Tuesday, November 30, 2010

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary: PLAID

When it gets cold, Old Lady Mary worries about me freezing, and now she's got a second person to worry about. Her days are probably all a tizzy of worry about no hats and the child that won't wear gloves and WAIT! THAT LITTLE GIRL IS WEARING MY FAVORITE PATTERN!

Old Lady Mary loves plaid. She was wearing a plaid shirt today. Therefore, she and Zinashi match and both have excellent taste.

tuesday, november 30, 2010

Old Lady Mary is unaware of who lays out the outfits around here, but that's okay. I'll let Zinashi take the credit. After all, she does keep letting me put her in shorts and legwarmers. She needs to get a little something for her tolerance of my ridiculousness.

Mary did love the shirt Zinashi was wearing, and she inspected the coat once again, declaring it an "eskimo coat" this time as opposed to something one of the Claus clan would wear. The only thing we really discussed about my outfit was the footwear. Are those boots warm enough? How do you get them on and off? Won't you fall with a heel like that on your boot? We have this same discussion several times each winter; by now I've memorized my lines. At least this time I could distract her with Zinashi's charm. I clearly am not distracting her with my outfits anymore.

Oh, well. I'll keep trying. Check back next Tuesday to see if further efforts pay off or fall flat in the wake of the tiny Queen of Sheba's considerable style and grace. If this doesn't start going better, I may just have to show up in head to toe polar fleece. At least then she'll believe I know how to dress myself for the weather, right?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ababi Mondays: Not about me...

So I got to spend the morning by myself which was nice. There's not much alone time anymore. Of course those of you with kids already know that. Both Mary and I do value a little alone time and we try to make sure we both get it. After the afternoon nap we went to get some supplies to start to spread a little holiday cheer around the house.

So after this...

And this...

We ended with this...

And just like the hippies we are, you can see we got a potted tree so that we can plant it after Christmas instead of just cutting another one down. Hippies!


What I really wanted to post about today though was the other girl in my life. Yesterday was Mary's birthday. So as a family we all went to the Plaza and went shopping for some things for "Mami" (sounds kind of like mommy but different, more Ethiopian).

We saw some horses...
Enjoying the scenery

And then we all went out to eat...
Mami's birthday dinner

Mary doesn't get nearly enough credit for all the work she put in to make bringing Zinash home a reality. She was passionate about every step. She made sure everything was just right. She went beyond her comfort zone to make it happen. She was fighting for someone she didn't even know yet. At the same time she was fighting for me, and us. Working so hard to make a family. Struggling to make everything perfect for this moment...
happy mami

The moment we became a family.

Happy Birthday Mami! I love you more than can be expressed.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

All I Really Wanted

We have a joke about Jarod spending his birthday in international locations (you know, because that's what always happens, for our whole married life thus far), and this year was no exception since we were in Addis Ababa, eating cake on that day. But my birthday is a little harder to celebrate in that manner, what with it being so close to Thanksgiving, so I make other wishes. This year, when I looked ahead through the fall, all I really wanted for my birthday was to be at home with Zinashi. I think we all know how that turned out. It has been a very happy birthday, maybe the happiest one yet.

my only birthday wish

Yes, definitely the happiest one yet.

Friday, November 26, 2010

That Gigantic Sigh of Relief You Hear is Coming from Our House

I'm going to keep this brief so that I can go show my pillow how much I love it as soon as possible, but I feel I must tell you this, even if I have to retract my statement later because something has gone wrong. It seems Zinashi's sleep problems have been solved. You might ask how, what with it being the holidays and lots going on, and our daughter being easily over-stimulated, but the thing is that:

1. We kept Thanksgiving decidedly low key.


2. Zinashi has been treated for giardia.

Did you know that giardia can cause sleep issues? No? I didn't either. It is not listed as a symptom on any medical web pages. Still, it was the only symptom our daughter had that we knew about (though it's likely she was experiencing stomach pain), and with treatment has come much easier bedtimes. She snuggles up against us and is able to settle down without a lot of parent-guided position changes or various forms of bouncing or special methods of cuddling or blanket wrapping or whatever. She just...goes to sleep. Like magic. Sweet relief. Hallelujah.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Our Very Own Black Friday Sale

There was a time when we needed financial help just to make it through to the next fee, to get our girl home without being completely sunk in debt. We did a lot of things to raise funds; looking back, I think it might have been a little much, that maybe we should have focused more on one single thing and listened to our hearts and guts about others. But all those small things did add up, and it has helped immensely. She wouldn't be here without the help, and we know it, and we are grateful. As we look ahead to the future, we purpose to put ourselves in a financial position that won't leave us grasping at so many straws the next time around. Because, yes, we are already thinking about the next time around. It will be a year before we can start paperwork again, then who knows how long before the next daughter comes along. But we know she will; we planned on it before, but we knew once we met Zinashi that she would need a sibling. To start our planning and saving now simply means that we will be as ready as possible.

