Saturday, September 29, 2012

Meskel Celebration 2012...

September 27 marked the annual Meskel holiday in Ethiopia. Meskel celebrates the "finding of the true cross" by Queen Helena in the 4th century.  Across Ethiopia, Orthodox Christians burn bonfires to celebrate. Read all about it here.

Here in New York, we celebrated with a little home style Ethiopian feast- sega wat, fosalia and atkilt. (Find recipes here.) Then we roasted some s'mores over our charcoal grill.  Amazingly, nobody's hair was set on fire, fingers remained unsinged and smoke damage was minimal. Despite their best efforts at setting themselves and their clothes on fire, they went to bed with all their limbs intact.  Score, mom!

Waiting for daddy to light the fire. See how I'm holding them back? :)
It's been a challenge so far to incorporate Ethiopian holidays into our life. I remain committed to keeping connected to Daniel and Lily's birth culture, but a there a couple of ways in which it can be difficult. First of all, we aren't Ethiopian Coptic Christians. Most Ethiopian holidays are religious ones, and celebrated with long worship services, religious parades, fasts and other religious service. We have promised ourselves that one Sunday we'll hike up the the Ethiopian church in Harlem, but the 8AM to NOON worship service scares me. 4 hours keeping my kids calm and quiet during a service in another language? YIKES!
S'mores! Fire!

 I have a lot of respect for the intensity and focus of Ethiopian holidays. From my extensive research reading on Wikipedia it seems that most holidays are celebrated very simply: worship, prayer, and a homemade feast with extended family. Not a greeting card, elf, fairy, elaborate decorating style or color scheme in sight. So when we take away the prayer/worship part, each holiday is just another chance to make doro wat.  Not that exciting....

So I was thrilled to learn of a holiday with an activity! And who doesn't like sitting with their family around a bonfire eating treats? Even if some members of the family remain determined to set themselves on fire?

Toasted marshmallows, yuck. Graham crackers? mmm.....

Next year, maybe we'll actually buy some wood to have a proper fire, and have some friends over to help us celebrate Ethiopian bonfire night!

I wonder if they have s'mores in Addis Ababa? How can I make them more habeshi.... hmm... maybe a little berbere sprinkled on the marshmallows?

Sunday, September 23, 2012


chasing each other during my sister's wedding, two weeks after we became a family

It's an old adage, I think, that you never get the children you planned on having.  (Certainly that is true in our case!)  But even if you didn't create your family in the circuitous route we took ("trying"-infertility-adoption), you probably have children who surprise you, who challenge you, and who force you to change your life.

Andrew and I are not athletic types. At all. We can both walk around museums til our feet fall off, and love to take long slow walks in the woods.  We occasionally splash around in a pool. But we're not sporty.  Enter Daniel and Lily. These kids like to MOVE.

Friday found me, with sneakers on, walking around the local YMCA track. Occasionally I'd pause to watch Daniel in his track class.  While I was counting down the hour, checking my watch far too often, my son was grinning and jumping and dashing and bouncing and running.  He was gleeful, so long as his turn was next and he was the fastest.  Every week he runs a lap before the class begins, plays tag after it is over, and wants to join the basketball game as we are leaving.  Most of last year I sat on the bleachers reading or catching up with my email while Daniel ran. This year I thought, this is ridiculous, Becky. Get off your butt!  I used to do yoga in the evenings somewhat regularly. These days I rarely find the motivation to get off the couch at night. (See: sleep battles.)  But chasing Lily around and carrying groceries just can't be the only exercise I get. And then there is my son, reminding me that moving can be FUN.

A recent rainy day we took refuge in the gym, and Daniel asked me to play basketball with him. I sighed, I made a meal of putting my phone and book down.  Then I picked up the ball. Well, wouldn't you know, those basketball drills in those mandatory high school gym classes actually took! I made a basket! (Okay, the net was set to child height, but still. Nothing but net!)

