Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Eve Eve

Abe was so disappointed when he found out that the Santa costume we found on clearance was for a dog, not a small boy.

"Mom? How do you make poo-poo soup?"

"Mom? I've been wondering about you."

He told me about a dream he had, about a bee locked in a cage saying, "I'm gonna get you, Abe Rooney." That's scary right? Later in the day, he got his nature magazine in the mail, and he went right to the photo of a bee, saying, "That's just like the bee in my dream."

No wonder he woke me up at 5 a.m. saying he couldn't sleep.

We all slept late thanks to the interrupted slumber last night. He went in to work with me. He laid on the floor eating dried apricots and looking at books, directly under a floor to ceiling map of Africa that is in the boss's office. He did this for thirty minutes straight.

We get home, and I start cooking, preparing for our annual New Year's Day book swap party. I'm on the phone with a friend and suddenly the house gets really quiet. He's gone upstairs, snuggled into bed and fallen asleep. I couldn't believe it. Maybe the first time he's ever done this.

Damn those evil stinging bees who haunt dreams.

Tonight, Ted makes a fire. With the kindling we have, it roars so violently that I'm afraid it's going to burn our house down. It settles. I continue cooking, black-eyed peas now. Abe, in a burst of excitement about the fire, says, "Mom! I'm going to read my book while I sit by the fire!"

He does. He sits quietly and looks at his book. Our boy is nowhere close to being perfect. He can be obnoxious. He can be disobedient. He gets this glimmer in his eye and demands to lick us. It drives Ted crazy. He sometimes makes this animalistic "gwa-gwa" sound when he's in the throes of being obnoxious that drives me crazy. Our son is not an angel.

Except sometimes he is. And then I want to murder all stinging bumble bees.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Week in Photos

Bell ringing and winking downtown.

Christmas afternoon bike ride to test the new cape.

My birthday present.

On the right, a thrift store find. On the left, a hand-me-down from the very well-dressed daughter of a friend of my neighbor's sister-in-law (got that?). One thing for sure: Princess B will not be cold.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bell Ringer

I wrapped everything up quickly at work today. I parked and jumped on a train going downtown. By the time I sat down on the train, I had twenty minutes to get there. We crossed the river, and I admired the sun breaking through the ever-present Pacific Northwest clouds. We really do live in a beautiful city.

Old Town Chinatown stop. Skidmore fountain stop. Heading into the heart of downtown now. I see the Portland Rescue Mission. I see the Saturday Market, now open all week for last-minute shoppers. I feel my heart beating as we approach Pioneer Courthouse Square. I step off the train, a little unsure about where to go. I'd been given directions but questioned them a little as a I stand there and look for Macy's.

I walk back one block, just like I was instructed, and then I see Macy's. I cross the street. It's busy here, with all kinds of people walking around three days before Christmas. I hear the bells ringing. That was my first sign that I was going the right way. The bells get louder and louder as I make my way among the crowd.

I hear someone say to a child, "Did you meet Santa in there?"

Then, like the sun breaking through those clouds over the river, I get my Christmas present. I see the bell ringers in front of Macy's. The smallest one, dressed in jeans, green cowboy boots, and a "I am a bell ringer" apron, is yelling and running in my direction, bell swinging wildly. This is the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life, and my heart swells in joy.

"Mom! Mom! It's Mom!"

Through crowds of people, my "celebrity bellringer*" makes his way to me, running full steam ahead and grabs my legs so tight I can hardly pick him up. People around us stop to look. They are smiling. I'm hearing the Charlie Brown Christmas song in my head as I hug the bellringer.

Christmas time is here,
happiness and cheer,
fun for all
that children call
their favorite time of year.

I feel like the luckiest person in Portland, to be the one this little boy gets so excited about seeing, the one whose face he sees in a crowd and calls "Mom!" so loudly that people stop to look. Then they smile. Because they know I'm lucky. They know.

This moment was all I needed for Christmas.

*The Salvation Army issued Ted his first "welcome to the small pond" invitation to be a "celebrity bellringer" for them downtown. He rang the bell along with a few Portland "celebrities," including Catherine Grimme, the young Bella Swan in the Twilight movie and Amy Roloff from Little People, Big World.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice

I hear kids playing outside. It's 8:55 pm on the shortest day of the year. It's really cold out. I've stolen away early from our neighbor's winter solstice party where there was fondue and sausages and hershey kisses dipped in peanut sauce and apple cider and wine and spiced cranberry juice that made our son burp and burp and burp in between bouts of play in the upstairs bedroom of the 10-year-old girl who lives there.

I spent ten minutes putting the Guess Who? game back together while a mother sat near me and breastfed her baby.

Our holiday cards arrived in the mail. I hand delivered them to neighbors to save on postage before we went to the party. The wind was howling. It still is. It gets to do that on the longest night of the year. The wind is living it up tonight.

I bring out the latest photo of little Miss Sassafrass Bee to take some photos of more neighbors holding her photo. I'm putting together a photo book of people she will see once she gets home. I take a few. The kids want to see her, Abe's sister. I scroll back through the photos I've taken and am verklempt. I love our neighbors. Seeing photos of them holding her sassafrass photo made me all kinds of weepy.

One of our neighbors at the party arrives late. She tells me about her difficult day. She had to put together a flower arrangement for a 12-year-old girl whose "make-a-wish" before dying was to visit the pope. She was sent to Hawaii instead. Her funeral is tomorrow, three days before Christmas. Watching my neighbor describe what it was like to put together an arrangement like this made me cry just as she was crying as she told me about it. She poured her wine. We said, "to life" and toasted, through tears. Then we tearfully smiled at each other and hugged again, for the third time.

