Friday, April 29, 2011

Zinashi Goes to School

Today we were invited to Grandparents and Special Friends Day at a local school. We got to be MaryLiz's special friend first.

maryliz teaches zinashi everything she knows

She taught Zinashi everything she knows, but Zinashi was mostly interested in the cookie we got to eat. Then we went upstairs to be Jack's special friend, but we forgot to take a picture. Oops! Sorry, Jack!

Today was a busy day following a couple of weeks of busy days, and while we enjoyed seeing everyone we saw and going everywhere we went, I am glad to call an end to this day and to the busy-ness of the past two weeks. We've got one more special function to go to tomorrow, and then we can all lie down and take a nice nap. Won't that be nice?

The Mami of this house says YES.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Raising Zinashi: Teaching and Learning

People love to ask questions about Zinashi, and for the most part I am happy to answer them (provided they are appropriate and respectful, of course), but I must admit that the two most popular questions are starting to wear thin. They are:

1. So, how's her English?

2. Is she going to preschool?

These two often branch out into further questions about what she is learning and what she knows and when she's going to start learning a certain thing. There aren't any answers that are set in stone to any of the questions except for #2, to which the answer is no. She is not going to preschool. At least not right now. She might not go to school at all, but I haven't come to a point of decision about homeschooling. We do know that we don't like any of the options we have living in our current neighborhood, so if we stay here longer than anticipated, homeschooling will be it. (Charlotte Mason method, if you're familiar with that.)

Right now we are focusing, if you can even call it that, on her language skills. We don't do anything formal, which is why I hate to call it "focusing." We just talk to her, and answer her questions and tell her what things are, the same way you would for any small child. Early childhood is an excellent time for language acquisition, and so she is doing marvelously just by living life and asking questions and getting answers. Still, it's a lot to learn, and there is a lot she still doesn't grasp. This is why I am not pushing her to learn a lot of other things. When the language is there, situations will present themselves naturally for her to learn things like shapes and letters and numbers. Without a fuller grasp of language, these things would only be memorization, and not understanding of concepts.

She knows many colors already, which she learned by choosing which Lindt chocolate she wanted for her reward for going to bed nicely (aside: May I recommend those as a reward? Half the time she doesn't even eat it, just carries it around because it's pretty.). She's learned some numbers because we often ask her how many of something she wants. She still doesn't have a firm grasp on counting, though. She prefers to count in twos--two four six eight--and I'll admit that I've ended up encouraging this by going, "Two four six eight, who do we appreciate?" and then filling in her name and the names of everyone we know, including our cats. She'll learn to count, but clearly, we're just not worried about it right now.

What we are doing to encourage learning is allowing her to play. This is how children learn naturally! She plays with us and with others and on her own. I often notice her observing someone else doing something and then going to try it herself. In her own time, in her own way, she discovers how to do things. There simply is no need to push her, but instead to help her along the way as she tries things out for herself. There is no substitute for readiness.

We also are big into reading. I love to read, and so Zinashi's world is filled with books. If she brings me a book during the day, I will read it to her, and we always read three books at night. Our shelves are filled with books for her, and there will be more. At this age, children love repetition, so while she and Jarod have gone to the library from time to time, mostly we love to own books that we can read over and over again. As she becomes familiar with the stories, she says the words along with us as we read them aloud. In this way, we are laying a foundation for love of reading and for the actual act of reading itself. Sometimes she will point to a word on the page and ask, "What that?" I tell her, and smile to myself. She'll read someday, probably sooner than we think.

Up to this point, we have not yet allowed her to watch television aside from videos of music from her home region and a couple of cat videos. (What? I take my role as crazy cat lady seriously.) We also do not use electronic toys. I am not here to judge anyone who allows their children these things, or to say that you shouldn't. Part of this decision is due to personal preference, and part is due to my philosophies about learning and interaction. I know that the Leapster can tell my child what a letter is and what sound it makes, but so can I. I know that she can learn certain skills from playing a video game, but that's not the only way (or in my opinion, the best way) to learn them. That we will allow her a certain amount of "screen time" per day as she gets older is a given. We won't keep her from all technology. But when it comes to things that I can teach her myself as we live our lives, I feel like handing her an electronic device to do those things is an annoying cop-out. I want to teach her. I want our lives to be peaceful. This is how we choose to make that happen.

As time goes by, there will be bigger and better and more exciting things for Zinashi to learn. For now, I am relishing every new word she learns, every new skill she acquires without any assistance. She surprises me every day with something she has noticed and figured out how to do herself. I am excited to see what her future brings, to gently guide her as she longs to know more and more.

