Let Go

A few weeks ago I was asked to submit a blessing or a thought for a friend's Blessingway, a ceremony of women supporting and celebrating a woman who is on the cusp of becoming a mother. 

I thought a lot about my friend and what an example she is of strength and commitment  I thought about my own births, three of them, and adoptions, three of them. I thought about my current life, my current role as a mother, and how very different the challenges are than I ever could have dreamed. I thought about how things might have gone had my body not been a mess. (You new readers don't know anything about my malformed uterus, my bed rests, my PICC lines, my hyperemesis, the pre-term labor, the three traumatic and some, unexpected c-sections, and the surprises that seemed to accompany just about all the additions to our family. It's been a wild ride.) I thought about what it means to be a powerful woman, even amid turmoil. 

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photo copyright (c) staci hopkin photography

And that night, in the small hours of quiet, I wrote this poem. I harbor a small hope that somewhere at another blessingway or baby shower or friend to friend, it can be shared with other women of faith who are mothers. I love reading this out loud to myself, as a prayer, a mantra of who I am and what I believe about myself. 

Thank you for reading.


For some men of this world, power is something to be built, bought, gained, grasped, seized.
It is loud, it is bloody.  
Bodies and spirits, whole nations crushed in the pursuit of it. For them, power is control. 

There is a different power with women.  It builds life, nurtures it. It creates bodies, houses spirits, and lifts, not crushes. 
In birth, it too, it can be loud and bloody, but it does not trample. It does not hold on with white knuckles,  clinging to sword.

No, a woman is most powerful at the moment she decides to let go of control. 
To give over to God and her divinely-fashioned body and trust that those two entities know what they are about. 

Her greatest power during birth, and in the years that will not stop crashing over her as she raises up the spirit she once housed, is in letting go of what she thinks should happen and what should be.
God, her soul, and perhaps even her body still know what they are about. 

Her power is to realize that every storm, every road block, every pit fall is an opportunity to let go. 
And she must realize this while the wind blows, while the hail beats down, when she's down in the mud after a treacherous fall. 
Oh, if she can only see that when life has wrested her to her knees and she is in darkness,
Only there, kneeling with acceptance and soul-searing pleading, can He clothe this woman who has given up her power in His power. 

In giving birth, she lets go and gives in, and then spends the rest of her life re-learning that catechism.
She must remember how powerful she was when she cried in pain trying to find her baby's way from warmth and darkness into bright lights and strange voices.
How powerful she was when she took a step into life's vastness, and her path was not lit.
When she forgave herself.
When she dropped the burdens she was carrying and laid them at her Redeemer's feet.

In birth, in life, as a parent, and even perhaps in death, a woman is most powerful when she lets go.


Pantry Redeemed

We've lived in our house for four years and known when we moved in the closet space was ample and enviable but so so poorly used. We are are so busy that it takes us a long time and slow build to an unlivable state to make change. We hit a breaking point with our kitchen pantry last weekend. Here is the before. Seriously, any of you who love organization are about to break out into hives, mkay?
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As you can see, there are boxes of stuff, piles of stuff, things falling onto the floor, it is totally disgusting and not at all easy to live with. The space is huge but the shelves are only about 9 inches deep, maybe 10. Totally wasting a fabulous pantry. Hubs, bless his hunky little heart, spend President's Day at The Container Store (Also known as: Rob you Blind Store) and locked up in here with a drill and my best wishes.

The shelves are almost twice a deep, and go higher up, and are now on the side, not just back of the pantry, as well as the door. We also decided to do drawers to containerize all the bags of beans, rice, oats, and pasta that tend to fall all over the place. Now, the only thing that needs containment is the 50lbs of t'eff, the Ethiopian kind wheat used to make injera. Right now that is in bags on the floor mucking up all the pretty. Those large buckets house rice, flour, and sugar. Almost out of sight on the right are containers of onions, potatoes, shiro, brown sugar, etc. It feels so good to no longer live in chaos. HA HA HA HA! Just kidding! We still have plenty of chaos, but at least one tiny thing is not stress inducing.

