The first step is to penetrate the clouds of deceit and distortion and learn the truth about the world,
then to organize and act to change it. That's never been impossible and never been easy. ~Noam Chomsky

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Star is Born

"Creative Movement" dance class culminated in a


 Recital.




Ariam the most confident and self-assured 2.5 year old to ever grace the stage.




Shining like a brilliant jewel.

At one point she danced to the edge of the stage and yelled "Daddy!!!"

Broadway here we come.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Closest Thing to a Baby

is our new English Springer Spaniel puppy.

He's not so new to us anymore since he has been in the family since just after Labor Day. But I'd like to officially introduce him here. So, without further ado, AUGUSTUS IGNATIUS Puppus Pantilus.

We mostly refer to him as just Mr. Auggie Pants.

Augustus was the ruler who ushered in the Pax Romana, or the Roman Peace and he was declared a god by the Roman senate.

We've watched closely for any deity-like behavior, but so far Auggie's enjoyment of licking his personal parts has assured us that we are dealing with a mere mortal dog.

Ariam and Talay were not on board with the puppy plan. J was only marginally on board. I'd have to admit to leading this charge into puppy parenthood. But now that August has settled in, we have found him to be a very good addition.

He is five months old now and surprisingly calm, cheery, and relaxed. Talay does not deign to engage his playful antics in her spaces like the living room, hallway, kitchen, dining room, car, etc. But she has been playing nicely with him in the yard and in the newly carpeted basement family room. I don't think she's ever going to cuddle the way he would like to, but she is very obviously happy to have a canine companion again.

August and Ariam have developed a love hate relationship. He loves her and she hates him. Except for when she loves him. (She's fickle.)

Their relationship got off to a poor start when, on his first week home, she raced through the house bare bummed and screaming. Well, that little brown bum racing through the living room looked...juicy? I guess. And August's 3 month old self could not resist leaping up and nibbling it.

Seriously though they are doing pretty well now. It's been a bonding issue for Ariam and Talay (bonding over shared annoyance) but overall Ariam is a cool customer with the puppy and demonstrates a lot of calm assertive behavior ala Ces.ar M.ilan and the dog whi.sperer.

I adore this puppy. He has been a great gift. It's always very hard to tell what you'll get with a puppy but we knew that it would be hard to go wrong with another well bred English Springer Spaniel. They tend towards loyal, happy, kid-friendly, companions.

Sometimes, when August is lounging on his back in the bed (only when J isn't home, shhhh) I look at him and see Cassidy. There's definitely a bit of her in him and I could not have asked for more than that.





~A

Friday, November 18, 2011

wishing for another child

i feel like i need to blog about this in the online equivalent of whispering.

it's just this whisper floating through my days. a wish for another child. the feeling that someone is missing at dinner. the urgency that ariam should not be alone in this world, dealing with her weirdo parents as we grow old.

it is a whisper that grows louder when we want to take a family photo and i feel unbalanced, like there should be two white adults and two brown-skinned children. it is that nostalgic whisper as i put away bottles and sippies, store the high chair, consider preschools, buy our first pack of little girl panties instead of diapers.

but I don't know. i just don't know. my wishing for another child is all about me (or you could say about us/ariam.) it is not at all clear to me what path we could take that would merge our wishes with the needs of a child.

i think. think. that ethiopia is not the direction for us. while we were not at all happy go lucky adoptive parents with blinders on entering ariam's adoption, we are even less so now that we have searched for her family and story.

i thought, hoped, that moving towards domestic african american infant adoption would reduce some of our concerns surrounding ethical infant adoption. learning that is not necessarily true. sometimes i think it would be tremendously easier to be a less intentional person. someone who doesn't give a s--t. really. that must be such an easy way to live.

adoption is not simple. it is not a slogan on a t-shirt. it involves human lives. i want no part in screwing that up. so i don't know. i just don't know.

adopt again, raise an only child, foster when ariam is much older....

but no fertility treatment. two years ago next month we found out that we have absolutely no hope of reproducing without major medical intervention. we did nothing with that news. and six months later completed the adoption we had begun the previous spring. i always thought we'd revisit the conversation but i don't think we will. ariam is all i could have ever asked for in a daughter. i want her to have a sibling she can relate to. so fertility treatment is not in our cards. and there's no venting or ranting needed. we are happy, at peace and completely at ease with that decision. i imagine that our genes could not possible produce a child who could compare in any way to ariam.

and because no post could be complete without her sweetness....i present to you....the perfect peacock!



