Friday, November 30, 2012

Snapshot: Orcas

These silly stuffed orcas have been the favorite toy for a full year now. Willy (not pictured) is by far the favorite. These two, the twins, are named Orkna and Orkney. Then Abi has a nice little clean orca that is not played with much named Nim.

In years to come I'm going to look at this picture with fondness, remembering these magical years.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Day Six

Six days ago, I put my glasses into a drawer in the bathroom and left them there. I explained why here.

Let me remind you, especially if you haven't read this post: I lose the ability to count fingers at about five feet, so according to this site, my vision is about 20/1600. (20/200 is legally blind.) Add in the inability to see movement or peripheral correctly, and you get an idea that there isn't much there that's useful. It is really, really pretty though!

Friends have asked me how it's going, and I have to admit, I'm completely surprised by what's happened so far.

I've been overwhelmingly pleased! First of all, I have had no headaches. None! No Dry Eye pain, no migraines, no eye strain. I can't remember the last time I went six days without a headache. At least twenty years! I mean, it helped some to stop wearing contact lenses, but seriously? I've had some sort of eye-related pain every hour of every day for as far back as I can remember, and its worse when I read. Secondly, the chronic back and neck pain that has plagued me since high school has almost entirely disappeared. This may be partly due to the PT, but my guess is that I've stopped bending my head and shoulders to try to see things at the right angle. Enjoying a life that's nearly free from these two huge sources of pain has been a little slice of heaven!

I've also been surprised at how little I've struggled. I expected to spend a good part of my days fumbling and frustrated. Apparently, I've unconsciously developed so many non-visual techniques that I haven't felt slowed down hardly at all. For the first few days, I lost my cell phone a few times and found myself pretty frustrated when it took ten minutes of hunting to find it again. I solved that pretty easily by being a little more careful to put it back in the pocket of my purse where it belongs. My kids try to show off their art projects, or ask me to find a misplaced toy, and I feel a little lost, but overall, I've had almost no trouble. I've cooked, cleaned, folded laundry, gone to preschool, watched movies (without a headache, wow!), made espresso, walked all over town, ran the sound board at church, homeschooled, used VoiceOver on my iPhone... with very few problems.

Somehow, and this is the biggest surprise, I feel a sense of calm that is new. Its as if this is the way I'm supposed to be. That sounds crazy to see it written here in black and white, but that's how it feels. It seems like for the last twenty years I've been working at 400% to try and make out the world around me, and to let that struggle go and not worry about it any more is a huge relief. It's peaceful and beautiful in my blurry, out-of-focus world, as though I'm living constantly in an impressionist painting.

There are certainly things I can't do. I can't read anything unless it's 2" from my nose. So signs or menus are completely invisible. Every person looks exactly like every other person, which made meeting a friend at the coffee shop difficult. I can't see cars on the road, and I can't see drivers who may be waving me to cross in front of them. Crossing streets actually feels pretty terrifying, and I try to choose intersections where the cars have a stop sign or a light whenever I can. I know that's the most dangerous part of not being able to see. Paying extra attention to street crossings, I really work hard to listen to traffic and cross my fingers that there are no silent hybrids creeping up on me! Going anywhere remotely unfamiliar involves asking for help, which turns out not to be that hard. In general, people are really nice. Crowded stores can be tricky, although I have a really good memory for where merchandise is located. Apparently I've been doing shopping non-visually for a long time.

One of the weirdest parts of all this is that nobody can tell. Most people don't realize how little I can see. I'm not trying to hide it or pretend; I naturally have a habit of making eye contact even though I can't see peoples' faces. I suppose sometimes I miss gestures or facial communication, but in general I don't think the casual observer realizes anything is unusual. Even with Abi, people have been surprised when I tell them she's blind, and she has nystagmus (shaking eyes) and discoloration. I guess most people just aren't thinking about it.

Looking ahead, will I leave those awful specs in the drawer? It's very tempting. The lack of pain alone might be worth it. I think I might have a chat with my eye doctor about this. So, for now, I'll do another week or two of blurry.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Snapshot: Winter Sunshine

Ready to go play, probably in the Dogloo. I love our fenced back yard!


In my usual scatterbrained way, I forgot to post about Thanksgiving on Thursday, but our little family did celebrate the holiday. We had a delightful little feast, with roasted chicken rather than turkey. Abi loved the sweet potatoes.

The week itself played out a lot like the year this year. It was a milestone and amazing and full of love. It was also difficult and exhausting, since the change in routine activated ALL of Abi's attachment symptoms. I had thought I was getting more chill with accepting her, but this was overload and we all went a little crazy on Saturday.