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What is up next? Well, my bedroom laundry/clothes situation is far more embarrassing than this pantry was. In fact it is so bad the camera may never document it. What room is your private shame?


Wanting proof of the mess

There are some angry people right now out there. I am grateful to those who read my blog and supported and listened and joined the conversation about ethical adoptions in Ethiopia from yesterday. I know some are upset. The blog post has had more than 4,500 hits since I pushed "publish" and I am humbled by the response, especially those who sent me private, offline messages with comments and questions. I don't know how I am going to respond to them all. But some were asking the same questions, and I feel now compelled to write a quickly-put-down gut response.

Some people who messaged me are concerned. And quite a few waiting families, a few with Dove, some with other agencies are asking about specifics. They want to know exactly what Dove did, they want the juice, they want proof. Here is the biggest problem with proof and details: adoption lies and fraud and corruption don't just involve adoptive parents. At the heart is a child or children. And having major or heck, even minor ethical issues in an adoption story is a little like having your child be abused. If you come out against the perpetrator (who may be popular, powerful and big or even really nice) your child's story, the details of their pain is now fodder for the Internets to criticize, dismiss. To seek justice, to warn others, to appease people and convince them "it's true" you essentially must throw your family under the bus and expose yourself and your child to ugliness.

That is the reason most families stay silent. That is the reason many people don't report abuse: it is hard to prove, it can feel like shame, it can harm our kids more than they've already been harmed.  That is why the stories I point to and discuss don't have names, dates and identifying specifics.  But it is so hard to know what to do. How do you prove to people that fraud happens and that agencies are either complicit or know about it/suspect it but have personal philosophies that justify the fraud? How do you convince people without specifics that throw a kid's privacy in the garbage?

I remember going to Dove staff early in our process back in 2008 with my ethics concerns when I read the expose piece about CWA (a nasty piece of work, that agency). I was told: "Well, the kids go through a court hearing to make sure they are adoptable." I was relieved. I thought, OK, Ethiopian judges and lawyers will make sure kids who 's cases are suspect don't end up adopted. With that, I absolved my agency of making sure. But I didn't know that the lawyers are on agency payroll. They are not there to advocate for a child. They are there to make sure he gets out of the country. They have great financial incentive to push cases through, not worry about details, let alone covering up, destroying paperwork, reporting a problem that doesn't add up back to the agency, etc. I still am not sure how I feel about the judges who are allowing so many kids with suspect paperwork through. They don't seem to have much incentive to stop adoptions either.

I never knew, or even knew to ask, that at that point there were almost zero adoption cases that had not passed their court hearing. I say "almost" zero because it might be zero, I just don't know for sure. To this day, these court hearings and even these investigations are a bit of a farce. The court "hearing" lasts about three minutes. Birth families are not represented by their own counsel who supports them and provides an "out" if they don't actually want their children adopted. If they want a child to remain in the orphanage because even if they can't care for them at this time, they want the option for reunification later. I have never heard with my ears or eyes seen anyone at at agency in Ethiopia or a lawyer discuss options for an Ethiopian family who may have been lied to about what adoption means, or didn't want that to happen. I have never heard anyone who has been around Ethiopian adoption talk about the children at orphanages who make it back to families. Correct me and bug me if your agency or their partnering orphanages regularly takes children available for adoption and reunites them with family. I will hug you.

In technical jargon as things stand: The system is so messed up.

A friend made a great point to me as I lamented the alleged reasons behind Dove Adoptions being unable to get reaccredited: Al Capone was a terrible person. He murdered, he coerced, he destroyed lives, he stole, he was powerful, frightening, and despite all the details the police and those around him knew, he couldn't be brought down for the worst of his crimes. They couldn't "prove" what he did. But everyone knew it.He finally put away for tax evasion/fraud. As if that was even remotely as bad as his other crimes! Just because a court of law couldn't prove he was a murdering sociopath doesn't mean he wasn't.

Adoption agencies do lots of little things that are not OK. Not all of those little things are going into a village and stealing children. It is so much more subtle than that.

