Sunday, April 27, 2008

What Do You Know?

I knew I wanted to marry my husband from almost the moment I met him, which was a very brief encounter at a bar listening to loud, live music. I knew he had a PhD in African political science, and I knew I didn't know very much at all about Africa, and so before our first date, I studied up. Yes that's right. I rehearsed like a high-school girl, and I tested myself five times daily with this handy little map-quiz. (I only recently admitted this to my husband, who thought it was hysterical but also somewhat startling, I think. (Just when you think you know a woman ... )

Anyway, here's the website. It's fun!

Here's another good link. Click on it and list all the African countries you can. (You don't have to report your results back to me or anything.) :)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

New Adventures

I've read that when a baby learns a new skill, she can be so enthusiastic for practicing it that it can actually distract her from sleeping. Articles detailing this phenomenon often list as example activities such milestones as learning to pull themselves to standing, or of sitting up alone.

Well MY baby has learned to stick out her tongue and make it go plttthhhh. She has been working it for days now, sticking it out and grunting, sticking it out and grabbing it with her finger, sticking it out and spitting everywhere. But today (and now, alas, tonight), we have plttthhh. It is 8:48 pm and I can still hear her in her crib upstairs, practicing.

I would have taken a photo but I didn't want to add to the distraction. Maybe tomorrow.

Here are some other ones from this afternoon. Oh, she is so cute in this first one:


And then in this one, too! How can she laugh and drink at the same time?


She was a full-on card today, actually. We took TWO walks (the weather finally was beautiful! Sunny, and no more hail!) and generally laughed a lot at each other. She seems more and more attached to us (her parents) and less and less comfortable being held by other people, which is strange to me -- I would have thought it would get easier for her on all fronts -- but it may be just a little bit of overload. I guess some days you just don't have it in you to suffer the charms-for-smiles of strangers or to be picked up and handed off to people you barely know. I actually would loathe being in this position myself. I think it would feel like ... I don't know. Like of having just a head and no body, and then having my head handed off to be held and coddled by people who SEEM nice but ...

Or, I don't know. Probably not a good analogy and at the very least I can't imagine people lining up to coddle my nightmarish floating head. At any rate, I'm off to bed myself now -- 9 pm and this is the latest I've climbed the stairs since we brought Dessi home! I am thinking about waking her up right before I go to bed just to give her a bottle so that maybe ... MAYbe ... she will sleep more than 5 hours without waking up hungry. Does this seem dumb-crazy-reckless-stupid, though? I mean, she wakes up, we feed her and then she drifts immediately and solidly back to sleep again, it's not like it's a deal-killer schedule or anything. And yet, it is human nature to strive for more sleep whenever possible, and also I am a risk-taker.

I'll post again about it if I do; I'm not committed to it right now, just reviewing options.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Random Ethiopia Travel Pointers

In Ethiopia right now it is the rainy season now. They call it the "Little Rainy Season," but really that is just a technicality / something for your husband to say every time you look at him from under the pile jacket that you're holding over your head in a feeble attempt to keep dry. (He told me not to bring a raincoat.) You also could buy an umbrella once you get there -- $5 for a small one, but only do that if you want to stop making your husband feel bad. :)

Note! Special Note! Alert! Hey! Ethiopian hotels and banks will not accept USD $100 bills that were printed in 1996. (!) So, if you are like us and are going with a very specific and well-thought-out amount of cash that will allow you to meet your needs and buy your gifts but not with a lot of extra money to lug around and risk losing, then ... hey! Any other denominations (except 100s) are good for any year, and for $100s, any year is fine except 1996; I guess there are a lot of counterfeit '96s out there for some reason, so the Central Bank of Ethiopia just decided they flat-out won't take them. (I guess they don't know about those fancy felt pens that change color on the fakeys.) We didn't know this (who could know this?), but luckily we accidentally/on purpose found out that we could exchange our 1996's at the money exchange at the Addis airport (we were trying to be all sneaky and smiley with the money-changer people and just slip them through unnoticed, but it turns out they didn't even seem to look -- on two separate occasions -- so if you get stuck with some, try to exchange them there. It's just very out of the way.

