Saturday, September 30, 2006

Once again overdue

I am very overdue for a post, and it's banging around in my head, but now it's so long and complicated and digressive that I can't quite get at it or to it. I'm also long overdue on a work project - I should have taken a leave of absence, but decided instead that I really could do it as long as dh watched Miss I for four hours per week and I stayed up really late every night. Foolishness. Exhaustion.

But in the meantime, in all my spare time, I'm reading There is No Me Without You, and pushing it on other people. It's an amazing story, or set of stories, and my daughter figures in it everywhere and nowhere. She is not an AIDS orphan directly (the focus of the book) but every Ethiopian orphan is an AIDS orphan in that nothing before HIV -- not even widespread famine -- had destroyed the extended family networks that would have absorbed children without parents. And now, for every one Miss I., there are 10,000 more Ethiopian children without families.

Lunch and nap were overdue today, too (part of the theme today). Miss I. began screaming in the car five minutes from home, gesturing wildly, chewing nothing. As soon as we got in, we handed her a peanut butter sandwich. She fell asleep eating it, clasped it to her chest, and wouldn't let go.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Check out those eyes

photo courtesy her brother, who succeeded in filling his marble jar and earning his Fisher-Price digital camera.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Happy Anniversary

Dear Miss I.,
Tomorrow you will have been home three months. The changes in you in these three months are astonishing -- how tall you've grown, how full your cheeks, how secure you seem (most of the time). You are a bright, brave, beautiful babe, ready to take on the world. In some ways, you already have.

You don't say much, though you have a deep belly laugh, and I love to hear you say "Momma aye-yuh," especially now that I know that it is a possessive: Mommamine, you say. Miss I-aye-yuh, daughtermine.

But this anniversary, like all I suppose, is a bit melancholy, too. I remember so well the pain of your absence -- why do they tell us the pain is gone as soon as you come home, just as they tell women who've delivered that they'll forget the pain of delivery? I forget neither, can still feel both physically. I think each day, but especially intensely at these moments, that I while I was longing, someone was losing.

This week, we'll prepare an update, complete with pictures, destined for Ethiopia. We're required to provide this update, and an update each year for eighteen years. I have so much to say that it feels like silence. What can I say that can translate simply? You are well, and you are cherished, I-aye-yuh.

I have to run. You've woken, and you're calling me. You do this many nights, only tonight, I feel its sweetness.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Food Fight?

My son doesn't eat at dinner, so presently, my daughter doesn't either, and I'm trying to figure out how much to care about that.

I can't help having my feelings hurt, and laughing about it at the same time:
Ds and I have an agreement - anytime he doesn't like a meal, after having actually tried it, he can make himself a cheese burrito and rejoin us at the table. But a couple of nights ago, he lied about having tried, and dh caught him in the lie. "I lied," he cried, "but I was only trying to protect Momma." How does it protect Momma not to try what she's made. "Not that. Why I said I tried it when I didn't. It's because everything she makes is horrible." Many sobs, shaking shoulders, and I'm still not understanding how this is supposed to protect my feelings. "Everything she makes is horrible. So horrible. But I never wanted to tell her that she's a bad cook." But there it was. He'd said it. My cooking is horrible, and he feels horrible for having said it. (I'm actually known as quite a good cook by everyone but my children, so this isn't the emotionally scarring event it could've been).

I had him peruse our favorite vegetarian cookbook and pick three meals (I'd pick the other two) for the weekdays. He chose pizza, black bean and citrus salad, and peanut noodles. The pizza was great (though he ate little). The black bean and citrus salad, on the other hand . . . Momma and Daddy loved, Miss I. ate when not distracted by ds, and ds left barely touched.

I'm seriously reconsidering his request to just allow him to eat cereal for dinner. So long as it isn't Cap'n Crunch. (But then, should he eat dinner for breakfast, as I once suggested?) Miss I., on the other hand, should still have to keep eating from among the "real" choices until she's five -- old enough to pick her own food fight. Wish me luck - or better, patience.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Answers to a Momma awaiting her toddler, from three months' perspective

What were the greatest challenges?
She didn't want anything to do with dh when he first arrived. She's known in her travel group as having been trouble.

Sleep. She woke every hour for a long time, and screamed (like I've never heard screaming before) before falling asleep. I wish I had been prepared (emotionally) for such sleep troubles. She didn't have any in ET, so I thought we'd skipped over midnight wakings by skipping over infancy.

