Monday, January 31, 2011

Ababi Mondays: Library

Most people, when facing imminent SnowDoom go to the local grocer and buy up all the bread and milk they can stuff into their SUV.

Zinash and I went to the library. Of course when you have a library with views like this, it's kind of hard to pass up.

So it's not the best panoramic I've ever taken but hey you get the point.

So considering I've been talking a lot about books on here, you might think I'm some kind of avid reader. You'd be wrong. I'm terrible at it. But I still enjoy it. I'm hoping that Zinash will get Mary's skill for it and not mine. So we are working on it early.


By the way, those of you who see me over the next few days and think I'm limping or unable to move my right arm... Well it's because the first step I took out of the house today (when we were heading to the Library) ended with me flat on my back. It hurt. A lot.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dinner Conversation, as Directed by Zinashi

At the dinner table, it gets quiet. We're all eating, and there's really not much to say for the moment. We don't need to rehash what work needs to be done on the house or how long the day seemed. But Zinashi was bothered by the silence

Zinashi: Mami, talkin' Ababi. [Mami, talk to Ababi.]

Me: Um, okay, what are we supposed to talk about?

(silence while she thinks about it, rolls her eyes toward the ceiling a bit)

Zinashi: Gobezi Zinashi. [Zinashi does a good job.]

You read that right: when all is quiet, the least you can do is talk about what a good girl Zinashi is. It's clearly the choice topic of conversation. We burst out laughing, and Zinashi looked a bit confused, so we reassured her. Yes, Zinashi does a good job, yes, yes, gobez lich, of course.

Of course.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Already Ahead of the Curve

Today after we used the last bit of toilet paper, Zinashi immediately grabbed a new roll and put it on the toilet paper holder.

I couldn't be prouder. This is even better than her napkin-on-the-lap skills, and I believe that this one small task alone will take her far in life.

Gobez, Zinashi. You're the smartest girl in the (bath)room.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Four Months a Family

I had all these thoughts I was going to put down for today, to celebrate four months together, an entire third of a year. But then we paid bills and had lunch and took a nap and played with a friend and decided to have dinner out, and it all escaped me. It all floated away in the ordinariness that is life, in the beauty that is every day spent with the best thing that ever happened to us. So I will just sum up, and spend a few moments feeling incredibly blessed and lucky.

In her first photos, she looked sad and angry and scared, and who could blame her? She had lost everything and had no idea what would happen next.

the second photo we saw

But that was then. This is now:



Of all the opportunities we have been afforded so far in life, the greatest opportunity we've been given is the honor of being her parents, to be entrusted to give her the kind of life that will leave her full instead of empty, happy instead of sad and afraid. We are so blessed and lucky to have her as our daughter, and we hope she knows that her whole life long.

Happy four months, Magnolia Zinash McBride. You bring us joy so enormous it's staggering. We love you, and we are so grateful that you're here. xoxoxoxoxoxo

PS--We even love you more than we love the cat, so stop being so jealous.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Three Months Home: How and What We're Doing

Today marks three months home as a family. In fact, I believe it was at about this time that we were collapsing into bed three months ago, all of us so tired that no one woke until after eight the next morning. It seems like a lifetime ago, maybe because our life is so different now than it was then. We'd come off a month of living in Addis Ababa, having every meal cooked for us by someone else, living out of suitcases and shuffling things around. We arrived home tired but glad.

And now we are a family, doing what families do. If I were to assess our adjustment at this very moment, knowing what I know now and having received the encouragement that I have, and that we are doing very well. That we still have a lot to work on is true, but I feel good about where we are. This good feeling may be partly due to having a huge compliment given to Zinashi today at a restaurant, in the form of a cookie that a stranger bought and delivered to our table because she was so impressed with Zinashi's good behavior. If you're wondering, I did let that go to my head a bit. We have worked hard on table manners. Which I know sounds silly considering other issues that arise, which some may say are "bigger fish to fry," but I have always felt that if it's possible to just set a standard from the beginning, you should do it. I also, incidentally, think that how you handle small things indicates how you will handle bigger things. We do let some things go--because of course we do--but manners and treating others kindly and doing as your parents ask you to do are kind of essential for us.

Recently one thing that has become essential to me, though I think it is less so for Jarod, is that Zinashi be able to fall asleep without a lot of extra assistance. I don't mind being in the room with her until the day she tells us that she's good, no problem, she can just hang out in there by herself until she falls asleep; I don't feel like it's unreasonable of her to ask for company at a time that can be lonely and a little bit scary. However, I became painfully aware of the need to help her develop better self-soothing and self-calming techniques when I abruptly ran out of patience last Saturday night and had a tiny little breakdown. Reflecting on the incident in the shower while Jarod finished getting Zinashi to sleep, I realized that the one thing that would help me more than anything would be if I didn't have to physically help Zinashi fall asleep, and I realized at the same time that she was perfectly capable of it, having done it when she was in an affable mood many times for her nap. So we have been home three months, and we are sort-of sleep training. It seems like an okay time for it, and it's nothing drastic. We are still in the room. We still rock her before we lay her on the bed and give her a hug and a kiss and tell her we love her, but that it's time to sleep. We still soothe her if she needs it, but mostly verbally. It's a good step, and I'm glad to be making it. Now, instead of a little light wrestling, I do a little light cajoling while reading my book. It is much, much better than before, even though she doesn't yet love it.

We have also transitioned with the way we handle food issues. Before, she always had food available to her, that she could grab at will, and I always kept a little something in my bag just in case. But now she has moved into a place of security regarding food, and if we are out and she asks for cookies (which is what she calls all the Annie's bunny crackers, whether they are sweet or savory), she is okay with me just telling her that we'll have some later. At home, she knows she can ask to eat something, and I'll get one of her snack cups down. She'll sometimes grouse a bit about what is offered, but it is more normal kid "I wanted something diiiifferent" kind of grousing and not a desperate cry for something she needs. She is growing quite well, having added two inches to her height since her first doctor's appointment in early November, and a few pounds as well. While she still has a little catching up to do, it's clear that she doesn't need any extra help anymore; the days of lingering hunger issues are over.

