Tuesday, April 29, 2008

C is for Cookie

A short excerpt from the gem of a book I found today (yes, I am making time to read--thanks, Stacie: it won't kill me to leave the dishes for later). More coming on this amazing book on parenting when I'm finished with it, but for now, some general tips:

Assuming you don't keep them manacled to the radiator, toddlers are generally thrilled by the mere act of living and breathing. Balloons and cake for a birthday celebration are thoughtful, more than necessary, extras.

Do not allow your child to grow up to be a social embarrassment.

On the issue of screaming: Explain that when he is older, he may go to the train yard, or down to a freeway overpass, or a psychiatrist's office, and scream at the passing trains, vehicles, or psychiatrist; but until that glorious day has arrived, screaming must be a private pursuit.

Might it not be a good idea to explain to one's two-year-old that she mustn't put her head in the potty and leave it there?

My personal favorite tip so far, on why you should make it a habit to have a bachelor over for dinner: An eccentric Southern bachelor will also provide your children with a questionable role model, which is really the best kind.

We gave Abe his first vanilla wafer today. We think he liked it. A lot.
Shock and awe at the goodness kept from him for so so so long...

I have no idea. This is simply life with Abe.

Eventually, I'll put together part II of the Addis Ababa post. I've also, surprisingly (at least to me), been asked by a few people to toss out another "hot topic" like last week, so I'm been mulling that over as well. I think I know where I'm going with that. In the meantime, those new Trader Joe's wafers with real Madagascar vanilla beans are worth a try.

Monday, April 28, 2008

New Realities and a Translation

One of my favorite things in this world is when I get that far-away feeling that comes while "getting lost in a book" for hours and hours. I know it's a cliche. It's true anyway. I encountered this book, I Capture the Castle, twice last week and feel like the universe is sending it my way somehow. There's even one copy left at Powell's on Burnside that I could go snatch up.

But I can't even get through the Sunday paper these days. I have yesterday's Oregonian plus not only last week's New York Times but the week before that sitting there staring at me in our dining room, untouched and alone. How do I think I'm going to make it all the way through an entire book? This is definitely one way that it becomes pretty easy to become entrenched in Kid-land. There's just so little time for reading, and the last movie I saw was Nanny Diaries, which was showing on our flight to London to bring Abe home.

I'm not saying anything new here. There are just a lot of realities I've heard my whole life that have suddenly become visceral and real. Not having time for much of anything is one reality. Another reality is that we tell our friends "funny" stories about poop. Yesterday over Sunday lunch with friends, Ted was even doing an impression of the faces Abe makes when he poops. Deep thoughts there.

Probably the biggest reality I've heard but not grasped fully until becoming a mom is how the world truly does start to feel different when you have this little person in your care who is going to be here after we're gone. The one article I had time to read last week in the NYTimes Magazine was about global warming, and it freaked me out like never before. Oh boy. What world are we passing on? Again, a cliche. But again, it's true.

Finally, there's the sweeping love that seems to engulf me when I look at Abe, a love I'd never understood before. Yesterday while feeding Abe, we were listening to a playlist I'd made for a friend with songs about motherhood, etc. Abe likes to clap when I sing, so I kept trying to get out those Dixie Chicks lines about, "How long do you wanna be loved? Is forever enough? Is forever enough?" and my face just started contorting into ugly-faced crying mode as I looked at this face in front of me, a face bewildered by my crying, a face belonging to a boy who just wants to clap so can't you stop crying, Mom? Geez.
We sent one of these photo books for Abe back when we were waiting for court, and I put in a photo seen here of Ted's big brother and sister (there are nine Rooney siblings in all, and they don't make plastic baby albums that big). I realized this weekend how great it is that Abe has now met his Uncle Steve and Aunt Alice. Both Steve and Alice are nurturers, as can be seen in these pictures:

And finally, for those two of you who are just dying to know the translation to "Jozin z Bazin," here you are. My friend Joko helped out with these because somehow I never managed to use words like bog and strangle.

