Saturday, March 31, 2012

My How You've Grown...Yet Stayed the Same

I was looking at the family portraits we had taken by Lauren a year ago, and I couldn't help but notice two things. One, that Zinashi and her curly-curly hair have grown a lot this year, and two, that she still has the same fabulous sense of humor. Observe:

funny girl 1

funny girl 2

funny girl 3

funny girl 4

I'm so glad we got a silly girl. I sure hope Baby Barbecue* isn't prone to seriousness; living in our family will be a challenge for her if that proves to be true.

*I know we told you the name that we have in mind for our next sweet girl, but Baby Barbecue is still funnier, and therefore preferable.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

DANCE PARTY! Dress Rehearsal at USCIS

We had the most pleasant visit to the USCIS Application Support Center today. Those of you who have done international adoption paperwork are all, "Wha? Are you sure you were where you think you were?" But I was! And honestly, I never knew that US Immigration could be so great either, but I guess US Immigration in San Francisco is not like US Immigration in the rest of the country. This city keeps surprising me with its joy and wonder. At this point, if I go to register to vote and they hand me a flag and some complimentary cotton candy, I will not be surprised.

The amazing thing about the USCIS office is that every staff member was cheerful and helpful and accommodating, and beyond that seemed genuinely interested in how we were doing and why we were there and what that cute baby panda was doing on the loose. The absolute best part was when the technician asked Zinashi some questions about herself and it came out that in addition to a Cookie Monster theme for her birthday party this weekend, Zinashi is also planning on a DANCE PARTY! The tech asked her to show her moves right then and there, then took her over to another tech, at which point it was a full-on pre-DANCE-PARTY-dance-party in which Zinashi was being encouraged to pop her hips. I think she took those instructions to heart, as evidenced in our post dinner dance break.

Don't you just love her? We sure do.

PS--If you're wondering why she's wearing one shoe and a bib, it's because she's Zinashi. And please don't tell her that big girls don't wear bibs. I like keeping her shirts clean.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Eighteen Months of Loving This Girl

Eighteen months ago, Zinashi walked into my arms. I don't even know what to say about the last eighteen months. Joy and pleasure don't begin to cover it. That we would do it all over again, even the hard parts--especially the hard parts--for her, to have to distinct honor of her presence in our lives, doesn't say it right either. I know that every parent thinks their child is the most beautiful and the most special, and maybe you will ignore me when I say this, but my daughter is so beautiful and so special. She lights up so many rooms for so many people, and we are incredibly lucky to have her in our lives.


Magnolia Zinash McBride, I love you so much that my heart can't hold it all in; it's broken wide open. I am so proud of you. You are indeed strong and graceful, just like the flower we named you after. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being willing. Thank you for saying family like you are proud of being part of ours. Thank you, little goofy girl, for eighteen months of your particular kind of light. You are radiant. Keep shining, little star.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Our Newest Parenting Magic Trick

As we've gotten more settled in our place and gotten more adoption paperwork done, thus freeing up more time and energy, I've started working with Zinashi on some age appropriate skills that she needs to develop. She was already jazzed about getting her own snacks and drinks (sometimes too jazzed, actually, and was disappointed when I'd tell her something was too heavy or too full or too hot for her to handle herself), and housecleaning is fun for her (yes, I am taking advantage of that while it lasts), but there are some things that I hadn't tackled yet because I knew there would be a little bit of resistance.

The first thing I wanted to tackle was bathroom habits. Zinashi has really gotten into imaginary play lately, and she doesn't want to stop playing to go to the bathroom. We've not had any accidents lately, but we've had some emergency situations which could have been easily avoided. While I'd love it if she'd start taking the initiative right away, for now I am directing her bathroom efforts and reminding her to go on a regular basis. The new rule is that if I ask her to take a bathroom break, she has to do it, whether or not she is ready to admit that she needs to go. I explained to her that this is what big kids and grown-ups do, and that it's a lot more comfortable. This has been met with some resistance.

The second thing that we are working on is picking up her toys on her own. In our old place, the organization system I had was a bit too complex for her, so I'd often help her quite a bit. When we got here, I organized everything in ways that would be simple for her to understand, but while we were settling in, I still often helped her. She's reached a place now, though, where she is comfortable in our new surroundings and developmentally capable of understanding organization and following through with the clean up of her own things. She is now expected to clean up her toys herself, often before she gets to do something else fun. This has also been met with resistance.