The real problem, the stuff that is really hard to "prove" is the stuff that happens in Ethiopia, in towns, in small houses with vulnerable families. It happens in small offices and police departments when paperwork is written up. It is an unwritten decision by neighbors or family that the actual truth will not be written down, that a death will be reported or a name will be changed, or a detail covered up. I am not there for that. Neither are you. But really bad stuff happens when we are not watching. And the folks in Ethiopia (usually Ethiopians) know it happens. The social workers, the staff, the drivers who go into a town and come back with a bunch of kids, the lawyers. They know it.

Agency staff in the US isn't there to hear or see exactly what was said when those kids left their parents and got in the van. They have language and cultural and geographic distance that gives them this blanket of deniability. They don't have the staff or financial or cultural resources to go investigate each and every case. They don't go back to families to see if reunification is wanted or even possible. Most, certainly not Dove or the orphanages they work with, do not have programs that make sure adoption is the very last resort for these kids.

Another problem is that Truth in Ethiopia the way we like it in the US is hard to come by. The cultural gap in telling truth and relating details is as vast as the 6,500+ miles between here and there. The shame of a family falling apart is deep. The unpleasantness of a failing family is something that Americans and Ethiopians deal with and process very differently. And I don't think anyone who started adoptions in Ethiopia could have ever known how this gap is harmful, how it creates a power dichotomy between the rich white people and the families who are trying to figure out what to do when things get bad.

Proof? I don't know if I have the strength. I will say this: there is minor lies and major omissions on paperwork in both our adoptions. They are small enough where I think both our adoptions are still as ethical as they can be in Ethiopia. If the case were otherwise, and fraud involved families who wanted their children, we would be living in Ethiopia right now so our kids could have the opportunity to have their families both in their lives. As it is, moving there part time or for a few years is on the table. Seeing kids broken by their separation from family affects us all differently. For me, it makes me angry.

It fuels my rabid passion for ethical adoptions because even though I wasn't wronged by my agencies, I saw the problems: It is laughable how easy it is to get kids available for adoptive families who want kids. Babies, older kids, you name it, it is a cake walk to procure a child and fix up the paperwork. I mean, almost no effort. I saw how easy it is. I saw the attitudes, the wealth. The way adoption has become a culture in Ethiopia. It made me want to vomit.

So I believe the fraud. I trust the families who speak out. They are not lying. I have many, many friends who have major fraud in their adoptions. I mean, many. Not two or three, or five. More families I know have lies and problems in their paperwork than not. (*of those who have investigated and found the truth. Those who haven't don't know if they have fraud or not). And I have watched other adoptive families crush them into the ground. I have seen them lose their friends and I decided I would stand with them. I wouldn't turn my back on them. I heard their stories, their details and while they are not mine to share, I wish you could believe, too.

Because believing families who say "This agency perpetuated fraud and is pulling bad stuff in Ethiopia" is not like believing in Santa or the Easter bunny. It is being willing to believe it is possible that Ethiopian adoption - as an institution- hurts Ethiopian families and children as much as it helps. That is my belief. I believe that Dove, largely because of the people they have worked with in country, have been on the hurting side as much as the helping side. That is not a good ratio.

And I, little ol' me, do not have a solution. I got nothing. I preach and I educate and I try and I don't know how to fix it. One thing would be to stop working with agencies who have fraud stories and make sure the money you spend on your adoption doesn't go into an organization that has hurt and will hurt again. Sure, maybe it didn't happen to you. But do you really wanna help keep their doors open?

It's complicated. And exhausting.

Maybe it's time to get back to cute pics of home school projects and pictures of the one with sensory issues climbing crap in my house. Hey, you're saying, where are those pictures of the closet that Hubs redid with sexy stuff from the Container Store?

Don't ruin it for everyone: What does it mean when an agency closes in Ethiopia?

Our first adoption agency is closing in the next few months. It has been officially announced.  And like my blog graphic above indicates, I am once again up at 1am, trying to put words to page to talk about what this means to me, and what it means for Ethiopian adoption. Laundry, sleep, or a good ol' fashion extended metaphor? I am sure you know what I am choosing...

