Monday, September 26, 2011

making it official

This will be a big weekend for our little boy: on Friday we will appear before a judge to complete the readoption process, and on Sunday at church Z will be baptized! I didn't intentionally schedule these two events to coincide with each other, but I am so glad it worked out this way because seeing them side by side on the calendar allowed me recognize the connection between them and the significance they share.

The readoption represents an official recognition of something that has been a reality for us since November 15, 2010: Z is our son. Though we have called him Z since shortly after he came home, it will now be part of his legal name.* It is gratifying to know that what has been true in our hearts for almost a year will now be legitimized by the government of our country.

If the readoption represents a legal recognition of Z's place in our family, his baptism will be, in part, a spiritual parallel of this action. As Presbyterians we do not view baptism as a saving act, but rather an outward expression of an inward reality and a visible sign of God's covenant with his people. In his baptism we are affirming God's truth about Z and recognizing his place, not only in our family, but in the family of God.

And so in the span of one weekend two significant entities will make pronouncements over our child. Though they are separate and distinct from each other, their messages ring with the same truth: You have a name, you have a family, you have a home, you belong. Thanks be to God.

*We are keeping his given Ethiopian name as his first name and the name we chose (which is what he is called most of the time) will be his middle name. All children adopted from Ethiopia are automatically given a legal name that consists of their given Ethiopian first name followed by their adoptive father's first name and their adoptive family surname. This is the name on all their legal documentation and remains their legal name unless you go through a readoption or legal name change process.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


(oil on canvas), by Bryan Haynes

Yesterday Z lay in his crib at naptime and sang songs, told stories, and had a grand old time not sleeping. I gave up after an hour and went in to him. Nothing seemed to be wrong - clean diaper, noise machine on, and comfort items within reach - so I just held him quietly in the rocker and cuddled. I pressed my lips to his sweet head, smelled his coconut conditioner, and thanked God for this precious child.

Just as his breathing started to slow and I thought he might actually fall asleep after all, I heard D get out of bed. Now let me tell you that my dear darling D may have just turned 4, but the kid walks like a 300 pound gorilla.

Boom. D jumped to the floor. Z's eyes fluttered open.

Thump, thump, thump, thump. D lumbered down the hallway. Z shifted in my arms.

D shout-whispered from the doorway to Z's room. I want to get up now!

I tried nodding and gesturing but that induced more shout-whispers so I finally whispered back, OK hon, go read books in the living room.

Thump, thump, thud. D dropped a book on the hardwood.

Squeak, rustle, squeak. D made himself comfortable on the noisy leather couch, right in Z's line of sight.


A wave of frustration swelled and churned. Why didn't Z nap in his crib like he usually does? Why did D have to be so loud at just the wrong moment? Why don't my kids just do what I want them to do when I want them to do it? But right before my grumbling grew into a full-blown whine-fest, the Holy Spirit broke through and pulled me up short with a simple truth: love yields.

What does this mean? It means that if we are going to live together in love, D is going to wake Z up from his nap too early, and Z is going to color on N's field trip permission slip, and N is going to eat the last of D's favorite cereal, and Mommy is going to forget to bring a lollipop to Supercuts even though she promised, and Daddy is going to accidentally recycle D's preschool registration form... and you know what? It's OK. Good, even. Because in those moments we are given the opportunity to yield to each other, to give grace to each other, to express love for each other in the small community that is our family.

Having three young boys means life is messy, but I am learning to see the mess differently. I want to teach my children that living in community means learning to yield to one another in the messiness. I'm pretty sure this won't be as simple as saying, "Gee N, isn't it great that D wrecked your Lego castle? Now you can show him love by responding with grace!" To be honest, I don't really know what this looks like exactly. But I'm told that kids learn more from watching than listening, so I guess I'll start by trying to actually do it, God helping me.

By the way, yesterday? Z totally fell asleep anyway, despite his brothers thumps, booms, and thuds. Ohhhh, so thankful.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

guest post

I had the privilege of writing a guest post for the YWAM Ethiopia blog today. Click over and check it out:

That We Might Be Adopted: Needing Each Other

Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

cooking ethiopian

Today is New Year's Day in Ethiopia: Melkem Addis Amet! In honor of the holiday, I'm sharing some of our experiences in cooking traditional Ethiopian food.