So I made a deal with Daniel- we'll come to the gym an extra day a week and play and run together.  I'll put my sneakers on, I'll move. And when I need inspiration, I just need to take a peek at my son's wide grinning face.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Attaching with an older child

Welcome to More Injera Please! 
This post was excerpted in the Spence Chapin Fall 2012 Newsletter (yeah!) Thanks for reading...

Oh, irony of ironies... while I'm trying to get his piece written my 6 year old son, home one year, is asking me to play cars with him.  And I'm asking him to please, please play by yourself for just a little bit longer. Naptime only lasts so long. Sigh.  I'm clearly no expert on attachment. Karin Purvis would shudder. But, I'm pretty sure my son still loves me. So we'll carry on...

Here's my top 5 Strategies for Growing Attachment with Older Adopted Children.

FYI Older child = 4 years - 12 years old (I will claim no expertise adopting teens). Most children currently waiting to be adopted, both internationally and domestically, are in this category. So many, in fact, that they are considered "special needs", even if completely healthy. 

1. Food

If you make a parallel between fostering attachment with an older child to growing attachment with a newborn, food is first.  Newborns are fed, on demand, very often, and in very close proximity to a parent (nursing or bottle).  They are not left hungry, or told to wait for mealtime, or only given a little bit. They are fed til full, by a parent, all day and all night.

When our son first came home, he ate up to 3 bananas, 2 granola bars and 8 rolls every day, in addition to meals.  He ate about every hour, sometimes more often. We never went anywhere without enough food for the entire day. After all, we had a newborn on our hands. A five year old, 45 pound newborn.

Internationally adopted children are often underweight, and often have suffered from hunger, deprivation or malnutrition.  These are children from poor families in poor countries.  It is very common for newly adopted children to do a lot of catching up... and they eat that way. Our son has grown about 7 inches in the past year, and gained 15 pounds.  He went from the 50% to the 95% on the growth chart.  Allowing him to eat like a newborn was a key part of his growth, and our attachment process. We made sure he always ate with a parent (when not in school). We prepared favorite foods. ( I made meatloaf in August, as only a new mother could.) We shared, we cooked together, we said grace; we did everything we could to make his daily nourishment more than for his body.

2. Sleep

Being adopted is exhausting! Especially when you are learning a new language, and how to read and count and how to write your name. So newly adopted older children need lots of sleep. They may have difficulty falling asleep, or staying asleep. They may have nightmares they cannot explain. They may be afraid of the dark. They may be afraid to sleep alone, because they probably never have.  Whatever sleep solutions work for your family, do it! I'll never forget spending a whole day at an African wedding.  I struggled all day to make sense of the language and the customs and the food. That evening I could hardly keep my eyes open, and I was tired for days.  This is an adopted child's experience every day.  Our son hasn't made it past 8:00pm, ever.

 I wrote about cuddle time in Toddler Attachment. All of that is also true for older children. It can be trickier to find ways to have one:one snuggle time with an older child.  A quick nap on the couch, some wrestling on the rug, a back massage, stretching out together, sitting together with a book, rocking in an oversize rocking chair... even a high five or a pat on the back is a good place to start. Who doesn't need a great big hug more than a newly adopted kid? Sometimes, they don't know it and don't want to admit it.  Sometimes we don't realize how much we need it too.

3. Play and Exercise

The first morning we were home in America, we took the kids to the park. We put them in the swings, side by side, and pushed them high. They've never smiled so wide.
Playing, kicking, bouncing, jumping, running, climbing, swinging, sliding, scooting, riding...  there is no language required to have fun. In fact, older children who have spent time in an orphanage or other institution have probably had loads of experience with outdoor play. (Daniel can jump rope like a boxer.) Our first summer home we spent every day at the park, hours and hours and hours. Lily toddled around trying to put sharp or disgusting objects in her mouth, as toddlers are want to do. Daniel learned about water balloons, sprinklers, and scooters. (One of his first sentences: "Want that, wheels.") Independent, unstructured creative play will probably be out of reach of an older adopted child.  It requires too much language, too much patience and ease. Our son still cannot sustain his own imaginative play for more than a few minutes. We've got building blocks getting dusty and playdough getting crusty. But chasing his sister around the apartment? That he can do for an hour. So, plan to have lots of space for an older adopted child to run, and run and run and run.

