Wednesday, August 4, 2010

She's 4!

Y woke up on Tuesday stretched her arms and proclaimed "I'm four. I'm bigger!" (and according to her Dr today, she has grown 2 inches since Jan! Still no poundage...) it really possible that we have a four year old? No longer a baby, or a toddler, but a real live preschooler! (Who is starting preschool in a mere two weeks! Still gotta get the 'ol Catholic School uniform...Aagh!) Let me repeat that; I am a parent to a preschooler! Sure, we always said that she was a preschooler last year, but let's be real, that was like, uber preschool. This is for real!

Leading up to her birthday, I have been feeling very nostalgic. Partly it's the "I missed XXX amount of time in your life and don't want to miss more" And that is certainly true. But I think I have also been trying to make sense of who she was before we knew her and who she is becoming, and wondering how the two connect. Has she always been this smart? Has she always loved candy? Has she always been this active? Has she always had a sense of humor? What parts of her have been influenced by her growing up environment, her transitions and now her arrival to what is now called "home?" Of course much of this will remain a mystery. But I think part of the adoption experience, both for the child and parents, is attempting to put the pieces together and meaning make. I've certainly been doing that lately.

I'm trying to put together the years of her life (YEARS!) that we all lived without knowing each other; and then the (YEARS!) that we lived while knowing each other, but not living together as a family. I'm thinking about how hard it must have been for her, even subconsciously so, to have changed caregivers a minimum of four times in her little life (not accounting for the change of workers within those homes). Or how scary it must have seemed when N told her he would come back for her, but then it took sooo long. What does she think about that? Does she think that people come and go, or does she realize that this time it is forever?

I guess only time will show how she processes all of these experiences and moments; how all of us process our memories. But I do know that the memories that we shared for her fourth birthday, or "her first birthday home" will be remembered by us for a long time. Friends, pinatas, cakes, cupcakes, bowling, injera, doesn't get much better than that!

We love you sweet Y! Happiest of Happy Birthdays!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

7 months Beteseb!

Want a life update from us? Here goes! We have been a family for seven months now, and I gotta say that it occasionally feels like it has been forever. Memories of the struggles of the early days are beginning to fade and a new sense of overall comfort pervades our household. Perhaps it has something to do with a much less stressful job on my part, and a summer vacation from school for N, but a rhythm finally seems to have arrived! Here are some updates:

Language: Of course I think Y is a freaking genius, but you would too! We are sometimes shocked at how well she is speaking! She made her first compound sentence last week and N and I both clapped at her accomplishment! Referring to her quesadilla, she said "I like it, but it is hot." While her English is going insane, our family continue to speak our own half private language which is a good mixture of Amharic and English and just plain made up words. (Like, what's the word for snowman in Amharic? For us, we combined the word for "ice" b/c snow doesn't exist, and added "person"). Voila! She is around fluent Amharic speakers at least once or twice a week, and certainly still understands fully. However, her speaking courage has gone down and that is a bit sad to see. :(

Health: On the outside, she has been so very healthy, we can't even believe it! Not even a sick day in all of her seven months! However, she hasn't gained ANY weight since being home. Not a kilo! We found out awhile ago (maybe Feb) that she had Giardia, and after some tests again in June, concluded that despite the meds, it persisted! Argh! Hopefully it is gone now and she will hit 30lbs before my 30Th birthday on the 8Th! :) She just completed her third and final major dental work appointment. After starting the process for dental surgery in Jan, we were finally able to figure things out with insurance to do multiple outpatient appoinments. Her mouth now shines bring with seven caps and three fillings! She is obsessed with dental hygiene now that she knows what can happen if she isn't brushing, and loves to ask people if they have teeth problems and go to the dentist also!

Sleeping: This remains our greatest challenge, both for her sake as well as N and I. She is taking a nap in the afternoon now and is usually ok with falling asleep on her own once we have read a story or two. But the evening routine is another story. After reading books and singing songs, either N or I need to lie with her until she falls asleep. This can range from 30 mins to 2 hours, depending on the night. I think this has been a struggle for both N and I due to not being able to have free time together in the evening, or simultaneously talk to dinner guests, friends etc. What usually ends up happening on the long nights (perhaps twice per week) is that N or I just fall asleep in her room. Yes, sleeping is indeed our greatest and most life altering struggle and something that improves one week and is a challenge the next. But in the words of the world's greatest boy band NKOTB: we are "hangin tough!"