The bowl of tiny dill pickles was my undoing at the fondue winter solstice party.

Abe played all day with friends. With neighbors down the street while Ted and I worked. At work, I printed a news article about the earthquake in Ethiopia yesterday. Everyone wanted a copy. Everyone was concerned.

Our dining room is now full of cards taped up on the dining room built-ins, from perfectly staged families in matching sweater photos to one from some friends whose greeting declares that this year they "defeat the Krampus: The Krampus is a creature who works alongside Saint Nicholas. While Santa Claus brings toys and candy to good boys and girls, the Krampus warns and punishes naughty children, often putting them in chains and taking them away to his fiery abode." This card has a photo of our friends slaying the Krampus. This is maybe my favorite holiday card, especially because I know its special meaning.

I woke up this morning from a dream I'd been having about hearing the news about a close relative of mine dying. In my dream, a friend I've made in the adoption community was the one who broke the news to me and who put an arm around me as I sobbed. We were on a tour of my elementary school when I heard the news. Of course we were. This is how dreams work, right? A photo of the consoling family is hanging in our dining room right next to the defeaters of the Krampus.

This makes sense to me. The longest night of the year. From here on out, it just gets lighter.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Before Christmas

Saturday night church service. I cried when a regular member of the congregation read aloud something she'd written about God's faithfulness in her life. Those 5 minutes were "church" for me, and I just got sleepy after 20 minutes of a sermon. Why do preachers preach for so long? Please be quiet, preachers, and let regular folks talk more often.

Sunday morning slow wake-up. Abe wakes up too early and as he sits on the pot to pee, tells me nonstop talk talk talk about a dream he'd been having. We both fall back to sleep. Breakfast of egg scramble that looks unintentionally Christmasy with red peppers and spinach. Winco bagels, the best in the city.

We wear our pajamas until well after noon. I'm cleaning. I'm making room for what's under the tree, putting old toys in boxes into the attic. Hair is the proverbial "rat's nest" as I sweep and dust and change sheets on beds and switch the laundry.

I shower. I put on sweats. I go to the store for a few ingredients for "cracker candy" and gumbo. I buy the 99 cent gallon of milk that's on sale but worry about it not being 'rsbt free'. I figure one gallon won't hurt us too bad. Except I bought two.

A friend comes over for tea. At 3:30 in the afternoon, we have PGTips, and she turns down my offer of a Moonstruck Chocolates mint chocolate we had, a surprise gift from someone who "elved" us this weekend by leaving treats on our front porch, hopefully not laced with poison.

We walk down the street to take a bottle of wine to friends who just moved in, a "welcome to the neighborhood" gift. We are happy and lucky to have them here. The four kids jump crazily around the house singing while I'm given a tour of the new digs. We walk with another neighbor to buy her Christmas tree. She'd brought along her wagon.

The lot owners give the kids free peppermint sticks. I'm standing under cover with the new neighbor talking about schools when it starts to snow. The kids are running in and out of the trees. The flakes get bigger. We're given coupons for free hot chocolates at a treat-shop across the street. It's close to dinner-time but also it's the holidays so what the heck? We get our free hot chocolate.

The walk home is misery. Cold, wet, snowy misery. My face hurts from huge flakes of wet snow landing on my forehead and melting there. My neighbor with the new Christmas tree she's pulling in a red flyer wagon says we look like a Norman Rockwell painting. Except more grumpy.

Inside, in warmth. Suddenly very tired. The boys eat leftover lentil soup for dinner as I mop, my last big cleaning chore. Ted leaves to watch a movie with some friends, and I bathe Abe, being sure to warm the bottle of lotion in the bath before getting him out, truly a pretty nifty trick when I remember to do it.

He's shivering, so I put a sweater on him over his pajamas, and we start watching Elf, one of my top five favorite Christmas movies. I cry every time Christmas cheer gets Santa's sleigh off the ground in Central Park and laugh like a ten-year-old boy when Buddy burps at dinner. While the movie is playing on my computer, I make a big batch of cracker-candy followed by a pot of gumbo, recipes handed down from my sister (candy) and neighbor (gumbo).

I get the roux just right. It's dark enough but not burnt. I forget the okra but add it later.

I make a small batch of popcorn on the stove, with nutritional yeast, just the way we like it, and finish the movie sitting down with Abe. Whew. Then downstairs to fold the last load of laundry, load up the basket and take it upstairs. By this point, I'm tired. Officially.

We pee and brush teeth and sit in Abe's newly sparse room (to be refilled with really cool stuff in a few days) to read and sing our favorite songs with all the key words substituted with the word "sock," which Abe sleeps with every night.

"Jingle Sock, Jingle Sock, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to sock in a one-horse open sock..."

I cradle our son in my arms, his thumb in his mouth, looking up into my eyes, and smiling at the songs I'm making up. I feel the tiredness in my bones. I love this boy. I am excited about Christmas. I wish preachers would stop talking after 20 minutes. I want for Santa to bring me an increase of faith this year, to truly believe that God won't rest until all his sheep are home. I hope everyone like the cracker candy and my family likes the gumbo. I pray our dear friend from Cambridge, England makes it here before Christmas, currently late because Heathrow airport it shut down due to bad weather. I pray for a few hours to go watch The King's Speech. I pray for a good night's sleep and that Princess Bee is here soon.

This was our Sunday.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Three Year Referral Anniversary

December 18, 2007, we saw this face for the first time.

December 18, 2010.

We are so lucky and thankful.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


A few excellent things about today:

1. Abe's morning wake-up faces. One eye bugged out, the other squeezed shut, puffy lips pursed.

2. Drop off at preschool, about five kids yell "Hey! It's Abe! Hi, Abe!"

3. At work, there was a raffle for 20 snuggies. Three of my clients won. As they tried to figure out how to wear them, the entire room was cracking up, including the Russian and Ukrainian elders across the room who we see every week but never talk to.