4. Connections to Home Culture

Being adopted can feel like alien abduction to older children. They get in an airplane with people who don't look, sound or smell like them, and suddenly they are eating and sleeping and living in a place that looks absolutely different from everything they've ever known. So trying to bring some part of their first home into their new home is crucial. It will never be enough, but it will be something. One of the first things we did after arriving home was let Daniel pick out photos to print and hang up in his room. He picked photos of his cousin, his new family, and the few photos we have of his Ethiopian family. We now have framed photos of their first family in both their rooms. We also have some Ethiopian books, artwork, and music.  Both kids love to look at Ethiopian cartoons on Youtube. We eat Ethiopian food at least once a week.  We're trying to make it seem like America is really on the same planet as Africa, as different as it is here.

5. Honesty

Here's the thing: being adopted sucks. Losing your first family, your first home, your language, your friends, siblings, everything: It's a really raw deal. And older children know it. They were there. They saw everything.  They are keenly aware of the losses they've suffered.  They will be super sensitive to any attempts to gloss over, put silver linings on or in any way diminish their past.  The best way to begin to develop trust is to be honest. Acknowledge their loss and let them know that you will not discount it. You do not think they are "lucky". (Maybe they are, depending on their history, but they probably don't see it that way.) Like we say here in our home, it is a sad story.  Which is not to say, it can't have a happy ending.

It can be so challenging to be honest with our children. They have such hard questions. And the answers are sad or incomplete or just simply unfair.  When our son asks us, "But why?" we are hard pressed to give him the truth.  But we cannot build a family on lies.  We must tell him, and we do. And it is sad, and it is unfair. The world is sad. The world is unfair.  But in our honesty, we are teaching our son: Here in our home, we can be sad, but we can help each other feel better. Here in our home, we will be honest and fair. Here in our home, nothing is too difficult to talk about or feel.

And then we go out to play, and run, and run, and run.

To Read More:

1. Attaching with a Toddler

2. Attachment Challenges

3. Attachment, Progress

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Attachment: Toddler Style

This morning it is my turn to work in the Toddler Room at our church.  I'll be spending the worship hour playing with blocks and wiping noses.  I won't be able to stress about the mess being created, or the laundry or what's for dinner, or sit with my nose in my phone. And that is a perfect way for me to spend Sunday morning. The truth is, the biggest obstacle to my attachment with my toddler is, me.

Attachment is a two way street... just as your child needs to fall in love with you, you have to fall in love with your child. The best way to do that is (just like in a new romantic relationship) to spend lots and lots of time just being together.  I don't know about you, but I find spending lots and lots of time with an active toddler to be very challenging. First of all, the destruction. Lily's favorite thing to do is make giant messes. Oh, the day she discovered the tupperware drawer! Oh the field day she had with my boxes of fabric! Oh the peanut butter adventure! (smearing is fun!)

It is hard for me to spend lots of time with Lily and stay focused on her. I get distracted... by the mess, the laundry, my phone, the computer, the chaos in the tupperware drawer.  And when I get distracted, she gets more destructive.  It's a vicious cycle.

The biggest challenge for attachment with a toddler, I think, is meeting them where they are. I know what I need to do is get down on the floor and join her in the glorious mess. (And I will do that... in the safety of the church block room. Making messes outside of my house is much less stressful for me.)

Our attachment process with Lily has had its ups and downs. Here are some strategies that did work, and that are fairly typical of the toddler attachment process.

