Aug 24, 2009

My Five-Year-Old Baby

Bellarina and MayMay have been doing really well. Boundaries are going really well, I don't usually have to say "no" more than once now (thank heaven! If I have one failing as a parent, it is my NEED to be OBEYED NOW not later ALL THE WAY not partly and NO COMPLAINING). Lol. I've been getting a bit more flexible these days... like, I don't put Bella the time out bench if she questions me once or twice after I say "no." After all, she's being her three-year-old-relearning-boundaries self. If Loli were to question me or whine it'd be time out... but my three-year-old-six-year-old gets a little slack, I guess.

Speaking of which. I'd say that May is a good five-year-old. Very smart, capable, integlligent... but she's like a baby. She moves more slowly, needs more help to get into the car, can't (or doesn't want to) buckle her seatbelt by herself, and she's not really interested in playing with the other kids most of the time, she wants ME. All the time. If she could, she'd lay all day with her head in my lap or sit in my lap, one or the other.

She's like a newborn, I think. Newborns, you just keep tight close to you for months and months until they start getting independent and want to explore. May, for some reason, really needs a period of newborn bonding and attaching with me.

A lady in my homeschooling group reassured me the other day. She told me a sad story; her mother adopted a Russian orphan after all her other kids were older. The girl was around the same age, perhaps a little older than May. She did the same thing... always needing the cuddling, it was constant, and because the mother didn't know the things that would help her understand what it might be (attachment and bonding), she let her irritation take over and pushed her away instead of welcoming the bonding opportunities. Later on the little girl had problems, due to what are called "attachment disorders."

This is just so sad to me. And I know it happens all the time. I feel it in myself, too... I really am a personal space kinda gal. But I've been doing my best to shove that aside and allow nature to take its course (five years late). WE're doing good, May and I. And I know that if I give her all she needs now, eventually she'll be able to venture out on her own. My hope is if i give her that secure base of constant nurturing and touch and cuddling, she'll feel capable of leaving to explore on her own, just like a toddler who begins to figure out the world away from Mom.

Anyway, we're all doing well and being happy. I have a few cheesy laptop pictures because i've been too lazy to take out the camera. Honestly, right now I feel the biggest adjustment is simply being the mother of five kids. It's crazy! And good. And I know it's teaching me some important things about priorities and about my own hangups that I need to work on... (eg the personal space thing. If you're a mom, you don't have personal space!!!) We're continuing to grow, and life is settling down slowly... the days and nights are less hectic and the girls cry for a lot less time when we put them down for nap and bedtime.

Bella is sad in this one because I did beads in her sister's hair but not hers. I haven't quite gotten good enough to do 2 intricate all-over styles in a day yet... someday. In the meantime I pay, because whichever girl doesn't get the special do is jealous and cries. :( Oh well.

All my happy girls, being crazy.

May and Squirt... She was holding him, and smiling really big because she loves being able to hold her little brother and get affection from her siblings, but as soon as the laptop screen turned toward them for the picture they both stopped what they were doing to ham it up for the camera. :) Oh well, it's still a cute picture.

Aug 20, 2009

Top-Ten in Politics

I haven't had a political post in a while. So I thought I'd do a top 10 list on my current political thoughts. I thought it might be easier, sort of like a summary, to save time.

(BTW watch out because it's been a while...this will be a vent!!!)

10) The John Birch Society and Nancy Pelosi drive me nuts. If I were stuck with nobody but John Birch and Nancy Pelosi on a desert Island, I'd have a hard time deciding which one to eat first.

9) I'm tired of hearing about socialized medicine. Let's talk about socialized education. Did your kids have a good first day of school? Get the teacher they wanted? Did they catch the government-funded transportation on time? Did they have to stand in lines for food? Were they distributed equal pencils and erasers?

8) Maybe I've got an inherently facetious sense of humor, but I found this whole situation hilarious. We knew it would happen, guys... we knew it would happen, because Hillary cannot be without the Bill. Poor woman. Apparently North Koreans aren't big on the whole feminist thing.

7) Ok, aching stomach muscles after this one. An example of misunderstood science and misplaced morality coming together in a spectacular cataclysm.

6) I'm sorry, but My friend Dave is right. How can you not love Joe Biden? At least you know he's saying what's on his mind. That Eyeore thing has me cracking up randomly still, Dave. Thanks for that.

