Monday, January 04, 2010

The Photo-less Snapshot

In the days when I only squatted on this blog but hadn’t actually improved it with any posts, I was once party to a conversation about blogging. 

(Just a quick note here:  you may have noticed I did not say ‘on’ blogging, but ‘about’ blogging.  Though you can never tell by this blog, I did once study writing in graduate school and it irritates me that people always say they are talking ‘on’ something.  Please, people:  talk ‘about’ it.  Just for me.  And while we’re at it, do you know how grateful I am for ‘each’ of you who read my blog?  Wait—did I sound less grateful because I didn’t say ‘each and every?’  No!  So why do so many people insist on saying ‘each-and-every?’  I ‘hate-loath-despise-and-abominate’ this expression.  Btw, you should also always avoid long parentheticals.  As I say, not as I do.)

blah blah blah squatted, and blah blah blah blogging . . . participants in this conversation agreed that they much prefer viewing photos on peoples’ blogs to reading posts.  Ugh.  I was secretly chagrinned and took a vow against blogging for almost a year.  I am a terrible picture-poster.  Can you tell?  I am good at taking them, plenty of them, but just not good at putting them anywhere.  I was recently in another conversation where someone mentioned the appalling truth they had just heard that some people PAY OTHERS to put together their photo albums!!  “Gee,” I thought.  “Here I misfit again—especially in my local culture.  I’d be first in line for that service if I had the money.”  I’m still recovering from the time I recently spent several hours uploading a couple hundred photos to Picasa, only to have the upload fail at the last minute.  My friend Emily, the Emily that is better friends with my blog than with me, has kindly offered to upload photos for me.  That’s cool, because I have many talents I could use to trade her for this service.  Like . . . installing ceiling fans.  Yes—Emily, I’ll trade you one ceiling fan furniture tower for 500 photos.

So, for those of you who hate reading posts, you’re not reading anyway so never mind.  I may not be good at photo albums, but I am a word person and I am pretty good at word albums.  I’ve been keeping written journals for my kids since they were born.  I’ve written down many things Saffron and Willa say, and thought it might be nice to paint a word picture for those of you who have never met them in person.  I love their language these days.  In just two months they have come to speak almost exclusively in English.  This is truly amazing if you think about it.  It’s also sad because, though we encourage Amharic, they have forgotten many Amharic words.  We recently quizzed them and Saffron remembered about 80 percent of the words we asked her, but Willa only about 30 percent.  Though their English is still far from complete, it seems to come more naturally for them now to speak incomplete English than complete Amharic, even to each other.  We better call friends in Ethiopia again soon.

Here is a word snapshot of Saffron and Willa over the past couple of weeks:


“Mom, help me you yes?”  For, ‘Will you please help me pin on my scout pin?’

“Mrs. _____ I love it!”  For, ‘I love my teacher.’

“And then Mom, and then phone, and then talk, and then Ruby Stop!, and then No!, and then me Yes!, and then Ruby bedroom, and then me—and then, I don’t know, Mom!” 
-Trying to give an explanation as emphatic as her sister’s as to why they were fighting and not doing what I asked.  She’s been determined to give her side from the very beginning, even if she didn’t have the words.

“Go, Daddy.  Scoot Over.”  For the backseat-driver version of ‘You can go now, Dad.’
-One of the most difficult things for Steve on the flight home from Ethiopia was that Saffron and Willa had no concept of waiting in line.  They thought every line was a chance to cut through the crowd and fend for yourself, and Steve had to constantly run after them and pull them back.  This translated into driving once they got here, and they were always looking at any open lane on the road, like the one for opposing traffic, and telling us to “Go!”  Now that they understand the concept of red and green lights, they are keen to watch them for us.  Their language has really opened my eyes to the many different ways we say the same thing, and how confusing that must be.  Ie., If Ruby tells Saffron to ‘scoot over’ on the couch, then Saffron sees no reason why it wouldn’t sound right to tell Dad to ‘scoot over’ the car on the road.  Boy, English is tough. 

“Wooby! Swim after sook going pants! Mom said.” 
 For, ‘Ruby, Mom says we’re going to the store after we go swimming, so you need to bring a pair of pants.’ (Amharic is for "shop" is “sook”)  The exclamation points are not unintentional.  They yell almost everything these days.  They’ve gone from quiet as mice to the opposite.  I guess it takes time to learn the right volume, as well as the right words.  Swimming is probably their all-time favorite activity.  Saffron insists she knows how and doesn't need lessons even though swimming with her is like trying to rescue a drowning person.  She's wants to brave, but flails around rather terrified.  I had to teach her simple things like grabbing my shoulders in desperation, instead of my head or neck.  It's actually good that she hasn't quite mastered this yet, because Ruby is a good swimmer and needs a few places to shine.  She is constantly comparing herself to Saffron, who is built like a rubberband, in gymnastics.

