Friday, December 31, 2010

Birthday Boys

Today is Steven's Birthday. I don't have a big post written, which is just as well because the best gift I could give him is more privacy.

Oh I have to say at least one thing...

Last night Meazi asked me if you have to floss your teeth in the Underworld. Steven had been reading her Greek Mythology to, in his words, balance out everything she was learning at school.

After the kids were finally asleep, he went to the store to buy ingredients to make Melese a Garbage Truck cake for his birthday. He stayed up past midnight baking it.

He is a mensch, which I think is French for fantastic.

Happy Birthday Steven!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

About my son, the almost two-year old...

I don’t write that many posts about Melese. There are two reasons for this, I always feel like I am gushing when I write about him, and I really can’t come up with the right words to describe how much I love him. He is the person I am closest to. I spend my days with him. At night he sleeps right next to me, his little chest rising and falling, his tiny toes digging into my rib cage.

Cute, sweet, funny, smart, he is the ultimate baby, but he is not a baby anymore. He turns two on New Year's Day. I am grateful for every single minute I’ve been lucky enough to spend with him, (even the frustrating minutes when he is standing on the coffee table, throwing my Mac onto the ground).

I think about what he has been through in his short life, and my heart hurts for him. Like a turtle, he is resilient. 

Melese’s language developed slower than I thought it would, his super chatty sister rarely lets him get a word in edgewise. It has been a great joy to hear him speak new words. Months ago, we pulled into our driveway after running errands. I turned off the car and took a deep breath (because really, isn’t the car the most relaxing spot for a new parent? I mean a parked car with your children STRAPPED in safely? You know exactly where they are, and you can just rest for a moment). It was very quiet, I took a look at the front of our house and from the backseat I heard Melese say, “Home”. It was the first time he said the word. I looked at him and smiled, “Yes Melese, you are home.”

We have been going to Music Together classes. Melese, unlike all of the other kids in the class, wonders around during the songs. Occasionally he will make it back to the circle and plop down in my lap for a moment, but for the most part he likes to explore as he learns (something to remember when we begin to choose schools for him). Toward the end of the semester, during a song called, There’s a little wheel a turning in my heart, (we always substitute, “There’s a little boy Melese in my heart” when we sing it at home) Melese walked over, grabbed both of my hands, looked into my eyes and sang to me. It was the first time he really sang. Of course I began to cry because he was just so beautiful, and his voice was so sweet, and he was singing just to me.

Melese is extremely sensitive. He is empathetic. One of my saddest days with him was when we visited a friend who was having her hair done. Like almost every Ethiopian girl I know, this girl was crying while getting her braids. (Meazi cries every single time we do her hair, no matter what detangler, or conditioner we use). The cries of his friend were too much for Melese. He fell apart, completely. He was a mess for hours. It may have triggered something in him, but what it really felt like was empathy. He kept hugging and comforting his friend when her style was done. His big, gigantic, eyes still pooled with tears. 

People, Ethiopian women mostly, always tell me to cut his hair.
I cannot. Look at his curls! I will not. Yes, I know his name sounds like “Melissa,” and yes I know he is very pretty, and yes, folks think he is a girl, but I am not cutting his beautiful hair.

I know that he loves me, one of his other words is “Mommy,” or sometimes first thing in the morning when he wakes up and I am not there, “MAAAAAHHHHMAAAAAHH!!”
He is very affectionate. He loves both Steven and me. However, his person is still, and will always be…

His sister. She is it for him. She is his person. After we take her to school, every single time we leave the house between 8 and 2:30 he says, “Get Meazi?” When the blessed time finally arrives, we go and sit in the parking lot, waiting for her to come around the corner. The minute he sees her he bolts across the lot, running and shouting, “Meazi! Meazi Meazi!” He throws his arms around her eliciting a collective “Awwwww, from the teachers and other students.” It is, indeed an Awwww inducing moment. Meazi smiles and we trundle off to the car together, his posture showing a new relief that she is finally, at long last, back within arm's reach.

