Best News Ever

Late last night (because our phones are ASS and the call ACTUALLY came in eariler, but we never get calls properly!) we got the most incredible, wonderful news — two of our dearest friends in all the world, Jeff and Sandra, are going to be parents! They received word last night that they will be parents to a beautiful 6-month-old boy, who they will be meeting next week.

I cannot tell you how happy I am for them! (I cried. Even now I am crying. Bah. Such a softie.) Their road to parenthood, like ours, was a challenging one, but I cannot think of two people who would be more caring, devoted parents. They have so much love to give a child, and their new son will be loved and cherished like no other. He is one very lucky little boy indeed.

This morning, when I went to get Stinkerbelle out of her crib and told her about the new baby, she grinned and signed “baby”. And then she clapped her happy baby applause. So, really, I think That Baby gives her official Seal of Approval. I do not know how she will react to the news the first time she has to share her beloved Auntie Sandy and Uncle Jeff with *gasp* ANOTHER BABY (!!), but this morning, she’s cool with it. A playmate!! Life is good!!

I will endeavour in the coming weeks and months to not bombard them with parenting information, baby stuff and useless advice, and to keep a respectful distance as they become a new family. But BDH and I are so very excited for them, and so delighted to meet their beautiful new son, it will be a struggle.

Congratulations, Mom and Dad! We love you guys, and cannot wait to welcome your new son into our hearts and lives for good and ever.

Reminding Myself

There are days, when I see the struggles and hardships of other parents waiting to adopt, when I have to stop and remind myself just how very lucky and blessed we were in our adoption of Stinkerbelle.

There were hard times, sure. There were lots of challenges. The wait sucked. The paperwork sucked. But by and large, things went according to plan most of the time. An extended wait here was often followed up by an unbelievably short one. A hiccup in paperwork was balanced out by incredible luck in the timing of getting things done on some desktop somewhere else in this world.

And in the end, we were rewarded with the greatest joy we will ever know. We brought home a healthy, happy, thriving baby.

Yes, we are short of money, and we have stresses around jobs or home or family bytimes. But we have a roof over our heads, and food on the table, and a gorgeous, good-natured, healthy daughter that we love more than we ever knew possible.

It’s important to take a moment and remember and be thankful for our incredible good fortune sometimes.

Colour Pop

You know how on those decorating shows, they always talk about colours “popping”? Like when you have a room that’s decorated with a certain colour scheme, but there are a few things here or there that, although they are part of the overall design, really shine and catch your eye?

Well, my daughter has had this effect on my world.

There’s a lot of discussion around the colour of skin, particularly where adoption is concerned. There’s talk about which colours of skin can parent which colours of children’s skin. There are studies that focus on the well-being of a child who does not look like his parents. There are discussions of “colour blindness” versus not. There’s all kinds of stuff out there, pros and cons, if you look.

I don’t generally pay much attention to this kind of stuff. I did, in the beginning, and filed away the points I thought were useful and chucked the rest.

My child has brown skin. I have white skin. (Well, in truth, pasty yellowish-pinkish skin. Winter makes me look sickly. But whatever.) I mean, it’s pretty straightforward. I don’t need studies to tell me that there are differences, and there are going to be questions and issues to deal with along the way.

But the thing that caught my attention and made me think about it happened this morning.

My daughter’s diaper leaked overnight, as it often does. So when I got her up this morning, I took off her sleeper and changed her diaper, and then I put her down in just her diaper on the carpet in her room to play while I changed her bedding. Her room faces east, so the sun was coming up and the room was getting light. I started to come back into her room after tossing her bedding in the laundry in the next room and giggled to myself, “Hey, there’s a baby crawling around in that room.”

But then, with the light and the carpet and all, I really noticed it. Wow. That baby is the most incredible colour of brown. She’s like a rich creamy coffee colour. No, maybe she’s like milk chocolate. And the shiny black curls… and the little pinky-brown toes…

She was just faffing about on the carpet, but oh my doG. She popped.

She was gorgeous.

Screw the whole colour-blindness thing. Who could fail to notice all this gorgeous colour?

Sure, there are lots of times — most of the time, in fact — when I don’t notice the colour of our skins, or that they are different. I’m too busy being her mom, and she’s my kid. I am too busy wiping cereal off her chin or rounding up the cups she’s strewn across the living room or pouncing on her and kissing her when we’re crawling about on the floor.

But then there are these moments where it hits me. It’s like you have black and white TV and somebody shows you a colour film for the first time. “Now in SuperColourVision!!!” or whatever. You look at her arm or her lips or the freckles on her cheeks and marvel at the incredible richness of her skin, the gorgeous spectrum of colours that is her.

And you know what is kind of funny? I am starting to look at some white babies and thinking, “Wow. That kid is PALE.” It’s not that they aren’t gorgeous in their own right with all their lovely pale pinks and creams in them, but I’m so used to looking at my daughter that sometimes I look at these other kids and they seem to be… lacking in colour. Needing some sun. Something. And then I come home to my child who is a feast for the eyes. (Actually, she’s a feast for the senses. But, as I realize the diaper bucket needs emptying, and that I might need to check for hearing loss at my next doctor’s appointment, not all the items in the feast are what you want to partake of all the time.)

It’s not that I suddenly have a pro-brown bias. I just don’t gaze as long and as lovingly at most white kids as I do at my own to notice the richness of their skin and hair. And I can imagine that for parents of a multi-racial group of children, the variances of gorgeous colours would be an incredible thing to enjoy and appreciate every day.

I know my daughter notices colours in me. But it’s not in the way adults look at differences in people’s colour. She notices colour with a child’s sense of discovery. She thinks the stripe of blonde in my mostly-brown bangs is hilarious. She’s fascinated with the white tips of my nails. She notices with some alarm when I have on warm gray socks, as opposed to being barefoot. But she notices them, and then she moves on. It’s all part of the discovery of the colours in her world.

Maybe that’s something she has given me. An opportunity to re-discover the colours of my world. And with the benefit of age, to appreciate them more.

For us, the fact that I have different skin colour than my child is not resulting in colour-blindness. I think in the fabric of our lives, she’s making colour pop. She’s making me see colour where I didn’t notice it before, and appreciate colours in all sorts of places. She’s showing me that there’s more colour in the world than I ever paid attention to before.

Six Weeks

One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I talked to people about becoming a parent came from my good friend Heather, who said, “When you get your daughter, give yourself six weeks to settle in.”

She told me, and when she had her first child, someone told her, that when you have a new baby, the first six weeks are the adjustment period. The first six weeks will be rough, and exhausting, and when you are really challenged. The first six weeks are when you and your child are getting to know one another, and getting to know one another’s quirks and behaviours. The first six weeks are when you’ll cry the most.

So, we went into this whole parenting adventure knowing that we should not put any pressure on ourselves for that first six weeks to do anything other than adjust and learn. We knew that the first six weeks would be our big challenge, and we should just roll with things, and that we should cut ourselves some slack.

