My Buttons

She pushes them. Well.

I know that every kid is different and typically folks say that their second child tests them in ways their first never dreamed of. As far as I can tell so far, this theory is 100% true.

Violet seems to know exactly how to push me to the edge. She is defiant in a way Daniel wasn't until he was MUCH older. She laughs at my "no thank you's" and will turn around twenty times after I have redirected her away from something she shouldn't touch (outlet, vacuum, etc). She seems to have a gene for finding trouble - I swear she can smell it.

Figuring out how to discipline an 11 month old is tricky regardless of circumstance, but finding out how to set boundaries for one who has been both neglected and spoiled is RIDICULOUSLY difficult. Physical punishment is definitely not an option - it would sent entirely the wrong message. Verbal works sometimes (the aforementioned strong "no thank you") but sometimes it just elicits laughter. We actually wonder if maybe "no" was the word for something funny in Amharic! Putting her in a "time out" of sorts works occasionally - in a crib where she can see me but not touch me.

The worst part of this is me. Her testing brings out a side of me I didn't even realize was there - and it's ugly. Sometimes I respond cooly and calmly - like the textbook super parent. In those moments, I amaze myself.

But typically the anger rises up too quickly and I overreact to her behavior (and then feel guilty for either raising my voice too much or physically moving her too forcefully from the situation). The second after I overreact I know it in my gut - and you can't imagine the guilt that comes with treating such a fragile child with her history in that way. It's unbearable.

I'm getting better at walking away - calling Fernando for help when three rounds of "time out" still leave her laughing at my attempts to guide her behavior. I cannot imagine being a single parent. But sometimes there's no option to walk away - and it takes every ounce of self control to maintain my composure with her.

Even logically understanding all the reasons behind her behavior don't help me - I do understand a lot of it, and the emotional component still leaves me bewildered. It makes me wonder how God keeps his cool when dealing with us, and also makes me understand the Old Testament a whole lot better.

In my rational moments I understand that this is happening for me to develop my character - I apparently need a kind of calmness and patience I haven't needed before. If you are praying for our family now, please pray this for me! These first weeks and months are such a beautiful and critical time for Violet and I want to handle each and every minute with care and love.

I love her so very much... and the vast majority of our minutes together are just pure joy.

It's those pesky "button" moments that I worry will sour the entire batch.


Just the 2 of us!

Well, today Fernando went to work and Daniel returned to school, finally having passed the contagious stage of pink eye. Violet and I enjoyed our first day alone together.

For those of you either bored or interested enough to know the mundane details... read on!

She woke up late... nearly 8 am (I'm not complaining either! I slept until nearly 7:30). We took the boys to Radiant and headed back for the house. After enjoying an entire banana (in record time) I fed her some fruit baby food. She had already learned the sign for "all done" (and can say it too) and today surprised me with doing the sign for "please". A few minutes later during play time, she did the sign for "more" and said the word too... this little lady is a dry sponge, hungry to soak up anything and everything.

We played until about 10:15, watching a "Praise Baby" CD - she loves them and danced along to the music. We read a few books, and I'm happy to see that she's starting to understand what a book is all about. I honestly don't think she had ever been read to before and it took us a few times for her to understand which way the pages go, that she listens while I read, etc. This time she sat in my lap listening well, and helping me turn pages.

She went down for an early nap, and I got some precious quiet minutes to finish one of the Ethiopia blog posts. The nap didn't last long... she often wakes while pooping, leaving her comfortable but cranky. We played with mirrors (she loves kissing herself - like Daniel did) and I couldn't resist but get her dolled up in some sunglasses and a pink fur vest (thanks, Tasha!) for a few photo opps. We enjoyed the late morning sun outside, then she played at my feet in the kitchen while I made lunch.

Not surprisingly, she eats pretty much everything. She chowed on sauteed red peppers and zucchini for lunch, with a few bites of barley cereal. She even played with a fork and if I pre-loaded it with food, she was able to feed herself. She was beaming with pride.

Post-lunch nap was longer (more blog fun for me) and then we watched the last half of "The Proposal" together while playing on the living room floor. Violet survived her first accident at the house - she slipped and hit her teeth on the leg of a chair - lots of blood, but she was fine just minutes later. (Of course it had to happen on MY watch!)

We took some silly videos for Fernando, then headed out to Target for MORE pink coat hangers (thank you Mikki for the explosion in her wardrobe!) We dropped off some ice cream at Radiant, then picked up Daniel early from preschool. He was so happy to see her... showing her off to all his friends and teachers.

