Saturday, December 22, 2007

We'll Be Home for Christmas

Sorry, I should have said next post on Ethiopia would be partying with Solomon and noted I've no idea when that will be. It won't be this weekend, because we're busy scurrying around getting ready to fly out to Michigan tomorrow night. Aaron has been fighting a cold, and now my head is feeling like junk, although that might be partly because I was lying on the floor and Anna fell with her forehead smacking full force directly into my nose. Seriously, ouch.

My mother will start worrying about me flying with a cold in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . commence worry.

I am more worried about Anna deciding to grow another tooth in midair, since today she seemed to be hurting and drooling up a storm again. Nice timing. Sorry, fellow passengers.

We had our little mini-Christmas today, which was mainly our stockings. Her favorite item was the packs of wipes. They make a nice hat. As does her Grinch bib. And of course the paper. It's fun to make a mess.

A couple friends came over with clam chowder for dinner and too many desserts and watched Christmas Vacation with us. If you want to make Aaron laugh out loud, just put in a Chevy Chase movie. But watch out--he pre-laughs when the best gags are coming.

Now that we've had ourselves a merry little Christmas here at home, we'll be home (the other home) for Christmas, and I'm dreaming of a white one. Grandma's got the snowsuit waiting.

Hope we see you there, Michigan friends.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ethiopia Trip: Day 4-5

Monday morning we had breakfast and left for the orphanage at about 9:30 again. This morning it was sunny and much warmer. While we were waiting for the babies the kids were out in the play area and some of them, mostly girls, were sorting lentil beans. They were picking small rocks out of them. It was a lot of beans and they said it was one day’s worth. I took some pictures and Kate and I walked around the grounds a bit.

This morning Anna was wearing the red outfit with snowmen we saw her wearing in some pictures and knitted booties, plus a pink jacket we took off. She immediately spit up on me. She was much more burpy and farty today but just as happy. Aaron was making faces and looking away like he wasn’t looking at her and then suddenly kissing and tickling her and she loved it. She was watching him, following his face, and then when he looked at her she burst into giggles. She even started smiling a little before he did it like she knew he was about to.
At about 11:00 she started getting a little fussy. I held her to my chest and she shook her head and rubbed her face into me—no no no no no I’m not tired! Then she fell asleep. She stayed asleep on me until Wendi came and we took the girls back to the nannies at almost noon. The sweetest, sweetest thing . . .

We decided that after lunch we would go see and do some things around town. We went to the National Museum where the skeleton Lucy is kept (my camera batteries ran out). Some guys were making a music video about Lucy for tourism, to help change Ethiopia’s image from negative to good things like this. So we stood there four in a row like we were going to have our picture taken, but they were videotaping, so we didn’t know what we were supposed to do, look down at Lucy or up at the camera, while the guy was talking to us. It was kind of funny. We spent a little while more there, then went to the Hilton and checked email for a while. Then we went to a shopping center and bought a few souvenirs and tried to find a sweatshirt for Aaron but couldn’t. I felt like I spent a lot of money but so far on the trip (today) I spent $100. Here's photos of us at the wonderful ice cream shop, Bruno's, and Jon's amazing Spaghetti Ice.

Dinner at the guest house was good, and then we just relaxed in front of the fire and TV. Kate's funny--she reminds me of my college roommate--and she tried to suck us all in to her guilty pleasure of watching the cheesy nighttime soap show North Shore every night. After that came Oprah. English with Arabic subtitles.

Tuesday the weather was drying out. In the morning we went to Sintiyehu’s (the lawyer's) office to finish the embassy paperwork. He is very nice. He said they had 14 families coming between then and the end of August. I had tea and Aaron had Ethiopian style coffee—basically espresso, which they put lots of sugar in but Aaron doesn’t. We then went and saw Anna.

At lunch it was semi-sunny so I took a bunch of pictures around the guest house of the flowers, birds, turtles. Jon came out to see what all the hollering and noise outside the gate in the road was all about (couldn’t determine) and the old man guard was starting to weave cloth; he doesn’t speak English but showed some finished cloth to indicate that was what he was doing. He held a spindle with about six spools of fine thread on it and walked along stringing it between trees. He has worn a path there parallel to the wall from the driveway by the gate down out of sight past the car port and garden. He smiled for pictures and got a kick out of seeing himself in Jon's video camera. He has the most beautiful, patient, wise face.

While waiting for them to bring out Anna in the afternoon we asked Solomon to show us around Toukoul. They don’t let us in the baby rooms because of germs, but we saw playrooms, dining rooms/after school tutoring areas, older kids’ activity rooms, the dorm building. I think Solomon said there are about 200 kids there total. They go to public school; nannies walk them to the bus. After school they get extra help with homework or do activities. Laundry is hanging on lines, on bushes, on fences, on play equipment almost all the time at Toukoul. You never saw so much laundry! It is a pretty sight.

Next post: Partying with Solomon!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Public Service Announcement

We interrupt this broadcast for a public service announcement for those in the greater West Michigan area.

Due to our inability to be fifteen places at once and unwillingness to triple-book our teething baby into exhaustion as we have in the past been wont to do to ourselves, we would like to invite those of you who would like to meet Anna to come over to Wendy's parents' house on Sunday, December 30th. This informal "open house" will start at 5:00 p.m. and extend until we all get tired of each other or the old people (that's us now) want to go to bed. No circle time of sharing wisdom into spatulas will be required this time.

If you don't know where The Farm is, email me. If you don't know either where it is or how to get in touch with us, umm, you're probably actually not invited, random stalker person.

We will soon return to our regularly scheduled story broadcast.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ethiopia Trip: Day 3: Meeting Anna

I am going to give you Day 3 of our trip pretty much as I journaled it the next day, with a few additions. July 15, 2007--meeting Anna.

At Toukoul orphanage you meet your children in a small room with a few couches and chairs, red carpet, poor lighting. We sat for perhaps ten or fifteen minutes before someone told Jon, standing outside, they were coming. A smiling nanny appeared with a little bundle—Yegetanesh. Anna. The nanny was smiling broadly and Anna was looking around and smiling too. She is so small! We just stood there grinning stupidly at her and laughing nervously for a minute. I wasn’t sure if I could take her from the nanny or not; I didn’t want to be rude and pull her away but I wanted to take her. Then I did and she came happily to me and smiled over my shoulder at Aaron. She seemed to weigh nothing. Her smile is incredible. The guard who opens the gate into the orphanage came to the door and made kissing noises at her to make her look and laugh. After a minute I let Aaron take her—I knew he really wanted to! Then after a couple minutes we sat down on the couch so we could both see her together. She sat and bounced happily, just smiling and laughing at just about anything.

The moment we saw her was so surreal. All we felt was happy; we didn't cry. But Jon did! I think I would have been the same way watching someone else from the outside. We were on too much happy adrenaline.

She had on a red dress with white and red jacket and red tights, so we couldn’t see much of her like her feet. But her precious hands are so tiny. Her hair is so soft with a few loose curls forming on top and in back. Her nose is the tiniest. Her eyes are so deep brown and so big. Her eyelashes are so long and beautiful.

We played with her mostly on our laps and a little on the floor. She seems to be able to sit up mostly on her own but she’s a little tippy. She can push up pretty well on her stomach. At first she didn’t seem to push with her legs much, like when I put her weight on them, but later she was kicking and pushing back strong when lying down. She thinks all the faces we make at her, especially Aaron, are hilarious—she downright squeals with glee. I can’t believe how happy she is. Are we biased to say we have the most beautiful, happy, lovey baby in all of Addis?

She did have a bit of a runny nose and a chest cold. She wheezed when she breathed and with her little face, well . . . she reminded me of Yoda--funny old wheezy "Eh! Eh! Eh!" Empire Strikes Back Yoda (not some lame newer Yoda).

Help you I will!

At about 11:30 she started getting tired, not really fussy but fighting tiredness. Aaron put her on his chest and rubbed the back of her neck and her ears and she fell asleep.

At noon the nannies came and took the babies back, and Wendi took us back to the guest house for lunch. We went back at about 3:00 for more time with the babies. After lunch the babies had apparently had theirs too as they were spitting up a fair amount. Anna took more interest in the monkey rattle in the afternoon. We could only stay until 5:00 or perhaps 5:30.

While we were at the orphanage it suddenly rained—poured. Buckets of huge drops. In no time the yard at Toukoul had an inch of water standing. It was like a heavy Oregon storm but no wind.

Dinner was at about 7:30. At lunch we had moved from the separate guest house room to a room in the main house because it would be warmer for Aaron—he was really cold when he got up in the night and morning the first night. The privacy of the outside room and bathroom was nice but it is nice to be here in the house with Kate and Jon, easier to hang out in the living room and go back and forth to the room. I got us semi-organized before bed. I brought way too much crap, not enough long pants, Aaron’s zip hoodie didn’t get in and neither did my sling. Doh!

