Time for all you lurkers to come out of hiding. I am asking for your advice. I CANNOT believe I am posting about my messy house the day after I posted that Zinabu once lived in a hut. I mean, I'm not trying to make the point that Americans are terrible consumers, but the irony is gross. Here's the deal.
I like a clean house!
Adding a 3rd child has tipped the scales, so to speak, in child paraphernalia. I don't even let my kids have that many toys. But 3 kids, with 15 toys each (some in sets like that BLASTED Littlest Pet Shop and the wretched Bionicles) and all of a sudden were at 45 toys in this house. I have a toy "library" where we keep some of their toys. It's in our creepy crawl space, so no one really goes in there. If the kids get tired of the few toys they have in their room, then they can exchange it for a toy in the library. So far that's worked. But I can't keep up. There is stuff overtaking my house. So my question is.....
Playroom or no playroom?
Right now, we have no playroom. Each kid has toys in their room, but we also have the wooden train set and puzzles and balls and Legos that belong to everyone and hang out in our basement. I'm seriously considering burning...er, I mean moving the toys to the spare bedroom/office and converting it into a fun playroom. We don't use it very much, and it would be SOOOOOO nice to have the toys in there. If you have a playroom and it works for you, please respond. Help me....
This is a picture of a traditional hut in Ethiopia. Found in the countryside and farmland, it is the type of hut Zinabu was born in and live the first 3 years of his life. This is a general photo I found on the web, but we do have priceless photo and video of Zinabu's family hut and very small farm. I am trying to come to grips with the great divide between Ethiopia and Colorado. Geographically, culturally, economically, and emotionally. Zinabu is the one I was prepared for to grieve and balk against living with us. I am finding that I am going through a lot of emotional work...just coming to grips with the very different upbringing Zinabu had before coming to us. It's hard for me to explain but I just need to process. I know the exact day and time Carver and Lily were born. I know they were born in sanitized hospitals. I know they had to wait only a few days and weeks before coming to live with us. It is so different with Zinabu. I can only guess at what his life was like. I don't know when he was born. I don't know his exact age. I don't know what he did or liked or thought. And I probably will never know as these memories are going to be lost for him before he can express them to us. I knew this in my head before Zinabu arrived, but back then he was just a face in a photo. Now he is my son! And these questions haunt me. CHSFS, our agency, goes to extremes to find out as much as they can about your child's birth history. They made a DVD for us that shows Zinabu's birthplace and some living relatives were interviewed. It is everything to us that we have this, and it will be everything to Zinabu as he gets older and has questions for us that we can't explain. The DVD is very sad and hard for me to watch, but it gives a pictorial account of Zinabu's life during the in between of his first family and us.
George W. decided to impose sanctions against Sudan to try to stop the violence in Darfur. The sanctions are against companies that supply petroleum and military vehicles. I don't know if that will make a dent to the thousands of people who have already died or are still suffering. "The people of Darfur are crying out for help,'' Bush said. "I promise this to the people of Darfur: The United States will not avert our eyes from a crisis that challenges the conscience of the world.'' In my opinion, the White House is too little too late in this one. (Like 4 years!) Besides, sanctions always hurt the poor, the children, the displaced, the people that have so little. I wish there were another way...
Here in comfy America, I have the privilege of cooking whatever I want for dinner, drive-thru Starbucks, fresh-cut flowers, 25 different brands of toothpaste, organic asparagus or conventional, free checking, and all kinds of other luxuries I take for granted on a moment by moment basis. It's sickening. What am I most thankful for? My kids. Their health and safety. Their love. There was a lot of giggling coming from Zinabu's bed tonight, and when I went to check on him, this is what I found.
They're sleeping together like 2 hot dogs in a bun right now. How blessed I am.
