Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Two Things


baby raccoon

1.  I bought this hat years ago on clearance at Gymboree to add to my baby gift stash, and I could never bring myself to give it away.  I'm so glad I kept it.  This is the cutest baby raccoon I have ever seen.

2.  Speaking of Gymboree, whose idea was it to make a shirt full of choking hazards that would be within easy reach of an infant's mouth?  Come on, guys. You can't expect sleep-deprived mothers to notice these things when we are shopping for our babies.  We all just go, "BUTTONS!!! IN A HEART SHAPE!!! CUTE OMG YESSSSS CLEARANCE $4.99 PLUS AN ADDITIONAL FORTY PERCENT OFF!!!!!"  Or maybe that was just me, and that's why this shirt was still on clearance at such a great price.

(For the record, the buttons are all stitched on pretty securely, and so far Elvie has only chewed on one or two of them before I noticed.)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Good Thing She's Funny


that's my girl!

There was a little girl
Who had a lot of curls
Standing up straight from her forehead
And when she made good choices
She made very, very good choices
And when she made bad choices
She made the ones that would drive her mother nuts the quickest

How Did It Get To Be Midnight?

This weekend has been full.  I have been busy every single moment, trying to put things right in the house and complete some additional unexpected tasks.  Jarod has been busy, too, and there's actual photographic evidence of his accomplishments.

taking out the braids
It became clear halfway through the day that my hands would not be available to take out Zinashi's  braids, so he offered to do it, and I'm not a stupid woman; I said YES PLEASE DO IT.


cat in a crib

He put together the new cat bed crib, at my request. Not that this means that Elvie won't sleep in the stroller next to the bed each night, but at least there's a fancy space for napping.


I hoped to have the house mostly organized so that the week would run smoothly; I'd say it's 50% of the way there, and I'll take it.  Because ultimately, I've got a happy baby and a hilarious five-year-old on my hands, and that will satisfy me enough to soothe the disappointment of not getting all the hospital bags completely unpacked.

happy cheeky baby
I mean, really.  Who can be disappointed about anything while looking at this face?


zinashi, being herself

I'll go ahead and count the general hilarity of this situation as a personal success.


Monday is coming,  Time to get ready.  (By which I mean: time to sleep.)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Settling In

Elvie is settling into her new home nicely.  She's a pretty portable baby, mostly because that's all she's ever known.  While we'd like to give her a bit more stability in everything, including sleeping arrangements, it sure is nice that we can just tote her around the house with us.  I am still too nervous to leave her sleeping in another room for long without any of us observing the rise and fall of her chest.  Besides, who wouldn't want to look at this all the time?

portable baby sleeps in the kitchen

Zinashi is back to her old routine, leaving her pajamas on until the afternoon and putting all sorts of toys in bags, then telling us she is going on a trip.  She was kind enough to pack a bag for Elvie as well today, full of whatever toys Elvie might need for the imaginary journey.  I'm not sure how far you can get with a stuffed duck and a few rattles when you're still formula and diaper dependent, but it's a good start.

nikki the grownup, who lives in london

I love being home.  It feels like it was a very long time coming, like weren't ever really here between the day we left for Ethiopia and now.  There is a lot to catch up on.  So far I have caught up on bills and removing rotting food from the refrigerator; both seemed to be pretty pressing.  I also hope to change the cat litter before the weekend is through.  As you can see, my life has taken a turn for the exciting now that all four of us are at home.  I do hope you'll stick around for the next thrilling chapter, which may or may not include recommendations for avoiding lines at the grocery.  It will undoubtedly include baby pictures, and I know you'll be back for those.

Happy Weekend, fine internet friends.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Home At Last

the examination

Did you know there are disposable stethoscopes?  That they just let you take with you from your hospital room when you leave?  I didn't, and was kind of embarrassed to ask if we could take this one.  But I knew Zinashi would love it, so I asked, and our kind nurse even wiped it down for us so it would be clean when we handed it over to our budding young physician.  We also absconded with medicine syringes (tiny and giant), extra formula, diapers, and most importantly, this really cute baby.  Zinashi checked her out and says she's a good one, so we're going to keep her.