The three of us hit Culver's to share an ice-cream cup with Oreos (Daniel's favorite). But Violet was much more interested in tearing up the napkins and applications to Culver's Club. We picked up Fernando at work... enjoyed dinner together... bathtime... bottle... bed.

All in all it was a fun day. Honestly, it was a little awkward at times, as I feel like I'm learning to just be home with her. I constantly worry that I'm not enough entertainment and she's wishing she'd rather be elsewhere. But I know we'll get into our routine quickly. We have lots of fun errands to run tomorrow, then breakfast company from friends the following day! Exciting.

Now I'm off to bed at the ripe old hour of 8:30 p.m. I guess I didn't realize how tiring today actually was! Peace out, people.


Welcome to Arizona!

Welcome to Arizona, Violet! During your first week home, you have...

... Eaten all kinds of new foods (and loved them all, including our first breakfast together: McDonald's pancakes!)

... Tried out riding in a sling - a few rocky first tries in the wrong position (pictured below!) and we finally have it nailed. (Perfect for shopping with Mommy... and for keeping a hand on the shopping cart to help me push.)

... Played with every toy in the house, but especially with balls of all sizes in the backyard and anything related to technology. Movies, cell phones, video cameras, power strips... even Skype.

... Helped Daniel and Daddy fly a kite and had a play date with your new buddy, Emma.

... Worn approximately 100 new outfits and pairs of shoes! You also learned to keep the headbands and flowers ON your head. Progress!

... Learned how to make kiss noises and imitate every sound we make. (You have also learned a bunch of signed words and have even started imitating spoken words! You are brilliant.)

... Won us over completely! Your brother adores you and your Dad and I couldn't love you any more - it would be impossible. You are an AMARO!


This Is Important

Adoption is important to God.

In case we didn't fully understood it before, now there is absolutely no question. Wanna know how I know that? Because the enemy put in some serious overtime to destroy our "first week at home" efforts.

This past week has been nothing short of a case study in spiritual attack. Ready for this crazy list? Here we go...

I was sick before boarding the plane in Ethiopia... and miserable by the time we got home. It got worse and made wanting to spend time doing anything besides sleeping (like bonding!) really hard. Turns out I'm insanely allergic to grass (I had no idea) and had a horrific reaction that required numerous prescriptions including Vicadin (no joke) to function. Thankfully the doctor at urgent care was a Christian and reminded me that this truly is an attack. It still took me weeks to get better and feel like myself.

In the meantime, just when I felt an emotional breakthrough, I got pink eye. Too many poopy diapers and too little washing of the hands, I suppose. Now I cannot put my face close to Violet's, and have to be careful about even touching her. Then Daniel got pink eye. In both eyes. He was unable to attend preschool the first week as planned... instead he was quarantined with us. It took us more than 2 weeks, 2 trips to the doctors and 2 prescriptions to finally shake it.

Jetlag is always a bear... but even moreso when your baby is still sleeping in 3 hour increments. Her sleep cycle reverted as we got home. Exhaustion doesn't begin to describe it. (And my period started the day we landed... too much information, I know, but it messes with your body and emotions in a very real way - especially when tired.)

In the drive-through window to get pink eye medication... the car broke down. Then the AC went out in the OTHER car.

At some point, you have to start laughing about the attacks.

During the entire first week the worst attack (as it always is) was on my emotions. The enemy's only decent trick is to play mind games, and that he did. Bonding mind games. Mind games that attempted to pit my children against each other - resenting one for the sake of the other (and vice versa). Mind games that challenged the comfort we had found with Violet in Ethiopia - suddenly she didn't "feel" like mine or even smell like mine. Mind games that I nearly fell for in my weakened physical and emotional state.

One of my last projects at work before I left for Africa was to help various speakers research and prepare for a 12 week sermon series on spiritual warfare. I thought my role was to help them prepare, but in hindsight, God was using it to prepare ME for what was heading our way.

The enemy has nothing on us. We are calling him on his feeble attempts to destroy the incredible story God has written for our family. He has no place in our home or in our lives.

Thank you Jesus for your power and your word - because of them - we are whole and healthy again.


The Arrival

Ethiopia Day #9

Well, day nine of the trip finally arrived... and no amount of preparation could have prepared us for the trip that lay ahead! The storm that arrived by late afternoon should have given us some indication!

We packed Tuesday morning (with a little help from our daughter who loves taking things out of the boxes where they belong!) and managed to somehow pack all of our new (breakable) souvenirs in carry on luggage and between socks and t-shirts in our checked baggage. I think Fernando said "why did we buy so many ceramic pots?" about fifty times!