General: Our little one is off the wall cute! She is so full of life and loves to dance, sing and now has a vibrant imaginary arsenal of friends (Haile and Hanita, as they are known to her)! I think she is more and more comfortable with each passing day and loves to be with friends and run at the park. For me, motherhood love hasn't come easy. Don't get me wrong, I love my child...but loving my new role as a mother has taken some time. As I have written before, our first few months were so, so tough. On her, on me, on us! It felt like mommy-fail all day long and I didn't really know anyone in a similar adoption situation who could assure me that "this too shall pass." But you know what? It has passed! For the most part, multiple hour long tantrums have subsided and Y's affection is a bit more evenly distributed between N and I. Things are good. Our family is so far from perfect, but I am so thankful that we are so much farther along now than we were 7 months ago!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Our little patriot?

We have our own little "wavin flag" going on over here. Y is obsessed with what is now the World Cup theme song, and has written her own lyrics including such epic lines as "when I get older, I will drink bunna (coffee)." When she saw this Canadian flag at her Great Grandparents house, she seized it and has insisted on running around waving in for days, to the pride of her Canadian relatives. Don't be jealous that we have such a super cute kid! Seriously!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

'Round here

(My pictures don't match the post, but here is a description! 1. I went to Prague to visit a wonderful friend and had an amazing time! 2. Y has spent lots of time with extended family lately and loves it! 3. Hark! We have a 2nd family photo! Y wants to make sure you understand that she is almost 4 years old...I think that is why she is holding up her fingers! :)

Remember all of those changes I talked about? Wow! They are feeling pretty big right now! After 7 pretty amazing years of working with refugee children and families, I left my job last Friday (check this out). It was sad and heartbreaking, but also time for a new challenge. For me, change is tough and leaving my job also felt like leaving my community and leaving work that has not only been fulfilling, but a true joy to participate in. And for better or for worse, so much of my identity over the last few years has been built on the work that I do. It is easy to idealize everything now and say that all of my years at WR were blissful; they weren't and I know that. But it sure is hard to let go of something as unique and truly meaningful as refugee resettlement and my colleagues are truly wonderful and amazing people.

Leaving one job means finding another! I am so thankful "in this economy" (to use the overly annoying phrase) to have had some options! Thankfully social workers are in demand (too bad the pay doesn't follow!) and I was able to choose something that works well with family life. Here it is....drum roll please....I am totally changing fields from international human rights work to providing counseling services to mothers who are making an adoption plan for their child. Yup, I know. It's totally different. Call it counter transference, but I was truly curious when I saw the opportunity and am really looking forward to diving into this field (for awhile......). Given my experience with adoption, I think I just have a real passion for making sure that birth mothers have options that are ethical and plans that are presented in a compassionate manner and thorough way. I really enjoy counseling and am excited to continue to do this with a new population. The agency I am working with does domestic adoptions (and international home studies) with women mostly from the Chicago area. I'm only on week one, but I am finding the training to be intense and stretching.

A change for me means a change for Y since she was going to preschool at WR. We are really lucky to have a wonderful (Ethiopian!) babysitter who will be watching her for the next few weeks as well as some of July until Nathan finishes school. She will hang out with N most of the summer and then start a preschool/daycare in late August. She seems to be happy, so that of course makes us happy!

What else can I say? The sun is shining and summer weather just makes life better! Here's hoping I get back into an exercise routine with this lovely weather. Here's hoping this is my last stream of conscious blog post. Here's hoping you report back to me on how YOUR life is going! :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Change is in the air!

It feels like Spring in Chicago today! Sunny, and the breeze is blowing! A nice day to think about all that is going on! So many changes on the horizon: I have a new job (more info to come soon) Y is getting taller (finally) and has a new school (yikes!!!!), N is about to finish another school year and be home for the summer, and things are just generally good! I know that I haven't blogged in forever, and what's a blog without pictures? I promise to post very soon telling more about what is going on, including my new job (did I mention already that I have one??) and some fun summer plans!

