Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Crawling Motions

Dessi is going to crawl any DAY now. Nevermind that I've said this daily for two weeks. She's so damn close! She pivots, she wiggles, she pushes her belly off the floor, she moves her legs, she scoots backward, and she rolls from side to side. Everything. Except she doesn't move her arms. Any time she's doing anything on her belly I am there cheering my head off, though, so she's been having a really grand time of it.

These are photos from about 10 days ago. She's MUCH further along now. ...



By the way, those are G-diapers she's wearing (thank you, Heath and Heather!) They rock. They don't leak. I've taken to substituting the micro-terry inserts from Fuzzi Bunz for the biodegradable insert. This way there's nothing more to buy, and still very little extra laundry.

On a separate note, we've moved into our new house and it is FABULOUS! I couldn't be happier. The gardens are just stupid beautiful, and the gardener this morning brought me the first batch of organic mangoes from our trees. (We also have bananas, papaya, and a host of herbs and lettuce, all organic. He also washes our cars every night, which is like magic. You wake up and it's a shiny new day!

And yes, I'm driving. It's fine. I've gotten a little lost once or twice, which is always hazardous because I can't ask for help (I regret, I still do not speak French), and some of the minor roads are narrow, potholed and people-riddled. But so far I've managed to get myself home by the end of the day.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Random Tuesday

Isn't this ducky ridiculous? I like to think so.



West Africans seem to really love babies and to look out for them. This is Victorie, a cleaning lady here at temporary housing. She coos over Dessi every time I take her out of the house, so I knew she'd be over for pool time. Dessi likes her (she likes everyone) and it was all good, they were splashing around with the measuring scoop, and then ... Victorie poured a full cup straight onto D's head! She didn't drizzle it, either, so it went all over Dessi's face. (I have seen nannies here do this before. It is, I suppose, a cultural thing. They might in general be a little bit rougher with babies --they lift infants up by a single arm and aren't so careful about their heads. At least at the orphanage where I was working.) Anyway, Dessi was stunned for a few seconds, then just resumed her play. She really doesn't take things personally, which, I just love that about babies: This hurts. I'm hungry. I'm frustrated. Versus, Who hurt me? Or, Why don't you feed me? Or, Why are you so stupid?

Then, drying off afterward. She loves towels. She loves to get tucked in at night or to go under our bedsheets and have me flap them overhead.




I know, I know. Only three of those?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

What a really, really great day! Here we are at our friend Amber's house, playing with her new puppy.


We went to a nice Sunday brunch at a fancy hotel with some friends, and then we went to the pool! It was about 90 degrees and felt very hot. We didn't want to put Dessi in the kiddie pool because the water looked kind of gross (there were a lot of kids in it), so we did this:


After the pool and naps, we all climbed on our bed and accidentally watched a movie. What bad parents!!! Dessi wasn't interested really at all, but she loved crawling all over us and getting airplanes and generally tickled and cuddled; she giggled for nearly two straight hours.

It was our favorite part of the day. Which is a funny thing about being a parent: our favorite part of any day is always whatever part where Dessi seemed to have had the most fun.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Our Life This Week

One of my favorite new (children's) books is Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney. The first time I read it, I cried. The second time, I cried again. I'm better now. Here is Dessi reading it. She also loves the little stuffed nut brown hare that came with the book, I think mostly because it is small, light and fits easily into her mouth. Our friend Lesley bought this for her. Thanks, Les!


We're still in temporary housing, but it's not so bad because we can walk to a nearby hotel and swim in their pool. Dessi and I go every day -- it has a kid's pool with a little jet stream of water that has kept her fascinated for the last six visits. Here are the three of us there on Sunday. (I am posting this photo as an exercise in Releasing My Ego, by the way.)

In the water, Dessi's belly is of little consequence, so she is starting to TAKE STEPS!!! One foot in front of the other, she'll do six or eight in a row. She's far from being able to walk on land, but she's starting to understand how to move her feet and legs. It's so fun to watch, and when her mamma and dad cheer, she sticks her tongue out -- her new way of showing delight.



She's also learned to clap! No, not really. But when I clap, she laughs a lot, and when I clap her hands together for her, she laughs, too. I'm easy to impress when someone's this cute.

Here we are at the beach. Somehow Eric manages to read and stuff, but if Dessi's around, all I can do is watch her; I don't want to miss anything.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Boat Ride

On our first weekend back, we ran into some friends (we have, like, six friends in Dakar. Here were two of them at the same beach as us!) They were en route to N'gor Island and did we want to come? So, sure we did and how fun and here's the pirogue and everyone get in okay buy the tickets that'll be 50 cents each wahoo! And so there are about ten of us on shore when the boat pulls up, but within 20 seconds about fifty people show up from nowhere and this boat is loaded down! And here we are on the boat with a baby (and our friends have a baby, too).

