>Travel tips: Prep

> There are a few things I’ve been meaning to mention, so before I forget, I’ll put them up now.

For those of you with travel to Addis ahead of you, two things.

The first one: get in shape people! {Thank you Shelly for the reminder!}
Really, no kidding. I had thought that I was in shape. I am pretty strong, I am fit and high energy. So, hey, traveling across the world to pick up a baby? No problem! Ha! My baby is now 26 pounds and despite the slings (NoloWear slings are fantastic) and such, my back is all spazzed out. I know what you are saying, “Hey, you are no spring chicken, of course it’s hard.” Well, touche’, it’s true. But I do stay fit, I ran a marathon last December, and one other unofficial one, not to mention oh, training for months and months and months. I bring this up not to brag (and if you saw me run, or run/walk {see Galloway} you’d understand that I never could} but rather to point out that it’s easy to presume you are in shape. But oh so different to live it…. So, I THOUGHT I was ready. My back begs to differ.

So, do the work: the crunches, the ab work, the lifts…..you’re gonna need it. Even those little bitty babies get heavy after a while and it’s a lifting that you are ecstatic to do, but well, it’s nice to be able to keep on doing it instead of being on the floor on your back, stuck in a spasm. {NO, that has NOT happened to me, yet….but it could happen}. And really, it’s MUCH nicer to coo and grin at your little one as you pick them up, again, than to groan as you lift them, don’t ya think? Better form and all?

Now for the picture above of Booboo and Little Man.
Prepping donations.
If you are bringing any new items into Addis, particularly anything that could conceivably be sold, try to get Gladney to give you a letter here that you can have on your person when you face the customs guy there. If not, more than likely they will hold your stuff and you will create a huge hassle for Travis and Belay and their attorney there. Anything new that comes into Addis has to pay 100% tax on it. Yes, I said 100%. So, they try hard to get around that and humanitarian aid fits the bill, but you need proof if it’s new stuff.

We brought in a bunch of deflated but new playground balls. We thought, “kids and balls, fun.” We didn’t realize it actually meant: new balls, crashing halt at customs, three hours wrangling with them, four days of hassle for in country staff. They finally got them out, but it was a problem. Our bad. Also, if I had just said “personal” as they asked what was in the duffels, they might have let it through (and it was “personal” it was ours, so that would have been legit, but I didn’t, who knew?). Or they might not have, but it’s worth a try.

Customs in Addis is like that, sometimes it’s easy and apparently, sometimes it’s not. But for a heads up, I suspect a lot of the hassle could have been avoided if we had a letter. The customs guy asked for one and we were clueless. Letter? What do you mean? It’s for an orphanage……and we naively presumed it would go through, no problem. Um. No. So, bring the stuff, but try to get a letter on the front end stating the contents and it’s purpose and where it’s going etc etc etc.

And yeah, let the kids at home play with them as they pack them up…it just adds to the fun!

>Toddler adoption; tag along

>You know, there are things no one tells you about adoption, about parenting in general, but about some adoption issues in particular. These are the things you can’t really guess at because they are in that “who knew” zone.

You read all the books and then some. Or I do. I am a consumate researcher, I can’t help it. It’s why I stayed in school forever and then went back for more. I LOVE a library. I LOVE a bookstore even more. I love researching, in it’s own way. It’s the control freak in me, I know.

But this is all to say thay you think you know all the big things and the minor issues and you are as prepped as you can be. Which is important, and good.

But what I didn’t read in all those books and memoirs and studies are the passing mentions of the quirky things. Maybe they were there all along and I just glossed over them. But here is where I am thinking, maybe this whole ‘net thing, this blog thing, might just have it’s own strength and beauty. Because I can throw out to the net, to the whole nine people who read this blog, a question or two. And I can throw out some of the things we’ve gone through and tell for real, the good bad ugly and weird and wonderful.

So, I’m asking, what about toddler adoption? I know every kid and every circumstance is different….yah yah yah. But still: What are the quirky things that you experienced? Was it a language delay? Was it physical maturing slow, then fast? Was it an odd lag somehow and then a warp speed race to catch up? Was it reversed?

All that is to say….we are in an unexpected spot with Gabriel now. Not a bad one, at all! Good in so many ways, but different than what we had anticipated. In a way it is similar to what I went through with my two boys who were large as babies, physically. It’s this: Gabriel is a little like a Baby Huey ( I know, Disney on the brain…sorry, it’s this whole So Cal vibe I’m soaking in). So he’s a big boy to look at, but he’s babyish on the inside…which makes it a bit tricky at times. (more on that, different post).

Gabriel has regressed to a point of a about a year old baby. But he is totally the size of an almost two year old. Now intellectually I understand this and I welcome it. I read about trying to intentionally regress a newly adopted toddler into some of the baby stages/bonding phases that hey might have missed. So I think this is, on that level, fantastic and very welcome: essential.

But on a day to day level, it continues to be odd. Because Gabe feels like he’s been here for so long. He feels like he is part of us, period. It’s like I missed the first part of the movie somehow and it’s blank there and I hate that, but really, he feels like he’s been with us from, well, forever, instead of just one month. And there is this unexpected grief that you have missed so much. Physically, the feel and look of him being small and all that brings. And beyond that, the sadness of missing so much, just that bulk of time. And yes, his background and his story makes him exactly who he is, but at the same time it is an odd ‘missing’ feeling too. It doesn’t jive. It’s an unexpected quirk of adopting a toddler.

It’s super easy to go through a day and just mosey along in your standard kid/toddler mode. And then you forget, kind of, that this boy doesn’t understand, or doesn’t have words (except for Mama, in distress or real glee, but really even not so much with this anymore). He doesn’t have the social skills others had or have at this age. He doesn’t really understand toys. He doesn’t understand his own strength. He doesn’t understand ‘gentle’ or ‘just a minute’…except for the tone and some body language. He is a baby. He doesn’t “look” like a baby. But he is. He is a baby. And for who knows how long, not that I’m in a rush to move beyond, but he is. For now.

Now, I knew some of this from reading about adopting a toddler, especially from half a world away. But reading it and living it is different. And adopting a toddler is different from having one who has been with you from very young.

On the other hand, they don’t really tell you how electrifying it is to have that first word come out, directed at you. Or to have his face light up when he sees you and makes a beeline to give you his hair-pulling hug. Or how wonderful and melting sweet his head-hugs are. For the whole family, watching him discover the world and us in it for him, is keenly felt and shared with laughs and smiled gazes. It is at least as amazing as when your little baby does it for the first time, perhaps more so because you can really almost ‘see’ the links click into place in his mind. It’s so cool. And when you reaches for you and grins and smears you with a kiss, it is the sweetest kiss ever as it is REAL, it is earned trust and new love.

So, I don’t know, I’ve been thinking about this so much on this trip stuff swirling through my brain, not in any good form or order. As I introduce him to many new relatives and old friends, as we sit having simple easy time on a beach, as our life has slowed to the essentials here…it’s easier to see and then ponder some of this. Not that I am making any really good sense of it (I’ll blame that on the sun, ahem). But, well, it’s different. No less wonderful, or glorious. But it is different this time, of course. Worth every moment, every effort. But for those of you adopting a toddler, it IS different from older child or baby adoption. It is unique. It’s better than I dreamed.
For Gabriel Tariku, each day is an adventure, a discovery….and we get the unique privelege of being able to tag along…and in a quirky way, I get to relive some tiny bit of that baby-time with my bigger by the minute little boy.