Monthly Archives: May 2011

Falasha Village and Ploughshare Women Craft Training Center

One of my favorite days in Ethiopia was towards the end. We were in the north of Ethiopia near Gondar and visited the Falasha (Jewish) village and the Ploughshare Craft training session.
The Jewish village was very very tiny and apparently there are no actual Jews lift. Just some folks selling tchotkes.
We visited a very old synagogue and a cemetery. What I think I liked most about it was that it enabled us to walk through an actual Ethiopian village and get to meet some of the people.
There was a group of boys who were totally fascinated by Andy’s tattoo. They wanted to know if he was a professional “Van Damme” a.k.a. a Jean Claude Van Damme. A professional fighter and all around bad ass. Andy laughed and said he worked on computers. They were way less impressed. I suggested that he was a video encoding Van Damme. Even Andy didn’t laugh. The walk to the synagogue gave me time to take some really nice portraits of the boys. These (other than the ones I took of Davy) were my favorite from the trip. Tomas was very excited to show us his coin.

We also went to the Ploughshare Woman Craft Training Center. It was like dying and going to crafty heaven. Ploughshare teaches single mothers and women with HIV crafts that they can sell for income. It’s exactly my kinda thing. The spinners we even gracious enough to let me try their spinning wheel.
It was a very geeky day for me. I also loved some of these photos as well. If you are in the North of Ethiopia save your birr and buy stuff there. It’s beautiful and goes to a very good cause. More photos are posted here on Flickr.


Our Girl. Our Beautiful, Amazingly, Funny, Brave Girl

How can you even begin to describe meeting the child you will know for the rest of her life. The first time you see her face that you are lucky enough to watch age and grow into adulthood? Seriously hard freaking task.

First of all Davy’s current home is at the Holt International Care Center in Durame Ethiopia. She has lived there practically all of her life. It’s her home. And well it’s not her forever home, it’s a pretty good place for her to start her life.

Durame is 6 hours south of Addis. The drive down to Durame is as slow of torture as you could imagine. Nine families piled into two vans, five were meeting their kids for the first time and the others had birth parent meetings. Everybody was a nervous wreck. The last 90 minutes of the drive were on a bumpy dirt road. We drove through some of the most beautiful country side we saw in Ethiopia. This is the region where most of our kids come from, its green and lush and looks oddly like Oregon. We also had to stop several times. First a break for the drivers. It’s a hard drive and they really needed a break. Then we stopped at the maternal and child health hospital that Holt runs. Then we arrive in Durame and simply had the worst lunch of our lives. Really. How the heck are you suppose to eat when you are about to meet your kid? Lunch took forever. Forever.

When we finally left the restaurant, Andy (with video camera in hand) asked if I had any final words before we met Davy. I said “Davy we are coming for you” then I tripped. I stumbled because I can’t walk and talk at the same time. The video is hysterical because then i started convulsively laughing. Hysterically laughing. Perfect moment.
Then I got immediately weepy. I kept saying to Andy. Oh my god. We are going to see her. Oh my god. He just grabbed my hand and held it tight. It was the only time I cried that day.

We finally arrive at the care center. Everybody just stood there stunned. Nobody wanted to go in first. The nurse was there. She shook our hands, introduced herself. We had to take off our shoes and put on slippers. We entered a small room and all of our kids were just sitting there. Apparently it’s a joke that the nannies like to play to see if the parents can spot their kids. Davy was sitting farthest away from us. Did I recognize her little face? How could I not. It’s the face I have been dreaming about for the last 5 months. She was sitting up, wearing the prettiest white dress with a pink T-shirt underneath it. I reach down, picked up her tiny perfect body and held her to my face. She looked at me straight in the eye and gave me a huge gummy smile. She is our daughter. She knew it. We knew it. Love at first sight. Love at first sight. Our beautiful, smily, girl. Our friendly, brave present girl. She smiled at us. I hugged her so tight. Gave her to Andy. He hugged her so tight. We both laughed a little. Yeah that’s our daughter.