1. FOOD.  When Lily first came home she had not been exposed to solid food at all. At the Ethiopian care center she'd been fed copious amounts of formula and warm cereal with purees.  On the spur of the moment I'd packed a box of sweet potato "puffs", and as I've joked many times, "This adoption brought to you by Puffs."  Lily loved those puffs. They got us through our first days together, the airports, the plane trips, our first hours home. That box of puffs took us a long way.
 Food is a major part of any baby or child's attachment process. It is common for adoptive parents to make sure that they alone are the ones to prepare and feed their newly adopted child.  Especially for children who have known hunger and deprivation, food is more than nourishment for the body.  Food = safety, security, and family.  For us, introducing new foods, textures and tastes to our 15 month old was a great opportunity to bond. She loved to eat. She loved to make a huge mess with her cereal and snacks.  I spent a lot of time with her and food, encouraging her to try new things, eating with her, and making sure we always had a snack on hand.  I literally do not leave the house for even the shortest errand without at least one snack packed. (More about food insecurity and hunger triggers when I describe our older child's attachment process. Oh boy!)

2. Cozy time together. It is common for adoptive families to encourage a certain amount of regression. This is a case of 5 steps back, great leaps forward.  There are several reasons to encourage regression. One is that, in family age, even older children are babies. They are new to this family, they are new to this country and this language.  They need to be coddled and cuddled, just like a newborn.  Another is that, just like for newborns, the best attachment strategy is just to be quietly cozy together.  Some families sleep in one big bed. Some families use rocking chairs, even with older children.  I used to carry Lily around in a baby carrier, even though she loved to walk. We still rock every night before bed. We try to strike a balance between encouraging her growing independence and making sure we have cuddle time every day.

3. Routines 
Routine = Structure = Safe = Attached

We are ridiculously strict about our evening rituals. Daddy and Mommy do better when the kids go to bed on time (early), and the kids thrive when they know exactly what is going to happen. They've had some nasty surprises in their short lives. They don't want any more, even if it's as small as "mystery dinner". We don't do surprises in our house.  Even on holidays we follow similar routines.  Last Christmas Eve I had the brilliant idea to go for a drive after dinner to see all the pretty lights. Ha, ha, ha, ha! Silly mommy. We don't go for drives after dinner. We get into our pajamas and watch TV, then we read books and go to bed. We don't care that it's Christmas! Get with the program! We will not be trying that again soon.

Predictable routines are especially important for toddlers.  Lily now attends a very traditional, structured day care and she LOVES it.  She loves knowing exactly what is expected of her and having a set of daily routines to follow. She's not a fan of the uniform, but she's thriving on the structure.  Her natural tendency is still to create chaos and mess, but she now also is learning the satisfaction of clean up time. 

Thank goodness!

Adoptive families of toddlers... what strategies have worked with your little ones?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Attachment: Challenges

August 2011

Attachment: What adoptive parents read lots and lots of books about.

The term attachment describes the connections that keep a family bound together. Attachment is the net, the glue, the bond.  For most biological families, new babies begin to form this bond with their moms and dads from birth (and some say, before birth).  New parents hold and kiss and watch and listen to and admire their infants for hours at time. New babies get lots of time smelling and tasting and hearing their parents. Their first sight is of their parents' faces.  All that time holding a newborn, playing with an infant, cuddling a baby, and chasing a toddler is the foundation of what keeps families together.

So for adoptive families, there is often quite a bit of catch up to be done.  Most adoptive families don't start at birth, even in newborn domestic adoption.  All international adoption is done when children are older, often toddlers or school-aged children.  Most children adopted from another country have experienced a major loss, some kind of trauma and some period of living in an institution. All those are major factors is how the attachment process will go. For some families, it is really rough going.  It can take years for children to feel safe and whole in their new families. This is why adoptive families read lots of books about attachment (or was it just me?)

Our family attachment process has had its challenges, but for the most part the kids are doing really well. (Which saint do I thank for this?)

By far the biggest challenge was simply that we adopted two children at once. My sister, God bless her, has twins.  Once she left me in the room alone with them, and they both started crying.  It was the longest hour five minutes of my life.  Who do I pick up first? Who will calm down first? Can I hold them both at the same time safely? OHMYGOD please just stop crying!

