Monday, April 30, 2012

Hooray!

Good news, everybody.  I cleaned up the coffee grounds!  In fact, I cleaned the whole kitchen.  I know!  It was like a great big party at my house, and the party favors were sullied cleaning rags and lint balls from my little vacuum.  Wait, that's not much of a party. Nevermind!

The real party was the high five Jarod and I exchanged after we left our friend Cid the notary at the UPS Store.  We were waiting on one last piece of paper so that we could have our file submitted to court in Ethiopia, and yesterday morning it was waiting for us on the piano in the entryway.*  I have never been so excited to see the words Department of Homeland Security  in my life.  I didn't realize how stressed out I was over this last document's arrival until we got it.  We got an official copy of the document notarized on the way home from church and BAM!  Suddenly I felt like I could clean the kitchen.  Or maybe it went more like: I got an iced mocha (breve, with hazelnut, no whip) to aid me in my grocery shopping, and I arrived home with sugar and caffeine coursing through my veins and BAM!  I cleaned the kitchen before it wore off.

Whatever the case, the kitchen is clean, the document is being overnighted to the agency today, and I can now turn my attention toward more important matters.  I think you know what I'm talking about.

cat in a headband
I'm talking about Zinashi putting a baby headband on our cat.  You're welcome.

I also need to get Elvie's medical plan firmed up and get a travel doctor appointment made for the other three of us, among other things, but let's forget about the tedious, responsible task list for a minute.  Do you not feel that Lucy looks magnificent in red?  Zinashi and I both really feel it's her color.




*We have a mail situation that is quite common in San Francisco, in which the mail comes into one unit of a two-unit home, and the people who do not live in the mail-receiving unit have to wait for the mail-receiving-unit-dwellers to remember to put the mail out in a common area.  For us, it's on the piano that we are storing in our entryway.**


**It was either that or pay to have a crane lift it over the house so we could move it in through the back balcony door.  We decided to go with entryway storage.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I Think This is What's Called "Hanging in There"

I have been having a hard time cleaning my house.  It's not that I don't want to; I stand there and stare at the ground coffee I've spilled in an impossible number of places between the grinder and my French press, and I can't seem to will myself to clean it up.  Same goes for the crumbs in the stovetop and the dishes on the counter.  The effort it took to clean my crock pot today was herculean.  I am just so tired, worn out from the effort of getting through reams of adoption paperwork and three grant applications, each one more detailed and invasive than the one before it.  For Elvie, I do all of it, and I do not mind, but once it's done, I just don't have the mental wherewithal to figure out how to do more household chores than are absolutely necessary.  Not to mention the fact that making sure I'm not crying all the time, or at least in public situations that might be somewhat embarrassing, takes serious effort, too.

So my little family gets fed dinner every night, and the laundry gets done on Fridays, and the trash in all its forms makes its way to the bins outdoors.  The cat box gets cleaned without fail.  But beyond that, I just don't have much left to give.  Beyond that, I am just trying to be okay with being on this side of the world while my tiny baby is on the other side.  I know these two-ish months are a gift to us, giving us time to get everything in place for her before she gets home, but it still doesn't mean that I don't feel a deep ache for her, that I don't wonder if she is being picked up and loved on even though her birth defect might make it awkward for some people.  Of all the things I want for her, most of all I want her to be treasured by someone.  I want someone to be looking out for her and holding her and looking in her eyes with sympathy when she is scared and lonely.  That is what I ask for in my prayers when I am working hard not to cry in public.  I just want someone to show her how lovely she is.  Until I can get there, I just want someone to be on her side.

I'll admit that one of my coping mechanisms is to just keep things bright and chipper on the surface.  Please don't expect me to talk openly about how I am feeling about Elvie; I can't hold it together if I even start to go down that road, so I would rather talk practicalities.  I don't necessarily think there's anything wrong with that.

I also don't think there's anything wrong with self-medicating with chocolate for a short time.  At Whole Foods tonight, I stood in front of the bakery case for a long time, trying to decide just how hard I was willing to break out with adult acne in order to enjoy a treat all by myself.  The bakery worker walked around the corner, saw the cheesecake I had in my hands, and asked if she could help me.  I explained that I was just having trouble deciding, and she said, "Oh, well, it's all really good, but that one you're holding has brownie and cheesecake layers."  Right then and there, I decided that I would break out incredibly hard if it meant having the pleasure of using the tiny spork included in the container to deliver that level of deliciousness into my mouth.  I might have twelve new zits by morning, but I don't care.  I would do it all over again in a second.

i will never tire of this
I would also put the hats that came for Elvie on my cat again in a second, but unfortunately, she isn't a very willing model.  This photo has nothing to do with anything.


Have a good weekend, internet friends.

Friday, April 27, 2012

We Have No Side Salad

Nearly every Thursday night we are at the same spot.  We call it "our" Ethiopian restaurant.  When I was first reading the reviews for on Yelp, trying to find a good spot for us to make our regular place, I was laughing at how many people complained that Axum did not serve rice. Last night, when Tsegay, the owner of Axum, showed us this Simpsons clip of Marge and the kids eating Ethiopian food, he laughed hardest at the part where Marge asks for a side salad.  I'm pretty sure he's been asked for a side salad as many times as he's been asked for rice.



If you've never eaten Ethiopian food, go get some.  Just don't ask for rice or a side salad.  (I recommend doro wat if you eat meat, and Zinashi recommends shiro if you don't.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Difference

Eighteen months ago today, we arrived on a flight from Addis Ababa into Washington, D.C., with Zinashi.