4. One of my clients who won a snuggie gave it to his friend who lives alone and needed it more than he did.

5. African elders+brand new library cards=Absolute Magic. After getting their cards, I walked several of them through the check-out process with Multnomah County Library's fancy do-it-yourself machines. The look on their faces when they realized they get to keep their books for three whole weeks for free just may have made me cry.

6. I have the best job ever.

7. One of our volunteers was having a melancholy morning but was immediately smiling when one of our ladies kept hugging and literally squeezing her.

8. Abe was picked up from school by our neighbor and then got to nap in her son, "Captain Hook's," bed. This was big stuff.

9. The second book of Christmas book unwrapping.

10. "Look Mom! I made you a present!": our first hand-made Christmas ornament from our son.

11. The floors are dirty, but our house smells like chocolate chip banana bread so it doesn't matter so much.

12. A "Mom's Night Out" event this evening where I have my own personal designated driver.

13. As I write this, my wedding ring is being retrieved by the men of the house from the vent where I dropped it this morning.

14. New photo of Little Bee that is probably my favorite thus far. One friend described it as "sassafrass." She is just beyond. Super-model beauty.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Abe and I are getting ready to mix together some sugar cookie batter. One of his jobs is to open the butter, taking off the wrapping and putting the sticks in the bowl. He takes off the paper of one stick. I turn my back for one second and, quick as lightening, he takes a huge bite of the butter, leaving a deep trail of tiny teeth marks in it.

I yell, "Abe Rooney! That's disgusting! Don't do that!"

I make him spit it out. I turn around towards the sink and smile. Then I crack up.

"Mom? What are you laughing at?"

Joyful, sneaky, butter-loving boy, I love you so.

Grouchy Rainy Cheer

Friday night. Long week is over. Abe asked me to pull down the green mail truck, which I keep out of his reach most of the time. It's got some delicate parts that little fingers could easily break. He pulls out all the little cotton-filled sacks of mail from the back and puts them in the canoe with Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea. He also pulls out all the old stamps my friend's father had cut out from magazines and asks who each person is: Walt Whitman, Samuel L. Clemens, and Washington Irving, the writers. Then another group: Douglas MacArthur and another with a group of U.S. navy men who Abe called, "the bloody red barons." Another stamp with the White House, where Obama lives. Another stamp is Lewis and Clark worth 3 cents. The last is Stephen Foster, so we sing "Camptown Races." We used to sing that when he was little, but he'd forgotten.

Lewis and Clark deliver the mail. A group of playmobil plastic people squeeze into the back of the mail truck while one solitary brunette plastic lady drives them around. Ted sings this song, the explanation for Abe's fixation on the "bloody red baron." Abe listens to this song over and over, never ever getting tired of it, the exact same way Ted did as a boy. This was Friday night.

Saturday it's pouring down rain. It drizzles a lot this time of year but yesterday was all day pouri
ng. Determined not to sit inside all day, we go out. By the time we arrive to the historic fire station, we're drenched. Abe makes a friend in the line, and after half an hour, we arrive to the front. One firefighter leans down and says, "What is your name?" Completely deadpan and confident, Abe says, "Charlie Brown." I didn't interject.

Charlie Brown wants me to go with him to see Firefighter Santa.

"What do you want for Christmas, Charlie Brown?"

"Just a yo-yo."

"Do you want a pony or an elephant?"

"No, just a yo-yo." Charlie Brown over and out.

More rain. We look for a biscuit from this place but it's packed to overflowing with hipsters in chunky black glasses and knit caps. We walk on the long way to the car. Why not? We're soaked already.

We end up eating peppermint shakes and fries at the table next to a Woody Allen look-a-like and his young girlfriend. They are snuggling and talking in hushed tones. Abe is that obnoxious kid who keeps saying, "Hey guys! What are you talking about?"

We try to get back in the car in the pouring rain in an awkward and cramped parking lot. Abe moves from the spot I told him to stand and falls in mud when I open the door. I snap at him, one of those loving, motherly "I told you so!"s. We drive on. I apologize for being impatient. He decides to be Schroeder and wants me to be Lucy.

"Hey Lucy! Why do you call Charlie Brown a blockhead?! Is he a blockhead?"

As long as I call him 'Schroeder', Abe is 100% compliant with anything I ask him to do. He gets a chocolate coin on our way out of the store, and I ask him to stop dropping the wrapping on the ground. It's still pouring rain. He keeps littering, so I take the candy from him. He cries. Schroeder is unhappy with having his chocolate gone, so he's just Abe.

We lug our things in the house, completely drenched, really grouchy. I say, "Hey Abe, strip to your underwear." We get in the hot tub. He's Abe. I'm Mom. It's still pouring. He looks over at me and says, "Hey, you're my favorite. Did you know you're my favorite?"

"You're my favorite too."

We dry off and put on our pajamas even though it's only 4:00 in the afternoon. It's just that sort of day. He watches The Point. I lay on the couch and read this book, which is surprisingly sad. I hear "Wherever we go, everyone knows, it's me and my arrow" from the next room. I grew up listening to this record and am so happy that our boy likes it.

Mail truck. Snoopy and the red baron flying over Germany. Lewis and Clark. Peppermint shakes. Firefighter Santa and Charlie Brown. Hot tub. Chocolate coin still on the dashboard of my car. Torrents of rain. Harry Nilsson. Our weekend thus far.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Book Report 2

If I'm going to be honest, it doesn't take much really to make me cry but this book certainly did the job quicker than most anything else lately. I was already weepy last night before going to bed thanks to the Christmas episode of Glee, which led to my reminiscing about the winters I spent in Slovakia meandering through the Christmas market on the main street with friends as we drank medovina and ate sausages and this wonderful thing called trdelnik.