You can sort of see how crowded it is here, but not really. Not like it was. It was crowded!!! We did all have oversized lifejackets with mostly broken ties, though.


Thing is, it's only about a 1/4-mile ride (about 2 minutes) and heck you could easily swim that far even with a baby, right? Well well well, but when a boat sinks, people who can swim perfectly well are often drowned by the flailing arms and legs of those who cannot swim and who, in their panic, try to crawl up on top of other people in some sort of primal effort to stay afloat or get to the highest point. People have literally drowned their rescuers this way. My plan, if I'd ever found myself in a sinking boat, has always been to swim underwater for as long as I can until I rose for air in a safe place, alone. (This sounds horribly unheroic, I know. So judge me.)

But now there's the baby. How would I save her? I had no idea, but you can bet your boots I racked my brain about it the whole way there. Best I could come up with was that I drown myself and Eric uses my dead floating body as a raft to lead our child to safety.

Once we got there, it was very fun. Here's the mamas and the girls; my friend's daughter is 1 and is just an impossibly sweet little girl. Dessi thinks so, too. She just loves her!


Friday, June 6, 2008

The Girl Effect

This is a powered up organization called

If you'd like to donate, go to

Here's some stuff from their website. They had citations to prove each fact, but I removed them here for easy reading. If you want the proof or to see the whole document, it's at

The Ripple Effect:
• When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2
fewer children.
• An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school:
15 to 25 percent.
• Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels
of schooling among mothers.
• When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Waste Not, Want Not

Today at one sitting Dessi ate:

1/4 of an avocado
1/4 c. oatmeal
1/3 c. mashed mango
1/4 c. prunes

Is this normal? She'll eat this three times daily, plus of course bottles five times during the day. She also talks ("bah bah danah") and smacks her lips together between bites. The child is never so happy as when she's eating. (I mean, look at her little picture. She is so cute!) Or, if we'd let her, overeating. In fact she has never not once ever turned her head aside as if to say, 'oh, no, I couldn't possibly' and refused another bite. The books say we should let her eat all she's worth, but really, she will eat until she literally throws up.


It's a tough call. We want her to know that there will always be food for her, but we also suspect that her first nannies used food as a panacea when she actually probably needed more complicated, time-consuming things, like to be played with or held for a long time. (Not that they weren't good nannies. Just, you get BUSY in an orphanage.) So food has come to represent something other than food to her, and what she really wants to hoard are the fulfillments of those other needs, but she's used to filling them with food. So she feels that she can't get enough.

Or, I don't know. I have no idea. We don't want to give her the sense that there's not enough food for her, but we also feel it's our job to guide her to meet those needs in a healthy way. (She cries when the food is gone no matter what, but when we distract her quickly, she moves on.)

On a separate note, she is also starting to try holding the spoon to feed herself, but I have limited enthusiasm for it. They say you're supposed to let children feed themselves if they want; even though the food will just go all over, they need to practice and develop the hand-eye coordination to do it. But I sort of feel that she should practice the hand-eye thing with blocks or books and not waste perfectly good food. Food isn't a toy. And yet, every single baby book says to let your baby feed herself whenever she wants to try. I don't know. I tried it a little bit today, and it went alright, not too much waste (she's probably as opposed to wasting food as I am, little chowhound that she is!) I don't know -- maybe based on her eating issues, feeding herself would give her a sense of being able to meet her own needs and offer some freedom. No idea. We are Making Things Up here at Chez Young.

Here's a photo of her feeding herself and then chewing on her little spoon.


and here, sucking on a mesh pocket filled with apple chunks. She loves this.


That's not so much food, right? Only she ate THREE of these bowls in one sitting! :)


We are using the Super Baby Food book for reference. My friend Jenny gave it to me, and it rocks. It lists which foods when (and by month, not by three- or six-month groupings), how to prepare my own baby oatmeals and rice cereals (it's so easy -- I just put normal, organic oatmeal in the blender and skip all the packaging and save money), stuff about food allergies, and how to create a balanced diet for toddlers as they wean themselves from milk bottles. (Professional-looking photo though, isn't it?) Anyway, I love it. I read it recreationally.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Drawing the Line

I read that the Sex in the City movie is no good, although I was unlikely to see it, anyway, seeing as I'm in Africa. The writer said she couldn't believe how materialistic and self-centered the characters are.

It's true, they are. But I kind of liked them, the few shows I'd seen. I also like(d) Project Runway for my three months in DC. It was interesting. I love art, and clothes can be art, they can be fun and must we sacrifice all aspects of materialism in order to be good people? (Yes, I wrote that with a whiney voice in my head. I feel sad about it because I know the true answer might be ... yes. Yes, you must.)