1. I drive a Skoda 100 to camp here on Orava
So I hurry, take a risk and go through Morava
The monster lives there, comes out of the bog
Eats mostly Prague citizens, its name is Jozin (Joseph)
Chorus: Jozin from the bog creeps through swamp
Jozin from the bog gets closer to the village
Jozin from the bog sharpens its teeth
Jozin from the bog bites, strangles
To defeat Jozin from the bog, who could imagine,
only works a plane
with manure (white powder)

2. I was driving through the village on the road to Vizovice
The village mayor greeted me and said to me while
drinking Slivovica (plum
'The one who will bring Jozin dead or alive
gets my daughter and half of the National Agrarian Farm

Chorus: Jozin z bazin...

3. I said: 'give me a plane and powder, mayor,
I'll bring you Jozin, I see no trouble with that',
The Mayor helped me. In the morning I went up in the sky
The powder from the plane fell prettily on Jozin
Jozin from swamp is totally white now
Jozin from swamp is running away from the mud
Jozin from swamp ended up on the rock
Jozin from swamp will meet his end here"

I got Jozin from swamp, now I hold him in my hand
A bit of money is always nice, so I will sell him to a ZOO

And there you have it! Pretty cool story. Just because I
think Martin and Honza are cute singing this, here's their
version of "Jozin z Bazin." Then I promise: no more of
this song. Ted is already thanking me for cursing him with
it. He can't stop singing it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sunshine, New Friends, Cyber-dad

Oh, thank you Jesus, for bringing the sun back out today. As soon as Abe got up (again, past 10), we went outside so he could try to remember a bit of what his life was like before he moved to soggy Portland. Here Abe is showing you his puffy-faced bed-head and his new pajamas he got yesterday from his friend Rhett. We love hand-me-downs, especially from a mom who also likes to dress her child in shrunken grown-up clothes (excluding pj's--though I think if they made adult-sized pajamas like these ones Abe is wearing, I'd most likely wear them).Here is Rhett playing with Abe yesterday.

Autumn and Dan have the coolest lamp I've ever seen. How perfect is this for the Northwest?

I think this must be true of most babies, but Abe will always, 100% of the time, play with a non-toy over a toy. Here he is, surrounded by educational toys, ignoring them all so he can keep busy with my old tube of mascara and a cardboard shoe insert.

Ted had been out of town for the last... many days, so we have a nightly ritual of skyping from about 8pm until Abe goes to bed. I've been amazed at how quickly Abe started recognizing Cyber-Dad on the screen--he starts kicking and clapping as soon as he hears Ted calling us through the computer. The two of them even play games and "talk" as well.

So now, as promised through the magic of youtube, is a clip of Ted singing to Abe via skype and Abe demonstrating his newfound clapping skills (and catching himself before falling on his face skills too). Enjoy and hope you all have a weekend filled with deliciousness.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In Honor of Rusty and Autumn

I offer what I hope will be the next viral video:

Thanks for introducing this to me, Autumn. I love, love, love it. I'm working on a translation. See, every parent needs time to pursue their own interests outside of the care and nurturing of a young child; in my case, it just seems to be translating obscure, Communist-era Czechoslovak videos found on youtube. Thanks to everyone for the lively discussion Wednesday.
Addendum: Another interest of mine is how people make up their own versions of the poem "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams. Here is the original (which I've heard was an actual note he left for his wife):

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

forgive me
they were
so sweet
and so cold

Here is one of the spoofs (you can read the others here):

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

Like Jana's haikus, anyone want to add your own?

Why We May Reject Your Invitation for a Playdate...

...yet still ask you just to come hang out with us instead:

Yesterday morning (late morning--Abe is still sleeping until 10 every day), we went down the street to our local coffee-joint mainly to let Abe watch people and hopefully play with some other kids. He gets squirrelly at home alone with me.
There was only one other kid his age there and she was kind of shy, so while Abe was on the floor pushing aside every toy I tried to give him in order to get his hands on the dirty underside of the coffee-table, I was listening to the conversation of two women sitting near us. Yes, I was eaves-dropping. I am a horrible person.

But let me share with you what these two women talked about nonstop, for more than an hour: their babies. I kept hoping to hear something interesting, but it was all things like, "Oh, she eats more bananas than peaches" or "She's a good baby--not fussy at all," or "She likes two naps a day."