This is the second installment of our Raising Zinashi series, in which we detail some of the ways we live our family life. The first installment, How We Eat, is here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Seven Months a Family

Little light, girl of a thousand goofy faces, Miss Magnolia Zinash McBride,

Seven months ago you walked into my arms and made us a family. I will never be able to express to you just exactly what it's meant to me to become your mother, to be your mother every day, to see your legs lengthen and your eyes brighten and your countenance change. Ababi and I love you all the time, every day, with our whole hearts.

our fine little family

Thank you for being the you that you are. We treasure you.

Hug, kiss, honk-a-nose,
Your Mami

Photo by Lauren Overton of Kelly Jackson Photography.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Six Months Home

Today marks six months home. I have trouble knowing what to write about since we have one day after the next when it comes to monthly anniversaries. But having her in our arms and being home are two experiences that are quite separate, so I want to mark both.

I feel like our real adjustment as a family began the moment we walked off the plane in Kansas City. In Ethiopia, it was a honeymoon period of sorts, except I didn't realize it just then. Oh, I knew we had it good in a lot of ways, but I also longed for a home life. We didn't get that by simply stepping off the plane in our home city, and I'd say that it's really just lately that we've felt settled and at home. There is so much to navigate when bringing a new child home, and when you throw in the part where she has experienced trauma and is experiencing trauma in the form of leaving behind everything she's known, it is incredibly messy. Life is so much more full of everything at home to begin with, before you even throw in those huge issues. In Ethiopia, we had the luxury of dealing with the issues without the extra stresses of day to day life. Living out of suitcases is a challenge, but when you've packed for a month, you have everything you need for that month (mostly) at hand. When someone else cooks your meals for you and does your laundry, you don't have to figure out how to fit that in. There are no dishes to do, either. And there are no people who need or want things from you.

Coming home was a reckoning of sorts, a trial by fire. Could I get the dishes done and make choices that were in the best interest of my daughter? Judging by the pots and pans on my counters right now, the answer to the first part is still no much of the time. But it's getting better, and the second part is better, too. We do have a home life that isn't violated as often. Now that most people have met Zinashi, there's not such a flurry of requests to see her or to have her do things. There are still experiences she hasn't had, which many people feel she should have had already or that we should plan with haste, but now I just let most of those things go, or say that we're pretty much hippies who don't believe in television or early reading or marketing to children. (Which is all true, except that I like cute shoes way too much to be a hippie.) I'm sure a lot of people roll their eyes at our parenting, but that's okay. We like our family life, and we love our Zinashi, and at six months home we are truly at home together. What else matters? Not much, probably.

let me tell you how it is

At six months home, we have worked hard to get where we are. But we've also loved much and laughed much and snuggled up next to a sweet little someone in our very own bed at night. It feels good. To be here. To be now. Six months home, and happy. We'll take it.

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary: Mostly Shoes

We made a quick trip to Old Lady Mary's today, and she was so consumed with her list of conversation topics (because she writes down reminders of what she'd like to discuss with me) (really) that she barely looked at us. She did note our shoe selections, and at the end Zinashi was declared adorable and smart, so what else could we ask for, really?

tuesday, april 26, 2011
Click on the photo for more details.

We're coming off a very busy weekend and heading into a busy week, and Zinashi is handling it marvelously. She stayed awake for the entire Pascha service and feast, which lasted from 11pm to 4:45am. She's back on schedule already, whereas I still need a lot of coffee.

Oh, wait, I need a lot of coffee every single day regardless. Nevermind about that, then. Let's just applaud Zinashi's sleeptime resilience.

Confused about who this Old Lady Mary person is and why we show up every Tuesday? Click here and proceed to the paragraph beneath the photo.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ababi Mondays: World Malaria Day

Malaria, from the Medieval Italian words mala aria or “bad air,” causes 200 million illnesses per year and kills nearly one million people – mostly children under the age of five.

Statements like that don't really touch home with us here in the developed world. We've most likely never met someone who has malaria or has been affected by the disease. That was certain the case for us until we saw first hand how something that is simple to prevent or simple to treat can destroy lives and families. All it takes is the right resources.

We are now in that group of people who have been directly impacted by malaria.

For most people in malaria endemic countries a $10 bed net would save their life. But as we saw in Ethiopia, $10 is not a trivial amount of money to a lot of people.

I wasn't really aware of how just a bed net could really help. When we were in Ethiopia there were mosquitoes around at all hours of the day. The website Nothing But Nets does a good job of explaining that situation.

Bed nets work by creating a protective barrier against deadly-malaria carrying mosquitoes that bite at night. A family of four can sleep under an insecticide-treated bed net, safe from malaria, for three years. The benefits of bed nets extend even further than protecting those sleeping underneath them. The insecticide woven into each net makes entire communities safer – killing and repelling mosquitoes so that they can’t go on to bite others who may not be protected by a net.

If you're at all interested then check out and support some of these agencies that are doing what they can to end malaria. I know there would be a lot of people who would really appreciate it.

Nothing But Nets
The Malaria Consortium
The Global Fund
Coalition against Malaria in Ethiopia

And just so things aren't too heavy I give you some pictures to enjoy...