I could write one thousand posts about Melese, about what it means to me to be his mother. What a gift it is to be his mother. I hope I can say what I am going to say next without sounding like an entitled asshole. Here goes:

When you wait for something for so long, when you want something so much that the longing for it permeates every pore and fiber of your being, when you are a woman who wants, and tries for a baby for a full decade, to be given an opportunity to parent a baby, this baby, well, then you are humbled, and grateful, and really, really, happy.

On the day of our very last music class, the instructor played a lullaby on her guitar. Melese had been wandering around the room, not really paying too much attention. When the lullaby started he first sat in my lap, and then he got up and went around to each child in the class. He walked up to each one of them, gently reached out his hand and stroked their heads, one by one, around the circle. I cried again, as did some of the other moms. It was a moment as sweet as Melese himself.

Happy early Birthday my beautiful son. Being your mother has been the single most redemptive experience of my entire life. I love you.

A Book in Their Hands-Library Update.

Thank you to everyone who has donated to the school/library. Things are moving forward. Although I don't have any donation info from Tesfa (Dana is in Ethiopia right now), I do know how we are doing with the Ethiopia Reads donations.

Thanks to all of you, and to the lovely family who donated a huge amount yesterday, we are over the half-way mark for the library.

To show my appreciation, please enjoy a musical moment from my favorite duo.

I hope you find it more inspiring than their papa did.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

If you hear thunder, and the world suddenly stops spinning on its axis, it is because I may enter a church today. Meazi wants to go to the children's Christmas Eve mass at her school's church. I said, "Your father probably won't come with us Meazi." She turned to him and asked him why. He told her because he wasn't Catholic. I told her that I wasn't either, but that I'd take her if she still wanted to go. She said, "Mom I do want to go. I'm Catholic."

We are going to need stronger rubber bands. See the picture above? He hair always pops out of those big puffs. She was at a school mass and one just exploded. Think we'll probably go with the big, combed out Afro that Meazi calls her, "Freedom hair."

Meazi saw Santa in Santa Fe. She asked him for a pink Princessa Bike. He asked her if she needed training wheels or not. She said she did.

Melese seems very excited about Santa.

He told us that he would like Santa to bring him a cookie, and a chocolate. (Dear Santa, that is my list too). Melese is excited about the reindeer. He also sang Jingle Bells in the car last night as we drove around looking at lights.

We made a Christmas card. My mom said we never, ever, look like we do in the picture. (Steven is wearing a suitcase, and I may actually have make-up on). It was our re-adoption day. It seems to be the only day of the year that we managed to get a picture of the four of us together. (Thanks Aunt Kate).
 These are the photos we did NOT use to make a Holiday card. My friend Deb gave me a hard time because we didn't include the Ted on our card. Deb, dogs are not allowed on the beach!

Today is Christmas Eve, and again I am overwhelmed with gratitude and love. I feel incredibly lucky to be a mother to these two.

They are the epitome of 'comfort and joy'.

Peace be with you, (and also with you-Hey! I remember this! Maybe Meazi won't be too embarrassed to have me next to her in that pew this afternoon!)

Have a very Merry Christmas.

I love you people.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Daddy Can Wear His Suitcase, You'll Wear That White Dress...

When Meazi was first learning English, she spent about two full months being obsessed with our wedding. She talked about it all the time. She looked at the photo albums. She watched the video we have. She told me that she wished she could have been there. I spent months muttering to myself indignantly, "Just another thing adopted kids miss! They don't even get to go to their parents' wedding!" I realize now, that this was a ridiculous thought that I had, and that kids don't get to be at their parents' wedding (unless it is a second marriage or something). I don't know why I temporarily forgot that biological kids miss this day too. In a way they are there though aren't they? All of their cells and parts 'to be' are present in the bodies of their mom and dad. Maybe they are just a little sparkle in their mom's eye, but in a way, I feel like they get to be there. Obviously not a major issue, but the fact that she was so sad about it made me sad.

