Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sleep! (Finally!)

This post has been a long time coming. I have wanted to write it since we got home and were getting settled in, but the problem is that you have to wait for something to happen in order to write about it. And it's happened.

For a week now, Zinashi has been falling asleep normally at night. No medication, no extra soothing, just her usual routine. She falls asleep while we rock her, which is the way I'd always hoped it would be. Cozy and sweet, her hand often curling up next to her face. It is, indeed, a miracle. Because we tried everything aside from a little nightcap at bathtime.

We did have success initially with melatonin (thank you, Shannon), so if you are struggling with similar issues to ours, please please please please ask your pediatrician about using it. It gave us back some sanity when we were about to totally lose it. And it got us to a place where we could think clearly and make plans to figure out how to help her otherwise. I was okay with using melatonin for as long as we needed to, but I also wanted to be able to help Zinashi deal with the issues that were causing her hypervigilance. I mentioned that I would try both chiropractic care and play therapy, and set out to do both, but we only did one. Because it worked.

We have Zinashi's chiropractor, Dr. Kevin Mott, and a technique called neuromodulation technique (NMT) to thank for our success. Frankly, it seems strange if you've only worked through things with a traditional medical or psychotherapy practitioner thus far, but it really is amazing how it works. I believe that our whole selves are connected--body, mind, soul, spirit--so it makes sense to me that asking the body questions and clearing up issues that way would work. It took a few visits, but Dr. Mott found the underlying cause of her issue and cleared it up for her. We will continue to monitor her progress and see him for more treatment as the need arises. But for now, Zinashi is sleeping well, and we are all feeling better. I am so grateful to Dr. Mott for his insight and for working so hard to figure out just what was bothering Zinashi so that she could allow herself to fall asleep at night. The difference between what happened before at bedtime and what happens now is simply astounding, and my mother's heart is relieved that Zinashi no longer has to carry the burden that kept her awake. Hooray for Dr. Mott and hooray for Zinashi and hooray for SLEEP!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

1001 Reasons to Love Zinashi: Reason #4

She thinks cleaning is fun, and is getting more thorough every day.

reason #4:  she thinks cleaning is fun

I highly recommend the purchase of child-sized cleaning tools.

Some Notes on Big Organizing Endeavors

We all have our methods for getting organized, and if I were to guess, I'd guess that for most people, those have to change when you have kids. Gone are the days of uninterrupted progress on a weekend. Not only is there another person (or people) to take care of and all their accompanying stuff, but there's another person with needs and wants and appointments to go to. There just isn't as much time, and there's likely a greater need to be organized. I have struggled with how to make this happen, so I want to share some of the methods and insights that are making it easier for me.

1. Remember that every little bit you get done is a little bit more done. You're not going to get it all done at once, and it can be daunting to think of how long it will take, because you simply don't have that kind of time all at once. But every little thing you do will add up. Remind yourself of this when you get one small box sorted, or take one measly thing out of your closet/garage/whatever to Goodwill.

2. It will probably look worse as it gets better, and that's okay. This has especially been true of our basement, but also some areas upstairs. When I clean things out, I make piles as I go along, and it will often look like a total disaster. We were having to step around and over all sorts of terrible little piles in the basement, but today I was able to bag and box some of them up, and it was like magic. I can see some of the floor down there again! When clearing out closets, I often have the same situation. It's hard to live with the mess, but if you keep the end result in mind, it makes it a bit easier.

3. Prioritize one big project at a time, but also set smaller goals so you feel a sense of accomplishment. Right now our big project is the basement, though the back yard and the garage need serious attention as well. But if I were to do a little on each of those every time I had free moments, no one project would get completed for a long time. So for now, I'm focusing on the basement, and I break that up into smaller tasks. For instance, yesterday's list (which I am finishing up today):

1. Bag up trash in back corner.
2. Clean out wrapping paper bin.
3. Use wrapping paper bin to store party supplies.
4. Sort through books.
5. Rearrange bookshelf, adding photo albums.

As I get things done, I cross them off, and get a visual sense of my accomplishments for that day.

4. Put things away properly as you come across them. This little step has led to getting things done that were years in the making and truly cleared up mess as opposed to just moving it elsewhere. For example, we had a stack of polaroids that served as our guest book for our wedding, and they had never made it into an album. So instead of shuffling them to yet another location, I located the album and the photo corners, and have been putting a few more photos in the album every day. I've also framed some photos that were just lying around, waiting.

5. Let some usual household tasks fall by the wayside. I like to clean my bathroom and wash my sheets weekly, but both of those have gone longer between cleanings in order that I can free up a little time to get my big organizing done. Once the house is in order, all my usual tasks will be much easier to accomplish, so I remind myself of that when I feel like we're living like slobs.

6. Get some help with the kids. I know this is harder for some than for others. We are lucky to have family in town, and I can ask my mom to play with Zinashi while I do a little organizing. I also have a mother's helper come on Wednesday mornings for two hours. Both girls that come are too young to babysit on their own, but they're responsible, and Zinashi loves them. They get to make a little money and get some babysitting experience, while I get a reduced rate and time to accomplish some things. If you go to church or synagogue or some other gathering of families, keep an eye out for the kids that are great with your kid but maybe not old enough to straight out babysit. Home school groups may also have kids who would like babysitting experience.

7. Let things go. There will be some times that you are ready to just get stuff out of your house, but others that you feel attached to a lot of things. Take advantage of the times that you are ready to let go, getting those things out the door and to Goodwill ASAP, before you change your mind. When you're feeling sentimental or a bit hoarder-ish, allow yourself a "wait and see" pile. If you're like me and have family history of hoarding either for supposed practicality ("I could use that for something!") or sentimentality ("I hugged this eighty times when I was five years old."), recognize that and give yourself a little time to let go. Sometimes I'll think I want to keep something, and a week later I'll realize that I really don't want or need it.

8. Remember your progress as a way to resist bringing more clutter into your house. If you don't bring in more stuff, you won't have to organize more stuff, and you won't have to clean more stuff. Think of how hard you've worked and how good it feels to be organized, and then set down the tchotchkes. Your life is simpler, your life is easier, your life is awesome.

