We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Sipping tea in Ethiopia

I drink a lot of tea, usually black tea with milk, and Bug and Giggle always want sips. They often request and make their own versions, anything from warm water with honey to milk and sugar and probably a dozen other concoctions they have neglected to share with us.

When Bug and I were in Ethiopia in December, we’d eat breakfast each day at the hotel, usually sharing a meal. Each morning I’d order tea, which came with lots of sugar and rarely milk. Even with milk, it still needed some sugar. Not surprisingly, Bug really liked it. So he wanted his own. I eventually obliged. He enjoyed the ritual of adding the sugar and stirring the tea as much as actually drinking it: he’d usually stop after a few sips and I’d finish his tea and mine.

At lunch I’d often order a coke, and soon Bug decided he wanted a soda as well. I’m not a big fan of giving my kids soda, but it was a special trip, we were pretty active, and I didn’t want to keep fighting him… so I gave in. As parents, Mr. Four is usually a bit stricter than I am, but I tend to be more concerned about their nutrition, so I was a bit chagrined to think I’d get home with a kid demanding tea for breakfast and Fanta for lunch.

But you know what? It didn’t happen. At all. Bug hasn’t even asked. I suspect he returned to his regularly routines so quickly he forgot about the good life of tea and soda.

I haven’t blogged much about Ethiopia, but I will do more eventually. In the meantime, some photos.

A farmer at the market in Bahir Dar gathers his teff, the grain in injera.

Beans and grains for sale at the market in Bahir Dar.


24 March 2009 Posted by | bug, ethiopia, food, giggle, parenting, tourism | 7 Comments

Roses and thorns

We Fours have a new tradition-in-the-making, inspired by the Obama family.

A few weeks ago, listening to Slate’s Political Gabfest podcast, I learned that each night the Obamas individually share a rose, something good, and a thorn, something difficult, from their day. (For more information, the Washington Post mentioned it here.)

Mr. Four, Bug, Giggle, and I have dinner together at home usually at least four nights a week, and often more (though sometimes we eat dinner at our club on the weekends). But the boys often acted silly through much of dinner, and while I tried to engage the boys about their day at school, I wasn’t always successful.

But now we’ve started our own roses and thorns, and it’s going great. In fact, the boys remember it at dinner before I do. Bug even wanted to talk roses and thorns at breakfast this morning.

It’s a great way to have some structured conversation, and I’m learning a lot more about what the boys are up to at school. Thorns often focus on difficulty with a friend. (In Bug’s renditions, usually his entire school is in time out except for him and his best buddy B.)

Mr. Four and I usually talk about work stuff, and I think this could be a good way for the boys to learn more about adult life.

And, I realized as I writing this, the boys’ dinner table behavior is much better now that they have something to talk about and share.

I’ve been wanting us to have some family traditions, and so far this is a great one.

20 March 2009 Posted by | bug, family, giggle, in the news, our life in egypt, parenting, school | 3 Comments

The Parenting Hall of Shame

Sometimes I can’t believe a licensed social worker actually approved Mr. Four and me to be parents. Not only one, but twice!

I nearly did a backflip yesterday when Giggle came home from school missing one of his top two teeth. This is his fourth, including one that fell out just a few weeks ago.


He was so excited for the tooth fairy to come as he’s been saving to buy Hot Wheels cars. The tooth fairy would contribute a good chunk of the cost of a new one.

But last night tooth fairy one and two went to bed without remembering they had teeth waiting for them. Giggle was awfully disappointed this morning.

But it turns out the tooth fairy comes during the school day as well. Phew.

12 March 2009 Posted by | parenting | 5 Comments

Around the web

I have about three big posts brewing, but until I have time to finish them up, I did want to share some interesting things I’ve read over the past few days.

Michael Slackman of the New York Times has an article today about noise in Cairo. Don your ear mufflers, and read A City Where You Can’t Hear Yourself Scream.

A young Egyptian woman named Pakinam wrote a powerful blog entry on her decision to wear hijab: To Veil or Not to Veil.

Jae Ran at the great blog Harlow’s Monkey gives some great advice to parents on how we can be allies to our transracially adopted kids.

14 April 2008 Posted by | adoption, family, in the news, our life in egypt, parenting, race | Comments Off on Around the web

A lullaby of Skittles

What’s it take to get my kids to go to sleep on their own at night, without mommy and daddy right there with them?

The promise of pancakes and two skittles for breakfast.

We’re on our second night of candy-inducing sleep, and it’s not perfect. Lights out leads to lots of chattering and giggling and, so far, a late night round of bathroom visits before actual sleep commences. And Mr. Four had to go in a few times with stern no-candy warnings.