“Mommy, no sleep finished today.  Me.”  For, ‘Mom, I don’t want to go to sleep because I don’t want today to be over.’  This was said on Christmas night.  Speaking of Christmas, they loved it.  The excitement was almost too much.  After they opened pajamas with everyone at the Christmas Eve party, they thought Christmas was over.  Then when they had to hurry to bed because Santa was coming, they were very scared.  They wanted to know if he would come in their room.  I told them to listen for his boots on the roof and the reindeers' bells.  I then snuck out on the deck and stomped around and jingled sleigh bells.  In the morning it was as if only a moment had passed--they jumped out of bed excited to tell me they heard the boots and were "squired."  Of course, after the initial excitement of presents, they quickly adapted to American Christmas.  Saffron whined that her beautiful new doll did not come with any clothes.  After opening presents at our house, they whined that they only got two presents at Grandma's.  I guess they thought every house would be like Santa all over again.  Today Willa asked if he's coming again today.


“Whatcho Name?”  For, ‘What is that?  Who is that?’ or anything close.

“Mommy, me school yes?” Every morning, for, ‘When do I get to go to school?’

“Willa, Wah-gah-gwo-en?”  For, ‘Where are we going?’ ‘Where did it go?’ Playing hide and seek or peekaboo, or anything related.

“No moot movie, Mom.  Squiry!”  For, ‘I don’t want to watch a movie with dead people in it, Mom.  Too scary!’  This after going to see A Christmas Carol.  (‘Moot’ is ‘dead’ in Amharic)

“No!”  For, ‘no,’ ‘shouldn’t,’ ‘wouldn’t,’ ‘couldn’t,’ ‘won’t,’ ‘can’t,’ and just about every other negative.  And be careful about asking her “Why?”  If she’s just said No and you ask Why, you are then in trouble for something unknown, and caught in a never-ending loop of no’s and why’s. 

“Shut da door.”  For, ‘Button my pants,’ and everything else that relates to opening or closing, having or not having.

“Dad!  Shut da door Christmas.   Five!”  For, ‘Dad look!  There are five houses without Christmas lights.'  The ‘what a cryin’ shame’ was clearly heard in her tone.

“Daddy, sleep is coming Wheela.”  For, ‘Daddy, I’m tired.’

"Ay-a-lew!  Aya!"  For, 'Ayalew.'  Their Ethiopian father.  This is something they repeat a lot when they cry.  This gives me pretty mixed feelings, knowing how he treated them, and everything I'm trying to be for them here.  It makes me a little upset to hear them cry for him.  But it's only when they're really mad at me because they're in trouble, or I'm doing their hair.  And it's natural, of course.  But I'm human, and I don't love hearing it.

"Mommy, Meki Toukoul one play? Today? Please?"  For, 'Can we go and visit Ethiopia today, Mom?  Just to play once?  Please?'  Willa just asked me this right now.

There.  It may not be a photo, but it’s pretty cute nonetheless.


Sally said...

I so enjoy reading your blogs, Emily, that I can no longer just read but have to comment on this one. DO NOT LISTEN TO THOSE WHO PREFER PHOTOS! The art of writing must not be lost. Photos are a great ADDITION, but words paint a much deeper and more meaningful picture. You write so wonderfully about the melding of your new family together that reading it is a visual experience. I am filled with admiration for you and Steve and also for Jasper and Ruby for dealing with it all so well. I am so glad that life seems to be settling down for you all and can hardly wait for the next instalment. By the way, I have 19 years of photos waiting to be sorted and put into albums and frames .....

Kristin said...

ditto to what Sally said.

it's just lisa said...

That was much better than a photo! You have a way with words.

Emily said...

Emily, coming from someone who "knows your blog better than you do", I love EACH AND EVERY ONE of your posts. :)

I'm not used to this more frequent pace and got behind reading your blogs! I love it!

The word pictures are great. I'm still willing to upload pics for you as long as you promise to keep writing, forget the ceiling fan.

Charlotte said...

Thank you for this post. I love love that you included some of the sweet phrases from your girls. I'm so glad you wrote them down. I have been really curious about what Willa and Saffron's reactions would be about Christmas. We thought about your family a lot.

Happy Girl said...

Emily - your posts are amazing Thank you for sharing so openly - I have such lovely memories of chatting with you at the guest house in Ethiopia - bless you, Lisa Z. Lifewater

Corinne said...

This was a lovely snapshot. 10 years down the road, words will help you so much more to remember this time than a photo will :)

JenSav said...

These tender morsels are so perfect in painting a picture. THANK YOU for sharing! They made me smile and some made me sad for you and them. Keep on truckin Em.