Having made significant progress now, I'm happy to report that I see a light at the end of the basement organization tunnel. It feels so good to have so many things going to new homes, to have so many small projects get done in the process of organizing, to be able to easily see what we own. Unearthing our basement has been so rewarding that I kind of can't wait to get started on the garage.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary: Matchy Matchy

I did not mean for us to match this well, but Zinashi loves it, so fair enough. Due to Zinashi's chiropractic appointment this morning, we were unable to make it to Mary's until late afternoon, and she met us at the door with a list of her ills from the week. I wasn't surprised that she didn't notice our outfits, but I was surprised that she noticed my earrings. "They look like quarters!" she exclaimed. And I guess they do.

tuesday, june 28, 2011
Click on the photo for more details about our outfits, including how I put together my dress from two items that I didn't really love on their own.

Summers are really hard for Mary, as she doesn't feel comfortable leaving her house without wearing a jacket and a hat, so she either gets overheated when she goes out or doesn't go out at all. It makes it harder to visit her, as she often has a lot more complaints, but I know that makes it even more important that we go. I'm especially mindful of how much harder it's getting for her to get around, and that it's far more likely now that she'll have some sort of accident while she is out. Add to that the fact that there is a lot of construction near where she needs to go, and it adds up to a lot more hazards in her way. She tells me every week about some other person or two who has helped her across the street or walked her past a construction zone, and I am so grateful that people go out of their way to do this for her. If you see an elderly person who is out in the heat, please don't hesitate to offer a hand. I know that Mary won't accept a ride from anyone, but she does allow kind strangers to help her across streets and over curbs, and I'm sure there are many like her who would appreciate similar kindnesses.

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.

Paring Down, Clearing Out

One thing that makes cleaning easier (be ready to go, "Duh, Mary") is having less stuff to clean. I know! Revolutionary! But I think it's something that we forget or that we don't want to think about at times because it's hard to get rid of stuff. Our biggest issue right now is deciding which of Zinashi's things to pass on. She has been given a lot of gifts by a lot of people who love her dearly, and it's hard to take those to Goodwill. But our situation is this: we live in 850 square feet. There is just not enough room to keep everything that everyone gives us. We do have a basement, but our efforts at creating a play space down there were unsuccessful, and I really don't think that we should fill up our basement with stuff just because we don't know what else to do with it. So I've been working in earnest to sort through everything down there, keeping only what can easily be stacked and stored in a small space. To add fuel to my organizing fire, we got a post card from Disabled American Veterans stating that they'll be coming through our neighborhood this Thursday to pick up anything we'd like to leave on our curb. What's that? You mean I don't even have to load it into my car and drive it half a mile to the nearest thrift store? AWESOME. TAKE ALL OUR STUFF.

I find it's good to have some ground rules before diving in. It gives me a clear goal to work towards. There's actually only one main rule, and that is that every thing we keep must have an easily accessible home. So that means that it must fit somewhere in Zinashi's room (and not just tossed haphazardly on the floor), on her shelf in the living room, in her little kitchen, or in a small section of our coat closet (space reserved for her shopping cart and doll stroller only). We have similar rules for the things that we keep for the grown-ups in the house. If we can't put it away easily and without fuss, we just can't keep it.

My biggest fear in all of this is that someone will come over and ask where the gift they gave is. I hope that no one will be that tacky, but you never know. We do appreciate all the lovely things that have been given to Zinashi, and we do recognize that these gifts are expressions of love for her and for us. We are so grateful for how kind everyone has been to her and to us, and we hope that everyone understands that we are passing on that kindness by passing on the things that we cannot keep.

As we dig out from under all the things we own but don't need to hold onto, I feel like a weight is slowly being lifted. When you own too much stuff, it feels like the stuff owns you. We're working hard to make sure that ceases to be the reality in our lives. We will let you know (hopefully with photos) how that goes.

Monday, June 27, 2011

1001 Reasons to Love Zinashi: Reason #3

She decides she needs to wear her sunglasses to be able to see...indoors. She then proceeds to wear them all morning, cleaning them periodically on her shirt.

reason #3:  she decides she needs her sunglasses to be able to see...indoors

Nine Months a Family

They say that at nine months, you turn a corner. I don't know that we've turned a corner so much as we've had nine months to get this thing figured out a little better. It's been an intense nine months. Bittersweet, and I'm afraid that Zinashi has gotten more than her fair share of the bitter and we've gotten more than our fair share of the sweet. She is a remarkable little girl, and we are so lucky to be hers.

Lately I've been missing our time in Ethiopia, reminiscing about her cute accent and all the sweet things she did in the beginning. But so many of those things aren't lost, just transformed, so I shouldn't be so sad about it. She still has the cutest voice around, even without the accent. She still does the same thing with her mouth when she's thinking. Her smile is still the same, and her laugh is even better. And of course, she still dances. The following are two videos that melt my heart every time. The first one makes me laugh, and the second one makes me want to hang out in a tiny, dark room with a flashlight all over again.

I can't wait to take this girl back to Ethiopia. We talk about it every day. Maybe in nine more months, we can make that happen. Let's hold on to that dream.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

Introvert Motherhood, A Continuing Series

Awhile back, I wrote a few things about attachment, adoption, and being an introvert. But I think that there are challenges related to being an introvert and just being a mom, without the added need for physical closeness. In my life, the standout is that I have trouble working when there are others around. This is why I have guarded naptime with my very life (okay, or maybe through at least a dozen people suggesting that the root of my daughter's sleep problems is the nap she takes each day*). I need a little time to myself just to get very basic things done, or sometimes to simply feel okay. The problem is that even when naptime runs smoothly (and it does most of the time now), it's still not enough. A couple of hours here or there have proved to be lacking. I can get caught up to a certain point, but still feel terribly behind. And still am terribly behind.

Sometimes I look back to the days before we left for Ethiopia and think, "If I had it to do over again, I'd prioritize organizing and working ahead on some things." But none of us can go back and change things, and there are certainly plenty of tasks that have fallen by the wayside by virture of nearly nine months of little time in the house by myself, that have very little to do with what I did or did not accomplish before we got on the plane to become parents. What has happened has just been life. Things change, and you have to figure out how to work with those changes. It's taken nearly nine months, but I think I'm beginning to get a handle on some things.