I tried a lot of things to try to motivate her, but most of the time I'd end up just asking her over and over again to do something, doing my best to keep my voice kind, but firm, and stand next to her until she did it. I got a lot of four-year-old drama queen attitude and numerous drama queen temper tantrums for my efforts. Things would eventually get done, but not before I inwardly rolled my eyes a lot and Zinashi did her best to control the situation in whatever way she could think up (including telling me that I was the one in trouble, for being "too serious"). This was not pleasant for either one of us. I figured there had to be a better way, but I hadn't stumbled upon it yet. Until I watched this video:

Not everything that Christine says here is applicable to our situation, but plenty is, and the positivity is absolutely applicable. Every single time we've stopped in the middle of being serious with her and reminded her of a time that she did something really well, she has stopped resisting and done as we asked. Sometimes we had to mention a few things she'd done well, but eventually she would start chiming in about what a good job she'd done at other times and decide she wanted to do the same this time. I swear, it was like magic. I couldn't believe it worked. But it disarmed her and made her feel good and capable, and then she just did what she needed to do. AMAZING. You should totally try it. It will revolutionize your life.

Friday, March 23, 2012

This is Real, This is Now

I talk to people all the time that think that racism is a thing of the past. When I try to explain that no, really, it's still alive and well, people like to argue with me. I'm ashamed to admit that most times, I stop talking at that point. I think it's because there's this moment of realization that their minds are made up, and my own limited explanations aren't going to change that. But the thing is that for all those times that I couldn't explain to people how pervasive racism is, I never, ever hoped that there would be such a clear example of racism being alive today. In the wake of Trayvon Martin's death, we hear more about reality. About how parents of Black boys have "The Talk" with them, about staying safe because people will suspect them of ill behavior and take action, even if they're doing things their White peers could do with no suspicion directed their way. Parents of White children, let me ask you: do you ever have to worry that your child will go out to get a snack and not come back because someone profiled them, followed them, and shot them? And if you are paranoid enough to think that sort of thing might happen (because scary things do happen to children of all races), do you honestly that believe that the police would fail to arrest the person who killed your child if they knew who it was?

I want to believe that all kids would be safe, that if the unthinkable happened, law enforcement would work as hard as they could to make sure that the killer was charged and brought to justice. But the fact of the matter is that Trayvon Martin, the very picture of innocence, who was somebody's baby, died. And his killer still walks free.

Tell me now that we live in a post racial society. Go ahead and tell me now. You can't, can you?

Honk Honk Ears

So here's the thing: my baby is growing up, and so are her language skills. She no longer says babbit instead of rabbit or H&Ms instead of M&Ms. But I've still got this one thing, and I am clinging to it.

This is your official notice not to expose my child to the actual words of Old MacDonald. You'll break my heart, and we will no longer be able to be friends*.

*Or family. Yes, I will disown any person who dares snatch the last vestiges of baby talk from the mouth of my little girl. Ruthless, I know, but necessary.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Going Home

I've been biding my time, trying to tackle each big life task as it is necessary. The focus was on preparing for the move, then getting settled in our new home, then on our home study for this next adoption, then on the rest of our documents. Now there are a few things in line to take care of--a couple of trips to Kansas City, getting our dossier finished with the acquisition of the I-171H, etc.--but I am suddenly ready for something else that's further away on our horizon. Something big. A trip.

We have planned since we were in Ethiopia last time to come back in two years' time. We have known since our vacation last fall that our next trip would be to visit Zinashi's family in Ethiopia. But until yesterday, it was just this far off, nebulous thing. I don't know if it was getting the last of our documents for the next adoption in a FedEx envelope or talking with Zinashi during hair time about what we'd do with her hair in Ethiopia (visit a salon and let the ladies work their magic, that's what), but I reached this point of readiness. To think about it, for real. To plan it. To be ready to do it. I want to go home, to Zinashi's first home, to what was our first family home. Ethiopia made us who we are. Those thirty days we spent there as a family still mean so much to me. I went back and watched our little video of our time there, and I cried. Oh, man, am I ever ready to get on that plane.

I know it won't be the same. We've got bigger fish to fry than waiting for an embassy appointment (I mean, unless by some shocking turn of events, things align in such a way that we are waiting for an embassy appointment in the fall--VERY highly unlikely, despite our openness to myriad special needs and diagnoses; things are just so molasses-on-a-winter's-day slow in Ethiopian adoptions right now). We made a promise to a man when we were in Ethiopia. We promised not to forget. We promised to come back. We promised, and I am so excited about keeping that promise. We have family to see. Reconnecting to be done. It might get a little hard. We might all be grieving. But oh, I still can't wait. I am dreaming and planning now. It makes my heart glow to think about it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cultivating Peace

When I started the Whole30 back in February, I didn't consider any other time periods that might come up in my life and require other restrictions before it was over. It occurred to me that we might be Whole30-ing into Lent, but it was just time to do it, and Jarod was up for trying it, so we got going. And then the Whole30 did indeed run into Lent, which for Orthodox Christians is a season of doing without animal and animal-based foods. I really wanted to participate, but given the fact that the Whole30 proved to me again that grains and legumes are not good for me, I haven't been entirely successful. But here's the thing: I don't think that seasons of life such as Lent are meant to be just about one thing. The dietary fast is meant to help restrain us in other areas of life, and to free up more financial resources to give more to others at this time.

A friend and I have been running together once or twice a week, and she's been sharing with me what Lent means to her, and I think that the lessons that I am learning now can apply whether or not you practice the same faith as I do or something different or no faith at all. While the Whole30 was about reinforcing what I already knew about my eating habits and helping me move forward doing better than last time, Lent has been a time of cultivating practices in my life that will help me do better in my life as a whole and in turn extend to my family and my community. For me, what has come up as the work I need to do right now is making life more peaceful. I want our family life to be smooth and without unnecessary stress, that the way I conduct myself as I care for Zinashi and take care of things at home would make for a calm home environment. What I have come to realize is that I have sometimes been using my negative qualities towards positive ends, and thus reinforcing some very bad habits, with the excuse that it was helping me get good things done. Also known as the ends justifying the means. What I have recognized in myself as of late is that I can be a slave to compulsions. I act too quickly, under stress, when there is actually no need for stress. For example, my living room is currently a big mess, and all my rugs need to be vacuumed, but it's not something that will usher in the Apocalypse, even if it feels that way to me.

To help myself get tasks accomplished but keep expectations reasonable, I've been endeavoring to set up goals for each day, and to be okay with my level of accomplishment as long as those things get done. There are two scenarios that play out under this system. One, I accomplish my goals with little time left in the day, feeling good because the day was full, but not too full, and I did what I set out to do. Two, I get my goals done early in the day, then badger myself about all the other things that I should get done, rushing around and stressing out because I have time to notice that Ohmygoodness, this place is a pig sty! The first scenario is healthy, but doesn't happen every day; sometimes it's just hard to tell how long things will take, and I end up with extra time. The second scenario puts me into a tizzy and spreads stress wherever I rush next. My compulsive nature basically takes over, and I make what could be peaceful into a big, hairy deal. Obviously, it's not wrong to do more with my day if I have the time, but it is a problem to create extra stress.

So I've set out to discipline myself, to practice doing things in a peaceful and purposeful way. If I feel a compulsion to do something (basically a feeling of unease which escalates, as if leaving the down comforter on the floor next to the sofa might kill us all, immediately), then I don't do it. Period. Maybe it's a good thing to do (folding and putting away comforters is a good thing, I know it is), but if I am doing it in a way that causes stress to me and will spread to the rest of my family, then I can't do it. I have to choose something else, something which does not feel urgent. I can put the thing I was feeling anxious about on the list for the next day, but I can't do it then. I am cultivating peace in our family life. That is way more important than making sure that a blanket isn't on the floor in a heap.

I come from a long line of stressed out women. I think that our culture further encourages this, as we are encouraged to do more and do it flawlessly as much as possible. This is one thing that I don't want to perpetuate for myself or for my children. Particularly as we look forward to expanding our family, it is important to me to practice purposeful calm. Bringing a new family member into the house will create stress all on its own, and I want to be practiced and ready when it comes to eliminating stress that simply should not exist. So Lent is about working on this, with purpose, a concentrated effort toward becoming better. I'm fairly certain I'll still have to work at it after Lent is done, but for now I'm making a good start.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Upgrading the Momiform, Step Two: Leggings

This might be the shortest post about my wardrobe ever. Because you guys! Finding the right leggings was so easy! All I had to do was look up, right at the nearest American Apparel ad. What I needed were leggings that would come up higher on my torso, with the top of the waistband hitting above the point at which gravity begins to pull whatever is there straight towards my ankles.

Do you see what I see? That, my friends, is a very high waist on a pair of leggings, which means that they would come up a little higher than belly button range on my long torso. I read reviews to be sure it would be worth the cost (which is somewhere between twice and three times as much as I'd spent on leggings in the past) and that the length wouldn't be a problem, then walked right into American Apparel and bought a pair to try out. They did not disappoint, and in fact went straight from daywear to running wear without a hitch.

For those of you who are also tallish and long torso'd, I highly recommend these, with the caveat that you will have to get used to the material around your middle going up higher than you're accustomed to. At first I felt weird about it, then realized that it was soft and comfortable. When the weather warmed up later in the day, it did feel a bit hot, but I simply turned the waistband down a bit, and found that the material didn't bunch up or make a huge ridge. These leggings are definitely a good investment, and I happily paid what was required to order two more pairs so I'd have one of each color that I frequently use.

Step Two of the Momiform Upgrade: COMPLETE!

For Step Three, I'm on to jeans, heaven help me. This is about to get a whole lot trickier.

To read about Step One of my Momiform Upgrade, in which I upgrade my striped shirt stash, click here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Bus is Our Classroom

by now she's a professional

This photo is one of my new favorites of Zinashi. It should come as no surprise that it was taken on the bus; it seems like some weeks we are spending half of our lives on the bus. Maybe we are. I think this is a positive thing, even when that one guy with the guitar gets on and alternately sings Rolling Stones covers and drops the F bomb. Welcome to the teeming masses, sweetheart! Don't repeat the word that rhymes with duck in church, okay?

I love that Zinashi is exposed to all sorts of people from all walks of life when we ride the bus. I love that she asks questions about things she notices, and that I am right there to answer them. I have been doing my best not shush her or to say, "Let's talk about that one later," and to answer her honestly and with respect to the person she is asking about. If it's something that would be appropriate for her to ask the person involved, I encourage her to do that, and lately she's been taking the initiative herself. Of course this leads to some awkward situations, such as when she asked a young woman what was in her big tummy (and it was not, as she hoped, a baby), but overall I think it's a good way for her to figure out that the world is full of all kinds of people with all sorts of stories, and it is good and right for us to share our space with them.

Zinashi is quite often the belle of the ball on the bus, which further encourages her to relax and enjoy herself, even when the bus is quite full. While we've had some instances in which a lot of able-bodied people pretended not to notice the four-year-old who was tired and having trouble standing to ride the bus, for the most part people have gotten up to offer a seat for one or both of us or have shown us kindness in some other way. I have been incredibly grateful for this, particularly when my arms have been full of both Zinashi and groceries. Zinashi generally rewards the kindness by doing or saying something funny, and we've had more than one person tell us that she made their day, just by being herself on the bus. Most interactions are good ones, and some are so sweet that it makes me smile to think of them even weeks later.

While I know that it is important to teach Zinashi safety around strangers, I think it is just as important to learn compassion and understanding and graciousness. The bus has afforded us the space to do just that, in ways I don't always recognize right away. Zinashi seems to have a gift for understanding things about people before I've figured it out, and more than once has opened my eyes to the good-heartedness of strangers when I was still wary. I am proud of her in those moments in particular. I knew that I would enjoy having public transportation so readily available to us, but I had no idea how much it would do for us beyond making it unnecessary to own a car. I find myself grateful, every single day, both for my daughter and for the bus. Silly as it may sound, it is absolutely true.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Fabulousness

She put this together for errands, but I'm thinking it will transition easily to a night on the town, as well as a costume party. Versatile and stylish! This combo simply can't be beat.

dressed for errands

TGIF, am I right? Pretty sure I'm right. Have a super fab weekend, internet friends.

The Give It Forward Payment for March Goes to...

The work of Dr. Rick Hodes!

As always, it was super fun to make the donation. Thank you so much for donating and for voting. I'm already looking forward to making the Give It Forward payment in April.

PS--We've received a couple more donations, and I have yet to update the Give It Forward page with the new total and this month's payment recipient. I'll keep you posted via Twitter when that's been updated. Thanks for being patient!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


So I found this super cute baby panda in Chinatown.

Turns out, she likes to do office work. How might she help you?

yes?  how may baby panda help you?

Ah, yes, another proposal. Baby panda will review it and get back to you.

baby panda will review your proposal and get back to you

Actually, this is brilliant! Baby panda is quite pleased with what she's seen so far.

baby panda loves what you've outlined here--let's do it!

All that hard work makes our little panda sleepy. Good thing it's not a long walk to a great place for a nap.

reviewing documents is tough work. baby panda needs a nap.

Over-priced panda costume: $39
Zinashi wearing it and behaving as if she had serious business to conduct as a panda? PRICELESS.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Who Does She Need to Approach About This?

Jarod's parents have been in town this weekend, and yesterday he took the day off to spend a bit more time with them. We decided we'd all have lunch at his work since A) they wanted to see the place of wonder and mystery at which he is now employed, and B) the food there is really delicious.

