Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful for Toddler Prayers

When we were drowning in the wait to bring Sitota home (which does seem like eons ago),  and I started blogging,  I did it because connecting with other adoptive families was the lifeboat that helped me to realize that she would eventually be here with us. And I know other people feel that way, too.  And when everyone (me, too) facebooks their new families,  it's to share the highest of the highs.  Nothing more.   

The firsts are so fun,  and the connections with the other Punks are sweet.  And the photo-ops are plentiful.

But that's not so much about what I have to say today.  This is a peek into the other stuff.  Because reading the real stuff-  even when it is utterly mundane,  shares more than the highlights.  And that's good for the world of adoption.  I think.

The good-  We have been home for a little over 2 weeks and the mollescum on Sitota's neck is so much better.  I would say it's reduced by half. 

The bad- She developed an abscess beneath the mollescum that started to look almost like a boil.  Yesterday, we took her to the doctor in hope that he would just prescribe an antibiotic,  but he decided it had to be drained, too.  It. Was. Awful.  From the moment we walked into the outer office she wanted to leave.  I know she remembered the TB test from last week and wanted exactly nothing to do with that.  Little did she know how much worse it would be.  We probably should have had the nurses help instead of us,  but we wanted to try to comfort her.  I held her head and went nose to nose with her trying to comfort her.  Rob held her body. Singing the ABCs, striving for a look of ease,  I just kept eye contact.  It stunk.

What could she have possibly been thinking?

Then the doctor said we had to go back the following day.  That's today.  Gah.  I'm dreading it something awful.  It looks better today,  so I am hopeful that they will just let the antibiotics run their course. (Because this post has been written in 5 minute blocks over 2 days I can tell you that they didn't drain it again.  Thanks, God.)

The attachment- Having 3 punks around to help occupy, entertain, and teach the littlest punk has been fun and helpful.  But there are challenges.  She chooses them.  They aren't pushing the hard stuff on her.  They get all of the fun stuff.  I'm so happy that they are bonding.  This is a true statement.

It is also a true statement that it's hard and I am a bit jealous.  Yup,  mother of the year.

Sitota is careful with her affection.  And by careful,  I mean stingy.  She hugs and kisses her punks pretty freely.  But us?  she's stingy for sure.  She looks at me with the sweet little shoulder shrug.  "No."  That's ok,  I smile.  I think it's a test.  I hope I'll pass.

Don't get me wrong-  we know.  We know it will come.  We know it's only been a little while.  We know we don't have anything to worry about.  But it still bums me out.  For now.  That's ok.

Also, she's still "off" baths.  I tried the sink today, and the result was 45 minutes of crying and yelling...  and that was after she got out of her 5 minute bath.  Poor Aidan who always wants to rescue her, was completely unsuccessful in helping her to reset.  She wanted him,  but he could do nothing to please her.  He was so patient.  But this was between me and Sitota.  So, I did what any insane parent would do.  I scooped her up despite her protest and plopped her in the car for a change of scenery.  Just the 2 of us with the music blasting.  Then when we got home, I sat right next to her in the car and had a little talk.

"Sitota, sometimes we are going to have to take a bath.  Mommy takes care of you,  and sometimes that means a bath."


"The bath is all-done!" 
(Big nod.)

"But,  you know,  someday you will have to have another bath.  Like tomorrow.  Or the next day.  And when that day comes,  if you could not completely flip out and freak out,  well,  that would be awesome."

"All done bath!"

Yes.  All done bath.  And then I got a kiss.

And I know it seems completely stupid to write about this stupid little incident.  But it is surprising to me how something so small can take my mind down a path so quickly. How easy it is to make a list of things you might be doing wrong.  Of times when patience runs dry.  The questions I ask,  the thoughts I think...  and the guilt.

It's "supposed" to be all perfect now.  She's home!  Finally!  Prayers answered!  Waits survived!  It's over!

I mean,  now we get to start.

And so today when I was completely jealous of how she loves Aidan,  I was pitiful and jealous and even resentful.  It was wonderful.  I'm so proud.

I reached out to some other adoption friends.  I said,  "It's ok to just cry sometimes and say, 'this is hard,' right?"

