Friday, December 21, 2007

First time meeting Santa Claus

The girls have been so excited about Santa. Every night for the past two weeks, after the bedtime routine, they say "Baba, tell us the story about Santa again."

So finally they meet him. Our kids approach him cautiously. They don't want to do anything that might be perceived as 'naughty'. Santa asks Marin "Have you been a good girl this year?" and Marin answered "I try to be good. I try really really hard. Honest. Not kidding." The poor kid was practically begging. It was adorable and sad at the same time.

Then Santa asks Emmy what she has done this year. While Emmy is staring, awestruck, not even knowing what to say - Marin decides to answer for Emmy. "Emmy kick Marin. Emmy bite Marin. Emmy smack Marin hard. Emmy really really bad girl." Ahhhh sweet revenge.

Emmy gets this "Oh, crap. What are you doing??" look on her face and starts stuttering trying to defend herself. Marin turns and looks right at Emmy, serious as a heart attack, and says "Emmy, you know you're a bad girl. I'm telling Santa. I'm mean it."

Quite a turn of events. Kind of embarrassing to be airing the family laundry in front of Santa.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Tooth Fairy Banned!

Ever since the tooth fairy came, Marin has not slept well. When we asked her why she said she is afraid of the tooth fairy. We told her how nice and gentle and kind fairys are. Didn't matter. The thought of someone or something sneaking around her while she slept terrified her. We are curious as to whether some experience in Ethiopia causes her to feel this way.

Finally we asked Marin what she wants us to do. She said she wants to tell the tooth fairy to never come here again. Marin wrote a letter to the tooth fairy, put a stamp on it, and asked me to mail it.

"Dear Tooth Fairy. Please don't come to my house again ever. Thank you very much. Marin"

She wrote the letter two days ago and has slept soundly since.

Marin the charmer

Last week the kindergarden teachers hosted a Math night at school. They filled the gym and cafeteria with tables containing different math games and the students rotated around the tables. Marin and I attended.

The next day at school, Marin and I were talking to her teacher, Mrs. Whynot. I asked Marin what part of Math night she liked the best. She said "I got to see Mrs. Whynot."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I love you Baba.

Baba is the Amharic word for father.

Marin never called me Baba. She has always called me Daddy. Last week she started calling me Baba and has called me that exclusively since then.

It was really emotional for me. I may be reading way t0o much into this because our kids are total pranksters and they are always searching for new ways to mess with our heads, but it feels like she is finally truly accepting me as her forever father.

What is it with Stickers??

Last weekend Emmy developed a ridiculous fever - 103 at one point - so I got her to the Doc first thing Monday AM.

As we sat in the waiting room, Emmy was practically comatose in my arms. Same in the exam room. The Doc was poking and prodding her ears, eyes, nose. Took a throat culture. Slapped that freezing cold stethoscope in her back and chest. Emmy was silent and motionless through the entire process - just giving us a vacant stare under heavy eyelids.

So I grab the prescription, bundle Emmy up, and am heading out to the car when Emmy suddenly comes to life. "Daddy. Stop. Stop now." she whimpered. I asked her what was wrong, thinking she had to use the potty. Emmy says "Doctor supposed to give me stickers. Go ask him."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tooth Fairy

Marin lost her first tooth this week. Lower left side incisor. It had been loose for fourscore and 20 years but finally gave out. As the day of reckoning approached, her older cousins schooled Marin in the ways of the tooth fairy.

So D-Day arrives 11/26 at the kitchen table just before dinner. Blood everywhere. Marin with a look of total panic on her face because she can't figure out where the blood is coming from and why it won't stop. Colleen gets that under control with an ice pack.

Fast forward to bedtime, Marin is freaking out. She is afraid of the tooth fairy.
"Why he come in my room?"
"What if he hurt me?"
" Boy or girl? Tooth fairy boy or girl?"
" Daddy sleep with me."

So we finally get Marin calm enough to fall asleep. She wakes at midnight and hollers for me. She tells me how scared she is of the tooth fairy. I pulled the quarter from under her pillow and said "Look, the tooth fairy is already come and gone". I have never seen such a deeply satisfied expression of relief come across anybody's face as I saw on Marin just then.
"He gone Daddy? Tooth fairy all gone? What he give me?"

The quarter was in a ziplock bag (easier to find) and Marin lay there shaking the quarter in the bag for about 30 mins - this look of total amazement and bewilderment on her face. Like "how the heck did the tooth fairy do that without me knowing it?"

The next morning Marin is telling Emmy all about what happened and tossing the quarter from one hand to the other. Emmy sat motionless with eyes wide as saucers. When Marin was finished talking, Emmy said - in a total deadpan - "You're kidding." I thought I would bust a gut laughing.

Marin went on to tell Emmy that she had actually seen the tooth fairy and he looks like a butterfly. Then she made a face like a butterfly (I guess that's what it was). Marin will feel pretty foolish some day when she reads this story.

Marin went to school and told everyone she got five dollars for her tooth. Right. The people at school obviously don't know me very well if they fall for that.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Officially recognized

Today our adoption of Marin and Emmy was officially recognized by the State and Federal governments.

I gotta say, Maine really does it right.

They rent out the Portland Childrens Museum for the entire day, and schedule ceremonies at 15 minute intervals, so they can do up to 40 families a day.

We arrive at the appointed time, are ushered into a room with the judge and clerks, a few questions, a few handshakes, a few signatures, a few photos, and we're done.

Then the kids get the run of the museum for as long as they want, with a refreshment room and everything. No lines, no ugly waiting rooms, no stress............just a really fun and memorable day.

Little Addis

We have a booming community of Ethiopian kids in southern Maine, coastal NH, and greater Boston.

Last weekend we went to a beach house in Rye, NH where several different families brought together a total of 12 adopted Ethiopians, 7 of whom lived at the orphanage the same time as our girls did.

It was amazing to watch them recognize each other and start laughing and playing together. What was planned to be a 3 hour event ran into 5 hours as nobody wanted to be the first to leave.

We did nail painting and braids; crafts and cookies; tag, hide and seek, and duckduckgoose.

A total blast for both us and the girls. It felt like we were back at Horizon House.


People in Maine understand you cannot go outdoors in November without wearing blaze orange. You will be shot by some dumb hunter who thought you were a deer and the dumber jury will say "Victim should have known better" as they acquit the hunter. Happens all the time in Maine.

Saturday Nov 3 comes and the girls want to go outside on the swingset. Leo has plenty of blaze orange, but we had totally forgotten about buying some for the girls. After several moments of fretting, we covered them head to toe in hot pink and hoped for the best.

Now the girls are looking at us like we are wacked. They know Colleen usually puts very strict limits on the amount of hot pink worn at any given time. So Marin finally asks "Daddy. What's happening?"

We explained about guns and being shot. The rifle fire booming off in the distance helped the girls to understand. Now, whenever anybody leaves our house, the girls run to the door and say "Gonna be shoot at?"


People who know us know that we are trying to low key most things so our kids do not get caught up in typical American consumerism. Our kids are so grateful and appreciative of even the smallest gestures, and we want to preserve that for as long as possible.

So we explained Halloween is a day when we dress up in costumes and have a party at Cousin Pete's house. Party was Sat 10/28. Pack the costumes away. Done deal. (ahem.....wrong)

I picked Marin up from school on Oct 31. She bops in the car, all smiles, and says "Daddy. Trick or Treating?"

ME: (thinking she is just parroting and not really knowing what she is sayin) What is that?
MARIN: You know. Go to house, ring door, say trick or treat, give me candy.
ME: (under my breath) crap. she knows.

So I Colleen on the phone and say "She knows". Colleen says "Emmy knows, too." I said "damage control." Colleen says "We'll hit 4 places and the kids will think they struck gold."

So that was our Halloween. We had planned to really low key Christmas. You know - focus on food, family, music, and the spirit of Christmas. Now we're bracing ourselves for the Santa express.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Marin Dentist Visit

Marin has about a dozen cavities. We originally scheduled to address them in August, but then my insurance got screwed up, and then my job got screwed up, so we had to postpone everything until this week.

A little backstory here. Marin has told us the only food at her house was bread, tea, and soda. At first, this was shocking, but the more we thought about it, it makes sense. They are poor, so all they can afford to eat is bread. The water is not potable, unless you boil it to make tea. Coke and Pepsi are ubiquitous and everyone knows it will not cause illness. Imagine what the acid of tea, the sugar and acid of soda, and the starches of bread do to little teeth that are poorly maintained anyway. Yeah, awful.

Now back to the story. Marin is up in the dentist chair just hamming it up having a great time. The dentist (who happens to be my cousin) is just yukking it up right along with her. When Marin opens up wide to laugh, Deanna daps a little topical at the back of her jaw. A few minutes later, with Marin laughing again, snuck the novocaine in. Marin never even had a clue until her cheek started to feel tingly. She was so cute.

Drill and fill. Drill and fill. Five times and we're done.

Marin sits up in the chair and flashes her gigantic smile, but the right side of her face was paralized from the novocaine. It was the funniest thing ever. Deanna and I were peeing our pants. Even Marin, after we showed her in the mirror, was laughing.

On the ride home Marin asked to be rewarded for being a good girl at the dentist. She wanted a chocolate ice cream cone. If you've ever drive Route 1 between Rockland and Bath, you know there is an ice cream stand about every hundred feet. So Marin sees dozens of pictures of ice cream cones and asks me why we are not stopping. Well, it's October and they're all closed. Marin does not believe that and is about to throw a fit.

"Daddy. Not fair. I was good girl. I need ice cream. You told me yes. I'm not your friend anymore." and on and on and on.

Finally, in Wiscassett, there was this little general store with an old fashioned ice cream fountain inside. Marin sat up high on the round red stool, proud as a peacock. (by the way, I am suddenly her friend again). She orders chocolate ice cream but (oh oh) they are out of chocolate. Total long face. Then the lady explains she can put some oreo cookies in the vanilla to make it look like chocolate. Marin lit up like a christmas tree.

Marin was adorable sitting up on the stool eating her oreo cookie ice cream with chocolate sprinkles on top. What a great kid she is.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Big Sister Power

I was so proud of Marin today the way she deftly outwitted another child who was taking advantage of her. We were on a class field trip to Chipmans Pumpkinland, a big farm that re-invents itself every October as a Halloween theme park for kids. It really is pretty cool.