That was then:



This is now:




Just eighteen months.  Can you even believe it?  She was a baby, who couldn't jump and get both feet off the ground, and now she runs ahead of me, strong and tall.  Amazing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thinking About...Packing? Already?

This morning I sat down at my desk, replied to a few emails, and realized that...huh...wait...I don't have any paperwork to do.  I was puzzled for a moment; the last weeks of my life have been so chock full of paperwork of one kind or another that I couldn't figure out how to start my day without it.  The schedule for the past two plus weeks has been get up, make coffee, work on paperwork, get Zinashi up, fed, and occupied, work on paperwork, get Zinashi's lunch, work on paperwork, put Zinashi down for her nap, work on paperwork, etc., etc., etc.  Without paperwork to alternate out with all my other tasks, I felt a little bit lost.

So I did what made the most sense given our timeline.  I sat in my desk chair with my coffee and started thinking about packing for Ethiopia.

I know that there are many of you out there who pack at the last minute, or at least wait until a week before departure, but beginning the packing process is part of how I look forward to a trip.  And oh, I am so looking forward to this trip.  I know that we have a lot to accomplish before we go and get our sweet Elvie.  I know that the time between now and then is a gift to us.  But honestly, I cannot wait.  So I'm thinking about packing.

I'm starting first on my own suitcase and carryon lists.  My list from our extended stay is handy, so handy that I'm wondering if I should just pack the same things (though the jeans I never washed are no longer with us, sadly).  Would that be weird, or just practical?  I'm leaning towards practical.  It will making packing so much easier!

I've also got a couple of things I need to add, based on experience, so feel free to advise me if you are well versed in either beauty products or camping equipment.  Here's what I need:

1.  A good dry shampoo.  I have oily hair, and the water situation in Ethiopia isn't always consistent.  I'd also love to walk off the plane with hair that doesn't look incredibly greasy.  It's always nice to look fresh when people will be taking your picture and/or video.

2.  A flashlight that acts as a lantern, but isn't super huge.  Ethiopia has power outages, and I don't want to be stuck without light while trying to change diapers.  We took a Maglite last time, and it wasn't quite enough light, even in "candle" form.  (Which reminds me that I need to get a new one of those, as Zinashi broke loved ours so much that it stopped functioning.)

Any recommendations you have will be both welcomed and appreciated.  Help me pack!  Please!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Elvie Adoption Soundtrack

During Zinashi's adoption, I was listening to Jamie Cullum's album, The Pursuit, almost exclusively.  There's something comforting about listening to the same songs over and over again, and I guess I've needed that kind of comfort even more for this adoption.  This time I've latched onto Katie Herzig's album Live In Studio: Acoustic Trio.  Zinashi likes it pretty well, too, so it's worked out.  I'm pretty sure that if you were to ask her, she'd prefer that we listen to all Muppets, all the time, but she doesn't complain when I bust out the Katie Herzig, and she sometimes sings along.

Our favorite song is Sumatra.  We like the way it feels.



I realize that my child might start singing the word damn with so many listens, but I'm willing to risk it.

In second place is Wish You Well.



And finally, for dancetasticness, and because the video is a big hit with Zinashi, we've got Hey Na Na.



Once Elvie is home, we'll probably listen to something else (maybe), but these songs will always have a special place in our music library.

For extra credit, click on over to my new favorite Katie Herzig YouTube find, current accompaniment to the printing of many, many adoption and medical documents.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Kicking Off a Quieter Week

It's been two weeks since we found out that we were chosen to be Elvie's family.  Sometimes it seems like longer since we've crammed so much into these two weeks, but sometimes it still doesn't feel real.  Her photo is on my desk, with a post-it note attached that I've doodled her name on (I dotted each i with a heart, oh yes I did).  I keep thinking someone is going to call me and say, "We're really sorry, but we've changed our minds.  You just aren't quite as awesome as we thought."  I didn't feel this way during Zinashi's adoption, so this is new for me.  Is this normal?  I think that it is just par for the course now; everything about this adoption has been a surprise, one nail-biting week after another.  I go from confidence to worry in moments.  I know this isn't reasonable, but if my adoption coordinator could just call, text, or email me every ten minutes to let me know we're still right on track, that would make me feel much better.

In more fun news, I have fleshed out our Amazon baby registry and added a link to our left sidebar so that you can laugh about the fancy clothes and diaper bag I'm wishing for.  I mentioned on twitter that I'd filled a dream Boden cart with things for Elvie, and I was encouraged to put the things I'd dream-shopped on there and provide a link.  So there it is.  Scroll to the bottom if you'd like to see Mary's Mini Boden Fantasyland.  I went into Nordstrom before getting groceries yesterday (have I mentioned that my Trader Joe's is at a mall?) and ogled a bunch of the Mini Boden items.  I'm pretty sure the sales associate was hovering for a reason, and that reason involved a disheveled woman with a giant bag (for the groceries, but how would she know?) who was touching all the cutest merchandise but not making any move toward a register.  For the record, the strawberry dress is EVEN CUTER in person, if that's possible.

