Sunday, December 14, 2014

For the Person Who Has Everything (or Wants Nothing)

Zinashi asks me every day how many days it is until Christmas. She is incredibly excited that the countdown from ten starts tomorrow. It's so close! She's almost made it to the most exciting day of the year! So I am also painfully aware of how close it is to Christmas, and the only shopping I've done is for my own children. I'd love to send something to others to let them know that they are loved this season, but it's complicated sometimes, isn't it? Most of us don't need more stuff. Many of us live quite far from family and some of our friends. But it's still fun to give, isn't it?

Yes. It is.

And guess what?

We still can. Even if we don't want to try to ship something halfway around the world. Even if the people we are shopping for have pretty much everything they need and want this holiday season. There's still something we can give. They're called Hope Cards.

When you send a Hope Card, the recipient gets the card digitally, straight to their inbox - bam! Christmas gift! - and then gets a custom memento in the mail. It's just a little something, not too big, and it lets them know that you care and are thinking of them - but it also helps someone around the globe who does need something to get it. Here's how it works:

  1. You choose a recipient and design a Hope Card just for them. You can upload your own photo or use one of the provided designs. (I'm fond of the yeti, pictured above.)
  2. You give as little as $5 or as much as - well, as much as you want - per card to fund medical care given by Samahope doctors to those who cannot afford it.
  3. Your custom card is delivered to your recipient's inbox, and then a custom gift is delivered to their mailbox.
  4. Peace and joy are spread throughout the land.

It's so easy, and it's such a great way to give. The medical care given truly saves and changes lives, from providing safe births, to treating those suffering from toxic stress and trauma, to providing reconstructive surgery. What a gift, right? And you can give it, while giving a little something to the people on your list. Everybody wins. Go on, send one (or twelve). Click here to get started.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Settled in for the Holidays

elvie and her doughnut
To me, doughnuts are symbols of holiday cheer.

We have been back from Ethiopia now for more than a week, and today I realized that I had a strange feeling, one I haven't felt in a long time, in years. It is the feeling that comes with having nothing pressing to do. The house is even fully decorated for Christmas. I've got little projects I'd like to attend to, but there is no big thing (or things) looming ahead. No more surgeries, no more big trips, no more tasks related to our move, nothing. Just normal life. And a holiday to celebrate in our cozy, little house.

It will, indeed, be a merry Christmas.

I'm hoping to be back to blogging a bit more frequently in the near future. I've got notes from way back for things that I'd like to share, which have been helpful to me as I've navigated becoming a better mother to my daughters. I've got old blog posts I'd like to edit, for as Zinashi grows, I feel sometimes that even things she very much wanted me to share should be left to gather dust where they are a little less noticeable.

And I've got things to share about our trip to Ethiopia, should you desire to make a similar trip and want a little more insight into our experiences. I know that others sharing their resources really helped me, and I'd like to return that favor.

I also would like to write a bit about our move to London. Again, something that helped me immensely was the willingness of other bloggers to share (particularly in regards to moving pets), and I want to pass on that kindness to the next family who may be approaching an international move.

But for now, I am settling in to family life for the holidays. We are making memories and starting new traditions. I hope to make this first holiday season in London as good as it can possibly be. We are thankful to be here, grateful to have nothing stressful ahead of us as we snuggle together to tell each other over and over again that old story that we love. Of a bright star above a stable, of angels serenading shepherds, of love incarnate born onto the earth. To me, Christmas is about love. We plan to revel in it, and we hope to spread it as far as we can reach.

Monday, December 1, 2014


We arrived back in London yesterday to a misty morning followed by long shadows over leaf-strewn sidwalks in the afternoon. It felt good. It was time to be back to all that is familiar in our day to day family life.

The trip was beyond what I can describe. We were unable to see Elvie's family due to some scheduling conflicts and miscommunication, but I dealt with most of the angst surrounding that in country, and now I feel at peace. We handed off a photobook to someone we trust to deliver it, and we confirmed our plan to visit her village next time. We will be back in a year or two, and as much as I wanted her family to see her as soon as possible, I think that, for Elvie, it will be better to go when she is able to remember a little of this first visit.