Zzzz, snort...still awake? Again, I'm a horrible person. I know this, okay? (Please don't leave hateful comments telling me this. It's a fact I'm well aware of). It's not that I don't like talking about Abe or that I'm bored by mother-hood. I'm not. I love being a mom, and I think Abe is a pretty interesting fella. But I also know that baby-talk gets boring after a while. If I get bored talking about Abe for more than a half hour or so, then you must certainly be bored listening, right? I was telling my friend Rusty the other day on the phone about this, and he agreed: it's just not that interesting when people say stuff like, "My baby started clapping this week. Let me tell to you how cute it is." As he explained, babies are wonderful, but a lot of that wonder falls in the realm of, "Guess you had to be there." It is cute to watch a baby clap for the first time (believe me, I know: Abe started that this week when I sing "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Da" to him), but I certainly don't want to subject anyone to a descriptive narrative of how adorable this is. You can see for yourself when you're at our house or through the magic of youtube.

Anyway, all this has me thinking about parenthood and how different I think it is now than for my mom when she was raising me and my sister. I guess growing up I don't remember the world circling around me and my sister the way it seems to for kids these days. My parents always had their own interests, jobs, and hobbies, and this is what I remember them talking about. When I asked my mom today what the experience was like for her when my sister and I were babies, she said, "I just went to work and all our hippie friends at USM sat around watching your sister. She was kind of a novelty since we were so young." She has no memory of discussing the ins-and-outs of babyhood with her friends. She's sure she must have talked about it some, but they moved on pretty quickly to stuff about nursing school or their jobs or something.

My sister and I seemed to go along for the ride with whatever my parents were into, from stuff like camping and cooking out on Saturday nights while listening to Folk Alley and Highway 61 (what I liked to call "junkyard music" as a kid), to going with my mom to her job at an outpatient surgical clinic where after-hours my sister and I would push each other so wildly in the recovery-room wheelchairs that we'd crash into the walls (and my mom somehow kept getting promoted at this job in spite of her hooligan children).

I was reading in the Sunday newspaper a book review about how over-scheduled kids today are. (Gotta track down that review...) There was one grade-school age kid who needed a blackberry to keep up with his schedule. This is crazy to me. Absolutely insane. What compels parents to fill the days and weeks of their children so full with extra-curricular activities? I'm interested in reading this book as a way of having it explained to me.

When I was a kid, the only scheduled activity besides school I can remember were our weekly piano lessons on Friday afternoons that my grandmother took us to and a year or two of Girl Scouts. I never really took to either of these activities, preferring to get home so I could chow down on some Little Debbie snack treats and pink-packaged Tab before playing "devil in the ditch" with Katie and Timmy, my two best friends on our street. Looking back, my sister and I were pretty unsupervised too during our play time. I can remember a period where we'd climb onto the roof of our house and make pine-straw forts facing the street so we could call Timmy over to play, then bomb him with pine-cones when he got to the house. There was a pretty long concrete ditch that ran through our neighborhood, and we'd all go play in that for hours. I guess I fit the stereotype: a fat kid in Mississippi playing in a ditch. But we loved it. My mom would get us to come home by standing on the front porch, hands on hips, and calling our names at the top of her voice until we came running. We could hear her from pretty far away.

With all of this fun and play-time, not once did we have an official "play-date." Even if one's child is not one of the crazy, over-scheduled ones, this term has still managed to creep its way into our modern-day American lexicon, and I prefer not to let it into mine. I don't want the term "date" used anywhere in Abe's life until he's developed a crush and is pestering us to let him go out with the sweet thing he has his eye on.

It seems that a lot of people these days are viewing their parenthood not just as their profession (which honestly, it becomes that which is a good thing, at least for a while), but also their sole hobby and interest. Is this healthy? Won't kids grow up pretty self-centered when they see that the only thing their parents have any passion about is their presence in their parents' lives?
My mom currently works in a pediatric clinic and told me that she sees this kind of mentality all the time, much more so than even ten years ago. She admitted that she also cringes at hearing "play-date" but is horrified by the wacky stuff parents have their kids doing, like one woman she works with who bought her 3-year-old competitive tumbler/cheerleader a thong for Christmas. A thong, people. Seriously?