I was assigned to Marin and two other girls I'll call Kay and Em. Em is a very pretty blond with big brown eyes who changes from charming and lovable to bossy and sassy and back on a dime - a potential future mean girl. So naturally, she is the ringleader of my little brood.

The three of them run off to play on a wooden train set.

Em proclaims "We need a driver" and Marin and Kay both raise their hands to be the driver.
Em chooses Kay to be the driver.
Then Em says "We need a baby to ride in the passenger car" so Marin volunteers to do that, and Em says "No, I'll be the baby."
Marin gets this look on her face like "What can I do?" and Em, sensing this, says in a flip tone "Oh, why don't you just ride in the back".

I believe Em is too young to have meant anything racial by this, but the hair went up on the back of my neck and I'm thinking "Birmingham. That little bitch".

Marin nonchalantly says "How bout I ride in the back and be the big sister?" Em dismisses Marin with "Fine, be the big sister."

Suddenly Marin starts bossing Em around. "Sit on your bottom. Hands on lap. No crying. etc"

Em looks at Marin and says "Why are you bossing me?" and Marin replies "I'm the big sister and you're just the baby, so you have to do what I say." Em gets this "Shoot, I did not see this coming" look on her face and just sits there and sulks.

Marin flashes a grin over at me as if to say "Don't worry about me, Dad. I can handle myself pretty well in kindergarden."

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Finally Forward

Last week was a big week for Emmy, we finally turned her car seat around so she could face forward. You should have seen her rolling up the driveway forward for the first time. She looked like Miss America, all smiles, with a little look of awe on her face, and gently waving to us out the window.

She was just giddy at finally seeing what she had been missing all along. And what a chatterbox.

"You mean this is the way to school?"
"I can see red light green light now"
"Show me Dunkin Donuts"
"Is that Marin's school bus?"
"Mama, count the school buses with me"
"I see my house! That my house, right?"

And on and on and on. She is so much fun.

The Bone

I listen to this radio station WBNE-FM "106.7 the bone". (I know, stupid, but I didn't invent it).

Anyway, one day Marin is in the back seat just bopping away while 'the bone' is playing on the radio. So I look at her in my rearview, she's smiling all over the place, and I asked her "Marin, do you like the bone?"

She looks at me like I've lost my mind and replies "Why? Can't eat it." Everything still comes back to food for her.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

We are so proud of Marin!!

Marin underwent an assessment for kindergarden readiness last June. She tested miserably (as we expected because of her language gap). She was almost off the charts low on English comprehension.

Well last week she was retested, and she scored at the high end of the middle range. This is only three months after her original test! We are so proud of her and so happy for her. Marin is doing really well in school.


We have this really large plate glass window in our breakfast nook that frames a gorgeuous view of our backyard. It's usually the first place I stare at after waking up in the morning.

One morning I go to this window and I see about a dozen pieces of scotch tape stuck to the windows. I look a little more closely and realize that each piece of tape is holding a bug- mostly spider, mosquito or ant. I look at Colleen and asked her what is going on. She replies "Reap what you sow."

Then I remembered, last spring we had a lot of ticks in the yard. Ticks are hard to kill, and I read somewhere the best way to disable a tick is touch to touch it with a piece of tape and fold the tape back on itself, immobilizing the tick inside. Apparently the girls thought this trick applied to all bugs.

The most fascinating thing about this is little Emmy having the dexterity, as a 2 year old, to capture a bug between a piece of tape.

Monday, September 10, 2007

GrandParents Day Bust

Today Emmy's daycare hosted Grandparents day. All Grandparents were invited to arrive around 10AM to spend time on the playground with the kids. Then come inside to make a craft (decorate cardboard sunglasses with glitter) and then get photos taken wearing the decorated glasses. Followed by lunch and story before nap. Great idea in theory.

All four of Emmy's grandparents showed. All four of Emmy's grandparents were dissed. Emmy kept her face down and would not make eye contact. Whenever a grandparent tapped her on the shoulder or spoke her name to get her attention, Emmy looked up, scowled, and said in her rudest voice "Go Home! Now!"

We're now looking into etiquette lessons for the young lady.

Funny looking sink

While at the Docs office, Marin had to go potty. Since it was just she and I, I opted for the Mens room. Snuck her quickly into a stall, did our duty, and headed for the sink to wash hands.

On our way to the sink, Marin spots the urinals and makes a beeline toward them. I asked what she is doing. She grins all proud of herself and says "Wash hands in sink. Little one. I reach it by self."

I intercepted her and explained they are not little sinks.
"What then?"
" Those are pottys for boys"
" I use it?"
"No. Only boys"
"I try it" (begins to pull down pants)
"No Marin. Boys do potty standing up."
" I do it by self"
"No Marin, only for boys."
"Really? You boy daddy. You show me."

Gallup Pollster

So the next day I took Marin to the Pediatric Orthipedic to put a cast on her arm. The whole time we were in the exam room applying the case I kept repeating to Marin what brave girl she is. No crying. Brave girl. No crying.

Fast forward a few minutes. We are out in a packed solid waiting room while the receptionist dubs around with the insurance card. Marin starts circulating the room, pulling on each person's wrist to get their attention, one at a time, looking up and asking "Did you cry when you see Doctor? I didn't"

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Selling out Dad

It had to happen. Marin was horsing around. She suddenly climbed up on a bar stool and jumped off. It is a swivel top stool so, of course, she lost her balance and landed hard on her arm. It all happened so fast, my brain had just registerd "must pull Marin off the barstool before she gets hurt" and she was already airborne. I was very concered she had dislocated a shouder or elbow, and took her to the local clinic for an Xray.

The Dr asks Marin "so what happened, honey?" Marin looks up at him, her eyes brimming with tears, her chin quivering, and whimpers "Daddy not watch me close enough."

Yeah, we;re gonna get some lessons on personal accountability when our English comprehension improves.

I cannot tell a lie

One family guideline we try to enforce is nobody leaves the dinner table until dinner is over. So one night Emmy is just dilly dallying, playing with her food, taking forever, and Marin is complaining that she doesn't like her food. Colleen got fed up and said "OK, we're just gonna sit right here until the kids finish dinner, or bed time comes." I'm thinking "What did you just say, Woman!!!! Are you out of your mind?? You have to consult me before you throw down the gauntlet like that."

A few minutes later, like any good government, Colleen broke the rules she enforced on all of us, and left the table. So Marin looks at me like "Well, now what are you going to do?" I counted Marins hot dog pieces and said "You eat four and I"ll eat four" Marin gave me the thumbs up.

Then I counted Emmy's peas and said "You eat this little pile and I'll eat this big pile" Emmy smiled.

The plates were clean in a minute or two and we all were preparing to leave the table when Colleen returned. Colleen said "Oh, Emmy, you good girl. You ate all your peas!" Marin stayed cool, totally playing the game. Emmy said "No Mama. Daddy do it. Emmy no like peas."

Friday, August 31, 2007

Who Da Boss?

Over the past few weeks, day care was preparing to promote Emnet from Toddler class to Preschool class. She is totally ready, but the school could not complete the promotion until a permanent spot opened in the PreSchool class. In the meantime, they would let Emmy go to PreSchool class on days when attendance was light from vacation, sickness, or whatever.

This week Emmy had enough of the wait and took matters into her own hands. She charged into Toddler class, emptied all the her possessions in her cubby into a basket, and marched down the hall to preschool dragging her basket behind her.

You just have to see this march to believe it. When Emmy is on a mission, she gets this really serious look on her face, juts her chin a little forward, takes long powerful giant strides, and has this tiny glint of mischief in her eyes. We call it her "cocky walk".

So anyway, she 'cocky walks' into the PreSchool room, hoists her basket of stuff up on to the activity table, looks directly at the new teacher, and demands to know where her new cubby is so she can properly store her stuff.

I had to run around the corner and hide I was laughing so hard, and I didn't want her to think I was making fun of her.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I Got a Name

This week we filed our paperwork for the US to officially recognize our adoption. This is when we reaffirm or change their birth names and specify the name that will be used on all official documentation going forward - social security, passport, drivers license, college transcript, property deeds, etc.

So what to do? On the one hand, our girls already know themselves as Meron and Emnet, and we want to honor their Ethiopian roots. On the other hand, we don't want to handicap them with names that Americans cannot pronounce and for which the gender is ambiguous. My name, for example, is always being butchered into Pinkham or Titcomb or something more rude. I habitually say my name and spell it whenever I meet someone new. It's enough to make me wish I was Smith or Jones or Hill.

We wince at some of the Ethiopian names American parents have preserved. "Aiofe" may be my favorite example. Accidentally buy too many vowels? Seriously, how many Americans can even guess at how to pronounce this name? Is it male or female? How about spending the rest of your life spelling that name and repeating it six times every time you meet someone new , make a restaurant reservation, or open a new account? Then you get "Come on, seriously, what's your real name?" Dear Parents, why not change it to Ava (especially because that is how it is spoken)? Let's pray this child is very good natured or becomes a major celebrity so everyone knows her name.

Back to us. Meron is a beautiful sounding name when spoken in Amharic. It is "Mare....trill the R.....on". A sweet, soothing sound. I love to call her that when I sing her lullabies. It means "the holy water". But how many Americans can trill an 'R'? And how long before some adult in an unkind moment, or some bully on the school bus, changes it to 'moron' just to get a cheap laugh. So Meron will become Marin.

Emnet is a totally foreign name. It's meaning is beautiful - "the ashes Christians use on Ash Wednesday". An American has no idea if this name is male or female and no idea of its ethnicity. It's unfamiliarity will raise doubts and bias in people who have not yet met her. So we can choose Annette or Emma - the two closest American female names in pronunciation to Emnet. We choose Emma because Emnet calls herself "Emmy".

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Emmy singer songwriter

Music must have been a big part of our kids lives. They are always singing to themselves. They have work chants, play chants, put themselves to sleep chants, everything. It is enchanting to listen to them.

Emmy is beginning to turn her songs into English. On the ride to preschool last week, Emmy sang a song to all the mothers of all her school friends. It went like this............

Holden's Momma. Holden's Momma. Holden's Momma.
Have a good today.

Shelby's Momma. Shelby's Momma. Shelby's Momma.
Have a good today.