But for Zinashi, this trip was both meaningful and something she will be able to remember for the long term. There is so much that I won't be telling about this, because it is suddenly all so personal and beautiful and complicated and everything that is worthy of being protected just for our girl. I think I can tell you only how I felt, which is that this visit brought so much joy and peace. We kept promises both to Zinashi and to her family. We got her full, true story. We stepped out of the grey area and into the light.

I am so very glad we went. I am so very glad we will be able to go back again. It means everything to us to have this connection. Everything. I know I say this all the time, but it is true every time: I am grateful.

zinashi in her village

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Three Days Until Takeoff, Just Keeping It Real

dirty sock dance

Remember that post about messiness, in which I said that I was able to keep my house cleaner now? And how I said that I wouldn't be less of a person if my house were messy again due to life circumstances? Well. Life and its circumstances have happened. But I think that it's far more important to show you this adorable photo of Elvie "doing the laundry" (yes, those are dirty socks she's wearing on her arms) than it is to wipe out the evidence of the leak in our laundry room, the cats' half finished dinner, and the sheets that are supposed to be folded and stored.

The creatively wrapped gifts get a pass, because Zinashi bought that paper and tape (and one gold bow!) with her own money, then found things to wrap up as Christmas gifts. In fact, I probably shouldn't have blurred them out so much, because how adorable is that? And kind and loving and giving? Before now, you may have been thinking that it was too early to be thinking of Christmas, but can you say that now? Can you look my generous seven-year-old in the eye and say that it is too early to be planning for the gifts that go under our tree? I bet you can't. You'd better just get started with your holiday shopping and decorating.

I have actually done most of the holiday shopping for the girls already. As much as I am looking forward to being in Ethiopia again, I am also looking forward to being back in London and enjoying the holiday season as a family, with all of the big happenings of this year behind us. So I took care of what is, for me, the most stressful part of the holiday season, so that we can come back and focus on the tree and the decorations and the holiday lights in the city and simply being together in a time that is not rushed. Because so much of our year has been rushed, and right now in particular feels like we are in a big rush.

Tomorrow is our big packing day. Monday we will get the house in order and do hair. Tuesday we will fly out in the evening, and on Wednesday we will find ourselves in Ethiopia. It's getting real.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Our Responsibility

where my first baby comes from

We are leaving for Ethiopia in one week. I have never been so poorly prepared for a trip. By now I usually have most plans firmed up and the bulk of the packing done. But life these past six months has been anything but slow, and I feel like November snuck up on me. I am trying to roll with it. We have had little time to dwell on the particulars of what this visit means, and maybe that is for the best. As the time to depart draws closer, we get more anxious to get there. Tonight it took Zinashi until 11:30pm to fall asleep. This trip is such a big deal for her, and for her family in Ethiopia*, which is why we are doing it even though we are not as prepared in the practical sense as we might like to be.

It is National Adoption Awareness Month, and I have so many thoughts about that. But I think I want to just focus on one thing, which is that I feel that we, as adoptive parents, have been given far more power within the adoption triad than is just. We get to decide what we tell our children about their origins. We get to control contact with first families as little or as much as we please. We get to have our kids in our homes while others are missing them, and we often don't treat that like the profound honor and responsibility that it is.

I know that there are instances in which a maintaining family connections is not possible, but if it is, I think we should fight for it. I think it is our responsibility to relentlessly pursue the truth of our children's stories and the fullest relationships possible with their first families. It should be at our expense - financially and emotionally - that our children and their families retain close ties. We chose adoption, but our children did not. The weight of this burden should be carried by us as much as possible. There is so much we can't change for our children and their first families, but we can do this. And so we will.

