Every tree limb overhead seems to sit and wait, while every step you take becomes a twist of fate.
Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road...

If you are new to our adoption blog please take a moment to scroll down to the archives at the bottom of this page and start with July 2009 post "Watershed."


12.18.2010

NEW BLOG LOCATION

This blog is no longer in use. Somehow the comments and links at the bottom became corrupted.
Please visit http://www.at-the-watershed-blog.blogspot.com/ to find my new location. Thanks!

12.15.2010

Edited

Update from Friday night:
I've played with the blog. I couldn't get it back to normal. But I think everything is still all here - now at the bottom instead of on the left side. Comments should be back to normal. Please write and assure me that I haven't lost my blog community!


Wednesday night:
Ok, we've had a little drama at the watershed blog.
I've lost posts. Most people can't comment. I lost my left side of the screen, blogroll, links, etc. I say "I lost" but really BLOGGER dumped everything. I don't know why or how. And I can't fix it. So I will have to export to another url to save my sanity.

Until then please save up your comments. Because what is a blog without comments??!!!
I hope to have things up and running smoothly by Saturday.

~A

Well THIS day of this year came a little too fast...

Last year I had an adoption mental health breakdown. Tomorrow is my one year anniversary of that mental break. I wrote this post the day after: http://at-the-watershed.blogspot.com/2009/12/here-is-where-i-confess-lot-of-crappy.html

I keep looking at my birthday (coming up on Saturday) out of the corner of my mind's eye. Twisting and turning it but keeping it at a distance.

I'm so thankful for how quickly the year flew by. That seemingly endless time between my 33rd birthday and being matched with Ariam is a distant memory. The rest of the year from March 1 - current day flashed by.

I'm thankful the pain and longing is far behind me.
But not so thankful to be standing at the edge of my 34th birthday.

I don't have a lot of time to face it, consider it, and come up with something poetic. But I think there is value in considering where to go from here given the information I received last year. Without stopping and evaluating from time to time I can see how life might just take wings and fly by now that Ariam is home.

So. Last year I found out that J and I together are "infertile." Separately possibly not. But together definitively so. And I can't tell you how insulting and irritating I find it when I hear "oh but now that you've adopted you'll definitely get pregnant." Sure, that may happen to some people. But it is not as if there is a magic correspondance between the two.

If we want to get pregnant we have to pay for it. And it is easily as expensive as adopting another child.
I'm not sure what we are going to do. I don't feel any panic at all about it. (Thank God!)
But I do realize that time continues to tick by and that my next birthday will be here before I know it. I don't think we'd try any fertility treatments after I'm 35 or 36.

So what to do? How do you make these decisions? Have any of you tried IVF after adopting?

I can honestly say that I would happily complete our family with another adopted child. It isn't about the child I'm raising. I think for me it is about the experience of pregnancy. It is something I've always wanted. It is something a woman's body is made for. I feel...incomplete? Maybe I won't always feel that way, and I don't feel like I'd be incomplete never raising a bio child. But right now I still have daydreams about that moment of seeing a positive pregnancy test. Of cravings. Of the big annoucement. I have daydreams about holding a teeny tiny newborn.

Sigh. I am plain old too tired to think about this very much or very often. Which may mean I have my answer. Who in her right mind being as tired as I am would enter into invasive, time consuming, exhausting fertility treatment? For now the answer is obvious because we don't have the money. But I think it's something that needs to be settled and either attempted or grieved by this time next year.

The End. No tears. :)
No panic. :)

And now we return to our previously scheduled Christmas glee and yuletide cheer.
This Sunday WE light the Advent candle up front at church. I get a little giddy thinking about it.

~A

WW - Come Hither

video

PS. WHERE did the left side of my blog go?? And what happened to comments? Anyone have any ideas for fixing this?

12.03.2010

Milo's Story: A Long Journey for a Little Dog

On February 19th, 2007 I arrived in Bang Niang. A small sandy beach town one hour north of Phuket.
I was excited and nervous and hot. Very very hot. Like 100+ degrees in the shade hot.

I stepped out of my little gold rental car in front of the office and received an overwhelming welcome! 40 pounds of black flying fur, wiggling, waggling, licking and dancing around in front of me. A dog! A shiny black dog with love in his heart.


2007

We made friends instantly. He was a tsunami survivor who had adopted the office and the volunteers and employees it housed two years before I arrived.

I snuck him bites of cake and sausages. I made sure his water bowl was full.

I worried over him and reminded people to feed him.

On night 4 he followed me to a restaurant, across an extremely busy street (I looked away to avoid seeing him smooshed by a truck), and proceeded to charm scraps off of tourists.

MILO. Named by someone for his chocolatey resemblance to the instant Thai coffee drink.

When I left that July Milo was still shiny, happy, playful and if not owned individually, at least well cared for communally. I heard he was still rotating homes for the night depending on who was in town and who was on home leave or vacation.

A year and a half later I happened to see him in a photo on face.book. A thin and scrappy version of himself. It was suspicious to me but I chose to believe that the people he loved and trusted for a span of 4-5 years would continue to take care of him. It was beyond my imagination that when they all left for their various countries and closed the office doors, they would just leave Milo sitting alone outside.

I am embarrassed to say that another year passed. I saw another photo of Milo on facebook.

Now a shell of his former self. Eaten by mange, tail drooping, gray faced, homeless, ribs poking through dehydrated skin.

The details are massive. Saving Milo was a process that lasted from January - September 2010.

I put myself at odds with former officemates over this. But I simply don’t care. A dog is a pet. A dog is not a wild animal who can be cared for and made dependent and then left to his own devices on the street. A dog does not “like to roam” never knowing where his next meal might come from. Never experiencing a loving stroke from an owner. Slinking from shade tree to shade tree. Painfully pulling his wasted body to the scarce puddles on the side of the road.
I called Soi Dog Foundation last January and they picked Milo up outside his former "home." Long ago closed up and fenced off to house a daycare. The photo below breaks my heart. For almost five years this was a safe place for Milo. A covered porch to shelter him from rain or sun. A bowl of fresh water. A driveway of cars filled with friends to bring him food and affection.