I am looking forward to this week, which at least for this moment holds the promise of being much quieter and less frenzied than the last two weeks.  We, of course, have plenty of things to accomplish on our Elvie To Do List, but these can be interspersed with other, more usual things, like finally making the homemade nutella I toasted hazelnuts for three weeks ago and removing the ring around the tub that is made up entirely of accumulated Zinashi hair product (smells awesome, but sticks to the porcelain like nobody's business).  We're also getting our PO box set up today since many of you have asked about that, and at the same time we'll be visiting all the pets at Petco.  Crabs are first on the list, followed by birds.  Zinashi has requested, and I am happy to oblige.  Who wouldn't?


zinashi and her horse share sunglasses
Can you look at this level of adorable and say no to a reasonable request?  I don't think you can.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

You Have Made Us Glow


We have been bowled over by how many of you have visited our site, read Elvie's story, and contributed to help get her home. Two weeks of filling in information on paperwork have left me with little to say, but what I want most to express is how much you have filled up our hearts these past two days. Thank you for coming. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for caring about a tiny baby who is halfway around the world. You have given us more than just funds to help bring our baby home; you have given us hope for her future, that the world is and will continue to be a world full of people with beautiful hearts, ready to share with someone in need. Thank you. Our hearts are smiling. Smiling like this:

happy

Can you see our eyes shining, too? We hope you can, from wherever you are. You have filled us up. You have made us glow.

Huge thanks to Rebecca Woolf, the genius lady behind one of our most favorite blogs, Girls Gone Child, for sharing our story and being all around awesome. These two days have been so full of good love and good surprises. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I Will Not Hyperventilate

We just found out today that there is a lot of pressure from within Ethiopia to get a court date set for Elvie's adoption as soon as possible, which means that paperwork needs to be done tomorrow, not by the 27th, as previously planned. So I hope you will forgive me if I am absent for a few days, and know that our little family is so happy to have you stop by, so happy to have your help in any way with getting Elvie home. We treasure our readers (so many of whom have become friends) so much, and we are grateful that you are here. If you are new, welcome. If you have been around forever, thank you for staying. If you accidentally ended up here looking for hyperventilation remedies, I'm so sorry, but you're out of luck.

Sit tight, friends, Elvie is on her way. I think this is the part of adoption that equates to being in labor. We're going to make it. This is the hard part, but we'll get her home. Thank you, again and again, for hanging in there with us.

(In case "hanging in there" for you means contributing to our Give It Forward loan, I'm putting a Donate button right here. I hate to be tacky like that, but we are desperate for our girl. If we had shame before, it's all gone now. Please forgive us for being so bold.)





Wednesday, April 18, 2012

So Much to Do, So Much to Savor

We are closing in on the last of the paperwork. I expect to have it all in hand and on its way to the adoption agency within ten days, as well as have another grant application done and out the door. The printer keeps running out of ink at the wrong moment, and I keep running out of coffee at the wrong moment, but luckily I did manage to be in front of my computer at the right moment to win an eBay auction for a ton of hats and headbands for Elvie. I'm pretty sure that I should be ashamed to say that I planned my whole day around being here for the last minute of that auction, but you know how those serious eBay-ers are. They swoop in at the last minute and get your bargain, and indeed that's what someone tried to do. With one minute left, a bid was placed. I bid well above it with twenty seconds left to spare and got the whole thing for just $2.01 above my original bid. For some reason this feels like a huge victory.

What I'm working towards right now is getting everything in place as quickly as possible so we can go get Elvie and get her home for medical evaluations as soon as possible. Once our dossier is to the agency, it will be authenticated in Washington, D.C., and sent to Ethiopia to be translated, after which we can have our case submitted to court. After that is where things get a little more uncertain. We do know that our process will be somewhat quicker than usual due to Elvie's medical needs, but we don't know how much quicker. I'm not going to worry too much about that because once the paperwork is out of our hands, we need to focus on medical plans and getting what we need for Elvie's basic care (and, ahem, general wardrobe cuteness). I've started on both already, of course, and have updated the Amazon baby registry we had for Zinashi to reflect Elvie's needs. I keep an eye on eBay and Craigslist (usually this task is relegated for late night, when I can't sleep but don't have enough mental wherewithal to reply to emails or do paperwork) in hopes of getting some things from our nursery basics list cheaper. I also have this fantasy in which someone discovers a stack of IKEA gift cards that they'll never use and sends them to us, but I'm pretty sure that won't happen. So eBay and Craigslist it is.

I think all these tasks have been keeping me afloat, even though things are somewhat stressful. When I need to devote my mental energies to the practicalities of getting Elvie home and making sure we have everything she needs, it gives me a break from thinking about how far away she is. This part of the adoption wait truly is the hardest, knowing who Elvie is but that I cannot go to her yet. It was the same with Zinashi. I don't even know how to describe that feeling, of knowing that your baby is far away from you, and you have absolutely no control over what is happening in her day to day life. I know that the agency staff is doing a good job of caring for her, but it's just not the same as a mama's care. It just isn't, and that is hard to take.

However, it is what it is, and I did learn a bit from the wait to go to Zinashi, and I've adopted (pun not intended, but kind of funny now that I'm proofreading) some of the same practices this time. There's nothing wrong with recognizing that things are about to take a turn for the way more hectic and then taking the opportunity to enjoy life's current simplicity. Even with all the tasks to do, I can still sleep in until Zinashi wakes up. We can take time out to go for a little coffee/hot chocolate/bakery run, every day if we want to. I can sit on a park bench while we wait for the bus and not have anything to do or anyone else to attend to while Zinashi amuses herself in the wildflowers. These are little luxuries, and I am soaking them up while I can. There is nothing we can do that's not already being done when it comes to getting Elvie home as soon as possible. We'd be fools to let these current moments pass us by.

favorite bus stop

(And now, back to paperwork. Hooray!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pascha

I'm treasuring this time that we know of our next daughter and are spending our last months as a family of three. Saturday night at 11:30pm, the Pascha service began, and the bells rang out at midnight. There was a feast at 3am. It was all beautiful.

processional

who is that adorable girl in hat with the giant flower?

Whatever you celebrate, we hope that you find it satisfies your soul in a deep and meaningful way. We look forward, already, to next Pascha, which will find one more babe in our arms.

