7.31.2010

BIRTHDAY BOY

Last year we celebrated Hubs' 29th by sending in our I600A- a fairly decent-sized step in the adoption paper process. It seems so long ago. Bad cliche drop at the beginning of this post: It's amazing how things change in a year.

Today was my beloved's 30th. In my heart and soul I want to throw him a meticulously decorated and planned party, invite those who love him over, make him all his favorite foods and treats, and proclaim from the roof tops what a rock star he is. But those things didn't happen. Or rather, I didn't make them happen. In the future, I don't want to use life cirucmstances as an excuse to not do the things I want to do.

But the day wasn't a total loss. We went to a lake and I made him read in the shade and relax. And in lieu of a fabulous cake we made s'mores with the kids. We visited Brady at the hospital, gave him a bath and a sweet baby mohawk and hit up our favorite Bostonian ice cream J.P Licks. Much like last year, no pomp. No circumstance. I wanted to do more.

But I love him. He takes care of a family of four kiddos and performs beautifully the hefty assignment of putting up with a wife who is wound way more tightly than he (or I) knew when we were married at the ripe ages of 23 and 22. He has taken in the last seven months of hullabaloo in stride. He is my hero. Happy Birthday, Hubs dear.

A special thank you to his parents, who raised such a boy. I am the luckiest girl in the world!

7.30.2010

CELEBRITY EMAIL

She'd laugh at this post title, humble as she is, but today I received a happy email today from a woman admire so much. Jane Kurtz is a renown children's author as well as one of the founders of Ethiopia Reads, and I was lucky enough to be CC'd when she decided to help spread the word about a new children's book for Ethiopian adoptive families.

Author Melissa Fay Greene writes in the introduction, “Love and family are enough to help a child thrive in almost every way but this one: the human need to feel part of a deeply rooted, vibrant, and growing family tree….The message we relay to the children who are ours by adoption needs to be: You came from somewhere. You came from good people. You came from this spot on the globe.”

The illustrator, Jan Spivey Gilchrist is highly recognized as she has won a Coretta Scott King award for her art and has illustrated over fifty books. You can see more of the pictures and content as well as purchase the the book at http://www.amharickids.com/ Can't wait to get a copy for our family!

7.29.2010

WHAT IS MISSING?

exhibit A
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exhibit B
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Still can't tell?
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Tiny tiny, baby steps.

7.26.2010

I WAS GOING TO POST ABOUT...

...how yesterday i got everyone ready for church, on time, in coordinating clothes, snacks and quiet activities packed, make up on, and i couldn't find the van keys so we couldn't go.

...how on our walk an elderly driver almost hit me and the kids, and her answer when i informed her she almost hit us was to shrug and say "well, i looked the other way..." as if it was my fault i wasn't on the side she decided to check today before making a turn, and at what point as drivers do we give shrug and say "oh well" instead of "i am so sorry i am glad you're ok."

...how mad i am brady is five weeks old and is 4 lbs 10oz, and i never bothered to get his footprint while he was still at his tiniest. in the grand scheme of the universe and the foreverness of his soul, he will never be a measly 3 lbs preemie ever again and i have no documentation of how small his feet were. for some reason, this fact has made me cry three separate occasions this week. or maybe it's the hormones and sleep deprivation? No, it's definitely the feet that are already twice the size they were when he was born.

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...how fun it was for the kids (and their Mama) to see Hubs play in a softball game the other night. he hasn't played in a loooong time and it was like riding a bike. he made some awesome plays and had a few great hits AND looked super sexy while doing it.

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...how this week tsega and i seemed to have found a glimmer of a connection. i've loved him since i laid eyes on him, but i feel when he looks at me he is starting to see me as a permanent fixture; more than the chuck wagon. i am starting to be more than a source of food. i can't put my finger on it, but i will say this: him starting to love me makes me love him more. it's sick that we are as humans are programed that way, i wish it weren't so, but being loved and needed and sought by a child makes it SO much easier to parent said child.

