There

Our boy turned four today.

Not a huge, monumental milestone birthday … but definitely bigger than the baby we brought home more than 3 years ago from Addis.  See, mentally, sometimes, I still feel like I’m “there.”  And by “there,” I mean in that new mom stage, with the baby, and the diaper bag, and the stroller, and all the supplies, and all the “rules” that came with having an infant (you know, the “No eggs before nine months!  He must be off the bottle by his first birthday!”)

But in reality, those days are long behind us.  Eli is four now … and though it’s only been a few years since those baby days, four is really a world away from infancy.  Just the other day, Eli and I were driving to preschool and talking about Ethiopia, and how he was born there, and how beautiful it is there.  But then, I thought to myself – he’s ready to learn a little more.

“You know, some of the people who live in Ethiopia are quite poor, Eli.”

“They’re bored?” he asked incredulously.

“No, sweetie, they’re poor — that means they don’t have a lot of money for food, or clothes, or homes, or school.”

“That’s TERRIBLE!”

“I know!  But there are things we can do to help them.”

“Like give them money?” I saw him screw up his little face in the rear-view mirror.  He was thinking hard.  Then he said, “Mommy, I have money in my piggy bank.  I can give it to the people in Ethiopia so they can buy food, and drinks, and graham crackers, and chocolate, and marshmallows.  Please can I? I really want to.”

My heart melted like a stick of butter right there.  I literally almost pulled the car over and started crying.  (Let me fill you in for a sec and tell you that Eli has three dollars and change in his piggy bank that he counts all the time and is sooo proud of.)

What really hit me was the pure, innocent and genuine love young children have for others.  That most adults — even the kindest and most loving and generous adults — lack.  The no-questions-asked, no “what’s-in-it-for-me?” generosity.

And here I am, this little boy’s mother, always rushing around thinking of “this” or “that” — with the ability to give, do SOMETHING … and yet still doing not much at all.

So, in honor of my Ethiopian son’s birthday, I am challenging myself to give more and do more.  I challenge you to do the same.  If a four-year-old can give all the money he has, then we, as grown-ups, can at least give a little.

And he’s also thrown toys into the equation.  Totally out of the blue yesterday, he said, “Mommy, I have toys and I think the children in Ethiopia might not have any.  I want to give them mine.”

So, I say, if a four year old can give his toys to children in need, then certainly we, as adults, can donate some small toys or items to go in a child’s backpack for EOR’s upcoming trip to Ethiopia.

Who’s with me?

Alex

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Enkutatash 2004~~Melkam Addis Amet!

Ethiopia’s New Year’s Day (or Enkutatash) is celebrated in September towards the end of the big rains. Unlike the 1 January date, which is comparatively arbitrary, New Year’s Day in Ethiopia marks a new season and a new beginning.

The grass is green, the sun has come out, and there is fresh food to be harvested. Apart from the cyclical explanation for the timing of Ethiopian New Year, there is also a legend which maintains that Enkutatash is celebrated to commemorate the return of Queen Sheba from Jerusalem.
Presently in Addis Ababa, New Year’s Eve is spent feasting and partying. On New Year’s Day, the house is decorated with pretty little yellow Meskal daisies. Children make gifts of colorful paintings or spring flowers to give to their family and friends. Girls, dressed in their new Ethiopian dresses and armed with a kabero (small drum), go from house to house singing a special Enkutatash song, in return for some money. The main religious celebration takes place in the 14th-century Kostete Yohannes church in the town of Gaynt, in the Gondar region. Three days of prayers, psalms, hymns and sermons, and huge colourful processions mark the advent of the New Year. Closer to Addis Ababa, the Raguel Church, on top of the Entoto Mountain north of the city, has the largest and most spectacular religious celebration.

In the United States, Enkutatash is typically celebrated on or around September 11th.  Public celebrations of Enkutatash often occur on the weekend before or immediately after the ‘official’ holiday.  This year, in consideration of the bigger 9/11 commemorations as well as the Ohio State Football schedule, the Columbus Ohio celebration will be held on September 18th, from 10-6.