5) He's Barack Obama, Come to Save the Day. Good luck, B. Good luck.

4) Thanks, Arnie. I really needed the laugh. Too bad we can't elect you president.

3) Sarah. Wow. I honestly do wonder if she began this speech with the intention to end it the way she did. At any rate, this is the image I will retain when her name comes up again in national headlines in, oh, about a year and a half. I'm sorry... I know you're in great Shape, Sarah, and you probably had nothing to do with the editing... but I think that is the weirdest piece of cover touch-up I've seen. A mature, gorgeous 40-year-old-woman's face on a 16-year-old's body.

2) If I were Latina, I would buy this T-Shirt and wear it proudly. As to the confirmation, I'm so glad, and I think people are silly. Maybe they make a Wise Swedish-English-Danish-Scottish-Portugese T-shirt. Or... dare I suggest... a Wise Mormon T-shirt? Or perhaps a Wise-A(rse) T-shirt--that would probably fit me best.


1) It was all about the arms a few months ago... it appears that people have nowgravitated to lower limbs. The feminist in me should be outraged at how objectifying that is, but I understand, people. It has been a while... I can't imagine any of our more recent first ladies wearing such things, and I'm not sure I want to.

One thing I remembered while I was in Ethiopia... I'm proud to be an American! Dang it all, I wouldn't want to live or vote anywhere else.

Aug 16, 2009

Adoption Adjustment: the Hair issue

Hair does have an capital H in this case. It is soooo important to know how to care for African hair, not only for health reasons, but cultural reasons. Here in the US, hair is a BIG deal when it comes to African American culture and standards of beauty.

It seems to me, after the research that I have done, that there are a 2 camps (probably more, I'm probably overgeneralizing). The standard procedure seems to be braiding and oiling and slicking while girls are young, and then when they get to be pre-teen or teenage, applying relaxers (called "Creamy Crack" by some because of their cyclical nature... once you start it's hard to stop) and/or hotcombing and straight ironing to get the curl looser and more managable, and more "conventional" looking by general American standards

The other camp is the "natural hair" camp. You do your kids' hair in the cute hairstyles when they are little, but no relaxers. Embrace the curl you're born with. Some people will wear their hair free. You have to understand that African hair, like any other hair, varies hugely. There's looser curls, there's tighter curls. There's softer hair and denser hair, there's relatively untextured hair and hair that is very textured.

My two girls have different hair types, completely. The older's hair is a very tight wave, I'd call it. She has a WHOLE LOT of gorgeous, healthy hair that has a wave/curl pattern a little smaller than a pencil diameter. I can put her hair in a style because it is long enough, but it doesn't stay for long, and I don't think it will unless I put it in very small cornrows or twists. But her hair is also easy and quick to comb out, and doesn't break easily, so this works out.

The younger has hair that has a more wooly texture; more wiry and cloudy and soft and amazing to touch and feel. It is short, about 2 inches when stretched as far as it can go. I've tried cornrows and twists, but her hair is so short, and she has some large bald patches here and there because of ringworm, and so cornrows don't actually look that nice and they stay in only a few hours, literally. So right now, I'm washing it about once a week, applying moisturizer to it every day and giving it a comb-out in the mornings and after naptime. I cover both girls' heads with sleep caps and have them on satin pillowcases to keep rubbing and snarling to a minimum. Right now I do styles on the fringe of MayMay's hair around her face; mostly just a line of hanging twists to frame her pretty eyes. I put clips on the ends. She's sad she can't have beads yet like her sister. I tell her when her hair gets a little more "teleg" (tall or big) She can definitely have beads, too. But she still gets so sad. :(

Dang that ringworm.

Anyway, the hair thing is going all right. I am SOOOOO Glad I practiced, because I've been able to keep Bellarina's styles in for a couple days, and I don't think I've spent more than an hour in a sitting yet. I've been doing simple stuff like 4-parts-into-twists, but this week I tried cornrowing the top and putting the back in boxbraids and my hands knew what they were doing! I did it! And it stayed in for almost 4 days... the most I've gotten out of any style so far.

We'll be experimenting a bit more with gels that will hopefully keep some of the fuzzies down, in future... but I'm going to wait a bit before putting bunches of goop in their hair. I want to clear up the ringworm situation first.