...how cookie monster's speech therapy has done wonders and he is starting to communicate. he is a happier boy, we are a happier family, he asked for "more acado [avacado]" out of the blue the other night at dinner and we all cheered like it was the moon landing, and gave him the rest of the avacado to eat. and holy moly, he gets more beautiful everyday. seriously. look at that boy.

...how this week i felt like i was getting stupider and stupider, and was playing a sick game of "what child can i shortchange the most today?" and how much more help i need from another set of hands, God, whoever to fill in the gaps. and how i still blame much of my incompetence on pumping for two babies. and trying to be ok with it all.

i'd planned all these posts in my brain, but it's time to pump, put a baby to bed and go to the hospital to see the littlest one. am i starting to sound redundant in all my posts these days? there is a reason for that, friends. sorry, give me a few more months. i am sure i can find something exciting again someday...

7.23.2010

PROUD OF ME (AND OTHER PEOPLE) FRIDAY

I know, I skipped last week. So I will be obnoxiously forthcoming this week.

I am proud of me for getting out of my pjs, throwing on some mascara, and taking the three kiddos blueberry picking at one of our favorite farms. Yes, I had help from our summer babysitter Liz, yes I had to pump milk in the car on the way there, and the way home, and yes I was recently seen by some friends while out driving pumping in the car and I almost died of embarrasment, yes it might be wrong to not care about a random stranger seeing me pump, but be mortified by someone I know.. But back to why I am proud: I actually got dressed and created a fun activity for my kids, complete with packed lunches and fully operational diaper bag. And we only left the house forty five minutes later than I'd planned!

Instructions
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ready to pick!
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kaplink kaplank kaplunk!
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silly girl
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yum
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pick
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show
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eat
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ahhhhh
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I am also proud of myself for cleaning out every single dresser drawer in this house, riding my wardrobe of all signs of maternity wear and other clothes I never want to see again, and clearly labeling and moving all the kids' clothes that were too small to bins in the basement. It's amazing what one can accomplish when one's husband is around.

A shout out of proudness of my dearest Jane, who until these lovely girls came to visit, had never been able to fall asleep with another soul in her room.

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We had a sleepover with these sweet cousins from Dallas and voila! Samantha did it! Before 10pm! And thus, the great impetus to move Cookie and Samantha together in the same room. They are sleeping a little less, but having a marvelous time. Thanks A and W for the fun weekend and training Samantha to have roommates.

What are you proud of this week?

7.21.2010

REAL QUICK

I like that I have the kind of kids where I can leave a permanent marker in the middle of the floor in the hallway for 48 hours and nothing bad happens.

Because I have the kind of life where a permanent marker is lying on the floor in the middle of the hallway for the last 48 hours.

Thank you.

7.19.2010

GO AWAY

I need my sleep, I am busy growing...

PS. This is Mama, here, Brady boy has been using his zzzz's well, today we weighed in at four lbs! Woo hoo!

7.16.2010

ONE MONTH HOME

Tsega has been home a month. I cannot tell future adoptive families that read this blog what a normal adjustment period is like -if such a thing exists- because whatever you go through, it cannot be more bizarre than what we did for ourselves with the whole going-into-labor-two-days-after-setting-foot-on-US-soil-Mom-stays-in-hospital-two-weeks thing.

The good news is that despite that major set back, T is doing incredibly well. He came home with your average blend of orphanage sickness, some unidentifiable gunk in his gut that made his diapers unpleasant, but that cleared up within two weeks. No worms, no parasites. He had some horrible coughing and congestion, which again, cleared up with antibiotics and nebulizer treatments for a few days. He eats about twice as much as he was being given in his care center and has filled out a bit, has more energy, and having logged many an hour in his Jumper Toy of Happiness, he has vastly improved muscle tone in his legs, on which he couldn't put any weight before.

This is T's "shy smile" he rubs a hand across his face and acts coy. I love it, it's a classic look for him.