Zinash figuring out this egg hunting thing
Easter Egg Hunt

Mary at the Zoo
Mary and the monkey

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Should I Feel Bad About Doing This?

This morning we went to a baptism at church with our little Saturday friend in tow. Our Saturday friend is three years old, and she and Zinashi either play nicely or fight like cats and dogs. I had originally thought that we wouldn't go, but I needed to take an Easter lily to the church anyway, and we were dropping Jarod off at work right before the baptism was to start, so...we went. I decided that if it wasn't going well, we'd slip out.

For those of you not in the know, Orthodox Christian baptism is a bit of a lengthy affair, taking about two hours total. That's kind of a long time for a supposed-four-year-old and a three-year-old to mind their manners. But I had a plan. I told the girls what was expected of them. I explained that they needed to be quiet and stay near me and not fight. And then I made an offer of what was to come if they complied with my instructions. Three things.

1. A lollipop.

2. Bunny fruit snacks.

3. Hot chocolate from the drive thru.

You guys, bribery totally works. They did beautifully.

Now I just have to feed them an exceptionally healthy lunch to counteract the sugar trifecta I presented to them. At least the lollipops had Vitamin C, right?

Friday, April 22, 2011

For Example, Today's Lunch

I wasn't kidding when I said that we keep lunch simple. Here's what Zinashi chowed down on today, taking a few extra raisins with her as I lifted her out of her chair.

zinashi's lunch

It's really so good of our cat to taste the olive oil and make sure it's seasoned properly. Oh, not really. And if that ever happened, it's not like I would tell you anyway. (It didn't happen.) (But how would you know?)

We already knew that Zinashi likes baguette, but we hadn't offered olive oil for dipping before last night. Turns out she LOVES it. This should not come as a surprise since she loves dipping other foods into sauces, but it never occurred to me to offer it to her. This is a total winner of a lunch choice because she enjoys it AND the tearing and dipping of bread give me a little extra time to get things done. I can't decide if it's bad or good that I offer foods based on how much I need to get done versus how long it will take Zinashi to eat them. It's probably good; after all, it's what allowed me time to upload photos like these today.

pantless bicycling
Pantsless bicycling for comfort and style. Yes, we let her ride her bike in the house. If you've seen our driveway, you know why.

she was running errands...
Zinashi likes to pretend to run errands in our yucky basement. I have no idea what the appeal is down there, but she never gets into anything she's not supposed to (aside from out-of-season holiday decor), so I let her go down anytime she asks.

another way to co-sleep
Our cats also enjoy cosleeping.

post-birthday-party exhaustion
You saw the party; now you see the after party. Surprisingly enough, everyone left their pants on until bathtime.

Happy Friday, Everyone. Stay safe, keep your pants on, and have a marvelous Easter.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Raising Zinashi: How We Eat

This is the beginning of a series detailing some of the ways we live our lives as a family, what has worked for us, what hasn't worked, and how we're progressing through issues that are both adoption-related and just plain typical.

When Zinashi came into transitional care in Ethiopia, her nutrition was marginal and she had been ill. She was small for her age in both stature and weight. At age three (or nearly three), she was at the bottom end of the 18-month clothing size height and weight range. Tiny. She gained five pounds in the first ten days in care; she was that hungry. So it was no surprise to us that she had some food issues in our first weeks together. We are actually quite fortunate that she did as well as she did, and that now her eating habits are quite typical for a girl her age. We did a few unconventional things to get where we are now, which I will detail here.

The purposes we have with feeding our daughter are twofold. First, we want her to get excellent nutrition. Second, we want her to feel secure in the amount of food that is available. To those ends, we eat primarily homemade meals comprised of mostly organic ingredients, and she is allowed a snack anytime she says she is hungry. I try to keep portable snacks in my bag both for food quality and budgetary reasons. (Confession: I tried to stop doing this, as she was okay waiting a little while to get something, but then there were three days in a row where we left the house for a more extended period of time than I anticipated, and I had to buy her a snack at a coffee shop. Three days in a row. My wallet says OUCH!)

For breakfast I've found it's easiest to stick to the same two meals and alternate days. Sometimes we will do something special, like go to Starbucks for breakfast on her birthday, but for the most part we eat at home, around our table, together. I like to cook a hot meal to get the day started on the right foot. We have either oatmeal (cooked with milk, topped with bananas, if desired) or scrambled eggs, with a side of whole wheat toast. Lately I've been making homemade nutella on a regular basis, so we spread a little of that on the toast. To drink, Zinashi can choose tea (honey chamomile is a hit) or juice (half water, half juice) if we have it. She usually asks for a glass of water as well. When we first arrived home, I made her hot chocolate every morning to be consistent with what she had in Ethiopia, but now it's a rare treat.

