Friday, July 31, 2009


Two weeks ago, Overton County, a few miles north of us, had flash floods. Although we got a fair amount of rain in Jackson County, it was really not enough to be concerned about. But because our house sits on the banks of Roaring River (a river that doesn't do much roaring in July), which flows out of Overton County, we got seriously flooded. Levels we've never seen before. This pic looking off our front porch gives a little perspective:

That is Roaring River flowing through our fields. The flood took out about 2/3 of our fence, which encloses two fields totalling nearly 20 acres.

The waters came within 6 feet of Caroline's swing set and covered half of my would-be garden, except I didn't plant anything this year.

This is actually dropped several feet. It is also where we had planned to put the horses for the summer to give the upper field a rest. If we had, they'd have flushed down to the Johnson's farm.

Tomorrow I'll post some of the damage and possibly a video.

Boy, oh boy!

Just a few things we've learned about Dawit in the nearly 7 weeks he's been home:

He's all boy. He likes to make noise and bang things together. He rocks his exersaucer almost on its edge. And he loves to crinkle an empty plastic water bottle. (Yeah I know, not very green.)

He likes traditional toys, like rattles and keys. Caroline always preferred the cardboard box it came in, but Dawit shakes and rattles his toys like the kids in commercials.

He's not afraid of water in his face, and he rarely cries much when he falls and hits his head or nose. Or when Caroline hits him, but that's another story.

His feet sweat. A lot! This should be fun when he's a teenager.

He loves Oprah. How weird is that! When he hears her voice, he whips his head around to find her. That's so much better than Barney.

Our first almost-7 weeks home have been so good. He's mastered sitting, reaching for toys, flipping from his tummy to his back, transferring toys from one hand to the other. He's not yet interested in crawling and he rarely rolls to his tummy. He can't get a puff to his mouth himself, but he loves us to feed them to him. He can make a gooey mess out of a biter biscuit, and he still loves anything you give him to eat. He weighs nearly 20 whopping pounds and is very healthy according to his pediatrician. He's outgrown everything smaller than 12 months. He nearly always sleeps 8 hours before waking and sometimes as much as 10.5. He usually does 10 or 11 hours, with one wake-up for about 3 oz. of milk.

He loves his sister -- she's lukewarm on him. I wish I could say they're getting along great, but truthfully she's not taking this well at all. At all! She takes his toys, bops him on the head, bends his fingers and last night she bit me. We do have good moments, but I know this is incredibly hard on her. We try to give her lots of time and praise and involve her in his care. But the truth is, this is just going to take some time.

I am truly overwhelmed by my love for Little D. He is such a delight, happy and easygoing. I could just sit and cuddle him for hours...but only when Caroline's not around. She's not much of a cuddler, but you know!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shopping-Embassy: June 9

We had Dawit - now we had to make it official with a visit to the U.S. embassy. But first we went shopping with Birtukan and Emane. We steered clear of the Mercato, Ethiopia's largest open air market because Emane said "there are bad boys there." Instead we went to shops that lined the road. Shadley, Lindsey and the Mooneys went too and they racked up. I didn't do so well. Sometimes I just can't decide what to buy, so I don't buy anything. That's pretty much what I did, although I did get some traditional Ethiopia clothes for Dawit and Caroline. Birtukan was a kick-butt negotiator. Occasionally, when she didn't think the prices were good enough, she would say, "let's go." And we went.

I also bought a traditional Ethiopian stool that is often used for coffee ceremonies. It is carved from a single piece of wood and now sits next to Dawit's pack 'n play so I can pat, pat, pat him to sleep. (By the way, it's 5:30a. He's been asleep since 7:45p last night, and here I am awake -- since 4a. Guess I'm gonna need a coffee ceremony soon!)