~A

Thursday, November 10, 2011

School Schmool

What's up with picking a preschool these days?!

B.A. (before Ariam) we would stroll by the neighborhood elementary school just a block from our house and pat ourselves on the back for living so close to school. How easy! How convenient! Won't that be perfect when our kiddo comes home?! No commute for school, hooray!

These days, when we stroll by the neighborhood elementary school with it's big banner advertising ECE for 3 and 4 year olds, we pout, we roll our eyes, we sigh. We remind each other that "this will be the last resort."

What has happend to us? Oh, yes, becoming parents in a P.A. (post Ariam) world.

Yesterday we went to two preschool open house tours. Apparently these things are all the rage - practically replacing date night as a fall activity for all parents in our city. We couldn't even get on the waitlist for the open house for one of the schools!

As I sat in the little tiered and carpeted (you know the kind of carpet, that industrial blue stuff that starts peeling into little unraveling plastic strings at the ends) auditorium listening to a principal describe Montessori curriculum, I couldn't help but feel the crushing weight of parental responsibility crash down on our shoulders.

Here are some of the nagging voices of parental responsibility:
"Whatever you choose, it will set the stage for her life, happiness, career, future ....."
"This could be the auditorium you will be trapped in for school plays for the next 8 years..." (ok, my own concern not exactly parental responsibility concern.)
"White, Latino, White, Latino. White, white, white."
"Dual language is so important. He's telling us it is SO important. If we don't get her in here she'll practically be unable to communicate in life!"
"Montessori, montessori, traditional classroom, traditional classroom. Make your choice but don't choose wrong..."

How do you make these choices? Little neighborhood school, well in writing it sounds very sweet and quaint. In reality it is almost 100% Latino (not a problem at all except that it is as lacking in diversity as an all white school.) It is also not dual language, not top performing, not a magnet or charter school, not, not, not, not.

Do kids really need all of this scholastic input? At age 3? Do they? They might. I really seriously do not have an answer here. Mr. dual language Montessori magnet school guy says they do.

I don't remember anything about school before age 5. I think it was called daycare. I think they flicked me on the head if I was naughty, I spent afternoons napping, and my mom taught me my numbers and letters at home. Somehow I succeeded in life, although God only knows how.... ;)

Here's the thing. Today I had to be at the Children's Hospital for something. We're there reasonably often. But today I was not with Ariam so I had the chance to look and listen more. The woman I was with told me that right before I sat down in her office she had to call a family whose child had died to let them know they have a $1 million dollar medical bill. One million dollars.

Walking through the halls I watched kids in wagons, hooked to IVs, sip tiny sips of orange juice.

Ariam has medical challenges but not quite like these kids. We are so very fortunate that our decisions are not life and death ones. That we can spend our time worried about something as frivolous as 3 year old preschool.  We are so fortunate to have her. She is so fortunate to be healthy, alive, thriving. She is so smart. Already smarter than us. I want to make the right decisions for her even though I can't look in a crystal ball and see the end results.

So... here are the options for the fall so far:

1. Public school ECE (ages 3-5 in one class) with dual language classrooms. Large class sizes, Montessori based, half day program. Caucasian/Latino but not much other diversity. A magnet school but not in a fancy neighborhood with lots of funding and special "extras." Designed for kids to go age 3-5th grade with full fluency in both languages by graduation.

2. Private preschool (ages 3-4 in one class) with some Spanish taught/spoken. Small class size. Love and Logic based, full day program (but doesn't have to be 5 days/week.) Random diversity, heavy also on  Caucasian/Latino. Lots of parent involvement - bringing in favorite foods, sharing about trips to other countries, etc. Not Montessori - more group activities, field trips, etc. Designed to meet the needs of our neighborhood (in walking distance), prepare kids for kindergarten, and a fun environment.

There are other options. We have a list of SIX other programs to visit. A very diverse private preschool downtown (hello waiting list), our local school, another Montessori dual language program, and a couple of schools across town that would be annoying for commute now but could be good options if we relocated in a couple of years.

I have a feeling that in the end we will still have no clue what we are doing. We will put our numbers into a lottery for a lot of them, pay money to sit on the waitlists for the other private ones, and pray to God that it all works out.