Each year,  as the workload for the Enkutatash celebration increases, I think, “This will be the last year I help to plan.  Next year, I’ll attend as a guest.” This notion is quickly shunted aside, but I’d be lying if I didn’t think it would be nice to spend summer doing a little less.

BUT, then I go to the Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services office for an Enkutatash meeting with my Ethiopian daughter by my side.  In an instant she is surrounded by a half dozen Ethiopian adults she has known for the last 3+ years.  By the end of an hour, she’s spent time chatting with another half dozen Ethiopian adults, all eager to bestow kisses and greetings.  This link to the Ethiopian community means more to me than any summer afternoon spent at the zoo,  or picnic in the park.

My daughter will grow up with Ethiopian friends to play with, she’ll know families that look remarkably like ours, but she also have adoring Ethiopian adults in her life, and Ethiopian friends who grow up in families who look little like ours.

And so, despite the large part of my grey matter that yells, “too much” when I add another commitment to my schedule, I will continue, whole-heartedly to plunge in to the Ethiopian community whenever I am asked.  These relationships, like the Queen of Sheba’s jewels, are priceless indeed.

 

Melkam Addis Amet!

Paige

Thankful

So the 3rd anniversary of my son’s adoption from Ethiopia came and went.  Of course, this was a day of mixed emotions for me.  There was the joy of celebrating my blessed family.  There was the nostalgia I feel for Ethiopia (has it really been three years?).  And then there was the grief and sadness I feel for the family and culture Eli left behind that day.

That day when we took him away from the country in which he was born.  The land in which he and would’ve otherwise grown and thrived (and I know he would’ve grown and thrived.  He’s the strongest person I know).  And the day that, even though he had been in an orphanage for several months prior to us meeting him, he would never have the chance to go back to his birth family.

As much as I love him and am selfishly so incredibly over-the-moon happy to have him, I’m truly sad that he isn’t getting to grow up in his homeland.  I’m devastated that he won’t grow up experiencing his birth culture on a first-hand basis.

And I feel extremely guilty that I am getting to spend my life with him — and his birth family is not.  I get to watch him grow and thrive and learn.  I get to tuck him into bed and make him the perfect PB&J sandwiches and push him on the swings and have dance parties with him.  And his birth family does not.

Why me?  Why do I get to raise him and not his birth family?  In truth, it’s just not fair.  Life just does not always seem fair.

I wonder if there will ever be a time when Eli resents me for taking him out of his country and culture.  I can imagine this day will one day be particularly difficult for him.  I wonder how long it will be now.

But on this past adoption anniversary, Eli was nothing but happy, happy, happy.  He truly had a great day.  He seemed to understand, as much as a three-and-a-half year old possibly could, that this was the anniversary of his adoption.  That three years ago, mommy and daddy met him in Ethiopia.

To honor him, we had some of our best Ethiopian buds (the fabulous Amy and Paige and their families) over for a cookout and some slip-n-slide.  And then, later in the afternoon, we took him to the neighborhood pool.  Eli never stopped smiling the whole day.

As I carried him up to bed, happy and exhausted that evening, he rested his curly head on my shoulder and said, “Thank you, mommy, for remembering Eli Day.  I love you forever and ever.”

Wow.  What my three-year-old was telling me was that he was thankful on this day.  And that’s how I should handle my emotions as well.  By being thankful for the blessed opportunity to raise him … thankful for the opportunity to bring HIS culture into MY life … and thankful to his birth family and their sacrifices.

Alex

Before Ethiopia…

Next week, our family will celebrate Eli Day.  Eli Day, as you may have guessed, is the anniversary to the day we adopted Eli.  Next Tuesday, it will be three years since Sr. Lutgarda of Kidane Mehret Children’s Home handed me the tiny, innocent baby with eyes wise beyond his years.

There are way too many thoughts and emotions that run loose in my head and heart surrounding Eli Day for me to put into type at the moment.  I’ll save that crazy, long, disjointed post for Eli Day (when they’ve all come rushing out).  Right now, I’m just trying to remember what my life was like three years ago today — before Ethiopia.  I can barely remember anymore.

