Monday, January 25, 2010

For those of you waiting...

Today marks our 5 month anniversary of being in the states together as a family of four. Where does the time go? The picture above is our most current family photo. How much do you love Baby Boy's shoes??

As it happens, today was also the twins 9 month check up. They are, much like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way. They babbled and smiled and did all their little tricks for the doctor. She was pleased and declared them right on target developmentally. Which is a relief to hear because considering these are our first and only kids we have no idea what they should be able to do by now. And the books just make things more confusing. What to Expect in the First Year says they should be able to eat a cracker by 6 months! A cracker! How? They have no teeth!

As far as their stats: Baby boy is a whooping 24lbs and 30" long...that's the 89th percentile for those of you who understand that jargon. Baby Girl is a bit more petite but long: 17lbs and 28" (21st and 52% respectively). Again, the doctor is pleased with their growth--the amount of weight they have put on over the past five months is right on target.

For those of you waiting to bring your babies home--here is why this should matter to you: When we got home five months ago, neither baby weighed enough to register on the percentile chart. They were teeny tiny then but look what five months can do.

Here's another little story for those of you with babies in the Gladney care centers right now: Just last week a friend admitted to me that she had actually met the twins when they were in Addis. While she was in Ethiopia picking up her daughter, she toured the baby houses and saw the care givers holding four week old twins. They had just arrived at the care center the day before and were horribly malnourished and sick. My friend said when she saw how tiny and fragile these babies were she got all teary because she didn't think they would make it. She spoke to the staff and was told the caregivers would hold and feed the twins non-stop around the clock to make sure they were ok.

Fast forward 5 weeks and we get our referral call for two month old twins. When my friend sees our referral photos for the first time she gets very silent. I assume she's all choked up with happiness for us, but in reality she recognizes our twins as those same fragile tiny twins she meet in Addis and she's scared for us. Scared because she saw first hand what a long road they had before them health wise. But she's not a doctor so instead of scaring us with her opinion she decides to not mention having met the twins.

Fast forward again to last week when we have a play date with my friend and her daughter. Baby Boy and Baby Girl are rolling and scooting everywhere, laughing and hugging and being normal 9 month old babies. My friend finally confesses that she had met them in Ethiopia. She was afraid I would be angry that she hadn't told me this before now. But how could I be angry? On the contrary this knowledge feels like a surprise gift. Because now we know of someone, someone we already considered a friend nonetheless, who saw the twins before we did. Who had them in her heart long before we knew they existed. An eyewitness who can confirm what we have believed all along, that the Gladney care givers really did love on our babies every second of every day until we got there. I mean, come on, that's amazing! I am grateful beyond words.

I know how hard the wait is...I know how afraid you can be at 3am for your children waiting in Ethiopia but try to find a little peace of mind that they are definitely being loved on, and that one day--before you can blink an eye--they will most likely be in the 89th percentile too.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Sheer the speed of light

One night this week, as I was reading Baby Boy his good-night book he reached out and turned the page. Just like that. I got to the end of the page and he reached out his chubby, to die for little hand and very purposefully turned the page. I was blown away. He has had amazing focus for books and a love of being read to since the very beginning but had never really tried to grab the book or mess with the pages before. In fact he spends most of the book looking from the page to the reader and back to the page. He likes to watch your face while you read aloud. And then suddenly, out of nowhere....he turns a page.

I didn't react outwardly, just kept reading and at the end of the next page...HE DID IT AGAIN! And at the end of every page after that. And he has been turning pages ever since! Sometimes the pages get turned in an excited flailing (he is a baby after all) but most of the time he very deliberately turns the page. My boy. A GENIUS.

As for Baby Girl she also blew my mind this week. I entered the pit (our clever name for their fenced off play area) to play with the twins, like I do 20 times a day. But this time Baby Girl made a beeline over to me, doing her usual boot-camp scoot in double time. When she reached my lap, she bounced up and down and held her arms up. She was asking me to hold her. For the first time ever, she was asking me to hold her. I obliged and she nestled into my arms, looking around the pit like royalty. After about 2 minutes she was satisfied and wiggled down. And since then, whenever I enter the play area she immediately scoots over to me and demands I hold her. She never stays in my lap for long, just enough to claim me I suppose, and then goes on playing. And every time my heart sings.

I was a nanny for a 10 month old and a three year I know a lot about those ages and up...but not very much about younger than 10 months. So it was kind of a shock to me when the twins came home at 4.5 months old to realize they didn't know how to 'ask' to be held or picked up. That whole "hold my arms up so you pick me up" thing has to be learned. So all these months I've just been holding the babies or picking them up when I wanted or when I thought there was a need... it was always initiated by me. Sure, they'd let me know they wanted me by crying but it was always a guess that being held was what they needed. And yet suddenly, that day in the pit, Baby Girl made it perfectly clear what she wanted: me.