Though I made fun of it by calling it "junkyard music," I loved my dad's passion for folk and blues and am mourning having to miss Merlefest this year. I love it now as an adult and watch Austin City Limits all on my own. And though it's a miracle that my mom never got canned for letting my sister and me play with the wheelchairs and hospital beds in the recovery-room at her job, my mom's love for nursing got passed on to my sister, who is now a nurse as well. And though she probably shouldn't have let me read Robin Cook and Stephen King novels when I was in the fifth grade, my mom's passion for reading got passed on to me, and our shelves are just as stocked as the ones I grew up with. And I know my childhood wasn't perfect: I probably shouldn't have been drinking all the saccharin-infused Tab and my dad really should have taken the ladder down a lot sooner when they found out we were playing on the roof(!). But Lordy if I'm not thankful that my parents didn't push me to earn more badges or sell more cookies in Girl Scouts. They just let me be. Somehow I think I managed to grow up to be a relatively decent human being, in spite of my lack of after-school lessons and preschool play-dates.

So what will Abe be passionate about? We'll certainly let him choose his way, but I also really hope that Abe will see what things Ted and I are passionate about and that some of these things just might hook him too, whether it's something important like theater, travel, and teaching or something as ridiculous as getting as good as his dad at making weird faces (and hey, who says there couldn't be a profession in that?). So as much as we love Abe, we don't want our entire world to center around our child(ren). It's a definite temptation when he gets more demanding by the day, but I think we can start by making sure he gets heavy doses of Allison Kraus and especially by limiting the term "play-dates" from his vocabulary.

And I promise to get him down from the roof the second I find out he's up there.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Addis Ababa, part I

It's very difficult to summarize a journey as life-changing as the one you take to travel half-way across the world to make a child waiting there part of your family. I haven't posted more about our trip because of this very difficulty...well, that and the aforementioned child who now occupies the vast majority of my time.

I figured the best way to go about finally blogging about our trip would be to go through our collection of photos (860 in all) and show some of our highlights. I apologize in advance for this scatter-shot method of chronicling our trip. When I get my book deal, things might be more thorough. And by the time that happens, Abe and any other children will be grown and out of the house, and I'll have plenty of time).

Obviously, that first photo is from the moment we first met Abe. Well, I should say, a few moments afterwards. We have a shot of the very first moment, but I can't manage to post it here. Come to my house and I'll show you. We were very much the blubbering messes.

In the days following our first meeting, we did a lot of what you see Abe and Ted doing in this photo: just staring at each other. We also liked to bump noses a lot. Abe thought this was funny, and still does.

I had to include a photo of the amazing food. This meal was one of my favorites. We found this restaurant by asking our driver one day to take us for traditional food at a place he likes. This is what we got. I highly recommend doing the same. The lentils and beets were especially delish.

I realize this one is very out of place, but I couldn't write about our trip without including a shot of our room at Yotel during our 16 hour layover in London. We decided against leaving the airport considering how god-awful expensive London is, and we couldn't have been happier to discover that we could check in at 5pm to a room at Yotel, the Japanese-style hotel that you can actually rent for four hours at a time or after 5pm for the whole night. I had hardly slept on the way over, so by the time we checked in, I was pretty ready to sleep. And sleep I did, until midnight when the alarms started going off...for a total of six times.

Because Yotel is located within the basement of terminal 4 of Heathrow, there are no windows anywhere to alert you to anything weird or awful going on outside, so all the rooms are equipped with red flashing lights and a calm voice telling you to "evacuate immediately." After the third time, Ted decided that the best tactic would be to go out into the hallway and yell "Make it stop!!" over the alarms since everyone was up anyway.

I somehow managed to go right back to sleep, though I did get to hear the nice Polish manager apologizing to everyone for "the malfunctioning alarm and for the yelling." Yotel feels very stark, white, and futuristic, so we felt ready for the calm voice to start telling us that "the infected" are coming and to abandon all hope of survival (28 Days Later reference).

Despite the malfunctioning alarms and yelling, I heartily recommend Yotel. The beds were beyond comfy; the rooms were warm; there were flat-screen TVs and movies to watch (though we didn't); and you get to take a shower. I felt fully clean and rested for our next day's all-day flight to Addis.

More food pictures. When food is as interesting as Ethiopian food, it's hard to resist taking lots of pictures. We were there during the time of fasting, so most Ethiopians were not eating any meat products. Here are the remains of Belay's fish from their fasting meal.

