Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Injera Success!!

Let's face it. Injera is really tricky to make properly. Even some Ethiopians don't make their own injera. I tried five (six?) times with very little success.

Anytime I told Ethiopians that I was trying to make injera, they tried to smother their smiles and hide looks of utter disbelief. And until today, they were right to think that this "Ferengi" (white foreigner) would have a hard time. Hubby opined that I was lacking some essential ingredient, such as Wing of Bat, or Eye of Eritrean Fire Newt.

No longer!!! Today, I followed the directions here and had overwhelming success. I did use a different book to make my sourdough starter, and I used a Teflon crepe pan on the stove for my "mitad" (injera pan), so the injeras are baby-sized. But the happy news is: it worked!

Now I can make my own injera for our family, and for our friends when we do cultural show-and-tell. I'm so happy. :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Shiro Wat Recipe

Shiro Wat (Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew)

1 cup dry red lentils (buy them here, or locally, sold in bulk at the food co-op) 
1/2 medium-sized red onion
1/4 c. oil (I used canola, but vegetable, sunflower or similar would work)
1/4 tsp. berbere spice (buy it here)
pinch of salt

Preparing the lentils:

Soak the lentils in 3c. water overnight. The next day, rinse them and boil them gently in 3c. fresh water until they are soft and paste-like. It may take 3 hours or more. Cover them while they boil, and stir occasionally, and take care not to boil them over or let them get too dry. Makes 2 batches. Freezes well.

Making the wat:

Dice the onion very fine. Heat oil in a small saucepan until a drop of water sizzles when flicked into it. Add the onion, berbere and salt and cook until the onion is browned and soft. Add 1/2 c. water (carefully, it will pop!) and 1/2 the lentil paste from before, and let boil for a few minutes.  If it is too thick, add more water... too thin, and you can boil for a while to cook some water off.  

It should end up as a thick, soft stew.  Serve on injera.  (A good tutorial for making injera is here.)

**Note: please ignore the injera in the picture. My injera is still in the "trial and error" (read: error) stage. It tastes great, and Abi likes it, so we get a win there! But it doesn't have eyes like it should, and it sticks to the pan, and comes out in pieces, rather than peeling off and having that nice, spongy texture when it cools.  But I'll keep practicing, and maybe one day replace this picture with a better one. :)

Divide and Conquer

This morning I put up a long fence... a successful attempt to separate this canine creature...

...from this adorable human creature, who is beginning to be less afraid of him...

...but why suffer more panic attacks unnecessarily?

It also served to keep this adorable human creature out of the kitchen cupboard for a while...

...and since I took a picture of everyone else, I figured the kid who actually did not need a fence in order to behave himself ought to get a picture on my blog too!

The End.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Lately, a treat in the evenings for us is to rent a movie, make a BIG batch of popcorn, and rotate the kids through bath time.  I remember loving popcorn as a kid (still do) so it's fun to watch my own kids with the big popcorn bowl on their laps.  It's funny how that food gets so many nicknames.  My family called it "Pock-um" after an early baby word of someone's, and now we call it "Fandesha," which is the Amharic word.  Whatever you call it, it's yummy!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

All the Love Languages Wrapped Up in One

I didn't really understand "doing hair" until I went to Ethiopia. Here in America, (at least in my family) we do our hair in front of a mirror, usually quickly, before we go somewhere.  My older daughter, while she likes her long, pretty hair, does not like it to be fussed over, and protests me even brushing it.  Under duress, I can sometimes get in a quick braid, but it's rare.  

In Africa, I saw something completely different.  Even at the orphanage, I saw a nanny sitting on a step in the sun, while a little girl sat quietly between her knees. She massaged oil into the curly hair, and then carefully braided rows of tiny braids.  Both were smiling, both unhurriedly enjoyed the process.

That day I realized something. Doing hair is as much about the process as it is about getting the result.  It is about love and bonding and pampering.  It's about conversation and singing together.