It's official. I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. It's been 3 weeks since Zinabu was contagious, and I am not sick. Whoopie! I'm in the clear. And what is the mysterious virus he suffered from, you ask? The MUMPS! Most of our close friends knew what was going on, but I didn't want to post the diagnosis on my blog until things settled down. Zinabu was exposed to the mumps in Ethiopia, but we are so thankful to God he did not get sick until he was safe at our home, and under excellent medical care. He was very, very ill. Turns out the mumps can hit you in different ways: very little, horrible, or somewhere in between. Zinabu was in the "horrible" category. That's why he was such a big hit at the hospital. The staff there doesn't see mumps anymore. It's also why we were quarantined and treated like lepers. I understand, but it was a rough week. David had his booster shots before travel, Carver and Lily are all caught up on their vaccinations, but my mom and I were the lone rebels. We had to track down if we'd received at least one mumps shot (yes) and a booster (er...no). One shot kinda-sorta-maybe protects you. You really need the booster for full protection. We think I had some kind of booster in 1982... but that was pre-Michael Jackson's Thriller! Who can remember anything way back then? So it is with much celebrating that I can post we are all mumps free!
We are moving up in the medical world this week. We march on toward stool samples. Yes, that's right. Zinabu makes 'em and I collect 'em. Time to find out for sure if there are any unwanted guests residing in his intestines. I don't know if they'll find parasites, but I do know they will find pounds of strawberries. I cannot keep enough produce in this house. Especially strawberries. Today I bought this:
The photo makes it look small, but it's actually over 4 pounds of strawberries. I can guarantee they will be gone in 48 hours. But look at this sweet face. Who could say no to it?
This week's Cathy Award goes to caffeine. It is coursing through my veins right now! I'm trying to figure out a way to grind espresso beans and mix them in with Diet Coke. Zinabu slept a little better last night. Fortunately David is home today and I plan to whine and complain a lot about how tired I am. Hopefully he'll get so sick of me he'll beg me to take a nap! But I have to get through this morning, first.
The What-Were-They-Thinking Award was a no-contest this week. The woman at the grocery store (why is it always the grocery store???) who walked up to me and the kids and asked, "What mix are they? Are they siblings?" HELLO! My kids have ears! They can hear you! I didn't answer her question. I pretended to be really busy with the orange selection. Why is this a big deal? Because it sends the message to my children that they aren't and will never be siblings. This is the one question I wish would go away and die in a cave somewhere.
I also don't know what I was thinking yesterday when I thought I would dink around with my blog a little bit. Next thing I knew, little fingers snuck in a pushed some buttons to "help" me and my blog was in pieces. I think I've got it back together, but I learned not to even attempt any changes while my kids are around. I hope that very soon I can start putting video and photos up of David's trip to Ethiopia. I need to go through the video, but I'd love for you all to be able to see some of the highlights. Look for that to come sometime this week. Have a fun Saturday.
I'd like to buy this sign and plant it in our front yard. I am very sleep deprived these days--so much that I'm going to submit my brain to science so they can study my ability to function at 2% instead of 100%. Sleep issues with a newly adopted toddler are to be expected. I'm just in a quandary about what to do. Fortunately, Zinabu isn't screaming all night long. He's just waking up every hour or so and needing me. I don't like co-sleeping because I never can sleep when I share a bed with a kid. (It's hard enough with a husband!) I do snuggle with Zinabu and I also have a chair next to his bed. I sit in the chair until he falls back asleep, but in another hour he's awake again and needing me. I hope this is a short phase. I also hope for a lot of wisdom about how to help him go back to sleep on his own. I can't keep this up forever. Any advice?
A huge thanks to Mary at Owlhaven, who gave me the illustrious Golden Keyboard Award. She posted a question on her blog about how to promote friendship among your kids. I responded that I try to say "Yes" to my kids when they ask to do something that gets them working together. For my kids, that usually involves a huge mess, but I try to look past that and let them do something fun (like big mud holes and lemonade stands). Aren't we ALL too quick to say "No" to our kids just because it's easier??? How about you? How do you promote friendship among your kids?
I think the bigger question is who is Mary to be asking for advice/ideas? She has 10 children. Yes, let me repeat that. 10! Eight at home and 2 on the way from Ethiopia. Wow.
I'm so used to sticking my foot in my mouth that it's nice to know I said something worthwhile for a change.
The animals being the billions of children at the zoo today. When I started blogging, I wanted to refrain from negative posts about my kids (and husband). Still, there's "wants" and there's "real life." Today was the big field trip to the zoo, and both Carver and Lily's classes went. How fun, I thought. I'll help chaperon and bring Zinabu. We'll have a wonderful time together. (Snort!) Famous last words. Here in our city, this is the last week of school for most districts. Every elementary school in a 50 mile radius seemed to be at the zoo today. Check out the look on Lily's face in the photo. That's an accurate reflection of how we all felt. Zinabu threw no fewer than 5 tantrums today. Too overstimulated. Me too.