All joking aside, we are so pleased to be home.  We are settling in.  We are putting things away.  We are wearing our pajamas and hanging out, looking at the baby.

We are so very happy.

Thanks and love to all of you who have been following our trek to get this baby home.  Your support and care has meant to the world to us, and to Elvie.  This would have been way harder without you.  Thanks for being the best cheering section a family could ask for.  You're the best.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Zinashi's Turn


the big sis

Yesterday at rounds, one of the doctors mentioned testing Elvie's urine to make sure that the bacteria is all gone before we go home, and made some comments about wanting to be careful and keep her here if necessary as opposed to sending her home if she's not 100% ready.  It sounded okay at the time, but I got more and more irritated about it as the day went on.  I thought about how challenging it has been to make life work while we're here, how Elvie doesn't have any semblance of a normal schedule, and how she doesn't even know what home is yet.  I thought about how tired I am, and I just wanted to go home.  But something kept eating away at me, telling me that what I was feeling wasn't about any of that.  It wasn't until I was on the train on the way home to shower that I realized that I was feeling incredibly sad, and then it took another few stops to figure out that I wasn't sad for my own exhausted situation or for Elvie's challenges; I was deeply sad for Zinashi.

Two years ago, Zinashi lost absolutely everything that was dear to her and came to a brand new country.  Not only that, but someone she loved was the one to set that all in motion.  Even though it was to preserve her life that her family gave her up, they still gave her up, and that had to be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for her to understand at three years old, or even now at five years old.  It makes sense that she has a deep seated fear of abandonment, and it makes sense to me that there will probably be triggers that make that old wound ache for the rest of her life.

Knowing this, for all of Zinashi's life with us, we have been purposeful about keeping her close.  My goal has never been to make it as if what happened didn't happen, but rather to work with her in helping her find a sense of acceptance and peace about what has occurred in her life. Being there for her every day is one way that we give her peace.  She knows that we won't leave her because we aren't leaving her.  And while she has come far in being able to spend time with others without negative repercussions, she still has limits.  I think that, nearly three weeks home from Ethiopia without her usual routine of Mami at home daily, Ababi home on the weekends, she has reached that limit.  I simply can't be away from home any longer, for Zinashi's sake.

We have no interest in jeopardizing Elvie's health for Zinashi's sake, but we do believe that we need to assess risk, and my hunch is that risks to Zinashi's emotional health are higher than risks to Elvie's physical health.  I have made it clear that we want the doctors to do everything possible to send us home tomorrow, whatever that might mean.  My hope is that everything will be clear, and my worries will be for naught.  But if that's not the case, we've got a clear vision for what needs to happen, and renewed resolve to make sure that it does.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pretty Sure We're Going to Make It

The truth is that being in the hospital with Elvie isn't that bad.  I wrote a little bit on Babble yesterday about being ready to go home, and that's true.  It's also true that it's no picnic, being here for so long, trying to manage life here and at home, and really missing keeping up with all the home stuff.  At the same time, it could be way worse, and I know that.  I think I just reached a point of being done, but before we are actually done.

Back when I was carefree and single (meaning: had lots of time and didn't have anyone to connect with over dinner every night), I used to run quite a lot, and the one race I ran without fail was the Pikes Peak Marathon.  Training for that is an experience like no other, so difficult, but fascinating as I watched my body change to accommodate what I was asking it to do.  By the time I got to race day, I was ready to do it.  But each year, there was a point in the race that I felt like I just wanted to sit down on the side of the trail and not finish.  I'd made it to the top and two thirds of the way down, and runners had started to thin out depending on speed and trail running ability.  It was the same stretch of trail that got me every time.  And every time, I kept going, and eventually there was some nice person who ran with me a little of the way and then let me finish on my own.  When I was in the part that made me feel like quitting, I knew that the only two options were just keep going or mountain rescue, and mountain rescue was never truly an option.  I had to just keep going.  That's pretty much where I am now with hospital life.  I know I have to do it.  I know I'm going to make it.  I know that I can't actually sit down on the side of the trail and quit.  So I'm just walking through this feeling and changing lots of parasite diapers* and drinking way more coffee than is probably wise.

