Sunday, May 29, 2011

We are hers.

After a harrowing few days in Ethiopia, this little girl became "Rooney" on Thursday, May 26, 2011.

(more details about the trip later...)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Next thing: Julie!

Part of getting me through the "next thing" of leaving Abe was looking forward to having tea with this lady and her little boy. Here I am, up since 5am and no make-up but so happy to be writing this from Julie's dining table.

This morning at the airport was a-okay. Abe wanted to come with, so we let him and he gave me as many kisses as I wanted. I only cried a little.

Next step, meet up with Susan at the airport and 15 hours to Dubai.

Monday, May 16, 2011

This is It

The notes on my hand this afternoon at one last quick trip to work. Passport: seems obvious but easily forgotten. Bus tickets: for our clients so they can get to the program while I'm gone. Pepto: no comment necessary.

Today I have gotten so many kind texts, emails, hugs from neighbors, phone calls, and even drive-by "good luck!"s from friends.

One friend, in an email, wrote this about her grandfather, "I was reminded through my Grandpa's passing of a saying: "Be easy." Gramps was never one to stress about difficult things. And this man had every right to be bitter and mad at the cards life dealt him. I think all of us are on a journey of healing in one way or another. Our childrens' need for healing may be more evident than our own, but we are not immune to it either. My grandpa took those scars and made them into something beautiful. When life handed him defeat, he stood by and said 'be easy'."

And then another from someone else, the one that made me cry:

You can do this- you're made to do this, you're the mama.

This mama is leaving one to go bring the other one step closer to this home. I can do this. I'm armed with pepto and xanax. Wish me luck.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Next Thing

This is what "doing the next thing" looks like. I'm almost finished packing. Listening to Pandora's Fleet Foxes station and making a double batch of peanut butter cookies so my boys don't forget me while I'm gone.

Friday, May 13, 2011

No One Told Me

It didn't start to sink in until we bought the tickets on Tuesday: I am leaving early Tuesday morning and won't see my boy for 11 days. I had no idea the ensuing panic and worry and longing that would happen as we nailed down the details about this upcoming trip.

Of course I'm glad that the next step is happening in getting our little girl here. But Abe is so little, and what was I thinking leaving him like this? Two summers ago, I went to visit a friend for three nights, and I cried off and on the whole flight to Colorado. This is going to be on the other side of the globe.

I keep sending texts to my sister, reminding her of little things about Abe that she needs to know. Things like: wear nice smelling lotion at all times because he really likes good smells. Other things about who his favorite friends are. And things like how generally wonderful and magical he is and to please cuddle him a lot and often and tell him how much I miss him every moment I am gone.

I was exhausted yesterday after a long busy day, yet as I started to drift to sleep, the thought of Tuesday morning made my heart race. Really race. And I know there's some stigma attached to it, but I'm going to say it anyway to make others not feel guilty: I took something to calm me down so I could go to sleep.

Someone I see as a sort of mom-mentor reached out to me in my panic. Here are a few of the things she wrote, all of which made me cry, including today while sitting at my desk at work.

I would do anything to help ease those panic attacks...if I could. I totally, totally, get it. the hardest part of traveling twice to ET to get my kids was the leaving my little boys home. I mean, I broke down more than once, before and during and had a total panic attack the night before, tucking them in.

However, adn please remember this: they were fine. They got through it better than it did. And they understood and understand that I would travel across the world for my kid (one of them was the kid, the first time)...nothing would keep me from my kid if they needed help getting home.
Abe will get that. He will. His heart already knows it.

You'll be ok mama. And I'll be praying for you and for Abe too, the whole way (fwiw).