Here's a picture of Eric and Dessi at the Thomas Center on one of our first days together. Just to break up all these facts.


We stayed at the Ghion, and it was fine. Nothing fancy and the restaurant really isn't very good at all, but it was $86 per night with a queen-sized bed. (They say it's a king, but it is not.) After we had Dessi with us, we stayed at the Hilton. More than double the cost, but everything was so clean and easy that it was worth it.

The Hilton also provides free cribs. However, the crib sides cannot be lowered at all (for gentle baby pickups and deliveries), so you have to stand on your toes and lean over, then lift or lower from your armpits. Our baby is 8 kilos (17.2 pounds), which is really, really a lot, and so anyway you can see where this is going and I pulled my back out during a late-night pickup and spent the next morning in the fetal position on the bed, feeling around my purse for Advil and looking for husband-sympathy while at the same time realizing that I am no longer the center of his universe.

And rightly so. :) Very happily so.

Anyway, this is a good lead-in to ... if you have time, there is a fabulous, fabulous massage place called Boston Spa. It is $12 per hour, they have real tables (with real headrests), trained and very-good therapists, and tea afterward. We only went once (and it was before we got our baby), but it was really fun and highly recommended. The number is: 251-11-663-6557 or 251-11-651-2509 or 251-91-124-8213. The Hilton also has massages, $18 for 45 minutes, but they're just mediocre.

I would also recommend (anywhere -- they have it everywhere) the "mixed juice" drink. Ethiopians are big on fresh-pressed juice, they're popular and delicious and I drank them with abandon while happily slapping down my 40-cent-per-glass payment, but there's this special drink, it comes in a clear glass mug, and it has avocado on the bottom, then guava (or papaya, I'm not sure), then pineapple and you squeeze a lime on top. It's layered and pretty, it's practically a meal, and it's one of the top-five best things I've ever tasted.

When flying home with a baby, try to reserve the bulkhead with a bassinet. It is the best! I don't know, maybe everyone else already knows about this, but I had never seen it before and would neverever have thought to ask, just the ticket agent guy offered. Even though I personally couldn't sleep (because even though our baby still cannot roll over, I was afraid she would just kick her legs over that thing's edge and then fly off of it and plunge to her head-injury while I slept nearby and that I would never be able to forgive myself), she (and her daddy, whose imagination is not so vivid as mine) both slept peacefully for almost the entire trip back.

We bought three cans of NAN-2, the formula Dessi was using in Ethiopia (you can't get it in the States), and I wish we'd bought four. It is taking longer than we expected to transition her from the NAN to her new formula here -- we started with 40:60 (new to old), and that caused a day of farting and crampy unhappiness; we went down to 20:80 for three days, now we're back to 40:60 and all seems well but we're almost running out of NAN, and if for some reason she had not liked the brand we first switched to and we'd had to start all over with a new brand, we wouldn't have made it. (We switched her to Earth's Best organic infant formula, and it seems to be going over fine enough.)

The best thing we had while traveling were Playtex drop-ins. They are so easy and clean! Only thing is, they're a bad-plastic number (five, I think), so they've now been pushed to the back of the closet in favor of glass bottles, although we'll use them again on future long journeys to third-world countries. (If you're laughing, then you must be new to this blog.) :)

That is all for me. Mostly I wanted to tell that story about the 1996's, because there are a LOT of them! It must have been a big mint year or something (or they're all fakeys, ha ha.) Overall, traveling in Ethiopia is a breeze -- fun and easy!