Today, there is a blizzard blowing outside, so my little African princess and I could not sit in the sun.  Instead, I built a big, warm fire.  I set up a chair and a stool.  The coconut oil and combs made an appearance.  She understood right away, and settled herself on the stool with her little toes stretching out toward the fire.

We talked.  She chattered in Amharic. I understood words here and there.  "Toy" and "Cody" and "Car." She told me about the movie she watched this morning. She sang songs.  We sang songs together.  As she relaxed into my knees, I massaged pure coconut oil into her curls, and combed and twisted.  My hands moved gently over her head.  We took our time; we had nowhere to go.

When I finished, she ran to show her big sister the pretty hair that Mommy had done.  I gave her a little clip with a kitty on it.  I could tell her love tank was overflowing as she glowed with the knowledge that she was beautiful.

My eyes got misty as I silently sent a prayer of thanks for the time I spent in Africa, to see how to slow down.  I needed to learn, not how to do hair, but how to do hair.  How to really do hair, to put aside my product-oriented western mindset, and my impatient agenda; to enjoy the closeness and to listen to my daughter's heart. How to combine physical touch with quality time, service, gifts and words of affirmation to shower love on my little daughter on a snowy Saturday morning.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Eczema Success

After posting on a Facebook group about Bean's eczema, I realized I never posted on here about it since I was making special outfits for him two summers ago. In case other moms are looking for things that work, I thought I'd go ahead and update.

Whether he outgrew it, or whether our treatments finally worked, we DID successfully clear up Bean's eczema entirely.  We still use this: Eczema Baby Wash exclusively on him rather than soap.  We only bathe him once or twice a week, and sometimes after a bath, we rub him with a gentle, natural, unscented oil or pure olive oil.  I also wash his clothes using All Free and Clear detergent.

The other thing that helped the most to clear up the rashes, and still helps us if he has a flare-up, is the Pediatrician gave us a prescription for Triamcinolone Acetonide, which is a steroid in a petroleum base.  We have to be careful to use it sparingly and for less than two weeks at a time, but it clears up itchy flare-ups in a couple of days.

I'm happy to say that in the last year or so, we have had almost no problems at all with itchy skin rashes. :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bringing the Coffee Ceremony to Idaho

Because we live in a VERY small town in Idaho with VERY few Ethiopians, I knew that the only way to expose Abi to the culture of her home country was to try to recreate as much of it myself as I could.  I learned to cook several Ethiopian foods (the injera is still a work in progress), and I took careful mental notes on how to do a coffee ceremony.

Once home, I began scouring the internet for all of the necessary equipment and ingredients.  Everything from trays to raw sugar began accumulating in my "Ethiopia cupboard."

The last thing I needed was a charcoal brazier to cook the beans and heat the water.  I was stumped, until a friend suggested that I use a terra cotta flower pot. Bingo! With that, and the fireplace to vent it and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, I had a workable brazier.

Being married to a coffee roaster has its perks.  Getting a little bit of unroasted coffee beans from Ethiopia was as easy as asking Hubby to buy them from the shop.

Yesterday, I finally had everything I needed, and I tried my first practice coffee ceremony for my family.

The scent of the frankincense took us back immediately to Addis.  I wonder if it made Abi feel homesick.  She didn't act melancholy, but was bouncing around singing about "Boona" (coffee) and "Fandesha" (popcorn).

I used my traditional "Jebena" (coffeepot) and to my delight, the coffee tasted exactly like it did in Addis: strong, bright and sweet.

Now that I feel confident roasting the coffee and performing the ceremony, I plan to invite friends over for a cultural show-and-tell in the future.  I also can do coffee ceremonies to celebrate things like birthdays or holidays.

I have to admit, I felt inordinately proud of myself for successfully recreating this ancient, beautiful ceremony.  I want to teach my kids about Abi's culture and heritage, and incorporate it into our own family's traditions.  Someday, if she goes back to Ethiopia, I hope she recognizes the whiff of frankincense and the taste of injera.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Friday, February 17, 2012

Understanding Abi's Blindness

The post I wrote demonstrating how I see (or don't see) has received a surprising number of comments, and people have been overwhelmingly supportive and positive about how helpful it is to have pictures that show how the world looks different to me.  I decided to write a similar post about our daughter, Abi, as I'm aware people have questions about her vision.

