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."


You Know You Wanted More

(She likes her books.)

(And her sleep.)

(But her greatest discovery is the power of walking!)

First, thanks for so many great comments on my "readers declare yourself" post a few days ago. I loved seeing who is here with me and for what reasons. Please post your comment there when you get a chance and make sure to enable your google profile or give me your email address/blog address so I can get to know you better!

Second, I feel really unsettled about my post from yesterday. Leaving it up for now to see what you think. But I feel so stupid about this. One of my very best friends is Indian. I wouldn't think twice about taking her son to the mall and would never notice anyone looking at us. So obviously this issue I have now is very internal and all about trans-racial parenting. Not trans-racial friendships, relationships or public outings. It's the parenting piece people! How to be a mindful white mother? Will get back to you if I figure anything out.

Finally, I have learned how to upload video from my F.lip and I plan to make a lot of use of this basic skill. You know you wanted more!


White Mama

Does anyone else notice how uncomfortably close we get to other humans when shopping?

The mall. It really is equally appalling and appealing. In one building you can find so many strange and tempting things: the overpowering smell of cinna.bonn (yum) mingled with the watery eye, allergy inducing air fibers of new clothing, the soundtrack of tapping high heels and children screaming in the indoor play area topped off with a hint of musky cologne samples. Fake light, fake smells, fake food, fake playground. Real people.

Prior to adopting I never looked at my fellow shoppers. I am usually an in and out by myself, get it done, seek and destroy shopper. Once in awhile I am the shopper who brings a friend to try on expensive dresses neither of us can afford. Either way, no eye contact with fellow stranger shoppers and definitely no chit chat with salespeople.

Ariam and I have been alone to a mall twice together since arriving home. (This post really applies to being alone with her as adding another person changes the dynamic completely. The time I brought my friend Alima everyone thought we were a lesbian couple with a domestically adopted daughter.)

During both of our alone mall visits it's like I've had blinders removed and I can suddenly see race everywhere. (I know I know, a very WHITE thing to say.)

But seriously. Walking in the mall my internal monologue is something like this:

"African American man. Twelve o'clock. He sees her. Eyes widening slightly. He is wondering, he is wondering. Wonder if he is staring because she's so lovely? (glance at Ariam tells me that this is probably not quite the reason given her super grump expression, dried formula on her chin, and shoeless feet propped on the front rung of her stroller.) "

"Ethiopian! Ethiopian man four o'clock. Ethiopan man wearing traditional shirt! Oh! he sees her. He is looking. Should I smile? Should I nod? Should I stop? He's not smiling. Why not smiling?"

"AA woman next to us. Next to us looking at C.arol's Dau.ghters products. I am a good mama. I am paying a lot of money for good hair products (insert more self affirmation of my ability to mother an Ethiopian baby.) I smiled. Should I comment knowingly on one of the products? I did it! I did it! But no more. No more HAIR talk. That's not cool. No more hair talk Amanda. You are so WHITE."

Sitting at table eating frozen yogurt, feeding bites to Ariam who is a. grumpy because mommy is hauling her around the watery eye allergy inducing mall and b. wants yogurt shoveled into her mouth at a faster pace than I can manage: "Ethiopian man. Handsome Ethiopian man. Approaching. Approaching. With a friend. With a stroller. Here they come.Careful now - are they friend or foe? What do they think about adoption. Act pleasant! No, act confident! No, act humble!!! Aaaccckkk!"

I internally obsess over Ariam's dry legs. "Her legs are so dry. If I don't look, maybe nobody will look. Is that dry or is that something I can brush off?? Okay, guess it's dryness. But WHY? I swear I am using Shea butter. I will swear this on my life to any woman who asks me. Maybe I should duck into a store and sneak some lotion onto her. Wait. No shoes. She isn't wearing shoes. Why didn't I put her shoes on? She looks so pitiful with her barefeet and long toenails. OMG. What am I doing in this mall? We are not coming back until I have mastered the hair products, remembered to shoe my child, and fed her enough yogurt to keep her quiet."

And on it goes. I have lost myself. In a good way in general. But in a muddled way in large public group settings. I don't know who I am in the context of who I am with Ariam yet. I can't just "be myself." Where is myself? Myself is some other woman who left for Ethiopia childless. She's back there still. Gone for good thank God. But who is this new person in her place? This new me is still often amazed to be parenting miss wonderful. This new me doesn't always feel so deserving. This new me is so very very conscious of all of the ways I could stumble.