We went to bed at about 9:15. I woke up at 3:00 am and could not get back to sleep; I was thinking of everything we had to do and wanted to do and all these things. I heard the call to prayer again. I think I got back to sleep again a little bit before the alarm went off at 7:00.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ethiopia Trip: Days 1-2: Travel

I can't promise I'll get through it all before our Christmas trip, but I've decided to take a shot at telling about our trip since I just finished journaling about it. (Yes, I know it's five months later.) Let the storytelling begin.

On July 13, 2007, our friends Janice and Terry took us to the airport. We got to the airport at 11:00. Janice helped us get the luggage to the line but it was tricky getting it back to where they take it into security—two suitcases and one big Rubbermaid bin, plus backpacks—since Aaron couldn’t really lift it (remember this is just about five weeks after open heart surgery!), but we managed. Then we got through security and had enough time to get some fast food to eat. That was a mistake—in business class you get a three-course meal!

Business class did not disappoint even six-foot-five-plus Aaron. Legroom? Ha! You could have a dance party up there in Row 1. And your seat is not a seat, it’s a Transformer with its own remote control. Between eating and drinking (which takes a long time with tablecloths and courses) and refreshing ourselves with hot towels and sleeping, we didn’t even have time to watch movies on our personal screens or even read books (we were too tired for reading anyway). We got to Frankfurt at about 8:00 a.m. their time. I wasn’t too impressed with that airport (though the part we were in coming home was better). It’s huge, but that wing had two-seater bathrooms and no drinking fountains, and we couldn’t go into the sitting area by the gate until the previous flight was gone, and there appeared to be some holdup with the German Pen & Teller’s tickets, so we stood or sat on the hard floor in the hallway a long time. Then we took a packed bus to our plane. Finally the comfort of business class again, and now I got a window. Took off at right around 11:00 am. We refueled in Khartoum, Sudan, and a bunch of people got off. Only a couple more hours to Addis.

We did it. We’re in Africa.

I’d been a little afraid getting off the plane would be busy and chaotic, but it was easy. We went directly into the room to get our visas, which was simple. We changed some money, then stood in line and went through the customs window, then got our bags onto a cart. Well, again, I got our bags onto a cart while Aaron stood there feeling lame and looking lazy/cruel. He said later he should have given me a 'hurry up, woman!' slap on the butt just for further effect.

Heading out, I didn’t realize we needed the baggage claim stubs we’d been given at PDX and I’d stuck in my zip ticket holder, and I couldn’t figure out what the guy was demanding—“Tickets! Tickets!” Then I was flustered and hot from hefting the suitcases around and just wanted to find the agency's lawyer, Sintiyehu—but didn’t see him. Some people had signs but none said Dove. I tried to act like we knew where we were going but a couple guys asked if we needed a taxi or to use their phone. I was a little freaked but the paper said go outside and follow the sidewalk so we did, all the way down to where cars pulled up, where fortunately a man asked if we were us, Dove Adoptions—our driver Wendi. Thank goodness! Sinti was inside but we had missed him; he said he showed me his sign and I said no. Whoops. We loaded up, tipped an unsolicited luggage helper, and were off. It was very warm out, felt good.

Our room at the guest house was a room with a queen bed and bathroom off it and bedroom with two twins and a wardrobe. I'd heard it was rather like camping but I didn't think so. But first we went in the house and they had dinner ready for us. We met a couple who has been here a while already and done some traveling, Kate and Jon, from Alaska. They talked to us a bit while we ate a little but we really weren’t hungry because of all the airplane food, so we ditched out to go to bed. I slept pretty well but it was cold in the room and Aaron got really cold when he got out of bed (as he had ever since surgery). In the night we heard dogs barking and I heard the mosque call to prayer, but they weren’t loud or bad. I woke up a little before the alarm went off at 7:00 but it was very dark in the room. And . . . no power. I found the crank flashlight to get my clothes around and discovered there was still hot water, so Aaron took a shower. Okay, maybe it is a bit like camping, I thought at this point.

Then I opened the door and felt like Dorothy in the Land of Oz: the sun was shining brightly on huge, bright green leaves, colorful flowers, dewy grass, cheerful birds.

We had breakfast at about 8:00. Very good. Starting to get nervous and emotional about meeting Anna . . .

Wendi drove us over to the orphanage care center at 9:30. Kate and Jon asked him to tell them to have them bring out our girl first since we hadn’t met her yet, and Jon was going to use their little DVD burner camera for us and Kate used our camera. We were ready . . . right?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

All She Got for Christmas Is

All she wants for Christmas is . . .