I got into bed and read this little book and then pretty much cried myself to sleep. It's a lovely story. I recommend it heartily: Star Mother's Youngest Child by Louise Moeri.

We call this photo "7th Grade Dance." All the other kids were jumping around like crazy (which Abe did eventually too), but this partly how our budding romantic spent his preschool winter festival this week. This girl's grandmother was crying during the dance and told me that her granddaughter's first question when she heard about the party was, "Will Abe be there?" Sweet, sweet, sweet.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Rude Old Lady

Abe's new favorite show is Shaun the Sheep, which is a "watch instant" selection on Netflix. Every night for the last week, this is what he's chosen to watch after his bath. A few minutes ago, he walked in to my office and said that he didn't want to watch it anymore.

"Why, Abe?"

"Cause that old lady hits the guy with her purse."

"And you don't like that part?"

While nibbling on his cereal, he shakes his head seriously and says, "No. Cause that's rude."

I went with him into the room where he was watching and clicked ahead to the next episode. He wanted me to stay. He was worried that the rude old lady would come back. I told him I didn't think she was in this episode.

He watched for a few seconds and said, "Oh, it's okay Mom. It's just the aliens in this one."

Abe is not scared in the least of aliens (albeit claymation aliens) but is a little freaked out by how rude a little old lady with a purse can be.

Last night at dinner, he also told us that the green beans he was eating were lovely. He actually used the word "lovely." To be clear, we have never used this word to describe food or probably anything else really. Back when we were getting updates via email about our baby Abe, one that stuck out to me was the description of him as being "polite," even as a baby. Granted, he is learning the joy of loud burping as every 3-year-old should, but in general, his spirit is so gentle, so kind, so lovely. We love him so.


Thank you for all the suggestions on what a 5-year-old girl would find useful and comforting. Thank you. I read them all and will really mull over all the suggestions.

On the subject of princesses, I found today three books for little girls that I like a lot.

The first is Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple. This is a library find.

The next is Girls Hold Up This World by Jada Pinkett Smith. I found this at Goodwill and will add it to the growing collection of Princess Bee things.

The last is probably my favorite. It's called The Red Wolf by Margaret Shannon and is based on a Czech folk tale. With my connection to Slovakia, this may be why I was so drawn to it when I first found it a year or so ago at our library. Even then, Abe would sit and listen to it, and this time, I think he understood why the princess in this story wanted to escape the tower. I love this book. This was also a library find.

5-year-old Survival Kit

Yesterday we got an update from Gladney about our Little B (can I just call her here Little Bee from now on? Is that cheesy? Probably, and I probably will change it eventually, but she is Little Bee to me for now). Part of the update mentioned that she was watching Cinderella with her friends at the care center, which got me wondering about what sorts of things she likes. I wasn't expecting Cinderella, but I can go with that.

Right after we got the call about Little Bee, this lady recommended a "survival kit" for a 5-year-old girl, the first two items being earplugs* for the tantrums and a princess dress. She, like me, resists all the "princess" stuff out there, but it seems most little girls go through a phase where they want to be frilly pink and lace tiara and wand princesses.

What are some of the things you all might put in a 5-year-old survival kit? I know that Karyn Purvis in The Connected Child recommends keeping it simple when you first get home with an internationally adopted child in this age range so as to avoid over-stimulation, so we're definitely planning on doing that. We'll have earplugs and a princess dress on hand (hopefully we'll be able to track down a Cinderella dress), but what else should we have? Those of you who have been there already or know someone who has, I'd love to hear from you.

*The earplugs suggestion was a joke, just to be clear :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Report

One of the best things for me about being a parent is the rediscovery of books I grew up reading and the new discovery of more recent children's books out there now. Our average number of items checked out from the library is around 50. Excessive probably, but I figure, why not? So as a way to pass the time while we wait to hear about our court date, I thought I'd start a regular "Book Report" post every week, or few days, or whatever. I'm not good at these regular posts according to the day of the week, so I'll just post when I think of it.

The first book I want to mention is Orville: A Dog Story by Haven Kimmel, one of my favorite writers of memoirs. To be honest, Abe got bored with it, but I adored it. I called Ted in so I could read the last couple of pages to him. It took me a while to get through those two pages because of fighting back the chokes in my throat and bubbling tears in my eyes. My favorite kind of story is one of redemption, and this one is a perfect redemption story. The line that got me most is, "And Orville wished he could say to people, 'There are ways to slip free of a chain'." I love this book. I love Haven Kimmel.

The next book is part of a series that I also found at our library in the staff picks section for kids. It's called The Adventures of Meno by Tony and Angela Diterlizzi. It's a little "out there," so be warned. Abe will sit and listen to books being read for hours, but few actually make him laugh out loud. This one did. I won't give away the secret of what makes him laugh but you'll figure it out quickly when you read it. The "Big Fun" in Book One is soooo fun, for a three-year-old boy at least (and his mid-30s mother).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Post-Thanksgiving Inspiration



"We slept two years on one bed...What will happen to me will happen to him. As long as a child is quite near to their mother, nothing can happen for (sic: to) the child." --Alice Herz Sommer

Cowboy gear.


This was part of a package from our relatives in Klamath Falls, Oregon. They sent the cowboy clothes, as well as still-unwrapped gifts for "B," chocolate for me and Ted.