Big thanks to my friend Heather, who took these photos that I shamelessly pulled right off the internet for my own blogging purposes.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Give It Forward: Our April Recipient!

I'm pleased to announce that our April recipient of our Give It Forward payment is the grant fund for Felicia at Reece's Rainbow.


I am thrilled that we were able to make a donation that will hopefully make a difference in the life of a little girl.  If you know anyone who might be interested in being Felicia's family, please send them to her page at Reece's Rainbow.

You may note that the donation this time is $200 instead of $220; because of the requirements of our matching donor, we have to donate the initial $200 on our own and then donate the $20 to be matched through a different process. We want to be accountable to you as our Give It Forward donors, so as soon as we figure out how to post records of both the principal payment and the matched interest payment, we will do so. A total of $240 will be going to Felicia's fund at Reece's Rainbow. Thank you so much for being part of both bringing Elvie home and passing on the gift to someone else!

Rocking Our Socks Off

I have mentioned before that 2011 was the year of the holding pattern, and that I felt that 2012 would be the year of digging in and pressing forward, of hard work to get where we wanted to be. I said that I thought it would be uncomfortable, but that it would rock our socks off. You guys, I had no idea. But somehow, I sensed this, and somehow, remembering that makes all that we are working through so much less stressful. I knew it would be like this, and at that same time I knew that it would all work out just fine.

I think that there are things going on all the time that we can't see, moving us in the direction we are supposed to go. I think that, somehow, the things I need to know to get through this time are being given to me. I think it has to do with all the love that is directed toward Elvie already, and toward us. I think it has to do with my gentle and patient godmother praying for me. I think it has to do with so many things that we neither see nor would truly understand. I am just grateful for the peace, for the encouragement to keep going, that the payoff is just around the corner. 2012 is going to be more work--joyous work, heartbreaking work, even tedious work--but 2013 is going to be our year. I'm going to say it now.

I know that 2012 will see my tiny baby in surgery and in pain. I know that 2012 will have a steep learning curve as we adjust to being a family of four. I know that 2012 will, absolutely and incredibly, rock our socks off.

I heard this song as part of a video on another blog, and there's something about it that makes me feel so good about where we are right now, about how we are building our family and the work it takes to get there.



And anytime someone asks me
How it all unfolded
I'll tell them
Such incredible chances
Make for marvelous love


Such incredible chances indeed. I feel so blessed and lucky every single day.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Little Things for Our Littlest Girl

little things for the littlest girl

There may have been a small paperwork miracle, one which involved me staying up until 2:30am, practically holding hands with my printer, and then found all three of us in the UPS Store having thirty-two official signatures notarized. There may also have been a tiny bit of shopping done this week. We're doing our best to keep a tight rein on spending in light of fees being due and travel coming up, but we wanted to lay aside some special things for her. I think this little stack is just about right.

Most clothing in stores won't work for our sweet girl, so we'll be sending the shirts off to my friend Nicole to be modified to suit our needs. I've been feeling so well loved with so many people getting excited about our baby and offering to help with all the little things that must be done. When I feel sad, I think of how much love there is for this baby, and it makes me feel better. I feel so emotionally raw right now with her so far away, and with so much to do to get her home, but I also know that we will figure out how to get everything together, and we are not doing it alone.

That's what I'm going to remind myself of every day. We are not doing this alone.

Thank you, all of you, for being part of our family story.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Working Hard, Getting It Done, Wearing Pajamas

It turns out that even if you are in the middle of filling out grant applications and doing research for the medical plan your tiny baby will need as soon as she gets home, the laundry must still be done if your family hopes to have clean things to wear or sheets that do not have cat puke on them (thanks a LOT, Eponine). I know! Normal life is not stopping because Elvie is adorable and needs to get home! Well, except the part of normal life in which I do not allow my child to watch Muppet movies every day or play with the Google street view map on the iPhone until her eyeballs fall out. That part has ceased. Zinashi is hoping it's a permanent cessation, but I'm afraid she's going to be disappointed. She will not be disappointed to find that I can change out of my pajamas before 3pm, but I'm pretty sure that she feels that the movie/iPhone tradeoff is a good one. Who cares if your mom looks cute when you can be singing along with Kermit?

I anticipate getting the adoption documents all done within the next three weeks. I just keep picking them up and filling them in and typing, typing, typing. I feel so much better about the level of work to do on this than I did even three days ago, so much better, in fact, that I can actually sleep at night. This is a positive step in the right direction, as accuracy counts in this process, and no one can be accurate with four hours of sleep, no matter how much coffee is injested. Grant applications will also continue to go out until my fingers fall off from typing and filling things in by hand. Medical plans are ongoing, but frankly, until we get Elvie home, we can't do a ton, just get the appropriate doctors informed and be ready.

And then there's the stuff she'll need. A special car seat, a carrycot for our stroller so we can afford her the privacy she needs while getting some fresh air, a changing station that will accommodate all her diapering stuff as well as what we'll need for wound care post surgery. I am trying to work on the practical so I won't start crying every blessed minute. But who can think of their tiny baby and wound care at the same time and not cry? Not me.

I'm afraid that in many respects, this baby will suffer from the same accoutrement neglect that all second children suffer from. At this point, I am considering whether or not we need a crib at all at first. If she is comfortable in the stroller carrycot, isn't it a fine option to put her stroller right next to the bed so that I can rest a hand on her while she sleeps?*

I do plan on making her changing area special for her. It will be small, but it will be all for her. If anyone in the Bay Area is itching for some DIY time, I'd be happy to give you a project. Or five. Call me.