I think I MIGHT be getting back into the blogging world? The jury is still out! :)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Our day(s)

I'm eating Mac n'Cheese while I listen to the sounds of my little one laugh with her bestie and frenemy (half friend/half enemy) from Eritrea. They are screaming and laughing and Y is trying to teach him how to sing a K'naan song. They are running around like mad and kinda making me a little bit crazy, but they are happy so I don't really mind!

This is my new life. It is hard and good.

The lack of blogging speaks to the lack of free time. Which is also hard, but good.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My new love interest

Seriously, I can't get enough of this man.

His smoky salsas.

His rich moles.

Mouth watering guacamole.

This man was made for him; and I for him.

Here's to you Rick Bayless

I checked out this amazing cookbook (and I am providing you a direct link to Amazon so that you can get your own) from the library last week and I can't stop making his food. Yes, you may know him from Top Chef Masters, but he was actually famous in Chicago long before that. His restaurants have seriously long lines, but are seriously delicioso. Even the Obamas love him. (And if he is good enough for Michelle and Barack, he is good enough for me)This man keeps it real on Public TV every week with a lovely cooking show. He is a bit quirky (and don't get me started about how strange his daughter is....weird), but his food stands alone.

Hurry up and make some of his food. Do it. You won't be sorry! First this, then head over to my friend's blog for another good recipe and then spend hours googling all of the other recipes you can find from Rick Bayless. Love him.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Chi-town fun!

Basking in the Oprah glow

I've lived here for twelve years.
I've eaten the pizza
I've had drinks on the 95th (Hancock)
I've run the marathon
I've watched the river turn green
What was missing?
Attending an Oprah show taping, of course
It was a blast. While we were standing in line to get in we all talked about how we weren't really even that big of fans. Funny how we all acted star struck and stood up and screamed (yes, it's true. I stood up and screamed) when she came out. I screamed double when we got free $400 phones (which I plan to sell on Ebay).

It was fun. Chicago is getting warmer and thus more fun! Spring has not yet sprung, but I'm beginning to think it is possible.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A great gift

Y has been home with us for about two and a half months! As I look back over our first weeks together, I realize how each new day brings a greater sense of comfort for all of us. Although we longed to have Y join our family (since August 2008) and we all thought that we "knew" each other well, what we knew that we wanted (to be a family) was still a struggle. We have good days and bad days. We just had a really great week together. She recently said to N "I waited a long time for you to come." She remembers the waiting just like we do. When I am in my most centered moments, I am able to think and remember just how much we longed to be with Y and that brings a greater sense of calmness to what has sometimes felt overwhelming. We longed for her. We want her. It doesn't matter how hard some days are; other days are pure joy! She has a strange sense of emotional maturity that can sometimes make me think she is so much older than she really is; and other times she seems like a baby. Not a toddler, but a tiny baby. I love her age and I am thankful for the fact that God knew what he was doing when Y joined our family. From her outrageously spunky and "up-for-anything" personality (she loves ice skating, sledding, running, smoked salmon and tacquerias) to the fact that she can go to the bathroom mostly by herself, we truly enjoy having a toddler in our family.

As much as we love our little Y as a toddler, sometimes I wonder what she was like as a baby-baby. You know, like before she could walk and talk. We know bits and pieces of her life story. Some days I think she is the luckiest little one alive and other days I wonder why she has had to endure so much in her short human experience. Time will tell how she processes her experiences and what she makes of the world, but for now we are thankful that she seems to be adjusting well. Since we did miss her baby years, we were shocked and so very thankful to receive what we consider to be the most amazing gift of all times. A *wonderful* family from Italy adopted a daughter from Y's orphanage. Like us, they had volunteered in the orphanage and knew the child they were planning to adopt. They had a long journey (also like us) and visited the orphanage many times over the YEARS (ok, not like us) it took them to complete their adoption.

Guess what they gave us? They had been taking pictures of Y for the three years that they had known her...almost her whole life. We received a DVD of over 100 pictures. What a gift. It is something that we will treasure forever. Enjoy some of her cuteness.

Monday, February 8, 2010

It is what it is

Hey Guys!

Small blogging rut going on over here in Chi-town! This post is subtitled "an attempt to just get back on the [blogging] horse." So here goes. It's not pretty, it's not well thought out; it just is.

