Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jingle Bells Ha-Ha

She has her Abaye's piano skills... Counting down the years until he can start teaching her. Right now she's just learning by example, watching him sing and play for her while she eats her meals or snacks in her high chair nearby. (Listen for her to say, "I likin' this song!")

-Kara (Mihret's proud Emaye)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From our family to yours...

From our family to yours... May God grant you a peace that surpasses all mortal understanding, in the remaining days of this year and throughout the year to come.
May He direct and guide your steps, and may you feel the joy and certainty of knowing where you need to be, what you need to be doing, and for whom.
May He bless you indeed.

-Joshua Grover-David Patterson, Kara Nicole Vozel Patterson and Mihret Aida Mirjam Demesse Patterson

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Recent Peanut Scenes

Last Sunday, driving to church:

Me: No wonder it’s so cold!

Kara: Hmmm?

Me: Look at the bank sign. Negative five degrees.

Kara: Oh.

Upon arriving at church, Kara attempts to get Mihret out of her car seat.

Mihret: Mama! I cold! I tired! Five!

Apparently, Mihret has not yet learned the word “negative.”


Last night, with Mihret eating dinner and me playing the piano while she eats:

Mihret: Daddy! All done!

I stop playing the piano.

Me: What is daddy supposed to do?

Mihret: Sit!

Me: Okay.

I sit. A minute passes.

Mihret: More music!

I resume playing.

Mihret: Daddy! All done!



I’m playing the piano while Mihret eats:

Mihret: Jingle Bells!

I start playing and singing Jingle Bells.

Me: … laughing all the way…

Mihret: Ha! Ha! Ha!

Me: … Bells on Bobtails ring…

Mihret: Ha! Ha! Ha!

Repeat after every line of the song. And also, sometimes in the middle of a line.


In the tub, I take out a cotton ball and go to clean Mihret’s nose of gunk.

Me: Squink!

Mihret: Mihret do it!

I dutifully wet a cotton ball and hand it to her. Mihret proceeds to clean her nose.

Mihret: Sgweeenk!


Kara and I are coming out of Target after much Christmas shopping. Also, we bought Mihret a whole mess of diapers.

I am putting Mihret in the car while Kara puts the rest of our purchases in the trunk.

Me: Mihret, mama is putting away your diapers.

Mihret: Yes!

Me: Mihret, what do you do with your diapers?

Mihret: I poop in there!

Friday, December 19, 2008

TV for daughter will have to wait a bit longer

....Instead, we play with Play-doh! :)
Four generations of women (and toddler) playing with Play-doh at Thanksgiving. Mihret, Nona (a.k.a. Grandma), me and GiGi (Great-Grandma).
December 15, 2008
Kara Patterson column: TV for daughter will have to wait a bit longer

As our daughter Mihret approaches her second birthday, my husband Josh and I have been preparing for upcoming major milestones, buying potty training seats and the next size of clothing.

Her special day of Jan. 28 was going to be the day we introduced her to television. But we've decided to put that off for a while.

Before she came home with us, we planned to keep the television turned off during her waking hours until her second birthday.

And we've done that, for the most part. At our house, the only program she's seen featured presidential election results, and the only movie she's watched is the video of her birth family from our international adoption agency.

We respect others' choices to the contrary. Mihret has seen snippets of shows at our friends' homes and football games in the background at family get-togethers.

Josh and I love to watch movies together when Mihret's in bed, and we give each other boxed sets of our favorite television programs as holiday gifts.

It's just that we don't want that medium to distract Mihret from her first imaginative play and her fascination with books. Plus, our family time together during the week is fleeting, and we don't want to drown it out with unnecessary outside stimulation and noise.

Like we did when we were young, we want Mihret to someday follow the journey of the Last Unicorn as she travels to the edge of the world to find others like her.

We hope Mihret will laugh when "The Sword and the Stone's" magical Merlin and Madame Mim try to outsmart each other in a shape-shifting battle of wits.

And we're already envisioning some family sing-alongs with Annie.

It'll be a birthday present for another year.
-Kara Patterson, Post-Crescent staff writer (http://www.postcrescent.com/)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Our Little Fruitatarian

Mihret wearing tofu, one of her favorite foods.
I understand (from our toddler guides that we've been studying) that as Mihret gets closer to (and surpasses) age two, she'll likely start to become more and more of a finicky eater, and we'll be less and less certain of what she'll eat or not eat. At least until her taste buds settle on what will be her preferences.
So... I pay homage to ten of Mihret's favorite foods, lest they be forgotten for all time...
(in no particular order)
1. Tofu (see above photos)
2. Rice
3. Green beans
4. Pasta
5. Hot dogs
6. Any kind of fruit (we like to call her our little "fruitatarian" as she's been known to eat whole meals full of just fruit) - she really loves cherries, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, bananas, grapes and applesauce.
7. Hummus
8. Soy yoghurt
9. Snackies, namely goldfish, dried fruit, dried cereal, hull-less popcorn and Toddler puffs
and of course... (she gets these sparingly, but still...)
10. Cookies

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Preserving the precious moments...

Mihret with her new baby doll and her penguin friend at Nona's and Pappa's for Thanksgiving

Just thought I'd take a few minutes and share a few random Mihret experiences. I love interacting with her, and you never know what she'll say next or how she'll interpret a situation or what she'll come up with on her own. She's always been expressive and it's fun just to watch her figure out her world. When she's trying to make a connection, to suss out how something works, she gets a particularly adorable look on her face that we call her "thinking" face. She kind of purses her lips together and looks up and to one side. Two other endearing and distinct expressions that she's had since we can remember are what I call her "Mama Delame" look and her "Grandpa Demesse" look. When she's being quite serious and solemn, she is a miniature of her birth mama. When she puts on her great beaming smile she's her birth grandpa all the way. I think there even may be dimples. :)

Anecdotes from Mihret's world:

We're always telling her, "You did it!" i.e. "You took your coat off by yourself! You did it!" to reinforce what she can do on her own.

Bathtime for Mihret. Josh already put her in the tub so he asks me to fetch him some cotton balls. Mihret hears this, so when I return triumphantly with my find, what does she say?

M: "You did it, Mama!"

We've started having Mihret recite back to us three of our big "get-along-with-your-friends" rules that she has to get down pat: "No biting, no hitting, no hair-pulling." One of her favorite bedtime books right now is a book in a really great series, the Best Behavior Series. The book is called "Teeth are Not for Biting". (Other titles, either on our bookshelf already or will be, include "Hands are not for Hitting" and "Words are not for Hurting.") Anyway, Mihret loves to "read" this book back to us. She loves to look at us sternly and say, "No biting, no biting!" as she does this. We also say "Teeth are..." and she excitedly yells "no biting!"

We've been having some trouble getting Mihret to stay asleep for afternoon naps on weekends, since weekends often find us on the go and she tends to nap in the car if we're doing a half-hour drive or longer in one stint. When we try to transfer her into her crib she often bolts awake and then that's it for that. So we've been bringing her onto our bed (since afternoon nap time on Saturdays and Sundays is when Emaye and Abaye also get naps, and we can't let those go, no way...) and trying to get her to snuggle between us while one of us cat naps and the other sleeps. We kind of trade off so one of us knows what she's doing at all times. So this afternoon, she saw we were tired, and she sat down between the two of us and said, in a nurturing sort of way, "Rub mama back. Rub daddy back." Then she rubbed Josh's back (and my tummy, since I was too groggy to flip over) for a while.

Mihret loves Play-doh, and I have to confess I kind of love it too. Because I had to work a little bit from home this afternoon, I promised her we could get out the Play-doh before her bedtime. She chose the white Play-doh so I started to show her how we could build a snowman. I gave her her own little hunk to work on in the meantime. She rolled out a " 'nake!" (snake) with no prompting and then flattened it into a pancake. Then, she came over and flattened my snowman, which only had two parts to it, poor thing!

And finally... Tonight Mihret was a good Emaye to her baby doll, who looks like her except for the one tuft of hair tied up with a bow. We were on the Webcam with Nona, my mom - something we do every Sunday is talk with Nona and Pappa, my dad, and sometimes Uncle Zack, my brother, since they live in Indiana. So Nona and Josh were talking, and Mihret had put her baby in its carrier, hooked it over her arm and said, "Bye!" She walked over into the corner and sat down with the baby. Then she took her baby out of its carrier, and rocked it back and forth in her arms, with a big smile on her face. Baby went back into carrier, then got a bottle (placed in her carrier, kind of in her ear :) ) and then, the coolest thing ever... we looked back at Mihret and she had her hands folded and was whispering a prayer to her doll. We could hear her say "Thank you.... Amen!" a couple times. Then, if that wasn't cool enough, she reached over and brought her doll's hands together to get her to "pray." More whispering.