And in the meantime, internet friends, have an excellent weekend.



*We are a cosleeping family, and I would just put her in bed with us from the get go if it weren't for Zinashi the Wildest Sleeper in the West. We'll wait until she's a bit bigger before we have her next to the flailing limbs of her big sister. With her sleeping space right next to the bed, we can get a lot of the benefits of cosleeping without endangering her well-being.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mothering the Big Sister

Do you like how I got to embrace the lull for a whole week? I will look back on that week fondly for years to come. It was really, really nice.

We are in the thick of paperwork again. Of course. It's a lot to conquer between new agency paperwork and adjusting our dossier, plus adding grant paperwork on top of it. Every single day goes by so quickly, and suddenly I look at the clock and it is 3pm or 4pm and I haven't thought to get dressed. My purpose during this time is to work diligently to get everything done for Elvie's adoption as soon as possible, while at the same time not ignoring the needs that are standing right in front of me, all dressed up and ready to go.

little fashionista

Zinashi is terribly excited to be a big sister. She asks me multiple times a day what "our baby" is doing. I let her call the grandmas to tell them about Elvie, and she said, "The BABY on the COMPUTER is OUR BABY. I'm the BIG SISTER." This, as I recall, was accompanied by small jumps for the most important words. But despite her excitement, I also know that this will be a big change for her, and I want to be purposeful about how I go about mothering her both now and after Elvie is home. I want to make sure that her needs aren't caught in the shuffle, and that she knows that regardless of another baby's presence in our house, she can still be my baby, too, for as long as she wants to.

sleeping beauty

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Story of Elvie

It was silly, really, or so I thought. I found out about a baby with a rare special need through a series of blog links, and I thought, "We could handle that need. I'm going to ask about her." It has been our heart's desire all along to be a family to a child who might be harder to place. So I sent an email, and read a little story, and sent another email asking if she needed a family and expressing our willingness to find out more. I thought nothing would come of it. I think I'm still in shock that something did. But we are thrilled, and we are honored, and we are over the moon with joy. While we can't believe that we were chosen to parent this little girl (even though, several times before we found out if we would be her parents, I turned to Jarod and said, "I really feel like they just need to know that we're awesome, and then they'll tell us that of course we should be her family"), we are jumping in with both feet for a little girl who has stolen our hearts.

Elvie was born with a rare and serious birth defect that affects the lower half of her body. There were scans and X-rays done in Ethiopia and evaluated by a surgeon here in the United States, but he was unable to tell much from what was sent. She needs to be here to have the scans done properly before a surgery plan can be made and her prognosis will be more clear. Though the surgery cannot be done until she is six months old, it is imperative that we get her here so that we can begin the process of medical evaluation. We also feel that it is in Elvie's best interest to be able to have some time to bond with us as a family and get comfortable with her new surroundings before she has serious medical procedures done. So we are getting the paperwork done as quickly as possible, and the agency's representatives in Ethiopia are working closely with the Ethiopian courts and the US Embassy in Addis Ababa to streamline the process.

Because this has happened so much more quickly than we anticipated, we are scrambling to come up with adoption fees and travel funds. We are applying for several grants and will then move on to loans. Whatever it takes to get her home is what we will do. Which brings it around to you. If you have considered giving to our Give It Forward program, but were waiting for an opportune moment, now would be an excellent time to do it. We are still committed to paying back all we are given to charities and adding our 10% as interest. The 10% will be matched, so your gift not only will help bring Elvie home to us, but will grow by 20% as we pass it on to organizations that are doing good work around the globe. There's always a Donate button in the upper left corner there, but I'm adding one below as well.






PayPal does take a percentage of what you give as a fee, so if you would prefer to donate by check and ensure that all funds go directly to bringing Elvie home, arrangements can be made for that. Please email us by clicking on the email link on our left sidebar, and we will tell you where to send the check.

One last thing we are looking for help with is finding an airline that can help us get our daughter home in a comfortable and discreet manner. Elvie's birth defect is something that may be a curiosity to some, and we would like to protect her privacy and ensure that she is as comfortable as possible as she makes the journey from her home in Ethiopia to her home in the United States. Any suggestions or research done on our behalf will be welcomed and appreciated.

Please spread the word to anyone you know who may be interested in helping out. We could use as many blog posts and retweets and Facebook mentions and social-media-whatevers as possible. Let's get this little lady home.

The Beautiful Surprise

As it happens, we'll end up using the French form of Evelina, which is Aveline, and means wished-for or longed-for in addition to hazelnut. It will be her middle name, because it flows better to put her Ethiopian given name first. We will call her Elvie, and she will be our daughter.

She will be our daughter.

Yes, you read that right.

We know her name. We've seen her beautiful face. We've felt such joy. Waiting gave way to the most beautiful surprise. Elvie. Eight weeks old today. Tiny and practically perfect in every way.

Please join us in a little impromptu dance party, in honor of our newest daughter, Miss Elvie McBride.



There is more to tell, and I will tell it later today, but for now this is simply about the joy. I hope you're dancing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Upgrading the Momiform, Step Three: Jeans

Oh, jeans. Jeans. Searching for the right pair is the bane of every woman's existence, is it not? The issues are many: shape, sizing differences, price points. I'm sure that $200 jeans are awesome, but my budget for my entire wardrobe wasn't much more than that, and I was convinced that I could find a pair of jeans for a somewhat reasonable price. As with shirts, I was used to paying sale or clearance prices for jeans that could only be considered jeans of a lesser quality. You know what I mean, right? On the first day, they fit really well...for the first hour or two. On the second day, they're pretty baggy, but staying up. On the third day, you don't need to undo the button and zipper to pull them down. I still own a pair like that, but after finding my new favorite jeans, I got rid of the other pairs in that category. The one pair I kept was the best of the worst, and I've not heard of anyone trying to pants a jeans-wearing-mom at the bus stop lately, so I think they're fine to wear for casual days, and they'll be awesome for traveling (good-bye, special travel yoga pants!).