One replied, "I cry every day."  Another said, "Absolutely. You can even do it more than once a day. Sometimes I would pretend to use the bathroom to squeak out a quick cry. It is hard. For awhile, but not forever. I think sometimes in the beginning, they want to sort of push us away...test the waters...will you still love me when I do this? What about this? I just try to focus on the child being a vessel that I have to fill with love, and completely take myself out of it."

Then I cried because I was thankful for the light and the hope and the feeling that other people were with me.

Tonight, on the eve of thanksgiving, I don't have to remind myself of the things I'm thankful for or second guess choices I've made.  I just have to think about laying in bed next to the Littlest Punk.  Starting prayers,  her little voice echoing my words:

Thank you God for Aidan
Thank you God for Clay
Thank you God for Lucy
Thank you God for Sitota
Thank you God for Mommy and Daddy
Thank you for our home
and our food
and our love...

And then she shushed me,  "Mommy, Mommy,  ene, ene (me) do it, Sitota do it"

Tank you Gah babies
Tank you Gah woof-woofs (this one is a LIE,  she hates dogs)
Tank you Gah applesauce
Tank you Gah Mihretu (her friend)
Tank you Gah Moooooooo
Tank you Gah Mommy's hat
Tank you Gah seven, eight, nine...

And I wish you could have seen her little clasped hands,  and closed eyes... absolutely a moment to remember.


Also,  it was night 2 of going to sleep without tears.  Of sleeping with babies and the pillow pet night light.  Pre-sleep conversations and quiet connections,  and a big fat kiss.

Tank you, Gah.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Just a few anecdotes...

I'm too tired to write,  but...

Yesterday I took Sitota on a few errands.  In the store I picked up some of the tiny bands for braids.  She looked at them, looked at me, shook her finger and said "Nooo," and she put them back on the shelf.  Too soon... :-)

She sat in the cart and talked to everyone we saw...  at times yelling to people across the store, "Hello...  how are youuuu?"  When they responded and asked how she was,  she just parroted them back.  She has no idea what she is saying...

Today we went to meet Memere.  When Sitota saw the singing turkey she slipped into panic mode.  "No, no, NO!"  Poor Memere.  It was something to watch them play ball together.  At one point I think she wanted Memere to crawl under the kitchen table to get her "kwass."  So funny.

She got pretty bored on the drive home (about 1 1/4 hours).  She was talkative and silly.  At one point she was calling me.  (At the care center,  the Nannies would say, "Xabier Abakesh" God Bless, or something similar, and Sitota would answer, "Amen.")

S: "Mom, Mommy, Mommy..." 
Me: "Yes, Sitota?" 
S:  "Xabier......" pause...
Me: Abakesh
S: Amen...  (hysterical laughter...)

Then she proceeded to close her eyes and fold her hands in prayer and speak in Amharic.  She just laughs when we say grace at dinner and say bedtime prayers, so this was a first.

I stopped to get gas on the way home...  and before I got out of the car she sees the other people at the pump and starts yelling to them,  "Hello!  I love you!" 


She loves the piano,  thanks Pitman family.  She hates cats, thanks Pitman family.  She is now totally off bathtime,  but tonight she went to sleep with hardly any sadness.  She loves squash and will not even consider peas.  She says a dog says woof woof,  a cat meows and a baby "waaaahhhs."

She's home.  Sigh.

It's funny how aware I am of every touch.  I don't remember noticing with the other 3 Punks when they rested their hand on my leg when we sat together.  Or when they rested their head against my shoulder.  With Sitota,  she's still reserved with her affection, especially with Rob and I.  So every casual touch is a little victory.  A little indicator of trust and comfort.  It's strange to be so aware of everything. 

I'm also floored by the notes.  I get notes almost every day from friends who tell me how much they look forward to reading about our progress.  People I talk to fairly often,  and others I haven't talked to in decades.  It amazes me.

Thank you.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

It's been 1 week...

Today marks one week that the 6 of us have woken up under the same roof. Yes,  it's surreal.  Yes, we are ecstatic.  Yes, we are smitten.  Yes, we are working through struggles figuring out the new rhythm of our family.

Yes,  the roller coaster ride of the last 2 years is fading.  Yes,  the flight home, like childbirth, is fading.  No,  we can't believe she is finally home.  Except that we get to stare at her 24/7.

This honeymoon thing is pretty delightful.  I mean,  yes, we have had our sad moments.  Moments when we don't know exactly what she wants and her frustration escalates.  Times when we look into her sad eyes and can't seem to do much but be with her...  but those are the rare moments. 

