Saturday, January 26, 2008

I'm Moving!

I recently discovered that Blogger blogs like this one aren't accessible in Ethiopia. I know many of you are hoping for us to update our blog while traveling, so I'm moving my blog over to WordPress.

Click here to go to the new site: http://lifeinthebend.wordpress.com

Friday, January 25, 2008

Better This Weekend Than Next

I'm sick. Gone are the visions of a romantic yet productive last weekend - now I'm just hoping to feel better while actually getting some of the stuff done that we must accomplish.

Eight of my thirty-five students went home or stayed home sick today and by the time I left at the end of the day my temperature was 102 degrees and my throat was killing me. Paul was sick earlier this week, although he had different symptoms, so I'm cautiously, cautiously hoping that we'll be done with our annual bout of illnesses by next Saturday. Yuck.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I'm Speechless

I received a mysterious package today from someone whose name and address I didn't recognize. This is what was in it:






A group of women from an internet group I participate in had made us two baby quilts. Thirty-three people submitted squares and then one person sewed these gorgeous crib quilts for Atticus and Norah. I'm totally and completely slackjawed by their kindness.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Doing the Snow Dance

I realized today that I won't be negatively affected by snow days this winter. The makeup days are scheduled while I'm still on maternity leave. I usually don't like taking days off for the weather because inevitably I end up snowed in at home alone while P is off at work. I get bored far too easily and end up either moping around or doing something stupid like painting a room the color of Crest.

However...we're supposed to get 4-8 inches of snow tonight and the windchill might be down to - 20 degrees AND I have a lot of stuff left to accomplish around the house. Perhaps a snow day is just the ticket. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

For other adoptive parents reading this, I'm curious about what you did in the week before traveling. We're not packed and the house isn't entirely ready, but I'm very anxious to get going. I'm as ready as I'll ever be. Let's go! Enough of daily life - I'm ready for a change! Did you do anything fun or special to mark your last days without children? I'm looking for some good (and not too expensive) ideas.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Taking Stuff Out of My Mouth on Video

Here's a short video my mom sent me of one of the shower games.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Mother of All Baby Showers



The women in our family threw us an awesome baby shower yesterday. My sister-in-law and mother-in-law put so much thought and planning into the shower and it really was beautiful. There was a science fair-esque billboard explaining the adoption and facts about Ethiopia, pictures of the kids were displayed and a calender was passed and people signed up to bring us dinners after we get back (I'm so excited about that one! I can barely plan dinners now and forget to eat when Paul isn't home. I can't imagine I'm going to get better about that once the kids are here.)

My favorite game was one in which Paul had been given a list of questions about parenting ahead of time (e.g. How old will Norah have to be to get her ears pierced? Will the kids be allowed to play video games?) and then I had to guess what he'd answered. Every time I was wrong I had to put a stick of gum in my mouth. My mouth wasn't too full at the end, so I guess all of those questionaires we've had to answer throughout the adoption process have done their job.

There were many women that I don't really know at the shower - friends of my mom and Paul's mom. It was so amazing to me that people who don't even know us are praying for our family and waiting for good news. Friends, family and strangers have been so generous to us.

As you might imagine, we're now extremely well set in terms of baby gear and clothing. Today's quest is figuring out how to organize it. It's a nice challenge to have. Besides, it's so cold out today that I have no desire to leave the house.

I promised my mom I would post shower gift pictures for my grandma and other far-away relatives to see. Once everything is organized I'll add a few more. For now, here are some of the adorable outfits we now have for Norah and Atticus along with the name tag and picture our niece made for me.

Friday, January 18, 2008

We received new photos today along with a note from our agency saying that as a precaution we should take down any pictures of the kids on our blog until after we bring them home. There was a bit of a scare with another family and another agency earlier this week and everyone's feeling a little jumpy.

