Monday, October 28, 2013

Construction Surprises!

It might be fitting that construction on our little old house started this week, the Spookiest Week of the Year. Because there were some nasty surprises waiting in our basement today...

A crew of five men demolished the illegal apartment that had somehow been smooshed into our basement.

Ta da! No walls! That door in the back leads to our storage room, where we have stashed a bunch of junk I wonder why we moved here in the first place. 

The plumber is coming tomorrow to work out some of our pipe issues. Surprise! We have leaks!

Leaks all over the place! Are those wires? Snakes? 

This beautiful handcrafted staircase leads up to the kitchen... And what's that, in the dark under the stair?...

Why it's a sink! With an outdoor drain emptying into it! How clever! 


The ceiling does look like it is going to hold up though. I'm incredibly grateful and relieved that we've started work on our house. I'm actually growing kind of fond of it...

Tomorrow the kitchen gets demolished. Hooray! I will not miss that tiny sink or lopsided stove one bit.

What surprises are in store for us next?!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Surgery Success!

Our Lily was a brave champ this morning ! She had her adenoids melted down, and tubes placed in her ears. Apparently the fluid in her ears had started to solidify so it took a bit of effort to clean out. But other than that, there were no side effects.

She's home now, enjoying Grandma's company and a box of new (to her!) Barbie dolls from my sister and my childhood. (Oh, the 80's sequin outfits!) 

Thanks for all the prayers and well wishes!

Friday, October 18, 2013

My Kids' Bedtime is Ruining My Life

I tried to come up with a less dramatic title, but I'm feeling a bit dramatic these days. There's a lot going on around here. If I could only have a bit more quiet and time to sort it all out... Unfortunately my kids, BOTH of them, have also recently become Bedtime Resistant.

About 18 months ago (in our old house, sigh), we had a few months of beautiful bedtimes. About 7PM I gave Lily a cup of warm milk, rocked her for a while, sang some songs, then placed in her crib. (Crib! Sob.) She would lie back with her doll and wave her little chubby fingers at me. About 20 minutes later, Daniel and I would tiptoe in their room and I would tuck him in. Lily was usually asleep by then, her little diapered butt in the air. He was usually asleep in minutes. 8:00PM: both kids sound asleep.

Those were the days.

Lily has quite a history of sleep struggles. Some of them are her age, some attachment/ adoption trauma related. Some are due to her enlarged adenoids. (The surgery to shrink them is next week.) She stills spends most of the night in our bed. She has yet to sleep through the night.

Daniel has always been our sleep champion. Sigh. But lately...

You know that e-book that made the rounds of the internet last year... " Go the $&@? to Sleep"?

That's our nights now.

Including the cursing.


Andrew and I taking turns (torturing ourselves) doing bedtime. Which means one of us is upstairs responding to requests for water and complaints about which bedtime book is being read while the other one gets to relax. Or: blog, pay bills, read, make phone calls, answer emails and in general, be an adult. But we don't get to be together. By the time both kids are asleep, we are ready to collapse too. Lily has been averaging falling asleep at 9:45 PM. She takes a (required, mandated, non-negotiable) 2 hour nap at day care. She's really not tired until I am. Daniel, I think, doesn't like that his baby sister stays up later then him. So he's sporting some pretty dark circles under his eyes these days.

So what's a mom to do...

At least it's the weekend. No naps! Bedtime kiddos!

Hope your weekend involves some good rest too...

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Up the stairs, down the stairs.

this woman has lost her mind

I haven't lived in a house for many, many years. I grew up in a house, a brownstone, with lots of stairs. Andrew grew up in a house too. But as young things in NYC, we lived in apartments.

First: Little, tiny apartments: my first apartment after college was a 4th floor walk up studio with a crack-addict neighbor and a mouse problem. But it had brick walls and a view of the city skyline. I loved it. Ah, liberty and independence!

Then: Spacious pre-war apartment in a far flung neighborhood. Oh, the space. Oh, the closets. Oh the elevator that sometimes broke down and the smelly damn basement laundry room. Oh, the crazy Russian neighbors and the Sabbath siren and the "what could this be?" labeled-in-Hebrew groceries.  I loved it. Andrew and I opened our wedding presents in that apartment.

