Monday, January 30, 2012

The New Normal

"How are you adjusting?" That's the most frequent question I get lately.

My answer is, "how do you expect we're adjusting?" We added a 3yo who doesn't speak English to our household.

Some moments are beautiful, like when she throws her arms around me and tells me that she loves me, or dances around at the prospect of a ride in the car.

Mostly, it's pure survival mode. She still wakes up at 5am and wakes Bean and the rest of us. Bean is in full-swing jealous mode all of the time. He doesn't give us a break from being as grouchy and naughty as he can think of. Mister whines; Curly tries to help and ends up breaking eggs, spilling juice, getting marker everywhere... You get the picture.

My day is survived moment to moment. I try to take delight in full meals eaten and imaginative stories in between scolding Bean for eating a toy, or banning Mister from the iPod.

In two months, we'll have more communication, and we'll be able to go to the park again. Until then, I'll do my best to keep the LEGOs out of the toilet!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Week in Addis

Leaving the orphanage, I took Abi to the guesthouse where we both took a long nap.  I expected her to be scared, but she loved all the staff (the feeling was entirely mutual) and loved exploring her new surroundings. 

Because she was so hesitant walking around, I gave her the kiddie cane I'd brought for her and showed her how to use it.  She understood right away what it was for, and understood that she could use it to walk around by herself, so she LOVED it!  We had so much fun, I forgot to take very many pictures.

On Tuesday, we went to the American embassy building.  It had been closed for the holiday the day before, so the lines to get in were unusually long.  We stood next to families scented with hopefulness, under a television screen with idyllic scenes of American life, like the Statue of Liberty and small children with balloons. Officious-looking Ethiopian security guards in uniforms stood everywhere.

One of the rules at the embassy was that you had to check your cell phone and camera. Obviously, I have no pictures of our visit there, but I remember sitting in a large, crowded waiting room with Abi on my lap.  She got bored, and began singing at the top of her lungs, "Leeeeessss, Dzeeezuz Lubs Meeeeeeeeee!" (Yes, Jesus Loves Me) and dropping her LEGOs on the floor.

At last our name was called, and we walked to a window in a row of windows, behind which a blonde American man in his 20's shuffled through my paperwork and asked me a few questions.  The interview took ten minutes.  We'd waited in line almost 2 hours.

While driving around Addis, our driver Yosef was so delighted that I was learning Amharic that he took it upon himself to be my own personal Tutor In Advanced Amharic.  My memories of driving are punctuated with him saying "What is Amharic for pencil? You don't remember? I tell you yesterday. Do you remember Wednesday? Heh-rohb! Very good! Wow, not many Americans speak Amharic."  He insisted I memorize "Mesa Mehbraht Tefellegallech?" (Do you want to eat lunch?), and I discovered upon returning home that this sentence has been handier than any other word besides "shinta-bayt" (toilet).

While we were there, the city geared up for the Holy Day of Epiphany.  All week, workmen climbed poles to hang colorful flags across the streets where the procession of the faithful would pass.  As the Day approached, the traffic became even more crowded than before as people from the country came into the city for the celebration.

Yosef, who is Orthodox, said that he was fasting by eating no meat, only Injera (a crepe-like flat bread) and Shiro-Wat (a red-lentil stew) but no meat. On the Friday of Epiphany, his family would eat Doro-Wat (a spicy chicken stew with a hard-boiled egg in it) to celebrate the Holy Day.

On Wednesday, I shopped in the little "souks" or stalls for souvenirs to take home. Traditional clothes and a "jebena" or coffee pot all found their way into my overpacked suitcase.  I also got some traditional incense to use in a coffee ceremony, although its crystalline appearance caught the attention of the TSA who thought it looked like drugs and slashed it open to check it, where it later filtered all through my suitcase and ruined a shirt.  Good thing we live in a free country where personal property is respected (insert sarcasm here).

Still, it was a fun, strange, week.  Long hours of sitting around at the guesthouse, talking (Ethiopians love to do this), knitting, and getting to know Abi, mingle in a blur with hours of driving in a hot car from here to there amid honking traffic and hundreds of thousands of people walking, walking, walking.  Most people there walk, sometimes for miles, to work or shop, as driving is a luxury only the wealthiest can afford.  Under the warm sun, no one hurried, but just walked.  Some trudged; some walked with a spring in their steps.  Some stopped to browse the shops as they passed, the shops with mannequins held captive against thievery by strings around their necks, or shops selling mattresses piled on the roof, or shops with baskets or bowls or stings of bananas.  On one corner, a foosball table sat in the middle of a patch of dirt, while a group of boys used it for an animated game; an old man with a donkey watched.  We passed a woman in a gray skirt using a pickaxe to dig a hole in the road.  Women with beautifully braided hair held the hands of tiny children in green or purple school uniforms, while older children in the same colors played tag along the sides of the crowded street.