Milo’s story is one that has a very painful middle but a happy ending. One story for all of the millions of heartbreaking dog stories in tourist destinations all over developing countries. Stray puppy is born because careless owners did not spay and neuter. Puppy’s mom is hit by car. Puppy finds high season long-term tourist to beg from and becomes accustomed to being “owned.” Tourist leaves eventually. Puppy/dog has no survival skills. Rainy season sets in. Dog becomes covered in mange. Dog either dies a slow painful death from skin disease and hunger or is hit by a car and left for dead in the road.

Milo somehow survived these cycles. Barely.

On top of the mange and dehydration, Milo was suffering from liver damage. (Caused by the questionable things he was eating to try and fill his belly.)
But....
Milo's story just came to a close!! His family found him!

Rob and Sandra were Milo’s first best friends. Tsunami volunteers who knew Milo for a full year before I ever even arrived in Bang Niang. They too had assumed that years later, when the office closed, someone would take him or arrange a home for him.

This fall Milo took a big journey. The biggest of his life. He moved to England to live with his family. To stroll the country lanes, chase balls on the beach, and monitor sheep.

It didn't take long for him to learn about the couch and adapt to a family life. The wonder of walking with your pack. The soothing peace of regular meals. He is finally what he was meant to be – a pet. Somebody’s beloved pet. A pet who is once again young and glossy and full of life. He KNOWS he is a pet and he waits diligently by his garden gate to watch whenever anyone goes out.



I played a part in this story. But so did others. First a wonderful Thai woman who cared for Milo for his first few years and then Soi Dog Foundation who looked beyond the fact that Milo was “just a dog” and cared enough to get involved. Finally Rob and Sandra who spent a lot of time and money to get Milo home.

You can adopt an animal to almost any country in the world. Bringing an animal home to the U.S. is the easiest scenario. Island nations like the UK are harder, but it can be done. Please don't travel to another country, earn the love and trust of an animal, only to leave him/her to a slow and painful death on the street.
If you are in Thailand and need help getting your pet home you can contact Soi Dog Foundation.

~A

For Rob and Sandra. Thank you. I wasn't sure I'd see a happy ending. Thank you for being wonderful human beings. Milo deserves you and you deserve him. You restored my faith.

Real Life Seriously Impeding Blog Life

Dear House, Leaves, Groceries, Husband, Child, Career, Facebook, Friends, Dexter on Net.flix, Sleep, Dogs, Weather, and Holiday Cheer:

You are seriously getting in the way.

I mean, how am I supposed to blog when I have to pay attention to all of you all the freakin time?

If you really loved me you would let me lounge on my couch, under the good blanket (you know, the one fresh out of the warm dryer - that someone else washed and lovingly tucked over me), with a bag of gummy bears (Haribo please), Gilmore Girls lightly tuned in in the background, with a warm toasty fire roaring. Blogging of course.

How is it that you are keeping me so busy that holidays just fly by without even a single blog mention?

Don't you know that I have a load of photos to post?

A hair product (tangle teaser) to review?

A winter vacation to mull over?

Daycare updates to write?

Deep thoughts on national adoption month, race, and AIDS that must be shared?

Have you forgotten that Bridget is waiting for her "what not to do during the last days of your wait" post? It is written on the backs of business cards for goodness sake. I need those cards out of my wallet and off of my mind!

Don't you remember what bad shape I was in this time last year? That absolutely must be blogged about, sniffled over, held close, coddled and released before my 34th birthday and Christmas come swooping in together.

I'll have you know that my bloggy relationships are being strained. YES, strained.

Let me know when you come up with a solution.

Until then I am on strike.

~A


11.24.2010

6 Months

Thanksgiving as a holiday is drawing near, but thanksgiving as a way of life is 6 months old!

December 1st is the 6 month anniversary of the day we became a family.

We celebrated with a post-placement visit from our social worker yesterday. She asked me whether or not we still "check in" with each other on our little check list of attachment questions. You know what I mean, whether you ask them out loud or just internally, I think most adoptive parents run through the little list early on:

"Do I love her yet?"
"Do I think she loves me?"
"Would I give my life for her?"
"WHO is she?"
"Does it feel like she's been with us forever?"
"How would I feel if she suddenly were no longer here?"
"Do I long for how it used to be?"
"Will life ever feel normal again?"

Ok, is it just me?
Well, if it is, that's fine. I can be honest. These were the questions we asked ourselves and each other a lot in the first few weeks. It's an odd feeling when you get home (I think particularly if this is your first child) - to be floating on a cloud of thrill and relief, celebrating externally, dizzy with exhaustion and semi-paralyzed with doubt internally.

SIX MONTHS though. Things have changed. Things have stabilized. I can't remember the last time we asked any of the questions above. A new normal has solidified. A dorky, cheesy, straight from the sitcoms storyline. You know the one: new parents, drunk on love for their child, never go out on a date. When they finally get alone outside the house all they can do is talk about the baby. Her sparkly eyes! Her new way of turning her chin up and looking down on her subjects like a queen! Her newest word! How much she ate that night. Was it enough? Could she be hungry and need us to come home early? Was her forehead slightly warm? Should we be washing her hands more often? On and on and on. Until date is done and we rush back to stand over her crib and stroke her little sleeping face.

Yes, we can both remember the good old days (grocery shopping at midnight, sleeping in until 10am, staying out past 6:30pm, spontaneous date nights) but we'd never want to go back to being just two. What did we TALK about back then??!! ;)

I am so thankful for a holiday season filled with this little face. A face I can't fathom living without.

~A

11.18.2010

HAPPY




Holidays are approaching.