*It is also a big deal for Elvie and her family, of course. I think I just feel the weight of Zinashi's need in a more pressing way because she has so many memories of Ethiopia and her home there, and because we already have established a relationship with her family. This first visit with Elvie's family will begin the relationship we hope to maintain with them throughout the years. We intend to pursue as much contact as is possible with both girls' families so that they both may grow up with all the people who love them as regular fixtures in their lives.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Heading Home

ethiopia 2012
In Addis Ababa in 2012. Who are these tiny people?

Two weeks from right now, we will be on an airplane en route to Addis Ababa. It will be our very first time in Ethiopia that we are there just to visit, and the first time that we venture out of Addis Ababa. Though we were there with Zinashi for a month while we waited to complete her US visa process, we wanted to keep our life together predictable and without a lot of new, overwhelming experiences. We felt that her transition into our care - though we loved her, we were still strangers - was more than enough for her to handle. So we stayed in the guest house and the surrounding area, mainly. I am so very glad we did; I think it was what we all needed then.

When we went for Elvie's adoption, it was all a jumble of unpleasant health discoveries and medical appointments and trying to keep her fed and as healthy as possible until we could get her back to the United States for medical care. We spent quite a lot of time holed up in our hotel room, as far as possible from potential germs that might like to spread to our fragile baby. I found this photo that Jarod took on our last day in Ethiopia, and it is representative of how tiny and sick Elvie was and how worried I was in the face of that. At the end, we were feeding her with a medicine dropper, and all I wanted was to get her through the travel portion and into a the capable hands of her new doctors.

the face of worry
I would not relive those last days, not for a million dollars.

So to say that this trip will be different than the others is possibly stating the obvious, but still I say it. It will be so different, so refreshingly different, and I cannot wait to see Ethiopia without a cloud of worry hanging over my head. We don't have long in country - just ten days - but in some ways I feel like I will be seeing everything for the first time.

I am excited most of all, though, for my children. Elvie asks every day if we are going to Ethiopia; she knows where she is from, and she wants to go. Zinashi will return to her village for the first time, and the magnitude of that is beyond what I can express. This trip is the first trip time that we will be there with the singular goal of reconnecting with what both girls lost when they became part of our family. I hope it is just the beginning of a connection that will grow and flourish with each visit. Ethiopia is home. It is always good to go home.

Friday, October 31, 2014


I'm not Halloween's biggest fan, but I love costumes, and so do my kids. We'd heard that trick or treating isn't as big of a thing here in the UK as it is in the US, but a little light Googling revealed four neighborhoods that get in the Halloween holiday spirit.

halloween 2014 1

I'm not sure what made me start making Halloween costumes instead of buying them, but I'm pretty sure that it just seemed like a fun idea. Then it became about the principle of the thing, about Halloween not being something for which my kids get yet another thing bought for them. I want it to be fun, and I want the costumes to be something that I do for them or that we do together. So this week, as has become my custom, I stayed up well past my bedtime every night, making costumes. I was a bit worried that we wouldn't fit in to how Halloween is done here, but both girls got endless compliments on their costumes, so I think we can proceed as we have always done without my girls feeling out of place. Which is a relief, despite how many times I cursed the feathers as I sewed them to Zinashi's costume wings.

halloween 2014 2

One of the things that I really love about making costumes is that anything is an option. Zinashi took a long time figuring out what she wanted to be, settling on a fox that flies because it is both unique ("I bet no one will have my same costume") and, frankly, cool. I mean, look at her:

halloween 2014 8

Elvie kept mentioning names of Harry Potter characters, without really knowing much about Harry Potter, but when I asked her if she wanted to be someone from Harry Potter or an animal, she immediately said, "A AMIMAL!" When I asked which one, she gave a little hop as she made the elephant sound. Barooooooooo!!! 

halloween 2014 4

We spent the day at the zoo, and handily enough, one of the neighborhoods that Google found for us to trick or treat in was within walking distance. We went, we collected candy and a little bit of fruit, and we were done in an hour. That bit right there was magic for me. I felt like it was just enough. The kids were happy, and we were at home in time for a dinner that wasn't too much later than normal. It was perfect, really. I am so glad.
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