Anyway, after all the buildup, I thought I'd let you all know how the hair was going. If I get time in the next few days, I'll post some pics to show off. :)

Aug 12, 2009

Adoption Adjustment: Love and Boundaries

All you parents know what I'm talking about when I mention boundaries. When your biological child gets to be about one and a half, maybe, they start testing them. What am I allowed to do? What will mom do if I disobey her? What about Dad, will he agree with mom or take my side?

The boundaries phase (the other term is "terrible twos", or terrific twos if you look at it that way) is heartbreaking in a way. Your sweet little baby is starting to throw fits in public and in private, seems sometimes to be frustrated for no reason that you can fathom or work out, seems to be always looking to do what you don't want them to do. They seem to be looking for buttons to push, and are testing all the scope of your reactions.

I'm sure that any of you who have been sunday school teachers (and elementary or high school teachers) will recognize this in older kids as well. Anytime there is a new authority figure it begins again. What will Mrs. Jones do if I do this? Do I really have to? What if I don't?

If you're going to be any kind of authority figure you need to get those boundaries set early, and define them well and consistently. Kids will claim to love a teacher who is "easy" but do they really respect him/her? The teacher that allowed you to ditch or sluff; do you remember him as the one who changed your life through his teaching? The one who didn't follow through on making you turn in your homework; do you remember her with fondness and respect?

Adoptive children can sometimes seem like they've regressed to their 3 year old selves. ( I maintain that 3, not 2, is the naughtiest age). They test and test, wail for an endless amount of time when you give them a consequence, act like they don't like you when you don't give them what they want, run off in public places, cry angry, wracking sobs when you enforce a boundary that they have a particular problem with. Sometimes, they'll look at daddy (or, if they're in a public place, they'll gaze appealingly over the airplane seat at the strangers behind you, or hang out of the shopping cart wailing at the shopping clerk) looking for someone who will take their side.

It can be tough.

For us, naptime and bedtime has been the biggie. But we're getting there. Today they went down almost without any fuss. And they even got all their bathroom chores in BEFORE they went up (I had to allow them to suffer a bit a couple of naptime sessions to prove my point... naptime is naptime and you can't keep coming down for pee pee and then poo poo and then water and then to show me your little scrape and then to complain about not having a stuffed animal you want etc because when naptime is over mom will not be SANE enough to parent you!!!)

Anyway, you can see this has been what we're doing lately. And it feels so good to get through those tough moments. Today Bella ran away from us at the library. When I finally caught up with her (btw Ethiopian kids can RUN)I spoke to her forcefully and took her back to the car. And then I made her stay in the car with Daddy while all the rest of us went in without her. That was what made her sad... my little chewing out made not a dent. It was when she watched all her siblings walk into the library without her that she realized she had done something unwise.

After the library run I got in the car and, while I waited there with the kids while Skywalker took his turn in the library, I pulled her onto my lap and read a book with her. She sat with me and cuddled. We got home and she sat with me and cuddled some more, and I bandaged her sore toe, and we did our bedtime ritual which I can see is becoming comforting and familiar to our new kids the way it is with the old. By the time it was time to send them to bed, Bella was happy, smiling, loving on Skywalker and Me and bouncing around the living room as per usual.

I write about this experience because, while Bella was upset, I felt like the world was falling apart, I was a bad mom for speaking forcibly to her and inhumane for keeping her out of the library, after all she's an ORPHAN who never had libraries before...

and she bounced back fine and i realize it was the right thing to do.

So take heart, adoptive (and standard variety) parents. Setting boundaries IS loving. It is giving them the secure knowledge that you are not just the cookie and banana and new-clothes fairy, you are their Mom. You are willing to be what they need--the one who gives sweets but sometimes says no, the one who hugs and kisses but also gives time-outs and sometimes chewing-outs. The one who will love them unconditionally and, for that reason, will have high expectations of them-- that they are capable of following rules and understanding boundaries, and that they are capable of respecting you enough to obey you as well.

Aug 11, 2009

Adoption Adjustment: Depression and Mourning Change

My mother had some difficult Post-Adoption Depression those first weeks after coming home. She was really feeling it. Luckily, we have both read a lot of articles on the subject and knew it was "normal" or at least, not unexpected. But it really hit home when my mom went through it. I realized I really need to prepare myself for the same thing. Some of the feelings described by those going through Post-Adoption Depression are:

* a "what have I done!" feeling... completely unrelated to how the children are adjusting.
* overwhelmed by simple tasks
* a feeling of intense desire to be alone/away from the adopted children
* a feeling of alienation, odd, intense moments of "these aren't my children"
* intense mourning of "how things were."