Fifty minute (literally) tantrums during which she positively could not be consoled. This was most difficult because her usual personality is sunny (see joys).

I (also literally) got dehydrated, because every time I had a glass of water, she begged for it and cried if I didn't give it to her. And then I'd forget to take care of Momma (one thing to do differently!) She would also scream when other people ate -- she was convinced at first that there would not be enough. We started right away leaving sippies of water and cups of cereal around at her reach and that helped. But oh that screaming . . .

Now, a bit of communication difficulty. She went from speaking kembatinga and amharic to not speaking but biting to babbling English sounds to speaking a bit of English. One morning she said a whole string of what I believe is Kembatinga and then laughed. I wish I knew what was so funny! Perhaps that I didn't understand.

Our ongoing (losing) battle with ringworm.

What were unexpected joys?
Oh my. For dh, the day she finally laughed with him was one of the proudest moments of his life. Milestones are very different with toddler adoption, but there are so many to celebrate!!!!

When she's happy, she is the happiest person I've ever known. She can light up a room just by being in it. She is incredibly smart and funny, and remarkably healthy -- she's two sizes bigger than when she came home three months ago. She sings to herself, and has fabulous pitch (thank goodness).

Did you co-sleep? Do you still?
We did at first. One night she just couldn't settle, so we put her in her room and she fell right asleep and slept soundly. I had enjoyed cosleeping with my son, had expected to cosleep for attachment, and advocated for it for others. Now I advocate flexibility!

Did you stick to Ethiopian food?

No. We have an injera basket, though, so for the first month or so she'd look in there and seem a little disappointed. Now she just looks for sweets.

Have they branched out in their tastes?

She loves pizza and "Doduts" unfortunately, yogurt and crackers with peanut butter or cream cheese. First month she ate anything, now she's practicing being picky (right on schedule, really).

As an aside, had I known she'd already had peanut butter (thanks, dh) I wouldn't have enforced that waiting to avoid a potential allergy thing, and served peanut butter (which I now know she loves) to her brother in front of her (see fifty minute tantrums, above).

What really surprised you?

How much she remembers that she can't communicate. Her "happy" memories -- we framed paintings on false banana leaves and when we first got them back she happily chattered away about them. But just last week I tried on one of the embroidered shirts dh brought back for me and she screamed and cried and tried to tear it off of me. Very strong happy and sad responses.

How much this girl loves shoes and shoe shopping!

How pressured I felt to hide the difficulties in order to advocate for toddler adoption. How I hated being a poster family in those first months.

How I already can't imagine my life without her.

Has the attachment gone well?

Very. At first it was a lot of work, and quite stressful for me. I couldn't leave her sight without her breaking into a sweat of panic and breaking down. Then it became hard to separate out "I really need you, Momma" from "I just _want_ to be held" behavior. I'm still not so good at discriminating that, or she's still really good and conflating them, or she just has me wrapped.

How have they bonded with other siblings?
She bonded with her big brother immediately. Her acceptance of me followed from her trust for him. She adores him, and he adores her. She still tries to shove him off my lap, though, and insists that I'm "Me-me Momma" and that he's _her_ beebee. Hoping that she will start to see that there's enough love to go around.

What would you differently?
I need more time with this one. I thought maybe answering these questions would make me realize what I wish I had known. Only if we ever knew how hard things were going to be, we probably wouldn't ever do them. So thank heaven for our lack of foresight.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Some psychiarists posited emotional impact zones of the September 11th massacre, and in some ways I think this is fair. We all experienced it, it brought us all together (if only relatively briefly, and if only until the tragedy became an excuse for other mass murders). The state of Virginia took out a beautiful ad in the New York Times -- VA (hearts) NY that brings tears to my eyes now. But nothing can be done to bridge the difference between the pain and trauma of those near ground zero and those not, or those 15 miles away and those hours away . . .

My husband saw the towers collapse through the window of the hospital he was rotating through (later they would discharge stable patients to make room for survivors who would never come). We couldn't connect after the first phone call, after the first impact made the news (just in time to show the second) -- at that time, it had seemed a horrible accident, a terrible mistake. Our neighbors lost grown children, our church lost members, we lost our fragile sense of security.

To be honest I've avoided any sort of 9/11 remembrance today (and certainly avoided tv). Having been in New York -- having just survived our own personal trauma four months earlier, having just begun to hope that the world could be normal and my son could be safe -- we remember it too freshly still. That, I think, is the hardest part about it having been five years -- that sometimes it could've been just yesterday.