First of all, I am recognizing and embracing the fact that I need a full day to myself, alone in the house, in order to make progress beyond where we are now. If I don't have that, then the level of cleanliness and orderliness of our home will remain static. On Monday, I finally got most of a day to myself to do projects around the house, and was surprised by how that changed a usual task. Given the time to prioritize and move swiftly from one task to another, I put a dozen small annoying jobs behind me, and was suddenly able to keep my kitchen cleaner. Not clean all the time, mind you--the dishes still pile up when we're busy--but when I get down to business, everything gets put away and wiped down and is tidy. It's been stunning how much better I feel in general because of this one improvement. It's made me feel better not just because I can get my kitchen tidied in a jiffy, but because it confirms that I wasn't crazy or selfish or delusional about what I needed and how it would affect my life.

I still have a lot of projects just waiting in the wings, and I don't know that I'll get a full day to do this again soon, but it feels good to know that it's possible. That our lives aren't a horrible mess forever because we became parents. And even when I feel that way, when the clutter threatens to creep towards the ceiling, and Zinashi is getting out yet another toy and I'm finding two more empty Izze bottles sitting on the coffee table, threatening to breed, it's still not so bad. I look at this photo, my favorite of the two of us together, and remember what is true.

the face off

That no matter what, being a mother--being Zinashi's mother--is worth it.

*Zinashi's sleep is actually much better, but that's another post for another time. She still naps every day and is falling asleep in a reasonable amount of time at night. So take THAT nap cessation experts.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Shakespeare for Four-Year-Olds

Tonight we took our small daughter to a production of MacBeth. Yes, the child who has never been to the movies went to an outdoor theatre production, of the variety meant for grown-ups. We decided to pretend it was four-year-olds, though, since we both wanted to go and she isn't ready for a nighttime babysitter. And guess what? Our four-year-old did great. She was only scared at the very beginning, after which I started explaining things in Zinashi terms. For example, when the three witches are stirring the pot and throwing things in, I told her that they were cooking dinner, with lots of yelling, and asked if we should yell more when we cook dinner. Then when they disappeared and MacBeth is lamenting their disappearance, I told her that he was throwing a big fit because they took away the dinner. It was the only time she said something out loud during the whole play. "Hungry?" she asked. I had to stifle my own laughter, and explain as he exited stage right that he decided to stop throwing a big fit and just go get some fries at Five Guys. It's always better to solve a problem than to throw a big fit about it, am I right?

She sat quietly for the rest of the play, enjoying snacks and drinking Izze and clapping when everyone else did. We asked her at the end if she liked it, and she said an enthusiastic YES! Amazing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary: Nothin'. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

When we walked in today, Zinashi had on sunglasses that she'd found in the car. Mary said, "Oh, she's wearing sunglasses," and then that was the end of it. The whole rest of the visit was taken up by discussion of why Nicole would suspect she had cataracts when she gave eye symptoms but failed to mention that she'd accidentally splashed rubbing alcohol into them. Despite my assurances that if Nicole had known about the rubbing alcohol, she would have merely said, "Mary, you hurt your eyes with rubbing alcohol," Mary remained convinced that maybe she had cataracts in addition to hurting her eyes with rubbing alcohol. Mary's Paranoia: 1. Our Outfits: 0.

tuesday, june 21, 2011
Click on the photo for outfit details.

Next week, we'll need to punch up the flavor and stay longer, I think.

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, June 20, 2011

Ababi Mondays: Grandpa Mac

So Zinash got to meet my Grandpa today. It had been something that I had been meaning to do for a long time (take her to meet him) and had never done it. Yesterday I decided that this Monday would be it.

My Grandpa is one of two men I look up to the most (the other being my dad). He's always had this little words of wisdom and shown amazing amounts of love and compassion. And at 96 years of age, although a little slower, he is no different. He was a soldier in WWII and a dairy farmer in southern Missouri. He is a father to 3, grandfather to 7, and great grandfather to 3, and a "Dad/Grandpa" to hundreds. He's just that kind of guy. He's seen so much and been so many places and what has always been most important to him is his family. And if you had talked to him you became part of his family.

So Zinash and I went to spend some time in his little assisted living apartment. We walked in and he perked up. We talked about life in general and Zinashi and I told him stories from Ethiopia. He asked why Mary and I decided to adopt from Africa. I told him because that's what we felt like we were suppose to do and he said that was a great reason. We ate some snacks that we had brought. His eyes seemed to sparkle just watching Zinash play on the floor. He told Zinash his secret to life is to "Love God and have fun" and that she should "smile as much as she can." After a while we gave our hugs and kisses and he walked with us outside to our car. There was lots of small talk but it was all meaningful. We didn't say a whole lot but when we left our hearts were filled up.

I don't know why I didn't take her to meet him earlier, I don't know as if it even matters. It was a good trip and now Zinashi knows her "Gampa Mac".

I did take some pictures but only with my aunt's camera. I just never thought to get mine out. So they will be posted as soon as I get them.

Going it Alone...Sorta

When Jarod found out he'd be traveling, at first we thought we'd all go because it was going to be a week, and it was going to be in one of my favorite places, and it just made sense except for the cost of plane tickets for Zinashi and me. We didn't want to spend money unnecessarily, but we didn't feel like it would be the right thing to have the Zinashi's first separation from a parent be a whole week. However, when we found out it would only be three nights, well, that changed things. Three nights we could do. And as much as I talk about figuring out how all you single parents do it, I really wasn't as worried about my own capabilities of handling things (since, after all, it was three nights, not a lifetime) as I was about how Zinashi would react. Would she get it that Jarod was only gone for a short while and coming back soon? Would she worry? Would she stop sleeping altogether now that we've gotten some of our sleep equilibrium back? What I determined was best was to fill up our schedule both so that she would be distracted and so we would have a sequence of events I could repeat to her. She loves to ask, "What doing to-mah-row?" and have me answer it eleventy kajillion times. So we had a plan, and that plan worked. It was dizzying, and I am just now getting caught up on what didn't get done because we were rarely at home, but it worked out. She had a good time, and her Ababi was back before she knew it. So here we go. Four days of activities, wrapping up with eating french fries with Ababi on the patio of Five Guys.