Most people think a blind person sees only black.  In Abi's case, she sees a wee pocket off the left side, if the object is held just inches from her face.  Her eyesight was damaged by congenital glaucoma, which was not caught and treated early enough, so it damaged her optic nerves.

To give you an idea what the world might look like to her, here are a pile of M&Ms on the table at lunch, as a kid might see them, and in fact how the other kids do see them.

Abi's ophthalmologist said that he is not sure what she sees, but that her optic nerve shows some irregularity. From our observation, we can tell that her visual field is quite small, and that she doesn't appear to be able to distinguish one color from another, although she can tell a lighter thing from a darker one. So when she leans in close, the pile of M&Ms might look about like this:

As you can see, she's able to pick out the yellow one because it's the lightest. But picking out the yellow M's isn't an indicator of seeing the candies like the other kids see them!

Because she's extremely nearsighted, until we can get glasses that she'll agree to wear, anything held farther than about two inches blurs out to about this:

She also has Nystagmus, which is an involuntary side-to-side movement of the eye which she cannot control, and which becomes stronger if she concentrates on looking at something. The ophthalmologist said that this occurs in young children who lack sight. This little video shows what the M&Ms would look like:

Since she has seen this way ever since she can remember, though, she never gives it a second thought.  She's learning to use a long, white cane to walk by herself, and she loves it! She loves feeling braille on her books in preparation for learning to read, and she's fantastic at recruiting a friend if she needs help at Homeschool Co-op.  She acts just like the other kids, and does age-appropriate chores like clearing her place at the table or picking up toys (by feel).

The ophthalmologist said that it's very likely she'll lose what little sight she has at some point, a fact we were aware of months ago when we received her medical information from the adoption agency.  Although losing the rest of her sight may feel traumatic for her for a while, I hope that having a good foundation in blindness skills, braille, and cane travel will help her realize that she isn't going to be held back in life at all by blindness.  She can still do anything she wants to do (with the exception, maybe of a stock-car driver or air force pilot) and be anything she wants to be.  She is so beautiful, intelligent and outgoing, I have little doubt in her ability to live a full, successful life.

One Month Since Gotcha Day

Today is the one-month anniversary of me getting Abi in Africa, and tomorrow is the four-week mark from her homecoming day.  As a representative day of how things are going, she ate Cheerios and bananas for every meal (although she eats other stuff too, sometimes) and did fantastic at Homeschool Co-op.  She is really outgoing and loves other people, no matter what age.  She knows about twenty words in English, but still mostly communicates using our limited Amharic.

Naptime went well, and then I took her out in the back yard for the first time. She freaked out and screamed at the dog (he was in his run, so could not kiss her) but loved the tire swing.  Shortly, she got really cold, and wanted to come in.  About dinner time, she and Cody were taking turns trying to outdo each other with who could be the most obnoxious, and I thought I might go nuts. Finally, she quit asking me for stuff and whining, and started crawling around pretending to be a cat.

Tonight we all six went grocery shopping, and then we all pitched in to do chores: putting the groceries away, music practice, laundry, dishes and getting the littles ready for bed.  We had so much fun listening to music really loudly on the stereo and working together, I realized I LOVE having a big family.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Woosha

While we were in the guesthouse in Ethiopia, I asked the cook to translate for me. "Drink your water," was what I asked her to tell Abi.  She poured forth in a stream of Amharic, upon which Abi quickly drank her entire cup of water.  I remember feeling satisfaction that the cook had produced such good results, and I asked what she had said.

She turned to me very cheerfully and reported, "I told her if she doesn't drink her water, the dog will bite her!"

Uh oh.

Fast forward to coming home.