There have been only a handful of times when Daniel and Lily both needed me desperately at the same time.  Those few times have been the most heartbreaking and terrifying of the past year.  I can't hold them both at once; I can't meet their desperate needs right now.  Who will calm down first? Who needs to eat something first? Who can I safely hold while I talk calmly to the other? Those were tough moments. Lucky for me, my kids tend to tag team their tantrums.

Two children at once was a great blessing for our family (no more adoption paperwork! hooray!)  However, having two children to bond with made our attachment process a bit... jumpy.  Three steps forward, 2 steps back.  Daniel, who came home at age 5, heading off to Kindergarten just weeks after we came home. So bonding with Lily went on the back burner while I made sure Daniel was secure enough to spend all day at school.  Rounds of sleep issues put Lily on the front burner, then trying to explain holidays and birthdays made Daniel the focus of our bonding.

The best decision we made was for me to take a maternity leave (unpaid- ouch!) I stayed home with Lily for 3 months.  It was great for our family, and for Lily and I to become closer. The fact that I missed the first few months of school made going back to work really challenging.  And we are still digging our way out of the financial hole we fell into without my salary. But, it was the best thing for our family and our attachment process.

The other thing we did to promote our family attachment was to prioritize our family time.  We spend our weekends together- at the park, visiting family or friends, having fun. We try not to drag the kids around running errands or over schedule ourselves. We make sure that the weekend is simply the four of us, together.  We keep to the same schedule as the week. We don't stay up late or skip naps or have meals at odd times.


Evenings are the same. At this point we are nearly religious about our evening routines.  Even Lily can recite it now: home, bath, dinner, TV, books, bed. When Daniel was first home and learning English we would go over our daily routine each morning. It became a litany for him; it helped him ground himself in our family life. Dinner, bath, books, bed.  Wake up, school, park, dinner, bath, books, bed. 

Are our kids completely and perfectly attached to us? No. That takes years. In "family time" they are both just over one.  We've been family less than 1/2 of Lily's life, and only slightly longer than they lived in an orphanage.  Maybe in 4 years, maybe in 10 years. But are we growing closer every day? Yes, most days. :)

August 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


This weekend, like most weekends, we went to the park.  Lily raced around and around, and ran far out into a field. Then she turned back to wave to me.

Waving at mommy may be an insignificant moment in most family's life, but for ours, it was huge.  Until recently, Lily would run and run and run, and never look back.  We sometimes joked that we would test to see just how far she would go. But we always got too scared to try.  

Most 2 year old don't run far from their parents. They may play and run and chase, but they don't go more than a few yards from their parent: their "home base".  And every so often, they run back to "base" for a hug or a sip of juice or to show off a boo-boo.  

Our two year old would run, and run and run... until Andrew and I worried about her running into traffic, or out of sight, or into danger.  Then we chased her down and made her come back to "base".  

Attachment is a big word in Adoption.  It's a big worry. It's a big deal.  It's the thing that comes easily to most families, and that adoptive parents have to work hard at every single day.  A healthy, attached toddler will not run far from mommy.  A recently adopted toddler will simply keep on running. They have no "home base" yet. 

When Lily first came home, she would go to any adult for the typical "mommy" check-ins. When she fell down or got bumped, she would show off her boo-boo or ask to be hugged by total strangers.  She showed little preference for me when we were out in public.  It makes sense, doesn't it, that when you have been raised from infancy in a care center staffed by multiple adults, that you think all adults are caretakers. 

So we've been working on attachment. We are by no means done with this work, but little by little we are seeing tiny signs that our children are growing more deeply connected to us.  We are definitely not experts on attachment; we've had lots of ups and downs on this journey. We consider ourselves extraordinarily lucky at how well our children are doing. 

In the next couple of posts I'll go into detail about how we helped our toddler and our older child grow more deeply connected in our family.  I'll also reflect on what didn't work, or isn't working.

