Friday, February 28, 2014

Parental Regression

 Okay, funny story coming up. Maybe more like giant-parenting-fail story coming up. I’m going to start with a mini-lesson to set up the story, partly because background is necessary and mainly because I love learning and dialoguing about this. Although, I am a bit scared to…if this is new information, I am a bit afraid of your judgement on our parenting but for awareness sake on how kids from hard places, no matter how young brought into a forever family, continue to deal with different obstacle, I proceed.

While the Littles were, well, little, we leaned heavily on attachment parenting techniques, specifically those designed for children from hard places. 

Our favorite author and expert on this subject is Karyn Purvis. “The Connected Child” is a must read for pre-adoptive, post-adoptive or anyone interested in relating with children with possible trauma backgrounds.

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Through the grace of God and many of techniques described in this book, we saw much healing take place and progress in the girls’ ability to transition and relate with the world. Without realizing it, we drifted away from many of these concepts and it went well. 

Fast-forward to now. Because of significant transition and loss, we have seen regression in the girls. New situations, groups, public settings in general can set them into a tailspin. (Example, walking into a small group gathering, smiling before we enter and talking of seeing friends and then actually walking in the doors and just start inconsolably crying, they don’t know why.)

We met with an adoption therapist from the USA who was visiting Addis Ababa. She reminded us of the many reasons that regression is normal and encouraged us to return back to many of our forgotten “connecting while correcting” parenting techniques. She also had us look at our current behavioral expectations. We have a high bar. While The Littles maybe used to perform at this level, we were encouraged to lower the bar right now as kids need to feel like they can succeed. The therapist recommended we make sure to remove the bar right now. Kids from hard places many times have brain chemistry that differs from a child with a healthy delivery and early attachment.  It is harder to regulate stress and it makes new situations hard to regulate. It leads to feelings of insecurity and that they are not safe. Kids from hard places have a inner feeling of shame that the world and interactions with others is processed through. (Much of this can be linked to early feelings of neglect, abandonment or trauma). 

Anyhow, when these kids feel like they are failing, they take it to their shame base and often stop trying completely. (Behavior which we are seeing, especially in Little A). 

Realizing how these techniques in the past, though very counter-intuitive and also very counter most Christian parenting today, can be used by God to heal hurt and broken hearts (and brains). As The Littles meet our low bars, we can raise it bit by bit, but mainly in ways that still encourage that they can succeed in new or transitory situations.

Jon and I agreed, time for a parenting make over.

IMG 1584Now, onto the promised sad but funny story.

When Weynshet (the girls’ nanny) comes in the mornings, the Littles are most always sullen and hardly greet her. The transition of Mama and Daddy leaving for the morning is never one they look forward to, although they love Weynshet and have so much fun with her. We have previously had the expectation that they greet her with a smile and say something like, “Good morning” or “Hi”, etc. She usually hugs them and they just try to wiggle away to hold onto my legs. I know, these expectations don’t seem high and probably entirely appropriate to you. However, right now, this is beyond The Littles’ capacity and so every morning, right before we leave, they know they have failed and not met our expectations. So we decided to lower the bar, have no expectation and let them know it. The therapist encouraged lots of games, one game she encouraged was the “don’t smile, don’t smile” idea, you know, a little reverse psychology to bring about the opposite behavior.

Before Weynshet showed her beautiful face in our house this morning, I wisely told The Littles, “Okay, when Weynshet comes this morning, I don’t want you to smile at her, not one smile.” I said it in a joking, excited way, (apparently that tone was lost on my preschoolers). Weynshet comes in smiling, “Salem Nachu” she exclaimed. Little A had just put in a bite of breakfast. She chewed slowly as she was hugged and kept a straight face the whole time. Little J’s turn was next. As Weynshet walked over to her, I saw her eyes brimming with smiles. As she was kissed, she burst into a huge smile and giggle. Jon and I were watching, “J, you smiled, great job!” and then she realized that she had smiled about the same time I realized I had set a trap of setting up a high bar of expectation in the wrong way. She burst into tears at her smiling failure. We tried to reassure her that she did a great job and were profusely apologizing and trying to explain to Little J and to Weynshet why all of this was happening. She proceeded to choke on the food in her mouth and start gagging. I rushed her to the toilet where she threw up  her breakfast. 

As Jon watched, he mused, “Hmm. That backfired."

 As Jon held Jada, he explained that making mistakes is normal and that we had just made a big one. She got over it quickly and even somehow seemed to get the ironic joke of the situation, that she just threw up because of our new, don’t-stress-out-our-child parenting fail. Then Jon and I laughed for about 5 minutes straight.