And she was right.

The first six weeks together were when we were truly sleep deprived. It was a time when we adjusted to life as parents, and our daughter adjusted to life with us as parents. It was when we learned a lot of her cries and cues and habits. It was when our daughter was sick for the first time. It was, because she is such an easygoing kid, not a bad six weeks compared to most new parents’ experience, but still there were a lot of trying times.

So it was excellent advice. But I would add to it, if I were going to pass it on.

I would say that after that first six weeks, there is another six-week period of adjustment. That second six weeks is when you begin to get your life back, in a sense.

The second six weeks, after you have adjusted to the whole “OMG-there’s-a-KID-in-our-house!” thing, is when you begin to feel a bit more like a normal functioning human. The second six weeks are when you start to establish (or TRY to establish) some “normal” again in your life. You begin to figure out how you can shower when you are on your own with a child. You begin to figure out how to stay on top of the laundry. You begin to venture outside your house on your own with your child to do things like buy groceries and run errands. You get into a daily rhythm with your child. It can be frustrating and challenging at times, and there will be some rough patches as you try to figure things out. But it is a little bit different from the challenges and adjustments of that initial six week period.

You begin to feel — REALLY feel — like somebody’s parent.

Because honestly? A lot of that first six weeks, it doesn’t REALLY feel like you are a parent. Oh sure, you KNOW you are, but it does not really FEEL that way. A lot of the time you are just muddling through, trying to figure out this new life that you have chosen for yourself and this small person who is lying there staring up at you. A lot of the time, you feel like you are babysitting. For that first six weeks, you are essentially strangers.

But in the second six weeks, along with the figuring out of routines and getting some normal back in your life, you begin to get to know your child. You begin to find you have special ways of making them smile or laugh, or they begin to show their likes or dislikes, or you begin to see they come to you for comfort or when they are tired. Some people would call it bonding, I guess.

But those are the times it will hit you that you are starting to feel like somebody’s parent. And that this little stranger is becoming less and less of a stranger, and more and more your child.

So, yes, if I were to pass on Heather’s excellent advice, I would say you should give yourselves six weeks when you first are home with your child to adjust. The first six weeks are the roughest. But I would add that there is a second six weeks of adjustment to prepare for. And that the second six weeks are when the magic begins to happen.

Pediatrician

Yesterday was our daughter’s first pediatrician’s appointment. And, hopefully, our last. (Although we really liked the pediatrician, we have a family doctor, so hopefully we have no future need for anything particularly specialized in terms of medical care for the little peanut.)

Our family doctor has seen Stinkerbelle twice, and pronounced her healthy. But he is cautious. Since she is adopted from another country, he wanted to be completely sure that everything was properly checked out by a specialist. And I appreciate that.

HOWEVER.

The last time we visited the family doctor, the thing he was most concerned about was her HIV tests. It seems that, although our child had two HIV tests before her adoption, and both of them were clear… our doctor is aware of some cases locally in which patients from Ethiopia had tested negative in Ethiopia, but when they arrived in Canada, were found to be HIV positive.

EXCUSE ME??

Now, the doctor just kind of mentioned this matter-of-factly to us during her last appointment. “Just because she tested negative while in Ethiopia does not necessarily MEAN she is negative” was basically the gist of the conversation. And although it is uncommon, as our doctor can attest, it DOES happen. So, he booked us an appointment with a pediatrician.

So for the last couple of weeks, this little niggling factoid has been sitting in my subconscious. I know our daughter is healthy, but still…

So yesterday, we went to the pediatrician’s office. It was quiet, and a nice, bright, friendly place. The receptionist was very nice, very gentle with us and the baby, and she took us to the exam room where we stripped Stinkerbelle down to her altogethers and had her weighed and measured. And she’s growing: 24.5 inches and 14.5 pounds. Still tiny by national averages, but growing and growing well.

And then the doctor came in.

I detected an accent… he is from South Africa! Whee! And this turned out to be AWESOME on a number of levels.

First off, and most importantly, he knows African medicine, so reading all her charts and whatnot from her care while in Ethiopia was a breeze. He understood it all. AND… he immediately put us at ease about HIV. The tests she received for HIV in Ethiopia were checking for the virus in the DNA (or something along those lines… the medi-speak kind of lost me eventually), which means they are the most technically advanced tests you can get and are completely accurate. The other type of test is an antibody test and in the case of infants, the antibody test can be incorrect because the antibodies can be passed from mother to child. So while our family doctor was cautious — and given the different tests people use for the virus, rightly so — there is no need to worry about that.

But another reason this doctor’s background came in handy was that he recognized all the vaccinations she has already received, and recognized that one of them is not going to be suitable enough for life here in Canada. Don’t ask me which one, I don’t know… polio maybe? But basically it goes like this: the vaccine provided in Ethiopia protects a patient from, let’s say, 4 different strains of the disease, because that’s all they have to be concerned with there. But here in Canada, the vaccine we use protects us from 5 strains. So he recommends we do the course of vaccinations again. It sounded like a plan to us, so on Monday, when she returns to the family doctor for a follow up, no doubt we’ll be scheduling Stinkerbelle for some shots.

After that discussion, the pediatrician did an exam, and pronounced her sound and healthy. “Lovely” was a word he kept using. “Oh, she’s just lovely.” It was wonderful. And he tested her for some basic developmental milestones: pulling up with her head level, following things with her eyes, grabbing things, passing things from hand to hand… She passed with flying colours. She stole the man’s pen, for goodness’ sake. And the doctor seemed absolutely delighted with her. “She’s just lovely”. He identified some birthmarks for us, as well as explaining about Mongolian spots (not bruises! apparently some people freak out and think it’s bruising), and just generally giving her the once-over. He seemed delighted with all the rolls of baby fat, and how alert she was, and, as he was leaving, told us to “enjoy her”.

And so we shall.

Happy Day!

The charming, funny Nicky and her husband J-Rock just announced yesterday — they got their referral! For (wait for it!……) TWO YEAR OLD TWIN GIRLS!

This marks the end of a long wait for Nicky and J-Rock, and the beginning of an incredible adventure with two beautiful little girls. Please drop by and read their referral story and offer your congratulations!

EthioExpedition List: Miscellaneous Grownup Stuff

Alrighty, here’s an interesting list for all you packers out there: it’s the list of odds and ends that we took along for US, the grownups. Mostly it was for entertainment purposes, but there’s some practical stuff too.

I was surprised at how big the list was, but knowing us as I do (us travelling = packmules), it could have been much, MUCH worse. And most of it worked really well for us, so I can’t complain.