UPDATE**  In some ways, this post has been officially made null and void. It appears another agency has stepped in to save Dove, and because they are not authorized to work in Ethiopia, they will "umbrella" under an agency that does still work in Ethiopia, who will partner with them and let them use their accreditation. The agency is called Lifeline Adoptions, and they are known for trafficking children in China and Uganda, so let's just all be clear: this is so so sad for Ethiopian families that BOTH these agencies get to work in Ethiopia still.

It's faulty, I grant you, but I can't help but compare using an agency who is not allowed to work in country using a doctor who has practiced medicine in the past, but lost his license. Would you ever feel comfortable with this: "I am gonna go to a doctor who does not have a medical license, but he has a friend with a valid license to practice, and his friend says 'I will let you see your patients here. Bring them to our office, give us some of the money they pay you, and we will let you practice medicine with our protection.'"  Does that sound like a good scenario? Does it really matter why he lost his license? Was it because he hurt someone? Does it matter to you if he only hurt one person? What if it were a few? More than ten? Are the people he hurt crazy because they really really want others to avoid the same fate? How about this, would you want to use him? Who is responsible when or if things go wrong? (Hint: when talking about adoption in the umbrella scenario, the answer is no one).

The US allows this agency partnering and "umbrella" thing, and so does Ethiopia, I want to be clear that it is not illegal. It happens all the time to allow unaccredited or unlicensed agencies to get clients who want to adopt from this country but they don't have the ability to establish themselves in country. But in my long long ethics post, I talk about why I think this is not okay. 

So I am not taking this post down.  I know folks have already discussed this blog and my name and talked about banning me from forums so I cannot bring my "crazy." What I find sad and ironic is they are playing out the exact scenario I describe about in this post: a group of people who do not want to hear the truth because it didn't happen to them. So, if you're here for the first time, join me on an exploration of an agency, ethics, and the adoption community which does not always feel comfortable with people who question things.

Imagine you are planning your dream wedding at a hotel in another country, that looks good on the internet. This hotel is going to facilitate the entire shebang. They even have ordained staff that can seal the deal for you. You find other couples who also are getting married or going on anniversary trips to this hotel so you join an online group of people counting down until their respective big days. You read a lot of good reviews, a few bad. Most of you on there haven't been to the hotel though, so you are giddy and nervous together. Sometimes you wonder if you should heed the bad reviews. There are few people who keep showing up on the forums trashing the hotel.

They weigh in on conversations uninvited, just to tell once again, their miserable wedding story. They are relentless, they make everyone uncomfortable. Weddings are supposed to be about creating a family and happiness. They are stressful to plan, and the folks who chime in with their botched weddings make it more stressful. You read one scathing review all the way through. There is a claim that not only did the service stink at this hotel, they ruined the wedding. They lied, they tried to cover up their mistakes, they pretended they didn't have reservations or our paperwork. They took money, they deceived, and people were hurt. They claim the hotel will not be held accountable. There is no recourse.

Well, this is awfully disturbing. You think maybe you should find a different hotel. But there are a bunch of other reviews that claim, We didn't have any of those problems. So then you tell yourself, there are always people who are impossible to please, which is true. You call up the hotel, you ask some questions, and they are really nice. Your fears subside, and you press forward, signing contracts, paying, planning, brimming with joy, forgetting about the bad reviews, which always seem to come from the same people anyway. You save, you dream, your whole family gets involved, friends are excited. You bought the plane tickets, there is is no turning back.

And then, it happens to you. They do scam you. Your wedding was a nightmare. You barely survive it, you don't know if you'll ever see a dime back. You are not even sure if your marriage is legal or legitimate. You cannot believe you were a victim. And in the process you saw how some hotel employees were hurting others in their community with their business practices. You remember the bad reviews and how easily you and everyone else dismissed them.  You wanted proof, more than allegations, and now you are living it. And you think I have to tell people. This hotel lies. They take money. Maybe not to everyone, but the risk hurts people. It has broken up families, broken hearts, broken savings accounts. 