To that end, we are clearing out last year's goods in our Finding Magnolia online store. All our shirts and totes with the Finding Magnolia logo are half off, and we've put some of our old card designs on sale as well. For Black Friday only, take an additional 20% off our clearance products and anything else in the store by entering the code BLACKFRIDAY at checkout. Added to the store are some brand new card sets that I think you'll love, and with 20% off, that's a holiday gift option that can't be beat. As always, every single penny made in the store goes into our adoption fund--for the remainder of the fees for this time and to begin anew as we look ahead to someday and a house even more full of joy.

If this go 'round is any indication of what's to come, then it's going to be just awesome, isn't it?

the face off

I think the answer to that question is YES.

A Very Happy Thanksgiving Indeed

Last year at the Plaza lighting, a friend and I chatted about our adoption and how good it would be if our girl would be home by Thanksgiving this year, if I would be standing in the same spot as always, but with a daughter in my arms. It was, in my heart of hearts, my dearest wish.

happy thanksgiving

looking back at the plaza lights

I'll just go ahead and consider that wish granted.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Eve

Yesterday we finally received a follow-up call from our international adoption doctor about the results of lab work from two weeks ago. The biggest thing that was of concern we already knew about; Zinashi has giardia. The health department called us last week to ask questions about where she might have gotten it, and when I said, "Ethiopia," the woman seemed surprised. We weren't, though; I have yet to meet a family whose toddler or older child adopted from Ethiopia that did not have it when tested upon arrival. The only other abnormality is that her hemoglobin is a little low, but not low enough to require a supplement. She's just barely not anemic, which is good enough for us. I can just feed her some steaks for dinner, right?

The doctor called in the prescription for the giardia medication, we picked it up today, and after three days of strawberry flavored protazoa-killer, our girl should be good to go. This is the same girl that landed on the waiting child list due to a medical issue. That issue has resolved itself, and we are proud parents of a healthy, probably-three-year-old girl. And that's something for which we can most certainly give thanks.

What will you be giving thanks for this holiday season?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesdays with Old Lady Mary: An Introduction

For nearly two years now, I've been visiting an eccentric elderly woman weekly, usually on Tuesdays. From the very first visit, when I wore this pink hat, she declared that I was a model--sometimes fashion, sometimes super--and I have felt inclined to try to live up to her perception. So every week I choose a new outfit, and because her reactions have been so fantastic, I started taking a photo to document each outfit and her comments. I'm not sure who called her Old Lady Mary first, but it's stuck in our conversations about her, and I assure you it is not a moniker born of disrespect. If we heeded her words, we would call her Rag Bag Mary, but that's not necessary. We girls all love her, and I have taken particular joy in dressing up for her each week. Now I've got a sidekick to dress, so it's even more fun. Today was our first day to visit the wonderful woman Zinashi will call Grandma Mary, and it went swimmingly. They took to each other like ducks to water. Zinashi talked about the peanut butter cup Grandma Mary gave her all the way home. (Mami! Chocolate! over and over again.) It was fantastic. Here is what we wore:

tuesday, november 23, 2010

Zinashi's boots got a lot of positive attention, and the hood on her jacket made Grandma Mary declare that she looked "like a little Santa Claus or Mrs. Claus." I was simply reprimanded for not dressing warmly enough. It's okay; I understand. Someone else is prettier than me now.

tuesday, november 23, 2010

Click on the photos if you'd like to read more details about the outfits. And click back here if every Tuesday to see what we've been wearing for Old Lady Mary. Because of course we'll be back every single Tuesday. We love Mary so; we just can't wait!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ababi Mondays: Work Edition

Normally Ababi Mondays would look something like this...

Zinashi and I off taking a walk or hanging out at home. This monday is a little different though. It looks a little more like this...

A bagged lunch (already eaten) and a computer screen. Of course Zinash and Mami brought the lunch since I forgot it this morning.

So why not take this time to talk a little bit about work and how that has affected our time with Zinash. I've got to say right off the bat that without the people I work with and the benefits I receive it would have been much harder to bring Zinashi home. The company provides some great adoption financial adoption assistance/reimbursement. That is hugely beneficial.

But more than that it is the people that I work with that helped.

The original plan for Mary and I was for me to make two trips to Ethiopia. For those of you who know the story you know it didn't work out like that. It end up more like the 3 of us flying out of Addis 1.5 hours before my month long visa expired.

The night we moved out of the HOH Guest House and into Mr. Martin's Cozy Place I knew that I was not going back to the states any time soon. That began the rush to get everything covered. With little email and phone access it was not easy. I emailed the people I work with and told them what was going on and their response was "Awesome! Let us know what we can do to help." Not a lot of work environments are that accepting of receiving an email and saying that you're not going to be coming back in for a month or longer (we still didn't know when we were going to be back at that point).