Then today, this email, the one that made me break down at my desk at work:

...They still seem so vulnerable. And your mama heart and mama bear self frets to leave them. But really, think of it, think of the hands you are leaving him in: your sis. She is family too. This will make Abe stronger and bring him, well, eventually, the greatest gift you will ever give him other than your own bottomless love: his sister. That is worth it. Worth even your xanax. Thank God for xanax. No kidding!!! Hooray for meds. Use it. No kidding.
I wish I could take away the dread of this trip. I so know it's icy grip. But it is only the hounds of hell howling in your ears.....shut them up, kick them out. You ARE strong enough to do this and you will, bc Abe is strong enough to do this, and little B needs you more, now. And therein is your first REAL step into being a mom of more than a singleton. And therein lies the triage you will do, reflexively, the rest of your life. And you can and will and must. And it's good. It teaches Abe that he is stronger than he knows too, it grows his heart. And I promise, sweet dear Lori, that you ARE strong enough to get thru t his, maybe w/ xanax and your dearest girlfriend along for the ride, ugly crying the whole way...its' all ok. These trips are EVER ever so different when you have smalls at home. They are brutal but even in that brutality and sheer ripping of your fibers at the go.....there is such beauty and you find a deeper place in yourself lori. And it's there, we all see it even when you don't. It's reflected in Abe's eyes and sureness as he leans into you.

When it gets too hard. Oh...this weekend and Monday, just do the next thing. Go on autopilot if you have to. Do the next thing. Fold the shirt, flip the laundry, fill the tank with gas. Do the next thing. And the next thing you know, you'll be in addis and then, even then, your heart will be in your throat and you'll shake and then you' the next thing. Do it. You so can. I know it.

It helped so much to know that others have felt the same way as I am feeling as I get ready for this trip. But no one told me it would be this hard. I'm telling you now: if you have a little one at home, the anticipation leading up to going to meet your next child is one of the worst feelings you will ever feel. You want to meet your next child, but you feel this angst about leaving the little, and then you feel guilt about feeling the angst because of course the new child is just as important as your current child.

It's the triage she referred to. I wasn't prepared. Not one bit.

At work today, one of my Eritrean clients came just to give me a gift to give to his daughter in Addis. This client is usually all smiles, all joy and peace. But when he handed me the small purple cloth bag and the phone number of his daughter, he looked down and covered his eyes. When he looked back up, they were red and full of tears. Parents should not live so far from their children, not even when they're almost 80.

If nothing else, these 11 days are going to give me a small taste of what these seniors feel every day. At least for me, I know my return date. For them, this is a possibly permanent separation, no hope of reunion until heaven.

I don't know how they bear it. I guess their days are filled of "doing the next thing."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New Job Foreman

Another nonprofit has teamed up with the nonprofit I work for to build some raised garden beds for our seniors to grow some veggies in. One of the kids building the beds took the mysterious plastic baby doll that had been lying in the parking lot for the last few weeks and turned it into our friendly garden mascot. It makes me giggle.

I really should be doing other things but this is a nice distraction from my every ten-minute freak-outs about the reality I am facing of leaving our son for 11 days next week. Heart palpitations, and not the good kind, the "please hand me a xanax" kind. I'm excited for this trip, of course, but if you have met the little boy Abe who lives with us, you know how magical and delicious he is, and the thought of not having him near me for that long is sending me into panic-mode.

Deep breaths.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

One of Us

Our phone rang this morning telling us that we can buy the tickets. MOWA submitted in court Monday a favorable letter. Considering the recent slowdown, this letter being added to our case is huge, and we are very thankful.

There was a buzz of energy in the house this morning after the phone rang. I confirmed our guest house reservations. We are still trying to nail down the right flight. My traveling buddy is in Los Angeles, so that makes things more complicated.

Abe went to school, and I went to work. I was finally able to tell the clients at my job the dates that I'll be in Addis Ababa, where many of them have relatives. An interpreter came to the community room at my workplace to make sure we weren't losing any vital phone numbers or dates. She explained to them why I was going, where I would be staying, how long I'd be gone.