What did I DO before I became a part of an Ethiopian American family?  What did I think about and care about so much before I fell in love with Ethiopia?  I really don’t remember.

Ethiopia has changed my life forever — for the better.  I can only hope to attempt to do the same in return.  But three years ago today, I really had no idea what was in store …

Alex

Preventing Failure to…Provide

Oona, who writes the fabulous  and buds know blog, has crafted a fabulous post about failure to thrive.  She kindly shared it with us:

failure to provide

By Oona


He has gained a pound and a half in the five weeks he has been here. More weight than he gained in Ethiopia from June of 2010 to February 2011. His skin is smoother, his eyes shine, he laughs easily and is good natured most of the day. He sleeps well, is learning English at a truly spectacular rate and he meets each new day with a sense of joy and anticipation. He is an all around wonderful and wonderfully capable little boy.

Today, on a recommendation of a friend of mine, we took a dance class together in the little village a few miles South of our city. I e-mailed the teacher to inquire about the 9:30 AM class and explained that Dawit understood a lot of English and talked and sang constantly at home but did not speak in public. She recommended another class. “The children in the 1:30 class are really special and will welcome him happily.”

We entered a beautiful old brick building and were met by the teacher, a thin pretty woman in her late 40′s. She smiled sweetly and I believe we both felt calmer just being near her. Dawit didn’t hesitate to walk in and was as thrilled as I with the beauty of the space. A large room made homey with curtains on the windows on either end of the space. There was a wall of mirrors and opposite that was a wall of pegs hung just where a child could easily take one of the scarves that was hanging from them. The floor was covered with mats and then foam pieces in various shapes. There were objects to sit on, crawl under, and fall on top of. There were shapes to beams to walk across. She invited Dawit to walk on the balance beams and the circles and to hang from a swing and fall onto the blanket that was stuffed with beach balls.

Before she joined Dawit and her other students we spoke. “Do you know about my work?” she asked. I told her no not really. “I’m a dance psychotherapist. I work with movement to help children heal or reach their potential. I specialize in adoption.”
I felt a catch in my throat when she said this and thought I might cry. I was surprised by my reaction but perhaps shouldn’t have been. Having spent the last five weeks wondering if there was anyway Dawit could have stayed with his family, I was constantly coming up with a list of things they would have needed; running water, a school, medical services, to name just the very basics. Now, when looking for a toddler dance class I end up with a dance therapist. I was struck by the difference between what his Ethiopian family lacked and by what were provided with without even looking for it.

She went off to do her work and I sat on the wooden platform at the end of the room and chatted with one of the moms as I watched and was amazed by how Dawit opened up to her and the other students. Slowly she would bring each student into Dawit’s orbit and say “Did you notice we have a new friend in class this week?” Then she would say their names and have the child look into Dawit’s eyes and say hello. Dawit was in heaven. The children were typical and yet not. They were calm and energetic. They were centered for lack of a better word. After the children had been exploring the space, rolling, jumping, balancing it was time to put all the foam pieces and pillows and crawling tubes away and Dawit rushed to help everyone. We danced to the beat of each child as they all took turns on a hand held drum as we walked in a circle and the beat told us to go quickly or slow down, step lightly or stomp. Dawit loved every moment. If a child was wiggling their fingers the teacher would say, “Oh look at that lovely motion L is doing with her fingers! Let’s all try doing that to see how it feels. Oh, see how Dawit raises his legs when he marches? Let’s raise our legs like Dawit.”