It's pretty unsettling. This whole school thing. It's like the person who used to smile knowingly at the little neighborhood elementary school (yeah, the school and I were in solidarity about our need for a small one to enter my home) is gone. Replaced by rabid preschool weirdo mother.

Decisions decisions. How do you make this one? What weight do you give to language? diversity? distance from home? class size? price? teaching style?

~A

Oh, and a quick pic of the little miss headed off to preschool in the fall. She started dance class.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Reunited

Talk about loss of momentum. I didn't realize how hard it would be to get back to blogging after neglecting it so long.

..................................................................

This past spring, when it was cold and white here in our next-to-the-mountains city, I sat in my bed and scribbled out an email fantasy to three amazing mothers of three little Ethiopians (and 3 equally lovely non-Ethiopian!)

At the end of August, the dream that started in a chain of giddy emails almost 6 months earlier, finally came true over five picture-perfect days in Santa Fe.














Taki, Noemi, Kenenisa and Ariam.

Floating in the swimming pool on our last morning I was struck by how Taki, previously this tiny, fragile baby, hurt so deeply by life in an orphanage, has turned into a fearless, pool jumping, splashing, happy boy. Noemi, previously gripped by anxiety has blossomed into a funny, brave, open, loving little girl. Kenenisa, who couldn't breath and almost died in Ethiopia, now our chilled out, ukulele rockin,  nature loving sweet little man.

And my sweet Ariam. Who received the boys and their mommies as visitors in Ethiopia while waiting for us to come for her. So patient. So even tempered and open to life. My sweet Ariam who chose to ride like a queen on her floating seat through the pool but who got brave and ultimately jumped in. She who always chooses love and life and laughter. It was amazing for me to see these four together. The way they each fit with their mommy. The way they accept each other.
Each one magnified in beauty by the presence of the others.

~A.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hello, are you still there?

I want to blog. I really really do. I miss all of you.

But the momentum is lost. I got a new computer and none of my photos are here. How can I blog without access to photos? But who has time to transfer photos from one computer to another? Actually, I should probably do that. Or do something to store them/back them up.

What do you do with your important photos besides transferring them via thumb drive every time you get a new computer?

For now here are some blogger bullet points I want to expand on as soon as this pesky photo problem is dealt with:

- Ariam and I spent a week in Santa Fe with her baby friends from Ethiopia, their moms, and her fairy godmother, Morgan. It was an epic reunion. The cuteness was hard to handle. See why I need photos to blog about this??

- We got a puppy!!!!!!!

- Baby #2 - in the works. Sadly not as easy as just getting pregnant and popping out a baby 9 months later. So of course I need to overshare and vent here.

- Ariam is growing up, complete with multiple sentences, a passion for all things babies and mothering, her own sense of art and style, and mad dance class skills.

- I went to London for work but also got to spend time with Claudia!

See?? I need my photos. What should I do?

~A

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two

Thank you all so much for your supportive comments. I am going to have to remove some for privacy but please don't take that personally.

It was a very hard several weeks. Ultimately the cons outweighed the pros. What a simple statement to summarize weeks of agonizing, googling, crying, endless long-distance phone calls, pounding on the calculator, and mentally reducing our household to whatever we could fit in a suitcase set. 

We stay. I continue to read blogs written by expats doing what I want to do in Uganda, Haiti, Peru, and Sudan. Maybe someday it will be our turn.

.................................................................................................................

Life has this way of continuing to hurtle you forward. In the middle of making "the big decision" - the sweetpea celebrated her 2nd birthday!!

Somehow she got it in her head that she needed a bike. She's 2! Honestly, how does she need a bike?? But she's seen the "cool kids" (you know, preschoolers) riding them and felt very strongly that a bike was her just reward for living 2 years on planet earth. We heard "bike? birthday? lemonade? bike?" every day for at least 3 weeks leading up to her birthday.

The grandparents, being suckers of the very sweetest kind, indulged her in the best of the best toddler bike and an equally exciting kitty bike helmet.

Gearing up for the bike riding!

Safety first!

According to J, her eyes were perfect circles of amazement.

And she's off! An inch a minute!

We also celebrated with a water themed birthday party. I had big plans for a water balloon toss and other activities but by the time I walked from the back door to the kiddie pool filled with water balloons the toddler gang mentality had taken over and the gang was busy pelting adults, grass, plants and the house. We made do with lots of water mister fun, water table fun, and, at Ariam's request, never ending lemonade. :)






This picture sucks the breath out of me. She looks 18 years old already!