I think the most precious moments happen when the camera's not on...


Friday, December 12, 2008

The Sleepytime Formula

One of the things my mother frequently reminds me is just how easy I’ve had it in the sleep department.

“Your brother,” she will solemnly intone, “didn’t sleep through the night until he was three.”

What’s strange is that I actually have memories that relate to this odd little issue. Things like the fact that for a while, every single night they would let him watch "The Great Muppet Caper," which I guess lulled him to sleep.

Perhaps it was the musical numbers.

And there was also the time that I woke up in the middle of the night and noted an odd thing. I was sleeping on the top bunk of the bunk beds my parents had gotten for me and my brother.

My brother, at the time, was still in a crib.

On a small table on the floor, a TV was showing cartoons. Or rather, a cartoon, "Animalympics." Why I remember this, I have no idea.

I do recall getting out of bed, and turning the TV towards myself, and getting back into bed and watching for a while. And I have an even more vague memory of my parents coming into our room, turning the TV back towards my brother, and telling me that the TV was for him.

So clearly, this no sleeping thing made some kind of impression.

Over the years I’ve known many sets of parents to ask (or really, more like beg) each other for advice on the topic of sleep. Mostly along the lines of, “I’m dying here, I MUST sleep, please tell me what you do to get your kids to sleep.”

For that matter, there are whole books dedicated to the topic. I recall coworkers passing around a book called The Baby Whisperer with a kind of reverence, while others inquired in hushed tones, “Did it work? DOES IT WORK!?”

Or, as my nanny friend said when I explained our current predicament: “Sleep is a tough one.”

The thing of it is, mostly sleep has been an easy thing around our house. Despite a huge time change, our little one slept through the night starting about three days after we got home. Then we had some teeth/night terrors/awakening at night issues, but those eventually went away.

And we were finally reaching the next stage, when you stick a toddler in their crib, say goodnight, and let them put themselves to bed. And it was working fine. We’d hear some playing or some talking, for a bit, and then finger-sucking snores.

Until we visited my in-laws for Thanksgiving.

I’m not blaming them for her sudden sleep issues. I’m blaming the unfortunate shift in what was a perfect, well-oiled machine of a routine.

To wit. 7 PM arrives. Bath time. Reading time. Bed time by 7:30-ish.

And during the middle of the day, a little nap to prevent the little one from being overtired.

So, yeah. We went to Indiana for Thanksgiving and things started to unravel.

First she stopped taking a nap. Any attempts to put her down in her Pack ‘n Play were met with the kind of screams usually reserved for being eaten alive by fire ants. There were tears, and loads of snot, which indicated to us that this wasn’t a standard “I don’t wanna,” but rather a “Something is really wrong,” kind of situation.

But the fact of the matter was, by the middle of the afternoon she was totally wiped out. If I sat with her, and held her, she’d pass out in my arms. But the minute I tried to set her down? Screams of terror.

After a couple of days we didn’t try all that hard to get her down for a nap. Either something was wrong, or she just didn’t want to be away from mommy and daddy in "not-home," and either way she’d be back into a routine in a few days. We could deal with a little bit of ornery.

Then bedtime started to become an issue.

With no nap, the kid was WIPED. Holding her for even a minute seemed to put her into a near-coma-like state, right up until her head touched her temporary resting place. Then the screaming started again.

Ultimately, I’d hold her for 30-45 minutes, until she was well into la-la land, and then put her down. There would be minor fussing, but ultimately she couldn’t fight the tired.

We thought this would all resolve itself when we got home.

What fools we were.

The trip back was bad enough. She fell asleep around 7:30 PM, as we were driving, but then woke up again at 11 PM when we got home. Wonderfully refreshed, she was ready to run around. All motions towards sleep were met with screams, and we finally got her to pass out around 1 AM.

Then again at 3, 4 and 5. At which point I just brought her in bed with Kara and me.

We figured the next night would be better.

But we got home late from performing a vehicle exchange with my parents, and she got to bed at 10. And she REALLY didn’t want to go to bed. There was more screaming.

Then came the next day – Tuesday. Back to the routine, finally. Only she didn’t want to sleep.

She finally gave in and passed out around 10.

Wednesday. Out at a gathering, slapped her into some jammies and drove home, and tried to get her to bed with a minimum of fuss. She finally gave in around 10.

Then I went to my old friend The Internet.

Thursday, we set her in bed, but didn’t walk out right away. We took turns rubbing her back, and in Kara’s case, singing to her. Finally, we got “permission” to leave after nearly an hour of this.

Which was still too long, but showed some improvement.

Only it got worse on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, as bedtime again stretched to an hour and a half or two hours.

I think I’ve found the formula now, though to be honest, I thought that I had it last week, and I’m putting it here in hope that it might help some other suffering parent to deal with the toddler who will not sleep, or is afraid of sleeping, or is perhaps just a little crab-monster.

I should note, first of all, that bedtime is still taking MUCH longer than I’d like it to, even as we’ve started the routine earlier. Last night, after a late start (about 7:15-ish) it took about an hour to complete the entire routine. But it’s better than three hours.

Second note: The “secret,” such as it is, seems to revolve around calming the little one into submission.

Here’s what we’re doing.

First, we moved the start of bedtime back. Or rather, we’ve been trying to, but it’s been a busy couple of weeks and our time frame has been a bit off. Regardless, instead of starting at 7, we’ve been trying to get going around 6:45.

Run the bath. Take the bath. Allow some time for playing.

Take little one out of the bath after about 10-15 minutes. Dry child, put on new diaper, put on lotion and jammies.

Planet Bed. For a while, we were trying to do, say, one book, and then have Mihret look at her “Ethiopia Book,” which has pictures of Ethiopia and her birth family in it. But her interest, which was high for a few weeks, has now scaled way back.

So now we’re doing two books, and reading them once or twice depending on interest level.

Then we do prayers, and mama gives hugs and kisses.

Then I take Mihret into her bedroom, shut the door, and grab one of her blankets off her crib. We rock in the rocker for a while.

The rocker seems to be the major key. When we were setting her in the crib, she would either ask for rocking or ask us to rub her back for a long, long, long time. And when you’re bent over a crib, it’s even longer.

Plus, the minute we thought she was down, she would suddenly pop up, making the continued rubbing process even more painful.

But rocking is low-key and pretty easy.

After five minutes, I tell Mihret that we’re going to her “pillow.” Because we put a pillow in her crib, because she’s old enough, and sleeping without a pillow is no fun. Plus it gives her a nice, soft focus point for sleep.

At this point, she usually lies down on her pillow in a kind of crouch, with her legs tucked under her. I put the blanket(s) over her, and rub her back firmly.

The “firmly” is key to the process, I think. Whether it’s because it feels better or is more reassuring or because it feels like she’s getting some time at a spa, I don’t know. But I do know that if I don’t rub all that convincingly, she’ll sit up and either say, “Hi, daddy!” or “Daddy, rub back!” and that means she’s not sleeping.

So, firmly.

After a while, she will un-tuck her legs and lay flat on the mattress. Which means that she’s really getting down to the business of sleeping.

Then, more firm rubbing. Another three or four minutes.

Then, slightly softer rubbing for a minute or two.

Then I stand in her room for another two minutes without moving. This is sort of boring, yes, but having spent several nights thinking I was in the clear, then walking towards the door, only to have Mihret pop up and get upset, which meant I had to start the process ALL OVER AGAIN… it’s worth the two minutes.

Then I walk out.

So far, this has worked three nights in a row. Let us hope this trend continues.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Counting Down the Days Until Our Peanut is Two

I recently added a birthday counter to our blog for Mihret. It's counting down the days to her second birthday on Jan. 28, 2009. Due to the way our blog is configured, it fit best at the very bottom, so to see it, scroll all the way down to the end of the page.

Check out the counters you can make at http://www.lilypie.com/, from birthday counters and adoption counters to wedding and anniversary counters. There's even a "Trying to Conceive" counter, although I'm not even going to pretend to understand how that one works. (I wish we had known how to access these during our adoption process... filing that mental note away for next time. :) )

For some nostalgia... Here are a few pics of Mihret right around her 1st birthday last year.

Mihret visiting our home library...

On top of her Abaye's shoulders, one of her favorite places to hang out ...

And in her Emaye's lap, trying very hard to give Emaye's Newsweek a bottle.