Other adoptive mothers are too quick to smile and greet and ask questions like we are all in some giant mommy club just because their 7 year old Chinese son and my 1 year old Ethiopian daughter are both adopted.

White mothers are quick to compliment. Everywhere we go it is "look at her eyes. no, her lips, no! her hair!" from white people. Never from a person of any other race. Why is that? It seems normal to NOT comment on someone's child. And yet the comments from white people are making the lack of comments from everyone else seem odd.

I wish mall aisles were wider so you didn't have to pass SO DARN CLOSE to people who like to look and comment. Or look and NOT COMMENT. I wish I didn't have to roller over everyone's toes in those teeny tiny aisles inside baby stores. I wish Ariam wouldn't frown and look so darn angry the whole time I am shopping with her like I've just kidnapped her.

Race is so hard. In the peace of our own home and neighborhood and circle of friends I am often blinded by Ari's beauty and light. I have become color blind (yes yes, not a good thing I know - but don't we all become blind to most things about our own children?) I just see her as Ariam whom I love. Nobody around us stares or acts strangely or asks intrusive questions.

But the mall reminds me of why it's dangerous to become too comfortable. Because real life awaits. Real people with real thoughts, perceptions, judgements, and stares await.

Dangerous to be too comfortable. Dangerous because as she gets older, if I can't be the person to talk race, identity, and ethnicity with her then who will? At some point she will select someone in her life who can do that for her. I want that someone to be me. A better me. A rational, calm, well rounded, able to educate not just through my words but through my actions, me.

It's a good thing she can't read my scattered mall thoughts.

I really put this race talk on the back burner in the whirlwind of travel and homecoming and getting settled. And then of course there was the blinding aspect of Her.

But she will grow older. And she will see what I see, maybe from a different point of view or maybe in a similar way, and for a little while she will look to me. I will just have that little while to prove to her that I can handle it. That I know how to navigate the mall that is life.

Scary stuff. I feel about 14 today.

We all know how 14 year olds act in the mall.

So I am going to need to seriously buck up and get it together on this topic of race.

(This is J's hand. I don't have man hands.)

PS. I simply don't know how to navigate. I am a white mother with a black baby. It has completely changed who I am. The mother part has changed my internal life and the white/black part changed my external life. Still reeling. In so so many good ways.


Dogs and Spiders

Ari's vocabulary is growing. She surprises us sometimes with the words (or word pieces) that pop out of her mouth. A few days ago a woman in the grocery store said "bye bye" to her and 15 seconds later Ariam leaned out of her stroller and whispered "bye bye." We were shocked.

After "Mama" and "Dada" (which she thinks are question and answer ie. "Mama?" is asked and Ari answers "DADA!" with a grin) came "Daw" for Dog and then, oddly "spy 'pida" for "spider."
I never thought my daughter's fourth word would be spider....


1. In the Dog video we were on our first hike. Ari was not drugged I swear! Just very very tired.

2. In the Spider video please disregard pajamas at 11am, linty hair, and juice being drunk while lying like a princess on the couch. Of course that isn't normally how we spend our days!!



What Brings You Here?

Yesterday Bridget from Sticky Mango Feet came for a visit with her daughter Elia. And yes, I absolutely think of her as Bridget from Sticky Mango Feet.

We had a conversation about blogging, that due to double child interference, didn't get very far. But I thought a lot about it last night.

Adoption blogging is this very interesting phenomenon. I clearly remember the very first adoption-related blog I read. It was Leah's. We met in Ethiopia (she was there visiting Myra, I was there for work.) When we parted Leah handed me a card. I thought it was a business card. And it was, sort of. It was labeled "Noah and Myra's Mom" and had her contact information and blog address. I was confused. (Ahhh, I was so clearly NOT in the adoption loop back then.)

Leah's blog introduced me to other adoption blogs. Which lead to many ugly cries in front of the computer. Which lead to the ordering of a waiting child dvd. Which lead to the walking and talking. Which ultimately lead us to Ariam.

There is something about the blogging community that is impossible to get anywhere else. Maybe it is the semi-anonymity that gives us permission to be very very real. Even ugly if we choose to be. Maybe it is the freedom to add, clarify, delete that makes communicating so much easier. Definitely there is power in writing and sending ourselves out into the universe this way.