I've been thinking a lot about last year. I wrote this post, so sure that we were almost at the finish line.

It seemed to kick off a very difficult 3.5 more months of waiting and began the season of angst and ugly crying instead of yuletide cheer.


I know it's a little morbid, but I like to go back and revisit those days in my memory.


Such a different place now.
Happy.
~A

11.15.2010

A New Day


Today is Ariam's first day at the shiny bright dream daycare. The one with the Chinese lanterns.


I cannot say that I've been feeling completely settled about the decision to move her.

But this morning we arrived and they had a "Welcome Ariam" sign on the toddler room door. As we walked into the main reception area everyone came out to say hi and make a fuss. Ari was so very pleased with herself and her grand reception. She granted many smiles and kisses. When we went into the toddler room she noticed the play kitchen immediately, made a beeline to it, and was still there when I said goodbye half an hour later.


She's such a big girl these days. It's hard. I wish I could keep her little forever. And yet I love to see her growing into such a happy sparkling little toddler. (Lately Ariam has been saying "happy" or "happy baby" when she's in a good mood.) :)



The new daycare has an online video camera. I'm about to log on and see what she's up to before I get down to work.div>


~A


11.08.2010

Releasing the past: Washington DC - Part II

Moving forward requires that we loosen our hold on the past.

Two years ago when J lost his job we left behind our home, our friends, and our city.

Starting over but never really putting the past behind us.

In September we finally went back together.
We said goodbye to a house that is no longer our home on a street that is no longer our neighborhood.



We said goodbye to Congressional Cemetery - no longer our daily walk.



We said goodbye to the monuments that were our landmarks each time we flew home.



We ate with our old neighbors,




in a yard surrounded by a fence that J built one hot summer.



During dinner I looked up at our old back window bathed now in a baby's night light glow. The window that would have been our nursery.

And we walked our city of memories, reliving the night we rode our bikes to the Lincoln Memorial and sat on its ledge watching a lightning storm.



We reminisced about our 9th anniversary kayak trip on the Potomac.



We laughed at the spot we once witnessed a huge Segway tour tourist collision in front of the Whitehouse.

We strolled through the Renway to pay homage to Wendell Castle's Ghost Clock. The one that tricked me the first time I saw it.

We rolled our eyes over the traffic between Union Station and Dupont Circle on a Friday night.
We inhaled the familiar scent of the Metro and the watched the reflecting pool.



We dunked Ariam's feet in the fountain in the park next to the Capitol where our dogs swam and where we hid Easter Eggs one fabulous Sunday.





We rode the carousel. The one I avoided looking at for many years.

There have been days of doubt. Days when I longed for the sanctuary of my bedroom there. Days when regret for things we had no power to change was so sharp I could almost taste it. Days of homesickness and sadness.

One week after we returned from DC we bought a home here. It is not as big. It is not in the heart of importance. It does not come with a DC price tag or hold a prestigious location.

But it is real. It is ours. It is the home we should have started with in the first place. We are working a bit backwards but it is moving us forward.

We are starting over.
It is still painful but every day less so.

Some days I am amazed at how quickly we expect an adopted child to loosen her hold on the past and move forward. I have measured her transition in days and weeks and months while giving myself years. Amazed at how I lost a home and still mope and whine about it while my child lost everything she was born with and somehow is this brilliant happy being. Learning a lot from my 16 month old.
~A

11.04.2010

The Controversial and the Mundane

I find it interesting how something as mundane as choosing a costume for your child's first Halloween can actually be controversial.

I've been following a blog. I'm choosing not to link to it here and actually it isn't under the list of blogs I follow which is a good thing because my purpose isn't to send you all flocking over to it.

I don't know the author of the blog but have enjoyed her sweet accounts of her newly adopted Ethiopian child who has been home just about a month.

Now normally I do not get wrapped up in blog or facebook controversy. I don't have much time or interest in writing detailed comments or stirring up arguments. And I rarely if ever feel offended by a mundane adoption blog.

But, well I'm not sure how to ease into this so I'll just say it.
The author/mother PUT HER SMALL ETHIOPIAN CHILD IN A MONKEY COSTUME FOR HALLOWEEN.

How do you feel about this?
Am I wrong in assuming that the vast vast majority of us know and understand that black (and I use that adjective broadly to describe both African Americans and people of color from and still living in the Caribbean and Africa) do not like to be described as monkeys, not even as a form of endearment?

I will admit that prior to becoming the mother of a black child many of the issues surrounding racial stereotyping were simply not part of my world. And I am sorry about that. Because I lived in Washington, DC and worked and socialized and went to school with a lot of black friends. Many of whom I probably offended in one way or another over time. I thought that it was ok in general to be ignorant as long as I wasn't being offensive ON PURPOSE.

Wrong. Dead wrong. Shamefully wrong. It is not ok to be ignorant. And it is doubly not ok to be ignorant when you are parenting a child of another race.

The blog author/mother was ignorant. And that happens. And I would give her a huge pass for not having done a bit more reading on race and identity and racism in the U.S. except for one fact. She was educated by a black commenter (and very sensitively and kindly I might add), re-educated by several more commenters who said they were close friends, and she still chose to post a final comment stating that she would consider the points of view shared but would not go as far as to stop calling the child a monkey or give away the child's monkey themed clothing received as presents. Because "clothes are expensive."

You know what else is expensive? Repairing damage.
It is emotionally expensive to repair the damage we do to the image of white parents parenting black children. It is emotionally expensive to explain to your adult black man of a son why childhood photos show that you dressed him like this despite being provided with the tools you needed to understand why it was not ok. Expensive folks. We are talking hard stuff here.

Because the argument that racism and stereotyping and slavery and racial divides and inequality are somehow in the past is not an argument that can hold up anywhere outside of white society. We are white. We are not.black. But our children are. And that is so very loaded and important and full of implications for how we choose to live our lives.