(After re-watching yesterday's video announcing the winner, we wish we had made a bigger fanfare of it or at least done something mildly creative. We both feel like dorks now. Ah well, such is the Rooney household on a late Friday afternoon at the end of a long week with a subdued and still-sleepy little boy)

Friday, November 26, 2010


Congratulations, Emma!

Send me an email so I can get you in touch with Autumn.

Also to our runners-up: send me an email so I can get your addresses and tell you what you've won.

THANK YOU to everyone who participated in this contest. By the end of it, you all contributed $1,120 towards our plane tickets. This makes a big difference in getting us to Ethiopia, and we so appreciate your involvement.

Stay tuned: we may be having more contests coming up...

Almost Winner Time!

I was at work all morning and into the afternoon. Abe is now asleep. As soon as he wakes up, he's going to reach his little hand into this bowl and choose the winner of the doll...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


This afternoon at about 2:30 something happened that made me think to myself, "Today has been a really good day, and now it's even better."

It started this way: We have freezing temperatures in Portland right now with a little snow and a lot of ice on the roads yesterday. When I got in to work, I quickly noticed that a few of our elderly clients were nowhere close to having warm enough coats for this kind of weather. When I asked one of the men about it, he smiled, did a little jig and said that he keeps moving to make sure he stays warm.

You know, you have to love this optimistic attitude, but a warm coat and gloves sure would be nice. So I put a plea out there to friends and acquaintances in the local adoption community to help me keep our African elders warm in this weather. I went through my own closets and found a couple of coats and some scarves, gloves, hats.

When I got to work today, I set up the winter gear in a side room next to the classroom. Then in walked a fellow adoptive parent (who is also a volunteer with our program) with his two kids and bags of clothes. I wanted to cry. We added his family's things to the piles, and I was able to bring the clients in two-by-two to find some things to keep them warm.

One lady was excited to find a red hat to go with the bright red coat she put on. My favorite moment happened when our jig-dancing elder found a pair of thick leather gloves that fit him perfectly. He told me, again with a huge smile, that he had been planning on buying gloves that very afternoon, and gloves just like the kind he just found. He added a bright red scarf to his outfit, asked how he looked, and I said with a lump in my throat, "Fantastic."

I was so distressed yesterday to see these precious people without proper clothes. I am always worried that in this weather, they will get sick, and I just don't know what I would do if anything bad happened to any of them. Seeing these folks so dear to me walk out this afternoon with gloves on their hands, hats on their heads, scarves on their necks, and warm coats on their backs filled me with such joy, such gratitude that I have the privilege of knowing these people.

I got home feeling full. I brought Thanksgiving groceries inside, sat down at the computer, and saw three new emails from a friend from L.A. who met our little girl while she was in Addis bringing home her little one. She had sent me about a dozen new photos, all of them beautiful, the most beautiful ones I've seen. My heart was overflowing at this point. It was 2:30 and my good day suddenly got even gooder.

In these photos, we got to see that our girl has dimples when she smiles really big. She's standing amid her friends at the care center, wearing a white t-shirt with a short, bright pink dress over it. She is wearing bright green pants. She looks like a flower, her legs the stem, her top the tulip. She is beaming. In one photo, all the kids are holding their hands straight up over their heads, and she is the only one looking at the camera. This is my favorite photo. She reminds me of Rich Mullins in the photo from the cover of his biography, An Arrow Pointing to Heaven (one of my favorite books of all time about one of my favorite human beings of all time). Her stance is one of joy, of optimism. She is a bright flower growing towards heaven.

In another, she is looking down, and the sweep of her neck and shape of her lovely head is so statuesque, so queenly, so simply lovely. She seems so petite, and her face is all eyes, beaming smiles, and dimples.

Just last night, I was telling Ted how this time round, this child doesn't seem as real to me as Abe did after we found out about him. That seemed to end with these new photographs. I can't stop staring at them, the way I used to sit and stare at Abe's pictures before we met him in person. I want to know who this little girl is. I want to hold her hand, to comb her hair, to see her smile at me, to sneak in her room at night and watch her sleep, to hold her close. I feel that through these photographs, I know her a little better. I just can't believe how beautiful she is.

I am gushing. I should stop. I think it's safe to say I'm falling a little in love with a picture again.

The first child whose photo stole my heart, overseeing the production of our contribution to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Contest Ending and Etsy Shop

We decided to avoid all "Black Friday" events by choosing the winner of the doll on this day. That means you have about two more days to enter your name (multiple times if you wish!) in the drawing. We're officially at around $780 (amazing), and I'm hoping hoping hoping we reach $1000 by Friday! Thank you for everyone who entered the drawing so far. For a mere $5, you can enter again.

Click on the "donate" tab on the right side of this blog to do so.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Go here to find out.

Lastly, I just added 16 new items to the etsy shop of our African Seniors. Their art class continues to be my favorite day of the week. These prints would make a beautiful holiday gift for someone :) Go here to check them out.

This is probably my favorite new listing to the etsy shop. Beautiful colors.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"The Call" part 2

We heard the story Little B at 10:15 until 11:00 am while I was in Jackson, Mississippi and Ted in Portland, Oregon on a conference call with our caseworker in Ft. Worth, Texas. As I wrote before, both my mom and dad were in the room for those 45 minutes. We didn't plan it this way, but I'm glad it happened this way. I printed some of the referral papers and a lot of the pictures on my mom's black-and-white printer. We got some photos of me between my parents, each one holding a photo of the little girl with sparkly eyes. My dad's eyes are half-closed in the photo. My mom has her standard photo-face (nothing wrong with this face). I'm sitting on my mom's desk between them with a huge smile. I love this photo.

What did we do the rest of this day? We went fishing and ate Chick-fil-A.