Zinashi has been wanting to see Jarod's office since the first day he went to work, so she was thrilled to finally go there, even though we didn't get to see his actual office (which is in a restricted area since, naturally, he is very important).

She was impressed by the lunch (her own pizza, which she got to watch them make), but partway through eating, she started looking a little sad and picking at her name tag. "What's wrong?" I asked, "You need to leave that on; people need to know that you are allowed to be here. Can you just tell me what you need instead of messing up your nice name tag?"

"I don't want this name tag," she sulked, "I want one to work here for my job and have a bag* nametag. Like Ababi."

Do you think Apple has any openings for someone who consistently knows the sounds of three letters and can count to twenty accurately at least 40% of the time? She's a snappy dresser and pretty cute to boot.

so excited to be at ababi's work

Come on, Apple. Don't you want to hire this girl? She's pretty sure you do. Call her. Anytime. On her iPhone.**

*By which she means badge. She knows what it's called now! Don't let that deter anyone from hiring her for a really important job!

**Zinashi is allowed to earn time to play on Jarod's old iPhone, which can no longer receive calls or do much of anything either than connect to WiFi for the purpose of viewing Muppet videos on YouTube. She was trying to play Plants vs. Zombies, but that didn't work out. She knows, in theory, that she cannot make calls, but that doesn't keep her from dreaming.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Making School Plans

Zinashi still needs to be rocked. She asks for it. Her supposed fifth birthday is coming up in less than a month, and there's just no way she's five, and I find myself wondering things like, "Should I buy the MUNI pass that's required for children who are five or can I skip it until the fall because I'm sure she isn't really five?" This is not to say that even if she were five, she shouldn't need rocking, but there's just so much that points to a younger age. It was never significant enough to change legally, just six months or so, but it does present some challenges.

We've been making school decisions. We've known for awhile that homeschooling was probably the best fit, but I wanted to keep the door open to other options. Now that we're in our new city and experiencing what our day to day life is like, I don't like any of the other options well enough to pursue them and to adjust our family life to fit them, so we are locking into homeschooling for now. I would never say that we are pursuing homeschooling forever, because things can change in ways that we don't anticipate, but for now what Zinashi needs is best met by homeschooling, and I'm not just talking academics. I sometimes use her unknown age as an excuse when people ask why we're pursuing it, but that's really the very smallest part of why I am going to continue to teach her myself next school year. This is primarily about sleep and family time.

Zinashi's attachment to us is still insecure in some ways. She loves us and wants to be with us, but she still gets anxious sometimes. I don't know if this will ever change, but I haven't expected it to this early. She was, after all, with her family in Ethiopia for nearly three years before her whole world got turned upside down. I expect her to need a lot of our physical presence for at least that long, if not longer, before she starts to believe that this is for keeps. It's why she still sleeps in our bed and why we have the daily schedule that we do. She needs both of us to be present to her every single day or she starts to unravel a little bit. Jarod's new schedule has him leaving before 8am and home around 7:30pm. Zinashi is still sleeping when he leaves, so the time they have together is dinner and afterwards. She asks more than once every single day, "And after dinner I can play with Ababi?" So she gets to every single night, and thus she goes to bed later than most kids every single night. We have the luxury of not needing to be out of the house at any certain time most mornings, and that has been a godsend to us, but it would be snatched away if we enrolled her in school. The way things are now, she gets both her Ababi time and her sleep. I am not willing to ask her to give either of those things up in order to put her in school if we have another option.

To be honest, I never saw myself as a homeschooling parent, but I also didn't anticipate that my first child would walk into my arms at the tender age of three years old. I didn't understand how complex her needs would be and how much I would want to be the one to meet all of them for as long as she needed me to. Schooling decisions are about her needs, but I'll also admit that I want her here with me a little longer. I haven't had enough of her just yet. As much as I long for her to feel fully secure in our little family, I am also relieved that she hasn't had enough of me just yet either. We make a good little pair, and I am looking forward to being the one present when she learns new things. We're starting with reading now, because she wants to. She's stoked. Me, too.

reading in the sun

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Get Cozy (A Crazy Cat Lady Explains Cosleeping Challenges)

I took this photo of our cats because it illustrates perfectly what happens in our bed almost every night with Zinashi.

here, phae illustrates what zinashi does to me in the middle of the night

The grey cat on the right is our cat Phae, and she represents Zinashi. The calico on the left is Lucy Snowe, and she represents me. This is a king size bed. Note how Lucy Snowe is alllllll they way at the edge of the bed, and Phae is not only snuggled up next to her, but attempting to hold her down with her leg. Phae wakes up and repositions to do this, but Zinashi does it to me in her sleep. Luckily, she also remains asleep when I lift her and move her back to the middle of the bed...after which she snakes her arm over so her fingertips can curl under my armpit.