There are the moments when she sees a dog,  even from afar, and she is overcome with panic. Overcome.

But most of the time she is playful and silly.  She likes books and blocks and she loves to play with the toy food.  She likes being outside (except when there is snow), and usually does not want to come inside when it is time.  She loves Lucy, Clay and Aidan.  They are certainly her 3 favorite toys.

She's parroting a lot of English,  but also showing some signs of comprehension. 

She loves loves loves her baths.  She always has,  but now she lays down in the water and "swims."

When we were in Ethiopia, Sitota insisted that we feed her every bite of every meal. She's feeding herself 90% of the time, now.  She still makes the kids feed her from time to time.  I am pretty sure she does it just because she can.  I got a text from Aidan when I was at the post office the other day.  It said, "I figured out how to get Sitota to eat grapes.  I'm peeling them."  Yes...  he was peeling her grapes.  I'm happy to report that at dinner tonight she was eating grapes, skin and all.  Maybe she would have if Aidan hadn't peeled any.  Maybe not.  She's a tester.  She might refuse the first time it's offered,  but then the next time, she'll ll try.

She loves eggs and pasta and pizza (thank you) and potatoes, and boy oh boy does she love squash.  She does not love chick peas or meat of any kind.  She was a big fan of the buffalo chicken tenders we got from Corsettis.  Which makes me crave buffalo chicken dip.

She does not love when I mess with her hair.  For now,  we'll be sticking with the free 'fro with an occasional headband.  I hope as trust grows she'll become more comfortable.

Same goes for sleep. She's still quite sad at bedtime and avoids the bedroom at all costs,  but we think as she continues to grow in trust,  she'll relax more into it.

How are the rest of us? 

When the tree fell on the roof it caused some damage in the girls' room,  so until the repairs are done, Lucy is sleeping on the floor in our room.  It's convenient timing,  because she would be there anyway :-)  She's doing great,  but loves to be close to us.  She loves helping her little sister

Aidan loves that he's the first one home from school.  He and Sitota have some quiet time,  and they both really look forward to it.

Clay is more affectionate with Sitota than he has been with anyone.  I love to look over and see them reading or snuggling together.  Clay also has more Ethiopian pride than anyone I have ever seen.  He loves to wear his shirt and hat and necklace to school :-)

Rob and I are good but still oh, so, tired.  On more than one occasion last week I slept from 7:30 pm-6:30 am.  Rob is working,  but takes time to be with us every day, too.  It's hard to get anything done around the house,  but we are ok with that.  The jetlag is a little easier this time with such a delightful little distraction.

We had some testing done this week,  and are relieved that Sitota is in good overall health.  Her mollescum on her neck is annoying, but nothing more.

I can't believe we are only a week in.  When I put that frame around it,  it looks pretty great. 

Thanks, God.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The end and the beginning...

Ok... I might have a few things to say. Shocking, I know. I have to write about our last day in Ethiopia. I'll probably gloss over the details of the trip home for reasons of self preservation.  The horror!  Oh, the horror!

But first I have to spin in a circle and scream, SHE'S HERE! She is really, really here!

Phew.  She came home 2 years 25 days after I first met her. There were absolutely so many times when we doubted whether it would ever happen. But she is home now, and while I won't forget the heartache of the wait... she is here, and we're so happy to start building our new normal. Everything is new, everything is a first. Every single thing. Soon, we'll just Be.

Friday. Our last day in Africa. We had a quiet day at the guest house, packing, bathing... packing. We spent some time talking with the other 2 families that were there. We had lunch there and finished up our packing. In the afternoon, the women who work at the guest house had a coffee ceremony for us and another couple who left the same day... Also, fundisha! Popcorn! The coffee ceremony process is so time consuming. They start with raw coffee beans, roasting them over charcoal. When they are perfectly roasted, they walk around to everyone to get an up close and personal smell. Sandalwood is commonly burnt in a smaller burner at the same time. At the orphanages and care centers the grinding of the beans usually happens in a mortar and pestle thingy. It's not quite as authentic as that at the guest house... as we heard the electric coffee grinder... but it's still pretty far from Keurig. The coffee is brewed in a clay coffee pot called a Jebena. They serve strong coffee (buna) with sugar in small coffee cups called cini. I'm not a huge coffee drinker, but it is absolutely delicious.