While Jarod's parents were in town, they spent a day hanging out with Zinashi while I ran errands. I needed to go to the mall to get groceries (yeah, I know, but the mall Trader Joe's is truly the best Trader Joe's), and while I could have done more productive things, I decided that the best choice would be to do something that would be either very difficult or downright impossible if Zinashi were along. It was a good day to shop for jeans. Three stores and eleven pairs of jeans later, I finally found a pair that worked.

jeans!

These are Modern Straight Leg jeans from Ann Taylor Loft. I also tried on various cuts at Gap and various cuts and brands at Macy's. Loft was really an afterthought, but I hit the jackpot with the first pair. I only wish that they also came in either black or grey. It's better for my budget that they don't, but finding out that's an option in the fall would be just fine, and I would happily purchase either color (or both if they're available).

jeans!

These jeans are pretty much perfect for me. They follow my silhouette without clinging so much that everyone can see the shape of everything I've got underneath. They're a great color for dressing up or down. Best of all, even though they have some stretch, they are not much looser on day three than on day one, which means that I could buy a size that felt comfortable and looked flattering and know that they'd feel comfortable and look flattering every day. I could probably even get away with wearing them for more than three days (which is my usual) if I did some good spot cleaning and wasn't traveling anywhere particularly grimy, or even if I was. (Ahem.)

I don't think I've ever owned a pair of jeans that fit so well or felt so good. It was definitely worth the time and effort, as well as the expense. With the acquisition of these jeans, my momiform is officially upgraded, and now all I have to do is maintain the new items so they last me for years to come. Hooray!

Monday, April 9, 2012

To Be a Woman: Lesson One

I think a lot about how to keep Zinashi free of the chains that enslave so many of us as women. I want her to regard herself and her body as good and lovely and to see others the same way. It's why I don't bring glossy magazines into our house anymore and why I am putting the kibosh on anyone discussing weight in front of my daughter. I'm starting this series as a way of recording all the things I want to tell my daughters, and your daughters, and you, frankly, if you struggle with such things. They'll be here for safekeeping when the time is right. To start, I'm keeping it somewhat light, though I really am serious about this particular topic.

Lesson One: Let's Stop It With the Ab Talk

Zinashi, no one needs to have six pack abs. No, really. NO ONE. There is no point to six pack abs other than someone's idea of a physical ideal that will eat up your time and then your feeling of self-worth if you don't attain it. A strong core is worth pursuing, as a matter of health and strength for other endeavors, but you can have that without visible abdominal muscles. If you happen to get six pack abs as a result of pursuing something that gives you joy, then great. I want you to do things that bring you joy. Just don't ever confuse having six pack abs with having joy. It's not the same thing. If you find that having six pack abs gives you joy, then we need to sit down and discuss where I went wrong as your mother. I'll pay for the joint therapy sessions. You're welcome.

Love,
Mami

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Choose Who Gets Our Give It Forward Payment for April

I'm sorry, did I just type the word "April"? Because I'm pretty sure it should still be March. And yet, here we are. And some of you are celebrating Easter today. Happy Easter, celebrators! We are celebrating next week, which has confused Zinashi a little bit, but I just explained that there are two different days to celebrate, and this way the Easter Rabbit has less delivering and egg hiding to do on just one night. The real story, of course, has to do with a calendar difference; in Ethiopia, they celebrate Easter next week, too, so we'll be right on time for our Ethiopian American family.

ANYWAY. I came here to give you some options for who gets our Give It Forward payment this month. I've got three good ones for you. You are going to have a hard time deciding, and I'm really sorry about that. Better you than me, I say!

The Tesfa Foundation has a goal of building five schools in three years. When we asked Zinashi's family what their hopes for her were, they told us just one thing, which is that they wanted her to have a college education. Much of Zinashi's family in Ethiopia has never had the opportunity to learn to read or write. Giving to the Kambata Tesfanesh school project will serve the educational needs families just like Zinashi's, opening new doors of opportunity for people who never had it before. Education can change everything, and I know that Zinashi's family was not the only family in her region that dreamed of a place for their children to learn.

I am increasingly impressed with the work The International Rescue Committee is doing, as well as with how much of their budget is used for projects--92%! They've clearly managed their resources well and made a difference in the lives of many people around the globe. Currently they are responding to a drought and displacement crisis in Chad and Mali.

Reece's Rainbow advocates for children with special needs by promoting their adoptions through photolistings and the opportunity to give directly towards an adoption grant for each child. One of the children they advocate for, Felicia, is in danger of being transferred to an institution, and she has far too little in her grant fund. I don't know about you, but I think she is absolutely adorable, and I'd love to be part of the solution of finding a family for her.

Now it's time to choose. Vote early, vote often, and tell your friends to vote, too.

feedback surveys

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Song for Your Saturday

I have been listening to this song a lot lately. I wouldn't call it my theme song, but it's part of my current life soundtrack for sure, particularly when I'm doing the dishes. Something about the dishes lately has me feeling contemplative and sorrowful. What is it about sinking my arms into hot, soapy water that makes all the melancholy rise to the surface? I don't know. But I sure do love this song.



This time of our lives is traumaversary time for Zinashi. Some of you speak the language that includes that word, and you are walking through it, too. I am so grateful to all of you who are my community in this way, for simply making it clear that I am not alone.