Time flies so fast. Pretty soon we'll be putting up 2-year-old pictures.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Kara has noted on multiple occasions that I seem to spend a lot of time bragging about our daughter in this space.

But honestly, I don’t think of it as bragging. It’s just that I find her development sort of fascinating. After months and months of being warned that she was going to be behind her peers, in size and possibly in smarts, to see her leapfrog past some of them sometimes seems like nothing short of a miracle.

And when you pause to think about how many changes happen in twelve months, or even in six, it can blow your mind a little bit. Less than a year ago, we were working on Mihret’s crawling. She could alllmost do it, though more often than not she would go backwards instead of forwards.

Which was sort of hilarious, because it was obvious she knew what she wanted to do, but couldn’t do it. She’d stare at an object, focused on getting to it – and then slowly creep away from it, all the while getting more cranky because she was going the wrong way and couldn’t figure out how to fix that.

So, yeah, Mihret is way smart, and the other night I sat down to try to
figure out just how smart.

So I pulled out the What to Expect: The Toddler Years book and figured I'd keep
flipping until I reached an age where she couldn't do the "basic" stuff
that age can do. (She'll be 22 months old on Friday, Nov. 28.)

I got to age three, which is where the book ends.

Among the milestones that Mihret passed a LONG while ago include:

Can say up to 50 words (Kara and I guess she can do somewhere between 150 and
200, and maybe more).

Can stand on one foot for a second. (This one I had to test, by standing on one
foot and saying, "Mihret do?" And then she did. Didn't lose her balance or

Can hold a two-to-three sentence conversation. (Granted, it's not often, but we've done it. Usually it's "What do you want for dinner?" "Cheese." "Anything else?" "Fruit." "Would you like some milk, too?" "Yes." "What do you say?" "Please!")

(Or, in the more hilarious version we had in the car recently: Mihret: Horsy! (There was no horse nearby. Me: What’s the horsy do? Mihret: Sleepin’! Me: Why is the horsy sleeping? Mihret: Jumpin’! Me: The horsy was jumping? Mihret: Yes!

We repeated this conversation three times in a row.)

Can jump. (Yup. In fact, she can stand in the middle of a room, not touching anything, and jump straight in the air, and both her feet leave the ground. This is a huge deal. Ask any doctor.)

Removes article of clothing. (Shoes and socks. A little more often than we'd like. Side note: She put a shoe back on the other day! Twice! Also, she's finally in size five shoes.)

Can identify one of her friends by name. (Um, she can identify the majority of the people who work in the building at her day care.)

Can point to four pictures and name what's/who's on them. (This was another one where I went, whoa, she's WAY past that. Based on people alone, she can do all the parents and grandparents (though not the greats), and her uncles. She also knows birth mama and birth grandpa, and Angel, my parent’s dog. Animal-wise, she can now do the majority of the animals, though a cow is still a "Moo" about 95% of the time.)

Can follow two consecutive directions without hand signals. (I had no idea this was different from using hand signals, but, yeah, she can do this too. Of course, most of the directions are "go to X, get Y, and bring it to me.)

Other interesting developments:

She's WAY into being a daddy's girl right now. I thought the last go-round of this phase was bad, but it's gotten a LOT stronger over the last few weeks.

It seems that at day care she's developed a daily pattern - she plays with the dolls, kitchen and other toys in the morning, and then goes to the book corner and looks at books in the afternoon.

Most bedtimes now, after she gets a book read to her, she wants to take the book away and "read" it again herself. Of course, she hasn't really expressed interest in letters yet, so we're not giving a lot of thought to the early reader stuff just yet.

And the most recent of interesting stuff she does is related to discipline. Most likely because her very last tooth is pushing on her gums in a truly awful way, she’s turned into a bit of a biter recently.

Kara and I don’t punish her much. Usually a stern “No,” will make her stop doing something she shouldn’t. But on the rare occasions that she keeps repeating bad behavior, she gets a Time In. Which is pretty much us holding her in our lap and counting to sixty.

This works pretty well, but has taken an odd turn, because a good 95% of when she gets a time in are related to biting. So now, the minute we have her in our lap and go, “One…” she immediately says, “No biting, no biting, no hitting.”

I’m sure at some point in the near future I’ll have something wonderful and profound to share about the nature of fatherhood. But for now it’s mostly about being amazed about development.

Trust me, if she was your kid, you’d think it was fascinating.


Monday, November 24, 2008

The Dance of Daily Life

Mihret and her Emaye play before church on a recent Sunday

Continuing my career as a full-time journalist while raising Mihret together with my hubby Josh, who works a full-time day job as a communications specialist while pursuing screenwriting and novel-writing, means that Mihret spends almost 10 hours per day at day care.

We call it "school" to help ourselves feel better about sending her.

We're lucky she's in a good, Christian environment, with loving teachers who read with her, teach her about God and Jesus and the Bible, help her complete take-home art projects, let her get her energies out in exercise and games, prompt her to explore with all her senses what we call "baby science" (Water flows down, not up! Sand feels gritty and leaves are crunchy!) and introduce her to friends her age who are also learning how to get along with others. (No biting, no hitting, no hair-pulling!)

Because I only get to spend up to a half-hour with her in the morning (unless she wakes up super-early) and up to two, two-and-a-half hours with her every night, that time I do have is all the more precious.

I have two self-imposed rules that I do my best not to break. I will be home in the morning to help get Mihret ready for school, and I will be home in the evening to help put her to bed.

The morning is easier - I can file stories from home via e-mail to meet an early morning deadline, and then be there to give Mihret her first snuggles of the day.
The evening is trickier, as I've usually got late work or outside volunteer commitments several days a week. When I do have to come home after she's in bed, I always come up with a reason to open her door a crack - her clean laundry is happier in her room, I say, so I slip in and slide it into her basket.

I watch my little one in Mihret sleep mode - on tummy in her footy PJs with bottom in air, sucking her finger, surrounded by Cabbage Patch Baby, Beegabug (her stuffed ladybug), Grover and Elmo and the three blankets she always kicks off.

I breathe in the scent of her room's air freshener. I check to make sure her baby monitor light shines green. Then I tiptoe out, almost hoping that she'll stir so I can go back in and pick her up.

As a family, we make the most of "Patterson family" moments.

When Mihret wakes up in the mornings, grumpy, Josh and I go into her room and turn on her CD player. Josh picks her up and she wraps her legs around his waist, while I hold and hug her from the back.

We three sway and bounce to whatever in our eclectic collection happens to be in the player - early Michael Jackson, Prince, the African Children's Choir, Ethiopian pop - and Mihret is content. She pats Josh's chest, while I lean over and kiss her cheeks.

For two minutes, or three, or sometimes even five, time stands still while we move and groove together.

She'll even ask to do "the family dance" during the daytime, on weekends, when we're all downstairs.

"Mama back?" she'll ask, meaning she wants me to hold her from the back while she's facing her daddy.

I'm thankful for these precious, precious "Patterson family" moments at home.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Dear Mr. Obama

By the time this publishes, you will have been elected the next President of the United States of America.

As the parent of an African-American child, I have only one request:

Be someone my daughter can look up to.



P.S. If you could also do something about the war and my 401k, that would be nice, too.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bringing heritage to child easier with help

Umoja 2008 - A black heritage experience
Green Lake, Wisconsin: Oct. 24-26

Kara Patterson column: Bringing heritage to child easier with help
November 3, 2008
It takes a whole village to raise a child. I've heard the African Children's Choir sing that phrase, and I've read it as an African proverb.
Recently, when my husband Josh and I took our Ethiopian-American toddler, Mihret, to our family's first Umoja, a weekend retreat celebrating black heritage and culture in Green Lake, I felt that phrase come to life through the actions of others.
As a transracial family, formed in 2007 when we brought our now 21-month-old daughter home from Africa, we take pride in our place in the black community. Umoja was an affirmation of that place.
Black leaders, college students and participating families from Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota came together for discussions, activities and events that helped us understand more about what it means to be black in America, and appreciate the rich diversity in the African Diaspora.
Our daughter marked a cultural milestone at Umoja by getting her hair braided for the first time. Over the past several months, we'd watched Mihret's springy curls grow and waited with anticipation to see if they'd be long enough for the hairstyle.
A black college student who had volunteered her time in Umoja's makeshift salon from morning until evening on Saturday reassured us that she could work with her, saying she had just the hairstyle in mind.
We knew it would be a challenge for Mihret to sit for her braids. They're pulled tight so they can stay in for a week or two, and we had seen older children that day bear the strain with some tears.
As Mihret squirmed and screamed in Josh's lap, the student deftly coaxed out a row of sleek braids that twisted back from her forehead and ended in little puffs.
One of the event's volunteers came over when she heard Mihret's wails. She tried to soothe her by playing an African drum she'd brought over because she'd spent time with Mihret earlier that afternoon, the two of them tapping on it and dancing.
Other children with newly braided hair encircled Mihret, telling her how pretty she looked. They made silly faces to take her mind off the hair "owies."
Mihret calmed down, and we wiped her face as she played with a spray bottle of water the student had handed her.
What we couldn't do for our daughter alone, we could do with the help of our weekend "village."
-By Kara Patterson, Post-Crescent staff writer

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Mihret throws the ball to my parents' dog - Angel. Listen for, "Angel! Ball!" and "Go get it!"