But, a couple of skittles for breakfast is a small trade-off for more evening time for Mr. Four and me, and, I hope, some bonding time for the boys.

Honestly, why didn’t we think of this sooner?

24 October 2007 Posted by | bug, giggle, parenting | 2 Comments

The naming dilemma

For those new to adoption, please know that naming takes on EPIC proportions in adoption-land. Adoptive parents talk about claiming the child through naming (why not just stick a flag in the kid?). Other adoptive parents want to keep a name from the first family or at least the first culture. Et cetera, et cetera.

I obsessed over names with both boys. Mr. Four sure loved that!

So here’s our naming story and my current heartache. You might want to sit down and grab a piece of paper to follow all this.

Bug’s first name is an Ethiopian name from his first family. Bug’s middle name is a family name from my family. His last name is Mr. Four’s last name. So he has a name from all his families. And it’s perfect, just like him! (You may wrinkle your nose in disgust now… or, alternatively, nod your head in agreement.)

After Bug’s adoption, Mr. Four and I decided that if we had another child, that child would have my last name. (Actually, it was more like I suggested this and Mr. Four agreed since at the time he thought Bug would be an only child. Heh.)

Originally I wanted to hyphenate Bug’s last name but the poor kid has enough to deal with in life without having a last name like Smiggledeaux-Turphenteras.

Giggle’s Ethiopian name was Giggle (well, as much as it’s his name anywhere). We kept it because it seemed sucky to change the name of a kid who knew his name perfectly well and whose name suits him perfectly well. In fact, he already knew how to spell it (though his teacher in Addis taught him a different spelling than the legal English spelling, so he is re-learning how to spell his name).

Giggle’s middle name is a family name from my family. And his last name is Mr. Four’s last name. Same pattern as Bug.

So what did happen? I totally caved! Under pressure from myself!

Once we decided to move to Egypt, I got this idea that life here would be more complicated if Giggle didn’t have Mr. Four’s last name. What if someone suspected these children who look nothing like us didn’t belong with us? What if someone thought my adopted children were illegitimate?! Is that even possible? (Giggle was born right around when Mr. Four and I married. So he’s like my out-of-wedlock illegitimate adopted kid. Or something.)

So I caved.

End of story, right? Wrong! Because Giggle is old enough to have an opinion. And the first time he heard his new last name (I’m so proud of his writing skills that I asked him to sign his passport), he informed me right away that I was wrong. He knew his name. It was Giggle HisEthiopianFather’sFirstName, as it should be.

Giggle finally came around to his middle name when he discovered it was also my middle name. But now he’s decided that his last name should be my last name! I swear he did this with absolutely no prompting from me.

So now this wonderful little boy is insisting that his last name is my last name. When really it’s Mr. Four’s last name. When really I’d love for it to be my last name.

We’re not going to change it, again. But I wonder if I should have stuck to my guns. Maybe with the next kid? (Ha, gotcha Mr. Four!)

7 September 2007 Posted by | adoption, bug, giggle, parenting | 3 Comments

Back to work…

I still have another week until my regular work schedule begins, but tomorrow, Mr. Four and I will start orientation. He’ll attend one day, and I the rest of the week.

It’s been great to have these two weeks here to settle in, especially after the spring and fall, filled with so much unknown. We decided to adopt Giggle in March and had some frantic weeks of paper chasing after that, and it was around that time that we first learned of the possibility of moving to Cairo, never realizing how snug the timing would be with both Giggle’s homecoming and our move.

Then we spent much of May wondering about the job here as well as Giggle’s adoption hearing, which seemed to take longer all the time. Mr. Four called me one day in May to say I had a call from Cairo. “You mean from the adoption agency?” No, from Cairo. It was all very complicated.

Things started calming down and ramping up simultaneously in early July, when Giggle and I arrived in the US from Ethiopia. We had a few intense weeks at first, when he seemed to experience every emotion to the extreme. Still, it was good to be together, finally.

But those last few weeks in our house in the US were overwhelming, as we prepared our shipment with its detailed inventory list, packed up the rest of the house, and stuffed our suitcases. In the midst of this there were house showings and tantrums and lots of shopping trips (often all at the same time!).

So here we are. And finding our way around a new town and culture feels a lot less overwhelming than what we experienced earlier this summer, perhaps because instead getting ready for something, we are living our lives.

Tomorrow begins a new routine for us all. Giggle has gone to school a few days, but I’ve been home in the afternoons after school. Soon I’ll be away from the house even when he gets home, and Mr. Four will be the primary caregiver for the boys. Bug is used to this arrangement, though I can’t say any of us love it. Not that I’d rather have Mr. Four out of the house all day–I just wish we could all have more time together.