Still, I'm thankful for this year. I'm thankful for my amazing daughter, for my Hubby who has shown such love and patience this year, for my delightful three other children. I'm grateful even for the trials and hardships this year, because they have shaped who I am as a person. I'm learning to let go of how I thought life *should* work and accept how it is. I'm learning to seek out people who encourage and help me in this journey and to gently let go of relationships that tear me down. I'm learning to forgive in a deeper way, even to forgive myself, and to enjoy each day as it comes.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Art of Not Seeing

"I saw a need for life to imitate art." ~Sean Astin, making of The Fellowship of the Ring.

We've heard artists say that before: actors, songwriters or visual artists, in order to get inside their creations, they bring elements of their work into their ordinary lives, whether actions or mannerisms, and we both admire them for it and look askance at their flaunting of cultural norms. We applaud them for the depth of human emotion they're willing to explore, but in our own heads, we distance ourselves, thinking, "glad it's not me doing that."

When a friend and fellow blogger announced that her work with blind clients necessitated her to experience several days of reduced vision herself, I was both repulsed and fascinated. How I've always hated my glasses, and how I've longed to simply toss them aside, to live surrounded by bokeh.

When I considered it, though, I cringed. Although wearing glasses causes quite a lot of ongoing discomfort, culture dictates to us that we ought to above all things prize vision. Isn't blindness a metaphor for death? Aren't the blind thought to be bumbling, vulnerable, weak? Why would I deliberately choose such an existence?

I vividly remember as a child being taunted by other children when I told them I could not see. They thought I meant I could see nothing, but what I meant was that what I saw was not useful. They accused me of lying, of faking, and even now, 25 years later, their words still echo in my mind. The idea of a person faking blindness in order to get attention seems to me the ultimate in bad taste, or worse, a mental disorder.

For two weeks, though, the idea has nagged at my mind. The inner journey of accepting myself as I am, including flaws and foibles screams to find outward expression in some tangible form. Raising a blind daughter forces me to deal with my own demons, including acceptance of blindness, even if it is not understood or affirmed by the medical community, my family or anyone else. Since I see through my eyes, I know it's there, and no one else needs to believe I am telling the truth.

One of the lesser-known cliches of blindness is the ability to overlook the ugly, the flawed, the differences. In my own personal journey, I'm tired of judging, of criticizing. It leaves me feeling vulnerable, open to criticism, a feeling just as potent as the terrifying physical vulnerability I feel walking around in a world I cannot see. Yet the courage to do so becomes a journey in itself.

For a while, then, I've put my glasses aside. For a week? A month? I'm going to see the world only through my natural eyes. I'm scared, truth be told. I'm scared of the inconvenience. I'm scared of the criticism of those who might never understand why I would do such a thing. I'm scared of letting my husband down. I'm scared of the journey and what I might learn.

But it's something I have to do.

Someday, maybe I can write about my journey. If I learn anything worth sharing. Until then, I guess I'll just be weird. Life imitating weirdness.

And I'll understand my daughter better.

Here's a picture I took last night. She was frustrated that the other kids could see the moon. So, I took a picture of it to show her. My camera refused to focus on something that far away, so the picture is a blurry white blob. Still, it was more than she could see before, and she was happy. In the end, that's what matters.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Clutter Curtains

I've tried and tried to keep these silly shelves clean. It's impossible, though, and our living room always looks messy and cluttered.

Today, I made some curtains. Keep the storage, hide the mess. Me like!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Comfort Food and Frankincense

A couple of days ago, I saw the sourdough starter in the fridge, and got inspired. Abi immediately discovered that I was making injera, and great rejoicing ensued. Here is the batter, sitting overnight in the warmest spot I could find: the bathroom.

Watching this movie on Netflix the other day also inspired me. It made me miss Ethiopia. The movie, called "A Walk to Beautiful" followed five women who journeyed to the capital to receive treatment for damage incurred in traumatic childbirth.

I'm still a little surprised when I make injera that it turns out pretty much like authentic injera. It's spongy and sour and full of ayn, or "eyes."

The injera looked so good, I decided to make a couple of traditional Ethiopian dishes to go with it: doro wat, shiro wat and beef tibs.

Alyssa watched the kids all afternoon, and played
with them while I cooked, so of course she was invited to our impromptu feast.

The food turned out great! We had eyeb (cheese) along with everything else. Due to a lack of traditional cheese, we used Feta, and it was yummy, balancing out the spiciness of the doro wat.

We all gathered around the festal board. My xenophopic American kids ate pancakes and sausage, as I have yet to cultivate a taste for berbere spice in their young palettes.

My little African Miss was in comfort food heaven. 

The doro wat especially turned out super tasty!
We also enjoyed the novelty of eating with our fingers.

Once the feast was done, nothing would satisfy us but a full-blown
Ethiopian coffee ceremony!

Hubby hadn't roasted beans in the ancient traditional manner before. He tried it, although I think he prefers the gas-jet powered machine down at the shop.