  • Laptop: Packed and invaluable. I cannot tell you how great it was to have a laptop with us. Both BDH and I have fairly intense computers (big, heavy, lots of software, etc.) and so we went out and got a cheap, lightweight laptop for the trip. It was awesome to have. First off, we could keep in touch via email with anyone at home we needed to reach, or that needed to reach us. We could also blog, which turns out to be a big thing for quite a few people. (Hello, Peeps! 😀 ) And it was storage for pictures and video as we needed it. But another great thing was for sheer entertainment value. We brought a couple of DVDs along, and could entertain ourselves after a long day, or Stinkerbelle if she needed something fun to do. And we also had music on it, so we had lullabyes to help the girl sleep, and tunes to have a dance party with the girl… it was great.
  • Power cords: Packed and invaluable. No use bringing along any gizmos if you don’t have anything to power them up with. So wherever you see something that needs power, assume there’s also an entry reminding me to bring the associated power cord (because there was. Trust me.)
  • Canvas laptop bag: Packed and invaluable. Our laptop came with a kind of shoulder-bag/napsack kind of thing, which was perfect for carrying our documents, our money, our camera (and of course our laptop, when required) whenever we were out and about.
  • Power converter (1): Packed and invaluable. We bought a power converter because, of course, they’re on different power and use different plugs in Ethiopia than we do in Canada. And we used it All. The. Time. As a matter of fact, it probably would have been nice to have another one, but we made do with one just fine.
  • Power bar: Packed but didn’t use. Yes we brought a power bar along so we could power up several things at once, but we did not use it… because WE FRIED IT. As soon as we plugged it in, there was a big ZAP and the smell of burning somethingorother. So, our power bar spent the rest of the day on the balcony, and then got tossed in the trash.
  • Canon digital camera: Packed and used… but only briefly. Because it unfortunately chose this trip to die. It would have been nice to have, since it’s an older, cheaper camera but I fear it got busted bouncing it around half the planet.
  • Digital SLR camera: Packed and invaluable. This is our “good” camera. As Grammy, and anyone who have asked for pictures can tell you, we took many photos of our girl. And continue to. The kid is UP TO HERE with me taking her picture a billonteen times a day. The only thing we probably could have done better, in retrospect, would have been to leave the zoom lens at home. As it turns out, there was not much use in having it, because although we had lots to take pictures of, the smog made the pictures pretty hazy and unclear.
  • Video camera: Packed and invaluable. We took video — a sort of video blog of our day — at the end of each day (well, except for days when Stinkerbelle kept us too busy). It was actually a lot of fun to do, and turned out really well. We captured so many thoughts, impressions, and events from our time away on video. I only wish we had done more. It will be awesome for our daughter to have, years from now.
  • Books: Packed but didn’t use. Okay, I cracked my book, and read two pages, but otherwise… who had time to read? And it was all far to exciting, exhausting, interesting to spend time reading — and the entertainment system on Emirates Airlines was so awesome, we didn’t need books to entertain ourselves on the flights.
  • Knitting: Packed but didn’t use. Same as the books.
  • Rechargeable batteries for digital camera: Packed and invaluable. They also worked for the video camera, and we used both so frequently, it was good to have rechargeables.
  • Flashlight (2): Packed and used. We brought flashlights in case of power outs, which — interestingly enough — we ended up seeing while in the airport in Addis. The lights went out, and we had the flashlights. Go figure. But the other cool thing is that we used the flashlight as a nightlight for midnight diaper changes and feedings. We set the routine with our daughter that once it is nighttime, there’s no fooling around, so we don’t speak to her and we keep the lights low while we feed and change her, and then it’s back to bed with no fussing. So the flashlight came in very handy for that. We set it up on end near her change table, and the light was just enough to change and feed her.
  • Swiss army knife: Packed and used. This was a fun one to have, because it got pressed into service for a bunch of stuff: bottle opener (Corona for me *blush*), other oddball tool needs, and interior decorating (BDH used it to cut the top off a water bottle to use it for a vase for our flowers)… it was handy dandy.
  • iPod: Packed but didn’t use. Again, there’s that Emirates entertainment system saving the day! We didn’t need our iPods because the in-flight system was so awesome, we were totally entertained the entire trip.
  • iPod charger: Packed but didn’t use. See above. Not using the iPod, not using the charger.
  • Nintendo DS: Packed and invaluable. But not for what you might think. There was no clock in the Dubai hotel we stayed at, and the clock in our room in Addis was not easy to set, so we just used the DS as an alarm clock, and it worked great!
  • DS games: Packed but didn’t use. Well, it was being used as a clock the entire time. And as you well know, between a baby, a laptop and the Emirates ICE system, who needs a DS to keep entertained?
  • DS charger: Packed and used. Of course, since we were using it all the time, we had to charge the DS. However… like the power bar, the change in power or the converter fried the charger, so we had to buy a new one when we returned home. I wonder how many others we’ll need to replace as we start to use these things agina here at home.
  • Fanny pack: Packed but didn’t use. We had a backpack-type laptop bag we carried everywhere, so we used that instead.
  • Journals: Packed and used. We actually got a fair bit of use out of our journals, writing down words we learned or things we wanted to remember. But the best use of all was the idea to jot down Stinkerbelle’s schedule each day (which we still do, for her doctor and pediatrician, and to help us keep track of her days). And that way, it was portable when we were out, too. Nowadays, we do it on computer.
  • Life book: Packed and didn’t use. I had started a lifebook for our daughter, but it got woefully neglected. We just didn’t have the time or the energy to write after a full day with our daughter in Addis. And I don’t know if I am going to carry on with it, either. Our friends gave us a scrapbook set, which is more along the lines of what we want to do for a lifebook.
  • Pens/pencils: Packed and used. See the entry about the journals above.
  • USB cable for camera: Packed and invaluable. If you’re going to take as many pictures as we have, you’re going to fill up memory on the camera pretty quick. And so, transferring it to the laptop is important.
  • Firewire cable for video: Packed but didn’t use. We thought we might transfer the video to the laptop as well, but we had lots of tapes and just didn’t get around to it.
  • Money belts: Packed but didn’t use. Well, we did, but just for storage. We didn’t go out shopping or anything so there was really no need to keep our money and documents close to our bodies (pickpockets being a distinct possibility in Addis). We just carried everything around in the laptop bag and that worked fine. But if we had gone out to a market or something, they probably would have come in very handy.
  • Travel pillows: Packed but didn’t use. Once again… Emirates Airlines rocks. We were comfy enough that we didn’t need them.
  • Ziploc bags (small, box of 100): Packed and invaluable. We used the ziplocs for everything — absolutely everything. From keeping things watertight (which turned out to be really necessary, because our bags got left out in the rain at the airport in Toronto and everything inside that was NOT in a ziploc was drenched), to parcelling out snacks before we left, to keeping things organized in our baggage, the ziplocs? They RULE.
  • Ziploc bags (large, box of 20): Packed and invaluable. Even more than the small ones. We packed 4 large ziplocs, each with one outfit, a diaper, a washcloth, and a small ziploc containing several wipes for the trip home, and put them in our diaper bag and carry on. This made trips to do diaper changes a breeze. It was also a great way to pack formula for the trip home — measure the formula powder into a liner, twist-tie it shut, and pack 15 or so of them into a large ziploc with a measuring cup and VOILA, easy bottle prep. Good dog, we used ziplocs for EVERYTHING.
  • Twist ties: Packed and invaluable. See the little formula packing tip above.
  • Grocery bags: Packed and invaluable. We packed about 50 plastic grocery bags (25 will fit into a medium ziploc if you fold and compress them well) and we used them to pack up our garbage each day — specifically stinky diapers. It helps keep the smell down and the garbage well organized if you are spending a lot of time in your hotel room (which we did).
  • Rolling luggage: Invaluable. Now, BDH and I are sports-duffelbag-kind of peeps. We have two big sports bags and that’s what we use whenever we go anywhere. But then this trip came up, and we knew we’d need something more… durable. With real sides and stuff. So. There was a sale on before we travelled at the luggage store in the mall, so we bought luggage with wheels and handles. You know the type, — the handle comes out the top and slides in when you don’t need it? Travels up on end and ypu can pull it behind you? Now, this came in handy because these sorts of bags also come with a strap that allows you to sort of “wagon-train” your bags together, and let me tell you, with a baby in the snugli and a diaper bag and other carry-ons to carry, this little wagon-train-dealie is THE ONLY way to get around an airport. It ROCKED.
  • Earplugs: Packed and invaluable. The first night in the hotel was New Years Eve, so hey, you think there was partying noise to be blocked out? But also, any time we needed to sleep, we pulled out the earplugs — the squishy foam kind, that you smunch down, put in your ear, and they expand to fit your ear — and we slept really well. AWESOME to have.
  • Canadian flag baggage tags: Packed and used. Again, not as you might think. Apparently they are VERY prized possessions among the staff at the airport in Addis — so much so that when we went to enter the airport (you have to go through a baggage scanner to enter the airport) the baggage handlers ACTUALLY STARTED REMOVING THE TAGS FROM OUR BAGS. While asking us if they could have them, of course, but STILL. We managed to keep the ones on our checked bags, and gave them the ones on our carry-ons (I admit I was a little annoyed that they just assumed it was okay to take them off our bags, but whatever). It would have been nice to have a few more.