You'll have to use your powers of visualization. Neither of the kids have grown appreciably, but Norah's face does look a little more mature. Atticus is wearing a pale-pink onesie and Norah is wearing pastel blue and has blurry hands. I can't wait to meet her and see if she really does move her arms around as much as the pictures hint. They're gorgeous and I can't wait to hold them.

Maternity leave-itis has set in and I'm itching to be done with school and leave for Ethiopia. I'm trying to pull together the yearbook, make an outline of lesson plans for the next four months, and generally remain patient. It's not working all that well.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

More Hair Resources

I was just reading more about hair care on Seeking Sprout and came across these excellent resources:
Hair Matters
Caring for African Hair

Paul's new passport arrived today. It's much fancier and more hi-tech than the old one - lots of pictures, quotes, security features. I sort of have passport-envy because mine is the old kind.

Maybe I'm just a little overly emotional and anxious these days, but when my class went to see the musical Annie today I had to fight the urge to cry through half of it. It's so, so sad to think of all those little girls in an orphanage being mistreated and longing for parents. Then Annie finds out that her "real" parents died and she's not too sad because now Daddy Warbucks can adopt her... I guess I should learn not to squeeze life lessons out of musicals.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hair Care

A generous friend stopped by with her daughter tonight to teach me about hair. My own hair regimen tends to be shampoo, condition, comb. I have never had much of a talent with braiding or blow-drying and I was looking for someone who could give me some extra insight about caring for African-American hair. I don't want to ruin Atticus or Norah's hair by doing the wrong thing or get them ostracized because of frequent bad hair days.
Our friend's four-year-old was amazingly patient as I combed, washed, conditioned, moisturized, combed, parted and braided her hair. Including instructional time and re-starting the braids, it took about an hour and a half.
My skills are far from perfect. I hope Norah's patience and attention span lengthens a little faster than her hair does because it will probably take me quite awhile to become proficient.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Like Standing in a Tube of Toothpaste

I painted our spare bedroom today. When we moved in, this room and the nursery were both painted baby-poop brown. I think the seller was trying to be very chic and Pottery Barn-esque, but he failed miserably. I thought anything would be better than the shades he chose.

You know the decorating rule of thumb that says a color will always look darker once it's on the walls? I should have listened to that. It's not horrible, and it is better than the brown, but it's a lot more intense than I anticipated.

























Saturday, January 12, 2008

O Me of Little Faith

On December 10th my mother-in-law's beloved indoor black cat Piccolo somehow managed to scoot out of her house undetected. Since then, she has distributed hundreds upon hundreds of fliers in her neighborhood, at pet supply shops and vet offices. She went door-to-door asking about him. She answered countless false-alarm reports of black cat sightings. She set live traps and caught mean strays. She put out food and water that was eaten by raccoons and rabbits. She called the micro-chip place and visited all the animal shelters. No Piccolo.

It's been heartbreaking to watch. I love our dog so much and I can only imagine how gut-wrenching it would be if she went missing. It makes me cry just thinking about it. The windchill here was in the negative digits last week and we had 15 inches of snow. It's been a month since Piccolo disappeared. I was hopeful that he'd just been taken in by a stranger, but I honestly feared the worst.

Tonight Piccolo is at home. A neighbor three doors away spotted him crawling underneath their deck and when Barb appeared and called to him he came out to her. He evidently spent the last four and a half weeks huddled near the relative warmth of the neighbor's house and was too scared to venture away. He was dehydrated and thin, but he should be fine. When I talked to her, he was cuddled under some warm blankets with a hot water bottle and his grateful owner and the dog nearby on the couch.

Pessimistic, Optimistic, Realistic?

Last night we spent some time on the phone with our adoption coordinator discussing travel plans and filling out embassy paperwork for the kids. It boggled my mind to be filling in our own names and addresses under all of the spaces marked "mother" and "father".

Our coordinator is very nice and talkative. After Paul got off the phone, she and I spent some time discussing preparations and parenting and what to do if things aren't going well once we get home.