We keep lunch pretty low key, and in fact, I rarely sit down to eat with Zinashi. She is happy having a light lunch on her own at the table while I do some cleaning in the kitchen. Because our other two meals are fairly substantial and are all eaten as a family, I'm not too anxious about having her eat something small by herself. Usually she chooses cheese and crackers or pita and hummus, and I try to offer her fruit that she'll actually eat. She's not been too keen on any of the fruit choices lately, so we're going to start doing lunch smoothies. I'll be sneaking some spinach in there as well, as Zinashi has been picking vegetables out of her food lately and offering them to Jarod and me.

At dinner time, I often cook a one dish meal, like pasta with vegetables, curry over rice, or a hearty soup. Zinashi loves french fries, so sometimes I'll do oven fries and we'll have burgers (veggie or grass-fed beef or bison). If I'm feeling really ambitious, I might make a meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and sauteed spinach (my favorite). At dinner, sometimes we have something for dessert, and if Jarod and I finish before Zinashi and are eating dessert, she is allowed to have a bit even if she's not done with her other food. What we've found is that if we don't make a big deal out of sweets, she doesn't either. Given dessert mid-meal, she usually takes a couple of bites, tells us she's all done with it, and then goes back to her meal. We think this is fantastic, and probably much healthier than if she thought that desserts were some special treat to be earned. Put in the place of being just another food, dessert loses its allure.

At all meals, Zinashi is free to eat what she likes, as much or as little as she likes. We do not make separate meals for her, and we do not cajole her to finish something or try something. We might encourage her to try something that we think she'll like, but we don't make a big deal about it if she declines. (Unless you call eating that same food and making food enjoyment noises making a big deal out of it.) I'm a big fan of the Ellyn Satter school of thought, which dictates that parents decide when and what is served, and children decide if and how much they'll eat. Like most young children, Zinashi will sometimes eat very little and sometimes eat a whole lot. When she doesn't eat much (such as this morning: two bites of banana for breakfast), we don't worry. We know that she'll make up for it another time. There is never a requirement to be a member of the Clean Plate Club.

When it comes to food quality, we believe strongly in feeding Zinashi organic foods as much as possible. My philosophy is that if I wouldn't hand my child a cup of pesticide to drink, then I'm not going to hand her food with pesticide in it either. Would you offer your child a sip of Roundup? Then you probably don't want your child to "sip" it by consuming it in food either. This just makes good sense. I know that organics are more expensive, but when we dine at home most of the time and take advantage of the bulk aisle at Whole Foods and fruits and vegetables that are on sale, it's really not that bad. We've also been known to keep a garden (probably just limited to herbs and tomatoes this year) and to shop at the local farmer's market. Many farmers using organic processes are not certified organic, so talk to your farmers! We are not people of great means, particularly now that I am only working one day per week, but good nutrition from good sources is important to us, so we figure out how to make it work.

When Zinashi first came to us, her main issue was eating way too much and not wanting to leave food on the table, but try to take it all with her. She had a delightful habit of stuffing french fries under her chin and shrieking as we walked away from leftovers. This makes a lot of sense for a child who never had enough to eat. Trying to hoard food was her way of making sure that she'd have enough for later. Now she is delighted by the American way of the to-go box, but also no longer frets if we can't take something with us. She also never stuffs herself unless she is truly hungry (though she is a really good eater sometimes, like full-bowl-of-pasta good eater). The main thing we have done to ease her food insecurity is to have meals at regular times and to always give her a snack when she asks for one. Food is predictable now. We don't allow her to be picky about her snack, but we do offer a couple of choices, and if she comes up with a third choice that is readily available and healthy, then we'll say yes to that. For example, if we offer an orange or some rabbit crackers and she says she wants raisins, that's fine.

Judging by Zinashi's rate of growth and her health, eating this way is working very well. We feel good about what we put on her plate, and she enjoys eating it. Everybody wins!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wait, What Did You Just Call Me?

Today Zinashi decided that my name is Mom, not Mami. I'm sorry, sweetheart, but until you stop creating looks like this to amuse yourself while I clean up the kitchen, I don't consider you old enough to graduate to calling me Mom.

i cannot take you seriously when you're like this

Get back to me when you're thirteen and angsty, when you'll be upset that I put this online for the entire internet to see.

PS--Do we need a better camera for night shots or what? Sad fact is that our "nice" camera would do an even worse job than the iPhone. Sorry about the quality there.

Zinashi's Announcements

It was really important to me throughout the adoption process that we send out a really special announcement when we brought our girl home. When we found out she was a three-year-old and not a baby, it became even more important to me. I wanted her to know how loved and wanted she was from the beginning, how we took time to not only let people know that she was here, but to do it with intention and thought and style.

And then we got home and it was a whirlwind of settling in and holidays and sleep issues and holidays and then, finally, we had time, four months or so after landing on American soil. I'm pretty sure that everyone who got the announcement already knew all about her, but I still wanted to do it, and I wanted to make it somewhat homemade.

