Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Let the laundry begin.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


That's how many words I've written since November 1st for NaNoWrimo. I'm half-way through. Up until a couple of days ago, I'd maintained a self-congratulatory two day cushion, but it's gone now.

Here's something interesting about taking a lot of time from your regularly scheduled life to do something you love, something that moves you, even if it's very silly and shouldn't be taken very seriously: It makes you a lighter, happier person because EVEN THE SILLY THINGS MATTER.

Because if we can make room for the silly endeavors, the more serious ones naturally follow. They wear away a groove in our lives, to make room for what we tell ourselves we don't have room for. The big "No" we tell ourselves when we have a dream and want to follow it becomes quieter until we can hear what our souls are begging us to do.

It doesn't matter that I don't know what I will write about when I sit down to in front of my computer tonight after my children are in bed. What matters is that I'm sitting down at all.

No one can write a great novel in one month. But I can write a mediocre one that gives me something I can't quite name in return.

And that has to be worth more than all the unfolded laundry and a growing tower of dirty dishes in the sink.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ummmm...What Did I Just Do???

Okay. So it's been awhile. I could offer up some reasonable excuses for my absence like: I began homeschooling my two oldest while trying to keep my two youngest happy. Or an autoimmune disease that has been kicking my butt for the past month. I could blame it on out of town guests, children with colds, Yonas kicking his tantrums into super-ultra high gear, hormones, or pure exhaustion.

I could claim any of those, or maybe all of those excuses, for why I haven't been blogging, but I think the truth may be that I'm not a blogger anymore. I have genuinely felt like I didn't have anything interesting to put out into the ether. I may revert back to how this blog began, a chronicle of my children's lives for people who love them that live far away. Maybe not. Maybe inspiration will strike and I will have lots of things to say someday. But for now, not so much.

BUT. Wait until the end of November to give up on me. Last November I participated in NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month. This year I have stupidly, boldly, and insanely committed to NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. That's right. You commit your crazy ass to writing a novel in the month of November. 50,000 words. That's about 1500-2000 words per day. There is no chance of a prize for completion. Only misery until the finish line. If, that is, you actually finish. But if you do...bliss.

So I am here today, posting on my neglected blog to say out loud that I have committed myself to said misery so I will feel accountable, so my friends will say, "How's the writing going?" and I will have to give them an answer, so I can get on here and bitch about it, and so that any of you who plan on joining the insanity can conspire and commiserate with me.

I will post about my progress. And when December rolls around, after a month of neglecting housework and laundry and, let's be honest, personal hygiene; I might even post a picture or two of my children.

And maybe I'll be a blogger again.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Mindful Monday: 'Opia

This past week, the week we officially began homeschooling, coincided with Yonas getting sick for the first time since he's been home. Just you're average cold, nothing too awful. But man, oh man, it triggered something in my boy. He regressed to where we were at about the two-months-home mark. A screaming, tantruming, rabid mess. He started using Amharic words he hasn't used in four months. Milder, less alarming versions of his previous food issues emerged, he wanted to be carried everywhere, sucked his thumb more, hit me, slammed my finger in a drawer on purpose.

He also started talking about Ethiopia, " 'Opia" a lot more.

On Friday it rained for the first time all August, it was a gray, cloudy day. While Yonas had lunch and the girls were off playing, we had this conversation:

"Baby cry 'Opia"
"A baby cried in Ethiopia?"
"Yeah, baby Ula cry 'Opia."
"Baby Ula cried in Ethiopia?"
"Yeah. Baby Ula sad. Baby Ula hurt."
"The baby cried. The baby got hurt. Did Yonas cry in Ethiopia?"

After lunch I sat down with him and we looked at the pictures of when he lived in Ethiopia. We looked at his friends, the women who cared for him. He didn't seem particularly sad or affected, just happy to see pictures of himself.

I was so overwhelmed in the moment, thinking about how much of his life I won't ever know. He has a couple of scars I don't know the source of, visible reminders of the life he lived before he came to us. But it's all the internal scars, all the pain and grief, all the physical and emotional hunger that I can't ever know that I try to honor but sometimes lose in the face of daily living. His presence seems so natural now, such a given, so right, that it can be hard to keep his losses in the forefront of my mind.

Perhaps being sick shook loose some cellular memories he needed to exorcise. Or maybe he was feeling secure enough to let loose more of the pain. Whatever was happening I found myself struggling not to regress with him back to the pain and fear of when we first got home. It's tricky business, this attachment stuff. We let go, surrender just enough to trust each other so that we can fall in love a little more, then hang on for the unpredictable ride that love unleashes.

I try, I do, to stay open to his heart, to the hearts of all my children. Sometimes I get it so wrong it keeps me awake at night. But occasionally there are moments when I let go of my "shoulds" and give myself space to see what they are really after. What they really need. Sometimes I can actually give it to them. And sometimes all I can do is sit with the awareness of where we both are and it has to be enough because in the moment I can't get any closer.

My practice for mindfulness in parenting, in my life, is to get closer to being with my children and myself wherever we are at any given moment. Whether they are slamming my finger in a drawer or pulling me close and whispering, "Luf you, Mama" in my ear.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mindful Monday: Leaping

It's official. We are going to homeschool. Yesterday many of my favorite people gathered to swim and play and celebrate the beginning of a new school year at our old school. But we didn't. Tonight many of my favorite people will gather to go to the orientation of the school that has been our community, our home, for three years. Making the decision to homeschool was not easy, not without doubt, definitely not without sadness. It frankly caught me off guard. When I think of the faces I will be missing, it's easy to wonder what the hell we were thinking. But I know it's meant to be our path.

In the sweeter moments I see a beauty in it all. The beauty in helping my children learn what fascinates them, of helping them follow their hearts, listen to what their souls are whispering. In darker moments I think "I'm going to be lonely. And burnt out. They're going to drive me crazy." And I have been a parent long enough to know all those things are true. I've also been a human long enough to know all those things are fleeting. Just like my time with them.

In a week, when we begin in earnest, we will start with trees. Trees are big and beautiful and give us breath. When you hug the big ones, you can feel their souls. We will let the trees open us to the beauty around us, the bigness of life, and the serenity of being still. And then, when we are ready to move on, we will see where the ride takes us. The trees with their reaching branches, they will point the way.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Six Months Home

Yonas has been home six months today. When I look back at how far we've all come as individuals, as a family, I am amazed. And proud. I will not write a long post today, nor will we celebrate in an external way. But I will celebrate quietly and internally. Today I celebrate:

Ava, and her ability to help and love and tolerate Yonas. Her siblings adore and idolize her with good reason. She is a demi-god.

Eden, who is often better at re-directing his behavior and extinguishing potential fires than I.

Safa, whose ability to forgive and grant him love and affection when he's been awful to her puts me to shame.

Erik, for his support and strength, his humor and battlefield camaraderie. He has been an anchor for me when I felt adrift.

I celebrate myself for digging deep, being honest, asking for help and coming out the other side to find myself six months later celebrating and loving my son. I celebrate myself for knowing I still have a lot of work to do.

I celebrate Yonas for the boy he was when we met him, the boy he is now, and the boy he is becoming. Yonas feels a home-ness here now. The amount of trust and release and surrender it took on his part to get where we are now is not lost on me. It is humbling and beautiful and heartbreaking. A deep bow of respect to you my son.