When we finally did get back I was still able to take 5 more days off to get un-jetlagged and help Zinash get used to her new cats. When I finally did start back to work Mary and I really didn't know what to expect. Zinash handled it ok, but like previous big transitions we had, she began to regress in her ability to go to sleep at a decent hour. This is something that we are just now starting to see some normalcy in. Each night over the past week has seemed to be just a touch easier. Of course now that I say that I have just jinxed us and we are going back to midnight bedtimes.

Some countries give paternity leave that is measured in months. In the states we are lucky to get any at all. I think both Mary and I feel really blessed that the company and people I work/with for has been so encouraging and flexible. It's really one less thing to worry about.

Four Generations of AWESOME

four generations of awesome

Oh, Zinashi, you are my daughter, aren't you?

four generations of awesome

Not a normal smile in the whole set. Of course, when most photos I'm in end up like this, one might wonder, "Just what IS normal in this family?" I don't know. You tell me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Progress as Promised

Zinashi likes to carry around the first photos we received of her; she found them in my carryon while we were in Ethiopia, and then found them again when we got home.* I look at those photos and marvel. That girl whose photo we were drawn to on a website one Friday evening is in our house, in our lives, in our family. And she has changed, so much so that sometimes when I look at those photos I have trouble seeing the Zinashi today behind the face of the Zinash late last spring. Even by the end of the month we were in Ethiopia, she was so changed that the transition home staff would remark on her progress every single time they saw us. Her very countenance had changed. You can see it for yourself.

Zinashi's referral photos, taken in early May:

the first photo we saw of her

the second photo we saw

Looking better in late August, one month before we came for her. At this point she knew her family was coming:

at the house of hope

And then she was with us, in Ethiopia:

would you like to make a call?

There's just something different about her eyes, a softness that seems to come from behind.

When we landed in Washington, D.C., there was a confidence to her we hadn't seen before. No need to hold our hands, oh, no. She had a bottle of milk and a ruffle on the butt of her pants, and she could lead the way. Every time before this when we were in public, she would want to be held or would reach out to hold our hands. But not here, here she checks in with my hand only once, and very briefly. She is a girl with places to go and things to do:

And then we were home, in our very own house, and she knew it. The new Zinashi is here to stay:

hello, smile

I look at how far she's come, and I am encouraged. I know that despite what she lost, she is finding what she needs now. I give her all the credit--for being willing, for being vulnerable, for embracing her new life so wholeheartedly. We are incredibly proud of our girl. She is extraordinary.

she posed herself like this

*There is one bag that refuses to be unpacked, and it is my carryon, still with my journal and notebook and various travel-related small bits of trash inside. Zinashi likes to carry it out to the living room on occasion and take a few things out. You'd think I'd put the things away after she's pulled them out, but I tend to just stow them back in there when I'm in a hurry to clean up, and so it is that the same items are still in there three and a half weeks after we returned home. Someone asked us the day after we returned if we were all unpacked, and I have to laugh about that, because oh, wow, no way.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This is My Way of Thanking People Until I Can Get Proper Thank You Notes Written

I got a call while Zinashi was still finishing lunch, and it was our meal provider for tonight, outlining the meal and arranging a time to bring it by. We have been spoiled by all these meals, and by spoiled, I mean that we will find ourselves staring down a box of pasta and a jar of sauce one evening and sigh to each other, "Do you remember that time Steve brought the rustic vegetable tart?" I love to cook, but it's enough of a challenge trying to put breakfast and lunch and some dinners on the table; I can't imagine what these first three weeks would have been like without a meal magically showing up every third evening. I can't tell you how many times I've stood over the stove at lunchtime, warming the last of whatever leftovers we have, and wondering just what I can pull out of my very tired hat for dinner. And then it will occur to me that Oh! Someone is bringing us food!, and I feel instantly relieved. It has been so nice to have this done for us. If you know someone who is adopting, bringing food to ease their transition into life with their new child is very much welcomed and will probably keep some new mother from weeping at the thought of having to come up with something else to cook, when her brain is already so full of things to think about, and she's jet-lagged, and the budget is just too tight to have something delivered, or even to pick something up somewhere close by. This has been a light at the end of quite a few little tunnels, and we are grateful.

Thanks, everybody. You're the best.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ababi Mondays: Zoo-nashi!

Mary has been saying that I could/should write something on the site. Something to give my perspective. And she's right. I should. There are a lot of adoption/family blogs out there but hardly any of them have the father's view. I'm not sure why this is, but it is.

Since I'm not as great with writing as Mary is I decided to keep my posts to a weekly feature. Ababi Mondays!