One of my favorite memories from Z's first week home is of watching him devour a whole plate of shiro wat and injera (thanks again for bringing it over, Melissa & Nathan!). He was not a great eater in those first days (or weeks or months), but Ethiopian food was almost always a big hit with him. Seeing him swipe a piece of injera across his plate always made me smile twice over: once for the joy of a conflict-free meal and again for the delightful and distinctly Ethiopian flick of the wrist Z used to scoop up his food.

For the first few months our culinary needs were met by a sweet and generous Ethiopian friend of mine and the occasional trip to Tagla Cafe. But recently I've gotten brave and tried my hand at making a few simple dishes. I've heard injera is pretty tricky to make (you have to get the fermentation just right or its a gloppy mess), so I just buy it at an Ethiopian market, along with spices, shiro, and lentils. Here are the recipes for the dishes I have tried so far, along with a few notes about each:

Crock-Pot Doro Wat
Recipe adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking

1 can diced tomatoes
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
3 large onions, diced
2 tablespoons berbere (traditional Ethiopian spice)
2 cups water
8 hard boiled eggs, peeled

Add all ingredients except the boiled eggs to a 6 quart crock pot in the order listed above. Cook 7-8 hours on low, adding eggs for last 15 minutes.

I had chicken breasts on hand, so I used those instead of chicken thighs, but I wouldn't do that next time because they are not as tender. I used a little bit less water than the recipe calls for because I wanted to serve it over injera, not in a bowl, so I didn't want it to be too soupy. I also shredded the chicken, but you probably wouldn't need to do that if you used thighs. The berbere gives this dish an Ethiopian flavor, but other than that it was nothing like the doro wat you will get in Ethiopia or at a traditional restaurant. Despite the lack of authenticity, it was definitely tasty and I'll make it again.

Shiro Wat
I got this recipe from the woman who was working at the Ethiopian market - thankfully it is simple and I still remembered it when I got home.

Butter or olive oil

Dice the onion as finely as possible and cook it in butter or oil (for a single batch I use 1 onion and 2-3 tablespoons of butter). Cook until the onion is very soft and beginning to brown. Add a bit of finely chopped garlic during the last minute of cooking, but don't over-do it -- my first attempt was way too garlicky. Add about 1.5 cups of water to the onions and garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low and slowly stir in 4-6 tablespoons of shiro, adding 1 tablespoon at a time and then stirring to prevent clumps. It is a little tricky to tell when you have added enough shiro, as the sauce will thicken a bit while it cooks. You are looking for a nice, thick, oatmeal-like consistency so keep adding, stirring, and cooking until you get there. If you want your shiro wat to be very smooth the way its served in restaurants you can transfer it to a food processor, give it a whirl, and then return it to the pot to finish cooking. Scoop a generous spoonful onto a plate of injera and enjoy!

Misr Wat
Recipe from

1 cup small red lentils
4 tbsp butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp berbere
1 small tomato, diced
Salt, to taste

Rinse the lentils in cold running water and set aside. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan, add the onion and cook until soft. Just like the shiro wat recipe, add the garlic when the onions are almost done and cook for a minute or two. Then add 1 tbsp of berbere, the lentils, the diced tomato and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 50-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season liberally with salt, and add as much of the remaining 1 tbsp of berbere as you dare... I don't add more than 1/4 tbsp and that is plenty of spice for me (and I like spicy food). Serve it over injera and get ready to dish up seconds -- it is delicious! I make a batch for my kids with only a total of 1/4 tbsp berbere and they do OK with it (though my big boys prefer to just eat the injera plain with ketchup... Americans!). This is by far my favorite dish that I've made so far, and the most authentic tasting, plus it is crazy easy. Love it.

Anyone else tried cooking Ethiopian? What worked (or didn't)? Share your recipes and tips -- I'd love to try a few more dishes. Oh and my husband is requesting meat next time... Tibs anyone?