Abe had been asking to go fishing the whole week, and this being our last day in town, this was the day. My dad had taken off work, so we drove to my sister's house to pick Abe up. I took my sister into her bedroom, shut the door, and showed her the photos. When my sister saw the meaning of B's name, she burst into tears. Maybe my favorite photo from this day is of my sister holding up B's photo, her red face covered in tears all the way to her chin. I love my sister.

I wasn't on the phone on this day as much as when we got Abe's referral since most of the people I would have called, I was actually with. I did send a few texts to friends in Oregon, California, and a few other places. But mostly? I hung out with my family. I hovered around my son when he got too close to the water at the lake. Abe got his first fire ant bites. My dad cooked breakfast for dinner while I did laundry and packed up to leave. We went to bed early. It was a strange yet good day.

By the next morning, I was very anxious to get back home. I wanted to see Ted. I wanted to process this news with him. I wanted to get back online. I wanted to sleep in my own bed, clean the house, print and frame photos of this little girl. My dad drove us to the airport and my sister met us there. We had a long coffee and almost missed our flight. I was reprimanded by a flight attendant for missing family boarding and then spent the next twelve hours on an airplane or biding time in long layovers. Abe made friends with the two college girls sitting behind us on our last flight and talked at them for a couple of hours. By the time we got home, I was exhausted.

I slept a few hours, got up and went to work. It had been a week, and I needed to check on my dear clients. When people expressed surprise that I got up and went to work the next morning, I just thought, "Well, in a lot of ways, this isn't work. I get hugs by Ethiopian grandmothers every time I go. Who wouldn't get up early for this?" About an hour after I got home that day, Ted had to leave for a class he was teaching, so it was even more time before we got the chance to sit down and talk.

This is one of the biggest ways that this referral call was different from Abe's. This time round, we were both so busy. Last time, we were sitting at home doing nothing when we got the call. We could spend the whole day processing, talking, calling friends, falling in love with a photo. This time, it was four or five days before we had time to slow down and talk.

Also adding to this weirdness is that we decided not to tell Abe until we could sit down together. This wasn't until Friday evening, two days after we got the call. Abe's reaction was sort of what we expected. Ted told him that we now knew who his sister would be (he's been talking about his sister for months now), and he asked where she was and when she was coming. Then, "Hey Dad, can we wrestle again now?" In case you haven't seen it, here is his reaction to seeing her photo for the first time.

So we're now settling in to this new reality for our family. We're reading books like The Connected Child and Twenty Things Adopted Kids With Their Adoptive Parents Knew and Older Child Adoption. It's a lot to take in. Sometimes I get scared that I won't know how to give this little girl what she needs, that I won't know how to read the signs she's giving me, that the language barrier is going to be too huge of a barrier towards our bonding, that Abe is going to turn possessive and clingy. I suppose these are normal fears. At least I hope they are. I want to be prepared as best I can but I also know that we really have no way of knowing where Little B is in her stages of grief. We don't know if she's ready for a brother, for a mother and father, for family. We just don't know.

Abe is now three. Every morning when he wakes up, he wants me to pick him up. I grab him below his arms and he does a little jump as I bring him up to me. He wraps his ever-growing legs around my waist, rests his head on my left shoulder so he can suck his thumb, puts his other arm around my left shoulder and pats my back. I stand this way with him in my arms, chest to chest, our hearts lined up and very close. As he grows bigger, it seems that he fits even closer to us. I know at some point, this need of his to be close, to snuggle, to let me be his safe place, is going to fade. This is as it should be. But in the meantime, as long as he has this need, I do too.

The other morning as we were in this chest-to-chest snuggle, I thought about the little girl on the other side of the globe who is going to be in this house with us in a few months, and I couldn't help wondering when and if we'll be this close. How much was she held when she was three? What was her morning ritual when she was Abe's age? Did she suck her thumb and rest her head on someone's left shoulder? She is now five. How is she grieving the loss of this closeness? When and how will she let us in? Will she stare into my eyes with her almond-shaped sparkly ones the way Abe does with his puppy-dog sparkly eyes?

I'm ready, and I feel that the trick is going to be waiting for her to be ready. I'll wait the best I can. Patience has never been my strong suit. I'm thankful for the example of all the moms who've done this already. Moms like this one and this one. Thank you. I'm watching. And waiting.

Do I know how
How will I know
Cast the ropes that bind you
Get in that boat and row

Forsake not what's around you
For simple is close at hand
You might get tossed on water
But keep your heart peeled for land

Blue hearts blue tears
Blue 'n' bruised 'n' sore
Blue skies and blossoms
On the other shore

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gift from Anonymous

Autumn called today to ask if she could pop by the house since "Abe forgot his doll this morning and I have something for you." Someone named "Anonymous" ordered this doll for our little girl. Whoever you are: thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Amazing timing really. This world is full of beautiful, generous people. Wow.

To read more details about how to win one of these sweet dolls, go here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An Ode to My Friend and a Chance for You to Win Something

Way back before we'd come home with Abe, I started reading this cool blog by a lady who was in the early stages of adopting from Ethiopia, and we discovered that we lived in the same part of town. So just a week or so after we got Abe home to Portland, we met in person for the first time. After over two years (!), I can say that Autumn is one of my best friends in Portland and one of my favorite people ever. I call her sometimes the "real deal" because that's exactly what she is. More on that later. For now, a story in pictures:

After just a week or so settled in at home, we go visit our new blogging friends at their house. Abe immediately felt comfortable with this lady, who would become a regular babysitter. As soon as he could talk, he christened her "Aw-aw" in lieu of "Autumn." It was a sad day when Abe starting saying her name 'right'.