Looks like we’ve got some work to do. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mastering the Minibus

I dismissed the public minibus in Addis as impossible means of transport for me due to my severe claustrophobia. 

Considering I am still not driving in the city (Not that we didn’t try. It lasted all of 3/4 of a mile. I rolled backwards, lurched forward, someone honked, Little A screamed, I freaked, pulled over and traded Jon), I am either walking or counting on Jon to haul me where I need to go. I haven’t driven for seven months now. Isn’t that crazy? 

Usually Jon has errands and projects in the afternoons. He has been working on some landscape designs and after language school, he would have had to drive one hour across town to take me home, and then another hour back, and bless him, he would have done it but my practical side apparently was even stronger than my fear of tight spaces.

I walked to the bus station and waited nervously. The buses stop at marked sidewalks and you know if it’s your ride by the caller, who leans out the window, loudly announcing the destination. “Kazanchis, Kazanchis, Kazanchis”.

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(The green shirted man is the caller)

Stereotypically, Ethiopians are described as being very friendly and polite people and I cannot imagine a more accommodating, gracious host culture. However, waiting in Ethiopia is very different than waiting in the USA and if not understood, it looks extremely rude as no line forms. Instead, when the right taxi comes your way, this process is followed,

1)Start running, try to end up exactly where the minibus will make it’s stop

2)Make yourself wide-if you are a small person, use your elbows to appear bigger.

3)Move forward into the crush of people, trying to find a gap big enough to squeeze yourself through.

4)If you make it onto the minibus, grab a seat!

This process doesn’t always need to be followed. Off hours of the day, usually you can just hop on as there are always empty seats. Also, now in Addis, police are starting to organize lines in really busy areas or times and the lines are respected. Elderly people are also generally treated with high respect and would be helped on to the transport or a person would get off to make room for someone who looks like it would be difficult for them to press through the lines or run for the next one

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Usually they have custom decor

Side note about the not lining up issue. It is culturally not rude. People don’t get mad. I was with an Ethiopian friend in an office waiting for some documents, there were just people everywhere but no lines, I felt like I was standing in line and someone moved quickly in front of me, this happened about three times before I was getting really bugged. I asked my friend what he thought and he just shrugged and said, “They must have something very important to do and can’t wait anymore.”

Travel on the minibus is literally cents and it drops you at the destination and then you usually walk a short distance and catch your next one.  

You guys, once I got used to the process, it’s kind of fun (unless you are the fourth person in the back row, still don’t love that, sometimes I have to remind myself to take deep breaths and pray I don’t start freaking out :) If you happen to be an MTI friend, I know you are proud of me).  

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While I still don’t have it mastered how to haul groceries or children by public transport, I feel like a whole new world has opened up to me. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

It's A Match

These girls.

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Game night. Little A sits on Little J’s lap. When one makes a match, the other delightedly chants her name in elation at her twin’s success.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Selassie Orthodox Church

We did a tour (in Amharic, so don’t ask us questions about it) of a large Ethiopian Orthodox church. This church is atypical to the normal circular construction of most Ethiopian Orthodox churches as it is for hosting international events.

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I really liked the embroidery work on the priests gabis, it had the Selassie church designed into it.

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Ethiopian culture is rich and deep. It’s amazing to live in a  culture with thousands of years of strong tradition. Very high context also but, there is an intense dignity, pride and celebration of roots.

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The graveyard had some interesting monuments...

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Standing in the place where kings have worshipped and are now buried and a good history lesson always makes me full of wonder and feel so small. 


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Do You Want To Build A Snow Man?

Okay, inspired by your loads of snow (at least if you are in the Midwest US), we celebrated by defrosting our small freezer and then using the “snow".

Round 1:

Jon and I under the impression our kids were going to love building snowmen.

I woke the girls up from a nap, (first mistake) because this was going to be so fun and I wanted to make sure they had time, I didn’t give them after nap snuggles (second mistake). I also didn’t talk to them much about snow and how it feels cold (third mistake).

Sorry, the pictures aren’t lighted well.

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Oh, they were so excited as Jon started with the snowman building. 

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And then Little J grabbed onto the snowball and literally freaked out because she thought it was “burning her”.

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We convinced her that it wasn’t burning and Little A (much more hesitant to try new things) was nervously elated for her turn.

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And this is how the nervous child handled touching the snow.

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And here is what Jon and I did, nearly fall over with laughter and put the snow back into the freezer for another day.