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Tagged by: http://journeytonumberthree.blogspot.com/

We’ve been tagged to come up with seven facts, but since all three of us post to the blog (Josh, Kara and Mihret) I’m going to try to divide up the factoids a bit. Let’s see how I do.

(For those of you who claim that Mihret never writes anything here, I would like to point out that while she does, they are mostly angry political screeds that we set as protected. We don’t feel her opinions on the possible presidents should be published until her arguments extend past “No way!” and “Obama, shoes on!” and, when asked who the president should be, states something besides, “Daddy do it!” Clearly, she doesn’t understand that I must be at least 35 years old to assume this position, so it’s hard to take her other stances seriously.)


Seven Totally True Facts, As Far As You Know:

1. Kara and Josh have performed music for three weddings. In all three cases, none of the people getting married had ever heard Josh play the piano or sing until the day before, or the day of, the wedding. The first time we performed for a wedding, the man officiating asked us if we had a business card – to which we replied, sure, if the couples in question were willing to fly us to Pennsylvania to perform.

2. Our first child was originally going to be adopted from Kazakhstan, a country hardly anyone had heard of until the movie “Borat” came out. We never got past the initial paperwork, as we didn’t meet one of Kazakhstan's adoption regulations.

3. Kara is an award-winning poet.

4. Josh has been a judge in two different film festivals – The Wildwood Film Festival, and Films on the Fox.

5. Mihret has, on one occasion, spoken two very full sentences back to back. They were, “I’m sitting in the water,” and “I shouldn’t throw the toys. Shouldn’t throw them.” We’ve captured these on video, but they will not be shown here as proof because they were taken in the bathtub. Rest assured, however, that my mother knows speech pathologists, and both of these phrases were authenticated by professionals.

6. Despite that fact that Josh is a journalist, columnist, award-winning screenwriter, and has been working as a professional writer for the last four years, the last writing or English class he took was as a senior in high school.

7. Kara's memories of what movies she has watched is sometimes hilariously weak. Many is the time she’s gotten halfway through a movie, turned to me, and said, “I think I’ve seen this before…” To be fair, my memory for names is terrible, and when pressed to the names of friends or family members at a moment’s notice, my brain will frequently stick the name down a mental well, allowing me access to it only after several hours have passed.

We tag:









Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cuteness and Development

A sampling of vignettes from the daily adventures of Mihret, who turns 2 on Jan. 28, 2009:

The scene: Walgreens, during what should be the kiddo’s dinner time, only we need to pick up some medications.

The problem: The folks at Walgreens have tried to substitute a generic for Kara’s meds, which is a big no-no. We have been running around doing nothing for fifteen minutes, and the wee one is bored.

Finally, we get paged.

I walk over to the medication dispensing section of the store, and wait in line. Again.

We get to the front of the line, and I start paying for the medication.

Another woman behind the counter sees that Mihret is a bit fussy, and hands her a coloring book.

Mihret: Color book!

She takes the book and starts to flip through the pages, as though she were reading People magazine.

Woman Behind the Counter: Um… how old is she?

Me: 17 months.

Woman Behind the Counter: Uh…

Me: Yes, I know. She’s very smart.


The scene: Culver’s restaurant. Mihret has gotten tired of sitting her seat because she is done eating, so we put her on the booth’s bench with us. Mihret proceeds to look over the back of the bench, where other people are eating.

A woman turns around and sees Mihret:

Woman: Hello.

Mihret: Hello.

Woman: Who are you?

Mihret: Mihret!

My mom, who is sitting across the booth from me and Kara, physically demonstrates that she is shocked by Mihret’s ability to self-identify.

My Mom: I didn’t know she could do that.

Me: I didn’t either.


Mihret has slowly been learning how to string sentences together. These can be hilariously random.

The one that cracks me up every time is when Mihret walks up to me, points at my feet, and announces: Daddy, shoes on!

Mostly because I wonder why it’s so important that she has to point it out. Who is she telling? I know my shoes are on. Perhaps she’s letting me know that she knows?


Recently, Mihret has started pulling her shoes off in the car. At first, I thought it was because of the kind of shoe she was wearing – some white patent leather things that can easily be slipped off.

But then she started doing it with her sneakers, which are pretty firmly Velcroed.

Once, while we were sitting and waiting at a stop light, I discovered that both of her shoes and socks were off – a habit I hope she gets out of before winter fully hits around here.

I reached an arm back and twitched my fingers over her feet until she giggled. “Tickle toes!” I said.

For about a week, our little one kept pulling off her shoes and socks. At which point, she would, without fail, cry out, “Tickle toes!” until I got to a light and could perform the magical act of toe tickling.


Back when walking was still a kind of new trick in Mihret’s arsenal, a friend of mine called her not-yet-two daughter over.

“Watch this,” she said. She took her little one by the hands and said, “Jump! Jump!” and her daughter dutifully leapt into the air.

“Did you see that?” said my friend. “She actually jumps with both feet off the floor. That’s a really big deal.”

“Oh,” I said. “I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks.”

Last weekend, my daughter started jumping in the air, taking both feet off the ground. She wasn’t being supported by me, or Kara, or any furniture. She was just jumping in the middle of the room.


I am starting to suspect that Kara and I might spend a little too much time on the computer.

If the computer is off, Mihret isn’t all that interested in it.

But if the computer is on, she will:

Ask to sit in the computer chair.

Tap on the keyboard, as if she were typing.

Move the mouse around, and click the buttons.

Pick up the nearby phone and say, “Hello!” into it.

I’m considering finding her some work in an office with a reasonably low Words Per Minute typing requirement. I doubt a lot will get done in that office, but it’ll be the friendliest place to work, ever.


Mihret is not the world’s greatest shopper, but she does enjoy putting groceries away.

The shopping part is rough because she can’t really do all that much in the shopping cart, and as a bonus, mommy and daddy are constantly putting new and exciting things into the basket behind her and then refusing to let her play with them.

So we try to shop fast, because at the end of the trip, we’ve pretty much devolved into the “let’s scream and see how much it echoes in the big store.”

Home is another matter, though, because we set all the bags on the floor and let Mihret take things out and hand them to us.

If she knows what something is, she’ll identify it. Which is hilarious, because we’ll be standing by a cupboard, putting something away, and suddenly hear, “Yogurt!” and have to turn around and take the yogurt from her and put it in the fridge.

The only flaw in this plan came to light when Mihret couldn’t identify a few things. Kara kept saying, “Thanks, honey,” every time Mihret would give her something. So unidentified objects became, “Honey!”


Friday, October 17, 2008

Planet Bed ™

Mihret, pre-Planet Bed era, finding out how much fun an empty laundry basket can be. (Photo taken in June 2008)

One of the things pretty much any parent will tell you is that kids need routine.

Having been a parent for a little over a year, I question this somewhat. If you’re like me, and you take your kids to day care five days a week, you’re probably all too aware of the fact that trying to maintain that same schedule on a weekend is impossible.

For example, at my day care, they put kids down for a nap at noon.

Which I guess works fine for anyone who goes to church at eight AM on Sundays, and is out by nine, but which doesn’t work at all for folks like us, who finish church at noon and really, really need feed their kiddo, rather than allowing them to fall asleep with an empty tummy.

Because what kind of parent does that?

I even question how well the bedtime routine “works,” on the whole. I imagine that if there are kids who have problems going to sleep on a regular basis, that maybe they benefit from having a regular, “Okay, first we do this, then we do that,” routine.

But our kid?

When we first brought the wee one home, this was the routine:

At 7 PM, we’d go upstairs and start the bathwater running.

We’d get her undressed, and then put the little one into the tub and give her a semi-thorough scrubbing.