May the next six months bring more healing, laughter, and peace and bring us round to celebrating a year together as a family of six.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

When Providence Joins Us

I was going to title this post: "Fodder to Get Us Off Our Asses", but it wasn't very romantic and I like the romantic notion of Providence. Maybe you're already off your ass and don't need this quote. And you can call it Providence or God or Karma or Inspiration or your Muse or Being Aligned with the Universe. Call it what you want, but when we make a commitment, something akin to magic happens. Showing up is the hard part. Sit down to write, pick up that paint brush, put on those running shoes and the flood gates of soul support open up. There is mystery here and I don't take it for granted. (Liz, I double dog dare you to read the book.)

The following is a quote from W.H. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition:

"Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed would come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: 'Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.'"

Wordless Wednesday: Babes in the Woods

Monday, August 09, 2010

Mindful Monday: Resistance

When I was in my early 20's I wrote "Nulla dies sine linea" on the inside cover page of every new writing notebook: "Resistance always has meaning". Then I made a true effort to Become a Writer in my mid-20's. At least, in my mind it was a true effort. It certainly felt like one at the time, and I received enough rejection letters to prove I'd made a bit of effort. Then I stopped writing. And I didn't read any fiction for 6 years.

That was a long time ago, and since then I have tortured myself by not writing every day. I have had long stretches of not writing for weeks, months, even years. And lately I have not been writing this blog and I haven't been writing any fiction. And I feel shitty and restless and guilty and small and angry when I don't write. So the question is: If not writing makes me feel like hell, WHY DON"T I JUST DO IT??????????

Because Resistance ALWAYS has meaning.

I am re-reading a book called The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. It is a book I should never stop reading, one I should pick up every day so I don't forget. This book is about kicking Resistance in the ass and getting on with your work, whatever it is. The idea is that if you are trying to elevate yourself in any way; spiritually, physically, emotionally, morally, then you will meet Resistance. If your are trying to make art of any kind, if you are an entrepreneur, trying to lose 20 pounds, you will meet Resistance.

Now here's the cool thing: Fear and self-doubt are great indicators of the action we should be taking. They serve to illuminate our path. The more intensely we experience Resistance, the more we can be sure that it is important to us and to the growth of our soul.

So. What's a miserable non-writing writer to do?

Write, I guess. Show up and let go of the rest. Stand up for herself. Fight the good fight like a warrior every day. Make a commitment and then get out of the way of herself. Stand tall in the face of the greatest fear of all: the fear of success. And I don't mean money and certainly not fame. I mean the success that is born from showing up for your life and giving the world what you've got.

So here I am. I hope to be here more often. I leave you with this abridged quote from Marianne Williamson that is often incorrectly attributed to Nelson Mandela:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Are you getting buried under the weight of Resistance like I am? It always has meaning.

Let's get to work.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mindful Monday

I thought I'd try my hand at this blogging thing and see how she flies. Many things have conspired to make maintaining this log of my life hard right now. Health issues, a continuing bit of Post-Adoption Depression (mild and nebulous, but there nonetheless), summertime, and being the mama to my four lovelies (and especially my two youngest that have been particularly, um...spirited lately), have come together to make an inertia soup of my life that I'm finding hard to swim in. Or swallow. Or something more clever than that.

Okay, that was an awful metaphor. But I feel too dull to think of something better. Plus, I just don't have the time. Yonas will be awake any moment from his nap.

Here are some of the things I've been exploring and pondering in earnest lately:

1. Minimalistic living- I have given away box after box of toys, clothing, and STUFF that we can and should live without. I want less things to pick up, clean, trip on, or otherwise deal with in some way, not more. I'm going to keep filling boxes, looking for what's necessary and loved, and getting rid of as much of the rest as my family will bear. The girls have been great supporters and have given up way more than I would have ever considered asking them to. The idea that space is a commodity resonates deeply with me. I want to fill my space with things I need and love.

2. Deep, slow living- I have always had a need for this. I need massive amounts of downtime and I think my kids do to. I want time to connect with myself and Erik and my children. I want the pace of my life to be as peaceful and full of space as possible. I want time to contemplate banana trees in the backyard in all their tall, bright green glory. I want to laugh and dance and bake with my children and drive as little as possible. I want to savor this short life.

3. Frugal living- I'm cheap and want to learn to be cheaper.

4. Homeschooling/Unschooling- Ava and Eden go to an amazing alternative school. I love the staff, I love the families. But sending four kids to a private school (even a very reasonable one) may not be possible. So, for the millionth time I have spent some time looking and learning about homeschooling and for the first time spent some time exploring what unschooling is all about. (It's not crazy or neglectful or lazy. Done well, it is respectful and meaningful and creates critical, engaged thinkers that trust themselves enough to listen to their hearts.)

5. My health- I have finally found answers about the mystery illness that has been plaguing me for most of my life. It is no longer a mystery, and I am thankful. It's an auto-immune disease called Psoriatic Spondylitis. I have been processing what it means to finally be validated after so many years of searching, but also what it means to know this disease will be part of my life's path. I have been actively searching for ways to control it as much as I can with diet, exercise, and supplements.

I'm not sure how all this fits together in a Mindful Monday post, except that these are things things that are taking up my mental space, my energy; the reason posts here have been so few are far between (that, and an infected, broken-down laptop, hence the no-pictures as of late). I feel a paradigm shift coming on. I look at my sometimes glorious, sometimes tedious life and think: It's all too fast,too precious; don't live on the surface, don't get carried away by its current, don't let it whisk you away so fast. Dive deep, and deeper still, get down, way down where the waters are still and quiet and there is silence. Go deeper still and let the surface above move over you while you sit on the bottom and smile in silence and awe.

That's what I'm striving for. An authentic, vivid life that brings me closer to the best version of myself. One where I can foster the same for my children. One that honors what Erik and I want for ourselves, for each other, for our marriage, and our children. A life of opening and unfolding truth, a life that honors the magic and love that have bound the six of us on this crazy ride together. A life of love and peace.

Friday, June 25, 2010


When you ask Yonas a question, almost any question, he answers "Yeah." This is fun.

The girls like to ask him things like,
"Yonas, are you going to the moon today?"
"Are you going to meet an alien there?"

I like to ask him things like,
"Am I the best mom in the whole wide world?"
"Do I look awesome in this bikini?"
And my favorite,
"Should I have a gin and tonic?"

It's good fun and gets me drinking and in a bikini. And Erik likes that. What could be better for a family?

It sort of embodies his Yonasness, this compulsion to say yeah.
"How are you doing Yonas?

He's a juicy, life-loving boy. We all could use a little more yeah, couldn't we?

Be like Yonas. Just say yes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


As I was changing Yonas' diaper to get him ready for bed, I saw his face look up at mine and I was stopped in my tracks. My heart on pause, my eyes on his. I felt such a profound sense of loss for his Ethiopian parents. They don't get to change his diaper. Or get chatted up about how funny the dog is. They don't get to see his goofy faces, feel his sweet kisses, watch his life expand and unfold. I felt like I could weep. And I felt angry. Angry at a world where children and parents don't always stay together. And a weirder, shameful anger, one that is hard to explain, but mama-bear anger on behalf of my son for the Ethiopian parents that did the hardest thing anyone could do and made a choice for the life of their child, one that I will never have to face, but still it is there.

When we were Ethiopia we drove through Yonas' village. The one he would have grown up in. We saw the field he would have played soccer in; dusty, happy boys running free in the sun. I often think of what Yonas' life would have been like if he'd been able to stay in his village. These "what-ifs" don't serve much purpose I think. Or maybe they do, if they keep us remembering what our children have lost.