We had such a short time with her. Many people complain that it was too short. It was about 2 hours total. We could have spent every waking moment when we were in Ethiopia and it would have been too short. The fact that we needed to leave her means it wasn’t enough time. Here is what you can learn about your child in two hours (actually quite a bit):

She is universally loved by the nannies. Those nannies have the hardest job on earth. Their job is to love and raise other peoples children and then never see them again. We think we have hard jobs as adoptive parents, but their job is so much harder. They don’t just pretend to love those kids. They truly love those kids. Davy is the happiest baby I have ever met. All she has to do is raise her arms and fuss a little and there are a gaggle of people to love on her. This isn’t her forever home, its not a mom and dad, but this has been her life and her home. She is happy, loved, secure and healthy. I am not worried about her. I am worried about me surviving this tortuous final wait. But her? She is in the best hands possible. She is loved by many many many people. Truly loved.

She is brave. I had expressed concern that she might be shy. She ain’t shy. She is perfect. She never met us before. She smiled at us. Looked us in the eyes. Laughed at our foibles. She was fascinated by my glasses. She kept pulling them off my face and putting them in her mouth. We put my glasses on her (our daughter is already Andy’s comedic prop). We have a photo of her wearing my glasses and her throwing her head back in laughter. THAT is our kid. She kept tugging on Andy’s beard and laughing. She was fascinated by our camera. Andy’s iphone (oy vey). She loved the little buddy I made for her. She tolerated my awkward baby holding skills (I am a newbie).

She is the cure for cynics. There are a few people who have met her before we did. They described her as sweet. Sweet? Her parents are hard talking, gum smacking cynics. She is sweetness personified. She is a girly girl. Oh my god she looks so good in pink! She has a sweet face, sweet smile, sweet girly demeanor. We have have fake conversations with her. It’s something we have been doing for months. In our fake conversations she is funny and sarcastic. She isn’t funny and sarcastic or even a sassafras (it will come she is still a baby) she is sweet, soft and beautiful. She is sweet as pie our Davy girl. She smells good. All that bullshit about our kid wearing pink seems so dumb now.

Words of wisdom from the head nurse. She said (in beautiful Kembatta accented English). “Your baby is sweet baby, your baby is funny baby, she is a good baby, she doesn’t sleep at night.” I will remember this at 3 a.m. and remember that she warned us.

Our girl is a looker, who amazingly looks like us. All of the the kids in Andy’s family have his tired eyes. It’s almost a family joke how the kids come out of the womb looking exhausted. Davy has Andy’s tired, wide set eyes. Can’t explain how that happened but she really does. The nannies kept pointing to my hair and Davy’s hair. Davy has curly hair that stands up. So do I. She plays with her hair. She has unusual hair, loose ringlets. Doing-able curls. In the photos of her she has two ringlets on the very top of her head. I can’t wait to play with that hair. God she is beautiful. She has a pointy chin, tiny ears. Her mouth. Oh my god that perfect little mouth. Her mouth is a tiny circle surrounded by soft sweet lips. She kind of looks like a human child version of an owl. Giant eyes on tiny tiny delicate features. Her skin is the most perfect color and the softest skin ever. She has an outty belly button. The belly button that connected her to her first mother. The belly button that may have been cut by her first father. I am glad for this outty belly button. It is what will remind us of her past. Chubby feet, a stubby toe nail on her big toe. Chunky baby knees. The most kissable neck on the planet. We have photos. We aren’t allowed to post photos of her publicly until we have custody. But we can email them. Just ask me. I will email them. I am one proud momma.

We had such high hopes for our two hours. I brought a tape measure so I can make sure all of those sweaters I made her would fit. Didn’t take them. Meant to take more video, didn’t take enough. Was suppose to trace her feet. Uh, totally forgot.

We played with our daughter. Saw her crib. She got fussy, I got nervous. The nanny handed me a bottle. Oh yeah, a bottle! Andy and i fed our sweet girl a bottle. She tolerated her mommies awkwardness as this new thing for me. She took her bottle, drifted off to sleep in our arms. My favorite family photos of of her asleep in my arms. Andy and I looking at her in wonder. Two befuddled adults totally in love with this sleeping creature. Her feet our crossed. She is totally relaxed. It might be the most imitate photo of us taken.