Love for Aya and love for cupcake frosting.


Hero worship. Ariam loves Elia. She can't get enough of her.

Prezzies. Lots of prezzies.

I love you sweetpea. You are the sparkly light of our life.

~A

Monday, August 1, 2011

Half A World Away

We may or may not be moving there - half a world away. Quite literally the farthest corner of the ocean you could imagine or locate on your map. Just picture beaches, palm trees, coconut milk.... ah.

Then picture complete career fulfillment in this location. Combined with financial security. And a 37.5 hour workweek with 6-8 weeks annual vacation.

Sounds like a dream right? But it's not. It is just there, at our fingertips.

This other world just lingers as an option around our house these days. Last month it was a beloved and anticipated houseguest. Lately it has worn out its welcome, causing us to feel unsatisfied and angry at our current life situation but unsatisfied and angry at the dream.

During daylight I feel energized, excited, optimistic. As the sun starts to set I feel fearful, strange, plagued by doubt. Overly in love with my basement rennovation and the desire to use our new family room. (I actually cried at the thought of never using my beautiful new basement bathroom the other night.) But equally fearful of winter and regret and snow and feeling trapped.

Actual photo from the actual place. Yeah, no kidding.


I pray, I seek signs, I twist and turn options in my mind. I poke and prod J into conversations that never come to any conclusion. The problem is that prayer got me here. Yes, right here. With an amazing job offer in the ideal location with my dream organization. With J fully on board. I fully believe that prayer got me here because this job fell out of the sky, I sailed through two grueling interviews without falling on my face, and the offer is good and generous. Amazing actually. Thank you God for answered prayers. But darn it God, I prayed myself into this corner!

So with prayer answered, shouldn't the next step be obvious?

Except. EXCEPT.

Except that the insurance is biased against Ariam. Will not cover her.  Except that I have learned things in researching expat insurance plans that have turned my world upside down. Except that without access to expat insurance for Ariam we will never live overseas. Ever. And my development career will be....over?

There is such irony here. I am obsessed with the irony. I work in child protection. But to protect my own child I may never again work in development/child protection. Oh the irony. It's the kind of funny that makes you snort with shock and irony, and then that snort turns into a horrified giggle as you explain it to someone, and then at night that giggle turns into tears of horror as you realize the implications for everything you ever thought you were and the gifts you were given and the path you thought you'd been on since before you could remember ever wanting anything else.

I don't know what to do. We're stuck in circles of conversation. And I look and look for the purpose and meaning behind this.
Of course I'd give up everything for Ariam. Of course I would and I'd do it again and again.
But until 3 weeks ago I had never considered that I'd have to.

~A




Friday, July 29, 2011

Irrelevant

There's all this...stuff...going on in our home right now. Good and bad stuff. Complicated twisty turny stuff.

In the midst of it all I received my last SH.APE magazine.
Several years ago, in an epic poor decision making moment, J and I agreed to buy a subscription from this dear teenage door to door salesman. J is a huge sucker for these young salesmen. Which I find sweet and endearing. It's a recipe for neither of us being able to say no.

Anyway, we agreed to this subscription, it was super cheap, and ever since then we've had a lovely stock of SH.APE magazines sitting next to our toilet.

So yesterday I was looking at my last magazine and the cover was hidden by a big announcement stating "THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE TO RENEW & SAVE BEFORE SERVICE INTERRUPTION." Naturally I took this as a moment to stop and quite seriously consider whether or not I need to renew.

Flipping through the magazine I realized that there was not one headline, not one article, not even one word that I found relevant to my life right now. Honestly who reads this stuff?

"Banish the Breakup Blues: Put down the ice cream and soothe your soul the healthy way." Sure. Like anyone suffering through a breakup is going to want to read SH.APE magazine or listen to its advice.

"Stilleto Survival Guide." I didn't think anyone outside of Se.x and the City actually wore those.

"415 calories burned while cutting your lawn with a HAND-POWERED mower." What is a hand-powered mower?? There must be better and more technologically relevant ways to burn 415 calories!

"Move over surfing, stand-up paddling is taking over." Sure. I'll get right on that.