Hold it . . .


Actually, two front teeth.


Aren't they cute?

I am just glad she has some so I can finally say yes to all the people that ask. Same reason I'm glad she's now crawling, standing, balancing, and at least attempting new sounds. She has really come a long way in the last month or so, but for a while there I felt like I said "Not yet..." to every question.

It's not the questioners' fault, of course. It's just natural to talk about other/your own kids when you meet someone else's, and they are watching her grow just as we are. And clueless new mamas like me need to know what other kids are up to to have the vaguest idea what ours are "supposed" to be doing. I wouldn't have known Anna's teeth were on the slow side coming in unless I'd been asked a hundred times and heard how little Einstein got his at four months. The thing is, I wouldn't have felt bad about hers being slow either.

There's a sly kind of competition in the comparisons sometimes--even if it's fighting a guilt that's purely self-imposed. Why should I feel bad that my daughter doesn't have teeth? It's not a reflection on me, as if I could do a thing to speed them up. It's not a sign of adoption difficulties or third-world nutrition or being licked by the dog too many times that I should feel defensive about. It's just teeth, and here they came in their own sweet eleventh-month time.

But I let it nag at me sometimes that maybe she's behind. Maybe she's not catching up as fast as she should be. Maybe I should be reading to her more, feeding her more variety, leaving her with others more, taking her out less. Maybe Early Intervention will be needed and they will revoke her status as Ethiopian Adoption Poster Child. And then what does that do to me as Poster Mother? (They just take the T. Make it Poser Mother.)

Every time I start to worry, though, she learns a new trick (or grows a new incisor) to reassure me. Look, I'm standing, I'm crawling, I'm able to leave a path of chaos through the house in a single bound. I'm sippying my cup and I'm hiding my own face to peekaboo you. I'm renewing my interest in the contents of this drawer and the word Mamamamamama. I'll take that step before you know it, and then there's no slowing down.

Really, world, what's the rush?

Moms (and dads), let's hear your thoughts: Do you ever get caught in the comparison trap? Why do you think we do this? Why are we in such a hurry for our kids to get to the next thing, and how can we remember to enjoy them as they are each day?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Burning Questions (and Budgets)

There are things the Internets know and things the Internets want to know.

The Internets including my friends, my in-laws, project managers, authors, students, and others who might have wanted to come over to my house but will now decline, know all about my stinky pets and other noncleanliness issues. Nice. Ray of hope: all my Christmas dreams are coming true thanks to the good folks at (that's why they call it) Woot!

Meanwhile, the Internets demand to know why I carved a pumpkin in December. Technically I didn't carve it, just did a Sylar on it (now there's an image). I should have gone ahead and carved a Christmas tree into it and taken a photo for you all. But why? Isn't this obvious? For the seeds! Glorious, glorious roasted pumpkin seeds. It's sad that I couldn't find time to extract them in October but even more tragic that when I finally did, I burned them. D'oh!

Speaking of Christmas dreams, Aaron's was a nightmare, because yesterday his PalmPilot went on the fritz. Which is to say his life went on the fritz, because a PalmPilot is the best geeky-man's ADD drug in existence. Not something I could expect him to live without, and so it is that our Christmas money is spent before we even get it. Fa la la la la, story of our lives.

I got all my rush projects done yesterday. I ordered some items which are ridiculously practical but I'm ridiculously excited about; we'll make them Anna's Christmas presents (hopefully they'll come in a nice box she'll like). I got photo Christmas cards ordered, although I'm not thrilled with them. We're just not that photogenic, save Anna, of course. I won't reveal that photo, but here's a couple from "Hanging of the Greens" night at church. It's one of our favorite times with our church family, and the church looks gorgeous this time of year. The bold little preacher tried out the pulpit. "Yo! Jesus is coming! A ba ba ba ba da da yah!"

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


The correct answer to last blog's question was of course (d). My mom is missing the point, which is not that I was busy but that I carved a pumpkin after putting up a tree. Make cookies? Are you delusional?! I should mention that I also cleaned the roaster which was put into the cupboard not exactly fully scrubbed . . . after Thanksgiving.

One more day on deadline and I'll have a little breathing room. By breathing room I mean time to unearth my desk, balance accounts, order Christmas cards, figure out what gifts we're buying, start buying them, get a grip on our Michigan schedule, and pick up branches and shingles from the yard. Bonus activities would be cleaning any part of the house, looking at readoption papers (please tell me there's no tax advantage to finishing this in 2007, 'cuz it ain't happening), and oh, why not take up roofing to put on some shingles and plumbing to figure out why the sink is dripping?