Ababi is the name that Zinash gave me while we were in Ethiopia. Neither of us are sure where she got it but she started doing and Mary thought it was cute (as did I). We were told it's the Amharic equivalent of Father. So hey it works, and honestly, it is really cute when Zinash says it.

As for Mondays, well, That's the day I'm usually off work and get to spend the most time with Zinash.

looking at the sea lion, who was sunning himself beautifully

This Monday we decided to head off to the Zoo.


The sea lion was nice.

Zinashi and the meer cat.

The meerkats were funny

But honestly...


The new polar bear exhibit was the best of all!


After the afternoon nap we all took a walk to Target. The whole day wore the 3 of us out and it showed tonight. As Mary has mentioned before, when Zinash has big, stimulating days she has trouble going to sleep at night. Well tonight was one of those nights. It's rough on both Mary and I because we feel like we are failing her when we get frustrated that she won't go to sleep, but honestly it's kind of our fault. We know right now she can't handle the stimulation of a busy day. We just hope and pray that later in life she'll remember the good parts of the day and not our frustration with her when we are trying to get her to sleep.

Maybe someday she'll get past the sleep issue. Maybe not. She might be one of those kids that just can't handle a lot of action during the day. Who knows. Right now we just have to learn as we go along. Mary's pretty good at figuring this stuff out and a lot of times I just follow her lead.


I hope you all enjoy Ababi Mondays. If so, then please let me know. It will encourage me (force me!) to keep up with it (which I honestly really want to do)!


The night we landed in Addis Ababa, the landscape was dotted with bonfires you could see from the air. We walked out the airport doors into a haze of smoke. I didn't care. It felt so good to be off the plane, to breathe fresh air again. As we rode in the agency van through the streets of Addis Ababa, we saw the bonfires up close. People were dancing and laughing. Celebrating. We had landed just in time for the celebration of the Meskel Festival. As we unpacked in our guest house room, Jarod opened the window, and a boy next door saw him and called out, "Welcome to Ethiopia!" Yes, yes. Welcome. To Addis. To Ethiopia. To our daughter's home.

In the morning, we ate breakfast. Pancakes. Nutella. Laughing Cow cheese and jam. And coffee--good Ethiopian coffee. We were ready to go early. How could we help it? On the drive the butterflies spun in my stomach. Would she like us? What if we scared her? In the courtyard, she was standing alone as our van pulled in, wearing the same dress as in the first photos we have of her, but with legs sticking out underneath. She'd grown. A lot. I got out of the van and knelt a few feet in front of her. "Selam, Zinash." She looked up and away to the side. Who are you? "Zinash, nay." (Come.) And then she did. She walked right over, and held out her arms when I asked if I could hold her. That was it. It's what you see in our video--me, holding our daughter, who we wouldn't let go ever again. Little did we know then that she would stay with us from that moment on.

The whole thing is surreal--the meeting of a daughter, a ready-made, potty-trained, three-year-old daughter, who doesn't know you at all but somehow wants to be with you anyway. That still surprises me, seven weeks later, that she would walk into my arms and be all right with that arrangement from the very first. You might say that she knew. You might say that she needed us. You might just call it like it is and say it was a miracle, one that we all needed. It was as if heaven came down and moved earth to make it all happen just the way it was meant to be. Us. Together. A family. From that moment until forever.

And yet, it wasn't exactly meant to be that way. I will never argue that this was God's will because I don't think that a loving God would have purposely taken Zinashi's first family. You can say what you like about the story of Job, but I think that sometimes this world is just a shitty place to live. Pardon my strong language, but I don't think any alternate word is strong enough. I think that God steps in and offers consolation, but I don't think He ever meant for it to go like this. We are her consolation, or at least I hope we are, in the fullest sense of the word. We are the ones who will love her unconditionally, and hope and pray that we can do right by the decision her family had to make, given the heartbreaking circumstances. I don't say this to diminish or demean who we are as her parents and what we purpose to give as her family, but as an acknowledgment that were life fair and good and right all the time, we wouldn't be necessary to her life. We just wouldn't. And I'm not looking for a pat on the back for "rescuing an orphan" or some sort of confirmation that she's better off with us. I don't see it that way: the rescuing part or the better off part. In some ways, yes, she is better off in her current circumstances. See also: hunger, poverty, injustice to women in the developing world. But in some ways, she isn't. See also: loss of family, culture, homeland. And that simply is what it is.

I miss Ethiopia a lot. I watch Zinashi learning new words in a new language and think about her losing her beautiful accent, and it is hard. I see her becoming a little American, and I can't stand it sometimes. Those thirty days in Ethiopia were a gift in many ways; among them was the chance to see our daughter in Ethiopia, as an Ethiopian. It all changes far too fast here in the US. We change far too fast, too. We forget the luxury of drinking water right out of the tap, of having electricity all of the time, of eating fresh vegetables without the possibility of walking away with a parasite or two. We forget what it's like to live with dust everywhere and pollution hanging low in the air, our daughter's cough ringing out in the night from so much strain on her small lungs. We sink back into life as we knew it, into our normal, which we now understand isn't the norm for most people in the world.