As much as I believe Yonas is where he is meant to be, as much as I believe every child deserves a family, as much as I believe he will have opportunity here that he wouldn't have had in Ethiopia, I can't escape what he has lost. What Ethiopia has lost. What two parents have lost. This lovely, chaotic boy that is so full of love he can't contain it sometimes. This lovely, chaotic boy that I claim, that claims me.

At the good-bye ceremony in Ethiopia, the children that were leaving with their families were dressed in traditional Ethiopian clothing. Yonas was subdued and wide-eyed. The children that were staying cried for the friends, brother and sisters really, that were leaving. They chanted the names of each child that was going home. Each family was asked to speak, to put into words what they were feeling. Erik and I were the only ones that didn't. I waited for the transfer to be made, from nanny's arms to mine, I looked around the sea of Ethiopian faces, my time spent there burying itself into the deepest places of who I am, and all I could think was: he's losing so much.

They chanted his name, those resilient unforgettable souls, they chanted for their brother, and I couldn't say a word.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Making It

I can now state with much gratitude and humility that we have moved from Faking It to making it. I'm not sure one is ever "made" when it comes to parenting. It's a lot like a marriage that way, you never stop working if you want it to work. And I would be remiss if I didn't state that I still have days when I struggle to open my heart the way I wish I could. But that isn't about Yonas. I have that experience with all of my children. But we are making it.

If you were one of the many that left a comment on that Faking It post, whether to say, yes I felt that too or hang in there, it will get better, I thank you from the very depths of my soul. Those comments carried me through some very dark times. I held on knowing that so many had gone before me and come out the other side. If you are in the thick of it now, or still, know you are not alone. Things will get better.

Yonas is doing spectacularly well. His language has exploded. He is deeply in love with each of his sisters. He likes skin and carbs and water. He is quick-tempered and squirrely. Funny and brave. He weighs a mere 3 pounds less than Safa. I look at him sometimes, my heart heavy with love and think of the strange magic that brought him our way. And other times I look at him and think of his first family, all they lost, and all I can think of is the strange hell that brought him our way.

I hold my warm-skinned water drinker in my lap while I type these words. He sucks his thumb and hums, moves his body deeper into my flesh, wiggles his newly-painted sister-pink toenails. He leans back and looks up at me, his eyes now more answer than question.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Ethiopian Sunset

I ran up four flights of stairs to catch this sky. It was gone just moments later.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mindless Tuesday

I feel like I let you guys down when I don't feel inspired enough to write a Mindful Monday post. I feel like I let myself down too. Shortly after we got home from Ethiopia, I signed up for two online classes. I've been around the post-new child block enough times to know how easy it is to lose yourself in new motherhood; the exhaustion, the feeling like you're treading water in the middle of the ocean, no land in sight. So I thought I'd make a proactive move and throw out a lifesaver to catch my drowning identity.

Guess what? It didn't work. I've hardly done a damn thing in either class. And I will say in all honesty and in order to save a bit of face that it is in part because I haven't felt well. But that's a bit too convenient. So I started thinking maybe that's just what is supposed to happen. Maybe you're supposed to lose yourself a little. Maybe you're supposed to look up after three months (or a year, five?) and think, "What the hell happened here?"

Maybe it's in the crawling back on bloody hands, knees and heart that you find this new version of yourself--bigger, badder, bolder than you ever knew you were. Is it the same after this phase of life is over? Will it be the same when all my children are in school and I look up from this too short/too long phase of life and find myself not knowing who I am? Probably.

It's juicy, isn't it, this re-discovery of self? It's also painful. I'm trying to get to the part where it's also exciting and fulfilling, but I'm not there yet. I'm still in the thick of it, trying to get okay with not knowing exactly who I am right now. I seem most to be defined as Mother of Four. Which is beautiful. It's exactly what I want. I also wanted to be able to complete an Extreme Visual Journaling class online and not look exhausted and feel ninety years old in my body. Oh well.

It may be too much for me to work toward right now. But it's worth trying, isn't it? I know women that are masterful at this balance, but it is a struggle for me. But there is always something to be said for fighting the good fight.

So to all you mamas out there that fight the good fight of continually claiming and reclaiming your sense of self, on this second day after Mother's Day, I bow deeply before you, one warrior to another. Good hunting.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Ava is Eight

She has been since the day we left for Ethiopia. Something about having a new toddler around has kept me from getting some things done. Like birthday dress pictures. Every year the girls wear an old dress of mine on their birthday and I take pictures of them. I can't believe I've been taking Ava's picture in this dress for eight years. These (and Safa's) were taken about a month ago. Since Eden's birthday is on Sunday, I thought I'd better get on it.
Every last bit of little girl is gone now. It has been for awhile. She moves through her world, her own life, and I see increasingly how parenting is indeed letting go a little each day. I'm thankful for her presence in our family, how she watches out for and loves her siblings, her sense of humor, her thoughtfulness. My degree is in Early Childhood. I was a nanny for years. Once kids hit eight though, I'm in unfamiliar territory, uncharted waters. I may not know what I'm in for, but I know she will be a beautiful, gracious teacher as I fumble my way through as her humble student.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Mindful Monday

I like to live my life with a sense of magic always intact. Always believing in the veil. Always waiting for the beautiful, rare moments when it is lifted for my heart and eyes and the expanse and beauty of life unfolds before me. But it feels gone right now. And so I think of this poem and try to remember...

Things To Think

Think in ways you've never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it carrying a message
Larger than anything you've ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he's carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you've never seen.

When someone knocks on the door, think that he's about
To give you something large: tell you that you're forgiven,
Or that it's not necessary to work all the time, or that it's
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.

~Robert Bly

Thursday, April 29, 2010


I read through my last post and realized I was too vague. The post wasn't about being Yonas' mama specifically or even being a mama generally. Although of course when I'm having a crisis of any kind it does affect the relationships with the people in my life, including my children.

The last post was really just me trying to convey that Yonas is serving as a reminder to me to open up, to live in the present. Yonas is doing amazingly well. The layers of pain and grief are unfurling to reveal a joy of a boy with a sweet heart, a great sense of humor, a wicked short-temper, and an ear for music and language. He is affectionate and fierce, fiery and silly.

The last post was just about me and my physical health. And how it when it's not good, my brain starts monkeying around with a lot of "what ifs?". And then everything seems to go to hell really quickly.

So I'm trying to be patient. And I'm trying to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. And ask for help and speak what's on my heart to the people who love me. I'm trying to notice the sunlight and the breeze and my children's faces. And I'm trying to be kind and compassionate with myself when I can't do any of those things and self-pity sits on my lap and wants to be petted and indulged. I'm trying to remember that wherever I am, it's okay. That I can just sit with the ugliness and fear without trying to get away from it or feed it.

And that just like Yonas' grief and pain, my life unfurls it's layers to reveal what I need to get to the next place I need to go. Whether I like it or not.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mindful Monday

Wouldn't it be amazing if we adults could show our true selves like toddlers do? They lay their emotional cards on the table, no bullshit, and say here I am. Take it or leave it. If a toddler is mad, you know it. If they are happy, you know it. I'm not saying they aren't multi-layered, complicated beasts. They are. And even though you can't always know what's behind their actions, you usually know what they are feeling.

I'm struggling right now. Physically, I'm a mess. I will address that in more detail at some point on this blog, but not until later, not right now. My brain is running in circles, I'm exhausted in body and spirit. But only handful of people in my life know it. Why? What am I saving myself, or them, from?

I like being strong. I also like being thought of as strong. I don't want to seem like a complainer, a whiner. I have so much.

But to be vulnerable enough to say here I am. Take it or leave it. (But please, please take it.) There's wisdom there, yes?