What does it do for a child when an adult singles them out to say “Wow! Look at you! I love that so much that I’m going to do it and tell others to do it to!” For Dawit it was empowering. So completely satisfying that by the middle of the class a small miracle happened. Dawit began to speak. The teacher would say, “up,” and Dawit would say “up.” The teacher would sing “Shoo fly don’t bother me” and I would hear Dawit try as best as he could (which is pretty darn good) say “ooooo fly on’t other me!” Again, I held back tears. Then it came to me. Again, I was surprised. I have not in the five weeks we have been together been deeply emotional. The work of making him feel secure; meals on time, bedtime rituals established and rules such as no hitting and pinching being enforced made me too tired to be emotional. At the beginning it was difficult to know if he would be alright. Three and a half years old and 20 pounds is a challenge. Over the last week or so I began to see how he was thriving in this new environment. And that is what had me finally so emotional. Failure to thrive was a lie. The diagnoses he received in Ethiopia, the one confirmed here in NY by the big specialist, it all was a lie. He was not failing to thrive. We, all of us, were failing to provide. For this little boy, this sweet, smart, attentive, good listener, great learner of languages, adventurous little boy had everything in him to succeed. He was meant to succeed and yet he almost didn’t make it here. My mind went back to his last medical report in Awassa “Dawit entered 7 mos ago at 19 lbs and has continued to lose weight. He has diariah and loss of appetite.”

A few weeks later he is sleeping through the night, eating most of what we offer him, learning his third language, and when asked to, dancing a solo (yes, each child danced a solo on a lovely asian carpet with a scarf in hand and has latin music played and we all sat watching in wonder) in front of strangers. He shares his toys and food and laughs with joy and irony when we do something funny.

We are failing our Dawits when we as a world cannot ensure that everyone has clean drinking water. When children cannot go to school because they have to work and when mothers die and leave an infant so bereft that infant will not eat but instead cries on and on. We are the failure.

So, that is what I learned today. I banish failure to thrive from my vocabulary. Failure to provide. That was the problem and that should not ever be.

Thank you Oona, for your inspiring words of wisdom,

Paige

parallel goals

As I was bopping around the interwebby thing today, putting off adding to the Dead of Winter Bash’s auction database, I bounced from blog to blog, and landed on this little gem.  Rachel, of  If it Takes a Whole Life shared this terrific piece about raising Jewish kids.  Noting the similarities between keeping religion and keeping culture, Rachel drew some terrific parallels–enjoy:

A number of months ago, while Gabriel was in Sunday school, the rabbi at our synagogue asked all the parents to stay for a short talk on raising Jewish kids. Since it meant I was going to miss some quality coffee and pajama time at home with Kevin and Clementine, I hadn’t exactly been looking forward to going.

Once the rabbi got talking, however, I found myself digging in my bag for a pen, wanting to write down every word he said. He presented a top 10 list for raising Jewish kids–note, Jewish kids, not necessarily spiritual kids. He didn’t promise that the tips would help us raise kids who feel connected to God but he thinks that, if you follow these 10 recommendations, you stand a decent chance of giving them some of the tools they’ll need to potentially tap into their own spirituality as they grow up and mature.

Part of the reason I wrote so furiously over the course of the next hour was because I immediately saw how a list of ways to impart a sense of Jewish identity in my children was not very far removed from a comparable list of ways parents might reinforce their internationally-adopted kids’ cultural identities as well.

10. Have Jewish “stuff” around the house. Don’t just pull it out once a year to celebrate a holiday but keep it out where it blends into the fabric of the household.

Just like menorahs, mezuzahs, haggadahs, Jewish art, and children’s books with Jewish themes all reinforce children’s religious identities, the same types of purchases and thoughtful placements around the house can reinforce their cultural ones.

9. Think of religious school as an education that doesn’t end at bar mitzvah but rather goes through high school.

In the adoptive playgroups we have taken advantage of (and even helped establish) for our own kids, I can sense that it will get harder and harder to get scores of kids together, especially as they grow older. As their homecomings fade into the distant past and children make their own school friends, relying less on their parents to arrange their social interactions, I can see how it’ll fall to us as parents to keep prioritizing these activities and, ultimately, friendships.

8. Come as a family to synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Take off work and keep your kids out of school.

For those of you who aren’t Jewish, this may seem like a silly one. Like, really, we need to be told to go to temple twice a year? Ummm, yeah. We Reform Jews don’t always make it to synagogue as often as we should… that whole Friday night thing is a bit of a hindrance. Plus, regular Friday night services start at 7:30, which would just be hilarious to attempt with Clementine. What our rabbi’s really getting at here… celebrate the holidays. Make them a big deal, even if you do nothing else throughout the year. I’m guilty lately of barely acknowledging our own American holidays, let alone those in Guatemala and Ethiopia. I’d like to get better at this.