May we never speak of this day again. Ever.
David has had to work mega hours this week, and weekend, and I've barely seen him. I've spoken to him for maybe 2 minutes a day, and it hardly counts as conversation. As for the other man in my life, Zinabu talks NON-STOP. He wakes up talking and doesn't stop until he closes his eyes. Yesterday we went to a playground and Zinabu heard a family speaking in Spanish. I swear his eyes lit up and he thought, "Hey! There's another language I can learn! MORE words!" He uses short phrases, and he speaks half Amharic, half English. But he says the same thing over and over and over again. When we're all together in the car or sitting eating dinner together, I will tell Zinabu something, and he repeats it to everyone else as if they didn't know what I said. He talks to himself, he talks to his toys, he follows me into the bathroom and talks. The only time he's quiet is when we're out in a public place with lots of people and he feels intimidated. Then he's very quiet and he clings to me like I'm a life raft. It's good though. He seems to know that David and I protect him and are his family, while others are not. That's a huge step in the bonding process.
Today we are skipping church (scandalous!) and enjoying a day together! It's sunny, warm, and a great day to dig in the garden. I'm a little behind this year with my seedlings, so I may have to suck it up and buy some vegetable plants and flowers. But I won't bore you with all those details. Have a wonderful Sunday!
It appears Zinabu has found something that trumps the helmet. An old set of headphones from our pre-iPod days. Given the fact that we have few battles to pick with our new boy, headphones all day (and all night) is just plain funny!
I would love to go to bed right now with a pair of headphones...preferably playing some great book-on-tape I could listen to. How ironic that even AFTER you bring your child home from Ethiopia, the paperwork continues. The piles are growing, and each day I say, "I'll get to that tonight." Eh hem--it hasn't happened yet. Not to mention reams of thank-you notes and pictures to send to family. I'm swooning at the thought!
I had a sweet, poignant Mother's Day. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that Zinabu is with us now. But given that there are 3 birth mothers attached to our lives, Mother's Day can be a little tricky, too. My children's pasts are so different...so unique...I feel blessed that Carver, Lily, and Zinabu call me mom. I waver at times about how I think/feel toward their birth families. And honestly, there are lots of times I don't think about their birth families at all. I am so connected to my kids, so MOM to them, it's easy to disengage from their biological roots. Zinabu's situation brings it all back--slamming me in the face. There is so much pain, so much unfairness, so much grief for one so young. It's hard to put into words...
Lots of people want to know how Zinabu is doing with the language issue. I confess it is more fun than frustrating. Remember, he's 3. Most 3 year olds lives revolve around themselves, so I understand what he's saying 80% of the time. I would guess I know 30 Amharic words by now, and Zinabu knows about 40 English words. He's doing amazing. This morning he learned the word "yummy" and he's said it often today. He uses the word "no" emphatically and with gusto. He loves to call us animal names. Today he called me a chicken and laughed his head off.
Zinabu is much more relaxed about his clothes, although he loves to change shirts several times a day. He spends a lot of time walking through the house wanting to know who owns what. He points to the scissors and I say, "Mommy's." He points to a toy and I say "Zinabu's." He's fine if I tell him something is Carver's or Lily's...he just wants to know the lay of the land. We are teaching him "Everyone's" so he knows there are lots of things around the house that we share. We've almost got this down. Today he was carrying a can of black beans and saying, "Every body's Zinabu's. " Like if he adds his name at the end it makes it a little more his.
Zinabu has very little interest in TV (which I think is great) but I feel like a little Sesame Street is a good thing for him at this age. We got a Cookie Monster DVD from the library, and I ask you... is there anything funnier than a 3 year old, Amharic-speaking boy belly laughing at Cookie Monster? Humor is universal, and Zinabu loves to laugh. He really amazes me.
Lily--just turned 6 and really enjoys mixing and matching separates. I cannot even pretend that I care what she wears. As long as she's happy...
Zinabu--3 and positively in love with his bike helmet. He won't take it off.