I sat in the cocoon of my hired car and absorbed it all from behind the sheltering pane of glass that kept me forever separate from what I saw and heard and smelled.  I tried to remember every face, every sign, every color, like the shop that sold only blue clothes or the shop that sold "Passion Burgers." I wanted to be able to tell Abi about the place she came from.  I'd like to tell her about the rounded spires of the Orthodox churches and the undulating call of the muezzin as he calls the Muslims to pray.  I'll tell her about the little shoe-shine boys and the green-and-yellow fences and the fluttering silks hanging from the roofs made of corrugated tin.  I'll tell her about the way people would cross the street so close to your car that they would slap your hood as they passed.  Maybe she will be able to see in her mind's eye the image of the old, bent holy men in their while hats and fluttering white robes as they pace along the dusty road in that ancient place. Even if she doesn't remember that city, I will never forget it.

Next post: Farewell coffee ceremonies and a 34-hour "Guzo" (journey) home.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

First Piano

During Abi's first full day at home, she discovered the piano, just before it was time to go to bed. She had so much fun exploring the notes, I had to take a little video of her.

She was singing in the video, a little song she has sung to us before. It's in Amharic, and we didn't know what it was about for sure, although, we knew it was her favorite song.

This morning, I got this email from our social worker in Georgia:
I was able to check out some of the other videos you posted on YouTube of Abi! I was just crazy about the one of her playing the piano & sent it to everyone in the office & everyone in the Addis office. Everyone just can't stop talking about how ridiculously precious she is ;)

But, I got this email back from H today & thought I'd pass it on. She explains what it is that Abi is singing about when she was playing the piano. Thought you'd get a kick out of it!

Thanks B for sharing this. We couldn't stop smiling looking at her and listening to what she is singing in the video. At first she was naming alphabets as u could hear it and then she called number 1-3 then the singing starts She was singing a spiritual song that tells that she is giving a praise for her Lord and she was inviting for anyone who has great God like hers to praise God. She was singing that devil can't make her stop from singing and praising her God. Hope this helps a little for her family to understand that she is singing and praising her Lord. FYI Abebech is really known in her room for her singing while she was in KVI. Her nannies always invite her to sing for others. Thanks again, H
It's so neat to have agency workers who care so much about the kids they serve, and their families, like us. We are really blessed. :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Gotcha Day

A week ago was Martin Luther King Jr. day in America.  In Addis, although the American Embassy was closed to observe the holiday, the Ethiopians were preparing for Epiphany by hanging colorful banners above the roads. For me, it was the day I finally got to go to the orphanage and collect one small child, and take her with me.

The first thing she did was to confiscate my camera case, calling it her "boorsa" (purse).

Inside the camera case were six AA batteries.  She removed and counted these many times as I held her on my lap in the sunshine.

Like most of the children, she adored the "machina" (car), although there are so many things wrong with this image, I really had to chuckle.

People from my town donated vitamins and toothbrushes to the orphanage.  They are always grateful for donations, however small.  In this case, ten bottles of vitamins will go toward helping little people stay healthy.

Our driver, Yosef, a favorite of the kids, took pictures of the orphanage for me.  Someday, we'll look at the pictures together and remember where she used to live.  I feel so blessed that she got to live in this orphanage in particular.  The nannies taught her many darling little songs, and how to count, both in English and Amharic.  They fed her meals and snacks, and tucked her into her little bed.

They played with her and hugged her, and told her that Jesus loves her.  Although she won't remember them, their contribution to her life will last for the rest of her years.

Then, oh joy! I climbed into the car, and instead of saying goodbye, I had her beside me, chattering away.  We went to the guest house together, exploring and getting to know one another for the rest of that wonderful Monday.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What Language Barrier?

Apparently Toddler is a universal language.

Visiting South Africa

Right now, I'm fighting the stay awake, despite the fact that my poor, confused brain thinks it's 3AM.  So, in an effort to keep my drooping eyelids open for a few more hours, I'll try to write one of the many blog posts I have planned to tell you about my trip.

A good blogger friend of mine, Ashleigh, lives in South Africa.  We met on Twitter, oddly enough, but found that we have much in common, including unschooling, enjoying many of the same TV shows, loving braille, wishing we could do both full-time career and full-time mommying, knitting, and probably a lot of other stuff my sleepy brain isn't remembering at the moment.  I never expected to be able to meet in person, since she lives on the other side of the globe.

As I planned my trip to get Abi, I discovered that one of the international routes to Addis included a layover in Johannesburg, a mere thirty minutes from her home.  This planted the seed of an idea to extend my layover for a few days and visit her.  Again, I never expected it to really happen, but, as you can see, it did!  I felt like a sophisticated world traveler, jaunting off to South Africa to visit a friend, not the small-town Idaho farm girl I really am.

I have here a sampling of the wonderful pictures and memories from the two days I got to spend with her and her sweet family.  They welcomed me so warmly into their home, I really did feel like family instead of a stranger.