There are also some things that we WISH we had brought:

  • Umbrella: It was rainy season, and it sure would have come in handy a couple of times.
  • Mini tripod: This would have come in handy for our little video blog. The first few, one person was holding the camera and the other was on camera. After awhile, we McGyvered a little setup so that we could both be on camera, but the mini tripod would have come in really handy.

So, yeah. There’s a big list. But like I said, we are packmules and could carry everything AND the kitchen sink when we travel. So this was a vast improvement.

Next, we’ll talk SNACKAGE. And other important food-related items. Because who doesn’t love the food? Am I right?

More Magic

So, the warm Indian Summer weather seems to be done. But despite the cool and overcast day today, it’s a good day.

The funny, brilliant Rhonda and her hubby Kris got their referral: a tiny baby girl, all of 6 weeks old right now! Most excellent news for a most excellent family, who waited over 15 months for this wonderful day… so stop by and check out the news for yourself!

And I had better get moving and get some more lists posted… because Rhonda will soon be needing them!

In slightly less exciting news, we came home from shopping to find… a stroller on our porch! No, it wasn’t just a drive-by strollering… we HAD ordered one. But that was MONDAY, which was a holiday so let’s say TUESDAY for sake of argument — and it arrived this morning already. DUDE. I LOVE that. So now Stinkerbelle and I can go walking! (Which we could before, only in the Snugli — which she loves, but my back? Not so much.) So, much thanks to Grammy, Granddad, Auntie Tena, Uncle Kevin, and the lovely folks at our credit card company, who made the stroller possible.

And in less exciting news still, allow me a moment of Mommy Vanity. But I have to tell you, if there’s something that just tickles me pink, it’s when strangers come up to us and remark about how beautiful our daughter is. Now, I grant you, it’s rare that a stranger walks up to a couple and says, “DUDE. THAT? Is one BUTT UGLY BABY.” So, you know, getting comments about a beautiful baby is more common than not. HOWEVER… when you are someone who thought you would never be in the position to HAVE a baby, full stop, to have people fussing over your child is magical. Today in the grocery store, as we walked around and I had Her Babyness in the Baby Bjorn, a few women came over to remark on how pretty our daughter is. And I was so proud.

As BDH said to me, as I walked back to where he was standing from the bakery section (day olds! must check out the day olds!)… “I have never seen anyone so happy to be carrying a baby in my life.”

It’s true. I’m happy to carry that beautiful baby anywhere. (Although now I can stroller. Well, that will be happy too.)

EthioExpedition List: Baby Clothes

Okay, here’s one of our shorter lists. Hey, she’s a baby — how many clothes can one baby wear?

Surprisingly, quite a lot…

  • Sleepers (12): Packed and used. We were concerned about the air conditioning in our room being too cool for our daughter at night, and the problem was that no matter how you adjusted the A/C, it never actually CHANGED. But there was no need to worry, because our daughter is a warm kid. She would kick off all her blankets by the time we got her up out of bed. So the sleepers came in handy because we knew that even if she kicked off her blankets she’s still have warm toes. We took a mix of 0-6 month and 6-12 month sizes, and the 6-12 month size were WAY too big.
  • Shirts (1): Packed and used. We only brought 1 t-shirt. It’s just too much of a pain to put a shirt on a squirmy baby. But this was a very SPECIAL shirt, one that I designed that said “PEEVISH. PEEVISH. PEEVISH.” on the front. It came from Auntie Sherri’s box of hand-me-downs, and it ROCKS.
  • Undershirts (6): Packed and invaluable. Like I said earlier, our kid is a warm kid. And when we went out on outings or whatever, we took great pains to dress her accordingly with the Ethiopians’ expectations of how a child should be dressed for their “winter” — so she always had on a coat, some shoes, and a hat as well as her regular clothes. So a lot of the time, our poor baby was melting from the heat of all that gear. (She never complained — she’s a trooper.) But as soon as we closed that hotel room door, we’d strip her down to a diaper and an undershirt and she was HAPPYHAPPYHAPPY.
  • Onesies/Diaper shirts (12): Packed and invaluable. Onesies were another great way to keep the girl cool, along with her undershirts. We brought a mix of long and short sleeves, and all 0-6 month sizes — and they fit perfectly. And we had a lot of onesie/pants combinations to dress her in, which was nice.
  • Pants (9): Packed and used. We had lots of yoga pants-type and tights-type of pants for our girl, which are the easiest to get on and off a squirmy kid. I took mostly 0-6 size, which were plenty big, and a couple 6-12s, which stayed in the suitcase.
  • Outfits (4): Packed and used. I wanted to bring along a couple of outfits to dress her up specially, mostly for photos: in particular, one outfit to bring her home from the Transition Home in — just like a birth parent would do with a baby they were bringing home from the hospital. Call me sentimental. Another one I had was for coming home to Canada — that one actually had a “Canada” onesie. And most of the outfits were given to us by certain people: one was from Auntie Sandy and Uncle Jeff, another from Auntie Heather, and so on. So we had packed them with photo ops in mind.
  • Hats (2): Packed and invaluable. I mentioned previously that we tried to adhere to the expectations of our hosts in dressing our child during their winter season, so we brought along a pair of hats for the trip. But one was so cute, we used it exclusively… and still do. And everybody was falling all over themselves remarking how cute she was in that hat. Also it was one of the easier ways to help people identify if our baby was a boy or a girl, since “pink” and “blue” are not strong baby identifiers to Ethiopians, but apparently a big floral hat is.
  • Shoes (3 pair): Packed and invaluable. Also for the purposes of being culturally sensitive, I ran out before we left and got two pairs of shoes for about $6. But the shoes we put on the girl the entire time were a pair of Robeez from Auntie Sherri that arrived the day before we left for our trip, and had strawberries on them.
  • Socks (12 pair): Packed and used. Pretty self-explanatory, really. And of course, our daughter blows a sock as soon as is humanly possible, because she likes to have bare feet.
  • Bathing suit (1): Packed and didn’t use. Although the Hilton has some very nice pools, we just didn’t get around to swimming. Too bad, too, because that swimsuit is ADORABLE.
  • Sweaters (1): Packed and didn’t use. I had heard that the rainy season could be quite cool, but I found that the sweater was overkill combined with everything else I had for our girl to wear.
  • Coats (2): Packed and invaluable. I brought a little fleece jacket and a denim jacket for the girl to wear out in the cool weather, and the fleece was perfect for the weather. It was also 0-6 month size, which fit well, while the jean jacket was 6-12 and so it was a fair bit big. The fleece coat is also still what we dress her in whenever we go out.