Here's what I came up with:

zinashi's announcement

I pulled the illustration off of a free clip art site before we left for Ethiopia, and it was the only thing I had to begin with. I knew I wanted to add the words "She's here!" and "Hooray!" and to extend the branches of the tree, as they were awkwardly cut off at the top. I added little magnolias because that seemed appropriate. I then used Photoshop to create the rest of the design. In my dreams, I would have had these done by letterpress, but we were on a budget, so I got some fancy paper and had it copied at FedEx Office, two announcements to each page. Cut in half, they are A9 size. Now here's where my tale of caution comes in: FedEx Office's machine ruined my paper on the first run, after I'd specifically asked if the machine could handle this kind of paper, and their offer was to reprint on their own (lame) card stock. I did not get my money back for the first set of paper. They did, however, refund the money I'd already paid and made the second set of copies for me at no charge. Because I wanted to use really nice paper, this ended up being pretty expensive. I would have been better off going to a good print service. I will next time.

FedEx Office did cut the announcements apart for me, so when I brought them home, all I had to do was use my corner rounder to finish up to make them look nice. I then selected three colors from my marker stash and hand colored each announcement. This may sound tedious, but I really like to color, and it made me feel good to do this for my daughter, so it was fun.

It shouldn't surprise you that if I were picky about paper, I'd also be picky about envelopes. I really wanted a European flap envelope, and in A9 size, these can be a little hard to find in a variety of colors. I was able to get some for a good price at Envelope Mall.

zinashi's announcement, back of envelope

I didn't expect them to have a little shimmer, but I ended up liking it just fine, and the labels I chose stuck with no problem.

zinashi's announcement, front of envelope

For labels I initially looked at stationery sites, but they all seemed pretty pricey, and if I were going to need a separate return address label, it would get really steep. Etsy to the rescue! I ordered our labels from Designs by Thoughts and was really pleased with their prices and service. We didn't order quite as many labels as we needed for all the announcements, so the last mailing (which I, ahem, haven't done yet) won't have the fancy labels. I guess I underestimated the amount of people we know!

Finally, we wanted to include a photo of Zinashi and a link to her story on our website. I chose to order photo gift tags from Cardstore. We had her photo printed on the front, and her name, the date, and our website info printed on the back. I don't see these currently listed on the Cardstore site, so either they have been discontinued or are only available at Christmastime. They are essentially wallet-sized photo cards with a nice matte finish and rounded corners. It fit really well with the announcement; we just tucked it into the front of the envelope.

zinashi's announcement, with envelope and photo card enclosure

I really love the way everything came together in the end. Even though there were some complications with the printing and a surprise with the envelope sheen, I would absolutely do this again.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary: Our Adorable Easter Best

Today we were total winners in the fashion department, at least as far as Old Lady Mary was concerned. She proclaimed us adorable and checked out every detail of our outfits. Then Zinashi asked me to sing and she did an impromptu interpretive dance, the likes of which Mary has never seen in her life. As we left, Mary said, "Oh, we had a time today, didn't we?" Yes, we did.

tuesday, april 19, 2011

I've had a lot of inquiries lately about Old Lady Mary, with many people wondering if she is my mother. She isn't, and my actual mother thanks you for being able to tell the difference. Mary is a nearly-ninety-one-year-old eccentric woman who has no living family that she knows of. My friend Nicole befriended her nearly a decade ago, and somewhere along the way, we were introduced. Another friend, Carrie, who also looks in on her, called me one day asking if I'd like to start visiting Mary on a regular basis, as Nicole had moved to Chicago and Mary's needs are a lot for just one person to handle, and I said yes. Of course, "regular basis" is subjective, and I found that I didn't go as often as I knew I ought if I didn't have a plan for it. So I started going on the same day of every week, usually around the same time. Before Zinashi came along, I went in the afternoons, but now mornings work better for us, so we go every single Tuesday morning so long as we are in town. Mary is an odd duck, as they say, but she has a beautiful heart, and we sure love her lots.

PS--As always, you can click on the photo to see more details about our outfits and Mary's reaction.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ababi Mondays: Community and Life

The girl loves french fries. Seriously. But we don't do just any fries. It has to bee the good stuff. I don't consider places like Five Guys Burgers and Fries to be fast food (no drive thru for one). It's quality stuff. Quality enough that we got two orders of large fries and that's what we had for dinner Sunday and lunch today (400° in the over for 3-5 mins to reheat) and they are still just as good.



So when we knew we were adopting from Ethiopia, Mary and I set out to find ways to incorporate Ethiopian life and culture into our lives. We had already known of a church that had a good number of Ethiopian and Eritrian families. So even before Zinash came home with us we had people around us who could provide things that were already familiar to her. We have really come to love and embrace the east African culture in our family and Zinash still gets a little twinkle in her eye when she sees something that is reminiscent of Ethiopia. This weekend it was the Palm Sunday processional at our church. It was really a special time for all of us to be a part of.