Then we got her out of the bath, dried her off, lotioned her up, and put on her jammies.

One of us would give her a bottle while the other one read a story.

We would do prayers, and if Mihret was having trouble going to sleep at the time, one of us would rock her until she passed out.

Then she got a little older.

The story was the first thing to go. Mihret engages very easily – she’s a social butterfly, which can be a problem when we’re trying to get her to go to sleep when we have guests over.

So no more story, because we’d get to the end and she would be wide awake, instead of slowly moving into dreamland as she finished up her formula.

Then came the question of when to get rid of the bottle. After she was a year old, people started telling us horror stories about decayed teeth and other such maladies. But we weaned her off the bottle almost by accident. One night, she was just so tired that we put her down and she went to sleep without one.

The next night, we didn’t have formula upstairs, but we did have some water. So we gave her a couple sips of that and she went to bed.

We did the same thing the next night.

And I declared us bottle-free, and we cleaned all the dirty bottles and never used them again.

There have been other changes as well. We used to turn on a low-wattage lamp so she could have a night light, but after a few weeks she stopped going to sleep. So that went off.

Then we discovered that the hall light was sometimes enough to keep her awake with, so that goes off now, too.

And there have been other problems. There were a couple of weeks where she was waking up screaming, and we got some nice advice about that. The best guess we were offered was night terrors, we’ve gone back and forth between the problem being that or something teething related. From what I’ve read, teething may actually cause night terrors, which lines up pretty well with the issues we’ve had.

(Two teeth to go. I am so looking forward to those last two chompers poking out of her gums, so that her bottom stops getting red at the slightest provocation, and her nose stops doing the consta-run.)

Eventually, Mihret’s “routine” became a little bit less routine. We still have a bath most nights, and lotion most nights, and we always have some version of pajamas.

But she doesn’t really like to be held and/or cuddled anymore just before bedtime, and even if she wants water, she’ll only drink about an ounce and then be done. So we started handing her a sippy and letting her wander around or play with us until 7:30, depending on what mood she was in.

We still do prayers, but we say them as we’re getting into bed, and they’re usually met with a very enthusiastic “Amen!” from the tiny one.

Over the last few months, however, we’ve grown (Kara more so than I) sad about the fact that we lost the nightly bedtime story. Pretty much any teacher will tell you just how important reading to your kids is, and while we try to do it during the day, it always added a nice cap to the evening.

And then, Planet Bed was accidentally born.

The birth of Planet Bed arrived thanks to a collection of nearly-unrelated events.

Mihret has her very own laundry basket, which, from time to time, is devoid of clean laundry. On this particular evening, she stepped into the basket, sat down, and looked up at me. “Ride?”

I figured why not, and picked up the kid-filled basket and carried it through the four rooms upstairs – Mihret’s room, the bathroom, the office, and Kara’s and my bedroom.

As it happens, the bottom of the basket was sitting about mid-thigh on me, which is roughly the same height as our bed. Without really putting any thought into it, I solemnly declared, “We’re landing on Planet Bed.” Then I set the basket down, and Mihret stood up, and I plucked her from the basket.

Kara was lying on the bed, working on something-or-other, when this happened. So I asked her if she wanted to read Mihret a story. And Kara said, “Yes,” and I grabbed one of Mihret’s books which currently resides in our bedroom.

And I left the two of them alone to read.

It’s not that I don’t value family time, but I am well aware that a) Kara could use some extra Mommy-Daughter time, and b) another person in the room would just be a distraction.

When the story was over, I came in, picked up Mihret, and we did prayers as we headed back to her bedroom. And then there were good night kisses, and then it was sleepytime.

Afterwards, Kara and I pretty much agreed this was a nice idea, and that we should stick with it. Mihret was reasonably calm during storytime, and given the chance to read to her, Kara was happy to take it.

So we did it again the next night. “Get in your basket, honey. We’re going to Planet Bed.”

And then the next night. Only Kara wasn’t there, so I had to fly Mihret to Planet Bed, and then read her a book, and then fly her back. Which is tiring. She keeps getting bigger.

But last night, it all paid off. In the middle of bath time, I said, “Mihret, are we going to Planet Bed after we take our bath?”

And Mihret said, “Planet Bed!”

Once her jammies were on, she went over to the basket, and sat down, and I picked her up, and she got her ride.

And when she landed, she said, “Planet Bed!”

I can’t say that I think routines are always necessary. But they can be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Beegabug

(Kara's photo addition and caption: Mihret sports her "beegabug" onesie. "Don't Bug Me," it tells the political phone-survey peeps. Kara's shirt says, "Talk Nerdy to Me." She'd prefer to be reading instead of answering the phone. Josh, that day, was wearing a shirt that said "I Make Stuff Up." Very fitting for a fiction writer and screenwriter!)

In order to fully appreciate this story, you’ll have to know a couple of things.

Our home is not a terribly political one. We have our beliefs, and we do our best to carefully consider who we vote for. But Kara, in particular, keeps her views to herself because she’s a member of the press.
Despite the fact that Mihret can say words like “helicopter” and “new diaper, please,” so well that people who aren’t around her all that much can understand her, she is unable to say the word “ladybug” – instead, she says beegabug.

It was bath time, and as per usual, Mihret was sitting in the tub playing with her toys. This has its own entertainment value, most nights.

Lately, she’s been playing with her beegabugs a lot. There are four of them. A “mommy” beegabug, which is large and has a flat back, and three smaller beegabugs, which fit onto mommy’s back.

They can also all float around the tub on their own.

Mihret will do any number of things with the beegabugs. Sometimes she pushes them around separately, sometimes she shoves a few of them closer to the front of the tub, and a few to the back, and then yells out “beegabug” and points, which is my cue to float them all back towards her.

Last night, the phone rang during bath time. I could tell someone was asking for me, because Kara started asking who was calling. I yelled out that she should tell whoever it was that I was giving our daughter a bath.

Instead, Kara brought the phone into the bathroom.

I sighed, and wiped off my hand on a towel, and took the phone from Kara.

Me: Yes?

Phone Person: So-and-so is running for thus-and-such. Can we count on you to vote for so-and-so on Election Day?

Mihret: Beegabug!

Me: I’m sorry, but I’m still looking at the issues, and I haven’t determined who I’ll be voting for just yet.

Mihret: Beegabug!

Phone Person: (Who, by the way, sounded about fourteen. What, does so-and-so have their kid making phone calls?) So you’re undecided?

Mihret: Beegabug!

Me: Yes.

Mihret: Beegabug! Beegabug!

Phone Person: Thank you for your time, sir. Have a nice evening.

Mihret: Beegabug!

Me: (In my brain: What, you’re not going to try to convince me to vote for so-and-so? I guess you don’t like your parent very much.) You too.

Mihret: Beegabug!

Me: I’m getting the sense that I should vote for Beegabug.

Mihret: Beegabug!


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bye, Pee!

Music by: M. Patterson

Lyrics by: M. Patterson

Performed by: M. Patterson

Things to note about this video:

It was totally spontaneous. She wanted to play the toilet, and we let her, because it made us laugh.

"Bye, pee!" is one of her many new phrases. Yes, we're getting ready for toilet training. No, we're not planning on starting in the next few days, or anything, but the sooner you introduce the potty, the better.

(For the record, we have taught her other things. She can now identify an astonishing number of body parts, for example. She knows the word helicopter, and can say it so you can understand it, and most importantly knows what a helicopter is.)

Check out her playing. Although she doesn't do it for a long time, she's very much in rhythm. I'm not saying she's a great drummer, but the girl can carry a beat.

That funny squeak at the end of the video is me losing it. What can I say? My little one makes me laugh.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Volunteering as a family

Josh, Kara and Mihret at The Building for Kids children's museum in downtown Appleton during the 2007 Boo Bash, an indoor community Halloween party for kids. We volunteered through Appleton Fox Cities Kiwanis, a civic organization of which Kara's a member. Mihret, a.k.a. "Happy Feet," helped us run the beanbag toss.

Here's my latest column from The Post-Crescent (http://www.postcrescent.com/)

September 29, 2008

Kara Patterson column: Volunteer work at different level now

At a recent church rummage sale, I came away with a unique 10-cent find. I'd never seen a book like it before.

It's a flat, hardback journal from Aid Association for Lutherans that helps families document the volunteer projects they complete.

There are spaces for photos and reflections on experiences, and pages for writing down "wish lists" of what to do next.

With our 20-month-old daughter, Mihret, there are limitations on what community service we can undertake as a family. But it's important to us that she's right there with us whenever it's safe and feasible.

