Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Bly Sisters' first Halloween together

I don't have time to write, but I wanted to post this great pic, complements of my sister who was in town just before Halloween. Eliana doesn't have her face paint on yet, but I think this is a great pic. Eliana had a blast, but Meron only made it to 3 houses before declaring loudly and clearly to all in the neighborhood that she was done for the night.

I have to run, Meron is adding her own special touches to Eliana's latest art project. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Children, jobs, homes, and money

First, the children.

Before we left for Ethiopia, we had been going through some very difficult times with Eliana. She refused to listen to us, she cried easily and often, and temper tantrums complete with accompanying incontinence were not as rare as they should have been in a 3-year-old. I could not imagine how I was going to handle this when I also had a baby to care for.

And then Meron came home, and Eliana changed.

Many people assumed that Eliana would go through a difficult transition period. We all speculated that she might regress, or get clingy, or hit Meron, or just increase the already problematic behaviors I mentioned above. Instead, she grew up. I've really never seen anything like it. She became a big sister overnight. Suddenly she was fetching diapers, comforting the baby, playing by herself without complaint while I talked to the on-call nurse as Meron vomited in my lap. She was teaching Meron how to roll a ball, splash in the pool, and toss toys in a bucket. She feeds her Cheerios in the backseat to keep her happy on long car rides, and sings to her before bed. She has stopped tantruming, and has been listening better, and is more affectionate. She lives to make Meron laugh, and to this day no one has been able to get the kind of belly laugh out of Meron that Eliana can get without having to do much at all.

In short, I have never enjoyed Eliana as much as I have these last few months. I cannot believe this smart, funny, energetic, and well-behaved child is mine.

But wait! There's more. In addition to getting the world's most fabulous 4-year-old, I have been given the world's most beautiful, funny, and exuberant baby! Meron has quite the personality, and I have never seen a baby who can mimic facial expressions and sounds like this one. I can't help but wonder what that skill will become as she gets older. For about a month now, this child who is not even a year old has been able to say Mama, Thank you (well, close to it), Hi, and Bye Bye. Now she can say "Papa," and makes pretty good attempts at any word we throw at her. She blinks when you blink, puts her hands over her mouth when she coughs because she saw us do it, and points the remote control in the direction of the TV every time and starts pushing buttons at it. She recognizes the Little Mermaid soundtrack and tries to sing along. Truly, she has a memory that is astonishing.

I still have moments of doubt, though. I think about her first mother every day, and wonder what she is thinking, and how she feels about her choice. I wonder how Meron will feel about all of this when she finally understands what happened to her. My worst fear, of course, is that she will reject me as her mother, and hate me for taking her away from Ethiopia. I also struggle with believing I am her mother. I truly love her as much as I did my biological child, but I never forget that another woman has a claim to her as well, and that Meron is not "100% mine." Maybe that's the wrong way to think about it. I mean, she is mine, and I am her mother who loves her, cares for her, and would die for her. But I cannot ignore the knowledge that another woman also thinks of Meron as hers, that the woman who is sharing Meron with me gave birth to her, has a genetic link to her, and is of the same culture, race, and biological family as her. Sometimes, it's hard not to feel as though this other woman has the more legitimate claim to the title of "real mom."

Insecurities aside, the two girls together are an awesome team. Meron worships Eliana, and Eliana is extremely happy having a baby sister. She is so proud of her, and shows her off whenever we're out. Every day at preschool when they do their morning prayer, Eliana tells the class that she would like to pray for her baby sister. When they take their baths together, I watch them splashing around and laughing and know that my family is now complete. Before Meron, I wouldn't have told you that my family was incomplete. But now that we have Meron, I can tell you that is was not complete before, because now I know what "complete" feels like.

And now, onto jobs.

I'm sorry this post will be so long, but there is so much to cover, and since we're moving soon, there's no tellin' when I'll be able to post next.

I've struggled with the stay-at-home-mom vs. working mom thing for a while. I don't mean which one I should be, but rather, what percentage of each do I want to be. I still don't like staying at home full-time. OK, to be honest, "don't like" is really much too tame to fully describe my feelings about it. Staying at home with small children makes me crazy. There are great moments, and there's a part of each day when I think, "I am so grateful I get to have this time with my girls." But much of the time, I'm watching the clock, counting the hours until my husband gets home and I can have another adult to talk to.

So the original plan was to stay at home until January, and then work about 30 hours per week doing private practice. Then Donna (hi, Donna), general manager of a human resources consulting firm in our town, called to meet for breakfast. My husband and I have known Donna for years. The company where she works just happens to be the company where he and I met. I was temping as an admin, he was just starting out as a new consultant. Anyway, that's another story. Donna had been trying to pursuade me to come work for her for about two years, and I kept putting her off, saying that I wasn't ready to work full-time. So when she called to meet for breakfast, I spent the days leading up to that meeting making sure that what I had planned to tell her was in fact the right decision. That plan was to tell her no. The reason hadn't changed: I still had no intention of working full-time. My expectation was that she would be disappointed, would try and change my mind (which she is exceptionally good at), but that I would just think of my girls and would hold firm.

So we met for breakfast, she asked where I stood on the job offer, I gave my rehearsed speech, and her response? "OK, why don't you come work for us part-time then." Let me say, she has never been willing to do that before. But some circumstances there have changed, and she apparently had more flexibility to hire me on a less than full-time basis. I took the offer. The only real down side is that I have to start on November 12th, a good 6 weeks before I had planned on going back to work. But I'll be working 30 hours per week, and we hired a nanny to take care of Meron, as I was having a difficult time finding childcare I felt comfortable with, and the nanny thing just seemed like a better option for now.

I imagine I'll write more on this later, but this post is getting really long and I have to use the facilities, so I think this seems like a good place to end for today. I will cover homes and money in the next post, don't you worry. Life is changing, mostly for the better, so stay tuned.