Sleep update: (oh, how sleep and attachment are connected!).  Lily is sleeping through the night, but taking a long time to fall asleep, and waking up just a bit too early. We're working on it. Thanks for all the advice!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sleep. Arghh...

Well, wouldn't you know, the night after I post a big long piece about sleep issues- Lily keeps everyone up for 3 hours. At 1AM she woke and ran screaming around the apartment until I caught her, and then tossed and turned and cried until 4AM. The fact that this was also the night before the first day of school made for a very grumpy mommy, and a backslide into all the pitfalls of our previous sleep battles. Namely:

1. We didn't have a game plan before nighttime.

2. The fact that we didn't have a pre-determined strategy meant that we got into a fight over what to do, while also dealing with a screaming toddler at 1AM.

3. The stress of Mom and Dad being at odds with one another only added to Lily's stress at being awake and being unable to fall sleep.

Having Lily transition into a toddler bed has been difficult, but not more difficult than our previous sleep issues.  It doesn't help, however, that while I try to get her back in her bed over and over again, old episodes of Super Nanny replay in my head.  The horrors!

Wow, I miss the crib, so, so much.

We still don't have a strategy worked out. We are naively hoping that Wednesday's sleepless night was a fluke. We are also hoping against hope that she will go peacefully to sleep in her bed without us present, despite much evidence to the contrary.  Somehow I imagine that I can have a rational conversation with my toddler that will go something like this:

"Lily, I know that sleeping in a big girl bed is a big deal. It may take you a little longer to fall asleep at night while you adjust to this new freedom you have.  But, you'll feel sooo much better in the morning if you've had a good night's sleep. So let's lie down and have a good night, okay?

"Okay mommy."

"Great. Goodnight darling!"

End Scene.

Instead, last night went something like this:

"Night night Lily."

She opens the door. "Mommy boo-boo" Points to her perfectly healthy elbow.

I put her back in bed. "Go to sleep. Good night"

She opens the door. "Mommmmyyyyyy".

I put her back in bed. The Super Nanny nightmares begin.

She opens the door. Says nothing, just stands there waiting for me to see her.

Back in bed, slightly more forcefully.

I hear thumping and rattling. Go in to find she's up and has taken everything out of her drawers.

Close drawers loudly. Put her back in bed. Cursing under my breath now.

Lock her room from the outside.

"Good night Lily."

"Aaaaaaaaaaaghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Moooooommmmmmmyyyyyyyyy....."

This lasts about 20 minutes.

Go in to find every single item in her room tossed on the floor, the lights on and her sitting in the middle of the mess screaming.  Now know what inspired The Exorcist.

Calm her, rock her, sit with her on her bed til she falls asleep. 2 false starts towards the door. Baby girl is now sleeping with one eye open and is trigger ready to tantrum. Finally get out at 9PM, two hours after bedtime.  Fall asleep on the couch 20 minutes into Project Runway.

End Scene.

I couldn't bear to take a photo of the unholy mess that we found in her room this morning. (She woke up at 5:30AM) So this post will remain bereft of redeeming adorable photo. Sigh.

She's taking a nap now. Fingers crossed?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.

One of our adoption books sternly told us that it is not healthy for a recently adopted child to simply go to sleep, sleep through the night, and wake up in the morning. (Something about attachment and trust and blah, blah, blah...)  The first night we were home, both kids collapsed from exhaustion  fell sweetly asleep and slept through the night (mostly). Andrew and I cracked open some beer and said "Cheers! Thank You! Sleep! Amen!"

Here's the thing about "sleep training" I didn't realize before becoming a parent. You don't do it once. You do it over and over and over and over...

We are in phase 357 of our "sleep training" Lily. I think "sleep adjustment" is a more accurate term. Lily has been growing and adjusting, and we have been adjusting, continuously, since one year ago.