I will be taking photos and letters and I'm not really sure what else to give to their relatives for them. One of our clients, with a huge smile and opened arms said that she had nothing to give her family so she just wished me safe travels and to come back to them soon.

Another client broke down in tears, saying he had nothing to give his son, the one who used to support him in Oregon but has since been deported. I pray I get to meet him anyway, just to look him in the eye and say how much we love having his father in our program. I want to tell him stories about his father in Oregon. I pray this happens.

Another client's wife is on her deathbed in a hospital in Addis. He asked me to visit her for him. I will try my best to do so.

I will be staying in the same neighborhood where the daughter of one Eritrean client lives and works. He is going to call her and arrange a meeting for us. He is the one who reminds me most of what Abe might look like when he's in his 70s. Of course, he's incredibly handsome.

Our other Eritrean client began speaking to the interpreter in Tigryna. He spoke for a a long time. He kept locking eyes with me. My friend and interpreter told me that he was explaining that he knows how much I love them, that they consider me a sister, that I am "one of them." He wished me safe travels and to come back soon.

I have had a lot of wonderful moments in this job, but this moment may be the one I treasure most.

I leave next week. I'll be carrying their hearts with mine as I go.
"Caring for our seniors is perhaps the greatest responsibility we have. Those who walked before us have given so much and made possible the life we all enjoy" - John Hoeven

Monday, May 9, 2011

Your Mother and Mine

We were supposed to have heard today if our first court date went well. We were supposed to have bought some plane tickets by tonight. You know how that goes. Don't count your "supposed to"s before they hatch.

All we know is that the in-country staff "couldn't be reached" today, so we couldn't find out if we got our favorable letter for our adoption or not. We're supposed to hear in the morning. Supposed to.

Today I've been thinking about attachment. Abe does this thing when he gets tired where he climbs up on my lap, sticks his thumb in his mouth and covers his face with my hand. He takes really deep breaths, like he's breathing me in. He's a scent-oriented guy. When I told him my sister was flying out to be with him while I'm in Ethiopia, his first question was, "Does she smell good?"

When Abe's face is covered by my hand, he's usually asleep within a minute or two. He did this on Mother's Day afternoon, and it was maybe my favorite part of a really good day. He didn't fall asleep because he heard his best friend outside and ran out to play. These moments are so sweet. They are what makes me pretty sure that our little boy is pretty attached to us.

A few months ago, the smart funny lady at one of my favorite blogs started a topic about attachment that many people responded to and wrote about. I never did for two reasons: 1. I found it hard to find the time and 2. I was afraid that I wouldn't have anything useful to say because we were one of those families whose attachment seemed to happen with a couple of days. Even the in-country staff noticed the difference in Abe's personality with a day. He'd lit back up. He seemed to know instantly who we were. He wanted us over anyone else. It's like we couldn't get enough of each other. We did a lot of breathing each other in.

I know that with this little 5-year-old girl it's most likely going to be different. Before Abe, I think I knew what it meant to mother a baby. I could anticipate all those physical things like bathing and changing diapers and the weight of a baby asleep on my chest and making silly faces to induce giggles. All these things happened within our first few hours with Abe. But what does it mean to mother a 5-year-old daughter? I really don't know.

Who is Bee? What does she like to do? What makes her laugh? What makes her cry and how does she best like to be comforted when she is sad and confused? Does she like to have her back rubbed or her hand held? Does she like piggy-back rides? Will she want me to paint her nails and tie her shoes? What books should I read to her and songs can I teach her? Will she want to brush and braid my hair (oh, I hope so!)? Will she be patient with me as she teaches me some phrases in Amharic? Will I know how to comfort her when she starts missing her friends in the care center? Will I be able to pick up on her cues that she's freaking out about all the monumental changes going on in her life?

When will we feel attached? I really don't know.