I watch Yonas opening himself up to us, trusting us enough to show us where he is, letting it all hang out, and I am reminded to open up. It's hard. It feels scary sometimes, to show your hand. But it's good.

So when my sister asks me how I'm doing I say, Not good.
And when I need to have the same conversation with Erik for the 100th time in a week, I don't stop myself or my tears. I open up, I feel the weight, and I am thankful for vulnerability in the face of pain and fear because it softens my heart.

And because the only way is through and there are no gold medals for doing it alone.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mindful Monday

"I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein's brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops."

~Stephen Jay Gould

Thursday, April 08, 2010


From the One Day Without Shoes website:

"In some developing nations, children must walk for miles to school, clean water and to seek medical help.
Cuts and sores on feet can lead to serious infection.
Often, children cannot attend school barefoot.
In Ethiopia, approximately one million people are suffering from Podoconiosis, a debilitating and disfiguring disease caused by walking barefoot in volcanic soil.
Podoconiosis is 100% preventable with basic foot hygiene and wearing shoes."

Shoes. Just a pair of shoes. I don't even know how many pairs of shoes we have in our house. What ignorant bliss.
When you purchase a pair of Tom's shoes, they will give a pair of shoes to a child in need. One for one.
And if you can't go shoeless all day, consider trying it for an hour. Or 30 minutes when you don't really want to. On your rocky sidewalk, or your cold kitchen floor while you prepare dinner. Go for a walk around the block. Or just spend 30 seconds imagining walking miles for your water shoeless. Then go kiss your shoes.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Mindful Monday

I thought I'd sit down to write a Mindful Monday post, since it had been so long since the last one. The problem is I have no idea what to write about. I'm flying by the seat of my pants. I'm doing a lot of that lately. My plan is to just see what comes...

If my children are my best mindfulness teachers, (and let's face it, nothing brings you face to face with all your Stuff and forces you to hang out with it like children do) then Yonas is my Professor. I have to stay open and aware of the ever changing tide of emotions this boy brings. Sometimes I can hardly bear it. Most of the time I see exactly what he needs from me and most of the time all I want to do is give it to him. And sometimes I really don't want to give at all, but I do it anyway. And then sometimes, I watch myself watch him, knowing what he needs, knowing what I'm feeling, aware of everything, mindful, and yet. And yet, it feels torturous and tedious and I struggle to not head out the door and walk the few blocks to sit under the highway bridge by the railroad tracks and take up a new life. And then sometimes mindfulness is nowhere to be found and all I want is chocolate or tequila.

That's how it is, this parenting gig. Or at least, that's how it is for me. That's how it has been from the beginning, when Ava was an infant, or Eden a toddler, Safa right now. But because they've been with us from the beginning, the stakes aren't as high if I check out from time to time. If I don't respond in the most open-hearted, mindful way, we have a history of learned love and attachment and trust to carry us to the next moment. They know I will listen, come, comfort, tend, and care. They know in the deepest parts of who they are that we are a we.

Yonas has no baseline knowledge of this we-ness. So those moments when I can't seem to open my heart enough to engage the way I know I should, those carry far more weight with him than they do with the girls. Those pitiful moments like the one we had today where even though he could have absolutely gotten up from his seated position on his own, for some reason he needed me to help him. And for some reason in that moment this admittedly pull-yourself-up-by-the-boot-straps kind of mama just couldn't do it. So we sat in some kind of ridiculous stalemate, his needs bumping up against mine, the oldest of human dances. And he cried. And I sat by him. I said, "You can do it." (Which I should have probably just been saying to myself.) I offered him a hand to reach for. But he wouldn't take it. So I pointed out a roly-poly instead. And I broke a stick. I looked at his fat belly, the swollen mosquito bites on the back of his neck. We watched the roly-poly together. The wind blew. I noticed the yellow dusting of pollen over my arms. I heard the girls playing. I saw how I wanted to be somewhere, anywhere else. I noticed how I wanted a glass of wine. How I still wasn't just helping this kid up. He said roly-poly. We laughed about it, this crazy gray bug that becomes a ball.

And then it happened. At the same moment he began to stand, I reached for him. And I picked him up and we went inside, a mama and her boy, both doing the best we can.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Six Weeks Out

(last week)

(in Ethiopia)

We've been home with Yonas six weeks today. In that time, we've had lice, pneumonia, fierce tantrums, food issues, screaming, crying, fights, lost sleep, homework, laundry, and colds.
We've also had a birthday, dancing, laughter, joy, sunshine, silliness, flowers, singing, long walks, and love.

When I think about how far we've come as individuals and as a family in this short six weeks, I'm astounded. The six of us have worked hard.

Yonas is becoming himself. The person he is outside of institutional life. A boy with a family. He's beginning to lose his orphanage persona. He is sleeping. He has outgrown many of the clothes that fit him when we first got home. The shoes we brought to Ethiopia that were too big for him are now too small. His hair is softer, longer. He looks healthier, more vibrant.

The food issues are abating. He is no longer eating so much he vomits. Many meals come and go with no problems at all. And although he still eats much more than he needs, we are seeing the beginnings of self-regulation. Some milk leftover in his cup. Not asking for thirds. Getting down from the table while the girls are still eating. We have begun introducing the notion of "all gone".

We are communicating through a nice mix of Amharic, English, and some signs. He's learning several new words a day. When he first came home he constantly babbled in a loud, sing-song voice the same syllables repeatedly. This is called "Excessive Chattering" and some post-institutionalized kids do it to block out fear and grief. He doesn't do it at all anymore.

The tantrums are lessening in both intensity and length. When I had pneumonia, Erik wisely implemented a plan where every time Yonas began to tantrum, he picked him up. No matter what. Even if he had to chase him down because he didn't want anything to do with him. It worked. So that's what we do. We pick him up. This has not always been easy for me. This has taken real work on my part and I struggled with it. Sometimes the last thing I want to do is pick him up. But I do it anyway. Most of Yonas' tantrums are born out of being told "no" in some form. There's this idea that adoptees have experienced the "Primal No". Their birth families said, "no", the orphanage said, "no". For many adopted children being told "no" feels like rejection. It feels like, "You are unlovable. You are not good enough. You are unworthy." As we work to earn his trust, he softens. He begins to accept a "no" for what it is.

He is funny, affectionate, loud, daring, short-tempered, and generally at his core, I think, happy. He loves his sisters and they love him. He has begun to understand when Erik leaves for work in the morning it won't be the last time he sees him. In the first weeks we went to the school to pick up Ava and Eden, he was friends with everyone. Indiscriminate with his interactions and play. Now he's more wary. He checks in with me, asks for help, comes back to the safety of my lap when he needs a break.

It has not been easy. I still have moments of dread and fear and sadness. I wake up some mornings, think of the day that lies ahead, how much emotional and physical energy I need to usher us all through the day, and I take a deep breath and think shit, here we go again.

But we are getting there. We are doing it together. And when Yonas says, "Nah, Mama. Nah." (come, Mama), I know I want to follow.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

February 16th, 2010

Our trip to Ethiopia is settling in my soul. I knew it would take awhile. As you might imagine, I haven't had just a ton of time to devote to processing our trip, so I've just had to let it quietly roll over me without working very hard at it. And over the past five weeks Ethiopia has found its way into the deepest places of who I am. I'm not finished. In fact, I'm not sure I will ever be finished processing it and I think that's a good thing.