And yet you don't want to relive it. Just let it go, move on.. Don't be bitter. But then your inbox starts filling up with emails from that forum you were on before the wedding. You are still a member of this community of now-married couples and loads more happy, unknowing wedding planners. Many of them want to go to that same hotel. And now you know you must say something. But you remember how it felt before you knew. You are nervous about backlash, criticism but still, you type up something short but adamant

Please stay away. They lied to us, took our money. They are a shady organization. We are still picking up the pieces. Please don't use them.

Comments fly on the forum of wedding planners.
Joy kill.
Where is your proof?

The hotel sends out a disclaimer about how 'Some guests didn't follow procedures correctly and the hotel was unable to provide the service they would have liked,' they cover their butts and make it seem like if anyone had a bad experience, it is their own fault.

A few people from the forum privately email you to tell you that if you file complaints against this hotel, weddings in that hotel may stop and that will ruin the plans of all these couples who want to go there. They've already paid, and if the hotel closes, it's over for them. You are jeopardizing other people's happiness because you are being negative.

The people who once supported you, held your hand through a stressful process have turned their backs. They don't want to hear your story. Our wedding was just fine, get over it. Or, Ours won't be like that. There are way more good experiences than bad, so it's not OK to say that the hotel is all bad just because YOU had a bad experience. 

I am going to pull the plug on this long metaphor which of course, is about adoption agencies working in Ethiopia. I've been thinking quite a bit about adoption agencies, ethics, what makes for "good experiences" and "bad experiences" and "good agencies" and "bad agencies." The agency we used for our first adoption, finalized in 2010, Dove Adoptions, will be closing its doors sometime in the next six months or so.

I am relieved. Though I didn't know it at the time of our adoption, this agency has both turned a blind eye and participated in lies, deceit, corruption and human trafficking for years. I feel ashamed that I unknowingly was apart of it. And as soon as I found out, I've been trying to talk the talk and walk the walk in regard to ethics ever since. 

My experience with Dove was peachy. They were open, kind, caring, warm, clear, supportive. All the things one thinks one needs when researching an agency. The NGO (not Dove) who ran the orphanage from whence their children were referred did humanitarian work, seemed to really care about Ethiopia, other good check marks in my mind. But Dove has worked for years with this NGO organization in Ethiopia that has employees who I believe "find" babies for all the westerners coming in with bleeding hearts and open wallets.

I think one of the most dangerous attitudes in a poor, developing, nation is one that promotes a culture of adoption. I believe a country like Ethiopia does not need a presence and culture of adoption, at least not as rampant as it is right now. They need support and a culture of family preservation, but the money flooding into the country due to adoptions has changed the landscape of Ethiopian families.

I heard one of the "higher-ups"of the NGO that referred our son through Dove, say something that shocked me. She, an Ethiopian woman, claimed over eggs and toast as it if were completely matter of fact: "Children are better off adopted to the US and Europe. It's better this way." She was making an impressive living off of getting the children of her country into the hands of well meaning white folks. She made me sick, and this was long before I knew anything about adoption ethics. But her words haunt me to this day.

Her driving philosophy, I am sure passed down to employees within the organization, can go far in justifying coercing children away from families, leaving out information in paperwork, and twisting the truth a little to make kids adoptable. Dove worked with these people. And they still hire to this day an attorney who is surely aware that of the vast number of babies they moved through the adoption process with lightening speed, many had many errors or easy omissions in their paperwork. Many of them had no record of birth family and were "abandoned."  This attorney has lied, participated in trying hiding information about children and attempts to bribe and manipulate families in process. I know this because it happened to my friends.

In the last two years Dove has offered gag money to families (including my friends) who's adoptions were fraught with lies. Some families took it because they wanted to move on, didn't want to tell their story. They wanted it all to be over. Some families didn't take it and are able to keep telling their story.