So I posted a comment. I gave her an out. I recommended she do some reading. I fully expected to see that she would come back a bit humbled, accept that she had made a mistake, and would be glad to have found out early in her parenting so that next year she can buy a giraffe costume.

It didn't turn out that way. And she obviously doesn't want more comments. So I am turning to my only other outlet - my own blog.

I just keep thinking this. What if a black parent were calling her white child "cracker" as a term of endearment? Because she enjoys eating crackers of course. What if she went on to dress said adopted white child as a big white Saltine for Halloween? Um. Wouldn't we all have a bit of a problem with this? Maybe not if it were a white mother and white child. But there is something about transracial adoption that changes things doesn't it? The historic power differential and racial tension between black and white in the United States. It may be old news to some but it is very real and still very close to the surface when we are talking about labels and words.

Hello people? Let's just accept that we don't know it all and humbly thank our readers when they point us on the right track. I think paying attention to black friends and commenters is especially important. Run a little litumus test. Before you dress your child of another race in a costume for Halloween just first consider what your best girlfriend of that same race might say.

Oh, what? You don't have a girlfriend of another race?
Maybe that is the problem.
And I don't say that to be snarky. I think a lot of us have a long way to go before we could consider ourselves beyond just "racially sensitive" (nice term for I know it's wrong to call a black person the n word but not much else) and get to "fully functioning white mother who knows exactly how to raise a black child so that he/she can function as a member of black society without confusion, shame, self-doubt or embarrassment."

Feel free to leave comments but if you say to me that "all that matters is what is on the inside. Or, as long as your intentions are good" you know I will laugh you right off my blog. My fifth grade teacher said it best when he told us "close is only good in horse shoes."

We have to get it right, not close, when it is our child at stake.

~A

10.26.2010

Urgent Advice Needed

From those of you who read blogs during the workday! (Shame on you!)

On the mornings that Ariam attends daycare we have to drive right past the dream daycare on the way to her average daycare. Each day I attempt to avert my eyes but the pull of the Chinese lanterns hanging in the giant front windows of the toddler room force me to slow down and drool a bit.

This place is located in a perfect position for the winter sun which cascades down over the little outdoor playground and twinkles off the windows.

I see happy parents entering with clean shiny little ones and exiting with giant gourmet coffee cups from the coffee station next to the front door.

We slow, I drool, I sigh, and we drive 5 blocks further to the windowless brick church where I haul my little one in and leave her crying.

This morning returned to a message from the dream daycare. They have an opening two days/week and want to invite Ariam off of the waitlist!!!
I am not too proud to admit that I did call them (and possibly sent an email or two) begging them to let her in. I may have also played the adoption card a bit calling all other daycares in our neighborhood "tiny orphanages."

So they want her. And us. And this is huge because originally they told us the waitlist didn't have an opening until March.

But I need some advice.
Friday will mark two weeks at the average daycare. She's just started to settle in and sleep for two full hours there during naptime. She obviously likes Miss Maria. She definitely cries when I drop her off, but I sense that it doesn't last long. Yesterday when I picked her up she was walking in from the playground like a little duck in her row of 3 other classmates.

Is another change too much?
The new daycare costs more. Am I paying for fluff or is it worth the money to fulfill a good gut instinct?
I certainly don't think the average daycare is hurting her, but I would like to see how her day is going by checking the video camera online sometimes...

I feel like a bad mom these days. I'm hauling my kid around to have other people take care of her. I'm moving her whole little world over to a new house this weekend. When I do have her I'm packing and cleaning and not giving her enough attention. She's such a resilient little trooper full of kisses and goodwill. But how far can you push a toddler until you ruin her??
~A

10.24.2010

How is daycare going?

It's too soon to tell.

I really appreciated everyone's thoughtful advice here on the blog. We could not hire a babysitter or nanny because we're in the middle of a move and don't have room at the house. And because I work from home I really need Ari OUT of the house a few days/week. She has a special trick of pounding on my office door if it is closed and I'm on a conference call while J watches her. This did not bode well for bringing in outside help.


I think an in-home daycare would have been a nice option but did not have the time to seek one out via churches, mom's groups, etc. When our nanny share fell through I really only had a week to make a decision.


We chose a daycare from the 6 options we toured with immediate openings, but we're still on the waitlist for our favorite that didn't have an opening.


The last 9 days have been a test run. J took Ariam on a Friday and spent 2 hours with her in the classroom. She did great and didn't mind when he stepped out for a few minutes to make a call.

Then she went for a half day last Monday and was SO excited to arrive, get settled in with the other 3 toddlers in her class, she barely even gave me the time of day for a kiss goodbye.


Because we closed on a house on Friday and are in the middle of a big move, she went to the daycare all day on Thursday and Friday. Possibly a bad move. We got a bit over eager. She is wonderful to be with. But impossible to drag along to meetings with realtors and lenders.


Both Thursday and Friday she was fairly excited to arrive. Not happy to say goodbye. (Tears.) And generally droopy by pick up time 8 hours later. I think an 8 hour day outside of the house is really hard on her. So I think this week we will cut back to three 6 hour days.


Daycare Pros:

- I have 3 days/week to work, uninterrupted

- Ratio is 1 teacher/4 toddlers

- Toddler room is filled with great toys that I know she loves (like a tunnel with balls and a little table with toddler sized chairs!) but doesn't have at home

- Cook will make substitutes just for Ariam on ham or beef menu days

- Drop off is flexible, she doesn't have to be checked in until 9:30am if we are running late and I can pick her up any time in the afternoon

- Round-trip with drive and drop off is 15 minutes

- Ms. Maria, the teacher, oozes love and kindness and patience and has 20 years experience

- Ariam very obviously loves Ms. Maria already


Daycare Cons:

- Ariam very obviously loves Ms. Maria already

- Ariam very obviously has a daycare cold and runny nose already

- A full day out of the house is A LOT of time away and is very tiring for a toddler

- Ms. Maria is almost fully spanish speaking which I have decided is not a problem at all for Ariam but is a little awkward for J when he does pick up and wants to know about her day

- The crying thing. I don't like handing her over crying and I don't like to see her crying at pick up. And I'm just not sure this can easily be solved because everyone tells me that kids sometimes cry during transitions. But I don't like it.


