Saturday, March 27, 2010

Home for a month already...

I can't believe we've been home with Natalie for a month. Time flies when you're chasing around a toddler. Here's a Natalie update:

-Natalie gained almost a pound in the two-and-a-half weeks between her doctor visits! She weighs almost twenty pounds, now. She seems to have slowed down on her eating somewhat, but she always likes to have a bag of crackers in her hands --you know, just in case hunger strikes.
-The doctor did a full battery of blood tests including HIV even though Natalie had already had a lot of them before and they all came back negative. Woo hoo! She doesn't even have giardia or parasites which is kind of unusual but wonderful (our social worker said we're only one of two families she knows whose child hasn't come home with giardia).

-She's on her second round of antibiotics for ear infections and a terrible snotty nose. The problem is that we CANNOT get her to swallow it. We've tried hiding the liquid in her favorite foods, in formula, and in Sprite. We've tried sneaking a spoonful of medicine in between bites at mealtimes. We've tried laying her on her back and forcing the syringe to the back of her throat. She spits the stuff out. EVERY TIME. Any advice?

-She's trying so hard to talk. She says: doggie, kitty, and cracker (they all sound like "ga ga"). She says "arf." She says "up" when we go up the stairs. She says "wa" for "water." (Giving kisses)

-She's not afraid of anything. She's up for any adventure: swimming pool, sledding, aquarium--you name it, she'll try it. I thought she would be shy and timid. Nope! (Catching snowflakes)

(Sledding--note the graham cracker in each hand for snacking emergencies)

(The aquarium. Sharks? I'm not afraid of sharks!) (Holding a real live Easter bunny at the church Easter party)

(Bunny hop sack race--note the cracker in her left hand)

-We had our one-month post placement visit with out social worker this week. Fifteen minutes before our appointment Natalie fell into the gutter and got her first major owie. Naturally. I'm not sure what social workers look for at these visits--ours makes us feel like we're just catching up with an old friend.


-We're going to dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant with our Ethiopian group tonight. It will be Natalie's first Ethiopian food since we got home. I can't wait to see what she does with that injera...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Natalie today

Natalie today...
loves to eat,

loves to empty the cupboards,

loves to dig in the rocks and the sandbox,

loves to eat,

loves to "do dishes,"

loves to be silly (the "hat" was all her idea),

loves the swing if you tickle her tummy,

LOVES playing in the water,

is determined to blow bubbles like her brother,

loves her family,
is just plain adorable.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Addis Ababa

Before I continue with day three in Ethiopia, I thought I should post about Addis Ababa, the city where we stayed for most of our trip.

Addis Ababa is the capital of Ethiopia. It is --almost impossible to describe. For those of you who have never been there, here's my best attempt to give you a feel for the place (and keep in mind that I watch and read too much science fiction).

Okay, first, rip a hole in the fabric of time and pour through it everything and everyone from 10,000 years ago up to the present. Then, spray over the big chaotic mess every ounce of exhaust fumes and pollution ever created. And then you'll have Addis.

This is Addis.

This is Addis (kudos to Pat, by the way, who captured most of these images from inside a moving bus).

I had heard about the pollution. I was unprepared for the intensity of it. The smells were awful. If you asked me to describe Addis in two words I would say: "car exhaust." You could not escape the awful smells. Even in our hotel room, exhaust fumes seeped under the windows to stink up the room. A layer of soot covered even the nicest of buildings. Every day we gave thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency back home and to all the little rules and regulations that drive us crazy but ensure that we live in a place where we can breathe.

Okay, deep breath of fresh air--that covers the smells. The sights: wow. Every city I've ever been to is boooring compared to Addis. One minute you're driving by the Sheraton where Brad and Angelina stayed, two blocks later a herd of donkeys is galloping down the city streets foraging for grass.

See, I'm not making this up.

Shacks made of corrugated tin line the streets in front of even the nicest buildings. The traffic is horrible and the drivers seem crazy but no one seems to get hurt.

And the people. There are people everywhere. Walking. Walking. Everyone seems to be walking somewhere. Six, seven, eight people deep the people are walking on both sides of the roads, always with a purpose. The buses and cars are crammed full of people and are stacked high with mattresses, watermelons, you name it. I had no idea Ethiopia had so many people.

We saw an old man as big as Buddha ambling naked down the street, a slaughtered cow, bright and bloody, being offered for sale? on the dirty sidewalk right next to all the traffic. We saw a "Denver Broncos cafe," its blue and orange sign covered with the same soot as everything else, an "Obama cafe," and this store that sold "Burgers, Coffee and tea and wedding cakes."

We saw a young girl leading her blind grandfather across the busy street, goat herds just sitting on the side of the side of the road, school children in their matching uniforms, and a man with no fingers weaving cloth (at the Leper hospital).

Traffic and road construction.
We saw "scaffolding" like this all over the city. Anyone want to volunteer for construction work?

School children.

Bathing and washing clothes in the river.

The pictures are inadequate. The words are inadequate. But I hope this gives you a little glimpse of Addis from our eyes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ethiopia: day three

Saturday was sightseeing day in Addis. It was also Wesley's birthday! How many American kids can say they turned thirteen in Africa?!

Holt really packed in the activities. We started by visiting the museum on the University of Addis campus.
The displays were interesting, but no good for Everett, who is used to "interactive" museums, and who couldn't understand why he couldn't pound on the drums, or blow through the flutes, or touch...everything.
These are the 18? steps that symbolize the 18? years of Mussolini's occupation. I'm sure the Ethiopians didn't appreciate being taken over, but I, selfishly, am glad the Italians left all those pasta recipes behind so we had something to eat while we were in Ethiopia besides injera.