We had the pleasure of going to Santa Fe over Thanksgiving. I originally had a big idea of getting Steven to renew our vows so that Meazi and Melese could get a small glimpse of what our wedding was like. Steven, because of work, only had two full days in Santa Fe. The kids and I flew out on Tuesday. On Wednesday night at 8:30 pm, Steven left work, picked up Teddy, and drove 13 plus hours to meet us in New Mexico. He left Sunday morning to get back in time for work. That, combined with the fact that Steven looked at me like I was crazy when I suggested renewing our vows, made me drop the idea. I had, however, checked to see if the same judge was available. It turns out he has a blog (is there anyone who doesn't have a blog at this point?).

We had a chance to take Meazi and Melese to the rooftop where we wed. The picture above is where our reception was. There was a family in there who had also snuck in through the kitchen to check it out. We told them that this was where our wedding had been. They asked if we would recommend it for their wedding. Steven looked at them and said, "Well, we are still married." They took this as a good sign. Meazi asked about the reception, and Steven told her about the dinner, and the speeches, and how papa dressed up like Elvis. He told her again about Mark's speech and how Mark told us to always look to the people present when we needed support and love.

Melese slept through the entire thing. Maybe it was the altitude. While we were there I was remembering how Meazi thought men wore 'suitcases' for special occasions. Her English has come a long way.

I was grateful for the opportunity to fill in our family's history with more than words and pictures. I was grateful for the opportunity to hold my children in my arms in that special spot. But Steven, if you change your mind, I always thought you looked quite handsome in that suitcase and I wouldn't mind putting on that white dress again, (although it would have to be let out). Imagine how cute the flower girl would be...

And the ring bearer...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wordless Wednesday-(Nearly)-Nutcracker Edition

Dear Mom, Thank you for taking me to the Nutcracker when I was a young girl.

Dear Universe, Thank you for giving me a daughter whom I can take to the Nutcracker.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Because They'll Need Water Too..

While I was thinking about how Meazi and Melese never had "one book" in Ethiopia, a woman out east was thinking about the water situation in her son's hometown. Remarkably, Liz McGovern has just visited Mudula, Ethiopia and has started a campaign to bring them clean water. While she was there she found out the following:

Over 60% of the population in Mudula lack access to potable water.

Water is identified as the number one problem of the region.

Clean water is the top priority of the local and regional governments.

The 3 most common medical diseases are water-borne illnesses.

I'm not sure how she did it, but in two days she convinced the local government to do something about the problem. (I think she may be some kind of superhero).

More from her website:
A large spring with a flow rate of 5 liters/second is located 7km outside Mudula- potentially able to supply all of Mudula and some surrounding villages. The spring water will be pumped into an elevated reservoir and then delivered by gravity to six distribution points.
Here is Liz's website: Mudula Water.

Water, books, an education...the possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Ethiopia Reads-Tesfa School and Library in Kembata Tembaro, Ethiopia -The Details

 “To the uneducated, an A is just three sticks.” - A. A. Milne

For the first time ever Ethiopia Reads and Tesfa are collaborating on a project; to build a library and school in the Kembata Tembaro region of southern Ethiopia. 

In my experience, kids from this region really like books and school.

From Jane Kurtz:

"Recently, I talked on the phone with a mom who told me the group that recommended she be in touch with Ethiopia Reads thought we were a big organization.  That cracked me up.  In these tough fundraising times, we've cut back to one--count time office manager as our only paid staff in the U.S.  In Ethiopia, we are making the best use of raised money by moving to a collaboration model, to make sure administrative costs are as low as possible.  That's great because it means most money raised will go straight to projects that are thrifty and community-supported and sustainable.  It's bad because it means we operate without much infrastructure.  Ethiopia Reads = mostly a group of very determined volunteers/readers who take time from their own work, hobbies, families, and other dreams because we can't NOT try to get books to kids in Ethiopia."

By partnering with other NGO's, Ethiopia Reads will have more opportunities to fullfill its mission of creating a reading culture in Ethiopia by connecting children with books.