And then there is this face:


It implores me not to forget. Where she came from. What she lost when we got on that plane to bring her into America. Ethiopia doesn't allow for dual citizenship, but she is and always will be Ethiopian, whether she can use that maroon passport or not. And that, we will never forget. Not ever.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The One About Attachment

There are a lot of ways to parent, and that's true whether you are parenting biological or adopted children. However, adoption parenting often looks a lot different than typical parenting. To start with, an adopted child comes to you as a stranger, a wounded stranger. When your adopted child lands in your arms, he or she has lost everything known. This is true if even if your child comes to you as an infant, for the time spent in utero counts as time, too. If you are adopting internationally, your children come to you with even more time under their little belts. And so there is work to do from the first day you meet. That work is called attachment. It is the process by which your child begins to recognize you as the parent and form an attachment to you. It is what allows them to trust you and know that their needs will be met. The work of attachment is often largely practical, and while after a time it becomes more innate and natural, I find that when I am not being intentional about it, the deepening of our attachment slows significantly.

I have mentioned before that the #1 thing we've done that has fostered attachment is co-sleeping. I'll 'fess up and tell you that at first, I didn't think we'd do this. But it seemed like everywhere I turned, someone was talking about co-sleeping and the good work it had done for them. Then, when we knew our daughter was three years old, and that she'd been falling asleep in a room with other children, I started to think about how scary it would be for her to fall asleep in a room by herself. So we decided to co-sleep. On that first afternoon, when we laid her down in the bed between us, and she turned to each of us, just beaming, I knew it was the right thing to do. Attachment is largely about children feeling safe with you, and knowing that you will always meet their needs. This allows us to build that feeling of safety and to let Zinashi know that when she needs us, we are right there. I feel so good about providing for her in this way, and the truth is that I also simply like it. I do miss the bed space sometimes, and certain, ahem, husband-wife relations require alternate venues, but seeing her smile that goofy grin when she wakes up and realizes we are right there is priceless. Also, lately our shy cat has been snuggling up to her head, and she is delighted to wake up and find that the cat will actually let her pet it as opposed to just running away.

Another attachment activity that relates to bedtime is how we put her to sleep. When we were in Ethiopia and at first when we were home, she would fall asleep between us in bed, but that stopped working right about the time I allowed too many people into her life in too short a time span. We are working our way back to that, but it may take time to recover from this regression. So for now we rock and sway and jiggle her to sleep (if you've watched the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD, you know about the jiggling action of which I speak), and she always falls asleep in our arms. It is hard physical work, and probably explains why my pants still button, even though people continue to bring us sweets when they provide meals for us, and I feel it is my moral responsibility to eat everything that people have given us. She really needs the help being soothed into sleep, and it allows us to be physically very close to her. So even though it's a step backward that she needs the help, it's a good thing in terms of simply creating the cozy bond we want with our daughter.

I would also count our approach to food as attachment work. By feeding her what she needs and giving her the security of knowing that there is always enough food, we are giving her one more task to trust us with. I've written before about our food approach while in Ethiopia, and it is largely the same here. At the table, she eats her fill of whatever we are having, and we continue to hold her on our laps and feed her if she wants us to. Some days she wants to eat everything on her own, and other days she allows us to put some things in her mouth. She also likes to feed us, and we love it; this is not only good attachment, but retains the Ethiopian cultural practice of feeding one another. In Ethiopia, she suddenly wanted to sit in her own seat, but with the big adjustment to life in the US, she has regressed a little bit and has only wanted to sit in her seat for very short periods of time, usually when she's doing more playing than eating at the end of the meal and I've told her that she is welcome to continue in her own seat, but I have other things I must do. For the meals Jarod is home for, she usually sits on his lap, which is fantastic since he is away at work all day and has less time to work on attachment with Zinashi. We also continue to make food available to her all the time. We will say no to some specific requests (to carry around the bag of chocolate chips and eat them at will, for instance), but we always offer an alternative right away and tell her when she'll get to have the desired food item. Basically, if your child has a history of the need for food being unmet, saying no reinforces their fear that they will be hungry again. To prove that we can be trusted to give her food when she needs it, and that food is always available so she will not go hungry again, we give her food when she needs it and always have food available. That's pretty simple and logical, right?