Two years ago today, Zinashi was brought into care at an orphanage. They assigned her birthday as the day before her relinquishment. Her little heart remembers this day and knows it is an anniversary of something unspeakably difficult, even if her brain cannot comprehend it. So it's a confusing time for her, to say the least. Her emotions bubble to the surface in what would be normal moments. Little things become big, huge deals. She experiences anger and hurt and sadness for reasons that have little to do with whatever has upset her on the surface. I see my role in these times as a sponge for her unnamed grief. I pull her into my lap, and I soak it up, because I can handle it, because I want to take it from her and help her find peace.

So maybe, yeah, that's why I'm tearing up while I listen to this song and do the dishes. I've got to let it out, too.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Someone's (Supposedly) FIVE!

I'm sorry, but I didn't authorize a fifth birthday for my little girl. I didn't sign any papers or give consent in any way. And yet, here we are, five years from the date on her birth certificate. How did this happen?

the birthday girl in her birthday outfit

She is so excited to be FIVE. She hasn't said it yet in a way that doesn't require all caps. She woke up this morning and asked, "Am I FIVE today?" Um, I guess so.

the birthday girl, pure goofiness

HOORAY!

Happy Birthday, Zinashi! We love you lots and lots and lots.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What's Working: Embracing the Lull

Claudia has done it again, challenging us to write about something. I love this because it allows me to explore what other people are doing and thinking and feeling on certain topics. This time she's asked us to tell us what's working in our lives. I am more than happy to oblige, and to encourage you to follow the link to her post and read everyone's contributions.

We've been busy for what seems like forever. Frantically busy. And though I've tried to slow it down, we're really just now getting to a place where everything that needs to be done is done. We moved. Got some new furniture and arranged the old. Came up with myriad DIY projects to make our space both workable and special. I've got one stepstool to stain and a couple of projects involving a drill to assign to Jarod, and that's it. We're here, we're in, we're settled. We've gone through a home study and subsequent paper chasing, notarization, and state certification of documents for our next adoption. We even got Zinashi's first dental exam taken care of and have found a pediatrician, so those things are squared away. We really don't have anything pressing to do. And that, quite frankly, feels awesome.

I think it is our tendency in the developed world to feel that if we are not doing something all the time, there must be something wrong. If we've got extra time on our hands, we fill it. But I realized something as I finished up the adoption paperwork we need to do for now and rounded out this season of our lives with Zinashi's birthday party: I don't want to fill up the extra time. I want to use it to rest. To rejuvenate. To store up energy for the next thing. We have some possibilities on the horizon that could send us into busy mode quickly, and whether those possibilities work out or not, there will at some point be big changes again. Whether we've got a couple of weeks without anything pressing in on us or a couple of years, I want to know that I used this time, right now, to allow for some rest and some peace.

So what's working for us now is lazy mornings and pajamas on past noon some days. What's working is evaluating what's in the pantry and figuring out if we can avoid going to the store in order to have an entire day to just kick back at home. What's working is allowing Zinashi plenty of time for imaginative play with her own toys, in her own room. What's working is having the time to stop and read with Zinashi because I don't have anything time sensitive to take care of. What's working is building our bond as a family and enjoying one another without feeling rushed or stressed. What's working is getting plenty of sleep. What's working is allowing our lives to just be.

Things will change soon enough, and we will rush back into the fast lane with joy, for the things we hope are coming are good things indeed. But for now, my pajamas are still on, and my daughter is throwing a balloon up into the air over and over again. And I am loving it.

balloon!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Our New Space: Zinashi's Room

When I posted way back in January about showing off our new home, I gave the impression that I'd post about Zinashi's room soon, and then it never happened because life happened and losing the cord to transfer photos to the computer happened, and then pretty soon it was more than two months later. That is what our life has been like since we found out that we'd be moving, just a series of weeks whooshing by at breakneck speed. So while it's been awhile, it actually feels like soon to me. We're entering what appears to at least be a brief lull, with the house settled and very few DIY projects left to finish. I've been enjoying our new space so much, and I'm more than ready to show it off, no matter how long it takes between posts. Life does like to throw us some surprises sometimes, so while I don't want you to hold your breath between posts, I do want to assure you that I am more than ready to show off our space to you. For now, I've got a few photos and a few things to say about Zinashi's room.

Many of you may remember her beautiful room in our house in Kansas City. We worked hard on it and had a ton of fun with it, and we were blessed immeasurably by so many gifts that went into her space. I still love that room, even though it is no more. But I love this new room, too. You'll see a number of things in this room that occupied space in her old room; we wanted to keep many things the same while adjusting to a different layout and increased need for toy storage.

zinashi's new room

The bed is the same bed that we had in Kansas City, lovingly made by Jarod and his parents while I ran errands like a chicken with its head cut off. In fact, everything that is on and above the bed are the same, but this time we connected the flower string from the bird art to the hands of the little hedgehog, as if they are holding it together. The little hedgehog was once in a curio cabinet in the home of one of the great-grandmothers I was named after (there were two great-grandmothers named Mary); I saw it there and she allowed me to take it home, along with a little set of wooden pig salt and pepper shakers. This was in Zinashi's room before, but I'm excited about its new function. The other art you see and the bed accoutrements are the same ones from before. I get particularly excited that I'll be making new USA and Africa pillows for our next daughter, with the heart on the USA in a new location. Zinashi has also already asked if she may choose a doll just like hers for her future sister. Naturally, I said yes.

zinashi's new room

Next to her bed and nightstand are two nice, new shelves from IKEA. I'd originally thought we'd go with some white ones that have a drawer at the bottom, but I love the shape of these, and the slightly larger size works better for toy storage. My goal was to get most of Zinashi's toys into her room and get them organized in such a way that she could clean up for herself and reach most of the things she likes best on her own. We've mostly succeeded on both counts, though a few things simply wouldn't fit on the shelves I wanted to place them on, and we ended up keeping more toys than I thought we would due to developmental task work we're doing and looking ahead to what we want to keep around for our next baby. We had a few toys end up in the office space, but it's way less than ended up throughout our house in Kansas City, so I'll take it without complaining.

