Friday, March 18, 2011

"Tickle-ie Me"

Just a short post today about tickling.  I don't remember if I told you all or not, but when Eric and I visited Markos for the first time in Ethiopia for our court trip, we thought that he was not ticklish at all.  Seriously, not at all.  In fact, we were a little freaked out by it.  We had never seen a child who was not ticklish anywhere, at all.  And believe me, Eric tried.  He tickled the back of Markos' neck, his underarms, his sides, his belly, his knees, his feet.  He tickled him while we were playing, while he was sitting on our laps relaxing.  We laughed and acted silly, trying to get a response, but nothing.  No giggles, no laughs, not even any squirming to get away.  Just flat, unmoving, nothing.  He would just sit there and look at us.

I hate to admit it but we actually wondered if there was some sort of biological/cultural difference.  Could Americans be ticklish and Africans not?  (I know - we're idiots!)

My dad tickles Daniel all the time.  It's sort of 'their thing'.  When Daniel is acting grumpy or mischievous, Dad will tease him and say, "I know what you need...." (at which time Daniel will start to run away) Dad finishes, "a good ticklin'!", and within seconds, he'll have Daniel on the ground, rolling around, laughing his head off, begging for mercy.  Bad mood averted.  So, when we came home and told Dad that Markos was not ticklish at all, he said, "eh, I'll get him to laugh!"  And, we assured him, "no, seriously, he isn't ticklish at all.  We tried everything."

Well, guess what?  Turns out that Markos IS ticklish!  Like, REALLY ticklish!  You should see me try to put lotion on this boy every day when I get him dressed!  Some days, I find it funny.  Other days, I want to rip my hair out of my head - yep, it's that bad.  Think: combination of laughing rag doll and fish flopping around out of water while lotion is getting on my arms, my clothes, the carpet...pretty much everything EXCEPT Markos!

The other day, I had Daniel at the doctor's office and Markos was with me.  The doctor thought that Daniel might have mono and Daniel had been having side/stomach pain, so he had Daniel lay on the table so he could feel around his belly to make sure that his liver and spleen were not enlarged.  The second Markos saw Daniel pull up his shirt and saw the doctor pushing around his stomach, he yanked his shirt up, and with a giant grin, was saying "tickle-ie me! tickle-ie me!".  I laughed and tried to explain that the doctor wasn't tickling Daniel, but Markos just continued, "tickle-ie me, tickle-ie Markos!"  So, what's a mom to do?  I started to tickle him until he dropped to the floor in hysterics.

The doctor thought it was funny.  And, it WAS super cute (although, yuck, who knows what sort of germs were on that floor?!)   Mostly though, I just marvel at the fact that Markos was apparently so on-guard in Ethiopia when we first met him that his tickle response was just completely turned "off".   And, I'm very thankful that he feels safe enough now to let his guard down, let his ticklishness show itself, and let his laughter roar -- except when I'm trying to put on his lotion, then it's just annoying.

Being silly when I was trying to get him to let me see his belly!

Laughing at himself, because he IS a clown!

Finally, showing you all his "tickle-ie me" invitation.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Say What?

I know that lots of you were curious about the communication issues when we were planning to bring Markos home.  I have to say, I was a little nervous about it myself.  Turns out, it hasn't been much of an issue at all.

It is amazing how quickly they pick up the language.  Yesterday, I had Daniel at the doctor's office and Markos was with me.  After a while, our pediatrician asked, "has he always spoken English?".  I laughed and said no, that it was actually his third language and he's only 4 years old.  The doctor marveled at the fact that Markos spoke very little English when he arrived just 6 1/2 weeks ago.  He said, "we really are pathetic here in the United States when it comes to languages."   Well, I don't know about all of us here in the United States, but I know that I am!  My brain just isn't what it once was, so I'm thankful that Markos' brain still has those connections fully intact!  

In fact, we received a gift in the mail the other day from a friend in Ethiopia.  He sent us a book that he described to me in an email as being "really easy and good for beginners who want to learn Amharic".  Well, the book arrived.  It is entitled, "Amharic for Foreign Beginners".  Well, let me tell you, I'm foreign and I'm a beginner, but this book is not easy!  At least not for me.

Markos is stringing 3 - 4 words together in sentences now.  It's cute because he will mix up the 3 languages and a sentence might contain some English words, some Amharic words and some Wolaytigna.   A common sentence would be something along the lines of, "Emama, imbi Markos mahtah mahtah"  (Momma, no Markos night night) or "Markos imbi brush teeth" (Markos no brush teeth).  