Our family includes a very sweet, very nice, and very exuberant 80 pound black Labrador.  He loves the kids, and LOVES to give them wet, sloppy kisses, no matter how much I try to break him of the habit.

Can you see the drama poised to happen?


The other day, I let Shadow in for a little bit when Abi was up, but mostly I have been having Hubby walk him (Hubby hates dogs), and playing with him in the evenings when the kids are in bed, and feeling really guilty that he is outside alone all day instead of with us, his pack.

Really guilty.

And I miss him.

Today I decided to bite the bullet.  If Shadow is to be a part of this family, Abi is going to have to face her fear of him and learn that he will not in fact eat her.


With a sincere prayer for strength and patience, I put Abi on the couch, warned the kids that the "Woosha" (dog) was coming "wust" (inside), and opened the back door. Like a joyful, 80 pound tornado, Shadow burst into the house and headed straight to the table to look for bites under it.  Abi began to whimper.  Like before, I held her and introduced her to the dog with lots of petting and reassuring words.

When I went into the kitchen, the storm broke.  She climbed off the couch to follow me into the kitchen.  The dog curiously investigated this new human that smelled deliciously of coconut oil, and gave her a big, sloppy kiss.  

I didn't think Abi could scream louder than the Bean, but I was wrong.

She absolutely flipped out.  Poor kid, she was shaking and screaming.  She oozed terror from every pore.

Hmm, this wasn't going well.

At first, I tried comforting her, but I knew she couldn't hide from the dog; she needed to interact with him.  She needed to "see" him and discover that he wasn't going to eat her.  It would take time.

It did.  For almost an hour she screamed at the absolute top of her lungs.  It sounded like someone was murdering her slowly using every torture method known to human history, and pouring lemon juice in the wounds at the same time.

The poor, sweet dog cowered, wondering what he could possibly have done wrong.

I continued to force her to pet him and touch him, feeling like the most cruel despot to ever force another human being to face her fears.  I wondered if I was doing this right.

I told her in as many words as I could that the dog would NOT eat her. He was a nice dog, a kind dog and he would not hurt her.  I told her she was okay.

We tried getting some doggy treats to show her what he DID eat (as opposed to little Ethiopian girls).

I tried to tell her that we did not bring her all the way from Ethiopia just to feed her to the dog.  She shrieked.

I expected a knock on the door any time with a curious neighbor wondering who was being racked.

At last, AT LAST, she calmed down.

At last, she touched him.

Then, OH LORD ALMIGHTY, her inner drama queen kicked in.  She began following the dog around holding her hand out, enticing him to lick her.  When he did, she screamed and kicked him.

Well, that had to stop.

I scolded her and told her to be nice to the dog.

She pouted.


Then she tried grabbing my pants and hiding behind me.  That had to stop too.

I went and hid in the bathroom.

I prayed.

Finally, the "Woosha" and the "Set Lidge" (little girl) called a truce and decided to coexist in the same room.  She still whines if he gets too close.

Tomorrow, I have no doubt, will be a repeat of the whole dramatic scene.

Woosha, the Sequel.


My prediction: By the time we get to Woosha, part XII, she and Shadow will be best buds.

I hope.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Affection and YouTube Videos

She was singing along with a familiar children's song that we found on YouTube.  In the middle, she kissed my hand and said "Ewedeshalehu" which means "I love you." So sweet. :)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

First Ice Cream

As far as I know, Abi has never tasted ice cream before in her life.  Her reaction made it obvious that it's not a staple of orphanage cuisine.  ;)


As I posted here, I have been trying to find a way to let Abi enjoy shows with us, but not block the screen for everyone else.  Today, I tried logging in to two different Netflix accounts, so they would play the same show simultaneously.  I set up one show on the iPod Touch, and the other on the laptop.  I synced them as closely as I could, and then muted the iPod.  Abi was thrilled with the small screen that she could hold closely and see.  I put it into a plastic sleeve (originally a package to hold paper clips) so she could not accidentally touch the screen and change the settings.