7. Observe birth, adolescence, marriage and death in a Jewish context. Assume you’ll do it that way.

Kevin and I had a Jewish wedding despite the fact that Kevin’s not Jewish. We held a Bris for Gabriel soon after we adopted him. I’m a little consumed with the whole Greece thing right now but, mark my words, a naming ceremony is in Clementine’s not-so-distant future. In other words, we’re raising a Jewish family and we do assume that we’ll mark life’s largest moments in a Jewish context. A bigger question for me is, “What would it even look like for us to observe those same moments in an Ethiopian context? A Guatemalan context?” That tells me I need more education.

6. Belong to a synagogue until you die.

This one, to me, is all about putting your money where your mouth is. Showing up, at least in the metaphorical sense:-) Visibly supporting the Jewish community. If not you, who? To do the same thing for Guatemala and Ethiopia, it means finding meaningful ways to give back to projects in the children’s countries, and it also means reaching out to find ways to help and connect with the communities of Guatemalan and Ethiopian immigrants in our own backyard. (If you’re looking for a great Ethiopian project to support, look no further than right here. Inspiring stuff.)

5. Observe Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Chanukah, and Passover at home. During Passover, have a Seder. Eat matzoh all week.

A translation for adoptive parents: do the work. Making a Passover dinner is really hard. It’s like Thanksgiving or any other meal that winds up tasting better, the more hours you put into it. It’s easier not to do it. This past year, Dad had just died and we pretended the holiday didn’t exist. One year, when Kevin and I were newly married, we went to our old synagogue’s Seder because I was intimidated by boiling water, let alone cooking lamb. The dinner was sort of lame, and it’d have been better if I’d put my big girl pants on and invited a few friends over to enjoy a meal I’d cooked. I’ve yet to cook an Ethiopian meal. It’s time to get out the berbere.

4. Send your kids to Jewish summer camp.

Just like there are tons of Jewish summer camps out there, there are a growing number of cultural camps designed to help kids, and even entire families, learn about and celebrate their birth cultures. Kids either love camp or they hate camp, and there’s a good chance that my kids will grow up moaning about the year (or better still, years) Mom and Dad sent them to culture camp… but maybe, just maybe, they’ll forgive us because they’ll figure our hearts were in the right place.

3. Plan to give your kids a high school Israel experience.

I went to Israel for the first time when I was 26. I went through the Taglit/Birthright program, which provides free trips to Jews in the diaspora, ages 18-27, who have never been to Israel. The program is really well conceived and executed and it’s wonderful that it’s there but I think that, if I’d known more about Israel at a younger age, I might have made slightly different choices during those pivotal college years. Who knows?

A lot of people say that the ideal time to take a child back to see their birth country is at around age 12, when they’re (hopefully) not yet so jaded that they completely hate hanging out with you:-) Yet, at the same time, perhaps they’re old enough to really remember the experience and feel the full impact of the trip. We took Gabriel back to Guatemala when he was four, with the full knowledge that he wouldn’t remember anything. Truthfully, Kevin and I had really missed it and just wanted to go. We know we may not be able to make a habit of popping down to Guatemala (or over to Ethiopia) every four years but we figure that, at the very least, we’ll do a family trip to each country sometime during their teen years. Our end goal is for both our kids to grow up feeling like their birth countries are accessible to them.

2. Have your kids participate in a Jewish teenage youth group.

This one relates directly back to #9. As our kids age out of playgroups, we need to find ways to build in socialization time with other kids who share their heritage.

1. Regularly observe Shabbat at home.

All right… I’ve got nothing. Kidding, kind of. Okay, it’s a stretch but here goes:

Shabbat (which we don’t observe… shame on us!) is about ushering in the sabbath, the day of rest. It’s about spending time with family. It’s about prayer. And quiet. And contemplation. Observing Shabbat every Friday night is about making time in your life so the spiritual stuff can happen. So maybe I lied when I said this list was about raising Jewish kids and not necessarily spiritual ones. Doing all the stuff on the list is good but finding a little quiet in each week to really listen… to the silence, to your kids, to what they’re saying, to what they’re not saying… that might be where it’s all at in the end.

