Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Boys, boys, boys

There is something I have wanted to write about for several days; in fact, it is what made me start posting again, but I have avoided the topic as it swirls around in my head. I just cut my beginnings on the subject out of the last post and accidentally erased them.....

In April we took our older son to Ethiopia. We are now all home with our daughter and life is busy & chaotic, but good....but a few weeks ago, E, my son said, in the middle of cooking lunch or dinner, and out of nowhere,

"Mom, are all orphans boys?"

I was flabbergasted, said no, of course not, fumbled around, remembered reflective language, and then finally asked,

" What made you think that all orphans were boys?"

"Well, you know, in the orphanage..." he said.

I replied, "you mean at Toukoul?"

And I wandered around the topic some more, saying many people adopt girls, and no one really knows why, and yes, many, many of the children we met at Toukoul were boys, and we moved on.

But I have been a bit stuck on it.

My dear, sweet boy, one of the best big brother's on the planet and a boy with such a big heart, did notice a lot in Ethiopia. He hasn't really wanted to talk about any of it. The teacher had said maybe you can figure out what they don't have, but the list was too large. They didn't have nice clothes, shoes, a room of their own, action figures, families....not one thing to call their own. Where would they put it? In their pocket? We brought super balls, but 27 super balls does not work for 230 children. What are you supposed to do but give them to the office and hope the kids get to play with them someday?

And from our end, how does one decide you have enough children? How does one become content with what you have? I love my two children, they are gifts; I love my work ( which is on semi-hold, just for a bit), I love our life. This can be enough. But I want three. I want to bring a boy home. I find myself daydreaming about it. Maybe our paperwork in Kyrygzstan will suddenly be usefull. Right. Maybe we can go back and bring a boy home from Toukoul. Just one, one who wont be staying.

I cant change every child's life. I cant fix poverty. I cant provide health care, jobs, housing even for those I love right near us. I can open my heart and love my children, and give thanks for how incredibly lucky we are to have them in our lives. So very, very lucky.

I dont think anyone should adopt to "save" someone, ever. I am not "collecting." I do think every child deserves a home. I think many homes should be within a child's culture, but not at the expense of all. The right to have something, no matter how simple, to call theirs.

And, I was really struck by the sad boy who, sometimes, was begining to help at the gate. He was not dressed in white for Easter and was 7 years old. He was no longer going to get adopted and he knew it. He was sad. He was kind to Eli, but so very jealous. His name was so very impossible to remember. He was so kind, he was so sad. How can a boy that young be so sad?

And yet, I was struck, for the older kids, by what they would miss if they left beautiful Ethiopia at this point. They have a very large group of peers, and are a part of it, a culture to be proud of, that is proud of itself, a knowledge of their place, however different from some imagined norm. To leave a country where the majority is black, a place rich with history, to no longer be an expert in so many things, from the most common game, jump rope to the simple act of speaking.....Ethiopia is a wondrous place, in my not so humble opinion, and there is a loss in leaving.

Late night ramblings of a tired, adoptive mom. Now, I must sleep.

Mom? Are all orphans boys?

Monday, June 28, 2010

The smell of Ethiopia

Today, we went to the US Ethiopian Football match in San Jose. (

Yes, they meet every year, in a different city and play football (soccer) and have a festival. Yes, we were the only white people there, but we had B and E, and that makes us white on the outside and brown and black in our hearts. Yes, we couldn't figure out where we were supposed to stop, park or go inside, but once that was worked out, it was fun.

As we were finally parked and walking in the heat towards the side entrance that was the actual entrance, we passed by the food vendors. The smells of Ethiopia, Ingera, Berberé and stewed meats, cooking and filling the air, several trucks passed by the busy Alma street between 10th and 7th, and the smell of diesel fuel completed the perfume, and it was just like Addis. B, the dear girl, stopped fussing the moment she smelled the food and started smiling and talking away. (She has some lovely sounds, very advanced for a baby, we often hear ones that sound like Eli. Last night, Mitch and I swore she said Daddy.....)

But her immediate interest. That made it perfect right away. She was so happy to smell Ethiopia. It makes me smile, wistfully.

It was hot, and there were so few people there on day two, early in the matches, in the heat of the day, that there were just a few people clustered in the shade, watching the games. We ambled over, me, with the B in the Bjorn, Eli, looking fine in his Ethiopian Alphabet yellow T-shirt, Andrea, and my dear sister Caroline. We plopped ourselves down and started watching the game. Everyone smiled at Lulu-B and luckily, because of the world cup and Caroline's tireless attentions as the world's best Aunt, and a bit of thanks to my nephews, suddenly, Caro knows some of the rules of soccer and she carefully explained the game to Eli as I tried to entertain the fussy, teething B. As usual, E and B were the youngest children there.