Then it was time to leave. One of the embassy families. A dear woman, who I grew to love, rubbed my arm and asked me if I was okay. I knew leaving her would be hard. I was expecting it to be the hardest moment of my life. This process has brought a lot of hard moments. Ironically it wasn’t THE hardest (not yet). Our daughter is loved beyond measure. The women who selflessly love and raise her in our absence wholeheartedly, and truly love her. They love her as much as we love her. I know our Davy girl is fine. Really better than fine. She has experienced more people loving her in her 6 months of life then most children. Her first family, her birth family loved her. The women who live with her love her, we love her. her grandparents love her, our friends and family love her. This little pip-squeak of a person has transcended continents, cultures, people and families. We are all and forever connected because of her. I don’t really know what more you can ask for.

In Which I Try to Sum Up Ethiopia in a Single Blog Post and Fail

Before we left Andy bought me a journal so I can “blog” when we are in Ethiopia. It was my first Mother’s Day gift from Davy. I did journal like a mad woman when I was there. However I am leery to write about this trip in any linear fashion because right now, home on my comfy couch, drinking water from the tap the trip just seems like a jumble of emotions, places, smells, feelings and people.  Andy and I kept joking that this is the trip of a life time that we will hopefully be making again and again.

People asked me “oh my god did you love it.” the answer is a complicated yes. A very complicated yes. I loved Ethiopia. It is the singular most beautiful place I have ever been to on this earth. It is also one of the most brutal. It is the birthplace of our beautiful beautiful  daughter, of an ancient civilization, it holds the arch of the covenant (for crying out loud), religion is everywhere you look, the sky is literally the biggest and bluest I have ever seen. The earth is red, green is everywhere. History is steep.  People love to shake hands. Coffee is amazing. People were kind to us. Kids yelled “ferange” or “arab” as we drove by. Both are words for foreigners, it was charming and funny. We spent two weeks in Ethiopia. We traveled over 2200 km. Not enough to even pretend to be an expert. Enough to feel lucky that we could make that trip. Enough for a first taste. Enough for a few neophyte opinions.

We also witnessed the brutality that comes from abject poverty. Young mothers begging on the street. Children everywhere. People walking for miles and miles. Young girls carrying heavy loads on their backs. The single most horrific auto accident I have ever seen in my life. A truck hit 10 camels on a country road. Not a soul survived this accident. I saw a man weeping on the side of the road. Weeping in a way I have never seen a fellow human being weep. Gut wrenching. And sadly, not the only auto accident we saw that trip. We gave a candy bar to a man who grabbed it like he hadn’t eaten for weeks. I saw a leper (and not at the sanitized leper hospital). Some people come home full of reverence or awe for this place. I feel that we can’t begin to comprehend any of it. These are just things we saw and felt. Things that defined our trip.

The people we met were life changing. Our travel group couldn’t be more perfect. Funny and kind people. We all got to witness meeting our kids for the first time. We got to experience  joy and heartache of the Ethiopian court process.The families who where there for embassy gave us hope that we would be brining our kids home. We got to meet dear sweet Tsegaw who showed us his country. I kept referring to him as my Falashia Enat (Jewish Mother) because he was always telling us to “eat eat eat”. He didn’t understand Andy’s and my weird dietary habits. Americans who will eat tiny bits of food- but any food he put in front of us. He was the most enthusiastic when we shyly told him how much we loved kitfo. He then set out to find the best kitfo in town (all of the towns) we were in.

I am saving the meeting of our daughter for another post. As hard as this post is hard enough for me to write, trying to put into words the meeting and the time we spent with our daughter is even more difficult to write. She is perfect beyond words. I am not a die-hard believer in God. But meeting our daughter. Our beautiful, brave, giggly big-eyed daughter. Makes you believe in something.

