Ethiopia – an update on the babies

The night we flew back to Phoenix: Brian deGuzman (gray T-shirt) hugs family friend Dinesh Wilson while Keri (right) introduces Brooke Wilson and Maria (in blue) to the babies. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

It’s been a little over a month since Brian and Keri deGuzman brought their babies home from Ethiopia. From the moment they first held Solomon and Tesfanesh, life has been a whirlwind of activity.

While we were still in Ethiopia, each day meant a new destination and new people to meet. Throughout it all — hours of bumpy car trips, bottles and diaper changes in every imaginable environment, endless sets of arms begging to hold them — the babies were remarkably calm. They barely made a peep during our trans-Atlantic flight from Addis Ababa to Washington, D.C., where they met their Ethiopia-born big brother Musse and big sister Jesmina for the first time and spent several days with grandparents, extended family and friends.

It’s like they knew all the commotion was peripheral to the essential reality of their young lives: They have a family. They have a home.

Keri can’t explain it; she just knows it to be true. “When we walked through the door, I looked at Brian and said, “Oh, my gosh. They know that they’re home. They knew that Washington, D.C. wasn’t their home, or anywhere else that we were before we came home. But as soon as we walked in the door it was like they were just happy. Tesfanesh lit up. They went right into their cribs — no problem. They weren’t scared.”

When I visited the deGuzmans’ Paradise Valley home for a few hours last week, I was astonished to see how much the babies have changed. Solomon, now about 9½ months old, looks like he’s grown a foot. His body is as long as his mom’s entire torso and his legs seem to go on forever. He is charming and quick to smile. He enjoys sitting in a bouncy chair and crawling around on the floor — he’s so fast he disappears around the corner if you blink your eyes.

Tesfanesh is a serene, stoic beauty. Now about 8 months old, she also is growing taller and stronger; seeing her sit confidently on a blanket surrounded by toys I am reminded of the room at the Soddo orphanage where these babies got their start. The wise director has a strict rule for the nursery: The babies are to be in their cribs only when they are sleeping. Every waking hour is to be spent on a clean, padded mat on the floor, propped up by Boppy pillows and the loving arms of nannies so that the babies can experience the movement, play and intellectual stimulation so important to those first months of development.

The deGuzman babies are healthy and thriving; their pediatrician has pronounced them completely perfect. I hear no trace of the chronic wheezing Tes had while we were in Ethiopia. Both children continue to battle ear infections but that’s not unusual for babies their age.

Jesmina (3½) and Musse (2½) are back at preschool at The Solel School, where they occasionally stay an extra hour for soccer. Their dad is back to his hectic schedule as a cardiac surgeon at St. Joseph’s Hospital & Medical Center. Keri maintains almost daily contact with friends in Ethiopia and is full of news about the people we met and the projects she and Brian continue to support there.

Life is starting to settle into a routine — as much of a routine as is possible, that is, in a household with four children under the age of 4.

Tesfanesh remains calm, contented, quiet, observant.

Keri with Solomon, who was just up from a nap.

Maria, who helps Keri with the children during the weekdays, gives the babies their first taste of yogurt. (They loved it.)

Solomon can crawl out of sight in the blink of an eye.

Tesfanesh is now sitting easily and jealously watching Solomon, who's a couple of months older, scoot around on his hands and knees. Sometimes she reaches out and grabs his hair as he shoots past her.

Keri took Solomon with her to pick up Jesmina and Musse after preschool; Tesfanesh was ready for a nap so she stayed home with Maria.

Heading down the colorful hallway at The Solel School in Paradise Valley.

Keri straps Solomon, Jesmina and Musse into car seats for the trip back home.

Musse, Jesmina and Solomon play on the floor with Maria. Jesmina was using markers to decorate the inside of a diaper box.

Musse and Keri enjoy a playful moment on the couch.

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