Saturday, September 29, 2012

Talking about Burji

Lately D has been talking a lot about Burji. Mostly it's minor variations on the basic story of his life: "When I was little I lived there. Now I live here." We also talk a lot about how "I have two families." He's pretty proud of how much family he has. He often asks me what time it is in Burji and what his family is doing, and I tell him they're making lunch, or bringing the cows in, or getting ready for bed.

A couple of months ago we started looking at more pictures from Burji and last week we watched part of the video of us meeting his family. I was thrilled that when he asked me, "Was I born when the sun was up or when the sun was down?" we could go back to the video and find the answer.

Any time D and I look at new pictures or discuss anything new, I make sure to catch A up when he comes home from school. A doesn't talk about Burji as much, but he's more likely to offer new thoughts. He sometimes tells me when things here remind him of Burji or how things here are different from Burji.

I always try to stress how much both their families love them and how proud of them we both are.

We made another phone call to the neighbor in Burji to report that A started school. This time we told the boys ahead of time that we would call, with great excitement and talk of how excited their family would be to hear the news. They did not want to participate, but were definitely interested.

We sent a photo album to a family who will travel to Ethiopia soon, to deliver to our agency who will eventually deliver it to Awassa, six hours away from Burji, where it will await someone from the village to come and get it.

It all feels very positive, though I think the reason behind that is not great: they're forgetting. When they first came, most things related to Ethiopia really stressed them out. Now Ethiopia is getting more abstract. They've lost their Amharic and I think their Burjinya too. At the same time, they're starting to enjoy the Ethiopian church more. They're fine looking at pictures of their family. They like reading books about Ethiopia and Africa. Because it's becoming distant and disconnected. I don't know how to change that, or if it's inevitable. Should we be trying to call more often? Should I give them stronger encouragement to talk on the phone? How do we do that if they no longer share a language with their family? I'm interested to hear what other families are doing to have a more "open" adoption.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


A just finished his second full week of first grade. Around here it's the norm to have some freakout when things are new, before settling into a routine. That's how school has been. Really it's been a surprisingly smooth transition. The first few days were hard, on A and on D and on me, but by the end of the first week we were beginning to settle. We all had our reactions and reacted to each other and experimented with each other's reactions and now, by the end of the second week, it feels like school is something we know how to do.

A is doing very well. He's listening to his teacher and mostly understanding her, and he's able to do the work. The lessons I did with him in August really helped. He started riding the school bus on Day 3 and he LOVES it. He is exhausted by the end of the day, but ready and excited to go back the next morning. Every day when he gets home he needs some down time. We figured out that the best thing for me to do is to not talk to him (he's been listening to English all day, he needs a break) and just be available with food. When he's ready, I help him with his homework, and then we all go to the park. I've switched to making dinner right after lunch so that in the afternoon I can just focus on A.

D is also doing great. It only took about a week for him to adjust to the new routine of being home without his brother. The surprise delivery of a ginormous box of Legos on the first full day definitely helped. He asks a lot about what A is doing, and he's formulated a plan for his own future: next year kindergarten, then first grade, then high school, university and ultimately a job designing cruise ships. His ship will have 15 restaurants, 3 of which will only sell tacos, an 18-foot slide that you ride down on your bicycle, and a zoo. Also you can push a button and the ship turns into a motorcycle. The people who were on the cruise end up in the ocean, which he admits is a design flaw. We've talked about this A LOT.

I know I've said this before, but I'm so impressed with our kids. They make it seem easy. Like D says, their hearts are strong.

Friday, September 7, 2012


A is anxious about being in a car and not knowing where we are going (or thinking he doesn't know). If I'm not being proactive, the conversation in the car may go like this:

A: Where are we going?
Me: We're going home.
A (at light): Go straight here?
Me: No, we turn left here.
A: Is not right. Go straight here?
Me: We turn left here. See over there? That's the fire station we passed on the way here.
A (at next light): Turn around here?
Me: See the light up there? We'll turn at that light and get on the big road.
A: Is right, Mommy? Is not right!
Me: This is right. This is the road we came on.
A: Is not right, Mommy? Which way, Mommy? This way? That way? Where are we going? WHERE ARE WE GOING????
Me: Take a deep breath. Tell me. Where are we going?
A (sheepish grin): We going home.
Me: Yes. We are going home. We'll go on this road for five minutes and then we'll be home.
A (at next light): Is right? Is not right. Where are we going?

I think the anxiety comes from being put in a car to be taken from one orphanage to another, without knowing where he was going. He's told us they were taken between Burji and Awassa more than once. I've found if I pre-emptively narrate our drive, I can get in front of his anxiety before it blows up.


Both boys are anxious about food. They have gotten over the eating habits of the first month, when they would each eat two adult-size plates of food at each meal. They still squeeze between me and the kitchen counter when I'm making dinner. I trip over them moving around the kitchen. They cry if the time between "get ready for dinner" and actually eating dinner is longer than 30 seconds. They ask for a second helping and ask for it again and again and again while I'm getting it and walking toward the table with it.

They were never malnourished, as far as I know. A says they always had food to eat and that if they didn't have food at home, the neighbors always shared with them.

If A gets hungry, he becomes a different person. I tell him he is the Incredible Hulk: "Don't make me hungry. You wouldn't like me when I'm hungry." I try to make sure he never gets hungry. I offer them snacks a lot. They can snack up to ten minutes before dinner if they want. A is becoming aware of what hunger does to him. Twice now, he has started down the road to a meltdown, and then stopped and said, "I think I need a snack." So proud of him for that. But I try to stay ahead of it by checking his mood and giving him food before he gets hungry.


D is anxious about his brother leaving him. If they are playing in their room together and A leaves to go to the bathroom, D starts to howl. A while ago the three of us sat down and talked about this. I asked D if he was scared that A was going to leave the house without him, and he burst into tears. I turned to A and asked him if he would leave the house without D. He shouted "NEVER!!!!" so vehemently that D and I both jumped.  I think D felt better after that.

The boys come into our room around 6:30 every morning. A gets in our bed to sleep a little more and D brings me to his bed to sleep so he can play without being alone.

D's anxiety about his brother leaving him is my top concern right now. A started school today, just a half day for the first day. D screamed some in the morning and whimpered all through the morning meet-the-teacher, but then he was OK and a couple of hours later it was already time to go pick A up. A's school starts full-time on Monday.

Monday, September 3, 2012


A few days ago I wrote a post about all the cute things that D does. I am having the hardest time writing a similar post about A. There is an edge to him that makes cute the wrong word. When I think about what I want to remember about him from this summer, I think of all the things that he has worked really hard on.  It has been a summer of challenges and achievement for him.

Some of the things he's worked on are skills:
  • Swimming: He can take several nice long strokes before stopping to breathe, and he can sit on the bottom of the pool.
  • Legos: He can follow visual directions for building with some help, and he can make creations of his own.
  • Bike riding: He is up to 4.5 miles.
  • Reading and spelling: He can sound out most three-letter words and can read about 30 sight words.
Others are more social-emotional development like:
  • Understanding that every family in this country does things a little differently, and he follows the rules of this family.
  • Meeting new kids at the park and playing with them in age-appropriate and culturally-appropriate ways. 
  • Being a good big brother without trying to be the boss.
  • Managing his emotions. This has been a big one, and it is pretty astounding how far he has come. He's developed a lot of self-awareness about his own anxiety and triggers, like hunger or not knowing where he is.
I guess it's not cute because it's been hard work, and hard work is not cute. But it's brave and purposeful, and pretty awesome.