The upside is, of course, that I have time now to just sit with this little treasure, and in the quiet of the day, I am still amazed that we have a baby.  I have so much more to write about that, which I will save for a time when my baby and her parasite diaper aren't about to wake up and need tending to.  For now, here's a shot of her sweet face.  I'm pretty sure most of you believe me by now, but I think it bears repeating one more time: we have the very best baby.  Ever.  In the history of babies.  Parasite diapers and all.

happy morning

*Fellow Ethiopia adoptive families smell what I'm stepping in (er, wiping off a butt) here.  The rest of you can just be grateful for your normal baby poop good fortune.  Or for not raising a baby and dealing with poop at all, whatever the case may be for you.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Our Happy Baby

Elvie is pretty popular here at the hospital.  It's not hard to see why.

happy elvie 1

happy elvie 2

happy elvie 3

happy elvie 4

happy elvie 5

What a little ham.  We totally have the best baby.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Zinashi the Great

There is so much I could say about Zinashi, and I never feel like I can say it right.  There have been so many big things happening in her little life lately, and yet she has handled all of them with aplomb, or as much aplomb as a five-year-old who is sometimes overtired can possibly muster.

zinashi the grownup

In Ethiopia, she became a big sister, and less than a week later, she reconnected with the family who loved her first, who loves her still.  I won't give the details of her reactions or how exactly it went, but I will say that I am so humbled to be her mother.  She walked away stronger from something that I was afraid might make her more confused.  I knew in my gut that it needed to happen, but that didn't mean that I wasn't scared that it would introduce a new level of uncertainty into her life.  And yet, it seems to have done the opposite.

breakfast with zinashi

She was so happy to get home, and I know that it has been hard for her to have both Jarod and me gone during the day, and always one of us at the hospital instead of with her.  This weekend has been good for both of us, and I feel like my time at home has given Zinashi enough of her normal life to get her through.  I suppose you could say the same of me; I have needed the normal, too, and I have needed to reconnect with Zinashi in a way that is not rushed.

pretty funny girl

She is such a delight, even when she is struggling through something, and I miss her every day that I am away.  She deserves more than just bathtime and bedtime with me, and she has been so understanding of why that's all there is so much of the time.

storytime with zinashi

Zinashi loves being a big sister, and I am so grateful that she is old enough to understand what is happening and wants to help her little sister.  She loves to tell Elvie stories and would be thrilled if I let her take over bottle and diaper duty.  Before we met Elvie, she was hot and cold on the idea of being the big sister, but now she is proud.

babysitting

Nearly two years after landing in our arms, Zinashi continues to surprise and delight me.  I really couldn't ask for more.  I look at both my daughters and think, "We hit the jackpot."  I can't imagine a better life, and I can't wait to live it all together at home.

Good Things Are Happening

I am up way later than I intended to be, but I want to tell you something important, for which I will take partial credit.  Actually, I want to show you. LOOK:

no more ng tube!

That is the face of a baby that is no longer using an NG tube.  Now, the only extra piece of equipment attached to her body is the IV that is used for administering her antibiotic.  Just look at that beautiful face, unobstructed by a taped-down orange tube!