Still, I wouldn't change anything. Well, unless I could remember to clip Zinashi's fingernails on a regular basis. Those accidental armpit scratches aren't very comfortable.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Choose Who Gets Our Give It Forward Payment for March

Once again, I can't believe it's already the eighth of the month. A whole new month! How does this happen? It's time again for you fine people to vote for who gets our Give It Forward loan payment for the month. As before, we'll be paying $200 of the loan principle, plus an additional 10% as our interest, for a grand total of $220. Now the question is: who gets it? Because we've had many worthy organizations that didn't get picked in the past two months, we are recycling two of those, plus adding one new one. We're switching from four choices to three in order to allow us to do a bit more research and go a little deeper getting to know more about what various organizations do.

Up first is our new pick. Link Ethiopia connects schools in Ethiopia with schools in the UK in order to encourage communication and better understanding of one another. It's like pen pals, only way better. They also work with schools to meet their basic needs--from school supplies to clean water and good sanitation. Jarod edited some video for this organization and was really impressed with what they are doing and how they are doing it.

The second choice is a result of my insomnia; I did a search on Netflix for movies about Ethiopia and ended up watching a short documentary about the lifechanging work of Dr. Rick Hodes. It's called Making the Crooked Straight, and I highly recommend that you devote half an hour of your time to watching it, whether or not you suffer from insomnia. I want to give the work Dr. Hodes does another shot at our payment, so thus our second choice is recycled from the January choices.

Our third choice came in second for the month of February. I realize that mosquito nets aren't very compelling on their own, and that we have no context for understanding how devastating malaria is, but the fact of the matter is that malaria can be a deadly disease, and the nets that Nothing But Nets provides save lives. Lives of mothers, lives of fathers, lives of children. Reducing malaria deaths keeps families together.

You have until midnight PST on March 15 to vote. Vote early, vote often, tell your friends to vote, too. I can't wait to see who you choose this time.

survey services

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Slow Progress

I hand an argument with a notary on the phone today. I didn't set out to argue, just to find out if I could get a document fixed, but apparently he felt that I was accusing him of doing his job incorrectly. He did, in fact, do his job incorrectly, and we'll go an hour out of our way tomorrow to get the mistake corrected, but I never accused him of doing something wrong today, and I'll walk in tomorrow and not argue when he tells me, again, that I should have known the proper wording and made sure the physician used it when he typed up the letter. Even though there's only one of us who had to take a test on the notarization laws of the State of California, and it wasn't me. Ahem.

These little irritations exist in the world of paperwork, and I think that adoption paperwork is perhaps even more intense because of all the layers of scrutiny. Notarization followed by state certification followed by authentication by two governments. I have said it before, and I mean it: I will be so happy to have this paperwork out of my hands. And today, we are one step closer. Our tax refund arrived, which means that we are able to cover our USCIS fee for the I-600a and related fingerprinting, plus the advance fees for our post placement reports. After all is said and done, we are left with a balance of $1200 to put toward the dossier and dossier authentication fees, plus the $120 we received recently through our Give It Forward loan. Slowly but surely, we are getting there. We've got a pile of papers to be notarized and state certified, and I'm trusting that we'll somehow come up with the balance for the next fees in the meantime. Slowly. Surely. We're going to get this done.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Glimpse

she is growing up so gracefully

When I see her like this, it makes me want to be a better mother. It's just one moment in time, when I was leaning back into the aisle of the F, practically in some stranger's lap, and she showed up. Who she is, who she is becoming, who she has always been and always will be. I didn't notice it until I uploaded it and saw it larger, and then my aching heart leapt into my throat and oh, my beauty. I don't even have to see her face; the spark of her is right there. It's in the curve of her neck and the turn of her waist, in the determination of her shoulders and the eagerness of her face turned to the window. Maybe you will miss it, looking at her, but I see it, and it makes me feel so lucky all over again to belong to her.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Upgrading the Momiform, Step One: Shirts

Our lives have changed in many ways since we moved here, and it quickly became apparent to me that my wardrobe needs have changed as well. As I was sorting and putting away my clothes, I also noted how many things had become worn or stained or both. I wanted to give myself a little while to truly evaluate what I needed before choosing new things, and I feel like two months in our new city has given me a rough idea of what is required of my wardrobe.