Where things get complicated is that Dove has also have placed many children who needed families. Isn't that terrible? That an organization can do good things and bad things?  How many bad decisions and lies can an agency perpetuate? How many families can participate in sketchy adoptions before an agency is investigated in earnest?  What is the ratio of "good adoptions" to "bad adoption"s that tips the scales to making an agency "bad" enough to shut down? Apparently that number, that ratio is unknown and unreachable because appallingly, Dove claims they lost their accreditation to facilitate adoptions in other countries not because of the many complaints filed against them for breaches in ethics, but rather because their staff didn't have enough graduate degrees. In their words:

"Hague regulations specify that the Social Services Supervisor must have a “human services related” degree plus some experience in international adoption. Unfortunately, the Council on Accreditation, a private entity the U.S. Government contracts with to accredit adoption agencies, has interpreted the regulation narrowly and determined that the lack of a “counseling” degree of our employee prevents [name of Dove Employee] from supervising.  On every other item in the report Dove received high marks. This was the sole item preventing reaccreditation."  
This is mind blowing for two reasons. One, Dove may not feel the need to tell the real story of their problems to their current clients, and thus, is possibly lying to protect their image as they drown. Or even worse, and Dove may be spot on and truthful in the reason they could not get reaccredited, and that means all the complaints filed against them and their staff over the years don't mean anything to anyone with concern for the welfare of Ethiopia's children.

If this really is true, it may be almost impossible for an agency to be brought to justice and forced to stop working in Ethiopia even when there are recorded and documented cases of lies and corruption. There are agencies (who and why here) who should be investigated, and shut down. They have red flags and complaints all over them. And it seems the voices of families who shout to to any governing body in the US and in Ethiopia are just not being heard.

To make matters more embarrassing for Dove, they have told their families who are in waiting right now for referrals that before they close in a few months,

"We are doing our best to refer as many as possible and complete them while we have available funds.  One possibility we are considering is to raise the referral fee for those families who are given a referral, to ensure that our Ethiopia office will remain able to finish those adoptions."

Did you catch that?  "We are gonna try to get kids out as fast as we can, and we are gonna ask you for even more money to make this happen."

So Dove is closing. And it's good. And yet it doesn't mean what  it should mean, because they truly might not be closing due to a recognition that they were participating and facilitation a corrupt adoptions. It's not a sanction. It doesn't inform or warn other agencies to act more ethically.  No, they could be closing due to a mere technicality.

And speaking of voices who are not heard, lets go back to the vacation/wedding/ hotel metaphor for a  moment. I want you to know that the quandary of the hypothetical person speaking out, wanting to warn others about the botched scam wedding is very real.  Families that speak out against agencies and tell stories of fraud in their processes and want to warn other families looking to adopt or who are in process are consistently shut down. They are shunned. They are told they are mood killers. They lose real life friends and Facebook friends. They are kicked off of support groups. They are asked to stop talking because they could ruin adoption for everyone else.

But I want it to be clear: families who beg for someone, anyone to listen to their story are not ruining anyone's adoption. It may feel like they are threatening something dear to the heart. Something prayed about, stressed about and let's not talk about the savings and check writing. But really, they are not threatening adoption. The agencies they are trying to chuck a stone at, like David against Goliath, who participate in child trafficking, or forge documents, or don't investigate "abandoned" children's history, or turn a blind eye to poor practices, they are the ones that are ruining adoption.

And what is far worse, they are destroying families. Not yours, the one you dreamed about, the one that has a cute brown kid in it. No, the first families. Ethiopian families. Children who should or could stay with their parents, or at very least in their extended family, or even country, are far too easily brought into a system. And once these kids are in the system, reunification seems far too rare.

I am an adoptive parent, with three wonderful children from Ethiopia. I love adoption. I love Ethiopia. Even after all I've said, I do want kids who need loving families to be adopted. I just don't have a lot of optimism that there are enough people in Ethiopia, at agencies, orphanages, at the US Embassy in the Ethiopian court system who know how to make sure the kids who are adopted really should be adopted. I am losing my faith.

Before we all nod off to sleep, I end by saying I wish Dove were closing for the right reasons. Not because they ran out of money and didn't have a staff member with the right kind of Master's degree. But because they failed to do right by Ethiopia and their clients. I wish more agencies were asked to close their doors too, for also participating in corruption.  Ethiopian adoption reform has so much room for improvement. I pray it happens, for the sake of children, Ethiopian families and adoptive families, who deserve better.

**After I wrote this post, I was flooded with emails and Facebook messages on the Scooping it Up page, and I wrote another post to try and address some of those questions. 