In fact, most negative physical effects of her life in Ethiopia have almost all vanished. The giardia cleared up with the second treatment, and nothing else was ever found to raise any medical red flags. She does still have some molluscum (those warty looking little bumps, one of which used to grace her forehead, and is visible in most of her photos), which will go away on their own in time, but our doctor told us that we could rough them up a bit with an abrasive washcloth, and they would become irritated, causing the immune system to attack them and make them go away. So we have been systematically attacking molluscum after molluscum, and they are disappearing. A good number of them are on her head, and last night I didn't know whether to be totally grossed out or jubilant that two big chunks of molluscum came off in my hands as I washed her hair. I chose both, in case you are wondering. While the internet will tell you that they're contagious, it's not common for people with normal immune systems and adequate nutrition to catch the virus, so I very much feel like the disappearance of these little bumps is a long overdue farewell to all that ailed her when she came into care at the orphanage.

One of the most common questions we are asked is about her language development, and I'm happy to report that she's right on schedule, with her receptive English (understanding what she hears) being really well-developed and her spoken English astounding us every day. This week she started saying "Excuse me," when she wants us to move out of her way, and it was a total surprise. Neither of us had worked on that with her; she just heard us saying it and picked it up. Every single day she says at least one new word, and in particular has been very interested in colors.

Another common inquiry is regarding how she liked Christmas. Most people say something like, "It must have been so fun to watch her at Christmas!" and while I hate to burst their bubble, I find that I can't lie about it. Zinashi was confused about Christmas and there was no way we could explain it to her. She also didn't dig Thanksgiving. Next year she will know what's going on, but this year she was just kind of stressed out, as were we, and people kept putting strange food in front of her and expecting her to eat it. Thanksgiving came one month after we got home, and that month was a whirlwind in itself of people wanting to meet Zinashi and having the stress of trying to say no when we needed to while trying to avoid hurting people's feelings. I look back on those first two months and it makes me feel anxious all over again. It has been a relief to have normal life back (or, really, for the first time) this past month, and we have seen Zinashi settle in so much better now that we don't have a ton of places to go and people to meet, and each day is fairly predictable for her. Those of you bringing your children home in months that are not leading right up to the holidays, rejoice! You have been given the gift of a boring time of year. Enjoy that. Seriously.

And so. Here we are. Three months home. Life is busy, life is messy, life is good. Tomorrow we celebrate four months as a family, and that, to me, is far more significant a marker in our lives than being on US soil will ever be. But I'll stop before I start saying all sorts of sappy, weepy things about it because I am saving that for tomorrow. Tonight we celebrate the practical victories; we'll wait until tomorrow to pour out our ever-grateful hearts.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary: I've Got Two Important Words for You

Those words are: FASHION MODELS! I have finally reentered the world of being Old Lady Mary's fashion model. I was so worried that I was just a washed up has-been, but apparently she's just been too distracted to dole out the appropriate model compliments.

tuesday, january 25, 2011

Zinashi has been a lot more independent about a lot of things lately, and today she wanted to walk into Grandma Mary's instead of riding in the stroller (which was fantastic, actually, because we had a lot to take up since the snow has kept Mary from getting to the store herself). This allowed Mary to get a much better look at her outfit, and she admired the whole thing, from coat hood to pink boots. She smiled approvingly and said, "Now you're my TWO fashion models!" After all this time, finally, I find out that I have not lost my luster entirely next to the sparkle of my gorgeous daughter.

Though, really, who could resist this kind of sparkle?

tuesday, january 25, 2011

This is the kind of sparkle that finds next year's coat in the Target bag and insists on wearing it, giant faux fur edged hood and all. You can't help but love that, right?

furry hood love

I'm pretty sure you can't.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ababi Mondays: Geek Dad

So I took Zinash with me to return some Christmas gifts that were just a bit too small. Not being able to find anything I really liked in the clothing department of Macy's I did come across a gadget vending machine that would take my store credit. A few minutes later, Zinashi and I walked out with this little piece of geeky wonderfulness


Then after getting home and opening it up we just couldn't pass up the opportunity to break out Zinash's new coloring book that Momi got her.


We didn't break out the movies just yet. Those will be saved for a special time. Even so it ended up being a StarWars-tastic day.


Mary had just finished a book she got and asked me to read it before she had to take it back to the library. It's the autobiography of a woman adopted from Eritrea who at the age of 30 went back to meet her family for the first time. In many ways her story parallels our daughter's in the beginning. One of the major differences is that Zinash won't have to dig and search to find much information about her family. We have a lot of it already. And when she's ready, it will be hers if she chooses.

It's already come up a couple of times with Zinash that she has two fathers. She's usually the one that brings it up. She's aware that there is still someone in Ethiopia that loves her. And that the people she is with love her too. We won't know how much else she remembers until her language develops a little more.

For me it's still a little strange when she brings up her Ethiopian father. I just don't know how to feel about it. I think there's a little bit of jealousy there on my part. At the same time I know I was not her first father.

I'm hoping during the book she addresses her relationship with her Dad (her adoptive father) along with the story of meeting her Father (biological father) and other siblings.

And actually if you're interested in checking this book out and reading a long with me then please do. Here's the Amazon link and I'm on page 50 right now :D

So while I'm trying to figure all this out for the future I just have to be the best Ababi I can right now.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Good Friend Jealousy

This is the third Saturday that we've had an extra little miss with us for the day, and even though I told our small friend's mother that I was sure we would be just fine by the third Saturday, I'm not sure I actually believed that, especially after how I felt at the end of the day last Saturday. But here we are, on the third Saturday, and I feel pretty okay. This is partly because I've had two coffees and two cups of tea, evenly spaced throughout my day, and partly because I am just accepting that it's going to be hard every Saturday, and I will be able to live with that. Sometimes admitting that something is hard is what actually makes it easier. That and giving up on keeping the house somewhat orderly while both girls are playing. If our little friend's dad sees a messy house when he picks her up, well, at least he will be able to tell that she's had fun.

