Monday, July 30, 2012

Calling Burji

During our family meeting in Burji in May we asked, silk alle? - is there a phone? We got the cell phone number of a man in the boys' village who speaks both Amharic and Burjinya.

On Saturday morning I woke up early and met a new Ethiopian friend to call him. The connection was amazingly clear. We told him that the boys were well and asked how everyone in the village was. He said he would pass on news of our phone call to the boys' relatives. It makes me smile to think of the scene in the village later that evening.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Three great pieces of advice

From my fabulous husband -
What does it matter? What if our house is dirty? What if in six months we still haven't finished unpacking? What if we don't get around to replacing the windows for two years? What difference will it actually make? Crunchy floors, the inability to find some things we need, a higher electric bill, none of it actually matters very much.

From Louis CK -
... I go, "Here, honey, have a fig newton."
She goes, "They're not called fig newtons. They're called pig newtons."
And I go, "No they're not. They're called fig newtons." And right away in my head I'm like, "What are you doing? Why? What is to be gained? What do you care? Just, yeah, pig newtons..."

From - I wish I could remember whose blog I read this on.
Say yes. Social norms, inconvenience, laziness, our first instinct is often to say, "No, don't do that." Our children have had their needs and wants ignored so many times. As long as it's not dangerous, try to say yes to them more. Which is why yesterday found my sons gleefully wheeling a garbage can full of dog poop around the front yard.

Monday, July 23, 2012

July updates

In the last three weeks we've gotten into a nice little routine. The boys have started going to camp at the neighborhood park on Monday and Wednesday mornings. It's a good chance for them to play with other kids and do little craft projects. D has been a little resistant about going, especially on Mondays, but when I pick him up at noon, he always has a big smile and says, "Fuuuun!" His high schooler "teacher" apparently spends hours with him on the monkey bars. A doesn't tell me what he does, but his counselor told me he's made some friends. So camp has been good.

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings we usually bike ride or take the dog in the car and go explore some of the area walking trails. Then the boys have swimming at 11:00, which they LOVE, and on Thursdays they have soccer after swimming. Friday mornings are free so we can do a more involved outing like to the Please Touch Museum, or we can play at home.

Afternoons we usually have some quiet reading time after lunch and then run various errands. I try to get some phonics work in with A. We also go to the library a couple of times a week.

On weekends Daddy is home! The boys love their Daddy time. We've taken them into Center City, to the beach, and to Maryland to visit family and friends and go to an Ethiopian festival. Weekends are also time for yard work and swimming at the Y.

I am really liking our new town. One of the reasons we picked this area was that there is a large Ethiopian community nearby. On Saturdays there is always a group of Oromo people at the pool. There's an Ethiopian boy in our boys' swimming class. We've run into Ethiopians at the supermarket. I commented to A that there are a lot of Ethiopians in the area and he looked puzzled and said, no, there are only a few Ethiopians. I guess it's a matter of perspective. He did agree that there are a lot of Ethiopians at the Ethiopian church.

I've been taking the boys to the Ethiopian church every couple of weeks. They hate it. HATE IT. While it warms my heart to see them rejecting organized religion, I do think it's important to maintain that link to their culture, and if we time it right, we just show up for the singing, which is very pretty. Anyway, it's not the religious aspect of it that they hate so much as the being around so many Ethiopians. I think it's confusing to them, and they might think that West Philly is actually Ethiopia and that we're returning them to Ethiopia. I'm not sure. Last time was a little better in that they actually interacted with a few people. I think it's been helpful to meet the little boy in their swimming class and the families at the pool and to see that they can speak Amharic to Ethiopian people while still doing something fun with us.

In terms of grief and adjustment, I feel that D's behavior has moved into the realm of a normal 4-year-old. A has generally been pretty happy, but his meltdowns have changed. Before he would just go limp and drop to the floor wherever he happened to be standing. Now it's more anger - kicking, pinching, spitting, trying to bite. I don't know if this is progress, but it seems he's taking more control of his feelings, showing that he's mad as hell instead of just taking it lying down (literally). We haven't yet learned to predict these meltdowns, but I'm hoping we'll figure out how to channel the anger in a healthy way. Suggestions from adoptive parents are welcome.

Language is developing very quickly. True, 90% of what D says is, "How many wheels (vehicle name)?" and "(Animal name) dangerous? (Animal name) sharp teeth?" but that's because he never stops talking and he only has so many things he knows how to say. A talks less but has more original sentences. Both have developed their listening comprehension so much that I can speak to them pretty normally in English. Both seem to acquire new grammar structures as they sleep. Early on A woke up suddenly knowing possessive 's, a few weeks ago D woke up knowing the auxiliary verb "do" and today D suddenly figured out Subject-Verb-Object word order.