On Sunday morning, we dropped Jarod off at the airport around ten and headed back towards the Plaza. Zinashi had noticed the bus when we were on the bike trail a couple of days before, and I promised her a ride. We got ourselves something to drink at Starbucks and walked to the bus stop, where she proceeded to ask over and over again why we had to wait. Why didn't the bus know that she was there already? Clearly, we are smack in the middle of the egocentric stage of development. But she waited, and she LOVED the bus. We just did a little round trip, walking around Union Station for a bit while we waited for the next southbound bus. By the time we got back to the Plaza, it was time to go home for lunch and nap.

Earlier in the day, my friend Erica had sent a text asking if we were going to the Friends of the Zoo evening, and frankly, I'd forgotten about it, but I said, "SURE!" Zinashi loves Erica's little boy, Anderson, as you can see:

holding hands with anderson

If you have a good zoo nearby, I highly recommend joining. Not only do we get in free all the time, but there are numerous programs that are only open to members. This was super fun and used up all our late afternoon and evening time. By the time we got home, we only needed a light dinner, and it was already time for bath and books and bed. Day One: Complete!

On Monday morning, both Zinashi and I got a little treat. I know it might seem like poor timing, but I scheduled Zinashi's first time of being cared for someone other than family for that day. I figured it would be short, and I could get a few things done while Zinashi played with friends from church. I'm happy to report that it went well for everyone. Zinashi had a fantastic time, and I got the grocery shopping done and some stuff brought up from the basement (laugh if you want, but it is twelve times slower when Zinashi wants to "help" me with things in the basement). We stayed at the park for a bit longer with our friends, and then it was time to go home and change for our next event.

When we were adopting Zinashi, we got a small grant from the Adoption Resource Fund; it was one of those small miracles we experienced. We had nearly enough to pay the referral fee (which is the amount due that pays for all the expenses of completing the adoption of your child, including care at the transition home, court fees, etc.), but were short a smallish amount. The grant we received gave us just enough to write the check we needed to write so that we could move forward with Zinashi's adoption. Each year, they hold a golf tournament, which is where the grant money comes from, and I was asked to come say a few words about our adoption. I was more than happy to do it, to just say thank you to some of the people that I hadn't met before who helped us bring Zinashi into our family. I said a few words, Zinashi ate a giant plate of nachos while watching baseball on television at the golf club bar (which is what happens when you don't have a television, by the way--your kid will be entranced by anything), and everyone was happy. By the time we left, it was near enough to dinnertime that we came home and did that right away, then went to eat ice cream with Zinashi's favorite friend, Mona. I don't have a photo of them eating ice cream, but how about a photo of the two of them on a creepy turtle? Here you go:

o'mona and shi-shi tame the turtle

By the time we were done with ice cream, it was time for the quickest bath ever, books, and bed. Day Two: Marvelously Complete!

On Tuesday I'd arranged for the one-two punch of seeing Old Lady Mary and hightailing it up to rural Leavenworth to spend our day with good friends and their pool. There was a fair amount of work involved getting everything and the two of us into the car, but we did fine, and I only forgot to bring sunblock for myself. You've heard already how it went at Old Lady Mary's. At our friends' home, we had the best time. Zinashi ate peas that she picked from Judy's garden, helped take out the compost, and also swam in a big pool for the very first time.

eating fresh peas that she picked in judy's garden

bathing beauty

There's video here of her swimming, if you're not offended by the sight of me in a bikini. You might want to wear sunglasses for viewing thanks to the glorious effects of my farmer tan. Luckily, most of my ghostly belly is obscured by Zinashi's swimming prowess. Please note that she is wearing her flip flops while swimming. I'm not sure why, so don't ask me. The swimming part, though, was a VERY big deal, as Zinashi has been terrified of water as long as we've known her.

By the time we'd swum, eaten lunch, and chatted a bit, it was time to head home. You might think after so much activity, we'd just call it a day, but NO! We had injera to eat with Mimi and Grandpa. We fought through rush hour traffic, dropped our gear off at home, then headed back out to our usual injera spot on Main. After dinner, Mimi and Grandpa offered Zinashi an ice cream cone at their house, and she accepted, then decided she was too full to eat it. We headed home late, with full bellies, in time for a lengthy bath of the hair-washing-included variety. I'd say I'm surprised she didn't fall asleep while we were letting the conditioner do its magic, but we all know about Zinashi's powers of sleep resistance. She dropped off quickly while we rocked, though, so I'll take it. Day Three: Complete!

On Wednesday mornings I have a little help with Zinashi, and our friend showed up at 10am, as usual. My memory is fuzzy as to whether or not I was dressed in something other than pajamas when she got there, but I do know that Zinashi's hair was not combed, and that I didn't get nearly as much done as I usually do when she's here. It was all I could do to remember that Wednesday is laundry day and that I needed to return some emails. Zinashi was doing fabulously, but I'll admit that at that moment, I was glad that we only had lunch and nap to get through before we headed for the airport.

And that's what we did. Light lunch, as usual, a nap with the promise of Ababi's appearance shortly thereafter, and a drive to the airport. Zinashi got a kick out of watching the planes taxi in, and I would absolutely spend those extra two dollars again to both pass the time and allow her to ask questions about something new.

watching the plane park

Before we knew it, Jarod's plane was landing, and we were waving at it, pretending he could see us from the windows. We came home, we set his stuff down, and we went out for dinner. Because, what, did you think I was going to cook a meal after overexerting myself for four days? I don't think so. Day Four: Complete. Ababi's Whole Trip: Complete.