The other thing about sleep it that it is unique to each child. That's why all those sleep books sell so well. As soon as a new one is published it flies off the shelf. "Maybe this one will cure our sleep problems!"  The truth is that any one person's advice can only be partially helpful.  The best advice I've ever gotten is: Do what works and trust your instincts.  Here's the path we've been on with our sleeping/less child.

Phase 1: I'm a baby and I'll cry if I want milk.

When Lily first came home, at 15 months, she was still very much a baby. She had just learned to walk, she knew only a couple of words ("da da!"), and she drank formula by the gallon (it seemed).  She had been so tiny for so long and was still making up weight. At the care center in Ethiopia she'd been woken up to be fed during the night. When she came home she woke up once, sometimes twice a night for a bottle (well, a cup feeding... that's another post).   She ate quickly and fell right back to sleep. It was beautiful, if dangerous to try and heat formula while sleep walking.  Then we went to see Dr. Aronson ("The Orphan Doctor") who told us to stop feeding her formula, and certainly stop feeding her at night. @#$%!

Phase 2: I'm still a baby and I'll cry if I want milk!!!!!

So we started weaning her off her night feedings, and off formula all together. Sigh. This was no fun for anyone. I remember one night standing in her room holding her. She was screaming bloody murder, but I was so exhausted that I wasn't really awake.  In the dream I was having, she wasn't crying (or something- really this phase is all a big blur.) Andrew finally came in and woke me up, because clearly standing there in the dark with my eyes closed, holding a screaming child, was not working.

Somehow we managed the weaning to milk (slowing adding less and less formula and more whole milk to her cup.) Somehow we managed to get her to sleep through the night.  It took a long time.

Here's the thing about "sleep adjusting": You don't make your most rational decisions at 2AM.  And you certainly can't have a reasonable difference of opinion with your spouse at 2AM while your child screams.  There were a lot of hurt feelings and recriminations during this phase. Lots of "morning after" de-briefs and whispered "consultations." Fights. There was a lot of tearful fighting.

Phase 3: What do you mean, morning doesn't begin at 4:30AM!?

Once we'd convinced Lily that she didn't need milk during the night, she got really, really attached to her morning cup.  So she started moving her mornings earlier and earlier.  Til they weren't so much mornings as nights.  Once again we had negotiations about what time was okay for her to wake up, and who was going to get up with her. Sigh. Then there was a few weeks of one of us sleeping with her on the couch after her "morning bottle".  This was not fun for anyone. Then, miraculously, she did it. She fell asleep in our arms after some time in the rocking chair, slept through the night, and woke up in the morning (the real morning). Then:

Phase 4: Daylight @#$%ing Savings Time.

The less said about this, the better. All that hard work "sleep training", all those lovely long nights of peaceful slumber went out the window. Night wakings, hours long scream fests, 4:30 AM mornings. It sucked.

Phase 5: Mommy and Daddy aren't playing anymore.

By now Andrew and I had figured out our game plan. We no longer fought about sleep parenting in the middle of the night.  We had strategy sessions; we had a plan. We were a team. Lily had figured out that if she didn't fall asleep right away, she could get mommy's attention for hours.... So she started keeping herself awake, and it took us longer and longer to rock her to sleep.  You could see her fighting it- literally holding her eyes open. We realized it was time to get her to fall asleep on her own, in her crib. Sigh. This was not fun for anyone.

Phase 6: Whatever works.

Sometimes Lily fell asleep quietly in her crib without crying. Sometimes she screamed for an hour. Sometimes we took her out of the crib so Daniel could fall asleep, then tried again.  Sometimes she took  a long nap and couldn't get sleepy at night. Sometimes she wouldn't nap, and barely made it through dinner. But, we tried to stay consistent, and we tried to keep our cool.