These are all normal. And like post-partum depression, they can be accompanied by feelings of intense guilt if you aren't aware that they are, or can be a normal part of adjusting to an adoption. Hormones are sooooo big in mothering, even with Adoption. And the difficulty of Adoption (IMO) is that you don't have all the biological compensations: those lovely endorphins and the breastfeeding and all that which helps to make life feel rosy and, though unreal and overwhemling, a happy thing.

I have had some of these things from time to time. I'll say I think I've got a pretty mild case of it. For me, the biggest symptom has been the last one I mentioned. I have had a couple of sessions of intense sadness, missing my family "as it was" even though I love our family the way it is now. It is a little weird. It feels like something outside of me, completely related to any events that are occuring. The girls can have an amazing day ajdusting and it might be my night of crying it out for a half-hour or so.

I have had some frightening, short periods of feeling some resentment toward the girls. Luckily I can think myself out of it. But it has given me some idea as to how it must feel to have severe PAD or PPD.

If you are feeling these things and feel like you're not handling it well or like things are getting too intense for you to handle on your own, seeking outside help is extremely important, and a wise decision. Think of it as loving your new kids in a way; you're beating the depression by finding interventions, so you can be emotionally available to them.

And taking some alone time, I have found, is paramount in importance. I find that the biggest difference to me emotionally is making sure I get that hour-or-two in the middle of the day to myself. I put all my kids down for "nap" or "Quiet time" and take time to read a well-loved novel, perhaps take a nap, or watch some silly sitcom online. And it makes all the difference; I'm ready to parent again when they wake up.

I have noticed, also that the feelings have lessened in intensity and frequency as the days have gone by. It really does get better. And as your kids adjust and feel more secure in their new environment, you'll feel more secure with the new situation as well. Sometimes waiting it out is the best, too, depending on your situation.

I'm so glad I prepared myself emotionally for the possibility of PAD so that when I felt it, I could sideline it in my mind and know it had nothing to do with my kids, or myself as a parent... it was all about change, and mourning change, and hormonal loveliness, and the culmination of a long, drawn-out process and getting used to the feeling of two strangers (awesome, adorable strangers, but strangers nonetheless) in my family circle. And it has been amazing, for the most part. I wouldn't change a thing. In my heart I know I'm very happy we have done this, and it does my heart so much good so watch the upward climb we are going through together as a family.

Aug 9, 2009

Adoption Adjustment: Language and Food

These are the two questions people always ask me lately; "how are you doing with the language barrier? How are the kids doing with food?"

I'll answer both questions here for the benefit of curious parties and also people in the process of adoption. I've had 3 years to think about the language and food thing, and so I planned in advance, and boooooy am I glad I did.

For language, I knew I was pretty much hopeless to become any kind of fluent. Amharic is not a widely-spoken language, not really a course offered anywhere, except the standard CD + book kits which really aren't that helpful for fluency. So after reading and listening to a few of these, I realized that what I needed was a list of important words and phrases. I asked around on my adoption lists and came up with this, often-suggested option: Amharic for Adoptive Families. It's a little flip book with words and phrases divided up into sections (eg "at the table" "boundaries and directions" "bringing home your child" etc) and comes with a CD read in English and Amharic.

Skywalker converted the CD tracks to Mp3's and I put them on my MP3 player and bascially listened to them every day while I did the dishes for 3 weeks or so before we left. I expected to not be able to understand anything when I got there, but I was surprised by the amount I could communicate with our girls. Things like "tinish" (big) and "teleg" (little) and "Shint" (pee) and "Aye" (no) and "Ah-oh" (yes) immediately came in handy, not just because I could say the important things and play a little, but I think it showed the girls that I respected the fact that they didn't speak my language. I learned a little of theirs, and they delighted in teaching me more of it. My list of words has expanded quite a bit since I first met them. And they are constantly talking to me in their language, and most of the time I can figure out what they're saying even if I don't know most of the words... when I don't understand, I know how to say "I don't know" or "I can't understand" in Amharic. I think it has provided an additional level of intimacy and security for them, to feel like I am trying to understand them and sometimes can understand them.

OK, so the food.

