Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Switch Got Flipped

What happened today? This morning?

After dreaming fitfully about hearing about embassy appointments? After waking up and finding out that our case continues to be stalled in red tape? After finding out that our own government is causing these inexplicable delays? After being told to "be patient" one more week?

Yesterday, for the first time in this process, I got explosively angry.

I wanted to cry but just shook instead. Something's gotta give. And soon.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Funk

Yesterday was one of the first sunny, not-cold days we've had this year. When I sit in my house in late June shivering, I get grouchy. Having grown up in Mississippi, I've had my fill of hot summers and usually feel really thankful to live where I do in the cooler Pacific Northwest. However, the daily need to figure out every day whether to put on a jacket, sweater, or down-filled vest after the summer solstice has put a damper on my mood.

So in spite of yesterday's few hours of warmth in which I could leave all outer layers at home, in spite of the huge neighborhood yard sale in one of the richie-rich neighborhoods, in spite of grilling burgers in the afternoon, in spite of the impromptu beer on the front porch with a former neighbor who happened to be biking by, in spite of the strawberry patch in our backyard producing like crazy... I was in a funk.

Last night while sitting outside eating dinner, we were trying to deconstruct my funk. There were probably several things contributing to it but probably the main one is that Abe is still, for all intents and purposes, an only child, even though there is a 5-year-old across the globe who now officially shares our last name. She has a new birth certificate with our last name. She has a passport with our name. She has a new name but she is not here, and this is getting increasingly frustrating to me.

So many people recently have approached me and said, "Oh! You have a new baby at home by now!" I have to correct them, "Well, no, she's not really a baby, and she's not really here yet." They look at me confused and sometimes say something about how wasn't it two years ago that we were in this process? Yep.

"And weren't you in Ethiopia last month?"


"You met her, right? But she's not here yet?"


"So when do you go back?"

No idea. None. Not one clue. I then have to spend a few minutes explaining how extra documents (some only obtained through added court hearings) are now being required that have never been required before, how even though everything has been completed in strict accordance with the law, we can't even be submitted to the embassy until these suddenly-added documents are in-hand.

I picked up a registration packet from the local grade school this week. Abe and I looked around the kindergarten hallway and wondered which classroom would be his sister's. The secretaries told me not to turn the packet in until she's here. Even that was frustrating to me. I wanted to get her paperwork in. I wanted to fill out those forms. I wanted to hand someone in authority my daughter's official registration into school and have them tell me all about the ELL program and which teacher would be the best fit for her. I wanted to know that her name has been added to the roster and that her teacher is making her a little name tag for the backpack cubby.

Instead? I have to wait until she's here. Until then, no one really knows she exists.

I don't want her to come here in August right before school starts to be thrown straight away into the hectic fall. I want her here now, while our days and slow and increasingly warm outside. I want here now so she can see that this city isn't always a dark, drizzly place with grey skies and never-dry sidewalks.

It's time, it's time, it's time, and I'm frustrated and full of funk.

One on my shoulder, another a symbol near my heart.

photo @ 2011 Jillian Doughty

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Margaret Wise Brown

I cried the first time I read The Big Red Barn too. That time was because I was so happy. This time is because I'm so anxious.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Easy Like Monday Morning

I don't usually go in to work on Mondays. Last night, Abe and about five other kids were at our neighbor's house until 10. That's what Portlanders do two days before the summer solstice. We stay up.

Abe didn't wake up until 10:40 this morning. Yes, that's right. It amazed us too. When he did finally get up, this video shows what he did, right before sitting on my lap on the deck, staring at the trees, silently, for another 20 minutes or so. Sometimes thirteen seconds of swinging after twelve hours of sleep requires a break.

We got not-good news today about our embassy date. Rather, our lack of embassy date. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. I would very much like this process to be over and for Betelehem to be here with us now, taking it easy on summer mornings. Please God, let it be so.

This international adoption stuff? Not for sissies.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Did I mention that the first meeting was awkward?

It was awkward.

We arrived to the care center right on time, and I walked in on wobbly knees, heart racing.

She wasn't there yet. Sigh. All the kids were in a big room being read to by the Gladney volunteer who's been living there for the last eight months (she's amazing in a thousand different ways, by the way). These books are interactive, so with the kids all reading along and singing, it was loud in that room. The caregivers were all sitting among the kids, and all their eyes were on us, the two ferenji women who had just walked in. I spotted my Seattle friend's little boy sitting in the room . We waited, and waited, for truly what seemed like forever.

Finally, I sensed something going on and started to hear the word "Betelehem" scattered through the room. The bundle of electricity in my stomach started firing sparks again, and I just wanted to sit in a corner so I wouldn't pass out. One of the Gladney reps said, "She's coming."