Zinashi did really well while Jarod was gone; she clearly missed him, but we were able to talk to him on the phone and via video iChat every night, which definitely helped. There were a couple of moments that she really wanted the reassurance of seeing him on the computer, and I couldn't give that to her, but overall she was mostly convinced of his return. For us, this is another step in our attachment process, and an important one. We want her to feel confident that when we say we'll be back, we will. This was a big way to prove that to her, and while it was a lot of work, it was 100% worth it to give her more confidence in her place in our family. Before you know it, Jarod and I will go out for that mythical thing they call "date night."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Ababi's Day!

I've been trying to explain the concept of Father's Day to Zinashi, but she doesn't really get it. I explained that it's when we tell Ababi how special he is and how much we love him. I asked her to think of things she loves about Ababi, and her response was, "I can't tell." Apparently, what she loves about him is a secret. But it's no secret that she loves him. When I asked her what she wanted to do with Ababi on Father's Day, she requested that he lie down with her for her nap. I think this is more than appropriate, given that this is what their first day together looked like:

ababi and zinashi's first nap together

Jarod, you are an amazing Ababi. Zinashi lights up when you walk in the room. We are both so lucky to have you as ours. We love you.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Raising Zinashi: Self Confidence

When I think of the people I know that are truly loving and kind, one thing that stands out to me is that they are also confident people. These people know who they are and are okay with both their strengths and their weaknesses. I think that we can do a lot to instill this kind of confidence in our children. First and foremost, I believe it starts with a child's understanding that they are loved completely, no matter what. I say that out loud to Zinashi a lot, particularly after I've had to be firm with her. "I love you no matter what. You are a good girl." That last bit is one of the most simple, yet profound things I got out of our adoption training hours. One of the instructors said that it is important that our kids know that they are good, because all children are good. Maybe they make choices that are not great from time to time, but they are always good kids.

I also think a key to teaching confidence is that we allow our children to see our whole selves, to understand that we both struggle and succeed. If Zinashi can see me make a mistake, do my best to correct it, and then move forward, then hopefully she will understand that everyone makes mistakes. That's something I say, too. "Everyone makes mistakes. Even Mami, even Ababi, even [fill in blank of whatever friend or adult she's currently desiring to emulate]. We just do our best to fix what we can and then do better next time."

I'm becoming more conscious of my use of language as well, particularly when describing people or situations that frustrate me. I want her to hear me treating people with kindness and understanding, even if they've done something that I disagree with. Though these conversations are not directed at her, she hears everything, and as she understands more and more, I want her to hear the kind of words that will promote exactly what I am telling her directly. That we all make mistakes, that no one is perfect, that this is okay. We are all growing and learning and doing our best with the circumstances we have been handed. Even if I never say anything disparaging to her, if she hears me say it about someone else, she'll wonder if I ever say things like that about her when she's not around.

Because that last part is so hard to do in the heat of a frustrated moment, my goal right now is twofold: 1. To go back and correct if I've said something unkind about someone else. 2. To say more positive things about others than negative ones. Two compliments to every frustration is the goal right now, with a much better ratio on the way if I'll just practice.

We live in a culture in which an ideal is presented that isn't attainable to everyone, in which free speech puts some pretty nasty things out into public spaces, in which many people who lack confidence use criticism to make themselves feel better about themselves. If I can build her confidence from the outset and help her to understand these concepts as these situations arise, then I think we will find success. At least, I very much hope so. My daughter is smart and beautiful and good and kind, and if she knows that deep in her soul, it will be a gift to her and to others.

We don't do much video watching here, not even having a television, but from time to time I'll find something that I feel overrides my aversion to a lot of screen time and to children's music (which is another post for another time, but suffice it to say that Kidz Bop is definitely not our thing). This Sesame Street song is one of those. She has no idea who all those weird dancing stuffed animals are, but the song says exactly what I want her to hear every single day, so we turn it on, and we sing along, and we dance to it.

This is part of our series about how we live our life as a family. For more of our Raising Zinashi posts, click on the following links:
Raising Zinashi: How We Eat
Raising Zinashi: Teaching and Learning
Raising Zinashi: Responsibility

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What I'm Thinking About Today: Teaching my Daughter to Love

I got into a little kerfuffle on twitter the other night, and those of you who know me well and know I hate conflict may be a little surprised to find out that I totally wanted to perpetuate the conflict and maybe beat up the person I was in the kerfuffle with...I mean, just a little bit. What the person tweeted was so horrible that it made my breath catch in my throat and made my heart hurt. I normally just let things like this go, or just unfollow (which I than I should have), or whatever, but it was an insult to someone who had died, to a kid who had died, I just couldn't let it go. I still can't. And it has kept me awake nights, and I wonder just what I'm supposed to do with this information, and how it is I am to teach my daughter how to handle people who believe such things and then give voice to them publicly. It is easy to be self-righteous and to dismiss someone as an idiotic jerk who should be punished, but is that really the right thing to do?

Unfortunately, I think the answer is no. I say "unfortunately" because it is just so much simpler to do just that, and conversely it is such a struggle to remember the truth, which is that we all just want to be loved. At the heart of it, I think this is where these terrible things that people say and do come from. People seek all sorts of things when they really want love: power, prestige, pleasure, money. Some people hide who they truly are in order to present a personality worthy of love, and others want it to be proved that someone will love them even if all the horrible things they ever think come to light. So they say them out loud. I'm fairly certain most people who do this either don't realize that they do or might never admit it. But just because people don't admit it doesn't mean that it's not true, and that we shouldn't respond to that truth as opposed to the facade. What we must do is to love others. That cliched phrase I heard off and on in church growing up has turned out to be true: the people who need love the most are the ones who are the very hardest to love.

Learning to love people, to see their need beyond their rough exterior, will be a lifelong process for me. I wish I had some step by step or great revelations, particularly on how to balance standing up for what is right with still acting in love towards those who would perpetuate hate. But all I've got is my own mind running on its hamster wheel, my own heart straining against what seems just. It's hard to not want to repay hurt with hurt or pride with pride. But it's something that I must work on, both for myself and for Zinashi. Example and experience are the best teachers, and I hope that I can provide the first and help her wade through the second. Honestly, it will likely be the hardest thing I have to do. I know it feels like that today.