So yeah, two weeks in Ethiopia. We are a lucky family for even being able to go and have the time and luxury to spend time there. We have literally 2400 photographs to go through, jet lag to get over. Drinking from the tap seems like a simple pleasure. Portland seems even weirder and whiter than ever. Today I was at kinkos and a woman was wearing a neckless with a pentagram. Made me giggle. Whole Foods made me feel strange. We have gifts to give out, dogs to cuddle, Davy’s room to set up. Andy and I have spent the last 400 hours together. Today he was gone for a few hours. I really missed him. He leaves for a business trip to Canada in 3 days. Poor guy. Too many times zones.

As you can probably tell, we are still processing this trip. I know I am grateful to my daughter for bringing me to Ethiopia. I know we will be back (hopefully sooner than later). I think when she is old enough to ask about it I will tell her that it is the most beautiful place on earth, and that  she would have had a very different life if she had stayed in Ethiopia. I will promise her that when she is old enough. We will go back. We need to go back. We are beholden this this country now.

How to Kill 40 Hours by Lisa Weisman

Knitting- three projects:

  • baby sweater (just starting)
  • shawl (need to finish)
  • baby hat- pattern that Jenna gave me today as a very beautiful and special gift (see above photo)

Many many many books on my Kindle but my current reads are:

Videos, we have an extra Ipod that we totally zeroed out so it has a ton of memory:

  • 41 Episodes of Gilmore Girls. Thanks Ted Rooney
  • Season 1 of the Wire
  • Season 1 and 2 of the British Version of Skins
  • Country Strong. Go ahead judge me.

Momma’s Little Helpers (aka Ambian). Lets hope I don’t sleep walk.

Video games galore

Andy to entertain me (who am I kidding. See Daddy’s Little Helper)

Audio books/ Music. Leonard Cohan can put me to sleep anywhere

1 Day, 15 Hours, 52 Minutes: 6 Seconds

We fly away to Ethiopia. Today my friend came over and we finished making a bunch of little buddies to give to Davy’s Buddies at the car center. If you are traveling with us and want a little buddy to give to your little one- please don’t hesitate to take one. If you are a friend and just want one because you are lonely or need a friend. Please just ask andI will make you one. These little buddies give me a lot of pleasure and joy to make. I am happy to share. I know how to share because my mom taught me how.

In 9 Days I May Poop Myself

We are leaving for Ethiopia in five days and meet our Davy Girl in 9 days. When I think about it my heart speeds up and I get butterflies in my stomach. This process has been so long and so hard. We never thought we would ever get to love a child. We never thought we would get to meet our daughter. OUR daughter. We have so much to do before we leave and then before she comes home. I can’t imagine turning our vaguely-adult-but-somehow-teenage-home into a house for a child. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to meet the other families we are traveling with and hug them (a warning..I am a little bit of a hugger). I can’t wait for us to start this journey, pooping and all. I say bring it. Bring it on. Let’s go.

Whatcha Doin’ on Saturday?

This weekend is Mother’s Day. I remember last year saying that this would be my last Mother’s Day without being a Mother. Well things don’t always quite pan out the way you would hope. This is my last Mother’s Day as a childless mother (a strange place to be). I am totally cool with that. It feels kind of right. Also- I am happy that my mom gets all the gushiness without having to share it for one last year. Although I do think she would be more than happy to share the day with me.
I know Mother’s Day can be a hard day for people struggling to form a family. It’s kind of like Valentine’s Day. It feels great if you are in a relationship, but if you are single the day is pure hell. I have had many many hellish Mother’s Days in my life and I am just grateful that this one feels uneventful. This year we aren’t going to do anything special to celebrate my becoming a mother to Davy. We are going to celebrate my mom. My mom deserves all of the celebrating she can get. She is a great mom who CAN’T WAIT to become a first-time grandma.

We are going to celebrate Birth Mother’s Day. The day is traditionally held on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. While I don’t feel right celebrating Mother’s Day for me- I do feel like we need to acknowledge Davy’s birth mother. Without this beautiful woman we would never have the honor of raising our daughter. Without this woman we would never know the joy of meeting our child, the wonder of watching her grow. I feel sad for Davy that she won’t grow up knowing her first mother. As a future Adoptive mother all we can do is honor this woman, the importance and impact she has made on all of our lives.