is the front line of battle. NOT SO. This is a diversionary tactic. Having not been there in several years, I had forgotten. Bucket in one arm, Meke's bottom clamped to my hip and hand captured with the other, I thought I was in control.

Then the climbing began. She stopped wiggling down and began to wiggle up. Her free hand grabbed for the top of my head. She began pulling herself up. Her feet began climbing my body, looking for a foothold.

Now moms generally have an advantage here. If a preschooler is clamped to your hip and they begin climbing moms generally don't care where the foot lands. For dads, it's different. Even while in conversation with a donor I realized there are areas that need protecting so almost subconsciously I shifted Meke toward the back of my body so as to avoid any unfortunate connections from taking place.

My fatal mistake? Among other things I fell victim to the diversionary hand to the head/face. Somehow (and I still don't know how this happened - it seems so elementary as I write it now) I forgot to maintain the clamp of Meke's bottom to my side. The climbing continued. This didn't register in my brain that this would be a bad thing ("Oh good, she's climbing UP now instead of wanting DOWN!")

That's when it happened. She found a good foothold (fortunately, not a painful one for me) and pushed up with all her might.

Now picture this. I'm at a concert because I'm an advocate for orphans. I'm wearing a shirt that says "Show Hope: Change your world for orphans" and a pin that says "I support orphans". I'm holding my adorable little daughter - a former orphan herself - and I drop her on her head on a table.

That's what happened. At least that's what probably appeared to happen to those who didn't see "the war" that led up to the drop.

Once Meke climbed her bottom about 12 inches above my arm she pushed off my face with her free hand and leaned into what I can only explain as a backward swan dive. I clamped on, catching her by the back of her knees just as her head hit the table with the brochures. (Actually it was more of a tap of her head on the table since the hand I had captured earlier allowed me to keep her from feeling the full impact.)

I tried pulling her back into my arms but she would have nothing of it. Her eyes told the story to me and everyone who happened to be watching (and there were plenty!): "You DROPPED me!" In typical preschooler fashion she ignored me for 15 minutes before wanting to play.

All is well now. Meke's forgiven me and we raised $4200 for a family to adopt an orphan.

There's a story behind every picture. Here's our family with Bethany Dillon (who opened for SCC). As you can probably guess by the expression on her face, this picture was taken shortly after "the war" with Meke described above.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Amharic Wanted

For several months we've been in search of someone in the Toledo area who speaks Amharic. We're beyond the need of a translator. The girls are picking up English just fine. We want to connect with an Amharic speaker simply so Neti and Meke won't forget their original tongue. And we would like to learn a little too!

Does anyone have suggestions? We've tried the University of Toledo hoping for Ethiopian students with no luck.

To Stray a Bit...

At the risk of straying from what this blog is about (Neti and Meke) I feel there's an explanation needed.

Evidently, my last post offended at least one person who felt my comments were ethnocentric (i.e. thinking my race is superior to others). After re-reading my post by itself, I can see how a person could come to such a conclusion. However, if you've been a reader for long, hopefully you've seen my heart (i.e. this post).

Bottom line...the last post was not intended to thumb my nose at anyone and say "we're better than you." It was simply to creatively tell of the brand new things our girls experienced in a 24 hour period. In hindsight, I should have provided more information (which, by the way, I do in the comments of my last post).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

5 Differences from Africa

In the last 24 hours we've taken note of several things that have to be completely new to our girls compared to what they experienced in Africa. Here are five.

Difference #1
In America we pose with food

Difference #2
The American solution to being lost

Difference #3
In America we pay to feed other people's animals

Difference #4
In Africa corn is food!

Difference #5
51 degrees is insanely cold in Africa!

Our Soccer Star!

Well, it turns out that something clicked for Neti on her third game of the season. She seems to have come to a better understanding of the game. She scored her first - and second - goal in one game. Here's the visual progression of the first goal.

She Scores!
Running the Length of the Field

Finding Her Coach!

Celebrating With Teammates

Running to Mommy and Daddy

Her first words to us at the end of the game? "I got two goalies!"

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pee Wee Soccer

My hat goes off to anyone who has ever coached a game of pee wee soccer.

I have friends who have hired professional photographers to come to these games to capture Junior just as he drills the ball into the corner of the net slightly out of the reach of the outstretched arms of the goalie. But if you've ever attended a pee wee soccer game you know that these photos have been doctored. What you're actually seeing is a picture of Junior in the parking lot after the game kicking a pop can superimposed over some stock photo downloaded from the internet.

There's no way that goal was ever scored like the picture indicated. How do I know? First, the ball is almost never kicked more than 10 feet at a time. Second, anyone who follows pee wee soccer at all knows that every member of both teams is always within 10 feet of the ball. And finally, the most common phrase heard from the sidelines is, "No, kick it the other way!!!!"

Tonight was Neti's first game. I will say this. By 5 and 6 year old standards she's above average. She can kick the ball fifteen feet. And only 10% of the time does she kick it the wrong way.

So I'll start with pictures that make our little Neti look like the star of the field. But as you proceed down through the images you'll soon realize what pee wee soccer is all about (and yes, with the exception of the last image, these were all taken during "live" action).

The behavior you're about to witness is commonplace on the pee wee soccer field. Take note. And go out of your way this week and thank your local pee wee soccer coach for his patience.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Nothing Much You'd Be Interested In!