As B only really wanted people to stop everything and smile at her, I walked around with her a bit. People are very nice and kind to speak with us and are often very kind. They are very polite and talk to her, which she loves, loves, loves. It is a strange thing to be the mother to a child of another culture, another race and one becomes very aware of the occasional cross look, and wants to stay within certain norms, but she is my daughter and I want her to know her people. It is up to us, her parents to be uncomfortable, or get the occasional cross look, and yet still reach out and say hello to new people, to try to find bridges to her people. Ethiopians make it an easy adventure; I find that so many have such big hearts and are very compassionate and willing to spend some time speaking with us. And she smiles.

She had her picture taken by one of the organizers of the event.

Both of the teams E picked won, we got a little bit of Ethiopian food and wandered home and jumped in the pool. E wanted to stay and watch another match. He was having fun. And the food was really just started to get ready. It promised to be a nice evening.

B was so excited by it all that she skipped her afternoon nap and had it at 6 pm, woke up and had some prunes and rice cereal, played, had a bottle and passed out. She then sang for another 25 minutes. She really does make some interesting sounds!

We will return this Friday for Ethiopia day. I hope it is amazing and she likes and survives the crowds. I think it should be fun. I hope it becomes a tradition.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What a wild road

Parenting is such a wild road.

First. This road is SO much easier the second time. She is more high energy, easily bored, but it is so much easier not constantly second guessing myself. If she is hungry, I feed her, if she is tired, I put her to bed or wait 20 minutes with a short outside activity (she LOVES to watch trees) to push towards bedtime, and I put her to bed. If she cant get comfortable and go to sleep, i put her in her crib and she works it out, in about five minutes, with no crying. i just pat her back or talk to her a bit. The first time around, we worried about all the wrong things and dumb things. Should I feed them again? Are they hungry? Then, yes! Change the diaper, feed them, love them up, carry them around, put them down to play, lots of eye contact, play with them, and you are in fine shape, really.

The first time, the lack of personal preference, the lack of autonomy that is instantly gone with your first child, is so incredibly shocking. With adoption, you look forward to parenting in such a huge way, but, still, the ambivolence of giving up all real and imagined freedoms of adult life, going to a movie, whenever you feel like it, read a book, work, whatever, suddenly has to be stuffed into a few short minutes or hours when you really just want to catch up on your sleep. The second time, you at least know, this too will pass, at least a little. The first year is long, but it is gone in a flash. Suddenly they are almost six years old.

Then, I worry.

Her eye contact is not as good as Eli's at 7 months, but she has only been home a month and I had the horrible work weekend from hell last week. I am a musician and work part time, mostly not right now with Ms. Lulu home only a month from Ethiopia, but still and last weekend I had a rehearsal and gig for the entire saturday, then a gig Sunday evening and Monday evening. Fun, fun, fun. the first day was a disaster, her DF tried his best, but our son, Mr. E, finally said, Dad, you are doing the best you can. Day three, she finally went to sleep for him without screaming, but she really thought he was just a lovely walk on, a guest actor, important, but not her main squeeze.

That said, are we really connecting, as much as she needs? How is the attachment going? She is way more attached, but she still looks away alot. Is it just intrest in the world that is normal or should we try even harder? With an older child in the mix, it is more work to try and connect with her. With our first, he came home from Guatemala, and so young, 10 weeks, it still took him 6 weeks to give us real smiles and great eye contact.

So, more face to face, more time in the Bjorn. She really, really dislikes the Ergo carrier. it must be some subtle strap adjustment, because I borrowed someones int he parking lot and she loved it and it fit great. I come home, try ours out and she slips way too far down and screams, as it was stretching her legs to far. I bought it in town at a little store, so i think I will just take it in and ask. But, bummer.

I met someone, a new dad in Eli's school and he brought up attachment, a passion of mine. He said something like, I just try to remember, smile a lot, laugh a lot and lots and lots of eye contact. That's it. but then you need two hands to make the PB&J, two hands to load the washer, two hands to tie your big boy's shoe and suddenly floor time has been too much of the day's activities. Or even trying to have two kids in the pool and keep eye contact with the baby, at least some of hte time. it gets exhausting, working it in.

OK. Maybe exhausting is an exaggeration, but I am Tired, with a capital T, tonight. She woke up at 330, wanted me and I dont remember when she was up and down, but I was up as much as not. Ick. And then we had a lovely day and the band came over for a goodbye lunch and swim for Isabel. It is sad to have an era end, but it was a sweet day.I wish we had played a little music too, but .....we have done that before and we very well may again. And the baby was really sweet, connecting with Joshua and Isabel. So wonderful.

Time to get my big boy to sleep. he is afraid of having bad dreams, and cant get to sleep. Boy oh boy. Does it really go so fast?