Friday, April 15, 2011



This goofy girl has been initiating discussions about her future baby sister. Sometimes she pretends she is getting on an airplane to go get her, and sometimes she tells me that baby sister is crying in Ethiopia. I really had no plans to begin paperwork on a second adoption so soon, but I'm starting to rethink my position. Tentative conversations with Jarod reveal that when I mention how much easier it would be to complete paperwork before we move elsewhere, he doesn't run screaming. Could we all be getting ready? Even NOW?


I mean, I hope so.

I think about her every day, the baby that might be. I wear a special necklace from time to time as a reminder. That we want to do this again. That sooner rather than later might be better rather than worse.

The truth is that I really don't know. Oh, my heart pulls me in the direction of Ethiopia every day, but there are some pretty big puzzle pieces to fall into place. Zinashi needs to be able to stay with someone other than us sometimes (which is not to say that she wouldn't go with us to Ethiopia, because of course she would, just that I need to know that her attachment is secure enough that this is possible for her). We need to have additional income of about $150 per month for medical expenses that we are likely to incur for our next daughter's care. We'll need the funds for each step of the adoption process. We don't know where either of those things will come from, exactly. But I do believe that when you say yes to something, miracles occur.

I believe that when you take steps in a certain direction, things start happening. We saw it happen with Zinashi, and we know it can happen again. Our belief in God is one that indicates that He does that sort of thing, that He did that sort of thing for us, before. Everything fell so beautifully into place, and there was no other explanation. Every wish we had, granted. Every hope, fulfilled. Because we said yes.

I think we might be ready to say yes again.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Snail, Sloth, Molasses on a Winter's Day

Zinashi has been into taking it easy lately, and what I mean when I say that is if you were to try to calculate her speed while walking somewhere, it wouldn't register because it's so close to stopping that there's just no point. In fact, there's a lot of stopping. From time to time she's into going faster than me, but mostly she just wants to meander. I'm still trying to adjust to this so that we can get places on time. We're usually at least six minutes late, or twenty. I'm pretty sure she's just gotten over the American pace of life and is reverting back to Ethiopian time. We'll get there when we get there. Don't worry! She also looks kind of offended when kids push past her on the playground. What's the rush, man? You'll get to the slide! Stop pushing! It's kind of hilarious, really. And it's good. I never feel like I can't keep track of her. And it pushes me to be annoyed less when she isn't moving fast, to enjoy the moment. She's not bothered; why should I be upset? Where are we going that is so important that we have to get there in a huge rush and make everyone's blood pressure rise?

I do long to have a slower life. It's just the way we want to live as a family. No rush, no hurry, getting things done but not getting our knickers in a twist over anything. I think that it's important to be respectful of others' time, so this means that we just need to take more time for everything, and do less overall. I want a peaceful life for our family, and whatever sacrifices we need to make to get there, we'll make. Clearly, Zinashi is just paving the way for us.

It's good of her to do that, don't you think?

blowing bubbles

where is that bubble going?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I Guess We're Feeding Her Well

Zinashi has grown an inch a month since her doctor's appointment in November. Anytime she stretches out on the floor, the length of her legs astounds me. The international adoption doctor told us that she was mostly caught up in weight, and height takes a bit longer. I think we've made it to the longer part. Or maybe we should call it the taller part. See for yourself.

In Ethiopia in late October:

do you like her footwear?

Today, wearing the same dress:

my how you've grown

We always joke that she must have a hollow leg to eat as much as she does, but I think what's actually happening is that as she eats, her body lengthens to fit the amount of food she's consuming. Clearly this is working out well for her.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary: Zinashi's Ode to Spring

It's been a long day. Started with an earlier wake up time than usual in order to get to an early breakfast (well, early for me--usual time for the kids I was breakfasting with), followed by a visit to Old Lady Mary, followed by Jarod working noon to nine, which meant that I had Zinashi with me the bulk of the day after rising much earlier than usual. I am not a morning person. I do not handle these things well. And Zinashi, after being with me most of the day, missed her Ababi and wasn't interested in sleeping either before he arrived home and then once he got here. My contacts are all dried out and shriveled onto my eyeballs, so I will leave you with the photo of our spring outfits. The one major bonus today was that the weather was my favorite--cool enough for a jacket or cardigan at the beginning and end of the day, warm enough to shed them for a long walk in the afternoon. Lovely.

tuesday, april 12, 2011

As always, you can give the photo a click to shoot through to Flickr and get details of the outfit. I wish you a pleasant rest of your evening and a very happy tomorrow. May you sleep as well as I'm bound to after this long day.