After the coffee ceremony we were picked up by Dani and 2 of his friends. We crammed everyone and all of our luggage into Dani's little car and headed to Dani's house. It was so fun to be with these young people. We immediately sank into some fun conversations and got to know more about these twenty-somethings. Best friends for (literally) ever, one is finishing a computer engineering degree, the other about to start her medical internship, on her way to becoming a gynecologist. With flawless English, they joked and shared with us.

When we arrived at Dani's house his little girl came running right out to see him. She spent her infancy in the same orphanage as Sitota, but Dani's family adopted her when she was younger. We were so honored to join Dani and his family for dinner. His mother, grandmother, aunts and cousins were so welcoming and kind to us. We had a delicious meal and shared a lot of laughs.

Shock of shocks, it was incredibly moving for us. Dani's grandmother is so warm, with a beautiful smile and a warmth that closes the gap of the language barrier. She seemed to delight in Sitota. Showering her with blessings and well wishes. It was a feeling like no other to be hugged by this sweet woman. Oh, the warmth.  Pure love.

Dani's been so encouraging during this process. He's helpful and fun when we are together in Ethiopia. He is smart, entrepreneurial, talented, and his life's mission is to “help the children of Ethiopia by telling stories.” He will be opening a daycare to support young families. He'll provide daycare and other services to help the orphan crisis by focusing on education and family preservation.

Dani's friends being at dinner with us was again, wonderful. Such fun. Masters of sarcasm. Beautiful, strong, smart, funny, and welcoming. In the car on the way to the airport we were tossing around our favorite animated movies. We agreed that Despicable Me and Finding Nemo and The Incredibles are all great... and we quoted the movies back and forth.

Then we were looking at a spanish language app. Rob and I both remembered some Spanish, and we laughed about how when we are trying to communicate with Sitota but are struggling, we fall into this combination of English/Amharic/Spanish thing. It's so stupid, but we laughed and laughed about speaking Span-mar-ish. We laughed about so many things. Another absolutely perfect way to end a visit to Ethiopia, brought to you by Dani.

Sitota was absolutely perfect on the 1st leg of our flight. We left at 11 pm and went from Addis to Frankfurt with an hour stop in Khartoum. Sitota fell asleep in the first 15 minutes of the flight, and woke up in time for breakfast and disembarking. We weathered the layover in Germany fine and were so thankful for the umbrella stroller that our friends sent to us. There is SO MUCH walking in that airport.

The flight from Germany to Boston was tortuous from the start. She slept for maybe 20 minutes. Somewhere along the way, despite all of the love she had for Rob all week, it was all Mama all the time. Which would've been fine but she was freaked right out and completely spazzed out. Poor kiddo. I confess, I was a wreck for a good part of the flight... feeling a million times a flop. I knew that it had more to do with being sleep deprived and off schedule and the reality of mothering this complicated sweet Punk... but in the moment is was just sheer sadness that our girl was having such a hard time and I was questioning every little thing we had and hadn't done so far.

Oh, the poor plane. It was ugly. We suddenly and overwhelmingly regretted inviting our family to the airport. They'd be driving from Maine and Connecticut to welcome us home, and we were messy balls of goo. What a disaster.

We made it through customs and immigration, collected our bags, and walked out into the lobby. Everything washed away and all I could feel was gratitude that they were there. It was an incredible opportunity to share our new family with them. Like a really crowded hospital room after a long delivery. I am overwhelmingly proud to bring our daughter into this family- these families who make such inspiring choices to be together. To celebrate Family. There's no doubt that without the support of our families (those that came to Boston and those that couldn't) we wouldn't be sitting here listening to the crazy silliness that are our Punks.

Oh, the laughter! Oh, the noise! Oh, the joy! Oh, the way the Littlest Punk is wrapping her brothers and sister around her finger... A couple of highlights...

“I realized it doesn't really make sense to pretend my thumb is her nose...” -Aidan

The kids took her for a walk around our house- down the driveway and sidewalk in front of our house about 100 times. One Punk would push the stroller, but she wanted to hold the hands of the other 2 the entire time.