Last weekend she moved into a toddler bed.  So we are in the next phase. Bedtime now takes a lot longer some nights. She often needs one of us to stay in the room with her to remind her to stay in the bed and deal with the innumerable distractions she now has... all those toys now within reach, all those hair ribbons to play with! She, like her brother,  can now get out of bed and gain our attention with the flimsiest of excuses.  We have reached the stage the book said was healthy. Our children are not so exhausted by their very existence in our family that they collapse into a deep sleep at night. Our children trust that we will be there to give them another glass of water, or kiss a (pretend) boo-boo, or relieve an anxiety that looms in the dark.

Sometimes I miss rocking my baby to sleep.  But I certainly don't miss the formula, or the night feedings, or the unholy 2AM screaming.  There are some benefits to all that hard work of growing up.

To all those parents and would-be parents out there, I wish you-  A Good Night's Sleep!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mercy Project/Labor Day

Happy Labor Day!

Today Andrew and I don't have to work. We'll be taking the kids to their favorite park, maybe do some swimming, and most definitely have some ice cream.  Today we'll enjoy one of the last days of summer together as a family.

Most people around the world will be working today. They'll be at the check out counter at our local grocery store. They'll be scooping ice cream, monitoring the pool changing room, driving trucks, harvesting tomatoes, picking apples, fishing.

Some of the people working today will be children. Some of the children working today will be slaves.
Mercy Project Ghana

One of the amazing surprises of becoming a family through international adoption is how my eyes have been opened to the world in a whole new way.  I've make connections across the country with other bloggers and mothers of Ethiopian children.  I've read books and articles and histories of Africa that I may not have picked up before Daniel and Lily came home.  Most of the things I've learned on this journey have enriched our lives and opened my mind and heart wider and wider.  Some of the things I've learned have made me weep.

All over the world people are working today without pay, without protection, without recourse to legal or social support.  There are men picking tomatoes in Florida who are locked into dorms at night. There are women being trafficked into the sex industry, here in America. There are children working in mines, picking coffee and chocolate, making sneakers and sweaters.

Today, Labor Day, I'm joining with 100 other bloggers to celebrate the work of Mercy Project Ghana.  Mercy Project works with fishing communities on Lake Volta, Ghana.  The Lake was created 50 years ago by a dam, and is home to many fishing communities.  Over the decades the fishing stock has been declining (as stocks have all across our Earth). This has led these desperate communities to turn to child slavery.  Child slaves are small, require little food and no money.  They don't rebel, and have fingers just the right size for the intricate nets required to fish ever smaller, elusive fish.  Where do they come from? Other desperate families who are tricked into believing their children will lead a better life on the lake.

Why do I care? Why is an adoptive mother now advocating for the end of child slavery? Because I now know, as I didn't fully before, how small the world is.  There are two little children sitting next to me, happily watching cartoons, who were once part of a hungry, desperate family.  If there had been a fishing community trafficker or a chocolate farm "employment" recruiter in their village, instead of an orphanage, they may have ended up one of the children in this video.  This is no insult to their Ethiopian family.  Desperate, hungry people make desperate choices.  Choosing another life for your children because you have no hope for their future with you is a desperate, difficult act of faith. Some families are lucky; some families are tricked.  Some children end up in loving families. Some children end up living in slavery. When I look around my home, I see so many products that may have been picked, mined or produced by slaves, or made by people who are so underpaid and unprotected they may as well be enslaved.  Our world is so, so small.

Today, Labor Day, people are working all over the world.  But this month, hundreds of children on Lake Volta will stop working. They will go to school; they will go to the doctor.  They will be reunited with their families.

Mercy Project has been working with fishing communities to establish more productive, less labor intensive fishing methods. They have been making it possible for these communities to thrive without slaves.  The children will be freed.

See how it will happen here.

Learn more here and here.

This Labor Day I'm celebrating not working. I hope you'll join me.

Facebook: mercyproject

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A whole new ball game...

The crib is gone.

She's got a toddler bed now.

She can open her bedroom door when she wakes up and wander the house. Or, come find us, as she usually does.

Got to start locking the apartment door from the inside. And make sure the stove is baby proofed. And double check the location of all knives, scissors, sharpies and pens.

Pray for us.