Teegan's Momma. Teegan's Momma. Teegan's Momma.
Have a good today.

And so on down through the roster of her classmates.

It's interesting how they get the English almost right, but just wrong enough so you know it is their second language. On the other hand, that is part of the charm of listening to them, and sometimes the mistakes make for a better rhyme or rhythym than correct English does.

Meron English Proficient

We visited my cousin Tom for the first time yesterday. Naturally, he was very curious about the kids and asked lots of questions. He asked how well Marin understands English.

I said "She's pretty good".
He asked "how good?"
I said" why don't you ask her a question?"
He said "Marin, who is handsome?"
Marin pointed right at Tom and said "You are"

Tom said "Pretty Good? She is proficient!"

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Marin is getting more memories

These Ethiopian songs we play lately seem to be helping Marin to recall her African childhood.

Today she was looking at our adoption trip photo album and she started asking some tough questions.
- "Why you come get me?"
- "How you knowed about me?"
- "How you knowed Emmy my sister?"
- " Who telled you these things?"
- "Why you take me and not someone else, like Lidet or Rowina?"

The she started talking about her birth parents, she calls "my other Mommy" and "my other Daddy". And where she was raised "my other house".

She told us that her other Mommy died. We asked how. Meron said "She sick, then die. No more talk about it."

Then we asked about her father and how he died. Meron said "Other man, big man, smack my Daddy on head, hard, like this (she demonstrates), then died" I asked Meron "You saw this?" She said "Yes, I seed it myself. No more talk about it." We pressed Meron a little, but she was getting visibly upset so we let it go.

Colleen and I looked at each other like "Holy Crap! We never imagined anything like this!"

The official story from Ethiopia was they did not know how the father died. So we've been telling people who asked that he died from Tuberculosis (a common killer in the area) because we found that Americans cannot accept that we would not know how the father died. Americans usually don't get it that most of Ethiopia is illiterate and records are poorly kept.

So now we wonder whether Meron witnessed her Father's murder. And could that explain why she is so affection to females, boys, and young men, but actively resists contact with older and large men (my father for example). Emmy does not resist at all.

Hanging High

Our garage is under the house, and we leave the cars outside because the garage is full of stuff waiting to be unpacked.

One morning, I took the girls down to the garage and pushed the button to open the garage door so we could go outside to the car. Just as I pushed the button, I remembered I left my cell phone upstairs. I dashed upstairs to get it, and returned in less than 20 seconds.

Apparently, Emmy had run to the garage door and grabbed the handle on the lower edge as the door was rising, and it carried her up to the ceiling. When I saw her, Emmy was dangling about 4 feet off the ground and whimpering "daddy, Daddy, help me".

Meron was standing directly under Emmy, looking straight up, and with this dumbstruck look on her face like "How the heck did that happen?" Then Meron started jumping up trying to grab Emmy's ankles to pull her down. Of course, I dashed across the garage and rescued Emmy.

After I got over the horror of what might have happened had I not hurried back downstairs, I was just cracking up at how funny Emmy looked hanging from the ceiling silhouetted against the outside sunlight.

Full Belly Baby

Sometimes the girls want a before bed snack. This evening, Emmy wanted peanut butter on toast and Marin wanted a hotdog.

Emmy was sitting in Colleen's lap at the table when I served her. She picked up the toast, stared at it longingly, and slowly bit into it. She had a look of total indulgence on her face like she was gorging on the most sumptuous delicacies. It was beautiful.

I looked at their full round bellies and the looks of satisfaction on their faces. I made me think about how many evenings they had gone to bed famished, with hunger pains, perhaps having eaten nothing all day. Most people have no appreciation for how lucky we are to have been born in America.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Meron Klepto

The other day we got these fake credit cards in the mail as a teaser to apply for a card (like the 16 we already have are not enough).

Anyway, I decided to give them to the girls for use as props when they play with their toy cash register. They were psyched. Emmy put her card in her front pants pocket and buttoned the flap.

About 10 minutes later Meron asks "Where Emmy card?"
Emmy said "Right dere" and pointed to her pocket.
Meron said "No. It's not"

Now I'm curious, as I watch Emmy unbutton her pocket, and she looks at me with horror when she discovers her pocket is empty.

Then Meron reaches into her own pocket, pulls out Emmy's card, and looks at us as if to say "How did this get in my pocket?"

It is more amazing than it sounds because Emmy's pocket was buttoned and I was holding her in my lap most of the time (no, no holes in the pocket). Meron would not tell us how she stole the card. I am putting all my valuables in a safe starting now.

Bole2Harlem follow up

Now that Meron has stated a memory of her home, we decided to pry a little more.

Colleen : What did you have for food at your house?
Meron: Bread, tea, and soda
Colleen: What else?
Meron: Nothing else. Just bread, tea, and soda. Soda bad for my teeth.
Colleen: Did you have eggs?
Meron: No
Colleen: Were you hungry?
Meron: Yes. All the time.

Colleen and I pondered this exchange later. Meron drank a lot of soda even though she knew it was bad for her. In the US, she never asks for soda. Only water, orange juice, or milk. And she drinks a lot of water.

Our theory is there was no clean water in her village. The only things available to quench her thirst were tea (because the water is boiled), or soda (because coke and pepsi have high cleanliness standards even overseas). Bottled water was more expensive than soda. It bums us out to think that Meron was drinking all this soda, even though she knew it was not healthy, because there were so few affordable healthy alternatives.

Monday, August 6, 2007


We picked up this CD over the internet at the recommendation of one the Ethiopia chat room members. It has nice African Reggae rhythms and mostly Amharic lyrics.

Yesterday I played the CD while driving with the kids in the back seat. When I looked in the rearview, they were laughing and dancing and singing (not unusual). Then I listened more closely, and realized they knew the words to the song. I was stunned.

I asked Meron how she knows this song and she replied "I know it from my house".
I asked if she meant the orphanage and she replied "No Daddy, from my house."
I asked if she means the house before Americani and she replied "Yes Daddy, that my house".
And she went back to singing and bopping in her seat.

Colleen and I got all emotional. This is the first time Meron has indicated recollection of anything in her life prior to the orphanage. We had often showed her photos and video of her relatives, her home, her neighborhood, and her neighbors and she never indicated recognition. Most of the time she said "Mandayo?" (what is that?)

Now we're on the internet looking for music that might be played in rural Ethiopia in an effort to open up more of Meron's memory.

Negotiation Central

Our kids don't understand the word 'no'. They think every 'no' is 'maybe', or 'no now, but ask me again and you'll get a different answer".

Today Emmy wanted a cookie (Vanilla Wafers are one of her favorites). I said no because we were out of them (the truth, we are). Emmy says -

Please Daddy, I said please.........................we don't have any.
Please Daddy, just one..................................we don't have any.
Please Daddy, I ate all my breakfast.........we don't have any

and on and on and on.

It's like they don't believe me when I tell them there are none in the house.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Make Bed Races

Each morning we help Marin and Emmy to make their beds. As we do, we ask the girls to name each thing we touch "white sheets, green blanket, blue comforter" etc. We do this to help them learn colors and new words.

The problem is that Emmy is quicker on her feet then Marin, which peeves Marin to no end. While Marin pauses for a second to think about which item we are touching, Emmy blurts out "green blanket!" Emmy gets so excited about speaking first that she stutters "gre- gre- gre- green b-b-b-b-lanket" and she still gets the thought out before Marin does.

Marin whirls around and screams "No. Emmy close mouth. My bed!"

Emnet the Devious

One of my vices is reading at the table. I've been doing it since I was a kid - newspapers, magazines, and the mail. It is one way I multi-task.

Colleen grudgingly tolerated this throughout our marriage until the kids came, upon which she laid down the law. NO READING AT THE TABLE.

The kids picked up on this and seldom miss an opportunity to reprimand me if I try to sneak a peak at something while sitting at the table. One time Marin went so far as to hide my mail.

Fast forward to this morning. Just Emmy and I at the table. Emmy eating cereal and me drumming my fingers in boredom. Colleen and Marin were in the next room doing something.

Emmy reaches over, touches my wrist, smiles sweetly and says "Daddy reading? It's OK. No tella Mama. Daddy reading." So I ponder this invitation, decide "what the hay", grab my mag and dig in. I'm not even through the first sentence when Emmy wheels in her chair and yells, at the top of her lungs "Mama Mama, Daddy reading at table."

Then she turns to look at me as if to say "How does it feel to be tricked by a two year old, you dope?"

Friday, July 6, 2007

Holy Wars

This is another post about the mealtime prayer.

Marin and Emmy are really good about including their friends from school in their prayer. Marin's key friends include Kate, Carla, Brady, Tanner, and Coltrane.
Emmy's key friends include Kristin, Megan, Shelby, Holden, and Teegan.

When Emmy wants to push Marin's buttons, she will interrupt the prayer and name some of Marin's friends, which puts Marin directly into meltdown. "No....he's my Coltrane....sob, sob, sob". And Emmy just sits there with this devilish look of satisfaction on her face.

Marin finally learned to turn the tables. Upon completion of her meltdown, she starts saying the prayer and names Emmy's friends, which puts Emmy directly into meltdown. "Don't do Megan....sob, sob, Holden"

Marin the FuzzBuster

I was pulled over by a cop for speeding. You know the routine. Cop raps window. I roll window down. Hand him my paperwork. He scowls and gets on the radio.

Marin was in the backseat, in a great mood, practicing her English. She's saying "Good Job!" "Do it Again!" "Good Job".

The cop shoots me a dirty look because he thinks Marin is wising off at him. I explain the situation to the cop. And now Marin realizes there is somebody standing right outside my door. So she cranes her neck around her sunblocker, sees the cop, and with the cutest expression on her face says to him " Thank you too much! I miss you!"

The cop burst out laughing and gives me a warning to slow down.

I definately owe Marin an ice cream cone for this one.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sweet Mammaries

Yesterday Emmy woke up a little prematurely, but too close to wake up time for us to try to get her back to sleep. So we let her into our bed for a few minutes and then she lay on the bathroom rug wrapped in her blanket while Colleen showered.

When Colleen finished and opened the shower curtain, Emmy just stared at her bug eyed. She had never seen Colleen naked before. She pointed at Colleen's breasts and asked "What is that?" While Colleen was stalling for time thinking of an answer, Emmy pipes in "Baby crying. Yummy."