Shall I start with our dear little Y? Ok, she is seriously the cutest kid ever and doing really wonderful! She is a real joker and loves to play tricks and has a lovely imagination. We love that about her! She is presently obsessed with being a superb sports woman and her interests include tae kwon do (of which we simply make up what appear to me to be "moves") and eating lots of vegetables so that she can be as fast as Usain Bolt. Tonight I asked her if she would like some more carrots and she said "If I eat them, will I be so, so fast like Usain Bolt?" A momma never lies. "Of course!"

Life has had many dips and turns in the past month, the greatest being my "first born child", my office place. I won't go into long and boring details, but things are not going so well at the workplace. Lots of transition, lots of changes and lots of sadness. I'm contemplating my next steps and trying to balance my desire to succeed in my profession with my new life as a mother. Aagh..the balance.

I allegedly start training for a half marathon on Monday. Anyone remember by last attempt in the summer? The world's most awful minor foot problem (plantar fasciatis) overtook me and I was left with no choice but to stop running. I'm so hoping that will not be the case this time around!

In other news: N's parents visited for three weeks, N and I got away for a night, I've cooked a lot lately and we are excited to have some special guests this weekend!

That's the latest and greatest from here! It's 9:10pm. Clearly past my bed time!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Parenting score card

I'm pretty sure every parent has the struggles of wondering if they are good enough for their child. I certainly do. I had lunch with super mom and her kids last week and started the mad comparison game of "why can't I roll more like her?" Super mom (certainly not the title she would give herself, but the one that she totally deserves) has three kids. I have one, but feel like I have three. Super mom remembered to bring 88 snacks in her purse. I forgot all of mine. Super mom's kids politely interacted with both me and my child. My child....ummmmm... Super mom let her kids listen to musical greeting cards while we walked around Target. I just wanted Y to sit in the cart and keep her hands to herself.

You know what I've learned in my six weeks as a parent? I'm super task oriented when it comes to my interactions with Y and I really need to chill the heck out and PLAY more. I'm great at making sure she is only putting healthy food down her mouth (broccoli cake anyone? rather lovely, actually) and that she is always clean and smells great. But I don't usually make games out of putting her shoes on and just sit on the floor and play with her. I really need to do that more. (This may have been some sort of New Years Resolution of mine...)

Cognitively, I know that she connects best when time is directly devoted to her. Not to the food she eats or the clean clothing that she wears. But to her. Oh, the balancing act. Wow. That's the challenge.

On the score card of parenting, I think I need to work harder to increase my score. And I gotta say that the little one is pure (ok, 96.4%) delight right now making things lots happier for all of us. Lots of progress over here.

In other news, I'm back to work and the sky seems to be falling at my office. Not sure how much longer the office will exist, but I will remain for awhile if only to help bring home the (veggie) bacon.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beauty from Ashes

In January 2001 I was a college Junior right here in the great city of Chicago. I attended Bible college and certainly spent more time socializing and exploring this fascinating city then studying the Bible. I paid for college with a part time gig at Banana Republic and by being a Resident Assistant to a dorm floor. In my job as an RA (remember: Bible college), I spent my time encouraging people to follow the strict dress code, go to chapel, not kiss those of the opposite gender (or same for that matter) and absolutely no dancing!!! The RA cohort would have weekly meetings to discuss pressing RA things (like, really important things that you would most likely not understand). I have fond memories of the relationships that I made during that time and thoroughly enjoyed that phase of my life. As I type this, it genuinely feels like a different lifetime ago. And it many ways it was. I have gained nine years, some pounds and a lot more life experiences.

Since 2001 I've graduated college, lived in Ethiopia x2, gotten married, gotten a job, several apartments, one MSW degree, ran some races, traveled to Ethiopia (x5), Ivory Coast, Romania, Germany, Hungary, Austria, Mexico, Canada (x infinity), been to countless weddings and a few funerals and adopted a child.

Today I'm thinking back to those RA meeting in 01. I'm remembering how our Resident Director and his wife hosted a game night for the RA's and announcing to us that they were adopting from Haiti. They showed us pictures, the rooms that they had created for their children and talked excitedly about building their family through adoption. I was happy for them. I lost track of them over the years and in the meantime did all of those other things like get married. But I would occasionally think of them and was shocked to get back in touch with them several years ago (thanks, Facebook) only to find out that their adoptions were still not finalized. (The children have been living with them for many years now as the family serves as missionaries in Haiti).