Obviously, Paul and I are fairly confident that eventually everyone will settle in and our lives will be enriched by becoming parents. I'm trying to prepare myself though for the fact that it might be really, really messy and stressful at first. We've corresponded with several couples that adopted 2 children at once and the overriding comment seemed to be that the first few months were sort of a train wreck but it got better and it was totally worth it and they were happy they'd chosen to go that route.

It's hard for any parent to admit when things aren't going well at home with a new baby (or babies) - that's not something our society is very open about. I think it must be even harder for an adoptive parent or a parent who's experienced a long struggle to have a baby. You've had so long to prepare, so much time to think things through and perfect your parenting philosophy. Heck, in our case we even got a certificate from our home study agency with a gold star on it saying we'd been approved to be parents. Admitting to difficulty after that would be really defeating.

I'm trying to prepare myself for life to be challenging over the next few months. I don't want to seem pessimistic like I'm expecting things to be just awful, but at the same time I don't want to fabricate all sorts of fabulous fantasies about what life will be like. Right now, I'm just really ready for Norah and Atticus to come home so I can stop pondering what it will be like and start experiencing it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Four Yellow Walls

I love decorating. I like choosing cute things and arranging rooms. I can't figure out then, why I feel so stumped about the nursery. Maybe it's because my aesthetic sense tends towards the spartan, but I thought it was done. Yellow walls. White cribs. White curtains. I thought we were doing okay. Recently though, I've begun to worry. Should we be providing more stimulation in the room? If we don't have cute posters or the alphabet or something are we condemning Norah and Atticus to be unhappy vegetables?

Truthfully, I don't feel the motivation to add anything else. We're planning to get a changing table and a shelf for toys and books. I'm sure we'll come up with something - maybe we'll find some neat decorations in Ethiopia. Last night I was fretting though. Is my ambivalence about choosing nursery decor equivalent to ambivalence about the kids? Shouldn't I be more excited that I finally get to pimp our very own babies' room? Paul helpfully pointed out that Paris Hilton probably had a lovely nursery as a baby while Jesus most likely did not. That made me feel a little better.

Monday, January 7, 2008

How Am I Going to Fit This in Our Luggage?

I was just reading about things to do in Ethiopia. Owlhaven has a post about bringing home a mesob.

Not a Use for Elmer's Glue

School started today and my 6th grade homeroom students dutifully brought in their social studies project that was due to another teacher. They each had to make a poster representing one of the 50 states. As I was taking attendance and bustling around the room one of my girls stopped me. "Miss? Do you have any special glue that will keep these on better?" Her Georgia poster was artfully decorated complete with an entire can's worth of juicy peach sections which were sliding all over the place in a soup of Elmer's glue.

In unrelated news, Paul and I had the pleasure of meeting people from the computer last night. Chris and Christina keep this blog and will be traveling to bring their baby home from Ethiopia around the same time as us. We had a delightful time and it was fantastic to talk in real life with another couple that is going through the same process.

Also, I went grocery shopping tonight and noticed that a lot of my dairy products won't expire until after Norah and Atticus are home. Is it crazy that that made me feel a little freaked out? We won't need to buy toilet paper again until after we become parents. That's so bizarre.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Some Thoughts on Transracial Adoption

Thank you for indulging me in my complaining last night. By midnight, after some pain killer, a hot shower, and a glass of wine, my arm was feeling a little better. This morning it just feels a little stiff. Can I just say though that it really hurt last night. If you're planning to get travel immunizations soon, my recommendation would definitely be to get them in the afternoon when you don't have to return to work.

Adoptive Families February 2008 issue arrived today and they have a series of articles about raising African-American children including one by the adoptive mother of Ethiopian twins. Check out their extended coverage here. I'm especially excited about their list of book recommendations.

This morning I watched OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Transracial Adoption in America, a documentary by Phil Bertelsen, a black man who was adopted at age four by a white family. You can view the entire 1 hour documentary by clicking on the link.