In other news, Ariam won her first Halloween costume contest. Of course. (With her looks and my competetive spirit I really didn't doubt it.)


My little owl kicked butt in the contest and waddled away with a T.arget gift card. :)


~A

10.23.2010

Move over Carol's Daughter!


After my last hair post I spent some time on natural hair care websites and emailing with some girlfriends who know what they are doing with hair.


The conclusion I came to is that Carol's Daughter products are just too harsh on Ariam's hair. So we returned everything (except for our Mimosa Hair Honey) to S.ephora. They were incredible about taking it all back, no questions asked.


I found very positive Alaffia reviews on Happy Girl Hair and other blogs and bought it at my local organic grocery store. We are trying out a whole new hair routine and it is working wonders!


1. Wash with Alaffia shampoo and conditioner once/week

2. In mid-week we do a co-wash (that means we just wash and rinse with conditioner, no 'poo)

3. After a wash or co-wash I add Alaffia hair lotion and use it as a detangler, then I add a pea size amount of Mimosa Hair Honey and run it through her hair with my fingers (it defines the curls)

4. Daily I wet Ariam's hair with a spray bottle and add just a dime size of Alaffia hair lotion, rubbing it in all over her head and finger detangling and fluffing

5. Twice/week I put her in the highchair in front of Baby Einstein's sign language video, wet down the hair, part it into several parts pulled back with clips, rub a little mix of pure aloe vera and coconut or jojoba into her scalp, and put pure coconut oil in her hair (I do this the day of her hair wash to make sure her scalp doesn't get dry and also the day before her mid-week cowash.)


That's it!

Also I have mastered a good center part for double puffs, the single puff with a ribbon, and am now moving on to tiny puffs in the back of her hair.


Tonight Ariam and I attended our trans-racial adoption group dinner. The hostess brought in an African American hair stylist who specializes in children's natural hair. She gave us an individual consultation and proclaimed Ariam's hair "very healthy and soft!" She gave us a VERY wide tooth comb and told me to wet the hair daily and detangle when I add the hair lotion or leave-in. I had not been detangling well enough which is why the tiny knots were forming. But to be honest, as soon as we stopped using Carol's Daughter products and changed to Alaffia the knots disappeared anyway. I haven't had a knot or a breakage in two weeks.


We're feeling very confident now in our hair routine. There are still several products out there that I'd like to try including Darcy Botanicals Hair Jelly and Aubrey Organics conditioner. But the hair is looking much healthier and is starting to grow.


Thanks for all of your comments and emails!

~A


10.18.2010

Beauty for Ashes, Strength for Fear

She doesn't wave her fingers in front of her eyes anymore.

Sounds like such a small thing in the long list of changes: walking, laughing, using a fork, sign language, sharing instead of hitting, sleeping through the night, kissing...

But it is my favorite change.

Every nap and every night for many many weeks Ariam waved her hands over her face, wiggling her fingers and bringing them close and then far. Close and far. She looked at her hands instead of my eyes until sleep came. It twists my heart and makes me short of breath to imagine how, when and why she began doing this.

When babies don't have the loving touch of a parent to soothe them they find other things to help. Head rolling, self rocking, hand waving...

Tonight I was running through the list of "reasons why Ariam is ok and ready for daycare" when she reached up and set her palm on the bare skin of my neck. She loves close touch and those 30 minutes of rocking and snuggling before bed. Where there was once a protective shell all around her and fear in her heart, now nothing separates us. She sees me and I am enough for her. No hand and finger waving needed.

He gives us beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair


(Ears pierced)

~A

10.16.2010

See something different?

(Wearing shades helps her keep a low profile.)
~A

10.14.2010

Q: What is more emotionally draining than the adoption process?

A: The search for child care.

After the nanny debacle yesterday I had to have a very painful phone conversation with the other mother. (She's employed this nanny for a year to watch her sweetheart of a daughter.) I had to tell her about the lack of eye contact, the lack of touch, the disinterest in either child. I was shaking during the call and realized that if I were her hearing these things I'd be falling apart.

Today we visited four daycares with immediate openings.
(We visited 2 last week and 1 earlier this week. All three had waiting lists and we put ourselves on our favorite which was absolutely amazing and probably won't have an opening until spring.)

Two of the four today had really negative reviews online but had immediate openings. Of course.

I went into the daycare visits this afternoon with a huge lump in my throat. Fear. Anxiety. Sadness. Stress about the time away from work. Concern over the reviews.

Guilt.

I was tongue-tied and barely functional. We did a lot of standing around staring and looking like we were attending a funeral.

More draining than waiting for Ariam has been this realization that life cannot move forward unless we remove her from the house for 20 hours each week. How is it that after all that waiting and longing now we have to put her away from us and be apart? It breaks my heart. But it will break us, literally, if we don't do it...

Ok, the daycare visits.

Two of the four smelled bad. Like cafeteria food and old poop.
One had a room filled with little jail cribs, like an Eastern European orphanage.
None of the caregivers spoke much English. I am a huge fan of children learning Spanish at a very early age. But Ariam needs to hear and process English. She's just now beginning to babble and trying to say a few words. Not sure now is the time to introduce a (third!) language.

I felt like all of the children we saw were blank and bored and moving in slow motion.
At one of the daycares, within the 10 minutes we were there, Ariam got her finger stuck in a faulty toy and fell off of a broken scooter.