We dashed back to the guesthouse for a quick lunch of wat and injera (D likes injera), then headed to the embassy. It was a serious understatement. We had to leave our cameras in the vehicle. We all, with our kids strapped to our tummies, trooped across the street to a canopy outside a building under which 20 or 30 people sat on rows of benches. It was hot and I wondered how long D would hold out. I figured if he wigged we might be bumped to the front. It appeared we were in for a long wait, but they actually moved us to the front and within 5 minutes we proceeded into the building. As we stood in line waiting to pass through security, a commotion commenced. People started yelling and guards started dashing all around us. All the Ethiopians in line with us were told to leave the building. No one seemed concerned about us. I assumed an "about to hit the floor" stance, but things settled down pretty quickly. We learned later that a man in line had fainted, creating the stir.

We proceeded through security into another waiting room, where we filled out our I-600s. Wait! No, WE didn't, because WE brought an I-600A form. That little "A" almost spelled disaster for our appointment. After packing and hauling across two continents a ream of paper consisting of our entire dossier, all our referral paperwork and various update documents, none of which anyone cared about or asked to see, the one form I bring that is necessary for us to bring Dawit home is WRONG. I managed to borrow an extra I-600 from Shadley and Dan -- without letting on to Spence, who was busy fiddling with D, about my mistake. I told him later and he rolled his eyes.

We waited about 30 minutes then headed upstairs to another waiting room lined with bank-teller-type windows. Ten minutes later, D was asleep and we were called to one of the windows to answer a series of questions that would give us final clearance to bring D home. The guy at the window stamped our form and unceremoniously announced, "Congratulations." We left the embassy one family member richer.

We headed back to the guesthouse to rest, eat dinner and visit with Nesibu and Birtukan. It was a good day. Tomorrow we visit Gelgela.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Thought I'd share our first attempt at a group picture of the four cousins. This is the first time they've all been together.

#1: The first and only pose in which everyone was cooperating. Obviously I was asleep at the wheel.

#2: Not sure which camera to look at.

#3: Not sure what Dawit's doing here.

#4: The tower is toppling. "Look out! You're touching my leg!"

#5: Adoring looks and the first sign of tears.

#6: Party's over. See ya!

Monday, July 13, 2009

A little randomness

Dawit loves, loves, loves his bath. He soaks everything within 6 feet of his tub.

We tried in vain to get a family pic. This is as close as we could get to everyone looking at the camera.

Oh, come on:

Okay, forget it:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sidebar: A taste of America

Soon after we set off for Awassa, a six-hour drive, Kate brought out a bag of homemade chocolate chip cookies and brownies. Throughout the day we raided the bag, and what wasn't eaten was smashed to crumbs as the bag bounced around in the back of the truck with our luggage.

So on the return trip, Spence and I pulled out our snack bag. We passed the bag up to Sisay and Asserat, who sampled -- and made judgments on -- ALL of our American treats. Beef jerky: boo! Trail mix: I don't think so. Reese's snackster 100-calorie pack: not bad. Rice Krispie treats: now that's good!

It was hilarious watching these tough Ethiopian guys digging through the treat bag, turning up their noses at this and that, and finally finding something they liked.

This is Asserat, our driver. He was an expert in dodging goats and donkeys, weaving between cows, and zipping around slow-moving cars and buses even in the face of oncoming traffic. And nope, he's never been to California.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

In our arms - June 8

Today, our lives would change forever. Today we became a family of four. When we walked through the doors of Shalom Transition House we were greeted by a curious little boy in a blue striped shirt, gray shorts and little white leather sneakers. As we all trooped in the door, about 10 of us, everyone staring intently at our cutie with the famous curly mohawk, he BURST into tears! He was clearly not ready for fame and paparazzi. After a few moments of shock -- man, that kiddo can scream -- Spence took him outside for a quiet walk on the grounds. He came back as calm and laid back as you please. Not so much as another peep or sniffle. He seemed content to sit in our laps and watch everyone. But no smiles, just stoic observation.

Quick sidebar: I felt certain "stoic" was the most accurate description of Dawit's reaction after his brief meltdown, but just to be doubly sure, I looked it up. describes stoic as "free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, submit without complaint to unavoidable necessity." Now that everyone knows my brilliant talent for word choice, I'll get back to the story (just kidding!).