On Monday as I was driving Ava and Eden to school, we were listening to this. K'naan is Somali, not Ethiopian. But the lyrics always make me teary. And on this day they reminded me of the lovely driver, Elias, Erik and I had on a day trip we took to see Yonas' birthplace.

I didn't get teary that morning because I pitied Elias, or even wished for something better for him. I got teary because I missed him. Ethiopia and her people will do that to you.

Soon, I think, I will begin to recount our trip here. I took a journal. I think of myself as a writer, but didn't write down anything about our trip while we were there. Not one thing. I just couldn't do it.

The day we met Yonas, I took off the necklace that I'd been wearing for 10 months in honor of him. It had the Ethiopian flag on one side, his name engraved on the other. I was wearing another necklace, one I meant to leave at home and I took off that one too. And on the day we went to the U.S. Embassy to take legal custody of Yonas, my purse got turned upside down and the other one, the one not bearing Yonas' name, got lost. I really liked that necklace. I was bummed when I couldn't find it.

This morning, as I was driving to a parent-teacher conference I realized something. That necklace, whether it is now around someone else's neck, whether it gets thrown away or lost, it will probably always be in Ethiopia, even after I stop breathing.

On that day, I lost something inconsequential in the scheme of things in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, while Ethiopia lost one of her sons.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nothing Says Spring To Me Like

lots of children roaming the backyard in various stages of undress. Heaven.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Falling in Like

I've been absent from the cyber-world because I got pneumonia. Coughing-so-hard-you-throw-up, in-bed-for-days, just-take-me-out-back-and-shoot-me, pneumonia. I was able to avoid the hospital by visits to the Austin Infusion Center for breathing treatments and IV fluids and antibiotics. I'm now doing much better and taking the oral version at home. This antibiotic is one commonly used for pneumonia and bronchitis. Oh, and exposure to anthrax. I take it and about 45 minutes later feel like I need a simultaneous nap and quick vomit. And it makes me itchy and cranky, and I'm pretty sure it makes me hover on the verge of a heart attack for at least two hours after taking it. But I'm immensely thankful for the kind nurses and comfy chairs of the infusion center that allowed me to sleep in my own bed and hack in privacy.

While in the thick of it, I hardly saw my children. As you might suspect this was hard for the girls since we'd only recently returned from Ethiopia, really hard on Yonas when we were just beginning our journey of attachment, and excruciating for Erik who became a single parent of four overnight. We continued to receive meals and offers of play dates which helped a lot, but Erik was left to care for Yonas on his own. And frankly, this is still a boy one needs to have regular breaks from. (I'd like now to offer up all kinds of respect and awe to the single parents out there---Cindy, Shannon, etc; I bow down before you.)

So while laying in bed I had some time to think. Here's what I thought about: Injustice. How many people throughout history have died of pneumonia. I thought about pioneer women. How many mothers would have had to keep on keepin' on until they couldn't any longer and then eventually died. How I got to rest in bed and watch movies on a laptop. I thought about how many people with AIDS have died of pneumonia and how ashamed the United States should be for its startling lack of monetary contribution to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. I thought about how many people all over the world right now are dying of pneumonia because they don't have access to medication. I thought about Ethiopia and her people. Of Yonas and his orphangemates. Of their respective birth families and what would happen if they contracted pneumonia. I thought, I'm so thankful.

When I remember we have only been home for three weeks, I am astounded by the progress we have made as individuals and as a family. Yonas has settled in a bit. He is a sweet, funny, affectionate boy that has the same capacity for delightfulness that Eden has. Except when he's not. His tantrums are lessening in frequency and length, but they are still a daily matter. Erik brought him so far in the time I was the sickest. But Yonas and I have work to do together. The work he has done with Erik doesn't transfer automatically to me. So yesterday, when I offered him a bite of soup he found disagreeable, he tantrumed. He went to the pantry and found the Swiffer. He slammed it on the ground in a threatening way for my benefit. When I turned my back to ignore the ugly, he hit me over the head with it. He is that boy.

He is also the boy that puts his chubby hands on both of my cheeks and pulls my mouth to his. The one that lifts my shirt so he can rest his head on my bare belly while he sucks his thumb. The one that belly laughs for his Papa and hugs Ava. The one that loves his car seat and being outside, the one that freely pours water over his head in the bath and has learned the words bubble, toot, mama, donkey and the sign for more since being home. He is that boy too.

The most important thing I thought while I lay in isolated sickness was this: I miss him. I would be lying if I said that I don't have moments of doubt and pessimism and anger. I do. But I missed the weight of his body on mine, his skin, his Yonasness.

And for that, this beginning of falling in like, I am thankful for pneumonia.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Mindful Monday, Four Days Late

Last week, when I was ready to head for Belize or Costa Rica, (somewhere warm with beaches, I hadn't worked out the details), I kept analyzing where I was emotionally and asking myself, "What happened? What went wrong?"

But the very simple answer is this: Nothing went wrong. It just went.

I do know some things that made it harder. We were matched with Yonas on March 31st, 2009. We waited almost a year to bring him home. We spent the majority of the past year filled with longing for our son, waiting for the time that we could hold him in our arms. It's not that we were unprepared for all the challenges; we took classes, read books. It's just that I imagined that the joy and relief of having him home would trump the challenges. But they didn't. That's a gross feeling, but an emotionally honest one.

I will also confess to thinking that I would be immune to the grip of Post-Adoption Depression. I'd read about it on the forum. I'd read Melissa Faye Greene's piece on Post-Adoption Panic. I had no judgment, only empathy. I just never in a million years thought it would touch me. I was wrong.

I also knew about the food issues that many post-institutionalized children face. But I naively thought that because Yonas had been in care for so long, that because he hadn't experienced the kind of hunger many children coming home from Ethiopia had, that those issues would be minor. I was wrong. Really, really wrong.

I underestimated how much grieving I had left to do for our family of five. I have grieved every change our family has undergone. Every incarnation has brought a what-are-we-doing-what-have-we-done? feeling. I just thought I'd worked through most of it. I was wrong.

In essence, I misread some stuff. I romanticized some stuff (who me??). I thought I was more capable than I was. And here is the kicker: I am not the person I thought I was.

I'm not head over heels in love, I'm not full of patience, I don't have the answers for every challenge Yonas lays down at my feet. And that's incredibly painful.

It's also really okay. I don't have to be more than I am (even though I really wish I could be).
I would love to know that every move I made was bringing us all closer to emotional health and peace. I would love to have a crystal ball that would reflect back to me our shiny, happy, healthy future selves.

When I was in my twenties I wrote on my bedroom wall: "Leap, and the net will appear." There is no crystal ball. But I'm doing everything I can to trust the net will appear.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


I can see it. I can see our potential as a family.
I think he has planted the tiniest seed of trust in his heart. This makes all our lives easier.
He enjoyed playing with his sisters for a while this morning.
For the first time in the two weeks we have known him, he ate a meal without it ending in a rage.
We are seeing more frequently a goofy side to this often serious boy.

I am worried about Erik returning to work.
I'm experiencing a lot of anxiety in the middle of the night that makes for broken sleep and shallow breath. I feel like my heart breaks a little around 3:00am each night. My dreams are weird and hazy and unpleasant.

He called me mama.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day Six

Yesterday my youngest daughter, Safa, turned 4. It was not the sort of birthday you envision for your child. Yesterday morning Yonas tantrumed three times when I sat down while holding him. His body literally did not shift its position on mine. I just lowered myself to the floor and it was too much for him to bear. Which in turn was too much for Safa to bear. We had an awful morning. We all cried.