Pictures as soon as my computer comes back in the mail. I cant do anything about it until it comes back. I cant wait to get some pictures up here.

Sweet dreams.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Summer is here

Summer is here and in a big way. We played with Jeanne and Dexter this morning, then Wendy, Jasper and Dylan this afternoon. Fun in the sun by the pool; it was pretty delicious. Dylan is so fabulous, 3 and really a favorite of mine. The moment that he actually saw B and she actually saw him was incredible.

Also, it was fantastic to see Dexter and Eli fall right into hanging out and playing. It really was fun, as if no time had passed. And, Miss B loves jeanne. She slows down and says hello, eye to eye. Amazingly enough, Ms B remembered her. She does have quite a memory for faces. So wonderful to see her connecting with people.

I was going to post a huge bunch of pics today, but my computer is actually in the shop. Next week, I plan to post a bunch of old photos and try to catch up my pics with our journey.

Ms. B is doing really well. She is being loved up, by me, by Eli, by everyone, and eats like crazy. I tried to keep track of her oz of formula today and she is over 40. And she had some baby cereal and peas. And some water, just a few oz. She likes to eat. I wonder about her knowing when she is full. Maybe it will come with time, but I need to do some research. I cant find the right phrases tonight! I wonder who to ask.

I feel a bit lost with the sensory integration. Everyone suggests to keep on keeping on, but I feel as if there might be better advice somewhere. We are going in the pool, having a bath, having baby massage when we lotion, being on different surfaces, inside, outside, reading books, but her body needs integration to her environment and I feel there might be more ways to help her than I know.

And also, how does one decide when to switch to bigger size nipples on the bottles. She is on the slowest, which has helped her over active tongue relax, but if the only reason is convenience for the grown up, then should we stick with slow speed? I have no idea.

We started cranial work this week. She did really well. I like the new doctor, but it will be interesting to see how B tolerates it. It was fun to not have to put her on the table to be worked on; that made the whole process much, much easier for both of us. It has helped her breathing massively and I hope it makes everything come together for her so she is really comfortable in her body. She is very, very, very tight. She just tries to keep track of everything.

I am stressed about working this weekend. My first days back with gigs and I have 3 in a row with two rehearsals. 5 days, 2 rehearsals, 3 gigs. Bummer. i hope I can stay relaxed, connect with Lulu and be nice to Eli and mitchel. I hope it goes well.

then, very little on the books for a while. Baby, summer, Eli, sun. i hope it is really a perfect summer.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Toukoul and the Guest House

Our dear daughter is from the north of Ethiopia, but she was adopted from an orphanage in Addis Ababa called Toukoul. She was in room 12 with a dozen or so other babies, and taken care of by nannies, or as they refer to them, "mothers" who rotate through on 12 hour shifts. She went outside in the morning sun for 20-30 minutes every sunny day, and had bottles with her nannies, and some play time on a big mat in the room. She was very used to the sounds of the orphanage, the sounds of many children and babies, but very few technological sounds, just the sounds of children and Amharic. She spent a lot of time, I imagine, in her very small crib, waiting for the next thing to happen.

Adoption Avenues and Dove both process adoptions from Toukoul. Toukoul is a group of orphanages started by a Frenchman, Mr. Ferez. From what I read, he began helping children find homes over 30 years ago, adopted children himself, and built up an orphanage group that has more than one building, and more than one age level represented.

The original Toukoul has a blue gate and several buildings with children from 0-7 or so. Then, there is an orphanage for the next age range and the next, and a work-study and family foster program for the children as they get to the teenage years. They are half finished with a new orphanage in the country outside of Addis, and some of the HIV children that have been housed at one of the Toukoul's have been moved there, as well as children that are waiting to be adopted and children that may very well move through the various stages of the group of orphanages that is Toukoul.

The Toukoul Guest House is directly associated with the orphanage and partially run by one of Mr. Ferez's children, Gabriel, a Frenchman adopted from Ethiopia. It is called YGF for Yves (mr. Frez), Gabriel and Ferez. It isnt a fancy place, but it is inviting and the staff is very supportive and wonderful.

When you stay at Toukoul Guest house, you are connecting your child to an adoption story that goes back 30 years. We met 4 adult adoptee's, two returning for the first time to visit the land of their birth. I feel so luck to have that connection for our daughter. The generation that has gone before, paving the way, and connected to her. What a gift. This is the true gift of staying here.

Also, the staff is very helpful. All speak a little English and they are all incredibly trustworthy. If you ask them, they will help you. The names are so wonderful and difficult to try and learn. From the fabulous people that work the front desk, Asayde, Mimi and Bebe, to the people that work everywhere, Alemtsayhay, to the people that work helping feed you, Andage, Hewit and several others, to the people that actually cook and plan the meals, head chef Wendil and his assistant Mumbi.

