Mar 23, 2007

Ethiopian Eyes

Ethiopians have the most beautiful eyes! The first impression that struck me while clicking through CHSFS's family photo album of adopted Ethiopian children was that Ethiopians are uniquely beautiful. I didn't know what Ethiopian looked like before (I live in Central Kansas!) or maybe never thought it through, but what classical and exotic features stared from my monitor: high foreheads, soft mocha skin, large eyes, spirited expressions. I had been considering adopting from Ethiopia when I first came across these faces (Russia, Kazakhstan, Guatemala, Haiti, & Vietnam were other countries I had listed and eventually crossed out--I think in that order), and I think it was that moment I decided.

Melissa Fay Greene describes the face of a young orphaned girl in her book There is No Me Without You that could also sketch the faces of our Bereket and Sira: "Thick black eyebrows had been sketched as if in charcoal upon the classic oval Ethiopian face; huge round eyes midface were full of intelligence. . ." Well, no offense B & S, but I'm not sure those baby eyes are sparkling with intelligence, but definitely love!

Bereket and Sira indeed have BIG round eyes, looong lashes, & thick arching brows.

When we first met the boys, their eyes would at times spontaneously POP wide-open; they were tiny babies and ALL EYES. Look at the funny photos of Bereket and Sira below, the camera flash can really get those beautiful eyes bugging! 8)

Tsega's eyes are more almond shaped, his brows more chiseled (don't you just want to kiss those lips!?). This probably won't make sense to you, but I describe Tsega's facial features as "curly". And I love it when the camera captures the curliness (or maybe curviness) of his lips and eyes.

Maybe it's not very deep or polite to talk about beauty and it's certainly not something on which to base an adoption plan. And please forgive my bragging (biased proud mama here). But I think Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians must agree that the "classic Ethiopian look", whatever that image is to you, is so darn good looking! :)

Mar 19, 2007

Interaction, Play, and Brotherly Love

According to our boys’ lifebook (prepared by Ethiopian care center staff), the triplets sometimes hold hands “to show their solidarity”. We have it on film. In Ethiopia the boys slept in the same crib for much of their 3.5 month stay.

These days they're too big to share cribs. Tsega's relatively larger and MUCH stronger and will grab and thrash about the nearest object (animate or inanimate) when he's tired and mad. Bereket and Sira can sometimes still share a bed but a stray hand is deemed highly offensive on top of a cranky baby's head.

The identical brothers, Bereket and Sira, seemed tuned-in to one another from the beginning. I’ve always put them on the floor facing each other with toys in between and they stay happy for long periods like this. I've heard one start to coo out of a nap while the other seems to answer back in the same coo at the other end of the room. People say babies only co-play, but I think there's more than mere side-by-side interaction with these triplets. They share laughs and smiles, pass "binkies" and toys back and forth (suffice it to say they share gobs of saliva), grab each other, and sometimes make the other cry.

When we first got home from Ethiopia, Tsega needed mom or dad to hold him what seemed like all the time; yes, perhaps at the expense of Bereket's and Sira's bonding time, but Tsega had higher needs back then than the other two. He was unhappy playing on the floor for long periods. He didn't seem to even notice his brothers existed.

After a couple of months home Tsega blossomed socially into a happy baby. Now and then he would stop his play on the floor and look over at his brothers with a big smile as if he was seeing them for the first time; as if he was thinking, who are these cute babies? Now he loves to observe his brothers and grab toys out of their hands and they don't seem to mind (but don't try this with Tsega especially if he is playing with a spoon or a bowl of baby food). The past week he has started leaning in towards one brother for a big hug while open mouth kissing the top of his head. Ahhhhhh. . .

Tsega loves posing for mama and her camera. He looks up and smiles everytime I call "Tsega!".

Now I face all the boys together for play with several toys in the center and around each baby as they entertain and play together. This is the greatest part of rearing multiples by the way, and gives mama and papa much needed breathing time. Of course the babies don't stay in one place for long.

Maybe you are wondering if one triplet cries, do they all follow. Happily, the answer in our case is no. In fact, one rarely wakes the other with crying. But if they see me preparing bottles, cover your ears!

Mar 14, 2007

Identical and Fraternal

According to our referral paperwork, Bereket and Sira are identical and Tsega, who “doesn’t look like his two brothers. . . appears to be the fraternal triplet”. It is clear that Tsega is indeed fraternal. He is different from his brothers in looks, size (he’s the big one although they were all the same size at birth and referral), personality, temperament, development, you name it.

Bereket and Sira look and act alike. Moments after I took this picture below Bereket (right) and Sira (left) started sucking their thumbs at the same time and neither of them typically suck thumbs.