I never thought I'd be grateful to miss out on the first two weeks of having my Habesha boy home, but it was kind of a cool opportunity for Hubs to be on baby patrol day and night, something he never was able to do with our homegrown kids, as they were breastfed and hoarded by their mother. These two learned a lot about each other and bonded like they couldn't have if I had been around hogging him.

One thing I was happy we brought to Ethiopia and use every day are these blankies. I wanted to find something soft and breathable. We hit a home run with these, as Tsega cannot sleep without one in his fist. I love providing him with anything that helps him feel safe, happy and content.

There are little things he does, little behaviors I notice and wonder about. I am probably a little more relaxed about them than I would be had I been a first time parent. But I do worry. I internally freak out a little about how freaked out he gets when he is hungry. How much is it typical six month old baby fit, vs, "I am afraid I won't be fed because I used to be hungry a lot." And anyone who says "oh all babies do that" can take walk off a cliff (as I probably needed to do in conversations in the past) because with a child who was in institutionalized care, you just. don't. know. It's hard not having been around the first part of his life. I don't know what his cries mean yet. There are all sorts of variations and I miss the advantage of being around from day one, so I know what they mean.

I try to make sure he knows he can and should depend on me. I won't let him hold his bottle, even though he can. I slip my fingers under his so he holds my hands while he eats. I am willing into his psyche the message "This person will care for me. I don't have to do this myself." I keep the bottle next to my chest so he has to face towards me while he eats, he isn't allowed to look around. I force the eye contact and connection, hoping to undo months of No Mama. I don't know if these little things are silly, or if they mean anything to him. But they mean something to me.

I do feel a sense of loss missing out on his short life. I didn't know how much bottle feeding would stress me out. It is almost a disadvantage having successfully and happily nursed two babies. I miss the closeness and the monopoly I have on providing nourishment to the baby. I have the blessing of getting to hate formula (though we rarely use it since I am pumping still for him non stop) but hating pumping and just wishing he wouldn't freak out when I tried nursing him. This has been a great source of stress for me and it looks unlikely he will learn to drink from Mama. It's ok, but I really miss nursing him.
There is so much more, though bed time is a callin'. We love him. His siblings love him. He is easy. He is sweet. He had his first carrots today and didn't waste a drop. He loves the bath. He loves his crib. He says "Dada." He loves trees. He rolls back to front and front to back. He drools non stop. He is wiggly and busy and loves playing with toys. He is a joy. We don't know what his future holds, but we are so glad we are apart of it for him.

Sometimes we look at him and think about that first time we ever read a pamphlet about Ethiopian adoption. How exciting and unknown it was. How far away and difficult it all sounded. How we fell in love first with the idea, then the families who we watched do it, then with the country, and then an actual little Ethiopian. It works, people. If you do what your adoption case worker tells you to do, you make a frillion things happen (and then have them all notarized), and then let go and hope somehow things fall into place and the little soul who needs a family can be matched to a family that needs a little one, it does, in time, work. Sometimes there are setbacks. Sometimes, horrible, tragic things happen, like with two friends who's sweet children passed away before then could bring them to the US. But most of the time, it works. He's here. And he's shockingly perfect.

7.14.2010

WHITE MAMA *update*

Only a few weeks home parenting my child of color, and I now understand how and why transracially adoptive parents of yesteryear may have stumbled into the emotionally damaging territory of not seeing their child as the world sees him. The sentiments "We don't see him as black, we just love him and see him as a member of our family" as it turns out doesn't acknowledge the difficulties a child of color faces as a transracial adoptee.

As it turns out, attempting to lock down developmentally appropriate ways to talk about color, race, to celebrate and educate and support the racial and cultural differences within a family can go a long way. Being "colorblind" doesn't cut it in adoptive parenting anymore.

Because the police officer who pulls Tsega over when he's 17 and driving isn't colorblind. Neither is the old woman walking home who clutches her purse a little tighter when he walks by. Neither is the manager or admissions counselor where he works or wants to go to school who hires him or doesn't hire him because of his skin. And most importantly, sometime in the next two years, he himself is going to notice or his siblings will point it out to him that we look different. It's not a bad thing, but we might as well acknowledge it, celebrate it and support instead of pretend it isn't so.