A few minutes later, I was in my closet in my underwear looking for pants. Emmy walks in, latches on to my package with both hands, and pinches with all her strength. "Daddy. What is that? What is that?" I saw every star in the galaxy, sucked in my breath, and quickly reached down to pull her wrists away. Emmy asks in her sweet little angelic voice "Hurt Daddy? Bleeding? Band Aid?"

Monday, June 18, 2007

Speak and Spell

The girls are getting good enough at English, and they are so ridiculously attentive, that Colleen and I found we can no longer speak freely and assume we will not be understood. So we resort to spelling key words or parts of key words when we want to discuss something without the girls understanding.

Fast forward to this morning at the breakfast table. Colleen asked Marin what she wants for breakfast. Marin responds with "peanut butter, toast, mqrxy".

I look at Colleen like 'what is she saying?'. And Colleen explains to me that is Marin's new gig. She just spits out letters to pretend she is spelling because she hears us do that and Marin does not want Emmy to know what she is saying.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Policeman Potty

You know those portable toilets you see at constructions sites or big festivals? Well there's a ton of construction in Maine this spring and these potties are everywhere. The girls are curious about everything, so they asked about these. Not knowing how to get into all the details given their limited vocabulary, Colleen and I shorthanded it by explaining they are policemans pottys.

Fast forward to last weekend. We are driving home from a graduation party in Bangor (about 140 miles north of here) and Meron decides she has to go to the bathroom. Those of you familiar with that stretch of road know there's a restroom about every 30 minutes. Luckily we were just coming up on an exit ramp, so I took it, thinking I would find a wooded place to take Meron off road.

At the top of the exit ramp, Meron suddenly exclaims "Policemans Potty!!". and insisted she must use it. I'm thinking this is a real blessing, until I opened the car door and caught a whiff. It was just rank. But the seat was clean and it had paper, so it was go time.

Meron was so proud of herself using a Policemans Potty. She got back into the car and started bragging about it to Emmy. So, of course, Emmy had to go potty. Egad. Pass me some oxygen.

So Emmy gets to the potty, opens the door, catches a whiff, screams 'Yucky!!", and decides she does not have to go potty after all. Amen.

Meal time prayer

Readers of this blog know that one of our favorite rituals is Marin saying the pre meal blessing in her native Amharic.

She suddenly switched to English on us.

Last week Marin sat down, asked us to all hold hands, and then started naming people. Us, her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and her teachers at day care. Then Emmy will usually jump in with a few names Marin forgot.

Colleen is all excited that the girls are thinking about people and naming them. I am too, but I am also bummed that one more vestige of their Ahmaric is disappearing.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I wanna be the one in control

Frequent readers of this post know that one of our favorite family routines is Marin blessing the meal in her native Amharic. The children at the orphanage in Addis cover their eyes with their hands when they pray (important to remember this fact).

Sometimes Marin will hold us hostage at mealtime by refusing to say the prayer, and Emmy is not old enough to know the prayer, so we just coax Marin along until she says it.

Yesterday Colleen was fed up with Marin so Colleen started to say the blessing in English. Marin ran over to Emmy and whispered in her ear (Marin whispers at about 90 decibels) "Emmy. Mommy prayer. Don't close eyes. OK?" It was Marin's form of a hunger strike, I guess, and she was dragging her sister into it for solidarity.

Too hot, Baby

Friday afternoon was our first really hot day, about 96 when I picked the kids up from daycare. I had the AC in the car blasting full bore. That wasn't enough for Marin.

She was in the back seat chewing me out like there was no tomorrow.

"Daddy! Daddy! Too Hot! Too Hot!"
" Daddy need tissue. Wipe head. Wipe head!"
"Daddy open door" (we're on a highway at this point)
Daddy! Look at me. Shirt is wet. Shirt is wet!"

And the look on her face was priceless. Something like "If I could only reach your throat right now you better believe I would choke the very last breath from your miserable life, you SOB"

Monday, May 21, 2007

Oh won't you staaayeeeaaaay (jackson Browne)

This morning I went to wake the girls.

Meron was already upright in bed. She took one look at me in my suit and said "Stay! Daddy Stay. No working. Stay". And then she started crying.

I had this totally mixed emotion of:
(1) Happy. because Wow! She really enjoys spending time with us as a family and we are doing a good job of bonding.
(2) Bummed. Because I would really like to spend the whole day with them, too.

Luckily next weekend is a three day weekend.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Our kids way over respond when they know or believe someone else is sick.

For example, at school, if a teacher or kid they like calls in sick, our kids will cry and be bummed out all day.

After talking with other Ethiopian families that experienced similar things, we have a theory.

In Ethiopia, people die when they get sick. Even a common cough, to which we do not give a second thought, is often tuberculosis or some other killer in Ethiopia.

So for us, sick means I'm a little under the weather. For our kids, sick means you're gonna die and I'm going to face another loss. That's why they react so powerfully.

Rat me out

I get home last night and Meron is all excited to see me, in a devious sort of way. She waves me to bend over so she can whisper in my ear. She says "Emmy school po-potty fellante" (Emmy accidentally peed her pants at school today). Then she giggled and danced a jig.

Kids can be so mean. I hope Meron does not grow up to be a mean girl. She's pretty enough and smart enough to be really good at it.

Button Pusher

Emmy is a pro at discovering people buttons, and then just pushing it endlessly.

At day care, Emmy met a little boy (Brady) who she thinks is fond of Meron. So Emmy starts in with "Meron naughty". Sure enough, Brady stands right up for Meron. "No she is not. Meron is a nice girl. I like her".

Big mistake. Emmy practically puts herself into a trance with her incessant monotone chant of "Meron naughty". Brady was having a triple heart attack in his zeal to defend Meron's honor. While Brady is flailing and sputtering, Emmy just sits as calm as the eye of a hurricane, expressionlessly staring at Brady, secure in the knowledge the teachers will not let Brady hit her, and taunts Brady with "Meron naughty".


Our kids are doing really good at practicing their English, but sometimes they mix words in the funniest ways.

For example, last night Meron was looking at the pics in a National geo and telling me what they were. She came across a particularly beautiful photo. She says "Daddy, daddy, Look me. This picture is delicious!"


There are still so many things our kids have never seen before and don't understand.

Colleen was putting on nylons while dressing for work the other day. Emmy was observing. She had never seen nylons and wanted to touch them. So Colleen let her. Then the questions began.

"Why? Why you do that? Why, mommy? Why?" How do you explain nylons to a two year old who doesn't speak English?

Colleen chuckled and commented "millions of women ask that question every day".

Bottoms up

The other morning Colleen was snuggling with Emmy and giving her love. Colleen was kissing Emmy in appropriate places, and naming them before she kissed them.

Face, Nose, Ear, other ear, hand, finger, thumb, etc. It was bonding and helping Emmy to learn her body parts.

Suddenly Emmy says "Mommy, bottom. Mommy kiss bottom" To which Colleen replies not. Then Emmy says "Why? Why? Why?" Colleen just starts laughing uncontrollably.

Finally Emmy says "Gross??" We don't know where she learned that word.


While I was away for a few days business trip, Colleen's Mom bought the girls a little nerfy style baseball and bat. When I got home, Meron could not wait to tell me about it. So I'm politely listening while she rambles on excitedly.

Colleen says to me "why don't you throw her a pitch?" and I gave her this look like "as if".

Meron smacked the ball so hard it ricocheted off three walls in the playroom. 5 pitches, same result. I could not believe it. Meron just stands there grinning all proud of herself and saying "Daddy, high five, Meron good job!"

Colleen told me her father threw about 50 pitches and Meron hit almost all of them with authority. Unbelievable. We know there were no baseballs and bats at the orphanage. The kids would have beat the stuffing out of each other.

Meron's schooyard accident

I pick up Meron after daycare. She is in a corner of the playground all ashen and withdrawn. As I approach her, she begins to cry. Real waterworks. Turns out she had tripped and skinned her knee and was feeling very bad about it. I gave her some love, got her pepped up, and buckled her in the car for the ride home.

I got on the cell and gave Colleen the heads up. Meron was great in the back seat. Singing and telling me stories.

As soon as we arrived home, drama queen kicked in. What a show she put on for Colleen! "Mama, hurt, hurt, Bleeding, Bleeding, Don't touch, Don't touch, need icy, need icy" It was Oscar worthy.

The best part is when we asked her to walk from the den to the kitchen for dinner. She said she can't walk, and she started hopping on one foot. She was hopping on the foot of the same leg she had injured!! It was too much. Colleen and I burst out laughing. Meron, realizing the gig was up, got even more upset and started yelling "Not funny! Not funny!"

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Firrst day back at work

Colleen's FMLA leave ended on Monday. Ever since last Friday, she has been running around like a crazy lady all stressed out about how she was going to balance everything and be ready to transition back into her job. It has taken a toll on us all.

So I take the kids to daycare and as soon as we get inside the foyer they just go crazy. Running around in circles, flapping there arms, shaking their heads, and babbling nonsense. It was like some coked out witch doctor doing a rain dance or something.

When they finally paused to catch their breath, I asked them what they are doing. They said "Mommy doing go to work".

First Skunk

Yesterday we were riding to work/daycare and Emmy complained she was "tookoos" (too hot) so I cracked some of the windows to cool her down. Shortly afterward, we passed a freshly killed skunk.
You know how that smell just kind of smacks you in the face and makes you gag? So I looked in the rearview for the kids expression. Meron's eyes were watering and she said "Mendayo?!Daddy Mendayo?!" (What is that?)
Emmy started making up a song about P.U. P.U. and holding her nose.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Emnet Combat

She's only two and a half years old, but the girl is brutal. I've seen her in action and it looked like she can inflict pain, but last night I was the victim.

While I was sitting, Emmy casually walked up beside me and blasted the heel of her hand under my jaw while yelling "Chin up!" It totally caught me by surprise. You just don't expect such violent power, decisiveness, and coordination from a little girl. Just as I was about to scold her, she seized the palm of my hand and pinched the fleshy part. She has these tiny razor sharp nails so I saw every star in the galaxy as I screamed. She smiled sweetly when I screamed and looked around to see if anyone else was enjoying it as much as she was. When I grabbed her wrist to pull her away, she punched me in the crotch with her other hand. I swear to God it was like fighting a Ninja. She anticipated my every move and had a very well placed counter move already in motion. Colleen was just howling with laughter. Meron had this look of amused disbelief on her face. Something like "Wow. I wonder if I could do that?"