Carver--8 and a darling...except for the current haircut. He caught me in a moment of weakness when I was trying to say "yes" to my kids a lot (right after Zinabu arrived).
Who would I be without my kids? It's hard to say. They make me a better person, no doubt about it. I'm so proud to be their mom.
I, for one, am awfully proud of myself for making it through a whole week as a mother of 3, and I only cried 28 times. Wow! Instead of Mother's Day, I feel like celebrating Referee Day, because I've been doing a lot of whistle blowing and calling of fouls among siblings. Funny... Zinabu is doing fantastic. It's the rest of us that are trying to adjust to him. Carver and Lily are justifiably put out by Zinabu being 3 and into everything. About half the time they love him, and the other half they are far, far away from him. I reassure them we all just need some time to get to know one another. And I reassure them it will be a whole lot easier when Zinabu is more fluent in English. Zinabu is eating us out of house and home. He eats as much as Lily and Carver put together. I don't know how he does it. His favorite food right now is oranges, and he would eat 5 a day if I let him. He's better about letting me take clothes/layers off of him if it gets too hot, but he's REALLY attached to his bike helmet and he wears it constantly. I promise to post a picture of him in it. I've been too busy being mom to really spend time taking pictures. The house is a MESS, but I am doing my best giving time and love to my kids...and for now that's the way it's supposed to be.
Zianbu is easing into our family quite well. Really, I'm not sugar-coating it. He is happy and HEALTHY. He throws an occasional tantrum (usually when he has to put on a seat belt) but what 3 year old doesn't? Mostly though he's glued to my side and ready to play. The tough part for me now (other than my aching back from holding him) is the language barrier. We can communicate well enough as far as potty, sleep, share, eat, etc. But I miss the conversations I could be having with him. Kids are so funny, I hate that it will be a few months before I can really "get" all that he's saying. The other day, one of Lily's friends said, "I can't wait till I'm 100. Because then I'll have a servant who will carry me around since my legs won't work." Is that a riot or what??? Those are the things I hate to miss with Zinabu. I'm trying to be patient as I continue in my role as "nanny" and ease slowly into "mom." I feel like a nanny because I care for his needs, but I'll feel more like a mom when I can talk to him about why ice cream is so yummy. It's hard to explain... I'm such an impatient person. It's hard to wait.
This week I am supposed to be attending 2 luncheons, 1 soccer practice, a teacher appreciation event, writing the school newsletter, and other lame commitments. Instead, I will be doing a whole lot of gazing at my kids. A fair trade, really. Today Zinabu said something in Amharic, and although I didn't know what it was, I repeated it back to him. He cackled with laughter. Gee, so I guess my pronunciation needs some work, but he didn't have to be so cruel. He laughed for a good 10 minutes and kept giggling whenever he said the word again. This from the child that once again wore 2 shirts, a hat, and a fleece that he refused to take off even in the heat of the day. He loves his clothes.
Imagine being 3 years old. You're whisked away from your native language, food, and surroundings by a (nice) white man and taken to America. Once in America, you meet your new mom, brother, and sister. Your first 48 hours are a whirlwind as you take in new sights, sounds, and smells. And then you start to feel really, really sick. You're so sick, in fact, that you cannot eat or drink for 4 days. You go to the hospital, where people who do not speak your language stick needles in your arms, draw blood, hold you down when you're screaming, and stick tubes up your nose. Can you imagine that? I can not. I watched Zinabu go through it, and I still have a hard time grasping what that would feel like. Thankfully, all that is behind us now. Zinabu is a little weak and tired, but he's so happy! He ate a great breakfast and a great lunch, and right now he's taking a much deserved nap. He played hard in the sandbox most of the morning, and threw a bit of a fit when I told him it was time to go inside. How wonderful.
A huge hooray for all the nurses who took care of Zinabu. Most of them were outstanding. The bummer was they all wore special masks and gowns and gloves whenever they worked on him, so he could never see them smile. But they were gentle and supportive. They used Amharic when I gave them certain words to say, and that helped. A huge boo to the ER doctor who was a complete jerk--but I won't waste any time going there.
I consider our family very blessed. What Zinabu had was a serious virus that is completely preventable here in the United States. He was exposed in Ethiopia. We are thankful he did not get sick in Ethiopia, or on the plane with David. We try not to worry about "what almost happened." It's like a very bad dream that I still can't believe happened.