But I understand how the "colorblind" setiment happened, and happens. Because I don't think about it. I don't feel weird walking around with Tsega in a sling in public. I don't give our skin differences a second thought.

He is my baby.
When he whimpers, I wake.
When he cries I pick him up.
When he is hungry I feed him.
When we smile at each other sunshine explodes into the universe.
When I look at him I see what I see in my homegrown kids: his beauty, his sweet mannerisms, his brilliant tiny steps in development, the ways he contributes to the fun factor in our day to day life.

And on the whole I have received highly positive feedback from people of color and white folks alike about our adoption. But people watch us. And then I remember.

I don't know if you've seen the movie Adopted, but it was an intense, highly educating film for us. Some agencies are starting to require it as a piece of their education process, which I think is great. It's available on Netflix. I wish all my family and friends would watch it. And read this post by an adoptive mom. I stalk her blog on occasion though I've never met her. And I related to her frustration at not being able to tell a complete story in our tiny interactions with folks about adoption. Now that I think about it, here's an even better one by my blog friend Claudia. She always manages to say things that I've felt on occasion but can't articulate.

I am finding a lack of words and time but not always a lack of desire to educate the random on-lookers and pleasantly curious observers, but there is no way to fit it all into one minute in the check out line at Trader Joes. And quite honestly, eventually I will probably grow weary of the questions and stares, and Tsega will be old enough to understand the questions being asked about our family, which then makes the curiosity more intrusive.

Speaking of questions, this week I had an experience being not just a Mama, but a white mama to a little Ethiopian:

At Castle Island, a gent of an older generation stared at Tsega and me for about ten minutes. The stare became a glare, and I noticed out of the corner of my eye as he couldn't contain his - what? what was it exactly? distaste? anger? it was certainly more than mere curiosity. He couldn't stop himself. He had to comment. So he lumbered over, stood a little too close and asked accusingly without looking me in the eye: "Did you make that baby?"

Honestly, I don't know what I could have said that would make him feel good. He didn't want to feel good about what he was seeing. He paused, waiting for my answer, seeming like he hoped to pick a fight. So I didn't say anything. I gave him a tight-lipped fakey smile and held out for about six impossibly long seconds. He "hmmpfed" and lumbered away.

Could I have been lovely and gushed about our wonderful adoption? Yeah. Could I have said something like "No, but isn't he beautiful?" Or made it a joke like "No, and thank goodness, my husband is hideous." Yeah; I could have said something. But I didn't. I refused to engage with a hostile person. His question wasn't hostile in and of itself, but his body and his eyes were. I wasn't angry with him, I mean, he was an old man, with a cane, who grew up in a different time. But I didn't want to talk to him.

Am I over sensitive? What does it mean to take the high road? I don't know. I know I am going to mess this up in my interactions sometimes. But I will say this, if I am gonna mess up and someone ends up with the short end of my stick, I am going to try to err so that that person isn't my son.

*UPATE* Friend Elizabeth sent me a link to this article, and I am dying to get feedback. What do YOU all think about this? I think it could be awesome. Too bad I don't own one Apple product...

7.12.2010

FIRSTS

Brady Cakes is three weeks old, and we celebrated the occasion Saturday night with a poop fest of epic proportions. It was as if he just knew that Mama was here and wanted to show off. The stuff was ev.ry.where. So much that his nurse stopped wiping and trying to stay ahead of it, sighed and said "Well, this is just ridiculous. Have you ever given him a bath?"

I gasped. She might as well have asked if I've ever walked on water. NO! I've only held him for an hour or so every day since he's been born. I've never done anything to actually handle him or care for him!

This nurse, my new favorite, Carrie, got a bucket ready, some little soft cloths and said "Want me to take some pictures?" Could my night get any better? First I get to bathe my tiny one, and she wasn't afraid of the camera? It was the treat of a lifetime.

So here is my premie having his first real bath, from his Mama no less, which we both loved.