I think that pretty much covers the clothing for the time we had our daughter, which was about a week. We had planned for about 3 clothing changes a day based on what other parents had said they required (with exploding diapers and all) and then packed a little more than we needed because we had no plans to send out laundry. It worked out well — the only things we did not use were the clothes that were too big.

So there you have it! Next up? Gear for us.

EthioExpedition Recap: The Hotel

Along with all the lists and stuff, there are some practical things to mention about our trip. One of those things is about where we stayed.

There are a lot of options for places to stay when travelling to Addis, suiting all sorts of price ranges and needs. And it took us a long time to decide on where we were going to stay when we first started planning the trip. I am all about the cheap; I love saving money. But we also like our creature comforts too. So where to stay was a tough call, and we looked at a few options.

In the end, we chose to stay at the Hilton in Addis for a number of reasons. First of all, we could get a really good “adoption” rate (actually it’s a corporate rate) through our agency. That meant that for the price of a Best Western here in Ontario we would be able to still have some of the amenities we wanted, and that pretty much made the choice really, really easy.

The things we wanted in a hotel were not too flash, I don’t think: we wanted security and cleanliness, access to reliable power/water in case of rolling blackouts, a place to take the baby out to walk, and internet access. Security is an obvious thing, and one you’d consider when travelling anywhere internationally — with the outings and whatnot we’d be on, we didn’t want to have to worry about our passports or money (all cash, as is necessary in Ethiopian travel). So the Hilton has in-room safes or a safety deposit box to take care of those things. Access to reliable power and water is also a nice thing when you’re travelling with a baby, and we were told that the Hilton has generator power in case of emergency.

I was pretty insistent on having some sort of grounds to be able to take the baby out. BDH thought I was nutty, but my thinking before we left was full of “what ifs”. I thought about things like wanting to have a place to walk the baby if she was fussy, or being able to get out and walk around if we all got a little stir crazy in the hotel room, or one of us taking her outside if the other needed a nap. So that was important to me. And the grounds of the Hilton are really nice. You can walk around by the pool or the shops, or take a walk to the coffeeshop or grocery store on site. And it was really nice for Stinkerbelle to get out a bit, since she loves the outdoors and she enjoys walking in the snugli.

The power outages we’d heard to be prepared for were intermittent, but not at the Hilton. In the short time we were at the airport, the power went out repeatedly, but we only ever experienced flickers of power at the hotel. And that was a nice-to-have thing for us, just to be able to boil water to wash bottles and nipples whenever we wanted, or to have power for a bar fridge to keep drinks cold. Same thing with the water — only once when we were there did I notice any appreciable loss in water pressure. And after a long day of trooping around bumpy roads in a crowded van, I really appreciated a hot shower. And being able to flush the toilet, especialy toilet paper… LUXURY. Especially when some intestinal distress hits you.

Security was good at the Hilton, too. A little intimidating, perhaps, to see an armed guard at the gate and have a metal detector and bags scanner at the entrance, but in a lot of places a guard is de rigeur. It’s weird for me, since I don’t know exactly what the guards and scanners are protecting me FROM. My security concerns are more of the everyday sort, like I would look for in a hotel in any part of the world: Do I feel safe in my room? Is there someplace safe to store my valuables (money, plane tickets, documents and passport)? And as for cleanliness, the Hilton was clean and neat, and stylish in a late-70s sort of way. But comfortable.

Internet access was important for us to be able to keep in contact with people at home. We are not cell phone people. But we ARE email and internet people. So that was a nice thing, even though “high speed” in Ethiopia is not what we’re used to back home, and was out for the better part of a day at one point. We also downloaded some lullabies from iTunes for Stinkerbelle while we were sitting in the room one night, which turned out to be a great thing since she was used to the lullabies being played at the Transition Home.

Other great things about the Hilton:

  • The staff. The staff were fantastic, and fawned over the baby like crazy. The service we got was friendly, and the help always appreciated. We are big proponents of treating people as we’d like to be treated (we’re big believers in the saying “you can tell the quality of a person by how they treat wait staff”) and so I think that really helps — if you are friendly and appreciative to those you meet, you get the same in kind. We got to know some of the staff quite well, like Misrak who did our housekeeping at night and always played and laughed with the girl, and all the security staff who had big smiles and love for her whenever we came by.
  • The shops. I can’t tell you how nice it was to have a coffeeshop and a grocery store on premises. We loved going to the coffeeshop each morning, not just for the excellent baked goods and cappuccino, but more for the lovely staff who smiled and played with the baby and taught us at least one new word or cultural thing every day. They became like friends we were eager to visit.
  • On site restaurants. Okay, so the food was… meh. And probably way overpriced by Ethiopian standards. But nothing beats ordering in room service when you’re tired and don’t feel like going out hunting and gathering or cooking for yourself.
  • Peace and quiet. We’re homebodies a lot of the time, me and BDH. And we like some quiet time. So it was nice to be in a peaceful, quiet environment for sleeping or for just spending some face time with our new daughter. We were central to getting out and doing stuff if we wished, but we had the option of staying in for quiet time too. And that was nice, on such a long trip.

So would I recommend it? Absolutely. Not a budget option, obviously, and it doesn’t have the camaraderie of a guest house. But it was perfect for us.