At least I have a little elf to help me with it all!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Seasonal Dyslexic Disorder

What seasonally-associated activity did my weekend include? Try this short quiz.

1. On Saturday, I:
(a) hung laundry outside to dry
(b) cut and decorated a Christmas tree
(c) carved a pumpkin
(d) all of the above

Thursday, December 06, 2007

From the House of Catch-Up

Tonight the Husband of the Year is off to the first high school basketball game with his little girl in tow after emailing me from work the fateful, sexy words “If you need a break from the girl, I could take her to the game with me if you want to just chill at home or something.” I rewarded his sexiness by taking him up on the offer. If I can remember what “just chill at home” means, I will turn off on Oprah and do it as soon as I finish up this blog my work project.

I have been on deadline all week. I like to say “on deadline” because it sounds like I work at the newspaper with Superman. Really it just means I worked so slow that my projects became no longer staggered. Bah, holidays and hurricanes. Hoorah, income. Um, mixed feelings about needing to use scissors in my line of work.

Tonight I used the lazy man’s thesaurus on Microsoft Word looking for a synonym for insight. It suggested imminent, approaching, just around the corner, about to happen. I’d say Word is a little lacking in sharpness, shrewdness, good judgment, intelligence, expertise.

I know all y’all really care about is pictures of Anna, so stay tuned, Christmasey photo ops have begun. Speaking of Christmas, the nerdy time schedule Excel spreadsheet for our trip to Michigan is now taking reservations, so if you’re wondering when our paths may cross, drop me an email.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Little House in the Big Wind

We enjoyed a nice 30-hour stretch of indoor camping here on the coast, since the hurricane-force winds knocked out the power right after church Sunday (as in while we were still in the church). Since we couldn't watch football (thank God for small mercies, this week), Aaron and Waltino threw one around outside in the wind in between runs of the bulldozer pushing branches off the street. They were hoping to see a big tree fall. Thankfully the big trees are all far enough away from our house to make that a fun game. When it got too wild we wind-watched from inside, eating cold foods and wearing extra clothes. During a lull we drove down for a peek at the waves.

I think Anna wondered why we didn't turn on any lights (we had plenty of candles though, set up high) and why she was wearing pajamas with clothes over them, but she didn't mind us having nothing to do but play with her all night.

It's odd to have no power all day. It's one thing for it to go out at night--you use a flashlight to head to bed. But two days with no work, no computers, no TV, no cooking, nowhere to go . . . feels odd. I did sort out a bunch of papers cluttering my office today. But last night we were content to listen to the wind, to feel small, to chat, to watch the candlelight, to make a little girl laugh and hold her when she got sleepy. We bundled up under quilts to rest in utter darkness, waking often but safe from the chaos outside, and we stayed three in the bed as long as possible in the morning.

The winds continue to blow and many on the coast are still without power, but we have heat and light and each other, and a good reminder how precious they are.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

World AIDS Day 2007

December 1—World AIDS Day.

I have pontificated before on the staggering scope of the global AIDS pandemic. On the millions of orphans. On how the scandalously inexpensive drugs which prevent mother-child transmission or keep mothers, fathers, doctors, farmers alive are simply not available to the poorest victims.

World Vision reports that 30 percent of Americans say they know little or nothing at all about the AIDS issue.

What have you learned about HIV since last December 1?

Yet 74 percent believe they individually “should play my part, however small” to help those affected by AIDS, and 69 percent of the respondents indicated they would be willing to donate to help children impacted by AIDS.

What have you done to help?

It’s easy to say I should, we should, they should. Yet often it’s surprisingly almost as easy to learn something new, to get a different perspective, to write a letter, to sponsor a child, to offer a prayer. I don’t do everything I feel I “should” do either. But I’m determined to do something.

Here are some places we can start learning and doing:

My favorite: World Vision’s interactive AIDS quiz which everyone should take.

World Vision's Countdown to World AIDS Day site also has some great videos and ways to get involved including humanitarian assistance programs such as caregiver kits and a highly regarded child sponsorship program.

Here's an informative Transracial Adoption Blog post.

Join the ONE Campaign to Make Poverty History. Sign their “On the Record” campaign to urge all presidential candidates to explain their plans to combat global issues including AIDS, malaria, education, and clean water.

Give a gift to help or sponsor an HIV-positive Ethiopian child through AHOPE for Children. Or even adopt one—more and more families are doing so!