I didn't realize until we began our Saturdays together that Zinashi really doesn't get into much that she's not supposed to. At first she did, but once she figured out what was off limits, it wasn't a big draw for her. She really, really, really likes having things that belong only to her, and I think it is far more satisfying for her to read her books and make food in her kitchen than it is for her to try to take over the grown-up stuff. Our little friend, however, isn't of the mind that she likes playing with toys better anyhow. She is really wondering why your stuff isn't her stuff and why you get so upset when she just takes things down and plays with them instead of asking first. She's also curious as to why you do not want her to ask WHY? every time you give her an instruction. She's all, "What's with all the time outs, man?" Zinashi, in the meantime, is enjoying hearing me say no to someone else, and enjoying it all too much.

Which leads me to my newest parenting tool: jealousy. Oh, yes, I did just say that I used jealousy as a parenting tool. I am a horrible person like that. It's just that it's so effective, and for the one thing I really need on Saturdays. That thing is a nap--not for me, but for both of my young assistants. I need our friend to at least lie down and rest with some books for an hour, and I need Zinashi to go to sleep for a bit longer than that. We have started rewarding Zinashi with a chocolate if she does a good job going to sleep (no fussing, no keeping herself awake intentionally, no trying to control whatever parent is helping her fall asleep), and if we have a friend over, it's only fair to give the friend a chocolate for doing the same. Our little friend is very compliant when it comes to staying in bed, so it was easy breezy putting her down in the big bed. When Zinashi started to fidget and try to make conversation with me, I reminded her of the chocolate on offer. When she looked like she might be having trouble making up her mind to do a good job going to sleep, I merely let it slip that it would be really disappointing to watch our friend eat a chocolate and not get to eat one herself. She rolled right over, snuggled up next to her "big machina" and went to sleep*. And it was fabulous, and I'm not sorry I did it. In fact, I will do it again next week.


(Later I will regale you with stories of how we get her out of the tub when she is dawdling. It's pretty much our favorite and funniest trick. Stay tuned!)

*I so get a kick out of the thing she chooses to sleep with or take with us in the car. Last night she wanted to take an empty reusable shopping bag as her friend for the drive to get Ababi, and you know what? Sure. If you're doing what you should be doing, I don't care if you carry an empty bag and fall asleep next to something that will leave the imprint of a wheel on your face.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dare to Compare

I got peed on today. Directly. Okay, well, it was on my jeans-covered leg, not bare skin, but that's directly enough for me, thank you very much. This was after there was pee in the car seat and a load of pee laundry already in the washer. Not a banner day, but, you know. Kids, right? Sometimes they pee on you. This is the truth.

It could be worse, though. That's lost on us some of the time, but hopefully not most of the time. In the developed world, we have it easy. And now there's a map and statistics and all sorts of nonsense to back up our hunch that we're kind of being spoiled brats when we* complain about having to unload the dishwasher. It's right here. Of course I've set it to compare the US to Ethiopia, but you can compare with any country you'd like. And then you can take your dishwasher-cursing mouth and wash it out with your all-natural, organic soap that you bought at Target because even on a budget, you can afford such things, and they are readily available to you.

Or maybe that's just me that needs to do that.


Thanks to Banku, Pho, and Fried Spiders for the fantastic link.

*By "we," I mean "me."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Transgression, Forgiveness, Hope for Tomorrow

Our girl was very naughty at naptime, and I wasn't too happy with her, but then she fell asleep tonight--crashed, really, because that's all that can happen when you skip your nap--with her arms wrapped tightly around my neck and her face pressed against my chin, breathing as loudly as a basset hound with a head cold, and so I forgave her.

But if she wakes up at 6am because she went to bed earlier than usual?

I will cry.

I'm just telling you so you won't be alarmed if it happens.

Goodnight, good people of the internet. Good, good night.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary: Cutie Smarty and the Woman with All the Boots

I've been feeling like our visits to Old Lady Mary are a little rushed lately, like it's a huge effort to get to the store and get to her house and get back out of her house and OOF! I am pretty much done for the day by the time we walk out of the door. This is unfortunate when my daughter needs to eat lunch shortly after we return, and I don't feel like cooking it. Sorry, sweetie, I'm just worn out! Here, have some chocolate to tide you over until I'm up to it!

I think the problem is that it's so cold, and there's so much to get in and out of the car now. When it was just me, it was sometimes an unwieldy load, but it was straightforward. I sometimes think that I should just go on my own when it's this cold, but I'm pretty sure I'd get in trouble with Old Lady Mary for not bringing her Cutie Smarty around. Because, yes, that's what OLM calls Zinashi now: Cutie Smarty. I can't argue with that.

tuesday, january 18, 2011

I didn't include myself in the photo today because I knew I wouldn't take my coat off, and you can get a gander at that right here. If you're wondering what boots I'm wearing, they are here. In addition, I am also wearing the same skinny jeans I've worn for the past three days, so those of you who have seen me in the past three days can share with the rest of the class what they look like. So of course OLM decided to comment on something I was wearing on the day I didn't take a photo, but it was the boots, so we've got the covered. (Whew.) And really, she was just pointing out the boots to make note of how many pairs I own. So many! Like, three pairs! I don't think that's a ton of boots when I live in the climate I live in, but it is excessive when you consider that OLM has been living on the same small inheritance for the past five or so years and was today sporting one shoe and one sandal. Honestly, I would buy her a pair of boots, but I haven't yet found any that would suit her. (Not too heavy, perfectly flat soles--NO HEEL WHATSOEVER SHE MIGHT FALL AND BE A GONER, DON'T YOU KNOW? A GONER!--easy to get on and off, preferably black in color. Size 11. Let me know if you find some like this and I will love you forever.) So we discussed my lavish collection of boots, and then she turned her attention where it belonged, to Zinashi. She loved everything about Zinashi's outfit, particularly the "cheerful socks!" And of course Zinashi was well-behaved, so OLM had to comment on that and how she hears kids yelling in the grocery store, and you know what I did with that? I just nodded and smiled and pretended that my child is a perfect angel. It was a really nice moment, and we'll be back again next week to lap up more praise of our superior child-rearing abilities.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Remembering Dr. King by Finally Saying Something