Here is a video of the dancing at the traditional restaurant, and another one can be found

When I first read in There is No Me Without You that popcorn is a prominent part of the coffee ceremony, I thought it a bit odd. I still don't eat popcorn with my coffee here in the U.S., but it somehow really works with the strong, sweet, black coffee you're served in Ethiopia. I can eat popcorn every stinkin' day, so I had a hard time not hogging the whole bowl here.

The experience of visiting the Kolfe home for boys is...difficult to put into words. Many other bloggers have done a much better job than I could ever do. These boys are precious beyond words. One of the boys had taken in this puppy, and I don't think I've ever seen a dog more attached to its owner than this puppy.

This young man stuck to us the whole time we were there, and we so enjoyed talking with him. He was so gentle and sweet to Abe, as were all the boys.

These are all faces we encountered on the day we visited the government-run orphanages. By far, this was the most exhausting day of the trip, yet also one of the best. We were so captured by these children. They were so engaging and open, so absolutely wonderful. We couldn't help wondering about the future...

I can't resist ending with this shot that we caught in traffic. Apparently, he's popular over there. This wasn't the only bumper sticker like this we saw.

We took a lot of photos of the city as well, so keep checking in for part II.

Friday, April 18, 2008


When Ted and I decided we were ready to become parents, we started watching various kids we'd encounter to see which ones we liked best (I realize how horrible this sounds). Our favorite ones were usually not of the simply cute variety. We really dug the quirky ones, the kind of weird ones, the ones who said things that didn't make a lot of sense and who made strange faces and who had offbeat mannerisms. We'd sometimes look at each other and nod, one of us saying, "Exactly, one like that one."

In the last month of knowing Abe, we have quickly seen that the cute part is pretty much taken care of:
We've been discovering that he's pretty expressive. This is the face he makes when he realizes that I've started singing to him. He doesn't even care what the song is, which is good since I've been singing "The Lumberjack Song" a lot lately:

This is the face he makes when he sees that you're coming at him with a washcloth. I've been calling this his Zoolander face:

This last week, we couldn't be happier to discover that the quirky faces are making their way out in full force:
The above two are the ones he does most often. It's easy to get pictures of these because he makes this face all the time, especially in the grocery store. I can't ignore it. He looks at me, makes this face, and smiles eagerly as if to say, "C'mon! Do it, Momma! Do it!" So I do it back, which makes him do it again too. I can't help it. Eh, who cares what the other shoppers think? So yes, this how you would most likely find me these days while picking out raisin bran:
He's also really good at showing his excitement about certain things:

And he's pretty good at being subtle when he's after something:
(he and this other little boy actually ended up in a mild little tussle over this toy)

And best of all, some faces come out of nowhere. We really have no idea what they mean. I think we hit the quirky jackpot with Abe. These faces are God's special gift to us. We're expecting great things from him:

And finally, because everyone loves a video, here's Abe pretending to be sleepy:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Because I can...

Maybe it's because we clung so tightly to new photos from Gladney before we met in person and I can't get used to having as many photos as we want now, or maybe it's because he's pretty photogenic or maybe it's because I got my charger back in the mail today and I'm overdosing on camera-time, but I took about a thousand photos of our boy today and this one is my favorite:
This smile just gets me. I'm such a goner.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Father Goose and toot-toot Neighbors

Caption Contest Winner:
"Abe channels Hedwig."--Carrie Hoffman Spell

Congratulations, Carrie, for making us officially LOL. Expect your prize in a few days. Thanks to all who participated. These contests are truly fun for us.

On to other things. Abe met one of his uncles plus some cousins in Germany one day last week, courtesy of Skype. We love skype.

I know I've said it a thousand times already, but one of the biggest surprises in the adoption process has been the blogging community we've found. My favorite thing is when we get to meet in person, which happened for us this morning. We got to meet Decemberists-loving Autumn and Rhett at our favorite coffee-place in town.