Gratuitous photo featuring heart sunglasses to represent love.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

At the Airport

watching for ababi's plane

While Zinashi and her horse were happy to watch planes land and taxi into the terminal, they were a bit disappointed that they didn't get to go on one. "Next time," I told her, "we'll bring bags we've packed and get on a plane together."

Ababi's home. Everybody's happy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This Tuesday With Old Lady Mary: What's a TUNIC?

Old Lady Mary didn't say much about our outfits today, except to be confused about what a tunic is. I realize I wasn't knocking it out of the park, but come on! Zinashi is! Look at that tutu!

tuesday, june 14, 2011
Click on the photo for more details about our outfits and Old Lady Mary's reactions.

Right after we made our escape exit from Old Lady Mary's, we hightailed it up to rural Leavenworth for some swimming in our friends' pool. Zinashi actually wanted to get in, and then she tried hard to "swim." I've got some photos to share, but I'm saving them for when I do a "Mary as a single mom" post later in the week. I'll just leave you with this one, which says plenty about what swimming will do to a supposedly-four-year-old.

conked out

It was a very quiet ride home. We should go swimming every day.

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.

Hats Off to You, Single Parents

We're just heading into our third day of Jarod's absence, and already I feel like I have been hit by a small vehicle. Granted, our days have been full, and today will be as well, with Old Lady Mary to see this morning and a day at a friend's pool after that, but still! I just don't know how you single parents manage. I mean, it looks like you still comb your hair every day and everything! That probably sounds silly, but I'm serious. You single parents are really amazing.

That said, I think we're doing all right. The time is flying, which is part of the problem (and by "problem," I mean, "that which prevents me from basic home cleaning"), but also part of a larger solution. Before Zinashi knows it, we'll be driving out to the airport to pick up her beloved Ababi.

I'm going to try to keep up with posting today and tomorrow, but if I'm a bit late with posting our Tuesday looks or I fail to finish writing the harrowing tale of what one must do to be excused from jury duty for a valid reason, please know that I am plotting my return to the blog just as Jarod is plotting his return to our city.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ababi Mondays: West Coast Edition...

For as glamorous as Mary tries to make having a hotel room all to yourself, there are some things that make it hard to be away from home. We really didn't know how Zinash would handle me being gone for an extended period of time, and honestly, I didn't know how well I would do with it. Fortunately things have gone ok for both of us.

I've been sending daily videos like this one for Zinash to watch whenever she needs to.

We've also been video chatting each night so that we could all talk about our days and the things we did. So I've been seeing a lot of this kind of shot lately...

Like I said, while it's hard being away and not knowing what to expect, we've all been doing pretty well with it. For most families this sort of thing isn't a big deal, but children who have experienced a loss aren't most families. Who knows, maybe we won't feel the fall out from this trip for a while. Or maybe there won't be any fall out and we are past a hurdle in the attachment process. Either way, it's just hard being away from my little girl.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Entertainment Director

Jarod left this morning for a little visit to what the Apple geeks call "The Mothership." He'll be gone until Wednesday evening, so Zinashi and I are left to figure out what to do all by ourselves until then. I generally like life quieter and less busy, but it seems a better idea to keep Zinashi both distracted and incentivized with lots of fun (for her) activities during this first overnight separation from a parent. So I've become her Entertainment Director. We already rode the bus--her first time, during which she asked a lot of questions, loudly, and kept announcing that she could see the bus driver in the mirror. After naptime, we'll meet friends at the zoo, and the party just won't stop until we pick Jarod up at the airport. We've got at least two things planned for every day, and it will be Wednesday before we know it. I hope that this is positive as opposed to overwhelming for her. We'll have time for a nap every day, and she'll see all her favorite people. (Good thing she doesn't have a lot of favorite people; we'd have to host a party or something.) I think it's going to be okay.

I will admit that I'm a little jealous of the three quiet nights Jarod will spend in a hotel room. I'm thinking of requesting that I get to do the same once we get that mythical adoption tax credit. (If you have received yours, do tell. I'd like to know that it actually has happened for someone.) I can't imagine the bliss of sleeping in a bed all by myself, with no worry about someone waking in the middle of the night, disoriented and whining, or trying to get to sleep with someone else snoring. Jarod lamented the fact that we can't come with him, and I just told him to starfish himself out on the bed and enjoy not being smacked or kicked several times. "Snore in peace," I told him, "because you know that will never happen at home!" I'm all about looking at the bright side.

I will have my own quiet evenings here, provided that Zinashi cooperates by going to sleep without too much fuss. Maybe this will sound strange to you, but I clean and organize best when I am all alone in the house, and it will be a small luxury for me to spend the two or so hours each evening doing just that. If only I weren't afraid of my basement at night, this would be just perfect. Think of all the toy-culling and organizing I could do! I would be unstoppable! Still, I'll take what I can get. These few days will be good. I know they will.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

One Year of Her Beautiful Face

One year ago today, everything we thought we planned on was upended by seeing this:

the first photo we saw of her

I really can't tell you what changed my mind, what made me think, "This girl is the girl," but it had something to do with her eyes. You can see it there, can't you?

the second photo we saw

I'm not sure what changed Jarod's mind, too, except that maybe he saw in her the same extraordinary something that I saw. Not a baby, but a little girl. Be still my aching heart. My fingers shook as I typed out our request to find out more about her. I knew that if we got her file in our hands, there would be no going back. And there wasn't. And we are so, so glad.

Today, we celebrate one year of saying yes to a change of plans.

Yes to joy.

Yes to her.

Life has never been so amazing.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Pterodactyl Phase

Often Zinashi will try something new to try to get her way. "Your 'use words and manners' deal is okay, I guess," she seems to say, "but I think there miiiight be something more annoying I could use. You know, for immediate results." So she's come up with something that isn't new at all: the pterodactyl screech. She thinks she's being original, but I've heard that one before. I respond by inwardly rolling my eyes and going, "Really? Do we ever get anything by screeching? No, we do not. Try words and manners, please." This response is not often met with an immediate return to words and manners, and I know that shocks you, but it turns out that my kid is stubborn. So she's been doing The Pterodactyl a lot lately, and I've been totally over it pretty much since it started, so it appears that we are at an impasse.