My favorite section: Shape Your Life Women in Action. A guide for Shaking things up. Sounded promising. But these are the categories of advice: "unleash a new you", "bust an entertainment rut", and "become miss popularity." That's exactly what I need: a total makeover, the stress of hosting huge parties at my house, and the pressure of trying to be the most popular woman in the room.

A.udrina P.atridge was the featured interviewee. She is a reality tv star. She wants us to know that she only washes her hair twice each week but it still looks shiny and perfect, she "plays" instead of working out, and when she really wants to splurge she eats frozen yogurt with lots of fruit....

Here are some other topics covered in this issue: how to get a better fake glow, lip stain that will last 8 hours, how to squeeze in a workout but not a shower, and how to assess whether or not your dog is overweight.

The verdict? Not renewing the subscription. And keeping SH.APE as a bathroom-only read. ;)

~A

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I've been trying to think of how to say this...

I didn't write the post to whip up a storm of controversy or discussion. Although that's not a bad thing.
I wrote it because it was in my heart and memory.

I think, and this could just be speculation, that despite food and sponsorship, this woman desperately wants to relinquish her son. She's come to the very edge and that was the decision she wanted to make. But because he wasn't desireable in the eyes of the orphanage, he was not received for adoption.

I so get both sides of this. I get it that family preservation should be encouraged as a first response. And I get that the orphanage director feared raising this little boy. But I also saw the desperation of the mother, her desire to give him something else, hopefully something better. She walked away with money for food but her face said she hadn't found her answer.

Thank you to everyone who offered up sponsorship. I haven't gotten back to any of you. I'm concerned about linking you with the orphanage's family preservation program right now. They haven't gotten back to me in response to my questions. So for now we'll wait. If there comes a time when I feel confident that I can connect you with a great program, or even one of you with Dani's sponsorship, I'll be in touch.

~A

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Birthmother: The thin line between relinquishment and abandonment

The story I'm about to tell is already 40 days old.
It took place during my search for Ariam's birthmother in a town about 40 minutes outside of Addis Ababa.
My van, filled with key players related to Ariam's story that I had gathered for the day, stopped at the small office of the local ministry of women's affairs. As things generally play out when I'm in Ethiopia (or anywhere in east Africa), I didn't have a clue what was going on.

Maybe I wish I had said no. Maybe I wish I had stayed in the van. But I don't have the option of going back and changing anything about that day.

...............................................................

I watched a mother try to relinquish her son today. I watched him reach up a small hand and hold it to the back of her neck. I watched her reach back reflexively to cover his little fingers, accustomed to their pattern of touch. She didn't realize that while her words said "I need to give him up" her actions said "but I love him, I do."

I watched a mother come to the end of her road, no longer able to walk the path of caring for a son with such obvious challenges ahead.

She stood outside the office door, summoned for her consultation. For an hour the women around her discussed, analyzed, negotiated. Sometimes they would close their circle of voices and leave her on the outside and other times the circle would open and she'd be called back in.


Would some money for medicine help? What about sponsorship? Could the orphanage director take him?

When the final pronouncement was made it was a no. Nobody would take the little boy with Down Syndrome because there would only be a life in an orphanage - no family would want to adopt him.


I watched a mother crack wide open. For just a minute the flood of fear burst through her composed exterior. She bent over double and I recognized that reflex our body does before it gets sick. Wracking sobs, the cries of a heartbroken widow, a scared and tired young mother who has carried her love on her back for two years but who can't walk a step further with him.

I wonder silently if she has seen other children adopted and has a daydream for Dani - that he will go to another country where she could imagine that he was living and thriving. Or if she has not thought about adoption at all and just needs to say a final goodbye, no matter what happens after.

She begs. I watch a mother beg. She's unwrapped him from her back and shifts him from arm to arm while she cries and alternates between holding him out and holding him close. After an hour of discussion, she stands straight, she closes her expression. She wraps him back onto her back and readies herself to leave.

It is clear to all from her words (they say she said "I just want to leave him here, go far far away and never look back") that he will be left. Maybe tonight, maybe a week, or maybe a year from now. But he will be left and he doesn't even know it. With innocence he has giggled through this soul altering crisis today. He doesn't know he will be left, but we do.

Pardon her expression - she was sniffing back tears. She wasn't trying to look so angry as far as I could tell.

...........................................................