Round 2: After The Littles assuring us they could handle it and mental preparation that snow is cold, very cold. Not hot.

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The sock mittens didn’t hurt at all either.

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 I daresay, this was a bit more how I had imagined it.

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And because Jon is Jon, it was soon a snowball fight. Yes, I definitely wished we had planned our party for outside.

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Catching drops of snow our their tongues...

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Eating the snowman...

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It was worth every second of clean up.

And that’s it. Our snow is melted and gone. 

We hope your blizzards our over soon! Wishing we could send you some sunshine!


Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Glimpse of Awi Country and Timkat

I can't believe I haven't showed this one yet. Such a fun 1 minute video from this summer. Jon made it for an end of summer seedlings celebration.
 30 seconds of Timkat. :)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hand Crafted

We toured Sabahar, one of Ethiopia's few fair trade companies. Check out their website here.

 This place was amazing.
 Silk worms are raised by farmers all over Ethiopia. It takes approximately 400 cocoons for one scarf.
The silk is cleaned and then hand spun, multiple times to get a strong, fine, thread.

 Watching these men at their looms was mesmerizing, creating something, hand crafted, minute details, God's creation of the silk worm, the cocoons being spun into thread, then dyed, counted and designed into patterns. This sounds so weird but it literally moved me as I was watching these skilled people doing what they did so well, I guess, for lack of better words, it was worship. Humans creating something that their creator designed them for, resulting in something of so much beauty.

Don't watch this video if you speak Amharic. Wow, a really ugly American accent going on.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Hide and Find Joy

Your prayers for the girls have changed things around our house.

The favorite game right now is hide-n-go seek and of course with Jon, it always has some weird variation that keeps things interesting (and as I type this they are, so, so loud).

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The girls count (in Amharic) while we hide. Notice Little A’s not so subtle cheating. 

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Hands down, the best part of this game though?

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Our girls' smiles and giggles, their dark time of heart wrenching grief they recently walked through is lifting.

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Do you see this smile? I looked at it and called Jon over. Little A’s time of sullenness is breaking up and we see again her sunshiny self. 

Praise the Lord. Thanks for supporting us so well.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Hey, Did We Show You This Yet?

Yes, that’s right folks. We are the proud owners of a Toyota Hiace or known here as a “minibus”. 

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Some of you may have been aware of our agonizing over vehicles. We searched the world over for an affordable 4WD.  After much deliberation, Jon has put some serious effort into enhancing this 2WD with larger, heartier tires, had a rack installed on top, designed a bull bar (like an extra front bumper) and put a ladder on the back. Getting this baby rural ready. 

We sadly, decided no zebra stripes. Practicality won out over fun but don’t worry. We have an air conditioner, a cd player and amazing turn radius.  

Let the good times roll!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Here are some recent and not so recent snap shots. If you follow on Instagram, most of these are old news for you. :) 

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Probably not going to be a sleepover. 

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World’s greatest bathroom

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I told The Littles we were going to “Eat food from Korea”. During the meal, in which they insisted on using their chopsticks, Little J triumphantly put a bite in her mouth and told Jon, “That’s how you eat diarrhea”. Apparently the rhyme of Korea was a bit confusing. :)

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They came and asked to strap the babies to their backs. They went on step better and then also put a baby under their shirt. It looks like I may soon be a busy grandma. :)

This is also how they insisted on wearing their hair until I could take it no longer. I love the braids, just not the waterfall into their eyes.

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This market is unhindered by construction. 


Thanks to our sweet friend Rebecca, Jon and I had a date night with some really yummy food.

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Okay, this is an a-maaaaazing Greek restaurant started by a woman who left Greece at the economic downturn and came to Ethiopia to start a restaurant. Look at the lights though. Can you tell what they are? The hanging lights are cheese graters and the wall lights are colanders.  The reason the restaurant is empty? We are there at 6:00 pm, we are weird, early eaters here. When we arrived, the last of the lunch guests were leaving. :)



Monday, February 3, 2014

A Magical Dream

Yep, internet is still down. I walked to another compound and am using their internet. My theory on a quick fix is destroyed. :)

Thanks for your prayers for us and especially for the girls. 

While on a recent road trip, after about 4 hours, Jon and I decided the girls could watch a movie. We also had saved two ring pops for just the emergency that only hours and hours on bumpy roads can do to a mother’s level of desperation. 

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I set up the computer between the seats and handed the girls ring pops. 

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Little A’s response was, “Whoa, this is like a magical dream”.

And Jon and I enjoyed approximately two hours of quiet from the back seat. Yes, indeed a magical dream. :)