I want to see her face. I want to watch her play. On this first trip (on which I may be leaving next week), I don't get to tell her who I am. I can only meet her and watch her. I can't even begin to fathom what this is going to feel like. Will I erupt in tears when I find her in the crowd of children? Will I feel nothing? Is she going to wonder if I'm there for her? What will our interactions be like? If she sits next me, am I going to have to resist the urge to scoop her closer and breathe in the scent of the top of her sweet head, the one with those beautiful diagonal braids?

I can't even begin to imagine what this is going to be like.

One thing for sure is that I am so thankful that my friend is going with me. My friend with a heart the size of...Texas. My friend whose eyes tear up faster than anyone else I know. My friend who is stubborn and determined. My friend who is going to be the one to be there with me as I behold for the first time with my own eyes the beauty of a little girl we've been calling our Little Bee. A little girl we pray becomes our daughter.

I will be the mother of a daughter. Holy crap. I am filled with fear and longing at this thought. Mothers and daughters.

More than anything, what I feel is anticipation for the day when she is here and standing on the step stool in our kitchen, beside me baking. Or coming home from school telling me about her day. Or laying in her bed with the fairy sheets talking with her little brother. Or making friends with the amazing little girls her age we are lucky enough to have in our life. Or trying to braid her mama's slippery hair into braids like hers. Or rolling her eyes and then laughing as her dad as goes into one of his actor-y routines.

This beautiful little girl has lost her first mother. I will never replace this mother. My prayer though is that at least I am gentle enough to be like the mother Wendy sings about. I hope that one day, maybe many years from now, when Bee is away from home, she will feel homesick for me the way John is in this scene. Whenever I hear this song playing from the other room (which is about every other day considering that we live with Peter Pan), I tear up. Every time. I hope I will kiss her cheeks enough and be the angel voice bidding her good night, the helping hand guiding along, whether she's right or whether she's wrong.

Beautiful Little Bee, I will try to be worthy of my post.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day 2011

This Mother's Day.

I woke up at 7 but then slept another two hours.

Abe's gift to me was to promise not to whine all day. We got about an hour. It's a start.

Ted made breakfast. The bacon got burned, and I wouldn't let anyone eat the charred bits because I don't want any carcinogen-induced cancer in this family.

This is a post I could have written. I think about our other child today, as always. I loved this post. Please read it.

It's pouring down rain right now. It usually does this on Mother's Day in Portland.

I wake up every Mother's Day since being a mom thinking about my friends who long to be mothers and aren't yet. I want to buy them all a drink because this quiet suffering is a particularly cruel form of suffering that gets ignored by most people.

No one who might be reading this blog is the one who made the dumb comment I wrote about in this post. I promise. A couple of really nice people who asked about B's bumps thought I had written about them. It was all about context. This person who asked at the yard sale about her bumps had not sandwiched her question with any form of support for our family or of Bee. Her question seemed to come out of a place of fear. One of the many reasons I love Ted: he told me that he wishes he had heard her question so that he could have answered, "Oh those bumps? That's just the plague. But I hear it's not catching." I love my husband's potential for snark.

I am a protective mother, though I hope never an over-protective mother. Abe told me that a little girl in his school told him last week that she didn't like him and that he couldn't play with her. Sigh. It begins. Kids can be mean. So can their parents sometimes. I asked him how he felt about this, and he shrugged, saying that it made him sad. She's missing out, that's all I could say.

After breakfast, we lit three candles, one for each of the important mothers in our family who we can't talk to today.

We placed a candle under a photo of Dolores, Ted's beautiful mother who I never got to meet. In the photo, she is standing with one of the old ladies in the neighborhood she took care of. We told Abe that she is in heaven now and we'll have to wait until then to meet her in person. We remember her.

We placed a candle under a photo of a young mother in Ethiopia. Abe knows her name. He has conflicting feelings about her but he told me yesterday that he misses her and wants to see her someday. We love her. We remember her. Abe lit the candle himself and placed it under her photo.