I had planned all along to try to provide things that were familiar to them along with all the puzzling new American stuff, especially the first little while. To that end, Skywalker and I bought a huge load of fresh injera (ethiopian bread, they eat it every day probably two meals a day) and spices to make the stews and sauces that Ethiopians eat with their injera. The first few days we had them, we could give them the fresh injera (even on the plane, with the airline food, we pulled some out.) and then it went sour, and I tried and tried but couldn't make it right on the cooker. At this point, my plan is to visit with my Eritrean friend soon so she can show me how to make it right. Until then, we've managed.

I think giving them familiar foods right at the start had a similar effect to trying to learn some of the language... they recognized that I was accomodating their needs, and that I would do my best to make sure some familiar foods were present often enough-- if not at one meal, then at the next. So they were willing to try new stuff. I've heard of families where the kids refused to eat anything except, like, bread and bananas for months. But our kids have done all right. Tonight I made a dish out of roasted buckwheat, spinach, corn, and ume vinegar (all very foreign, not only to Africans but to my own kids as well) and the girls ate it all up. I gave them each half a banana on their plate, too. I think it's reassuring for kids to see one familiar thing with each meal, and I've done my best.

Some things I've found they'll always eat are:

Bananas (we probably go through 2 lbs a day! Honestly)
Mangoes (they loooove mangoes.)
beans and onions fried in a little oil with some Shurro and Berbere spice added (can buy this in Ethiopia)
Eggs (this has been a lifesaver!)
Milk (we buy organic whole milk)
rolls (white bread)

I try to have one of these things present at most meals. For instance, yesterday I gave my kids chips and salsa as part of lunch, and served some beans-with-shurro with it. Bella gobbled everything up. MayMay ate a few of the chips and gobbled up all the beans.

I try to always say "yes" to bananas, but I do set the boundary of "No food an hour before meals" and I've also had to limit the number of bananas... after banana #2 I say no, now (but the first day I think MayMay ate 4 in a row. Wow).

At any rate, food IMO, should go under the category of "too unimportant to pick a fight about" at this point. Accommodate as much as you can without making things difficult for yourself, and save the boundary setting for what really matters. Especially consider the fact that food, for kids, is BIG. It's almost their whole world, I think... even if they haven't experienced severe privation like a lot of African orphans have. So say yes whenever you can and still be a good mom. :)

So that's my spiel on the food and the language. I highly reccommend the course I linked to, and I highly reccomend buying the spices especially, to get some familiar tastes into the diet. They're good, too... you'll also like the flavors. And it's a wonderful way to incorporate some of your child's birthculture into your home.

Aug 3, 2009

Ethiopia trip, Part II

So the plane ride... let's just say I'm amazed we came away in one piece. I'm not going to go through all the nitty gritty details on here because it'd sound like I wasn't happy and I didn't like my kids. But I am, and I do. ANY child who can endure a 36 hour travel regimen involving 4 legs and being belted in when they aren't used to it and made to sit next to two people for the whole time who they just barely knew, without having a grand-mal meltdown or two... well, I'd argue against their human-being status.

So... after the long, hellish trip, we came home to our wooooonderful wonderful wonderful family in Missouri and fell deeply asleep for a day or so and then woke up and looked at the world anew and found it amazing and dewy and full of technicolor flowers and everything disney and fairy-tale like.

I am not kidding. Our kids are AMAZING!!!! Sooo adorable with adorable personalities to go along with it. And they are already attaching. MayMay especially looooves to be held and picked up and paid attention to and rocked. She's warming up to Skywalker more slowly.

Bella is less needy about the touchy feely still, though she doesn't mind some lap sitting and some hugging and kissing. the first day we met, after about an hour and a half she took my hand, gave me a shy smile, and raised it to her mouth and kissed it. Teary moment. I restrained myself though and smiled at her and kissed her hand in return. She's so active, it's amazing. Crazy trampoline jumper, game-player, social butterfly, adventurer.... nothing phases this girl. Bella really likes Skywalker, and will hold hands just as readily with him, and allow him to stroke her arm or back (that is signature Skywalker) though she's still not sure about being picked up and held. These girls really have no idea what to do with him! They know what a dad is; every magazine on the plane, they went through the pictures and every woman was pronounced, "Mama" and every man, "Baba or Papa." So they know, they just don't really know, yet.