The birthday cake I made for her was so ugly I asked Erik to not take pictures of it. I really don't want her to have evidence of it. She tolerated her crap birthday with such grace it broke my heart.

Yonas napped yesterday afternoon. When he woke, he was more pleasant to be around. So different, in fact, that I was able to see a possible future that included me sticking around to be his mama. Because frankly the railroad tracks a few short blocks away were starting to look pretty good a few days ago.

Today was more manageable. I cried a little, took a long walk with Yonas and Safa in the sun, practiced breathing deeply while he tantrumed, ate some chocolate, called my mom. At some point yesterday, I subtitled his screaming in my mind: "I'm so scared I won't get to stay!!", "I'm angry because I've lost so much!!", "Please help me!!" That helped open my heart to him. Today he was goofing for his sisters. That helped too.

I have been blessed with an amazing group of women that are bringing us meals, delivering care packages, sending me emails and texts of love and support, and in general letting me know I am not alone. I have been overwhelmed by the gracious and supportive comments left here, the ones I've received on the Ethiopian Adoptive Families forum, and sent in private messages. I have been moved by their candor and empathy. I'm blown away by the strength shown in these stories of struggle, how hard parents and children have worked to become a family, how much they have endured. I am proud to be a part of this community. I do not feel alone, and right now, that is everything.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thank You

I am humbled and comforted by the comments left here.

Thank you.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Faking It

How I would love to be able to post a glowing report of our first few days home. I really would. I would love to be able to match the joy our friends have shown, their love and enthusiasm.

But I'm struggling. Erik is having a hard time. The girls want to love this brother they have waited for, but he's not making it easy. He's a tantruming, unpredictable mess. And rightly so. But just because he's earned the feelings doesn't mean they are easy to be around. He has major, MAJOR issues regarding food. Every time food is around he loses his shit. This is what happens when a child has experienced a lot of hunger. Or equates food with love. Or isn't fed when hungry, but on a schedule instead. When a child never sees food being prepared and so never has to wait a bit for it to come their way.

In Ethiopia he tantrumed for 45 minutes because we moved his hand out of the way to close a cabinet door.

He will not nap now, it is too terrifying for him.

In short, he's kind of an asshole. An insanely cute, terrified asshole.

In Ethiopia I cried. I cried for many, many reasons that I will begin to detail in the coming weeks. But in part I cried because I couldn't imagine what fresh hell we'd willingly created for ourselves. I cried to Erik. I said things like, "We only have 16 years left. Maybe he'll run away from home when he's 15. We'll start selling San Francisco. That could cut our time to 13 years." I said it through sobbing laughter and I was only partly kidding.

I am better right now, now while he sleeps. But today I had moments of such deep sorrow I couldn't imagine a time where I could ever think of him as any thing less than the biggest mistake of our lives. Did we seriously trade our sweet, well-oiled lives for this new shitty version?

Let me be perfectly clear that it is only because my adoption community assures me we will all be fine in time and that statistics tell me that 65% of adoptive parents experience some form of Post-Adoption Depression (PAD) that I can write this awfulness here. It does not feel good to write this out. It doesn't feel good to know I will probably have to seek professional help. But maybe it will help someone else be prepared. Because if you know me, you know I am nothing if not honest about my emotional life, especially if I think it might help someone else. And because I have to believe that this is our path and it isn't meant to be our undoing.

In adoption circles here's what they say: "Fake it 'til you make it." So today I carried my mess of a boy around all day when all I wanted to do was leave him on the front porch. I pretended to be happy to see him. I smiled giant fake smiles through my panicked crying and raspberried his belly through my tears.

In the middle of the night, when he cries in his sleep, I will wrap my arms around him and tell I'm here. That he's safe. That he's not going anywhere. That I love him. And I will pray like hell that someday soon it will be true.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Now We Are Six

This is at the airport upon arrival, after 33 hours of travel. Erik and I were so exhausted, we were hallucinating on the last leg of trip. Eden's hand looks scary because it got crushed in a restaurant bathroom door, but she is fine. More soon...

Monday, February 08, 2010

Sunday, February 07, 2010


I have started and erased this post three times now. I'm unable to convey everything I'm feeling now. Earlier today I had a moment when I thought, I can't wait to get on that plane so I can get a little rest.

Unofficial birthday celebrations for Erik and Ava have gone well. We have been blessed with an amazing amount of support and love coming our way. It is humbling.

I'm hyper-aware of our remaining time with the girls, these days becoming moments before we leave. I think of them as babies, how quickly the time has passed; see them now, the people they have become.

And although I feel no desire to return to those times, it is a reminder to me to let these last few days permeate me. Because I know years from now I will sit and remember this time, these days before we left; the days before Yonas. The days when we were five. And it will be hard to imagine that we ever lived without him.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


I may have entered the realm of diminishing returns today. I would walk to my lists, look at them for awhile, decide I was too tired to have to think much, move on to something physical because that seemed easier somehow, decide it wasn't, go back to something that required mental effort and realize I was fooling myself.

Erik returned mid-afternoon from a guys, pre-birthday 24 hours that involved horse racing, whiskey and pecan pie. I took a nap and it was good. I should be in bed now, but need to do this first.

Being so close to meeting Yonas feels surreal right now. I look at his picture and can't fathom what strange magic is granting me the honor of being his. There's a sweetness about this boy I know. Something around the mouth that already feels familiar. I imagine the softness of his cheek. The sound of his laugh. The weight of his body on mine.


Friday, February 05, 2010

Five: I Think I Fell Asleep While I Was Peeing

Just for a second. I have not been wanting to mention that Erik and I are fighting back simultaneous colds for fear that writing it down would tempt the pre-travel gods. Especially since we both seemed to have escaped the stomach virus. But it is time to face facts. I also haven't mentioned that Erik is currently closing a deal and is working every bit as hard as I am. We are run down in body and mind. Last night in bed I was an overtired infant unable to calm my body enough to fall asleep. So this morning I took a quick nap while I was peeing.

Last night five of my lovely friends took me out. (Thank you Bryna, Janna, Leslie, Mima, and Wendy!!!) Toasted me and Yonas with Prosecco. They asked me questions because they really care. They held me up and promised support that I already knew was there. And in return, do you know what I did? (Besides feel blessed and humbled?) I accepted.

Not too long ago it was hard for me to accept help. Nearly impossible for me to ask for it. But in the last few months the futility of living that kind of life has become clear. We aren't meant to do it alone. I don't mean just parenting. I mean all of it. Life. It's too much.

So now when someone asks what they can do to help, I tell them. When someone offers to take my girls to school or fold my laundry, I say yes. It's still a bit outside my comfort zone sometimes. But each time I allow someone who cares about me, my life; each time I yield and surrender, I grow. My heart opens. And my own experience of helping someone I care about tells me that theirs does too.

In this final countdown to bringing Yonas home I may be stumbling a little, but I know there are people who care enough to catch me before I fall.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


I finished writing this post around 5:30 yesterday and forgot to post it. I'm a little tired. So today I give you countdown days six AND five.

My girls go to an alternative school that doesn't hold classes on Thursdays and Fridays. So my mother-in-law comes on Thursday mornings for a few hours. And when she came this morning, I headed out the door with my many lists in hand, a woman on fire. Obsessed. Possesed? I went to eight different places in 2 hours and 45 minutes. (Thank you Alice!) Including the grocery store. The birthdays are kicking my ass. But I am happy.

The rest of this post isn't going to have anything to do with preparing to leave. The remainder of this post is stories of my girls that are worthy of inclusion here and I'm afraid I will forget to write them down in the new brother frenzy.