Everett was a walking museum display himself. Everyone was so fascinated by his little blond head. This woman stared and stared at him. The guard at the front of the museum insisted that Everett sit on his lap.

For lunch we ate at the "Lucy cafe" which is at the other museum in Addis and sometimes houses "Lucy's" bones (she's one of the earliest hominids or something like that--I know I know, I should check my facts before I do these posts. I'm just plain too tired). I was disappointed we hadn't gone to this museum, but oh well.

After lunch we got to participate in our first Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

The woman roasted the coffee beans, passed around popcorn, and brewed the coffee before us. She had eyes only for Everett. Ethiopians LOVE children! She knew just how to ease her way into his little heart. It wasn't long before she had him on her hap and he was giving her a kiss on the cheek.

In the U.S. you celebrate your 21st birthday with liquor so Wesley thought that he should celebrate his 13th with his first cup of coffee (since Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and all). He laced it with lots of sugar and drank the whole cup (the cups are little but the coffee is STRONG). He pronounced that it wasn't too bad. Several hours later his head was spinning and he had a horrible headache. He blamed it on the coffee which was fine with us--we certainly don't want a teenage Starbucks addict on our hands at home.

I'm not even halfway through the day....I'll save the rest of day three for another post.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Spoke too soon

So, as soon as I said the sleep situation was getting better it got worse--Natalie woke up every half hour Thursday night. I finally brought her to bed with us at 4 a.m. She still slept fitfully, but at least she slept.

The good news is that she slept great Friday night and Everett, too, seems back on track. We'll see what happens tonight...

I'll spare you any more sleep drama details. Back to the trip, and our second meeting with Enatalem...

We were lucky enough to meet Enatalem for the first time on Thursday because we arrived in Addis so early. We joined up with the rest of travel group #4 Friday morning for the "official" first meeting with the kids.

This was the first time Everett and my mom met Enatalem (Everett had been too tired and cranky the day before to join us). Everett was so excited to meet his "baby sister." He brought a dolly to give her.

The care center staff gathered the ten families in the big playroom on the first floor. Then--big drama--one at a time, they announced each child's name and led that child down the stairs to meet his or her family.

Enatalem was first. She saw us and screamed her head off. She was inconsolable. Either she didn't remember us from the day before or, worse, she did. I kept a smile pasted on my face but inside my heart was breaking. I have no idea how the first meetings went with the other families. Probably Enatalem ruined them with her screaming. I have no idea. My attention was all on her.

Finally, they had us take her outside. She didn't calm down like the day before. The male nurse (wish I could remember his name--really nice guy) said we should take her to the hotel with us and keep her overnight. Then, the next day, "she will be adopted."

He acted so encouraging. So positive. I couldn't say anything to the man. Take her with us? The child hated us. And he wanted us to keep her all night? I couldn't do it. I didn't say that to the man. I felt terribly guilty. This was supposed to be my child. But, I couldn't even imagine being responsible for her, all by ourselves, already.

They train you to expect the possibility that your child won't take to you right away. You think you've prepared yourself to be rejected. But when it happens, it's awful. It's sooo stressful. The honest truth--what I wanted to do was to run back to the hotel ALONE and say maybe we'll try this again tomorrow. Maybe.

Okay, so eventually I got her looking at some baby photos tacked to the wall and she fell asleep again. The nurse had kindly left us alone (he had probably seen the look of horror on my face when he suggested that we take Enatalem for the night and wisely retreated). He returned now and suggested that we take her to the hotel, feed her lunch, and then bring her back to the care center.

Pat had to go fill out paperwork with the other families at the Holt offices so I trudged up the gazillion flights of stairs at the Union with this sleeping baby who hated us, settled into the hotel room, and waited for her to wake up.

When she did, she was confused, but she didn't cry. I had made some toddler formula we had brought from home and she gulped that down like she was starving. Then, Everett took over.

He showed her every toy we had brought. He crowded next to her. He was so in her face I was sure she'd scream. But, she didn't.

Everett invented "the marker game." He dropped markers into one of the big empty water bottles we got from the hotel. They filled the bottle with markers. Then they dumped them out. This entertained Enatalem forever. The marker game, we believe, is what finally won Enatalem over. Whenever we went to visit her after that, we brought the empty water bottle and the markers. Maybe she wasn't so sure about us. But she loved those markers.

She smiled and giggled and I fed her the lunch of injera, red sauce, and potatoes the care center had sent for her. We played for most of the afternoon, then finally returned her to the care center. It was a good ending to an emotionally exhausting day.

We walked to "The Golf Club" with the rest of the group and had pizza that night (surreal experience--yes, it is on a golf course--it's set back just beyond the filth, the goats, and the beggars). I could barely keep my eyes open to eat.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I think we've turned a corner!

After waking up at 4 a.m. every night since we got home, both Everett and Natalie slept until 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. respectively this morning. I have pink eye but am treating it now with eye drops and Pat seems to be over his two day bout with diarrhea/vomiting. Hallelujah! I hope we've turned a corner.

This has been one of the most intense and exhausting experiences of my life. The only comparison I can think of is bringing home a newborn after flying to Africa and back for a 12 day labor and delivery. I wasn't prepared for the intensity of the emotions or the physical demands.

Natalie, on the other hand, is doing great. She loves her new house and just eats up the one-on-one attention. She's a happy, smiley, energetic, curious, lovable little girl. It was not so just two weeks ago.....

Our first meeting:
We call this look, the "stink eye:"

Finally, after some juice and napping in my arms, we got this:

Monday, March 1, 2010

Attention Deficit

We're battling jet lag.
Natalie won't let me set her down.
Everett's desperate for attention.
The animals are desperate for attention.
I'm desperate for a nap.

Hopefully one of these days I'll have a few spare moments to post pictures...