I'd like to tell you a little story. It takes place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in the autumn of 2010. There is a White man, and a White woman, and they are dressed casually, a little too casually for a formal hotel, but they have walked more than a mile uphill to get where they are going, so they have dressed for the trek rather than the destination. The woman is wearing a small Ethiopian child in a carrier on her back, and the carrier rumples her clothes a bit. They are all three sweating from the jaunt. They approach the gates of the Hilton Hotel and are waved past the guard station. The man prepares to open his backpack for inspection, but is told, "No, no, sir, it is not necessary. Welcome!"

Behind them is an elderly Black man in a suit. His look is clean and neat and formal. The guards stop him, make him remove his jacket, and pat him down before allowing him to enter.


I haven't talked a lot about race on this blog, partly because this is the story of our family, as a tiny little unit, so it doesn't often come up, and partly because I didn't know exactly what to say that wouldn't immediately put people on the defensive. I find that when I dialogue (or monologue, as is the case on a blog, until someone comments and I manage to reply to the comment) with White people about race, it leads to a knee jerk defensive reaction. I have had this reaction myself when confronted with issues of race in the past (and, if I'm honest, sometimes in the present), so I understand it. No one likes to feel like someone is accusing them of doing something wrong. But that's not what I'm doing. I'm just pointing something out, and asking you to draw conclusions.

The story above, as if you wouldn't have guessed by now, is a true story from our stay in Ethiopia. Jarod and I got waved in places numerous times while the Africans around us were subjected to careful screening. I don't think anyone can look at that situation honestly and call it anything other than what it is: White Privilege.

I had never heard of White Privilege as a thing, as a topic with a label, until I started researching race as we prepared to adopt. I had recognized that there were inequities, but hadn't ever thought too hard about it. I hadn't had to. I'm White. One of the markers of White Privilege is that we don't ever have to think about a lot of things that are realities to our brothers and sisters of color. And it's not that we make a conscious choice not to, it's just that it never comes up. That's just life in White culture. Sure, we talk about African American heroes and give lip service to Dr. King and civil rights and such, but we don't really talk about what it means every day, for us, and how our basic life experience differs right now, today, from the experience of people of color. And I think that is where we have gone horribly wrong.

So today, in honor of all those who have worked so hard to make this country and this world a better place for my daughter to grow up in, in honor of those who in the past and still today suffer in ways that Whites never have to think about, I'm asking you to do this one small thing for me. I'm asking you to read this list, and keep your mind and heart open, and keep your knee jerk defensive reaction in check, and recognize your privilege. That's it for today; just recognize that it exists.

And then, tomorrow, I want you to decide what you intend to do with your newfound knowledge.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Life Just Wasn't This Awesome Before, That's All

A late night note.

I love this girl.


I can't remember exactly what life was like before her, except that it wasn't this good, and that I slept more and my house got cleaned a lot more often. I'll take the missed sleep and the dirty house any day of the week if I get to have this face all up in my personal space every day.

having a conversation

My favorite thing, my absolute FAVORITE, is when we have been apart, even at opposite ends of the same room, and she sees me and gets so excited that she takes off running and jumps into my arms. It's just too much happiness. It's almost too much to bear.


Almost. But not quite.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Playtime with Lucy Snowe

Our little cat has become quite tolerant of Zinashi messing with her. For example:


"Mami! Lucy! HAT!"
"Well, sweetie, that's more like a blindfold."




"Yes, Zinashi, gobez, that is a hat."

One Glance

We already have plenty of art for Zinashi's room, but I felt that this print was so appropriate to our situation that I went ahead and ordered it.

I got it on Zulily at a great discount. If you're not a member, you really should try it. (Full disclosure: If you join through that link and eventually order something, I'll get a $15 credit.) If you're particularly keen on this print and want to see others like it, you can see the full line of Children Inspire Design art on their website.

It's unlikely we'll hang it in Zinashi's room now. We are working on our next big step as a family, which would involve figuring out the decor in a whole new room, and even though that might take awhile, I think you can guess by this other post that anything I can put off without guilt should be put off for now. I'd also kind of like to save it for when we first see the face of our next daughter; I have this idea that we can hang it as part of our official celebration. So it may be stored for awhile, but that's okay. Time will fly, just like it has from the first step of bringing Zinashi home until today, and before I know it, I will once again be looking at the calendar and thinking, "Wow, I really need to get those adoption announcements out before we've been home a year." Which is, in fact, what I am thinking this morning, and what I am off to work on getting done.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cutest Thing Ever

she insisted on napping like this

You might think that she'd fallen asleep after a hard day of sledding, and we'd carried her in and laid her in her bed without taking all her snow clothes off. But no, she'd been in the house for hours at this point. She simply loves her snowveralls. She'd probably wear them over her pajamas if we'd let her.

(We'd probably let her; it just hasn't occurred to her yet that it might be an option, so she hasn't asked.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How We're Doing Now (or How Mary is Doing Now) (Whatever.)

It occurred to me today that when things are hard in a way that would sound sort of complainy if I told people about it, I'd like to make note. This is both for our own benefit, as time causes memory to fade, and I'd like to have a good timeline for the next go 'round, and also for others who will walk this same road and wonder if they're normal. We are three and a half months into this gig, and two and a half months home, and I feel like we're just not there in a lot of ways yet. We haven't approached normal, or if we have, I'm in denial about it, because I do not want this to be how our lives look until our children are grown.