How can parents send their children to these places for 50 hours/week? How does this childcare thing WORK?!!! Please tell me if you have the answer. Because I can't do it. I can't leave her somewhere unsafe, icky smelling, dirty, with people who seem bored. And why do all of them serve disgusting things like pork meatloaf?? (No offense meat eaters but we really don't eat much meat.)

Oh my goodness. I can FEEL the panic rising. Never had a panic attack. Pretty sure the first one is going to be on Ariam's first day of daycare. Or it may be tonight while we discuss the options.

~A

10.13.2010

When it rains it pours

So true.

We are having a very hard week.

First I got sick over the weekend. At first I thought it was allergies so I really didn't rest like I should have. Then by Sunday night I was feverish, coughing, sore throat miserable.

Second, J got a new job. Which should be a great thing since he hasn't been working much this summer. But to be honest I've gotten very used to having him at home. He's done at least half of Ariam's care and because of that I've been able to work in August and September.

Third, we are buying a house. We close on Monday. The paperwork, the inspection follow up, the money, the packing. It is just a giant overwhelming mess. We aren't moving in immediately after closing but I almost wish we were. Instead we are dragging it out to the end of the month so J can spend every evening working on the house - painting, fixing, etc. That means I will not have him during the day OR during the evenings.

Fourth, we thought we had a nanny-share lined up for Ariam. After a lot of consideration we decided not to hire an Ethiopan nanny for now (a. we have a small house and it's easier for me to concentrate if Ariam is out of the house and b. we were worried a bit about all that we'd have to work through to teach the nanny how we do things.) So we agreed to be the second family in a 2 family nanny share starting Monday. Today I went on a play date with the nanny and the other child and walked away without childcare.
1. The nanny didn't look Ariam in the eye or even touch her during the whole play date.
2. The nanny told me that the other child's favorite activity is "tv."
3. The nanny didn't speak enthusiastically to either child, engage them in any way, or help them play on any of the playground equipment.
4. When I asked the nanny how she planned to handle two active toddlers at the park alone she said "I don't know."

I walked away with a huge pit in my stomach. Had a small freak out at home. And ultimately called the other family and told them what happened and that we were backing out. Honestly? A nanny, no matter how she is with the kids, should be ON HER GAME in front of the parents. Isn't that rule #1??

HEAVY SIGH.

We are on a waiting list for the most lovely daycare near the house. It has Chinese lanterns, and fresh coffee, and singing time, and fish, and organic snacks and video cameras in every room so we can watch Ariam. But it is impossible to say when we'll get off the wait list.

We've toured and said no to three other daycares. Now, following Nannygate 2010, we are visiting two more daycares tomorrow. Both have openings but both have at least one negative review online.

At this point Ariam is going insane in our house filled with boxes. I am going crazy trying to get even the smallest things done for work and am driving my coworkers crazy by not being responsive enough. Jeremy starts his job on Monday and is way over his head in packing, filling holes in our rental walls (from pictures, not from punching). I am still feeling under the weather. And we aren't sure if we are definitely closing on Monday or not.

All in one week. It's a lot to get a handle on. We need a third person in this marriage. Like a sex-less sister wife or something.

~A

10.10.2010

Washington DC - Part I

Six years ago, on a chilly fall evening in Washington DC, I entered my first graduate seminar.
And met this amazing woman who had just arrived in the U.S.
Was it really only 6 years ago? It feels like a lifetime...

She cried during her introduction. She made me cry. I knew we would be good friends.

Ana has been my role model for parenting. She celebrates her children every day. She teaches and loves and cheers them on. I can already see the strong and brave men they will be - because of her.

As Americans, we find that we have few friends we would be comfortable descending on for a full week - taking over their basement, demanding to be fed and wined, and letting loose our toddler throughout their beautiful home. It's a good thing we know some Colombians!! :)

Holding Hands (notice who is happy in this photo and who is skeptical...)

She must have known this was coming next! Pablo is our little latin lover.



It's so hard to say goodbye.

And just a gratuitously cute photo of Ari and her "purse."

~A

9.26.2010

New Blog Design

Wow, I just managed to lose 3 hours to redesigning the blog and it isn't even as impressive as blogs I admire. I think I'm giving it a rest for awhile though.

Next step is to figure out how to use photobucket so my photos will be larger and more impressive. What's the point of taking great photos if they look small and pitiful?

Now I need your photobucket or photo enlarging advice in addition to hair advice!
~A

9.24.2010

Hair. Am I overthinking it?

Baby girl has lovely hair. Let's begin with that statement and work backwards.

For three months exactly I pored over 127 photos of Ariam and her hair asking myself these questions: is it spiraly? is it more puffy? is it going to grow out or will it grow down at some point? Is it a 3c or 4a or 4 b or 4 c? (She is type 4a.) Is it an L, O, I or S? (She's an O.)

Oh the hair obsession. It was something to focus my energy on.

I devoured Happy Girl Hair (although realized that without a child in front of me all lessons learned on that site were unabsorbed - had to go back and reread after Ari came home.)

I tentatively bought a couple of products to bring to Ethiopia with me but neglected to bring a comb or detangler for the 19 days we would be with her.

Headbands were practically purchased en masse.

In my daydreams I could braid and cornrow and create puffs by just watching one quick video online. In those daydreams I had a very still and very cooperative toddler. Hah!

We met Ariam. The days that we visited her at her orphanage she had very puffy combed out hair that was hard to assess. It was soft like a cloud. Immediately after her bath that soft puff coiled up on itself, began to knot and formed tiny pencil eraser coils. I sent off a panicked email requesting advice on detangling and that's when I found out that you actually need to have a comb and detangler (thick conditioner with slip to it) to detangle. Huh!

We have taken a hair journey. It's a journey we will be on for many many years together and one that I take very seriously. While hair doesn't define a person, it frames us for first impressions. So it's important.