I'm hesitant to write too much about transracial and transnational adoption issues simply because we're new to this and my theories and opinions are completely untested. Still, it's something Paul and I think about a lot. By adopting black children we will always be conspicuous as a family. I don't think this is a bad thing, but at the same time I'm sure there will be days when Norah or Atticus is having a temper tantrum in the grocery store or having a problem at school and I'll long to fade into the woodwork as an average mom rather than The Official Ambassador of All Adoptive Families.

As I said, we don't have all the answers. There are some things we're planning to do though to prevent our kids from being tokens in a white society and to help them as they seek to form their identities. For starters, we live in a very diverse neighborhood and this is important to me. I feel strongly about not moving to the suburbs around here where our kids would surely be some of the very few people of color in their own neighborhood and schools. We're searching for a church in which our kids won't be in the minority. The local universities always have Ethiopian students and we plan to seek them out as babysitters and dinner guests. I was lucky enough in college to form a deep relationship with the family I babysat for. I hope we can pass on the favor by helping another college student to feel a sense of family in a community that is far from home. We plan to return to Ethiopia once our kids are older to travel and explore and we'll certainly encourage Norah and Atticus to spend time there if they feel compelled. We'll encourage dialogue about adoption, race and nationality. We'll do our best to keep learning and address questions as they arise.

I don't think it's possible to be completely prepared for anything in life. I'm not sure we're 100% ready to become parents (especially parents of two infants at once) and I don't know if we really have a complete picture of what it means to raise kids in a transracial and transnational family. I'm a big believer in preparing as much as possible and then taking giant leaps of faith - I can only hope this is the right technique!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ouch!

This will have to be short because I can't use my right arm right now. The good news is that I don't feel sick from my travel shots (I was worried about that). The bad news: My right arm (which received typhoid and yellow fever immunizations) feels like it might be paralyzed for good. I was okay for the first couple of hours but now it really hurts. This must be what it feels like to get a gunshot wound to the bicep. I called Paul to see if I'm just being overly dramatic, but he concurs with me. His left arm (polio, tetanus, Hep A & B, MMR) doesn't hurt, but he says his right arm is killing him.

P.S. If you're like us and your insurance won't pay for vaccines related to travel or adoption (because, you know, it would be so much less for them to pay for treatment of yellow fever or typhoid), you might want to check out your local health department. We saved about 60% by going this route instead of having it done through our doctor.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

We have one million inches of snow here. That might be a slight exaggeration, but it is more than we've had in several years. It's beautiful and very, very cold.

My dad's birthday was today so I dug my car out of drifts up to the locks and ventured into the big white world for lunch. Happy birthday Daddy!
I only have four days left of vacation. I was actually awake and aware enough this morning to watch the Today Show from start to finish. I don't particularly like the Today Show, but I watch the first 7 minutes of it every
morning before leaving for school. They always tantalize me with their hints of great stories to come. Ways to Organize! How to Become a Millionaire! Those all seem so much more interesting than work at 7:07am. It's good to actually watch once in awhile and remind myself that the reality isn't that great.
I'm getting my travel immunizations tomorrow. I'm not afraid of shots but I am a little worried that they'll make me feel sick. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The First Crime of the New Year

Why are you posting at 12:37 am you might say?

Happy New Year by the way.

At the stroke of midnight Paul and I were kissing when we heard a loud crunch outside our living room window. We looked out to see a car frantically trying to extricate itself from the other car it had just crashed into. Assuming the injured car was ours, we both went racing out different exits of the house to flag down the driver. I was waving next to the driver's window and the a-hole still drove away. After determining that it wasn't our car, but that it was pretty messed up we followed the driver to the parking lot behind the apartment complex across the street where he parked. Idiot.

We tracked down the owner of the innocent car at our next door neighbor's house. Poor young girl. It's 12:05 pm and your dad's car is missing its rear bumper. Happy New Year!

The police came and filed a report. The good news: Her case number is 0000001. That's right, she's the proud victim of the very first crime of 2008 in our city.