I walked to the door, but she still didn't come. I don't know what was taking so long. Even though books were still being read, all eyes seemed to be on what what going on with us, a feeling I strongly disliked. I have never liked being the center of attention: at parties, I am happiest to be the wallflower watching what's going on and talking to individual people. In this case, I am about to meet the newest Rooney while her friends and caregivers from the last almost-year are studying me. I was suddenly aware of every hair on my head, what I was wearing, how I was standing, every single move I made. Awkward. I wanted to shrink. I hated how tall I am.

In retrospect, I should have just sat with the other kids and not waited for her at the door. But really, my emotions were so over-the-place that I seemed incapable of doing anything except standing at attention like a guard at a palace gate, waiting for the VIP about to enter the room.

One of the Gladney reps was standing in front of me at the threshold of the door when she was ushered in. She walked past him, then brushed past me to go join the kids listening to books. Her hair was pulled back into four braids which had become wispy and lovely around her head. She was wearing a blue school uniform over a white collared shirt, accented by sparkly sequined blue converse shoes. This two-second glimpse of her sent me over the edge. She was the daintiest, most lovely, Audrey-Hepburnesque five-year-old I had ever seen, and I was overcome. I had to walk away.

I stood in the hallway outside the big room and cried. Being able to quickly hide this eruption of tears was the one good thing about standing so awkwardly in that doorway. Gladney has a pretty strict policy about not letting your referred child know who you are. Many of the older children have suffered profound disappointment and even depression when the adoptive parents leave after court to go home to wait for the embassy trip. The idea is that it's too disorienting for children who have already suffered such loss to understand why someone comes to adopt them and then promptly leaves for weeks (or months), so the official policy with older kids is to remain as anonymous as possible.

I get it. I do. It's why I was trying so earnestly to hide my tears from her when I saw her walk in the room. I stayed there in the hallway trying my hardest to pull myself together. The big question mark for me though is whether she knew who I was anyway. Considering the circumstances of her having gone to school and then being sent home to the care center in the middle of the day to be greeted by two ferenji women who were visiting... my guess is that she probably knew.

I walked back into the room and found a seat on the low couches lining the walls. She was next to me. The caregiver next to her kept looking at me. I'm sure it must be a strange feeling for the caregivers to meet the foreign parents coming in to adopt the kids they have loved for months. If I were one of them, I would stare too, no doubt about it. That being said, this very much contributed to the awkwardness of this meeting. I have one particular photo that sums up this first meeting: Betelehem is smiling and looking ahead at the book reader while I am sitting on her right and the caregiver on her left is leaning forward to examine me.

In that moment while the books were being read, my emotions were just barely under the surface. I didn't notice until later when I saw a video of the moment that I was smacking away on a piece of gum. It must have been a distraction from the dominant thought in my brain of "do not cry again, do not cry, do not cry" and "I hope she likes me, I hope she likes me, I hope she likes me." As her caregivers examined me, she would only steal glances. Once, she looked up into my eyes and smiled. I smiled back. I wanted to do nothing more than reach over and hold her hand. But then she inched closer to the caregiver on her left.

I felt like I was auditioning for the role of "mother."

Book-time was over and exercises began. The whole group did jumping jacks and stretches. Then everyone paired up. Betelehem and I sat on the floor with our legs stretched straight out in front of us, the soles of our shoes touching. We stretched forward to touch our fingers to our toes while counting to ten. This was our chance to really study each other. We were face to face, feet to feet, fingertips to fingertips. Counting to ten. Smiles. I winked at her. More smiles. Then time to stand up for the hokey-pokey.

A small group of us goes up to see her room, and it is then that I realize how shy and introverted she really is. Even this was awkward. I wanted to carry her back down the stairs but I am a stranger.

I was meeting a stranger I had known about for six months, a stranger who would become our daughter six days later. What are you supposed to do when you meet for the first time a new family member? She's an immediate relative whose language I don't speak, who I don't look like, who shares no memories with our family, who has lost other immediate family members, and who doesn't know who I am. I am a stranger who sees her and starts crying. I am a remarkably tall white woman who puts a tattoo on her arm.

I cross my legs and she crosses hers and we sit facing each other. She picks out a flower tattoo. This is my chance. This is when I get to hold her hand. All the kids are gathered around watching (she wasn't the first to get a tattoo so by then, she knew the routine). I look into her eyes and she looks into mine. I ask if she's ready. I put the flower on her forearm, put the wet sponge on top, and we all start counting. I have thirty precious seconds to hold her arm in my hands. She counts too. She looks at me then looks at the caregivers. She's checking in with them. She looks back at me. I take the paper off and we all 'ooh' about the flower on her arm. It's still damp, so we blow on it to dry it. She smiles at me, then smiles at the caregiver.

The moment is up. It's someone else's turn. She gets up and sits among the crowd of kids as I put the next tattoo on.

We only had one hour. She was playing with her friends when it was time for us to go. There was no goodbye from her. Some of the other kids gave me hugs and kisses. Not her. She was with her friends and caregivers.