Honestly, I couldn't be more pleased.  With Elvie for so willingly eating every time I stuck a bottle in her mouth, with our medical team for clearing things up enough that she could feel well enough to eat, with Jarod for going along with my plan, and with all of you for pulling for us.  When I found out that we would be in the hospital longer than I hoped, I decided that if we had extra time, then we would use it to find out of we could live without the NG tube.  I knew that we were exceeding our formula goal each day, and I was convinced that we could continue to do it when feeding her only by mouth.  So I stopped pushing formula through the NG and started offering the bottle more often.  I announced to our nurses that I wanted to try to get everything into Elvie's mouth instead of the NG, and asked if we could start transitioning medications from NG to mouth as well.  This morning, after successfully taking her multivitamin by mouth, Elvie was given the all clear for having the tube removed.

This makes me so happy I could sing.

Go, little Elvie girl, go.

PS:  I have words to say about Zinashi, who I had the pleasure of spending the day with, but I am going to write a whole lot more about her when I've got one more full night of sleep under my belt.  She's a good egg, that Zinashi McBride.  But you probably know that already.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Our Remarkable Girl


elvie from the side

It turns out that Elvie is an exceptionally good baby.  She has preferences, but she's not persnickety, at least not when she is feeling well.  She will let us know if something hurts, but otherwise she's a pretty happy camper most of the time.  She likes to smile at everyone and thinks the noises I can make with my mouth are funny.  I made her laugh once by bouncing her higher than usual, but I haven't been able to do it since.  It will come.  She's just finding her voice.

We will be here at the hospital until the 27th.  We'd hoped to go home sooner, but Elvie had a UTI for a very long time, and the bacteria that caused it are not easy ones to treat.  There was talk of switching her from IV antibiotics to an oral one, but it was only fully effective for three of the bacteria, and somewhat effective for the fourth.  She had an MRI to determine how her urological organs were functioning and where everything was placed (which was unclear due to her birth defect), and there are some concerns about being able to clear the infection with the lesser antibiotic given her particular anatomy.  To be on the safe side, the medical team decided to keep her on IV antibiotics.

That's where the complications come in that keep her in the hospital.  She's so tiny, and her veins are so bent from the malnourishment, that PICC line placement has failed, so an IV is the only way to administer the medication.  IVs only last two to five days, so we can't go home and just have home health care come to administer the medication.  She needs to be here to have her IV lines monitored and replaced.

I'll admit that I was terribly disappointed to learn that she'd have to stay that long.  While we have worked out a schedule that works for us, it is not sustainable for the long term, and one more week seems pretty long term at this sleepless point.  To make it work, Jarod is going to take some extra time here with Elvie this weekend so that I can both get a break and spend some more time with Zinashi.  That will give me the energy--both mental and physical--to make it through the last week.

People keep saying how amazing we are, and I appreciate the compliments, but I want to take a moment to say that we really are just regular people who are doing what we have to do for our children.  I know that not everyone would enter into a situation like we've entered into with Elvie in regards to her birth defect, but this part, the immediate hospitalization part, was not part of what we anticipated at all.  The reports we got from Ethiopia indicated slow growth but said she was otherwise healthy.  To be honest, we were shocked to find out how sick and frail she was.  But just like other parents whose children are faced with unexpected challenges, we are rising to the challenge and doing everything we can to make sure she gets better.  It's just what we do as parents, and I don't think there's anything about us that makes us extraordinary in that regard.  We're just doing this because Elvie needs it, and we love her so very much.

And finally, I must give credit to Elvie.  I know this may sound dramatic, but in talking to the medical staff here, it turns out it wasn't just my overprotective mothering kicking in when I saw those ribs the first night and was terrified.  She very well could have died before we got to Ethiopia.  Bottom line.  But I believe that what kept her going is that she wants to live.  She wants to thrive.  She hung in there until we could get to her, and for that reason alone (though there are so many more), she is remarkable.

We are so very, very blessed and lucky to have this baby in our lives.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More to Read!