A Saint for Zinashi

On Saturday we will be baptized into the Orthodox Christian Church as a family. Jarod and I grew up in the Protestant Christian faith, so this isn't a huge departure from the way we were raised, and in fact I'd say that it's more that we've put foundations under what we already believed, foundations we didn't even realize existed. I grew up thinking (and being taught, in Sunday School) that there was Catholic and Protestant and everyone who professed Christianity fell into one of those two camps. Orthodox Christianity wasn't even on the radar. But we made our way there, and now it is how we would like to live out our lives as a family. We are excited to make this step.

When a person is baptized into the Orthodox Church, he or she chooses a patron saint. Children often have their saint chosen for them, as we are doing for Zinashi. Jarod and I each chose our own patron saints for personal reasons. He chose Yared, an Ethiopian saint whose name and interests (music) he already shares, and I chose Sofia, Mother of Orphans, for reasons which are probably obvious to you by her name alone and my background (former nanny builds family by, kind of obvious).

For Zinashi, we wanted to choose a saint that is Ethiopian, and I was hard pressed to find one that was just right. But I kept coming back to this little book and felt like that was it. In the literature I find online about St. Tekla, the story of the lion isn't mentioned, but there is a story that is told that is far more significant to me than one about taming a lion. The story goes that St. Tekla visited a monastery that had to be accessed by being pulled up by a rope, and so he went there, and was lifted by the rope, and had a nice visit (or so I imagine), but then when he was being lowered back down, the rope was mysteriously cut. Tekla would have fallen to his death, but he was grew six wings which carried him to safety. If there's something I want more than anything for Zinashi, it's that she would be given wings to carry her to safety when her rope is cut. For now we do what we can to keep her safe, to ease her back to earth when her rope is cut, but we can't always do that for her. So we chose St. Tekla, to be her wings.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ababi Mondays: Lunch on the Patio

Finally the weather here is getting pretty nice. Nice enough that we all rode our bikes to the hardware store to pickup some plants (although said hardware stores plant stock was miserable) and then came back to have some lunch. Mary set up Zinash outside on the patio and We had some left over injera and shiro.


We spent the day outside mostly and had a good time just enjoying weather.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Water for Korah

One thing that being in Ethiopia really brought home for us is how lucky we are to have water. We have clean water to drink, right here in our homes, and we don't have to worry that we might get sick from drinking it or even doing something so simple as brushing our teeth with it. And frankly, even in Ethiopia, if we did accidentally forget and ingest water, we had the luxury of medication in our bags to treat whatever might ail us. This is just not reality for many people throughout the world. The water that is available to them is limited, and it is not safe for drinking. But it's what they have, so it's what they use and what they drink.

In Addis Ababa, there is a community called Korah which is essentially a slum. This community is largely made up of those suffering the effects of leprosy and AIDS. Families live in shanties that surround the leprosy hospital there, and some of the children attend school at Bright Hope School. Our agency's humanitarian arm has supported many projects at Bright Hope School, including a well that gives water to students and their families. This is the tank that holds that water.

current water tank at bright hope school

Before this, there was no clean water for the students of Bright Hope School. This first well was a miracle for them, but it's only a start; it's not enough water for everyone in Korah. So Children's Hope is digging another well at Bright Hope School to provide water for the people of Korah. People like the families and friends of these children:

students at bright hope school

Look at their beautiful faces! Don't you want them and their families and everyone in their community to have clean, safe water to drink? Sure you do. And guess what? You can. Click here to donate to the new well at Bright Hope School, to help bring clean water to the people of Korah.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Place to Hang My Hat

I don't know how much to share about specific days in our daughter's life. Mostly I want those days, and what occurred on them, to be hers to do with what she will. To grieve as she needs to and share as she needs to. If someday she wants to share her story with a wider audience, then that is hers to decide. What I can say is that this time of year is hard for my daughter. I see her grieving, and I see her working through things, and I think that not many people would recognize it, but I'm her Mami. I see it. I know that she's not just tired, or just hungry, or just suffering from seasonal allergies (though she may be all of those things as well). And it makes my heart long to carry that burden for her. I can't. That's the long and short of it. It is and always will be hers to carry. I can carry other burdens for her while she works through this, to make her load lighter overall, but I can't carry that particular one, no matter how hard I try.

What they don't tell you when you are preparing to adopt is that sometimes parenting your child will be all about sorrow and grief. To agree to parent a child who has lost the family they were born to is to agree enter into this sorrow with them. It is to agree that this will be a part of their lives for always, and to know that you will never ever be able to change that for them. You will not be able to control how they grieve or how much or for how long. This should not be taken lightly. What will you do when your child goes blank and doesn't respond to you? What will you do when your child acts out because their feelings are so deep and painful that they don't know what else to do? Can you walk through this grief with your child? Are you willing for this to be part of your story as a family?