One thing I was super excited about with this room was that the white walls, which we are not allowed to paint, opened up a lot of possibilities for adding color in other ways. I have loved the IKEA fabric line called ANNAMOA for some time, and Zinashi agreed that the fox pattern was a good one for her room. I used a full day with my iron and a whole roll of fusible tape to make those curtains, and it was absolutely worth it. I can sew, but borrowing a sewing machine seemed silly when I could accomplish my task with what I already had on hand. Making the curtains and seeing them in the space was one of my favorite parts of putting together the room.

We originally chose that gigantic dresser because we needed to store all of Zinashi's clothes inside; old houses don't have generous closet space, and I was already using the closet in her room for my own clothes. The same is true of this house, but the bonus now is that we also needed to make the sliding glass door inaccessible to little wanderers. The dresser fits perfectly in front of the door, and is too heavy for anyone small to get ideas about moving it and sneaking out to the balcony during naptime. There is also a sliding glass door in the master bedroom, so there was never an option to put Zinashi in a room without outdoor access. This provided an excellent solution for what could be a tricky safety issue.

zinashi's new room

Finally, we've got a glimpse of the space where Baby Barbecue's crib will reside once the time is right. What, you can't see it? I know. There's a play kitchen, a shopping cart, and a rocking horse in the way. A crib will fit there, but our plan in the beginning is actually to put the baby's crib in the master bedroom. It makes a lot more sense to us to have the baby nearby at night, particularly since Zinashi ends up spending the balance of the night in our bed anyway. We want everyone to feel cozy and safe, and there is no reason for the newest little McBride to sleep in a room alone. The bonus is also that we'll also be able to put the baby down for a nap in a separate room if Zinashi is playing in her bedroom or having her own rest/nap time. The play space and toys in there will be for both girls, but it might be quite some time before both girls actually sleep in there. What I love about this space is the possibility for making it just what we need it to be as our needs change. In my dreams, we someday will have space for a separate play/craft/office/laundry folding space that will hold a lot of the toys, but for now this room is just right for what we need. Most importantly, Zinashi loves it and enjoys playing there for hours on end. Perfect.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Tale of Dental Triumph

I took Zinashi for her ever first dentist appointment today. For those of you who are wondering why we'd wait eighteen months into our life together to make a dental appointment, I'd like to offer the following information. When we visited the international adoption clinic upon arrival in Kansas City, the only thing Zinashi would not voluntarily allow the doctor to do was look inside her mouth. He laid her down and gently held her mouth open, then confirmed what he suspected given her birth culture and her level of protest. At some point in her young life, Zinashi had a uvulectomy done. Go ahead and click on the link. I'll wait.

Do you understand now why we'd bide our time and wait until she was merely nervous about what would happen as opposed to terrified of opening her mouth? And why I was a little nervous myself as we rode to the dentist's office?

Well, I needn't have worried. First, they wowed Zinashi with their collection of noisy toys in the waiting room.

noisy toys in the waiting room were a hit
"Mami, why don't any of my toys make noise like this microphone?" Sweetie, it's because I choose not to suffer unless we are in your dentist's office.

Then they took her back and started to explain what was going to happen. She was still a little nervous.

feeling a little nervous
Note Viva the pink dog; Zinashi would like you to know that Viva is a boy. He came along for moral support. What a guy!

Then they started breaking out all the dental tools and letting her play with them.

trying out the toothbrush

By the time it was X-ray time, she was doing okay, and just needed to hold Viva's paw for support.

xray time - holding viva the dog's paw for support

Just before the cleaning, they gave her some loaner sunglasses so the exam light wouldn't be too bright for her eyes.

bespectacled and ready for her cleaning
That's it--I'm calling my dentist's office to complain about their level of service. They've already revealed that Zinashi will get to have chocolate toothpaste, and now she gets cool shades as well? NO FAIR.

After that, it was all good. Mouth open wide, quickest cleaning ever, and she was done.

mid-cleaning, doing fine

She left with a yellow balloon, a bouncy ball, the usual toothpaste/toothbrush/floss, and a lot of compliments. We'll go back in six months, and I'm pretty sure she'll be excited to go next time. What a relief. I'm so proud of my good, brave girl.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Good Time

a girl and her balloons

We had a little birthday party for Zinashi tonight. I kept it simple except for the cake, which I made myself and ended up baking twice (which is another story for another time). We ordered helium balloons in a variety of colors from Safeway and bought snacks and sparkling lemon and limeade from Trader Joe's. I had pizza delivered. Cut up some fruit and candied some pecans to throw into a bowl with some bagged salad. Everyone who was here we have known for years. We are so lucky to have so many friends that we knew in our old city here in this city with us, and to have good friends visiting so close to Zinashi's birthday. Zinashi was surrounded by people who love her, who have cheered us on as we became a family and sank into life together. We have been given so much grace in this new chapter of our lives, and it all came home to me tonight, seeing everyone in our house, hearing the thunder of little feet running from one room to the next. It was good. Thank you, friends. You are so dear to us, and your presence made our house feel warm and our daughter feel special tonight.
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