First of all, what I wear from day to day has to work for public transportation and walking a lot. Second, it needs to work for the weather. Both of these factors have been what has changed my wardrobe needs the most. In Kansas City, it wasn't a big deal to wear shoes that weren't super comfortable for walking because we drove a lot of places, and similarly what I was wearing clothing-wise didn't need to hold up to the demands of standing on a bus while Zinashi holds onto my leg (ever-so-slightly-too-short shirts: OUT). I also didn't need a ton of long-sleeved shirts because of the way I layered to accomodate the season changes. Here, my shoes need to be comfortable, my wardrobe needs to cover everything and leave room to move and contort, and I can wear a long-sleeved shirt 75% of the time and have it work for me. I already have more than enough shoes that are comfortable (flats, sneakers, boots--DONE!), and dresses and skirts are in abundance, so shirts were the next thing on the list. I have exactly two long-sleeved shirts, plus a couple of 3/4 sleeve ones that are getting more pilly by the minute. I noticed that the shirts that are holding up the best are some short-sleeved ones from Boden, so I decided to look there first. In the past, I've had trouble justifying spending more than Old Navy clearance prices on basics, but after witnessing how well my better-made (and more expensive) tops held up, I was ready to take the plunge. In Kansas City, our budget was such that I never could have done this, but the combination of a bit of account credit and a get-your-4th-item-for-$1 offer allowed me a little more wiggle room. I ponied up the dollars and was elated when these came in the mail.

new stripes for my dilapidated striped shirt stash

Yes, I realize that they're all the same, just different colors. I also realize that stripes are trendy right now, so you may be questioning if they'll stand the test of time. I love the cut of these shirts, and stripes are classic, regardless of whether or not everyone else is buying up stripes like nobody's business. I have always been a fan of the striped shirt. These three go well with multiple jackets and cardigans that I own, and when I add a fun necklace or scarf, I'm all set. For my fourth item, I ordered a striped tunic, which is already a fave. In fact, if I had extra cash lying around, I'd be seriously tempted to order one in pink as well.

new tunic!

So comfortable! So cute! So...obvious now that those leggings are pretty uncomfortable. Nothing will make a new, cute tunic less attractive like pausing multiple times to hike up the waistband of your leggings, in public no less. So the next step of the momiform upgrade emerges: leggings. I'm a long torso'd girl, and somewhat tall (5'8 1/2"), so if you have suggestions for leggings that I won't be both tugging up at the waistband and down to reach my ankles, I'd be grateful if you share the info. After that, we'll tackle jeans. (Levi's and/or Gap: call me!) That's just three simple steps to wardrobe workability, after which I can resume trolling thrift shops for necklaces. Before I know it I'll be all upgraded and ready to dress at a moment's notice, as opposed to standing in front of my closet and thinking, "You know, we're not leaving for another three hours. Pajamas are fine." Won't that be fun?

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

I've begun to think of Friday as a little bit of sacred space. It's my cleaning day. I realize this isn't what many of you would think of as sacred or even special, but that's okay. Have a nice time with your massages and pedicures; I feel more relaxed when the laundry is done and put away. In addition to the laundry, at minimum I also get the litter box cleaned* and the trash taken out. On a normal Friday, rugs get vacuumed and the bathroom gets a quick clean. On an exceptional Friday, all the floors get cleaned, and I wipe down the tub and tile surrounding it.

For me, there's something about having all the home-maintaining chores done that makes heading into the weekend more relaxing. I'm also relishing how much easier it is to clean now that we have less stuff and less space to cram things we really don't need to be keeping. People always balk at my suggestion that I really don't want any gifts, that a donation to a worthy cause will suffice, but it's true. The best gift anyone could give me would be the gift of making my life easier by not filling my space with more stuff. Truly. It's the gift that keeps on giving! The only thing better would be if, in addition to not giving me any gifts, someone sent a housekeeper.

Happy Friday, everyone. May you receive whatever is your version of the gift that keeps on giving. (For extra credit, leave me a comment and tell me what that gift would be for you.)

*One of my core beliefs is that even if you have pets, your house should not smell like them.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sleep. Sleeeeep. SLEEP!