I basically stalk blogs just looking for posts on hair so I can check and double check on our technique vs. other's techniques. So for those of you waiting for the hair details here they are:

We buy all Carol's Daughter. Because they sell it at Sephora. (Hi CD and Sephora - please send me some free products!) I would try other products and have even marked websites with things I want to order but when it comes down to it I want to be able to go to an actual store to sniff the products and put my fingers in them.

So - Carol's Daughter. But we never use Tui scented anything. It smells too grown up to me. Like my baby is going to head out on a date or something. Or like she's spending her days in my freshman year dorm room over enjoying the patchouli candle.

Every 3-4 days:
1. Bath (she likes this) without soap. J is perpelexed by this given his fetish for antibacterial anything. But her skin can't handle even mild baby soap without drying out. We're sort of playing around with oatmeal baths at this point which makes J crazy with worry over the idea of oatmeal stuck in her nether regions.

2. Wet down her hair in the bath (she hates this)

3. Wash and rinse with Head and Shoulders shampoo (yes, um, remember the trip to Children's Hospital we took on Monday because I was sure she had a scalp fungal infection? Dandruff. Oh yes, my baby has DANDRUFF. And it is U.G.L.Y. Please don't judge. I tried so so very hard and really things were looking so good for awhile.)

4. Giant glop of Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla smoothie conditioner (rub through hair and scalp, evenly distribute, finger detangle)

5. Scream for J to get his butt in the bathroom and hold down our daughter's squiggling screaming behind

6. Leave on for 5, then rinse well

7. NO TOWEL DRYING - leave hair to airdry in natural curl pattern

8. Spray with mix of water/Black Vanilla detangler AND then add another leave in conditioner (I have a couple of random samples of things I try or use Carol's Daughter hair milk)

9. Comb through hair while holding sections at the root and just combing ends, when detangled sort of fluff out with fingers

10. THIS IS THE BIG ONE Add pea sized amount of Carol's Daughter Mimosa Hair Honey
For me this has been a game changer. After I rub this through her hair the curls stay coily and shiny for at least 2 days without turning to fuzzy cloud fluff. Sometimes I wrap a few coils around my fingers and stretch them out to add depth and definition.

I never scrunch the hair or pull it. I never comb it when it's dry. I regularly trap her and gently rub in random things like shea butter, jojoba oil, or coconut oil when I see the hair looking or feeling brittle (usually after nap time.) I am sure there is a theory behind this and actual technique for adding oil to seal moisture. Need to look into that.

Whew. That's it. Well, plus a steroid ointment we have to put on her scalp until the dandruff chunks leave (almost gone!) and I left out the part where we have to rub 2 different kinds of steriod ointments on her neck and leg eczema. Add in a lot of wiggling, protesting and naked dashes through the house and you have the whole picture.

Some of the problems we've experienced and how we handled them:

1. Lack of definition to curls (see pool photo in my post below) has been mostly solved with the Mimosa Hair honey after the bath. To reactivate the curls the next day I just lightly fluff everything at the root with a wide tooth comb or my fingers spread apart, spritz with water/detangler combo and rub in a quarter sized glop of Hair Milk. Seems to do the trick.

2. Greasiness! A huge problem in the early days when I just kept dumping more and more product on the lack of definition. Some days her hair looked wet all day. Oops. Resolved by more/better product after hair washes but less on a daily morning basis.

3. Dandruff. Well apparently drug store shampoo is the answer.

4. Breakage. We are dealing with that now. When she wakes up we'll find on average two clumps of curls that stick out from the rest and can be gently pulled off. Has resulted in loss of all longer curls on the sides of her head where she sleeps. Highly textured black hair is the most fragile hair there is and most prone to damage. We are now trying to add Carol's Daughter hair elixer (quarter sized amount rubbed in my palms and rubbed into her hair) before bed every night. And I plan to start adding coconut oil on nights before shampoo days from now on. Both the elixer and coconut oil strengthen the hair shaft. So we'll see. So far today (following a night sleeping with the elixer on) she's had the best hair day she's had in a long time!

5. People thinking she's a boy. We are still encountering this particularly when her hair has been freshly washed and so is more tightly coiled and short looking. I solve this by adding her signature headbands. What can you do? Super annoying.

So far no puffs have been achieved. No cornrows have been practiced. I can't even get the child to sit still for her morning spritz and am chasing her around her room while she laughs at me. I think we will master hair health first and then move on to actual styling later. Like when she realizes how interesting Dora or Yo Gabba Gabba can be. Stillness people, we need stillness!

That is our hair dealy-o. It is very very important to me. I have never, not once, not even one day skipped hair routine. I feel like if I had to choose between going out in my pajamas for my day or letting Ariam go out for her day with slept on dried out looking hair I would definitely go out in my pajamas. Minus a bra even. Minus shoes. It just wouldn't happen. Hair. It is crucial to a child's sense of self, particularly growing up in a trans-racial family. I will never sacrifice her hair.

What do you do for hair? Any great tips out there?
~A

9.23.2010

Blog Life meets Personal Life meets Work Life

I'm going to be at the Together for Adoption conference in Austin, TX October 1-2nd.
Please tell me some of my amazing bloggy friends, commenters, writers and/or lurkers will be there too!

I'm not presenting but am working booths with member organizations of the Faith to Action Initiative: Bethany Christian Services, Orphan Outreach and possibly Christian Alliance for Orphans. If you see From Faith to Action floating around you'll know I am nearby...


Is it any more incentive to meet up than the fact that I am ....bringing Ariam??!! In all her itchy scratchy excema-y glory!


But Ariam is in and out on a limited basis with my mom who is helping me through the conference. If you want to get together let's pick a time to meet or a workshop to share so I know when the little one will be with me and when she won't need to be there. (My guess is she will have a large preference for spending time at the hotel in the swimming pool instead of hanging out at the conference.)


Is this bossy? This blog post sounds so bossy to me. I promise I'm not quite this bossy in person.