So far, it has worked well until one device stops playback unexpectedly, and we lose the sync. Hopefully, that won't be a continual problem, and we can at least all enjoy Netflix shows.  We may be able to do something similar with DVDs if we do a little planning and rip them onto the iPod beforehand.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


...Hubby worked a full 8 hours to try to make up for all of the appointments we've had this week. the time Abi finally went to sleep for her nap, Bean was up again.

...I swept up a broken plate when Mister helped empty the dishwasher.

...Hubby collected the third and final poop sample for the lab.

...Abi understood me when I told her in English that her dolly was on the floor by her feet.

...fifty people in line for the movie theater at the mall watched my children in the play place scream and yell and fight and demand that i help them climb on the bear, or jump off the boat, while I sat and sipped coffee and looked at them.

...I ate two leftover chicken nuggets for lunch and forgot to have anything else. hair dryer caught fire, causing the house to smell like burned electrical parts.

...I was informed 934 times by the Singing Elmo doll that a circle has no corners.

...Curly put the laundry away without complaining.

...I had another nightmare, this time that the TSA put me on a plane to Boston and threw away my luggage.

...I was surprised that my favorite green shirt was on top of the dryer, as it had been in the luggage that the TSA threw away in my dream.

...I received a letter in the mail that the judge approved Abi's adoption petition and that her name has been changed.

...the Tooth Fairy stopped by with a golden dollar for Curly, who rolled her eyes and informed me that she knew who the Tooth Fairy was and why did we have to use the dumb cup of water on the windowsill.

...I remember the password to Little Mister's computer reading program on the first try.

...I lost count of the times I had to scold Bean or put him in time-out or other discipline for hitting Abi or kicking Abi or taking Abi's toy or fighting with Abi or screaming about Abi's existence.

...I drank at least five cups of coffee.

...I successfully warded off a migraine headache that had threatened my well-being and happiness with my Jedi mind powers (and well-timed Excedrine).

...we had take-out for dinner.

Getting Close Enough

We have a problem that needs solving here. In order to get close enough to the screen to see it and enjoy it, Abi's head is blocking the picture for everyone else. Sometimes we banish Abi to the couch, which means she is reduced to only listening to the soundtrack; sometimes everyone crowds around the screen, which results in frustration and pushing one another out of the way.

Because her field of vision is so small, the kind of screen Abi can see best is an iPhone-sized screen held inches from her face. I can play Netflix movies on that device for her, but not the same movie as the other kids are watching as it won't let me play the same show on two devices.

The best solution I can think of is setting up a dual-screen monitor with a small screen that she can hold, and a long enough cable that she can sit on the couch with us. If we can somehow manage to get her own tiny, duplicate screen, we could all enjoy a show together. We're still brainstorming how to make it work.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Glad To See Her

For the past year, Miss A has been living in Tennessee, so we have not seen her.  We've kept in touch by email, and she reads my blog, but she has been really missing Bean.  Last week, she and her fiancee drove all the way across the country back to Idaho, and one of the first things she did was to call us and arrange a lunch date.

She kept exclaiming how big he was, and how handsome. We tried to get him to pose for pictures, but his mind was on the playland, and he didn't really want to give a smile for the camera. Whenever I see pics of them together, I marvel at how much alike they look. Darling. :)

Finally, we released all the kids to go play on the playland, and we sat around chatting and watching them.  Miss A and Mr. M took tons of pictures, and told us about their job plans.  We also found out a few medical details about Bean that we hadn't known before.

I'm so proud of Miss A. She is so strong, and has made some really tough choices to make her life better.  She got dealt a rougher hand than most people will ever have to deal with, but she is making good decisions and thinking about her future.  I am so glad to get to connect with her again, and I know she's glad to see Bean, although the goodbyes are always bittersweet.

English, Please!

I wasn't going to give her more Cheerios this morning, but... she asked in English for the first time. Well, more Bean-ese, but still. And she was awfully cute about it. :)