For Abe, it was love at first sight upon meeting the then 3-year-old Rhett. Abe's face in this photo shows exactly how he has always felt about his friend.

Rhett was always so very patient with little Abe, two years his junior. Abe always wanted to lean in to wherever Rhett was sitting.

This is maybe my favorite photo of these two. Rhett is eternally patient with his groupie, and Abe is so incredibly proud to be getting this hug from his hero.

Abe turns two and still often is found leaning into Rhett.

Another year passes, and Abe still wants to do whatever Rhett is doing.

That is when he's not too busy trying to make out with Rhett's little sister.

Now to the "real deal" part. Back in the spring when all the waiting families in the Ethiopia program found out about the new "two trips" rule for adoptions, we were thrown for a loop much like everyone else. We had calculated our finances as best we could, but we knew at that point that we would have to do some fund-raising for these extra travel expenses. Neither of us are good at asking for donations. I might go so far as to say it is torturous for us. While discussing all this with Autumn one night (there is very little I don't discuss with Aw-aw), she generously offered one of her dolls for us to use for raising funds for our travel expenses.

Like I said, she's the kind of friend you want in this life. The. Real. Deal.

So on to details. In case you aren't familiar with her work, you can check it out at her etsy shop here.

She makes things like this banner, which she gave Abe for his 3rd birthday.

She also spent hours helping me make this Max costume last Halloween. It was so adorable that I felt a little sorry for the other kids who didn't get all the 'oohs and aahs' that Abe got that year.

She also whips up these nifty birthday caps as party favors for all the guests at her daughter's birthday party.

Autumn has donated one of her custom dolls towards our fund-raising. The winner of the doll gets to order the doll according to requested skin tone, hair, and initial. These custom dolls are incredible.

As you can see, Abe loves his Abe doll.

You can click on the PayPal donation button in the right hand column of this page under "Fundraising" and contribute $5 for a chance to win one of these custom dolls valued at $52. If you donate $5 and post a link to this on your blog, you will get your name in the drawing another time for free.

With the holidays coming up, along with knowing you're giving someone a great gift, you can feel good knowing that you're helping our family get a step closer to bringing our daughter and sister home. Thank you.

(After finishing this post, I realized the lack of photos of me and Autumn. I should try to fix that

Also, more on "The Call" soon)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"The Call" part 1

One of my grandmothers turned 90 this summer. I missed that celebration since we've been trying to save up all our moolah for travel expenses. My other grandmother had her 80th this month, so last Tuesday night we decided that it wasn't worth it to miss both big family events. So since Ted had a long weekend of teaching ahead of him, Abe and I flew out early last Friday morning to visit my family. It was a fun week. I got chaufered around by my 17-year-old niece for the first time. Abe's cousin demonstrated wonderful burping skills. We ate a lot of red velvet cake, catfish, fried okra, and pimento cheese sandwiches. Abe got spoiled by relatives (and friends that may as well be family). We all sat through a Presbyterian church service together, taking up three pews. It was a good time.

We made this trip for moments like this one. Granny reacts to battery-operated, noise-activated chickens. It's blurry, but this photo somehow sums up everything I love about my Granny.

I was not online for most of this trip but on Tuesday night right before going to dinner with my grandmother and dad, I checked my email and saw that our caseworker had written, asking to "visit with" us at 10am the next morning. She ended the whole thing with two exclamation marks and a smiley face. Oh boy. I was stunned. I immediately called Ted who picked up by saying, "I just got the email too."

After dinner, I went to visit a high school friend to see her and her new house and then my sister met me at our dad's with a big bottle of wine. I am so glad she came. I was jittery and not sure if I'd be able to sleep. We sat up talking with the soothing sound of a Southpark episode on the tv in the background. I somehow fell asleep.

My dad had taken Wednesday off, so he'd said I could use his office for the big phone call. On our way there, we stopped by a drive-thru coffee place where the lady working greeted us with a loud "howdy!" My dad is a regular. I got an overly-sweet pumpkin latte and an overly-sweet bran muffin, both of which I attempted to
eat. I got settled in at my dad's office and couldn't get online. Their intranet kept kicking me offline when I attempted to access my email. I think I may have yelled once or twice. Maybe. Probably.

We hopped back into Daddy's truck and drove to my mom's office across town. On the way, our caseworker called, and we put the call off for ten minutes. I got
all settled in this time at my mom's desk, and our caseworker conferenced our call with Ted in Oregon. Let me tell you: I don't recommend getting your referral phone call while not in the same location. We didn't really have another option besides waiting two days until I got home on Friday. That wasn't an option, obviously.

There is nothi
ng like that moment when you hear your caseworker say, "Okay, I'm pressing "send" and then waiting waiting waiting, refreshing, refreshing, refreshing your inbox until BAM: there it is.

You see the subject line "Introducing...." and your heart starts pounding. The reality hits you that you are about to see your child's face for the first time. There is nothing like it.
I was hunkered over the computer screen, unaware of what my mom and dad were doing. I knew they were in the room but that's about it. I had my phone on speaker so they could hear the initial part of the conversation. I opened the email and saw ten tiny photos of a little girl. I couldn't decide which to click on first, so I just chose the one that showed her face in close-up.

Scanning for viruses... seemed to take forever. Then.

Waiting for the photos to open...

Her face. Huge perfectly almond shaped eyes. A slight smile. Chapped bottom lip. Head cocked a little to one side. Ears that stick out (so do Ted's, may be the one way she looks like us). I opened the other photos. In one she is sitting on the floor playing with a doll. In another she is standing in a yard in a pink plaid shirt with her neck all stretched out, as if she was in mid jump. In my favorite photo, her chin is tucked in and she's looking up at the camera, a little ruffly hat on her head. In every photo, she looks angelic. I'm sure she's not. I mean, I'm sure she's a real little girl who has tantrums and fits and bouts of sadness. But in these photos, she is pure sweetness.