I pity the first kid at school who steals Emmy's lunch. I'll probably have to defend her against manslaughter charges.

Meron Rides a Bike

Well, actually it was a trike. How do I know? Meron told me.

When I got home yesterday, Meron rushed the door and said "Daddy, Daddy!! Meron. Outside. Bike. Good job." Colleen translated that Meron learned to ride a trike outside at school today. She even got a certificate of achievement. Meron was so proud.

So tonight I dug a couple of old trikes out of the garage overhead and let the girls pedal around the driveway. They are so cute. They had a ball.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Equality under the law

I know kids are very observant about what they have compared to their brothers and sisters. And I know parents have to be careful about giving treatment as equal as possible or else endure hours or whining and tantrums and "It's not fair!!"

Luckily, our girls do not yet know how to say "It's not fair". But they are ultra observant about who gets what and they are world class tantrum throwers. At least Meron gives a little pre-tantrum warning when this ugly dark cloud sweeps across her face. My first reaction is to quickly replay the tape of the last 15 seconds to figure out what set her off and correct it before the meltdown begins.

I believe their sensitivity to disparate treatment comes from living in an area of great deprivation. Fighting with a rat over the last kernel of rice or with a vulture over the last shred of meat can make you street smart. I hope we can break this. Here are two of my favorite stories.

The toothbrushes. Meron and Emnet have identical (except the color) toothbrushes. The handles have big butt ends so they can be stood upright. One night, after brushing, Colleen stood Emnets brush up and I layed Merons brush on its side. I see the storm cloud coming, but I cannot figure out what caused it. Too late. The tantrum is in full swing. When I finally calm Meron to the point where she can communicate, she tells me I should have stood her toothbrush upright like Emnets.

The ketchup. The girls enjoy tater tots. One night while serving ketchup, I left a dollop and a little racing stripe of red up the side of Merons plate. Totally an accident and I did not give it a second thought. Emnet got just the dollop, and threw a fit. When we finally calmed her down to the point she could reason, she started finger painting her ketchup up the side of her plate to look like the stripe I had left on Merons plate. All Emnet wanted was a foolish little stripe of ketchup.

If I have to endure this much hell over a toothbrush and ketchup - what does a future full of cell phones, cars, cliques, hormones, mean girls, and horny boys hold for me????


The girls love medicine. They are always reminding us of times to take their medicines.

Unfortunately, with all the skin conditions they brought here, they have plenty of medicines to take - but still - I don't remember knowing any kids that so look forward to medicine and will make up reasons to get more of it.

Colleen and I have two theories (1) scarcity and (2) attention.

The girls had very little access to medicine where they grew up. People regularly died for lack of simple basic wound care, routine vaccines, or garden variety anti-biotic. So medicine was revered. People in their village probably thought of medicine as something extremely rare and valuable that only very wealthy people could afford.

In the orphanage, medicine time equalled attention time. A very pretty and kind nurse would take time talking to them, trying to understand them, and they got adult attention all to themselves. Also, the medicine worked. The kids learned that rashes, or diarrhea, or runny noses they had endured their entire lives would go away after taking medicine. Itwas a miracle. And to a kid, more is better, which is why they are always asking for more.

Friday, April 13, 2007

First snowman

Here it is mid April and we are still getting snowstorms. The good news is it stays light until 7:30 or later, so I can play outside with the girls after work.

Today we got 8 fresh inches of moist sticky snow. I was so excited about getting home and building a snowman with the girls. We did the best we could with them insisting that I not help. Stuck a few facial features on and a few sticks for arms. Added my hat and mittens, and viola, snowman.

The girls are calling it "Tinman". I look at Colleen like - huh? Colleen explains she and Grammy had introduced the kids to the Wizard of Oz while I was at work one day. And Grammy has this three foot tin man made out of coffee cans, which the girls really enjoy.

So Tinman it is.

The girls want to kiss the tinman, hug it, have photos taken with it. Meron built it a little snow toilet in which to go 'po-potty'. A little too realist for me.

Fast forward an hour and we're putting the girls to bed. They are all upset that the tinman will be outside alone all night. They insist on going to the window to blow him a kiss and leave the outside light on so he will not be in the dark all night.

Bottoms up baby

Meron recently became obsessed with her bottom. Maybe because she was always standing where she should not be (table, sofa, bed, chairs, vanity, bath tub) and I am always saying "On your bottom."

Anyway, we're doing out morning bath routine and she suddenly flips over on her belly and says "Bottom, daddy".

I said "Yes, there is your bottom.

She said "Daddy, Gella Meron bottom" (wash my bottom)

I splashed a little warm water on it thinking that would do the trick.

"No, daddy. Soap."

So I rubbed the bar of soap on her bottom for a second.

"Yes, Daddy. With cloth" She wanted me to use a facecloth, too.

I end up washing her bottom for like 5 minutes. All the while Emma is watching, and as soon as I finish Meron, Emma flops on her belly, looks up at me, and says "Daddy, bottom."

So now I am chief cook and bottom washer.

New Favorite Foods

I know. I've been a bad blogger. Between my job and tax season and the girls getting so active - no time.

The girls love meatballs. Love em. We go through at least one 100 count bag of frozen meatballs a week. Lunch, dinner, and bedtime snack.

Sherbet. The one indulgence we permit. No cookies, cakes, salty snacks, candy, soda, etc. Only sherbet. I can't decide whether they like the taste or the bright colors.

Granola bars - especially Nature Valley Honey and Oats. Toss up between these and meatballs for lunch. I swear they would slit their wrists if they could choose only one.

Orange Juice. Over two gallons per week. We buy the calcium fortified because they had a calcium deficiency when they arrived here. I guess I should test that assumption - lower legs that bent like a crescent moon might indicate a calcium deficiency, right?

Ketchup. On everything. Ketchup on ketchup. They look at each other like Beavis and Butthead when the ketchup bottle makes a farting noise. Cracks me up.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Our morning routine

I love our morning routine.

Around 6AM we gently wake the girls. They pull the blankets over their heads and generally tell us to buzz off. We persist until they sit up in bed.

COlleen picks up Emnet and I pick up Meron. We gently sing "Good Morning to you. Good morning to you. We're all in our places with bright smiling faces" as we carry them downstairs into the bathroom.

After dispensing with personal business, they immediately want to take a bath. The girls thoroughly enjoy the bath tub - dunking their heads, washing each others backs, singing songs in Amharic the whole time. One of their favorites is a song their Aunt used to sing while doing the laundry. "Koshasha koshasha. Ya bah teh lay no" (loosley translate means It's dirty It's dirty and that's why I wash it) Hey, we can't all be Elvis.

Then we pull them out of the tub, rub them down with cocoa butter, do their hair, and head upstairs to dress. We usually have 3 outfits displayed for each child and they choose which one to wear that day.

Then we go downstairs for breakfast, and Meron says this short little blessing in Amharic. It is so cute.

Eggs cellent

You will remember from earlier posts how enamoured the girls are with eggs. They sit on the stairs and chant "Oncolal! Oncolal! Oncolal!" - the amharic words for eggs. I got so tired of scrambling eggs that I took to hard boiling them a dozen at a time in order to save time.

One day I thought it would be cool to teach the girls to peel the eggshells off. They loved it. Now that's all they want to do. They will not eat an egg that is already shelled (unless it is a scrambled egg).

Today we had only one hard boiled egg left. The girls freaked because they each wanted one. To reassure them, Colleen went to the refrigerator, and displayed the new dozen of uncooked eggs. Remember, a 2 year old cannot distinguish between an unshelled hard boiled egg and a fresh egg. (yes, that is forshadowing)

So Emnet, who is very quick, grabs one of the fresh eggs and runs away squealing with excitement thinking she has an egg she can eat. Colleen immediately recognizes what is going to happen and lunges for Emnet. Emnet correctly interprets this as an attempt to steal her food, gives Colleen a head fake, and sprints off tackle for the bedroom. On the way, she trips over a shoe and falls "SPLAT" on to the egg.

Emnet is horrified. She has no idea what just happened other than her hands and her favorite sweatshirt are covered with slime. Meron, who had been casually observing until now, decides its a good time to experiment with walking in the slime, and tracks it all over the house. The cats, who happen to like raw eggs, follow Meron around licking the floor behind her.

All in all, it was a hilarious and disgusting chain of events.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Marking out territory (part 2)

Apparently Emnet learned a little too much from the soapy bottle lesson yesterday, and she took her revenge out on me today.

I was on the floor horsing around with the girls. Eventually I wound up on my back with Emnet sitting on my chest facing me. We were playing "the riders on the bus go up and down", or so I thought.

Next thing you know, Emnet puts both her hands on my chin, presses down with all her weight, and holds my mouth open. She is peering around inside my mouth like a dental student. I thought this was harmless curiosity and did not resist. Then Emnet suddenly bends forward and licks my tongue. I was totally caught by surprise and began expectorating. Emnet just sat on my chest with this self satisfied look of dominance, as if to say "I guess I just taught you a lesson about putting soap on my juice bottle."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Marking out territory

When Emnet wants something, and doesn't want to share, she licks it. Then Meron doesn't want it. You might remember from a previous post how unnaturally long Emnet's tongue is. Seriously, she could be a circus act.

So this morning Emnet wanted a dring of cranberry juice. A big half gallon bottle. The bottle was not yet opened, and we already have several bottles of juice open, so we said no.

Emnet sits down on the kitchen floor, hugging this bottle of cranberry juice between her legs, and begins to begins to tongue the entire cover and top end of the bottle. In the time it took me to spring across the room, she coated it. And she looked up at me all smiling and proud of herself as if to say "Ha ha, now it's mine."

So I put the bottle in the sink and rinsed it off.

A few minutes later, Emnet climbed up on the counter where I had left the bottle, and licked it all again. Now laughing, like she really owns it.

So next I washed the bottle with dish soap and did not rinse it. Well, I think we cured Emnet from licking the outside of juice bottles. Possible also turned her off from cranberry juice for a while.

The girls meet animitronic dolls

My Dad bought an animiated singing Teddy Bear. It's dressed up like an Italian Chef and sings Amore. The girls are fascinated by it.