For the other mother, we will most likely never have a photo. I lit her candle and placed it next to the other two. She birthed a little girl five years ago in Gondar, Ethiopia. She is another mother I will have to wait until heaven to meet. My life is forever bound with hers. I love her. We remember her.

Mother's Day. 2011. Blessings. Pouring rain. Nourishment and quiet. Charred bacon. Whining. Remembering the heartache of Mother's Days past. Candlelight. Mama-bear protectiveness.

The hope for redemption.

The grafting four families into one, bound together by God's grace.

Friday, May 6, 2011

First School Play

After his first school play, we decide to walk down the street to get a treat. Abe runs the whole way. It becomes a race between him and Ted, with Abe yelling over his shoulder, "I bet you can't catch me!" and occasionally stopping for a sword fight with Captain Hook, who can never seem to quite catch up to Peter Pan, no matter how hard he tries.

As we approach the shop, we see that the local fire fighters have come for treats as well. This is one of the things we love about where we live: this same group of fire fighters regularly stop in for coffee or treats down the street from our house, and they always stop what they're doing to give the kids stickers and even to let them on the truck. As they drive away, they always turn on the siren and lights.

The chase between Captain Hook and Peter Pan continues on the way home. There is a lot of running and sword fighting, and I find it hard to catch up. About a block before our house, Peter Pan finally slows down. He turns around and walks to me, arms out-stretched. I pick him up and his little green-clad body folds into mine, legs wrapped around waist, head on my left shoulder, thumb in mouth.

He asks if I can carry him the rest of the way.


"I love you, Peter Pan Mom. Can you be the Peter Pan Mom?"

"I'll be happy to, Peter Pan."

I will never grow a mustache,
Or a fraction of an inch.
'Cause growing up is awfuller
Than all the awful things that ever were.
I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up,

Pointing the heat-seeking device camera thingee at my hot bod. That thing is actually really cool.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lit From Within

So I reworked the design of this blog and then pretty much stopped blogging. I don't like when life is this busy. With end of school year events, big projects going on in my job, epic yard sales at our house, trying to get ready to travel to Ethiopia, last minute weekend road-trips and slightly warmer temperatures that draw us outside whenever possible, I seem to have lost that "blogging mojo."

A couple of things from the last couple of weeks:

If you ever get bored during a church service (especially a contemporary, "emergent" one), count the times the pastors say the word "just" during prayers.

If you are ever at our house and get to see photos of this little girl in Ethiopia who we are hoping becomes Abe's big sister, please only remark on how beautiful she is, how lovely her smile is, how gentle her demeanor seems to be, how her eyes sparkle and seem to radiate kindness. Don't look at her picture, lean in and squint your eyes and ask, "What are those bumps on her face?" If you say this, I will get all kinds of crazy "mama-bear" defensive and need to shove down the rage. And by the way, the person who asked this question is a mother herself. Ted thinks she was just curious and didn't have much a filter, that she didn't mean to be a jerk. Can you imagine, though, her asking a similar question to someone who had just brought a baby home from the hospital? I doubt it (at least I hope).

I got to talk on the phone yesterday with a Gladney mom whose little boy is in foster care with Little Bee. She traveled for their court date two weeks ago and got to meet both kids. It seems that all the official updates we get from Gladney about Bee's personality are true. She is "peaceful," "timid," and "kind." She regularly takes care of the smaller kids. She has good friends there and is "all girl" who teases and is teased by her buddies. In the last photo we got from Gladney, she was pretending not to want her photo taken but one of her friends got her giggling. So we have a photo of what she looks like laughing. Laughing. Little girl laughing. Little girl who likes to take care of little brothers. Little timid girl, possibly an introvert like both her new parents. Little "all girl" girl who hopefully likes to braid and put little clips in her mama's hair. Girl. Girly girl. Pretty girl with a face that could launch a thousand ships.

The sun came out this weekend, plus into Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. This is how we felt about it: