Jul 31, 2008

Kansas Sunflower Power

As recent guests at a surprise house warming party, I was again reminded how funny it is to visually circle the faces of the Kansas prairie caricatures normally represented at functions I attend. The only bad part of our circle is the usual lone pallid color (I know, I know!). How many beards, how many straw hats, how many denim overalls do I spot? Who farms or grows their own food, who lives off the grid, and who built their own house? Who is Mennonite, Unitarian, or atheist? Who thinks the world is running on environmental crisis mode with the bloody end very near (everybody!)? Who is hippy, who is socially conservative? Who drinks way too much, brews their own beer, who abstains? Who votes against the republicans, votes anything but the two main parties because they are so far left, and who is borderline communist? Who is worldly, who is a hermit? Who runs with their mouth, who never speaks? Who's truck is dirtiest and who never drives? Who paints, sculpts, writes, or makes music and who is a scientist? Whatever the type or characteristic, almost all are welcome. Even the rare few in make up and clean shiny shoes. Especially if you are youthful. Seems the leading earth shakers in our town won't be around much longer. Oh, and the house that we warmly celebrated was, of course, a home spun straw-bale house in the midst of prairie, no electricity, and dirt floors. As one party goer put it poetically in the middle of the house tour: "ewwwwww.".

What I love about social gatherings these days is watching my boys playing & running with the big kids. They could care less about babies and new wiggly walkers, but will follow a friendly fast moving kid. Once they're comfortable, which comes more readily in this current life stage, they are off while mama and papa allow other people to take care of them. What a break for us. Freedom! Yeah, I'm one of those pesky mamas who will let you carry and run after my child as he reaches for unmentionables all night long.

No, that's not my kids I'm looking at.

How will my Ethiopian triplets fit into this Kansas microcosm as they age? How do I fit in? Oh, I have (almost) let go the high school notion of fitting in and now I worry most of all about fitting in myself. I mean me inside me. The most important thing is to have the confidence to be your best self wherever yourself may be and allow others the room to do the same. Corny, isn't it? Even if sometimes you don't feel like talking, or maybe you feel like saying stupid (but harmless) things really loud. Who cares. Like the time my brother and I were in Seattle with my mom and he got so hotly embarrassed when my mom decided to drag what looked like a mini shopping cart behind her as we walked the streets. I said, Big Brother, who cares, nobody here will ever see us again. F 'em. Of course when I returned east, a notable professor asks me, didn't I see you in Seattle? One of my greatest hopes for my sons is that they will always be comfortable with who and what they are, even if they are not always comfortable where they are.

Jul 22, 2008

Three Meets Three

I once wrote this in my blog: I often have this fantasy of coming around a corner with my family and meeting head-on another family strolling their triplets; it could've happened one day when we were at a shopping plaza in Wichita and a group of fans told us that within the very same plaza, at a lunch place just minutes ago, there was a family with 2 year old triplet girls.

At last my fantasy was realized, except for the corner part. There I was on a rare day. Me all alone with my three sons at a local park (I hate that show because now I always feel stupid when I say "My Three Sons" (I know, you are too young, you don't have a clue what I am talking about)). I was scared and helpless as my little men toddled too close to the pond (the dead fish cannot be a good sign and I'm not convinced they won't follow a duck right into the water--haven't we all fell in a pond?). My kids edged the water park fearfully, while other moms secretly stole stares at this lonely wonder-mother who lacks all good park etiquette and a social circle being so new at it and all. I guess I'm not supposed to let my boys throw sand and mulch at other kids. But my kids enjoy it so . . . And while every mother and father is playing politely, trying so hard not to stare at us, I feel like a misfit. One sweaty white mama, with way too many brown toddlers in tow. And those lazy ducks won't touch our bread crumbs.

I was trying to corral the boys back to the van (why oh why did I park waaaay over there) but of course I was forced to stop in the last playground before the parking lot begins. (Tsega does a great agitated slip of the wrist technique when he will NOT hold your hand.) The funny thing is, my boys will play on the equipment--sometimes; wander off suddenly together other times (usually in the same direction as a group--this helps); and other times they might just stand there together and gawk at passersby. This moment they were indeed playing probably because we were all alone in that particular rectangle. I am thinking let's go home when I casually spot a family unloading their children and stuff for the day. My mind barely registered the event. Hmmm, cute kid. Here comes daddy towards us. Hmmm, wait, something interesting. TWO cute kids holding hands with daddy. Hey, look at that, identical twin girls, how cool. Then mommy pops her head up out of the car as she is getting something else out. . . ohhhhhh, it can't be, it's blowing my mind, it's another baby girl and she looks just like the other two--are these triplets!?--and they are coming my way! Now I get to play gawker, how fun. Oh, wait, they are not going to just keep walking by me!? Nooo, they are stopping in our rectangle. They don't notice us yet because my boys are crawling through tunnels. Then I did something uncharacteristic of me, I initiated a conversation with a stranger and put myself out there. Hey, don't tell me those are triplets!? (Haha, this is when I know they will be nice but thinking inside, oh boy here we go again, the freak show is in the park.) So are these!!!

What a time to forget my camera.

Triplets and triplets played together in park. Sounds like a headline. The girls, all identical, are about 21 months old. Tsega could not stop hugging and at least one girl really liked it and took it quietly. The few face sucks got me nervous though since Tsega's kisses can get toothy. The kid is strong like an ox to boot my nerves not to mention his sensory needs are intense. My kids displayed all the funny triplet stuff that got us laughing about our familiar territories. Like when Sira feigned falling down for sympathy after Tsega did it for real. Or when they all started pouring pebbles and bark on top of each other's heads. Or the many cryless falls and shoves that most kids (singletons) would cry over. Or the way they always show off for people by pushing each other down to the ground (Tsega topped off the show with a perfect somersault.) Or when they suddenly ran over to a yellow taped-off area and proceeded to pull and shimmy the tape from all angles. And just like me, the other mother never goes out alone. But unlike me, other mother has all sorts of family in our Kansas town who help out. Not fair. But I got the good yard at least. Poor other mother lives in a town house with no real yard. *Shivers*.

I often wondered how big a difference it would be if some or all of my trio were female. Judging by the tiny glimpse I saw (and a sample size of 1), it is vastly different. Those triplet girls were more like triplet 1/2 Berekets. (Just between us, that's a lot less load than one Tsega-Mega.) Although other mother reports that her girls do their share of biting and hair pulling and that she does indeed buy everything in threes (I don't).

I even found myself asking other mother cliché questions. Do you have a hard time telling your girls apart (never?)? What about your husband (still never!?). I'm sure future play dates await us on the horizon. I'm not sure, however, if I will ever be able to tell these girls apart. How refreshing. Now if only they were Ethiopian . . .

Jul 16, 2008

Yes, Sira!

Ethiograndma you are right, my readers are indeed astute and that darling boy with the toothy grin and wet collar in the post below is indeed little sweet Sira! (The other cute boy in the high chair was handsome Bereket, just in case you were wondering.) At least (most of) my readers posses a little confidence to assert themselves and say, I do believe that one is Sira and that one is Bereket! (It's OK if you got it wrong, even mama & papa do it.) Poor dears usually get a weeny-armed greeting and a little stammering before they get a decent hello . . . Hmmmmm, well let's see, this one is . . . hmmmm, now which one has the ear piercing again and which ear was it? To tell you the truth, Tsega cannot tell Bereket apart from Sira either. I like to quiz him now and then and see what he does, hug Sira, give the binky to Bereket, hold Sira's hand. What he does is, he goes to the nearest brother rather than the named brother.

Maybe this is why so many are naturally smitten by Tsega. People greet mega-Tsega with gusto in part, because they are confident who he is. Wouldn't that be wierd to go through life expecting people to not recognize you? Let me say though, the triplet social dynamics are, as I suspected they would and will again, changing. Lately Tsega is less about flashing his million dollar smile to everybody who looks at him, probably because he is so busy exploring every molecule of life and material. Of course Tsega will have no trouble walking up to you and sign and beg for more, more, if he indeed needs more food and you have some. Bereket's social butterflies are again expanding their wings and Sira's are right there with him so that these days stranger anxiety amounts to, at most, sweet coy smiles that get buried into mama's chest or leg at the approach of strangers (vs. the mad I Hate You stares they used to dart at less familiar faces).

Ethiograndma (aka, My Mom, the lady who sometimes comments on this blog) happens to be here for a visit, BTW, and we made picking her up from the KC airport into a weekend of fun in the city. In honor of our mini vacation and her visit, I decided to post some helpful tidbits and random observations I discovered along the way during last weekend's trip or the weeks just prior:

* I'm surprised to have discovered feelings of relief welling inside of me when the boys are outside and they diverge into distinct and separate playing zones; zones that wave peace flags; zones, sadly enough, with fast-dissolving borders.

* Don't dine three two-year olds in Italian Restaurants. The crowds fill up fast, the food may come ever so slowly, and bread rolls are not interesting enough to satisfy three unhinged toddlers (and yet they fill up on the stuff before their supposed-to-be time consuming and behavior modifying food arrives). Mexican is always safe and fun since there's something interesting to satisfy toddler taste buds the second you arrive up until the moment you leave (leave in a wheelbarrow, that is).

* Don't dine in halls with great acoustics. I knew if Tsega's lungs ever found the right amplifier in public, we'd be in trouble (we were). It's cute when it's my kid, but I never found another kid's monotonous screech flattering, so it's hard not to get nervous about it.

* When he's tired, don't sit Bereket next to anybody in the car or stroller if you can help it.

* I dare you to break our hotel record for most times a toilet has flushed in one weekend.

* At least one of the three is discovering the art of potty control and now every time a diaper is removed, a very controlled, managed flow starts flowing (if you cover it up, it stops, if you uncover it, it starts again . . . ).

* Even when three adults are supervising, make sure you, as the mom, keep all two of your eyes on constant look out for three little bodies. I'll never forget turning around at very familiar sounds on a busy city street and seeing little Sira happily toddling along and getting further behind just as he was about to be left. *Shutter*

* Bring pack n plays when overnighting in hotels not for sleeping, but for baby proofing. Simply push up against the set of drawers and microwave table that baby cannot keep his hands out of.

* Have fast mobile baby drag a suitcase up and down the halls to entertain, exercise, and slow him down when he needs to run halls.

* It doesn't matter where you take your toddler. If you can keep moving he will be highly entertained and every place new and old, there is great adventure for you and toddler.

* Don't even think about bringing Tsega on a long flight. I haven't done it since he was 5 months old, but judging from his recent public behavior, which is busy and stimulated to say the least, I guarantee you will be pulling out the benadryl, popping a few, administering a few, and then handing them out to fellow passengers. And you might become one of those passengers who gets flights grounded.

* Hair is not usually funny. Funky yes, but not funny. Don't tell me my child's hair cracks you up, even if you are usually very nice. And don't ask me if I'm able to figure out how to take care of African hair because then I feel bad when three proofs are standing right there (if you have to ask, then maybe the answer is no!). I think, however, that it is OK if you are nine and think that Tsega's hair has super powers.

* My kids look Ethiopian. Ethiopians will stop us to ask about our boys because, they say, they recognize their Ethiopian features. How cool is that? Because no matter what physical bonds were broken, my kids will forever retain (and pass on) their Ethiopian roots through their indestructible and ancient polymers of DNA.

* A lady at work was wondering if my boys came to the USA with cultural mannerisms endemic to Ethiopia (then quickly shook her head no after realizing at 5 months old no baby possesses cultural qualities). But then after thinking a moment I said, but somehow my kids, compared to other toddlers, seem different; unique. She nodded yes, they indeed do, and that's why she thought to ask. So now I'm wondering, what makes my kids unique. Forget that they were adopted by white Americans and are triplets--I mean some other quality that they share is strikingly special and perhaps I'm being silly, but I think others sense it too. What is shaping this quality?

* Has anybody else been noticing how handsome my boys are becoming? I tangoed Bereket the other day and while in the dipping position (him on bottom, of course) I looked down at him and I swear I heard angels sing and saw celestial lights beaming from his eyes. As my mom pointed out, they got over their awkward pre-toddler/post-baby stage very well.

Jul 8, 2008

Identical: Who's Who?

Attention readers, a quiz follows this monologue. Skip down if you prefer to scan pictures, try the quiz, and fake read the rest. I understand.

I realize I often fail to provide identifiers when posting pictures of my matching pair. I wonder if you, dear readers, ever get annoyed at me for that (tell me if you do). And in case you're wondering, I only have about two pictures in which I cannot tell Bereket apart from Sira (see first picture on Then and Now post--who's who, I cannot tell). Something about pictures brings their differences out, at least in my eyes (or maybe I always remember what they wore on a given day--nah). I admit I visit a blog or two starring identical twins, and I'm not sure it matters to me who is who. Hard to shake the 'two is the same as one' concept with monozygotic twins, even when you have your own pair (I don't think of mine this way, just other pairs--maybe, I dunno, I haven't thought about it so hard).

For newbie readers who are still scratching their heads, the fraternal triplet--the bigger one with all the hair--is Tsega. It blows my mind to think what if there were two identical Tsegas? Wow and yikes! :)

Bereket and Sira are identical. You can have your opinion since we don't have the DNA fingerprints to prove it, but it's clear to me and Jerry that they are indeed identical (first blogged about HERE). Especially when their papa, nanny, and grandparents have a hard and guilty time of it distinguishing these two, and friends start every contact with them by first establishing which one is which. It also blows my mind to think about who came first before the fertilized egg split, Sira or Bereket?