The thing Bridget said that I found so interesting was that blogging has a way of making us more mindful of how we approach our adoption. We both agree that it holds us more accountable. You (that vague nebulous 'you' who I hardly know and yet feel so connected to) make me more accountable to A. Because I have to think before I write. And because I have to think before I write, I actually have to think before I act. Think about the way I approach sleep, think about the way I approach community, think about how I talk about adoption, think about how I represent our family. I can more mindfully think through challenges because I can bring them to the community to find support, answers, and ideas.

Maybe most importantly, because I publicly represent certain adoption values on this blog, I actually have to find a way to live them in my work and home life.

It deserves a lot more discussion. (Maybe minus the two adorable distractions!) But my point is simply that blogging is not just a way of documenting each milestone in Ari's development. Blogging for me is accountability, memory, planning, processing, and connection.

That being said. I am asking this: READERS DECLARE YOURSELVES PLEASE!

It's come to the point where I am not sure who is reading here. I have received incredibly kind and supportive comments from new readers on old (very old) posts lately. But often commenters' profiles don't show up in the comments so I have no idea (other than a first name) who you are.

If you read here regularly could you please comment? And if we've never met by email I'd love it if you'd leave your email address or some other identifying link.

I don't use tracking software. I don't know who is reading from Finland or Zimbabwe or New Zealand. If anyone is. I don't use the program that tells me who found this blog and how. I have no idea how long you linger on each page or photo (but I do know that there are programs I could install to find this out!)

I have zero time to faff about (it's a British phrase, possibly spelled incorrectly) with installing these things. I just know that I'm nearing 20,000 hits in one year and would so love to know who is out there with me. Are you reading to see photos (mom- ok I so know that is you), are you reading because you are considering adopting? Are you reading because you are a friend and I don't email you or call you often enough? :) Are you reading because you are interested in the same things I am: ethics, race and identity, sleep crisis, reluctant husbands, vulnerable children, special needs??

If you are Morgan and Jackie then you don't need to comment because I know you are reading to keep tabs on the little light I've been entrusted with.

Thanks in advance everyone!



Sleep Update

I've been asked about how our sleep is going fairly often since I posted this.

The short answer is: much much better. Cry it out was not torturous and it did not last long at all. The key is putting her to bed before she's completely asleep so that when she wakes up she's not disoriented. Now she sleeps through the night every night.

But the long answer to the question of sleep is a convoluted explanation of how only after having Ari home with us did I really absorb all of the adoption literature I read last year.

I read it but it was in one eye and out the other, so to speak.

This is what I know now:

1. Babies are so smart about sleep. Sleep is not just sleep. It really isn't. Sleep can be bonding or sleep can be divisive. Sleep can be restful or it can be restless. Sleep isn't always sleep. It can be playing or it can be sobbing. Sleep has rythms and it has power. It is fascinating.

Take for instance right now. Right now as I type it is 10:43am on a Sunday morning and A has been talking in her crib for 43 minutes exactly. For the last 3 weeks A has slept, without fail, from 10:00am-11:10am. Usually it takes a rocking and a bottle lead in but it doesn't fail. However, every Sunday morning she skips this nap because we go to church at 10:15am. We made a plan to start rotating one person staying home for nap and one going to church so that she could stay on a 7 day/week schedule. This is day one of the new plan for Sunday mornings.

HOW DOES SHE KNOW that it's Sunday? Why is she wide awake? We didn't do anything differently this morning but her body just knows.

A baby's body is capable of absorbing knowledge. I had read this but had not processed it.

This leads me to thought #2.

2. A baby's body absorbs information that possibly their brain cannot yet handle or make sense of. I am realizing that sleeping time is a processing time.

A is approaching a major milestone. She is approaching the time when she will have been in our care as long as any previous caregiver's. And it shows in her sleep. She's started to cry out multiple times each night. She's become restless in her sleep. A few days ago I had to get up and give her a bottle and rock with her for the first time in 2 months. Call it intuition or call it being well read about adoption - I just know this is her body's way of working out the fear of another big change. It's like her body is on count down. I am anxious to see how she does after we pass the 12 week milestone.

Finally, a thought not related to the above 2.

3. The whole "sleep when your baby sleeps" is just the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Inevitably the second I fall asleep for a nap she wakes up. It's apparently a law of nature or something like that. And it is much much worse than just staying awake.

Overall I think we are really fortunate. This is J's thought on the subject from a conversation we had yesterday.

J: "Do you think we got really lucky with A or do you think we just don't know the difference between easy and hard since we have nothing to compare her to?"