That a lot of things are easier is true, but that some basic things haven't fallen into place is also true. That this bothers me a lot of the time is definitely true. I could blame holidays or the very cold weather or any number of factors for these persistent problems, but I think it really is just where we're at right now. Interestingly enough, very few of these persistent problems have anything to do with Zinashi directly. She's marvelous. About her, I have no complaint. But as for me, and what I can get done, well, I really had higher hopes for the beginning of 2011. I find it hard to keep the house tidy, to keep on top of paperwork and filing things and organizing and in general just making our lives run smoothly. I feel like I could use three days each for tending to our main floor and basement, and that would only cover the tidying and organizing part. To clean it...oh, my. Let's not talk about that. And then there's cooking. Either it's there or it's not. One night I'm cooking a homemade dinner and baking bread, and another will find me suggesting a run to whatever restaurant we can afford that is within our family code of eating ethics (which is a whole 'nother topic for a whole 'nother time). The only thing meal-related that is routine is breakfast, and I still feel harried getting that on the table much of the time, mostly because we don't have a definite morning routine. (Which is hard to have when Jarod's work schedule is not the same every day, so I'm cutting both of us some slack there, but still wishing we had a system.) That I'm not a morning person also makes this a challenge. A big, big challenge.

So here we are. That's life. If you show up unannounced, you will see a very messy, dirty house, and I will feel embarrassed. Honestly, I fear this quite a lot, more than I should--that someone will walk into our house and insist that they don't see anything wrong, but be thinking in their heads what a trashpile they just stumbled into. And I know, I know, I know that I shouldn't do this, that I shouldn't assume that people will judge me, but I do it. I can't seem to turn it off. Maybe because I look at our house and see that--a disorganized mess and very dirty floors, not to mention furniture on which you could carve your name into the dust.

So a note for next time, and for those of you who are about to embark upon this: hire house cleaners for the first six months home if you can afford it. And buy a LOT of Groupons to restaurants. You will need the help, and it's okay to take it.

At least, that's what I'm telling myself, and in hindsight, I'm sure I'll find it to be true.

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary: Freezing Cold Winter Weather Edition

I think the windchill was something like -6 today, and we had no idea before we left our neighborhood if the streets would be plowed. But I wanted to get to Mary's if possible, so we rode with Jarod to his work, found the streets to be clear enough for our purposes, and proceeded to go four different places, like the nuts we are. First up was Barnes & Noble to pick up a little something I'd ordered with Zinashi's Christmas money, and then we hopped back in the car to go to the store for Mary's grocery needs, then to her place to deliver. All I was really hoping for was that she would find us warmly dressed and be unconcerned about if we were going to be all right out in the cold weather. I am happy to report that my mission was a complete success, and Zinashi even helped us get out of her apartment in a timely manner by needing to use the bathroom. (Mary does not allow people to use her own bathroom. Don't ask. Or do, and you may wish you hadn't.) So we got there and got out before the car was completely cold again. Hooray!

tuesday, january 11, 2011
Zinashi's attempts at looking awkward were also a complete success.

tuesday, january 11, 2011
Feel free to click on this one for details of our outerwear; I didn't bother to document anything we were wearing underneath. For all you know, we had on bedazzled leather vests under there.

So we've made it through the day so far. I am tempted to have a third coffee, but am so far holding on. I've got seven minutes until naptime is over, and I intend to use them to their fullest potential, by which I mean I'm going to check my online accounts and record anything for which I've lost the receipts. We are living it up today, clearly. Later, we may buy a new compost pail. I hope your day is as thrilling as ours, or at least that you're dressed appropriately for the weather, whatever it may be where you are.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ababi Mondays: Snow Day!

So yeah we got some snow here! I'm usually not a big fan of snow but this time around I honestly got pretty excited. I really wanted to take Zinash sledding. I remember doing it with my dad and sisters when I was little and it's just something that I wanted to share with her.

Well there was one slight hitch. Zinash doesn't like walking in the snow. She loves looking at it and pointing it out to us, but she'd rather do it from the warmth of our house or while Mary or I are carrying here.

I convinced her that she would like sledding after showing her a few YouTube videos though ( 3 year olds will fall for anything! ). So we bundled up and put the sled in the car and went to find a hill!

The main hill in our area that is good for sledding was packed. We're talking 200 people like packed. So after a few more minutes of trying to think of a better place I found it...

Right out side our front door.

Yes that is our driveway. The sound you hear at the end of the run are the runners grinding on the pavement. Luckily the traffic on our street was very light. We got a few good runs in (I say we but after that first one Zinash was content with just watching me go).

I had always joked about sledding or skiing down our drive way and finally made it happen!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I'll Take the Bitter with the Sweet

After putting a shirt on my daughter this morning and discovering the sleeves were too short, I determined that it was time to go through her dresser and pull out the things she's outgrown. I'm not going to lie; I fought hard not to cry. There were all the tops I'd serged to make them from onesies into shirts, the pants she wore through immigration at Dulles, the pajamas she wore the first night we were together, and then the ones that were my favorite, and I can still picture her in the room at Mr. Martin's, fresh from the bath and neatly zipped into those footie jammies with the brightly colored cats and frogs and bears and rainbows. I remember explaining to her that all those clothes in the suitcase were hers, and how satisfied she looked. And now they won't be hers any longer. They'll be packed away in a plastic tub for the next girl, locked away from the dust and spiders. I felt like I was passing up the first short era of our family life, the first bits of happiness we saw on her face. It was rough.

At the same time, we do love that she has grown, and so well. An inch and a quarter in height is no small amount to add in just two months. I was bursting with joy when the nurse told me the measurement at her last doctor's appointment; it means that she is healthy and that we have been able to give her what she needs to thrive. Her rate of growth at the transition home, where she finally had enough food, was excellent, but this growth surpasses that, and confirms to me that having a family of one's own can work small miracles. We are grateful to be the people who could give to her when she needed so much.