Friends, I have been neglecting to tell you something, or forgetting, rather, as my up-all-night mother brain has holes like swiss cheese.  We have a Finding Magnolia Facebook page!  I've been using it to post quick updates from the hospital, so if you want the latest and haven't found us there yet, please head over.

lick!
Content so good you'll want to lick it!

I have also continued to write for Babble's Being Pregnant blog during our trip and now during our hospital stay.  While we were traveling, I posted about things that were related both to travel and coming home. If you fellow adoptive parents have things to add that worked for you, please leave comments over at Babble--I'd love to add other voices to the conversation, as different families can have profoundly different experiences.

Packing for Adoption Travel
Five Books to Read Before You Bring Your Adopted Child Home
Top Online Resources for Adoptive Parenting
Adoptive Parenting: How It's Different and Why
Helping Your Newly Adopted Child Process Grief
Promoting Attachment in Adoption
Cocooning for Adoptive Families
Preparing for Adoption Homecoming
The Last Leg of the Adoption Journey: Managing the Flight Home

I also introduced Elvie with a slideshow of photos and wrote about the moment I truly felt like her mother.

Introducing Elvie
Becoming Elvie's Mother

While here at the hospital, I've written about our experiences here and how we're managing our lives with Elvie in the hospital and Zinashi at home.

Elvie's Unexpected Hospital Stay
Managing Our Lives During Elvie's Hospital Stay
Being Prepared for Common Health Problems in Adoption
Feeling Grateful
Finding a Rhythm For Our Hospital Days

As always, thanks for reading here and elsewhere.  It's a pleasure to share our lives with you.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

We Keep Going

Jarod's mom arrived Thursday night, making our lives much less complicated, and our house 1000 times cleaner. Friends have been helping us with Zinashi, but it is such a relief to have someone who can take charge of her care all of the time. There is a lot less juggling of schedules, though still some.

sisters!

We have trouble getting time together as a family unit, but we are managing. The weekend allowed for some meals together at the hospital, which isn't ideal, but it's what we've got, and we won't complain.

little miss serious

Zinashi is curious about everything going on with Elvie, so we talk about all of Elvie's special accessories and what they do and why. For one visit, Zinashi happened to get to the hospital just in time for NG tube placement. That was pretty exciting stuff, and Zinashi was very serious about seeing what went on. Now on the list for home school science: how a tube that goes in through your nose can make it all the way to your stomach.

sticking her tongue out

The doctors identified a parasite and then lab cultures showed that Elvie's UTI was the result of not one, but four (FOUR!) bacteria, two of which are resistant strains. Once she was on the appropriate medicine for both parasite and bacteria, it took about twelve hours for her to start to perk up. She woke up Saturday morning (at 4am, which was not the joy of my existence), ready to make life happen. She now sticks out her tongue when I stick out mine, moves a ton more overall, and seems to figure out something new every day, like how a bit of light hyperventilating will get her what she wants pretty fast since it also makes her respiration monitor go off.  Little dickens.

face wipes as a fave toy

She is also interested in playing a lot more. Saturday morning, she spied the diaper package and spent a good ten to fifteen minutes grabbing at it and feeling all its sides and corners and insides.  Later, on my lap, I handed her my face wipes package, and it was like I gave her a pony.  I am now on the hunt for baby toys that are not ugly, but make a nice crinkly sound.  Someday she'll be strong enough to pull the plastic packages towards her, and she's come too far to be allowed to nosh on some chokables.

goofity goof

For me the hardest part of the hospital stay is that I don't get to see nearly enough of my Zinashi.  The second hardest part has been the sleep deprivation.  Last night, Jarod took night duty and stayed with Elvie for most of today as well so that I could both hang out with Zinashi and get some sleep.  Zinashi and I watched a movie together last night, and I slept a solid eleven hours shortly thereafter.  We woke up in time to go to our favorite neighborhood bakery for beignets.  Then the rest of today I did things like change the cat litter and do laundry and put soup ingredients in the crock pot.  It was with a little ache in my heart that I headed back to the N to swap places with Jarod at the hospital.  I know that this is the best place for Elvie right now, and that the staff here is working super hard to get her well enough to go home, but it's still tough to have my babies in two places, and my life in limbo.  I miss each girl when I am not with her, and I miss being the caretaker of my little family and our little house, even if I do a really poor job of cleaning the place much of the time.  I'm just looking forward to the day that all of us get to be at home.