Of course, I intend to win. No one wants to hear The Pterodactyl, and if there's one thing I've learned from years of working with children and interacting with countless adults of varying degrees of maturity, it's that if you allow your child to take advantage of you using obnoxious techniques, they'll grow up to be someone who will use obnoxious techniques to take advantage of others. And because it works, they won't see the harm. So this is why I press on: for the good of the collective. In the meantime, if you hear The Pterodactyl coming from my daughter's throat, please kindly look away, and remember that mostly, she's less pterodactyl and more adorable.

bathtime with zinashi and her helper

PS--Please excuse the state of my bathroom. I don't feel compelled to scrub out mild mildew with a toothbrush when we're going to be replacing the tile soon anyway.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

When Too Busy to Blog, Just Throw Your Readers a Video

Back at Mr. Martin's Cozy Place, in the Autumn of 2010, in our small, dark room, Zinashi invented a dance to celebrate our newest snack acquisition: chocolate filled cookies. It obviously made me want to dance, too. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

With Apologies to Any Snake Lovers

this is our pest management service

All morning Lucy Snowe slept like a rock, and now she is being very needy. Which is okay because last night she used a lot of energy taking care of a little pest issue:

do you know what this is?

Yes, that is a snake.

The funny thing is that I was so mad at her while she was doing work. Zinashi had just had a little bit of rough sleep, and once she finally settled, Jarod started snoring and wouldn't stop, no matter how many times I kicked or smacked him nudged him gently. So I went out to the sofa, preferring the noise of the crickets I could faintly hear outdoors to the noise of a chainsaw with the hiccups. I had just gotten settled when one cat decided to snuggle with my face (yes, with my face) and Lucy Snowe started shoving around the little vintage suitcase we keep Zinashi's crayons and coloring books in. It was open on the floor, and I thought she was doing it for her usual annoying reason, which is to get my attention so that I will get up and give her a drink in the bathroom sink. I removed the other cat from my face, stomped over, closed up the suitcase, set it aside, and stomped back to the couch. She continued to paw around with something for awhile, but it wasn't nearly as loud as the little suitcase, so I just sighed and turned over.

And then this morning, sitting down to breakfast, I looked over and there it was. Lucy Snowe was instantly forgiven, and I made Jarod take it outside. The end.

(Probably until tonight. Last time snakes got in our house, it took awhile to find the entrance hole and plug it up. GREAT.)

Zinashi's Kit

When Zinashi first came home, I had a bag full of things that we took with us "just in case." I had no idea what she would need at first, so I figured it was better to just have whatever might be necessary. It was also nice to have a place to stow the carrier we were using, as we needed it nearly every day. I'd found a really cute diaper bag on clearance at TJMaxx, and even though we weren't using diapers, it was the right size and had plenty of compartments for all her stuff. I took it with us when we traveled to Ethiopia, and it worked brilliantly for air travel. In fact, I would likely use it again as Zinashi's carryon.

The reality these days is that we don't need an entire extra bag for Zinashi's things, but we do need some stuff along with us. Since she is pretty good about using the bathroom when she needs to, I thought I could just pop a bib and some wipes in my bag, and we would be good to go. But the day I did that was the day she had a rare accident, and it was a long, wet ride home. Until she is accident free for months on end, it is still better to carry extra things with us. What makes the most sense for our life right now is to keep a little kit for her, with all the things we may need when we are out. If Zinashi is staying with Jarod or someone else for a bit, I can just hand it off and know that she has what she needs. This is it:

zinashi's kit

It's just a smallish wet bag, 8"x12" when laid flat, which everything fits inside, and which can be emptied to use as a means of getting any wet things home. Inside are our essentials, including two summer-specific items.

what's in zinashi's kit

1. Bib. Our girl is still a messy eater, and we'll put a bib on her for as long as she'll let us. This is one that is easily wiped down so I don't have to take it out to wash it often. The velcro is worn out on this one, so I just use a clothespin to clip the back.

2. Extra bottoms--in this case, capri-length leggings. I figure that even if the accident somehow gets on her top, or if she's wearing a dress, it's no big deal to go shirtless until we get home.

3. Extra underwear.

4. Small first aid kit, containing alcohol wipes, bandaids, and a little tube of neosporin.

5. Wipes. I used to buy the travel size from Target, but then I realized that if I just used 2/3 of a big pack, it would fit fine.

6. Extra shoes. Sometimes accidents pool in the shoes, you know?

7. Sunblock. I just keep the small stick because it works for arms and legs, too, and is compact for our kit.

8. Insect repellent. We love this all natural repellent; it smells good and works well.

If we are going to be somewhere late and have a long drive home, I can easily slip some pajamas and a pull-up inside. For long hours outdoors, there's room for a sun hat. I've also been known to put in a snack. She's got a nice water bottle that she likes to carry, so that doesn't need to fit, but in a pinch I could put a smaller sippy cup inside. It works out great, and is so easy. We love our little kit.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary: Never the Same Thing Twice

Sunday was Old Lady Mary's birthday, so we were all set today in our special birthday celebration duds and with a giant balloon in hand. However, a strong gust of wind blew just as we were exiting the car with the balloon, and it soared heavenward. $9.99 and years of endless delight: LOST. Mary keeps all her balloons and tapes them to her wall once they've flattened. We're going to do our best to draw her a big picture of the balloon so she'll still have something to tape up. I can't afford to have another $9.99 float away.

tuesday, june 7, 2011
Click on the photo for more details of Old Lady Mary's reaction and our outfits.

Still, we looked pretty nice, didn't we? These outfits left Mary thinking that we have giant closets full of clothes so that we never have to wear the same thing twice. Zinashi sang Happy Birthday three times, and then we each did a little birthday dance, followed by a presentation of a pack of Reese's peanut butter cups. This did not keep Mary from thinking she'd had a terrible week (again, as usual), but it distracted her enough to help us get out the door and head home for lunch. Good enough.

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, June 6, 2011

Life Right Now

This is our grocery list.

grocery list

You may think what you will about that.