My answer is that I really don't know. Obviously we DON'T have a baby or older child to compare her to. But in so many ways she just fits us. Or we fit her. Something is working out right here.

She looks to us. We are important to her. She trusts us. Whether it is a nighttime wake up or a new situation, we are her people.

And that is big. THAT makes us very very lucky.



Puke, Parties, Presents, People

She is a morning person people. A MORNING. PERSON. Yeesh. Ick.

The cuteness in the am is almost overwhelming.

Ari and I recently spent some time in Texas with Aya and Papa. They are also morning people. The morning love fest was exhausting to watch. But at least one day I got to go back to bed and leave them to it!

These are some early am pre-breakfast photos at Aya's table. Does she smile for photos at a sensible time of day, like, oh say 2pm? Nope. 7am and earlier? Bedhead and all - absolutely!

A few weeks ago Ari and I said goodbye to daddy at the departure gate (he got permission to see us all the way to the gate) and walked down the ramp to board our flight to Austin.

Halfway down the ramp the little one threw up all over herself and her stroller. I didn't realize it at the time (I think that's a good thing actually) in my frantic juggling of wheely bag, diaper bag, stroller, baby and boarding pass. Have I always wanted to be that mom-jaunting off on a trip with her sweet baby? Yes. Was it idealic in reality. Hell no.

Once on the plane we found our seat and I discovered just how hard it is to hold a squiggly toddler while hefting a gigantic carry on into the overhead compartment.
I think I squeezed her too hard. I know I football carried her down the aisle of the plane so that probably didn't help.
WHY can't they make those plane aisles wider? There is no humanly possible way to pull a carry on AND carry a baby one one hip with a diaper bag on the other. We got stuck on every single seat we passed. "sorry, oh, excuse, me. oh. damn. Um. I mean sorry. ACK. (uncomfortable laugh) heh heh. HOW do people do this? It's harder than it looks. Heh heh. Sorry again. Ouch! Oopps so sorry!" UGH.

Now I have a vomit phobia. You all know that. Whether I know you in my work life, my personal life, my family life or my online life - you all know I am scared of vomit. I run from it. I am not the sympathetic friend you should count on to hold your hair back over a toilet. (gag.)
I even once ran from J on our anniversary when he got really sick in a park. RAN. As in I was halfway down the block shouting over my shoulder that I would go get the car and a barf bag and be back soon.

So. Vomit. Plane. Baby. Me. Alone. (insert sad mewing defeated sound.) The second we sat down in our seat she threw up again - all over the two of us and our seat. It was our first vomit experience together if you don't count our first night together when she threw up her meal into her bib pocket. (Very clean and easy.)

The flight attendants kept yelling at me to remove my tiny little bottle carrier from the overhead bin and put it under my seat because I wasn't allowed to put more than one carry on above. Honestly? The thing holds a bottle and her meds. It is tiny. I am covered in vomit. Baby is screaming. It was bad. I kept asking for something to clean up with and they brought me dry paper towels. How are scratchy dry paper towels going to help? They did a lovely job of dryly smearing everything around.

Worse was the 30 minute delay after everyone boarded. Which took place 30 minutes after regular bedtime. Which lead to Ari pinching the elderly woman's arm next to us. And pulling the hair of the woman in front of us. And screaming. A LOT.

It was so hot. It was the 8th circle of hell (if Addis immigration is the 7th.) We were practically sweat glued to each other.

It was really terrible. It deserved a blog post all its own. I will not forget that flight for a very long time. There was a moment when I thought "I can't do this. No. I really cannot. My feminine parts are soaking with vomit juices (she puked down her front onto my lap.) My baby stinks and has grown from a manageable 20 pounder to the size of a poopy diapered linebacker on my lap. The woman next to me actually has her FINGERS IN HER EARS. And I will be trapped on this plane until we all die."

An hour and a half later we landed.

On the flight home I told our seatmate before he even sat down that he did not want to sit next to us. I think Ari really kicked it home for him when she looked up, screamed in his face, pressed the cookie monst.er (haahhh haaahhh hahhh) laugh button on her toy and laughed maniacally while jumping up and down on his seat. (Our flight home was also a half hour past normal bedtime.) He found another seat.

Flight home with extra seat next to us was marginally better.
In between these flights from the depths of hell we had a wonderful time!

My mom's friends threw us a welcome home baby shower which we attended in full party dress.

Ariam received many toys, chewed on wrapping paper, hand fed me frosting, met Ellie T. and had zero meltdowns.