I wasn't sure how I would react upon first seeing her face. With Abe, I immediately burst into tears. The same was true with her. There is nothing like this moment (have I said that before?). You are looking at a face belonging to a stranger on the other side of the globe, a stranger who will become your daughter, your son's sister. It hits you right in the gut. Well, in the heart, I suppose. There is no way around it.

We listened to her story and read through all her documents and at the end, we both said with no hesitation, "Yes." And that was that.

(more later on the rest of this day and what it was like to tell Abe)

Saturday, November 13, 2010


It's been an off-the-charts busy and eventful week with long plane rides to the South and important conference calls. Here is a quick sneak-peak into what's been going on:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Blue Africa Pumpkin

I seem to have lost my blogging "mojo" lately. All I have right now is: look at the pumpkin Abe painted last week at his school. Can you pick his out?

His is the one with a blue Africa painted on it. Okay, so he just threw some paint on it in about three seconds and then went to play with cars and dinosaurs, but still. I thought it was pretty cool.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Abe has always been pretty verbal. His first words started coming at about 10 months. There's been an explosion of late though. Just tonight, he was using the phrasing "to be similar to," as in "Abe is similar like Caillou." While age 3 has been the most challenging so far when it comes to discipline, it has also been the most fun with conversations. I'm left every day at some point shaking my head in wonder at what comes out of our son's mouth. It makes me wish I could spend a day, or just an hour, inside his head (and really: how cool would it be to know what your kid's dreams look like?).

Some of the most interesting things Abe says happen when he's first woken up from a nap or when we're taking him out of the bathtub. One night this week when he was getting out of the bath, he used the word "imagination." I wasn't sure if he knew what it meant or not, so I asked him to explain to me what it was. This is what he said, verbatim:

"Imagination is just a drawer in your heart where you have pictures... and beavers."

We seem to be living with a linguistic genius.

My favorite picture from Halloween 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever

A couple of months ago, a researcher from a local hospital came to talk to our seniors about aging, dementia, and Alzheimers. We had the rare luxury of a translator, and so the conversation veered all sorts of directions. Our seniors talked a lot about their needs, from reliable health care to employment. The number one issue they all agreed on was that they don't want hand-outs; they want to be productive and to contribute in some way to society. They want to give. They want to feel that they making their world better, not just coasting through their old age getting handouts from others. I cried several times in the conversation.

I love these people and want the same for them.
One of our seniors feels especially strong about wanting to be helpful. He stays late to clean up after every class. He won't let me or any of the teachers lift a finger to do anything. He delegates tasks to his friends in the class. He could probably run the program if anything happened to me. Every time he sees Abe, he slips him a dollar bill in his pocket. He never leaves for the day without asking if there is anything else that needs to be done.

This senior is an especially wonderful artist. His work is full of subdued color and rhythm. The man's name means "peaceful." The same is true of his art, so it was no surprise to us when a mother on the east coast bought through the etsy shop three of his pieces to hang in her 18-month-old son's nursery. She asked for a photo of the artist with the pieces she bought. I obliged her, asking if in return, she would send me a photo of her son with the art. I want to show the artist. I want him to see that he is making his world better. I want him to see that his artwork is bringing an authentic piece of Ethiopia to an Ethiopian adoptee's world. This is beauty.

The peaceful worker bee takes a much-deserved break to have some yogurt.

Last week, we got to take our seniors to see their art on display. It was an incredible moment to watch the faces of these artists see for the first time their art hung in frames in a public space. I couldn't stop smiling as I walked among these seniors, watching them 'behold' their creativity on display. I felt, once again, immeasurably proud to be a part of this beautiful community of African seniors.

Our seniors checking out their art on display

Not too long ago, this beautiful lady couldn't write her name; now she proudly autographs every work of art she creates.

Reading his bio, the creator of the popular "Ethiopian Wildflowers."

Their art continues to be on display through the month of November (we'd originally been told through October, but I think the owner is digging the happy vibes this art brings to his shop). You can visit it at YoChoice Yogurt on Northeast 50th Avenue and Fremont Street. You can also buy prints of the art online at

An Eritrean, a Somali, and a tiny Ethiopian enjoying some rare Portland sunshine at YoChoice.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sweet Sickness

When the rain started in Portland last week, so did the snot. Abe got it first, with a hacking cough that lasted a week. We made sure the humidifier was plugged in and on every night. Vicks vapor-rub on his chest. He got better. For maybe twelve hours, all of us were well.

All weekend, Ted and I were sick. Ted kept working while I stayed home, foggy-brained from cold meds, bemoaning the distance between us and my mom or sister, both of whom would have taken Abe for me while I was sick. I sucked it up (literally. sometimes blowing it out too) and took the well-child to a movie. Then we made rice krispy treats. Then he watched another movie at home. He got a little spoiled because I didn't feel good.

Monday morning, I'm feeling a little more normal, and he wakes up sick again. The crud has moved north into his head, rivers of snot flowing. We use the bulb syringe the way we did when he was a baby. He never cried then. Now it's torture.

I carry him up to his bed, and he wants me to lay down with him. I do. We talk about the apple crisp we're going to make when he wakes up, which leads to many questions about Martha Stewart, who she is, who has met her, where she lives. He asks if we can pray. I say, "Okay. So thank you God for today, the sunshine, for Martha Stewart, and apples from our neighbor, and ... what are you thankful for, Abe?"


Being mom to this little boy is my most favorite thing I've ever done.