Pleasantly added into the mix is our new housekeeper/nanny, a lovely young Ethiopian woman who was highly recommended by her current employer, an expat leaving the country. Hana starts in a week. Giggle wasn’t sure what to make of her til he heard the magic word: injera. She’ll speak Amharic to the boys and cook Ethiopian food, in addition to cleaning the house and sometimes watching the boys in the afternoons.

There are a few times that I’ve wondered if we have enough work here for a housekeeper. Then other times I’m worried part-time won’t be enough!

Of course, all this depends on gainful employment, which depends on the retreat of the bacteria currently invading my legs. The hypochondriac in me is wondering if I have the antiobiotic-resistant strain of something-or-other, which will require successive doses of IV drips while in quarantine. I told Mr. Four that if I languish in a hospital, he should send me to the medical center at my beloved alma mater, where at least I could wile away the days listening to the band practice the school’s fight song.

Let’s hope I stay here, if only so this blog will be more interesting for all of us.

25 August 2007 Posted by | getting there, giggle, our life in egypt, parenting | 5 Comments

Why Egypt?

I’ve been hearing this question a lot lately. The biggest part of the answer isn’t terribly interesting: an interesting job in my field became available there, and the move seemed like a viable path for me professionally and for our family financially.

But of course there’s much more than that. There’s my parents’ year-long residence in a North African country before I was born, ever apparent as I played on the camel saddle in our living room. There’s a desire to travel but a lack of funds to do it. There’s a lifelong interest in living abroad.

But really there are two wonderful little boys. And moving to Cairo opens up some doors for us and them: because of our employer-supplied housing and the cost of living, Mr. Four won’t be working, at least not right away, so we’ll have a parent at home full-time, something we can’t afford in our charming yet pricey college town.

More than money, though, is the opportunity for my sons, born in Ethiopia and now US citizens, to have a perspective beyond that of being (relatively) wealthy Americans. My kids are American. That part will come easily enough to them. But I want them also to feel a connection to Ethiopia and Africa and life beyond the provincialism of the United States. From Egypt, it’s a pretty short flight to Ethiopia and much of sub-Saharan Africa, where I hope we’ll travel soon.

Finally, to answer the original question: isn’t it obvious? We’re talking about Egypt, the home of the Pharoahs and Pyramids. When I saw the job listing and mentioned Cairo to Mr. Four, his eyes twinkled. “Sure,” he said. “Go for it.” And, so, here we go.

10 August 2007 Posted by | bug, getting there, giggle, our life in egypt, parenting | 4 Comments

Anti-Racist Parent Meme

Carmen at Anti-Racist Parent offered up the following meme, which I’ve edited here for your reading pleasure:

 1. I am:
French/French Canadian, Irish, Polish, and German. But I identify more as a native New Englander. 

2. My kids are:
Ethiopian (Oromo, we think, and Hadiya) and American.

3. I first started thinking more about race, culture, and identity when:
In fifth grade when one of my good girl friends was first generation American, with parents from China.

4. People think my name is:
French. And they’re right! But they really don’t know what to do with Mr. Four’s last name. And it’ll seem particularly odd on my kids.

5. The family tradition I most want to pass on is:
A love for reading.

6. The family tradition I least want to pass on is:
Siblings who don’t stay close into adulthood. This goes back a generation or two on both sides of my family. And I really want my boys to look out for each other even when we’re no longer here to bring them together.

7. My child’s first word in English was:
Bug’s first English words were “water” and our dog’s name. We weren’t around to hear Giggle’s.  

8. My child’s first non-English word was:
Bug knew a few sounds in Amharic when we met him, but not really any words. So perhaps “shinte” it is, as learned from Giggle. Shinte means pee in Amharic.

9. The non-English word/phrase most used in my home is:
Ishi. It means “okay” in Amharic. Often used as a question.  The real answer to this is “shinte.” Even Bug uses it. Or perhaps “baca,” which means enough or finished, as in “baca orange juice” (the orange juice is all gone) or “baca water” (turn off the water before you flood the bathroom) or “baca TV” (turn off the TV before your brain rots).

10. One thing Two things I love about being a parent is are:
Laughing hysterically with my kids on a daily basis. Watching them together.

11. One thing I hate about being a parent is:
Never going to movies.

12. To me, being an anti-racist parent means:
Dealing with my own issues and being brave enough to deal with others’, to make the world a little bit easier for my kids and, more importantly, to start remedying some of the wrongs.

31 July 2007 Posted by | giggle, parenting, race | 4 Comments