Lastly: Brand spanking new condos with roof gardens. (This one hurts a little. I really did love that apartment.) Andrew and I brought our children home to that apartment. We recorded their crazy rapid post-adoption growth spurts on the kitchen wall.  We out grew that apartment a little bit too fast for my heart.

And now we live in a house. A house with lots of stairs. When I'm downstairs I remember I need something upstairs, and then I reconsider just how much I need it. When I'm upstairs I realize the dishes really don't need to be done and I'll just send that email from my phone, oh this bed is so lovely and soft.  When I'm downstairs I hear the kids thumping around and I cross my fingers they are happy thumps and not breaking-things thumps. When I'm upstairs and hear screaming from downstairs I do the same thing.

There is a constant little pile of things at the top and the bottom of the stairs. These dirty socks need to go upstairs. These Barbies need to go downstairs. It got so I needed little baskets on the steps. Baskets that everyone else trips over and that only I think to carry up/down the stairs.

Installing a dumb waiter or a pulley system has crossed my mind. Intercoms are not out of the question. Sometimes I text Andrew from upstairs to remind him of something. Sometimes just to say hi.

This may be the silliest First World problem ever. But it is bothering me: how to live happily on two floors. And soon to be three floors...

Soon we'll have a finished basement- another staircase and another place to wonder, What kind of screaming/thumping is that?

I'm going to need another set of cute little baskets.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Meskel Celebration 2013... UU Adoptee Style!

Happy Meskel 2013!

Meskel is an Ethiopian holiday that celebrates the finding of the "True Cross" by Saint Helen thousands of years ago. We've kind of adopted it (ha ha) as our Ethiopian Fall holiday since I always miss Ethiopian New Year (which is on 9/11) in the hectic back-to-school craziness. And also because on September 11 we New Yorkers don't usually feel too celebratory. 

In Ethiopia Meskel is celebrated by lighting bonfires. As the story goes, Saint Helen had a dream in which she learned that the cross upon which Jesus was crucified would be revealed to her in smoke. The next morning she lit a huge bonfire, and sure enough, the smoke trail led her to the spot where the cross was buried.  There is a lovely story about this year's celebration in Addis Ababa, with a bit of Ethiopian history included HERE.

Last year for Meskel we had a little fire on our roof. This year I looked up the date just in time, and we had a lovely time celebrating in a little backyard.

We light a fire in our barbecue. The kids had fun hunting up sticks to add to the coals. We roasted marshmallows and made s'mores. The adults had some wine, the kids ate up lots of sugar.  We watched the fire burn and the sun set. I told them a "Unitarian Universalized-ed*" version of the story of Meskel. (see below) 

Like all holidays (is it just my family?) this one ended with tears and drama. There may have been some storming off and some yelling. But I don't have photos of that part. So I'll just hold on to this:

pile on Daddy! don't drop the wine!

waiting for the fire to catch

* Our family are Unitarians. Huh? Go here

The Story of Meskel (adapted)

Many many years ago, a wise and powerful woman named Helen was searching for something very important to her, something that she believed would bring health, unity and inspiration to her people.  She was looking for the wooden cross upon which Jesus, the great teacher and rabbi, had died. One night she dreamt that if she lit a big fire the smoke would show her where the cross was. So the next day, she had her servants light a bonfire. And sure enough, the smoke made a trail that led her to where the cross was buried.  Her people rejoiced and shared pieces of the cross far and wide.  Those ancient pieces of wood still inspire and bring hope to people all over the world.

Every year in Ethiopia people light bonfires to celebrate Meskel (which means Cross).  Families gather around the fires, coming together in hope and celebration.  Perhaps if we look into the smoke, we will find something we are searching for.  Perhaps we will find something to inspire us...

Friday, October 4, 2013

We are going back to Ethiopia!

Addis Ababa here we come, April, 2014!

Gratuitous Baby Lily in Ethiopia photo. 

This time, however, we will not have any extra return tickets. ;) 

Almost as soon as we adopted Daniel and Lily two years ago we decided that we would be visiting their home country of Ethiopia as often as we could.  I know that is a decision that not all adoptive families are willing or able to make, and that for non- adoptive families it may seem baffling. Why?! would we want to visit Africa every couple of years? They are, after all, very expensive plane tickets. It is 24 exhausting hours of travel.  But, our family lives there.