Most of the funniest things said in our family come from the mouth of Eden, 5:

"I love honey more than I have fingers."

"Of all the animals, the scorpian is the one I worst want to take care of." (After a date with Erik to the exotic pet store.)

In this aforementioned alternative school, they have engaging teachers and 5 year-olds write poems so beautiful you could weep. The following are by Eden:

Pretty, colorful
Growing, blooming, swaying
They make the world beautiful.
Red, white, purple
Spreading, opening

A Shell

Pink, peach spirally
Came from the sea
It used to be a home
Now it lives with me.

This came on her own yesterday:

Snails slithering beneath the morning sky
They don't let anyone see them,
In their shells they sleep.

Eden and Safa, 3, do this weird thing in their pretend play where they talk as if they are reading from a book written in the third person. I think it comes from watching Thomas the Tank Engine. So they say things like, " 'I can do that!' she said, flipping through the air." So Safa and Eden were playing baby and Mama and I overheard this:

Safa: "Waaaaaaaaa. Mama!"
Eden: " 'What is it?' I said sternly."

The following is a conversation you could only have with a 3 year-old. We were on a walk and Safa was distressed, looking for something.
"What are you looking for?" I said.
"That thing I lost." she said.
"What was it?"
"It was the same thing I had earlier, but different."
Okaaaaay. I've been around the block with toddlers a few times, so I pull out a trick that almost always gets somewhere.
"What color is it?"
"The same color as the thing I had." This was said in a kind of why-do-keep-annoying-me-with-these-incessant-questions-when-I'm-trying-to-find-the-thing-I-lost, sort of way. I gave up.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


So far so good on the vomiting front. My bravado diminished a little when it came time to eat last night, and I went for half the burger and about two-thirds of the shake. I was certain I was going down around 9:30, but nothing happened. It could have been how creepy Lost was. Or maybe I was having a panic attack.

Ava was well enough to go back school. Safa and I got more birthday crap and dropped a load of money at Costco. Seriously, I made a kind of painful grunting noise when the eternally grumpy cashier told me my total.

I found out today that not only is the day we're leaving Ava's birthday, it's also the day of the culminating performance for Ava's and Eden's theater class. Yes, you read that correctly. Most of you that read this blog don't know my kids. But if you did, you might be doing a spit take at the notion of either of my oldest two being in a drama class, much less LOVING it. But they do. And we will miss their performance.

Also, I checked our itinerary for our return flight and saw that Yonas is assigned to the seat in front of us on the last leg. I'm sure he'll be fine. He's almost 2 for goodness sake.

I took out the recycling in the cold rain.
The next time I do it, I will be back home. With my son.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


Countdown to Ethiopia Day Eight began at 3:16am. Safa began crying loudly. Not a whimpering cry, but the kind that makes you jump out of your skin and begin running before you even realize your awake. She said, "I'm hungry because I didn't eat dinner!" in a sort of accusatory way. Like I just decided not to give her dinner on a whim. So I made her toast, brought her water, sat on the floor beside her bed and breathed a sigh of relief that she was feeling better.

She was feeling better enough, in fact, to not want to go back to sleep. At 3:46am she called again. I can't remember exactly what happened next, but deals were negotiated, promises made, and Erik pulled in his pillow and a blanket to sleep on the floor next to her.

I made my way back to bed fully aware I was doomed. If you read this blog even occasionally you know I'm an insomniac. Now, an adrenaline rush coupled with a mind on fire, doesn't equal restful sleep. But sometime shortly after 4:30am, I found it. But at 5:23am I hear a child crying in the airlock. (This is what we call the long hallway in our bedroom. It has some magical quality that renders a child unable to pass completely through into our bedroom.) It was Ava.

"What's wrong, honey?"
"I feel sick."
"How do you feel sick."
"My belly hurts and my body feels heavier than it normally should."

I was impressed with that description and knew exactly what she meant. I let her crawl into Erik's side and we both tried to reach out to Mistress Sleep, but she slapped us both on the face, then spit in my hair. At 6:10 we stumbled to the living room.

Ava threw up at 8:42am, 9 seconds after Erik woke me from a deep nap. It can't be good to have to nap at 8:00 am.

She stayed home from school. I had so many errands to run this morning, but I stayed home, tended my feverish, nauseous girl. Did load after load of laundry. Closed all the curtains, ducked and hid from the yard hippies that we paid to pillage our yard. Canceled my laser hair removal appointment. A little beard on a woman looks nice anyway. It says you aren't pretentious.

I did everything I could possibly think of that I could do at home to prepare for the trip in between cleaning up vomit and playing with Safa. A friend picked Eden up from school. Another took her to and from dance class.

In anticipation of getting this virus, I didn't eat much dinner to speak of last night. Ate a liquid breakfast, very little lunch. All too recently I experienced the ravages of a stomach virus that brought me to my knees, and I'm scared. I have taken so many garlic/olive leaf capsules to ward off illness I'm starting to smell like pesto.

But things have changed over the course of this day. Tonight is the "Lost" season premiere. I will watch it with Erik eating a burger and fries while nursing the second best chocolate milkshake in town.

If I have to vomit it all back up a few hours later, so be it. If I'm going down, I'm going down in a blaze of glory.

Monday, February 01, 2010


My eye twitch is back. It's been with me only sporadically during the adoption process and not since the summer. Heretofore reserved for the dissolution of my first marriage, finals, and newborn babies, the twitch is thankfully small and barely noticeable unless I point it out to people.

I've eaten half of the chocolate I bought to take to Ethiopia.

I went to Saver's and bought a giant used duffel bag for $3.99 to carry donations to, and souvenirs from Ethiopia

I spent $200 at Target this morning. Including, but not limited to: birthday crap I would have never bought for Ava's and Safa's birthdays had I been alone. (I have pre-emptive guilt for the birthday I will be capable of whipping up for Safa five days after we return from Ethiopia.) A helium tank. Homeopathic ear drops. A laptop case.

Safa and I have spent the day on the hard floor because the rugs and couch were steamed cleaned and everything is wet.

I've been writing this post in installments. It's 5:42. Safa threw up in the kitchen about 15 minutes ago. Ava and Eden are very hungry. In the past 5 minutes I have said,"Sweetie, I have to clean up this throw-up and then I will get your dinner." and "Baby, I have to wash my hands so I don't get vomit on your pasta!"

I'm bone tired. The dryer is buzzing. I think my legs are about to fall off. The couch and rugs are STILL wet from the steam cleaning this morning.

If I get this stomach virus, I'm going to lose my shit.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


My grandfather died on Sunday January 24th, on his 94th birthday. I spent most of last week in West Virginia. I will write about it some time, but not now. Now I'm back home and we leave in ten days. I will meet and touch Yonas in 12. Can that be right? Can it be that this journey to him is almost over? It doesn't seem possible.

It is 7:41 in the morning. I have printed off the registration form for the next school year. I have solidified plans for the girls while we are gone. I have worked on birthday plans for both Erik's 40th and Ava's 8th. I have added something to three of the five lists I have going. I will spend the day adding more to my lists than crossing off.

Erik and I will begin organizing and packing all the stuff we will take to Ethiopia. I need him to know where I've put things, because it would be just like me to need something and not remember that I actually packed it. Erik will probably work tonight, because he has so much to do before we leave. While he's working I will continue to catch up on the laundry that rose up and multiplied in my absence, compile all our Amharic references, and visit i-Tunes to gather pod casts that might help to keep us entertained during 26 hours of travel.