Another thing we do to foster attachment is simply being present. If at all possible, we pick her up when she holds her arms out. Increasingly, she understands when I tell her that I cannot pick her up right that second because (insert valid reason here--hands are full, thing you're stirring on the stove is very hot, etc.), and she will wait. But I always pick her up once I am able to. In addition, I make space for her to play right by me wherever I am. If she is feeling secure, she will wander the house and come back to check in every now and again, but on days when she's feeling insecure, she always has a spot next to me, and I will make a point of doing things she can either participate in or sit on my lap while I do them myself. And finally, Zinashi never gets a time out. I know, right? What kind of hippie permissive parenting are we engaging in? I didn't say that we don't give consequences, just that we don't give time outs. For a typical kid, time out indicates that you don't get attention for negative behaviors, and it works because the child already knows that you are not going to abandon him, just give him the space to figure out that no one gives you anything when you throw a fit. With a child who has experienced loss, time outs have the unintended effect of telling the child that she will be left behind if she misbehaves. So we do what is called a "time in," which means that we are holding her while waiting for her to figure out how to do the right thing, or we are right next to her. Examples of when we need to be right next to her as opposed to holding her include when she has decided to hit out of frustration and when she is doing something I just asked her not to, but that she can reach if she's on my lap or in my arms. For example, if I've told her that she cannot type on the keyboard while I'm paying bills, and she continues to do so, I will set her down and wait for her to get her stomping and whining out (because she will stomp and whine when she doesn't get her way). I then require that she say sorry before she can return to my lap. If I were a real hippie, I would just redirect and go do something else with her, but guess what? I need to pay the bills/wash the dishes/feed the cat, and it is not unreasonable to expect her to learn that when someone is doing work, we don't impede their progress.

A quite enjoyable thing that we do, or that I do, is this:

zinashi's favorite mode of transportation

That right there is some babywearing. Our Beco Butterfly 2 also can be worn on the front. Many mothers in Ethiopia carry their children on their backs, so that position was natural for Zinashi from the beginning. It also allows me to do a ton of things hands free. One day we even swapped out seasonal clothes from the basement and hung everything up, all with Zinashi on my back. The front carry position still leaves my hands free, but there's not as much space for arm movement or to carry things. I also find that the back carry is a little more comfortable for long periods of time. We have noticed that on the days that I am unable to give Zinashi some babywearing time, it is harder for her to settle at night. So every day, rain or shine, we do it. We prefer outdoors, but in a pinch we can be mall walkers at the nearby mall that isn't crowded, or I can wear her in, say, Costco. (Like I did yesterday. She was the belle of the ball there, for sure.)

Finally, we are encouraging attachment by having Zinashi spend the majority of her time only with us. It is important for Zinashi to understand that we are her parents, and the way we do that is by being the ones to attend to all her needs, whether it be for food, sleep, or nurture. Of course it is natural for others to want to hold her or give her things or feed her, but we find that the more people she sees that are allowed to provide for any of her basic needs, the less secure she is. This shows up in the magic of two hours of sleep resistance at bedtime. So we keep life fairly quiet, and sometimes when we meet people, it is very briefly, with her in my arms or in the carrier. We made huge mistakes in this regard in our first two weeks home, and now we are making up for that unfortunate start to our time in the US. This is the hardest part of attachment for me, even harder than rocking and swaying for two hours at bedtime, as we have to tell people that they cannot see her, or that it is unwise for them to hold her. Once we have moved further forward in our attachment work, this won't be an issue, but for now, we are keeping her close. Don't worry, there will be plenty of hugs and kisses left for all of you in the future.

I promise.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gratuitous Photo

All my brilliant thoughts disappeared when my brilliant daughter was awakened halfway through her naptime by the trash truck. Next time, I will blog first and do chores later, and you will get more than just another photo of our beautiful girl.

yeneh konjo

Not that I hear anyone complaining about the photos.

Do I?



I didn't think so.

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Who Wouldn't Love This Girl?

Things are going well. Really, really well. Both Zinashi and I like our new, laid-back schedule, and she has so far agreed to sleep without requiring two hours of hard work on the part of her parents (and on her part as well, if you count resisting sleep as hard work). To celebrate the awesomeness of life, we offer you this video, a little throwback to our time in Ethiopia, when we had a phone with keyguard.

My favorite part is when she goes, EH?!?, like she's got a bad signal, and really, she can't hear you at all. Did we end up with the best kid or what?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The First Day of the Rest of Our Days

Today we've been two weeks home, and this is the first day that I can say that life looked like I imagined it would look for us as a family. Waking up together. Keeping it low key, creating a peaceful place for our daughter to feel safe and happy and loved. Up to this point, there were too many new places and faces and activities. My gut instinct told me all along that it was too much, but my guilt instinct took over far too much of the time, and what resulted was an overstimulated little girl who couldn't fall asleep. Who would, in those circumstances? It was all too much. So today, finally, better late than never, I set about creating the kind of life we want to live with our daughter. Slow. Relaxed. Close. We were here at home for most of the day. I held her when I could and put a variety of toys near me in the kitchen when I couldn't. And she relaxed; the change was visible. At nap time, further proof: she didn't fight sleep at all. At bedtime, which is the tougher of the two, she fell asleep after much less of a fight. I believe it took Jarod less than an hour to get her to sleep, including book reading and nighttime prayers. Tomorrow we will order our day in much the same way, and the day after that, and all told I hope to have two weeks of mostly nothing going on for her. I want to give her a solid base of routine and rest before we throw in anything, or anyone new. We love that so many people have been so anxious to meet Zinashi and play with her and do fun things with and for her. We are grateful for everyone's enthusiasm. And now, we are grateful for the chance to have a little do-over. The first two weeks, take two. This is about to get even more awesome.