We checked out of our rooms at four p.m. but were not picked up for the airport until close to seven. The guest house presented us with a coffee ceremony (roasting coffee beans indoors! Insane!) and one last meal (pizza again) before we left for good. Our flight was to leave after 11 p.m. that night... and I was already feeling tired before dinner. Not a good sign!

We made it to the airport easily enough, and through the first security checkpoint. I felt under a magnifying glass with Mari, as though the crowds of Ethiopians were judging me, or thinking negatively of our family choice. But everyone I actually spoke to was nothing but kind - encouraging - even thankful.

An hour and half later, we were still in the ticket line. My arms were about to break and I finally wrapped Mari in a scarf as a make-shift sling. As soon as I did, her intestines revolted. Feeling the activity, I headed for the nearest bathroom to change her. Well, I will spare you all the details but suffice it to say she had never had a "leave the diaper" blowout before now, and this time, she managed to soil every piece of clothing she was wearing (socks included). Now remember that she hates to have her diaper changed (read: screaming and kicking). Now imagine a cold echo-y bathroom with no door (the entire ticketing terminal can hear us) and hard plastic changing table. Now imagine the poop smearing all over the table while she screams and writhes. In. It. I actually used her pants to try to sop up the mess. (Yes, I threw them away).

Laughing yet? NOW imagine an Ethiopian guard coming in at the sound of Mari in distress. She smiled knowingly at me, and proceeded to help me pin down my child while I finished the insane cleanup job. It was equal parts humiliation, hilarity and foreshadowing of the 30 hours to come.

We went through five outfits, at least two dozen diapers, an entire 100-pack of wipes, and visited every bathroom in each airport and plane we stepped foot in.

Violet slept well on the first and third flights, but we couldn't sleep with a baby in our arms. So sleep we didn't. The second flight was the true winner - nine and a half hours of an awake 11 month old. We sat next to a couple with a two year old and the girls interacted some. We were paid a huge compliment when the couple asked where our son was - they thought we were just on vacation with our daughter. They couldn't believe we had just met and raved about how "connected" we were as a family. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation - but those were the most beautiful words I had ever heard.

Amsterdam was as wonderful as we remembered it - we grabbed a quick meal (ironically, pizza) and Fernando let me try to rest in the "Baby Care Lounge" - an amazing quiet spot in the airport, full of low lights and curtain wrapped pods for families traveling with small babies. Detroit was standard - but we flew through customs and immigration at record speed. And in a very anticlimactic moment, Violet immigrated successfully to the US! We barely made our next connection - the last flight - a 4 hour leg to Phoenix.

In case you haven't heard enough whining yet, I began feeling sick before the first take off and by the last touch down I was beyond miserable. Every take off and landing pressurization propels me into further misery and what felt like the sinus infection from hades. (My ears ended up taking over a week and a half to actually "pop".) That last four hours was ridiculously painful and the exhaustion had set in deeply in both of us - we couldn't stay awake and our heads bobbed and snapped in and our of consciousness with every movement of the plane.

I took NO photos on the trip back... and that's a good indication of exactly how much fun I was having. Thankfully though, friends in Phoenix were waiting patiently with cameras in hand!

We landed late (sorry everyone!) and went to the bathroom to attempt to look fresh. The reality was that everything smelled like poop and I could barely walk in a straight line. (Just for fun, Violet had one last blowout in the Phoenix airport. By then all I could do was laugh. And change her outfit. Again.)

All the pain and exhaustion was forgotten as we walked down the exit ramp and into the greeting area where our friends and families had gathered with flowers, balloons and big signs.

And in front of them all stood our son Daniel with a big bouquet of flowers. He ran towards us yelling, "Baby Violet! It's my sister!" and beelined for Mari.

The next few minutes were a blur of tears, smiles, hugs and familiar faces that have never looked so beautiful. (Check out the "Arrival" video that Fernando created! It captures the emotion so well.)

We got our bags and headed home... with TWO kids in TWO car seats. Daniel comforted his sister all the way to Fernando's parents house where we stopped for a quick meal before heading to our home. Violet crawled our house with glee, and Daniel was two paces ahead of her, introducing her to the cats and each piece of furniture. Once we got them to bed, we crashed. And I am not kidding... I will NEVER forget what it felt like to lay in my pillow. That heavenly sinking in feeling. It was glorious.

And just like that... this side of the adventure came to a close and the next chapter began.

Here we go!


Ethiopia Day #8

Today is Monday.

We leave tomorrow night for home and to say that we are nervous about a 30 hour trip with a baby would be the understatement of the century. It was a tough trip before, and I cannot imagine it with a baby. But Mari is tough and somehow, we'll be in our own beds, in our own home, in a just few short (or long) nights.