Zinashi is doing much better sleeping, just in time for Jarod to leave on a work-related trip next Sunday. I just love good timing, don't you? If you see me looking slightly glazed over on the 14th or 15th, you'll know things are taking a turn for the sleepless. Be very gentle and tender and hand me some coffee. Leading up to that, we've got a very busy week, but isn't that every week now? I'm going to try to post a few helpful things over the next few days, despite being busy enough to make the Tasmanian Devil look calm, so pop back in soon.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Raising Zinashi: Responsibility

One thing that is important to us that Zinashi learn early is a sense of responsibility. This is a hard one to nail down because it encompasses so much. It includes caring for herself, respecting others, taking care of her things, and contributing to family life. Each of those categories could be a whole blog post unto themselves, but I'd like to talk a little bit about the big picture here. I believe that if I teach responsibility in one area, it bleeds over into other areas. To me, responsibility is owning one's own actions and how they affect both ourselves and others around us. By design, we observe others caring for us, then learn to care for ourselves (thus the egocentric phase every child goes through) and then learn to extend that care to others and to all that we touch. This is a lifelong process, and good starts matter.

Because Zinashi came to us at an "older" age (meaning that we didn't become her parents when she was in the womb or a baby), there were some things we reversed the order of in order to achieve that good start. For example, a three-year-old might be expected to feed herself, but Zinashi desperately needed to observe us caring for her, so we did that for her in the beginning. As she observed how we fed her, she began to feed herself, and then began to feed us. In the same way, in the beginning we dressed her, and then she began to dress herself, and now she sometimes tries to hold my pants out for me to put on (which is hilarious, as you might imagine--limbs at odd angles everywhere). Most of the responsibility she learns now is taking place within our little family unit, but as her world widens, we are confident that her sense of responsibility will widen as well. Silly as it may sound, we have begun to widen it simply by having her feed the cat in the evening.

Like most children (and adults, if we're honest), she doesn't always want to bear the responsibility she's been given. She often tells me that she is "busy" when it is time to feed the cat, and has a remarkably well-developed avoidance techniques for things like putting on her shoes or getting into the bathtub. Teaching these sorts of responsibilities, the ones we must do but don't always feel like doing, simply takes time right now. If we can, we just wait it out. We tell her we're not doing anything else until the task at hand is done. Slowly but surely, she is figuring out that we're serious, and she doesn't want to waste the time she could be doing something more fun by stalling for an extended period of time.

The most enjoyable responsibilities to teach her are the ones that we don't really have to work at. So much of the time, she simply observes us doing something and wants to be able to do it, too. She helps put things on the table for meals, hands me things from the dishwasher to put in the cabinets, and lately she's been getting really good at laundry.

folding the laundry

I have largely let her lead in these cases, wanting her to see the responsibility she's taking on as something useful and good and even pleasant. While there are things that we simply must do, I think her life will be much more satisfying if she comes to view the daily tasks of life as things that can be enjoyed. Thus I encourage whatever it is that she wants to help with, as long as it is safe. She feels capable and responsible without a big lesson or lecture. And that is good for all of us.

This is part of our series about how we live our life as a family. For more of our Raising Zinashi posts, click on the following links:
Raising Zinashi: How We Eat
Raising Zinashi: Teaching and Learning

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Little Late Night Treat

nice hat

now smile

now make a silly face

I tell her that she's the silliest silly that ever sillied. I'm fairly certain I'm right about this.

The Last of the Molluscum

When we first met Zinashi, we noticed that she had quite a few molluscum, mostly on her scalp, some on her face and neck. Molluscum are little wart-like bumps which are caused by a virus similar to the one that causes warts. You can see one of them on her forehead in her holiday photos.

christmas classic

We'd come across mention of these before on other adoptive families' blogs, so we knew what they were, and that they are fairly common for children in group settings, particularly children whose immune systems are compromised in some way. So we weren't surprised or concerned, and we never worried about the contagious aspect since in my reading I hadn't come across any families who had this passed to them from their new family members. Our experience was the same; neither Jarod nor I ended up with any molluscum even though we touched them either inadvertently or on purpose on a regular basis. I'm not sure why this is; message boards are full of warnings from families whose American children caught them from other children at school or playing sports.

When we went to the international adoption doctor, he confirmed that the bumps we were seeing were molluscum and told us that eventually, they'd go away on their own. So I resigned myself to up to a year, maybe more, of dealing with the warty little creatures on my beautiful little girl's face and head. They don't cause any harm, but still...they were on my beautiful little girl's face and head! I didn't like them. I didn't like them one bit. So when we went to our regular pediatrician and he said, well, actually, there is something you can do, I was overjoyed. And slightly grossed out. Because here's what he had us do: scrub them with an abrasive washcloth until they bled, causing them to become irritated so that Zinashi's (now much stronger) immune system would attack them.* I chose one or two at a time and focused on those every night. The first ones I worked on were on here scalp, where the biggest offenders lived. I figured if the internet was right, as opposed to our pediatrician, and they either scarred or spread, then at least her hair would cover it. In our case, neither negative scenario played out. What did happen was that, after each molluscum became irritated, it would grow two to three times its previous size, look really horrible, and then expel its top. I had more than one come off in my hand while I was giving Zinashi a bath, which was gross, but thrilling at the same time. We were conquering the molluscum! Hooray!

Over time, we eliminated almost every molluscum, until there were just two left--a new one above her lip and a stubborn on her neck just beneath her chin. The small one on her face was quick to make its exit, and the one on her neck took a little more coaxing. But just in time for our eight month family-versary, it decided to get really big, smell funny, and finally fall off. As much as this seems like a small thing, it is actually a HUGE thing. That last molluscum leaving Zinashi's body marks the end of the physical effects of Zinashi's ordeal. It is a cause for celebration.

Let's all go have some ice cream.

*I am not a doctor or a molluscum expert, and am merely passing on what our pediatrician advised us to do. Please don't follow this course of action without checking in with your own doctor. And if you do, please don't sue me if you end up with scarring or an infection. See above where I just told you to ask your own doctor. He or she likely has malpractice insurance, and I do not.
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