This is okay. Right here in this moment, we are still strangers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Photos, part 1

I have no idea where this is exactly, just somewhere on the way to Dubai. We basically followed the sunset/dark most of the way there, so it looked like this every time you looked out the window.

The very futuristic, huge airport in Dubai. It was also very hot here (of course). This was before our morning flight to Addis, after a night's rest in a hotel. It was very hot, very, very hot, even early in the morning.

The morning I met Betelehem, that coffee and tiramisu to kill the time as we waited for her to get home from school.

This what was going on at home in Oregon.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Meeting Her...part 1

I'll tell you about when I met Betelehem for the first time.

It was awkward.

There had been a lot of build-up to the moment. There was nothing natural about it, not one thing. Susan and I had traveled for many hours to land in Addis at 11:30 in the morning. As we drove down Bole Road to our guest house, everything felt familiar. I mean, of course it was; I had been there before. This was my first taste of what the theme of this trip would become: take it in. With Abe, I was so focused on being a mother for the first time that after a while, I think I checked out. I only sort of looked around me. I had bottles to make, and a nose to wipe, and beautiful laughing eyes to stare into. I realize this is probably a terrible thing to admit to, but I don't think I really absorbed the country my children were born in the first time I was there. I really didn't.

We checked into the guest house, got a little settled, went straight back out to exchange money and buy water. It felt so nice to be there. "Nice" is a boring word, I know, but that's how I felt. I had slept the night before thanks to the long layover in Dubai. I was pretty well-rested. On the flight from Dubai to Addis, I sat by myself (due to Susan inexplicably getting bumped up to business class!) and listened to the entire playlist my friend Julie gave me on a little ipod shuffle. I stared out the window watching Africa beneath the plane and cried off and on. It was the perfect thing to prepare me for entry into Ethiopia, to prepare me for what was coming. So as we drove around Addis, I was aware. I was present. I was looking. I was taking it in. I wanted to drive and drive and drive, to look and even gawk, to walk on Bole Road, to feel the dirt and rocks of Addis under my keens.

We ordered take-out and went to bed. As became the pattern for every night we were in Addis, I couldn't keep my eyes open much past 9pm. I woke up at 6am from a dream of a much-sassier-than-real-life Betelehem looking me in the eye and telling me I better learn how to fix her hair.

Our scheduled meeting was for 9:30 at the care center. It was Friday. I couldn't decide what to wear. I kept changing. Feeling sentimental, I decided on the purple shirt I met Abe in three years ago.

Betelehem was supposed to have been kept out of school for the day, but as we were driving to the center, we called to confirm and found out that someone had forgotten we were coming. She would be there by 11. I thought that waiting around the care center would make me more nervous than I already was, so we turned the car around and went to the closest Kaldi's. I ordered tiramisu with my machiatto. How I managed to eat tiramisu that morning, I'm still baffled by. But it was delicious. I shared with Susan and our driver. I couldn't talk but listened to them discuss technology as they tinkered around with our driver's ipad.

I kept checking the phone. Finally, it was time. I was all nervous energy at this point. Suddenly, I became terrified about being late even though we were only ten minutes away. I gathered my stuff and stood up, willing them to get up too. I walked to the door. I had said maybe twenty words all morning.

I sat in the front seat as we drove east of the city. The day was sunny but cool. I was ten minutes away.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Another Reason I Haven't Written...

...we've been preparing for this, to celebrate our son's fourth full year of life.

"Pan, who and what art thou?" he [Hook] cried huskily.
"I'm youth, I'm joy," Peter answered at a venture, "I'm a little bird that has broken out of the egg."

"When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies."

"Second to the right, and straight on till morning."
That, Peter had told Wendy, was the way to the Neverland

"On these magic shores children at play are for ever beaching their coracles. We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we shall land no more."

"You know that place between sleeping and awake, that place where you can still remember dreaming? That's where I'll always think of you."

So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land.

I'll teach you to jump on the wind's back, and away we go.

"Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it."

photos @ 2011 Jillian Doughty

Thursday, June 9, 2011


These are my two nieces who have been visiting us for the last couple of weeks.
They came before I got home from Ethiopia. They were at the airport as part of my welcome home committee from the trip, along with their mom and my older niece's boyfriend. Having teenagers in the house? Fun. Really. It's noisy and the tv is often on and they eat a lot and play pirates with Abe and are able to sleep through most anything, even when sleeping on the living room couch. I was introduced to a lot of music and weird youtube videos. I introduced them to some too. I now know quite a lot about Ke$ha. Their new favorite song is by Foster the People, thanks to cool Portland radio.

That picture was taken at the airport early this afternoon. They are on their way home, and our house feels really quiet. When we got home from the airport, Abe made a "nest" and just laid down on the couch. I wasn't sure what to do with myself either.

Hopefully soon, I'll start writing again.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

This blog is not dead...

...we just have three out of town visitors, all of whom are teenagers, one of which we just found out has strep throat.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

This blog is not dead...'s just been a really bad case of jetlag.