On Behalf of the Adult Miss I.

Some families have recently had success with a search agency in Ethiopia -- they've received photographs and detailed information about their children's lives before coming to the care center. In some cases that information has conflicted with referral information (referral information is only as good as the information given by the person who relinquishes the child), but the families believe the new information to be accurate. They now have to come to terms with what is in some cases a drastically different story than they believed their child's story to be. Miss I.'s story as we've been given it is much more complete than the stories many children have. We have many names, several places, and much sadness.

But I'm saddened for her by the possibility (likelihood) of not knowing any more than we know now; I've lamented the fact that we cannot have an open adoption. Yet are we ready just yet to find out that what we know now might not be quite true? Or, more importantly, can we disrupt her first family's lives like this without their permission?

But how could I tell her we didn't do everything we could have? Someday she will want to search, and before she can, the trail will have gone cold. Maybe it already has.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

We're not all Black

I've been reading "birth project" just for a short while, so I've been trying to go back and catch up. I'm going to need some time to really focus and respond in a more direct way to this post
While I mull, I really want you to read it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I won't feel this way later today, after she fights a nap, or just before she swallows another quarter, but I am struck right now by the extraordinary privilege of the last few moments, when I had my daughter from afar so very near, on my lap, giving her all kinds of smooches on her chubby, chubby cheeks because "Me-me" the "bee-bee" wanted "mwahs."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

We've started to talk about number three. This is not because we're in any way ready for a third, as I barely have a grip on parenting two nor am I over my present baby being the baby (though someone at the grocery store called her a big girl!). But since the whole process takes awhile and requires a whole lot of intentionality -- you can't accidentally adopt -- we're starting to try to imagine starting the process again.

More on this later -- right now it's just backstory to what's really on my mind:
We'd been considering traveling together next time, whether that trip was for a third child or a first family (attempted) visit. Ds would be six, I'd be in the position healthwise (if we planned for it now) to travel, etc. Those were our two biggest concerns.

We are worried about how ds would travel, and how he would worry. This is the child who worried incessantly about death when he was three and decided at four that a good God wouldn't let people be hungry, and would make sure everyone had a home. We're not sure we can prepare him for what he would see and experience, and we certainly can't make sense of it. Dh, considered by many "unflappable," had a difficult time moving forward here knowing what's happening there. This can be a productive stress on an adult, but I really worry about what it would/will do to a sensitive child.

But now we're really worried about Miss I.'s reaction, too. We know she remembers some things, but couldn't possibly know what she was doing with those memories. We know she expects to be hungry again, can't tolerate being thirsty, worries that all large groups of children signify care center. She enjoys looking at the paintings of homes from her region, loves sharing her life book and pictures of the other children and nannies, wants to "talk" about ox carts, wants me to understand the problem with the wild African dogs at the zoo. But she doesn't want me to be any part of it.

I tried on one of the beautiful embroidered shirts dh brought back for me (he brought one for Miss I. as well and she's seen them here before.) As soon as I did, she screamed and sobbed, and tried frantically to rip the shirt off of me. She calmed down soon after I
took it off, but my heart broke for her.

An international adoptee and family friend (home at 4, now 18) says she, too, remembers wanting to be an "All-American girl." But -- and perhaps this is only because of her developmental stage -- Miss I. seemed most concerned that I would no longer be her All-American momma?

And on some level, she's keeping her emotional suitcases packed, as the analogy goes. What if we were to pack our real bags? Someday, an extended trip will be a wonderful thing for all of my children. But not as soon as we'd thought.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Harrowing Moment

I'm thinking through some pretty dense issues right now, and I'll post about them soon (the unwanted attention we receive from strange men; one more reason to never shop at walmart, as if you needed another; knowing that adult tra's are justifiably angry with us; knowing that when my kids are adults I'll have a lot more to answer for than most parents; Miss I's memories, and how we are learning about them without words; trying to balance thinking with being).

But in the meantime, one example of why I can't do any of that while Miss I is awake:
She's babbling on my lap, and I'm distracted for a moment. Then she's quiet, and I hear her cheeks suck in. I turn her around on my lap, look in her open mouth. A flash of silver in the back of her throat, quickly gone. With one hand, I thrust her forward, belly against my other fist, and a quarter drops to the floor. I cry, and ds hugs me: "She's okay, she's okay." She is okay -- she laughs. But I think she's trying to kill me.

Miss I, how I do love you, and how I fear for both of us.