You know what happened today? Today the children were finally given visas to enter the US and the adoptions will be finalized! NINE YEARS LATER!!!! And I thought that we had some painful days of waiting.

The tragedy in Haiti is unspeakable and has brought devastation to so many both in Haiti and around the world. This news brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart and I was reminded that beauty can be born of tragedy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Oh, maternity leave. Please don't go!!

Today marks the beginning of my second full week home (w/o N), or my last week of FMLA. In this situation, I am choosing to go with the sippie-cup half empty approach: this is my last week at home! One week from today I return to the workforce. I so don't want to go.

Wanna know what we did today? Met friends for lunch, went to Target in the middle of the day, rode the escalators a million times (because NO ONE shops at Target midweek) and then came home. Y is sleeping and I just looked up all of the books I want to check out from the library, and decided to make this for dinner. Not what I will be doing a week from today!

Y is finally in a decent rhythm and I feel like I've got my SAHM groove on...

I'm not exactly complaining, just's different right? N's mother comes for a three week visit starting on Friday, thus prolonging our need to begin the whole childcare routine. I return to work with a reduced work schedule (30 hours) and different job responsibilities. Both are great for this new Momma, but escalator riding is far more fun! Really six weeks? Are you finished already? Time flies when you travel across the world, become a family, travel back, get sick, have jet lag, celebrate three holidays and get head lice!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Week in review

Y has her first play date!!! ( I actually hate that word and need a new term.....anyone???
Whata week.


N returned to work

Two trips to social security; one unsuccessful and one victorious

One Dr's visit

One ER visit (not Y, thankfully....N had a strange freak accident at work, but is fine now!)

Lice (minor, really)

33 loads of laundry


Some tantrums
Y's beloved Aunt Johnna has left the building (final semester of law school!!!)

First tacos

First play date (did you know that it takes three adults to make two kids happy? it does!)

Injera b'wat every single day of the week

Gena celebration with two other adoptive families (you think we had time for a picture?? no way!)
The ups and downs continue, but I gotta say that this was a pretty good week! I never could have handled this week two weeks ago, if that makes sense.....but now with more sleep and less sickness under my belt, I felt pretty good to go!
Headed to yoga today. Aaagh. First time in awhile......

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

One month together!

Hair time is a special time....oh, and we learned the Amharic word for "lice."

More special hair time. Moments before the tragic finger burn of 2009....
It has been one busy month!

Somehow this is our first family photo.....(in Chicago)

Wow! I initially had intentions of doing a "decade in review" post, and then when that fell by the wayside the second option was a "2009 in photos." Perhaps luckily for you, sleep just keeps on winning and here you have what remains: our first month together. And what a month it was.

I'm not gonna lie. Parenting ain't easy. Perhaps I was shocked that I was so shocked by the adjustment. This month has been full of ups and downs. Our first few weeks together were uber hard. Really. I am SOO thankful that N was able to have so much time off or I may not be writing this right now. Since he is a teacher, he already was scheduled to have the two week holiday break. Our travel dates could not have been more perfect as he was able to have two FMLA weeks off as well. Y LOVES her Babba....a lot! Having N around so much made the initial transition so much smoother!

The first few weeks were full of sleep loss, temper tantrums, travel, sickness, unpredictability and confusion all around. I think we wondered how we were going to be able to do it, and Y wondered what happened to life as she knew it.

The last two have involved introductions, family fun, sledding, more sleep, less tantrums, mild sickness and more stability. In some ways, the improvements Y has made have been miraculous. With a few boundaries and tons of attention, she is really adjusting rapidly.

Y is a gift to our family. She really is. She makes us laugh every single day and her courage is amazing. She loves to eat, play with dolls that have hair, slide really fast down big hills, read books, serve pretend coffee and go to visit people. She truly misses her friends from her orphanages and asks about them (and to pray for them) daily. Her desire to see them again, and her lack of real understanding about where they are now, is sometimes heart breaking. We have certainly seen her mourn in her own ways.

And I think I have mourned more as well. As we have learned more and more about her past, I am constantly reminded of how that will impact her future. It isn't all hard, but it isn't all easy either. Adoption just isn't. But that is ok. Our first month together is only the beginning. We have so many months and so many more ups and downs.