This tree sat outside my bedroom window.  Actually, the bedroom belonged to their older daughter, who was sweet enough to share with her younger sister while I was there. I can't remember the name of it, but its very uniqueness reminded me as much as the summer weather than I was a long way from home.

During the Saturday I was there, Adrian and Ash treated me to a visit to a wildlife preserve where Adrian, a wildlife vet, had designed and implemented a lion habitat.  We rode a safari truck along red roads toward the lions.

Without a fence between us, the lions viewed the wild humans from the comfort of their spot by the water tanks.

Self-portrait and proof that I was actually there in a place where short sleeves made it feel like June rather than January.

The park ranger could stroke the lion cubs.  We got a behind-the-scenes narration of a heath issue that one of the cubs had suffered.  Luckily, she was recovering nicely.

Elsewhere in the park, after enjoying coffee and good conversation, we saw some browsing zebras, along with their egret friends.

 An ostrich calmly watched us pass, while her sisters hid from view in the tall grass.

A kingfisher sat on the road, only a few feet from our vehicle.  We took several pictures of it before it decided we might be scary and flew off.

Ash knew the name of this bird, but I have forgotten it.  Maybe she will leave a comment to add in all of the wildlife details that I'm missing...

...including the actual name of these gazelles. If you've seen the YouTube video of the cyclist who was taken out by the gazelle, it was right here in this park.

Hubby was thrilled to discover that traffic lights in South Africa are called robots, and the word shows up painted on the road sometimes.

While I was there, I enjoyed Adrian and Ash's lovely home, including this courtyard and patio where the summer weather enticed us outdoors.  We feasted with a South African braai, which is sort of like a barbecue, only with slightly different traditional foods.  More friends came, and we ate and talked all evening.

Later, on Saturday night, Ash and I talked until 2AM, watching silly bad movies and then going deeper, sharing hopes and dreams as kindred spirits can do.

On Sunday morning, we briefly visited their house church before it was time to go on to the airport. I was sad to leave after only a few short days, but I was also excited to go on to Addis to meet my little princess, the story of which I will tell in my next post.

Welcome Home, Princess Abi!

Our family is together at last!

I have lots of stories about my amazing trip and our amazing little girl, so I'll try to get blogging this week. :)

Thank you everyone, for your prayers and notes/comments of encouragement as we brought Abi home.  We give honor and glory to God for His love and care through the whole process and my trip alone to Africa to get Abi.

Monday, January 9, 2012


 This week.  I leave this week.  In just a few days.

I've been waiting for months.  Years, actually.  In some ways, I have been waiting forever.

I think the last few days are the hardest.

I wish I had something deep and profound to write about, but I don't really.  I've been packing.  Packing little clothes, sized 4T, is a lot of fun, as is buying little shiny shoes.  I bought a little toy ladybug.

The suitcase has a lot of Cheerios in it.

A lot of people have asked me what the other kids think about this whole thing.  Since I am terrible at reading their minds, I really have no idea what they think.  They know they are getting another sister, and as far as I can tell, that is cool with them.

I'm dreading the many long flights.  There is simply nothing you can do to make them less miserable than they are, and combined with the hours in the airports, it's going to be really tough.  It's the airports I'm most worried about. I have this handy little phobia of crowds of strangers, with a nice healthy dose of hating visually overwhelming locations like, say, an airport.  To call the experience "out of my comfort zone" is like throwing your average house cat into a lake.  Somehow, I'll make it through, simply because I have no other option.

Hubby is staying here with the other three Goombas.  He didn't have enough leave time, nor did we have the dollars for two tickets.  So he and Mom are holding down the fort here (thanks, Mom!) while I travel halfway around the world.  Again.

I looked it up.  The distance as the crow flies between my house and Addis is 8,319 miles or 13,387 km. That's not too far, right?

People have been donating vitamins.  I'm amazed at how many people have dropped off a couple of bottles of vitamins and some toothbrushes for me to take to the orphanage.  So I have vitamins tucked in every corner of my suitcase.  Here in the States, vitamins supplement an already nutritious diet.  In Addis, they might save a life.  They're worth leaving home a shirt or two.

We're re-using the Advent calendar to count down to the day Abi comes home.  January 21st is the day she meets her forever family.  The Advent calendar has a gray felt mouse on it.

Monday, January 2, 2012


My Hubby, who often laments the humdrum existence that he leads, had a chance to perform a heroic rescue today.

My daughter's current favorite toy, a dinosaur named "Spiky," became lodged ten feet above the ground when Curly's friend accidentally tossed him onto the shelf-like light sconces near the ceiling at the mall's indoor play place.  Hubby pulled a long pole out of a nearby ficus tree, and stood on a chair, with the result being that Spiky got pushed farther back against the wall.  Hubby then wrapped his coat around the pole, which looked like a big, poufy torch, but it worked to bat the dinosaur down into my waiting daughter's arms.

Everyone at the mall, including those waiting in line for the cinema, cheered.

Hubby blogged about it too.