Her Secret

My twelve-year-old has been "home" from Ethiopia, here in the US for almost six months. I think every adoptive parent who brings into the family an older child waits, no braces, for the day the truth starts coming out; truth about the past, the real facts about birth family, etc. Mimi told me tonight while I was cooking dinner she had to tell me something  She had that look on her face. She had a bomb to drop.

I stopped chopping. I took a deep breath.

What, honey, you can tell me anything.

I have something tell you. You not know.

My mind was going holycrap holycrap holycrap.

I know how to cook.


I know Ethiopian food how to cook. Dinich wot, k'eiser wot, shiro, fir fir, the bread for ch'chebsa. My mom have me cook while she at work. Here, can I show you?...

She gestured for me to hand her the chef's knife. A smile spread over her face as she minced garlic like she was Marcus Sammuelsson's protege. She then tackled a tomato and chopped it in capable miniscule pieces within seconds.

I stood there for a moment with my mouth hung open wide. Then I screamed and reached over and spanked her on the bottom. Everyone burst into laughter and Fikir shrieked I know 'dis, I know she know cooking, but I not tell you, too! She even know how make genfo! (An Ethiopian breakfast dish I've been wanting to try. Mimi has heard me say I want to know how to make this. Still she kept silent.) I screamed even higher and play spanked her again and she laughed and laughed.

She's been holding out on me. She's been testing the waters. Watching and waiting, seeing how I make things, holding up her knowledge against mine, until she was ready to tell me, convinced she was confident. She told me she wanted to feel like if she told me, she could deliver. Six months in, she is ready to make me her genfo, her shiro, show me what she knows.

I think too, having a mom take charge, let her be a kid, let her be "served" instead of shoulder a lot of responsibility has felt like a relief. Her job has not been to take care of anyone but herself and that has felt good. But now that she'd had time to be a kid in this house, get the lay of the land, learn our family culture, and maybe now that she is sure she can depend on me, she isn't afraid to show me just how much she can do.

I am thinking Oh, honey, that is the best secret an adopted kid ever dropped on her new mom.

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Here's an onion babe. Let's get the party started.


Gripes and Gratitude


Ringworm? Check
Molluscum Contagiosum? Check
Giardia? All three kids from Ethiopia, never. Hubs and me and eight trips to Ethiopia between us, never.

I will take ringworm in this house six times over as long as we can stay parasite free. Fungus, welcome aboard. Glad to know you.

Kids who love Little House books. We finished Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, and have recently started Farmer Boy. When they learned that Farmer Boy is about Almonzo, the little boy who grows up to marry Laura, they freaked out like they were hearing about the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince Whatshisname. They are so delighted to connect to these real people and what life was like for them. History unfolds in these pages, and it has been wonderful to see them learn how life was so very different in the 1800s. In Prairie, Laura goes into detail describing how Pa builds their house, and we took advantage of this narrative to try and imitate it. It was hard work collecting "logs," shaping them, evening out rough spots, creating notches where they would rest on each other. Our little model took hours, caused injuries, ya know, the good stuff.  Home school marches on.



Dear Taylor Swift,

We've had a rocky journey. At first I found your stardom disappointing. I mean, you can't sing at all. You probably would have been rejected had you auditioned for a high school choir of any caliber. This isn't judgement, it's just true. Sometimes I have a hard time with people getting music awards for singing when they can't sing well. But then I read an article in some in-flight magazine where you admitted you couldn't sing and were all cute and smart and humble and then I thought, OK, at least she knows. I can respect that. And I will join in with the rest of pop-lovers (even though I am not a pop music lover) and admit you have a knack for writing catchy, fun, relatively wholesome music that makes my kids get up and dance and that is almost never a bad thing. So we were on the mend.  And then, you came out with this song Trouble.

I have some questions for you, Ms Swift. What exactly are you talking about when you say you are now lying on the "cold, hard ground?"  Because when I hear that, I think, This is a problem. Did she get beat up? Did he actually hit her? Or perhaps worse, did he sexually assault her? This lying on the ground thing seems to have happened suddenly, was she drugged and assaulted? 