Overall, I am so, so impressed with our children. I am impressed with how they can take so many new things in stride. In the last week they saw a clothes dryer and a houseboat for the first time, and they were surprised and pleased and then immediately accepted them as part of their world. I could tell them that I have a machine that will change our dog into a cat, and they would believe me. It's pretty incredible how open-minded they are.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


We don't know how old our kids are. A supposedly just turned 6 a few days ago, but it's possible he's already 7. D supposedly is about to turn 5, but more likely he just turned 4. Both kids at times act much younger.

Louis CK has some funny things to say about their possible ages (NSFW):


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

my biggest challenge

Nine weeks in, my biggest challenge has been my own mind. That voice in my head that says, "Not enough! No good!" Fortunately (I guess) it's not been about the kind of parent I am - even my mind concedes that I'm doing a pretty good job - but about being a competent adult in this new life of mine. "You still have boxes that need unpacking!" screams my mind. "Your bathrooms are so dirty! Why haven't you gotten those new windows in the attic yet? You need to find a dentist!" For a while my mind was so insistent I found myself sending the kids off to play on their own so I could focus on getting stuff organized and shop online for storage solutions. Luckily I seem to have broken through to the other side and this week I feel like myself again and am back to focusing on the boys. But, that's no guarantee that my mind won't come back with a vengeance, berating me for not being able to function like I did before I had two kids. So, here's what I'm looking for - assurance, from other new adoptive parents, that I'm not failing. That you went through this, too. That you also were late paying your bills and took three days to complete a load of laundry and if you moved to a new house right after adopting two children, that you sat with unpacked boxes, windows that needed replacing and a yard that needed fencing for much, much longer than you would have in your previous life. Please convince my overly critical mind that this is normal.

Friday, July 6, 2012

4th of July and new bed

The 4th of July was a really nice day. In the morning we went to see the local parade. It was the second parade the boys have seen, and they always like things much better the second time. After the parade T went to work, and I put together the boys' new bunk bed. A was a huge help. He participated in everything except using the drill. D was a big help too, by playing on his own and moving out of the way when we needed him to. A put the ladder to the top bunk together almost entirely by himself.

In the afternoon T came home and we went to our friend B's house for a cookout. It was wonderful to see our boys comfortable enough with B and her kids that they could relax even with lots of people around. In the evening the boys saw their first fireworks, which were very exciting. Just being out after dark was exciting.

Sleeping issues are a huge topic in adoption blogs. Last night was the first night the boys slept in the new bed. Up until now they have slept in a double bed right next to ours. Until a few nights ago, one of us would always lie down with them until they were asleep. A few nights ago we transitioned to them going to sleep by themselves in our room. The first night they cried for a few minutes. The next day A said, "Yesterday I sad." I asked him why he was sad and he found the question very amusing. There was almost no crying the second night. Then we put the bunk bed together in the room down the hall. I think having the boys help build the bed and making a big deal out of shopping for sheets made the transition a very positive one.

This morning the boys came bursting into our room, jumping out of their skin with excitement and pride: "We sleep new bed! No mommy and daddy! Just A and D!" Today was their two-month anniversary in the United States, and they were in a ridiculously good mood all day. We went to the helicopter museum to celebrate. Tonight they watched a helicopter-themed video, then went to sleep in their new beds by themselves.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Burji reunion!

Last weekend we drove down to Washington DC to visit with a family who adopted two brothers from our A and D's village in Burji. The boys were brought to the same orphanage in Soyema within a few months of each other. They traveled together to Addis Ababa and were in the same agency care center. A often shared a bed with the older brother, and D sometimes with the younger brother. They came to the U.S. less than two weeks apart.

Our boys were so happy to see their friends again. Even when they weren't directly interacting - D had a hurt leg, so he was kind of withdrawn all weekend - it was clear that they felt very comfortable, that some pieces of the puzzle that had been askew suddenly clicked into place. Here was evidence that all the crazy, unexplainable things that had happened to them in the last two months had been happening to their friends, too! I think it gave our kids a sense of normalcy that had been missing.

We rode bikes and swam in the pool and went to the zoo and the White House. It was a wonderful visit for mommy and daddy too, as we got to compare notes about the boys and their transitions. It gave us a sense of normalcy, too.

The day after our return A had a very hard, cryingscreamingkickingpinching morning. After he had calmed down, we talked about why he was so sad and I asked if he missed his friends. He said Magano (the dog) was sad, that before she had Buki and Beatrice (the neighbor's dog) and now she doesn't have any friends. I held it together while I was with A, but when I went to meet my new Amharic tutor, I boohooed all through the lesson.

We'll do another visit very soon.