Still, the dread is mounting in our stomachs. We started packing today and will finish tomorrow morning. If only there was a way to snap our fingers and appear at our doorstep!

To pass the time today, we took some family photos outside of the guest home of our friends Kim, Eric and their new daughter Macey. They returned the favor for us, although Violet was NOT in a happy picture-taking mood. Lesson learned! No photos right before naptime. Check.

Introducing Macey and her new parents...

And here's a (very cranky) Violet with us...


Ethiopia Day #7

Today actually passed very quickly, in spite of yesterday's cabin fever.

Before our trip, we connected with some missionaries living in Addis Ababa who are part of our denomination. They were so sweet to email us and offer a tour, a meal, and a trip to a local church. Not wanting to leave Violet with a nanny, we took a "divide and conquer" strategy.

Fernando went with Rhonda and Bob to a church service at a local Ethiopian Assembly of God church. He received red carpet treatment and even drank coffee before the service with a number of their pastors and just about got talked into helping lead worship that morning. The service itself was very different from one in the states, as you'd expect. The worship was like one extended song with tempo and mood shifts and the sermon was extremely energetic and more interactive than what we usually experience here.

Afterwards, he was able to hang out with some of the youth from the church's youth group, and even sing some songs with them. Before heading back to the guest home, Rhonda and Bob took him to a few more hot spots for shopping and he found some great souvenirs to bring back with us.

We passed the torch (aka Violet) and I headed out to lunch with our new friends. They took me to their favorite restaurant, a few blocks from their home, and we had a lovely meal. I had excellent couscous and falafel and we talked about everything from Ethiopian politics and the local opinion of international adoption to the influence of the Christian Orthodox Church on popular culture.

They are a delightful couple and we were so honored that they'd spend the day with us! It was amazing to get out for a few hours - the day definitely went more quickly because of it.

During the afternoon we played outside for a little while in the yard. There is a patch of grass with a bricked courtyard area perfect for kicking a soccer ball around (or crawling to it and chewing it, as Violet's fond of doing). She doesn't like the feel of the grass on her skin, but doesn't mind crawling around on the brick one bit. The ants are plentiful and Fernando found a big white spider in my hair after I was laying in the grass... so we'll keep our playtimes limited to sitting and standing positions from now on!

We put Violet's first headband on her... she took it off immediately but then wanted it back on. We'll see how she adapts to the mountain of flowers and headbands waiting for her in Arizona! I went a little nuts with the glue gun and inventory of silk flowers at Michaels. (They are so addicting... so easy. I don't think I'm a fan of the ribbon bows on babies, but I definitely love the look of flowers for little girls. So sweet. I brought a few to Ethiopia in case she tolerated them well. For the first round, we just put on a headband without a flower to let her adjust. The verdict: She's at least interested!

I haven't really said anything about her hair so far, except that it's curly. Well, it's very curly. She has these perfect little spirals all over her head. In some of her previous photos, her hair was much longer but I'm guessing in group living environments, they tend to keep hair short for lice and other reasons. Well, it's fun to have it this length and for me to learn at every stage. Right now we are just putting some olive oil paste in a few times a day to keep it moisturized and only plan on washing it once a week or so. Her hair and skin are very dry and require lots of oil/lotion! It's interesting how different they are from my skin and hair. (I am determined though to become an EXPERT at doing her hair - she will be proud!)

After dinner, we gave Violet another bath and she became even bolder with the water, plunging her face in it to blow bubbles. She laughed at her success and repeated her trick over and over and over... and over. The bathroom we are sharing with another guest has a tiny shower and a very unpredictable water heater (translation: usually no hot water). Kim & Eric's room however has a big shower and a very predictable water heater. And being the angels they are, they let us bathe Violet there and I even got to take my own shower tonight... it was miraculous. Amazing. Transforming. After that shower, I am a new woman.

The guest home has been very accommodating to us but one thing seems strange to us - they consistently prepare "American" meals for us. And when you are traveling to another country, why would you want to eat "American" food? The other strange thing about it is that when you live in another country, you probably don't know exactly how to prepare "American" dishes. Tonight was a great example. They made us pizza... with tunafish on it. Just not something you'd expect, that's all.

Violet had a tough time sleeping today - naps and the first part of the night. She seems uncomfortable and restless (and no, we didn't give her the tuna pizza!). I wonder if she's still adjusting to the formula.

Our time here is almost over and frankly, I'm ready to head home. It would be different if we could travel and see the country, but we are ready to get home to Daniel (there aren't words for how much we miss him - we try to keep from talking about him so we don't cry). I want him to meet his sister so badly - and I just want to hug him for a good week or so.

48 more hours and we're homeward bound...