Our family seems to have hit its stride. I think I've said that before but I think we're hitting it even more. Noteworthy milestones are spaced much further apart than they used to be. We get the video camer out less and less. As families should, we're left celebrating things that only families can appreciate.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it seems we're daily surprised at the amount of English our girls pick up. (We should be at the point where we get surprised when we're surprised.) Most readers are probably thinking "would you get off the English thing? We're ready for something new."

If there was something new, I'd write about it. Our family is just normal. Period. (That's a good thing.)

(At least we consider ourselves normal.)

But back to English. One of Rhonda's friends visited the other night. After observing only a few interactions between Rhonda and Neti, her jaw dropped in amazement. She locked eyes with Rhonda and said, "Oh my goodness, she speaks English! When did that happen?" (She had just seen Neti a few weeks earlier).

We used to assume that the little girls from Ethiopia didn't know what we were saying at the dinner table. Not so anymore. Mouth full, Kailey announced that after dinner she was planning to play with what sounded like Lolly and Meke.

Neti indignantly replied, "Hey, I'm not no Lolly."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Picture of the Day!

On a more serious note, though...

Meke came to me after dinner and said, "Daddy, tummy owww." She's got a temperature of 103.5 F.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Our Four Year Old

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Another Neti Milestone

We found out tonight that Neti can count from 1 to 100. And we also found out that she recognizes every number. I randomly pointed to numbers on a 1-to-100 numbers chart and she was able to recite them on command.

Tomorrow's Meke's 4th birthday. She's excited as can be. I'm sure we'll have lots of pictures to share.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor Day Weekend Pictures

On Sunday afternoon we went to my cousin's driving range and putt putt course with the entire extended family. Here are some pics. We'll start with Grandpa and Grandma with the family.
No aim necessary. Proper technique optional. This is what makes putt putt such a great game for kids. Neti made a pinball-style hole-in-one that bounced off of at least 6 surfaces before dramatically rimming off the back of the hole, bouncing straight up about a foot into the air and right into the center of the hole.

After the driving range closed, all the kids grabbed the baskets and did a massive golf ball hunt on acres of lush green grass. Reminded us all of Easter.

Neti, Meke, and Kailey sprinted to get into Uncle Dennis' truck for a ride around the woods...

...but the minute the truck started moving it triggered something very negative in Meke. She tried jumping out of the truck while it was moving.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A New Uncle

Some English words are just plain hard to an Ethiopian 3-year-old. Like "unbuckle". "Uncle Buckle" is much easier and gets you much more attention.

Fixing Meke's "Game"

It doesn't happen often, but once is way too much. We've not seen it since Ethiopia. We thought we broke Meke of her little "game" that can quickly turn into any parent's nightmare.

Here's what happens. Meke, in an especially playful mood, begins playing "hard to get". Then, before you realize it she's gone. She playfully runs away. WAY away.

She did it twice in Ethiopia. She did it again today.

Our family was in an Indiana Wesleyan student's room getting the grand tour. When it came time to go I asked Meke if she wanted to give Justina a hug. She playfully smiled and stepped outside into the hallway. Not expecting an Ethiopia flashback, I gave the conversation a few more seconds of my attention before following Meke. A few seconds was all she needed. By the time I popped my head out Meke was just a few steps from being out of sight.

I quickened my pace in pursuit, thinking she'd stop at the lobby. I reached the lobby.

No Meke.

She was already outside. Now in a dead sprint I crashed through the doors (cutting my hand in the process) and scooped her up just a few steps before running into the street.

She squealed with excitment! Not good.

Daddy had a serious heart-to-heart talk with his soon to be 4-year-old right there on the spot!

"No, Meke. No run away. Stay with Daddy. No run away. Meke safe with Daddy."

Unlike our first conversation six weeks ago concerning this subject matter, the words seemed to hit their mark. Her happy face turned sober within seconds. She knew she'd done wrong by the tone of my voice. But unlike last time there were no tears. She stared at the ground instead.

I picked her up as she continued to stare. Not able to look me in the eye or speak, she buried her face in my neck and held tightly with her little arms. Still no tears. Still staring.

All the way back to the hotel, Meke stared out the window in silence. When we arrived she silently unbuckled and reached back up to her Daddy to reoccupy her place in my arms.

I hope she's learned.

Who Vacations THERE?!?!?!

Who in their right mind travels to Marion, Indiana, for a weekend getaway?

You guessed it!

My parents traveled from Iowa to Marion for a family reunion. Since it's only 3 hours away, it was a good chance for Grandpa and Grandma Waal to meet the girls. Plus we have two students from our church who are attending Indiana Wesleyan University this year. Marion seemed like the place to be this Labor Day weekend.

Meke began chanting "Ga-lampa Wol, Ga-lamma Wol" when we were about 10 minutes out. (Any word with an "R" in the middle of it gets a bonus syllable.) The girls took to them immediately. Nothing awkward at all about the first meeting. In fact, the day ended like this:

Meke laughing at the orangutan at the Fort Wayne Zoo.

Neti and Bethany with a long-dead elephant.

Kailey's Dream Date!

Can't go anywhere without someone breaking something!

Caffeine-infused train ride

Lots of fun, but probably something we'll eventually be arrested for.
Long Day!