But for now, I am here at the hospital, perfecting the art of putting together lounge-y outfits that go from sleep in the cribside chair bed to ready for the day's meetings with medical staff in moments.  By the time I'm done here, I'll have a full arsenal of ensembles that will allow me to sleep in my clothes, therefore avoiding the act of getting dressed in the morning.  I'll just go ahead and revel in the glory of that possibility.

As always, thank you for being here.  We feel your love, and it makes our days better.  I have no doubt that all your prayers, thoughts, and well wishes make a difference for Elvie and for our little family as a whole.  You guys are the best.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

While Elvie Sleeps, An Update


beatific elvie
Elvie looking beatific, and like she needs a manicure.


This morning the doctor who was working with Elvie last night brought me a mocha, bless her forever. We are getting special around here.  Elvie has tests and tests and more tests to go through.  They can only take 3 mL of blood each day because she is so tiny, so it will take awhile to get through everything.  They've been trying to put in a picc line, and after four tries, they still haven't gotten it in.  Malnourishment isn't kind to veins.  Considering everything, Elvie is doing well.  When there's no medical staff in the room, she'll give us her signature smiles, but forget about it if she's being poked or prodded or looked at too intensely.

We are committed to doing as much attachment work as possible while we are here.  Nurses keep offering to take over feeding or diapering so I can get solid sleep, and I say no.  It's the one thing we can do for her while so many faces are floating through her field of vision.  I won't give it up, no matter how hard it is at 2:30am when she won't be soothed easily, and I am having trouble keeping my eyes open.  She needs to know that Jarod, Zinashi, and I are her constants.

We have had so much help, and so many offers for help, and we are incredibly grateful for all of it.  Some of you have emailed me, and I am slowly getting back to everyone.  Because we do need the help, and we will accept it, even though my tendency is to want to do as much as possible myself.  Thank you all for gathering around to support us at this time.

I do want to make a small note about Give It Forward.  Obviously I have not posted choices for this month's payment; I simply haven't had the time. At this point, I think what makes the most sense given our time and mental energy constraints is if we just make a $440 payment next month.  I would love it if some of you would suggest charities that are near and dear to your hearts, particularly ones who help children and families.  We have been given so much for our Elvie, and we are committed to continuing to give back to others.

Elvie is awake now, with a special present she made herself in her diaper for me, so it's time to get back to mothering, hospital style.  Hug each other for me; you all deserves big hugs for being awesome.  Keep it up, and spread that love around.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

We Are Here


elvie and her ng tube

We checked Elvie into the nearby children's hospital this morning, and she will likely stay a week or more. It's been a long day.  We are managing, but it's not easy.  Our friends are rallying around us, though, and helping us with whatever we need.  Jarod's mom will be out Thursday night to take charge of Zinashi.  While Elvie is in the hospital, one of us will be with her at all times.  We're going to make this work, and she is going to get better.  We're already making progress.  I'll keep you posted, right here, from this cribside chair that turns into a bed.

We're going to make it, and then life is going to be really, really good.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Road Ahead


elvie asleep

I was all set to post something about cocooning.  I even started writing it last night, but kept nodding off while typing.  I guess it doesn't matter so much now.  We still intend to cocoon as much as possible, by which I mean keep people out of our house for a certain period of time and keep the baby in to help her adjust and attach to us, but now there's just not time to do it the way we intended to.  I hoped that we could keep her stable health and nutritionwise for a couple of weeks, but our international adoption doctor has advised that we not wait on anything.  She needs medical care for myriad issues, and she needs it as soon as we can get it.  So much for keeping her in the house for two full weeks and keeping everyone else out.  At least our international adoption specialist makes house calls.