This little boy's name is Dani (Daniel.) He was born with Down Syndrome to a mother who has a 6 year old daughter and who recently lost her husband. She is very obviously depressed. The ministry officials say she is "disturbed" but I think they mean depressed. Or maybe they do mean mentally disturbed. I think I would be if I were in her position.

Her husband died, she ran out of money and medicine and brought Dani to relinquish him. The orphanage director I was with was asked to bring her two social workers to the ministry's office to discuss the situation. Her pronouncement was that "there are no adoptive parents who would want this child." They are seeking a sponsor for the family. If you are reading this and feel so moved please leave me a comment. I think sponsorship is about $35/month. The orphanage director is funding the sponsorship for now but her funding is limited. Long term support will be needed if the mother does not abandon Dani.

I asked if sponsorship would make the difference between family preservation and abandonment in this case and they are unsure. Efforts will be made. But the consensus was that most likely the child will be left.

It is one of the biggest tragedies in international adoption - that the children who could most benefit from an adoptive family in a resource rich country like the U.S. will most likely not be the ones who get adopted. When I told the orphanage director that I thought some families in the U.S. might be interested in adopting a child with Down Syndrome she looked shocked and skeptical. That has not been her experience. Our daughter was the only child she's ever seen adopted after being diagnosed with a medical need. She could not take Dani and risk having to raise him in her orphanage for 18+ years.

So he will be left at the doors of the ministry most likely. Because apparently that is what happens in cases like this. And I have no idea what will happen to him then.  I assume he will disappear over time. Or he will remain with his birth mother and disappear over time unless she gets a lot more support to keep him and care for him.

I'm asked often how I feel about Ethiopian adoptions. I really have no answers, only complicated stories.
~A

*It was agreed by all that I would take photos and post them online. The photos above don't quite capture the situation but I could not bring myself to photograph some of the more intense moments.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Just Too Much

Do you ever feel like you have so much to say that you just don't know where to start?
I feel overwhelmed with everything that's happened since June 1st.

We searched for Ariam's birth family. And we found something. A lot of things. But it wasn't what we expected and it has sort of turned my world upside down. How to write about that while protecting my daughter's privacy?

I watched a mother try to relinquish her 2 year old son with Down's Syndrome. I watched her heart break. How to write about that?

I am uncertain if we can/should/could/would ever adopt from Ethiopia again. How to write about that?

I spent a weekend with other blogging mamas. I giggled in a hotel room until well after my bedtime. It was fantastic. I guess I could write about it, but the first three topics nag at me and prevent me from writing anything happy or flippant

Cassidy is gone and there is a 38 pound furry liver and white hole in our home.

Summer feels like it's halfway over.

Ariam is turning 2. But not really. Because really she's already 2. Easy enough to deal with this year but how to explain that in the future??

We went to the 4th of July picnic at the Ethiopian church in our town. It was amazing. Ariam was amazing. She loves injera. She loves Ethiopians. She loves bouncy houses. It's so much fun to watch her have fun.

Up, down. Up, down. Emotions all over the place.
There's something else kind of big brewing but I think it's another topic I just can't post about until there is some resolution. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks.

And that is my "it's all just too much" post for today. Tell you all, but telling nothing really.
If it weren't for the first couple of topics I'd probably just launch into some nice stories about our summer. So how do you handle that when you absolutely have to blog about something serious but cannot find the words to start?

~A

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Year Behind Us

One year ago exactly I woke up in my own home, with a baby sleeping in the crib her daddy for built her.

After three weeks in Ethiopia battling the bacterial infections from hell and the big fat ?? mark of leaving together or staying ALONE with my sick self and my sick baby for another month, the three of us somehow managed to pry a visa out of the embassy and claw our way across the universe back to our cozy den of safety.

video


Ok, we flew. We didn't claw. But if I had been told by the embassy that "clawing" my way back to the US with Ariam clinging to my back was necessary I would have signed at the dotted line and put on my knee and elbow pads.

Parenting was so daunting a year ago. I think that's why the Ethiopian experience and the trip home meld together in my mind as less of a realistic memory and more of a big black void of churning, sick to my stomach feeling.