* Full credit for the Top 10 list goes to our rabbi, who’s gonna have to remain nameless for the sake of our Interwebs privacy:-)

Thank you so much, Rachel, for sharing your post with us!  I hope that all of you comment about ways you keep a connection to your child’s culture too.  Little tips, big ones–please share!

Paige

his person

Another fabulous guest post, this one from my sweet friend Emily.  Em has chronicled the adoption process and her first few months at home with her darling boy, Ezra, at Our Little Buster.
Emily spends a good bit of time thinking and writing about attachment; this post is a beautiful example. Thank you Em, for sharing it with us.
Paige
Long before I became a mom I marveled at how a mother could make her baby stop crying by just holding him. I think everyone has witnessed a moment where a family member or friend is holding someone’s baby and the baby starts to cry or fuss. That person will then hand the baby back to the mom and instantly the crying stops. The baby feels safe and secure again just from their mother’s touch. I always thought that was beautiful and wanted to be that safe and secure person for a child. As an adoptive parent, I knew that it would take some time and some work to get Ezra to that point. I would say Ezra felt safe with us from fairly early on but I am not sure that he actually preferred us or that we were able to provide true comfort when he was upset. Several of my adoptive mom friends told me to give it time and that it would come. Patience is not one of my strengths and I so longed to be Ezra’s person of comfort. Waiting for those signs of attachment has been hard.

Last week I took Ezra to his 9 month well visit at the doctor. I knew he would be getting more shots as our doctor explained that at our previous visit. When we went to the doctor the first time we were able to get him to calm down with a bottle. He cried until we got to the waiting room and then as soon as he had the bottle he was fine. For this most recent visit I was taking him by myself so I had the same plan of attack. The nurse came in to give him his shots and I started to get the bottle ready. Of course he started screaming while he got the shots and then the nurse picked him up while I finished pouring the bottle. He continued to cry as the nurse held him. I got my stuff together and the nurse handed Ezra back to me. I fully expected him to continue to cry until I got that bottle in his mouth. Do you know what happened? He stopped. He looked at me and sniffled a bit but he stopped. The nurse said, “Well, look at that. He just needed his mama.” I almost gave the nurse a hug. I held him tight and hugged him and he was back to his silly self. I was his person. And it felt amazing.

Emily

 

Come all ye Faithful

So at this time of year, Halloween has ended and Christmas has entered the stores. Thus, my children are sure that Christmas is only two seconds away, and the list making commences. Some of my more industrious children began their lists in July and one in particular has created something that can only be referred to as a manifesto.
Here is my four year old’s list, as dictated to his father.
“Dear Santa,
Gimme all the Justice League , please, for Christmas. Thank you for giving me Justice League. Also, I like Mr. Freeze, then Superman can kill Freeze like a bug and then Superman can come punch ballers or fire. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha”
My husband said that the maniacal laughter at that point took over the discussion.
At my house, the children get something to play with, something to wear, and something to read and then a big communal gift from Santa. This year, we will be adding stockings from Project Gena as their gift to others. What are your holiday plans?

Katie

Waiting for Superman

My Superman is a five year old boy who I’ll call A, who has been living at a care center in Addis Ababa for the past 2 months.   My family was matched with A about three weeks ago, when we saw him on our agency’s waiting child list and decided that he would be a good fit for us.

Since submitting our paperwork at that time, we have heard NOTHING about a court date, embassy date, etc.   It is extremely hard to think about what this little boy has been through, how scared he must be about what has happened, where he is now, and what is to come.  It would be much easier to fly over to Ethiopia,  “rescue” him from this situation and whisk him back to Colorado to live with our family.

However, despite the fact that we have no idea when we’ll travel to meet him, or bring him home, I am actually glad that this is taking some time.  Because I know that while we are waiting in Colorado, and he is waiting in Addis, our agency’s in country staff are doing everything they can to make sure that all the rules are followed and everything is done properly and by the book.  I could not imagine finding out five years from now that he was not voluntarily relinquished, or that some type of trafficking was involved.  I want to be 100% sure that this is right — for his birth family, for him and for us.