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all clean!
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all worn out
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Tsega had an important first this weekend: the beach. He was perfection. Slept in his Ergo, splashed in the water, and well, made friends with the sand. He wouldn't stop eating it. Why are babies so gross?

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We are insanely tired, but enjoying all the little people around here. More on T soon, as today we celebrate one month home from Ethiopia!

7.10.2010

ETHIOPIA TRIP PART III

I wanted to post about the rest of our Ethiopia trip, because I am realizing as time passes life is not feeling easier yet, it's just getting busier, and I don't want to forget Ethiopia and our experiences. The once subdued and quiet Tsega is showing a little demanding side - which thrills us. This boy is learning that if he raises a stink, someone will come arunning, and that is a great blessing. I am almost healed enough from surgery to take on my goal of carrying him a lot of the day in the Ergo. And by the way, adoptive parents, (or any parent for that matter) if you don't have an Ergo Carrier, go get one, then come back and finish reading. So with the demands of the four kids, (read: out of control laundry), I am gonna spit this out as comprehesibly as I can.

Day four of our trip was Wednesday, and all of the families in our group (save one who was there for their newly-required court trip, not their second trip to bring home their daughter) had decided this afternoon would be the final one our children would spend in an orphanage. We were all itching to take custody of the kiddos and were forced to kill time that morning. We did so with a really cool visit to a sister orphanage outside the city.

Hubs and I finally had our first glimpse of life outside of Addis, the capital of Ethiopia, and even more impactful, a glimpse of life inside an orphanage. The one where Tsega lived was kept strictly off limits, but for some unknown reason we were given the opportunity to see Toukoul II, a newer facility housing children eighteen months to about six years old. Interacting with these children broke my heart. It touched all of us. I wanted to stay there. I wanted to love these children. They were so hungry for attention. The dozens and dozens of kids we saw and met either had no parents, or their families had to relinquish them because they felt they'd be in better hands in the care of the the orphanage, and the sick thing is that one could call these kids "lucky," because most of the orphans in the world are going hungry, have no opportunity for education, clean water, a soft bed. These children had that, and yet, they are entitled to so much more. Despite the clean beautiful rooms, the class rooms filled with books and art supplies and a teacher chanting days of the week, it was devastating. Their faces haunt me.

On our way out of the city, we passed my favorite spot in Addis: the random herd of cows eating trash under the high way.
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This man made me cry
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Girls walking to school:
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Views in the country:

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What is your house made of?
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I love donkeys
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Especially when I chase after them and get them riled up (please note Hubs' petrified face in this shot)
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Here I am at Toukoul II, teaching the kiddos how to trace their hands on paper.
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I wanted to bring him home with us
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and him
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ok, all of them.
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The hardest part of visiting the orphanage was seeing the special needs kids. Children with HIV and developmental and physical handicaps were out sunning when we came to say hi. The nannies, though loving, had no idea how to improve the lives of these special children. They aren't physical or occupational therapists. They don't know how to work with kids with cerebral palsy, or Aspergers, or Downs Syndrome or epilepsy. They merely made them as comfortable as they could and swatted flies away from their faces for them.

I wanted so badly to convey love, to connect to some of these special children, but the few I stooped down to talk to cried out in fear. For all I know my white face and massive tummy was terrifying. It was so hard to see children who needed special care to reach any of their potential and there was no possible way for them to receive it. I hated the injustice in the world.

We left with heavy hearts and a ton of hand sanitizer. We were all over the kids and they were all over us with hugs, hand holding, high fives, etc. and every single one of them had a runny nose, a rash, a cough, or some kind of something that I was nervous about bringing home with me. Both in Toukoul II and Tsega's location, there didn't seem to be one child that wasn't afflicted with major chest congestion among skin issues. I can't imagine trying to keep that many children healthy.