More pics:

Saying goodbye:

The amazing staff at the guest house. Will never forget any of them. I'll do some more detailed posts about our experience and tell you about all of the people in this picture, and add some more fun ones, too.

The girls are pictured here where they have slept for the last 9 months. They love the staff, and it is obvious they were well loved here, but every time we went back they clammed up and were serious. It was obvious they were ready to move on, and be a part of a family instead of an institution. Even the best institution cannot substitute for a family.

In the airport, waiting for our first plane. This is about 2 1/2 hours past the girls' bedtime. They slept... oh, maybe a total of 4 hours or so for the entire plane ride, until the last few hours of the flight when they were basically comatose so that we had to carry them through the airport. Skywalker found a wheelchair and put both girls in my lap, hung all our bags from the handles, and pushed me to the last gate. It was very embarrassing and we got some stares, but it did the job and I won't see any of those mean unhelpful people again (except perhaps at the judgment day.) (Sorry... I said I wouldn't complain but that was perhaps one of the worst experiences of my life. The gate attendant was very rude to us and acted like we were being attention seeking or something. I was like, Lady! Please... I don't need your attitude. These girls have been flying for 30 hours, I've been peed on and thrown up on and flailed at and kicked and watered with tears and if you think your 'tude is gonna throw me you'd better get to know the toughness that is Nosurfdom.)

In the USA. Our family now:

MayMay smiles but she loves to be coaxed to do it. Lol.

Ethiopia Trip, Part I

There has been so much, that I have felt too exhausted to do anything when our day's routine was done. Traveling with the kiddoes from Utah to Missouri was an interesting and bonding experience. Of course, being members of the Nosurf family, our kids have been camping with us before. But man oh man, squirt is at an akward age when it comes to sleeping through the night... he's just been able to get a leg up over his crib wall and get out, and so he's taken to waking up in the middle of the night and crying and coming down the stairs. And of course any change in routine will throw everything off, too. That first nights' camping was difficult. But it worked out... we got some sleep, and neither of us fell asleep the next day driving, so it was all good.

At the inlaws we enjoyed being with Skywalker's parents and two sisters, and Loli and Jaws and Squirt looooved the animals, especially the baby chickens. If Jaws had it her way, I think she'd want to hold a baby chicken every second of every single day.

We were off a few mornings after, to the airport. I was so nervous I couldn't eat any breakfast.

The plane ride was looong and exhausting, but oddly restful as Skywalker and I were on our own without the kids. We have only had one other week during our marriage (and actually, even when we were dating) where that has been the case, and it was strange and exhillarating and sad and homesick at the same time.

When we got to Ethiopia, the customs in the airport, after the long plane ride, was so overwhelming. I snapped at Skywalker a couple of times when normally I probably wouldn't have said anything, I would have just let it go. There was a lady at one of the exchange places who told us not to go to the other because the other place charged a service fee, so Skywalker called out to the other couple, and the lady was displeased because she said it was something to keep quiet, that she could get in trouble or cause trouble. So Skywalker called out to the couple, about to tell them this and I pretty much slugged him and told him to stop talking. It was probably the mment of highest tension and greatest disorientation of the entire trip, and things looked up afterward. All in all, I look back on it and chuckle and realize that Skylwalker's lack of pretensions and openness is one of the biggest reasons I love him so much.

The week flew by in a puzzling kind of montage. Jet-lag has a way of blending experiences together, plus my nausea didn't go away at all, and the guest house serves only lovely, wonderfullly cooked Italian food which normally I would love but just then my body was rejecting. It was difficult, the food. In a way I wish they had served traditional Ethiopian food some of the time, I think I could have handled that better.

We met our girls and they were quiet and calm, and didn't protest at being held. We brought them over to the guest house that first day and we blew bubbles together. It was a stroke of inspiration; the perfect way to break the ice and get the girls to make eye contact, which is an important part of bonding. They loved the bubbles, and we played together, catching each others' bubbles and commenting on the size, “teleg” or “tinish” (big or small) Or bizoo (many). They had lunch with us, and then a nap, and then we played for a while on our balcony with play dough, making animals and exchanging words for them. I learned that cat is “dimat” and turtle, “Aylee” and fish, “asa” and for some reason, “ducky” is the word they used for ducks. I don't know if they learned it at the orphanage or if the word is the same in both languages.