As I was walking out the door to go, our neighbor and his boy were right outside our house on their way to the same coffeeshop. So we walked down together where we ended meeting another neighbor and her daughter. I think I had another glimpse of heaven there. It had started raining outside (imagine that), and we were all snug and cozy inside this shop, sitting on the leather couches, playing with each other's kids, and I had the thought that this is what it's about. I feel extremely blessed to live where I do with such amazing neighbors and a few blocks from a warm oasis from the rain and cold (yes, it's cold here again). On the way out, we noticed that someone had thrown away a laptop computer in the trash. And I so love the fact that my next-door-neighbor, the one who says 'goodbye' by saying "toot toot," dug it out, through the dog poop and spilled vanilla yogurt to salvage it. We Portlanders are salvaging folk.

I'm still waiting for my camera battery and charger to make it up here from L.A. where I forgot it (thanks for mailing it Susan!). It's been difficult not being able to take pictures. I feel like I'm a crippled blogger without my camera. In the meantime, here's a video taken last week of Abe figuring out how to jump. He really goes for it these days, especially with good music, like what was playing here, It's a Bam Bam Diddly by Father Goose. Father Goose comes up with lyrics like this:

By and by oh when the morning comes
When all the saints of God are gathered home
We'll tell the story of how we've overcome
For we'll understand it better by and by.
We are tossed and driven
On the restless sea of time
Somber skies and howling tempests
Oft succeeds a bright sunshine.
In the land of perfect day
When the mists have blown away
We will understand it better by and by
By and by oh when the morning comes...

Kind of heavy for a children's CD? Well, you also get stuff like this:
I want someone to give me a pony
With a jig jog, jig jog, jiga jog gee
Not too fat and not to bony
With a jig jog, jig jog, jiga jog gee.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sitting in the Middle of This Ecstacy

I had another dream about lions at the door
They weren't half as
frightening as they were before

Last summer, Ted got a glimpse of what he thinks heaven's going to be like. When all of his side of the family was in Portland for a wedding, we all gathered for dinner one late afternoon at McMenamins Edgefield. A few of us got there early for a wine-tasting, but by at least an hour before sundown, everyone was together ordering food and pitchers of beer on one of the sloping lawns where picnic tables were set up. The cooking was going in an outdoor kitchen while kids were running around playing. The temperature was perfect and everyone was swapping stories of recent hiking adventures and family updates and jokes and laughter. I looked over at Ted and he was teary. He said this is what heaven is going to look like.

I felt that way today for a moment. Today was the warmest day of the year so far with completely blue skies (in a Portland spring, we relish these days), so all the doors in the house were wide open. I was in the kitchen cooking up batches of home-made babyfood with my favorite kitchen utensil, my hand-held mixer. I love this thing. I have a mild-obsession with soup (okay, more than mild: we have a dream of opening a soup restaurant one day), and this mixer is perfect for making creamy soups.

While I was pureeing peas, spinach, green beans and carrots for the boy, Abe was in his bouncy jumper thing, wearing one of those one-piece summer outfits with a giraffe on it and no shoes. The sound of his feet hitting the floor with each jump felt like the sweetest sound I've ever heard. I could look out the french doors to the backyard to see Ted digging in the dirt and the cats rolling in ecstasy in the fresh holes.
The mix CD our friend Carolee made for the L.A. shower was playing, and when I heard these lyrics about being up in the firs where it smells so sweet and being together in eternity, my throat tightened and tears started to spill in the peas.

Have faith, have faith, have faith. Sometimes the heavenly ecstasy grabs a hold of us here in this life, and I think these moments happen more than we realize. It's all around us. He really is.

One of these days we're gonna sail away, sail into eternity...
--Bruce Cockburn

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Gladney Caregivers

One of the best things about our trip was being able to meet the women who took care of and loved Abe until we could bring him home. I consider these women some of his first mothers, and I am so thankful for this special part of his history. I look forward to showing him these pictures when he gets older, to show him how loved he's been throughout his life. I hope that this post and these pictures help to reassure any waiting parents of the love your children are getting while they wait to meet you.
This lady came during her off-hours to give Abe a gift. She was very emotional saying goodbye to him and spent a good deal of time with him while we were there.

Sem came to babysit the night we went out to the traditional restaurant.