Seriously... it is more than I can handle. These two developments. I am completely overwhelmed and overjoyed and overproud. My kids showing a love of books and a love of me....what could be better!?! But of course, me being me, I am also a tiny bit sad because I know where all this leads... today she crawls into my lap, one day she will crawl he turns pages, one day he will read about a far away land and he will move there. Damn books! Damn developments!

I'm only 1/2 kidding. I cried when she crawled into my lap today...she's been doing it for a week now and yet today I cried. Because all I could think about was, "will I know when it's the last time? Will I realize when she has crawled into my lap for the last time?"

Fret not, I'm not sitting here binding their feet so they never learn to walk. 98% of the time I am joyful about every new development. But I figure I can admit to the 2% melancholy here because, well, it's MY blog. And if you can't whine on your own blog...

My children are gorgeous and brilliant and stunning in every way and I would not change one thing. Except to slow it all down so I can savor their stunning brilliance a little longer.

Happy 2010,

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Melkam Gena
Today is Thursday, January 7, 2010 or if you are Ethiopian, it's Christmas Day, January 7, 2002.

On January 1st, the twins turned 9 months old (!). As of today they have now been with us for exactly 4 months and 3 week longer than they have been with anyone else. We have now been the longest, most consistent presence in their lives as of this week. That is just a crazy thought. Every day is something new, and today the new thing for all of us is Ganna, Ethiopian Christmas.

Even though we live in Little Ethiopia, I didn't know much about Ganna so naturally I turned to the all-knowing Google and found this... excerpts below...

Christmas is a major holiday in Ethiopia. More than half of the population of Ethiopia is Orthodox Christian. The celebration occurs on January 7, the Feast of the Epiphany, instead of December 25...

On Christmas Eve, January 6, the city is crowded with pilgrims and tourists from all parts of the world. The people remain outdoors all night, praying and chanting. On January 7, the Ethiopian Christmas known as Ganna is celebrated. The word Ganna is used interchangeably with the word Christmas, to mean the birth of Jesus Christ (leddat). This celebration takes place in ancient churches carved from solid volcanic rock of that day and also in more modern churches that are designed in three concentric circles. Men and boys sit separately from the girls and women. People receive candles as they enter their church. After lighting the candles, everyone walks around the church three times, and then they all stand throughout the church service which may last up to three hours. After the service, the rest of the day is spent dancing, playing sports and feasting.

The preparation of the feast is an important part of the day in Ethiopia. A typical Ethiopian feast for the Christmas meal includes a main course, such as doro wat ( a spicy chicken stew), injera bread (Which is a flat round bread) and homemade wine or beer. The injera bread is used to scoop and eat the food, thereby replacing ordinary utensils.

Gift giving in an Ethiopian Christmas celebration is a very small part of this ceremony. Children, if they receive gifts, usually receive simple presents such as clothing. But, a very important part of the celebration is a sporting event called gena. This game is a form of field hockey in which sticks with hooks at one end are used. The game is played by having two opposing teams trying to outscore each other hitting a ball with their sticks. Usually, the sticks and balls are made from locally grown trees. In Ethiopia, the opposing teams often represent certain regions and the rivalry in these games can be intense. According to tradition, shepherds celebrated when they heard of Jesus’ birth by playing this such game...

The twins are sick sickies right now, with horrible snotty colds, so I'll be honest, I haven't put much thought into how we would celebrate Ganna. Luckily, Mimi's mom did so later tonight we'll wander over to our favorite Ethiopian restaurant and will at least get to give everyone Happy New Year and Melkam Gena hugs. But next year, I'm going to pay attention to this article and we'll have a proper celebration!

I wish I had more energy to tell you just how happy I'm feeling today...even with snot all over me, the thought that our babies are asleep in the next room, oblivious to the fact that tonight they will see all their friends, makes me smile.

More late, I promise. Melkam Gena to everyone!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Must read happy story of the day

Ok, so we all know I have become a blog writing slacker... but that doesn't mean I've slacked off from reading other blogs. There are still a few families out there waiting on their kids that I follow obsessively. And today that obsession paid off.

If you want to read a happy story go here. You will laugh, you will cry, it is DEFINITELY better than Cats.

After almost 13 months, Mark and Heidi saw their kids faces yesterday. And yes, I'm a little biased about how wonderful their kids must be... just read their story and you'll see why.

What a way to start the new year!