I've noticed that in party situations she doesn't smile much. She is very serious and hyper alert. I think this is a normal side effect of having lived with large groups in an institution. But I do really look forward to the day when she can laugh, smile and relax at a party.

Despite my concerns about leaving daddy behind, Ari did great at Aya and Papa's house. She loved the soft carpeted floor, watching the "DAW" out the window, sitting at the big people's table, receiving adoring visitors, and sleeping in my room at night in a pack and play. She even napped twice/day, slept through the nights, and handled the heat with grace. I was sort of blown away. She did ask for "dah dah" a few times but seemed happy enough with looking at our family pictures with him on the walls.

A highlight was Saledo Creek. We began with top on, bottoms off. Then went to full swimsuit mode!
We had a great visit. Loved the party, presents and people. (Could have done without the puke.) THANK YOU mom, dad, and friends!


Ear Feeding

J: Feeding Ari in her kitchen highchair, "Babe...? I don't think we have a Mensa candidate here."

A: From living room, "Why is that?"

J: "She's feeding herself through the ear." (Truly - she was trying to stuff individual spiral noodles right into her ear canal while staring him down with a very focused expression.)

I don't know, I think that's pretty amazingly innovative if you ask me. Food tastes good going through the mouth, I'm sure she assumes that through the ear means twice as many yummy food delivery holes.



60 nights ago...

J and I went to sleep just the two of us. The next night we never went to sleep. We listened to A breathing and marveled over the BABY in our room.

A lot has changed. I think we are in mourning sometimes. We mourn rides on the scooter that sits lonely on our back patio. Sometimes after she is in bed we sigh. Sighs of sadness that we can't just run an errand together or spontaneously go out to eat. Every. single. morning she wakes up. I knew it in theory but the reality of never getting to sleep in. Ever. Again. So so sad.

A lot has changed. I think we are celebrating still. How is it that we can feel every feeling above and also feel amazed and giddy at how fortunate we are to have A with us? So many conflicting emotions. How do the mourning and the celebrating fit together?? It is...confusing.

Ari has really come into her own. There is no doubt in my mind that whatever grieving she went through during her transition, it is over completely now and we are the only ones left turned upside down. She knows where she fits and it is firmly between the two of us. If we kiss, she wants to clamber up our bodies and be smooched too. If we are both in the room and either of us leaves she wails with disappointment. She disburses smiles and kisses and hugs and waves evenly and is never happier than when all three of us are together. The sound of our voices talking can soothe her into her deepest sleep. She prefers that we both change her diaper so that one can deal with the dirty work and the other can play peekaboo.

Some of the things that fascinate me:

Ari's head is in the 99th percentile. Whoa.

She can turn anything, a shoe, a bottle, an empty plastic box, into a cell phone.

She loves cooked veggies, tofu, couscous, and anything spicy but hates fresh fruit and is suspicious of desserts.

Regular sign language is not nearly exciting enough. Ari creates her own signs and uses them regularly to discuss the itsy bitsy spider, things she wants, demands for the dogs to come, the sippy cup, and being sleepy.

Going to bed at 7pm (still semi-awake) and sleeping for 12 hours alone - not a problem. Taking a one hour nap alone in the afternoon - obviously the worst form of cruelty and torture!

Her love of water in streams, pools, lakes, and even the hose but her pure disgust for bathtub baths.

I love that Ari calls me "Meh meh" right now (even though she can say Mama) and that her first real word was "DAW" for dog. I love her rare belly laughs and scrunched nose smiles. I love that she loves the Baby Faces and Global Babies books and that she enjoys admiring herself in the mirror.

I hate that we have zero flexibility with our time. I hate that the ring of the doorbell or the phone during naptime sends flaming shots of fear through my core. I despise the sound of crying on the baby monitor that inevitably arrives 10 minutes after I lay down to nap. I am horrified that it is 11pm right now and I've already missed the cutoff for going to bed and being able to wake up feeling refreshed.

I love her.

I am still in lifestyle change shock.

I am amazed by her.

I am horrified by our sudden loss of independence.

She has the power to thrill me and exhaust me and keep me awake with worry at night.

Who knew? Two months ago, seriously, who could have known how complicated these feelings would be? Does it get easier?


PS. Am watching teen mom right now and really really appreciate that a. I had 11 years of adulthood and marriage before adding baby and b. we would never scream, yell or otherwise throw insane teenage hissy fits in front of our poor child.

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.