People ask us about the alleged identicalness of the two brothers and we have wondered too. We don't have DNA tests to prove it, so are they truly identical? Some days no problem, other days when I don't dress them myself I have to look for Sira's ear piercing to distinguish the two. Jerry's terrible, he never seems to recognize who's who. Oh, but I see differences, people tell us, this one is smaller, that one has rounder features, I don't think they are identical. . . and me, I can always tell them apart in pictures. Sira has more heart-shaped facial features, Bereket's are rounder, Sira was the tiny one when we got home and yet now he's out-chubbing Bereket by a hair. But if you reduce the features and compare individually, it is striking. The eyes, lashes, brows, noses, bald heads, figures. . . I even noticed just recently they share the same funky toenail on the same toe.

If you look hard at the sleeping baby on the left, you can see Sira's little ear piercing on the top part of the exposed ear near his head. I don't know the story behind it but it comes in handy when in doubt!

But lately I have become convinced just as I was starting to doubt it. About two weeks ago Bereket cut his first tooth. Sira's first came through about 2 days later. Bereket and Sira do all the same pre-crawling movements such as rolling both ways, getting on knees and hands, rocking back and forth, crawling backwards, and getting on hands and feet with legs extended; they began doing these movements at nearly identical times with Bereket always slightly in the lead. Last Saturday we watched in pride as Bereket backed up from all fours into a sitting position all by himself for the first time. Guess who mimicked this same movement the very next day? Sira, his identical brother!

Last night Bereket took his first official crawl forward (only a few inches but it was great form) and reached up with both hands and held onto the bottom slat of the kitchen table for several minutes as he tried to pull up. He is close to total mobility which means Sira is too.

Now if only my big boy Tsega would follow but that's for another post.

Mar 13, 2007


Naming or renaming your adopted children is always a lively topic. Ethiopian names can be difficult to pronounce, spell, remember, but most hold special meanings. Some families have chosen names before the adoption because they are old family names or they love the particular name. Others wait until referral to see if they can accept their child's given name as a first name. Many will keep the given name but replace it to the middle. Most will not keep the given name as the first name. It is a personal decision and there's no right or wrong about it. But I don't think you need to worry if the name is unique, hard, or unusual since it seems like unusual is what's popular these days and it's getting harder to stay unique as names can catch on throughout the population fast (probably won't happen with most Ethiopian names, so if you really want to be different, keep your child's "unusual" name).

We kept one child's name and shortened the other two's. We did not retain last and middle names for good but personal reasons. We love their names and the important people in their lives will not have trouble remembering or pronouncing them. And if you make fun of them at school, I think Tsega will beat you up ;).

Bereket. His name means 'blessing'. We gave him Abraham as his middle name, named after a special Ethiopian relative.

Sira. His given name was Yeabsira (Yob(rhymes with job)-sear-uh) and means 'God's work'. Please don't call him Sarah, it's Seeeeeer-uh. His middle name is now Teagan just because I love that name (it's Irish meaning 'little poet').

Tsega. His given name was Yeabtsega (Yob-say-guh) and means 'God's grace'. His middle name, after we changed it again, is now Addis. Addis means, as all you Ethiopian adopters know, 'new'.

Annoying Comments

Folks who adopt need to remember the stupid things we might have said had we never adopted and the stupid things we have said in our life history. We need to sympathize with the public when they stick feet in their mouths. There are comments that are intended to hurt, but mostly it's the comments that come out unknowingly and innocently, often disguised under "good" intentions that we find the most agonizing and over the years, probably quite irritating and dull as they are repeated over and over and over . . .

Let me you give you an example of one of my own follies. During a job many years ago I came upon a house with a yard stocked with toddler play equipment. I got this idea that it was a day care facility. I approached a white women cooing with a black baby and asked her if she was, *gulp*, the baby sitter. The glare and cool "no" was all I needed to realize I was a fool. Please forgive me.

For now I will spare you the adoption-oriented comments since we have not gotten too many of those so far. Instead here are some of my favorite triplet-oriented comments, some simply unoriginal, others more painful. Don't fret if you have said some of these things to us, I'm sure I would have been guilty too.

1. You must have your hands full!
2. How do you do it, ha-ha!?
3. Oh, Cindy, how are you doing (big sad eyes ready to console me)?
4. Are you getting any sleep?
5. Do you have any help?
6. Glad it's you and not me.
7. Your house will be a train wreck.
8. That's not something I would want.
9. Could you have said no?

Let me clarify a few things. We are also glad it's us and nobody else. We felt the ultimate stroke of luck that we were chosen to parent these amazing triplet boys! We squealed and jumped up and down when the referral call came and "no" was never on the table. The boys are mostly pleasure with only minimal stress (about the right amount). This isn't 1950s. Jerry does not leave me alone to do all the parenting and wifeing. Get over it, we think it's easier than dealing with a baby, toddler, and older child all at once and changing diapers and getting up all hours for the next 1o+ years. We spend our time together playing, cuddling, kissing, cooing, loving, and marveling. Now does that sound so hard? ;).

Mar 8, 2007

Referral Pictures

Sleeping beauties. I recognize the noses, but who's who?

We found out after we met the boys that the baby on the far left is Tsega (he's now the BIG one), in the middle is Sira (I recognized the eyebrows!) and then Bereket on the right. Only Bereket is crying in this picture :).