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.