We brought them back after having seemed to warm up to us really well. We couldn't see them the next day, but we saw them the day after that for a couple of hours. They were much shyer that time, hardly looked at us at all... we were at the orphanage.

We went back the next day and took them with us, and they warmed up again but MayMay cried every time I left the room. It was difficult. I was gratified at first because that is a sign of attachment. But as time wore on it got difficult... she'd cry every time she didn't get something she wanted. Finally on the last day, (today), I'd had enough and just let her cry a little, didn't pay attention to the crying but instead did my best to engage her in play and play with Bella, too, giving them equal attention instead of letting MayMay monopolize mine, and she was OK. Boundaries are tricky when you're working in different languages. MayMay has not warmed up as much to Skywalker, yet. She prefers me, and she seems to be pretty single-minded at this point when it comes to getting what she wants. Today at lunch she refused to eat any of the food and then as soon as we got upstairs for nap, she asked for a certain barley snack that Ethiopian kids really love. I said no, and put her to bed. So that was that. She had a good nap and was in good humor when she woke up, and had a little bit of her snack then.

Ethiopia is an amazing place. I wish my first visit could have come at a time when there were less riding on the trip, less stressful things happening on the trip. But I can't think of any other time we would have been able to justify the cost of plane tickets, so I'm not complaining at all. The food is delicious, the people beautiful (and if you think that saying that makes me prejudiced somehow, I defy you to find anyone who has visited Ethiopia who will say otherwise. Even beggars on the street, crippled, dirty, living in poverty... the faces are beautiful and startling, the smiles like rays of sunshine.)

We went out to a traditional restaurant night before last, and the food and the experience was amazing There were traditional dancers. The subtle movements of the dancing were amazing, and there was an Arsi Oromo dance with some amazing hair-swinging action... we'll post them on youtube and link here at some point.

In short, Ethiopia is amazing, our girls are woooonderful, well-adjusted girls with only (so far) the normal types of difficulties that kids tend to go through when huge changes happen. Bella is smart as a whip and has amazing courage and curiosity and ingenuity; she'll try things when she's scared of them. Being scared almost seems to make her more determined to try. She figured out the seat-belt, the car window, she uses a fork even though it's harder for her, because she sees us doing it and wants to try.

MayMay is a sweet, loving, cuddly girl who loves and seeks approval, with irresistible, huge brown eyes that she knows how to use!! and the ability to take correction in stride. She's got a soulful giggle that makes me chuckle every time I hear it. She can make everything into a joke. She is very strong-willed, and doesn't always feel a need to go along with what others tell her to do (which is a quality I am intimiately familiar with! I'll either be the best or the worst mother for her).

Both girls are active and happy most of the time (except around naptime when they start getting droopy eyed, that orphanage obviously had them on a pretty strict schedule.)

I'll add more later... this is a long summary of many days and many experiences. Right now, I'm ready to go home... I love this place but I miss America and I miss my babies, especially little Sam. I missed him enough last night that I had a hard time going to sleep.

So... My sight is set on 36 hours from now when we'll have both halves of our families together for the first time... lots of prayers, for us. This will not be easy, but of course there is that really annoying adage that anything easy isn't worth much. That much I have learned from being a mother. :) And I'm sure I'll learn it even more thoroughly as an adoptive parent.

:) Love you all, will write again, soon.


These are pics of the day we met them. We spent five hours with them, including giving them a naptime. By the end they were warming up and starting to giggle and play with me and peek at Skywalker, too. They're less sure of him, I think because they've not had a lot of men in their lives, particularly in the caregiver role, so they don't know what to make of him. But after having had them around for more than a week, they're starting to thaw toward him, too. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my patient, long-suffering, wise husband?

Toukoul orphanage sign. I was so nervous, not only that first day but every day after until we checked them out. My advice: check them out as soon as you've got everything done that you can't do and bring them along. It's so much more relaxing when they're with you the whole time... instead of the giving them back and renewed nervousness and anticipation when bringing them out again.

Bubbles--the first thing we did together. (BTW... a very good idea, for those of you about to travel and pick up kids that are a little older. Involves eye contact (paramount for attachment!), lots of game possibilities, and our kids were enthralled. I don't think they had played with them much before. They could have gone for hours.)

First day went a lot better than I had imagined. I think a lot of it had to do with the pictures we sent... they knew who we were and were familiar with our faces. They were ready to come home with us.