Settling In


This is the first time we saw Dessi. Abdissa and his wife pulled up to the HIlton, we were waiting outside, and she had Dessi in her arms and then another little boy laid next to her on the backseat. (a la Africa.) She got out of the car holding Dessi. Eric and I just stared at her for God knows how long; I don't know what Eric was thinking, and actually I don't remember what I was thinking, either. Probably something like "oh my God oh my God oh my God." Then I picked her up and Eric took this photo. I sort of remember it, sort of not. It was very emotional.

We've had Dessi for 10 days now. She is expressing herself intimately -- reaching for our faces and gazing into our eyes, and she is full of smiles not only for us but for the new faces of our visiting friends. We thought maybe yesterday she was on Visiting Friend Overload, and so today is an us-only affair, the three of us just hanging out and smiling at each other.


She is making great strides in development, reaching for things, bearing all her weight on her legs, and sitting up on her own quite often. She doesn't seem to know her name at all yet, but that's probably at least partially because we keep calling her 'Cricket' in honor of the sweet clicking/sucking noise she makes as she's drifting off to sleep -- somehow she sounds like the crickets I used to catch and keep cupped in my hands when I was young.

One thing I have been reflecting a lot on. Dessi is the perfect baby for us in every blissful little way imaginable. And yet it was so RANDOM, the way we were all put together. Just, she was the next baby available and we were the next parents on the list, so, voila! You're a family! In a very strange an funny way, I almost feel panicky when I think how close we came to missing each other. If one piece of paperwork had not been delayed, or if the Montana I-171 processor guy hadn't just quit the week we submitted our application (and slowed our approval by a few weeks), if the homestudy social worker had been a little more on task ... we wouldn't have Cricket!

Cricket, by the way, is asleep upstairs, and I miss her. I am thinking about waking her up now so I we can play, but that would be very childish and unmotherly-like of me, so I probably will not do that exactly, but I may just go up and watch her breathe for a while. Probably.


Monday, April 21, 2008


I am poaching my neighbor's wifi right now, so this will be brief. But so sweet! We are home, and our baby is amazing. She is the sweetest, most smiling thing, and she seems happier and more comfortable every day. The first few days she didn't seem to do or think much, she couldn't really hold her head up or sit up at all, and she smiled about once a day. After three days, she suddenly woke up, looked up at us gazing down at her yet again and still, and she smiled back (oh yes, I cried and cried at that). From that point on, she has been just more amazing and developing at a crazy rate -- she seems a month ahead of herself a week ago! She sat up for almost five seconds by herself yesterday, she slept for 6.5 hours in a row last night, and we don't have to hold her every second any more -- in fact, she is batting toys around on her playmat right now as I write.

My heart is almost sore from how much it feels and loves. I have so, so much to write but instead must eat my bagel and then we're off to the pediatrician. I will try to send photos and a better update soon.


Friday, April 4, 2008

And They're Off!

We have been in DC for a week now -- I can't believe how fast it's gone. We leave tomorrow (tomorrow, people!) for Ethiopia; we hope to see our little Dessibug on Monday morning, but we won't be able to pick her up and take her with us until the following Monday. In the interim, we're going to Lalibella and doing some hut-to-hut hikes in southern Ethiopia. We feel reasonably peaceful and unworried and in fact even unhurried -- a first for me. It is pretty blissful, realy, except for the daily running-like-mad-to-fulfil-all-but-the-tiniest-obligations-and-complete-all-tasks moments. The minutia of life!! Oh well. Chop wood, carry water.

So, we'll be at the Thomas Center and we'd be so, so thrilled to take photos of anyone's little tykes while we're there! A few people have done this for us along the way, and it really made the wait easier. If your baby's there, lemmeno! We will get some photos to you as soon as we're able. Our email: -- put something about CHI in the subject line so I'll fish it out of junk mail.

Other than that, nothing to say! Oh, except, what is UP with girl baby clothes? Must every single outfit be butterflied and ruffled? I am all for a little of that, but come on already! It's one cliche after another! We ended up happiest at Baby Gap. (I know, I know. Holy cliche!) But their stuff is straightforward -- just plain and soft.

Au revoir!