She is still having trouble going to sleep, but it's nothing compared to what it was like at first. There are moments when I wonder how many months or years will stretch out before me that I'll have to sit in her room for an hour or more, alternately staring her down from close up and reading in the rocking chair, until she finally gives up and goes to sleep. She certainly doesn't want to miss a thing, and that's part of it, but I wonder what else comes into play. Sometimes she points into the dark and whimpers a bit, and I have no idea what she might be afraid of. We know so little of her life before, where she slept and with whom and if there was something that happened that could cause these fears. In the early morning sometimes she cries out and is not awake, and I think she may be having nightmares. But we don't know, and she can't yet tell us, so we just rub her back and let her thrash around a bit before she settles. When she has trouble with sleep, those are the times I most wish that we knew a whole lot more about her past.

It's not like it doesn't cross my mind during the day, but when she struggles, which is more often at night, I long to be able to put my finger on what hurts and be able to soothe it. At the same time, I know that there are some things I won't ever be able to soothe, not really. When we were first home, she would sometimes start crying softly in the car; I would glance in the rearview mirror and see the tears silently streaming down her cheeks, and it broke me apart. Because I knew that I couldn't touch that grief. I knew that even though I could get her out of the car and hold her close and remind her that I love her, I couldn't touch the place where that grief started. It's not mine to heal, and I won't pretend that I can ever make up for what has happened to her that caused it.

But I can still sit with her in the dark when she doesn't want to sleep.

And I can keep feeding her good food and waking her with kisses and holding her close when she needs it.

I can tell her that I love her and that she's beautiful and wonderful and good.

I can laugh at her jokes and eat her pretend cooking.

zinashi fashion in the kitchen

And I can keep clapping my hands in joy at her growth even when I know I will weep at the sight of so many precious clothes tipping out of drawers into bins bound for the basement.

Honestly, it would be hard not to.

Way to grow, Zinashi. Gobez, my good, brave girl.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Back to the Grind

So we had a 3am bedtime Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, otherwise known as the night our site crashed. And by "we," I mean all of us, though two of the three of us would have liked an earlier bedtime. Chalk it up to holiday stress--after so many celebrations in so few days, Zinashi was feeling insecure, and it probably wasn't a great idea for me to go to book club that night. But like many situations, it's really hard to tell just how your child will be affected until there are red flags, like staying up until 3am because she needs both of us there to feel secure enough to fall asleep. I came home from book club to her door closed and Jarod on the sofa, and thought, "Awesome!" And then I found out that our site crashed, and we were scrambling. I didn't even enter her room to carry her to our bed until nearly 1am, and there she was, sitting up, ready to have some quality time with me, if by quality time we mean trying to tell me the same stories over and over with limited English, then flopping around like a fish and moaning, "Abaaaabi?" Honestly, it wasn't her fault, so I couldn't be frustrated with her. It was her crackpot parents who took her to all those holiday gatherings and thought they'd dodged the consequences. Not so fast, crackpot parents! Back up, stay home, give more hugs, more love, more everything. Yesterday, I finally felt like we had regained our equilibrium, which was inconvenient because today I had to go back to work. At 6:30am. And then bring a three-year-old back to our house, hoping Zinashi would be okay with the company.

I may be kicking myself later, but so far it seems all right. It was time to go back, and there wasn't much we could do about it except just dive in and cross our fingers and hope it all worked. If it does work, this is good for all of us. I'll bring in a little income, the family will have consistent help, and Zinashi will learn to share her toys at home. If it doesn't, well, I don't know. I'd hate to lose the income AND let the family down. So let's all plan on it going really well, okay?

Also, let's plan that I'll have a third coffee. I know that would help.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Melkam Gena!

It is Ethiopian Christmas, and right now, our church is having liturgy while we sit home in our pajamas, stuffed to the gills with Ethiopian food. I've got plenty to say about this week and post-holiday stress and why we are not attending the midnight liturgy to celebrate, but for now I just want to say that we had a lovely evening starting a family tradition of eating an Ethiopian feast on this night. We ate so well that we all had second trimester injera babies in our bellies. I wish I'd taken a photo of Zinashi's little tummy, but it's too late now, so here's a little video of Zinashi and Jarod in a food coma at the end of the meal instead:

Actually, Zinashi was just taking a break. Far be it from her to leave injera or wat on a plate! We had our work cut out for us in convincing her that we could just take it home and eat more tomorrow, but we succeeded, and we are now celebrating Ethiopian Christmas by reclining in bed. Two out of three of us are sleeping (I'll let you use your powers of deductive reasoning to figure out which two). We look forward with great anticipation to next year's Ethiopian Christmas and our family feast, and hope to be found among a lot more Ethiopians and other good friends at midnight.

Melkam Gena, lovely internet friends! We wish you and yours all the best.

Product Review: The Bumbleride Flyer

I am really thrilled to post this first product review for you today. I hope this will be the beginning of many reviews that will give you information about products that are good for families, and good for adoptive families in particular.

When I first began looking for a stroller, one of the things that was really important to me was that our daughter would be able to face us as we pushed the stroller. It helps with bonding and attachment to be able to have the opportunity for eye contact while strolling, in addition to helping the child feel safe by being able to see a parent at all times. Of all the things on my list for the perfect stroller, that one was at the top; I simply wasn’t willing to look at strollers that wouldn’t allow my child to face me. Now that Zinashi is with us, I recognize that this was one of my smartest moves in gear selection. At first, she was afraid of so many things--bumps on the sidewalk, barking dogs in the distance, big cars, strangers--and I know it helped her to be able to see me and even hold my hand if she needed to. Even now she will reach out for my hand if she feels uncertain while strolling.