Many of the staff have children of their own at home. Asayde has a nephew and is great with kids, our daughter loved him and he grabbed her right up. His English is excellent and I was always happy to see him; he is really good at his job and has a kind heart. Alemtsayhay has a 3 year old at home with her mother and husband and he is usually asleep when she leaves for work and when she returns. The assistant chef has a new daughter, less than 5 months and he is so proud of her, as he should be.

Andague is a kind and beautiful man and I know that when we return his English will have soared leaps and bounds. He served us 3 meals a day and was ever so kind. He lives at the guest house, also there is a night guard, who's wife just had a baby and whichever person is working as the night clerk always stays.

We were lucky and had a fabulous driver, Ibrihim. Not only an excellent driver, who knows all the good routes if there is traffic, but a wonderful person. He was a tour driver all over Ethiopia and knows many tribes, places and things about his country. We felt so lucky to get to hang out with him for so many days. We both wish we could have traveled Ethiopia around with him, but we wanted to be with our daughter. we will return.

Monday, June 7, 2010

leaving on a jet plane, dont know when....

We left Ethiopia with tears in our eyes, but this time, with Lulu-B not only in our hearts but actually with us.

Lufthansa was a great flight; Lulu slept just like a baby in her business class bassinet, everyone was sweet and kind and the food was delicious. I love the bassinet; what a brilliant idea. And a changing table in the bathroom for babies. Duh. what are the US airlines thinking? Babies dont fly? Dont have dirty diapers? i have no idea, but they aren't thinking of actual people traveling.

And Frankfurt was a dream the second time. The terminal we went into on the way home was calm, quiet and lovely. Lulu powered through her diapers into her onesies, just as someone said she would. I was so glad I had my 6 or 7 ziplock baggie outfits with diapers and schmata's to lay down on the different changing tables. Thanks to my mom and sister who packed them, with their help, it was fairly easy to keep her somewhat clean.

We made it to NY in one piece, and had a wonderful time at the NY relatives, but she did have a hard time adjusting a second time when we got home. She had adjustments in NY when we went into a different room for the first time. She really had not seen much of the world and everything was and continues to be a trip. The trip from NY to SF was a drag, but luckily, we did that on a differnt day and our jet lag wasnt so bad. i missed the bassinet and so did Lulu-B.

I havent posted for a while because I had a very long post about the Toukoul Guest House that didnt make it back from MDH's computer. The whole thing put me off writing. Add that to being home with the B, in a new house, not quite unpacked. And then our friends here in town got the word to go pick up her daughter (YEAH!), and I wished we had had the pictures downloaded so we could send them back to our new friends in Ethiopia. I miss them all. We were truly sad to leave our daughter's beautiful country, and that is so very true.

We had an initial doc appointment the week we got home. Ms. B has some delay the doctor said, but she also suggested that we wait three weeks and see how much she adjusts. Smart plan. The B also tagged along with me to see our fabulous acupuncturist a few days after that and almost all of our worries got cut in half. The Doc had said that she has some leftover infant instinctual responses, reflexes that were quite pronounced, mostly a morro shake, and said a bit of orphanage delay. Also, Ms. B is very tight in her muscles, or tonic. The pediatrician said most of the babies she had seen from Ethiopia have overly relaxed muscles, but the B had an opposite response, she is super tight, tonic. Switch to the acupuncturist and he declared her to have a liver-lung block, or to be tonic, and did a very gentle baby treatment on her. Her symptoms of breathing hard dropped in half and her muscles have begun to unwind a bit and the white at the corner of the eyes has gotten less pronounced. We have an appointment to see a cranial person because her snorting or "cold" has not fully abated. The cold symptoms are mostly gone, but she snorts and is phlegmy all the time. I hope that the "cold" dissipates with a little help from the cranial sacral experts. I can hardly wait until Tuesday.

She sings all the time, and loves the sound of her voice. She is getting to be a restless sleeper and is starting to really prefer me to all others, which is good. I wish she wasnt becoming a restless sleeper, but she is working really hard on crawling and is getting to be an expert roller. She rolls and wakes herself up, and then doesnt know what to do with herself! The crawling, she can only really move backward, but she cant stop moving, she is so excited about moving her muscles. She LOVES her brother and just fell in love with his dragon poster.

She likes most people that she meets, but she takes each meeting very seriously. I think fewer is better, so I am staying home more than i will in a few months. She just had a bit of a fit, but I think it is just the trying to crawl thing. She is obsessed. I got her, stuck at the bottom of her crib, half asleep, half happy, half cranky. Crazy girl trying to crawl.

When we got home, our friends showered us with love and food. For two weeks we had people drop by with dinner. They figured it out on a schedule. Such an amazing treat and such an easy landing.

New house, new baby, new life. It feels really, really good.