In Sex and the City, there was a scene where SJP went to a party where they made everyone take off their shoes (because they'd had a baby, so, because of germs), and then SJP's $2,000 shoes were stolen. The hostess said she wouldn't give her $2K to replace them -- that was a ridiculous price for shoes -- she'd give her $500. This interests me. If you admit culpability (which she did by offering to pay for them, so just to carry on with that premise), can you pass judgment on what is a valid price for shoes? Some people might think $100 is too much, some people I know think $300 is reasonable. Two thousand, I dunno. Hard not to judge that.

The other part of the thought, though, just to follow this through, is that we all draw the line in different places, and that goes for everything, and that judgments are interesting but really never work. I, for example, just visited a man who kept his gigantuan freezer running in his garage and when I looked in it ... it was ENTIRELY empty. Bereft even of a grain of sand. (And the government pays his electric bill.) So I thought, how can he not realize what a waste of money and energy that is?! But then, there are other people who buy all their clothing used and get their food from garbage bins (not that there is no step in the conservation gradient between me and people who only eat other people's garbage) (do you know about those people? They're called ... I can't remember what they're called. But they bank on the fact that we waste perfectly good food every day, and they're happy to fish it out of dumpsters and eat it to save the earth, I saw an article about it a last year), and anyway ... those people might judge ME for not buying into their ideas of Reasonable Sacrifice. Even though, it's true, I don't do everything I can. But I live near the line I've drawn. And so, probably, somehow, does that freezer fellow. And he might have HIS judgments about other people who drive stupidly big cars or something. (Although he drives a Pajero. Very large.) I love to judge (I mean, I would hope that I don't, but I seem to do it a lot, so I must like it), and it's always a bad idea and never works and I personally should just stick with doing what I can and not worrying about what anyone else is doing.

But that's just not ever how it goes.

Eric heard a woman on this talk show, called Mocha Mammas or something, talking about disposable v. cloth diapers. One woman said, "I used cloth diapers for my first three children, and then for the fourth and fifth I was just too tired and went to disposables." Well, way to save the earth!! Hello! Because, see, I think that if you have five biological children, you've already blown your environmental wad. You would have to wear clothing made of cornstarch and never, ever poop and you still could not undo the strain that your five new humans have put on our resources and on our earth. If one is inclined to save the earth, one really good option is to have fewer children. Overpopulation is a giant, big problem and it is the second reason we personally adopted. (The first being that there are children without mothers and fathers, and that this makes sense.) (Not that anyone's asked.)

Ultimately, it seems like some people take too large a share of what we all have (they drive stupid-big cars, live in castles, have many, many children) and then other people find themselves eating out of dumpsters to make up for them. If we'd all just be reasonable, we could all just LIVE reasonably.

But where to draw the line?


Here is Dessi a few weeks ago (when we were still visiting in America) with me and my dad (grandpa Woods) in DC, waiting to eat delicious pizza downtown!!


Dessi with some girlfriends at a hello/goodbye brunch Grandma Young threw for us in Montana. That's my friend Heather with Heather and Heath's beautiful new baby, Cash! He's so tiny and sweet!!

whitefish girlfriends

Here is Dessi with our friend Cheryl.


Here is Dessi trying to take the camera from her mama.


Dessi holding her sippy cup (she did it one day, and then now she won't do it anymore):


And Francie in Dessi's crib. We're in temporary housing, and Dessi's crib doesn't fit through the bedroom door so it's conveniently located in the living room, rendering it unusable to all but the cat, who thinks it's the bomb. She can look out and see the world.


The cat also likes the view from the upstairs balcony. Last night she learned how to catch dishtowels thrown to her from the first floor. She is so, so smart!!


Monday, June 2, 2008

Haile the Hippo

Dessi's animals have Ethiopian names. This is Haile the Hippo, and there is also Dawit the Duckie, and Lemlem the Lion (it's a girl's name; I wanted her lion to have a girl's name.) That's about as far as we've gotten so far. She LOVES the hippo. Laughs out loud at the sight of him.



There is a great and hard-to-find website called: -- it has listings of a ton of Ethiopian names and their meanings.


Tara Brach

Some mornings I still have time to listen to a lecture by Tara Brach. She is a Buddhist psychologist and a phenomenal, compassionate teacher. I ran into her organization, the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, when I was in DC for a few months. I had read her book, Radical Acceptance, and thought that, without exaggerating too much, it had kinda changed my life a little. While in DC , I was able to go to weekly meditations and a daylong retreat.


Her lectures are simple and straightforward, no confusing rules or laws, just very logical ideas on how to be more peaceful. The lecture I listened to today, though, was a particularly basic introduction to what her talks are mostly about. All her lectures are free -- you can stream them or download them as iTunes Podcasts. Today's lecture was:

To get to the full list of her podcasts via iTunes, go to:

and click the link to "Tara Brach's podcasts" in the ... I think it's the second paragraph. You'll see it. Just, if it's interesting to you. No pressure. :)