I want to say thank you again to all of you who sent cosmetics our way to give to the caregivers. We were able to make up more than 20 bags that were packed full of amazing lotions, perfumes, etc for these women. We were not able to give them out personally, as they all work different shifts and handing them out this way would have been too complicated. It was suggested to us that we leave the bags in the house for them to pick up during their shifts, which we did.
I'm never sure how much it's in poor taste to brag about one's child. I'm not sure I can help it right now though. The boy is gorgeous. I've known it for a long time from his pictures, but then love kicks in blurring one's judgment. Then he meets our friends and family, and they all say he's gorgeous too, so after a while, you start to wonder, "Is he really as cute as we think he is?"

My answer to this question comes each time I take Abe out in public somewhere. Every single time, people approach us to ooh and ah over him. Yesterday, someone told him that he is, "Ridiculously cute. Really--it's ridiculous." Today in our favorite grocery store, he was called "delicious" and a few minutes later, a woman came up and started speaking to him in Italian. I understood at least the "bellissima" part, so I think I got the point.

Besides the cute-factor, the personality has really been kicking in these last couple of weeks. He still sleeps 12 hours every night and spends the days happy, catnapping here and there. We call 7-9 pm the "happy hour" because no matter how tired he may have been earlier, something kicks in and he becomes this ball of energetic joy. We've got to get this recorded. In the meantime, here's a video taken at the Ayat House demonstrating the joy Abe feels when he wakes up from a nap (he's sitting up much better now).

Monday, April 7, 2008

A boy and his cats

Our friends keep asking us how the cats are coping, and we just say "Each in his own way." Bang Bang is already a fan of the new kid in town:
Yes, that's one of my fuzzy socks that Abe cuddles with for sleep. We left his favorite snuggly blanket in California, and at least the sock is clean.

Buddy (the black and white one) only comes in the house after Abe has gone to sleep. Last night, we found these two snuggling, a very rare occurrence:

Our first night home in Portland, we caught Chitty in a compromised position with Abe's fish:
(Love the blanket, Samantha!)

I've had lots of thoughts going around since getting home, and there's still more to share about our trip, but boy, having a little boy around all the time is a bit tiring, both physically and mentally.

For now, I'll leave you with my favorite picture taken so far in Portland. I guess it makes sense that Abe meets a little girl in a pink dress and a feather boa all at the same time:
Caption Contest, anyone? There will surely be a prize involved!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Travel Tips, Rooney-style

While the boy is asleep, I thought I'd include some the things we found useful while we were in Ethiopia. They appear in no particular order.

1. It comes in really handy if your seat on the plane to Addis is near the front. It will put you right in the front of the line for getting your visa (assuming you didn't get one beforehand). The visa office is directly to your left as soon as you come down the stairs/escalators for baggage claim. Another mom had told me where to look, so we found it right away and ended up close to the front of the line. It took a while even being at the front, so I recommend high-tailing it to this office.

2. Get a good night's sleep your first night and eat a good breakfast your first morning. We were thankful to be well-rested and full bellied for our first meeting with Abe.

3. Kaldi's Coffee: It's called the Ethiopian Starbucks. While it's obviously modeled after Starbucks on the surface, there are some distinct differences. Their ice cream is wonderful, and you can even get it to go. Their breakfasts are yummy: I had the "mixed juice" everytime we went. It's almost a meal in itself. It's all hand-squeezed/pureed from fresh in-season fruits. In fact, most restaurants offer fresh juices. Order them wherever you go. They are amazing. Oh, and Kaldi's also has really good cream-puffs. (by the way, the name Kaldi's comes from the folk story of "Kaldi and the Dancing Goats" about the boy who discovered coffee while out herding in the pastures of Ethiopia--really cool story).

4. Alternate internet places: My favorite was the Limetree cafe, upstairs from the Boston Day Spa. The Limetree has free wifi, though it's turned off certain times of the day, mainly during lunchtime. I had success there accessing my yahoo account, though Ted had trouble loading websites for our banking, flights, etc. For email, it works great and is decently fast.
I forget the name of this other place, but we had success there too. It's around the corner from Bookworld bookstore (a big English-language bookstore) and has a cafe next door where they'll bring you coffee and treats into the internet cafe. Belay's wife uses this place pretty often, which is how we heard about it. It's not free, but it's extremely cheap, so no worries there. There are computers there you can use, or you can bring your own laptop.
Swiss Cafe--We loved the atmosphere of this place, and we heard that when their internet works, it's the fastest place in town. However, the whole time we were there, it was always down. But go try it out. It's free too. Their coffee and treats are really good, and their servers are the nicest ever. They'll take your baby for you while you eat and work! Awesome!All of these pictures were taken at the Swiss Cafe. Not seeing much of our child was a regular occurrence here. Oh, and if you can, sit near the flat-screen TV that shows videos of various big animals stalking and eating smaller animals. All that gore really made us work up an appetite for meat!