Lucy and Aidan have been playing a peek-a-boo game with her. They go up to the girl's room, then walk down the stairs counting each step, come down the hallway, Sitota pauses at the corner and peaks around and yells “Boo!” then she will walk sassily into the room, turns on her heel and says, “Ciao, Mommy. I love you, Mommy. Ewedechalu, Mommy.” Ewedechalu is “I love you” in Amharic. Sometimes it's a variation of those and a lot of kiss blowing and waving. Usually with a big smile, but occasionally with a fake crying voice. Oh, this kid. Aidan also taught her to make a mustache with her finger over her lip. I know, blink, blink, blink...

She's still been "off" of me,  and today was no different-  I was good from a distance,  but upfront was another story.  When the kids were doing their chores I brought her upstairs.  She cleaned up all of her kitchen stuff (they played with the kitchen so much today), got her pjs on, and figured out the night-time routine.  Funny the excitement when you teach your new punk to put her clothes in the hamper at night... anyway-  we had a few minutes of great play-  when she was trying to sneak by me while my eyes were closed.  I would try to grab her and tickle her.  Oh,  that laugh.  It was good, trust building, affectionate, silly play.  Happy,  happy heart.

Still surreal. Still will randomly take my breath away when I hear her call one of the other Punks, or see her holding one of their hands. When Clay was born, Aidan was 22 months old. When he came to the hospital to meet his brother, it was as though he'd grown overnight. He seemed so much older. That is true now, too. The original 3 punks are enjoying every single 1st with their sister. They all seem to have grown a foot during the week we were away. They all seem older. 

I added a folder called Sitota's home to my flickr site.  I obviously didn't have a camera at the airport,  so I am waiting for peple to send me some pictures.  Hint hint.

Here are some highlights from the last day or 2...all from my phone.  I have a lot of pictures to go through from the trip...  I'll get to it...

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Trip 2: Day...4?

The What Day Is it? Post.

Thursday. We leave tomorrow. I am so ready. But I am so bummed. I am ready to see the Punks and anxious to introduce them to their new sister and sink into the honeymoon phase... deeply. I'm ready for a nice clean hot shower and a salad. On the other hand, I haven't learned enough Amharic nor absorbed enough of this country.

Have I mentioned the development? There are new buildings and houses being constructed everywhere. The roads are markedly improved since I was here in 2010, and Dani tells us that when we come back in 4 years the railway system will be finished, and all of the highways completed. I don't know why he said we'd be back in 4 years... but I am not ruling it out.

We got Sitota's passport and immigration and immunization information today. Done. Ready to board the plane.

Then Dani took the 3 of us out for a little shopping in the market, and to visit the Kolfe boys. I don't know how much energy I can give to writing about Kolfe right now. We brought a bunch of sneakers, played a little basketball, talked with the manager, listened to one of the boys play “One Love” on his keyboard, hugged some small people, and some taller people, made up some funny handshakes, and I stood stupidly not knowing what to say to the boys who stood around me in a crowd and asked, “please will you be my mom? I need a Mom.”

And we didn't even go to Kechene, where the government run girl's orphanage is. Far fewer guests, do, but when we went in 2010, it hurt, too.

Hey, visiting orphans isn't always easy. The basketball games are and the nail polish, and to some extent even the hugs, are. But when you feel the hand reaching to hold one of your fingers or your elbow or tell you that your frekles are Jesus kisses... Oh, I don't know. If feels almost stupid, sometimes to go and do so little.

And then you get family gifts from someone, ok an orphan, who writes to you about feeling comfort and encouragement because of a hug you gave him 2 years ago. And he writes things like “You are a real mama to all kolfe.” and you know you'll bring your stupid sneakers and go back and stand stupidly when you're asked hard questions. Because if that's the perception of what a real mama is, then... well.

Happy interlude: before we left the guest house a pair of 18 month old twins with the loveliest round chunka cheeks came into the house. They are on their way home to Washington. They are so yummy.

We were so very tired from our day so far, but friends Sally and Tom Baer and 3 of their delightful kids joined us for dinner. It was a busy night for the guest house, so we elected to go for pizza. It was nice to laugh and catch up. Wonderful to see how their children have grown in 2 years, and to see them all doing so well.

Sitota napped in the car a bit, but was tired when we came home. We bonded over bath time. She still prefers Rob to carry her everywhere, but she's sharing her attention and affection a little more freely. Bath time is Mama Time. Again after her bath she insisted on putting her shoes back on, even though she was wearing footie pjs. Chamas and pajamas... that's how we roll.

Hard to believe I get to be her Mama.