The good news is that Zinabu is very attached to us now. David and I took turns holding him 24/7, and Zinabu was comforted by this. He knows we love him and that we take care of him. Although I wish he had never been sick, his illness really speeded up the attachment process. Zinabu is a very happy, very sweet boy. He loves our family and he loves being here. The only times of day that are a little rough are nap and bedtime (an anxious time for lots of 3 year olds) and changing clothes. In the care center, all the clothes are communal. No child has anything of their own. So Zinabu, once dressed, is reluctant to take any clothes off. I HAD to give him a bath last night, and he really fought me. It wasn't until I figured out he didn't want to take off his new jacket that I was able to reassure him. I kept telling him "Zinabu's" as I pointed to his clothes. After a few seconds, he had a huge smile. We even spend time in his closet pointing out what is his and telling him over and over it belongs to him. Still, when I put him down for a nap today, he was wearing 2 shirts (he loves them both) and that jacket. So cute.
I look forward to all the fun posts I get to share in the future about Zinabu. It will be so nice when this past week is just a distant memory.
Lily coloring with Zinabu--who is wearing the infamous jacket.
Thank you, all of you, for your amazing support and prayers. I attribute Zinabu's recovery to a miracle--there is no other explanation for it. He was discharged from the hospital today, and he is currently asleep in his bed...all snuggled in with no IV's or meds to worry about.
I will post tomorrow about this crazy week (I promise). For now, I need to get some sleep. I am breathing the first sighs of relief since Monday. It feels so good.
I took Zinabu to the hospital yesterday morning and they spent a few hours hydrating him and doing blood work. He has an infection so they admitted him. Last night was really tough, as I was pushing through my 3rd night with little sleep. At one point his fever was 104 and I was crying because I felt so helpless. There I was with my Amharic phrasebook, and there is no way to look up "You're in the hospital and they have to stick IVs in your arm and run crazy tests on you but it's OK." I speak to him in short, comforting phrases...and he loves when I hold him. But the pediatric ward is depressing, and I can't leave the room because he's so contagious. The nurses are very kind, but on the whole the staff treats Zinabu like he's E.T. Since he's from Africa and has not had vaccinations, they ran probably 30 tests on him. They even stuck a tube down his throat to suck up mucus from his lungs. I hate this! The endless hours of fevers and vomiting are not going away. Please pray for me--that I not get sick! Please pray for Zinabu to make a very speedy recovery and that he can come home soon. Blessings!
I will probably delete this post in a few days, so that Zinabu never knows I wrote it, but the last 48 hours have been some of the hardest of my life. If I didn't post on April 30th about how wonderful everything was going, I wouldn't believe it. Zinabu continues to vomit and run a fever. We have antibiotics for him, but I was only able to give him his first dose and have it stay down this afternoon. Today he was so sick he began associating our house and family with his illness. He tried to get into our van and he started crying the most mournful cry you've ever heard. He wanted to go back to Ethiopia...and who can blame him? The language barrier is so difficult when he's sick. There is NOTHING I can do for him except be there. He is angry at us, but he also wants me to hold him all the time. He was so clingy I couldn't even put him down to clean up the vomit on our floor.
I have hardly spoken to Carver and Lily, as they stand off to the side and cover their ears at Zinabu's cries. I try to be there for them, but it's impossible. I miss them, and I don't know how to express that. I have to believe Zinabu will start feeling better at some point...that I will actually sleep and brush my teeth at some point...that he will forgive me at some point for forcing medicine into him.
This is the part of adoption that I want to be bold and talk about. Everyone around you is so happy at the arrival of your child, it's easy to forget that this is when the hard work starts. Let's get real--I love Zinabu, but right now I am a nurse with no pay or shift change. Zinabu and I have no relationship. He does not trust me. He does not even like me very much. Of course it will get better in time. But for right now, the brutal honesty is that I am at my wit's end.
Zinabu has been fighting a cold, but this morning he woke up with a high fever and vomiting. He is pretty ill, and it is breaking my heart that I can only speak to him in broken Amharic. He's a trooper, but if he can't keep fluids down we'll be at the hospital tonight. Please pray for him.