After a ton of research and watching countless reviews, we chose the Valco RAD. It had enough of the features we wanted in addition to having a parent/caregiver facing option, and it was also on sale because it was being discontinued. So that’s what we chose, and it looks good on us.

election day style

It has ended up being an excellent choice for our particular living situation now, where we walk both on sidewalks and a gravel trail, but for a more walkable urban situation, it has drawbacks, mostly that it is heavy and has a large footprint. So I was already jonesing for a little bit more compact, lighter ride for Zinashi. I also wanted to be able to recommend a stroller to adoptive parents that met all the specifications we had when we were stroller shopping and was A) readily available, B) easy to use and maneuver, and C) within a certain price point range. I was also hoping for something stylish and a bit more sleek than the RAD. Enter the Bumbleride Flyer. I knew that it was readily available online, and that it was under $375, not to mention that it was stylish, but I wasn’t so sure how it would perform. The weight was certainly lighter than the RAD, and I loved the idea that all I had to do to have Zinashi face me was move the handlebar, but how would it feel in real life? Because there was not a brick and mortar retailer near enough to try one out in person, I contacted Bumbleride with my conundrum, and they generously offered to ship one to me that I could try out and return.

It arrived on our doorstep last week, and Zinashi and I were both excited. It turns out that we were excited for good reason.

zinashi loves it!

We’ve taken the Flyer on walks twice now, taking us both indoors and outdoors, and it has worked marvelously for us. Right away one of the things Zinashi and I both loved was the generously-sized canopy. It is simple to pull down and block out the sun, or, in Zinashi’s exuberant case, make a tiny little clubhouse for one.

generously-sized canopy

The first walk we took, it was quite windy, and the canopy kept Zinashi snug and warm while the wind threatened to blow me right off the sidewalk. Yesterday it kept enough noise and light out to allow her to fall asleep on the walk home.

so quiet and comfortable that she fell asleep on the way home

I was truly grateful for that after her 3am bedtime the night before. I was also grateful for the cup holder to hold my giant coffee. I know it is a small thing, but I really appreciate details like including a cup holder. It simply makes life easier. Here’s my other favorite little detail:

one of my favorite features

This zippered pocket is on the back of the canopy, making it super accessible, and it’s just the right size for keys, cell phone, and a small wallet. I like having my keys and cell phone handy, and it’s especially nice for walks when I am not taking a bag along; I don’t have to fit everything into my pockets or let it bounce around in the bottom of the stroller. Which, speaking of the bottom of the stroller, the basket underneath is a great size, easy to get things in and out of. It holds my giant bag and Zinashi’s backpack at the same time, or one cat:

lucy prefers the bumbleride basket to the seat

I realize this doesn’t give you great perspective on the size, but you can see that there’s plenty of room to get things in and out. The footrest of the stroller also adjusts, so you can simply raise it if you’d like to get something from beneath the child’s feet as opposed to having to pull everything out to reach an item that’s slipped forward.

When it comes to the basics of simply strolling, the Flyer performs well on streets and sidewalks and is a dream indoors. It is much lighter than my other stroller, and I can easily push it one-handed (though that’s hardly necessary, thanks to the cup holder provided). It also is more compact, allowing us to get through tighter spaces. As you can see from photos above, the handlebar adjusts to different heights to make it more comfortable to push. It can even be adjusted to Zinashi height, and it’s light and smooth enough for her to push it all by herself.

Other adjustments are easy to make as well. To reverse the handle, you simply pull up on two levers to unlock it, and it glides smoothly to the other side. It also has one-step folding, though it does require two hands. In addition, it comes with a rain cover, which we did use one day but did not photograph; it is a cinch to put on, though I don’t know who can manage to refold one to get it back in the nifty little pouch it came in.

Overall, we really love the Bumbleride Flyer. There were a few drawbacks, but nothing that would prevent me from recommending it. If you are tall and have a long stride, you may have to modify either your stride or your grip on the stroller to keep from kicking the wheels; I chose to modify my grip, and it wasn’t a big deal. Second, if you need a detailed assembly and instruction manual, you will be challenged by putting together the Flyer and figuring out how to use some of the features. The photos and video on the Bumbleride website helped a lot, but I’m not always able to get to a computer, and I’d love to have a thorough manual that I could refer to. Third, if you are looking for a stroller that can handle rougher terrain, this does not have wheels large enough to do that. It was great on sidewalks that were in slight disrepair, but when we had to cross a grassy median (because our city isn’t very walkable), it was tough going, especially with morning dew on the ground. Honestly, I didn’t expect this stroller to be able to handle rougher terrain, so I wouldn’t criticize on that count, and Bumbleride does have an option that would work for that (though it is not parent facing, which is why I chose this one instead).

No stroller does everything, but this stroller does a ton even without having offroad (or off sidewalk) capabilities. That is why I recommend the Bumbleride Flyer without reservation, despite those three small issues. It’s smart. Stylish. Light. Easy. So popular at our house that we use it even when we’re not strolling.

she wanted to sit in it to play

Thanks, Bumbleride.

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary: The Eleventy Hundredth Time's the Charm

So. Our site crashed, and we couldn't save it. Luckily, Jarod had backed up the whole thing a few days ago, and we were able to pull three lost posts off his RSS feed, so when we migrated everything to our new location, we had most of what we'd posted in the past. We did, however, lose the original Tuesday with OLM post, and I can't remember at all what I wrote. I hope the replacement is as good as the original, or that you didn't read the original, so you won't know the difference if this one is inferior.

This Tuesday, I had quite a surprise. Old Lady Mary noticed something about me! Before she noticed something about Zinashi! And it wasn't that I didn't have a warm enough coat/hat/whatever! She noticed my boots, and not in an are those appropriate to the weather way. She noticed them because she likes them. Granted, she has seen the boots and admired them many times before, but it seemed as if she didn't remember, so I'm just going to take that as a new compliment. She did go on to notice Zinashi's headband AND shoes, but let's not split hairs about that. This isn't a popularity contest. (Or is it? If so, I believe Zinashi is winning by a landslide.)

tuesday, january 4, 2011

OLM loved Zinashi's shoes so much that I promised she'd wear them again next week and put on her holiday dress. Mary insisted that after that, we'd need to go out dancing. I'll be sure to wear something danceable as well.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ababi Mondays: The people…

Since I had to work today I didn’t get to spend the day with Zinashi and chronicle our adventures. So again I’m going to post something about looking back to our time in Ethiopia.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses of course. After spending a month there you really start to see how privileged we are in the western world. With things like running water, fresh vegetables, and paved streets. Being a tech person I was really struggling with not having what we would consider to be reliable internet service. I learned a lot about myself. And there were some things I learned that i didn’t like.