Last fall, we stroller-walked Appleton's Memorial Park during the National Alliance on Mental Illness' Walk, a fundraising and awareness-raising event for the local affiliate, NAMI Fox Valley.
We stopped at rest stations along the way to give a bottle or change a diaper, and were one of the last teams to finish. But we felt good that we had stepped out as a family to support NAMI.
We also brought Mihret when we ran a beanbag toss game at The Building for Kids' Boo Bash during Halloween week with the Appleton Fox Cities Kiwanis Club.

Mihret dangled from my husband Josh's chest in a Baby Bjorn carrier in her penguin costume.
She was a good icebreaker, especially for the children who saw her and laughed, "Happy Feet!"
She made people smile and often her presence started conversations, especially with parents of other little ones.

The Boo Bash evening and the NAMI Walk are the first two photos that will go in our family volunteer journal.

Both events are coming around again, and we're looking forward to making more memories.
We're also excited for the time when, a few years from now, we can ask Mihret what's on her volunteer "wish list."

-Kara Patterson

Post-Crescent staff writer

Sunday, September 21, 2008

NAMI Walks for the Mind of America 2008

Team Serenity (Josh, Kara, and Mihret in the middle) at the 2007 NAMI Walk for the Minds of America, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Fox Valley, Appleton, WI

Dear Everyone,
We are writing today to tell you about an upcoming event that we are participating in that is both very important and very exciting to us. It is NAMIWalks for the Mind of America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) signature walkathon event that is being held in Appleton, WI at Appleton Memorial Park on October 4, 2008.

Kara is bipolar, and both Kara and Josh have loved ones who live with clinical unipolar depression, bipolar disorder and other mental (biochemical) illnesses.

This year Kara became involved with NAMI as a volunteer. She received training and now is a facilitator for Five O'Clock Friday, a support and discussion group for young adults who are living with mental illness. This is the third NAMI Walk in the Fox Valley, and the third walk for the Patterson family. We're planning on making it a family tradition.

NAMI Fox Valley continues to advocate for individuals and families in our community, fighting the stigma that unfortunately still exists.

On walk day, we're going to do more walking in one morning than we usually do in a week. :)
If you'd like to visit our personal walker Web page, go to www.nami.org/namiwalks08/FOX/TeamSerenity. You can donate directly to us online, if you choose. Donating online is fast and secure, and we'll get immediate notification via e-mail of your donation.

If you would prefer, you can give or send any of us (well, not so much Mihret, it'll just go into her mouth) a check, made out to NAMI Fox Valley, and we will make sure that it gets to them.
(Also, a quick note - if we have already walked, and you think you missed the deadline... you haven't! You can donate to NAMI Fox Valley - or ask about being a volunteer there, if you're in the area - at any time.)

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the largest education, support and advocacy organization that serves the needs of all those whose lives are touched by these illnesses. This includes persons with mental illness, their families, friends, employers, the law enforcement community and policy makers. The NAMI organization is composed of approximately 1100 local affiliates, 50 state offices and a national office.

The goals of the NAMIWalks program are: to fight the stigma that surrounds mental illness, to build awareness of the fact that the mental health system in this country needs to be improved, and to raise funds for NAMI so that they can continue their mission.

NAMI is a 501(c)3 charity and any donation you make to support our participation in this event is tax deductible. NAMI has been rated by Worth magazine as among the top 100 charities "most likely to save the world" and has been given an "A" rating by The American Institute of Philanthropy for efficient and effective use of charitable dollars. Thank you in advance for your support.


Kara, Josh and Mihret Patterson

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Llama Llama Something Something

If you're a parent, you should totally look up the Llama Llama books. There are two of them, and they're both kind of wonderful. They are:

  • Llama Llama Red Pajama (Which makes no sense - that word requires an s, thank you.)
  • Llama Llama Mad At Mama

Both contain several words that rhyme with Llama, but they abuse this fact and use the words Llama drama in both books (Come on now! You'd never see Dr. Suess stooping to using the same rhyme!) and making up things like the Shop-O-Rama.

Given the very few words that rhyme with Llama, however, Kara and I thought we would lend a helping hand with the next few books:

Llama learns a valuable lesson about running with sticks in: Llama Llama Eyeball Trauma.

Llama discovers the importance of good punctuation in: Llama Llama Errant Comma.

Llama learns about the importance of government in: Llama Llama Vote Obama!

Llama goes to work for his country in: Llama Llama Finds Osama.

We're sure that the author of these fine books (Anna Dewdney) will be happy to share whatever money she makes writing and illustrating these fine bits of literature. Or at the very least will not sue the pants off of us for creating these titles.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mihret Plays the Piano

I kind of love this video because it doesn't go quite the way you'd think.

I figured she was going to just kind of bang on the piano - and she does, at first, but then she kinda-sorta starts to play it.

If you look just behind her, you can see her high chair. Because she usually has to eat dinner before Kara and I are ready to sit down to eat, I will sit and play the piano while she has dinner. It seems like she's started to pick up on that, if only a little bit.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

World of activities awaits young daughter

Mihret at about 10 months old, tickling the ivories with her Abaye

My (Kara's) latest column in The Post-Crescent: (from Aug. 27, 2008)

My 18-month-old daughter, Mihret, and one of her day care teachers love to dance together at day's end, when Mihret's waiting for me or my husband, Josh, to pick her up.

Our energetic toddler loves to make up her own moves. Recently, she figured out how to turn on the CD player to get the music started.

Her day care also offers Musikgarten, an early childhood music and movement class, as an addition to the curriculum.

Mihret loves singing, and she's gone from parroting back sounds on pitch to repeating lyrics. Josh, a Beatles fan, has gotten her to sing "backup" on car rides, echoing him on "Hey Jude."
Even though she's not yet 2, we can't help but wonder what organized activities she'll want to try as she grows.

We both had parents who signed us up early for various types of lessons, some that lasted and some that didn't.

Now we're staring at our daughter's clean slate, wondering what marks she'll make on it first.
We're already thinking of ways we can offer opportunities without racking up the costs. There's Mihret's Grandma's well-preserved violin. Her Uncle Dave can give her drum lessons, and Josh can teach her how to play our home piano. Then there's Josh's company's discount at a local dance studio.

It can be too easy to tire our child out theoretically before she's old enough to protest.

Our job as her parents is to be her first coaches, advisers and teachers. We need to encourage her when we see she may enjoy an activity.

But what she sticks with when she's older, well, we need to remember that that's got to be her move.

By Kara Patterson, Post-Crescent staff writer

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Toy Duckies Splashed Me... Seriously!

Below, Mihret emerges soaked and satisfied from a water-table battle involving a friend and some plastic ducks at her day care's summer picnic. I (as Mihret's mama) was trying to get a close-up shot without getting our new digital camera wet. This is my favorite shot of the bunch... Kara :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Kids' Music at the Patterson Household

I'm not sure if I just have an aversion to kids' music - but I didn't listen to a lot of it as a child.

I did have a few children's records, but most of them were - a little off the beaten path. And in some cases, they were just really old.

When I was younger, my dad had set up an old record player in the basement. And he provided my brother and me with a lot of records that he had owned as a kid.

Which is why, to this day, I'm deeply in love with something called The Silly Record, which still hasn't been issued on CD.

And I had my other favorites as well, I suppose, but most of them were stories instead of music. And in the rare cases where the records were musical in nature, they weren't what you would think of as "baby music" - they were Sesame Street records, and Disney Songs (I got college scholarships for my essay about listening to the Mary Poppins soundtrack as a kid) and a few Chipmunk records - which of course took popular songs of the day and gave them really high voices.

(To this day, every time I hear Arthur's Theme, in my head I hear Alvin saying: "Fall in love? Ha! I can think of a hundred things better than falling in love. Like Pac-Man, for instance.")

And so, when it comes time to play music for the kiddo... there are almost no children's CDs getting played in the house.

I would wonder whether this warps my kid or not, but I have a lot of fond memories of being very little, and having my dad play Steve Miller's Greatest Hits, and The Beatles, and any other record he felt like playing.

And so I do the same for my own kid.

Mostly, I've found she likes a loud, thumpy beat, because it says "dancin' time!" to her.

The music we've listened to the most in the last few months:

The Beatles: Number 1s

This is something of a tribute to my own dad, because I grew up hearing these on the stereo, probably when I was as young as Mihret.

Hey Jude is a big favorite, and we sometimes sing the song to Mihret. Often, she kinda-sorta sings with us, echoing the last word or two that we sing.

Except the one time that I swear, and Kara can verify this, that she sang "Remember, to let her in to your heart..." unprompted.

Aqua: Aquarium

Yes, they are the Barbie Girl people. No, we don't listen to that song. We prefer Happy Boys and Happy Girls. Which is how Mihret learned the word happy. Can your eighteen-month-old say happy?

The New Power Generation: New Power Soul

It's tough finding a Prince album with very few bad words and a lot of thumping on it. This is one of them, though we skip some songs.

They Might Be Giants: No

Yes, this is the one kid's record we do, but there are tracks on there that get old after a while. Real old. "Violin" is brutal after a while.

But Where Do They Make Balloons is usually good for a listen or three.

Bobby Brown: Don't Be Cruel

'S loud and thumpy, for the most part.

Soul Coughing: Irresistible Bliss

It's got a great boom-THUMP, boom-boom-THUMP opening. Though, strangely, the song Mihret likes to dance to most is White Girl. Go figure.

Ethiopian Music

We have a couple of CDs worth, and we enjoy putting them on and listening to them, but it's hard to listen to something for more than a few days when you don't know what the words are.

Aimee Mann: Smilers

For some reason, Mihret likes the song Freeway, even though it's pretty mid-tempo.

Michael Jackson: Greatest Hits

We learned that Mihret understood the concept of rhythm when we put on Billie Jean and she started bopping along with it - at six months old.

Other things that have gotten a spin here and there include the African Children's Choir, The Lion King, Julia Nunes' Left Right Wrong, Stereo MCs.

But my dad seems to have gotten it right - The Beatles made the only CD where, at the end of every song, Mihret yells out "Again!"


Monday, August 18, 2008

The Columns

Even before we started the blog, Kara started writing for the Post-Crescent, covering the little corners of raising Mihret.

For a long time, we kept saying, "Oh, we'll get the columns up on the blog," and then we'd forget.

But now!

Of course, the problem becomes, after all these months, do we stick all the columns together? Or do we put them where they belong, chronologically?

And if we do that, how do people find them?

This is how.

Kara's name appears at the bottom of each column, but here's the real tip-off that she wrote them, and not me.

Correct spelling.

Correct grammar.

Reasonably sized.

Take it away, Kara:

September 12, 2007:


October 29, 2007:


December 10, 2007


January 21, 2008:


March 4, 2008:


April 15, 2008:


May 27, 2008:


July 9, 2008:


Thursday, August 14, 2008

So Tired

One of the things that fills me with pride in my kid is her ability to tell me what she wants.

I kind of doubt she's got everything sussed out at 100%, given that she has a limited number of words, but with a little prompting she does okay.

So, for example, if I'm feeding her dinner, and she requires additional whatever, she can now say, cheese, fruit, milk, water, cracker, or pasta.

I'm not saying that's all we ever feed her, but those are the big staples.

She also knows how to ask for a cookie. Which is something she's VERY enthusiastic about, even after she has also let me know that she's "Done!"

Lately, however, we've been having some nighttime trouble.

As usual, I'm forced to concede that on the whole, our nightly issues aren't that bad. My mother, in particular, loves to remind me that my brother didn't sleep through the night until he was three years old.

But Mihret has mostly slept through the night, since about three days after we brought her home.

Things have changed, lately.

The problem is not that Mihret wakes up. The problem is that she wakes up and screams in a high piercing fashion that doesn't say "I'm sad," but rather, "I think something in my room is on fire!"

So we run to her room, and there she is, either standing up or lying on her tummy, screaming her little lungs out. And here's the strange bit:

If we try to put her on her back, and give her back her blanky, she screams and thrashes and makes every attempt to inform us that NO, THIS WILL NOT DO SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG.

But if we pick her up for, oh, say, ten seconds, she passes out in our arms, and allows herself to be lowered back to the mattress for sleepy-time.

What's bothering Kara and I is that we can't figure out the cause of the distress. For all intents and purposes, things seem to be par for the course in our kid's world.

The theories we've tossed around include:

1. Teeth. She's getting at least three, and maybe four of them right now. Previous teeth have come with no troubles, but these are the big bads. On the other hand, she has no problem making it through the day without Tylenol, so unless nighttime growth is just that much more awful, this probably isn't it.

Also, we've done nights with Tylenol, and nights without, and she seems to wake up either way.

2. She's cold. Our house is 85 years old, and like most beings that make it to that age, it has circulation troubles. (That's an awesome bit of writing right there. Please be impressed, readers!) Winter isn't awful, as most of our heat rises and we keep fairly warm.

But summer is a problem, because our A/C isn't all that well distributed upstairs. The baby's room is the first on the pipe, so it gets the most A/C. Then the bathroom (because who doesn't love an icy-cold bathroom?), then the office, then our bedroom.

So while Kara and I roast a little bit, the baby's room has actually caused me to shiver, even while ensconced in my fluffy, fluffy robe.

On a couple of nights, I've noticed that Mihret seems unusually chilly on he exposed skin, and popped her into wintertime jammies. Which seems to have fixed things. But, of course, some nights I haven't done that, and she has still fallen back into a restful slumber.

Also, according to some book or another, the "best" temperature to keep the house at for restful sleep is 68 degrees. So maybe she's too warm?

No idea.

3. Snot problems. This is kinda related to teeth, but maybe not, as I've seen other kids with runny noses at Mihret's day care. Which might have been caused by teeth. Or allergies. Or tiny angry pixies with a little dust to burn off, who have decided that in order to attract our attention, they're going to stuff the dust up the noses of toddlers, encouraging them to awaken, screaming.

Parenting isn't an exact science, ya know?

Anyway, it seems that having too much gunk in their nasal passages can cause children to have something called Night Terrors, which sounds like a great title for a Twilight Zone-style TV show, but in actuality mostly causes kids to wake up screaming.

I should point out that most of the loss of sleep in the household is on my end. I don't fault Kara or Mihret for this. I assume Mihret has a reason for screaming, and that it's a good one as far as her 18-month-old brain can figure.

But even if her screams persist for a full minute, and she falls asleep on my shoulder a minute later, she's out 5 minutes of sleep, tops.

Kara is the same way, because she has powerful sleeping abilities that I have to remind her to use only for good.

This sounds like a joke, but consider:
Kara has fallen asleep during a ten-minute drive across town.

She falls asleep every Sunday on the way back from church while Mihret sleeps in the back seat. (I should add that I do the driving, which, I think we'll all agree, is a Good Thing.)

Kara has sat up in bed when I'm getting dressed for work, asked me a question, gotten an answer, and then fallen asleep while I'm still getting dressed. You might claim this is impossible, but she starts to snore. No lie.

But then there's me, who, after getting up and doing whatever must be done to get the baby to do some of that lying-down-not-screaming thing I prefer at night, have to sit there, kinda-sorta awake, for as long as it takes me to stop grinding my teeth, waiting to hear what appear to be shrieks of pain, but are actually not, coming from the other room.

(The teeth-grinding thing is totally normal for newer parents, according to my doctor. Yes, he really told me that, and yes I really did ask.)

One could argue, I guess, that this is all just part of the process of being a parent, but I gotta say, I'm not jumping up and down about it.

I can't. I'm too tired.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Parenting: That Which Is Unspoken

I did a lot to prepare me for being a parent.

I'd wager that I probably did more than 99% of the folks in the United States gearing up to have a baby thrust into my arms like a tiny bundle of easily shattered crystal with the only words screamed at me while it was happening being, "This is yours to take care of for the next 18 years! Don't mess it up!"

Not that it went down that way.

But I was prepared. We had a bunch of stuff, you know? All the stuff that everyone says you need, and some stuff that everyone said we would need but that we did not actually need, which everyone said, "Oh, yeah, you don't really need that," once we had thrown away our money on said item.

And we took classes. We took classes on adoption, and parenting, and despite the fact that I had changed many diapers in my life and my child was going to be too old to swaddle, we took a parenting class that talked about swaddling and diaper-changing.

There was also a bit about cramming a thermometer into your kid if they had a fever.

Lucky us, we haven't had to do that yet.

The problem with these classes is that they mostly cover the "Your Baby is an Immobile Lump" phase of parenting. Which is nice, but kinda useless after a while.

The thing about parenting a child during the lump phase is that it's pretty simple. They're small and easily controlled, and you could set them on the floor, and as long as all sharp objects and firearms are at least a foot away from the child, they will come to no harm.

But then they learn to move, and they want to move all the time.

And they want to move at unexpected times, and in unexpected ways.

Diaper time is the worst of it.