We will try daily to connect with the girls in a meaningful way because the days of "the girls" are almost over. We are in the transition phase of this metamorphosis. Together we are birthing a new version of this family. It's stretching and pulling and opening each of us in different ways. It's hard work to get to the next place. We are growing and that is not without it's challenges. It's full of uncomfortable stuff like grief, surrender, and fear. It's also full of impossible beauty and tenderness. We will push and work our way through together. And we will try to remember to carry each other as we go. When we emerge, we will be stronger and more beautiful than before. A family of six.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mindful Monday: Mindful Parenting-Part One

This short mantra is the best and perhaps most succinct way I know to describe what mindful parenting looks like:

With each step I take,
My child's heart beats.

Mindfulness is a non-judgemental awareness of each moment. Not what happened an hour ago. Not where you need to be or what you want to get done. When we extend mindfulness to parenting, we aim to see our children and ourselves more clearly in any given moment.

The biggest goal I have on this lovely, chaotic path of motherhood is to be fully present, fully mindful with my children. I fail daily. But I remember and try daily too.

It means that I stop what I'm doing so I can hear what a child has to say about a leaf, even when they are interrupting me. It means that when they fall apart, I try to remember to stop and think about what's driving the behavior instead of reacting to the behavior. It means that I can stop and remember that for as ugly or wild as things can get, it will pass. More importantly, it means that I remember that the beauty is just as fleeting as the ugliness, and there will be a time when their small hands on my face or sweet whispers in my ear are no longer part of my daily life.

Mindful parenting means not only being gentle and compassionate with my children, but also with myself. It means aiming to be a witness to the anger or tumult or sadness in us without becoming too carried away by it or trying to change it. It means getting real comfortable with just the way things are in any given moment.

In other words, it's hard. But if we can relax into it, surrender a little beyond our comfort zone, it gets easier. Just be where you are. Don't overthink, get wrapped up in, or attached to any given moment. Make friends with it, sit down beside the anger, boredom, guilt or worry.

As Pema Chodron says, "Drop your story line."

Mindful parenting looks like this: If I can "drop the story line" of Ashley, whatever that is in any given moment, and just be with my children, then we're all better off. I'm better able to meet their needs, be the mother I want to be, and intuit what they really need.

It feels like this: connected.

And nothing I do as a mother means more to me than that. I once read that if you want to know what your relationship with your child will be like when they are adults, look at your relationship with them now. That's enough to keep me on my toes and working to bring mindfulness to my parenting. They are children but for a short time, they will be adults for far longer. I want them to like being around me when they are grown.

As the saying goes, with children, the days are long and the years short.

Mindful parenting helps me remember and honor this truth in the long, hard days, and will one day help carry me through when I look up and the years with my young children are over. I want to remember the way Eden's newborn peach-head felt in my hands, the way Ava looked at the bubbles like they were a special magic made just for her, the sound of Safa's voice in my ear.

The days are long and hard. I want to stay open to their magic too. I want to look up and see that I moved through these days with awareness. Because before I know it, they will have turned into years.

Friday, January 15, 2010


No more "tentative" are we. We will meet Yonas in 27 days.

We leave on February 10th to go get him. The day Ava turns 8. Two days after Erik turns 40. We return on February 19th. Five days later, Safa will turn 4. For a long time, February has been a month of celebration. It has been, in many ways, a pain in the ass. (Love you Erik, Ava, and Safa!!) Six weeks after Christmas here come the birthdays, which for the mama, means party planning and cake making, and present buying for three. It makes weird sense that February would be the month we will forever celebrate the anniversary of Yonas joining our family. The only other choice would have been in May when we celebrate Eden's birthday, then Yonas' 9 days later. (Maybe Five will share a September birthday with me.)

In the next few days, we will buy our tickets. Soon, we will begin packing in earnest. We will figure out how to help a girl have a happy birthday without her parents. We will make lists and more lists. We will get the carpets cleaned. I will start stocking the freezer and buying birthday presents.

Soon, I will fly to West Virginia to mourn and remember my grandfather.

But tonight, we celebrate.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Because We're a Family

Last week in Ava's second grade class, they did a project where the kids had to make an acrostic with their names. She hadn't mentioned it and as I walking Eden to class, I saw them hung along the hallway. I looked for Ava's and found it:

A- adopting a brother from Ethiopia
V- vegetarian
A- awesome

I could have fallen to my knees. We have planned to adopt for so long, she's been hearing about it since she was 4. We began this process of adopting from Ethiopia in April of 2007, two months after her 4th birthday. This journey is in her like it's in us. So much that when she had to write a description of herself, it came up first, even before "awesome". I've wondered over the past almost-year since we were matched with Yonas, what the girls' internal experience of the process has been. Of course we talk about it a lot. We read books. They act out adoption and transracial families stories in their play.

I know what it means to wait for a child. But what does it mean to wait for a brother? What does it mean for the finish line to keep moving when you are 7, or 5, or 3?

I know the toll that it has had on me, all the ways I've been changed on this journey that has been so much harder and sweeter, so much more challenging and beautiful than I thought possible when we began. But I won't ever know all the ways it has changed my daughters.

I won't know who Ava would have been without this as part of her life's journey. I like to think that it has made her life richer and fuller. That it has lent a sweet expectancy to her middle childhood that it wouldn't have otherwise had. But I also know it has given them all a more distracted, irritable mother than they would have otherwise had.

We are all in it together. Including Yonas, 8000 miles away, who has borne more than all of us put together. We are all in it together, and have been from the start, because that's how families are. We drag each other along our paths, chosen and not chosen. We stand beside each other, we fight together, we make our clumsy way on this crazy ride together and hope we're all holding hands tightly enough to still be standing at the end.

Ava can't realize now how choosing to label herself through the lens of this adoption felt like an act of solidarity to me. How it opened my heart to her, how I wanted to cry, "Yes! Yes! I'm A- adopting a son from Ethiopia, Ashley!!". She doesn't know she reached across the cosmic thread to me, not as a daughter to her mother, but from one human to another struggling one. She doesn't know she reached across to Yonas that day too. Neither does he. But they will someday. Because we're a family.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Why We Couldn't Possibly Travel on the 27th. Even if They Begged.

It's become painfully clear that traveling on the 27th would have been a disaster. First of all, I'm quite certain we are going to have a stomach virus that day and you can't possibly fly while you're busy vomiting. And I now can see that for some insane reason Erik and I would have spent the longest leg of our journey seated apart, but both next to people who snore and wear too much perfume.

And I hate to say it, but I know now that at some point the plane would have crashed. AND they would have lost our luggage.

And most importantly of all, we would have missed the first episode of the new season of Lost.

We were saved by the skin of our teeth.

Monday, January 11, 2010


She picked me up. We drank aquamarine fishbowl margaritas and shared a fried avocado and queso. We talked. Some of it was dirty, most of it wasn't. We sped to Marshall's after, because that's where we go. We had an hour.
We looked at shoes, "I need boots.".
We looked at bras and panties, "Seriously?"
We split up. We lost and found each other. I called her in the store because that's what we do.
We didn't have much time.
That's what happens when you're ten years apart.
We tried on our finds. My left big toe poked out of my skull and cross bone socks. The purple shirt was too small. I looked in the mirror at my bloodshot eyes. My lips were so chapped they were the color of the lipstick our mother wears. I looked old, but not so tired. We agreed we need to find an eyebrow place.
We won't. She had the hiccups.
I bought pants I will wear to Ethiopia to pick up her nephew.
You can tell we're sisters. There isn't a doubt. It's all over our faces and the way we walk.
I feel better.
She is my sister.