Not their family.  Our family.

Adopting children is kind of like getting married. It is joining families together that were formerly strangers.  Our children's biological family members in Ethiopia are like our in-laws.  How could we not visit them as often as we can?

Some friends have expressed worry that the children will be confused or upset by the trip. That they will want to return to their birth family.

The truth is that our children always want to return to their birth family.  That is perfectly normal and right. They love their American family and their American life. They miss their Ethiopian family and (parts of) their Ethiopian life. The reasons that they cannot be with their first family(legal reasons, reasons of poverty) won't be changed by visiting Ethiopia.  In fact, those reasons may become even more apparent and real. Daniel remembers that his family has no shoes and wears the same clothes every day. But this time he will notice how thin and small his family is. He will notice how the roads are unpaved and the schools have no toys or books in them. 

Why would we want to subject him to that?!

Because living truthfully is the foundation of our family. Because he will never fully accept that it was not HIS fault that he was relinquished by his family and adopted until he understands the seriousness of their poverty and challenges.  I can tell him a million times that his family has fewer choices that most American families. He will never believe me. I can tell him a million times that his Ethiopian family believed that relinquishment was the best choice. He won't take that into his heart. But he will see for himself the limits that poverty places on Ethiopians each time we visit. He can talk with his first family about their choices. He can take that truth into his heart.  And so can Lily, who is only just beginning to ask the questions that Daniel has been thinking of for two years. 

We are visiting Ethiopia because our family lives there. God willing, we can begin and sustain regular contact with them for years to come. We are legally and morally restricted from giving them money. But, we can give them photos and small gifts and TIME.  Every moment we get to spend with our Ethiopian family is a huge gift. I cannot wait. I know it will be so hard. It will be hard to communicate (we are hiring a translator/driver). It will be hard to say hello after all the sad things that have happened. It will be hard to say goodbye, knowing that we may not see them again for a long while, or ever. But, but... imagine saying goodbye to a loved one, thinking you would never see them again, not knowing if they would be okay.

And then seeing them again, healthy and whole.

Thousands of dollars in tickets and hotel bills and 24 hours of travel. Worth it.

Addis Ababa, here we come!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

How's the house?!

I trying not to groan and roll my eyes every time someone asks me how our new house is. I'm not trying all that hard, to be honest.  Sorry well meaning friends and family. It's been a rough few weeks and I'm not hiding that too well...


It is getting better. We are no longer sleeping on the floor.  The hideous carpets have been replaced by beautiful wood floors. There are no longer piles of boxes in every corner. Most of our belongings have been found and put away.  A bit haphazardly, but at least they are no longer in boxes.

So, more to cheer myself up than anything else, here are some "Before" and "After" photos from the last month (has it only been a MONTH!?)

The view of our living/dining rooms the day we moved in.

Is that a kitchen? It's hard to tell.

I wept every time I came downstairs to this sight. 

Ta Da! It IS a kitchen!

ahhhhhhhh..... So much better.
Next up: RENOVATIONS BEGIN. Our contractor is coming by tomorrow. He says we will be done with major jobs by Christmas. If so, that will be the 2nd best Christmas present I've gotten so far. (Our children were matched with us on December 14, 2010)  He says I will have NO kitchen for only 2 weeks. He says he thinks our costs won't balloon TOO much.  This is the list of things that he is going to be doing:

Demolishing the garage
Landscaping the backyard.
Installing a new backyard drain and concrete patio
Installing 24 new windows and 2 doors.
Installing new siding.
Installing a new roof.
Gutting the basement (which is currently a dank, dark illegal apartment)
Finishing the basement
Installing a new bathroom and laundry room in the basement
Repairing the stairs to the basement
Gutting and refinishing the kitchen
Re-tiling the smallest bathroom in the world under our staircase
Rewiring and updating our electrical system.
Replacing the boiler.

I'm going to go breathe into a paper bag for a few minutes while you laugh at the paragraph above.

Folks who have renovated while living in their home... Advice? :)