All around us was what we would consider destitute and unlivable conditions. But there was something different. Something you don’t see on the Sally Struther’s commercials asking for money for poor kids. We saw peace, joy, and contentment. People who knew they didn’t have much in the eyes of the world but still made life what they wanted.

The people in the pictures above know what they don’t have compared to the person taking the picture (Mary and I), yet they showed something that I think we in the western world might be lacking. Contentment and peace.

I get wrapped up too much in the day to day of life a lot. These photos help me to remember that there are other choices I can make that will have a bigger impact on myself and my family. They help to realign my view of life. I hope in someway they help to do the same for you.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Artist at Work

Zinashi is incredibly creative; we’re fairly certain she’ll get a full ride to a prestigious art school someday. Her preferred medium? Textiles. Her preferred subjects? Cats.

the artist and her work, mid-process

The artist, mid-process. She cannot interrupt her work to have her nose wiped; it would ruin everything.

the subjects try to escape their outfits
Sometimes the subjects do not cooperate.

the finished piece:  lucy

And then, finally, success with the first half of the installation.

the finished piece:  phae

The second subject, having seen the struggle between the artist and her first subject, readily acquiesces and settles in for a nap.

And now, the artist in motion. You are in for a treat, folks, a treat!

If you would like a similar installation in your own home, Zinashi will provide her rates upon request. You must already possess at least two fairly compliant cats, or, if you simply can’t manage felines, dogs. Zinashi will supply the textiles.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Things for the New Year + Our Giveaway Winner!

First of all, a hearty congratulations to Michelle, our first commenter on our Three Months post!  You've won our giveaway!  I'll email you shortly to find out your shirt/bag/card preferences and get the info to get those things to you.  Thanks to everyone who commented!  Your stories are inspiring and thought-provoking.  Thank you for sharing.

And now, on to 2011!

Our biggest change for the new year was moving to a dot com from plain old Wordpress.  We wanted to be able to offer more to our readers, so we decided to take the plunge.  This will allow us to do a few new things a lot more easily than if we'd stayed at our old URL.  You'll be redirected if you use the old URL, so no worries if you're not fond of a lot of change at once.  Whatever way you get to us, you'll still be able to access all our content.  Everybody wins!

One of the biggest things we wanted to do in 2011 was to offer more resources and information to other parents, and to adoptive parents in particular.  We have created a Resources page listing our favorite web links, and we will add to that as we find more information to pass on.  You'll  also notice to the right that we now have a "Weekly Featured Product."  These are items that we are reviewing and that will be in our Amazon store  If you visit our store, you'll find all our favorite things from adoption-related literature to toys that we think are just plain awesome.  We are doing the product reviews and keeping an Amazon store primarily to offer information about items that are good for families, so I hope you won't feel as if we are trying to sell you something.  It will benefit us financially if you order through our links, but please don't feel any pressure.  I intend to only feature items that have really worked for us unless someone sends us something for review, in which case I will be honest with you about whether or not we really like it.  Up first will be the Bumbleride Flyer stroller, which was kindly sent to us for review by the fine folks at Bumbleride, and I'm going to give you a hint about my impartial review and say that I really don't want to send it back to them when I'm done testing it out.  The reviews and recommendations will appear every Wednesday.

Second, I have long thought that I'd like to document Zinashi's outfit every day since dressing her is my new favorite hobby, so we're adding that as well.  There is a separate page for it, but we will also post each one on the main page.  Most photos will be low quality, taken with Jarod's first generation iPhone, as Zinashi is not fond of the big camera.  In fact, to get her to stand still for a photo with the DSLR, I have to bribe her with lollipops.  I'd like to not make that a habit, so for now we'll stick with the iPhone.  We've been tossing the idea of upgrading my first generation Canon Rebel to a nicer model, but I think we'll go the way of the S95 thanks to Zinashi's preferences and the cost of DSLRs.

We are also finally adding a list of our favorite blogs, on its own page.  One thing that I found to be helpful during our process was to read blogs of others who were pursuing the same things or had already walked the road of paperwork, referral, and finally holding their child in their arms.  It gave me perspective and most of all it gave me hope when things seemed overwhelming.  We are going to do our best to include everyone, but please be patient with us, as the list of helpful blogs is way long.  We also will list non-adoption blogs that we love.  So much of this endeavor has been shaped by the connections and inspiration we have found online--we would be leaving out a major part of our story if we left out all the fine folks of the internet.  This list will be long, so please be patient while we compile it.  I'll let you know when the first round has been posted on the page.

Another thing that was incredibly helpful to us during our process was to see others' adoption timelines.  It gave us a ballpark range of what level of patience we'd need to cultivate for each stage of our adoption.  I've mentioned before that adoption has taught us to be really good at waiting and not knowing things; it was always good to read various timelines and see how things had played out, and to see that on every single timeline there was eventually a last entry of being home as a family.  That information also has its own separate page.

And of course we'll keep our old standby favorites.  Ababi Mondays and Tuesdays with Old Lady Mary won't have their own pages, but they'll appear each week, as usual.  I'll continue to write schmaltzy posts about crying over some milestone or grand realization about the amazingness of Zinashi.  A lot has been added to the site, but mostly we remain the same.  Grateful.  Flabbergasted by good fortune.  Full of hope for what comes now and what comes next.  Happy 2011, internet.

Zinashi Fashion

New Year's Day 2011: The Casual Tomboy Nerd Look

the casual tomboy nerd

waiting her turn

Star Wars shirt from Target
Jeans and hoodie are hand-me-downs (and incidentally, both mothers that passed them on are named Stephanie)
Shoes by Converse
Heaband by Goody
Bow from Urban Mining

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