At first, they just stared at it as if they were asking themselves "Is that a real person in there?" The bears mouth moves when it sings, so they began peering down its throat, all serious and looking at all angles, like they are dental students in their first clinical lab. THey were prying at its jaw so hard, that I thought they were going to break the doll, so I picked it up and starting dancing with it, like in a waltz.

They girls thought that was great fun. They started calling the bear 'baby', as in Daddy is dancing with his baby. They only way we could persuade the girls to stop playing the song was to convince them that 'the baby had to go to sleep'. And we placed the baby in an old clementine box in the top of the broom closet. It was out greatest hope that the girls would forget about 'baby'. No such luck.

Every time we open the closet door to get the broom, a trash bag, or something - the girls beg for the baby. It's going to be a long life.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Emnet meets Gospel

We're all gathered around the dinner table. It's a late dinner, and the kids are tired, so its pretty quiet for a change.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Emnet sits up straight and shatters the silence with:
Ayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyymen! Amen! Amen!

We all just look at each other like, where they hake did that come from? Then Colleen's Mom gets all red and starts snickering. Turns out she had taught Emnet that song on the car earlier in the day.

Meron meets JC Penney Catalog

I come home from a business trip. The kids are quiet. Colleen is relaxing. This is the time I go through the mail.

Somehow, a JCPenney catalog all defaced with magic marker has survived into my read pile. I ask Colleen about it. She says "Oh, yeah. I wanted you to see how your girls reacted to their first catalog sighting".

Meron's ears perk up, and she climbs into my lap, and she is all business. She begins pointing to each piece of clothing in the catalog and saying "Ye Ne" (It's mine) and Ye Ne Emnet (This is for Emnet). Every single piece of clothing, regardless of size or gender appropriateness, was identified as either 'mine' or ' Emnet's'.

Luckily this was a skinny little seasonal clearance catalog. Remember those Sears catalogs of biblical proportions we used to get pre-Christmas when we were kids? Meron would have had me invest months in reviewing each page of that.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Emnet meets Nebulizer

Emnet had this persistent congestion and the doc prescribed a nebulizer. For those of you who are unfamiliar with nebulizers, it is a small air compressor that delivers air through a surgical tube to a mouthpiece. In the mouthpiece is a small vial of medicine. The compressed air interacts with the medicine to create a fine mist that flows from the mouthpiece and into the lungs and nasal passages of the patient. Emnet was prescribed a treatment in the morning and in the evening.

Now envision this.

It's bedtime. The lights are dimmed. Emnet is in Colleen's lap and Meron is snuggled beside them in the sofa. I am on the other side. The nebulizer emerges from Emnets mouth trailing a thin trail of smoke. She sighs, her eyes roll back for an instant, and she passes mouthpiece to Meron. Meron takes a hit, smiles, and coos. Then Emnet takes another hit. Then tries to pass it to me. I defer, so Ement just cuddles the mouthpiece against her chest like it was a teddy bear. The expressions on their sleepy faces, their slow motion movements, the dim light, and the fact that the mouthpiece looks eerily like a bong had me cracking up.

It looked like a Saturday Night Live skit of a rastafarian potfest.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Our new friend Bella

There is an Ethiopian woman, Bella, who lives nearby and we learned about through a mutual friend. She invited is to her home Sunday afternoon. What a treat!!!

As we walked in, we were greeted by about a dozen relatives of hers, all jabbering in Amharic. They whisked our girls into their arms, starting pinching their cheeks and telling them how beautiful they are.

Then they led us to the kitchen where they had prepared a huge Ethiopian dinner with injera breads and many stews and dishes. Meron was in heaven. She chowed and chowed. Ethiopian music was playing in the stereo and Bella prepared a coffee ceremony in the traditional style. We had a total blast!!

First time snow sledding

I took the girls out in a little plastic sled near our home, gave them a gentle push, and they swooshed down to slope. No spills and no collisions. Meron was laughing hysterically and yelling "endeggena!!"

So I grab the rope on the front of the sled and begin schlepping them back up the hill. I look back and see Meron making this whipping motion with her right hand, like I am her donkey or something, and screeching "Fatah!! Fatah!!" (quickly, quickly)

Meron makes Mockery

Grammy gave Meron two little purses with a few pennies in them and told her to share with Emnet. Coming from an area of great deprivation, the girls are unfamiliar with the concept of sharing. This really took some work.

I sat and rocked Meron for about 40 minutes, repeating the mantra " Emnet oo dah jee ah bra choo tetch ah too" (Love your sister Emnet. Share with her.) Finally, just as I was about to lose my voice, Meron ponied up two pennies for Emnet. I called it a moral victory and moved on. Colleen and I made a mental note to each other that we have work to do in the sharing department and we would role model sharing at every opportunity.

Fast forward to later in the day. Meron is suspiciously quiet. When I find her, she has my Amharic Journal cracked open and is repeating "Emnet oo dah jee. Emnet oo dah jee." With her left hand on her hip, her right finger wagging, and this really sassy expression on her face. When she realized I was watching, she slammed the book shut, tried to look all non-chalant, giggled a little, and said "Allo Daddy!!".

The little peanut was totally mocking me!!!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Meron meets snowstorm

Friday afternoon was the first real snowstorm the girls have experienced. And Meron has become a real Daddy'd girl lately. So when I stepped outside to fire up the snowblower, Meron had a fit. Colleen finally rapped on the window and insisted that I had to come inside.

That's a problem because, at that moment, our cars were blocking in the road because the drive way wasn't plowed. So I had to clear the driveway, to park the cars, to clear the road. It just could not wait.

So I bundled Meron up, placed her in one of those LLBean type kid carrier backpacks, and off we went to clear the driveway. This was a wicked storm. Hard and sharp icy flakes were driven almost horizontal by the wind whipping off the lake. You could not face the wind for more than a few seconds without getting a brain freeze.

Meron hung in there like a champ - laughing and smiling the whole time. When we were finished, I expected her to be half frostbitten. Instead, she looked up at me with her big beautiful smile and said "Endeggena!" (lets do it again!)

Emnet meets beans

Colleen's family has a long history of baking slow cooked beans in the traditional crock pot. Save the fart jokes for later (hint, they are coming).

Today we were at Colleen's parents around lunch time, and the first pot was just coming out of the oven. Naturally, we want the kids to try new things so we can see what they enjoy. Emnet went to town on these beans like it was the Cony Island Hot Dog Eating Contest. She ate three heaping bowls, then she wanted to drink the bean broth. We showed her how to sop up broth with bread, and she ate nearly half a loaf of Italian Bread sopping up the bean broth.

Coincidentally (I think), my dad and Joan had just given us a custom made kids potty. It is really cute with a toilet paper roller built into one side and a magazine rack built into the other side.

Fast forward 18 hours. Emnets bowels are hyper active. She is only two so can't consistently distinguish between a fart and the real deal. The new potty got so much use that I have to replace the seat and pump the septic system. We kept some windows cracked in order to alleviate dangerous levels of methane accumulation. Meron just stared in slackjawed disbelief, and privately thanker her God that she had eaten chicken instead.

Leo as Marge Simpsons' sisters

Wednesday was the day from hell. Colleen had to go into the office for the morning on short notice. Which meant I, also on short notice and under protest, had to wake, bathe, and feed the kids, and keep them entertained until the Nannie arrived shortly after 8. I know. Sounds easy. I'll remind you the kids get up around 5:15AM, they don't speak English, and they are still attention starved.

It gets worse.

The Nannie arrives and I still have not had a shower, shaved, brushed my teeth or had anything to eat or drink. My blood sugar was below zero, the kids were swinging from the chandelier, and they were cranking out about 300 decibels each.

The look in the Nannies face as she crossed the threshold said it all. I looked like the male version of those caricature housewives. You know, housecoat, slippers, hair in curlers, 5 oclock shadow, and behaving like a stoner. It was ridiculous.

The Nannie nicknamed me Hagrid, after that guy in the first Harry Potter movie. It's not fair. I used to be so handsome and svelte.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Becoming the woman I loathe

You may not realize this because Colleen is usually a genuinely sweet and kind person, but in her private moments she was a vocal critic of women who hired nannies and housekeepers, especially if those women were stay at home moms. My how the tables turn.

After less than a week with Meron and Emnet, Colleen and I both knew 100% we needed a day Nannie. I did not even flinch. So those of you who know me can appreciate how serious this need is. It is the ultimate necessary expense. Nannie started yesterday.

So last night, on my commute home, I called Colleen's Mom to ask if she had visited that day and what she thought of the new Nannie. My mother in law replied "I didn't get to spend much time with the Nannie because the cleaning lady was making too much noise." Mind you, a cleaning lady had never been a topic of discussion in our house.

Later last night I told Colleen "Your Mother made the strangest remark today." and repeated the above story. Colleen had that total "I been busted" look on her face. I said "Colleen. Of course you realize you have become the woman you always despised." Between her laughter and her tears she said " I know. I know. I just can't believe it."

I love my Jeans

One of Meron's friends, Lily, gave us a bag of used clothes. Among other things was a pair of jeans decorated with dozens of rhinestones down one leg. Meron was immediately in love with these jeans. Never mind that they were about 12 inches too long in the leg. She rolled them up so she did not trip on them and has worn them for about 4 days straight. Remember what a clean freak she is? Meron made the exception for these jeans. She is obsessed!!

So, today Meron spills some water on the jeans. She was having a fit because, on the one hand, she knows the jeans are wet and uncomfortable and she has to change, but on the other hand, she cannot bear the thought of not wearing these jeans. So she paces back and forth back and forth, trying to figure out what to do. Her little wheels are turning. Finally, after about 10 minutes of this, she gives in.

Meron goes into the far corner of the bedroom and tries to surreptitiously change her pants. She does not want Emnet to know because she is afraid Emnet will hide the jeans on her. Meron rolls the rhinestone jeans up in ball and hides them under her pillow to dry. About an hour later, she checks on the jeans, and realizes they will not dry this way. Now totally flustered, Meron remembers seeing her mother use a blow dryer to dry her hair. Meron spends about 10 minutes trying to explain to Colleen what her idea is. Finally, in exasperation, Meron runs to Colleens dresser drawers and begins a systemic search for the blow dryer.

Colleen finally understands what Meron is up to, dries the jeans, and Meron immediately puts them back on. Safe from Emnet, the mean jean hider.