I am busy. Working hard on several projects for the Initiative (which I realized I can type here without any asterisks or periods because I am the one who checks g.oogle a.nalytics for us!)


1. We are buying a house!


2. We seem to be traveling constantly!


3. J may start a new job that leaves me in full-time child care mode 100% of the time while working 30 hours/week. That just will not work. So now we are in high gear search for a nanny or nanny share in our neighborhood.


Which leads me to the huge internal debate over whether or not we should hire an Ethiopian nanny through the refugee employement services here in our city. I want to. I don't want to. I want to. I don't want to. I'm scared of being judged. I am scared of A's attachment loosening to me. I hate that everyone will think she is the nanny's kid. But it seems right to provide employment to a hardworking Ethiopian woman who is probably providing for her family. Oh sigh. Now this is a whole blog post of its own. Has anyone done this before? What are your thoughts?


And circling back to the conference PLEASE tell me you'll be there! :)





~A

9.14.2010

Bad Blogger Bullet points






Tonight I received this teeny tiny message in my hotmail inbox:

time for A NEW BLOG POST with pics


I wanted to comply but am having problems making time slow down and cooperate. So bad blogger bullet pointing HERE WE GO!

1. On August 29th, 2010 we dedicated Ariam at church. The photos from the church are not good. Waiting for a friend to send hers so I can write a full post. It was a lovely morning though. Ariam wore her traditional dress. And ate a donut. And loved it. And climbed onto the stage herself. And tried to eat a flower.

2. We took an amazing Labor Day long weekend in Santa Fe. Ari met J's dad for the first time and it was mutual love at first sight. The vacation included both dogs, 5 alpacas, a swimming pool, a playground, a fruit market, coyotes, bear prints, a ton of guacamole, a giant tutu wearing photo shoot meltdown and one very long car ride.

3. We are now in DC for a week. For work and fun. We're staying with friends who have a 3 year old son and 15 month old son. And LOTS of fun toys. Today we played tourist in our old city and someone cooperated nicely by napping in her stroller QUIETLY in all of the very quiet museums. Felt like old times. (Plus one.)

Oh, and Ariam and I took a ride on the old horse carousel in the middle of the national mall. On a sunny day. With daddy taking photos. It was one of those stop and have to catch your breath you're so happy moments. :)

4. Ari is having serious skin problems. We have a derm appt. next Monday. I mean the skin is BAD folks. I lotion it 3-4 times/day and have tried everything. Making my own out of jojoba/shea/coconut, Aq.uifer, Al.ba, even using some hy.drocortisone creams. Nothing works. Her scalp under her hair is white and itchy and coming off in chunks, her hips have hive type red rashes, her legs will CRACK they are so dry unless I basically follow her around with lotion and cream all day, and her face gets flaky white spots and dry bumps across her nose and on her forehead. Oh, and her whole torso has tiny invisible to the eye (but can feel with fingers) bumps on it. Her specialist has no idea. People have thrown around exzema, allergies, altitude, etc. But no conclusive decisions. So...children's hosp. dermatologist here we come. Anyone have any ideas for the meantime?


That is the bullet point blogging for August/early Sept.


Ariam is growing up. She is walking very confidently now. Her hair is getting long enough to do finger curls. She is sleeping very well on vacation in her pack and play and napping in the stroller when we are out. She's still terrible on the airplane. But all in all she is wonderful, funny, sweet, and a great joy and companion to have with us everywhere we go!
This photo doesn't do her justice because she looks so serious. Really her smile is the most fabulous thing on earth. But I love the picture because it reflects her depth. And it is stunning.
~A

9.01.2010

Three Months Together



We thought that she was an introvert.

We thought she was quite serious.

We thought we knew what she liked and didn't like.


That was three months ago.


We were so wrong. We knew nothing about this amazing little person. She is so complex, so many layers of interesting personality to discover. She surprises us every day we are together.


We thought she was an introvert and very serious because it took so long for her to relax. I think she must have been protecting herself. We thought she was quite fussy and finicky because of her deep wailing inconsollable sobbing at night and her refusal to consider anything other than shiro or mac and cheese an edible.

Now I can't imagine going even a minute without her easy grin or her chortle that's turned belly laugh. She finds everything worth smiling about as long as she is with us. (Still not so sure about strangers or new places.) And she will eat absolutely anything as long as we taste test for poison first. ;)


I thought I knew her basic likes and dislikes after a few days together.

But now I know that she:

loves

onion and cheese enchiladas

drinking from a straw like a big girl

pretending to give herself a bath (more than taking a real one)

being talked to in a fake silly monster voice

almost falling but being caught at the last second

reading books - especially ones with baby faces or animals

knowing that her bottle is nearby if needed

rocking with her head on my shoulder and both arms up around my neck

her shoes!


One of Ariam's favorite new tricks is carrying my high heeled sandal strapped over her arm like a purse. She will do this for 10 or 20 minutes, juggling the sandal from arm to arm as she drinks, reads, or plays.

I did not know her. I did not know her at all three months ago.

So far she hates

being told not to hit the computer

being asked to sit in the bath instead of stand and play with the hot water knob

That's all I can think of.

She is easy. Deep, watchful, loving, confident, and so brave. She's my hero. And yes, there are rainbows and unicorns over here in our house. Promised to be real and I swear this is really the kind of infatuation we are feeling!



Sometimes when she makes noises at night (before we've gone to bed) we argue over who gets to go in and comfort her. Three months ago we argued bitterly over who "had" to go comfort her at night. We've come a long way baby.
~A

About Me

My photo
J and I have been married for almost 15 years. We have shared many adventures and a lot of watershed moments. In 2009 I began blogging and in 2010 we adopted our daughter from Ethiopia. In March of 2012 we began the process to adopt a little boy from Haiti. This blog follows the many twists and turns on the road to our two children and beyond.

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