Everything about that imagery, for me, is violent. Unless it's supposed to be a metaphor. Like, you feel like you're lying on the cold, hard ground. But you don't say that. You say over and over, you knew someone was trouble, he took you to places you've never been (Where? And why are you making it sound mysterious and fun for girls to discover where exactly a terrible person can take you?) and now you're lying on the cold, hard ground.

Also, how did you know he was trouble? Did he walk in with a crack pipe? Did you meet him while he was hurting another woman? This song contains catchy phrases like "joke is on me" "shame on me" but I gotta tell ya, while there are way worse lyrics to songs and images in songs in this universe, and far far worse examples and singers out there in Pop/Rock Singer Land, (1. Fergie 2. Nicky Minaj 3. Rhianna 4. Kei$ha 5. Just about everyone else) I am annoyed. I was enjoying this understanding we had where you sing cute songs that don't make me change the station for my kids.

While I am not disgusted with you like the other aforementioned "artists," I am creeped out by the "I am attracted to emotionally and/or physically abusive boys OH WELL!" theme of this song. I change the station it when it comes on, even when my three daughters are not in the car. You are one of the good ones. Come back to us, Taylor Swift. Don't get sleazy and nasty.

Uptight, Whiny, Over thinking Mom

Responsibility. The children, especially the other four have been incredibly mature lately and had ample opportunity to demonstrate a high level of Crud Togetherness and Teamwork.  We are quite suddenly, in the last four days, a host family for a mother and baby here from Ethiopia to receive treatment for a dangerous condition that cannot be treated in Ethiopia. The children have had to make room at our table, in their play time (Shh, yet another baby is napping in yet another room!) in our home school schedule for me to run Mama B to the hospital. And traffic stinks. And sometimes things take longer than we thought. Hubs and I are realizing more and more that we are not just Hotel Scooping it up, either. That we may need to play a more personal advocacy role to make sure the language and cultural barriers between surgical team and Mama "B" as I will call her, is as smooth as possible and Mama B can make the most informed decisions as possible for treatment. It has been not a little intense trying to go to bat for Mama B.

The children are working together as a team, cleaning dishes, helping make meals, setting tables, doing school work assignments with greater obedience and positivism than I have ever seen. Even Cookie Monster, who is not yet five, has sat with his older sisters at the table, done school work, and cooperated with them while I have been to the hospital with Mama B.

Having her here, having another two more humans to add to the mix has been humbling, wonderful, tiring. She is a blessing and we feel a huge Divine Intervention in having her here with us because we are in a position to help, and step up the amount of help. But it has required a lot from the children.

Also, having an Amharic speaker in the home has rekindled everyone's efforts to speak/Amharic. And her ch'chebsa is way better than mine, so you bet your bottom dollar I will be updating my recipe post to include her methods.

Another bonus, Mama B is a world class runner and has shared her stretching techniques with kids who needed some P.E. on a snow day. We are a little star struck by her coolness.


Brady, my baby. My youngest. My preemie. My little man. My six early intervention appointments a week champion, has arrived at Almost Three Land. I am not enjoying it. He is a screamy, whiny, tantruming mess. I need to find joy in this child. I need some alone time with him. Which he deserves. Lately he has been running to his big sister Mimi's arms almost as much as mine. I had a fearful thought this week. What if he's giving up on me meeting his needs. What if he is attaching to her as a care taker instead of me? I've been panicking a little, though I realize that in large families, this dynamic is not unheard of. I remember at twelve-years-old getting up in the night to rock my baby brother to sleep when my mom and dad slept through it. He isn't attached to me in a weird way. I am sure they were glad for the help and I loved feeling like a responsible teen at the time.  But his arms raised to her scared me. Him running to her leg to cry. I want to make sure I am meeting his needs. Time to dig out the Ergo to throw him on my back while cooking or doing school, I think.

Happy weekend to you. I am busy trying to shake off a bad mood induced by stress and excess snow. Sometimes, I really really hate living in New England.  And that is because I am a huge baby about any temperature less than 70 degrees. We have injera, pears and almost enough chocolate to get us through the next few days. Be safe, all. And warmer than here I hope.