Out and About

Today, for the first time since we got home, we all felt good — good enough to get out and about and see some of the people we have been promising to see. So we got up, got cleaned and polished, got the girl dressed (resplendent in yellow corduroy overalls which — let’s be honest here — look like MC Hammer pants, and her faux-Converse running shoes) and all her gear packed, and got out the door at a reasonable hour.

First off, we went to BDH’s office. We tried to sneak in quietly, but many people in the office have been following my blog (Hi Guys!! 🙂 *waves*) and so once the first SQUEEEEE came out when the baby came into view, we were surrounded. It was great, though — so many good wishes, so many people that have been following our journey for so long, and all there to see the girl of the hour. And she LOVED it. Stinkerbelle got fussed over and kissed all over and cooed at, and she was in her elephant. She LOVES her peeps, so she was full of smiles for everyone. And she farted on Uncle Colin, so you know… par for the course.

Then it was off to lunch. Now, this was more than a lunch stop — BDH goes to a local Keg fairly frequently for lunch, and has gotten to know the staff quite well. And they have also been following our journey, so we stopped in so they could meet Herself. Again, more of the girl and her peeps. A girl MUST remember her public, after all. And we got some lunch, as well — and Stinkerbelle got her bottle, which was our big priority. (Keep on schedule!)

Next up was a hair appointment for BDH, but more importantly, to meet Auntie Vicki. Vicki has been waiting for EVAH to meet our girl, and half the time we were there today she just stood with the girl in her arms and said, “I can’t believe I am ACTUALLY holding YOUR BABY.”

After that, we headed to our agency, because we had some more paperwork (I KNOW! IT NEVER ENDS!) to pass in. Once there, all the staff came out to pass the baby around, coo over her and kiss on her, and generally fuss over her. It was great — they are the people that brought our family together, so it was nice for them to meet the fruits of their labour, as it were. And I am sure they don’t get a ton of families coming in, since they deal with people all across the country. We had a great chat, told them about our trip, and praised Solomon (I was so glad to hear they had gotten word about how badly some of the families were treating Solomon while we were there!!) and the staff we met while in Addis. What was really cool was to have the Director come over and pick up Stinkerbelle and say, “I remember when you were in your crib in Ethiopia!” It kind of brings things full circle.

And then it was on to our final stop of the day… the Cat Clinic. Here’s another group of great people who have been with us (vicariously) through this whole journey, enough so that they bought us a card and a stuffed animal (a kitty! of course) for the girl, and have been waiting for us to bring her in to visit. So today, we stopped in and, despite being out for hours and missing what little naps she normally has, Stinkerbelle was on fine form. I was also so glad they got to meet her, especially the Good Doctor, because she has signed paperwork for us and kept up on our quest for a family for all this time.

And with that, tired girl in tow, we came home. We put the very tired girl in her swing, where I thought she would nap… but instead, she had a GIANT POOP right up to her armpits.

I have no idea what that means. I can’t even begin to say.

But other than cleaning poop out of a squirming, stinky baby’s belly button… it was a really nice day.

EthioExpedition List: Miscellaneous Baby Stuff

Okay, peeps. It’s time for another of our packing lists, from the Great Ethiopian Baby Odyssey of 2008: Miscellaneous Baby Stuff.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Self? What kind of miscellaneous baby things could one possibly need?” Well, I am here to tell you, we took a buttload, and our daughter is just 5 months old. I can’t imagine the wagon train of stuff required for a toddler, for example.

So here’s our list:

  • Teething keys: Packed and used. But not much. We brought along some teething keys, in case of… well, teething issues. Plus they were small and colourful, but didn’t make too much noise. Turns out, our daughter was only just learning to grasp things when we met her, so holding the keys was a bit too challenging to start with. She got better as the week went on. Now, she jangles ’em like crazy. We tell her if she can get those keys to work in one of our cars, she’s more than welcome to take it for a spin.
  • Ball: Packed and invaluable. Auntie Sherri to the rescue again! In her box of goodies, Auntie Sherri had sent along this fabric ball that has crinkly cellophane in it. It’s bright and colourful and soft, and The Girl took to it like a duck to water. She loveslovesloves that ball.
  • Rattles (2): Packed and invaluable. We brought along two rattles. One is Mr. Toy, the famous toy of song and story, which she absolutely adores and could be contented playing with all day long. (It’s actually called My First Rattle.) The other was a soft, fuzzy animal-shaped rattle which was of no consequence whatsoever — again, because of the whole grasping issue. But Mr. Toy kept her amused for most of her waking hours during the week, and so it was the best $4.98 I ever spent (of course, I got it on SALE).
  • Soother strap: Packed and didn’t use. Our daughter does not take a soother, so a soother strap, no matter how cute, was of no help whatsoever.
  • Plastic pants (4): Packed and didn’t use. We brought along plastic pants for two reasons: 1) if the quality of Ethiopian diapers was sub-par, and b) if The Girl had the runs on the way home and we wanted a little extra protection on the plane. Turns out, Ethiopian diapers are fine — definitely not as high absorbency as we get here, but they were fine enough while we were hanging out at the hotel and all. And she had the runs, but nothing too much to handle, and certainly not more than could be handled in a quick diaper change on the plane. So one pair will be used for swimming lessons later on, and the rest we’ll pass on to somebody else.
  • Loveys (2): Packed and used. We brought along two loveys for her to snuggle with, a teddy bear and a giraffe. The giraffe turned out to be too big for her little hands, and so was just a friend in the crib all week. But the bear, a simple little bear we got at Ikea, had a simple, friendly face which she liked and was small enough that she could grab his arms or legs and wave him about and such. They became fast friends. One night, when she did not want to sleep, we found her dragging Mr. Bear along the bars of her crib like he was a tin cup being dragged along the bars of a jail cell. We howled with laughter. “Noooooobody knoooooooowwwwws the trouble I seeeeeeennnnn…”
  • Teething ring: Packed but didn’t use. Girl isn’t teething. And she would not have had the manual dexterity to use it anyway.
  • Soothers (8): Packed but didn’t use. We brought a bunch of soothers — all ages, silicone and latex, everything. She would have none of it. Despite the nurse telling us she took a soother after her bottle, she had absolutely no interest whatsoever. Except for to fling them around like toys. THEN they’re cool.
  • Bottles – 4 oz. (4): Packed and used. We brought both 4 oz and 8 oz bottles, because we were not sure how much she’d be eating, and a lot of families had advised the 4 oz would be plenty. As it turns out, she eats 6 oz. So, we did use them, but we doubled up. And quite honestly, without proper washing and sterilizing capabilities in the hotel, it was nice to have the extras. It meant we had to do dishes less frequently. We also thought they’d be a more space-economical packing option… yeah, well, we really could have done without and packed extra 8 oz bottles instead.
  • Liners – 4 oz. (1 box of 100): Packed and used. See above.
  • Bottles – 8 oz. (4): Packed and invaluable. Our daughter can eat like nobody’s business, so 8 oz was the way to go. And honestly? If we’d have been smart we’d have just taken the 8 oz, even if she ate less. It’s easier to throw out excess formula, but a hassle to make up bottle after bottle of the 4 oz size.
  • Liners – 8 oz. (1 box of 100): Packed and invaluable. See above.
  • Nipples – slow (5): Packed and invaluable. We brought the old fashioned, standard issue slow latex nipples, and they rock the house. We tried the silicone nipples when we got home and our daughter just hasn’t any idea what to do with them. Same thing with the newfangled high-tech, environmentally-friendly, BPA-free bottles and nipples we saw other parents TRYING to use while we were there. These babies are started on the basics in terms of bottles and whatnot — it’s what’s available in Ethiopia, right? — so anything else just causes “nipple confusion” or flat-out rejection. So it’s best to continue with what they know. I just wish we had brought about 5 more.
  • Nipples – fast (5): Packed and didn’t use. They’re just too fast for our little girl, and not what she is used to.
  • DVDs (4): Packed and invaluable. We brought 2 Baby Einstein videos along, as well as a couple of Disney movies. And when we needed a bit of time to eat some lunch, or when our daughter needed a little bit of stimulation or something different than just us, we popped in a video and she was enchanted. Plus the Baby Mozart music was great lullaby music, because it is similar to what they pipe throughout the Transition Home during sleep times.
  • Disposable washcloths (1 package of 15): Packed and invaluable. For convenience sake, these rocked. They have soap and shea butter in them, and get all foamy when wet, so it saved us packing bath stuff. And disposables freed up packing space on the way back.
  • Disposable face cloths (2 packs of 30): Packed and used. They were also a great convenience item, like wipes but for baby’s face and hands. It was great to have these since we were skeptical about using the water when wiping her face and hands, since it might get in her mouth.
  • Bibs (wipe and wear) (4): Packed and didn’t use. These are the plastic kind, you can just wipe off when you’re done. But our daughter just wasn’t that messy. Soon, when she eats real food? THEN they’ll be great.
  • Disposable Bibs (2 packs of 15): Packed and used. For convenience, so we didn’t have to wash any bibs, these worked well. However, I much prefer conventional cloth bibs (and so does The Girl).
  • Washcloths (10): Packed and invaluable. DUDE. They’re baby washcloths. They work for EVERYTHING. And you can wash ’em and hang ’em to dry in the shower.
  • Burp cloth (1): Packed and used. Our daughter didn’t seem to get the whole burping thing when we got her. I don’t think they burp the babies as a matter of course at the Transition Home. So the burp cloth was really kind of useless — we could have used washcloths for that.
  • Change pads (2): Packed and invaluable. We used our change pads for everything: as an underpad for the crib, to set up a change table in the hotel room, for using at change tables on the road, for lining the bassinet on the plane… They rocked. Versatile and portable. Should have brought one or two more.
  • Sheet set (1): Packed and used. We brought an extra sheet set in case of midnight diaper blowouts, because we didn’t want to wait on housekeeping if a change of bedding was required. And it came in handy: one change of bedding, no waiting, and no interruption in schedule. Perfect.
  • Diapers (1 72-pack of size 2s): Packed and invaluable. We brought a pack of diapers, specifically for the trip home. And they came in VERY handy. However, we also got caught in the rush of parents being carted to and fro and so our need to go to the grocery store for FORMULA AND DIAPERS was kind of shuttled to the side in favour of SIGHTSEEING AND MARKETS (don’t get me started!!!). So we made do for a couple of days on this emergency supply of diapers until we could get out to a store and get some.
  • Wipes (1 package, 3 bricks of 250): Packed and invaluable. Who doesn’t need wipes? Also, see the shopping fiasco above.
  • Travel pack wipes (1 package of 12): Packed and used. But unneccessary. We had TONS of wipes.
  • Nipple/bottle brush: Packed and used. Great for cleaning the nipples, and the bottle brush worked for the juice bottles and formula mixing bottle we brought along.
  • Mixing bottle: Packed and used. We used this to mix up formula for the 4 oz bottles since measuring was a pain. But once we moved to the 8 oz bottles we didn’t need it anymore.
  • Snugli: Packed and invaluable. The snugli was an awesome thing to have, for so many reasons. For one thing, there are no baby car seats in Ethiopia, and some of the roads are unbelieveably rough. Having the girl in the snugli, strapped tight to me, made us feel at least that she wasn’t getting her little head and neck whipped about all the time. Plus it was nice to have to take her out for walks, and out on outings. And it’s a great bonding tool. Even still she loves to be carried like she is in the snugli when we go into a store or whatever.
  • Play blankets (2): Packed and invaluable. It was great to have a couple of quilted blankets to lay down for her to play on.
  • Cuddle blankets (3): Packed and invaluable. Our daughter likes to have a blanket to pull up and rub on her face whenever she is tired, so these blankets were a godsend to comfort her. One is a hand-knit one that she used primarily for sleeping and stayed in her crib, and we’ve continued that here at home. The others were just cheapola fleece blankets ($2 apiece) that she used to cuddle with with Mom and Dad or while she was playing, but we also used to cover her when we went out anywhere.

SO that’s the miscellaneous baby stuff list. I TOLD you there was a ton of stuff.

EthioExpedition: Some More Questions from Our Peeps

Well now. Who knew people wanted to know so much about our trip to Ethiopia! More questions!

Well, we here at The House of Peevish are MORE than happy to answer questions. It’s like a talk show. Only without the celebrities. Well, in fact, without any interesting guests whatsoever. I’m kind of like that old lady who knits medieval armor that they bring on to fill the last two minutes before the show ends…

Okay. So on with the questions:

From Ricki —

  • What size of clothing is she in?

Well right now, she’s in 0-6 or 3-6 month clothing (depending on manufacturer). She’s still finding them quite roomy. I suspect we’ll find that the length becomes an issue before weight ever does, because I think she is going to be a tall, skinny kid.

  • How much does she weigh?

At last week’s doctor’s appointment, she weighed 12 pounds, 8.5 ounces. But I suspect some of that was poo. Girlfriend can load a diaper like nobody’s business.

  • Is she smaller or bigger or just the size you were expecting?

She’s just the size we were expecting. She is tiny, but then we were told by everyone at the agency to expect a tiny wee babe. The babies are generally smaller in Ethiopia than they are here — as evidenced by the growth charts, where she is off the charts in Ethiopia but just in the 10th percentile in Canada.

  • Has she gained some weight already?

I would suspect she has gained a little bit, because she gets cereal twice a day, but not much. We’ll find out at her doctor’s appointment on Thursday. We are still transitioning her off the Ethiopian formula, which should take another week or less, and I also want to start her on some vegetables if the doctor says it’s ok. And then I expect she’s going to chub right up.

  • Does she use a soother?