Tesfa has planted a school every year for the last seven years in Ethiopia. The founder of Tesfa has a very sad story. He, remarkably, has found a way to turn his grief and loss into something beautiful. Dana Roskey, like Jane Kurtz, is an everyday hero.

Here is the info about our school from Tesfa's homepage:

Project Summary:
To build, furnish, supply and staff a school and library for 250 primary students in the Kambata-Tambaro region. This school will likely be a kindergarten combined with nonformal primary school that serves a broad spectrum of children with primary level literacy and numeracy. Nonformal schools follow specific curriculum and school-year schedules prescribed by the government to best serve rural, farming communities. Many of the children have farming duties, depending on the season. The curriculum is a concentrated primary curriculum meant to provide basic literacy and numeracy. The nonformal paradigm allows for training up local youth to perform as teachers, thereby building local capacity. Nonformal schools are best structured around a base student population of 200-400 that can be taught in split day shifts.


The Kambata-Tambaro zone is one of the nine administrative zones in Southern Ethiopia, with a total surface of 2,434 km² and a population close to one million. The region is situated about 175 miles (280 km) south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital. More than half of the total area is classified as hilly and mountainous.

Like most of the surrounding regions, such as Hadiya, Gurage, Wolaita, Sidama, Gedeo, Kambata's economy is based on enset, a perennial crop resembling false-banana. Used as staple food crop, enset covers about one-third of the total area of land in Kambata. The Kambatas are one of the most dynamic, hard-working, and highly skilled agriculturalists in Ethiopia. And yet, like many regions of Ethiopia and other developing countries, Kambatas suffer from unemployment, mass poverty, food insecurity, illiteracy, and communicable diseases. There is deep-rooted chronic food shortage and widespread starvation among the population. Check out this very informative link for more information about the region.


The school complex itself will include six classrooms, bathrooms, an office and a library. Depending upon the choice of building materials, the build could take as long as four months and would be best planned for the driest months of October through January, though any time before June is optimal. June through early September is the rainy season.

The final budget will depend on building materials -- the current package price is an estimate. We recommend wood framing and mud walls as being cheap, functional and conforming to local standards. But there are degrees of scale and finish that will affect cost. We expect to have a good discussion with donors about the variables in the build.

The project package includes classroom furniture and the first year of operations, all provided for by the original donation. Planning will have to include options for ongoing operational costs beyond the first year. The usual strategy is to make plans for support through individual child sponsorships, forging links with US schools or churches, or among a group of project supporters. Several Tesfa schools are supported through sponsorships, costing $21 per month. The average school budget requires 12-20 sponsors, country schools requiring the least.

Donor Base:

So far, the base of support for this project is provided by U.S. adoptive parents whose children come from this region. We are very proud to be working with them, and with Ethiopia Reads on this project.

Ripple Effect:

The school will serve approximately 250 children. The average family in Ethiopia is 7, so your impact serving 250 children expands to 1,750 children and family members. Extend that impact ten years into the future, with a new class coming in each year and total reach is to 4,550 children and family members. If you consider extended family, which in Ethiopia can be very close, then hope and success in the lives of 250 children might touch a community as large as 12,250.

A library and a school, obviously I am going to need help. The financial goal is 45k. This is the approximate cost of the library(10k), plus the school(35k). Thank you to all of you who have already donated to the library. Again, the way to do that is to go to HERE and when donating, add "Mudula" in the 'in memory of' field. Tesfa has a button for the school, and I will put it on the sidebar here as well. I'll add a fundraising thermometer as well for Meghan. ;)

There will be a fundraising event in Los Angeles this spring. Jane will come, and Dana too, if he is back from Ethiopia. I have asked a famous actress with an Ethiopia daughter to co-host the event with Jane, (no not THAT actress), although she certainly would be welcome. It may end up just being me, Jane and Meazi and Melese that night, but we will give it our all. If you would like to host an event in your city on the same night (perhaps in Canada?) let me know. If you would like to help in some other way, please let me know too.

Melese is pretty excited about it.
I am too.