So that's where we are.  I'm trying to function with jet lag and being up with the baby every night, as Jarod had to go back to work today, and while I can stumble around in a caffeinated fog, he cannot.  I want Elvie to be healthy.  I want to stop seeing her ribs every time I change her shirt.  I want her to eat a full bottle and grow and grow and grow.  So we'll be working on that.  We'll be working on that really hard.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Home, Happy, Utterly Exhausted

We brought this little bundle home this afternoon.  It was a long trip after a very busy two weeks in Addis Ababa, and we are so grateful to be done with everything.

little bundle of joy

Thank you so much for being with us as we added our darling Elvie to our family.  There will be more details and stories to come once my brain cells sort themselves out.  For now, it's time for bed.  Sleep will feel even more sweet than usual tonight.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Big Stuff


Elvie is slowly gaining weight, and Zinashi is teaching her to write her name.  This is very interesting, as Zinashi still cannot write her own first name in its entirety, but we are not discouraging academics, even at this early age.  The doctor we saw on Saturday said that she doesn't appear to be lagging cognitively, so Zinashi will press on!

The doctor we saw on Saturday was one our international adoption doctor recommended, and after getting very little good information from the two doctors we saw through the agency, we decided to take her in for an independent evaluation.  This was incredibly helpful, and this doctor was the first one to outright say that she could tell that Elvie is malnourished.  Children born with special needs are stigmatized here, even by many doctors, and we feel fortunate to find a doctor who looked at Elvie as a person of value as opposed to a baby that is simply lucky to be alive.  Thanks to this doctor's encouragement, we now know that we can keep our original travel schedule.  Elvie's marasmus absolutely must be treated agressively once we are home, but for the four days we have here, she will be all right on the fortified formula we are giving her (basically just adding more formula powder to the water to make it higher in calories and nutrients), and it is advantageous to keep her stress level low by not changing her environment too soon.

In two hours we will have our visa interview at the US Embassy to obtain an IR-3 visa for Elvie, which will grant her US citizenship as soon as land in the US.  This will be our last official step for getting her home.  The rest of the week will be all about getting the last of the shopping done (coffee, dolls for both girls for Christmas) and chilling out.  (It's vacation!  Bring me another perfect macchiato!) Jarod has been excellent at holding down the fort while I go out alone with a new friend helps me barter for the things we'd like to take home, and I've gotten a kick out of getting around via mini bus and walking down the middle of the street.  I feel like I've increased my Ethiopian street cred this trip because I got yelled at by a traffic cop for not being on the sidewalk.  I asked Philemon, our friend, if I needed to jump the fence to get on the sidewalk, and he said, "No!  It's fine.  I told him we just crossed the street."

We met with Zinashi's Ethiopian family over the weekend, and that is perhaps the biggest news of all.  It was a sweet meeting, and we cannot express how good this has been for all of us.  Zinashi's family sincerely thought they would never see her again, and to give them the gift of a connection to her as she grows is just huge.  I feel like something in Zinashi settled after seeing them, and now knowing that we will be back, just like we have always said.  There is an element of trust there now, that both Zinashi and her family know that when we say we will see one another over the years, we will really do it.  So here's to Fall 2014, which will find us in both Sidamo and Tigray, keeping the connection alive with our daughters' families.

I'm not sure if there will be time to post again before we come home.  Our focus now is on feeding the baby and nurturing our little family as a whole before the big flight.  If I don't pop back in prior to our big flight on Friday, please know that no news is good news, and I will catch you up on absolutely everything worth catching up on once we are back in the United States, land of the extraordinarily fast (and reliable!) internet connection.  Thank you again for being here for us.  We send you all much love from Ethiopia to wherever you are.  May your week be filled with sweetness, as ours most surely will be.
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