I've mentioned the problem before, but the pollution and fumes were too much for me on this drive. It was like sucking on an exhaust pipe for 90 minutes. I was very ill after our drive home an couldn't sit up to the table for lunch. I was really light headed and woozy, and needed a nap. Luckily, I started feeling better and was able to get my spirits up for the best part of our day:

Around 3pm we all headed to Toukoul to take custody of our children. I think I'd read too many Gladney or Wide Horizon's blogs, because at Toukoul, I was surprised to learn there is no "goodbye ceremony." The day we took Tsega away was totally uneventful. We were given a final opportunity to grill the nurse, Tigist and the pediatrician Dr. Tsege about the kids' care and schedule, but found once again, not much helpful information.

Two more notes for future traveling families: The docs at Toukoul, and other families recommended not bringing formula and getting the Nestle brand of formula that the babies have been on at the orphanage when there. We didn't follow this. I bought Enfamil Soy based stuff to help his tummy out. We switched right away and he didn't care at all. His first bottle from us was the new kind of formula and he didn't skip a beat. So, it's a small sample size, but really, I wouldn't worry too much about the brand.

Second note: based on the information we received from Nurse Tigist, he was eating about half of what he eats right now. I think he was pretty hungry. I won't get into how this scares me that he may have been going hungry some/any/much of the time because of the effects of malnutrition on everything about development, but I will say, take copious notes like I did about sleep and food, and then don't be afraid to throw it out the car window on your way out of there.

As far as what it took to gain custody of T, Hubs signed some papers -I wasn't even there, I was in another room holding Tsega . We were given a bag with a handmade traditional Ethiopian outfit which we love, and a file with all his medical information (far more than we'd received in our monthly updates) and that was that.

Leaving Toukoul
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All the new families!
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We were all free to leave at that point. No pomp. No circumstance, no coffee ceremony, no one to come and cry and say "I will miss you, Tsega." In fact, it made me mad. I didn't get one glance from a soul who had cared for him that was sad he was leaving. Maybe they steel themselves to the children leaving, and make themselves scarce the day we leave. Maybe they loved him and his beautiful face and easy going disposition. I just wouldn't know it, or anything about anyone who had rocked him to sleep, sang him songs, held his hands. Without good reason, I felt a little angry. I wanted to be able to tell him he was loved there.

And as much as I wanted to feel sad about taking him from all he had known, it was beautiful to leave that place knowing that from that moment forth he would have a family to care for him and love him. It was amazing. We prayed he would feel our love and not be scared. As it turns out, he seemed less scared of us and far more terrified of the car (he hadn't been in a car maybe since he was a few weeks old) and went into a state of shock and fell asleep. It was pretty obvious it wasn't that he was tired, but rather needed to go to some "happy place."

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That day, we also left the guest house where we were staying and headed over to a different hotel in another part of the city. My back was killing me and we wimped out with the slightly more humble accomodations at the guest house. It was lovely, but I was pregnant, and we had a new baby and comfort started to become a high priority.

When we checked into the hotel, we immediately stripped of T's clothes and gave him his first bath (from us, anyway). He was a very very happy little fish!

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I was horrified by the open sores and diaper rash he was living with. I have never seen anything so upsetting. Thank you to my friend Shannon who sent me this:

It is far less harsh than traditional Desitin. I would have never bought this because I am totally turned off by the brand name, but it saved T's poor little bottom. I am now a believer.

Once in his new jammies he posed like this for me:
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Until I realized it was WAY past time for a bottle and and sleep.
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That night and the next he slept beautifully (minus a few impressive pooping sessions). He loved being rocked to sleep, loved the attention from his parents, and did insanely well. Non stop happy until he was hungry, really. However, we completely jacked up his schedule with the flight home and the first few weeks at home and as we approach closing our fourth week home, we are close to a decent night time schedule again. Napping is another story, but we are messing with him so much by having older kids and needing to get out of the house and run errands we have not been very respectful of a decent day schedule so it's our fault, not his. Luckily, he seems to be pretty flexible and that is how it will have to be with this many little people about.

So, new parents of babies from ET, the nannies will have them on a rigid schedule, but if it gets horrible for awhile, it seems par for the course.

Still not done, so more to come...