one of my favorite shots of her

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pretty Great

Last night was one of the worst we've had sleepwise, and I am now ready to bribe any Mac Genius at the Plaza store who will switch shifts with my husband on the days he's scheduled to work the 2-11pm shift. Even the noon to 9pm shift is fine! Any shift but that one! Switcheroo, and I will throw so many baked goods at you, you'll be in a sugar coma until March. Because here's the deal: Zinashi cannot yet fall asleep if we are not both here. What this translates into is two hours of rocking, repositioning, renegotiating, and still having an awake (and now-overtired for extra fun) three-year-old who cannot get settled because she is not yet sure that Ababi will come back. And then when she finally does sleep, after sobbing when he finally does show up, it is fitful and it is not fun.

All that said, today has been good. We dropped Ababi off at work, and Zinashi ate breakfast at Starbucks, wearing her sparkly heart sunglasses for extra glamour. She successfully transitioned from needing me to hold her hand while she is in the car to just resting that hand on the car seat and alternately praising me and the car for doing such a good job. I especially like it when she tells the car it's doing a good job. Gobez machina! Indeed.

We also managed a little shopping at Urban Mining, before it got too crowded and overwhelming (for both of us), and I had my favorite kind of Zinashi-meets-someone moment, where we see someone we know and chat briefly and then go on about our day. There's so much less pressure! And then we get in our car when we feel like it and go home! In this case, we came home with a few treasures, nothing big since our budget is tight, but a couple of Christmas decorations (it would have been more if Zinashi had her way), a bow for Zinashi to wear on Thanksgiving, and a full length mirror that we can actually hang on the wall. And this, that she is sitting on:

new hairdo and a little baby doll nurture

She picked it out herself, and then she sat very still in it, lollipop in hand or mouth, while I did her hair. This is our very first hairdo, and we are kind of proud of it. She did a marvelous job sitting still, and I didn't wimp out before we were done and lunge for a hat instead. I'd say we both deserve a gobez, and Zinashi gets a konjo as well. Not that she didn't say it to herself enough as she gazed at her reflection, but still. I'll add a few extra words of praise because it really was an excellent job sitting still for someone who hasn't had her hair done before. And then when we were done, she helped with with the laundry. She's pretty great, don't you think?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Few (More) Notes About the Sleep Thing

I'd like to follow up last night's somewhat schmaltzy post with a little info about the particulars of our sleeping situation with Zinashi, mostly as a help to those who are also dealing with this (you are not alone!) and who will deal with this same issue at some point. I'd like to say, first, that while it is heartbreaking, it is also terribly common among adopted children, particularly those of a similar age to our daughter. So when your child is fighting you (to the death, it will sometimes seem, or at least until you pass out from exhaustion while your child employs yet another method to glue her eyes open), know that there is someone else out there who is fighting the exact same battle--both to put their child to sleep and to stay awake themselves.

Because we had success establishing good sleep patterns in Ethiopia when this same issue occurred, and because what we are experiencing now is following much the same pattern, I have faith that we will eventually end up at the same destination, which is called Sleep Town, population three (humans, but if you count the cats, who are quite good at sleeping no matter what, we would say six). But the train we're riding makes a lot of stops, and sometimes there are some well-meaning hobos that cause a bit of a ruckus, so I also accept that the only part of this that is predictable is that we will, eventually, all sleep without spending two hours getting one certain person's eyes shut. Everything else is negotiable, and we have to go with the flow. Mostly this is because our daughter is really smart, and once she is on to one of our sleep-inducing tricks, she'll figure out a way to resist it. It is often her arms that she uses to keep herself awake, and that it seems sometimes she has trouble controlling, so for a time swaddling worked marvelously. She'd be mad as a hornet for a few minutes, but then the security of the blanket wrapped snugly around her would calm her, and I could rock her to sleep. Well. Not anymore. Now we can swaddle as a consequence of trying to keep herself awake using her hands, but if I keep her tightly swaddled, she just gets even madder. In essence, she is using the tight swaddle to keep herself awake now. So smart! So cunning! So...utterly irritating! Now if she is using her hands to keep herself awake, I, um, threaten to swaddle her. Yes, that's right, what once was comfort is now used as a weapon. An effective weapon! For today!