It starts off easy, because they can't move. They might struggle, and sometimes there's the surprise fountain effect, but if you're fast on the draw with the new diaper, this can be controlled most of the time.

Then they learn to roll over, so you gotta kinda lean on the kid to keep them flat while you deal with the results of their bodily functions.

But then... ugh. The thing that no parent will tell you about, that no one will admit to you until you're a parent, and you find yourself crying to to skies, "Why, why, why would you do that?"

I am speaking, of course, about...

... how to put this delicately...

... about...


... about when your kid learns to operate their hands. And there's bodily waste. And you're trying to change the diaper.

And your kid tries to check out the "diaper area."

There are a number of horrors there, all of which are the kind of thing that can give you fits.

First, yeah, there's the poo, which no one really wants to be involved in. But anyone who wants to bring a small being into their life accepts pretty early on that there's going to be a lot of wiping and cleaning and A and D-ing in their future.

Then, naturally, there's the squirming. Which is easy to control at first, but as your kid gets bigger there's more of them to squirm, which makes it harder to hold them down, which makes it harder to keep the surface beneath them from becoming, shall we say, soiled.

And then the kid tries to flip over, or stand up, while covered in the remains of their food from 24 hours ago.

Finally, there are the hands - the tiny little lightning-fast hands, the little hands that wait for the moment, the singular moment when the diaper is off and you're trying to grab the wipes, and BAM, faster than any pickpocket they've got their hands racing to check out the food remnants they're coated in.

It's awful.

And what do you do? Do you yell at the kid? Do you grab their hands away, yelling out words like "yucky" and "no" and "look, little one, that's just not right?"

It's a mystery, really.

And you know what else? No one tells you about the sand.

When kids are little, they like to put things in their mouth. There's all sorts of science involved, stuff about how the mouth is how they best experience things, and nerve endings and such, but, yeah, it doesn't really matter, because the problem is there are just things that shouldn't go in anyone's mouth.

Sand is the perfect for instance.

Sand isn't all that dangerous, really. It's dirt, yeah, but dirt that exists away from toxic waste is generally pretty clean and, you know, earthy.

The problem isn't on the mouth end. The problem is, the sand has to come out.

There's a joke that most people make, when they get their hands on toilet paper that's not as soft as the stuff they use at home.

People say it all the time - "It was like wiping with sandpaper."

The thing is, though, that the digestive process? Can make this a total possibility with small children. They empty out, you go to wipe, and there's this, you know, grit. And if we're all honest with ourselves, when we picture taking an actual piece of sandpaper to our lower regions, we all flinch a little.

And yet, there's nothing you can do.

I suppose you could always strip your kid to nothing, stick 'em on the lawn, and spray the grit off with a hose. But I don't think they would enjoy that either.

In my year as a parent, I've probably changed 1,000 diapers. I've cleaned and scrubbed and washed and medicated and, in general, managed to keep my kid healthy and happy and free from long-term suffering in the diaper area.

And so, so I think it's time she met me halfway and stopped eating sand. At the very least, it will help me to help her.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

One Year

First plane experience in Aug. 2007 (below) and second in July 2008 (top). Helpful hint for fellow travelers with wee ones ... the Baby Bjorn works wonders for in-lap babies and toddlers during long (or short) flights. Mihret can still fit in hers!
Back in the 70s, when international adoption was a little different, it was easy to figure out what your Gotcha Day was.

After all, back then, you'd get a call, and go to an airport, and someone there would hand you your child and that would be it. Gotcha Day!

But I remember, very vividly, one of the other parents in Ethiopia turning to everyone at the breakfast table, and remarking, "So... what are YOU guys using as your gotcha day?"

None of us knew.

Our timeline was like this:

On the 26th of July, Kara and I got on a plane.

On the 28th of July, Kara and I landed in Ethiopia and met our daughter.

On the 1st of August, there was a little ceremony and our children were handed over to us permanently. Rather than going back to the guest house childless, we all returned with a small person who was ours forever.

On the 4th of August, we all landed back home in the States.

I suppose, technically, that the 1st of August is the "right" day, but you could make a case for any day in that long wonderful week.

Much like this time last year, we spent a lot of time in airports just recently. Kara's side of the family has an annual reunion, and while we opt to drive there (there being Pennsylvania) most years, this time around we decided to take some of our hard-earned money and scarce vacation time and combine them in some way.

And so it was that while last year found us on plane on July 26th, this year that same day found us at the family reunion we missed last year.

It was an amazing day, and an amazing chance to show off our child, who will have been in our care a year on Friday, August 1st. She was shy, yes, but smart and smiling and wonderful, too.

She played catch with Papa.

She went for a walk with Nona.

And in general she was just her wonderful self.

The next day, we were all on a plane home again.

In a lot of ways, the flight home on the 27th of July didn't mirror our trip home last year. The trip back from Ethiopia was long and exhausting, with many hours in the air and a small child who barely knew us. This time we had two short flights, each about an hour, and we've been her parents for months.

And she was, of course, so different then. She had a lot of hair for her age at the time, but a year later her curls stretch out to nearly six inches worth of hair. She walks and talks and in general is just more like a real live adult person every day now.

Whereas then she was just a tiny thing that couldn't take care of herself at all.

It was our Lifebook DVD, and the second flight that did me in on Sunday. Just a day shy of a year, we watched ourselves meet our little girl for the very first time, and there, on the screen, I was crying. I was so happy.

And I still am. So I cried again.

As our second plane headed for the sky on Sunday, Mihret and I looked down over the city below us. Kara sat quietly on my right.

In the moment, I realized that in one important way, our trip home from vacation and our trip home from Ethiopia were exactly the same.

We were going home.

It's been a long year - with new jobs, family leave, medical problems, and friends and family all getting older - and some of them who aren't with us any more.

As I sat in my seat I felt my eyes well up - and then spill over.

The flight wore on, and Mihret played peek with us, and played with her Lion King doll, and read a book, and told us that bunnies go "Hop, hop!" And I eventually got myself under control.

We've been a family a whole year. What could be more wonderful.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008


After making jokes about looking at the What to Expect: The Toddler Years book in order to feel superior to other parents, I realized last week that it probably wouldn't hurt to take a peek at our copy and see if there was anything we should talk to the doctor about when we visit her in a couple weeks.

So I turned to the 18 month chapter, which I was a little early for, but, you know, close enough. Mihret will be 18 months old on the 28th, after all.

Mihret could do everything on the list, from the "Your child MUST be able to do this, or you should call the doctor," to the "Your child MAY EVEN be able to do..." listing the things that only the most precocious child manages by 18 months.

So I checked month 19. She could do all that as well.

And then I checked month 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24.

She can do all of it. And more.

The big one is words and pictures. Apparently, being able to look at a picture and tell you what it is? Is a very big deal. A huge one.

One so "hard" to do that your kid should be able to look at two pictures, by the age of two, and be able to tell you what they are.

Things Mihret can see in pictures and tell us what they are right now: Doggy, Kitty, Elephant (Ellie!), Nona, Papa, Monkey, Elmo. That's stuff I can just name off the top of my head.

Oh - and all her classmates at school, and her teachers.

She's supposed to be able to use, say, 75 words by age two. She knows more than 100.

She's supposed to be able to use two-word phrases by the time she's two. In fact, that isn't even on the list for a couple more months.

Phrases she can already use: Help please, Down please, More milk, (Foodstuff) please. Also, Thank you, and Bless you, which she says when we sneeze.

Physically, she can run, throw a ball, and KICK a ball. And she's got amazing fine motor control.

I asked my mom, who specializes in development about this - did she know that my 18-month-old is basically two?

Yeah, she knew.

There's an old adage about your parents wishing that you had a kid "just like you" when you grow up, and it looks like it's actually happened.

And what's kind of scary about it is, I didn't realize it was a big deal. Which is exactly what happened to both my parents and Kara's parents.

In my case, it happened like this:

My mom wanted to get me into preschool, but I'm a June baby, which always throws that kind of thing off. Plus, boys are, I guess, dumber than girls, so they usually try to hold us June kids back for an extra year.

This was, more or less, what the teacher at the preschool was trying to explain to my mother, when I turned to my mom and said, "Look mom, there are two o's in the word school."

So the preschool took me.

I have no idea if Mihret is going to be an early reader, or some kind of sports star, or if she's even going to keep ahead of the curve. At some point, she might just become a child completely average and normal for her age.

We're okay with that.

But if she does end up as a famous dancer, a respected engineer, or a brilliant athlete, I guess I won't be able to say I never saw it coming.