Markos desperately wants to go to school and ride on the bus.  In fact, I suspect he's going to be one of those kids who wants to be doing something at all times.  (ugh!  Not what this homebody of a mom wants to discover!)  He hates when we stay home and always wants to be going and doing something.  Unfortunately, the weather has been terrible and there really isn't much to do!  I can't wait until the weather breaks a little so we can go to the zoo and to the park and so I can work in the yard while he plays outside.  He'll be happier.  I'll be happier.  Things will be quieter.  The house will stay cleaner.  ;-)

We haven't gone to too many places with Markos yet.  We've been out to eat a good bit.  We've been shopping.  And, we go to church.  Markos still does not like talking to strangers at all.  If he does respond (which is rare), he will usually only do so while looking away.  I wish more people understood this and didn't jump to conclusions about things that they know nothing about.  People assume that he's being rude or grumpy or just plain difficult.  Case in point, the other day at the grocery store, Markos was riding in the cart.  I had a HUGE order.  We were checking out.  He had been perfectly well-behaved the entire time we were there, laughing and talking to me, pointing things out to me.  Then, when we are checking out , the bagger lady comes over and says to him, "hey there!  how are you?" and he kept staring straight ahead at me and wouldn't look at her.  She tapped his arm and said, "hey buddy, what's up?" and at that, he pulled away from her and made a screech noise, clearly not interested in talking or being touched.  She looks at me and raises her eyebrows in a disgusted way and says, "welllll, SOMEONE'S in a mood today."  I just looked at her and said, "no, actually he's in a perfectly good mood.  He's just quiet and doesn't want to talk."  (I refrained from adding " you." although I really wanted to.)

A few cute things that he says:
"fleas" = please
"mini-bus-ie" = all buses, trucks, vehicles
"Daniel nice?" = hey Daniel, will you please let me play your Nintendo DS?
"Dawit & Dawit Too" =  what he calls the identical twins (Dawit & Israel) who were adopted at the same time he was
"soon?  soon Emama?" = You'll be back soon, right, Mama?!!  (asked about 4,000X each night that I leave to go to my class)

As I think I've already shared, Markos is obsessed with the electronic toys in the house.  He plugs them in and charges them totally on his own.  He asks me, "charge?".  He also talks about going to church, which leads to confusion.  "Church" and "charge" sound very much the same.

The Sunday before last, I was teaching his age group's Sunday School class, so he stayed in the class with me.  It was the first time he had been downstairs where the kids' classes are.  He loved the toys, of course.  But I was still shocked when the next Sunday, he actually asked me, "Markos downstairs?".  My friend was teaching the class so I said, "sure, you can go downstairs if you want to".  (Restraining myself from jumping up and down and pleading, "yes, yes, yes!!!! Oh please, please, go downstairs during the service!")  I took him down and he happily started playing and didn't cry at all when I left.  I was shocked.  I went upstairs and was able to relax during the worship music at the start of the service (except when Kenzie spilled her entire glass of orange juice on my legs).  Then, the helper came up to get me because Markos was upset.  It was very crowded in his class that day.  He made it for about 15 minutes and was having fun until another girl got upset and started crying and then things got chaotic.  He only made it 15 minutes, but it was a fun 15 minutes for him and a relaxing 15 minutes for me.  It was a start, and it was mostly a positive experience for him, so I look for it to gradually increase without too much trauma (for me or him!)

And, you know, I think it's funny that "charge/church" sound exactly the same when he says them, because you know, that IS what church and being in the Word of God does for me.  It charges me up.  It gives me what I need to get through another day.  Every year, I struggle with the whole Lent thing - do I give something up, do I add something in, do I do nothing?  I've attended different churches with different ideas about what this time should be about.  This year, I decided to add something in -- something that will help to keep me 'charged' during this continued transition time with Markos and our family adjusting to becoming a family of 5.  I'm finishing a Beth Moore study that I started a few years ago and never finished - David:  90 days with a Heart Like His.  Additionally, I will continue to look towards the future when Markos happily scampers off to the downstairs kid's classes at church so I can focus and enjoy the fellowship, worship, and Bible study at church on Sunday mornings to get all charged up and ready to face another week.

I tried to videotape Markos talking and saying "church" and "charge" so you could hear for yourself, but this was the best I could do.  You can still hear him say it at the beginning and hear his cute little voice, which is good because, odds are, if you happen to be around him anytime soon, he is NOT going to talk to you, and no, it won't be because he's in a mood or being rude, it will be because he just went through yet another ENORMOUS change in his short little life, so he's a little leery of new people.  :-)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, 
for he who promised is faithful. 
And let us consider how we may spur one another on 
toward love and good deeds, 
not giving up meeting together, 
as some are in the habit of doing, 
but encouraging one another—
and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 
Hebrews 10:23-25