We didn't know the half of it when we decided to adopt; I suppose it's one of those things you can only truly grasp once you're in the thick of it. At the same time, I wonder why very few people ever mention it in the beginning. I suppose it might be off-putting, listed there on an agency website under age and marital and health requirements. But it's real, and to me it is the most profound requirement of adoption. You will need to be willing to go the extra mile to accommodate your child's emotional needs. Accept that as a given.

For now, bearing part of Zinashi's burdens means that sometimes she needs me to do things for her that she can do herself. I know that this is confusing for a lot of people who long to see children grow and develop and move on to some next new step. So part of my burden is also either ignoring people when they make comments about her being a big girl and not needing something or other, and sometimes it means gently saying, "She can do it, but today I want to do it for her." It means whispering quietly, "Do you want help?" and acknowledging the quiet nod or the steady look.

Being Zinashi's mother has grown me in ways I never imagined I could grow. It has challenged me to be more intuitive, to be ever gentler, to let go of things that I thought I should hang on to. It has grown me a thicker skin and a louder voice. Some people talk about things that they are in addition to being a mother, hanging their hat on those accomplishments as if being a mother were at the bottom of the list, something they don't want to define them. For me, being a mother has made more of me, not less. And I will gladly hang my hat on that.


Take a gander at this. Now look here:

who does this look remind you of?

I'm pretty sure we had breakfast with Lenny Kravitz this morning, and poor Lenny has seasonal allergies.

(Grab a tissue, Lenny.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, Zinashi!

Today is Zinashi's birthday. I can't believe that I'm going to start saying that I have a four year old, but there it is. Three seemed like she was still a baby, but saying four seems like...a kid. I am so proud of her, of how she has grown and changed and learned so much these six months she's been with us. She is radiance and light and magic. We love her so much.

zinashi and the anbassa



zinashi and pomona

Happy, happy, happy birthday Zinashi. May you have many, many more, filled with radiance, and light, and magic, whether you make it yourself or it comes to you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary: Sailor Zinashi and the YELLOW TOCKS!

I've been making a list of the words that Zinashi mispronounces that are absolutely fantastic. Tocks instead of socks is near the top of the list, but it's lagging behind tleeping for sleeping, loom for room, and yip for zip. Last night she called scissors yizzers, and that was kind of awesome as well. But tocks get mentioned more than anything else, and in particular, yellow tocks have been a Zinashi request on a regular basis. The problem was that she didn't actually own any yellow socks. I just hadn't found any cheap ones that weren't sold as part of a set of pastels. Old Navy to the rescue! Yesterday I went out for some alone time and was able to return with YELLOW TOCKS! Zinashi was overjoyed and wanted to wear them today. So she did.

tuesday, april 5, 2011

She also chose the rest of her outfit. Click on the photo to jump to Flickr and read the outfit details.

Before going to Old Lady Mary's today, we went to a circus put on by fifth and sixth graders. We know one of the ring masters, so it was a very special show. Zinashi seemed confused at first but then got into it, and her favorite part was pointing out Jack, as if he were famous. Big stuff. Fun day. And tomorrow: more fun. It's officially her birthday, and we will certainly celebrate.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ababi Mondays: Happy Birthday!!!

I'm still pretty excited over this so I'm just sharing as much as I can. The look on her face when everyone starts singing to her just makes me so happy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bunny Rabbit Birthday Party

Zinashi's supposed birthday is Wednesday, and she'll be supposedly four years old*. We thought it was only right that we celebrate, especially since Zinashi has never had a birthday party of her own before. Zinashi dressed up for the occasion, of course.

official outfit of the zinashi bunny rabbit birthday party extravaganza

Our theme was bunny rabbits, and Zinashi's favorite color is yellow, so naturally our party favors were bunny rabbit bags with bunny rabbit things in them, with a yellow balloon tied to the handle.

party favors

We also had enough bunny rabbit ears for each guest to have their own set.

rabbit ears for everyone!

There was a bunny rabbit cake and, naturally, carrot-shaped cookies.

rabbit cake, carrot cookies

We ate Zinashi's favorite foods: chips & salsa, pizza, and french fries. The only thing missing was injera, which I decided was too complicated to add to the menu (and which we had last night and at lunch today anyway). I wanted to give her a birthday party that was sweet and simple and as homemade as possible. I think we struck a nice balance. She was happy, and that's all that matters.

our little birthday rabbit

Happy First Birthday Party, Zinashi! We can't wait until Wednesday to celebrate some more!

*Zinashi's birthday was assigned to her when they drew up her birth certificate at the time of relinquishment. We believe that she's a smidge younger than four--six months or so--but we know that it is too complicated for her to understand, so we're just going to roll with this birthday for now. Up to this point, when people asked her age, we'd say, "Three-ish?" Not being sure, we didn't want to mislead anyone. But it is good for her to have a date to call her own, even if it is incorrect, and age is a big deal in America, so we'd like to have an answer to teach her for when people inevitably ask, "How old are you?" So far this question has been met with blank stares. Now she'll have an answer to give.
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