For the kids, the best part of the coffee ceremony is the fandeshah, or popcorn. We make it popped in oil on the stove, and it's tasty, although we were too full from our feast to eat much.

Hubby lit the traditional frankincense, and the smell took us right back to Addis Ababa.

The beans, fresh roasted and dark, were cooled, ground
and brewed in the jebena, the clay coffee pot.

Abi loved the tiny spoons used to stir sugar into the cups of coffee. I think she would have made off with the lot, had I let her.

The Goombas each tasted a tiny
bit of the sweet, dark coffee. 
Curly industriously copied me in making a second coffee ceremony using toy dishes. I smiled, thinking of an Ethiopian mother encouraging her daughter to learn this beautiful, ancient ritual of hospitality.

Little Things

On Mondays and Wednesdays, I've been going to physical therapy at the hospital in an attempt to reduce the back pain I've endured for years. Anyway, after PT, I go to Bucer's for an hour and catch a ride home with Hubby. That lovely hour by myself eavesdropping on the bizarre conversations that seem to flourish in coffee shops... bliss.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

So, I Married An Introvert

When the weather gets bad, four kids indoors can seem like a lot of kids! Also, I had a migraine all weekend, so much of the Goomba Wrangling fell to Hubby. By today, he was going a bit crazy.

I can sympathize.

This evening, I had him drop all of us off at the Eastside mall, where we ate Mongolian BBQ take-out on paper plates and played for several hours at the Tree Slide.

Hubby went to a coffee shop, read his book and talked to his best friend on the phone for half an hour.

And it was very good.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Abi spontaneously said, "I love you, Mommy," and it took my breath away. I don't think I'll ever take a moment like that for granted.

Below are some hair pictures from this week.

Taking out braids and exclaiming over how long its grown!

Half the braids out. Mullet.

Braids out but not yet brushed. She calls these "Fluffilees"

Washed and brushed. 

New braids! We love Abi's hair. :)

Monday, November 12, 2012


Curly's eighth birthday was celebrated in the same low-key way that we did the boys' special days. She got a few special presents, got to choose a cake and balloons, and we sang to her. She was thrilled.

Sunday Nights

For the past nine weeks, I coordinated child care for a dozen or so kids, aged 8 and under. The adults attended a finance class upstairs, hosted by our church.

One reason I volunteered for the job is that Abi still needs to be with us, and I did not want to make her sit through the class. Another was that I'm tired of being at home by myself.

It ended up being both a lot of work, and also a lot of fun. Some weeks we played Capture the Flag in the dark parking lot with glow sticks designating team members. On some weeks, we did a craft; on other weeks, I took our giant tub of LEGOs.

My kids had a ball playing with friends, and I enjoyed all of the kids. Still, with the last class over, I'm relieved to be done. We ended last night with trains and blocks, and then decorated cookies.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Project Necessity

Hubby and I have been attempting to do some financing and purchase our house rather than renting it. As a result, we have been jumping through hoop after hoop, including having an appraiser come to the house and do an inspection. She was here during the morning last week, and toured the house, asking about smoke detectors, and noting down the basement window that Bean broke with the rock last summer. The kids were quite curious about her visit, and afterward, Abi had to go upstairs and make sure the inspector had not taken the beds away. Only after Abi had determined that her precious bunk bed was indeed still there, with her pink crocheted blanket from Mama, and her pillow and book, did she relax.

To make a long story short, we needed to do some repairs to qualify for the home loan. We needed to replace the broken window, and repaint any chipped exterior paint. Luckily, our siding is gravel, so the only paint was on windowsills.  That, however, was looking pretty rugged. In fact, it had been on our project list for months, but somehow it always got shoved lower, and never tackled.

Wherever the windows saw the least amount of weather, the paint had peeled, and on the back door and back porch, one of the dogs had done quite a bit of damage, scratching to be let in.

To further complicate matters, the weather turned off this week, raining slushy snow on us, and dropping the temperature below freezing. Since most paint is rated for fifty degrees or above, we knew we were going to have trouble.

On Thursday, Little Mister and I began scraping the peeling paint, and filling in the damaged places on the door. While we worked, the snow intensified, tempting Mister away from work and toward making snowballs.

In the evening, Hubby and I watched an online tutorial about replacing old-fashioned single-paned windows. We bought supplies and set to work, chipping out the old window and installing the new glass, using glazier's points and glazing.  

Saturday, I asked Alyssa to come play with the Littles, so Hubby and I could work. We primed and painted, drying each coat with a hair dryer in order to apply the next coat. Although it took all day in the cold, we didn't meet too many snags, and at last we feel ready to ask the inspector back.  

As I told Hubby, you work all day, and then it looks just about like it did.

Oh well, we're pros at jumping through hoops by this point (adoptions, anyone?) and it will be so cool to have this goal accomplished.