5. Though it may feel like it's going against all the safety precautions you've grown up with in the U.S., let people you meet hold your baby. Ethiopians treasure children, and you can truly trust people who come up to you wanting to ooh and ahh over your child. Don't let it freak you out when they clap their hands in front of your child and say, "Come." Just hand them over. We did every single time, and I came to really value this aspect of Ethiopian culture. People were curious about the adoption and about us and Abe, and they were all so kind about it. Most of them would say, "God bless you" as they handed Abe back to us. Oh, and in restaurants, the servers will often want to take your baby from you while you eat. At first, I wanted to at least be able to see Abe, but there was one place (a traditional Ethiopian place Tefese took us to one day for lunch) where the servers took Abe, and I didn't see him again until we had to leave. When I did, I found him here, holding court with these women:
6. The Gladney drivers: These amazing men will be your greatest resource in-country. They are so much more than drivers: they are tour-guides, security and babysitters too! Tefese speaks excellent English and is hilarious. He has family who live in California, so he's very familiar with American culture. He's full of jokes and anecdotes and is happy to show you "insider" places in Addis if you ask him. Yasu was our other driver, and while his English isn't as good, he's quick to call Travis or Tefese if you or he have a question. Everyone calls him the "gentle giant." Here's why:We really loved our drivers. They're punctual, kind, helpful, funny, and love babies.
Tefese even chided us one day for complaining about Abe's throwing up on us. He furrowed his eyebrows when we were complaining and scoldingly told us, "In Ethiopia, we consider children a blessing, so if they spit up on you, that's a blessing too. You should really see it that way."
Here is Tefese with Abe at dinner one evening.

7. Places to eat: As I wrote about before, if you stay at Ayat House, Hill Bottom is convenient and good. My favorite place was probably Limetree because it all was so fresh and healthy. I loved their "unlimited limejuice" and chocolate cake. Seriously: you've gotta try the chocolate cake, amazing stuff. Limetree is also really family-friendly and they have a Sunday brunch there that seems yummy (we never ate there then but saw the offerings). Next door to Limetree is a cool bookstore with an interesting selection of books, including a lot about Ethiopian culture. I bought several of the ones for children, including Kaldi and the Dancing Goats. You can also find there Donald Trump's Why We Want You to be Rich! Weird.
Ask your drivers for places they recommend. You'll hit the jackpot a few times if you do.
Castelli's Italian restaurant was the best tasting meal we had (the Pitt-Jolie's ate there, as well as a couple of presidents), but the only one that made both of us ill, interestingly. Just be forewarned. Hopefully, they've gotten that worked out.

8. As for getting "sick": kind of count on it. It was never debilitating for either of us, just was mildly annoying when we had to make a run for a bathroom, once for Ted at the the top of Entoto Mountain which he says "was a hole in the ground with my name on it." I know some people have not gotten sick at all while others have been down in bed for several hours. We fell somewhere in the middle: fair amount of rumbling in the guts but never enough to knock us out. Just be prepared.

9. The Abyssinian Lions: Don't go around lunchtime. They'll let you in to the zoo but don't tell you until you're in that you have to wait until after lunch to get up close and personal with the lions. That was a real drag, as we had to wait for an hour and a half for the ten minute walk through. When we were there, there were some lion cubs you could see as well: super cute and sweet.

10. Things I wish I had brought: balm for chapped cheeks. Everyone thought Abe had freckles for a while because his cheeks were so chapped and the baby oil/lotion wasn't cutting it. Boudreaux's Baby Kisses worked wonders once we got home.
Cooler clothes: I think I was so worried about Abe being cold that I didn't bring enough clothes to keep him cool. Short-sleeved, one-pieced outfits are your friends.

11. Over-acting scares babies.

Actually, my favorite thing about this video is the reaction of Tefese and Yasu, two of the drivers, to the fake laughter. I love watching them crack up in the background.