Do we let her crawl on the airport floor, is that o.k.? (yep - she'll crawl on worse!) Do we wake her up to feed her on the plane? (duh! NO! never ever wake her up!) How do we cut her nails? Why is she crying? Are we supposed to burp an 11 month old? Do babies eat corn? Can her body really hold 10 bottles in 24 hours?? Is it ok if she holds her bottle herself? Am I witnessing a severe attachment issue? Why doesn't she ever sleep? When will we ever sleep? How does a onesie work? Does her head look big? Do her toes look small? Is one eye opening wider than the other? Why is she so annoyed by socks? OMG are they cutting off her circulation?!

I remember waking up that first morning home. (Probably because I never went to sleep.)
Lots and lots of crying from the little lady.

But then we introduced her to the bedroom of delights. Filled with fantastic things to discover like the mirror on the door, the baby books she couldn't rip up, baskets of stacking toys, soft stuffed animals, and the yellow rocking chair. Two parents at her service completely.

I remember our concern that neither of us would ever be able to go to work again because well, a. we didn't want to be away from her for even a minute and b. it took both of us to tend to her every need and desire. It seemed like a truly legitimate concern at the time!

I remember how, after dressing her in a ridiculously poofy sundress, we just sat and watched her explore the room. Nobody laughed or smiled. We were so. serious. All the time! She was serious. We were serious. Geez, it was like we were attending a wake those first few days. We had absolutely no idea how to make her laugh even after spending 3 weeks with her in Ethiopia. We were really worried she would examine her new situation and find it all very....wanting. We were also worried that if we did anything wrong she would potentially break, crumble and turn back into the dust of a dream.


video

But, in the end, she didn't. She liked us! And she stayed very real!

A year is behind us. I wrote in her baby book each month of the year. A year of months of firsts and discoveries. Of feeling our way through the impossibly black night of new parenting. A year of seeing the sun pop out in unexpected places.

J is prone to telling me "She makes being a toddler look like so much fun!"
I smile.

I don't remind him that for years I (and a counselor) told him that having a child would help him to rediscover his own lost childhood. It would bring him retroactive joy.

 I don't have to tell him how redemptive parenthood is - how it seems to balance out the universe in indescribably right and good ways.

Last week we celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary.
On our 10th we went to Greece. Thank God we did that. Because on our 11th I'm pretty sure that one or both of us were laying in a bed in Ethiopia puking. And our 12th was very...understated.

Last week we hired our first babysitter. We paid her and everything y'all. (Ok, I am not southern and am not even sure if I spelled y'all correctly, but it just seeemed to fit and I may toss it around a bit more in the future...)

We paid her and left her in charge for four hours and took ourselves to happy hour and to a movie. It was blissful.

I think we're going to make it. I think we have found our equilibrium in parenting. It only took a year. A YEAR! It was a year! I am so in love with this past year and so very equally glad it is behind us.

~A

PS. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your comments about Cassidy. Sometimes I have to ask myself why I blog - why I choose to take time out of my family life to write self-indulgently funny or snarky or thought provoking or sad things on a page on the anonymous internet. And then when I wrote about Cassidy it was like putting a little bit of our life together in a bottle and setting it to sail. Honoring her, giving closure, and receiving the gift of comments back was priceless.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Loss

To Lose. It is a verb when you are talking about it abstractly. "Did you hear that so and so lost their (dog, house, child, parent)?"
Loss. A powerful noun when it refers to you and your own life. "I have experienced a loss."


Cassidy, our 13 year old English Springer Spaniel, passed away on June 4th. She was born on May 15, 1998. J and I bought her, on a humid summer evening, from a breeder in MN in July 1998 when she was 10 weeks old. We've had 3 dogs in our married life, Cassidy was the only one who has been like a child to us. Faithful is the best word to describe her. She always trusted us, always knew that we were her people. She was never happier than when we were all together - her pack - going anywhere, but together.



Summer 1998
 There was a time, right after we got married in 1999 and moved to a small city in NY, that J was in graduate school and I was extremely unemployed. He was in an art program and in the studio day and night. I was experience the life altering shatter of the Christian college bubble. You know, where you suddenly realize that the world is full of awful people (like the drug dealer/pimp who had loud s.ex in the apartment above us) and that your bachelor's degree in international relations means less than nothing in a small city in upstate New York.