One thing that I wished for when I considered what Zinashi might be like is for her to be a good sleeper. Those of you who remember how I couldn't stop writing about her sleep issues when we first got home (and for a long time after that) may laugh when I tell you that, really, my wish came true. For the most part, Zinashi is a really good sleeper, at least by the standards of people who are not morning people. She never EVER wakes up at 6am and expects to be up for the day. When she woke up this morning at 7:30 and didn't go back to sleep, it was unusual. (I should probably stop right now before all of you with early risers start sending me hate mail. But I won't. Clearly, I long for the ire of the internet to be directed at me.) We've done everything possible to ensure that she gets enough sleep because it affects everything else. I am of the mind that when Zinashi is not well rested, it makes it hard for her to do pretty much everything. Behaving well is harder, playing nicely is harder, remembering that we don't kick our legs in the direction of people's faces is harder. So we protect her sleep, and at the same time protect our own sleep and our sanity. Because we know where we've been, and where we're likely to be once a second kid comes along, and we don't need to make things hard on ourselves.

I've gone back and forth about whether to write in detail about Zinashi's sleep struggles, and obviously I've mentioned them before, frequently, but don't want her to someday read this blog and feel like we were pointing out her worst qualities and reliving her hardest times. These struggles were not her fault, and I never want her to feel like it was some huge burden or that it made our lives hard in a way that we didn't want. At the same time, I do think it is helpful to others to know just what happened, how we handled it, and how we're handling it today. Obviously, every kid is different, and what we did will likely not work the same way with someone else's kid as it did with ours. But the message I want to send is simply this: you do what you have to do for your kids, and sometimes it is hard, and that's okay. If what Zinashi needed ends up being what your kid needs, then great.

In Ethiopia, the hardest time we had was getting Zinashi to sleep at naptime. Night were actually pretty good when we were staying at the non-agency guest house, but once we moved back into the agency guest house to make it easier for our embassy appointment, things started to go downhill, and it got worse, not better, when we got home. Basically, Zinashi did not want to go to sleep at night. At all. If we had let her, she would have stayed up all night. We know this because one night at midnight, exhausted from our usual methods, we decided to just put her in bed and stay in the room and see how she did. She was up until 6am, at which point we returned to our tried-and-true method, and she finally went to sleep.

The problem with our method was that I felt so horrible about doing it. We had to treat her like a tiny baby, and swaddle her, and pace the floor with her, and rock with her, and look into her terrified, defiant eyes the whole time as she screamed. It was like she became a different person in those hours. In the beginning, the only time she wasn't screaming at bedtime was when we allowed her to keep herself awake. She would gradually calm once swaddled, but sometimes went in for round two (or three...or eight) when she realized that what we were doing was keeping her from staying awake. Her drive to stay awake was so strong, unlike anything I've ever seen, and it was probably the hardest thing I have ever done to hold her flailing arms to her sides and swaddle her, to still her kicking legs and tuck the blanket in firmly. I felt like I was putting my baby in a straight jacket. I knew, in my head, and observed, as if an outsider, that she did eventually calm as a result of being swaddled. I knew that it was not harming her because she would sometimes ask for it when she was feeling insecure. (Newsflash: it's a lot easier to swaddle your kid and feel good about it when they're not panicking. I know! What a shock!) But it didn't make it easier to wrap her up snugly while she struggled and tried to get away, to hold her in my arms as she arched her back and tried to spit.

We haven't had to swaddle her for quite some time. As she learned to trust, she got better at allowing herself to relax in our arms. Until we found a good chiropractor that helped her, it still took her hours to go to sleep, but she didn't panic anymore. We got to the place where we could just be in the room with her, then we graduated to leaving a couple of cats in there and walking out. I don't know how long it took us to get to the point that she didn't scream anymore, that we could just wrap her arms snugly, and she would keep them in herself, but I remember that being a key moment. Even better was the moment that she didn't need to be swaddled to stop using her hands to keep herself awake. All those days blur together, and I am glad that she is never terrified anymore. These days she falls asleep in her own bed, still with two cats for company, and mostly doesn't wake until morning.

Which is not to say that she sleeps all night in her own bed. When we are ready to sleep, we still carry her into our bed, and at night she moves from side to side, snuggling with one of us. Some nights, she turns sideways so she can touch both of us at the same time. It makes her feel secure, and that's fine by us. People ask sometimes if we have a timeline for moving her into her own bed, and we have gotten tips from several people for how to do it, but I see co-sleeping as part of our sleep insurance right now. She still needs us at night, even if she just recognizing in sleep that we are nearby. I have no intention of taking that comfort from her while she still needs it, and I have no idea how long it will be before she feels secure enough to sleep in her own bed all night. I'm sure she will let us know when she is ready. Until then, we've got a nice, big bed, and the nights are chilly. I don't mind having a little bed heater to keep things warm.

cozy morning
This is not our bed. Another convenience of co-sleeping: any bed you're in is home to your kids.
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