Monday, February 26, 2007


Oncolat means 'egg' in Amharic. I presume eggs were rare and valuable for our girls, because they cannot get enough of them. The girls are constantly asking for eggs, three meals a day. They will sit on the stairs and kick their feet in rhythym chanting 'Oncolat! Oncolat! Oncolat!" I buy the 18 packs of eggs two at a time.

This morning I made Meron a three egg omelette. You'd think that would be plenty for a 4 year old girl.

After serving Meron, I cracked an egg to cook for Emnet. As soon as Meron heard the egg crack, she started wolfing her omelette. Seriously, she practically slid the thing off her plate and down her gullet in one motion.

And you could see the wheels spinning in her panicked little head. "oh my god. oh my god. I have to clean my plate before that egg is cooked, otherwise Emnet will get the whole thing to herself. Can't allow that. Can't allow that."

My cousin Camilla

Sunday we attended a baby shower for my brother and his fiancee. Yes, I know, cart before the horse. But that's for another blog. This is the first time the girls will meet many of their extended family.

Emnet handles it great. Sticking her tongue out at everyone, hiding her cute face behind her mothers shoulder, and generally flirting her butt off with everyone. Meron was much more timid, and I had to take her out into the lobby for a little seperation from the madness.

Our cousin Camilla, a cute and precocious five year old, decides this is a good opportunity to meet Meron.

Camilla: Hi. You're my cousin. Are you really from Africa? My Mom says you're from Africa.
Meron: Blank stare that says "I have no idea who you are or what you're saying. "
Camilla: Why won't you talk to me?
Me: Camilla. Meron does not speak English. She does not know what you're saying.

Now Camilla is staring at Meron's skin, so I invite her to touch Meron.

Camilla (holding Merons hand and flipping it over): Well, why is her hand really dark on one side (the back) and almost white on the other side (palm)?
Me: That's the way God made her.
Camilla: Did God make her hair like that, too? (referencing the 10,000 braids on Merons head)
Me: No, a hairdresser at the beauty parlor did that.
Camilla (to Meron): How do you say "Dog" in your country?
Meron (thinking): You're killing me here.
Me (to Camilla): She does not understand what you are asking her.
Camilla: Oh come on. Everyone knows the word for dog. That's an easy word. I learned it in pre-school.

Mercifully, Meron notifies me she has to go pee, giving us a graceful exit opportunity.

Later in the day, I spy Emnet lying on the floor on her belly, feet flipped up over her butt, and her chin in her hand. She is flicking her tongue in and out. Facing her is Camilla, trying to catch Emnet's tongue with her fingers. I haven't mentioned that Emnet has a gigantic tongue. Seriously, she can lick her eyebrows. She is the Ethiopian Gene Simmons. It was just too funny watching Emnet flicking her tongue all over the room and Camilla trying to grab it.

Wash my shoes

On Saturday afternoon we took the girls for their first walk outside. FYI, we live on a gravel road and a little bit of thawing occurred. The walk was great, we return home, have dinner, play a few games and go to bed.

Fast forward to Sunday AM. We are rushing to get the girls dressed and out of the house to attend a variety of family events today. Meron goes to put on her shoes, sees gravel on the soles of the shoes, and will not wear them. "Nupioa, chamma koshasha!!" she says. (these shoes are dirty and I refuse to wear them)

So I took the shoes to the sink and gave the soles a once over with the spray nozzle. Total time elapsed = 15 seconds. Tears shed = zero. Tantrums thrown - also zero. This is a good trade.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Meron Fashionista

Today one of the women I work with gave me two lovely fleece vests for the girls in their favorite colours. The girls tried them on and loved them. They were prancing around the house all beaming and proud.

Then Meron looks at me, all serious, and says "soo lay ah kah sah kwo". I have no idea what this means. Meron keeps repeating it more insistently, and with greater displays of disgust, like 20 times this goes on. Then Meron gently cradles my face in her hands, looks me in the eyes really sweet, and says " soo lay ah kah sah kwo". As if showing me some love will make me understand. I try to get Meron to move on, but she just won't let it go. Finally, I ring Belle on the phone and ask her to interpret.

Meron was saying "You forgot the pants to match the coat." How in the world does an orphan who had one set of clothes her entire life learn to think that way? I swear it is genetic with women.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Emnet meets shampoo

I haven't described how fastidiously clean our girls are. They want to bathe like four times a day. They are constantly washing their hands and asking to brush their teeth. Meron loves to do the dishes. That is our evening bonding activity. And both girls want to change their clothes several times a day. Meron will not wear athletic socks that have any stains on them, even if they are fresh from the laundry. In fact, Meron has this little chant that she sings "Koshasha koshasha". Which loosely translated means "These freaking things are filthy".

So now you get the picture.

Fast forward to today. This afternoon Emnet wanted to take another bath. Colleen was tired and said "No". Emnet soft pedaled it and waited for Colleen to turn her attention elsewhere. Then Emnet snuck into the bathroom, pulled the shampoo, and coated her head with it. Then Emnet went to find Colleen and ask for her bath again.

Emnet meets sugar

We were doing a great job of keeping the kids away from sugar, then Grammy went hogwild one day. PopTarts, cookies, sugary cereal, etc. Meron did a good job of lightly sampling a few items. Emnet pigged out so hard she could hardly chew her food.

Then she zipped around the house talking to herself in a high pitch and fast cadence. It was hilarious to watch, but then it didn't stop. She was like the energizer. And she had this dilerious grin on her face like she was high on something. It was unsettling.

That night. Colleen and I packed up the sugar food and put it in the trunk of the car.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sunday Feb stuff day

We used this weekend to try out some new stuff with the girls.

Seeking ways to entertain them, we decided to show the video we took while in Ethiopia. Not a good idea. Meron got this really serious look on her face, then started pulling at her hair. Then she got a little angry and started to cry a little. We turned the camera off and found something else to do.

The girls refuse to go outside, so we are looking for ways to introduce them to cold. We gave them each a freeze pop. The girls were so cute. They were very interested in the sweetness of the pop, but could not understand why it hurt their hands. They held it in their right, then passed it to their left while they shook their right hand to warm it up, then vice versa. Then finally they went to their clothes box and pulled out some gloves. Then finished the pops.

Later, our neice Maura filled a large saucepan with snow and brought it inside for the girls to play with. They girls immediately got into a snowball fight in our kitchen.

In the afternoon, we invited some Ethiopian neighbors to visit. They spoke Amharic to Meron, which kind of freaked her out. Then they asked Meron if they could braid her hair. If you could have seen the look of relief on Meron's face. It was like "Thank God somebody with some style sense is here to rescue me from a life sentence of bad hair days." You would imagine somebody who lived the life if deprivation that Meron has lived would be just a little less fashion conscious and maybe a little more pragmatic. I swear its genetic with women.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Meron Tests the Limits

Today Meron decided to see how many different buttons she could push - some in an innocently fun way and others in an evil way.

First the fun. Meron took all the elastics out of her hair. Her hair goes crazy when she does that. She looks like a black Einstein - or like Don King the boxing guy. Anyway, she's sitting their rubbing vitamin E and conditioner into her hair when she suddenly hands her hairpick to Colleen's Dad.

David looked at Colleen like somebody had just handed him a live grenade. Colleen told him to get busy. So for the next 15 minutes or so David picked away at Meron's hair while Meron sat luxuriating in being groomed by an older man. It was adorable.

Then it was lunch time. The girls refused all the stuff they normally eat. They say this word "Enubio" - and they say it really snotty with an attitude. Loosely translated means "I refuse to do it". So we tried new foodstuff. Come to find out, they will eat tater tots, pizza, and ice cream. Are you sure they have never been to America?

Later, the girls had bowls of popcorn with a few cheezits on the bottom. Emnet does not like cheezits, so she passed a few to Grampa. Grampa made a big fuss about thanking her and how much he appreciated the Cheezits. Meron observed this, and it occurred to her that she had just been one upped by her sister. So Meron springs off her chair and into Grampas lap. Then she proceeded to fish every cheezit out of her bowl and hand fed them to Grampa.

In the afternoon, Meron wanted to use Colleens cell and was being too rough with it, so Colleen took it away from her. Meron went into a rage, tore off all her clothes, and started running around the house like a crazy lady. Colleen very calmly acknowledged Merons behavior and then ignored her. So Meron upped the ante by squatting putting just a little spot of urine in the middle of the kitchen floor. Then Meron stood up, all proud, pointed out her puddle to Emnet, and started encouraging Emnet in Amharic to do the same.

I mean, geez, where do they learn this stuff? Colleen put Meron in the naughty corner for an ice age or two.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Merons meltdown Monday Feb 12

This was the worst day with the kids by several light years. Meron was just out of control. A crazy violent kid. She was throwing everything she could get her hands on, slapping and punching us, tipping furniture over, stripped off all her clothes, and screaming so forcefully I though she would burst her arteries. It was downright frightening. We could not reason with her because of the language barrier and we could not strike her because, well, we just don't do that. Basically we just restrained her when we thought she might hurt herself or somebody and we let her scream herself out. I'll tell you, the kid has endurance.

We seriously wondered whether this timid little child had been medicated at the orphanage and nobody told us.

While Meron napped, we replayed the days tapes to figure out what was happening. We discovered the pattern revolved around food. For example, we gave her a serving of eggs rather than the entire skillet full of eggs snd that set her off. We gave her a half banana to share with her sister rather than a whole banana and that set her off. She saw a box of pancake mix and we did not make pancakes, and that set her off.

It occurred to us that Meron is still in survival mode. She does not realize that food is plentiful and she views every feeding as a need to gorge because she does not know when she will eat again. There were probably few days when Meron ate three meals. When she arrived at the orphanage, she was seriously undernourished. Even now, after three months of good feeding at Horizon House, Meron is in the 3rd percentile of weight for her age.

On Tuesday morning, shortly after she woke, we took Meron through the kitchen and opened all the cabinet doors. We showed her all the food, counted the eggs, counted the bananas, counted the bread. I could feel her relaxing in my arms as we proceeded with this exercise.

Then we took several small plastic bowls; filled then with a variety of stuff like cheerios, graham crackers, popcorn, raisins; and left them on the coffee table for the entire day. We did this to demonstrate to Meron that there is plenty of food within her reach and she can have it any time she wants. No more meltdowns.