So we will continue to wait for our Superman, as long as it takes.

Shawn

the wait

Another fabulous guest today.  Bridget writes elegant thoughts and shares gorgeous pictures at Sticky Mango Feet.  I’ve been a fan for ages, but a relatively silent one, so I was a little hesitant to ask Bridget to write for us.  I’m so glad I did!  Here are her thoughts on  ‘the wait.

Paige

In September of 2008, I made the mistake of telling my hairdresser that we were adopting. Little did I know then that the 25+ months that were ahead of me would be some of the most challenging months of my life. Every month thereafter when I went to get my hair cut (short hair has it’s drawbacks, folks!), she would say, “Soooo…..any word on the adoption?” Groan. I’ve been to five hairdressers since. You’d think I would have learned my lesson the first time around. Keep your “news” quiet, woman! But, I can’t. Our child, who I do not know yet, is still our child. She feels very real to me. So, when someone asks me, “How many kids do you have?” I reply that we have a 3 ½ year old daughter and that we also have a daughter in Ethiopia who we do not know yet. The predictable questions follow and I (usually) politely reply. I mean- they’re just curious, well intentioned people after all. This last weekend we attended a Halloween party and three seconds after we arrived, someone yelled across the room, “Any word on your adoption?” I love her. I do. But, I wanted to yell back, “Any word on your ex?” I busied myself with my daughter’s costume and pretended not to hear. Sometimes, it is just too painful to answer. Because my answer is “no.” There is no word on our adoption. And for the last 698 days I have awoke thinking of her and for the last 698 days I have fallen asleep thinking of her. I’m not as bitter as I sound. I promise. I know I shouldn’t equate our “wait” with someone else’s painful journey. We all have something. It’s just exhausting. Lately, I’ve been saying to people, “It’s (the wait) just too long.” I don’t think they understand and how can they? My words are vague and they sound overly simplistic for the angst that I feel. I have spent the past 698 days trying not to wish away precious time. I am head-over-heels in love with my daughter and love our days together (even if I’ve gone completely mad by 3 p.m. on most days). My husband and I have been drawn together in a new way. We have strengthened our relationship by enduring the pain of the process. It absolutely has meaning. The wait. And yet, 698 days to wait for our daughter to join our family…it’s a long time. I need her home. I need her in my arms. I need to start the journey together. I know it is a journey full of challenges, hurdles, complications, more angst. I know. But I’m ready to begin. I’ve spent the past 22 months reading, blogging, going to classes, attending webinars, meeting adoptive families, connecting with other mothers who “get it.” I’ve poured over conversations of ethics and transracial parenting. I’ve searched for truths, all truths. I’ve tried to learn all I can about Ethiopia and her people- a country I have grown to love from a distance. A country I already love intimately and without reservation even though my feet have yet to meet her soil. I’ve cried. Oh, how I’ve cried. I’ve cried and cried and cried and cried. I had no idea the grief I’d process throughout the wait. And yet, I know I have not even experienced the tip of the iceberg, as I don’t even know our daughter’s story yet. I haven’t met her. I haven’t met her birth family. I’m naïve. I know this. I was when I first started this journey and although I have learned so very much, I know I have so very much yet to learn. I am committed to the journey. I now look at the world in a much different way. Adoption has changed me. And even though our wait has been tremendously difficult, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I know that our joy is someone else’s sorrow. I don’t wish this upon anyone. In a perfect world, adoption would not need to be an answer. Alas, we do not live in a perfect world. In the next 2-3 months, we will have an answer to our question: Who is she? And we will have a lifetime together to continue answering that question. We will have a lifetime together. A lifetime pales in comparison to the 698 days that we have spent yearning. And so, we wait. Because waiting means seeking, understanding, learning, questioning, grieving, celebrating. Eventually, the day will come when we will know who she is. We will know her story. We will be the honored ones to spend our days with her. I know that months are nothing compared to a lifetime. And it is, in a way, selfish to be so exhausted by the wait. I need to remind myself of that. Daily.