One of the nannies took Dawit and fed him a bottle while we visited the babies upstairs. And shortly thereafter, we loaded up in the van.

We stopped at the Jupiter Hotel for lunch. It was very nice, the food was great, and Dawit was along for the ride. Honestly, I would have been just as happy at a hole-in-the-wall Ethiopian dive, but I think the other families appreciated the low-risk, somewhat Americanized menu. And it was still cheap. I think we paid about $12 for two seriously fancy entrees. In the lobby after lunch, while waiting for our van to come back, one of the hotel employees was able to coax some smiles out of Dawit.
After lunch the Grimes family went back to the hotel to rest and we ventured up Entoto Mountain with the Mooney's and Emane and Kate from Bethany, where you can see incredible views of Addis. We stopped along the way to take pictures and marveled at the strength of the women doubled over with bundles of sticks the diameter of a 50-gallon drum strapped to their backs. They were hauling the wood down the mountain. You could take their picture if you paid them in Birr. We passed on that. There is actually an association called the Former Women Fuel Wood Carriers Association and a project that helps women who do/have done this as a profession. They range in age from 15 to 63 and make equivalent to about 50 U.S. cents a day. (I'll do a sidebar on this later.)

On the mountain we visited a palace and museum, and to be honest, I've forgotten whose it was (Selassie?) and the name of the museum. Maybe Spence can remind me. The artifacts were cool, but I was slightly distracted by the 17 pounds dangling from the Baby Bjorn on my tummy.

After Entoto, we came back to Morning Coffee and got Little D settled in. We had another wonderful dinner cooked by Birtukan, then headed to bed early. We had no idea what was in store that night. We learned pretty quick that you better have that bottle ready before D sees it, because he ain't waitin'. To keep down the commotion in the middle of the night, we had one all ready. Amazingly he slept 8 hours before waking, took a bottle and settled back down for another hour or two. The next morning we felt fairly rested.

As the first day went on, we were able to see a few smiles from D, but mostly the joy was ours as we reveled in this little curly miracle.

Friday, July 3, 2009

How we're doin'

We've been home nearly three weeks. All the adoption training says don't expect to love your baby right away. The first few months may be very trying. I fully appreciated having that information so I would go into things with low expectations. BUT! It just didn't happen that way.

Dawit has been happy, easy and shockingly easygoing. Physically, he's a hefty 18 pounds and seems to be packing on more every day. Seriously, I almost can't squish his pudgy legs into a Bumbo seat. This may be because he loves everything -- everything! I give him to eat. He makes the funniest faces sometimes, like I'm feeding him a lemon, but then he opens his mouth for the next bite. We're clearly contributing to Tennessee's impressive ranking of the 3rd fattest state in the U.S.
Developmentally, in 2.5 weeks he's gone from immediately tumping over to sitting independently. He can even reach toys without toppling. He loves tummy time, but doesn't creep yet. He loves to stand with support. And he loves to snuggle. It's so gratifying as Caroline was not a snuggler, unless there was a milk-filled nipple attached.

He doesn't love going to sleep, and we frequently struggle to get him down, but I think with a solid routine he can count on, he'll come around. He's gone from sleeping 8 hours at night to 10.5. That's heaven!

We are really, really in love. We can't wait to share him with others. We have another week or so before we do share him, but we feel confident he's bonding well.
HOWEVER! We have not been without challenges. I was prepared for an unhappy big sister, but this rolly-polly intrusion has upset her apple cart in a big way. We're trying to involve her in his care, give her lots of one-on-one time, but I fear we've got a long way to go. She just doesn't understand why I can't leave Dawit on the floor crying while we read bedtime stories.

I have to admit I have anxiety about being home with them both all day/night, which I was/am last night/today, while Spence went to Nashville for a concert then work today. So far I've been able to juggle staggered bedtimes and naps, meals, snacks, and one serious blowout followed by a bath with minimal crying...on my part.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Poor little fish

I like to call this pic insurance against some future infraction.