She does not use a soother. In fact, not a lot of the babies do, according to most of the parents we spoke to while we were there. Which is funny, because every parent was told that their child likes a soother. The nurse told us that our daughter likes a soother after she has her bottle, and yet she absolutely refuses to take one. Oh sure, she’ll play with it and wave it around and stuff — she even tossed one out of the bassinet at us on the flight home — but she won’t actually USE one.

  • Do you think size 6-12 months clothing will be what Yonnas is wearing when we pick him up (around 8 months old)? :)

Definitely. I would take the last height/weight report you get before you go, and chart it on the Canadian growth chart. That will give you a feel for how big he is by Canadian standards. And that should help you know what size to pack.

  • How many diapers did she go through in a day?

I’d say she goes through about 7 diapers on average in a day. It really depends on the poop. That girl can do two poopy diapers in a row in the hour after she wakes up in the morning. It’s a Poo Shop in here.

  • And finally, as a first time mommy will I know what the heck I’m doing??????

No, but then none of us do. 🙂 I would say you’re going to know a lot more than you think you will. Rely on the advice of other moms you know — in our case, Auntie Sherri, Grammie and Auntie Heather have been a lifeline for questions and concerns — as well as his doctor in the first few weeks, and you will be just fine.

From Kelly —

  • What was the moment you first saw her like?

It was good. I thought we’d cry or be all emotional or something, but no. We were totally calm and peaceful. I guess that’s because we just knew this was the last step in the journey, and that she was ours. She was meant for us, so it just all fit together nicely.

  • How has the bonding been going, for you and for her?

It’s going well, I guess. It’s so hard to tell because she’s just such a happy, smiley baby. She grins from ear to ear when she sees us, so I think she kinda likes us.

  • What part of having your daughter home has been the most surprising? What you not expecting?

It’s all been so good. She’s such a good baby. I think I am surprised at how easily she transitioned and how easily we’re all adjusting. I was prepared for the worst case scenario and it all went so smoothly.

  • In going from a married couple to a married couple of parents, what’s been the biggest change for you and BDH? How has your relationship changed? Were you expecting this, or was it a surprise?

I think we surprised each other in how well we each stepped into the role of parent. We both took to it pretty easily and quickly, but then, we’ve been waiting five years for this.

  • How would you describe your first few weeks as a full time hands on Mom?

Exactly as I wanted them to be. Except for the sick bits.

  • Which parts of having her home are very different from your imagination and which parts are exactly like you expected?

It’s all going pretty much as expected. I think tucked away in my romantic imagination there was this vision of the perfectly clean and decorated house, the yummy mummy, the videos of bringing her home and the up to date baby book… but that is TOTALLY not reality, and I tossed that ideal pretty quickly into the process. We are who we are, and that’s not always picture perfect. So I was actually expecting THAT reality. You have to set realistic expectations, and we did that.

  • How has the adjustment to the time difference been for you all? If you could go back and redo things, what would you do/plan differently?

It’s actually been not too bad. She’s a trooper, and her schedule was in 3-4 hour increments, so switching her was pretty straightforward. For us, we spelled each other off when we were tired or too sick, and we shared the first two week’s middle-of-the-night feedings, so that helped a lot. The biggest thing we did, though, that really helped establish a routine, was to make sure that right from day 1, every feeding/diaper change after bedtime and until morning was done with a minimum of light and talking — we wanted her to know that night time was for sleeping, not for playing, so we fed her and changed her in low light and with no talking and then put her back to bed. And she took to it right away, and knows that night time is for sleeping only. It really worked well.

So that’s the next batch of questions and answers. Hope they’re helpful!

I’ll try to get the next list posted soon, too.

EthioExpedition: Some Questions from Our Peeps

Well, this whole trip-to-Ethiopia thing seems to have given rise to some questions from our peeps out there in Teh Internets. And so, we here at The House of Peevish are more than happy to answer those questions for you.

  • I’m super curious about how things were for her there. What was her schedule like?

Her schedule was the same as the rest of the babies’ schedule — I mean, with 40 babies in the home, you have to be pretty organized. So they were up and fed 6 oz bottles at 6 am, bathed at 7:30, and then they were fed every 4 hours from then on. A morning nap and an afternoon nap were also on the schedule.

That being said, her schedule was nothing like that, from what we can tell. She’s way hungrier than that schedule allows for, not to mention she hardly naps. She will catch catnaps throughout the day, but no actual structured nap time. And she almost sleeps through the night, with just 1 feed between 7 pm and 7 am. So I think, as a baby there, you just did what you had to do to fit into the schedule — there’s no time or point in complaining.

  • How many children were in the room with her?

She was in a room with about 7 other babies, with an average of 3 caregivers for the 8 babies. There were 5 or 6 rooms all told, and hers was pretty big with about 8 babies in it. Some were two to a crib, others soloing in a crib or a bassinet. It was very comfortable and clean, and the rooms were bright and airy. It’s a big, gorgeous 3-story house made just for infant care.

  • Has it been easy to adapt her to a schedule on her own, or have you kept her to her previous schedule?

We followed her lead right from the beginning, because it was clear that Her Babyness has a mind of her own. She was hungrier than the schedule allowed for, particularly in the afternoons, so we fed her more frequently then and less at night. She also has shown she likes to sleep most of the night and not nap during the day, and we’re grateful for the sleep time. She’s also getting cereal now, which they would not have been doing until after 6 months of age at the Transition Home, because she’s quite frankly ravenous. I’d like to start her on vegetables soon too, but we’ll leave that up to her doctor.

She’s an easy baby, once you learn all her signals.

  • Where there things that they did/did not do at the home that you were surprised to see or learn about?

I don’t think they burped the babies, because when we first fed the girl and went to burp her, she was totally confused. I was also surprised they don’t start them on cereal until after 6 months, but I wonder if that is just because of the logisitics involved. I also was surprised to find that the package we sent — photos, toys, and a couple of onesies — was nowhere to be seen. Quite honestly, although I know the agency says we can go ahead and send that stuff, I don’t believe the babies actually GET much of the stuff. I think it’s just too hard for the staff at the Transition Home to keep track of all that stuff what with moving babies around and whatnot. I think they did show our daughter our photos, and started talking to her about Mama and Papa, but the photos were not posted and her toys were not in her crib.

  • Did the kids spend most of their time indoors, or did they get outside time? (Which would depend, I imagine on the ratio of caregivers to children at the home, so I suppose it correlates to an earlier question.)

The babies spend their time indoors. It’s just too hard with small babies to manage outside time. But once they go to the Toddlers Home, there’s a lot of outside time, with a nice compound and a playground and lots of room for the kids to get fresh air and sunshine.

  • How bad was the crick in your neck when you woke up out of the chair?

I didn’t have one; it was quite comfortable, actually. But there was this guy, a sheikh sort of fellow, who pulled two chairs together and was using them as kind of a cot… flopping to and fro, feet in the air, arse sliding to the floor between the two chairs, all night long… it was like something right out of a Chaplin film. It was hilarious and brilliant and if I could have, I would have videoed the whole thing.