One cute thing the girls do is ask for a banana every morning after breakfast. They don't eat it. They just carry it around as insurance against hunger.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

First Day in America

The girls woke us up at 1AM, which is about 9AM in Addis. They were probably wondering why we're sleeping in.

We fed the girls breakfast, and they ate for 4 solid hours, nonstop. Eggs, toast, bananas, rice, oatmeal, water, apple juice, apple sauce, tea. You name it, even a chinese fortune cookie. It was ridiculous!! Finally, a little after 5AM, we put them back to bed.

They awoke at 9AM and ate again.

We learned today how well Meron is trained. As soon as we finished eating, she brought all the plates over to the sink, pulled a chair over to the sink, and began to wash and dry the dishes. Could not believe my eyes. She even demonstrated water conservation by dipping the silverware into a cup of water, rather than permit the water to run. As you probably know, water is quite scarce and valuable where she comes from.

Then I was washing potatoes and carrots for a stew, and Meron jumped right in up to her elbows to help. She is awesome. Meron folded clothes for Colleen and she swept the floor.

We also learned what a fashionista Meron is. She discovered her closet, and changed her outfit about 5 times today, each time giving her little a sister a 'look what I have that you don't have' kind of face. I can't believe she behaves that way coming from where she comes from. It must be a genetic marker in women. Emnet was like "What do I care. My belly is full and I'm sitting in Mom's lap".

I went out to do some shopping, and when I returned, Meron was in my face demanding "Oncala!! Oncala!! (eggs). So I told her "Ow, Oncala" (yes, eggs). She smiled sweetly and said "Thank you Daddy". I about dropped my teeth, then I heard Colleen giggling in the next room. Apparently, she taught Meron to say that while I was out of the house shopping.

Meron and Emnet are both potty trained. Meron even goes by herself and we don't know she's in there until we hear the flush.

Adoption Trip Day 9 Say Feb 10

Our girls were a dream come true on the airplace. We purchased a block of three seats together for them, raised the armrests, laid the girls head to toe, and they slept almost the entire flight. We are so proud of them.

Landing in Dulles, we zipped through immigration without a hitch. Almost home free.

One funny thing occurred while I was waiting in line to get boarding passes. Colleen was sitting with the girls on a bench near a window. Meron put her hand on the glass, then looked at her hand in disbelief. Put her hand on the window again, then put her hand to her face. Then she started talking to Emnet in Amharic as if to say "You aren't going to believe this!!" We don't believe Meron had ever felt anything freezing before.

While waiting for our transfer to Boston, I bought the girls lunch at Wendy's. I bought like a sampler pack of everything because I did not know what they would eat. Wouldn't you know it, chicken nuggets and fries were the hit. They basically ignored everything else.

Finally, after landing in Boston and loading the kids into the van, we got our first meltdown. The kids had never seen a carseat before and they were scared to death of being strapped in by these total strangers in a freezing cold place. They basically cried themselves to sleep. I can't imagine the frightening thoughts going through their heads.

Adoption Trip Day 8 Friday Feb 9

As soon as I wake up, I know this is going to be one of the most emotional days ever. Saying goodbye to the staff will be hard, but at least we know we can visit here again in the future if we want, and we can mail things through Wide Horizons if we want.

I grab one of the guards and race to a photo shop to buy frames. All the staff want photos of our girls. Luckily I brought about 100 copies, so I have plenty of photos, plastic envelopes in which to place them, and frames for the guest house and big kids house.

Today I want to video the kids saying their pre-meal prayer, so Pete and I race to the big kids house for lunch. It is so sad seeing these kids for almost the last time, and knowing that I will be leaving them soon. Pete and I have to leave because our eyes are starting to tear up.

The farewell ceremony begins at 4PM in the big kids house. All the staff are dressed in traditional Ethiopian garments. There is festive food like cakes, cookies, and popcorn. Balloons for the kids. The nannies preside over a traditional coffee ceremony.

Then Dr. Tsegaye says a few words revolving around the theme that "children are a gift from God, regardless of whether they come to you through birth or through adoption". Then he thanks the families for their generosity. Then he officially transfers stewardship of the adopted children, one family at time, by kissing the children goodbye and handing the parents their official adoption and travel documents. THis is when it starts to hit home hard.

Next the children sing and dance a variety of songs in English and Amharic. The last song is the hardest. The children staying behind call out their adopted colleagues one at a time to dance in the center of the circle. They sing a verse in Amharic, then "Sister Meron, see you again. Sister Emneti, see you again." There is not a dry eye in the room, while these verses are sung.

And then its an official goodbye. Colleen and I wrote our phone and email on the back of several copies of our girls photos, and handed them to children who were the closest to our girls. Through a translator, we asked them to hold tightly to these photos, and give the photos to their new parents in America, who will then know how to contact us. We truly hope this happens.

Then its back to the Guest House for a quick dinner, and then to the airport for our flight home.

Adoption Trip Day 7 Thurs Feb 8

We visited the big kids house this AM. Meron came running out of the sun porch and across the courtyard to me. She had this great smile going and we played for awhile.

Then, suddenly, Meron was scared to death of me. She went into a panic, screamed hysterically, and curled into a fetal position. This was immediately after one of the Nannies said something to her in Amharic. I believe the Nanny said something about the guesthouse and that set Meron off. So we left to give Meron some space.

This afternoon we commandeered the van, Mulat the driver, and several of the nannies to take the older kids swimming at the Hilton. It was supposed to be Yohannes and Rowina, Abrahm and Rahel, Abdit, and Nathaniel. Lidet's mother said 'No'. Then we had, Tsehaye, this little stowaway hiding between Yohannes and Abrahm. Nobody had the heart to kick her out.

The kids had a ball in the pool, and Pete and I had a ball playing with them. They are so well mannered and well behaved. They really enjoy each other and they really appreciate having opportunities to do cool stuff.

I'm not sure the Hilton was happy with us bringing a vanful of orphans to their pool, with its deck littered with socialites and jetsetters. One snotty guard looked down his nose at us and asked who was going to pay the pool membership fee. Believe me, next time we are bringing six vans full of kids and we will plan to stay longer than an hour and a half. In fact, we may stay for lunch or dinner.

Back to the big kids house. This is the last night before we leave to come home. We have to get the girls to spend the night with us. Meron is just totally bummed, like a zombie. We take her into a den and start talking to her. No response. The social worker comes and speaks Amharic to her. No resposne. We offer her cookies and soda. No response. We are just heartbroken trying to imagine all the thoughts and confusion racing through her little head.

Finally the social worker suggests bringing in one of Meron's girlfriends, Rowina, to speak with her. Rowinia comes and tries to get Meron to sing or dance. No response. To play cards. No response. Finally, we ask Rowina to ask Meron what is wrong. Meron slowly looks up at Rowina, rolls her eyes, and says (in Amharic) "I am so bored in here. Why can't we just go outside and play?"

I was so happy with relief that I didn't even care. It's killing me to think I've known Meron for less than a week and she already owns me.

Adoption Trip Day 6 Wed Feb 7

This morning we went early to the big kids house to observe the morning routine.

The children form two lines, then the nannies proceed down the line dispensing a vitamin tablet, a face wash, and lotion. Then they pledge allegiance. Then they do a gym class which involves some dances and some games. Then as song about "this is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, etc" which goes on for about 7 verses and ends with "this is the way we go to class". and they all march into the class room.

Yohannes and Abrahm are great helpers to the nannies. They keep all the kids in line and the kids respect them. Y and A are not bullies at all.

We returned after class and broke out the jump ropes. The kids had a ball with them, and some of the kids can do some really advanced tricks. Around the corner Meron was getting her hair washed. She looked like Don King!!! It was hilarious. Then later her hair was braided with very fine and intricate design. Meron looked beautiful. She really is a beautiful kid.

While the kids took their afternoon nap, Pete and I went shopping for a goat. I knew a goat costs about $25, but the goatherder started me at $200. I finally convinced him I knew the real price and I bought the goat for $35 (the extra ten I paid him for entertainment value). The herder taught me how to walk a goat like a wheelbarrow by picking up its hind legs. Then he is complimenting about what a fine negotiator I am. Going on and on about how I drive good bargains, I am smart American, and I should be very proud of myself. After all that he smiles , grabs my wrist, and says "So. now you buy cow?"

This evening we went to get the girls to spend the night with us at the guest house. To get them used to us and all. Meron was having none of that. She went into full panic mode. Kicking and screaming at everything and everyone. The violence she displayed was almost shocking. If she wasn't so tiny and so otherwise timid, I am sure it would have been terrifying.

We gave up that ship and decided to try again tomorrow.

Adoption Trip Day 5 Tues Feb 6

Today Meron came running across the courtyard of the big kids house to greet me. I love her smile and her giggle.

We played with the kids for a few minutes, but our timing was bad as we arrived just before they are scheduled to go to class. Mental note for tomorrow.

Adoption Trip Day 4 Monday Feb 5

We set out for the return to Addis at about 6AM. Now we know why Wide Horizons does not permit night driving. The road is just as busy as in the day - clogged with donkeys, goats, carts, bikes, trucks, and people - but nobody wears lights or reflectors. It's like a video game in which these shapes pop out of nowhere at high speed. Total insanity.

Interestingly, we also saw two road killed hyenas with their eyes wide open and their teeth bared. Hideously scary beasts. And we saw a road kill donkey totally coated with vultures. We only knew it was a donkey because the birds on its head jumped when our SUV brushed past.

Finally back in Addis, today is US embassy day. We all piled into the van - Meron on my lap and Emnet on Colleens. As we ascended the embassy stairs, an Ethiopian woman in her 20s whispered to Meron "You are such a lucky girl." We sure hope so.

After the embassy formalities we all returned to the guest house. The nannies put on a video of the coffee ceremony dance and all the kids danced to it. They are so cute.

That evening Tsegaye treated us all to a traditional Ethiopian feast and dance. One dance was killer. Two ultra hot babes come onstage in these skin tight fire engine red dresses. The entire dance involves them whipping their heads and hair around in a figure 8 like pattern - really fast like their neck is a spring - while erotically massaging their breasts. Dear God. I would easily have won a YouTube contest with this if Colleen hadn't torn the battery out of my camera and beat me over the head with it.