As for me, maybe it's psychic maternal powers, but it rarely takes me much effort to tell Sira and Bereket apart, even when they're nude, merely diapered, or sporting matching outfits (although different clothes or shoes helps when viewing from the back and certainly speeds up recognition). They have very different facial expressions and hold their heads differently. Sira tends to look at things head-on, symmetrically, and smiles bigger showing more teeth. Whereas Bereket has a shyer, head-tilted way of viewing the world. Sira's face is fuller than Bereket's, he's chubbier, he hangs his mouth open (and therefore usually has a wetter collar) giving him, currently, more of a babyish look. Bereket has a wee bit more hair right now and his complexion is clearer. They do share the same gait and posture, although Sira's belly tends to protrude more, making his back appear very arched. Lately I'm better at distinguishing their cries too. Sira has taken to more of a eeeee-ya, eeeee-ya cry, while Bereket's is more guttural in pitch and without syllables. Simply put, they emit different auras. Jerry shrugs his shoulders at many of my descriptors and has a harder time with it, so psychic paternal powers he has not (this does not take away from his #1 Dad status, however . . . Hi Hon!).

It's always harder for me to describe differences in personalities, especially since they tend to take turns with opposite temperaments, though indeed they are different and yet . . . very similar.

Worded by Wikipedia, here's simple facts about twins: There are estimated to be approximately 125 million human twins and triplets in the world (roughly 1.9% of the world population), and just 10 million monozygotic [identical] twins (roughly 0.2% of the world population and 8% of all twins). The current rate in the United States is 31 twin births per 1,000 women.

And from Me: The tendency to conceive fraternal multiples (or rather the tendency to shoot off multiple eggs during ovulation) can be hereditary, whereas the tendency for fertilized eggs to split is not. This explains, in part, why rates of fraternal multiples are higher; it spreads through the population's genes. Additionally, while I don't know the numbers, fraternal twin rates in Ethiopia are much higher than in the USA or Europe, although I wouldn't say multiples are common relative to singletons.

Now for the quiz. And Ethiograndma, you better nail this one. Leave a comment and name this darling triplet featured in the three pictures below. Winners and losers win the satisfaction of my curiosity. Thanks for playing.

Jul 3, 2008

Three for me and none for you

Sometimes 3 is never enough (and sometimes it's way too much--just kidding!). My advice to moms of multiples/triplets: buy 3 cribs and 3 high chairs (booster chairs, while we have one, are extremely dangerous for many reasons including head bumping and tipping over, all of which has lead to minor injuries in our house--click HERE for a taste of what I mean), 3 varieties of push wagons or ride 'em cars (and 3 Tonka trucks for that matter), but as for the rest of the big baby and toddler equipment moms buy, including toys, don't buy 3 of everything. Either all of your babies will ignore it (whatever it may be), so that if you bought 3 you are now stuck with 3 pieces of junk. Or your babies will fight over the same item even though you have a duplicate in proximity of same shape and same color. My boys fight over sticks and sod for corn sake, and we have a million of those.

(If you blow up the picture below, you will see a blurb of Tsega way off in the distance.)

Actually, don't buy them any toys. They'll find plenty to play with like dining chairs, couch, dirt . . . that way they won't ask you for anything (like for the 100th swing ride of the day).

Jul 1, 2008

What's their last name?

For some reason, when asked this very question last weekend, it confused me and my husband for a moment. I never confuse the question when directed at me or Jerry. I can say mine faster than I can blink. Jerry too. My name is Cindy XYZ and this is my husband Jerry LMNOP. Yes, I know it's confusing, we don't share the same last name and no, I am not the wife (or daughter) of the famous Stan XYZ who works at the same organization as us (Jer and me), nor am I related to his daughter with same name who also works with us. But yes, I am indeed married to this guy who also works with us XYZ folks, but bares no resemblance to us in name. This is why the question was innocently asked of us last weekend. What last name did you give your kids seeing that you two don't share one? And yet I searched my brain for a moment for letters that we do not own, for names that would be harder for her to pronounce and remember. Names that flutter from native Amharic speakers. Oh yeah, I remember, it is LMNOP, the name of their father, we gave them Jerry's last name. Huh, how weird that their original Ethiopian last name was the one that came to our minds first . . . The fact that my boys are Ethiopian (Ethiopian!) is something I can't seem to shake from my mind because, frankly, it excites me.

My Boys, My Family

Friends, Brothers, & Sons