Cassidy and I would walk to the huge park near our house and sit. Just sit on a hill near the confluence of the Genessee and Hudson rivers. I'd cry. She'd press against my side and let me keep an arm around her. Then suddenly she'd take off, chasing squirrels and rolling in grass and throwing her full body into the river for a stick. She'd return full of life and joy and look me in the eye to say "hey! wake up! It is SO great here in this sleepy city. And isn't it SO great that we can just hang out all day together?!" :)



Summer 1998 - Trout Lake Camp, MN

Passed away seems too easy of a description. We made the decision to put Cassidy to sleep on June 4th. If you've been reading here you know that she was diagnosed with a large lung tumor in January. The prognosis was 4-8 weeks and she gave us almost five months. In the end it seemed pretty clear that she was holding on the best she could because she's not one to give up on us. So we had to make the decision for her.

I came home from Ethiopia on the 2nd. The next day Cassidy followed me around the house with the "eyes." I know these particularly "eyes" because she used to give them to me while she was suffering from undiagnosed Addison's disease in 2002. They are the eyes that say "I'm not feeling good. Can you fix it?"

She was struggling for breath, coughing a lot, and she couldn't just lay down and get comfortable. Her job here with us was done and there were no more pills that could help. So on Saturday we took her in and helped her say goodbye.

It's a terrible thing, taking a life. I've never done it before, not even humanely. I have selfishly tried to rescue little dying birds, puppies, squirrels, and even a raccoon we hit with the car one time. If it were up to me I'd always choose life, even over humane death, and I'd see every person and animal live forever.

But life has a really crappy way of calling you out and ending sometimes before everyone feels ready to say goodbye.

We gave Cassidy a double stack cheeseburger. And a peanut butter bone. And the vet staff were incredible and loving and made it as easy as possible. We told little stories about her while they were prepping. Cassidy was so tired. I told her it was ok to let go and she just layed down and it was over. But not over for me. I see her in my mind's eye every day. Those last minutes of saying goodbye. The way her fur was so soft still. Her long ears that I've cried many tears into over the years. It is baffling how life can be there one second and the body there but the life gone, the next. We learn about this concept, and maybe I am the last 34 year old on earth who hasn't actually experienced it in either animal or human form, but it is....well... baffling. Mysterious.



So it has been a miserable week and a half. I thought once it was done and the tears were cried that day that it would all be over and life would move on. But every day last week there were more tears. There are still tears, they just don't always flow now.

We got her ashes back last Wednesday. And again, I marvel at how that is all our lives boil down to. Because whether we are human or doggie, life ends and in the end our dust can fit in a little box.



Never have I been more glad to know that there is life after death. Never have I found more comfort in the knowledge that God promises us a better place, where ALL things will be made new. Beloved dogs too. Life on earth is so fleeting. 13 years went by in the blink of an eye. Surely our human lives will be just a speck as well. I imagine that by the time I am very old, and my time is up, I will have said many, even harder, goodbyes and be even more comforted by the thought of heaven.

We sang a song in church on Sunday:

Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King
Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King
Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, we are going to see the King

No more crying there, we are going to see the King
No more crying there, we are going to see the King
No more crying there, we are going to see the King
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, we are going to see the King

No more dying there, we are going to see the King
No more dying there, we are going to see the King
No more dying there, we are going to see the King
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, we are going to see the King

It is an old gospel hymn with roots as a "Negro spiritual."
I can only imagine the losses of some of the people who have sung this song over the generations.

My loss, it is a first world loss. A priviliged loss. I don't forget that. But it is not any less painful for knowing that.

This past weekend we sold D.oris D.ay. Our scooter. I had this dream - that once we moved to Colorado we would travel everywhere by scooter. While some dreams are harder to bring true, this one wasn't so difficult - the scooter part. We bought DD within a couple of months of arriving here. We took her to the store, and for sunset rides around the lakes. She was sort of our last hurrah as a married couple without kids.



We sold DD last weekend. I cried both before and after. You know how once you start crying the tears manufacture much more easily? Yeah, that's been me since Cassidy's death. The tears are just there ready to spring out and fly all over the place - over a scooter, over a photo, over the thought of Ariam ever dying, over our under-celebrated 12th anniversary on Monday.

I think the couple that bought DD thought I was crazy. I may or may not have insisted that they call her DD and encouraged them to take her to watch the sunset at Sloan's Lake every night. I may have also (cringe) suggested that they buy the house for sale next door....

Here they are trying to appear understanding as I take a photo for this blog post and blubber about how my dog just died and I'm sad to say goodbye to the scooter too.



It would be nice to be able to pull it together in the coming weeks and enjoy some summer.

I think we need a puppy....

~A