Thursday, June 6, 2013

Home again, home again. It’s been twelve days now that we’ve been back in the US. High time to update this blog. I can say unreservedly that things are better now that we are home. It is a lot easier to parent in our home, with friends on the other end of the phone. There is more space for the girls to spread out. The rules and routine are familiar to Tabby, and Amahle does well with so much structure. Gracious friends from Church have been dropping off dinners every other day. We are very aware of how many good blessings we have in our lives, and we are grateful to be home!

We arrived at JFK on a Saturday, and Jamie headed back to work on Tuesday. His days have been long, almost always meeting with a colleague or tutoring after work, resulting in lengthy solo days with the girls for me. We’ve been taking life slowly, not wanting to overstimulate Amahle, who has trouble regulating her excitement in this shiny new land. One new person or place per day has been our goal.

So far we have enjoyed a few playgrounds, gone swimming once, visited one home, and spent a morning at the zoo. The girls spend a lot of time playing in various rooms in the house, pulling out all the toys and games and leaving piles of fun-debris all over. Largely, they play well together. But they also do some of the most irritating, probably typical, sibling nonsense. They will look out a window, spot a bird, and argue over what color it is. “It’s rrrred.” “No, it’s magenta.” “What is magenta? You’re lying. It’s rrred.” “Mommy, she says it’s red, when it’s really magenta! Tell her she’s wrong!” They will pick the same block out of a never-ending pile of blocks, and argue over it until one of them is crying. And neither will pass up the opportunity to point out when the other has broken a rule or made a mistake.

Still, the major things are falling into place. They eat food. They sleep. Neither is sick or injured. They seem to know that we love them, even when so much of the day involves correcting & consequencing them. Tabby often asks for “special mommy time,” which is hard to pull off, since we can’t let others take care of Amahle yet. It’s critical for our attachment that Jamie & I be the only ones to meet her needs at this point. We try to be creative, and I spend quiet moments Tabby while Amahle is in the tub or otherwise occupied. Bathing, feeding, dressing, and protecting two humans is so much harder than one! We go to bed very tired, but tired from good, hard work.

On our very first outing to a playground, we received our first jarring questions as a family of four. There were two biracial children at a playground that is usually vanilla white. Jamie & I smiled at each other, thinking, “How lovely that the first time we bring her here, there are other children who look like her.” Soon thereafter, we are fielding questions from those children like, “Do she live with you? Where’s her other daddy? She don’t look like she’s from Africa.” Sigh. At that point I was really hoping the language barrier would kick in, so Amahle wouldn’t understand what was being said. I’m sure these were gentle, compared to what we may hear in the future, but it still wasn’t pleasant. Amahle is a very young six, new to America, not very communicative, and just not ready to talk about her racial identity & what that means. I’m cataloguing these experiences, thinking over what I’d like to say to her, and waiting until she’s ready to talk. These are deep waters we are swimming in.

As summer is officially beginning, so are summer activities. We’re keeping things pretty simple, since we’re still in cocoon mode. But Tabby has started small fry soccer, Amahle has started weekly basketball practice, and next week she will start meeting with a tutor to keep her Zulu language alive. While her English is growing exponentially, she has no outlet for speaking Zulu here. We throw around a few phrases we all understand, and we bought her a few CDs of Zulu music she enjoys, but without speaking it regularly, I’m afraid she’ll lose it. We’re hopeful this tutor will become a good confidant for Amahle and resource for us.


  1. Hi Jamie,

    Thank you for sharing your family's adoption story! Hope you are enjoying life as a family of four!

    I came across your blog when researching adoption from South Africa. My interest is personal (we have talked about one day adopting an older child from SS) and professional: my graduate research is about children and Zulu language in KZN. I have spent a lot of time in Durban and Zululand and even visited Lily at one point! If you don't mind sharing, I would love to ask a couple questions about your adoption process.

    Also, you mentioned that you were interested in Amahle continuing to use her Zulu, so I wanted to share some online resources that could be useful for practice.

    Online Zulu Dictionary:

    200 basic vocabulary words with pictures and pronunciation:

    And some videos about Zulu proverbs. We designed them for Zulu-language students. All (but maybe number 7) are appropriate for children. I bet Amahle would recognize a lot of the proverbs. They were all filmed in KwaZulu-Natal and have some wonderful songs and cultural information:

    Best wishes!


  2. Hello, my husband and I are considering SA adoption, and would really like to connect with someone who has been down this road! Please if you have some time, and would be willing to share with me details of the process, I would love to hear all about it! my email is