And beyond that, we rock her. I position her so that she can either look at my face or my shirt or the backs of her own eyelids, and I hold her close and rock rock rock rock rock and then rock some more. I know that some people choose to put their children in bed and wait for them to go to sleep, even if it takes hours, but that both didn't really work for us and doesn't feel right to me. Given that the reason she is keeping herself awake is that she feels afraid and insecure, I consider it our job as parents to nurture her into dreamland. So we rock and rock and rock, and she tries to sit up, or she grabs the string on my hoodie to try to keep herself awake by fiddling with that, and inwardly I get a little bit angry about it. She does witness my frustration from time to time, which I regret. But then I remind myself why she doesn't want to sleep, and I take a deep breath, pull her closer, and tell her I love her. Tonight I rocked for forty-five minutes, with lots of little position adjustments and interruptions, and then spent another fifteen minutes soothing her further into sleep once I'd laid her in our bed. She's gotten so good at this staying awake thing that she will now wake herself up with position changes. The good news is that these small wakings are soothed fairly easily (for now, at least) by rubbing her head and snuggling her against my chest. When she begins the REM sleep twitching, I know I can slowly pull away, leaving a pillow in my place.

You'll notice above that I said "our bed," and yes, I do mean ours. We all share it--Jarod and me, Zinashi, and the cats. Of all the things we've done to foster attachment and bonding, I'd rate this as #1. Sleep is such a tenuous time, and to be there for her from the moment she wakes, particularly when it is dark, has done much to soothe and allay her fears. That we get kicked in the kidneys is true, and that I get smacked across the face sometimes in a cartoonish fashion is also true (hilariously so). But we also see her smile the moment she wakes up and sees us in the morning, and we know the moment she needs us. To be right there for all of it is priceless. I know plenty of families who have put children in their own separate beds, in their own separate rooms, from day one, and some who have put their children to bed in a separate space in the master bedroom. If that works for your child, great. If it doesn't, come on over to the co-sleeping side, my friends. You may have balked at it before, but I guarantee that the first time your child rolls over to you in her sleep, just to be nearer to you, your heart will sing its own sweet tune.

At nap time, we lay her down in her own bed in an attempt to help her become comfortable there while it is light and things seem less threatening, but we still rock her to sleep and lay down with her if need be, and I still try to be there when she wakes up. Our hope with this is that her bedroom will become a familiar and safe place for sleep, and when she is ready, it will seem natural to her to want to sleep there at night as well. But we won't push that. In fact, I might cry a little when that day comes. What can I say? She's a sweet surprise of a girl, and she also keeps the bed quite warm. If I'm lucky, she'll choose to start sleeping in her own bed in the summertime, when we're all hot anyway. If it's any other season, we might just have to get another cat.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

To Sleep, Perchance to...Well...Sleep

Did I say that sleep issues have calmed down since we got home? I must have written that before Jarod went back to work. Because now Zinashi has declared war on sleep, and the truth is that no one wins if she doesn't settle down and just sleep already, for the love of Pete. It makes sense that she doesn't want to sleep, and it breaks my heart when she starts screaming when she knows we're serious (read: when we sit down in the rocking chair and swaddle her). This girl lost everyone she knew, and now she doesn't know what to make of Ababi being gone for most of the day. Is he really coming back? Time will tell how long it will take to prove to her that, yes, Ababi comes back every time. And in the meantime, she does her absolute best to keep a constant vigil. The intensity of her refusal to sleep makes me cry sometimes, just thinking of where that need to keep watch comes from. I long to comfort her, but there's no real comfort to be had until she can trust that we always come back. In Addis, we had to earn this trust, and eventually we ended up with this:

she fought sleep, and sleep won

That's what we're working for now. Every afternoon and every night. And then, when she wakes, a little less of a look of surprise and elation that we are indeed still right there with her.

Okay, fine, we will totally take the elation every single time. But let's ditch the surprise. Because no one's leaving Zinashi, not anymore. We promise.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Lucky Ones

When people hear our story, they like to say how lucky our daughter is. We hear it a lot. It wasn't until Zinashi and I were on a walk through our neighborhood that we heard it the proper way. After spying us walking down the street, a kind neighbor introduced herself, asked a few questions about Zinash (age, adoption story, how long we'd been home, etc.) and looked me in the eye and said, "You are so lucky!" And we are. If anyone is lucky here, it's Jarod and me. As for Zinashi, we will let her decide for herself how lucky she is. The story you read here is not so much Zinashi's story as it is ours, and we stake no claim to her feelings or opinions as she grows up. This is the story of how we became parents. This is our wonderful daughter. And here, see, look, this is how life took a turn for the awesome when this little person showed up. We are so, so, SO lucky.

the cutest book on the shelf

Don't you agree?
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